Paul Blackburn
from Proensa An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry
Selected and Translated by Paul Blackburn

Marcabru - Puois la fuoilla revirola












Provencal original

        When the leaf spins
its staying power
twists off,
down through the branches
from top limbs from
which the wind has
                             torn it, I
It is a sign.
                             The icy storm that's brewing's better
                             than grumbling and meandering summer
                             congesting us with hates and whoring.
                             Nightingale and magpie turn
                                     their songs to silence.
            The same with oriole and jay; winter
                                     has its will.
For a season anyway
into the gutter goes the pride
of the blackguarding, bobtailed riff-raff, who
in summer are not afraid to make
                                      a show of teeth.

Toads who toady up and snakes that sneak
are to be expected and should frighten no one;
horse flies, blow flies,
                               they, we know
                               live on carrion.
                  All of them now cold, toads,
snakes, flies, scarabs, hornets, all,
I cannot hear their buss nor, happily,
                 smell their stink.
We drink old winter who's delivered us,
                 our smiles and wine.

But take that fellow there, say, his
beak filed with an adze,
he doesn't lose his place in the foyer,
but he carries a pic and a little mace
which two together can cause some hurt.
And from being too much in bed with his mistress
                 his cock hurts.
It's more than his master can say.

He takes an armful of honey morning and night,
can even get it between the bands of a corset.
He knows how to wiggle his ass. The vavassor,
he does his day's work at night,
                 it gets him a son.
So instead of a vassal's vassal, he becomes
                                         the lord's lord.

As that little stork slumps, rises and sinks again,
mounting and bending down, the world's in the vortex,
whirling. I'm indifferent, me.
There are eyes that will not see
that will not recognize spoiled goods, even
now when the service of Love is given
                             over to harlotry.

you'll hardly find him
sniffing in a corner, he knows the score.
His lady's of the good school where
                            Joy is master.
And when the license is given outright
he always extends himself a mite
         more than he has to.

                I pray to God he do not take
Guissart to his celestial kingdom, for
the battle axe he uses here works
in this best of all sensual worlds,
       and he has left an inheritor.
And I'll never again have faith in a son
               if this one
       doesn't resemble his father.

But to return to these birds,
despaired of reaching the clouds, and being
         by nature fools, they bow
for all (and more than) they're worth.
               And whether or not it's said amiss,
               barons who sell out for cash
               have hearts below their umbilicus.

He has his heart below his unwashed navel,
               that noble baron
        who dirties himself for cash.