Guillaume de Machaut

The Book of the True Poem (Le Livre dou Voir Dit)

Part II

The Garden of the Virtues

The Garden of the Virtues, France, Central (Paris); c. 1295 - British Library

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

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Lines 2185-2267: The lover is attacked by Shame

REACHING my lodgings once more

I was oppressed as ne’er before,

For Shame arrived to assail me,

Indeed, I believe, most firmly,

That she sought to strangle me there,

For ne’er have I seen boar or bear,

Nor any other maddened creature,

So filled with furious anger,

And when she came against me,

All the blood ran cold within me,

Since she cried out, full loudly:

‘Friend you’re enmeshed in folly,

Thinking to love a woman known

To be the loveliest, you must own,

From sea to sea, such all men say,

And deeply you will rue the day

When you first viewed her beauty,

And sat by her side, for truly

You are scarcely worthy, indeed,

In qualities, in word or deed,

To touch her shoe, and yet you

Audaciously now seek to woo,

And declare that you love her,

And as your lady describe her.

By my faith, tis pure wickedness,

An outrage, naught but foolishness,

That you involve yourself in such,

Who rate your powers overmuch;

Why, he who sought to hang you high

He would but waste the rope, say I.

All reason says you should forgo her,

Who are not worthy to know her,

Nor she love you, on that depend,

Though she addresses you as ‘friend’.

Have you forgot how she has, ever,

Rescued you from mortal danger

That had laid you low, all through

Those letters that she wrote to you?

How, possessed of deep humility,

She resurrected you completely,

And saved you from pain full sore,

And granted health and joy once more,

And gave the power to love, also,

Through feelings you lost long ago?

And she made you into something,

You who were a good-for-nothing,

And are still a dumb fool at heart,

An ungrateful sinner for your part,

So idle, in your melancholy,

You failed to even thank the lady

For the benefits, and the honour,

You have gained through her favour,

And if you had the courage, in sum,

Of Hector the brave, the vast wisdom

Of Solomon, and the broad largesse

Of Alexander, the wealth to excess

Of Nero, with the wondrous beauty

Of Absalom, and the loyalty

Of King David, his faithfulness,

And of Ajax his great prowess,

With the youthfulness you desire,

Every grace, you’d dare not aspire,

To love that woman, truth to tell,

Not even if you’d served her well

All your life; unworthy of her,

No matter how much you suffer.

Think you she remembers not,

And for an upstart takes you not?

Surely, she does, doubt not ever,

She who is all worth and honour.’

And thus, lambasted by her advice,

Much as if I had lost, at dice,

All my hopes and all my honour,

After hearing her deliver

What had scarcely warmed my heart,

But rather torn my dreams apart,

I sought to defend myself to her,

But Shame ne’er ceased to mutter,

Nor would deign to hear my claim,

Crossing herself, time and again,

Due to that shame I’d brought upon

My lady, and the wrong I’d done.

Lines 2268-2371: Hope comes to reassure him

AFTER Shame, Hope dealt her share,

Saying: ‘Sweet friend, are you still there?

Did Shame her vicious tongue employ,

Has she estranged you from all joy,

And for the loveliest in this land?

All because, as I understand,

You’re too shy when you behold her,

Lacking both the voice and manner

That would enable what you’d say.

Sweet friend, cease, without delay,

To act so, for why thus take fright,

Be comforted, come what might.

The lady’s wise in her perception,

And set you in the true direction,

Saying you should be reassured,

She loves you, fortune is assured,

Nor would she tell you this, say I,

Were it not so: she speaks no lie.

So sweet friend be not dismayed,

At Love’s wounds, be unafraid;

The lady knows how you suffer,

And how Love pains you, ever,

She sees deep into your heart,

So never think that, by some art,

She’ll leave you for another cause,

For you are hers, and she is yours.

You have heard what she doth utter,

That she would act as your doctor,

That she would never quit your side,

And think you she would be belied?

Or do you think, God grant you joy,

That a true lady would e’er enjoy

Listening to some shrewd advocate,

Who most ably his case will state,

In polished words, one who’d truly

Prove to her she should show mercy?

No indeed; rather, he’d annoy her,

More than a lengthy winter shower,

That is, if she’s no foolish coquette,

Or a mistress of the snare and net.

For when a lady of true worth,

In whose heart lasting love has birth,

Sees such she prizes him but little,

And values him no more than cattle,

Yet you, in truth, ne’er spoke so well,

As when to her your ills you did tell;

A sick man worsens his position

Who hides his ills from his physician,

While you have spoken openly,

In a word, confessed your malady,

So, you ought not to contemplate,

In fear, that she will make you wait,

Or that she’ll not cheer you, shortly,

So, celebrate now, and be happy.

As for Shame, I hate her greatly,

Would God but consume her wholly!

She’s a sad wretch, full of folly,

And she does me much harm, truly,

When true lovers, thus, she reproves,

For deeds that Love himself approves.

She knows no more than does a beast,

Ne’er present at the smallest feast,

Or if she is, sits in some corner,

Far from everyone, moreover.

She’s always full of resistance,

And consumes a mere pittance,

Feeling shame where’er she’s been.

And if in company she’s seen,

Folk engaged in fair employ,

Who are accompanied by joy,

Or where lover is with lover

And all is promising, moreover,

She’ll thwart them in some way,

And steal the better part away,

If she can, since she cares not

For aught except woe is its lot;

Nor is she keen that any see her,

Out walking, or in her chamber,

Or bed, and does her best to hide;

Small joy would lovers be denied,

If there, beneath the Prussian ice,

She sank and drowned in a trice:

‘For those ashamed, and cowardly,

Never a friend, life through, shall see,

While Fortune ever aids the brave,

And brings the coward to the grave’.

So sweet friend, now comfort you,

Weep not if she chastises you,

For it is, truly, a great folly

To drown oneself in melancholy.

You lady will summon you once more,

And do so much for you, I’m sure,

Her counsel you shall so approve,

You’ll ne’er prove false to her true love.

And you shall never be denied,

But serve your lady-love with pride,

With a good heart, your whole life through,

Without deception, and prove true;

For that’s the comfort that I bring.’

Twas then I heard a loud knocking,

Upon my door, as Hope did reach

This fine conclusion to her speech.

Lines 2372-2405: He is summoned again to meet his lady

I found my secretary was there,

Who saw to my every affair,

And he hastened towards me,

For I was on his mind, clearly,

And he said: ‘I bring news for you,

Which is both fine and pleasant too.

Your lady summons you anew,

And asked that I attend on you,

And bring you to her straight away

For it is four weeks to the day,

A month indeed, since she saw you,

Or so it seems, and she asks you

To stir yourself, and come to her.’

Yet I turned pale an hour later,

For a great fear came upon me

That was terror’s daughter, surely,

And of strange thoughts a score,

Opposing my affair, or more.

I rose though from my bed apace,

And then I washed my hands and face,

Though I was completely mazed,

And sluggish, and thoroughly fazed.

Then we two set out together,

Conversing with one another,

Until we came to where she was,

Though she was not within, alas,

Yet in her orchard she was sitting

Alone, but for a maid gathering

Flowers there, and wreathing posies

Of sweet violets and daisies.

I entered, greeting her most humbly,

Though I felt a change within me.

Lines 2406-2419: She sings and he composes a rondel for her

And then she took me by the hand

Saying: ‘Lover, by Saint Germain,

I have been longing to see you.

And learn whatever I might do,

About the works that you create,

That seem in praise of me of late.’

And I gazed at her intently,

But never a word came from me,

And then she did begin to sing

And sweetly sang the following:

‘Lover, by lover’s heart beloved,

As loyal lovers are truly loved.’

So, I replied as best I may,

Making this rondel, sans delay.

Lines 2420-2429: His seventh rondel ‘Douce dame quant ie vous voie’

‘SWEETEST lady, when I see you,

My heart knows not what’s happening,

Nor yet do I know what to do,

Sweetest lady, when I see you.

For Shame and Fear haunt me anew,

Set me shaking, and trembling,

Sweetest lady, when I see you,

My heart knows not what’s happening.’

And she responded straight away,

And with a rondel, to me did say:

Lines 2430-2441: Her seventh rondel in reply: Tresdous amis quant ie vous voy’

‘SWEETEST love, when you I see,

You fill all my heart, then, with joy,

Never a sorrow remains in me,

Sweetest love, when you I see.

There is no sadness nor annoy,

Nor mischief that may come to me,

Sweetest love, when you I see,

You fill all my heart, then, with joy.’

Then my lady asked me to find,

Some fresh theme, within my mind,

To make a work of imagination;

This I wrought for the occasion:

Lines 2242-2462: His eleventh ballad ‘Le bien de vous qui en bonté florist’ (Ballad CLXXIX)

‘THE good in you, flowering in goodness,

Lady, makes me love with a love that’s true.

Your beauty, growing ever in loveliness,

Brings me the savour of sweet hope, anew.

Your sweetness sweetens all my dolour too,

Correction, teaching, both you thus employ,

And your regard maintains my heart in joy.

Your sweet speech nourishes and sustains me,

With a flood of joy and utter sweetness,

And your wise manner so enriches me

It constrains me to eschew all falseness,

Your gentle heart grants me more tenderness

Than in a thousand years I might enjoy,

And your regard maintains my heart in joy.

Thus, my loving service, all unworthy,

Earns two hundred times what it doth merit,

Unasked; there is no word or deed in me,

Grace, goodness, sense, strength, valour, I admit,

Deserving of the least such benefit,

Yet, through your sweet smile, such do I enjoy,

And your regard maintains my heart in joy.’

Lines 2463-2498: The lover is caught between Fear and Desire

WHEN my ballad at last was done,

My sweet lady, my whole passion,

Said: Tis wrought well, God preserve me!’

And then, regarding me sweetly,

Ordered me to hand it to her

So that she might read it over,

For, mouthing the words to hand,

She might, thus, better understand.

And this I did, right willingly,

With all my heart, as you may see.

While my scribe set to copying,

My sweet lady began reading,

And so, she learned it all, apace,

Before she chose to leave the place.

There we sat both, side by side,

But a cruel guest did woe betide,

For Desire came and would not go,

And looked to break my heart also,

For gazing at her I could see

Her noble and shapely body,

Her sweet glance, her pretty smile,

Lips, red as a cherry to beguile,

So that they said, it seemed to me:

‘Kiss me!’ Lord, who might do so, he

Could find no paradise so fair.

Within myself I struggled there,

With ardent Desire, and the thought,

The wretched one that Fear brought;

She’s the daughter of Cowardice.

Nor was Shame absent from this,

For she arrived despite fair Hope,

Exiled elsewhere, perchance to mope.

Thus, within, I felt an ardour,

Blended with the chill of fever,

Full of that same matter, entire,

That smoulders without smoke or fire.

Lines 2499-2572: The cherry-tree, the leaf and the kiss

IN that place was a cherry-tree

And one to be prized most highly,

For it was round as an apple,

With foliage as beautiful,

And was as lovely an affair

As Nature has formed anywhere.

Its fair coolness we did invade,

Moving neath its pleasant shade,

And sat down on the verdant grass,

And there many a word did pass,

Between us, I shall not repeat,

Too long twould take to complete;

But that woman of pure sweetness,

She rested there in my lap, no less,

And while my love was lying there,

I joyed anew, devoid of care.

I know not if she slumbered, truly,

But there she rested, against me,

And my secretary, being present,

He stood, off to the tree he went,

Plucked a little green leaf from it,

And then against her lips pressed it,

And told me to kiss the leaf, also;

So, Love, whether I wished or no,

Made me bend down, all smilingly,

To kiss the little leaf, gently,

Though I scarcely dared so to do,

Despite the desire I felt anew.

Then my secretary stole it away;

My face became as pale as clay.

I, rendered timorous, no less,

By the strength of my lovesickness,

Did give that sweet mouth, nonetheless,

An amorous touch, a soft caress.

Yet though I touched her lips lightly,

No more did I attempt there, truly,

And yet I was touched by regret,

A little, for once our lips so met,

She felt my boldness, and deeply,

For she said to me, most sweetly:

‘Lover, your deed disturbs me so,

Is that the only game you know?’

