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A la longue j’ay bien cognu 3v · fede alias Jean Sohier

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Nivelle ff. 49v-51 »A la longue j’ay bien cognu« 3v (erased) Fede PDF · Facsimile

Edition: Nagy 2009 p. 31 (reconstruction – faulty).

Text: Bergerette (quatrain layé); full text; also found in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 188v (no. 594), ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 369.

A la longue j’ay bien cognu
que je n’estoye entretenu
que par couverte.
Pourtant ne seres recouverte (1)
de moy, las, plus n’y suis tenu. (2)

Vous estes gente, belle et bonne (3)
que je n’en voudroie mil mal dire

mais de tous poins vous habandonne
devant que mon mal plus empire.

Par grant temps m’avez detenu (4)
cuidant que fusse recongnu
de ma desserte;
mais bien ay veu que se non perte (5)
et dueil ne me fust advenu.

A la longue j’ay bien cognu
que je n’estoye entretenu
que par couverte.
pourtant ne seres recouverte
de moy las plus n’y suis tenu.

A long time I have well known
that I would not remain in favour
except by stealth.
However, you will no longer be concealed
by me; alas, I am no longer in grace.

You are so noble, beautiful and good
that I would never say a thousand bad things about you

but leave you at once
before my unhappiness gets worse.

For a long time you have detained me
imagining that I would appreciate
my deserts;
but now I have understood that in this way nothing but loss
and misery shall await me.

A long time I have well known
that I would not remain in favour
except by stealth.
However, you will no longer be concealed
by me; alas, I am no longer in grace.

1) Berlin 78.B.17, line 4, “... plus couverte”
2) Berlin 78.B.17, line 5, de moy car pas n’y ...”
3) Nivelle, lines 6-9, generally unreadable, here following Berlin 78.B.17
4) Berlin 78.B.17, lines 10-11, “Longuement m’avez detenu / disant que seroie ...”
5) Berlin 78.B.17, line 13, “maiz je voy bien ...”

Evaluation of the source:

Entered into Nivelle by the main writer, presumably without any obvious errors. A later user has rubbed out all music and text and the composer’s name, but retained the illuminated initials and the voice designations. In the couplets (ff. 50v-51) a contratenor was never entered, neither text and music nor a voice designation. The book painter, however, considered this unusual procedure a mistake and painted an illuminated letter in the lower half of f. 51 in expectation of the reappearance of the ‘forgotten’ voice part.

The erasure of the song has made most of the music and text difficult to decipher, even if faint traces of both still are visible. The ultraviolet photographs of the pages published in the facsimile edition by Paula Higgins (Minkoff, Geneva 1984) have made most of it far more readable.

Comments on text and music:

A sad bergerette about clandestine love which the lover now denounces. It is written in artful style with rich rimes, and its four-line refrain/tierce is layé by the insertion of a short half line in the middle, riming: AAB/BA CDCD. The song seems to be a companion piece to the preceding rondeau by Fede alias Jean Sohier, the declaration of absolute loyalty in »Tout a sa dame« (Nivelle ff. 48v-49). Both use poems more artful than the majority of song settings, which present opposite views of the game of courtly love in words; probably characteristic of a musician working at the court of Charles d’Orléans in the early 1450s. Both musical settings keep to the same voice ranges exhibiting the normal traits for songs composed in the style of the 1450s: Two core voice an octave apart with no imitation supplemented by a contratenor in the same range as the tenor, alternately above and below it. While the setting in »Tout a sa dame« is very compact in accordance with the poem’s very short lines, the bergerette is more expansive; it juxtaposes the homophony of the central line (bb. 15-20) with melismatic writing and a sequencing flourish at the end of the refrain.

In the couplets the mensuration changes to tempus imperfectum diminutum as so often heard in bergerette-settings. What is more unusual is that two voices only are notated. The superius contrasts strongly with the refrain in its calm stepwise melody and the tenor follows it in sixths and octaves exclusively (except for the seventh-suspensions at the cadences in bars 35 and 47). The two-part structure is exactly the same as the one found in the composer’s antiphon-setting »Magne pater sancte Dominice« from the 1440s, which is labelled “A faulx bourdon”. The same structure can be found in the sole chanson in the 14th-century repertory that displays a prescribed fauxbourdon-part, namely Busnoys’ four-part »Terrible dame, que vous fault« in the Pixérecourt MS, which over the superius carries the words “faulx bor don” in a two-part passage strictly in parallel sixths. Thus everything points at that a prescription of fauxbourdon is missing in Nivelle, not a notated third voice. A performance where the singers of the upper voice (probably boys) split up and sing the notated part as well as the ‘improvised’ part a fourth lower, while the singer of the contratenor takes a short rest, underscores the contrast between the bergerette-sections; in fact it seems a rather obvious procedure if the composer worked in an institution with an active maîtrise, and its effect is similar to the change in vocal instrumentation in the bergerette »Grace actendant ou la mort pour tous mes« by Gilles Mureau; also Busnoys featured the boys alone in the couplets of his bergerette »Au gré de mes jeulx« 3v in the Dijon chansonnier.

See further ‘The music of Jean Sohier dit Fede: Comments and edition’.

PWCH June 2013