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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Troubadour
By Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi (1773–1842)
 
From ‘Literature of the South of Europe’: Translation of Thomas Roscoe

ON the most solemn occasions, in the disputes for glory, in the games called Tensons, when the Troubadours combated in verse before illustrious princes, or before the Courts of Love, they were called upon to discuss questions of the most scrupulous delicacy and the most disinterested gallantry. We find them inquiring, successively, by what qualities a lover may render himself most worthy of his mistress; how a knight may excel all his rivals; and whether it be a greater grief to lose a lover by death or by infidelity. It is in these Tensons that bravery becomes disinterested, and that love is exhibited pure, delicate, and tender; that homage to woman becomes a species of worship, and that a respect for truth is an article in the creed of honor. These elevated maxims and these delicate sentiments were mingled, it is true, with a great spirit of refining. If an example was wanted, the most extravagant comparisons were employed. Antitheses, and plays upon words, supplied the place of proofs. Not unfrequently,—as must be the case with those who aim at constructing a system of morals by the aid of talent alone, and who do not found it on experience,—the most pernicious sentiments, and principles entirely incompatible with the good order of society and the observation of other duties, were ranked amongst the laws of gallantry. It is, however, very creditable to the Provençal poetry, that it displays a veneration for the beauties of chivalry; and that it has preserved, amidst all the vices of the age, a respect for honor and a love of high feeling.  1
  This delicacy of sentiment among the Troubadours, and this mysticism of love, have a more intimate connection with the poetry of the Arabians and the manners of the East than we should suspect when we remember the ferocious jealousy of the Mussulmans, and the cruel consequences of their system of polygamy. Amongst the Mussulmans, woman is a divinity as well as a slave, and the seraglio is at the same time a temple and a prison. The passion of love displays itself amongst the people of the South with a more lively ardor and a greater impetuosity than in the nations of Europe. The Mussulman does not suffer any of the cares or the pains or the sufferings of life to approach his wife. He bears these alone. His harem is consecrated to luxury, to art, and to pleasure. Flowers and incense, music and dancing, perpetually surround his idol, who is debarred from every laborious employment. The songs in which he celebrates his love breathe the same spirit of adoration and of worship which we find in the poets of chivalry; and the most beautiful of the Persian ghazèles, and the Arabian cassides, seem to be translations of the verses or songs of the Provençals.  2
  We must not judge of the manners of the Mussulmans by those of the Turks of our day. Of all the people who have followed the law of the Koran, the latter are the most gloomy and jealous. The Arabians, while they passionately loved their mistresses, suffered them to enjoy more liberty; and of all the countries under the Arabian yoke, Spain was that in which their manners partook most largely of the gallantry and chivalry of the Europeans. It was this country also which produced the most powerful effects on the cultivation of the intellect, in the south of Christian Europe.  3
 
 
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