Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extract from The King’s Quair
By King James I of Scotland (1394–1437)
 
(St. 30 et seqq.)

BEWAILLING in my chamber thus allone,
  Despeired of all joye and remedye,
For-tiret of my thought and wo-begone,
  And to the wyndow gan I walk in hye,
To see the warld and folk that went forbye,        5
  As for the tyme though I of mirthis fude
  Mycht have no more, to luke it did me gude.
 
Now was there maid fast by the Touris wall
  A gardyn faire, and in the corneris set
Ane herbere grene, with wandis long and small        10
  Railit about, and so with treis set
Was all the place, and hawthorn hegis knet,
  That lyf 1 was non walkyng there forbye,
  That mycht within scarce any wight aspy.
 
So thick the beuis 2 and the leves grene        15
  Beschadit all the allyes that there were,
And myddis every herbere mycht be sene
  The scharpë grenë suetë jenepere,
Growing so fair with branchis here and there,
  That, as it semyt to a lyf without,        20
  The bewis spred the herbere all about.
 
And on the smalë grenë twistis sat
  The lytil suetë nyghtingale, and song
So loud and clere, the ympnis 3 consecrat
  Of luvis use, now soft now lowd among,        25
That all the gardynis and the wallis rong
  Ryght of thaire song, and on the copill next
  Of thaire suete armony, and lo the text:—
 
‘Worschippe, ye that loveris bene, this May,
  For of your bliss the kalendis are begonne,        30
And sing with us, away winter, away,
  Come somer, come, the suete seson and sonne,
Awake, for schame! that have your hevynis wonne,
  And amourously lift up your hedis all,
  Thank Lufe that list you to his merci call.’        35
 
Quhen thai this song had song a littil thrawe, 4
  Thai stent a quhile, and therewith unafraid,
As I beheld, and kest myn eyen a-lawe, 5
  From beugh to beugh thay hippit and thai plaid,
And freschly in thair birdis kynd araid        40
  Thaire fatheris 6 new, and fret thame in the sonne,
  And thankit Lufe, that had thair makis 7 wonne.
 
This was the planë ditie of thair note,
  And therewithall unto myself I thought,
Quhat lufe is this, that makis birdis dote?        45
  Quhat may this be, how cummyth it of ought?
Quhat nedith it to be so dere ybought?
  It is nothing, trowe I, bot feynit chere, 8
  And that one list to counterfeten chere.
 
Eft wold I think, O Lord, quhat may this be?        50
  That Lufe is of so noble mycht and kynde,
Lufing his folk, and suich prosperitee
  Is it of him, as we in bukis fynd,
May he oure hertis setten and unbynd:
  Hath he upon our hertis suich maistrye?        55
  Or all this is bot feynit fantasye?
 
For giff he be of so grete excellence,
  That he of every wight hath cure and charge,
Quhat have I gilt to him, or doon offense
  That I am thrall, and birdis gone at large?        60
Sen him to serve he mycht set my corage,
  And, gif he be not so, than may I seyne
  Quhat makis folk to jangill of him in veyne?
 
Can I not ellis fynd bot giff that he
  Be lord, and, as a god, may lyve and regne,        65
To bynd, and louse, and maken thrallis free,
  Than wold I pray his blissful grace benigne
To hable 9 me unto his service digne,
  And evermore for to be one of tho
  Him trewly for to serve in wele and wo.        70
 
And therewith kest I doun myn eye ageyne,
  Quhare as I saw walkyng under the Toure,
Full secretely, new cumyn hir to pleyne,
  The fairest or the freschest youngë floure
That ever I sawe, methought, before that houre,        75
  For quhich sodayne abate, anon astert
  The blude of all my body to my hert.
 
And though I stood abaisit tho a lyte,
  No wonder was; for quhy? my wittis all
Were so ouercome with plesance and delyte,        80
  Only through latting of myn eyen fall,
That sudaynly my hert become hir thrall,
  For ever of free wyll, for of manace 10
  There was no takyn 11 in her suetë face.
 
And in my hede I drew rycht hastily,        85
  And eft sonës I lent it out ageyne,
And saw hir walk that verray womanly,
  With no wight mo, bot only women tueyne,
Than gan I studye in myself and seyne,
  Ah! suete, are ye a warldly creature,        90
  Or hevinly thing in likeness of nature?
 
Or ar ye god Cupidis owin princesse?
  And cumyn are to louse me out of band,
Or are ye veray Nature the goddesse,
  That have depayntit with your hevinly hand        95
This gardyn full of flouris, as they stand?
  Quhat sall I think, allace! quhat reverence
  Sall I minister to your excellence.
 
Giff ye a goddesse be, and that ye like
  To do me payne, I may it not astert;        100
Giff ye be warldly wight, that dooth me sike, 12
  Quhy lest 13 God mak you so, my derest hert,
To do a sely 14 prisoner thus smert,
  That lufis you all, and wote of nought but wo?
  And, therefore, merci, suete! sen it is so.        105
 
Quhen I a lytill thrawe had maid my mone,
  Bewailing myn infortune and my chance,
Unknawin how or quhat was best to done,
  So ferre 15 I fallyng into lufis dance,
That sodeynly my wit, my contenance,        110
  My hert, my will, my nature, and my mynd,
  Was changit clene rycht in ane other kind.
*        *        *        *        *
In hir was youth, beautee, with humble aport,
  Bountee, richesse, and womanly faiture,
God better wote than my pen can report;        115
  Wisdome, largesse, estate, and conyng sure
In every point, so guydit hir mesure,
  In word, in dede, in schap, in contenance,
  That nature mycht no more hir childe auance.
 
Throw quhich anon I knew and understude        120
  Wele that sche was a wardly creature,
On quhom to rest myn eyë, so much gude
  It did my wofull hert, I yow assure
That it was to me joye without mesure,
  And, at the last, my luke unto the hevin        125
  I threwe forthwith, and said thir versis sevin:
 
O Venus clere! of goddis stellifyit,
  To quhom I yelde homage and sacrifise,
Fro this day forth your grace be magnifyit,
  That me ressauit 16 have in such [a] wise,        130
To lyve under your law and your seruise;
  Now help me furth, and for your merci lede
  My hert to rest, that deis nere 17 for drede.
 
Quhen I with gude entent this orison
  Thus endit had, I stynt a lytill stound,        135
And eft myn eye full pitously adoun
  I kest, behalding unto hir lytill hound,
That with his bellis playit on the ground,
  Than wold I say, and sigh therewith a lyte,
  Ah! wele were him that now were in thy plyte!        140
 
An other quhile the lytill nyghtingale,
  That sat upon the twiggis, wold I chide,
And say rycht thus, Quhare are thy notis smale,
  That thou of love has song this morowe tyde?
Seis thou not hir that sittis thé besyde?        145
  For Venus’ sake, the blisfull goddesse clere,
  Sing on agane, and make my Lady chere.
 
Note 1. living thing. [back]
Note 2. boughs. [back]
Note 3. hymns. [back]
Note 4. space. [back]
Note 5. below. [back]
Note 6. feathers. [back]
Note 7. mates. [back]
Note 8. mirth. [back]
Note 9. enable. [back]
Note 10. pride, lit. menace. [back]
Note 11. token. [back]
Note 12. causes me to sigh. [back]
Note 13. did it please. [back]
Note 14. innocent. [back]
Note 15. fared. [back]
Note 16. received. [back]
Note 17. nearly dies. [back]
 
 
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