And yet a smile was hovering there,

As the lovely woman did declare

Her outrage, leading me to dream

And hope, despite how it did seem,

That the kiss had not displeased her,

Who, silently, its touch did suffer.  

Yet I so prized and cherished her,

That I decided, then and there,

To say to her: ‘My dearest lady,

If there’s aught for which you blame me,

If I have wronged you, then, indeed,

For God’s sake punish my misdeed.

This, with pure heart, I ask of you,

Accept my excuse, for, tis true,

Pure Love led me to act so, surely,

Counselled by my secretary,

And Desire thus compelled me

Who ne’er acts faint-heartedly,

And so, the deed he did command,

Twas none but he made such demand,

While I so longed for it, tis plain,

I lacked the power to abstain.’

I excused myself, truthfully,

And she received it so calmly,

She said naught of it, thereafter,

Saying, doing, as regards the matter,

Not one thing, nor showing further,

That I, in any way, lacked her favour.

Lines 2573-2612: He visits her every day

I stayed there eight days together,

Directing my steps towards her,

My thoughts, my actions, my desire,

Each path I took; there I did retire,

Where lay my refuge, my resort,

All my delight, my strength in short,

All my powers of imagination,

All my cares and consideration,

All my manner, and my study,

Raw or foolish though it might be,

All so my lady I might see

To the best of my ability,

Thus many a time I did greet her

And yet as often failed to meet her;

Though her intention she made good,

To see me often as she could,

Not as oft as she wished, I know,

But when twas easy to do so.

Yet for the duration of my stay,

I saw her each and every day,

In the pretty orchard where she

Spent time, I beside her, sweetly,

Till love’s pleasurable feeling,

Seemed every day more pleasing.

Twas every morn I entered, then,

That sweet and pleasant garden,

And waited for her while I read

A book, or said my hours instead,

And when my lady came to me

With a rondel she greeted me

Or a little song fresh and new

Or some other piece she knew;

And she sang them all so sweetly

Her sweet singing enchanted me,

And being thus enchanted by her,

I could do naught but sing for her.

I made this ballad, accordingly,

Without demur, most joyfully,

Which follows after; and will write

Music for the fair one’s delight.

Lines 2613-2640: She weaves a garland, he composes a ballad

ONE day, while seated at her side,

I was lost deep in thought, betide,

And this my fair lady perceived;

Hear how by her it was received!

She slipped away, all silently,

And then began weaving, swiftly,

A fine little garland of flowers,

A sweet token of happy hours,

Wrought of lilies of the valley,

And roses, and violets, chiefly,

And, when twas done as I have said,

She came and placed it on my head,

She wove also the sweetest cincture,

The prettiest, that Mother Nature

Had ere wrought since her creation,

Or since the Lord did Eve fashion,

For it was formed of her two arms,

Long and slender, two fair charms

About my neck, whiter than lilies,

Resting a moment there, at ease,

And then she said: ‘My sweet lover,

What is this you’re pondering over?’

And so, I answered: ‘My sweet love,

Tis a lament you might approve,

A gift you shall have, most willingly,

To learn if you will, from you to me.’

Then she begged me to recite it,

The which I did, as here tis writ:

Lines 2641-2664: His twelfth ballad ‘Le plus grant bien qui me viengne d’amer’

‘THE greatest good that I gain from loving,

So, easing my torment the most thereby,

Is but to lament my ills, sorrowing  

Deep in my heart, that for hers doth sigh.

I know not how else to pray

For mercy, from one whom I love, alway,

More than myself; see now, from my manner,

He prays enough who goes weeping ever.

For I have not courage enough for prayer,

Being scarcely worthy, if truth be known,

Of winning mercy, and so must take care,

Fearfully, lest from her door I’m shown.

For, should that thing occur,

You, indeed, would slay your faithful lover,

Sweetest lady, and you know, moreover,

He prays enough who goes weeping ever.

And so, I attend on you, peerless lady,

You, who are so wise and e’er so worthy,

The world entire could not suffice, surely

To praise your virtue, or laud your beauty,

And if your heart heard not

My weeping at the harshness of my lot,

Be pleased to listen now, and remember,

He prays enough who goes weeping ever.’

Lines 2665-2806: He speaks to her of his situation

TO tell the truth I often complained,

In her presence, as one who’s pained,

While she reproved me most gently,

Every time it happened, believe me,

Saying: ‘Of woes you make complaint,

My love, yet whence comes your plaint?

By my faith, love, indeed I would

Cure you of your ills, if I could.

For you should conceal naught from view,

And I should reveal all to you;

All to you I would discover,

For, from you, I’d hide naught ever.

And when my eye your illness sees,

My love, I cannot feel at ease.

Come, tell me of your malady,

And twill be cured, if such can be.

You have named me as your mistress,

And call me your sovereign goddess,

And yet you would ask naught of me;

Please to know, if you should try me,

The love that dwells within my heart,

And you will soon see, for your part,

That, more than any other creature,

I love you, with love true and pure.’

And when I heard her speak so plainly,

So openly, so directly,

Her sweetness so melted my heart

I could not refrain, by any art,

From tears, all reduced to weeping,

The moisture from my heart seeping

From my eyes, that gazed piteously

On her, and I wept lengthily,

The tears flowing fast as ever,

Until at last I gave her answer,

While breathing out a grievous sigh:

‘Lady, that I should moan and cry,

Should be to you no great wonder;

I wonder how is any lover  

Brave enough to address a plea

By word and deed, to his lady,

Seeking, indeed, something from her,

When he should restrain himself rather,

For his demands are but villainy,

While praise is the proper courtesy.

And I can merit, in no manner,

That you should indulge me ever,

Or grant me Love’s least benefit.

So, tis better I sigh a bit,

And spend my days thus, lacking joy,

Than make request, and so annoy,

Tis ill to seek too much, ever,

Or long peace with war to sever.

I’ll be silent, and so remain,

And then let Largesse act amain,

And True Love, who doth understand

My heart is all at your command.

Love’s benefits are shared, you see,

Not by you and me, equally,

Rather Largesse distributes them

As Love devises, and then again

I’d be much more content with one,

If I were worthy, freely given,

Granted, through generosity,

And from the heart, and lovingly,

Than any joy Love might bring,

Merely achieved by demanding.

You are subtle enough and wise

To see by my visage, likewise,

All I am, my rank and manner,

And that I’m no false pretender;

I need not speak, it seems to me,

Of my plight, nor my malady,

Since all this, by heart, you know,

And have it in writing also,

And if you love me tenderly,

As you have told me, then, truly,

Your deeds and words will agree,

Or else dishonoured I shall be.  

Do not, I pray, lightly, neglect

My sorrow’s easement to effect,

For if I asked mercy of you

And my request failed of issue,

Why then, I would be dead for sure.

Rather this anguish I’d endure,

Which I now suffer covertly,

Than such; for when grace and pity,

And all your sweetness, display

Their worth, my ills are soothed away.

Thus, tis better all were well-paced,

Than break my bow drawing in haste.

You say to me that you love me,

And call me your true love, sweetly,

Tis the best you may do for me,

And all the fashion in Germany;

To heal with words is there the rule,

Such is, everywhere, taught in school.

And I will receive, with patience,

That dictated by your conscience,

For there’s a rich treasure in you,

A hundred thousand good things too,

Such that whatever you withdraw

There yet remains an endless store,

Nor could you bestow it, ever,

Without your growing far richer.

Indeed, tis the whole world’s plenty,

God’s manna, riches of the sea,

Without a floor, without a shore;

He’s but a fool who’d seek for more,

For none can diminish its greatness,

Nor, by extracting, render it less.  

The more one takes, the more appears.

So, with your treasure, as my tears,

For yours grows each day in richness,

The more you extend your largesse.

Yet if you, fair one, prove miserly,

By the faith I owe Saint Peter, surely

You would be obliged to repent,  

Because I say, and tis truly meant,

That everything has its season,

And I need give no other reason,

While you need not be taught tis so,

Since you understand me, I know.

Yet one thing troubles me greatly,

That on a crowded street, in every

Place you should say ‘Come to me’

And your ‘sweet friend’, thus call me,

Wishing that everyone might know

That you love me, which I guard so

Closely, whene’er such things you say,

While striving to go some other way.

A lover’s gift that’s made covertly

Is worth a hundred sung openly.

Yet I’ll conclude my sermon now,

Having lectured too long, I vow;

I’ve proven, by my plaint however,

“He prays enough who goes weeping ever.”’

We talked in this manner for a while,

My lady answering in briefer style.

Lines 2807-2842: The lady’s reply to his complaint

MY love I’ve listened to your plaint,

And all your sorrowful complaint,

And that you lack the bravery

To request, proving but cowardly,

The one thing that you most desire,

So that in sighing you suspire;

And that you feel the bitter bite

Of ardent Desire, gripping tight

About your heart, a bite more sure

Than ever fine lover did endure;

And that I should not prove miserly

With my treasure but give, freely,

What nor by gift or by promise

Can e’er be shown to diminish;

And that perforce I should amend

My naming you ‘my gentle friend’

To prove your contention, forever,

“He prays enough who goes weeping ever”.

Thus, my friend, shall I now reply,

And grant you my answer thereby.

What do you wish to hear from me?

That faint heart ne’er won fair lady,

Nor is it any fault of mine,

Dear friend, that you weep and repine.

What would you have me do for you?

I see you face to face, sing too,

Ever I grant you true solace,

Call you ‘my friend’ in every place,

I love you above all, wholly,

Nor in this world is there any

Whom I indeed would rather receive,

Nor to possess my treasure give leave,

That you so prize, my love, that no

Price can be set upon it; for, know,

Love, I abandon it to you;

Take all, and I’ll grant you your due.’

Lines 2843-2890: The lover is granted his wish, and then writes a rondel for her

THEN, at once, she heard me say:

‘Who grants me all takes all away.’

And she said: When I call you friend,

Publicly, tis a means to pretend,

For I can speak with you freely so,

And, as regards you, come and go.

And, you know, that is for the best,

And you are wrong as to the rest,

If you feel shame, I mean, at this,

Or say I shame you, or go amiss;

In future I’ll have naught to say,

And hide our love in every way.

Nonetheless, I’m happy if any

Notice our love, since its wholly

Good, whether in street or byway,

And pleasing to me, any day.’

And at once, I felt more shame

Than any that I did ever claim,

And no reply could I provide,

Wishing instead to run and hide.

But the beauty, who doth command

My heart, soon issued her demand

That I be happy and full of joy,

And shortly the means did employ,

For the lovely one shared with me

A benefit of two parts, for, truly,

I did bear the one part away,

While granted the other, that day.

Taking my leave, I, straight away,

Sped downstairs, and on my way,

Gaily, happily, glowing still,

Since assuaged was my every ill,

For the fair one had calmed me,

And had brought me peace, wholly.

I went and locked myself away,

To end my pilgrimage, that day.

And yet, nonetheless, our parting

Troubled me, beyond conceiving,

For all my heart remained with her,

To serve her, and attend on her;

And so, I did adore her image,

Worshipped it, paying her homage,

At all hours of the day, did ever

Labour in that high endeavour.

And this rondel I made for her,

On the road, sending it to her,

On parchment, and yet her reply

Eclipsed my effort, by and by.

Lines 2891-2898: His eighth rondel ‘Sans cuer dolens de vous departiray’ (Rondel IV)

‘Mournfully, without my heart, I leave you,

And little joy shall have, till I return.

Now my body departs from yours, anew,

Mournfully, without my heart, I leave you.

Yet know not where to go, or what to do,

Since, full of tears and misery, I yearn.

Mournfully, without my heart, I leave you,

And little joy shall have, till I return.’

Lines 2899-2906: Her eighth rondel ‘Sans cuer de moy pas ne vous partirez’

‘Without this heart of mine you’ll ne’er depart,

For it shall journey, everywhere, with you,

As company you’ll have your true love’s heart,

Without this heart of mine you’ll ne’er depart.

I am sure you’ll guard it well, for your part,

While your own will keep me company too.

