Extending #HugAMedievalist and #WhanThatAprilleDay16 into a weekend Occ Fest

With apologies to Ozzy and in festive continuation of Twitter’s virtual medievalise-ins, #HugAMedievalist (2016-03-31) and #WhanThatAprilleDay16 – Guilhem de Peitieus / Old Occitan (2016-04-01).

Medievalists and philologists are here to help, at your service and for the public Good. Even at what for others is “the weekend.” Manning the Medievalism Helpdesk today is the master satirist Marcabru. He’s joining us today from 870-ish years ago to help our Powers That Be with Words Of Wisdom and Thoughts For The Day from another world; from nobler, more gracious and honorable, yet humbler times. In the humility of looking back in turn, in the ever-repeating virtuous cycle of nostalgia, at better less barbarous times.

Welcome to a civilisation where:

  • Valor isn’t “value” but “values”
  • Rics isn’t the “riches” of material wealth
  • Prez has a sense of “prized” as well as “prize”; but as you’ll see below this isn’t the mere buying and selling of “price.” No. Rather, through use of verbal forms of the word, it’s a dynamic activity: vigorous “taking” and indeed violent “appropriation.”
  • Proeça: not “power” and “prowess” but “probity”
  • Sens includes polysemy, paranomasia, and irony; and expects an intelligent, demanding, questioning audience / public

‘The Maastrich Hours’, Liège 14th century.
British Library, Stowe 17, fol. 216v.
via Discarding Images

In honour of spring, sunshine, blossoms, fresh green shoots, and birdsong.
In honour of commentary, criticism, and satire
as social, political, and cultural goods.
In high homage to transparency and truth.

Singing praise to their perpetrators and perpetuators:
For journalists—that main and most visible part of our Fifth Estate—
even for those whose idea of “clarity” and “fair balance”
is simply pitting the most extreme voices against each other:
“fight fight fight” pulls in an audience,
blood and bodies make striking images,
anything to sell copy,
sales are all.

Here, then, is satire subtle and sublime
and a pearl of philology.

‘The Maastricht Hours’, Liège 14th century.
British Library Stowe 17, fol. 160r.
via Discarding Images.

Bel m’es qan li rana chanta
e.l sucs pueia per la rusca,
per qe.l flors e.l fueilhs e.l busca
e.l frugz reviu e la planta,
e.l rosinhols cris’ e bram’ a
sa par q’a per joi conqisa,
ples d’orgueilh qar il no sen
freg ni gell ni glaz ni bisa.

Non aus ço qe m’atalanta
dir d’una gen qe.s fa chusca
cui malvestatz pren e frusca,
q’entre mil non trueb qaranta
de cells cui proeza ama;
q’en un chastell l’an azisa,
e trazon i ben a cen
peiriers cill qi l’an reqisa.

Pres es le castells e.l sala;
macan la tor e l’artilha,
on joys e jovens essilha;
son jugat a pena mala,
q’us qecs crida: ‘Fuec e flamma!
Via inz e sia prisa!
Degolem joi e joven,
e proeça sia aucisa!’

Seinhor, ben hi a gran tala
si mor ses fill o ses filha!
Retengam per meravilha
lo bec o l’ongla o l’ala,
qar de pauc albr’ eis grantz rama,
qan longa pugn’ i es misa,
per q’ieu n’esper e n’aten
lo frut aprop l’a[r]semisa.

No.n vueilh far paraula lonia:
preza es li francha causa,
e non troba fin ni pauza
si no.s met reclus’ o monia.
E pos chascus la derama
e las denz li frainh e briça,
ieu no.l trueb mas un paren
de Portugal tro en Friza.

Duc e rei senes menssonia
ll’an primier la boca clausa,
q’ill fan de pauc fag gran nauza,
qar donars lur fai vergoinha:
tan tem qecs qe failla.l trama
per q’en lurs cortz non es visa
copa ni enap d’argen,
mantells vairs ni pena griza.

Moilheratz q’autrui con grata
ben pot saber qe.l sieus pescha
e mostra con hom li mescha
q’ab eis lo sieu fust lo bata;
e aura.n tort si s’en clama,
qe drech e raços deviza:
car deu comprar qi car ven,
asegon la lei de Piza.

D’aissi nais l’avols barata,
ric viu-mort—qe Dieus descresca!—
q’us no.n fai conseilh ni tresca.
Non sia lauzenia plata
cell qe la mainad’ afama.
Cest vest la blancha camiza
e fai son seinhor sufren,
e ten si dons a sa giza.

Alegretz, folls, en qal giza
cuias far d’avol valen,
ni de gonella camisa?

Antz cos por levan cazen,
qal gonella qal camiza.

Institutes of Justinian, France 15th century.
Montepellier, Bibliothèque interuniversitaire
Section Médecine, H 418, fol. 23v.
via Discarding Images

Text: Marcabru: A Critical Edition. Simon Gaunt, Ruth Harvey, Linda M. Paterson. (Martelsham/Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2000): 147-63.

Edition & translation:


Courtly love and the joys of spring, with marginal commentary.
Book of Hours, Bayeux ca. 1450-1460.
Bodleian, MS Douce 268, fol. 123r.
via Discarding Images

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.