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Cent mille escus quant je vouldroye 3v · Caron / Busnoys

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 152v-153 »Cent mille escus quant je vouldroie« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Leuven ff. 23v-25 »Cent mil escuz quant je vouldroye« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Wolfenbüttel f. 63v »Cent mille escuz quant je vouldroye« 1v (S only) PDF · Facsimile

Other sources:

Bologna Q16 ff. 146v-147 »Cento milia escute« 3v · Facsimile (Q016_300)
Florence 178 ff. 61v-62 »[C]ent mille scus« 3v
Florence 229 ff. 71v-72 »Cent mille escus quant je vouldroie« 3v Busnoys
Kraków 40098 ff. L11/M7/M12 »P« 3v · Facsimile [1:138/2:150/3:162]
*Paris 15123 ff. 10v-11 »Cent mille escus quant je voeldroie« 3v (Contra C) [unreadable] PDF · Facsimile
Paris 2973 ff. 29v-30 »Cent mille escus quant je vouldroye« 3v · Facsimile
*Perugia 431 ff. 48v-49 »Cento milia scuti« 3v (Contra B) PDF · Facsimile
Petrucci 1504/3 ff. 122v-123 »Cent mille escuts« 4v (Contratenor altus added)
Rome 2856 ff. 26v-27 »Cento mille escu« 3v Caron · Facsimile
Rome XIII.27 ff. 41v-42 »Cent mil ecus« 3v Caron · Facsimile
Sevilla 5-1-43 ff. 45v-46 »Cent mille escus quant je vodroie« 3v
Verona 757 ff. 61v-62 »Cent mille escus« 3v

Citation and use of material: See Fallows 1999 p. 108.

Editions: Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 52 (Wolfenbüttel); Busnoys 2018 no. 16 (Dijon).

Text: Rondeau cinquain; full text in Dijon, Leuven and Wolfenbüttel – all with different tierces; the Wolfenbüttel version is also found in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 184, ed.: Löpelmann 1923 p. 357, and London 380 f. 242, ed.: Wallis p. 124.

After Leuven:

Cent mil escuz quant je vouldroye
et paradis quant je mourroye,
mieulx je ne scaroye souhaitier
si non user de mon moitier 1)
aulcuneffoiz quant je pourroye.

De rien je ne me soussiroye
mays les dames je festiroye,
si j’avoye pour moy aidier

cent mil escuz quant je vouldroye.

Ung millier de chantres j’auroye
et dieu scet comment je beuroye
jusqu’au clou comme ung milsoudier,
en brief, il ne fault point cuidier
que je feroye feu si j’avoye

cent mil escuz quant je vouldroye

1) Tenor and contratenor, “si non ouvrer”

After Wolfenbüttel:

Cent mille escuz quant je vouldroye
et paradis quant je mourroye,
plus ne scauroye souhetier
si non user de mon mettier
aulcuneffois quant je pourroye.

De riens je ne me soussiroye
maiz les dames [je] festeroye,
se j’avoye pour moy aidier

cent mille escuz quant je vouldroye.

Puis m’en iroys jouer a Roye
vers Rams et la temps passeroye
pour tousjours mon dueil oblier;
je ne me pourroys forvoyer
puis qu’en ma bourse trouveroye

cent mille escuz quant je vouldroye.

After Dijon:

Cent mille escus quant je vouldroie
et paradis quant je mourroie,
plus ne scaroie souhaictier
si non ouvrer de mon mestier
aucune fois quant je pourroie.

De riens [je] ne me soussiroie
mais les dames [je] festiroie, 1)
se j’avoie pour moi aider

Hand Dijon B:

cent mille escu quant je vouldroie

Service de court laisseroye,
car on y a plus deul que joye,
plus ne m’en vouldroye espeschier,
mais, en brief, du tout m’en despechier
se j’avoye en une monnoye

cent mille escus quant je vouldroie

1) line 7, “... dames fefiroie” (error)

A hundred thousand crowns when I want them
and paradise when I die,
I would not know to wish for better things
except to make use of my instrument
some times when I could.

