Hugues de Berzé, poet and crusader

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Berzé-le-Chatel castle Castle Hugues de Berzé Crusades

Do you remember? We already met a troubadour in the castle of Hautefort: Bertran de Born. Now, here’s his Burgundian fellow, less virulent, bur more melancholic… His name? Hugues de Berzé, knight crusader in the 12th c. who made the 4th and the 5th Crusade. But he was also a poet!

He wrote the Bible au seigneur de Berzil (“Lord of Berzé’s Bible”) in Constantinople, which denounced the religious shortcomings and the men’s decadence of his time. And yet, Hugues wasn’t “nor a scholar nor a well-read man”, but he went to war, travelled a lot, loved ladies, in short, he lived his life and built up his own experience:

Cil qui plus voit, plus doit savoir Quiconque a beaucoup vu, Doit avoir beaucoup retenu.

(“The man who see lots of things must know lots of things. The one who saw lots of things had to learn a lot.”) He wrote that sentence!

He made the Crusade, entered in Constantinople with king Beaudoin, saw every changes (4 emperors deposed and killed within 2 years), tasted thousand wealth:

Et quand nous eûmes bientôt mis Sous nos pieds tous nos ennemis, Et nous fûmes de pauvreté Hors, plongés en la richesse, Aux émeraudes, aux rubis, Et aux pourpres et aux samis, Et aux terres et aux jardins, Et aux beaux palais marberins, Alors nous mimes Dieu en oubli.

(“And we defeated all our enemies, we became suddenly rich, with emeralds, rubies, gorgeous marble palaces… so we put God aside.”)

Once he came back in Burgundy, Hugues thought about his life again: he did “lots of crazy things”. He wrote love songs, but also songs about the Crusades and about knights. Knights who weren’t perfect!

No, some wild beasts, with dissolute customs, beasts who even held a ransom from poor people! Geoffroy spared no one, he bitterly noted things as they were: “Some of us are usurer, some robber or murderer, some are full of lechery or excessiveness”.