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The Owl and the Nightingale

London, British Library, MS Cotton Caligula A.ix (C), ff. 233ra--246ra Oxford, Jesus College MS 29 (J), ff. 156ra--168vb

Translation by Bella Millet (University of Southampton)
This is where the argument between the Owl and the Nightingale starts. I was in a valley in springtime; in a very secluded corner, I heard an owl and a nightingale holding a great debate. [5] Their argument was fierce, passionate, and vehement, sometimes sotto voce, sometimes loud; and each of them swelled with rage against the other and let out all her anger, and said the very worst she could think of about the other's character, [10] and especially they argued vehemently against each other's song. The nightingale began the argument in the corner of a clearing, [15] and perched on a beautiful branch---there was plenty of blossom around it---in an impenetrable thick hedge, with reeds and green sedge growing through it. She was all the happier because of the branch, [20] and sang in many different ways; the music sounded as if it came from a harp or a pipe rather than from a living throat. [25] Nearby there stood an old stump where the owl sang her Hours, and which was all overgrown with ivy; this was where the owl lived. The nightingale looked at her, [30] and scrutinised her and despised her, and everything about the owl seemed unpleasant to her, since she is regarded as ugly and dirty. 'You nasty creature!', she said, 'fly away! The sight of you makes me sick. [35] Certainly I often have to stop singing because of your ugly face. My heart fails me, and so does my speech, when you thrust yourself on me. I'd rather spit than sing [40] about your wretched howling.' The owl waited until it was evening; she couldn't hold back any longer, because she was so angry that she could hardly breathe, and finally she spoke: [45] 'How does my song seem to you now? Do you think that I can't sing just because I can't twitter? You often insult me [50] and say things to upset and embarrass me. If I held you in my talons---if only I could!--and you were off your branch, you'd sing a very different tune!' [55] The nightingale answered, 'As long as I keep out of the open, and protect myself against being exposed, I'm not bothered about your threats; [60] as long as I stay put in my hedge, I don't care at all what you say. I know that you're ruthless towards those who can't protect themselves from you, and that where you can you bully small birds cruelly and harshly. [65] That is why all kinds of birds hate you, and they all drive you away, and screech and scream around you, and mob you at close quarters; and for the same reason even the titmouse [70] would gladly rip you to pieces. You're ugly to look at, and hideous in all sorts of ways; your body is squat, your neck is scrawny, your head is bigger than the rest of you put together; [75] your eyes are black as coal, and as big as if they were painted with woad. You glare as if you want to bite to death everything that you can strike with your talons. Your beak is hard and sharp, and curved [80] like a bent hook. You often make a repeated clacking noise with it, and that's one of your songs. But you're making threats against my person, and would like to crush me with your talons; [85] a frog would suit you better, squatting under a millwheel; snails, mice, and other vermin would be more natural and appropriate for you. You roost by day and fly by night; [90] you show that you're an evil creature. You are loathsome and unclean---I'm talking about your nest, and also about your dirty chicks; you're bringing them up with really filthy habits. [95] You know very well what they do in their nest: they foul it up to the chin; they sit there as if they're blind. There's a proverb about that: 'Shame on the creature [100] which fouls its own nest'! The other year a falcon was breeding; she didn't guard her nest well. You crept in there one day, and laid your filthy egg in it. [105]When the time came that she hatched the eggs and the chicks emerged, she brought her chicks food, watched over the nest and saw them eat; she saw that on one side [110]her nest was fouled on the outer edge. The falcon was angry with her chicks, and screamed loudly, and scolded sternly: 'Tell me, who's done this? It was never your nature to do this kind of thing. [115] This

hide your dishonesty from the light. You didn't succeed with your cunning plans. And nevertheless she answered: [150] 'Why don't you fly into the open and show which of us two is brighter in colouring and prettier to look at?' 'No! you have very sharp claws.' The owl reflected for a while. It's no use your pushing too hard. [170] because I'm cautious and can easily dodge. 'He who fights and runs away. he's no longer inclined to frivolity. [155] You have very strong talons. [200]. [125] and threw it off that wild branch. 'It was actually our brother. darkness from light. properly and correctly. in my branch. he's always letting his origins show. who is able and willing to give us a fair judgement?' 'I know very well'. though it's not entirely a fable: this is what happens to the villain [130] who's come from a disreputable family and mixes with respectable people. I' wonder about that. [145] and sat puffed up and swollen with rage. why do you do what evil creatures do? You sing by night and not by day. and kept her eyes lowered. [205] I know that he's cooled down considerably now. and well I may. and courteous and diplomatic language. because although he was wild once. as if she had swallowed a frog. You could frighten all those who hear your hooting with your song. [140] and after that long speech she sang as loudly and as shrilly as if a resonant harp were being played. You'll never charm him so much [210] that he'd give a false judgement in your favour. [225] It seems to everyone. he will take the right path. the one over there with the big head--. 'Owl'. he has no desire for indiscretion now.' The nightingale replied with these words. I wouldn't do what you suggested to me. I would fight better with cunning than you with all your strength.' But let's stop this quarrelling. she said. both in breadth and length. Tell me. she had a wide range of experience.' [215] The nightingale was quite ready. Lives to fight another day. [160] I knew very well that you were trying to mislead me. There's a fable told about this. without quarrelling and fighting. the wise man says. who is singing well. [185] and indeed each of us can say what she wants to fairly and reasonably. and fond of nightingales and other charming and dainty creatures. because every . [175] I have a good castle. You shriek and scream to your mate in a way that's horrible to listen to. that he's come from a rotten egg even if he's turned up in a respectable nest.' Then the owl said: 'Who is there to mediate between us. see that it's not obvious. that you're wailing rather than singing. and and finally spoke as follows: 'I'm quite willing that he should judge us. [195] He has a good understanding of singing. 'tell me the truth. He's mature. clever or stupid. [180]. where magpies and crows tore it to pieces. he's not so bewitched by you that he'll give you priority over me because of his old love for you. [135] even if an apple rolls away from the tree where it was growing with the others. The owl listened to this. you grip with them like a pair of tongs. [190] 'there's no need for discussion about it:Master Nicholas of Guildford. he has very sound judgement. so that he breaks his neck!' The Falcon believed her chicks. although it's some distance from it it still reflects clearly where it's come from. and detests all vices. and his judgement is a disgusting thing to have happened to you. because speeches like this aren't getting us anywhere. You ought to be ashamed of your bad advice! Your deviousness has been exposed. said the nightingale. we can plead better politely. and let's begin with reasonable procedure. I don't fancy being clawed by you. who badly. Even if we don't agree. and seized that dirty chick by the middle. You fly by night and not by day.[120] it's a pity nobody's cut it off! Throw him out as a reject. if you know who did it!' Then they all said. because she was fully aware that the nightingale was singing to humiliate her. and conceal that wickedness under good behaviour! [165] When you want to practise your villainy. because dishonesty brings down contempt and hatred if it's open and recognized. You were planning---that's what your sort do---to trick me with flattery. He is wise and weighs his words carefully. and he can distinguish wrong from right. [220] and your whole song is "Woe! Woe!".

