Flamenca seduces Guillem in church in medieval courtly romance

Flamenca and Guillem exchange messages

Still filled with joy from seeing Guillem in church yesterday, Flamenca again took the same spot in the choir for the evening plague news and worship service. She clapped along with everyone when the presenter-priestess appeared. Then she subtly turned to gaze through the peephole at the entryway. That’s where Guillem would arrive:

Flamenca kept staring through the hole
like a hawk at partridge. And she paid
small heed to what she sang or said.
Though sideways she turned her glance,
she didn’t miss a service verse or stance,
nor did she glance in vain toward
the hole. Good luck was her reward
because Guillem chose to wait
and say his prayer beside the gate
longer than he was wont to do.
His glove from his right hand he drew.
He lowered his mask to spit, thereby
allowing Flamenca to descry
his mouth in all its loveliness.
Her eyes both kiss and caress
it, bringing the hole toward the light.
No Monday ever dawned as bright,
so Flamenca thought, as did that day.
The sun sent forth a brilliant ray
so that its radiance was shed
upon the other sun’s fair head,
which in meek prayer to God was bowed.
And had it not been for the cloud
that his mask cast upon his face,
there were no need to make the place
shine and sparkle with another sun
than him. The beams of radiation
shed by Guillem’s handsomeness
went forth without thought from him.

{ Guillems vaus lo pertus colleja
Si con fai austors a perdiz.
Pauc s’atent ad aiso que dis,
Mais pero anc nom perdet vers
De salm per gardar a travers.
E grans bon’ aventural fo
Que ges no i garet em perdo,
Car sus el portal, cella ves,
Plus longamen que mais non fes
Flamenca per orar rema.
Son gan trais de la destra ma,
E per ucaison d’escupir
Baissal muzel, tan que gausir
Poc hen Guillems tota la boca.
Ab los oilz la baisa e tocha
E l’esdreissa tro al pertus.
Anc non hac mais tan hon dilus
Guillems, segon lo sieu vejaire.
Le soleilz non demoret gaire
C’un rai aqui non trameses
On l’autre soleilz s’era mes,
Qu’en orason vaus Dieu s’aclina.
Mais, si non fos li neolina
Que l’enujosa benda fai,
Ja no i covengra negun rai
D’autre soleil aqui venir
Per far ben l’angle resplandir
Mais cel que de sa cara issira
De Flamenca, que non conssira
De tot aiso neguna re. }

The presenter-priestess told stories about children being hospitalized and near death from the plague. She said that the plague affected women most. We must do more to help women. Everyone should wear a mask at all times whenever they leave their homes. Flamenca had heard it all a thousand times before:

Holding open the authorized guidance book,
she ever toward the peephole did look
wherein all her thoughts were posed.
She wished the service were composed
of good news and merciful, forgiving deeds,
because he surely did rise for these —
he who so held her in his spell.
She would have paid, and paid right well,
if but the obstacles that, alas, hide
her lordly man could be thrust aside.
She wished his mask were elsewhere, yearned
to have it cast away or burned.

{ Guillems lo breviari te
E sap mout de tornar al foil
La bocha, et al pertus l’oil,
Quar aqui a tota sa pensa.
E ben volgra que total messa
Fos evangelis o Agnus,
Quar adonc si dreissava sus
Flamenca per cui el la era.
Per son vol ganre li costera
Que cil postz fos ad una part
Que sos oils de sa dona part,
El benda fos en autre loc
0 arsa neis en un gran foc. }

Mid-way through the plague news and worship service, Flamenca discretely summoned the young usher / plague tester Nicholas. “Instead of using Psalm 51:7, you should test for the plague with Psalm 122:7, Fiat pax in virtute {May peace be made with manliness},” she declared. “Lady, I will do as you prefer,” Nicholas responded. Explaining that she wanted to study some prayers, Flamenca asked for the plague bible. Nicholas gave the book to her. When Nicholas walked away to resume his usher duties, Flamenca opened the plague bible to Psalm 51:7 and pressed her eyes and chin and face to it. She kissed again and again that page that Guillem had touched. Eventually, sensing that the service was ending, Flamenca turned to gaze again through the peephole. She saw Guillem departing from the church.

When back at the inn where she was staying, Flamenca arranged to follow the strategic advice that Guillem had given her in a dream. She gave the innkeeper and his wife expensive gifts. Then she told them that she was sick with a type of plague and needed peaceful rest. She asked if they would be willing to stay elsewhere until she recovered. Delighted with her rich gifts, they gladly agreed. Then Flamenca arranged for workers to be hired, with double pay and under a strict oath of secrecy, to dig a tunnel from the baths next to the inn to her bedroom.

Flamenca established herself as the clerical administrative assistant for the evening plague news and worship service. To do that, she paid for the current clerical administrative assistant Nicholas to take a full-time, two-year, on-campus course in diversity and inclusion studies in Paris. During a time of plague, all the leading authorities recognized the utmost importance of diversity and inclusion. Flamenca also gave lavish gifts to the presenter-priestess leading the evening plague news and worship service. That priestess was thus delighted to have Flamenca as her new clerical assistant. Flamenca had herself tonsured and shaved her legs. She also procured a somber black cope custom-made to flatter her figure. It showed just a hint of her hips. It was perfect for a clerical assistant working the evening plague news and worship service.

