Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Tant que vivray (Claudin de Sermisy)

First published in 1527, this is one of about 175 chansons by Claudin de Sermisy, who gets a name-check in Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Tant que vivray en âge florissant,So long as I live at a flourishing age,
Je serviray d'amour le dieu puissant,I will serve love's powerful god,
En faictz, et dictz, en chansons, et accords.In actions and words, in songs and harmonies.
Par plusieurs fois m'a tenu languissant,Many times (he) left me languishing,
Mais après dueil m'a faict réjouyssant,But after mourning made me rejoice,
Car j'ay l'amour de la belle au gent corps.Since I have the love of a beautiful woman with a fine body.
Son allianceAn alliance with her
C'est ma fiance:That's my pledge:
Son cœur est mien,Her heart is mine,
Le mien est sien:Mine is hers:
Fi de tristesse,Boo to sadness,
Vive lyesse,Long live joy,
Puis qu'en amour a tant de bien.Since in love there is so much good.
Quand je la veulx servir, et honorer,When I want to serve her, and honour (her),
Quand par escripts veux son nom décorer,When with fine scripts (I) want to decorate her name,
Quand je la veoy, et visite souvent,When I see her, and visit her often,
Les envieux n'en font que murmurer,Envious people just murmer about it
Mais notr'amour n'en sçaurait moins durer;But our love won't therefore endure less;
Aultant ou plus en emporte le vent.So far or further will the wind carry it.
Malgré envieDespite envy
Toute ma vieAll my life
Je l'aimeray,I will love her
Et chanteray,And I will sing,
C'est la premiere,“She is the first
C'est la derniere,She is the last
Que j'ay servie, et serviray.That I have served, and will serve”.

The french text is from our Editions Outremontaises edition, slightly different in places from CPDL.

I've based my translation on an anonymous one lent to me by friend and fellow-Cantabilean David Adshead which begins “While I am in my prime”. In most other contexts that would be better but in this blog I'm trying to be more literal and give singers a clue as to what the individual words mean.

La belle au gent corps. La belle is literally the beautiful (female), so she may be a bit younger than woman implies. Gent meant graceful or elegant, with overtones of being well-born. I'll lay good money that someone somewhere has translated this phrase as fair maid.

Fi de. Well yes, you could perhaps translate this as Fie upon. But I couldn't.


  1. Many thanks for this. I recently downloaded the Baltimore COnsort's La Rocque'n'Rol and have been trying to find the words and meaning of this song.
    Love the comment on Fi de!

  2. In the sentence "Je serviray d'amour le dieu puissant" - I'm not sure that God is the subject. It's rather Love (of the God almighty) he will serve, isn't it?

  3. Found you by google - many thanks for translation, which I need for a concert program. (I may change a word or two, since you seem to be giving permission!) To imemine I would respond: why God rather than god? I think of the "god of love" as somebody like Cupid, especially considering how all the Greek mythology was revived in the Renaissance.

  4. @Jubilate: yes, change away, this isn't designed for programme use. Or help yourself from And on balance I agree about the god of love, though I did wonder about "I will serve with love God almighty".

  5. Tant que vivray en âge florissant,
    Je serviray d'amour le dieu puissant

    In the version we have Je serviray d'amour le roi puissant I will serve love's powerful king
    Kind of takes God off the hook

  6. Funny, in my version I got "Je serviray Amour, le dieu puissant", which makes more sense to me btw