Guillaume de Machaut


Guillaume de Machaut et Amour

Guillaume de Machaut et Amour - Wikimedia Commons

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

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Guillaume de Machaut.

Guillaume de Machaut - Wikimedia Commons

Guillaume de Machaut (c1300-1377) is regarded as the last and greatest of the French 14th century poet-composers. A member of the ars nova movement in music, he developed the motet, and various secular forms including the rondel and the ballade. Educated in Reims, he became a secretary to John I, Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, who died at Crécy in 1346, and was later employed by members of the family, including Jean, Duc de Berry. Machaut also became a canon, ultimately of Reims (in 1337) where he spent the latter part of his life, writing and composing, and supervising the compilation of his manuscripts and scores. A prolific, disciplined and talented poet and composer, he also penned several prose works and narrative poems, including a treatise on poetry (the Prologue). His work influenced many other musicians, and major poets including Christine de Pisan and Chaucer. Guillaume’s motets are organised in three parts/voices: in sequential order, the triplum (third part), motetus (middle-part) and tenor. The parts are written in French or Latin. The title of each motet below gives the opening, or complete phrase in the case of the tenor, of the wording for each part, separated by a / mark. The word motet probably derives from the French mot (word), with the sense of ‘a little word’, that is a musical, frequently polyphonic, composition for voice. The music for these pieces is extant. Rhyme schemes have been variously altered to achieve a workable verse translation, while hopefully not losing the flavour of the original.

I: Quant en moy/Amour et biauté parfait/Amara valde

When Amor did first approach me, (Triplum)

Then he wished so very sweetly

To render my heart well-caught,

That he a fair glance did present,

And most amorous sentiment,

Leaving me with sweet thought,


To win

Mercy, refusing naught.

And yet, in all my life, never

Has he wished for boldness,

And so, he brings me, ever,

With amorous thought, distress,

Thus, by force of longing, rather,

Joy is but turned to joylessness,

Since I do lack a bold address.

Alas! And may not recover,

For Love

Doth prove

Unwilling to grant me succour,

And holds me so very tightly,

That I’ve no way of escaping,

Yet nor would I so, since, rightly,

Awaiting her grace most humbly,

I would endure my suffering.

And if Love consents, loyally,

That my lady, so fair of body,

Shows, of her friend, accepting,

I know

Tis so

That I’ll own, endlessly,

The joy Love doth owe the lover

As reward for his misery.

She waits for so long, however,

And I love so foolishly, I never

Dare of her to beg true mercy,

Preferring to live in hope, rather,

Than to see her mercy render

And Refusal come to slay me.

And so, I say with a sigh, ever:

To love so’s too great a folly

If the sweet turns bitter wholly.

True Love and perfect beauty (Motetus)

Make me


To doubt and hide my love,

With true Desire, inspiring me

With art,

Sweet heart,

Unending love to move,

And since a pure love I would prove,


I’d see,

Which, in contenting me,

Would lessen not your honour,

For I would languish rather

And so, die, if you but agree,

Than harm what is all to me,

All I desire, your honour,

Either by thought or deed.

Full bitter, indeed. (Tenor: sings ‘Amara valde’)

(Note: For ‘Amara Valde’, see the Roman Catholic responsory ‘Libera me’ from the Office for the Dead)

II: Tous corps/De souspirant/Suspiro

All those who would have a care (Triplum)

To their loving well

Must by reason tend to where –

The right way I tell –

Their heart would desire to dwell

If they’d in virtue excel.

This my heart would ensure,

By Nature formed, that would

Make obeisance as it should

To that same Nature,

And to the one who’s stung me

Like some ill creature,

Since she shows me no pity

For all I endure,

Which sets me to languishing

With desire, upon seeing

Every sweet feature

Of her truly gracious face,

At which my heart doth race,

Set ablaze ever.

And though Amor has made me

Suffer the torture,

Of these great ills unfairly

Sans sin or error,

I’ll not cease to seek for

Comfort for my dolour

From my lady pure,

And mercy I’ll win by this

According to my service;

Of that I am sure.

And as, they say, truthfully,

Better by pleading joy to see,

Than in sad languor to lie

And long silence, and then die.

Of my sighing grieving heart, (Motetus)

As I ought to, I complain,

For, when bravely I do start

To speak of my deep pain,

Silence it demands again.

Thus, I am trapped in gazing,

And, so, I fear their coming,

Refusal, no friend to me,

Resistance, my enemy,

So violent, when attacking,

That from Love I can but flee:

Or mercy, swift advancing,

From my lady I might see,

Or die so, in languishing.

Thus, I sigh. (Tenor: sings ‘Suspiro)

(Note: For ‘Suspiro’, consider St. Augustine: Confessions Bk VII: 16: ‘tibi suspiro, die ac nocte: I sigh to you, day and night’)

III: Hé! Mors/Fine Amour/Quare non sum mortuus

Ah, Death, how utterly (Triplum)

I loathe you, who rob me

Of my joy, my amity,

My solace!

Such that I’m brought, alas,

From high, to so low a pass,

Though you could not, at last,

Assail me.

Ah, better that I should die,

Than remember, with a sigh,

What used to meet my eye,


My love, in thought, doubling,

Thus, my desire increasing,

Day after day, decreasing

All my pain.

But all’s contrary, tis plain,

Love adds to my woe again,

In tears and sighs, I complain,

Of my lover,

Of peerless worth ever;

Sense, courtesy, honour,

I felt, all now, forever,

Lost to me.

