Baudri, Abbot of Bourgueil Adelae Comitissae

Baudri sends his poem to look at the royal chamber and to please the illustrious countess, to greet her saying “hail countess, worthy rather of the name of queen.” She is the daughter of a king who was born a count but conquered the invincible Angles, who beat down the Normans with iron when they tried to interfere with his paternal rights and united the two shores of the channel. His generosity surpassed emperors’ but his wealth was immeasurable. Her mother too descends from a powerful and noble family of Flanders. The queen adorned the king, the king the queen. And their daughter is no less in virtue than her father, though she does not bear arms, which she would do if custom did not inhibit it, but she surpasses her father in her appreciation of poetry and her knowledge of books. She rewards the merits of poets, she has critical judgment and she has her own store of songs/poems to dictate. So she will hear you [his poem] and reward you well. I would not have dared to write to her, but she requested it. My great matter/subject ennobles my song, not my song the matter. Baudri praises her upright morals, her chastity, her offspring and love for her husband, her beauty, dignity and grace. She has the gifts to attract suitors, but not the desire. He has seen her, but was unable to look at her; she has the brilliance of a goddess, the power of a Gorgon or a Circe. He was also overwhelmed by her chamber, which he now describes in detail. The walls are covered with tapestries, woven according to her design, and all seem alive: on one wall, creation, the fall and fratricide, the flood with fish on mountain tops and lions in the sea; sacred history from Noah through Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, the glory of Moses, and David to Solomon on a second wall; the Greek gods and myths, Phaethon, Ganymede, Cadmus, Pyramis and Thisbe, Hermaphroditus, Orpheus, Troy, and Roman kings on a third; around her bed the conquest of England, William’s claims to the throne as Edward’s chosen successor, the comet, the Norman council and preparations, the fleet, the battle of Hastings with the feigned flight of the Normans and the real one of the English, and the death of Harold. On the ceiling, the sky with its constellations, the signs of the zodiac, the stars and planets described in detail. On the floor, a map of the world with its seas, rivers, and mountains, named along with their creatures, and the cities on the land masses of Asia, Europe, and Africa. The bed is decorated with three groups of statues, of Philosophy and the liberal arts, the quadrivium (music, arithmetic, astronomy, geometry) at the head of the bed, the trivium (rhetoric, dialectic, and grammar) at the foot. The third group represents medicine, with Galen and Hippocrates, the humors and physical characteristics, herbs and unguents.

By the sweat of my brow, Adela, I have trifled to describe in verse a beautiful chamber. Truly, you should read our little fable for what it is worth, by weighing what such a fable is made of. While my work grew, while the parchment was being filled with verses, my book swelled with urbane chatter. Now, take care so that our vigilant studies neither perish nor be rendered sterile by the one I labored for. Behold how my pages created a chamber for you and what care was taken to praise you. Surely such a chamber is fitting for such a countess and I described what would be most appropriate more than what existed. Behold, here comes my parchment in plain view of the proud and arrogant and it will say to you “Greetings to a special flower.” My parchment arrives naked because it is the parchment of a naked poet; give the naked poet a cope and if it pleases you, a tunic. Fortunate countess, remember your poet so that you reward me more than my studied labors merit. Adela, look at me for just a moment with your serene brow; a simple glance would be sufficient. And if the envy of others has presumed anything against me, you will be my rampart and my witness. Do not be persuaded to be ungrateful to my labors but do what will enhance your praise and honor. I have sent someone to present and recite our little book; if only you would give the command, I would come myself.

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