There is a Flower

In the ecclesiastical calendar, to be honest, it is difficult to know what stage of the Gospel narrative we are celebrating right now. On the one hand, the baptism of our Lord was last week; but on the other hand, Candlemas (the commemoration of the slaughter of the innocents) isn’t for a few weeks yet. So in the intervening time, it doesn’t seem entirely inappropriate to keep celebrating the nativity and childhood of our Lord.

Here is a lovely carol by John Audelay from the 15th century. The medieval carols of my acquaintance never tire of comparing our Lord to a flower, usually a rose; just think of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” or “There is No Rose of Swych Virtue.” This carol is less well known but no less beautiful. You can find the Middle English lyrics here, along with an alternative modern rendering.  Musically, Huw Morgan has a haunting arrangement here, and John Rutter another one here.

*        *        *        *        *

There is a flower

There is a flower sprung of a tree, the root thereof is called Jesse;
A flower of price; there is none such in Paradise.

This flower is fair and fresh of hue;
It fadeth never, but ever is new;
The blissful branch on which it grew
Was Mary mild that bare Jesu.
A flower of grace;
Against all sorrow it is solace.
There is a flower sprung of a tree…

The seed thereof our God did send,
That God himself sowed with his hand,
In Bethlehem that holy land;
Amidst her bower he her found.
This blissful flower
Sprang never but in Mary’s bower.
There is a flower sprung of a tree…

Angels there came out of their tower
To look upon this blesséd flower,
How fair he was in his colour
And how sweet in his savour;
And to behold
How such a flower might spring in gold.
There is a flower sprung of a tree…

I pray you flowers of this country,
Wherever ye go, wherever ye be,
Hold up the flower of good Jesse
For your freshness and your beauty,
As fairest of all
And ever was and ever shall.

There is a flower sprung of a tree, the root thereof is called Jesse;
A flower of price; there is none such in Paradise.

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About middlingpoet

From the Gawain poet to Rainer Maria Rilke: I love traditional poetry.
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