And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

fredag 19. april 2013

A Song for April

Here in Norway we have suffered from an unusually long winter, and the greatest part of April has been covered by snow and marked by rather wintry temperatures. Recently, however, the weather appears to be turning for a new season, and for this occasion I here present a medieval spring poem from the selection Carmina Burana, which has also been set to music by Carl Orff (1895-1982).

The poem in question is known from its incipit Omnia sol temperat and is numbered as Carmina Burana 136. This collection of poems encompasses pieces both in Medieval Latin and Middle High German, and was given its title by Johann Schmeller who published a reading of the text in 1847. Most of its poems date from the 12th century and the anthology's modern editors have been very preoccupied with how these poems should be catalogued and labelled. They are often organised according to their subject-matter, which has resulted in the preponderant view that most of these lyrics should be termed secular. Whether this accurately reflects the purposes of the various composers is impossible to say, but it is of course necessary to be cautious when creating order where there originally may have been disorder.

Due to its secular appearance and the non-religious subject of many of its poems - songs of bawdy, drinking and gaming - the Carmina Burana is also referred to as a body of Goliardic poetry. The Goliards - talked about at length in a different blogpost - were men of erudition and clerical background, and famous for their proclivity for using religious poetic schemes in non-religious contexts.

The song in question here is, as stated, a celebration of spring and its author is anonymous. Below the setting by Orff there is a translation into English, this is carried out by me and all errors or inaccuracies are my responsibility.

Historiated initial from MS Landsdowne 383, psalter, 2nd quarter of  the 12th century, England

Carmina Burana, 136

Omnia sol temperat
purus et subtilis,
nova mundo reserat
facies Aprilis;
ad amorem properat
animus herilis,
et iocundis imperat
deus puerilis.

Rerum tanta novitas
in sollemni vere
et veris auctoritas
iubet nos gaudere.
vices prebet solitas;
et in tuo vere
fides est et probitas
tuum retinere.

Ama me fideliter!
fidem meam nota:
de corde totaliter
et ex mente tota
sum presentialiter
absens in remota.
quisquis amat aliter,
volvitur in rota.

The sun tempers everything
Purely and subtly
The world opens up
The face of April
To love it hurries
The soul of its master
And congenially he rules,
The boy-god.

A thing of such a novelty
In the ceremonies of spring
And the authority of spring
Commands us to rejoice
The customary change he provides;
And in your spring
It is faith and probity
Upholds you.

Love me faithfully
Pay attention to my faith:
Of my heart completely
And from my mind wholly
I am, face to face
Or absent, far away;
Whoever loves not in this manner
Is turned upon the wheel.

Miniature from MS Royal 2 B II, psalter, c.1250, Paris


Haskins, Charles Homer, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, 1968

Parlett, David, Selections from Carmina Burana, 1986

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