01 April 2018

Whan That Aprille Day 2018

Since Whan That Aprille Day coincides with Easter this year, here is a tender Middle English religious poem in honor of both days. It seems like the sort of simple lyric you would teach a child as a prayer. In addition to the repetitions of sweet, Jesus is addressed throughout with the intimate thou/thee, creating a kindly sense of deep and personal devotion. There is a lovely pun on springe at the end, meaning grow but also suggesting the season when the earth renews itself.

I've interleaved a crib in italics. I found this poem in the Norton Critical Edition of Middle English Lyrics, edited by Maxwell S. Luria and Richard L. Hoffman. I've used their annotations as well as the glossary in the Penguin Classics edition of The Canterbury Tales.

Previous entries for Whan That Aprille Day can be found here, here, here, and also here.

Swete Jhesu, king of blisse,
Sweet Jesus, king of bliss,
Min herte love, min herte lisse,
My heart's love, my heart's joy,
Thou art swete, mid iwisse:
You are indeed sweet:
Wo is him that thee shall misse.
Woe to him who shall fail to find you.

Swete Jhesu, min herte light,
Sweet Jesus, my heart's light,
Thou art day withouten night.
You are day without a night.
Thou geve me strengthe and eke might
You give me strength and also the power
For to lovien thee all right.
To love you completely.

Swete Jhesu, my soule bote,
Sweet Jesus, my soul's remedy,
In min herte thou sette a rote
In my heart you plant a root
Of thy love that is so swote,
Of your love that is so sweet,
And wite it that it springe mote.
And guide it that it might grow.

detail of The Resurrection by an unknown artist active in Aragon in the first half of the fifteenth century, at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

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