J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non

Here is a poem with a simple and universal theme from, Charles Duke of Orleans, brother of the king of France, presumably written during his long exile in England after being taken prisoner at the battle of Agincourt. He had a lot of free time to write poems and I have posted several on this blog.

This poem is summed up by its title, repeated throughout the poem, “I love whoever loves me, if not I don’t love them” – so love must be reciprocal and balanced. This applies to friendship and communication in general, hence the universality and continued relevance of this theme. It reveals the poet to be a thoughtful and civilised man, making the best of his difficult circumstances.

Charles d’ ORLEANS   (1394-1465)

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non ;

Et non pour tant, je ne hay rien,

Mais vouldroye que tout fust bien,

A l’ordonnance de Raison.

Je parle trop, las ! se faiz mon !

Au fort, en ce propos me tien :

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non,

Et non pour tant je ne hay rien.

De pensees son chapperon

A brodé le povre cueur mien ;

Tout droit de devers lui je vien,

Et ma baillé ceste chançon :

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non.

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/charles_d_orleans/j_ayme_qui_m_ayme_autrement_non.html>

Two other notions come through in this poem – even when he doesn’t love, the poet hates nothing nor nobody. And he trusts in the power of reason, above all. Admirable sentiments from an admirable man and poet…

The Poetry Dude

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.

ENVOI

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

En verrai ge jamais la fin,

How about a fifteenth century French blues poem from Charles d’Orleans, stuck in England as a prisoner for over 20 years after the battle of Agincourt. Somebody should have sent this poem to BB King to complete the impact.

Will my blues ever end….?

 
En verrai-je jamais la fin

Charles d’Orléans (1394-1465)

 
En verrai ge jamais la fin,
De voz oeuvres, Merancolie ?
Quand au soir de vous me deslie
Vous me ratachez au matin.

J’aimasse mieulx autre voisin
Que vous qui sy fort me guerrie ;
En verrai ge jamais la fin,
De voz oeuvres, Merancolie ?

Vers moy venez en larrecin
Et me robez Plaisance lie ;
Suis je destiné en ma vie
D’estre tousjours en tel hutin ?
En verrai ge jamais la fin ?

 
From <http://www.poesie-francaise.fr/charles-d-orleans/poeme-en-verrai-je-jamais-la-fin.php&gt;

When will the poet see the end of melancholy? It releases him at night and ties him up again in the morning (presumably sleep is his only escape). He would rather have another companion. Melancholy sneaks up on him and robs him of pleasure. Will the poet be in such straights all his life?

Like a good blues, the main phrases are repeated in each stanza.

Break out the moonshine, tune up the blues guitar, and sing.

The Poetry Dude

Qui ? quoy ? comment ? a qui ? pourquoy ? 

Charles, Duke of Orleans, after he was taken prisoner by the English at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, spent the next 25 years in England, prevented from returning to France. He used this time, in part, to become a prolific poet, and his work is very good, as well as being a window into the world of the early 15th century. But he must have had many moments of hopelessness and despair, and it looks to me like this poem came out of one of those moments. Who, what, how, to whom, why?, questioning what is happening to him and what is the meaning of it all.

Looks like he needed a few flagons of strong ale and a buxom English wench to cheer him up

Charles d’ ORLEANS   (1394-1465)

Qui ? quoy ? comment ? a qui ? pourquoy ?

 
Qui ? quoy ? comment ? a qui ? pourquoy ?
Passez, presens ou avenir,
Quant me viennent en souvenir,
Mon cueur en penser n’est pas coy.

Au fort, plus avant que ne doy
Jamais je ne pense enquerir :
Qui ? quoy ? comment ? a qui ? pourquoy ?
Passez, presens ou avenir.

On s’en puet rapporter a moy
Qui de vivre ay eu beau loisir
Pour bien aprendre et retenir.
Assez ay congneu,je m’en croy :
Qui ? quoy ? comment ? a qui ? pourquoy ?

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/charles_d_orleans/qui_quoy_comment_a_qui_pourquoy.html&gt;

Who moved my cheese? Where’s the beef? Why me?

Enough said…
The Poetry Dude

En la forest d’Ennuyeuse Tristesse, 

This is an interesting allegorical poem from Charles d’Orleans, less personal than his poems of exile and nostalgia. It seems to hark back to an earlier poetic sensibility in which formulaic stereotypes were used to depict real emotions and situations. In the forest of unfortunate sadness is the title, clumsily translated into English, and it concerns the encounter of a lost soul with the goddess of Love. It could easily come from one of the more obscure corners of Arthurian romance, such as were being written 200 years or so previously, where allegory and symbolism were so important in conveying meaning and engaging the audience in the mental gymnastics required to follow what was going on.

I hope the spelling and structure of the French language of the period are reasonably intelligible. I prefer to stay close to the original formats just to do justice to the intentions of the poet.

Charles d’ ORLEANS   (1394-1465)

 
En la forest d’Ennuyeuse Tristesse

 
En la forest d’Ennuyeuse Tristesse,
Un jour m’avint qu’a par moy cheminoye,
Si rencontray l’Amoureuse Deesse
Qui m’appella, demandant ou j’aloye.
Je respondy que, par Fortune, estoye
Mis en exil en ce bois, long temps a,
Et qu’a bon droit appeller me povoye
L’omme esgaré qui ne scet ou il va.

