75. Le Lay de desir en complainte


ABBREVIATIONS: A: Lausanne, Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire, MS 350; B: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 1727; C: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 1131; D: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 24440; E: Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, MS 8, Catalan, 1420–30; F: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, f. fr. 2201; K: Lausanne, Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire, IS 4254; N: Brussels, Bibliothèque royale Albert 1er, MS 10961–10970, c. 1465; P: Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Van Pelt Library, MS Codex 902 (formerly Fr. MS 15), 1395–1400; 100B: Les Cent Ballades; Basso: “L’envol et l’ancrage”; BD: Chaucer, The Book of the Duchess; Berguerand: Berguerand, Duel; Boulton: Song; Braddy: Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson; Carden: “Le Livre Messire Ode d’Oton de Grandson; CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; DL: Guillaume de Machaut, Dit dou lyon; DLA: Guillaume de Machaut, Dit de l’alerion; FA: La fonteinne amoureuse; FC: Wimsatt, French Contemporaries; GW: Granson, Poésies, ed. Grenier-Winther; LGW: Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women; PA: Froissart, Paradis d’Amour; PF: Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowls; Piaget: Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget; PL: Guillume de Machaut, Poésies Lyriques; Poirion: Poirion, Poète et prince; TC: Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde; RR: Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la rose; VD: Guillaume de Machaut, Le livre dou voir dit.

On the form of the lai see the Introduction, p. 25–26. In the number of stanzas (12), the variety of stanza forms, the symmetry of each, and the repetition of the form of the first stanza in the last, models can be found in Machaut, Deschamps, and Froissart (see Poirion, p. 190). In content, a close model for the implied narrative situation can be found in the lai that provides the spring to the plot in Machaut’s Remède de Fortune, in which the narrator, also afflicted by désir (lines 515, 519, 639), is torn between his fear of the lady’s refusal if he should make his love known (lines 545–58) and his wish to reveal it to her (lines 530–36). (Here Wimsatt and Kibler offer a misleading translation; because of the subjunctive in line 535, it ought to be “[That is] all I want, except that in some manner, my dear lady . . . know that she is my first love and my last.”) In Machaut’s dit, the lai itself serves as the means by which the lady learns of the narrator’s love. In Granson’s lai, the speaker makes his silent plea that his lady do the same.

1 Belle, tournez vers moy vos yeulx. Compare 4.9 and the note to 75.200–16 below.

62 lais. Lais could be “lais,” the type of poem, as in line 59 (Modern French lai); “lay,” that is, “secular” (also lai in Modern French); or as we have translated it, “rough” (Modern French laid). Similarly in line 63, homs lais could be either “layman” or “an ugly man.” No doubt all of these are meant to be suggested.

153 GW suggests that there is a line missing here in all four copies that contain this passage, providing the fifth rhyme in –ent. With line 155 we resume the numbering as in her edition.

161–64 Maistre Guillaume de Machaut . . . de rigour. Piaget (p. 166) suggests that Granson may be alluding here to Machaut’s Dit dou vergier, in which one does indeed find a description of the effects of Desire (lines 549–70), but in view of his casual use of citations (see the next two notes), it’s possible that the reference is less precise. Desire is one of the recurring motifs of Machaut’s dits; see the note to 12.12–13 above.

165–71 Et Guillaume de Saint Amour . . . nul sejour. Guillaume de Saint-Amour was a thirteenth-century scholastic whose only known work, in Latin, is a polemic against the mendicant orders. Only his picturesque name (from the town in which he was born) explains why he might be cited as an expert on desire or why, before Granson’s time, he replaces Guillaume de Lorris in the passage naming the author in some manuscripts of RR. See Langlois (Manuscrits, pp. 11, 25, and 83).

183 li bons maistres. The “good master” would be Jean de Meun, who wrote the long continuation to RR during the last third of the thirteenth century. Nowhere in his more than seventeen thousand lines, however, does he make any comment on the burning of desire. Compare Piaget, pp. 165–66.

