School of Music
University of Nebraska--Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0100
(phone: [402] 472-2507; Internet: plefferts1@unl.edu)

Data entry: Peter M. Lefferts
Checked by: Peter Slemon
Approved by: Peter M. Lefferts

Author: Anonymous
Title: A Chorister's Lament
Source: Bruce Holsinger, "Langland's Musical Reader: Liturgy, Law, and the Constraints of Performance," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 21 (1999): 99-141, at 137-38. Used by permission.

[-137-] The Choristers' Lament

"Uncomly in cloystre i coure ful of care,
I loke as a lurdeyn and listne til my lare.
The song of the cesolfa dos me syken sare,
and sitte stotiand on a song a moneth and mare.

I ga gowlende abowte also dos a goke,
mani is the sorwfol song it singge vpon mi bok.
I am holde so harde vnnethes dar i loke;
al the mirthe of this mold for god i forsoke.

I gowle on mi grayel and Rore als a Roke,
Litel wiste i therof qwan i therto toke.
Somme notes arn shorte and somme a long noke,
Somme kroken aweyward als a fleshoke.

Qwan i kan my lesson mi meyster wil i gon
that heres me mi rendre he wenes i haue wel don.
ÔQwat hast thu don dawn Water sin saterdai at non?
thu holdest nowt a note by god in riht ton.

Wayme leue Water, thu werkes al til shame;
thu stomblest and stikes fast as thu were lame.
Thu tones nowt the note, ilke be his name,
thu bitist asonder bequarre, for bemol i the blame.

Way the leue Water, thu werkes al to wondre
als an old cawdrun bigynnest to clondre.
Thu tuchest nowt the notes, thu bites hem on sonder;
hold vp for shame, thou letes hem al vnder.Õ"

Thanne is Water so wo that wol ner wil he blede,
and wendis him til William and bit him wel to spede.
"God it wot," seys William, "therof had i nede.
Now wot i qwuo Iudicare was set in the crede.

[-138-] Me is wo so is the be that belles in the walmes,
I donke vpon dauid til my tonge talmes.
I ne rendrede nowt sithen men beren palmes.
Is it al so mikel sorwe in song so is in salmes?

Ya bi god thu reddis and so it is wel werre,
I solfe and singge after and is me neuere the nerre;
I horle at the notes and heue hem al of herre;
alle that me heres wenes that i erre.

Of bemol and of bequarre of bothe i was wol bare,
Qwan i went out of this word and lifte til mi lare.
Of effauz and elami ne coudy neuer are;
I fayle faste in the fa, it files al mi fare.

Zet ther ben other notes, sol and vt and la,
and that froward file that men clipis fa.
Often he dos me liken ille and werkes me ful wa;
mizti him neuere hitten inton for to ta.

Zet ther is a streinant witz to longe tailes;
therfore has vre mayster ofte horled mi kayles.
Ful litel thu kenes qwat sorwe me ayles.
It is but childes game that thu witz dauid dayles.

Qwan ilke note til other lepes and makes hem asawt,
that we calles a moyson in gesolreutz en hawt.
Il hayl were thu boren zif thu make defawt.
thanne sais oure mayster, 'Que vos ren ne vawt.'"

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