Marcabru (fl. 1129-1150)

Marcabru was a Gascon, born in the first decade of the twelfth century. One of the vidas makes him a foundling, while he himself says he was the son of a poor woman named Marcabruna. He had many patrons throughout the Midi and Spain, including Guillaume X of Aquitaine, the son of "the first troubadour," and Alfonso VII of Castile and León.

The low birth and noble patronage are reflected in his point of view and in the variety of his style. No one equals him in the furor with which he denounces the effeminacy and depravity of courtly life and the conventions of courtly love. From this moral urgency and highly idiomatic style arises some of the most difficult poetry in the whole Troubadour canon, the first instance of trobar clu, the hermetic style. But these moralizing lyrics are only one mark of his range. At the other end are songs extolling true love; and other songs, such as A la fontana and the pastorela, which dramatize a profoundly medieval view of right order-they are among the most civilized utterances in Provençal poetry.

His influence was great, not only on the practitioners of the hermetic style, but on others who chose from the wide variety of his forms (compare his Estornel, no. 12, with Peire d'Alvernhe's Rossinhol), or who took up his moral stance (compare Peire Cardenal). But no one could ever re-create his irascible and exalted tone. About fourty-two lyrics are extant.

The most frequent theme in his songs is the distinction between true love and false love: true love is joyful, intense, in harmony with the welfare of a community and with divine intention; false love is bitter, dissolute, self regarding, and destructive. He denounces the courtly class for its preciousness and lust-it is on the way to ruin because it is infested with its own bastards, the women trick their husbands into raising the children of others, the men are cuckoos who lay their eggs in someone else's nest. And pandering to this cupidity are the troubadours, a vile crowd (gens frairina) of liars and madmen who defame love and glorify lust. [from Frederick Goldin's Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouveres. NY: Anchor Books, 1973.]


     L'autrier jost' una sebissa
     trobei pastora mestissa,
     de joi e de sen massissa,
     si cum filla de vilana,
  5  ap' e gonel' e pelissa
     vest e camiza treslissa,
     sotlars e caussas de lana.

     Ves lieis vinc per la planissa:
     "Toza, fi m ieu, res faitissa,
10  dol ai car lo freitz fos fissa."
     "Seigner, so m dis la vilana,
     merce Dieu e ma noirissa,
     pauc m'o pretz si l vens m'erissa,
     qu'alegreta sui e sana."

15  "Toza, fi m ieu, cauza pia,
     destors me sui de la via
     per far a vos compaignia;
     quar aitals toza vilana
     no deu ses pareill paria
20  pastorgar tanta bestia
     en aital terra, soldana."

     Don, fetz ela, qui que m sia,
     ben conosc sen e folia;
     la vostra pareillaria,
25  Seigner, so m dis la vilana
     lai on se tang si s'estia,
     que tals la cuid' en bailia
     tener, no n a mas l'ufana."

     "Toza de gentil afaire,
30  cavaliers fon vostre paire
     que us engenret en la maire,
     car fon corteza vilana.
     Con plus vos gart, m'etz belaire,
     e per vostre joi m'esclaire,
35  si m fossetz un pauc humana!"

     "Don, tot mon ling e mon aire
     vei revertir e retriare
     al vezoig et a l'araire,
     Seigner, so m dis la vilana;
40  mas tals se fai cavalgaire
     c'atrestal deuria faire
     los seis jorns de la setmana."

     "Toza, ri m ieu, gentils fada,
     vos adastret, quan fos nada, 45  d'una beutat esmerada
     sobre tot' autra vilana;
     e seria us ben doblada,
     si m vezi' una vegada,
     sobira e vos sotrana."

50  "Seigner, tan m'avetz lauzada,
     que tota n seri' enveiada;
     opos en pretz m'avetz levada,
     Seigner, so m dis la vilana,
     per so n'auretz per soudada
55  al partir: bada, fols, bada,
     e la muz' a meliana."

