Guilhem, known by several different names, was VII Count of Poitiers, IX Duke of Aquitaine, and Eleanor of Aquitaine's grandfather. He was excommunicated several times, including once for rejecting a papal legate's demand that he end an affair with the Vicomtesse de Châtellerault. He was the first known rhyming poet in anything resembling a modern European language, and apparently started the troubadour tradition. The Duke stole tunes of Latin songs used at the Abby of St. Martial in nearby Limoges and set to them his own rhyming vernacular words. Nobody seems to know where or how Guilhem came by this idea. Ezra Pound says that Guilhem "brought the song up out of Spain." and perhaps there was a Moorish influence.

Guilhem de Peitieu/Guilhelm d'Aquitania (1071-1127) Ab la dolchor del temps novel

"New life: the woods are leafing out"

New life: the woods are leafing out
and every type of bird is shouting
now in its specific tongue,
all versions of the latest song.
The time is sweet—a man should find
the ease which most is on his mind.

From there (where it would please me best
to be) so far I have no word—
until I can be reassured
by her of what I'm hoping for,
I don't dare go there any more
and so can neither laugh nor rest.

This is how our love is now:
it's like a fragile hawthorn bough
that trembles on the tree all night
and rattles under hail and rain,
but next day feels the spreading light
on twigs which soon are pushing green.

That branch reminds me of a morning
when we made an end to war
and when she gave me precious gifts:
her ring, her friendship, and her love.
Dear God, may I live long enough
to get my hands inside her shift!

And I don't hold with all that guff
about adoring from far off.
You know how their chatter goes:
those fancy pants should get a life.
No matter what the others boast
of love, we've both the loaf and knife.

translation © 1999, 2001 Leonard Cottrell. All rights reserved

Ab la dolchor del temps novel
foillo li bosc, e li auchel
chanton, chascus en lor lati,
segon lo vers del novel chan;
adonc esta ben c'om s'aisi
d'acho don hom a plus talan.

De lai don plus m'es bon e bel
non vei mesager ni sagel,
per que mos cors non dorm ni ri,
ni no m'aus traire adenan,
tro que eu sacha ben de fi
s'el es aissi com eu deman.

La nostr' amor vai enaissi
com la branca de l'albespi
qu'esta sobre l'arbre tremblan,
la nuoit, a la ploia ez al gel,
tro l'endeman, que.l sols s'espan
per la fuella vert e.l ramel.

Equer me membra d'un mati
que nos fezem de guerra fi,
e que.m donet un don tan gran,
sa drudari' e son anel:
equer me lais Dieus viure tan
c'aia mas manz soz so mantel.

Qu'eu non ai soing de lor lati
que.m parta de mon Bon Vezi,
qu'eu sai de paraulas com van,
ab un breu sermon que s'espel,
que tal se van d'amor gaban,
nos n'avem la pessa e.l coutel.