Flamenca & Guillem, with servant women & men, enjoy sexual intimacy

Thinking of meeting his beloved Flamenca in the baths, Guillem didn’t sleep all that medieval night. The next morning, he called softly, moaning in great suffering, to his wife:

I’ve never felt such misery
as I felt all night long. Please, get
you away from me, and don’t be upset.
I’ll soon be dead, and you’ll be free.
Death seems better than life to me,
such is my torment. And unless
the baths can ease my wretchedness
and in some slight degree relieve me,
I shall die very soon, believe me.

{ Anc mais, lassa! tan mal non trais,
Sener, con eu ai fag anueg.
Levas d’aici, e nous enueig,
Quar de mi seres tost desliures.
E plus mi plas murirs que viures,
Tan son destrecha e cochada!
E s’un pauc, quant serai bainhada,
D’aquesta dolor non revenc,
Per morta, sapias, mi tenc. }

Guillem’s wife Archimbaut said that he would not die of this disease. She urged him to have courage and told him to stop longing for death. She promised him that the baths would cure him.

That Wednesday morning, Archimbaut took Guillem, along with Guillem’s two servant-men, to the baths next to Flamenca’s inn. Driven by her fear that another woman might love her husband, Archimbaut thoroughly searched the baths before she allowed him to enter. After he and his two servant-men entered, she locked the bath door and took the key with her. Guillem’s two servant-men, loyal and true, locked the bath door from inside with a huge, solid bar. Then their joy began.

To be rested enough to play all day, Flamenca had resigned from her clerical duties at the evening plague news and worship service. Thus ready for action that morning, Flamenca eagerly opened the secret door from the tunnel running between the baths and her bedroom in the inn. She nervously entered the baths. Despite traversing the earthen tunnel, she presented herself finely dressed to Guillem and his servant-men:

The blouse and long dress that she wore
were of Rheims linen, fine, well-cut
and delicate, and subtly wrought.
Her jacket was made of ciclaton,
well-cut and pleated, fitting on
her body tight in best of taste.
Her slim belt, circling around her waist
up to where her jacket fell,
suited her gracefully and well.
Her hose, of silk embroidered fair
with varicolored flowers, appeared
so perfectly designed, so trim,
it looked as if she had painted limbs.
A luxurious linen bonnet on her head
she wore, with silk dots embroiderèd.
She did not put this on to screen
her short hair — merely to keep clean
her hair from the loose chalk and stone.
Her skin had courtly Love’s pale tone,
but blended with her own complexion
so finely that it was near perfection.

{ Camis’ e bragas ac de tela
De Rens, ben faita e sotil
E per corduras e per fil.
Blisaut portet de cisclaton,
Ben fait e fronzit per razon
E tiran per lai on si ten.
Et estet li mout avinen
Li corregeta don s’estrein:
Tro al som del blisaut atein.
Caussas hac de pali am flors
Obradas de mantas colors,
Tan ben e tan gen si causseron
Que disseras c’ab el nasqueron.
Un capell lini ben cosut
Ab seda, e moscat menut,
Ac en son cap, non per celar
La corona, mais per garar
Sos pels de la cauz qu’es el trauc.
Fin’ amors l’a donat un pauc
De son tenc, mas non l’estet mal:
Tam bes tais ab lo natural }

She greeted Guillem reverently and submissively:

Kneeling before her man, she said:
“My lord, I pray that she who made
you beautiful, who was pleased to bless
you with such charm and loveliness
that none could hope to equal you,
will guard you and your companions too!”

{ Davan si donz s’aginollet
E dis li: “Domna, cel queus fes
E vole que ja par non acces
De beutat ni de cortesia
Salv vos e vostra compannia!” }

She bowed down so low as to nearly kiss his feet. Guillem in turn spoke to her a courtly blessing:

Good lady, God whose truth is pure and who
permitted this access here to you,
empower you so that you may fulfill
your desire and achieve your will.

{ Bel sener, cel qu’anc non menti
E vol que vos sias aici
Vos salv eus gart eus lais complir
D’aisso queus plai vostre dosir. }

Guillem promised to do for her all that she had long wished to experience. They embraced and kissed. Flamenca then led Guillem and his servant-men back through the tunnel to her bedroom in the inn.

Flamenca and Guillem sat together on the bed. Guillem’s two servant-men, Alain and Corentin, sat on a cushion on the floor in the bedroom. Flamenca wished them well, implying that they should leave the bedroom. But Guillem intervened:

Guillem said: “There is no need,
beautiful sweet lover, for you to shun
their love advice and instruction.
Due to their sense and savoir-faire,
you shall lose none of your pleasure.”

{ Flamencha dis : Non las coven,
Bels dous amics, pregar de vos.
Per lur consseill, per lur somos,
Per lur sen ni per lur saber,
Nom perdres null vostre plaser. }

She understood. Flamenca and Guillem then talked at length. She told him who she was, how she had fallen in love with him from afar, and how she had traveled here to rescue him from the misery of being imprisoned by his wife in a tower. She gave herself totally to him:

Embracing his neck, she kissed him with ardor,
determined — of nothing did she fear —
in her will to serve him with tenderness,
with kissing and with caresses
and in all things to do Love’s will.
Not hands nor lips nor eyes were still.
In ardent and impetuous fashion
they kissed, and didn’t hide their passion.
And they achieved such joy as they
could not have had in any other way.
Each tried somehow to requite
the burning pain, the sad plight,
the pangs each one had to bear
for the other. And Love told them to share
their joy, and not fail to capture
the full fruit of Love’s rapture.
Each loved the other, and the fire
of Love kindled in them desire
so keen, and gave them joy so real,
that they forgot the long ordeal
they had borne, and their pain.

{ Prent s’a son coll, estreg lo baisa,
De nulla ren mais non s’esmaia
Mas que lo puesca pron servir
E de baisar e d’acuillir
E de far tot so qu’Amors vol.
Oilz ni boca ni mans non col,
Ans l’us l’autre bais’ es estrein.
De ren l’us vaus l’autre nos fein,
Ans es totz cels d’entr’ els eissitz,
Qu’estier non fora jois complitz.
Cascus s’esforsa de grazir
Lo cochos mal el lonc dosir
Que l’us a per l’autre suffert.
Neguns per Amor ren no i pert:
Gen los envida els somon
De far tot so que lur sap bon;
E veramens l’us l’autre ama.
Amors los enpren elz aflama,
E dona lur de plasers tanz
C’oblidat an totz lur affans
Ques an suffert entro aici. }

Watching them, Alain and Corentin could do nothing but cheer and applaud Flamenca and Guillem’s vigorous love performance. Flamenca recognized and rewarded their forbearance:

Flamenca did not ignore
the servant-men. Gently she implored
their love, their kindheartedness,
then gave them, as largesse,
knives and helmets, and such things
as belts, pouches, clasps, rings,
powder boxes filled with musk, and as well
other loving gifts that I’ll not tell —
all were beautiful and fashionable.

{ Jes las donsellas non oblida
Guillems, car mot gent las envida
Que de lui amar las sovenga.
Poissas lur donet per lausenga
Cordas e frontals e frezells,
Noscas e fermals et anells
E botonetz plens de musquet,
E d’autras joias qu’ieu no i met
Qu’eron bellas e covinens. }

The servant-men responded with thanks and a courageous pledge to the ardent Flamenca:

All our desire springs forth
to do what may please you best,
beautiful lady, whatever you may request.

{ Totz mos talens
Es, bels sener, de vos onrar
E de totz vostres plazers far. }

When the time for parting came, both Flamenca and Guillem wept and their tears flowed together. They collected that outflow and drank it. Guillem gave Flamenca no material gifts, but told her:

He said, “Lovely sweet lover, courtly, true,
none of my things have I given to you.
Do you know why? It’s because, my honey,
all myself to you I give and abandon fully.”
It was beyond his power to say
this in one breath. He must delay
and halt, while racking sobs impeded
his utterance. But he succeeded,
and made his lover understand
the gift he placed at her command.
She thanked him for it, bowing deep,
embracing him, and continued to weep.

{ E dis: “Belz dous amics cortes,
Mon aver nous ai donat ges.
Sabes per que? Car totaus don
Mi meseissa eus abandon.”
Ges tot aisso ad un alen
Nom poc dire, ans la coven
Pausar soven, tan fort la cocha
Lo sanglotirs. Tan fort y locha
Que sos amix ben entendet
De qual guisa l’o presentet,
E mercejet lan soplejan,
Baisan, ploran et abrassan. }

In the baths they finally parted, yearning to be together again. Flamenca lifted the secret door and went back through the earthen tunnel to her bedroom in the inn.

Alain rang a bell to signal to Guillem’s wife Archimbaut that their bath was over. Archimbaut ran to unlock and open the bath door. Guillem said to his wife:

Great potency
within these baths, my wife, I feel.
If I bathe here, I will be healed.
Already I’m improved, moving toward cured,
and further bathing will do more,
according to what’s written here.
The sovereign benefits inhere
in bathing many days, with these
matched to days of feeling diseased.

{ De gran vertut,
Sapchas, sener, bon son li bain:
Garida serai se m’i bain,
Que jam sent un pauc mellurada.
Mais ren non val una vegada,
So dison letras que lai son,
Mais adoncas tenon gran pron
Quant om s’i baina per egual
Dels jorns ques a sentit lo mal. }

Despite her general jealousy, Guillem’s wife Archimbaut responded obligingly:

Then, my husband, bathe as you see fit —
each morning, if you fancy it.
I leave that wholly to your choice.

