Chanson
by Bonaventure des Périers, 151?-154?


A Claude Bectone, Dauphinoise.

Si Amour n'était tant volage
Ou qu'on le pût voir en tel âge
Qu'il sût les labeurs estimer,
On pourrait bien sans mal aimer.

Si Amour avait connaissance
De son invincible puissance,
Laquelle il oit tant réclamer,
On pourrait bien sans mal aimer.

Si Amour découvrait sa vue
Aussi bien qu'il fait sa chair nue,
Quand contre tous se veut armer,
On pourrait bien sans mal aimer.

Si Amour ne portait les flèches
Dont aux yeux il fait maintes brèches
Pour enfin les coeurs consommer,
On pourrait bien sans mal aimer.

Si Amour n'avait l'étincelle,
Qui plus couverte et moins se celle,
Dont il peut la glace enflammer,
On pourrait bien sans mal aimer.

Si Amour, de toute coutume,
Ne portait le nom d'amertume,
Et qu'en soi n'eût un doux amer,
On pourrait bien sans mal aimer.

RÉPONSE

Si chose aimée est toujours belle,
Si la beauté est éternelle,
Dont le désir n'est à blâmer,
On ne saurait que bien aimer.

Si le coeur humain qui désire
En choisissant n'a l'oeil au pire,
Quand le meilleur sait estimer,
On ne saurait que bien aimer.

Si l'estimer naît de prudence,
Laquelle connaît l'indigence,
Qui fait l'amour plaindre et pâmer,
On ne saurait que bien aimer.

Si le bien est chose plaisante,
Si le bien est chose duisante,
Si au bien se faut conformer,
On ne saurait que bien aimer.

Bref, puisque la bonté bénigne
De la sapience divine
Se fait charité surnommer,
On ne saurait que bien aimer.

Literal translation:
To Claude Bectone, the Dauphine.

If Love were not so fickle
Or if one could see him at such an age
That he would know how to value work,
One could love without pain.

If Love understood
His invincible power,
Which he so often hears protested,
One could love without pain.

If Love uncovered his eyes
As well as he does his nude flesh,
When he wants to arm himself against all,
One could love without pain.

If Love didn't carry arrows
With which he makes many holes in eyes
In order to consume hearts,
One could love without pain.

If Love didn't have the spark,
If he covered it and hid it less,
With which he can melt ice,
One could love without pain.

If Love, in all his habits,
Didn't carry the name of bitterness,
And if in him there were not a bitter sweetness,
One could love without pain.

RESPONSE

If the beloved thing is always beautiful,
If the beauty is eternal,
The desire of which cannot be blamed,
One cannot help but love well.

If the human heart which desires
In choosing does not have the eye for the worst,
When it knows how to esteem the best,
One cannot help but love well.

If the estimation is born of prudence,
Which knows the poverty
That makes love complain and rage,
One cannot help but love well.

If the good is a pleasant thing,
If the good is an appropriate thing,
If we should conform to the good,
One cannot help but love well.

In short, since the benign goodness
Of the divine intelligence
Gives itself the last name of charity,
One cannot help but love well.

Literal translation by J. Friedman

Poetic translation:


If Love were not a fickle god,
A little boy in man's façade,
Who cares not for his victims' stress,
We'd surely love without distress.

If Love could only know the power
In which he holds us, hour by hour,
I know he would our labors bless.
We'd surely love without distress.

If Love would open his closed eyes
To see our pain, and sympathize,
And cease his most aggressive press,
We'd surely love without distress.

If Love would drop his quiver fair,
His arrows fletched with our despair
As he our passions would possess,
We'd surely love without distress.

If Love's dark fire could cease to burn,
That fire which makes the glacier yearn
To melt away in love's caress,
We'd surely love without distress.

If Love, whenever he appears,
In sunshine's glare or winter's tears,
Were not so full of bitterness,
We'd surely love without distress.

RESPONSE

If the one you love is beautiful,
Likewise if your love be dutiful,
Blameless, pure, eschewing spite,
Your love can only be delight.

If the human heart's perception
Falls not prey to misconception
When it sees from such a height,
Your love can only be delight.

If you see your loved one clearly
With her faults, yet love her dearly,
Both in storm and in sunlight,
Your love can only be delight.

If goodness is your lifelong goal,
And happiness you will extol,
In all things doing what is right,
Your love can only be delight.

In short, since God is Lord of all,
Including Love, His fickle thrall,
Be comforted, for in His sight,
Your love can only be delight.

Poetic translation by J. Friedman

Bonaventure des Periers was better known for his collection of witty and varied stories, Nouvelles récréations et joyeux devis, or Novel pastimes and merry tales, published in 1558 after his death, and for a set of four dialogues called Cymbalum Mundi. He was the secretary and valet-de-chambre of Marguerite de Navarre, the sister of François I of France, the writer of the celebrated Heptameron, a collection of courtly stories after the model of Bocaccio's Decameron. He was not actually involved with Claude de Bectone; they merely carried on a literary flirtation, which was a popular diversion of the times. It is assumed that she wrote the Response section.

Basically, this piece is a conversation between a man who has been cruelly disappointed in love, to the point where he blames Love (Cupid, the naked god of love, complete with love arrows to shoot unwitting humans in the eye) for his pain. The response is from a woman who is pious and believes that God, rather than Cupid, is in charge of love. She asserts that if the lovers are humble and worthy of each other, their love can't help but succeed.

A note on the first two lines of the Response: I know I am twisting the meter somewhat. This is what came to me, and I actually think it sets off the beginning of the Reponse by stopping the listener in his tracks and emphasizing "beautiful" and "dutiful", then leads back into the original cadence of the rest of the poem. My poetic adviser assures me this is a period practice.


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Last modified: 11/4/04