men must do anything for women: Arnaut Daniel’s medieval protest

Raimon Berenguier IV

In early thirteenth-century France, Raimon Berenguier IV, the Count of Provence, described a hundred women in a desperate situation:

Friend Sir Arnaut, a hundred ladies of rank
go overseas and halfway to the Holy Land,
they are unable to complete their voyage
nor return home directly by any means
but through you, by this condition:
you let out a fart generating such wind
that the ladies will come to be saved.
Will you do it, or not? I would like to know.

{ Amics N’Arnauz, cent domnas de parage
van outramar e son a meça via,
e non podon acomplir lor viage
n’endrez tornar per nuilla ren qe sia
se per vos non, qe es per tal coven
c’un pez fassaz de qe·s movan tal ven
que las domnas vadan a salvamen.
Farez l’o non? Q’eu saber lo volria. } [1]

The Count’s friend Arnaut Catalan was dedicated to serving women. He responded:

Lord Count, it is my habit always
to defend ladies concerning love.
Although farting is not to my liking,
I will do so, for if I did not,
I would be badly lacking toward ladies.
And I assure you that, if by other means
they could not be saved,
after the fart I would try fully shitting myself.

{ Seingner En Coms, en ai un tal usage
c’ades manteing domnas en drudaria.
Si tot lo peiz no m’en ven d’agradage,
eu lo farei, qe s’eu no lo faria
falliria vas domnas malamen.
E dic vos ben qe, si per altramen
no podion anar a salvamen,
apres lo peiz toz mi concagaria. }

Men must do whatever is necessary to help women, no matter how degrading to men such action is. Some may raise practical objections:

Friend Sir Arnaut, you speak very badly
and will receive great blame from the men
that must transport so many pleasant, comely hearts
by ass-wind to the holy ground of Syria.

{ Amics N’Arnauz, trop parlaz malamen
per lo gran blasme qe n’aurez de la gen
qe vol passar tan gen cors avinen
a vent de cul en terra de Suria. }

Imagine a man farting and shitting so prodigiously as to drive a sailboat from the middle of the Mediterranean all the way to the Holy Land. That’s a crappy way to sail. But all that matters is that women get what they want. Arnaut Catalan explained:

Lord Count, it is much better by a hundred times
that I should fart than so many lively, pleasing hearts
should come to grief through foolish principle,
for I can wash myself, however much I shit myself.

{ Seingner En Coms, molt es miellz per un cen
q’eu fasa·l peiz qe tan gai cors plazen
se perdison per fol enseingnamen,
qe·m puosc lavar qan cunqigaz me sia. }

Men face an enormous burden of performance in serving women. Men are expected to go down in sinking ships to save women. At the same time, men are socially unappreciated and face acute hardships and injustices. What is to be done?

Men must support other men who show the strength and knowledge to say no to women. Consider the case of Lady Ena and Bernart de Cornilh in southern France late in the twelfth century. Bernart sought Lady Ena’s love. In response, she showed him her back, and then:

she put her hand behind her thigh
and showed him the hole underneath
and said “If you blow me gently here
I’ll make you my lover dear.”

{ Elha mes tras la cueissa’l man
E’l mostrèt lo trauc sotiran
E dis: “S’aicí’m cornatz de plan,
Ieu vos farai mon drut certan.” } [2]

In other words, she virtually slapped him in the face, shit all over him, and then told him to thank her for that. Bernart de Cornilh wisely said no to being so degraded in love.

Raimon de Durfort

The troubadours Truc Malec and Raimon de Durfort in response defended Lady Ena and attacked Bernart. Truc Malec declared that Bernart had wronged her body:

He dishonored it out of folly,
while I would have liked to have blown there
cheerfully, without a sad heart.

{ Celh lo soanet per foldat,
E ieu lai vòlgr’ aver cornat
Alegrament, ses còr irat. } [3]

Raimon de Durfort added that Bernart should be sexually assaulted:

Evil it will be if he isn’t forced
to blow a pregnant mare.

{ Mal estarà qui no’l destrenh
Tant que cornès un’ egua prenh. }

Underscoring the twisted world of self-abasing men, Raimon condemned Bernart for not acting like a true courtly lover:

False lady-lover, learn
from me what you don’t know.
Wrongly you have courted
a lady, and then debased yourself.

{ Fals domnejador, aprendètz
De mi aiçò que non sabètz:
Per fals vos tenc car enquerètz
Dòmna, pueis vos i sordegetz. } [4]

Under gynocentrism, men are kept dazed and confused through the use of words in a way opposite of what they actually mean. Thus a man who refuses a lady’s request to put his mouth to her anus and blow has “degraded” himself. That’s like declaring that a husband has raped his wife when she has sex with him out of love for him.[5]

Arnaut Daniel

Exquisitely skilled in the use of words, the eminent troubadour Arnaut Daniel defended Bernart de Cornilh. Arnaut gave good reasons for not putting one’s mouth to a woman’s anus:

because the anus is rough, dirty, and hairy,
and not for one day does it remain dry,
and there the swamp is mighty deep,
because the rot inside ferments it,
such that its heart flows out, then shrinks;
and I don’t want him ever to be a lover,
he who puts his mouth to the anus.

{ Que’l còrns es fèrs, laitz e pelutz
E nul jorn non estai essutz
Et es prion dins la palutz
Per que relent’ ensús lo glutz
Qu’adès per si cor ne redutz;
E non vòlh que mais sia drutz
Cel que sa boch’ al còrn condutz. } [6]

Like most men, Arnaut Daniel was first concerned for women:

There will truly be other tests,
more attractive, with greater value,
and if Bernart pulled himself away,
by Christ, he did but a knowing act,
because fear and terror seized him,
because if the stream had come from above,
it’d have scalded his neck and cheeks.
And it’s not right for a lady to kiss
a man who blows a stinking anus.

Bernart, I don’t at all agree
with the words of Raimon de Durfort
that you were ever at fault:
for if you had blown for amusement,
well you would have found a strong counterpoint,
and the smell would soon have killed you,
for manure in a garden doesn’t smell worse.
And you, despite whoever disparages you,
praise God who has delivered you.

{ Pro i agra d’autres assais,
De plus bèls que valgron mais,
E si En Bernatz s’en estrai,
Per Crist, anc-no’i fetz que savais,
Car l’en pres paors et esglais.
Car si’l vengués d’amont lo rais
Tot l’escaldèra’l còl e’l cais ;
E no’is coven que dòmna bais
Aquel qui cornès còr putnais.

Bernatz, ges eu non m’acòrt
Al dich Raimon de Durfòrt
Que vos anc mais n’aguessetz tòrt;
Que si cornavatz per depòrt,
Ben trobavatz fòrt contrafòrt,
E la pudors agra’us tòst mort,
Que peitz òlh non fa fems en órt;
E vos, qui que’us en desconòrt,
Lauzatz en Deu que’us n’a estòrt. }

These words of Arnaut Daniel should be taken seriously. Petrarch called Arnaut “the grand master of love, who in his land  / is still honored for his strange and beautiful language {gran maestro d’amor, ch’a la sua terra / ancor fa onor, col suo dir strano e bello}.”[7] In Dante’s Purgatorio, Guido Guinizelli, whom Dante regarded as his father in lyric poetry, deferred to Arnaut:

{he} was a greater craftsman of his mother tongue.
In songs of love and in the prose romance
he surpassed all. Let fools talk all they want
of the Limogian poet’s excellence —
they turn their faces more toward fame than truth,
settling their judgment by what others say
before they hear how reason rules, or art.

{ fu miglior fabbro del parlar materno.
Versi d’amore e prose di romanzi
soverchiò tutti; e lascia dir li stolti
che quel di Lemosì credon ch’avanzi
A voce più ch’al ver drizzan li volti,
e così ferman sua oppinïone
prima ch’arte o ragion per lor s’ascolti. } [8]

Boccaccio in his brilliant Corbaccio may well have drawn inspiration from Arnaut’s song. Thus the “three crowns {tre corone}” of Italian literature agree about Arnaut’s importance. Even within gynocentric society, any man should feel free to say no when a woman he hardly know asks him to put his mouth to her anus and blow.

Nonetheless, Raimon de Durfort refused to defer to Arnaut’s poetic insight. Raimon insisted that a man must serve a woman as she requests. Raimon declared:

If any noble lady in the world,
had shown me her anus and cunt,
in this way, just as they are,
and then addressed me: “Sir Raimon,
blow me here, in my rear.
I would lower my face forward,
as if seeking to drink from a spring.
A lover who thus answers his lady,
well deserves to receive her heart’s joy.

{ Non es bona dòmn’ el mon,
Si’m mostrava’l còrn e l’con
Tot atretal com ilh se son
E pueis m’apelava : ‘N Raimon,
Cornatz m’aicí sobre’l reon,
Qu’ieu no’i baissès la car’ el front
Com si volgués beure en fon:
Drutz qu’a sa dòmna aissí respon,
Ben tanh que de son còr l’aon. } [9]

Raimon declared that he would blow in the anuses of hundreds of thousands of women, even if quite a few of their anuses were foul. He also disparaged Bernart de Cornilh and his humane defender Arnaut Daniel. He sung to Bernart:

You surpass in wretchedness
even Arnaut the student,
ruined by dice and board games,
who goes around like a penitent,
poor of clothing and of cash.

{ Pus ètz malastrucs sobriers
Non es Arnautz l’escoliers,
Cui confondon dat e tauliers
E vai coma penedensiers
Paupres de draps e de deniers }

Literary writers have often been impoverished. To make matters worse, meninist literary critics today are marginalized and excluded from the schools. Speaking truthfully about men in relation to women isn’t rewarding.

Most men feel that they must do anything that women want. Yet the great medieval troubadour Arnaut Daniel recognized his responsibility to speak out against appalling debasement of men. More writers today should do likewise. Men must acquire the learning necessary to know to say no to women.

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Read more:


[1] Raimon Berenguier IV, Count of Provence {Coms de Proensa} and Arnaut Catalan, “Amics N’Arnauz, cent domnas de parage {Friend Sir Arnaut, a hundred ladies of rank}” (tenso), st. 1, Occitan text and English translation of Ruth Harvey (modified) via Rialto. Gatti (2017) provides a slightly different text and an Italian translation. The subsequent three quotes are seriatim from this song and cover all of it.

A related tenso between Arnaut and King Alfonso X of Castile (Alfonso X the Wise) concerns sailing with farts. Arnaut petitioned the king to be named what might rightly be called a Rear Admiral:

My lord, I come now to ask
you for a boon, if you please:
I’d like to be your admiral
over the bounding seas.
If you grant me this, in all good faith
I promise to drive your entire fleet
with the force of a windy fart,
and they’ll sail with astonishing speed!

{ Senher abatyons conven quer
un don que·m donez, si vos play
que vulh vostr’almiral seer
en cela vostra mar da lay.
E sy o faz, en bona fe,
c’a totas las naus que la son a
eu les faray tal vent de me
c’or anon totas a bandon. }

“Senher abatyons conven quer, {alternately} Sénher, adars ie ‘us venh querer {My lord, I come now to ask},” st. 1, Occitan text from Gatti (2017), English translation from Paden & Paden (2007) p. 187; Gatti provides an Italian translation. Here’s an alternate Occitan text.

King Alfonse granted Arnaut’s petition and declared him (Rear) “Admiral Gas {Almiral Sisom}.” In gratitude, Arnaut promised a wind that would bring his lady and a hundred other women to King Alfonse. But King Alfonse objected to sending ladies with farting:

He is no true lover who intends
to manufacture such a wind!

{ que non é bon doneador
quen esto fezer a cyente. }

St. 4, ll. 7-8, sourced as previously. This song seems to allude to “Amics N’Arnauz, cent domnas de parage.” In addition, both troubadours “play upon the specific metrical form and rhymes from the song of the lark by Bernart Ventadorn, ‘Qan vei la lauzeta mover {When I see the lark beat his winds},’ reducing it to a scurrilous mockery involving a bird (sison {francolin}) that was famous for flatulence.” Paden & Paden (2007) p. 187, reference omitted and bird name added. The analysis of Gatti (2007) supports attributing this poem in part to Arnaut Catalan.

