Meogo, Pero

Meogo, Pero
(Pero Moogo, Peter the Monk)
(fl. 1250)
   Beyond his own verses, we know nothing certain about Pero Meogo, not even the meaning of his surname. Derived from the Latin monachu, it appears to imply that Pero was, in fact, a monk, though it is apparent that at least at the time he wrote his extant poetry, he was a Galician jogral (the equivalent of a JONGLEUR). He is known mainly for his nine CANTIGAS DE AMIGO, all of which concern a girl, her lover, and the girl’s mother, and nearly all of which take place in a setting involving a fountain and deer. Scholars have traced the association of the deer with the fountain to imagery in the Old Testament, and for that reason speculation has arisen that Pero was a converted Jew—though his familiarity with the Scriptures might be explained just as well if he were, indeed, a monk. The nine lyrics, taken together, can be read as forming a linked narrative in which the girl keeps trying to meet her lover at the fountain, the mother tries to prevent it, and the lover may or may not be able to make the tryst. Praised for their attention to detail, the poems often suggest a symbolic level behind the simple narrative. The stag seems clearly a symbol of the lover himself, in particular his male sexuality,while the fountain seems a symbol of fertility, or perhaps of female sexuality. The stag is wounded in one poem, paralleling the wound of love that the lover may be feeling. In another poem the stag muddles the water in the fountain, perhaps symbolically suggesting a sexual encounter. In another the daughter returns home with a torn dress—possibly suggesting a loss of innocence or virginity. The mother’s disapproval, it may go without saying, implies, as well, the social norms that the girl may be violating. A brief look at a few verses from one of these lyrics may suffice to give a sense of Pero’s style. Frede Jensen points out that the lyric Levou-s’ a louçana (The beautiful girl arose) is, in fact, an alvorada, a subgenre popular in Iberian poetry related to the Provençal ALBA, but rather than portray the sorrowful parting of lovers at dawn, it is instead a dawn song in which a joyous meeting of lovers is anticipated:
   The beautiful girl arose, the fair girl arose:
   She goes to wash her hair in the cold fountain.
   So joyously in love, in love so joyously.
   The fair girl arose, the beautiful girl arose:
   She goes to wash her hair in the fountain so cold.
   So joyously in love, in love so joyously.
   (Jensen 1992, 50.1, ll. 1–6)
   Noteworthy in this poem, as well, is the use of parallelism, both within each line and between the two stanzas, as the same idea is presented in a parallel manner to give it a slightly different emphasis each time. Seven of Pero’s nine extant poems make use of this kind of parallelism. Such “parallelistic” elements, like the cantiga de amigo genre in general, suggest the influence of a popular, indigenous tradition rivaling the pervasive influence of the Provençal TROUBADOURS in late medieval Portuguese poetry.
   ■ Bell, Aubrey. “The Hill Songs of Pero Meogo,” MLR 17 (1922): 258–262.
   ■ Flores, Angel, ed. An Anthology of Medieval Lyrics. New York:Modern Library, 1962.
   ■ Jensen, Frede, ed. and trans. Medieval Galician-Portuguese Poetry: An Anthology. Garland Library of Medieval Literature, 87.New York: Garland, 1992.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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