19 January 2009

Canto VI

A nice short one, and mainly on the troubadour theme, which means there's a sprinkling of Provençal, some of which I find I can understand - it's halfway between French and Spanish, quite a bit like Catalan. So after a brief reference to Odysseus, we move on to Guillaume, evidently a French duke or sommat (possibly Guillaume or William of Normandy) and there are scattered random facts about the genealogy of the family, participation in a crusade. It's reminiscent of a historical chronicle in the spare opinionless, contextless description of events, and there's traces of legal documentation - wills and treaties. Ooh, I think we're now talking about Eleanor of Aquitaine and I knew I should have played more attention to the film because it says Louis
Divorced her in that year, he Louis,
divorcing thus Aquitaine.
And that year Plantagenet married her
(that had dodged past 17 suitors)
Et quand lo reis Lois lo entendit
mout er fasché.

To prove my provençal, those last two lines read "and when King Louis heard this he died of anger". But I'd also grab one straw of appreciation for the word "dodged".
Aquitaine has a resonance, even I know that, as a home of poetry and song, so it's no surprise that Sordello reappears. More provençal:
E lo Sordels si fo di Mantovana,
Son of a poor knight, Sier Escort,
And he delighted himself in chançons
And mixed with the men of the court

I don't know if Ez identifies himself with Sordello. It wouldn't be surprising: the poet wandering far from home in a multilingual culture. He quotes (I think) a song of Sordello to his wife:
Winter and Summer I sing of her grace,
As the rose is fair, so fair is her face,
Both Summer and Winter I sing of her,
The snow makyth me to remember her.

Which, actually, isn't that good. Perhaps it's a deliberately poor translation, signalled by the unnecessary archaism of "makyth".
The canto ends with these lines, which I can't be bothered to get into just now:
And Cairels was of Sarlat ... Theseus from Troezene
And they wd. have given him poison
But for the shape of his sword-hilt.

When I started this, I thought there might be some continuity from one canto to the next, partly because of the way they may start or end in midstream. Clearly, that's not happening. Each canto is self-standing, an incident or a scene in its own right, but there are recurrent themes. There must be some overall scheme of organisation, though, but I can't see what it is.

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