[2] Raimon de Durfort, “Truc Malèc, a vos me tenh {Truc Malec, I hold on to you},” 2.6-9, Occitan text from Martínez Malo (2005), English translation (modified) from trobar. This song is the second in a temporal series of four songs concerning what has come to be known as the Cornilh Affair. The second, third, and fourth poems in the series are Truc Malec, “En Raimon, be’us tenc a grat {Sir Raimon, I am in your debt}“; Arnaut Daniel, “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs {Though Raimon and Truc Malec}“; and Raimon de Durfort, “Ben es malastrucs dolens {He is rather unhappy and afflicted}.” Martínez Malo (2005) pp. 84-93 provides Occitan text and Spanish translation for all four. Trobar provides Occitan text and English translation for all four, to which the titles are linked. All quotes above from songs in this series are sourced as above, except where otherwise noted. The songs refer to Bernart de Cornilh. He was from Cercina, a rural borough of Florence.

According to Taylor summarizing Lazzerini (1981), “there is no doubt that corn has the clear meaning of cul.” Taylor (2015) p. 345. Lazzerini (1989) further analyzes another reference to the ass.

Truc (Turc) Malec sung in the late twelfth century. Taylor (2015) p. 524. Raimon de Durfort must be from the same time. Neither is known apart from this sequence of songs and their joint vida:

Raimon de Durfort and Lord Turc Malec were two knights from Quercy who composed the sirventes about the lady called Milady Aia, the one who said to the knight of Cornil that she would not love him if he did not blow in her arse. And here are written the sirventes.

{ Raimons de Dufort e·N Turc Malec si foron du cavallier de Caersi que feiren los sirventes de la domna que ac nom ma donna n’Aia, aquella que dis al cavalier de Cornil qu’ella no l’amaria si el no la cornava el cul. Et aqui son escritz los sirventes. }

Egan (1984) pp. 31-2.

[3] Truc Malec, “En Raimon, be’us tenc a grat {Sir Raimon, I am in your debt}” ll. 7-9.

[4] Raimon de Durfort, “Truc Malèc, a vos me tenh {Truc Malec, I hold on to you},” st. 6 (final stanza).

[5] Jewers similarly asserts:

In essence, troubadour lyric betrays a configuration of power and gender that privileges the male, while it reifies and objectifies the female. … The lesson of the affaire Cornilh has something to teach us about the nature and status of the counter-text: it lays bare the rank misogyny underlying and underpinning the lyric system and exploits it to a comically absurd degree, demystifying the male subject as well as it cruelly lays bare the female object.

Jewers (2002) pp. 37, 43. For a frank confession of this game, Dummitt (2019).

[6] Arnaut Daniel, “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs {Though Raimon and Truc Malec},” 2.3-9, with English translation of this song benefitting from that of Wilhelm (1981) pp. 75-7 and trobar. Here’s a modern French translation. The subsequent quote is similarly st. 2-3.

According to his vida, Arnaut Daniel was born of a noble family living at the castle of Ribérac in the department of Dordogne. He studied Latin, but gave up that study to compose Occitan songs as a joglar {minstrel}. He apparently was active from about 1180 to 1195. Paden & Paden (2007) p. 114. Arnaut’s songs “represent the pinnacle of  trobar clus, the art of ‘closed compositions’ in which the sense of the song is disguised with elaborate patterns of rhyme and versification.” Id. Arnaut is credited with having invented a complex poetic form, the sestina. About nineteen of his songs, two with melodies, have survived.

Arnaut was a courageous poet willing to challenge men’s unlimited subservience to women. In his song “En cest sonet coind’e leri {In this little song, pretty and joyful},” Arnaut declared:

I am Arnaut, who hoards the wind
and chases the rabbit with the ox
and swims against the swelling tide.

{ Ieu sui Arnautz q’amàs l’aura,
E chatz la lebre ab lo bou
E nadi contra suberna. }

Occitan text and English translation from Wilhelm (1981) pp. 42-3. Paden & Paden (2007) pp. 117-8 offers an alternate translation, as does James H. Donalson (2003). Here’s a modern French translation of Pèire Bec (2012).

Lacking Arnaut’s concern for social justice, the famous sophist Jacques Lacan quoted Arnaut’s “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs” in full and used it in his attempt to kiss the ass of dominant ideology. He thus gained a pungent insight:

Having been the focus of attacks by feminists during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Lacan sought a way to ensure that his theory would reinforce, rather than contradict, the feminist agenda. His own efforts in this realm led him to the conclusion that there is no possible sexual relationship.

Labbie (2006) p. 97. Lacan could have supported his claim “there is no sexual relationship” by surveying married men or discussing Margery Kempe’s husband. Instead Lacan discussed at length the gap, explored what slipped out from there, and signified it throughout his work.

[7] Petrarch, Triumphus Cupidinis 4.41-2, cited and translated in Kay (2016) p. 155, n. 3.

[8] Dante, Commedia, Purgatorio 26.117-23, Italian text from the Princeton Dante Project, English translation (modified slightly) from Esolen (2004). The Limogian poet is the troubadour Guirant de Bornelh, who sung in late-twelfth and early-thirteenth century Provence.

Regarding Arnaut’s “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs,” the eminent Dante scholar Paget Toynbee comically couldn’t even bring himself to name it explicitly:

The tenor of one of these {of Arnaut’s songs}, which forms part of a poetical controversy with two other troubadours concerning the conduct of a certain lady, sufficiently accounts for the place in Purgatory assigned to him by D. {Dante}.

Toynbee (1898) p. 50, entry for “Arnaldo Daniello {Arnaut Daniel}.”

[9] Raimon de Durfort, “Ben es malastrucs dolens {He is rather unhappy and afflicted},” st. 2. The subsequent is st. 4.1-5.

[images] (1) Raimon Berenguier IV, Count of Barcelona, detail from portrait of Queen Petronila of Aragon and Count Ramon Berenguier IV of Barcelona. The latter isn’t the same person as Raimon Berenguier IV, Count of Provence. Painting made in 1634, original of Filippo Ariosto (1586). Preserved as acccession # P005881 in the Museo del Prado (Spain). (2) Illuminated initial with Raimon de Durfort. Vida of Turc Malec and Raimon de Durfort in text on top. Folio 186v in Recueil des poésies des troubadours, contenant leurs vies. Made in the thirteenth century. Preserved as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) Ms. 854. (3) Illuminated initial with Arnaut Daniel. From folio 65r in BnF Ms. 854.


Dummitt, Christopher. 2019. “‘I Basically Just Made It Up’: Confessions of a Social Constructionist.” Quillette. Sept. 17.

Egan, Margarita. 1984. The Vidas of the Troubadours. Garland Library of Medieval Literature: series B: translations, 6. New York: Garland Pub.

Esolen, Anthony M., trans. 2004. Dante Alighieri. Purgatory {second section of the Divine Comedy}. New York: Modern Library.

Gatti, Luca. 2017. “Tra Arnaldi e protettori: edizioni e prospettive critiche di due tenzoni scatologiche (BdT 184,1 e T 21,1).” Pp. 85-94 in Isabel De Riquer, Dominique Billy, Giovanni Palumbo, eds. Actes du XXVIIe Congrès international de linguistique et de philologie romanes (Nancy, 15-20 juillet 2013), Section 14: Littératures médiévales.

Jewers, Caroline. 2002. “The Cornilh Affair: Obscenity and the Counter-text in the Occitan Troubadours, or, the Gift of the Gap.” Mediterranean Studies. 11: 29-43.

Kay, Tristan. 2016. Dante’s Lyric Redemption: eros, salvation, vernacular tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Labbie, Erin Felicia. 2006. Lacan’s Medievalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lazzerini, Lucia. 1981-83. “Cornar lo corn: sulla tenzone tra Raimon de Durfort, Truc Malec e Arnaut Danielm.” Medioevo Romanzo 8: 339–70.

Lazzerini, Lucia. 1989. “Postilla al corn: raboi.” Medioevo Romanzo 14: 39–50.

Martínez Malo, Jesús. 2005. “Cornatz lo còrn.” Litoral: école lacanienne de psychanalyse, L’amour Lacan II. 36: 49-98.

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

Taylor, Robert A. 2015. A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of the Troubadours and Old Occitan Literature. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University.

Toynbee, Paget Jackson. 1898. A Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Wilhelm, James J., ed. and trans. 1981. The Poetry of Arnaut Daniel. New York: Garland Publ.

medieval wife’s sexual entitlement banged against her husband’s love

Guilhelm (William) IX of Aquitaine

In our age of ignorance, bigotry, and superstition, many believe that trobairitz and troubadours were medieval folk singers who sang only ennobling love songs. That’s fake history, the medievalism of fantasy, an ideological fabrication in support of today’s men-oppressing cult of courtly love. Trobairitz and troubadours were elite women and men. Their songs included earthy appreciation for sexuality and lower bodily functions as well as sophisticated, critical considerations of dominant structures of gynocentric gender oppression. A unjustly marginalized song of trobairitz and troubadour, wife and husband, deserves more attention than numerous conventional songs of men-abasing courtly love.

In this greatly under-appreciated song, a troubadour singing to a trobairitz described in the third person a difficult marital situation. He recounted:

I have heard a lady who complained
about her husband, and I can tell you her grievance:
he never put it in more than half-way when she gave herself to him,
and for this she wanted her right to be upheld,
so that the lacking and the harm to her
he would come to rectify at once,
no more doing her wrong
with what he holds out.

{ Una dona ai auzit que s’es clamada
de son marit. e sai·us dir de que·s rancura:
qu’anc non lo·y mes mas de mieg, pus li fon dada;
e d’aquo volia que·l fezes drechura,
que la falhida e·l dan
li esmende d’er enan
e que no·l fes tort en re
d’aquo que li·n arete. }

The medieval Christian ideal of marriage was an equal conjugal partnership, not courtly love. Medieval Christian spouses had an obligation to fulfill each other’s requests for sex. That was called the marital debt. Yet women’s sexuality has long been valued more highly than men’s. Women are thus prone to acquire a sense of sexual entitlement. The wife described herself as “giving herself” to her husband, and she didn’t appreciate her husband giving himself to her. She wanted more than he gave. Like a woman claiming child support from a man that she has raped, the wife asserted her sexual right.

Not sexually ungenerous, the husband didn’t go in more than half-way out of love for his wife. The troubadour recounted:

And her husband responded to her as it pleased him,
and told her the reason he gave it to her in moderation:
he had a bigger one than any man of that place,
and he feared that she surely would die
if he didn’t hold back,
for he had one so large,
that he could kill her with it
if he had no compassion for her.

{ E son marit li respos si com l’agrada,
et dis razo per que lo·j mes de mezura:
major l’a que negus hom de l’encontrada;
e temeria que fos de mort segura
si non l’anava palpan,
c’a desmezura l’a gran:
ausir la poiria be
si no·l avia merce. }

Dying in love passion is a gender-neutral poetic figure. Lucius, transformed into a donkey in Apuleius’s second-century Metamorphoses, wrongly worried about hurting a woman with his penis. Many men similarly internalize representations of their love-making organ as a weapon of violence. Such poetic simple-mindedness harms both men and women.

In response to the troubadour’s account, the trobairitz identified the husband as her husband. She asserted her evaluation of the matter:

All that you have heard him say is the boasting
of my husband, who doesn’t, I believe, have one so large.
I believe not even half of what he says he has,
such have I felt a lack and an inadequacy.
And he says that he might kill me with it,
yet of that I have no fear;
indeed, the one he has for me is too small,
and about this he has lied to me.

{ Tot aiso que l’auzes dir es guabaria
a mo marit, qu’ieu non cug n’aja sobreira;
ni la mitat d’aco que di cre que sia,
que·l frachur’ay ieu sentid’ e la nessieira.
E ditz que aussiria m’en,
et ieu no·n ai espaven;
ans l’a a mos obs petit,
e d’aco eys a mentit. }

Men’s bodies and men’s performance are subject to the female gaze and female evaluation. Is it any wonder that men feel pressure to put meat on table?

In response to the trobairitz belittling her husband, the troubadour identified himself as her husband. He strongly criticized his wife for not appreciating his compassion for her:

Wife, what you seek is grand madness!
And I should warn you well from the start,
that I could destroy one who has no other illness,
and you would want to die in such a way?
If I hadn’t had such sense,
as to have consideration,
it would be choosing sorrow
for you, and there’s no gratitude for me.

{ Molher, vos aves dezir de gran folia!
E deuria vos ben castiar la premieira,
qu’ieu l’ausis, c’anc non ac autra malautia:
e vos volriatz morir d’aital maneira?
S’ieu non agues tan de sen
com ai avut chauzimen,
pessaza for’ essernit
de vos: e no m’es grazit. }

Most husbands love their wives and seek to do what is best for their wives. Wives should show more gratitude for their husbands, as Boncompagno taught wives in twelfth-century Bologna.

