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Now skruketh rose and lylie flour
(anonymous Medieval English Lyric Poem, circa 11th century AD)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nou skruketh rose ant lylie flour,                                                  Now wasteth the rose and the lily-flower,                                 skruketh = possibly from skrokr (cadaver) = to fade, to die, to decay, to waste away
That whilen ber that suete savour                                                  That will bear yet awhile that sweet savor: 
In somer, that suete tyde;                                                              In summer, that sweet tide; 
Ne is no quene so stark ne stour,                                                  There is no queen so stark in her power,                                  stour = strong, sturdy, hardy
Ne no levedy so bryht in boure                                                     Nor no lady so bright in her bower
That ded ne shal by-glyde:                                                            That, dead, shall not glide by;                                                  Perhaps glide away like a ghost? Here glyde could indicate a downwards descent.
Whoso wol fleshye lust for-gon and hevene-blisse abyde               Whoever will forgo fleshly lust, in heavenly bliss will abide
On Jhesu be is thoht anon, that tharled was ys syde.                      With his thoughts on Jesus anon, thralled at his side.                  tharled = thrilled? thralled?, made a serf?, bound?, pierced?

TRANSLATOR'S NOTES AND ANALYSIS: A similar poem to the one above, in both time and language, is "Blow Northerne Wynd," which has been called the "most ancient love poem in the English language" and was perhaps composed during the reign of King John (1199-1216). But I prefer this poem (although not so much the Christian sentiments of the closing couplet). I went with the darker "thralled" rather than "thrilled," but to each his/her own interpretation. Another possibility for the closing line is "With his thoughts on Jesus anon, who was pierced in his side."

The most difficult line to translate was L6. I take the original poet to be saying that in the end even the most beautiful and healthy of women will waste away (like the roses and lilies), at which point their ghosts or spirits will glide off. But "by-glide" and "off-glide" sound very awkward to the modern ear, and don't seem very effective to me, meaning-wise. I chose to move "by" to the end of the line and let the rhyme be internal. Even so, the line may not convey the full impact of the original line. I think "glide off" may be closer to the intended meaning, or perhaps "downwards glide." It is also possible that by-glyde could mean something closer to "befall," since gliding usually involves descending. If so, the poet could be suggesting that lovely ladies who don't forgo fleshly lust will die and descend to hell, while those who do will abide in heavenly bliss with Jesus. If I'm correct in this suspicion, L6 might be better rendered as "That, dead, shall not downward glide."

According to Thomas Wharton's History of English Poetry, the poem was written by a lover during a walk in Peterborough around the year 1200. How he arrived at that conclusion, I am not sure. The poem also appeared in Thomas Wright's Specimens of Lyric Poetry Composed in England in the Reign of Edward I. ― Michael R. Burch

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