Friday, June 15, 2012


The ballade is a pretty ancient French form with a strict rhyme scheme. A traditional ballade includes three stanzas of eight lines each, in a rhyme pattern a, b, a, b, b, c, b, C. You use the same rhymes in each stanza, and C -- the final line, is a refrain which stays the same, or pretty much the same, every time. There is often also a short verse called the 'envoy' or 'envoi' at the end, addressed to a poetic patron, or a lady, or somebody like that.

Not very many people write ballades, because they are pretty freaking difficult, especially in English which doesn't have the same kind of verb endings as French. My favourite author ever, Geoffrey Chaucer, was actually the first guy to write ballades in English (he was influenced by a lot of French writers). He is basically the boss of poems, although to be fair, Middle English was a little more flexible about verb forms and spelling.

Chaucer's "To Rosemounde" is about as perfect a ballade as you can get. He also wrote some other (more tongue-in-cheek) ballades as well -- I'll post one or two in the notes. If you read the Middle English, you can really see the rhyme scheme. I've done a little "translation" afterwards in case you get thrown off by the (actually more sensible than modern English) spelling.

If you look further down the blog i've posted a couple of my pretty lame attempts at ballades. Hey, it was a fun exercise.


Madame, ye ben of al beaute shryne
As fer as cercled is the mapamounde,
For as the cristal glorious ye shyne,
And lyke ruby ben your chekes rounde.
Therwith ye ben so mery and so jocounde
That at a revel whan that I see you daunce
It is an oynement unto my wounde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliaunce.

For thogh I wepe of teres ful a tyne,
Yet may that wo myn herte nat confounde;
Your semy voys that ye so smal out twyne
Maketh my thoght in joy and blis habounde.
So curtaysly I go with love bounde
That to myself I sey in my penaunce,
"Suffyseth me to love you, Rosemounde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliaunce."

Nas never pyke walwed in galauntyne
As I in love am walwed and ywounde,
For which ful ofte I of myself devyne
That I am trewe Tristram the secounde.
My love may not refreyde nor affounde,
I brenne ay in an amorous plesaunce.
Do what you lyst, I wyle your thral be founde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliaunce.

Emily's translation:
Madame, you are the shrine of all beauty / As far as is circled by the map of the world,
For you shine as glorious as the crystal, / And your round cheeks are like rubies.
On top of that, you are so merry and jocund / That when I see you dance at a party
It is an ointment to my wound, / Though you show me no friendliness.

For though I weep a barrel full of tears / Still that woe does not overcome my heart;
Your high voice that you twist out so softly / Makes my thoughts abound in joy and bliss.
So courteously do I behave, bound by love, / That I say to myself in my private sorrow,
"It is enough for me to love you, Rosamond, / Though you show me no friendliness.

No pike was ever simmered in galantyne (a sort of pickly sauce) / As I am simmered and wound up in love,
For which I full often perceive of myself / That I am truly a second Tristram.
My love may not grow cold or numb, / I always burn in amorous pleasure.
Do what you desire, I will still be your slave, / Though you show me no friendliness.

No comments:

Post a Comment