The trobairitz, a strong, independent woman, instructed her husband on what he should do in bed with her. She declared:

Husband, you should cease the harm you do
and reduce the evil done to me, discerning a better way.
If you can do it so that you hear me cry out and yell,
by ruling over me in my loins and killing it,
I will give you a fighting partner
who triumphs, but doesn’t strike,
who is pleased when he is struck
and doesn’t become less daring.

{ Marit, de trastot lo dan vos fas fi faire
e del mal que·m podetz far, al mieu albire:
si me·n podetz far sentir qu’en crit ni·n braire
per iustiziar mi en ren e per ausire.
E darai vos batallier
que·us vensera, mas no fier;
e platz li cant es feritz,
e ies non es mens arditz. }

Throughout history, some women have enjoyed rough sex. Men naturally fear hurting a beloved woman. Men also rightly fear being wrongly prosecuted for sexual assault. But ultimately women rule over men. The husband declared:

Wife, since as a liar
you regard me, I’ll put it all in:
because you’re not grateful for restraint,
you will then give up your spirit!

{ Molher, pos per messongier
m’avetz, metrai lo·us entier:
pus lo fleis no m’es grazitz,
e issir n’a l’esperitz! }

Jesus’s passion ended with him giving up his spirit. For faithful Christians, that salvific act of love offers hope for abundant life and complete joy. The wife recognized that passion ultimately lives not in words but in action. She knowingly chided her husband:

Husband, I ask for us to abstain
from what is worth only a penny;
much boasting we have heard,
nothing more than empty words!

{ Maritz, ja part nous enquier
del valeissen d’un denier;
que mans gabs avem auzitz
que non eran mas los critz! }

In other words, the wife proposed that they engage in marital sex, rather than just talk about it. Men’s sexuality is enormously important to women. This song poignantly moved from a third-personal story to a first-personal negotiation of intimacy between spouses within a Christian understanding of passion.

troubadour-knight with big weapon

Vitally important medieval literature has been marginalized through men’s lack of meninist self-consciousness and the overwhelming force of gynocentric interests. Troubadours have been socially constructed as idealized instructors in courtly love. They in our day thus serve to instruct men in oppressive, fruitless self-abasement in loving women. Trobairitz have been falsely interpreted as proto-anti-meninists who further demonstrate the truth of dominant myths. Love separated from truth cannot stand the test of enlightenment. Study medieval literature and truly swerve now!

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The above quotes are from the medieval trobairitz / troubadour song (tenso) “Una dona ai auzit que s’es clamada {I have heard a lady who complained}.” The quotes cover the whole song. This song also exists in a somewhat different version “D’una domn’ai auzit dir que s’es clamada {I have heard of a lady who complained}.” In Chansonnier C (MS BnF 856), this song is wrongly attributed to Guillem de Sant Didier (Guillem de Sant-Leidier). Scholars now regard it to have been composed at least in part by the early fourteenth-century troubadour Peire Duran. Sakari (1992), Sansone (2000), Sansone (2001).

An anonymous trobairitz apparently co-composed this song. Some scholars wrongly deny a trobairitz authority to co-write such a song. However, medieval women, like medieval men, composed a wide range of works. Some scholars also regard this tenso as “fictive.” See, e.g. Taylor (2015) p. 483. This tenso likely draws upon a classical literary tradition represented by Lucius as a donkey having a sexual affair with an elite woman in Apuleius’s Metamorphoses. However, the tenso may be real in the sense that a trobairitz and troubadour, who were wife and husband, together composed and sung this song about a matter of personal concern to them in early fourteenth-century Occitania.

Troubadours lacked the privileged position of trobairitz. Like many wives pursuing careers today, trobairitz were more likely to compose and sing for their own aspirations and personal fulfillment, not because they were forced to earn money as sexually devalued persons.

The Occitan text above is that of Sansone (2000), which provides a scholarly critical edition of the song. The English translation is mine, benefiting from the Italian translation of id. and the English translation of a slightly different version in Nappholz (1994) pp. 92-95.

On giving up one’s spirit as Christian death, see Jesus’s death as described in Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:46, and John 19:30. In the Vulgate, Luke 23:46 states:

Father, into your hands a commend my spirit. Having said this, he breathed his last.

{ Pater in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum et haec dicens exspiravit. }

[images] (1) Troubadour-knight Guilhem IX of Aquitaine with thin spear. Illuminated initial on folio 142v of Recueil des poésies des troubadours, contenant leurs vies (Chansonnier I), made in second half of the 13th century. MS preserved as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Département des manuscrits. Français 854. (2) Troubadour-knight carrying large weapon. Illuminated initial on folio 89v in BnF Français 854.


Nappholz, Carol Jane, trans. 1994. Unsung Women: the anonymous female voice in troubadour poetry. New York: Lang.

Sakari, Aimo. 1992. “L’attribution de D’una domn’ai auzit dir que s’es clamada (234,8).” Actes de Montpellier 1990, l’Association Internationale d’Études Occitanes (AIÉO). III: 1145-1152.

Sansone, Giuseppe. 2000. “Per il testo della tenzone fittizia attribuita a Peire Duran.” Romania. 118 (469): 219-235.

Sansone, Giuseppe. 2001. “Una difficile paternità: la tenzone di Peire Duran.” Pp. S. 478-486 in Kremnitz, Georg, ed. Le Rayonnement de la Civilisation Occitane à l’Aube d’un Nouveau Millénaire: 12-19 Septembre 1999. Wien: Ed. Praesens Wissenschaftsverl.

Taylor, Robert A. 2015. A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of the Troubadours and Old Occitan Literature. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University.

Christian comedy: epic jesting with the Lord in the Waltharius

raising Lazarus

With the heavily armed Frankish men rapidly approaching, Walter of Aquitaine went to the entrance of the cave where his beloved-betrothed Hildegund had retreated. There he said:

Now before the entryway I speak a haughty boast:
none of the Franks returning from here will be able to say
to his wife that he has with impunity taken any of our great treasure.

{ Hac coram porta verbum modo iacto superbum:
Hinc nullus rediens uxori dicere Francus
Praesumet se impune gazae quid tollere tantae. } [1]

Epic heroes generically boast to their fellow warriors. Walter boasted to his betrothed, and his boast addressed the household matter of what other men would say to their wives. Is epic struggle ultimately about husbands seeking to win their wives’ admiration?

Not yet having finished his speech, suddenly to the earth
he fell and begged forgiveness for such he had said.

{ Necdum sermonem complevit, humotenus ecce
Corruit et veniam petiit, quia talia dixit. }

Walter didn’t beg forgiveness for travestying epic conventions. He apparently begged forgiveness for his pride, the most serious sin in Christian thought of the time.[2] He went on to acknowledge that he would escape alive the forthcoming battle only “god willing {volens deo}.”

The epic’s ending isn’t obviously pious. Walter fought against his close friend Hagen and the Frankish king Gunther. Walter escaped that battle alive, but not unwounded:

After it was finished, each of them was marked:
there lay King Gunther’s foot, there Walter’s palm,
and here the still-quivering eye of Hagen.
In just such a way they divided the Avarish bracelets.
Two of them sat together (the third was still lying on the ground)
and they wiped the torrential river of blood off the flowers.
In the meantime, Alpharides called back the fearful girl
with a shout. She came and bandaged each wound.

{ Postquam finis adest, insignia quemque notabant:
Illic Guntharii regis pes, palma iacebat
Waltharii nec non tremulus Haganonis ocellus.
Sic sic armillas partiti sunt Avarenses!
Consedere duo, nam tertius ille iacebat,
Sanguinis undantem tergentes floribus amnem.
Haec inter timidam revocat clamore puellam
Alpharides, veniens quae saucia quaeque ligavit. }

The “Avarish bracelets” are treasure that Walter and Hildegund stole from the poem’s Pannonian Avar king Attila the Hun. The word “Avarish {Avarenses}” probably was meant to pun with “avarice {avaritia}.”[3] The wounds to the three men invoke self-punishment to prevent further sinning, as described in Mark 9:42-8. Mark there connects the ancient understanding of righting interpersonal wrongs to Christian self-consciousness in seeking forgiveness. The name Alpharides is an epic patronymic for Walter, son of King Alphere of Aquitaine. Despite his cut-off eye twitching on the ground, Hagen managed to help Walter wipe their blood from flowers. Resonating with that incongruity is the fearful girl. She is Hildegund, the strong, independent woman who administered the finances of Attila the Hun’s kingdom. She acted with Christian compassion for all, like Jesus the Good Physician. In addition to bandaging the men’s wounds, she offered them wine.[4] Then Walter and Hagen “playfully jest with each other while drinking {inter pocula scurrili certamine ludunt}.” That’s the epically bizarre ending to the fighting in the Waltharius.

The Waltharius closes off epic narration in a distinctly Christian way. Walter returned to his home kingdom. There Hildegund and he were married. After his father died, Walter reigned as king for thirty years:

What kind of battles and what great triumphs he often
received… behold, my blunted pen refuses to write any more.

This is the poetry of Walter. May Jesus save you!

{ Qualia bella dehinc vel quantos saepe triumphos
Ceperit, ecce stilus renuit signare retunsus.

Haec est Waltharii poesis. vos salvet Iesus. }

In Christian understanding, God became the fully human Jesus, born in a small provincial town to a carpenter and an undistinguished young woman. Jesus engaged in ordinary life, ate with everyone, and playfully mocked his disciples. Jesus healed the sick in earthy ways and raised the dead Lazarus to life through drama that non-Christian Greco-Roman elites would regard as ridiculous. God, like the pen of the Waltharius’s author, refused with Jesus to write the proper matter of epic.

The prologue to the Waltharius subtly sets out its Christian program. The difficulty in interpreting it comes from not fully appreciating Christianity historically. One medieval scholar explained:

The ludus poeticus (poetic play) requires leisure, it represents a jest or witty game by contrast with serious literature; it can be used almost synonymously with nugae ‘trifles’ and be equated with iocus ‘jest’; and on rare occasions it can designate poetry at large as opposed to serious, political work.[5]

Are the Christian gospels poetry, or serious, political work? An eminent medievalist, ignoring the problem and idealizing a distinction between jest and earnest, categorized the Waltharius unequivocally in medieval thought:

The epic of Waltharius, then, was considered lusus, like all poetry without a Christian-ethical trend.[6]

Such high-level interpretation has driven philological reading of the prologue:

One gets the sense that the poet is not entirely serious when using the commonplaces of epic narratives dealing with war; whether this sort of parodying is intended as critique, however, and what value we are to give such a critique, is far from clear. … the preface states unequivocally that the poem is not intended for edification, but for amusement [7]

Here’s what the last seven verses of the prologue say in a reasonable translation:

Servant of the highest God, do not look down on the words of this little book.
It does not sing of God’s nourishing, but resounds with amazing deeds of
the young man Walter, maimed through much fighting.
It requires one to jest with the Lord rather than to petition the Lord.
When read through, it shortens the undistinguished hours of the long-aged day.
May you, holy priest, be happy through further years,
may Gerald your dear brother be in your mind.

{ Serve dei summi, ne despice verba libelli,
Non canit alma dei, resonat sed mira tyronis,
Nomine Waltharius, per proelia multa resectus.
Ludendum magis est dominum quam sit rogitandum,
Perlectus longaevi stringit inampla diei.
Sis felix sanctus per tempora plura sacerdos,
Sit tibi mente tua Geraldus carus adelphus. } [8]

The final two lines invoke brotherly affection and simple happiness. That provides meaningful context for the key, central verse: ludendum magis est dominum quam sit rogitandum. That verse has been uniformly translated with the sense, “It requires one to play rather than pray to the Lord.” However, the words ludendum {play / jest} and rogitandum {pray / petition} bracket the line with dominum {Lord} in the middle. Grammatically, dominum could go with either participle, or both. Inter-personal jesting better reflects the Waltharius’s Christian sense than does the more ordinary Christian practice of petitioning God for help or nourishment. Not merely mocking classical epic, the Waltharius brings to classical epic an extraordinary Christian sense of human comedy.[9]

Jesus talking with Samaritan woman at well

The Christian gospels aren’t an epic story of a hero-savior. They are more like the Life of Aesop. They overturn the dominant order and offer salvation in ordinary life. That salvation comes through God who becomes the friend and companion of humans, humans who repeatedly act wrongly.[10] The Waltharius engages in the literary way of the Christian gospels.

