A-Wn Cod 3917 – Revisited

Or sus vous dormes trop

A new transmission of the famous chanson “Or sus vous dormes trop” on Vienna Ars Nova-Fragment A-Wn Cod 3917 (photographed as part of the “Musical Sources”-catalogue) was introduced and preliminarily transcribed in an earlier post to this blog site. The fragment is glued to the back cover of the host codex and the notation can only just be made out shining through from the other side of the folio. Since this new source still harbours information which cannot be gleaned even from the provided high-resolution image of the bleed-through notation, the “Musical Life”-project had requested for the fragment to be removed from the binding of the codex. However, because there was a certain danger for the fragment to be damaged in the process of removal or that the procedure might have to be aborted if the glue should prove to be too strong, Friedrich Simader from the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek had decided to try another, gentler and noninvasive method. The resulting UV-image gives a much clearer impression of the notation and the underlying text. Even if not every detail can be discerned with absolute certainty the image is a much safer alternative, which also allows for a completion and emendation of the preliminary transcription. We would like to thank Friedrich Simader for his initiative and this revealing new picture of the fragment.

A-Wn cod 3917 - "Or sus vous dormez trop". UV-image, reproduction with kind permission of the ÖNB.

A-Wn cod 3917 – “Or sus vous dormez trop” (UV-image, reproduction with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The stave lines for “Or sus vous dormes trop” remain invisible (the visible but empty staves in the picture are on the other side of the notation), but most of the minim stems can now be seen. Also, there seems to be some sort of heading to the piece, hidden under the writings on the external side of the page. Future studies with a removed fragment might be able to solve this remaining enigma.

First, I would like to give a transcription of the underlying text:

A-Wn Cod 3917 - text transcriptionIt may be puzzling to find that the text for the A-part ends about a verse too early and breaks off in the middle of a word. The two B-parts have the complete text. Further analysis will show why the text of the A-part is incomplete.

The revised transcription of the fragment could in most cases confirm the “educated guesses” of the preliminary transcription for places which—with the traditional photography—had remained vague or indecipherable. In a few cases emendations could be made, especially in regard to rhythmic values, and the custos at the end of every musical line could be identified. (All these emendations and additions are marked in dark red in the following transcription.) The text underlay, surprisingly, turned out to allow interesting observations:

A revised transcription of "Or sus vous dormes trop" on A-Wn Cod 3917 with text underlay. Newly deciphered passages and corrections from the preliminary transcription are marked in dark red.

A revised transcription of “Or sus vous dormes trop” on A-Wn Cod 3917 with text underlay. Newly deciphered passages and corrections from the preliminary transcription are marked in dark red.

The text for the A-part does not simply break off one line short of its completion—it breaks off at the point where space runs out and where the music of the A-part ends. Thus it seems that the music at some point “overtook” its text, or—more precisely—where the text could not keep up with the music. It is clear that the musical notation for this source was written before the text underlay was made, and apparently this procedure was not a rare phenomenon (see for instance Lawrence Earp: “Texting in 15th-Century French Chansons: A Look Ahead from the 14th Century”, in: Early Music, Vol. 19, No. 2 (May, 1991), pp. 195-210). Especially in those syllabic passages where birdsong is imitated and which contain a multitude of musical and textual repetitions, the musical notation is much more efficient with its use of the available space than the underlying text—even when, as is the case here, abbreviations are used to save space. The layout of the text suggests that the writer was well aware of being “behind” the music in many places. Examples for this are: a) the ample use of abbreviations such as “est“, and “que”, b) overshooting of the musical line, such as in staves 3 and 5, and c) the space-efficient notation of the repeated “titon”, where the second syllable is “typographically” raised.

As the transcription shows, the writer was more successful with the underlay of the B-part, where more of these devices were employed. Maybe the scribe was alert after the failed texting of the A-part. A closer look, however, reveals that for the larger part of the piece the text underlay is actually fairly accurate. Only when the repeated text-patterns appear in the A-part does the underlay get behind the notation. It is here, in the midst of the confusing ostinato-patterns, where the error occurs which results in the fragmented text. In the second line, the music runs ahead of the text, quickly and uncatchable:

Overtaking the textSince—even by falling behind the music—bits of text (albeit from an earlier sequence) end up correctly under their assigned musical figures, the scribe might have been led into a false sense of security. Apparently the scribe was also aware of a “key landmark” for the continuation of the proper text to set in after a section full of repeated phrases (“que dist dieu” and “ilh est jour”): a breve b-natural, clearly sticking out of the ostinato patterns. However, the melody features two such breves b-natural, of which the scribe chose the second one… the wrong one:

Missing the landmarkIn addition, the following edition shows that a total value of two perfect semibreves is missing in the notation of the cantus line—a fact, which was only evident for one of the two lacunas before the UV-image was taken (bar 29), while the notation was too faint to verify it also for the second one (bar 72). The latter is an understandable mistake, since the repeating patterns in this part always come in groups of four, while the last one has five repetitions, the final one of which was missed out in text and music.

