In Britten's "Deo Gracias" (from A Ceremony of Carols) there are a few sentences and words which I don't really know how to pronounce:

clerkes finden
the appil take ben
that appil take was

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    Do you want to pronounce them the way Benjamin Britten pronounced them, or the way they were pronounced in Middle English? Jun 19, 2017 at 12:24
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    Pronounce them as if they were IPA, except c = /k/ and th = /θ/ or /ð/. The vowels should be as in Italian or Spanish. Yes, it won't sound much like English. Middle English didn't. It looks like English because English spelling didn't change when English pronunciation did. Jun 19, 2017 at 14:13
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    I would add that syllabic final e is more a schwa sound, but final e can be silent instead of syllabic when meter requires. Jun 19, 2017 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


In the versions I've seen there is an accent on the second 'e' of 'clerkes' and also on the 'e' of 'take', indicating that the letter should be pronounced (i.e. not silent as in modern English). 'Clerk' is of course pronounced 'clark' in British English.

As far as I know 'finden' is simply 'find' with an extra syllable added.

I'm sure there must be recordings on YouTube you could listen to.

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    In the cathedral versions I have heard, clerk is pronouced like French clerc, and finden like 'Finn-den". Clerkes and take must definitely be two syllables, for the scansion; but beyond that I think 'correct pronunciation' for a modern performance of a 1940s version of a 15th-century poem is a matter of opinion. Jun 19, 2017 at 14:26

I think the Middle English pronunciation is more or less like this:

[klerkəz fiːndən ðeː apːəl taːkə beːn ðat apːəl taːkə waz]

I don't know if this is how it is sung in Deo Gracias. I might have some errors since this is from my phone and I haven't looked it up yet, so this is by memory. From what I recall, the most uncertain parts are the voicing of word-final and word-initial fricatives and the presence of geminate consonants (they were simplified at some point in Middle English). I'm also not sure that the "i" in "finden" was lengthened yet. The vowel qualities are of course approximate: for example, Middle English short /e/ may have been mid-high, mid-low or true mid, as there is no phonemic contrast between these.

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