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J’ay prins deux pous a ma chemise 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 127v-128 »J’ay prins deux pous a ma chemise« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Edition: Taruskin 1982 no. 25:

Text: Rondeau quatrain; full text.

J’ay prins deux pous a ma chemise
pour eschever oisiveté
de quoy j’ay tres joieulx esté;
n’esse pas dont une belle prise?

Sur tous les deux ay la main mise;
tout ainsi que vous ay compté,

j’ay prins deux pous a ma chemise
pour eschever oisiveté.

Vestus estoient de robe grise
sengle car c’estoit en esté;
en effect c’est ma voulenté
de porter pour toute devise:

J’ay prins deux pous a ma chemise.

I have taken two lice in my shirt
in order to eschew boredom,
and by that I have been very happy;
isn't it then a nice catch?

I have laid my hand on both of them;
just like I had told you,

I have taken two lice in my shirt
in order to eschew boredom

They were dressed in grey robes
only, because it was summer;
and therefore it is my wish
to carry as my whole devise:

I have taken two lice in my shirt.

Evaluation of the source:

Faultless copy by the Dijon scribe. He has placed a key signature of one flat in the tenor, which causes several diminished fifths with the contratenor (bb. 9, 18-19 and 32). It is possible to regard this key signature as an error, unthinkingly added by the scribe. However, the rather aimless meandering of the contratenor creates other problems, for example the clashes between f and c”-sharp in bars 3-4, so it is probably safer to assume that the copy by the Dijon scribe represents the achievements of a not very competent composer whose abilities can be heard most favourably in the two-part structure formed by the superius and the tenor.

Comments on text and music:

The poem is a travesty of the widely circulated rondeau quatrain »J’ay prins amours a ma devise«, which is found in two slightly different anonymous settings in the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers (see the commentary there). The poet has in a clever way reused the meter and rhyme scheme of the courtly rondeau and has used several words in different or the same meanings (e.g. “este” = ‘have been’ and ‘summer’), and he has moved the final question up to the refrain – they are emphasized in bold in the comparison below. Furthermore, he has linked the meanings of the couplets and tierce in a way not found in his model. Thus he has turned the rather schematic play with the conventions of courtly love of his model into a double entendre erotic song, anti-courtly in essence, but using the tools of the rhétoriqueurs. This means, as Honey Meconi has suggested, “... at least one poet or composer was a bit tired of what must have been an enormously popular piece in its original version.” (‘Art-Song Reworkings: An Overview’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 119 (1994), pp. 1-42, at p. 9). The new poem obtained a certain popularity and lived on to be published as “J’ay prins deux poulx en ma chemise”, no. 108 in La Fleur de toute Joyeuseté (probably printed in Paris, c1530; facsimile edition Paris: Techener 1830).

J’ay prins amours a ma devise
pour conquerir joyeuseté;
heureux seray en cest’ esté,
se puis venir a mon emprinse.

S’il est aulcun qui m’en deprise,
il me doit estre pardonné.

J’ay prins

Il me semble que c’est la guise,
qui n’a riens, il est debouté,
et n’est de personne honnoré;
n’esse pas droit que je y vise?

J’ay prins

(Wolfenbüttel ff. 37v-38)

J’ay prins deux pous a ma chemise
pour eschever oisiveté
de quoy j’ay tres joieulx esté;
n’esse pas dont une belle prise?

Sur tous les deux ay la main mise;
tout ainsi que vous ay compté,

j’ay prins

Vestus estoient de robe grise
sengle car c’estoit en esté;
en effect c’est ma voulenté
de porter pour toute devise:

J’ay prins

(Dijon ff. 127v-128)

The affinity of the music with the music of “J’ay prins amours” is restricted to the general impression of the opening gesture and the extended use of canonic imitation in unison and at the octave between superius and tenor. But it is written in a higher tessitura (A-f”) with a contratenor keeping below the high tenor part, and the mensuration is a not-diminished imperfectum.

It is thinkable that this song is an attempt to do better in making fun of “J’ay pris amours” than the contemporary »J’ay pris ung poul a ma chemise« found in the chansonniers Florence 176 and Paris 4379 (see the edition). The theme is the same as far as we can judge from its incomplete poem, but the music exhibits a closer affinity with the original by citing the beginning of the superius of “J’ay prins amours” in its tenor. The ‘two-lice’ poem seems to be a more unmistakable and professional parody of the original poem, while the other is musically closer.

PWCH January 2013