A musician playing a recorder

Seminar X: Poetry and Song

One potentially useful source which is all too often overlooked by historians of the Middle Ages comprises poetry and song. Though the manuscripts in which they survive are often dirty, rudimentary and much damaged, poems and music can provide telling insights into the values and the emotional worlds of medieval communities. To be sure, many of the poems and songs that have survived speak, like the historical texts, to the ecclesiastical and political issues of the times in which they were composed, but they are complemented by others which offer a more rounded perspective on medieval life and thought. This material rightly offsets the evidence for conflict and oppression—the usual focus of serious historical analysis.

Examination of the manuscripts containing these items also serves to remind us that the analysis of a codex involves the co-ordination of diverse forms of data—of the data provided by its script, its decoration, its notation, its textual and musical variants, and the physical materials from which it is made. The study of medieval manuscripts brings together many different disciplines—textual criticism, history, art history, linguistics, musicology, palaeography and codicology. Since mastery of all these fields is impossible, it is invariably a shared enterprise.

Topics for Discussion

  1. What does the way in which poetry and music was preserved in the Middle Ages say about its importance for medieval persons?
  2. How might the historian exploit these materials? Think about the manuscripts as well as the poems themselves.

The set texts should be downloaded from the Moodle Site.

Examples for Discussion

  1. Gregorian Chant
  2. The [Earlier] Cambridge Songs
  3. The Later Cambridge Songs
  4. Solage and the Smokers
  5. The Old Hall Manuscript
  6. The Agincourt Carol

Some Other Examples

Sample Facsimiles

  • Fallows, D. (ed.), Late medieval and Early Renaissance Music in Facsimile, vol. 1, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms. Canon. Misc. 213, with an introduction and Inventory by D. Fallows (Chicago and London, 1995). Reproduces in black-and-white half-tones a MS of primarily secular music composed from 1380–1435 and copied in northern Italy c. 1428–1436. Includes numerous works by Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois. Oversize VXE8.D.
  • Rankin, S. (ed.), The Winchester Troper: Facsimile Edition, Early English Church Music 50 (London, 2007). Full colour facsimile of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 473. Oversize Score VZM. Note also: S. Rankin, ‘Calligraphy and the Study of Neumatic Notations’, in J. Haines (ed.), The Calligraphy of Medieval Music, Musicalia Medii Aevi 1 (Turnhouts, 2011), pp. 47–62.
  • Williamson, M. (ed.), The Eton Choirbook: Facsimile and Introductory Study, Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (Oxford, 2011).

