Outlaws and Highwaymen

‘De Clerico et Puella’
translated by Gillian Spraggs from ‘De Clerico et Puella’ in Early English Lyrics: Amorous, Divine, Moral &c Trivial, ed. E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick (London, A. H. Bullen, 1907), pp. 12–14

before 1340

Original text

De Clerico et Puella

Clerk:	My death I love, my life I hate,
Because of a beautiful lady;
She is as bright as day’s light,
That may be well understood by my condition.
I fade as the leaf does
In summer, when it is green;
If thinking helps me not at all,
To whom shall I make moan?
Sorrow and sighing and a dreary mood
Bind me so fast,
That I expect to run mad,
If it lasts any longer.
My sorrow, my care, with just a word
She might cast away.
What good does it do you, my sweet mistress,
My life to ruin like this?
Girl: Get lost, clerk, you are a fool,1
I do not want to bicker with you.
You shall never see that day
On which you shall experience my love.
If you are captured in my bower,
Shame may befall you.
You would be better to go on foot
Than ride a wicked horse.2

Clerk: Alas, why do you say this?
Take pity on me, your man.
You are always in my thoughts
In whatever part of the world I am in.
If I die for your love,
It would be a great disgrace to you.
Let me live, and be your love,
And you my sweet mistress.
Girl: Be quiet, you fool – it’s the right word for you –
Can’t you ever stop?
You are watched, day and night,
By my father and all my relations.
If you are captured in my bower,
They will not refrain, for any notions of sin,
From restraining me, and slaying you,
So that you will get your death.
Clerk: Sweet lady, change your mood,
[Or] you will cause me sorrow.
I am every bit as sad a man
As I was once blithe.
In a window where we stood,
We kissed fifty times.
A fair promise makes many a man
Hide all his sorrows.
Girl: Alas! why do you say this?
My sorrow you renew.
I loved a clerk, in the way of lovers,
In love he was most true.
He was never blithe on any day
Unless he should see me soon.
I loved him better than my life;
What use is it to lie?
Clerk: While I was a student,
I knew a great deal of lore.
I have suffered for your love
Wounds many and sore,
Far from home and also from men,
In the woodlands.
Sweet lady, take pity on me!
Now I can do no more.
Girl: You seem to be suited as a clerk,
For you speak so persuasively.
You shall never, for my love,
Suffer terrible wounds.
Father, mother and all my kin
Shall not hold me so firmly
That I am not yours, and you are mine,
To do everything you want.


Translation, notes and page design © Gillian Spraggs 2001, 2007
Text added to site on 20 September 2001 | Page last modified on 28 August 2007

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