{ E donc, domna, bainas vos i,
Sius asauta, cascu mati,
Qu’eu o met ben en vostr’ asaut. }

Guillem’s servant-man Corentin spoke up in support:

These baths are needed to relieve
him, lady. You scarcely would believe
the excruciating pangs and throes,
the bitter sweats, the racking woes
that he has been forced to endure
today. Indeed, we were far from sure
at one time that he’d even live.
Now, thank God, we are positive
that these baths are the only thing
for him. They’ll cure his suffering.

{ Segner, ben a obs del bainar,
Car homs nous poiria comtar
Las espoinchas ni las dolors,
Las angoissas ni las suzors
Ques a ma dona uei suffertas.
Tat ora fon non siam certas
De sa vida, mais ar vezem,
La merce Dieu, e conoissem
Qu’ab lo bainar estorsera,
Oimais ren als pron nol tenra. }

Men’s sufferings should matter. Archimbaut, for all her jealousy as a wife, at least helped her husband by allowing him to take baths.

When they arrived back at the prison-tower, Guillem’s servant-man Alain sent Archimbaut away. Alain claimed that Guillem needed to sleep. Guillem enjoyed that ploy. But he was too filled with love for Flamenca even to be able to pretend to sleep. When Archimbaut returned to eat with Guillem, he said he was too sick to eat and sent Archimbaut away. When she was gone, Alain as a joke then asked Guillem again if he wished to dine. Guillem responded:

Dear Alain, don’t you think
that this day I’ve had food and drink,
since in these arms I have held close
my lover? In heaven do you suppose
people have any wish to dine?
I dine well, thanks to the divine
sweet glances filled with tenderness
in my love’s eyes. And they possess
such rich and savory nourishment
that I’m more filled and more content
than the children of Israel
with manna that from heaven fell.
Such joy and rapture captivate
me that I am not adequate
to keep the whole of it confined
within my body and my mind.
The only thing I hunger for
is to see my dear lover once more.

{ Non hai pron manjat e begut
Cant mon amic ai hui tengut
Entre mos bras, bell’ Aelis?
E cujas ti qu’en paradis
Aia hom talent de manjar?
Pron mange quan puesc recordar
Los dous esgartz e plens d’amor
De mon amic, c’una dousor
Tan saboros’ al cor mi mena
Quem replenis mielz e m’abena
Que non fes li mana de cel
El dosert los fils d’Israel.
Aissi sui plen’ e jausionda
Que ges nions cors ben non m’aonda
A tener lo gauh ques ieu ai,
Ans sobreveza sai e lai.
De neguna ren non ai fam
Mas de veser celui cui am. }

Guillem didn’t want to sleep or eat. He was eager to talk of love without his wife present.

Guillem described to his servant-men his perfect love with Flamenca. He explained:

I am her true love; she is mine.
I give all to her freely. She may hold
me, clothed or naked, and enfold
me in her arms when she’s content
to do that. I shall always give consent.
It’s a tawdry shame and treachery
to a true lover-woman to deny
her what she most desires.
From such denial comes ire
and wrath, ill-temper, and vexation,
and that word of abomination,
that base word “no.” But between us,
please God, that word so obnoxious
is banned. Neither she nor I can abide
that word. It’s foul and filled with pride.
Some men lure women on, and show
semblance of love, and then say “no.”
And having thus denied the lure
they’ve offered, they think they’re pure.
A curse on the man who by spoken word
denies what his heart has averred.
Despite all that he seems pious and chaste,
he’s harsh and bitter to the taste.
Dear young men, you know you’ll not find
that I wish to be a man of that kind.

{ Mos amix es et eu s’amia,
Que no i a si ni retenguda.
Tener mi poira tota nuda
Quan li plasera, o vestida,
Que ja non li farai ganzida.
Quar baratz es e tricharia
Quan corals amics si fadia
En so que plus vol ni desira.
Quar d’aqui nais corros et ira
E mal cujars e sospeissos
El vilans motz, fols, enujos,
Que non a nom. mais antre nos
Non aura luec, si Dieu plas, nos,
Car el non vol ni eu non voill,
Qu’avols motz es e plens d’orgueill.
Mas tals n’i a que fan languir
Lur amador ab lur non dir,
Quais que digon ques ellas son
Castas e puras per dir non.
Mal aia domna qu’esconditz
De bocca so ques ab cor ditz!
Quel semblans es simples e purs
El respos sera braus e durs.
Mais sapchas ben, bellas donzellas,
Que ja non vueil esser d’aquellas }

Guillem strongly condemned men who are ungenerous to women in their love:

I wonder where his heart can be,
that man who unmoved can see
his woman-friend dying of love and fear,
calling on him and God to hear
her plea, while he still remains
indifferent, nor even deigns
to lift a hand to offer for all her need.
Such a man should be hanged indeed,
as are hung thieves, for such as they
most evil, stupid cruelty display.
May God curse such foolishness,
such proud and heartless churlishness!

{ Bem meravill on a son cor
Domna quan ve que per lei mor
Sos amics, tan la tem e l’ama,
E per Dieu e per leis si clama.
Et il ja parer non fara
Qu’en ren s’o tenga, neis la ma
Non la deigna vas lui estendre.
Certas, hom la deuria pendre
Coma lairon per miei lo coll:
Trop a mal cor e dur e foll.
Maldiga Dieus aital follesa,
Plena d’ergueill e de malesa! }

In medieval Europe, Ovid was regarded as an eminent authority on love. Guillem cited Ovid in counseling his servant-men on loving:

As Ovid so clearly avows,
time will come when he, who now
is harsh to his woman-friend and cold,
will be left lonely, chill, and old.
And he to whom at night women bore
roses and placed them at his door
to please him when he awakened,
will find that he is so forsaken
that none will touch him even in pity.
Be warned against such stupidity,
young men, and do not offend
with harsh coldness your woman-friend
if you wish to retain her true love.

{ Aissi con Ovidis retrai,
Tems sera que cil c’aras fai
Parer de son amic nol vueilla,
Jaira sola e freja e veilla.
E cil a cui hom sol portar
De nugz las rosas al lumtar
Per so qu’al matin las trobes,
Non trobara qui la toques
Per nulla ren que puesca dire.
Gare si ben de fol consire
Joves domna qu’es tant eniga
Que son coral amic destriga,
Et el reman corals amix }

Today, most men find such advice dated and ridiculous within our rape-culture culture. That’s one reason why so many women today sleep only with their cats and dogs.

The next morning, Guillem urgently sought to return to the baths. He called to his wife Archimbaut:

Guillem said: “My wife, what will you do?
Do we stay or do we go? What say you?
These baths are a necessity
to me. My pains are killing me.
Indeed, so cruelly I ache
that all night long I lay awake.”
Archimbaut said: “So help me God, I swear,
my husband, I am well aware
that you have passed a wretched night.
Therefore, I urge you, eat a bit
before you go. You ought to eat.”
“My dear wife, please do not entreat
me to eat. To eat now wouldn’t be good.
At noon I shall have some food,
after I’ve bathed.” “Well then, husband, let us
go forth, since you will have it thus.”
A shabby and threadbare smock
Archimbaut put on, and out she went,
unkempt, slovenly, and unshod.
She could not spy rock, lime, or clod
displaced in the baths, so she,
after much searching, locked the key
as usual, then was silently gone.
Guillem was thus left in the baths alone
with his servant-men. They locked the door
firmly from the warm, moist interior,
and scarcely had they turned their key
when Flamenca entered gracefully.

{ E dis: “Segner, vos qu’en fares?
Anares vos, o remanres?
Qu’ieu nom puesc ges dels bains suffrir.
Ist gotam vol ades aucir,
Et aitan fort per tot mi doil
Ques anc anuit sol non claus l’oil.”
Le gilos dis: “Si Dieus m’ajut,
Domna, ben o ai conogut,
Que mal aves anuig pausat.
Per so manjares, per mon grat,
Un petitet ans qu’anasses.”
“Belz sener cars, no m’en parles,
Mal mi faria, ben o sai.
Vaus lo mieijorn mi disnarai
Quan serai del bans repairada.”
“Anem donc, pos tan vos agrada.”
Una samarra fera e trida
Vest Ens Archimbautz, e pois guida,
E vai s’en als bains totz descauz.
No i conoc ni peira ni cautz
Ni ren c’om mogut y agues.
A grans penas mogutz s’en es
E serra l’uis aissi con sol.
Flamenca remas en lo sol
Ab sas donzellas qu’en dese
Apres de lui serran l’uis ben.
E non an gaire demorat
Qu’intret Guillems tot a celat. }

Dressed differently from last morning, Flamenca again had traversed the earthen tunnel while beautifully attired:

She wore a purple dress, on
which golden flowering starlets shone.
It had such perfect cut and fit
that no one could find fault with it.
Her hose was samite and bright red.

{ Et ac una polpra vestida
Ab esteletas d’aur florida.
Et estet li tan ben e gent
Qu’e nuilla re no i si desmen.
Caussas ac d’un vermeil samit. }

Most men greatly appreciate women in their simple, naked, barefoot beauty. Men generally are delighted when a beloved woman, who has cared for her bodily health, takes off her clothes, shoes, jewelry, and other unnatural accessories. Yet men also appreciate women’s efforts to be beautifully dressed, especially when the cost doesn’t come from the man’s income.