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[1] Waltharius, ll. 561-3, Latin text and English trans. (modified slightly) from Ring (2016). My modifications to Ring’s translation benefited from also studying the translation of Kratz (1984). The subsequent three quotes are similarly from Waltharius ll. 564-5 (Not yet having finished…); 1401-8 (After it was finished…); 570 (God willing); 1424 (playful jest); 1451-2, 1456 (What kind of battles…). Line 1456 is the last verse of the poem.

[2] Stone (2013) p. 59. Walter indicates his Christian piety when, in receiving wine from Hildegund, he makes the sign of the Cross. Waltharius l. 225. Superbia is the Latin word corresponding to “pride.” Walter isn’t generally characterized with superbia, while King Gunther is. Id. p. 61. But Walter displays much pride in l. 805-17. Ghosh (2015) p. 165, Ring (2016) p. 180, n. 178-9.

[3] Waltharius, ll. 4-5, 11, associate the Pannonians with the Huns and state that King Attila ruled over them. The historical Pannonians, Huns, and Avars were three different populations. Ring (2016) p. 166, n. 22. The interpretation of Avarish {Avarenses} and the subsequent textual points in the above paragraph come mainly from the excellent textual notes in id.

[4] Women couldn’t be Christian priests in medieval Europe. Yet Hildegund quasi-sacramentally offers wine twice. On the first occasion, Walter made the sign of the Cross when receiving wine from her. Waltharius l. 225.

[5] Green (2002) p. 32. Green observed:

Hrotswitha meant her poetic legends to be regarded as fictional, she nonetheless dedicates them with a wish that they be read to pass away the time when the reader is worn out by labour.

Id. p. 33. In the tenth century in Lower Saxony (Germany), Hrotswitha wrote in her Dedicatio 7:

and, when worn out by various labour,
deign to read these verses for entertainment.

{ et, cum sis certe vario lassata labore,
ludens dignare hos modulos legere. }

Latin text and English trans. from id. p. 211, n. 103.

In addition to valuing entertainment, medieval thinkers recognized fundamental significance for laughter. About the end of the tenth century and writing at the Abbey of St. Gall, where some regard the author of Waltharius to have resided, Notker III (Notker Labeo) asserted: “the human is a animal that is rational, mortal, and capable of laughter {homo est animal rationale, mortale, risus capax}.” De Definitione, Latin text as cited in Adolf (1947) p. 251. That definition adopts a definition of “man” that Boethius cited to Lady Philosophy. Adolf insightfully observed:

laughter might have been considered the natural consequence of combining two qualities as contradictory as mortality and reason. Indeed modern theories on laughter have reached exactly this conclusion. … it all boils down to the opposition between ‘mortale’ and ‘rationale’ — strange bedfellows indeed, only to be reconciled by laughter.

Id. p. 253. Jesus embraced and transformed human’s mortality and ridiculousness. Thus, not surprisingly, Notker’s definition of the human was widely taught in medieval Christian Europe:

The standard school-example of a definition was homo est animal rationale, mortale, risus capax: “Man is an animal, rational, mortal and capable of laughing.” A ninth century grammar written in France offers the alternative porcus est animal mortale, irrationale, cibum capiens, quadrupedale, grunnibile: “A pig is an animal, mortal, irrational, food-taking, four-footed and capable of grunting.”

McKeown (2010), Ch. 8 supplement (modified insubstantially for readability).

[6] Curtius (1953) p. 430. This statement comes in the section “Comic Elements in the Epic” within a lengthy, rambling excursus entitled “Jest and Earnest in Medieval Literature.” Medieval Europe differed from classical antiquity:

From what has so far been set forth, it follows that the polarity “jest and earnest” is, from the late antique period onward, a conceptual and formal schema which appears not only in rhetorical theory, in poetry, and in poetics, but also in the circle of the ideal of life established by the panegyric style (in this respect it is comparable to the topos puer senex). … We may, then, view the phenomenon as a fresh substantiation of the view that the Middle Ages loved all kinds of crossings and mixtures of stylistic genres. And in fact we find in the Middle Ages ludicra within domains and genres which, to our modern taste, schooled by classicistic aesthetics, absolutely exclude any such mixtures.

Id. p. 424. It’s not just that “the Middle Ages loved all kinds of crossings and mixtures of stylistic genres” like a person might love strawberry ice cream. The Christianity of the gospels authorized “all kinds of crossings and mixtures of stylistic genres.” The European Middle Ages were deeply Christian.

[7] Ghosh (2015) p. 181. In his Ph.D. Thesis, Ghosh stated that “in Waltharius Christian morality appears to have little of a role to play”; the Waltharius’s narrator “did not attempt to reflect deeply on any moral problems that might have been posed by his narrative.” Ghosh (2009) pp. iii (abstract), 167. For the latter quote, also Ghosh (2015) p. 182.

Ziolkowski presented a more nuanced view:

His reference {that of the author of the Waltharius, perhaps Gerald} to play points at once to the reader, who by perusing the Waltharius is opting not to perform the sacred task of praying, and to the contents of the poem, which despite the gore spilt in the battles have a playful side that precludes categorizing the Waltharius as either undiluted heroism or undiluted tragedy. The poem, like most of life, is far more artful and complicated than that.

Ziolkowski (2001) p. 51. Ordinary life usually isn’t undiluted heroism or undiluted tragedy, but it’s also not typically thought of as poetic. Through the incarnation of God as the man Jesus, ordinary life became poetic in a Christian perspective.

Responding to Ziolkowski, Ghosh shifted slightly toward a now-fashionable academic position of ambiguity and ambivalence. Ghosh stated:

But a refusal to portray just heroism or tragedy is coupled equally with a refusal to portray just a secular or religious moral, and perhaps the playful element of the poem can be read as a sophisticated rejection of such binaries in favour of (a rather modern-seeming) lack of commitment to any particular position.

Ghosh (2015) p. 183, n. 146. The author of the Waltharius more likely was committed to particular Christian perspective well-appreciated in the European Middle Ages, but little recognized today.

[8] Waltharius, prologue ll. 16-22. My translation above differs significantly in the Waltharius’s statement of how it should be read (prologue l. 19). Other translations emphasize mere entertainment. “It requires one to play rather than pray to the Lord” in Ring (2016). “It is for playing more than praying to the Lord” in Kratz (1984). “The aim is to delight, rather than to instruct in religious terms” in Murdoch (1996) p. 93. “If and when it is important to play rather than to pray to the lord” in Ziolkowski (2001) p. 51. “It is more for entertainment than for beseeching God” in Ghosh (2015) p. 181, n. 142. These translations aren’t incorrect. But “It requires one to jest with the Lord rather than to petition the Lord” seems to me a better translation in context. I’m grateful for an expert Latin philologist pointing out to me that ludere with the accusative generally means “mock,” but that lighter meanings are possible.

[9] On the Waltharius mocking classical epic and Germanic folk legend, Kratz (1980). The Waltharius is a Christian epic that builds upon early Jewish Christians speaking in tongues with the coming of the Holy Spirit:

And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mockingly said, “They are filled with new wine.”

{ ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηπόρουν ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι ἕτεροι δὲ διαχλευάζοντες ἔλεγον ὅτι γλεύκους μεμεστωμένοι εἰσίν }

Acts 2:12-13. According to Stone, the Waltharius “glorifies lay noblemen as Christian warriors.” Stone (2013) p. 70. Cf. Ghosh (2015) pp. 165-70. The Christian warrior Walter isn’t  an ideal; he is a human, comic figure.

[10] The gospels repeatedly depict the disciples falling asleep when they should be awake, seeking high positions as Jesus’s disciples instead of being humble, seeking to fight violently when they should accept God’s plan, and being weak of heart and willing to betray their friend and master Jesus. See, e.g. Luke 22:39-46, 54-62, John 18:10-11, Mark 14:45-50, John 6:66-7.

[images] (1) The Raising of Lazarus. Made by Duccio di Buoninsegna about 1310-11 to be part of the altarpiece for the high altar of Siena Cathedral in Italy. Preserved as accession number APx 1975.01 in the Kimbell Art Museum (Forth Worth, Texas). (2) Jesus conversing with the Samaritan woman at the well. Made by Jacob van Oost the Younger in 1668 in Bruges. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Adolf, Helen. 1947. “On Mediaeval Laughter.” Speculum. 22 (2): 251-253.

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

Ghosh, Shami. 2009. The Barbarian Past in Early Medieval Historical Narrative. Ph. D. Thesis. University of Toronto.

Ghosh, Shami. 2015. Writing the Barbarian Past: studies in early Medieval historical narrative. Brill’s series on the Early Middle Ages, v. 24. Leiden: Brill (based on Ghosh (2009)).

Green, Dennis Howard. 2002. The Beginnings of Medieval Romance: fact and fiction, 1150-1220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kratz, Dennis M. 1980. Mocking Epic: Waltharius, Alexandreis, and the problem of Christian heroism. Madrid, España: J.P. Turanzas.

Kratz, Dennis M., ed. and trans. 1984. Waltharius and Ruodlieb. New York: Garland Pub.

McKeown, J. C. 2010. Classical Latin: an introductory course. Indianapolis, Ind: Hackett.

Murdoch, Brian. 1996. The German Hero: politics and pragmatism in early medieval poetry. London: The Hambledon Press.

Ring, Abram, ed. and trans. 2016. Waltharius. Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations 22. Leuven: Peeters. (A. M. Juster’s review)

Stone, Rachel. 2013. “Waltharius and Carolingian Morality: Satire and Lay Values.” Early Medieval Europe. 21 (1): 50-70.

Ziolkowski, Jan. 2001. “Fighting Words: Wordplay and Swordplay in the Waltharius.” Pp. 29-51 in Olsen, Karin E., Antonina Harbus, and Tette Hofstra, eds. 2001. Germanic Texts and Latin Models: Medieval Reconstructions; papers presented at an international conference held July 1-3, 1998, at the University of Groningen. Leuven: Peeters.

what men want most: honest, frank discussion in medieval France

man desiring woman

In our age of demonizing men’s sexuality, men perceiving an attractive woman to be attractive is nearly unthinkable. The male gaze has been disparaged and punished to the point of death. Men inducing women to love (“seducing them”) has also been thoroughly criminalized. Men’s perceptions and feelings, however, have not always been so harshly repressed. In the relatively liberal and tolerant circumstances of medieval Europe, men even discussed what they want most physically from a woman.

The man trobairitz Sifre shared a woman’s love with another man, probably her husband. He asked his professional colleague Mir Bernart which half of the woman he should seek. Mir Bernart compassionately responded:

Sifre, I think you’re fortunate
to have asked me for advice,
and I’ll give you the best of that,
because I’ve thought deeply of desired service.
I’ll tell you the truth without shading:
if in sharing you take my word, to be blunt,
you assuredly should prefer the part with the cunt.

{ Sifre, be·us tenc per arribat
car cosselh m’aves demandat,
et ieu donar lo·us ay onrat
car fort en cossir de prion:
so sapchatz ben en veritat,
que, si·m creziatz d’est mercat,
per ver penriatz daus la con.} [1]

Sifre chided Mir Bernart for speaking so knowingly and plainly. Sifre declared that he prefers the upper part, where a woman cuts her hair, but doesn’t remove all of it. Mir Bernart responded with a commitment to truth and the dignity of humanism:

Sifre, you’re refusing the best, the ultimate
and thus what every man loves most.
According to nature and custom
of good lovers through the world,
the lower part is worth more than the face.
And let no troubadour make excuses for me,
for none answers more nobly than I do.

{ Sifren, lo mielhs laissatz e·l pus
e so que mays ama cascus
segon la natura e·l us
que fan’autre bon drut pel mon
val may so d’aval no fa·l mus.
E ja trobaires no·m n’escus,
c’om genser de mi no’y respon. }

Even in the relatively liberal and tolerant circumstances of medieval Europe, men attacked other men for speaking frankly about women. So Sifre tore into Mir Bernart:

Mir Bernart, I am all but enraged
that you give an uncouth answer
and set a much higher value on that bringing
ruination to lovers and husbands alike:
a gentle advance is worth more,
embracing and caressing and kissing
mouth and eyes and face and forehead.

