Bien me deüsse targier (“I really should cease”) is a French Medieval trouvère song about the Crusades, written by French poet-composer and crusader
Conon de Béthune.
As with most troubadour music (from which it seems to draw much influence), the song has symptoms of revolutionary romanticism, which replaced the traditional idea of chivalry (fighting for God) with fighting for romance. This was a tactic of the Revolution to subvert true chivalry and militancy during the high Middle Ages. Despite its tendency to praise worldly love, the song rightly acknowledges that serving God is greater than pursuing any earthly pleasure, and it also provides an interesting socio-political context for the Crusades.
The trouvère speaks of the tension between the Catholic duty that calls him and his loving and courteous attachments. Although his heart is happy to serve God, his body resists, for he knows that in crucifying the flesh, he will find himself doubly in penance. The troubadour then speaks of those corrupt barons who joined the Crusades out of greed or self-interest. He adds that in their malice, they heap a curse on themselves, in taking advantage of a most noble cause: that of recovering the Holy Land for Christendom.
Bien me deüsse targier is interpreted here by the French medieval music ensemble Alla Francesca. (Note: there is a long introduction that presents the melody with the flute; the singing beginning at 0:52)
Listen to Bien me deüsse targier
1. Bien me deüsse targier
De chançon faire et de moz et de chanz,
Quant je me dai esloignier
De la moillor de toutes les vaillanz.
Et si en puis faire voire ventance
Que je fais plus par Dieu que nuls amanz ;
Si en sui maur endroit l'arme joianz,
Mais j'ai dou cors et pitié et pesance.
2. Ne ja pour nul desirrier
Ne remaindrai avecques ces tiranz
Qui sont croisié a loier
Par dismer clers et borjois et serjanz;
Plus en croisa covoitié que creance.
Et, quant la croiz n'en puet estre garanz,
A telx croisiéz sera Dieu mout soffranz,
Se ne s'en venge a pou de demorance.
3. On se doit bien esforcier
De Dieu servir, ja n'i soit li talanz,
En la char veincre et plaissier
Qui de pechier est adès desirranz ;
Adonc voit Dieu la double penitence.
Ha las ! se nus se doit sauver dolanz,
Donc doit estre li merites mout granz,
Car si dolanz nus ne se part de France.
4. Dahait li bers qui est de tel semblance
Con li oiseax qui conchie son ni.
Pou en i a n'ait son regne honi,
Por tant qu'il ait sor ses homes poissance.
5. Or ai je dit des barons ma semblance.
Se lor en poise de ce que je le di,
Si s'en preingnent a mon maistre d'Oisi
Qui m'a apris a chanter dès enfance.
1. I really ought to cease
Making a song with words and music,
Since I have to go far away
From the high-level ladies;
And if I may boast something,
Be it that I am doing more for God than for a lover,
But if I am glad regarding my soul,
I feel pity and sadness for my body.
2. I have absolutely no desire
To remain here with these tyrants
Who have taken the cross out of self-interest,
To tax clerics, bourgeois and military;
Greed more than faith has made them crusaders,
And when their cross will stop protecting them,
God will be very displeased with such crusaders
And may take vengeance of their behavior.
3. We must make a great effort
To serve God, even if we are not so zealous,
And to conquer and subdue our flesh,
Which is always inclined to sin;
Because God sees the double penitence.
Alas, if we don't suffer to obtain salvation,
Then, it should be by great merits,
And no one leaves France without great sorrow.
4. A curse falls on he who behaves
Like the bird that soils its own nest.
Because he curses his own land,
To have power over their own men.
5. Now I have told you barons what I think;
If you are annoyed at what I have said,
Go complain to my master of Oisy,
Who has taught me to sing since my childhood.