Along with the development of rhythmic structure went changes in overall structure. From the melodically elaborate but structurally simple organum where one voice sings the plainchant (tenor) while the second voice (duplum) sings a different, often complex, melodic counterpart (discant), Perotin and his contemporaries began to extract portions of the discant sections to elaborate on and use interchangeably with other tenors. These wordless sections, known as clausulae, from the Latin "ending" probably because they came from the melody usually found at the end of a chant, themselves became the basis for the motet.
The three, or rarely four, voice motet as it developed in the thirteenth century, began as a two-part clausula. The tenor, or base section upon which additional voices were built, was drawn from a section of chant, given a specific rhythmic pattern and repeated as necessary to accommodate the duplum (second voice). This duplum was new-composed with it's own words, hence this section with the new words was called the motetus (from "mots" or words) from which derived the name of the entire genre. A third voice (triplum) usually with it's own set of words, was added above the duplum.
The tenor, based as it was on a small section of an original chant, often just a single word, was of necessity melismatic (many notes sung to one syllable of text). In the Alle, psalite cumluya (Tape B,1) already mentioned, this tenor repeats the word Alleluya while the duplum and triplum ingeneously weave additional phrases in and out of the same word. Another favorite tenor, Domine, can be heard in Dominator domine Ecce ministerium, (Tape B, 4) in this case repeated twice. However, the tenor could also be a short phrase repeated many times, as in the selection Amor potest Ad amorem (Tape B, 2) where the tenor can be heard thirty times.
The duplum, beginning its life as an ornamentation on the dominant tenor, later became the focal point of attention, and later still was relegated to second place by the increasingly important triplum. However, in its early to mid-life form, the duplum was written to fit harmonically with the tenor. For the medieval composer this meant ensuring that the duplum and tenor were in consonance (intervals of fourths, fifths, or octaves), or at least in semi-consonance with the occasional use of thirds and sixths (which, by the way, were much more common in English music). The addition of a triplum led to difficulties with maintaining this consonance and thus a certain amount of dissonance (non-consonance) would be unavoidable.
For example, looking at the range of notes such as C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G and counting the first C as 1, we find that three voices could sing in consonance by singing C-G-C. This would result in a fifth between the first two voices, a fourth between the second two voices, and an octave between the first and third voices. And this is exactly the kind of division one finds in organum (early polyphony). However, as soon as these voices move in opposition, there is a possibility for dissonance. If the G moves up one step to an A, its relationship to the C above it will be a third (semi-consonance), while its relationship to the note below it will be a sixth. However, if at the same time the upper voice moves down one step the new combination would be C-A-B, resulting in dissonance not only between the C-B (seventh) but between the A-B (second).
The addition of a triplum, while it created harmonic and rhythmic challenges, also provided an opportunity for increased complexity in words. In almost all cases the duplum and triplum of the motet contained different words (hence the convention of naming motets by the first line of both the triplum and duplum). As a vehicle for secular as well as sacred music, these words were often in the vernacular and dealt with secular themes. Nor was it necessary that the duplum and triplum use the same language, although the themes were often related in some way. For example, while Amor potest Ad amorem (Tape B, 2) may be in Latin, it's topic in both the duplum and triplum is the theoretical relationship between love and faith and constancy.
The lighter S'on me regarde Prennes i garde deals with a quite different sort of love, not surprising given its feminine "voice." Interestingly, this same motet provides evidence that the duplum itself, in addition to the tenor, may occasionally have been borrowed from other sources and not new-composedit is based on a monophonic rondeau by the trouvère Guillaume d'Amiens. De ma dame vient Dieux, coment porroie (Tape B, 6) shows how flexible the combination of multiple voices each with their own texts can be. In this case the voices are those of lovers bemoaning their seperation. The motet El mois de mai De se debent bigami (Tape B, 5) combines opposing viewpoints. The triplum, in french, portrays the joy of love in the springtime while the duplum, in Latin, warns men not to marry but to join the clergy. It is difficult to decide whether the tenor, "Oh! My Children," is a plea to reinforce the duplum or a comment on what might be considered bickering between duplum and triplum.
