What is a Descort?
The Descort is an Old Occitan form of lyric poetry, commonly employed by troubadours.
The Descort was possibly invented by Garin d’Apchier, a French castle captain and troubadour, though this comes from his own unreliable vida—a small biography of a troubadour. “Quan foill’e flors reverdezis / et aug lo chan del rossignol” (“When the leaf and the flower bud / and I hear the song of the nightingale”) were the first lines of the poem that gave rise to this form, though the complete work is now lost.
The form was used by several other troubadours in later years, such as Gautier de Dargies, who wrote three, and Raimbaut de Vaqueiras who used to form to demonstrate a wide knowledge of language, using a variation of the form in which each stanza is the same length but the language of each changes.
Unlike most other forms, Descort is differentiated by its lack of consistency. This differs from Free Verse, however. A Descort intentionally never uses lines of the same length or meter. This creates a discordant flow, constantly changing.
While this may sound like an easy practice, we often find ourselves using similar rhythms within our work, without realising. Descort requires an active observation of these constructs.
The Descort is used to voice disagreement. There are many forms dedicated to celebrating something but Descort, with its choppy ever-changing rhythms, actively avoids offering the subject a comfort by creating an uneasy atmosphere.
© 2019 Connor Sansby
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Connor Sansby is a Margate-based writer, editor, poet and publisher through his super-indie Whisky & Beards publishing label.