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Ostez la moy de mon oreille 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Copenhagen ff. 25v-26v »Ostez la moy de mon oreille« 3v (incomplete) · Edition - Facsimile

*Dijon ff. 79v-81 »Ostez la moi de mon oreille« 3v · Edition · Facsimile

Edition: Jeppesen 1927 no. 21 (Copenhagen).

Text: Begerette; full text in both sources; also in Berlin 78.B.17 ff. 164-164v (no. 489), ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 311:

Ostez la moy de mon oreille,
ceste pusse qui me reveille
et me vient dire incessament:
Ame ceste ci leaument (1)
qui sur toutes est nompareille!

Je ne vueil plus estre amoureulx:
Les loyaulx les plus doloureux
se treuvent, je l’ay oÿ dire.

On leur tient termes rigoureulx
et n’ont nul bien si savoureux (2)
qu'en la fin ne torne a martire.

Je me donne bien grant merveille
d’un cueur, qui n’a repos, ains veille
nuit et jour en si grant tourment,
comme il oze amer longuement,
veu les maulx qu’on lui appareille.

Ostez la moy de mon oreille
ceste pusse qui me reveille
et me vient dire incessament:
Ame ceste ci leaument
qui sur toutes est nompareille!

Take it away from my ear
the flea that awakens me
and comes to whisper incessantly:
Love her loyally
who above everyone is incomparable!

I do not want to be in love anymore,
for the faithful ones find themselves
the most mournful –I have heard it said.

They are offered rigorous terms
and find no happiness so savoury
that it at the end does not turn into martyrdom.

I wonder highly how
a heart, which find no rest, but is awake
night and day in such great torment,
dares to love enduringly
in view of the agonies that are prepared for it.

Take it away from my ear
the flea that awakens me
and comes to whisper incessantly:
Love her loyally
who above everyone is incomparable!

In addition to some small differences in spelling the musical sources both contain two problematic lines:
1) line 4 “Ame est si …” (one syllable short)
2) line 10 “… nulz biens …” (should be singular)
– the text has been corrected in accordance with MS Berlin 78.B.17, ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 311 (no. 489).

Evaluation of the sources:

As in other cases this chanson is in reality a unicum, as the two copies can be regarded as representing one single source in different interpretations. The Dijon scribe made both after the same exemplar including errors (see the text above, and C b. 49.1), possible errors (S b. 9.2 parallel fifths between S and T), and a displacement of the text in relation to the music from bar 19 in the superius caused by the fast declamation in repeated notes.

When he copied the Dijon version he did not make any use of flats – probably in accordance with his exemplar. However, he realized that a performance without guidance from some written inflections could pose difficulties. The first problem arises in bars 12-13: The movement f-g-b in the contratenor requires some adjustment to avoid the tritone either by raising the f or flattening the b. Flats have consequences in this song as the tenor part for long stretches is clearly conceived within the G-hexachord. If you begin to add flats it can be difficult to stop again (see the Jeppesen edition). The same situation occurs in the superius in bars 51-57. The Dijon scribe apparently preferred flats as his revision in Copenhagen shows, but left the Dijon version untouched. (In the transcription of the Dijon version I’ve tried to show a performance without flats in the critical spots). In Copenhagen he introduced a single flat in the superius in bar 13 indicating that this line (bb. 12-15) should be sung with flats in all three voices. In bar 50 he introduced a signature of one flat, which he repeated at the start of the next two staves governing the remainder of the superius in the couplets; what he did in the tenor and contratenor parts we will never know as the folio, which originally followed f. 26v, has disappeared. I think that his intention was that the b’-flat should be sung only in the phrase including bars 50 to 56, and only in the superius; and that the uninflected sound should prevail in the ouvert and clos endings (clearly marked with signums in the tenor and contratenor of Dijon) leading back first to the second couplet and then to the tierce. In this way he created some very welcome shading in the sound of the chanson. However, this revision of the notation cannot be called an example of clarity. At the same time he introduced a new error (T b. 11.2) and smoothed the ascent of the superius in bar 40.

Comments on text and music:

This song is not quite up the standard of the repertory the Dijon scribe otherwise chose for the Copenhagen chansonnier. The alternation of three-part imitation, free polyphony and syllabic declamation of the words at different speeds in the three voices can be rather attractive, especially when combined with the shift between cantus durus and cantus mollis, which it probably was his intention to clarify in the Copenhagen version. But it has some crudities, dissonances which it is difficult to know if they should edited away or left as they are as witnesses of the composer’s capabilities (e.g. S b. 9.2, C b. 49.1 and 57.2), and the narrow ranges of the parts (c’-c”, d-e’, c-d’) seem to constrict the flow of the music.

Maybe the chief attraction was the bergerette’s picture of a flea whispering to the hesitant lover or the close relation between the text and the musical setting.

PWCH March 2009

Addendum 2024:

See the highly interesting analysis of the song in Jane Alden, ‘Formes of Intimacy: Miniaturisation and Sociability in the Fifteenth-Century Chansonnier’ in Vincenzo Borghetti and Alexandros Maria Hatzikiriakos (eds.), The Media of Secular Music in the Medieval and Early Modern Period (1110–1650). Turnhout 2024. pp. 116-138 (at pp. 128-133).