200–16 Ne doy je bien estre joyeux . . . vos yeulx. The final stanza repeats both the form and the rhymes of the first sixteen lines of the poem. Line 216, moreover, is identical to line 1, bringing the poem to a close where it began. This line is the seventeenth in what should be a sixteen-line stanza, and it appears only in manuscript A, one of the four manuscripts that contain this poem, but it is required to complete the clause that seems to begin in line 214. In the same manuscript, this poem is immediately followed by 4, a rondeau in which the same line occurs at the beginning of the third stanza (see 4.9). Jung (“Répertoire,” p. 95) suggests that the rondeau is actually the conclusion to this lai.


Abbreviations: A: Lausanne, Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire, MS 350; B: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 1727; C: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 1131; D: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 24440; E: Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, MS 8, Catalan, 1420–30; F: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fr. 2201; G: London, Westminster Abbey Library, MS 21; H: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 833, c. 1500; J: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 1952; K: Lausanne, Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire, IS 4254; L: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Rothschild MS I.I.9; M: Carpentras, Bibliothèque Inguimbertine, MS fr. 390; N: Brussels, Bibliothèque royale Albert 1er, MS 10961–10970, c. 1465; O: Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, MS 410, c. 1430; P: Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Van Pelt Library, MS Codex 902 (formerly Fr. MS 15), 1395–1400; Q: Berne, Burgerbibliothek da la Bourgeoisie, MS 473, 1400–40; R: Turin, Archivio di Stato, MS J. b. IX. 10; S: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 24404; T: Besançon, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 556, 1826; V: Carpentras, Bibliothèque Inguimbertine, MS 411; W: Brussels, Bibliothèque royale Albert 1er, MS IV 541, 1564–81; Y: Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale e Universitaria, MS L.II.12.

For each poem, we provide the following:

Other editions: The location of the poem in the editions of Grenier-Winther (GW) and Piaget.

Base MS: The manuscript from which our text is taken, using the sigla listed on this page.

Other copies: The other manuscripts in which the poem appears, with the line numbers for excerpts.

Selected variants: Most of the notes record the editors’ emendations. A small number (for instance, regarding the titles) record alternative readings when we did not emend the base text. We do not, however, provide a complete list of variants, for which one may consult Grenier-Winther’s edition. Each note consists of a line number, a lemma (the reading from our text), the manuscript source for the reading that we have chosen, selected readings from other manuscripts; and the reading from the base manuscript when it was rejected. If no manuscript source is listed following the lemma, the adopted reading is the editors’ conjecture.

Other comments on the text, as required.

GW39, Piaget p. 229.
Base MS P. Other copies: A, F, K, R (lines 95–125), S (lines 1–131).

6 qui. So C, F, K, S. A, P: quil.

107 aterminer. So A, F, K, R. P, S: aterminer et finer.

129–32 Dont je seray . . . faite. So A. P: lacks.

173 trovez . . . en. So A. F, K, P: tournez . . . a.

186 texte. So A, F, K. P: teuxte.

210 me. So A. P, F, K: tel.

213 defrire. So F, K. P: deffraire.

216 Belle, tournez vers moy vos yeulx. So A. P F K: lacks.

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75. Le Lay de desir en complainte











































75. Le Lay de desir en complainte

Belle, tournez vers moy vos yeulx
Et congnoissiez mon grief martire,
Car pour riens ne vous ose dire
Le mien desir; ainçois veil mieux
En vous servant devenir vieux.
Ce qui vous plaist me doit souffire,
Et me souffist, sans contredire,
Combien que mon cuer soit tieux
Que pluseurs fois et en mains lieux
De la bouche me convient rire
Quant le cuer ou corps me souspire.
Mais pas ne veult d’Amours li Dieux
Que trop vous face l’ennuieux
Pour vous monstrer a quoy je tire.
Ains me fait doubter l’escondire
De vostre gent corps gracieux.

