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The lyric encyclopedia: citation and innovation in Matfre Ermengaud's Breviari d'amor.

MATFRE Ermengaud began his Breviari d'amor ca. 1288, towards the end of two significant literary movements of the later Middle Ages. One was led by the troubadours, who had begun composing their lyric at the end of the eleventh century and would continue to do so through the mid thirteenth, when, for reasons that are still debated, the number of troubadours waned. Paradoxically, this decline occurred at the same time that the great chansonniers (large lyric anthologies) began to be compiled, as if the mise par ecrit were a response to the loss of vitality in the movement. The other, scholastic encyclopedism, was not yet in such dire straits. (1) Supported by strong twelfth-century precedents, it produced over the course of the thirteenth century four major Latin encyclopedias and a few in the vernacular. By the mid fourteenth century, however, most encyclopedic work would involve copying, revising, or translating existing texts, rather than drafting new ones. The creation of a new encyclopedia was a daunting task, and most readers seem to have judged the earlier texts sufficient to their needs. Matfre clearly did not take such a view; his Breviari constituted an unprecedented attempt to wed the highly allusive and formally complex love poetry of the troubadours to the exhaustive but prosaic erudition of the encyclopedists, partly through direct quotations of the lyric. (2)

It must have been difficult to harmonize two such different genres, so the strangeness of the Breviari should not surprise us. Perhaps because of it, the text has not appealed to a great many modern scholars, as a comparison of the bibliography on the Breviari to that on any one of the major troubadours attests. (3) Nonetheless, Matfre's text had a modest success just after its publication: it is the only Occitan text treating courtly subjects to have been copied in numbers approaching those of the chansonniers and in volumes of comparable dimensions. (4) The text's manuscript history thus indicates its importance to the literary circles of its time. The Breviari d'amor is indispensable if we are to understand the paradigms that shaped late medieval reading.

In the present article, I should like to consider one such paradigm, citation, for Matfre could only weave the lyric into his text through a peculiar, hybrid form of this practice. (5) The encyclopedia was always a bookish genre, well adapted to the visual strategies of scholastic reading. Vincent of Beauvais (d. 1264), for example, details in the prologue to his Speculum maius the difficulties posed by the placement of attributions on the page (ch. 3). On the other hand, prior to the creation of the chansonniers and the Breviari, troubadour lyric had been experienced aurally, and so it lacked the determinate visual components of the written text. (6) Even the makers of the chansonniers failed to visually represent the lyric form, for they set out the strophes as paragraphs in which each metrical line follows the last without a return to the left margin. This mise en page suggests that readers such as Matfre were still pronouncing the lyric aloud as their eyes scanned the page. Accordingly, the troubadours practiced a different kind of citation. Yet broad theoretical investigations of citation and intertextuality have tended to approach these phenomena as beginning and ending with written text, on the page. (7) I should like to suggest here that a fuller understanding of acoustic citation makes it possible not only to (partially) demarcate the quotations in the Breviari, which are visually obscured by this text's own mise en page, but also, and especially, to discern the degree to which lyricism permeates this most erudite of texts.

Scholars of Occitan lyric have shown that the troubadours developed exquisitely subtle forms of citation, particularly in the genre of the sirventes, which came to maturity in the work of Bertran de Born (ca. 1150-1215) and was practiced in the thirteenth century by such notable troubadours as Peire Cardenal. Sirventes were frequently based upon the rime or metrical structure or melody of a pre-existing song, generally a canso (a love song); they are but one indicator of a broader and even older troubadour practice that Torn Gruber has dubbed a "dialectics," in which a troubadour may take up with subtle alterations a sequence of keywords, a rime pattern, or a metrical scheme used by another, in order either to link his song to the preexistent one, or to revise its themes.

