Près de ma dame et loing de mon vouloir,

Alain CHARTIER   (1385-1433)

In the early 1400s, when Chartier wrote this poem, the Valois king, Charles VI was king of France and the Hundred Years War was in full swing. But life went on, and poets still found the time and the opportunity to write poems expressing their love or lamenting the tribulations of being in love, especially if unrequited.
So here is a poem from about 600 years ago about the poet going all wobbly when he is near his loved one. What could be more timeless and universal than that.

Près de ma dame et loing de mon vouloir

Près de ma dame et loing de mon vouloir,
Plain de desir et crainte tout ensemble,
Le cueur me fault et le parler me tremble,
Quant dire doy ce que me fault vouloir.

Je dis : Belle, vous me faites douloir,
Mais au besoing crainte mon propos m’emble*
Pres de ma dame et loing de mon vouloir.

Or ay je mis toutes a nonchaloir
Pour une seule a qui tout bien s’assemble.
Oseray je me desbucher du tremble,
Pour requerir ce qui me pretes valoir
Pres de ma dame et loing de mon vouloir ?

From <;

As the title says, the poet is close to his lady, but a long way from getting his wishes. Any teenager or young would-be lover knows what that is all about. His heart is weak and his voice is trembling, but fear of rejection is too strong to allow him to speak his desires. He can start to speak but then dries up when he is near his love but far from his desires.

The poet is indifferent to all the other girls and ladies (nonchaloir – looks like a root of the modern word nonchalant), but for there is only one who has all the charms. Will the poet dare speak out to ask what he wants? That is the question and we never get the answer, because the poem captures this moment of in time of hesitation, shyness, trepidation and awkwardness without giving the whole story.

The Poetry Dude


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