Analysis of the manuscript: C (327r, B’. de rouennac).

Critical apparatus:

14 conqur (the second abbreviation usually stands for ua)


Dating and historical circumstances:

Bernart opens with a truth topos designed to underscore the authenticity of his words (stanza I), declaring his intention to blame powerful men despite their alleged expectation of praise and despite the alleged potential risk involved (v. 4, ni·us aus blasmar). The powers concerned prove to be four kings, all of whom merit blame in one way or another: Jaume I of Aragon, Henry III of England, Louis IX of France and Alfonso X of Castile. – In stanza II the troubadour heaps sarcasms on the Kings of Aragon and England for meekly agreeing not to defend their territories or retaliate against aggressors. Specifically, they are refraining from waging war on Louis IX of France, the king who is «conquering Syria». Louis was on crusade, and the reason Jaume and Henry are holding their fire is because of the papal threat of excommunication against any hostile attack on his territory. But the French king was certainly not «conquering Syria». As the details of stanza IV show (see below), the sirventes dates from after 1252, after Louis had been captured at Mansurah in 1250 and held to ransom. Following his release he stayed in the Holy Land until 24 April 1254 attempting to securing the release of the remaining captives and the safety of the remnants of the kingdom of Jerusalem (Bosdorff, p. 776; Robert L. Wolff and Harry W. Hazard, «The later crusades, 1189-1311», in A history of the crusades, ed. Kenneth M. Setton, 6 voll., Madison and London 1969-1989, vol. II, Madison and London 1969, pp. 504-505). Bernart’s implication is that since Louis can now hardly be said to be fighting the Turks, nothing justifies the cowardly reluctance on the part of the Kings of Aragon and England to pursue their legitimate claims against France, and moreover God is hardly going to be grateful to them since Louis is doing absolutely nothing to advance the crusading cause. – In stanza III Bernart switches from sarcasm to straight talking. Playing on the antiphrastically-used word conquer of v. 14 («the king who is conquering Syria»), he underscores the importance of who is conquering whom: he feels full of shame at a conquered people (una gens conqueza, v. 17, the Turks, who were formerly conquered by the Christians) now keeping us, the Christians, vanquished and conquered (vencutz e conques, v. 18). The Kings of Aragon and England ought to feel similarly ashamed, but they would rather keep company with people who never do their duty, in other words each other, for they are in agreement about failing to uphold their rights. The sense of v. 24 is problematic, but I take it to mean that the troubadour has never seen any friendship or alliance last as long as this one: a return to irony, since the alliance is one of cowardly inaction. – Stanza IV offers a key to dating and concerns a dispute between Jaume of Aragon and the commune of Montpellier over the rights to the leuda torneza (v. 25). This was a toll levied at the bridge connecting the town to the port of Lattes, and Pope Gregory IX had granted the commune the rights to this. In 1252 Jaume made a clumsy attempt to take over its revenues for his own benefit and met with armed resistance by the town militia. He summoned the sea consuls to appear before his court in Barcelona, who replied that he could not be judge of this matter; besides, the inhabitants of Montpellier were not obliged to appear in court outside the territory of their city; and finally, they were appealing to the bishop of Maguelone, their lord’s suzerain, over the affair. From this point on, for several years, Montpellier independently nominated its own bailiff, allied itself to the viscount of Narbonne who was vassal to Castile and enemy of the king of Aragon, made war on the Marseillais and signed a peace treaty with them through the intermediary of Charles of Anjou: in other words, treated its royal lord with a mixture of hostility and indifference (Charles J. M. de Tourtoulon, Études sur la maison de Barcelone. Jacme Ier le conquérant, roi d’Aragon, 2 voll., Montpellier 1863-1867, vol. II, pp. 304-305; Bosdorff, pp. 776-777). This was a particularly sensitive matter for the King of Aragon since plans had been hatched, originally by Louis IX’s mother Blanche of Castile, then pursued after her death in 1252 by her appointees, to persuade the bishop of Maguelone to acknowledge himself vassal of the crown of France for the fief of Montpellier. This he eventually did on 15 April 1255, with the King of Aragon established as rear-vassal, and in his capacity as lord of Montpellier and not as king: «Le roi d’Aragon, arrière-vassal du roi de France! Le roi d’Aragon, forcé de subir la suzeraineté directe de son rival le jour où celui-ci sera parvenu à supprimer l’autorité intermédiaire de l’évêque! Il serait superflu d’insister sur les conséquences d’une pareille déclaration» (Tourtoulon, p. 306). At this time Aragon and France were in the process of making numerous claims and counter-claims over territories under each other’s domination (compare stanza II): «Pour sortir de cette complication de prétentions rivales, une guerre paraissait inévitable. L’opinion publique poussait le roi d’Aragon vers ce parti violent; en ce moment, la voix énergique de Bernard de Rovenhac se fit entendre» (Tourtoulon, p. 366-367). This situation explains the shame the troubadour says Jaume has suffered in the town. Bernart also refers to the King’s loss of the Carcassès under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1229 (compare v. 15 and see the note to v. 28): if he won’t fight to restore his honour over the leuda torneza he doesn’t deserve to get the Carcassès back either. – The other king who is, in the troubadour’s eyes, contemptibly holding back from challenging Louis, is Henry III of England. Apart from identifying the «king who is losing Normandy» (v. 21) with this monarch, Bosdorff gives no details (see his note on p. 811), but «like his father John, Henry III refused