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J’ay prins amours a ma devise 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon f. 7 »J’ay pris amours« 2v [3v] (T and C only, version B) Edition · Facsimile

*Laborde ff. 31v-32 »J'ay prins amours a ma devise« 3v (version A) Edition · Facsimile

*Leuven ff. 16v-17 »J'ay pris amours a ma devise« 3v (Version B) Edition · Facsimile

*Nivelle ff. 71v-72 »J'ay pris amours a ma devise« 3v (version B) Edition · Facsimile

*Wolfenbüttel ff. 37v-38 »J'ay prins amours a ma devise« 3v (version B) Edition · Facsimile

Other sources:

Bologna Q16 ff. 138v-139 »Ja pris amor« 3v (Version B) · Facsimile (Q016_284)
Escorial IV.a.24 f. 136v »J’ay pris amours a ma devise« 1v [3v] (T only, version A)
Florence 27 f. 41v »Johay pris amor« 1v [3v] (C only, version B)
Munich 5023 f. 54v-55 »O preciosum convivium« 2v  (version B)
Paris 15123 ff. 21v-22 »Jy pris amoris a ma devise« 3v (version B) · Facsimile
Paris 2973 ff. 23v-24 »J'ay pris amours a ma devise« 3v (version B) · Facsimile
*Paris 4379 ff. 27v-28 »J'ay prins amours en ma devise« 3v (version A) Edition
Perugia 431 ff. 75v-76 »Jam pris amore« 3v (version B)
Urbino intarsia - »J'ay pris amours a ma devise« 3v (version A)

The list of Other sources contains the vocal sources for versions A and B only, which can be placed in the 15th century. For further sources, the many reworkings, contrafacta, citations, and use in other compositions, see Meconi 1994, pp. 33-34, and Fallows 1999, pp. 195-198.

This page with editions as a PDF

Editions: Droz 1927 no. 2 (Dijon); Taruskin 1982 nos. 1 (Nivelle) and 2 (Laborde); Guitiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 29 (Wolfenbüttel - faulty); Perkins 1996 pp. 196-197 (Nivelle).

Text: Rondeau quatrain; full text in Laborde, Leuven, Nivelle and Wolfenbüttel, also in Paris 2973 and Paris 4379; also found in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 160 (no. 470), ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 301; London 380 f. 242v; Jardin 1501 f. 71v (no. 102).

After Wolfenbüttel:

J’ay prins amours a ma devise
pour conquerir joyeuseté;
heureux seray en cest’ esté,
se puis venir a mon emprinse. (1)

S’il est aulcun qui m’en deprise, (2)
il me doit estre pardonné.

J’ay prins amours a ma devise
pour conquerir joyeuseté.

Il me semble que c’est la guise,
qui n’a riens, il est debouté, (3)
et n’est de personne honnoré;
n’esse pas droit que je y vise? (4)

J’ay prins amours a ma devise
pour conquerir joyeuseté;
heureux seray en cest’ esté,
se puis venir a mon emprinse.

I have taken love as my devise
in order to win joyfulness;
I shall be happy this summer,
if I can get my token of love.

If anyone for that should despise me,
I must be forgiven.

I have taken love as my devise
in order to win joyfulnes

I think that this is how it is,
he who has no [token] is rebuffed,
and no one honours him;
Is it then not right that I look for it?

I have taken love as my devise
in order to win joyfulness;
I shall be happy this summer,
if I can get my token of love.

1) Laborde, line 4, “...en mon emprinse”; Paris 4379, “s’advenir puis a mon emprise”
2) Nivelle, line 5, “...qu'il me desprise”
3) Laborde, line 10, “car qui n'a riens est deboute”
4) Wolfenbüttel, line 12, “... je y advise”; Leuven, “n’esse pas donc que je vise?”; Nivelle, “n'esse point droit ...”; Paris 4379, “n’esse pas droit dont que gy vise”
– in addition some differences in spelling.

Evaluation of the sources:

Obviously, this song was quite old and wide-travelled when it was entered into five of the six ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers, where it appears in two different versions, one in Laborde (version A) and one in the four other sources (version B).

