This World’s Joy

A few weeks ago, Honey and I attended a piano recital at the university he attends. It was a warm Sunday afternoon as two music professors took the stage and played simultaneously for over an hour. The first few minutes were riveting, but slowly boredom crept its way in, and then sleepiness. Apparently I only enjoy piano music in short intervals.

What I did enjoy immensely was the poem printed in the bulletin. Although it was written in Middle English, I could pick out enough of the words to get an idea of the author’s intent. Unfortunately, we don’t know the author’s identity, since the poem was written in the early 1300’s and is uncredited. No title was printed in the bulletin, but some websites list it as “This World’s Joy.”

Wynter wakeneth al my care
Nou this leues waxeth bare
Ofte y sike and mourne sare
When hit cometh in my thoht
Of this worldes joie hou hit geth al to noht

Nou hit is and nou hit nys
Also hit ner nere ywys
That moni mon seith soth hit ys
Al goth bote godes wille
Alle we shule deye thah vs like ylle

Al that gren me graueth grene
Nou hit faleweth al bydene
Jesu help that hit be sene
Ant shild vs from helle
For y not whider y shal ne hou longe her duelle.

Here it is in modern English:

Winter wakens all my care
Now these leaves wax bare
Often I’m sick and mourn sorely
When it enters my thoughts
How the joy of this world comes all to naught:

Now it is and now it’s not.
As though it never was, know
That though many moan that it is so
All happens but as God wills
We shall all die though we loathe it.

The grain around me grows green –
Now it fades altogether.
Jesus help that this be seen
And shield us from hell
For I know not whether, or how long, I shall here dwell.

A little depressing, but beautiful nonetheless. Anyone who has experienced a time of “winter” in their lives should be able to easily relate to the desperation in the author’s voice.

Thanks to this website for providing the modern translation printed above.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

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