Antonin Perbòsc: Death of the Vine (From Occitan)

During the Great French Wine Blight of the 19th century, an epidemic of phylloxera, a sap-sucking aphid that feeds on the root of grapevines, destroyed most vineyards and vintners' livelihoods throughout French wine-country, which included large parts of rural Occitania. Phylloxera was commonly referred to as La Bèstia "The Beast" by Lengadocian vintners. The following poem, part of a cycle about wine and phylloxera in Languedoc, is taken from Lo Gòt Occitan "The Occitan Goblet" originally published in serial installments in Le Feu Follet in 1902. The title given to this poem in that serialization is Lo Comba-Négrat "The Combnegran." Combanegra "Blackdell" is the name of a place north of Toulouse and west of Montauban. (It also leads the imagination to a dell sucked black and sparse by the pestilence of phylloxera.) When Lo Gòt Occitan was printed as a complete collection in 1903, the poem bore the title given here.
The poem's final passage evokes Cathar martyrs killed in the Occitan War, the plight of the vintner standing as symbol of a crushed and drained nation.

Death of the Vine
By Antonin Perbòsc
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

And that was that. The vine was really dead.
Last year in pangs the poor old shoots had spread
to ripen the last bunch each branch could yield;
but now the Beast, brawling through every field,
— unspeakable! — with all its mouths had struck,
and sucked the last sap drop from the bled stock.

The old Combnegran, blistered by the sun
and beaten by the wind since he was young,
for fifty years had cut and picked each vine.
Now with legs shackled and a twisted spine,
for these three seasons past, a crippled man
with feet by the andirons too weak to stand,
—His whole life an outdoorsman to the core —
he somberly sat pondering by the door.

Endlessly pondering the disastrous blight,
not wanting to believe his house's plight.
Oh what he wouldn't give now just to run
to Peyralade where vines sipped ancient sun,
to see with his own eyes — and die, maybe —
the root-gnawed crop that naught could remedy.
Oh, heaven had left this godforesaken earth. 

"Papa, today has really been the worst" 
A summer ago, one evening, he had heard
those words and couldn't speak. Head bowed down toward
his cup where red wine sparkled at his face,
he asked no more. Said nothing. Sat in place. 

What had they done? Just ripped out every root
of Peyralade stock, the hillside's prize shoot
back when the bounteous harvests were still turning.
Still a good stock these days? Well, good for burning!
Whole ranks of them now, jumbled and bent double,
were heaped and shucked like sheathes in fields of stubble;
Then row on row were piled up and piled higher
until they made for an amazing pyre.
The sun had finished drying up last 
those stumps on which, in summers now long past, 
its beams bid bloom such luscious leafy layers. 

Winter had come. One evening during prayers
the old man on his stool, head bowed with bile,
chewed over bitter dreams of horror, while
outside the North Wind brawled with skreaking maw.
"Won't we be warm!" said his sister-in-law
"We won't have wine, but we've got logs galore"
and gathered stumps into her pinafore. 

Oh, flames like battle-torches, log by log,
lit the hearth from pot-hanger to fire-dog!
The old man watched the smoking sizzling brands
tossed on the fireplace twist like human hands,
akin to martyrs grasping in the air
for God's aid with the fingers of despair;
eyes wide, pupils dilated hideously,
mouths gaping up to scream their agony,
blood pouring purply from the melting skin
salvos of golden sparks crazed up to spin
toward pitch night in the fire's devouring violence.
And then the house was still with deathly silence. 

The old man saw pass in this hellish shine
all the joy squeezed out of the wounded vine.
What misery now would canker in his head?
He stooped. And stooped a bit more. And was dead.


The Original:

La Mòrt de la Vinha
Antonin Perbòsc

Tot èra plan finit, la vinha èra plan mòrta.
De migra, l'an passat, la paura cambatòrta
Suls rams avià vairat sos darrièrs rasinòls;
Ara, La Bèstia avià, sus totes los planòls,
— desparaulanta orror — amb sas milanta bocas
chucat duscas al còr la saba de las socas.

Lo vièlh Combanegrat, dempuèi sa joventut,
usclat pel solelhàs o pel ventàs batut,
las avià cincanta ans podadas, vendimiadas;
ara, esquinal plegat e cambas enferriadas,
agut, despoderat, dempuèi tres calendrièrs,
a poder pas levar los pèds de suls landièrs,
— el que tota sa vida avià rotlat per òrta —
soscava sornament sul soquet de la pòrta.

Soscava sens sadol al malastre infernal,
sens voler creire al dòl tombat sus son ostal.
Qu'airia donat per corre amont, a Peiralada,
ont sa vinha mila ans beguèt la solelhada,
per veire de sos èls, — benlèu per ne morir!—
aquel mal rosegant que res podià garir!
A! La tèrra èra donc del cèl abandonada!...

"Paire, avèm fach, auèi, plan marrida jornada!..."
Aqui çò qu'ausiguèt un ser, l'estiu passat.
Demorèt atupit, son agach abaissat
sus son gòt, ont lo vin lusissià, sus la taula,
sens ne mai demandar, sense dire una paraula.

Çò qu'aviàn fach? Aviàn arrancat a bèl talh
las vits de Peiralada, ondradas del costal
al temps ont se fasià bèla vendemiadura,
ara bonas, ailas! Res qu'a la cramadura.
Las socas pels vidats, forra-borra, a redòls,
s'amontairèron tals los quintèls pels rastòls;
apèi, a tombarèls comols, tièra per tièra,
anguèron s'apilar pel sòl en fagotièra
espectaclosa; aqui lo solelh finiguèt
de secar aquels socs ont, tant d'estius, fasquèt
espandir amb son flam rama tant pampolada.

L'ivèrn èra vengut. Un ser, a la velhada,
l'aujòl, sus son banquet, lo cap clin, al confin,
romiava son amar sosc de malcòr, ensin
qu'a grand buf la sisampa idolava defòra.
"Podèm plan nos calfar, ongan" diguèt la nòra,
"que s'avèm plus de vin, avèm pron de busquets!"
E pel sòl anguèt quèrre un faudal de soquets.

