CE FUT L'AUTRIER EN UN AUTRE
PAÏS ...
IT HAPPENED ONCE, IN A FARAWAY
LAND ...
Conon de Béthune tr. Samuel N.Rosenberg
Ce fut l'autrier en un autre païs
Q'uns chevaliers ot une dame amee.
Tant com la dame fu en son bon pris,
Li a s'amor escondite et veee,
Jusqu'a un jor qu'ele li dist: "Amis,
Mené vous ai par parole mains dis;
Ore est l'amor coneüe et donee:
Des or mes sui tout a vostre devis."

Li chevaliers la regarda el vis,
Si la vit mort pale et descoloree.
"Par Dieu, dame, mort sui et entrepris
Quant des l'autrier ne soi ceste pensee.
Li vostre vis, qui senbloit flor de lis,
M'est si torné du tout de mal en pis
Ce m'est avis que me soiez enblee.
A tart avez, dame, cest conseil pris."

Quant la dame s'oï ramponer,
Grant duel en ot, si dist par felonnie:
"Danz chevaliers, on vous doit bien gaber.
Cuidiez vous donc qu'a certes le vous die?
Nenil, certes, onc ne l'oi en penser!
Voulez vous donc dame de pris amer?
Nenil, certes, ainz avrïez envie
D'un biau vallet besier et acoler."

"Dame," fet il, "j'ai bien oï parler
De vostre pris, mes ce n'est ore mie;
Et de Troie ai je oï conter
Qu'ele fu ja de mult grant seignorie:
Or n'i puet on fors les places trouver.
Par tel reson vous lo a escuser
Que cil soient reté de l'yresie
Qui des or mes ne vous voudront amer."

" Danz chevaliers, mar i avez gardé
Quant vous avez réprouvé mon aage.
Se j'avoie tout mon jouvent usé,
Si sui je tant riche et de haut parage
Qu'on m'ameroit a mult pou de biauté,
Qu'oncor n'a pas, ce cuit, un mois passé
Que li Marchis m'envoia son message
Et li Bar-rois a pour m'amor ploré."

"Dame," fait il, "ce vous a molt grevé
Que vous fiez en vostre seignorage,
Mais tel set ont ja pour vouz sospiré,
Se vous estiés fille au roi de Cartage,
Qui ja mes jour n'en aront volenté.
On n'aimme paz dame pour parenté,
Maiz quant ele est bele et tortoise et sage.
Vous en savroiz par tanz la verité."
It happened once, ..... in a faraway land,
A handsome knight ..... fell in love with madame.
Too beautiful, ..... too vain and, oh, so grand,
She spurned him with ..... "What do you think I am!"
But came a day ..... she changed her mind. "My dear,"
She said, "I've made ..... you wait many a year.
The time's now come ..... I can grant you my hand;
From this day on, ..... I am your little lamb."

The handsome knight ..... looked at the lady's face,
Saw it was puffed, ..... it was pale, it was lined.
"By God, madame, ..... what a shame and disgrace
That long ago ..... you were not so inclined.
This face of yours ..... was a lily, a rose,
But time has made ..... beauty so decompose
That yesterday's ..... smile is now a grimace.
Too late, madame, ..... are you changing your mind."

At this rebuke, ..... this surprising assault,
The good lady ..... was stung, she stung right back:
"Sir knight," said she, ..... "you're naive to a fault.
How could you think ..... a white lie was so black"?
It was a joke; ..... you believed what I said!
How could you think ..... I don't know that in bed,
Instead of me, ..... you prefer somersaults,
Stunts and tumbles ..... with some handsome young Jack!"

"Madame", said he, ..... "I've often heard you praised
For your beauty; ..... but that was long ago.
I also know ..... how mighty Troy amazed
The ancient world ..... with all its wealth and show;
Now it's all gone - ..... not a trace to be found!
That's why I say ..... you'd do well not to hound
Or to malign ..... men your looks leave unfazed
With the vile charge ..... they don't love comme il faut "

"Sir knight," said she, ..... "what an error you've made,
To look at me ..... and see nothing but age,
But faded youth! ..... Is that not far outweighed
By ancestry ..... and great wealth at this stage?
I can be loved ..... not for looks but for birth.
Only last month, ..... a fine prince of great worth
Sent me good word: ..... he remains undismayed.
Then there's the duke - ..... as lovesick as a page."

"Madame," said he, ..... "it does not serve you well
To put such trust ..... in the power of rank;
Many a man ..... once fell under your spell
Who, were you queen ..... or princess of the Franks,
Could never feel ..... the same longing again.
A lady's birth ..... does not matter- to men;
It's her beauty, ..... her grace, a mind nonpareil.
For this lesson ..... you will offer me thanks."

Trans. Copyright © Samuel N. Rosenberg

First published "Metamorphoses" by Smith College, Northampton, Mass. U.S.A.



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