{ Mir Bernat, per pauc no·m n’irays
car mi respondes motz savays
e sela part prezatz trop mays
que los drutz e·ls maritz cofon,
que may ne val us gens assays
c’om embratz e manei e bays
boca et huelh e car’e froll. } [2]

While an unplanned pregnancy can bring ruination to men, that’s only because men are deprived of any reproductive rights whatsoever. Some men facing a disastrous unplanned pregnancy resort to abortion coercion. But that sad reality doesn’t usually change men’s preferences. Mir Bernart stood his ground and boldly insisted on truth-telling:

Sifre, do not imagine I shall shift my ground,
abandoning the best for the worst,
for every day I embrace and kiss
brother, cousin or second-cousin.
But I maintain that I am right in thinking
that all love-making arises
from the end where love is most hidden.

{ Sifren, no’us cuges qu’ie·m biais
ni·l mielhs per lo sordeior lais,
que tot dia abras e bays
fraire e cozi e segall.
Mas d’ayso die que soy verays,
que tota drudaria nays
d’aquel cap don pus se rescon. }

The discussion between Sifre and Mir Bernart then degenerated into trading insults. Having a serious, truthful discussion about men’s interests and concerns has never been easy.

troubadour sending song

In the thirteenth century, sophisticated trobairitz songs expressing men’s subordinate position in sexual feudalism and vigorously critiquing that structure of gender oppression were coming to an end. Crude wailing and sensational spectacles more easily attract attention. They also tend to support lies. Truth-telling is an art and a craft that must be cultivated. Late in the thirteenth century, a man trobairitz lamented:

For now no art is less admired
than the worthy craft of song.
These days the nobles’ tastes run
to entertainments less inspired.
Wailing mingles with disgrace:
all that once engendered praise
from the memory has died.
Now the world is mostly lies.

{ Qu’er non es grazitz lunhs mestiers
menhs en cort, que de belh saber
de trobar; qu’auzir e vezer
hi vol hom mais captenhs leugiers
e critz mesclatz ab dezonor;
Quar tot quan sol donar lauzor,
es al pus del tot oblidat,
que·l mons es quays totz en barat. } [3]

These words resonate among the prevalent lies of today.

Dare to think about what is true. Young, attractive, warmly receptive women have enormous power over men. That’s not just a matter of a pretty face. Men admire women’s breasts and women’s buttocks. But the ultimate foundation of men’s gyno-idolatry is almost surely women’s vaginas. With good evolutionary reason, that’s the part of a woman that most men want most.

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[1] Sifre and Mir Bernart “Mir Bernat, mas vos ay trobat {Mir Bernart, since I have found you} st. 2, Occitan text and English translation (modified) from Harvey, Paterson & Radaelli (2010) pp. 1168-9. Subsequent quotes from the same song are similarly sourced. This song probably was composed in Carcassonne (in Occitania, in southern France) in the later decades of the twelfth century. Id. p. 1170. Here’s an online Occitan text of the whole song.

[2] In a cobla (one-stanza song), the man trobairitz Raimon Rigaut supported Sifre’s position:

Never for love of her cunt
did I request my lady’s love,
but rather for her clear face
and smiling mouth;
I could easily enter the cunts
of many, if only I asked for them,
but I prefer frequent kissing
to the cunt that kills desire.

{ Anc per amor del con
A midons non quis s’amor,
Mas per sa fresca color
E per sa boca rien,
Qu’ieu pron cons trobaria
Ab mantas, s’ieu lo lur queria,
Per qu’ieu am mais baisar soven
Que’l con, qu’amorta lo talen. }

Occitan text and English translation (modified) from Lazar (1989) p. 263. Here’s a nearly identical Occitan text online. While a man generally experiences detumescence after ejaculating in a woman’s vagina, most men are quite eager to have that experience. Raimon Rigaut composed in the middle of the thirteenth century. For other trobairitz / troubadour songs frankly discussing sexuality, Bec (1984).

[3] Guiraut Riquier, “Be·m degra de chantar tener {It would be best if I refrained},” st. 3, Occitan text and English translation (Kehew) from Kehew (2005) pp. 308-9.  Born in Narbonne about 1230, Guiraut Riquier composed his songs from 1254 to 1292 in the courts of the Viscount of Narbonne, Alfonso X of Castile and León, and Henri II of Rodez. He is the last troubadour known, and this, his last song, was composed in 1292. Id. pp. 306-07. Here’s an online Occitan text of the whole song.

[images] (1) Man and woman in illuminated initials. From folio 2v and 2r in a chansonnier (Chansonnier Gil) made in the 14th century. Preserved as MS Barcelona Biblioteca de Catalunya 146. (2) Man trobairitz sending forth a letter. Illumination on folio 4r of the chansonnier of Matfré Ermengau, Breviari d’amor et Lettre à sa soeur {Breviary of love and Letter to his beloved woman}, made in the 14th century. Preserved as MS Bibliothèque nationale de France. Français 857.


Bec, Pierre. 1984. Burlesque et Obscénité chez les Troubadours: pour une approche du contre-texte médiéval. Paris: Stock.

Harvey, Ruth, Linda M. Paterson, and Anna Radaelli. 2010. The Troubadour Tensos and Partimens: a critical edition. Cambridge: Brewer.

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

Lazar, Moshe. 1989. “Carmina Erotica, Carmina Iocosa: The Body and the Bawdy in Medieval Love Songs.” Pp. 249-276 in Lazar, Moshe, and Norris J. Lacy, eds. Poetics of Love in the Middle Ages: texts and contexts. Fairfax, Va: George Mason University Press.

the now-inconceivable joy of sex in medieval times

medieval lovers

Sex in the age of mechanical reproduction commonly consists of robotic, minutely regulated affairs among persons earnestly trying to convince themselves that they’re alive. How many lovelorn persons desperately stroking their smartphones today even know what it means to have a roll in the hay? Why do they read a massively reproduced instruction book on the joy of sex? Fully alive, flesh-and-blood human beings acted differently in medieval times. Rather than faithfully believing in rape culture, medieval persons regarded sex as natural and pleasing.

Let the young man and virgin woman, both beautiful,
press against each other on the couch in the dark
and hug each other in turn repeatedly,
giving themselves many sweet embraces.

While holding her let the young man
kiss her with cheek close,
caressing her chest and nipples
and her fittingly satisfying little thing.

Thighs to thighs joined,
entering upon the fruit of Love,
let all clamor cease,
and so love be fulfilled.

{ Iuvenis et virgo pulcra
in obscuro premant fulcra,
et vicissim perconexus
dulces sibi dent amplexus.

Hosculetur hos, maxillam,
iuvenis dum tenet illam;
tangat pectus et papillam
satis aptam et puxillam.

Femur femori iungatur,
fructus Veneris summatur:
tunc omnino cesset clamor:
adimplebitur sic amor. } [1]

Late in the twelfth century, a monk at the Catalonian monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll apparently copied the above poem about two young lovers. These two young lovers didn’t sign a series of formal affirmative consent forms at each step in their amorous relationship. They behaved the way most young women and men yearn to do:

Tenderly I held her legs, without her resisting,
and with her consent caressed her above her thighs.
She didn’t then forbid me to caress her snowy-white breasts,
which to caress was for me extremely sweet.
We went to bed, both our bodies were entwined;
the rest, which she permitted me to take, wasn’t done reluctantly.

{ Cuius crus tenerum tenui, quod non negat ipsa,
Insuper ex coxas, sponte sua tetigi;
Nec vetuit niveas post me tractare papillas,
Quas tractare mihi dulce nimis fuerat.
Venimus ad lectum, connectimur insimul ambo;
Cetera, que licuit sumere, non piguit. } [2]

Like most men throughout history, this young man didn’t want to rape the young woman that he loved. The young man’s concern for the young woman’s consent contrasts with how she burst into his bedroom without asking permission:

Although I intended to open the closed, latched doors by hand,
a Venus herself burst through while I was separating them.
A beautiful young woman approached via that means
to give me loving kisses in a thousand ways.
Flora was her name, and florid were her deeds.
She bore honey in her throat and spoke honeyed words.

{ Cunque manu clausas valvas aperire volebam,
fregit poste seram protinus ipsa Venus.
Venerat illius conductu pulcra puella,
hoscula mille modis que mihi cara daret.
Flora sibi nomen, quia florida sunt sua facta,
gutture mella gerens, mellea verba dedit. } [3]

That young man didn’t file a sexual assault charge against the young woman. With generosity of spirit, he delighted in her enthusiastic consent to sex with him.

Medieval young women enthusiastically consented to sex with young men. That was especially so in the spring:

All young persons then
are burning in love;
he seeks her who desires him,
and thus he loves and is loved.

And the young woman aptly
seeks such who is young,
so that in an equal way she wants
only to love and to be loved.

{ Omnis ergo adolescens
in amore sit fervescens.
Querat cum quo delectetur
et, ut amet, sic ametur.

Et amicum virgo decens
talem querat qui sit recens
atque velit modo pari
tam amare quam amari. } [4]

The joy of sex is dissipating amid the opening chasm of sexual totalitarianism. In 2017, a journalist, a Beijing Bureau Chief, had a drunken hook-up with a journalist friend studying Chinese. Months later, piling on to an accusation about a sexual encounter five years earlier, she publicly denounced him. He became a target of online mobbing, his friends turned against him, and he was forced to resign as the president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. Then his employer, the Los Angeles Times, fired him. All this took place without any thorough, reasoned, multi-sided inquiry into the facts. A subsequent analysis that apparently attempted to be fair nonetheless declared:

Given the millennia during which women have had to take male abuse and suffer under institutionalized denial of and indifference to it, it is perhaps understandable that there is a willingness to shrug off the prospect that some unfairly accused men will become roadkill on the way to a more equitable future. [5]

That’s the childish sentiment that two wrongs will make a right. That’s the amoral consequentialism put forward by Walter Duranty, Ezra Klein, and other news-media thought leaders. That’s profoundly ignorant and narrow-minded history distorted with grotesque anti-men gender bigotry.

Earnestly believed, cartoonish stories of oppressors and victims provide foundations for unfathomable cruelty. Why did Stalin’s bureaucratic interrogators regularly stick heated metal rods into men’s anuses? Why did they crush men’s testicles with the toes of their jackboots?[6] Because those Russian men were bourgeoisie, whatever that means, and those Russian men were thus enemies of the working class, an ideological abstraction. A Spanish school teacher recently taught her students that boys should be castrated at birth. Sexual totalitarianism today teaches that men have been oppressors, and women have been victims throughout history.

How in such circumstances can women and men today experience the joy of sex as medieval men and women did? The great ancient poet-philosopher Lucretius provides the answer: women and men must make a true and authentic swerve from dominant delusions. They must live in the day-to-day reality of ordinary life, not in abstract ideology. Women and men today must conceive the vitality of medieval life, especially the imaginative vitality of medieval Latin literature.

medieval couple in bed

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[1] Carmina Rivipullensia 17, titled “De aestate {About summer},” first line “Redit estas cunctis grata {Summer returns promising pleasure to all},” ll. 21-32, Latin text from Stock  (1971) p. 52, my English translation benefiting from those of id. p. 53 and Lazar (1989) p. 255. Here’s an online Latin text. Latin texts of the Ripoll love poems are also available in Raby (1959) pp. 332-40. All the poems of Carmina Rivipullensia are available in the first published edition, d’Olwer (1923), which is freely available online. The leading critical edition is Moralejo (1986), which unfortunately is difficult to acquire.

Carmina Rivipullensia survives in a single manuscript, MS Ripoll 74, now preserved in the Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó (Barcelona). The twenty-two Latin poems of Carmina Rivipullensia exist in a distinctive scribal hand written on three pages of a tenth-century Liber glossarum held at the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll in Catalonia. Based on the script, the songs were apparently written in that book late in the twelfth century. Dronke (1979) argues that Carmina Rivipullensia in MS Ripoll 74 represents an author’s work-in-progress. Traill (2006) convincingly argues that the poems are a copy. Traill suggests that a cleric wrote the love poems in Metz in the Lorraine region of northeastern France, perhaps in 1150 or 1151. A monk at Ripoll then copied those poems into the Ripoll glossary late in the twelfth century when the source book was to be returned to the monastery of St. Victor of Marseille.

[2] Carmina Rivipullensia 4, titled “Quomode prius convenimus {How we first came together in love},” first line “Sol nimium fervens medium dum scandit Olimpi {At noon the hot sun, climbing Mt. Olympus, blazed down excessively},” ll. 17-22, Latin text from Stock (1971) pp. 54-6, my English translation benefiting from those of id. and Lazar (1989) p. 254. On nimium rather than ramium as the second word of the first line, Dronke (1979) p. 23. Dronke interprets this text as a dream encounter, but it seems realistic to me. Id.

