Guillaume de Machaut
The Remedy for Fortune (Le Remede de Fortune)
Fortune with her wheel, France, N. W., Normandy (Rouen); c. 1460-1487 - British Library
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.
- The Remedy for Fortune.
- Lines 1-44: Advice to the young artist.
- Lines 45-86: His love for his lady.
- Lines 87-134: His unworthiness.
- Lines 135-166: How Love guided the lover.
- Lines 167-238: His lady proved his mirror and exemplar.
- Lines 239-280: He praises her, and her example.
- Lines 281-316: Her sweetness and her beauty.
- Lines 317-352: The impact on him of her qualities and virtues.
- Lines 353-386: How he kept his love a secret throughout his youth.
- Lines 387-430: In this state of love, he composed various works.
- Lines 431-680: His composition, the lay: ‘Qui n’aroit autre deport’.
- Lines 681-734: He read the lay he had composed to his lady.
- Lines 735-770: Tongue-tied before his lady he felt great distress.
- Lines 771-840: Leaving his lady, he entered the wondrous park at Hesdin.
- Lines 841-904: Musing on the vagaries of love and Fortune, he composed a plaint.
- Lines 905-1480: His long plaint concerning Fortune: ‘Tels rit au main qui au soir pleure’.
- Lines 1481-1558: In a trance the vision of Hope came to him.
- Lines 1559-1584: Hope sought to diagnose his illness.
- Lines 1585-1670: She counselled him to take heart.
- Lines 1671-1732: Hope reassured him as to his lady’s sense of pity.
- Lines 1733-1820: She counselled that eloquence is not of the essence.
- Lines 1821-1862: Hope explained that he underestimated his lady.
- Lines 1863-1880: She gave a description of true Love’s coat of arms.
- Lines 1881-1934: Hope explained the significance of the coat of arms.
- Lines 1935-1984: Hope offered comfort and sang a song to him.
- Lines 1985-2032: Hope’s new song, a chant royal: ‘Joie, plaisence, et douce nourriture’.
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 further developed the motet, and various secular forms including the rondel and the ballade. Educated in Reims, he became a secretary to John I, the Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, who died at Crécy in 1346. He was later employed by members of the family, including Jean, Duc de Berry. Guillaume 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, and Le Livre dou Voir Dit: The Book of the True Poem the story of his real or fictional love for, and correspondence with, a young female poet, Péronne d’Armentières. His work influenced many other composers, and major poets including Christine de Pisan and Chaucer.
Le Remede de Fortune, given here in verse translation from the Old French, tells the tale of the young lover who is counselled by Hope as to how to achieve happiness through perseverance, despite the vagaries of Fortune. One notable feature is the description of the wonders of the park at Hesdin, the castle, filled with marvellous mechanisms and devices, formerly located at Vieil-Hesdin in Artois, and built by Count Robert II of Artois (1250-1302) in 1288.
The Remedy for Fortune
(Here begins Le Remede de Fortune)
Lines 1-44: Advice to the young artist
HE who would master any art
Must take a dozen things to heart:
First, he must hold, as his own cause,
That to which his heart most draws,
That to which his nature doth bend,
For he’ll ne’er bring to pleasing end
That which runs counter to his heart,
For Nature then will shirk her part.
Let him love his craft, his master,
Above all else, for he’s to honour
Both of them, and serve and obey,
And prove naught but theirs alway;
For if he loves, then love they’ll show,
While if he hates, they’ll hate also.
Naught else will profit him, truly.
Let him take instruction humbly,
And take good care to so aspire,
For knowledge is hard to acquire;
All is forgot, most readily,
Unless rehearsed continually.
Careful, thoughtful, eager to know,
True knowledge he may garner so.
And let him in early youth begin,
Before his heart has turned to sin,
Through a weight of experience,
Since the true state of innocence
Properly resembles in its state
A white, a blank, a virgin slate,
Offering no impediment
To the true artist’s pure intent,
And is most like some waxen sheet,
Where one may write, and so complete,
A work whose image and imprint
Is stamped there, fresh as from the mint.
And we see the very same thing
Is true of human understanding,
Which has the power to receive
Whatever the mind may conceive
For it, in whatever task tis given,
Arts, letters, arms, or love even;
Naught is too hard for it to conquer,
If understanding would be master,
Provided a man doth persevere,
Toil, and labour, as I’ve said here.
Lines 45-86: His love for his lady
AND I speak thus for when that I
Was at the age of innocence, why,
Youth at that time did govern me
Such that I but lingered idly,
The things I did scarce viable,
My heart fickle and unstable,
And all I saw was as one to me,
Save that my heart and thoughts solely
Were inclined towards my lady,
She, whom all men do claim to be,
Above all women, good and fair.
They grant that title everywhere.
So many of the virtues Nature
Can bestow on any creature
Has she, she is the sovereign flower
Of human creatures to this hour.
Thus, my heart inclined towards her,
And Nature too taught me of her,
Or so it seemed, for certainly,
I sought to view her, eagerly,
According to my youthful gaze;
For my course, all my pathways,
My pleasure, thoughts, my every turn,
Did always for her presence yearn,
Nor could I e’er find perfect joy
Unless she was my eyes’ employ.
And Love, seeing to what a state
I was brought, did ne’er hesitate,
But rather worked in such a manner
That I came to know, and love, her,
Above all others God has made,
As I in heart and deed displayed,
Obey, and serve, and honour her,
In every place and hour, and ever
Shall be hers, and hers completely,
By the laws of love, and loyalty.
And though this was my first love, yet
Twill be my last, for still am I set
To love my lady until the end,
Nor take another to be my ‘friend’.
May Love grant she loves me alone,
For naught else in this world I’d own.
Lines 87-134: His unworthiness
AND Love that, sweetly, with his art,
Kindles many a noble heart,
Ensured when I first saw my lady
My heart was ravished by her beauty.
And yet, when seized by love of her
I was but young and foolish ever;
And much there was I ought to know
If such a course I sought to follow.
What say I? For I’d chosen, well
Before I’d sought leave or counsel,
Except from my heart, and her eyes,
E’er smiling, that begged me to prize
My lady and love her, so sweetly,
That I dared not, nor could I truly,
Scorn that request, nor could my heart
Wish for aught, for its own part,
But to be hers, and I, likewise,
Sought to do as they should advise.
Then, God keep me, there did advance
Sweet Laughter and, next, Sweet Glance,
To capture me, and certainly,
If I’d possessed such capacity
As to be wise as Solomon,
With all the world as my kingdom,
And valiant as Alexander
Or the scarce less worthy Hector,
The peer of that king in valour,
And had possessed as much honour,
As did that Godfrey of Bouillon,
And all the beauty of Absalom,
Together with Job’s great patience,
And the strength and perseverance
Of Judith and of Socrates,
Who held true, and without cease,
And never, to their loss or gain,
Would ever change their course again,
With Esther’s deep humility,
And Abraham’s true loyalty,
Then my worth, of a certainty,
Would not suffice for such a lady.
And yet Love led me to love her,
Told me to pay allegiance to her,
And that her service I should prize
The first time that she met my eyes.
So, my heart’s hers, without recall,
Whate’er the fate that might befall,
And, while I live, shall be. Never,
Will I love another, ever.
Lines 135-166: How Love guided the lover
AND even as Love made me her
Captive and her faithful lover,
He saw how young I was, clearly,
My innocence, naivete,
And since I was so young a thing,
He took me, thus, under his wing,
And the true way showed to me,
By which I might love my lady,
And serve, honour, and obey her,
And trust in her, and worship her.
And reverence and love her only,
As my earthly divinity,
And keep my eye, every day,
On what served her wishes alway,
Guarding her peace and her honour.
And if, from such love, twere ever
My lot harsh pain or woe to suffer,
Or melancholy, or lasting dolour,
With humility must she be served
Though I might think it undeserved.
And, also, I should take good care
That it endured, this true affair,
And near and far, and week by week,
Desire, and ponder on, and seek
How to merit her love and grace,
Nor wish another in her place.
