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Je le prens sur ma conscience 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Copenhagen f. 30v »Je le prens sur ma conscience« 1v [3v] (S only) PDF · Facsimile

*Dijon ff. 88v-89 »Je le prens sur ma consience« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Laborde ff. 63v-64 »Je le prens sur ma conscience« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Editions: Jeppesen 1927 no. 25 (Copenhagen + Dijon); Goldberg 1997 p. 464 (Laborde – faulty, copied from Jeppesen).

Text: Rondeau cinquain, full text in all three sources; after Laborde:

Je le prens sur ma conscience
qu’en toutes les parties de France
n’a point si plaisant damoiselle,
tant acomplie ne si fort belle
comme est ma tres gente actoinctance.

Le jour je n’auray desplaisance
que verray sa doulce semblance: (1)
nulle n’en sçay pareille a elle.

Je le prens sur ma conscience
qu’en toutes les parties de France
n’a point si plaisant damoiselle

Et en effect, quant prou y pense,
d’ailleurs je ne vueil alliance, (2)
s’il lui plaist seulement, fors d’elle; (3)
car je vous di bien que c’est celle
ou plus s’arecte ma plaisance.

Je le prens sur ma conscience
qu’en toutes les parties de France
n’a point si plaisant damoiselle,
tant acomplie ne si fort belle
comme est ma tres gente actoinctance.

I am highly conscious of
that nowhere in all the parts of France
there is found so lovable a mademoiselle,
neither as perfect nor so very beautiful
as my most wonderful acquaintance.

I will not be displeased the day
when I see her sweet appearance,
I know of nobody comparable to her.

I am highly conscious of
that nowhere in all the parts of France
there is found so lovable a mademoiselle.

And really, when I think of it,
I do not wish for any other alliance
than to her, if only it pleases her,
for I indeed tell you that it is her
my whole happiness depends on.

I am highly conscious of
that nowhere in all the parts of France
there is found so lovable a mademoiselle,
neither as perfect nor so very beautiful
as my most wonderful acquaintance.

Apart for some smaller differences in spelling the sources show the following variants:
1) Copenhagen and Dijon line 7 “... plaisance” (error; rime word of preceding line is repeated)
2) Copenhagen line 13 “... actoinctance”
3) Copenhagen line 14 “seullement s’il lui plaist ...”

David Fallows remarks that couplet and tierce of the text in Laborde (below the superius on f. 63v) were added by a later hand (Fallows 1999 p. 201). These stanzas are copied in later hand, but it is still that of the Dijon scribe - very like his writing in Copenhagen.

Evaluation of the sources:

As in several other cases this rondeau is in reality a unicum because the Dijon scribe produced all three sources using the same exemplar. And – as in other cases – he revised the chanson during the repeated work of copying, probably as a result of his experience of the music. It is likely that the Copenhagen version did represent his final version, but the folio facing f. 30v has been removed from the MS, so now only the superius remains. It is, however, very close to the version in the Laborde chansonnier.

The Dijon version does not have a key signature in the superius while the two lower voices have signatures of one flat, a very common disposition during this period, and the scribe inserted – almost certainly in accordance with his exemplar – the essential flat before b’ in bar 11. He could not help to notice that every b and b’ (except before the cadence in bar 50) needed flattening. Therefore he notated the version in Laborde (and Copenhagen) with a signature of one flat in the superius too. At the same time he corrected (or did not make) some errors, which appeared in the Dijon version: In the tenor bars 4.2-5 the rhythm is changed in order soften the dissonance between superius and tenor at the end of bar 5; in bar 9 the f is changed to a g in the tenor; in the superius bars 23.2-24.1 the dotted semibrevis d’ is reintroduced (it was probably split into two notes in the exemplar to fit a change of staff); and in Laborde he corrected the text in line 7 (bars 13.2 ff, text 2a), where the exemplar and Dijon repeated the rime word of the preceding line “... plaisance”, by writing “... semblance” instead, which fits the rime pattern and gives a better meaning.

That he still used the same exemplar for the Copenhagen version and not Laborde or some corrected sketches is proved by several details: He remembered to put in a one flat signature in the superius, but forgot to remove the now superfluous accidental in bar 11, and he forgot about his own improvement of the text when using “... plaisance” in line 7; and he introduced new variants in the text by writing “... actoinctance” in line 12 in stead of “alliance” (repeating the last word in the refrain) and by changing the order of the words in line 13. Moreover, all three sources show the same wrong note, which the scribe did not detect, namely the g in the superius in bar 45.1.

Comments on text and music:

This longing appraisal of a young “damoiselle” is scored for low, male voices. The tenor is clearly the leading voice and it crosses above the superius in several places, while the contratenor generally lies below the tenor. The upper voices are often weaved together and share functions and melodic development (see for example bb. 18-21 or 25-28). If this shall come out right in performance a quite fast tempo is required; fast tempo must also be behind the unusual use of ligatures, which includes maxima-values, in the tenor at the end of both sections (bb. 29-34 and 57-62), and the still more unusual shape of the end of refrain’s first section and the start of the second, which present the same chord in longa-values (bb. 33-36). It produces a quite magical and memorable start of the second section, slowly speeding up. The song has some affinity to Hayne’s »De tous biens plaine«, which is also in these chansonniers (precedes it in Laborde), but it lacks the latter’s charm and personality.

PWCH March 2009