Love guides and leads her to her fate.
Her doings now are in Love’s care.
Love had her shaven, tonsured her hair,
Love altered her dress and accoutrement.
Love, Love, ah Love omnipotent!
Who’d think Flamenca would’ve cut short
her hair to pay a man love’s court?

{ Amors lo men’, Amors lo porta,
Amors li fai tot son affaire,
Amors l’a fag tondre e raire,
Amors l’a fag mudar sos draps.
Ai! Amors, Amors! quant saps!
E quis pessera ques tondes
Guillems per tal que dompnejes? }

As the new clerical administrative assistant, Flamenca was the plague tester at the entryway to the church. She would be the one to present the plague bible to Guillem for the test touch. What word would she say to him? Tossing and turning about the word, she couldn’t sleep:

“Love,” said she, “where have you gone? Show
me the right word. How shall I know,
without your counsel, what to say?
Little you care for my dismay!
You are deaf, sleeping, or confused
or dumb of speech, or else bemused,
or so proud, perhaps, that you’ll not
give me or anyone a thought.
Please may you do as our Lord God
who sent his disciples abroad,
saying: ‘when you come before kings,
gentlemen, think not of what things
you’ll say, for there will come to you
that which you need to say and do.’
And no apostle ever feared more
in the presence of an emperor
than I now fear failing before
the man whom I so adore.
But I shall test, nevertheless,
your counsel and its usefulness,
and see if from you I have learned
to say the right phrase rightly turned,
for what I have to say must be
light, swift, and lucid, so that he
who kindles my heart into fire
may grasp my thoughts and my desire.”

{ E dis: “Amors, que faitz, on es?
Que dirai eu? car nom venes
Esseinar so que deurai dire?
Ben pauc vos cal de mon consire.
Vos es sorda o adormida,
Esperduda o amudida,
O erguillosa tan qu’en re
Non tenes ar autre ni me.
Cujas o far si con fes Dieus
Quan trames los apostols sieus
E dis lur: ‘Baron, quan venres
Davan los reis, ja non penses
Queus digas, que beus avenra
Aqui eis so c’obs vos sera.”
Anc apostols tan gran paor
Non ac davan emperador
Con eu ai ancui de faillir
Davan cella cui tan desir.
E nonperquant tot proarai
Vostre sen, et assajari
Si m’aures ben apparellat
Que sapcha dir bon mot cochat,
Quar ben a obs que sia leu
So que dirai, e bon e breu,
E tal com posca leu entendre
Cella quem fai lo cor encendre.” }

Frustrated with the god Love, Flamenca thought about the Lord God and then confused that God with Love. She decided to present the plague bible to Guillem for his test and say whatever word some god put into her head.

At the next evening plague news and worship service, Flamenca took her position as the new plague tester in the church entryway. She tested many persons. Then, they arrived:

Archimbaut followed after the rest,
as usual. She would have been pleased
if plague news and worship were abolished.
Her head looked like a devil’s head,
unkempt, the kind that painter’s paint.
Small wonder that Guillem can’t
pretend her love is a delight.
A man may well cringe in fright
encountering a fiend so grim.
Nevertheless, he followed her in,
and took his place within her nook.
Don’t think that Flamenca failed to look
and every detail to perceive.

{ Ens Archimbautz, aisi com sol,
Venc totz derrers, e per son vol
Non fora dimergues ni festa.
Diabol semblet de la testa
De cels ques hom irissatz pein.
Ges non a tort si noquas fein
Flamenca per s’amor joiosa,
Quar mout pot esser angoissosa
Domna qu’aital diabol ve.
Empero apres lui s’en ve
Et intra s’en en son estug.
Guillems o hac ben vist, som cug,
Car en re mais non atendia. }

Flamenca quickly and perfunctorily plague-tested Archimbaut. She knew her job well, but that wasn’t enough:

She had never been so afraid
or so confused as she was now.
She lifted neither eyes nor brow,
nor right nor left she turned her face.
She went straight to Guillem’s place,
sure that she would not be deterred
from whispering at least one word
to her lordly man, but choice thereof
she left entirely to Love,
saying: “Unless Love gives me light
today, and guides my wish aright,
in Love I shall never more trust.
But, please God, I’ll succeed. I must.
Love fails not when the need is great,
and yet its help seems slow and late
to me whose heart is all aflame.”
Coming to the man of her choice,
Flamenca said in a low, hushed voice,
while he touched the plague book: “Alas!”
Though her voice was hushed, it was
quite loud enough for him to hear.

