Monthly Archives: July 2015

Costeley – Venus est par cent mille noms


[EDIT:  this is a re-post, re-transcribed from the original source.]



Venus est pas cent mille noms


Guillaume Costeley (1530-1606)


Musique, by Guillaume Costeley, 1570

(text not yet on site)
(blog entry here)
(listen to the score here)
(recorded extract here – source:  Pierre de Ronsard et la musique, Kühn chamber choir)


Costeley was part of Baïf’s Academie de musique et de poésie, and coincidentally born in the same part of the Auvergne as Bertrand and Boni. Unlike them he followed a purely musical career, as royal organist when Charles IX was on the throne, and is famous for his many chansons. Not so many of them were to texts by Ronsard, though – only 6 of the 100 or so surviving songs.

A remarkably homophonic song, not many accidentals, and really no chromaticism at all – a nice easy piece to transcribe. The recorded extract, the opening half-dozen lines, demonstrates this neatly.


Here are the reproductions I used, taken from the ground-breaking article Ronsard et les musiciens du XVIe Siècle published by Charles Comte & Paul Laumonier in the Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France 1900:






Goudimel – Ode à Michel de l’ Hospital



Errant par les champs de la grace


Claude Goudimel


Supplement musical to the 1552 edition of Les amours de P de Ronsard Vandomoys, ensemble le cinquiesme de ses Odes, 1552


(text on site here)
(blog entry not yet available)
(listen to the score here)
(recorded extract here – source:  Les Amours de Mai, Julianne Baird & the Parthenia viol consort)


The last of the early pieces from the 1552 edition of the Amours: this is a setting of the Ode which made Ronsard’s name, the monumental Ode to the Chancellor of France. Goudimel’s setting is remarkable for the low voices: all four voices range over no more than two-and-a-half octaves, and the distribution is alto-tenor-tenor-low bass – though the first tenor has a rather higher tessitura in the Epode.The recorded extract uses a viol consort to realise the lower voices, with a single voice above – I’ve chosen the opening quatrain, showing the artfully-varied repeat of the opening music in the second couplet.

Goudimel seeks to match Ronsard’s objectives in his setting: for instance, the music of the second couplet reflects, but is not identical to, that of the first; he (mostly) avoids repeating words or lines; he re-uses small melodic motifs in the same way that Ronsard uses internal rhymes, alliteration, etc to bind the song together. And of course he provides a setting which mirrors the classical form used by Ronsard – a strophe whose music is repeated for the anti-strophe, just as the rhythms and rhyme-scheme of the strophe are repeated in the anti-strophe; and then a concluding epode which rounds off the setting.

The helpful 1552 editor suggests that anyone wishing to sing the entire Ode (!) should simply repeat the 3-verse musical setting as many times as necessary: Ronsard’s text allows this, but as there are 24 sequences of strophe-antistrophe-epode in the poem, and the sequence takes around five minutes to sing, singing the whole ode would take something over 2 hours!

In transcribing Tiersot’s version, I have taken the liberty of normalising the text underlay in a few places to fit the ‘standard’ rules; though Goudimel doesn’t help (especially in the epode) by regularly having one more note than he has syllables! I’ve kept the halved note-values Tiersot uses.


Errant par les champs_0001
Errant par les champs_0002
Errant par les champs_0003Errant par les champs_0004
Errant par les champs_0005
Errant par les champs_0006
Errant par les champs_0007






