Fui un legre e plus san ome
Fui un legre e plus san ome
Qui crezet que.l fon mandar t’ame,
Cherisme qui.m conforta com bame,
E.l forsa de.l canson fon sol
Eu crezei que volc aver t’uol.
Tant fol fui! Tant errei, ma dame!
Eu vei si.t amor ne serai.
Sol de.l vida la camin lonh
L’ome ve.l valensa de.l error
E sa dame serv iustmen et gai,
Per que.l dona de.l grace le donh.
Prec que.l me donas, bele amor!
I was once a happy and healthier man
Who thought he could command your soul,
O dearest one who, like a balm, comforts me,
And the power of my song was all
I ever believed was needed to catch your eye.
What a fool I was! How I erred, my lady!
I understand if I will never be your love.
Only on the long journey of life
Does a man recognize the weight of his mistakes
And serve properly to his mistress,
That she might offer him the gift of her grace.
I pray, fine love, you will grant me some!
This piece is the twelfth in a series of poems dedicated to my good friend (and patroness) Maitresse Aenor d'Anjou. When I entered into her service (and the service of her lord and husband, Master Efenwealt Wystle), one of our agreements was that I would compose poems in her honor. What is more medieval, I thought (and still think!) then to write love poems to a married noblewoman? As a result, I have been trying to write at least one poem a month for her. I have also attempted to make these poems work as songs by coupling the lyrics with existing tunes (technically called contrafacta). See my list of poems for the other chansons in this series.
While the first eleven pieces of the chansons d'Aenor were written in (my best efforts at) Old French – the language of northern France, the culture in which Aenor lives – this final poem was written in (again, my best effort at) Occitan/Old Provençal, the language of southern France (the troubadors vs. northern France’s trouveres). I chose Occitan for this piece because it is a step away from the rest, a kind of reflection upon the entire exercise, in which I think in my own tongue upon everything I have said previously.
In addition, the multilingual courts of France, Spain, Germany, and Lombardy often enjoyed the twists that each region’s troubadour culture brought to the table. I thought Aenor might like an Occitan piece written in her honor – perhaps a kind of “true” troubadour piece rather than a trouvere poem, if such a difference is clear to the reader.
Another twist for this piece was that, unlike its predecessors, which pulled inspiration from troubadour/trouvere works, I looked in this case to the “non-courtly” repertoire of Walther von der Vogelweide (who did write his fair share of court poetry!), a German Minnesinger from the late 12th-early 13th century. Goldin notes the existence of non-courtly performers and their distinct repertoires from the Minnesanger, called die Fahrenden or Spruchsanger, wandering minstrels (think perhaps of jongleurs vs. troubadours, though this is not a seamless analogy) who sang songs with proverbial wisdom rather than lamenting unattainable courtly love.
The rhyme scheme is AAABACDECDE, following the particular structure of Walther’s Spruche “Hêr keiser sît ir willekomen,” or “Herr Kaiser, Emperor, welcome home.” The meter is octosyllabic – a troubadour convention I thought it best to maintain, given that so many troubadour songs exist in that meter, and it has become easy for me to think in octosyllabic phrases in Old French and Occitan when trying to compose poetry.
Einhorn, E. Old French: A Concise Handbook. New York: Cambridge U Press, 1974.
Goldin, Frederick. Walther von der Vogelweide: The Single-Stanza Lyrics. New York: Routledge, 2003.
Smith, Nathaniel and Thomas Bergin. An Old Provencal Primer. New York: Garland, 1984.