A! La flamba qu'alara esclairèt, batalhèra,
Tot l'ostal, del carmal duscas a l'endalièra!
L'aujòl vejèt los socs abrandats e fumants
se torsent suls landiers tals de braces umans,
retiplant de martirs que tenon ennairadas
cap al secors diusenc lors mans desesperadas.
Avian d'èls als perpels dubèrts orrescament,
de bocas s'alandant per clamar lor torment;
un sang porpral sortià de lors ruscas ascladas,
e de belugas d'òr en folescas voladas
montavan dins la nèch del devorant brandal.
E l'ostal èra siaud d'un silénci mortal.

L'aujòl vejèt passar dins l'òrra flambuscada
tot lo gauch avalit de la vinha atucada.
D'ara-enlà qual malcòr en el podià florir?
Se clinant un pauc mai, acabèt de morir.

Peire Cardenal: Advice to Frederick of Sicily (From Occitan)

After Marcabru's Crusade song, let us head to the lavador of an anti-war Troubadour. Here we have Peire's solemn reaction to a boast-poem by Bertran de Born.

First let me say a bit about Bertran's poem, which I'm not translating because I don't hate myself enough to do that. Bertran de Born was lord of Autafòrt which he held jointly with his brother Constantin. In 1182 he joined King Enric II's revolt against his brother Ricard Còr de Leon, Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitania. Constantin took Ricard's side, and Bertran drove him out of Autafòrt. In 1183 in the aftermath of the revolt, Ricard besieged Autafòrt, captured it and gave it to Bertran's brother Constantin who had sided with him. Enric II however returned it to Bertran, and Ricard confirmed his father's grant. Bertran gloated and boasted in his poem of having snatched Autafort back by legal chicanery from his brother, and expressed gratitude for Enric II's willingness to suspend Ricard's law to this end. Bertran — as was his way — also beautified war in the poem, and its implements, saying things like "Qu'amb aiço·m conòrt / e·m tenh a depòrt / guèrra e tornei" (I take comfort and have a lot of fun in war and tourneying) and "patz no·m fai conòrt./ Amb guèrra m'acòrt/ qu'ièu non tenh ni crei/ neguna autra lei."  (Peace doesn't put me at peace. I'm in synch with war, for I do not keep or hold to any other law.) It ends with the words "No·m cal d'Autafòrt/ mais far drech ni tòrt / que·l jutgament crei / mon senhor lo rei." (I don't give a hoot any more about doing right or wrong over Autafort, for I believe in the judgment of Milord the king.)

In 1212 Pèire Cardenal wrote the song translated here, in the same meter and rhyme pattern as Bertran's, as an appeal to Frederick the Great of Sicily (candidate for, and soon to be, Holy Roman Emperor) in which he rejected Bertran's bellicosity, and took France to task on several counts — even roping in the heroes of French epic legend like Roland, and old Frankish kings like Charles the Hammer (grandfather of Charlemagne), as well as the Burgundian Chief Girard of Roussillon.

I've known for a while that, at some point in my series of translations from Occitan, I was going to have to discuss the Occitan War (also badly and commonly known as the Albigensian Crusade). Since this poem was written during that war by a man probably privy to details of the front line as they reached the Tolosan court, it looks like that point is here and now.

Like the Battle of Roncesvaux, a minor skirmish between one of Charlemagne's vassals and some Basque guerrillas which was magnified to literally epic proportions in French and Italian literature, the Occitan War is far more important in retrospect and as a memory than anything else. Understanding the Occitan War is a bit like understanding Michael Jackson in his later years. It is best to forget everything you thought you knew.

Here are a few things the Occitan War was not.

The Occitan War was not the the main (or even a secondary) cause for the decline of Troubadour literature, contrary to popular belief and defunct scholarly opinion. Then as now, the Midi was a big place. Toulouse actually witnessed a population boom afterward, and troubadour culture if anything grew more vibrant and varied than it had been before, perhaps precisely because the status of the troubadours as a social class was much changed.

The Occitan War was also not remarkably brutal. Though terrible and destructive, as war is almost by definition, it was not unusually so. In fact as Medieval European wars go, it was more or less par for the course.

Nor was the Occitan War at all genocidal. Comparisons by modern Occitan nationalists to what was done to American Indians are a misleading fantasy.

So much the Occitan War was not. Here is what it was. It was a major blow to the political autonomy of Occitanian lords and barons, and thus may be seen in retrospect as the first stage of a long process which made a nation of France and a region of Occitania. Before the French Revolution, that process was largely unplanned. Nobody, not even the French King, in the 1200s had any idea or intent that Occitania would become culturally French, let alone linguistically.

The Occitan War was also unprecedented from the perspective of Occitanians. While similar (and indeed far worse) wars had been, and would be, waged throughout the European Middle Ages, the people of Occitania had neither seen nor possessed any historical memory of this scale of violence on their own soil. For well over a century, the Midi had been relatively placid, all told, compared to the wars that had raged to its north and south. The sort of war-making hymned by Bertran de Born in the 12th century over Autafort, though more destructive than war had been in the previous century, was relatively mild, compared to much medieval warfare. (And to a time-traveler who had seen the technologized mass-combat of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, it might not even feel like "real" war at all so much as a glorified gangfight.) The worst of war that Occitanians had then seen was when they traveled elsewhere, whether on crusade or for some other reason. And commoners seldom traveled.

It is not unlike how Americans perceive 9/11 which was, all told, not especially remarkable either in its tactics or in its body-count. The world had seen, and some parts of it were seeing, far worse than that. But 9/11 was unexpected and unprecedented and shocking for Americans, who had not seen large-scale organized terrorism, nor in fact any act of war, on mainland soil for almost a century and a half. I can say that it completely changed the trajectory of my life, as an American. (For one, were it not for 9/11, I would probably not know Arabic.) The Occitan War had a similar psychological effect on Occitanians, both while it happened and in its aftermath.

