Citation, Intertextuality and Memory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Volume One, Text, Music and Image from Machaut to Ariosto

Publication Type:



University of Exeter Press, Exexter, UK, p.272 (2011)


Ariosto, art, Chaucer, classics, English, form, French, intertextuality, Latin, Machaut, poetry


The intertextuality which interests scholars in this book is interdisciplinary—verbal texts borrowing from musical and visual texts, and vice versa. Essays by Jacques Boogart, Ardis Butterfield, Domenic Leo, R. Barton Palmer, Benjamin Albritton, Kathleen Palti, and Ann Stone deal with French and English texts; Stefano Jossa and Monica Calabritto deal with Italian and Latin ones. Anthony Musson and Karel Thein deal particularly with images—manuscript illuminations, and frescoes. In this notice I profile a few of the essays that have special relevance for medieval lyric.
Jacques Boogart argues that Guillaume de Machaut’s musical compositions “translate the borrowed literary idea into a musical image” (15). The apparent madness of the music of the motet Tous cors/De souspirant cuer/Suspiro finds an origin in the poem’s words. Boogart first considers how Machaut borrows and changes apparent sources for his pieces, such as Virelai 6, Se ma dame m’a guerpi; Ballade 8, De petit po; and the Lay de Plour stanzas II and III. Boogart suggests that Virelai 6’s refrain, “Puis qu’il li plaist forment m’agree” (“since it pleases her, I’m very happy with it”) is from the pastourelle Dehors conpignes now preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 308. In Machaut’s virelai, the line “acquires a sarcastic tone” (17); moreover, there is a gender switch. The earlier Dehors conpignes refrain is a happy one, a sung girl remembered by a man, whereas in Machaut’s virelai the refrain indicates that an unhappy male lover “is forbidden to look at the lady who has left him for another adorer” (17). Boogart also identifies a subtle transgendering of voice in the words of Motet 2; moreover, he suggests that, although the word folie (transgression) is not actually in the selected passages, “the decision to plea openly for mercy amounts to a transgression” (31) and an ostensible transgression is seen in “the dissonant clashes” of the music. Boogart transcribes Machaut’s motet 2 based on Paris, BNF MS francais 1584, fols. 415v-416r. Benjamin Albritton explores how Machaut’s Lay de Confort influences later compositions such as Machaut’s Dit de la Fonteinne Amoureuse and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess. Albritton gives very formal analyses of syllable count, rhythm, and verbal echoes in poems such as the Fonteinne Amoureuse, and by showing intertextual links between Machaut, Froissart, and Chaucer. A table that lists stanza and rhyme differences between Machaut’s Lay and Froissart’s S’onques amoureusement (7). Albritton points out that sections from the Book of the Duchess draw not only on the Paradis d’Amour by Jean Froissart, but on Machaut’s Fonteinne Amoureuse in a way that “respects the original genre (a poem of comfort)” (5). Chaucer recycles tropes recognizable to a specific audience—one familiar with Machaut’s Lay de Confort. Ardis Butterfield notes that both the Dominican preacher Giordano de Pisa and the troubadour Daniel Arnaut associate the work of poetry’s composition with manual labour. Arnaut’s song “En cest sonet coind’ e leri’,” for example, talks about poetry in the terms of a blacksmith, builder or woodcarver (42). It is challenging to transfer such ideas about form to a discussion of Middle English lyrics prior to Chaucer, but Butterfield argues that repertories of lyric had distinct criteria for “form”—criteria depending on the specific groups of people who write and circulate poetry, and criteria whose diversity calls for a critical language that can accommodate both “highly wrought” verse and “short and clumsy” verse (43). In this vein is “Now goth sonne under wod,” from the Speculum Religiosorum: Butterfield suggests that “Now goth” is “the climax of the chapter on the cross” that works as an end-point as well as an “outgrowth of the contemplative process.” Form in this small lyric is “a means for the redactor of tracing the process and giving it audible sound and pattern” (47). Kathleen Palti, “Representations of Voices in Middle English Lyrics,” looks at how the words of lyrics refer to voices, in poems in two late Middle English manuscripts: London, BL MS Sloane 2593 and Oxford, Bod. MS Eng. poet. e. 1. The latter manuscript contains written music: there are three notated texts, and tunes are indicated for two more (142). Palti notes however that 25 texts in Sloane contain the word “song” (or sing, sings, etc), and suggests that the structures of refrains also suggest “sung delivery” (142). Palti suggests that voices in lyrics are like memory in that they “create relationships between the written and spoken (or sung) word” (152); songs “listen” as well as “speak” (158). Ann Stone, in “Machaut Sighted in Modena,” looks at the Modena manuscript (Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria, Alpha M.5.24) with its collection of Italian-composed songs with French (verbal) texts (171). Four songs of Machaut’s appear in the manuscript, though they are not attributed to him. Meanwhile, three Italian works seem to “engage Machaut,” including Antonello da Caserta’s “Beauté parfait” (Perfect Beauty), which Stone translates (175). The beauty that Machaut explores here is, Stone argues, “the beauty of metric perfection.” Other compositions that appear to “engage” Machaut are Matteo da Perugia’s “Se vous n’estes” and “Se je me plaing de Fortune”—this last “consists of back-to-back quotations of Machaut incipts” (179).