Without this heart of mine you’ll ne’er depart,

For it shall journey, everywhere, with you.’

Lines 2907-2942: The lover attends church and sees his lady

NOW we had come to the ninth day

And while I thus prolonged my stay,

My lady chose not to forget me

But gathered a riding company

Of ladies and of demoiselles,

Elegant and noble young belles,

To visit, and to meet with, me,

And all to ease my melancholy.

Yet, in all my life, I maintain,

There was ne’er so heavy a rain,

So, to the church they went straight,

No house of clay was that, I’ll state,

Its stones all hardened to a fault,

Mighty pillars, and a high vault.

Then my secretary came to me,

Saying: By Saint Eloi, sire, see

Your lady is here, in this place,

She of the fair form, and bright face.’

And no one had to urge me then

To approach her swiftly, again,

I’d quickly seen that it was she

I call ‘Toute Belle’, and rightly,

Though she did but abide the shower,

Thence departing within the hour,

Out of love for her companions,

Who, all fearful of their husbands,

Were on tenterhooks; men’s hearts

Being pierced by Jealousy’s darts

When their wives are in company,

If they seem happy, and run free;

That is, if the men perceive tis so.

Women are not so lacking though

As to fail to devise some way

To fool their husbands for a day.

We’ll say no more about it though,

For how to work it, they all know.

Lines 2943-2990: He kisses her before she departs; he sends her a letter and a rondel

THAT sweet and most gracious beauty

Who doth assuage my ills, wholly,

The whole of the Mass she did hear,

While I stood, listening, at the rear.

But then, a blessing on my head,

While the Agnus Dei was said,

By the faith I owe Saint Caprais,

Between two pillars we did stray,

And she gave me the kiss of peace,

Most sweetly; I was more at ease,

Though it troubled my heart when she

Went from the place, most promptly.

I accompanied her, with a sigh,

Accomplishing my task, thereby,

Returning to my room to dine,

Taking bread, meat, salt, and wine,

Sharing all with my secretary,

Who appeared mortally hungry.

Since my lady had left me, swiftly,

And left me fretful as one could be,

I drank little there, and ate less,

Dreaming at table, I must confess,

As to the manner in which my lady

Had come there yet left so promptly.

It had been better had she stayed

Than but a brief hour’s visit paid.

I pursued my devotions again,

Yet my mind dwelt more, tis plain,

On thoughts of my faithful beauty,

That is to say, on my little lady,

Than any saint, twas her I sought

Sore troubled by many a thought,

For a lover’s never satisfied,

Nor solaced as his heart devised.

Know that he will oft discover

He lacks one thing or another,

And there was I, troubled at heart,

At what to do, since we must part.

I felt discouraged, utterly,

By this love, that seized me, wholly,

Since it was so hard to see her

That to joy I seemed a stranger.

Such that I knew not how I might

Maintain myself, or day or night.

So, I summoned my secretary,

And had him write a note, shortly,

And by him I sent the letter,

Enclosing this rondel for her.

Lines 2991-2998: His ninth rondel ‘Toute Belle vous m’avez visete’ and sixth letter

‘Toute Belle, now you have met with me,

A hundred times, sweetly, I must thank you.

With good-heartedness, and true amity,

Toute Belle, now you have met with me;

And, by doing so, shown pity

In comforting a heart, all black and blue.

Toute Belle, now you have met with me,

A hundred times, sweetly, I must thank you.’

‘My dearest sweetheart, I pray you, for God’s sake, to excuse me for not writing to you since you left my side, for, God knows, it was not through any lack of love or good intent. But, by my soul, I could not help it, because of a certain thing that my secretary and I will speak to you about. In particular, it does not seem at all good to me to send you messages too often for fear of gossip, and because one cannot be too careful. Whatever I say and do is only for the best and for the sake of honour, for I desire to see you more than any creature in the world. And my dearest sweetheart, you must not think that what I do is meant to distance you from me. For of all the mischances and painful aspects of a lover’s life that exist, apart from being sent away, this is the greatest: to remain far from the one you love. For if he cannot see, hear, or touch the one he desires, and loves more than all nature might provide, a man knows not what to do. And if he cannot send messages to her often, it is a wonder his heart fails to break, or that a lover’s heart can suffer and endure such pain, especially since Desire inflames him and sets him burning, forcing him to long for one he can neither see nor possess. But Sweet Pleasure, Sweet Hope, Sweet Thought, and most Sweet Memory, nourish and sustain him. And, by my soul, my dearest sweetheart, were it not for this sweet portrait of you, which does me greater good than anything else in the world, nothing could ever console me or bring me joy, save only death. For Desire renders my life most difficult, nor am I ever in any place, anywhere, where longing does not seize my eyes and my heart; so that if I wished to abandon or forget you, and may God preserve me from such, by my soul, longing would not allow it. And thus, you should be sure of me, my heart, and my love. And, by the very God that made me, it could not come to pass that I could forget you, no more than I could ascend to the clouds without a ladder. And I trust in your goodness. So that I consign my soul, my heart, my life and whatever is mine to your guidance. And, my dearest sweetheart, sovereignty is silent and our words as one, since you said that your fate is mine, and mine is yours. God be with you, my very sweet love, and may He grant you peace and paradise, and the desire to love me as much as I think to serve you. Your most faithful friend.’

Lines 2999-3010: Her ninth rondel ‘Tres dous ami j’ay bonne volente’

MY lady waited but briefly,

Before replying, fittingly,

In the same rhyme and manner,

As the rondel I made for her.

‘I’m willing, my dear sweet lover, truly,

To bestow peace, joy, and mercy, on you.

To increase your well-being, entirely,

I’m willing, my dear sweet lover, truly.

For I’ve grafted my heart to yours, firmly,

Since there, I see, twould have me love true.

I’m willing, my dear sweet lover, truly,

To bestow peace, joy, and mercy, on you.’

Lines 3011-3020: The lady’s sixth letter

WHEN my secretary, once more,

Returned, twenty greetings he bore,

Nay, a hundred thousand truly,

And I very well knew that he

Gave them without deceit or lies,

Not daring to do otherwise.

And that rondel of hers he brought,

That she’d composed, for it was caught

Up with her letter, as I could see,

Which I oped, and read carefully.

‘My dearest heart and most sweet lover, I beg you, as sweetly as I can, not to be displeased that I have failed to write to you, for truly I lack the opportunity to write you as often as I would wish. And regarding what you wrote to me, namely that I should not be unhappy at having no news of you, know that I can think of naught you could do that would displease me; for I recognize and firmly believe that everything you do, you do with true love and in good faith. My sweetheart, I have learned for a fact that your novena will be completed Sunday next. And on that day my sister and I must undertake a journey of some four leagues. And I am sure it will be Monday eve or Tuesday morn ere we return. And so, I pray you, be pleased to entertain yourself with those companions who are eager to see you. And we will make great cheer upon our return (and endure the wait as best we may) for I think that this delay will annoy you as much as it does me. And I would willingly avoid this journey if I could, or dared, readily, to do so. Yet my hope is that a single one of the days we shall spend together on my return will equal four of those we must lose, because of the great pains I shall take and the diligence I will show. And I beg you, my sweetheart, to take comfort and be happy at heart, in thinking how all my wishes and thoughts are the same as your own with regard to your situation. And my sweet friend, I would not have you think or imagine that I could ever leave or forget you; for, if God but granted me the joy of seeing you, whom I love more than all the world, you might witness all the Earth’s rivers flowing backwards to their sources ere I would desert you. Nor could it happen that I would forget you for any reason there may be, no more than I could create a new world from nothing. And so, my sweet friend, I beg you to banish melancholy completely from your heart, for I could find no joy or good as long as I knew you were unhappy. I pray God grant you honour and joy in everything dear to your heart. Your loyal friend.’

Lines 3021-3042: He composes his tenth rondel ‘Amis bien voy que tu pers tes deduis’

READING her letter, thoroughly,

There, despite myself, I could see

Several things that did trouble me

As, indeed, did my secretary.

For she from that place must fare,

On a day when I must be there.

And this the fair one knew also,

Yet nonetheless she still must go;

Since it made me melancholy,

Sad, pensive, full of jealousy,

I recommenced, without delay,

To fulfil my vow; yet, that day,

I composed in a sad manner,

All contrary to the last I sent her.

‘Long are my nights, and full long are my days,

And whate’er I see fills me with annoy,

Seeing her not, who doth harm me, always;

Long are my nights, and full long are my days.

Tis you, fair one, and Love also, that slays;

In tears my sad heart drowns, devoid of joy.

Long are my nights, and full long are my days,

And whate’er I see fills me with annoy.’

Lines 3043-3050: The lady’s tenth rondel ‘Amis bien voy que tu pers te deduis’

‘LOVER, I see that you are robbed of joy,

Since I am forced to go from here, this day;

And I am sad that tears you now employ;

Lover, I see that you are robbed of joy.

Yet, should I, on return, God’s grace enjoy,

With joy, peace, comfort, I’ll your woes allay.

Lover, I see that you are robbed of joy,

Since I am forced to go from here, this day.’

Lines 3051-3058: The lover’s eleventh rondel ‘Belle quant vous m’arez mort’

‘FAIR one, once you have slain me,

You will have lost your lover,

At my death you’ll feel pity,

Fair one, once you have slain me.

If you’d feel no remorse, ‘ah me’

I might well say; alas, forever

Fair one, once you have slain me,

You will have lost your lover.’

Lines 3059-3066: The lady’s eleventh rondel ‘Amis se dieus me comfort’

‘MY love, thus God consoles me,

That you yet possess my heart,

Which loves you more than any;

My love, thus God consoles me.

So, forsake despondency,

My heart’s yours, though I depart;

My love, thus God consoles me,

That you yet possess my heart.’

Lines 3067-3077: The lover’s twelfth rondel ‘Puis que languir sera ma destinee’

‘SINCE languishing is thus my destiny,

My heart could not do so more pleasantly

Than for you whom I do long for wholly.

Twill be honour and fair renown, to me,

Since languishing is thus my destiny.

Should I die, my lady, born to beauty,

I’ll be a martyr to your love, truly,

And yet twere best for me, assuredly.

Since languishing is thus my destiny,

My heart could not do so more pleasantly

Than for you, love, whom I long for wholly.’

Lines 3078-3079: He sends her his seventh letter

THUS, I’d sent my rondels to her,

Despatching them with this letter.

‘My sweetheart and my very sweet love, I have read what you have written, most carefully. And may it please you to know that, were you not close by, I would not have come here for any reason, not for a great while. And at the moment I have nothing to do here other than to see you. Alas, you intend to depart the very instant I have arrived, which is a hard thing for me. Also, my lord has commanded me by letter that, once my novena is complete, I should go, to be at his side. My sweetheart, this journey of yours is, and will be, a very troublesome thing to me because a day waiting for you must seem a year. And if there is any way you can rightfully remain, saving your honour, nothing could please me more; for, sweetheart, you know that I must leave here in a short while, and then I will not be able to see you as often as I wish. And if your tender heart accords with your sweet words, you will do your best to remain nearby. And also, if you would keep your dazzled servant in mind, I beg you sweetly to reply in writing to tell me what you desire ere leaving. In all ways, I desire all that you do. So farewell, my sweetheart and my very sweet love. Your most faithful lover.’

Lines 3080-3098: Her twelfth rondel ‘Vostre langueur sera par moy sanee’, and seventh letter

I sent my letter on its way,

And she replied that very day,

In the form and the manner

Revealed to me by this letter,

And this rondel she sent to me,

Within it, folded carefully,

Replying to my last to her,

Composed and sent with my letter.

‘My sweetest lover, I’ll cure your languor,

Since I love you, and all without regret,

If you’ll trust Love and I to do so yet.

I swear it, as your dear friend and lover,

My sweetest lover, I’ll cure your languor.

You should hold me excused, moreover,

For tis against my will, do not forget.

On my return I promise, never fret,

My sweetest lover, I’ll cure your languor,

Since I love you, and all without regret,

If you’ll trust Love and I to do so yet.’