And then I must be secret and true.
These things Love held before my view,
Explaining each and every thing,
When taking me beneath his wing.
And of all the rules he did state
None did I later violate.
Lines 167-238: His lady proved his mirror and exemplar
FURTHERMORE, my most sweet lady,
Whom I desired and loved, truly,
Purely, from the heart, and then
More than e’er did Paris Helen,
Was mirror, and exemplar too,
Of all that was both good and true.
And, for the goodness that I saw
In her, I loved true virtue more,
And, as far as I could, restrained
Myself, and from all ill refrained;
Her goodness gifted me that power,
The heart, and will, that very hour.
And her perfect humility
Like to a shield defended me
So that to Pride I’d ne’er surrender,
That doth many an ill engender,
And towards all I would, sweetly,
Maintain myself, and most humbly,
And I may say, and truthfully,
She’s the source of all humility,
Never a turtledove or pigeon,
Never a little child or maiden,
Could ever be of pride as free,
Graced by deeper humility,
Of which she is the fountain true,
(Tis companied by pity too,
At all times and in every state)
Than her; and tis appropriate,
It comes of that true lineage
She betrays not at any stage.
And then her assured manner,
Praised so by all who know her,
Her fair carriage, noble bearing,
Sans peer, to my way of thinking,
Instructed me, just as the master
Teaches a child good behaviour.
Merely to recall them gave me
In deeds, face, and manner, many
A time when far from her, a guide
Her qualities taught, which I applied.
And twas the same when I saw her,
Face to face, and did adore her,
And her bearing, style, and manner
More whole and unwavering ever,
Than any that had met my eyes,
And thus attained, tis no surprise,
To many a noble lesson there,
For I through memory did bear
Myself with greater virtue, simply
By Sweet Thought alone, most truly.
Nor did her gracious speech range
O’er aught foolish now, or strange,
Or ill-ordered or injurious,
Or showing pride, but ever thus,
Tempered to the place and season,
And founded always upon reason,
So sweet and pleasant to the ear
It brought every man good cheer,
And to my tongue it put a rein
Silent as to what might appertain
To aught that might seem slanderous,
Yet aught worthy it might discuss;
For none should speak of others, here,
That, of themselves, they’d hate to hear.
She stopped me speaking out of hand;
Keep to the point, was her command,
Free of boasting, or vanity,
Flattery, or mendacity,
For tis most honourable always
To speak the truth in all one says;
Truth looks not for winning angles,
Nor seeks aught that merely jangles.
Lines 239-280: He praises her, and her example
HER honour and great courtesy
Kept me from every villainy,
Made me honour others always,
And grant myself but little praise;
For he has honour who doth show
Honour, not he who’s honoured so.
And, if the Gospel speaks no lie,
He is humbled who climbs on high,
Exalted those that make no claim,
And that is why my lady’s name
Echoes through all the world around,
Humility doth in her abound;
As do honour and courtesy,
More than in any living lady.
And though all about do grant her
The prize and the crown of honour,
She thinks, her honour being such,
Of her own worth not overmuch.
She’s scorned all foolish largesse,
And all greed’s simple-mindedness,
All avarice that brings distress,
In human hearts, pure wickedness,
And when she gave, gave thoughtfully,
Bestowing her gifts most wisely,
Revealing that she knew, thereby,
What, when, how, to whom, and why.
She gave swiftly, and willingly,
Rendering her gifts more worthy,
For who gives readily gives twice;
In this, I followed her advice.
And then, my mistress, she schooled me,
In not employing wealth unwisely,
Through avarice, or carelessly,
For both Largesse hates utterly,
And that point and shaft, above all,
Of Avarice strike not, with its gall,
For it destroys all other virtue,
Whene’er it pierces a man through;
For no man owns to such honour
That he can defend his treasure
From ruin, from loss of sense, if so,
Soul, honour, worth, and name also.
Lines 281-316: Her sweetness and her beauty
AND at no time did her sweetness
Leave my heart for there, no less,
It found its home and resting place,
Night and day, within that space.
And just as a sweet balm is fain
Of some wound to ease the pain,
And soothe it, so her great sweetness
Soothed the hurt that this excess
Of love and deep longing brought me,
For its harsh assaults were many,
And yet I complained not in woe,
But humbly I received it so,
With good heart, in pleasantness,
For pain I felt not, nor distress;
And her most sweet glance drew my heart
In her direction, not through art
But through its power of sweet attraction,
As the lodestone iron, by its action.
And thus, joy filled my heart the more,
For as soon as Sweet Glance I saw
Naught at all that proved contrary
To joy could find a home in me.
And her surpassing beauty bound
And constrained me more, I found,
To her service, and love of her,
Every day but seeming greater,
And by its power brought me to know
Sweet Hope herself, by seeming so,
And to desire Love’s sweet mercy,
For which I thank him, ceaselessly.
And truly I had not known, I say,
Hope or Desire till on the way
Of knowing them her rare beauty
Set me, that love and joy in me
Might grow, for Love doth employ
Desire, while Hope doth bring us joy.
Lines 317-352: The impact on him of her qualities and virtues
HER attire, both noble and fair,
Which is, as all folk do declare,
Simple, neat, attractive, plain,
Acquainted me, and shall again,
With the need for my own dress
To be refined yet plain, no less
Or more than needed, for excess
Enhances not, nor doth impress,
And he who takes the middle way
Holds to the surest, night and day.
And so, her sovereign quality
And her perfect humility
Her manner which is ever true,
Her noble bearing, wisdom too,
Her fair speech, her sense of honour,
Her courtesy, devoid of error,
Her endless generosity,
Her grace, all full of amity,
Her sweet glance, her pure beauty,
Her whole being, revealed to me
True doctrine, goodness sans art,
Which I took very much to heart.
And though finding little in me
Of all I saw of such quality,
I would have fared ill indeed
Had virtue in me failed to breed.
And if to her virtues I attain,
Little I’d say, for all maintain
That praise of oneself rings hollow,
Pride e’er meets a fall tomorrow.
Yet, nonetheless, this much I’ll say,
While not misspeaking in any way,
Only to praise her, without boasting,
If my life’s worth anything
All is from her, entire and whole,
Whom I serve, heart, body, and soul.
Lines 353-386: How he kept his love a secret throughout his youth
THIS noble doctrine, so precious,
Fine, and noble, of one who thus
Embodied every pure virtue,
Instructed me in what was true.
And full long I served, each day,
From the heart, in a loving way,
Attending to naught else, within,
Except that love which drew me in.
Even so, she knew naught, truly
Of how she had thus captured me.
For naught would I have e’er revealed
The love within my heart concealed;
Nor would I have sought to avow
That love had I wished, or known how;
Instead I bore it secretly
Keeping my love hid, utterly;
Supressing complaint or clamour
So smitten was I with love of her.
And even though I felt the fire
Of her glance, that sparked desire,
Her sweetness drained all my power,
With its pure force, that very hour,
And made me blush, and grow pale,
In turn, and tremble without fail,
Shudder, and shake, so one might see
How I loved her, quite readily,
Five hundred thousand times and more
Than myself, and yet know, for sure,
With a lover’s heart, in Love’s truth.
And that is how I spent my youth,
In Sweet Thought, in Remembrance,
In Hope of grace from the glance,
Of one, to whom I so aspire
There is in me but one desire.
Lines 387-430: In this state of love, he composed various works
MANY a pain was my dower,
One hour sweet and another sour,
One pleasant, another noxious,
One sad, then another joyous.
For hearts that feel the barb of Love,
Never in but one state do prove,
Never in certain joy or pain,
Rather they must a path maintain
Laid out by the fortunes of Love.
So, with hanging head I did prove
Like a tame bear, set to receive
All that my lady did conceive,
Whether pleasant or full of woe,
A perfect lover, in loving so,
In word and deed, and as I found
Myself so troubled, I felt bound
To compose new chansons and lays,
Ballads, rondeaux, and virelays,
And songs that spoke my sentiment;
Love and naught else was my intent.