I would not worry about anything
but that I could feast the ladies
if to help me I had

a hundred thousand crowns when I want them.

I would like to have thousands of singers
and god knows how I would drink
to the last drop like a squanderer,
in short, there can be no doubt
that I would raise hell if I could have

a hundred thousand crowns when I want them.



A hundred thousand crowns when I want them
and paradise when I die,
I would not know to wish for more
except to exercise my metier
some times when I could.

I would not worry about anything
but that I could feast the ladies
if to help me I had

a hundred thousand crowns when I want them.

Then I would go to have fun in Roye
near Rheims and there enjoy life
in order to forget my sorrows forever;
I would not be able to turn away
since I could find in my purse

a hundred thousand crowns when I want them.


A hundred thousand crowns when I want them
and paradise when I die,
I would not know to wish for more
except to practising my metier
some times when I could.

I would not worry about anything
but that I could feast the ladies
if to help me I had


a hundred thousand crowns when I want them.

I would leave service at court,
for there one has more sorrow than joy,
I would not anymore be kept back,
but, in brief, hurry to be on my way,
if I could have in silver

a hundred thousand crowns when I want them.

Evaluation of the sources:

The three ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers transmit basically the same version of the music, and the three main scribes obviously used different but closely related exemplars. The Leuven scribe managed to make a faultless copy of his, while the Dijon made a few mistakes. His version differs from Leuven mostly by using calmer rhythms in bars 3, 18 and 37 in the superius, and there are differences in the use of coloration and ligatures (S bb. 48 and 52; T bb. 36-37.1; C bb. 3, 20.2 and 47.2-48.1). Of Wolfenbüttel only the superius remains, as the next folio has disappeared. It is very similar to the Dijon superius. The main difference, disregarding errors, is the omission of cadential figuration in bars 30 and 52.2-53.1.

What in particular separates the three sources is their transmission of the poem. Leuven has a complete version, which carefully spells out its rich rimes, and consistently develops its daydream of what could happen if the male speaker had access to unlimited streams of money – ending up in setting everything on fire (“feroye feu”). We must presume that Leuven represents the original poem as set by the composer (see further below). Wolfenbüttel also brings a complete poem in a version that is known from contemporary poetry collections. The first eight lines are quite similar to Leuven, while the tierce is different. It tones down its fiery – and possibly subversive – stance and is not as polished in rimes and sounds. The Dijon scribe entered only the first eight lines of the poem. His exemplar apparently left out the problematic tierce – as did the exemplar used for the song in the Italian Chansonnier Cordiforme (Paris 2973). A later hand, which appears to belong to the second scribe of MS Florence 2794, added a new tierce on the page in Dijon; it is a safe and toothless banality on leaving the vain life at court if he could have the money.

Leuven, Dijon and Wolfenbüttel agree on ending the full refrain on the weak beat in tempus imperfectum diminutum. The meaning and structure of the poem, which connects the last lines of the couplet and tierce with the start of the refrain in one sentence, strongly encourage a performance with a short refrain only, consisting of a repeat of the first line alone (cf. the editions). This effectively dispels the feeling of ending the song on an offbeat, as the first line cadences normally on the beat and on the song’s finalis.

The great number of later sources, nearly all of them Italian, show up many differences of details – leaning towards one or the other of the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers. The majority brings the music without much change and with only the refrain or incipits as text (Kraków 40098, Bologna Q16, Florence 229, Florence 178, Verona 757, Petrucci 1504/3 – the last adds a new high contratenor).

