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Poem 11, Chançon Royal [The Lady's Perfection]


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.
[Ch XI; MS #263]














11. Chançon Royal

Venez veoir qu’a fait Pymalion;
Venez veoir excellente figure;
Venez veoir l’amie de Jason;
Venez veoir bouche a poy d’ouverture;
Venez veoir de Hester la bonté;
Venez veoir de Judith la Beauté;
Venez veoir les doulz yeulz Dame Helaine;
Venez oïr doulce voix de Serainne;
Venez veoir Polyxene la Blonde;
Venez veoir de plaisance la plaine,
Qui n’a de tout pareille ne seconde.

Avisez bien sa gente impression;
Avisez bien sa maniere seüre;
Avisez bien l’imaginacion
De son gent corps a joieuse estature;
Avisez bien sa lie humilité;
Avisez bien sa simple gaieté;
Avisez bien comment de biens est plaine;
Avisez bien sa faiture hautaine;
Avisez bien comment elle suronde
En meurs, en sens, au tant que dame humaine     
Qui soit vivant a ce jour en ce monde.

Ymaginez humble condicion
Qui la maintient en parfaite mesure
Si qu’en elle a de tout bel et tout bon,
Au tant que dame ou vaillance prent cure.
Ymaginez sa gracieuseté;
Ymaginez son sens amoderé;
Ymaginez l’excellence hautainne
De son estat que Leesce a bien mainne,
Et vous direz, “Vela dame ou habonde
Honnour, savoir, avis, joie mondaine,
Sens, simplesce, bonté, et beauté monde.”

C’est ma dame dont j’atens guerredon;
C’est mon confort; c’est ma pensee pure;
C’est mon espoir; c’est la provision
Des hautains biens en qui je m’asseüre;
C’est ma joie, mon secours, ma santé,
Mon riche vuet, de long temps desiré,
Mon doulx ressort, ma dame souveraine;
C’est celle aussi qui tous les jours m’estraine
De la joieuse et tresamoureuse onde
De qui Penser avient du droit demaine
De Loyauté, que Leesce areonde.

Dame que j’aim, flour de perfection,
Rousee en May, soleil qui tousdis dure,
Flun de doulçour, a cui comparoison
D’autre dame belle ne s’amesure
Quant a mon veuil ne a ma voulenté,
Si vrayement que mi bien sont enté
En vous du tout. Ne soit de vous lointainne
Pitié pour moy, donner garison sainne,
Car trop seroit ma tristresce parfonde
S’elle n’estoit de vostre cuer prochainne,
Fuiant Dangier que Bonne Amour confonde.

Princes du puy, savez vous qu’i demainne
Ma dame en bien a joieuse faconde,
Et ce qu’elle est? De Deduit chievetainne,
Si que la voir les cuers de vices monde.

11. [The Lady’s Perfection]

Come see what Pygmalion has made;
Come see the excellent form;
Come see the loved one of Jason;
Come see the little mouth;
Come see the goodness of Esther;
Come see the beauty of Judith;
Come see the sweet eyes of Lady Helen;
Come hear the sweet voice of the Siren;
Come see Polyxena the Blonde;
Come see the fullness of pleasure,
Who has among all no equal nor second.

Study well her noble figure;
Study well her assured manner;
Study well the image
Of her noble body of delightful stature;
Study well her happy humility;
Study well her modest gaiety;
Study well how she is full of goodness;
Study well her superb features;
Study well how she excels
In character, in wisdom, as much as any lady
Who is living at this day in this world.

Imagine her modest bearing
Which maintains perfect moderation
So that in her is all beautiful and good,
As much as in any valiant lady.
Imagine her graciousness;
Imagine her temperate good sense;
Imagine the high excellence
Of her position, which Joy guides toward good,
And you will say, “Here is a lady in whom abounds
Honor, wisdom, judgment, worldly joy,
Understanding, modesty, goodness, and flawless beauty.”

She is my lady from whom I await reward;
She is my comfort; she is my pure thought;
She is my hope; she is the provision
Of the exalted benefits in which I find security.
She is my joy, my help, my health,
My rich wish, long desired,
My sovereign lady, my sweet refuge;
She it is also who all the days keeps me
In the joyous and very amorous sea
In which Thought comes from the true domain
Of Loyalty, which surrounds Delight.

Lady that I love, flower of perfection,
Dew in May, sun which always shines,
Well of sweetness, to whom there is no measure
Of comparison with other beautiful ladies,
Either in my desire or my will,
So truly is my good rooted
Completely in you. May Pity for me not be
Far from you, to give me complete healing,
For my sadness would be too deep
If she were not close to your heart,
Fleeing Danger which confounds Good Love.

                                        The Envoy
Prince of the puy, do you know what governs
My lady in goodness in joyous plenty,
And what she is? Sovereign of Delight,
So that seeing her cleanses hearts of vice.

(see note)



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