Translator’s note: The following consists of three poems by Jehan (or Jean) Froissart (c.1335–c.1410), translated not very literally but as far as possible in the original form, with its elaborate repetition and rhyme scheme. The form appears to have been created by Froissart. He calls these poems rondiaus qui sont entés en es balades qui s’ensuivent or “rondeaux grafted onto the ballades that follow.” As the eight-line rondeau he employs is now called a triolet, here are three “triolets with ballade glose.”

 

Understanding Nature

Nature fashions nothing
By random evolution;
Without real causes prompting
Nature fashions nothing.
Though scholars rant in plotting
Against her constitution,
Nature fashions nothing
By random evolution.

Nature fashions nothing
Except as God created,
In wisdom once allotting
The forms she propagated;
To her He delegated
Sure means of distribution;
She is not animated
By random evolution.

Without real causes prompting,
Researchers permeated
By ignorance besotting
Trust theories outdated,
But Nature has re-stated
That chance is no solution,
And time is overrated
By random evolution.

Though scholars rant in plotting
Their unsubstantiated
Denials when confronting
What Nature legislated,
Such science fabricated
Against her constitution
Discredits them, deflated
By random evolution.

 

French original

Nature ne fait rien
De dissolucion,
Se ce n’est par moien,
Nature ne fait rien;
Quand le naturien
Y met solucion,
Nature ne fait rien
De dissolucion.

Nature ne fait rien
Que par comandement
Du roy celestien,
Qui la fist proprement
Et donna sentement
De bonne intencion,
Non pas entendement
De dissolucion.

Se ce n’est par moyen
D’aucun qui folement
Preingne divers maintien
En son esbatement,
Ou Nature ne sent
En sa condition
Aucun atouchement
De dissolucion.

Quant le naturien
Bien congnoisant entent
Parler contre le bien
De Nature, il ne tent
Qu’a honneur et briefment
Y met solucion,
Et l’escuse humblement
De dissolucion.

 

Translator’s Note: Yes, the medieval author defies evolution. He calls it “dissolution,” meaning “disorder” and thereby denouncing the idea of creation from chaos. He would also reject another concept known in his time, that life can come from non-living matter, such as rotting wood that in “dissolution” seems to produce maggots. If he knew of it, he would affirm the second law of thermodynamics, which states that disorder in natural systems always increases, and thus cannot give rise to more complex order in nature, no matter how much time there is for chance to operate.

 

 

True Likeness

Love is the bread that nourishes
A family’s hearts with honeyed grace;
Love is the wine a home relishes,
Love is the bread that nourishes,
Love is the counsel that banishes
Contrary claims when kindred embrace;
Love is the bread that nourishes
A family’s hearts with honeyed grace.

Love is the bread that nourishes
Health in pure hearts, and spiritual gain;
Love is the key that furnishes
Freedom and friendship in duty’s domain;
Love shows kind hearts how virtues reign;
Love is the consecrated space
Where banquets of manna entertain
A family’s hearts with honeyed grace.

Love is the wine a home relishes,
Sweetening lives austere or plain;
Love understands and cherishes
Those of his own who suffer pain;
Love soothes the troubles that vex life in vain.
Love is the fruit whose flavor can brace
Courage in households ready to train
A family’s hearts with honeyed grace.

Love is the counsel that banishes
Anger from honor’s noble terrain;
Love in itself accomplishes
Anything gentle words ordain.
Love is a bridle, quick to restrain
Contrary claims when kindred embrace,
Offering comforts fit to sustain
A family’s hearts with honeyed grace.

 

French Original

Amours est le pain qui repaist
Par grace les cuers familleux;
Amours est le vin qui tant plaist,
Amours et le pain qui repaist.
Amours est le conseil tout prest
A refraindre les merveilleux;
Amours est le pain qui repaist
Par grace les cuers familleux.

Amours est le pain qui repaist
Le cuer de creature humaine;
Amours est la clef et l’arrest
Qui tient les cuers en son demaine;
Amours les bons cuers à bien maine;
Amours est le grain vertueux
Qui repaist de manne mondaine
Par grace les cuers familleux.

