Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-569ts Total loading time: 0.505 Render date: 2022-09-29T21:11:31.943Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

“Flables couvertes”: Poetry and Performance in the Fifteenth Century


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2017

Jane H. M. Taylor
Durham University
Cynthia J. Brown
Professor of French, Department of French and Italian, University of California, Santa Barbara
Ardis Butterfield
Professor of English, UCL
Mark Cruse
Assistant Professor of French, School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University (possibly Associate Professor by publication date)
Kathryn A. Duys
Associate Professor, Department of English and Foreign Languages, University of St. Francis
Sylvia Huot
Reader in Medieval French Literature and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge University
Marilyn Lawrence
Marilyn Lawrence is a Visiting Scholar of the French Department at New York University, USA.
E. Jane Burns
Curriculum in Women's Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Get access


The late medieval lyric is, says Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet, “une pratique sociale”; everyone agrees that in the fifteenth century anyone with the remotest pretensions to social standing – anyone, that is, who aspired to being thought of as joyeux, joly, and gracieux – was expected to be able to turn a neat rondeau or a witty ballade. The adjectives I have just used come from the account in his biography of Boucicaut's social education: he was, it says, trained in the art of composing balades, rondeaux, virelais, lais et complaintes d'amoureux sentement. Charles d'Orléans, on Saint Valentine's day, could call his court to the composition of rymes en françoys ou latin with every confidence that they could respond to the call; when the Duke of Suffolk was sick in Paris, the best remedy was for his courtiers to compose diz amoureux for his delectation; Queen Margaret of Scotland is said to have spent long nights composing rondeaux; and a couple of bourgeois, having competed in one of the characteristically louche seductions in which the Cent nouvelles nouvelles take such questionable pleasure: “mesmes firent de tres bons rondeaulx, et pluseurs chansonnettes, qu'ilz manderent et envoyerent l'un a l'autre, dont il est aujourd'uy bruit, servant au propos de leur matere dessus dicte…” (were able to put together rather good rondeaux, and a number of chansonnettes, which they exchanged one with another and which dealt with the events described above; these poems are still remembered).

Often, this is taken to mean that the composition of rondeaux and ballades was something undemanding and facile – and this is an image that late medieval accounts of the production of verse often seem to encourage. Froissart's Meliador, for instance, projects lyric-making with airy carelessness: many of the fixed-form lyrics that he weaves into this long romance are, the fiction pretends, thrown together by some knight riding cheerfully across the countryside (“Melyador fist… / Sus le chemin qu'il chevaucoit, / Une balade…” [As he rode along, Meliador composed a ballade; 15667–69]), or drinking at a spring (“Melyador se rafresci / De l'aigue, car moult faisoit chaut, / Et puis si commença en hault / A chanter…”

Cultural Performances in Medieval France
Essays in Honor of Nancy Freeman Regalado
, pp. 45 - 54
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2007

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats