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/our service? and which wolle ye honoure, Tel me I pray, this yere, the Leafe or the Floure?"
"Madame," quod I, " though I be least worthy,
Unto the Leafe I owe mine observaunce."
il That is," quod she, "right well done cer-
And pray I God to honour you avaunce,
And kepe you fro the wicked remembraunce
Of Malebouche 1 and al his crueltie, — 580
And alle that good and well conditioned be.
"For here may I no lenger now abide,
I muste followe the greate company
That ye maye see yonder before you ride."
And tho forth as I couthe, most humbly
I tooke my leve of her, as she gan hie
After them as fast as ever she mighte;
And I drow homeward, for it was nigh night.
And put all that I had seen in writing Under support of them that lust it to rede. 590 0 little booke, thou art so unconning, How darst thow put thy self in prees,2 for drede?
It is wonder that thow wexest not rede,
Sith that thow wost ful lite who shall beholde
Thy rude langage ful boistously unfolde.
1 Erikmouth. * The crowd.
THE CUCKOW AND THE NIGHTIN-
GALE, OR THE BOKE OF CUPIDE,
GOD OF LOVE.
The god of Love, ah! benedicite,1
How myghty and how grete a lorde is he!
For he can make of lowe hertys hie,
And highe low, and like for to die,
And harde hertis he can make free.
And he can make, within a lytel stounde,
Of seke folke ful fresh, hool and sounde,
And of hoole folke he can make seke;
He can bynde, and unbynden eke,
What he wole have bounden or unbounde. 10
To telle his myght my wit may not suffice,
For he can make of wise folke ful nyse,'
For he may do al that he can devyse,
And in lithere * folke dystroye vise,
And proude hertys he can make agryse.4
Shortely, al that evere he wol he may,
Agenst him ther dar no wight seye nay;
For he can glade and greve whom him lyke,*
And whom that he wol, don hym laughe 01
And most his myght he sheweth ever in May. For every trewe gentil herte and fre, 21
1 The first two lines, says Mr. Skeat, are all that connect this poem with Chaucer. They are from the Canterbury Tales (11. 17*5, 17*6) The style is nearer that of Chaucer than is that of any of the othef attributed poems, and some lines seem to connect it with the Parlt metUt/FouUs. 'Ignorant. *Evil. 4 Terrified. 6 Pleaseth.
That with him is, or thinketh for to be,
Agens May now shal have somme sterynge,
Other to joy, or elles to some mornynge,1
In no sesoun so grette, as thynketh me.
For then they mowe here the briddes singe,
And see the floures and the Ieves springe,
That bringeth into hertes remembraunce
A maner ease, ymedled with grevaunce,
And lusty thoghtes ful of grete longynge. 30
And of that longynge cometh hevynesse, And thereof groweth oft grete sekenesse, And al for lak of that that they desyre: And thus in May ben hertys set on fire, And so they brenne forthe in grete distresse.
I speke al this of felyng truly;
For althogh I be olde and unlusty,
Yet have I felte of that sekenes in May
Bothe hote and colde, and acces 2 every day.
How sore, ywis, ther wot no wight but I. 40
I am so shaken with the feveres white,
Of al this May yet slept I but a lyte;
And also hit ne liketh noght to me
That eny herte shulde slepy be,
In whom that Love his firy dart wol smyte.
But as I lay this other nyght wakynge,
I thoght how lovers had a tokenynge,
And among hem hit was a comune tale,
That hit wer good to here the nyghtyngale,
Rather then the leude cukkow synge. 50
1 Mourning. 1 Returning attack.
And then I thoght anoon, as hit was daye, 1 wolde goo somme whedir for to assaye Vf that I myght a nyghtyngale here; For yet I non had herd of al this yere, And hit was tho the thirde nyght of May.
And right anoon as I the day espiede, No lenger wolde I in my bed abyde; But unto a wode that was fast by, I wente forthe allone ful prively, And helde my way doun by a broke syde, 60
Til I come into a launde of white and grene, So feire oon had I nevere in bene, The grounde was grene, ypoudred with dayse, The floures and the gras ilike al hie, Al grene and white, was nothing elles sene.
Ther sat I doune amonge the feire floures,
And saw thee briddes crepe out of her boures,
Ther as they had rested hem al the nyght;
They were so joyful of the dayes lyght,
That they beganne of Mayes the honoures. 70
They coude that servise alle bye rote;
I'her was also mony a lovely note!
Somme songe loude as they hadde pleyned,
And somme in other maner voys yfeyned,
And somme al oute with a lowde throte.
They pruned1 hem, and made hem ryght gay,
And daunseden and lepten on the spray;
\nd evermore two and two in fere,2
Ryght so as they hadde chosen hem to-yere *
In Feverere upon Seynt Valentynes day. 8q
1 Made themselves trim. 1 Together. 1 This year.
And the ryvere that I sat upon,
Hit made suche a noyse as hit ron,
Acordaunt to the foules ermonye,1
Me thoght hit was the beste melodye
That myghte ben yherd of eny man.
And for delyte, I ne wote never how,
I fel in such a slombre and a swowe,2 —
Nat al on slepe, ne fully al wakyng, —
And in that swowe me thoght I herde singe
That sory bridde, the lewede cukkowe, 90
And that was on a tre right faste bye. But who was then evel apayed but I? "Now God," quod I, "that died upon the croise,
Give sorowe on the, and on thy foule voys!
For lytel joy have I now of thy crie."
And as I with the cukkow gan to chide,
I herde, in the nexte busshes beside,
A nyghtyngale so lustely singe,
That with her clere voys she made rynge
Thro out alle the grene wode wide. ioc
"A! goode nyghtyngale," quod I thenne,
"A lytelle hast thou be to longe henne,*
For here hath ben the lewede cukkow,
And songen songes rather * then hast thou:
I prey to God that evel fire her brenne!"
But now I wil yow tel a wonder thynge:
As longe as I lay in that swownynge,
Me thoght I wist al that the briddes mente,
1 Harmony. * Swoon. 5 Hence. 4 Sooner.