This admonition was not completely successful. Indeed the Church had been and continued to be under attack for its perceived corruption. Nor were musicians and poets slow to add their voice. In 1310 Gervais de Bus began the Roman de Fauvel a satirical poem of over 3000 lines centered on a horse or ass named from the first letter of the seven sins that the Church was criticized for: Flaterie, Avarice, Vilanie, Variété, Envie, Lascheté. In 1316, Chaillou de Pesstain interpolated 167 pieces of music into the poem, drawn from the twelfth century to several new composed works. As if to emphasize the message of condemnation, the motet Quasi Trahunt Ve, qui gregi deficiunt (Tape B, 7), in addition to the usual duplum and triplum, adds a quadruplum, or fourth voice to charge the Church with its corruption.
Several of the musical composition in Fauvel appear to be by the reknowned Phillipe de Vitry (1291-1361), who was later (1351), oddly enough, Bishop of Mieux. Impudenter Virtutibus laudabilis (Tape B, 8) is "a gentle religious work in honour of St. Mary, showing that even when the Church was under attack, sacred composition was not entirely neglected." However, de Vitry was not loath to write in an agressive mode. His motet Cum statua Hugo, Hugo, princeps (Tape B, 9) describes the image of the statue with feet of clay from Nebuchadnezzar's dream while warning the listener to beware of false prophets, an image that Machaut will also use.
Both of deVitry's motets employ elements that he helped develop early in the century that would have a lasting impact on western music. He described these elements in the 1320 treatise Ars nova, the name eventually used to designate this period in music. However, these elements were not universally accepted. In his Speculum musicae, (c. 1325-30) Jacobus de Liège wrote:
De Liège and Pope John, while they may not have stopped the momentum of the developing new style at least help to identify the most important elements. The composers of the Ars nova, who quite consciously differntiated themselves from their fin de sieclé predecessors whose style they referred to as the Ars antigua, put into place much that remains in modern notation. And it is with notation, particularly with the notation of new forms of rhythm and mensuration, that the Ars nova composers were most involved, although new techniques in harmony also developed.
Throughout the preceding centuries note values were increasingly divided. Thus longs could be divided into breves, which in turn became divided into semi-breves, which themselves were eventually divided into minims. The number of notes resulting from these divisions determined whether the rhythm became perfect (or divided into three "beats") or imperfect (or divided into two). Prolation, or the division of semi-breves was of most concern to the Ars nova composers. As can be seen in Table 1, the semi-breve could be divided into minims in a number of ways. Examples (a) and (b) take the imperfect time of two semi-breves and divides them into four and six minims, respectively. Examples (c) and (d) show the prolation, or relationship between semi
breves and minims, in triple or trochai time, resulting in six or nine minims. Each example also shows the modern notation equivalent.
Guillaume de Machaut was the century's acknowledged master of these and several other forms, both musical and poetic. Born around 1300 in Champagne (as was de Vitry) Machaut took holy orders and received an appointment as secretary to John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia in 1323. This glorious knight, killed at Crécy in 1346, travelled extensively with Machaut in tow. Probably some time before John's death, Machaut had returned to Rheims where he had been grated a canonicate. During these years he wrote a number of motets, lais, ballades, virelais, some as part of his long narrative poems. He was later associated with John's daughter Bonne, wife of Duke John of Normandy, who died during the plague of 1349. His next close relationship was with Charles the Bad, King of Navarre, while in later life he received the patronage of King John the Good of France and his even more famous son, Jean, Duc de Berry. He died at Rheims in April of 1377.