     "Toz', estraing cor e salvatge
     adomesg' om per uzatge.
     Ben conosc al trespassatge
60  qu'ab aital toza vilana
     pot hom far ric compaignatge
     ab amistat de coratege,
     si l'us l'autre non engana."

     Don, hom coitatz de follatge
65  jur' e pliu e promet gatge:
     si m fariatz homenatge,
     Seigner, so m dis la vilana;
     mas ieu, per un pauc d'intratge,
     non vuoil ges mon piucellatge,
70  camjar per nom de putana."

     Toza, tota creatura
     revertis a sa naturaA:
     pareillar pareilladura
     devem, ieu e vos, vilana,
75  a l'abric lonc la pastura,
     car plus n'estaretz segura
     per far la cauza dousanna."

     "Don, oc; mas segon dreitura
     cerca fols sa follatura,
80  cortes cortez' aventura,
     e il vilans ab la vilana;
     en tal loc fai sens fraitura
     on hom non garda mezura,
     so ditz la gens anciana."

85  "Toza, de vostra figura
     non vi autra plus tafura
     nin de son cor plus trefana."

     Don, lo cavecs vos ahura,
     que tals bad' en la peintura
90  qu'autre n'espera la mana." 1

The other day, beside a row of hedges,
I found a shepherdess of lowly birth,
full of joy and common sense.
And, like the daughter of a woman of the fields,
she wore cape and cloak and fur,
and a shift of drill,
and shoes, and wollen stockings.

I came to her across the level ground.
"Girl," I said, "beautiful,
I am unhappy because the cold is piercing you."
"Lord," this peasant's child said to me,
"thanks be to God and the woman who nursed me,
it's nothing to me if the wind ruffles my hair,
because I feel good, and I'm healthy."

"Girl," I said, "you're sweet and innocent,
I came out of my way
to keep you company;
for a peasant girl like you
should not, without a comrade near by,
pasture so many cattle
all alone in such a place."

"Master," she said, "whatever I may be,
I can tell sense from foolishness.
Your comradeship,
Lord," said this girl of the fields and pastures,
"let it stay where it belongs,
for such as I, when she thinks she has it
for herself, has nothing but the look of it."

"O you are a girl of noble quality,
your father was a knight
who got your mother with you
because she was a courtly peasant.
The more I look at you, the more beautiful you are
to me, and I am lit up by your joy,
or would be if you had some humanity."

"Master, my whole lineage and descent
I trace all the way back
to the sickle and the plow,
my Lord," said this peasant girl to me;
"and such as calls himself a knight
would do better to work, like them,
six days every week."

"Girl," I said, "a gentle fairy
endowed you at birth
with your beauty, which is pure
beyond every other peasant girl.
And yet you would be twice as beautiful
if once I saw you
underneath and me on top."

"Lord, you have praised me so high,
how everyone would envy me!
Since you have driven up my worth,
my Lord," said this peasant girl,
"for that you will have as your reward:
'Gape, fool, gape,' as we part,
and waiting and waiting the whole afternoon."

"Girl, every shy and wild heart
grows tame with a little getting used to,
and I know that, passing by,
a man can offer a peasant girl
like you a fine cash companionship,
with reall affection in his heart,
if one doesn't cheat on the other."

"Master, a man hounded by madness
promises and pledges and puts up security:
that's how you would do homage to me,
Lord,: said this peasant girl;
"but I am not willing, for a little
entrance fee, to cash in my virginity
for the fame of a whore."

"Girl, every creature
reverts to its nature:
let us become a copule of equals,
you and I, my peasant girl,
in the cover there, by the pasture,
you will feel more at ease there
while we do the sweet you know what."

"Master, yes; but, as it is right,
the fool seeks out his foolishness,
a man of the court, his courtly adventure;
and let the peasant be with his peasant girl.
'Good sense suffers from disease
where men do not observe degrees':
that's what the ancients say."

"Girl, I never saw another
more roguish in her face
or more false in her heart."

"Master, that owl is making you a prophecy:
this one stands gaping in front of a painting,
and that one waits for manna." 1

Return to Spanish 591a (LBA) or Spanish 480 or Lírica homepage