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A wayle whyt ase whalles bon: text and translation
London, British Library, Harley MS 2253, f.67r


A wayle whyt ase whalles bon,
A grein in golde that godly shon,
A tortle that min herte is on,
In tounes trewe,


A beauty white as ivory,
A gem set in gold, shining brightly,
A turtle-dove my heart is set on,
Known for truth everywhere,

Hire gladshipe nes neuer gon
Whil Y may glewe.

When heo is glad
Of al this world na more Y bad
Then beo with hire myn one bistad,

Her happiness is never neglected
While I can make songs.

When she is happy,
I would ask no more of all this world
Than to be put with her on my own,

10   Withoute strif.
The care that Icham yn ybrad
Y wyte a wyf.

A wyf nis non so worly wroht;
When heo ys blythe to bedde ybroht

Without any argument.
The misery I am racked by
I blame on a woman.

There is no woman so beautifully made;
When she is willingly brought to bed

15  Wel were him that wiste hire thoht,
That thryuen ant thro!
Wel Y wot heo nul me noht;
Myn herte is wo.

Hou shal that lefly syng

It would be a joy to have an understanding with her,
That excellent woman!
I know well that she doesn't want me;
I am heartbroken.

How is someone to sing gladly

20  That thus is marred in mournyng?
Heo me wol to dethe bryng
Longe er my day.
Gret hire wel, that swete thing
With eyen gray.


Who is so brought down by grief?
She will be the death of me
Long before my time.
Give my regards to her, that sweet creature
With bright eyes.
25  Hyre heye haueth wounded me, ywisse,
Hire bende browen that bringeth blisse.
Hire comely mouth that mihte cusse,
In muche murthe he were;
Y wolde chaunge myn for his
Her eyes have really wounded me,
Her arched eyebrows which give delight.
Anyone who could kiss her lovely mouth
Would be full of joy;
I would exchange mine for the man's
30 That is here fere.

Wolde hyre fere beo so freo
Ant wurthes were that so myhte beo,
Al for on Y wolde yeue threo
Withoute chep.

Who is her partner.

If her partner would be so generous,
And there could be equivalents,
I would certainly give three for one
Without haggling.

35 From helle to heuene ant sonne to see
Nys non so yeep
Ne half so freo.
Wo-se wole of loue be trewe, do lystne me.

Herkneth me, Y ou telle,

From hell to heaven, and sun to sea
There is no-one so wise
Or half so noble.
Anyone who wants to be true in love, listen to me.

Listen to me, I tell you,

40 In such wondryng for wo Y welle,
Nys no fur so hot in helle
Al to mon
That loueth derne ant dar nout telle
What him ys on.


I burn in such distress through grief,
There is no fire so hot in hell
Kept for the man
Who loves secretly and dares not say
What the matter is.
45 Ich vnne hire wel ant heo me wo;
Ycham hire frend ant heo my fo;
Me thuncheth min herte wol breke atwo
For sorewe ant sy[t]e.
In Godes greting mote heo go,
I wish her well, she wishes me ill;
I am her friend and she my enemy;
It seems to me that my heart will break in two
Out of grief and distress.
May she walk with God's blessing,
50 That wayle whyte.

Ich wolde Ich were a threstelcok,
A bountyng other a lauercok,
Swete bryd!
Bituene hire curtel ant hire smok

That white-skinned beauty.

I wish I were a song-thrush,
A bunting or a lark,
Sweet bird!
Between her gown and her shift

55 Y wolde ben hyd.


I would like to be hidden.


Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 24 July 2003 .