Tag Archive | Christmas

Cardinal Richelieu—the Musical Hymns, Carols, and Popular Music in “His Red Eminence.”

“C’est un rempart que notre Dieu, une invincible armure. Notre délivrance en tout lieu, notre défense sûre. Satan, notre ennemi, en fureur s’est promis. D’user de son pouvoir. Pour vaincre et décevoir. Sur terre il n’y a plus d’abri,” sang Anne Rochefeuille as she played the harpsichord in the main drawing room of the Palais Cardinal, Cardinal Richelieu’s grand palace built just north of the Louvre and bequeathed to King Louis XIII upon his death on the 4th of December 1642. Though Americans rarely hear it in French, the first verse of the above hymn is well-known by Protestants around the world as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther.  It is, like so many songs in this latest biography, an unusual choice for the story of France’s greatest and most transformative first minister.

Armand-Jean Richelieu 1 small

Jean-Armand du Plessis, cardinal and duc de Richelieu transformed France into the first truly modern and secular state of the western world. Still essentially a collection of feudal states owing nominal loyalty to the king of France when he took up the bishopric of Luçon in 1608, the cardinal’s ability to put aside religious considerations in favour of complete subordination of the French people and its institutions to the king had inevitable cultural implications as well. Carefully patronizing writers, poets, dramatists, painters, sculptors, architects, composers, musicians, and other artisans, regardless of his personal opinions about their creations, his patient efforts carefully moved French culture into the celebrated baroque era we associate with King Louis XIV.

Red Eminence webIn my new biography, “His Red Eminence, Jean-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu,” I celebrate the cardinal’s life through music. Eight songs in French, Latin, and English fill these pages, helping the story to come alive. Given my habit for setting scenes during the Christmas holiday season, there are of course Christmas carols, more than any other book so far. 15th century French carol “Noël Nouvelet” makes an appearance, as does “Adeste Fideles” which was originally written by French monks in the medieval era but not translated to English as “O Come All Ye Faithful” until Victorian times.

Two decidedly English songs make an appearance: the 16th century English “Coventry Carol” is heard for the first time in one of my books as does the medieval version of the popular song “Quoth John to Joan.”

Popular French music arrives in the form of Pierre Guédon’s “Aux plaisirs, aux délices.”  Guédon’s music is very special because it’s one of the few surviving songs we have specific to King Louis XIII’s reign instead of dating to either the Valois dynasty or Louis XIV’s reign.

Aux plaisirs, aux délices, bergères,

Il faut ètre du temps ménagères,

Car il s’écoule et se perd d’heure en heure;

Et le regret seulement en demeure.

A l’àmour, aux plaisirs, au bocage

Employez les beaux jours de votre àge.

But perhaps the most poignant of the two popular music pieces in this book is also the most familiar.  “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” by Thoinot Arbeau is a love song written at the end of the 16th century. Popular with re-enactors, it is slow, stately and full of quiet passion. Just the sort of song that rises to the many diverse occasions found in not only this beautiful biography, but many of the Legendary Women of World History biographies as well.

We first encounter “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” in 1618 during Armand-Jean’s exile in Avignon when best friend Anne Rochefeuille sings the first two verses. Then, in 1628, facing the horrors of war and missing home and the love waiting for him in Paris, Armand-Jean sings verses three through eight for us, allowing us to hear the song in full. Drama arises when his song is overheard by Father Joseph, his “grey eminence” as history remembers him. For one of the most consistent sources of drama in this biography is the constant question by those around the good cardinal as to whether or not, and if so who, is he taking to his bed as his lover.

Historically, the question is never proven either way but rather is a matter of persistent rumour spanning his entire adult life.

My belief is that he did have a lover, a woman whom he loved and faithfully took to bed for over twenty years. But more than a vessel for his sexual appetites, she was best friend, confidant, nurse, and intellectual equal.  She was everything for Armand-Jean du Plessis that Katharina von Bora was for Martin Luther almost a century before—except of course that du Plessis could not marry her in the church without stepping down from the priesthood and his only means of supporting himself. Even after becoming a cardinal in 1622 and first minister of France in 1624, Richelieu’s economic survival depended on him keeping secret what the true nature of his relationship with his Anne really was. If the truth were ever discovered, the scandal stood to cost him not only his position (and the money he depended on to live), but his life as well.

 

With this dramatic context in mind, I invite you to enter King Louis XIII’s court with all its music and dance and courtly romance and intrigues to meet the real man you never knew from reading Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.”

