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Lenten ys come with loue to toune: introduction
London, British Library, Harley MS 2253, f. 71va

BL MS Harley 2253, f. 71vThis poem takes up a common theme of medieval love-poetry, the contrast between the coming of spring, when all creatures choose their mates, and the lover's own frustrations. The movement of thought can be paralleled more concisely in the lover's complaint in John Gower's late-C14 Confessio Amantis ('The Lover's Confession'):

'Ferst to Nature if that I me compleigne,
Ther finde I hou that every creature
Som time ayer hath love in his demeine,
So that the litel wrenne in his mesure
Hath yit of kinde a love under his cure;
And I bot on desire, of which I misse:
And thus, bot I, hath every kinde his blisse.'

(Book 8, lines 2223-2230; The English Works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, EETS ES 82 (1901), vol. 2, p. 446).
['First, if I make my complaint to Nature, I find there how every creature has love in its possession at some point in the year, so that even the little wren, according to its capacity, has naturally a love of its own; and I have only one desire, which I cannot achieve. And so, apart from me, every species has its  joy.']

There are some close verbal parallels, mainly with the first stanza, in the spring opening of the EME debate-poem, The Thrush and the Nightingale, first recorded in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 86, which probably dates from the late thirteenth century.

Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 28 July 2003 . Reproduction of British Library, Harley MS 2253, f. 71v, by permission of the British Library; no further reproduction permitted.