‘My sweetheart and my sweet friend, I have received your letter, telling me of your good health, which gives me greater joy than anything else that might be. And if you well knew the good intent that I own, of doing what will please you, you would no longer write that I should take pains to do so, because, by my faith, my resolve and good intent are greater than those, I believe, that could be possessed by any other. And be sure, upon my return, I shall, as regards this, dedicate my heart and body, as well as a portion of my honour, the which I expect you to uphold firmly, to achieving for you that which, I know, will provide joy and comfort. And if you say you are troubled by my leaving, I do not believe at all that you are more troubled than I, because I have so many sad thoughts that whenever I recall them I possess naught that is good, and I often wish I could be your chaplain or clerk so that I could always be in your company. Adieu, my dear sweetheart, and may God grant you good health, peace, and joy of whatever you desire. Your faithful lover.’

Lines 3099-3162: He awaits news of her, and writes his eighth letter

AND thus, my lady went away,

Though I was there on the day

That she was forced to depart,

Full of sad thought, for my part,

For I must wait two days or three,

All distraught and melancholy,

And I found that nothing pleased me,

Rather everything displeased me,

The which, indeed, was no wonder

For I was only led there ever

By her sweet white and rosy face;

I had no business in that place

With any man nor aught in sight,

Naught but to set myself alight

At that blaze where a fool burns so,

The more the closer he doth go.

Now think not that I am saying

I hold myself foolish for loving

My dear, sweet, and noble lady,

For twas not my intent, truly.

I’ve ne’er wrought so well before,

Nor with such honour, I am sure,

As to undertake to love her,

Nor should one rebuke me ever.

And, in the end, she did return,

Though twenty times I did yearn,

As to her road, and the direction,

Where I might see her lovely person.

For I dared not write to her so,

Nor man or woman did I know

Where she was, who was aware

Of the amorous flames that flare

About my heart, that scorch ever,

And gnaw, if not quenched by her,  

For nothing, indeed, could save it,

Except she that did afflict it.

So, at the window, day and night,

I sat and gazed to left and right,

For I was most concerned lest she

Had wished to send me, secretly,

Some person bearing a message,

Clerk, or woman, priest or page.

Thus, I remained there, endlessly,

Yet ne’er a messenger did see.

Then for my secretary I sent,

And said: ‘I may not be silent;

I believe I’m forgot, outright,

Take some paper, I shall write.’

He did so, without argument,

And, sighing, I composed, and sent

A letter which he bore to her,

And reported, not long after,

That the fair one awaited me,

That, through him, she commanded me

Not to linger there much longer

But make haste to go and meet her,

For she was there and all alone,

Except for a maid, and he had shown

Her my note, and most eagerly

Had she read it, right willingly,

And began, he said, in a while,

Sweetly, and lovingly, to smile.

‘My sweetheart and my most sweet love, I send to you as a man with such a longing to see you as no heart can conceive nor mouth say. And you should know that I have awaited you for three days in such a state and in such torment as God knows. And I pray you humbly, and for God’s sake, to consider how I might see you; otherwise, I am dead. And regarding the fine intent you have of doing what would please and comfort me, I cannot, am unable, to thank you as profoundly I would wish, for I am hardly worthy of it. And concerning your honour, which I value a hundred times more than my own life, may God ne’er let me live long enough that, through me, or aught I do, it should ever be put at risk, either in whole or part. For, by God, I love it, and will love it, and uphold it as long as I live; nor shall I ever give thought to the contrary. And, by the faith I owe you, whom I love a hundred times more than myself or any other, I would rather suffer both a first and second death than do or say aught that might harm or diminish it. My dear sweetheart, I am at the place where I lodged before, but, for God’s sake, my dear sweetheart, consider how I am to part from you, and ensure there will be none there but you and I, if you can manage it fittingly, for, by my soul, parting from you will be so hard that I doubt, wholly, my ability to suffer even those who know me not to see it in my face; and I would not have that happen for aught. Alas, my sweetheart, you write that, in order to see me often, you would stay in humble circumstances with me; and, indeed, by God there’s not the least thing in this world that I would be unwilling to do for you,  my whole life through, so as to see and hear you as I would wish. Adieu, my sweetheart, and may God give me joy of you, and grant you honour, and whatever your heart desires. Your true and faithful lover.’

Lines 3163-3178: He visits her, composing his thirteenth rondel ‘Trembler, fremir, et muer, me couvient’

THEN I went to my lady dear,

With happy heart, full of good cheer,

Though, by God, I went fearfully,

To that place, feeling cowardly,

Yet not knowing why that should be,

Unless Love was chastising me,

I made this rondel on the way,

For love of her, chanting alway.

‘Trembling, shaking, quivering, I suffer,

And oft know not what will become of me,

Every time your person I remember;

Trembling, shaking, quivering, I suffer.

Sweet lady, I know not whence, moreover,

It comes; yet, from a single memory,

Trembling, shaking, quivering, I suffer,

And oft know not what will become of me.’

Lines 3179-3220: His secretary departs leaving them alone

ONCE I’d appeared before her,

My fair and virtuous lover

Made me be seated at her side,

My secretary on her other side,

Yet he now desired to leave me,

Which did grieve me inwardly,

Saying that he had much to do,

Business that needed seeing to.

When she saw that he would go,

She bent towards him, speaking low,

And addressing him most sweetly:

‘If it could be done fittingly,

Sweet friend, God aid us alway,

Twould please me if you would stay,

For there’s a man close beside me

Who will but sigh and say: ah me!’

He answered: ‘This I must realise,

For it cannot be otherwise,

Yet, if God please, I’ll soon return

I’ll not need long my leave to earn.’

He departed while I remained,

To savour the sweetness maintained

In her eyes, and in her sweet face,

Pleasing above all, with its grace,

And healing those who, to excess,

Are suffering from lovesickness.

Her grace I had, with sweetness blent,

And offered with such good intent,

So nicely, finely, generously,

And then so very lovingly,

That I could not hope for better.

And, certainly, if I were other

Than I, perfect in every way,

And all the world’s wealth, this day,

Were mine, in coin fit to be spent,

Yet I could not be more content.

And if any call this boasting,

I care less than the wind blowing,

For the wealth that I might enjoy,

Came from the treasury of joy,

Which every good thing doth contain,

And its fair contents, I’ll explain.

Lines 3221-3250: He lists his lover’s virtues

HER fair welcome strengthened ever

My lovesick heart, sighing for her;

Her pure sweetness soothed once more

My sweet ills, for she brought the cure;

Here gaze, brightly, shone upon me,

And at once nourished me sweetly;

She pleased me, in her every guise.

Her sweet speech, it made me wise,

With the goodness that it conveyed;

Her kindness blessed and pain allayed.

Her noble heart ennobled me,

Her liberality did free me,

Her humility served me well,

Her largesse did my coffers swell,

Her joyfulness brought joy to me,

Her courtliness found me courtly,

And her noble person graced me,

Her features blossomed, lovingly,

Her manner enriched me ever,

Nor depleted was her treasure

As to the powers it possessed,

Or the good with which it was blessed.

Thus, it shunned the name of miser,

And if, from Auvergne, some stranger

Had come into my lady’s presence,

He would have received fair presents,

And been enriched by her largesse,

And, therefore, I say this richness,

Which daily multiplies and grows,

Lessens not by what she bestows.

Lines 3251-3332: On treachery and betrayal in love

SHOULD not one such a woman love

Who healer of Love’s ills doth prove,

And puts an end to misery,

With no thought of sin or folly?

And he who thinks that this is ill

Is naught but traitorous and evil,

For in this world no transgression,

Is as deadly, no foul treason,

As to prove a secret enemy.

Now such will claim a friend to be,

And by this cloak their true intent;

By God we should hate such men,

Who are but bent upon dishonour,

Beneath the guise of peace and honour.

Let them be dragged behind a steed

O’er hill and dale, let them not breed.

For, at all times, I would be silent,

By my manner show my intent,

So, she can read, and truly find

All that is in my heart and mind.

But traitors, faithless and disloyal,

Would have it seem they are loyal,

Loving with a love that is true,

Yet hate, with mortal hatred too.

However fair a woman may be,

She’s naught so valuable, truly,

As her honour, and if tis lost,

Men will say, freely, to her cost,

‘Regard her, her honour’s forfeit.’

Listen now, as to the profit

Once can gain from such people;

In this world there’s naught so evil,

No more dangerous a viper,

Than such folk, for sin none riper;

Nor doth any respect a master,

However great, that lacks honour.

Please God, who e’er judges aright,

That my judgement on those alight

That intend this kind of villainy,

For I would show them no mercy,

And they would die a shameful death,

Harsh, and painful, at every breath,

Losing their lives, and all they own;

Without joy or good let them moan.

How has any the effrontery

To plot such things, treasonously,

To say one thing and do another,

And thus, to betray their lover,

Cloaked by seeming peace and goodwill?

Such is treason, I know it still.

One man by Jesus Christ will swear

That all his life he’ll love this fair

Woman, another has her believe

That he’ll be hers, and never leave.

And all of this is to deceive

So she’s unable to perceive,

His treason and his villainy,

And his most deadly enmity.

God, what a man, what a world!

Into the Somme he should be hurled,

Or from the bridge at Soissons,

And let the fishes feed thereon.

What can one expect of women,

Being so much sweeter than men,

So loving, of such kindness full,

So friendly, and so merciful,

That they can refuse a man naught?

And so, no tricks should be wrought

On them, none should seek to shame

The woman, but hold dear that same,

As dear as is one’s own right arm.

As for me I’d not seek their harm,

I’d cherish them, most lovingly,

Without ill thoughts, or trickery,

And serve them truly all my days,

And forever speak their praise,

And try my very best to please,

No matter whom that might displease,

And without payment or reward,

Nor seek recompense, in accord

With my love for my gracious one;

In her honour, all shall be done.

Lines 3333-3402: His lady leaves; he hands her a ninth letter on parting

BUT now, I shall speak no more

Of all that has been said before,

Since I know wrongdoers seem

Not at all pleased with my theme,

Wishing to conceal their malice,

If they can, and their sins no less.

Instead I’ll tell of what occurred,

And to what end this love stirred,

As my lady would have me do.

And what pleases her, I pursue.

Three days and nights I did remain,

The days a joy, the nights a pain,

For at night Desire deprived me

Of my sleep, as Love obliged me,

And I tossed and turned, instead,  

All restless there, upon my bed.

Nonetheless Pity, each day, healed

The harm that Love, by night, revealed,

Through the aid and loving effort

Of my lady, whom God comfort;

For the true good that from her came

Sustained me yet, in spite of Shame,

Every day, or once or twice,

For I was happy, on her advice,

To accept it, and did receive

All as I ought to, I believe,

When Largesse did kindness offer,

And true Love did ever proffer.

And my sweet and lovely lady

Gave, and was more than happy,

Since all was done in her praise,

And any stranger would, always,

Receive the same should he appear,

And be sustained, if he came near.

And since I loved with a true heart

I delighted in this, on her part,

Nor should any man show wonder,

For naught can equal it, rather,

It exceeds all that one might name,

Or recall, imagine, or claim.

And yet all things must reach their end,

Naught is that doth not that way tend.

For I was forced to take my leave;

True pain it brought, as you’ll conceive,

And I commenced to weep alway,

And from delight began to stray.

Then sorrow in my heart did move,

And, by experience, I did prove,

Ne’er a parting is as bitter

As that of lover from lover.

From my lady, my leave I took,

As I had seen would be my luck,

And I knew not, to sorrow wed,

What I did there, or what I said.

She said to me: Adieu, sweet friend,

My promise I once more extend,

Faithful, and true, to you I’ll be,

And with true heart love you only.

Now, return as soon as you may,

Forget me not, since this I pray,

For you will do ill if you choose

Not to return, my love refuse.’

I left the place that very hour,

With sad heart, the tears did shower

From my eyes, yet, ere I did go

And mount my steed, I did also

Send her a letter, you understand,

Writ and folded by my own hand.

