Poem 12, Balade [Requiem for a Lover]
THE POEMS OF "CH": NOTES
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 XII; MS #273]|
Mort le vy d’ire, et si n’i avoit ame
Qui pour son bien se voulsist traveillier.
Je vi son corps sans vie mis soubz lame,
Ou escript ot, “Ci gist l’amant entier
Qui onques jour ne pot, pour Bel Prier,
A sa doulour trouver Joieux Secours.
Cuer sans pitié li a finé ses jours;
Onques si vray ne reposa en corps;
Certes, il est leal martir d’Amours —
A son ame soit Dieu misericors.”
Car il amoit loiaument sans nul blasme,
Bel a son dit et bon a son cuidier,
Mais je sçay que onques a nul jour fame
Ne fist si mal par trop croire Dangier.
Il avoit sens et vouloir sans changier;
Souvent baignoit son vis pale de plours;
C’estoit pitié a oïr ses clamours;
Jamais de tel ne sera fais restors.
Or est il mort, assegiez de dolours —
A son ame soit Dieu misericors.
De son vray cuer fist present a sa dame
Ce fu la fin de son jour derrenier
Disant ainsi, “Puis que d’ Amours la flame
Me fait du tout a vie renoncier,
A Dieu commant celle que tant ay chier,
A Dieu commant plaisancë et baudours.”
Lors clost les yeulx en perdant ses coulours.
Amours servi et en fin en est mors.
[Last two lines missing in manuscript.]
12. [Requiem for a Lover]
I see him dead from anguish, and there was no soul
Who would exert itself for his good.
I see his lifeless body placed beneath the slab,
On which it is written, “Here lies the complete lover
Who never was able, through Fair Request,
To find Happy Help for his sorrow.
A heart without pity ended his days;
Never so true a one lived in a body;
Truly he is a loyal martyr of Love
May God have mercy on his soul.”
Indeed he loved loyally without any blame,
Lovely in his word, and good in his thought,
And I know that never at any time did a lady
Do so badly by trusting in Danger too much.
He had understanding and an unchanging will;
He often bathed his pale visage in tears;
It was a pity to hear his cries;
Never will he be healed of these.
Now he is dead, beset by sorrows —
May God have mercy on his soul.
He made a present of his true heart to his lady
This was at the end of his last day
Speaking thus, “Since the flame of Love
Makes me abandon life for good,
I commend to God she whom I held so dear;
I commend to God pleasure and gladness.”
Then losing his color, he closed his eyes.
He served Love and in the end is dead from it.
(. . . May God have mercy on his soul.)