But you sing all night long. and afterwards when it is time to go to bed. and became really angry. [305] and swoops at him screaming as if she means to attack him? The hawk follows a sensible plan. because I would never be any better off [285] if I attacked them with scolding. In this way you can devalue your song. 'And you reproach me with a further point. And listen. sharp claws. long. proverb which is used by a lot of people. night or day. strong beak [270] and good. [275] It's obvious in my case that I'm so fierce because of my proper nature. Alfred had [300] a saying which has spread far and wide: "Anyone who has to do with someone who is dirty will never come away from him with clean hands". because it is true--Alfred said so. and your song lasts as long as the night does. with full melody and a resonant voice. [325] the third time at midnight.[235] because King Alfred said and wrote it: "Someone who knows he's fouled himself keeps out of the way. [255] She said. always giving and always unchanged. You're lying! It's obvious that I have good eyesight. it's like a great horn. and go on your way!" And I am wise. Every pleasure can last so long that it ceases to please. [310] and accuse me of not being able to sing. [315] You think that all songs sound terrible if they're not like your piping. [365] and say that because I fly by night I can't see in daylight. There's a wise. [295] "Take care to avoid anywhere where there are arguments and quarrels. you gabble like an Irish priest. I don't want to quarrel with the wretched creatures. [260] Now let me have my turn! Be quiet now. the whole reason for it. and surfeit makes you sick. because there's no darkness so thick that my sight is obscured. abuse. it will seem very tedious if it goes on longer than we would like. 'And another thing: you raise another point against me. saying that my only song is a dirge. but you could better be described as achatterbox because you talk too much. during the day you're completely blind. or compete with the oven in gaping widely. I prefer to have peace and quiet and sit still in my nest. even if you drew constantly on that basket. and so I regulate my song. [265] You say that I hide myself by day. because harp and pipe and birdsong all grow tiresome if they last too long. That's why I'm hated by the small birds that fly along the ground and through thickets. so I give them a wide berth. knows the dark path well [250] and avoids the well-lit one. It is my wish and my desire to take after my own kind. so it is with those of your kind: they don't care at all for light. That isn't true---I sing harmoniously. as shepherds do. Do you think that the hawk is the worse for it if a crow caws at him beside the marsh. And from another point of view. There's a proverb which is used about that: [245] just as is the case with the villain who is up to no good. It's the opinion of the wise--. You constantly assault the ears of those who live around you with your piping. When I see dawn coming far off. and make your song so cheap [340] that it loses all its value. which is always full of delight and always the same. I'll tell you why. and do just that. And listen to how I can defend myself by plain truth without verbiage. as is proper for the hawk family. and it can be read in books: [350] "Everything can lose its value through lack of moderation and restraint. I don't deny that. or with bad language. or the morning star. that I have poor eyesight. though coarse. and insults. I've heard howAlfred once said in his proverbs.' The owl listened for a very long time. and yours is like a whistle made from a spindly half-grown weed. [345] However delightful a song may be. from evening till dawn. and is so full of malicious dishonesty that nobody can escape him. [335] and your wretched throat keeps on trilling without stopping. [370] You think I . I sing in the evening at the proper time. They scream and squawk at me [280] and fly in flocks against me. Another thing occurs to me: [240] at night you have very sharp eyesight." I think that's just what you're doing. My voice is confident. I have a hard. so you can't see either branch or bark. That is God's kingdom. and every creature attracted by wrongdoing likes the cover of darkness for what it does. nobody can blame me for it. 'You're called a nightingale. [320] I sing better than you do. I do good with my throat [330] and call people to their business. [355] and every enjoyment can pall if it is pursued constantly---except for one. and distressing to listen to. let fools quarrel.[360] it would constantly be full to overflowing. Give your tongue a rest! You think you've got the day to yourself. and flies on his way and lets her scream. God's kingdom is something to marvel at. not diffident.[290] and so they often say---that one shouldn't quarrel with fools. I'll get my revenge on you.creature that avoids doing right [230] loves darkness and hates light." You can glut yourself with pleasure. and let me speak. because you always fly at night.

greater and lesser. although the nightingale[410] was nervous. and it's sensible for me to do that. complaining and scowling come easily to him if he sees that people are happy. and the green leaves begin to fade. when I see that harsh weather is coming. [485] And also I'm concerned with other things than having fun and singing. because it is wise to put on a brave show in front of one's enemy rather than giving up out of cowardice. 'Owl. As soon as you've mated. said the owl. he's entirely concerned with lechery. too. since what she said was true and accurate. I'll have you know. because your song is all about lechery. and was afraid that her answer [400] would not be effectively delivered. since you practically burn up with resentment[420] when our good times arrive. 'You ask me'. he dodges away at top speed. You behave like a mean-spirited man: every pleasure displeases him. and turns sharply down very narrow paths. [435] and rejoices when I come. I travel home and take my leave. But nevertheless she spoke out boldly. [495] even the stallions in the stud go wild after the mares. and considered for a long time what she might say to follow it. For no animal waits any longer. And you are like them yourself. [450] but even so. 'why do you behave like this? In winter you sing "Woe! Woe!' You sing like a hen in snow---everything that you sing comes out of misery. [505] What's more. [460] I go home to my own country. she made a bold speech. and then considered how she might [470] best find a defensible answer. with friendly talk and kind words. but each one mounts the other. the hare lies low all day. not for too long.' The nightingale kept all this in her mind. and keeps his tricks ready. which flies along the ground among the stubble. I have a good answer to this point. every creature is glad on my account. [490] and makes a man's thoughts go astray. [475] It's customary---and has been since the world began---for every good man to acknowledge his friends and entertain them for a time in his house. and overrun many countries. both on the trees and in the fields. and travel everywhere. And she regretted that she had let the argument get so far. I follow those brave men. anyone who stays on for a long time when they're not needed [465] is neither clever nor sensible. and you are always dumb in summer. because she could not refute [395] what the owl had said to her. [480]. he wouldn't mind if whole troops of men were fighting each other hand-to-hand. and am both loved and thanked for having come and done my task here. springing from the briar. you sing worse than the hedgesparrow. if he sees that you're not cowardly he'll turn from a boar into a barrow-pig. all ready and waiting. [380]and looks for ways to the wood. when your desire has passed. [445] tells me to sing a joyful song for love of her. And so I do. when what I've come for is done. because anyone who is afraid of being tricked when arguing a case must consider things very carefully. even though I stay hidden all day. And especially at Christmas. [455] When men's thoughts turn to their sheaves. But I bring every delight with me. [375] If hounds run towards him. and hops and leaps very fast. the more I can---and serenade them with my singing. The blushing rose. It's because of your wretched malice that you can't be happy with us.can't see because I don't fly by day. I help them as far as I can. and do good service at night. You do the same for your part. For summertime is far too heady. but nevertheless he can see. His eyesight wouldn't be up to this unless he could see really well. I can see as well as a hare.' she said. you sing from evening to morning. [440] and invites me with her beautiful appearance to fly to her. I go back. The flowers begin to open and bloom. [385] Where brave men are at war. sing carols night and day. at his table. [425] he would like to see tears in everyone's eyes. [390] and fly at night in their company. and took in all this argument word for word. And therefore. I don't care for the deprivations of winter. squeaking hoarsely. when rich and poor. and looks forward to my arrival.[430] because when deep snow is lying far and wide. should I stay on? No! why should I? After all. and every creature is miserable. [415] In winter you sing sullenly and gloomily. 'why I sing and cry out in winter. The lily with her fair complexion welcomes me. and instead chirp like a titmouse. night and day---the more I sing. and towards the time you breed [500] you're very arrogant and aggressive. you lose your voice.' The owl listened. When I see that people are happy I don't want them to feel overloaded. When my work's finished. since he loses interest in chastity. [405] since someone who is bold if you take to flight will run away if you don't lose your nerve. so .