Si vous suppli que le regart
De vos beaux doulz yeulx, que Dieu gart,
Veilliez adrecier ceste part,
Tant que bien clerement voiez
Comment le mien cuer, main et tart,
De vous amer esprent et art,
Sans engin et sans mauvais art,
Ja soit ce que moult est bleciez
Et ferus d’un amoureux dart
Qui tout parmi le fent et part.
Mais penser ne peut autrepart.
Tant est de loyaulté loyez
Que de mourir suis en regart.
Vie n’ay pas, au tiers n’a quart,
Se de vos plaisans yeulx l’espart
Doulcement vers moy n’envoyez

Pour congnoistre le dezir,
            Et plaisir
            Qui gesir
            Sans joir
Me fait tousdiz, et bruir
Dedens l’amoureuse flame
Ou je ne fais que languir
            Et gemir.
            Mais couvrir
            Sans gehir
Me convient sans descouvrir
Le mal qui mon cuer entame.
Et vous ne voulez oir
            Ne veir,
            Ne assentir
Entendre ne retenir
Mon dezir, tresdoulce dame.
Se ainsi me fault mourir
            Et fenir
            Pour servir
            Sans merir,
Je seray d’amours martir,
Et Dieux ait mercy de l’ame.

            Helas, je fais
            En tous mes fais
            Chançons et lays
            Et virelais
Seulement pour vous adviser.
            Mes diz sont lais
            Car homs suis lais,
            Mais je les trais
            Et les attrais
Du plus parfont de mon penser
            Pour vous monstrer,
            Soit par chanter
            Ou par rimer,
            Que sans fausser,
De vous sui fins amoureux vrais,
            Et vueil amer
            Et bien celer
            Sans plus rouver
            Ne demander
Fors que mon cuer soit mis en paix.

Certes, mon desir ne me laisse
Avoir paix, santé, ne repos.
S’il ne fust, je fusse bien aise,
Mais il me deront tous de cops.
Il se muce dedens mes os,
Plus embrasé q’une fournaise.
Toudiz le treuve sur mon dos,
Et me soit bel ou me desplaise.
Et quant dezir est grant et gros,
Et il convient que je m’en taise,
De tant ay je plus de mesaise
Et de tourment, bien dire l’os,
Qu’a paine dure les galos
Un fort cheval qui trop le faise,
Et le mien cuer pas ne delaise
Pour trop endurer son propos.

Et pour ce, ma souveraine,
Vous devez bien en ma paine
Piteusement regarder,
            Et penser,
Que quant je n’ose parler
Du mal qui a mort me maine,
Du cuer me tramble la vaine,
Et se je dois reschafer
            Mon trambler,
Couvrir me faut pour suer
D’autre chouse que de laine.
Car dezir ad ce me maine,
Qui de chault me fait bruler
            Et grailer
Quant je dois aterminer.
Mon mal vault pis que tiersaine,
A tout bien considerer

Le fort dezir que j’endure
Dont l’ardure est si dure,
Nuit et jour, tousdiz me dure,
Sans aucun delay avoir,
Ne rien ne m’y puet valoir
Si non Amour et Nature
Et vous, doulce creature,
Qui le pouoir et savoir
Avez bien, d’apercevoir
En quel lieu j’ay l’enclaure
Dont je me dueil main et soir.
Car certes, a dire voir,
Vo beauté fist la pointure
Qui si fort me fait douloir.

Pas ne m’avez point de retraite,
Car cilz poins n’yert jamais retrais.
Desir me point, qui tousdiz traite
Que plus parfont soit mon cuer trais
De vous amer d’amour parfaite,
Dont je seray martir parfais,
Se Pitié, qui telz poins afaite,
Ne se met sur moy tout a fais.
Pour ce je tiens ma fin pour faite;
En vous dezirant la parfais
Sans contenance contrefaite,
Ne l’amant pas ne contrefais.
Car du desir qui me deshaite
N’ay plus de bien que beaux souhais,
Et non pour quant, tousdiz agaite
Que mon maintien soit liez et gais.

Est ce donc esbatement
D’amer telement
Et si ardanment
Qu’amer est tourment
Sans alegement?
Le tenez vous a solas,
Par Saint Nicolas,
Hors mis tous debas?
Je ne li tien pas.
Le beuf, pas a pas,
Ce dit l’en, le lievre prent.
Ainsi faitement,
Se Dezir en prent
Mon destrivement,
Tousdiz entre jeux et gas
Seront my esbas
Du tout mis au bas.
Lors diray «Elas,
Amours, trahy m’as.»
Veez la bel revengement.

