Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why I Believe in Merrie England

First and most importantly, because it's too good not to have been true.

Secondly, because any of the Middle English literature I've read seems positively a-glow with child-like wonder, relish of simple things and naive piety.

Thirdly, because I am currently reading an anthology of Catholic poetry, edited by Shane Leslie, whose introduction quotes this refrain from a Middle English drinking song:

Bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale;
For our Blessed Lady's sake, bring us in good ale.

How could anyone read those lines and not believe in Merrie England?

1 comment:

  1. Wholeheartedly seconded by this Merrie-Englander, whose ancestors were probably there enjoying it. Where's my good ale got to then?

    There's a wonderful fourteenth-century manuscript (Sloane 2593, held at the British Library) on which a nameless scribe has meticulously copied thoroughly earthy lyrics next to the most astonishing devotional carols (catechetical songs in which the singer seems to end up quietly astonished by his own catechesis, like a child, as you say). The sacred and the secular were woven of the same fabric.

    (John Rutter has written an enjoyably lively setting of the 'Good ale' song, audible here if you have a Spotify account: