Two Poems by Kit Fryatt


                                 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.



I sleep at the foot of the stair
                                           the rough nights
                                                                   of the bed           
I know his sleeping breath and its feint
                                                              perhaps he knows mine

his lungs are congested
                                    he is close to sixty
                                                              and I am past
                                                                                 this year
                                                                                             the middle of life

the fair hair he cut                                              the night before we started
                                     a four years’ pelt                                                          for Cairo
that would not shame the Magdalen  
                                                                         is gone as he said                      a stringy tonsure
                                                                                                       it would be                       

when an attack wakes him I bring caudle                                                                                    

we have both killed men that
                                    he might live to this pass

             their grey shades stand between us
                                                                                          so he seems
he suffers as tall men do worst with his knees
                                                                                     his back
             in the mornings he is agile like an anvil
                                                                                     as the mounting block he refuses

he and his wife had eleven children
                                                                  and some of them live
                                                                                                               far away
                                                                                                                                     he misses
her hand beneath his head
                                                                he says

                                                                                                  to put my hand under his head
would be worth the ransom of the son of the king of Cairo
                                                                                                 but I’ve never been lucky

                                                                                                                        there was a lady
                                                                         the guest of many important men
                         he visited her when she stayed with them
then I watched till dawn
                                                                                                 I knew her name but never her face
                                                                         she was a grey shape in thought
                                                                                                 like a place where a painter meant
                                                                         to fill in one of the three Maries

a grey form lying on
                                     the body I know better than my own
                                                                                                   its scar furrows

                                    turn and turn about

the body to which I attribute
                                                 every scar on my own
                                                                                      lying on a grey form

until I called out
                           my fine friend
                                                 here comes the dawn
                                                                                      chief glory
                                                                                                       glorious lord
                                                                                                                            here comes the dawn