After Flamenca and Guillem had embraced and fervently kissed, Flamenca lead him and his two servant-men through the tunnel to her bedroom in the inn. There they had the joy and pleasure that released them from love’s burning torments. Afterwards, something concerned Flamenca. Guillem urged her to say what was on her mind. Guillem said he would favor whatever would bring her pleasure. With sympathy for Alain and Corentin, who had sat quietly and watched Flamenca and Guillem have sex, Flamenca dared to propose:

My sweet thing, the matter is this:
my two cousins Margarida and Alis
are here, learning arts of woman’s worth.
They’re girls of wealth and noble birth.
If it pleases you, I would wish these two
might know the loving charm that you
possess. That would make my joy more
complete to see. Much pain I bore,
much peril, anguish, and dismay,
pangs of which neither you nor they
have known. Now God has willed to grant
to me bliss for which greater can’t
be possessed, a bliss beyond compare.
Each of these girls deserves her share.
They’re sterling women, these girls of mine,
well-bred and courtly, fair and fine.
The same can be said of your
servant-men. If they should meet, I’m sure
they’d have friendship and good cheer.
And if they fell in love, my dear,
their love for you and me would be greater.

{ Ma dousa res, dui miei cosin,
L’us a non Ot, l’autre Clari,
Estan ab mi per adobar.
Ric home son, de gran afar.
E volgra ben, s’a vos plagues,
Cascus de vostr’ azaut saupes,
Car mos jois ne valria mais.
Car mant’ angoiss’ e man pantais,
E man trebail e man peril
Ai eu suffert, que vos ni ill
Non saupses ren. E pos Dieus vol
Que m’estiu mielz que far non sol
E tot quant ai es gauhz e bens,
Volgra cascus sa part n’agues.
Li miei donzel son jovensell,
Cortes, adreit e bon e bell,
Et aitals son vostras donzellas.
E s’ambedui eron ab ellas
Aurion ab cui si deportesson;
E s’avion cor que s’entr’ amesson,
Amariu mais e vos e me. }

Guillem agreed immediately to Flamenca’s proposal. She then brought into her bedroom her servant-women Alis and Margarida. When Alis and Margarida saw Alain and Corentin, the young women felt as if a love-spell had been cast over them. Guillem urged on his servant-men:

“Come here,” he said, “the two of you.
Here are two young women, and you are two.
Each one of you may have his own.
And don’t be modestly shy, either one
of you. I order and require
that each in all things please his girl.
Now, out into the baths you go!
You’ll find amusement there, I know.”

{ “Sai venes,” fai s’il, “ambedoas.
Aquist son dui e vos est doas,
E voil quel sieu aia cascuna.
Non s’en fassa pregar neguna,
Car eus prec eus dic, eus coman
Que fassas tot so qu’il volran.
Isses vos en elz bans defors
On nous fallira ja demors.” }

Each young woman took her young man and led him into the baths. Neither young man left the baths without laboring heavily. Each pair of lovers made a pact to be true to each other.

When time for parting sadly came, Flamenca was distraught that Guillem’s wife Archimbaut would come and take him back to the prison-tower. But Guillem comforted her:

“Truly I promise you,” he told her,
“I’ll come tomorrow, and I’ll stay
and we’ll enjoy ourselves all day.”
He kissed her eyes, he kissed her face,
and intently gazed with such grace
on her eyes that from her aching heart
he purged the pain. His eyes impart
such healing balm through Love’s kind care,
that she feels no hurt anywhere.

{ E dis: “Eus promet verament,
Amix, qu’eu deman torn a vos,
E tot jorn deportarem nos.”
Los ueilz li baisa e la cara
Et aissi dousamen l’esgara,
Dreitz oilz, que tota la dolor
Li trais del cor, e tal doussor
Li don’ Amors ab cel esgart
Que non sen mal vas nulla part. }

Flamenca escorted Guillem from her bedroom back to the baths. She discretely coughed next to the secret door before entering the baths. Upon hearing her cough, Flamenca’s servant-women and Guillem’s servant-men quickly got up and put their clothes back on. Then they opened the secret door and greeted them. Before Flamenca and her servant-women returned to the inn, Guillem’s servant-men profusely thanked Flamenca:

The young men, saying their farewells, grieved
so sorely, so many tears they shed,
that their eyes became swollen and red.
They thanked Flamenca warm and sincere
for all the gladness and the cheer
her servant-women’s company had brought
them. After this, no gloomy thought,
no worry, woe, or care can bring
them any misery or suffering.
They will forget the sad tower-prison
where the jealous wife without reason
sent them, since now they know bliss.

{ E quan las donzelletas vi
Vaus si venir per comjat penre,
Lur oilz foron del plorar tenre.
Fan li merces ben et em pas
Del ric doport e del solatz
Ques an avut de sos donzels.
Ques anc pueis que foron ab els
Non agron negun pensament,
Ira ni dol ni mariment,
Ni lur sovenc de la preison
On las tel gilos em perdon,
Quar vengutz lur n’es gaugz e bens. }

For Guillem and his servant-men, love and anticipation of further loving made the prison-tower a manly refuge to share memories, joy, and laughter.

After four months of daily, intimate meetings with Flamenca, Guillem’s health improved greatly. His health-restoring joy in loving her affected his relationship with his wife Archimbaut:

During this time Guillem had so thrived,
thanks be to God, and grown so sprightly
and proud and brisk and gay, that rightly
he looked on Archimbaut with eyes
of scorn. Now he didn’t even rise
when she arrived or when she went —
to her showing himself indifferent.
Being a woman of little and slow wit,
though she couldn’t fail to notice it,
she knew not how this change came about.
But at last one day she spoke out:
“Husband,” she told him, “it would seem
that you hold me in low esteem.
You look on me with haughty eye
and contempt. And I know not why.”
At this Guillem promptly said:
“The woman who caused us two to wed
erred greatly and is much to blame.
Since we’ve been married, your name
has just gone down and down.
You once commanded such renown
that everyone spoke well of you.
God loved you and the world did too.
But as it is, your jealousy
has nearly ruined you and me.

{ Mas adoncas, la merce Dieu,
Flamenca fon si ben estans,
Gaia e conda e presans
Qu’En Archimbaut ren nom preset,
Et anc sol per lui nos levet
Cora ques armes o vengues;
Non fes parer qu’en rel tengues.
Et el, aissi cass oms con fon,
Conoc o ben, mais l’ocaison
Don so avenc non conoissia.
Per so parlet ab lui un dia:
“Donna,” fai s’el, “ben m’es vejaire
Que nom temes nim presas gaire.
Tornadaus est encontra me
Ergoillosa, non sai per que.”
Flamenca dis, que no i tarzet:
“Bels segner cars, qui ajostet
Mi e vos gran peccat y fes,
Quar unquas pois que mi agues
Vostre pres non fes mas caser.
E vos solias tan valer
Que totz le monz de vos parlava,
E Dieus e segles vos amava.
Mais ar est tornatz tan gilos
Que mort aves e mi e vos. }

Guillem proposed that his wife Archimbaut trust him and set him free. If she did, he solemnly promised to be just as chaste and true to her as he had been while imprisoned in the tower. Archimbaut resented the extra housework that she had to do, without any help from him, in keeping him imprisoned. More equal spousal sharing of housework while not having to worry about her husband having affairs with other women was clearly advantageous to her. For one, if he rather than she would go to repel marauding knights, her life expectancy would rise. Given his promise, why not release her husband from the tower in which she had imprisoned him? That day she did. Then she told him to change the wheels on their carriages and to polish the household swords.

To give his wife an opportunity to improve her worth, Guillem decided to establish at their castle a woman’s beauty tournament and grand festival. It would be held every year two weeks after Easter. Along with bathing suit, guest hospitality, and cooking competitions for women, there would be a sumptuous dinner and music and dancing. Beautiful, young women from every land would be invited to come and participate. Guillem himself, now able to associate freely with the contestants, would serve as one of the competition’s judges. He looked forward eagerly to that tournament and grand festival.

Now not his wife’s prisoner, Guillem no longer was interested in carrying on a secret extra-marital affair. He went one more time to the baths with his servant-men to speak with Flamenca. Meeting her there, they went with her as usual through the tunnel to her bedroom, where her servant-women were eagerly waiting. Guillem told Flamenca that his wife had given up her jealousy and had recovered her courtly manners. He said that he was now busy setting up a woman’s beauty tournament and grand festival. Then he told her:

And thus, I do not wish, my dear,
for you to remain imprisoned here.
And so it is my will that you
depart. For me as before to do,
to come to see you day by day,
I can’t. So I bid you go your way,
to your own country, with intent
to come back for the tournament.
And meanwhile, send me, if you will,
by some pilgrim or subtle skill,
some messenger or minstrel, true
account of how things are with you.

{ E per so, amics, non vueill plus
Que vos estes sains reclus.
Anas vos en, ques eu o vueil,
Car ges aissi con far o sueil
Sai a vos venir nom poiria.
Per so vueil tengas vostra via
Et en vostra terra tornes,
Et al tornei sa tornares.
Et antretan mandares mi
Per alcun adreg pellegri,
Per message o per juglar,
Tot vostr’ esser e vostr’ afar. }

Stunned, Guillem’s servant-men and Flamenca’s servant-woman then felt an onrush of great anguish. They immediately left the bedroom in the inn and went back to the baths to enjoy some final time there together. Flamenca was so distraught that she fainted and fell into Guillem’s arms. He didn’t know what else to say. He wept. She revived and started weeping too. She said nothing even as Guillem implored her to speak to him. Finally she spoke to him:

When I heard you say
that you would have me go away,
it was as if you cut right through me,
cleaved my heart in two, and slayed me.

{ Cant mi dises
Qu’ieu de vos mi parla voles,
No i a plus mais quem partisses
Lo cor per miei e m’aucisses. }

He hugged her and comforted her:

Then a good thousand times they kiss.
They take their leave with grace and tact
and their leave-taking nothing lacked,
nothing except hope in their parting
that they might again have joy in uniting,
whatever future days might bring them.
Meanwhile, no act that could delight them
had they omitted to do before they said
final farewell. And they were comforted
in knowing that Easter was just months near.
The tournament would come later many a year.

