Encyclopedia

Texts : Richard de Fournival

Excerpts from an English translation of the Bestiaire d'amour and the Response, prose edition, by Jeanette Beer.


Bestiaire: Prologue (p. 1)

All men naturally desire knowledge. And inasmuch as no one has the capacity to know everything (although everything has the capacity to be known), it behooves everyone to know something, then what one man does not know another will. Thus everything is known in such a manner that it is not known by one man for himself, but rather it is known by all in common. But all men do not coexist together. Some die and others then are born. Our forebears knew what no one now alive could find out by his own intelligence, and it would not be known unless it were known from the ancients.

Wherefore God, who so loves man that He wants to provide for his every need, has given him a particular faculty of mind called Memory. This Memory has two doors: Sight and Hearing. And to each of these two doors a pathway leads, namely Depiction and Description. Depiction serves the eye and Description serves the ear. How one may repair to Memory’s House through Depiction and Description is evident in that Memory, which guards the treasury of knowledge acquired by the mind of man by virtue of his intelligence, renders the past as if it were present.

Response: Prologue (p. 41)

A man who has inteligence and discretion must not employ his time or his attention to say or do anything by which any man or any woman may be damaged, but the person who is able to say or do something which is profitable to the ignorant is accomplishing good work. So I have understood, fair lord, dear master, in your prologue, which you sent me in your request for love, and from which I find myself quite reassured. It has been most useful to me first to regard that prologue, which shows me that I cannot easily be wise about everything that could be useful to me. And truly you have shown me by rational argument that no one has the capacity to know everything, although everything has the capacity to be known. So it behooves me in the making of this response to employ great pains not to say or do anything by which a base-thinking man or woman might eventually ridicule me. For when you and I shall have done as much as we ought, avenging Love will render due reward to everyone.

Bestiaire: Partridge, Ostrich, Eagle (p. 28-32)

For even if it happened that another woman who wanted me should behave toward me as one does toward a lover, she would not be able to deflect me from my love of you, as happens with the Partridge. For when it has laid its eggs, another partridge comes and steals them from her, hatches them and rears the baby partridqes until fully grown. But when fully grown so that they now can fly with the other birds, if they hear the call of their real mother, they will recognize her from the call, and will abandon their false mother who fed them, and will follow the other mother all the days of their lives.

Laying and rearing are to be compared with two things that are found in love: capturing and keeping. For as the egg is without life when it is laid, and does not live until it is hatched, so the man, when captured by love, is as if dead and he does not live until he is retained as lover. Wherefore I say that, since you have laid (that is captured) me, there is no woman, if she were to hatch (that is, retain) me who would not lose me. There is no woman who could prevent me from recognizing I am yours forever and from following you all the days of my life.

Wherefore I say that since I would not abandon you for any other woman, and would abandon all other women for you, I am holding onto you, although you are not holding me. ... Wherefore I still have some degree of hope, however slight, that I may remain with you in the end. ... For know of a truth that although I said that some other partridge steals the egg and hatches them, I shall not find someone to hatch this egg. Nor do I say this because I would like to find someone, but I say it because I have found someone who has said to me: “The woman who would invest her love in you would be a fool, and you are held in such true captivity elsewhere that she would lose whatever she might invest in you.” And it so happens that this statement or its equivalent has been made to me by several such women as would retain me gladly if they did not fear I was bound to abandon them at the voice of my real mother.

But since it is the case that neither you nor another wishes to hatch this egg, it may well be lost through long delay. And it would have been lost long since, had it not been for the modicum of solace which I get from the restorative powers and jollity of heart which come naturally to me and from which I take comfort, as happens with the egg of the Ostrich which the bird leaves in the sand when it has laid it, and will never look at it again. But the sun, that universal source of warmth by which all things survive, nourishes it in the sand, and thus it comes to life, nor will it ever be hatched in any other way. So I say of myself who am the egg that is hatched by nobody. ...

... But it seems to me that have more than might be helpful to me of that pride that cannot coexist with love. You should cut it down or you could not savor the joy of love, as the Eagle, when its beak is so overgrown that it cannot eat, shatters its beak and then sharpens it anew on the hardest stone it can find.

