. Double Ballade of a Crusader by Conon de Béthune (c.1155–1219) translate by Margaret Coats It would be well to fight this zeal For making songs and penning poetry, Since I should conquer faults I feel, Leave her, best mistress of all gallantry (Through whom I ought to rectify my way), And do for God what He has done for me With joy that spurs my soul in chivalry, Although my body indolent would stay. Must I be forced to the ordeal Of serving God and Christianity, When flesh would lust, deceive, and steal? Let me restrain those urges bodily And thereby double penitence display, For Christian sufferers need cavalry Prepared to part from France immediately; My sorrows here should earn that better fray. I will not wait, but take up steel And pass beyond these tyrants’ treachery, Who tax clerks, towns, and ranks genteel, But never cross the heathen lands or sea; For greed, and not through faith, the Cross wear they Upon their breasts, a lying livery By which they amplify Christ’s agony— Unless I bear my cross without delay. Crusading frauds, hear me reveal How valueless your shameful subsidy! What will you do, and where appeal When you have made yourselves God’s enemy, While all the saints their trembling tributes pay Before His high omniscient majesty? Despair will be the sinner steward’s fee, Should pity not His power overlay. God has by now, or soon will seal These haughty barons’ fate for larceny; Their vileness they cannot conceal, And worst of all is its contumacy. Defilement seize these magnates I portray! Like birds who soil their nestlings’ nursery They strive, but cannot taint with obloquy Brave men who serve the King from whom they stray. Fortune, to whom these barons kneel, Has never granted any clemency; Forsake, therefore, her hapless wheel To serve the good God voluntarily. With Him is no bad luck or chance dismay, But through good works one merits victory; It pleases Him to show His charity To all the faithful who pursue His way. About the barons I have had my say; Let them, if they would chide discourtesy, Complain against my master, Hugues d’Oisy, Who taught me verse when we were boys at play. By God, companions, in my mind’s array, There never was a finer friend than he, And no one in the world meant more to me Except Gilon, whose worth grows day by day. . Note on persons: Conon de Béthune (c.1155–1219), younger son of a noble family in the north of France, participated in the Third and Fourth Crusades. He was responsible for crusader forces receiving adequate supplies, and thus had firsthand knowledge of dishonesty in the collection of funds and materiel at home. Only ten of his poems survive. Hugues III d’Oisy (1145–1189) was a cousin of Conon de Béthune, and had a greater reputation as a poet, but only two works by him survive. Gilon (nickname for Giles) has not been identified. Note on lyric form: The poem is a unique double ballade with double envoi. A ballade most often has three stanzas, each containing the same number of lines and ending with a refrain. A half-stanza envoi is optional. In the double ballade of six stanzas, neither refrain nor envoi is required. In this poem of rhyme scheme ababcbbc, lines with the “a” rhyme sound are octosyllabic (English tetrameter), while those with “b” and “c” rhyme sounds are decasyllabic (English pentameter). . Original French Bien me deüsse targier de chançon faire et de mos et des chans, quant me convient eslongier de la millor de totes les vaillans; si em puis bien faire voire vantance ke je fas plus por Dieu ke nus amans, si en sui mout endroit l’ame joians, mais del cors ai et pitié et pesance. On se doit bien efforchier de Dieu servir, ja n’i soit li talans, et la char vaintre et plaissier, ki adés est de pechier desirans adont voit Dieus la doble penitance. Hé las, se nus se doit sauver dolans dont doit par droit ma merite estre grans, car plus dolans ne se part nus de France. Ne ja por nul desirier ne remanrai chi avoc ces tirans, ki sont croisiet a loier pour dismer clers et borgois et serjans, plus en croisa convoties ke creance, et quant la crois n’en puet estre garans, a teus croisiés sera Dieus mout soffrans se ne s’en venge a peu de demorance. Vous ki dismés les croisiés, ne despendé mie l’avoir ensi anemi Dieu en series. Dieus! ke porront faire si anemi, quand tot li saint trembleront de dotance devant Celui ki onques ne menti. Adont seront pecheor mal bailli se sa pities ne cuevre sa poissance. Li ques s’en est ja vangiés des haus barons, qui or li sont faillit. C’or les eüst anpiriés qui sont plus vil que onques mais ne vi! De hait li bers qui est de tel sanblance con li oixel qui conchïet son nit! Po en i a n’ait son renne honi, por tant qu’il ait sor ses homes possance. Qui ses barons empiriés sert san eür, ja n’ara tant servi k’il lor em prenge pitiés; pour cou fait boin Dieu servir, ke je di qu’en lui servir n’a eür ne kaance, mais ki mieus sert, et mieus li est meri. Pleüst a Dieu k’Amours fesist ausi ensvers tos ceaus qui ens li ont fiance. Or vos ai dit des barons la sanblance; si lor an poise de ceu que jou ai di, si s’an praignent a mon mastre d’Oissi, qui m’at apris a chanter tres m’enfance. Par Deu, compains, adés ai ramambrance c’onques aüst ami, ne tous li mons ne vadroit riens sans li, magrei Gilon, adés croist sa vaillance. . Note on the text: French editions of the poem may switch the order of the third and fourth stanzas. This represents variance in surviving manuscripts, probably arising from a scribal error. I prefer the order above because the first three stanzas contain all references to the speaker’s reluctance to go on crusade, and the remaining three concern only the barons. As well, some editions ignore the second envoi, or relegate it to a footnote. It is problematic because its second line lacks four syllables, and makes no sense unless an editor improvises something. The words in square brackets are my guess at what might belong there. In relation to other proposed emendations, they add very little to the meaning of the line and stanza. . . Margaret Coats lives in California. She holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University. She has retired from a career of teaching literature, languages, and writing that included considerable work in homeschooling for her own family and others.