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Poems: Introduction

1 His name appears in a bewildering variety of forms in the surviving documents. For his personal name, one finds Oton, Othon, Ode, Othe, Otz, Otte, Hoton, Otonin, Othoz, Octe, Octhe, Ottho, plus others that we probably missed; and for his family name, Granson, Gransson, Grandson, Granzon, Granczon, Grantson, Grançon, Graunson, Garanson, and Garenson. One must make a choice. Oton is the simplest form that preserves the distinctive n, and it is almost universally established in modern usage. Grandson, common in the historical records, is also the modern spelling of the city from which his family takes its name, but it has a distracting homograph for English readers. Graunson, on the other hand, while it still occurs in scholarly writing in English, is found only in Middle English sources and was probably never used by the poet himself. In the manuscripts in which his poems appear, the two spellings that appear almost exclusively are Granson and Gransson, and between these, the shorter has become more common.

2 See, among others, Poirion’s chapter on “amateurs, artistes et serviteurs” [connoisseurs, artists and servants] in Poète et prince, pp. 145–90. Complete information on the secondary sources and on editions of the primary sources that we cite will be found in the Bibliography.

3 The most complete and most fully documented account of Granson’s life is still that provided by Piaget in Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 11–104, on which much of the following summary is based. For Granson’s final years, the best source is Berguerand, Duel. See also Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, pp. 22–37; his earlier “Messire Oton de Graunson,” pp. 515–31; and Chaubet, “Duel.”

4 See Earp, Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 43, 46, and 97.

5 Kingsford, “Otho de Grandison,” pp. 125–95; also Braddy, Chaucer, pp. 23, 38–40.

6 Froissart, Œuvres, 8:121, 123, 128. We wish to express our appreciation to Lianne Ho Pang, Reference Services Librarian at Northwest University, for her help in securing access to this edition.

7 Crow and Olson, Chaucer Life Records, p. 271.

8 See the document cited by Piaget in Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, p. 19n2.

9 Froissart, Œuvres, 9:136.

10 At our request, the staff of the Office des Archives de l’État de la République et Canton de Neuchâtel examined the document cited by Piaget in Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, p. 16n2, and determined that it dated from 1382. We wish to express our appreciation to M. Lionel Bartolini, Archiviste de l’État, for his gracious assistance.

11 Deschamps, Œuvres complètes, 5:79–80, number DCCCXCIII. See Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 167–69; Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, pp. 7–9; Laurie, “Amitiés métriques,” pp. 124–27; and Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp.140–42.

12 See Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 17–20; and Berguerand, Duel, pp. 9–14.

13 On this period of Granson’s life see Berguerand, Duel. Berguerand places the birth of Gérard d’Estavayer, Granson’s adversary, in 1349 (p. 16), which would make him 48 at the time of the duel, younger than Granson, but not by very much.

14 Froissart, Œuvres, 8:121, 9:136.

15 Christine de Pisan, Œuvres poétiques, 2:8, 97.

16 Riverside Chaucer, p. 649.

17 Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 110–11.

18 Chartier, Poetical Works, p. 314, line 231.

19 Le Franc, Champion des dames, lines 14125–28.

20 Pagès, Poésie française, pp. 89–93, and “Thème de la tristesse,” p. 29; Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 175–76; and Massó i Torrents, “Oto de Granson,” pp. 403–10.

21 See Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 119–26.

22 For more complete descriptions of these manuscripts and their contents, see Grenier-Winther’s edition, pp. 21–50 (whose sigla we have adopted here). See also Jung, “Répertoire,” pp. 98–102, and the list of manuscripts, p. 40 below.

23 Digital images of the entire manuscript are available at the Bibliothèque Nationale’s Gallica website:

24 Machaut, Poésies lyriques, 2:352–61.

25 This is the translation by Philippe de Mézières of Petrarch's Latin translation of the last tale in Boccaccio's Decameron. It is not the French version used by Chaucer in The Clerk's Tale. See Severs, Literary Relationships, pp. 21–25 and 181n4 (where Severs refers to this manuscript).

26 The count of the number of poems can become confusing because of the balade double, which appears as one poem in manuscripts F, K, and E (and in Piaget’s edition, pp. 256–58), and as two in A (so in this edition, numbers 60 and 61, and in Grenier-Winther’s, GW24 and GW30). The first of the two ballades that make up the balade double also appears separately in manuscripts G and V.

27 On these different types, see p. 15–20 of this Introduction, below.

28 Jung has some brief comments on the organization of this section (“Répertoire,” pp. 96–97). He finds less evidence of planning than in manuscript A; see note 31 below.

29 Piaget, “Oton de Granson,” p. 431, and also his edition, Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 169–70. In Deschamps’ Œuvres complètes, the two ballades are found at 8:77–78 (number MCCCCXXIII) and 10:xxi (number XIV). As Jung notes (“Répertoire,” p. 97), the first (GW87), which is found in the most authoritative manuscript of Deschamps’ collected works (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fr. 840, fols. 431r–431v), is most certainly his; the other (GW86), found only in a later manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, nouv. acq. fr. 6221, fol. 11r), is somewhat less certain. This manuscript includes works by Deschamps alongside some by other poets, but no other work known to be by Granson.

30 Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, especially pp. 408, 439.

31 For an analysis of the contents see Jung, “Répertoire,” pp. 93–96. Jung finds some evidence of conscious organization, identifying six sections based on similarities of theme.

32 One of the most intriguing puzzles in the relation between F and A is the fact that both begin with the Les Cent Ballades. This is surely a work that would have appealed to Granson, containing poems very much like his by his exact contemporaries, and while it is possible to imagine that he himself is responsible for the juxtaposition, it is also easy to think that it would have occurred to others too, and the appearance in both manuscripts might just as likely be a mere coincidence.

33 Piaget had heard of its existence in 1890; see “Oton de Granson,” p. 423 and 423n2. He himself purchased it in 1939 (Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 112–13).

34 Piaget refers to only nine (Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, p. 139); he failed to recognize the ballade that he prints on p. 289 as a version of Machaut’s “Hé! gentils cuers, me convient il morir” (Poésies lyriques, 1:51, number XXXVII; Louange des dames, p. 71, number 83). As Piaget notes (pp. 166–67), these ballades appear in all of the collected manuscripts of Machaut’s works, which are believed to have been prepared, if not under the poet’s direct supervision, then from an exemplar in his possession, and the earliest of which is dated 1350–56, when Granson (according to a reasonable guess of the date of his birth) was about ten years old. One of these, moreover, is incorporated into Machaut’s Livre dou vour dit. See Earp, Guillaume de Machaut, p. 120 for a list of these ten poems; pp. 247–55 for the manuscripts in which these are contained; and pp. 77–97 for the dates of these manuscripts, particularly p. 78 for the date of manuscript C.

35 See the exhaustive study by Jordà, "Cançoner Vega-Aguiló,” esp. pp. 184–92.

36 All 23 poems are printed by Pagès, Poésie française, pp. 173–244. On the orthography, see p. 90.

37 Pagès, Poésie française, pp. 206–12; Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, p. 117; GW99. The poem, entitled “L’Enseignement du Dieu d’Amours,” appears at the head of a collection of poems all attributed to Garencières in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fr. 19139, pp. 412–17. For the text, Garencières, Poésies complètes, ed. Neal, pp. 65–71. Neal dates this poem to 1390–1400, p. xxxii.

38 They are, in order, 54, 41, 37, 38, 39, and 40. The last five make up the “Cinq balades ensuivans,” in the same order as they appear in manuscript A if one counts the first copy of 41 in A rather than the second.

39 Perhaps mistakenly. See Jordà, “Cançoner Vega-Aguiló,” p. 192.

40 See Pagès, Poésie française, p. 176, who thus attributes nineteen of the twenty-three poems in this collection to Granson, p. 90; and Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, p. 119. Grenier-Winther reprints the five ballades in question, GW94–98. E has attracted most attention not for what value it might have in establishing Granson’s text or canon but because of what it might suggest about the date of composition of its contents. The “Lesparra” who is named in the tençon (GW100) is very likely the Florimont de Lesparre who was imprisoned in Spain at the same time as Granson, between 1372 and 1374. See Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 136–37. The supposition that the tençon must date from this time, together with the Iberian origin of the entire manuscript, has led some to believe that all of the works of Granson that are contained here also must therefore date from the period of his captivity. See Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, pp. 74–75; Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” pp. 88–89; and Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 213, 332n13. That conclusion is important for the identification of the “Isabel” who is named in the acrostic in 74, which also appears in E (Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, p. 75; Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” p. 132n2); see p. 35 below. It also has some significance for Granson’s relation with Chaucer, for the five ballades on which he based his “Complaint of Venus” also appear (without attribution to Granson) in this manuscript. The tençon, however, contains no evidence of a real collaboration: Lesparre’s verses respond to Granson’s, but Granson’s appear to be written without any awareness of Lesparre’s, and they were probably simply extracted by Lesparre (if he was indeed the author) from a copy of the longer poem to which they belong. The conditions of the English knights’ imprisonment, moreover (Pembroke died due to his ill-treatment shortly after his release), do not suggest that there would have been much opportunity for either poet to practice his craft (compare Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, pp. 28–29), and even if Granson and Lesparre exchanged their verse, it is just as reasonable to suppose that they did so after they had been freed; see Bennett, review of Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, pp. 35–37. There are also other reasons to believe that not all of the poems gathered here can date from so early a time. Jean de Garencières was only just born in 1372, and four of the ballades — the one headed “Glen,” the one attributed to Jacme Escrivà, one attributed to Granson (56), and one that is unattributed (GW97) — all have envoys, which are not thought to have been common before the last quarter of the century. (In the last of these, the envoy appears to have been imported from a different ballade, since the rhymes do not match the preceding stanzas.) See Kelly, Saint Valentine, p. 65n6. On the use of the envoy, see Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” pp. 86, 87n63, and French Contemporaries, p. 259; and Laurie, “Amitiés métriques,” pp. 130–34. If any of these poems is later, then none of the contents can confidently be placed in the 1370s, and the interest of this manuscript is actually heightened as evidence of the circulation of Granson’s work into the Iberian peninsula well after the period of his imprisonment.

41 See Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” pp. 2, 54, and the complete list of the contents of the manuscript, pp. 91–146. Wimsatt provides an edition and translation of fifteen poems in this manuscript to which “Ch” has been inserted after the title in a later hand (pp. 16–45), of the five poems that make up Granson’s “Cinq balades ensuivans” (pp. 59–65), and of three others (pp. 47–51). Mudge, “Pennsylvania,” edits the ninety-five ballades whose authorship is unknown. High resolution photographs of the entire manuscript are available online at

42 The other is manuscript R (Turin, Archivio di Stato MS J.b.IX.10), which contains, without any attribution, five of Granson’s ballades plus a fragment of 75 dispersed among a large miscellaneous collection. The entire contents are edited by Vitale-Brovarone, “Recueil.”

43 Wimsatt, Poems of "Ch," p. 139, speculates that among the other poems that occur within this cluster, numbers 255 and 257 might also be Granson's. Mudge ("Pennsylvania," p. 7 and n.) identifies a total of thirty-six ballades of which the attribution to Granson is "not entirely implausible."

44 Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” pp. 88–90, offers an intriguing suggestion (that does not bear directly on the question of authorship) that Granson himself was responsible for compiling the contents of this manuscript. His argument deserves to be considered in all its detail, though it is impossible to eliminate other explanations for the collection’s origin.

45 See the complete list on p. 39 below. Manuscript sources for each poem are recorded in the Textual Notes.

46 These manuscripts are C, D, H, and M. In C the title is added in a later hand.

47 D is Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 24440. The poem appears on fols. 221r–225r. H is Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 833. The poem is on fols. 172r–174r. Digital images of both manuscripts are available at the Gallica website (note 23 above). The poem appears with the same title as in H in the 1489 printed edition of Chartier’s works, which also includes 69 with the title “La Pastourelle Granson faicte par maistre Alain Chartier.” Evidently Granson was so little known by the end of the fifteenth century that his name was no longer recognized as that of poet. See Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 124–25.

48 See note 51 below.

49 Doubts on its authenticity are also expressed by Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, p. 236.

50 We reserve one final instance for a footnote, since the attribution is purely modern. In 1904, Piaget (“Belle Dame,” pp. 203–06) suggested that Granson was the author of “La Belle dame qui eut mercy,” a dialogue poem of 378 lines that appears in some of the later manuscripts of Granson’s works. Piaget evidently recognized the weakness of his case since he makes no mention of the poem in his 1941 edition. The lack of evidence not just for the attribution but for the likelihood that the poem was even composed during Granson’s lifetime is summarized by Grenier-Winther, “Authorship,” pp. 50–60.

51 Digital images are available at the Gallica Website (note 23 above).

52 Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 144–45.

53 Piaget, “Oton de Granson,” pp. 440, 445. He suggests, in fact, that Le Franc may have been referring specifically to manuscript F.

54 See Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 227–31.

55 English readers will recall Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, line F423, where among his other works, Alceste cites Chaucer’s “balades, roundels, [and] virelayes” (Riverside Chaucer, p. 600).

56 On the formes fixes, the basic work is still Poirion, Poète et prince. See also Cerquiglini, “Rondeau,” and Heger “Ballade et Chant Royal.” In English, Earp provides a survey of the development until mid-century in “Lyrics for Reading.” There are also a useful introduction and notes in Wilkins, ed., One Hundred Ballades.

57 On the musical qualities of the formes fixes, see Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, especially chapter 1, “Natural Music in Middle French Verse and Chaucer,” pp. 3–42; and “Chaucer and Deschamps,” pp. 132–50.

58 Poirion, Poète et prince, pp. 317–18.

59 Riverside Chaucer, p. 394.

60 On the variations in the scribal presentation of the refrains, see the note to 1–9 in the Explanatory Notes, below.

61 Poirion, Poète et prince, pp. 333–34.

62 Poirion, Poète et prince, pp. 343–48.

63 This count takes the first three stanzas of the complainte at line 2342 as a separate poem, though it is not marked as such in the manuscript. See the note to 78.2342–2448.

64 Poirion (Poète et prince, pp. 385–87) provides a helpful table summarizing the distribution of the different stanza forms among the major poets (though his figures for Granson are not always exact). Jung (“Répertoire,” p. 103) presents an inventory of Granson’s metrical types. His too requires a few corrections: he includes the two ballades in manuscript F more likely to be by Deschamps (his numbers 59 and 60), though he himself labels them “doubtful” (p. 97); he misstates the rhyme schemes of the ballades at 78.2125 and 2318 (his numbers 22 and 45); and he counts the ballade at 78.2342 (his number 49) as decasyllabic when it is actually octosyllabic (as he notes correctly on p. 113). There are other identifiable patterns in the ballades, for instance concerning the use of masculine and feminine rhymes and the placement of the caesura, that we do not discuss here. A full analysis of the metrical form of each of Granson’s poems is provided in Grenier-Winther’s edition.