‘My dearest sweetheart and my most dear love, I fear, greatly, that you will think less of me, in that when I am in your presence, I have no sense, manner, or wit, and am like a man lost. And, by the faith I owe you, whom I love a hundred thousand times more than myself, I possess no strength that does not fail me, whenever I see you, for I must then sweat without heat, and tremble without cold. And when I cannot see you, and yet remember, and shall remember, the most sweet and satisfying food, with which your noble heart has generously and kindly sustained me many a time, without being asked, Desire so wounds me, attacks me so vigorously that of necessity my heart is so oppressed, that the water flows from my eyes. And, by my soul, if Hope were not there to console me at every turn, I would lack the body to suffer such blows or endure them. And then, your sweet portrait comforts me and will continue to comfort me, more than aught else, with the fact that there was ne’er a form so gracious nor heart so noble as yours, that lacked kindness or pity. And, my dearest sweetheart, I take leave of you, knowing not when I might see you, and lacking any who would serve well as a messenger, so that I could write to you as I have. And so, I have none left who ought to, or could, recommend me, or recall me to your thoughts. Thus, if true Love and your own goodness do not bring me to mind, I am lost and dead, for I could experience no misfortune as great as being forgot by you. So, I must allow you, and true Love, and your goodness to manage everything, while I live on in hope, waiting for that fine day when I can return to you, and this must be when I am able, not when I wish. My dearest sweetheart and most sweet love, I pray God grants you joy, and health, and grace such that we may see each other again shortly, and in joy. Your most faithful friend.’

Lines 3403-3456: He goes to join his lord, and sends her a tenth letter

I departed at the next morn,

Waking so early, with the dawn,

I watched the sun rise in the sky,

For, after that leave-taking, I

Felt it dishonourable to stay,

Lacking all pleasure anyway,

Since my lady I could not see,

Nor feast my eyes on her, for she,

By now, was far upon her way.

And so, I set out straight away,

Into the pretty countryside,

In fair, fine, sweet weather betide,

A land scarcely hostile to me,

For the true lord of that country

Did me honour; feasting only

His wish, and honest company,

And there I rested, and was served

Far better than e’er I deserved,

With the youths and knights out sporting.

Of our hunting, and our hawking,

There’s insufficient room to speak,

But every day there I could seek

The company of my lord, the man

I love the most, by Saint Véran!

Many a fine gift he gave me,

Offering his wealth, sincerely,

Yet if I’d wealth, in abundance,

All that might now exist in France,

That in Apulia, Lombardy,

The Romagna, dear God, might be,

I would not prove as satisfied,

Nor feel delight, or any pride,

If I could not see my lady

The sacred fount of good, to me.

I only saw the fortnight through,

Yet once a week I sent, tis true,

A message to my ‘Toute Belle’,

So as to know if she were well,

And of her news, and state of mind,

And of her wishes, for I did find

That I was oft unsure of her,

Oft felt reassurance, rather

Dependent upon how my reason

Arrived at each diverse conclusion;

And, the better to dwell upon her,

And thus, more easily discover

If she were still faithful and true,

I sent her this message, anew,

For I was quite troubled, clearly,

And was, indeed somewhat weary

Of bearing, and enduring, woe,

Such that I must address her so,

Sending a letter as you’ll find

To tell her of my state of mind.

‘My dearest sweetheart and my sweetest love, I write so as to learn of your well-being, something I wish to hear of more than I do that of any other creature born, or person now living. And regarding my own, if you wish to know, I am in that state a man in love must suffer. And just as you commanded when we parted, and as I promised, I shall not leave this region for any reason without first seeing you. But, my sweetheart, when this will be, I cannot see, unless you yourself bring it about, seeking out the time, place, occasion, and leisure to meet me, for from you comes my woe in love, and so from you must come my consolation also. And, for God’s sake, my dearest sweetheart, make sure that the day lasts as long as any four when I am with you, for I can ne’er stay as long as I would like, God knows! And parting will be so hard for me that, by my soul, I know not how I may bear or endure it, nor how I might be consoled. And I fear this greatly, and so beg you, for God’s sake, that the whole time we are together you will solace me for the time that must come. And, by God, there is no good, or joy, or consolation for me unless it comes from you. Never has a lady been loved so much, longed for so truly, as I love and long for you, without altering or straying. At this stake, I will die. My sweetest love, I will see you shortly, please God, and will lodge where I did before. And I commend myself to your grace, for you know I cannot readily see or speak to you unless you arrange it. And, my sweetheart, since I saw you, I possess no one to serve as a proper messenger, as I did before. And I pray, for God’s sake, that at this time you will show me all the love you say you feel for me; and then I will be cheerful, full of song, happy and joyful too, and your most faithful lover. Yet, for God’s sake, do nothing to please me that would give others anything to talk about, since, by that same God who made me, I would rather die than never see you again, from which God deliver me! For, should that be so, I would certainly die. And my dearest sweetheart, I will remain three or four days where you are; such that you can grant me many a favour if you wish. And, please God, I will not depart as long as you are there. And my dearest sweetheart, a single favour given and received discreetly, and lovingly, is worth a hundred others. And a day well employed is worth a year, and is a remedy and a comfort against Death, against Desire, and against Fortune. I’ll say no more, but you know well that “He prays enough that goes weeping ever.” I am sending no rondels, for there are many people at this court and much noise, which so annoys me that I compose little. Nonetheless, I write all I can now in your book. My sweetheart, write me a reply, via this messenger, about your health, and how you feel. I pray God grant you peace and honour, health, and joy of whatever your heart desires. Your most faithful friend.’

Lines 3457-3460: She replies with her eighth letter

ONCE she had read my letter,

She then replied with another,

By my messenger, sans delay,

Listen well to what she did say.

‘My heart, my love, and my whole desire, I have read, thoroughly, what you have written me, and with a very good heart I will perform, carefully and diligently, all you request in your letter. For, by that same God who made me, it seems impossible that I could do wrong, or aught bad could come of doing whatever pleases you, or that you advise or counsel. And doubt not, that if everyone advised or counselled something contrary to that which pleased you, I would yet fulfil your sweet wish, neglecting what others desired. Thus, you should be quite sure of me and the love I feel, for I know you to be most good and faithful ever, and that you so love my well-being, my peace, and my honour that you could never, would never deign to, advise something that would not do me honour, more than anyone alive. So, I hold myself ready to perform the good things that would please you, to the best of my ability, and I will love you more than any human creature, most faithfully, all the days of my life, and longer if I might live hereafter. And, sweet friend of my heart, you say that you fear my leaving and that this will be quite hard for you. Yet, be assured, that I think it will be harder for me than for you. For tis what in the world I fear most in my soul, and what I think of more than aught else but you. But, please God, you and I will manage this in such a way that none will take notice. And, my sweet heart, we should comfort each other, for that is the thing to do, nor was it ever otherwise. And so, we should seize the hours God sends us. Adieu, my sweetheart, and may God give you joy of what your heart desires and loves. Your most faithful friend.’

Lines 3461-3490: He contemplates her beauty

I was in the town of Crécy

When this letter of hers reached me,

The Duke of Normandy being there;

My rightful lord, no matter where;

Amongst his followers I feature,

So, I am rightfully his creature.

And when I gave it my purview,

Reading it three or four times through,

I could scarce have hoped for more

Comfort than doing so did secure

For my amorous malady.

My lady took pity on me,

And generously promised there

Joy, peace, and ease for all my care,

Through true and just experience,

And so, I found nary a grievance,

Nothing harsh that I must suffer,

Rather I lived in certain pleasure,

Because I loved her with true love,

And, in my pleasure, did approve

All her great and sovereign beauty,

More than Helen, she was lovely;

And then her goodness contemplated,

The which its powers I’ve related.

Here indeed is my conclusion,

Based on my honest opinion:

One should prize a beauteous thing

Only if there is goodness within,

For it has been created for naught

Beyond what is within it wrought.

Lines 3491-3564: No true beauty without inner virtue

THERE is no steed so wondrous

That, if you mount upon him, thus,

Feet in the stirrups, have him feel,

Or so we hope, the spurs’ hard steel,

Yet he’s ill-tempered in his manner,

Choosing to go backward rather,

Or lie down, or rear up on high,

As goats will do, towards the sky,

Kick, or balk, or bite, or prance,

But, on pain of death, ne’er advance,

‘He’s good for naught’, all men must say,

‘Fit for the lepers at Beauvais’.

Likewise, there’s no knight at court,

No matter the battles he has fought,

So fine, and elegant, and fair,

And known to every lady there,

That if he flees from some battle,

Or from the foes retreats a little,

Will still be respected and prized;

Rather, by all, he’ll be despised.

And if he wins some man’s esteem,

The man but shames himself, I deem;

Yet be silent, spare your assaults,

Unless you wish to count their faults.

Tis a knight’s duty, such the Order,

That they yield not to disorder,

Absent themselves, or take to flight,

But act in all ways like a knight.

Then, no woman is so lovely

That if she bows to infamy,

And forfeits her reputation,

She’s not loved less, on occasion,

For her fault, and so less prized,

The very hour and day despised

That she was born, hated and cursed,

Because such deeds she has rehearsed.

And honour will flee her, I maintain,

As a cat flees water, or the rain,

Or at least for as long as she

Remains in a state contrary

To honour, which can never be

Her undoing; it shuns evil-doing.

And I declare, most veritably,

The sages did all, and equally,

Value folk more for their goodness,

Than their beauty or handsomeness,

For beauty’s a lesser favour

Of all those bestowed by Nature.

So, if I love the fair and good,

If she as such is understood,

And with a pure heart, sans misdeed,

None should reproach me then, indeed,

For I will gain esteem and praise,

If I love, serve, esteem always,

But if some miscreant I love,

I should he hurled, from high above,

Into some flood, both wide and deep,

Or else a fatal slingstone reap;  

Though, if I knew she was such, I,

By my faith, would such love deny.

So, I should always be on guard,

And keep myself, in that regard,

From doing or thinking, ever,

Aught that might damage her honour,

For if I did such things approve,

That would be a sin against Love,

And all the good I gain therefrom

Would indeed be buried and gone,

Nor would love remain with me,

But my sad heart die, utterly;

And so, I shall be faithful to her,

And never seek to love another.

Whoever wishes may say more

On this, I’ve exhausted my store.

Lines 3565-3600: He wins leave from his lord to go and meet her  

I wished my return, and swiftly,

To my fair and pleasing lady,

So, I did little, it would seem,

But ponder, and reflect, and scheme

As to how I might win my leave

To see my lady, and did believe

On asking, that my lord would say

I might, yet I was made to stay,

Three days or more against my will,

At his grace’s pleasure, until,

At last, he gave me leave to go,

And granted me fair gifts also,

As I have said he did before.

And so, I took my way once more

Without delay, that I might address

My beloved, and my goddess,

For my heart longed for her so,

And I sighed often, as you know.

Into her presence I did advance,

Wounded by a loving glance,

But that beauty, smiling ever,

Healed, sweetly, the ills I suffer

Merely by looking upon her,

And for my good gazing at her.

I’ll say naught of my reception,

Or my honest, quiet discretion;

I was always one and the same.

If twere from Tunis I came,

The gracious lady, God save her,

Could not have been kinder ever,

In her fair welcome, and sweet gaze,

Later summoning me, as always,

Discreetly, and I tell you, in such,

Ne’er did too little nor too much.

But rather bore herself so wisely

She garnered praise, universally.

Lines 3601-3652: The lovers speak to each other of Love

AND so, I spoke with her awhile,

Then set me to forsake her smile,

And so leave with the rest, but she

Whispered low: ‘Come here to me,

Sweet friend, so that I may see you,

And in the garden may find you,

After supper, for our delight,

When the sun withdraws his light.’

Nor did I neglect to do so,

Rather in haste I thence did go,

And she’d already made arrival,

And at my coming was most joyful,

And said to me, all smilingly,

‘King Priam himself you must be,

To keep one waiting, so readily!’

And I said, unhesitatingly,

On bended knee, my hands together,

‘Sweet one, let us two, forever,

Lead a love-filled life, instead;

Who knows fair word let it be said.

See me here, I would make amend.’

