Bertolome Zorzi








On om plus aut es pojatz


mais pot en bas cazer


si non sap retener


lo sentier don es guidatz;


per que·is devon temer


baissar e dechazer


Venecian, qu’en l’aut grat


d’ausor pretz ant pojat,


e Genoes, qu’eissamen


vivon de pretz manen;


quar solion far totz lor afars ab Deu,


mas er fant pieitz que si fosson Judeu.






Quar Judeus ni renejatz


non deuria voler


preisoniers destener


ab sos guerriers acordatz;


e lor ven a plazer


prop de mil pres tener,


ben qu’il sion acordat;


c’a tort et a pechat


en morran tuich malamen;


e sabon veramen


qu’a negun d’elz tant non valon li sieu


que ja per els se dechaja ni·s leu.






Mas orguolhs e vanitatz


vensson tant lor saber


qu’entr’els non pot valer


Dieus ni merces ni pidatz;


e par ben s’ieu dic ver


quan, sol per parer


qu’il se tenon per pajat


dels pres, com an comdat,


laisson morir tanta gen!


Don prec l’Omnipoten


qu’ira e dolor totztemps lor don en feu,


si los preisons non desliuran en breu.






E car est faitz s’es cargatz


d’angoissos desplazer,


tant no·m dei astener


c’alques no·i sia nomatz


cel qui l’ac en poder,


e·lh fetz tal fin aver


on non ac ges volontat


que fosson desliurat


li las preisonier dolen,


c’ab semblan solamen


c’agues tengut lur remaner per greu,


d’ambas las partz los agr’aütz a leu.






Ai, reis Frances, pois vos platz


metr’en Dieu mantener


cor e cors et aver,


tant n’etz per totz lausatz,


cum poc tals faitz caber


en vostre captener?


Mout avetz pretz oblidat.


Mas Dieus per sa pidat,


en oblida·l vengamen,


qu’estiers crei fermamen


qu’est passatges de l’autre segra·l treu,


si no·us en fai la denha crotz manleu.






Honors de crestiantat,


Dieus vos don volontat


que fassatz esmendamen


qu’eslonhe del turmen


los las, qu’estiers en morrant tuich en breu;


car sol ab precs o podetz far mout leu.






Anz qu’aja·l chan affinat,


Dieus en a·l rei jutgat


a mort, e a greu turmen


sai e lai mainta gen;


don tanh que pens de far l’esmenda en breu


lo novel reis, per s’onor e per Deu!



English translation [LP]

I. The higher a man climbs the further he can fall if he does not keep to the path where he has a guide; so the Venetians ought to fear decline and fall, for they have achieved great recognition of the highest merit, along with the Genoese, who similarly live rich in reputation; for they used to conduct all their affairs with God’s help, but now they act worse than if they were Jews.
II. For not even a Jew or a renegade ought to want to detain prisoners who have come to an agreement with his soldiers; yet it pleases them to keep around a thousand men in captivity, even though they have made a pact. All of these will unjustly die a horrible death; and each knows for sure that his people are not lifting a finger to help him.
III. But pride and vanity so overwhelm their good sense that in their circles God and mercy and compassion can have no weight; and it is clear whether I am telling the truth when, just to make it appear that they consider the prisoners as their payment, as I hear tell, they are leaving so many people to die! Hence I beg the Omnipotent to grant them sorrow and pain in fief for ever, if they do not shortly release the captives.
IV. And since this matter has become burdened with vexatious unpleasantness, I ought not to refrain from naming in some way here the one who had it within his power [to resolve it], but made it have such an outcome in which he never intended the wretched suffering prisoners to be released, although he could easily have helped them from both sides just by giving the impression that he minded about them remaining [in prison].
V. Ah, French King, since it pleases you to commit heart and body and wealth to God’s service, so much so that you are praised by all for it, how could such a thing happen under your leadership? You have much neglected worth. But God in his mercy is forgetting to take vengeance for it; otherwise I firmly believe that this passage will follow in the wake of the other, if the precious cross does not deliver you from this.
VI. Honour of Christendom, God give you the will to amend the situation in order to free the wretched from suffering, otherwise all of them will shortly die; for with prayers alone you can do this most easily.
VII. Before I finished the song, God condemned the king to death for this, and many people to harsh torment here and over there; so it behooves the new king to consider amending the situation quickly, for the sake of his honour and God!