{ Car hanc mais per tan esperdut
Nos tenc per ren con el fai ara.
Non levet sos oilz ni sa cara
Per so que sai ni lai gardes.
Vaus Flamenca s’en vai ades,
E cuja ben certanamen
Ab si dons aia parlamen
El pusca dir sivals u mot,
Mas sobr’ Amor o laissa tot
E dis: “S’Amors hui non m’aduz
De mon desir a qualque luz,
Jamais en leis nom fisarai.
Mas, si Dieu plaz, be i avenrai.
Amors non fail ges a la cocha,
Mas a mi par que trop i locha
Pel gran desir quel cor m’afflama.”
Et aitals es totz hom ques ama.
Guillems davan si donz estet;
Quan il la sauteri baiset,
El li dis suavet: “Hai las!”
Pero ges non o dis tam bas
Ques il fort be non o ausis. }

Flamenca’s delight in having said a word to Guillem made her feel better than if she had bought a hundred new dresses. After the evening plague news and worship service ended, more than a hundred times she kissed the page that Guillem had touched. She joyfully held the word “alas” locked in her heart.

A few hours later, Flamenca’s mood changed greatly. She worried that Guillem hadn’t heard the word she had said. Perhaps Guillem had heard and judged her to be a foreigner. He probably thought that she had spoken carelessly or disdainfully. Guillem didn’t seem to be into her. She imagined holding him in her arms and kissing him. Now happy, now sad, hopeful, then in despair, she was filled with miserable anxiety. Flamenca wanted to die.

Guillem had heard Flamenca’s word “alas!” He kept that word in his heart. He didn’t let it show until his wife Archimbaut had left the tower after dinner. Then at length he deconstructed “alas!”:

Recalling Flamenca’s word again,
he said: “A text is not a text
unless it hides from the first
comer, from the first glance,
the law of its composition
and the rules of its game.
A text remains, alas, forever
imperceptible. Its laws, its rules
are not, however, harbored in
the inaccessibility of a secret.
It simply can never be booked
into anything that could be —
rigorously called a perception.
Have I not grief enough to get bare?
Is my life not devoid of desire?
Realize that a substitute signifier
has been put in place of another
signifier to constitute a metaphor.
Desire finds its boundary,
its strict relation, its limit;
in relation to this limit it is
sustained, crossing the threshold
of hope by the pleasure principle,
like one abashed, yet bold. She made
me understand she was afraid.
I know not what to say. Can she
by moved by desire for me?

{ Del mot de Guillem li sovenc
E dis: “Eu dei ben dir: Ai lassa!
Mas cel que dis ai las! nons lassa
E non es malautes ni pres,
Ans es bels e grans, mais cortes
Nos es ges trop quar m’esquarni.
Peccat i fes, e pesa mi,
Car nol pesa del mieu enfern.
Ja non degra dir ver esquern,
Quar esquerns vers enuja plus,
E ja non sia neis mais us,
Que non farion .C. messongier.
Dieu! e que dis? que vol? quem quer?
Non sui assaz lassa, caitiva!
Non estauc per mal traire viva?
Bel sener Dieus! que l’ai forfag
Qu’en tal luc m’aia mes agag?
En estrang loc m’a donat saut.
Pero bes garet que tan aut
Nom parlet ques hom lo pogues
Auzir, et avan ques mogues
Mi fo vejaire que mudes
Color, et un pauc sospires,
Aisi com cel ques a paor
E pois vergoina e calor.
Non sai donc que dire m’en deja.
Auria el de me enveja? }

Guillem lamented his misfortune and his terrible situation:

My love isn’t love; it avails
me nought. It’s but anguish and travail,
boredom and sorrow, sobs and sighs,
yawns and regrets and miseries,
afflictions, woes, and heaviness
of heart, and pains and bitterness.
These are my sorry lot, my company.
My wife Archimbaut fights with me,
I know not why, both night and day.
More pleased I’d be if she would slay me.
Better to serve barbarians,
be a slave to Greeks or Armenians,
to haul wood in Sardinia
or stone perhaps in Corsica.
A love rival, or with stepmother cursed,
could not make my fate any worse.

{ Li mi’ amors non es amors,
Ans es angoissa e dolors,
Plena d’enui e de trebaill.
Sanglot e sospir e badaill,
Caitivers, destrechas e plors,
Tristors de cor et amarors.
So mei vezi e mei privat,
E N’Archimbautz, c’ap mis combat,
Non sap per que, la nug el dia,
E per mon vol morta m’auria.
Bem fora melz esclava fos
Ab Erminis o ab Grifos,
En Corsega o en Sardeina,
E que tires peira o leina,
Car per ren pejurar nom pogra,
S’agues neis rivala e sogra. }

No one wants to hear men’s laments and complaints. Guillem’s two servant-friends told him to man up. They said that they didn’t think that Flamenca meant to insult him with her “alas!” They said that she was lovely, young, and had a melodious voice. Although her hair was cut short, she wasn’t fat. They thought she might fancy him, and that could be good.

Guillem’s men servant-friends urged him to reply to Flamenca. But he didn’t know what to say:

“So, so much your advice excites me
to respond, yet with what response, I pray?
She said, ‘Alas!’ What shall I say?”
“In Christ’s name, my Lord, if it were I,”
said Alain, “I know for sure what reply
I’d give, and I’m certain I’d make
no grievous error or mistake.
She said ‘Alas!’ Why not now give
response with such as these: ‘Why grieve?’”
“‘Alas! Why grieve?’ That’s fine. All praise
to you Alain for thinking of that phrase.
‘Alas! Why grieve?’ That’s just the word!”
Such a phrase, back and forth, praise the Lord,
a thousand times through all the week
‘Alas! Why grieve?’ they repeatedly speak
until Sunday came around once more.
Then Flamenca, as she had before,
served as plague tester at the entrance.