And the fair one did mercy extend,

And there we did speak of our love,

Of the grief and pain that doth prove

Desire’s gift to a love that’s true,

Troubling men and fair ladies too;

How he comes, lance at the ready,

How he assaults them mercilessly,

Closes with one and then the other,

Aiming the sharp tip at each lover,

Wounding, undoing, in the end,

Whomever Hope does not defend.

And many a time Desire doth win,

When Hope fails to counter him,

And stands not firm in good fight,

And banner razed, is put to flight,

For sweetest Hope doth often flee,

Knowing naught of war and mastery.

The lover here’s trampled underfoot;

For compare the tripod, that is put

On the hearthstone, above the blaze;

Tis scorched and burnt all its days,

And when the fire’s quenched, by and by,

Is thrown into a corner nearby,

And since its role’s not maintained

Is left blackened, scarred and stained.

So it is with those lovers still,

Who are full of amorous ill,

And who, when their defence proves slight,

Are mistreated by Love in the fight,

Forced to submit to torment ever,

Finding no comfort save to suffer.

Lines 3653-3690: He persuades his lady to go on pilgrimage with him

WHEN we had spoken of our love

I sought a new request to move,

That seemed honest enough to me,

And so, I said to my lady:

‘Fair one, both virtuous and sage,

They tell me that a pilgrimage

You have pledged to Saint Denis,

And it would end my misery

If you chose to fulfil that vow,

For, if I were your squire now,

Every hour would be worth a week;

One good day, if God such did seek,

Would be worth a month moreover,

And so, my lovely and sweet lover,

I beg you to discharge your debt,

Without delay, since we are met.’

And she answered me right swiftly:

‘Sweet friend, may God preserve me,

I’m not opposed to doing so,

Though indeed, you must surely know

I am hardly my own woman,

But we shall go, if I but can,

To Saint James, or to Saint Denis,

I and my sister, and you, and then

We will sojourn here once again,

When God permits us to return,

And thus, great merit we shall earn.’

So, I gave her thanks most sweetly,

Begging them to prepare swiftly.

And, secretly, she and her sister

Held a conversation together,

Summoning a neighbour also,

A lady they called cousin, though.

The very next day we set out,

On a pilgrimage most devout.

And, by Saint Lieffroy, the lady

Was mounted on my own palfrey,

Such that I love that horse so well,

The creature I shall never sell.

Lines 3691-3754: They commence their pilgrimage

THE Saint Denis Fair, they call it

The Benediction of the Lendit;

This was the day, and I have never

Seen any travel so together,

With such merriment and joy,

As those three women did employ,

And for my part, I thought it good

To seek amusement where I could.

Now each did wear a fair garland,

Of golden flowers, you understand,

With a twin strand of roses red,

That suited well, upon her head.

And I recall that, in this manner,

Through the fair we did wander,

Gazing at all the merchandise,

Yet like one who looks not buys,

Since our thoughts were certainly

On other matters, for my lady

Mused on her vow, with emotion,

Which humbly, and with devotion,

She now intended to fulfil,

While I was contemplating still

My love for her, devotedly,

While gazing at her, constantly.

Thus we, our several debts did pay,

And having done so without delay,

We went to dine, as it befell,

In a place they call La Chapelle,

In Paris; yet so many had made

The journey there, but little shade

Was there, scarce enough to cover

A shepherd, both head and shoulder.

Nonetheless, we were so at ease,

By Saint Nichaise, all so did please,

That in the seven years gone by,

Not seven times so well felt I.

When we had dined, we paid the host,

And then away from there did post,

Yet there was never so fine a day

For any lover, I should say,

Because my lady cried that she

Must sleep, feeling wondrously

Willing to lay down her head,

If there were but a room and bed.

A sergeant-at-arms was nearby,

Who was drunk enough to cry,

Full of good Saint-Pourçain wine,

Which all agree is more than fine,

Though it made the fellow reel

Far more than he could conceal.

The sergeant said: ‘By Saint Julian,

There’s a peasant nearby, a man,

Dwelling at the village’s edge,

Who has a chamber they allege

Has clean beds, both good and sound,

And he’ll not take penny or pound;

You’ll be fine there, and quite alone,

And fresh green rushes strew the stone.

Come with me, and I’ll lead you there,

And show you the path, if you’d care.’

My lady told him she agreed,  

And, with all in accord, indeed

He marched on, and we after,

Following closely, all together.

Lines 3755-3790: He is persuaded to sleep in the same room overnight

WHEN the ladies reached the room,

All wearied by the heat of the sun,

There two good beds did them await,

Nor did the sister hesitate

To lie on the one bed, comfortably,

Twas all covered with fleurs-de-lis,

While my lady did claim the other,

Then, two or three times together,

Called to me, her sister the same,

Guillemette was her sister’s name,

‘Come, sleep between the two of us,

And be there naught but virtuous;

Here is your place, and ready too’

I answered: ‘God shall never view

Me lying there, I’ll rest outside,

And I’ll await you there, betide;

Yet I shall wake you, full soon,

When tis three of the afternoon,

And the hour’s rung.’ Still, my lady

Begged me to come, most vehemently,

And I drew near her, with a smile,

Excusing myself all the while,

Saying I was scarcely worthy,

But she grasped my hand firmly,

And they set out to drag me there,

While I cried out in mock despair,

For God knows twas indeed my wish

To lie there, and obey in this;

No other pasture did I desire,

To naught sweeter did I aspire.

The sergeant, opening the door,

With two good cloaks he draped us o’er,

And then he shut the window tight,

Closed the door, and hid all from sight;

And there my lady took her rest

One arm draped across my breast.

Lines 3791-3828: The lovers embrace

LONGTIME I lay there at her side,

More shyly than a new-wed bride,

For not a word did I dare utter,

Sought not to touch or speak to her,

Since she appeared to be asleep.

I saw the power of Love ran deep,

For like a log I must lie there

Beside my lady, in this affair

I stirred no more than if someone

Had sought my life had I so done.

Howe’er, the lady, for her part,

Whom I love with a most pure heart,

Who, I thought, slept there, and dreamed,

Awakened, quite gently, it seemed,  

And a discreet cough she did share,  

And said: ‘My lover, are you there?

Embrace me now, tis safe, you know.’

Most tentatively I did so,

But she spoke on, in a whisper,

Till I put my arms about her.

Not a thing could I see; e’en so

One thing I did certainly know,

That it was not her companion!

I was like one who bathes among

Founts of the earthly paradise,

For on me all that might suffice,

Was bestowed, all the good there is.

I was granted my every wish,

Through all the great abundancy

Of which I had my sufficiency,

For everything she said, deeply

Satisfied the longing in me;

True good, with which I was favoured,

Tasting of mercy, I now savoured,

Without ill-thought or trickery,

Because I cherished her so dearly.

To speak a word now is my wish,

Of the sort of thing mercy is.

Lines 3829-3864: Regarding mercy in love

ONE man loves, fears, serves his lady,

While shunning aught that’s blameworthy,

Through naught but his own worthiness,

Oft setting his chances of success

In the balance with sudden death.

Asking naught else but, in a breath,

Goes seeking bitter warfare, ever.

He to far-flung lands will venture,

Embracing hunger and poverty,

And passing among folk who only

Wish to rob him of all he owns,

And leave him naught but broken bones,

Stealing all from him in the end,

Who his own life can scarce defend.

Another will but joust a bit,

For dancing, singing, he is fit,

He wishes but to kiss his lady

Desiring to clasp her closely,

Seeks only that and nothing more,

Gaining it, will all else ignore.

The former will be by her side

A hundred years and never try

To seek such things, nor dare to ask

For aught on earth, all his task,

By God, not e’en to seem to do,

His very heart would tremble to,

Like mine when I see my lady,

For he lacks true Love’s leave, you see,

To show her signs of his longing,

Or speak a word of his suffering.

It is enough that he sees her,

Makes her company his pleasure,

And since the two this doth suffice,

Without need for further device,

I say that love’s true satisfaction

Is in mercy, being of that faction.

Lines 3865-3924: They dine in an orchard

THUS, I was sweetly nourished too

By all the goodness that is due

To those who love right faithfully,

And only for such sufficiency;

For if such were insufficient

Twere slight reward for their intent,

Yet slight goodness pleases much

When one’s an appetite for such,

And when tis granted joyfully,

With a good heart, and happily.

When it was time, we three arose

Making our company among those

Who so woke us with their singing,

That all the day we left off sleeping,

And games of bowls we played at then,

For fine wine, a capon, a hen,

Chicks, or rabbit kittens, e’en

A ‘sautereau’ cheese, one, I mean,

Made by the folk who live in Brie.

And after that, the company

With one accord, must sup together,

In an orchard whose sweetness ever

Recalled that paradisiac dell

Where Adam and Eve once did dwell,

For it was so verdant and flowery

A man set in the pillory

Would take such pleasure in the sight,

That he’d forget his shame outright.

There we dined well and fittingly,

There my sweet and lovely lady

Glancing at me with her sweet glance,

From her sweet eyes did advance

Many a dart that drew me to her,

Who was hers, and hers forever,

Like one who wastes their every

Effort to win what’s theirs already;

She well knows that I’m hers, ever

Since she claimed me as her lover.

There we were served with sweet lays,

With ballads, and with virelays

That they call ‘chansons baladées’,

Well heard, and listened to always,

All manner of other music too

So ably performed that one knew

Not whom to attend to the most.  

There one might have learned a host

Of things, for all strove mightily,

To sing well, sweetly, forcefully.

We stayed awake till twas nigh day,

And then the ladies we did convey

Each one to her own fair dwelling,

Torchlit we went, to each lodging,

Which was why Love tested me not,

Yet from him a rich reward I got,

Such as he knows to grant, truly,

Of that fine day that he owed me;

And, from her I thank, my lady,

Satisfaction received, in mercy,

By way of every sweetest thought

That honourable pleasure brought.

Lines 3925-3940: He stays with his lady and composes a ballad

THERE I stayed for several days,

In pleasant company always,

And dined beside my lady fine,

Taking but little bread and wine,

So happy to see her, rather

I sated myself on gazing at her.

For we were there privately,

And with us no one else, you see,

Twas she, and I, and her sister,

Who attended her, as ever.

And my lady who had command

Over me, asked, nay did demand

That I recite some verse or prose,

Or a fresh work should compose,

And so, a fair new ballad I made

To her sweet order, here displayed.

Lines 3941-3961: His thirteenth ballad ‘Gent corps faitis, cointe, apert et joli’ (Ballad V, not set to music)

‘A noble form, sweet, pleasing, and lovely,

Young, finely dressed, in elegant attire,

Enriched with virtue, clothed in modesty,

Of beauty born, to sweetness all entire,

Has so, with sweetness, set my heart on fire,

And with the sweet glance of your bright eyes too,

That I shall seek no other love but you.

And I am right, since I have chosen nobly,

For were it mine to seek to love the flower

Of all this world, I could but fail completely

To choose one better, lady of honour,

So, my thanks to you, and Love, forever,

Who grants me such delightful thoughts, anew,

That I shall seek no other love but you.

So, since it is the case, my sweetest lady,

That I love you, sans thought of dishonour,

Who everywhere own the heart within me,

Whom I beg for mercy, humbly, ever,

Night and day, with tearful voice, I utter

A prayer that you’ll strive to prove this true:

That I shall seek no other love but you.’

Lines 3962-3975: Her thirteenth rondel ‘Autre de vous jamais ne quier amer’

THEN she made this rondel in reply,

And it seems fair enough to my eye,

Naught here to reprove, I would say,

And twas composed without delay,

For she wished I might have the thing,

Ere the moment for our parting.

‘No man but you shall I e’er seek to love,

Sweetest love, to whom I grant my heart,

There is no better that I might approve;

No man but you shall I e’er seek to love.

And I well know, nor is there need to prove,

That from my own your heart will ne’er depart.

No man but you shall I e’er seek to love,

Sweetest love, to whom I grant my heart.’

Lines 3976-4041: A parting, and a morning encounter

AT last, the moment had arrived

When I was forced to leave her side,

So, I took my leave most humbly,

With little accompanying me

Of sense or intellect or manner,

But she saw in my face, as ever,

That I was wounded in spirit,

For the colour had altered in it,

And I was much changed in hue,

Sad, and grieving, tearful too,

Being certain I must suffer

Dwelling, a long while, far from her,

Despite my wishes in the matter,

Which rendered me even sadder.