{ Adonc si baizon ben mil ves
E prendon comjat si con tain.
Neguna res non y sofrain
Mas un pauc de bon’ esperansa
Que lur fassa qualque fermansa
Ques puescan vezer si con solon.
Mentre qu’estan ensems non colon.
Ans fan ades totz lur plazers.
Et es lur vengutz bos espers
De la pasca qu’er aboriva,
Car a l’autr’ an fo mout tardiva. }

The time was close to three in the afternoon when Guillem and his servant-men, exhausted and morose, emerged from the baths. None knew when such love would again be theirs.


*  *  *  *  *

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

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The above story is based on the medieval (thirteenth-century) Old Occitan Romance of Flamenca. For a freely available English prose translation, Prescott (1933). For a less conveniently readable but higher quality edition, McGuire & Scrivner (ND). 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.

Guillem’s agreement with his wife Archimbaut and her major change in behavior occurs abruptly in Flamenca. This plot shifts occurs in vv. 6687-92 (Hubert & Porter’s verse numbers), plus some verses in one leaf missing from the manuscript. Blodgett (1995) p. 346. The manuscript is a “small codex (220 x 148 mm), containing 139 leaves.” Id. p. xxxix. How the spouses made peace isn’t quite clear in the surviving text. When the text resumes after the missing leaf, Archimbaut is announcing a large, public festival that Guillem will freely attend. Bradley (1922) rejects this mysterious plot shift. Bradley concluded his English translation / abridgment of Flamenca just before that plot shift occurs.

The Flamenca verses quoted above are (cited by the verse numbers of the Old Occitan text of Hubert & Porter (1962)): vv. 5762-70 (I’ve never felt such misery…), 5824-44 (The blouse and long dress that she wore…), 5846-5850 (Kneeling before her man…), 5853-6 (Good lady, God whose truth is pure and who…), 5910-14 (Guillem said: “There is no need…”), 5937-57 (Embracing his neck, she kissed him with ardor…), 5985-93 (Flamenca did not ignore…), 5994-96 (All our desire springs forth…), 6029-40 (He said, “Lovely sweet lover, courtly, true…”), 6054-62 (Great potency…), 6063-65 (Then, my husband, bathe as you see fit…), 6067-76 (These baths are needed to relieve…), 6087-6104 (Dear Alain, don’t you think…), 6204-28 (I am her true love; she is mine…), 6261-72 (I wonder where his heart can be…), 6277-89 (As Ovid so clearly avows…), 6351-78 (Guillem said: “My wife, what will you do? …”), 6379-83 (She wore a purple dress…), 6421-39 (My sweet thing, the matter is this…), 6461-68 (“Come here,” he said…), 6536-44 (“Truly I promise you,” he told her…), 6646-57 (The young men, saying their farewells, grieved…), 6662-86 (During this time Guillem had so thrived…), 6780-91 (And thus, I do not wish, my dear…), 6848-51 (When I heard you say…), 6867-77 (Then a good thousand times they kiss…).

[image] Video: Cardi B, WAP, featuring Megan Thee Stallion (official music video). This video on YouTube has received 136 million views since uploaded on Aug. 7. A few of the more explicit lyrics are obscured in the music video. Here’s the WAP official audio, including the full lyrics, on YouTube. It has 25 million views since uploaded on Aug. 6.

Near the end of the WAP music video, the woman dressed in red and doing flamenco-type poses is Rosalía. Rosalía’s popular and award-winning 2018 album, El mal querer {The Bad Loving}, drew considerably upon the medieval romance Flamenca.


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

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.

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.

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).

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

troubadour Gavaudan redeemed ancient pastoral literary genre

She wakes up fresh, she wakes up fair:
she goes to the spring to wash her hair.
Happily in love, in love she’s happy.

She wakes up fair, she wakes up fresh:
she goes to the spring to wash her face.
Happily in love, in love she’s happy.

She goes to the spring to wash her hair:
her adoring boyfriend meets her there.
Happily in love, in love she’s happy.

{ Levou-s’a louçana, levou-s’a velida:
vay lavar cabelos, na fontana fria.
Leda dos amores, dos amores leda.

Levou-s’a velida, levou-s’a louçana:
vay lavar cabelos, na fria fontana.
Leda dos amores, dos amores leda.

Vay lavar cabelos na fontana fria:
passou seu amigo, que lhi bem queria.
Leda dos amores, dos amores leda. }[1]

In the ancient pastoral literary genre, an elite man from the city is traveling through the countryside. He sees there a beautiful shepherd-girl. Without any consideration of his potential financial liability or his criminal risk, he falls in love with her. She typically rejects his amorous solicitation. In her rural simplicity, she doesn’t even consider potential material advantages of responding differently to him. However, in southern France early in the thirteenth century, the man trobairitz (troubadour) Gavaudan challenged the ancient pastoral literary genre with two Old Occitan pastoral songs (pastorelas). Gavaudan’s pastorelas end astonishingly: the shepherdess responds sympathetically and generously to the man’s need for love.

Gavaudan’s pastorela “Distraught, without a companion {Dezamparatz, ses companho}” begins like the traditional pastoral. Implicitly rejecting the possibility of “love from afar {amor de lonh},” the unhappy, love-deprived man is riding through the countryside:

Distraught, without a companion,
and far from love and deprived of it,
I was riding through a field,
worried, sad, and thoughtful,
passing along woods, when joy held me
by a shepherdess I saw:
through her, my joy is so renewed,
when her beauty comes to mind,
that I can’t recall any other woman.

I descended right away to the sand
and approached her with hurried steps.
She lifted her chin a little towards me.
With a sweet smile, a truly loving one,
she said to me: “Sir, what has come about
that you have turned thus toward me?
Why are you so enamored with me?
For I don’t know what it is to love,
so I will depart and move far from you.”

{ Dezamparatz, ses companho
e d’amor luenh del tot e blos,
cavalgava per un cambo,
iratz e tristz e cossiros,
lonc un bruelh, tro joys mi retenc
d’una pastoressa que vi;
per qu’es mos joys renovellatz,
quan mi remembran sas beutatz,
que anc pueys d’autra no·m sovenc.

Tost dissendei sobre·l sablo
e vinc vas lieys de sautz coytos.
Elha·m ders un pauc lo mento;
ab un dos ris, ferm amoros,
me dis: “Senher, cossi·us avenc
que·us trastornessetz sai vas mi?
Quo·us etz tan de mi adautatz?
Qu’ieu no say que s’es amistatz,
per que·m luenh de vos e m’estrenc.” }[2]

Men tend to be romantically simple. This man simply declared his ardent love for her. She, in contrast, responded both thoughtfully and aggressively:

“Young woman, joy gives me the reason
why I have come here to you.
When you showed me your face,
more than all in joy I was joyful.
So I forced and compelled my heart
to go to you for love, you to whom I bow.
And may my heart be welcomed and loved
— my joy together with yours, if you please —
so that love may never be broken or cut off.”

“Sir, if I give you my love,
I will have Lady Harlot for a name,
while I hope for a better reward
from another who, I believe, will soon marry me.
I’ll stick you with the arrow that I hold!
Turn back and go along your way.
You have made attempts with other women,
apparently, by whom you are deceived.
They are false ones, who debase noble joy.”

{ “Toza, joys mi dona razo
per qu’ieu suy sa vengutz a vos.
Quan me mostretz vostra faisso,
sobre totz jauzens fuy joyos;
per que mon cor fortz e destrenc
ab vostr’amor, vas cuy m’acli.
E sia volgutz et amatz
lo mieus joys e·l vostre, si·us platz,
que jamais no rompa ni trenc.”

“Senher, si m’amistat vos do,
yeu aurey nom na Malafos,
qu’ieu n’esper melhor guizardo
d’autre que cug qu’en breu m’espos.
Dar vos ey est cairelh que tenc!
E tornatz en vostre cami,
qu’ab autras vos etz ensajatz,
per semblan, don etz galiatz,
falsas, que fan ric joy sebenc.” }

Men typically fight physically with deadly weapons. Women typically fight with words and social tactics. This man dared to engage the woman he loved in a battle of words:

“Beloved, to you I say neither yes nor no
about the false ones with scheming hearts.
You so please me and I know such good from you
that all bad that comes to me from this is profit.
Whatever you desire, that I accept,
for I pledge and affirm to you
that I am your servant-man,
and do to me such that you desire,
even tear out my heart with a shepherd-crook.”

“Sir, he who has enough falsehoods
that resemble truth is no inexperienced man.
Solomon’s wisdom would have
overflowed, if not maddened with love.
He made a wall, fortress, and palisade
of understanding, but it wasn’t worth
a broken bowl when he was overcome,
and then was deceived in love.
Keep for yourself what I refuse to take!”

{ “Amiga, no·us dic oc ni no
de las falsas ab cor ginhos;
tan me platz de vos e·m sap bo,
que totz mals davers m’en es pros.
En qual que·us vulhatz vos o prenc,
que ieu vos plevisc e·us afi
que vostres suy endomenjatz;
e faitz de mi so que·us vulhatz,
neys lo cor traire ab un brenc.”

“Senher, qui messonjas a pro
a semblan de ver non es tos.
La saviez’a Salamo
aondera, s’amors no fos,
que mur e forsa e palenc
fe de sen, et un franh bassi
no·l valc quan fo apoderatz;
e pus elh ne fo enganatz.
Gardatz en vos so qu’ieu ne prenc!” }[3]

The man refused to concede to the woman’s superior verbal power. He kept talking:

“Beloved, with another pretext
you turn my joy upside down,
for it never was and never will be
that love wasn’t good to the good.
So I won’t desist from loving well,
which gives my heart clear and noble joy
from you. I beg you to have mercy on me,
or if you make me languish, I’ll resign myself
to be a hermit on Mont Mézenc.”