Amours 1.211

Si blond si beau, comme est une toison
Qui mon dueil tue et mon plaisir renforce,
Ne fut oncq l’or, que les toreaux par force
Aux champs de Mars donnerent à Jason.
De ceux qui Tyr ont choisi pour maison,
Si fine soye au mestier ne fut torce :
Ny mousse au bois ne revestit escorce
Si tendre qu’elle en la prime saison.
Poil digne d’estre aux testes des Deesses,
Puis que pour moy tes compagnons tu laisses,
Je sens ramper l’esperance en mon cueur :
Courage Amour, desja la ville est prise,
Lors qu’en deux parts, mutine, se divise,
Et qu’une part se vient rendre au veinqueur.
                                                                            So blond, so beautiful, as the locks
                                                                            Which kill my grief and strengthen my pleasure,
                                                                            Was never that gold which the bulls gave
                                                                            By force to Jason in the fields of Mars.
                                                                            By those who chose Tyre as their home
                                                                            Has no such fine silk been twisted in their work ;
                                                                            No moss which clothes bark in the woods
                                                                            Is so tender as this early in the season.
                                                                            Hair worthy of being on the heads of the goddesses,
                                                                            Since you have left your companions for me
                                                                            I feel hope building in my heart ;
                                                                            Courage, Love – the town is already taken
                                                                            Since it has rebelliously divided itself into two parts
                                                                            And one part has just handed itself to the conqueror.
My, what contorted grammar throughout: quite often you have to read two or three lines before the meaning emerges clearly. The opening for instance: “si blond si beau” could easily mean ‘She’s as blond as she is beautiful’ – but then line 3 forces a re-think. The references are almost simple by comparison:  Jason of course gained the golden fleece – but not directly from the bulls. It was Aeëtes (Medea’s father) who promised him the fleece if he would just plough his fields using the fire-breathing, brass-hooved bulls); and the result of ploughing the fields was not winning the fleece, but reaping the fruit of the dragons’ teeth, an army of soldiers. Only then, and after further skullduggery, was Jason able to obtain the fleece (by theft!)  ‘By force’, incidentally – though Ronsard’s usage is no less ambiguous – means that the bulls were forced by Jason to do his will.
The second quatrain refers to the fabled qualities of Tyrian purple – again, Ronsard’s image is deliberately oblique, since it was the colour of Tyrian cloth, not its innate qualities or those of its workmanship, that were valued. (Tyrian purple was a dye extracted from sea-snails, which actually improves its colour and brightness with exposure to air , rather than fading. It is estimated that “twelve thousand snails of Murex brandaris yield no more than 1.4 g of pure dye, enough to colour only the trim of a single garment.” No wonder that purple sold for its weight in silver. It is this value that Ronsard indirectly alludes to: though inevitably only the finest cloths, too, would be dyed with such expensive colour. Here, “Tyr” is the city of Tyre (hence, ‘Tyrian’ (or Phoenician) purple), no relation to the Norse god of the same name.
In the earlier version Blanchemain prints a minor variant in line 5 “qui Tyr ont esleu …” (‘those who elected to live in Tyre’); and a different form of line 9 “Poil folleton où nichent mes liesses” (‘Wild hair where my joys lodge’). He adds an admonitory footnote, that this sonnet is not about Cassandre, i.e. that Ronsard ‘re-used’ an earlier sonnet.

Lassus – Je ne veux plus




Je ne veux plus que chanter de tristesse


Orlande de Lassus


Mellange d’Orlande de Lassus, 1570/76


(text on site here)
(blog entry not yet available)
(listen to the score here)
(recorded extract here – source:  Orlande de Lassus – Chansons, Ricercar Consort with Delphine Collot)


Finishing the selection from Lassus’ Meslanges is this attractive setting. Lots of imitative writing throughout, as well as recurring little melodic & rhythmic features tying the whole piece together. Inevitable melismas on “chanter” (‘sing’) throughout as well. I particularly like the way the texture shrinks to just the high voices at bar 56, then at 63 the two lower voices emphasise “en chant piteux” (‘in piteous song’) by descending stepwise out of time with each other, generating some painful discords on the way. Also unusual is bar 52 in the tenor, with a couple of ‘black’ notes in the original indicating a quick switch into and out of triple-time: I’ve used a triplet rather than writing a 3:2 time-signature for just one bar.



Here are images of the original pages, from the 1576 edition on Gallica. (The tenor’s black notes are towards the middle of his 3rd line.)





Amours 1.210

Avec les fleurs et les boutons esclos
Le beau Printemps fait printaner ma peine,
En chaque nerf, en chaque artere et veine
Soufflant un feu qui m’ard jusques à l’os.
Le marinier ne conte tant de flos,
Quand plus Borée horrible son haleine,
Ny de sablons l’Afrique n’est si pleine,
Que de tourmens dans mon cueur sont enclos.
J’ay tant de mal, qu’il me prendroit envie
Cent fois le jour de me trancher la vie,
Minant le Fort où loge ma langueur :
Si ce n’estoit que je tremble de creinte,
Qu’apres la mort ne fust la playe esteinte
Du coup mortel qui m’est si doux au cueur.  
                                                                            With the flowers and buds blossoming
                                                                            Spring makes my pain spring anew
                                                                            Into every nerve, into every artery and vein
                                                                            Blowing a fire which burns me to the very bone.
                                                                            The sailor does not count so many waves
                                                                            When Boreas makes his breath more horrid,
                                                                            Nor is Africa so full of sands
                                                                            As there are torments shut up in my heart.
                                                                            I have so much trouble, that the desire takes me
                                                                            A hundred times a day to cut off my life,
                                                                            Undermining the fort in which my pining lives :
                                                                            If it were not that I tremble with fear,
                                                                            That after death the wound would not be wiped out
                                                                            By the mortal blow which is so sweet to my heart.
In the second quatrain, Africa is (in classical & Ronsardian terms) essentially desertified north Africa.  Boreas, the north wind, of course brings storms when he blow: note that Ronsard converts the adjective ‘horrible’ into a verb ‘[make] horrible’ – literally, ‘when Boreas horribles his breath more’.
In the earlier version Blanchemain offers some minor variants: line 3 is “Dans chaque nerf et dedans chaque veine” (‘In every nerve and within every vein’), a repetitive form he improved considerably in the later version; and in the penultimate line he has “apres ma mort” (‘after my death’) – later exchanging the alliteration of “ma mort” for (in my view) the less attractive, though also less insistent, alliteration of ‘la … la’.

