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Lewent, Kurt. An Old Provençal Chanson de mal mariée. "Romanic Review", 37.1 (1946), pp. 3-19

434a,001a- Serveri de Girona

3. dè. J. Massó Torrents, who published ll.1-3 and 18-24 (l. c. 233), reads this line as follows: E·m fa mal pus lo pris, car tan me dura. I cannot see how he understands car tan me dura nor am I following him in altering the reading of the MS concerning de. I suppose de stands for det. This may be a mistake of the scribe, but not necessarily. For the preterite in -et dropping the t is also found elsewhere, e.g. in the Nobla Leyczon: recorde, ensegne, done (see Appel, Prov. Chrestomathie, Numbers 108, ll. 1, 3, and 107) and frequently in the Albigensian Chronicle (ed. Paul Meyer, who does not mention this phenomenon in his introduction): retorne l. 654, triguè 703, done or donè 986, 1222, 2595, toque 991, intrè 1015, 1157, 2622, parlè 1023, 2998, apelè 1457, anè 1471, 3734, cridè 1681, rendè 1688, amè 1734, tomè 1745, 2691, estè or este[t] 1901, 4385, 5836, 5908, retornè 2235, redè 2319, raubè 2383, laissè 2396, contè 2527, cobrè 2595, gazanhè 2690, 2712, venquè 2711, de[t] 5062.
6. untura. I do not know of any ointment actually capable of inducing death. But medieval people spoke of the effect of the so-called witches’ unguent which caused women to fall into a death-like sleep produced by narcotics (Schindler, Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters, Breslau, 1858, page 286) or hyoscyamine-poisoning (A. Lehmann, Aberglaube und Zauberei, Stuttgart, 1925, pages 622, 682). Professor Mario Pei has kindly called my attention to a more recent example of the popular belief in the efficiency of such a proceeding. The Milanese pest of 1630, described by Manzoni in his Promessi Sposi (chapters 31-32) was believed by many inhabitants of that town to be spread by the socalled untori.
8. una bon’ escriptura. The adjective bon has the meaning of “efficient, helpful” here. Tobler-Lommatzsch’s dictionary of Old French (II, 1048, 5 ss) gives the definition “heilsam, erspriesslich, foerderlich.” The dictionaries of Old Provençal do not seem to know this meaning, but the language no doubt did. Cf. Guerras ni plaich no son bo Contr’ Amor en nuill endreg, R. de Vaqueiras, Gr. 392, 18 (ed. Kolsen, Trobadorgedichte, page 59), I, 1; Ai dompna! no·m nogues Pretz ni ricors ab vos! E pus dreitz no m’es bos, (1) Sivals vailla·m merces! Jausb. de Puicibot, Gr. 173, 1, (ed. Shepard page 1), V, 3. Finally another example from Cerveri himself: Ez eu no trob metge que bos li·n sia, Gr. 434a, 17 (Ugolini number 24, page 580), II, 12. The escriptura obviously is a kind of spell by which the unhappy woman hopes to put an end to her husband’s life. I cannot produce the text of such a “writing.” But that things of the sort existed is beyond doubt. Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, New York, 1923, 11, 902, quotes Peter of Albano saying that an incantation may be either spoken, or written and bound on the body, and is especially effective in sleep. William of Auvergne (l. c. II, 352) denies that mere words or incantations have the power to kill men or animals as sorcerers claim. But denying this power, he admits thepopular belief in it. Lady Wilde, Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland. London, 1890, page 47 points out that not only are charms and incantations employed for curing diseases, but they are also used to induce disease and death, in the form of maledictions and curses (malific charms).
9. lic <lĭgo (from lĭgāre) with i instead of e ( <ĭ), due, according to Schultz-Gora, Altprov. Elementarbuch 5, §27, to the influence of other verbs in -igare in which the i is long: castīgo, fatīgo.
