Guilhem (1071-1127), known by several names, was IX Duke of Aquitaine, VII Count of Poitiers, and Eleanor of Aquitaine's grandfather. He started the fashion of entertaining company with rhymed song composed in the vernacular and was the first known "troubadour". I know of no earlier rhymed secular verse in a European language. Guilhem's songs are occasionally gross.

Guilhem de Peitieu/Guilhelm d'Aquitania Ben vuelh—the master craftsman brag.

"I brought this song in from the shop"

I brought this song in from the shop
to show you all how well it's made
so note the shape, which is tiptop.
My work’s the flower of the trade,
and that’s the truth.
These verses, all laced up for show,
can serve as proof.

I know foolishness from sense;
honor I can tell from shame,
and bravery from diffidence.
Try me in some courtly game:
I’m not so dense
I'd bet the wrong way on the throw
and miss my chance.

I know who greets me honestly
and which ones wish I’d go to Hell.
I know real laughter—I can tell
the brave who seek my company,
and how I must
provide the welcome they expect
to earn their trust.

Bless him who taught me winning ways
anywhere my hand is dealt.
I can play it as it lays
between the sheets and on the felt;
nobody else
has been able to perfect
the moves so well.

Praise Saint Lulu and the Lord,
I’ve practiced at the sweetest game
till I’m an expert. I've such fame
that students come to me for lore
and are made wise.
The novice—if there is one here—
I will advise.

The master craftsman is my name:
a girl who's spent the night my way
is sure to want me the next day.
I’m such an artist with a dame
that I could earn
my bread in any market square
with what I’ve learned.

But, friends, you’ll never hear me say
I wasn’t flat-out on the floor
last Tuesday in some high-stakes play.
I’d so enjoyed the round before,
I was amazed
to find my skill just disappear
as we engaged.

She chided me for my delay:
"Duke, your dice aren't in the cup;
why don’t you double and replay?"
Said I: "I would not pass that up
for Montpellier."
With both my arms I got her rear
a little way

raised up, and having trued the board,
I grabbed three dice and rolled the same:
two of them just knocked around
but the third sank plumb to ground.
Then a solid hit was scored,
and it was game.


translation © 1999, 2001 Leonard Cottrell. All rights reserved

Ben vuelh que sapchon li pluzor
d’est vers si’s de bona color,
qu’ieu ai trag de mon obrador:
qu’ieu port d’ayselh mestier la flor,
et es vertaz,
e puesc en traire.l vers auctor
quant er lassatz.

Ieu conosc ben sen e folhor,
e conosc anta et honor,
et ai ardimen e paor;
e si.m partetz un juec d’amor
no suy tan fatz
no.n sapcha triar lo melhor
d’ malvatz.

Ieu conosc ben selh qui be.m di,
e selh qui.m vol mal atressi,
e conosc ben selhuy qui.m ri,
e si.l pro s’azauton de mi,
conosc assatz
qu’atressi dey voler lor fi
e lor solatz.

Mas ben aya sel qui.m noyri,
que tan bo mestier m’eschari
que anc a negu non falhi;
qu’ieu sai jogar sobre coyssi
a totz tocatz;
mais en say que nulh mo vezi,
qual que.m vejatz.

Dieu en lau e Sanh Jolia:
tant ai apres del juec doussa
que sobre totz n’ai bona ma,
e selh qui cosselh mi querra
non l’er vedatz,
ni us mi noa tornara

Qu’ieu ai nom "maiestre certa":
ja m’amigu’ anueg no m’aura
que no.m vuelh’ aver l’endema;
qu’ieu suy d’aquest mestier, so.m va,
tan ensenhatz
que be.n sai guazanhar mon pa
en totz mercatz.

Pero no m’auzetz tan guabier
qu’ieu non fos rahusatz l’autr’ier,
que jogav’a un joc grossier,
que.m fon trop bos al cap primier
tro fuy ‘ntaulatz;
quan guardiey, no m’ac plus mestier,
si.m fon camjatz.

Mas elha.m dis un reprovier:
"Don, vostre dat son menudier,
et ieu revit vos a doblier."
Dis ieu: "Qui.m dava Monpeslier,
non er laissatz."
E leviey un pauc son taulier,
ab ams mos bratz.

E quant l’aic levat lo taulier,
empeis los datz,
e.lh duy foron cairavallier
e.l terz plombatz.
E fort ferir al taulier,
e fon joguatz.