with the troubadour
the idea of bitterness
or anger. Thus, both the psychological dimension of the comtessa’s song and its function as a formal
“E membre vos
(Remember the beginning of our
love), and line 28 at the end of stanza
legal complaint are present from the start.
By the end of the first stanza, the reasons for the comtessa’s complaint are clear. She has been deceived and betrayed unjustly. She points out the traits that should have prevented the betrayal from occurring: she loves fully; she has all the requisite qualities--beauty, merit, good sense. But these are to no avail; she is betrayed as she ought to be if she did not have those qualities. The use of the verb
exact word of what the faithful man promises in the oaths that he will not do to his lord or lady. The notion of engan is central to the southern oaths of fidelity: the primary reason for the exis- tence of the oaths is to avoid deception. The lover’s obligations are underscored (some would say ironically) by the fact that the qualities pre- sented in this first stanza by the countess as proof that she has kept her part of the bargain and there- fore has reason to complain are the very qualities
In the second stanza, the comtessa reaffirms her
own faultless behavior with the surprising asser- tion that she vanquishes her friend in love (line II). She loves reaffirmation of “am from the first stanza--therefore she is worth more.
is she then not rewarded? The answer lies in the word “orguoill,” first appearing in line 13,
again in stanza V, and in the
In stanza V,
vos de nostres covinens” (remember our agree- ment). the word “covinens,” the countess ar- rives at the heart of the affair. The or concordia is the standard term for agreements that ended conflicts in eleventh- and twelfth-century Occitania. The comtessa confers upon the love lationship the solemnity of a legal bond. Like the legal agreement of the acts, the poetic covinens manifests a coming together of intentions; this coming together alone creates the obligation. Lady and share equally in the making of the promise and should share in maintaining it. Since the purpose of the covinens is to ensure stability and permanence in family and other legal affairs, the one who fails to meet the obligation is subject to penalties, often spelled out precisely in the legal formulas. No specific punishment is detailed in
carries the threat of
harm from the overweening pride which, as have seen, is the cause of betrayal.
The use of the word
and the mention of
God at the end of stanza III color the discourse with Christian notions of sin and judgment. But there is no direct reference to adultery in this song
(in another, “Estat
en greu cossirier,” the
comtessa does mention a husband to whom the lover is distinctly to be preferred). “Colpa,” like
at the beginning of stanza II, functions mainly in a universe of song values where native
places obligations on (line 6) recalls the
that male troubadours claim in their sire from their ladies.
(“degr’esser,” both sides. The term
qualities s portment
and social com- permit the distinc-
“orguoill” is linked to "maltalens” (ill will) to help explain the lover’s behavior. Pride in other genres is usually an attribute of men: we are all familiar with the pride of a Roland. But in the troubadour
pride is more usually transferred to women; it is what makes them haughty and distant. In transferring pride back to her friend, the comtessa operates a thematic reversal.
Pride is the opposite of love because it destroys the equilibrium of reciprocity. This equilibrium presided over the beginning of the relationship be- tween the comtessa and her friend. Twice the
to look back, to remember:
tion of good from bad, of innocence from guilt. The countess, by virtue of the fact that she pos- sesses the requisite qualities and has observed the proper behavior, claims the right to love whom- soever she chooses without guilt or shame. Sexual love itself is not a cause of guilt. Guilt can arise only out of derogation from the norms of social behavior which, in poetic discourse, do not in- clude adultery and its consequences. In the song world, nonreciprocity and infidelity are the chief sources of blame.
The fact that adultery is not involved permits the comtessa to lodge her complaint forcefully
Women in Troubadour Song