skip to content

englesaxe

Early Middle English for today

full menu

The Owl and the Nightingale (lines 1-100)

in a normalised Early Middle English (East Midland dialect c 1200)

view original text
Ic was in a_ne sumer`e dale,
in a_ne swi_the de_gele hale,
i`he_rde ic ha_lden greate tale
an u_le and a_ne nihte`gale.
That plait was sti_f and stark and stra_ng, 5
sum hwi_le softe and lu_d ama_ng;
an eayther a`yean o_ther swal,
and le_t that ifele mo_d u_t al.
and eayther sayde of o_theres kiste
the alre-werste that hyo wiste: 10
and hu_re and hu_re of o_theres sa_nge
hi_ he_lden plaiding swi_the stra_nge.
The nihte`gale be`gan the spe_ce,
in a_ne hirne of a_ne breace,
and sat up a_ne fayere bo_ge, 15
- thear wearen abu_ten blostme i`no_h,-
in a_ne faste thicke hegge
i`meng'd mid spi_re and gre_ne segge.
Hyo was the glader for the ri_se,
and sang a fele kinnes wi_se: 20
bet thuhte the dream that it weare
of harpe and pi_pe than it neare:
bet thuhte that it weare i`scoten
of harpe and pi_pe than of throte.
Tha_ sto_d on a_ld stock thear be`si_de, 25
thear the u_le sang hire ti_de,
and was mid i_fiy al be`gro_wen;
hit was the u_les earding-sto_we.
The nihte`gale hire i`sah,
and hire be`he_ld and ofer`sah, 30
and thohte wel fu_l of the u_le,
for me hire ha_ldeth la_thlic and fu_le.
"Un`wiht," hyo sayde, "a`wey thu_ fle_!
me is the wers that ic the_ se_.
I`wiss for thi_ne fu_le leate, 35
wel oft ic mi_ne sa_ng for`leate;
mi_n herte at`fle_th and fa_ldeth mi_n tunge,
hwanne thu_ art to_ me_ i`thrungen.
Me_ liste bet spitten thanne singen
of thi_ne fu_le yugelinge." 40
This u_le a`ba_d for hit was e_fen,
hyo ne mihte na_ leng be`leafen,
for hire herte was swa_ great
that wel ne_h hire fnast at`sceat,
and warp a word thear-after la_nge; 45
"Hu_ thincth the_ nu_ bi_ mi_ne sa_nge?
We_nst thu_ that ic ne cunne singen,
theh ic ne cunne of writelinge?
I`lo_me thu_ de_st me_ grame,
and sayst me_ ba_the te_ne and scame. 50
Yif ic the_ he_lde on mi_ne fo_te,
(swa_ hit be`ti_de that ic mo_te!)
and thu_ weare u_t of thi_ne ri_se,
thu_ scoldest singen an o_ther wi_se."
The nihte`gale yaf andswere: 55
"Yif ic me lo_ke with the bare,
and me_ sce_lde with the bleate,
ne recce ic noht of thi_ne threate;
yif ic me ha_lde in mi_ne hegge,
ne recce ic neafer' hwat thu_ segge. 60
Ic wa_t that thu_ art un`mi_lde
with hem that ne mugen fram the_ sce_lden;
and thu_ tu_kest mid wrathe and ifele,
hwear thu_ miht, ofer smale fugele.
Forthi_ thu_ art la_th to_ al fugel-kinnes, 65
and alle hi_ the_ dri_fen henene,
and the_ be`scri_ken and be`greaden,
and wel narwe the_ be`leaden;
and e_k for the selfe ma_se,
hire thankes, wolde the_ to_`toren. 70
thu_ art la_thlic to_ be`ha_lden,
and thu_ art la_th in maniye fa_lde;
thi_n bodiy is scort, thi_n swe_re is smal,
greatere is thi_n heafed than thu_ al;
thi_n e_gen be_n col-blake and bra_de, 75
riht swa_ hi_ wearen i`peint mid wa_de;
thu_ starest swa_ thu_ wille a`bi_ten
al that thu_ miht mid clifere smi_ten:
thi_n bile is sti_f and scarp and ho_ked,
riht swa_ an owel that is cro_ked; 80
thear-mid thu_ clakest oft and la_nge,
and that is a_n of thi_ne sa_nges.
Ak thu_ threatest to_ mi_ne fleasce,
mid thi_ne cliferes woldest me_ mascen.
the_ weare i`ki_nder to_ a_ne frogge 85
snayles, mi_s, and fu_le wihtes,
ba_the thi_ne ki_nde and thi_ne rihte.
Thu_ sittest a`day and fle_gest a`niht,
thu_ cu_thest that thu_ art a_n un`wiht. 90
Thu_ art la_thlic and un`cleane,
bi_ thi_ne neste ic hit meane,
and e_k bi_ thi_ne fu_le bro_de,
thu_ fe_dest on hem a wel fu_l fo_de.
Wel wa_st thu_ that hi_ do_n thear`inne, 95
hi_ fu_len hit up to_ the cinne:
hi_ sitten thear swa_ hi_ be_n bisene.
Thear`bi_ men seggen a fore`bisene:
"Dehait habbe that ilke best
that fu_leth his a_gen nest." 100