Bernart de Ventadorn trans. James H. Donalson
(from Provençal)
Era·m cosselhatz, senhor,
vos, c'avetz saber e sen:
una domna·m det s'amor,
c'ai amada lonjamen;
mas eras sai de vertat
qu'ilh a autr' amic privat,
ni anc de nul companho
companha tan greus no·m fo.

D'una re sui en error
e·n estau en pensamen:
que m'alonje ma dolor,
s'eu aquest plaih li cossen.
e s'aissi·l dic mon pessat,
vei mo damnatge doblat.
cal que·n fassa o cal que no,
re no posc far de mo pro.

E s'eu l'am a dezonor,
esquerns er a tota gen;
e tenran m'en li pluzor
per cornut e per sofren.
e s'aissi pert s'amistat,
be·m tenh per dezeretat
d'amor, e ja Deus no·m do
mais faire vers ni chanso.

Pois voutz sui en la folor,
be serai fols, s'eu no pren
d'aquestz dos mals lo menor;
que mais val, mon essien,
qu'eu ai' en leis la meitat
que·l tot perda per foldat,
car anc a nul drut felo
d'amor no vi far son pro.

Pois vol autre amador
ma domn', eu no lo·lh defen;
e lais m'en mais per paor
que per autre chauzimen;
e s'anc om dec aver grat
de nul servizi forsat,
be dei aver guizerdo
eu, que tan gran tort perdo.

Li seu belh olh traidor,
que m'esgardavon tan gen,
s'atressi gardon alhor,
mout i fan gran falhimen;
mas d'aitan m'an mout onrat
que, s'eron mil ajostat,
plus gardon lai on eu so,
c'a totz aicels d'eviro.

De l'aiga que dels olhs plor,
escriu salutz mais de cen,
que tramet a la gensor
et a la plus avinen.
manhtas vetz m'es pois membrat
de so que·m fetz al comjat:
qu'e·lh vi cobrir sa faisso,
c'anc no·m poc dir oc no no.

Domna, a prezen amat
autrui, e me a celat,
si qu'eu n'aya tot lo pro
et et la bela razo.

Garsio, ara·m chantat
ma chanso, e la·m portat
a mo Messager, qu'i fo,
qu'e·lh quer cosselh qu'el me do.

How do you advise me, sir?
you have knowledge and good sense:
once a lady's pledged her love -
one I've loved the longest time -
but then I learned that, in truth,
she had someone else besides:
companions never before
have given such grief to me.

There's one thing I have doubts about:
and that's troubling all my thought:
by consenting to her plan
will I distance all my grief?
But if I tell her my thoughts
I see all my woes increase:
do what I may or may not
there's nothing to help my cause.

If dishonor's in my love,
everyone will laugh at me:
many then will think that I
am a mere longsuffering goat.
And if her friendship is lost
consider me dispossessed
by love, and may God withhold
the power to compose and sing.

Once I've sunk in foolishness
I'll remain a fool, unless
choosing lesser of two ills,
for it seems to me the best:
as I could have only half
or foolishly lose the whole,
for untrue lovers don't win
requital: this I have seen.

I won't stop my lady if
she will have another love:
better to leave off for fear
than some other principle
and if we could receive thanks
for service we're forced to do
then I should have a reward
for pardoning such a wrong.

Beautiful but treacherous
eyes that sweetly glance at me,
looking at another, though;
many defects now appear
but still you've honored me much:
where thousands are all around
your eyes are following me
more often than all the rest.

With the water that I weep,
many greetings I have sent,
going to the worthiest,
going to the courtliest,
and many times I've thought
of her when we said goodbye.
I saw her covering her face,
unable to say yes or no.

My lady, love whom you will
but keep me just on the side:
if I don't have all you want
and he has a way with words.

Garsio, now sing me my song,
and take it along for me
down to my messenger there,
so he can bring back advice.

Click here 2 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © James H. Donalson 2004

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