Laborde provides, as observed by David Fallows, probably the original version of the song. Here it is structured as a superius-tenor duet with the ranges of the core voices an octave apart, and they are supplemented by a filling-in contratenor occupying the same range as the tenor. The contratenor lies mostly above the tenor and takes the fifth in all cadences. This version enjoyed a considerable early dissemination, which is confirmed by its appearance in an intarsia in the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, in the Studiolo of Federico III da Montefeltro, probably executed by Baccio Pontelli before 1476, in the slightly younger MS Paris 4379/Sevilla 5-I-43, and most probable as the single tenor-part in Escorial IV.a.24. Even if these sources transmit the same version of the song, details in the poetic text and in the use of ligatures and cadential ornamentation reveal that it circulated in different traditions of transmission (see the editions of Laborde and Paris 4379). The intarsia-version in Urbino is closest to Laborde (for a video presentation and more of the Urbino Studiolo, see

The most important difference between Laborde and the Mantuan and the Napolitan versions is that the Laborde scribe prescribes hexachordal signatures of one flat in the lower voices. These flats cannot be applied to the music, which while centred on A is strongly coloured by E-Phrygian, and they must be regarded as errors. It is unexplainable why the scribe entered them, but the same phenomenon appears in the following song, Ockeghem’s widely circulated »Ma bouche rit et ma pensee pleure« on ff. 32v-34. This erroneous grasp of hexachordal signatures mars several of the Laborde scribe’s copies of songs which should not have been supplied with flats in the lower voices (see for example the songs on ff. 38v-39, 68v-69 and 70v-72).

In Laborde the words of the refrain is also underlaid the tenor part, almost complete. This underscores the melodic importance of this part.

Leuven, Wolfenbüttel, Nivelle and Dijon (missing the upper voice) transmit a version with a low contratenor (B), which obviously was based on the original high contratenor. A probable reason for this could be that the very high tessitura of the original might have a tendency to overpower the musical line of the tenor if performed by a singer – and the new low voice did impart the beloved song with a more ‘modern’ sound. Its range lies a fifth below the tenor, and it never takes the fifth above at cadences. It offers harmonic support to the upper voices’ duet, while it at the same time tries to preserve some characteristics of the original part. For example, bars 18-21 are virtually unchanged, while in the following bars the forward-pushing cadential figuration in Laborde is transposed down an octave, stripped of its suspension and made quite ineffective in its lightly disguised parallel thirds with the tenor. Likewise, its entrance as the last voice in bars 38-40 and 45-47 is preserved. Fallows enumerates three more versions (C, D and E) involving revisions of the contratenor (Fallows 1999, p. 196).

The four sources transmit the same version of the song, but the many differences in the use of ligatures show that also this version had been in circulation for some time, and that different exemplars were used. Dijon exhibits a signature of one flat in the contratenor. The note B, which the flat literally taken addresses, appears only twice in the part – in bars 14 and 36. One has probably to sing a natural in bar 14 as in bar 9; only the concord of the fifth in relation to the tenor in bar 36 might have induced the scribe to introduce this signature.

Comments on text and music:

The poem tells about the external appearances of courtly love. The poet wants to wear on his clothes a token, a coloured band or something, of his welcome admiration for a lady, visible to all (and a bit foolish, cf. lines 5-6). One could say that the poem depicts the comic-strip version of the ideals of love and therefore was highly successful. In addition to the text, the core voices of the song contributed much to the song’s attraction. They are singable, lyrical and slightly elegiac in their Phrygian colouring underscored by the dropping line endings of most melodic segments in the tenor; they alternate declamation, free polyphony and canonic imitation at the octave of short motives kept within ranges of fourths - all easy and attractive to sing or listen to. The impressive list of compositions building on the superius or the tenor voice or both, and the song’s reuse as Italian laude (five different texts), attests to the degree to which this song caught the imagination of its time (Fallows 1999, pp. 196-197, Meconi 1994, pp. 33-34). As Honey Meconi remarked, not everybody appreciated its success (Meconi 1994, p. 9). At least two contemporary songs caricature its triviality, in Dijon, »J’ay prins deux pous a ma chemise« (ff. 127v-128), and in Florence 176 and Paris 4379, »J’ay pris ung poul a ma chemise« (see the comments and editions).

In the early version of “J’ay prins amours” (A), the high contratenor at every incision carry the musical flow forward; in bars 8-9 and 14-17 the contratenor cadences with the tenor. In the younger version (B) this function is not as effective, and this has some consequences for the text placement. In Laborde the text of the 2nd line in the tenor starts in bar 18, and the last syllable of the 1st line is clearly indicated as still sounding in bar 17. In Paris 4379 and in Leuven the note repetition in the tenor in bars 14-15 is replaced by a dotted brevis. This may be the original version of this passage. However, the note repetition has been retained in the revised version (B) of the MSS Wolfenbüttel, Nivelle and Dijon, therefore a different texting of this passage seems obvious. Also in this case, some of the elegance and natural flow of the original was lost during the revision.

PWCH January 2013, revised September 2022