In this poem, mention of Simon de Montfort and Picards evokes Montfort's army (containing quite a lot of peasant soldiers from Picardy) which had massacred men at Béziers three years earlier, followed by a number of other acts of cruelty as part of what may have been a deliberate policy of terrorism. Peire was present at Count Raimón's court in Toulouse during the Occitan war, and would have been privy to developments on the front line as they reached the court. At the time of this song's writing, in late 1212, Count Raimón had lost control over most of his former territory. When Peire says "The Count of Montfort" in this poem, one must understand that he was talking about someone he had reason to be terrified of.

The impression I get is that Peire has in mind a takeaway something like this: "Fuck the French. No, seriously. Don't look to the damn Frogs as an example to follow. They're a barbaric, bellicose people who just like singing of war and making war. Believe me, I know. Those Frenches just love to sing war-epics about people like Roland on campaigns in the Midi. And then they come at Milord Raimón with people like Simon. And what was that asshole Bertran de Born thinking, glorifying war like that? This shit is not glorious. He didn't know what the hell he was talking about back then."

Peire, in rejecting Frenchmen as lords, is also obliquely advising Frederick not to become a pawn of Philip Augustus of France, on whose support Frederick was depending. Longobards and Lombards are here to be taken as northern and southern Italians. Sicilians are mentioned in reference to Frederick's home kingdom.

He ends with the common warning of what the hereafter entails for one who puts all their effort into worldly acquisition and none into kindness. Given that Frederick II seems to have cared for religion scarcely more than I do, I can't imagine this played as well with Frederick as Peire's trashing of the French as cheese-eating murdermonkeys.

Fear the Gallos 
By Peire Cardenal 
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

I take for fools the Longobards 
Sicilians, Germans and Lombards  
If they want Frenchmen or Picards  
For lords or friends or bodyguards. 
  They murder and they maim 
  And take it as a game.
  And I will praise no liege
  Who does not keep the peace.

A liege would need good men to start, 
A harder strike than Roland's hand, 
Have cunning to outfox Reynart 
And gold to outbid Corbaran,  
  And fear death less in war
  Than Simon de Monfort,
  Before all acquiesce
  To him in sheer duress.

And know you what will be his share 
Of plundering war and bloody rain?  
The danger, anguish and the fear 
He causes. Torment, grief and pain 
  Will be his destiny.
  I warn His Majesty
  That in the tourney lies
  Only that heavy prize.

Man, small worth are your wit and skills  
If you lose your soul for an heir,  
Or burn in frying someone else   
When their deathrest is your despair, 
  Thus you reach a threshold
  Where all who pass must hold
  The weight of their intrigues
  And lies and heinous deeds.

Not Charles the Hammer nor Girart 
Not Agolant nor Marsilen  
Not King Gormond nor Isembart 
Managed to kill so many men  
  On earth that what they got
  Was worth a garden-spot
  I truly envy none
  Of all that wealth they won.

  I believe everyone
  After his death holds none
  Of all the wealth he's won,
  Only what he has done.
Per Fols Tenc Polhes 
Peire Cardenal 
Click to hear me recite the original in Old Occitan

Per fòls tenc Polhes e Lombarts 
E Longobarts et Alamands 
Si volon Francés ni Picarts 
A senhors ni a drogomans, 
 Car murtrir a tòrt
 Tenon a depòrt,
 E ièu non lau rei
 Qui non garda lei.

Et aura·lh ops bos estendarts 
E que fièra mièlhs que Rolans 
E que sapcha mais que Rainarts  
Et aia mais que Corbarans 
 E tema mens mòrt 
 Que·l coms de Monfòrt, 
 Si vòl qu'amb barrei
 Lo mons li soplei.

E sabetz qual sera sa parts 
De las guèrras e dels masans 
Lo cels e·l paors e·l regarts 
Qu'el aura fach e·l dòls e·l dans 
 Seran sieu per sòrt!
 D'aitant lo conòrt
 Qu'amb aital charrei
 Vendra del tornei.

Om, petit val tos sens ni t'arts 
Si perts t'arma per tos enfans, 
Per l'autrui carbonada t'arts 
E l'autrui repaus t'es afans: 
 Pois vas a tal pòrt
 Ont cre qu'us quecs pòrt
 L'engan e·l trafei
 E·ls tòrts fachs que fei.

Anc Carles Martèls ni Girartz  
Ni Marsilis ni Agolants 
Ni·l reis Gormons ni Isembartz  
Non aussisèron d'omes tants 
 Que n'aion estòrt
 Lo valen d'un òrt,
 Ni non lor en vei
 Aver ni arnei.

 Non cre qu'a la mòrt
 Neguns plus en pòrt
 Aver ni arnei
 Mas los fachs que fei.





Du Fu: The Defeat at Greenslope: A Lament (From Chinese)

The Defeat at Greenslope: A Lament
By Dù Fŭ
Translated by A.Z. Foreman 
Click to hear me recite this poem using modern Mandarin pronunciation
Click to hear me recite this poem in a reconstruction of medieval Chang'anese pronunciation 

(Winter of 765. Dù Fŭ writes as though he was present at the battle, although he was actually a captive behind enemy lines in Cháng'ān.)

At Greenslope by the east gate the last  
of our troops were camped together 
  By the black pits on Mount White we watered  
  our horses in bone-cold weather  

The blondhead brutes were advancing westward
pressing daily ahead  
  Their crackshot horsemen dared to rush    
  our men and shot them dead

The mountain in snow, the river in ice, 
the wind-bleak wildland groans 
  That black is smoldering beacon smoke   
  and the white is soldiers' bones 

If only a message had made it through 
telling our boys to hold on 
  Until next year and not be rash 
  they rushed and now they are gone 



 
Commentary

悲青坂  Pi tshiengpẹ́n  Grieve Green-slope 

Grieving over Greenslope

In the winter of 765, government troops took a wrecking defeat from rebel forces east of Cháng'ān. Two days later, the other two divisions of the same army were defeated again nearby at an unknown location that is presumably the Greenslope of this poem.


