What has been determined to date is Machaut's masterful use of language and syntax to help amuse and entertain his intended audiences, and in an era absent the Internet, cable television and the popular press, it is not surprising that his works were well received. For instance, as De Looze points out, "Guillaume de Machaut gravitates toward equivocal signs: insomnia, colors that can have diametrically opposed meanings, plays on words, and so on" (1997, 13). This point is also made by Leach, who reports that Machaut was titillating without being vulgar about it: "In middle French courtly lyric the word merci signifies a broad range of favors that the lady may grant her lover; its meaning overlaps with 'pity,' but it also carries the sense of remuneration, reward or even salary -- the pay-off in the economy of noble love. Within Machaut's usage it has a specific resonance and range of meanings. In his last major long poem, the Voir Dit, Machaut defines merci twice: once for Toute Belle in a letter; later for the reader in the narrative just before the erotic climax of the dit" (2003, 2)
There were some other techniques that Machaut used to help keep his audience amused and entertained. For example, Brown reports that medieval authors frequently employed various textual signatures to either encode their names or otherwise provide their readers with plays on word. In Machaut's case, he named himself directly in his Jugement dou roy de Navarre and the Prise d'Alexandrie, and usually followed the style established by Nicole de Margival in the Dit de la panthere d'amours (ca. 1300) and in almost of all his other dits: "[P]unctuation of the text with anagrammic signatures that were not always easy to decode" (Brown 1995, 154). The growing body of research concerning this era in history confirms that composers such as Guillaume de Machaut played a key role in the production of their works and that this involvement informed their literary enterprise in significant ways. As Brown emphasizes, "Indeed, subsequent to Machaut's involvement in the organization of his own compositions, compilation and ordering became part of a poet's work" (1995, 212). According to Huot (1994), an analysis of the Machaut's motets shows that he extended the use of courtly and devotional rhetoric in these as well. For example, "Helas! pour quoy virent onques mi oueil / Corde mesto / LIBERA ME (motet 12), one of Machaut's two bilingual motets. This piece is governed by the topos of the conflict of the eye and the heart. The triplum treats the motif within a courtly framework, that of the pining lover whose heart has been captivated through visual contemplation of the lady" (Huot 1994, 223).
It would seem that Machaut's legacy continues to be celebrated as well. In fact, in recent years, Machaut's Voir Dit, one of his last poetic compositions, first published by Paulin Paris in 1875, has been republished in both French and English by separate publications houses within a year of each other (Huot, 2001). Finally, beyond the small sampling of Machaut's work reviewed above, the composer was clearly prolific and a comprehensive listing of his works in provided at Appendix a.
The research showed that Guillaume de Machaut was a 14th century French poet and composer who is recognized today as the leading composer of the ars nova in France. The research also showed that Machaut's fine sense of word play and innovative use of various literary elements helped make him enormously popular during his day. An indication of his expertise can be seen in the recent resurgence of interest in Machaut by 21st century scholars, but the author himself can be credited with much of this attention since he was so careful in leaving them so much material for study. In the final analysis, it is reasonable to assert that based on the dearth of comparable historical accounts of his contemporaries, 22nd century scholars will be studying Guillaume de Machaut as well.
Brown, Cynthia J. 1995. Poets, Patrons, and Printers: Crisis of Authority in Late Medieval France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Chance, Jane. 1990. The...
Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.
De Looze, Laurence. 1997. Pseudo-Autobiography in the Fourteenth Century: Juan Ruiz, Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, and Geoffrey Chaucer. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.
Grout, Donald Jay and Claude V. Palisca. 2001. A History of Western Music. New York W.W. Norton.
Hughes, Dom Anselm and Gerald Abraham. 1960. Ars Nova and the Renaissance, 1300-1540. London: Oxford University Press.
Huot, Sylvia. 1994. "Patience in Adversity: The Courtly Lover and Job in Machaut's Motets 2 and 3." Medium Aevum, 63(2), 222.
2001. "The Book of the True Poem." Medium Aevum, 70(1), 151.
Leach, Elizabeth Eva. 2003. "Love, Hope and the Nature of Merci in Machaut's Musical Balades Esperance." French Forum, 28(1), 1-3.
Machaut, Guillaume De. 2004. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. New York Columbia University Press.
Roberge, Pierre F., and Todd M. McComb. 2007. "Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377): Discography, Biography, Lyrics." Medieval.org. December 2, 2007, http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/composers/machaut.html.
Appendix a Alphabetical Listing of Works by Guillaume de Machaut
Source: Roberge, Pierre F., and Todd M. McComb. 2007. "Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300- 1377): Discography, Biography, Lyrics." Medieval.org. December 2, 2007, http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/composers/machaut.html.
