La grant doulour que je porte

Towards the end of the fifteenth century and into the early years of the sixteenth century, in the midst of the turbulent years of the hundred years war, Christine de Pisan found a great talent as a poet. After marrying young and then becoming widowed with three children in he mid 20s, she found both solace and fame in poetry, and used this medium to proclaim the rights of women, mostly subordinated to men at that time.

This is a poem of grieving and sorrow, of the great pain suffered by the poet from the loss of a loved one, possibly her husband.

La grant doulour que je porte

Christine de Pisan

La grant doulour que je porte

Est si aspre et si tres forte

Qu’il n’est riens qui conforter

Me peüst ne aporter

Joye, ains vouldroie estre morte.

Puis que je pers mes amours,

Mon ami, mon esperance

Qui s’en va, dedens briefs jours,

Hors du royaume de France

Demourer, lasse ! il emporte

Mon cuer qui se desconforte ;

Bien se doit desconforter,

Car jamais joye enorter

Ne me peut, dont se deporte

La grant doulour que je porte.

Si n’aray jamais secours

Du mal qui met a oultrance

Mon las cuer, qui noye en plours

Pour la dure departance

De cil qui euvre la porte

De ma mort et que m’enorte

Desespoir, qui raporter

Me vient dueil et emporter

Ma joye, et dueil me raporte

La grant doulour que je porte.

From <>

This poem is said to be an early work, written shortly after the death of her husband in 1390, and expressing her sorrow and pain. It is still very moving, even over 600 years later. However, this theory looks a bit off to me , given the several references to her loss being the departure from France of her loved one, first signalled at the end of the second stanza, which refers to her loved one needing to leave France within a few days.

Interestingly, the first stanza follows the same format as the modern day limerick, with rhyming on the first second and fifth lines, and a different rhyme on the third and fourth line. The rest of the poem alternates between four and six line stanzas.

The poem enumerates the various stages of grief and sorrow experienced by the poet in a very moving way, with loss of joy, loss of hope, a breaking heart, despair and the prospect of death building to a climax which finally repeats the unifying theme of the poem, “la grant doulour que je porte”.

Fortunately for her, and now for us, the poet could express her feelings through poetry.

The Poetry Dude


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