Bertran dʼAlamano








Qi qe s’esmai ni·s desconort,


mi somon fis jois naturals


com eu cant e d’amor e d’als,


dun ai al cor gaug e deport;


si tot pris un deribat port,


grazisc d’amor los bes e·ls mals.






E grazisc molt als Pruenzals,


qar ses guierdon e ses grat


e desgrazit e deshonrat


sufrun pen’ez afans mortals


de sel q’es lor seigner carnals,


d’onor e de terra scorchat.






E·l cugul de lour eritat,


mal eisernitz e peig esperz,


se cuid’esser a Deu offertz,


– qar l’an en cort entrepausat –,


ez a·s al dos la crox leuat


per anar segurs pels desertz.






E qi repren les dos Gomberz


dels Baus, non ‹cre› qe genz li stec,


qar cascuns fez so qe far dec


de dos desastrucs mal aperz;


q’a lor dan va·l comps oilz uberz,


ez ill cluc al seu descadec.






Anc pos Blancatz del prez non crec,


pos del costat li trais un mors


le filios, dun non cug sos cors


entre·ls pros pos en gauc non sec;


non fara-lo, se d’autr’esplec


no·ill virava çanz e demors.






E·l faducs sojorne son cors,


ibamptans e danz e periurs.


Ai!, tals flacs fraiç baros tafurs


ha en Pruenza, cui faill cors,


menz valenz qe judeus ni mors,


de sai la Mar ni lai part Surs.






Tanz es de bel taill Gardacors


q’eu non volria agues mos cors


tan Acre ni Roais ni Surs.



English translation [LP]

I. While some might be dismayed or downcast, true sincere joy bids me sing of love and other things which bring joy and delight to my heart. Even though I find myself in a very difficult pass, I celebrate the joys and sorrows of love.
II. And I celebrate the Provençals, because without reward or credit, rejected and dishonoured, they suffer mortal pain and suffering from the one who is their hereditary lord, stripped as they are of honour and land.
III. And the cuckoo of their inheritance, weak in judgment and worse in expertise, thinks he has offered himself to God – since they have coerced him in court – and is carrying the cross on his back so that he can wander safely through the deserts.
IV. And if anyone reproaches the two «Gomberz» of Baux, I think he is wrong to do so, since everyone has acted as they should towards two wretched incompetents: the Count (Raimon-Berenguer) is proceeding towards their downfall with his eyes wide open and they to his overthrow with theirs fast shut.
V. Blacatz has never increased in worth (or: I never judge Blacatz credible with respect to worth) since the boy took a bite out of his ribs, which is why I do not think his person has ever since then pursued joy among worthy people; nor will he do so unless song and courtly ways turn him aside from other activity.
VI. And let the fool rest his body, sparing himself (?) occasions for damage and perjury. Oh, such flaccid, broken, corrupt, barons there are in Provence, lacking courage, more worthless than Jews or Moors, from this side of the sea to beyond Tyre!
VII. Gardacors (Bodyguard) is such a figure of loveliness that I would not wish myself to have Acre or Edessa or Tyre so much [as her].


Italian translation [SA]

I. Se anche non manca chi è desolato e scoraggiato, fina gioia naturale mi anima, quando canto d’amore o d’altro, e di questo ho in cuore allegria e piacere; e benché io mi trovi ora in un ben difficile passo apprezzo la gioia e i dolori d’amore.
II. E apprezzo molto i Provenzali, che senza guadagno e senza ottenerne merito, ed (anzi) respinti e disonorati soffrono pena ed affanno mortale da parte di colui che è loro signore per diritto di sangue, privati come sono d’onore e di beni.
III. E il cuculo (insinuatosi) nelle loro eredità, poco astuto e per nulla reso esperto, ritiene di essersi offerto a Dio – dal momento che l’hanno costretto in corte – e porta sulle spalle la croce per attraversare sicuro i deserti.
IV. E se vi è chi rimprovera i due «Gombert» de Baux, non credo che lo faccia a ragione, perché non si è fatto che quel che si doveva con due sventurati incapaci: ché il conte si muove a lor danno a occhi bene aperti e loro ad occhi chiusi al suo abbattimento.
V. E neppure poi Blacatz in pregio non crebbe, [oppure: E neppure accorda più credito a Blacatz in merito al valore] dopo che dal costato gli trasse un boccone il ragazzo, per cui non credo che la sua persona abbia più trovato gioia sedendo fra la gente di valore; neppure vi riuscirà, se con altri successi non tornavano a lui il canto e le abitudini cortesi.
VI. E lo sciocco si dia pure pace, risparmiandosi (?) e danni e spergiuri. Ah!, tali fiacchi, deboli e ingannevoli baroni sono oggi in Provenza, privi di coraggio, meno valenti di Giudei e Mori, dall’Oceano in qua e di là fin oltre Tiro.
VII. Tanto è di bella persona Guardacors [Guardacorpo] che non vorrei trovarmi altrove, in Acri, in Edessa o a Tiro.




