Anonymous


The Nut-Brown Maid


He. BE it right or wrong, these men among
   On women do complain;
Affirming this, how that it is
   A labour spent in vain
To love them wele; for never a dele
   They love a man again:
For let a man do what he can
   Their favour to attain,
Yet if a new to them pursue,
   Their first true lover than
Laboureth for naught; for from her thought
   He is a banished man.

She. I say not nay, but that all day
   It is both written and said
That woman's faith is, as who saith,
   All utterly decayd:
But nevertheless, right good witness
   In this case might be laid
That they love true and continue:
   Record the Nut-brown Maid,
Which, when her love came her to prove,
   To her to make his moan,
Would not depart; for in her heart
   She loved but him alone.

He. Then between us let us discuss
   What was all the manere
Between them two: we will also
   Tell all the pain in fere
That she was in. Now I begin,
   So that ye me answere:
Wherefore all ye that present be,
   I pray you, give an ear.
I am the Knight. I come by night,
   As secret as I can,
Saying, Alas! thus standeth the case,
   I am a banished man.

She. And I your will for to fulfil
   In this will not refuse;
Trusting to show, in wordes few,
   That men have an ill use--
To their own shame--women to blame,
   And causeless them accuse.
Therefore to you I answer now,
   All women to excuse--
Mine own heart dear, with you what cheer?
   I pray you, tell anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. It standeth so: a deed is do
   Whereof great harm shall grow:
My destiny is for to die
   A shameful death, I trow;
Or else to flee. The t' one must be.
   None other way I know
But to withdraw as an outlaw,
   And take me to my bow.
Wherefore adieu, mine own heart true!
   None other rede I can:
For I must to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. O Lord, what is this worldis bliss,
   That changeth as the moon!
My summer's day in lusty May
   Is darked before the noon.
I hear you say, farewell: Nay, nay,
   We depart not so soon.
Why say ye so? whither will ye go?
   Alas! what have ye done?
All my welfare to sorrow and care
   Should change, if ye were gone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. I can believe it shall you grieve,
   And somewhat you distrain;
But afterward, your paines hard
   Within a day or twain
Shall soon aslake; and ye shall take
   Comfort to you again.
Why should ye ought? for, to make thought,
   Your labour were in vain.
And thus I do; and pray you to,
   As hartely as I can:
For I must to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. Now, sith that ye have showed to me
   The secret of your mind,
I shall be plain to you again,
   Like as ye shall me find.
Sith it is so that ye will go,
   I will not live behind.
Shall never be said the Nut-brown Maid
   Was to her love unkind.
Make you ready, for so am I,
   Although it were anone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. Yet I you rede to take good heed
   What men will think and say:
Of young, of old, it shall be told
   That ye be gone away
Your wanton will for to fulfil,
   In green-wood you to play;
And that ye might for your delight
   No longer make delay
Rather than ye should thus for me
   Be called an ill woman
Yet would I to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. Though it be sung of old and young
   That I should be to blame,
Theirs be the charge that speak so large
   In hurting of my name:
For I will prove that faithful love
   It is devoid of shame;
In your distress and heaviness
   To part with you the same:
And sure all tho that do not so
   True lovers are they none:
For in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. I counsel you, Remember how
   It is no maiden's law
Nothing to doubt, but to run out
   To wood with an outlaw.
For ye must there in your hand bear
   A bow ready to draw;
And as a thief thus must you live
   Ever in dread and awe;
Whereby to you great harm might grow:
   Yet had I liever than
That I had to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. I think not nay but as ye say;
   It is no maiden's lore;
But love may make me for your sake,
   As I have said before,
To come on foot, to hunt and shoot,
   To get us meat and store;
For so that I your company
   May have, I ask no more.
From which to part it maketh my heart
   As cold as any stone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. For an outlaw this is the law,
   That men him take and bind:
Without pitie, hanged to be,
   And waver with the wind.
If I had need (as God forbede!)
   What socours could ye find?
Forsooth I trow, you and your bow
   For fear would draw behind.
And no mervail; for little avail
   Were in your counsel than:
Wherefore I'll to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. Right well know ye that women be
   But feeble for to fight;
No womanhede it is, indeed,
   To be bold as a knight:
Yet in such fear if that ye were
   With enemies day and night,
I would withstand, with bow in hand,
   To grieve them as I might,
And you to save; as women have
   From death men many one:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. Yet take good hede; for ever I drede
   That ye could not sustain
The thorny ways, the deep valleys,
   The snow, the frost, the rain,
The cold, the heat; for dry or wete,
   We must lodge on the plain;
And, us above, no other roof
   But a brake bush or twain:
Which soon should grieve you, I believe;
   And ye would gladly than
That I had to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. Sith I have here been partynere
   With you of joy and bliss,
I must alsò part of your woe
   Endure, as reason is:
Yet I am sure of one pleasure,
   And shortly it is this--
That where ye be, me seemeth, parde,
   I could not fare amiss.
Without more speech I you beseech
   That we were shortly gone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. If ye go thyder, ye must consider,
   When ye have lust to dine,
There shall no meat be for to gete,
   Nether bere, ale, ne wine,
Ne shetes clean, to lie between,
   Made of thread and twine;
None other house, but leaves and boughs,
   To cover your head and mine.
Lo, mine heart sweet, this ill diete
   Should make you pale and wan:
Wherefore I'll to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. Among the wild deer such an archere,
   As men say that ye be,
Ne may not fail of good vitayle
   Where is so great plentè 559948
   Shall be full sweet to me;
With which in hele I shall right wele
   Endure, as ye shall see;
And, or we go, a bed or two
   I can provide anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. Lo yet, before, ye must do more,
   If ye will go with me:
As, cut your hair up by your ear,
   Your kirtle by the knee;
With bow in hand for to withstand
   Your enemies, if need be:
And this same night, before daylight,
   To woodward will I flee.
If that ye will all this fulfil,
   Do it shortly as ye can:
Else will I to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. I shall as now do more for you
   Than 'longeth to womanhede;
To short my hair, a bow to bear,
   To shoot in time of need.
O my sweet mother! before all other
   For you I have most drede!
But now, adieu! I must ensue
   Where fortune doth me lead.
All this make ye: Now let us flee;
   The day cometh fast upon:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. Nay, nay, not so; ye shall not go,
   And I shall tell you why--
Your appetite is to be light
   Of love, I well espy:
For, right as ye have said to me,
   In likewise hardily
Ye would answere whosoever it were,
   In way of company:
It is said of old, Soon hot, soon cold;
   And so is a woman:
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. If ye take heed, it is no need
   Such words to say to me;
For oft ye prayed, and long assayed,
   Or I loved you, parde:
And though that I of ancestry
   A baron's daughter be,
Yet have you proved how I you loved,
   A squire of low degree;
And ever shall, whatso befall
   To die therefore anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. A baron's child to be beguiled,
   It were a cursed deed!
To be felaw with an outlaw--
   Almighty God forbede!
Yet better were the poor squyere
   Alone to forest yede
Than ye shall say another day
   That by my cursed rede
Ye were betrayed. Wherefore, good maid,
   The best rede that I can,
Is, that I to the green-wood go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. Whatever befall, I never shall
   Of this thing be upbraid:
But if ye go, and leave me so,
   Then have ye me betrayed.
Remember you wele, how that ye dele;
   For if ye, as ye said,
Be so unkind to leave behind
   Your love, the Nut-brown Maid,
Trust me truly that I shall die
   Soon after ye be gone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. If that ye went, ye should repent;
   For in the forest now
I have purveyed me of a maid
   Whom I love more than you:
Another more fair than ever ye were
   I dare it well avow;
And of you both each should be wroth
   With other, as I trow:
It were mine ease to live in peace;
   So will I, if I can:
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
   Alone, a banished man.

