A translation of Guillaume de Machaut’s “Un Po Apres Le Temps d’Autonne”

A little after autumn time

When those who cultivate the vine

Pick their grapes and fill the tun

And with work that’s lightly done

Each man offers to his fellow

Pears and grapes and peaches mellow

When in the soil the corn-seeds grow

And the leaf falls from the bough

By Nature’s or the wind’s design

In thirteen hundred forty-nine

On the ninth day of November

I was closed up in my chamber.

Had the sky been bright and clear

I should have gone to take the air

But the mountains and the meadows

Were hid in fog and deepest shadows

So I was taken by the gloom

Thinking in my lonely room

How all men everywhere are governed

By cronies meeting in the tavern

How truth and justice in the land

Are dead, slain by the hand

Of greed, who over them holds reign

As if she were a sovereign queen

How the rulers rob the ruled

Sack, plunder and assault the world

Crushing them in their distress

Merciless and pitiless

Great mischief seems it to my mind

When vice and power are combined

(Translation by blog author, 03 November 2012. Copyright.)
Original text:
Un po apres le temps d’autonne
Que chascuns vandange et entonne
Qui a vingnes a vandangier
Et qu’on a a petit dangier
Pesches moust poires et roisins
Dont on presente a ses voisins
Que li blez en la terre germe
Et que la fueille chiet dou cherme
Par nature ou dou vent qui vente
L’an mil trois cens neuf et quarante
Le novisme jour de novembre
M’en aloie par mi ma chambre
Et se li airs fust clers et purs
Je fusse ailleurs mais si obscurs
Estoit que montaignes et plains
Estoient de bruines pleins.
Si que la merencolioie
Tous seuls en ma chambre et pensoie
Comment par conseil de taverne
Li mondes par tout se gouverne
Comment justice et verite
Sont mortes par l’iniquite
D’avarice qui en maint regne
Com dame souvereinne regne
Com li signeur leur subgiez pillent
Roubent raembent et essillent
et mettent a destruction
Sans pitie ne compation
Si que grans meschies ce me samble
Est de vice et pooir ensamble.

From Le Jugement du roy de Navarre  by Guillaume de Machaut (d. 1377)

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10 comments for “A translation of Guillaume de Machaut’s “Un Po Apres Le Temps d’Autonne”

  1. November 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Wonderful. 😉

    • November 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      Thank you.

  2. November 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Congratulations – an admirably smooth and elegant translation of what, on closer examination, looks like an archetypal blog post 650 years ahead of its time.

    • November 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks, M.

  3. November 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Delightful. “d. 1377” may be momentarily depressing, but delightful.

    • November 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Thanks and yes, AKH. Odd that he didn’t mention the plague in this context?

  4. Greg Tingey
    November 4, 2012 at 9:29 am

    The year half the world died

    The (black) Death had just come to Europe, had it not?

    • November 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Not to mention, more locally, the destruction caused by English incursions into France under the banner of Edward’s claim to the French throne, then held by a man who had invented a law expressly to disinherit his niece.

    • November 4, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Second year in Europe, extending the plague’s territory from the year before; it was at its worst in Rheims in 1349.

      • November 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm

        From Wiki on Philip VI of France:

        “After the defeat at Crécy and loss of Calais, the Estates refused to raise money for Philip, halting his plans to counter-attack by invading England. In 1348, a new woe struck France: the Black Death, which in the next few years killed one-third of the population, including Queen Joan. The resulting labour shortage caused inflation to soar, and the king attempted to fix prices, further de-stabilising the country. His second marriage to his son’s betrothed Blanche of Navarre alienated his son and many nobles from the king.

        His last major achievement was the purchase of the Dauphiné and the territory of Montpellier in the Languedoc, in 1349. At his death in 1350, France was still very much a divided country filled with social unrest.”

        War, extra taxation, price inflation.

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