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Garison sçay / Je suis mire 4v · Anonymous

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Copenhagen ff. 17v-19 »Garison sçay / Je suis mire« 4v PDF - Facsimile

*Laborde f. 136 »[Garison sçay / Je suis mire]« 2v [4v] (Only CA and CB of 2nd part)
- PDF (see Copenhagen) - Facsimile

Editions: Jeppesen 1927 no. 14 (Copenhagen); Thibault 1927 pp. 24-31 (Copenhagen);
Goldberg 1997, pp. 508-511.

Text: Double chanson, full text:

Garison sçay contre le mal d’amer,
qui est es ungs doux et es autres amer;
c’est aujourduy tel mal, je vous affie,
qu'i n’est douleur ne autre impidymie
qui plus regne d’icy jusqu’a la mer. (1)

Pour tant celles qui s’en vouldront saner,
viegnent a moi, car j’ay pour les laver
ung oignement contre tel maladie,
toutes celles, je le vous certifie,
qui soubz mes mains se sont voulu bouter.

1) Line 5, Copenhagen: “jusques a la mer”

Tenor, Contratenor altus and bassus
Je suis mire, maistre mire,
et sçay bien garir les gens:
Du mal, dont les femmes meurent,
j’en ay gary plus de cent.
J’ouÿ l’autre jour crier
une josne mariée
qui crioit: “Hé Dieux! Hé Dieux!
Las, hé Dieu! Je suis difamee
d’une telle maladie
dont les gens ne scevent rien.
Qui pourroit mectre remede,
je lui donrois de l’argent.”

Text in Laborde f. 136:

Contra[tenor altus]
D’une telle maladie
que les gens ne scavent rien.
Qui pourroit mectre remede,
je luy donroye de l’argent.

Contratenor [bassus]
Je suis diffame
d’une telle maladie
dont les gens ne scavent rien.

I know a cure against love sickness,
which to some is sweet and to others bitter,
it is today such a pest, I assure you,
that there is no anguish or other epidemic,
which rages worse from here and to the sea.

Let therefore the women who want to be healed
come to me, because I have an ointment
against such malady, which cleanses them,
all women, I guarantee you,
who have wanted to place themselves in my hands.


I am a medic, master medic,
and know well how to heal people:
For the sickness of which women die
I’ve cured more than a hundred.
The other day I heard cry out
a newly married girl
who complained: “O God, o God,
alas, o God! I’m cursed
by this malady
of which people knows nothing.
Who can get me a remedy
I’ll give him lots of money.”

Evaluation of the sources:

This double chanson has been copied by the Dijon scribe and the original Laborde scribe respectively. Of the last-mentioned’s efforts only one right-hand page remains of the two openings, which the chanson originally filled in Laborde. The preceding pages have been torn out probably because they contained beautiful and exciting illuminations. The two copies may have been made from the same exemplar. There are only minimal differences in the poetical text, and the single musical variant, which we can discern today in contratenor bassus bar 44, may be an attempt by the Dijon scribe to improve the rather dull two-part cadence, which we can hear in Laborde – during the revision he just forgot to change the last note in bar 44 into a minima.

This is one of the few chansons in the repertory where it seems appropriate to introduce repetition of text. In the passage bars 26-32 in the upper voice the slow declamation involving repetition of notes virtually demands a repeat of the words “je vous affie / tel maladie”.

Comments on text and music:

The anonymous double chanson builds on what seems to be a popular song, which probably appears in its basic shape in the tenor. The upper voice sets a poem, which apparently was written to supplement the text of the lower voices – both of them equivocal on the subject of sickness, women and a quack, and close to a beloved theme of the popular theater. This poem is probably not an incomplete rondeau, even if it in this repertory was customary to juxtapose popular chansons with rondeaux. It seems rather to consist in two connected cinquain stanzas, in which nothing seems amiss as to continuity and meaning. A signum congruentiae appears in all four parts. This, however, refers not to the repeat scheme of the rondeau form but to the page-turn. Accordingly the composition has to be sung twice straight through in order to unfold the story. Neither does the rondeau form influence the setting in any discernable way; it bears rather the stamp of the ABA-pattern belonging to the popular tune.

The lower voices set the popular tune in canonic imitation in which also the superius participates in the first and last section of the chanson (bb. 1 ff and 45 ff). The tune is imitated in fifths above and below the tenor: the tenor starts on g, contratenor altus on d’ and contratenor bassus on c; the superius opens the imitation on g’, but stretches the first interval to a fifth – ensuring the modal coherence of the structure – and thus adds another fifth to the chain, if we look at the tune’s top note (d” - g’ - c’ - f). This extensive reliance on fifth-relationships colors the sound of the chanson as it produces some diminished fifths between the tenor and the upper voices. This could easily be regulated by musica ficta (see the edition in Goldberg 1997 pp. 508-511). On the other hand it then becomes difficult to know when to stop applying musica ficta, and the chanson will loose much of the charm supplied by the constant cantus durum, which turns into cantus mollis at the last moment, in the final cadence.

The canonic imitation of the popular tune between tenor and contratenor bassus is very strict in the first section (bb. 1-21) with the tenor leading. Their roles are reversed in the middle section (bb. 22-44) and some elasticity is gradually brought in. The two higher voices are freer in their behavior; in the middle section the contratenor altus is a real contratenor part filling out around the tenor and it stands outside the imitation pattern, but the superius in fact participate in the imitation, which begins the middle section (bb. 23 ff), an octave above the tenor.

The anonymous double chanson is closely related to other four-part double chansons, and especially Ockeghem’s “S’elle maymera / Petite camusette” and the two songs by Busnoys “On a grant mal / On est bien malade” and “Vous marchez du bout du pie”. It is first and foremost related to the two by Busnoys, which like “Garison sçay / Je suis mire” repeat the musical structure of the song’s beginning at the end. “On a mal ...” combines a rondeau with a popular tune and “Vous marchez ...” sets two popular texts, and offers different solutions to the problem of combining this genre with the ABA-form. “Garison ...” seems like a logical continuation of these experiments, as still another way to go as it combines a two-stanza narrative poem with the popular song, and it is far more ambitious in its design of imitation at the fifth. It can easily compete with the two songs by Busnoys and was chosen as the sole representative of its genre in the Copenhagen chansonnier, and in the Laborde chansonnier it is the only surviving musical trace of the genre.

PWCH May 2009