Lvtel wot hit any mon / Hou loue hym
haueth ybounde: introduction
London, British Library, Harley MS 2253, f. 128r
This is the
first of two poems on the theme of love written consecutively in the MS, sharing the same
form and some of the same wording but exploring different topics, the love of Christ and
the love of women. The two poems are clearly related, but there has been some critical
disagreement (as with Sumer is icumen
in) on whether the religious or the secular version was composed first.
An alternative version of the first stanza, and of the first two lines of the second, is
preserved in a late-thirteenth century MS now in Cambridge; Carleton Brown notes that this
version shares the phrase derne loue with the secular version:
|Lytel wot ony man
Hou derne loue was fu[n]de
But he that was on Rode idon
And bouth vs wyth his wonde.
For loue of man he made hym self vnsunde;
He haueth ykast a griysli gast to grunde.
He bouth vs wyth hys suete
Hu myth he don vs more? . . .
|No-one fully realizes
How secret love was found
Except for him who was fixed on the Cross
And bought us with his wounds.
For love of man he let himself be harmed;
He has cast down a terrifying spirit.
bought us with his sweet blood---
How might he do more for us? . . .
|(Cambridge, Caius College, MS 512, f. 260v,
edited and translated from the transcript in Brown (1932), pp.
For the secular version in Harley 2253, and a fragment of a
closely-related religious lyric addressed to the Virgin Mary, see Lutel wot hit any mon / Hu derne loue may