The eagle's beak signifies the pride that stands in the way of love. The beak shatters when one so humbles oneself as to unlock the fortress that defends the tongue for the purpose of recognizing and granting favor. ...

Response: Partridge, Ostrich, Eagle (p. 52-53)

Help me, God, help me! How could I ever be that sort of woman I am talking about? By the Holy Cross, if God please, it will not happen to me. I shall be wise and guard against error. Wherefore I shall not be as lazy as the Partridge, for when she has laid, another partridge comes and takes her eggs and hatches them. But that is through some defect that is in her. She cannot endure the bother of hatching, or she thinks she cannot lose the babies because partridges return to their true mother. But even if it were not for either of these two reasons, yet I know truly that there can be no good justification for her not to hatch them, because she will never love them as much as if she had hatched them herself.

So also I can say concerning myself that if I do not strive to keep myself in check and to curb certain dispositions and desires that are not good, my eggs, that is the good words which I have heard from the natures of certain animals teaching me to guard what I have to guard, could certainly be stolen from me. Complaining would never serve me then, for there would be no recovery, although the partridge has one. And certainly the partridge is not as foolish as I understand the ostrich to be. For there is nothing in the ostrich to deserve that good news ever be heard about it. I have heard that when the ostrich has laid its egg, it will never look at it again. If that is not villainy on the ostrich’s part and if it is not courtesy on the sun's part to rescue the egg by its warmth and hatch it so that the ostrich has no fear of losing it, may I be damned!

Ah lord master, how strongly I believe that if I put my trust in you as does the ostrich in the sun, you would rear me abominablv! Cursed be anyone who trusts in you, however sincerely you behave. And I am not very courteous when I am not yet in your debt at all and yet have said so much. For it seems to me that there are few things as foolish as foolish speaking. ...

For I remain terribly fearful of something which, it seems to me, few people are without, namely pride, which you have compared to the beak of the Eagle. Certainly I say of a truth that pride is good as long as through pride one guards what should be guarded. For many people attribute to pride what honesty attributes to human nature, and this is clearly signified to us on various occasions. For I say truly that if I see someone who keeps me company and pretends to be charming for something he wants to get from me, or if it seems that by keeping company with me he will attain such improyement as he wishes to attain, reason shows me that I would not be improved thereby, but rather, damaged if I did not interpose a tower of cruelty, which some call pride. That is doubtless why I do not claim to have pride in excess of what is good for me, according to what I have understood from you.

Bestiaire: Vulture (p. 35)

There is a bird called the Vulture whose habit it is to follow the armies because it lives on corpses, and it knows by its nature that there will be dead men or slaughtered horses there. The vulture signifies those who follow women and maidens to take advantage of them, however much the women may be hurt by this. And those who go into the army because they do not know where to go, and who are going to see the world signify men who love no one. But they cannot meet anyone without speaking of love, and they cannot speak of love without begging for it. They do not do this through treachery but out of habit. And those who go into the army because their lord needs their services signify the true lovers.

Concerning this I tell you that I do not follow you out of habit like a vulture. But I cannot by any power of words make you know the species to which I belong. But if you had kept me in your service, I would show you clearly by my actions that I follow you to do the service of my lady. Nevertheless, since no rational argument can avail me anything with you, I ask nothing from you but mercy.

Response: Vulture (p. 57)

I am mindful of the Vulture which, I have heard, detects a carcass that is a day’s journey distant, although he feels no hunger. So I believe that you have the same nature as the vulture. For you have dealings with so many people and they with you, that you have heard someone speak of me in conversation, because I have a taste for conversation and cultured people. That is why, I believe, you came here first to find out who I was, and whether anything about me pleased you.

And I do not think, as I said at the beginning, that it was by courtesy that God did not wish to make us inferior substance to men, rather He made us of man himself because He wishes us to be loved by men, and them in turn to be served by us. Wherefore, master, I truly believe that you see some grace in me so that it pleases you to say what I have heard. And the reason that I think you have spoken thus is none other than that you want me to protect myself from evil men. And because I have heard from you that one cannot know who is good and who is evil, it is expedient to guard against all men. And this I shall do until, through reason, mercy shall find its place. In my view, when a person does not wish to do a thing, there are multiple refusals. Let that suffice for good understanding.


