Skip to main content

Full text of "The Troubadour "Canso" and Latin Lyric Poetry"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world byJSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 


The idea that the lyric poetry of mediaeval France had its begin- 
nings in the rounds and songs of women, danced and sung in the valley 
of the Loire during the festivals of springtime, was first put forward 
by Gaston Paris in a review of Jeanroy's Origines de la poesie lyrique 
en France} He had reached this conclusion by noticing the close 
resemblance of sentiment in the remnants of the carole refrains, with 
their allusions to spring, the woods, birds, and love — refrains origi- 
nally sung in chorus by women as they danced — to those French poems 
where a woman is the principal speaker, such as the chansons de mal 
marine, or the pastourelles. In both classes free love in spring is the 
theme, joy at escaping for the moment from the dull routine of ordi- 
nary existence. And seeing that the idea of Troubadour lyric poetry 
was also love outside wedlock, and that this peculiar conception of 
was love often introduced by a strophe in which spring, flowers, and 
birds summoned the poet to praise and petition his mistress, Paris 
took the further step of seeking in these same carole dances the 
reason for the especial characteristics of the artistic verse of Provence. 
It would have the same origin as the semi-popular poetry of the 
North. The canso would differ from the pastourelle only in the 
manner of its development.^ 

To this view of the beginnings of lyric poetry on French soil M. 
Joseph B^dier made notable exceptions. For the pastourelle and its 
kind he would allow a mild infusion of folk poesy, or, to speak more 
correctly, he would consider the pastourelle a parody of the real 
thing, an artistic reflection of rustic wooing, contrived to amuse the 
fashionable society of the day.' 

1 Journal des Savants, novembre, decembre, 1891, mars, juillet, 1892. 

2 Paris' words are: "Je voudrais en efitet rendre vraisemblable cette thSse que la 
poSsie des troubadours proprement dite, imitge dans le nord % partir du milieu du XII* 
siScle, et qui est essentiellement la poSsie courtoise, a son point de dSpart dans les chan- 
sons de danses et notamment de danses printaniSres, et subsidialrement que les chansons 
qui lui ont servi de point de dSpart appartenaient a une rggion intermediaire entre le nord 
et le midi, et qu' elles ont rayonn6 au midi pour s'y transformer tres anciennement, au 
nord pour y raster longtemps telles quelles." — Op. eit., July, 1892, p. 424; cf. p. 426. 

s "Un peu avant 1150, se dSveloppe dans les coiu-s chevaleresques un certain goflt 
de poesie pastorale; les f§tes du printemps, c61ebr6es & la fois par les vilains et les seig- 
neurs, les chansons de maieroles et de danse en sont & la fois le ferment et I'allment. De 
469] 1 [Modern Philology, April, 1912 

2 F. M. Warren 

But the great song of mediaeval France, the Troubadour canso, 
would not claim relationship with the poetry of the people. Love, 
youth, and rejoicing in the coming of spring are essential elements of 
amatory verse always and everywhere. That they appear in the 
Carole choruses on the one hand and in the canso on the other is 
therefore not significant at all. Rather would it be surprising were 
they absent. And the ties which to Gaston Paris were innate, link- 
ing the rough melody of the Limousin peasant to the polished ode of 
the feudal courtier, are to M. Bedier non-existent. Between the two 
there is no vital connection. The peasant's chorus is natural. The 
canso is artificial. Its sentiment is conventional, and was based on 
an ideal, quite the opposite of actual love-making. Love as a wor- 
ship, love which ennobles the lover, which bestows honor on him, 
which causes the lover to admit his lack of merit, his unworthiness 
to adore even at a distance, is the essential characteristic of Proven- 
gal canso and French chanson. It is not found in popular poetry 

Now if this difference really exists, and if M. Bedier's opinion 
of the independent origin of the canso is more plausible than Gaston 
Paris' theory of its descent from the same embryo as the pastourelle, 
why is there a reference to Nature in the canso ? As we know it, this 
perfect form of Troubadour verse is imbued with the feeling of its 
period, the age of feudalism; it mirrors the environment of a par- 
ticular locality, the court of Poitou or Orleans. But to dismiss its 
allusions to springtime with the statement that descriptions of field 
and wood make one of the commonplaces of all amatory poetry is to 
state a fact and avoid an explanation. Yet an explanation imposes 
itself here. The invocation of spring in the canso is peculiar. It is 
the prelude to the poem. It serves to introduce the lover's petition 
for favor. It does not accompany the petition. In one conception 
and, saving exceptions, in one single strophe the Troubadour hails 
the return of flower and song which bid him renew his pledge of devo- 
tion to his lady. This greeting once given. Nature and her beauties 

nobles poStes s'amusent S. exploiter ces thSmes: ainsi ont procSd6, presque en tout temps, 
les poStes bucoliques. O'est un Jeu aristocratique, c'est une mode de sociStg, ou. — si 
I'on ne craint pas Tanachronisme du terme — une mode de salon. "^ — Revue des Deux 
Mondes, 1 mai, 1896 (p. 166). 

' Por a later summary and discussion of the subject see C. Voretzsch, Einfiihrung 
in das Studiuvi der altfranz&sischen Literatur, 188-96. 


The Troubadour Canso and Latin Lyric Poetry 3 

disappear for good and all. The remainder of the poem does not 
know them. Indeed in its tenor it is far removed from them. So 
great is the contrast between the opening strophe and what follows 
that the formality of the introduction forces itself upon you at once. 
You wonder why it is used, since it is not necessary to the poet's 
thought. And yet it seems to have been used always. So far back 
as the canso can be traced this kind of introduction appears to be 
obligatory, traditional. We could well admit that the thought of 
Troubadour poetry was conditioned by the ideas of a Limousin court 
of the eleventh century, and still reserve our opinion regarding the 
origin of this almost inevitable overture to Troubadour song. 

