If a popular book about two hares* were a Middle English ballad

*Afor Y telle þis tale off loffe, Yhaf a tale off woe.

Meþoʒte hit xulde be jolif to maken me an booke

And so to auctores & patrones Y didde goe.

þe patrones off þys tale caste an litel looke

& seyde, “Helas! We wille nat playe.

þe titull ys protecte, þou most taken hit doun todaye.”



Herkeneth alle and here telle

A tale of loffe qwiche Y knawe welle.

Twa hares, like to þe nute brun:

Ane litel & swete, t’othere al groun.

Litel Hare watz redy forto go to bedde.

Helde he t’otheres eren & he saide:

‘Gesse hou moche Y loffe þe’.


Saide big hare, ‘Y ken þat Y canne knawe nat’

Litel stretchyd hys armys: ‘Y loffe big as þat’.

Big hare stretchyd also and saide ‘by my trow,

Y loffe þe þys far, and t’is furþer þan þou’.

Litel broun hare noddyd hys hede.

‘Tis indeed muchel far’, þe litel hare saide,

‘Bote stille mo Y loffe þe’.


Litel Hare stretchyd up to þe skie,

Said ‘as longe as I mesure, so do Y

Loffe þe’. Saide t’other, ‘tis heiʒe, Y grant yow,

Bot Y loffe þe þis heiʒe & am mo heiʒe þan þou’.

Saide Litel Hare, ‘þou art big & strange

Y wishe Y hadde armys also lange

Bot mo do Y loffe þe.’


þanne Litel Hare gan stonde bi an tre

And saide ‘þys moche do Y loffe þe’.

He stod on hys handes wyþ fete in þe aire.

‘Y loffe þe þys moche’, saide Litel Broun Hare.

‘A, t’is moche’, saide Big Hare, ‘þou art so swete

Bot Y loffe þe also as heiʒe as mi fete:

Þis moche Y loffe þe.’


Litel Hare hopped. ‘Y loffe þe þis heiʒe!’

Saide Big Hare, hoppen, ‘And so do Y!’

Cried Litel Hare ‘Y loffe þe al doun þe street

þorouʒ þe mede and to þe flete!’

Said Big Broun Hare, ‘Y loffe þe þer stille

And mo, Y loffe þe ower þe hille.’

Saide wei, ‘Bot Y loffe the’.


Þe eveninge watz crepyng into nyʒt

& þe hares stod yn þe moon liʒt.

Litel Hare saide, wyþ slepyng eye,

‘Y loffe þe to þe moone yn þe skie.’

Said Big Hare, ‘Ywis, þat ys for!

Bot- Y loffe þe to þe moone…

….& þe retour.

Þat ys hou moche Y loffe þe.’


Written 27th September 2017


Detail from London, British Library, Harley MS 3724, f. 41


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