Therefore, death shall I see,

For love will depart, surely,

No longer granted to me

Her greeting,

That set me to such grieving

I desire, wish, for nothing,

But death. Thus, my longing

I shall ease.

And, if but myself I’d please,

As to mercy, or my decease,

All trace of my life might cease,


For there is no joy in me;

Tis said, and I must agree,

True love forgets tardily.

This I’d move:

That he who’s been granted love,

Should then his own wisdom prove,

True service should he approve,

Folly’s end,

For on this you may depend

No worse parting doth life send

Than that of dear friend from friend.

True Love, he who came to pierce (Motetus)

My heart, shows his derision,

Not caring to heal my fierce

Illness, in timely fashion,

But holds me in his prison,

Most grievous pain to suffer,

And no relief doth offer,

Except what harms me greatly,

Since Fortune has cheated me

Of all cure, to grieve me more.

Alas, from my eyes, tears pour

Of lament, complaint, profusely,

Awaiting, for loving well before,

Death in lieu of true mercy.

Why have I not died, as yet?  (Tenor: sings ‘Quare non sum mortuus’)

(Note: For ‘Quare non sum mortuus’, see the Catholic responsory ‘Inclinans faciem’ derived from the Book of Job in the Latin Vulgate.)

IV: De Bon Espoir/Puis que la douce/Speravi

With Fair Hope, with Sweetest Memory, (Triplum)

Virtuous Love has oft supported me,

And with Sweetest Thought, against Desire,

When the latter, savagely, set me on fire;

For when Desire did most to distract me,

Hope did comfort me, indeed, most sweetly,

And Memory again showed the beauty,

The sense, worth, honour, generosity,

Of her, from whom true loving thought

Arose to ease my heart both sad and fraught.

Alas, Desire assaults more than before,

Yet, resolutely, such I must endure

For I am close to losing the comfort

Of Fair Hope, much to my discomfort;

And Memory ever leads my thoughts where

My weary heart meets with utter despair,

For Grace, Love, Openness, and Loyalty,

Pity, Fine Manners, and Nobility,

Have closed their eyes in sleep, to me alone,

For Resistance has Mercy overthrown,

And my lady, to whom I pledge my all,

Trusts in Harshness and proud Refusal,

Because I will not, and cannot, deny

My love or heart to her, howe’er I try.

Yet since not otherwise may these things be,

Let her make her every demand of me,

For, despite all, I’ll love her faithfully.

Since the sweet dew, this hour, (Motetus)

Of Humility, opes not

Of Pity the gentle flower,

That Mercy might prove my lot,

I can endure no longer,

To that fire I surrender

Amorous Desire begot,

With which Love, for his pleasure,

And my beloved lady,

In her first flush of beauty,

Graced me, beyond measure.

Yet since they thus concur,

With their will I’ll comply,

And most humbly, till I die.

Hoped, have I. (Tenor: sings ‘Speravi’)

(Note: For ‘Speravi’, see the Catholic Offertory ‘In te speravi, Domine: I have placed my hope in you, Lord’)

V: Aucune gent/Qui plus aimme/Fiat voluntas tua

Some have asked what ails me now, alway (Triplum)

That I sing no more, nor is my heart gay,

Although I used to sing with cheerful heart;

And I say that, indeed, I do not know.

And yet I lie, for in my heart lies woe,

A greater grief defying every art.

For, ceaselessly, I have fixed my thought

On doing as virtuous Love has taught,

Nor ever now would think on foolishness,

And I know well that my honoured lady

Whom I respect has sworn death to me,

With cruel heart, yet pleasant face no less.

For, when I now behold her gracious face

She is the image of consent and grace,

As if she’d have me yet paying homage,

Yet, as to my woes she might remedy,

I’m a hundred times worse off than any,

For none could imagine aught so savage

As the refusal her hard heart doth give,

Yet I love her, in joy Lord let me live,

More than aught else. And is that not madness?

Yes, indeed; but for naught that I can view

Would I depart the perils that ensue,

For I’m all hers, unchanged in faithfulness,

Since she grants me hope of recovery;

While my Lord Yvain won, tis clear to see,

Through serving well, not knightly courage,

The love of that lion, wild and savage.

Who loves more, suffers more (Motetus)

And a harder life must lead,

Since Love who lacks all measure

Opposes him more, indeed,

Than a false man who cares not

For love, rather mars his lot

With evil, and villainy.

Ah, God, if authority

The ladies but had, of right,

To make each gentle knight

Whose heart was pierced so,

In choosing, not go awry!

If twas thus, assured were I,

He who is loved would have naught to show,

While the hated, soon, true love would know.

Now let thy will be done. (Tenor: sings ‘Fiat voluntas tua’)

(Note: For ‘Fiat voluntas tua’ see the Latin Vulgate, Mathew 6:10, and elsewhere, for example in the Latin version of the Lord’s Prayer. The tale of Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, is told by Chrétien de Troyes, in his Arthurian Romances.)

VI: S’il estoit/S’amours tous/Et gaudebit

If there are any here complaint should move (Triplum)

Given the mischief they’ve received from love,

I should complain, and shall without blame prove,

For since the moment I became enamoured,

Ever the harshness here within me harboured

Would not let me free myself from sorrow;

Rather that, in me, which made me rejoice,

And granted hope to me of knowing a voice,

And glance, without a word or deed, did go

From me; and thus, left me there, in prison,

Where I possessed most ample provision

Of ardent desire which proved so contrary,

That, since one alone had more right there,

I know in truth I could live no longer where

My noble lady’s aid was long absent from me,

Who now from there, and death, has rescued me.

