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Poem 8, Balade [The Bereft Lover]


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

[Ch I; MS #235] Chançon Royal

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

Textual Notes

16 conforte. P: confort a.

42 entrer. P: en tron.

48 or 49 Line missing.

52 clamerai. P: clamera.

[Ch II; MS #237] Balade

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

[Ch III; MS #239] Balade

There are no notes for this poem.

[Ch IV; MS #240] Chançon Royal

32 sejour. P: ce jour.

[Ch V; MS #241] Balade

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

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

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

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

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

Textual Notes

3 d’Erode. P: de Rode.

18–19 Lines reversed in P.

31 ne fu. P: me fu.

33 fis. P: fus.

[Ch VI; MS #242] Balade

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

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

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

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

Textual Notes

11 Palanurus. P: Palamirus.

13 creée. P: cree.

24 fondera. P: forgera.

28 qui. P: que.

[Ch VII; MS #244] Balade

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

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

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

[Ch VIII; MS #245] Balade

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

Textual Notes

17 jours. P: tours.

24 Fisses. P: Eusses.

[Ch IX; MS #249] Chanson Royal

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

Textual Notes

17 flenchist. P: flechist.

[Ch X; MS #260] Rondel

There are no notes for this poem.

[Ch XI; MS #263] Chançon Royal

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

Textual Notes

40 Mon. P: A mon.

43 avient. P: venant.

59 que. P: qua.

[Ch XII; P #273] Balade

1 si. P: se.

12 Bel . . . bon. P: bonne.

13 que onques. P: conques.

[Ch XIII; P #274] Balade

16 fors que. P: forques.

[Ch XIV; MS #275] Balade

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

Textual Notes

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

12 Et. P: De.

15 je. P: ou.

[Ch XV; P #276] Balade

19 qu’a souhait. P: quassouhait.




(see note) (t-note) All notes in this file -- then link via poem number and line number. Thus, poem 1, line 4 would be #14, but poem 4, line 1 would be #41, and poem 4, line 41 would be #441.

[Ch VIII; MS #245]








8. Balade

Humble Hester, courtoise, gracieuse,
Belle Judith, plaisant a regarder,
Simple Tisbé, lie, gente, amoureuse,
Noble Helaine, Polixné en parler,
Lealle Hero, des autres la nomper,
Vraye Adriane, Yseut par biaux atours,
Noble Dido, Genievre en nobles mours,
Dane en valour, par tousdiz fuïr blasme —
Et celle dont venoient mes bons jours
Pourrist en terre, et je remains sans dame.

A cuer marry, a vie doulereuse,
Larmes aux yeulx, loins de joie esperer,
Au flun Cyron ou Philis angoisseuse
M’est exemplaire a mon las deviser,
Yo brute veult a moy deviser,
Triste, cornue, attainte de doulours.
Mais c’est pour ce: considerer tous jours
Que la belle qui cuer et corps m’entame,
Ma maistresse plainne d’umbles honnours,     
Pourrist en terre, etc.

Mal m’as servi, orrible et despiteuse
Atropos, preste a me devourer.
Gouffre sans droit, murdriere fameilleuse,
Fisses l’Essient Nature dominer,
En jeune estate Leesse habondonner,
Par demener amoureuses doulçours.
Car jamais jour ne quier avoir secours,
Joie d’Amours, ne rien qui m’en enflame,
Puis que celle que j’amay par amours
Pourrist, etc.

8. [The Bereft Lover]

Modest Esther, courteous, gracious,
Beautiful Judith, pleasant to contemplate,
Simple Thisbe, joyful, lovely, amorous,
Noble Helen, Polyxena in speaking,
Loyal Hero, nonpareil of all,
Faithful Ariadne, Isolt in fine apparel,
Noble Dido, Guinevere in noble customs,
Daphne in worth, ever shunning blame —
This one from whom came my good days
Decays in the ground, and I am left without my lady.

With unhappy heart, with sorrowful life,
Tears in my eyes, far from hope of joy,
I am at the river of Charon where Phyllis full of anguish   
Provides an example for my desperate plan.
Io become brute is a model for me,
Unhappy, horned, stricken by sorrows.
Always it will be thus: to ponder every day
That the beautiful one who pierces my body and heart,
My mistress full of modest honor,
Decays in the ground, and I am left without my lady.

You have served me evilly, horrible and insolent
Atropos, ready to devour me,
Abyss without justice, famished murderer.
You have caused Knowledge to master Nature,
Youth to abandon Gaiety,
The enjoyment of amorous sweetnesses.
For never a day will I seek to have a remedy,
Joy of Love, or anything which will enflame me with it,
Since she whom I loved truly
Decays in the ground, and I am left without my lady.

(see note)



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