Furthermore there is one place where a minim is written instead of a semibreve and another one where minim stems seem to be missing. They could, however, also be too faint to shine through even in the UV-image. Apart from these mistakes the surviving notation appears to be correct and at the same time presents interesting deviations in small details from concordant transmissions of the chanson. I undertook a traditional texting for the edition, which probably was intended by the scribe. The second text for the A-part, necessary for a complete virelai-form, could have stood on the now lost facing page of an hypothetical original opening. This page would have also contained the tenor voice for the B-part and might have featured a contratenor voice as well.

A new edition of "Or sus vous dormes trop" from the fragment A-Wn Cod 3917 with a reconstructed text underlay and the tenor of the B-part added from parallel sources.

A new edition of “Or sus vous dormes trop” from the fragment A-Wn Cod 3917 with a reconstructed text underlay and the tenor of the B-part added from parallel sources.

Simader provided us with more information about the host codex (A-Wn Cod 3917):  Apparently, the codex was not listed in the Vienna catalogue from 1433 and can only be traced back via its title label to the Domkapitelbibliothek of Salzburg around 1500. The binding seems to be the original one from the end of the 14th century when the codex was written. Entries on the last folio, however, already point to the Salzburg diocese. As was shown in the first blog post to this fragment, scribbles on the external side of the fragment also point to the Austrian region in the 15th century. For further information see the online catalogue.

Taking into account that Martin Staehelin[1] had found another fragment with a textless version of “Or sus vous dormes trop” that was used as binding material for a codex from Constance (c1500), it appears increasingly likely that this chanson (and other famous ones like it?) must also have been popular in German speaking lands in the 15th century, thus strengthening the case of A-Wn Cod 3917. The Council of Constance readily comes to mind as a possible occasion for exchanges of such “international” Ars Nova compositions.

Marc Lewon

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[1] Staehelin, Martin: „Das Fragment einer französischen Chanson um 1400 in Stuttgart“, in: Staehelin, Martin (ed.): Kleinüberlieferung mehrstimmiger Musik vor 1550 in deutschem Sprachgebiet, Berlin (Walter de Gruyter) 2011 (Neue Quellen des Spätmittelalters aus Deutschland und der Schweiz, vol. IX), pp. 37-40.

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A-Wn Cod 3917

[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 previously 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.]

Or sus vous dormez trop

When having a closer look at the bleed-through notation on the already mentioned fragment A-Wn Cod 3917 the typical sequences of “Or sus vous dormez trop” become obvious very quickly. Jason Stoessel had already pointed out this new find in his blog. Since the notation appears back-to-front when looking at the original, the Musical Sources project has helpfully provided a mirrored image to facilitate reading the notation.

By applying some contrasting techniques I was able to identify and transcribe almost the entire notation on the other side of this fragment, which is still glued to the inside of a binding at the back of codex 3917.

A-Wn Cod 3917 (back inside bleed through – “Or sus vous dormez trop”) – high contrast – (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The codex itself comes from the Dombibliothek of Salzburg and contains sermons by Johannes Kortz, called “Hermannus contractus”, whose name was also written on the front side of the fragment. Should this paper leaf at some point be removed from the binding, the notation as well as the text will most likely be easily readable. As a bleed-through most of the notation can be identified, though the exact reading of the text remains unclear. The incipit, however, can be deciphered as “Or sus”, thus suggesting that the version on this fragment most likely is not a contrafact. Furthermore, the B-part of the composition features a double text underlay, which confirms the find and supports the virelai-form for this transmission.

A-Wn Cod 3917 (back inside bleed through – Or sus vous dormez trop) – reconstruction with comments – some of the readings remain educated guesses based on the knowledge of the piece from concordant sources – (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The fragment contains the entire cantus line of “Or sus vous dormez trop” and the tenor for the entire A-part. While the cantus features a number of variations when compared with the PMFC edition (PMFC XXI, p. 112-116), the tenor is almost identical.