Some Editions of Poetry and Music

  • Adcock, F. (ed. and trs.), Hugh Primas and the Archpoet, Cambridge Medieval Classics (Cambridge, 2005).
  • Alan of Lille, Literary Works, ed. and trs. W. Wetherbee, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 22 (Cambridge, MA, 2013).
  • Baxter, J. H., An Old St Andrew’s Music Book (London, 1931). A substantial collection of organa and conductus, which was written probably in the 1230s or 1240s and which belonged to the Augustinian Priory at St Andrew’s. Most of the items derive from the ‘Notre Dame School’, but there is some local material.
  • Bernardus Silvestris, Poetic Works, ed. and trs. W. Wetherbee, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 38 (Cambridge, MA, 2014).
  • Bogin, M., The Women Troubadours (New York, 1976). XTIM. Prints poems in Provençal and Old French with English translations.
  • Brittain, F. (ed.), The Medieval Latin and Romance Lyric to A.D. 1300 (Cambridge, 1951).
  • Deeming, H. (ed.), Songs in British Sources c.1150–1300, Musica Britannica 95 (London, 2013).
  • Duncan, T. G. (ed.), Medieval English Lyrics and Carols (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2013), which combines idem (ed.), Medieval English Lyrics, 1200–1400 (Harmondsworth, 1995) and idem (ed.), Late Medieval English Lyrics and Carols, 1400-1530 (Harmondsworth, 2000).
  • Gillingham, B. (ed.), Secular Medieval Latin Song: An Anthology (Ottawa, 1993).
  • Henry of Avranches, Saints Lives, ed. and trs. D. Townsend, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 30–31, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA, 2014).
  • John Gower, Poems on Contemporary Events, ed. D. Carlson and trs. A. G. Rigg (Toronto, 2011). Two fourteenth-century poems: Visio Anglie and Cronica tripertita.
  • McDonough, C. J. (ed. and trs.), The Arundel Lyrics; The Poems of Hugh Primas, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 2 (Cambridge, MA, 2010).
  • Nigel Wireker, Speculum Stultorum, ed. J. H. Mozley and R. R. Raymo (Berkeley, 1960); trs. J, H. Mozley, A Mirror for Fools: The Book of Burnel the Ass (Oxford, 1961). An anti-clerical satire written by a monk who was at Christ Church, Canterbury, from 1186 to 1193.
  • Raby, F. J. E. (ed.), The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse (Oxford, 1981). XJQC.
  • Robbins, R. H. (ed.), Secular Lyrics of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (2nd edn, Oxford, 1955). YBRC. The introduction has much about the transmission of Middle English lyrics generally and outlines some ten broad types of manuscripts in which they appear.
  • Samuel Presbiter, Collecta ex diuersis auditis in scola magistri Willelmi de Monte / Notes from the School of William de Montibus, ed. A. Dunning, Toronto Medieval Latin Texts 33 (Toronto, 2016). A series of short, extensively annotated poems that ‘offers a rare record of one of the innovative formats that medieval schoolmasters used to engage students beyond conventional lectures... The poems and commentary present key lessons from the doctrinal instruction of William de Montibus (c. 1140–1213), the beloved master of the school of Lincoln Cathedral.’
  • Stehling, T. (ed. and trs.), Medieval Latin Poems of Male Love and Friendship, Garland Library of Medieval Literature, Series A, 7 (New York, 1984). XJQC.
  • Stevens, J. (ed.), Mediceval Carols, Musica Britannica 4 (2nd edn, London, 1958).
  • Summers, W. J., and P. M. Lefferts, English Thirteenth-Century Polyphony: A Facsimile Edition, Early English Church Music 57 (London, 2016).
  • Symonds, J. A. (trs.), Wine, Women and Song: Mediaeval Latin Students’ Songs (London, 1925). XJQC.
  • Waddell, H. (trs.), Medieval Latin Lyrics (5th edn, London, 1966). XJQ.
  • Waddell, H. (trs.), More Latin lyrics from Virgil to Milton, ed. with an introduction by F. Corrigan (London, 1976). XJQ.
  • Walther von der Vogelweide, Selected Poems, ed. M. F. Richey and H. Sacker (4th edn, Oxford, 1967). XWJZ.W237.
  • Wright, T., The Anglo-Latin Satirical Poets and Epigrammatists of the Twelfth Century, Rolls Series 59, 2 vols. (London, 1872). MU5. A collection assembled under a problematic title, since it is mostly comprised of Continental rather than English texts: see A. G. Rigg, A History of Anglo-Latin Literature, 1066-1422 (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 64–66. XJQea.
  • Zeydel, E. H. (trs.), Vagabond Verse: Secular Latin Poems of the Middle Ages (Detroit, 1966).
  • Ziolkowski, J. M. (ed. and trs.), Jezebel: A Norman Latin Poem of the Early Eleventh Century (New York, 1989). On the obscurity and meaning of this poem and its companion Semiramis, see E. M. C. Van Houts, ‘A Note on Jezabel and Semiramis, Two Latin Norman Poems from the Early Eleventh Century’, Journal of Medieval Latin, 2 (1992), 18–24, and A. Galloway, ‘Word-Play and Political Satire: Solving the Riddle of the Text of Jezebel’, Medium Ævum, 68 (1999), 189–208. Journals X6.
  • Ziolkowski, J. M. (ed. and trs.), Solomon and Marcolf, Harvard Studies in Medieval Latin 1 (Cambridge, MA, 2008).
  • Ziolkowski, J. M., and Bridgit K. Balint (eds), A Garland of Satire, Wisdom, and History: Latin Verse from Twelfth-Century France (Carmina Houghtoniensia) (Cambridge, MA, 2007).

See also the discussion and reading for London, British Library, MS Harley 2253.

Other Reading (just to give an impression of the immense riches that are available)