Amours est le vin qui tant plaist,
Odourant souef comme graine,
Amours scet bien comment il est
A ses gens et lesquels ont paine;
Amours scet qui en vain se paine,
Amours est le fruit gracieux
Qui raemplist, oudoure, alaine
Par grace les cuers familleux.

Amours est le conseil tout prest
A conseiller honnour haultaine;
Amours donne, sans faire prest,
Ses biens par vertu souveraine;
Amours est frain et bride saine
A refraindre les merveilleux,
Et qui assouage et ramaine
Par grace les cuers familleux.

 

 

Why Study Love?

You ask how many kinds of love there are,
Since you would serve the love of highest honor;
If not, explain why in particular
You ask how many kinds of love there are.
Is it to learn love’s merit singular,
Or understand its incandescent fervor
You ask how many kinds of love there are,
Since you would serve the love of highest honor?

You ask how many kinds of love there are,
And whether more than one loves loyally.
My common sense observes dissimilar
Desires exciting love confusedly
When hearts love idiosyncratically
In modes as many as the mind can map.
Most human hearts are stable as the sap
That slithers from a tree with nervous vigor,
And as things stand, you bear a handicap,
Since you would serve the love of highest honor.

If not, explain why in particular
You shrink from girls who speak immodestly
And from the men who find a vow bizarre,
Not treasuring true love responsibly
But rousing sentiments licentiously.
Such lovers leave a monumental gap
Between their words and music that might wrap
The doubtful notes in melodies of candor.
I know you hold the two should overlap,
Since you would serve the love of highest honor.

Is it to learn love’s merit singular,
Which is not comprehended easily?
I know no man whose studied repertoire
In music tunes his soul sufficiently
To sing of dissonant loves honestly.
Why study love so eagerly? To tap
Strange energies that make the senses snap,
Or understand its incandescent fervor?
In love, prepare yourself against mishap,
Since you would serve the love of highest honor.

 

Original French

Vous demandez quantes amours ils sont,
Pour vous tenir a la plus honnourable;
S’il n’est ainsi, dites moi pour quoy don’t
Vous demandez quantes amours ils sont,
Ou pour savoir que leaulz amours font,
Ou pour aucun penser a honnour able?
Vous demandez quantes amours ils sont,
Pour vous tenir a la plus honnourable.

Vous demandez quantes amours ils sont,
Ou s’ils s’en font plus d’une loyaument?
Mon petit sens a ce fait vous respont
Qu’autant qu’il a dessoubz le firmament
De cuers humains qui ont entendement,
De manieres d’amours est il autant,
Qui pas ne sont l’une a l’autre semblant,
Nes que les cuers sont d’un propos estable.
Or y visé de ce jour en avant,
Pour vous tenir a la plus honnourable.

S’il n’est ainsi, dites moy pour quoy don’t
On ne fait nul amoureux jugement
Juste et loyal; quant aval et amont
G’y pense bien, homs n’en puet proprement
Parler au vray que de son sentement.
Ils sont amours, ce dient maint amant,
Où il a plus de note que de chant;
Le chant est bon, et la note est doubtable;
Siques pensez a ces ij maintenant
Pour vous tenir a la plus honnourable,

Ou pour savoir que leaulz amours font,
Ce qu’on ne puet savoir legierement,
Mais je ne scay homme de si parfont
Sens qui peüst sentir si vraiement
Du fait d’autrui que du sien. Et comment
Estes vous dont en estude si grant
Pour deux amours où il n’a qu’un garant,
Ou pour aucun penser a honnour able?
Appareillez vous comme est afferant
Pour vous tenir a la plus honnourable.

 

 

Margaret Coats lives in California.  She holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University.  She has retired from a career of teaching literature, languages, and writing that included considerable work in homeschooling for her own family and others.  


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2 Responses

  1. Rod

    You have done wonderful work Margaret in resurrecting these poems and giving them new life. In reading your excellent translations I am reminded that despite the passing of centuries we humans of poetic heart are not so different. I am reminded of the words in Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun” . Thank you for the work you have done in order that we may all share in it.

    Reply

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