Excerpts from the Bestiaire d'amour, prose edition, from manuscript Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 412, edited by Célestin Hippeau, 1860.


La Seraine (The Siren) [p. 16]

Aussi come de celui que la seraine ocit quant elle l'a endormi par sod chant. Car il sont 3 manières de seraines; dont les 2 sont moitié feme, moitié poissons, et la tierce moitié feme et moilié oiseaus; et chantent toutes 3 ensemble les unes en buisines, les autres en harpes et la tierce en droite vois. Et lor mélodie est tant plesanz que nus ne les ol qu'il ne li coviegne venir. Et quant li hom est priés, si s'en dort; et quant ele le troeve endormi, si l'ocit. Einsi me samble que la seraine i a granz coupes qant ele l'ocit en traïsson, et li hom granz coupes quant il s'i croit.

Et jou sui mors par teil raisson que jou et vos i avons coupés. Mès je ne vos os sus mètre traïsson. Si n'en metrai les coupes se seur moi non, et si dirai qe je me sui mors. Car se je fusse encore à vos oïr quant parlasles premiers à moi, si'n eusse-je eu garde se je fusse aussi sages come li serpenz qui garde le bausine.

Li Paons (Peacock) [p. 26]

Car la keue del paon si senefie porveance, por ce que keue qui est derrière senefie ce qui est à venir, et ce qu'ele est pleine d'iols, si senefie le prendre garde de ce qui est à venir.

Por ce di-jou que keue de paon senefie porveance. Car autre chose n'apele-on porveance fors que prendre garde de çou qui est à venir. Et la keuwe senefie porveance; et por ce est confermez li paons à la nature del lion.

Car il est d'itel nature que s'on le chace et li coviegne fuir, il traine sa keue et si cuevre les traces de ses piez, por ce que on ne le sace où trover.

Aussi fet li sages hom qui a porveance. Quant il li covient faire aucune chose dont on le blasmeroit s'on le savoit. Il se porvoit si au faire que on ne le saura jà, si que sa porveance cuevre la trace de ses piez, c'est à dire la renomée u bone u male qui de ses oevres peussent issir. Dont senefie la keue porveance, et nommeement keue de paon; por les iols qui i sont.

Et por ce di-jou que aussi laide chose con çou est de paon sans keue, aussi granz poverté est d'ome sans porveance. Non porquant se jou eusse autretant d'iols corne li paons a en la keue, si peiuse-je bien estre endormis a force de voiz.

Li Olifans (Elephant) [p. 90]

En non Deu! je vouroie que eles fussent toutes aussi sages come jou entenc que la femele de l'Olifant est. Car jou ai bien entendu que ele se doute molt de ce dra- gon, si que quant ele doit faoner, ele se met en une ève, où il a aucune ille; et là endroit faone, por la doute que elle a de ce diable de Dragon.

Car jou ai entendu que sa nature si est si chaude que nient plus come li feus ne puet grant plenté d'aiguë souffrir, ne puet cil dragons sousfrir. Et por çou que la femele le doute, se met-elle là. Et encore n'est-ele mie asseurée, se li malles n'est à la rive, por li desfendre la voie, se il i vint entrer.

Tout aussi vorroie-je vraiement que totes se gardassent aussi come fet celé Olifande. Car que quant uns venroit qui si feroit le destrauet, et puis li deist-on une chose que il feroit plus à enuis et dont moins de damages seroit, dont se il le faisoit, si feist-on à l'avenant. Mes ensi n'i a mie, ançois jà de teles qui croient quanque eles oient et de çou que eles voient se taisent.


Transcription from the Bestiaire d'amour, verse edition, from manuscript Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 25545, edited by Arthur Långfors, 1924. This is the complete poem. The left column is the original text; the right column is a translation from the French of notes from the Långfors edition.


