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EXCERPT 8: The Author’s Apology1

Folio 127vb

Si vos pri toutes, vallainz fames,

Soiez damoiseles ou dames,
Amoureuses ou sanz amis,
Que se moz i trouvez ja mis
Qui samblent mordant et chenins
Ancontre les meurs femenins,
Que ne m’an voilliez pas blamer
Ne m’escriture diffamer,
Qui toute est por anseignement;
C’onc n’i dis riens certainement,
Ne volanté n’é pas de dire,
Ne par ivrece ne par ire,
Par haïne ne par envie,
Contre fame qui soit en vie;
Car nus ne doit fame despire,
S’il n’a queur des mauvés le pire.
Mes por ç’an escrit les meïsmes
Que nous et vos de vos meïsmes
Poïssons connoissance avoir,
Car il fet bon de tout savoir.
D’autre part, dames honorables,
S’il vos samble que je di fables,
Por manteür ne m’an tenez,
Mes aus aucteurs vos an prenez
And I pray all you worthy women, whether girls or ladies, in love or without lovers, that if you ever find set down here any words that seem critical and abusive of feminine ways, then please do not blame me for them nor abuse my writing, which is all for our instruction. I certainly never said anything, nor ever had the wish to say anything, either through drunkenness or anger, in hate or envy, against any woman alive. For no one should despise a woman unless he has the worst heart among all the wicked ones. But we have set theses things down in writing so that we can gain knowledge, and that you too may do so by yourselves. It is good to know everything. Besides, honourable ladies, if it seems to you that I tell fables, do not consider me a liar, but apply to the authors 2
Folio 128ra
Qui an leur livres ont escrites
Les paroles que g’en ai dites,
Et ceus avec que g’en dirai;
Ne ja de riens3 n’an mentirai,
Se li preudome n’en mentirent
Qui les anciens livres firent.
Et tuit a ma reson s’acordent
Quant les meurs femenins recordent,
Ne ne furent ne fos ne ivres
Quant il les mistrent en leur livres.
Cist les meurs femenins savoient,
Car touz esprovez les avoient,
Et tex es fames les troverent
Que par divers tans esproverent;
Par quoi mieuz m’an devez quiter :
Je n’i faz riens fors reciter,
Se par mon geu, qui po vos coute,
Quelque parole n’i ajoute,
Si con font antr’eus li poete,
Quant chascuns la matire trete
Don il li plest a antremetre;
Car si con tesmoigne la letre,
Profiz et delectacion,
C’est toute leur entencion.
who in their works have written the things that I have said and will say. I shall never lie in anything as long as the worthy men who write the old books did not lie. I shall never lie in anything as long as the worthy men who write the old books did not lie. And in my judgment they all agreed when they told about feminine ways; they were neither foolish nor drunk when they set down these customs in their books. They knew about the ways of women, for they had tested them all and had found such ways in women by testing at various times. For this reason you should the sooner absolve me; I do nothing but retell just what the poets have written between them, when each of them treats the subject matter that he is pleased to undertake, except that my treatment, which costs you little, may add a few speeches. For, as the text witnesses, the whole intent of the poets if profit and delight.


1This passage refers to lines 15199 to 15246 in Armand Strubel’s edition and to lines 15165 to 15212 in Félix Lecoy’s edition.

2Translation from Dahlberg, pp. 258-59.