The Pulitzer-Prize winning poet trains his lyrical eye on the 12th-century Provencal troubadours in the context of his own experiences as a longtime visitor to Southwest France and a translator of the ancient tongue.
WS Merwin, one of the great contemporary English-language poets, turns to prose here in a brilliantly evocative recreation of a distant past - as well as an exquisite rendering of his own romance with an abandoned farmhouse in the magical countryside of Southwest France.
This book illuminates the origins of the famous 12-century Provencal troubadours, beginning with the great Bernart de Ventadorn whose work Merwin first encountered as a young translator of the archaic language known as Old Occitan. The timeless beauty of the troubadours' pastoral songs and narrative poems has enabled them to survive for 900 years, far outlasting the language from which they sprang.
As he reveals the lyrical pleasures in Southwest France's medieval courts, Merwin also acquaints readers with the ruins of the chateau of Ventadorn, Bernart's home, as well as the elegantly careworn farmhouse that the poet himself has owned for decades.
Merwin brings a sense of historical continuity to his narrative as he writes of how the warm enchantments that distinguish the farmhouse, the local patois, and the area's rural traditions are in many respects the direct progeny of the troubadours' storied culture and language of old.