Bertran de Born

Poem Poem

(circa 1185) I love the jubilance of springtime When leaves and flowers burgeon forth, And I exult in the mirth of bird songs Resounding through the woods; And I relish seeing the meadows Adorned with tents and pavilions; And great is my happiness When the fields are packed With armored knights and horses. And I thrill at the sight of scouts Forcing men and women to flee with their belongings; And gladness fills me when they are chased By a dense throng of armed men; And my heart soars When I behold mighty castles under siege As their ramparts crumble and collapse With troops massed at the edge of the moat And strong, solid barriers Hemming in the target on all sides. And I am likewise overjoyed When a baron leads the assault, Mounted on his horse, armed and unafraid, Thus giving strength to his men Through his courage and valor. And once the battle has begun Each of them should be prepared To follow him readily, For no man can be a man Until he has delivered and received Blow upon blow. In the thick of combat we will see Maces, swords, shields, and many-colored helmets Split and shattered, And hordes of vassals striking in all directions As the horses of the dead and wounded Wander aimlessly around the field. And once the fighting starts Let every well-born man think only of breaking Heads and arms, for better to be dead Than alive and defeated. I tell you that eating, drinking, and sleeping Give me less pleasure than hearing the shout Of "Charge!" from both sides, and hearing Cries of "Help! Help!," and seeing The great and the ungreat fall together On the grass and in the ditches, and seeing Corpses with the tips of broken, streamered lances Jutting from their sides. Barons, better to pawn Your castles, towns, and cities Than to give up making war. (Translated from the Provençal by Paul Auster)

Feb 18, 2009 / Books & the Arts / Bertran de Born