Amis, t'amour me contreint (L10/7)
Amours doucement me tente (L7/6)
Amours me fait desirer (B19)
Amours qui a le pouoir / Faus Samblant / Vidi (M15)
Aucune gent / Qui plus aimme / Fiat (M5)
Aymi! dame de valour (V3)
Biaute qui toutes autres pere (B4)
Bone pastor Guillerme / Bone pastor (M18)
C'est force, faire le vueil (V16)
Ce qui soustient moy, m'onneur et ma vie (R12)
Certes, mon oueil richement visa bel (R15)
Christe, qui lux / Veni, creator / Tribulatio (M21)
Cinc, un, trese, huit, neuf d'amour fine (R6)
Comment puet on miex ses maus dire (R11)
Comment qu'a moy lonteinne (V5)
Contre ce dous mois de may (L15/10)
Dame je vueil endurer (V9)
Dame, a qui (V12)
Dame, a vous sans retollir (RF6/V33)
Dame, comment qu'amez de vous ne soie (B16)
Dame, de qui toute ma joie vient (RF5/B42)
Dame, je sui cils / Fins cuers dous (M11)
Dame, mon cuer emportez (V32/29)
Dame, mon cuer en vous remaint (RF7/R22)
Dame, ne regardez pas (B9)
Dame, qui weult vostre droit (R16, no surviving music)
Dame, se vous m'estes lointeinne (B37)
Dame, se vous n'avez aparceu (R13)
Dame, vostre dous viaire (V17)
De Bon Espoir / Puis qu'en la douce / Speravi (M4)
De Fortune me doi pleindre et loer (B23)
De bonte, de valour (V10)
De desconfort, de martyre amoureus (B8)
De petit po, de niant volente (B18)
De petit po (peu) (intabulation)
De tout sui si confortee (V38/32)
De toutes flours n'avoit et de tous fruis (B31)
De toutes flours (tout flors) (intabulation)
De triste cuer / Quant vrais amans / Certes, je di (B29)
Diex, Biaute, Douceur, Nature (V19)
Dix et sept, cinq, trese, quatorse et quinse (R17)
Donnez, signeurs, donnez a toutes mains (B26)
Dou mal qui m'a longuement (V8)
Douce dame jolie (V4)
Douce dame, tant com vivray (R20)
Dous amis, oy mon complaint (B6)
Dous viaire gracieus (R1)
En amer a douce vie (RF4/B41)
En demantant (L24/18)
En mon cuer ha un descort (V27/24)
Esperance qui m'asseure (B13)
Felix virgo / Inviolata genitrix / Ad te (M23)
Fons totius superbie / O livoris / Fera (M9)
Foy porter (V25/22)
Gais et jolis, lies, chantans et joieus (B35)
He! Mors, com tu / Fine Amour / Quare (M3)
He! dame de vaillance (V1)
He! dame de valour (V11)
Hareu! hareu! / Helas! ou sera / Obediens (M10)
Helas! et comment aroie (V18)
Helas! pour quoy se demente et complaint (R2)
Helas! pour quoy virent / Corde mesto / Libera (M12)
Helas! tant ay doleur et peinne (B2)
Honte, paour, doubtance de meffaire (B25)
Honte, paour (paur) (intabulation)
Hoquetus David (untexted)
Il m'est avis qu'il n'est dons de Nature (B22)
J'ai tant mon cuer / Lasse! je sui / Ego (M7)
J'aim sans penser laidure (V14)
J'ain la flour (L2)
J'am miex languir en ma dure dolour (B7)
Je ne cesse de prier (L16/11)
Je ne cuit pas qu'oncques a creature (B14)
Je puis trop bien ma dame comparer (B28)
Je suis aussi com cils qui est ravis (B20)
Je vivroie liement (V23/21)
Joie, plaisance, et douce norriture (RF3)
La, firent mains divers acors (poem)
Lasse! comment / Se j'aim / Pour quoy me bat (M16)
Le Lay de Bonne Esperance (L18/13)
Le Lay de Confort (L17/12)
Le Lay de Nostre Dame (L15/10)
Le Lay de Plour - I (L19/14)
Le Lay de Plour - II (L22/16)
Le Lay de l'Ymage (L14/9)
Le Lay de la Fonteinne (L16/11)
Le Lay de la Rose (L21/15)
Le Lay des Dames (L10/7)
Le Lay Mortel (L12/8)
Li enseignement / De touz les biens / Ecce tu pulchra es (M24, dubious)
Liement me deport (V30/27)
Long sont mi jour…
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