Maistres Richars ha, por miex plaire,
Por ce que on en |ait un peu,
Puis en rost et puis en esceu;
Si praingn’on le quel c’on vaurra
Et qui a oïr miex plaira.
Bien sera chascuns escoutez,
Car je vos di, c’est veritez,
Toutes gens a savoir desirrent
Les fais que li encien escrirent.
Par nature et par les .v. sens
Peut on apenre mout de sens.

Et por ce que nus hon qui soit
Par lui savoir tout ne porroit,
Ja soit que puist estre seüe
Chascune chose et conneüe.
Si convient que aucune rien
Sache chascuns ou mal ou bien,
Et se que li uns ne set mie,
Qu’au savoir l’autre s’estudie;
Si que tout est aperceü
En itel meniere et seü,
Si qu’il n’est seü de nului,
Ce sachiez bien, tout a par lui,
Ains est seü de tous ensamble.
Mais il est einsi, ce me samble,
Que toutes gens ne vivent pas
Ensamble ne a un compas,
Ains sont li un mort et finé
Ains que li autre soient né,
Et cil qui ont esté jadis
Tel chose ont seü, ce m’est vis,
Que nus hon qui soit orendroit
De son sens ne le troveroit
Ne ne seroit seü por riens,
Se n’estoit par les encïens.

Et por ce Dex, qui tant aimme homme
Que il le veut a la parsomme
Porveoir si que il li prest
Trestout ce que mestiers li est,
Dex donne a homme une vertu
De force d’ame, et revestu
L’en a, ce devons nos tuit croire:
La vertus a a voir mémoire.
.ii. portes ceste vertus a:
Veoir, oïr, et chascune a
Un chemin, a briement parler,
Par ou on i puet bien aler,
Si les set chascuns par nature:
Ce sont et parole et painture.
La parole sert a l’oreille,
La painture a l’eiul s’apareille,
Et comment on peut par raison
A memoire et a sa maison
Repairier, si tost con vens vole,
Et par painture et par parole,
C’est bien apparent, s’en i garde:
Car mémoire, qui est la garde
Des trésors que sens d’omme ahert
Et par bonté d’angin conquiert.
Fait chose qui est trespassee
Si con présentement trovee.
Et a ce meïsme vient on
Par pointure, bien le set on,
Et par parole. Quant on voit
Paint une hystoire en la paroit
Ou de Troies ou d’autre on dais,
On voit des prodommes les fais
Qui furent anciennement
Aussi con c’il fussent présent.
De la parole aussis puis dire
Que, quant on oit un rommans lire,
Les aventures on entent
Si con les veïst on présent.
Et des puis que ou present fait
Tout aussi dou trespassé fait
Et par parole et par pointure,
Dont apert il bien par droiture
C’on peut a mémoire venir
Par ces .ii. choses sans mentir.

Et je, bele très douce amie,
De la coi memoire en ma vie
Ne poez partir a nul jour
Si que la trace de l’amour
Que j’ai eü a vous n’i paire,
Adès, sans mençonge retraire
Que je garis, n’en porroie estre
Que la forsenerie pestre
N’i parust de la plaie au mains,
Si suis de vostre amor atains,
Combien longuement contenir
Me peeusse d’a vous venir,
Vaurroie adès remanoir, voire,
Sachiez, en la vostre memoire,
C’estre pouoit. Et pour içou,
Ce sachiez, vous envoie jou
Ces .ii. choses trestout en une:
Car je vous envoi sans rancune
En cest escrist, sens mespresure,
Et la parole et la pointure,
Pour ce que, quant je ne serai
Presens, et estre n’i porrai,
Que par la pointure présent
Et par la parole ensement
En vo memoire cis escris
Me range que ci est escris.
Et je vos monstrerai briement
Pointure et parole comment
Cis escris ha: bien est parant
Car toute escriture c’est faite
Por ce que parole retraite
Soit par lui et en avant mise
Et pour ice que on le lise.
Quant on met au lire sa cure,
Adonc revient el a nature
De parole tout entresait.
Et d’autre part, que il i ait
Painture, ce est bien apert,
Car escriture ja n’en iert
S’on nel paint, et meïsmement
Cis escris qui est en present
D’itel sentence est, par saint Sire,
Que il la painture desire,
Qu’il est de natures d’oisiax
Et de pluseurs bestes ysniax:
Paintes sont moût miex connuisables
Que dites, et moût miex veables.