10. e ma mayre que . . . . For this phrase see Tobler, Vermischte Beitraege I, number 36 ‘Aussage bestehend aus Nomen und Relativsatz.” I am adding some more Provençal examples: Ladoncs pogratz vezer tant caval fervestit Don foron li senhor trabucat e fenit! En(read: E’n) Guisde Cavalho desobre un arabit Que abatec lo dia Guilheumes de Berlit, Crois. Alb. (ed. Paul Meyer) ll. 4286-4287; La lor cort e la vostra essems ajustaretz, E·ls mals e las rancuras e·ls tortz acordaretz: E els que vos perdono e vos que·ls perdonatz l. 5381. The last example shows a pronoun instead of a noun. Same construction in: Senher, dis Auda, garda no m’o celier On es Rollan ni mon frayre Ollivier? Yeu que non vech minga dels .XII. biers Ronsasvals (ed. Roques, Rom. 58, 1 ss.) l. 1762. Finally an example from Cerveri himself: Dona, si moria per vos merceiar, Ja puys no seria qui·us volgues lauzar, Et hom qui diria: “Dona, Deus vos gar . . .” Gr. 434a, 24 (Ugolino number 29, p. 589) V, 3. The scholars who dealt with this phrase (Tobler, Mussafia, Chabaneau) emphasized its popular character. So Cerveri made a good choice, using it for his chanson de mal mariée.
13. l’esquenaça·m gira. There being no other evidence of the noun esquenaça, one might be tempted to break the word into esquena and ça. The latter would then be the demonstrative adverb ça, employed by the woman because the picture of that terrible esquena turned towards her is still (and always) so alive before her eyes that she is speaking of it as though it were “there.” Much as this interpretation would add to the strongly marked realistic tendency of the poem, it is unsatisfactory from the metrical viewpoint because it would leave the line without a caesura. So we have to read esquenaça (as does the MS), with a lyric caesura after it, and to admit the fact that Cerveri increased by one the small number of Provençal words in -assa, that augmentative and often pejorative suffix so living in Spanish (-azo, -aza). Adams, Word-formation in Provençal, New York, 1913, page 142, lists a dozen words of this kind, not all of which could stand a closer examination. But expressions such as carnasa, filasa, golasa, jornadasa are pretty sure to belong here. At any rate, if the inhabitants of southern France might not have approved of Cerveri’s neologism, we could attribute it to his being of the Iberian peninsula; there are more traces of hispanisms in his words. As to the fact given in this line, there is a striking similarity to a French song of the sixteenth century —consequently two or three hundred years posterior to Cerveri— quoted by Daehne (l. c., page 175):
Le vieillart a langue eschine
toute nuyct my tourne le cul.
14. jaric. Until now, only the form garric has been known. This word, therefore, has to be added to those which show both initials ga- and ja-, such as gauzir—jauzir, gal—jal, gai—jai, engan—enjan, gardi—iardi (cf. Appel, Provenzalische Lautlehre, Leipzig, 1918, page 56, §44c).
15. rimfla. The form rimflar has not yet been listed among the phonetic variants of this verb. Levy, Prov. Suppl. Wb., VII, 367, has: roflar, renflar and ronflar.
16. si. The meaning of this si is rather doubtful. I see two possibilities of interpreting it: 1. It may be “yet.” In this sense, si is generally closely connected with a verb, mostly an auxiliary verb or faire used as a verbum vicarium, and opposing a strongly affirmative statement to a preceding negative one, (2) e.g. Cosselh n’ai.—Qual?—Vuelh m’en partir.—No far!—Si faray.Quers ton dan.— P. Rogier Gr. 356,4 (ed. Appel No. 6) VII, 2; Qu’az escien m’a donat (sc. Amors) tal voler Que ja non er vencutz ni el no vens. Vencutz? Si er, qu’aucir m’an li sospire. Folquet de Marselha,Gr. 155, 22 (ed. Stronski No. II) II, 5). (3) What makes me hesitate to attribute the meaning of “yet” to the si of our passage is the fact that the latter lacks that contradictory element which seems essential to this use of si. (4)—2) Si may be “whether” and introduce an indirect question which, with its main clause missing, has the value of an independent interrogative sentence, (5) f. i. Dieus! si poirai l’ ora veder Qu’en puosca pres de lei jazer? Eu non, quar vas mi no·s vira Cercamon (?) Gr. 112, 3 (ed. Jeanroy No. VIII), VI, 5. For this use of si, Cerveri himself offers another example: Las! si·m valria ab merce clamar? Oc . . . (6) Gr. 434a, 24 (Ugolini Number 29, p. 589) III, 1. This parallel induces me to give our si the same meaning, though the note of doubt expressed by the question in a way differs from the confidence the woman shows in ll. 4-5.
