Influence of the Provençal lyrics from Occitania on Medieval European poetry

María X. Rodríguez Valcárcel

The Occitan troubadours were frequent visitors to the Spanish, English and German courts after the first decade of the 13th century as a result of the Diaspora which was caused by the Albigensian Crusade. In that way, their poetic models spread and laid the basis of National Schools as the troveri, Minnesänger, the Galician-Portuguese and the Sicilians.

The relationship between Galician-Portuguese and Provençal poetry has been studied many times, both from the point of view of the personal contact between the Occitan troubadours and the Spanish court and from the assumption of some elements with troubadour roots by the Galician-Portuguese poets.

Some experts (like Díaz and Lapa) share the opinion that we can only find a pale reflection of Provençal influence on our lyric poetry. Recent studies raise doubts about these conclusions because of the literary similarities of texts from both origins.

Models in the St.James' Way Interpretation Centre, Lugo

We can differentiate between two historical periods which show the influence of the Provençal poetry on the European one. The first period (from the end of 11th century to the end of the 12th century), in which this spread was quite limited, and a second period (13th century) of highest irradiation with the Diaspora that followed the Albigensian tragedy, during which nearly all the main figures of the Provençal poetry emigrated in pursuit of a better life than they had in their native country.

The courts that took them in where mainly placed in Northern Italy and in Catalonia: Few of them were received in France and Castile. England and the Germanic courts of Rhineland, Thuringia, Austria and Bavaria only had some indirect contact with this kind of poetry: England, through her dominions in Poitou and Aquitaine; Germany, on the occasion of the short travels of Gaucelm Faidit (1185) and Peire Vidal (1196) along Central Europe or as a result of German poets staying in the Dauphiné, Provence, Arles or Italy.

These itinerant poets found, in general, a favourable environment for the spread of their poetic activity, but the receptivity to their ideological innovations was not the same everywhere. Where the Occitan language did not represent an obstacle because there was some similarity with the local language, the permeability was highest and it could even happen that native poets composed their texts in Occitan language. This is the case of Northern Italy and Catalonia, where twenty or thirty poets from both origins chose Occitan as their poetic code.

On the other hand, when the native language of the country was very different, the spread of the new models was more difficult and the troubadour poetry was translated to the local language. During this period of adaptation, the troubadour influence sometimes decreased because it was imbued with local traditions which gave rise to the “troveri”, the “Minnesänger” and to the English poets.

Finally, in the case of distant areas, where the troubadours (because of communication difficulties and social and political differences) did not have the same acceptance, they could not exert such a direct influence. These areas are the Sicilian and Galician-Portuguese periphery. In the case of Sicily, the troubadour influence came from the High Italian area, already partially rebuilt, and it developed mainly in the court of Frederick II in Palermo. The Galician-Portuguese area received the troubadour innovations through Barcelona, the main way for all the cultural currents from Occitan origin, later through Toledo, which was the most active centre for collecting, adapting and distributing the ideological and formal elements of the courtly poetry in the West of the Iberian peninsula during nearly the whole 13th century till the death of Alfonso X. Also in Toledo, in the courts of the kings of Leon and Castile (Fernando III and Alfonso X) we can find the most important group of Galician-Portuguese poets, for whom those courts became the meeting point with Provençal and French culture. The presence of authors such as Guilhem de Montanhagol, Bonifacio Calvo, Arnaut Catalan, Guirot Riquier among others was also frequent.

As a conclusion we can say that the origins of the cultured poetry in the Galician-Portuguese area are closely related to the origins of Romanic poetry in general and they can be traced back to the common troubadour origins which is the dominant element in the development of the lyric poetry in all of Western Europe.

In our area the “songs of women in love or songs of a friend” would move away from this common root and, on the contrary, would be related to the Mozabaric “kharagats” with which there are both analogies and differences in tone and poetical substance.

Both of them would be manifestations of a pre-courtly poetry which preceded them but did not leave any traces.

TAVANI, G. A poesía lírica galego-portuguesa, Galaxia, Vigo, 1986.


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