Croft, P. J., ed. The Poems of Robert Sidney. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1984. Hay, Millicent V. The Life of Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester.
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London: Longman, 1994.
"LENTEN YS COME WITH LOVE TO TOUNE" ("SPRING HAS ARRIVED WITH LOVE") Anonymous (1300) As printed in modern editions, "Lenten is come" comprises three 12-line stanzas rhyming aabccbddbeeb. In the generally accepted three-stanza poem, the b-rhyme lines contain three metrical feet, while the other lines contain four. The structure therefore separates each stanza into four discrete three-line sections, loosely connected by the b rhyme. Like many Middle English lyrics and ballads, the poem's first stanza celebrates the coming of spring, praising the blossoming flowers and the birds' songs. As the stanza ends, the poet begins to project his own emotions onto the birds, whom he represents as rejoicing over their good luck so that all the wood rings with their song.
In stanza 2, this pathetic fallacy (concept of celebrating spring) continues as all of nature rejoices at the coming of spring, but in such human terms that it is clear the speaker is projecting his emotions into the natural scene. The poet depicts the rose deliberately donning her red face, the leaves in the bright wood beginning to grow with desire, and the animals cheering their mates. But as the second stanza ends, a new note is sounded as the speaker complains of his own unrequited love.
The poem's third stanza is structured much like the second: It opens with further description of the secret songs of the birds and animals, then shifts to the human world. In a striking juxtaposition, the speaker says that worms make love under the ground, but that women simply grow inordinately proud. Women, therefore, are depicted as unnatural, out of step with the natural impulses of spring in which even the worms, God's lowest creatures, participate. Clearly his mistress's rejection has caused the speaker to make this judgment, and he ends the poem declaring that if his lady continues her disdain, he will run off to live in the woods.
The poem has been called the most artistic reverdie in Middle English language, but some have criticized it for including the conventional "love longing" in a "nature poem" where it does not seem to belong. The scholar Andrew Howell, however, notes that such a nature opening would have led the medieval reader to expect the lover to reveal himself after the opening stanza, and notes that the beginning of the poem may allude to the Middle English poem "The Thrush and the Nightingale." The point of the work seems to be the deliberate contrast between the harmonious natural world and the human conflict caused by unrequited love. The critic Edmund Reis sees the speaker of the poem as being out of step with the natural world, because his love longing makes it impossible for him to participate in the joy of the spring (l. 67). The speaker's vow to leave the world of humans and join the natural world of the woods seems appropriate as well, until one remembers that in medieval literature, the wild man of the woods who abandons human society was a conventional image of madness, or of an unnatural man. Thus, the poem ends with the speaker and his
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