The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

Page 6


Lyric poetry sprang up very early in Northern France, having a spontaneous and abundant growth in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Of the earliest lyrics, the critics distinguish two varieties [1] the Romance, and [2] the Pastourelle. These are generally dramatic love stories, full of gay and simple life and extremely artistic and musical in form. Along with these was produced a vast amount of simple lyric poetry on love and other personal emotions. The number of poems written was immense. About two hundred names of poets have come down to us, besides hundreds of anonymous pieces.

The Romances and Pastourelles of the northern trouvères were soon greatly influenced by the more artful poetry of the Provencal troubadours, producing the highly artificial but charming rondeaus and ballades of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But the freshest, most individual work is that of the earlier time.

Chatelain de Coucy

Thirteenth century.

The first approach of the sweet spring

Returning here once more,---

The memory of the love that holds

In my fond heart such power,---

The thrush again his song assaying,---

The little rills o'er pebbles playing,

And sparkling as they fall,---

The memory recall

Of her on whom my heart's desire

Is, shall be, fixed till I expire.

With every season fresh and new

That love is more inspiring:

Her eyes, her face, all bright with joy,---

Her coming, her retiring,

Her faithful words, her winning ways,---

That sweet look, kindling up the blaze

Of love, so gently still,

To wound, but not to kill,---

So that when most I weep and sigh,

So much the higher springs my joy.

----Tr. by Taylor.

Thibaut of Champagne,

King of Navarre.

Early Thirteenth Century.

Lady, the fates command, and I must go,---

Leaving the pleasant land so dear to me:

Here my heart suffered many a heavy woe:

But what is left to love, thus leaving thee?

Alas! that cruel land beyond the see!

Why thus dividing many a faithful heart,

Never again from pain and sorrow free,

Never again to meet, when thus they part?

I see not, when thy presence bright I leave,

How wealth, or joy, or peace can be my lot:

Ne'er yet my spirit found such cause to grieve

As now in leaving thee; and if thy thought

Of me in absence should be sorrow-fraught,

Oft will my heart repentant turn to thee,

Dwelling, in fruitless wishes, on this spot,

And all the gracious words here said to me.

O gracious God! to thee I bend my knee,

For thy sake yielding all I love and prize;

And O, how mighty must that influence be,

That steals me thus from all my cherished joys!

Here, ready, then, myself surrendering,

Prepared to serve thee, I submit; and ne'er

To one so faithful could I service bring,

So kind a master, so beloved and dear.

And strong my ties---my grief unspeakable!

Grief, all my choicest treasures to resign;

Yet stronger still the affections that impel

My heart toward Him, the God whose love is mine.

That holy love, how beautiful! how strong!

Even wisdom's favorite sons take refuge there;

'T is the redeeming gem that shines among

Men's darkest thoughts,---for ever bright and fair.

-----Tr. by Taylor

Gace Brulé

Thirteenth Century.

Ah! beauteous maid,

Of form so fair!

Pearl of the world,

Beloved and dear!

How does my spirit eager pine

But once to press those lips of thine!---

Yes, beauteous maid,

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