Other scribes or their exemplars apparently perceived that the ending of the refrain was an anomaly, which ought to be corrected: The slightly later chansonnier Rome 2856, whose superius is very like the one preserved in Wolfenbüttel, ends the song on a semibrevis value, which then is repeated as a longa placing the end surely on the beat. The same goal could be reached in a more elegant way by just prolonging the cadence in bar 53 with a few notes in all voices (Sevilla 5-1-43, Rome XIII.27, Paris 15123 – the simple device can be studied in the edition of Paris 15123). In two other sources the music of the last line has been slightly recomposed in order to prolong the music. It has been done in an unobtrusive way without disturbing the canon at the fifth in bars 49-50 in the Chansonnier Cordiforme (Paris 2973 (cf. the edition in Thibault & Fallows 1991, no. 22), while the same operation has been botched in bars 50-51 in Perugia 431 (cf. the edition).

In two sources the song has been furnished with a revised contratenor. In the Florentine Chansonnier Pixérécourt (Paris 15123, mid 1480s) the reviser kept only the first three notes and the contra’s participation in the three-part imitations at the start of the third and fourth lines and simplified other passages (for example, bb. 19-21). The slightly later Neapolitan MS Perugia 431 brings the same contratenor, but retains more of the original voice. This version keeps bars 1-5.1 and tries to revert to the original contra at the end of the song, from bar 51, but forgets that the upper voices have been prolonged and therefore misses the value of a semibrevis (cf. the editions of both versions). Apparently, the song circulated in Italy with the contratenor in slightly different shapes. It is difficult to gather why this new voice was created. Its range has been moved up one note - maybe in order to avoid the low B-flat. It could also be that the arranger wished to eliminate the ambiguity of the middle cadence by replacing it with a more regular cadence on A, and in stead of an imitation of only two different triads in the final line wished to hear all three hexachords (on F, C and G) in play similar to what one could experience in another widely circulated song by Caron (»Helas que pourra devenir«).

The three ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers do not mention any composer. Two Italian sources, the Ferrarese MS Rome 2856 of c. 1480 and the Neapolitan MS Rome XIII.27 from the 1490s, both ascribe the song to Caron, while the Florentine MS Florence 229, also dated in the early 1490s, names Busnoys as its composer. The scholarly literature often mentions that above the song in MS Paris 15123 there is a cut-off name whose remaining traces could be read as “Busnois” (cf. the facsimile). However, if one browses through the manuscript and compare with the many songs ascribed to “Busnoys” and “Caron”, it soon becomes obvious that it is impossible for the remnants of letters to spell out either name. This fragmentary ascription must remain unreadable. It has been argued that the attribution of the song to Busnoys in Florence 229 might stem from confusion with a lost song by Busnoys, “Cent mille fois le jour”. (1) All in all, with three names to consider, Caron, Busnoys and the unreadable one, Caron’s claim must be the strongest, especially as nothing in music and text contradicts a firm attribution to him (see below).

Comments on text and music:

A light-hearted rondeau on how fun life could be if one had access to a mountain of money. It is made with a high degree of sophistication. As it stands in the Leuven chansonnier, it is in rich rimes léonines “-roye / -tier” having syllables of identical sound until the last line (“-voye”) and spelled with great care all the way through. The story has a clear direction, accelerating from besides being assured of paradise after death and occasionally using his “moitier” to in the couplet entertaining the ladies, until his dreams run amok in the tierce in song, booze and women – the sexual fantasy is obvious. This probably represents the original version of the poem and the one set by Caron.

The version of the poem that we know from the Wolfenbüttel chansonnier and from the two manuscript collections of poetry in Berlin, Staatsliche Museen der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett, Ms. 78.B.17 (Chansonnier Rohan), and London, British Library, MS Lansdowne 380, contemporary with or a bit earlier than the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers, is as regards the eight first lines very similar to the Leuven version. However, the tierce is completely different. Here the speaker would just enjoy life in provincial Northern France and never come back as long his purse was filled. This is evidently a construction made in order to be less offensive than the original. The poet was not able to maintain the rime pattern like the original did and ended up with: “roye, -roye, -blier, -voier (sic), -roye”.

