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J’ay mains de bien que s’il n’en estoit point 3v · Busnoys, Antoine

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 153v-155 »J’ay mains de bien que s’il n’en estoit point« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Laborde ff. 85v-87 »J’ay mains de bien que s’il n’en estoit point« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Other sources:

Cape 3.b.12 ff. 117v-118 »O mira circa nos tue pietatis dignatio« 3v
*Florence 229 ff. 56v-57 »J’ay mains de biens que s’il n’en estoit nulz« 3v (first section) Busnoys PDF
*Paris 15123 ff. 178v-179 »J’ay mains de biens que s’il n’en estoit nulz« 3v (first section) Busnoys PDF · Facsimile
Paris 2973 ff. 26v-28 »J’ay moins de biens que s’il n’en estoit point« 3v · Facsimile
Sevilla 5-1-43 ff. 90v-91 »J’ay mains de biens que s’il n’en estoit« 3v

Citation: See Fallows 1999, p. 193.

Edition: Busnoys 2018 no. 41 (Laborde).

Text: Bergerette; incomplete in Dijon and Laborde, which both miss the poem’s tierce; a complete text is found in Paris 1719 f. 109.

After Dijon and Laborde:

J’ay mains de bien que s’il n’en estoit point,
ainsi le veult ma dame et ma maistresse. 1)
Je ne scay pas s’elle veult qu’en destresse 2)
use mes jours demourant en ce point.

S’en tel estat longuement je demeure,
mourir me fault, eschapper je n’en puis.

Mais pensez bien que tousjours je labeure
de mectre fin a mes tresgriefz ennuys.

D’estre dehait je ne suis pas en point, 3)
se confort n’ay dont le mal qui m’opresse
deffiner puist et aussi la tristesse
qui m’a fait dire pour ce que trop m’espoint: 4)

J’ay mains de bien que s’il n’en estoit point,
ainsi le veult ma dame et ma maistresse.
Je ne scay pas s’elle veult qu’en destresse
use mes jours demourant en ce point.

I have less enjoyment than if there were none at all;
this is the will of my lady and mistress.
I do not know if she wiahes that in distress
I spend my days, stuck at this point.

If in such a state I for long must remain,
I shall die, I cannot escape.

But be sure that I always seek
to end my arduous troubles.

To be happy is mot possible to me,
if I get no confort to end the pain
that opresses me and also the sorrow
that makes me say, because it blunts me so:

I have less enjoyment than if there were none at all;
this is the will of my lady and mistress.
I do not know if she wiahes that in distress
I spend my days, stuck at this point.

1) Dijon, line 2, “ainsy veult le ...
2) Dijon, line 3, “... pas celle ...”
3) Dijon and Laborde, lines 9-12 missing; after MS Paris 1719.
4) Paris 1719, line 4, has a syllable too many.

Evaluation of the sources:

The Dijon scribe copied this bergerette into the Dijon and Laborde chansonniers using the same exemplar. It had several flaws. It was missing the tierce of the poem and had errors, which showed up in both copies, a superfluous note in the superius in bar 22 and a missing semibrevis in the contratenor bar 45. Also the note c’ in bar 17.1 in the upper voice may be a common error, as all other sources here have b. Moreover, his exemplar began the contratenor a fifth too high with a C-clef on the fourth line. The scribe soon discovered the error when copying it into Dijon and changed the clef by redrawing it, which caused the b-flat to stand inside the F-clef. When he soon after copied the song into Laborde, he remembered the change of clef, but mechanically placed the exemplar’s flat below the fourth line, so the part started with a two-flat signature. The other differences between the two copies consist in the usual variations in the use of coloration and lesser errors (see the edition).

The song is found complete without the errors of the Dijon version in two manuscripts from around 1480 or earlier, the Chansonnier Cordiforme (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. Rothschild 2973) and the chansonnier in Seville, Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina, MS 5-1-43. They present basically the same version of the song as the one the Dijon scribe had access to, but details, especially differences in the contratenor, disclose that they both belong to a different tradition of transmission. Their poems are even more incomplete than the Dijon scribe’s. Sevilla 5-1-43 has text incipits only, and in Cordiforme only six lines have survived (the refrain and the first couplet, see the edition in Thibault & Fallows 1991, no. 20).

No composer name was attached to the song in these sources.  Busnoys’ name crops up in two later Florentine chansonniers. They too were copied from the same or closely related exemplars. Only the first section with four lines of text is found in the Pixérécourt manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. f.fr. 15123) and in the chansonnier in Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Banco Rari 229. Their version of the music is quite close to the one found in the Chansonnier Cordiforme and Seville 5-T-43, while the text seems botched and does not rime. Both sources unambiguously end the first line of music with the word “estoit” and starts the next with “nulz ainsy ...” (bars 14 ff), obscuring the meaning and obviously copied mechanically from the exemplar. The exemplar for this torso ascribed the song to “Busnoys”, which both sources repeat. The trustworthiness of the ascription might be somewhat shaky.

Comments on text and music:

This song sets a very depressed love song in rich rimes, which include a skilful use of the word “point“ in different meanings (a point missed in the version of the MSS Pizérécourt and Florence 229). The poem is a bergerette and its unrelieved melancholy is reflected in the music, which avoids the contrasts in rhythm (triple versus double) and sound normally expected of this genre. If anything, the couplets end in gloom, in the darkest registers of the voices, and with the tenor leading to the cadence. It is set for a wide-ranging tenor (d-g’) accompanied by a low contratenor (F-bb) and a low upper voice (g-c’’), which crosses below the tenor (bb. 9 and 16-21).

The tenor holds the main melodic interest. Apparently, it was inspired by Hayne van Ghizeghem’s international hit »De tous biens plaine est ma maistresse«, which is in five of the “Loire Valley” chansonniers; possibly “J’ay mains de bien” can best be understood as a sort of response or reversal of the happiness of the famous rondeau. In spite of the similarities, this tune has nothing of the swung of Hayne’s tenor. It wanders somewhat aimlessly and cadences too many times on G, even if it two times feigns cadencing to B-flat (bb. 18-22 and 54-57). It opens the couplets at its top note (b. 51 ff), which before had been touched only (b. 17), and then sinks down in not very memorable figurations (to function the tempo has to be quite fast, one beat to a bar). The setting for three voices is at places quite clumsy with the upper voice weaving around the tune, which only obscures its profile. Unison imitation is tried in bars 14 ff.

The late 15th century apparently did not share my opinion of the merits of the song. It stayed on in the repertory for at least four decades, and in the 1490s it was ascribed to the chanson composer en vogue in Florence, Antoine Busnoys. Busnoys and Hayne were from 1467 colleagues in the chapel of the future duke of Burgundy, Charles le Téméraire, so Busnoys would have rich opportunities to know Hayne’s songs. If this song really is by Busnoys, he did not have a lucky hand in emulating Hayne.

PWCH November 2018