Rostaing Berenguier de Marseilla








Pos de sa mar man cavalier del Temple,


man cavall gris cavalcant, si solombran


e, lurs cabeils saurs remiran, s’enombran,


mostran soven al mont malvays eysemple,


ez es tan grieus e tan fers lur ergueilhs


c’om non los pot esguardar de dregz hueilhs,


diguas mi Bort: per que·l Papa los sufre


pos sap e ves qu’ehn mans pratz, sotz vers sims,


– don lur ressort deshonors e grieus crims –,


guastan lo ben que hom per Dieu lur hufre?






Car pos ho an per cobrar lo Sepulcre


e guastan ho menan rumor al segle,


ez enguanan lo pobol d’aquest segle


contrafasen Guolias e Sahul, cre


que desplassa a Dieu; car tan lonc tems


hill, ez aquill de l’Espital emsemps,


han sufertat que li falsa gens turgua


haya tengut Jherusalem ez Acre;


car son, fugen, plus fort que falcon sacre:


per que·m par tort qui·l segle non en purgua!



English translation [LP]

I. Since on this side of the sea many Knights Templar, mounted on their various grey horses, rest in the shade and, admiring their golden locks, take their ease, often showing the world a bad example, and their arrogance is so harsh and so cruel that one dare not look them in the eye, tell me, Bort: why does the Pope endure them since he knows and sees that in many a meadow, beneath a canopy of green – and dishonour and grievous crimes result from this – they waste the goods that people offer them for God’s benefit?
II. Since they have them for the purpose of winning back the Sepulchre, and they waste them, giving rise to widespread protests, and cheating the people of this world on the model of Goliath and Saul, I think this is displeasing to God; for both they and the Hospitallers have allowed the false Turkish people to hold Jerusalem and Acre for such a long time; for they are stronger – when they take to flight – than a saker falcon. So it seems wrong to me if someone does not purge the world of them!


Italian translation [lb]

I. Dal momento che da questa parte del mare molti Cavalieri Templari, in sella ai loro vari cavalli grigi, si riposano all’ombra e, ammirando i loro riccioli d’oro, se la prendono comoda, spesso dando al mondo un cattivo esempio, e la loro arroganza è così dura e crudele che non li si riesce a guardare negli occhi, dimmi, Bort: perché il Papa li sopporta pur sapendo e vedendo che in molti prati, sotto una volta di verdi fronde – e da ciò derivano disonore e gravi crimini – essi sprecano i beni che la gente offre loro per Dio?
II. Dal momento che ne dispongono al fine di riconquistare il Sepolcro, e (invece) li sperperano, dando luogo a proteste diffuse, e ingannano la gente di questo mondo, imitando Golia e Saulo, credo che questo dispiaccia a Dio; perché sia essi sia gli Ospitalieri hanno permesso alla falsa gente turca di tenere Gerusalemme e Acri per così tanto tempo; perché, a prendere il volo, sono più veloci di un falco sacro. Per questo mi sembra che sbagli chi non ne disinfesta il mondo!




Text: Linda Paterson, Rialto 11.vii.2014.

Mss.: f 8v (mon sen rostainh berenguier . peticio).

Critical editions: Paul Meyer, Les derniers troubadours de Provence, Paris 1871, p. 89 (paraphrase-translation pp. 76; review Charles J. M. baron de Tourtoulon, Revue des langues romanes, 4, 1873, pp. 386-403); Fabio Barberini, «Rostainh Berenguier de Marseilha e l’affaire dell’Ospedale (BdT 427,4)», Revista de literatura medieval, 12, 2011, pp. 43-69; Fabio Barberini, Il trovatore Rostainh Berenguier de Marseilha, Modena 2013, 1, p. 168.

Versification: a10’ b10’ b10’ a10’ c10 c10 d10’ e10 e10 d10’ (Frank 608:2); a: = -emple, -ulcre; b = -ombran, - egle; c = -olhs, -emps; d = -ufre, -urga; e = -ims, -acre; two coblas singulars. There may originally have been a two-cobla reply from Bort.

