Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Medieval Christmas Poetry (v)

I know I said I probably wouldn't post any more medieval Christmas poems, but I have changed my mind - not least having discovered an online copy of Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century.

This has some real gems, including one of my favourites, which I am astonished to find I have not already posted:

Adam lay i-bowndyn,
bowndyn in a bond,
Fowre thowsand wynter
thowt he not to long

And al was for an appil,
an appil that he tok.
As clerkes fyndyn wretyn
in here book.

Ne hadde the appil take ben,
the appil taken ben,
Ne hadde never our lady
a ben hevene quen.

Blyssid be the tyme
that appil take was!
Therefore we mown syngyn

Deo gratias!

That 'Blessed be the time' sounds almost heretical, until one recalls the Easter Exsultet: O felix culpa, quæ talem ac tantum méruit habére Redemptórem! (O happy fault, that won for us so great and glorious a Redeemer!)

As so often with me, part of the favouritism is because I used to sing it, in those dim and distant days when I was a boy chorister... This is the setting by Boris Ord, sung by a rather good choir from the Other Place.

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