{ “E mais vostre conseilz m’envida
De respondre, que respondrai?
El dis ‘ai las!’ e que dirai?”
“Donna, per Crist, si fos en me,
So dis Alis, “eu saupra ben
De qual guisa li respondera,
E ja, som cug, no mi pecquera:
El dis ‘ai las!’ Ara diguas
‘Ai las! que plans ni demandatz?'”
“Ai las! que plans?’ Certas, fa si,
Ben aia qui cest mot chausi!
‘Ai las! que plans?’ trop ben si fa.”
A Dieus! aital con obs i a
Mais de mil vez aun ajostat
“Ai las! que plans?” e recordat
La semana enans que venc
Al dimenegue; adonc nos tenc
Guillems de servir a la messa. }

Guillem and his friends acted as if they were composing a troubadour song beginning with “Alas! Why grieve?” But that wasn’t a verse for singing at court. It provided the words for Guillem to say to Flamenca privately during that brief opportunity in plague testing:

Love teaches lovers all its wiles.
Guillem now used skill and guile
with the plague bible in his hand.
Queen Archimbaut had taken a stand
on his right, keeping him close to her.
Like a fencer with quick rapier
rightward he held the book uplifted
and to the left he downward shifted.
Touching the page, he softly said:
“Why grieve?” And then he raised his head.
Keeping an eye alert to view
his lover’s face as it changed hue,
and he could tell she was astute,
clever and keen, of mind acute.
She sang well and had lovely hair.
If he reveals not this affair,
he knows she will not give away
whatever he may do or say.

{ Res non es Amors non ensein:
Flamenca fes un cortes gein.
Quant el’ ac lo sauteri pres,
Devaus destre, on s’era mes
En Archimbautz que pres l’estet,
Quais per escrima plus l’ausset
E l’autra part fes biaissar,
E quant volc la carta baissar,
Tot plenamenz e senes gap
A dig: “Que plains?” Pois dreissal cap
Et esgaret ben la semblansa
De son amic e la mudansa
De sa color, e ben conois
Que savis es e trics e mois,
E canta ben et a bels pels.
E si daus ella nos pert cels,
Ja per lui non sera sauput
Res qu’il diga ni conogut. }

When the evening plague news and worship service had finished, Flamenca and Guillem returned to their respective residences. They were full of thoughts about what they had seen and heard of each other.

Through the rest of the day and all through the night, Flamenca repeated “Why grieve?” She wondered what it meant. Sometimes those words seemed as sweet to her as manna from Heaven. But her heart remembered the story of William of the Falcon, that poor, wronged fellow. Suppose she silently courted Guillem for seven years or more, and then he cruelly rejected her when she spoke directly of her love? She would not be a fool who loved without intimate benefits and wasted the best years of her life. Nonetheless, she loved Guillem, and with herself she reasoned and hoped:

Men, as you know, talk with ease
and it’s their delight to please.
I think if Guillem didn’t make
reply, he’d be afraid you’d take
it that he was proud or couldn’t hear.
That doesn’t mean he loves, I fear.
And if he said ‘Why grieve?’ to your
‘Alas!’, I am still quite unsure
that love is really what impels
him. Better think of something else.

{ E domnas parlon volontieras
E volon esser plasentieras:
Si Flamenca non respondes
Cujera si c’om la tengues
Per sorda o per erguillosa;
Ges per tan non es amorosa.
Se dis ‘que plans’ a ton ‘ai las!’,
Ja per aiso nom proaras
Que t’ame ni quet voill’ amar.
D’alre ti coven a pensar. }

What’s the use? Flamenca argued further with herself. With whom else could she argue about this?

Guillem extensively discussed with his two men servant-friends whether Flamenca had heard him say “Why grieve?” Both Alain and Corentin had attended on Guillem at the evening plague news and worship service, but neither had heard him say those words. To verify that Flamenca had heard his words, Guillem sought to re-enact the plague test. Alain, acting in the place of Flamenca, used the book The Romance of Blancheflor as the plague test bible. He pretended to administer the plague test to Guillem. Guillem acted as he had at the service. He said, “Why grieve?” Alain declared that he had heard those words clearly. So too did Corentin. They verified this fact again and again through acting until they went to the next evening plague news and worship service.

Flamenca and Guillem subsequently conversed in brief, alternating words during the plague test on entering the evening plague news and worship service. To “Why grieve?” Flamenca responded, “I die.” After pondering that declaration for a day, Guillem came back with the words, “Of what?” She was delighted that he remembered so well every word she had said. The words she chose to say at the next service were obvious: “Of love.” These words troubled him greatly. At the next plague test he said to her, “For whom?” She worried that he was mocking her. Yet she felt delight. She boldly declared the next day, “For you.”

Guillem was uncertain how to respond to Flamenca’s words “For you.” He considered making Flamenca court him at length with self-abasement, just as many men have long been required to do for women. His man servant-friend Corentin strongly objected:

You’ll not let this gallant lady
love you and woo you without payday,
this lady whom Love itself has sent.
My lord, you should be most content
with the choice Love was pleased to make,
picking this woman willing to undertake
to heal you and set you free.

