02 November - Beatritz, Countess da Dia (b. 1140) May 16, 2008 19:07:07 GMT 2
Post by moira on May 16, 2008 19:07:07 GMT 2
Beatritz, Countess da Dia (b. 1140 A.D.)
For today I went back to the few female troubadours of Southern
France who wrote in the tradition of Provencal courtly love poetry:
Here is a translation of a poem attributed to Beatritz, Countess da Dia:
I have to sing of what I would not wish,
so bitter do I feel about him whose love I am,
as I love him more than anything there is;
with him, grace and courtesy are no avail to me,
nor my beauty, merit or understanding,
for I am deceived and am betrayed as much
as I would rightly be had I been unwelcoming.
Friend, comfort me in this that I never failed you
through any behavior of mine;
rather, I love you more than Sguis loved Valensa,
and it delights me that I vanquish you in loving,
my friend, for you are the most excellent.
To me you show arrogance in words and presence,
and are well-disposed towards everybody else.
I'm surprized your feeling turns to proudness
with me, friend and for this I am right to grieve:
it is not fair that another love takes you from me,
however she may address or welcome you;
and remember how it was at the beginning
of our love . . . God forbid
that the separation should be fault of mine.
The great merit that shelters in your person,
and the rich worth you have, disquiet me
since there's no women, far or near,
who, if she would love, does not submit to you;
yet you, my friend, have enough discernment
to know who is the loyalest.
And remember our understanding.
My worth and my nobility must speak for me,
and my beauty, and still more my loyal heart,
and so I send you, where you are staying,
this song, which shall be my messenger;
and I want to know, my fair gentle friend,
why you are so hard and strange with me
I don't know if it is pride or evil spite.
But I also want you to tell him, messenger,
that many suffer great loss through too great pride.
I'm not sure who is the author of this translated text; it might be Peter Dronke (who reprints it in his Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua (ca. 203) to Marguerite Porete (ca. 1310) [Cambridge UP, 1984],), but since he does not take credit for the translation and refers the reader to another book (M. de Riquer, Las trovadores, it may be he took the translation and source text from there. I have changed one line of the translation: one line reads in Dronke, "It amazes me that ." I changed that to "I'm surprized ..." Not much is known for sure about the Countess da Dia, not even her name. Meg Bogin's Women Troubadours provides an analysis of the sources of the "biography" (such as it is), and I make this coherent speculation out: the woman who wrote the four extant poems may have been one of twin daughters of Marguerite de Bourgogne Comté [c. 1163] and of Guigues IV, dauphin of the Viennois and Count of Albon. Her father was killed in 1142. She was married to a Guillem de Poitiers who was illegitimate and they had a son, the Count da Dia (he's called). She is said to have fallen "in love with En Raimbaut d'Orange," and to have written "good chansons in his honor." Raimbaut d'Orange was a common name in southern France at the time; one man with this name was a male troubadour himself who lived roughly from 1146 to 1173. This Raimbaut had a sister, Tibors, who is also one of these women troubadour poets whose work has come down to us. Tibors had a husband, Bertrand de Baux and it's thought Raimbaut was Tibors's younger brother. Bogin also provides the original Provencal French text.
The flourishing of this poetry by women in this period calls for explanation. Some say this writing was the result of the crusade at the time which freed women of control by husbands and fathers and brothers (who went off to murder and destroy in Palestine, to colonize in effect and themselves gain something -- mostly younger sons went among the leaders). But others say that the movement was destroyed by the crusades whose encouragement of violence and maurauding destroyed some of the castles and court life of the 12th century. I incline to the latter view as it's no explanation that men going off creates a climate where women can present themselves publicly as artists. A parallel happened in 17th century England (the English civil war) and there was no flourishing of women's arts. The one social parallel is the courtly and intellectual worlds of the later 17th century and middle 18th century French salonieres.
I went to read some of this poetry because I had been reading an excellent (thorough, realistic) account of the average lives of women in the medieval period, especially those who went on crusade and felt so dispirited and demoralized by these realities. The book is Gendering the Crusades, ed. Susan Edrington and Sarah Lambert. In one essay, for example, "Captivity and Ransom: The Experience of Women," Yvonne Friedman demonstrates women were routinely, eagerly, sexually abused, often murdered outright if not attractive or exploitable physically in some way. Returning to one's
original home was well nigh impossible unless the woman was prepared to face harsh punishments (for having been raped and abused). The writers are men who attribute motives like sexual desire, laziness,
selfishness & inexplicable longings for freedom to women who refuse to comply silently with whatever. The medieval European world was a relatively lawless military subsidence society.
I like the poem very much. Like many women's poems of this period and the Renaissance, the Countess takes the mores of the tradition and sees them from her woman's point of view. Her body and spirit
have been ruthlessly used instrumentally, but her verses are instinct with dignity, grace, self-esteem, and a valuing of peace and kindness. She holds firm to her character, has not been crushed.