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Poem 2, Balade [The Lover Who Melts like Wax]


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 II; MS #237]








2. Balade

Onques doulour ne fu plus angoisseuse
Que mon las cuer endure nuit et jour,
Ne tristesce plus aspre ne crueuse.
Morir m’est joie et brief finer doulçour,
Confort d’Ami m’est de nulle valour,
Espoir n’a cause aux drois de ma leesce,
Car le vouloir de ma belle maistresse
Est de mon cuer faire vivre en martire.
Quanque j’en ay me martrist, tue, et blesce,
Que fons et fris comme au feu fait la cire.

Ses rians yeulx, sa maniere joieuse,
Son doulx regart, son gracieux atour,
Sa grant beauté, sa parole amoureuse,
Son plaisant corps, et sa fresche coulour
Ne me donnent en tous lieux que doulour,
Ne par eux n’ay de reconfort adresce.
Com plus la voy, plus li di ma maistresse.
N’ains y perçoy sa grace, Dieu li mire.
Refus y croist et Pitié pour moy cesse
Que fons et fris, etc.

Et assez puet sa doulceur gracieuse
Congnoistre que loyaument, sans fauls tour,
L’aim, criens, et sers pour sa treseüreuse
Mercy avoir, en gardant son honnour.
Mais com je croy Dangier la fait sejour
Avec Reffus, par quoy elle me lesse
Plain de souspirs et de plains, en la presse
De Desiriers, ou Desespoir se tire
Si qu’emmy moy tout desconfort s’adresce,     
Que fons, etc.

2. [The Lover Who Melts like Wax]

Never was there more wretched sorrow
Than what my poor heart endures night and day,
Nor sadness more bitter and cruel;
To die is joy to me and a quick end sweetness;
Friend’s Comfort is of no value to me;
Hope has no power to further my happiness,
For the desire of my beautiful mistress
Is to make my heart live in martyrdom.
Whatever I have from her martyrs, kills, and wounds me,   
And I melt and burn as wax does in the fire.

Her laughing eyes, her happy manner,
Her sweet look, her gracious attire,
Her great beauty, her words of love.
Her pleasant body, and her fresh complexion
Give me in all places only sorrow,
Nor by them have I a way to comfort.
The more I see her, the more I call her my mistress.
For that I have never gained her grace, God protect her.
Refusal grows in her and Pity for me stops
So that I melt and burn as wax does in the fire.

And well might her gracious sweetness
Recognize that I love, fear, and serve her
Loyally, without deceit, in order to gain
Her most joyful Mercy, while guarding her honor.
However, I believe that Danger stays with her
With Refusal; by them she leaves me
Full of sighs and moans, in the oppression
Of Desire, where Despair advances,
So that within me all discomfort grows,
And I melt and burn as wax does in the fire.

(see note)

Go To Poem 3, Balade [The Day of Grace]