The troubadours wrote their albas before the armies of the Pope and the French had come in to destroy the culture of both Cathars and troubadours. As such, their representations of the gilos are somewhat undeveloped, not yet enriched by bitter experience of the Catholic god. After the so-called Albigensian Crusade, the few remaining troubadours found the old forms too obscurely symbolic to convey what they felt must be said clearly; the preferred form was then the sirventes, or "argument," some examples of which we shall see in relation to King Lear. As things developed, the early troubadours had had good reason to be obscure, for throughout the 13th century the Inquisition distributed its penalties on a masssive scale, including burning at the stake, life sentences to disease-ridden prisons, confiscation of property and the wearing of the yellow cross by not only the offenders but their families and succeeding generations..
Yet the dawn
song continued to grow with the times, only now in the German-speaking
lands where the Inquisition did not yet rule. The specter of the
Inquisition is particularly suggested in the songs of the Bavarian poet
Wolfram von Eschenbach (ca. 1170-1220), who also wrote Parzival, a work
permeated with troubadour values. Wolfram's dawn-songs reveal the
gilos's new fearfulness during a time of persecution. Look, for
example, at the opening lines of "An die Klawen":
I. "His claws through the sky he draws; “Sine klawen durh die wolken
with great might aloft he soars; sint eslagen, er stiget uf mit
I see him growing gray, grozer kraft;
dawnlike, as if about to dawn: tagelich, als er wil tagen,
--the day, --den tac,…
day has claws that seek one out, the claws of an eagle perhaps, or some
other raptor, the power of one who must kill to survive. The Christian
rooster has been frighteningly transformed, and the troubadour's lark
is a thing of the past. The late troubadours (Cardenal, Figueira) spoke
of the Church as a "wolf in sheep's clothing," but that image is
commonplace next to Wolfram's bird of prey.
century alchemical illustration strangely parallels this song. It is
the first illustration in a series attached to an older text, the
Aurora Consurgens, or "rising dawn." A huge blue eagle stands over a
naked couple that is partially merged from the waist down (Fig. 15).
In another Tagelied, "Den morgenblic," Wolfram uses a different image to similar effect:
The day thrust powerfully Der tac mit kraft,
through the windows al durh die venster warnen sanc
Many locks they llocked, vil sloze si beslussen;
It did not help. daz half niht
Because of this, des wart .
care became known to them in sorge kunt
.. (Hatto 1965, 450)
lovers try in vain to lock the gilos out, as though they thought he was
sending his personal police to apprehend them. The gilos's forces enter
everywhere, with a thoroughness surpassing even Jehovah in his Garden.
Yahweh is now, thanks to the Inquisition's instruments of torture, a
god who unlocks the human heart with his gaze.
(1972) points out that the image of light passing through window
panes-still a novelty at that time--was used by the painter Jan Van
Eyck in his Annunciation to represent visually God's impregnation of
Mary from a distance: The painter shows rays of light passing through a
window, into Mary's ear, and thence to her womb (Fig. 16, Paecht
Penetration of the womb becomes less mysterious when one is
reminded that light penetrates glass. Mary’s penetration is taken as a
good thing welcomed by her-although we cannot discount irony, because
Flanders had been am important center of Catharism, which may simply
have gone underground when suppressed. (It has been argued that the
symbolism in Van Eyck’s compatriot Hieronymus Bosch should be
interpreted in a Cathar way.) In Wolfram the rays are clearly an
instrument of torture and murder. Here we can feel the same tension
that forces Romeo and Juliet apart after their wedding night, as well
as their anguish at parting.
The ability of God's
gaze to pass through solid objects is also suggested in the first part
of the last stanza of "An die klawen":
Because of the glances that the day Vor den blicken die der tac
was sending through the window-panes, tet durh diu glas
for which the watchman sang his warning, und do der wahter warnen sanc,
she had to become alarmed si muose ershricken
for him who was there beside her; durh den der da bi ir was
her little breast to his she pressed. ir bruestelin an brust si dwan
The knight did not forget prowess Der riter ellens nit vergaz,
though the watchman wanted to forestall this: des wolde in wenden wahters don!
Leave-taking, near and even nearer urloup nah und naher baz
with kisses and other things, mit kusse und anders
gave them love's reward. gab in mine lo.
(Sigal 1996, 181)
knight's strength is apparent in the middle of this stanza; he is not
some effeminate courtier, but a fighter, like Romeo slaying Paris to
get to Juliet's body, or Juliet plunging the dagger into her heart. For
another illustration of this same determination to be at one with the
beloved, consider this stanza from another of Wolfram's Tagelieder :
The sad man swiftly took his leave like this: Der truric man nam urloup balde alsus:
Their smooth bright skins came nearer; ir liehten vel die slehten komen naher,
Thus the day shone in. us der tac erschein.
Crying eyes--a sweet woman's kiss! weindiu ougen, suezer frouwen kus!
