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Mort j'appelle de ta rigueur 3v · Delahaye

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 44v-45 »Mort j'appelle de ta rigueur« 3v  PDF · Facsimile

*Laborde ff. 88v-89 »Mort j'appelle de ta rigueur« 3v  PDF · Facsimile

*Nivelle ff. 67v-68 »Mort j'apelle de ta rigueur« 3v Delahaye PDFFacsimile

Editions: Droz 1927 no. 38 (Dijon); Alden 2001 no. 7 (Nivelle).

Text: François Villon; rondeau quatrain; full text in all sources; also in Berlin 78.B.17, ff. 160-160v, ed. Löpelmann 1923, p. 302, Paris 1719, f. 71, and Chasse 1509, f. CC5. The poem is part of Villon’s Grand Testament of c. 1461, see further Alden 2010, pp. 234-238.

After Dijon and Laborde:

Mort, j’appelle de ta rigueur
qui m’as ma maistresse ravie,
et n’est pas encores assouvie, (1)
se tu ne me tiens en langueur. (2)

Oncques puis n’euz forte vigueur;
mais que te nuisoit elle en vie?

<, j’appelle de ta rigueur.

Deux estions et n’avions que ung cueur;
s’il est mort, il fault que je desvie,
voire, ou que je vive sans vie, (3)
comme les images, par cueur.

Mort, j’appelle de ta rigueur.

Death, I appeal against your rigour,
as you have robbed me of my mistress,
and still it is not satisfied,
unless you keep me languishing.

Since then I have lost my strong vigour;
o, how did she when living harm you?

Death, I appeal against your rigour,

We were two but had one heart only;
if it is dead, then I must die,
indeed, or I must live without life
by heart like the imaginations.

Death, I appeal against your rigour,

1) Nivelle, line 3, "encor”.
2) Dijon & Laborde, line 4, “ne” is missing.
3) NIvelle, line 10, “voire ou que vive”.

Evaluation of the sources:

The Dijon scribe used the same exemplar for his two copies in the Dijon and Laborde chansonniers. They exhibit the same errors (a wrong note b. 7 and a missing one in b. 26 in the contratenor, wrong note values in the superius in b. 13, and a missing word in the text), which all come from the exemplar. In his second copy, the Laborde chansonnier, the scribe introduced some small decorative variants (superius, b. 16.3, tenor, b. 26.1, and contratenor, b. 27.2).

Nivelle was copied after a different exemplar. The differences between the versions are very few as regards the notes and the text; there are virtually no differences in the upper voices, a few more in the contratenor. Disregarding the scribal errors and the Dijon scribe’s variants, the differences between the exemplars can be summarized as follows: decorative elements (S, b. 25.2-3; C, bb. 20.2 and 22.2-3), ligatures (T, b. 18.1-2; C, bb. 5.2-3 and 7.1-2), and a note repetition (C, b. 4.29). The important difference is, like it is the case in two other Delahaye songs copied by the Dijon and Nivelle scribes, »Comment suis je de vostre cueur« and »Puis qu’il convient que le depart se face«, their different use of key signatures: Nivelle has signatures of one flat each in superius and tenor and two flats in the contra, while Dijon and Laborde have one flat in the contratenor only and none in superius and tenor. For long stretches this really does not make any difference, as the rules for singing polyphony produce most of the flats indicated by the key signatures of Nivelle. However, the opening of the song changes character as a consequence of the key signatures.

Any singer of the 15th century seeing the opening gesture in the superius, cadence-like, without any prescribed key signatures, would sing it within the durum hexachord, with a natural b’, until he is forced by the other voices to mutate into molle with a b’-flat, where he will stay for the remainder of the song. The Nivelle version is unmistakable: the song is placed comfortably in the combined F and C hexachords. However, some of the tension of the appealing opening has been lost, the ray of light before it settles into G-Dorian does not appear. The different exemplars for the Nivelle and the Dijon scribes’ versions also in this case represent different traditions of transmission.

Comments on text and music:

Villon (1431- after 1463) incorporated this sad rondeau in perfect courtly style and rich rimes in his Grant Testament. He bequeaths the song to his friend Ythier Marchant on the condition he set it to music and furthermore composes a “De profundis” to be played on the lute. As Jane Alden has remarked, the inclusion of this serious poem into the testament’s comic-irreverent universe undermined its courtly sincerity (see further Alden 2010, pp. 237-38). Villon turned it into a subtle travesty, dangerous to conventional thinking, but impossible to oppose. But as has been pointed out, Villon favored friends and enemies in grotesque ways with things that he did not and could not own. Maybe also this song was something that he did not ‘own’ himself, but one he had heard performed in Delahaye’s quite memorable musical setting. That is, a song that he – strictly speaking – could not give away and demand to be set in music, because it already belonged to a circulating musical repertory. If he had written the poem “Mort, j’apelle de ta rigeur” himself sometimes around 1460 or just appropriated the song, we will never know.

Delahaye is absolutely sincere in his setting of the poem for three voices in normal distribution with superius and tenor an octave apart, and the low contratenor a fifth below the tenor. Characteristic is his rhythmic flexibility, alternating between musical phrasings in duple and triple time within the notated tempus perfectum, the many syncopations and the sudden shifts between long and short note values. Cadential progressions are used to intensify the movement forwards at line beginnings (bb. 10 and 24), and the first line ends first on D bar 7, then goes on for its real ending on the finalis G in bar 9. This ‘false’ ending on D comes slightly surprising, one beat too early. Whether one sings the line in triple or in duple time; a beat seems to be missing (the modern editor is forced to permit a brevis-bar containing two semibreves only).

The sources for the anonymous poem in the text collections and the sources for Villon’s Grant Testament all give only one word as rentrement after the couplet and the tierce, namely “Mort”, which is highly effective when the poem is read. Nivelle too uses this form. However, for musical reasons more words are needed, when the poem is sung, even with a shortened refrain. The Dijon and Laborde chansooniers have the longer form of the Rentrement, “Mort j’appelle”, and Delahaye’s special design of the setting of the first line with its extended cadencing on the finalis indicates that he intended a short refrain consisting of the first verse line (as shown in the edition). The version of the song in Dijon and Laborde, which most probable represents  Delahaye’s original concept, underscores the function of the returning short refrain by its highly audible change of sound caused by the short appearance of the hexachordum durum.

PWCH October 2016