Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bertran de Born and Ezra Pound on medieval war

I quote the following poem of Bertran de Born, one of the more bloodthirsty poets of the 12th c, from Cheyette's Ermengard of Narbonne, p. 278.

If both kings are bold and fearless,
we'll soon see fields strewn with bits
of helmets, shields, swords, and saddlebows,
and the trunks of men split down to their breeches,
and we'll see horses running aimlessly,
and lances sticking from ribs and chests,
and joy and tears and grief and happiness,
great loss and greater gain.

Trumpets, drums, banners, pennons,
standards, horses white and black,
we'll soon see, and the times will be good,
as we'll part usurers from their money,
and mule drivers will not dare to go on roads
in broad daylight, nor townsmen without fear,
nor merchants on their way from France.
Those who gladly rob will be rich.


Richard will measure by hogshead and bushel
his gold and silver, and think it happiness
to spend and give...
He'll want war more than a hawk wants quail.

Cheyette quotes Ezra Pound's comment on this song:

This kind of thing was much more impressive before 1914 than it has been since 1920.


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