And that is right, for sweetness in mercy

Has in her its dwelling, with courtesy.

If Love brought every lover (Motetus)

True joy in the beginning,

His prize would be the lesser,

For no lover knows a thing

Of the delight awaiting

One who serves with honour.

But he who lives with desire,

Yet to true Love gives heed,

He’ll have all he might need,

When true joy he doth merit.

So, none ought to regret it,

Such love I mean, if indeed,

Love makes him languish for it.

And your heart shall rejoice (Tenor: sings ‘Et gaudebit cor vestrum’)

(Note: For ‘Et gaudebit cor vestrum’ see the Latin Vulgate, Isiah 64:14)

VII: J’ay tant/Lasse! Je sui/Ego moriar pro te

In my heart, and my pride, I have believed, (Triplum)

And held dear, that which has yet deceived,

Scorning one from whom true love I’ve received,

Such that I lack

All those sweet things that true love conveys,

Through pity, to many a poor heart, always,

Nourishing it, with that great joy we praise,

I languish for.

Alas! Thus, my erring heart betrayed me,

For from the friend who served me loyally,

And loved me more than himself, wholly,

I’ve kept my heart,

So, I did grant him my true love never.

Now I know, truly, he loves another,

Who, promising mercy to her lover,

Doth him receive.

And most dearly I’ll pay for it, I am sure,

For I love him so much that none loves more,

But tis too late: since I may not restore,

His faithful love;

And thus, I fear that despite every plea,

He’ll not deign to hear, nor listen to me,

All through pride, that in my great folly

Made me believe;

And though I would hide my pain, with art,

Love’s heat the flames of longing doth start,

Tormenting my body and erring heart,

Bringing on death.

So, I’d rather speak to him of my languor

Than die thus, without seeking to savour

The joy that’s surely, in its sweet flavour,

True perfection;

And if I do speak, blame me not, indeed,

If desire for fulfilment, love and need

Mean that measure and sense I thus exceed.

Alas! I risk dying a death (Motetus)

As harsh as that, in a breath,

That the fair Narcissus died,

Whose heart was so full of pride,

Since his was a beauty purer

Than every human creature,

He disdained to hear the plea

Of poor Echo who, faithfully,

A dark bitter death did suffer.

But True Love, the skilful archer,

Ensured that he then loved dearly

His reflection, and sought mercy,

So much so he died of ardour.

Alas! I fear I’ll die thus also,

For my sweet friend, he loved, in woe,

Gave his heart, yet I said never.

I love him, oh, he hates me so!

Of woman such is the nature.

Would I had died for you! (Tenor: sings ‘Ego moriar pro te’)

(Note: For ‘Ego moriar pro te’ see The Latin Vulgate, 2Samuel 18:33, King David’s lament for Absalom)

VIII: Qui es promesses /Ha! Fortune, trop sui /Et non est qui adjuvat

Who doth on Fortune’s promises depend, (Triplum)

One whom her rich gifts serve to reassure,

Or thinks that fortune is so much their friend

That she will be, in all things, firm and sure,

They prove right foolish, for she is unsure,

Sans faith, sans right, sans measure, and sans law,

Rich clothing for a mountain of manure,

All light without, within she’s ordure, for

An idol is she of false portraiture,

Whom none should e’er believe or e’er adore;

Her virtuous looks they will scarce endure,

She’s all thin air, nor aught has she in store

Except false images we should abjure,

While her followers risk their all, and more,

In stumbling; her true nature, in the raw,

A heartless, faithless, perjured, running sore,

False, traitorous, perverse, sour and hoar,

Who first anoints then pierces to the core,

Leading those she’s nourished to the door

Of ruin, and betrayed discomfiture.

Ah! Fortune, I’m driven far from harbour, (Motetus)

Since you send me to sea lacking an oar,

In a skiff, flat-bottomed and no sailor,

Rotten, flimsy, sail-less, far from shore,

The wind so contrary as to slay me,

So, I’ve no ease, and no rescue’s in store,

No mercy or hope, for, without reason,

A bitter, undeserved, death I foresee,

Ready to bring about my destruction;

This death your fatal spell doth bring on me,

False Fortune, with your endless treachery.

And here is none to bring aid. (Tenor: sings ‘Et non est qui adjuvat’)

(Note: For ‘Et non est qui adjuvat’ consider the assertion in The Latin Vulgate: Psalm 53:6, ‘Ecce enim Deus adjuvat me’)

IX: Fons totius superbie/O livoris feritas/Fera pessima

Source of every proud excess, (Triplum)

Lucifer, of all wickedness,

With wondrous beauty no less

Adorned also,

You in the highest place did show,

Above the thrones there set below,

Fierce serpent, ancient times did know,

Who dared declare,

That you’d establish your seat there,

And in the North the sceptre bear

And you would equal works prepare

To Him on high.

And yet the time came swiftly nigh

When all the pride you signify

Was thwarted by the judge, whereby

You met disgrace.

He bore away that pride of place;

Then to the depths, cast there apace

For your sin, you turned your face,

Hurled from the height.

Now you reign beyond our sight,

In pits and caverns far from light,

In pain, in that eternal night,

Endless agony.

