The Nut-brown Maid

A poem by George Wharton Edwards

Be it right, or wrong, these men among
On women do complain;
Affirming this, how that it is
A labour spent in vain
To love them wele; for never a dele
They love a man again:
For let a man do what he can,
Their favour to attain,
Yet, if a new do them pursue,
Their first true lover then
Laboureth for nought; for from her thought
He is a banished man.

I say not nay, but that all day
It is both writ and said
That woman's faith is, as who saith,
All utterly decayed;
But, nevertheless, right good witness
In this case might be laid,
That they love true, and continue,
Record the Nut-brown Maid:
Which, when her love came, her to prove,
To her to make his moan,
Would not depart; for in her heart
She loved but him alone.

Then between us let us discuss
What was all the manere
Between them two: we will also
Tell all the pain, and fere,
That she was in. Now I begin,
So that ye me answere;
Wherefore, all ye, that present be
I pray you, give an ear.
I am the knight; I come by night,
As secret as I can;
Saying,' Alas! thus standeth the case,
I am a banished man.'


SHE

And I your will for to fulfil
In this will not refuse;
Trusting to shew, in wordes few,
That men have an ill use
(To their own shame) women to blame,
And causeless them accuse:
Therefore to you I answer now,
All women to excuse,--
Mine own heart dear, with you what chere?
I pray you, tell anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

It standeth so; a dede is do
Whereof great harm shall grow
My destiny is for to die
A shameful death, I trowe;
Or else to flee: the one must be.
None other way I know,
But to withdraw as an outlaw,
And take me to my bow.
Wherefore, adieu, my own heart true!
None other rede I can:
For I must to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

O Lord, what is this worldys bliss,
That changeth as the moon!
My summer's day in lusty May
Is darked before the noon.
I hear you say, farewell: Nay, nay,
We depart not so soon.
Why say ye so? wheder will ye go?
Alas! what have ye done?
All my welfare to sorrow and care
Should change, if ye were gone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

I can believe, it shall you grieve,
And somewhat you distrain;
But, afterward, your paines hard
Within a day or twain
Shall soon aslake; and ye shall take
Comfort to you again.
Why should ye ought? for, to make thought
Your labour were in vain.
And thus I do; and pray you to,
As heartily as I can;
For I must to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

Now, sith that ye have shewed to me
The secret of your mind,
I shall be plain to you again,
Like as ye shall me find.
Sith it is so, that ye will go,
I wolle not leave behind;
Shall never be said, the Nut-brown Maid
Was to her love unkind:
Make you ready, for so am I,
Although it were anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

Yet I you rede to take good heed
What men will think and say:
Of young and old it shall be told,
That ye be gone away,
Your wanton will for to fulfil,
In green wood you to play;
And that ye might from your delight
No longer make delay.
Rather than ye should thus for me
Be called an ill woman,
Yet would I to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

Though it be sung of old and young,
That I should be to blame,
Theirs be the charge, that speak so large
In hurting of my name:
For I will prove, that, faithful love
It is devoid of shame;
In your distress, and heaviness,
To part with you, the same:
And sure all tho, that do not so,
True lovers are they none;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

I counsel you, remember how,
It is no maiden's law,
Nothing to doubt, but to renne out
To wood with an outlaw:
For ye must there in your hand bear
A bow, ready to draw;
And, as a thief, thus must you live,
Ever in dread and awe;
Whereby to you great harm might grow:
Yet had I lever than,
That I had to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

I think not nay, but as ye say,
It is no maiden's lore;
But love may make me for your sake,
As I have said before,
To come on foot, to hunt, and shoot
To get us meat in store;
For so that I your company
May have, I ask no more:
From which to part, it maketh my heart
As cold as any stone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

For an outlaw this is the law,
That men him take and bind;
Without pity, hanged to be,
And waver with the wind.
If I had nede, (as God forbede!)
What rescue could ye find?
Forsooth, I trow, ye and your bow
For fear would draw behind:
And no mervayle: for little avail
Were in your counsel then:
Wherefore I will to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

Right well know ye, that women be
But feeble for to fight;
No womanhede it is indeed
To be bold as a knight:
Yet, in such fear if that ye were
With enemies day or night,
I would withstand, with bow in hand,
To greve them as I might,
And you to save; as women have
From death men many a one:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

Yet take good hede; for ever I drede
That ye could not sustain
The thorny ways, the deep valleys,
The snow, the frost, the rain,
The cold, the heat: for dry, or wet,
We must lodge on the plain;
And, us above, none other roof
But a brake bush, or twain;
Which soon should grieve you, I believe,
And ye would gladly then
That I had to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

