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Art. 76, Le dit des femmes


Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

11 femme. The idea seems to be that God named women femme because the word also means “fame, renown, good repute” (a pun on AN fame).

26 N’est vaillaunt a femme un pygas. “Not worth a thing compared to a woman.” The word pigace appears idiomatically in expressions of comparison, defined as “slipper” in the AND, and as “horse’s foot” in the MED.

94–96 These lines echo Urbain the Courteous (art. 79), lines 74–76.


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; : Böddeker; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1937; Dea: J. M. Dean; Do: Dove 1969; Fl: Flood; : Förster; Fu: Furnivall; HB: Hunt and Bliss; Kem: Kemble; Ken: Kennedy; Mi: Millett; Mo: Morris and Skeat; MS: MS Harley 2253; Mu1: H. J. R. Murray; Mu2: J. A. H. Murray; NB: Noomen and van den Boogard; Pa: Patterson; Rev: Revard 2005a; Ri: Ritson 1877; Ro: Robbins 1959; SP: Short and Pearcy; Si: Silverstein; St: Stemmler 1970; Tu: Turville-Petre 1989; Ul: Ulrich; W1: Wright 1839; W2: Wright 1841; W3: Wright 1842; WH: Wright and Halliwell.

11 noun. So MS, WH, Do. Ken: nom.

21 espieces. So MS, WH, Do. Ken: espices.

24 espieces. So MS, WH, Do. Ken: espices.

27 beiser. So MS, WH, Do. Ken: besier.

50 nulle. So MS. Ken, Do. WH: nul.

53 blamer. So MS. WH, Do. Ken: flamer.

66 femmes. So MS. WH, Do. Ken: femme.

78 avauncé. So MS. WH, Do. Ken: auance.

89 ay. So MS, WH. Ken: ayme. Do: aym.

109 dyre. So MS, WH, Ken. Do: dire.


