Amours 1.202


This sonnet follows the previous one, and is a continuation of it: something I don’t think we’ve seen before in this survey of Ronsard’s work.

Le feu jumeau de ma Dame brusloit
Par le rayon de leur flamme divine,
L’amas pleureux d’une obscure bruine,
Qui de leur jour la lumiere celoit.
Un bel argent chaudement s’escouloit
Dessus sa jouë, en la gorge yvoirine,
Au beau sejour de sa chaste poitrine,
Où l’Archerot ses fleches émouloit.
De neige tiede estoit sa face pleine,
D’or ses cheveux, ses deux sourcis d’ébene,
Ses yeux luisoyent comme un astre fatal :
Roses et lis où la douleur contrainte
Formoit l’accent de sa juste complainte,
Feu ses souspirs, ses larmes un crystal.
                                                                            The twin fires of my Lady burned
                                                                            With the rays of their divine flame,
                                                                            The tearful store of a hazy drizzle,
                                                                            Which by their brightness hid the light.
                                                                            Beautiful silver [tears] hotly ran
                                                                            Over her cheeks, on her ivory throat,
                                                                            On the fair resting-place of her chaste breast,
                                                                            Where the Archer sharpens his arrows.
                                                                            Like warm snow was her face,
                                                                            Like gold her hair, like ivory her two brows ;
                                                                            Her eyes glittered like a deadly star ;
                                                                            Roses and lilies in which sadness is contained
                                                                            Were the markings of her just complaint ;
                                                                            Her sighs were fire, her tears a stream.
As well as the uniqueness of structure – 2 sonnets as one poem – we have here one of Ronsard’s more bizarre metaphors! In the opening quatrain, the ‘twin fires … divine flame’ become ‘a hazy drizzle [of rain’, which in turn ‘hid the light’. From bright burning fire to rain and back again, all describing the same thing?!
This poem remained unchanged from the earlier to later versions.

Amours 1.201


My, it’s a LONG time since we had a sonnet!  Here goes:

Amour, quel dueil, et quelles larmes feintes,
Et quels souspirs ma Dame alloit formant,
Et quels sanglots alors que le tourment
D’un teint de mort ses graces avoit peintes !
Croizant ses mains à l’estomach estreintes
Fichoit au Ciel son regard lentement,
Et larmoyant parloit si tristement,
Que les rochers se brisoyent de ses pleintes.
Les Cieux fermez aux cris de sa douleur,
Changeans de teint de grace et de couleur,
Par sympathie en devindrent malades :
Tous renfrognez les Astres secoüoyent
Leurs raiz du chef : telles pitiez noüoyent
Dans le crystal de ses moites œillades. 
                                                                            Love, what grief, what feigned tears,
                                                                            What sighs my Lady keeps shaping,
                                                                            And what sobs, while torment
                                                                            Has painted her grace with the colour of death !
                                                                            Crossing her grasped hands in her lap
                                                                            She slowly fixed her gaze on Heaven,
                                                                            And weeping she spoke so sadly
                                                                            That the rocks split at her moans.
                                                                            The heavens, closed to her cries of sadness,
                                                                            Changing their shade, their graciousness, their colour
                                                                            In sympathy, became sickly ;
                                                                            Frowning, the stars shook
                                                                            The rays of light on their heads ; such woes swam
                                                                            In the crystal-clear [drops] in her moist eyes. 
A simple two-section poem, separating into octet and sestet. A good place to set out from anew!
In the earlier version Blanchemain prints, there are small changes only, not significantly affecting structure or texture. The opening is, perhaps, more arresting: “Mon Dieu ! quel dueil …” (‘My God, what grief … !’); line 7, by contrast, clumsily alliterative through mere repetition – “Et, triste, à part pleuroit si tristement” (‘And, sad and separate, she wept so sadly’). Finally, in line 10, the heavens change ‘their looks’ (“Changeant de front, de grace …”) – alliterating with the “fermez” in the previous line, an alliteration Ronsard later decided to do without.