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Nes que on porroit (Ballade: from 'Le Voir Dit')

Nes que on porroit (Ballade: from 'Le Voir Dit')

Ne que on porroit les estoiles nombrer
Quant on les voit luire plus clerement,
Et les goutes de pluie et de la mer,
Et la greve seur quoy elle s’estent,
Et compasser le tour dou firmament,
Ne porroit on penser ne concevoir
Le grant desir que j’ay de vous veoir.
Et si ne puis par devers vous aler
Pour Fortune qui le vuet et deffent,
Dont maint souspir me couvient estrangler
Quant a vous pense et je sui entre gent;
Et quant je sui par moy secretement,
Adont me fait tous meschies recevoir,
Le grant desir que j’ay de vous veoir.

No more than a man

No more than a man could number the stars
When they are seen to shine so clearly,
And the drops of water in rain and the sea,
And the sands that make up its bed,
Or map the stars in the firmament,
Could anyone fathom or imagine
The great desire I have to see you.
And if I cannot come to you
Because Fortune insists, who prevents me,
Then I must stifle many a sigh
When thinking among other of you;
And all alone and unobserved,
It makes me suffer every kind of agony,
The great desire I have to see you.

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Composer

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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