Text: Asperti 1995. – Rialto 23.vi.2014.

Ms.: H 4r.

Critical editions: Jean-Jaques Salverda de Grave, Le troubadour Bertran d’Alamanon, Toulouse 1902, p. 9; Stefano Asperti, «Sul sirventese Qi qe s’esmai ni·s desconort di Bertran d’Alamanon e su altri testi lirici ispirati dalle guerre di Provenza», in «Cantarem d’aquestz trobadors». Studi occitanici in onore di Giuseppe Tavani, ed. Luciano Rossi, Alessandria 1995, pp. 169-234, on p. 218.

Other editions: Martín Aurell, «Le poème Qui qe s’esmai ni·s desconort (1215) attribué à Bertran de Lamanon», Provence Historique, 36 (1986), pp. 339-345, on p. 344 (French translation) and La Vielle et l’épée. Troubadours et politique en Provence au XIIIe siècle, Paris 1989, p. 250 (text Aurell 1986).

Versification: a8 b8 b8 a8 a8 b8 (Frank 470:2); a = -ort, -als, -at, -èrtz, -èc, -òrs; b = -als, -at, -èrtz,- èc, -òrs, -urs. Six coblas capcaudadas and one three-line tornada. The metrical shape is similar to that of seven other pieces, including songs of Guillem IX and Jaufre Rudel, though no none of these seven has similar rhyme endings or coblas capcaudadas.

