L’autrier m’iera levaz is a medieval song that dates back to the 12th century. Although a well-known song which has survived to this day, the original poet and author of this song is unknown.
The song was composed in France at a time when the troubadour culture from Provencal in southern France had already reached northern France.
The fact that this song is written in medieval French language affirms that it was written somewhere in northern France. The song is one of the many pastourelles which have survived from the medieval period.
Although not a very accomplished piece of poetry or music, the song is significant in that it is one of the examples of the poetry outside of mainstream court circles.
L’autrier m’iera levaz Style
The L’autrier m’iera levaz song is written as a pastourelle. A pastourelle was a popular type of song which originated in early 12th century. Historically, the form is credited to the troubadours who invented and popularised it. The pastourelle typically dealt with the love of a knight towards a woman of common origins, nearly always a shepherdess. At one hand, poems about courtly love were typically refined and dealt with finer aspects of love.
On the other hand, since a pastourelle involved the knight’s love for a shepherdess, medieval poets would embellish it with cruder aspects of love, often involving deceit and force on the part of the knight.
Also in contrast to the slow-moving, elegant and long poems of court love, the pastourelles were usually shorter, lacking poetic elegance. Although not generally accepted in court circles, the pastourelles held a certain attraction for the knights since it dealt with the forbidden love between a knight and a woman of common origins.
L’autrier m’iera levaz Song
The song itself is about a knight who professes love to a shepherdess named Ermenjon. Since the title of ‘lady’ was typically reserved for noblewomen during the medieval period, the knight uses ‘Sister’ to address Ermenjon, a common way of addressing in medieval ages. The knights tries to win the affections of Ermenjon, often with insincere expressions.
However, Ermenjon rebuffs all his advances since she already had a lover who is a shepherd. She also tells the knight of her lover and says that she fears he would avenge the knight’s advances. The knights misinterprets it to mean that Ermenjon is afraid of the shepherd. Towards the end of the poem, the knight forces himself upon Ermenjon who is apparently pleased with the development and thanks the knight for it.
Criticism of L’autrier m’iera levaz Song
Although the pastourelle was a popular type of song in the medieval period, it often dealt with themes which would be called sexual harassment today. In many cases, the knight professed his love towards a shepherdess but was rebuffed. In some cases such as the L’autrier m’iera levaz song, the knight forced himself upon the shepherdess without her consent. Both types of pastourelle songs existed in the medieval period and the form itself was considered a cruder form of poetry.