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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Mediæval Breton

The Poor Clerk

(Ar C’Hloarek Paour)

Translation of Tom Taylor

MY wooden shoes I’ve lost them, my naked feet I’ve torn,

A-following my sweeting through field and brake of thorn:

The rain may beat, and fall the sleet, and ice chill to the bone,

But they’re no stay to hold away the lover from his own.

My sweeting is no older than I that love her so,—

She’s scarce seventeen; her face is fair, her cheeks like roses glow,

In her eyes there is a fire; sweetest speech her lips doth part;

Her love it is a prison where I’ve locked up my heart.

Oh, to what shall I liken her, that a wrong it shall not be?

To the pretty little white rose, that is called Rose-Marie?

The pearl of girls; the lily when among the flowers it grows,—

The lily newly opened, among flowers about to close.

When I came to thee a-wooing, my sweet, my gentle May,

I was as is the nightingale upon the hawthorn spray:

When he would sleep, the thorns they keep a-pricking in his breast;

That he flies up perforce and sings upon the tree’s tall crest.

I am as is the nightingale, or as a soul must be

That in the purgatory fires lies, longing to be free;

Waiting the blessed time when I unto your house shall come,

All with the marriage-messenger bearing his branch of broom.

Ah me! my stars are froward; ’gainst nature is my state:

Since in this world I came I’ve dreed a dark and dismal fate;

I have nor living kin nor friends, mother nor father dear,—

There is no Christian on earth to wish me happy here.

There lives no one hath had to bear so much of grief and shame

For your sweet sake as I have, since in this world I came;

And therefore on my bended knees, in God’s dear name I sue,

Have pity on your own poor clerk, that loveth only you!