Tag Archives: troubadour

“Fin ioi me don’ alegranssa” – The Comtessa’s Joy


(Comtessa de Dia – Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale MS fr. 12473)

After finishing out a long semester, I just turned in grades, and completed all those other tasks “to maken vertu of necessitee,” so now I get to once again turn towards a project I have been dabbling in and very much enjoy working on – the trobairitz and their cansos. Last time I looked to their pieces I translated and analyzed the last of Castelloza’s, and I will now return to the Comtessa de Dia.

So much has already been written about Comtessa de Dia’s life and history, this post will focus solely on the content of one of her four cansos’s “Fin ioi me don’ alegranssa” which remains consistent with the tradition of naming the piece after the first line of the canso. Here is my translation followed by a brief analysis:

Fin ioi me don’ alegranssa
Per qu’eu chan plus gaiamen,
E no m’o teing a pensanssa,
Ni a negun penssamen,
Car sai que son a mon dan
Fals lausengier e truan,
E lor mals diz non m’esglaia:
Anz en son dos tanz plus gaia.

En mi non an ges fianssa
Li lauzengier mal dizen,
C’om non pot aver honranssa
Qu’a ab els acordamen;
Qu’ist son d’altrestal semblan
Com la niouls que s’espan
Qe.l solels en pert sa raia,
Per qu’eu non am gent savaia

E vos, gelos mal parlan,
No.s cuges que m’an tarzan,
Que iois e iovenz no.m plaia,
Per tal que dols vos deschaia.

Fine joy gives me great happiness
Which makes me sing more gaily,
And it weighs me not to think
Nor have any dark thoughts
For fear of the harm
False gossipers may bring,
Their bad words don’t slay me:
They only make me twice as gay.

In me they will find no alliance
Those bad worded gossipers,
As no one can have honor
Who works in accordance to them;
They resemble well
Like the clouds that span
The sun to lose its rays,
For of one like that I want no knowledge

And you, jealous ill speaking one,
Don’t believe that I will tarry
With joy and youth myself to please
If for only to undo you.

I have maintained my almost pedantic desire for a translation true to form, and as often as it is possible without impeding readability I have preserved the archaic logic of language – the awkwardness of word order not only allows for a mot-a-mot mechanism for translation, but also provides a prosaic map after which the canso was modeled, outlining the continuity of thought that evidently bears greater importance over form. Even as the original has a rhyme scheme (ababccdd, ababccdd, ccdd), it was normal, and even expected, for those works created in the troubadour, and trobairitz, canso tradition to not rely on any conventional structure, and reinvent the canso form each time. This was terribly difficult and not always possible, and some, like Castelloza for example, had a signature style. In short, there is no “typical” form, and cansos are identified within the genre along the lines of content, more specifically subject.

The first line of “Fin ioi me don’ alegranssa” provides more than the title, and establishes the tone, beginning with the first word, “fine,” which can be read as refined, or elevated and serves as the beginning of the concept of fin’amor, courtly love. Here, however, there is only courtly joy. After discussing the problematic nature of fin’amor previously, in this instance the concept becomes simultaneously more complicated and yet simplified. Comtessa de Dia shrugs off the notion of ennobling love, with all that that actually entails, and blatantly asserts her greatest happiness is derived from joy (that perhaps also carries another connotation I have discussed elsewhere and will revisit shortly).

The joy she receives appears to be almost cathartic, where she smirks at the words of those who speak ill of her. She relies on this very gossip to lend her an air of superiority. She does not hide behind false veils of piety and renounce the gossipers, accusing them of bringing her low and ruining her goodly reputation. Instead, her power is ironically derived from their very words and her concession to them as she ends the canso with poise, assuring her husband, “gelos mal parlan” (jealous ill speaking one), of her intentions to continue forth with her activities. By not engaging or challenging the gossipers with negations, she gives them no power over her, and thus gains the upper hand.

On an unrelated, but interesting side note, I love the use of the word “lausengier” for gossiper. It bears resemblance to lozenge, or an elixir to ease the throat, implying that these gossipers soothe their throats through the very act of gossiping, essentially creating an unending cycle where the cure for a sore throat that arises from all that ill intended talk is more of it. I have not yet proven a concrete etymological connection, but I can’t help think it is more than just a coincidence.

