Sing Of A Maiden Anonymous 15th

century) Though this brief religious lyric is simple, many scholars have deemed it among the best of the medieval English lyrics for its effortless elegance and beauty. The subject of the poem is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. She is introduced in the first stanza as a woman who is "makeles" and who chose the king of kings for her son. The poet puns on the word makeles, which means spotless, matchless, and mateless. In other words, she is perfect and without blemishes; there is no one in the world like her, and she has no husband (that is, she is a virgin). The following three stanzas describe the immaculate conception, each likening Christ's approach to his mother's womb to dew in April. The final stanza reminds the reader that there was never another like Mary and asserts that she was a fitting mother for God.

Many scholars have noted that the first stanza is unusual in that it emphasizes that Mary chose christ as her son, rather than focusing on why God might have chosen Mary. This mention of Mary's choice underscores the reciprocal nature of the conception; God was willing for Mary to bear Christ as a son, and she was willing to do it. The union of the human and divine depicted here is both mutual and gentle, as the subsequent images of dew and stillness, or silence, indicate.

The following three stanzas, which deal with the Immaculate Conception itself, contain a great deal of religious symbolism. Dew was a common medieval symbol for the Holy Ghost, and April signifies the rebirth and regeneration that occur in springtime, and, correspondingly, the new beginning for humankind that Christ's birth brought about. Throughout the three stanzas, the dew falls in three different places. Just as Christ is characterized as dew in these lines, Mary is symbolized in turn as the grass, the flower, and the spray. The grass might refer to Mary's humility; the flower was a medieval symbol for virginity, and Mary was often associated in medieval literature with the rose; the spray can be taken as a reference to the outcome of the union between the human and divine. The spray seems to refer to the rod of Jesse—a flowering branch symbolically representing the birth of Christ to Mary. More than just three different representations of Mary, these symbols are also steps in a progression: The dew creates growth from grass to flower to tree.

The structure of the poem is also significant. There are five stanzas in the poem, and five is a number associated strongly with Mary in medieval literature. Two of the most important associations are her five joys and the fact that her name in Latin is Maria, which has five letters. Additionally, the rhyme scheme is noteworthy. The final words in the second and fourth hale-lines of each stanza rhyme, but in the middle three stanzas the first and third half-lines also rhyme "stylle" and "aprille." This repetition underscores the importance of those terms to the poem, thereby emphasizing the idea of the Immaculate Conception as a peaceful new beginning.

This particular work was designed to be sung as a carol, and as such it has enjoyed continued popularity into the modern era. "I Sing of a Maiden" is still often reprinted in collections of carols to be sung at Christmas.

See also Middle English lyrics and ballads, Virgin lyrics.

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