The Devonshire Manuscript/what nedythe lyff when I requyer

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The Devonshire Manuscript
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how shold I and thys be thys ye may
The Devonshire Manuscript facsimile 43v
The Devonshire Manuscript facsimile 44r

f. [43r]

What nedythe lyff when I1

f. [43v] 

1    what nedythe lyff when I requyer
2    nothyng but dethe to quenche my payn
3    ffast fflyethe away that I desyer
4    and doubele soros returne agayn
5    by prowff I se beffor2 myne neyne
6    another hathe that ons was myne

7    that I was wont to hawe in hold
8    ys slypt away fful sodenly
9    and crafftely I am wythe hold
10    ffrom all my lyff and leberty
11    so that ^3I se beffor myne neyne
12    another hathe that ons was myne

13    yt ys no newes to ffynd I know
14    ffor ffaythffullnes to ffynd vntruth
15    but I parseve the wynd doth blow
16    a craffty way to clok the trewth
17    by wych I se beffor myne neyne
18    Another hath that ons was myne

19    a proverbe old I hawe hard offte
20    that a lyght love lyghtly doth go4
21    now am I lowe that was a lofftte
22    that was my ffrend ys now my ffo
23    so that I se beffor myne neyne
24    another hathe that ons was myne

f. [44r] 

25    sens ryght with{w+t+} worong hath hes reward
26    and ffayned ffayth dothe truthe opresse
27    I let yt passe and yt regrad regard 
28    as I hawe case no mor nor les
29    becase I se beffor myne neyne
30    another has that ons was myne

31    What hart cowld thynk mor then was thoght5
32    or tong cowld spek mor then was spok6
33    yet what ffor that all was ffor naght
34    ffor he ys gone and slept the knot7
35    wharby I se beffor my yen Another
36    another haws that ons was myn

Notes & Glosses[edit | edit source]

     1. This is the first line of the poem on 43r, and has been crossed-out as if the scribe realized his or her error.
     2. It is possible that the link between "be" and "ffor" to create "beffor" was added later.
     3. The caret is inverse.
     4. This saying may be a proverb.
     5. The hand is greatly enlarged, from this point on to the end of the page. Possibly, the writer became tired or changed the pen (or nib), which may have forced a larger hand.
     6. A large ink smudge sweeps through the previous two lines, nearly obliterating "tho" and "spok."
     7. This phrase is resonant.

Commentary[edit | edit source]

Written in Margaret Douglas' hand, this poem remains unattributed and is unique to this manuscript. "What nedythe lyff when I requyer" addresses the issue of friends becoming foes, which was a common theme throughout the manuscript. For instance, “Pacyence of all my smart” (21r) describes a similar situation among friends, and “Greting to you bothe yn hertye wyse” (79r-79v) includes a warning to beware of false friends.

The first line of this poem appears alone on 43r (above) and is crossed out, as if the copier realized that there would not be enough room to copy the entire lyric. The six stanzas spread out over 43v and 44r. Douglas' writing becomes enlarged as she continues copying the lyric, and ink blots appear on the page. Left-handedness may account for the ink blots, as they occur often in her writing.