Jean Bodel - Les Congés

English Translation

Translators: Lynn Ramey and Elisabeth Bloom

[Lady] Pity, the source of my inspiration,
directed me to entertain myself
by speaking of my own life.
It is not right that my mind lessen
because of any evil that destroys my body,
brought on by God.
Because He has sounded the horn for me,
without deceit or villainy on my part
it is appropriate that I ask from each
a gift that none would refuse,
my farewell, before I am outcast,
since from now on I fear I might inconvenience them.

First of all, I ask leave
of the person who is closest to me
and whom I must praise the most:
Johan Bosket, go with God!
I weep night and morning
remembering the goodness that I found in you.
If I cry often in secret,
There are plenty of reasons for that,
from this moment and even more tomorrow.
However, if I do not see you,
I send you my whole heart
all that remains healthy in me.

Heart, if you do not turn evil,
neither the uncle nor the nephew
shall be omitted from my missive,
for I have declared myself loyal to them:
never did I seem an outcast to them,
they always provided for me.
They will surely not be a bit upset to find
that all they gave me is God’s:
such gifts are put to extremely good use.
For God did not bring me back
to that which He had destined me,
for which I am both sorrowful and happy.

Symon d’Iser, I brag about you
always, before and after [first and last?],
because all good things are found in you.
Many people see this:
your banner has the motto “Go forward,”
which raises up those who are beaten down.
Symon, an evil rises in me,
making my whole being its servant
and brings me to bid farewell to you
so painfully that my heart is breaking from it,
because nothing is more painful to me
than to have to say to you “God be with you.”

Farewell I bid with a broken heart
to those who quenched my thirst
and to Baudoin Zoutemont:
whom I never found to be vexed;
Goodness flourishes in his heart,
sowing the seeds of good deeds.
May God increase his honor and standing!
He makes himself loved by all.
May his soul benefit from this
in the heavenly joy from above,
as well as all those who put up with me
half healthy and half rotten!

Thibaut de la Pierre in these verses
give me leave, ashamed and hidden
as one abandoned by luck:
This earthly existence has become so awful
that I don’t dare go forth except in counter-current.
No amount of poverty bothers me,
all my misfortune I forget and discount,
but my poverty is the humiliation
that is experienced and brought out;
And God, who conquers all things,
considers me a penitent,
because it would be too much for me to live through Hell twice!

Bretel, whatever happens to me,
it is appropriate for me to withdraw
from the world, where my luck is growing worse,
God does not wish for me to have rest:
Infirmity, both poison and sores,
He has given me to hold my body in contempt.
I must watch out for the worst;
I have anger and sorrow in my heart,
but on the other hand God repays me,
who aspired to serve Him,
for my body is involved in the worst game,
no matter which token I draw.

Torment, which descends in my heart
with tortured and pale flesh,
and which makes me become feeble,
before I pack my bags,
tell Wibert de la Sale on my behalf
that I take leave without returning.
Everyday I must, without fail,
think of his noble body,
which has neither blackened bone nor welt,
and for my part come what may,
I can never share the table
with healthy men because I am leprous.

Vaast Huche Dieu, in all ways
I am your man wherever I may be,
for with you I have never found fault.
Methinks that if I had gone
where I can no longer go,
it would be better to have been in your cohort;
however, I made my own pilgrimage:
God refused me the voyage
that I had well intended to make.
Nonetheless I find He was wise:
he is dead, someone told me,
the Saracen that I hate.

Robert Cosset, with a heavy heart
I commend you and Matthew to God,
for I have made the decision—
I will avoid you and the others,
for in this world I do not see a place for me,
which makes me play hide-and-seek.
Quickly a man rises up as emir,
and quickly he falls back down as a serf,
wax quickly changed into tallow.
Since I was highest on the wheel
and I placed all my bets,
it is now appropriate that I lose the game.

Joy, you who aim away from me,
aim toward Beaumetz
and greet for me with a light heart
the lord of the manor with whom
Love agrees, who makes him wise and clever
and of good humor and well-bred.
His whole heart, not at all half,
he has dedicated to courtesy,
and so has left aside villiany.
Reason and pity move him
such that at his expense he introduced me
to that which I must now leave behind.

Trouble, which blocks my voice and
which was so troublesome and vain,
without any pretense tell Robert Louchart that I said
that joy has withdrawn and flees from me.
From a solid thorn I have become a hollow straw,
but I will have much cause for lamenting
if I remember everything and if I hold on to
the torment that God inflicts me with,
that deafens and blinds me
that no one can equal me
in grief to the point that mine is not greater;
but when one comes it doesn’t come alone.