Along with many of our perceptions of the Middle Ages, judgements about Machaut's work have undergone some positive revision. Although his musical accomplishments have been treated favorably by musicologists in the past century, his narrative poetry has been called "conventional" and of "little interest" to the modern reader. His early literary critics seemed more interested in comparing his works, unfavourably, to their own modern conceptions of literature while musicologists seem determined to maintain that Ars nova music was and still is appreciated only by the intellectual elite. Both are being challenged. William Calin's call, in 1974, for detailed studies of Machaut's narrative poetry have been followed by editions of two of the poems edited by R. Barton Palmer and another by James I. Wimsatt and William W. Kibler, as well as studies by Kevin Brownlee, among others.
The claim by musicologists that Machaut and the Ars nova composers wrote only for the elite appears more tenacious. Reaney, for example, states that "compositions like the motet, were intended primarily for audiences of intellectuals and the elite of the various princely courts." Even David Munrow, who has done much to bring Machaut's music to life for contemporary audiences, provides an elitest interpretation of the statement concerning the performance of motets from the 14th century theorist, Johannes de Grocheio:
"This sort of song should not be performed before ordinary people because they do not notice its fine points nor enjoy listening to it, but before learned people and those on the lookout for subtleties in the arts."This viewpoint is challenged, as are several other generally accepted conventions about Medieval thought and culture, by Christopher Page in his book Discarding Images. In an essay devoted to the examination of de Grocheio's monumental treatise De musica (c. 1300) which gives an account of the musical forms in Paris, Page convincingly argues that Grocheio's "ordinary" people refers to the laity as opposed to the clergy and that the "learned people" refers to the clergy or those lay people who are interested in music.
While the extent and capabilities of Machaut's audience is not known, it is certain that his immediate audience was among the courts of the leading families of France. Like the poetic contemporaries and predecessors, his central theme, particularly in the narrative poems, or dits amoreaux, was Love, particularly courtly love. His settings and ideas are drawn from many sources, among these being the Boethius' De consolatione philosopiae, Guillaume de Lorris' and Jean de Meun'sRoman de la rose and the Council de Remirement. However, Machaut's mastery of style and content go beyond these earlier works and his skillful and multi-faceted handling of the poet-narrator was a source of inspiration for Chaucer.
Machaut's poem Remede de Fortune is perhaps the best known among musicologists and their literary colleagues. While it was apparently not the most widely circulated poem during Machaut's lifetime it is important to modern scholars for several reasons. While most of the manuscripts of Machaut's narrative poems include the lyrics to musical pieces within the poem as text only and also appended to the poem with their musical settings, Remede interpolates the musical pieces, with their music, within the poem itself. The placement and the order of these musical insertions is also of key importance, as will be discussed below. Also, it is of interest to art scholars, being illustrated in a new naturalist style by an uanonymous but recognizable illuminator who, with others, seems to have accompanied the future King Jean le Bon to Avignon in 1342 and there been influenced by the recently enlisted Matteo Giovanetti of Sienna. Thus it is interesting to conjecture that Machaut, as leading member of the Ars nova may have also been interested in promoting the talents of other artists working in a new style.
Briefly, the story line of Remede is this: after a short prologue introducing the recurring theme of Love and the Lady as educators of the artist, we are introduced to the youthful poet narrator, who we shall dub with the trasitional name of Amant. He, thinking he is already educated in the ways of Love, has written a lai for his Lady. She discovers this work but does not realise who has written it. By chance (or by Fortune) she asks Amant to read the lai to the court. He does so but is so oversome with the fear that seh will realise he is the author that he fleas the court in emotional disarray. Lamenting on his sorrows, he enters the walled Park of Hesdin and there composes a complainte railing against Fortune and Love. Exhausted by these events, he falls into a stupor but discovers that a beautiful but not quite human lady is sitting beside him. She disputes his opinion of Fortune and Love and sings a chanson roial detailing the joys of love. She completes her song and gives him a ring to cheer him. She then tells him that she is Hope, the friend of all lovers. Comforted, Amant asks for more advice, whereupon she sings a baladelle in praise of Love.
