Enthusiasms

Containing whatever I enthuse over

Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Le Chevalier au Lion

Posted by clissold345 on March 8, 2008

Yvain or “Le Chevalier au Lion” (The Knight of the Lion) is a romance written about 1175 by Chrétien de Troyes (of whom almost nothing is known). I give three extracts below. These extracts are passages that I find interesting and that I can understand fairly easily.

[Extract 1] After a fierce fight Yvain splits Esclados’s skull. Esclados is fatally injured. Yvain pursues him without mercy:

En la fin, son hiaume escartele
Au chevalier messire Yvains.
Del cop fu estonez et vains
Li chevaliers; mout s’esmaia,
Qu’ainz si felon cop n’essaia,
Qu’il li ot desoz le chapel
Le chief fandu jusqu’au cervel,
Tant que del cervel et del sanc
Taint la maille del hauberc blanc,
Don si tres grant dolor santi
Qu’a po li cuers ne li manti.
S’il s’an foï, n’a mie tort,
Qu’il se santi navrez a mort;
Car riens ne li valut desfansse.

(At last my lord Yvain crushed the helmet of the knight, whom the blow stunned and made so faint that he swooned away, never having received such a cruel blow before. Beneath his kerchief his head was split to the very brains, so that the meshes of his bright hauberk were stained with the brains and blood, from which he felt such intense pain that his courage nearly failed him. He had good reason then to flee, for he felt that he had a mortal wound, and that further resistance would not avail.)

Si tost s’an fuit, com il s’apansse,
Vers son chastel, toz esleissiez,
Et li ponz li fu abeissiez
Et la porte overte a bandon;
Et messire Yvains de randon
Quanqu’il puet aprés esperone.
Si con girfauz grue randone,
Qui de loing muet et tant l’aproche
Qu’il la cuide panre et n’i toche,
Ensi cil fuit, et cil le chace
Si pres qu’a po qu’il ne l’anbrace,
Et si ne le par puet ataindre;
Et s’est si pres que il l’ot plaindre
De la destrece que il sant.

(With this thought in mind he quickly made his escape toward his town, where the bridge was lowered and the gate quickly opened for him; meanwhile my lord Yvain at once spurs after him at topmost speed. As a gerfalcon pursues a crane when he sees him rising from afar, and then draws so near to him that he is about to seize him, yet misses him, so he [Esclados] flees, and he [Yvain] chases, so close that he can almost throw his arm about him, and yet is not able to reach him, and so close that he can hear him groan for the pain he feels.)

[Extract 2] Esclados dies of his wound. His followers are enraged and bewildered when they cannot catch Yvain (who is now invisible):

Et disoient: « Ce, que puet estre?
Que ceanz n’a huis ne fenestre
Par ou riens nule s’an alast,
Se ce n’ert oisiax qui volast
Ou escuriax ou cisemus
Ou beste ausi petite ou plus,
Que les fenestres sont ferrees,
Et les portes furent fermees
Lors que mes sire en issi fors;
Morz ou vis est ceanz li cors,
Que defors ne remest il mie.

(They said: “How can this be? For there is no door or window here through which anything could escape, unless it be a bird, a squirrel, or marmot, or some other even smaller animal; for the windows are barred, and the gates were closed as soon as my lord passed through. The body is in here, dead or alive, since there is no sign of it outside there. …)

La sele assez plus que demie
Est ça dedanz, ce veons bien,
Ne de lui ne trovomes rien
Fors que les esperons tranchiez
Qui li cheïrent de ses piez.
Or au cerchier par toz ces engles,
Si lessomes ester ces gengles,
Qu’ ancor est il ceanz, ce cuit,
Ou nos somes anchanté tuit,
Ou tolu le nos ont maufé. »

(… We can see more than half of the saddle in here, but of him we see nothing, except the spurs which fell down severed from his feet. Now let us cease this idle talk, and search in all these corners, for he is surely in here still, or else we are all enchanted, or the evil spirits have filched him away from us.”)