[550] 'You've brought a charge as you proposed to. and once your twittering is finished. not just commoners but aristocrats. Your colouring is dark and dull. all his ardour collapses. [540] to lessen some of their misery. which always stays in leaf and never loses its colour [620] when it snows or when it freezes. [605] and my services are excellent. But keep quiet and listen to me now! I'll see to it that your speech is refuted by a single statement. [555] and you answer me if you can. [590] and you avoid other. you lose your song completely. that "Need makes the old woman trot. you aren't tall. you aren't strong. And if I don't feel like staying anywhere else. because I can look after human dwellings. [535] and also I give comfort to many creatures which have no strength of their own. and you haven't done much good either. What's more. since it's true). You slander my chicks. [580] you aren't broad. But you also accuse me of other things. I have a second answer. when the going is tough. when my house stands bright and green. and say that I eat vermin. You're just a useless creature. That's what your character is like: as soon as you're sitting on your eggs. since I'm not a feeble wretch. 'You must listen to the other side. and contort themselves into strange postures. [625] yours has disappeared. [615] I have huge trees in the wood. I've another point to make about you: you're not clean or decent [585] when you visit human enclosures. except that you make as much noise as if you were mad. but the peasant's basic instinct. You're attracted there.has your song. [640] Do you want to visit my nest and see how it's laid out? If you . among the weeds and nettles.' 'That wouldn't be fair'. [515] once he's got under a woman's skirt and shot his bolt. You aren't pretty. you criticize me for my diet. That's also true of a lot of other creatures. You've missed out completely on good looks. For as soon as he's done the deed. clean places. [510] it isn't because of love. and no vermin will enter it if I can catch them. and little children in their cradles. saying that their nest isn't clean. Alfred the wise said ([570] quite rightly. but what do you eat--don't try to deny it!---[600] but spiders and filthy flies and worms." What's more. and am happy to offer my performance. In it I have a good shelter. [575] there's nothing to you but twittering. In summer the peasants go wild. [525] only then is it clear who's got what it takes. What good do you do for humanity? No more than a wretched wren does! [565] Nothing useful comes from you. When I fly out after mice at night. where thorns and branches are woven together alongside hedges and thick weeds. warm in winter. But when the nights draw in and bring sharp frosts. and also at church in the dark. with thick branches. his love doesn't last any longer. because you're small and weak and your coat of feathers is scanty. you miserable creature. cool in summer. [595] You can most often be found where people park their bottoms. What do you think of that? Have you been cornered yet? Have you been fairly beaten?' 'Not at all!' said the nightingale. [520] That's how you behave on your branch: when you've had your fun. and search desperately for warmth. There's a proverb which has been running for a long time. 'Nobody is loved or valued very long for their singing alone'. because I help with people's food supply. I sing more often to them. however. Winter doesn't trouble me. I want to argue against you as you argued against me. your voice is ruined. Tell me now. But before we set off for our judgement. where people often go to relieve themselves. [545] This debate hasn't been submitted to judgement yet. [635] How can the young creature help it? If it offends. do you have any use apart from having a musical voice? You're no good for anything [560] apart from knowing how to warble. since the horse in its stable and the ox in its stall [630] do everything that they have to there. you look like a little sooty bundle. I can catch mice in a barn. you hang around there. you sit and sing behind the seat. if you can find them in the crevices of rough bark? But I cando very good service. you can see who presses forward and who hangs back. [610] because I like to visit Christ's house to clear it of filthy mice. It's obvious in hard times [530] when good service needs to be offered. it's forced to. I can find you at the privy. They are anxious and wretched. and I've given you an answer. because someone who doesn't know how to do anything but sing is good for nothing. then I'm ready and entertain and sing. you don't have any other skill. not bare but all overgrown with green ivy. do everything in their youth that they give up when they're older. the owl said.

a privy at the far end of their bedchamber. which might be useful for other purposes. Owl. that nothing else is his equal. and clerics compose songs. That is why there is singing in Holy Church. the remedy is closest. in spite of this. if the mouth is to gloss things over so the heart inside can't be seen. [650] and model ours on theirs. because they don't want to go too far. monks. and endures both stick and spur. you can learn from it. one song from my mouth is better than everything your kind was ever able to do. this isn't just warbling. [785] even if . Hang up your axe! It's time for you to be on your way. But nevertheless. among other arrangements. [695] if he can't hold on to his wits. So a man is never at a loss as long as he keeps his wits about him. We pay attention to human living-quarters. Why do you criticise me for my weakness. [765] castles and citadels can be won with a minimum of force. Sit still now. [710]and bringing happiness far and wide. Humans have. and canons[730] in good communities get up at midnight and sing about the light of heaven. Clerics. among the difficulties and the tensions." [700] The nightingale had wisely made good use of all her trouble. and they are in better spirits because of me. [680] there is a possible way out if anyone can make use of it. and say that I'm not strong because I'm not broad or tall? [755] You've got no idea what you're talking about. who knew what he was about and always spoke the truth. and stands tethered at the door of the mill. 'you ask me if I can do anything apart from singing in summertime. and to remain eternally. Brute force is of little value. and is forced to dissimulate. and that's why I am so confident. and searched desperately for ideas. apart from singing. Why are you interrogating me about my skills? My one skill is better than all of yours. you can sit there and wither away. because I'm capable of deviousness and cunning. he has to embroider and wrap things up. 'Owl. and country priests sing when the dawn breaks. and pulls in front of large teams. and more willing to sing. which is still remembered. to see if there was anything else she could do. you'll never find an answer to this." Often a little cunning succeeds where great strength would fail. the remedy is closest". [735] And I help them as far as I can. you chattering female! [655] You were never so tightly tied up. [770] but wisdom never loses its value.' At these words the nightingale [660] was almost entirely lost for inspiration. and it does what it's told. and it is very hard to fight against truth and justice. but because it has no intelligence [775] it carries heavy loads on its back. because intelligence increases when it is in difficulties.' she said. walls can be destroyed by cunning. So it was said by Alfred. [645] there's a woven lattice all round it. I give people a preview of the future for their good. and my chicks do the same. [725] but think about it and obtain it. and understand from the singing in church how delightful the bliss of heaven will be. That is where they go to relieve themselves. because intelligence is never so sharp as when its best plan is in doubt. his bag of tricks is slit right open. so it's as soft as possible for my chicks.have any sense. [705] and had found a good answer in her time of crisis. [740] to give them comfort. and are just telling me lies. Now. A horse is stronger than a man. [690] and becomes sharper as a result. but if he loses them. and brave knights knocked off their horses. Man brings it about. it reaches its height of cunning when it feels most at risk. [780] and because it has no understanding its strength can't protect it from having to submit to a small child. [745] I'm prepared to agree that we should go to judgement before the Pope of Rome himself. where there is always the same level of singing and rejoicing. [670] Someone who finds himself in dire straits must tackle the problem by resorting to cunning. not for the whole of England. or fall behind completely. she had given the matter prudent and careful thought. [675] And it is easy for a speech to go wrong where the mouth is saying something inconsistent with the heart [the point is repeated in slightly different wording]. I sing with them night and day. by strength and intelligence. But wait---you must listen to something else on this subject. "When the disaster is greatest. You won't be able [750] to resist me in this argument. extending outwards from the nest itself. [685] For Alfred said in an old proverb. [720] everyone who has any idea of what is good aspires to that. [715] And listen! I'll tell you why: do you know why man was born? For the bliss of the kingdom of heaven. because it's true what Alfred said: "Strength is useless against intelligence. and encourage them to pursue the song which is eternal. to remind people of where they are destined to be. but I forbid them to do what you claim they do. [665] She had to find an answer to this point. [760] and don't rely on any other strength. You can see in all kinds of things that wisdom has no equal. My nest is hollow and wide in the middle. so that so that they shouldn't forget the joy. my small size and my short stature. "When the disaster is greatest. I know plenty of tricks and songs. he won't find a plan in any corner of it.