65 For the exceptions see the note to 53.

66 Laurie, “Amitiés métriques,” pp. 128–30.

67 See Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 12–14.

68 See Poirion, Poète et prince, pp. 374–82.

69 Jung, “Répertoire,” p. 97.

70 Laurie, “Amitiés métriques,” pp. 128–30, 134.

71 Poirion, Poète et prince, p. 369.

72 Machaut, Poésies lyriques, 1:41–42, number XXVI; Louange des dames, p. 105, number 214.

73 Machaut, Poésies lyriques, 2:543–45, numbers IX–XI, an exchange between a lover and his lady; 2.557–59, numbers XXXII–XXXIV; and 2:560–62, numbers XXXVIII–XXXIX. All three of these groups appear (without music) in manuscript P; see Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” pp. 109–11, numbers 169–71, 174–76, and 178–79. The latter pair is printed with its music by Wilkins, ed., One Hundred Ballades, pp. 28–29, 151–55, who notes (p. 125) that the two ballades were sung simultaneously rather than as a “sequence.”

74 On the manuscript presentation of the “Cinq balades ensuivans” see the explanatory note to 37–41. On the “Six balades ensuivans” see the explanatory note to 35.
75 Poirion, Poète et prince, p. 197.

76 Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, e.g. pp. 12, 16, 25; “Chaucer and Deschamps,” p. 136.

77 On the variations in the form of the envoy see Poirion, Poète et prince, pp. 388–89. Envoys appeared on ballades only in the last quarter of the century. (Machaut included an envoy only on his chants royaux.) See Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” pp. 86, 87n63, and French Contemporaries, p. 259; and Laurie, “Amitiés métriques,” pp. 130–34.

78 Who is usually addressed as “princesse” (57, 64, 66; 78.139, 2027) or “souveraine” (67), a common enough designation for the lady in contemporary poetry that we need not take as a literal signifier of royalty. See Cartier, “Oton de Grandson,” pp. 12–15.

79 On Granson’s possible participation see Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 346–47n7.

80 Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 274–81; and Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 234–37.

81 Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 243.

82 Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 250–64.

83 Poirion, Poète et prince, p. 401. See his entire discussion, pp. 400–06.

84 See the list in Earp, Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 265–71.

85 See the list in Wimsatt, Poems of “Ch,” pp. 83–85, and an edition of these poems, together with a very valuable historical survey, in Kibler and Wimsatt, “Development.”

86 On the sources see Wimsatt, French Love Poets, pp. 138–43, and below.

87 On the poems in this tradition, see Wimsatt, French Love Poets, pp. 103–50, especially 143–46 (on Granson and his likely sources).

88 On Granson’s sources, see Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 220–27.

89 Or fifteen, depending on how one treats 78.2342–2448. See the explanatory note.

90 For a bibliography and more details on the commentary, see the notes.

91 Boulton, Song, p. 224.

92 Chaucer’s is far from a close translation. His most notable alteration is to place the entire poem in the voice of a woman rather than a man. The three ballades that make up the “Complaint” are based primarily on 37, 40, and 41, with some details from 38 and 39. For a bibliography of commentary see the note to 37–41. Wimsatt (Poems of “Ch,” pp. 56–65) argues that of the four surviving copies of Granson’s five ballades, manuscript P contains the version that is closest to Chaucer’s. Manuscript E, with its idiosyncratic text, can be dismissed from consideration. In examining the other three, manuscripts A, F, and P, Wimsatt identifies seven variants that “make equally sound sense” and in which the P reading is closest to Chaucer’s. In two of these (Chaucer’s lines 33 and 61), the similarity is too remote to be persuasive. Of the other five, two of the “closer” readings also appear in F and one in A. F and A also have the correct first-person verbs for Chaucer’s lines 49 and 51 where, as Wimsatt notes, P uses second- and third-person forms. If one takes all seven of these variations into account, then A is closer to Chaucer in three instances, F in four, and P in five. Mudge (“Pennsylvania,” p. 12) points out that in P, the first poem in the sequence was formerly headed “Complainte” rather than “Balade,” which has a suggestive similarity to Chaucer’s title, “The Complaint of Venus.” F nonetheless remains the only copy in which the five poems are presented as a single work under a single title, “Les cinq balades ensuivans.” It is not necessary to presume, of course, that Chaucer could have learned of this work only from one of the surviving copies.

93 Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, p. 211.

94 Suggestions that Granson and Chaucer might have met as early as 1368 at the wedding of Prince Lionel in Milan or that Granson might have accompanied the party returning to England (see Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, 27) are purely speculative, since there is no record that either poet actually went to Milan, and even if they did, one can only suppose that they might have become acquainted.

95 That Granson spoke at least some English by 1384 is confirmed by Deschamps’ record of his conversation with the guards at Calais in his ballade, and Chaucer’s compliment to Granson would of course have meant little if it was not understood.

96 Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 221–24.

97 Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 227–30.

98 See Wimsatt, French Love Poets, pp. 89–93 and Colin Wilcockson’s notes in Riverside Chaucer, pp. 966–76.

99 Wimsatt, French Love Poets, pp. 138–43.

100 As noted above, an excerpt from Granson’s poem appears in manuscript E with responses in alternating stanzas attributed to “Lesparra.” It is possible, but far from certain, that the poem therefore dates from the period of Granson’s Spanish captivity in 1372–74; see note 40 above. The Duchess Blanche died in 1368, but there is no way to be sure how long after her death The Book of the Duchess was written. See Wilcockson in Riverside Chaucer, p. 976.

101 Wimsatt, French Love Poets, pp. 143–46; French Contemporaries, p. 220.

102 See Wimsatt’s entire discussion, French Contemporaries, pp. 221–27. An earlier expression of doubt of Granson’s priority is offered by Brewer, ed., Chaucer, Parlement of Foulys, pp. 131–32.

103 In the “Complaynt d’Amours,” attributed by Skeat to Chaucer, the narrator offers his poem to his lady on Saint Valentine’s Day, “Whan every foughel chesen shal his mak [When every bird shall choose its mate]”(86). The attribution has not been generally accepted, and the poem is now more commonly thought to be the work of a fifteenth-century imitator of Chaucer. See Laila Z. Gross’s note in Riverside Chaucer, p. 1090.

104 Two very different reconstructions of the background to these works are offered by Oruch, “St. Valentine,” and Kelly, Saint Valentine.

105 It is only with Charles VI’s institution of the Cour amoureuse in 1400 that the amatory rites associated with Saint Valentine are first known to have become attached to the feast of Saint Valentine the Martyr on February 14. See Oruch, “St. Valentine,” p. 558, and Kelly, Saint Valentine, pp. 131–33.

106 See Kelly, Saint Valentine, pp. 68–69. Orsuch (“St. Valentine,” pp. 549–56) points out that spring is said to begin in February in a number of medieval sources, but he does not provide any convincing link between February and warm weather.

107 Wimsatt phrases the distinction slightly differently; French Contemporaries, p. 234.

108 See Cinkante Balades, numbers 34 and 35, in Gower, French Balades, ed. Yeager, pp. 106–09; and The Boke of Cupide, lines 79–80, in Clanvowe, Works, ed. Scattergood, p. 39. Yeager (pp. 52–53) dates the Cinkante Balades to the very early 1390s, arguing that it was written in imitation of Les Cent Ballades. The Boke of Cupide is clearly written in imitation of Chaucer, and Scattergood dates it between 1386 and 1391 (p. 14). Gower’s two ballades are not specific about the time of year, but as Kelly notes (Saint Valentine, pp. 72–74), the adjacent ballades strongly suggest a May setting, and Gower places the birds’ choice of mates more firmly in May in his Confessio Amantis 1.100–03 and 1.2081–90. Clanvowe, on the other hand places Saint Valentine’s Day in March (line 80), which does indicate, at least, that the feast of this Saint Valentine had not yet been fixed. Manuscript E also contains a Valentine’s Day poem in Catalan that refers to the mating of the birds. Jordà, "Cançoner Vega-Aguiló,” pp. 331–37 identifies the poet as Pere Pardo de la Casta, whose date of birth (approximately 1366; see Jordà, p. 333) indicates that the poem must have been written after The Parliament of Fowls. Its relation to Chaucer’s and to these other poems is otherwise entirely uncertain. For an earlier identification of the author see Riquer, “Canción de san Valentín,” pp. 338–44; and see Kelly, Saint Valentine, pp. 66, 70.

109 Christine de Pisan, Œuvres poétiques, 1:111–12, 2:29–48, 3:281 (see Oruch, “St. Valentine,” pp. 558–59, 564, and Kelly, Saint Valentine, pp. 134–39); Garencières, Poésies complètes, part 2, p. 18, Ballade number 15. Garencières does not actually name the saint, but as Oruch notes (“St. Valentine,” p. 559), his use of “Je vous choisy” in four successive lines appears to echo Granson’s ballade 17, which does, in the version that appears in manuscript F.

110 Some of which have not yet been solved; see Earp, Guillaume de Machaut, the index references under “anagrams, cryptograms, acrostics, or number riddles,” p. 627.

111 Machaut, Poésie lyriques, 1:85, number LXXIV; Louange des dames, p. 75, number 99.

112 Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, pp. 71–82.

113 Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 156–64.

114 For Shirley’s note see Braddy, Chaucer and Graunson, p. 78. See also Laila Z. Gross in Riverside Chaucer, pp. 1078–79 and 1081, on the dating of both “The Complaint of Mars” and “The Complaint of Venus.”

115 See footnote 40 above.

116 Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 110–11.

117 Cartier, “Oton de Grandson,” p. 5.

118 As noted by Kelly, Saint Valentine, p. 134n12. That assumption is particularly visible in Galway, “Isabel of France.” Galway argues, on the basis of references to the lady’s youth in 52.29, and elsewhere, that Granson’s Isabel was the daughter of Charles VI, who became the bride of Richard II, but who was only seven years old when Granson died.

119 42.25, 57.31, 64.37, 66.38, 76.172; and in 78 Le Livre Messire Ode, lines 139, 375, 990, etc.

120 78.1594, 1946, 2091, 2297, and 2384.

121 Cartier, “Oton de Grandson,” pp. 5–7, 12–15.

122 As suggested by Cartier, “Oton de Grandson,” p. 15. See also Wimsatt, French Contemporaries, pp. 333n14 and 335n36.

123 Bartolini, “Neuchâtel, Isabelle de,” and Niederhäuser, “Nidau, Rodolphe IV de.”

124 Courvoisier, Panorama, pp. 46–48.

125 Grandson, Vie et poésies, ed. Piaget, pp. 16–17.

126 The one exception is 73 “La Pastourelle Granson,” in which P records more unique readings than either A or F, but most of these are very minor and being equally plausible, require no emendation. The fact that there is an exception is a useful reminder of the complicated history that must lie behind all three of these manuscripts and of the fact that each poem that circulated independently, as “La Pastourelle” clearly did, had a unique textual history of its own.

127 There is also a fragment in G plus a sixteenth-century copy in H which is nearly identical to that in D.

128 See the notes to 1–9 and 10. See also the note to 53.

129 In Middle French, qui and que are often used interchangeably, as are si and se, and ce and se. All such spellings are left as they appear in the manuscript. Other interchangeable words and letters that have been left untouched include car/que, comme/comment, par/pour, en/a, que/quand, et/ne, ai/oi, and s/z.

130 In some cases the manuscripts provide no completely acceptable reading. See our notes to 59.21, 73.79, 76.163–66, and for a very different case, 78.1763–64.

131 But compare Jung’s analysis of the contents of manuscript A (“Répertoire,” pp. 93–96).


Oton de Granson, knight, diplomat, and poet, lived an active, almost storybook life at or near the center of many of the most important events in the last half of the fourteenth century.1 Born to the highest nobility in his native Savoy, he was well known in the courts of both France and England, and he spent the better part of his career in the service of the English king. He was also well known to the major poets of his time on both sides of the channel, at least two of whom, Eustache Deschamps and Geoffrey Chaucer, were almost certainly his personal friends. At a time when nobles aspired to be cultured and poets sought the company of nobles,2 he was among the first and most successful of the poets who were also courtiers; and as one who moved in both a French-speaking and an English-speaking world, he occupies a unique place in the literary culture of his time.

Granson was born sometime in the mid 1340s; we infer the date from his first appearance in the official record, with his engagement and marriage in 1365.3 The town from which his family takes its name is on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel, in the northwest corner of the Vaud, in modern Switzerland, which during his lifetime was part of the County of Savoy. As a young nobleman, he would have spent time in the court of Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy (1334–83), and there he may have received his first apprenticeship as poet. Amadeus was a patron of the arts, and in 1368 he is known to have purchased a manuscript of the works of Machaut,4 who exercised a dominating influence on Granson and all other poets of his generation. No surviving work can be attributed to Granson at so early a date, however, and virtually all of the early records of his life concern his military career instead. In 1368, he was captured and released during an episode in the border dispute between Savoy and Burgundy. The next time we hear of him, he is in England, where members of his family, along with many other Savoyards, had been established at least since the time of Edward I.5 In 1372, Froissart places him in the company of the Earl of Pembroke in a naval battle against the Spanish at La Rochelle, in which the English were defeated.6 Granson, together with Pembroke and others, was captured, and he spent two years in a Spanish prison before being ransomed, probably by Edward III, in 1374. Later in 1374, he entered the service of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, where, though he was of much higher rank, he might first have crossed paths with Chaucer, who was granted an annuity for his and his wife’s service to the Duke in the same year.7

In 1376 he was back in Savoy, in Neuchâtel, in the company of the Countess Isabel, and he may have remained there until 1378.8 In the years that followed he seems to have traveled back and forth between Savoy and England several times. Froissart mentions him in the list of those sent to Cherbourg with the English garrison in 1379,9 but in 1382 he appears with the Countess Isabel again;10 and in 1384 he was with the English forces in Calais, where Deschamps encountered him in an incident recorded in one of his ballades.11 Then in 1386, upon the death of his father, Granson returned to Savoy to claim his inheritance and to enter the service of Count Amadeus VII, and surviving documents from the period that follows record both his service to the count and his engagement in a longstanding dispute over property that he had acquired with his marriage.12

