Old use of modern words?

Hello all,
I'm a singer studying a piece of music by John Ireland, the song I'm taking a look at is Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem "English May". (I really don't know much about Rossetti, so there's no pressure). In the music, at the end of the phrase, there's a funny usage of a word, and I haven't quite figured out what he's trying to say:

But here the hedgerows pine from green to grey
While yet May's lyre is tuning, and her song
Is weak in shade that should in sun be strong:
And your pulse springs not to so faint a lay.

Does anyone know what he means here? One of my problems is that 'lay' is usually a verb, but the structure of the sentence clearly indicates that the word is supposed to be a noun. sigh
Any knowledge about Rosetti's use of old English terms in this poem would be immensely appreciated.

Thank you!

Best Answers


  • Thank you both very much, this is very helpful, and clears things up for me. Understanding the definition of the word, along with the history behind the definition and changes to it, puts me much farther ahead of where I was.
    Thank you again!

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