A photo of Chateau Azay-le-RideauFor Valentine’s Day: ‘The Tale of the Rose’ by Christine de Pisan (1364–1431), translated by Margaret Coats The Society February 13, 2021 Beauty, Culture, Love Poems, Poetry, Translation 22 Comments . . The Tale of the Rose (Excerpt) by Christine de Pisan (1364-1431), translated by Margaret Coats . This Tale comes from the Paris home of the Duke of Orleans, brother of the King of France, where on Saint Valentine’s Day 1402, there assembled certain noble folk, rich in honor and beauty and gentility. The doors were closed, because they wished to enjoy a pleasant time in private. A supper of delectable dishes was served, but much more than the food, the guests enjoyed the company, in all of whom true and good love flourished. There was song during supper, for as each guest was graciously asked, he devised a ballade about love, of which there were many, and nothing was more to their taste. Smiles and good cheer reigned in this amiable parliament. But Love wished to visit his loyal friends, and despite barred doors and latched windows, a great and noble lady, who later called herself the Goddess of Loyalty, entered the hall, surrounded by light. Every other beauty was pale, compared to her elegance of body, face, and movement. She approached, as if she would make a special present to the gathered company. All were eager to hear what she had to say. The following ballade conveyed her message. . The Offer of Roses The God of Love by me presents to you These roses of resolve both fresh and fair, New gathered from the pure and loyal dew Of his domain where I his scepter bear. If you are grateful for his cordial care, And take the gift, and make Love’s covenant, He wills that from this moment you prepare To be for ladies’ honor vigilant. Accept one lovely rose of vibrant hue; Inhale its fragrance sweet beyond compare, And pledge yourself to join Love’s retinue. He sends me with this mission wheresoe’er There may be gentlemen who are aware Of joys and benefits that Love can grant, Inquiring whether they the purpose share To be for ladies’ honor vigilant. Knights good and gallant and noble and true, You lovers likewise, it is your affair And solemn choice this service to pursue. Love wills it, therefore chivalry should dare, And hide at heart no idle, trifling air. It is to your estate significant That now and for your life you freely swear To be for ladies’ honor vigilant. . The Goddess placed a vessel on the table. It was filled with beautiful, fragrant, fresh-cut red and white roses, and with each rose was a handsome scroll containing the following ballade, expressing what Love willed that each lover should swear as he boldly took a pretty rose. . Oath of the Order of the Rose Good Love, I make to you my solemn promise, And to the Rose, flower of beauty famed, As well, to Loyalty’s intrepid Goddess, By whose true ardor I have been inflamed, That injuries at ladies’ honor aimed I will oppose, and vanquish ladies’ foes, Nor by me will a woman be defamed, Therefore I join the Order of the Rose. I pledge to make it my specific business To see that ladies’ praises are proclaimed; Each one I will respect as my own mistress. To her, whom I my favored lady named, Who is alone my sovereign duly claimed, I will hold fast until my lifetime close. All this is voluntarily declaimed; Therefore I join the Order of the Rose. Love I thank for his abundant kindness, Who by this embassy my heart reclaimed, Healing me of my inherent weakness Through hope that strives beyond my vices tamed, To merit virtue’s manhood unashamed. Challenge I will, when scoundrels interpose Expressions by which ladies might be blamed; Therefore I join the Order of the Rose. You princes brave, whose valor is acclaimed, Pronounce this vow where honor’s goodness glows; Contend when feuds against its goals are framed, Therefore I join the Order of the Rose. . Those in the company all rose and took the admirable vow, for it is so gentlemanly and honorable that no one could say a thing to disapprove it. It was a festival scene, each securing a rose on his chest or his arm or his head, and rejoicing in the inner faith he had undertaken to promise. The Goddess departed, but the guests lingered as long as they liked, singing and smiling happily to one another. At last they took cheerful leave, each bearing away his Rose as a token of joy. . As the 650-line poem continues, the poet (a widow loyal to her deceased husband) experiences a vision in which she is appointed Legate of the God of Love, and in effect, Grand Mistress of the Order of the Rose. She is commissioned to spread news about it, which she does by composing the Tale. Having explained its principles, she authorizes any honorable lady in any land to confer the Order on any gentleman wishing to join, using the above oath, and a badge of any material in the shape of a rose. The ceremony described at the beginning of the poem was doubtless a real event on February 14, 1402, with Valentina Visconti, Duchess of Orleans, taking the part of the Goddess of Loyalty. Patroness and poet were proclaiming a crusade on behalf of women, as line 20 in “The Offer of Roses” reveals. “Amours le veult” or “Love wills it” echoes the cry “Deus vult” or “God wills it” of the first crusaders. . French original of the ballades, lines 153–176 and 197–224 of Le Dit de la Rose Le dieu d’Amour par moy il vous presente Ces roses