Poem 4, Chançon Royal [A Prayer for Lovers]


Abbreviations: A: Neuchâtel; B: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 3343; C: Barcelona text; CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; LGW: Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women; P: University of Pennsylvania MS French 15.

[Ch I; MS #235] Chançon Royal

12ff Many of the personifications that appear in the “Ch” poems, such as Franchise, Esperance, Dangier, and Doulz Regart here, are closely associated with the allegory of the Roman de la Rose, which Chaucer says he translated (LGW F.329).

Textual Notes

16 conforte. P: confort a.

42 entrer. P: en tron.

48 or 49 Line missing.

52 clamerai. P: clamera.

[Ch II; MS #237] Balade

10 The burning lover is a familiar figure. Thus Damian in Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale, at the sight of May, almost “swelte and swowned,” so is he burnt by Venus’ torch (CT IV[E]1776–77).

[Ch III; MS #239] Balade

There are no notes for this poem.

[Ch IV; MS #240] Chançon Royal

32 sejour. P: ce jour.

[Ch V; MS #241] Balade

1 The story of the false judge Apius is found in Livy’s History III; Roman de la Rose, lines 5559–5628; Gower’s Confessio Amantis 7.5131–5306; and Chaucer’s Physician’s Tale. Ovid tells the story of how the impious Lycaon prepares a meal of human flesh for Jupiter in Metamorphoses I.198–243.

3 Herod the Great is perhaps best remembered for the Massacre of the Innocents episode related in Matthew 2:16–18. His son, another Herod, reluctantly had John the Baptist beheaded to fulfill a promise made to his wife’s daughter, Salome (Matthew 14:1–11, Mark 6:17–28). The former reference makes more sense in this context, although remarks by the Pardoner (CT VI[C]488–90) and the Prioress (CT VII[B2]574–75) indicate Chaucer’s familiarity with both stories. Nero’s brutal acts were familiar to medieval wordsmiths and audiences alike. Chaucer’s Monk tells the story of Nero’s death in his tale (CT VII[B2]3369–73).

4–5 For Dido’s vain pleas to Aeneas compare Aeneid IV.305–92.

19 la fontaine Helie. For the mountain Helicon, where Pegasus’ hoof created the fountain of the Muses (the Hypocrene), see Ovid, Metamorphoses V.250–63.

25–28 Medea’s story is a favorite of medieval writers. Jason’s infidelity to her is the subject of many medieval retellings, including Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, where Medea’s revenge is omitted as in Ovid’s Heroides, to make her a martyr to love. Gower’s Confessio Amantis, the longest of the English retellings, presents her as a sympathetic victim of Jason’s perjury (5.3247–4222).

Textual Notes

3 d’Erode. P: de Rode.

18–19 Lines reversed in P.

31 ne fu. P: me fu.

33 fis. P: fus.

[Ch VI; MS #242] Balade

1–2 The daughters of Apollo and Clymene are the Heliades, sisters of Phaeton, but they are five in number. There may be a confusion here with the three Graces, who were the daughters of Jupiter and Eurynome; Eurynome’s daughter Leucothoë was also loved by Phoebus. The character of the Graces, attendants of Venus, might help the sense of the poem, but the uncertainty of the husband’s identity (line 8) leaves the final meaning a puzzle.

4 In Greek mythology Damia is equated with Demeter, the Roman Ceres, goddess of the fields.

11 Palinurus was the helmsman of one of Aeneas’ ships who is sacrificed to Neptune by Aeneas’ mother, Venus (Aeneid V.814–71). In the underworld, Palinurus tells Aeneas how he died (Aeneid VI.337–83). This final meeting is depicted in Chaucer’s House of Fame (line 443).

23 Eolus was the ruler of the winds who is frequently represented as blowing two horns. Compare Chaucer’s House of Fame, lines 1571–83.

Textual Notes

11 Palanurus. P: Palamirus.

13 creée. P: cree.

24 fondera. P: forgera.

28 qui. P: que.

[Ch VII; MS #244] Balade

2 King Acrisius of Argos locked his childless daughter, Danaë, in a bronze tower or cave after hearing he would be killed by her son. Zeus, however, comes to her variously as a sunbeam, rain, or a shower of gold and impregnates her with Perseus.

5–6 Argus. Juno appointed the hundred-eyed Argus to guard Io, Jupiter’s mistress whom he had turned into a cow to protect her from Juno’s anger. References to a guard with a hundred eyes were proverbial. Chaucer’s Wife of Bath prides herself on her ability to fool even the hundred-eyed Argus (CT III[D]358–61). See also Gower’s Confessio Amantis 4.3317–61; and Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale (CT I[A]1390), Merchant’s Tale (CT IV[E]2111), and Troilus and Crisyede 4.1459.

13 Tantalus offered the gods a stew made from the body of his son, Pelops, to test their divinity. His punishment involved standing in shallow water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for a piece of fruit, the branches withdrew and whenever he went to drink, the water receded. In Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, the Man in Black asserts that he has “more sorowe than Tantale” (line 709).

[Ch VIII; MS #245] Balade

1–14 Thisbe, Ariadne, Dido, and Phyllis are all subjects of individual tales in Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women. Many of the other women named here appear as references in other Chaucerian works.