For when feeling’s absent from it,
The work, the song, is counterfeit.
Nor, could I show to my lady
Any sign of love’s ills, clearly,
She who seemed, as I sang there,
A true enchantress, sweet and fair.
And all the songs I made were writ
In her praise, I’ll freely admit,
Thinking that, if it should occur,
That my songs were known to her,
She would see how much I loved her,
And, in her service, much did suffer.
And my heart found great delight
When thus some work I did write,
To her honour, and in her praise,
Inspired by love of her always.
For song’s born from a joyful heart,
While woe makes melancholy art.
And because it was Sweet Thought
That in my heart’s depths I sought,
And true Hope, and fair Memory,
And Loyalty, in whom, wholly,
I placed my trust both night and day;
I made this piece, that’s called a lay.
Lines 431-680: His composition, the lay: ‘Qui n’aroit autre deport’
‘WHO in love finds scant delight,
Except Sweet Thought
And fond Hope of amity,
He’d not prove right
If the sight
Of fresh delight
He swiftly sought;
For, if by Love he is caught,
No more should he
If he would see
His heart aright.
In these lies solace ever:
In sweet pleasure,
Gazing at, listening, to her,
All her manner,
What comes from her
Virtue, her speech,
All that her sweet glance doth teach,
In its brightening,
From death, saving,
Her sad lover.
And as for him who wishes more,
Let none dare resort
To the foolish thought
That he doth love her and adore,
And yet such things do not suffice;
He would deceive her, such is clear,
Though Love holds him dear,
Deigned, it doth appear,
To have her eyes’ sharp darts ensure,
He was acquainted with them twice.
One cannot o’er-value, ever,
All they may offer,
For every ill a remedy,
Rendering, through their great puissance,
The wounded heart sound, wholly,
Of every risk free,
All ill, bringing pure joy, simply
By means of their remembrance.
In this way Sweet Thought arose
That I enclose
Within my heart, as she knows,
Such that I think, constantly,
Of one I desire,
Who doth joy inspire,
Doubling the hope, entire,
Borne from her to me.
To honour shall she be raised,
Served, and ever praised,
Feared, and loved always,
And so, it must ever be,
Driven by what she says
I’ll know better days
Or Death’s darkened ways;
For she holds the key.
But when I see
Her shape, her beauty,
Form and body,
Elegance so fine,
When in my ear,
Her sweet speech I hear,
At her voice,
For all joy is mine.
And so, I must,
If I love and trust,
For joy grows
Whence it arose,
Since my heart, so true,
Now rests in her,
Good she doth render,
Ends all grief,
To my heart anew.
If, through Desire, I receive
Suffering, yet I’ll not grieve,
Her laughing eyes will relieve
All woe that Desire may bring;
I’ll rejoice in everything,
Find pleasure in enduring,
Because of her pride-less beauty
Surpassing all whom I see,
And her fair-welcome to me,
The smiles I saw,
That do my poor heart nurture,
Enriching, bringing pleasure,
Such that this life I’ll treasure,
And ask no more,
Except that, in no true manner,
Though I do love her,
Has she, who is the gatekeeper,
The true treasurer,
Of my heart, learnt that, forever,
First, last, I’ll love her,
More than myself, or aught I own,
Not with a love that doth waver,
But stronger, deeper,
And let me lie upon my bier,
Ere I betray her,
Or harbour ill thought against her.
So be it ever,
Though to her my love’s unknown.
For I’m not one who’s merit’s so
That my love I’d show,
Nor ask her love, should she bestow
Such rights also,
For he may find much pain and woe,
Who’d seek to know,
Whose heart is caught in her snare.
I give no sign thus, I believe,
So that I’ll not receive
Refusal, nor command to leave,
For harshness now must make me grieve,
And, thus, Love relieve
Me of my life, death end my care.
Naught, I say,
Points the way
As to how I might, someday,
For in despair,
I would die,
Straight, were I
Refused, or live on and sigh,
Turned to distress;
Fool for sure
To seek more,
Than devote to her my pure
Naught but this
Would I wish
But to admire with relish
How will that lady,
Thus, apprised be
That my viewing her
My whole heart did move
To a sweet new love,
And new life, thereof,
Within me, and, ever,
Good news did prove,
Love that set alight
My true heart outright
In my breast here so?
Now I shake with fright,
And, so none have sight,
Man nor woman might
My sweet secret know,
Hide this, day and night.
Love, to whom I pray,
Who wished me, alway,
To serve thus, each day,
My lady, since I saw her,
He could, certainly,
Say how I’m afire,
Burning with desire,
Yet, silently, aspire
To that which lifts me higher
Than I, else, could be,
Nor seek another;
Love tells me rather,
To conceal it ever,
And let sighs slay me ever,
These deep sighs that none can cure.
Yet if my request
Love refuses, best
That I not invest
In tears, anger, or the rest,
I’ll live happily,
Love my lady faithfully,
Thus, my time pass, still;
Such that I’ll, truly,
Though it torments me,
Endure it most humbly,
All of this sweet ill.
For most secretly,
So, and most wisely,
And ever purely,
Love is now, most lovingly,
Thus, nurtured in my heart.
For most fittingly,
Surely, most sweetly,
If Hope’s not to be
Long deceiving me,
For all my pains, Love I’ll see,
His sweet rewards impart.
For though Desire doth me assail
Which many a battle doth entail,
And pierces, with his amorous dart,
Which often doth, from side to side,
Transfix my heart, and there reside
His efforts little hurt provide;
Sweet Glance heals me with true art,
And nourishes my heart, I swear,
With Love’s food, imprinting there
True beauty with such artfulness,
That nothing else occupies me,
And Sweet Glance delivers, truly,
All Love’s gifts, such that none fail me,
And so, may God those eyes e’er bless.
And so tis my clear intent
Hide the more
This fierce desire
Consuming joy with its fire,
To thus assent,
And suffer so,
For if it shakes me, although
Pale, in Hell,
I’ll bear it well,
On this I’m bent.
Through such intent am I brought,
To serve ever
And cherish my lady alway,
By sheer effort
When Death has sought
That I suffer,
That I but needs think of her,
Longed for, I say,
Loved night and day;
Who, in this way,
Brings true comfort.’
Lines 681-734: He read the lay he had composed to his lady
MY lady thus drove me to make
This lay, composed for her sake,
Even though not a thing she knew
Of inspiring me so to do.
But with what wit I could offer,
I wrought the work in praise of her,
And so, expressed my sentiment
In fair accord with my intent.
And, indeed, it chanced thereafter
That this same lay came before her
And at a time when I was there,
Which brought on me a weight of care.
To read the words was her command,
Nor dare I balk at her demand.
But spoke it, start to end, aloud,
Heart all atremble and head bowed,
Fearing this was a gross mistake,
Since I had made it for her sake.
And once I’d read my poetry,
To which she listened carefully,
She asked who owned to its making,
For she knew naught of this fair thing.
Yet I could not, once I had heard
Her question, speak a single word,
Not for Rome’s empire could conceive
One thought; no heart could believe
How I lost both strength and manner,
For shame and love, beauty and fear;
And my intention to conceal
The lovesickness that I did feel,
So robbed me of all memory,
With my five senses, utterly,
That never a lover, I dare say,
Was e’er so mute, or felt this way.
Yet never could I have spoken
In such a straight as I was then,
My heart shaking so fearfully,
For it seemed to me that, surely,
If I had said: ‘This I created,’
Twould have proven most ill-fated,
And I on the path, in a breath,
To cruel, harsh and bitter death,
For to all folk, now unconcealed,
My love for her had been revealed.
And had aught then seemed harsher,
In her gaze, or in her manner,
Or in her speech, I think, truly,
That, being undone completely,
I’d have died there, lost forever,
Through fear of losing her favour;
Not that she was mine, you see,
Only I hoped that such might be.
And that is why I dared not speak
At her command, nor utterance seek.