ci de voulenté entiere, Cueillies sont de tres loyal entente Es beaulx vergiers dont je suis courtilliere. Si vous mande qu’a tres joyeuse chiere Preigniez le don, mais c’est par convenant Que desormais en trestoute manière Yrez l’onneur des dames soustenant. Si veult qu’ainçoiz que nullui se consente A recevoir la rose belle et chiere, Qu’il face veu que jamaiz il n’assente Blasme ou mesdit en nesune maniere De femme qui son honneur tiengne chiere, Et pour ce a vous m’envoye maintenant. Si vouez tous qu’a parole pleniere Yrez l’onneur des dames soustenant. Chevaliers bons et tous de noble sente, Et tous amans, c’est bien droit qu’il offiere Qu’a ce veu ci vo cuer se represente; Amours le veult, si n’y mettés enchiere, Mais ne soit pas de voulenté legiere, Car a l’estat de vous appartenant; Et si jurez que jusques a la biere Yrez l’onneur des dames soustenant. A bonne amour je fais veu et promesse Et a la fleur qui est rose clamée, A la vaillant de Loyauté deesse, Par qui nous est ceste chose informée, Qu’a tousjours mais la bonne renommée Je garderay de dame en toute chose Ne par moy ja femme n’yert diffamée: Et pour ce prens je l’Ordre de la Rose. Et si promet a toute gentilesse Qu’en trestous lieux et prisée et amée Dame sera de moy comme maistresse. Et celle qui j’ay ma dame nommée Souveraine, loyauté confermée Je lui tendray jusques a la parclose, Et de ce ay voulenté affermée, Et pour ce prens je l’Ordre de la Rose. Et si merci Amours et son humblesse Qui nous a cy tel semence semée Dont j’ay espoir que serons en l’adresse De mieulx valoir; c’est bien chose informée Que de lui vint honneur tres renommée. Si defendray, s’aucun est qui dire ose Chose par quoy dame estre puist blasmée Et pour ce prens je l’Ordre de la Rose. Princes haultains, ou valeur est fermée, Faites le veu, bonté y est enclose, L’enseingne en vueil porter en mainte armée: Et pour ce prens je l’Ordre de la Rose. . . 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. NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to email@example.com. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 22 Responses Joe Tessitore February 13, 2021 A very beautiful story and a more than worthy translation of it, complete with wonderful rhyme. Thank you, Margaret. Happy Valentine’s Day❣️ Reply Margaret Coats February 13, 2021 Thank you, Joe! Valentine’s Day was very big in the later Middle Ages, and this is one of the most intriguing stories. The poet created evening entertainment for her royal patrons, and then extended it into a narrative with herself as visionary. I’m glad you liked my proffered entertainment for the day. Reply Joseph S. Salemi February 13, 2021 Translating a ballade, while maintaining both the meaning and the rigorous rhyme-scheme, is a major achievement. Reply Margaret Coats February 13, 2021 Thank you, Joseph. I began translating French forms because there is such a variety, and so few good English examples of each. Precision in translating form becomes essential with Christine de Pisan, Queen of Formalists in view of her love for every lyric form and every poetic device, and her delight in making variations on each. Here I am fortunate that iambic pentameter suits the French decasyllabic ballade, and that I could retain some of the author’s rhyme words. Reply Andrew Benson Brown February 13, 2021 Loved this, Margaret. Been a Christine de Pizan fan for a while, but hitherto I’ve only read her prose (including an interesting book on politics she wrote in the ‘mirror for princes’ genre). I saw that there is a new translation of ‘The Tale of the Rose’ alongside another work, ‘The God of Love’s Letter,’ in a bilingual edition that’s scheduled to be released at the end of next month, but the description didn’t say whether it’s a formal verse translation or not (drives me crazy when I encounter formal poetry translated into free verse, which I see all the time). Was wondering if you yourself were working on a complete translation? Given all the other stuff you translate on the site, you certainly have a lot of projects! Reply Margaret Coats February 13, 2021 I have already done a complete translation of ‘The Tale of the Rose,’ but because it is a Valentine for my husband, the narrative framework is paraphrased in prose (of which you see some above, abridged for easy reading here). This makes it more enjoyable for someone who might not read 650 lines of octosyllabic couplets with other lyric forms interspersed. I translated the lyrics in lines approximating the original form of each, and used English tetrameter couplets for what the poet hears during her vision. I may publish this as a quickly accessible version, no matter what the forthcoming bilingual edition does. As it is bilingual, the translator may intend it just as a crib to help those who don’t read French well. That’s useful, but poorly serves those who don’t read French at all. Like you, I hate formal poetry translated into free verse, and prose I consider acceptable only occasionally, when the work being translated uses the form of verse ordinarily employed for lengthy narrative or factual discourse that can become tedious. In epic such as you write, of course, the poem as a whole has a form and poetic devices that ought not to be rendered in prose, if the reader wants the epic experience rather than mere knowledge of the plot. I consider a lyric inadequately translated if the form is not translated along with the meaning. If the form can be the same as the original, that’s great, but with the ballades above, I had to reject French decasyllables for English iambic pentameter, while keeping the rhyme scheme. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant February 13, 2021 Margaret, your labor of love is not lost on me. The works flow smoothly and beautifully in their endeavor to entertain us with a delightful slice of romance and history. I love the admirably portrayed smile and sentiment. Thank you very much and a very happy Valentine’s Day to you. Reply Margaret Coats February 13, 2021 Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Mike! I always appreciate your comments, and I’m glad to know that this combination of abridged prose with a couple of ballades makes for a smooth-reading, entertaining story. Reply C.B. Anderson February 13, 2021 This is very elegant, Dr. Coats, as I’m sure the original was, though I am no Francophone. Would that I (we) had family traditions as rich as the one described here. What a different world that would be! Reply Margaret Coats February 13, 2021 Just imagine a dinner with each guest ready to recite a poem! My guests are often willing to listen to as many as two poems, if they are not too long. All we can do is start something, and try to keep others smiling! Reply James A. Tweedie February 14, 2021 Margaret, I love the blend of narrative prose framing the two ballads. I am one of those you describe as being generally “willing to listen to as many as two poems, if they are not too long”! No doubt the intended recipient of this poem will also be grateful for the consideration that went into your recreation of both the poem’s origin as well as of the verses themselves. It was (dare I say) a “love-ly” way to get my heart in shape for tomorrow’s celebration of love. Reply Margaret Coats February 14, 2021 Much appreciate your comment! And what a celebration of love today has become at SCP! Many more valentines than last year. I’m honored to have started it off with this historical one. Reply David Watt February 14, 2021 Margaret, your ballade translation comprising the offer of a rose and the subsequent oath is as beautiful and elegant as the roses described. Reply Margaret Coats February 14, 2021 David, I am most grateful for the comparison of my work to roses. Some of the honor belongs to Christine de Pisan, and some as well, I believe, to Valentina Visconti, the original speaker of “The Offer of Roses.” As I was transcribing the French to make this submission, I felt that the first ballade had touches by someone other than Christine, whose voice I know very well. It is intriguing to hear (perhaps) a few words by this Italian-born patroness of the arts, who had arrived in France upon her marriage 12 years earlier. Reply Tom and Laurence Rimer February 17, 2021 Margaret — you have achieved a minor miracle — the poetry sections, with their rhyme schemes, read aloud (which we did) with a naturalness and elegance altogether in keeping with the beauty of the original. And, of course, the sentiments are so appropriate for the occasion! Reply Margaret Coats February 17, 2021 So nice to know that my friends did a reading and found the poems as natural as Christine certainly wanted them to be! Her speaker was the hostess for an evening that had to be both entertaining and convincing, and of course neither Christine nor Valentina wanted any stumbling when all those gentlemen took the oath! Reply Tom Rimer February 18, 2021 I only wanted to add that we failed to comment on the beautiful photograph you used, which caught the same kind of elegant atmosphere that is in the poem. Tom and Laurence Margaret Coats February 18, 2021 Bruce thanks you, as the photo is his contribution to this presentation! L Garcia February 20, 2021 Thank you Dr. Coates. It was a pleasure reading this amazing translation of a lovely poem! Such a refreshing, bold theme. I can’t wait to share it. I enjoyed reading the comments as well but I must give preference to the one that graciously refers to your work as “achieving a minor miracle”. Wonderful! Reply Margaret Coats February 21, 2021 Thank you in return, Mrs. Garcia. The story is, as you say, something unique. I can’t think of any other in which a new order of chivalry, intended to be universal, is founded. Christine might have thought back to King Arthur’s Roundtable or Charlemagne’s Twelve Paladins, but the Order of the Rose seems to have a clearer, more definite purpose. It conducts a crusade on behalf of women, but benefits everyone by spreading the ideal of Good Love. Reply Christina Lesinski February 23, 2021 What an elegant and classy poem, not to mention the pristine translation! Mrs. Coats, you have a true talent for language and classical prose. This rhyme scheme is so unique and challenging but you managed to make it flow smoothly. I love your choice of poetry for St. Valentine’s Day, reconnecting romance to honor and dignity. The mood, setting and style are definitely my “cup of tea.” I really enjoyed reading this beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing! Reply Margaret Coats February 23, 2021 Christina, I’m happy you enjoyed the story; it does seem to fit what I know of your own style. Thank you for taking the time to read thoroughly and to comment on exactly what you liked. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.