The implied joi/jeu duality from the first line becomes perhaps the most apparent as it carries through to the end. Comtessa, much like Castelloza uses here cansos as a form of puppetry, mimicking male dominated troubadour traditions that use chansons to derive virtue for the speaker, while acting as a virtuoso pulling at the strings of both her lover and her audience in a game not unlike that of cat and mouse. Her je m’en fiche attitude recasts her joy outside the borders of sin, and places it squarely within a world where the crucial distinction between fin’amor and adultery collapse, further brining to question the perceived purity associated with fin’amor. Can this absolute state of innocent love also be so naïve as to condone and even legitimize carnal sin? Does fin’amor thus become debased as it is used towards ends and via means that remain ultimately unjustified? Obviously these are larger questions for an entire genre of works, and well outside my scope here, but they are inescapable in a conversation that centers around understanding compunction, or lack thereof.

As Comtessa closes her canso she tells the jealous one she wishes to preoccupy herself with joy and youth, directly contrasting these traits with her current arrangement that is presumably anything but, and therefore reversing blame, or at least ameliorating it. Even so, the audience is left with the troublesome knowledge that regardless of circumstances, she is nevertheless committing adultery. To better explain the ways in which she navigates this tricky situation I will argue that fin’amor does not become debased, but rather always already existed as a crutch for devising a method to superimpose divergent concepts such as love and lust while ignoring those places that display friction. The backdrop for such manipulation is a palimpsest ripe for erasure and recreation where the lover plays cartographer of human relationships and may reconfigure the relief to suit his or her own needs, regardless of the resulting distortion. In this imagined realm idealized love is no more real than the topography of emotions erected in ink that appear most real simply by virtue of being. Thus the disparity between the reality of an illicit relationship and the fabricated ideals of pure love becomes muddled and neglected as they combine into a single idea, and fin’amor is born ex nihilo as the concept to fill this gap in reasoning, all the while negating its ontological roots.

Withal, I would like to propose yet another interpretation for Comtessa’s usage of the concept that also defies logical explanation, but which needs none. Even as her very last line appears scornful and perhaps malicious, even as she relies on techniques of false love to make her argument, when the entirety of the piece is read as another strophe within a game, it mollifies the tone.

Thus in her game Comtessa elicits sympathy from her audience, all the while positioning her lover as it pleases her to stir gossipers for her own ends as she upends all those who judge her in a superb cycle of crafted emotions. In the end she does not undo her husband, but rather, by shedding light on the inherent fallacies of the larger system, she undoes the entire concept of fin’amor.


Huchet, Jean-Charles. “Les femmes troubadours ou la voix critique.”

Paden, William. The Voice of the Trobairitz: Perspectives on the Women Troubadours.

Shapiro, Marianne. “The Provencal Trobairitz and the Limits of Courtly Love.”

Castelloza, Revisited

In continuing with my trobairitz translations and analyses, I will now focus on Castelloza’s penultimate canso within her ouvre, and the last one which can be attributed to her without a doubt (Note: I am looking at them out of order; this is normally considered the second canso by most scholars, and “Mout avetz” is the third). Some, including myself, will argue that the last piece (forthcoming in this project) was undoubtedly hers considering its consistency of language and style, but there is yet hesitancy to unequivocally call it hers. However, today I will be translating “Ia de chantar,” which is found in all five manuscripts containing her work.

Four of these manuscripts contain a vida which not only briefly narrates her life, but consequently helps situate her activity between the latter quarter of the twelfth century and about the first decade of the thirteenth century, with perhaps an extension of a decade that is yet to be determined.

Despite the strong desire to historicize her works and bring them into context, while focusing solely on her cansos it has been stated her works, including the disputed fourth, comprise a cycle that progresses through the various stages of love to a final acceptance of her place in the lover’s life, and a forgiveness for his departure. I have recently argued the duality of her usage of “joi” to encompass both the joys of love, but also its other more literal meaning, to play, as a play on “jeu”. So I am not entirely convinced about a progression as much as a back and forth where she occasionally concedes only to reaffirm her grasp on the situation as she firmly posits herself within her lover’s sphere, controlling the outcome via her rhetoric. However I have merely been translating her works piecemeal and analyzing them in the same manner. Perhaps after I finish with the fourth, and finally step back to acknowledge the larger corpus, I too will see what Peter Dronke found and be able to trace a more sophisticated progression within her songs. In the meantime, here is my translation of “Ia de chantar:”

Ia de chantar non degra aver talan
car on mais chan
e pieitz me vai d’amor,
que plaing e plor
fant en mi lor estatge,
car en mala merce
ai mes mon cor e me,
e s’en breu no.m rete,
trop ai faich lonc badatge.