[Extract 3] Laudine, Esclados’s widow, is overcome by grief. Her attendant Lunete urges her to set aside her grief and find a new champion to defend her kingdom:

« Si feroiz, dame, s’il vos siet.
Mes or dites, si ne vos griet,
Vostre terre, qui desfandra
Quant li rois Artus i vendra,
Qui doit venir l’autre semainne
Au perron et a la fontainne?
N’en avez vos eü message
De la Dameisele Sauvage
Qui letres vos en anvea?
Ahi! con bien les anplea!
Vos deüssiez or consoil prendre
De vostre fontainne desfandre,
Et vos ne finez de plorer!

(“Indeed you shall, my lady, if you will consent. Just tell me, if you will, who is going to defend your land when King Arthur comes next week to the margin of the spring? You have already been apprised of this by letters sent you by the Dameisele Sauvage. Alas, what a kind service she did for you! you ought to be considering how you will defend your spring, and yet you cease not to weep! …)

N’i eüssiez que demorer,
S’il vos pleüst, ma dame chiere,
Que certes une chanberiere
Ne valent tuit, bien le savez,
Li chevalier que vos avez:
Ja par celui qui mialz se prise
N’en iert escuz ne lance prise.
De gent malveise avez vos mout,
Mes ja n’i avra si estout
Qui sor cheval monter en ost,
Et li rois vient a si grant ost
Qu’il seisira tot sanz desfansse. »

(… If it please you, my dear lady, you ought not to delay. For surely, all the knights you have are not worth, as you well know, so much as a single chamber-maid. Neither shield nor lance will ever be taken in hand by the best of them. You have plenty of craven servants, but there is not one of them brave enough to dare to mount a steed. And the King is coming with such a host that his victory will be inevitable.”)

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Piers Plowman

Posted by clissold345 on December 28, 2007

Piers Plowman is a Middle English allegorical narrative poem (written apparently by a William Langland). There are three main versions of the poem: A, B, and C. Parts of the poem are very lively. The quotes that I give are from the B text (in twenty books/passus).

A mouse advises the rats to let the cat be (even though it sometimes kills them):

‘Though we hadde ykilled the cat, yet sholde ther come another
To cracchen us and al oure kynde, though we cropen under benches.
Forthi I counseille al the commune to late the cat worthe,
And be we nevere so bolde the belle hym to shewe.
The while he caccheth conynges he coveiteth noght oure caroyne,
But fedeth hym al with venyson; defame we hym nevere.
For bettre is a litel los than a long sorwe:
The maze among us alle, theigh we mysse a sherewe!
For I herde my sire seyn, is seven yeer ypassed,
“Ther the cat is a kitoun, the court is ful elenge.”
That witnesseth Holy Writ, whoso wole it rede–
“Vae tibi, terra, cujus rex puer est.”
For may no renk ther reste have for ratons by nyghte.
For many mennes malt we mees wolde destruye,
And also ye route of ratons rende mennes clothes,
Nere the cat of the court that kan you overlepe;
For hadde ye rattes youre [raik] ye kouthe noght rule yowselve.
I seye for me’, quod the mous, ‘I se so muchel after,
Shal nevere the cat ne the kiton by my counseil be greved,
Ne carpynge of this coler that costed me nevere.
And though it costned me catel, biknowen it I nolde,
But suffren as hymself wolde [s]o doon as hym liketh–
Coupled and uncoupled to cacche what thei mowe.
Forthi ech a wis wight I warne — wite wel his owene!’ [Prologue]

Meed, a beautiful richly-dressed woman, speaks in favour of mede (reward, pay, bribery):

“It bicometh to a kyng that kepeth a reaume
To yeve men mede that mekely hym serveth —
To aliens and to alle men, to honouren hem with yiftes;
Mede maketh hym biloved and for a man holden.
Emperours and erles and alle manere lordes
Thorugh yiftes han yonge men to yerne and to ryde.
The Pope and alle prelates presents underfongen
And medeth men hemselven to mayntene hir lawes,
Servaunts for hire servyce, we seeth wel the sothe,
Taken mede of hir maistres, as thei mowe acorde.
Beggeres for hir biddynge bidden men mede.
Mynstrales for hir myrthe mede thei aske.
The Kyng hath mede of his men to make pees in londe.
Men that kenne clerkes craven of hem mede.
Preestes that prechen the peple to goode
Asken mede and massepens and hire mete also.
Alle kyn crafty men craven mede for hir prentices.
Marchaundise and mede mote nede go togideres:
No wight, es I wene, withouten Mede may libbe!” [Book/Passus 3]