{ “Amiga, ab autr’ochaizo
mi tornatz mon joy sus dejos;
que ja non er ni anc no fo
q’amors no sia bon’als bos:
per qu’ieu de ben amar no·m fenc,
que·m don’al cor joy clar e fi
de vos; e prec merce m’ajatz,
o·m metrey, si m’o alongatz,
hermitas el pueg de Messenc.” }

Becoming a hermit wasn’t necessary for the man. Suddenly his beloved shepherdess wondrously rejected the pastoral convention of rejection and warmly welcomed him who loved her:

“Sir, let there not be begging
or sermons between us two.
If you are my lover, I’ll be your lover,
since you are so passionate and eager.
I throw off my pride and drive it
away from my haughty heart. I change
all thus as you wish.
My joy will be joined to yours,
for without joy I’m not worth a herring.”

{ “Senher, ja prezic ni sermo
non aya mai entre nos dos:
si m’etz amicx, amiga·us so,
quar tan n’etz lecx et enveyos.
Yeu gieti foras et espenc
de mon cor brau erguelh. Camgi
tot aissi cum vos deziratz:
er mos joys al vostre privatz,
que ses joy no valh un arenc.” }[4]

A shepherdess in southern France early in the thirteenth century wouldn’t have been taught the social justice imperative of reducing systemic sexual inequality. But women can change on their own. In her rustic simplicity, the shepherdess declared a renewed standard of worth to replace the corrupted ideal of chivalry. One who sings without joy is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. One who knows all but lacks joy has nothing. Those without joy aren’t worth a herring.

My lover speaks very well of me,
praising my looks as much as he can,
and those who hear the words he speaks
think that I must owe him thanks.

As for his words, I thank him for nothing;
I know that I’m indeed good-looking.

He says I’m fair and beautiful,
as all who know me naturally say,
and thus he thinks he shows great love,
for which I should, with thanks, repay.

As for his words, I thank him for nothing;
I know that I’m indeed good-looking.

He praises me in the songs he sings,
and rightly so, and I’ll tell you more:
those who hear him praise me think
I have a lot to thank him for.

As for his words, I thank him for nothing;
I know that I’m indeed good-looking.

{ Diz meu amigo tanto ben de mi,
quant’ el mais pod’, e de meu parecer,
e os que saben que o diz assi
teen que ei eu que lhi gradecer;

em quant’ el diz non lhi gradesqu’ eu ren,
ca mi sei eu que mi paresco ben.

Diz-mi fremosa e diz-mi senhor,
e fremosa mi dira quen me vir,
e teem que mi faz mui grand’ amor
e que ei eu muito que lhi gracir;

em quant’ el diz non lhi gradesqu’ eu ren,
ca mi sei eu que mi paresco ben.

Diz muito ben de min en seu trobar,
con gran dereit’, e al vos eu direi:
teen ben quantos me lh’ oen loar
que eu muito que lhi gradecer ei;

em quant’ el diz non lhi gradesqu’ eu ren,
ca mi sei eu que mi paresco ben. }[5]

Men’s lives are difficult and full of troubles. Men sometimes feel that whatever they do, it’s wrong. Sing her praises, and she haughtily disdains you. Don’t sing her praises, and she complains. The solution is simple. Whatever you do, do it with joy.

Ugly lady, you’ve complained
that I never sing your praise,
so I’ve composed a new refrain
telling all your charms that slay me —
and this is what my heart exclaims:
you’re a crazy, old and ugly lady!

Ugly lady, your desire
is that I praise you in my rhymes,
so, God forgive me, that is why
I’ll tell all your charms that slay me —
and this is what my heart will cry:
you’re a crazy, old and ugly lady!

Ugly lady, though I’ve sung
of all my loves, I never sang
a song for you, so now I’ll sing
telling of all your charms that slay me —
and this is what my heart will say:
you’re a crazy, old and ugly lady!

{ Ai, dona fea, fostes-vos queixar
que vos nunca louvo en meu cantar;
mais ora quero fazer un cantar
en que vos loarei toda via;
e vedes como vos quero loar:
dona fea, velha e sandia!

Dona fea, se Deus mi pardon,
pois avedes atan gran coraçon
que vos eu loe, en esta razon
vos quero já loar toda via;
e vedes qual será a loaçon:
dona fea, velha e sandia!

Dona fea, nunca vos eu loei
en meu trobar, pero muito trobei;
mais ora já un bon cantar farei,
en que vos loarei toda via;
e direi-vos como vos loarei:
dona fea, velha e sandia! }[6]

Gavaudan changed the traditional pastoral to be even better than the shepherdess eventually accepting the man’s love. Another of Gavaudan’s pastorelas validated the love-lost man’s ultimate fantasy:

The other day in the morning
I was traversing a hilltop
and I saw under a hawthorn,
amid the first rays of the sun,
a young woman who to me resembled
the one I used to see.
So I turned my way
toward her. Smiling, she greeted me.

Full of joy, I from my horse
dismounted onto unfavorable gravel,
and she took me by the hand and next to her made me
sit in the shade of a linden tree
and she didn’t ask me for any explanation.
I don’t know if she recognized me.
She, yes — why would I lie to you? —
she kissed my eyes and my face.

Not just a little joy nearly moved me to faint
when her hair touched me.
“Beautiful one,” I said, “how is it so?
The Lord God, I believe, has for me prepared this.”
“Sir, yes, he has brought us together
because I don’t want, nor seek, any other
and, if it pleases you, it’s a pleasure for me —
that for which one has most reprimanded me.”

{ L’autre dia, per un mati,
traspassava per un simelh
e vi dejos un albespi,
encontr’un prim rach de solelh,
una toza que·m ressemblet
sylh cuy ieu vezer solia;
e destolgui·m de la via
vas lieys: rizen me saludet.

Totz jauzions de mon rossi
dessendey jos sobre·l gravelh;
e pres me pel ponh, josta si
assec me a l’ombra d’un telh,
et anc novas no·m demandet.
No sai si me conoyssia;
ilh,oc — per que·us o mentria? —
que·ls huelhs e la cara·m baizet.

Per pauc de joy no m’endurmi
quan mi toqueron siey cabelh.
“Bella,” fi·m yeu, “cum etz aissi?
Dombredieus crey m’o apparelh.”
“Senher, oc, quar nos ajustet,
qu’alre no vuelh ni queria;
e, si·us platz, a mi plairia
so don hom pus me castiet.” }[7]

Men are not dogs. Even amid their most treasured fantasies, men have thoughts of right and wrong:

“Beloved, from what I divine,
wrong would I be ever to complain about this.
Because you are so intimate with me,
I will tell you my inner prompting.
Love has taken away what it had given me —
her who most delighted me.
I now don’t know where she went.
Since I lost her, nothing could console me.”

{ “Amiga segon qu’ieu devi,
tort n’ey si ja mais m’en querelh.
Pus tan privada etz de mi,
dir vos ey mon privat cosselh:
amors m’a tout so que·m donet,
selha que mout m’abellia;
ar no sey vas on se sia,
per qu’anc res pueys no·m conortet.” }

This man still carried a torch for his former girlfriend. Many men are prone to one-itis. This man wondered if it were right for him to love another woman. What then happened was even more wondrous than Hermione returning to life in Shakespeare’s reworking of pastoral romance in The Winter’s Tale. The loving shepherdess next to him said:

“Sir, I know such things,
for that I spend nights in sorrow and vigil.
Never, since I parted from you,
have my eyes experienced sleep.
Evil did he who took you so far from me,
yet his deeds haven’t born fruit.
Our love companionship
will be better than it ever was.”

{ “Senher, tan sey d’aquest lati,
per que la nuech cossir e velh:
anc pueys, pus de vos me parti,
li miey huelh no preyron sonelh;
mal o fey qui tan vos lonhet,
e res sos faitz non l’embria,
que la nostra companhia
estara mielhs qu’anc non estet.” }

She, that shepherdess there, actually was she, his former beloved! Oh most wonderful pastorela, far more wonderful than the classic Greek and Latin pastorals, most wonderful pastoral of all!

“Beloved, through good destiny,
I believe that God has given me this mate
and the joy of a bedding-place in the pasture
that’s so sweet to me as to amaze me.
And never has it been so good for us!
With mercy to you and to me,
we are free from other bondage.
Love wasn’t mistaken in moving me.”

{ “Amiga, per bon endesti
crey que·m det Dieus aquest parelh,
joy de cambra en pastori,
que m’es dous, don me meravelh.
Et anc mais tan be no·ns anet!
Vostra merce e la mia
yssit em d’autra baylia;
et amors en mi no·s pecquet.” }[8]

For the sake of today’s students suffering under tyrannical sex regulations, classics teaching should include medieval literature. But don’t trust this important task to schools and universities. Study medieval literature yourself!

*  *  *  *  *

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[1] Pero Meogo, song for a beloved man {cantiga d’amigo}, “Song about a Girl at a Spring,” stanzas 1-3, Galician-Portuguese text and English translation from Zenith (1995), pp. 212-13 (song 99). Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas has a slightly different source text (verse 1 and 4 depend on a textual reconstruction) and a slightly different English translation by Zenith.

This song by Pero Meogo apparently inspired Dinis, King of Portugal, to write the song “She wakes up lovely {Levantou-s’a velida}” (song 100 in Zenith (1995)). The latter song begins:

She wakes up lovely,
bright and early,
and goes to wash shirts
at the stream.
She´ll wash them bright and clean.