Despois vos vi fui al vostre coman
et anc per tan,
amics, no.us n’aic meillor,
que preiador
no.m mandetz ni messatge
que ia.m viretz lo fre,
amics, non fassatz re.
Car iois no mi soste
a pauc de dol non ratge.

Si pro.i agues, be.us membri’en chantan
q’aic vostre gan
q’enbliei ab gran temor,
puois aic paor
qe i aguessetz dampnatge
d’aicella qe.us rete,
amics, per q’ieu desse
lo tornei, car ben cre
q’eu non ai poderatge.

Dels cavalliers conosc que i fant lor dan,
car ia preian
dompnas plus q’ellas lor,
c’autra ricor
no.i ant no seignoratge,
que pois dompna s’ave
d’amar, preiar deu be
cavallier, s’en lui ve
proeza e vassalatge.

[this next stanza does not have manuscript consensus, and appears so differently each time it is practically impossible to create a reliable compilation – I will use manuscript N as my primary source here since I feel so far it has been one of the strongest resources for all the cansos]

Dompna Almucs, ancse
am so don mal mi ve,
car cel qui pretz mante
a vas mi cor volatge.

Bels Noms, ges no.m recre
de vos amar iasse
car viu en bona fe,
bontatz e ferm coratge.

I, of singing should not want,
because the more I sing
the worse for me it goes in love;
what pleas and tears
make their home in me,
because where there is no mercy
I have put my heart and myself,
and if he does not now take me,
I will have too long waited.

Since I saw you I’ve been at your command,
and still as for pain,
friend, I’ve had no better from you,
not a pleader
nor message do you send
for to look towards me,
friend, you do not this!
Because no joy comes to me,
I am mad with sorrow.

If it would help, I’d remind you in song
that I had your glove,
the one I stole trembling
then I feared
you would find damage
from the one who keeps you,
friend, right away
I returned it, because I well knew
I had no power to keep it.

Knights I know who themselves harm
when they plead
with ladies more than ladies plead with them,
for no other rank
or seniority is in it,
that when a lady has it
to love, she should plead
with the knight if she sees
fit and worth in him.



Lady Almucs, still
I love what does me harm,
for he who carries merit
has towards me a changing heart.

Fair Name, I never fail
to love you endlessly
for I live within good faith
good will and a constant heart.

Unlike her other two chansons I first notice her meekness here that seems almost uncharacteristic of her demanding voice to which by now I have become accustomed. She appears hesitant to fully voice her dismay at her lover’s lack of acknowledgement despite that she makes clear he is now with another. Yet even here she positions herself as superior to the other “d’aicella qe.us rete,” or who keeps him, almost against his will – surely if he had a choice he would rather be with Castelloza. In other words, should her narrative be reinterpreted, he did not turn away from her in this line, but rather was detained, or kept from her. Of course she negates her naiveté only a few lines earlier where she attests to his inconstant heart that has without a doubt abandoned her without as much as a message while simultaneously calling attention to her own complacency in her pain as she cannot help but be drawn to that which hurts her. She ends in much the same way her other cansos begin, reminding her lover, and more importantly her audience, that she will not bear ill feelings towards the one who abandoned her since her love is immutable, everlasting, and by implication superior.

NB I highlight “audience” here because I feel it is becoming an ever more important structure to explore in my larger project. While voice is axiomatically associated with the trobairitz, that voice had an audience that has not yet been fully explored.


Bruckner, Matilda Tomaryn. “Na Castelloza, Trobairitz, and Troubadour Lyric.”

Dronke, Peter. “The Provencal Trobairitz: Castelloza.”

Paden, William. “The Poems of the Trobairitz Na Castelloza.”