Notes: The coblas postdate the fall of Acre on 18 May 1291 and predate the arrest of the French Templars on 22 November 1307. Barberini (2011, pp. 61-68) rejects Meyer’s view that the text was composed in c. April 1310, just before the final phase of the trial of the Templars, on the grounds inter alia that the coblas make no mention of the accusations made against them of heresy and satanic practices: an argument that I find convincing. He links the piece to difficulties encountered by the military Orders after 1291, when they took refuge in Cyprus but found themselves restricted in their rôle and activities by the lord of the island, Henry II of Lusignan. A trace of such difficulties is found in conflicts between the Hospitaller chapter and Eudes des Pins, Grand Master from 30 September 1294 to 17 March 1296, which required intervention from the Curia and which were echoed in a letter from the chapter, delivered on 3 April 1296, to the newly-elected Master Guillaume de Villaret, indicating abuses that had slipped into the Order and demanding that he deal with them. This man was the uncle of Foulques de Villaret with whom our troubadour had a personal relationship, praising him in Si com trobam clar (BdT 427.6). After his election Guillaume de Villaret must have disappointed many of his supporters, both because he repeatedly postponed joining the order in Cyprus on various pretexts, and because he summoned a general chapter of the order in Marseille – Rostainh Berenguer’s city – for the following year, on his personal initiative. This represented a double contravention of the legal statutes of the Hospital: the convocation of the chapter was the joint prerogative of the master and the members of the chapter itself, and in addition, such meetings were supposed to take place near the seat of the order, hence after 1291 in Cyprus. Guillaume’s decision also sparked off other anxieties concerning the urgent need for reform, but without anyone having a clear idea of what this should consist of, and whether the Hospitallers should stay in Cyprus or even in the East, or whether they should retire definitively to the West. These doubts continued to increase with Guillaume’s successive acts as master, when he not only ignored repeated advice sent by the chapter to passer outra mar, but between May and June 1299, summoned another general meeting of the order, in Avignon and not in Cyprus, for 1 August 1300. The Cyprus chapter immediately responded on 12 June 1299 by sending an embassy to him, threatening him with a type of impeachment, after which he grudgingly submitted to its requests and after 27 July 1300 at the earliest, arrived in Cyprus. – Barberini suggests that this important Hospitaller affair – and not the more famous affair of the Templars – is what is behind vv. 15-18, and therefore that the date of composition falls between summer 1299 and at the latest the first months of 1300. He notes that in 1299 the Mongols, encouraged by the Latins and allied with the Armenians, had begun to campaign against the Muslims again; after their victory at Emessa in 1299 they had caused some problems to Egyptian rule in Syria, so they could contemplate further action in Syria provided that the military Orders, and with them the Christian rules of the West, would swiftly play their part. But the Orders only intervened in June 1300, about one year after Emessa and shortly after Guillaume de Villaret moved to Cyprus, and despite some early successes, military operations ended in yet another failure, without the western rulers becoming involved. – Barberini argues that although in his joint accusation against the Hospitallers and Templars Rostainh Berenguier simply blames them for not pursuing the reconquest of the Holy Land, vv. 15-18 may hint at the implicit fear that the conflict between master and chapter could distract the orders from facing the Muslim enemy. In other words, blame of the disreputable conduct of the Templars may be an excuse to express veiled criticism of the Hospital of St John, which in the summer of 1299 was on the brink of a serious schism. The Italian scholar cautiously suggests that Foulques de Villaret, Guillaume’s nephew, who was in his turn to become master of the order in 1304-1305, could have put the troubadour in the picture concerning tensions between Guillaume de Villaret and the chapter. He points out that Rostainh was an aristocrat or, more probably, a member of the upper bourgeoisie, in contact with a member, even if illegitimate, of the ruling house of Aragon: Lo Bort del Rey d’Arago (see his note to v. 7). He also raises the possibility of a deliberate «leak» to the troubadour, given that the ambassadors to Guillaume de Villaret in 1299 were authorised to make overtures to anyone who appeared to them likely to support their mission effectively, and one might venture the cautious hypothesis that precisely because of his ties to Foulques, Rostainh may have enjoyed a certain credit in Hospitaller circles. Barberini ends his discussion by arguing that Rostainh’s attack is not indiscriminate, but in all probability is an act of sincere devotion to the Hospitallers and the Villarets, whose protection he enjoyed and felt honoured by: the song would be conveying a hint, discreet but duly comprehensible to those directly concerned, who, if they were losing interest in the armed struggle for Christendom in order to fight among themselves, were no better than the Templars, and were therefore liable to the same accusations: «Insomma: parlare a Templare perché Ospitaliero intenda». – It is certainly tempting to see the coblas in the light of the circumstances evoked here, and the personal connection between Rostainh and Foulques make this quite a plausible scenario. However, there is likely to be more to the attack on the Templars - especially their cruelty and arrogance and their misuse of resources – than simply a device to press the Hospitallers to mend their ways. Were there particular conflicts between the two orders at this time? There seems to be a particular emphasis on the Templars as knights. Malcolm Barber describes how the idea of a merger of military orders, seriously discussed at the Council of Lyon in 1274 though not carried through because the Spanish kings wished to retain their Iberian orders, was revived by Pope Nicholas IV in 1291. The Templar Grand Master, James of