Bernart Alanhan de Narbona








No puesc mudar qu’ieu non diga


so que tant lo cor mi rayssa:


malvestatz el mon tan gayssa


per que patz de nos s’avanta,


e quar Dieus qu’es clardatz e rays


no conoyssem cossi·s verays.






Quascus a far ben se triga,


e de mal far nulhs no·s layssa,


don tenem via biayssa


e no·ns remembra ges l’anta


ni·ls greus turmens que Jhezus trays


entre·ls vils felhs Juzieus savays.






Lo mons es si cum la triga


que miran se sos natz layssa;


atressi erguelhs nos bayssa,


don perdem la ciutatz sancta


on foram alegres e guays


si·l plazer de Dieu fessem mays.






Trop soferr al colh greu biga


selh que d’autruy grays s’engrayssa,


e qui l’avers d’autruy cayssa


tratz non a sen plus qu’efanta;


e selh qu’ab lo paupre s’irays


no·y’s de la ira de Dieu l’ais.






Ricx ponhens plus que guarriga,


iferns vos estrenh e·us fayssa


e·us vay dolan ab tal ayssa


que no·us te pro cot ni manta;


e si anc fes tensos ni plays


lay vos yssira tot pel cays.






Selh que per sos peccatz riga


sos huelhs ploran, plant’e playssa


don mellor frug que d’avayssa


n’aura lay on fis gaugz canta;


mas pauc vezem que negus bays


la crotz ploran on Dieus plors frays.






Verays Dieus on ver’amors nays,


fai nos venir al ver palays.



English translation [LP]

I. I cannot help speaking out about something that is cleaving my heart in two: evil is putting out suckers all over the world so that peace is escaping us; and we do not acknowledge the truth of God who is brightness and light.
II. Each person puts off doing good, but no-one gives up evil-doing, so we follow the crooked path and forget the shame and the grievous torment that Jesus endured at the hands of the base, treacherous and cruel Jews.
III. The world is like the tigress who abandons her cubs to look at herself in the mirror; in the same way pride brings us low, so we lost / are losing the holy city where we would be happy and joyful if we did God’s pleasure more.
IV. A man who fattens himself on another’s fat bears a very heavy yoke on his neck, and anyone who takes the money from another man’s coffer has no more sense than an infant girl; and the man who loses his temper with a poor man forgets to be concerned about the wrath of God.
V. Rich man, thornier than the holly-oak, hell presses you and binds you and whittles you with an axe so sharp that jacket or cloak are useless protection; and if you’ve ever stirred up disputes and quarrels, there [in hell] you will vomit everything up.
VI. The man who waters his eyes with tears for his sins plants in an enclosure from which he will have better fruit than will come from the wild vine, in the place where true joy sings; but we see little sign of anyone tearfully kissing the cross where God gave vent to tears.
VII. True God Who gives birth to true love, bring us to the true palace.


Italian translation [lb]

I. Non posso fare a meno di parlare apertamente di qualcosa che sta fendendo il mio cuore in due: il male sta estendendo i suoi germogli in tutto il mondo così che la pace ci sfugge; e non riconosciamo la verità di Dio che è splendore e luce.
II. Ognuno tarda a fare il bene, ma nessuno rinuncia a fare il male, e così seguiamo la via tortuosa e dimentichiamo l’infamia e l’atroce tormento che Gesù subì per mano degli ebrei vili, infidi e crudeli.
III. Il mondo è come la tigre che abbandona i suoi cuccioli per guardarsi allo specchio; allo stesso modo l’orgoglio ci svilisce, e così abbiamo perso / stiamo perdendo la città santa dove saremmo felici e gioiosi se avessimo fatto di più ciò che piace a Dio.
IV. Chi s’ingrassa del grasso altrui porta un giogo molto pesante sul collo, e chi prende denaro dal forziere di un altro non ha più senno di una bambina, e chi si adira contro un povero dimentica che l’ira di Dio potrebbe cadere su di lui.
V. O ricco, più spinoso di un leccio, l’inferno ti avvolge e ti lega e ti taglia con un’ascia così affilata che la giacca o il mantello sono protezioni inutili, e se hai partecipato a dispute e litigi, laggiù [all’inferno] rivomiterai tutto.
VI. Colui che a motivo dei suoi peccati irriga i suoi occhi piangendo, coltiva un giardino dal quale otterrà frutti migliori di quelli della vite selvatica, nel luogo dove la vera gioia canta; ma non vediamo nessuno baciare piangendo la croce dove Dio ruppe in pianto.
VII. Vero Dio, da cui nasce il vero amore, facci giungere al vero palazzo.




