Lai al comte mon segnor voill pregar


non li plassa q’ab se·m men oltra mar,


qar ben sapcha qu’eu lai non posc passar


pero el miez totz temps volri’estar:


ben volria la gent acompagnar


e Deus penses de las armas salvar,


mas fort lo deu nostre segner amar,


qar dels peccatz vol penedenza far.




Ancar non hai de la mar tant apres,


si tot lai gen sui nuiriz, q’eu pogues


oltra passar, per esfortz q’eu fezes;


per qe·l compte voill pregar non li pes


s’ab lui non pas, q’esser non dei repres,


q’eu tem tant fort la mar, qan mals temps es,


q’oltra non posc passar per re, zo·m pes,


e·l coms non deu voler qu’eu mora ges.





Mas s’ab se vol marinier ben saben


de la mar, men em Bertran, si l’es gen,


d’Alamanon, q’a lui sai q’es plazen,


e sap tan be qal son li meillor ven,


q’en un jorn passa e s’en torna leumen,


e·l coms lais mi, qe poder ni talen


non hai passar la mar al meu viven:


tan mi fai mortz de paor e spaven.





Mon seignor prec non li sia plazen


q’oltra·m fassa passar, part mon talen;


q’en la mar ven totz hom a perdemen,


per qeu non voill passar, al meu viven.



English translation [LP]

I. I want to beseech the count my lord not to choose to take me to Outremer (or beyond the sea or beyond love [oltr’amar]) with him, and to be well aware that I can’t make the passage there; however I would like to stay in the middle of it all the time: I’d like to go along with the troops and for God to take care of saving souls. But our lord must love Him (or this) very much since he now wants to make penance for his sins.
II. Even though I have been well brought up there, I have not yet learned enough about the sea (or love) to be able to make the passage, however hard I might try; so I want to beseech the count not to mind if I don’t make the passage with him. I shouldn’t be blamed, for I am so fearfully afraid of the sea (or love) in bad weather that I can’t pass beyond for anything, I regret to say, and the count definitely ought not to want me to die.
II. But if he wants a sailor well acquainted with the sea (or love), let him take Sir Bertran of Alamano if he likes, for I know he enjoys this, and he knows so well which are the best winds, so that he easily passes there and back in a single day. Let the count leave me alone, since I have neither the power nor the desire to pass over the sea (or endure love) at any time in my whole life: it makes me die so from fear and terror.
IV. I pray it may not please my lord to make me make the passage, contrary to (or beyond) my desire; for on the sea (or in love) all men come to salvation (ms. salvamen), which is why I don’t want to pass over during my lifetime.


Italian translation [lb]

I. Voglio supplicare il conte mio signore di non portarmi oltremare (o al di là del mare o al di là dell’amore [oltr’amar]) con sé, e di essere ben conscio che io non posso passare là; però mi piacerebbe stare sempre nel mezzo di tutto ciò: vorrei accompagnare le truppe e che Dio si prenda cura delle anime da salvare. Ma il nostro signore deve amarLo (o amare questo) molto, dal momento che adesso vuole far penitenza per i suoi peccati.
II. Anche se vi sono stato bene istruito, non ho ancora imparato abbastanza del mare (o dell’amore) da poter fare il passaggio, per quanto possa sforzarmi; così voglio implorare il conte di non aversela a male se non faccio il passaggio con lui. Non dovrei essere biasimato, ho una paura così terribile del mare (o dell’amore) quando è cattivo tempo che non posso passare al di là per nessun motivo, mi spiace dirlo, e il conte non dovrebbe certamente volere che io muoia.
III. Ma se vuole un marinaio che conosce bene il mare (o l’amore), prenda messer Bertran d’Alamanon se gli aggrada, poiché io so che a lui questo piace, ed egli sa così bene quali sono i venti migliori che in un solo giorno passa di là e torna di qua senza problemi. Il conte mi lasci in pace, dal momento che non ho né la forza né la voglia di passare al di là il mare (o di sopportare l’amore) in nessun momento della mia vita, tanto mi fa morire di paura e di terrore.

IV. Prego che non piaccia al mio signore di farmi fare il passaggio contro il (o al di là del) mio desiderio; poiché in mare (o in amore) tutti gli uomini giungono alla salvezza (ms. salvamen), ed è per questo che non voglio passare di là finché sono in vita.




Text: Boni 1954 (XXIX). – Rialto 8.viii.2013.

