Carmina Burana: Latin for “Songs from Beuern” (“Beuern” is short for Benediktbeuern) is the name given to a manuscript of 254 poems and dramatic texts mostly from the 11th or 12th century, although some are from the 13th century. They were written principally in Medieval Latin; a few in Middle High German, and some with traces of Old French or Provençal. Some are macaronic, a mixture of Latin and German or French vernacular.
Most of the poems and songs appear to be the work of Goliards, clergy (mostly students) who set up and satirized the Catholic Church. The collection preserves the works of a number of poets, including Peter of Blois, Walter of Châtillon, and an anonymous poet, referred to as the Archpoet.(1)
The piece is known for its bawdy language. There are twenty four poems used in the composition which Carl Orff composed in 1935 -36. In essence the music completes the poetry with these themes:
(i) Moralistic and satirical poems, the former being concerned with the human condition and the world at large, the latter with abuses in the church.
(ii) Love songs and songs celebrating the return of spring.
(iii) Songs connected with drinking and gambling.
The structure is organized into five sections.
You can view them on Wiki here:
But better yet, have a listen to the main song, O Fortuna.
Below are the Latin lyrics with the English translation following:
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem;
dissolvit ut glaciem.
rota tu volubilis,
mihi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
fero tui sceleris.
mihi nunc contraria;
semper in angaria.
hac in hora
cordae pulsum tangite!
quod per sortem
mecum omnes plangite!
O Fortune, like the moon of ever changing state, you are always waxing or waning; hateful life now is brutal, now pampers our feelings with its game; poverty, power, it melts them like ice.
Fate, savage and empty, you are a turning wheel, your position is uncertain, your favour is idle and always likely to disappear; covered in shadows and veiled you bear upon me too; now my back is naked through the sport of your wickedness.
The chance of prosperity and of virtue is not now mine; whether willing or not, a man is always liable for Fortune’s service. At this hour without delay touch the strings! Because through luck she lays low the brave, all join with me in lamentation! (3)
Orff’s dramatic music has been used in many movies over the years, but I enjoy this piece every March. It’s full of energy, primal wants and conveys the timeless yearning for fate or our luck to change with the coming season.
Hope you enjoyed this!
PS. And stop by the Paralytic Journal. Ed’s caught up in an uncomfortable situation.