Monday, 17 January 2011

The Crusades and Those Left Behind

I've been reading through a lot of medieval poems/songs recently as part of research for my dissertation. I came across one called Giammi Non Mi Conforto (Never Again that Comfort for Me). It is from the mid-thirteenth century, and was written by an Italian nobleman named Rinaldo d'Aquino. I found it interesting because although it was written by a man, it is from the perspective of a woman who has been left behind by her crusader lover. It is really quite insightful into what the people who were left behind went through; and actually rather sad. 

Never Again that Comfort for Me

Never again that comfort, 
Never that joyous heart.
The ships down in the harbor
Are straining to depart.
Away all the people run
To lands across the sea.
But me - poor weeping thing -
What shall become of me?

Away, away he'll run, 
Fade quietly out of sight, 
Leaving me here alone.
All day, all the night
Many will be the sighs
That assail me constantly
Not in heaven, nor on earth
Will life exist for me.

O holy, holy Savior 
Who from Mary came our way!
Watch, protect that lover, 
Since you're taking him away.
O reverenced and feared
Power from above!
In your hands I place
My tender love.

O cross that saves mankind, 
You plummet me to error,
Twisting my grievous mind
Beyond all hope of prayer.
Why, O pilgrim cross,
Why this bitter turn?
Bowed beneath my loss,
I kindle; O I burn.

The Emperor who rules the world
In his peaceful sway
Ravages poor little me
By taking my hope away.
O reverenced and feared
Power from above!
In your hands I place
My tender love.

When he took up the cross,
I didn't know the end was this:
Whatever love he gave me
I repaid him kiss for kiss.
Now I'm thrust aside -
Yes, condemned to prison -
Now I'm forced to hide
In lifelong derision.

The ships are in their moorings.
Soon they'll depart.
With them and that rabble
Sails my heart.
O Father, O Creator,
Guide them to holy haven, 
By your sacred cross
They're all enslaven.
And O darling, I beg you:

Take pity on my hysteria.
Write me a little sonnet.
Send it to me from Syria!
Night and day I'll know
Only this bitter strife.
In lands beyond the ocean
Lies my whole life.1

1  Translation from S.J. Allen and Emilie Amt (eds.), The Crusades: A Reader (Broadview Press: Peterborough, 2003), pp.215-17.