Sith I have here been partynere
With you of joy and bliss,
I must als part of your woe
Endure, as reason is:
Yet am I sure of one pleasure;
And, shortly, it is this:
That, where ye be, me seemeth, parde,
I could not fare amiss.
Without more speech, I you beseech
That we were soon agone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

If ye go thyder, ye must consider,
When ye have lust to dine,
There shall no meat be for you gete,
Nor drink, beer, ale, nor wine.
No shetes clean, to lie between,
Made of thread and twine;
None other house, but leaves and boughs,
To cover your head and mine;
O mine heart sweet, this evil diete
Should make you pale and wan;
Wherefore I will to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

Among the wild dere, such an archere,
As men say that ye be,
Ne may not fail of good vitayle,
Where is so great plenty:
And water clear of the ryvere
Shall be full sweet to me;
With which in hele I shall right wele
Endure, as ye shall see;
And, or we go, a bed or two
I can provide anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

Lo! yet, before, ye must do more,
If ye will go with me:
As cut your hair up by your ear,
Your kirtle by the knee;
With bow in hand, for to withstand
Your enemies, if need be:
And this same night before day-light,
To wood-ward will I flee.
If that ye will all this fulfil,
Do it shortly as ye can
Else will I to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

I shall as now do more for you
Than 'longeth to womanhede;
To shorte my hair, a bow to bear,
To shoot in time of need.
O my sweet mother, before all other
For you I have most drede:
But now, adieu! I must ensue,
Where fortune doth me lead.
All this make ye: Now let us flee;
The day cometh fast upon;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

Nay, nay, not so; ye shall not go,
And I shall tell ye why,--
Your appetite is to be light
Of love, I wele espy:
For, like as ye have said to me,
In like wise hardely
Ye would answere whosoever it were
In way of company.
It is said of old, Soon hot, soon cold
And so is a woman.
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

If ye take heed, it is no need
Such words to say by me;
For oft ye prayed, and long assayed,
Or I you loved, parde:
And though that I of ancestry
A baron's daughter be,
Yet have you proved how I you loved
A squire of low degree;
And ever shall, whatso befall;
To die therefore anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

A baron's child to be beguiled!
It were a cursed dede;
To be felawe with an outlawe!
Almighty God forbede!
Yet better were, the poor squyere
Alone to forest yede,
Than ye should say another day,
That, by my cursed dede,
Ye were betrayed: Wherefore, good maid,
The best rede that I can,
Is, that I to the green wood go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

Whatever befall, I never shall
Of this thing you upbraid:
But if ye go, and leave me so,
Then have ye me betrayed.
Remember you wele, how that ye dele;
For, if ye, as ye said,
Be so unkind, to leave behind,
Your love, the Nut-brown Maid,
Trust me truly, that I shall die
Soon after ye be gone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

If that ye went, ye should repent;
For in the forest now
I have purvayed me of a maid,
Whom I love more than you;
Another fayrere, than ever ye were,
I dare it wele avow;
And of you both each should be wroth
With other, as I trow:
It were mine ease, to live in peace;
So will I, if I can;
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
Alone, a banished man.


SHE

Though in the wood I understood
Ye had a paramour,
All this may nought remove my thought,
But that I will be your:
And she shall find me soft and kind,
And courteys every hour;
Glad to fulfil all that she will
Command me to my power:
For had ye, lo! an hundred mo,
Of them I would be one;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

Mine own dear love, I see the proof
That ye be kind and true;
Of maid, and wife, in all my life,
The best that ever I knew.
Be merry and glad, be no more sad,
The case is changed new;
For it were ruth, that, for your truth,
Ye should have cause to rue.
Be not dismayed, whatsoever I said
To you, when I began;
I will not to the green wood go,
I am no banished man.


SHE

These tidings be more glad to me,
Than to be made a queen,
If I were sure they should endure:
But it is often seen,
When men will break promise, they speak
The wordes on the splene.
Ye shape some wile me to beguile,
And steal from me, I ween:
Then, were the case worse than it was,
And I more wo-begone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.


HE

Ye shall not nede further to drede;
I will not disparage
You, (God defend!) sith ye descend
Of so great a lineage.
Now understand; to Westmoreland,
Which is mine heritage,
I will you bring; and with a ring,
By way of marriage
I will you take, and lady make,
As shortly as I can:
Thus have you won an erly's son,
And not a banished man.


AUTHOR

Here may ye see, that women be
In love, meek, kind, and stable;
Let never man reprove them then,
Or call them variable;
But, rather, pray God that we may
To them be comfortable;
Which sometime proveth such, as he loveth,
If they be charitable.
For sith men would that women should
Be meek to them each one;
Much more ought they to God obey,
And serve but Him alone.

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