and with that one throw he brings down all his opponents. up to the song that lasts for ever. I do better with my song [790] than you do throughout the year. [835] I say just the same about myself: my one skill is worth better than twelve of yours. I weep better than you sing. that's why he's still wearing his grey pelt. and one knows a lot of throws. I do my job very . But I travel both north and south. Then the hound is thrown off the scent. far and near. But it's really astonishing that you dare to tell such an obvious lie. and pray for Christ's mercy on their behalf. although they themselves are saved. The fox doesn't know any trick as good as that. because I show him where misery lies. where there are people who have little experience of any song under the sun? Why won't you sing to the priests and teach them through your chirruping. even if you combined all your skills. Do you think less of me because I have only one skill? [795] If two men go to the wrestling and each of them presses the other hard. Why don't you travel to Norway. with all his tricks. he finally creeps back to his hole. when your dishonesty's exposed. I'm loved because of my skill. and shortly afterwards double back on it. You say that you sing to humankind. But I'm at a different level from you. [875] If you take this as a starting-point for argument. [820] and turn off from his earlier route. now it will become very clear that you've told a pack of lies. my mouth offers two kinds of remedy. which comes up beside a swift stream. to see if you can explain it away. [885] they weep bitterly for other people. because human skill dominates all earthly creatures. [880]and thoroughly pure in heart. [905] Why won't you sing to other nations where it's needed much more? You never sing in Ireland.all kinds of strength were combined.[810] the cat survives very well. [845] Hold on! Hold on! you'll meet resistance. I am known in every country. In the same way. if right goes ahead and wrong behind. And I'll put a further point to you. and what you say is so plausible and charming that everyone who hears it thinks that you're telling the truth.[830] to avoid losing his red pelt. and the other only knows a single throw. why need he bother about having a better throw than the one which is so effective for him? [805] You say that you can do a lot of services. [900] as there is no holiness in you. because all my song is about longing. I'd argue against you from another point of view. they regret that they are here because. you gloss over everything. nevertheless they long to leave this world. [890] because when he feels that desire I sing to him. Often. east and west. You manipulate all your words [840] so that everything you say seems right. Everything you sing is about lechery. they see nothing but misery here. but nevertheless. I help with this. he doesn't know from the mingled scents whether he should go onwards or back. even though he only knows one trick. [825] If the fox runs out of all these ruses. he can't plan well enough---bold and quick as he is--. because no man is without sin. and I help the sinful man as well. so that what was once sweet to him becomes bitter. God knows. [815] since he knows straight and crooked paths. when hounds are hunting down foxes. human intelligence would still be greater. since you don't have the voice for it. my single skill is still essentially better. in a short space of time. Do you expect to bring them so easily [855] to God's kingdom. one after another. nobody's reminded by your chirping of a priest singing in church.' 'Hold on! Hold on!' said the owl. because when you sit on your branch. all singing? No. so the hound loses the trail and turns back to the moorland. The cat knows only a single trick. [850] and teach them that they are headed out of this world. even though he knows so many that he thinks he can escape all the hounds. I don't sing to ensnare them. so that a man should be moved by me to realize that he should bewail his guilt. they'll surely realize that they must pray for a remedy for their sins with copious weeping before they can ever get there. and weep more than they sing. [870] and mingled to some extent with lamentation. What's more. and he can hang from a branch. I help both kinds of people. he must [865] make amends with tears and weeping. before he departs. you're shunned because of your strength. The fox can creep along the hedge. [915] and show them with your voice how angels sing in heaven? You behave like a useless spring. [800]but that works with everybody. no. nor do you visit Scotland. and so. [860] So I advise that those people who hope to reach the King of Heaven should be prepared. I help the good man in longing. and lets the slope dry out [920] and flows uselessly down it. 'Your whole approach is dishonest. [910] and sing to the folk of Galloway. by hill or by dale---that he can climb very well. and can disguise his tactics very well. Although some people are thoroughly good. [895] you entice those people who are willing to listen to your songs to the joys of the flesh. you're hopeless on the bliss of heaven. my weeping is better than your singing.

They don't have either wine or beer. that you can screech angrily and harshly. and the man who is angry rarely pleads successfully"--. or that the sun is more reluctant to shine if it's filthy in your nest? [965] Should I. and taught her to prostitute her body to shameful and disgraceful acts. it is my rule. your song is lamentation. The nightingale considered. [970] that I should follow the highest. A man should keep quiet and not make an outcry. [995] And another thing: you ask why I don't travel into another country and sing there. my song would be completely wasted. so that I don't sing beside the bed where a lord has his lover as a bedfellow? It is my duty.' The nightingale was furious. [1030] nor could a man armed with steel and iron. as that man is mad who sows his seed where no grass or flowers ever grow. and let her anger subside.well. the bedchamber is our territory. and set and laid out lime .' she said. [1045] 'You say that you watch over people's bedchambers. and mine celebration. and to give up their vices. and so loses all its insight. you boast about your song. Once you sang---I know well where--. I hope you screech and weep till you drop dead. crags and rocky hills reaching to the sky. for King Alfred said so: "The man who is hated rarely intercedes successfully. I exercise my throat among them. well protected. her eyes bulging. and the same point is still true. and wanted to encourage the lady into an illicit affair. [985] You screech and wail. They don't care how they live. That country is horrible and depressing. it's true.[930] because it's better that they should weep in this world than be the companions of devils in the next. because of a board with a hole in it. among the weeds. It was said in an old proverb. that someone should be happy or sad? I hope that in our case you'll aways be sad. and she sat and thought for a time. [1015] If any good man visited them---as one did recently from Rome---to teach them to behave properly. Where a lord and lady are lying. They eat raw fish and meat. he'd be better off staying put. so that your beguiling song doesn't mislead them. [1020] because he wouldn't be able to do anything he planned. they go round dressed in shaggy animal skins. because the owl had criticized her for the place she sat and sang in. since neither halter nor bridle could restrain them from their savage behaviour. [975] If everybody howled and screamed as if they were damned. Furthermore. so that it can't do anything but feel. and I sing. [955] 'Owl. singing in church at the right time can't be too loud or too long. and I'll be happy. [1000] on the contrary. [950] so it cannot see what is true or right. [960] I have to sing to them and perch near them. I guide people with my singing so that they don't sin for too long. snow and hail are what they're used to. but live like wild animals. abandon my proper place. as if they'd come out of hell. 'now listen here! You'll fall. [1005] they don't live in peace or harmony. that a man must harrow and sow [1040] where he expects to gain some benefit from reaping.[1010] they don't know what else to do.[945] because anger stirs up the blood in the heart so that it flows like a raging torrent and overwhelms the heart completely. [935]. where people go to relieve themselves. The inhabitants are savage and miserable. among leaves and beautiful flowers. if they screeched as you did. it's wilderness and wasteland. and sang both low and high. You say I fly around behind the bedchamber. behind the bedchamber. No! What could I do among people who have always been wretched? That country isn't agreeable or pleasant.[1050] beside a bedchamber. [940]and was well aware in her reflection that anger deprives a man of his wits. and also rather embarrassed. [1055] The lord soon discovered that. and say that you encourage humankind to weep for their sins. Do you think that sensible people abandon the right road because of dirty mud. But where a country is pleasant and agreeable. and I hope you scream so loudly [990] that both your eyes pop out! Which is better of these two things. I tell them that they should stop so that they don't get themselves trapped. [925] and warn people with my cries. [1025] What use would I be there with my song? However long I sang to them. where two lovers lie in one bed in each other's embrace. and where the natives are friendly. since my song includes hymns. it would be better for her to speak calmly than to use angry words. you're on a slippery slope. but the proper place for praying aloud and loud singing is where Christ is worshipped. They drink milk and whey with it--. they might scare the wits out of their priest.' The owl was angry and ready for a fight when she heard this. because I can do them good service there [1035] and bring them news of love. ripping it apart like wolves. he would have more chance of teaching a bear to use a shield and spear than of persuading that savage nation to listen to me singing. [980] he may weep for his sins.

but you make a fine scarecrow. Your only judgement and sentence was to be torn apart by wild horses. goldfinch. [1165] That's why people give you a wide berth.and snares and all kinds of things to catch you. It was an honour to my whole family. it says in the song. villagers. [1075] 'What! Are you saying this to discredit me? The lord got into trouble for this. Your life is always evil and wicked. It's only when you're hit or shot that you become useful. and throw things at you and beat you with sticks and stones and turves and clods. is always about people's misfortune. [1135] no bird dares approach if you are hung over them. "Whoever speaks well. Now I can sing when I want. 'What!' she said. She resorted to her tongue. you've no idea where to find a hollow stump where you could hide to avoid people. bear any man speaking to her[1080] without breaking his heart. [1110] and nobody will ever dare to trouble me again. early and late. or a hue and cry after thieves. He inflicted his own shame on me.[1060] your legs paid the penalty for it. King Henry discovered what had happened---may Jesus have mercy on his soul! He ordered the banishment of the knight who had committed such a great crime [1095] in such a good king's country: out of sheer malice and wretched envy he had arranged for the little bird to be captured and condemned it to death. [1160] or you predict quarrels and conflict. and felt sorry for her unhappiness. Now where seeds are sown. or that the population will suffer. out of sheer malice he detested me. or you predict that there will be an epidemic among cattle. you wretch. and throw them at you to injure you. and all those who wear linen. and always talking about unpleasant things! May almighty God. you're always prophesying some kind of bad luck. Now you can be sure [1140]that you look hideous while you're alive. You're always singing about people's suffering. you miserable creature. so nobody tweaks your hide. [1130] no hedgesparrow. or that a wife will lose her husband. and my chicks stayed safe and sound. she fought with her clever tongue. because when you've been killed and are hanging up. I've been the happier for it ever since. or an advancing army. [1180] I don't know if you were ever a . as you're hung on a stick. be his enemy!' [1175] The owl did not pause for long. you were caught in a snare--. For ever afterwards I've been bolder in speaking out. when you've been screeching during the night. [1105] since I was so well avenged. But you. You sing where somebody is about to die. or are you cursing quite without priestly authority? Because I'm sure that you're doing a priest's job. [1090] but it got him into trouble. [1100] because the knight was deprived of his riches and gave a hundred pounds in compensation for me. your song forecasts loss of property or some friend's ruin. since this thing happened once. the birds that screamed at you previously are still terrified of you. [1150] people are really afraid of you. and young seeds are sprouting and growing. Because of that the knight was angry with me. He locked her in an inner chamber that imprisoned her strongly and securely. See if you can mislead whichever you like. [1065] your song may be so effective that you end up flapping in a snare!' Hearing this. fights well". and always bringing bad news. and with your stinking carcase and your ugly neck. the nightingale would gladly have attacked with sword and spear-point if she had been a man. [1070] but since she couldn't do anything better. they fill their pockets with stones. I had sympathy for her. when trees are flowering in Spring. because you're always singing about things which they hate. [1125] you guard people's corn against birds. and workmen all want to make you suffer. [1170] always announcing misfortune. you're good for nothing unless you're dead. [1155] or you predict a house fire. married women or unmarried girls. [1085]and entertained her with my song as much as I could. [1145] People are right to be hostile to you. or crow will dare come close if your carcase is hanging at the end of the row. early or late.everything you sing. rook. 'are you ordained. [1115] because children. and were happy. If they can see where you're sitting. [1120] and break your filthy bones. Soon you came to the window. Your life and your character are good for nothing. You never sing at all except about some disaster. A town-crier like you deserves to be cursed. but came back with a bold and robust answer. He was so jealous of his wife that he couldn't. because of you they're miserable and wretched. servant-boys. said Alfred. to save his life. so that you can't escape anywhere. after that. and enjoyed prosperity afterwards. "Whoever speaks well. as well they might be. fights well".