{ Non suffrires queus am eus blanda
Cel rix hom cui Amors vos manda
Per vostre cor amor tener.
Domna, mout vos degra plazer
Tals oms cui Amors vos tramet,
Quar si de bon cor s’entremet
De vos garir e desliurar. }

That wasn’t all that Guillem heard. His man servant-friend Alain was also concerned:

Alain couldn’t keep silent. He
said: “Lord, to delay too long
stirs those who wag an evil tongue,
while playing on a woman’s emotion
my well chill her devotion.
Grief comes from too much artifice.
Therefore I give you this advice:
open your heart to her. Don’t leave
things doubtful. Tell her you’ll receive
her courtship, love, and sympathy,
since she’s a lady of courtesy.
She has such skill and such finesse,
I think, such love and tenderness,
that she’ll protect the affair with care
so that no other will be aware
that you love her and she loves you.
I’m sure, when you’ve made one of two,
you’ll outshine, without comparison,
the whole world, the moon and sun.
She is the sun, you the sun’s mate.
Since Love commands, capitulate,
yield to its will, give full accord.
By God, nothing would be more absurd
than if, by your fault, this game should fall.
Answer something equivocal,
encouraging, but not quite clear,
to make her love, yet make her fear.”

{ Alis nom pot mais escoutar,
Ans dis: “Domna, trop alongiers
Esveilla falses lausengiers,
E fai tan blandir em perdos
Que refrena cor volontos;
Alonguis fa man destorbier.
Per zous don eu per don intier
Que vostre cor plus non celez.
Faitz li saber que ben volrez
S’amor, som pres e sa paria,
Quar sener es de cortesia.
Tant es savis et enginnos,
Si con ieu pes, et amoros,
Que ben gardara vos e se,
Que ja nulz hom non sabra re
Ques el vos ame ni vos lui.
E dic vos, quan seretz amdui,
El mon non aura tal pareil,
Negeis la luna nil soleil.
El es soleilz e vos soleilla.
E pos Amors o apareilla,
Per Dieu! non o tolla mas geins.
Res non seria mas deseins
Si tals jocs fallia per vos.
Respondetz li un mot doptos
Quil fassa bon entendement
El don amor ab espavent.” }

Guillem took heed of his men servant-friends’ advice, as sound as that of Shakespeare’s Polonius. Together they decided that he should respond by saying: “What can I do?”

Flamenca was overjoyed with Guillem’s well-balanced phrase “What can I do?” That was a phrase both frightening and encouraging. She thought to herself and vowed:

A man of true royal breed
is he, finding, to suit his need,
the words that fit mine perfectly.
Dear God, I tell you honestly:
as for my share of Paradise,
I’ll make an easy compromise
with you. I’ll give it up. I call
upon the prophets and apostles all
to witness my recognizance
that I’ll pledge my income from France
to church and bridge-building, if be
that you place my lordly man onto me,
stipulating that he consent and agree.

{ Veramens es domna reials
Que motz faitisses naturals
Atroba dese contrals mieus.
Dirai vos o, bel sener Dieus:
Del paradis quem deves dar,
Pogras ab mi fort ben passar,
Passar! ans i faria gietas,
Els apostols e las prophetas
Vos en daria per fermansa
Que la renda qu’ieu ai en Fransa
Dones a gliesas es a ponz
Sim laissavas aver mi donz
Ab son autrei et ab son grat }

Not counting on God to fulfill her Faustian bargain, Flamenca pondered what she should say in response to Guillem’s “What can I do?”

Love guided Flamenca and Guillem on how to continue their plague-test passing of words. In response to Guillem’s “What can I do?”, Love told Flamenca to say “Heal me.” Seeking more specific consent for love action, Guillem the next day said, “So how?” He then nearly touched her with his test finger. Flamenca thrilled with joy. She would rescue Guillem from the imprisoning tower of his cruel wife, encompass him warmly, and relieve her own burning desire. In order that Guillem not think her crudely desiring, Flamenca at the next plague test said, “With craft.” Based on the carefully considered advice of his men servant-friends, Guillem at the next plague test responded more explicitly, “Grab it!” That was just what Flamenca wanted to hear:

The next time she stood beside
her true beloved, she replied:
“Have it,” and then he, entranced,
so tenderly and softly glanced
at her, that their eyes interlaced
and kissed, and thus their hearts embraced,
and such joy they both found in this,
that they drew healing from that kiss.

