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Poem 1, Chançon Royal [The Sovereign Life of Love]


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 I; MS #235]













1. Chançon Royal

Entre les biens que creature humainne
Puist acquerir pour vivre liement,
C’est d’ensuir la vie souverainne
D’Amours, qui est le droit commencement
De toute honneur; et amoureusement
Eslire dame honnorable a maistresse;
Et endurer, soit pour joie ou tristresse,
Son bon plaisir et gracieux vouloir;
Et par ainsi demenant ceste vie
Se puet en grace amoureuse veoir
Dont tous biens vient et plaisance cherie.

Car il est vray qu’en l’excellente demaine
D’Amours regne gracieux Pensement,
Franchise, Honnour, Esperance hautainne,
Foy, Loyauté, Leesse, Esbatement;
Secours conforte Dangier prestement
Quant Escondit le requerant trop blesce;
Refus y maint par raisonnable adresce,
Et Loing Detry, pour les bons percevoir
Ou Pitié vaint quant Bonne Amour l’otrie;
Et la est Joie en signe de Vouloir,
Vie aduree et de Joye enrichie.

Et au seurplus, dame de graces plaine —
Teles dont cuer d’amant joieusement
Se puet vivre — donne garison saine
Par Doulz Regart et signes doulcement.
La sont souspir getez couvertement,
La sont penser a l’espoir de leesce,
La est aussi Souvenir qui ne cesse
Avec le vueil de servir main et soir,
Et d’aviser comment dame et amie
A de garir vray amant le pouoir
A cemonse de Doulce Courtoisie.

Pour ce conclus en voulenté certainne
D’Amours servir et ma dame humblement,
Qu’il n’est vie de vices si lointainne,
N’estat si gay que d’amer loyaument.
Car par amer puet on habondanment
Acquerir joie en haultainne noblesce,
Par Bien Amer s’eslongn’on de l’apresce
A deshonnour. Assez est assavoir
De Bien Amer entrer en seignourie:
De miex dire, de miex faire et valoir.
S’est eureux qui a ce point s’allie.

Toute belle, de grace droite plaine,
Gente a devis, au maintien excellent,
Dame que j’aim, melodie mondainne!
A voir l’estat de vo gentilz corps gent,
A vous servir — gracieuse en simplesce,
Riche d’atour, avisee en jeunesse —
Si liegement qu’en ce point vueil manoir.
N’autre de vous n’y clamerai partie
Car Loyauté en fera tel devoir
Qu’assez sera pour mener vie lie.

S’Amours me veult de ses hauls biens pourvoir     
De Joie aray joieuse compaignie.

1. [The Sovereign Life of Love]

One of the good things that a human being
May do in order to live happily
Is to follow the sovereign life
Of Love, which is the true beginning
Of all honor; and in accordance with Love
To choose an honorable lady as his mistress;
And to endure, whether for joy or sadness,
Her good pleasure and gracious will;
By thus leading this life
Through the grace of Love he will be able to perceive
The source of all good things and of dear pleasure.

For it is true that in the excellent domain
Of Love gracious Thought reigns,
Generosity, Honor, high Hope,
Faith, Loyalty, Joy, Diversion;
Help soothes Danger quickly
When Denial wounds the petitioner too much;
Refusal and Long Delay remain there according to propriety,
So that he may appreciate the benefits
When Good Love allows Pity to conquer;
There is Joy the mark of Desire,
There is a stable life enriched with Joy.

And what is more, the lady full of graces —
Those graces that make the heart of a lover
Able to live joyously — grants complete health sweetly
By Sweet Looks and signs.
There are sighs breathed covertly,
There are thoughts hoping for happiness,
There also is unceasing Memory
Together with the wish to serve morning and evening,
And to meditate how his lady and friend
Has the power to heal a true lover
At the instance of Sweet Courtesy.

For this reason I resolve with sure will
To serve Love and my lady humbly,
For there is no life so far from vice,
Nor state so gay as that of loving loyally.
For by loving one may gain abundant
Joy in high nobility.
By Good Loving one draws himself away from the bitterness   
Of dishonour. To enter into the lordship
Of Good Loving, this is enough to know:
To speak better, to do better, to increase in merit.
He is happy who joins this life.

Completely lovely one, full of true grace,
Pretty as one could choose, of excellent bearing,
Lady that I love, earthly melody!
To observe your noble person,
To serve you — gracious and unaffected,
Rich of attire, discreet in youth —
So dutifully that I may remain in that position;
No other thing will I ask of you,
For Loyalty will do such duty
That this will suffice me to lead a happy life.

                                        The Envoy
If Love wishes to provide me with his high benefits,
I will have the joyous company of Joy.

(see note)





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