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Longuement me sui tenus - Lai - “Lay de bonne Esperance” (from 'Le Voir Dit')

Longuement me sui tenus - Lai - “Lay de bonne Esperance” (from 'Le Voir Dit')

Longuement me sui tenus
De faire lais,
Car d’amours estoie nus,
Mais des or mais
Ferai chans et virelais.
G’i sui tenus,
Qu’en amours me sui rendus
A tous jours mais.
Se un petit ay esté mus,
Je n’en puis mais,
Car pris sui et retenus,
Et au cuer trais
Tout en un lieu de .ij. trais
D’uns yex fendus,
Vairs, poingnans, ses et agus,
Rians et gais.
Car ma dame, que Diex gart,
Par un dous riant regart
D’Ardant Desir fist un dart
Et un d’Esperence.
Mais mort m’eüst, sans doubtance,
Desirs et sans deffiance
S’Espoirs ou j’ay ma fiance
Ne fust de ma part.
Car quant je senti l’espart
Dou regart qui mon cuer art,
Ne perdi, a tiers n’a quart,
Scens et contenance,
Mais tout maniere et puissance.
Lors me fist penre plaisence
En ma jolie souffrance
Espoirs par son art.
Mais ce durement m’esmaie,
Que ne say
Se ceste amoureuse plaie
Qu’au cuer ay
Vient d’Smours ou de cuer vray.
Car Dous Regars maint cuer plaie
Qu’ailleurs dame amy a gay.
S’en morray
S’einsi m’est; mais d’amour vraie
L’ameray.
Ne voloir que m’en retraie
Ja n’aray
Pour doleur que mes cuers traie.
Eins seray
Vrais et de cuer serviray
Ma dame plaisant et gaie.
Et quant mes jours fineray,
Sans delay
Mon cuer, que s’amour deplaie,
Li lairay.

For a long time I’ve refrained - Lay of good Hope

For a long time I’ve refrained
From composing lays,
Being empty of love,
But from now on
I’ll write songs and virelais.
This I’ve resolved,
Having surrendered to Love
For ever more.
If I’ve been somewhat quiet,
I can no longer be,
Being captured and held,
And shot through the heart
With two bolts right in one spot
By a pair of eyes,
Grey-green, piercing, charming, and striking,
Smiling and gay.
For my lady — may God save her! —
Through her sweet smiling look
Made one dart of burning Desire
And one of Hope.
But Desire, and there is no doubt,
Would have killed me with no warning
Had not Hope, in whom my trust is placed,
Been on my side.
For when I felt the glow
Of the look that burns my heart,
I lost not just a third or fourth
Of my wit and composure,
But all demeanour and power.
Then Hope made me take pleasure
In my sweet suffering
Through her skill.
But I am so completely dismayed,
Because I don’t know
If this lover’s wound
That’s in my heart
Comes from Love or a heart that’s true.
For Sweet Look wounds many a heart
When the lady has some other lover who pleases.
And I’ll die
Should this be so; but with a true love
I will love her.
I’ll never have the will
To draw back
Because of the pain that tries my heart.
Rather I’ll remain
True, serving from the heart
My pleasant and gay lady.
And when my days end,
At once,
My heart, wounded by her love,
I’ll bequeath to her.

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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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