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L'avènement du lyrisme médiéval au temps des abbayes saxonnes: Las quin sun sparvir astur  (« Hélas! Pourquoi ne suis-je  un épervier-autour ? »).
Luciano Rossi


From the year of their discovery (Bischoff 1984), the attempts to solve the riddle around the anonymous Old Occitan coblas found in the margins of the British Library MS Harley 2750 have increased.

The two short stanzas, transcribed around 1070 on the last sheet of an eleventh-century copy of Terence's comedies by a "Germanic" scribe in a Gallo-Romance language with strong Poitevin connotations (Lazzerini 1993, 2010), represent the most ancient extant Occitan lyrical compositions handed down to us.

They are enriched with a neumic notation analogous to that found in the comedies of Terence (Villa 1984 and 2015) in the same BL MS Harley 2750. Until the publication of Ziolkoski’s article (2007) and of Haines’ essay (2010), it has been thought that the two Romance stanzas didn't have anything to share with the Latin text.


In this article, summing up my actual research, the results of which will appear in the volume L’amore al femminile nell’Europa medievale: Adelaide, Eloisa, Maria, I intend to prove that the "Germanic" scribe is easily identifiable to Adelaide, the first child of King Henry III of Germany (1016–1056) from his second marriage with the French princess Agnes of Poitou (c.1025–1077), a daughter of Duke William V of Aquitaine.


Adelaide was Abbess of Gandersheim from 1061 and Abbess of Quedlinburg from 1063 until her death, exactly in the years when Bischoff situated the composition of the Old Occitan coblas.

KEY WORDS : Adelaide II, Abbess of Quedlinburg, Terence's Comedies,  blossoming of vernacular Poetry

Accompanying images

Las quin sun sparvir astur, London, BL MS Harley 2750, fol. 94v [click to enlarge]

Diplom Adelheids II, from the Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt (Magdeburg) 

[click to enlarge]

Accompanying music

Ensenhas - Las! Que ne sun sparvir astur

(© Danil Ryabchikov)

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