Cis escris, biax tres dous cuers frans,
Est aussi con li arrier bans
De tous ceus qui a vous encore
Ai envoié jusques a hore.
Car tout ensement com uns rois
Va guerroier aucune fois
Hors de son pais, il se painne
Tant que de ses hommes en mainne
De tous les millors en s’aïe,
Si en laisse millour partie
Por garder sa terre; mès, quant
II voit que il souffire a tant
Ne se peut com il a mené.
Lors si remande en son régné
Tous ceus que il y a laissiez,
Et si en fait, bien le sachiez,
Son arrier ban; tout aussi faire
Me convient, douce débonnaire.
Car se je vous ai envoié
Maint bel mot et dit et noncié,
Et ne m’ont porfitié noiant,
En cestui escrit me convient
Mon arrier ban faire et dire
Au miex que je savrai descrire,
Savoir s’an gré le prenderiez.
Car vos ja mais jor m’ammissiez,
Si sunt ces choses ou por voir
Se doit deliter ou veoir
Li oex, et l’oreille a l’oïr,
Et la memoire au retenir.
Et pour ce que cis escris ci
Que je vous envoi est aussi
Mes arriéres bans a toujors,
Est il mes deesrains secors
Que je il puisse mais mander.
Por ce s’i me convient parler,
Biaus dous cuers savourous et dous,
Plus forment que as autres tous,

De la nature dou coc
Aussi com on conte a droiture
Et dou coc et de sa nature.
Car sachent bien toutes et tuit
Que de tant que li cos par nuit
Chante plus près de l’avespree
Et ensement de l’ajournee,
De tant chante il plus sovent,
Et aussi plus efforciement
Chante près de la mie nuit;
Tout aussi la nature duit
Et si engroisse plus sa vois.
Et tant sai ge bien et connois:
L’avespree et li ajournée,
Qui a nature entremellee
De jour et de nuit tout ensamble,
Si senefie, se me samble,
L’amour de coi on esperance
N’a del tout ne desesperance;
La mie nuiz est comparée
A la dou tout desesperee.
Et puis que je n’ai esperance
Des ore mais, amie franche,
De vostre bonne volenté
Avoir nul jour de mon aé
N’a nul feur avoir ne la puis,
Si est aussis com mie nuis
A mon oués, sachiez a fiance.
Mais quant j’oi aucune esperance
D’avoir vostre amor desirree,
Si fu aussi con l’avespree.
Si chantai adonc plus sovent;
Mais or le m’esteut plus forment
Faire: de ce est la raisons
Que dou desesperé li sons
Et la vois est plus fort assez
Que d’un autre, ja n’en doutez.
Ce peut on veoir et retraire
Par la beste qui plus de braire
S’esforce tant con li mons dure,
Sy a orrible vois et dure
Et laide, de ce suiz bien sages:
Ice est li asnes sauvages,

La nature de l'asne sauvage
Car sa nature est sans douter
Qu’il ne veut onques recaner
Tant qu’il ait fain très enragie
Et que il ne peut aussis mie
En nule meniere trouver
De coi il se puist saouler,
Mais adonc si grant peinne met
Qu’il s’en deront touz et remet.
Pour ce m’esteut, quant je ensi
Ne puis en vous trover merci,
Mettre grignour peinne que mais,
Ne mie a forment chanter, mais
A prier assez plus forment
Et dire plus ataingnemment,
Car je le chanter avoir doi
Perdu, si vous dirai pour coi.

