Dedens mon Livre de Pensee
Charles d'Orleans, 1394-1465, from Rondeaux


Dedens mon Livre de Pensee,
J'ay trouvé escripvant mon cueur
La vraye histoire de douleur
De larmes toute enluminee,

En deffassant la tresamée
Ymage de plaisant doulceur,
Dedens mon Livre de Pensee.

Hélas! ou l'a mon cueur trouvee?
Les grosses gouttes de sueur
Lui saillent, de peinne et labeur
Qu'il y prent, et nuit et journee,
Dedens mon Livre de Pensee.

Literal translation:
In my book of thoughts,
I found my heart writing
The true history of sadness,
All illuminated with tears,

Which blur the well-loved
Image of pleasant sweetness,
In my book of thoughts.

Alas! Where did my heart find it?
The big drops of sweat
Cover it, of the effort and labor
That it takes, both night and day,
In my book of thoughts.

Literal translation by J. Friedman

Poetic translation:
In my Imaginary Book
My heart hath written to complain
Of epic sadness and of pain.
Oh, how the writing swayed and shook

And blurred in places, tears that took
Away all joy that might remain,
In my Imaginary Book.

Alas! Where will the reader look?
My heart doth labor without gain
Both night and day, and all in vain,
For tears flow over like a brook,
In my Imaginary Book.

Poetic translation by J. Friedman

Charles d'Orleans was the son of Louis, Duke of Orleans and brother of King Charles VI of France, and Valentine Visconti, Duchess of Milan. He was captured at Agincourt in 1415 and spent the next 25 years in various kinds of captivity in England, where he wrote much of his poetry and became celebrated as a man of courtly and literary sensibilities. This rondeau, with its repeated line, typical in form of about a third of his rondeaux, was composed after his return to France.

I chose to omit the reference in line 9 to "big drops of sweat". It's hard to find a courtly-sounding use in English for that phrase. Instead, tears are blurring the writing as they flow over it "like a brook".


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Last modified: 11/4/04