“Ar ne kuth”

 

 

Ar ne kuthe ich sorghe non
nu ich mot imane min mon;
karful wel sore ich syche

Geltles ich sholyc muchele schame;
help God, for thin swete name,
kyng of heuene riche.

Jesu crist, sod God sod man,
louerd thu rew upon me,
of prisun thar ich in am
bring me ut and makye fre.

Ich and mine feren sume,
God wot ich ne lyghe noct,
for othre habbet misname
ben in thys prisun ibroct.

Almicti, that wel lictli,
bale is hale and bate, heuenking,
of this woning ut us bringe mote.

Foryef hem, the wykke men,
yhef it is thi wille, for wos gelt
we bed ipelt in thos prisun hille.

Ne hope non to this liue
her ne mai he biliue,
Heghe thegh he astighe
ded hym felled to grunde.

Nu had man wele and blisce,
rathe he shal thar of misse.
worldes wele midywisse
ne lasted buten on stunde.

Maiden that bare the heuen king,
bisech thin sone, that swete thing,
that he habbe of hus rewsing
and bring hus of this woning,
for his muchele milse.

He bring hus ut of this wo,
and hus tache werchen swo
in thos liue, go wusit go
that we moten ey and o
habben the eche blisse.

 

 

Previously I knew no sorrow,
now I must give voice to my grief:
full of care I and suffering. I sigh.

Guiltless, I suffer great shame:
help, God, for your sweet name,
Lord of heaven’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ, in truth God, in truth man,
Lord, have pity upon me,
from this prison that I am in
bring me out and make me free.

I and some of my companions,
(God knows that I do not lie)
for other men’s misdeeds
have into this prison been cast.

Almighty, who very easily
is remedy and cure for pain, heaven-king,
from this misery may liberate us.

Forgive them. the wicked men,
God, if it is your will. for whose guilt
we have been thrust into this evil prison.

Have no hope in this life.
for here he may not remain.
High though he ascends,
death will fell him to the ground.

Now man has wealth and bliss,
but soon he shall lose them.
The wealth of the world certainly
lasts not but a moment.

Maiden who bore the Heaven-king,
beseech your son, that sweet thing,
that he have pity on us
and bring us from this misery,
for his great mercy.

May he bring us out of this woe,
and teach us to act
so that in this life, however it may go,
we may forever
have eternal bliss.

 

 

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I heard this medieval song performed by soprano Jolle Greenleaf (her voice is incredible and virtually indescribable) in a concert of English medieval music by Tenet Vocal Artists at the Rare Book Room of the Strand Bookstore on February 13, 2020.

Pity the prisoners incarcerated, most of them with no purpose and for no good — I would guess this is true of about ninety-five percent of the prisoners currently incarcerated — by our criminal “justice” system.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    February 2020

 

 

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“A common thread throughout medieval English sacred music, both in Latin and in the vernacular, is a devoted love of Mary. The sweetness of so much of English polyphony seems especially appropriate for music to celebrate Christianity’s great mother.

“In ‘Arne kuth ich sorghe non’ the singer, destitute and imprisoned, first calls out to Jesus for help. Finally, in the last stanza she turns to Mary, imploring her to intercede with her son Christ: “beseech thy son to have pity on us and bring us from this great misery.”

 

— program notes by Robert Mealy