Why do you criticize me for my insight. and plan sensibly ahead. heading wrongly towards a ditch. I know if a wife has lost her husband. I know where there is going to be conflict and revenge. you've never given up witchcraft. whether I'd been ordained as a priest. no-one should trust too much to his prosperity. however much he has. and about many other things. But it's because of your old envy that you cursed me once again. [1265] Nobody has so much security that he can't expect and fear that some disaster is approaching him. 'What!' she said. you miserable creature. [1215] If there is to be a hue and cry raised after anybody. I know whether armourers will do their riveting badly. and tell them often enough that they should protect themselves. [1305] because all those who knew about these things were put under a curse by priests long ago. since you can easily duck and run if if you see it coming towards you. if you want to live among men. because the owl had delivered and ordered her speech so well [1295] that she was anxious and uncertain about what she should say to her next. with every hold you're brought down by your own throw. but you do know a fair amount about cursing. Now you can see very well that your speeches have been consistently ill-judged. an arrow will miss its mark [1230] if you watch how it flies from the string.priest. I cry out loudly enough. though: "Keep to your own side!" said the carter. and all the joy of the world". [1185] There's an easy answer to that. and nothing is so pleasant that it does not grow irksome. even though he can't see it coming. it all happens through the will of God. [1195] I know who is going to be hanged or otherwise suffer a shameful death. I know whether people will live a long time.[1270] and his word was gospel---that the better off a man is. I cry out loudly. I know whether men will walk or ride. even if I saw it all. [1205] I know whether the sea will overwhelm the ships. since they are threatened by serious harm. but everything which is not eternal [1280] must always pass away. and nothing is so much loved that it does not grow hateful. it will lose almost all its strength. But I sing to them because I want them to understand clearly that something bad is hanging over them when I hoot at them. but nevertheless. I know whether houses will burn down.[1190] and know everything that is to come: I know about famine. are you mad? You boast of your amazing wisdom. that it was more likely to happen because because of me? That's how it is with my knowledge. she gave it careful thought. no doubt about it. [1290]you won't get anything but humiliation. When I sit on my branch. but the cursing is so widespread that even if there were no priests . I ask people to be vigilant. I know all about prophecy. why should he blame his distress on me? [1235] Even if I see his harm coming to him in advance. do you think.' The nightingale sat and sighed. [1245] I see and realize very clearly that harm is about to come to someone. [1240]. If you see a blind man. my intelligence. for Alfred uttered a wise saying---everyone should treasure it: [1225] "If you see a threat before it has arrived. [1285]However it goes. that doesn't mean that it comes from me. [1275] "Nothing is so hot that it does not grow cold. I feel very saddened and angry. [1260] the disaster is no closer to them. who knows nothing about it. I know whether trees will blossom. That is why Alfred said very aptly--. If any man runs into trouble. and my power? For I am wise. [1200] and whether animals will die. You'll have to clear yourself from that charge. 'Owl. Otherwise you'll have to flee the country. [1255] But whether I cry out loudly or softly. because everything that you say to insult me has always rebounded on yourself. blame me because I do know about it? Should he blame me for his misfortune [1250]because I'm betterinformed than he is? When I see that some disaster is approaching people. I don't know if you can sing Mass." And heavy blows lose their power if one is on the look-out for them. Why do people want to complain about me if I worry them with the truth? Even if I warn them for a full year. [1310] and you asked. Often. Unless you want to make a fresh start. I know which side will be beaten. who can't find his way. you're still doing this. I was speaking to you a short while back. And I know much more still: I have a fair amount of book-learning. because of my great wisdom. I know whether grain will grow. and felt worried. and with reason. When I see that something bad [1220] is going to happen to someone. I know whether disease will infect the cattle. and falling in and getting muddy. because I often go to church and learn a great deal of wisdom. as an insult. everything you say to discredit me ends up to my credit. and also know more about the gospel [1210] than I'm prepared to tell you. and nothing is so white that it does not grow dirty. If men have joined in battle. the more he should plan ahead. Should this man. I know all about it before it happens. about invasion. [1300] you've no understanding of where you got it from---unless it was from witchcraft.

[1425] she hasn't gone very far astray. and cajoles and presses. weapons are good for keeping the peace. Nor should any man loudly condemn a woman and reproach her for physical desires. all my song is about it. So it is with my song: although it's good. A woman can have a good time in bed [1360] in whichever way she chooses.[1440] What can the child do if she does go wrong? She didn't understand what it was. and then by pleasure in other people's misfortune. you criticize me and reproach me harshly for singing close to people's houses and teaching wives to commit adultery. is good. as they are of two types: one arises from the desire of the flesh. for although she may run wild for a time. I would side with the girl. [1410] that the flesh is less culpable. it's no wonder if she hesitates. [1330] you're none the wiser for it. and hungers for more and more. [1335] That's a complete lie. and it's hard to control the desires of the flesh. [1345] and love with virtuous love the man who will be her master. What's more. talked into it by some foolish man who pleads eagerly with her and sighs deeply. I give teaching and instruction in that kind of love. and its hot .[1375] and used for indiscretion and other misbehaviour. her young blood leads her astray. and turn over the leaves. since there's nothing in the world so good that it can't do some harm [1365] if it's deliberately misused. she goes astray and misbehaves for a time. you filthy creature. [1400] and to sloth and to lechery. May the wrath of the Holy Cross fall on those who corrupt their true nature in this way! It's surprising that they don't go mad--and in a way they do. [1420] listen now! I will tell you why. if you know what it is: which does the the country you would still be damned. but companions of the devil in spirit. you filthy creature. Another point: if I should bring a lover to a married woman or an unmarried girl when I sing.[1340] because a good woman can love her own husband within marriage better than her lover. [1380]but if it is stolen. and love does nothing but rest on such children. She isn't completely lost if she finds the flesh a stumbling-block. must you put the blame on love? All love between man and woman. for gold and silver are good. and so she set out to try it. from beginning to end: if a girl has a secret affair. and nevertheless you can buy adultery and injustice with them. and an unmarried girl can choose a lover so as not to lose her honour. and then lords it over inferiors. you miserable creature. [1395] Not all sins are equal. the other from the disposition of the spirit. and she can act out my song in whichever way she chooses. Tell me the truth. and cares little for pity and mercy. [1325] A monkey can look at a book. from singing to them about pleasure. I've heard---and it's true---that man must be very skilled in astrology who knows the inner causes from which events develop. I've never undermined marriage. [1370] but nevertheless people are killed by them illegally in many countries when thieves carry them. If you can consider it properly. I teach them by my song[1445] that love of this kind doesn't last long. should I be held responsible for that? [1355] If women have a tendency to act foolishly. or pick up any more scholarship as a result. and go in daylight to the man she crept to earlier in the dead of night. you wretch.[1315] because every child calls you filthy. of whatever kind. why do you blame their bad behaviour on me? Even if a woman is planning some illicit lovemaking. He visits her frequently. because my song lasts only a little while. [1415] he may blame such a woman for lechery while sinning worse himself through pride. many people are chaste in the flesh. and it's true that I sing about love. if you look at the stars in that way. A young girl doesn't realize what's going on. because it's madness [1385] to start a brood without a nest. it can be misused. she stumbles and falls in the course of nature. [1445] I can't restrain myself for pity. But it's true that I sing and call where there are ladies and beautiful girls. I can't refrain from singing. [1435] and some foolish man entices her into it by every means in his power. A woman's flesh is frail. and stands and sits close to her. then it is wicked and corrupt. and gives her lingering looks. if you like. for many women have misbehaved and climbed up out of the mud. and afterwards have [1430] her lover as her husband without being blamed. [1405] and rises high through pride. she can free herself from her guilt in an approved way through the Church's marriage-bond. when I see the drawn expression that love brings to the young. but he can't make head or tail of it.[1350]since women are gentle by nature---so that. and soon passes. and discover the nature of the sport which tames such wild men. and close it again. properly or improperly. If a woman has a yielding character--. [1390] because the desires of the flesh make her slip. what do you know about stars apart from looking at them from a distance? So do plenty of animals and humans who know nothing about such things. the spirit sins through malice and envy. and every man a wretched owl. Where the flesh entices people to drunkenness. flesh or spirit? You might say. But. licitly or illicitly. [1320] You say this is what you normally do.

