Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Great Regulars: This week's poem is among the earliest surviving

English love lyrics. "Bird on a Briar" or, in Middle English, "Bryd one Brere", is an enchanting little song, anonymous, of course, but with an extra mystery attached to its provenance. It was written on the back of a papal bull, at least a hundred years after the bull had been issued by Pope Innocent III in 1199. The scribe was probably a monk at the Priory of St James, near Exeter. Whether he transcribed a secular poem on a holy and ancient document as an act of mischief, piety or sheer carelessness, we'll probably never know: we don't even know for certain the poem is secular.

from Carol Rumens: The Guardian: Poem of the week: Bird on a Briar by Anonymous


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