A Tenson is a poetic form used in some troubadour poetry. This form encourages interaction – commonly an exchange of verses between two or more different writers. This form allows for a lively debate, common topics might be discussions of love, asking & receiving advice, critiquing another writer’s work.

In “VIDA,” I used a model of a tenson between Rosin, and a vaguely named Domna H. I followed the rhyme scheme and meter from the original Occitan poem to write a new poem for my fictional characters in VIDA’s storyline. Here are just the first 2 stanzas of the original Occitan (followed by English translation):

Domna H.
Rosin, digatz m’ades de cors
cals fetz meills, car etz conoissens:
una domna coind’e valens
que ieu sai, a dos amadors,
e vol qu’usquecs jur e pliva
enans vuoill’ ab si colgar
que plus mas tener e baisar
no.lh faran; e l’uns s’abriva
el faig, que sagramen no.lh te,
l’autres no. ausa far per re.

Domna, d’aitan sobret follors
cel que fon desobediens
ves sidons, que non es parvens
qu’amans, pois lo destreing amors,
dej’ ab voluntat forciva
los ditz de sa domna passar;
per qu’ieu dig que senes cobrar
deu perdre la joj’ autiva
de sidons cel qui frais la fe,
e l’autres deu trobar merce.

Rosin, tell me from the heart
which one did best, for you’re an expert.
I know a lady who’s both charming
and distinguished, who has two lovers.
And she wants each of them to swear
and pledge, before she’ll let him near,
that he’s not planning to do more
than hug or kiss her; one immediately
does it, for oaths are meaningless to him;
the other doesn’t dare.

Lady, the one who disobeyed
his lady was a fool,
for when a man is in love’s grip
it’s wrong for him to knowingly
ignore his lady’s orders.
Thus in all honesty I’d say
the one who broke his lady’s faith
should lose her solemn joy:
the other one deserves her grace.


Here now, are the first 2 stanzas of my poetic exchange between Jaufre di Fiorenza and Collette de la Tor – you should be able to trace the similarities in style:

Tenso: exchange between Jaufre and Collette
Domna, you are as fair as day / that hides itself under clouds
Sadness drapes its lonely shrouds / and obscures your gentle ways.
But there are those who suffer yet / when sunlight hides its loving rays;
and she whom all the world obeys, / discreet and loyal friends forgets.
I would disperse the clouds awhile, / if my domna will reconcile.

Amics, the clouds have lingered long / in this, the winter of my heart.
I see no man who stands apart, / who might divert me with his song.
For singing is a springtime joy, / when mirth and marriage sprout anew
And loveless nights alone, are few – / these delights will the songs employ.
If you will see the sun again, / Await the season’s turn, my friend.