 

 

Lyrics: Adeste Fideles (Cistercian Hymn)/Oh Come All Ye Faithful

Red Eminence webThe sixth song appearing in His Red Eminence is another very old Christmas carol that was only recently translated to English.  Adeste Fideles was written by Cistercian monks on medieval France sometime between the 6th and 12th centuries, but only recently, in 1841 came to the English language.

Adeste Fideles (Cistercian Hymn)/Oh Come All Ye Faithful (translated to English by Frederick Oakeley, 1841)

 

Latin

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,

Venite, venite in Bethlehem.

Natum videte

Regem angelorum:

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine

Gestant puellæ viscera

Deum verum, genitum non factum.

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Cantet nunc io, chorus angelorum;

Cantet nunc aula cælestium,

Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo,

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Ergo qui natus die hodierna.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,

Patris æterni Verbum caro factum.

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

English

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

Come and behold him

Born the King of Angels:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

God of God, light of light,

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

True God, begotten, not created:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,

Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!

Glory to God, glory in the highest:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;

Jesus, to thee be glory given!

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

Lyrics: Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

Red Eminence webThe fifth song that appears in “His Red Eminence is another Christmas carol. This time we are going back to 15th century France for Noël Nouvelet which you can hear at the end of Christmas mass at the Louvre in chapter ten, “Confessions.”

 

Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

 

French:

Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons icy;

Dévotes gens‚ rendons à Dieu merci;

Chantons Noël pour le Roi nouvelet;

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

En Bethléem‚ Marie et Joseph vy‚

L’asne et le boeuf‚ l’Enfant couché parmy;

La crèche était au lieu d’un bercelet.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

L’estoile vint qui le jour esclaircy‚

Et la vy bien d’où j’etois départy

En Bethléem les trois roys conduisaient.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

English:

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

Glory to God! Now let your praises swell!

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

Angels did say, “O shepherds come and see,

Born in Bethlehem, a blessed Lamb for thee.”

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

In the manger bed, the shepherds found the child;

Joseph was there, and the Mother Mary mild.

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

https://lyricstranslate.com/en/no%C3%ABl-nouvelet-christmas-comes-anew.html

Lyrics: Veni, Veni

Red Eminence web

The oldest known Christmas carol is “Veni, Veni” which started out as a sung prayer in early medieval monasteries. Can it be any wonder it is also the most popular song to appear among my ten biographies?  You’ll first find it in “Catherine de Valois: French Princess, Tudor Matriarch” (recorded with an alternate tune by Richard Mann for the audio book). Next, look for it in “Empress Matilda of England.” Finally, enjoy it in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.”  Here me perform the first two verses on soundcloud.

One of the most fascinating things about this song is that while it is very old in its original medieval Latin, it was not until the Victorian era that it was translated into English.  Here is both the medieval Latin and the English.

 

Veni, Veni/O Come, O Come Emmanuel

 

Medieval Latin

Veni, veni Emmanuel

Captivum solve Israel,

Qui gemit in exsilio,

Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, O Sapientia,

Quae hic disponis omnia,

Veni, viam prudentiae

Ut doceas et gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, veni, Adonai,

Qui populo in Sinai

Legem dedisti vertice

In maiestate gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, veni, Rex Gentium,

veni, Redemptor omnium,

ut salvas tuos famulos

peccati sibi conscios.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

English:

O Come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel,

that morns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

 

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,

and order all things far and nigh;

to us the path of knowledge show,

and teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,

who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height

in ancient times did give the law,

in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

 

O come, Desire of the nations, bind

in one the hearts of all mankind;

bid every strife and quarrel cease

and fill the world with heaven’s peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/VeniEmm.html

 

 

 

Lyrics: Coventry Carol (1534, by Robert Coo)

Red Eminence web

The third song you hear in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” might surprise you. It is the Coventry Carol, one of the earliest English Christmas carols. Unlike the very secular “Drive the Cold Winter Away,”  Coventry Carol is religious and is among the oldest religious Christmas carols in the English language.

 

Coventry Carol (1534, by Robert Coo)

English:

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

Thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

 

O sisters too, how may we do

For to preserve this day.

This poor youngling for whom we sing,

Bye bye, lully, lullay?

 

Herod the king, in his raging,

Chargèd he hath this day

His men of might in his own sight

All young children to slay.

