Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
Anonymous. 15th Cent.
25. The Nut-Brown Maid
He.BE it right or wrong, these men among 
  On women do complain; 
Affirming this, how that it is 
  A labour spent in vain 
To love them wele; for never a dele         5
  They love a man again: 
For let a man do what he can 
  Their favour to attain, 
Yet if a new to them pursue, 
  Their first true lover than  10
Laboureth for naught; for from her thought 
  He is a banished man. 
She.I say not nay, but that all day 
  It is both written and said 
That woman's faith is, as who saith,  15
  All utterly decayd: 
But nevertheless, right good witnèss 
  In this case might be laid 
That they love true and continue: 
  Record the Nut-brown Maid,  20
Which, when her love came her to prove, 
  To her to make his moan, 
Would not depart; for in her heart 
  She loved but him alone. 
He.Then between us let us discuss  25
  What was all the manere 
Between them two: we will also 
  Tell all the pain in fere 
That she was in. Now I begin, 
  So that ye me answere:  30
Wherefore all ye that present be, 
  I pray you, give an ear. 
I am the Knight. I come by night, 
  As secret as I can, 
Saying, Alas! thus standeth the case,  35
  I am a banished man. 
She.And I your will for to fulfil 
  In this will not refuse; 
Trusting to show, in wordes few, 
  That men have an ill use—  40
To their own shame—women to blame, 
  And causeless them accuse. 
Therefore to you I answer now, 
  All women to excuse— 
Mine own heart dear, with you what cheer?  45
  I pray you, tell anone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.It standeth so: a deed is do 
  Whereof great harm shall grow:  50
My destiny is for to die 
  A shameful death, I trow; 
Or else to flee. The t' one must be. 
  None other way I know 
But to withdraw as an outlàw,  55
  And take me to my bow. 
Wherefore adieu, mine own heart true! 
  None other rede I can: 
For I must to the green-wood go, 
  Alone, a banished man.  60
She.O Lord, what is this worldis bliss, 
  That changeth as the moon! 
My summer's day in lusty May 
  Is darked before the noon. 
I hear you say, farewell: Nay, nay,  65
  We dèpart not so soon. 
Why say ye so? whither will ye go? 
  Alas! what have ye done? 
All my welfàre to sorrow and care 
  Should change, if ye were gone:  70
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.I can believe it shall you grieve, 
  And somewhat you distrain; 
But afterward, your paines hard  75
  Within a day or twain 
Shall soon aslake; and ye shall take 
  Comfort to you again. 
Why should ye ought? for, to make thought, 
  Your labour were in vain.  80
And thus I do; and pray you to, 
  As hartely as I can: 
For I must to the green-wood go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.Now, sith that ye have showed to me  85
  The secret of your mind, 
I shall be plain to you again, 
  Like as ye shall me find. 
Sith it is so that ye will go, 
  I will not live behind.  90
Shall never be said the Nut-brown Maid 
  Was to her love unkind. 
Make you ready, for so am I, 
  Although it were anone: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind  95
  I love but you alone. 
He.Yet I you rede to take good heed 
  What men will think and say: 
Of young, of old, it shall be told 
  That ye be gone away 100
Your wanton will for to fulfil, 
  In green-wood you to play; 
And that ye might for your delight 
  No longer make delay 
Rather than ye should thus for me 105
  Be called an ill womàn 
Yet would I to the green-wood go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.Though it be sung of old and young 
  That I should be to blame, 110
Theirs be the charge that speak so large 
  In hurting of my name: 
For I will prove that faithful love 
  It is devoid of shame; 
In your distress and heaviness 115
  To part with you the same: 
And sure all tho that do not so 
  True lovers are they none: 
For in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 120
He.I counsel you, Remember how 
  It is no maiden's law 
Nothing to doubt, but to run out 
  To wood with an outlàw. 
For ye must there in your hand bear 125
  A bow ready to draw; 
And as a thief thus must you live 
  Ever in dread and awe; 
Whereby to you great harm might grow: 
  Yet had I liever than 130
That I had to the green-wood go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.I think not nay but as ye say; 
  It is no maiden's lore; 
But love may make me for your sake, 135
  As I have said before, 
To come on foot, to hunt and shoot, 
  To get us meat and store; 
For so that I your company 
  May have, I ask no more. 140
From which to part it maketh my heart 
  As cold as any stone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.For an outlàw this is the law, 145
  That men him take and bind: 
Without pitie, hangèd to be, 
  And waver with the wind. 
If I had need (as God forbede!) 
  What socours could ye find? 150
Forsooth I trow, you and your bow 
  For fear would draw behind. 
And no mervail; for little avail 
  Were in your counsel than: 
Wherefore I'll to the green-wood go, 155
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.Right well know ye that women be 
  But feeble for to fight; 
No womanhede it is, indeed, 
  To be bold as a knight: 160
Yet in such fear if that ye were 
  With enemies day and night, 
I would withstand, with bow in hand, 
  To grieve them as I might, 
And you to save; as women have 165
  From death men many one: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.Yet take good hede; for ever I drede 
  That ye could not sustain 170
The thorny ways, the deep vallèys, 
  The snow, the frost, the rain, 
The cold, the heat; for dry or wete, 
  We must lodge on the plain; 
And, us above, no other roof 175
  But a brake bush or twain: 
Which soon should grieve you, I believe; 
  And ye would gladly than 
That I had to the green-wood go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 180
She.Sith I have here been partynere 
  With you of joy and bliss, 
I must alsò part of your woe 
  Endure, as reason is: 
Yet I am sure of one pleasùre, 185
  And shortly it is this— 
That where ye be, me seemeth, pardé, 
  I could not fare amiss. 
