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From The Trobador Poets, Selections from the Poems of Eight Trobadors translated from the Provençal with Introduction and Notes, by Barbara Smythe; Chatto & Windus: London, New York: Duffield & Co., 1911; pp. 94-104.



I. “The Count has asked and incited me.

Metrical form. — Stanzas of six octosyllabic lines. Rime system, a b b a b a .

The subject of this and of all the political sirventes is given in the introductory notes.

Stanza 1, l. 1. “The Count.” Count Raimon V. of Toulouse. “Lord Raimon Luc d’Esparro.” This personage is otherwise unknown.

Stanza 7, l. 1. “The King who has lost Tarascon.” Alfonso II., King of Aragon. Tarascon, a town in the county of Provence, here stands for Provence itself. Bertran exaggerates when he says Alfonso has already lost the county.

The other persons mentioned in this stanza are all allies of Alfonso.

II. “I have made a sirventes.


l. 12. “King Richard.” King is here a blunder on the part of the writer of the explanation. Richard did not become King till many years later.


Metrical form. — Stanzas of seven lines, five masculine octosyllabic and two (the fifth and seventh) feminine heptasyllabic. Rime system, a a b b a ˘ b a ˘.

Stanza 2, l. 1. “Sir Ademar.” Ademar V, Viscount of Limoges (reigned 1148-1199).

“Sir Richard.” The Count of Poitou, afterwards King of England.

Stanza 3, l. 5. “The iron of Saint Leonard.” Saint Leonard 96 was invoked by prisoners as having power to break chains. In his sanctuary many broken chains were hung.

Stanza 4, l. 1. “Talairan.” Elias V. Talairan, Count of Périgord (reigned 1166-1205).

l. 2. “he lives like a Lombard.” The Lombard were renowned in the Middle Ages as merchants and money-lenders, but had not the reputation of being at all honest or brave. The name was therefore often used as an expression of contempt.

Stanza 5, l. 1. “Guilhem de Gordon.” This nobleman was one of the “Young King’s” allies in the mutiny of 1183.

l. 2. “The two Viscounts.” Probably Richard and Ademar, who had expected Guilhem de Gordon to side with them in their attack on Bertran. It appears from this sirventes that he did not do so, thus, naturally, gaining Bertran’s approval.

Stanza 7, l. 1. “Périgueux.” This town was the capital of the county of Périgord.

l. 2. “Baiart.” Bertran’s horse. Perhaps it was so called after Baiart the horse of the hero Renaud de Montauban.

Tornada, l. 3. “what the peacock said to the crow.” Probably an allusion to the fable of the peacocks and the jay.

III. “I delay not at all.


The “explainer” has confused the story of the granting of Autafort to Bertran in spite of Constantin’s claims with that of the taking of the castle and pardoning of Bertran after the death of the “Young King.” The song alludes to the former event.

l. 40. “the sirventes which says: ‘Since the fair flowery season.’ ” This sirventes is a satire against the King of Aragon. The story here alluded to has been quoted in the introductory notes.


Metrical form. — Stanzas of eight lines, the first four of eight syllables each, and the remaining four of five syllables each. Rime system, a b a b c c d d .

Stanza 2, l. 2. “Sir Amblart.” It is not known who this may be. According to the explanation, he was count of Périgord, but this is clearly a mistake, as the Count’s name was Elias.


“Sir Talairan.” Probably Guilhem Talairan, Lord of Montagnac, younger brother of the Count of Périgord.

IV. “I care not to delay longer.

Metrical form. — Stanzas of eight lines. The first five lines are decasyllabic feminine, then comes a tetrasyllabic masculine line, then another long feminine line, then a hexasyllabic line. Rime system, a ˘ a ˘ a ˘ a ˘ a ˘ b a ˘ b.