“Mout avetz faich long estatge”

MS A f. 168v

(Castelloza and an anonymous chavalier, Vatican Library lat 5232 MS A f. 168v)

It has been a while, but I continue my translation and brief analysis of Castelloza within my Trobairitz research. I didn’t mean to take so long, but this is a peripheral study disjointed from my primary research or other projects. At the moment I don’t know if I will be doing anything with this other than creating a series of blog posts as I translate each of the Trobairitz poems piecemeal. But, honestly, I am hooked and can’t stop. The Trobairitz are like the sirens of medieval studies, beckoning me to their chansons despite the ticking time-bomb of pending deadlines and papers looming, ever closer as Fall season approaches even though we have not yet even crossed the threshold of Spring.

Alright, enough ranting…. here is my latest (ever small) contribution to the Trobairitz tradition of a translation of Castelloza’s “Mout avetz.” Yes, her work has previously been translated, but I have found I understand the works better when I provide my own translations and analyses.

Mout avetz faich long estatge
Amics, pois de mi.us partitz,
Et es me greu e salvatge,
Quar me juretz e.m plevitz
Que als jorns de vostra vida
Non acsetz dompna mas me;
E si d’autra vos perte,
M’avetz morta e trahida,
Qu’avi’en vos m’esperanssa
Que m’amassetz ses doptanssa.

Bels amics, de fin coratge
Vos amei, pois m’abellitz,
E sai que faich ai follatge,
Que plus m’en etz escaritz;
Qu’anc non fis vas vos ganchida,
E si.m fasetz mal per be:
Be.us am e non m’en recre;
Mas tan m’a amors sazida
Qu’ieu non cre que benananssa
Puosc’aver ses vostre’amanssa.

Mout aurai mes mal usatge
A las autras amairitz:
Qu’om sol trametre messatge
E motz triatz e chausitz.
Et ieu tenc me per garida,
Amics, a la mia fe,
Quan vos prec, qu’aissi.m.cove;
Que.l plus pros n’es enriquida
S’a de vos qualqu’aondanssa
De baissar o d’acoindanssa.

Mal aj’ieu s’anc cor voltage
Vos aic ni.us fui camjairitz,
Ni drutz de negum paratge
Per me non fo encobitz;
Anz sui pensiv’e marrida
Car de m’amor nu.us sove,
E si de vos jois no.m ve,
Tost me trobaretz fenida:
Car per pauc de malananssa
Mor dompna, s’om tot no.il lanssa.

Tot lo maltraich e.l dampnatge
Que per vos m’es escaritz
Vos fai grazer mos linhatge
E sobre totz mos maritz;
E s’anc fetz vas me fallida,
Perdon la.us per bona fe;
E prec que venhatz a me,
Despois quez auretz auzida
Ma chanson, que.us fatz fiansa
Sai trobetz bella semblansa.

Much time have you stayed away
Friend, since you parted from me,
And it is to me hard and cruel,
Because to me you swore and pled
That all the days of your life
You will have no lady but me;
And if in another you lose yourself,
You will have me dead and betrayed,
Because in you I have my faith
That you love me without hesitation.

Fine friend, of boundless heart
I love you, since you pleased me,
And I know I was foolish;
For which you abandoned me;
Though I have never denied you,
And if you give me bad for good:
I love you and wish you no ill;
Since love so has seized me
When I can believe no goodness
Could be had without your love.

A most terrible practice I show
To all other female lovers:
When a man usually sends the message
And tries and chooses his words.
And I am thought fulfilled,
Friends, by my faith,
When I provoke you, as it fits me;
As the most deserving woman is enriched
If she gains from you enough
Kisses and embraces.

Bad luck to me if ever I had a rancid heart
Towards you or was counterfeit,
Or another favorite of any class
Was had by me;
I am sooner pensive and tormented
Because my love is not known,
And if from you joy is not found
Then you will find me dead:
Because from her affliction
A lady will die if not helped.

For all the mistreatment and the damage
That you have brought me
My family will grace you
And more so will my husband;
And if ever towards me you were false,
I pardon you in good faith;
And I pray you come to me,
After you will have heard
My song, when I assure you
You will find a nice reception.

First, the poem follows Castelloza’s general style of the five stanza format while also maintaining the stricter style and subject of Trobairtiz poetry. She laments the loss of her love, his betrayal, and her subsequent suffering, but she places no blame upon him and proceeds to forgive him for the pain he has inflicted upon her. Yet once again her forgiveness is laced with anger towards his abandonment as she indirectly chastises him for his neglect.

