Medieval Songs for Inciting Devotional Feelings

Here’s a neat paper by a music guy on another thing I’d never heard of. The Devotio Moderna movement included a Belgian named Johannes Mauburnus, aka Jan Mombaer (1460-1501), an Augustinian canon writing mostly for other canons. He ended up a French abbot and a reformer of monasteries, as well as a famous teacher of spiritual exercises and contemplation for newbies. So at one point, they asked him to put together a program.

The Rosetum exercitiorum spiritualium et sacrarum meditationum (Rose garden of spiritual exercises and meditation on sacred things) is over 700 pages long. It’s apparently a complete textbook on spiritual exercises of the Middle Ages and the Fathers. If you’re the kind of person who has trouble thinking of stuff to contemplate, it also gives you meditations for every hour of the day, day of the week, and holy day.

But as an encouragement, it includes seven devotional hymns, written to the tune of other well-known songs of the day. That’s what the paper is about. (The melodies are provided in the back.)

“Ah, Lord God, the World’s Creator”: English translation of the song for contemplating Baby Jesus, “Eya, mea anima” (Hey, my soul!) The German tune comes from an old German translation that was commonly sung in alternatim with the Latin; so you can sing the Latin to this hymn tune, no problem.

The other songs are “O panis vivifice” (O lifegiving Bread), “O beata Trinitas” (O Blessed Trinity), “Dones Agni portionem” (May you give a portion of the Lamb), “Excitare, excitare surdaster humuncio” (Wake up, wake up, half-deaf guy), “Excitare, excitare, o peccatrix anima” (Wake up, wake up, o sinner soul), and “O primum principium” (O first Beginning). Three of the songs go to “Pange lingua gloriosi corporis” and four go to the Christmas carol “Dies est leticie in ortu regali.” The long songs can also be sung to “Urbs beata Jerusalem” or “Crux fidelis inter omnes.”

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