C'est la nature dou louf.
Tele est la nature dou leu
Que, quant uns hon en aucun leu,
Soit en chemin ou soit en voie,
Le voit avant qu’il ne le voie,
Li leus em pert sa force toute
Et tout son hardement, sens doute;
Et se li lous voit l’omme avant,
Li hom pert sa vois maintenant,
Si que il ne peut mot sonner.
Iceste nature trover
Peut on moût bien en amor d’omme
Et de famé, ce est la somme.
Que se entr’aus deus amors soit
Et li hons premerains parçoit
Par la famé tout entresait
Que ele a lui nule amor ait
Et que li hons tant de sens sache
Que il recognoistre li face,
Ele a puis perdu, bien l’os dire.
Tout le hardement d’escondire.
Mès pour ice que je tenir
Ne me poi onques ne souffrir,
Ma douce amie franche et sage,
De vous dire tout mon courage
Ançois que le vostre seüsse
Ne que de riens vous conneüsse,
M’avez vous eschivé einsi.
Ice vous ai ge dire oï
Trois fois ou quatre a tout le mains,
Et puis que je sui premerains
Veüs et, selonc la nature
Dou leu et, sachiés par droiture,
La vois et le son perdre en doi,
C’est une des raisons por coi
Cis escris ici en chantant
N’est mie fais, mais en contant.

C'est la nature dou crisnon.
De ce meïsme autre raison
De la nature dou crisnon
Pouez prendre, ce m’est avis.
Je m’en suis mout bien garde pris,
Car sa nature sens douter
Que li cheitis le sien chanter
Aimme: ce voiez vous bien tant
Que il se muert tout en chantant
Et qu’il en pert tout son mengier
Et qu’il s’en laisse a pourchacier.
Tant est sos et de sens despris.
Pour ce me suis je garde pris
Que pou m’a valut a chanter
Et m’i peüsse tant fier
Que je en perdisse nes moi
Si que ja li chanters, par foi,
Ne m’i valust, bien l’esprovai
A l’eure que je miex chantai
Et que je miex en chantant dis:
Adonc primes m’en fu il pis,

Dou cisne qui dance a la harpe
Si c’on va dou cysne disant,
Car il est uns païs ou tant
Volentiers chantent et si bien
Li cisne plus que nule rien;
Et quant on leur harpe devant
A la harpe vont acordant.
De ce soiez trestout seür,
Si con li flaieuz au tabur;
Et nommeement, sens mentir,
En leu ou il doivent morir,
Si c’on dit quant on devant eux
Harpe, ou en voit .i. aus eux
Bien chantant, on dit: «cil morra
En cest an», que ja n’i faurra.
Aussi d’un enfant dit on bien,
Quant on le voit de bon engien.
Qu’il ne vivra pas longement.
Aussi vous di ge vraiement
Que, por la grant paour que j’oi
De la mort au cisne quant poi
Miex chanter, et plus par raison
Aussi de la mort au crisnon,
Me veil je de chanter retraire
A cest mien arriere ban faire,
Et si vous envoiai mon dit
En maniere de contre escrit;
Car tresdonc bien deüsse avoir
La vois perdue tout pour voir
Que li lous premerains me vit,
C’est a dire, se Dex m’aïst.
Que reconneü vous avoie,
Mon cuer donné et vous ammoie
Devant a ce que je seüsse
A quel chief venir je peüsse.
Las! si me suis repentis puis
Tantes fois mès que je ne puis,
Que je vous avoie proïe
Pour perdre nostre compeingnie,
Que je plus pris que nul avoir,
Que, se je vous peüsse avoir
Fait ensement comme li chiens,
Si ne m’eüst grevé de riens.

Dou chien qui vomist et reprent.
Li chiens est d’itele maniere
Qu’a son vomissement arriere
Repaire quant il a vomi.
Si le menjue; et je aussi
.c. fois eüsse ma proiere
Rengloutie et prise arriere
Et en ma bouche renfoulee
Puis que me fu des dens volee.

Ne vous mervilliés, douce dame,
Se j’ai comparée la famé
Ne au leu ne a sa maniéré.
Encor a il, amie chiere.
D’autres natures, sans doutance,
Dont il i a grignor samblanoe.
Il a par nature si roit
Le col qu’il ne le flechiroit
S’il ne tornoit aveuc son cors,
C’il devoit estre ocis ou mors
Ou tornez a desconfiture.
Et s’a encor autre nature,
Que sa proie en nule maniere
Ne penra près de sa louviere.
Se loins non, quel liu que ce soit.
La tierce si est s’il entroit
Par dedens une bergerie,
Qu’il eüst rompue et froissie,
Au plus coiement qu’il peüst,
S’il avenoit qu’il esteüst
Aucun rainsel desouz ses piez
Brisier, il s’en venge, sachiez,
A son pié meïsme erramment,
Sel mort mout engoisseusement.
Ses natures que j’ai nommees
En amor de fame trovees
Sunt, car ne se porroit donner,
S’ensamble non, n’abandonner,
Ne en nul liu mettre sa cure,
Selonc sa première nature ...