  • Bell, N., ‘Music’, in N. Morgan and R. Thomson (eds), The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. 2, 1100–1400 (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 463–73. Available from Cambridge Core and in hard copy at ZC3ea.C.
  • Bell, N., Music in Medieval Manuscripts (London, 2001). VSR.B. Pamphlet.
  • Bent, M., and A. Wathey (eds), Fauvel Studies: Allegory, Chronicle, Music, and Image in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS français 146 (Oxford, 1998). VV8f.B.
  • Bent, M., J. C. Hartt and P. M. Lefferts, The Dorset Rotulus: Contextualizing and Reconstructing the Early English Motet, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music (Woodbridge, 2021).
  • Boffey, J., Manuscripts of English Courtly Love Lyrics in the Later Middle Ages, Manuscript Studies 1 (Cambridge, 1985). YDD.
  • Bond, G. A., ‘Locus amoris: The Poetry of Baudri of Bourgueil and the Formation of the Ovidian Subculture’, Traditio, 42 (1986), 143–93. Journals L6.
  • Bond, G. A., The Loving Subject: Desire, Eloquence, and Power in Romanesque France (Philadelphia, PA, 1995). Not held, but very useful.
  • Bowers, R., ‘“Goode and Delitable Songe”: The Elite Promotion of Sacred Music in England by the Chapel Royal and its Emulators Noble and Episcopal, c.1315–1485‘, in C. M. Woolgar (ed.), The Elite Household in England, 1100–1550, Proceedings of the 2016 Harlaxton Symposium (Stamford, 2018), pp. 204–36. MVG.H.
  • Bowers, R., ‘The Music and Musical Establishment of St George’s Chapel in the Fifteenth Century’, in C. Richmond and E. Scarff (eds), St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in the Late Middle Ages (Windsor, 2001), pp. 171–214.
  • Butterfield, A., Poetry and Music in Medieval France: From Jean Renart to Guillaume de Machaut (Cambridge, 2002).
  • Cattin, G., Music of the Middle Ages I, trs. S. Botterill (Cambridge, 1984). VV8.B.
  • Colton, L., Angel Song: Medieval English Music in History (London, 2017).
  • Crocker, R., and D. Hiley (eds), The New Oxford History of Music, vol. 2, Early Medieval Music up to 1300 (2nd edn, Oxford, 1990). VV8.
  • Deeming, H., ‘Code of Conductus‘, Early Music,48 (2020). Available at Oxford Journals.
  • Deeming, H., ‘Music and Contemplation in the Twelfth-Century Dulcis Jesu memoria’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 139 (2014), 1–39. Available at JSTOR.
  • Deeming, H., and E. E. Leach (eds), Manuscripts and Medieval Song: Inscription, Performance, Context, Music in Context (Cambridge, 2015). A collection of essays, concerning a number of interesting miscellanies and collections of music.
  • Dinkova-Bruun, G., ‘On the Problem of Editing Versions: Peter Riga’s Euangelium’, in E. Göransson, G. Iversen and B. Crostini (eds), The Arts of Editing Medieval Greek and Latin: A Casebook, Studies and Texts 203 (Toronto, 2016), pp. 97–120. XDA.
  • Dobson, E. J., and F. L. Harrison, Medieval English Songs (London, 1979). YBRC.
  • Dronke, P., The Medieval Lyric (3rd edn, Woodbridge, 1996). XJQ.
  • Dronke, P., Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric, 2 vols. (2nd edn, Oxford, 1968). YWM. Includes many texts.
  • Dronke, P., Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua (d. 203) to Marguerite Porete (d. 1310) (Cambridge, 1984). YU.B.
  • Eustace, F., Secular Carolling in Late Medieval England, Early Social Performance (Leeds, 2022).
  • Evans, P., The Early Trope Repertory of Saint Martial de Limoges (Princeton, NJ, 1970).
  • Everist, M. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music (Cambridge, 2011). Available from Cambridge Core.
  • Everist, M., Discovering Medieval Song: Latin Poetry and Music in the Conductus (Cambridge, 2018). Studies a genre that flourished in the thirteenth century.
  • Fallows, D., Dufay (London, 1987). VV9.D84.
  • Fassler, M. E., Gothic Song (2nd edn, Notre Dame, 2011). VWVOA.
  • Fassler, M. E., and R. A. Baltzer (eds), The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography. Written in Honor of Professor Ruth Steiner (Oxford 2000).
  • Fitzgerald, W., How to Read a Latin Poem if You Can't Read Latin Yet (Oxford, 2013). An excellent introduction to Latin verse.
  • Floros, C., Introduction to Early Medieval Notation: Enlarged Second Edition, rev., trs. and with an illustrated chapter on cheironomy by N. K. Moran, Detroit Monographs in Musicology/Studies in Music 45 (Warren, MN: 2005).
  • Gallo, F. A., Music of the Middle Ages 2, trs. K. Eales (Cambridge, 1985). VV8.B.
