Pos sabers no.m val ni sens

Another piece from our friend, Guiraut Riquier. I’m so enthusiastic about this guy’s passion for form – and the sincerity of his words – that I want to keep exploring his work!  🙂

In this one, Guiraut experiments with a circular form in which the final line of each stanza is the first line of the next stanza (and the final line of last stanza is, of course, the first line of the poem). In addition, odd-numbered (1, 3, 5) and even-numbered (2, 4, 6) stanzas have an inverted structure: the rhyme pattern of the first half of the odd stanzas is the same as the rhyme pattern of the second half of the even stanzas, and vice versa. Yet the two halves of each stanza are connected because they share a rhyme throughout (lines 2, 4, 7, and 9).

Guiraut employs the same form in the melody. In general, lines that rhyme share melodic information. And he also echoes the two-half structure: In the manuscript, he uses a special sign to indicate that Verses 1, 3, and 5 should be sung as written, but Verses 2, 4, and 6 should be sung differently. For the even-numbered verses, the singer begins on line 6 of the tune and, after reaching the end, returns to the top of the page to eventually end on line 5. I’ve never seen instructions like that for a troubadour piece before, so I am super-excited!

This is probably pretty confusing without being able to look at it, so here’s a diagram. (And here’s the tune, so you can follow along with the melody. I suggest you scroll down and select View Melody by: Phrase. This will help you easily compare the melodic phrases with each other.)

Verse 1

Line Lyrics Rhyme Melodic Phrase
1 Pus sabers no·m val ni sens, a A
2 Qu’az amor aus ren desdire, b B
3 Que·m fassa voler, parvens a A
4 M’es, qu’aman me deu aucire; b B
5 Tant li sui obediens. a C
6 Qu’ieu avia malanans c D
7 Estat d’ans XX fis amaire, b E
8 E pueis a·m tengut V ans c D
9 Guerit ses joi del maltraire, b E
10 Eras ai de mal dos tans. c F

Verse 2

Line Lyrics Rhyme Melodic Phrase
1 Eras ai de mal dos tans, c D
2 Quar amors m’a fag atraire b E
3 Ad amar tal, que semblans c D
4 M’es, que ia luns temps retraire b E
5 Non l’auzirai mos talans. c F
6 Tant es nobla e plazens a A
7 Dona don non es a dire b B
8 Beutatz, honors ni jovens a A
9 Ez a bon grat e dous rire b B
10 Ab faitz, ab ditz avinens. a C

…And of course, Verse 3 continues with “Ab faitz, ab ditz avinens…”, and the poem ends with “Pus sabers no·m val ni sens” (an exact repeat of the first line).

At the bottom of the poem, Guiraut simply writes, Aissi no cap tornada (“So no envoi is possible”). Not only is it impossible to fit one into the form he has chosen, it is impossible to address the piece to anyone, as Guiraut laments in the poem that he currently has no lord for whom he can write. The lack of an envoi is doubly appropriate: This is the kind of pre-planned elegance that I love.

Links for More

Key Facts

  • Date: 13th century
  • Composer/Poet: Guiraut Riquier (c. 1270 – d. 1300)
  • Manuscripts: Chansonnier La Vallière (Bibliothèque nationale fonds fr. 22543)
  • Original Language: Occitan
  • Genre: trobar
  • Form: ababc dedef dedef ababc

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