Lou samedi a soir fat la semainne,

This is an anonymous French poem, which looks like it may be from the mid to late medieval era, when knights and nobles would ravish peasant girls in the villages, despite their reputation for chivalry. The tale here is made more poignant by the circumstance that twin sisters in the village, Gaiete and Oriour, end up separated by the arrival of the noble young knight, Gerairs.

Like many poems of this period, it is a ballad which tells a story, capturing the readers attention and admiration with narrative as well as poetic qualities. The three line stanzas carry forward the narrative momentum, while the repeated two-line refrain binds the ballad together and provides a moral message.

 

Gaiete et Oriour

Lou samedi a soir fat la semainne,
Gaiete et Oriour, serors germainnes,
Main et main vont bagnier a la fontainne.
Vante l’ore et li rainme crollent:
Ki s’antraimment soweif dorment.

L’anfes Gerairs revient de la cuitainne,
S’ait chosit Gaiete sor la fontainne,
Autre ses bras l’ait pris, soueif l’a strainte.
Vante l’ore et li rainme crollent:
Ki s’antraimment soweit dorment.

«Quant avras, Orriour, de l’ague prise,
Reva toi an arriere, bien seis la ville;
Je remainra Gerairt, ke bien me priset».
Vante l’ore et li rainme crollent:
Ki s’antraimment soweit dorment.

Or s’an vat Oriour, stinte et marrie;
Des euls s’an vat plorant, de cuer sospire,
Cant Gaie sa seror n’anmoinnet mie.
Vante l’ore et li rainme crollent :
Ki s’antraimment soweit dorment.

«Laise, fait Oriour, com mar fui nee!
J’ai laxier ma serour an la vallee.
L’anfes Gerairs l’anmoine an sa contree»
Vante l’ore et li rainme crollent :
Ki s’antraimment soweit dorment.

L’anfes Gerais at Gaie s’an sont torniet
Lor droit chemin ont pris vers sa citeit :
Tantost com il i vint, l’ait espouseit.
Vante l’ore et li rainme crollent:
Ki s’antraimment soweit dorment.

 

 
So it is a Saturday evening at the end of the week and the twin sisters, Gaiete and Oriour, go to the spring to bathe, presumably after a long hard day of village chores. But then the knight Gerairs arrives from jousting practice, sees the girls bathing, chooses Gaiete and takes her in his arms. Gaiete tells Oriour to return to the village when she has finished bating, since she knows she will not escape from Gerair’s arms. Oriour leaves, crying and sighing, for she knows she will not see her sister again. At the village, Oriour cries out that she wishes she had never been born, as she has left her sister alone with Gerair who will take Gaiete back to his own country. In the final stanza, Gerair and Gaiete leave for the city, and straight away Gerair marries her – I think this is a euphemism for has his way with her, rather than providing an unlikely romantic happy ending.

The refrain, repeated at the end of every verse, goes something like this, The wind will blow and the branches will break, those who love each other would like to sleep – it is the sisters Gaiete and Oriour who love each other and they would have been better off sleeping rather than going to both at the spring.

The Poetry Dude

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