Deceit and fraud now, ceaselessly,

Are in your deeds, all good we see

You obstruct with darts that flee

From out your hand;

You augment the sin that banned

Adam, held in Stygian land,

In harsh pain we understand.

Yet, to Mary

Virgin, so full of grace, since she

Through childbearing, happily,

Freed him from his misery,

Here, now, I pray,

That the serpent’s agony

She’ll increase, immeasurably,

And lead us to the joys we see

She grants alway.

O fierce foe, and envious, (Motetus)

Seeking the heights, over us,

Yet lurking, still, in the deep!

Why do you dwell among us,

With sweet speeches, garrulous,

That, seductive, never sleep,

Stinging, fiercely, after us,

Like the sting of Scorpius,

Iscariot’s falseness and sin

Lying there, concealed within?

May the Son of God grant you

The reward that you are due!

O worst of creatures (Tenor: sings ‘Fera pessima’)

(Note: For ‘Fera pessima’ see the Latin Vulgate, Genesis 37:20, the story of Joseph)

X: Hareu! Hareu! Le feu, le feu/ Helas! Où sera/ Obediens usque ad mortem

Halloo! Halloo! And cry fire, cry fire, (Triplum)

Never more ardent, the burning desire,

That Love has lit in my heart; and higher

It burns, and doth ever to joy aspire

And hope, that ought to temper that ardour.

Alas! If the fire should burn there longer,

My heart will be wholly scorched and tainted,

That by the fire’s now blackened and painted,

Since tis loyal, pure, and steadfast ever;

And yet, I hope it might happen, rather,

That True Love indeed will its ease secure,

Through the power of hope, certain and sure.

For from it alone, that suffers in Hell,

Pity’s withheld where beauty doth dwell;

Harshness reigns there and Resistance yet;

Disdain lives there, that Faith doth forget

And Love, and for neither of us doth care.

Joy doth flee, harshness my lady doth bear,

And, to increase all my pains and my fear,

Love sets within me, he whom I hold dear,

Despair, that infects me so badly that now

All that I possessed it has stolen, I vow,

And so harms me, in every bodily feature,

It drives me to death, in the face of Nature.

Alas! Where may I snatch a breath (Motetus)

Whom naught can thus avail but death?

Since nothing rescues me now nor may

Except my dear lady who would this day

Slay me with despair, without more ado,

Because I love her more than others do,

And Memory, rousing further the fire,

And ardour, of all my woeful desire

Shows me ever her generosity,

And all her fine, her undoubted beauty,

Which makes me burn twice over again.

Thus, without heart, without hope, and in pain,

There is no way I can last much longer,

Nor in fire can the human heart linger,

Nor lasting existence, there, long maintain.

Obedient until death (Tenor: sings ‘Obediens usque ad mortem’)

(Note:  For ‘Obediens usque ad mortem’ see the Catholic gradual ‘Christus factus est’, derived from the Latin Vulgate, Philippians 2:8-9)

XI: Dame je suis cils/Fins cuers dous/Fins cuers dous

Lady I’m one right willing to endure (Triplum)

Your true will, as long as I may, and more;

But do not think that I can suffer long,

Without dying; against me you’re so strong,

That you would have me now depart from you,

And see no more the beauty, great and true,

Of your noble body, of such pure worth

That you’re the best of all that’s fine on earth.

Alas! I feel this presage of my death.

But the grief that makes me hold my breath,

Would yet prove sweet if, in true hope, I might,

Ere I should die, be favoured with that sight.

Lady, and if my heart should seem to be

Intent on winning honour, advancing me,

It will come from you, no matter how far,

Since without you, whom I love faithfully,

And Love, my weakness would yet prove a bar.

Pure sweet heart, I am forbid (Motetus)

On your part, the sight once more

Of your sweet kind face, now hid,

That set me on love’s path unsure;

But, in plain truth, I know not

How I might escape my lot,

The death I must shortly die.

And thus, I must avoid you,

That your pleasure I might do,

Or but play you false would I.

Better faithfulness, I believe,

To nurture, and by your leave

To die, if you wish, than sigh,

And then, against your will,

Gaze on your beauty still,

Winning the joy that you deny.

Pure, sweet heart (Tenor: sings ‘Fins cuer dous’)

XII: Helas! Pour quoy virent/Corde mesto/Libera me

Alas! Why did my poor eyes gaze ever (Triplum)

On my dear lady, of pleasant manner,

Through whom I live in such distress,

I know not joy from wretchedness?

Love never intended me to possess

Any hope of achieving joyousness,

Nor can I yet hope for a single thing,

For all must desert me thus, despairing.

And so I would in truth prefer

That I was, nigh to seeing her,

Blind, or my body a heart did offer

That could love a fair lady never,

For seeing her won me a cruel fate

A most sorrowful life, soon or late,

Since her cruel heart pity nor mercy

Doth ever extend to the likes of me.

Alas! She hates that, both fit and worthy,

I choose to love her honour and beauty,

And I serve her thus with such deep respect

In my heart, I adore her, and naught expect.

And tis right, we oft chase after

What we’d prefer not to suffer.

So, I would much rather endure this pain

Than she prove yet harsher if I complain;

For if she knew I’d so vanquished my fear

I hoped for her love, she’d not hold me dear.

Yet I love her so deeply that, in this

World of ours, I’d wish, if I’d but one wish,

That her love was open to all, for their part,

Except him who loves her with all his heart.