Yet it was for the purpose of reconciling the open conflict between 
the nature strophe and the remainder of the poem, and to demon- 
strate the reasonableness of this constant preface to the canso that 
Gaston Paris turned to the folk melodies of the Loire valley. What he 
found there which would also bear on the lighter lyric of north France 
may be readily accepted. The chansons de mat mariee, the pastourelles 
cling closely to the facts of mediaeval courtship, whatever the social 
circle. The woman either makes the advances or is not long besought. 
But to assume that the canso of Provence, with its exaltation of the 
weaker sex and its belittling of the stronger, derives from sources 
antagonistic to its very life is perhaps carrying analogy too far. The 
proof for the assumption rests entirely on the first, the nature strophe. 
All the other strophes argue against it. And between this nature 
strophe and the dance songs which are supposed to foreshadow it, the 
connection is wholly conjectural.^ 

But whence comes the rhythm of Troubadour verse if not from 
rustic song ? The strophic forms of William IX of Poitou are new 
to literature. They cannot boast of any ancestor in Latin poetry. 

> Paris' theory ol the origins of all the lyric, Ught or serious, rests In great measure 
on the notion that the dance songs of the people were especially rife In spring. They 
would be the siu-vlval of spring festivals. This Idea Is the natural one and Is supported 
by the testimony of the lyric itself. But ciulously enough Latin documents, antecedent 
to French and Provencal lyric, do not point that way. From the time of Hilary of Poitiers 
(IVc) down to the twelfth century there are numerous allusions to the dances of the peo- 
ple. To my knowledge, however, only one designates spring. In Saint Ouen's (d. 683) 
life of Elol, bishop of Noyon (d. 659), a sermon of Elol's against pa«an practices on St. 
John's Day, and saints' days In general, is quoted, and also against heathen rites in May: 
"Nullus diem Jovis absque Sanctis festlvitatlbus nee in Madio nee ullo tempore in otlo 
observet. " .... (Mon. Oerm. Hist., "Scriptores Rerum Merov.," IV, 706). On the 
other hand references to dancing and singing at the Calends of January are not uncommon. 
Cf. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, XXVI (1911), 304,305. 


4 F. M. Warren 

There is, to be sure, a likeness between one of his strophes and the 
three-line strophe of Latin trochaic tetrameter, a likeness which 
would indicate a common origin, but the large number of trochaic 
tetrameters which have come down from the tenth and eleventh 
centuries do not offer a single exact counterpart. For the other 
strophes used by William, Latin poetry does not give approximate 
models even. Yet we must assume that such models existed, for him 
or his predecessors. And we must also assume that these models be- 
longed to a prosody of which no textual remains have yet been found. 
Now if this prosody is not represented in the compositions of 
Latin poets — exception being made for the trochaic tetrameter — it 
may be because these more artistic writers looked down on it. Versi- 
fiers who were their inferiors in training may have used it, or rhym- 
sters who wrote only in the vernacular. It is noticeable that the 
larger number of the strophes in William IX are built on either one 
or two rimes. That is, they correspond to a theoretical original, 
which would be the artistic development of a song sung in chorus 
at first, and afterward as a solo and chorus. In other words, the 
Troubadour strophe would be the lineal descendant of a non-literary 
Latin or Latin-Romance strophe — which might rightly be called a 
popular strophe — created for the people and set to a melody in which 
the crowd could join. At some period in the history of France 
educated poets would have adopted this popular strophe, and, in 
modifying its rhythm to make it more musical and systematizing 
its lines to make them more equal, would have replaced its common 
sentiments and coarse expressions with the ideas and language of 
the refined society of their day. Or rather, one poet would have 
accomplished this transformation, the real inventor. He would 
leave to the strophe its general form. Its content he would throw 
away. And if the old content contained any praise of Nature, which 
is open to serious doubt, that praise would disappear too.^ 

1 This view of the origin of the Troubadour strophe does not coincide with the 
apparent trend of the Investigations now being carried on by M. Jean Beclc. M. Becli 
has discovered that certain melodies of French and Provencal poems, on the one hand, 
and of church hymns, on the other, are the same. Now correspondence in melody means 
likeness of rhythm and therefore similarity In verse structure. Consequently M. Beck 
is incUning toward the Idea that Latin chmch poetry, and in particular the sequence, 
forms the point of departure for Provengal lyric poetry, an opinion which Wilhelm 
Meyer advanced, but without musical proof, in his Fragmenta Burana (.Gesammelte 
Abhandlungen, I, 51—55). 


The Tboubadotjr Canso and Latin Lyric Poetry 5 

Should such a hypothesis be considered tenable, and if we might 
admit that the general outline of a Provengal song was retained by 
the Troubadours, while its thought was entirely recast, how can we 
account for the presence of the nature strophe in the canso, the obliga- 
tory prelude on spring, birds, and love ? If the peasants' melodies 
did not suggest this overture, what did ? One answer— the answer 
given here — would be that the nature strophe of the canso was 
prompted by the example of Latin lyric poetry, and in particular 
that poetry describing spring and its beauty which was written or 
was current in the valley of the Loire. For in all probability — ^we 
are dealing altogether with hypotheses but with hypotheses which 
we hope are reasonable — in all probability the pioneer composers of 
artistic verse in Provencal, the poets who first wrote and sang artis- 
tic poetry in their mother-tongue, were musicians who had received 
their musical education in the abbeys of their native land, and espe- 
cially in the school of St. Martial's of Limoges, the chief center of 
sacred music in Europe during the tenth century.^ It is at St. Mar- 
tial's that we might expect to see that inventor who found the new 
song of worship and devotion, worship of his lady and devotion to 
her cause. And who was this lady? The times and the environ- 
ment, the return of peace after the foreign invasions and feudal strife 
of the first half of the tenth century, with its revival of religion and 
its restoration of church and shrine, and the place where these first 
singers would be trained, point to a suzerain whose sway exceeded 
earthly limitations, whose praise formed the theme of hymn and 
sequence, who was the patron of many sanctuaries, the " domina mea " 
of St. Dunstan^ (d. 988), and the holy being to whom Maieul (d. 994) 
of Climy had pledged his faith .^ 

Scattered indications in the hymnology of the tenth century may 
be adduced to support this notion that a personal prayer to the Virgin 
was the first manifestation of the higher song of Provence. Traces 

1 Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, XXIV (1909), 

2 "Non patiatur domina mea, sancta mater Domini mel." — Vita 8. Dunslani 
(about 1000), in Stubbs' Memorials of St. Dunstan, 18. Dunstan stood in close touch 
with the abbey of Pleury, on the Loire. A line from the tenth-century manuscript of 
Moissac is also pertinent: "Quem nos precamur, domina." — Dreves, Analecta Hymnica, 
II, No. 71, strophe 7, 1. 1. 

» Mlgne, Patrologia Latina, CXXXVII, 759, 760. 


6 F. M. Warren 

of homage paid to her by devout poets of the day appear here and 
there in monastic manuscripts. It is a sequence composed at St. 
Martial's which tells us of Mary's "famuli" and their "fidelia pre- 
camina."^ And an English collection of the same period echoes 
and stresses the humble supplications of votaries for her aid and 

And if we admit the possibility that the zeal of some gifted singer 
of Limousin caused him one feast day to break out into phrases of 
passionate adoration of the "queen of heaven," need we seek any 
farther than Holy Writ itself for a justification of his act and a model 
for his sensuous pleading? "En dilectus mens loquitur mihi: 
Surge, propera, amica mea, columba mea, formosa mea, et veni! 
Jam enim hiems transiit, imber abiit et recessit; flores apparuerunt 
in terra nostra, tempus putationis advenit, vox turturis audita est 
in terra nostra; ficus protulit grossos suos, vineae florentes dederunt 
odorem suum. Surge, amica mea, speciosa mea, et veni!"^ 

For however allegorized and spiritualized the Song of Songs may 
have been — and it was the subject of constant commentary and 
mystical explanation from the early church fathers down — its burn- 
ing words of love and its images of physical beauty could not fail to 
stir the pulse of any but the most confirmed ascetic. And a hermit 
our first Troubadour was surely not. This language of ardent desire 
gave answer to his longings, offered to them perhaps a definite as 
well as a consecrated pattern of expression, on some morning when 

• Virginum o regina, te canimus, Maria, 
Per quam fulsere clara mundo Imnlna. 

Adesto famuUs, plissima, 

Influa suspendens jam prece pericula. 

Audi fidelia precamlna 

Impetratam deferens coelitus venlam. 

— Dreves. An. Hymn.. VII, No. 104, 6a, 8o. 8b. 

2 Maria, virgo virginum, 
Exaudi vota servorum, 
Jugi prece nos conserva, 
Ac te colentes adjuva. 

Audemus proni rogare, 
Audire nostros dignare 
In tuo melos honore 
Ac pro nobis intercede. 

— Op. cit., XII, No. 76, 1, 2. 
Maria, coeli regina, 
Sanctitate gloriosa, 
Audi preccs famulorum 
Et deprecare Dominum. 

— Loc. cit.. No. 77, 1. 

3 Canticum Canticorum. II. 10—13. 


The Tboxjbadoxjr Can so and Latin Lyric Poetky 7 

the voice of spring was calling to him and the bloom of the forest 
and the mating notes of the birds found his religious zeal struggling 
with his senses. Here before him was a solution of the strife, a means 
of reconciling body with spirit. It was a woman he would be address- 
ing, yet a woman whom the world's increasing adoration had raised 
to a place beside Deity, the "domina," subordinate only to the 
"Dominus," still human, though possessed of power almost divine 
through her relationship with the Son. Therefore, heartened by 
his forerunner of the old dispensation, whose amatory phrases had 
ever been sanctified by canon and commentary, he would blend Our 
Lady's attributes of both earth and heaven and would invoke her 
aid and favor, as he doubtless would petition a mistress of flesh and 
blood. And a fitting prelude to his prayer would also be found in 
the nature setting of the Hebrew hymn.' 

On the other hand it is possible that the nature verses of the Song 
of Solomon were an incident only in the creation of the canso's open- 
ing lines, an incident to be sure which would confirm the Trouba- 
dour's intention of giving his appeal to spring the sanction of the 
Scriptures, and that the real source of his overture is to be found 
elsewhere, in Latin lyric poetry. Side by side with the Song of 
Songs had run for ages other lyrics, both religious and secular in 
content, where the coming of spring, the bloom of field and wood, the 
love notes of birds had been celebrated time and again. Of the body 
of this lyric we may well suppose the good monks of Limousin and 
their non-clerical pupils to have been ignorant. But some of it at least 
they must have known, for it had been written on their native soil, 
and by men famous in the annals of their race. Assuming then that 
it was the monks of St. Martial's of Limoges who gave the first Trou- 
badour his musical education in the last half of the tenth century, 
what part of this poetry which is still preserved may have been within 
reach of teacher and student P 

1 There may be more than a hypothesis In this suggestion, for one of the earliest 
specimens of lyric poetry in Prance is in part a paraphrase, assimilated to so-called 
popular strophic forms, of the Song of Solomon. See Bartsch, Chrestomathie de Vancien 
frangaia, 61-64. — In a brilliant article recently pubUshed in the Zeitschrift f-Ur /ramSsische 
Sprache und Litteratur (XXXVIII [1911], 47-94), Jean Acher shows that this lyric was 
indeed composed for the festival of the Assumption. Acher's convincing exposition 
seems to support my argument here. 

