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Mosti ryden by Rybbesdale: text and translation
London, British Library, Harley MS 2253, f. 66v



Mosti ryden by Rybbesdale,
Wilde wymmen forte wale,
Ant welde wuch Ich wolde,
Founde were the feyrest on


If I could ride along the Ribble valley
To take my pick of loose women,
And have whichever one I wanted,
There would be found the fairest one

That euer was mad of blod ant bon,
In boure best with bolde.
Ase sonnebem hire bleo ys briht,
In vche lond heo leometh liht,
Thourh tale as mon me tolde.
Who was ever created of flesh and blood,
The best with brave men in her chamber.
Her complexion is bright as a sunbeam,
She shines brightly in every land,
So I have been told.
10   The lylie lossum is ant long,
With riche rose and rode among,
A fyldor fax to folde.

Hire hed when Ich biholde apon,
The sonnebeem aboute noon

That lily is beautiful and tall, 
Mingled with rich rose-colour,
A gold thread to bind her hair.

When I look at her head,
It has seemed to me that I saw

15  Me thohte that Y seghe;
Hyre eyghen aren grete ant gray ynoh;
That lussom, when heo on me loh,
Ybend wax eyther breghe.
The mone with hire muchele maht
the sunbeam about noon;
Her eyes are large and bright enough;
When that lovely woman smiled at me,
Both her eyebrows arched upwards.
The moon, with its great power,
20  Ne leneth non such lyht anaht,
That is in heouene heghe,
As hire forhed doth in day,
For wham thus muchel Y mourne may,
For duel to deth Y dreyghe.
Gives no such light at night,
Which is high in the heavens,
As her forehead does in the daytime,
For whom I must suffer so much,
For the sorrow which I endure till death.


25  Heo hath browes bend an heh,
Whyt bytuene ant nout to neh;
Lussum lyf heo ledes!
Hire neose ys set as hit wel semeth.
Y deghe for deth that me demeth;
She has brows arched high,
White space between, and not too close;
She leads a pleasant life!
Her nose is set so it looks well.
I am dying of the death she condemns me to;
30 Hire speche as spices spredeth.
Hire lockes lefly aren ant longe,
For sone he mihte hire murthes monge
With blisse when hit bredes.
Hire chyn ys chosen ant eyther cheke,
Her speech breathes sweetness like spices.
Her  hair is beautiful and long,
For she can readily make her contribution
When any enjoyment is planned.
Her chin is excellent, and either cheek,
35 Whit ynoh ant rode on eke,
Ase roser when hit redes.

Heo hath a mury mouht to mele,
With lefly rede lippes lele,
Romaunz forte rede;

White enough, and ruddy too,
Like a rose-bush coming into flower.

She has an attractive mouth for talking,
With beautiful red lips
For reading romances;

40 Hire teht aren white ase bon of whal,
Euene set ant atled al,
Ase hende mowe taken hede.
Swannes swyre wel ysette,
A sponne lengore then y mette,
Her teeth are white as ivory,
Evenly set and altogether well-placed,
As anyone near may see.
A swan's neck, well set,
A span longer than I have come across,
45 That freoly is to fede.
Me were leuere kepe hire come
Then beon Pope ant ryde in Rome,
Stythes[t] vpon stede.

When Y byholde vpon hire hond,

Lovely enough to give pleasure.
I would rather wait for her arrival
Than be Pope and ride through Rome,
The boldest rider ever.

When I look at her hand,

50 The lylie-white, lef in lond,
Best heo mihte beo;
Eyther arm an elne long,
Baloygne mengeth al bymong;
Ase baum ys hire bleo.
That lily-white one, loved everywhere,
She might well be the best;
Either arm an ell long,
Both tinged with ivory;
Her skin is like balsam.
55 Fyngres heo hath feir to folde;
Myhte Ich hire haue ant holde,
In world wel were me.
Hyre tyttes aren anvnder bis
As apples two of Parays;
She has fingers lovely to entwine;
If I could possess and keep her,
I would be the happiest man in the world.
Her breasts under fine linen
Are like two apples of Paradise;
60 Owself ye mowen seo.

Hire gurdel of bete gold is al,
Vmben hire middel smal,
That triketh to the to;
Al whith rubies on a rowe,

You can see for yourself.

Her girdle is all of beaten gold
Around her slim waist,
And flows down to her foot,
With rubies all in a row,

65 Withinne coruen, craft to knowe,
Ant emeraudes mo.
The bocle is al of whalles bon;
Ther-withinne stont a stone
That warneth men from wo.
Carved inside, to display skill,
And many emeralds.
The buckle is all of ivory;
In it there is a stone
Which protects people from harm.
70 The water that hit wetes yn,
Ywis, hit wortheth al to wyn;
That seghen, seyden so.

Heo hath a mete myddel smal,
Body ant brest wel mad al,

The water it is dipped in,
Truly, all turns into wine;
Those who witnessed it have said so.

She has a slim, elegant waist,
Body and breast all well made,

75 Ase feynes withoute fere;
Eyther side soft ase sylk,
Whittore then the moren-mylk,
With leofly lit on lere.
Al that Ich ou nempne noht,
Like a phoenix without a mate;
Either side as soft as silk,
Whiter than the morning milk,
With a beautiful skin colour.
Everything that I don't mention to you
80 Hit is wonder wel ywroht---
Ant elles wonder were.
He myhte sayen that Crist him seghe
That myhte nyhtes neh hyre leghe;
Heuene he heuede here!


Is wonderfully well made---
And it would be surprising if it weren't.
That man who could lie next to her at night
Might say that Christ was watching over him;
He would have heaven on earth!


Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 30 July 2003 .