In 1391, Amadeus VII died, apparently of a tetanus infection that resulted from an injury sustained in a fall from a horse. The count himself believed that he had been poisoned, and within a short time, the treating doctor, an apothecary, the count’s mother, and Granson, who was not even present at the onset of the count’s illness, all became implicated in his death. The events that followed were driven by old grudges, by a tug-of-war between the count’s mother and his widow (each with her powerful protectors) over the custody of his son and heir, and by the interests of those who had already tried to lay claim to Granson’s property; and the case against the accused was fueled by confessions that were later revealed to be extracted under torture. The immediate consequence was that Granson took refuge, first in Burgundy and then in England. He entered the service of Richard II in 1392, and in 1392–93 he accompanied Henry, Earl of Derby, on his second expedition to Prussia and Palestine. Granson’s properties in Savoy were confiscated and sold in 1393, but in 1395, the confessions that had implicated him having been repudiated, Charles VI of France intervened to proclaim Granson’s innocence, and his properties were restored. Granson returned to Savoy to reclaim his heritage shortly thereafter, but the old accusations were renewed, and he was challenged to a duel by one of those who had profited from the confiscation. After two postponements, the duel took place on August 7, 1397, and Granson, who was almost certainly at least fifty at the time, was slain by his challenger.13

It is not surprising that the official records contain no mention of Granson as poet. (The same is true of Chaucer.) Even his fellow poets, however, at least in France, refer to him only as a gentleman and a soldier. Froissart describes him as a “bannerès et riche homme durement [a knight banneret and a very powerful man]” and as a “vaillant chevalier de Savoie [a worthy knight from Savoy],”14 and Deschamps’ ballade describes an encounter between men of arms, not poets. After his death, Christine de Pisan left him two tributes, in Le Débat des deux amans (lines 1615–18) and in L’Epistre au Dieu d’Amours (lines 233–44),15 but she praises him only as a knight, “Courtois, gentil, preux, bel et gracieux [courteous, noble, valiant, handsome, and gracious]” (Epistre, line 235). The first reference to Granson as poet, and the only one from his own lifetime, comes from Chaucer, who adapted a sequence of Granson’s ballades in his “Complaint of Venus” and acknowledges him in the final line as “Graunson, flour of hem that make in Fraunce [the flower of those that write poetry in France].”16 The next reference comes from an unusual source: in 1401, Queen Isabel of France purchased two gold clasps for one of her books, entitled “Le Livre des ballades messire Othes de Grantson.”17 Following his death, Granson achieved somewhat greater recognition for his verse. Alain Chartier, in his Debat de reveille matin (c. 1420), cites Granson in the same line in which he mentions Machaut,18 and Martin Le Franc, in his Le champion des dames (1441–42), refers his reader to the works of Granson for a better understanding of suffering in love.19

Granson also acquired both a reputation and a following in Spain, among poets writing in both Castilian and Catalan.20 By the middle of the fifteenth century, however, he seems largely to have passed from notice. One reason may be that, as an amateur, he did not take the care to preserve his works as the better known poets did. As we shall see, even the earliest manuscripts of his work still leave some doubt about which poems are really his, and in the few later manuscripts and in the early printed books in which his poems appear, they are intermingled with and often confused with the works of Alain Chartier.21 In England, of course, by this time French poetry was no longer being read as it was before, when French was the language of the court. In France, too, however, new fashions prevailed. Granson’s reputation and importance were restored only in modern times, primarily through the efforts of Arthur Piaget, culminating in his edition of 1941. Piaget’s work has since been superseded by the critical edition of Joan Grenier-Winther, which contains the full scholarly apparatus that Piaget did not provide. Both editions are destined, of course, for readers of French. The time has come to close the circle, and to make Granson’s poetry available again to English readers too.


Virtually all of our knowledge of Granson’s writing comes from the surviving manuscripts of his work, and unfortunately, the record is simply not as good as it is for the better-known poets such as Machaut and Deschamps. No single manuscript contains all of the works that are now attributed to him. Only one manuscript (and it is neither among the earliest nor the largest) contains only works thought to be Granson’s. Only two manuscripts that contain his poems might possibly date from his lifetime, but no poems in either manuscript are attributed to him (or to anyone else) by name. In fact, only a small number of poems (though this includes most of the longer ones) bear his name in any of the copies in which they appear. To complicate matters further, there are some obvious cases of false attribution that necessarily raise some question about the rest. Before we take a look at his verse, therefore, we have to spend some time considering how we know what is his, and that means taking a close look at the manuscripts to see what kind of evidence they offer for his authorship.22

There are two manuscripts on which most of our understanding of Granson’s work is based:

MANUSCRIPT F: PARIS, BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE, FR. 2201. 134 leaves; French; early fifteenth century.23 The contents are:
1. Les Cent Ballades, a collection of poems from the last decade of the fourteenth century to which we will refer again, lacking two leaves at the end (the conclusion to the penultimate poem and all of the final one), fols. 1–70.
2. A collection of poems without title or heading, including several that bear Granson’s name, fols. 71–104v.
3. “Le Lay des Dames” of Guillaume de Machaut (“Amis, t’amour me contraint”), fols. 105–09.24
4. L’Histoire de Griselidis, in prose, fols. 111–36.25
It is the second section of this manuscript that interests us the most. It contains thirty-seven poems: twenty-six ballades (including the “Balade de Saint Valentin double”),26 one virelai, and two rondeaux,27 plus eight longer poems.28 Among the longer poems, three are ascribed to Granson, as follows. (Here and below, numbers in boldface italic refer to the poems in this edition, and numbers preceded by “GW” refer to the poems in Grenier-Winther’s edition.)
(70) “La complainte de lan nouvel que gransson fost pour un chevalier quil escoutait complaindre”
(71) “Le souhait de saint valentin”
(72) “Complainte de saint valentin”
(74) “Le lay de desir en complainte”
(69) “Lestraine du jour de lan:
(74) “Complainte de gransson”
(73) “La pastourelle granson”
(77) (The last 49 lines only, without a title)
F is the manuscript by which Granson’s works were first brought to modern attention by Arthur Piaget in 1890. Piaget argued that apart from two ballades more in the style of Deschamps, whose presence he could not explain (GW86 and GW87),29 the general uniformity of contents in section two of the manuscript indicated a common authorship. Citing the three poems in which Granson is named plus five others that appear in F that are ascribed to Granson in other copies, he concluded that Granson was the author of all but the two anomalous ballades as well.30

MANUSCRIPT A: LAUSANNE, BIBLIOTHÈQUE CANTONALE ET UNIVERSITAIRE, MS 350. 181 leaves; French, second quarter of the fifteenth century. The contents are:
1. Les Cent Ballades, as above, fols. 1–82.
2. A lament on the death of Bonne d’Artois (who died in 1425), fols. 82v–83v.
3. A collection of poems headed “Balades Rondeaux Lais Virelais et autrez dis compilez par noble homme messire Ode de granson chevalier [Ballades, rondeaux, virelais, and other poems compiled by the nobleman Sir Oton de Granson, knight]” and ending “Cy fenist Granson [Here ends Granson],” fols. 84–151.
4. Three poems by Alain Chartier, fols. 152–80.
The third portion of this manuscript contains seventy-seven poems, including one duplicate.31 The seventy-six separate pieces comprise of fifty-eight ballades, eight rondeaux, one virelai, and nine longer poems (including all eight that appear in whole or in part in F), two of which are ascribed to Granson, as follows:
(74) “Lay en complainte”
(72) untitled
(77) “Le songe saint valentin” (complete)
(71) “Souhait”
(73) “La pastourelle gransson”
(69) “Lestrainne de granson”
(75) “Le lay de desir en complainte”
(68) “Le dit de loiaute”
(70) “La complainte de lan nouvel”
In addition, the poet is named in the heading to two of the ballades, 61 “Balade granson” and 41 “Balade amoureuse granson” (GW31, the duplicate of GW2).

Though the differences both in the order of the poems and in the text (as illustrated by the titles cited above) indicate that there is no direct relationship between F and A, there is considerable overlap between them: twenty-five of the thirty-five poems in F (excluding the two anomalous ballades), or more than eighty per cent of the contents of F as measured in number of lines, also appear in A.32 The discovery of this manuscript,33 with its attribution to Granson, certainly seemed to confirm Piaget’s conclusion about the authorship of the poems in F while it also added considerably to the canon, and in his 1941 edition, Piaget included all of the poems in the relevant sections of both.

As Piaget recognized, however, this section of A also contains works that are not Granson’s, for among its fifty-eight ballades are ten by Guillaume de Machaut.34 With regard to these poems at least, the compilez of the heading evidently has to be taken literally and not as an indication of authorship, which leaves room for some question about the many other unattributed poems that it contains. That it or its prototype was compiled from different sources is suggested by the presence of the duplicate of the second poem, which contains four slight variants in the text in addition to many orthographic differences. This poem is one of the “Cinq balades ensuivans [Sequence of five ballades]” that Chaucer attributes to Granson in his adaptation in “The Complaint of Venus”; the second version is also one of the poems ascribed to Granson in manuscript A by name, “Balade amoureuse Granson.” Its authorship thus need not be in question, but if Granson himself were the “compiler,” it seems a bit odd that he not have access to a good master copy, that he not recognize that he had already included the poem, and that he ascribe this poem and not any of its neighbors to himself by name. It is also worth noting that if we count the second copy of 41 rather than the first, the five ballades appear in the same order as in manuscript F, though not in an unbroken sequence, and without the title that they bear in F.

Setting aside, however, these mysteries over the origin of A, and discarding only the poems that we know to be Machaut’s along with the two anomalies in F, we are left with a set of seventy-six poems (counting the balade double as two) that appear either in F or A or in both that constitute the core of what we now understand to be Granson’s canon.

Three other manuscripts either offer some confirmation of these attributions or are important for the establishment of Granson’s text.

MANUSCRIPT K: LAUSANNE, BIBLIOTHÈQUE CANTONALE ET UNIVERSITAIRE, IS 4254. 22 leaves; France, fifteenth century. This is the only surviving manuscript to contain only works thought to be Granson’s. It contains six of the eight long poems that appear in both A and F, plus the “Balade de Saint Valentin double,” five of which are ascribed to Granson by name, as follows:
(70) “Cy commence la complainte de lan nouvel que granson fist pour un chevalier quil lescoutoit se plaindre pres dun bouquet”
(72) “Cy apres sensuit la complainte Saint Vallentin”
(75) “Le lay de desir en complainte granson”
(69) “Lestrainne du jour de lan granson”
(60–61) “Balade de saint valentin double”
(74) “Complainte de gransson
(73) “La pastourelle granson”
Though differences in the text indicate that neither could have been copied directly from the other, F and K are otherwise very similar textually, and the order in which these poems appear is the same in both manuscripts. The titles are also very similar, except that K adds the ascription to Granson of 69 as found in A and an ascription to Granson of 75 not found in either other copy.

MANUSCRIPT E: BARCELONA, BIBLIOTECA DE CATALUNYA, 8. 376 leaves, Catalan, 1420–30. This manuscript is the second volume of the “Cançoner Vega-Aguiló,” a large miscellany containing mostly works in the Catalan language.35 It also contains on fols. 408–35 a group of twenty-three poems in French, all in an orthography heavily influenced by Catalan.36 Of these, twelve also appear in F or A. These include nine ballades (including the balade double, treated as one) and three longer poems. Of these twelve, the last six appear together, and each is attributed to Granson by name. These six include three ballades that are not ascribed to him in any other copy (56, 59, and 60). The other three are the three longer poems. Two of these bear titles: 74 “Congié que prist Micer Otto de Granson de sa dame [The leave that Sir Oton de Granson’s took of his lady],” and 73 “La vergiera de Micer Otto de Gransson [The pastourelle of Sir Oton de Granson].” In the third, the first six stanzas of 70 appear together with six other stanzas in a dialogue or tençon in which the names “Granson” and “Lesparra” appear alternately in the margin (GW100).

These six are preceded by another poem attributed to “Garanson” (the same spelling used in the attribution of 56), which appears, however, not to be Granson’s at all but the work of another French poet, Jean de Garencières (1372–1415).37

The other six poems in this manuscript that are also in F or A but that do not bear Granson’s name appear interspersed amongst a sequence of twelve ballades on fols. 408v–415.38 One of these twelve (the seventh) is ascribed to the Catalan knight Jacme Scrivà.39 The first contains the puzzling heading “Glen. Balada.” Pagès, who first printed these poems, took this as an abbreviation for “Glenson,” and he concluded that it and the other four ballades in this group that are still unattributed are otherwise unknown works of Granson. His suggestion was rejected by Piaget and has not otherwise found support.40

MANUSCRIPT P: PHILADELPHIA, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, VAN PELT LIBRARY MS CODEX 902 (FORMERLY FR. MS 15). 101 leaves, France, 1395–1400. With three hundred and ten poems, P is the largest surviving anthology of French lyric poetry of the fourteenth century, but it bears no indication of authorship, and more than half of its contents still remain anonymous.41 Of the poems that can be attributed on other evidence, Machaut dominates, with one hundred and seven. The works of at least five other poets can be identified. There are, finally, twenty-six poems that also appear in manuscripts F or A and that are on that basis attributed to Granson, making this the third largest collection of Granson’s verse. It is also among the earliest, and one of only two that might possibly date from Granson’s lifetime.42

These twenty-six include six of the eight longer poems that appear in both F and A, omitting only 72 “Complainte de Saint Valentin” and 77 “Le Songe Saint Valentin,” and also 68 “Le Dit de loiauté,” which appears only in A. The other twenty-one poems are all ballades, and all also appear in A, including thirteen that are in A but not in F. All but three of the twenty-six poems appear in two clusters in the manuscript. Using Wimsatt’s numbering, they are numbers 18 and 20–34; and then in a slightly looser grouping, numbers 251–54, 256, 258, 261, and 264.43 (The three more isolated poems are numbers 136, 228, and 279.) These two clusters may have been derived from different sources. The first group contains all of the longer poems. It also contains all of the poems that also appear in F. The second group of poems plus the two isolates all appear, among the manuscripts mentioned so far, only in A. The first group in P is also like F in being the only other source to present the five ballades that F labels “Les Cinq balades ensuivans” as an unbroken sequence, though without a title or any other indication that they are to be joined. P contains none of the poems that occur uniquely in F, however, and even the first cluster cannot be derived exclusively from a collection precisely like F since it also contains three ballades (Wimsatt’s numbers 21, 23, and 24) that do not appear in F but that do appear in A.

Since none of the contents of P bears an author’s name, P can offer no direct evidence regarding which of these works are Granson’s and which are not, but it does provide additional evidence that certain poems found in A and F circulated together, strengthening the case for their common authorship.44

Poems attributed to Granson in other sources. As already mentioned, Chaucer’s attribution to Granson of the ballades on which he based his “Complaint of Venus” itself offers important evidence of Granson’s authorship, because only the last of these poems is attributed to him by name in any of the manuscripts in which they appear (in A). Further evidence from other sources is sparse. In addition to the five manuscripts already mentioned, there are twelve surviving manuscripts, highly varied in contents, that contain one or more of the poems in F or A.45 Altogether seventeen of the seventy-six poems in A and/or F appear in at least one of these books, but only one appears with an ascription to Granson. That is what was evidently the most popular of his works, 73 “La Pastourelle Granson,” which is found in four other manuscripts (in addition to A, E, F, K, and P), all of which contain principally the works of Alain Chartier.46 Granson’s name is included in the title in all of these except P, where one has to imagine that it was deliberately suppressed. With the remaining poems, the appearance of another copy indicates that the poem circulated separately from the others in F and A, but lacking an independent attribution, it does not help us determine if it was Granson’s.

