Joan Bodon: Toulouse (From Occitan)

This song has been set to music by J.M. Leclercq. Youtube recording available here.

Joan Bodon (mid 20th century)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

So, why Toulouse at night?
A long shriek through the air...
The woman with big breasts
In the long street out there.

I will cross the canal:
Clamença waits for me!...  
But I won't find the house,
The room that used to be.

Who'll speak with me of love? 
So many chipping teeth...
Colorful ladies' dresses
And all the hands that seek...

The last Count Raymond's fall...
Montmorency's last stand...
They'll think I'm nuts. My story
They will not understand. 

So why Toulouse at night?
The fountain, sponge and hair,
The woman with big breasts
On a chaise longue in there. 


Toulouse was at the end of the Middle Ages the center of what remained (within Occitania itself anyway) of Occitan literary culture, and the site of an attempted revival of the Occitan poetic tradition. 

Stanza 2: 
Clamença Isaura (fr. Clémence Isaure) was a legendary figure credited with instituting the Jòcs Florals or Floral Games, held in Toulouse. There is a fountain statue of her in Toulouse. 
The Floral Games were originally organized in 1323 by the Consistòri del Gay Saber to patronize Occitan poetry and keep the troubadour tradition alive by sponsoring poetry contests specifically in Occitan, judged according to criteria based on a prescriptive manual of good troubadour style. Though Occitan was the language of the competition, it was not only Occitanians who were allowed to compete. Occitan-writing Catalans participated as well. Even the few poets from northern France who composed in Occitan were admitted, and one, a Parisian named Pierre de Janillac, a law student studying at the university in Toulouse, mastered the local language during his time in the south well enough to win a prize for a poem composed in it in 1497 (the registry specifies that this was n'ostant qu'el fos Francès, per çò que dictec el lengatge de Tolosa "although he is French, for he composed in the language of Toulouse.") Eventually, however, French-language poets were admitted alongside Occitan. Finally toward the beginning of the 16th century only poets composing in French were officially allowed to compete. This was not for lack of would-be Occitan competitors, for the language was still in wide currency in Toulouse and in 1564 there were complaints that no suitable French-language poet could be found to enter the Games. (The actual use of the language would take much longer to erode. Much later, after Occitan had ceased being used for writing, the French tragedian Racine during his stay in Uzès complained about being unable to make himself understood in French to people who spoke "a mixture of Spanish and Italian" in 1661, having "as much need of an interpreter as would a Muscovite in Paris." James Boswell in 1765 complains about the same "detestable corruption of Italian and French." And in 1864, the last French census to collect data on linguistic competence reported that in many departments in the Pyrenees, over 90% of the local populace still spoke nothing but Occitan.)

Stanza 4: 
The last Count Raymond was Count Raymond VII of Toulouse, whose subjection to King Louis IX at the Treaty of Meaux is thought to have marked the beginning of the end of Occitan political autonomy.
Henri II de Montmorency was a nobleman and military commander executed in Toulouse as an admonitory example to the rest of the nobility, for trying to lead an armed rebellion against cardinal Richelieu. 

The Original:


Perqué Tolosa la nuèch?
Un sisclal que s’esperlonga...
La femna gròssa del pièch
Dins una carrièira longa.

Traversarai la Canal:
La Clamença que m’espèra...
Mas trobarai pas l'ostal
Ni la cambra d’un còp èra.

Qual me parlarà d’amor?
Tant de caisses que se bèrcan...
Las cotilhas de color
E totas las mans que cèrcan.

De Montmorency lo Duc...
De Ramon lo darrièr Comte...
Mas passarai per caluc:
Degun compren lo meu conte.

Perqué Tolosa la nuèch?
Lo grífol e mai l’esponga,
La femna gròssa del pièch
Sus una cadièira longa.

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