“Or sus vous dormez trop” – edition: unreadable notes coloured grey, missing notation in small print – the edition is still partly hypothetical, because the staff lines of the original are not visible and some of the notation is very difficult to discern.

The front side of the leaf also contains staves for musical notation, which, however, do not match the location of the stave lines on the back side. Even though the staves on the back cannot be seen in the bleed-through the location of the musical notation proves that the lines do not match with the layout on the front page. No rastrum was used on the front side: The differing length and varying distances of the lines show that they were drawn individually with a ruler. Furthermore, the front side features sketchy scribal notes and various samples of probatio pennae, which contain interesting clues about the provenance and dating of the fragment at hand.

A-Wn Cod 3917 - scribles top - klein

A-Wn Cod 3917 – scribbles at the top of the page, front side – (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

Some of the scribbles go beyond the edge of the fragment and extend onto the leather binding – a hint that they were added after the paper was (ab-)used for the binding. Others use little German phrases and the name of duke Albrecht of Austria (either Albrecht V, duke of Austria between 1404 and 1439 or Albrecht VI, duke of Austria between 1446 and 1463) suggesting that the original manuscript was already scrapped for re-use in Austria in the mid-15th century, clearly placing the music of the fragment into the Austrian region while it was still in fashion.

Since the fragment is so promising and rich in content, it would be highly advisable to detach it from the binding of the host codex, so that it can be properly studied and transcribed. It seems to offer a slightly new reading of the cantus line and may provide further valuable information via its lyrics. We therefore have chosen to suggest this course of action to the Austrian National Library.

Marc Lewon

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PS: Since the publication of this post we were able to obtain a new UV-photograph of the fragment resulting in a new transcription and discussion of this source.

A-Wn Fragm406, fol. 1b (verso)

[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.]

Je languis d’amere mort

The verso side of A-Wn Fragm406 (fol. 1b) features fragments of the cantus and tenor voices of the anonymous chanson “Je languis d’amere mort”—I would like to thank Uri Smilansky for his help in making this discovery of the concordance. (David Fallows had identified the piece independently.) “Je languis” has already been discovered in another Vienna concordance earlier in this blog: A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B, fol. 1a. The following example illustrates the original position of the fragment on a hypothetical page:

fol. 1v (= fol. 1b) – hypothetical reconstruction (photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The following edition of the chanson in Codex Panciatichi (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Panciatichiano 26, fol. 69, ed. M. Lewon) shows the surviving parts marked in red, while the missing parts of the composition are coloured grey. There is no hint of how many voices this transmission of the chanson originally possessed, but since most of the parallel sources have three voices, I limited the edition to the Panciatichi setup of cantus, tenor, and contratenor:

“Je languis d’amere mort” – surviving parts highlighted

Marc Lewon

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A-Wn Fragm406, fol. 1a (recto)

[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.]

Contratenor & Mon tres douls coer

Fragment A-Wn Fragm406 features mensural music on red staves, which can be attributed to two known chansons. The layout of the music in this snippet, taken from one corner of a leaf, suggests that the side, which was at first labelled “1b”, was actually part of the original recto page, while “1a” consequently was part of the verso page. (The lonely contratenor voice must have belonged to a composition which faced this right hand side of an opening. Also, the “verso” of this fragment starts with a new composition—all of these being hints in favour of the assumption.) The Musical Sources project agreed with my argumentation and re-labelled the pages accordingly. First I would like to present the content of the original recto, fol. 1a: 1) An as yet unattributed incipit of a contratenor voice and 2) part of the cantus II voice of “Mon tres doulx cuer”. The latter was identified independently by David Fallows. The following illustration shows an hypothetical reconstruction of the page, which, instead of the suggested 7 staves, could, of course, also feature 8 staves per page:

fol. 1r (= fol. 1a) – hypothetical reconstruction (photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

Some of the notation on the side of the fragment is very hard to discern. Luckily the image provided by the Musical Sources project is of such high quality that the faded notation can be reconstructed (brown = clearly identifiable, orange = unclear speck in the fold which may be a note):

A-Wn Fragm406, fol. 1b (recto) - reconstruction of the notation (brown = clearly identifiable, orange = unclear speck in the fold which may be a note) - (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

A-Wn Fragm406, fol. 1a (recto) – reconstruction of the notation – (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The first couple of staves contains the incipit of the first and second line of a voice labelled “Contratenor”. It seems that these two lines originally contained the complete contratenor line. It probably belonged to a composition which used to be located on the verso side of a now lost leaf facing this surviving fragment. It reads as follows:

Fragment of an unknown contratenor voice.

