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The Displacement of Love for War

Bertran de Born verse interested me as it seemed to take the traditional love song, and add an additional layer of intent to the genre. I didn’t feel like it completely abandoned the canso, but used the traditional framework to illustrate an alternate meaning. In this way the Work of de Born was opened up to the cultural Text. In number forty-five, Bertran De Born begins with the Springtime opening that the listener expects to end in the introduction of the troubadours domna. However there is a surprising climax of a different kind with de Born. The “joyful time of Easter” and “the leaves and flowers” introduce “ranged along the field knights and horses armed for war”. Gaunt explains that this kind of song “built on the existing melody and form of a canso, addressing political events and powerful figures directly”. The donma then, is interestingly replaced with warfare; and this displacement is so clearly a simple swapping from one to the other that warfare then becomes eroticsed. De Born using the repetition of phrase “it pleases me” to describe the onset of fighting, explaining that “I have pleasure in my heart when I see strong castles besieged”. The sensual power of the noble lady, becomes instead the violence of war. Gaunt provides some context as to why this is when he explains that De Born belonged to “the inferior segment of courtly society” whose prominence “depended on war” and “languished in poverty whenever there was a prolonged period of peace”. The power of the unattainable woman pales beside the impact that war can have on the lesser nobles fortunes. This new subject matter also lends an heightened intensity to the lyric, especially in the lines “I’ll tell you there is not so much savor in eating or drinking or sleeping, as when I hear them scream “There they are! Let’s get them!”. There is an immediacy and ferocity to the direct discourse, and I wonder how the difference in subject matter would affect the performance of the song. Would the melody still be similar to that of the canto, or would it be a faster paced performance? In view of the text and work dynamic, it is particularly interesting as de Born takes the work of the love song that has “conformed to the work of the author” and broken out of this conformity whilst still staying true to the overarching structure. Therefore it seems as though what DeBorn is doing is more inline with the text as Barthes describes that the “text can be broken” and “can be read without the guarantee of its father” “abolishing any legacy”. However, we can see that the legacy is there in the format but it can most definitely be read without the guarantee of its father, the form being at once broken and kept whole. So we see again, a kind of text/work integration.

DLCL 121: Performing the Middle Ages (FRENCH 151)
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