Dedens mon Livre de Pensee,
J'ay trouvé escripvant mon cueur
La vraye histoire de douleur
De larmes toute enluminee,
En deffassant la tresamée
Hélas! ou l'a mon cueur trouvee?
In my book of thoughts,
I found my heart writing
The true history of sadness,
All illuminated with tears,
Which blur the well-loved
Alas! Where did my heart find it?
Literal translation by J. Friedman
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
Alas! Where will the reader look?
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".