Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Robert Henryson. 1425–1500
  
17. The Bludy Serk
  
THIS hinder yeir I hard be tald 
  Thair was a worthy King; 
Dukis, Erlis, and Barronis bald, 
  He had at his bidding. 
The Lord was ancean and ald,         5
  And sexty yeiris cowth ring; 
He had a dochter fair to fald, 
  A lusty Lady ying. 
 
Off all fairheid scho bur the flour, 
  And eik hir faderis air;  10
Off lusty laitis and he honour, 
  Meik bot and debonair: 
Scho wynnit in a bigly bour, 
  On fold wes nane so fair, 
Princis luvit hir paramour  15
  In cuntreis our allquhair. 
 
Thair dwelt a lyt besyde the King 
  A foull Gyand of ane; 
Stollin he has the Lady ying, 
  Away with hir is gane,  20
And kest her in his dungering 
  Quhair licht scho micht se nane; 
Hungir and cauld and grit thristing 
  Scho fand into hir waine. 
 
He wes the laithliest on to luk  25
  That on the grund mycht gang: 
His nailis wes lyk ane hellis cruk, 
  Thairwith fyve quarteris lang; 
Thair wes nane that he ourtuk, 
  In rycht or yit in wrang,  30
Bot all in schondir he thame schuk, 
  The Gyand wes so strang. 
 
He held the Lady day and nycht 
  Within his deip dungeoun, 
He wald nocht gif of hir a sicht  35
  For gold nor yit ransoun— 
Bot gif the King mycht get a knycht, 
  To fecht with his persoun, 
To fecht with him beth day and nycht, 
  Quhill ane wer dungin doun.  40
 
The King gart seik baith fer and neir, 
  Beth be se and land, 
Off ony knycht gif he mycht heir 
  Wald fecht with that Gyand: 
A worthy Prince, that had no peir,  45
  Hes tane the deid on hand 
For the luve of the Lady cleir, 
  And held full trew cunnand. 
 
That Prince come prowdly to the toun 
  Of that Gyand to heir,  50
And fawcht with him, his awin persoun, 
  And tuke him presoneir, 
And kest him in his awin dungeoun 
  Allane withouten feir, 
With hungir, cauld, and confusioun,  55
  As full weill worthy weir. 
 
Syne brak the bour, had hame the bricht 
  Unto her fadir fre. 
Sa evill wondit wes the Knycht 
  That he behuvit to de;  60
Unlusum was his likame dicht, 
  His sark was all bludy; 
In all the world was thair a wicht 
  So peteouss for to se? 
 
The Lady murnyt and maid grit mane,  65
  With all her mekill mycht— 
'I luvit nevir lufe bot ane, 
  That dulfully now is dicht; 
God sen my lyfe were fra me tane 
  Or I had seen yone sicht,  70
Or ellis in begging evir to gane 
  Furth with yone curtass knycht.' 
 
He said 'Fair lady, now mone I 
  De, trestly ye me trow; 
Take ye my serk that is bludy,  75
  And hing it forrow yow; 
First think on it, and syne on me, 
  Quhen men cumis yow to wow.' 
The Lady said 'Be Mary fre, 
  Thairto I mak a vow.'  80
 
Quhen that scho lukit to the sark 
  Scho thocht on the persoun, 
And prayit for him with all hir hart 
  That lowsit hir of bandoun, 
Quhair scho was wont to sit full merk  85
  Into that deip dungeoun; 
And evir quhill scho wes in quert, 
  That was hir a lessoun. 
 
Sa weill the Lady luvit the Knycht 
  That no man wald scho tak:  90
Sa suld we do our God of micht 
  That did all for us mak; 
Quhilk fullily to deid was dicht, 
  For sinfull manis sak, 
Sa suld we do beth day and nycht,  95
  With prayaris to him mak. 
 
This King is lyk the Trinitie, 
  Baith in hevin and heir; 
The manis saule to the Lady, 
  The Gyand to Lucefeir, 100
The Knycht to Chryst, that deit on tre 
  And coft our synnis deir; 
The pit to Hele with panis fell, 
  The Syn to the woweir. 
 
The Lady was wowd, but scho said nay 105
  With men that wald hir wed; 
Sa suld we wryth all sin away 
  That in our breist is bred. 
I pray to Jesu Chryst verray, 
  For ws his blud that bled, 110
To be our help on domisday 
  Quhair lawis ar straitly led. 
 
The saule is Godis dochtir deir, 
  And eik his handewerk, 
That was betrayit with Lucefeir, 115
  Quha sittis in hell full merk: 
Borrowit with Chrystis angell cleir, 
  Hend men, will ye nocht herk? 
And for his lufe that bocht us deir 
  Think on the BLUDY SERK! 120
 
GLOSS:  hinder yeir] last year.  ring] reign.  fald] enfold.  ying] young.  fairheid] beauty.  air] heir.  laitis] manners.  bot and] and also.  scho wynnit] she dwelt.  bigly] well-built.  fold] earth.  paramour] lovingly.  our allquhair] all the world over.  a lyt besyde] a little, (i. e. close) beside.  of ane] as any.  kest] cast.  dungering] dungeon.  into hir waine] in her lodging.  hellis cruk] hell-claw.  quhill] until.  dungin doun] beaten down.  his awin persoun] himself.  withouten feir] without companion.  the bricht] the fair one.  likame] body.  lowsit hir of bandoun] loosed her from thraldom.  quert] prison.  coft] bought.  straitly led] strictly carried out.  hend] gentle.
 
 
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