restricted access 11. Jongleur as Propagandist: The Ecclesiastical Politics of Marcabru's Poetry
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Laura Kendrick ii. Jongleur as Propagandist: The Ecclesiastical Politics of Marcabru's Poetry He was very well known and listened to throughout the world and feared because of his tongue, for he was so slanderous that the castellans of Aquitaine, of whom he had said much evil, finally did away with him.1 So ends a biography (or vida) prefacing agroup of poems attributed to the vernacular poet and performer Marcabru in a thirteenth-century manuscript collection of lyrics.2 What is the historical value of such astatement? Literary scholars have shown that many of these vidas are based solely on interpretations of the poetry that follows in a particular manuscript collection , poetry mostly composed, in the case of Marcabru, over a century before it was written in surviving manuscripts. Furthermore, lyrics ascribed to Marcabru in one manuscript may be ascribed to other poets in other manuscript collections.3 There must have been an individual who composed lyrics and internally "signed" some of them by including averse in which he said explicitly, "Marcabru made the words and the song," as in the second line of a widely disseminated crusade exhortation begin1 . Biographies des troubadours, ed. Jean Boutiere and A. H. Schutz (Paris, 1973), p. 12, the version of the A songbook (Vatican 5232, f. 27): "E fo mout cridatzet ausitzpel mon, e doptatz per sa lenga; car el fo tant maldizens que, a la fin, lo desfeiron li castellan de Guian[a], de cui avia dich mout gran mal." All English translations in this essay are my own unless otherwise noted. 2. The only modern edition of all the lyrics ascribed to Marcabru (until the appearance of a new edition by Simon Gaunt and Ruth Harvey) remainsthat of J. M. L. Dejeanne, Poesies completes du troubadour Marcabru (Toulouse, 1909), which assigns each lyric a Roman numeral. When more recent critical editions of individual lyricsexist, I haveused these in my text and cited them in footnotes; in the absenceof any such note, the Dejeanneedition is the printed source of the lyric, identified by its Romannumeral. 3. For example, "Courteously I want to begin" ("Cortesamen vuoill comensar," XV), which is directed by a final strophe to Jaufre Rudel and the French "beyond the sea," is ascribed in a majority of manuscripts to Marcabru, but in others is either left anonymous or ascribed to Uc de la Bacalaria, Bertran de Saissac,or Bertran de Pessars. 26o Laura Kendrick ning "Pax in nomine domini." Many of the poems ascribed to Marcabru in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century collections bear no such signatures, but are supposed to be his because they show thematic and stylistic similarities to "signed" poems or because they quote him by name, "Marcabru says." If qualifying quotation marks did not grow so tiresome, we might well make a rule of surrounding the name Marcabru with them to remind readers that we are not necessarily talking about an individual man, but a critical tradition represented by over forty surviving lyrics in variant manuscript versions. Marcabru was the name used by an individual poet-performer who may have begun composing asearly asni5-ii2O,4 but also the name to which other poet-performers attached and by which they authorized their lyric imitations or adaptations of Marcabru's verse,5 and it was also the name to which later compilers assigned hitherto "anonymous" lyrics that displayed a set of critical themes and a slanderous style dangerous enough, or so thought the later composer of the vida,, to get a poet killed by angry castellans. Nowhere in the group of poems ascribed to Marcabru does the firstperson speaker specifically predict his own murder, although in one lyric he complains that, in going about chastizing others' folly, he seeks his own harm, and in other lyrics, he claimsthat he dares to sayno more or that fear holds him back.6 Unless the composer of the vida is relying on oral tradition , his account of Marcabru's punishment must be an inference based on his interpretation of the verse attributed to Marcabru and of what sort of harm might come from it to its composer/performer. Although there is no historical evidence that a jongleur who called himself Marcabru really did get murdered for his evil tongue, the thirteenth-century vida still offers a fascinating glimpse into a society in which vernacular poetry was believed to matter, in which criticism couched in poetry, performed publicly as song, was believed to have sufficient persuasive force or propaganda value to...


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Subject Headings

  • Aristocracy (Social class) -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Nobility -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Elite (Social sciences) -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Power (Social sciences) -- Congresses.
  • Social history -- Medieval, 500-1500 -- Congresses.
  • Upper class -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
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