Nevertheless she delivers her poem with a dose of sarcasm that does not escape detection, and also conveniently allows us a glimpse into her society. The time of greatest activity for the Trobairitz coincided with an overall renaissance in women’s rights since in the middle of the twelfth century in France, especially in the southern regions and Occitania, women regained much of the power they had not seen for nearly two hundred years. Thus when Castelloza steps into the dominant role, generally reserved for her male counterpart in poetry, she does so from the vantage point of a woman in possession of not just her quill and voice, but uses that voice to echo her position in society. She may be (as I discussed in a previous post) socioeconomically beneath her love interest, nevertheless regardless of her reasons for positioning herself beneath him, it is not because she is a woman. In other words, the implication here is that her stance which positions her beneath her lover is as much a self created pose as it is for the male Troubadour who castigates himself at the foot of his lady’s pedestal.

She blatantly recognizes her reversal as she concedes that general practice is “Qu’om sol trametre messatge,” (When a man usually sends the message) of love to an ever patiently awaiting woman. Bouchard analyzed these lines as an apology where Castelloza negotiates her place within a poetic tradition through a pseudo apology – a practice the Troubadours never had to partake in since it was implied that men never had to apologize for their existence in any sphere and could move with a freedom unreserved for women.  While I love Bouchard’s close reading of these lines, I do have to disagree and found another reason for Castelloza’s insertion of these seemingly apologetic lines. Almost smirkingly Castelloza acknowledges that her behavior sets a terrible example for all other female lovers while synchronously encouraging them to do the same. She is not apologizing as much as drawing attention to the solidarity between women who will now partake in this perhaps liberating behavior and act upon their desires as opposed to remaining within the confined roles of passive love interests. Her apology is really just a nod towards the agency she has a hand in eliciting. There are in fact several instances within the chanson that mark her extrapolation from self to a universal feminine exemplum – her personal grief and simultaneous joy derived from her lover become the suffering and joy of every woman. These instances are set off from the rest of the chanson by her deliberate usage of the third person pronoun as she moves from “I” to “she” and from “my” to “her” (lines 28-30 and 39-40).

Even though there are innumerable more points to be discussed here, especially concerning the feudal language she employs that allows us an even more detailed glimpse into the relationship between her and her lover, I think that is best left to another time – perhaps one day this will be more than just a series of blogposts.

In the meantime, I want to draw attention to one last bit of a testament to what I feel is Castelloza’s sense of humor. The last stanza  has been translated differently by Dronke and Paden in regards to her family and their response, real or perceived, to her predicament. My own translation is also a bit different, but as Bec has stated, what can be surmised and agreed upon is her reference to having a husband. I do not believe her family/lineage or husband will be elevated due to her status as a Trobairitz as others have stipulated, so the pain her lover has inflicted upon her for which those around her are glad is not reflective of their joy at the literary and performative success that the suffering has brought about, but rather it is an ironically descriptive statement. Most notably her husband’s joy at her misfortune would fit perfectly well within the genre of a malmarie where Castelloza acknowledges her husband and lover within the same composition while the former would have every reason to rejoice at the grief the latter inflicts upon his adulterous wife. And Castelloza does not skirt the issue. This is the work of a woman in control of her situation who doesn’t paint fairy tales, but navigates the problematic reality of her dual existence by choosing to candidly admit her reality one line before negating its importance as she returns her attention to her lover and her unending love for him despite how he torments her. Much like in her poem, Amics, here too she ends with a promise, yet this time it is not a veiled threat of what should befall him if he abandons her, but a promise of the kind reception that awaits his return.


(Castelloza, BnF MS 843 f. 125)

Even though the actual score for this chanson has not survived, and actually only one Trobairitz musical accompaniment has been preserved, by Beatritz de Dia, I found a pleasing rendition of Castelloza’s Mout Avetz set to music. Enjoy!



Bec, Pierre. Chants d’amour des femmes-troubadours: Trobairitz et “chasons de femme.”

Bouchard,Constance Brittain. Strong of Body, Brave and Noble: Chivalry and Society in Medieval France.

Dronke, Peter. “The Provencal Trobairitz: Castelloza.”

Gravdal, Kathryn. “Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Medieval Women Trobairitz.”

Paden, William. The Voice of the Trobairitz: Perspectives on the Women Troubadours.