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Bytuene Mersh ant Aueril: introduction
London, British Library, MS Harley 2253, f. 63v

BL MS Harley 2253, f. 63vThis poem, sometimes known from its addressee as 'Alysoun', follows a common pattern in medieval love-poetry in its linking of a spring opening with the lover's hopes and sufferings. In spite of his complaints, however, the upbeat refrain ensures that cheerfulness keeps breaking in; and his already-traditional protestations of subjection, sleeplessness, longing, and despair are presented with an optimistic panache.

The poem is tightly-structured, with four eight-line stanzas and a refrain following a difficult rhyme-scheme: ababbbbc (stanza), dddc (refrain), with the c-rhyme repeated through the four stanzas. This can  force some discontinuity on the sequence of thought (most obviously in lines 15-16). There is also extensive use of alliteration, but decorative rather than structural. The number of  strongly-stressed syllables in the line varies between three and four; in the refrain, and in the second and third stanzas, all lines except the last are four-stress, but in the first  stanza only the first, third, and sixth are, and in the last only the first, third, and fifth.

Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 24 July 2003 . London, British Library, MS Harley 2253, f. 63v, reproduced by permission of the British Library; no further reproduction permitted.