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In honour of St Valentine’s Day, I’m posting a poem from the Findern Anthology (Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.1.6), a fifteenth-century manuscript. The anthology itself appears to have been an everyday object: not only does it contain secular poetry, there is also a bill from the butcher’s! Of particular interest, perhaps, is that some of the scribes and some of the authors represented in the anthology were most likely women, and in a textual world dominated by male speaks confessing their love, three poems from the Findern manuscript provide a rare glimpse of female amatory experiences.


One poem presents the poetic reworking of the marriage vows and the woman attests to her love of her husband; a second poem warns against the dangers of those men who play the game of love and deceive women with flattery and nice words; a third poem deals with the grief felt by a woman whose lover is absent. I recently taught these poems with my second year students and it was wonderful to see their reactions to (often) hidden or silent voices of medieval women, and to see how they responded to the ‘female’ articulations of love within a male dominated secular tradition.

I hope you enjoy:


Of remembraunce

Withowte ending

Doth me penaunce,

And gret greuance

For yowr partyng.


So depe ye be

Grauen, parde,

Withyn my hert

That afore mee

Euer I yow see

In thought couert.


Though I ne playn

My wofull payn

But bere yt styll,

It were in vayn

To sey agayn

Fortunes wyll.

You can access the three poems mentioned here through Blackwell’s online appendix from John C. Hirsh’s Medieval Lyric: Middle English, Ballads, and Carols