En sousriant, par sa tresgrant humblesse,
Me respondy : ” Amy, se je savoye
Pourquoy tu es mis en ceste destresse,
A mon povair voulentiers t’ayderoye ;
Car, ja pieça, je mis ton cueur en voye
De tout plaisir, ne sçay qui l’en osta ;
Or me desplaist qu’a present je te voye
L’omme esgaré qui ne scet ou il va.

– Helas ! dis je, souverainne Princesse,
Mon fait savés, pourquoy le vous diroye ?
Cest par la Mort qui fait a tous rudesse,
Qui m’a tollu celle que tant amoye,
En qui estoit tout l’espoir que j’avoye,
Qui me guidoit, si bien m’acompaigna
En son vivant, que point ne me trouvoye
L’omme esgaré qui ne scet ou il va. ”

ENVOI

Aveugle suy, ne sçay ou aler doye ;
De mon baston, affin que ne fervoye,
Je vois tastant mon chemin ça et la ;
C’est grant pitié qu’il couvient que je soye
L’omme esgaré qui ne scet ou il va.

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/charles_d_orleans/en_la_forest_d_ennuyeuse_tristesse.html&gt;

I’ll try and give a synopsis. The poet is wandering disconsolately in the forest indicated in the title (forests being places of danger and uncertainty,) when he meets the goddess of love who asks him why he is there. He replies that his misfortune has exiled him there as a man who doesn’t know where he is going, and so he just wanders in the forest. The goddess of love is displeased and says she could help him if she knew why he is so lost and would happily put him back on the right path to love and happiness. The poet replies that it is the death of his loved one which has transformed him into a wandering lost soul.

The Envoi, or summing up, confirms that the poet doesn’t know where he is going, he is completely blind and disoriented, and everybody should pity him.

The Poetry Dude

Yver, vous n’estes qu’un vilain

On the day of posting this blog, much of North America is in the grip of a cold, snowy and icy winter, as is much of northern Europe. For all those tired of shovelling snow, or cursing the cancellation of their flights out of Boston or New York, remember that hard winters are not new, and that defenses against winter were likely much more inadequate five hundred years or so ago. So here is Charles d’Orleans cursing the hardships of winter – “Yver, vous n’estes qu’un villain”, Winter, you are but a knave…
Charles d’ ORLEANS   (1394-1465)

Yver, vous n’estes qu’un villain
Yver, vous n’estes qu’un villain;
Esté est plaisant et gentil
En témoing de may et d’avril
Qui l’accompaignent soir et main.

Esté revet champs, bois et fleurs
De sa livrée de verdure
Et de maintes autres couleurs
Par l’ordonnance de Nature.

Mais vous, Yver, trop estes plein
De nège, vent, pluye et grézil.
On vous deust banir en éxil.
Sans point flater je parle plein,
Yver, vous n’estes qu’un villain.

From <http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Yver,_vous_n%27estes_qu%27un_villain_%28Claude_Debussy%29&gt;

After the opening declaration, full of misery and despair at the hardships of winter, the first two stanzas go into the contrasting joys and pleasures of summer and spring, pleasant, mild, the woods and flowers in bloom, greenery everywhere, and Nature showing off its abundant beauties. Such a prospect must have seemed distant indeed in a world with no photos, movies, internet, or cheap flights to sunnier climates. If you were a nobleman, like Charles, you hunkered down in your castle, with fires blazing in the enormous chimneys; you ate the food stored away at harvest time and hoped it would last until spring; and you were wrapped in furs 24 hours a day. If you were a peasant, you shivered in your hovel, hoping some Good King Wenceslas would come out and give you some food and firewood.

The third and final stanza brings us back to this reality – the snow, wind, rain and hail which made up the daily misery of the winter months. The poem concludes – Winter, you are but a knave.

See also the anonymous Irish poem, “I bring you news”, posted here on February 12th 2015 for another take on this subject, not so different.

So switch up your thermostat, or jump on a plane to Spain or the Caribbean and be glad you live in modern times.

The Poetry Dude

Allez-vous-en, allez, allez

Charles d’Orleans, a member of the French royal family, writing poetry in the first half of the fifteenth century, wrote many of his poems while a prisoner in England after Henry V’s victory a Agincourt in 1415. He was in England for over 20 years and so had the leisure to write many fine poems; and of course poetry was an accepted and admired activity for an educated, high-born person of the age, probably more so then than in modern times.

This poem is a plea to be free of cares, sadness and melancholy. Anybody who feels oppressed by the daily grind, precarious living or seemingly insuperable circumstances can understand what the poet is saying in this poem.

 
Charles D’Orleans (1391–†1465)

 
ALLEZ-VOUS-EN, allez, allez,

Soussi, Soing et Melencolie,

Me cuidez-vous, toute ma vie,

Gouverner, comme fait avez?

Je vous promet que non ferez;

Raison aura sur vous maistrie:

Allez-vous-en, allez, allez,

Soussie, Soing et Merencolie.

Se jamais plus vous retournez

Avecques vostre compaignie,

Je pri à Dieu qu’il vous maudie

Et ce par qui vous reviendrez:

Allez-vous-en, allez, allez.

 
From <http://www.bartleby.com/244/27.html&gt;

It is a very short poem and there are really only three basic ideas:
1) Care and sadness must get away from me and no longer govern my life
2) Reason will prevail and reveal happier, carefree possibilities
3) If care and melancholy return, may they be cursed by God

The repetition of “Allez-vous-en, allez, allez” at the beginning, middle and end of the poem really underscores the main point. Will it happen, or is it wishful thinking?

The Poetry Dude