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Charles d'Orleans: a Medieval Marvel

Charles d'Orleans: a Medieval Marvel Spring by Charles d’Orleans (c. 1394-1465) loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch Young lovers, greeting the spring fling themselves downhill, making cobblestones ring with their wild leaps and arcs, like ecstatic sparks struck from coal. What is their brazen goal? They grab at whatever passes, so we can only hazard guesses. But they rear like prancing steeds raked by brilliant spurs of need, Young lovers. Oft in My Thought by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465) loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch So often in my busy mind I sought, Around the advent of the fledgling year, For something pretty that I really ought To give my lady dear; But that sweet thought's been wrested from me, clear, Since death, alas, has sealed her under clay And robbed the world of all that's precious here? God keep her soul, I can no better say. For me to keep my manner and my thought Acceptable, as suits my age's hour? While proving that I never once forgot Her worth? It tests my power! I serve her now with masses and with prayer; For it would be a shame for me to stray Far from my faith, when my time's drawing near? God keep her soul, I can no better say. Now earthly profits fail, since all is lost And the cost of everything became so dear; Therefore, O Lord, who rules the higher host, Take my good deeds, as many as there are, And crown her, Lord, above in your bright sphere, As heaven's truest maid! And may I say: Most good, most fair, most likely to bring cheer? God keep her soul, I can no better say. When I praise her, or hear her praises raised, I recall how recently she brought me pleasure; Then my heart floods like an overflowing bay And makes me wish to dress for my own bier? God keep her soul, I can no better say. Rondel: Your Smiling Mouth by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465) loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray, Your ample breasts and slender arms’ twin chains, Your hands so smooth, each finger straight and plain, Your little feet?please, what more can I say? It is my fetish when you’re far away To muse on these and thus to soothe my pain? Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray, Your ample breasts and slender arms’ twin chains. So would I beg you, if I only may, To see such sights as I before have seen, Because my fetish pleases me. Obscene? I’ll be obsessed until my dying day By your sweet smiling mouth and eyes, bright gray, Your ample breasts and slender arms’ twin chains! The next three poems are interpretations of "Le temps a laissé son manteau" ("The season has cast off his mantle"). This famous rondeau was set to music by Debussy in his Trois chansons de France. The season has cast its coat aside by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465) loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch The season has cast its coat aside of wind and cold and rain, to dress in embroidered light again: sunlight, fit for a bride! There isn't a bird or beast astride that fails to sing this sweet refrain: "The season has cast its coat aside!" Now rivers, fountains and tides dressed in their summer best with silver beads impressed in a fine display now glide: the season has cast its coat aside! Winter has cast his cloak away by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465) loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch Winter has cast his cloak away of wind and cold and chilling rain to dress in embroidered light again: the light of day?bright, festive, gay! Each bird and beast, without delay, in its own tongue, sings this refrain: "Winter has cast his cloak away!" Brooks, fountains, rivers, streams at play, wear, with their summer livery, bright beads of silver jewelry. All the Earth has a new and fresh display: Winter has cast his cloak away! The year lays down his mantle cold by Charles d’Orleans (1394-1465) loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch The year lays down his mantle cold of wind, chill rain and bitter air, and now goes clad in clothes of gold of smiling suns and seasons fair, while birds and beasts of wood and fold now with each cry and song declare: "The year lays down his mantle cold!" All brooks, springs, rivers, seaward rolled, now pleasant summer livery wear with silver beads embroidered where the world puts off its raiment old. The year lays down his mantle cold. Confession of a Stolen Kiss by Charles d’Orleans (c. 1394-1465) loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch My ghostly father, I confess, First to God and then to you, That at a window (you know how) I stole a kiss of great sweetness, Which was done out of avidness? But it is done, not undone, now. My ghostly father, I confess, First to God and then to you. But I shall restore it, doubtless, Again, if it may be that I know how; And thus to God I make a vow, And always I ask forgiveness. My ghostly father, I confess, First to God and then to you. Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465) was born into an aristocratic family: his grandfather was Charles V of France and his uncle was Charles VI. His father, Louis I, the Duke of Orleans, was a patron of poets and artists. He became the Duke of Orleans at age 13 after his father was murdered by John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. He was captured at age 21 in the battle of Agincourt and taken to England, where he remained a prisoner for the next quarter century. While imprisoned there he learned English and wrote poetry of a high order in his second language. A master of poetic forms, he wrote primarily ballades, chansons and rondeaus/roundels/rondels. Keywords/Tags: Charles d'Orleans, Orleans, Duke, France, French, translation, ballade, chanson, rondeau, roundel, rondel, Valentine, first Valentine, Middle English, Medieval, prison, prisoner, hostage, ransom, patron, art, arts, year, season, winter, spring, summer, autumn, coat, mantle, cloak, love, prayer, God

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