Conon de Béthune


Conon de Béthune
(ca. 1150–ca. 1220)
   Conon de Béthune was one of the earliest French TROUVÈRES to compose vernacular verse in the style of the Occitan TROUBADOURS. He may have known the troubadour BERTRAN DE BORN—certainly his poetry shows the influence of Bertran, as three of his 10 extant lyrics follow the pattern of one of Bertran’s poems.He may have known GACE BRULÉ, as he dedicates one of his poems to Guillaume V. de Garlandce, one of Gace’s friends. It is likely Conon also knew the trouvère Le CHÂTELAIN DE COUCI, who like Conon is known to have participated in the Third Crusade (1189–93).
   Conon came from a noble family of Artois, being the fifth son of Robert V, seigneur of Bethune, and of Alix de Saint-Pol.As a young man he is reputed to have spent some time in the French court. Two of his lyrics allude to his taking part in the Third Crusade, and in one he names the poet Huon d’Oisi as his mentor. Huon died at the siege of Acre in 1191, and in one of his own poems he chastises Conon for abandoning the crusade early.
   Conon was a major figure, however, in the Fourth Crusade (1202–04). He took part in the siege of Constantinople and attended the coronation of the first Latin emperor of Constantinople, Baldwin IV, to whom Conon was related.He stayed on after the coronation to take part in political events in the city and engaged in a number of military and political negotiations under his cousin the emperor. In 1217 he became seneschal and in 1219 regent of the empire. He died about a year later in Constantinople.
   Not many of Conon’s poems survive, but there is a wide variety and consistent quality among those that do. Conon’s poetry was well known in his own day and continues to be among the most admired among the trouvères. His best known lyric,“Ahi, amors,” demonstrates vividly his knowledge of the conventions of COURTLY LOVE as well as his crusading fervor:
   Alas, Love, what hard leave
   I must take from the best lady
   a man ever loved and served.
   May God in his goodness lead me back to her
   as surely as I part from her in grief.
   Alas, what have I said? I do not part from her at all.
   If my body goes to serve our Lord,
   my heart remains all in her power.
   (Goldin 1973, 339, ll. 1–8)
   Bibliography
   ■ Goldin, Frederick, ed. and trans. Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouvères: An Anthology and a History. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973.
   ■ van der Werf, Hendrik. The Chansons of the Troubadours and Trouvères: A Study of the Melodies and Their Relation to the Poems. Utrecht: A. Oosthoek, 1972.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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