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Friday, August 19, 2011

Merciless Beauty - Geoffrey Chaucer

Your eyen two wol slee me sodeinly;
I may the beautee of hem nat sustene
So woundeth it thurghout my herte kene.

And but your word wol helen hastily
My hertes wounde whyl that it is grene,
Your eyen two wol slee me sodeinly;
I may the beautee of hem nat sustene.

Upon my trouth I sey you feithfully
That ye been of my lyf and deeth the quene,
For with my deeth the trouthe shal be sene:

Your eyen two wol slee me sodeinly;
I may the beautee of hem nat sustene,
So woundeth it thurghout my my herte kene.

So hath your beautee fro your herte chaced
Pitee that me n'availeth nat to pleyne,
For Daunger halt your mercy in his cheyne.

Giltles my deeth thus han ye me purchased.
I sey yow sooth, me nedeth nat to feyne,
So hath your beautee fro your herte chaced
Pitee that me n'availeth nat to pleyne.

Allas, that nature hath in yow compaced
So grete beautee that no man may atteyne
To mercy though he sterve for the peyne,

So hath your beautee fro your herte chaced
Pitee that me n'availeth nat to pleyne,
For Daunger halt your mercy in his cheyne.

Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat,
I never think to been in his prison lene;
Sin I am free, I counte him nat a
bene.

He may answere and seye this and that;
I do no fors, I speke right as a I mene.
Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat,
I never think to been in his prison lene.

Love hath my name y-strike out of his sclat,
And he is stirke out of my bookes clene
For evermo; ther is noon other mene.
Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat,
I never think to been in his prison lene;
Sin I am free, I counte him nat a bene.


I enjoy the challenge of reading poetry in Middle English, but more than that, the language itself is really wonderful and lyrical.  For those unfamiliar with it, look up a pronunciation guide online and try to read it aloud.  The vowels are much closer to vowels in continental European romance languages than they are to current English vowels.  It's a really lovely sound, and I wish I was better at it, but still, the attempt is fun.  Give it a shot!  It's rewarding, and the language and content of this poem are certainly lovely enough to merit the attempt.

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