Poem of the Week


                                     after Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (fl. 1180)

Sage and fool, humble in haughtiness
jealous and free and bold and wretched
I am when needs must, and joyful and abject
and I can be complaisant and gross
and base and adroit, churlish and courtly
mean and gentle, knowing good from naughty
and having the wit to choose what’s better
I only fail when I’m thwarted in desire.

In all my dealings I'm savvy and ingenious
save that my master-mistress has me distracted
when she humbles me in word and act I accept it
and am proud of it because she's gracious and gorgeous
and I want her beautiful body lying beside me
so much that I get right sweet-natured and free
and I'm wretched because I daren't ask her favour
and too bold because I want what's past compare.

Beautiful lady, source of my joyfulness
I’m abject because I want you and I daren’t—
for you make me graceful in the eyes of the great
provoking provokers, engrossing the gross
I’ll shrink into meanness if you won’t have mercy
my worth depends on your thinking me worthy
as I’d have churls consider me a boor
and Their Graces, something of a cavalier.

My songs disparaged love, once
because a beautiful liar gave me such wounds
but you, lady, replete with everything good,
offer both bounty and recompense—
what Love, and you, have promised me
is a hundred times more than any knight’s fief
and you are worth so much more again, again more
I want you (fear I’ll lose you) and to be your conqueror.

Joy and youth and all the sweet courtesies,
lady, your lovely form clothed in intellect
has got you the ear and the regard of the élite
and, by my faith, if I had the good chance
to please you with my songs or my body
I would possess merit in the topmost degree
and beauty too, I may announce and aver
because my eyes tell me so, and my ears.

My Britomartis, clemency and mercy,
the long love and absolute fidelity
I render you should warrant the favour
of candid love, I can hope for no better.
Lady Biatritz, your fair and courteous mien
your beauty and merit universally clear
make my songs swell up with vigour and swagger
because you gild them with your peerless treasure.