African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 187


The Breton Lai as protest, mirror and proverb

Kathleen Broer
  • Kathleen Broer
  • Musicology, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 30 December 2014
  •  Accepted: 29 April 2015
  •  Published: 27 May 2015


A Breton lai or lay is a lyrical, narrative poem written in couplets and refrains and is based on Greek, Arabic and Persian poetic structures and themes. Lais were mainly composed in France, England, the Pays-Bas and Germany during the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. The Breton lai was similar in purpose to Skolion σκÏŒλιον or Roman Fescennine which were songs sung by invited guests at banquets. Breton lai evoked the ancient Persian ghazal in a “tribute” culture with distinctive Breton irony. The Breton Lai’s enormous contribution to the linguistic and performance cultures of Europe impacted language development for centuries with contributions from the houses of Anjou, Saladin, Hohenstaufen and their descendants.


Key words: Divine office, Antiphons Greek and Persian poetic traditions, linguistic cultures