Medieval Verse: The Canso (song)

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March 24, 2014 by phicks2012

ctree2Once more we loose the creative muse, and delve into the are of Medieval Verse!

From Wikipedia

The canso or canson (Occitan pronunciation: [kan’su, kan’su]) was a song style used by the troubadours; it was, by far, the most common genre used, especially by early troubadours; only in the second half of 13th century would its dominance be challenged by a growing number of poets writing coblas esparsas.
The canso became, in Old French, the grand chant and, in Italian, the canzone.

A canso usually consists of three parts. The first stanza is the exordium, where the composer explains his purpose. The main body of the song occurs in the following stanzas, and usually draw out a variety of relationships with the exordium; formally, aside from the envoi(s), which are not always present, a canso is made of stanzas all having the same sequence of verses, in the sense that each verse has the same number of metrical syllables.[1] This makes it possible to use the same melody for every stanza; the sequence cam be extremely simple, as in Can vei la lauzeta mover, whose stanzas consist of eight lines of eight metrical syllables each, or rather complex, as in Arnaut Daniel’s L’aur’amara, whose first stanza is:
L’aur amara
fa’ls bruels brancutz
que’l dous’espeis’ab fuelhs,
e’ls letz
dels auzels ramencx
te babs e mutz,
e non pars,
per que m’esfortz
per far e dir
a manhs per lei
qui m’a virat bas d’aut,
don tem morir
si l’afans no m’asoma.
(the syllable count here is 3, 4, 2, 6, 2, 1, 5, 4, 1, 3, 4, 4, 2, 4, 6, 4, 6 respectively; the same structure is kept through the six full stanzas of the piece).

Rhyme scheme
Each stanza in a canso has the same internal rhyme scheme; that is, if, say, the first line rhymes with the third in the first stanza, it will do so in every successive one. What varies is the relationship between rhymes in separate stanzas. When stanzas follow the same rhyming pattern but the actual sounds differ, they are called coblas alternadas (lit. “alternated stanzas”). When the last rhyme sound of one cobla becomes the first of the next they are called coblas capcaudadas (lit. “head-tailed”). When the last rhyme word of one stanza appears in the first line of the next they are called coblas capfinidas (lit. “head-finished”). When the rhyming scheme and rhyming sounds are the same each stanza, they are coblas unissonans (lit. “unison”). When the rhyming scheme never changes but the sounds of each stanza are different they are coblas singulars (lit. “singular”). When the rhyming scheme never changes but the sounds do every two stanzas it is called coblas doblas (lit. “double”). When the rhyming scheme never changes but the sounds do every three stanzas it is called coblas ternas. When the rhymes change position in accordance with an algorithm they are called coblas retrogradadas (lit. “retrograded”).

The canso usually ends with one or more envois (called Tornadas in Old Occitan). It takes the form of a shortened stanza, containing only a last part of the standard stanza used up to that point; a clear example is the same work by Arnaut Daniel quoted above: the (single) envoi is:
Fez es l’acrotz:
qu’el cor remir
totz sers
lieis cui dompnei,
ses parsonier Arnaut,
qu’en autr’albir
n’esfort m’entent’a soma.
whose syllable count (4, 4, 2, 4, 6, 4, 6) is the same as the last seven lines of the full stanzas.

Speaking for myself, I had no intention of composing one of the more complex Cansos with varying syllable count in each line for my first attempt, so in trying to duplicate the Canso I went with a simpler form whose stanzas consist of “eight lines of eight metrical syllables each” as in the example given of “Can vei la lauzeta mover”, a simple rhyme scheme (a,b,a,a,b,b,a,b), and a simple envoi. Written for publication in my SCA Newsletter, this was fairly simple to create, and I hope you find pleasure in it.

Canso No.1: I Stand Beneath a Waning Sun

I stand beneath a waning sun
And speak the words of elder times
When tasks by eager hands were done
And battles fought, by hearts were won;
When poems rang with simpler rhymes
And bells were rung with clearer chimes;
When evil done could be undone
And chivalry stood forth betimes.

Now shadows o’er the dreamers fall
To darken hopes that once we knew
Would brightly shine to light the hall
Where Sovereigns once stood proud and tall
When elder worlds were born anew,
And those who dreamed knew what was true.
But now those who will heed the call
And forward stand are all too few.

When need is come they back away;
When aid is sought they offer none.
Most who once sought a truer way
And hungered for a golden day
Have seen the tapestries unspun,
And let the dreams come all undone,
And those who linger, dreaming, pray
We’ll not be left to mourn the sun.

Return, return unto the hall
Where laughter rang when we were all
Together dreaming ‘neath the sun,
When we in wonder heard the call!

[29 December, 2013]


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