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The Merle and the Nightingale

In May as that Aurora did upspring
With cristall ene chasing the cluddis sable,
I hard a merle with mirry notis sing
A sang of lufe with voce rycht confortable,
Agane the orient bemis amiable
Upone a blisfull brenche of lawry grene.
This wes hir sentens sueit and delectable:
“A lusty lyfe in luves service bene.”

Undir this brench ran doun a revir bricht
Of balmy liquour cristallyne of hew
Agane the hevinly aisur skyis licht,
Quhair did upone the tother syd persew
A nychtingall with suggurit notis new,
Quhois angell fedderis as the pacok schone.
This wes hir song and of a sentens trew:
“All luve is lost bot upone God allone.”

With notis glaid and glorius armony
This joyfull merle so salust scho the day
Quhill rong the widdis of hir melody,
Saying, “Awalk, ye luvaris, o this May!
Lo, fresche Flora hes flurest every spray
As Natur hes hir taucht, the noble quene.
The feild bene clothit in a new array:
A lusty lyfe in luvis service bene.”

Nevir suetar noys wes hard with levand man
Na maid this mirry gentill nychtingaill.
Hir sound went with the rever as it ran
Outthrow the fresche and flureist lusty vaill.
“O merle,” quod scho, “O fule, stynt of thy taill,
For in thy song gud sentens is thair none,
For boith is tynt the tyme and the travaill
Of every luve bot upone God allone.”

“Seis,” quod the merle, “thy preching, nychtingale!
Sall folk thair yewth spend into holines?
Of yung sanctis growis auld feyndis, but faill.
Fy, ypocreit in yeiris tendirnes,
Agane the law of kynd thow gois expres
That crukit aige makis on with yewth serene,
Quhome Natur of conditionis maid dyvers:
A lusty lyfe in luves service bene.”

The nychtingaill said, “Fule, remembir thee
That both in yewth and eild and every hour
The luve of God most deir to man suld be,
That Him of nocht wrocht lyk His awin figour
And deit Himself, fro deid him to succour.
O, quhithir wes kythit thair, trew lufe or none?
He is most trew and steidfast paramour:
All luve is lost bot upone him allone.”

The merle said, “Quhy put God so grit bewtй
In ladeis with sic womanly having,
Bot gife He wald that thay suld luvit be?
To luve eik Natur gaif thame inclynnyng,
And He, of Natur that wirker wes and king,
Wald nothing frustir put nor lat be sene
Into his creature of His awin making:
A lusty lyfe in luves service bene.”

The nychtingall said, “Nocht to that behufe
Put God sic bewty in a ladeis face
That scho suld haif the thank thairfoir, or Lufe,
Bot He, the wirker, that put in hir sic grace
Of bewty, bontie, riches, tyme or space,
And every gudnes that bene to cum or gone,
The thank redoundis to Him in every place:
All luve is lost bot upone God allone.”

“O nychtingall, it wer a story nyce
That luve suld nocht depend on cheritй;
And gife that vertew contrair be to vyce,
Than lufe mon be a vertew, as thinkis me,
For ay to lufe invy mone contrair be.
God bad eik lufe thy nychtbour fro the splene,
And quho than ladeis suetar nychbouris be?
A lusty lyfe in lufes service bene.”

The nychtingaill said, “Bird, quhy dois thow raif?
Ane man may in his lady tak sic delyt
Him to forget that hir sic bewtie gaif,
And for his hevin rassaif hir cullour quhyt.
Hir goldin tressit hairis redomyt,
Lyk to Appollois bemis thocht thay schone,
Suld nocht him blind fro lufe that is perfyt:
All lufe is lost bot upone God allone.”

The merle said, “Lufe is caus of honour ay,
Luve makis cowardis manheid to purchas,
Luve makis knychtis hardy at assey,
Luve makis wrechis full of lergenes,
Luve makis sueir folkis full of bissines,
Luve makis sluggirdis fresche and weill besene,
Luve changis vyce in vertewis nobilnes.
A lusty lyfe in luvis service bene.”

The nychtingaill said, “Trew is the contrary!
Sic frustir luve it blindis men so far
Into thair myndis it makis thame to vary.
In fals vane glory thai so drunkin ar,
Thair wit is went, of wo thai ar nocht war
Quhill that all wirchip away be fro thame gone –
Fame, guddis, and strenth – quhairfoir weill say I dar,
All luve is lost bot upone God allone.”

Than said the merle, “Myn errour I confes.
This frustir luve all is bot vanitй.
Blind ignorance me gaif sic hardines
To argone so agane the varitй.
Quhairfoir I counsall every man that he
With lufe nocht in the Feindis net be tone,
Bot luve the Luve that did for his lufe de.
All lufe is lost bot upone God allone.”

Than sang thay both with vocis lowd and cleir.
The merle sang, “Man, lufe God that hes thee wrocht.”
The nychtingall sang, “Man, lufe the lord most deir
That thee and all this warld hes maid of nocht.”
The merle said, “Luve Him that thy lufe hes socht
Fra hevin to erd and heir tuk flesche and bone.”
The nychtingall sang, “And with His deid thee bocht.
All luve is lost bot upone Him allone.”

Thane flaw thir birdis our the bewis schene,
Singing of lufe amang the levis small,
Quhois ythand pleid into my thocht is grene,
Bothe sleping, walking, in rest and in travall.
Me to reconfort most it dois availl,
Agane for lufe quhen lufe I can find none,
To think how song this merle and nychtingaill:
All lufe is lost bot upone God allone.

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The Merle and the Nightingale - WILLIAM DUNBAR