(fl. 1135–1148)
   Cercamon was one of the early TROUBADOUR poets. Tradition says he was born in Gascony, like his friend and fellow troubadour MARCABRU. His VIDA says that Cercamon was Marcabru’s teacher, but the scholarly consensus today is that more likely Cercamon learned from Marcabru. At the very least, his poems seem to owe a great deal to Marcabru’s, as they do also to those of William IX, the first troubadour. From Guillaume, Cercamon seems to have learned his smooth and simple technique—his songs are examples of the TROBAR LEU style of troubadour poetry. Like Marcabru, Cercamon focuses on the theme of true love, which he distinguishes from adulterous love.
   We have no specific knowledge of Cercamon’s life. His pseudonym, the only name by which he is known, means “vagabond” in Provençal, suggesting he spent some of his life wandering. But William X of Aquitaine, son and heir of the first troubadour, was briefly his patron, as the lament he wrote on William’s death suggests. Cercamon also alludes in one poem to the marriage of the 15-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine, his patron’s daughter, to the future Louis VII of France in 1137. In another poem Cercamon seems to allude to Eleanor’s scandalous behavior with her uncle Raymond of Antioch in 1148, during the Second Crusade.
   Cercamon celebrates true love, and condemns the kind of behavior that Eleanor was accused of. For him love was pure, and promiscuity represented the corruption of love. The true lover should serve his beloved and earn her attention through years of service:
   I start, I burn, I tremble, all over,
   sleeping and waking, for love of her.
   I am so afraid of dying,
   I dare not think of asking her;
   however, I shall serve her two years or three,
   and then, maybe, she will know the truth.
   (Goldin 1973, 97, ll. 25–30)
   Seven of Cercamon’s songs survive.An eighth is of questionable authorship. According to his vida, he also wrote “pastorals,” but if this is true none are extant. The pastoral form did ultimately become popular in the south of France, as did Cercamon’s depictions of the trembling, humble lover.
   ■ Goldin, Frederick, ed. and trans. Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouvères: An Anthology and a History. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1973.
   ■ Wolf, George, and Roy Rosenstein, ed. and trans. Poetry of Cercamon and Jaufre Rudel. New York: Garland, 1983.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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