Lines 735-770: Tongue-tied before his lady he felt great distress
AND yet a far worse wrong had I
Done myself had I told a lie,
For none should lie to his lady,
At the cost of his soul and body,
Rather he should ever speak true,
As far as he is able to;
And surely my lady is so wise
She’d have known if twas otherwise,
For she’d have seen it in my face
Whate’er the mask I had in place,
And this upon my mind did play,
Such that I knew not what to say,
Whether of falsehood or of truth,
And so, as if in dream forsooth,
I was lost in thoughts profound,
And, without lingering, I found
Myself departing, as I believe
Without reply, or asking leave,
In such a state that I knew not
What was destined to prove my lot;
And, as I departed sighing,
I wept as if I were dying,
Such that my heart dissolved in tears
Confounded by its doubts and fears.
Nor for the whole world could I save
Myself, by holding back that wave
Of tears descending o’er my face,
Of their own accord, and apace.
Yet in one way I was happy too,
For none was present but we two,
To perceive what took place there,
Nor know aught of the whole affair,
For all the rest had moved away
To a far corner, there to play,
Enjoyably, with never a sigh,
That game: ‘The King That Tells No Lie.’
Lines 771-840: Leaving his lady, he entered the wondrous park at Hesdin
THUS, I parted from my lady,
Leaving her presence, most humbly,
Woeful, pensive, sadly sighing,
Melancholy, so desiring
Naught but to find some secret place
Where I might dry my tear-stained face,
And regain some composure there.
I went swiftly, seeking somewhere
Quiet enough, so as not to meet
With folk whom I’d be forced to greet,
And so that none might bear witness
To my weeping and my sadness.
I walked a while, in great distress,
And, in this state of pensiveness,
To a garden, most fair, I came,
The Park of Hesdin is its name,
To that garden I made my way,
And without stopping, I may say,
Though a difficulty then arose
Due to the wall that did enclose
It all about, encircling it round,
Such that none might tread its ground,
Sans entrance for woman or man,
Nonetheless, I followed its plan,
Taking the paths, where’er they ran,
Despite the trouble all this posed,
And reached a gate, which was closed,
In a by-way both sweet and fair,
Many a step from anywhere.
And there stood this wicket gate,
Whose little latch I lifted straight,
And, raising it, I entered in,
But not one soul saw I within,
All which delighted me, for I
Wished but to be alone and sigh.
And once I’d entered on my own,
As I wished, and was quite alone,
I closed the gate, the little latch
I dropped and saw that it did catch,
Then wandered midst the greenery,
For naught so fair I e’er did see,
So fine, and so agreeable,
So pleasant, so delectable,
Nor do I know how to describe
The wonders, the delights inside,
Artful devices, rare inventions,
Pipe-works, engineered diversions,
The novel things enclosed there,
Yet, nonetheless, I may declare
None might look about for pleasure
In air, on land, or on the water,
That they would not discover there,
On hand, to please them, everywhere.
As I wandered o’er hill and vale,
I chanced upon a little dale,
And found a little fountain where
The water ran both clear and fair,
Ringed about by trees and grass,
And all around it there did pass
A little hedge of eglantine,
And yet no pathway could I find
Beaten there, all was untrodden,
Dense, spiky grass filled the garden,
And I considered few must fare
This way, and so I entered there.
Passing thus, beyond the hedge,
I reached the clear fountain’s edge
Where I bathed my eyes and face
And then was seated, for this place
Where I had come, so secretly,
Seemed to offer true privacy.
Lines 841-904: Musing on the vagaries of love and Fortune, he composed a plaint
NOW, indeed, I fell to musing,
Blaming myself for deserting
My lady in such a manner
For if, through the love I bore her,
My heart had failed in her presence,
Twere better in that circumstance
Than to perpetrate the error,
That I’ve recalled, of quitting her,
As I think, for twould have been
For her sake, as she’d have seen.
Nonetheless, naught could I do,
To change it, e’en if it were true
That I was lord of all God made.
Yet not so heavily it weighed,
For none can do more than he can,
The fault in this was not my plan,
For no wrong did I seek to do,
Twas Love that never doth pursue
Rule and order, reason, measure,
In loving hearts; tis his pleasure.
And now I saw this more clearly
Than I’d done when saying loudly
That a lover in Love’s employ
Must be forever filled with joy;
For, now, I’d felt the contrary
In myself, weeping helplessly,
But I had not then understood
The ways of Love, as I should.
I needed to know more of it,
And twixt my teeth to seize the bit,
If I’d spend life in Love’s service.
No surer means was there than this,
For by experience I grew wise
And saw clearly, not otherwise,
That the heart of a fond lover
Now joy, now pain, doth discover,
Now laughs now weeps, with song or plaint,
Now takes delight in sad complaint,
Now trembles, sweats in a fever,
Now is chilled, now careless whether
Love assaults him without cease,
Or pleases him or doth displease,
Since, according as Love desires,
He feels joy or Love’s sad fires,
Following, too, Fortune’s dictate,
Who doth decide each lover’s fate,
Will good to one, ill to another,
According to her mood deliver.
For, without fail, whate’er she does,
She then, most suddenly, undoes.
In her there’s no stability,
Love, or steadfastness, or pity,
Rather tis her custom ever
To pluck bare all she does favour,
And reduce them to subjection,
And the last stage of destruction.
And, thinking thus, I then chose
To muse on Fortune and compose
A poem that they do call a plaint,
Being with fair rhymes acquaint,
About her, and about my sorrow,
Born of my thoughts, and my woe,
Filled with melancholy matter;
And I began it in this manner:
Lines 905-1480: His long plaint concerning Fortune: ‘Tels rit au main qui au soir pleure’
‘WHO laughs at morn he weeps at night,
Yet thinks that Love treats him aright
Though Love but strikes at him outright,
In vile manner;
He thinks that Joy will ease his days,
And help him, though she never stays,
For Fortune sorrow on him lays,
Waits not for dawn to show her wheel,
But turns away, nor rest doth steal,
And turns, turns, turns, till she doth seal
This man’s ascent
From out the gutter to the skies,
But engineers the swift demise
Of him on high, and those denies
On joy intent.
For she is neither firm nor stable,
Nor just, nor doth the true enable;
When she’s thought most charitable
A miser she;
Harsh, and fickle, unreceptive,
Faithless, sharp-edged, and deceptive,
When you deem her most receptive,
Hard will she be;
Though she appears friendly ever,
Honey-sweet, kind as a mother,
The poisoned venom of the viper
That has no cure,
Compares not for a moment to her,
Who would betray her own father,
Hurling him from highest honour
To woe and more.
If Fortune loves, tis from afar,
In times of need a fickle star,
Aiding none whoe’er they are,
False witness too she will bear,
Right false is she, devoid of care,
Her truest friend leads to despair,
Or me, or you.
She scars far more than she shears,
All malice, thus, in her appears,
For whom she nourishes, she sears,
Nor gives a jot
For aught she chooses to destroy,
Seeking to rob her work of joy,
Unrivalled means she doth employ,
Ill names she’s got;
Dull and false, half-blind, and mean
Ne’er enough ill hath she e’er seen,
Cares for the whole world not a bean,
For she rules all,
In the same manner as the moon
Full clear and luminous, yet soon
Ready to sing a different tune,
Ere night doth fall.
And so, nor month nor week she knows,
No steadfast day, no true hour shows,
Rather with sudden vengeance glows,
As all do see;
For when one has to fullness grown,
In wealth or honour, she alone
Brings them to ruin, flesh and bone,
Fortune is she.
Two pails in a well consider,
Such the comparison I offer,
One empty, right full the other;
The full doth rise,
The empty falls, and so we find
That Fortune ever had a mind
To raise one as his peer declined,
And never sighs
For king, duke, count; treats all the same,
Grants one honour, another shame;
This low, that high, such is her game,
And her delight.
All pride she undermines, brings low,
Boethius instructs us, though,
That scant attention should we show
Her day or night.
