Sunday, 14 February 2010

May they sing when they wake

I’ve been neglecting the blog recently while finishing work on a novel, which has left me verbally exhausted. It’s nearly complete, and in the meantime here are some photos I took alongside the Seine today.

St Valentine’s day is traditionally the day the birds choose their mates.

In Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules the birds sing in praise of nature today (the song was written in France, according to Chaucer):

‘Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,

That hast this wintres weders over-shake,

And driven awey the longe nightes blake!


‘Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte;

Thus singen smale foules for thy sake -

Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,

That hast this wintres weders over-shake.


‘Wel han they cause for to gladen ofte,

Sith ech of hem recovered hath his make;

Ful blisful may they singen whan they wake;

Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,

That hast this wintres weders over-shake,

And driven away the longe nightes blake.’*

The summer sun has not quite shaken off winter weather here, but it was melting these icicles beneath the bridges:

The birches along the promenade bear the marks of many passing lovers:

Their bark has become hieroglyphic with names and dates:

* A sketchy translation:

Now welcome summer, with your soft sun

That has overcome this winter weather,

And driven away the long black nights!


Saint Valentine, who is upheld so high,

So sing the small birds for your sake –

Now welcome summer, with your soft sun

That has overcome this winter weather.


Well have they cause to cheer often,

Since each of them has recovered his mate;

Fully happy may they sing when they wake;

Now welcome summer with your soft sun

That has overcome this winter weather,

And driven away the long black nights.

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