women’s joy in loving men in medieval lyrics

Not concerned about the details of renovating her kitchen, a woman in Germanic lands early in the thirteenth century was delighted to recline with her beloved man under a linden tree. She and he reveled in the reality of nature:

Under the linden
on the heath
where a bed for two was massed,
there you could see
piled up neat
pluckings of flowers and grass.
At the edge of the copse within a vale —
tandaradei! —
sweetly sang the nightingale.

I went secretly
to a meadow shady
where my sweetheart had gone before.
He did greet me:
“Pretty lady!” —
then made me happy forevermore.
Did he kiss? Ach, a thousandfold
tandaradei! —
see, my mouth still holds the mold!

Heaped up there
with royal pride
was a bedstead he formed of flowers.
A laugh you’d hear
from deep inside
if a stranger ventured into our bower.
From the roses one could tell —
tarndaradei! —
exactly where my head fell.

{ Under der linden
an der heide,
dâ unser zweier bette was,
dâ muget ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras.
vor dem walde in einem tal,
tandaradei!
schône sanc diu nahtegal.

Ich kam gegangen
zuo der ouwe:
dô was mîn friedel komen ê.
dâ wart ich empfangen
hêre frouwe
daz ich bin sælic iemer mê.
kust er mich? wol tûsentstunt:
tandaradei!
seht wie rôt mir ist der munt.

Dô hete er gemachet
alsô rîche
von bluomen eine bettestat.
des wirt noch gelachet
inneclîche,
kumt iemen an daz selbe pfat.
bî den rôsen er wol mac
tandaradei!
merken wâ mirz houbet lac. }[1]

Such a rendezvous is now scarcely known. It’s nearly inconceivable. Did he rape her?

Not able to lie down with her beloved man under the heart-shaped leaves of a linden tree, a medieval woman despondently declared that she would lie under a hazelnut tree. At least then she wouldn’t be deprived of nuts:

What a great pain I must suffer:
to love a man and not be able to see him;
and I’ll lie down under the hazelnut tree.

What a great pain I must endure:
to love a man and not be able to talk with him;
and I’ll lie down under the hazelnut tree.

To love a man and not be able to see him
nor dare to show him the pain I feel;
and I’ll lie down under the hazelnut tree.

To love a man and not be able to talk with him,
nor dare to tell him the pain I feel;
and I’ll lie down under the hazelnut tree.

Nor dare to show him the pain I feel,
and yet his love gives me no rest;
and I’ll lie down under the hazelnut tree.

{ Que coita tamanha ei a sofrer
por amar amig’ e non o veer
e pousarei so lo avelanal

Que coita tamanha ei endurar
por amar amig’ e non lhi falar
e pousarei so lo avelanal

Por amar amig’ e non lhi falar
nen lh’ ousar a coita que ei mostrar
e pousarei so lo avelanal

Por amar amig’ e o non veer
nen lh’ ousar a coita que ei dizer
e pousarei so lo avelanal

Non lhe ousar a coita que ei dizer
e non mi dan seus amores lezer
e pousarei so lo avelanal

Non lhe ousar a coita que ei mostrar
e non mi dan seus amores vagar
e pousarei so lo avelanal }[2]

It didn’t matter if her beloved man had as many women as the hard-working medieval knight Ignaure. She would be happy just to have her turn with him:

I, lovely girl, wasn’t sleeping
(it’s my turn)
and my boyfriend was coming
(and today it’s my turn).

I wasn’t sleeping and was longing
(it’s my turn)
and my boyfriend was arriving
(and today it’s my turn).

My boyfriend was coming
(it’s my turn)
and singing so well of love
(and today it’s my turn).

My boyfriend was arriving
(it’s my turn)
and chanting so well of love
(and today it’s my turn).

I really wanted, boyfriend,
(it’s my turn)
to have you here with me
(and today it’s my turn).

I really wanted, beloved,
(it’s my turn)
to have you at my side
(and today it’s my turn).

{ Eu velida non dormia
lelia doura
e meu amigo venia
ed oi lelia doura

Non dormia e cuidava
lelia doura
e meu amigo chegava
ed oi lelia doura

O meu amigo venia
lelia doura
e d’ amor tan ben dizia
ed oi lelia doura

O meu amigo chegava
lelia doura
e d’ amor tan ben cantava
ed oi lelia doura

Muito desejei, amigo,
lelia doura
que vos tevesse comigo
ed oi lelia doura

Muito desejei, amado,
lelia doura
que vos tevess’ a meu lado
ed oi lelia doura }[3]

Many women today feel entitled to tinder love, right here and now. It wasn’t so with tender medieval love.