It is to satisfy all tastes that Master Richard has put the Bestiary in rhyme. So we can choose what you like best, prose or verse: it's just like we offer meat either roasted or boiled. Both will be listened to, because everyone is curious to learn what the elders have written.

One can acquire knowledge through the teaching of nature and through the five senses. But no one can know all the knowable things, everyone knows one thing better than another. It is useful to apply yourself to know things that others do not know. To tell the truth, we cannot say that such an individual knows such a thing by himself: but science is a common good, especially since there is knowledge that is transmitted as an inheritance from generation to generation; there are even things that no man of the present time would be able to know if the ancients had not discovered them.

And this is why God, who for the love of man provides him with everything he needs, gave him a “virtue” called memory. It has two doors, hearing and seeing, and to each door leads a path, speech and sight. Speech is to the ear what seeing is to the eye. It is easy to understand how one can reach memory, either by seeing or by speaking: memory, which is the guardian of the treasures acquired by the intelligence of man, makes an old thing seem present. This is exactly the effect produced by seeing and speech. When you see an ancient story, that of Troy or another, painted on the wall, it is as if the events were unfolding before your eyes. It is the same when one hears a novel read: hearing the adventures one would believe to see them.

The lady reacts to Richard's speech

Beautiful sweet friend, who can never be erased from my memory, I too would like to remain always in your memory, if it could be done, It is for this purpose that I send you here the word and the image together, so that this writing may remind you of me when I am not present. How is it that this writing is composed at the same time of speech and painting? First of all, it is natural for there to be speech, because the purpose of all writing is to reproduce what has been said. Writing, when read, returns to the state of speech. It is no less natural for there to be painting, for not only is all writing a kind of painting, but the present writing is, in particular, of such a nature that it needs to be illustrated. Because it deals with the nature of birds and various other animals: painted, they are much more easily recognizable than if we were content to describe them.

This writing, sweet heart, is like the arrière-ban of all those that I have already sent to you. Because a king who goes to war outside his country brings with him a good part of his men, but leaves the best part to keep his land. But if he realizes that the forces he has brought are not enough for him, he calls to the rescue those he has left behind in his country and makes them his arrière-ban. I should do the same. For I have already sent you many fine words, but they have not benefited me much. For that I must send you this writing as my arrière-ban so that I know if you like it and if you could ever love me. It is my last aid, and I must speak to it with more force than before.

The king invokes the arriére-ban


I am like the rooster. The rooster crows most often at daybreak and at nightfall. But it sings the loudest around midnight. Evening and morning, which are mingled with day and night, signify love which is neither all hope nor despair. But midnight is love without hope. The voice of desperation is stronger than that of any other.


Richard shows the lady a crowing cock

This can be seen by a beast that has a horrible, harsh voice. I mean the wild ass. He only wants to bray when he suffers the pangs of hunger; but then he strives so long that the effort makes him burst. In the same way, I must not sing, but cry for mercy with strength. Because I lost the power to sing, I will tell you why.

Richard and the lady hearing a wild ass braying


The wolf is of such a nature that, if man sees it before he has seen it, the wolf loses all its strength; but if, on the contrary, the wolf sees the man first, the latter loses his voice and cannot utter a word. The love between man and woman is of the same nature. Because if the man realizes, before having spoken of love to a woman, that the latter has a penchant for him, she loses by this fact the faculty of rejecting him. But, sweet friend, I could never help telling you my love. That's why you escaped me. And since I am the first seen, according to the nature of the wolf, and that I must lose my voice, this is one of the reasons why this writing is not done by singing, but by telling.

A wolf sees a man first, rendering him speechless


Another reason can be found in the way the cricket acts. He loves his own song so much that he forgets to eat and dies while singing. Singing was worth little to me too: when I sang the best, then I received the worst.


