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Feb 28
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.

Charles d’Orleans (1394-1465) was a French royal born into an aristocratic family: his grandfather was Charles V of France and his uncle was Charles VI. His father, Louis I, Duke of Orleans, was a patron of poets and artists. The poet Christine de Pizan dedicated poems to his mother, Valentina Visconti. 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, complaints and rondeaux. He has been called the “father of French lyric poetry” and has also been credited with writing the first Valentine’s Day poem.

Keywords/Tags: France, French, translation, Charles, Orleans, Duke, first Valentine, rondeau, chanson, rondel, roundel, ballade, ballad, lyric, Middle English, Medieval English, rondeaus, rondeaux, rondels, roundels, ballades, ballads, chansons, royal, noble, prisoner, hostage, ransom
Written by
Michael R Burch  62/M/Nashville, Tennessee
(62/M/Nashville, Tennessee)   
140
 
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