Give me your hearing and your heart, for words will quickly disappear

From Chretien de Troye’s Yvain ou Le Chevalier au Lion (Yvain or the Knight of the Lion), lines 150-170ish. I’m giving the two English renderings I have on hand, the first by Ruth Hardwood Cline and the second by Burton Raffel. It’s been a few years since I read either but I think Cline was the more accurate while Raffel the more readable – the rhyming starts to jingle too much in my head.

I’m this time using a modern French prose version in the Pleiade edition (lower picture). So far I prefer the facing metrical setup of the Livre de Poche Romans de Chretien de Troyes (upper picture) I’ve used before but we’ll see. The Old French text included below is from the University of Ottawa Dictionnaire Électronique de Chrétien de Troyes.

Cline’s Translation
Give me your hearing and your heart,
for words will quickly disappear,
if they aren’t heard in heart and ear.
Some men will hear and then commend
things that they cannot comprehend.
Their sense of hearing lets them hear it,
but once the heart has lost the spirit,
the words will fall upon the ears
just like the wind that blows and veers.
The words don’t Unger there or stay;
in a short while they fly away,
if the unwary heart’s asleep,
because the heart alone can keep
the words enclosed. The ears, they say,
are just the channel and the way
by which the voice comes to the heart.
But the heart’s able to impart
the voice that enters through the ears
unto the breast of him who hears.
So he who would hear me must start
by giving me his ears and heart,
because, however it may seem,
it’s not a lie, tall tale, or dream

Raffel’s Translation
Give me your ears and your mind!
The spoken word is lost
If your heart and your mind can’t hear it.
There are men, I assure you, who listen
Happily and hear nothing,
Men little more than ears,
Their brains distant, detached.
Words can come to the ear
Like blowing wind, and neither
Stop nor remain, just passing
By, like fleeting time,
If hearts and minds aren’t awake,
Aren’t ready and willing to receive them.
Only the heart can take them
In, and hold them, and keep them.
The ears are a road, a door,
For the voice to reach the heart,
And hearts accept the voice
In themselves, though it comes through the ear.
So anyone who truly hears me,
Give me your ears and your minds,
For my tale has nothing to do
With dreams, or fables, or lies,
Like so many others have offered,
But only what I saw myself.

Cuers et oroilles m’aportez,
Car parole est tote perdue
S’ele n’est de cuer entandue.
De cez i a qui la chose oent
Qu’il n’entandent, et si la loent ;
Et cil n’en ont ne mes l’oïe,
Des que li cuers n’i entant mie ;
As oroilles vient la parole,
Ausi come li vanz qui vole,
Mes n’i areste ne demore,
Einz s’an part en mout petit d’ore
Se li cuers n’est si esveilliez
Qu’au prendre soit apareilliez ;
Car, s’il la puet an son oïr
Prendre, et anclorre, et retenir,
Les oroilles sont voie et doiz
Par ou s’an vient au cuer la voiz ;
Et li cuers prant dedanz le vantre
La voiz qui par l’oroille i antre.
Et qui or me voldra entandre,
Cuer et oroilles me doit randre,
Car ne vuel pas parler de songe,
Ne de fable ne de mançonge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s