Notes: This complex and allusive political sirventes, belonging to a small group of lyrics gravitating around Sordel in ms. H, is likely to date from 1233 at the end of war between Count Raimon-Berenguer V of Provence and Count Raimon VII of Toulouse: see Asperti’s important article cited above, refuting Aurell’s arguments of 1986. After the Albigensian wars and the Treaty of Paris of 1229 Raimon VII was forced to renounce temporarily his rights over the imperial lands to the left of the Rhône, the «March of Provence», but immediately set about regaining them through the influence of both the emperor, Frederick II, who was attempting at this time to reaffirm his own sovereignty over the ancient kingdom of Arles, and King Louis IX of France. From the latter and Blanche of Castile he obtained letters guaranteeing his religious orthodoxy and his commitment to defending the faith and the Church’s institutions, and in 1230, while continuing his diplomatic efforts, he launched a major attack on Raimon-Berenguer, at an auspicious moment when the nobles and cities, particularly Marseille, were revolting against Raimon-Berenguer’s authority. Raimon VII crossed the Rhône, made allies of the citizens of Tarascon, and pushed forward to Marseille. By the end of 1230 he had formed a league consisting of Tarascon, Marseille, Uc and Raimon of Baux and other Provençal nobles, and on November 7 the Marseillais offered him sovereignty over their city. Raimon-Berenguer in turn sought the support of the King and the Emperor, and by 1232 the latter had distanced himself from Raimon VII. Frederick’s intervention on the side of the Count of Provence proved decisive, imposing peace on the region. Documents show that during the diplomatic and military struggles of these «convulsive years» the support of the Count of Toulouse risked backfiring dangerously on the Provençal rebels who had hoped to increase their power at the expense of the Count of Provence, for the Emperor was threatening to confiscate their estates (Asperti 1995, pp. 170 and 179-184). – In the spring or early summer of 1231, Uc des Baux and his son Guibert (the dos...dels Baus, vv. 19-20) were captured by Raimon-Berenguer and remained in prison until the spring of 1233. In turn, the troubadour, a loyal servant of Raimon-Berenguer, was captured by Raimon VII or one of his allies in the second half of 1232 (certainly after 25 June). It was eventually agreed that Uc and Guibert would be let off 500 marks of the sum required to obtain their release in return for the release of four of Raimon-Berenguer’s followers, including Bertran d’Alamanon (Asperti 1995, p. 198). Asperti argues that Bertran composed the sirventes while in prison, most probably in the winter of 1232-1233 or the beginning of spring when it was becoming clear that Raimon-Berenguer would be successful thanks to the Emperor’s intervention, and perhaps when the various negotiations concerning the release of the dos dels Baus seemed likely to bring their captivity to an end (pp. 198-199). He suggests that the biting but calmly ironic tone (neither «concitato o affannato o bellicoso», p. 199), corresponds to a moment when the crisis is substantially over. – Asperti suggests that the words si tot pris un deribat port (v. 5), where Bertran fuses love and political themes, may refer to his imprisonment, and relates stanza II to the rebel Provençal nobles who are being stripped of their inheritance by their own lord, Raimon-Berenguer. He shows that the «cuckoo» who has insinuated himself into their inheritance is Raimon VII of Toulouse, and argues that Bertran is mocking his contradictory conduct in professing to be a defender of the Church and persecutor of heretics during this period, yet in being unable to shake off his reputation gathered over many years as strenuous defender of the Toulousain, first against the crusaders and then against Louis VIII (p. 192). The picture of Raimon as crusader refers to one of the conditions of the Treaty of Paris, whereby Raimon had to promise to go on crusade to the East (which he never did); the comment that by wearing the cross on his back the Count will be safe in the deserts is no doubt comical on a literal level, but also metaphorical in the context of his imminent defeat in Provence. – Asperti (pp. 198, 194) explains the naming of Uc and Guibert of Les Baux in stanza III as «Gombert» in terms of the stupid character of that name in an Old French fabliau who lets two quick-witted clerics into his house, whereupon they immediately contrive to sleep with his wife and daughter. There may also be a play on Guibert de Baux’s name. The dos dels Baus have walked blindly into rebellion against their natural lord, Raimon-Berenguer, whereas he is fully conscious of planning their ruin. In 19-20 Bertran would be saying ironically that it would be ungracious to reproach the two Gomberz because, he points out acidly, they have already suffered for their actions. Asperti observes that they paid a heavy price for their support of Raimon VII: in order to attempt to assure their own independence they became his allies but conceded to him sovereignty over the lower part of Marseille, to which they themselves had been aspiring for some time (Asperti 1995, p. 195). And there is more to come, in the retaliation of their lord Raimon-Berenguer. – To account for the allusion in stanza IV to Blacatz, who was also involved in the Provençal rebellion against Raimon-Berenguer, Asperti suggests a reference to an obscure episode which may have belonged to antecedents to Sordel’s planh for that lord. The planh is constructed around the image of Blacatz’s heart being divided up, hence the comic notion of a mouthful being taken out of the ribs of his corpse. The sense of the second part of the stanza is that the elderly Blacatz should devote himself to courtly life and give up «serious» politics (p. 204). – Line 7: a sarcasm at the expense of the Provençal rebels. – Line 13: that is, the cuckoo who has insinuated itself into their inheritance, the Count of Toulouse. Apart from its connotations of displacing the host’s rightful progeny, the cuckoo is the symbol in troubadour iconography of falsehood, betrayal and ingratitude: see Asperti 1995, p. 193, who suggests that Raimon VII is being accused of pursuing his own interests in the region with scant regard for the fate of his allies of convenience. – Line 16: the judicial court in which Raimon VII submitted to the French king and the Church at the time of the Treaty of Paris. – Lines 21-22: perhaps the nuance of desastrucs here is ‘doomed’.

[LP, lb]

BdT    Bertran dʼAlamano

Songs referring to the crusades