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A tenso (Old Occitan:  [tenˈsu, teⁿˈsu] ; French : tençon) is a style of troubadour song. It takes the form of a debate in which each voice defends a position; common topics relate to love or ethics. Usually, the tenso is written by two different poets, but several examples exist in which one of the parties is imaginary, including God (Peire de Vic), the poet's horse (Gui de Cavalhon) or his cloak (Bertran Carbonel). [1] Closely related, and sometimes overlapping, genres include:


Notable examples


In Italian literature, the tenso was adapted as the tenzone. In Old French, it became the tençon.

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Troubadour Composer and performer of lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages

A troubadour was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). Since the word troubadour is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz.

Raimbaut dAurenga

Raimbaut of Orange or, in his native Old Occitan, Raimbaut d'Aurenga, was the lord of Orange and Aumelas. His properties included the towns of Frontignan and Mireval. He was the only son of William of Aumelas and of Tiburge, daughter of Raimbaut, count of Orange. After the early death of Raimbaut's father, his guardians were his uncle William VII of Montpellier and his elder sister Tibors.

Giraut de Bornelh

Giraut de Bornelh, whose first name is also spelled Guiraut and whose toponym as de Borneil or de Borneyll, was a troubadour connected to the castle of the viscount of Limoges. He is credited with the formalisation, if not the invention, of the "light" style, or trobar leu.

<i>Trobairitz</i> Occitan female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries

The trobairitz were Occitan female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries, active from around 1170 to approximately 1260. Trobairitz is both singular and plural.

Trobar clus, or closed form, was a complex and obscure style of poetry used by troubadours for their more discerning audiences, and it was only truly appreciated by an elite few. It was developed extensively by Marcabru and Arnaut Daniel, but by 1200 its inaccessibility had led to its disappearance. Among the imitators of Marcabru were Alegret and Marcoat, who claimed himself to write vers contradizentz, indicative of the incomprehensibility of the trobar clus style. Below is a sample of the style from Marcoat's sirventesMentre m'obri eis huisel, wherein the poet himself remarks on his moz clus :

The canso or canson or canzo was a song style used by the troubadours. It was, by far, the most common genre used, especially by early troubadours, and only in the second half of the 13th century was its dominance challenged by a growing number of poets writing coblas esparsas.

The sirventes or serventes, sometimes translated as "service song", was a genre of Old Occitan lyric poetry practiced by the troubadours.

Guilhem de Saint-Leidier

Guilhem de Saint-Leidier, also spelled Guilhem de Saint Deslier, Guillem de Saint Deidier and Guilhèm de Sant Leidier was a troubadour of the 12th century, composing in Occitan. He was lord of Saint Didier-en-Velay, was born at some date before 1150, and died between 1195 and 1200. He was said to have loved Belissende, sister of Dalfi d'Alvernha and wife of Eracle III of Polignac, Guilhem's feudal overlord.

Comtessa de Dia

The Comtessa de Dia, possibly named Beatritz or Isoarda, was a trobairitz.

Monge de Montaudon

The (Lo) Monge de Montaudon, born Pèire de Vic, was a nobleman, monk, and troubadour from the Auvergne, born at the castle of Vic-sur-Cère near Aurillac, where he became a Benedictine monk around 1180. According to his vida, he composed "couplets while he was in the monastery and sirventes on subjects that were popular in the region."

Peire dAlvernhe

Peire d'Alvernhe or d'Alvernha was an Auvergnat troubadour with twenty-one or twenty-four surviving works. He composed in an "esoteric" and "formally complex" style known as the trobar clus. He stands out as the earliest troubadour mentioned by name in Dante's Divine Comedy.

Uc de Saint Circ

Uc de Saint Circ or Hugues (Hugh) de Saint Circq was a troubadour from Quercy. Uc is perhaps most significant to modern historians as the probable author of several vidas and razos of other troubadours, though only one of Bernart de Ventadorn exists under his name. Forty-four of his songs, including fifteen cansos and only three canso melodies, have survived, along with a didactic manual entitled Ensenhamen d'onor. According to William E. Burgwinkle, as "poet, biographer, literary historian, and mythographer, Uc must be accorded his rightful place as the 'inventor' (trobador) of 'troubadour poetry' and the idealogical trappings with which it came to be associated."

Albert Malaspina

Albert Malaspina (1160/1165–1206/1212), called Alberto Moro and lo marches putanier, was a member of the illustrious Malaspina family. He was a noted troubadour and patron of troubadours. Albert disputes with Peire de la Caravana the position of earliest native Italian troubadour.

Bertran Carbonel was a Provençal troubadour from Marseille. He is a polarising figure among scholars and his reputation varies between authorities. Eighteen of his lyric works survive, as well as seventy-two or ninety-four (Riquer) single coblas triadas esparsas on "edifying" themes. He was patronised at the court of Hugh IV and Henry II of Rodez.

Guilhem Peire Cazals de Caortz or Guilhem Peire de Cazals was a troubadour of the first half of the thirteenth century. He was born or lived in Cahors, Quercy, from which his name "de Caortz". Eleven of his works, including one tenso, survive.

Falquet de Romans

Falquetde Romans was the most famous troubadour attached to the court of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, where he garnered a high reputation despite the fact that his career began as a jongleur. His surviving work consists of fourteen or fifteen pieces: seven sirventes, three tensos, two or three cansos on courtly love, a salut d'amor of 254 lines, and a religious alba. His poetry is, in general, clear and elegant, and he was apparently very religious.

Alais and Yselda were two young noble trobairitz, probably sisters or nuns, who wrote an Occitan tenso with an elderly woman named Carenza. Their poem begins Na Carenza al bel cors avinen, and the first two stanzas were composed by Alais and Yselda. It is the last two stanzas, composed by Carenza, that are the most difficult to interpret. Magda Bogin and Peter Dronke have read the opening line of both her stanzas as beginning with the address N'Alais i na Iselda. There is, however, an alternative interpretation that sees the address as to a "N'Alaisina Iselda". Under this interpretation, there are two, not three, interlocutors in the poem: Carenza and Alaisina Yselda. Within the poem, in favour of the multiplicity of younger women is the phrase nos doas serors, but against it is the continuous use of the first person singular. The poem is preserved amidst a collection of coblas esparsas in only one Italian chansonnier.

<i>Torneyamen</i> Genre of Occitan poetry shaped as a competition

A torneyamen or certamen was a lyric genre of the troubadours of the thirteenth century. Closely related to the tenso, a debate between two poets, and the partimen, a question posed by one poet and another's response, the torneyamen took place between several poets, originally usually three. The first three-way tenso was initiated by Raimbaut de Vaqueiras with Ademar de Peiteus and Perdigon. These wider tensos only became known as torneyamens later. A tenso or partimen that was submitted to another troubadour for adjudication may have a poetic jutjamen (judgement) attached to it and so may be considered as a torneyamen between three. The torneyamen, like the related debate forms, was probably especially common at contests, such as floral games and puys. Many such tensos and partimens come with attached jutjamens rendered in verse, as in the example Senyer Bernatz, dues puncelhas say cited below.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.


  1. Bec, Pierre (1984). Burlesque et obscénité chez les troubadours : pour une approche du contre-texte médiéval (ed. bilingue ed.). Paris: Stock. ISBN   2-234-01711-4.