Imagine, if you can, a medieval woman’s joy when her beloved man came. It was the Song of Songs played all over again:

Bounding over mountains and leaping over hills
he comes, my chosen one, desiring to speak to me.
Through windows and lattices he has wished to see me.
My womb trembled at the touch of his hand.
The voice of my lover rang out, sweeter than honey,
he whose face is brighter than the bright sun.

{ En per montes saliens et colles transiliens
venit quem optaveram, michi loque cupiens.
Per fenestras et cancellos me videre voluit;
ad contactum manus sue venter meus tremuit.
Vox dilecti sonuit, favo michi dulcior,
cuius sole facies est claro preclaroir }[4]

We live in a dark age of castration culture and love called hate. No one needs a soapstone countertop. All we need is true love.

* * * * *

Read more:

Notes:

[1] Walther von der Vogelweide, “Under the linden tree {Under der linden}” (L39,11), stanzas 1-3 (of 4), Middle High German text and English translation (modified slightly) from Wilhelm (1990) pp. 211-2. The repeated nonsense word tarndaradei is an onomatopoeic representation of singing nightingales. Here’s the text of the whole poem with English translation by Raymond Oliver (1970). For another English translation, Thomas (1963) p. 14.

[2] Nuno Fernandez Torneol 4, “What a great pain I must suffer” {Que coita tamanha hei a sofrer}” (B 644, V 245), Galician-Portuguese text (editorial marks eliminated) from Cohen (2003), English translation (modified slightly) from Cohen (2010). Here’s this song at the Universo Cantigas site and at the Galician-Portuguese Medieval Songs site. Here’s an English translation by James H. Donalson (2003).

[3] Pedr’ Eanes Solaz 2, “I, lovely girl, wasn’t sleeping {Eu velida non dormia}” (B 829, V 415), stanzas 1-6 (of 8), Galician-Portuguese text from Cohen (2003), English translation (modified slightly) from Cohen (2010). Here’s this song at the Galician-Portuguese Medieval Songs site, which includes an English translation by Richard Zenith.

This song incorporates Arabic. Cohen noted:

ed oi lelia doura is a bilingual verse with a code shift: ed oi /CODE SHIFT/ líya ddáwra = “And today /CODE SHIFT/ it’s my turn”. ed oi from et hodie is archaic Iberian Romance. leli = layli in Andalusi Arabic, “what kind of night I had!”

Cohen (2010) p. 99. For detailed philological and interpretative analysis of this song, Cohen & Corriente (2002). For further examples of Arabic influence, see my post on Alfonso X’s thirteenth-century song on the dean of Cádiz & his books, “I noticed a man carrying books {Ao daian de Calez eu achei}.”

[4] “Sweetly singing a wedding song {Epitalamia decantans dulcia},” vv. 9a-11b, Latin text from Dronke (1965) vol. 2, p. 516, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. This song survives on folio 2r of the twelfth-century manuscript Cambridge, Trinity B.I. 16. Id. p. 515.

[images] (1) Spielleyt, a Swiss medieval music ensemble, performing Walther von der Vogelweide, “Under the linden tree {Under der linden}” from its album O Fortuna (1996). Via YouTube. Alternate recordings: Sabine Lutzenberger/ Per-Sonat from Walther von der Vogelweide: Lieder von Macht & Liebe (2015), and Augsburg Early Music Ensemble on its album Minnesang, Die Blütezeit (2001). (2) Pedr’ Eanes Solaz, “I, lovely girl, wasn’t sleeping {Eu velida non dormia}” / “Lelia doura,” performed by Socorro Libra from her album Cores do Atlântico (2010). Via YouTube. Alternate recording by Amancio Prada from his album Trovadores, Místicos y Románticos (1990).

References:

Cohen, Rip and Federico Corriente. 2002 “Lelia Doura revisited.” La Corónica: a Journal of Medieval Hispanic Languages, Literatures and Cultures. 31 (1): 19-40.

Cohen, Rip. 2003. 500 Cantigas d’Amigo. Porto: Campo das Letras.

Cohen, Rip. 2010. The Cantigas d’Amigo: An English Translation. Online. 2016 edition.

Dronke, Peter. 1965. Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric. 2 vols. Vol. 1Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Thomas, John Wesley. 1963. German Verse from the 12th to the 20th Century in English Translation. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Wilhelm, James J., ed. 1990. Lyrics of the Middle Ages: An Anthology. New York: Garland Publishing.

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