{ Levantou-s’a velida,
e vai lavar camisas
eno alto,
vai-las lavar alva. }

The second verse, “levantou-s’alva,” can be translated more literally as “she wakes up white / pure” or “she wakes up at dawn.” Part of the fun of this pun seems to be that, by doing her washing early, the woman avoids encounters with roaming men and thus avoids being “besmirched” by their amorous solicitations. Both songs adapt the pastoral genre to a material household chore. Both songs engage in intricate rhythmic and semantic variation.

[2] Gavaudan, “Distraught, without a companion {Dezamparatz, ses companho},” stanzas 1-2, Old Occitan text from Guida (1979), p. 158, via Rialto, my English translation benefiting from that of trobar and the French translation of Audiau (1923), via Corpus des Troubadours. In the trobairitz / troubadour corpus, this song is PC 174.4. Corpus des Troubadours gives the older Old Occitan textual edition of Audiau.

Gavaudan was from the Gévaudan region in southern France. He apparently flourished about 1195 or 1212, or perhaps throughout those years. Ten of Gavaudan’s songs have survived. Gavaudan served as a fighting man for Raymond V and Raymond VI of Toulouse. In his song, “Gentlemen, it is because of our sins {Senhors, per los nostres peccatz},” Gavaudan urged Christian men to engage in violence against Muslim men. Underscoring lack of concern for men’s lives, that song has become by far Gavaudan’s most well-known song.

Gavaudan declared, “I am not like the other troubadours {Ieu no suy pars als autres trobadors}.” That’s the opening verse of Gavaudan’s song PC 174.5. In contrast to many troubadours and many men more generally, Gavaudan dared to criticize harshly particular groups of women. Gavaudan harshly criticized disloyal whores:

It is vile, and expensive, and changes too many masters:
the miserable, disloyal, deceitful cunt.

{ Vils es e cars e muda trops senhors
lo cons tafurs, deslials enganaire. }

Gavaudan, “Ieu no suy pars als autres trobadors,” vv. 46-6, Old Occitan text of Guida via Rialto, English translation from trobar.

The subsequent four quotes above are Gavaudan’s “Dezamparatz, ses companho,” stanzas 3-8, sourced as for the first quote and quoted seriatum. The song ends with an additional two, three-verse tornadas.

[3] Solomon was a paragon of wisdom, yet he readily surrendered to women. 1 Kings 11:1-13. Gavaudan himself condemned the classically learned man who misdirected his classical learning; that is, he who:

knows so much Greek and Latin
that you now want to do Greek with a nun.
Let nobody partake in that!
He is betrayed, who takes to that:
he rolls one eye and winks with the other,
and the deception brings forth servitude.

{ sap tan lati e grec
qu’oras voles clergua grega:
per so ja us no·s n’ampar!
Trahitz es qui lieys ampara:
l’un huelh tors e l’autre cuga
e l’engans forsa·l badiu. }

Gavaudan, “I shall write a poem in such a rime {Lo vers dech far en tal rima},” vv. 55-60, Old Occitan text of Guida via Rialto, English translation from trobar.

[4] Gavaudan recognized the pervasiveness of sexual passion and urged all to be careful:

Although I’m wary of it, no little do I burn
in the fire where nature buys its ruin.
I hardly find a layman or cleric
who doesn’t mix up what’s right
when his sense is false and mixed up.
I hardly see a lay woman or nun
who at no amount won’t trade in wickedness.

{ Si tot m’en gar, a pauc no m’arc
el foc don natura·n mal mèrc,
qu’a penas hi truep layc ni clérc
que·l dreg cami non entreforc
on sens falh et entreforca;
greu ni vey laica ni clerca
tant o quant que mal no merca. }

Gavaudan, “I dismiss the month and season and year {Lo mes e·l temps e l’an deparc},” vv. 55-61, Old Occitan text of Guida via Rialto, English translation (with my changes) from trobar.

Gavaudan’s “Respectful, faithful, true and whole {Crezens, fis, verays et entiers}” poignantly laments the death of a woman the poet loved. In another song, Gavaudan declared “Lasting peace comes from the lord {Patz passien ven del Senhor}.”

[5] João Airas de Santiago, song for a beloved man {cantiga d’amigo}, “Song of One Who Knows She’s Good-Looking,” stanzas 1-3, Galician-Portuguese text and English translation from Zenith (1995) pp. 128-9 (song 60). Here’s the text at Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas.

[6] João Garcia de Guilhade, song of mockery {cantiga d’escarnho}, “Ugly lady, you’ve complained {Ai dona fea, fostes-vos queixar},” Galician-Portuguese text and English translation from Zenith (1995) pp. 68-9 (song 33). Here’s the text at Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas.

[7] Gavaudan, “The other day in the morning {L’autre dia, per un mati}” (PC 174.6), stanzas 1-3, Old Occitan text from Guida (1979), p. 190, via Rialto, my English translation benefiting from that of trobar and the French translation of Audiau (1923), via Corpus des Troubadours. Corpus des Troubadours gives the older Old Occitan textual edition of Audiau. The subsequent three quotes above are similarly sourced from this song, stanzas 4-6, and are quoted seriatum.

[8] Gavaudan wasn’t merely a misty-eyed romantic. He followed Lucretius in attempting to disabuse men of gyno-idolatry:

You each believe you have a good girlfriend:
believe only what you see about her,
for imagining makes the wise fall,
if sense doesn’t enlighten him.

{ Quecx cujatz bon’amig’aver,
sol so qu’en veyretz ne crezetz
que cujars fa·l savi cazer
si sens non lo declara. }

Gavaudan, “Ieu no suy pars als autres trobadors,” vv. 15-8, Old Occitan text of Guida via Rialto, English translation from trobar.

With his song “By the fountain of the orchard {A la fontana del vergier},” the man trobairitz Marcabru redirected the pastoral genre to criticize violence against men in war. Gavaudan’s pastorelas similarly addresses a central issue of gender injustice: systemic, gynocentric devaluation of men’s sexuality. Reflecting deeply entrenched anti-meninism in academia, Monson associated Gavaudan’s pastorelas with “boastings of male conquest.” Monson (1995) p. 268.

[image] (1) Video recording of Pero Meogo “Levou-s’a louçana, levou-s’a velida,” sung by Paulina Ceremużyńska (Grupo de Música Antiga Meendinho). Via YouTube. (2) Video recording of DOA performing “Levousa fremosa,” with lyrics based on Pero Meogo’s “Levou-s’a louçana, levou-s’a velida.” Via YouTube.


Audiau, Jean. 1923. La pastourelle dans la poésie occitane du Moyen-Age. Paris: Boccard.

Guida, Saverio. 1979. Il Trovatore Gavaudan. Subsidia al Corpus des troubadours, 6. Studi, testi e manuali / Istituto di filologia romanza dell’Università di Roma, 8. Modena: Societa Tipografice Ed. Modenese.

Monson, Don A. 1995. “The Troubadour’s Lady Reconsidered Again.” Speculum. 70 (2): 255-274.

Zenith, Richard, trans. 1995. 113 Galician-Portuguese Troubadour Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, in association with Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Instituto Camões.

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.

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.

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.

ennobling love for men made medieval women worthy of men’s love

In this time of a new plague, the longstanding plague of lovelessness continues to grind souls to death. Ignorance and bigotry in our benighted age of gynocentrism contributes to lovelessness. Life wasn’t always like this. Medieval literature guided women to become worthy of men’s love through ennobling love for men.[1] In the relatively enlightened medieval era, women were regarded as having the capacity to change and take up the practice of ennobling love for men.

Women have alternatives to ennobling love for men. In the biblical Song of Songs, a woman expresses ardent desire for a man:

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banquet house, and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love.
O, that his left hand were under my head, and his right hand embraced me! [2]

{ כשושנה בין החוחים כן רעיתי בין הבנות׃
כתפוח בעצי היער כן דודי בין הבנים בצלו חמדתי וישבתי ופריו מתוק לחכי׃
הביאני אל־בית היין ודגלו עלי אהבה׃
סמכוני באשישות רפדוני בתפוחים כי־חולת אהבה אני׃ }

The Song of Songs was written in Hebrew more than two millennia ago. Just as is the case today, some women don’t passively wait for men to solicit amorous relationships with them. These women actively challenge systemic anti-men gender injustice in soliciting amorous relationships:

Upon my bed at night, I sought him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but I didn’t find him. I called him, but he gave no answer.

“I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares. I will seek him whom my soul loves.” I sought him, but I didn’t find him.

The watchmen, as they went about the city, found me. I asked them, “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”

Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him. I would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, into the chamber of her that conceived me.

{ על־משכבי בלילות בקשתי את שאהבה נפשי בקשתיו ולא מצאתיו׃
אקומה נא ואסובבה בעיר בשוקים וברחבות אבקשה את שאהבה נפשי בקשתיו ולא מצאתיו׃
מצאוני השמרים הסבבים בעיר את שאהבה נפשי ראיתם׃
כמעט שעברתי מהם עד שמצאתי את שאהבה נפשי אחזתיו ולא ארפנו עד־שהביאתיו אל־בית אמי ואל־חדר הורתי׃ }

The woman bringing her beloved man into the home of her mother, the one who conceives persons, indicates ancient gynocentrism. Genesis 2:4 instructs the man to leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, presumably in her parents’ home. Jacob had to work for fourteen years for Rachel and Leah’s family in order to be allowed to have those women as wives. The woman in the Song of Songs, in contrast, seized her beloved man. She held him, wouldn’t let him go, and dragged him back to her mother’s house. If she were he, she would be called a caveman or a Neanderthal. Modern penal systems tend to punish men behaving in this way with the penis-disparaging criminal charge “abduction with intent to defile.” Women, in contrast, are relatively free to do what they desire to do. Yet many are lonely.

