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In sooth, I speak from feeling, what though now
Old am I, and to genial pleasure slow ;
Yet have I felt of sickness through the May,
Both hot and cold, and heart-aches every day,-
How hard, alas! to bear, I only know.


Such shaking doth the fever in me keep Through all this May that I have little sleep; And also 'tis not likely unto me,


That any living heart should sleepy be
In which Love's dart its fiery point doth steep.


But tossing lately on a sleepless bed,
I of a token thought which Lovers heed;
How among them it was a common tale,
That it was good to hear the Nightingale,
Ere the vile Cuckoo's note be uttered.



And soon as I a glimpse of day espied,
No longer would I in my bed abide,


And then I thought anon as it was day,
I gladly would go somewhere to essay
If I perchance a Nightingale might hear,
For yet had I heard none, of all that year,
And it was then the third night of the May. 55



Till to a lawn I came all white and green,
I in so fair a one had never been.

But straightway to a wood that was hard by,
Forth did I go, alone and fearlessly,
And held the pathway down by a brook-side;


The ground was green, with daisy powdered


Tall were the flowers, the grove a lofty cover, All green and white; and nothing else was 65



There sate I down among the fair fresh flowers, And saw the birds come tripping from their bowers,

Where they had rested them all night; and they,

Who were so joyful at the light of day,
Began to honour May with all their powers. 70


Well did they know that service all by rote, And there was many and many a lovely note, Some, singing loud, as if they had complained; Some with their notes another manner feigned; And some did sing all out with the full throat.


They pruned themselves, and made themselves right gay,

Dancing and leaping light upon the spray;
And ever two and two together were,
The same as they had chosen for the year,
Upon Saint Valentine's returning day.




Meanwhile the stream, whose bank I sate upon,
Was making such a noise as it ran on
Accordant to the sweet Birds' harmony;
Methought that it was the best melody
Which ever to man's ear a passage won.



And for delight, but how I never wot,
I in a slumber and a swoon was caught,
Not all asleep and yet not waking wholly;
And as I lay, the Cuckoo, bird unholy,
Broke silence, or I heard him in my thought.


And that was right upon a tree fast by,
And who was then ill satisfied but I?


Now, God, quoth I, that died upon the rood, From thee and thy base throat, keep all that's good,

Full little joy have I now of thy cry.



And, as I with the Cuckoo thus 'gan chide,
In the next bush that was me fast beside,
I heard the lusty Nightingale so sing,
That her clear voice made a loud rioting,
Echoing thorough all the green wood wide. 100


Ah! good sweet Nightingale! for my heart's cheer,

Hence hast thou stayed a little while too long;
For we have had the sorry Cuckoo here,
And she hath been before thee with her song;
Evil light on her! she hath done me wrong.



But hear you now a wondrous thing, I pray; As long as in that swooning-fit I lay, Methought I wist right well what these birds.



And had good knowing both of their intent, And of their speech, and all that they would say.



The Nightingale thus in my hearing spake :-
Good Cuckoo, seek some other bush or brake,
And, prithee, let us that can sing dwell here;
For every wight eschews thy song to hear,
Such uncouth singing verily dost thou make.



What! quoth she then, what is 't that ails thee now?

It seems to me I sing as well as thou;

For mine's a song that is both true and plain,—
Although I cannot quaver so in vain

As thou dost in thy throat, I wot not how. 120


All men may understanding have of me,
But, Nightingale, so may they not of thee;
For thou hast many a foolish and quaint cry :—
Thou say'st OSEE, OSEE, then how may I
Have knowledge, I thee pray, what this may be?



Ah, fool! quoth she, wist thou not what it is?
Oft as I say OSEE, OSEE, I wis,

Then mean I, that I should be wonderous

That shamefully they one and all were slain,
Whoever against Love mean aught amiss. 130


And also would I that they all were dead,
Who do not think in love their life to lead;
For who is loth the God of Love to obey,
Is only fit to die, I dare well say,

And for that cause OSEE I cry; take heed! 135



Ay, quoth the Cuckoo, that is a quaint law,
That all must love or die; but I withdraw,
And take my leave of all such company,
For mine intent it neither is to die,
Nor ever while I live Love's yoke to draw. 140


For lovers, of all folk that be alive,

The most disquiet have and least do thrive ;
Most feeling have of sorrow, woe and care, 143
And the least welfare cometh to their share;
What need is there against the truth to strive?


What! quoth she, thou art all out of thy mind,
That in thy churlishness a cause canst find
To speak of Love's true Servants in this

For in this world no service is so good
To every wight that gentle is of kind.



For thereof comes all goodness and all worth ;
All gentiless and honour thence come forth ;
Thence worship comes, content and true heart's

And full-assured trust, joy without measure,
And jollity, fresh cheerfulness, and mirth; 155


And bounty, lowliness, and courtesy,
And seemliness, and faithful company,

And dread of shame that will not do amiss;
For he that faithfully Love's servant is,
Rather than be disgraced, would chuse to die.


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