我軍青坂 ngáa kün tshiengpẹ́n   I/we army/bivouac Green-slope 
在東門   dzài tongmon     be-at east gate
天寒飲馬 thian ghaan ìm mbạ́   heaven/weather/nature be-cold give-drink horse
太白窟   thàibẹk khot     Great-white pit/pool/grotto/cave

Our encamped soldiers' were at Greenslope (Qīngbǎn) right at the eastern gate. (At a time when) weather was cold, we watered our horses in the pits of mount Greatwhite (Tàibó). 
 
The actual Mount Greatwhite is too far west for this to be geographically accurate. Possibly it is merely the white mountains, or poetic license.   


黃頭奚兒 ghuangdǝu gheinji    Yellow-head Xi son
日向西   njit hiàng siei     daily advance west
數騎彎弓 srú gì uạn kung     Several horseman bend bow
敢馳突   káam dri-dot      dare gallop rush

Blondhead men and northland lads daily pressed on westward. Several of their horsemen with bended bows dared gallop and burst (through our lines, or into our bivouac, or out of nowhere)


L3: The rebels are portrayed as non-Han, in terms typically used for barbarian peoples. The leader of the rebels, General Ān Lùshān, was of Sogdian and Turkic descent. In some societies, such as in Western Europe and the Middle East, descriptive terms for ethnic others often highlight skin-color. But the analogous terms in Chinese tend to refer to hair color, eye-color, hirsuteness or nose-shape. The "blondheads" are Khitans. The 奚 ghei (modern pronunciation Xī) were a northern tribe in the area where Ān Lùshān had originally been stationed. 

L4: 突 dot "burst through, bust in" or "rush" has a strong sense of sudden ambush as used here. (This graph is also used to write the related word thot "suddenly, without warning.")    

山雪河冰 sran süat ghaa ping    Mountain snow river ice
野蕭瑟   iá siausrit      plain moan-bleakly
青是烽煙 tshieng zyì pfung'ian   Grue beacon smoke
白是骨   bẹk zyì kot      
White be bone

The mountain: snowy. The stream: iced. The (uncultivated) plain soughs windy-bleak. The grue there is beacon smoke, and the white is (men's) bones.

L5: Qiu's edition gives 晚 mván "evening" for 野 "uncultivated plain, waste" on the authority of Fan Huang.

L6: Use of tshieng "grue" (see here on what I mean by "grue") and 白 bẹk "white" repeats the color words from the place names of the first verse (Greenslope and Greatwhite Mountain.) In so doing Du Fu perhaps also draws the Táng listener's attention to the fact that 骨 khot"pits, grottoes" of Mount Greatwhite are pronounced nearly identically to 窟 kot "bones." As the colors mentioned in the first verses come to be reinterpreted in terms of war and death, so too the "pits of mount greatwhite" 太白窟 thàibẹk khot prefigure in retrospect the "enormous white bones" 大白骨 tài bẹkkot of the dead. A further point: in Chinese literature, 青 tshieng is the color of spring and growth, whereas 白 bẹk is the color of autumn and death. Use of 青 tshieng to refer to the color of smoke is not unheard-of, but I detect also the sense that the war-beacon smoke is still "fresh" since the beacons are still smouldering. Everything around is dead.

There are two possible variants of this line. One with 是 zyì "be" as the seventh character, and one with 人 njin "man". All the Song editions have 人. The only warrant for 是 lies in Qiu's edition of 1703, based on the fact that Fan Huang's anthology contained it. I think I just have to take his word for it. Looking at the two possibilities, my instant gut feeling was that 是 was original and that the version with 人 was a later "correction." The repeated use of 是 as a copula would have had a colloquial flavor. (The more classical sense of 是 is as a demonstrative "this"). While it is easy to imagine how the text might have been changed in transmission to 人, it is much harder for me to imagine how the reverse might have happened. 

焉得附書  antǝk bvù syü    How-can send letter
與我軍   iǘ ngáa kün     give our army
忍待明年 njín dài mengnian   Endure wait next year
莫倉卒   mbaak tshaangtshot  not rush

Would that a message could have been (or: might be) sent to our troops, telling them to bear the wait until next year, and not be rash in rushing.

L8: 倉卒 tshaangtshot means "be hasty, go off half-cocked, go harum scarum" and is spelled phonetically with loan-graphs from (etymologically) unrelated words. 倉  tshaang means "granary" on its own and is used here (as in many other disyllabic words that begin with tshaang-) purely to spell the sound of the first syllable of the word. The last graph 卒 is also a phonetic loan-speller for the morpheme -tshot. (When used as an independent unbound word, tshot "abruptly" would normally be spelled 猝.) But the fact that 卒 is normally used to spell the words tsot "group of people, soldiery, army" and tsut "finish, die" is hard to ignore in this context. Perhaps it was equally hard to ignore when this poem was read (though when chanted or recited this wouldn't necessarily come through.)   


The Original:

悲青坂
 
我軍青坂在東門,
天寒飲馬太白窟。
黃頭奚兒日向西,

數騎彎弓敢馳突。
山雪河冰野蕭瑟,

青是烽煙白是骨。
焉得附書與我軍,

忍待明年莫倉卒。

Marcabru: The Cleansing Bowl (From Occitan)

In 1144, in response to the fall of Edessa to ˁImād al-Dīn Zinkī, Pope Eugene III announced the Second Crusade. Three years later in 1147, he formally proclaimed that the Reconquista of Spain was also a Crusade. That year, a troubadour from Gascony named Marcabru composed the song whose lyrics are translated here, full of references to contemporary events. It is the prototypical Crusade Song, and went on to become one of the most popular of Occitan songs in 13th and 14th centuries, acquiring the name of Lo Vèrs Del Lavador "The Cleansing-Bowl Song." So named, because it portrays the Land of Crusade as a lavatorium which cleanses the soul and readies it for Christ. The variety of manuscripts it survives in attests to its popularity.

