Performance workshop 3: JP30

A third post from the performance workshop with graindelavoix, sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust and held at St Hugh’s College, Oxford in March 2017.

This is the third of a series of four posts giving the audio tracks and an introduction for the songs from Douce 308 that we workshopped in Oxford in March 2017 with graindelavoix and my students and postdocs. The song given here is yet another jeu-parti, the thirtieth one in the subsection of this genre in Douce 308, Biaus Rois Thiebaut, Sire, consillies moi! (RS1666), which is a song between a nameless cleric and the well-known noble poet-composer, King Theobald of Navarre (Thibaut de Navarre).

Theobald of Navarre

The song starts with the cleric coming to the King to ask for advice: he has loved a lady for a long time but dare not tell her in case she refuses him. He asks the king what true lovers do: ‘Do they all suffer such great distress, or do they talk about the pain that comes from love?’. The king replies that he simply serve his lady so well that she becomes aware of his heart’s desire through his deeds, disguised words, and a prudent appearance. The cleric thinks this advice will be the death of him because only those feigning love can do so without pain and the pain of real love will force the true lover to speak about his suffering. The king knowingly says he knows why the cleric wants to be so hasty,  because  ‘clerics are not capable of abstinence’! But, he goes on, a true lover would not reveal it for all of France because the true lover fears his lady and keeps his mouth shut. The cleric responds to the accusation that clerics cannot control themselves by accusing the king of never having really loved: if he had, he would know that true love causes the lover to be out of control, specifically so that he will reveal his love to his lady. The king says that this kind of love comes from the cleric’s glands (literally, his kidneys), not his heart. He is without love or knowledge.

In the envoys, short half-stanzas sung in turn at the end of the song, the cleric re-affirms his love and accuses the king of being deceitful and inconstant and thus assuming all other lovers are too. The king gives up on his advice and tells the cleric to go and beg mercy at his lady’s feet — to tell her, after all! — because she will believe him and it will be true.

This song has a very extensive copying history and forms part of a large networks of associated texts and melodies. The main melody, the one we used in the performance, is found with three different texts, including JP30. The least widely copied of these texts is Oede de la Couroierie‘s Ma derreniere vuel fere en chantant (RS321), a trouvère from Artois who seems to have specialized in writing text for other people’s tunes. But the melody is also used for a different song involving the named protagonist of JP30: Theobald’s, Rois de Navarre, sires de vertu (RS2063) presents a discussion about the power of love between the king and Raoul de Soissons. If, as seems likely, JP30 is a contrafact of RS2063, the king’s clear knowledge about love there would lend an additional layer of irony to his jeu-parti with the cleric if it were evoked by in the memory of someone who knew JP30’s melody to the earlier words.

In addition to the melody used here, both texts by Theobald are supplied with alternative melodies in other sources. For those interested in following up the complex history of this network, here (left) is the opening page of Tischler’s edition for the network.

The tracks below give JP30 first in an English singing translation by Joseph Mason, sung by Joseph Mason (as the cleric) and Matthew P. Thomson (as the king), and then in the original French, sung by members of graindelavoix.

English version of JP30: Joseph Mason and Matthew P. Thomson: 

French version of JP4: Björn Schmelzer and Adrian Sîrbu: 

(Accompaniment in both recordings by Thomas Baeté)

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