"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Music Tuesday: Lo ferm voler qu'el cor m'intra by Arnaut Daniel

In my third post on Dante’s Purgatorio, in a close analysis of canto xxvi, I mentioned the remarkable ending of that canto with a quote where Dante has the 12thcentury Provencal poet/troubadour, Arnaut Daniel speak in his native Provencal. Provencal was a Romance language dialect spoken in what is today northwest Italy, southern France, and even in southeast Spain. Linguists refer to it as Occitan, and I was surprised to find that there are still localized enclaves where it is spoken today.

As I mentioned in my Purgatorio, Part 3 post, Arnaut was called by Ezra Pound the greatest poet to ever have lived, and Ezra Pound knew poets. For this Music Tuesday, I want to post a rendition of one of Arnaut’s compositions. As I said Arnaut is in purgatory repenting for his erotic love poetry, and this is a very sultry piece. I guess Arnaut was a sort of rock lyricist of his day, but with far more sophistication than rock lyrics.

Before I get to the piece, let me also say I love Medieval music. I spent a few years trying to learn as much as I could. It is not all religious. There is very much a secular tradition, though it seems that a great deal of the secular music might have been lost. There was no repository like the Catholic Church to preserve secular music. That’s a pity, because both secular and religious, medieval music is wonderful. As always, Wikipedia has an excellent site on medieval music.

The title of this piece is taken from the song’s first line, “Lo ferm voler qu'el cor m'intra,” which translates to “The firm will that my heart enters.”

Here are the first three stanzas in Arnaut’s Provencal:

Lo ferm voler qu'el cor m'intra
no'm pot ges becs escoissendre ni ongla
de lauzengier qui pert per mal dir s'arma;
e pus no l'aus batr'ab ram ni verja,
sivals a frau, lai on non aurai oncle,
jauzirai joi, en vergier o dins cambra.

Quan mi sove de la cambra
on a mon dan sai que nulhs om non intra
-ans me son tug plus que fraire ni oncle-
non ai membre no'm fremisca, neis l'ongla,
aissi cum fai l'enfas devant la verja:
tal paor ai no'l sia prop de l'arma.

Del cor li fos, non de l'arma,
e cossentis m'a celat dins sa cambra,
que plus mi nafra'l cor que colp de verja
qu'ar lo sieus sers lai ont ilh es non intra:
de lieis serai aisi cum carn e ongla
e non creirai castic d'amic ni d'oncle.

And here is the translation of those three stanzas.
The firm will that my heart enters
can't be scraped by beak nor by nail
of slanderer who damns with ill speaking his soul;
since I don't dare beat them with bough or rod,
at least, secretly, where I won't have any uncle,
I'll enjoy pleasure, in the garden or in the room.

When I remember the room
where, to my scorn, I know no man enters
-instead they are all to me more than brother or uncle-
I have no limb that doesn't shake, not even the fingernail,
just as a child is before the rod:
such is my fear of not being close to her soul.

Were I close to her body, not to her soul,
were she to let me hide in her room,
since it hurts my heart more than strike of rod
that her servant isn't there where she enters:
I'll be with her what flesh is to nail
and I won't follow advice of friend or of uncle.

Oh do read the entire translated song.


  1. I also love Medielval music, as well as Irish folk music. I am considering taking up fiddle at some point. we have a viola lying around...:)

    1. Yes, Irish folk music is excellent and very influential to American music. The fiddle sounds like fun. :)

  2. ((( I'll be with her what flesh is to nail and I won't follow advice of friend or of uncle.)))

    Manny, the starting music of this video reminds me of when I bought my second guitar, it was in mid/late 1960's and all I did was stroke the strings and I knew that I had to buy this Gibson which only cost me $238.00. Long story short, our talented daughter is keeping this her guitar in vintage condition.

    Manny! As hard as I try, my reality brain cells can't seem to follow you and I shouldn't even try if only because it is not wise and/or kind for Christians to even try.

    I hear YA! The feeling is mutual Victor #2 cause the more I try to understand you, the crazier I get. :)

    Really? I just hope that I'm not completely responsible for some comments that you've been making because you seem to be getting very UP SET in sites like.........


    Go figure Victor!? LOL :)

    God Bless

  3. Only $238? That was a lot of money back in the 1960s. Are you sure it was that much? In today's money it might be over 10 times that amopunt. I know, there are a few issues out there that have got me worked up, but this blog is strickly politics and controversy free. ;)

  4. Yes Manny, It was exactly $238.00 and I was working for our Canadian Government Printing Bureau which was known back then as "Queens Printers". Long story short, yes, you're correct when you say that it was a lot of money back then cause even though I was single and just got paid, I still had to borrow about $88.00 :)

    Go Figure! LOL

    1. Like most young men, you weren't too wise. ;)

  5. You can hear the odd Italian word in the song. I'm surprised it is still spoken today, as you say. I doubt Chaucer's original language is spoken much these days. Our teacher used to read us the Canterbury Tales in the original language.

    God bless.

    1. Yes, English has changed more dramatically than the Romance languages over the last 700 years. Not sure why. Good observation, thanks.