Stanza 2, l. 3. “Arnaut, the Marquis of Bellanda.” Arnaut de Beaulande, the hero of an old French epic.

l. 4. “Guilhelm.” Guillaume d’Orange, grandson of the above. The episode here alluded to occurs in the epic “La Prise d’Orange.” The tower here called Tor Mirmanda, is called Gloriete in the epic.

Stanza 4, l. 1. “the tune of Lady Alamanda.” i.e. the song from which Bertran took the form of this sirventes. The song of Lady Alamanda is a tenso, or dispute, between the trobador Guiraut de Bornelh and Alamanda, the confidante of his lady. Words and music are still extant. Bertran departs from his original in one particular; he keeps the same rimes throughout, while Guiraut and Alamanda change the feminine rimes for every two stanzas.

l. 6. “the people of Garlande.” Garlande is a French barony, and the expression here means “the French people.”

l. 7. “his brother-in-law.” Philip Augustus of France, whose sister the “Young King” had married.

Tornada 1, l. 1. “Count Jaufre, who holds Bresilianda.” Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, the third son of Henry II. Jaufre is the Provençal form of Geoffrey. Bresilianda is Brocéliande, a forest in Brittany; the name is here used to designate Brittany.

V. “If all the grief and tears and misery.

Metrical form. — The translation observes exactly that of the original, except that the rimes of ll. 2 and 4, and ll. 6 and 7, remain unchanged throughout. Note the recurrence of the refrain words misery and sorrow at the end of the first and last lines of each stanza, and of the phrase “the young English King” in l. 5.


VI. “I am not at all discouraged.


l. 10. “the Count of Flanders.” Philip of Alsace. As he is not mentioned in the poem or in the chronicles as being in the alliance against Richard, his inclusion in the list is probably a mistake on the part of the writer of the explanation.

l. 11. “the Count of Barcelona.” King Alfonso II. of Aragon had this title, but Barcelona is probably a mistake for Brittany. Cf. Stanza 2.


Metrical form. — Stanzas of fifteen lines. The first eight lines are alternately of six and four syllables. Rime system, a b a b a b a b. The remaining seven lines are all of six syllables on one rime, c. The rimes change for every stanza.

Stanza 1. l. 3. “the Lord of Niort.” Richard, so called from the town of Niort in Poitou. This is yet another example of Bertran’s custom of using the name of a single place to designate a whole province.

Stanza 2, l. 1. “Three Paladins.” The Paladins were the great men of the kingdom. It is not known to whom he refers here, but most probably he means the Dukes of Brittany and Burgundy and the Count of Toulouse, although they are alluded to later on in this stanza, as they were the most powerful noblemen in the alliance.

l. 2. “the four viscounties of Limousin.” These were Limoges, Ventadorn, Torena (Turenne), and Comborn. The Viscounts were Ademar V., Ebles V., Raimon II., and Archambaut V. The last-named is called Viscount of Gimel in the explanation, from Gimel, a castle in the viscounty of Comborn.

l. 2. “the two effeminate Perigordians.” The Count of Périgord and his brother.

l. 3. “the three stupid Counts of Angoumois.” Guilhem V., Count of Angoulême, and his brothers Ademar and Elias.

l. 5. “the Lord of Dijon.” Hugo III., Duke of Burgundy.

l. 6. “the Breton Count.” Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany.

l. 6. ‘Sir Raimon of Avignon.” Raimon V., Count of Toulouse.


Stanza 3, l. 2. “an ancient monastery of Saint Martial.” Probably that in Limoges, where the conspiracy against Richard was arranged.

Tornada 1. It is not known to which lady this tornada is addressed.

Tornada 2. “Papiol.” Bertran’s favourite joglar.

VII. “I cannot resist spreading a song.

Metrical form. — The song is written in the form of one by Arnaut Daniel, and has eight decasyllabic lines in each stanza, which rime with the corresponding lines of the other stanzas. The rime words are mostly difficult, hence the remark in the tornada.

Stanza 1. l. 1. “Yea-and-Nay.” Bertran’s well-known sobriquet for Richard.