Text: Linda Paterson, Rialto 21.viii.2013.

Ms.: C 383v (Bernat alanhan de Narbona).

Critical editions: Carl Appel, Provenzalische Inedita aus Pariser Handschriften, Leipzig 1890 (reproduction Wiesbaden 1967), p. 21; Joseph Anglade, «Deux troubadours narbonnais: Guillem Fabre et Bernard Alanhan», Bulletin de la Commission Archéologique de Narbonne, 4, 1905, pp. 397-427, on p. 423.

Other editions: François-Juste-Marie Raynouard, Choix des poésies originales des troubadours, 6 voll., Paris 1816-1821, vol. V, p. 64 (lines 7-18, 37-38); Carl August Friedrich Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours, in provenzalischer Sprache, 4 voll., Berlin 1846-1886, vol. III, p. 369 (lines 1, 2-7, 13-18, 37-38).

Versification: a7’ b7’ b7’ c7’ d8 d8 (Frank 740:2), -ga, -aissa, -anta, -ais; six coblas unissonans and one two-line tornada. A canso of Guillhem Ademar, BdT 202.8, has identical versification and rhymes. It was composed for a viscount of Narbonne (Anglade, p. 426, says probably Aimeric III) and is undoubtedly the model for this piece.

Notes: Chabaneau (Camille Chabaneau, «Les biographies des troubadours en langue provençale», in Claude Devic and Joseph Vaissete, Histoire générale du Languedoc, 15 voll., Toulouse 1872-1892, vol. X (1885), pp. 209-411, on p. 336, dates the piece to shortly after the fall of Jerusalem to the Turks in 1244 (Appel gives this date as 1236, Chabaneau as 1239). This does however depend on seeing perdem (v. 16) as a preterite tense; if it is meant as present, then the relevant period could be any time from 1229, Frederick II’s retaking of the city on the occasion of his bloodless deal with Sultan al-Kamil. The city’s position remained precarious (see Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, 3 voll., Harmondsworth 1971, first published Cambridge 1951-1954, vol. III, pp. 187-225): a raid on Jerusalem took place a few weeks after Frederick left the country (Runciman, p. 193), and the city remained open to attack at any time. In 1239, in preparation for the end of the period governed by the treaty of Frederick and al-Kamil, Pope Gregory IX had sent out agents to preach the crusade in France and England – one possible occasion, perhaps, for our troubadour to have composed a song supporting it –, which gave rise to the crusade of Thibaut de Champagne (Runciman, pp. 211-217). After Thibaut sailed home to Europe from Acre at the end of September 1240, in October Richard of Cornwall made a pilgrimage to Acre where he was horrified at the anarchy he found (pp. 218-219); he remained in Palestine until May 1241, establishing some degree of order which broke down shortly after his departure. In the absence of further information the song must be dated from between 1229 and the period following 1244. – Line 3: Anglade «la perversité croît tellement dans le monde»; the image is more specific and unpleasant, see PD gaisar ‘taller, drageonner’. – Line 6: Anglade translates verays as ‘sincère’, rather oddly («et nous ne savons pas combien Dieu, qui est clarté et rayon de lumière, est sincère»). – Line 11: there is no need to correct ms. nils (or ciutatz, v. 16, lauers, v. 21, cot, v. 28), as in Appel and Anglade. For the inflexions see Ruth Harvey and Linda Paterson, The Troubadour Tensos and Partimens: A Critical Edition, 3 voll., Cambridge 2010, pp. xxii-xxvi; for the agreement of sg. verb with sg. followed by pl. subject, see Frede Jensen, Syntaxe de l’ancien