Giraut de Borneil (Anonymous?)








Tals gen prezich’e sermona


q’a cor fals e maltalen,


e tals autrui ochaisona


qi sa colpa no repren,


e tals fer a peiz de serpen


qi son corag’enpreisona,


tals port’humil vestimen


q’a volontat felona.






Tals l’autrui tort no perdona


qi sa part no·n get’al ven,


e tals clama e tensona


qi non a de dreig nien,


e tals sos faigz fai follamen


qi parla gent e rasona,


tals semena ben e gen


son blat qi no·1 meixona.






Tals a gent’e fort persona


q’a sofracha d’ardimen,


tals son amic abandona


qi n’a sofracha soven,


e tals promet qi mal aten,


e tals ten pro qi pauc dona,


e tals gran servizi pren


qi mal lo guizardona.






Tals cui’aver saison bona


a cui en vai malamen,


e tals poing fort e sperona


q’a so caval trop corren,


e tals cuia far mantenen


qes a speransa bretona,


e tals par anar trop len


qe sos faigs dessaixona.






Tals qeir d’enperi corona


qui nostra fe mal defen,


e·l pap’entre terz’e nona


s’endorm aissi planamen,


q’encontra sarrazina gen


non vei baron qi s’opona;


anz an per lur malvolen


qi d’aiso mot lor sona.






Jesu-Crists, per salvar la gen,


portet d’espinas corona,


e·l papa so monimen


malamen abandona.






L’Antecrists, cug, venra breumen,


tan aonda gens fellona;


car tostemps vei c’om aten


la ploia, qant fort trona.



English translation [LP]

I. Some people preach and sermonise when their heart is false and vicious, and some accuse others without blaming themselves, and some strike worse than a snake while they keep their thoughts under lock and key; some wear humble clothes and intend treachery.
II. Some refuse to forgive another’s wrong but fail to expose their own; some make claims and demands when they have no rights to defend; some act foolishly while they speak and reason well; some sow their corn well but fail to reap it.
III. Some are built handsome and strong but lack courage; some abandon their friends who are often in need; some promise what they fail to fulfil, and some own much and give little, and some receive great service but reward it poorly.
IV. Some think they will have a good season and it turns out badly; some ride hard and spur their horse even if it is too swift; some think they can act at once but they have the hope of the Bretons, and some seem to move slowly but act precipitously.
V. One man seeks the imperial crown when he ill defends our faith, and the Pope sleeps so sweetly between terce and none that no nobleman is to be seen fighting the Saracens; instead they treat with hostility anyone who breathes to them a word of this.
VI. Jesus Christ bore a crown of thorns to save mankind, but the Pope wickedly forsakes His Sepulchre.
VII. The Antichrist will soon be here, I think, so vast is the evil horde; for in my experience rain is always on its way when the thunder rolls.


Italian translation [lb]

I. C’è chi predica e fa sermoni mentre il suo cuore è falso e vizioso, e c’è chi accusa gli altri senza biasimare la propria colpa, e c’è chi colpisce peggio di un serpente, mentre tiene i suoi pensieri sotto chiave; c’è chi indossa vestiti umili e ha intenzioni malvagie.
II. C’è chi rifiuta di perdonare il torto altrui, ma non riesce ad ammettere il proprio; c’è chi fa rivendicazioni e richieste, quando non ha diritti da difendere; c’è chi parla e ragiona bene ma agisce scioccamente; c’è chi semina bene il proprio grano ma non lo miete.
III. C’è chi è bello e forte, ma manca di coraggio; c’è chi abbandona i propri amici che si trovano spesso in difficoltà; c’è chi promette ciò che non può mantenere, e c’è chi possiede tanto e dà poco, e c’è chi riceve un eccellente servizio, ma lo ricompensa male.
IV. C’è chi pensa che avrà una buona stagione e invece gli va male; c’è chi incita e sprona il proprio cavallo (anche) quando è troppo veloce; c’è chi pensa di poter agire subito, ma ha la speranza dei Bretoni, e c’è chi sembra muoversi lentamente ma agisce precipitosamente.
V. C’è chi ambisce alla corona imperiale ma difende male la nostra fede, e il Papa dorme così beatamente tra Terza e Nona che non si vede nessun barone combattere i Saraceni; anzi essi considerano un nemico chiunque osi proferire loro una parola su questo.
VI. Gesù Cristo portò una corona di spine per salvare l’umanità, e invece il Papa abbandona perfidamente il Suo Sepolcro.
VII. L’Anticristo verrà presto, credo, visto quanto abbondano i malvagi; è normale aspettarsi la pioggia, quando tuona forte.




Text: Sharman 1989. – Rialto 1.x.2014.

Ms.: P 5v.

Critical editions: Adolf Kolsen, Sämtliche Lieder des Trobadors Giraut de Bornelh, 2 voll., Halle 1910 and 1935, vol. I, 67, p. 426; Ruth V. Sharman, The Cansos and Sirventes of the Troubadour Giraut de Borneil, Cambridge 1989, LXXVII, p. 483.