Two of these manuscripts (D and H) contain another poem not mentioned yet, since it is in neither F or A. Included as number 76 below, it bears the title “Complainte de saint vallentin garenson” in D and “la complainte de saint valentin gransson compilee par M. alain ch[artier]” in H.47 There are two other copies, one complete (manuscript B),48 one partial (manuscript G), in which the poem appears without attribution. This poem is unusual for Granson: it describes a situation that does not occur in any of his other poems, and it is the only Valentine poem in which the saint actually appears, in the company of the God of Love. If it is Granson’s, it must have circulated independently.

A far more doubtful case is found in C, one of the four Chartier manuscripts that contains “La Pastourelle Granson.” Much earlier in the manuscript occurs a poem that is headed (like the “Pastourelle,” in a later hand) “Complainte amoureuse de Sainct Valentin Gransson” (GW101). The first twenty-one lines of this poem are identical to the opening of 75, but the rest is in a different rhyme scheme, and in contents too it plainly has nothing to do with this opening. There is no way to determine how these two poems came to be joined, but despite another allusion to Saint Valentine in the final stanza, we cannot be sure that the attribution to Granson (which also appears in the copy of 75 in K) applies to anything but the first portion.49

Two other cases of attribution to Granson are more clearly doubtful. The poem of Garencières that appears in E has already been cited. And in manuscript T, a compilation by a nineteenth-century collector that contains two ballades from A plus the virelai found in A and F, there is another ballade with the explicit “par Odo de Granson” that is actually one of the ballades of Machaut that is also contained in A (GW5).50

Summing up the evidence. Setting aside 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson” and also 78 Le Livre Messire Ode, which we will consider separately below, the long poems, as a group, are the best attested and the ones that we can most confidently attribute to Granson. There are nine of these poems, five of which are ascribed to Granson in at least one of the copies in which they occur. Three of the other four, curiously enough, are the ones in which Saint Valentine’s name appears in the title in at least one copy: 71 “Le Souhait de Saint Valentin,” 72 “Complainte de Saint Valentin,” and 77 “Le Songe Saint Valentin.” The fourth is 68 “Le Dit de loiauté,” which is also the only of the long poems to survive in a single copy, and the evidence for its attribution thus rests solely on its appearance in A. Of the rest, the appearance of all eight in both F and A, the appearance of six of these in K, and the appearance of a different six in P (where they are grouped together in the first cluster) reinforce the likelihood of a common authorship.

The shorter poems are somewhat more problematic. Only a handful of ballades are attributed to Granson by name, two in A (41, 61), three in E (56, 59, 60), and the five used by Chaucer (3741). With the one overlap, that makes a total of nine. While the instances of false attribution have to make us cautious, there is no need to doubt these ascriptions, particularly Chaucer’s, since in all likelihood he was acquainted with Granson and since this is the only attribution that dates from Granson’s lifetime. But for all the remaining short poems that we attribute to him, we must rely entirely on indirect evidence: on their appearance in manuscripts where they are grouped together alongside others that bear Granson’s name, on whatever we might infer from the heading in A that states that its contents were “compiled” by the poet, and on the similarities in form, diction, and theme.

The similarities must necessarily count for less than the evidence from the manuscripts. Piaget’s argument on the unity of the poems in F is actually an attempt to demonstrate that they create a single coherent narrative, and it is based on the dubious assumption of a direct relation between the poems and the poet’s real experience. Piaget also overstated their homogeneity: the tradition from which these poems derive offered a great many different possibilities to develop, as one can see from the variety of poems in F and the even greater variety in A. If these poems are Granson’s, then his palette was simply more varied than Piaget acknowledged. At the same time, there are a small number of poems that are so dissimilar from the rest (the two anomalous ballades in F, the second part of the “Complainte amoureuse de Sainct Valentin Gransson” [GW101] in C) that we have to doubt that they are by the same author. The dissimilarity in contents thus might give us reason to exclude certain poems, but what consistency there is among the rest is due to their being grounded in the same inherited commonplaces of form and theme and thus offers no reliable evidence on authorship.

What we deduce from the major manuscripts rests for the most part on the inferences that we make about how the collections that they contain came to be compiled. And whether by accident or design, four out of five of these are clearly not the collected works of a single poet. Manuscript K is the exception here, but except for the balade double, it contains none of the shorter poems. Manuscript P is the model that we have to keep in mind, for it demonstrates both the quantity and the diversity of the anonymous vernacular verse that was in circulation and available to be “compiled” as the fourteenth century ended. Manuscripts A, E, and we have to suppose F as well, while each containing poems ascribed to Granson, also contain at least some poems that are not Granson’s, and they too are thus “compilations,” though whether more like K or more like P is not immediately evident. The appearance of the same short poems in more than one of these is perhaps the most valuable evidence that we have, for it suggests, as in the case of the longer poems, that these poems circulated together, which in turn suggests a common origin and offers strong though not conclusive evidence of common authorship. It is worth noting in that regard that none of the poems that we know are not by Granson appears in more than one of these manuscripts, and that all of the poems that are ascribed to him by name do appear in more than one. The variations in order, in title, and in the text and the evidence that we find in the manuscripts themselves that their collections derived from more than a single source indicate that there was no single master copy upon which each was based. But there are also examples in which the same poems do appear grouped together and sometimes — as in the case of the “Cinq balades ensuivans” — in the same order, which strengthen further the case for a common origin.

In making the selection for this edition, we have steered a conservative middle course. With Piaget, we accept F and A as the best sources of evidence on Granson’s canon, and we have excluded from consideration only the poems in these two copies that we recognize as likely or certainly to be by someone else. We have also admitted 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson”and 78 Le Livre Messire Ode (which we discuss below), but none of the poems in other manuscripts for which Granson’s authorship is merely speculative. The surviving manuscripts leave us much that is reasonably sure, but with all of the mysteries on how their contents came to be compiled, the inclusion of poems clearly not by Granson, together with the wide availability of anonymous verse as illustrated by P, has to remind us that there will always be some degree of uncertainty about the precise boundaries of his canon, especially with reference to the poems that appear in only one of these copies. At the same time, there is no reason to believe that F and A together contain every single poem that Granson wrote, and it is fully possible that other of his works appear among the many unattributed poems not just in P and E but in other manuscripts as well.

Le Livre Messire Ode. Included in Piaget’s edition is the long quasi-autobiographical poem that he entitled Le Livre Messire Ode which must be treated as a special case. This work appears in whole or in part in five manuscripts, none of which contains any indication of its title or of the author’s name. The five copies are:
B: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fr. 1727, mid fifteenth century; the only “complete” text.51
G: London, Westminster Abbey, MS 21, mid fifteenth century; lines 702–833.
J: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fr. 1952, sixteenth century; under the heading “Complainte d’amours,” lines 1–326, 872–966, 994–1089.
N: Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale Albert 1er, MS 10961–10970, c. 1465; lines 1–1480.
O: Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, MS 410, c. 1430; five fragments on separate leaves, lines 1–32, 617–57, 762–815, 917–54, and 1066–1114.
Manuscripts B and G have already been cited above for they also contain 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson.” G also contains one of the ballades that appears in F (55) and another found in A that is actually by Machaut (GW36). None of the other three contains any poems that might be Granson’s, but all five contain works by Alain Chartier.

In presenting the work as Granson’s, Piaget cited three bits of evidence for the attribution:52
•In 69 “L’Estraine du jour de l’an,” lines 37–38, Granson seems to make an allusion to his “livre” with reference to his fidelity in love, in lines that we have translated, “You will know it, if I may live, / More by my deeds than by my writing” (“Mieux par mez fais que par mon livre”).
•In Book 3 of Martin Le Franc’s Le Champion des Dames, lines 14125–28, Franc Vouloir (the “champion” of the title) alludes to Granson in these words, as part of his argument on the consistency of virtue and true love:
Se le petit livre lisez
De messire Ode de Granson,
Vous trouverez de biens assez
En l’amoureuse cusançon.

[If you read the little book of Messire Ode de Granson, you will find enough good in the pains of love.]

•And in the Livre itself, lines 7–9, there is a passage that Piaget took as a reference to 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson” (compare lines 105–06):
Amours, par vostre bon vouloir
Vous a pleu moy faire savoir
Que je choisisse une maistresse.

[Love, out of your good will / It pleased you to instruct me / To choose a mistress.]
Each of these requires some qualification. While the last statement is consistent with the “Complainte,” it makes no allusion to the specific circumstances of that poem, in which the poet’s first lady has died and in which he is counseled to choose another, and it might instead refer to any situation in which a man has been incited by the God of Love. In “L’Estraine,” the “livre” appears to be no more than a figure of speech for the poet’s writing generally, including the very poem in which this reference occurs. And the “petit livre” to which Le Franc refers is not necessarily a specific poem but could be any collection of Granson’s writing, which is how Piaget himself understood it before he attached the title to this particular work.53

There is in fact nothing in any of the evidence that Piaget cites to indicate that Granson wrote another poem in addition to those contained in F and A or that if he did, he entitled it Le Livre Messire Ode. Nor is there any evidence that the piece to which Piaget gave that title is that work, or that it was thought to be Granson’s by anyone at the time, including the scribes who copied it into the manuscripts in which it is preserved. But that is not to say that Piaget was necessarily mistaken, for the attribution, while speculative, is both plausible and appealing. While this certainly would have been a new sort of composition for Granson, with its extended narrative frame and with at least one new lyric type (the “Debate between Heart and Body,” lines 1534–1726), it otherwise contains nothing that is inconsistent with his ability or with his style, and the situation of the narrator, despairing of the good graces of his lady, has abundant echoes in the poems that are more firmly attributed to him. The challenge (in the prose letter that follows line 1089) to one of the knights of “the party of the King of England” (identified more specifically as the “Lord of Cornwall” in manuscripts N and O) suggests that the work was composed by a French-speaking poet with strong English connections such as Granson rather than by someone who was confined to France. Evidence that the author had read Chaucer 54 also suggests Granson rather than anyone else writing in French (unless of course the influence works the other way). There are also three references to Saint Valentine, in lines 828, 1246, and 1996. The mixture of awkwardness and ambition that characterizes the work as a whole suggests someone who rises above the level of the many anonymous poets whose works appear in the manuscripts of the time, but also someone who was not as accomplished as the other poets whose names we know, such as Chartier. And its possibly unfinished state (on which we will say more below) might help explain why it is not included alongside Granson’s other poems, for it allows us to speculate that he was still working on it at the time of his death and that it only circulated afterwards. We cannot ever be certain, but it is a good fit, and among the poets that we know, at least, we have no better candidate for its author.


The body of work that we attribute to Granson on the grounds that we have just described offers a nearly complete cross-section of French poetry at the end of the fourteenth century, both formally and thematically. The seventy-eight separate poems plus the thirty-two lyrics that are contained in the Livre Messire Ode include ninety-two in the formes fixes — ballade, rondeau, and virelai — which were the recognized types for lyric poetry at the time.55 (Only the fourth and least common, the chant royal or chanson royal, is not represented in Granson.) The eighteen longer poems are more diverse, and though most are referable to a conventional type, these types themselves are far less precisely defined. Though for the most part Granson was content to follow the models that were most current in his time, there is some evidence of inventiveness on his part, and the very variety of his verse demonstrates a consciousness of form and a greater willingness to experiment than is found even among some of his professional contemporaries.

The formes fixes. The conventions of the formes fixes had largely been established, by practice and example, by the middle of the fourteenth century, particularly under the influence of Guillaume de Machaut, and they were later codified by Eustache Deschamps in his Art de Dictier of 1392. But each also evolved from generation to generation, and even in their strictest form they left room for considerable variation.56 The ballade, rondeau, and virelai all derive from earlier song forms. Machaut and other poets in the first part of the century often provided music for their compositions. By the end of the century music was much less common, but the poems retain some of the formal characteristics of song, particularly in the structural use of repetition.57 Each of the formes fixes is characterized by a fixed number of stanzas that, identical in form, could be sung to the same melody; by a limited number of rhymes in a repeated scheme; and by some element of repetition in the text, in the form of either a shorter or a longer refrain.

In the rondeau and the virelai, the opening stanza is repeated and thus constitutes the refrain. In the earliest examples, the refrain was probably meant to be sung by the public, in response to the soloist, in alternation.58 At the end of the century, the rondeau was the forme fixe that still maintained the closest affiliation with song. Readers of English poetry will remember the roundel that is sung by the birds at the close of Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls (lines 680–92).59 Seven of the ten rondeaux in the Livre Messire Ode are labeled “chansons,” though no music is provided (the others bear no title), and Granson refers to the rondeaux being sung, or not, in lines 330, 582, 1642, and 1710. The rondeau is also the most “musical” form in employing the greatest amount of repetition both of sense and sound. The typical rondeau at the end of the century has four 4-line stanzas: an opening stanza that provides the refrain and also establishes the rhymes; a second stanza that concludes with the first two lines of the refrain; a new third stanza; and then the repetition of the entire refrain.60 The whole poem uses only two rhymes, which we can represent schematically in this way (using capital letters for the refrain): ABBA abAB abba ABBA. Fifteen of Granson’s nineteen rondeaux (nine separate poems, ten in Le Livre Messire Ode) are in this form. In 9, he creates a double rondeau by adding three more stanzas in the same scheme, and in three of the rondeaux in the Livre Messire Ode (lines 583–603, 2034–54, and 2449–69) he uses a 5-line stanza rhyming aabba, a variation that appears among other poets too at about the same time.61

There is only a single example of a virelai in Granson (10). Schematically, it can be represented in this way (again with capitals to indicate the refrain): AABBA ccdccd aabba AABBA. In the virelai, the refrain (typically either four or five lines) is repeated only in full, after two stanzas of development, and while the third stanza repeats the rhyme scheme (and when sung, the melody) of the refrain, the second stanza has a different rhyme and metrical scheme and uses a different melody. Though in Deschamps and Christine de Pisan, virelais of seven stanzas were still common, by about 1400 the virelai came more and more to resemble the typical rondeau, with only four stanzas and with lines of equal length, as in the example by Granson.62

The ballade is by far the most important of the formes fixes, not just for Granson but for fourteenth-century French poetry generally. Granson left seventy-two examples, including fifteen in the Livre Messire Ode.63 The ballade is a 3-stanza form, each stanza employing the same rhymes, and the refrain, consisting of one or two lines, appears not at the beginning of the poem, as in the rondeau and virelai, but at the conclusion of each stanza. Within this general frame, there is room for considerable variety. The stanza can range from six to fourteen lines. Among Granson’s closest contemporaries, the lines are all normally eight to ten syllables in length, but especially early in the century, the stanza also allows one or more shorter lines, or vers coupés. The number of rhymes typically varies between two and five. Granson’s ballades illustrate some of this variety, though he tends to use the schemes that usage had made most common during the decades in which he wrote.64 All but two of his ballades use lines of a uniform length (that is, they do not employ the vers coupé; the exceptions are 18 and 32), and all but six are in decasyllables.65 For his 7-line stanzas (Machaut’s favorite form), he also prefers the rhyme scheme that Machaut favors, ababbcc (five of his six examples). (English readers will recognize this as the model for Chaucer’s “rhyme royal.”) But where Machaut has a strong preference for a closing couplet, in his longer stanzas Granson prefers some version of crossed rhyme instead (as does Deschamps 66). His favorite form was the 8-line stanza rhyming ababbcbc (the model for Chaucer’s Monk’s Tale stanza), with 24 examples. His next two favorites were a 10-line stanza rhyming ababbccdcd (with eighteen examples) and a 12-line stanza rhyming ababbccddede (with eight). There are unique examples of ten other schemes and two examples of an eleventh, including stanzas of nine, eleven, and fourteen lines, but the only other scheme that he used more than twice is the unusual 8-line stanza rhyming ababbccb that he employed exclusively in his “Cinq balades ensuivans.”