For that reason, deprived, of love I boast,

Though I most desire what harms me most:

And none should complain of like misery,

Since I love the one who cares not for me.

With sorrowful heart, (Motetus)

Thus, in song, I complain,

Ready with art

To serve, weakened by pain;

Through honesty

I’m all wasted away

Sad destiny,

My reward is, today.

In derision,

Fortune, you’ll be held, now;

You laugh like one

Void of reason, see how

Upon the vile

You smile, from the virtuous

Withdraw that smile,

Flee, with your gifts, from us.

Scorning to bear

Blind Fortune’s sad woe,

Taking to prayer,  

In penitence, I go,

The stain of sin,

By forgiveness, erased,

In death I’ll win

Glory, heaven be praised.

Lord, set me free. (Tenor: sings ‘Libera me’)

(Note: For ‘Libera me’ see the Roman Catholic responsory at the beginning of the Absolution, part of the prayers for the dead.)

XIII: Tant doucement/Eins que ma dame/Ruina

So sweetly, attracting me, (Triplum)

Fair welcome and, as sweetly,

Charm, born of a sweet face,

And seeming love, so flew

From a smiling glance and true,

Attracting with sweetness too,

Complaint I made apace

To my lady, of her grace,

Of the malaise within me.

Alas! It works thus, surely,

So as to force my death,

Like a man whose enemy

Harms him, as in amity,

Arms round his neck clasped freely,

Seeking his final breath.

For see, thus to destroy me,

Smiling, he reassures me,

And promises me mercy,

And, seemingly most kind,

Assuaging my deepest fear,

To my heart he brings fresh cheer,

Claims fair welcome will draw near,

To ease my sorry mind.

Yet to death he draws me still,

In leading me on at will,

Like a proven traitor, ill

Towards me, contrary,

And refusal sans pity,

Harsh, in its cruelty,

Of a proud heart born wholly,

Will slay me now, indeed,

For loving without misdeed.

If but my noble lady (Motetus)

Whom I serve and prize

Knew the harsh misery

My heart doth realise,

I’d yet win from her eyes

Without her loving me,

Her glance that so smilingly

Conquered me with its brightness,

And with the pure sweetness

Of her kind laughing face.

Yet she robs me of her grace,

And makes me weep sorely,

Knowing I worship no less,

Her gracious face, truly,

And love her, in faithfulness.

In ruin (Tenor: sings ‘Ruina’)

(For a striking biblical instance of the word ‘ruina’ see The Latin Vulgate, Isaiah 17:1)

XIV: Maugré mon cuer/De ma dolour/Quia amore langueo

Despite my heart, and against all sentiment, (Triplum)

They’d have me say that I derive enjoyment

From Love’s excess,

Those who would claim that I but feign lament

Here, in my songs, composed with sad intent,

Yet, of love’s virtues, I must oft find present

Their great sweetness.

Alas! Grieving, not one day have I known,  

Since my true lady was to me first shown,

Whom I do love,

That did not start and end in grief and moan,

Endured in tears and sadness, and ever sown

With refusal, that in harsh toil I groan,

Which vain doth prove.

Ne’er, to my saddened heart, has my lady,

She of demure and noble ways, truly

Brought pure joy.

Nor has she shown pity for all my woe.

And yet that I live for her she doth know,

Love, fear, desire, serve, trust, a true heart show,

And e’er employ;

And since there is no mercy or remedy,

Of worth, that flows not from her, willingly,

To whom I yield,

Yet find, in her heart, a savage enemy,

Such that I languish of the ills dealt me,

All would know if I’d lied, full easily.

In my sorrow, comforted, sweetly, (Motetus)

For all my labours rewarded highly,

From deep sadness to great joy raised indeed,

Of my sad languor healed, and from it freed,

By good luck, by grace, by pity in this,

By Fortune befriended, and, as I’d wish,

Succoured in all my deprivation, richly,

And starving yet nourished, generously,

With all the gifts True Love and my lady

Could honour a lover with, so full truly,

Am I, and Love is my aid; and yet I sigh,

For still, by my soul, through my teeth I lie.

Through love, I languish so (Tenor: sings ‘Quia amore langueo)

(Note: For ‘Quia amore langueo’ see The Latin Vulgate: Song of Solomon 2:5. It is also the refrain of the fine anonymous medieval English ballad ‘In a valley of this restless mind’ dated to the fourteenth century)

XV: Amours qui a le pouoir/Faus Samblant/Vidi dominum

Love, who owns the power (Triplum)

To grant me at each hour

Joy, or death’s darkness,

Has not yet graced in this

My lady with the wish

My malaise to cure.

Nor may I bear ills gladly,

For, through love’s loyalty,

I may not serve joyfully,

Without sad thought so,

Nor can I hide love, wisely,

Nor any comfort ease me,

Of all my harsh woe;

Rather the more humbly

I bow and endure,

So much the more harshly

My heart’s treated, that shortly

I must die, mournfully,

Of grief, ardour sore,

And be parted yet further

From mercy and the favour

Of my lady pure.

And, indeed, in all of this

Love, who’s my bane, permits

Justice and Reason,

Nobility and Sweetness,

Pity, and Grace, and Kindness,

No means to combat Harshness,

Rather it reigns on,

In one sans humility,

Heart full of cruelty,

And, wrapped in pretence,

Refusal has charge of me,

Driving all hope hence,

While Resistance, thwarting me,

Without cause, most grievously,

Through its disdain, leads me

To woe sans defence.

