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The Husband's Message

The Husband's Message


by Anonymous

The Husband's Message Duty Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Line) The only manuscript in which the poem is found has been damaged by fire, so that parts of it are indecipherable. (Crazy, right?) These sections are indicated by ellipses in the text.

Quote #1

Now you shall know
how you might think in your heart about
the heartfelt love of my lord. I dare promise
that you will find there a gloriously assured commitment. (9b-12)

The messenger promises that the lady will find a commitment "there," but where is "there"? Is it in the heart of the lady or of the lord? Our money's on both, since the messenger is trying to stir a sense of obligation in the lady's heart by assuring her of her lord's continued commitment to her. The repetition of the two "hearts" – one belonging to the lady and the other to the lord – links the two lovers in an anticipated, shared, heart-located commitment.

Quote #2

in your mind the spoken vows
that you two often spoke in former days. (14-16)

The messenger continues his efforts to win the lady over by asking her to remember her vows "in your mind." The repetition of "spoken," though, emphasizes that the real obligation comes from what the lady said. The fact that these vows were spoken aloud is what makes them something the lady is obligated to honor. It's almost as if the messenger is trying to get the lady's state of mind to match her past spoken words.

Quote #3

In accordance with the past vow of the two of you,
I hear S join together with R
and EA and W and M to declare an oath. (49-51)

Here the speaker voices a series of runes (this translation presents the runes as capital letters), or pictograms signifying both letters and whole words, to "declare an oath." This oath is presumably "in accordance" with the past lovers' vow because it repeats or reaffirms it. Yet it's also "in accordance" with it because, like that vow, it joins together what was previously separate. That's exactly what a lovers' vow does, too. This language also refers to the real, physical circumstances of a lovers' vow, in which the two people would come together "to declare an oath."

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