Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Carmina Burana 142: Love in springtime

The Carmina Burana has many songs celebrating spring, No wonder: winter was a harsh time in the Middle Ages and especially the poor had to deal with food shortages for themselves and their cattle at the end. The wandering scholars, the poets of the Carmina Burana, obviously did not belong to the lower class, but they longed for spring too. For them a new love was waiting, at least they hoped…
The following song from the 13th century is not exactly high literature: the vernales in line 2 is a bit clumsy, as it belongs syntactically to line 1, but it is a charming little song.                         

Carmina Burana 142

1. (all.)
Tempus adest floridum,    surgunt namque flores
vernales; mox in omnibus    immutantur mores.
hoc, quod frigus leserat,    reparant calores;
cernimus hoc fieri    per multos colores.

 2. (female voice)
Stant prata plena floribus,    in quibus nos ludamus!
virgines cum clericis    simul procedamus,
per amorem Veneris    ludum faciamus,
ceteris virginibus    ut hoc referamus!

3. (male voice)
«O dilecta domina,    cur sic alienaris?
an nescis, o carissima,    quod sic adamaris?
si tu esses Helena,    vellem esse Paris!
tamen potest fieri    noster amor talis.»

floridus: having floweres
surgo surrexi: to rise
vernalis: belonging to spring
immuto: to change
frigus frigoris (n.): cold
laedo laesi laesum: to hurt
calor caloris (m.): warmth
cernimus hoc fieri: We see (cerno crevi cretum) this to happen
pratum: meadow
ludo: to play
virgines cum clericis    simul procedamus: let us maidens go together with the clerics.  (Celibacy was not a great issue in the Middle Ages…)
per amorem Veneris    ludum faciamus: Let us play a game by means of the love of Venus
refero retuli relatum: to tell
dilectus: lovely
alienor  alienatus sum: to keep oneself away, shun
adamo: to desire eagerly
tamen potest fieri    noster amor talis: still, such love between us can happen

Translation by by John Addington Symonds (1884)

Now comes the time of flowers, and the blossoms appear;
now in all things comes the transformation of Spring.
What the cold harmed, the warmth repairs,
as we see by all these colors.

The fields in which we play are full of flowers.
Maidens and clerks, let us go out together,
let us play for the love of Venus,
that we may teach the other maidens.

«O my chosen one, why dost thou shun me?
Dost thou not know, dearest, how much thou art loved?
If thou wert Helen, I would be Paris.
So great is our love that it can be so.»

As a bonus track is here 142a. It is in Middle High German:

Ih solde eines morgenes gan
eine wise breite;
do sah ih eine maget stan,
div grůzte mih bereite.
si sprah: «liebe, war wend ir?
durfent ir geleite?
gegen den fůzen neig ih ir,
gnade ih ir des seite.

One morning I had to go
over a wide meadow:
there I saw a maiden standing,
who greeted my eagerly.
She said: `Love, where are you going?
Do you need company?’
I bowed towards her feet,
I said her thanks for that.

Conrad von Altstetten, Cod. Pal. germ 848, fol. 249v 

Miniature from the Codex Manesse (ca. 1300)

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