Sunday, April 6, 2008

from The Parliament of Fowls

A garden saw I, full of blossomy boughs
Upon a river, in a green mead,
There as sweetness evermore enough is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow, and red,
And cold well-streams, nothing dead,
That swimming full of small fishes light,
With fins red and scales silver bright.

On every bough the birds heard I sing,
With voice of angels in their harmony;
Some busied themselves birds forth to bring;
The little coneys to here play did hie.
And further all about I could see
The dread filled roe, the buck, the hart and hind,
Squirrels, and beasts small of gentle kind.

Of instruments of strings in accord
Heard I so play a ravishing sweetness,
That God, that maker is of all and lord,
Had heard never better, as I guess.
Therewith a wind, scarcely it might be less,
Made in the leaves green a noise soft
Accordant to the fowls' song aloft.

Th'air of that place so a-temperate was
That never was grievance of hot nor cold.
There wax also every wholesome spice and grass;
No man may there wax sick nor old;
Yet was there joy more a thousandfold
Than man can tell; never would it be night,
But always clear day to any man's sight.

Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400)

The Parliament of Fowls is perhaps the first St. Valentine's Day poem
ever written. Brewer suggests that it was begun in May of 1382 and finished
for Valentine's day in 1383. The above are lines 183-210 and they have been
modernized only enough so that all of the words can be found in a good desk-
top English dictionary.

The original text (with type-setting modernization) is:

A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes
Upon a ryver, in a grene mede,
There as swetnesse everemore inow is,
With floures whyte, blewe, yelwe, and rede,
And colde welle-stremes, nothyng dede,
That swymmen ful of smale fishes lighte,
With fynnes rede and skales sylver bryghte.

On every bow the bryddes herde I synge,
With voys of aungel in here armonye;
Some busied hem hir bryddes forth to brynge;
The litel conyes to here pley gonne hye.
And ferther al aboute I gan espye
The dredful ro, the buk, the hert and hynde,
Squyrels, and bestes smale of gentil kynde.

Of instruments of strenges in acord
Herde I so pleye a ravyshyng swetnesse,
That God, that makere is of al and lord,
Ne herde nevere beter, as I gesse.
Therwith a wynd, unnethe it myghte be lesse,
Made in the leves grene a noyse softe
Acordaunt to the foules songe alofte.

Th'air of that place so attempre was
That nevere was grevaunce of hot ne cold.
Ther wex ek every holsom spice and gras;
No man may there waxe sek ne old;
Yit was there joye more a thousandfold
Than man can telle; ne nevere wolde it nyghte,
But ay cler day to any mannes syghte.

It can be found in:
# Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Riverside Chaucer (Third Edition). Larry D.
Benson, ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.
# Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Parlement of Foulys. D.S. Brewer, ed. London,
Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1960.

A prose translation can be found in:
# Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Complete Poetical Poetical Works of Geoffrey
Chaucer: Now First Put into Modern English. John S. P. Tatlock and Percy
MacKaye, trans. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1912.