The poem’s reference to “the rest {cetera}” associates the poem with Ovid, Amores 1.5.23-4. A twelfth-century Latin love poem commented in conclusion:

But who ignores the “et cetera”?
It surpasses every expectation.

{ Sed quis nescit cetera?
Predicatus uincitur. }

Walter of Châtillon, “Declinante frigore {The winter cold was waning}” (St-Omer 17), ll. 48-9, Latin text from Traill (2013) p. 36, English trans. from Lazar (1989) p. 253. Traill provides the full Latin text and English translation for the poem. An alternate translation of the last line: “The one proclaimed victor was overcome.” Traill (2013) p. 37. On that translation with respect to the proverbial expression “we often see the victor vanquished by the one he has defeated {victorem a victo superari saepe videmus},” id. p. lvi. Cf. Horace, Epistles 2.1.156.

An eminent medieval Latin scholar aptly declared:

the erotic was a normal aspect of the love experience in the Middle Ages. The suppression of the erotic in medieval poetry is a distinctively modern prejudice

Stock (1971) p. 13.

[3] “Sol nimium fervens medium dum scandit Olimpi {At noon the hot sun, climbing Mt. Olympus, blazed down excessively},” ll. 11-6, Latin text from Stock  (1971) p. 54, my English translation benefiting from that of id. p. 55. This song provides a gender-critical perspective on a common figure of ancient Greek and Roman love elegy: “lament outside the door {παρακλαυσίθυρον}” and the “shut-out lover {exclusus amator}.” This gender-critical depiction of a love affair has the added poignancy of being a dream. Although the loving narrator was “deeply wounded by betrayal {alto vulnere lesus}” and had “weary members {pernimium membra},” he still felt the flame of love, especially at noon with a hot sun (ll. 1-7). He generously concludes his song:

I so desire this happy young woman to live across all time,
adding only this: that she live especially for me.

{ Hanc igitur cupio felicem vivere semper,
hoc tamen addendo, vivat ut ipsa mihi. }

“Sol nimium fervens,” ll. 23-4, sourced as for previous quote.

[4] “Redit estas cunctis grata {Summer returns promising pleasure to all},” ll. 13-20, Latin text from Stock  (1971) p. 52, my English translation benefiting from those of id. p. 53 and Lazar (1989) p. 255. The concern here for gender equality in love is similar to that of the Arundel Lyrics. Medieval church doctrine asserted that marriage should be a conjugal partnership of equals, in contrast to the men-abasing ideology of courtly love. This understanding of love expresses the commandment to love like the love between God and humans. See John 13:34, 15:12.

[5] Yoffe (2019).

[6] Described by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago, quoted in Morson (2019). Sexual assault against men has been prevalent historically, yet its magnitude today is almost wholly ignored.

[images] (1) Medieval lovers. Illuminated initial (C) in manuscript copy of Aldobrandino of Siena’s Le Régime du corps. Made in third quarter of the thirteenth century (perhaps c. 1285) in northern France. On folio 9v of British Library MS. Sloane 2435. (2) Medieval couple in bed. Illumination in manuscript of Laurent de Premierfait’s 1414 French translation of Boccaccio’s Decameron; illumination made about 1419 by the Cité des Dames Master for John the Fearless of Burgandy. Folio 91r in Vatican Library MS.


d’Olwer, Lluís Nicolau. 1923. “L’escola poetica de Ripoll en els segles X-XIII.” Anuari del Institut d’Estudies Catalans. 6: 3-84.

Dronke, Peter. 1979. “The Interpretation of the Ripoll Love-Songs.” Romance Philology. 33 (1): 14-42.

Lazar, Moshe. 1989. “Carmina Erotica, Carmina Iocosa: The Body and the Bawdy in Medieval Love Songs.” Pp. 249-276 in Lazar, Moshe, and Norris J. Lacy, eds. Poetics of Love in the Middle Ages: texts and contexts. Fairfax, Va: George Mason University Press.

Moralejo, José-Luis. 1986. Carmina Rivipullensia: (Ms. 74, Rivipullensis) = Cancionero de Ripoll. Barcelona: Bosch.

Morson, Gary Saul. 2019. “How the great truth dawned: On the Soviet virtue of cruelty.” New Criterion. Sept. 2019 edition.

Raby, F. J. E. 1959. The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Stock, Brian, trans. 1971. Medieval Latin Lyrics: Translated and introduced by Brian Stock, original woodcuts by Fritz Kredel. Boston: David Godine, Publisher.

Traill, David A. 2006. “The Origin of the Ripoll Poems.” In Actas do IV Congresso Internacional de Latim Medieval Hispânico (Lisboa, 12-15 de Outubro de 2005). Centro de Estudos Clássicos das Universidades de Lisboa.

Traill, David A., ed. and trans. 2013. Walter of Châtillon, the Shorter Poems: Christmas hymns, love lyrics, and moral-satirical verse. Oxford Medieval Texts.

Yoffe, Emily. 2019. “METOO: I’m Radioactive.” Reason. Oct. 2019 issue.

sexual tension between Walter & Hildegund in tenth-century Europe

medieval love as chess game

Returning triumphantly from leading the Huns in savage battle, Walter of Aquitaine entered the chamber of King Attila the Hun. There he met Hildegund of Burgundy. She was the beautiful young woman to whom he had been betrothed from childhood. Attila the Hun had taken both Hildegund and Walter from their parents as hostages. Alone in the king’s chamber, they embraced and enjoyed sweet kisses.

Hildegund administered the kingdom on behalf of Attila’s wife Ospirin. But Walter was no boot-licking General Belisarius. With manly self-assertion he said to Hildegund after his exhausting martial work:

Swiftly bring me here drink! I am tired and out of breath.

{ Ocius huc potum ferto, quia fessus anhelo. } [1]

She, striving to please her man, brought him a precious goblet filled with undiluted wine. He held her hand, and she looked at him intently. He then offered her a drink from the goblet. He said:

We have both endured exile so long —
not being unaware of what by luck our parents
arranged between us for our future life.
How long will we remain silent about this?

{ Exilium pariter patimur iam tempore tanto,
Non ignorantes, quid nostri forte parentes
Inter se nostra de re fecere futura.
Quamne diu tacito premimus haec ipsa palato? }

He wants to talk about marriage? He wants to talk about marriage when they’re alone in the king’s bedroom and have embraced and kissed and started drinking? Most men are romantically simple. What sort of man was Walter?

Hildegund thought that Walter was satirizing her and the idea of getting married. She remained silent for awhile. Then she burst out in epic eloquence:

Why fake in speech what you reject deep in your breast,
and with your mouth urge what you spurn with all your heart,
as if it were a great shame to marry such a bride?

{ Quid lingua simulas, quod ab imo pectore damnas,
Oreque persuades, toto quod corde refutas,
Sit veluti talem pudor ingens ducere nuptam? } [2]

In a more colloquial translation, “So you’re gay, so you’re just not into me, is that it?” Walter, a wise young man with extraordinary masculine self-control, had important plans. He also was learned in the game of love. He confidently dismissed Hildegund’s words:

Away with what you say! Set straight your sense!
Since no one is here but us alone,
know that I spoke nothing from a deceiving mind,
don’t think anything nebulous or false was mixed in.
If I knew you would focus for me a ready mind,
and faithfully, carefully keep your vows through everything,
then I would offer you all the mysteries of my heart.

{ Absit quod memoras, dextrorsum porrige sensum!
Noris me nihilum simulata mente locutum,
Nec quicquam nebulae vel falsi interfore crede!
Nullus adest nobis exceptis namque duobus.
Si nossem temet mihi promptam impendere mentem
Atque fidem votis servare per omnia cautis,
Pandere cuncta tibi cordis mysteria vellem. }

Scarcely anyone today can even imagine a man speaking such words to a woman. That’s why there’s now an epidemic of sexless marriages. To overcome that imaginative and performative disability, recognize reality and natural laws of cause and effect:

At last the maiden, bowing at the man’s knees, proclaimed:
“To wherever you call me, my lord, I will eagerly follow,
nor would I prefer anything above your pleasing commands.”

{ Tandem virgo viri genibus curvata profatur:
“Ad quaecumque vocas, mi domne, sequar studiose
Nec quicquam placitis malim praeponere iussis.” } [3]

Walter himself couldn’t overturn gynocentrism. But he acted so as to secure Hildegund’s respect for him.

With a careful plan and faithful execution, Hildegund and Walter escaped from the court of Attila the Hun. Walter carried heavy armor and weapons so that, if necessary, he could fight to protect Hildegund and himself. After forty days of flight, he spotted a well-protected cave nestled in the lush Vosges valley of northeastern France. Declaring that he needed rest, he led Hildegund to that cave.

Needing rest is natural, even for men, yet in seeking rest men run the risk of appearing weak. Men have the burden of continually maintaining a strong masculine frame to retain women’s passion for them. Walter masterfully handled that burden:

Putting aside his heavy burdens of war, he then said,
collapsing into the maiden’s lap: “Keep a careful watch,
Hildegund, and if you see a dark dust-cloud rising,
awaken me with your charming touch of gentle reminding,
and even if you should see a huge troop advancing,
take care, my dear girl, not to disturb my sleep immediately,
for from here one can see clearly to a far distance.
Attentively scan all points around the region.

{ Bellica tum demum deponens pondera dixit
Virginis in gremium fusus: “circumspice caute,
Hiltgunt, et nebulam si tolli videris atram,
Attactu blando me surgere commonitato,
Et licet ingentem conspexeris ire catervam,
Ne excutias somno subito, mi cara, caveto,
Nam procul hinc acies potis es transmittere puras.
Instanter cunctam circa explora regionem.” } [4]

Walter putting his head into Hildegund’s lap shows fine masculine initiative. Even better was his wry assertion of masculine self-confidence: if a huge troop is advancing to attack us, don’t wake me too soon. I want to enjoy a little more sleep before I deal with that problem. Readers should understand that Hildegund scanned the region with a smile on her face and a tingle in her loins.

Soon Hildegund spotted a group of heavily armed men advancing on horseback. Because she hadn’t learned the lesson that Erec taught Enide, she woke Walter when the group of armed men was still far away. Walter casually wiped his eyes to enliven them from his deep sleep. Then with sleep-stiff limbs he put on his clothes and armed himself. He began to prepare for battle by whipping his sword through the air.

The armed men approached closely, their spears flashing. Stupefied with fear, Hildegund cried out:

“We have the Huns here,” she said,
and falling to the ground in great sorrow spoke out:
“I beg, my lord, that my neck be cut by your sword,
so that I, not obtaining union with you in the marriage bed,
shall not suffer carnal intercourse with any other.”

{ “Hunos hic,” inquit, “habemus,”
In terramque cadens effatur talia tristis:
“Obsecro, mi senior, gladio mea colla secentur,
Ut, quae non merui pacto thalamo sociari,
Nullius ulterius patiar consortia carnis.” }

A virgin woman yearning to experience her beloved man’s sword is completely understandable. While Jephthah allowed his daughter to bully him into killing her, Walter was a strong, independent man. He thus refused to do what a woman begged him to do:

In response the young man said: “Shall your innocent blood stain me?”
And, “How can my strong sword strike down my enemies,
if it does not now spare so faithful a friend?
Away with your request! Toss fear from your mind!
The one who has often led me out of various dangers
can here, I believe, rout this enemy of ours.

{ Tum iuvenis: “cruor innocuus me tinxerit?” inquit
Et: “quo forte modo gladius potis est inimicos
Sternere, tam fidae si nunc non parcit amicae?
Absit quod rogitas; mentis depone pavorem.
Qui me de variis eduxit saepe periclis,
Hic valet hic hostes, credo, confundere nostros.” }

While he rejected yes-dearism, Walter like far too many men didn’t sufficiently value his own life. Facing brutal fighting against a numerous foe, including the highly skilled warrior Hagen, Walter said to Hildegund:

If only, God willing, I can disrupt his strength,
then,” he said, “from this battle my life shall be saved for you, Hildegund, my spouse.”

{ “Quam si forte volente deo intercepero solam,
Tunc,” ait “ex pugna tibi, Hiltgunt sponsa, reservor.” }

Every man’s life deserves to be saved for its intrinsic value and dignity, irrespective of whether he has a loving spouse. Epic violence against men continues because not every man has the courage to reject it.

