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Quant Theseus / Ne quier (Ballade: from 'Le Voir Dit')

Quant Theseus / Ne quier (Ballade: from 'Le Voir Dit')

Voice 1 (Thomas):
Quant Theseus, Hercules, et Jason
Cerchierent tout et terre et mer parfonde
Pour acroistre leur pris et leur renon
Et pour veoir bien tout l’estat dou monde,
Moult furent digne d’onnour.
Mais quant je voy de biauté l’umble flour,
Assevis sui de tout si que par m’ame
Je voy assez, puis que je voy ma dame.
Veoir ne quier la doree toison,
Ne les Yndes, ne de Rouges Mer onde,
Ne aus infernaus penre guerre ou tenson
Pour eslongier le regart de la blonde
Dont me vient joie et baudour,
Et dous penser—si tieng pour le millour
Que a tout conter et bien penser a drame.
Je voy assés, puis que je voy ma dame.
Voice 2 (The Response of Guillaume de Machaut):
Ne quier veoir la biauté d’Absalon
Ne de Ulixés le sens et la faconde,
Ne esprouver la force de Sanson,
Ne regarder que Dalida le tonde.
Ne cure n’ay par nul tour
Des yex Argus ne de joie gringnour,
Car pour plaisence et sans ayde d’ame,
Je voy assez, puis que je voy ma dame.
De l’ymage que fist Pymalion
Elle n’avoit pareille ne seconde;
Mais la bele qui m’a en sa prison
Cent mille fois est plus bele et plus monde.
C’est uns drois fluns de douçour
Qui puet et scet garir toute dolour.
Dont cils a tort qui de dire me blame.
Je voy assez, puis que je voy ma dame.
Si ne me chaut dou sens de Salemon,
Ne que Phebus entermine ou responde,
Ne que Venus s’en mesle, ne Mennon,
Que Jupiter fist muer en aronde.
Car je di: quant je l’aour,
Aim, et desir, ser, et criem, et honour,
Et que s’onneur seur toute rien m’enflame,
Je voy assez, puis que je voy ma dame.

When Theseus, Hercules, and Jason / I do not wish to see the beauty of Absalom

Voice 1 (Thomas):
When Theseus, Hercules, and Jason
Traversed the whole earth and the ocean deep
To enlarge their valour and renown
And see the whole compass of the world,
They were quite worthy of honour.
But when I see beauty’s humble flower,
I’m so satisfied that by my soul
Enough I see, seeing my lady.
I don’t want the golden fleece,
Or the Indies, or the Red Sea’s waves,
Or carry battle, fight to the infernal regions
And thus distance the look of the fair-haired woman
Who gives me joy and boldness,
Sweet thoughts too—instead I think it better
To consider and count all else a trifle.
Enough I see, seeing my lady.
Voice 2 (The Response of Guillaume de Machaut):
I’m not eager to look upon Absalom’s beauty
Or the cunning and swagger of Ulysses,
Or to test the might of Samson,
Or to watch Delilah cut his hair.
I give no thought at all
To the eyes of Argus or greater joy,
Since for pleasure and with no one’s help,
Enough I see, seeing my lady.
The statue Pygmalion crafted
Had no equal, nothing like it;
But that beauty who holds me prisoner
Is one hundred times more beautiful and pure.
She’s a true fountain of sweetness
Who can and is able to heal all pain.
So that man’s wrong who blames my saying so.
Enough I see, seeing my lady.
So I care nothing for Solomon’s wisdom,
Nor that Phebus makes an end or responds,
Nor that Venus interferes, or Menon,
Whom Jupiter changed into a swallow.
Rather this I say: since I adore,
Love, and desire her, serve, and respect, and honour her
Above all others, and she inflames me with love,
Enough I see, seeing my lady.

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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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