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The Rhyme Maker
picture of medieval scribe
Unknown Medieval Poet
c. 12th Century

Themes:  Wine, Women, and Song
                       Poetry and Poets

Other English translations:
The Confession Of Golias (Symonds)

“The Archpoet” or “Golias” is the name given to a medieval poet who most agree is the author of four (4) poems found in the archives of a monastery in Germany.  This poet was a young man who had a sporadic association with the archbishop of his area, as he fell in and out of favor (and the patronage) of this power broker of the Middle Ages.  In this poem, he is defending himself against charges of impropriety that have been leveled against him.  This “confession” is considered to be one of the earliest defenses of the “earthly pleasures of life” (wine, women, and song) in defiance of the traditional admonitions of the Church.

1. Venus:  goddess of love and beauty

2. Hippolytus, according to Greek mythology, was a good-looking young man who could not be tempted by the sensual allure of a lovely woman.

3. Pavia is a town and a province in Northern Italy, the location of one of the first universities.  Like modern college towns, Pavia was known as a center of decadence as well as learning.

4. Requiem aeternam. : “eternal rest”

5. Deus sit propitius/Huic potatori: “God is merciful / drink to this”

6. Apollo:  god of poetry and song
- S. H. Bass  

more Wine Poems of Medieval Europe at
A Sequence In Praise Of Wine (Symonds)
Come, sweetheart, come
Dancing Girl of Syria
The Abbot Adam of Angers
The standing corn is green
by Sedulius Scottus      

There's No Lust Like To Poetry

Poems with multiple translations:
Bacchic Frenzy
To you, consummate drinkers

Medieval Latin Lyrics (1928)
by Helen Waddell

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The Confession of The Archpoet
Unknown Medieval Poet (c. 12th Century)
translated by Helen Waddell (1889-1965), English scholar/poet

Seething over inwardly
With fierce indignation,
In my bitterness of soul,
Hear my declaration.
I am of one element,
Levity my matter,
Like enough a withered leaf
For the winds to scatter.

Since it is the property
Of the sapient
To sit firm upon a rock,
It is evident
That I am a fool, since I
Am a flowing river,
Never under the same sky,
Transient for ever.

Hither, thither, masterless
Ship upon the sea,
Wandering through the ways of air,
Go the birds like me.
Bound am I by ne'er a bond,
Prisoner to no key,
Questing go I for my kind,
Find depravity.

Never yet could I endure
Soberness and sadness,
Jests I love and sweeter than
Honey find I gladness.
Whatsoever Venus bids 1
Is a joy excelling,
Never in an evil heart
Did she make her dwelling.

Down the broad way do I go,
Young and unregretting,
"Wrap me in my vices up,
Virtue all forgetting,
Greedier for all delight
Than heaven to enter in :
Since the soul in me is dead,
Better save the skin.

Pardon, pray you, good my lord,
Master of discretion,
But this death I die is sweet,
Most delicious poison.
Wounded to the quick am I
By a young girl's beauty :
She's beyond my touching? Well,
Can't the mind do duty?

Hard beyond all hardness, this
Mastering of Nature :
Who shall say his heart is clean,
Near so fair a creature?
Young are we, so hard a law,
How should we obey it?
And our bodies, they are young,
Shall they have no say in't?

Sit you down amid the fire,
Will the fire not burn you?
To Pavia come, will you
Just as chaste return you?
Pavia, where Beauty draws
Youth with finger-tips,
Youth entangled in her eyes,
Ravished with her lips.

Let you bring Hippolytus, 2
In Pavia dine him,
Never more Hippolytus 3
Will the morning find him.
In Pavia not a road
But leads to venery,
Nor among its crowding towers
One to chastity.

Yet a second charge they bring:
I'm for ever gaming.
Yea, the dice hath many a time
Stripped me to my shaming.
What an if the body's cold,
If the mind is burning,
On the anvil hammering,
Rhymes and verses turning?

Look again upon your list.
Is the tavern on it?
Yea, and never have I scorned,
Never shall I scorn it,
Till the holy angels come,
And my eyes discern them,
Singing for the dying soul,
Requiem aeternam.

For on this my heart is set :
When the hour is nigh me,
Let me in the tavern die,
With a tankard by me,
While the angels looking down
Joyously sing o'er me,
Deus sit propitius
Huic potatori. 5

'Tis the fire that's in the cup
Kindles the soul's torches,
'Tis the heart that drenched in wine
Flies to heaven's porches.
Sweeter tastes the wine to me
In a tavern tankard
Than the watered stuff my Lord
Bishop hath decanted.

Let them fast and water drink,
All the poets' chorus,
Fly the market and the crowd
Racketing uproarious:
Sit in quiet spots and think,
Shun the tavern's portal,
Write, and never having lived,
Die to be immortal.

Never hath the spirit of
Poetry descended,
Till with food and drink my lean
Belly was distended,
But when Bacchus lords it in
My cerebral story,
Comes Apollo with a rush, 6
Fills me with his glory.

Unto every man his gift.
Mine was not for fasting.
Never could I find a rhyme
With my stomach wasting.
As the wine is, so the verse :
'Tis a better chorus
When the landlord hath a good
Vintage set before us.

Good my lord, the case is heard,
I myself betray me,
And affirm myself to be
All my fellows say me.
See, they in thy presence are:
Let whoe'er hath known
His own heart and found it clean,
Cast at me the stone.

from Medieval Latin Lyrics (1928)

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