The Owl in Winter: The Final Tornada of Marcabru’s Pastourelle “L’autrier jost’una sebissa”

Janice Hewlett Koelb


Marcabru’s shepherdess in “L’autrier jost’una sebissa” ends her debate with the lecherous knight by offering a cryptic tornada about manna, an owl, and a person with a painting — topics which appear to have nothing to do with the logical sequence of the debate but which in fact are crucially important to the poet and to the way in which he binds up his theme. The cryptic surface of the tornada conceals an intricately figurative sententia whose field of reference includes bird lore, Old Occitan proverbs, Augustinian rhetorical theory, and Marcabru’s own signature as a witty, learned, and often obscene satirist.

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