Robert Werri, without any doubt
it is appropriate for me to leave the path
and not to see anything again, for which I apologize,
because from me has left all
joy, who has broken the peace with me,
and with all its power accuses me
of the infirmity that I had well hidden.
Along with that, I am lessened and abused by
Shame, which I was so anxious of and feared,
who encouraged inspiration for me
which I myself refuse:
it is better that I leave than that I be thrown out.

Trouble, who slays much passion,
who spilt my warm milk,
turn your bridle toward Saint-Géry:
greet Wibert of Beaumon and Ansel
on the part of Jean Bodel,
whom God moves from a feather cushion to a straw bed.
tell Lord Mahieu, whom I well love,
that I release my hold on joy,
which I had well enjoyed before Lent.
Now they show me bait and traps,
the people of Méaulens and of Beaurains,
who are completely spoiled within.

Henry the Black, I’ve made peace with you
in case I did you any wrong
before following the path that has been shown me;
I reached the pits of despair
the day I received a blow that cannot be taken back.
I could not save myself.
You have always spun the top for me,
and since then I have never had any joy,
I’ve only known pain, torment, deprivation
and an illness at war with me;
however I would be wrong to blame you for what has happened to me
because God has had his eye on me for a long time.

Torment, you who cripple me and make me sorrowful,
go and find Baude Guistrenave.
Ask him to give me approval to leave,
because I am preparing myself to enter an army
from which no one emerges in good health,
beware the food without change,
and since Reason asks me
to lead a life of penitence
and things are heading downhill,
I ask the God who sacrificed himself
to help me endure a torment long enough, so
that in the shadows He makes light.

Distress, I beg her, she who pilots my ship,
to tell the detailed story to the castellan
and to Baudouin, his son, in person
about how God, according to His will, punishes me.
I flower when winter comes,
and when summer comes I am covered in frost.
Thus in other times I green.
But God has played a trick on me so strange
that all the doctors in Salerno
would not be able to lessen the pain I endure.
I’ve been forgotten on the field like offering-wheat.
It’s a wheat that sprouts easily.

Jacques Audent, whatever my fate may be,
I must abandon the group.
Hesitation is no longer possible.
Often you have helped me push my cart
before the evil for which I am condemned
took your company from me.
From now on, I no longer count on any pity
to lessen my misery,
nor any divine intervention
to lessen my pain.
May God inflict on my body the punishment
that will liberate my soul from its debt.

Distress, you who slide into my heart,
go in my place where I send you,
for I don’t dare go any further.
Say goodbye for me to Pierre Wasquet.
He has done much for me, for me he promises
to do even more in the future.
The merchants have been a great strength to me,
he and Simon Durand,
let them know about my situation
for they have never failed
to do well by me all their lives.
I commend them to God Himself.

Raoul Ravuin, mayor? with a big heart,
in these circumstances one can be charitable
toward me, a member of your guild.
I have nothing more to do in this world,
rather I should withdraw from it.
However, when I was there,
I found fathers and mothers everywhere.
It is right that I pay the price today,
but I must accept with good will
a difficult and bitter life for my body
in order to render my soul clean and pure.
one must regenerate one’s body.

Garin, because such is my destiny,
I must not leave without your permission
and I don’t wish to do so:
my friend, I commend you to God.
My presence is contested and refused
by the society that I have never ceased to love so,
it no longer wishes to welcome me,
I always imagined that in another path
I would be far from this country,
but I am not permitted to cross the threshold.
However I praise God and obey him willingly
in order to prolong my period of sacrifice.

Heart, go to the home of Baudouin,
that great tournament champion.
He never ceases to act as a man of honor.
May God give him the joy of which I have little,
the health which I lack,
and the advantages that He passes under my nose.
It will be great wealth for him, because in me
there is a mass and concentration
of all the suffering that extinguishes joy.
God made me fall into the depths,
I suffer from an evil from which no ones escapes
when it has struck the target with its strength.

Bérard, it is not right even if I am allowed to do so
that I leave without your permission
to live my Holy Week.
I know so well your delicate nature
that, I know it well, you are saddened
to have heard he sing my last song.
But if, not without difficulty, one can put out
from a sick body a healthy word
then it is right that I do not silence my thoughts.
Here is the spring ready to bubble forth:
my heart and the evil that dominates me
are not of the same nature.

Distress, you who taught me the contents of your book,
deliver to Baude Boulard my message:
tell him that may God keep him safe,
and that Shame and Torment make me lose my head
as they attack me night and day.
They have warned me and strongly let me know
that, even if I suffer from the lack of a friend,
I must not seek the company of any of them—
they have been bothered enough.
I must congratulate myself, even one must hate it,
that God has marked me with the seal
of a death from which can come a new life.

Distress, you alone who have tamed me,
count among my good friends
Martin Verdière who lives outside these walls.
He walks on the good path.
Don’t forget, either, Bertrand,
because he has promised me a treasure.
Neither he nor Mahieu le Fort will ever
be left out of what I write,
no matter how unseated I may be.
But in order to face God, no spell has power
since He has taken my body from me.
I give to Him, as is correct, my soul.

Torment, you who grow and fill my heart,
say hello from me to Joffroi the doctor.
because I must say leave him.
I am his vassal and he my lord.
I have had the chance to experience his skill,
no one could teach him more than he knows.
He went to much trouble
to seal and sew up my flesh,
this substance that has become so fragile.
How did he dare to undertake the task
of repairing and cutting a head
so completely in bad shape!

Torment, you who have destroyed my joy,
pay Aliaume Piédargent for me.
Go and give him my regards one more time:
I must take flight
and abandon all the joys
that have until now been my nourishment.
But this misery spreads gold over me,
for I know well that God heals
him that, as a grace, accepts such a battle.
Without waiting, I want to make my spirit bloom,
open my heart and close my eyes,
since for me day breaks when night falls.

Baudouin Fastoul, here I am before justice:
an unpleasant matter that makes me ashamed
has disrupted my situation.
Joy, which declared war on me,
spared me no credit,
but demanded double from me.
It sold me its favors at an expensive price,
yet I see an advantage in the damage
that harms me here, if it serves me elsewhere:
I feel soothed by the beautiful hope
of great inalienable joy
where each of us has what we wish for.

Distress, go there where I do not go,
to bid farewell to the Piédargents:
the more I love them, the more I avoid them.
Simon, may the God in whom you believe
make you wear your cross
there where I cannot wear mine!
By not leaving the suburbs,
I have granted the pagans a long-lasting truce;
but if God had been magnanimous,
He would not have failed to provide me with assistance,
to the extent that on earth, which was previously his,
I would have written a serventois of the Crusade.

In my sorrow, my shame and my weariness,
I place in God’s care Baude and Thomas
whose usual conduct I greatly appreciate.
God, source of all commodities,
You who flogged me with your rod,
give them the strength and the power
to retain the purity of their youth!
I could have been sure of their help
if I had been able to go to Damascus,
but I stayed, and I know why:
upon the dice, God counted all my pips ,
yet he made me roll two aces .
Distress, which spreads within me,
which enfeebles me and knocks me down,
exhorts me day and night
to contradict myself and to turn away from the world,
along with Shame, which too has accompanied me
and escorted me for a long time:
there where joy reigns,
there is no more available space for me;
but, already on the way, I take my leave
of him whose alias eludes me,
for the distance is great, I believe,
between Jean Sadness and Gérard Joy.

With your leave, Waubert le Clerc,
I go suffering from a terrible pain,
God protects all my friends from it!
You have been sincere and loyal to me,
you never closed your door on me
each time that I wanted to share your meal:
may God reward you generously
and take revenge on me
in such a manner that his door will be open to me!
He has chosen the way to make me atone for my sins
without leaving my body any hope of recovery,
for I have been stacked too green .

I am prepared to leave,
but even so, I must not carry the bale along :
I made the decision to bid farewell.
Gérard d’Espagne, they are still brand new
your gifts of old, and here is the proof:
they regain life through my death;
all that I have been given for my pleasure,
provided that everything is a sign of kindness, comes back to life.
Close to God, for you, I make the most of your acts of generosity
so that He will return them to your soul:
I do not have a worthier offering to present you
as a New Year’s gift.

I place in God’s care the Monnoier:
May God grant him
the possibility of continuing his journey,
for, if he does not lose his bearings in straying from the path,
he starts to blossom!
May God make him hold his hand steady!
He has gained momentum;
as he loves and ardently desires honor,
May God permit him to follow the route that he has chosen,
him, as well as all those
who will contribute to paying my pension:
My biggest fear is inconveniencing the world!