Marcabru is not a given name. It is the nom de plume (or, more appropriately, nom de neume) of a lyric singer active in the first half of the 12th century. As usual, we know nothing of him except what can be deduced from songs themselves, such as his Gascon background, his connection with the courtly world of Aquitaine and Poitou and his relationships with other troubadours. He does not seem to have been dependent upon a patron for his entire income. He writes with the certainty, rhetorical confidence, and indignation of an orthodox cleric. He was a five-star misogynist, and I think he may be the first man in Europe on record as having called a woman a "cunt" as an insult. He clearly had some especial connection to the church, and was possessed of a wicked sense of humor. In sum, he was (a) one of the most original and powerful of personalities in medieval European poetry and (b) quite a fucking asshole. He was also, despite what "troubadour" has come to mean, not a love poet. He wasn't shy about making it known what he thought of love poets and their (im)morality either.

A lot of people don't, or at least won't, distinguish between poetry they think is good, and poetry they happen to like. I myself find I can't really do without that distinction. The poem here translated, like a lot of Marcabru's verse, is a case in point. It is a good poem and even better song. It is brilliantly executed. The extreme mileage which Marcabru wrings out of the word lavador by repeating it 8 times in the same metrical position in each stanza is powerful. For reasons that I assume are obvious to all but distant posterity or the morbidly obtuse, it is also one I find it impossible to like.

Unlike singers like Jaufré Rudel, it does not seem likely that Marcabru expected (or at least, he didn't want) to have his compositions greatly modified in the course of transmission. Not a text like this, anyway, in which he has a very clear idea of what he wants to convey, and which cannot be intelligibly detached from context in quite the same way the poems of a Jaufré or a Bernart de Ventadorn can be.

Contrary to popular academic delusion, the concept of authorship is not a "modern" construction anymore than the concept of the book. It's more accurate to say that different creators had different attitudes. And the same creator often had different attitudes depending on context or genre. A textual operator might in some contexts have a conception of their authorship that approaches "our" own, and in others not. The Shakespeare of the plays, for example, was far less authorial than the Shakespeare of the sonnets. There is nothing "un-modern" about this. It is still going on. Just not as much in the over-textualized, over-specialized and over-scholasticized realm of what is today conceived of as "literature" where texts are sometimes treated in a way almost as debasing and degrading as sanctity itself. Consider the enormous variety in the extant versions of Pete Yarrow's "Puff the Magic Dragon" which he really really didn't intend to be about Marijuana. Or the legion covers of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah which Cohen himself seldom sang the same way twice. Examples abound in religious life too. Consider the Pulpit Fiction delivered by pastors and priests to their Pewpils, or the flexibility with which the same hymn may adjusted to the needs, spiritual and practical, of different congregations and parishes. More interestingly, TV and Film writers also cannot usually expect to have the same kind of authorship as those who write novels (no matter how much they may often wish they could.) Otherwise "uncredited re-write" would not be a TV buzzword. This is at least part of what lies behind the relatively formulaic, trope-laden and generic nature of a lot of TV drama, where much of the excitement and pleasure comes from recognizing the tropes and then seeing how the show or episode maneuvers around them. There is little practical room for idiosyncrasies such as "authorial vision" in a medium that always has one eye on ratings and budget,  just as a medieval court lyricist in Persia, Provence or Sicily was always wise to keep one eye on their patron's moneybag and another on the smile or scowl of their patron's VIPs. It is when TV-writers do get a more authorial level of control, and have the talent and confidence to exploit it, that a show like The Wire can take on the qualities of a Dickens novel, though sometimes at the cost of the referential fun to be had in playing with the rules in the manner of Sam & Max: Freelance Police.

In the 12th century, it is probably hard to get any closer to a "modern" authorial ethos than a song that begins by saying essentially: "My name is Marcabru. I composed this text as well as the music to it. This is what I have to say." It is hardly the only time that Marcabru refers to himself by name, and he is far from being alone in doing so. (Though I believe this is the only attested case where a troubadour explicitly claims credit for a specific melody.)

Of course, modification in transmission did occur, because that is the way of manuscript culture. The text of this poem is beset with all kinds of manuscript problems. This is in part because topical details tended to get elided over time as the song was adapted for new audiences increasingly removed from 12th century public life of Aquitaine and Poitou. But to some degree it is also because copyists seem to have had a particularly hard time understanding it completely, and attempted to correct the text in ways that produced something more intelligible. Marcabru could shift among all sorts of linguistic registers, from the solemnly liturgical to the plainly colloquial (as he does here), to the unabashedly obscene (elsewhere he calls a woman a cunt, and describes a man who gets a "hard-on for superfucking.") A lot of his language is at the margins of, and occasionally completely outside, the relatively restricted traditional lyric lexicon of later singers. The texts we have include a number of words found nowhere else in Medieval Occitan. Most of these are intelligible as compound coinages or transparent derivations, but some have otherwise unattested roots and are completely opaque. It is not surprising that copyists working outside Occitania had trouble with them.  

Gaunt, Harvey and Paterson did an admirable job of handling this in their Marcabru: A Critical Edition and I take their main edition of this poem as my base text. That they take manuscript a1 so seriously makes their work invaluable. (Given how much that book costs, I am glad to get my money's worth out of it.) I have in a number of places gone a different way from them, usually where I thought the other option made for a cooler poem or where I found their reasoning implausible. Sometimes this is minor (e.g. at line 60 where I read crims instead of their critz) and at others not so much (see my note on felpidor.) I have also partly modernized the spelling in accordance with modern Occitan orthography, as is my general habit. With this poem, translation issues are more or less inseparable from text-critical issues. As I cannot treat them separately, it didn't seem sensible to provide text-critical notes in Modern Occitan.