The exemplar available to the Dijon scribe apparently did not contain a tierce. The same appears to have been the case when the song was copied into Chansonnier Cordiforme (Paris 2973)in Italy. Also here the first eight lines are present without the probably subversive tierce. When the Dijon chansonnier during the late 1470s passed into the care of the workshop of the scribe of the French chansonnier, Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, Ms. 2794, a new tierce was added on f. 152v by the scribe designated as Hand DijonB. This scribe was identical to the second scribe of the Florence MS, and he worked on finishing the Dijon chansonnier. (2) His version is on the lines of Wolfenbüttel, but is even more sedate, also probably being a convenient construction made for the occasion: The speaker would just leave the vain life at court if he had the silver. The rimes are weaker than in the Leuven version “-roye, -joye, -chier, -chier, -noye”, and the penultimate line has a syllable too much.

No matter which version was sung, the meaning of the poem gives preference to the repeat of only one line, “Cent mil escuz quant je vouldroye”, after the first couplet and as final refrain. The music certainly supports such a short refrain as the first line cadences firmly on C – with the tenor is securely anchored at the C-hexachord – just like the cadence after the fifth line, and on the beat!

The faultless copy in Leuven presents Caron’s song as a charming and lively piece for two high voices an octave apart (ranges c’-f’’ and e-a’) in nearly constant imitation or canon supported by a contratenor (B-d’), which keeps below the tenor (except for bb. 34-36) and participates in imitations at the beginnings of lines 3, 4 and 5 (bb. 22-25, 31-33 and 40-45). Every line opens in syllabic declamation of the words. At the opening of the two main sections four syllables are set as separate units “Cent mil escuz” and “si non user”), while the remaining lines set 5-8 syllables in fast declamation in canonic imitation. The intervals between the imitating voices is varied. The song opens with the upper voice starting a fifth above the tenor, as in lines 3 and 5 (bb. 22ff and 41ff), while lines 2 and 4 open with canons at the octave (bb. 12ff and 32ff). The three-part imitation of the last line is typical with octave canon between contratenor and superius and the tenor coming in at the fifth below the superius; the fifth canon sneaks back in the long melisma of the upper voices in bar 49, while the contratenor accompanies with fragments of the same intervallic structures. As a whole, the song is elegant with a peculiar subtlety in its ending the refrain on a weak beat in close correspondence with the poem’s open endings, which sets it apart from the majority of songs from the period around 1460.

The reliance on octave and fifth canonic imitation and the appearance of staggered triads in the song’s second section are elements that fit our general idea of the style of Caron, and the scholarly opinion in commentary on this chanson agree in regarding it as belonging to his oeuvre. Furthermore, Howard Mayer Brown has in an article from 1982 pointed out its similarity to the song by Caron, which follows it in the chansonnier Florence 229 (ff. 72v-73), using so to say the same receipt for a rondeau. (3) However, the fast declamation of the words, the low contratenor and its relaxed use of strict as well as diatonic imitation make this song quite different from the other two Caron songs in, for example, the Leuven chansonnier, »Helas que pourra devenir« and »Le despourveu infortuné«; it could very well be a decade younger than these songs.

PWCH February 2018

1) See further Joshua Rifkin, ‘Busnoys and Italy: The Evidence of Two Songs’ in Paula Higgins (ed.), Antoine Busnoys. Method, Meaning, and Context in Late Medieval Music. Oxford 1999, pp. 505-571, at p. 361; on p. 519, note 54, Rifkin asks if the fragmentary name might be read as “Basiron”. However, the final descender in the name clearly belonged to a letter “s” not a “n”.

2) See further the description of the Dijon MS and my paper ‘The French musical manuscript in Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, Ms. 2794, and the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers’.

3) Howard Mayer Brown, ‘Emulation, Competition and Homage: Imitation and Theories of Imitation in the Renaissance’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 1982, pp. 1-48 (at pp. 25-29).