Maistre Guillaume de Machaut
Dit bien que revengier n’y vault.
Envers Dezir rendre se faut.
Mort est qui oeuvre de rigour.
Et Guillaume de Saint Amour
Montre comment le Dieu d’Amour
Le cuer des amoureux assault
Par un dezir cuisant et chault,
Si chault que de riens ne leur chault
Fors que de bien amer toujour.
Cuer desireux n’a nul sejour.
Pour ce, ma dame de valour,
Ne me trovez pas en deffaut
Se maniere souvent me fault.
Car le mien dezir est mout hault,
Et a besoing de grant doulçour,
Sans vouloir mal ne deshonnour.
Mais le reffus me fait paour
Tant que tout le cuer me tressault
Et li corps de parler m’est chault.
Et quant le hardement y fault,
Adont est double ma doulour.

Et li bons maistres qui parfist
La fin du Romant de la Rose
Il m’est advis qu’il ait escript,
Je ne sçay en texte ou en glose,
Que dezir est moult ardant chose,
Et a paine se refroidit.
Et je voy bien qu’il a voir dit
Par le mien, qui pas ne repose,
Ne d’ardoir ne prent nul respit.
C’est un amoureux esperit
Qui en mon cuer a fait sa fosse,
Et paour m’a la bouche close
Pour ce que nul mot n’en yssit.
Ainsy dezir mon cuer noircit,
Qui mon destruisement propose.
Ne descouvrir pas ne vous ose,
Dame, pour quoy mon cuer languist.

Ne doy je bien estre joyeux
Quant chascun jour mon mal empire?
Il n’a usurier en l’empire
Qui soit d’avoir si convoiteux
Comme je sui tresangoisseux
De vous ma pensee descripre.
Mais a tel mal ne me vault mire,
Tant par soit sage ne soucieux,
Se vo cuer n’est du mien piteux.
Autre confort n’y sçay eslire.
Ce fait dezir, qui me martire.
Belle dont je sui envieux,
Entendez mon lay desireux,
Et voyez qu’il me fait deffrire,
Et pour mieulx appercevoir l’ire
Dont je sui merancolieux,
Belle, tournez vers moy vos yeulx.
75. The Lai of desire in complaint

Fair lady, turn your eyes towards me
And recognize my grievous suffering,
For I do not dare at all to tell you
Of my desire; instead I prefer
To grow old in serving you.
What pleases you should suffice for me,
And it does suffice, without denial,
However much my heart is such
That oftentimes and in many places
I am compelled to laugh with my mouth
When the heart in my body sighs.
But the God of Love does not wish
That I be too annoying to you
In order to show you what I’m aiming at.
Instead he makes me fear refusal
From your noble gracious self.

Thus I beseech you that you please
Turn the gaze of your fair sweet eyes,
Which God preserve, in this direction,
In such a way that you clearly see
How my heart, both early and late,
Takes fire and burns from loving you,
Without trickery or evil design,
Even though it is greatly hurt
And struck with a dart of love
That splits and divides it down the middle.
But it cannot think otherwise.
To loyalty it is so tightly bound
That I am in fear of dying.
I have no life, not even a fraction,
If the brilliance of your charming eyes
You do not gently send my way

In order to know the desire,
            And the pleasure
            Which makes me lie down
            Without joy
Constantly, and makes me burn
Within the flame of love
Where I can only languish
            And moan.
            But I must hide
            Without declaring
And without revealing
The pain that consumes my heart.
And you don’t want to hear
            Or see,
            To consent
            Or agree
To listen to or to remember
My desire, most gentle lady.
If thus I must die
            And end
            For serving
            Without deserving it,
I will be a martyr of love,
And may God have mercy on my soul.

            Alas, I make
            In all my works
            Songs and lais
            And virelais
Solely in order to address you.
            My poems are rough
            For I am a layman,
            But I draw them forth
            And I recite them
From the deepest part of my thought
            In order to show you,
            Either by singing
            Or by rhyming,
            That without lying,
I am your true and noble lover,
            And I wish to love
            And keep it secret
            Without asking more
            Or requesting
Except that my heart be set at peace.