Molay, opposed this, arguing that Templars and Hospitallers were similar but not duplicates, for with the latter charitable work took precedence, while the Templars «were founded especially as a knighthood»: he argued that rivalry between the orders could therefore only be beneficial, stimulating each to outdo the other. Barber describes the discussions about a union as «lively and persistent» and refers to the Mallorcan Ramon Lull who in 1292 put forward the idea of a united order under the leadership of a so-called Bellator Rex, or Warrior King (Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood, Cambridge 1994, pp. 283-285). – Moreover the particular accusation against the Templars of wasting the resources supplied to them for crusading purposes resonates strikingly with Molay’s determined and successful efforts to maintain and increase the Templars’ supplies of men, food and clothing from the West around this time, when the Grand Master travelled to the West to make a personal appeal to key rulers, including Jaume II of Aragon, brother of Rostainh’s interlocutor Bort. This resulted in, among other things, Charles II of Naples ordering his port officials in Apulia to exempt shipments of food produced by the Templars in their own lands in the province and destined for Cyprus or the Holy Land from export taxes, up to the level of 2,000 salmae of wheat, 3,000 of barley and 500 of vegetables, for the Templars’ use only; and in 1299 «Henry of Herville, Portulan of Apulia, ordered the royal officials at Manfredonia to allow wheat purchased by various persons, including the Italian banking society of the Bardi, for the Hospital, to be exported, which implies a relaxation of the restriction limiting exports to produce from the Orders’ own estates. This cargo was to be carried on a Templar ship, itself already loaded with grain for the Order in Cyprus. On the same day as his general confirmation of the Templar privileges in Cyprus, Boniface VIII also wrote to Edward I of England, asking him to permit the free export of goods by the Templars in order to sustain them in Cyprus. In lieu of a major crusade the men, money, and supplies helped fuel the Templars’ own efforts to take the war to the Saracens. Henry of Herville’s order of 1299 shows that they continued to maintain their own freight carriers in Apulian ports; in 1293 they had also acquired warships in the form of six galleys from Venice ‘for the guard of the island of Cyprus’ to add to the two which they already had» (Barber, pp. 290-293). Of course the Templars owned considerable property and wealth anyway, but their resources may have been particularly conspicuous at this time and been a source of resentment on the part of people who naïvely believed that the Templars should therefore have been putting more effort into oriental crusading rather than fleeing westwards (v. 19). Moreover Bort had a particular reason for hostility towards any actions of his brother Jaume II of Aragon, including any support for the supposed extravagances of the Templars, which would make these coblas addressed to him especially pointed; it is much to be regretted that any response from Bort has failed to survive. – Line 3: Barberini (2013, pp. 170-171) suggests that the colour saur may be linked to yellow, often evoking in the Middle Ages lying, falsehood and particularly lack of purity. Compare Paolo Di Luca, «I trovatori e i colori», Medioevo romanzo, 29, 2005, pp. 321-403, on pp. 379-380, who observes that although yellow is a positive attribute in the description of a woman’s hair, this colour is otherwise seen in the Middle Ages as profoundly negative, being the colour of deceit and treachery, and that saur has connotations of preciosity. – Line 5. Barberini reads e zes, indicates in the note that he understands ez es, but prints es e. – Line 6: Barberini prints c’on, no variant. He reads hueolhs and corrects to hueilhs. – Line 7:  Bort (‘Bastard’) is the troubadour listed in BdT as Lo Bort del rei d’Arago, and is probably to be identified with Ferran, a son of Pere III of Aragon to whom his father had given the lordship of Albarracin, which was then seized from him by his brother, King Jaume II: see Barberini’s note on p. 46. Tourtoulon (review, p. 396) comments that «Il ne serait pas étonnant que Fernando eût, vers cette époque, quitté l’Aragon pour la Provence, et fût entré en relation avec le troubadour Berenguier». Barberini identifies the pope here as Boniface VIII (1294-1303). – Line 12: literally ‘bringing rumor to the world’. Barberini translates rumor as ‘scandalo’ (in the sense of ‘outrage’?), noting that the only other occurrence of the word in the troubadours is in Peire Cardenal (BdT 335.14, v. 43, ed. Sergio Vatteroni, Il trovatore Peire Cardenal, 2 voll., Modena 2013, vol. I, poem 14), though Vatteroni translates rumar (p. 279) simply as ‘rumore’ (of a river): see his note on p. 285. SW, VII, 389-340 gives ‘Lärm, Geräusch; Unruhe, Aufstand; Streit’, PD ‘rumeur, bruit; tumulte, sédition; querelle’. I take the nuance to be a question of people’s reaction rather than the Templars’ alleged action. – Lines 14-15: Barberini explains these lines either by seeing these two biblical figures as two separate examples of pride being punished, or else by reference to Samuel I, chap. XVII: audiens autem Saul, et omnes Israelitae, sermones Philistaei huiusmodi (= the challenge issued by Goliath to Saul’s army), stupebant, et metueband nimis (I Sam., XVII.11): in other words the Templar army (= Saul), out of fear, does not wage war on the Turks (= Goliath). In the latter case contrafasen Guolias e Sahul (= «imitando l’episodio che vede protagonisti Golia e Saul») chimes with the accusation of cowardice, summed up in v. 19. There is no need to look for reasons to understand ms. desplassa as desplassan with a missing titulus, as Barberini does: the subject of desplassa is simply the whole of the preceding situation. He emends ms. tems to temps to regularise the rhyme. – Line 20: Barberini qu’il, «che il secolo non se ne purghi», though the verb is not reflexive and il cannot be a nom. sg. article. For the use of a relative qui without an antecedent, see Jensen, Syntaxe, § 337. Barberini prints no·n for ms. non en, with no variant given, thus rendering the line hypometric.

[LP, lb]

BdT    Rostaing Berenguier de Marseilla

Songs referring to the crusades