Having learned from Hope, Amant returns to the court, composing and singing a ballade along the way. Hope appears to him once more to reassure him. As he returns he comes upon the Lady and her court dancing. She sees him and asks him to join the dance and sing for them. He does so without hesitation, composing and singing a virelais. Amant returns with the Lady to the court where she has provided a meal and entertainment for her companions. After this Amant has the opportunity to speak to her, whereupon he declares his love. The Lady declares her love for him and Hope appears to bless their exchange of rings. Departing from the court, Amant, in his joy, composes a rondelet. He returns to join the court in a tournament and sees his Lady looking at someone else. Consumed with jealousy he tasks her with her deed. She replies that she only did so to divert attention from them. He decides to trust her due to the lessons he has learned from Hope and the Lady.
Before examining each of the musical pieces, some of which are monophonic, it should be remembered that the Ars nova composers were not averse to using monophony as solo song. Their "newness" concentrated on the area of notation. While it is obvious that the seven musical pieces with the Remede are a comprehensive sample of the formes fixes of the day, it is debated what their order signifies. Regarding them from a literary or poetic standpoint, Kevin Brownlee suggests that the lai, as the "most demanding of the fourteenth century formes fixess" makes known the presence of the consummate poet behind the poem. Also the poetic forms of the remaining six pieces decrease in complexity. However, considering these pieces from a strictly musical point of view, they increase in complexity. Moreover, as will be seen, the style of notation used for each of the pieces is determined by their location in the work as a whole.
The lai, Qui n'aroit autre deport (Tape A, 1), contains twelve double stanzas. Each stanza has a different rhyme and rhythmic scheme, with the exception of the last, which repeats those of the first. The overall effect, if one examines the rhyme and meter patterns, that is if one reads the work, is one of complexity. However, musically, the lai is fairly simple. As a monophonic piece it is free from the constraint of harmonic consistency. Also there is freedom to explore different tonal registers. As such, the lai allows Machaut the poet to display his mastery of the poetic form while allowing Machaut the musician to use an example of an older musical form for quite another purpose. Amant, who sings the lai has not yet learned to be a lover. He is a callow youth with all the passion and lack of judgement of youth. His lai reflects this with its length, its overabundant and extravagent melodic variations, and it's reliance on archaic, thus uneducated, note forms.
The next poem sung by Amant, the complainte Tels rit au main (Tape A, 2) is again a monphonic piece, written in the old notation, and overly long (24 strophes). Structurally it is even simpler than the lai. The rhyme scheme is aaabaaabbbbabbba while the melodic pattern is AABB. Once again, Amant shows his youth and inexperience. This complainte is also a good example of what Treitler refers to as the inter-referentiality of music and language. Reading the piece reveals it's rather obvious rhyme scheme but listening to the piece one is struck by the number of hard or unsingable consonants (letters like t, d, c/q, etc.) that add to the harsh sound as this youth rails against base Fortune. Also, the repitition of the word tourne and words that rhyme with it conjure up the vision of Fortune turning her wheel, a favorite image of Medieval illuminators. In fact, this image is presented in the illuminated manuscript of Remede mentioned above. In this double picture, Amant sits in the garden writing his complainte while below him Fortune turns her (spiked) wheel with its victims in upward, apex, and downward positions.
Lady Hope sings the next piece. As she is the source of learning for Amant, and thus the key figure in the poem, it at first seems odd that her chanson roial , Joie, plaisance et douce norriture (Tape A, 3), is both monophonic and in the old notation. But it must be remembered that the poem is by and about the Amant voice. As he has not yet learned of the joys of love so the listener cannot yet hear the new sound. Hope's song, though, is in marked contrast to Amant's creations in its lilting rhythm and light tone, suggesting the developments yet to come.
