The Nut-Brown Maid. A Poem.

A poem by Matthew Prior

Written three hundred years since.

Be it right or wrong, these men among
On women do complayne;
Affyrmynge this, how that it is
A labour spent in vaine
To love them wele; for never a dele
They love a man againe:
For lete a man do what he can
Ther favour to attayne,
Yet yf a new do them pursue,
Ther furst trew lover than
Laboureth for nought; for from her thought
He is a banishyd man.
I say not nay, but that all day
It is bothe writ and sayde
That woman's fayth is as who saythe,
All utterly decayed.
But nevertheless right good witness
I' this case might be layde,
That they love trewe, and continew,
Record the Nut-brown Mayde;
Which from her love (whan her to prove
He came to make his mone)
Wold not depart, for in her herte
She lovyd but him alone.
Than betweene us lettens discusse,
What was all the maner
Between them two: we wyl also
Telle all the peyne and fere
That she was in. Now I begynne,
So that ye me answere.
Wherefore all ye that present be
I pray ye give an eare.

Man.
I am the knyght, I come by nyght
As secret as I can,
Saying, alas! thus standeth the case,
I am a banishyd man.

Woman.
And I your wylle, for to fulfylle
In this wyl not refuse,
Trusting to show, in wordis fewe,
That men have an ill use,
(To ther own shame) women to blame,
And causelese them accuse:
Therefore to you I answere now,
Alle women to excuse.
Myn own herte dere, with you what chere,
I pray you telle anone;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
It stondeth so; a dede is do,
Wherefore moche harm shall growe;
My desteny is for to-dey
A shameful deth I trowe;
Or ellis to flee: the one must be,
None other way I knowe,
But to withdrawe, as an outlawe,
And take me to my bowe.
Wherefore adew, my owne herte trewe,
None other red I can;
For I must to the grene wode goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
O Lord! what is this worldis blysse,
That chaungeth as the mone?
My somer's day, in lusty May,
Is derked before the none.
I here you saye farewell: nay, nay,
We departe not soo sone.
Why say ye so? wheder wyl ye goe?
Alas! what have ye done?
Alle my welfare to sorrow and care
Shulde chaung yf ye were gone;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
I can beleve it shall you greeve,
And shomwhat you distrayne,
But aftyrwarde your paynes harde,
Within a day or tweyne,
Shal sone aslake, and ye shal take
Comfort to you agayne.
Why shuld ye nought? for to make thought
Your labur were in vayne,
And thus I do, and pray you too,
As hertely as I can;
For I muste to the greene wode goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Now sythe that ye have showed to me
The secret of your mynde,
I shal be plaine to you againe,
Lyke as ye shal me fynde.
Sythe it is so that ye wyl goe,
I wol not leve behynde:
Shal never be sayd the Nut-Brown Mayde
Was to her love unkynde.
Make you redy, for so am I,
Although it were agone;
For in my mynd, of all mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Yet I you rede to take good hede
What men wyl think and sey;
Of yonge and olde it shall be tolde
That ye be gone away;
Your wanton wylle for to fulfylle
In grene wode you to play;
And that ye myght from your delyte
Noo longer make delay.
Rather than ye shuld thus for me
Be called an ylle woman,
Yet wold I to the grene wode goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Though it be songe of olde and yonge
That I shuld be to blame,
Thers be the charge that speke so large
In hurting of my name:
For I wyll prove that feythful love
It is devoyd of shame;
In your distress and hevyness
To parte wyth you the same.
And sure all thoo that doo not so
Trewe lovers are they none;
But in my mynde of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
I counsel you, remember how
It is noo mayden's lawe
Nothing to dought, but to renne out
To wode with an outlawe:
For ye must there in your hand bere
O bowe redy to drawe;
And as a theef, thus must ye lyve,
Ever in drede and awe.
Whereby to you gret harme myght growe
Yet I had lever than
That I had to the grene wode goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
I think not nay; but as ye saye,
It is noo mayden's lore;
But love may make me for your sake,
To com on fote to hunte and shote,
To get us mete in store:
For so that I your company
May have, I ask noo more:
From whiche to parte, it makith myn herte
As colde as ony stone;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
For an outlawe, this is the lawe,
That men hym take and binde,
Wythout pytee, hanged to bee,
And waver with the wynde.
Yf I had neede, as God forbede,
What resons coude ye finde?
For sothe I trowe, ye and your bowe
Shuld drawe for fere behynde.
And noo merveyle; for lytel avayle
Were in your council than:
Wherefore I to the wode wyl goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Full well knowe ye that women be
But febyl for to fyght:
Noo woman hede it is in deede
To be bold as a knyght:
Yet in suche fere yf that ye were
With enemys day and nyght,
I wolde withstonde wyth bowe in honde
To greve them as I myght;
And you to save as women have
From dethe many one;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Yet take gude hede! for ever I drede
That ye coude not sustein
The thorney-weyes, the depe valeis,
The snowe, the frost, the reyn;
The cold, the hete: for drye, or wete,
We must lodge on the playn,
And us above noon other rofe,
But a brake, bush, or twaine,
Whiche sone shuld greve you, I beleve;
And ye wolde gladely than,
That I had to the grene wode goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Sythe I have here been partynere
With you of joy and blysse,
I must also parte of your woo
Endure, as reson is:
Yet am I sure of one pleasure,
And, shortly, it is this,
That where ye bee, me seemeth, par-dy
I could not fare amyss.
Without more speche I you beseche
That we were soon a gone;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Yf ye goo thedyr, ye must consyder,
Whan ye have lust to dyne,
Ther shal no mete be for to gete,
Nor drink, bere, ale, ne wine;
Ne shetis clean, to lye betwene,
Made of thred and twyne;
Noon other house but levys and bowes,
To kever your head and myn.
O myn herte swete, this ylle dyet
Shuld make you pale and wan;
Wherefore I to the wode wyl goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Among the wylde dere, such an archier,
As men say that ye bee,
We may not fayle of good vitayle,
Where is so grete plente:
And watir cleere of the ryvere
Shal be full swete to me,
With whiche in hele, I shal right wele
Endure, as ye shal see.
And er we goe, a bed or two
I can provide anone;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Loo! yet before, ye must do more
Yf ye wyl go with me;
As cute your here up by your ere,
Your curtel by the kneel:
Wyth bowe in honde, for to wythstonde
Your enemys yf nede be;
And this same nyght, before daylyght,
To wode-ward wyl I flee.
And yf ye wylle al this fulfylle,
Do it shortly as ye can;
Ellis wyl I to the grene wode goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
I shall as now do more for you
Than longeth to womanhede;
To short my here, a bow to bere,
To shote in tyme of nede.
O my sweet moder, before al other,
For you have I most drede;
But now adew, I must ensue
Where Fortune duth me lede.
All this make ye, and lete us flee,
The day run fast upon;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Nay, nay, not so: ye shal not goe,
And I shal telle ye why;
Your appetyte is to be light
Of love I wele espie;
For right as ye have sayde to me
In lykewise hardely
Ye wolde answere, whosoever it were,
In way of company.
It is sayd of olde, Sone hote, sone colde,
And so is a woman;
Wherefore I to the wode wyl goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Yf ye take hede yt is noo nede
Such wordis to say bee me;
For ofte ye prey'd, and longe assay'd,
Er I you lovid, par-dy;
And though that I of auncestry
A baron's daughter bee,
Yet have you proved how I you loved,
A squyer of low degree;
And ever shal, what so befalle,
To dey therefore anone:
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
A baron's childe to be begyled,
It were a cursed dede:
To be felawe with an outlawe
Almighty God forbede!
Yt bettyr were the pore squyer
Alone to forrest spede,
Than ye shal saye another daye,
That by that wycked dede
Ye were betrayed. Wherefore good mayde,
The best rede that I can,
Is that I to the grene wode goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Whatsoever befalle, I never shale
Of this thing you upbraid;
But yf ye go and leve me so,
Then have ye me betraid.
Remember ye wele how that ye dele;
For yf ye, as ye sayde,
Be so unkynde to leve behynde
Your love, the Nut-brown Mayde,
Trust me truely, that I shal dey
Some after ye be gone;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Yf that ye went ye shulde repent;
For in the forrest now
I have purveid me of a mayde,
Whom I love more than you.
Another fayrer than e'er ye were,
I dare it well avowe;
And of you bothe eche shude be worthe
Wyth other, as I trowe,
It were myn ese to live in pese,
So wyl I yf I can;
Wherefore I to the wode wyl goe,
Alone, a banishyd man.

