Monday, June 09, 2008

Horloge Amoureuse, by Jean Froissart

The clock is, if considered truly,
An instrument very fair and very notable,
And it is also agreeable and profitable;
For night and day it teaches us the hours
By the subtilty which it comprises
In the absence even of the sun:
On which account we should the more prize its construction,
Which the other instruments do not do,
However they may be made by art and by compass;
Therefore I hold him for valiant and wise
Who first found the use of it,
When by his sense he began and made
A thing so noble and of such great profit.

I will now talk of the state of the clock:
The first wheel which lodges there
Is the mother, and the commencement,
Which makes all the other movements move,
Of which the clock has the command and method:
Therefore this first wheel may indeed
Signify very fitly
The true desire which possesses the heart of man.

The weight well accords to the beauty.
Pleasure is shown by the cord
So fitly that it cannot be said better:
For, just as the counterpoise draws
The cord to it, and the cord drawn,
When the cord is well drawn to the right,
Draws to it, and makes it go
When otherwise it would not move;
Thus Beauty draws to itself, and awakens
The pleasure of the heart.

And, because this first wheel
Has the regulation and mode of moving
By virtue of the weight which the lead gives,
Hence, according to this, it is wholly regulated,
The lead draws it, and it advances again;
And because it would go without regularity,
And too hastily, and without measure,
If it had nothing which from its gaining
Might withdraw it and bring it back,
And regulate it by its right rule;
For this purpose there was arranged by proper art
A second wheel, and so added,
Which retards it, and makes it move
Regularly and by true measure to be seen
By virtue of the foliot also,
Which continually moves it thus,
One hour to the right and then the other to the left.
Nor ought it nor can it remain at rest,
For by it is this wheel kept in order,
And by true measure retarded.

After this it is proper to speak of the dial,
And this dial is the diurnal wheel,
Which, in one natural day only,
Just as the sun makes a single circuit
Round the earth in a natural day.
On this dial, of which the merits are great,
Are described the 24 hours,
Therefore it bears 24 pins
Which cause the little bells to ring;
For they make the spring relax,
Which makes the singing-wheel heard,
And moves them very regularly,
To show the hours more clearly.
And this dial also turns and wheels round
By virtue of that mother wheel,
Of which I have told you the property,
By the aid of a little spindle
Which passes direct from the one to the other;
Thus does it move regularly and well.

Next we must say what thing is lodged
In the third part of the clock;
It is the last movement which regulates
The striking so that it may strike.
Now you must know how this is done:
By two wheels this work is perfected:
This first wheel carries with it
A counterpoise, by which it turns,
And which makes it move, as I understand it,
When the spring is brought up to the proper point.
And the second is the singing-wheel;
This has an object very manifest,
That of touching the little bells,
Whereby night and day the hours above mentioned
Are rung, be it summer or winter,
As is proper, by different songs.

And because this clock cannot
Go of itself, nor move at all,
If there is not some one to keep and take care of it;
Therefore it must have to keep it in order
A clocksmith, who, early and late,
Diligently attends to it and regulates it,
Draws up the weights again, and sets them to their duty,
And thus makes them move regularly;
Moderates and regulates the wheels,
And puts them in order so as to strike.

Moreover the clocksmith sets
The foliot, which ceases not,
The spindle, and all the pins.
And the wheel which all the little bells
Of the hours which in the dial are
To ring have a very certain order.
But though the spring may be wound up,
Still, as I understand, can very well
The clocksmith, when he has leisure for it,
Every time it pleases him,
Make the little bells ring
Without putting the above mentioned hours out of order.

Translation W. H. Smyth 1851

1 comment:

andrew fitzherbert said...

This 14th century account of how a clock works is hardly known at all. Whoever dreamed that clock-making was so well known at that early date. Congratulations on puting this up on the web.