' The catalogue of St. Martial's library made early in the thirteenth century gives 
very little assistance in respect to its manuscripts of lyric poetry. At the date of its 


8 F. M. Waeeen 

The collection of poems known as the Latin Anthology has come 
down in several manuscripts which antedate the last half of the 
tenth century.i Two of these manuscripts are now in Paris. 
Quite as old as any of the numbers of the Anthology is the 
famous Pervigilium Veneris, in trochaic tetrameters (the artistic 
form, perhaps, of the popular verse of the Latin peoples), with a 
refrain.^ Though written in South Italy or Sicily, and probably 
toward the end of the first century, this Latin song of love, like the 
canso of mediaeval Provence, tells of the advent of spring, with its 
love and leaf and nesting, in one single strophe: 

Ver novum; ver jam canorum; ver renactus orbis est! 
V^re concordant amores, vera nubunt alites 
Et nemus comam resolvit de maritis imbribus. 

In the Anthology also may be found distichs by a certain Penta- 
dius, who is supposed to have been a friend of the churchman Lac- 
tantius, in the second quarter of the fourth century. Using that 
peculiar form of repetition, of which Ovid may have set the fashion,' 
and which was so admired by the Latinists of the tenth and eleventh 
centuries — ^the first hemistich of the hexameter repeated in the 
second hemistich of the pentameter — Pentadius gives utterance to 
his joy at the return of spring with its buds and birds, and finds even 
death sweet when it comes in the midst of love : 

Sentio, fugit hiems; Zephyrisque animantibus orbem 

Jam tepet Eurus aquis; sentio, fugit hiems. 
Parturit omnis ager, persentit terra colores 

Germinibusque novis parturit omnis ager. 
Laeta virecta tument, folio sese induit arbor, 

Vallibus apricis laeta virecta tument. 
Jam Philomela gemit modulis, Ityn inpia mater 

Oblatum mensis jam Philomela gemit. 

Tunc quoque dulce mori, tunc fila recurrite f usis, 
Inter et amplexus tunc quoque dulce mori.^ 

making there were several copies of the Song of Songs on hand. Whether the Per- 
mgilium Veneris was to be found among the works of the authors of Latin antiquity it 
mentions cannot be determined.^ — Chroniques de St. Martial de Limoges ("SociStS de 
r Histoire de France ") , 323 fl. 

1 E. Baelirens, Poetae Latini Minores, IV, 3 S. 

2 Baehrens, op. cit., IV, 292-97. 

3 Amores, I, 9, 1, 2; Fasti, IV, 365, 366. 

4 Baehrens, op. cit., IV, 344, 345. 


The Troubadour Can so and Latin Lyric Poetry 9 

Here the nightingale, as we see, is called "philomela." In the Per- 
vigilium Veneris the paraphrase, "Terei puella," had marked the 
author's erudition.^ 

Outside the Anthology, which we may be allowed to believe was 
accessible to the first Troubadours, Latin poetry knows little of 
Nature and its beauty until the last half of the sixth century.^ Yet 
it seems improbable that there was a real break in the continuity of 
this kind of composition, because it is so abundant when once it 
appears again. And the place it chose for its new manifestation was 
that very valley of the Loire which was to see the future outburst 
of romantic poetry. But the singer of the sixth century, if indeed 
he was a singer and not a versifier only, was not a son of the soil. 
He was a stranger to France, and brought from a more cultured land 
the fruits of a more careful training. Venantius Fortunatus was an 
Italian, who emigrated to central France about the year 660. Vary- 
ing his residence along the Loire from time to time, he won the last- 
ing friendship of Gregory of Tours and earned the protection of lay 
and ecclesiastical rulers. The unusual loveliness of Nature in his 
adopted home surely exercised on Venantius a peculiar charm, for 
not once nor twice but many times does he devote his pen to the por- 
trayal of her changing moods. 

Venantius' first description of spring is given in some distichs 
which celebrate King Sigebert's marriage with Brunhilda (566): 

Vere novo, tellus fuerit dum exuta pruinis, 
Se picturato gramine vestit ager, 

Ad fetus properans garrula currit avis.' 
A few years later, Chilperic's espousal of Fredegonda occasioned 
another picture of this favored season, with a greater amount of 
detail and a certain likeness to the simpler sketches of mediaeval 
lyricists. The royal pair are urged to lay aside sadness and turn 

' Adsonat Terei puella subter umbram populi, 
Ut putes motus amoris ore dlci musico 
Et neges queri sororem de marito barbaro. 
Ilia cantat: nos tacemus ? quando ver venit meum ? 

— Op. cit., IV, 296. 

2 The lyrics ol Tiberiaiius, at one time resident in Gaul (in 336), make the only con- 
siderable exception to this statement. Tiberianus describes flowers and trees, praises 
the melodies of birds, but does mention love. Some manuscripts of his poetry are now 
in Paris (Baehrens, op. cit.. Ill, 264, 265). 

s Mon. Qerm. Hist., "Auctores Antiquissimi," IV, Carmina, vi, 1. 


10 F. M. Warren 

toward joy, as does spring when winter is vanquished and Easter 
with the resurrection of the Lord draws near : 

Post tempestates at turbida nubila caeli, 

Quo solet infesto terra rigere gelu, 
Post validas hiemes ac tristia frigora brumae, 

Flamine seu rapidi rura gravante noti, 
Succedunt iterum vernalia tempora mundo 

Grataque post glaciem provocat aura diem. 
Rursus odoriferis renovantur floribus arva, 

Frondibus arboreis at viret omne nemus; 
Dulce saporatis curvantur robora pomis, 

Et redaunte sibi gramine ridet agar.' 

And on another occasion it was the Resurrection and Easter again 
that called out Venantius' best efforts in this kind of composition. 
Did Easter suggest the praise of spring, or did the return of spring 
lead the poet on to the Resurrection ? Venantius is writing to Felix, 
bishop of Nantes (d. 582), in his favorite meter: 

Tempora florigaro rutilant distincta serene 
Et majore poll lumina porta patet, 

Mollia purpureum pingunt violaria campum, 
Prata virent herbis at micat harba comis. 

Tempore sub hiemis foliorum crine revulso 
Jam reparat viridans frondea tecta nemus: 

Myrta, salix, abies, corylus, slier, ulmus, acernus 
Plaudit quaeque suis arbor amoana comis. 

Ad cantus ravocatur aves, quae carmine clauso 

Pigrior hiberno frigora muta fuit. 
Hinc filomela suis adtemperat organa cannis 

Fitqua repercusso dulcior aura melo. 

• hoc. cit., ix, 3, U. 1-10. — See also the lines to Radegonda (d. S87): 

Tempore vemall, Dominus quo Tartara vicit, 

Surglt aperta suis laetlor herba comis. 

Inde vlri postes et pulplta floribus ornant, 

Hinc mulier roseo complet odore sinum. — hoc. cit., viil, 7, 11. 3-6. 

Some dlstlchs, in a more secular tone, on the queen's garden (after 586), begin with 
Virgil's "Hie ver purpureum" (Be. Ix. 40), and tell of the fruits of summer (Joe. ci<.,vi, 6). 
Another poem has winter for theme (loc. cit., xi, 26). Venantius' life of Radegonda 
was among the books in the library of St. Martial's (Chroniques de St. Martial dt 
Limoges, 327). 


The Tboxjbadoub Can so and Latin Lyric Poetry 11 

Ecce renascentis testatur gratia mundi 
Omnia cum Domino dona redisse suo. 

Si tibi (Christ) nunc avium resonant virgulta susurro, 
Has inter minimus passer amore cano.^ 

With Venaixtius the nightingale begins his long career in the lit- 
erature of France, not as the mythological philomel of the Pervigi- 
lium Veneris and Pentadius, but a genuine bird of the woods, the 
finest singer of them all. He has come down to real life. Venan- 
tius knew Virgil almost by heart, but Virgil did not give him the pro- 
tot3rpe, nor did Ovid, who applies to the nightingale the epithet of 
"garrula." Venantius' words are his own here, as they are else- 
where,^ and the credit of naturalness is his too. 

But while we are rendering Venantius his just deserts as a lover 
of Nature and an admirer of the nightingale's song, we should not 
forget that in this second r61e, at least, he is soon to be surpassed by 
a younger poet of the Latin race, though of another nation. Euge- 
nius of Toledo (d. 657) may by good rights consider himself the chief 
of the devotees of the nightingale. Whole poems of his are con- 
secrated to her praise, and for him her notes far transcend in charm 
and loveliness all other music of the forest. Still we may surmise 
that Eugenius did not stand alone in this cult. He may have had a 
more inspiring predecessor than Venantius, a writer on whom he 
modeled himself perhaps, for the phrases with which the nightingale 
introduces herself in one of his distichs ring as though they had been 
coined in an older mint: 

Sum noctis socia, sum cantus dulcis arnica, 
Nomen ab ambiguo sic philomela gero.' 

The "noctis socia," the "cantus dulcis amica" sound borrowed, 
conventional. Could unknown poets of a more worldly stripe than 
Eugenius have exercised their talents on this his favorite theme ? 

Another run of distichs in Eugenius prompts the same query. 
There we are told that Philomel's mission is to keep watch by night, 

1 Loc. cii., iii. 9. — The last distich echoes Georgics ii. 328. 

2 Solllcltante melo nlmlo fllomela volatu, 
Pignora contemneus lessa cucurrit avis. 

—Loc. cit., vll, 1, 11. 7, 8. 

3 Mon. Germ. Hist., "Auctores Antlquissitni," XIV, 253. 


12 F. M. Warren 

to drive harm away, and this conception is so unexpected, so foreign 
to the general trend of sentiment in the poem, that again we wonder 
whether Eugenius is not following in someone's footsteps. Yet his 
praise of the bird's song is thoroughly spontaneous and heartfelt: 

Vox, philomela, tua cantus edicere cogit, 
Inde tui laudem rustica lingua canit. 

Florea rura colis, herboso caespite gaudes, 
Frondibus arboreis pignera parva foves. 

Nulla tuos umquam cantus imitabitur ales, 
Murmure namque tuo dulcia mella fluunt. 

Die ergo tremulos Ungua vibrante susurros 
Et suavi liquidum gutture pange melos.* 

Admirers of the nightingale, whose verse has disappeared, would 
then have preceded Eugenius, and it is probable that other admirers, 
whose works are lost to posterity, succeeded him. For his ardent 
eulogies were followed by a silence more than a century long. At 
last Charlemagne came, and with him a revival of literature, and with 
this revival renewed delight in Nature and the nightingale. First 
it is the sober scholar Alcuin, who voices this delight, with a decided 
return to mythology, yet with sincere admiration for the singer and 
her song: 

Quae te dextra mihi rapuit, luscinia, ruscis. 
Ilia meae fuerat invidia laetitiae.^ 

Or when spring alone is the burden of his thought, Alcuin again 
finds solace in the warbler's notes : 

Suscitat et vario nostras modulamine mentes 
Indefessa satis rutilis luscinia ruscis.' 

• Op. cit., XIV, 254. The phrases, "Irondibus arboreis" and "dulcia mella fluunt" 
recall Fortunatus' words (p. 478 above) and his "Cuius ab eloquio dulcia mella fluunt" 
(op. cit., iv, 1, 15, 1. 102), and perhaps go back to an original common to both poets. 
The "gamilairundo," which appears in Eugenius' poem, is VirgUian (Georgics iv. 307). 
But the idea here is neither Venantius' nor Virgil's, and inasmuch as the dlstichs conclude 
most devoutly, with an invocation to the Savior of mankind, I suspect a secular source 
for them, a source which Eugenius has consciously diverted and purified. 