Richard pointing out a large cricket to the lady


It is also said of the swan that he gives his voice to the harp which is played in front of him, especially when he is to die. And when we hear a swan sing well, we say that it must die within the year, and we are not mistaken. Likewise, it is said of a child of good intelligence that he will not live long. Scared by what I heard about the death of the swan and also from that of the cricket, I stopped singing to do this arrière-ban. For I must have lost my voice since the wolf saw me first, that is to say since I confessed my love to you, which cost me the loss of your company.

Musician playing to swan


I would have preferred to do like the dog, which returns to what it has vomited in order to eat it, that is to say, I would have liked to return into my mouth the confession that had escaped from it.

Richard shows the lady a vomiting dog

Do not be surprised, sweet lady, if I have compared the woman to the wolf. He has still other qualities in common with woman. His neck is so stiff that he cannot turn it without turning his whole body. Then, he never takes his prey near his den, but moves away from it to seek his food. Third, if he enters a sheepfold quietly and a branch breaks under his feet, he avenges himself by biting his leg. His character traits are found in the love of women, because she could only give herself entirely...

A wolf biting the foot that made a noise

Excerpts from the Bestiaire d'amour rimé, a verse version by an anonymous author but based on Richard's Bestiaire, from manuscript Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951, edited by Arvid Thordstein, 1941.


Lines 719-740 (f. 8r): Caladrius

Autel est de ma maladie,
Car se vous me volés veoir
Dou mal qui tant me fait doloir,
Et vous aiés merci de moi,
Je garirai, si com je croi,
Dame, et se vous ne me veés
Em pitié, sachés et creés
Vous m’avrés donnét la choison
Dont je morrai sans garison :
De la mort de desesperance.
K’aussi com il n’a recouvrance
En la mort, aussi n’a il mie
Aucune esperance d’aÿe
En l’amour ou il n’a espoir
De nes une merci avoir.
Dont m’avrïés la mort donnée,
S’en serïés, dame, blasmée,
Car cause seriés de ma mort,
Com la serainne qui endort
L’omme a sa vois melodieuse,
Puis l’ocist com malicieuse.

Lines 1723-1750 (f. 19r): Elephant

Vous estïés li arbre fort
Ou estoient tuit mi confort
Et m’esperance et mes solas.
Mais cil qui nous ont en leur las
Vous ont trop malement sïé,
C’est a dire trop mal mené
Par manasses et par affis,
Non pas pour ce qu’il fussent fis
Que j’eüsse en vous mon cuer mis
Et vosisse estre vostre amis;
Mais il ont fait en souspesson,
Car tant avés clere fasson,
Et tant estes plaisant et gente,
Et bien devroit mestre s’entente
En vous mieudre que je ne sui.
Pour ce vous ont il fait anui
Et par rampones asailli,
Si que du tout m’avés failli,
Et j’ai perdu vostre acointance,
Si sui de mort en grant doutance.
Et non pour tant, certainnement,
Je puis bien dire outreement
Que de la mort d’amours mort sui,
Des adonques que je connui
Que estïés vers moy marrie
Pour les mesdisans plains d’envie,
Qui ont fait par leur ataÿne
Que vous avés vers moy haÿne.

Lines 3023-3054 (f. 30r): Whale

La nef a l’amant, ce me samble,
Puet on coparagier ensamble,
Et li marinier senefient
Les .V. sens d’omme qui les guient.
Quels est li vens qui les demainne?
Li mesdis de la gent vilainne,
Qui les amans guerroie fort
Et les met en grant desconfort.
Quant cis vens et cele tormente
Aucun ou aucune tourmente
Ne nel laisse adroit ariver,
Pour les tourmentes eschiever
Veut ariver a terre plainne,
Si trueve souvent la balainne,
C’est aucun traÿtre revois.
Pour ce qu’il est simples et cois,
Cuide qu’il soit fers et estables,
Mais il est faus et decevables;
A lui s’en vient, si li descuevre
Tout son pensé et toute s’uevre,
Et cuide que il l’en secore.