 

That woe is me, poor child, for thee

And ever mourn and say

For thy parting neither say nor sing,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

 

https://www.carols.org.uk/ba11-coventry-carol.htm

 

The Great Purge: Spring Cleaning

It’s March and that means one thing:  SPRING CLEANING.

cleaningNow if you are like most people those two words send shivers up the spine far worse than anything our recent mild winter produced.  You may be thinking of this mountain of work and indeed depending on your household, spring cleaning may involve anything from simply tidying every room  (including scrubbing the shower, toilet, and every sink in the home) to something much more drastic.

 

For me, spring cleaning is the first of two yearly household purges where I look through everything in every cupboard and closet and decide what to keep and what to throw out or donate.  It’s been this way for the last two years as I anticipate moving overseas.  Because let’s face it:  the more stuff you have, the more it costs to move it.  When it comes to a long distance move, that becomes prohibitively expensive!

So here’s the standard I’ve adopted:

  • Anything expired gets tossed.  Some people argue that food, medicine, and cosmetics are still good past expiration dates.  I refuse to risk that.  My health is worth more than whatever the replacement cost is.  To help prevent food loss implement better storage plans where fresher items are at the back and older items are at the front of your shelves and cupboards.
  • cone threadAnything that is not worn or enjoyed at least ten minutes straight in the last two years gets tossed, donated, or downsized.  For example chinaware.  Keep only the number of place settings used in the last two to five years.  A family of four which rarely entertains using chinaware does NOT need twelve place settings. Purge it to one to two place settings above the number of people who live in hour household and/or you entertain regularly.  Likewise if you sew or enjoy crafts, go through your supplies and only keep the items or colours you actually use on a regular basis.  Remember that unused supplies often degrade with time.  Keep your stash fresh!
  • Throw out or recycle any electronics or small household appliances that no longer work — including holiday lights.
  • Digitize vital records (birth certificates, passports, etc.) and keep copies in a safe place.  Mementos should also be digitally copied so you can preserve them against loss (storms, moving, etc.).
1-1034d

Brother 1034D overlock machine.  I gave away mine as part of my spring cleaning because I no longer sew.

Most of the things you think you need and cherish you actually DON’T.  Does it really matter what your daughter got on a test in the third grade?  Do you really care how much money you spent on a pair of eyeglasses in 1992?  These sorts of things seem important when you file them away, but lose most of their importance as time goes on.   Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your stuff.  For example, I used to sew.  I don’t now and I don’t particularly enjoy it; it was my mother’s thing and not mine.  So I recently gave away my overlock machine.  I don’t need it and it was taking up a lot of precious space while being too heavy to move easily.  Same with fabric.  If you don’t have a project for it, either designate it to a project with a set deadline for completion or get rid of it.

Remember that space is expensive in both time and money.  Take this opportunity to purge your home of what you do not need.  You’ll be happier, healthier, more organized, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of your home.

 

 

Discussion: Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?

manger-620x412This morning I found this fascinating article entitled “Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?”  In it Valarie Talerico takes us beneath the surface of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth and looks at the inherent messages about female sexuality.

“A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop.  A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.”

The article goes into depth into the cultural and religious history behind these ideas that a woman who has never been sexually touched is superior to all other females.

Looking deeper than the article does, I must point out that these same cultures and religions often employ rape as a sort of weapon:  once used by the rapist, a woman is considered wholly unsuitable for marriage.

Though rape is a traumatic experience for the girl or woman, in societies and religious traditions where female conduct reflects on her male owners, the intent of the rapist is revealed to be more an attack on the men in her life, a way of dishonouring them through her.

Boudicca artist concept chariotThat is, in fact, the primary reason why Roman soldiers raped Queen Boudicca’s daughters:  they were sending a terrorist message that just as they ruined and shamed the Iceni (to rape their princesses is to shame the entire tribe), they were perfectly prepared to shame and terrorize any Briton daring to stand up to them.

And so we must examine in our own hearts what our values are and what we really want them to be.  Do we want to continue to measure a woman’s worth based on how many male genitals have touched her body and in what fashion?  Do we want to continue to weigh a person’s worth based on another person’s behaviour or experiences?  Do we still want to confuse service/nurturing with subservience and demand women treat themselves as inferiors to men?

Libby bird iconOr do we want something better for ourselves, our families, and our societies?  Do we truly believe in the equality of all people and the rights of every person to act according to her or his own conscience and convictions or will we persist on judging and condemning others for choices and circumstances that differ from our own?

Will we take the dark road of hate and judgement or will we take the harder road of love, acceptance, and peace?

I cannot answer that question for you; only for myself.  I choose love and peace.  I choose to accept you just the way you are — free of judgement.  You are wonderful just because you are you.

 

Merry Christmas!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller