Middle English Breton Lais

The tale of Sir Orfeo

14th century, Middle English: National Library of Scotland, British Library, Bodleian Library Oxford.

Beneath an apple tree, as she sleeps in an orchard, Eurydice is visited by the King of the Otherworld.

Bifel so in the comessing of May, – It befell, at the beginning of May when the sun’s heat banishes all memory of winter and everybody is good-humoured – and every field is full of flowers and the blossom covers every bough and there is joy everywhere! – it happened during this season that Eurydice took two maidens with her one morning and walked into an orchard. The sun was high in the sky and she wanted to listen to the birds and to look at the flowers and to find some shade from the sun. So she sat beneath an apple tree. And it was not long before Eurydice fell asleep. The two maidens dared not wake her but let her lie. She slept until the sun had passed its height. And when she woke – God! She screamed and started doing some terrible things!’

Eurydice has been visited in her sleep by the king of the Otherworld and summoned to his land. The reason she is so distraught is that she has been told that she must be in the orchard again tomorrow, when he will come to take her away forever, to the Otherworld.

Story fragment recounted from: Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury (Eds), 1995. The Middle English Breton Lays. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Western Michigan University for TEAMS. The Middle English text of SIR ORFEO from National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.2.1, the Auchinleck Manuscript.

See for yourself

Sir Orfeo – TEAMS Medieval text, Middle English with an introduction.

Breton lai – Wikipedia

Sir Orfeo – Wikipedia

Orpheus – Wikipedia

Medieval Institute Publications – Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury (Eds), 1995. The Middle English Breton Lays. TEAMS Middle English texts

Apples and pomegranates

East London Line

halved pomegranates
apple blossom

Navigate the tunnel