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La despourveue et la bannye 3v · Ockeghem, Johannes

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Laborde ff. 61v-62 »La despourveue et la bannye« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Leuven ff. 7v-9 »La despourveue et la bannye« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Other sources:

Florence 176 ff. 83v-85 »La despourveue et la bannye« 3v
Paris 15123 ff. 155v-156 »La despourveue et la bannie« 3v J. ochghen · Facsimile

Editions: Ockeghem 1992, p. 70 (Laborde), Goldberg 1992, p. 442 (Laborde).

Text: Rondeau cinquain; full text in Laborde and Leuven; also found in Berlin 78.B.17 ff. 185-185v, ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 361; Chasse 1509 f. Q4 (different version of the poem).

After Leuven:

La despourveue et la bannye
de cil qui me donné ma vie, (1)
seullement par ung faulx raport.
Ha, Fortune, n’as tu pas tort
d’avoir sans cause ainsi pugnie? (2)

Le pouvre cueur ne pensoit mye
d’estre de luy en telle haye; (3)
puis qu’il luy plaist, elle est d’acord, (4)

la despourveue et la bannye
de cil qui me donné ma vie,
seullement par ung faulx raport.

Elle ne veult plus de compaignie, (5)
Fortune l’a trop esbahye
d’avoir ousté tout son confort;
plus ne desire que la mort,
s’il fault qu’elle soit faicte oublie,

la despourveue et la bannye
de cil qui me donné ma vie,
seullement par ung faulx raport.
Ha, Fortune, n’as tu pas tort
d’avoir sans cause ainsi pugnie?

The woman helpless and banished
from him who gave me my life,
solely on account of a false rumour.
Ah, Fortune, have you not erred
to have punished her so without reason?

The poor heart never thought
it could be completely barred from him,
but since that pleases him, she accepts to be

the woman helpless and banished
from him who gave me my life,
solely on account of a false rumour.

She wants no further company,
Fortune has chocked her far too much
by ousting her whole consolation;
she desire nothing more but death,
if only she could be forgotten,

the woman helpless and banished
from him who gave me my life,
solely on account of a false rumour.
Ah, Fortune, have you not erred
to have punished her so without reason?

1) Laborde, line 2, “... qui m’a ...”
2) Laborde, line 5, “d’avoir la cause ...”
3) Laborde, line 7, “... en tel haye”
4) Laborde, line 8, ”Puisqui ...”
5) Laborde, line 12, El ne ...”
– a few didfferences in spelling

Evaluation of the sources:

The song was copied into the Laborde chansonnier by the Dijon scribe practically without any errors. The only anomaly appears in bar 3 where a descending figure filling out the value of one minima is notated as three semiminimae. The same version of the song is found in the Leuven chansonnier, in which the preceding long note has been shortened to make room for the three notes; likewise a few decorative details have been changed. The Leuven scribe has also been a bit more careful in his copying of the words of the poem.

The transmission of this song seems to be unusually stable. It is found in the two slightly younger Italian chansonniers, Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Ms. Magl. xix.176 and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. f.fr. 15123 (Chansonnier Pixérécourt) copied after exemplars very similar to the one used by the Dijon scribe for the Laborde version, and the Pixérécourt chansonnier adds the name of the composer, “J. ochghen”. Both Italian sources give only the refrain as text, and both propose a key signature of two flats in the upper voices; Florence 176 also has two flats in the first section of the tenor voice. This trait may go back to a common ancestor exemplar. The two flats may be inspired by the accidentals appearing in both the older sources in the third line of the poem (from b. 14), but to introduce E-flat as the default choice from the beginning of the song destroys the careful harmonic coloring of the musical setting of the poem. The two-flat signature may simply be the result of the efforts of an over-zealous copyist.

In Leuven “La despourveue” stands side by side with Caron’s rondeau »Le despourveu infortuné«, ff. 9v-11, which is followed by Barbingant’s »L'omme banny de sa plaisance«, ff. 11v-13, forming with them a small group of songs about lovers banned from their happiness. “L’omme banny” was entered into Laborde by the original Laborde scribe, while “Le despourveu” as well as “La despourveue” were added to the Laborde chansonnier by the Dijon scribe along with »Les treves d’amours et de moi«, Laborde ff. 98v-99, which appears in Leuven just before this group, ff. 6v-7. Barbingant’s “L’omme banny” in Leuven came from an exemplar, which in its notation was remote from the one used by the Dijon scribe in the Dijon chansonnier. But it is possible that the three other songs in Leuven and Laborde were grouped together in closely related exemplars circulating in the circles where the Dijon and the Leuven scribes worked. The placement side by side in Leuven of the two rondeaux by Caron and Ockeghem underscores that the poem in Ockeghem’s “La despourveue” is a female version of or a response to “Le despourveu”. Ockeghem’s song had not nearly the same wide circulation as Caron’s older song, but also in this case it is remarkable that only the two French musical sources contain the full text of the intricate poem.

Comments on text and music:

In this well-constructed poem, which uses the whole artifice of the rondeau’s formal layout, a woman despairs over the estrangement from her lover caused by a false rumour. It is a female version of the rondeau that forms the basis for Caron’s »Le despourveu infortuné«, a response or companion piece. And like that rondeau it strongly invites a performance with “short refrains”, which finish the sentences with only the refrain’s first line (see the edition an discussion of Caron’s song). However, while Caron’s setting facilitates such an interpretation, Ockeghem’s does not. In stead he binds the lines together and avoids a formal cadence between the two first lines. He simply offers a different way of setting the poetic structure.

Surely Ockeghem was aware of Caron’s widely circulated song, and this may have influenced his setting of the female version – or provoked it. He has chosen to set the poem for two voices an octave apart (b-c’’ and B-f’) supplemented by a contratenor in the same range as the tenor and weaving around it. He has taken trouble to express the meaning and mood of the words. It starts with an upbeat in all voices securing the full weight on the second syllable “La despouveue ...”, and after the concise first line, the words are segmented and drawn out in two groups “de cil” and “qui me donné ma vie”. The third line, the first ‘punch line’, stands out by its faster delivery, the wailing semitone movement and its strong colouring of E-flats. The second section invokes Fortuna in near homophony, and most of the last line “d’avoir sans cause ainsy pugnie” is recited by the upper voice on one single note.

The tempus perfectum, the high contratenor and the final cadence involving double leading notes all seem to place this song stylistically early in Ockeghem’s career. However, the songs appearance in the younger part of the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers, and its sound – it does not sound of the 1450s – may indicate that Ockeghem has chosen consciously to play with a dated musical style in order to find precise expression of the words, maybe as an acknowledgement of Caron’s “Le desporveu”, even if Ockeghem’s sound here is very different.

PWCH November 2017