The music to this song survives, and deserves comment in its own right. Now, while I do play an instrument, and have for most of my life, I will be the first to admit that I don't know music like I know poetry. I certainly don't know musical history like I know literary history, and I don't know music theory beyond a few college courses and chance readings. So what I say below has more to do with extra-musical considerations.

This song has been recorded many times in the modern era. Many of them are fine virtuosic performances. They are often operatically brilliant, and give the impression of being sung from a church choir. But this is not to be sung from the choir. It is sung from the pulpit, and meant to urge men into battle.

For that, a rhythmic punch is needed. The only rendition of this song that I have come across which at all captures the flavor I hear in my head is Eduardo Paniagua's (you can hear it here). Recording this piece myself was quite out of the question. I don't have near the vocal training or range to be able to perform it. It's one of the most exacting pieces in the troubadour repertoire. It's not surprising that Marcabru was so proud of his melody that he went to the trouble of signing the music the only way he could, in the lyrics themselves.

I've constructed my translation in such a way that it can be sung, if one wishes.

The Cleansing Bowl: A Crusade Song
By Marcabru
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

PAX IN NOMINE DOMINI  
Hear Marcabru's own melody 
  For here says he:
In loving mercy to our souls,
The Lord of all Eternity  
Has granted us a Cleansing Bowl 
Like none, save that beyond the sea 
In Holy Armageddon's Land. 
I sing of this one close at hand. 

When day begins and when day ends   
I say it's right to rinse and cleanse. 
  By common sense 
We all can bathe where waters roll,   
So all while hale and hearty still 
Should journey to that Cleansing Bowl 
And there be truly cured of ill, 
And if we die before we go 
We'll dwell not high but burn below.  

But worldly greed and slack belief 
Divide the young from true relief 
  And so I grieve 
That everyone so rares to roll 
Their dice where Hell's the only prize.   
Be off then to the Cleansing Bowl 
Before you've sealed your mouth and eyes.  
Nobody gets so fat from pride 
Satan can't grasp him when he's died. 

For the Lord who knows all that was 
And all that will exist or does 
  Has promised us 
An emperor's crowning aureole. 
Its beauty will show all we are, 
For bright above the Cleansing Bowl  
It will outshine the morning star 
If we avenge the way they maim  
God in Damascus and in Spain. 

In the long bloody line of Cain, 
First man of wickedness and bane, 
  Many profane 
And shirk the Lord their lips extol.      
His true friends will be recognized.  
It is the virtue of that Bowl  
That all who go there share in Christ. 
Lets drive the heathen scum away 
Who still believe what augurs say. 

While self-indulgent liquor-mouths, 
Fire-squatting punks, food-glutting louts 
 And slouchabouts  
Stay wimping in their septic hole,   
God aims to try the sound and bold  
By cauldron of his Cleansing Bowl.   
Others keep watch of the household,   
Dig gardens with their little knives  
And I will shame them all their lives.  

In Spain I know Marquis Raimón  
And the Templars of Solomon   
  Now bear alone
The cross of pagans' boastful yowl 
So young men wallow in disgrace.  
Denouncement from that Cleansing Bowl   
Pours over every captain's face:   
Broke failures, gutless with the sword,  
Who have no love for joy or sport.  

God damn degenerates of France  
Who shirk the work that God demands.  
  I know how it stands.
Antioch! Here Poitou unconsoled  
And Guyenne mourn the great and bold.  
God, take into Thy holy Bowl  
And lay to rest Lord Baldwin's soul   
And here Poitiers and Niort be safe  
In that Lord who defied the grave.    
Vèrs del Lavador 
Marcabru


Pax in nomine domini 
Fetz Marcabrus lo vèrs e·l so  
  Aujatz que di
Com nos a fach per sa dolçor 
Lo senhorius celestiaus 
Probèt de nos un lavador 
Qu'anc for otramar no fon taus 
En de lai enves Josaphats 
E d'aquest de sai vos conòrt 

Lavar de ser e de mati 
Nos deuriam segon raso 
  Ièu·s o afi
Chascuns a de lavar lesor  
Dementre qu'el es sas e saus 
Deuría anar al lavador 
Que·ns es verai medicinaus 
E si ans anam a la mòrt  
D'auta estatge aurem alberg bas  

Mas Escarsetatz e No-Fes 
Part Joven de son companho 
  Aquel dòls es 
Que tuch volon lai li plusor 
Dont lo gasanhs èr infernaus 
Se ans no correm al lavador 
Qu'aiam la boca ni·ls uòlh claus   
No·n i a un d'orguòlh tant gras 
Qu'al morir non tròb contrafòrt 

Que·l sénher que sap tot quant es 
E sap tot quant èr e qu'anc fo 
  Nos a promes 
Corona e nom d'emperador   
E·l beutatz sera sabençaus 
Qu'e cel luiran al lavador 
Plus que l'estela gausinhaus 
Amb ço que venguem Dieu del tòrt 
Que·l fan sai e lai ves Domas  

Probèt del linhatge Caï 
Del premairan ome felho, 
  A tants aici  
Qu'us a Dieu no pòrta honor 
Veirem qui l'èr amics coraus 
Qu'amb la vertut del lavador 
Nos sera Jesus comunaus 
E tornem los garços atras 
Qu'en agurs creson et en sòrt 

E·lh luxuriós cornaví 
Coita-disnar, buffa-tiso 
  Crup'-en-camí 
Remandran ar e·l falpidor 
E Dieus vòl los arditz e·ls saus 
Assaiar a son lavador 
E cilh gaitaran los ostaus 
E plantaran lor coutre en l'òrt 
Ço per qu'èu a lor anta·ls chas 

