Composers > Anecdotes > Love in Music
by Maureen Buja | February 23rd, 2015

standard Love in Music

Belle Bonne Sage

Belle Bonne Sage

In the great Chantilly Codex, written in the middle to late 14th century, there are two pieces of music tucked into the front, both by the composer Baude Cordier (ca. 1380 – 1440). The love song, ‘Belle, Bonne, Sage” (“Beautiful, Good, Wise”) is a beautiful piece of ‘augenmusik’ or ‘eye music’ where the representation of the work also reflects the content of the work.

Baude Corder: ‘Belle, bonne, sage’ (Ensemble Organum, Marcel Peres, cond.)
And the music itself, a song for the New Year that expresses the poet (and the composer’s) love, is in the form of a rondeau. The rondeau was one of the three fixed forms of medieval music and was extremely popular in French music in the 14th and 15th centuries. The music is organized around a refrain (here, verse 1), where the music and the text repeats.

Verse

Old French

English

Music

1

Belle bonne sage plaisante et gente

Lovely, good, wise, gentle and noble one,

A

 

A ce jour cy que l’n se renouvelle

On this day that the year becomes new

 

 

 

 

2

Vois fais le don d’une chanson nouvelle

I make you a gift of a new song

B

 

Dedans mon cuer qui a vous de présente

Within my heart, which presents itself to you.

 

 

 

 

3

De recevoir ce don ne soyes lente

Do not be reluctant to accept this gift,

A

 

Je vous suppli, ma douce demoiselle

I beg you, my sweet damsel;

 

 

 

 

4

Belle bonne sage plaisante et gente

Lovely, good, wise, gentle and noble one,

A

 

A ce jour cy que l’n se renouvelle

On this day that the year becomes new

 

 

 

 

5

Car tant vous aim qu’alleurs n’ay mon entente

For I love you so well that I have no other purpose,

A

 

Et sy scay que vous estes seule celle

And know well that you alone are she

 

 

 

 

6

Qui fame aves que chascun vous appelle

Who is famous for being called by all:

B

 

Flour de beauté sur toutes excellente

Flower of beauty, excellent above all others.

 

 

 

 

7

Belle bonne sage plaisante et gente

Lovely, good, wise, gentle and noble one,

A

 

A ce jour cy que l’n se renouvelle

On this day that the year becomes new

 

 

 

 

8

Vois fais le don d’une chanson nouvelle

I make you a gift of a new song

B

 

Dedans mon cuer qui a vous de présente

Within my heart, which presents itself to you.

Although this seems a bit complicated, when you look at it closely, you can see that the first two verses are a complete thought and present both parts of the music (Part A and Part B). The third verse is a related thought, with a plea to the beloved. The fourth verse repeats the first verse and then connects with the 5th and 6th verses. This makes us hear the fourth verse differently from the way that we heard the first verse, because it’s leading us to a different conclusion: he’s now telling her what is really contained in this song – his heart. The last two verses return us to the opening thought.

When we look at the music we see the heart as well: the overall design is a heart, with the Superius lines at the top and the Tenor and Contratenor lines at the bottom. In addition, the scribe has substituted a heart shape for the word ‘heart’ (‘cuer’ or Coeur in modern French) in the cantus part.

A song of love, in the shape of a heart – what better declaration from the poet, the composer, and the scribe of this beautiful piece.

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