8 E. Diimmler, Poetae Latini Aevi Carolini, I, 274. 

3 Loc. cit., 273. Alcuin left England for Aix. Yet in 796 he was made abbot of 
St. Martin's of Tours, and resided at Tours imtil his death, in 804. If the poems cited 
here were written after his occupancy of St. Martin's, we may well believe that they 
were suggested by the same landscape which had inspired Venantius. Should the Con- 
flictus Veris et Hiemis also belong to Alcuin, we should have another witness to his love 


The Troubadour Canso and Latin Lyric Poetry 13 

There are no greater names on the pages of post-classical literature 
than those of Fortunatus, Eugenius, and Alcuin, and we may suppose 
that through their authority more than one poet of the Carolingian 
renaissance was led to celebrate the charm of the sweet warden of 
the night. Alvarus of Cordova (d. 861) twice imitated Eugenius' 
distichs, while a third poem, in hexameters, lists the nightingale with 
other birds and animals.^ In France, Bishop Engelmodus of Sois- 
sons sends a poem to Radbert of Corvie (d. 865), with an allusion 
to her melody: 

Dum lucina melos noeturnis personat hymnis,^ 

a sentiment in which Sedulius Scottus, master of the school at Li^ge 
from about 840 to 868, heartily joins.^ And in the valley of the Loire 
itself, an anonymous and semi-popular account of the destruction of 
the Mont Glonne monastery (St. Florent-le-Vieil, near Angers), 
toward 849, ranks the nightingale's strains with the music of the 
best instruments: 

Gravis det organum tuba; 
Alte resultet fistula; 
Omnis eanat armonia; 
Det philomela cantica.^ 

The chaos which resulted from the breaking up of the Carolingian 
empire enveloped literary life also, and for half a century, at least, 
descriptions of Nature and her people are lacking to the barren 
records of France. But in Italy, where feudal strife and foreign 
inroads were far less wasting, a poet of the first quarter of the tenth 
century, Eugenius Vulgarius by name, perhaps a monk of Monte 
Cassino, found leisure to hymn the charms of spring and the music 
of its birds.'* And a contemporary of Eugenius Vulgarius — he may 

for vernal nature. Notice that both his mentions of the nightingale make use of the 
common, popular term, "luscinla," rather than the learned "philomela." Some of 
Alcuin's more didactic treatises were still at St. Martial's m the thirteenth century 
(Chroniques, etc., 328, 344, 346). 

1 Dtlmmler, op. cit.. Ill, c. 1, 2 (pp. 126, 127); c. 4 (pp. 128, 129). 

2 Ibid., c. 3 (p. 63). 

' Praepetes pennis volucres volatu 
Nunc philomelae. 

Temperat et pernox nunc philomela melos. 

— Op. cit.. Ill, 232, 233. 

i Op. eit., II, 147. 

4 Op. cit., IV, 430, 431 ("myrto sedens lusciola"). 


14 F. M. Waeren 

also have been older or younger — ^whose name is lost, but who may 
have lived in Spain (possibly in France), was moved by the example 
of Eugenius of Toledo to begin a verbal reproduction of the cries of 
beasts and birds with an invocation to Philomel.^ 

But as the tenth century advanced and the harassed Loire 
regained comparative tranquillity, admiration for the nightingale, 
which seems to have been a lasting sentiment there, was expressed 
anew in reviving poetry. In a trope of St. Martial's on the Resur- 
rection, this admiration is once more connected with the observance 
of Easter: 

Jam philomelinis promat fibris chorus instans. 
Arbiter aethre micans populis quod fabitur almis.^ 

So the Philomel cult did evidently survive in France, but what, we 
may ask, had become of the other features of nature poetry ? One 
might say that this one element had alone been saved, for it is the 
nightingale only that is mentioned in the lines of Alcuin's successors. 
Such a conclusion, however, must lack real foimdations. Nature 
poetry in its broader sense may have been composed by artistic poets, 
and either have not survived or still lie unknown in unexplored 
manuscripts. But we should prefer, we admit, the more attractive 
alternative, that as literature declined nature poetry faded away with 
it, and that when love for Nature returned to man, and demanded 
literary expression, literature was born again. For we find that 
when peace had been restored and trade re-established, the desire 
to write spread beyond the convent walls of France. Other produc- 
tions than hymns and tropes marked the progress of this desire, and 
in these productions delight in Nature showed itself once more. One 
would suppose that poetry would first embody this new joy, and it 
probably did, but to us the date of its reappearance is definitely 
fixed by a prose work. Richer, who had been Gerbert's pupil at 

' Dulcis arnica, venl, noctls solatlo praestans; 
Inter aves etenlm nulla tui similis. 
Tu, Philomela, potes vociun dlscrimlna mllle, 
Mille vales varies rite referre modos. 

Scribere me voces avium philomela coegit. 
Quae cantu cunotas exsuperat volucres. 

— Baehrens. op. cit., V, 363, 364. 
Though the first line quoted here looks like a direct paraphrase of the Toledan poet, 
the larger part ol the description seems to have been suggested by Suetonius' Prata, now 

' Dreves, Analecta Hymnica, XLIX, No. 111. 


The Troubadour Can so and Latin Lyric Poetry 15 

Rheims, and who had set himself about 996, at Gerbert's bidding, 
to narrate the history of his day, gives us our earliest intimation of 
its presence.! 