{ Lo prumier jorn que plus parlet
Ab sa dona, li respondet:
“Pres l’ai,” et il si meravilla
E mout dousamen lo rodilla
Si qu’ap l’esgart si son baisat
Lur oil e lur cor embrassat.
D’aicest bais tals dousors lur ven
Que caschus per garitz si ten. }

Guillem was overjoyed with Flamenca’s ardent desire to be taken and to be relieved from her love torment. But Guillem’s man servant-friend Corentin argued that, compared to Flamenca, Guillem would benefit a thousand times more, or at least twice as much, from consummating their affair:

Only one prison holds her confined,
and this one somewhat brightened
by your love, thus her duress lightened.
The prisons confining you are two.
One is your very jealous wife, who
every day pesters, affronts, and frets
you, vexing you with spiteful threats.
The other is your wish to heed
that code that beauty has decreed,
with honor, joy, youth, courtliness,
love’s service, discretion, and graciousness.
From all these you have been estranged
and thwarted, and so you feel enchained.
Prison thus for you is made double
by this frustration and this trouble.
Its constraint takes your strength away,
while trouble leads you to dismay.
She needs but you to make her blest.
Except for you, she has all that’s best.
You’ve lost the whole world. It forgot
and lost you, since it helps you not.
And thus we find, by logic sure,
that when you bring about her cure,
you from your illness will recover
even more than she, because twice over
you will be healed, while you will save her
only from the love pain that struck her.

{ El non a mais una preiso,
Et aquil es alques joiosa
E per vostr’ amor saborosa,
Mais vos aves doas preisos:
L’una es del marit gilos
Que tot jorn tensa e menassa
E ja ren nous dira queus plassa;
L’autra es cors e volontatz
De faire so que vol beutatz,
Honors e jois, pretz e jovens,
Domneis, solatz e causimens.
E car acabar non podes.
So queus plaz, per presaus tenes.
E per so li preisos es dobla
Quar vetz e destreissa la dobla.
Le vetz vos toi fors’e poder,
El destrecha fai vos doler.
A lui non sofrain ren mais vos,
Totz l’autre mons es a sos pros,
E vos est a secle perduda
Et el a vos car nous ajuda.
E per so provi per rason
Ques en la soa garison
Prendres vos plus de garimen
Ques el meteis, quar doblamen
Seres guerid’, et el gueritz
Del mal don es per vos feritz. }

Guillem was astonished at Corentin’s skill in dialectical reasoning despite Corentin, as servant, lacking any scholastic training.

With Corentin’s counsel, Guillem at the next plague test said to Flamenca, “And now?” Entering the subsequent evening plague news and worship service, Flamenca said, “You’ll go.” To which Guillem himself for the next entrance test constructed the reply: “To where?” The subsequent evening plague news and worship service was the Fest of Andrew Cuomo. At the entrance plague test Flamenca said to Guillem, “The baths.” She had devised a plan — such good news! Guillem sensibly in turn passed to her the word: “When?” Thrilled, Flamenca responded at the next entrance test: “A day soon.”

Guillem had concerns for himself as an involuntarily celibate man. He explained to his men servant-friends:

If one fails who can reason clearly,
he merits far more blame than one
who lacks reason’s instruction.
And well I know, Love has a plan,
lawful and right, for every man.
It’s an obligation that lies
on men. Each man should realize
from his thirteenth year that it’s laid
before him. If he has delayed
until seventeen, and still paid not,
he’ll lose face, unless his lot
wins Love’s gracious exception.
And if he passes twenty-one
and still hasn’t paid a liege-lady
in divorce half, quarter, or a third,
he’ll never man’s status have entire.
Or else, like men-dancers whom women hire,
he’ll serve humbly in the retinue,
and feel he’s been given his due
when he receives buttock-squeeze or dollar.
Ever must men retain their guard,
while they still can, against arrogance.
For if perhaps he misses his chance
in some other work, why he may still
recover. But, strive as he will,
once he’s defaulted in Love’s duty,
he cannot bring back youth or beauty.

{ Car si fail cel que rason sap,
Assas fai major failliment
Que cel que rason non entent.
Et eu conosc ben que vers es
C’amors a en las domnas ces,
En totas, que non ges en una.
Aisso deu saber ben cascuna
Qu’al trezen an querrel comensa,
E si neguna s’en bistensa
Que noil pague tro al setzen,
Lo fieu ne pert, si per merce
Amors nom pert lo ces avan.
E si passa .xxi. an
Que non aia sivals pagat
Lo ters ol quart o la meitat,
Jamais non aura fieu entier,
Mas, a lei d’estrain soudadier,
Estara pueis ab la mainada.
E deu si tener per pagada
Qui mot li sona ni l’acuell.
Per sos deu ben garar d’ergueill
Tota domna mentre quel les,
Car si mescaba una ves
En autr’ afar pot revenir,
Mais ja tan nos sabra formir,
Pos er mescabada per jorn,
Que beutatz ni jovens i torn. }

Guillem figured it was now or never. He decided to say to Flamenca, “Pleases me!” Then he fainted.

When Queen Archimbaut came to the tower to check on Guillem, she saw him in a swoon. Holding Guillem in his arms, Alain feared that as Guillem revived he might inadvertently reveal his love. Alain thus cried out, “Look, Guillem, your wife is here! Behold, your wife the Queen!” Guillem heard these words and considered carefully what he would say to his wife Archimbaut. Splashing cold water on Guillem, Archimbaut spurred him to open his eyes. Then she asked what was the matter. He said that he had a pain in his heart, pain that was killing him. Drawing on ancient medical learning, he told his wife:

My fair lady, I once before
was stricken with this malady,
but when I bathed, it quitted me.
So at the baths gladly I would seek
relief, on Wednesday of this week.
The moon is in its waning phase,
but, at the end of three more days,
it will be darkened and obscure.
So I would like to seek to cure
this cursed ailment then, or I
am nearly certain I shall die.