More swiftly the path she’ll pick
Than any master of physic,
Or divinity or logic,
Or stray beggar,
In finding out some obscure way,
Flatters, wounds and stings, I say,
Thumbing her nose at all each day,
While smiling ever;
She makes one small, another great,
Blocks this, advances that man’s fate,
Laughs, weeps, and whom she loves, I state,
Knows not at all;
Her false appeal all men should scorn,
She holds to naught that she hath sworn,
In sum, she seeks, both eve and morn,
To make us fall.
Nebuchadnezzar tells how he
Saw a statue, in his reverie,
Huge and tall, whose face to see
Purest gold its head all over
Arms and torso shining silver,
Yet stomach, thighs it did feature
Of bronze, say I;
Cast-iron legs the thing did claim,
Its feet were partly of the same,
The rest was clay, and then it came
About by chance,
A stone, from ne’er a human hand,
Struck its feet, where it did stand,
And brought it low, you understand,
The statue he doth speak of there,
Is it seems no other affair
Than Fortune, who no rest doth share,
By night or day.
Her head is gold, I admit it,
Enclosing all wealth within it,
Or so fools think who pursue it,
And live, alway,
In error, mistaken ever;
With one hand lifts men on her wheel,
More gently than pure balm doth feel,
Then grinds them down beneath her heel
Down are they hurled into the mud,
She mocks them loud as any could,
And those she lifts, tis all the good
They’ll ever see.
Body and thighs of bronze are made,
Such that, plainly, is there displayed,
To all, that in her game have played,
How she doth change,
But for the worse, for thus tis clear,
That though, above, gold doth appear,
I lie not, silver gleaming sheer
Below doth range,
To bronze then her transformation,
Scarcely a worthwhile alteration,
Only a fool seeks there his station,
Holds out his hand.
Thus, swift revenge she doth conceive,
Robs those, she flatters to deceive,
Of gifts and honours they receive,
On legs part-iron she stands, likewise,
They seem to show men, by their guise,
That storm, nor gale, nor tempest’s sighs,
Her friends should fear,
Nor aught that men might do or say;
But all’s deceit, all’s false, I say,
For her two feet are made of clay
Slippery and sheer,
And since, indeed, she doth not stand
On solid rock, but shifting sand,
He’s but a fool that takes her hand,
And so doth prize
Her teachings, and in them believes,
For all her pupils she deceives,
And stories of those fools she weaves,
She doth despise.
I hold that man worth naught at all
Who on foundations builds a wall,
So shoddy that the thing must fall,
In but a day,
And when the work is almost done,
Those same foundations he has won
Collapse, and his bricks, every one,
Slide all away.
For savage Fortune does just so,
And seeing how well all doth go,
How far the ground is now, below,
She brings a gale,
Assaults the whole with wind and storm,
That round the rising work doth swarm,
Foundation, roof, sees its great form,
In one blow, fail.
Fortune knows a thousand schemes
To snare, deceive, and fuel our dreams,
Yet she possesses naught, it seems,
That ours may be.
Endless things Fortune can promise,
Yet you’d be foolish to think this
Means that true wealth is yours, for tis
Her way, to flee;
Her right side offers all that’s sweet,
With flowers, leaves, and fruit replete,
The left an empty, bare conceit,
Bereft of good;
Her right shines with a brilliant light,
The other seems as dark as night,
In equal parts she doth delight
Of gold and mud.
Fortune is loving-hatefulness,
Good luck that yields great distress,
She’s but avaricious largesse,
She is health, yet pain no less,
She’s but a miserly excess,
She’s poor and shameful noblesse,
A nest of treason;
She is prideful humility,
She is envious charity,
She’s perilous security,
She’s power, yet in poverty,
She’s repose, yet adversity,
She’s famine, yet satiety,
She’s bitter joy.
She’s hard-hearted misery,
She’s covetous sufficiency,
She is peace, yet melancholy,
She’s ever vain.
She is but a fretful patience
She’s but an idle diligence,
She is a caring negligence,
Friendship mere bane.
She’s the tree of humanity,
Deep-rooted in pure falsity,
Its trunk shows that her verity
Hides but a lie.
Those flowers are of disloyalty,
The leaves are of iniquity,
The fruit is of sheer poverty,
Harsh, cruel, on high.
Her head it is half-bald of hair,
One eye smiling, one full of care,
One cheek has living colour there,
One deathly blent.
If one hand’s a friend, you’ll see,
The other proves your enemy,
She twists what’s straight, crookedly,
One foot is bent.
Her strength is great yet, failing, naught,
In discomfort she finds comfort,
With a smile her woes are brought,
Sad tears alway.
In comforting, she troubles sore,
Ill-treating those she doth adore,
Delights in all ill deeds, and more,
Whate’er men say.
Fortune is far above the law,
Her own decrees she finds are sure,
O’er pope, and king, and emperor,
None of those three
Can counter her, howe’er fiercely;
Howe’er regal, or proud, they be,
Fortune destroys them, readily
Though true it is that she doth fight
To raise her followers to the light,
Honour and rank within their sight,
Many a day,
Yet everywhere, though, altering fate,
Her games she loves so to dictate
That, winning, she may cry ‘Checkmate!’
In her proud way.
Thus has she done to me, I know,
For Fortune has treated me so,
Who every happiness did show,
And every joy.
For, in a trice, she laid me low,
My laughter turned to bitter woe,
The good that I had here below
She did destroy.
And, now, I dare to gaze no more
On beauty, to which my heart swore
Allegiance, whom I love so sore,
Second to none.
Yet I so long that face to view,
My heart is maddened, now, anew,
For, knowing not what I can do,
I am undone.
Ah, Love, tis you, that did ever
Urge me on towards this error,
Robbing me of joy forever,
For, thus, I say,
You so struck my living heart,
That not one word could I impart,
Though all the empire and its art
Were mine that day.
Why did you make me yearn for
That lady, I sigh for, and adore,
Till of joy or anger I’m unsure,
And make me one
Whom you would slay for love of her,
Kindling my sad heart, ever,
To melt with this pain I suffer?
Was this well done?
Alas! What is’t you ask of me?
I love you deeply, utterly,
And yet you hate, and topple me,
Down from on high,
Beat me with your whip so fiercely,
In the prison where you hold me,
With lowered shield, I render me;
Vanquished am I.
You do great wrong to strike me so,
When I’ve surrendered, a captive go;
For having proved the victor, know,
In no manner
Should you strike your prisoner,
But seek his restitution rather.
Alas! Though my word I render,
You strike harder!
Your honour’s harmed, it seems to me,
For, having served so loyally,
I’d face death, in all humility,
If that would please.
Since that lady I cannot see,
For I fear, a wonder to me,
Lest her noble heart might be
Angered sans cease.
So, I am but harshly treated,
Sad, disconsolate, defeated,
Since my riches you’ve depleted,
I know not why.
For, now, my face is pale and wan,
Tears, from my heart flow on and on,
I, through you, to grief am gone,
In pain I sigh.
And yet tis no wonder, say I,
When the glance from her sweet eye
Pierces me, her clear face nigh,
Pure white and red,
Its beauty bright as sunlit gold;
And her form, of peerless mould,
And all the sweetness it doth hold,
My sight has fed,
Tis no wonder, if vision slips,
If true words fail upon my lips,
And all my strength is in eclipse,
For twas your wish
That Nature did attack me so,
Till all my senses I forego,
My heart quivering to and fro,
In woe, like this.
Thus, it was her perfect beauty
Like a summer flower’s, sweetly,
And all the wondrous clarity
Of her fair face,
By which I saw myself so lit,
Who her eye’s ray did here admit,
Dazed all my senses five with it,
All time and space.
Alas! From that I felt such woe,
That I know not which path to go,
No joy is mine, I suffer so,
Though I love true, and do no wrong,
You’ll ruin me, and end my song,
Unless the one for whom I long
Ends my distress.
