Bertran de Born
Youth And Age - Poem by Bertran de Born
I love to see the previous order turning,
when the old leave all their property to youth:
it's this, not buzz of bee or flowers returning,
that makes me feel that I'm alive in truth;
and if a man produces sons enough,
the chances are at least one will be tough;
and a younger loyalty in love or war
will make the heart and sword arm young once more.
A woman is old who sets no warrior yearning;
she's old, if she keeps faithful to her spouse;
old, if she uses black and sorcerous learning,
or lets more than one lover in her house.
She's old, if her hair's a mess of ragged stuff,
or if she takes a lover who is rough.
She's old, if she thinks that music is a chore,
and she's old when all her talk becomes a bore.
Women are young, whose hearts remain discerning,
whose actions show the values they espouse,
who do not look with scorn on merit's earning,
whose virtues are a light no scandals douse.
A woman is young, whose manner is not gruff,
yet gives impetuous youths a wise rebuff.
She's young, if her figure's nothing to ignore,
and she doesn't pry and listen at every door.
I call a man young who's passionate concerning
jousts and courts, considering thrift uncouth.
He's young, when he thinks that money is for burning;
when, ruined, he smiles without a trace of ruth.
He's young, when he stakes his fortune on a bluff,
and feels that no extravagance is enough.
He's young, if he is skilled in lovers' lore,
and he's young, if he judges risk what life is for.
Though a man be rich, I say that he's old, if, spurning
pillage and war, he wastes away his youth
piling up bread and beef and wine, then turning
monkish, serves eggs, as if we'd nary a tooth.
He's old, if he muffles himself in woven stuff,
and can't command a horse and ride him rough.
He's old, if he rests in peace when battles roar;
old, if he shirks the field and bars the door.
Poet Arnaut, go take this song of youth
and age to Richard, that he may feel its truth
and never wish to heap up worldly store,
since youthful daring enriches honor more.
- translated from the Provencal by Jon Corelis
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