16. m’en abric. Compared with the preparations made by the woman for killing her husband, the verb sé abrigar in its usual sense of “to protect oneself” sounds rather weak. It seems to have developed a more active meaning, (7) such as “to free oneself, to get rid of.” The dictionaries, it is true, do not list this definition, nor is it to be found in Appel’s article Die Fortfuehrung des Provcnzalischen Supplement-Woerterbuchs von Emil Levy (in the Behrens-Festschrift, pp. 168-182) where he deals with abrigar (pp. 174-176). But even this supplement to a supplement is not complete, (8) so I think the definition proposed here may stay.
17. Car. The sentence introduced by car gives the reason for the anxious desire expressed in the preceding question. One could as well say that, in the chain of his thoughts, the author omitted one link, such as: “This is absolutely necessary” or “I do hope so.” For this stylistic phenomenon see Ebeling, Behrens-Festschrift, pp. 77-85 and Schultz-Gora, Zschr. f. rom. Phil., 59, 67.
19. fexuch (<fasce +-ucu) is the Catalan form of Old Provençal faissuc and named as such by Meyer-Luebke, REW No. 324 (spelt feixuc in the 3rd edition). Raynouard, Lex Rom., III, 249 gives three examples of this word under faichuc, fayshuc. Levy does not list it at all, either in the Prov. Suppl. Wb. or in the Pet. Dict. As Raynouard’s instances are rather late, it might be convenient to point out that the term already occurs in a poem of Bertran de Born, Gr. 80, 24 (ed. Appel No. 41) II, 1: Aital solatz m’avetz faissuc.
22. me malvet’e·m madura. Massó Torrents (see note to l. 3) has malvet. I wonder what he thinks this form to be, and how he understands these two verbs, which offer serious problems from the phonetic as well as the semantic point of view. 1) Malvet’. If the MS is right, we cannot but see in this word a form (3rd pers. pres. tense) of malvetar, a verb of which no evidence has been found yet. This verb must be closely connected, if not identical with malavejar, malavechar, though the latter, according to the dictionaries (see Levy, Prov. Suppl. Wb., V, 55) is intransitive, meaning “to be ill,” while malvetar is no doubt transitive, meaning “to make ill.” As to its form, it seems to be a contamination of malavejar+malvat and mala(u)t (9) (Levy, l. c. p. 51), the adjectives having reduced the stem of the verb to two syllables and provided it with its last consonant, the t. (10) The great variety of forms in which each of these words appears as well as their closely connected meanings may have led them to influence each other in their phonetic structures .—2) madura. The oldest Provençal evidence of the verb madurar is in Sancta Fides (l. 415). In his edition of this poem, Hoepffner does not fail to point out that the verb, listed in the dictionaries as transitive only, is neuter in that passage. But the definition he gives of it is too weak, I think. The line, speaking of the saintly girl’s dead body, runs thus: La carnz ol bon, can plus madura. Hoepffner renders madurar with “avancer en âge.” The adjective madur no doubt also had the meaning, not listed in the dictionaries of “old” (cf. Bertoni, Arch. rom., 13, 447), and the verb madurar is likely to have followed the adjective in all its meanings. But in the case of Sancta Fides, the definition “to advance in age” is not quite to the point. First it is a strange idea to think of a dead body as growing older, and then, what the author of the saint’s Life wants to say is, I suppose, this: while other dead bodies are putrefying and exhaling a nauseous smell, that of Sancta Fides spreads an agreeable odor. If this is right, madurar has here the sense of “to decay, to putrefy.” A. Thomas probably had something