Stanza 2, l. 5. “Lusignan.” A barony in Poitou. “Rancon.” A barony in Limousin.

Stanza 3, l. 2. “the wood of Rouen.” A deer-forest near Rouen.

l. 5. “Charles.” Charlemagne. Bertran was fond of holding up the great Emperor as an example to Philip.

Stanza 4, l. 3. “Cahors and Cajarc.” The former was the principal town of Quercy; the latter a castle in the same province.

l. 4. “the treasure of Chinon.” Henry II. had a great treasure in the castle there.

Tornada, l. 1. “Träinac.” Treignac in Limousin.

l. 2. “Sir Roger.” This personage is otherwise unknown.

l. 3. “I must finish the poem for want of fresh rimes.” Literally, “I find no more omba, or om, or esta” — these being some of the rimes chosen by Arnaut Daniel in the poem here imitated.

VIII. “If I were so much lord and master.

Metrical form. — Stanzas of seven decasyllabic masculine lines. Rime system, a a b b c a c.

Stanza 3, l. 4. “he has taken from him Angoulême . . . and Toulouse.” Richard had taken them, not from Philip himself, but from his vassals.

Stanza 4. Richard had promised to marry the French King’s 100 sister Alois, but threw her over, and became betrothed to Berengaria, daughter of the King of Navarre.

Stanza 5, l. 7. “Sir Bertran.” Probably Bertran here alludes to himself.

Stanza 6, l. 2. “Sir Gaston.” Gaston VI. of Béarn.

l. 4. “the Mount near Saint-Sever.” Mont de Marsan, near the town and abbey of Saint-Sever.

l. 4. “Rocafort.” Roquefort, near Saint-Sever.”

IX. “Now I know who has the greatest worth.

Metrical form. — Stanzas of seven lines. The fifth line is heptasyllabic and feminine, the others are decasyllabic and masculine. Rime system, a b a b c ˘ a a .

Stanza 1. l, 2. “Messer Conrad.” Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat. See Introductory Notes.

Stanza 6, l. 7. “the Withered Tree.” A mythical tree said to have existed since the beginning of the world; to have dried up at the time of Christ’s death, and to be destined to grow green again when a Western Prince has conquered the Holy Land. According to one tradition it was in Palestine, to another in Persia, and to a third in the extreme North, the legendary “earthly Paradise.”

Tornada I. “towards Savoy and towards Brindisi.“ The route that would be taken by a traveller to the Holy Land.

X. “Willingly would I make a sirventes.

Metrical form. — Eight octosyllabic masculine lines. Rime system, a b a b a a b b for first two stanzas. Stanzas 3 and 4 have rimes c c for ll. 5 and 6, and stanzas 5 and 6 have rimes d d for these lines. The other rimes are constant throughout.

Stanza 4, l. 2. “Ogier the Dane . . . Berart and Baudoin.” All heroes of the Charlemagne the epics.

Stanza 6, l. 2. “Gisors.” The towns of Gisors and Vexins had been the marriage portion of Philip’s sister Marguerite when she wedded the “Young King.” After the latter’s death, Philip had demanded the towns again, and this demand was the cause of the war of 1187. An agreement was finally made between Philip and the old King Henry, that Philip should give up the towns in return for 20,000 marks of silver, and shortly after King Henry’s death, Richard had promised to increase the sun by 4000 marks. 101 Apparently this money was never paid, for in the spring of 1191, shortly before the departure of the two Kings from Messina, where they had spent the winter, for the Holy Land, Philip seems to have given up the towns unconditionally.

Tornada. Richard was of course universally known as “Cœur de Lion,” on account of his courage. We are told by the chronicler Ricardus Diviensis that the Sicilians, among whom they dwelt from September 1190 to April 1191, used to call Richard a lion and Philip a lamb; and it is possible that these nicknames had been brought to France, and that Bertran, seeing their appropriateness, adopted them in this sirventes.

