Je ne puis vivre ainsy (Antoine Busnois)

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  • (Posted 2009-09-25)  CPDL #20247:        (Finale 2009)
Editor: Paul R. Marchesano (submitted 2009-09-25).   Score information: Letter, 4 pages, 142 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: The root has been numbered for modern performance convenience. The 15th century French text exhibits some variation in form and spelling from modern French.

General Information

Title: Je ne puis vivre ainsy
Composer: Antoine Busnois

Number of voices: 3vv   Voicing: SST
Genre: SecularChanson

Language: French
Instruments: A cappella

First published:
Description: The musical form of Je ne puis vivre is that of a Bergerette, or Virelai of one stanza. A refrain is followed by two shorter contrasting verses, a verse set to the refrain music, and a final refrain (ABBAA). Je ne puis vivre ainsy manages to implant an unusually high level of emotion in its text, from the erotic plea to spend "one hour, or less, or more" with the woman in question, to the pathetic hope that she, "with eyes streaming with hot tears, will have mercy." Je ne puis vivre ainsy is also one of several of Busnois' chansons which betrays in various verbal and symbolic puzzles the name of a real woman. In this case, the first letters of each line of the poem together form the acrostic "Jaqueline d'Aquevile."

External websites:

Original text and translations

French.png French text

Je ne puis vivre ainsy toujours
Au main que j’aye en mes dolours
Quelque confort
Une seule heure ou mains ou fort
Et tou les jours
Leaument serviray amours
Jusqu’a la mort.

Noble femme de nom et d’armes,
Escript vous ay ce dittier cy ce dittier cy.

Des ieux plourant a chauldes larmes
Affin qu’ayes de moy merchy, ce moy merchy.

Quant a moi, je me meurs boncours
Velant les nuits faisant cent tours
En criant fort
“Vengence en a Dieu, car a grant tort
Je noye en plours”
Lors qu’au besoin me fault secours
Et Pitie dort.
   Je ne puis vivre ainsy toujours…

English.png English translation

I cannot live like this forever
Unless I have some comfort
For my pain
Just one hour, or less – or more
And every day
I’ll serve the god of love faithfully
Unto death.

Noble woman, in name and arms,
Pay close attention to this poem

So that, eyes streaming with hot tears,
You may have mercy on me.

As to me, I am wasting away
Awake at night, walking in a hundred circles
Crying aloud to God
“Vengeance! For most unjustly
I’m drowning in tears.”
Just when I need it I get no help
And pity sleeps.
   I cannot live like this forever…