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Sur mon ame, m'amye 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Copenhagen ff. 35v-36 »Sur mon ame, m'amye« 3v PDF - Facsimile

*Dijon ff. 58v-59 »Sur mon ame, m'amie« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Editions: Jeppesen 1927 no. 30 (Copenhagen); Christoffersen 2001 pp. 132-133 (Copenhagen); Droz 1927 no. 50 (Dijon)

Text: Rondeau cinquain, full text in both sources:

Sur mon ame, m’amye,
je ne sçay nulle vie
qui tant face a amer
que vous; a brief parler:
Qui veult, s’en ait emvie.

Car qui a tel partie,
il a plus que partie
de ce qu’il veult penser.

Sur mon ame, m’amye,
je ne sçay nulle vie
qui tant face a amer.

De riens ne se soussie
fors faire chiere lie
et esbatre et jouer;
pour vous tel temps mener
vueil je plus qu’a soussie.

Sur mon ame, m’amye,
je ne sçay nulle vie
qui tant face a amer
que vous; a brief parler:
Qui veult, s’en ait emvie.

By my soul, my girlfriend,
I don’t know any other being
more worthy of loving
than you; in short:
Who wants to, may be envious.

For he who has such a match
has more than part
of what he might wish for.

By my soul, my girlfriend,
I don’t know any other being
more worthy of loving.

He worries about nothing
but to enjoy life
and have fun and revel.
For you, I want to live such a life
rather than in worry.

By my soul, my girlfriend,
I don’t know any other being
more worthy of loving
than you; in short:
Who wants to, may be envious.

Except for some differences in spelling the sources have the same version of the poem. In line 4 Dijon has “de vous”, which probably is a writing error.

Evaluation of the sources:

Also in this case the version of the Copenhagen Chansonnier is the more careful and considered copy of the exemplar, which the scribe had used also for the chanson in the Dijon Chansonnier. In Dijon he forgot to put the B-flat in the key signature of the tenor part. It is essential here as the song uses B-flat as finalis. In b. 53 he wrote the first note in the superius as a semibrevis followed by a rest of the same duration and thereby broke up the musical line on the word “emvie”. It is conceivable that this could be copied from the exemplar, but the phrasing looks illogical as the tenor imitates the line an octave lower and has a brevis in the same position. In Copenhagen the scribe did put these things right just as he was generally more careful with the placement of the text.

Comments on text and music:

This rondeau cinquain is in principle a courtly poem, but its content is not quite courtly. Neither in language, meaning or music does this song fit completely into the courtly sphere – it has a touch of the “anticourtly”. [1] The poet addresses “m’amye”, not a lady, a princess or a goddess, but just a female “friend”. This woman, who is more worthy of love than any other woman – just like the lady in »La plus bruiant« (Copenhagen no. 29) –, probably does not belong the high nobility. The poem exudes untrustworthiness: “Sur mon ame” (By my soul) – you do not start like that, if you really mean what you are saying. Charles d’Orléans only used the expression once in his rondeaux, and it was precisely in the playful rondeau speaking of “la haulte game” (cf. no. 29 and rondeau no. 317). [2] A love displayed for everyone in order to make others envious (line 5) is not nobly concealed, and the lover “worries about nothing but to enjoy life and have fun and revel” – in short: the poem does not describe a relationship according to the rules of fin’amour. It is likely to be about a relation involving a girl of lower social standing than the speaker, and most probable the poem is a parody of the not very credible, effusive assurances by which the man tries to find a way to the girl’s heart.

The music is of the same kind, absolutely untrustworthy. The song is not only thoroughly ficta having its finalis on the note B-flat, an unstable scale degree usually not found in this role, but its introductory three-part imitation is also clearly sung in a slow triple time even though the music is notated in tempus imperfectum diminutum – that is, three breves of the notated mensuration are used for a whole bar in tempus perfectum. In order to be musically effective the song has to start in a quicker tempo that the notation seems to indicate. The song is in this way in disguise. The last line of the refrain “Qui veult, s’en ait emvie” goes in an even faster tempo, tempus perfectum diminutum, corresponding to proportio sesquisaltera; this means that the triple time now only takes up one of the breves heard at the start, a tripling of the tempo. There can be no doubt about the tempo relations as the parts overlap (from b. 41) and only fit together in one way. In connection with the discussion of the tempo relations in Copenhagen no. 29 it is quite funny to point out that the change from tempus imperfectum diminutum to tempus perfectum diminutum proportio sesquisaltera just like the relation between the notated breves and the sounding rhythm in the introductory imitation demands equivalence between the semibreves, else it would superfluous to put the “3” in the mensuration sign! This is the opposite of the theoretical position of no. 29, which demands equivalence on the brevis level.