Without more speech I you beseech 
  That we were shortly gone; 190
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.If ye go thyder, ye must consider, 
  When ye have lust to dine, 
There shall no meat be for to gete, 195
  Nether bere, ale, ne wine, 
Ne shetès clean, to lie between, 
  Made of thread and twine; 
None other house, but leaves and boughs, 
  To cover your head and mine. 200
Lo, mine heart sweet, this ill diète 
  Should make you pale and wan: 
Wherefore I'll to the green-wood go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.Among the wild deer such an archère, 205
  As men say that ye be, 
Ne may not fail of good vitayle 
  Where is so great plentè: 
And water clear of the rivere 
  Shall be full sweet to me; 210
With which in hele I shall right wele 
  Endure, as ye shall see; 
And, or we go, a bed or two 
  I can provide anone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 215
  I love but you alone. 
He.Lo yet, before, ye must do more, 
  If ye will go with me: 
As, cut your hair up by your ear, 
  Your kirtle by the knee; 220
With bow in hand for to withstand 
  Your enemies, if need be: 
And this same night, before daylight, 
  To woodward will I flee. 
If that ye will all this fulfil, 225
  Do it shortly as ye can: 
Else will I to the green-wood go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.I shall as now do more for you 
  Than 'longeth to womanhede; 230
To short my hair, a bow to bear, 
  To shoot in time of need. 
O my sweet mother! before all other 
  For you I have most drede! 
But now, adieu! I must ensue 235
  Where fortune doth me lead. 
All this make ye: Now let us flee; 
  The day cometh fast upon: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 240
He.Nay, nay, not so; ye shall not go, 
  And I shall tell you why— 
Your appetite is to be light 
  Of love, I well espy: 
For, right as ye have said to me, 245
  In likewise hardily 
Ye would answere whosoever it were, 
  In way of company: 
It is said of old, Soon hot, soon cold; 
  And so is a womàn: 250
Wherefore I to the wood will go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.If ye take heed, it is no need 
  Such words to say to me; 
For oft ye prayed, and long assayed, 255
  Or I loved you, pardè: 
And though that I of ancestry 
  A baron's daughter be, 
Yet have you proved how I you loved, 
  A squire of low degree; 260
And ever shall, whatso befall 
  To die therefore anone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.A baron's child to be beguiled, 265
  It were a cursèd deed! 
To be felàw with an outlaw— 
  Almighty God forbede! 
Yet better were the poor squyere 
  Alone to forest yede 270
Than ye shall say another day 
  That by my cursèd rede 
Ye were betrayed. Wherefore, good maid, 
  The best rede that I can, 
Is, that I to the green-wood go, 275
  Alone, a banished man. 
She.Whatever befall, I never shall 
  Of this thing be upbraid: 
But if ye go, and leave me so, 
  Then have ye me betrayed. 280
Remember you wele, how that ye dele; 
  For if ye, as ye said, 
Be so unkind to leave behind 
  Your love, the Nut-brown Maid, 
Trust me truly that I shall die 285
  Soon after ye be gone: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.If that ye went, ye should repent; 
  For in the forest now 290
I have purveyed me of a maid 
  Whom I love more than you: 
Another more fair than ever ye were 
  I dare it well avow; 
And of you both each should be wroth 295
  With other, as I trow: 
It were mine ease to live in peace; 
  So will I, if I can: 
Wherefore I to the wood will go, 
  Alone, a banished man. 300
She.Though in the wood I understood 
  Ye had a paramour, 
All this may nought remove my thought, 
  But that I will be your': 
And she shall find me soft and kind 305
  And courteis every hour; 
Glad to fulfil all that she will 
  Command me, to my power: 
For had ye, lo, an hundred mo, 
  Yet would I be that one: 310
For, in my mind, of all mankind 
  I love but you alone. 
He.Mine own dear love, I see the prove 
  That ye be kind and true; 
Of maid, of wife, in all my life, 315
  The best that ever I knew. 
Be merry and glad; be no more sad; 
  The case is changèd new; 
For it were ruth that for your truth 
  Ye should have cause to rue. 320
Be not dismayed, whatsoever I said 
  To you when I began: 
I will not to the green-wood go; 
  I am no banished man. 
She.These tidings be more glad to me 325
  Than to be made a queen, 
If I were sure they should endure; 
  But it is often seen 
When men will break promise they speak 
  The wordis on the splene. 330
Ye shape some wile me to beguile, 
  And steal from me, I ween: 
Then were the case worse than it was, 
  And I more wo-begone: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 335
  I love but you alone. 
He.Ye shall not nede further to drede: 
  I will not disparàge 
You (God defend), sith you descend 
  Of so great a linàge. 340
Now understand: to Westmoreland, 
  Which is my heritage, 
I will you bring; and with a ring, 
  By way of marriàge 
I will you take, and lady make, 345
  As shortly as I can: 
Thus have you won an Earles son, 
  And not a banished man. 
 Here may ye see that women be 
  In love meek, kind, and stable; 350
Let never man reprove them than, 
  Or call them variable; 
But rather pray God that we may 
  To them be comfortable; 
Which sometime proveth such as He loveth, 355
  If they be charitable. 
For sith men would that women should 
  Be meek to them each one; 
Much more ought they to God obey, 
  And serve but Him alone. 360
GLOSS:  never a dele] never a bit.  than] then.  in fere] in company together.  rede I can] counsel I know.  part with] share with.  tho] those.  hele] health.  yede] went.  on the splene] that is, in haste.
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