[1455] I sing with them for a while. [1510] his love may disappear completely. and distress me a great deal. If her lord is inadequate. missing him very much. and pursues her when he has no right to. I can tell you another thing. The ladies turn to me. and a married woman can note [1470] that I don't sing when I'm breeding. had made an error at the end. And there are plenty of men like this. A curse on anyone who gossips too much about it. you might pay for the pleasure with disgust. and has little to offer in bed and at the table. The good wife acts accordingly. it's wicked and very stupid to do wrong to a good man. I alone listen to her outside. I start high and end low. and so do many peasants. and keeps his proper wife at home in an empty house with bare walls. which comes quickly and goes quickly. and every step seems like a mile. and praise them a great deal too much. and because of that the husband strays. God knows. The girl realises. [1560] she does what would never have occurred to her before. For it very often happens that a wife and husband are out of sympathy with each other. when I fall silent. how could there be any love when such a churl's carcase was lying on top of her? [1495] How can there be any love when a man like that is pawing her thigh? You can understand from this that the first alternative is dangerous. adultery often happens as a result. if he considers who she's sharing a bed with. and sits and sighs. all your arguments will fade away. [1515] and she said. [1520]. grieving deeply on her lord's account. [1480] or he's inadequate and worthless. that he may shortly rescue the lady [1570]and send her a better partner. [1590] is sad by day and sleepless by night. she thought that the nightingale. everything that she says irritates him. he complains and shouts like a madman.' The owl was pleased at this speech. so it's all the more unfair that he gives his love to a woman [1550] who isn't worth one of her hairs. I weep bitterly with them. good-looking and well-dressed. and. He keeps her under lock and key. the second disgraceful. When he comes back home to his wife. When other people around her are asleep. 'Now I've found out about your views on girls: you take their side. [1460] that love is like my songs: for it is only a little breath. even if her marriage-bond seems oppressive. [1485] and losing his tackle so he has nothing left. If he's an honourable and brave man. and brings nothing else worth having home with him.[1530] and leaves her without food and clothing. [1565] my heart practically breaks when I see their suffering. though she had spoken well at first. [1525] and spends all that he has on her. when she's not doing anything wrong. [1545] For it happens time and time again that the wife is very refined and gentle. [1585] and the good wife is distressed when her husband leaves. he thinks she'll instantly commit [1555] adultery if she looks at a man or speaks politely to him. Her lord travels out into the country on behalf of both of them. poorly dressed and badly fed. preferring to chase another woman. if such wives take their revenge! The ladies complain about it to me. A wife should ignore a fool's proposals. and turns from folly to good sense. and tries hard to make herself useful to him. and if her lord is a wretch. no sensible man will want to dishonour him through his wife. what pleasure can you get from it?[1505] If you consider who's sleeping with her. you can expect to come to grief when you're lying beside her. and serves her husband in bed and at table [1580] with docile behaviour and pleasant conversation. and the time seems to her to pass very slowly.breath subsides. [1575] Many merchants and many knights love their wives and treat them properly. she can be ill-treated so often that she resolves to satisfy her own needs.[1500] because if her husband is a brave man. because if she's brought to that point. [1595] and know . how any man could go so far as to decide [1475]to make love to another man's wife. and pray for Christ's mercy on them. because only one of two alternatives is possible. and tell me about their feelings. and often. when stealing into another man's bed. and even if he's not afraid of this. no man is allowed to talk to her. and let my songs fade away quickly. who can't treat a wife properly. and defend them. [1490] and seduce his wife away from him. The child understands it through me. she can't help it if she makes him a cuckold. for which you won't find an answer to save your skin. because he has reason to fear personal injury. [1465] and sees clearly from my singing that foolish love doesn't last long. It strikes me as a quite extraordinary and shocking thing. she gets a punch in the mouth. and no-one can imagine a third: either her lord is a brave man. [1535] Everything she does he objects to. But I really want you to be clear on this: I disapprove of married woman having affairs. There's no man who can't lead [1540] his wife astray with this kind of behaviour. I don't know how any respectable man can pursue her after that. she doesn't dare say a word.

[1600] and so I am very welcome to her. and sing at night for her benefit. I don't give a turd for the lot of you! And before darkness falls. you miserable creature? [1670] No. .' [1635] The nightingale heard this. Even the cock. if you wait around for my army you'll sing a very different song and curse all fighting. they hang me on their hedge. and threaten me with stones and sticks.' she said. and do you mean to fight with me. [1640] because here the right line of argument is escaping you. [1645] You say that boys catch you and hang you high on a pole. I don't know at all what you could do. and some make a scarecrow out of you. and pull you to pieces and shake you to bits. you're boasting about your own shame. I don't know what you raise your brood for. there won't be a wretched feather remaining on you. she said. I help her as far as I can. because it seemed to them that she had defeated the owl. and when they've killed me. it does no good. so I can scare off magpies and crows from what is sown there. But you've really made me angry. that you leave our quarrel alone[1700] and fly away quickly. which is difficult for you because if you're lying dead and shrivelling up. I take on some of her misery. and would come if I asked them. because she wants to follow the right path. alive or dead. It seems to me that you're losing the game completely. 'Have you mobilized an army. no! You haven't got the strength! What are these new arrivals shouting? It seems to me that you're leading an army against me. and hopped on to a flowering branch. 'be careful now! I won't plead against you any longer. [1650] you're boasting of your own humilation. [1675]since those birds which have a hooked beak and sharp and curving talons are all related to me. [1680]could legitimately take my side. I want to go on. You say that people hate me. [1615] Although it's true. [1620] your death serves no useful purpose. I am useful to them through my death. because we both have clear voices and sit under the stars at night. you wretched creature. [1655]. for many men are not very effective with a sharp spear and shield. [1695] because you daren't submit to judgement. [1625] People can set me up on a little stake in the depths of the wood. But I would advise you all. [1705] since none of you is so brave that you dare face me down. And so thrushes and throstles and woodpeckers [1660] and birds both large and small flew to her at once. though. and there was rejoicing in the branches.' When she had said this.' The owl spoke very aggressively. [1610] and hit me and beat me. which is good at fighting. I can still do good service. and so through me they can get [1630] good roast meat to eat. and sat higher than she did before. but nevertheless on a battlefield they make their enemies sweat with terror [1715] by bold speeches and behaviour. If I call up a hue and cry against you. she perched in a beautiful spot. I am useful to them. and for her sake I modify my excellent song to some degree into a lament. alive or dead. [1665] just as people jeer at a man who plays at dice and loses the game. It seems to me that you're submitting to me. When the owl heard this. 'Owl. and shed my blood for their sake. and every creature is hostile to you. and so lure and catch small birds. so I'm all choked up [1605] and can hardly speak. but even if I've lost my life. since although she hadn't resorted to her own army so quickly. for by my talons. she nevertheless wanted to respond [1710] to the nightingale with what she said. and then tuned her voice and sang so piercingly and so clearly that it was heard far and near.about her unhappiness. because you're just a miserable creature. Do you want to break the agreement now? I suspect that judgment seems too demanding to you. and they're all hostile to me. I'll lead such a strong army against you [1685] that your pride will collapse. But it was our agreement [1690] when we came here that we should keep to the terms which would give us a fair judgement. and you complain that you're miserable with hooting and wailing. before I call up a hue and cry against you. even so. you'll learn before you take to flight what kind of strength my family have. they cried out and sang in all kinds of ways. now you want to fight and quarrel. You boast that people hate you. But you've never been of good service to man.