to accept the loss to the Capetians of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Poitou, and their satellites in the opening years of the thirteenth century. The attempt to recover them was the central element of Henry’s foreign policy until the 1250s, but neither military expeditions (in 1225-1226, 1230-1231, and 1242-1243) nor diplomacy had succeeded in wresting those lands from the Capetians» (Simon Lloyd, English Society and the Crusade, 1216-1307, Cambridge 1988, p. 219). Henry finally surrendered his claims to those territories under the Treaty of Paris of 1259, in return for Louis IX’s acceptance of his tenure of Gascony (David A. Carpenter, «The Plantagenet Kings», in The New Cambridge Medieval History, ed. David Abulafia, 9 voll., Cambridge 1995-2005, vol. V (1999), pp. 314-357, on p. 331; see also Elizabeth M. Hallam, Capetian France 987-1328, London and New York 1980, pp. 266-267). Hallam (p. 267) states that this «greatly angered his son Edward and his associates»; a point of view evidently shared by the troubadour, whose provenance has been identified as the present-day Rouvenac in the Aude (Camille Chabaneau, «Les biographies des troubadours en language provençale», in Claude Devic and Joseph Vaissete, Histoire générale du Languedoc, 15 voll., Toulouse 1872-1892, vol. X (1885), p. 338). – Returning in stanza V to his theme of false and unmerited praise, Bernart emphatically rejects any claim to call the current situation «peace»: this is not peace, he declares, it is bad war or something calculated to appeal to peasants. No doubt this refers to some specific contemporary declaration, perhaps on the part of authorities, but more probably to a song (as yet unidentified) by a rival troubadour who has praised what the kings are doing. It is strongly reminiscent of a song by the troubadour Bernart Marti, some hundred years earlier, who argued vigorously about Peire d’Alvernhe’s boast that he was the first to compose a vers entier (a «whole» song). The twelfth-century Bernart expostulated that he did not intend to compose an entier vers, but his wouldn’t be a broken (fragz) one either, and he didn’t think a frivolous song leading to sin and folly ought to be called entier, for foolish boasting and great praise are the speech of peasants and a man using inflated speech is baser than a peasant (BdT 63.6, in Il trovatore Bernart Marti, ed. Fabrizio Beggiato, Modena 1984, p. 107, especially stanza IX: Fols vanars es pagezes / e grans laus es pagezia / e fols mentirs es bauzia / et hom de dit ufanes / es plus vilas que pages, / segon romans e clercia). – The superficial sense of vv. 41-43 is that Bernart de Rovenac is praising Alfonso X of Castile, who came to the throne in 1252, for his liberality, which accords with Alfonso’s swift acquisition of such a reputation; but this «praise» too is ironic. Stanza VI is likely to refer to his attempted expedition, in conjunction with Gaston de Moncada, Viscount of Béarn, to seize Gascony from English domination. «Cette guerre, commencée avec grand éclat et chantée avec enthousiasme par le belliqueux troubadour Boniface Calvo, se termina brusquement par la renonciation que le roi de Castille fit de tous ses droits sur la Gascogne en faveur d’Edouard, héritier présomptif de la couronne d’Angleterre, auquel il donna en mariage sa fille Léonor» (see Milà, p. 204 and Tourtoulon, II, p. 309, n. 1; also Bosdorff, p. 777). The marriage treaty by which Alfonso renounced his claims was concluded on 20 April 1254, but had been under discussion from May 1253 at the latest, when letters were sent to Alfonso announcing the names of the plenipotentiaries who were to arrange the marriage. Their remit was to obtain the best terms they could, but at the very least the surrender by Alfonso of all rights he claimed to Gascony (see Frederick Maurice Powicke, King Henry III and the Lord Edward, 2 voll., Oxford 1947, vol. II, p. 232). I agree with Tourtoulon and Bosdorff that Bernart is referring to Alfonso’s abandonment of his claims to Gascony and that he is being just as sarcastic about this king as the other three: Alfonso has been «generous» in giving away his «share» of the claim to Gascony to the other kings, but in the context of the song as a whole, willingness on the part of various weak kings to leave the French king in peace is seen as a major fault, so the troubadour cannot be praising Alfonso, contrary to what Alvar thought (Carlos Alvar, La poesia trovadoresca en España y Portugal, Barcelona 1977, pp. 196-197: «no creo que la alusión a la generosidad del rey castellano, que “ha dejado la codicia para los demás”, deba ponerse en relación con el abandono de sus intereses sobre Gascuña»). Nonetheless, it is not entirely straightforward to follow all the twists of the logic of stanza VI. When the troubadour says that it would be wrong to blame anyone for blaming Alfonso (44) – such a person will have made a bad choice – this must be ironic too, for implicitly this is what he himself is doing. But, he says, it is disgraceful to divide things up and take the best part for yourself, as Alfonso has done. But why is giving up Gascony the «best part»? It must be «best» in the eyes of kings who don’t want to fight. But then, how can anyone blame him, since the others don’t want to «have» what he’s chosen, i.e. they do want to have Gascony even if they don’t want to fight for it? These twists and turns seem to be a mocking show of verbal and logical dexterity, designed to evince a cynical laugh on the audience’s part. – The sirventes must have been composed after Jaume of Aragon’s attempt to take over the leuda torneza in 1252 and Alfonso X’s accession to the throne of Castile in that same year, and before Louis’ return from the Holy Land in 1254, leaving Acre 24 April and landing at Hyères on 3 July. Reference to crusading is incidental to matters of south-west Occitan politics. Bernart is cynical about Louis’s failed crusade and shows no interest in urging anyone to make good the failure; his concern is for Louis’s competitors with a stake in the region to drive the French out.


