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Complete Works of Gilles Mureau

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Ce qu’on fait a catimini 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

Laborde Index »Ce qu’on fait«  (missing in MS) Facsimile

*Wolfenbüttel ff. 48v-49 »Ce qu’on fait a catimini« PDF · Facsimile

Edition: Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 39 (Wolfenbüttel).

Text: Rondeau cinquain, macaronic French-Latin poem; full text in Wolfenbüttel; also found in a different setting by Gilles Joye in New Haven 91, ff. 10v-11 (ed.: Perkins 1979 no. 9), which have a full text that is slightly different from Wolfenbüttel; this version is also in Jardin 1501 f. 96v (incomplete), ed.: Schwob no. 119. After Wolfenbüttel:

Ce qu’on fait a catimini
touchant multiplicamini,
maiz qu’il soit fait secretement,
est excuse legerement
in conspectu Altissimi.

Et pourtant operamini,
mez filles, et letamini,
ce n’est que tout esbatement

ce qu’on fait a catimini
touchant multiplicamini,
maiz qu’il soit fait secretement.

Et se vous ingrossamini,
soit in nomine Domini;
endurez le tout doulcement,
ja n’en perdrez vo saulvement,
maiz que vous confitemini.

Ce qu’on fait a catimini
touchant multiplicamini,
maiz qu’il soit fait secretement,
est excuse legerement
in conspectu Altissimi.

What you do covertly
concerning ‘let us multiply’,
as long as it is done secretly,
is easily excused
in the sight of the Most High.

And then, let us do it,
my girls, and enjoy,
it is nothing but good sport

what you do covertly
concerning ‘let us multiply’,
as long as it is done secretly.

And if your bellies grow,
let it be in the name of the Lord;
endure it all sweetly,
you will not miss your salvation by that,
provided that you confess.

What you do covertly
concerning ‘let us multiply’,
as long as it is done secretly,
is easily excused
in the sight of the Most High.

Evaluation of the sources:

In Laborde the pages containing this song has disappeared. However, it is mentioned in the index to the collection, and here it is placed between f. 21v and 22 – along with the likewise disappeared »Le jolis tetin de ma dame«. Given the close relations between Laborde and Wolfenbüttel, it is probably this version that was in Laborde, and not the setting by Gilles Joye in New Haven 91 and three slightly later sources (cf. Fallows 1999 p. 109).

The copy by the Wolfenbüttel scribe seems quite hasty with several errors. He has corrected some of them himself: in the contratenor bars 10-12 (he had first written a rhythm similar to the tenor causing parallel octaves between superius and contra) and the ligature bars 18-19 was written a tone lower.

Comments on text and music:

Macaronic erotic song in a light-hearted musical setting, much funnier than the quite pedestrian setting by Joye. The poem could very well have been revised by the composer with the common version or Joye’s setting as his model. He has only reworded the lines without Latin words (shown in Italics in the example below) in order to get a more effective and richer rimeword, “-ement” in stead of just “-é”, and one which contrasts stronger with the first rime  “-mini”. Not much is changed in the meaning; cf. the text of Joye’s song after New Haven 91, ff. 10v:

Ce qu’on fait a quatimini
touchant multiplicamini,
mais qu’il soit bien tenu secre,
sera tenu pour excuse
in conspectu Altissimi.

Et pourtant operamini,
mes fillez, et letaimini,
car jamais n’est revele

ce qu’on fait ...

Et se vous ingrossemini,
soit in nomine Domini;
vous aves a proufit ouvre,
qui vous sera tout pardonne,
mais que vous confitemini

ce qu’on fait ...

The setting is for a structural duet of superius and tenor an octave apart complemented by a contratenor, which for much of the time keeps below the tenor, but rises above it in the first line. The song opens in what sounds like a three-part imitation, but it soon after the entry of the last voice, the tenor, turns into an extended passage in fauxbourdon-style that underscores the words “fait a catimini” (do covertly) with striking clarity. The rest of the words are set tongue-in-cheek using flexible canonic imitation on triadic motives and chasing descending thirds with lot of syncopation, which disturbs the steady beat. The second section of the rondeau runs the lines together and accumulates the syncopation, so that the last line of the refrain and of the tierce are performed by the upper voice off-beat all the way through: the assurances to the young girls, “in conspectu Altissimi” and “maiz que vous confitemini”, are apparently not quite trustworthy.

See also the article ‘The chansons of Basiron’s youth and the dating of the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers’.

PWCH August 2012