Goliardic songs

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Goliardic songs

Goliardic songs (gōlēär´dĬk), Late Latin poetry of the "wandering scholars," or Goliards. The Goliards included university students who went from one European university to another, scholars who had completed their studies but were unable to buy benefices (ecclesiastical offices), unfrocked priests, runaway monks, and clerks. They begged and sang their way from place to place. Their existence is seen as a reaction against the medieval ascetic ideal and as evidence of the decline in popularity of the increasingly rigorous church. First appearing in large numbers in the 11th cent., the vagi or vagantes multiplied into a horde of unruly vagabonds. It was formerly believed that in the 13th cent. they joined to form a burlesque religious order, but it is now thought that the ordo vagorum, with its legendary archpoet Bishop Golias (Goliath) as grand master, was a literary fiction. The name Goliards may have derived from this same Golias. Although the church began (c.1230) to take measures against the Goliards, later church edicts against them testify to their continued, though dwindled, existence. The scandal associated with the Goliards should not obscure the merits of their verse. Their songs, in lilting bastard Latin verse with stressed rhymes, mimic the form of medieval hymns. They include lusty paeans to love and wine and the vagabond life as well as skillful attacks on the immorality of church life and churchmen. Although most of the songs are anonymous or bear pseudonyms, some of the best are attributed to Archipoeta, or the Archpoet (fl. 1161–65), and others to Primus, who was Hugo d'Orléans (fl. early 12th cent.). Many were formerly wrongly attributed to Walter Map. The songs are often called carmina burana, after the title of the collection found in the abbey of Benediktbeuern and edited by J. A. Schmeller (4th ed. 1907). Widely collected and edited, the songs appear in English translation in The Cambridge Songs (ed. by Karl Breul, 1915), J. A. Symonds, Wine, Women, and Song (1884), H. J. Waddell, Mediaeval Latin Lyrics (rev. ed. 1933), and G. F. Whicher, The Goliard Poets (1949). Carl Orff set many of them to music simply and impressively in a secular cantata entitled Carmina burana (1937).

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