History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

30 January 2009

Naughty songs of the Goliards

Medieval Europe is often referred to as the age of faith. However, assuming that the thought and action of these centuries were completely dominated by the Church gives a one-sided view. The secular poetry of the Goliards marks an early protest against the excesses of the Church, much like Bob Dylan and the literature of the Beat generation were protests against the 1950s.

The Goliards were disaffected 12th century university students and clergy who wrote (forbidden) love songs, drinking and gambling songs, satires, and parodies. The best known work is the Carmina Burana, a collection of Latin poetry discovered at the abbey of Benediktbeurn in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, south of Munich. The abbey was founded in 733; the songs and poems were from the
11th century. Here are two of my favorites.

Let’s Away with Study

Let's away with study,
Folly's sweet.
Treasure all the pleasure
Of our youth:
Time enough for age
To think on truth.
So short a day,
And life so quickly hasting,
And in study wasting
Youth that would be gay!

Pastime With Good Company (In Taberna Quando Sumus)

When we are in the tavern,
We don’t worry about mortality,
But we hasten to have a good time,
at which we always work up a sweat...

First they toast the wealth of wine,
and drink of it very freely;
Next, a toast to those in prison,
After that, a toast to those still living,
Fourth, a toast to all good Christians,
Fifth, a toast to friends departed,
Sixth, a toast to false and fickle nuns,
Seventh, a toast to soldiers of the forest,
Eighth, a toast to crooked friars,
Ninth, a toast to monks disbanded,
Tenth, a toast to sailors at sea,
Eleventh, a toast to troublemakers,
Twelfth, a toast to penitents,
Thirteenth, a toast to those on journeys,
And at the last to King and Pope
We all inordinately tope.

The mistress drinks, the master drinks,
The soldier drinks, the cleric drinks,
He drinks, she drinks,
The servant drinks with the serving maid.
Drinks the swift and drinks the slothful,
Fair or dark, they all drink too,
The faithful drinks, the fickle drinks,
The ignorant lout, the man of letters.

The poor man drinks, the rich man too,
The exiled and the unknown do,
The boy-child drinks, so does the dog,
The dancer and the singer drink,
The sister drinks, the brother drinks,
The granny drinks, the mother drinks,
She drinks, he drinks
A hundred drink, a thousand drink.

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Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Lynna, this is wonderful!! I guess there are disaffected university students in every era! Thanks for this wonderful introduction to the Goliards!

12:54 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is great! Makes me think of Ikkyu (15th century Japanese monk/poet). He wrote some really strange, irreverent stuff. My favorite (in translation) is this:

A bunch of monks sitting around chanting.
What crap.
Get laid, that's wisdom.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fabulous reminder that human nature remains constant! Judith Merkle Riley does a great job portraying that world in "Vision of Light", with all the references to Brother Gregory's university days in which he engaged simultaneously in theological disputation and extemporaneous bawdy poetry. So much fun.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite lines:

Treasure all the pleasure
Of our youth:
Time enough for age
To think on truth.

Coulda been said by Scarlett O'Hara of the middle ages? LOL!

2:52 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Makes me think of Francois Villon as well. And of a book I think you've also read, Lynna -- Barry Unsworth's Morality Play.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

What a wonderful post! I love thinking about (and referring to) my characters as undergraduates debating and theorizing and drinking on Oxford taverns :-).

5:50 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Those are terrific, Lynna! It seems students are the same the world and time over! A staple of my concert singing days were The Hermit Songs by Samuel Barber. They consisted of 8th through 9th century Irish anonymous verses (attributed to bored monks goofing off) set to amazing music by Samuel Barber.

One of my favorite naughty verses from these songs is entitled Promiscuity :

I do not know with whom Edan will sleep,
but I do know that fair Edan will not sleep alone.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

I hadn't realised the full history of Carmina Burana. I know the music by Carl Orff and that it was set to old poems but hadn't realised they were that old. The most famous piece of music is O Fortuna. If you heard it you would know it! Everyone knows this piece of music *g*

4:16 PM  
Blogger Lynna Banning said...

I heard a recent production of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana (orchestra and choir and kids) and the O Fortuna! brought me out of my seat!
The performance (Santa Cruz Chorus and youth choir) was enhanced by song/verse translations shown via large screen above the stage.
A packed house gave it a standing ovation.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Δροσοσταλίτσα said...

hi I am a stydent in the greek university and I am studing about the goliards right now...Iwas wondering if someone could help me....thanks a lot....marigo

3:21 AM  

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