False Seeming has cheated me, (Motetus)

Kept me in hope of seeing

True mercy in joyfulness;

And like a fool, I, wholly,

Believed him, with all my being,

And trusted him to excess.

Alas! Now, he has wronged me,

Since, sadly, my well-being

Tis in his power to address,

Yet naught does he ease for me,

Neither grief nor cruelty,

But rather cares less and less.

I have seen the Lord (Tenor sings: ‘Vidi dominum’)

(Note: For ‘Vidi dominum’ see The Latin Vulgate, John 20:18, the words of Mary Magdalene; and Isiah 6:1)

XVI: Lasse! Comment oublieray/Se j’aim mon loyal ami/Pour quoy me bat mes maris?

Alas! Howe’er shall I forget (Triplum)

The fair, the good, the sweet one yet,

Upon whom I have wholly set

This heart of mine,

Gifted for that heart of his own,

He who was my lover, alone,

Ere this husband I did bemoan,

Who prevents me,

While guarding me close and harshly,

From seeing that noble body

So my heart breaks within me;

For I’m obliged

Despite myself, to serve his wish,

And sorely my heart grieves at this,

Yet right shall still not go amiss,

Nor loyalty;

For since I see, of a certainty,

My love would seek to honour me,

And more than himself he loves me,

And since I find

Him so virtuous his delight

Is serving me, tis only right

Not to forgo him, day or night,

Rather I should

Love him honourably in this

Since he’s my heart and I have his,

Without being in aught remiss,

It seems to me.

But I’ve committed a grievous ill

If the lover I’ve embraced, at will,

Given the husband I have still,

- Alas, the one,

Who causes me pain and annoy,

Such that, ever, I flee from joy,

Nor in this world can I employ

A means of ease,

My pleasure, sport, my laughter light,

My song, and revel, and my delight,

My happy days, seeking to blight,

And night and day,

Add to the rivulet of my tears –

If the fairest and best, ne’er appears

To me; nor shares my woes and fears!

Yet, assuredly,

Howe’er far my body might be

From him, my heart is near, you see,

Filled with true love and loyalty.

If I’ve loved my faithful love (Motetus)

And he’s loved me so loyally

That wholly mine he doth prove,

And I likewise, and totally,

Without a cruel thought in me,

And given myself willingly,

Since he has, and enduringly,

Served me with all his heart gladly,

Have I deserved for that, woe’s me!

That my spouse should so abuse me,

That naught but torment do I see?

No, not for a moment; truly, he

Commits a sin, sins mortally,

Returning evil for good to me,

Because he’d have me forget, you see,

The lover who has, most humbly,

Trusted, lied for, and obeyed me,

And has, as I wished, cherished me.

Why does my husband beat me so? (Tenor)

I moan!

O Lord, woe’s me!

Why does my husband beat me so?

I moan!

I have done him no wrong, I own,

I have done him no wrong, I own,

But to speak to my lover


O Lord, woe’s me!

But to speak to my lover


Why does my husband beat me so?

I moan!

O Lord, poor me!

Why does my husband beat me so?

I moan!

(Note: The first verse of the tenor part is a 13th century song, which Machaut appears to have adapted.)

XVII Quant vraie amour/ O series summe rata!/Super omnes speciosa

If, when true love, in burning, (Triplum)

Born of an ardent desire,

Masters a young girl’s yearning,

Once love she might acquire,

And a lover requests her love

And by deed does faithful prove,

Such that his sworn loyalty

Makes her yield to him, sweetly,

In such perfect union

That these two are joined as one,

Owning but one heart and thought –

That this delight might be brought

To last, of a love begun –

If another comes then, and he

Seeks her true lover to be,

And she denies him, wholly,

Since she’s already given,

If he, through his lost mission,

Declares Love mere falsity,

In that he finds no mercy

From his object of desire,

Although he’d sought to acquire

Her with much pain, steadfastly,

It is not Love should be blamed

But prized the more, not defamed,

Since she but follows, this creature,

As ordained, the rule of Nature,

That has formed her as it ought,

And now deviates in naught;

Who seeks the goods twice over

Mocks the merchant, and the lover.

O, Order formed perfectly! (Motetus)

By commanding Nature,

Maintaining, through eternity,

One true bond and structure,

And shown by proof, totally

Immune to all fracture,

Though Love’s your offspring, truly,

Spurning every measure;

If yielding, moist with honey,

Scorching at her leisure;

To those untouched by every

Flame a gentle creature;

That alone so pleases me

And yet is harsh in manner;

Laid low, I bemoan, dazedly,

Such a wondrous daughter.

Beautiful, beyond all others (Tenor: sings ‘Super omnes speciosa’)

(Note: For ‘Super omnes speciosa’ see the Roman Catholic Marian antiphon ‘Ave Regina caelorum’)

XVIII: Bone pastor Guillerme/Bone pastor/Bone pastor

O, good shepherd Guillermus, (Triplum)

No breast unprotected thus,

It seems, was granted you;

But, favoured by Minerva,

One clad in solid armour,

A breastplate of true virtue.

You guard the gates and doorways

Of your sacred city, always,

Lest the enemy invade:

The world, the flesh, the devil,

Whose gnawing, bitter, evil,

To full many doth put paid.

