An Early First Valentine

Trois Chansons by the French Impressionistic composer, Claude Debussy, are settings of poems by Charles d’Orleans to music. This Charles was Charles (1394-1465), Duke of Orléans, a prince. He was wounded at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and imprisoned in England for the next 24 years (held for ransom, actually), during which he wrote most of his poetry, more than five hundred poems — including what some claim was the first Valentine sent to his very young wife, Bonne d'Armagnac, from prison. Sadly, Bonne died while Charles was pining away in The Tower. A manuscript of that poem is in the British Library, however I couldn't find a translation on line. This is the manuscript cover. You can see Charles writing at his desk through the artistic contrivance of a cut-away in the wall of the tower.

Upon Charles' release, he met Maria of Cleves, who was the daughter of a German Duke and a French Duchess also of the house of Burgundy, the older sister of Philip the Good, who arranged for Charles' release. Upon first sight of the 14-year old princess, it is said that he told her, "M'Lady, I make myself your prisoner." Maria went on to bear Charles his only son, Louis the XII of France. Maria would outlive Charles by many years, and would become a poet herself.

The imagery in Charles's poems is vivid, strongly visual, and so romantic. So much medieval French poetry is stilted stuff about unrequited love... sigh... oh Charles, my prince! I can understand why Debussy selected these old poems as texts for his scores. Here is a rendition of Debussy's Dieu! Qu'il La Fait Bon Regarder!
Listen, English translation below:

God! But she is fair,
graceful, good and beautiful.

All are ready to praise
her excellent qualities.
Who could tire of her?
Her beauty is ever new.

God! but she is fair,
graceful, good and beautiful!

Nowhere does the sea look on
so fair and perfect
a lady or maiden.
Thinking on her is but a dream.
God! but she is fair!