Walter at least rejected Hildegund’s entreaty to kill her with his sword. Men are made for loving, not killing. At the same time, men should not expect romance to be simple. A man must be strong and skilled enough to build and sustain sexual tension to enjoy a long and loving conjugal partnership.

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[1] Waltharius, l. 223, Latin text and English trans. (modified slightly) from Ring (2016). A monk apparently wrote the Waltharius some time between 840 and 965 in a Germanic area.

Subsequent quotes are from Waltharius ll. 231-4 (We have both endured…), 237-9 (Why fake in speech…), 241-7 (Away with what you say…), 248-50 (At last the maiden…), 503-10 (Putting aside his heavy burdens…), 543(2nd half)-547 (We have the Huns…), 548-53 (In response the young man said…), 570-1 (If only, God willing…). The Latin text is from Ring (2016). That’s the leading critical edition. It’s slightly superior textually to a freely available online Latin text (part 1, part 2, part 3), but also includes documentation of textual variants. The English translation is my responsibility. I have benefited greatly from the translations of Ring (2016) and Kratz (1984).

[2] Hildegund regarded Walter’s prior words as spoken “in irony {per hyroniam}.” On the medieval meaning of that term:

One fragmentary manuscript of the Waltharius glosses the Latin hyoniam with the Germanic word spot (whence the modern German Spott), meaning “mockery” or even “sarcasm”

Ring (2016) pp. 170-1, n. 62, citing the published fragment images of Green (2004). The manuscript is known as Manuscript I and dates to the mid-eleventh-century. The Germanic gloss is from the twelfth century. Ring (2016) p. 22.

[3] Hildegrund poignantly alludes to the words that Ruth the Moabite spoke to her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth 1:16.

[4] Nickel associates Walter putting his head in Hildegund’s lap with a folkloric tradition in which a warrior puts his head into a princess’s lap under a tree and asks her to examine his head for lice. In a still surviving oral version, when the man falls asleep and the princess looks up in the tree, she sees eleven hanged women in the branches. Nickel (1973) p. 141. This folktale motif is completely different in tone from the corresponding events in the Waltharius. Ring rightly calls the relationship between the stories “highly speculative.” Ring (2016) p. 176, n. 121.

[image] Woman and man engaged in chess game of love. The depicted minnesinger is Margrave Otto von Brandenburg (Otto IV, 1266–1308). Illustration from Codex Manesse, Zurich, made between 1305 and 1315. Manuscript preserved as UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, fol. 13r. Thanks to University of Hiedelberg and Wikimedia Commons. On love as a game of chess, see e.g. Bernart d’Auriac, “S’ieu agues len de saber e de sen,” and more generally, Blakeslee (1985).


Blakeslee, Merritt R. 1985. “Lo dous jocx sotils: la partie d’échecs amoureuse dans la poésie des troubadours.” Cahiers De Civilisation Médiévale. 28 (110): 213-222.

Green, Jonathan. 2004. “Waltharius fragments from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.” Zeitschrift Für Deutsches Altertum Und Deutsche Literatur. 133 (1): 61-74.

Nickel, Helmut. 1973. “About the Sword of the Huns and the ‘Urepos’ of the Steppes.” Metropolitan Museum Journal. 7: 131-142.

Kratz, Dennis M., ed. and trans. 1984. Waltharius and Ruodlieb. New York: Garland Pub.

Ring, Abram, ed. and trans. 2016. Waltharius. Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations 22. Leuven: Peeters. (A. M. Juster’s review)

gender inequality in courtly love: why Marcabru spoke ill of women

Marcabru the troubadour

The brilliant twelfth-century troubadour Marcabru distinguished between true love and false love. He disparaged women for loving brutish men. He assailed men who allowed themselves to be cuckolded. Marcabru’s medieval Occitan vida states that he “spoke ill of women and of love {dis ma de las femnas e d’amor}.”[1] Why in writing about men-abasing courtly love would Marcabru have spoken ill of women and love?

In Marcabru’s time, a working man from Provence loved a highly privileged Genoese woman. Genoa was then an independent city-state and one of the wealthiest ports on the Mediterranean. Using his native language, the struggling Provençal man pleaded with the elite Genoese woman for her love:

Beautiful one, I have begged you so much,
if it please you, to love me,
I whom am your vassal,
for you are noble and well-educated
and you uphold all good worth.
For these reasons your friendship pleases me.
Since you are courteous in all you do,
my heart is fixed on you,
rather than on any other Genoese lady.
Your mercy will show if you love me,
and then I will be better repaid
than if Genoa were mine,
with all the wealth hoarded there
by the Genoese.

{ Bella, tant vos ai preiada plaz, q’amar me voillaz
Q’eu sui vostr’endomenjaz,
Car es pros et enseignada
E toz bos prez autreiaz,
Per qe.m plai vostr’amistaz;
Car es en toz faiz cortesa
S’es mos cors en vos fermaz
Plus q’en nulla Genoesa,
Per q’er merces si m’amaz;
E pois serai meilz pagaz
Qe s’era mia.ill ciutaz
ab l’aver q’es aiostaz
Dels Genoes. } [2]

The highly privileged Genoese woman responded in her Genoese language:

Minstrel, you are not courteous
in requesting this of me
since I will do nothing.
Go hang yourself
— I will not be your friend!
Indeed, I’ll slit your throat,
you cursed Provençal.
I’ll heap insults on you:
dirty, stupid, hairless!
I’ll never love you
because I have a husband more handsome
than you, and I know it well.
Go away, brother, for I have
better things to do with my time.

{ Iuiar, voi no sei corteso
Qe me chaideiai de zo,
Qe niente no farò.
Ance fossi voi apeso
— vostr’amia non serò.
Certo, ia ve scanerò,
Provenzal malaurao!
Tal enoio ve dirò:
Sozo, mozo, escalvao!
Ni ia voi non amerò,
Q’eu chu bello marì o
Qe voi no sei, ben lo so.
Andai via, frar’, eu temp’ò
Meillaura! }

The woman went on to disparage the man as having less sense than a cat. She also made further ethnic slurs against Provençals. When the man offered to serve her well sexually, she suggested that he go mount a pack-horse.

privileged lady

Courtly love was a form of structural gender oppression of men. Without concern for men’s disadvantaged position, some women treated men badly:

Lady, because of you I am in great torment.
— Sir, you act foolishly, and I am not grateful to you for that.
Lady, for God’s sake, be considerate.
— Sir, your pleas are wasted on me.
Good lady, I love you with a pure heart.
— Sir, and I desire you less than I desire anyone.
Lady, for that reason, I have a sorrowful heart.
— Sir, and I am happy and joyful.

Lady, I am dying for lack of encouragement from you.
— Sir, you are taking a long time to do it.
Lady, my life is worse than death.
— Sir, I’m pleased, provided I don’t cause your death.
Lady, I get nothing but discouragement from you.
— Sir, do you think you can force me to love you?
Lady, you can save me with a look.
— Sir, you have no hope or encouragement.

Lady, I then go elsewhere to beg for pity.
— Sir, then leave — who is keeping you?
Lady, I cannot because your love holds me back.
— It does that, Sir, without my help.
Lady, you always reply to me too harshly.
— Sir, that’s because I hate you more than anyone.
So, Lady, you will never be kind to me?
— Sir, it will be as you say, I believe.

{ Domna, per vos estauc en greu turmen.
— Senher, que fols faitz, qu’ieu grat en sen.
Domna, per dieu, ajatz en chauzimen.
— Senher, vostres precs hi anatz perden.
Bona domna, am ieu finamen.
— Senher, et vuelh peitz qu’a l’autra gen.
Domna, per so n’ai ieu lo cor dolen.
— Senher, et ieu alegre e iauzen.

Domna, ia muer per vos sens nulh cofort.
— Senher, ben trop n’auretz faich lonc acort.
Domna, ia es ma vida peigz de mort.
— Senher, so.m platz, sol que no’aya tort.
Domna, de vos non ai mas desconort.
— Senher, e doncs cujatz qu’ am per fort?
Domna, ab un semblan m’agratz estort.
— Senher, respieit no.n ajatz ni conort.

Domna, vauc doncs alhors clamar merce.
— Senher, anatz de sai — qui vos rete?
Domna, no puesc, que vostr’amors me te.
— Senes cosselh, senher, o fa de me.
Domna, trop mal mi respondetz ancse.
— Senher, quar peigz vos vuelh qu’az autra re.
E doncs, dona, no.m faretz ia nulh be?
— Senher, aissi er cum disez, so cre. } [3]

Cruel, uncaring women didn’t just treat unwanted men-lovers badly. They also treated their husbands badly:

I’m pretty, yet I have heavy despair
by my husband, for him I neither want nor desire.

With that I’ll tell you why I so seek love:
I’m pretty, yet I have grave despair
by my husband, for him I neither want nor desire.

Because I’m petite, young, and ready,
I’m pretty, yet I have grave despair
by my husband, for him I neither want nor desire.

And a husband who makes me joyful is what I deserve,
with whom I could always laugh and play.
I’m pretty, yet I have grave despair
by my husband, for him I neither want nor desire.

May God save me if I have ever loved him.
I’m pretty, yet I have grave despair
by my husband, for him I neither want nor desire.

To sleep with him is bitter for me.
I’m pretty, yet I have grave despair
by my husband, for him I neither want nor desire.

And when I see him I feel so ashamed
that I pray death will come to take him soon.
I’m pretty, yet I have grave despair
by my husband, for him I neither want nor desire.

{ Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire
per mon marit, qar ne.l voil ne.l desire.

Q’en dirai per qe son aisi drusa,
Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire
per mon marit, qar ne.l voil ne.l desire.

Qar pauca son, ioveneta e tosa,
Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire
per mon marit, qar ne.l voil ne.l desire.

E degr’aver marit dunt fos ioiosa,
Ab cui toz temps pogues iogar e rire.
Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire
per mon marit, qar ne.l voil ne.l desire.

Ia Deus mi.n.sal se ia sui amorosa;
Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire
per mon marit, qar ne.l voil ne.l desire.

De lui amar, mia sui cubitosa,
Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire
per mon marit, qar ne.l voil ne.l desire.

Anz quant lo vie, ne son tant vergoignosa
q’er prec la mort qe.l venga tost aucire.
Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire
per mon marit, qar ne.l voil ne.l desire. } [4]

After the introductory refrain, this song has end rhymes across the first lines of the stanzas, with every third stanza having four verses rather than three. That formal sophistication matters little relative to the utter self-absorption of the woman’s words. The song is all about her. Because she is pretty, she feels entitled to whatever she desires. That’s a common aspect of female privilege under gynocentrism.

Some medieval literature spoke ill of men. Why would it be remarkable if Marcabru spoke ill of women? Today writers who would write anything even mildly critical of women had best append to every instance of the word “women” a pious tag: PBUT & NAWALT, meaning “praise be upon them and not all women are like that.” The danger of not writing piously about women is made clear in a thirteenth-century trobairitz song:

I cannot keep silent, I must say what I think
about that for which I have great hurt in my heart.
It gives me pain and grief to tell
about those ancient troubadours,
now dead, for I say they gravely sinned.
They led the world into confusion
when they spoke ill of women openly.
All who hear their speech believe it,
and grant that such things seem true.
Thus they have led the world into error.

{ No puesc mudar no digua mon vejaire
D’aisso don ay al cor molt gran error
Et er me molt mal e greu a retraire
Quar aquist antic trobador
Que.n son passat, dic que son fort peccaire
Qu’ilh an mes lo segl’en error
Que an dig mal de domnas a prezen
E trastug silh q’o auzon en
Et autreyon tug que ben es semblansa
Et aissi an mes lo segl’en erransa. } [5]

The danger is in speaking “openly” about women. If all who hear openly spoken words about women believe and judge them to be true, maybe those words actually are true. Maybe women in fact are equally human beings with men, not goddesses. Perhaps women even fart.

All these men were good troubadours,
and they pretended to be loyal lovers.
But I know that no lover can be true
who speaks ill of love;
rather, I say he’s deceitful in love
and behaves like a traitor.
The more strongly he strives for love,
the more candidly he speaks ill of it,
for even if a man owned all of France,
but had no lady, he would have no happiness.

