Meg Bogin's The Women Troubadours
What is Bieiris de Romans’ speaker seeking from the woman, Maria, about whom Bieiris writes? More generally, what are female troubadours as a whole seeking from their loves, and their craft? Meg Bogin, in her The Women Troubadours, asserts that “their poems were addressed to women… to whom they vowed eternal homage and obedience. In exchange for their prostration, the troubadours expected to be ennobled, enriched, or simply made ‘better’” (Bogin, 9). Is the poetry of female troubadours less about the women being addressed and more about the troubadours themselves? By performing a close textual analysis of Bieiris de Romans’ poem to Maria, I hope to elucidate some possible answers to these questions.
The poem opens with Bieiris’ speaker addressing her subject as “Lady Maria.” Rather than merely employing the woman’s first name, or utilizing a possessive phrase such as “my love” or “my Maria,” the speaker addresses her as “lady.” This implies a certain bestowal of respect upon her subject, and is potentially also a means to convey an understanding on the speaker’s part that this Maria has not yet consented to be hers. Next, the speaker proceeds to enumerate copious qualities that she finds pleasing in Maria. She begins by praising Maria’s “merit and distinction.” By “distinction” we can safely assume that the speaker refers to a pleasing reputation that Maria has cultivated within society, and possibly also the speaker’s own opinion that Maria is able to be distinguished as superior to other women.
The term “merit,” however, is relatively ambiguous. By “merit,” the speaker could be indicating one or many qualities, including, but not limited to, virtue, achievement, and honor (“Merit”). The quality of “virtue” could suggest a monastic or spiritual inclination, yet it can also refer to a positive reputation in society. “Achievement” implies a more personal form of accomplishment, and “honor” may—like one possible connotation of virtue—refer to a sort of public praise for deeds performed or character demonstrated. Although a monastic or personal connotation is plausible, we neither have any evidence that Maria is particularly religious, nor that she has a close enough relationship with the speaker that any specific personal achievements of hers would be known. Also, considering that the word “merit” is coupled with “distinction,” we will make the claim that public honor and the enjoyment of a good reputation are what the speaker intends to signify by a meritorious quality.
In the next line, Bieiris’ speaker praises the “joy, intelligence and perfect beauty” of the lady Maria. This line appears to applaud the goodness of her spirit, mind, and body, respectively. In attributing to lady Maria a joyful spirit, an intelligent mind, and a perfectly beautiful physical appearance, is the speaker praising assets particular to this Maria, or is Bieiris merely conforming to a...