  • Galvez, M., Songbook: How Lyrics Became Poetry in Medieval Europe (Chicago, IL, 2012).
  • Gillingham, B., A Critical Study of Secular Medieval Latin Song, Musicological Studies 60/2 (Ottawa, 1995).
  • Grier, J., ‘A New Voice in the Monastery: Tropes and Versus from Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Aquitaine’, Speculum, 69 (1994), 1023–69. JSTOR; Journals L6.
  • Grier, J., ‘Hoax, History, and Hagiography in Adémar de Chabannes’s Texts for the Divine Office’, in R. A. Maxwell (ed.), Representing History 1000–1300: Art, Music, History (University Park, PA, 2010), pp. 67–72 and 224–6.
  • Grier, J., The Musical World of a Medieval Monk: Adémar de Chabannes in Eleventh-Century Aquitaine (Cambridge, 2006).
  • Haines, J., Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères (Cambridge, 2009).
  • Haines, J., Medieval Song in Romance Languages (Cambridge, 2010).
  • Haines, J. (ed.), The Calligraphy of Medieval Music, Musicalia Medii Aevi 1 (Turnhout, 2011). Note esp., among the many useful articles in this collection: A. M. B. Berger, ‘The Consequences of Ars Nova Notation’ (pp. 241–51).
  • Harrison, F. L., Music in Medieval Britain (4th edn, Buren, 1980). VV8ea.B.
  • Hayward, P. A., ‘The Earls of Leicester, Sygerius Lucanus and the Death of Seneca: Some Neglected Evidence for the Cultural Agency of the Norman Aristocracy’, Speculum, 91.2 (2016), 328–55. Available from University of Chicago Press.
  • Hiley, D., ‘Changes in English Chant Repertories in the Eleventh Century as Reflected in the Winchester Sequences’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 16 (1994), 137–54.
  • Hiley, D., Gregorian Chant, Cambridge Introductions to Music (Cambridge, 2009).
  • Hiley, D., ‘The Norman Chant Traditions—Normandy, Britain, Sicily’, Journal of the Royal Music Association, 107 (1980), 1–33. Oxford Journals.
  • Hiley, D., ‘The Office of the Transfiguration by Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny (1122–1156) in the Manuscript Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fonds latin 17716’, in B. Gillingham and P. Merkley (eds), Chant and its Peripheries. Essays in Honour of Terence Bailey (Ottawa, 1998), pp. 224–40. Includes images of fols. 7v and 8r.
  • Hiley, D., ‘Thurstan of Caen and Plainchant at Glastonbury: Musicological Reflections on the Norman Conquest’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 72 (1986), 57–90. Journals L6.
  • Hiley, D., Western Plainchant: A Handbook (Oxford, 1993). VWVO.
  • Hughes, A., Sign and Symbol: Medieval Music, 800–1453 (Ottawa, 1989).
  • Hughes, A. (ed.), The New Oxford History of Music, vol. 2, Early Medieval Music Up to 1300 (Oxford, 1954). VV8.
  • Karp, T., The Polyphony of Saint Martial and Santiago de Compostela, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1992).
  • Kelly, T. F., Early Music: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011). Available at Oxford Very Short Introductions.
  • Kelly, T. F., The Beneventan Chant (Cambridge, 1989).
  • Knighton, T., and D. Fallows (eds), Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music (London, 1992; New York, 1997). VV8.B.
  • Krause, K. M., and A. Stones (eds), Gautier de Coinci: Miracles, Music and Manuscripts, Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe (Turnhout, 2006).
  • Leach, E. E., Sung Birds: Music, Nature, and Poetry in the Later Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY, 2007).
  • Leach, E. E., J. W. Mason and M. P. Thomson (eds), A Medieval Songbook: Trouvére MS C, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music 24 (Woodbridge, 2022).
  • Leach, E. E. (ed.), Machaut’s Music: New Interpretations, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music 1 (Woodbridge, 2003).
  • Moore, D. L., Medieval Anglo-Irish Troubles: A Cultural Study of B.L. MS Harley 913, Texts and Transitions 8 (Turnhout, 2017). MYBG.
  • Nelson, Ingrid, Lyric Tactics: Poetry, Genre, and Practice in Later Medieval England, The Middle Ages (Philadelphia, PA, 2017).
  • Page, C., Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France (Oxford, 1993). VV8f.B.
  • Page, C., The Christian West and its Singers: The First Thousand Years (New Haven, CT, 2010). Brilliant.
  • Parrish, C., The Notation of Medieval Music (New York, 1978). VWFN.B.
  • Peraino, J. A., Giving Voice to Love: Song and Self-Expression from the Troubadours to Guillaume de Machaut (Oxford, 2011).
  • Raby, F. J. E., A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (1st edn, Oxford, 1927; 2nd edn, Oxford, 1953). XJQB.