Italian translation [lb]

I. Più in alto un uomo sale, più rovinosamente può cadere se non resta sulla strada dov’è guidato; così i Veneziani dovrebbero temere il declino e la caduta, perché sono assurti al più alto grado del merito, insieme con i Genovesi, che vivono allo stesso modo ricchi di pregio; poiché erano soliti condurre i loro affari con l’aiuto di Dio, mentre ora si comportano peggio che se fossero ebrei.
II. Perché neppure un ebreo o un rinnegato dovrebbe voler tenere prigioniero chi ha raggiunto un accordo con i suoi soldati; eppure a loro piace mantenere un migliaio di uomini in cattività, anche se hanno fatto un patto. Tutti costoro moriranno ingiustamente di una morte orribile; e sanno con certezza che la loro gente non muoverà un dito per aiutare nessuno di loro.
III. Ma l’orgoglio e la vanità soffocano talmente il loro buon senso che nei loro circoli Dio e la misericordia e la compassione non possono avere alcun peso; ed appare evidente che dico la verità quando, solo per rendere chiaro che considerano i prigionieri come loro tributo, come ho sentito dire, lasciano morire così tanta gente! Per questo supplico l’Onnipotente di garantire loro pena e sofferenza perpetua, se non rilasciano a breve i prigionieri.
IV. E dal momento che la vicenda si è gravata di tristi risvolti spiacevoli, non dovrei astenermi dal nominare qui in qualche modo colui che aveva in suo potere [di risolvere la situazione], ma ha fatto in modo di ottenere un esito tale per cui non ha mai fatto in modo che fossero rilasciati i miseri prigionieri sofferenti, anche se avrebbe potuto facilmente aiutarli da entrambe le parti semplicemente dando l’impressione che si preoccupava che restassero [in prigione].
V. Ah, re di Francia, dal momento che vi piace impegnare il cuore e il corpo e la ricchezza al servizio di Dio, tanto che siete lodato da tutti per questo, come è potuta accadere una cosa simile sotto la vostra guida? Avete molto trascurato il merito. Ma Dio nella sua misericordia sta trascurando di vendicarsi per questo; altrimenti credo fermamente che questo passaggio seguirà la sorte dell’altro, se la preziosa croce non ve ne preserva.
VI. Onore della cristianità, Dio vi dia la volontà di riparare la situazione, al fine di liberare i miseri dalla sofferenza, altrimenti moriranno tutti tra poco; perché potete farlo (anche) solo con le preghiere molto facilmente.
VII. Prima di finire la canzone: Dio condannò il re a morte per questo, e molta gente a duro tormento qua e laggiù; così conviene che il nuovo re consideri di aggiustare la situazione in fretta, per il suo onore e per Dio!




Text: Levy 1883, with some changes of punctuation and a correction in v. 32 by LP. Rialto 24.vi.2015.

Mss.: A 174v (Bertolomeus zorzis), I 101v (Denbertholome çorxi), K 85r (Denbertholomei çorçi).

Critical edition: Emil Levy, Der Troubadour Bertolome Zorzi, Halle 1883, p. 58 (CR Camille Chabaneau, Revue des langues romanes, 25, 1884, p. 195).

Other editions: Carl August Friedrich Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours, in provenzalischer Sprache, 4 voll., Berlin 1846-1886, vol. III., p. 12; François-Juste-Marie Raynouard, Choix des poésies originales des troubadours, 6 voll., Paris 1816-1821, vol. IV, p. 234; Vincenzo De Bartholomaeis, Poesie provenzali storiche relative all’Italia, 2 voll., Rome 1931, vol. II, p. 270 (= Levy).

Versification: a7 b6 b6 a7 b6 b6 c7 c6 d7 d6 e10 e10 (Frank 535:1), -atz, -er, -at, -en, -ieu; 5 coblas unissonans and 2 6-line tornadas, unicum.

