Foweles in the frith
Fisses in the flod
And ic mun wax wod.
Mulch sorr’w ic walke with
For beste of bon and blod.
(anonymous, 13th-century)
Birds in the woods
Fish in the stream
And I must grow mad.
Much sorrow I walk with
For best of bone and blood.

In the usual reading of this enigmatic lyric the first two lines are understood to express the common medieval theme of the abundance of nature; the third line places the poet in the scene, “growing mad”. The last two lines explain the twist: among the lovely sights and sounds of blooming spring, the poet shoulders great sorrow on account of unrequited love (“best of bone and blood” refers to the woman he loves).

In Wild’s setting, the point of view is darker from the start—the poem’s protagonist dwells obsessively, even gruesomely, on his beloved (“Bone… Blood”). Nature intrudes on this inward world, tentatively at first, and then rushing in. Are the “birds in the woods” and “fish in the stream” innocent manifestations of spring, or is nature conspiring to torment the poet as part of his growing madness? Resignation to the poet’s fate—his lone sorrow in the midst of nature—follows, though his suffering is not diminished.

Ic mun wax wod was commissioned for Viva Voce and Peter Schubert through a grant from the Canada Council. It received its premiere in 2006.

A Deruchie