The ballade is a form that draws attention to its own difficulty, and it is hard to exaggerate the challenges that were posed by these schemes. Granson’s favorite 8-line stanza required him to come up with six different a-rhymes, four c-rhymes (one of which occurs three times, in the refrain), and twelve different b-rhymes in a 24-line poem. The longer stanzas employ additional rhymes (except in 44, in which the 9-line stanza requires fifteen b-rhymes), but they pose no less a challenge in the requirement to maintain exactly the same scheme in each stanza, and they draw no less attention to the sound of the verse in their greater use of internal couplets. This emphasis on sound — on what Deschamps refers to as “natural music” as opposed to the artificial music of melody 67 — is an aspect of the structure of the ballade that cannot be reproduced in translation, and it extends beyond merely the repetition of the same syllable at the end of the line. The careful reader will discover not just virtuosity in fitting sense to sound but also calculated effects in the use of sound: for instance, in 19, the use of three very similar rhymes, -aire, -iere, and -er (remembering that final r was still pronounced in Middle French), as opposed to 21, in which -ours and -ort are set in contrast to the b-rhyme -eille, but in which they are echoed in the repeated use of the -r termination within the line and lead to the concluding rime riche on fort.

The ballade form allows greater possibility for rhetorical development than either the rondeau or the virelai, especially as both stanzas and lines tend to lengthen as the century progressed. On the one hand, there are whole stanzas that can be punctuated as single sentences (for instance, the initial stanzas of 55 and 66, or the first two stanzas of 18), and the poet displays his skill in his ability to fit his clauses naturally into the rhyme and metrical scheme. On the other hand, compare not just the shorter clauses but also the quick change of tone that mark the lady’s spirited rationalization and self-defense in 50. On a larger scale, the rhetorical structure of the ballade as a whole is very much determined by the recurrence of the refrain, which in this respect is much more than merely a matter of sound. In the hands of lesser poets, the necessity of ending each stanza in the same place might induce mere repetition, and there are many ballades in which the stanzas could be switched around without much consequence. In more skillful hands, the ballade form opened up the possibilities that were not available in the other formes fixes. In both the rondeau and the virelai, the fact that the ending is identical to the opening inhibits any progression in the thought, and while in the rondeau, the partial repetition in the second stanza requires a certain amount of dexterity on the poet’s part, and in the virelai, the contrasting second stanza might allow the introduction of a contrasting perspective, both forms tend to simple, uncomplicated statements and to the development of a single idea with little drama or tension (though not necessarily without humor or wit; see 1 and 9). The ballade, on the other hand, falls naturally into a three-step argument.68 A typical pattern (e.g. in 11 or 35) is almost syllogistic in form: a general statement in the first stanza; a more specific description of the particulars of the poet’s condition in the second; and then in the third, a conclusion, which might be, among other choices, a reaffirmation, a judgment, or a plea. But the form accommodates a nearly unlimited number of possibilities, and an essential part of the experience of reading the ballades is discovering the unique way in which each is developed. In 45, for instance, the three-part structure is ostensibly provided by the poet’s eye, ear, and heart, within which is developed a three-part statement of the poet’s devotion to his lady, his praise of her virtues, and his promise to continue serving her. In 66, the structure is provided by variations on the theme of looking and seeing. And in 26, a three-step statement — your grace will give me joy; it will be the appropriate reward for my loyalty; and from it your honor will increase — is set against the countercurrent of the lady’s persistent refusal to grant what the lover requests, in the refrain.

Within these structures, the refrain itself can vary in function and in its relation to the rest of the stanza. It might offer a summary (37, 40), an aphorism (56), an affirmation (55), a reversal (26, 53), a unifying image (59), or a comment on the poem itself (11, 34), depending upon the theme and the poet’s ingenuity. In other cases the refrain has no heavy semantic burden, or while meaningful in itself, provides no real clue to the content of the rest of the stanza, but the poet displays his dexterity simply in being able to maneuver back to it three successive times (18, 35, 39). In some cases the refrain acquires slightly different shades of meaning as it is placed in different contexts (20, 49). Within the whole poem the refrain is an essential unifying device, but in almost all cases, the forward movement of the poem assures that it also accumulates force and meaning as the poem proceeds.

Granson was far from the least accomplished of the poets of his time in exploiting the possibilities of the ballade form, and though not particularly venturesome metrically, he gets some credit for popularizing, if not inventing, forms that became more widespread after his death. Jung mentions the 8-line stanza rhyming ababbcbc in the ballade and also the 5-line stanza in the rondeau;69 Laurie suggests that Granson and Deschamps together helped establish the longer stanza forms in the ballade and the use of the envoy.70 Granson also shows some inventiveness in his experimentation with longer sequences of poems. There are precedents for stringing ballades together. Poirion cites the Prologue that Machaut composed for the manuscripts of his collected works, which begins with a dialogue between the poet and Nature and Love in the form of four ballades.71 Machaut includes one balade double in the Louange des dames, consisting of a dialogue between a lover and a lady in alternating stanzas72 and other balades doubles and triples — ballades with identical refrains and set to the same melody — can be found among the poems that Machaut set to music.73 Granson leaves one balade double (60–61, two poems with the same refrain, one addressed to his lady and one to Love), plus the remarkable exchange of ballades between lover and lady — each using the same refrain, but to opposite purposes — in 49–50. The most striking example, however, is the group of poems that is labeled in manuscript F “Cinq balades ensuivans [Sequence of five ballades]” (37–41), the ballades that Chaucer adapted in his “Complaint of Venus.” It is far from certain who provided this title, and it is particularly puzzling because this group is immediately followed in manuscript F by another group labeled “Les six balades ensuivans [The sequence of six ballades]” that is by no means as persuasive a unity, either formally, consisting of poems with stanzas of three different lengths and rhyme schemes, or thematically, having no more in common than any other six ballades that one might pick. The “Cinq balades ensuivans,” however, were clearly meant to go together.74 All five poems are of the same length and they employ the same rhyme scheme, which Granson uses nowhere else. Each poem makes a different statement, but none has the rhetorical complexity of Granson’s other most mature compositions, and in most of the five, the second and third stanzas could be rearranged without loss (as indeed occurs in 38, 39, and 40 in manuscript E). What development there is comes not from stanza to stanza but rather from poem to poem, as the narrator proceeds from his lady’s virtues, to her scorn, to her effect upon him, to the pains of love, before concluding with a reaffirmation of his commitment. The group as a whole thus offers the type of argument that is elsewhere presented in single ballades, and thematically as well as formally, it appears that it was planned as a single poem.

Themes. This sequence of ballades illustrates another feature of late fourteenth-century French poetry: the conventionality of form was matched by a conventionality of theme. However great the variety rhetorically or metrically in the best of the ballades, the first impression of any modern reader is likely to be their sameness: with few exceptions, the lyric poetry of this epoque is concerned not just exclusively with love, but with love conceived within very narrow limits. The speaker is almost always male, and he speaks from one of a small number of predetermined roles, as if continuously re-enacting scenes from a previously constructed drama. Most often his love is unreciprocated; his lady, whom he does not cease to praise, is either indifferent or for some other reason inaccessible to him; or as a variation, he is the victim of mesdisans, or slanderers, who cause him to be separated from his lady. There are also poems spoken by women, often complaining of unfaithful men, and a set of “wisdom” poems, offering general reflections upon the nature of love, the commitment it requires, and the suffering it inevitably entails. In all these there is a singlemindedness, not just in the lover’s devotion to a single woman (or when the speaker is a woman, to a single man), but in the total subjection to la vie amoureuse — the life of love — to the exclusion of all other occupations or activities, the dual commitment expressed in the refrain to 43:
Que de riens plus ne me souvient, par m’ame,
Fors que d’amours et de ma belle dame.
That by my soul, no longer do I recall
Anything but love and my beautiful lady.
(Lines 26–27)
In the purest of this poetry, such as we find in Granson, the focus on love operates to the exclusion of any reference outside of the narrator’s own private world. One finds no allusion to historical or political events. One also finds virtually no reference to the actual details of the poet’s own life. The ballade found only in manuscript A (47), which is not about love and in which Granson appears to protest the false accusations that followed him during his final years, is the one exception, unless we also count the two poems on the pains of growing old (9 and 25). There are poems on parting and on particular holidays that might have been written for specific occasions. And there are three poems that bear, in acrostic, the name “Isabel” (on which more below), whom we assume is a real person, but they are otherwise so unspecific that there is no agreement on the identity of the designee, and they provide no more help in determining the chronology of composition than any of Granson’s other poems.

For even in these poems, there is nothing to distinguish the lady for whom he writes from the ladies of hundreds of earlier lyrics, and nothing to distinguish his experiences with her from those of his many predecessors. The narrator’s pose in these lyrics is not without paradox. One, which can be the source of considerable dramatic interest, stems from the lover’s full and candid revelation to his overhearing public of what is by definition not just intimate and personal but necessarily secret, sometimes even from the lady herself. But another is that the intimate and personal is not for that reason necessarily individual or unique. And that is the second impression that the modern reader is likely to come away with, the other aspect of these poems’ conventionality: their impersonality. Both in diction and in choice of imagery, there is little to distinguish the works of one poet from those of another: their art does not lie in the evocation of a general truth from a specific and unique experience, but rather in giving expression to a shared, communal, formalized, almost ritualized (even if only imagined) set of feelings.

The poet’s obliteration of himself in favor of a generic narrator is an essential aspect of the pose that the lyricist assumed. Such a pose was presumably even more necessary for those who composed for patrons who were, as Poirion points out, more interested in their own affairs than in those of a hired poet.75 Granson, an aristocrat who may have written for an audience but not for a patron, nonetheless adhered to the same conventions. He thus writes less about love than about a Love that can be personified, that grants grace, that can come to the lover’s aid, that can be invoked without necessary reference to an emotional attachment to a particular person. Although, inspired by his lady’s beauty, he is afflicted with Desire, there is a complete lack of overt sensuality; and though he is filled with admiration for his lady, we learn less about her than about his own seemingly permanent condition of longing and suffering. He deals less with her than with abstractions of his own feelings — Desire that torments him, Hope that sustains him — or with abstractions of hers, which following the model of the Roman de la Rose are less the elements of her personality than projections of his own experience with her: Dangier (her natural reserve, manifested in her coldness and inaccessibility), Durté (her harshness), Refus (rejection), or the much anticipated Merci. As he burns with desire and languishes for love, he pledges to fear, obey, and serve his lady, and he pleads for her pity or mercy for only she can relieve him of his pain. He both needs and fears to make known his love, but he prefers to endure his suffering with her rather than finding joy with any other lady, and when he is forced to separate from her, he leaves his heart behind as he departs. Each of these motifs is found more than once in Granson, and as a general rule, whenever the same theme recurs in his work, one can be almost certain that it can be found — often innumerable times — in the work of other poets as well.

It is perhaps easier to recognize the artifice inherent in conventions such as these when they are someone else’s. As has been pointed out many times before, our own popular music has its own distinctive genres, each with its own stock situations and conventional devices that might well appear no less artificial to someone who is not already familiar with them. Such conventions can of course serve different purposes at different times. As Wimsatt has emphasized most strongly with reference to fourteenth-century poetry, the stability and predictability of the underlying sense is a precondition of the formal virtuosity of these poems, of the privileging of sound over sense and of the preoccupation with forms of expression rather than with content.76 Both the conventionality of theme and the privileging of form, moreover, are consistent with what some have seen as the social function of this poetry, in providing not just a set of behavioral norms but also a means of self-definition for its aristocratic audience. At a time when the French knightly class had lost much of its effectiveness if not its very raison d’être, these poems offered a refuge in a world of artifice deliberately detached from both history and material circumstance, the security of a coded and ritualized behavior exclusive to a particular class that set its practitioners apart from those who were less privileged, however little this differencing may have corresponded to the economic realities of the time. Loving well, Granson proclaims, “c’est droicte franchise / Du cuer gentifz [is the very right / Of a noble heart ]” (58.9–10). The self-absorption of the lover-narrator in this poetry might stand as a metaphor for the self-absorption of the entire class for whom these lyrics were composed.

But however conventional, however impersonal, however ritualized, and however detached both from individual experience and from the real world these poems might be, their interest as literature is not limited to their technical virtuosity. The situations they describe, for one, are not entirely without dramatic interest. The lover is often placed in a situation of paradox or conflict, and there are few poems (especially among Granson’s, and this may mark a distinction from Machaut’s) that express a single undifferentiated feeling. Even in the same stock situations, moreover, there is more than one way of imagining the lover’s response. Faced with his lady’s indifference, for instance (certainly one of the most common scenarios), in 11 he complains about the lack of reward for his loyalty; in 19 his pain and grief lead to a reaffirmation of his commitment; and in 34 he pleads his excuses for what she has perceived as his neglect. In 26, perhaps the most interesting of all, he expresses his plea for regard in the face of the apparent finality of his rejection, and the futility of his persistence is embodied in the poignant repetition of the refrain: “Mais vous m’avez tousjours respondu ‘non’ [But you have always answered me with ‘no’].” In other cases we seem to be overhearing a dialogue or debate. This is particularly true in the poems in which the narrator imparts advice to lovers, which often seems to take direct issue with poems spoken by the lover himself. 56, on the arbitrary fortunes of love, can be seen as a rebuke to the lovers who protest the unfairness of their lot, as for instance in 54. 33 constitutes a rebuke to the timorous and fearful and by implication to their whining and complaints, a poem that may be intended to engage with other lyricists since it describes a condition not well represented in Granson. These “wisdom” poems are often more colloquial in tone, in contrast to the formality of the lyrics that adhere to the more conventional poses. 33 is again an example: the possibility of viewing the lover’s condition from without rather than within permits a candor and a bluntness that move beyond, and that offer a different perspective on, his disappointment and self-absorption.