The music is evidently composed close to the meaning of the text, especially in the refrain. At the start of the second part of the refrain (line 4) the important words “que vous” appears, which by enjambment ends not only the sense of line 3 but the sense of the whole first section – but they are not included in the half refrain! These words are set homorhythmically in parallel thirds between tenor and superius, with the tenor on top (bb. 33-35) – they are virtually hammered out, “than you”, and the shouting does not exactly add to the credibility. Before that the word “amer” is treated in a slightly grotesque melisma in the tenor over an organ point in the contratenor (bb. 27-30). At “a brief parler” (bb. 37-41) – again an ironical statement because the rondeau having lines of only seven syllables is nearly as brief as possible – the colon, which you automatically add during the text edition, can be heard in the music by the change of mensuration and by the upper voices’ virtuoso, freely canonic, roulade through the full range of the parts (bb. 41 f).

The low tessitura for three male voices, the many slightly awkward details (see for example the old-fashioned cadence embellishments (bb. 6, 9, 12, 20, 30 and 57), the parallel final cadence, or the first motive with its octave leap), and the sudden change of tempo give the whole a comical, jaunty stamp. The song is an antithesis to »La plus bruiant«: High tessitura against low, high style against low style, a somewhat strained use of music theory as metaphors in text and music against a direct sensuality in rolling virtuoso music with a lopsided tension between triple time in disguise and double time.

In addition to the meanings, which the poet and the composer has worked to give the individual chanson, we find apparently en extra overlying layer of meaning, associations, contrasts, and comments originating in the chansonnier,  the work of art which the compiler or scribe created by his choice of repertory. I interpret the juxtaposition of »La plus bruiant« and »Sur mon ame« as a conscious artistic intervention, which puts the erotic atmosphere of both chansons in a new light; they cannot avoid each other’s influence. [3]

Knud Jeppesen did not think that the miniatures in the chansonniers had any connection at all with the texts of the chansons (“Bemerkenswert ist, dass sich die Miniaturen in keinem der 5 Manuskripte näher an der Text anknüpfen, also illustrierenden Charakter ganz entbehren.” Jeppesen 1927, p. XXVII). I cannot agree as regards the two chansons in the Copenhagen Chansonnier. The book painter clearly understood what these chansons were about. At the beginning of  »La plus bruiant« we meet a beautiful lady in courtly dress “celle qui toutes passe” apparently singing or reciting (facsimile), while the “S” in »Sur mon ame« shows a stout kneeling person with the hands together in an appealing gesture (facsimile) – dressed in a hood, socks, bare ass, and a furtive smile! [4]

PWCH April 2008 (revised, a Danish version was published in Christoffersen 2001 pp. 130-134)


[1] Howard Garey used this term to characterize part of the repertory in the so-called Mellon Chansonnier (New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS 91), which ‘undermines’ the courtly with irony or ‘turns it upside down’, cf. Leeman L. Perkins and H. Garey (eds.), The Mellon Chansonnier I-II. New Haven 1979, Vol. II, p. 75; this topic was developed in P. Woetmann Christoffersen: French Music in the Early Sixteenth Century. Studies in the music collection of a copyist of Lyons. The manuscript »Ny kgl. Samling 1848 2°« in the Royal Library, Copenhagen I-III. Copenhagen 1994, Vol. I, Ch. 7.1 ‘Rondeaux between the courtly and the popular traditions’, pp. 143-155. Return

[2] Claudio Galderisi, Le lexique de Charles d’Orléans dans les «rondeaux» (Publications romanes et françaises ccvi), Genève 1993. Rondeau 317 “Trop entré en la haulte game” is published in Charles d’Orléans (ed. Pierre Chanpion), Poèsies, Paris 1923-24, p. 473. Return

[3] The observation that certain musical sources and independent sections of complex sources often prove to be carefully composed selections of repertory was presented in Christoffersen, French Music (1994), Vol. I, especially ‘Part Two: Genesis and function’ pp. 49-108, and in the analysis of the printed chansonniers by Pierre Attaingnant, pp. 217 ff. Later Clemens Goldberg has analyzed the Laborde Chansonnier from a similar point of view in Das Chansonnier Laborde: Studien zur Intertextualität einer Liederhandschrift des 15. Jahrhunderts (Goldberg 1997). Return

[4] On the relations between text, music and decoration, and on the chansonniers as works of art, see the three articles by Jane Alden (Alden 2005a, 2005b, 2007). Return