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Plourés, dames, ploures vostre servant (Ballade: from ‘Le Voir Dit’)

Plourés, dames, ploures vostre servant (Ballade: from ‘Le Voir Dit’)

Plourés dames, plourez vostre servant,
Qui ay toudis mis mon cuer et m’entente,
Corps et desir et penser en servant
L’onneur de vous, que Diex gart et augmente.
Vestés vous de noir pour mi
Car j’ay cuer, taint et viaire pali,
Et si me voy de mort en aventure
Se Diex et vous ne me prenez en cure.
Mais certeins sui qu’en vous de bien a tant
Que dou peril ou je sui sans attente
Me geterez, se cuer en plourant,
Priez a dieu qu’a moy garir s’assente.
Et pour ce je vous depri
Qu’a Dieu vueilliez pour moy faire depri;
Ou paier criens le treu de Nature,
Se Diex et vous ne me prenez en cure.

Weep ladies, weep for your servant

Weep ladies, weep for your servant,
I who has every day spent my heart and energy,
Body and desire and mind in serving
Your honour, which may God preserve and exalt.
Dress in black for me
Because my heart’s afflicted, my face pale,
And I see myself in danger of death
If God and you don’t attend to me.
But I’m certain you’ve enough goodness
To save me from this peril
Where I lie hopeless, if weeping you pray
From the heart that God agrees to my cure,
And so I beg you
Pray God for my sake;
Else I fear paying Nature’s debt
If God and you don’t attend to me.

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Guillaume de Machaut is presumed to have been born around the year 1300; the first surviving documentary evidence from 1330 lists him as a ‘clerk’ in the household of John of Bohemia and suggests that he had been in service since 1323. Machaut was instated as a canon of Reims Cathedral in 1337 and established a residence in the city in 1340. During his later years he enjoyed the patronage of a number of French nobles, including the wife and son of Jean II. In his sixties he enjoyed a close relationship with a young noblewoman, a relationship he chronicled (and embellished) in a long narrative poem, Le Voir Dit, which included many of their lyrics and letters. From these we learn something of his view of his own music, and of the process by which he preserved his work for posterity. His poetry also supplies a limited degree of biographical information; he suffered from gout and was blind in one eye, yet he was evidently enthusiastic about falconry, horseback riding and the French countryside. Machaut died in Reims in 1377.

© Daniel Leech-Wilkinson


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