and distribute income very unfairly. [1725] she had been reared among humans.' said the owl. and speak in the presence of our judge?' 'I'll give you satisfaction in that. that the wise Master Nicholas should judge between us.' [1785] said the owl. and come to an agreement. you can object and make me stop. [1755] There he makes a lot of sound judgements. do you want to break this peace. [1720] since although she had a small voice. as a form of sumer rather than of sum '(a) certain'. and let the sentence put an end to this argument. it's true. And if it seems to you that I'm going astray. he's not either dead or crippled. her throat could produce a good clear song. even if she were in the presence of the king. but I can't tell you any more about how they succeeded with their judgement. 'but who will read our pleas. I wouldn't want injustice to defeat me in the end. just as it was previously agreed. as although she'd been bred in the woods. word for word. said the nightingale. [1790] without any kind of army. and composes and writes all kinds of ingenious works. 'Listen!' she said. and go straight to your judgement. Why won't they make a decision[1765] to have him often in attendance. near the sea on an inlet. but the translation should probably be 'spring' rather than 'summer' . [1740] 'but. [1780].' With these words they set off. You'll be ruined and disgraced if you case a breach of the peace in his country. and don't take him seriously. 16. because she could sing. because our judgement is ready and waiting there. as the flowering branch on which the Nightingale sits suggests (ME sumer could cover a period beginning earlier than MnE 'summer'). C has waste 'deserted'. clearing: C breche. and brought her wisdom from there. because I can repeat it all. things are better as far as Scotland. [1735] Let it be. and give him income from numerous benefices so he could often be with them?' 'To be sure. 'What!' she said. since Master Nicholas is still waiting. to advise them from his wisdom. and all those who've heard of his reputation and achievements. I'm not afraid of any judgement. [1745] I've promised. That's a great disgrace to the bishops. had arrived there in the morning to support the nightingale.[1760] he has only one residence. 'that's true. folks! The End Notes 1. I'm not doing it because of your speech. She could speak wherever she wanted. wren.' 'Let's'. and I still think that he will. but because of my respect for the law.The wren. But still. in springtime: the ME (C) has in one sumere dale.' 'That's fine with me. 14. 'Let me speak! [1730] What. The wren was considered very wise. beginning to end. . who takes the adj. and do the king such dishonour? Yes. which gave many people pleasure. [1775] They are more lenient to their families. impenetrable: J vaste . till they came to Portesham. let's go and visit him. and give out incomes to small children. and through his words and his writing. J has beche ('valley' or 'beech-tree'). in a village in Dorset. I have followed Stanley (1960). That's all. It's easy to find him. 'didn't you know his home? He lives at Portesham.' said the nightingale. their reason tells them that they're wrong. [1770] these powerful men act very wrongly when they neglect that good man who knows about so many things. But where might we find him?' [1750] The wren sat in a lime-tree.

Proverbs of Alfred. if whole troops of men were fighting each other hand-to-hand: ME (C) thegh flockes were / Imeind bi toppes and bi here. 204.e. 191. pp. chatterbox: ME galegale. A collection of proverbs in Middle English verse similarly attributed to Alfred survives in four different MS versions dating from the early C13 onwards. 155-6) discovered a priest called Nicholas who held land near Portisham in 1226. with an introduction. 127. You fly by night and not by day: an allegorical equivalent to the nightingale's hostile construction of the owl's nocturnal habits can be found in the medieval Bestiary. the 'canonical hours' of Matins. The reference here begins a consistent linking of the Owl with the Church. using the shorter and simpler Hours of the Virgin (originally a supplementary devotion). That is why . cites and summarizes the version of the story in Marie de France's Fables. with other Anglo-Norman and Latin analogues. at 1751-78 we are told that he is a suitable candidate (apart from an unfortunate lack of family connections) for episcopal preferment. The reference is. Wrenn (Medium Aevum 1. the translation here follows Morris and Skeat's . lose all his fighting spirit (a 'barrow-pig' is a castrated boar). The translation loses the pun in the original on nightingale(ME galen means 'to speak. Secular clerics and members of religious orders followed the complex observances of the full Divine Office. woad: a blue dye of vegetable origin. L. prayers. . or substituting repeatedOur Fathers and Hail Marys. p. 164. 427-8. See also the note on lines 323-6. cry out. the pious laity in this period might also observe the Hours as a private devotion. I sing . 408. other charming and dainty creatures: ME (C) other wighte gente and smale. 293-4. . the Jesus version is edited. Stanley (1960).v. and lives at Portisham in Dorset. Lauds. turn from a boar into a barrow-pig: i. to women (gente may also mean 'refined. Jesus College 29. to give weight to their arguments rather than as an actual source. ed. of course. His title indicates that he is university-educated. Prime. 159. pp. discusses some possible early-C13 identifications. Terce. King Alfred: both birds frequently cite King Alfred as an authority. for later applications of the collocation gent and smal to women. 65-8. 358-68. smale'slender'). and Compline. my song: the phrase at the proper time suggests that the reference is to the canonical hours (see note on line 26 above): the owl sings Vespers in the evening. 147-9. pp. Alfred once said in his proverbs: cf.26. stanza 21. allegorizing it as the hostility of the righteous to the sinner whose wickedness is exposed (see Barber (1993). Sext. see MED s. Oxford. Nones. elegant'. Vespers. 235. There's a fable told about this: Stanley (1960). comparing it to sinners who set a bad example to others (see Barber (1993). and hymns) recited at regular intervals throughout the day. see Barber (1993). A difficult passage of disputed meaning. her Hours: the reference is to a set of observances (combining psalms. 149). Compline at bedtime. lines 412-6. and C. 227. . squawk'). p. 91. 347. one of them in one of the two surviving O&N MSS. You are loathsome and unclean: the medieval Bestiary notes that the screech-owl fouls its own nest. gent adj. by Treharne (2000). See also note on lines 293-4. quarters: The medieval Bestiary notes the tendency of other birds to mob the screechowl. Treharne (2000). 149). longer than we would like: I have followed the emendation in Stanley (1960) of MEouer unwille 'beyond displeasure' to oure unwille 'to our displeasure'. 76. 323-6. pp. . 256. and Matins at midnight. which sees both the night-owl and the screechowl as signifying those who seek the darkness of sin and shun the light of justice. 1(b). Master Nicholas of Guildford: the birds' chosen judge has not yet been certainly identified with any historical figure. 20-2.

