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Puisque honneste vie la pare 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Copenhagen ff. 20v-21 »Puisque honneste vie la pare« 3v PDF - Facsimile

Editions: Jeppesen 1927 no. 16 (Copenhagen); Thibault 1927 pp. 32-35 (Copenhagen).

Text: Rondeau quatrain, full text:

Puisque honneste vie la pare,
chascun s’efforce de l’amer.
Soit en ciel, en terre ou en mer,
tout a la servir se prepare.

Nul cueur loyal ne s’en separe
quoy qu’il y trouve de l’amer,

puisque honneste vie la pare
chascun s’efforce de l’amer.

A qui voulez que la compare?
Au feu pour les cueurs entamer?
Nul ne s’en part sans entamer
qui devant elle se compare.

Puisque honneste vie la pare,
chascun s’efforce de l’amer.
Soit en ciel, en terre ou en mer,
tout a la servir se prepare.

Since virtuous living adorns her
everyone exerts himself to love her.
In heaven, on earth, or in the sea
everything prepares to serve her.

No loyal heart can separate from her
whatever it finds of bitterness by staying,

since virtuous living adorns her
everyone exerts himself to love her.

With whom do you want me to compare her?
With the fire, because she scorches the hearts?
Nobody escapes her unscathed
who presents himself before her.

Since virtuous living adorns her
everyone exerts himself to love her.
In heaven, on earth, or in the sea
everything prepares to serve her.

Evaluation of the source:

A clean copy of the chanson without any errors.

Comments on text and music:

This unicum is one of the most original creations in the repertory of Copenhagen. Its mensuration is indicated as tempus perfectum followed by the number two, which should mean a diminution of the perfect time. However, it was used by some composers of the Busnoys generation – much to the concern of Tinctoris (1) – to signal perfect minor mode, which produces tempus imperfectum diminutum with bars in groups of three. This mensuration is clearly expressed by the tenor’s first line with its slow triple time and by its first longa, which has to be perfect. At the same time the superius also recites the first line of the poem in perfect minor mode above the calm lower voices. This is one of the few instances in the Copenhagen Chansonnier in which I don’t think that it is makes sense to try to fully text the lower voices. It is easy to break up the long note values to accommodate the text, but it would ruin the careful design of the song: Stillness is first dissolved by superius’ descending, varied sequences (bb. 4.2-9), then animated by the staggered declamation of line two (bb. 9.2-22), which introduces the rhetorical octave canon on short motives on “Soit en ciel, en terre ou en mer” between superius and tenor – this third line alone (bb. 21-39) is nearly as long the whole first part of the rondeau –; and the final line has imitation of extended descending sequences in which all three voices participate. During the song’s development the slow triple time disintegrates and the feeling of tempus imperfectum diminutum becomes predominant.

The contratenor fills a whole range of functions: from part of a carpet of sound supporting the upper voice (bb. 1-9) to a free, but active supporter of the canonic duets between the upper voices (bb. 9 ff and 29 ff), and finally a participant in the three-part imitations (bb. 39 ff). It is a low contratenor, but it very often crosses up above the tenor,

The music seems to have come in existence very much inspired by the meaning of the poem, which starts out as a rather conventional homage to the virtuous lady, but the bitterness caused by her cruelty soon overshadows the praise. Maybe this has produced the rondeau setting’s unusual form, in which the second part is extremely long in comparison to the first. The musical journey from simple declamation to the extended sequences mirrors the range of feeling in the poem.

PWCH February 2009


1) Cf. Rob C. Wegman, ‘Petrus de Domarto’s Missa Spiritus almus and the early history of the four-voice mass in the fifteenth century’ (Wegman 1991) pp. 238 f, and ‘Mensural Intertextuality in the Sacred Music of Antoine Busnoys’ (Wegman 1999) pp. 188 f.