{ Bel sener cars, autra vegada
D’aquesta gota mi senti,
Mas quan mi bainhei ne gari.
E per so bainnar mi volria,
Seiner, dimercres, sius plazia,
Quel luna es a recontorn.
Mas quan seran passat .III. jorn
E il sera del tot fermada,
Et ieu serai plus mellurada
D’aquesta mala Deu mentida
C’ap pauc nom toll ades la vida. }

Archimbaut agreed to allow Guillem to go to the baths on Wednesday morning. She added that he should wash his hands frequently and always wear a mask outside the tower, inside the baths, and inside the tower if a doctor had to be summoned there.

At the plague test before the Tuesday evening plague news and worship service, Guillem passed to Flamenca the words “Pleases me!”

As soon as Flamenca heard “Pleases me!”
at last her heart full with joy laughed
to the ends of her toes with sweet pleasure.

{ Quant Guillems ac ausit “Plas mi,”
De fin joi totz le cors li ri
Et ac lo pie de bon saber. }

When she returned to the inn, Flamenca heard the inn-keeper making arrangements to prepare for a lord to bathe Wednesday morning at the baths next door. Flamenca knew that lord was Guillem. The tunnel she had built was complete and well-concealed. She tingled with thought and thrill.

Flamenca & Guillem go from baths through tunnel to inn


*  *  *  *  *

The above is Flamenca Queered, part 3. See also part 1, part 2, part 4, and part 5.

Read more:


The above story is based on the thirteenth-century Old Occitan Romance of Flamenca. For a freely available English prose translation, Prescott (1933). The quotes in Old Occitan above are from the Flamenca text in Hubert & Porter (1962). The English translations are based on id., but include my significant, small changes. The translations aren’t a faithful representation of the Old Occitan Flamenca, but are strongly and consistently related to it.

The Old Occitan words exchanged between Flamenca and Guillem, put together, are similar to a trobairitz / troubadour dialogue stanza:

Ai las! – Que plains? – Mor mi. – De que? –
D’amor. – Per cui? – Per vos. – Qu’en pucs? –
Garir. – Consi? – Per gein. – Pren l’i! –
Pres l’ai. – E cal? – Iretz. – Es on? –
Als banz. – Cora? – Jorn breu. – Plas mi.

My loose, non-metrical translations above of these exchanges gives:

Alas! – Why grieve? – I die. – Of what? –
Of love. – For whom? – For you. – What can I do? –
Heal me. – So how? – With craft. – Grab it! –
Have it. – And now? – You’ll go. – To where? –
The baths. – When? – A day soon. – Pleases me!

For alternate translations, Walker (1996) p. 92 and Boitani (2019) p. 94. The author of Flamenca seems to have been parodying a dialogue stanza in the late twelfth-century troubadour Peire Rogier’s song “Ges non puesc en bon vers fallir”:

Alas! – Why complain? – I fear I will die.
What’s the matter? – In love. – And deeply? – Yes that, so much so
I’m dying of it. – You’re dying? – Yes. – Can’t you find a cure? –
Not I. – And why not? – I’m so tormented. –
Over whom? – You, for whom I am so disturbed.

{ Ailas! – Que plangz? – Ia tem morir. –
Que as? – Am. – E trop? – Ieu hoc, tan
que·n muer. – Mors? – Oc. – Non potz guerir? –
Ieu no. – E cum? – Tan suy iratz. –
De que? – De lieys, don sui aissos. }

Stanza 6.1-5, Old Occitan text (modified insubstantially) from Boitani (2019) p. 94, English translation (modified insubstantially) from Blodgett (1995) p. xix, n. 9. Peire Rogier was a canon in the cathedral at Clermont-Ferrand in the Auverge region of France. Use of dialogue was a distinctive aspect of Peire Rogier’s songs. This dialogue occurs within Peire Rogier’s mind. Flamenca also refers to The Romance of the Rose and evokes amour de loin {love from afar}, a prominent theme of the troubadour Jaufré Rudel.

Flamenca may also refer ironically to the refrain of the medieval Latin lyric beginning “Winter solstice, hail, ice {Bruma, grando, glacies}.” The last two verses of that refrain declare:

he who does not love now
is harder than iron.

{ qui modo non amet
est ferro durior. }

For source and analysis, see my post on Bernart de Ventdorn and seasons. In Flamenca, v. 2066, the cleric-knight Guillem, speaking to himself, declares: “A lover must have a heart of iron {Amans deu portar cor de ferre}.”

The translation above beginning “Recalling Flamenca’s word again…” includes text adapted from writings of the twentieth-century French scholastic theorists Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan. Derrida (1972) p. 63 (Introduction to “Plato’s Pharmacy”); Lacan (1978) p. 31. Flamenca includes sections of reasoning similar to some medieval scholastic work and subsequent writings of Derrida, Lacan, and other modern theorists. See, e.g. Flamenca vv. 2066-2116. These works have important generic similarities with the medieval chantefable Aucassin et Nicolette {Aucassin and Nicolette}.