Once Hope has sung and spoken her message of Love's joys to Amant and he has learned through her he is prepared to hear a new song. The baladelle, En amer a douce vie (Tape A, 4) which she introduces as "de chant at de ditté nouvelle" will provide an example for Amant to help him compose his own new songs of love. It is the first piece in the poem that is both polyphonic and in the new notation. The voice line (cantus) is in the duplum, while the triplum's role is to provide discant or ornamantation. Like Hope's previous song, it is light, lilting, and fairly simple in structure with its two section repitition and it's consistent "i" rhyme, though obviously much more complex harmonically.
Amant learns his lesson well. His next attempt, the first composition since receiving Hope's instruction, is also polyphonic. The ballade, Dame, de qui toute ma joie (Tape A, 5), uses triple prolation in duple time, favored by the Ars nova composers (see Table 1, example b). It also provides an example of practically every item decried by Pope John XXII. The composition is indeed "pestered" with notes of "small value," has a determinedly memorable discantus, is, of course, secular, and truncated with hocket. This last item was an element used by many Ars nova composers. A precursor to modern syncopation, hocketting (from the Latin ochetus or hiccup) was the inclusion of rests on major beats in one voice combined with notes in another voice. Thus the effect is one of choppiness or truncation within the melodic line. Machaut shows his mastery of this technique by including hocket in a way that adds interest to the melodic line without breaking it up. He also heightens the complexity of the melodic line by interchanging melismatic lines with quickly moving syllabic lines, as can be seen by comparing the opening word "Dame" to the words that follow it.
When he returns to the Lady, Amant is asked to sing a song for their dance. It may at first seem surprising that Machaut has chosen to use a monophonic virelais to fulfill this task. But upon consideration the wisdom of this choice can be seen. Amant shows his developing maturity by choosing to sing not something to show off his virtuoso talents or his extravagent passion, but something fitted to the occasiona simple dance tune. Machaut, the musician, however, shows off his talents by imbuing this simple piece, Dame, a vous sans retollir (Tape A, 6) with rhythmic complexity, while Machaut, the poet, handles the varying metrical lines with aplomb.
The final musical piece occurs some 200 lines before the end of the poem, yet in expresses the thought with which the poem ends. Amant sings this rondelet, Dame, mon cuer (Tape A, 7) as he is leaving his Lady after they have declared their love and exchanged rings. He later returns, endures his jealous episode but concludes that he must trust her. Thus "Lady, my heart stays with you" is not only a parting phrase but an expression of hope (or proof that he has learned from Hope's teaching). Once again the simple lyric does not do justice to the complexity of the musical rendering. The lengthy melisma, the subtle hocketting, the interplay between voices as leading tones keep the melodic line moving smoothly and the wandering yet controlled dissonance that always manages to resolve effortlessly to consonance all evidence the master hand. Thus, while the youthful inexperienced lover has himself been transformed, so, too, the composer has shown the transformation of musical form.
Desire, Hope, and Love are recurring themes in Machaut's poetry and music, but the role of the poet-narrator changes throughout the course of his work. As mentioned, Remede, while much studied today, was not the most widely deseminated of Machaut's poems in his own lifetime. That distinction belongs to Le jugement du Roy de Behaigne. Written in honor of his patron, John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, this poem was well-known by Chaucer and influenced much of his work, including the Book of the Duchess and Troilus and Criseyde. The central subject is that of a debate to determine who suffers most: a lady whose love has died, or a knight whose love has been unfaithful. The debate is judged by the king of the name, with the help of such counselors as Reason, Loyalty, Love and Youth.
