Medieval Blues

I stumbled upon the following lyrics by Medieval jongleur, Rutebeuf, circa 1200s. The blues haven’t changed much in 800 years. This could be Leadbelly or Lightning Hopkins.

With my right eye, once my best,
I can’t see the street ahead …
I can’t earn a living,
I enjoy no pleasures,
That’s my trouble.
I don’t know if my vices are to blame;
Now I’m becoming sober and wise,
After the fact …
I discovered too late
That I was falling into a trap…
Now my wife has had a child;
My horse has broken his leg
On a fence,
Now my nurse is asking for money,
She’s taking everything I’ve got
For the child’s keep,
Otherwise he’ll come back home to yell…

Translated from French in Joseph and Frances Gies, Life in a Medieval Village

13 thoughts on “Medieval Blues

    • Interesting. I guess there’s much thematic overlap between country and blues — down-and-out, drunk, no job, romantic woes, momma tole me… The forms of bravado might be a little different, with blues emphasizing a more witty, risqué sexual bravado, and country emphasizing a more traditional, jingoistic “don’t mess with me and mine” bravado, but I’m just reaching here.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Maybe both were spawned by Rutebeuf’s jongleurs~! Really, probably a tangled web of roots from Rutebeuf to slave songs to Appalachian hillbillies. I guess all peoples of all times have had some element of blues as part of life. As far as the immediate roots of these 20th-century genres, that calls for a music historian, not someone who’s just making it up, like me 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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