It is your work, and fittingly,
For I am yours, whate’er may be,
And yet remember this of me,
How I do bear
The loving sign, within my heart,
Lovesickness that will not depart,
That wounds me so, I, by no art,
Do comfort share.
And if my lady has a mind
To grieve me, then do you remind
Her of her error, so she’ll find
She owns me, that if she will
Seek to wound me she will kill,
For she’s my death, and my life still,
Whate’er may be.
I can no other counsel follow,
If I would not this love forego,
For such could not be, I know,
And, truly now,
If all those whom God created
Were such writers as is rated
Seneca, and advocated
I break my vow,
I would not do so, though I die,
For I do love her so, say I,
That all my pleasure’s won thereby,
She’s my right hand.
And she, above all, can heal me,
And, thus, restore my joy to me,
If with her glance she doth agree
To light love’s brand.
I dare not hope she’ll prove, alas,
So sweet and tender, at the last,
That on me she might deign to cast
Her sweet regard,
For you made me, I do believe,
Part from her sans asking leave,
No bold excuse could I conceive,
Thus, it goes hard;
Soon and late, that sad departure
Made me lament, and its nature
Reduced to less than one quarter
My hopes; my end
I shall see, I’ll die, God help me,
If she doth not, imparting to me
Some part of her sweetness, truly,
My life defend.
Indeed, my heart feels such dismay
As my fond hope doth fade away,
That I do lack all joy this day,
Which torments me.
Many a mortal wound it deals,
That confounds me, and it feels
As if all sorrow upon me steals,
That lovers see.
For, in my youth, my love, I find,
Heart, body, life, soul and mind,
I gave to my lady sweet and kind;
Pleasant her ways;
Alas, in grief I languish now,
Sad painful thoughts I must allow,
Tis the reward for my fond vow
That Love now pays.
Love, it seems mere foolishness
To bestow this gift of sadness,
Rather than granting joyfulness,
Tis wrong, surely;
For I myself make no condition,
But place myself in subjection,
Yet you bring me to destruction,
And trample me.
You, who ought to be my friend,
Rolled the dice, my luck did end,
Who to exile, from joy, you send,
For no reason;
And I’m estranged from my lady,
But, since you treat me so harshly,
I see no cure for misery,
And if, since Expectation’s fled,
I find that my fond heart, instead,
To foolish Hope herself is wed,
Tis no wonder,
Because such wrong you have done
Through your malice, I am one
In his tight corner penned, undone,
Though I’d wish other;
Here, naught that’s good do I achieve,
Here, wet with tears, I sit and grieve,
Here, scant solace do I receive,
Nor comfort for the ills you deal.
Here, pain, without compare, I feel
Here Pity sleeps; Desire my heel
And head doth sting.
Here, am I worse than in a fever,
Here, feel I agues attack me ever,
Here, my heart shakes, forever,
And now I’m sure,
My expectations dashed completely,
Should this pain endure within me,
Now rooted in my heart so deeply,
Shall I know joy, and if I swear
To it, no perjury is there,
By it, of joy I’m stripped bare,
All now is lost,
In me, who love with heart full pure,
As harsher grow those ills yet sore,
That for my lady I endure,
To my great cost.
Alas! Tis this that doth efface
In me all mark or hope of grace,
That will to death my body chase,
And make me feel
That just as, in the hunt, a hound
Doth after some wild creature bound,
And, sadly, brings it to the ground,
To make its kill,
So then, Desire, that he may sate
My eyes with gazing on my fate,
As that sweet face I contemplate,
That peerless sight,
Assaults, pursues me, ne’er takes breath,
But strives to drive me towards death.
Yet humbly would I face that death,
If such were right.
And yet his power to seal my fate,
Or deal out pain, is not so great
As is my heart to bear this state;
Tis clear too,
Should I but little hope allow
Of seeing my sweet lady now,
If Love’s indifferent to my vow,
What can he do?
Desire can slay me? He cannot!
For Loyalty, who’s ne’er forgot,
Brings aid! Or shall it be my lot
He’ll fail me now?
For, since Love doth now torment me,
While Fortune brings shame upon me,
Then Loyalty, indeed, must kill me,
I, here, avow,
Since my poor heart it cannot feign
To love my lady, nor refrain,
From doing so; new love I gain,
Now, day by day;
Naught can extinguish it, tis plain,
My face its pallor doth maintain,
Maddened I moan, and complain,
Fast-snared this way.
I’ve often heard it said that when
One who’s ill complains that then
It makes the pain grow less again,
Ease doth employ;
And yet, alas, this sears my heart,
This, grievously, doth play its part,
This, makes all happiness depart,
Past hope of joy.
Since the lady whom I desire,
She, above all creatures higher,
Knows naught of how I aspire,
Within my heart;
Nor of the bitter destiny,
Of loving her, revealed to me,
Or of the eternal love that she
Stirs, without art
In that heart, now hers, completely;
Nor how I weep and mourn, deeply,
Tremble at this love that, sweetly,
Burns inside me;
Then I must cry, ‘Ah, woe is me!’
Will you your lover’s slayer be,
All at the hands of his enemy,
It is Desire who wreathes with flame
My loving heart, and sears that same,
Such that no doctor worth the name
Can grant a cure,
Except my lady, she who burns
It so, that, set ablaze, it yearns,
And in Love’s fire, writhes and turns,
At ease no more.
Fortune is my heart’s harsh neighbour,
Assails it, and doth never waver,
To set it in death’s hands her labour,
Its honour whole;
Yet, though my life be thus defined,
With my hands joined, my head inclined,
To her I love, with love refined,
I’ll yield my soul.’
Lines 1481-1558: In a trance the vision of Hope came to him
AND after I had thus debated,
Argued within me, and created
My heart-felt plaint, with much labour,
Against cruel Fortune, and Amor,
For the great sorrow and mischief
They’d granted me, and no relief,
Wishing to visit upon me,
Wakefulness and fasting, truly,
Drowned in tears from my sad heart,
I felt from my body depart
Strength, and reason, and memory,
And every other faculty;
And so, I fell into a trance,
Like one in some grave circumstance,
Who feels but that his death is near.
I turned my head a little; I fear
I gave a sad and mournful cry,
Weak, languishing in pain, thereby,
And opened one eye a little way,
No more could I achieve, I say,
Seeking but to look about me,
And saw there, seated before me,
The loveliest lady that e’er I saw,
Upon my soul, her beauty more
Than all except my lady only;
For she was formed as perfectly,
As lovely, noble, and refined
As any that, from out His mind,
God has made with His own hand; there,
Sat she, pure, good, and debonair.
And, as I looked upon her face,
I thought that never was such grace
Owned by any human creature,
Nor was she of an earthly nature,
And much I marvelled at the sight,
For her face, its crimson and white,
Its proportions beyond compare,
Revealed no defect anywhere.
And so resplendently it shone
The shadows instantly were gone,
That darkness of misadventure,
My night, full of wretched venture;
And its rays pierced through the cloud,
Storm-filled, black, all that did shroud
My heart and visage, and ensured
That from them light was long obscured.
So, though I felt such great distress
I almost died of fear, no less
Was I most eager to regard her,
For I thus found, in viewing her,
Some small degree of solace for
The bitter suffering that I bore.
For as a skilful surgeon might,
With precious jewel, heal outright
The eye that bears a cataract,
And with his subtle skill doth act
To clear away the veil that sight
Impedes obscuring thus the light,
Restoring its lost clarity,
Upon my heart, and memory,
And my two eyes, she shed her light;
Her star dispelled the dark of night,
With its splendour, and its glow;
There came to me a fragrance, oh,
From her, so precious a sweetness,
A perfume, of a scent so gracious,
Never a sweeter, I’d suppose,
Did sky, or sea, or land enclose;
For no such scent was e’er as fine,
No sweetness e’er proved so divine,
For just as balm surpasses gall,
Her perfume would exceed them all.
Indeed, the place wherein I was,
Was filled by it, and so, because
Her fragrance proved so very sweet
My suffering seemed less complete,
Though I yet felt more pain I say,
Within my heart, than I can say.
Lines 1559-1584: Hope sought to diagnose his illness
THEN, like a man condemned to sigh,
From my heart’s depths, groaning, I
Uttered such moans, matched I fear
By many a sigh, many a tear,
I was forced to turn toward her,
A face pale and stained, and offer,
A visage all discomforted,
Sad, weeping so, to sorrow wed.
But never a word did I speak to her,
For not a sound my lips could utter,
Rather I gazed upon her face,
And, seeing my state of disgrace,
She smiled at me, and most sweetly,
Then approached me, courteously,
And with her hand, all smooth and white,
She, gracefully, raised up my right,
Better to gauge my malady,
Sought the pulse of life within me,
And with this, when once acquaint,
Found it weak, but feeble, and faint.
And yet her finger did ne’er depart
From off that vein, fed by my heart,
For, good and wise she thought, clearly,
That there, not elsewhere within me,
Lay the passion that maddened me,
And that pained me so grievously.
Lines 1585-1670: She counselled him to take heart
AND then, once she had, at leisure,
Examined me, as was her pleasure,
And had the whole truth discovered
Of my ills, with naught left covered,
All the sad state that thence arose
From love’s pain, and all my woes,
Like one that knew all the theory,
And practice, of how to heal me,
And understood those signs of woe,
That from the heart to eyes do flow,
Those signs that, fundamentally,
Are caused by heart’s loving truly,
And who knew far more of comfort
Than Fortune knows of discomfort,
And wished to solace, by her art,
The ills that so grieved my heart,
For no dish does so satisfy
As solace for the tearful eye,
Like a most subtle physician,
Wise to what in my position
Might console, her voice to suit
Soothing, sweet as any flute,
She, having read my pulse, clearly
Spoke: ‘Dear friend, what pains you, truly?
From whence comes this sad dolour
That so robs your face of colour?
Surely, I think, it grips your heart,
And that from true love it doth start.
You should not be troubled, though,
Nor should you torture yourself so,
For that is shameful, all in error;
Since you have ne’er proved false to her,
She whose love you seek to know,
No fault in you, for striving so.
And several times I’ve heard you say,
No other would you choose, today,
Nor could greater grace be sought,
Than that Memory and Sweet Thought
Of her sweet face you might retain
Within you, ne’er to depart again;
And that those two, they might cure you
Of all those ills that seek to gnaw you.
Whose fault is it you lack those two?
Tis your own fault if woes ensue,
Though your lady doth, day by day,
Increase in beauty, every way,
In sweetness, in every virtue,
One could conceive; I know tis true.
And since more than any lady
In this world, she is surely
Blessed with every virtue known,
You should not sit here and groan,
If you love her, nor moan, I say,
If she is ne’er obliged to pay
A thousand times what you deserve,
In that you choose to love and serve.
Tis but a little thing she’d need,
To pay you what you’ve earned, indeed,
Since even the smallest reward
She might grant, of her own accord,
And rewards she has in plenty,
Is worth a hundred times, truly,
What you could hope to deserve,
However long you love and serve,
Not even if tis your life through,
Or as long as the world we view,
This earthly kingdom, doth endure;
And I swear to you, what is more,
That every day, in every way
Most precious, and rich, and dear,
She will reward your service here;
For such great wealth she doth amass,
The more she gives the more she has,
Provided Love grant his consent.
And since it seems Love doth assent
To your hopes of winning grace,
Let not despair possess your face
Because of some slight past error
There’s no sin or treason ever
In such a thing, in verity,
But foolishness, fear, shame, only,
And Love, who was involved in this
When you were served from that dish
That fed your heart on bitterness,
And so turned to gall your sweetness.’
Lines 1671-1732: Hope reassured him as to his lady’s sense of pity
‘AND then recall, for tis no less
True if you’d end all your distress,
(Nay, more than recall it, embrace
It now, find peace, and joy, and grace)
That she possesses utterly
All the virtues you might fitly
Seek in her, or might conceive,
And ever-increasing, I believe.
Since her the virtues do adorn,
And ne’er a vice in her is born,
It follows, of necessity,
In her dwells Generosity,
Mercy, Humility, Charity,
And, for that reason, you should be
Free of your present misery.
Beyond Justice lies Mercy ever,
Mercy that would never suffer,
No never for a single breath,
That you be rendered up to Death,
For love’s sake; tis a certainty,
And nor would Generosity,
Humility or Charity,
Her friends, and if you seem to be
Wounded by Love, you are like one
Who will accept counsel from none,
Torments himself, rages in Hell,
Though his affairs promise well.
And then you injure her, tis true,
In claiming that she’s harsh to you,
Your sin that of ingratitude,
Your manners ever ill and rude.
Have you not declared, I pray,
If memory serves, in your lay,
That Love, whom you petition,
Could readily, in his position,
Tell the lady how you suffer,
Since not a word you can utter?
And Love, who is true and noble,
Listened and spoke, as he is able,
To her, of the love you have hid,
Made it known to her, as you bid,
In so wise and subtle a way,
With such true feeling, I may say,
There never was, nor will be, ever,
Any that in similar manner,
So nicely, fittingly, and well,
Could thus to any woman tell,
Of the amorous pangs you feel,
Through her pure beauty, or reveal
It silently; yet Love did so
Without a word, I’d have you know.
And good of this precept many tell,
“Say little, and you’ll e’er do well.”
What should she do at your behest?
For she has done all you request,
And for more than you expected
Of all that, of her, you requested;
Thus, once ashore, a dog repays
One with yelps for its swim, always,
As, my own fair sweet friend, do you;
Less than a straw you think it, too,
For there is naught so little prized
As a good deed gone unrecognised.’
Lines 1733-1820: She counselled that eloquence is not of the essence
‘THINK you that an honoured lady,
Wise and true, her manner kindly,
Prizes a man who seeks her love
With polished words, that do but prove
Full of deceit, who language plies
So eloquently as to seem wise?
Or one who demands, and loudly,
Her true love, and seeks it rudely?
No, no! The thing can never be,
Such men she treats but casually,
Considers them as naught to her,
Yet shame they feel not, I aver,
Or anger, though they are refused;
They are thick-skinned and, if abused
By any, they little fear what’s said,
But simply turn elsewhere instead,
Ignoring their rejection, and plan
To go and win some other woman.
Yet when a lady of true worth
Sees a lover bowed to the earth,
Who doth employ no false-seeming,
Whose heart and limbs are trembling,
Blushing full crimson, in his fear,
Seeking but mercy, in drawing near;
When she sees him, constrained so,
That Love’s force makes the tears flow,
Their stream pouring forth non-stop
All down his visage, drop by drop,
And that his speech is but truncated,
Tongue-tied, his words punctuated
By sighs, from deep within his heart,
Rendering him silent, for his part,
Forced to be mute, devoid of sense,
Set to quit, in shame, her presence;
And when, in a few moments’ space,
She sees Love discolour his face,
Altering its hue, three times over,
With all the emotions of a lover,
Which he so feels that his spirit
Doth Love’s ruinous power admit,
Then she knows, by his manner,
That, without deceit, he loves her,
With a lover’s true heart; in sum,
In this world there’s never a one
So subtle or so cunning that they
Can imitate the true lover’s way,
And yet not fail, and end in shame,
For I could ne’er believe that same,
That one could so change in colour
And prove convincing as the lover,
Appearing with each diverse hue,
Yellow, or white, or red, or blue.
Love makes it so, as Love doth wish,
And so, I must correct you in this,
By showing you that you do ill
Complaining of love-sickness still,
Or aught else that Love might do,
For he has shown more grace to you
That you could e’er seek to deserve,
Though half a million years you serve.
And I’ll tell you why, moreover;
Love made you the faithful lover
Of the finest and the loveliest
In this world, and he has blessed
You with greater grace, a prize
You scarcely seem to recognise,
For his power, all acknowledge,
Has granted her certain knowledge
In a wise and subtle manner
Of the fervent way you love her,
Confirming, by his true decree,
That tis discreet, held secretly,
In just the way I’ve spoken of it,
And tis this gains you most profit,
Which you should accept, and you
Should thank Love most humbly, too.
