Alisoun

An interpretive translation of the Middle English lyric

In the rising months of March and April
When the shoots begin to spring
The little lark does her whim
And in her tongue does chirm.
I’m lovesick for the comeliest of things,
That bliss she may me bring:
Tho’ I’m bound by her pow’r
A gracious chance I’ve been lent;
I know ’tis by Heav’n sent:
From other women my love is flown,
And it perches on my Alisoun.

In hue her hair is fair enough,
Brown her brow and eye;
With lovely face on me she smiles
With slender waist and goodly shape.
Unless she will to her me take
To be her own mate
I will forsake a long life
And dead drop down.
A gracious chance I’ve been lent;
I know ’tis by Heav’n sent:
From other women my love is flown,
And it perches on my Alisoun.

At night I toss and wake,
And my blush it turns to chalk.
My Lady, all for your sake
Has longing fallen rough upon me.
In the World there’s not so clever a man
As all her virtues to name;
Her neck is whiter than a swan’s
And the fairest maid in town is she.
A gracious chance I’ve been lent;
I know ’tis by Heav’n sent:
From other women my love is flown,
And it perches on my Alisoun.

From wooing and waking I am worn,
Beaten like water in the pond of a mill.
Lest any man deprive me my will,
Long since I worry all the day.
But better endure for a time this pain
Than evermore to mourn alone.
O fairest woman ere to be clothed,
Hearken now to my song!
A gracious chance I’ve been lent;
I know ’tis by Heav’n sent:
From other women my love is flown,
And it perches on my Alisoun.

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Author: John Marshall

Managing editor of The New Fugitive, poet, essayist, aphorist, knight errant, and bon vivant of the Decline and Fall.

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