[In the course of the cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Musical Sources (9th-15th Century) in the Austrian National Library), conducted by Alexander Rausch and Robert Klugseder at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Klugseder has discovered a startling number of hitherto unknown fragments at the Austrian National library and made these “Vienna Fragments” available online in high-resolution images. All links to the source and the catalogue entries go to the homepage of this project. The image rights lie with Robert Klugseder who took the photos.]
My ladi, my ladi, myn happ
I would like to start off the posts on the Vienna Ars Nova-Fragments by revisiting an item which has already been discussed and described (Musical Sources, DIAMM, Jason Stoessel, and especially Alexander Rausch: “Chorbuch-Fragment Mus.Hs. 1953”, in Robert Klugseder: Ausgewählte mittelalterliche Musikfragmente der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek Wien (= Codices Manuscripti Supplement 5), Purkersdorf 2011, 120-121), but which nevertheless still holds some hidden treasure. The fragment A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B features on its supposed recto side (fol. 1a) the greater part of a two-voiced English composition with the incipit “My ladi my ladi myn happ”. It is likely an unicum. The cantus voice seems to be complete with the underlay of one whole strophe. The tenor line breaks off after about two-thirds of the song due to the cropping of the page. David Fallows had also made an edition of this piece already last year, which will be published with Musica Britannica in 2014 (‘Secular Polyphony, 1380–1480’). I would like to thank him for commenting on my transcription (below) and for sharing his findings. Some of his readings and solutions concerning text and music have been accepted in the following edition.
Transcription of the song text:
My ladi my ladi myn happ and all myn helë mercy dier swet a why doe ȝe
me al this wo sich i haue loued iow so weil and euermor wïl doe so ·
thin kich vpon iour worthines that well is auf my wo for godis loue beth
no lenger my fo ·
When taking into account musical lines and cadence structure as well as the rhyme scheme, the following verse structure emerges:
My ladi myn happ and all myn helë
mercy dier swet a why doe ye me al this wo
sich i haue loued iow so weil
and euermor wïl doe so ·
think ich vpon iour worthines
that well is auf my wo
for godis loue beth no lenger my fo ·
My attempt at a modern English translation:
My lady, my joy and my whole salvation,
have mercy, dear sweetness: alas, why do you give me all this woe,
since I have loved you so truly
and will do so for evermore?
Thinking of your worthiness
is the source of my woe.
For God’s love, be thou no longer my foe.
There are hardly any mistakes in the notation: only the first note in the cantus line of “bar 3” seems to have to be a minim instead of a semibreve. Otherwise, the problems with this source lie more with the poetical text and its underlay. A few other places are hardly legible due to the partly damaged state of the fragment, such as the note values of the last two notes of the first line. For example, what at first glance looks like a minim-stem on the first of the two notes in question actually is just a rip in the paper—so both notes could be semibreves or minims. In the first line the text underlay seems very clear and works out well. After that, both text and musical notation tend to overtake each other every now and then. I have attempted an underlay which, to me, appears fairly close to the original, takes into account most of the minim-groupings, and at the same time makes some sort of musical sense. Other solutions for an underlay are of course possible. Thanks go again to David Fallows for sharing his ideas here. At the beginning of the last line of the cantus notation, I imagine seeing a mi-accidential.
Since the setting is fairly straightforward, a cliché re-composition of the missing section of the tenor line can at least offer a plausible musical text for a performance. Other similar-sounding and maybe simpler solutions are of course possible. (David Fallows found another convincing solution which we will have to wait for its publication to compare.)
The resulting song is hardly comparable to the standard of the repertoire represented by the chanson on the following page, but offers an interesting and rare glimpse into the world of English secular song in the late 14th century.
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