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The Thrush and the Nightingale
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 86, ff. 136vb-138rb


1-2. Somer . . . rounes: these two lines are almost identical with the opening couplet of the spring song in London, British Library, Harley MS 2253, Lenten ys come with loue to toune, and the stanza as a whole echoes the rhyme-scheme and content of Lenten lines 1-6. See also note on line 4.

4. danketh: MS darkneth 'darken'. I have taken this as an unsuccessful scribal attempt to make sense of danketh, a form of the relatively rare verb (probably of ON origin) danken, 'moisten' or, intransitively, 'be moist, bedewed', found mainly in the poetry of the Alliterative Revival, almost always in collocation with dewe and sometimes also with dale (see MED s.v. danken v.). There is a parallel use in Lenten ys come with loue to toune, line 27, Deawes donketh the dounes; cf. note on lines 1-2.

30. wimon: MS mon 'one', does not give good sense; Brown (1932), p. 207,  notes that the Auchinleck MS version has wimen at this point.

31. wrowe: I have followed Brown (1932), p. 207, in emending from MS wrothe 'angry', probably an error caused by scribal confusion of thorn and wyn.

35. Imaked hoe wes to mones fere: see Genesis 2: 18, 20-24.

43. Alisaundre the king: Alexander the Great of Macedon (356-323 BC). The reference may be to the story of Phyllis and Aristotle; see the note on Weping haueth myn wonges wete, line 16.

88. Sire Wawain: Gawain, although traditionally the most courteous of Arthur's knights, and represented in many romances as a ladies' man, was also associated with anti-feminist tradition. In the Latin poem De coniuge non ducenda ('Why one shouldn't take a wife'), ed. Rigg (1986), written in the second quarter of the C13, Gawain is advised against marriage by three angels, representing the power, wisdom, and grace of the Trinity, who stress both the general disadvantages of marriage and the moral weaknesses of women. In the late-C14 NW Midlands alliterative poem Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 2414-28, Gawain ruefully excuses his failure to resist Bertilak's lady's wiles by invoking the Scriptural precedents of Adam, Solomon, Samson, and David, great men who were nevertheless deceived by women.

105. longinge: MS longinginge.

115. Costantines quene: Presumably the reference is to the Roman Emperor Constantine (d. 337), but the story has not been traced; Brown (1932), p. 208, links it to 'the large class of stories, traceable ultimately to the Orient, of unfaithful queens who loved a cripple, or otherwise deformed or loathsome person', and adds further references.

139. Samson: for the story of Samson's betrayal by Delilah, see Judges, Ch. 16.

Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 02 May 2002 .