intercedes: both MSS have endeth 'ends'. 1970). Usually taken as a reference to Henry II (d. 515. annal for 1131). all Henry's wiles failed him: nu him behofed thet he crape in his mycele codde in aelc hyrne. 1091. 'Give up the fight'. p. and pulls in front of large teams: C has bi uore 'in front of'. p.v. cathedral clergy. gif thaer waere hure an unwreste wrence thet he mihte get beswicen anes Crist and eall cristene folc ('now he had to creep into every corner of his big bag to see if there was any cunning trick at all by which he could still just once deceive Christ and all Christians'). Hang up your axe! i. 6. Brundage. 1189). shot his bolt: only a rough equivalent of the original ME. where the image is of stabbing or piercing (istunge). in summertime: I have followed most editors in assuming that the sume of both MSS is an error for sumere (by omission of -er abbreviation).(2). 658. strictly speaking. The detail that the nightingale was torn apart by wild horses is found in the chapter on the nightingale in Alexander Neckam. The Peterborough Chronicle 1070-1154 (Oxford: Oxford University Press. the poem is likely to date from before 1216. usually the Rule of St Augustine). Penguin Classics (London: Penguin. p. candidates who have been proposed are listed by Cartlidge (2001). 943. p. see Stanley (1960). 2nd edn ed. monks. ed. 776. if so.. 729. which operated across national boundaries). Cartlidge (2001). p. 746. 1009.e. seeStanley (1960). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. a different musical form not related to the modern carol. 1995). who takes the passage as referring to the mixing-up of flocks or herds of animals belonging to different owners. . and regular canons (priests living in a religious community according to a rule. 165-6. Marie de France: Lais (1944). pp. Glyn Burgess (London: Duckworth. 123. The Lais of Marie de France. 116. prefers the translation 'straining with its neck against great plough-chains' (a possible sense of temes). see James A. cf. p. . 'though flocks (coarse felted stuff made of refuse of wool . the papal court was the ultimate court of appeal.: Yale University Press. 1995). 1978). Mass. Ch. line 476.e. 74. including Marie de France's lai. p. 103). 694. 53. . 118. Facing expulsion from the abbey. De naturis rerum. whey: the watery part of the milk separated from the curds during cheese-making (i. 1986). wild horses: this story is found in a number of other medieval works (see Stanley (1960). and Cartlidge (2001). given the lack of any qualification. Clerics. flok n. bag of tricks: ME redpurs.e. Laustic (edited by Alfred Ewert. translated by Glyn Burgess and Keith Busby. p. 2dn edn. but performing a similar social function. a relatively unpalatable drink). before the Pope of Rome himself: in canon law (i. prefers Hall's alternative reading. If the poem is to be dated to the late thirteenth century. 709.interpretation of flockes as 'companies' andImeind bi toppes and bi here as (literally) 'mingled by heads and by hair'. carols: ME cundut 'conductus'. Medieval Canon Law (London: Longman. King Henry: the following invocation suggests that he is dead. 117. Once you sang . 3. follows the 1995 interpretation by Catalini. a privy at the far end of their bedchamber: on this (aristocratic) arrangement. the legal system of the Church. 1016. see Mark Girouard. the accession . Ch. Cartlidge (2001).e. 126. for the emendation erendeth. followed by MED s. A similar image is used in the hostile account of the abbot Henry of Angely in the post-Conquest continuation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle at Peterborough (Cecily Clark. but Stanley (1960). 485. as one did recently from Rome: not yet convincingly identified. . who would follow a more elaborate devotional routine than parish priests (line 733). J bi sweore 'by the neck'. monks. it is perhaps surprising that there is no mention of the friars in this list. 652. and canons: i.) were muddled up with fine carded wool and hair'. 1049-62. Life in the English Country House (Cambridge.

esp. Ancrene Wisse Part 4. of slawthe. peevish'. argues for his reading of C: mai i spusing / Bet luuien hire oghene were / Wane [or Thane] awet hire copenere ('does better to love her own husband. . inferiors: cf. and translates 'unless she is snatched away. the Premonstratensians)). 132. 1174. 'can love her husband better than another [woman] her lover'). 1235-6.awet as a form of aweden (cf. which those who heard it were legally required to act on. 1285-6.of Henry III. . gastelich. . 148. . alswa of yiscunge 'internal temptation is of two kinds. taking lover and husband as the same person. all those who wear linen: commentators on the passage take this as a mark of social respectability. For it very often happens . . as a patron of courtly literature (including the Lais of Marie de France). p. at all'). arguing for a late-C13 date. 1400. everything . physical and spiritual: physical. p. sloth: a rather oversimplified translation of C wrouehede (J has wlonkhede 'pride. 1340-2. 1485-6. of glutunie. . lines 1425-32. argues that the apparently feminine (heo) and masculine (he) pronouns here must refer not to the (originally grammatically feminine) noun luue but to the man and woman concerned. . he follows J. . which is recorded only here. with every . the reference may be to the linen surplices of the clergy. see Stanley (1960). p. 148. . in which case he is evil and corrupt'. or to a fictitious king. 1395-1406.e. leaving her lover to rave') taking Wane/Thane as 'when'. J has Than on other for Wane awet (i. left: the injured husband could castrate his wife's lover without legal penalty. H. 51v/6-8). 1521. I have followed the usual emendation (first suggested by J.g. more specifically. cursing: ME mansing can mean either 'cursing' in general or. cf.: cf. but this gives difficult sense. 26/29-28/32. . fleschlich ant gastelich: fleschlich. as of leccherie.g. however. the similar treatment of this theme in the early-C13 ME Letter on Virginity (Millett and Wogan-Browne (1992). of onde. Not all sins . ant of wreaththe. as from lechery. . copenere: Cartlidge (2001). Even if . excommunication. compares the argument here to the discussion of how God's foreknowledge can be reconciled with human free will in Boethius's De consolatione philosophiae. e. On wrouehede. but a possible reading.550. Corpus Christi College MS 402. 1186. see the long note in Stanley (1960). . 1272). an encouragement to the horses to pull harder or a command to them to stop? See Cartlidge (2001). and by the clergy other than monks. which only priests were empowered to do. 1182. Wells) of C awet to awer ('anywhere. W. Cartlidge (1996). lurid descriptions of the molestiae . Cartlidge (2001). 'Keep to your own side!': ME Drah to the! The meaning of this saying is disputed: is it an insult. line 509). could be seen as an appropriate supporter for the nightingale. p. explaining that linen underwear was worn by the more prosperous laity. from sloth. . 1380-1. by the victim or an officer of the law. . misfortune: the medieval Bestiary notes the screech-owl's reputation as a harbinger of death and disaster. and losing . the Cistercians) and of regular canons (e. E. corrupt: C Ah yef heo is atbroide thenne / He is unfele & forbroide. quoting Ovid. spiritual. But if . The author goes on to argue that the sins of the latter group are more dangerous. pp. as of prude. suggests that the reference may be to Henry III (d. 1147-8. 144-5. hue and cry: a call raised for the pursuit of an offender. p. throw: the image is from wrestling. 78. can . Metamorphoses 5. seeBarber (1993). since they are less easy to detect. . Henry II. also from avarice' (Cambridge. f. where the author gives a similar classification of the seven deadly sins: the inre fondunge is twauald. This is an oversimplification (linen was eschewed only by the stricter orders of monks (e. and from anger. from gluttony. 131. from envy. a warning to another driver. as from pride. Atkins's derivation from the ME adjective wrowe'irritable.g. from me: Cawley (1951). 1215. wantonness'). . alternatively. comparing the use of wrawnesse in Chaucer's Parson's Tale under Sloth (acedia) to describe the attitude of a slothful man to his duties.

et animas proximorum suorum regendas committunt quibus porcos suos non crederent ('prelates who give preference to ignorant and unworthy and unsuitable boys over prudent and worthy candidates in the allocation of church benefices. that the birds agreed whichever could fly highest would be their king.' . . criticizes prelati qui pueros et inscios et indignos et emeritos prudentibus et dignis preponunt in ecclesiasticis beneficiis. . in his early-C13 Summa 'Qui bene presunt'. . the Latin name for the wren is regulus 'little king'. folks: literally. p.nuptiarum ('the woes of marriage') appear as a rhetoricaltopos in works recommending celibacy from patristic times onwards.iv. even .12. . 105. 1775-6. Her nis na more of this spelle. offers a striking parallel to the point being made here (that husbands who behave like this should be held partly responsible for their wives' infidelity) from a sermon on marriage by the popular early-C13 preacher James of Vitry. cites the story told by Alexander Neckam. 'Here there is no more of this story. and Stanley (1960). and commit the care of their neighbours' souls to people they would not trust to look after their pigs'. p. 130). That's all. and the wren succeeded by first hiding in the eagle's wing. p. 1794. 167. 1728. They are . Cambridge. Cartlidge (2001). Richard Wetheringsett. Cambridge University Library MS Ii. then perching on its head. De naturis rerum. king: probably because she was of royal rank herself. children: a common complaint of reforming clerics in this period.

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