DATABASE MEDIEVAL is a many years' project in which I do research on aspects of poetry and prose in the tradition of the Provençal (or Occitan) trobadors in Southern France, Catalonia and Italy. This research field got my interest when I studied Occitan language and literature at Amsterdam University with late prof. Nico van den Boogaard (1938-1982). He introduced me to the 14th-century Toulousan poetry and especially to some source questions of the Leys d'Amors.

Van den Boogaard at that time was working on this theme with the intention of preparing a badly needed textcritical edition of this voluminous Occitan treatise on grammar and poetry. Unfortunately, his unexpected death at Christmas 1982 prevented realisation of this project, and Occitan studies at Amsterdam University came to an end - as it has happened at Utrecht University as well, although somewhat later.

In the more than 30 years that passed since then, I followed the developments in this research field but did not actively contribute to it. Now the time has come to change this and I hope to realise some first research results in the next few years.


Textcritical edition of the Leys d'Amors
Happily, other Occitanists after Van den Boogaard have shown interest in the Leys d'Amors. We are now expecting a new text critical edition of the first version of Las Leys d'Amors in prose (and of the one extant Catalan version of it) since the appearance of the much criticised but nevertheless indispensable three volume edition of Gatien-Arnoult (1841-1843). After more than 170 years we badly need a new, modern edition. The Italian Romanist Beatrice Fedi finished this edition already some time ago, and hopefully she will soon be able to publish it at SISMEL | Edizioni del Galluzzo in Florence. The results of her research will be leading for our plan of publications on this subject, as it is rather inefficient to redo (parts of) her extensive research of this source tradition.


Gianluca Valenti, in his article Towards a New Edition of the Répertoire Métrique de la Poésie des Troubadours (in: Neophilologus (2015), 99: 15) recently proposed to develop a digital version of the invaluable Répertoire Métrique by Frank, not only because online searching would make research easier, but also because it could solve some questions about the organisation of Frank's catalogue itself. Frank gives 885 (!) rhyme schemes from the trobador repertoire, of which Valenti says that this is a 'clear overgeneration'. This fact makes it difficult to analyse comparable or related rhyme schemes.
In the next few years, in my research I will contribute to this subject.


Sketch of the historic-literary context
The context of my research in this field is the period that begins with the so-called decline of the classical trobador poetry that (usually, but arguably; N'At de Mons from Mons near Toulouse is perhaps a better candidate) is marked by the death of the Narbonne trobador Guiraut Riquier (ca 1230-129?) and that ends with the death of the Valencian poet Ausiàs March (1397-1459) who wrote in Catalan.
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Hilbrand Adema, project leader
+31 (0)6 2184 3943

(January 4, 2017)

This period is an especially interesting one, as the heritage of the classical trobadors -simply said- spreads in Italian as well as in Catalan direction. Of course, as society in that period changes strongly, generally said (and certainly also disputable) from a court oriented to a more bourgeois-like social structure and culture, poetry at that time, always being reflective ánd critical of those developments, moves in multifaceted directions. And, as the critics, rightly perhaps, claim, the quality of the golden trobador poetry was difficult to be equaled again. An interesting question is if this is the position we really need when studying those developments, as this bias on the quality aspects of the golden trobar period might prevent to look at other, equally important aspects of this poetry.

Toulouse and Catalonia

Fact is that, when we look at the tradition of the poetry sources, the so-called Toulouse School functioned as an intermediary between the classical trobadors' period and the Catalan courts and poets. An actual discussion is if the Toulousan Consistorì must be considered as an inhibitory factor, whether or not supported by the Inquisition, when talking about the content and quality of poetry, or rather as a  hotbed of innovation, as demonstrated in some works of the rather extravagant Ramon de Cornet. As usual, the last word in this dispute is far from being said.

Trobadors and Italy
On the other side of the map certainly the situation is all but less complicated. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) knew at least some works of a few great trobadors, including the Mantovan trobador Sordel(lo), who wrote in Occitan, and selectively praises them in his major and minor works. It is supposed that the trobador influence on Dante and other poets of the Dolce Stil Nuovo has been strong and generally spoken this is confirmed. Dante can be considered a trait d'union between the classic trobadors and renaissance poetry. But when, for exemple, comparing metric elements in the trobadors' poetry and in Dante's Vita Nuova and the Rime, this influence has still to be elucidated.

