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And of that longing heaviness doth come, THE CUCKOO AND THE NIGHTIN
Whence oft great sickness grows of heart and GALE.
Sick are they all for lack of their desire; 1.
And thus in May their hearts are set on fire, Toe God of Love,-ah benedicite !
So that they burn forth in great martyrdom. How mighty and how great a lord is he! For he of low hearts can make high; of high He can make low, and unto death bring nigh; In sooth, I speak from feeling; what though And hard hearts, he can make them kind and free.
Old am I, and to genial pleasure slow;
Yet have I felt of sickness through the May, Within a little time, as hath been found,
Both hot and cold, and heart-aches every He can make sick folk whole and fresh and
How hard, alas! to bear, I only know.
Such shaking doth the fever in me keep All that he will have bound, or have unbound.
Through all this May, that I have little sleep;
And also 't is not likely unto me, To tell his might my wit may not suffice;
That any living heart should sleepy be, Foolish men he can make them out of wise
In which Love's dart its fiery point doth steep. For he may do all that he will devise; Loose livers he can make abate their vice, And proud hearts can make tremble in a trice. But tossing lately on a sleepless bed,
I of a token thought, which lovers heed:
How among them it was a common tale, In brief, the whole of what he will, he may; That it was good to hear the nightingale Against him dare not any wight say nay ;
Ere the vile cuckoo's note be uttered.
And soon as I a glimpse of day espied, And for delight, but how I never wot,
I in a slumber and a swoon was caught, But straightway to a wood, that was hard by, Not all asleep and yet not waking wholly; Forth did I go, alone and fearlessly,
And as I lay, the Cuckoo, bird unholy, And held the pathway down by a brook-side; Broke silence, or I heard him in my thought.
Till to a lawn I came, all white and green;
And that was right upon a tree fast by, I in so fair a one had never been.
And who was then ill satisfied but I ? The ground was green, with daisy powdered Now God, quoth I, that died upon the rood,
From thee and thy base throat keep all that's over; Tall were the flowers, the grove a lofty cover,
good; All green and white; and nothing else was
Full little joy have I now of thy cry.
And, as I with the Cuckoo thus 'gan chide, There sat I down among the fair, fresh In the next bush that was me fast beside, flowers,
I heard the lusty Nightingale so sing, And saw the birds come tripping from their That her clear voice made a loud rioting, bowers,
Echoing through all the greenwood wide. Where they had rested them all night; and
they, Who were so joyful at the light of day, Ah! good sweet Nightingale! for my heart's Began to honor May with all their powers. cheer,
Hence hast thou stayed a little while too
long; Well did they know that service all by rote;
For we have had the sorry Cuckoo here, And there was many and many a lovely note) And she hath been before thee with her Some, singing loud, as if they had com
Evil light on her! she hath done me wrong. plained; Some with their notes another manner
feigned; And some did sing all out with the full throat. But hear you now a wondrous thing, I pray;
As long as in that swooning-fit I lay,
meant, They pruned themselves, and made them- And had good knowing both of their intent, selves right gay,
And of their speech, and all that they would Dancing and leaping light upon the spray ;
The Nightingale thus in my hearing spake:-
THE CUCKOO AND THE NIGHTINGALE.
And, prithee, let us, that can sing, dwell here; To speak of Love's true servants in this mood;
XXIV. What! quoth she then, what is 't that ails For thereof comes all goodness and all worth; thee now?
All gentiless and honor thence come forth; It seems to me I sing as well as thou;
Thence worship comes, content, and true For mine's a song that is both true and
heart's pleasure, plain,
And full-assured trust, joy without measure, Although I cannot quaver so in vain And jollity, fresh cheerfulness, and mirth; As thou dost in thy throat, I wot not how.
And bounty, lowliness, and courtesy, All men may understanding have of me,
And seemliness, and faithful company,
And dread of shame that will not do amiss; But, Nightingale, so may they not of thee; For thou hast many a foolish and quaint For he that faithfully Love's servant is,
Rather than be disgraced, would chuse to die. Thou sayst Osee, Osee, then how may I Have knowledge, I thee pray, what this may And that the very truth it is which I be?
Now say,—in such belief I 'll live and die;
And, Cuckoo, do thou so, by my advice. Ab, fool! quoth she, wist thou not what it is? Then, quoth she, let me never hope for bliss, Oft as I say OSEE, OSEE, I wis,
If with that counsel I do e'er comply. Then mean I, that I should be wondrous fain That shamefully thoy one and all were slain, Whoever against Love mean aught amiss. Good Nightingale! thou speakest wondrous
Yet, for all that, the truth is found elsewhere; And also would I that they all were dead,
For Love in young folk is but rage, I wis, Who do not think in love their life to lead;
And Love in old folk a great dotage is; For who is loth the God of Love to obey
Who most it useth, him ’t will most impair. Is only fit to die, I dare well say ; And for that cause OSEE I cry; take heed!
