1. Songs in non-Liturgical Sources — Introduction to the critical edition

Francesco Stella


The texts presented here and in the first volume/CD-ROM comprise, due to a process of selection decided by history but not without its own causes, a sort of anthology of the best religious and profane lyrics from the nonliturgical tradition around the Carolingian period. We will not linger here in a detailed historical-literary discussion about such refined samples, as that has been the aim in other areas of research conducted by this group, but one cannot avoid bringing to attention here the high documentary and literary value of almost all the texts reproduced here: from the confessional masterpieces of Paolino d’Aquileia to the dramatic lyrical creations of Gottschalk, from the penitential texts such as Anima nimis to the planctus for historical personalities such as A solis ortu for Charlemagne, Mecum Timavi for duke Henry and Hug dulce nomen for the abbot of Charroux, from the Angilbert ritmus for the Fontenoy battle to the biblical theatricalizations such as Adam, Arbor, Fuit domini, Tertio in flore, from surreal riddles such as Audite versus and para-liturgical allegorizations such as Avis haec magna to texts of moral catechism and popular Christmas songs such as Gratuletur, which entered the repertory of secular songs such as the Carmina Cantabrigiensia, from war and town songs of the local aristocracies such as the Modenese rhythm to the eschatological hymns such as Qui de mortis that anticipate the Dies irae by centuries, or the precursors to the Ludus de Antichristo such as the Quique cupitis. One has the impression that in this collection the music had selected a kind of laboratory of tendencies, of themes, of mode and of expression, of the poetry that will flourish in the successive centuries, being distilled into a string of pearls that will sometimes be considered at the very height of literature of this epoch and whose musical influence can be imagined to have spread much wider than only within a close circle of literati. We are convinced that this genre of rhythmic poetry represents the literary level of a semi-folk poetry that arose – often outside the schools – probably through rhythmical versification of prose, and that the presence of music served in some way to select the examples that were best able to represent the codes that the new poetic communication required. We hope that even people of the present times, who still read and sing rhythmic poetry, will consider the monumental lightness of these texts worth lively participation.