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S'elle m'aymera je ne scay / Petite camusette 4v · Ockeghem, Johannes

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 164v-165 »S'elle m'amera je ne scay / Petite camusecte« 4v PDF · Facsimile

*Nivelle ff. 55v-56 »S'elle m'amera je ne scay / Petite camusete« 4v Okeghem PDF · Facsimile

*Wolfenbüttel ff. 61v-62 »S'elle m'aymera je ne scay / Petite camusette« 4v PDF · Facsimile

Other musical sources:

Brussels 11239 f. 20v »Petitte camusette« 2v [4v] Only S and T
Florence 2439 ff. 31v-32 »Petite camusette« 4v Ockenhem
Montecassino 871 p. 392 »Petite camusette« 4v Ockenhem
New Haven 91 ff. 4v-5 »Petitte camusette« 4v J okenhem
Petrucci 1504/3 ff. 124v-125 »Petite camusette« 4v Okenghem
Sevilla 7-1-28 ff. 101v-102 »De ia momera je nescay / Petit le camiset« 4v

Citations and other settings of the tune, see Fallows 1999 p. 364.

Edition: Maniates 1989 no. 20 (Dijon); Ockeghem 1992 p. 88 (Nivelle, faulty); Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 50 (Wolfenbüttel).

Text: Rondeau cinquain in the upper voice combined with a popular somg in the three lower voices; full text in Dijon, Nivelle and Wolfenbüttel; the rondeau is also found in Paris 1719 f. 87, Paris 7559 f. 66v, ed.: Bancel 1875 p. 7; Chasse 1509 f. P4v. After Wolfenbüttel:


S’elle m’aymera je ne scay,
maiz je me mettray en essay
d’aquerir quelque peu sa grace.
Force m’est que par la je passe;
ceste foiz j’en feray l’aissay.

L’autre jour tant je m’advensay (1)
que prezque tout mon cueur lassay
d’aller sans que luy demandasse.

S’elle m’aymera je ne scay,
maiz je me mettray en essay.

Puis aprez le coup me pensay
que lonc temps a que ne cessay,
ne ne fut que je ne l’aymasse,
maiz c’est ung jeu de passe passe,
j’en suis comme j’en commensay.

S’elle m’aymera je ne scay,
maiz je me mettray en essay
d’aquerir quelque peu sa grace.
Force m’est que par la je passe;
ceste foiz j’en feray l’aissay.

1) Line 6, “tant” is missing in Dijon and Wolfenbüttel

Tenor, contratenor altus and bassus:

Petite camusette,
a la mort m’avez myz.

Robin et Marion
s’en vont au boys jouer, (2)
ilz s’en vont bras a bras,
ilz se sont endormyz. (3)

Petite camusette,
a la mort m’avez myz.

2) Line 4 “au bois joly” in Dijon and Nivelle
3) Line 5 “ilz s’en sont ...” in Nivelle


If she will love me I do not know,
but I will make an effort
to get a little in her favour.
I am forced to take that direction:
this time I will give it a try.

The other day I advanced so far
that I almost let my heart
give in without having asked it.

If she will love me I do not know,
but I will make an effort.

Then after the deed I thought by myself
that why after a long time did I not cease,
not because I do not want to love her,
but because it is a game of deception,
I am where I was when I commenced.

If she will love me I do not know,
but I will make an effort
to get a little in her favour.
I am forced to take that direction:
this time I will give it a try.



Little snub-nose,
you have brought me close to death.

Robin and Marion
 are going to the woods to play,
they are walking arm in arm,
they have gone to sleep.

Little snub-nose,
you have brought me close to death.

In addition the poems show many smaller differences of spelling in the three sources.

Evaluation of the sources:

The Dijon and Wolfenbüttel scribes probably worked from closely related exemplars. Most differences can be related to scribal preferences (ligatures: S bb. 4 and 42-43.1, T bb. 45-48; and melodic decoration: CA bb. 30 and 44); more important to the delivery of the text is the joining of repeated notes in bb. 16 and 22 in Dijon (also found in later sources according to Ockeghem 1992 p. XCVII). They share a writing error in giving a dissonant d’ as the last note in bar 22 (this, too, is repeated in several later sources), and they both miss a syllable in the first line of the rondeau’s couplet (“tant” is supplied in the transcriptions from Nivelle). Wolfenbüttel prescribes tempus imperfectum diminutum in its contratenor altus; Dijon agrees as regards this voice, but puts the c-sign demanding a non-diminished tempus in the superius and tenor, which shows some uncertainty in this matter. Moreover, Wolfenbüttel has the best distribution of the text (and the best version of the text) by letting contratenor altus as well as contratenor bassus sing “s’en vont au boys jouer” in bars 19-23, thus ensuring textual continuity in the exchange between the tenor and contratenor bassus (and much better than the harmless “au bois joly”).