Still if Richer is first among the known authors of the new school 
to celebrate the return of spring, he could have anticipated his fellow- 
pupil at Rheims, Fulbert, bishop of Chartres, by a few years only at 
the most. Fulbert occupied the see of Chartres from 1006 to 1028, 
but before this promotion he had reorganized the cathedral school of 
his diocese and started it on its greater career. Later, when he had 
become bishop, he rebuilt the church of Notre Dame of Chartres, 
preached the sermons that we know, and wrote the larger number 
of his extant letters. Some of his verse was also composed, without 
much doubt, during the years of his bishopric, but the poem which 
interests us most, on spring and the nightingale, written in trochaic 
tetrameters like the Pervigilium Veneris, yet in regular strophes of 
three lines each, in monorime, contains no indication of the approxi- 
mate date of its composition. It may have been contemporaneous 
with Richer's chronicle, or it may belong to a later decade. Its 
sentiment, which might decide the question, offers little help, for 
it is pious rather than amatory, and after giving voice to the poet's 
joy in the warbler's song, and the happy season which brings back 
flower and leaf, it expends itself in a devout prayer to the Trinity, 
quite after the manner of Eugenius of Toledo.^ 

Fulbert's stanzas sing the glories of spring, but on love they are 
silent. This omission of an essential element of nature poetry is, of 
course, conscious and deliberate. But the scruple which guided 
Fulbert's pen found no reason for existence with two unknown 
authors, whose poems are preserved by the same manuscript which 

1 "Nam cum vernalis dementia eodem amio rebus bruma aillictis rediret, pro rerum 

natura immutato afire Interea rigore hiemali elapso, cum aere mitlorl ver rebus 

arrideret, et prata atque campos virescere faceret." — Historiarum, III, c. 109; IV, c. 21. 
We should suppose tliat Rlclier had predecessors in these allusions to spring. 

' Here are typical strophes of this well-lniown poem: 

Cum tellurls vere novo produountur germiua 
Nemorosa clrcumdrca froudescunt et brachla, 
Flagrat odor quam suavls florlda per gramlna, 

Felix tempus, cui resultat talis consonantia! 
Utlnam per duodena monsium curricula 
Dulcls Philomela darot sue vocis organa. 

— Zeitschrift fiir deutschea AUerthum, XIV, 490, 491; cf. Philip Schuyler Allen in Modern 
Philology, V, 450, 451. 


16 F. M. Warren 

has given us Fulbert's. These poems are more recent than Ful- 
bert's ode, by a score of years perhaps, and it is not certain that they 
were rhymed in France, but the probabilities point that way. One 
of them, the so-called "Verna Feminae Suspiria," is a genuine pro- 
duct of artistic popular poetry, for here the woman calls on buds and 
birds to listen to the sighings of unrequited love: 

Levis exsurgit zephyrus 
Et sol procedit tepidus; 
Jam terra sinus aperit, 
Dulcore suo diffluit. 

Tu saltim, veris gratia, 
Exaudi et considera 
Frondes, flores et gramina; 
Nam mea languet anima.^ 

The other is not popular in tone at all, but wholly learned. It is 
written in the classical Sapphic meter, it describes spring and the 
song of birds, and dwells on the melody of the nightingale. But 
there is no allusion to love in it.^ 

But central France produced during Fulbert's lifetime another 
witness to the joy which its people felt at the return of spring, a wit- 
ness of far more consequence in the history of mediaeval literature 
than those we have so far cited. A tenth-century manuscript, now 
at Vienna, contains an erotic poem of unknown origin and date, 
rhymed like the "Verna Feminae Suspiria," but made of quatrains 
of nine-syllable verses rather than eight, and called after its first 
line, "Jam dulcis amica, venito." This poem also appears on the 
blank leaf of a St. Martial's manuscript in a hand of the early eleventh 
century, but the version is a poor one. It offers a text obviously 

' hoc. cit., 492, 493; Allen, loc. cit., 430. 

2 The so-called "Carmen Aestlvum," of which the first strophe Introduces spring 
and birds : 

Vestiunt silve tenera merorem 
Virgulta, suis onerata pomis; 
Canunt de celsis sedibus palumbes 
Carmina cunctls. 

The third strophe is devoted to the nightingale: 

Hie leta canit Philomela frondis, 

Longas eJTundit sibilum per auras 
SoUempne; milvus tremulaque voce 

Aethera pulsat. — Loc. cit., 491, 492. 

Both of these anonymous compositions, thotigh one is rhymed and the other metrical, 
show an intimate acquaintance with Virgil and Ovid. 


The Troubadour Canso and Latin Lyric Poetry 17 

inferior to tiie Viennese and it omits several strophes given by the 
latter. But it makes ample atonement for all these deficiencies in 
an addition which stands as its final quatrain. For summarizing 
what we have learned to be the vital ideas of nature poetry in the 
centuries which had gone before, this quatrain blends in one concep- 
tion and one melody deUght in spring, pleasure in the nightingale's 
song, and the emotions of newly awakened love: 

Jam nix glaciesque hquescit. 
Folium et herba virescit, 
Philomela jam cantat in alto, 
Ardet amor cordis in antro.* 

And what have we reached after this thousand years' wandering 
through the ruins of nature poetry in the partially uncovered Latin 
city? Our starting-point. The conventional strophe of Romance 
lyric which we come upon in the great abbey of Limousin at the 
beginning of Franco-Provengal civilization is the strophe which we 
left in southern Italy near the close of the Greco-Roman. So much 
is certain. All else is wavering. And what conclusion may be 
drawn from a fact so striking? That the summarizing of amatory 
poetry in one strophe — one melody — had gone on constantly from 
the time of the Pervigilium Veneris down to the day of the St. Mar- 
tial's "Dulcis amica, venito"? That each generation of the Latin 
race had greeted the advent of spring with the same formula ? Our 
review gives some basis for this belief, and the chain may lack its 
connecting links only because so many documents have perished. 
Yet it may also be because the documents never existed. Human 
aspirations remain much the same, and human emotions are repeated 
with a considerable degree of similarity, but these aspirations and 
emotions do not always find expression in literature with the same 
regularity. The essential elements are not always present in the 
same proportion. Circumstances are not always equally favorable. 