Ah! Master Renaut de Beauvois,
the world is certainly very bad!
So behave as well as you say you do,
you have borne your burden for a very long time.
I have gone; if you left as well,
silence would weigh upon Arras.
Of beautiful tales and of beautiful words,
the city did indeed resound so much
that never again will such strains be heard.
I declare this to you without flattering or attempting to deceive you,
you contradict all those who squint:
your words are wise but your actions mad.

Caignet, I pity you greatly for being destined
to live eternally in need.
Let’s go, regain vigor, come to life!
Comport yourself as a man of good and of honor:
wear my cross, and you will have two;
for, if you found yourself far from the region,
you would quickly be shielded from misfortune,
in Barletta or in Brindisi.
Here, you cannot be happy,
get going, excuse my absence:
if you are over there miserable in my place,
I will be here unhappy in your place.

Ah! Nicolas le Charpentier,
my generous and faithful companion,
farewell, here I am ready for departure!
With affectionate goodwill,
as if you were in my debt,
you have shown yourself to be available when I needed it .
At present, there is no longer any other solution:
you will go capture the top prize
there where I am blocked from the path.
God recognizes the good pilgrim:
may He provide my soul with assistance,
for my body is already placed on the trestles!
Distress, give my regards to
Robert Audent, he himself and Bernard,
for they have always shown themselves to be at once
full of consideration for and attentiveness to me;
but my heart is very close to splitting;
the twofold thought that assails me
nourishes in my heart joy and grief;
I laugh and I sigh, I sing and I cry.
I feel absolutely
that I have at once the upper and the lower hand:
my body passes away, my soul remains;
thus I remain, I pass away.

Distress, you who abound in my heart,
give my regards, in all directions, to
Arras and to all the people of the commune,
for they are filled with blessing and honor,
but more than any woman in the world,
I insist that you give my regards to one,
the wife of the lawyer of Béthune.
I do not know of a person more courteous:
it is the lady of Tenremonde.
May God who gave her life under the new moon
give her some desire
to continue spreading her kindness over me!

Distress, you who burn me with your fire
– I do not know which other messenger to choose –
take to the mayor of Arras this brief
and be vigilant that it be read before him:
if it is God’s will, and if his nobleness of heart invites him to do so,
he will not cause me to lose my fief.
Have him also read
to the county magistrates, from one end to the other,
so that they may be seized with pity,
for, if I live in agony and misfortune,
it is right that they share my suffering:
it is in their service that I developed this pain.

My friends, before going,
I beseech you, in my twilight years,
by Christ and his Nativity,
to collect among yourselves a contribution
to bring to an end the fight that gives itself up
and that must leave no one indifferent:
it would be a noble donation that you would have made me
if I found myself brought to Méaulens with your help.
I do not know a dwelling that suits me better,
the place has pleased me for a long time,
for charitable people are found there,
and I could eat my fill there.

Lady, you who are God’s mother and child,
make not broken
my heart, whatever misfortune may descend upon me,
for I am absolutely certain
that the only way I can hope to profit
is to adopt the behavior
that will make me remain at your service.
May you accept that it be so for me
and that care always be taken
by my heart, whatever becomes of my body,
to constantly remember
hell and heaven.

Lady, repository of all virtues,
I take my leave of the Sainte Chandelle
that you gave to the minstrels;
I have ceased placing my lips upon it
due to a pain that has affected me
and that compels me to follow the winding paths.
Never again will I find refuge by going near it,
but I will leave with it my eternal love,
and when I am at Petit-Marché,
I will kiss the tower
where it is laid,
and thus I will have less misery in my heart.

Ah! Troubadours, dear companions,
to me you have been the good friends
that very loyal confrères must be:
in seeking to secure my subsistence
you have shown me your friendship and given me satisfaction
more so than if you had all been my brothers.
May God reward you for it,
Him and his very gentle, beloved mother
who has granted you the sublime gift!
Ask her to reveal her generosity
to me and to intercede with her father
and of her son, so that I may obtain pardon for my sins.

I am eager to place you in God’s care
all together, without naming each one,
for I have no complaints about anyone,
on the contrary, I am greatly pleased with you and I should be pleased.
I must leave you,
however heavy my heart may be:
it is rather an unpleasant company
that I must join.
May God now grant me the grace to bear
the pain that mutilates my body,
so that, knowingly accepting it, I may succeed
in offering Him my soul.

Here ends the Congés by Jean Bodel