By the thirteenth century, so closely was the sirventes connected with the idea of formal imitation that the writers of the Occitan artes poeticae imagined that this must be the origin of the genre's name. In the Doctrina de compondre dictats, an anonymous Catalan author writing at the end of the thirteenth century gave a (likely factitious) etymology for the term: a sirventes is so named "per co com se serveix e es sotsmes a aquell cantar de qui pren lo so e les rimes" (lines 104-5). Several decades later, Guilhem Molinier would reproduce this etymology in the Leys d'amors (2:181). The reprise of melody had certain advantages: if a tune were already well-known, a new song could be more easily learned and transmitted (Marshall 19). The practice also saved less inventive troubadours the trouble of composing their own music. Nevertheless, the borrowing of a pre-existent form was not necessarily a crutch for those of mediocre talent. As Frank Chambers has pointed out, expressing one's own ideas with a pre-established and hence fixed cluster of rime sounds or words could often be more difficult than coming up with a new one, and hence could be a sign of virtuosity (163). Thematically, though we cannot very frequently prove that this was the case, the recall of the patterns of another poem could invite a comparison between the two, an interpretation of the second in light of the first or vice versa. An example would be Peire Cardenal's "Per fols tenc" (PC 335, 40), which borrows the rime and unusual meter of Bertran de Born's "Ges de far sirventes" (PC 80, 20) while implicitly critiquing the earlier song. In such cases we can characterize the formal imitation as "citation."

Of course, once the corpus had expanded and rime and metrical schemes had been reused a number of times, form alone might not suffice to "cite" another song, recalling it to the audience's mind. It is significant, I think, that the rare examples of word-for-word citation in troubadour song appear only in the thirteenth century--in two of the three cases, in the second half of the thirteenth century, in the work of Catalan and Venetian troubadours. (8) These texts are curiosities of the corpus, an attempt perhaps for poets to identify themselves as closely as possible with the venerable and admired poetic tradition of another land. Although their songs are a far cry from the subtlety of the twelfth-century troubadours' "dialectics" or even of the sirventes' pastiche, they may represent a necessary development in a poetic tradition that had both expanded and aged, that had, perhaps, become too ungainly to admit the subtle play of recall invented by the troubadours of the twelfth century. It was certainly time, by the 1280s, for Matfre to find a new way to cite the troubadours. Yet I wish to emphasize that we should see these late developments, not as a curiosity, but rather as one end of a continuum with the dialectics of the early troubadours. This means that we may see word-for-word citation as a new mode of a venerable citational tradition that originally did not require such heavy-handed reference. It also means that the acoustic component of troubadour citation may subsist, although it may now be masked by the visual form of the written text.

And this proves to be the case with the Breviari d'amor. (9) Despite the established mise en page for lyric, copyists never distinguished the quotations from Matfre's expository verse text by setting them out in paragraph form. Rather, they copied the lines of the lyric individually, rendering them indistinguishable from the surrounding text except in cases when Matfre cites songs with particularly brief or particularly long lines. Some copyists marked the beginnings of quotations with pen flourishes or illuminated initials, but indications of the end of quotations are ambiguous or nonexistent. Like Vincent, Matfre had been conscientious about attribution, integrating the names of his authors into the column of his text rather than placing them in the margins, but he went a step farther, absorbing them into the meters and rimes of his couplets, even when this meant that they must be separated by several lines from the actual quotation. Copyists rarely rubricated this name, and even when they did it was not a sure indication that the quotation followed immediately.

Therefore, the only sure way for readers to demarcate the quotations is by listening to the encyclopedia read aloud. (10) Matfre's expository text consists of riming couplets. Any different rime scheme indicates a lyric citation. Yet this strategy of demarcation is still not wholly satisfactory, since when Matfre extracted a citation in such a way as to leave an orphaned rime, he made the line in question rime with the lines of his own text preceding or following. On the rare occasion when he took only two lines from a poem, with different rimes, he linked them to the lines both above and below, forming two couplets. Thus the borders of the citation prove permeable.

