Sample Troubador Love Lyric


Bernart de Ventadorn (?1130-?1200), “Can vei la lauzeta mover” [“When I see the lark beat his wings”]


When I see the lark beat his wings

for joy against the sun's ray,

until he forgets to fly and plummets down,

for the sheer delight which goes to his heart,

alas, great envy comes to me

of those whom I see filled with happiness,

and I marvel that my heart

does not instantly melt from desire.


Alas, I thought I knew so much about love,

and really I know so little,

for I cannot keep myself from loving her

from whom I shall have no favor.

She has stolen from me my heart, myself,

herself, and all the world.

When she took herself from me, she left me nothing

but desire and a longing heart.


Never have I been in control of myself

or even belonged to myself from the hour

that she let me gaze into her eyes-

that mirror that pleases me so greatly.

Mirror, since I saw myself reflected in you,

deep sighs have been killing me.

I have lost myself, just as

handsome Narcissus lost himself in the fountain.


I despair of women,

no more will I trust them,

and just as I used to defend them,

now I shall denounce them.

Since I see that none aids me

against her who destroys and confounds me,

I fear and distrust them all

for I know well they are all alike.


In this my lady certainly shows herself

to be a woman, and for it I reproach her,

for she wants not that which one ought to want,

and what is forbidden, she does.

I have fallen out of favor

and have behaved like the fool on the bridge;

and I don't know why it happened

except because I tried to climb too high.


Mercy is lost, in truth,

though I never received it,

for she who should possess it most

has none, so where shall I seek it?

Ah, one who sees her would scarcely guess

that she just leaves this passionate wretch

(who will have no good without her)

to die, and gives no aid.


Since with my lady neither prayers nor mercy

nor my rights avail me,

and since she is not pleased

that I love her, I will never speak of it to her again.

Thus I part from her, and leave;

she has killed me, and by death I respond,

since she does not retain me, I depart,

wretched, into exile, I don't know where.


Tristan, you will have nothing from me,

for I depart, wretched, I don't know where.

I quit and leave off singing

and withdraw from joy and love.


        Bernart is one of the most famous troubadors, but he is but one among many who wrote in this convention-challenging style about secular erotic attraction among unmarried persons.  The last stanza of typical troubador lyrics, like this one, addresses a specific friend or the Beloved her-/himself, by means of a coded nick-name called a "senhal," in this case, "Tristan," an allusion to the great medieval love story, "Tristan and Isolde."

    Women wrote these love lyrics, too, and they were called "troubaritz" in the Provencal dialect of French in which all these poems were composed.  For examples of the trobairitz' poetry, see Magda Bogin's full collection in the Library Collection, or click here for the original Occitan text and an English translation of a poem by the Comtesse de Dia:

Author Bogin, Magda
Title The women troubadours / Meg Bogin
Pub. info. New York : Paddington Press, c1976
  Main Collection  849.1 B675w    AVAILABLE
Descript 190 p. : ill. ; 22 cm
Bibliog. Bibliography: p. [188]-190
  Discography: p. 190
Note Includes index
LC SUBJ HDG Provençal poetry -- Women authors -- Translations into English
  Women and literature -- France, Southern -- History
  Women poets, Provençal -- Biography
  Provençal poetry -- Women authors