Machaut’s Peer, Thomas Paien

Published as Elizabeth Eva Leach, “Machaut’s Peer, Thomas Paien”, Plainsong and Medieval Music 18/2 (2009): 91-112.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009.

Reprinted with permission.

One of the texts of Machaut’s double balade, Quant Theseus/Ne quier (B34) is ascribed in Machaut’s Voir dit to a certain Thomas Paien. The present article suggests that this Thomas was one of Machaut’s peers, being like him a canon of Reims and a court secretary. Figures with similar names (and the pervasive idea that a character cited in a work of fiction might not be a real person at all) have confused earlier attempts at identification. A possible occasion for the composition of B34’s texts – also involving a balade on the same refrain by Jehan Froissart – can be found in a shared patron–client link between Machaut and Thomas, both of whom had associations with John, Duke of Berry.


  1. Merci pour cette très belle étude. Difficile de cerner tous ces “Thomas Payen” car il y là présentement plusieurs personnages. Je m’intéresse plus particulièrement au clerc de Saint-Malo …
    Sur Thomas Payen, voir entre autres : François Comte, Jean-Michel Matz, Fasti Ecclesiae Gallicanae, volume 7, concernant le diocèse d’ Angers, Brepols Publishers, Turnhout, 2003, n° 257, p. 341.
    Le nom de T. P. se trouve sur une repetitio conservée dans le ms. Paris, BnF, Latin 12461, f. 55 : “Fuit repetitio solemnis Andegavis per venerabilem doctorem in utroque jure videlicet per mag. Thomam Pagani, de nationis Britannie, qui per quinque annos continuos antea legaverat de mane Parisius …” (A. Coville, Évrart de Trémaugon et le Songe du verger, 1933, p. 16)

    1. As he’s listed as holding a prebend at Angers, these two references would seem to be the person I call Thomas B (pp.100-111 of my article). I didn’t follow up further on him because I was able to differentitate him from the Thomas I was really after — the one Machaut knew. But Thomas B seems to have been an important person — a jurist and a high-ranking official — from a noble family in Brittany. The name is not particularly common, which is, I think, why the small number of individuals with the same name, seem to have been erroneously conflated in the Fasti Ecclesiae Gallicanae volumes (and in earlier Machaut scholarship).

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