Truly, my desire does not let me
Have peace, health, or repose.
If it didn’t exist, I would be at ease,
But it consumes me constantly.
It hides itself within my bones,
Blazing hotter than any flame.
I constantly find it upon my back,
And whether I like it or not.
And when desire is great and huge,
And I am forced to remain silent,
Then I have so much more distress
And torment, I dare well say,
Than he who whips too much
Endures the gallops of a horse,
And my heart does not desist
In order to better endure its condition.

And for this reason, my sovereign lady,
You ought well upon my pain
To look with pity,
            And to think,
That when I do not dare to speak
Of the pain that leads me to my death,
The vein of my heart is trembling,
And if I am to warm up
            My shivering,
I must cover myself in order to sweat
With something other than wool.
For desire leads me to this,
That makes me burn with heat
            And fry
When I ought to cease.
My pain is worse than a fever,
When all is taken into account.

The strong desire that I endure
Of which the burning is so strong
Continues constantly, night and day,
Without having any respite,
Nor can anything avail me
If not Love and Nature
And you, gentle creature,
Who the power and knowledge
Certainly have, to recognize
In what place I have the hardship
Of which I grieve morning and evening.
For certainly, to tell the truth,
Your beauty made the wound
Which makes me sorrow so greatly.

You have left me absolutely no retreat,
For this point will never be withdrawn.
Desire pricks me, which constantly incites
My heart to be drawn to love you
More deeply, with a perfect love,
Of which I will end up a martyr,
If Pity, which treats such wounds,
Doesn’t turn my way immediately.
Thus I consider my end to be decided;
I bring it about in desiring you
Without counterfeit appearance,
Nor do I pretend to be a lover.
For of the desire that afflicts me
My only reward is pretty wishes,
And nonetheless, I am always on guard
That my behavior be happy and gay.

Is this then enjoyable
To love this way
And so ardently
That love is a torment
Without relief?
Do you think it a pleasure,
By Saint Nicholas,
Beyond all debate?
I don’t think it so.
The cow, step by step,
They say, overtakes the hare.
In that same way,
If Desire undertakes
A struggle with me,
Always between games and jests
Will my pleasures
Be completely brought low.
Then will I say, “Alas,
Love, you have betrayed me.”
See its sweet revenge.

Master Guillaume de Machaut
Says well that vengeance isn’t worth it.
One must surrender to Desire.
He is dead who struggles without bending.
And Guillaume de Saint Amour
Shows how the God of Love
Assails the hearts of lovers
With a hot and burning desire,
So hot that nothing matters to them
Except to love well forever.
A desirous heart has no relief.
For that reason, my worthy lady,
Do not find me at fault
If my manners are often lacking.
For my desire is very great,
And it needs great gentleness,
Without wishing pain or dishonor.
But refusal makes me afraid
So greatly that my whole heart trembles
And my body is eager to speak.
And when courage is lacking,
Then my sorrow is doubled.

And the good master who brought to an end
The Romance of the Rose,
It seems to me that he wrote,
I don’t know whether in text or gloss,
That desire is a very burning thing,
And that it hardly ever cools down.
And I see well that he told the truth
From my own, which does not rest,
Nor does it take any respite from burning.
It is a loving spirit
That has buried itself within my heart,
And fear has closed my mouth
So that no word escapes.
Thus does desire blacken my heart,
Which is planning my destruction.
And I do not dare to reveal to you,
Lady, why my heart languishes.

And should I really be joyous
When every day my pain grows worse?
There is no usurer in the empire
Who is as covetous to possess
As I am anxious to describe
To you my thought.
But for such a pain no doctor avails,
However wise or caring he is,
If your heart has no pity on mine.
I cannot choose any other comfort.
Desire does this, which makes me suffer.
Beautiful lady whom I desire,
Listen to my lai of desire,
And see that it makes me burn,
And to better perceive the sorrow
Of which I am melancholy,
Fair lady, turn your eyes towards me.

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