Woman.
Though in the wode I understode
Ye had a paramour,
All this may nought remove my thought,
But that I will be your:
And she shall fynde me soft and kynde,
And curteis every hour,
Glad to fulfylle all that she wylle
Commaunde me to my power.
For had ye loo an hundred moo,
Yet wolde I be that one;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Myne own dere love, I see the prove,
That ye be kynde and trewe;
Of mayde and wyfe, in al my lyfe,
The best that ever I knewe.
Be merey and glad, be no more sad,
The case is chaunged newe;
For it were ruthe, that for your trouth,
Ye shulde have cause to rewe.
Be not dismay'd whatsoever I sayd
To you whan I began:
I wyl not to the grene wode goe,
I am no banishyd man.

Woman.
Theis tydingis be more glad to me
Than to be made a quene,
Yf I were sure they shulde endure;
But it is often seene,
When men wyle breke promyse, they speke
The wordis on the splene.
Ye shape some wyle, me to begyle,
And stele fro me, I wene.
Then were the case wurs than it was,
And I more woo begone;
For in my mynde, of al mankynde,
I love but you alone.

Man.
Ye shal not nede further to drede;
I wyl not disparage
You. God defend, syth you descend
Of so grete a lynage.
Now understonde, to Westmerlande,
Which is my herytage
I wyl you bringe, and with a rynge,
By way of maryage,
I wyl you take, and lady make,
As shortly as I can.
Thus have ye wone an erlie's sone,
And not a banishyd man.

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