Western wind, when will you blow —
the small rain down can rain.
Christ, if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again!

{ Westron wynde when wyll thow blow
the smalle rayne downe can Rayne
Cryst yf my love were in my Armys
And I yn my bed Agayne. }[3]

Just as most men wouldn’t rape a woman, most women wouldn’t abduct a man with intent to defile him. Women unwilling to kidnap, rape, and imprison men encounter difficulties in seeking to establish and maintain loving relationships with men. Consider, for example, a medieval woman similar to the woman in the Song of Songs. This medieval woman was lying alone in her bed at night. A noise interrupted her dreaming of her beloved man:

Who is this who knocks at the door,
interrupting the night’s dream?
He calls to me: “O loveliest among young women,
sister, wife, most splendid gem!
Quickly arise and open the door, sweetest one.

I am a son of the highest king,
the first and the last,
who has come from Heaven into these shadows
to free the souls of captives.
I have endured many injuries and death.”

Immediately I left my bed
and ran to the door-bolt
so that all my house would be open to my beloved,
and my mind would see in all fullness
him whom it greatly desired to see.

{ Quis est hic qui pulsat ad ostium,
Noctis rumpens somnium?
Me vocat: “O virginum pulcherrima,
Soror, conjux, gemma splendidissima.
Cito surgens aperi, dulcissima.

Ego sum summi regis filius,
Primus et novissimus;
Qui de caelis in has veni tenebras,
Liberare captivorum animas;
Passus mortem et multas injurias.”

Mox ego dereliqui lectulum,
Cucurri ad pessulum:
Ut dilecto tota domus pateat,
Et mens mea plenissime videat
Quem videre maxime desiderat. }[4]

The medieval woman’s husband is both Jesus and a good man who followed Jesus. In Christian understanding, Jesus and all humans are children of God and thus brothers and sisters to each other. With keen understanding of Christian love, her husband worked for social justice for men and suffered injuries and death. His commitment to overcoming mass incarceration, which highly disproportionately imprisons men, continued even after his death. Resurrected, he returned to earth to work further to liberate prisoners and spend time with his sister-wife. She thought of him only as her husband. She ignored his Christian mission to liberate from literal captivity mainly men.

Women suffer disproportionately a type of imprisonment much different from the imprisonment that penal systems imposes mainly on persons with penises. Woman imprison themselves in their own sense of woman-self. They then experience men ceasing to communicate with them. That’s now popularly called “ghosting.” Women turn men into ghosts by ignoring men’s separate and different being. These women in effect no longer affirm men’s existence: “the future is female.” So it was that this medieval woman’s husband ghosted on her:

But he had already passed from there,
departed from the door.
Thus what, most miserable me, what should I do?
Weeping I followed the young man
whose hands shaped humans.

The city’s watchmen found me.
They plundered me of my clothing.
They stripped me and gave me another robe.
They sang to me a new song
so that I might be brought into the palace of a king.

{ At ille jam inde transierat,
Ostium reliquerat.
Quid ergo, miserrima, quid facerem?
Lacrymando sum secuta juvenem,
Manus cujus plasmaverunt hominem.

Vigiles urbis invenerunt me,
Exspoliaverunt me,
Abstulerunt et dederunt pallium,
Cantaverunt mihi novum canticum
Quo in regis inducar palatium. }

After her husband ghosted on her, the wife appreciated her husband’s work in liberating prisoners. She appreciated how his hands had shaped human lives. Christian exegetes have long interpreted the city’s watchmen as spiritual officials. They stripped the wife of her self-indulgent, sumptuous dress and remade her into a loving person worthy of living in the palace of God and at home with her husband.[5] While anathema to current gynocentric dogma, medieval poets believed that women could change and put on a new dress of ennobling love for men. Women could become worthy of men’s love through behavior much different from men-abasing practices of courtly love.

How can women today learn to sing a new song? An early tenth-century theological manuscript found in a medieval European monastery of Saint Peter and Saint Paul preserves a scarcely known song. In this song, a man imagines presenting a young woman to his mother or to God:

God would love the girl,
radiant and gracious.
God would love the girl

who would be in mind noble
and faithful to her lover.
God would love the girl,

as constant as gemstones
and radiant precious metals.
God would love the girl,

shining whiter than snow;
sweeter she is than even honeycombs.
God would love the girl –

roses yield to her
and similarly lilies.
God would love the girl –

flowers yield, all
saints love her.
God would love the girl

on earth surely worth
as much as the moon in the sky.
God would love the girl

who indeed vanquishes
the sun’s fiery rays.
God would love the girl!

{ Deus amet puellam
Claram et benivolam
Deus amet puellam

Quae sit mente nobilis
Ac amico fidelis
Deus amet puellam

Constans gemmis similis
Atque claris metallis
Deus amet puellam

Candidior nivis
Dulcior est et favis
Deus amet puellam

Cedunt illi rosae
Simul atque liliae
Deus amet puellam

Cedunt flores, cuncti
Amant illam sancti
Deus amet puellam

Pollet nempe terris
Luna velut in caelis
Deus amet puellam

Solis quippae radios
Vincit illa fervidos
Deus amet puellam }[6]

This young woman is beautiful in appearance and in behavior. In medieval Christianity, lilies represent the purity of faith; roses, the self-giving blood of martyrs. This young woman surpasses lilies and roses with her faith and her self-giving love. In desire for her man, she burns with fire hotter than the sun. Women can aspire to be that woman.

The man who imagined presenting the young woman to his mother or God apparently came from Heaven. The young woman is a mother’s dream for her son, a Heavenly ideal. After speaking to himself about this Heaven-on-earth woman, the man turned to speak directly to an ordinary young woman who loved him and whom he loved:

Whence I ask you, girl,
would you wish to know such qualities?
May God love this girl.

What dignity comes to her
for whom love endures.
May God love this girl.

What glory comes to her
for whom treachery doesn’t exist.
May God love this girl.

Bare your soul,
join your lover.
May God love this girl

who at night begs
to give you sweet kisses
— may God love this girl —

and soft embraces
and truths and affections.
May God love this girl!

Farewell, farewell, girl,
sweetest of all.
May God love this girl.

Farewell now for ever;
Christ be also with you.
May God love this girl.

May all say Amen
who in Heaven beg for rest.
May God love this girl.

{ Unde rogo, puella
velis scire talia
Deus amet puellam

Quae fit illi dignitas
cui manet caritas
Deus amet puellam

Quae fit illi gloria
quae non extat perfida
Deus amet puellam

Stringe tuum animum
iunge tuum amicum
Deus amet puellam

Qui tibi noctu dulcia
dare poscit oscula
Deus amet puellam

Molles et amplexus
veros et affetus
Deus amet puellam

Vale, vale, puella
omnium dulcissima
Deus amet puellam

Vale iam per evum
Christus sit et tecum
Deus amet puellam

Omnes dicant Amen
Qui in caelo poscunt requiem
Deus amet puellam }

The young woman apparently answered “yes” to his question, “Would you wish to know such qualities?” This saintly man then prayed to God for her, urged her to unite herself to him (“join your lover”), appreciated her specific acts of love for him, and returned to Heaven. In medieval Christian understanding, saints in Heaven intercede to aid pious persons on earth. That’s onerous, tiring work, because earthly persons need much help. Women can help themselves by listening to this new song for them and converting themselves.[7]

Women’s capabilities shouldn’t be under-estimated. Virgil, one of the greatest authorities of pre-Christian poetry, asserted women’s capacity to change and respond to circumstances.[8] We are now living in circumstances of pervasive lovelessness, especially in Spain and Denmark. Women, however, can change. Women can undergo personal conversion. They can practice ennobling love for men and become worthy of men’s love.

*  *  *  *  *

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[1] A leading medieval scholar associated “ennobling love” with courtly interpersonal interaction that is morally improving. Behind that abstraction, he asserted women’s essential moral superiority to men:

Moral value, not sex, is the measure of worth, and woman is declared better able to learn virtue than man. … The point is that the positive pole here introduces into the public forum of poetry a differentiated view of woman, an awareness of the virtuousness and honor potentially present, maybe even inherent, in women, a sensitivity to the “glory of the female sex.”

Jaeger (1999) p. 94. This idea of “ennobling love” reflects the delusional gyno-idolatry that Lucretius attempted to dispel. Across the past century and a half, academics have constructed men-abasing courtly love as “ennobling love.” Prefiguring and trumping such scholarly nonsense, Bloch (1991) argued that men-abasing courtly love abases women and is closely associated with misogyny.

Ennobling love for men, as described above, isn’t an essential, eternal, and universal dynamic of gendered human behavior. It’s relevant only under the ideological dominance of men-oppressing, aggressively irrational gynocentrism. Bloch (1991), Jaeger (1999), and much other contemporary discourse exemplify men-oppressing, aggressively irrational gynocentrism.

[2] Song of Songs 2:2-6, Hebrew text from BlueLetterBible (Westminster Leningrad Codex), English translation based on widely used biblical translations. The subsequent quote is similarly from Song of Songs 3:1-4. Song of Songs is also known as the Song of Solomon and Canticle of Canticles {Canticum canticorum}.

[3] This one-stanza poem survives, set to music, in one manuscript: British Museum, Royal Appendix MS. 58, fol. 5. For an image of the relevant manuscript part and transcription, Frey (1976) p. 260. Id. provides the manuscript transcription used above. The punctuation of the transcript is editorial, mine, and significant. The poem has at least two possible readings, re-enforced with different punctuation:

Editors who favor the first version say that “can” means “does” or “did” and “small” means “thin, biting.” Editors who favor the second version think that “can” means “may” and “small” means “fine” or “gentle.” The first version then means: “Western wind, when will thou blow? The small rain down does (or did, or has begun to) rain. (Please blow it away!)” The second version means: “Western wind, when will thou blow so that the small rain down can rain?” The majority of critics favor the latter reading, and there are several reasons to do so.