Textual Notes

17 jours. P: tours.

24 Fisses. P: Eusses.

[Ch IX; MS #249] Chanson Royal

31 This line is a syllable short and does not make sense as it stands. The translation represents a guess as to the intended meaning.

Textual Notes

17 flenchist. P: flechist.

[Ch X; MS #260] Rondel

There are no notes for this poem.

[Ch XI; MS #263] Chançon Royal

1–9 This list of seven nonpareils includes two from the Old Testament (Esther and Judith) and five from Greek myth.

Textual Notes

40 Mon. P: A mon.

43 avient. P: venant.

59 que. P: qua.

[Ch XII; P #273] Balade

1 si. P: se.

12 Bel . . . bon. P: bonne.

13 que onques. P: conques.

[Ch XIII; P #274] Balade

16 fors que. P: forques.

[Ch XIV; MS #275] Balade

1–24 In each stanza the endings of the first six lines are echoed at the end of the following hemistich (confort/ressort). This is “rime batellée.”

Textual Notes

11 Mais. P: Et.
et fort. P: effort.

12 Et. P: De.

15 je. P: ou.

[Ch XV; P #276] Balade

19 qu’a souhait. P: quassouhait.
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Poem 4, Chançon Royal [A Prayer for Lovers]

[Ch IV; MS #240]












4. Chançon Royal

Aux dames joie, et aux amans plaisance,
Et a Amours reverence et honnour;
Aux envieux toute paine et grevance,
Et au surplus aux mesdisans langour
Tous temps aviengne; et secours de Doulçour     
Soit ottroiés de puissance amoureuse
Aux vrais servans sans chose dolereuse.
Pitié leur soit advocate aprestee
Et par servir Mercy guerredonnee.

Dangier n’y ait seignourie a oultrance,
Ne Escondit rigoreuse vigour;
Detry se parte au fait de Bienveillance,
Entendue de Bon Cuer la clamour.
Honte n’y soit message ne Dolour;
Reffus n’y puist oster Vie Joieuse;
Paour seüre ait cause gracieuse
De congnoistre Loiauté esprouvee
Ou temps qu’estre doit grace recouvree.

A plaisant corps, a gaie contenance,
A vis paré d’une fresche coulour,
A biau maintien, a joieuse samblance,
A cuer loial, a port de gent atour,
A simplesce d’excellente valour,
A maniere de meffait paoureuse,
Et a dame digne d’estre eüreuse
Par bien faire, par bien estre aournee,
Croisse valour de vertu redoublee.

Sugetté soit naturelle ordonnance
Aux parties ensivans Bonne Amour:
Fueille, flour, fruit de leesce, habondance,
Et quanqu’il est de tout bon a ce jour;
Les elemens n’y soient a sejour
Pour eulx servir, et n’y soit dangereuse
Planete, en rier, dure, ne despiteuse,
Pour vouloir ce qu’il leur plaist et agree
En fait, en dit, en cuer, et en pensee.

Et a vous, dame, ou toute m’esperance
Maint, et qu’en bien je cheris et honnour,
Soit encliné Bonne Perseverance,
Grace, Santé; et si face retour
Loial Voloir pour manoir en millour
Estat de joie. Et vers moy si piteuse
Soies que loins soit de dolours crueuse
Le cuer de moy, belle tresdesiree,
Que j’ameray tant que j’aray duree.

Mon bien de vous vient, gracieuse nee.

4. [A Prayer for Lovers]

Joy to ladies, and pleasure to lovers,
And reverence and honor to Love;
All pain and torment to the envious,
And what is more may feebleness
Ever afflict slanderers; and may the aid of Sweetness
Be granted by Love’s power
To true servants, with nothing sad.
May Pity be their prompt advocate
And Mercy their reward for service.

May Danger not have absolute lordship
Nor Denial harsh strength;
May Delay depart at the instance of Good Will,
The plaint of the Good Heart having been heard.
May neither Shame nor Sorrow be messenger;
May Refusal not dislodge the Joyful Life;
May Fear reassured have a pleasing reason
To recognize proven Loyalty
At the time when grace should be obtained.

To the pleasant body, to the gay countenance,
To the face adorned with fresh complexion,
To fine conduct, to joyous appearance,
To the loyal heart, to noble manner,
To modesty of excellent worth,
To conduct fearful of misdeed,
And to the lady worthy of happiness
For doing well, for fine adornment,
May merit increase redoubled by virtue.

May the natural order be subject
To those who follow Good Love:
Leaf, flower, fruit of joy, abundance,
And whatever there is of every good this day;
May the elements not hold back
From serving them, and the planet not be reluctant,
Retrograde, cruel, nor dispiteous
In desiring what will please and suit them
In deed, in word, in heart, and in thought.

And to you, lady, in whom all my hope
Remains, and whom I cherish and honor dearly,
May Good Perseverance be propitious,
And Grace, and Health; and also may Loyal Desire
Return so you may live in the highest state of joy.
And may you be so piteous toward me
That my heart will be far from cruel sorrows,
Beautiful, most desirable one,
Whom I will love so long as I live.

                                        The Envoy
My good comes from you, born gracious.


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