Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
The Cuckow and the Nightingale
By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)
 
  I CAME to a laund of white and green,
So faire one had I never in been,
The ground was green, ypowdred with daisie,
The flowres and the grovés like hy,
All greene and white, was nothing eles seene.        5
 
There sate I downe among the faire flowres,
And saw the birds trip out of hir bowrs,
There as they rested them all the night,
They were so joyfull of the dayés light,
They began of May for to done honours.        10
 
They coud that service all by rote,
There was many a lovely note,
Some sung loud as they had plainèd,
And some in other manner voice yfainèd,
And some all out with the full throte.        15
 
They proyned hem, and made them right gay,
And daunceden, and leapten on the spray,
And evermore two and two in fere,
Right so as they had chosen them to yere
In Februere, upon saint Valentine’s day.        20
 
And the river that I sate upon,
It made such a noise as it ran,
Accordaunt with the birdés harmony,
Methought it was the best melody
That might ben yheard of any mon.        25
 
And for delite, I wote never how
I fell in such a slomber and a swow,
Not all asleepe, ne fully waking,
And in that swow me thought I heard sing
The sorry bird, the lewd cuckow.        30
 
And that was on a tree right fast by,
But who was then evill apaid but I?
“Now God” (quod I) “that died on the crois
Yeve sorrow on thee, and on thy lewde vois,
Full little joy have I now of thy cry.”        35
 
And as I with the cuckow thus gan chide,
I hoard in the next bush beside
A nightingale so lustely sing,
That with her cleré voice she madé ring
Through all the greene wood wide.        40
 
“Ah, good nightingalé” (quoth I then)
“A little hast thou ben too longé hen, 1
For here hath been the lewd cuckow,
And songen songs rather than hast thou,
I pray to God evil fire her bren.”        45
 
But now I wol you tell a wonder thing,
As long as I lay in that swowning,
Me thought I wist what the birds meant,
And what they said, and what was their intent,
And of their speech I had good knowing.        50
 
There heard I the nightingalé say,
“Now, good cuckow, go somewhere away,
And let us that can singen dwellen here,
For every wight escheweth thee to hear,
Thy songs be so elengé in good fay.”        55
 
“What” (quod she) “what may thee ailen now,
It thinketh me, I sing as well as thou,
For my song is both true and plaine,
And though I cannot crakell so in vaine,
As thou dost in thy throte, I wot never how.        60
 
“And every wight may understandé mee,
But nightingale so may they not done thee;
For thou hast many a nice queint cry,
I have thee heard saine, ocy, ocy,
How might I know what that should be?”        65
 
“Ah foole,” (quod she,) “wist thou not what it is
When that I say, ocy, ocy, ywis?
Then meané I that I would wonder faine
That all they were shamefully yslaine
That meanen ought againé love amiss.        70
 
“And also I would that all tho were dede
That thinké not in love their life to lede,
For whoso that wol not the God of love serve,
I dare well say, he worthy is to sterve,
And for that skill, ocy, ocy, I grede.”        75
 
Note 1. Hence. [back]
 
 
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