occitan, Tübingen 1994, § 478. – Line 13, triga: metathesis for tigra. According to an Occitan bestiary, when hunters hunt a tigress to steal her cubs, they place a mirror in her path and take the cubs; she pursues them enraged but when she finds the mirror she is so delighted with her image that she forgets her pain and the cubs (see Anglade, p. 426). – Line 16: perdem could be either preterite or present: see the discussion of dating, above. – Line 20: Anglade translates grays as ‘sang’, which seems too strong. The image seeems to be that the rich grow fat at the expense of the poor who grow thinner. – Line 22: Anglade enfant a, «n’a pas plus de sens qu’un enfant». Since women proverbially were judged to have the sense of a child (compare BdT 293.19, 53-54, que femnas et efanz petiz / an una decha comunau, ed. Simon Gaunt, Ruth Harvey and Linda Paterson, Marcabru: a Critical Edition, Woodbridge 2000, p. 268), Bernart is doubling the force of the comparison. – Line 24: literally «in him there is no anxiety about». The interpretation no.y’s = no i es is Appel’s. – Line 25, guarriga: quercus ilex, also called holm oak (see Anglade’s note). – Lines 26-28: the force of the present indicatives is hard to gauge: is the sense that, to change the metaphor, hell already has the man in its clutches because of his sins? – Lines 29-30: the idea seems to be that the rich man is full of bile: compare vv. 23 and 25. One wonders whether there is a personal grudge behind these violent images. – Line 32: for e = en, compare Carl Appel, Provenzalische Chrestomathie, 5th ed., Leipzig 1920, 6, 183; 27, 37; 92, 5; 105, 33 and 102, and see Gaunt-Harvey-Paterson, Marcabru, p. 19, who list ten Marcabrunian examples in n. 54. – Lines 31-36: I interpret this stanza to mean: «The man who weeps for his sins (= is truly repentant) is planting something in a garden which will bring better fruit than he would have from the avayssa, and he will have this fruit in the place where true joy sings (= in heaven, in the afterlife); but practically no-one is showing his repentance by going on crusade, where it counts». I take planta to be a transitive verb used absolutely, and e to represent en (see Carl Appel, Provenzalische Chrestomathie, 5th ed., Leipzig 1920, 6, 183; 27, 37; 92.5; 105.33 and 102, and Simon Gaunt, Ruth Harvey and Linda Paterson, Marcabru: a Critical Edition, Woodbridge 2000, p. 19, who list ten Marcabrunian examples in n. 54). For other possible translations of the plant avayssa see Suzanne Thiolier-Méjean, «Notule sur un vers de Raimbaut de Vaqueiras», Actes du IVe Congrès International de l’AIEO (Vitoria-Gasteiz, 22-28 août 1993), ed. Ricardo Cierbide Martinena, 2 voll., Vitoria-Gasteiz 1994, vol. I, pp. 327-348, especially pp. 328-333. Depending on which one is meant, the sense seems to be either «the truly repentant man will reap much greater rewards in heaven than he will by gathering meagre rewards on earth», or «the truly repentant man will reap rewards in heaven that are even more abundant than the fruits of the avayssa» (whatever this is). Although the sense ‘hazel-tree’ is more common than ‘wild vine’, in my translation I have interpreted the passage to refer to the less fruitful plant. – Line 36: literally «broke tears»: Anglade «laissa couler ses pleurs». See John 11:35. The place where «Jesus wept» is the Holy Land.

[LP, lb]

BdT     Bernart Alanhan de Narbona

Songs referring to the crusades