The debate form is not unusual for this period. Similar works include the Altercatio Phyllidis et Florae and theCouncile de Remirement, wherein women discuss who makes a better lover, a clerk or a knight. However, Machaut departs from these in several important ways. He begins the poem with a vivid description of May, replete with sunshine, sweet breezes, and singing birds. He describes himself as "arrayed...like one who loved most perfectly with constant love." (Line 11) Thus the listener expects this self-professed lover to become the focal point of the story, particularly when he follows a bird to a grove, the expected setting for action in these narrative poems. While listening to the bird sing he sees the Lady (with dog and child) and the Knight meet. Suddenly our attention is shifted away from the narrator and the expected, stock, vision in the garden (such as that in the Roman de la rose.)For the next section of the poem the narrator fades (literally) into the background save for the fact that he is recounting the conversation between the knight and the lady.
At the critical moment, when the knight and lady have reached an impasse in their debate, the lady's dog discovers the narrator in the bushes. This small touch not only lends verisimilitude to the work as an actual account of an actuak event, it also allows the narrator to once more be brought to the fore. It is he who provides the answer to the dilemma by suggesting they bring their debate before the King of Bohemia who is currently resident in his nearby castle. He once again lends verisimilitude to the proceedings by describing the castle, in this case the actual castle of Durboi, to them in detail. It is he who leads them there and he who gains them entrance. Soon afterward he resumes his clerkly role as relator of the tale and not participant in the drama. He stays in this background until the very end when he states "Here I'll end my account and rhyme no more" (line 2052), reminding us once again that he is the narrator. Indeed, he even subsumes the role of narrator into that of poet by reminding us that this a created work.
Fortune is a recurring character in Machaut's work, usually the source of trouble. In Roi de Behaigne, the knight explains his lovers fickleness in this way:
"But when Fortune the traitor, who behaves differently to each one, had thus raised me on high, like a sullen scoundrel she didn't give a fig for me or my happiness; instead she made a face at me, renounced me, and turned her cheek from me. After she had placed me atop her wheel, she turned it, and I was cast down into the mud. [She]...did this God and Fari Nature, when they formed the one I love, took so much pleasure in the beauty they gave her that they forgot to place any loyalty in her." (Lines 684-699)While he later excuses Fortune for acting in the only way he knows how, Amant of Remede is not so forgiving, composing, as we have seen, an entire complainte against the lady. It is left to Machaut the poet to forgive the lady through Hope's words. Fortune, in another guise will play a role in another of Machaut's works, as shall be seen.
It has not yet been established whether Machaut wrote Jugement before Remede. However, a look at the relationship between the narrator and his poem provides evidence to their composition in that order. The poet-narrator, while in many ways the primum mobile in Jugement, too often fades to the background to be considered the central figure. In Remede, the poet-narrator "writes himself into the part" as it were by pointing to himself as the youthful lover-protagonist. We are informed of this not only by the opening wherein the poet, in his maturity, begins the poem with mature thoughts on learning and declares that the story is of him in his youth, but also when he states at the end of the poem that he will always love his Lady as he had learned to do so with the help of Hope.
As poet-narrator-I, Machaut continues the process of bringing himself and the writing process into his work in Le jugement du Roy de Navarre, indeed he puts both on trial. Written as a palindrome to his earlier Jugement, this work reverses the decision of Roi de Behaigne , concluding that the lady whose lover has died does indeed suffer more than the knight whose lover has been fickle. Once again he sets the scene in a way that enhances verisimilitue, by setting the poem in a historically accurate base, establishing the date and describing the actual events that are occuring at the time. The time is 1349 and the event is the Black Death. He begins the poem as the usual anonymous poet-narrator but later identifies himself as Guillaume de Machaut.He has immured himself for the duration of the plague and emerges to the spring sunshine when danger has passed. He goes out to hunt rabbits quite consciously reminding us of his clerkly nature (that is, the fact that he is not of the nobles) by saying:
"Now a person might ask if hare-hunting is an honorable business; to this question I would respond that it is an honor, diversion, and joy; it's an activity that the noble choose, something of gracious enterprise, and quite advantageous to undertake for it improves one nicely; so the thing itself is pleasant enough to do, and honor comes with its completion." (Lines 507-516)
As before, the participants in the trial include such figures as Reason, Peace, Faith, Charity among others. The debate follows the pattern of each participant providing exempla, many from antiquity, that defend their position (although sometimes the points are by no means clear or decisive). Guillaume continually demands that he has successfully defended his case when he has barely done so. However, he is not alone in his demands as most of the other characters make the same unreasonable request before providing any decisive evidence. In all, none of the participants provides overwhelming evidence, in fact, for the most part, despite their high sounding names and positions of nobility, none appears as noble as one might wish, save perhaps, understandably, the Judge. The judgement goes against Guillaume, who learns that the Lady is Good Fortune, and he repents that he ever placed himself in opposition to her. He is condemned to write a lai, ballade, chanson.