Textual notes:

13. Tourtoulon «d’avoir, au contraire, pour lui merci et courtoisie». As Bosdorff, I take this line to anticipate what follows.

16. Bosdorff comments on the «höchst feine Ironie» of these words: the pope prohibits any military attack on crusaders, so the Lord, whose representative the pope is, should thank the two obedient kings. But it is unclear what he thought the point was. The sense is that the papal prohibition, which was designed to assist the recovery of the Holy Land, is hardly going to make much difference to this now that Louis’ crusade has ended in failure.

17. As Bosdorff I take this to refer to the French defeat at Mansurah.

22-23. Tourtoulon, p. 308: «mais ils estiment tant une pareille amitié qu’ils refusent complètement de faire ce qu’ils doivent», taking the companhia to refer specifically to the relationship between the two kings; Bosdorff «Aber ihnen sagt eine Gesellschaft zu, die niemals ihre Pflicht tut». For the plural verb in 22 see his note (p. 811).

24. This line caused difficulty to previous editors. Raynouard, Milà and Balguer printed autre tan with the ms. word division, Bosdorff emending autre to autra; however, the word is simply autretan, a form of atretan (see COM for examples). Milà translated with a query (p. 180) «y (apesar de esto) jamás se vió quien se presentase con mejor aspecto (?)»; Tourtoulon «et jamais je ne vis personne mettre tant de persistance à accomplir son devoir», though noting that the line is obscure; Balaguer «y sin embargo, nunca se les presentó mejor ocasion». Bosdorff took tener to mean «sich benehmen», «indem das Reflexivpromomen beim Infinitiv häufig nicht zum Ausdruck kommt», translating «Aber ihnen sagt eine Gesellschaft zu, die niemals ihre Pflicht tut, und nie sah man eine andere (Gesellschaft) sich so fein benehmen». He noted a similar sense of se tener in song IV, 32 of his edition, though provided no evidence for the intransitive tener having such a sense. For my interpretation «to last, hang on» see SW, VIII, 153, 21, «anhalten, dauern», from the Monk of Montaudon (ed. Routledge), XVII, 4 pauc tenc lur paria, «leur amitié était de courte durée».