For thereof come all contraries to gladness;
Thence sickness comes, and overwhelming Ay, quoth the Cuckoo, that is a quaint law sadness, That all must love or die; but I withdraw, Mistrust and jealousy, despite, debate, And take my leave of all such company, Dishonor, shame, envy importunate, For my intent it neither is to die,
Pride, anger, mischief, poverty, and madness. Nor ever while I live Love's yoke to draw.
Loving is aye an office of despair, For lovers, of all folk that be alive,
And one thing is therein which is not fair; The most disquiet have, and least do thrive; For whoso gets of love a little bliss, Most feeling have of sorrow, woe, and care, Unless it always stay with him, I wis And the least welfare cometh to their share; He may full soon go with an old man's hair. What need is there against the truth to strive?
And therefore, Nightingale! do thou keep What! quoth she, thou art all out of thy mind, nigh: That, in thy churlishness, a cause canst find For, trust me well, in spite of thy quaint cry,
If long time from thy mate thou be, or far,
And so, methought, I started up anon,
And to the brook I ran and got a stone,
That he for dread did fly away full fast;
As if in scornful mockery of me; For evermore his servants Love amendeth,
And on I hunted him from tree to tree, And he from every blemish them defendeth; Till he was far, all out of sight, away. And maketh them to burn, as in a fire, In loyalty and worshipful desire; And, when it likes him, joy enough them Then straightway came the Nightingale to sendeth.
me, And said : Forsooth, my friend, do I thank
That thou wert near to rescue me; and now Thou Nightingale! the Cuckoo said, be still, Unto the God of Love I make a vow, For Love no reason hath but his own will;- That all this May I will thy songstress be. For to th' untrue he oft gives ease and joy; True lovers doth so bitterly annoy,
XLVII. He lets them perish through that grievous ill. Well satisfied, I thanked her; and she said,
By this mishap no longer be dismayed,
Though thou the Cuckoo heard, ere thou With such a master would I never be,
heard'st me: For he, in sooth, is blind, and may not see, Yet if I live it shall amended be, And knows not when he hurts and when he When next May comes, if I am not afraid.
heals; Within his court full seldom Truth avails,
And one thing will I counsel thee also.
saw; Then of the Nightingale did I take note
All that he said is an outrageous lie.
This May-time, every day before thou dine, Alas, alas! my very heart will break,
Go look on the fresh daisy; then say I, Qucth she, to hear this churlish bird thus Although, for pain, thou mayst be like to die, speak
Thou wilt be eased, and less wilt droop and Of Love, and of his holy services;
pine. Now, God of Lovel thou help me in some wise,
And mind always that thou be good and true, That vengeance on this Cuckoo I may wreak. And I will sing one song, of many new,
THE CUCKOO AND THE NIGHTINGALE.
For love of thee, as loud as I may cry. Under a maple that is well beseen And then did she begin this song full high, Before the chamber-window of the Queen, “Beshrew all them that are in love untrue.” At Woodstock, on the meadow green and
Thus takes the Nightingale her leave of me;
Unlearned Book and rude, as well I know,-
For beauty thou hast none, nor eloquence, For there is not so false a bird as she.
To appear before my Lady? But a sense
Thou surely hast of her benevolence, Forth then she flew, the gentle Nightingale,
Whereof her hourly bearing proof doth give; To all the birds that lodged within that dale, For of all good she is the best alive. And gathered each and all into one place, And them besought to hear her doleful case;
Book! for thy unworthiness And thus it was that she began her tale.
To show to her some pleasant meanings, writ
Oh! it repents me I have neither wit How she and I did each the other chide,
Nor leisure unto thee more worth to give; And without ceasing, since it was daylight; For of all good she is the best alive. And now I pray you all to do me right Of that false bird, whom Love cannot abide. Beseech her meekly with all lowliness,
Though I be far from her I reverence,
To think upon luy truth and steadfastness; Then spake one bird, and full assent all gave, And to abridge my sorrow's violence This matter asketh counsel good as grave; Caused by the wish, as knows your sapience, For birds we are--all here together brought; She of her liking proof to me would give; And, in good sooth, the Cuckoo here is not; For of all good she is the best alive. And therefore we a Parliament will have.
Pleasure's Aurora, Day of gladsomeness ! And thereat shall the Eagle be our Lord, And other Peers whose names are on record. Illumined! root of beauty and goodness!
Luna by night, with heavenly influence A summons to the Cuckoo shall be sent,
Write, and allay, by your beneficence, And judgment there be given; or, that intent
My sighs breathed forth in silence,-comfort Failing, we finally shall make accord.
give! Since of all good you are the best alive.
GEOFFREY CHAUCER. And all this shall be done, without a nay,
Version of WILLIAM WORDSWORTI. The morrow after Saint Valentine's day,