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Giraud de Borneil

Twelfth-century French troubadour

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Giraud de Borneil, a Provencal troubadour, b. about the middle of the twelfth century, at Excideuil in the Viscounty of Limoges. The precise dates of his life are not known, but according to the best authorities, it fell between 1160 and 1219. Although of humble birth Giraud de Borneil counted among his patrons many kings, as: Richard Cur de Lion, whom he accompanied to Palestine, on the Third Crusade; Bohemond III, Prince of Antioch; Fernando III of Castile; Alfonso IX of Leon; Pedro II of Aragon, to whom he addressed several poems, and Sancho, King of Navarre, who did not deserve the admiration the poet bestowed upon him. With his feudal lord, Gui V, Viscount of Limoges, however, he was not always on good terms. His life was simple and studious. In winter he frequented the schools of learning and studied literature under the most celebrated teachers of the period. In summer, accompanied by two singers who recited his songs, he visited the courts of his royal patrons. He never married, and at death divided his property between some poor relations and his parish church of Saint-Gervais. Giraud enjoyed in his time a very high reputation. Dante, in the “De vulgari eloquio” (II, 2), reckons him one of the three great troubadours, Arnaud Daniel and Bertrand de Born being the other two. An anonymous Provencal biographer of the thirteenth century goes so far as to say: “He was the best troubadour of those who lived before him or came after him, and for that reason was called the master of the troubadours, a title which is still applied to him in the opinion of those who know something about poetry and love.” Dante, however, challenges this verdict and places Arnaud Daniel far above Giraud de Borneil (Purgatory, XXVI). No complete edition of Giraud de Borneil’s works has as yet appeared. The eighty poems ascribed to him with some certainty are scattered through various collections, including: Raynouard, “Choix des poesies originales des troubadours” (Paris, 1816), and Millot, “Histoire litteraire des troubadours” (Paris, 1774). His early poems, in which the influence of Arnaud Daniel is felt, belong to that form called in Provencal trobar clus, in which the meaning is involved and obscure. He soon rejected this manner and claimed in a tenson (poem in form of a dialogue) that “easy and simple poetry is more esteemed and liked”. Among the best of his poems are: an alba (song at daybreak), where he makes a graceful compromise between the popular and the studied forms of poetry; the love songs addressed to Alamanda d’Estanc; a few sirventes (political and satirical poems), in which the poet gives expression to the chivalrous ideals of the age, and some pastorelas.



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