Three stanzas from a canso by Peire d’Alvernhe, C. 12.

Recorded 16 March 2020


Translation by Joe Butler

(copyright Joe Butler 2018)


Deiosta-ls breus iorns … (after Peire d’Alvernhe)


When winter lays cold hands upon the earth,

when the days’ length dwindles

and the frost strips bare the oaks,

when the songbirds abandon the barren branches of the woods –

then my thoughts turn inwards to a sapling joy

upon whose tender limbs the new leaf buds,

the blossom shimmers and new fruits break forth.


Love is an exacting mistress – her gifts don’t come cheap.

She can beggar you or build you up at whim.

She strips the pleasure-seeker’s flesh to bone, and leaves him moaning ‘more’;

swells the bellies of the faithless till they’re groaning fit to burst.

I know all this – it isn’t news – but still

I’d rather take my chances in Love’s court

than be crowned king of nowhere’s-ville.


In the presence of my Mistress I am witless as a mooncalf.

She has overthrown my reason and untethered my heart.

I stand tongue-tied and imploring – dumbstruck, adoring.

For all the courage she inspires I tremble like a child.

This not speaking is a torment, but what’s worse

is the fear that anything I say will be misunderstood.

My heart’s so given up to her, I think: ‘Just take it all.’


I’m no honey-tongued seducer, I’m no peddlar of flattery.

I don’t think words exist to speak the longing in my heart.

If my Mistress, for a moment, knew the depths of my desire

I might claim her as she once laid claim to me.

Behind this dam of silence my heart fills to overflowing.

If my Mistress doesn’t breach it

I’ll go creaking to my death.


In the stillness of the forest, that slender tree I spoke of –

that sapling Joy whose roots are bound in love –

grows to a glorious fullness.

Through its nurture I’m ennobled. In its shade I grow to wisdom

From its crown I gaze on virtue and renown.

The blossom in its branches is delicate as starlight,

is scented green as springtime, and brilliant as snow.

Deiosta-ls breus jorns e-ls loncs sers,
Qan la blanc’aura brunezis,
Vuoill que branc e bruoill mos sabers
D’un nou ioi qe-m fruich’e-m floris!
Car del doutz fuoill vei clarzir los garrics,
Per qe-retrai entre-ls enois e-ls freis
Lo rossignols e-l tortz e-l gais e-l pics.

Q’ieu vei e crei e sai q’es vers
C’amors engraiss’e e magrezis
L’un ab trichar, l’autr’ab plazers
E l’un ab plor e l’autr’ab ris!
Lo cals qe-s vol n’es manens o mendics,
Per qu’ieu n’am mais so qu’en ai q’esser reis
Assatz non–re d’Escotz ni de Galics.

Ges ieu non sai los capteners
Mas soffre, c’una m’a conquis
Don reviu jois e nais valers,
Tals que denan li-m trassaillis!
Car no m’enqier de dir, me’n ven destrics,
Tan tem qe-l mieils lais e prenda-l sordeis!
On plus n’ai cor, mi pens: car non te’n gics

A car si fos dels mieus volers
Lo sieus rics coratges devis,
Desque ma dompna-m tol poders
De so de q’ieu plus l’ai requis
Mas no-ll sai dir lausengas ni prezics,
Mas meillor cor l’ai trop que non pareis!
S’ella no-l sap, morrai me’n totz antics.

So es gaugz e jois e plazers
Que a moutas gens abellis
E sos pretz mont’a grans poders
E sos iois sobreseignoris,
Q’enseignamens e beutatz l’es abrics:
Dompneis d’amor, q’en lieis s’espan e creis,
Plens de dousor, vertz e blancs, cum es nics!









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