BERTRAN DE BORN

(flourished 1159-1195)
Bertran de Born of Hauteville was a lesser French noble and troubador from Poitou in southwestern France. He wrote poetry in Old Provencal, a dialect of medieval French. His favorite subject was the pleasures and profits of war, though he also wrote courtly love poetry. He is often viewed as the spokesman for the class: constables of castles, younger sons of knightly families who served as household knights and mercenaries, and the holders of small fiefs. These petty nobles, suffering from the inflation of the late twelfth century and from the increasing expense of nobility, looked to the great barons for patronage and felt resentment against merchants and peasants alike.  Because Bertran tried to incite the sons of  Henry II of England to rebel against their father--war meant profit from plunder and pay-- Dante placed him in Hell among the sowers of discord (Inferno, canto xxviii, ll. 134-6).

1. Insights and Insults 28. Mout mi plai quan vey dolenta

   It pleases me immensely
   when I see rotten rich people
   suffer, the ones who make
   trouble for noblemen, and it
   pleases me when I see them
   destroyed, twenty or thirty
   from day to day, when I find
   them without clothes, and
   begging for bread. If I'm
   lying, may my lady lie to me!

   A peasant has the habits of a
   pig, for he is bored by noble
   living; when a man rises to
   great riches, his wealth drives
   him mad. So you must keep
   his empty in all seasons,
   spend what's his, and expose
   him to wind and rain.

   Whoever doesn't ruin his
   peasant sustains him in
   disloyalty. So a man's a fool
   who doesn't knock him down
   when he sees him climbing
   up, because once peasant has
   established himself, once he
   entrenches himself in a very
   strong place, he has no peer
   in evil, for he spoils everything
   he can reach.

   A man should never feel sorry
   for a peasant if he sees him
   break an arm or a leg or do
   without something he needs.
   For a peasant--so help me
   God--doesn't want to use
   what he has to help even his
   closest kin, not for tears, not
   for pity; he naturally shuns
   any such deed.

   A low rascally gang, full of
   tricks and usury, pride and
   excess! You can't endure
   their deeds, for they toss God
   aside along with all loyalty
   and right. They do just as
   Adam did. God give them
   bad luck! Amen.



2. "Bel me's, quan vei chamjar lo senhoratge" ("I am pleased to see authority change hands")
[Translated by Craig E. Bertole]

It's good to see lords change
And old men leave their houses to the young
For each man can leave in his lineage
Enough sons so that one of them is brave.
So it seems to me that this is how the world is renewed                  5
Better than by flowers or singing birds.
And if someone can change an old lord or lady
For a young one, he too will be renewed.

2.
Young is the lady who knows how to honor the nobles,
And she is young through good deeds when she does them.                  10
She stays young when she has a pure heart
And does not risk good praise or reputation.
She stays young  when she keeps her body beautiful
And she is a young lady when she behaves well.                          14
She stays young when she does not try to know everything
And watches her behavior in the company of handsome young men.

3.
Young is the man who spends his money
And he is young when he is penniless.
He holds his youth when he spends greatly on hospitality
And he is young when he gives extravagant gifts,                        20
Young when he burns his coffers and treasure chests,
Young when he wants to hold court and tournaments.
He holds his youth when he loves to play games well,
And he is a young man when he knows how to serve the ladies well.


3. Warcry: 1184-88 30. Be~m plai lo gais temps de pascor
   The gay time of spring
   pleases me well, when
   leaves and flowers come; it
   pleases me when I hear the
   merriment of the birds
   making their song ring
   through the wood; It
   pleases me when I see
   tents and pavilions pitched
   on the meadows; and I feel
   great happiness, when I see
   ranged on the fields knights
   and horses in armor.

   It pleases me when the
   scouts put people and
   herds to flight, and it
   pleases when I see great
   numbers of armed men
   come after them on the run,
   and pleases me in my heart
   when I see strong castles
   besieged and the outer
   broken and smashed, and I
   see the army on the bank,
   surrounded by ditches,
   palisades of strong stakes
   close together.

   And it pleases me too
   when a lord is first to the
   attack on his horse, armed,
   without fear; for thus he
   inspires his men with valiant
   courage. when the battle is
   joined, each man must be
   ready to follow him with
   pleasure, for no one is
   respected until he has taken
   and given many blows.

