Bernart de Ventadorn trans. John Frederick Nims
(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.

Men, a word of wisdom. Give,
you that know a thing or two.
One for whom alone I live
said she loved me. Very true;
yet it's true the rumor's out
there's a secret friend about.
Nothing I've gone halves in yet
would I share with such regret.

Head a whirl of worries, I
sit and puzzle: what to do?
Let her practice on the sly
and assume I never knew?
Or would humoring hurt more
than it would to rant and roar?
Should or shouldn't? shouldn't? should?
What's the best of nothing good?

Say I'm mum: they nudge and wink
and I'm everybody's fool.
Just an easy mark, they think;
too adjustable a tool.
If I lose my love, to boot,
I'm forever destitute.
Nothing to inspire me then;
little cause to write again.

Close to bedlam as I live,
I'd be in the place for good
if I brooded "Won't forgive!"
Play it smarter's what I should.
Seeing how the chances run,
better half a girl than none.
Lovers aloud about their "right"
pace the empty rooms at night.

Since my lady rides her heart
tandem, should I make a scene?
No, I'd stutter at the start;
couldn't tell her what I mean.
And, if any heard "Thank you!"
for a thing he's made to do,
then she owes me thanks - and more.
Things I've made allowance for!

Beautiful deceiving eyes
once upon my own would play
in a flicker of surmise.
Though they've turned another way,
there's a fact I can't forget:
how, when gala crowds are met,
though her eyes go hither, yon,
mostly mine they linger on.

Tears are in the ink I fling
harum-scarum: greetings to
the world's most attractive thing,
madly most delicious you!
With a thought no years erase:
how you covered up your face
at good-by - were sobbing so
couldn't breathe a yes or no.

Lady, in the eyes of men
play at love and play again.
Love me where there's none to see:
words for others; lips for me.

Click here 1 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © Mrs. Bonnie Nims 1971 - publ. Rutgers University Press

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