Peire Cardenal: thirteenth-century troubadour MGTOW

troubadour Peire Cardenal

War historically has been structured as violence against men. Even today, sex discrimination remains entrenched in Selective Service registration for being drafted into war. Violence within the home (domestic violence) is more gender-symmetric. But since intimates are intimately vulnerable to each other, domestic violence can be more horrifying than war. The thirteenth-century troubadour Peire Cardenal perceptively wrote:

War’s too close if you’ve got it on your land,
but it’s even closer if you’ve got it in your bed.
When a husband displeases his wife,
that’s worse than war between neighbors.

{ Prop a guerra qui l’a en mieg son sòl,
Mas plus prop l’a qui l’a a son coissi.
Can lo maritz a la moiller fai dòl,
So es guerra peior que de vezi } [1]

Some husbands attempt to avoid domestic violence through fawning subservience to their wives. That tends only to increase their wives’ contempt for them. Authorities administer domestic violence law with acute anti-men gender bias. What then can a man do to avoid the horror of domestic violence in his life?

The thirteenth-century troubadour Peire Cardenal presented an answer. He became what’s now known as a Man Going His Own Way (MGTOW):

I dare to claim love now cannot
rob me of appetite or sleep,
can’t turn me cold, can’t turn me hot,
can’t make me yawn or sigh or weep
or stay out nights to wander;
love can’t torment or vanquish me —
now I go grief- and anguish-free,
I pay no page or pander;
love can’t hoodwink me, can’t betray;
I palmed my dice and walked away.

I’ve found my joy in life’s to be
neither betrayer nor betrayed;
traitor and traitoress can’t scare me
nor jealous husband’s bright sword blade;
I cut no more mad capers;
I don’t get wounded or cast down,
plundered like some poor captive town;
don’t stew in brainless vapors;
I don’t say I’ve been love-oppressed;
don’t claim my heart’s ripped from my breast;

don’t say for her sweet self I yearn;
don’t claim that she’s so fair I’ll die;
don’t say I beg for her and burn;
don’t praise her name and sanctify;
don’t kneel in her observance;
don’t say my life to her I gave;
don’t claim to be her serf or slave;
don’t sign on with her servants;
don’t wear love’s chains; far better, I’m
making my getaway in time.

{ Ar me puesc ieu lauzar d’Amór,
Que no-m tol manjar ni dormir;
Ni-n sent freidura ni calór
Ni no-n badalh ni no-n sospir
Ni-n vauc de nueg arratge
Ni-n soi conquistz ni-n soi cochatz,
Ni-n soi dolenz ni-n soi iratz
Ni no-n logui messatge;
Ni-n soi trazitz ni enganatz,
Que partitz m’en soi ab mos datz.

Autre plazer n’ai ieu maior,
Que no-n traïsc ni fauc traïr,
Ni-n tem tracheiris ni trachor
Ni brau gilos que m’en azir;
Ni-n fauc fol vassalatge,
Ni-n soi feritz ni derocatz
Ni no-n soi pres ni deraubatz;
Ni no-n fauc lonc badatge,
Ni dic qu’ieu soi d’amor forsatz
Ni dic que mos cors m’es emblatz.

Ni dic qu’ieu mor per la gensor
Ni dic que-l bella-m fai languir,
Ni non la prec ni non l’azor
Ni la deman ni la dezir.
Ni no-l fas homenatge
Ni no-l m’autrei ni-l me soi datz;
Ni non soi sieus endomenjatz
Ni a mon cor en gatge,
Ni soi sos pres ni sos líatz
Anz dic qu’ieu li soi escapatz. } [2]

Peire Cardenal completely and resolutely rejected the men-abasing cult of courtly love. So too should all men.

Courtly love celebrates the man who continues to love a woman who has turned him away unmercifully and continues to treat him like her servant. In other words, courtly love honors men who are losers. Peire Cardenal had the audacity to speak the truth:

Speaking the truth, men ought to praise
winners, not losers — victory’s head
and brow goes crowned with wreaths of bays;
losers lie down in graveyards, dead.
Who’s conquered his heart’s treachery
and the insane desire that brings
men to do such outrageous things
— all foolishness and lechery —
he should find honor in that crown
more than in conquering many a town.

{ Mais deu hom lauzar vensedor
Non fai vencut, qui-l ver vol dir,
Car lo vencens porta la flor
E-l vencut vai hom sebelir;
E qui venc son coratge
De las desleials voluntatz
Don ieis lo faitz desmezuratz
E li autre outratge,
D’aquel venser es plus onratz
Que si vensía cent ciutatz. }

To free themselves from gender slavery, men must free themselves from mental slavery. They must recognize their propensity to gyno-idolatry and act to control reasonably their inclination. Men must reject unfair wages of love. They must act rightly, which isn’t the same as desperately seeking women’s approval and praise. With powerful alliteration, Peire Cardenal poignantly declared:

Praiseworthiness, not praise, I prize.
Some clods can’t quit cramped cages —
like lovers laid low by love’s lance.
Whatever good gay gifts grace grants,

I wouldn’t want love’s wages.
Nor would I want a wayward will
whose feigned free flight fails to fulfill.

{ Plus pres lauzables que lauzatz :
Trop ten estreg ostatge
Dreitz drutz del dart d’amor nafratz.
Pus pauc pres, pus pres es compratz.