Of Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) it is known that he lived in Southern France, to be precise in Avignon (where, in 1327, he saw Laura for the first time!), that he studied in Montpellier and that he had a house in Vaucluse. It is evident that he, like Dante, knew the trobador tradition. It is supposed that he also spoke Occitan, but as a poet of Italian origin (he was born in Arezzo) he wrote in Italian - except for one line he borrowed from the trobador Arnaut Daniel (Canzoniere, Canzone 70, first stanza, last verse). This position as an Italian writing poet makes a connection to the Toulousan poetry competition since 1324 less probable, especially since in the years 1323-1326 he studied law in Bologna and in 1326 returned to Avignon after his father's death. So he did not attend the festivities of the first Jocs Florals in 1324. No relation of Petrarca with the Toulousan poetry tradition has until now been confirmed.

Trobadors and music
It has long been known that the trobadors often were singers and musicians. Also, they worked together with joglars or menestriers who performed their cansos. Less than 300 melodies survive in different manuscripts. Related to the 2500 surviving trobador poems this is rather scarce and this means that -although many scholars have tried it- it is difficult to generalise over this corpus.

Intriguing questions about musical aspects in this field can be asked, some of them until now not yet being elaborated. As a music-ologist, I am puzzled by questions like:

  • Where did the music tradition of the trobador period (let's say after Guiraut Riquier) disappear to? And, related to this question:
  • Did singing and performing this way just stop and was there a transition to declamation of poetry? Is this a broken chain or do we just miss source (manuscript) evidence which sets our bias?

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  • Why is there no evidence for contrafacts in the periode between the latest surviving melodies and 14th-century Occitan and Catalan poetry, in the sense of metrical - rhymic - semantic organisation?
  • If Dante and Petrarca were musical men and Petrarca sung and played the lute, why do we find only some small iconographic, but no musical evidence whatsoever of this?
  • What happened between the -assumed- disappearance of the trobador monophonic song melody tradition and the appearance of Italian Ars Nova or Trecento monophonic, two- and three-part conductus-based formes fixes and why should this missing link-like transition logical-historically be expected?
  • Why don't we find any example of hybrid musical forms in which trobador monophonic songs are being incorporated in Ars Nova or Trecento music?
  • Why were so few poems of Petrarca set to music during his own lifetime?

In the next coming years, I hope to find some answers to these and other questions related to (neo)trobadors and music.

Some relevant databases

Bibliografia Ellettronica dei Trovatori (BEdT)
Since 2014 the Bibliografia Elettronica dei Trovatori (BEdT) is operational. Under the menu tabs Testi and Fonti you will find the very useful possibility of choosing 'Tipologia Frank'. This means that the information Frank gives can already be reached online. Therefore, at the moment I am studying Valenti's interesting remark (see first column) in the hope I will be able to shed a light on the supposed necessity to make a comparative and constructive analysis of the Frank corpus, perhaps (or hopefully!) in addition to what BEdT already offers.

Nowadays 2 other useful databases are available for the research of Romance lyric poetry: and  the Repertorio Informatizzato dell'Antica Letteratura Catalana (Rialc). The first site contains a growing collection of trobador poetry. The list, if compared with the Bibliographie by Pillet & Carstens, is yet far from complete, but some poems have an English translation and some have a melody. Sources and variants are not indicated. Great absent trobadors are Aimeric de Pegulhan (PC 10) and Guiraut Riquier (PC 248), just to name a few.

Medieval Catalan poetry
The second site is a much more scientifically motivated enterprise, started at University of Naples Federico II. In short, it is a database with poems of -alleged- medieval Catalan poets including the famous Valencian Ausiás March (1397-1459). At this moment I cannot judge if this list is exhaustive, but it is certainly impressive. Criteria of selection and edition are seriously underbuilt.

Among the poets that figure in the list of 204 poets (including the anonymi) we also find the name of Joan de Castellnou, of whom it is all but sure if he was of Catalan origin - but, to be sure, most of the sources in which his works are found are.

Each poem comes with information of its source(s) and edition(s) used and as far as I have checked it, this information seems highly accurate.

In the database can be searched for words, not for rhymic or metrical schemes. (Here comes the useful 'Tipologia Frank' of BEdT in.) The results are presented in a rather simple way. The Rialc database has no search machine, which makes searching on specific terms, let alone rhymic or metric schemes complicated or - better said - impossible. Here is still a lot of work to be done.