similar in mind when he defined the verb by “mûrir (appliqué á un cadavre)” in the vocabulary of his edition of the same poem (Class. franç. du moyen âge No. 45). It may not appear quite decent in this connection to speak of something so prosaic as cheese. But the truth is that the word madur was applied to cheese (as is “ripe” in English). Levy, Prov. Suppl. Wb. V, 5 quotes the following passage: Lo quintal dels fromages vieilhs et madurs. Here, too, I think, the idea of rottenness and bad smell is underlying. This throws some light on a line from Raïmbaut de Vaqueiras (or d’Aurenga?), Gr. 392, 5 (Mahn, Gedichte No. 217) V, 4, which Levy (l. c.) reproduces from Raynouard and for which he has no explanation: Quar anc Caym qu’aucis Abel no saup de tracion un ou Contra lieys. Mas ieu par ybres Quar li dic don sui madurs, Si·m carga lo col e·m maca. The poet is so filled, so “rotten ripe,” (11) so “fed up,” he feels so sick (as if he were drunk) with all the treacheries of his lady that he speaks of her bad behavior, thus violating the laws of courtly decency. Here we have the adjectives ybre and madur side by side. Cerveri similarly couples the verbs malvetar and madurar “to make feel sick” and “to cause nausea.”
23. The connection between this line and what precedes is not manifest on sight. The trend of thought which the author attributes to his heroine is likely to be this. The idea of her sweating husband suggests to her the work he is accustomed to do: toiling in the field. Contemptuously she looks down upon him whose only care is his “pasture.” (12) tardar. None of the nine definitions which Levy (Prov. Suppl. Wb., VIII, 62) lists for this verb fits our passage. To make the sense clear, it would be simple to change tardar into gardar. But why should a scribe have substituted a verb of unusual meaning and construction (sé tardar de) for the well-known and clear sé gardar de? So I think we had better keep the reading of the MS, though the use of tardar is strange enough. Its peculiarity seems to consist in this: 1) The action indicated by tardar is an understatement; what is meant to be a prevention is given as a postponement, a delay. But it must be kept in mind that the English verb “to delay” may also be employed with the sense of “to hinder” (Oxford Dictionary). 2) In the construction of sé tardar de, the person and the thing connected with the verb seem to have exchanged their roles. The thing should be kept away from the person, not the person from the thing, which is what the phrase actually says. Not quite the same, but something similar can be observed with the verb tolre. If we compare the following two passages from Giraut de Bornelh: E·m tolh afan bona fes e vertatz(Gr. 242, 20=Kolsen No. 46, l. 95) and Qu’era·m tolh de mal e d’engan (Gr. 242, 29=Kolsen No. 22, l. 41) we also find a double aspect of the action with regard to persons and things. While in the first of these sentences the thing (afan) is taken away from the person (·m = me), in the second the person (me) is taken away from the thing (mal and engan). As a matter of fact, Kolsen translates the two cases differently, the first by “befreien von,” the second by “ablassen von”; but in both cases, the Provençal verb remains the same, i.e. tolre.
25. atura. The singular of a verb having two coordinate nouns as subjects is not rare in Provençal; cf. the examples given by me in Neuphil. Mitteil. 39 (1938), pages 251-254. The Domn’als Cartz and Sobrepretz appear in the envoys of nearly everyone of Cerveri’s poems (see Kolsen, Beitraege zur altprov. Lyrik, Florence, 1939, page 13 and Massó Torrents, Repertori, page 183); they form a kind of unity for him, which justifies the singular of the verb to a certain degree.
