by Ezra Pound
from A Lume Spento (1908)
Que be-m vols mal
Note: Anyone who has read anything of the troubadours knows well the tale of Bertran of Born and My Lady Maent of Montagnac, and knows also the song he made when she would none of him, the song wherein he, seeking to find or make her equal, begs of each preëminent lady of Langue d’Oc some trait or some fair semblance: thus of Cembelins her ‘esgart amoros’ to wit, her love-lit glance, of Aelis her speech free-running, of the Vicomtess of Chalais her throat and her two hands, at Roacoart of Anhes her hair golden as Iseult’s; and even in this fashion of Lady Audiart ‘although she would that ill come unto him’ he sought and praised the lineaments of the torse. And all this to make ‘Una dompna soiseubuda’ a borrowed lady or as the italians translate it ‘Una donna ideale’.
Though thou well dost wish me ill,
Where thy bodice laces start
As ivy fingers clutching through
Stately, tall and lovely tender
Who shall render
Praise meet unto thy fashion?
Here a word kiss!
Pass I on
Unto Lady ‘Miels-de-Ben’,
Having praised thy girdle’s scope
How the stays ply back from it;
I breathe no hope
That thou shoulds…
Nay no whit
Bespeak thyself for anything.
Just a word in thy praise, girl,
Just for the swirl
Thy satins make upon the stair,
‘Cause never a flaw was there
Where thy torse and limbs are met
Though thou hate me, read it set
In rose and gold.
Or when the minstrel, tale half told,
Shall burst to lilting at the praise
Bertrans, master of his lays,
Bertrans of Aultaforte thy praise
Sets forth, and though thou hate me well,
Yea though thou wish me ill,
Thy loveliness is here writ till,
Oh, till thou come again.
And being bent and wrinkled, in a form
That hath no perfect limning, when the warm
Youth dew is cold
Upon thy hands, and thy old soul
Scorning a new, wry’d casement,
Churlish at seemed misplacement,
Finds the earth as bitter
As now seems it sweet,
Being so young and fair
As then only in dreams,
Being then young and wry’d
Broken of ancient pride,
Thou shalt then soften,
Knowing, I know not how,
Thou wert once she
For whose fairness one forgave
Que be-m vols mal.
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