   ¶ Seignours e dames, ore escotez —
Ce qe vous dirroi l’entendez!
Quy le vodre entendre
Grant bien il purra aprendre.
A comencement de ma resoun,
De femmes froy mon sermoun.
Si, vous dirra en escripture
De lor bounté e de lur nature.
   Molt lur avyent bel aventure.
Quar Dieu les fist par grant cure —
Le noun de femme lur dona
Pur sa mere, qe taunt ama.
E pus les fist bones e pleynes de bounté,
E beles sauntz iniquité.
Avenauntes sunt, e de bele porture,
Bien afeytés e de grant mesure.
D’amer gent est lur nature,
De fere eux joie e enveysure.
   Femme est la plus douce rien
Qe unqe fist Dieu — ce di je bien!
Tous les espieces de cest mount
Ne sunt si douces come femmes sunt —
Gyngyvre, sucre, ne lycorys,
Ne tous les espieces de Paris,
Certes, galingal ne mas
N’est vaillaunt a femme un pygas!
De femme plus savoure un beiser
Qe plein poyn de lorer.
   Eles sunt gentiles a demesure —
Greeles, bien fetes par la seinture —
E tous jours sunt de bele chere
Devaunt la gent e derere.
En eux ne trovera um taunt ne quant
Fors grant joie e bel semblaunt,
E reheitent gent ov bele enveysure.
   De folie fere n’en ount cure:
Ja ne verrez femme foleier
Ne fust de honme le bel parler.
Ja ne freit ele folement
Ne fust de honme l’enchauntement,
Mes tous jours remeindreint virgines.
De netteté fuissent totes pleynes,
Mes um les bosoigne tous jours,
Pur aver de eux lur amours.
E ensi, par grant priere,
Receyvent sovent encombrere.
   Qui a eux mesfet ou mesdit,
Ja ne serrount ov Die eslit.
Ja Dieu ne eyme qe femme het,
Quar nulle enchesoun trover set.
N’est clerc taunt aparceyvaunt,
Ne nul autre taunt vaillaunt,
Qe femmes vueillent blamer
Ne rien countre eux desputer,
S’il ne soit de vileyne nacioun;
Pur ce, ne dient si bien noun.
   Grant amour a ly attret
Cely qe honour a femme fet.
Ly gentil ne les despyt
Ne vileynie de femme dit.
Dieu ayme femmes bonement
Ataunt com il fet la gent
Pur sa douce mere Marie,
Par qy recovri est la vie.
Dount chescun doit honorer
E femmes sur tous preyser.
Dieu les fist par grant leysir
Pur servyr gentz a pleysyr.
   Pur ce, les doit um loer
E en nul point despiser,
Car de femmes sunt gent estret
E suef nory de lur let.
Roys, countz, e barouns,
Evesques, freres que fount sermounz,
Prestres, moygnes, e abbés,
De femmes sunt engendrez.
Par femme est le siecle sustenu,
Molt avauncé e molt cru.
   Si femmes nu fuissent, verroiment,
Cest siecle ne vaudra nyent.
Ja ne fust il lee en cuer
Que ne savoit femme amer.
Qy a femme fet vyleynie,
Dieu ly doynt male vie!
Femme est la plus preciouse chose
Que le mound ad enclose.
Je aym femme sour tote rien,
Car yl me ount fet grant bien.
Je ay femme ov le cors gent!
De mon cuer lur faz present.
De femmes vienent les pruesses,
Les honeurs e le hautesses,
Tote bounté e drywerye!
   Dount, m’est avis, qu’il fet folye
Qe de eux se fet hayer —
Ja ne ly verrez bien chever.
Ceux qe a femmes mesdirrount
Ja bon fyn ne averount.
Nul honme deit de eux mentyr
S’il ne duissent mort soffryr.
Certes pur rien qe femme fra
Peyne d’enfern ne verra,
Quar Dieu lur ad doné le doun
Qe eles ne verront si bien noun.
   N’est honme qe soit de femme neez
Qe tous siet dire lur bountez.
Je n’ai mie dit le centisme part,
Mes molt les lowe matin e tart.
Ne say dyre ne penser
La grant bounté de lur cuer,
Mes a Dieu les comaund, femmes beles!     
Ensement, totes puceles
E totes femmes qe sunt nees
A Dieu soient comaundeez!
   ¶ Lords and ladies, now listen —
Hearken to what I’ll tell you!
He who wishes to comprehend it
Can learn something very fine.
To begin my argument,
I’ll make my sermon about women.
Indeed, it will inform you in writing
About their goodness and their nature.
   Greatly does good fortune befall them,
For God made them with much care —
The name of femme [fame] he gave them
For his mother’s sake, whom he greatly loved.
And then he made them virtuous and full of goodness,   
And beautiful without wickedness.
Welcoming they are, and of pleasing deportment,
Well formed and of excellent figure.
To love men is their nature,
So as to give them joy and gladness.
   Woman is the sweetest thing
That God ever made — this I affirm!
All the spices of this world
Aren’t as sweet as women are —
Not ginger, sugar, nor licorice,
Nor all the spices of Paris,
Indeed, not galingale nor mace
Is worth a thing compared to woman!
One kiss from a woman is more delicious
Than a hand filled with laurel.
   They are elegant beyond measure —
Slender, well-made around the waist —
And always they’re amiable
Toward people and behind their backs.
In them one won’t find anything at all
Except profound joy and lovely appearance,
And they refresh men with pleasant mirth.
   They take care not to be foolish:
You’ll never see a woman be a fool
Were it not for the sweet speech of men.
She’d never act foolish
Were it not for men’s enchantment,
But always they’d remain virgins.
Of purity they’d be filled entirely,
Were it not that men always woo them,
To have from them their love.
And thus, because of grand pleading,
They often receive encumbrance.
   Whoever harms or slanders them,
He’ll never be chosen by God.
God never loves the man who hates woman,
No matter what reason he can produce.
There’s no clerk so shrewd,
Nor any other so worthy,
Who would want to blame women
Nor argue anything against them,
Unless he be of base lineage.
Because of this, they say nothing but good.
   By profound love she’s attracted to
He who gives honor to woman.
The noble man doesn’t despise them
Or say base things about woman.
God loves women as graciously
As he does men
For the sake of his sweet mother Mary,
By whom life is recovered.
Therefore each man ought to honor
And value women above all.
God made them in a leisurely fashion
In order to serve men’s pleasure.
   For this reason, one ought to praise them
And in no way despise them,
For from women are men birthed
And gently nourished with their milk.
Kings, counts, and barons,
Bishops, friars who make sermons,
Priests, monks, and abbots,
By women are conceived.
By woman is the world sustained,
Greatly advanced and greatly increased.
   If woman didn’t exist, truly,
This world would be worth nothing.
Never would he be happy of heart
Unless he knew how to love a woman.
He who acts basely toward a woman,
May God give him a difficult life!
Woman is the most precious thing
That the world has within it.
I love women above all things,
For they’ve done me great good.
I have a woman with an elegant body!
I make them a gift of my heart.
From women come noble deeds,
Honors and glories,
All goodness and affection!
   Thus, in my opinion, he commits folly
Who makes himself hated by them —
Never shall you see him finish well.
Those who slander women
Shall never have a good end.
No man should lie about them
Lest he be made to suffer death.
Indeed, for nothing that a woman does
Shall she ever see the pain of hell,
For God has given them the gift
Of perceiving only what is good.
   There’s no man born of woman
Who can tell all their goodness.
I’ve not said even the hundredth part,
Though I highly praise them morn and eve.
I know not how to say or conceive
The deep goodness of their hearts,
But to God I commend them, lovely women!
Likewise, may all maidens
And all women alive
Be commended to God!

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Go To Art. 77, Le blasme des femmes, introduction
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