Granson has far fewer poems that are directly concerned with a woman’s experience in love, but they cover just as wide a range. He expresses a remarkable sympathy for women in 41, a “wisdom” poem affirming that Love has a natural lordship over women as well as men and defending the right of a young woman to experience love, in rebuke of prudishness. One should also cite here the spirited but somewhat elusive shepherdess in 73 “La Pastourelle Granson.” Of the five poems in which Granson portrays the woman as the only speaker, one (16) is about her grief at her separation from her lover; in one she professes her loyalty, against the reports of slanderers (32); and in two she expresses her anger at her betrayal by a faithless man (20 and 49). The most remarkable, however, is 50, in which the woman speaks in a different voice entirely, by turns sweet-talking, arguing, refuting, consoling, and rebuking, as she responds directly to her lover’s complaint of her infidelity in the immediately preceding ballade, and as she uses the same refrain with which he both proclaims his unending commitment to her and excuses his own apparent neglect in order to justify her abandonment of him for another lover: “I have done nothing that Love doesn’t make me do” — simultaneously deflating all of his expectations of her and all of the idealism of love on which they are based.

42, Granson’s condemnation of “disloyalty in the life of love,” together with 68 “Le Dit de loiauté,” constitute contributions to a debate or dialogue of a different sort. Loyalty was certainly not a new theme at the end of the fourteenth century — it figures often in the works of Machaut — but either or both of these poems might well be Granson’s response to the invitation in the one-hundredth of the Les Cent Ballades for other poets to offer their view on the choice between Loiauté and its opposite that is debated in the ballades that precede. Granson’s was not among the thirteen replies that are included in most manuscripts of the collection, but the poets who wrote were all aristocrats like himself, and in other of his poems, loiauté — a more active form of commitment than mere fidelity, embracing by implication the notions of service and the desired reward as well — frequently appears as an ideal of conduct.

58 is also one of twelve of Granson’s ballades to have (in one of the copies in which it survives) an envoy. The envoy is an additional shorter stanza (of no fixed length) employing the same rhymes as the rest of the ballade in which the poet often turns to address his listeners directly.77 Most of the envoys in Granson’s ballades are directed to the lady who is also addressed in the ballade,78 but four are addressed to a listening audience instead — 42 to the “princesse d’Amours [Princess of Love],” 56 to “gens et gentes [ladies and gentlemen],” 65 to “Princes” and a ballade in 78 Le Livre Messire Ode, lines 363–97, to the “Prince amoureux [loving prince or Prince of Love]” — on the model that was sustained, if it was not in fact created, by the guilds or confraternities known as the puys. The puys, which flourished during Granson’s lifetime in northern France, sponsored organized poetry competitions among their members, often on announced themes or to a set refrain. There is no direct evidence that Granson participated in a puy.79 Their membership seems to have been drawn mostly from the mercantile class rather than from the aristocracy, though they also provided a site where those boundaries were not necessarily rigid, and recent scholarship has emphasized how the puys were both imitative of and also influential upon courtly practices.80 Their very existence seems to have constituted an encouragement to amateur poets that carried over to the aristocracy as well. Perhaps even more importantly, the puys, like the Les Cent Ballades, make evident in concrete form the other sense in which the lyric poetry of the time was a communal act. Poets were very conscious of each other’s work, and each of their poems constitutes a contribution to a long, on-going conversation on the experience of love.

The poets’ reference to one another is manifested not just in their acceptance of the prevailing conventions of form and theme but sometimes in their quotation of each other’s verse. As Ardis Butterfield puts it, in many instances “poets do not merely use the same genre of learned love language, they also specifically cite one another’s phrases and lines in direct riposte.”81 Scholars have only begun to catalogue these citations, and a modern reader can therefore have only a dim appreciation of the web of inter-reference by which this ongoing dialogue was sustained. Butterfield cites the example of one refrain — “Qui bien aime a tart oblie [He who loves well forgets slowly]” — that appears in twenty-five separate poems from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century (though not in Granson); and she cites other clusters of imagery that are shared and evidently interchanged among Machaut, Froissart, Granson, and the English poets Gower (writing in Anglo-French) and Chaucer.82 Such a literary culture, she observes, renders almost meaningless the question of who came first, and it challenges all of our traditional notions of source, borrowing, and intertextuality.

In broadest terms, the ongoing conversation in which all these poets participate is concerned with the very nature of love, and from the beginning, despite the sharing of imagery, there is a wide range of underlying views. Guillaume de Lorris’ courtly idealism is answered by Jean de Meun’s more earthy naturalism; Machaut’s commitment to the discipline of Hope over Desire is answered by Deschamps’ more pragmatic, often cynical realism; the virtues of loiauté are answered by the pleasures of playing the field; and in 49 and 50 Granson juxtaposes two opposing ethics in his use of a single refrain, “I have done nothing that Love doesn’t make me do.” The woman’s use of this refrain in 50 is not Granson’s most typical stance: there is certainly much less celebration of libertinage in his work than expression of commitment to the service of love. 58, his defense of woman’s right to love, is also a defense of bonne amour (line 13), and in 23 he comes very close to echoing the view that Machaut expressed, particularly in his dits amoureux, that love, even if unreciprocated, offers its own rewards to the faithful lover. At the same time, Granson exhibits much less confidence than Machaut in the power of Hope, whose consolations in his hands tend to be much more fleeting. There are more expressions of real suffering in Granson (11, 15, 35, 55, and much of 78) and little reference to the alternatives that are offered by other poets, whether faith in a transcendent love, the consolations of Reason, the virtue of moderation, or the comforts of faith in God. The advice that he offers, particularly in the “wisdom” poems, tends to be more prudent and practical in nature. At the same time, Granson is not unreflective. 50, again, demonstrates that he was not unaware of the challenges to his most idealistic view of love, and the alert reader will find other moments too in which Granson betrays his doubts about the reality of the entire courtly ethic and his comprehension of the paradoxes of love that emerge from the complexities and vagaries of the human heart.

In sum, while working within what we might consider a narrow range, Granson never does write the same poem twice. Each is a new exploration of his subject, and while we can see some consistent elements and some repeating themes, he has more than a single statement to make about love, and we can never be quite sure what will come in the next poem, or the next stanza, or even the refrain. The more familiar we become with the conventions, the more alert we can also be to the variations. And for that reason, none of these poems should be seen in isolation, for each is a contribution to an ongoing dialogue. We can see one small portion of that conversation taking place among Granson’s own lyrics, as they respond, sometimes in quite specific terms, to one another. More broadly, these poems take their place against the background of the community of writers, extending over several generations and several languages, of which Granson was a part and to which, because he did not allow himself to become stuck in a single groove, he provides an excellent introduction.

The longer poems. Granson’s longer poems are more difficult to categorize than his short lyrics because the formal traditions on which they draw were less fixed, but their very variety is another token of Granson’s willingness to stretch his wings, even if his more ambitious efforts sometimes fall short of his aspirations. There are eleven separate poems: three short dits in couplets (68 “Le Dit de Loiauté,” 69 “L’Estraine du jour de l’an,” and 71 “Le Souhait de Saint Valentin”), five poems in stanzas entitled (in at least one copy) “complainte” (70, 72, 74, 76, plus 73, the poem more commonly known as “Granson’s Pastourelle”), one lai (75 “Le Lai de desir en complainte”), plus his longest poems, his two narrative dits in couplets, 77 “Le Songe Saint Valentin” and 78 Le Livre Messire Ode. Le Livre Messire Ode itself incorporates, in addition to the ballades and rondeaux already mentioned, another lai (the “Lai de plour,” lines 702–833) and six complaintes.

The shorter dits, in octosyllabic couplets, have a freshness and accessibility that result from their freedom from the constraints of the stanza form, and each is only as long as it needs to be. Two are attached to holidays and could well have been written for a specific occasion. 69 “L’Estraine du jour de l’an” is obviously rooted in lyric tradition but reads more like a personal message than like a public performance. 71 “Le Souhait de Saint Valentin” is even more charming, containing a sincerity that derives from the freedom of the form, the apparent authenticity of the wishes, and the artful combination of unexaggerated compliment with the modest hope to become more worthy. 68 “Le Dit de loiauté,” as we have already noted, may spring from a specific circumstance of a different sort, for it can be read as Granson’s contribution to the debate undertaken by the poets of the Les Cent Ballades, a theme that Granson also treats in ballades 23 and 42.

At the opposite extreme in formal terms are 75 “Le Lai de desir en complainte” and 74 “Complainte de Gransson,” together with the “Lay de plour” in the Livre Messire Ode. 75 follows the model for a lai set by Machaut, Froissart, and Deschamps.83 It consists of twelve stanzas, each in a different form except for the first and last, varying in length between fourteen and twenty-four lines, but each falling into two identical halves and employing only two rhymes. The technical difficulties that the form imposes are heightened by the need to find meaningful rhymes in the very short lines that occur in some of the stanzas, particularly the third and the fourth. The demands of the scheme and the constant shift from one stanza form to another inhibit the sort of thematic development found in the ballade. Granson offers twelve variations on the theme of the force of Desire (which is named in every stanza but two) and on the struggle both to conceal it and to make it known to the lady.

“Granson’s Complainte” (74) and his “Lay de plour” (78.702–833) nearly rival the lai in formal difficulty, but they use the same stanza form throughout. The “Complainte” is in twelve 16-line stanzas, each with only two rhymes, divided into four quatrains by the 4-syllable vers coupé, indicated here by the underscore: aaab aaab bbba bbba. This was a stanza form also used by Machaut, for instance in the complainte in his Remede de Fortune, lines 905–1450 (with thirty-six 16-lines stanzas). The “Lay de plour” uses a shorter version of the lai stanza, with twelve lines instead of sixteen — aab aab bbc bbc — and with concatenation, as the c-rhyme of each stanza is carried over to become the a-rhyme of the next.

Of the ten other poems by Granson that are labeled complaintes, none is in the same stanza form as 74. The complainte was not a fixed genre metrically: most of Machaut’s complaintes are in rhyming couplets, and of the rest, no two are in the same stanza form.84 Granson’s use of stanzas (of eight, ten, or eleven lines) is identical to one that he also used in his ballades. Thematically, the most conventional complaintes were merely extended dramatizations of the lover’s misfortunes, not differing greatly from some of the most conventional ballades. Five of the six complaintes in Le Livre Messire Ode fall into that category, as does 50, the “Complainte de Saint Valentin,” a poem on the lover’s separation from his lady in the form of five ballades without refrain, and 74, discussed above. But complainte proved to be a flexible term, especially towards the end of the century, and it came to be applied to poems that don’t fit neatly into any precise thematic mold.

In Le Livre Messire Ode, for instance, the nine stanzas that are labeled “complainte” in lines 1534–1605 make up only the first part of the debate between the Heart and the Body that continues with a passage in couplets that also incorporates three rondeaux. And 73, the poem entitled “Complainte de pastour et de de pastourelle amoureuse [The Complainte of a Shepherd and a Loving Shepherdess]” in manuscript P (from which we have taken it for this edition), is more commonly called simply “La Pastourelle Granson [Granson’s Pastourelle]” in the other manuscripts in which it occurs. This was Granson’s most popular work, if we can judge by the number of surviving copies. It contains nineteen 10-line stanzas with the same rhyme scheme that Granson used for all but one of his 10-line ballades, and it presents a dialogue between an anxious, lovelorn shepherd and his elusive shepherdess. It is difficult to find any good contemporary models for this poem. Granson’s is the only known example of so extended a dialogue in a pastoral setting, for by the fourteenth-century the pastourelle had almost assumed the status of a forme fixe, consisting of five stanzas with a refrain on the model of the chant royal. All twenty of Froissart’s pastourelles are in this form, as are all twelve of the other pastourelles included in manuscript P.85 And while the opening, as the narrator reports overhearing the shepherds in conversation, is entirely conventional, in almost every other respect the poem departs from what is most expected of the genre. It wears its pastoral associations very lightly: there is nothing to anchor the dialogue itself in the world of shepherds, and the shepherdess herself is described as both gentil [well-mannered, well-bred, noble] (line 1) and bien saichant [wise] (56). And rather than the object of male fantasies of domination, she seems rather to be a projection of male anxieties about female subjectivity, for the rural setting evidently allows her far more freedom to speak than is enjoyed by most of her aristocratic sisters. Witty and resourceful, she asserts both her virtue and her loyalty but also her independence, as she never explicitly proclaims her commitment to this shepherd and as she provides an answer to each of his objections to her conduct. If the poem ends inconclusively, it also ends, to the shepherd’s great disappointment, with the perpetual deferral of all his hopes.

Granson’s two other poems that are called complaintes are notable for taking a large step away from lyric in the direction of the narrative dit. The less developed example is 70 “La Complainte de l’an nouvel,” in which a narrator, himself melancholy, reports overhearing a knight’s 6-stanza complaint and then, in the final stanza, steps forward to comfort him, recalling details from, among others, Machaut’s Dit de la fonteinne amoureuse, Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, and the anonymous Le Songe vert.86 In 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson,” it is the narrator’s complainte, in the first eleven stanzas, that is overheard, as he expresses his grief at his lady’s death, and the poem is even more firmly rooted in the “complaint and comfort” tradition of the dit amoureux.87 In the remaining two-thirds of the poem, Saint Valentine and the God of Love appear in order to comfort him, and the God of Love urges him to transfer his love to another lady that the god has already selected for him. Upon seeing the lady, he does as the god advises, and the poem concludes with a prayer that she accept his service.