Attention to Roi de Navarre has focused on the debate itself. It has been examined in terms of it's inclusion of classical exampla as a way of identifying Machaut the scholar, his antifeminist stance, and as a "complex exploration of the poetics of authorship." Calin accuses earlier scholars of shunning the opening section, the 540 lines wherein Machaut describes his reaction to the calamities surrounding him, calling it "unconnected and incongruous." Palmer acknowledges the "good artistic sense" of enhancing the reality of the real Guillaume by setting him self in a historical context. Brownlee, while he does not examine Navaree in detail, mentions it in the context of the development of the poet-narrator's identity as a real person.
While it does not appear in all the manuscripts, Palmer defends the inclusion of the lai, written as "penance" by Guillaume in response to the sentence passed on him. He states that Navaree "traces the ways in which authorial intertext, rather than traditional techniques and subject matter [create] poetry" in this case, the lai. However he does not draw the connection between the opening sequence of the poem and the concluding lai.
Despite the fact that much of his work would be written afterwards, Machaut was forty nine years old at the time of the Black Death. His description, resonating with themes and images common to many accounts of the plague, is vivid. Reminiscent of Behaigne, he mentions in the first lines a pleasant time of year, the end of summer, the harvest and specifies the exact date, November 9, 1349 (Line 24). He is walking around in his room because the air outside has become cold and impure, dark and hazy. He is alone and meditates sadly on the ills of the world, the deceitful nature of its peoples, and the cruelty of its leaders. He compares the current distressful weather with the fine weather of his youth and complains that in these days God is "accorded little reverence'" (Line 101). Hoping to combat his melancholy, he reminds himself of the words from Ecclesiastes that all is vanity and, therefore, there is no other course but to "be happy and do good." (Line 136).
Just as he is about to follow his own good advice he remembers something else which he describes. It is something that he has not found in history books. The heavens have been displaying disturbing signs, eclipses, comets, earthquakes, and strange rain. There have been wars with "savage killings of noblemen and knights" and even of the common people (Line204) The Jews who "hate good and love all evil doing" (Line 216) have poisoned the wells killing at least one million people. God, however did not let this pass and allowed them all to be destroyed.
Next he mentions the flagellants, calling them a company led by Hypocrisy. Not surprisingly given his position, he applauds the Church's prompt attention and excommunication of these heretics. He also, appropriately, focuses on one aspect of their practise: their song. He says that they sing "some new song or other" which the Church condemns because their self-abuse and their song were heresy. He is also appalled that even "little children were singing [it]." (Line 253)
Having introduced Hypocrisy, he now introduces Nature. She produces horrible storms but does not allow them to continue until the earth is destroyed. However, these storms have given rise to corrupted air and it is this air which renders the populace ill.Five hundred thousand die as a result "nor was there a physician or any healer who knew enough to name the cause of its coming, nor what it was, (nor applied any remedy to it) except that this was a disease which was called the Plague (epydemie)." (Lines 341-345)
God, seeing the corruption, unleashes Death. The result is "great heaps of...[people]...lying dead." (Line 371) Cemetaries overflow, people die within three days or less and no one can compute the death toll but the assumption is that "from one hundred only nine remained." (Line 405) As a result of this devastation towns are abandoned, fields left unplowed, higher wages are not enough to attract workers, cattle roam about untended, and the living retreat to their houses, as does Machaut, who does not want to know who of his friends has died.