The mitre that your head bears,

With its double horns declares

The Old, the New Testament,

Which he who wears the mitre

To show a mind made purer,

Must display as ornament.

And since you are imbued with

And all of you bedewed with

Those marks of purity,

So that those signs are fitting

To the head where they’re sitting,

Of the mitre tis worthy.

Bearing all the people’s care,

You show the hope that, everywhere,

All aid those gone astray,

For the head of your staff there

Doth ever draw them your way;

While its shaft doth then provide

For you to serve as the guide

Of those illness doth claim,

While the tip to spur the side

Of the slothful, proves your aim.

With sermons you feed your sheep,

And their full attention keep

With valuable oration,

Granting to them, when they sleep,

A sensible donation.

After this exile here, may He

The King, who wrought all we see,

And doth the humble spare,

Give you a solid mastery,

In place of this fickle share.

O good shepherd, beyond other (Motetus)

Shepherds, in your moral power,

Who by your birth,

And the fruits of your studies

Raises all the minds beneath

Above the earth.

O you, Guillermus, fittingly,

The King adorned, who powerfully

Reigns over all,

So, electing you to grace

Reims’ pastures, in His place,

When He did call.

You he chose, O honest vessel,

Vessel elect,

While all that pours from that well

Is sans defect.

Granting you, thus, in special,

To Himself alone;

Granting you, in general

To his flock, their own.

O good shepherd (Tenor: sings ‘Bone pastor’)

(Note: Probably written as a paean to Guillaume de Trie on his nomination as Archbishop of Reims in 1324. For ‘Bone pastor’, see the opening words of ‘Lauda Sion’, composed by Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi)

XIX: Martyrum gemma latria/Diligenter inquiramus/A Christo honoratus

A gem of martyrs we revere, (Triplum)

Who spurned the warlike speeches here,

Quintinus, in your true wisdom,

That from an impious tyrant come,

Who, with his wicked orders,

Devised those dreadful tortures;

Quintinus, born of the Romans,

Claiming a seat in the heavens,

And that of Rictiovarus,

Casting your eyes in mercy, thus,

From the heavens, here, upon us,

Upon the subject kindliness

Of those of Amiens, you see,

And their innate humility;

Willingly seeking martyrdom,

Torment of burning oil to come,

A sweet perfume to the martyr,

Stunning the prefect thereafter;

Sight, through your prayer, apace,

Is granted the blind, with the grace

Which purges the vicious illness

Of all those who are in sickness;

With beneficial step, a guide

To the crippled you walk beside,

Sound aid for the afflicted, since;

You through whom the whole province

Of Saint-Quentin e’er shines like this,

Through whom envy, and avarice,

Anger, and sloth, and pride must fall,

Those evils that afflict us all,

Through whom patience doth ever grow

Faith, and hope, and prudence, also;

You, through whom, all the heavenly

Gleaming palaces we shall see,

Everlasting peace and glory.

Let us seek now, diligently (Motetus)

To honour our Quintinus;

Let us send out joyfully

Praise to the Lord above us.

In life, to be admired, was he,

Spurning all wickedness,

To God forever praiseworthy,

Meriting gifts in excess.

His mouth a fount, pure that same,

Full noble, Bergerian,

A tenderness, from God he came,

To the fragile, and human.

All those who yet hold him most dear

Shall rejoice, delightfully,

Those who most nobly sing out clear,

Shall utter praises, sweetly.

For he is honoured by Christ (Tenor: sings ‘A Christo honoratus’)

(Note: Quintinus, died c287AD, is St. Quentin, who travelled from Rome to Amiens to preach. Later, while on his way to Reims, at the town of Augusta Veromanduorum, now Saint-Quentin, Aisne, he was martyred on the orders of the Roman prefect Rictiovarus. His relics were noted for restoring sight to a blind woman. The term Bergerian is obscure, probably local to Reims. For ‘A Christo honoratus’, see the liturgical responsory for Saint Quintinus ‘Sanctus namque Quintinus’)

XX: Trop plus est bele/Biauté parée de valour/Je ne sui mie

She’s far lovelier than beauty, (Triplum)

And better than goodness, surely,

Full of all, to speak truthfully,

The good and beautiful can be,

It seems to me, whom I desire,

And love without one base desire.

So, if I love, how could I not,

When the beauty that is her lot

Proves the cure for my every ill,

Delight, reward, and comfort still,

And escape from the misery

With which desire seizes me.

Though she knows not a thing;

For all the joy that she doth bring,

And the goodness is, of her grace,

Found but in musing on her face;

Naught else from her comes to me.

So, I pray that Love might agree

Since more than myself I love her,

That she’ll take me as her lover.


Beauty, with worth adorned ever, (Motetus)

Desire, that doth cease never

From increasing, but grows rather,

In pleasantness, in sweet ardour,

Sweet glances, the mind may savour,

Filled with promise of love’s favour,

Of hope, joy, and her sweet manner,

Of that sting that’s seldom bitter,

Make me love, of all, the flower.

Now God grant me grace and power,

So, as Love wishes, to her honour,

I may serve, with wisdom’s dower.


I am not certain to have a lover, (Tenor: sings ‘Je ne suis mie etc’)

Yet I’m a faithful friend forever.

(Note: The Tenor’s rondel fragment is ‘Je ne suis mie certains d’avoir amie/ Mais je suis loyaus ami’)

XXI: Christe, qui lux es et dies/Veni, creator spiritus/Tribulatio

Christ, you who are both light and day, (Triplum)

For the faithful a rest alway,

Come to us, too.