Gluttony is on his way to church to be shriven but he stops off at the public house for a quick drink of spiced ale:

Now bigynneth Gloton for togoto shrifte,
And kaireth hym to kirkewarde his coupe to shewe.
Ac Beton the Brewestere bad hym good morwe
And asked of hym with that, whiderward he wolde.
“To holy chirche,” quod he, “for to here masse,
And sithen I wole be shryven, and synne na moore.”
” I have good ale, gossib,” quod she, ” Gloton, woltow assaye?”
” Hastow,” quod he, “any hote spices?”
“I have pepir and pione,” quod she, “and a pound of garleek,
A ferthyngworth of fenel seed for fastynge dayes.”
Thanne goth Gloton in, and grete othes after. [Book/Passus 5]

When Wastour refuses to work in return for food Piers sets Hunger on Wastour and his companion:

“I was noght wont to werche,” quod Wastour, “and now wol I noght bigynne!”
And leet light of the lawe, and lasse of the knyghte,
And sette Piers at a pese, and his plowgh bothe,
And manaced Piers and his men if thei mette eftsoone.
“Now, by the peril of my soule!” quod Piers, “I shal apeire yow alle!”
And houped after Hunger, that herde hym at the firste.
“Awreke me of thise wastours,” quod he, “that this world shendeth!”
Hunger in haste thoo hente Wastour by the mawe,
And wrong hym so by the wombe that al watrede hise eighen.
He buffetted the Bretoner aboute the chekes
That he loked lik a lanterne al his lif after.
He bette hem so bothe, he brast ner hire guttes;
Ne hadde Piers with a pese-lof preyed Hunger to cesse,
They hadde be dolven bothe — ne deme thow noon oother.
“Suffre hem lyve,” he [Piers] seide “and lat hem ete with hogges,
Or ellis benes and bren ybaken togideres.” [Book/Passus 6]

Christ, in the form of light, demands entry at the gates of hell:

Eft the light bad unlouke, and Lucifer answerde,
“Quis est iste?
What lord artow?” quod Lucifer. The light soone seide,
“Rex glorie,
The lord of myght and of mayn and alle manere vertues —
Dominus virtutum.
Dukes of this dymme place, anoon undo thise yates,
That Crist may come in, the Kynges sone of Hevene!”
And with that breeth helle brak, with Belialles barres —
For any wye or warde, wide open the yates.
Patriarkes and prophetes, populus in tenebris,
Songen Seint Johanes song, “Ecce Agnus Dei.”
Lucifer loke ne myghte, so light hym ablente. [Book/Passus 18]

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Thanks Doctor

Posted by clissold345 on October 31, 2006

Below is another quote from Jean Bodel´s ¨Les Congés¨. One thing I like about this quote is that Bodel sets aside his own suffering to pay tribute to his doctor and friend Jofroi:

Bien ai prové son maïstire:
Nus hon ne l´en porroit aprendre.
Mout li covint grant paine rendre
A ma car sauder et reprendre,
Qui tant est de faible matire:
Comment osa il entreprendre
Tel teste a roisnier et a fendre
Qui ert mauvaise tote entire?

(I have indeed experienced his skill:
No man can teach him anything.
He had to take great trouble
To join and glue again my flesh,
Which is made of such weak matter:
How did he dare undertake
To clip and cut open such a head
Which was rotten to the core?)

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Jean Bodel

Posted by clissold345 on October 29, 2006

Jean Bodel was a French poet writing about 1200. In his poem “Les Congés” (Farewells) he writes movingly about the conflict between his sick body and his healthy mind:

Or primes doi men sens declore,
Le cuer ovrir et les ieus clore,
Car il m’ajorne et si m’anuite.

(Now first I must unfold my intelligence,
Open my heart and close my eyes,
Since for me it grows light even as it grows dark.)

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