In the poem, Guillaume emerges with the coming of spring and goes to hunt as already discussed above. But the real Machaut cannot escape the fact of Death so easily. His patronness, Bonne of Luxembourg, was among the casualties. And, despite it's overall light-hearted and comical nature, death, often in gruesome form, is present throughout the remainder of the poem in the numerous exempla. At its end Machaut is "sentenced" to write his lai and the subject is striking after the description of the Black Death. While it must be remembered that the judgement was in favor of the lady whose lover had died and thus the lai might be expected to reflect that, the images used are striking. Bitter weeping, madness, misery, lamentation, pain, grief, anger, suffering, despair, wretchedness, and death all are featured.
The lais, with its multiple melodic sections, is well-chosen. As in the narrative itself, there is a sense of contradiction. The word sections either describe the suffering of the person who has lost a beloved, or describe, poignantly, the many virtures of the beloved; virtues now lost to Death. The music, like the entire poem, vacillates between the tragic and the light-hearted. Its title is Le lay de plour (weeping) but it contains several phrases that are certainly not dolorous. While this is not to suggest that Machaut was striving for the kind of emotionalism or word paiting that would not become the practice for another two hundred years, the overall effect is generally one of confusion.
The bulk of Machaut's creations were yet to come when he wrote this lai. He would write a "comfort" for his imprisoned friend and patron, Charles, King of Navarre (Le comfort d'ami), a poem of advice for another patron, Jean, Duc de Berry (La fonteinne amoureuse), a laudatory history of Pierre de Luisignan (La prise d'Alexandrie), a semi-autobiographical poem (Le voir dit), and a Prologue to tie all his works together and explain his purpose and inspiration writing them. In addition he would write several shorter dits as well as the first complete ordinary of the mass La messe de notre dame. Through all of this he would be lauded as the foremost musician and poet by the musicians who emulated him and by the courtiers who took such interest in his work.
Upon his death he was eulogized in poetry by his follower and fervent disciple Eustace Deschamps. Set to music by F. Andrieu, this work, while in the style of Machaut, is, in its creation by two people, indicative of the direction that music and poetry would take in later years. Late fourteenth century music has been described as decadent and vigorous. In fact there seems to be agreement between musicologists about what the music was not (i.e., not on a level with that of Machaut or deVitry) but little agreement on what it was. Certainly Machaut continued to be an influence even after his death. But at the same time some odd extremes are evident.
Huizingua may have referred to this period as "waning" but musicians such as Christopher Page are now convinced that such an epithet is completely unwarranted when discussing the music of the period. David Munrow, who has done much to make the music of this and earlier periods available to the modern listener, sees in the late fourteenth century Avignon composers a creative and complex "avant garde" movement, whose music is only now being appreciated by modern ears accustomed to dissonance and syncopation. (Tape B, 10-16) In fact, he recounts with pleasure one ballade where the music is "so extravagent that the three parts often appear totally unrelated and the composer seems to be attempting to cram into one piece all the notational subtleties and intricate cross rhythms of which music is capable."
If there is debate about the "quality" of the music produced, there is none about the quantity and the central role played by music and poetry in the courts. Reaney describes the late Medieval French court as splendid and ceremonial, and musicians and poets as an "essential feature." Palmer, quoting Gauvard, points out that the retention of musicians and poets is a means of assuring prestige for a prince and his court. While this aspect of musicianship would remain intact for some time, the musical styles would change drastically. With the work of Dufay in the fifteenth century we see a rhythmic simplification coupled with a harmonic sophistication. The simpler Italian song forms and the more sonorous harmonic forms would soon dominate. Machaut and his works would be, for a time, forgotten, and Johannes Tinctoris, in his 1477 treatise