You the calming of all anger,

You the temperate sweetness ever,

Now rouse, anew.

Overthrow, with your vast power,

Those who would slander and devour

Us, once again.

Just as the life of our forefathers

Was restored to them, thereafter,

Who living then,

Could not defend themselves from death

But called to you, with every breath,

Our God, our strength,

Take care lest they frustrate us,

Who in war would lacerate us,

Guard us, at length,

And as to death’s abyss we fall

At whose gates we gather, all,

Now grant us pause.

The people that you have chosen,

Brothers and friends up-risen

Guard their cause,

Who part the wicked from you,

But e’er grant justice to the true,

Bringer of law.

May you the traitorous discover,

Their dark faces shroud and cover,

Solace, as before,

Who once was Daniel’s visitor,

And thus, his children’s saviour,

Where fires increase,

Through Habakkuk, a comforter,

Yet be, for us, the warrior

Now; and let us depart in peace.

Come, spirit and creator, hear (Motetus)

Those who groan at every tear,

Whom a vile people, wickedly

Destroy; come, now, come swiftly.

For our strength is failing us,

Nor is human mouth enough

To tell of the opprobrium,

From which pain and madness come,

Upon us, greed, and division,

The faithful rare now, scarce a one,

So that, weeping, we know not

What we should do, such is our lot.

Round us we see our enemies,

Even our servants act with these,

Turned to predators, every one,

With the leopard, with the lion,

The wolf, the kite, the eagle, too,

For seized by the serpent anew,

Are we, consumed in the fire,

Towards you, our sad eyes aspire:

Let this rapacious people cease,

Redeemer of the centuries,

Jesu, to us grant peace.

Tribulation now is nigh to us, and none there is that brings aid (Tenor: sings ‘Tribulatio etc.’)

(Note: For ‘Tribulatio proxima est et non est qui adjuvet’ see the Roman Catholic responsory ‘Circumdederunt me’, which derives from The Latin Vulgate, Psalm 22. The tenor sings a modified form of verse 12, lines 2-3.)

XXII: Tu qui gregem /Plange regni republica/Apprehende

You who of the flock are leader, (Triplum)

Do the work of a true leader,

For thus to lead, and not be led,

The flock seeks of its true head.

By the counsel of the prudent

Lead on; for, never indolent,

The leader in front should go,

While the led obey and follow;

But if the leader lacks the way,

Then both will perish in a day.

For they must wander from the light

Whose leader is devoid of sight,

But those behind a true leader,

Have the light about them ever,

Well-led are then those folk alway

That by naught ill are led astray.

May you, the leader of the leaders,

Move now against the mis-leaders,

And lead us onward, without cease,

That you may lead us all to peace.

Weep, you people of the kingdom! (Motetus)

Tribe, like that of the schismatics,

Now desolate;

For half to wickedness have come,

And the other half as sophists

The world must rate.

None at all now care about you,

Your realm granted to your foes,


Your position taken from you,

Their strength increased, that they now show


Those dear to you, imprudently,

Have ruled, although innocently

It may well be.

Yet they might see you joyfully

Ruled, and strongly, presently,

If God doth grant that such should be.

Take up your weapons and your shields, now, and arise (Tenor: sings ‘Apprehende’)

(Note: For ‘Apprehende arma et scutum et exsurge’ see The Latin Vulgate, Psalm 24:2)

XXIII: Felix virgo/Inviolata genetrix/Ad te suspiramus

O happy virgin, Christ’s mother, (Triplum)

Who to the world that doth suffer,

By bearing Him, brought joy ever,

O sweetest one;

By all heresies undeceived,

The angel you at once believed,

Bore then to us the Son conceived,

O purest one.

Ask of Him, most pious one,

To drive away the ills, as one,

And the heavy wrongs, yet done

To us, we bear;

For, light of lights most splendid,

We are driven, undefended,

To hell, from heaven descended,

Filled now with care;

All that’s good from us is stolen,

By the wicked we are taken,

Oppressed, Virgin, and forsaken,

Sad slaves, today,

For like the blind now we wander,

Never following a leader,

But from the safe pathway, ever,

Are gone astray.

Of grace and virtue, the fountain,

And our sole hope of salvation

Take pity on our desolation,

Help us this day,

So that, granted absolution,

Led thus in the true direction,

All our foes sent to destruction,

Ours might be peace and joy alway.

Inviolate, virgin mother, (Motetus)

Of pride the gracious conqueror,

Peerless, wholly,

Keeper of the heavenly gate,

Pitying our wretched state,

Star of the sea,

Who, as a mother, consoles us,

And ever intercedes for us,

Yet most humbly,

Pure fountain, of singular grace,

That commands the angelic race,

Aid us, swiftly,

So, prepare us for safe journey,

And grant help now, powerfully;

For we perish,

Attacked with fierce hostility,

And all defenceless, certainly,

Unsure, in this,

Where we might turn, lest we’re enslaved,

Unsure through whom we might be saved,

Except through you.

Oh, countenance this plea from us,

That beneath your wing you take us,

Turning towards us, too.

To you we turn sighing, now, weeping and crying (Tenor: sings ‘Ad te suspiramus etc’)

(Note: For ‘Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes’ see the Roman Catholic Marian hymn ‘Salve Regina’)

The End of the Motets

Index of Motet Parts