THE LADIES AGNES AND ARSEN AND WILLIAM IX’S “COMPANHO, FARAI UN VERS [QU’ER] COVINEN”
Forum for Modern Language Studies, Vol.24:2 (1988)
A glance at the bibliography relating to the twenty-seven lines of William IX’s “Companho, farai un vers [qu’er] covinen”‘ and the troubadour’s two “mounts”, the ladies Agnes and Arsen, might seem to suggest that this well- known song has already been interpreted to the limits of human ingenuity. Leo Pollmann, without discounting the possibility of a significant historical background to the lyric,’ has had two attempts at delineating the symbolic meaning behind William’s two supposed mistresses. Charles Camproux, after scorning the idea diat Agnes and Arsen could possibly refer to real individuals, has further developed Pollmann’s symbolic exegesis of die song through the etymological breakdown of die two ladies’ names. And most recently, Dietmar Rieger has expanded on what he calls Camproux’s “explication anagogique” by both adding to and refining the latter’s etymologies, while nevertheless keeping an open mind as to an albeit secondary, historical meaning for die song. My intention in this paper is tofilla critical gap left by these and odier scholars who have tackled this song in the past two decades, to posit a primary, or at least complementary, ad Utteram sense for die text, and to sketch some possible literary and social ramifications of this historical reading.