Ma bele amor
Ma bele amor, por tu j’ere vaillant
Et tot combatrai estre ton amant.
M’atainds a mort avuec tu merci grant.
Sui mauvais que por mi amor atant.
Espér qu’est mon ou mais esteinds m’allant:
Ne vis sans tu amor.
My beautiful love, for you I will be valiant
And fight any and all to be your lover.
You wound me to the death with your great mercy.
I am unworthy that love should wait for me.
I hope it is mine, or already you extinguish my liveliness:
I cannot live without your love.
This piece is the first in a series of poems dedicated to my good friend (and patroness) Maitresse Aenor d'Anjou. When I entered into her service (and the service of her lord and husband, Master Efenwealt Wystle), one of our agreements was that I would compose poems in her honor. What is more medieval, I thought (and still think!) then to write love poems to a married noblewoman? As a result, I have been trying to write at least one poem a month for her. I have also attempted to make these poems work as songs by coupling the lyrics with existing tunes (technically called contrafacta). See my list of poems for the other chansons in this series.
I had several requirements for the tune: it had to be ‘tuneful,’ it had to be something that Aenor would have recognized, and it had to not already be the tune of a love song. I compromised on my second requirement: the above poem can be sung to the Crusader tune "Ja nus hons pris," reportedly written by Richard Coeur-de-Lion in the last decade of the twelfth century (a bit after Aenor’s specific area of interest – the lifetime of Richard’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine - but not far).
The meter is 10 syllables in each line except the last, which has 6. There is also one simple rhyme-sound for the entire verse, with the exception again of the last line – in the first verse, the last word of the last line can be found in the first line: in Richard’s, it was “pris;” in mine, it’s “amor.” Richard’s poem also had several verses, but since this was one of my first attempts at French (modern or old), I settled for a single verse.