   At the beginning of the
   battle we shall see clubs
   and swords, colorful
   helmets, shields pierced
   and smashed, and many
   vassals striking together, so
   that horses of the dead and
   wounded will wander
   aimlessly. And when he
   enters the fray, let every
   man of rank think only of
   hacking heads and arms,
   for a dead man is worth
   more than a live loser.

   I tell you, eating or drinking
   or sleeping hasn't such
   savor for me as the
   moment I hear both sides
   shouting "Get 'em!" and I
   hear riderless horses
   crashing through the
   shadows, and I hear men
   shouting "Help! Help!" and
   I see the small and the
   great falling in the grassy
   ditches, and I see the dead
   with splintered lances,
   decked with pennons,
   through their sides.

   Love wants a knightly
   lover, good with his
   weapons and generous in
   serving, sweet-tongued and
   a great giver, who knows
   what is right to do and say,
   outdoors or in, for a man of
   his potency. He should be
   amusing company, courtly
   and pleasing. A lady who
   lies with a stud like that is
   clean of all her sins.
    .
   Worthy countess, everyone
   says you are the best who
   ever has been seen or will
   be, and the noblest lady in
   the world, as I hear tell.
   Beatrice of high lineage,
   lady good in words and
   deeds, spring whence all
   goodness flows, beautiful
   without peer, your rich
   merit has risen so high that
   it has surpassed all others.

   I deeply love a maiden of
   high lineage in whom there
   is every beauty, and I am
   loved by her; she gives me
   such courage that I'll never
   be vanquished, not by the
   most presumptuous.

   Lords, pawn your castles
   and towns and cities before
   you stop making war!

   Papiol [Bertran's troubador], go cheerfully and
   quickly to Sir Yes-and-No [Bertran's nickname for Richard the Lionheart]
   and tell him they are too
   much at peace.


 4. Firebrand 1181-82. 2. Tortz e gerras e joi d'amor

  Injustice and wars and the joys
  of love used to exhilarate me
  and keep me gay and tuneful,
  until singing was forbidden me
  by the lady I must obey. But
  now look, my song has turned
  entirely to fidelity.

  Now I have turned to love, and
  you'll see love songs come and
  go, since it pleases the most
  beautiful one to allow my song.
  To my honor she has rightly
  entrusted herself, and not to
  any of the counts.

  As for the little king of
  Lesser-Land, I'm pleased that
  he wants to get ahead. From
  now on the men who hold fiefs
  from him will acknowledge him
  as their lord. Since he has
  gotten into their foolish
  business, now let him stay
  there, and regain his rights all
  around.

  Don't take me for a
  troublemaker if I want one
  great man to hate another; then
  vavasors and castellans will be
  able to get more sport out of
  them. I swear it by the faith that
  I owe you--a great man is more
  free, generous and friendly in
  war than in peace.

  The Lombards wanted to
  attack that fox of an emperor,
  and fear never stops them from
  building upstream from
  Cremona; Count Raymond is
  honored here, since he has
  newly allied himself with the
  king.

  I know that because I want to
  tell the truth about their war, the
  bad-mouthers will say I've been
  a dupe to let myself be drafted
  into it and used. My brother
  even wants to keep my half of
  the fiefs he promised to share.

  Since my brothers won't
  tolerate my rights, my love, or
  my pleas, if I do manage to
  regain possession of my half, I
  don't want to be scolded by
  any jeering shop-keepers. They
  talk peace many a time when
  no one has asked them to.

  But I have so many teachers
  that I don't know, by Christ,
  how to choose the best course;
  when I grab and snatch the
  wealth of those who don't let
  me keep to myself, they say
  I've been too rash. Now since
  I'm not making war, they say
  I'm no good.

  Papiol,57 go quickly to the
  Young King; tell him too much
  snoozing doesn't please me.

  Sir Yes-and-No [Richard the Lionheart, king of England] likes peace
  with Philip [Augustus, king of France], I believe, more than
  his disinherited brother John [Prince John, later King John of Robin Hood/Magna Carta fame]
  does.