Is this the oldest carpe diem poem in the English language?


My translation of "Whan the turuf is thy tour"

Whan the turuf is thy tour
anonymous Middle English poem, circa the 13th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
When the turf is your tower
and the pit is your bower,
your pale white skin and throat
shall be sullen worms’ to note.
What help unto you, then,
was all your worldly hope?

2.
When the turf is your tower
and the grave is your bower,
your pale white throat and skin
worm-eaten from within ...
what hope of my help then?

Original text:

Whan the turuf is thy tour,
And thy pit is thy bour,
Thy fel and thy whitë throtë
Shullen wormës to notë.
What helpëth thee thennë
Al the worildë wennë?

“Whan the turuf is thy tour” may be one of the oldest carpe diem (“seize the day”) poems in the English language, and an ancestor of Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” with its virginity-destroying worms. The second translation leans more toward the "lover's complaint" and carpe diem genres.

***

After a discussion with Coo & Co. about male poets like Andrew Marvell, who threatened young women with worms trying their virginity in the grave if they rejected his advances, I came up with this rebuttal:

Marvell-Less
by Michael R. Burch

Andrew Marvell was less than Marvellous;
nor was he noble, nor chivalrous:
for when trying to bed
chased/chaste virgins, he led
off with his iron balls ginormous!

When reading the poem, the reader can select “chased” or “chaste” or read them together, quickly.





Poetry by Michael R. Burch The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 21 times
Written on 2021-06-11 at 03:32

Tags Grave  Worms 

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Michael R. Burch The PoetBay support member heart!
I do find the elder poem the scarier of the two!
2021-06-12


Coo & Co The PoetBay support member heart!
Yes, we thought of Marvell as soon as 'worm-eaten' arrived. This is subtler and perhaps the better for that :>)
2021-06-11