Gods&Radicals—A Site of Beautiful Resistance.

La flors enversa

I dedicate this rendition to all those who live that timeless revolutionary adage, that makes one fearless and shatters despair and ennui. Ennui, that ugly beast Baudelaire thought the true Devil:

Love in the face of danger.

From Slippery Elm


There is something palpably bewitching about Raimbaut d’Aurenga’s “The Inverse Flower”.

Between the hot-flashes, biting chills, the whips of beauty, the bursting forth of green leaves in desolate landscaps, the anti-clericalism and the pangs of love-sickness (or is it love-sweetness?), this twelth-century troubadour’s enigmatic canso seems an appropriate air to be sung by witches of our own times, times marked, like Raimbaut’s, by the increasing fragmentation of political structures coupled with increasingly brutal reprisals against those who would attempt to break monopolies imposed on reality (i.e. those of the Church, later on, Capitalism and the Internet…).

But what to make of the wrath of the lordless weather?

What to make of snowfall in tropical climes, in warm seasons and mild reaches?

Of inverse flowers or strange fruits opening through ice?

Perhaps disaster, perhaps theophany, and a potent blend of both…

This is not the place for detailed analysis, as the mysteries the poem exudes are best served by keeping silent. Furthermore, the poem itself was written in the sealed trobar ric style, or simply put, moonlight come lyric vernacular. This hermetic style takes flight when the learned try to explain it away; to do so would be to shine electric lights in a ritual room or grove. It’s a curious thing that in this poem eight words of power are repeated and seem to form an eight-pointed star, an age old symbol of the Queen of Heaven.

Remember, the love lyrics of many troubadours are intimately entwined with power dynamics, hidden destinataires, and sexual and gender ambiguities, in which Ladies and Lords are naught but masks. Therefore, when reading this poem, I invite you to read the Lady as place-holder for not exclusively a flesh-and-blood woman, but for whomever you hold most beloved.

Despite my best efforts, this English rendition remains a poor shadow of the Occitan original.

Yet, in a way that makes it an act of poetic sciomancy.

I dedicate this rendition to all those who live that timeless revolutionary adage, that makes one fearless and shatters despair and ennui. Ennui, that ugly beast Baudelaire thought the true Devil:

Love in the face of danger.



Now glows the inverse flower

Now glows the inverse flower

Along jagged cliffs and hills.

What flower? Snow, ice, frost.

And it burns, stings, and cuts

And dead are the trills, cries, screams, and whistles

In the leaves, boughs, and branch-whips

But joy keeps me thrilling and green,

Though I behold the wicked ones withered.

In such a way, all is inverse

that meadows seem hills

that I keep flowers of frost

that cold by heat is cut

that thunder seems a song or whistle

and into new leaf burst the branch-whips;

I’m so firmly bound by joy

nothing I see appears to me wicked.

A graceful fairy inverts them

as if they’d grown in hills

they wound me more than frost

and with their tongues they cut

in hushed tones and whistles

of no use are sticks or whips

or threats that would sooner bring them joy

when their deeds are such that men call them wicked.

For locked in kisses we become inverse

I cannot be kept by meadow nor hill

lady, nor ice nor frost,

lest my power yield and my heart be cut.

Lady, for whom I sing and whistle,

the glow of your eyes is a whip

that lashes my heart with joy

that within it may grow nothing wicked.

I’ve wandered as a creature inverted

long hours, among valleys and hills

weeping in the way of he who by frost

is tormented, broken, and cut,

for I’ve never been conquered by songs or whistles

more than the lying clergy conquer with whips.

Yet now, praise God, I’m sheltered by joy

in spite of the false and the wicked.

And so goes my verse, which I inverse

that it be not held back by valley nor hill

there, where none feel frost

and where cold has no power to cut

to midons, the song and the clear whistle

and may the whip enter the heart

of who knows to sing with joy,

which the wicked singer never will grasp.

Sweet lady, love and joy

Have bound us fast, despite the wicked.

Joglar, I have lost much joy

For the distance between us; my semblance grows wicked.

—Translation by Slippery Elm

Er resplan la flors enversa

Er resplan la flors enversa

pels trencans rancx e pels tertres.

Quals flors? Neus, gels e conglapis.

que cotz e destrenh e trenca,

don vey morz quils, critz, brays, siscles

pels fuels, pels rams e pels giscles;

mas mi te vert e jauzen joys,

er quad vey secx los dolens croys.

Quar enaissi o enverse

que·l bel plan mi semblon tertre,

e tenc per flor lo conglapi

e·l cautz m’es vis que·l freit trenque,

e·l tro mi son chant e siscle

e paro·m fulhat li giscle;

aissi·m suy ferms lassatz en joy

que re no vey que·m sia croy.

Mas una gen fad’enversa

cum s’eron noirit en tertres,

que·m fan trop pieigz que conglapis

q’us quecx ab sa lengua trenca

e·n parla bas et ab siscles;

e no·y val bastos ni giscles

ni menassas, ans lur es joys,

quan fan so don hom los clam croys.

Quar en baizan no·us enverse,

no m’o tolon plan ni tertre,

dona, ni gel ni conglapi;

mas non-poder trop m’en trenque.

Dona, per cuy chan e siscle,

vostre belh huelh mi son giscle

que·m castion si·l cor ab joy

qu’ieu non aus aver talan croy.

Anat ai cum cauz’enversa

lonc temps, sercan vals e tertres,

marritz, cum om cui conglapis

cocha e mazelh’e trenca,

qu’anc no·m conquis chans ni siscles

plus que·l fels clercx conquer giscles.

Mas ar, Dieu lau, m’alberga joys

mal grat dels fals lauzengiers croys.

Mos vers an, qu’aissi l’enverse

que no·l tenhon val ni tertre,

lai on hom non sen conglapi

ni a freitz poder que·y trenque:

a midons lo chant e·l siscle

clar, qu’el cor li·n intro·l giscle,

selh que sap gen chantar ab joy,

que no·s tanh a chantador croy.

Doussa dona, amors e joys

nos ten ensems mal grat dels croys.

Jocglar, granre ai menhs de joy,

quar no·us vey, e·n fas semblan croy.

—Raimbaut d’Aurenga (c. 1147 – 1173)

Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm’s poetry and prose in English and Spanish have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies in both Europe and North America. He has performed as a part of flamenco groups in Europe, Africa, and North America, in courtly settings, as well as in the streets, by hearth corner, and under leaf. He is the editor and translator of the poetry anthology Your Death Full of Flowers and the author of two pocket poetry books. He compliments his poetry and dance by studying Arabic and Hebrew philologies.