XI. “Now comes the pleasant season.

Metrical form. — Stanzas of eight lines, the first four masculine octosyllabic, the others feminine decasyllabic. Rime system, a b a b c ˘ c ˘ c ˘ c ˘.

XII. “I want to make a half-sirventes.

Metrical form. — Stanzas of eight decasyllabic lines, the sixth and seventh feminine, the rest masculine. Rime system, a b a b b c ˘ c ˘ b.

Stanza 1, l. 3. “Anfos.” The Provençal form of Alfonso.

XIII. “It pleases me well.

Metrical form. — Stanzas of eight heptasyllabic lines. Lines 4 and 7 are masculine, the rest are feminine. Rime system, a µ a µ a µ b a µ a µ b a. The masculine rime remains throughout; the feminine rime changes for every stanza.

This is an example of the moral sirventes — the attack on the vices of a particular class; in this case the rich peasantry.

XIV. “I love the springtide of the year.

Metrical form. — The original has been exactly preserved in the translation, except that in it the rimes remain unchanged.

I have included this poem among the works of Bertran de Born, though it is not certain that he is really the author of it. It is 102 preserved in thirteen MSS., four only of which include it under his works. In three it is attributed to Guilhem de Sant Gregori, in three to Blacasset, in two to Lanfranc Cigala, and in one to Guilhem Augier.

Songs are often attributed in the MSS. to writers other than their real author, but the strongest argument against Bertran’s authorship of this song is the presence in eight MSS., namely, all but one of those which attribute it to another trobador, of a sixth stanza, addressed to a certain lady Beatris, who is not otherwise mentioned by Bertran.

This stanza, though it is written on the same rimes as the rest of the poem, has no connection with it as regards subject, and may have been written independently (in imitation of the same model as Bertran’s) and incorporated into Bertran’s poem by the copyists on account of its similarity of form. One of the MSS. containing this stanza has yet another, which is certainly not part of the original poem, being found separately and anonymous in other MSS. It is possible that the copyists who put in the “Lady Beatris” stanza purposely altered the name of the author, seeing that it did not suit Bertran’s style.

Let us now turn to the evidence in favour of Bertran’s authorship. The tornada addressed to the joglar Papiol, bidding him carry the song to “Lord Yea-and-Nay,” seems at first sight the most striking proof, but it must be confessed that this tornada is only found in two MSS., one of which attributes the poem to Bertran, the other to Blacasset. Both these MSS. were copied from the same source. It is possible that this tornada is a later addition to the poem, put in to give it the air of being the work of Bertran.

The MS. which attributes the poem to Blacasset contains also the “Lady Beatris” stanza. Two other MSS. contain a tornada which is certainly not by Bertran. The general contents and style of the poem are really more trustworthy evidence than the tornada to Papiol. Not only is the delight in war eminently characteristic of Bertran, but several phrases and expressions used here occur literally in other poems by him. All this might be accounted for by saying that the author wished to imitate Bertran, but it is hardly likely that any imitator, unless he were himself a first-rate poet, could have produced such a remarkable poem. This song, in the original, is one of the finest specimens of Provençal poetry, and surely it is more reasonable to attribute it to Bertran, one of 103 the best of trobador poets, than to any of the other writers to whom it is ascribed, all of whom were but third-rate poets.

There is one minor point in Bertran’s favour. The poem is written in the form of a song by Guiraut de Bornelh. We have seen that Bertran’s sirventes “I care not to delay longer,” is written in the form of Guiraut’s tenso with Lady Alamanda, and we are told in one of the Provençal biographies of Bertran that “the King of Aragon called the songs of Guiraut de Bornelh the wives of Bertran de Born’s sirventes” — meaning that many of his songs were written on the model of Guiraut’s. This particular song has such a good swinging metre and such a lively melody that we can well imagine Bertran, who had the knack of choosing suitable models for his songs, selecting the melody and form of this work of Guiraut’s for a Panegyric of War.



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