Notes: The Venetian troubadour Zorzi was imprisoned in Genoa from 1266 to 1273 during a war between Venice and Genoa and composed this sirventes there (see note to BdT 74.11). De Bartholomaeis (pp. 270-271) notes that the king of France had hired the Genoese fleet for his second crusade, and as this was about to get underway in 1269 he had intervened with the rulers of the two cities to try to wrap up an agreement that would have facilitated his expedition. The papal court was also involved in trying to conclude a peace or truce. At the end of the year these efforts, which remained ineffectual, ended in a compromise whose terms are unfortunately unknown. They are likely to have involved the release of prisoners of war, which did not happen; negotiations over this were still going on in February 1273. The song can be dated, as De Bartholomaeis states, to shortly before May 1270, since Louis has not yet set out (v. 59). As he points out, Zorzi is a ‘cattivo profeta’, foreseeing Louis second disaster, which the troubadour says he learned of before completely finishing his song (stanza VII). – De Bartholomaeis focuses on the release of the Venetian prisoners, but the fact that the troubadour includes the Venetians as well as the Genoese (vv. 7-9) in his strictures on fearing the loss of reputation would appear to blame both for not implementing what they have supposedly agreed. – Line 16: De Bartholomaeis translates ‘dovrebbe trattener presso di sé de’ prigionieri patteggiati co’ loro avversari’, but sos must refer to the ‘Jew or renegade’; the point is that the armies have concluded an agreement but the men in charge are still holding onto the prisoners. – Lines 20-21: De Bartholomaeis glosses ‘Perciò tutti [i Genovesi], per il torto e per il peccato [che han commesso]’; but a tort e a pechat means ‘unjustly’ (PD), and moreover both Venetians and Genoese seem to be implied here (see above). –  Lines 23-24: literally ‘to not one of them are his people of any help so that through them he may fall down or get up’; De Bartholomaeis ‘come per nessuno di essi i loro hanno tal virtù da farli decadere o elevare’. – Lines 30-31: lit. ‘they consider themselves paid with the prisoners’. De Bartholomaeis: ‘è solo per parere di tenersi soddisfatti nell’avere de’ prigioneri [= solo per vanagloria] che lascian morire tanta gente!’ I think the troubadour means that those holding the prisoners are said to be arguing that the latter are part of the compensation for their losses, perhaps because they can expect some of them to be ransomed. – Line 32: Levy and De Bartholomaeis print the erroneous reading of IK coindat (I coidat with titulus above the ‘i’) rather than A comdat. De Bartholomaeis nevertheless translates ‘secondo que che sono andati dicendo’, which is the sense here. – Line 38: De Bartholomaeis: ‘angosciosi dispiaceri’. Bertolome seems to be referring to the vexatious effects of the protracted and unsuccessful negotiations. – Lines 55-60: Zorzi is blaming Louis for not resolving the issue of the prisoners. The king may have decided to lead a crusade, he says, but failure to free the captives is such a grave matter that it cries out for God’s vengeance; it seems that God has forgotten to punish him, but if He has not, Zorzi is sure that the outcome of this crusade will be as disastrous as Louis’ first one, unless the cross affords him protection. He is no doubt referring to the relic of the True Cross which Louis had acquired on 30 September 1241 and which was believed to have miraculously cured him of the illness which preceded his first crusade: see Matthew Paris, Matthaei Parisiensis, monachi Sancti Albani, Chronica majora, ed. Henry Richards Luard, 7 voll., London 1872-1884, vol. IV, 1877, p. 397. Louis had the Sainte Chapelle in Paris built to house this and other relics, including the Crown of Thorns (for details see J. Le Goff, Saint Louis, Paris 1996, pp. 140-148). – Line 60: in manleu (PD ‘délivrance d’une personne arrêtée ou d’une chose saisie’) Bertolome is playing on the idea of freeing prisoners: the king has not acted to free the Venetian and Genoese prisoners, and Louis himself may not be freed from the fate of his first crusade unless his crusading commitment (the cross) grants him immunity. – Lines 69-70: De Bartholomaeis punctuates A mort e a greu turmen / Sai, e lai mainta gen (Levy includes no commas) and translates ‘a morte e a grave tormento, qui il Re, e là molta gente’. But Louis died overseas, and the point is surely that there are many people not only in Tunis but also in Italy where the prisoners are suffering because the French king did not use his influence to secure their release. – Line 72: the new king is Philip III the Bold.

[LP, lb]

BdT    Bertolome Zorzi

Songs referring to the crusades