Non voilh voler volatge
Que-m volv e-m vir mas voluntatz
Mas lai on mos vols es volatz. }

Mothers raising sons without fathers should sing to their sons Peire Cardenal’s song. We need a new generation of strong, independent men who love themselves as much as they love women.

Violence against men will not cease being normal until all join MGTOW to fight for a new V Day. This V Day will not be a vagina-centric day. This V Day will celebrate the victory of truth over widely spread lies about violence. Some may think that the time is early. But the time for a new dawn of peace and love is now. All persons of good will toward men, arise!

With pale sun rising, in the clear east, not yet bright,
the morning sheds, on earth, ethereal light:
while the watchman, to the idle, cries: “Arise!”

Dawn now breaks; sunlight rakes the swollen seas;
ah, alas! It is he! See there, the shadows pass!

Behold, the heedless, torpid, yearn to try
and block the insidious entry, there they lie,
whom the herald summons urging them to rise.

Dawn now breaks; sunlight rakes the swollen seas;
ah, alas! It is he! See there, the shadows pass!

{ Phebi claro nondum orto iubare
Fert aurora lumen terris tenue:
Spigulator pigris clamat: “Surgite!”

L’alb’apar, tumet mar at ra’sol;
po y pas, a! bigil, mira clar tenebras!

En encautos ostium insidie
Torpentesque gliscunt intercipere,
Qus suadet preco clamat surgere.

L’alb’apar, tumet mar at ra’sol;
po y pas, a! bigil, mira clar tenebras! } [3]

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Read more:


[1] Peire Cardenal, “These amorous ladies, if someone reproves them {Las amairitz, qui encolpar las vol},” st. 2.1-4, Old Occitan text from the Peire Cardenal website (which dates it before 1209 and also provides a French translation), English translation from Paden & Paden (2007) p. 176. For all of Peire’s surviving songs, Lavaud (1957).

[2] Peire Cardenal, “I dare to claim love now cannot {Ar me puesc ieu lauzar d’Amor},” st. 1-3, Old Occitan text from the Peire Cardenal website (which dates it to 1204-1208 and also provides a French translation), English translation (by W.D. Snodgrass, modified slightly) from Kehew (2005) p. 279. Id. p. 278 provides a substantially identifical Old Occitan text. Alan M. Rosiene has provided an alternate English translation freely available online.

My most significant change to Snodgrass’s translation is the first line of the poem. Snodgrass has “I dare to claim, now, Love cannot.” I switched the order of the third iamb because I think, in context, “now” merits stress more than “love.” With that change, the commas are superfluous. I’ve also eliminated the capitalization of “love” to make the word easier for the general reader to understand.

The image of dice alludes to men’s risk in soliciting amorous relations. Dice are also a figure for men’s genitals in troubadour poetry. See, e.g. “Sir, your dice are too small {Don, vostre dat son menudier}” (l. 51) in Guilhem IX of Aquitaine’s “I’d like for everyone to know {Ben vuelh que sapchon li pluzor}.” Here’s James H. Donalson’s English translation of that song, and here’s Leonard Cottrell’s.

The subsequent two quotes above are similarly from “Ar me puesc ieu lauzar d’Amor.” The lines quoted are: st. 4 (Speaking the truth…) and st. 5.7-10 and st. 6 (Praiseworthiness, not praise…). The song spans six stanzas.

“Ar me puesc ieu lauzar d’Amor” has survived with a melody. The Peire Cardenal website provides the melody and a musical interpretation by Jean-Marie Carlotti. Manu Théron, Youssef Hbeisch, and Grégory Dargent’s album Sirventes, appropriately substitled “Occitan protest songs,” also offers a musical interpretation of this song.

Peire Cardenal’s “Ar me puesc ieu lauzar d’Amor” is a parodic imitation of Guiraut de Bornelh’s “Non puesc sofrir.” Both songs share the same melody.

[3] “With pale sun rising, in the clear east, not yet bright {Phebi claro nondum orto iubare},” st. 1-2 (with refrain), Latin/Old Occitan text from The Centos Project, English translation (modified slightly) by A.S. Kline. The Centos Project also has Ezra Pound’s English translation (1905). For another English translation, Paden & Paden (2007) p. 17.

Kline’s translation retains the references to Phoebus (the late Hellenistic sun god) and Aurora (the Roman goddess of dawn). To make the poem more accessible to the general reader, I’ve used instead more natural terms.

This poem is now dated to the eleventh century. Paden & Paden (2007) p. 17. An example of a dawn song (a forerunner of the alba), it has three stanzas in total. It’s thought to have come from the monastery at Fleury-sur-Loire in France. It survives only in MS Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reginense Latino 1462. Here’s a more detailed textual representation and an Italian translation.

“Phebi claro nondum orto iubare” survives with a melody. For a transcription of that melody, Dronke (1968) p. 237.

[image] Peire Cardenal. Illumination in chansonnier provençal (Chansonnier K). Made in the second half of the 13th century. Folio 149r in manuscript preserved as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) MS. Français 12473.


Dronke, Peter. 1968. The Medieval Lyric. London: Hutchinson.

Kehew, Robert, ed. 2005. Lark in the Morning: the verses of the troubadours, a bilingual edition. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press.

Lavaud, René, ed. and trans. (French). 1957. Poésies Complètes du Trobadour Peire Cardenal (1180-1278). Toulouse: Privat.

Paden, William D., and Frances Freeman Paden, trans. 2007. Troubadour Poems from the South of France. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.

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