Versification: a7’ b7 a7’ b7 b8 a7’ b7 a6’ (Frank 302:7); -ona, -en. Six coblas unissonans and two tornadas of four lines each. The song derives ultimately from a canso of Peirol (BdT 366.19, Frank 302:8), which has the same metrical shape, the rhyme-endings of its first pair of coblas doblas, and a number of verbal parallels (see Sharman, p. 485). A sirventes of Peire Cardenal (BdT 335.29, Frank 302:11) in coblas unissonans has the identical versification (erroneously given in Frank as 7’ 7 7’ 7 7 7’ 7 7’: see Sergio Vatteroni, «Le poesie di Peire Cardenal - I», Studi mediolatini e volgari, 36, 1990, pp. 73-259, on p. 91) and rhymes. The three other pieces sharing the metrical shape of Peirol’s canso are sirventes (BdT 236.10, Guillem de la Tor; BdT 406.1, Raimon de Miraval; BdT 455.1, Uc de Mur) which have different rhymes. There is a close relationship between the present piece and Peire Cardenal’s, but given the doubts about Giraut de Borneil’s authorship, the question of who imitated whom remains open: see Vatteroni, pp. 92-93.

Notes: Kolsen’s acceptance of the single manuscript’s attribution of this piece to Giraut de Borneil has been rightly questioned (see Sharman, p. 485 and Vatteroni, pp. 92-93). Sharman suggests that the emperor referred to in v. 33 is probably Frederick II, crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Honorius III in 1220: see her note on p. 486, though since there were several claimants to the Empire in the 13th c. this is far from sure. Its content and tone, especially its attacks on clerical hypocrisy and the decline of Christian values, similar in inspiration to those of Peire Cardenal, indicate that the sirventes belongs well into the thirteenth century; moreover the other texts of a small group of unica in ms. P are late productions, in particular 242.38 (see BEdT and Gilda Caïti-Russo, Les Troubadours et la cour des Malaspina, Montpellier 2005, p. 375), and above all 242.52, which dates from 1271-1275 (Francesca Gambino, «Osservazioni sulle attribuzioni “inverosimili” nelle tradizione manoscritta provenzale (I)», in Le rayonnement de la civilisation occitane à l’aube d’un nouveau millénaire. Actes du VIe Congrès International de l’AIEO (12-19 septembre 1999), ed. Georg Kremnitz, Barbara Czernilofsky, Peter Cichon, Robert Tanzmeister, Vienna 2001, pp. 372-390, especially pp. 380-383). – While the sirventes begins with general accusations, stanzas V-VI are more specific. Sharman suggests that the reference to the imperial crown indicates a date between 1215, when Frederick II took the cross upon being elected King of the Romans, and 1220, the year of his coronation. However, the poet is not speaking of an emperor here, but of someone aspiring to the imperial title. Frederick was the natural, sole and uncontested candidate, so it does not fit to say sarcastically that he is seeking it (quer). In addition, the short period of time, five years, between his decision to go on crusade and his coronation, when he was preoccupied with grave matters of organising his domains, cannot explain the apocalyptic tone of this sirventes: compare two crusade songs of those years, Guilhem Figueira’s Totz hom qui ben comensa e ben fenis, which is decidedly enthusastic in the face of Frederick’s decision, and Elias Cairel’s Qui saubes dar tan bo conselh denan, composed in 1225-1226 (Gioshué Lachin, Il trovatore Elias Cairel, Modena 2004, p. 400 and poem XI). Both of these are designed to incite the great vassals who seem inert in the face of appeals from the Holy Land, but do not criticise either the ruler of the West or the Pope or the Church in general; and the tone of these two texts is very different from the grim sense of catastrophe of  the present piece, in which the coming of the Antichrist is seen as imminent (45-48). – For all these reasons the piece must be dated to a much later period than those hitherto proposed: at least to the Great Interregnum of 1250-1273, when the death of Frederick II provoked a no-holds-barred contest for the imperial title, to which many pretendants aspired. But if the attacks on a lay lord and a pope in the last stanzas are not generic but refer to specific historical figures, they may point to another, even later, context, namely the eve of the War of the Sicilian Vespers, between 1280 and 1282 (as Stefano Asperti has suggested in a private communication). The one who is seeking the imperial crown but bad at defending the Christian faith could be Charles of Anjou. Luquet Gatelus clearly alludes to his imperial aims (BdT 290.1a, ed. Giulio Bertoni, I trovatori d’Italia, Modena 1915; reprinted Rome 1967, p. 438, LXV, 15-14; see also Vincenzo De Bartholomaeis, Poesie provenzali storiche relative all’Italia, 2 voll., Roma 1931, vol. II, p. 228), and Gregory X granted Charles the office of Senator of Rome, which traditionally lay with the Emperors, this then being confirmed by Innocent V, John XXI and Martin IV. In addition, in 1281, thanks to the new French pope Martin IV, an agreement was concluded based on a system of matrimonial alliances that was supposed to have brought Charles Martel the kingdom of Arles through marriage to Clemence of Augsburg. Besides this Charles was also King of Jerusalem, having bought the rights to it from Maria of Antioch in 1277, and so was at least the nominal head of the Franks in the Holy Land. He had a poor reputation in the West because of this new position, since he had been patently uninterested in the most recent crusading projects, starting with the one organised by the brother of St Louis in 1270, when Charles had given priority to his plans for expanding his personal domains in both the East and the Mediterranean. So he could certainly have been presented as an extremely bad defender of the Christian faith. For his part, Martin IV, pope from 1281 to 1285, must have appeared highly indolent and subject to the Angevin’s interests, especially by comparison with his predecessor Nicholas III, and who was primarily remembered for his excessive fondness for eels (cfr. Purgatorio XXIV, 19-24); the accusation by the author of our sirventes that the pope sleeps during the middle hours of the day would fit him like a glove.

[LP, lb]

BdT    Giraut de Borneil

Songs referring to the crusades