En Espanha, sai, lo marqués 
E cilh del temple Salamo 
  Sofron lo pes
E·l fais de l'orguòlh paianor 
Per que jovens cuòlh avol laus 
E·l crims per aquel lavador 
vira e versa sobre·ls chaptaus 
Fraich-falhitz de proesa las 
Que non amon jòi ni depòrt 

Desnaturat son li Francés 
Si del afar Dieu dison no 
  Qu'ièu sai com es.
Antiocha. Pretz amb valor 
Sai plora Guiana e Peitaus  
Dieus lo comte al sieu lavador  
L'arma conduga e meta en paus  
E sai gart Peitièus e Niòrt  
Lo sénher que resors del vas  


Note on Versification:

Marcabru not only seems to have a fondness for difficult "stunt rhymes" but also permitted himself more latitude in rhyme constraints than most other troubadours did. Alongside the occasional Gasconism, we find rhymes that appear to be borrowed from Oïl dialects.  Much could be said about Marcabru's use/misuse of word-final -s in rhyme position as an ostensible declension ending. (For more on this see W.D. Paden's "Declension in Twelfth-Century Occitan: On Editing Early Troubadours, With Particular Reference to Marcabru.") In this poem for example, the word Josaphats is treated as a rhyme for words ending in -as, and I suspect the one-off use of words in -as, and -òrt as rims estramps probably is meant to have slant-rhyme resonance with the rhymes in -aus and -ór. 
He also seems to have allowed himself the occasional hypermetric line. In short, he had scant scruple about using a little bit of rough versification when needed. The upshot of all this is that I have felt free to use some approximate rhymes in my drafts of this and other Marcabru translations. More so than in translating Bernart de Ventadorn, Guilhem de Peitieus or Jaufré Rudel. I also feel doubly justified running a little roughshod over traditional formal English prosody, and stanzaic regularity, when it seems like the artistically smart thing to do. For example, the final stanza in my translation includes some hypermetricality as well as flipping an ABAB pattern to AABB.

Notes on Text and Translation:

Stanza 1:

Pax In Nomine Domini. The Latin line reads "peace in the name of the Lord" and echoes (but does not reproduce) certain passages from the Bible and liturgy.   

Armageddon's Land. The Occitan passage says the vale of Jehosaphat. Jehosaphat was where it was imagined the battle at the end of days would take place. So too in modern English, Armageddon (Heb. Har Megiddo, "Megiddo Mountain") is associated both with Holy Levantine Geography and with apocalyptic conflict. But note the context of Jehosaphat's appearance in the book of Joel for more profound parallels involving cleansing and streams. See in particular on this point A.H. Schutz' "Marcabru and Jehosaphat" in Romance Notes, Vol. 1, No. 1.

I sing of this one close at hand: Righteous men needn't even seek the Cleansing Bowl of crusade across the sea, for there's an equally important holy war against the Saracens right here to the south.

Stanza 3:

No-Fes: cannot mean "unbelief" in our sense of the term. The targets of invective here are not actually "pagani" like the infidel Mohammedans, but Christians who are delinquent in their holy duty.

Aquel dòls es: ironizing wordplay. That which causes dòls "grief, pity" is the opposite of the near-homophone dolç "sweet, kindly, a sight for sore eyes." Marcabru may himself have pronounced the respective words as /dɔws/ and /dowts/. Or he may not have distinguished the two at all. Regardless,  the very things which a sybarite like Guilhem de Peitieus might find a source of dolçor are rather cause for dolor to a moralizing man like Marcabru.

Stanza 4:

Sabençal: not attested elsewhere in Old Occitan, though the derivation from sabença "wisdom" is straightforward. It is arrived at by Gaunt et. al through inference from copy bungles, and translated by them as "sapiential." I am a bit reluctant to hang the whole basket on what may be an editorial ghost.

Gausinhal: not attested elsewhere in Old Occitan. The phrase "estela gausinhaus" is taken to mean "morning star" and probably has been since the 14th century. Various Latin etymologies have been proposed to this end that connect it with the time of cock-crow. I'm not entirely convinced. Marcabru has another far more transparent term for morning star. The spirit of the passage makes me inclined to infer some more transparent derivation from gauzir. But since I haven't thought of anything specific beyond vague dissatisfaction, I'll leave it as is with its traditional meaning.

Stanza 5: 

Line of Cain: Cf. St. Augustine's De civitate Dei 14.27, also 15.1, 17 and 18 in which he divides the world of men into two generations: those of Cain who live "according to man" and those of Abel who live "according to God."

Stanza 6:

Luxuriós: this word has been previously translated as "lecherous" "lustful" or even "horny." There is no arguing that this is the general sense of the word in Romance. Things like an Old Occitan medicinal recipe for a femna trop luxuriosa attest clearly to this sense of the word in Occitan by the 14th century. For clerics, the word can only be a moralizing one. It occurs in the troubadour corpus only in Marcabru's lyrics, and in only two songs. Once here, and once in Pos mos coratges esclarzis. Interestingly, in neither case does the context require (or even remotely suggest) lechery or lust in a specifically sexual sense. It will not do to simply assume that it meant for Marcabru what it meant elsewhere and in other contexts. I could be wrong. If so, then let the blame fall on Tricia Postle of Pneuma Ensemble who, after much protesting from me, convinced me that the word in this context really ought to refer to more general indulgence in worldly appetites of all sorts. In Latin, luxuriosus can refer both to sexual vice and to more general sumptuary excess characterized by a "womanish" lack of self-control. I have so translated the word here.

The stanza continues with a series of what appears to be highly colloquial coinages. 


Crup-en-cami here translated as "hearth-squatter, fire-squatter" is evocative of the common image in Occitan and Old French literature of vile or baseborn men as squatting over fires. Another meaning of cami though is "road" and one could defensibly interpret it as "roadside bums" or the like.  

Buffa-tiso means literally "brand-blower" i.e. one who fans the firebrand flames. This may be meant to evoke fodder for the flames of Hell. I didn't know how to deal with this exactly in translation, and so I chose to use "punk" as evocative of the colloquial register. I justify this to myself with the fact that the original meaning of punk is "rotten firewood."

