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Bernart de Ventadour (Ventadorn) (c.1125 - c.1180)

When the cool breeze blows hither
From the land where you dwell
Methinks I do feel
A wind from Paradise.

One of the most famous troubadours in France, who served Eleanor of Aquitaine for a time. Has a place in music history also because a large number of his surviving works had musical notation. Thanks to his autobiography we know a little about him, although of course it is sometimes hard to interpret what he meant, or to make different sources agree on what actually happened.

Bernart's father was a servant at the castle of Ventadour in the province of Limousin. Ventadour was for nearly a century a cultural centre in Provence, where troubadours gathered to create and compare their works. The Viscount there, Eble II, was a troubadour himself and very interested in music and art, and he gave Bernart lessons in music and Latin. Soon enough Bernart outperformed him, with verses addressed to the viscount's wife, Agnes de Montluçon, who he had an affair with. Not after long they were discovered by the viscount who, naturally, sent Bernart away and imprisoned his young wife.

After being sent away from Ventadour, Bernart ended up at the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the granddaughter of the first troubadour, William IX of Poitiers. She had been divorced from Louis VII, king of France, in 1152, and soon married Henry Plantagenet, who would become king of England in 1154. Bernart may have followed Eleanor over to the English court where she continued supporting and encouraging the troubadours. He wrote a great deal of love songs to her, as was proper for a troubadour. He lived for a while in Toulouse, at the court of Raimon V, before ending his days in the abbey of Dalon, in his native province of Limousin.

Of his 41 surviving cansos (love songs), 18 have musical notation. Many of his songs became well known all over Europe, translated into the local languages. In some of his works, the influence from Gregorian chants can be seen. Love was the traditional subject for the troubadours, and it soon became rather exhausted, but Bernart still manages to maintain a freshness and sincerity to his songs while mastering the complex stanza form.

Quant vey la lauzeta mover
De joi sas alas contral rai,
que s'oblida e·s laissa cazer
per la doussor qu'al cor li vai,
ai! tan grans enveia m'en ve
de cui qu'eu veya jauzion!
meravilhas ai, quar desse
lo cor de dezirier no·m fon.
When I see the lark flutter
with joy towards the sun,
and forget himself and sing
for the sweetness that comes to his heart;
alas, such envy comes upon me
of all that I see rejoicing,
I wonder that my heart
does not melt forthwith with desire.

Info found at:
http://www.gutenberg.net/1/2/4/5/12456/12456-h/12456-h.htm (where also the quote at the end comes from)
The quote at the top (by Bernart de Ventadour) was found at

The dates given here are rather approximate, as different sources give different years. For example, one source had Bernart born at 1145 while his patron and teacher Eble II, whose wife Bernart had an affair with, was to have died in 1147. Bernart's year of birth has been given as anything from 1125 to 1145, and his death 1180 to 1195 or even later, in the 1200s. It is also a bit unclear for example whether it was Eble II or his son, Eble III, that was Bernart's patron.

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