Thus they could then intertwine Sus kunden si do vlehten,
their lips, their breasts, their arms, ir munde, ir bruste, ir armen,
their white thighs. ir blankiu bein.
Whichever painter were to portray it Swelh schiltaere entwurfe daz
companionably as they lay, geselleclichen als si lage
Although their joy [love] bore them many sorrows, Ir beider liebe doch vil sorgen truoc
they cultivated love without any hate. = i phlagen minne an allen haz.
(Sigal 1996, 44-45
Tagelied's images are similar to the Gnostics' light-sparks in the
darkness: the "smooth bright (liehten) skins" and "white (blankiu)
thighs," reminiscent of Juliet's "lovers can see by their own beauties"
and the images of each as light on dark. The contradictoriness of love
(evident in Romeo and Juliet):comes out here as well: the "love without
any hate" is a joy that brings sorrows.
I have not
spoken about the relationship of the watchman to the lovers in these
dawn songs, which is the subject of the intermediate stanzas. In "An
die Klawen" the Lady is the one to whom the watchman sings, and she
replies often and sharply. In answer to the watchman's warning, she
accuses him in the second stanza of disloyalty for bringing her such
You must shut up about such things, Diu solt du mir verseigen gar,
I order you by your loyalty to me, daz gebiute ich den triuwen din.
I will pay you well, as much as I dare, des lone ich dir als ich getar;
just to keep my companion here. So belibet hie der selle min.
(Sigal 1996, 38)
the knight comes out, then he will be with the watchman, and not with
the lady; this gives her grounds for accusing the watchman of
disloyalty to her. At the same time she tries to buy off the watchman
to keep him quiet--as though a bribe could make the sun rise later! She
implies that such an expenditure is risky for her, because her lord
might question where his money went. In Stanza III, the watchman is
offended at the lady's tone and accuses her of bewitching his friend:
He entrusted himself to my sacred promise er gab sich miner triuwe also
that I would bring him out again; daz ich in braehte ouch wider dan.
now it is day; it was night then, es ist nu tac: naht was ez do.
and you pressed him to your breast; mit drucke an brust
your kiss won him from me. din kus mirn an gewan.
(Hatto 1965, 452)
is not a little jealousy in the watchman's last line. Not one to let an
accusation pass, the Lady fires back her countercharge:
By your racket he and I Von dinem schalle ist er und ich
are ever startled: erschocken ie;/ so ninder
so while the morning-star has nowhere yet arisen morgensterne uf gienc uf in
over him, who came here seeking love, der her nach minne ist kommen,
nor gleamed there any light of day. noch ninder luhte tages lieht
You have often stolen him away du hast in dicke mir benomen
from my white arms, von blanken armen,
but never from my heart.” und us herzen nieht
(Both Sigal 1996, 40)
is saying that the watchman often yells that it is dawn; but then she
and the knight find out that dawn was not at all near: to get the
knight back, the watchman had taken advantage of his trust. All of this
is quite amusing, but what is there underneath? My theory is that
watchman in the Provencale alba has the role of Christ, allowing
soul--the knight--to commune with spirit--the Lady (and also, for the
lady, vice versa). He is the intermediary, the messenger, between
heaven and earth, like Hermes in Greece, or the priest in any religion.
The Cathar perfecti in particular were famous for their faithfulness
and willingness to bear hardship, staying up nights to administer the
Consolomentum rites to the dying, so as to gain them admission to the
heavenly realms. Similarly in de Bornelh's alba, the watchman calls
himself the knight's "faithful messenger," with him in "loyal
companionship," suffering in the cold on the knight's behalf, and
patiently repeating his warning when the knight makes no reply to the
Wolfram's Lady, I think, has this
priest and this Christ confused with his imitation, the false Christ
and the false priests of Catholicism. It is the Catholics who accept
bribes to exercise their alleged influence on heaven--the infamous
practice of selling indulgences. Moreover, it is again the Catholics
who have been scaring people with talk of Judgment Day being at hand,
especially given the passing of the millennium. They are the ones who
constantly sing of Judgment Day, just to scare people, calling their
opponents, such as the Holy Roman Emperor, the Antichrist, citing lines
from the Book of Revelation and implying the nearness of Judgment Day.
The Lady is rightfully indignant at such false warnings of Doomsday.
But the Cathars, and their Christ, were never known to be influenced by
money. As for Judgment Day, the Cathars simply did not speak of it;
historically, the Gnostic Christ is famous for having said, when the
disciples asked when the Kingdom of God is to come, that "the Kingdom
of the father is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it"
(Robinson 1988, 138) There is no Judgment; it is simply a matter of
seeing or not seeing what is in front of everyone already. If at some
point time should come to an end, as some Gnostic teachers seemed to
suppose, that would only be a danger for one totally in such a temporal
world, from which the Gnostic by his very way of seeing is already