Nivelle was produced from a different exemplar, but is still very close to the two other early sources. Here is tempus imperfectum unambiguously prescribed in all voices, and the superius has been equipped with a key signature of one flat, which probably was a scribal error. If the scribe realized that a flat could be appropriate in this chanson he should have placed it in the tenor – maybe the melodic figure in bars 5-6 caught his eye and persuaded him to put it in the superius? Other differences concern ligatures (S bb. 23-24; CB bb. 32-33), coloration (S b. 5; CA b. 29; CB bb. 30, 33, and 46-48), and melodic details (S bb. 2.2-3.1, 22 (!), and 46.2, CA bb. 4 and 33). In bars 16 and 22 it has the same tone repetitions as Wolfenbüttel.

None of the three sources transmit any information on how to perform the repeat scheme of the rondeau form. The rondeau cinquain has a couplet of three lines and it is easy to return to the start after the third line (bb. 26-27), even if the c.p.f.’s recitation on a single pitch prevents a cadence here. However, both the music and the meaning of the text permits that the repeat of the first part of the rondeau’s refrain can be shortened to two lines, and as the transcriptions show, a very satisfactory solution can thus be found, which ends the second couplet with a cadence on A.

Though two slightly different traditions can be discerned in these early sources, Ockeghem’s widely circulated chanson is unusual consistent in its transmission; possibly an indication that these sources were not very far removed from the date and place where it was composed.

Comments on text and music:

Ockeghem’s double chanson combines a rather fickle love song with its “jeu de passe passe” in the form of a rondeau in the superius with a forthright popular song about the love of the ever-young Robin and Marion pair (extremely speedily told). The last-mentioned has two refrain lines sung before and after the verse section and thus creates an ABA-pattern. The very characteristic Dorian first section of the popular tune (its refrain) is imitated canonically at the fifth by the three lower voices (bb. 2-14), and the superius joins the imitation of its opening gesture (bb. 1-4) creating a four-part opening imitation. The following short phrases of the tune (the verse section) come in imitation at the fifth (CA and T bb. 14-19), in alternation in tenor and contratenor bassus (bb. 15-22, where the tune of “Robin et Marion” is repeated in CB to the line “s’en va au boys jouer” (in Wolfenbüttel), again imitated at the fifth (T and CA bb. 24-28), and finally the last line is brought in a tenor c.p.f. setting before the opening imitation of the refrain is repeated – this time without the superius taking part.

Above this structure Ockeghem with total assuredness unfolds the superius’ setting of the rondeau poem. After the opening imitation it does not really cite the popular tune, but Ockeghem lets the voice flow freely, aptly integrating the elements of the rondeau idiom, which seamlessly fit the popular melodic style. See for example the typical declamatory line beginnings (bb. 16 ff or 27 ff), which seem to grow out of the setting of the popular tune in the lower voices. At the end of the song he does not repeat the opening gesture in the superius, but hints at the rounded form by repeating only its continuation (bb. 36-38).

A characteristic feature of Ockeghem’s double chanson is the single brevis, which comes before the start of the popular tune in the tenor, and which the three sources agree to underlay with the single syllable “Pe”. The same phenomenon can be observed in the start of Busnoys’ chanson “Vous marchez du bout du pie” (cf. also Fallows 1999b s. 31), but here it appears in somewhat different surroundings: Busnoys does not set a rondeau in his upper voice, and the isolated tenor note is a “masked” part of an obligato accompaniment to the imitative structure.

See further the structurally comparable four-part chansons in this repertory: Busnoys’ “Vous marchez du bout du pie” and “On a grant grant mal / On est bien malade”, and the anonymous “Garison sçay /Je suis mire”.

PWCH May 2009 – revised March 2013 with thanks to Maryse Laffitte-Brandt for her advise on the translations.