But that fair lady, ere we did part,

Wise, good, and generous of heart,

She took me by the hand, gently,

And said: ‘At dawn return to me,

For I’ll rise at the break of day,

And commend you to God alway,

Yet, not here, with all folk present.’

And I replied, being her servant,

‘My lady, adieu, since tis your wish.’

I said no more, left it at this,

But, at dawn, obeyed her command,

And so quiet was I, you understand,

That the fair one was still sleeping,

And so, I woke her by opening

A little window, as she had said,

Twas on the left side of her bed,

And drawing aside a little curtain

Of red sendal, yet saw for certain,

She was not alone, for one other,

The fair young maid, was with her,

Who, in the green and leafy garden,

Had culled the flowers for a garland.

Quietly, I called to my lady,

As I gazed there, on her beauty,

Drawing now a little nearer,

Careful of her state and honour,

For I dared do no otherwise,

Fearing that she, in her surprise,

Might be angered, but waking she

Did, out of her great courtesy,

Turn her body to me, entire,

Nor was dressed in any attire,

But that granted her by Nature,

So fair that never a creature

Could compare to her, so richly

Endowed was she, and so lovely.

Then she called me by my true name,

Saying: ‘Love, are you there?’ ‘The same,’

I answered, ‘yes, my sweet lover,

Yet full of doubt and fear, however,

For yourself, should any enter.’

And she said I should endeavour

Not to fear, for none would come

Unless summoned there, to her room.

I gazed at her face, that did appear

All rosy, beauty without peer,

Her sweet face, her crimson, smiling

Lips, full sweet, and her gleaming

Neck, so smooth and tender, alway.

And I knelt down, without delay,

And thus, I commenced my prayer

To Venus, that with you I’ll share.

Lines 4042-4089: The lover’s prayer to Venus

‘VENUS, I’ve served, obeyed your law,

Since your fair image first I saw,

And also heard tell, what is more,

Of your power.

And so, I humbly beg you, there,

Be pleased to listen to my prayer,

And so, attend to my affair,

Ease me this hour.

For here I witness, in my presence,

The beauty, the sweet appearance,

That wounds my heart, without a lance,

And ravishes.

And I lack strength to approach her,

Or to touch, fearing her anger,

That wounds and pierces, forever,

My heart, no less.

You are my lady, my goddess,

That wounds my heart, then doth bless

And heal it, through nobleness,

All, so sweetly;

Till there is no woe or dolour,

Joy, delight and pleasure, rather,

Of which you are mistress ever,


You join hearts so they complement

Each other, with but one intent,

One good, one ill, one sentiment,

One sorrow too.

Now grant courage to my being,

That from this sweet face I’m leaving

I might gain true peace in parting,

Win wealth anew.

But if you fail to work this for me,

You that made me will undo me,

And to death you will dispatch me,

Without a lie,

For my heart is discomforted,

And you well know by you tis led,

So, be my advocate, instead,

And aid, thereby,

My peace, my comfort, my desire,

And seek my health, sound and entire,

And grant me courage, ne’er to tire,

In this, do right;

For if you should your help deny,

In time of need, prove no ally,

Then, farewell all, for here I die,

Without respite.’

Lines 4090-4133: Venus blesses their affair, and the lover composes a ballad.

WHEN my prayer came to an end

Venus proved herself my friend,

For she had not been neglected,

Nor was my plea to her rejected;

She heard and saw my situation,

The goddess was quick to station

Herself above, and then descend,

A dark cloud, all about, did bend,

Full of manna and purest balm,

That did the room sweetly embalm,

There working miracles openly,

So manifestly, and so clearly,

That, joyfully, as I had wished,

All my desire was accomplished.

And when the miracles were done,

I said: ‘Such miracles are won

From you, Goddess, so openly,

That one may see them clearly,

For which I yield you thanks and praise,

Sans flattery’s deceiving ways.’

Yet I must say this, nonetheless,

At the descent of the goddess,

My heart shook, I trembled there,

While my lady seemed, for her share,

Somewhat moved, such was my view,

And flustered by her coming too,

For her sweet face grew more lovely,

Which pleased me exceedingly,

Though it is no marvel at all

If one marvels at a miracle.

So, the dark cloud, in this manner,

Granted us its heavenly cover,

And we were so hid, moreover,

That naught was left to discover.

And greatly then it suited me,

That there was nothing there to see,

And all this lasted such a space

Of time, I made there in that place,

And before Venus went her way,

This song, which is a virelay.

Lines 4134-4193: His fourteenth ballad, a virelay ‘Onques si bonne journee’

‘NE’ER such a fine day, truly,

Ever dawned for me,

As when I did take my leave

Of my beloved lady,

Who has won, from me,

Both heart and love I believe.

For manna descended there,

And that sweetness fair

That my soul did satisfy,

Fruit of the sweet gift did share,

Pity drew, I swear,

From her blushes thereby.

Therein did the honour lie,

That the renown, say I,

Of her lovely form, did wear,

Never an ill thought forming,

Nor none appearing,

Born betwixt her and I.

Ne’er such a fine day, truly,

Ever dawned for me,

As when I did take my leave

Of my beloved lady,

Who has won, from me,

Both heart and love I believe.

Satisfaction enriched me,

And Pleasure wholly,

Such that no living creature

Possessed a heart so fully

Contented, surely,

Or felt such pure joy ever,

For the goddess, all honour,

Who brings together

Love, lover, beloved lady,

With her blade, of true temper,

The head did sever

Of Constraint my enemy,

Ne’er such a fine day, truly,

Ever dawned for me,

As when I did take my leave

Of my beloved lady,

Who has won, from me,

Both heart and love I believe.

For she buried him swiftly,

Love aiding, gladly,

His soul briefly lamented,

And nor did Honour, thanks be,

Suffer there to be

A mass for his corpse chanted,

Rather it went, where the dead

And discontented,

Are scorned for eternity;

Thus, twice was I contented.

Honour held the key

To sweet Mercy’s treasury,

Ne’er such a fine day, truly,

Ever dawned for me,

As when I did take my leave

From my beloved lady,

Who has won, from me,

Both heart and love I believe.’

Lines 4194-4259: The lovers exchange gifts

VENUS had later left the scene,

Vanishing in her cloud, I mean,

While I remained there amazed,

Like one who is utterly dazed,

My lady was astonished too,

And a little shocked, tis true,

So, I addressed her, most gently,

Speaking quietly, but intently:

‘Sweet companion, sweet sister,

I believe no such adventure

E’er befell a pair of lovers,

Nor, in this way, any others,

Not one as sweet nor one as true

As this has proved, in my view.

Did you, as I did, thus perceive

The goddess, who, I do believe,

Revealed the beauty of her face,

Full of wisdom, power, and grace?

Saw you how she veiled us o’er

From her cloud the shade did pour,

How she served us graciously,

And not for any worth in me?

Nor could I such a thing deserve

Though I a thousand years did serve,

Feared and honoured her also,

Praised, obeyed, adored her so.’

She answered me: ‘My sweetest friend,

To our hearts the goddess doth send

A love that increases every day,

Nor shall it wane, in any way.

Indeed, I witnessed her descent,

How she came, and how she went.

You must love firmly, faithfully,

For I promise you, most truly,

That you have so ravished my heart,

True love from it can ne’er depart;

I shall return that love, for never

Shall other love be mine, ever.’

I said: ‘God look on you, alway,

I love you more than I can say,

And never shall I prove untrue,

But rather I’ll stay true to you.’

At this, the fair one embraced me,

About my neck her arm clasped me,

And with both arms I did embrace

Her, and her other arm did place

About my neck; next, a little key

In her hand, she took most gently,

A craftsman’s work, and of pure gold,

And said: ‘My love, keep a true hold

Of this key to my treasury,

And guard it well, for you must be

Its sole lord and master, say I;

I love it more than my right eye,

For there’s my honour, my riches,

Of which I may grant you largesse;

Your work shall not decrease it ever,

But each day bring increase rather.’

I took the key, and then did tell

Her I would love and guard it well;

Next, took a ring from my finger

And, as I ought, gifted it to her,

Then of my lady took my leave,

Sighing now, for, I did perceive

The sun did rise in morning air,

Forcing me to depart from there.

Lines 4260-4285: He departs, and sends her his virelay and his eleventh letter

SO, I went away, with light tread,

Till I again reached my own bed,

And if I’ve said too much, in all,

Or too little, then, by Saint Paul,

I’ve done no wrong, twas her wish,

Lest I might lose her favour in this.

Such she would have all folk know,

Since there’s no sin in acting so;

And if the contrary were true,

She could keep silent well as you,

And I’d have helped her conceal it,

And made sure never to reveal it.

I, who said what I’ve said to you,

Care not if tis repeated too.

At last, I mounted on my steed

And I rode all that morn, indeed,

Nor an end to it did I find

Until I came to where I dined.

Yet I could not wait for dinner

But first I must write a letter;

I took my pen, and writ this screed,

The which you may hear or read,

And there, within it, I enclosed

The virelay I had composed,

And, since I grieved at all delay,

Soon sent the letter on its way.

‘My dear sweetheart and my most sweet love, I am writing to learn your state of health, the which may Our Lord keep as sound ever as I would wish it to be, with all my heart, and as you yourself would like. And, by my soul, I could not delay writing to you. And as regards my own state, be pleased to know that I should be in a very fair state could I but see you every day, but since I am, and must remain, far from you, I must recall the most sweet sustenance and satisfying nourishment with which you have so sweetly fed and nourished me. And if little joy and happiness are, and must be mine, no one should wonder. All the same, I take comfort in this: that what has not yet come to pass may yet do so, please God. And, my own sweetheart, I proved foolish and unpolished in taking leave of you so; please forgive me for not knowing how to thank you, for I was so struck to the soul and amazed by the great miracle the goddess performed in our presence that I knew not what had happened to me, and whenever I think of it I am utterly confounded, and by your great humility also. For if I were the most beautiful, wisest, and most perfect person in all the world, it would be because you and God had favoured me; nor am I worthy of meriting the least of the good things you have done for me. And I pray God that He grant me, till I die, the favour of doing or saying naught, all the days of my life, that might displease you. And I beg you, my sweetheart, for God’s sake, remember me, for by my soul I would not, nor could not, forget you, and if I did wish such a thing, Desire would not permit me, for, by God, never did I desire to see you, a hundredth as much, as I do now, and must do, and for good reason. And that will come to pass when it pleases God, and I can do so, and not when I might wish, God knows. Adieu, my own sweetheart, and may He grant you joy and honour and health. Your most faithful lover.’

Lines 4286-4291: She sends her ninth letter and a rondel

NOW she was not too idle

To reply, nor cared too ill,

But sent me by the messenger

What I copy here, her letter,

With the rondel she had made

About the miracle displayed.

‘My most dear sweetheart, and my true friend, I have received your letter, as well as the verse you sent me, and for these I thank you with all my heart, and as best I may, especially for the true affection you show me, by telling me how you are, since that was my greatest desire next to wishing to see you again, namely to know that all goes well with you. And the day and hour I received your letter I felt more joy and benefit than I have felt since your leaving. And for the one wish I had to gaze upon you ere I saw you, I have now a hundred thousand, and that is surely right, for before then I had too little acquaintance with the goodness, honour, and sweetness I have found in you. And so, I swear by my soul, there is never an hour, no matter what state I am in, that I fail to imagine my seeing you standing there before me, or forget your manner, and all you said and did, and especially the day of the Benediction of Lendit, and that hour when you left, and I gave you my little golden key. So please guard it well, for it is my greatest treasure. And never did I spend two days so good and pleasant. And so, I think naught could ever happen that would make me forget you, for nothing dwells in my memory as much, except my prayers to God. Someone told me that, as you departed, he saw you leaving, and you sent me word that you had seen none but himself, and you said that this was because you had seen me not. And I understood at once what that meant, for I well knew that exactly in the state you left me, taking naught with me, I had gone after you and watched you until you were outside. And in truth, it was not yet day, and tis at that very hour especially, that I remember you. I am sending you a rondel that was composed the very day and hour that the virelay was composed that you sent me, and at the hour when the miracle occurred. Adieu, my sweetheart, and may God grant me such joy of you as my heart desires, and you the same of me also. Your faithful friend.’