Notes: I interpret this song in the light of the well-worn medieval punning on la mar and l’amar noted by Bertoni, Trovatori, p. 299 and Elisa Guadagnani (see her notes to the online edition, though my overall interpretation is very different from hers), of Saverio Guida’s discussion of Sordel’s homosexuality («Sulla tenzone tra Uguet e Reculaire (BdT 458,1)», Studi Mediolatini e volgari, 52, 2006, pp. 99-130), the scatalogical tenso between the Coms de Proensa and Arnaut, BdT 184.1 (Rialto edition forthcoming), and the well-known burlesque tradition in troubadour poetry (see for example Burlesque et obscénité chez les Troubadours: le contre-texte du moyen âge, ed. Pierre Bec, Paris 1984; Saverio Guida, «L’altra faccia del trobar nei sirventesi di Garin d’Apchier e di Torcafol», La France Latine, 152, 2011, pp. 215-257). The extensive punning is almost impossible to render in translation: the individual notes attempt to give some account of it. 1. The count is Charles of Anjou, about to set out on crusade with Louis IX of France in 1248. 4. For miez see Guadagnini’s discussion. Sordel is saying he does not want to be the other side of the sea, in the Holy Land and on crusade, but in the middle of the sea (and of «love») with the troops, like the count, in lines 17-28, who likes sailors. 6. Boni comments that the connection between this line and those that precede and follow it are far from clear. My hypothesis is that Sordel is saying, outrageously, he wants to live it up with the army on board ship and leave saving souls to God. 7-8. Again outrageously, Sordel plays on the idea of the count loving God so much he wants to go on crusade, and wanting to carry out penance for loving «it» (being with the troops?) so strongly (vigorously?). – I interpret the Ms. reading as q’ar. 9-19. As Guadagnini indicates, 9-11 refer both to the troubadour’s alleged upbringing by the sea and to his expertise in matters of «love». She understands Sordel to be declaring the value of his own amorous education that prevents him from loving to excess. I take this sense as ironic, and probably obscenely antiphrastic, along the lines of other troubadours’ professed impotence (for example BdT 389.31, Raimbaut d’Aurenga, ed. Walter T. Pattison, The Life and Works of the Troubadour Raimbaut d’Orange, Minneapolis 1952, XXVIII; BdT 132.7a, ed. Ruth Harvey and Linda Paterson, The Troubadour Tensos and Partimens: A Critical Edition, 3 vols, Cambridge 2010, p. 277). The following lines, as others, are no doubt also obscene. In 12-13 Sordel apparently innocuously expresses his reluctance to go on crusade, but s’ab lui non pas can also be taken to mean he does not want to go - or even engage in sexual activities with - the Count in particular, as opposed to the other men on the ship. He then suggests that the Count should take Bertran d’Alamanon with him instead, since he (Sordel mischievously alleges) likes that sort of thing. Guadagnini recognises that Sordel is satirising this troubadour and high-level bureaucrat in the count’s service, but to say he is accusing him of «una certa leggerezza amorosa» is to understate the case. Boni (p. LXXIX) suggests that in presenting Bertran as an experienced sailor Sordel is jokingly accusing him of cowardice and lack of energy, such aspersions similarly made by Guigo de Cabanas, Blacasset and Granet (see Le troubadour Bertran d’Alamanon, ed. Jean-Jacques Salverda de Grave, Toulouse 1902, p. 157). Granet (BdT, 189.2, ed. Harvey–Paterson, Tensos, p. 438) declares «You’re flabby in your great lust, and you know that the base vices I’ve learned are your bosom pals» (18-19). 20. Bertran’s purported familiarity with the best winds are a jocular reminder of a scatalogical dialogue between the count of Provence (who may be fictive and ventriloquised) and Sir Arnaut (Catalan?) about a hundred noble ladies becalmed on their way to the Holy Land and requiring the help of a gigantic fart to blow them there (BdT 184.1). See Ruth Harvey’s forthcoming edition on Rialto. 22-24. Bertran’s «prowess» is contrasted with Sordel’s ironically professed lack of it. For the sense of passar here as «endure» see SW, VI, 120, 22. 27. Previous editors emend the ms. reading salvamen to perdamen, on the grounds that the former offers no satisfactory sense. This ignores the scandalous tone of the piece: on board ship men reach paradise, so Sordel would rather not arrive at the other side of the sea, out of reach of what he desires. Again, Guadagnini tentatively suggested an interpretation along these lines, though in terms of conventional courtly love.

[LP, lb]

BdT    Sordel    437.18

Songs referring to the crusades