Pourquoy m’as tu vendu, Jeunesse,

In this poem, Charles, Duke of Orleans, reflects on age catching up on him, and realises that his youth has gone. This would be even more a burden for him as he might have reflected that he lost the best years of his life in captivity in England for 25 years after the French defeat at the battle of Agincourt. But any aging person can lament the passing of youth, so this has universal resonance, although in the fifteenth century, the age at which you considered your youth was gone was probably closer to 40 than 50.

It is a ballad, in fairly conventional form, three equal stanzas followed by a shorter stanza addressed to the Prince to sum up the intent of the poem.

If I had to translate this into English, I think the title would go something like “My days of youth, why have you abandoned me?”, rather than the literal “Youth, why have you sold me?”

Titre : Pourquoi m’as tu vendu, Jeunesse

Poète : Charles d’Orléans (1394-1465)
Recueil : Ballades.

Pourquoy m’as tu vendu, Jeunesse,
A grant marchié, comme pour rien,
Es mains de ma dame Viellesse
Qui ne me fait gueres de bien ?
A elle peu tenu me tien,
Mais il convient que je l’endure,
Puis que c’est le cours de nature.

Son hostel de noir de tristesse
Est tandu. Quant dedans je vien,
J’y voy l’istoire de Destresse
Qui me fait changer mon maintien,
Quant la ly et maint mal soustien :
Espargnee n’est créature,
Puis que c’est le cours de nature.

Prenant en gré ceste rudesse,
Le mal d’aultruy compare au myen.
Lors me tance dame Sagesse ;
Adoncques en moy je revien
Et croy de tout le conseil sien
Qui est en ce plain de droiture,
Puis que c’est le cours de nature.


Prince, dire ne saroye conbien
Dedans mon coeur mal je retien,
Serré d’une vielle sainture,
Puis que c’est le cours de nature.

Charles d’Orléans.

From <http://www.poesie-francaise.fr/charles-d-orleans/poeme-pourquoi-m-as-tu-vendu-jeunesse.php&gt;

All three of the main stanzas begin with a lament on lost youth, a rebellion against the passage of time. But each stanza ends with acceptance, that this is the natural course of nature. So the poet is fast-forwarding the mental process that all of us go through as we get older. Nobody can escape this.

I like the description of old age that is in the next to last line of the poem, where the poet says he is squeezed into an old belt – it simultaneously suggests comfort and discomfort, a fitting metaphor for the benefits and drawbacks of age and experience.

The Poetry Dude


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