In such a case, whate’er men say
None speaks so well, in his own way,
Of his malady, or with such art,
As one Love touches to the heart,
Such that he cannot speak a word
Of what he suffers, yet is heard.
To you, that very same occurred,
And so, I say, you prove absurd,
When your affair progresses well.
Love is your friend, as I can tell;
He more fittingly should maintain
That you are wrong if you complain.’
Lines 1821-1862: Hope explained that he underestimated his lady
‘NO worse means could you employ,
Certain to rob your heart of joy,
Nor containing greater error
Than to play the foolish lover
And take your lady for a fool.
Yet you’re maddened, beyond rule,
As you conceive, though wrongly,
It seems, in dreams, pure fantasy,
That she neither sees nor knows
That love that in your heart arose.
For you think she sees naught of it,
And yet she does – oh, believe it!
For she’s wise enough, on her part,
To recognise some lying heart
In deceptive words and manner,
And see the truth of the matter,
However great its eloquence;
Has more than sufficient sense,
(When she perceives a heart intent
On yielding, from true sentiment,
On proving, both in life and death,
Loyal, unto the very last breath,
As you are now, and have been so,
In heart, and thought, and deed also)
To grasp the facts of the matter
Hard though that may be for her
To do, for tis not easy to know
Just and true means for doing so,
Learning, that is, which is the loyal
Heart, and which the heart disloyal,
For it is a thing most hard to see.
But your lady, who’s held to be
The best of women, and most wise,
All your heart holds doth recognise,
Because Love shows, tis his design,
The insignia, the certain sign,
That no false love can e’er display;
In faithless hearts it holds no sway,
While in the faithful heart, brightly
It doth shine, and joyfully.
And know you of it? You do not!
Whate’er you learnt you have forgot.
Yet I shall seek to tell you, though,
And, thus, explain all that I know.’
Lines 1863-1880: She gave a description of true Love’s coat of arms
‘TIS a coat of arms whose matter
Is with humble face to suffer,
For the field is of bright azure,
And it is so unsullied and pure
There’s no trace of any other
Hue to taint its perfect colour.
In its midst is a crimson heart,
Pierced quite through by a black dart;
None had ever a point so dire
As this one has, tis wreathed in fire,
With five tongues of pure silver;
The arms are fine and noble ever,
Bearing a scattering of tears,
And thus, the escutcheon appears,
Simple and whole, of the true lover;
The shield-straps of Hope, moreover,
Are fashioned; if this is not plain,
The meaning I shall here explain.’
Lines 1881-1934: Hope explained the significance of the coat of arms
‘IT has oft occurred, as recorded,
That many have been rewarded,
By fulfilling their aim, simply
Through suffering, truly and humbly;
For humble suffering will often
Many a hardened heart soften,
And much the wisest of the saws
Is “He doth conquer who endures.”
Now I’ll teach the significance
Of the colours, in this instance.
You’ve not lived long enough to know
The marks of heraldry, and so
The meaning of a coat of arms,
Wherein lie heraldry’s fair charms.
The colour blue is called “azure”,
Red is “gules” and, what is more,
White is ‘argent’, black is “sable”,
What I tell you here’s no fable;
And I have further news in store,
Green’s “sinople” and yellow “or”.
Now I’ll teach you of the colours
And they’re meaning to true lovers.
Know that the blue doth signify
Loyalty, that doth e’er deny
Treachery; red, loving ardour,
Born of love that’s truer, purer;
Black doth show, by its colour,
It signifies woe, and dolour;
White means joy; green novelty;
While yellow stands for falsity.
Now keep the first four in mind,
And leave the other two behind,
For if they grace a coat of arms
The scutcheon it surely harms.
The tip, now, of that fiery dart
That scorches and doth sear the heart,
With such a subtle art doth burn,
Know this, in certainty, and learn,
That though it pierces, burns and sears,
No trace of wound, or hurt appears.
Rather it lies there, and smoulders
As charcoal does, neath the cinders.
Though to the heart tis sensible,
This flame, it is invisible,
As is he who inflicts this fire,
And licks and gnaws it, for Desire
Consumes both blood and substance,
And, within the flame, doth penance.
Nonetheless, I must explain
That heart feels neither hurt nor pain,
Which is virtuous by nature,
But rather it finds sweet nurture
And delight there, in the manner
Of a fish bathed by the river.’
Lines 1935-1984: Hope offered comfort and sang a song to him
‘NOW I’ve described, and taught to you,
If understanding doth ensue,
How your lady might know, and see,
That you love, all free of treachery.
For you bear those arms of a lover
In your face, and heart, and manner,
Except that the straps of the shield
Are severed, not simply concealed,
For Hope is lacking, which, indeed,
You believe is through your misdeed.
But if you place your trust in me,
I’m here to mend them, skilfully;
I shall render them good as new,
Finer than any known to you,
If but the strategy in love
That I’ve explained, you now approve,
Namely that you’re not so foolish
As to think she’s so unwise in this
That she has not perceived, clearly
How Love has captured you, wholly,
Admitting you to his religion,
There to complete your profession
Of faith, without one sorry breath
Of remorse, and, thus, unto death.
She will be pleased if you are hers.
Believe me, and not those others,
And stay now within my control;
I swear to you, I’ll ease your soul,
I’ll minister to your every need,
And aid and comfort you, indeed
Most willingly, and faithfully,
And ne’er desert you, wilfully,
In health or sickness, joy or woe,
No more than wife a husband so.
Now take heart, and find true comfort,
My fine sweet friend, for I’ll transport
You to the fair state you’d acquire,
For truly, such is my desire.
And, to delight you, momently,
Transform to joy your misery,
I’ll sing a new song, for your ease,
For a fresh thing doth ever please.’
Then in a voice, clearly, sweetly
Soothing, easing, this melody,
She, by my side, began to sing
That in a while had me dozing,
Yet not slumbering so deeply
That I failed to hear, completely,
How prettily it tripped along,
Or how joyfully ran her song.
Lines 1985-2032: Hope’s new song, a chant royal: ‘Joie, plaisence, et douce nourriture’
‘IN love, joy, pleasure, and sweetest nurture,
With a life of honour, do many see.
Yet some it would seem, men say, but suffer
Bitterness, tears, woe, pain, and misery;
They say; yet, I disagree,
For the pain Love doth advance
Ne’er can give rise to grievance;
All that comes of Love’s sweet art,
Wins the lover’s heart.
For true Love to the lover’s heart doth show
Sweetest Hope, and then Sweet Thought ever;
And sweet Hope brings joy, with fair Luck also,
While Sweet Thought doth fill the heart with Pleasure.
He should ask naught else further
Whoe’er sweet Hope doth employ,
With Sweet Thought, Pleasure, and Joy,
For whoe’er seeks more, I say,
Love sends on his way.
So, he who grazes in such sweet pasture,
Can lead, as he should, a life of honour,
For earthly goods he owns in full measure,
More than another could know of, ever,
Nor should his heart seek other,
Nor desire aught else to see,
For he has Sufficiency;
And nor need I name, surely,
Any further Mercy.
But those who are sad, yet filled with ardour,
Who moan, complain, with endless weeping,
Saying that Love is such that they suffer
Harshness, that must see them soon a-dying,
Cease from thinking
That they do ought but deceive,
Or that desire doth them grieve,
For all with which they are served
All such they’ve deserved.
And Love, who is of so fine a nature
That he knows those lovers who lack pretence,
Grants his proper due to every lover;
Brings joy to the faithful, in every sense,
And drives them not hence,
But grants sweets in abundance,
And e’er the false doth sentence
To banishment, as traitors,
From his court’s favours.
Love, those, I know, you’ll advance,
Who serve you, ever.’
The End of Part I of ‘Le Remede de Fortune’