25. The leuda in Montpellier was a type of bridge toll levied for the transport of goods in both directions between the town of Montpellier and the port of Lattes along a cobbled road. A very detailed tariff regulated the traffic and the collection and oversight of the mailles de Lattes fell to the so-called consuls de mer, who had to swear an oath to collect the toll honestly for it to be used for the upkeep of the roads and canals. Conflict with Jaume I over the toll collection only ended in 1264: En lan de M e CC e LXIIII ...El mes de jull, cofermet lo rei els cossols les mealhas de penre a Latas (Thalamus parvus, Le Petit Thalamus de Montpellier, Montpellier 1840, p. 335; see Tourtoulon, p. 304 and Bosdorff, pp. 811-812. – This is the only example of torneza on COM and none of the previous editors has commented on it explicitly. Tourtoulon translates: «Puisqu’il (le roi d’Aragon) ne reprend pas la leude tournoise», Milà «Y pues no percibe ya la leuda tornesa», Bosdorff «Und da er nicht den Brückenzoll erhebt». It might be possible to understand the syntax as «and since he takes no torneza in the toll», but it seems more likely that prendre is used intransitively here as «to receive income» (see SW, VI, 510, 5). I can find no example of prendre en in this sense; Bosdorff (p. 811, n. 25) refers to «Stimming, B. von Born, p. 178» but I have been unable to find any such reference there. For the derivation of torneza see perhaps Niermeyer, pons tornicius, tur-, -nei-, -ceus (adj.), «drawbridge».

28. Bosdorff «so möge er nie wieder das Gebiet von Carcassonne zurückgewinnen». The form retragz has no doubt arisen in confusion with the past participle of traire: see Anglade, pp. 350-351 on traïr, trazir (> *tradire, for tradere) and Niermeyer, p. 917, retradere, 1. «*restituer - to give back». Milà and Tourtoulon mistakenly understood the opposite: «jamas se le retraiga el Carcasés, como que de los mismos vassallos suyos defenderia y bastante hace con tal que logre estar en paz», «qu’on ne lui prenne pas le pays de Carcassonne, car il ne se défendrait point et serait satisfait pourvu qu’on le laissât en paix», but Carcassonne had been taken over by Louis VIII at the Treaty of Paris in 1229 (Hallam, p. 209).

33-34. Bosdorff is no doubt right to see lauzar as nom. sg. and apel as 3 p. pres. subjunctive («Nicht möge übermässiges Lob es Frieden nennen, wenn Tüchtigkeit schlecht angewandt wird»): compare William D. Paden, «Declension in twelfth-century Occitan: on editing early troubadours, with particular reference to Marcabru», Tenso, 18, 2003, pp. 67-115, on p. 93 and Ruth Harvey and Linda Paterson, The Troubadour Tensos and Partimens: A Critical Edition, 3 voll., Cambridge 2010, vol. I, p. xxiii, n. 27. Milà and Tourtoulon translated loosely «Nada hallo que alabar cuando el valor se echa á perder y no llamo esto paz», «Je ne trouve rien à louer quand la valeur est en mauvaise voie; et je n’appelle point cela paix».

35. For the form enteza from entendre, see Anglade, p. 348.

38. Tourtoulon: «et cela ne doit point leur être pénible». For ja non + subjunctive «even if...not», see SW, IV, 244, 11.

44. Tourtoulon follows Milà who took this to be a reference to a jeu-parti and translated «cela me paraît vilaine action que de choisir le meilleur thème dans un jeu-parti. (Quant à Alfonse) il n’a pas fait ce qui est défendu, puisqu’il a pris le rôle que personne ne veut», observing in a note (p. 180) «On voit, d’après ce passage de Bernart de Rovenhac, que celui qui proposait le tenson ne devait jamais choisir le rôle le plus facile». This is rightly rejected by Bosdorff, p. 813, n. 44.

50. Previous editors print la·us but the ms. is clear.

[LP, lb]

BdT    Bernart de Rovenac

Songs referring to the crusades