Like rime, metrical variations make it possible to hear the invisible citations, though without absolute precision. Short and long lines stick out, arresting the uniform rhythmic progression of Matfre's exposition. It may be tempting to generalize from this and assume that any heterometric passage (the troubadours delighted in combining different meters) constitutes a citation, but that would be an error, for Matfre's expository passages are unusual in yet another way, one that no scholar has taken the time to discuss fully. On the page, the lines look uniform in length, and, in one sense, they are-all consist of eight syllables. But they are not all octosyllabic. Lines ending in a feminine rime have eight syllables all together; in other words, they are heptasyllabic according to the principles of Occitan prosody. Thus the opening lines of the text:
   En nom de Dieu nostre senhor,
   quez es fons e paires d'amor...
   Matfres Ermengaus de Bezerss,
   senhers en leis e d'amor serss,
   e no solamen serss d'amor
   mas de tot fizel aimador,
   en l'an quez om sens falhensa
   comtava de la naichensa
   de Jesu Crist, mil e dozens
   .lxxxviii., ses mai ses mens,
   domentre qu'als no-s fazia,
   comenset lo premier dia
   de primavera, sus l'albor,
   aquest Briviari d'Amor,
   per declarar las figuras
   del albre d'amors obscuras,
   lo qual ell mezeis conpilet
   aichi quo Dieus lo-i ministret. (lines 1-24)

Most couplets are made up of octosyllabic lines linked by a masculine rime, but interspersed among them are three couplets with feminine rimes, all made up of heptasyllabic lines. Although the feminine rimes in this extract sometimes alternate with masculine rimes in the way one would expect of later French verse, the effect is ephemeral; there is in fact no discernable pattern to the alternation of masculine and feminine rimes, octosyllables and heptasyllables, in the larger text. (11)

In the Middle Ages, octosyllables were the standard form for didactic, narrative, and epistolary verse in Occitan, as in French. To my mind, there is only one possible explanation for Matfre's surprising deviation from this norm: the frequency of heptasyllabic lines in troubadour lyric, where they appear with slightly greater frequency than octosyllabic lines. It would have been out of the question for Matfre to compose a non-lyric work with exclusively heptasyllabic lines, but his alternation between seven and eight-syllable lines in the body of the text makes the appearance of both these lyric meters in the citations seem more natural, and the subtle polymetric quality of his verse also renders the longer and shorter lyric meters less shocking to the ear. Finally, it is in the lyric tradition that we find the source for the combination of masculine octosyllables with feminine heptasyllables: the meter was used by troubadours as much appreciated as Jaufre Rudel, Marcabru, Bernart de Ventadorn, Giraut de Borneil, and Arnaut Daniel. And it was most frequently exploited by Bertran de Born. Thus Matfre's verse form not only accommodates the lyric citations, but also allies him with the very sirventes tradition in which some form of citation or imitation was always implicit.

I would draw several conclusions from this investigation of citational practice in the Breviari d'amor. The acoustic citation developed by the earlier troubadours subsists still in Matfre's relatively late text. Matfre's citations are easier to hear than to see. At the same time, there is never any precise formal demarcation of citations because of the degree to which the expository text has been impregnated with the lyric form. It seems that Matfre has made the encyclopedia accommodate lyric citation not by reducing the latter's particularity, by flattening out its forms, but rather by rendering the encyclopedia more lyric, by choosing a poly-metric verse form and fitting his own couplets to the opening lines of various strophes. Thus the form of the citation influences the form of the encyclopedic text. This situation is beautifully foreshadowed in the reference to the dawn in the opening lines of the text, which I have already cited. The encyclopedia, like the canso, begins at dawn, on the first day of May. Song still clings to the pages of the Breviari d'amor.



Anonymous. Doctrina de compondre dictats. The "Razos de trobar" of Raimon Vidal and Associated Texts. Ed. John Henry Marshall. London: Oxford UP, 1972. 93-98.

Bolduc, Michelle. "Naming Names: Matfre Ermengaud's Use of Troubadour Quotations." Tenso 22 (2007): 41-74.

Brunel, Clovis. Bibliographie des manuscrits litteraires en ancien provencal. Paris: Droz, 1935.

Brunel-Lobrichon, Genevieve. "Mise en page et format des manuscrits litteraires du XlIIe siecle en occitan conserves a la Bibliotheque nationale de Paris." Revue des langues romanes 48.1 (1994): 115-126.

Chambers, Frank M. An Introduction to Old Provencal Versification. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1985.

Compagnon, Antoine. La Seconde main, ou le travail de la citation. Paris: Seuil, 1979.

Frank, Istvan. Repertoire metrique de la poesie des troubadours. 2 vols. Paris: Champion, 1953-57.

