Tuesday, 29 September 2015


“I don’t know anything about inspiration because I don’t know what inspiration is; I’ve heard about it, but I never saw it.” - William Faulkner

Inspiration is a curious thing. The artist ever in search of it, may find it in the most unusual place, or it may be frustratingly elusive as a will-o’-the-wisp. Any writer can recount many an occasion when the ominous shadow of “writer’s block” has darkened his existence. How many authors lose their ability to produce new work or experience a creative slowdown! The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years. Throughout history, writer’s block has been a well documented problem.

On the other hand, how many great works of art have been inspired by the most unusual muses! How many great works of literature have begun in strange circumstances… How many poems written after quite adverse life experiences? But then again, how many works of art or poems have been created out of nothing?

Today, I am sharing with you such a curious thing. It is a poem of the Middle Ages by Guillaume IX, Duke of Aquitaine and VII Count of Poitiers (yes, the grandfather of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine).  He is the first troubadour that we know by name. His songs are typically ribald, full of puns and jests, but his verses display the deeply artistic and eloquent art of later troubadours. His granddaughter, Eleanor, was the one and only heir to the wealth and the vast lands of Aquitaine.

Guillaume’s “Ferai un vers de dreit nïen” is an interesting poem about “nothing”, but in fact it is about everything… It proves that inspiration can come from nothing and result in a poem that is meaningful and filled with the poet’s existential questionings.

The Song About Nothing

Here’s a song about absolutely nothing:
It’s not about me,
It’s not about anyone else;
It’s not about love.
Not about being young,
Not about anything else either.

It came to me while I was asleep,
Riding along on a horse.
I don't know exactly when I was born.
I’m not happy,
I’m not angry.
I’m not a stranger here,
Yet I don't belong here.

I can’t help being like this,
I was made like it by a fairy upon a mountaintop.
I don't know if I’m asleep or awake
Unless someone tells me.
My heart’s almost broken,
It’s so sad…
And all this doesn’t matter a mouse to me
I swear it by St Masha.

I love someone – I don’t know who she is
Because I’ve never seen her;
She hasn’t done anything to please me or upset me,
And I don’t care.
I’ve never seen her, but I love her truly.
She is not yet done what she should to me, or what she shouldn’t.
When I don’t see her, then I’m happy.
She’s not worth a cock to me
Because I know someone who’s gentler and prettier,
And richer as well…

I don’t know where she lives,
Whether up in the hilltop or down in the fields.
I daren’t tell you the wrongs she does me,
It hurts me too much
And it hurts me to stay here,
So I’m leaving!

I’ve made the poem, I don’t know what’s it about
I’m going to send it to someone
Who’ll send it with someone else,
To someone over in Anjou:
Perhaps he’ll be able to send me the key from his little box
To unravel this riddle.

(22 October 1071 – 11 February 1127)


  1. I am assuming, that the troubadour's poem(s) came first and the painting(s) came after. Thus inspiration can indeed come from nothing much at all, or can flow from one of the art forms to another.

    Sometimes we can even be caught unawares about how inspiration can move from one medium to another. Have a look at an Art Deco desk that was clearly inspired by the dashboard of an Art Deco car. How would have thought it?


  2. So French and so mad...wonderful ! Now I must find out who St Masha is. It's a grey morning here ...thanks for the smile.

  3. Great and interesting read indeed.

  4. Ha ha! Nice one. About nothing and about everything.....