The Troubadour

Illumination from the Manesse Code, 14th century. (Heidelberg, Universitatsbibliothek)

The Troubadour (thirteenth century)

You have heard about Raimbaut de Vaqueiras and how he came to high rank and thanks to whom. But now I want to tell you how, when the good Marquis of Monferrato had knighted him, he fell in love with the Lady Beatrice, the Marquis’s sister and sister of the Lady Alazais of Saluzzo.

He loved her very much and desired her, being very careful not to let her or others know this; he extolled her merits and worth and he found her many friends, men and women from far and near. And she gave him a welcome that did him great honour. And he was dying of desire and dread, so much so he dared not ask her for her love nor show her that he was in love with her.

But one day, like a man tormented by love, he presented himself before her, and told her that he loved a young noblewoman of great worth, and enjoyed a most intimate relationship with her, but dared not confess or show his love for her, nor ask for her love, so deeply was he in awe of her great wealth and of the great consideration and honour in which she was held by all; and begged her in the name of God and compassion to counsel him: ought he to open his heart and reveal his desire to her, adn ask her for her love, or should he die in silence, fearing and loving?

The noblewoman, the Lady Beatrice, on hearing Raimbaut’s words and knowing of his desire for love – and she was already well aware that he was dying of languor and love for her – was seized by compassion and love and she said to him: ‘Raimbaut, it is right that every faithful friend, if he love a noblewoman, use her reverence and fear to reveal the love he feels for her; but before he dies, I would advise him to make his love and his desire known to her and to ask her to accept him as her servitor and friend. And I assure you that, if the woman is intelligent and courteous, she will not take it badly nor will she feel diminished, on the contrary, she will appreciate him even more and will hold him even greater esteem.

And I advice you to open your hear to the woman you love and show her the desire you have for her, and beg her to accept you as her servitor and knight; since you are such an esteemed knight that no woman in the world would be unhappy to have you at her side as knight and servitor. And I have seen that the Lady Alazais, the Countess of Saluzzo, accepted the courtship of Arnaut de Maroill; and the Lady Maria, that of Gaucelm Faidit; and the Lady of Marseilles, that of Folquet of Marseilles. And so I advise and I authorise you, on the strength of my words and my reassurance, to beg her and ask her for her love.

When Raimbaut heard the advice she gave him and the reassurance and authorisation that she offered him, he told her that she was the woman he loved and about whom he had asked her opinion. And the Lady Beatrice said that he was welcome, and that he should try to act nobly and to speak well and to show his worth, and that she was prepared to accept him as her knight and servitor and that he should buckle down to his task. And Raimbaut tried to speak and act worthily, and to enhance the prestige of the Lady Beatrice whenever this was possible. And then he composed the song that you will find written here as follows:

(Love) now asks me to follow its wont and its customs.

– On Beauty, Umberto Eco (p.165-166)

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