Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Trinity College Dublin
Cultures of War Research Network Inaugural Conference: TCD CMRS / IMEMS (Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Wales) / associated with CARMEN (Co-operative for the Advancement of Research through a Medieval European Network)
This was a talk to an interesting audience: Medievalists but not Occitanists, literary scholars and historians. Consider it an experiment in juggling the four, and as an exercise in Occitanist Outreach. It’s a short piece, padded out somewhat as my original talk notes were somewhat telegraphic or, at times, verily gnomic. There are still a few patchy bits. It was put together at speed but may have a few good ideas; it was fun to do, the geeky puzzle-solving fun of comparing multiple versions of a poem and hypothesising about things to which there are no factual answers (and maybe there can be none). It’s an exercise in the limits of editing, and the frustrations of limiting oneself to a (modern) single edited text, in comparison with the extra joys to be derived from keeping a poem multiple and open and true to itself, as a moving living thing. I hope it might have communicated some of that fun, in an introductory manner. Next piece to go up here, a companion from even earlier, is on a related poem by Guilhem de Peitieus…
There may, as ever, be typos. There are, as ever, holes and other navigational hazards needing to be mended. Further footnotes and references. The usual nonsense to be tweaked into sense. But I’m still posting this up, in its current state. May it be useful to someone!
“The poetics of imprisonment: A reading of Richard the Lionheart’s Ja nus hons pris ne dira sa raison / ja nuls hom pres non dira sa razon (1192)”
Richard’s best-known poem may be Ja nus hons pris…, supposedly written while imprisoned Austria on his return journey from the 3rd Crusade. (Sung by, amongst others, Bryan Ferry.) Richard’s family poetic connections already tie him to the Occitan “Troubadour” lyric tradition: great-grandson of the first known Occitan trobador, William, 9th Duke of Aquitaine and 7th Count of Poitiers (c.1071-1126); son of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1202), patron of further troubadours – e.g. Bernart de Ventadorn – and of some of the early French poets – e.g. Benoît de Sainte-Maure; half-brother of Marie de Champagne (1145-98), who continued a similar patronage pattern, including for example Chrétien de Troyes.
Ja nus hons pris… is best known in its French version, and has usually been read in its immediate historical context. An Occitan version also exists. After a brief comparison of the two versions, this paper shows how the poem may be read in its literary context, a poetic culture in France that is both French and Occitan.
While the trope of imprisonment is part of the amorous topical canon, 12th c. Occitan Troubadour lyric also plays with ideas of trobar (“composition,” and “finding” in the broadest sense) and formal elements of the canso (“song,” lyric poem) to produce what may be termed a full poetics of imprisonment. Richard’s poem offers a nice culmination of a century’s cross-pollination, composed as it is towards the end of the Troubadour “golden age” and after three Crusades. (more…)