  • Raby, F. J. E., A History of Secular-Latin Poetry in the Middle Ages, 2 vols (2nd edn, Oxford, 1957). XJQB.
  • Rankin, S., ‘From Memory to Record: Musical Notations in Manuscripts from Exeter’, Anglo-Saxon England, 13 (1984), 97–112. MVC.
  • Rankin, S., ‘Making the Liturgy: Winchester Scribes and their Books’, in H. B. Gittos and M. Bradford Bedingfield (eds), The Liturgy of the Late Anglo-Saxon Church, Henry Bradshaw Society Subsidia (Woodbridge, 2004), pp. 29–52. MVC.K.
  • Reaney, G., Manuscripts of Polyphonic Music: 11th–Early 14th Century (Munich-Duisberg, 1966).
  • Remensnyder, A. G., ‘The Virgin and the King: Alfonso X’s Cantigas de Santa Maria’, in J. Glenn (ed.), The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources (Toronto, 2011), pp. 285–98. MB.
  • Robertson, A. W., The Service Books of the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis (Oxford, 1991).
  • Robertson, A. W., Guillaume de Machaut and Reims: Context and Meaning in his Musical Works (Cambridge, 2002).
  • Rosenberg, S. N., S. Danon and H. Van der Werf, The Lyrics and Melodies of Gace Brulé (New York and London, 1985).
  • Sanders, E. H., French and English Polyphony of the 13th and 14th centuries: Style and Notation, Variorum Collected Studies 637 (Aldershot, 1998). VWI.B.
  • Scott, K. L., Tradition and Innovation in Later Medieval English Manuscripts (London, 2007).
  • Sharpe, R., ‘Words and Music by Goscelin of Canterbury’, Early Music, 19 (1991), 94–97. Oxford Journals.
  • Slocum, K. B., Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket (Toronto, 2003).
  • Sole, L. M., ‘Some Anglo-Saxon Cuthbert liturgica: The Manuscript Evidence’, Revue Bénédictine, 108 (1998), 104–44. With reference to Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 183, and London, British Library, MS Harley 1117.
  • Steiner, R., ‘Some Monophonic Latin Songs Composed Around 1200’, Musical Quarterly, 52 (1966), 56–70. Journals VV6.
  • Stevens, J., ‘Medieval Song’, in R. Crocker and D. Hiley (eds), The New Oxford History of Music, vol. 2, Early Medieval Music up to 1300 (2nd edn, Oxford, 1990), pp. 357–451. VV8.
  • Stevens, J., ‘Music in Honor of St Thomas of Canterbury’, Musical Quarterly, 56 (1970), 311–48. Journals VV6.
  • Stevens, J., Words and Music in the Middle Ages: Song, Narrative, Dance and Drama, 1050–1350 (Cambridge, 1986).
  • Storey, H. W., Transcription and Visual Poetics in Early Italian Lyric (New York, NY, 1993).
  • Taruskin, R., The Oxford History of Western Music, vol. 1, The Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 2005). VV8dw.
  • Tatlock, J. S. P., ‘Muriel: The Earliest English Poetess’, Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, 48 (1933), 317–21. JSTOR. About a nun of Wilton Abbey who is a known poet though none of her works survive.
  • Treitler, L., ‘Oral, Written, and Literate Process in the Transmission of Medieval Music’, Speculum, 56 (1981), 471–91. JSTOR; Journals L6.
  • Waite, W. G., The Rhythm of Twelfth-Century Polyphony, its Theory and Practice (Westport, CT, 1973). VWI.B.
  • Waddell, H., The Wandering Scholars (7th edn, London, 1934). XJQ.
  • Wathey, A., ‘The Production of Books of Liturgical Polyphony’, in J. Griffiths and D. Pearsall (eds), Book Production and Publishing in Britain, 1375-1475 (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 143–61. ZC3ea.B.
  • Wathey, A., Music in the Royal and Noble Households in Late Medieval England (New York, 1989).
  • Woods, M. C., Classroom Commentaries: Teaching the Poetria nova across Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Text and Context (Columbus, OH, 2010). Important for how the arts of composition and poetry were disseminated and taught.
  • Wright, C., Music and Ceremony at Notre Dame of Paris, 500–1550 (Cambridge, 1989). VWVOA8f.
  • Young, K., The Drama of the Medieval Church, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1933). YX3.B.
  • Zapke, S. (ed.), Hispania Vetus: Musical-Liturgical Manuscripts: From Visigothic Origins to the Franco-Roman Transition (9th–12th Centuries) (Bilbao, 2007).
  • Zayaruznaya, A., The Monstrous New Art: Divided Forms in the Late Medieval Motet, Music in Context (Cambridge, 2015).
  • Ziolkowski, J. M., Nota Bene: Reading Classics and Writing Melodies in the Early Middle Ages (Turnhout, 2007).
  • Ziolkowski, J. M., ‘Nota bene: Why the Classics were Neumed in the Middle Ages’, Journal of Medieval Latin, 10 (2000), 74–114.

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