Unfortunately, the new concordance for “Mon tres doulx cuer” just below the “Contratenor” does not help in providing a reliable reading for the tenor voice, also missing from the only other source (Montserrat, Biblioteca del Monestir 823, fol. 2v-3). The following edition shows the surviving parts of the chanson in A-Wn Fragm406 highlighted in red, while the ‘missing notation’ tout court is coloured grey (edition taken from PMFC XXII, p. 157). The fragment only covers small parts of cantus II, but differs slightly from the Montserrat version in lyrics and underlay:

“Mon tres doulx coer” – surviving bits marked

Marc Lewon

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A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B, fol. 1b

[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.]

Je languis d’amere mort

At the lower end of the verso side of A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B (fol. 1b) it is possible to see some note-heads and stems belonging to a musical line that fell victim to the cropping of the page.

Fragments of a line of music at the lower end of Mus.Hs.1953.B, fol. 1b (photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The grouping and sequential behaviour of the notes that can be identified, as well as the general “skyline” of the phrase strongly reminded me of an Ars Nova chanson that I was currently studying. A direct comparison between this fragment and the transmission of the chanson in CZ-Pu XI.E.9, fol. 248v, shows that the “fingerprints” exactly match. They conclusively prove, I believe, that the notes belong to the first line of the cantus voice of the chanson “Je languis d’amere mort”. Not only do the visible traces provide a perfect match, but so do the lacunas, where no musical notation is visible. This is either because the melody goes down too low for any traces of the notation to appear or because stemless notes occur. This first line would have comprised almost the entire cantus line of the chanson, as illustrated in the transcription below.

Comparing “Je languis” in CZ-Pu XI.E.9, fol. 248v with the remnants on Mus.Hs.1953.B, fol. 1b (photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The Prague manuscript (CZ-Pu XI.E.9) also contains—only two pages after “Je languis”—a two-voice version of “Soit tart tempre”, which is found just above in the same Vienna fragment.

Not only does this concordance cement the popularity of the chanson at hand by providing it with another (although extremely fragmentary) concordance: it also puts it into a transmission context with “Soyt tart tempre” (found on fol. 250 in the Prague source) and with an English song (on fol. 1a of the Vienna fragment).

The notational characteristics and the presence of a competently copied English song suggest an English origin for this fragment (as David Fallows has also pointed out), placing “Soit tart tempre” and “Je languis” in the repertoire of English scribes around 1400.

Marc Lewon

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A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B, fol. 1b

[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 previously 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.]

Soyt tart tempre

The “verso” side of fragment A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B (fol. 1b), largely marred by the remaining glue from its use in a binding, features the well-known song “Soyt tart tempre” in an untexted version. Above the notation of the chanson the word “Viroletum” indicates the form: It is in fact a “virelai”. Only the incipit is written under the beginning of the cantus line. As Jason Stoessel has already pointed out, the contratenor line is unique to this source: the three-voice Modena (Modena, Biblioteca Estense e Universitaria a.M.5.24 (Latino 568; olim IV.D.5), fol. 28v-29) and the four-voice Reina versions (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds nouv. acq. francais 6771 (Reina Codex), fol. 63v) each feature different contratenors (transcribed in PMFC XXI, p. 141-143), the Prague (Praha, Státní Knihovna CSSR – Universitní Knihovna XI E 9, fol. 250) and Vorau versions (Vorau, Bibliothek des Augustiner Chorherrenstifts 380, fol. 87v) are two-voiced, and the Strasbourg transmission is—apart from a cantus incipit—unfortunately lost (Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Municipale (olim Bibliothèque de la Ville) 222 C. 22, fol. 87v), so we cannot check. Stoessel remarked that another version of the chanson was identified by Michael Scott Cuthbert and John Nádas in Florence, San Lorenzo, ms. 2211, fos. 15v/16r [originally xxv/xxvi], which would be very exciting to compare.

Luckily the condition of the fragment is still good enough to make a complete transcription possible, especially since the excellent photography provided by the Musical Sources project allows for high-resolution zooming. Unidentifiable but necessary notes are coloured grey. I wonder if the interesting contratenor/cantus b/c dissonance in bar 20 of my edition would hold up to scrutiny or if it should be corrected:

Soyt tart tempre (edition with conservative ficta suggestions – more is always possible)

Marc Lewon

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A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B, fol. 1a

[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.

My ladi my ladi myn happ (transcription)

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.)

My ladi my ladi myn happ (edition)

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.

Marc Lewon

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