Franklin-Brown, Mary. Encyclopedic Writing of the Scholastic Age: Vincent of Beauvais, Ramon Llull, Jean de Meun. Chicago: U of Chicago P, forthcoming 2012.

Genette, Gerard. Palimpsestes: La Litterature au second degre. Paris: Seuil, 1982.

Gruber, Jorn. Die Dialektik des Trobar. Untersuchungen zur Struktur und Entwicklung des occitanischen und franzosischen Minnesangs des 12. Jahrhunderts. Tubingen: Max Niemeyer, 1983.

Guilhem Molinier. Las Leys d'amors. 4 vols. Ed. Joseph Anglade. Toulouse: Privat, 1919.

Kay, Sarah. "Grafting the Knowledge Community: The Purposes of Verse in the Breviari d'amor of Matfre Ermengaud." Neophilologus 91 (2007): 361-73.

--. "How Long is a Quotation? Quotations from the Troubadours in the Text and Manuscripts of the Breviari d'amor." Romania 127 (2009): 1-29.

Marshall, John Henry. "Pour l'etude des contrafacta dans la poesie des troubadours." Romania 101 (1980): 289-335.

Martin, Henri-Jean and Jean Vezin, eds. Mise en page et mise en texte du livre manuscrit. Paris: Promodis, 1990.

Matfre Ermengaud. Le Breviari d'amor de Matfre Ermengaud. Ed. Peter Ricketts. Vols. 2-3, London: Association internationale d'etudes occitanes, 1989, 1998; vol. 4, Turn hout: Brepols, 2004; vol. 5, Leiden: Brill, 1976.

Vincent of Beauvais. "Geschichtsbetrachtung bei Vincenz von Beauvais: Die 'Apologia Actoris' zum Speculum Maius." Ed. Anna-Dorothee von den Brincken. Deutsches Archiv fur Erforschung des Mittelalters 34 (1978): 410-99.

Zumthor, Paul. La Lettre et la voix: De la "litterature" medievale. Paris: Seuil, 1987.

(1) I distinguish scholastic encyclopedism from earlier medieval encyclopedism; for an explanation of the traits that set the later movement apart, see my Encyclopedic Writing, ch. 1.

(2) The Latin encyclopedias of the thirteenth century were all written in prose, the vernacular, in either prose or a rather utilitarian verse with riming couplets.

(3) Ricketts' new edition has nevertheless inspired some fascinating recent work; most relevant to the present inquiry are the articles of Kay and Bolduc.

(4) About half as many manuscripts of the Breviari survive as chansonniers, but from Languedoc, Matfre's native region, we have several times as many Breviaris as chansonniers. The dimensions of different kinds of Occitan manuscripts have been compiled by Brunel-Lobrichon.

(5) In an article that intersects in many ways with this one, Kay has distinguished quotation and citation ("Quotations" 6). I shall not be able to maintain that distinction because of the ambiguous practice of the early troubadours.

(6) I have no space to address the controversy among Occitanists concerning the form, oral or written, in which troubadour lyric was originally transmitted. But I am interested here only in the medium through which most people would have encountered the lyric, and that would have been acoustic.

(7) Genette chose Palimpsestes as the title for his book on the subject. While Compagnon's transhistorical study is more sensitive to changes in historical period and technology, the latter scholar is also interested exclusively in written text. Zumthor has challenged this traditional emphasis upon the letter.

(8) The troubadours in question are Jofre de Foixa, and Bertolome Zorzi; their citational songs are discussed by Chambers, 117.

(9) For a full discussion of the mise en page / texte in these manuscripts and the way it blurs the visual boundaries between lyric and expository verse, see Kay, "Quotations" 1221. For the conventions, see Martin and Vezin.

(10) Kay provides a full discussion of the formal boundaries in "Quotations" 10-11; my interpretation diverges from hers in the importance I attribute to the acoustic aspects of the text and of Matfre's chosen verse form.

(11) According to Frank's Repertoire, there is only one other example of the meter: an anonymous prayer to the Virgin, probably dating to the late twelfth or early thirteenth century and surviving only because it was copied onto one of the flyleaves of a thirteenth-century Latin manuscript containing an explanation of the mass (Brunel, no. 80).
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Author:Franklin-Brown, Mary
Publication:Romance Notes
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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