The last two poems that we include here are even more fully in the manner of a narrative dit, and they indicate that Granson had become familiar with a much wider range of models. Written in couplets rather than stanzas, each contains a much more fully developed setting and is centered upon a dream vision. As 77 “Le Songe Saint Valentin” begins, the narrator has lain awake all night, suffering from unspecified troubles. When he finally falls asleep, he dreams that he returns to a garden where he has lost two precious rings, and he finds that every species of bird has assembled there on Saint Valentine’s Day in order to choose their mates, under the supervision of a presiding eagle. One bird, a melancholy tercel (a male falcon), remains apart from the others, and when asked by the eagle why it does not choose a mate, it explains that it has already chosen a particular falcon, which it describes at length, but believing itself unworthy, it cannot reveal its love. It has thus escaped to the wood in order to seek some comfort, but it is set to return to captivity in order to be closer to the falcon. With that, it flies away, as do the rest of the birds, and the narrator awakens. In his concluding comments, the narrator, who claims not to be a lover himself (lines 391–92), expresses sympathy for human lovers, who suffer so many more pains in love than do the birds, who choose so naturally and so freely.

The elements that Granson assembles here are familiar from other contemporary poems — one thinks first of Machaut’s Dit de l’alerion and Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls 88 — but they do not fully cohere in Granson’s handling. While we are invited to infer what troubles Chaucer’s narrator from what follows in his vision, we never reach a clear understanding of the problems that beset Granson’s, and Granson passes up the opportunity to draw a link between his disturbed feelings, the loss that brings him back to the garden, the tercel’s experience, and the concluding passage, which addresses neither the narrator’s situation nor the tercel’s and where the narrator’s claims about the free and natural choice of the birds are hardly consistent with the tercel’s story.

Some of the same disconnectedness can be found in Granson’s longest and most ambitious work, Le Livre Messire Ode. As this poem opens, the lady that the narrator has chosen, under Love’s tutelage, is keeping him at a distance because he has dared to reveal his feelings to her. Danger and Rejection (Reffuz) now guard her, while he is inflamed by Memory and Desire and sustained only by Hope, which blames him for his despair, and Loyalty. He summarizes his condition in the first of the many intercalated ballades (lines 103–44), which he notes that he has carefully recorded in his book (line 146), and then after a plea for aid to both Love and his lady, he falls asleep.

The first portion of his dream (up to line 850) recapitulates in semi-narrative form how he arrived at the condition that he describes in the opening. In the garden in which the dream begins, he complains of the anguish of an unreciprocated love, and following the logic that applies only in dreams, he is met by a man whose condition is the opposite of his, who expresses his joy at the fulfillment of his love. The narrator decides to dress in black as an expression of his suffering, and he also decides to write his lady a letter, boldly revealing his love for her, precisely the lapse that has upset him in the opening lines, and asking for the gift of her mercy to preserve him from death. The servant who returns with her response offers some encouragement, but the narrator remains in anguish (which he expresses in the “Lay de plour”), and when he has a chance to approach her, he finds her, as predicted, closely guarded by Reffuz.

At this point a new narrative seems to begin, for the narrator learns that his lady has rejected him because he recently parted from her without taking proper leave (854–64). After several ballades expressing his misery, he approaches her again and receives an ambiguous encouragement, which leads him in his despair to issue a challenge to combat to the “Lord of Cornwall” in the hope of securing an honorable death. No response is recorded. The rest of the narrative portion of the poem consists of two unrelated episodes: an encounter with a man who describes — in the form of an allegory involving his pursuit of a sparrowhawk and a falcon — how he lost the love of his lady because of an unsuccessful flirtation with another woman (1137–1523), and the long debate between the narrator’s Heart and Body, which ends in their joint commitment to continue suffering for love (1534–1726).

Here the narrator awakens (1729), and he sums up his condition in an address to Love (1735–1876) that neither recalls the opening nor offers a precise recollection of what occurs in his dream, but that concludes with his wish that he might learn what his lady is thinking of him “par vision [in a vision]” (1873). He immediately falls asleep again, and the first thing that he sees in his new dream is Danger, galloping through a willow grove. It appears that he is about to see his wish fulfilled, but here the narrative ends, and it is followed (in the one manuscript that continues this far) by a group of fourteen89 complaintes, ballades, and rondeaux that echo some of the themes of the preceding narrative but that offer no new insight into the lady’s thoughts (indeed most are concerned with the narrator’s need to make her more aware of his) and that have no bearing on the allegorical narrative involving Danger. There is also evidence of some disruption in the text, as the poem apparently switches from octosyllables to decasyllables and from couplets to a stanza form in mid-sentence. There are different ways of explaining what happened here (we examine the details and the alternatives more closely in the notes to 78.1881–91 and 1977–96), but the puzzles in the manuscript record make it very difficult to be certain either of the poet’s intentions or of how fully he was able to carry them out, particularly with regard to the relation between the final group of poems and the rest of the text.

As it comes down to us, the Livre Messire Ode presents a number of such puzzles. The closest model for the poem is Machaut’s Livre dou voir dit, another narrative of a love relationship that also includes many intercalated lyrics and an account of how they came to be composed; but as those who have commented on the poem have observed, there are many important differences as well.90 Perhaps the most significant is the virtual absence of the lady: in Machaut’s work, she has an active part in an exchange of poems with the narrator, and there is something that resembles a real plot. Granson’s is much more lyrical in orientation: focused all but exclusively on the narrator, there is little opportunity for development and almost none for closure. The individual episodes in the poem are more successful than the structure as a whole, and it remains a collection of set pieces rather than a persuasive whole. As Granson blurs the distinction between the waking and the dreaming states and between lyric and narrative, it is even difficult to say whether the poem is best viewed as set in the present, with recollections of the past, as Boulton describes it,91 or as set in the past with quoted, present-tense lyric insertions. It is Granson’s most ambitious work, to be sure, but it is not clear that he ever completed it, and one may fairly claim that he has not yet overcome all of the challenges that he created for himself in his effort.


One of the most interesting issues posed by Granson’s longer poems is their relation to the works of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Granson’s long service in England, to Richard II, to Richard’s uncle John of Gaunt, and to John’s son Henry, Earl of Derby, would have provided abundant opportunity for the two poets to meet. We can only speculate, however, on their personal relationship. Chaucer was of much lower rank, and in his verse he typically adopts a pose of great deference to his social superiors. But he was certainly familiar with Granson’s poetry, as demonstrated by the one indisputable example of direct borrowing between the two, Chaucer’s adaptation of Granson’s “Cinq balades ensuivans” in “The Complaint of Venus.”92 Chaucer pays an extraordinary compliment to Granson in his envoy, crediting him as the “flour of hem that make in Fraunce,” the only time that he names a French contemporary. As Wimsatt notes, Chaucer’s use of “flour” may be as much an acknowledgment of Granson’s knightly status as it is a tribute to him as poet,93 but the compliment also indicates that Granson was known as a poet by Chaucer’s audience, who in the court at least would have been as comfortable with Granson’s French as with Chaucer’s English.

Granson would have had the opportunity to learn of Chaucer’s poetry too, though we cannot be sure when. We cannot assume that Granson already read or spoke English when he first arrived in England, sometime before 1372, and there would also have been little reason for him to pay notice to Chaucer that early in his life.94 There would have been ample opportunity later, however,95 and in the instances in which we find evidence of possible borrowing, the question of priority inevitably arises. The poems of Granson that enter into this discussion are the four that incorporate some sort of narrative setting, on the model of the dits amoureux. In 70 “La Complainte de l’an nouvel,” the melancholy narrator (see line 1) who overhears the complaint of a knight when he walks alone into the woods and then steps forward to comfort him recalls the opening of The Book of the Duchess, in which the narrator, also melancholy (line 23), is unable to sleep, and the central episode in his later dream, when he comes upon a solitary knight in the forest and, overhearing the complaint in which he mourns the death of his beloved, offers to do his best to help him (lines 448–556). 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson” provides an analogue for Chaucer’s knight’s complaint, for it begins with the narrator’s lament upon the death of his lady. 77 “Le Songe Saint Valentin” has a more detailed resemblance to the final episode in Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls. In both, a narrator dreams that he enters a garden where he comes upon a great assembly of birds who have gathered in order to choose their mates under the direction of a female authority figure (an eagle in Granson’s poem, Nature in Chaucer’s) and in which there is one bird that does not take part in the general joy (though for very different reasons: because he has already chosen in one case, and because she does not wish to choose in the other). Wimsatt, who has made the closest study of Chaucer’s relation to the French poetry of his time, also finds a close similarity between the pose of one who is unfit for love that Granson’s narrator adopts in the concluding lines and the opening of Chaucer’s Troilus.96 He also points to what he regards as Granson’s borrowings from Chaucer in several passages in 78 Le Livre Messire Ode. The narrator’s decision to dress in black, first of all, and then in the encounter with the man in the orchard, the narrator’s offer of consolation (lines 1153–56) and his inability to understand his companion’s complaint (1364–65) all recall The Book of the Duchess; and the narrator’s defense of his ability to offer help (1177–82) recalls a very similar exchange between Troilus and Pandarus (Troilus and Criseyde 1.622–89).97

The least persuasive of these analogues is offered by 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson.” Chaucer would not have needed Granson to suggest to him that one situation in which a lover might need consolation is that his lady has died, especially since The Book of the Duchess was occasioned by a real death, that of Blanche of Lancaster, the wife of John of Gaunt. Chaucer’s poem contains, moreover, numerous echoes of Machaut’s Le Jugement du roi de Behaingne, in which the death of a lover is precisely one of the issues.98 Nor does Granson display any obvious debt to Chaucer. The situation in his poem instead very closely resembles that in the anonymous Le Songe vert, in which it is Venus rather than Saint Valentine and the God of Love who provides the poet’s consolation. The chronology is not absolutely certain, but Wimsatt argues persuasively for Le Songe vert as Granson’s likely source.99 The resemblance to The Book of the Duchess in 70 “La Complainte de l’an nouvel” is seemingly closer, but in this case too it may not be necessary to suppose that there is any direct link, because the same general situation — a melancholy narrator, a knight’s overheard complaint, the narrator’s role as comforter — is found in a poem that Chaucer certainly knew and that Granson certainly could have, Machaut’s Dit de la fonteinne amoureuse. The one detail that is lacking in Machaut is that both Granson’s and Chaucer’s narrators meet their lamenting companion in a wood, certainly a small hook on which to hang an argument for borrowing, given the outdoor setting of so many dits amoureux. If one poet does draw from the other, the evidence of dating is much too uncertain to allow us to determine which came first.100 Wimsatt suggests that Granson’s poem, in which the consolation motif is much less developed and more poorly motivated, should be regarded as derivative, and Chaucer’s, in which it is part of a careful and cohesive design, must therefore have been first,101 and while that is a plausible scenario, it is also possible to imagine that Chaucer simply saw possibilities for development that Granson did not.

77, “Le Songe Saint Valentin” and the Parliament of Fowls offer a very different case, for while there are many other poems in which birds have speaking roles and also some in which they act as stand-ins for human lovers, there is no earlier common source for the Saint Valentine’s Day assembly at which the birds choose their mates. Again, Chaucer’s greater skill at developing the episode and at integrating it into his composition might suggest that his rather than Granson’s was the original.102 Perhaps even more persuasive in this case is the evident link to Troilus and Criseyde in the narrator’s concluding remarks in Granson’s poem. The pose that he adopts here, as one who is unapt to love but who looks out for the welfare of other lovers, is completely new for Granson but entirely characteristic of Chaucer. The passages that Wimsatt cites from Le Livre Messire Ode fall into the same class: they and the equivalent passages in Chaucer have no common source, but their mild, self-mocking humor is distinctively Chaucerian and unlike anything that we find elsewhere in Granson. The evidence of Granson’s borrowing from more than one of Chaucer’s poems is consistent with the piecemeal construction of both of Granson’s and in itself could constitute evidence that Granson was the borrower. And if Granson was indebted to Troilus and Criseyde for the episodes in these poems, that helps clarify the chronology, for both must have been written long after The Book of the Duchess and The Parliament of Fowls as well.

Establishing the relationship between “Le Songe Saint Valentin” and The Parliament of Fowls has bearing on another important issue, the two poets’ separate invocations of Saint Valentine. Both Granson and Chaucer refer to the saint in other of their works, and they are evidently the first poets to do so. Chaucer has two references apart from the fully developed scene in The Parliament of Fowls. In the opening lines of “The Complaint of Mars,” the narrator overhears a bird singing to others on Saint Valentine’s Day (lines 13–14), urging them either to go out and choose their mates or to renew their service (16–19). And in the Prologue to The Legend of Good Women, the birds are overheard singing to one another,
     “Blessed be Seynt Valentyn,
For on his day I chees yow to be myn,
Withouten repentyng, myn herte swete!”
        (F 145–47)103

Saint Valentine appears in six other poems of Granson. In one, 50 “Complainte de Saint Valentin,” the saint is named only in the title, and only in manuscript F and in the closely related manuscript K (which appear to have a special affinity for the saint). 17 “Balade de Saint Valentin” also bears this title only in manuscript F, where it immediately follows 72, and in F alone, the narrator affirms his love by Saint Valentine in line 23, where manuscripts A and P have “Le Dieu d’Amours [the God of Love]” instead. 60 and 61 are labeled “Balade de Saint Valentin Double” in manuscripts F and K, and the second of these two poems (which also appears in manuscripts A and P) is a plea to the saint for his aid in the narrator’s quest for his lady’s love. In the final line of 71 “Le Souhait de Saint Valentin” (again so named only in manuscript F), the narrator asks his lady to accept him as her servant on Saint Valentine’s Day. In 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson,” the saint actually appears in the company of the God of Love to urge the narrator to abandon his grief and to move on, and in the final line the narrator commits to loving his new lady forever “On this Saint Valentine’s Day.” Finally, there are three brief references in 78 Le Livre Messire Ode. In lines 828–31, the narrator prays to Saint Valentine for relief from his sorrow. In line 1996, the narrator reports hearing a voice in a dream that lifts him out of his melancholy on Saint Valentine’s Day. And in lines 1246–47, in the man’s story of his relation with two birds, where the manuscript that we have chosen as base reads “”L’endemain de saint Valentin / Que tous oyseaulx veullent chanter [The day after Saint Valentine’s Day, / When all the birds want to sing],” the only other manuscript that contains this passage has “Que tous oyseaulx prennent leur per [When all the birds choose their mates].”

The origins of the association between Saint Valentine and love are lost in time, and neither Chaucer’s nor Granson’s references do a great deal to clarify them.104 It is worth noting, however, that neither poet places the day of his feast in February.105 In The Parliament of Fowls, everything suggests a setting in very late spring, and the rondeau that the birds sing before flying off begins,

“Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast thes wintres wedes overshake,
And driven away the longe nyghtes blake!”

