The owl and the nightingale (MS Cotton), The electronic text was created from an edited version of the Cotton manuscript
Lines 1 through 100Page 2 [folio 233r.1]
ICH was in one sumere dale,
in one suþe diȝele hale,
iherde ich holde grete tale
an hule and one niȝtingale.
Þat plait was stif & starc & strong,
sum wile softe & lud among;
an aiþer aȝen oþer sval,
& let þat [vue]le mod ut al.
& eiþer seide of oþeres custe
þat alre-worste þat hi wuste:
& hure & hure of oþere[s] songe
hi holde plaiding suþe stronge.
Þe niȝtingale bigon þe speche,
in one hurne of one breche, Page 4
& sat up one vaire boȝe,
- þar were abute blosme inoȝe,-
in ore waste þicke hegge
imeind mid spire & grene segge.
Ho was þe gladur uor þe rise,
& song auele cunne wise:
[b]et þuȝte þe dreim þat he were
of harpe & pipe þan he nere:
bet þuȝte þat he were ishote
of harpe & pipe þan of þrote.
[Þ]o stod on old stoc þar biside,
þar þo vle song hire tide,
& was mid iui al bigrowe;
hit was þare hule earding-stowe.
[Þ]e niȝtingale hi iseȝ,
& hi bihold & ouerseȝ,
& þuȝte wel [vu]l of þare hule,
for me hi halt lodlich & fule.
"Vnwiȝt," ho sede, "awei þu flo!
me is þe w[u]rs þat ich þe so. [folio 233r.2]
Iwis for þine [vu]le lete,
wel [oft ich] mine song forlete; Page 6
min horte atfliþ & falt mi tonge,
wonne þu art [to me] iþrunge.
Me luste bet speten þane singe
of þine fule ȝoȝelinge."
Þos hule abod fort hit was eve,
ho ne miȝte no leng bileue,
vor hire horte was so gret
þat wel neȝ hire fnast atschet,
& warp a word þar-after longe;
"Hu þincþe nu bi mine songe?
We[n]st þu þat ich ne cunne singe,
þeȝ ich ne cunne of writelinge?
Ilome þu dest me grame,
& seist me [boþe tone] & schame.
Ȝif ich þe holde on mine uote,
(so hit bitide þat ich mote!)
& þu were vt of þine rise,
þu sholdest singe an oþer w[i]se."
Þe niȝtingale ȝaf answare:
"Ȝif ich me loki wit þe bare,
& me schilde wit þe blete,
ne reche ich noȝt of þine þrete; Page 8
ȝif ich me holde in mine hegge,
ne recche ich neuer what þu segge.
Ich wot þat þu art unmilde
wiþ hom þat ne muȝe from [þ]e schilde;
& þu tukest wroþe & vuele,
whar þu miȝt, over smale fuȝele.
Vorþi þu art loþ al fuel-kunne,
& alle ho þe driueþ honne,
& þe bischricheþ & bigredet,
& wel narewe þe biledet; [folio 233v.1]
& ek forþe þe sulue mose,
hire þonkes, wolde þe totose.
þu art lodlich to biholde,
& þu art loþ in monie volde;
þi bodi is short, þi swore is smal,
grettere is þin heued þan þu al;
þin eȝene boþ col-blake & brode,
riȝt swo ho weren ipeint mid wode;
þu starest so þu wille abiten
al þat þu mi[ȝ]t mid cliure smiten:
þi bile is stif & scharp & hoked,
riȝt so an owel þat is croked;
þar-mid þu clackes[t] oft & longe,
& þat is on of þine songe.
Ac þu þretest to mine fleshe,
mid þine cliures woldest me meshe.
þe were icundur to one frogge
* * * * * Page 10
snailes, mus, & fule wiȝte,
boþ þine cunde & þine riȝte.
Þu sittest adai & fliȝ[s]t aniȝt,
þu cuþest þat þu art on vnwiȝt.
Þu art lodlich & unclene,
bi þine neste ich hit mene,
& ek bi þine fule brode,
þu fedest on hom a wel ful fode.
Vel wostu þat hi doþ þarinne,
hi fuleþ hit up to þe chinne:
ho sitteþ þar so hi bo bisne.
Þarbi men segget a uorbisne:
"Dahet habbe þat ilke best
þat fuleþ his owe nest."