{ E tug aquist que eron bon trobaire
Tug se fenhon per lial amador,
Mas ieu sai be que non es fis amaire
Nuls hom que digua mal d’amor;
Enans vos die qu’es ves amor bauzaire
E fai l’uzatge al traitor;
Aicel que se so on plus fort s’aten
Plus en ditz mal aissi tot a prezen
Quar neguns hom, s’avia tota Fransa,
No pot ses don’aver gran benestansa. }

A man without a woman is like a fish without a bicycle. Why hasn’t that sentiment become famous? Those who can’t distinguish between men-abasing courtly love and mutually generous, self-sacrificing love are incapable of distinguishing between false and true.

Never will a man of noble nature
allow another man to speak so foolishly,
as do those who are deceitful, fickle
lovers, and who all act the same.
Lord Marcabru spoke like a preacher,
who in a church or a place of prayer,
speaks great ill of those who don’t believe —
just so he spoke ill of women.
I tell you that there’s no great honor
in speaking ill of those who birth infants.

{ E ja nulhs hom que sia de bon aire
No sufrira qu’om en digua folhor,
Mas silh que son ves amor tric e vaire
Ho tuzonon e s’en tenon ab lor;
Qu’en Marcabrus a ley de predicaire
Quant es en gleiza ho orador
Que di gran mal de la gen mescrezen,
Et el ditz mal de donas eyssamen/
E dic vos be que non l’es gran honransa
Selh que ditz mal d’aisso don nays enfansa. }

Women instruct men to police other men for threats against gynocentrism. Men, if they want to be “noble” in women’s eyes, must punish men who are deceitful, fickle lovers. In addition, anyone who calls a woman a deceitful, fickle lover is a misogynist. Women are a privileged class because they give birth to infants. In contrast, men’s erection labor merits only laughter.

The great troubadour Marcabru spoke truth to power. Like Matheolus, Valerius, Hugh Primas and other courageous medieval men, Marcabru with compassion toward men sought to warn them:

Marcabru, son of Marcabruna,
was engendered under such a moon
that he knows how love dies.
He’s never loved a woman
nor been loved by any.

If you follow women’s wisdom
it’s right that you’ll meet your doom,
as Scripture teaches us.
Misfortune will come to you,
if you are not careful!

{ Marcabrus, fills Marcabruna,
Fo engenratz en tal luna
Qu’el sap d’Amor cum degruna,
Quez anc non amet neguna,
Ni d’autra non fo amatz.

Qui per sen de femna reigna
Dreitz es que mals li·n aveigna
Si cum la letra·ns enseigna;
Malaventura·us en veigna
Si tuich no vos en gardatz! } [6]

Love dies when love is identified only with courtly love. Marcabru apparently didn’t love any women that way, nor did any so love him. Listen and learn from him! Today, terribly, yes all men are portrayed as evil, as being animated with toxic masculinity. Don’t listen to that. Euripides was slandered, too. So what if Marcabru spoke ill of women and courtly love? If you want nice, work for justice.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Here’s Marcabru’s vida in Occitan and English from BnF MS. 12473.  Marcabru was from Gascony and probably sung fron 1130 to 1149. Guilhem X of Aquitaine, son of the troubadour Guilhem IX, patronized Marcabru, as did King Alfonso VII of Castile and León. About forty songs of Marcabru have survived. Paden & Paden (2007) p. 38. “Marcabru’s poetry is arguably the most powerful and distinctive of any of the troubadours.” Kehew (2005) p. 43. For the best Occitan text and English translations of all Marcabru’s surviving songs, Gaunt, Harvey & Paterson (2000). Nelson (1970) includes translations and is freely available.

Like sexual harassment authorities today, Marcabru condemned relationships between a superior and a subordinate worker:

A lady knows nothing of courtly love
if she loves a household servant;
her desire makes a bitch of her,
like a pure hound with a mongrel cur.

{ Dompna non sap d’amor fina
C’ama girbaut de maiso,
Sa voluntatz la mastina
Cum fai lebrieir’ ab gosso! }

Marcabru, “L’iverns vai e·l temps s’aizina {Winter departs and the weather follows}” st. 6.1-4, Occitan text and English translation (modified) from trobar. As has often been the case, Marcabru blamed husbands for their wives cuckolding them:

Married men with goatish minds,
you prepare your pillow so
that the cunt turns into thief.
Such a one says, “My son laughed at me,”
when he didn’t engender him.
You indeed keep a foolish appearance.

{ Moillerat, ab sen cabri
Atal paratz lo coissi
Don lo cons esdeven laire!
Que tals ditz: “Mos fills me ri”
Que anc ren no·i ac a faire:
Gardatz sen ben bedoi. }

Marcabru, “Dirai vos en mon lati {I shall tell you, in my language}” st. 6, Occitan text and translation (modified) from trobar.

[2] Raimbaut de Vaqueiras and an anonymous trobairitz, “Bella, tant vos ai preiada {Beautiful one, I have begged you so much},” st. 1, Occitan text from Nappholz (1994) p. 54, English translated (modified) from id. p. 55. The subsequent quote (st. 2) is similarly sourced from that song. Here’s a freely available, online text and translation, where the first line is “Domna, tant vos ai preiada {Lady, so much I have endeared you}.”

Raimbaut de Vaqueiras apparently wrote from about 1180 to 1205 in the courts of Provence and northern Italy. He was a master of multi-lingual songs. His “Eras quan vei verdeyar {Now when I see the meadows turning green}” consists of “a series of stanzas, first in Occitan and then in Genoese, Old French, Gascon, and Galician-Portuguese.” Pagen & Paden (2007) p. 136, from the introduction to an English translation of that song. Raimbaut de Vaqueiras’s most famous song is “The first of May {Kalenda maya},” a stamping dance song {estampida}. The melody of that song has survived. Here’s a online recording. For text and English translation of all of Raimbaut de Vaqueiras’s songs, Linskill (1964).

[3] Aimeric de Peguilhan and an anonymous trobairitz, “Domna, per vos estauc en greu turmen {Lady, because of you I am in great torment},” st. 1-3, Occitan text from Nappholz (1994) p. 80, English translated (modified) from id. p. 81. The Occitan text is also available in Chaytor (1902) pp. 71-2.

Aimeric de Peguilhan was born in Toulouse and sung his songs from about 1190 to 1220 on the Iberian peninsula and Italy. Fifty of his songs have survived, five with music. Gaunt & Kay (1999) p. 279. For texts and English translations of all of the songs of Aimeric de Peguilhan, Shepard & Chambers (1950).

[4] Anonymous trobairitz, “Coindeta sui, si cum n’ai greu cossire {I’m pretty, yet I have heavy despair},” st. 1-3, Occitan text from Nappholz (1994) p. 74, my English translation benefiting from those of id. p. 75 and Butterfly Crossing. Butterfly Crossing doesn’t represent in her text of the poem that the first stanza is a refrain. Exemplifying the “women are wonderful” effect,  she wrote:

the content, at least for me, is justified and simultaneously hollow. Of course I understand the plight of the young girl, forced to marry a much older man, against her will. She wishes his demise (and here I believe it has less to do with his actual age as it does with her choice in the matter). Yet, her very real plight is lessened through her superficial excuse. Even aside from my own translation, the typical understanding of “coindeta” relies on a meaning of beauty and youth, with previous adjectives being “lovely,” “fair,” and “graceful.” While she may be all of those things, I think this refrain (“coindeta sui” is repeated three to four times in each of the five stanzas), detracts from her more serious condition of being married off against her will, regardless of either of their physical traits. His age or virility almost seems a pretext to her want for another, which, for whatever reasons, she cannot have (and I am willing to bet there are socio-economic reasons for her being denied a marriage of her choice). In short, regardless of his age or appearance, he was thrust upon her against her will, and thus she sings her unhappy lament at the situation.

Nothing in this ballad (balada) indicates that the speaking voice was “forced to marry a much older man, against her will.” The song indicates only that the wife despises her husband and wishes that he were dead. The husband has no voice in the poem. However, medieval Latin poetry includes laments of old men with respect to young women sexually harassing them.

Another ballad also develops the theme of cuckolding. It has the refrain:

When my jealous husband is away,
handsome friend,
come to me.

{ Qant la gilos er fora,
Bel ami,
vene-vos a mi. }

Occitan text and English translation from Nappholz (1994) pp. 112-3; also available from Klinck (2004) pp. 74-5.

Nappholz emphasizes the importance of trobairitz. They were:

contemporaries of troubadours, … but they were no mere imitators. Instead, they took the rhetoric of fin’amors and shaped it to suit their own needs. With wit sublety, and poetic skill, they created a subject position for themselves out of a rhetoric which, by its very nature objectified them.

Nappholz (1994) p. 1. Occitan song no more “objectified” trobairitz than it did so to men trobairitz. Women under gynocentrism have more freedom of speech than men do. That’s why studying marginalized men authors is so important.

[5] Raimon Jordon, “No puesc mudar no digua mon vejaire {I cannot keep silent, I must say what I think},” st. 1, Occitan text from Bruckner, Shepard & White (1995) p. 98, my English translation, benefitting from those of id., Nappholz (1994) p. 103, Paden & Paden (2007) p. 112. The subsequent two quotes and the subsequent two stanzas are similarly sourced.

The single manuscript in which “No puesc mudar no digua mon vejaire” survives ascribes it to the man trobairitz Raimon Jordon. Some scholars believe, however, that a trobairitz herself wrote it. They see support for that belief in the song’s last stanza:

Let no one marvel
if I speak this way and even then wish to prove
that every man should argue for his brother
and every lady for her sister,
because Adam was our first father
and all have the Lord God as creator;
and if, through this, I wish to make an argument
for ladies, I regret nothing at all,
because one lady should honor another,
and that’s why I have said how it seems to me.

{ Ia no sia negus meravellaire
s’ieu aisso dic ni vuelh mostrar alhor
que quascus hom deu razonar son fraire
e queia domna sa seror,
quar Adams fo lo nostre premier paire
et avem Damnidieu ad auctor,
e s’ieu per so vuelh far razonamen
a las domnas, no m’o reptes nien,
quar dona deu az autra far onransa
e per aisso ai.n ieu dig ma semblansa. }

Occitan text and English trans. sourced as above. Men have seldom argued for their brothers on matters of gender. That reality supports an ironic interpretation of the whole song.

[6] Marcabru, “Dire vos vuelh ses duptansa {I wish to speak firmly},” st. 11-12 (final two stanza), Occitan text from Rosenberg, Switten & Le Vot (1998) pp. 48-9, my English translation, benefiting from those of id., Paden & Paden (2007) pp. 38-9, and trobar. Carol Anne Perry Lagemann at St Cecilia Press offers a loosely translated, more easily singable version. Here’s a recording of this song based on its surviving melody. In some manuscripts, the order of the last two stanzas is reversed.

[images] (1) Marcabru. Illumination in chansonnier provençal (Chansonnier K). Made in the second half of the 13th century. Folio 102r in manuscript preserved as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) MS. Français 12473. (2) Highly privileged lady. Illumination in chansonnier provençal (Chansonnier La Vallière). Made in the fourteenth century. Folio 103v in manuscript preserved as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) MS. Français 22543.


Bruckner, Matilda Tomaryn, Laurie Shepard, and Sarah White, eds. and trans. 1995. Songs of the Women Troubadours. New York: Garland.

Chaytor, Henry. J., ed. 1902. The Troubadours of Dante: being selections from the works of the Provençal poets quoted by Dante ; with introd., notes, concise grammar and glossary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Gaunt, Simon and Sarah Kay. 1999. “Major Troubadours.” Appendix 1 (Pp. 279-291) (listing 56) in Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay. The Troubadours: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gaunt, Simon, Ruth Harvey, and Linda M. Paterson, ed. and trans. 2000. Marcabru: a critical edition. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.

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

Klinck, Anne L. 2004. Anthology of Ancient Medival Woman’s Song. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Linskill, Joseph, ed. and trans. 1964. The Poems of the Troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras. The Hague: Mouton.

Nappholz, Carol Jane, trans. 1994. Unsung Women: the anonymous female voice in troubadour poetry. New York: Lang.

Nelson, Deborah H. 1970. Marcabru, Prophet of Fin’Amors. Ph. D. Thesis. Ohio State University.

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

Rosenberg, Samuel N., Margaret Louise Switten, and Gérard Le Vot. 1998. Songs of the Troubadours and Trouvères: an anthology of poems and melodies. New York: Garland Pub.

Shepard, William P., and Frank M. Chambers, ed. and trans. 1950. The Poems of Aimeric de Peguilhan. Evanston: Nothwestern University Press.