She. Though in the wood I understood
   Ye had a paramour,
All this may nought remove my thought,
   But that I will be your':
And she shall find me soft and kind
   And courteis every hour;
Glad to fulfil all that she will
   Command me, to my power:
For had ye, lo, an hundred mo,
   Yet would I be that one:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. Mine own dear love, I see the prove
   That ye be kind and true;
Of maid, of wife, in all my life,
   The best that ever I knew.
Be merry and glad; be no more sad;
   The case is changed new;
For it were ruth that for your truth
   Ye should have cause to rue.
Be not dismayed, whatsoever I said
   To you when I began:
I will not to the green-wood go;
   I am no banished man.

She. These tidings be more glad to me
   Than to be made a queen,
If I were sure they should endure;
   But it is often seen
When men will break promise they speak
   The wordis on the splene.
Ye shape some wile me to beguile,
   And steal from me, I ween:
Then were the case worse than it was,
   And I more wo-begone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
   I love but you alone.

He. Ye shall not nede further to drede:
   I will not disparage
You (God defend), sith you descend
   Of so great a linage.
Now understand: to Westmoreland,
   Which is my heritage,
I will you bring; and with a ring,
   By way of marriage
I will you take, and lady make,
   As shortly as I can:
Thus have you won an Earles son,
   And not a banished man.

   Here may ye see that women be
   In love meek, kind, and stable;
Let never man reprove them than,
   Or call them variable;
But rather pray God that we may
   To them be comfortable;
Which sometime proveth such as He loveth,
   If they be charitable.
For sith men would that women should
   Be meek to them each one;
Much more ought they to God obey,
   And serve but Him alone.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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