Monday, December 02, 2013

Troubador poetry and chivalry

 When I teach chivalry in the classroom, I do talk about its relationship to love (really! I swear!) but this remarkable website has convinced me that I have missed a bet by not just jumping in and rolling around.

This poem, for instance, evokes a whole social environment and the stinging criticism of one knight disappointed with the way life treats his kind (though it  serves some of them right.)

Some of the poet's targets knew exactly who he was talking about -- them -- and knew that everyone else did, too.

 At the first onset of winter, by Marcabru
At the first onset of winter,
when the acorns fall like rain the wood,
I want people to strive
towards Prowess, without hesitation,
and that they are as eager to achieve it
as if we were in the grassy season.

    Well then, every lesser man complains
when he sees the cold weather and the puddles,
which make him grumble
because he has to get ready and start bargaining,
while, in the Summer, he doesn't need to be dressed
and can go around naked except for a rag.

    These types resemble the badger
in the evening, when they are full and sated,
after the wine,
and, in the morning, they have lost all memory,
these ashen cowards, who swear
one has never seen such an ugly time.

    Young men of handsome appearance
I see, deceived by wickedness,
because they go boasting,
they say, planning a thousand projects,
"We'll do [this], in the flowery season",
but, then, the bragging and noise stop.

    They have the habits of a hound dog,
who says that, when the light comes,
he'll build a house
then, when it is there, if one urges him to deliver,
he isn't listened to, nor heard:
as far as it concerns him, wood was never worked.

    Husbands, you would be the best people
in the world, but each of you turns into a lover,
which confounds you,
and the cnts have put themselves on the market,
so Youth is banned far away,
and one dubs you cuckolds for it.

    The price of the profit and loss,
wherever it may have come from,
it's married men who bear it!
And I have granted it to them
for Joy is celebrated among them,
and largesse somewhat maintained.

    Right or wrong, they have the upper hand,
and Youth concedes defeat!
Most young people, and the best among them,
hardly find [women] who receive them,
one of them had his hat blown away by shouted abuse
for a morsel that was thrown to him.

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