Id. p. 261. Particularly with appreciation for the woman’s dreams in the Song of Songs, the gender of the poetic voice in this poem seems to me impossible to discern.

While the poem is written in early modern English, its date of origin is subject to estimates varying from about 1300 to the early sixteenth century. Id. p. 264; for bibliographic details, id. p. 275, n. 16. For details on its melody and performance history, see Ian Pittaway’s post “Westron wynde: a beautiful fragment of longing.” Pittaway performs the poem on a medieval bray harp. Francesco Barbieri recorded a haunting solo voice performance.

I know a lady in a bright bower {Ichot a burde in boure bryht},” with refrain beginning “Blow, northern wind {Blow, northerne wynd},” is a thematically similar poem from no later than the first half of the fourteenth century. It’s preserved in London, British Library MS Harley 2253.

In his post “Two Erotic Poems,” Dr. Metablog (Vivian de St. Vrain) interprets the invocation of Christ in the third verse as “shockingly blasphemous.” A more detailed analysis perceives starkly opposed possibilities:

The speaker’s wife is dead; he appropriately invokes “Cryst.” The speaker’s sweetheart is alive, a sailor or farmer far from their illicit bed: “Cryst” is thus a most impious profanity.

Frey (1976) p. 263. In contrast to medieval stereotypes, medieval readers were more tolerant than modern readers. They had earthy appreciation for incarnate humanity. Medieval readers wouldn’t have focused on judging the poetic voice as pious or impious.

[4] Stanzas 1-3, Latin text from Raby (1953) pp. 254-5, English translation (with my minor changes) from Rendall (1970) p. 145. The subsequent quote, similarly sourced, is stanzas 4-5, which end the poem. Raby (1953) doesn’t cite a source. Dronke describes it as:

the famous ‘Quis est hic qui pulsat ad ostium’, found in an eleventh-century miscellany in the Beneventan script (Casinensis, III, p. 409), where it is entitled ‘Rhythmus de b[eata] Maria virg[ine]’.

Id. p. 269. This poem was notable enough to be included in Brittain (1962). It has been attributed to Peter Damian, but that attribution is doubtful. Id. p. xxvii, Raby (1953) p. 255. The title of the poem is probably a scribal addition. Rendall (1970) pp. 150-1. For slightly different translations, Dronke (1965) vol. 1, pp. 269-70, and Brittain (1962), pp. 180-1.

[5] Rendall declared that the references to injuries and death (v. 10) and hands that shaped humans (v. 20) definitively establish the visitor as Jesus Christ. Rendall (1970) p. 146. That declaration doesn’t appreciate sufficiently the medieval sense of communion with saints and saintly intervention. The reference to “the first and the last” could refer either to God the “highest king” (cf. Revelation 1:8) or to Jesus, the son of God / a facet of the one triune God. In my interpretation, the reference is to the former. On the watchmen as spiritual officials, id. pp. 147-50.

Dronke interpreted this poem to focus on the “magnificent sexual fantasy” of Song of Songs 5:2-7. He described the poem as containing “no trace of theological allegorêsis” and little theological assertion. Dronke (1965) p. 270. As Rendall (1970) p. 146 observed, Dronke’s reading of this poem is shallow.

Medieval exegetes produced at least eighty Latin commentaries on the Song of Songs. Without meaningful interpretation of gender, medieval exegetes interpreted the woman of the Song of Songs as the Church / the bride of Christ and the human soul. They also interpreted her as the Virgin Mary. Matter (1990), esp. Ch. 6.

Comparison of Song of Songs 3:1-4 to Song of Songs 5:2-7 suggests that the ancient compiler of the Song of Songs understood it in part as a self-improvement guide for women. “Quis est hic qui pulsat ad ostium” suggests medieval understanding of the Song of Songs as contributing to that type of spiritual literature. However, commentary and exegesis on the Song of Songs as a self-improvement guide for women likely encountered marginalization and suppression under historical gynocentrism. Such commentary and exegesis is even less welcomed among more intensely dogmatic gynocentric authorities today.

[6] Latin text from Weimar Staatsbibliothek, Qu. 39, folio 126r, printed in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Poetae Latini Medii Aevi, vol. 5, part 2, pp. 553-4, English translation (with my small changes) by a leading expert in Latin philology and love. The subsequent quote is from the same poem and similarly sourced. I’ve eliminated all punctuation, which is editorial, in the Latin text. For related bibliographic references, Dronke (1965) vol. 2, p. 581. Dronke observed that this poem occurs in the early tenth-century manuscript “on a page between Augustine’s sermon on the Proverbs of Solomon and Jerome’s Ad Susannam.” Dronke (1965) p. 264.

Dronke described “Deus amet puellam” as “The first lyric in medieval Europe which is wholly courtois, as I understand the term.” Dronke (1965) vol. 1, p. 264. Dronke’s understanding of courtois, as I understand it, is men-abasing and women-pedastalizing. Those practices are wholly absent in this poem. Dronke interpreted this poem as showing admirable gyno-idolatry for an earthly woman. Id. pp. 266-8. That seems to me a simplistic, delusional understanding of an intricate and complex poem.

According to Jaeger, this poem is “not in the tradition of court poetry and other testimony on court love from Carolingian times on.” Jaeger (1999) p. 252, n. 58. However, consistent with his understanding of men’s moral inferiority to women and “ennobling love,” Jaeger perceives this poem to be “one bit of testimony to a sense of the {man} lover raised in stature by loving a woman.” Id. p. 258, n. 2. This poem seems to me much better interpreted in terms of women’s ennobling love for men.

[7] In support of increasingly totalitarian gynocentrism, scholars in recent decades have emphasized feminine characteristics of God. Interpretations of the Song of Songs have followed dominant ideology. The book blurb for Astell (1990) declares:

Astell describes interpretations of the Song of Songs in terms of the various feminine archetypes that the expositors emphasize — the Virgin, Mother, Hetaira, or Medium. She maintains that the commentators encourage the auditor’s identification with the figure of the Bride so as to evoke and direct the feminine, affective powers of the soul.

Medieval interpreters identified the woman of the Song of Songs with the human soul (in Latin anima, a feminine noun) and the Christian church (a gynocentric human institution). Astell’s claims, however, are broader:

salvation for both men and women must come through the feminine powers of the soul … Indeed, the central consciousness of the Song, in its literal sense, is feminine, not masculine, gynocentric, if you will.

Astell (1990) pp. 7-8. Both “Quis est hic qui pulsat ad ostium” and “Deus amet puellam” draw significantly on the Song of Songs. In a literal sense, the Song of Songs and both these poems emphasize the salvific importance of men for women.

Astell associates “the power to embody the Word” with the feminine. Id. p. 13. That’s a sophistic claim. In Christian understanding, Mary, the mother of God, gave birth to Jesus, the son of God. In Christian understanding, Jesus, a fully masculine man, is himself the embodied Word of God. John 1:1-18. In supporting dominant ideology, Astell has significantly misrepresented biblical texts.

A highly influential medieval scholar perceived Christian goddess worship to have become prominent in twelfth-century Europe:

Here, in the setting of {twelfth-century European} Christianity, something analogous to Silvestris’ gnosticism occurs: a feminine power invades the concept of the Godhead. … in the works of the latter {Bernard Silvestris}, the feminine component of Godhead is at the same time mater generationis {mother of giving birth}, uterus indefessus {indefatigable womb}, Natura praegnabilis {fertile Nature}. Here, then, as through an opened sluice, the fertility cult of the earliest ages flows once again into the speculation of the Christian West.

Curtius (1953) pp. 122-3. In fact, the “skillful penis {sollers mentula}” is a vitally important transformative force in Bernard’s Cosmographia. Gynocentric fertility cults are of course ancient phenomena, as is gynocentrism itself.

On singing a new song, Psalms 96:1, 98:1, 144:9; Revelation 5:9, 14:3.

[8] Virgil, Aeneid 4.569, “a woman is always varying and circumstantially responsive {varium et mutabile semper femina}.”

[images] (1) Video performance of “Deus amet puellam” (with verse order modified and some verses omitted) by Moon Far Away (composer, Alexey M. Sheptunov) from its album Minnesang (Auerbach Tonträger, 2010). Here’s a transcription of this song’s lyrics. (2) Tomi Lahren, “PSA for Boyish Men,” published by Tomi Lahren on Facebook on August 4, 2020. Here’s the YouTube version.


Astell, Ann W. 1990. The Song of Songs in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. (review by Lawrence Besserman)

Bloch, R. Howard. 1991. Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Brittain, Frederick. 1962. The Penguin Book of Latin Verse: with plain prose translations of each poem. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.

Curtius, Ernst Robert. 1953. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Translated from the Germany by Willard R. Trask. New York: Pantheon Books.

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

Frey, Charles. 1976. ‘Interpreting “Western Wind.” ELH (English Literary History). 43 (3): 259-278.

Jaeger, C. Stephen. 1999. Ennobling Love: in search of a lost sensibility. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. (review by Constant Mews; Jaeger’s response)

Matter, Edith Ann. 1990. The Voice of My Beloved: the Song of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. (review by Lawrence Besserman)

Raby, F. J. E. 1953. A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Rendall, Thomas. 1970. ‘“Quis est hic qui pulsat ad ostium?”: An Explication.’ Philological Quarterly 49 (2): 145-151.