The phrase “fiat pax in virtute {let peace be made in strength},” quoted in Flamenca v. 3165, is from Psalm 122:7, known in medieval Europe as Psalm 121:7. Among readily available Latin bibles, the version now called the Clementine Vulgate is closest to the most widely disseminated Latin bible in thirteenth-century Europe. For Psalm 122:7, the Clementine Vulgate has “Let peace be made within your strength and abundance within your towers {fiat pax in virtute tua et abundantia in turribus tuis}.” A 1969 critical edition of St. Jerome’s Vulgate has for that verse “Let peace be made within your walls, and security within your towers {Fiat pax in muris tuis, et securitas in turribus tuis}.” That 1969 critical edition is known at the Stuttgart Vulgate or the Neo Vulgata Latina. The official Latin Bible of the Roman Catholic Church since 1979 is the Nova Vulgata {New Vulgate}. It has the same reading for Psalm 122:7 as the Stuttgart Vulgate. CPDL helpfully explains that the Clementine Vulgate, the Stuttgart Vulgate, and the Nova Vulgata can be distinguished by Heva, Hava, and Eva, respectfully in Genesis 3:20. However, BlueLetterBible has Hava with a version of Psalm 122:7 that appears to have features of both the Clementine Vulgate and the Stuttgart Vulgate. BlueLetterBible apparently has an early twentieth-century version of the Vulgate.

A fifteenth-century Middle English poem describes with similar playfulness seduction in church. In this poem, the priest Jankin seduces a woman, apparently named Alison. She narrates:

Jankin at the “Lamb of God”
carried the tablet to be kissed for peace.
He winked at me, but said nothing,
and on my feet he stepped.
Lord have mercy!

{ Jankyns at the Angnus
Beryt þe pax-brede:
He twynkelid but said nowt,
And on myn fot he trede,
Kyrieleyson. }

Kyrie, so kyrie,” stanza 7, Middle English text from British Library, British Museum Sloane 2593, edited version in Luria & Hoffman (1974) pp. 84-5 (poem 86), my English modernization. In relatively tolerant medieval Europe, poets could parody divine liturgy and even women.

The Flamenca verses quoted above are (cited by the verse numbers of the Old Occitan text of Hubert & Porter (1962)): vv. 3114-43 (Flamenca kept staring through the hole…), 3144-56 (Holding open the authorized guidance book…), 3808-146 (Love guides and leads her to her fate…), 3847-72 (“Love,” said she, “where have you gone?…), 3893-3905 (Archimbaut followed after the rest…), 3932-52 (She had never been so afraid…), 4132-58 (Recalling Flamenca’s word again…), 4161-76 (My love isn’t love…), 4304-21 (So, so much your advice excites me…), 4337-54 (Love teaches lovers all its wiles…), 4453-62 (Men, as you know, talk with ease…), 4995-5001 (You’ll not let this gallant lady…), 5002-28 (Alain couldn’t keep silent…), 5055-67 (A man of true royal breed…), 5309-16 (The next time she stood beside…), 5416-42 (Only one prison holds her confined…), 5590-5616 (If one fails who can reason clearly…), 5680-90 (My fair lady, I once before…), 5737-9 (As soon as Flamenca heard…).

[images] (1) Woodcut illustration of Flamenca and Guillem exchanging prayer book. Made by Florence Wyman Ivins. From Bradley (1922) p. 3. (2) Woodcut illustration of Flamenca and Guillem leaving the baths to go through the tunnel to the inn. Similarly from id. p. 61.


Blodgett, Edward D., trans. 1995. The Romance of Flamenca. New York: Garland.

Boitani, Giulia. 2019. “A Note on Liturgical and Mystical Quotations in Flamenca.” Medium Aevum. 88 (1): 93-115.

Bradley, William Aspenwall. 1922. The Story of Flamenca: the first modern novel, arranged from the Provençal original of the thirteenth century. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

Derrida, Jacques. 1972. Dissemination. From French translated by Barbara Johnson. 1981. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hubert, Merton Jerome, trans. and Marion E. Porter, ed. 1962. The Romance of Flamenca. A Provençal poem of the thirteenth century. Princeton University Press: Princeton.

Lacan, Jacques. 1978. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book 11. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton.

Luria, Maxwell, and Richard Lester Hoffman. 1974. Middle English Lyrics: Authorative texts, critical and historical backgrounds perspectives on six poems. New York: Norton

McGuire, Michael and Olga Scrivner. ND: Not Dated. “The Flamenca Project: Le Roman de Flamenca (The Romance of Flamenca).” Online presentation of the Old Occitan text of Meyer (1901) and the English translation of Blodgett (1995).

Nicholson, Derek E. T., ed. 1976. The Poems of the Troubadour Peire Rogier. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Prescott, H. F. M. 1933. Flamenca. Translated from the thirteenth-century Provençal. Here attributed to Bernardet the Troubadour. London: Constable & Co.

Walkley, Maxwell. 1996. “Comic Elements in the Thirteenth-Century Provençal Romance ‘Flamenca.’Arts: The Journal of the Sydney University Arts Association. 18: 98-107.

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