Felpidor/folpidor/felpador: this word is attested nowhere else. It is apparently derived from a verb *felpir/folpir/falpar which is not attested anywhere at all. Later manuscripts tended to revise to something more intelligible (like fera pudor "savage stench") and others shift the surrounding language in ways which look like the copyist was trying to guess the meaning from context, or perhaps trying to find a context that would make the meaning more guessable. There is frankly no way to be sure whether it is even a real word, or just a scribal garbling of something else now unrecoverable. The most straightforward explanation for the word's shape is a nominalization of a verb  cognate to French foupir "crumple up", ultimately from Late Latin faluppa which yeilds various nominal forms in old Oïl dialects such as frepe, ferpe, feupe (whence English frippery.) There have been many, many different attempts to resolve the problem. Here the solution proposed by Gaunt et  al. is basically unconvincing to me, relying as it does a chain of speculations, each of which is plausible on its own but which in sum seem rather tortured. The treatment I find most satisfactory from an artistic standpoint is to take felpidor as a singular oblique noun which is in some important sense the opposite of the lavador. Anna M. Mussons in her article Traduir El Vers Del Lavador in which she surveys the various attempts to solve this problem, has I think hit on precisely the right idea in her own concluding thoughts. Her article is extremely useful and deserves to be read and cited more widely (and probably would be if she hadn't written it in Catalan.)

There are lots of possibilities for what could underlie the first word of aqeil felpidor in manuscript a1. Examples include ans e·l, ar e·l or al vil. 

The final two lines of this stanza are badly garbled. Their original meaning was clearly confusing to later audiences and copyists. The solution given here, which I find eminently compelling, is taken entirely from Gaunt et al.

Stanza 7:

Marquis: the Occitan does not name the specific Marquis involved. But everything suggests that Marcabru could only have had in mind Marquis Raymond (Raimón) Berenguer IV of Barcelona, who conducted a campaign against Tortosa and Lerida in 1148-49.

Templars: the Templars of Solomon played a quite important part in the conquests of Tortosa and Lerida

Stanza 8:

Antioch! This word is probably best left as a disconnected exclamation, a reference to Prince Raymond.

Lines 6-7. A literal translation of Dieus lo comte al sieu lavador l'arma conduga e meta en paus would probably be: "God lead the Count's soul to his Cleansing-place and put to rest" with lo comte taken in a syntactically "dative" role. A lectio facilior — which makes for a more resonant poem, I think — would shift the position of the first word in the second line, thus conduga e meta l'arma en paus. Or even meta s'arma en paus. But there is zero manuscript justification for this.   

The main question is how to understand the lavador here. Many, using an edition with different manuscript choices, have interpreted the lavador as referring to the Shrine of Santiago where Count William (Guilhèm) died on pilgrimage. (In that edition the lines translate as "Lord God, into Thy Cleansing-place lay the soul of the count to rest.") But apart from questions of manuscript variant, and apart the fact that William is probably not the count actually referred to, there seems to me to be something a bit off about Marcabru putting a popular pilgrimage site (i.e. the medieval equivalent of a tourist attraction) in the same league as holy purification by the blades of war. Assuming that the text here is (more or less) what Marcabru sang, then the lavador obviously something that comes after death, and therefore not the same thing as the Cleansing Bowl of the crusade. It appears to refer to a process by which the soul is cleansed and purified before being laid to rest in wait for the Last Judgment. The forerunner of the notion of Purgatory. That said, I have translated the passage by taking a reading from the C manuscript which portrays the Lavador as a place in God's possession. Why? It seemed to make for more satisfying English.

Lord Baldwin: The original, as said above, simply refers to an unnamed Count. Many and perhaps most scholars take it to be William VIII of Poitou. But the references to Templars and the Spanish Marquis make it more likely that the song was composed well over a decade after William's death. The other candidate, then, would be Raymond (Ramón) of Antioch. The presence of the word Antiocha in an ambiguous context makes this more appealing. The problem there is that Raymond of Antioch was styled 'prince' and not 'count', a fact that Marcabru was unlikely to fudge or forget given (a) how close his relationship with the Poitevin court seems to have been and (b) that Comte and Prince are metrically equivalent and one wouldn't even have to change the line at all to fit the latter in. The solution followed by Gaunt et al. is that the count referred to is Raymond's brother, Baldwin (Baldoí) of Marash, who died in 1146 in a battle with Nūr al-Dīn Abū al-Qāsim Maḥmūd, the atabeg of Aleppo. This reasoning is further developed by Linda Paterson in "Syria, Poitou and the Reconquista" in The Second Crusade: Scope and Consequences. There is also the possibility that Comte is a manuscript garbling of something else. I have taken the risk of naming Baldwin in the translation, and have also styled him 'lord' rather than 'count.' I do this because it allows dramatic contrast between the dead lord and the resurrected Lord of the following lines. I can justify this to myself because, in English, it is common enough to style medieval continental counts as 'Lord' and also because "Lord" was a title that was used for Baldwin of Marash himself. (And an earl, the British equivalent of a count, is always styled 'Lord' today.)    

Soul: The word Arma has been taken by others here to mean "soul" as it usually does in dirge verse, and I have so translated it. But there is another sense of the word: "weapon." This latter is more commonly, but not exclusively, found in the plural armas. Moreover, the context itself makes the sense "weapon" impossible for me not to hear as well. It wouldn't be the only or even first poetic treatment of a righteous man's soul as being itself an implement of God's battle with the Evil One(s). Weapons and fists, too, are sanctified by holy combat. Cf. St. John Chrysostom telling the Antiochenes to "sanctify your hand with the blow" by assaulting blasphemers. Only a few sentences after proclamations of Christian meekness, in fact. When convenient, Christian meekness is often held, as it were, at arm's length. 
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