Prison Song by Richard (the Lionheart) I of England

No prisoner can tell his honest thought
Unless he speaks as one who suffers wrong;
But for his comfort as he may make a song.
My friends are many, but their gifts are naught.
Shame will be theirs, if, for my ransom, here
—I lie another year.

They know this well, my barons and my men,
Normandy, England, Gascony, Poitou,
That I had never follower so low
Whom I would leave in prison to my gain.
I say it not for a reproach to them,
—But prisoner I am!

The ancient proverb now I know for sure;
Death and a prison know nor kind nor tie,
Since for mere lack of gold they let me lie.
Much for myself I grieve; for them still more.
After my death they will have grievous wrong
—If I am a prisoner long.

What marvel that my heart is sad and sore
When my own lord torments my helpless lands!
Well do I know that, if he held his hands,
Remembering the common oath we swore,
I should not here imprisoned with my song,
—Remain a prisoner long.

They know this well who now are rich and strong
Young gentlemen of Anjou and Touraine,
That far from them, on hostile bonds I strain.
They loved me much, but have not loved me long.
Their plans will see no more fair lists arrayed
—While I lie here betrayed.

Companions whom I love, and still do love,
Geoffroi du Perche and Ansel de Caieux,
Tell them, my song, that they are friends untrue.
Never to them did I false-hearted prove;
But they do villainy if they war on me,
—While I lie here, unfree.

Countess sister! Your sovereign fame
May he preserve whose help I claim,
—Victim for whom am I!

I say not this of Chartres’ dame,
—Mother of Louis!

From: http://www.thelarkascending.org/TLA2_CdLMC/CdLMCbgd.html

Date: c1193 (original in Occitan French); ?1904 (translation in English)

By: Richard (the Lionheart) I of England (1157-1199)

Translated by: Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)

Alternative Title: King Richard’s Lament

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