Lines 4292-4299: Her fourteenth rondel ‘Merveilles fu quant mon cuer ne parti’

‘A wonder it was my heart failed to break,

As I watched him depart, my sweet lover.

For never did I feel such deep heartache;

A wonder it was my heart failed to break.

My sight, while it might, ne’er did him forsake,

Yet soon I could gaze at him no longer;

A wonder it was my heart failed to break,

As I watched him depart, my sweet lover.’

Lines 4300-4393: The lover meets with Hope and her entourage

NOW, once I had read her reply,

If Pygmalion’s statue nearby,

Polixena, the noble Trojan,

Deiamira, and lovely Helen,

And that pretty queen of Ireland

Had begged me, all that fair band,

To love them right amorously,

I’d have refused them utterly,

For I was in a joyful state,

Fair expectation now my fate.

I rode along most happily,

Passing the watch, quietly,

Of the Archpriest and the Bretons,

Cared not a sou for such persons,

Till at last I entered the plain,

That good things did maintain,

Midst sweet air, and met a lady

Prettier, nobler, than were any

From Tournus to Courtrai, ah no,

Rather Paris to Tarento,

And travelling with her I did see

A fine and beauteous company,

And then that fair one closer came,

And she called out to me by name,

Took my bridle, as she rode near,

And filled my poor heart with fear,

Saying: ‘You are taken, tis plain,

I’ll lead you now to my domain.’

The rest approaching on that field,

Naught could I do but say: ‘I yield,

Who are you who’ve captured me?’

‘Come, she said, ride on with me,

For all of this you will be taught,

But at present you’ll learn naught.’

And, as she spoke, she led me on,

And I said, as we went along,

Before all that noble audience,

‘Sans warning, I am taken hence’

And she: ‘Who does a wrongful deed,

He has warning enough, indeed,

And you have wronged me grievously,

So, you shall be corrected by me.’

And after that she spoke angrily,

Yet addressing me familiarly,

‘Have I not seen to your comfort,

And from afar joy I have brought,

Granted you pleasure and delight,

Turned joy to sadness overnight,

And ever proved your champion

In your every tribulation?

And when Shame came to assail you,

With your heart about to fail you,

Did I not, for you, offer my gage,

Nor was there any other hostage

Except myself to wage the fight,

With my good sword, as your knight.

And I did so press her, on that field,

That Shame herself was forced to yield,

And every time Desire attacks you

I wage war, in the front rank, too,

Nor am I the last, but rather,

Everywhere, I bear the banner.

Desire’s power doth not suffice

To trouble you, at any price.

You find me ready, in time of need,

Without your asking help, indeed;

I say, tis double the worth to you,

Though you value me not a sou;

You’ve said naught special of me

In this whole work of poetry,

Neither thanks nor praise, say I,

Have you rendered, now, do I lie?’

I said to her: ‘By Saint Isabel,

Perchance it is the truth you tell

And you speak plainly, my lady,

Yet I would learn, if such may be,

Your name, for I’d apologise

To you if I might be so wise.’

‘My name is Hope, and here advance

Moderation and Temperance,

Good Advice and Friendly Comfort,

Who with me I have ever brought.

Fair service, not out of duty,

But out of generosity,

Have they done.’ Then, reverence

I did pay her, in their presence.

Accusing myself most humbly,

Nor offering excuse, for, truly,

Hope was right and I was wrong,

In every way, my shame waxed strong.

And then I thanked her, profusely,

For her grace (by comforting me

She had nourished and remade me)

And for all she had done for me.

Lines 4394-4427: The lover must make amends to Hope by composing a lay

THEN Good Advice spoke out clearly,

She who talks both well and wisely,

Temperately, in measured manner:

‘Lady, if he’s wronged you ever,

Then to you he shall make amends,

For, in the wrong, a good man bends

The knee; receive him so, I counsel,

It seems to me that all’s then well.’

And so said each and every one,

And Hope’s good favour I had won,

For she said: ‘This I shall grant you.

Come forward now, the three of you,

To Advice’s side, she’ll tell us,

What amends he now shall make us.’

Friendly Comfort said, but gently:

‘My most true advice is, lady,

That you should fine him for his wrong,

He should pay for it with a song,

Rondel, ballad, or virelay.’

And she said: ‘Let it be a lay,

The Lay of Hope he shall it call,

And then he shall be quit of all,

And then away he may be sent,

Scot free of all impediment.’

Then I said: ‘Lady, I agree

To such a treaty, willingly,

As you have here proposed, although

I lack the skill to write, I know,

As well as you’d have me devise,

And yet you are both good and wise,

Such that if it lacks anything

You will amend it, on the wing.’

For sufficient time I asked her,

And then departed shortly after.

Lines 4428-4461: He returns home, and there composes the lay requested

I was upon my guard however,

And said to my valet: ‘Keep ever

A good watch, look all about you,

For with travel many risks ensue

As you can see in all this region,

Let us hasten now, come, ride on,

Spur your horse forward, briskly,

So we can journey more quickly,

And that will be all to the better,

In this land there’s many a robber.

They capture folk and detain them,

Spring from nowhere, rob and kill them,

For in the shadows where they lurk

All harbour ill, tis their sole work.

Did I say all? Doubtless, there’s one,

For each rule has its exception,

Who does not, yet many do gather,

And undertake such things together.’

Yet gainst any seven I had four,

Until I arrived at my own door.

Thus, I hastened along the road

And when into my room I strode,

Which was clean, fair, elegant,

Little danger did they present,

Nor feared I then their villainy;

God curse such thieves, eternally!

For there I was safe and secure,

Afraid of all their schemes no more.

I thought to quit my debt that day,

Beginning to work on my lay,

And, as I’d promised, sent it on

To Hope herself when it was done,

In true accord with all I’d said,

That it might then be sung or read.

Lines 4462-4717: The Lay of Hope ‘Longuement me sui tenus’ (Lay XVIII, with music)

‘FOR a long while, I’d refrain

From making lays,

Void of love, I do maintain,

And yet these days

I write songs and virelays,

Am in that strain;

I yield now to love again,

And will always.

If I have seemed somewhat mute,

I shall no more,

Being taken in hot pursuit,

Heart stricken sore,

By twin darts, and to the core,

Eyes, bright, astute,

Grey, sweet, charming and acute,

Laughter their law.

For my lady, God save her,

Of her sweet smiling manner,

Made an arrow, then another,

Of Hope, then Desire;

He would slay me with his fire,

Sans warning, should I aspire,

Had not Hope, I value higher,

Assistance offered.

For when I first felt the glow

Of the glance that burns me so,

No third or fourth part did go

Of my calm and sense,

But all composure, and strength,

Until Hope made me, at length,

Take my pains on sufferance;

Her true art did show.

But I am filled with dismay,

Do not know

If this lover’s wound, today,

Heart feels so,

Comes of Love or true heart; oh,

Any heart sweet glances slay

If she’s another also.

Tis mortal woe

If so, yet I’ll love alway,

If she’s no foe.

I’d ne’er have the will or art

To retreat,

For that woeful piercing dart,

I’d compete,

True service would I complete,

For my lady, ne’er depart,

And when with sad death I meet

At her feet

I would lay my wounded heart,

Its last beat.

Who could know

Seized, by her,

Life, death, so,

She’d offer,

To hear no

Fair laughter,

Full of woe


Nor sought I


Naught else I

Then did prize,

Felt thereby

Naught, likewise,

While her eye

Did surprise,

She whose love burns in this guise.


I did find

Her sweetness

Calmed my mind;

Prayed, no less,

There, resigned,

She would bless

Me, prove kind;

Ne’er would I

E’er arise

Did she deny

My fond sighs,

By and by,

She needs prize

An ally,


She must be my friend likewise.

Sleep I or wake, when I see

Her smiling glance alight,

Her body, formed peerlessly,

And all her welcome bright?

There I view her lovely face,

Honest, sweet, full of grace,

Her complexion, red and white,

A flower in woodland light,

Counselling me to love apace,

Who many an ill must embrace.

Her golden hair shines like the sun,

A gleam rests on her brow,

Counsel of no other one

Seek I, or wish for, now,

But rather I make ready

To obey her every

Wish, for service is my vow,

Such goodness hers, I’ll allow,

I cross myself, all amazed,

All vice from me here erased.

Is it not good so to love her,

Desiring her,

Admiring her,

Finding in her,

Naught that’s bitter,

Only pure sweetness to savour?

A noble destiny

Has he who can thus obtain her

Grace forever,

Peerless ever,

None above her;

And none better

Yet, nor nobler,

Could any lover see.

So, must I protect her honour,

Ceasing never,

To deliver

Loyal ever,

And naught other,

Devote all my powers to her,

With no evil thought.

For to cross the seas were better,

Return never,

Than neglect her

Sweet manner;

Harbour, ever,

Some ill thought that might harm her

True renown, in aught.

Pleasure doth my heart transport,

When my eyes her form have sought,

And, free of villainous report,

I hear that all men make effort

To prize her, at every thought,

Above every creature.

Then no ill thought doth feature,

No pain, no woe in Nature,

Nor aught that hurts me ever,

Instead, my mind feels pleasure,

Far sweeter yet and purer,

That, thanks to her, is brought.

Joy I find in viewing her,

Comfort so in serving her,

Solace find in loving her,

And in Hope, aiding ever

Against Desire the slayer,

Scorning his bite, you see;

If the lady’s harsh to me,

Or treats me but carelessly,

No matter, I take, sweetly,

Nourishment from her, truly,

Nor fear aught can trouble me,

Love’s pains nor ills, ever.

And since I may live thus alway,

Happily, free of care each day,

Twere great folly

For me to seek her mercy,

Or love, ever,

Unworthy still, forever,

In every way.

She’d soon tell me…depart, from here!

Alas, were I such words to hear

From one so sweet,

With tears in my heart I’d meet,

Deep down within,

For I would ache both out and in,

And so, remain

Her subject, in endless pain,

Reduced to fear.

All my joy in her doth lie;

There shall rest,

I now attest,

My faith gladly.

There I’d live most lovingly,

There would I die,

There I’d sigh,

There I’d lie,

There’s my employ,

There, all my heart doth enjoy,

The whole entirely,

Most sweetly,

And most humbly,

And there serve I.

I can’t refrain from loving,

When I see

The sweet beauty

Of her fair form,

So noble; to her I’ve sworn

Faith undying,

And no parting

Or repenting;

As I ought,

For the thousand pleasures bought

In torments’ guise,


Tis no surprise,

None suffering.

No life is

Sweet as this,

To desire one you would kiss,

Hope, each hour,

To amend

And defend

Gainst Desire downed in the end,

Sans power.

He destroys

All life’s joys,

If Hope ne’er her power employs;

Thus, I’m sworn

Where’er I be,


To Hope’s pleasant company,

Night and morn.

I’d have died long while ago

Had sweet Hope not been there,

When Desire’s sharpened arrow

My vision did impair,

Which can be drawn forth never

Unless my love doth so,

Or fair Hope who did ever

As my physician show,

Comforting me, tenderly;

May God view her sweetly!

She’s my keep, my strong fortress,

She doth calm my anger,

She’s the treasure I possess,

Beyond reproach, ever.

She’s my life’s fairest haven,

She’s my joy; truth to tell,

All the silver, gold even,

Of France, and Rome as well,

Is not worth her least favour

When Despair doth hover.

And when to the point I came,

Of loving, and was true,

Well furnished by Hope, that same,

Then happiness, anew,

Gracious and peaceful ever,

Did thus to me accrue,

To be far from me never

Whatever I may do.

For had I even more to bear

Than I do suffer now,

If I had more than my share

Of suffering, I vow,

Still I’d be sustained and healed,

Hope would myself endow

With gifts, her kindness revealed,

And so, to her I bow.’

The End of Part II of ‘Le Livre dou Voir Dit’