26. l’Enfans. The Infante is the later Peter III of Aragon.
1) The editor translates: . . . le bon droit ne me vaut rien, thus rendering bos twice, by bon and by vaut.()
2) Appel, in the vocabulary of his Chrestomathie puts it thus: Nachdrucksvoll, vorausgesetztem Andersseinentgegnend.()
3) For the interpretation of this passage see Schultz-Gora, Prov. Studim, Berlin, 1921, p. 141 and Appel, Zschr. f. rom. Phil., 42, 381.()
4) I am not sure that we are in the presence of this adversative si in the following passage from Gir. de Bomelh, Gr. 242, 59 (ed. Kolsen No. 18) I, 3: Can la brun’aura s’eslucha Pel suau termini franc, Era side joi m’estanc. The editor puts a question mark at the end of the sentence, which is not right (see Salverda de Grave, Observations sur l’art lyrique de Giraut de Borneil, Amsterdam, 1938, p. 106 and my booklet Zum Text der Lieder des Giraut de Bornelh, Florence, 1938, p. 18). If I formerly adopted Kolsen’s definition of si (=“yet”), I find it more than questionable today.()
5) Cf. Tobler, Vermischte Beitraege, I, No. 10, with a reference to A. Schulze, Der altfranzoesische direkte Fragesatz, Leipzig, 1888, pp. 195-197. Modern French no longer uses this kind of interrogative sentences nor does the English language. In Modern German they are quite common: “Ob er wohl mit dem Leben davonkommen wird?” “Ob wir ihn wohl jemals wiedersehen?”()
6) Translation: “Poor me! (I wonder) whether I could help myself by imploring her mercy?—Yes.”()
7) Something of the sort happened in Old French, though in another direction; cf. the phrase abriier aucun de mort, which means “to put someone to death” in the two examples given by Tobler-Lommatzsch, Altfranz. Woerterbuch I, p. 65, 25-29.()
8) Cf. the following passage from Guillem Rainol Gr. 231, 2 (ed. Appel, Poésies provençales . . . tirées des manuscrits d’Italie, p. 62; reprint from Rev. des langues rom. 34), where abrigar takes the sense of “to conceal, to disguise”: Mas trob n’i trob de savais Abrigatz sotz bel parer.()
9) Cf. the long list of such hybrid forms in Appel, Prov. Lautlehre, pp. 100-101.()
10) This t is also found in Old Prov. malautejar (Levy, l. c. 52). —The existence of the adjective malavet, listed by Levy (l. c. 56 and Pet. Dict.) would have been a welcome help to explain malvetar. But Levy canceled it in the Errata of the Pet. Dict., I think after A. Thomas’s article in Rom. 37, 306-308 (cf. also Hoepffner, La Chanson de Sainte Foy, Paris, 1926, I, 63 and 107 and note 5). The right form of this adjective is maláve, the feminine of which, maláveda, led Levy to claim an adjective* malavet. The existence of a noun malavet for malavech supposed by him on the ground of the nominative malavetz (Crois. Alb. l. 8136) is no less questionable. The laisse in which it occurs offers, besides a great number of words ending in -etz (=-et+s), such as auzeletz, setz, quetz, trobetz, a few others whose -etz represents -eg+s, e. g. fretz (<frigidus), letz (=lege+s), corretz (=corrigiu+s).()
11) “The term New Deal is rotten ripe for burial” (New YorkWorld Telegram, 14 December 1943).()
12) The following two passages quoted by Daehne (l. c. p. 77 and p. 140), one from a poem of about 1600, the other still more recent, sound like an echo of Cerveri’s:
a) La nuict que couchay avec luy,
après ma longue attente,
il mejura qu’il n’avait point
de bonne avoyne à vendre.
b) La première nuit de nos noces,
au lieu d’être un amoureux,
il ne fit que me parler
de ses vaches et de ses boeufs.()








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