So, first we amputated most of the last two verses, and swapped out one pair of lines in verse 4 for its compatriot in verse 3. There were problems with the scansion that I couldn't iron out and, rather than continue to fight with it, we decided to just shorten the song. Three verses of that wandering melody would probably be more than enough, right?
At Novice Tourney, I brought sheet music along and gave it to two members of Clan Cambion, Mistress Fevronia and a lady called "Sue" (I suspect that's her mundane name). We worked through it and Baron Igor offered his considered opinion on the period tune: "It sucks!" He suggested composing an original tune for the words, which he did like.
And I am forced to admit that I'm not a fan of troubador music in general. It does wander and lacks a strong tonal center. But we had committed to this! And we pressed on. Lady Patricia arrived later and we sang it through, not entirely together. With enough practice, I'm sure we would have nailed it, but our interpretations of the melismas didn't always match. So we tried it as a dramatic reading.
That really worked, and that was what we went with. Lady Patricia played the first two lines of music as a prelude. I read the first verse, Lady Patricia the second, and we alternated lines for the last one, reading our finale: "Better than prisoner: be dead!" together. The king seemed to like it.
There is a lot of medieval music out there that I think people would like, if they gave it a chance. The troubador corpus is not that music. Having been up close and personal with this song for a while, I think I can see some of the beauty that's there, but it's really not accessible to our ears. You have to work at liking it.
The works of the troubadors were key in defining medieval concepts like chivalry and courtly love. They deserve more exposure. But would it, philosophically, be wrong to write new tunes for them? Perhaps in the style of the trouveres, the northern neighbors of the troubadors? If, as Timothy McGee suggests, medieval monophony is "heightened poetry" and the music is primarily in service to the words, and if we are primarily concerned with presenting the words to a wider audience, can we reinvent the music? Or would it be more intellectually honest to give a spoken-word performance, perhaps with authentic musical accompaniment?
And what about those troubador poems without music accompanying them?
I could argue either side, I think, and I'm not sure right now what I think the better answer is.