In the Prologue to The Legend of Good Women, the setting is the month of May (lines F 36, F 45), the birds offer their song “For the newe blisful somers sake” (F 142), and later conclude their song, “Welcome, somer, oure governour and lord!” (F 170). Granson’s invocations of the saint give him less opportunity to be specific about the season, but in both “Le Songe Saint Valentin” and the episode in Le Livre Messire Ode, the accounts of the pleasure that the men took in visiting their respective gardens certainly suggest a May date rather than one in mid-February.106

If on that point Granson and Chaucer seem to be in accord, there are also important differences between them. As Wimsatt has pointed out, for Chaucer, Saint Valentine presides over the birds’ choice of mates, but except in “Le Songe Saint Valentin” and Le Livre Messire Ode, each of which we have other reasons to believe is both late in his career and perhaps based in part on Chaucer, Granson invokes the saint for his aid to human lovers instead, and his feast is a day on which humans express and celebrate their love.107 Wimsatt also notes that these two images of the saint remain distinct among the poets’ immediate successors. In England, Gower and Clanvowe associate Saint Valentine with the pairing up of the birds,108 while in France, Christine de Pisan and Jean de Garencières do not.109 Chaucer’s appears to be an exclusively literary motif, while Granson seems to refer to an actual practice. A great many pieces in this puzzle are still missing, but in view of the differences between them, priority seems to be a much less important issue. Each poet seems to have had his own understanding of the traditions associated with the saint and to have made his own contribution to their diffusion. And in this case, Granson’s turned out to be the more enduring.

Granson and Isabel

Three of Granson’s poems begin with the name “Isabel” in acrostic. In 71 “Le Souhait de Saint Valentin” and 77 “Le Songe Saint Valentin,” the name is formed by the initial letters of the first six lines, and in 74 “Complainte de Gransson,” it is formed by the initial letters of the first six stanzas. Acrostics were one of several ways in which the poets of the time identified either themselves, their patrons, or the ladies that they addressed. To take only two examples from Machaut, who seems to have had a particular fondness for such devices,110 in Le Livre dou voir dit (lines 6336–43), he uses numbers corresponding to the letters of the alphabet to encode his lady’s name, “Peron,” and he too has a ballade that begins with an acrostic for “Isebele.”111 The latter has not been identified, but most of the figures that Machaut names are known, and there has been a natural curiosity about the woman named by Granson as well. There are two principal candidates: Isabel, the daughter of Pedro of Castile (c. 1355–92), who married Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, Edward III’s fourth son, in 1372;112 and Isabel (or Isabeau) of Bavaria (1370–1415), who in 1385 married Charles VI of France.113 John Shirley, a fifteenth-century copyist of the works of Chaucer, reports that “hit is sayde” that Granson composed the last of the ballades that Chaucer translated in “The Complaint of Venus” for Isabel of York, but his source is not known, and the comment is more appropriate for Chaucer’s version, in which a woman is the speaker, than it is for Granson’s.114 The strongest argument for Isabel of York is a negative one: it rests on the belief that all of the poems in manuscript E, which includes a copy of 74, must have been written before 1374, when the second Isabel was only four years old. This argument, however, requires that we accept the conjectural dating of one poem in that book as a firm date for all the rest.115 The case for the second Isabel is strengthened by the fact that she is known to have owned a manuscript of Granson’s work, for which she ordered new clasps in 1401.116 The link is suggestive, to be sure, but Granson is not known to have spent any time at the court in France between this Isabel’s marriage in 1385 and his death in 1397, the period of his life for which we have the fullest record of his movements.117

The arguments for both Isabels, moreover, have been marked by the assumption not just that Granson’s poetry records a real relationship but that all of his surviving poems were written for the same woman.118 Thus the search has been limited to royal families because of Granson’s references elsewhere to his lady as a “princesse,”119 and the argument for the second Isabel has depended in large part on the references to “la non pareille de France” and “la non per de France” in Le Livre Messire Ode,120 which contains no reference, however, to “Isabel.” As Cartier has noted, princesse is a common complimentary epithet in the poetry of the time, and it does not necessarily indicate a lady’s actual rank. Cartier is also able to show that there are many passages in Granson’s poetry that would have been entirely inappropriate for a royal princess.121 Even if the “princesse” that Granson addresses in one or more poems was real, there is no reason to assume, especially with so peripatetic a poet, that every one of his poems was written for her, and thus none of his poems can be used to determine who might have been addressed in any other. And none of the three poems in which “Isabel” is named contains any suggestion either that she is royal or that she is French.

The three poems together also do not give us much insight into the poet’s relation with his Isabel. In 71 the narrator has high praise for his lady’s accomplishments, and he wants only to be accepted as her servant. In 74 he describes his lady as very young, and he grieves at having to part from her. And in 77 the narrator himself claims to have no experience in love; if the lady appears at all, it is in the form of the falcon who is very good at hunting. Only the tercel’s comment that though he is low in rank, he is nonetheless noble (137–38) suggests a real human parallel, but it does not tell us how much higher in rank his “falcon” might be. Given the nature of the compliments involved, there is no reason to exclude either Isabel of York or Isabel of Bavaria as possible designees, and the parting that Granson describes could have taken place at almost any time in his much-traveled life. If we limit ourselves to these three poems, however, there is also another candidate who is neither royal nor French but whom Granson certainly knew, and that is Isabelle, the Countess of Neuchâtel (c. 1335–95).122 This Isabel’s life was of the type that might encourage such speculation. She was married at the age of four to Rodolphe IV of nearby Nidau, at the northern end of Lake Biel, also in modern Switzerland. They had no children, and when Rodolphe was killed in 1375, he left his property to a nephew rather than to his wife.123 She became countess in 1373 on the death of her father, who had no male heirs, and during the rest of her life she acted energetically to preserve and enlarge her patrimony.124 Granson was in her service in 1376 according to the documents cited by Piaget,125 shortly after her husband’s death, and though he parted from her soon after to return to England, he was evidently in her company again in 1382, and they would have had another chance to become reacquainted upon his return to Savoy in 1386, following the death of his father.

The dates and the facts fit well, much better than for either of the other Isabels, but that is really all that we can say. We do not know what other Isabels Granson might have known. The story that the poet creates, moreover, might be no more than an artful compliment to a distinguished lady. Whatever real relationship the poet might have had remains concealed beneath the poetry, and that, no doubt, is exactly what he would have intended.


We present here the seventy-eight poems that can be ascribed to Granson with the greatest degree of certainty, as we describe in this Introduction. Since none of the surviving manuscripts contains all of these poems, our edition cannot be based on any single copy. We have therefore drawn from all three of the major collections, manuscripts A, F, and P. When the same poem appears in more than one of these, the variations in most cases rule out the possibility of establishing a single authoritative text. Each manuscript is imperfect, containing lapses in meter, rhyme, spelling, grammar, and sense, some of which are possible to correct from the other manuscripts when these are available or, more cautiously, from the editor’s judgment when only a single copy exists. There are more substantive differences, however, even between the two copies of the same poem in manuscript A, that in some cases appear to stem from an uncertainty in the prototype from which all derive and in other cases might well represent equally authoritative alternatives. Given the nature of the variants, the most reasonable procedure in presenting each poem appears to be to choose one manuscript and to follow it except in case of obvious error. But for the same reason, in many individual instances, the choice of which manuscript to follow is very difficult to make.

What earlier editors have done is to give priority to one of the manuscripts for all of the poems that it contains. Piaget gave priority to F and used A only for the poems that are not in F. Grenier-Winther and Cunningham chose A instead and used F only for the poems that were not in A. We have chosen to give priority to P for the twenty-six poems that it contains. It has the fewest of Granson’s poems of the three collections, but it is also the earliest, by as much as three decades. It lacks a small number of passages that appear in other copies, but otherwise it contains a very clean text, requiring no more emendations than A and fewer than F. For the poems that appear in all three manuscripts, moreover, it contains significantly fewer unique readings than either A or F, suggesting that it has been subject to less scribal tampering than the other two.126 And it allows us to provide a version of these poems that is not available in the existing editions.

For the poems that are in both A and F but not in P, there is not an easy choice. F may be slightly earlier than A, but not enough to make a clear difference. F is the only manuscript to give a title to the “Cinq balades ensuivans,” which it presents together as in P. (The sequence is broken up in manuscript A.) F also preserves the unity of the balade double (as in E and K) which A presents as two separate poems, and it gives it a title (the same as in K). But F is also manifestly defective in five poems, giving only the last forty-nine lines (out of four hundred and fifty) of 73 and lacking whole stanzas in 38, 50, 66, and 67. It is also missing individual lines in 73, 74, and 75. Manuscript A also lacks some individual lines (in 58 and 75), and it also lacks the envoy to 53 (see the note) and 56, but otherwise it is clearly based on more complete exemplars. And with the notable exception of 74 and 75, which appear to have the most complicated textual history among Granson’s works (and which we present here from P), A has fewer unique readings than F in the poems that these two manuscripts share with P. Not only does A appear to be generally closer to the assumed prototype from which all three copies derive, it also offers a cleaner text than F and requires fewer emendations. We have therefore given it priority and used it as the base for the poems that do not appear in P.

For the poems that appear only in F or A, of course, there was no choice to make. For 78 Le Livre Messire Ode there is an equally easy decision for only manuscript B contains the last thousand lines of the surviving text. The most difficult choice is posed by 76 “Complainte de Saint Vallentin Garenson,” for which there are two complete medieval copies, in B and D,127 which contain very substantial differences, particularly in the last seven stanzas. We have exercised our judgment here to present the version that we believe on the basis of sense and grammar to be likely to be least corrupt, in D.

The base manuscript that we have chosen for each poem is identified in the notes. We have followed this manuscript with these exceptions: (1) For ease of reference, both in this introduction and in the text, we have adopted the titles by which Granson’s longer poems have become known in modern scholarship (which are based on Piaget’s edition, and thus mostly on manuscript F). When the title in the base manuscript differs, it is recorded in the notes. We have also supplied titles, drawn from the first line of the rondeaux and the virelai and from the refrain of the ballades, for the poems that are labeled only with the name of the appropriate forme fixe in the manuscripts. (2) In accordance with the editorial practice of this series, we have silently expanded all abbreviations, and we have used modern word division, capitalization, and punctuation, including an apostrophe to indicate a contraction. We have also spelled out numbers written in roman numerals, and we have expanded the refrains that are indicated with an “&c” or some similar abbreviation.128 (3) We have marked passages of dialogue with quotation marks, and in 76 and 78, we have used a paragraph indentation to mark the break between the present-tense lyrical passages and the past tense narrative passages where quotation marks would have been intrusive. (4) We have distinguished i/j and u/v in accordance with Modern French orthography. The letter combinations sf/ff and ct/tt that are difficult to distinguish in the manuscripts have been regularized to sf and ct. (5) We have inserted a cedilla (ç) when appropriate, and we have made a limited use of accent marks to distinguish homographs and other words that might be confused.129 (6) We have emended the text when we found the base manuscript to be deficient in rhyme, sense, or grammar. We have adopted readings from other copies when these were available; when there was no manuscript support, our corrections are limited to undoing scribal errors of the most easily recognizable sorts. Our practice has necessarily varied somewhat depending upon the quality of the base text and on the number of other copies. Thus, for example, while manuscripts A, F, and P generally require very little emendation, in 73 there is a strong manuscript tradition against several of the readings in our base manuscript P; and in 78 Le Livre Messire Ode, the generally poorer quality of our base manuscript B has made us turn rather more frequently to the other surviving copies as equally valid witnesses.130 We have resisted the temptation to emend on metrical grounds alone, even when encouraged by other manuscripts. There are too many instances of metrically deficient lines that cannot easily be repaired — some supported by independent copies — to allow confidence that the poet always adhered to a strict syllable count, and thus when another manuscript seems to offer a better reading, it is impossible to say whether the difference is due to one scribe’s lapse or another’s unauthorized improvement. And while some lines seem to require only a simple change of spelling, others could be “fixed” in more than a single way. Not knowing where to draw the line, we have chosen to preserve the scribal record unless there is justification either in sense or in grammar for the emendation. All emendations and their sources are recorded in the textual notes. We make no effort, however, to provide a complete list of variants, for which one may consult Grenier-Winther’s edition.

The manuscripts vary in order far more than they do in text. With the possible exception of sequences such as the “Cinq balades ensuivans,” there is clearly no authoritative arrangement, and the underlying collections in all three appear to have been assembled almost randomly, perhaps as individual pieces came to hand.131 We felt that there was nothing to be gained by preserving the order in the manuscripts from which we derived the texts. There is also no basis for ordering most of the poems chronologically. We have, therefore, chosen to imitate the practice of the contemporary collections of the works of poets such as Machaut, which typically group together the poems in the same forme fixe. We have gone one step further and ordered the poems by length, from short to long, and among the ballades, by length of stanza. The arrangement not only facilitates the comparison of the poems in the same form but also reveals how the forms differed, including, for instance, how the longer stanzas imposed greater demands and resulted in a greater sophistication of language.


Like all translators, we present our work with a deep realization of its inadequacy. Our intent here has been to lead the reader back to the original rather than to replace it, and we have therefore tried to be as literal as one can in going from one language to another. At the same time, when we saw that we had a choice, we have tried to offer a smooth line rather than a rough one, an interesting line instead of a dull one, and a metrical line instead of an unmetrical one. We have also tried to preserve the aphoristic quality of some of Granson’s refrains. The reader will find many places in which the literal ruled, however, especially in the longer poems, and then, we hope, he or she will follow our first intent and listen to Granson’s language rather than ours.

One difficulty susceptible to no completely satisfactory solution concerns the treatment of abstractions and personifications: whether to capitalize these, first of all, since the distinction is so often blurred, and then whether to designate those that are capitalized as “he” and “she” or as “it,” a choice that does not arise in French. We have been liberal in our use of capitals, but we have given preference to “it” except in the case of full personifications, as when “Love” clearly designates the God of Love. The reader may feel free to substitute a different pronoun whenever he or she prefers.


A Lausanne, Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire, MS 350, second quarter fifteenth century

B Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 1727, mid fifteenth century

C Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 1131, mid fifteenth century

D Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 24440, fifteenth century

E Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, MS 8, Catalan, 1420–30.

F Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 2201, early fifteenth century

G London, Westminster Abbey Library, MS 21, mid fifteenth century

H Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 833, c. 1600

J Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 1952, sixteenth century

K Lausanne, Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire, IS 4254, fifteenth century.

L Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Rothschild MS I.I.9, mid fifteenth century

M Carpentras, Bibliothèque Inguimbertine, MS fr. 390, fifteenth century

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, fifteenth century

S Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 24404, thirteenth century (sixteenth century addition)

T Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 556, 1826

V Carpentras, Bibliothèque Inguimbertine, MS fr. 411, fifteenth century

W Brussels, Bibliothèque royale Albert 1er, MS IV 541, 1564–81

Y Turin, Biblioteca nazionale e universitaria, MS L.II.12, mid sixteenth century

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