1 Dreves, op. cit., XI, No. 91; Publications of the Modern Language Association of 
America, XXIV (1909), Ixxi, Ixxii. This poem was also copied Into the manuscript 
(Cambridge) which contained the other three just mentioned, (Z. f. d. Alt., loc. cit., 494), but 
was afterward erased so completely that we cannot use this version at all to control the 
other two. Both the Vienna and St. Martial's manuscripts give the musical notation for the 
song. It will be noticed that the first line recalls the " Dulcis amlca, venl" of the anony- 
mous imitator of Eugenius of Toledo (p. 482, n. 1). One feels In dealing with the docu- 
ments of this Important period in the history of modern literature that the key to the 
whole situation may lie provoklngly near his grasp. 


18 F. M. Waeeen 

And whatever may have been the real situation during the inter- 
vening centuries this much we know, that in the closing years of the 
tenth century a new life was stirring in France and Aquitania, and 
the strophe of the Roman poet — might we add of the Hebrew also ? — 
which had voiced his delight in springtime was fashioned anew.^ 

I should then like to picture to myself some singer of talent of the 
last quarter of the tenth century, who had been trained in letters 
and music at the school of St. Martial's of Limoges, or one of its off- 
shoots, conceiving under the stress of great spiritual exaltation the 
idea of addressing the Virgin in ardent terms of adoration and plead- 
ings for her favor. The consecrated explanation of the language of 
the Song of Songs would have been to him a justification. And 
moved by the expressions of this familiar invocation, influenced by 
the authority of the Latin Anthology perhaps, and by Fortunatus 
probably, he would have responded to the new delight in Nature 
which he felt around him by recreating out of all these elements the 
typical strophe on spring, the song of birds, and love. And this 
strophe he would have set as a finale or an overture to his song of 
worship and supplication. To suppose that the reverse of this process 
took place, that the illiterate rhymsters of the people had furnished 
Latin lyric for ages with its notions of flower and leaf and the 
nightingale's strains, would be to run counter to the usual trend of 
literary creation and challenge the validity of all documentary evi- 
dence. And when the disciples of this inventor, this first Trouba- 
dour, straying from the free life of church schools to the dependent 
existence of an Aquitanian court, yielded to the necessities of their 
secular environment, and, substituting their mother-tongue for the 
Latin of their master, ventured to transform the homage he had paid 
to a heavenly mistress into pledges of service to earthly ones, the 
nature strophe, which suited the new theme even better than it did 
the old, since it no longer required a pious commentary, remained, 

1 It Is more than probable, of course, that the strophe of the St. Martial's manu- 
script was not imique in its time, that it is, in fact, the representative of a class. Richer's 
allusions to spring would show that Natiu'e was claiming again a share in man's thoughts 
and was demanding again a place in literature. Various matin hymns from the tenth- 
century manuscript of the Moissac abbey (Dreves, op. cit., II, Nos. 10, 13, 16, 20) confirm 
this impression, as does also the much debated bilingual alba of the same approximate 
date. One might say that the last decades of the tenth century saw in Prance and 
Provence — and Germany also — the rise of a Romantic school of literature, as well as of 
music, architecture, and the fine arts. 


The Teoubadour Can so and Latin Lyeic Pobtky 19 

a logical introduction to their sensuous words of praise and vows of 
personal devotion. And when it had entered with these words, then 
or afterward, into the forms of popular verse which these poets or 
their successors polished and developed to a high degree of artistic 
excellence, it was retained generation after generation because it 
represented to the minstrels of Provence, we may believe, a literary 
tradition, the confused memory of a glorious estate, which their 
ancestors had in a sense renounced, when they turned away from the 
cultivation of Latin poetry in honor of the saints to the composition 
of vernacular songs at the bidding of temporal suzerains.^ 

F. M. Warren 
Yale Univbbsitt 

» Should the plausibility of some theory like the one here outlined be admitted, 
there might be found in it an explanation for the sublimated conception of many Proven- 
cal cansos. Dedicated as they would have been originally to the worship of a piu-e and 
holy being, they wotild have transmitted to posterity an abiding trace of their origin. 
And so the tone of the homage they proffered would be quite as conventional as the sub- 
stance of their introductory strophe on Nature. The transfer of the canso's adoration 
from the Virgin to a feudal suzerain would take place dm:ing the rule of WiUiam the Great 
(990-1030) of Aqultanla, and at some court of his domains. By his time the title of lady 
(or lord) seems to be currently prefixed to the proper name. In a charta of the abbey 
of Saint Fides of Oonques, imder the date of 1013, we read: domno Bernardo .... 
domna Guarsinde .... (G. Desjardlus, Cartulaire de Congues [Paris, 1879], 23). 
Bernard of Angers uses the phrase: domnam Beatricem" (Miracula S. Fidis [about 1020], 
II, c. 6). In Fulbert's letters we find "Domnus namque Tetfridus" and "Domnus vero 
papa" (Migne, Pat. Lat., CXLI, 220, 231). But in references to the Virgin or the Savior 
the contraction seems to be consistently avoided (cf. Fulbert's " Dominae nostrae," Sermo 
V [loc. cit., 324]). No help In solving the question of the canso's source can be had from 
Provencal poets. WilUam IX calls three of his compositions "vers" ("verset") and one 
'chansoneta." Cercamon makes use of the term "chanz" as well as "vers." The 
Chanson de Ste. Foy (about 1100) calls a popular dance song, "canczon (audi q'es 
bell'n tresca"). Now the non-literary poetry of the eleventh century is generally 
referred to by Latin writers as " cantilenae." Sometimes "sonus" occurs. "Oantio," 
from which chanson (canso) naturally derives, appears but once so far as I know, and in 
the Cambridge manuscript, already dted, where the fable of the woU and priest begins: 
"Quibus Indus est animo Et jocularis cantlo." I do not meet it again until we reach 
Orderic Vital (about 1130). I have not found any instance of "versus" ("vers"). In 
view of this marked difference of poetic terminology between Latin writers on the one 
hand and the Troubadours on the other, one is inclined to ask himself whether there were 
not in fact two distinct schools of poetry existing side by side, throughout the eleventh 
century, at least, and perhaps since the very beginning of artistic composition in the