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Document Details :
Title: 'Verlorenes' gefunden: Zwei Varianten des mittelalterlichen Liedtextes 'Och starcker got'
Subtitle: Eine niederrheinisch/ripuarische und eine oberrheinische
Author(s): TAX, Karl W.J.M.
Journal: Ons Geestelijk Erf
Volume: 77 Issue: 3 Date: september 2003
It was a mere coincidence that I happened upon a CD which among others contained a late medieval song with neumes (14th c.): ‘O starcker got’ (= W), written in a dialect of the Upper Rhine region and attributed to Peter of Arberg, whose authorship is still uncertain. Fortunately the signature Cod. 1995 (L germ 78) of the University Library of Strasbourg (BNUS), where it is kept, was mentioned in the booklet accompanying this CD. The same text, now as a prayer (= Ja), is part of a 14th/15th century book of hours written in Ripuarian, a medieval dialect from the Cologne area. Parts of this primer were published by the author in his dissertation (Amsterdam 1996).
Text Ja consists of five stanzas, whereas W has only three. But luckily three stanzas of Ja’ s text (I, IV and V) are similar, only a few lines or parts differ from those in W (a stanza here is called: gesecz). The corresponding parts have been compared with one another as to their language, structure, metre and contents. This type of prayer is generally called ‘morning prayer’ or ‘passion song’, as indicated in the first verse of this song
and because the various parts are linked to Christ’s Passion.
In the different stanzas of both texts a presumptive female narrator refers to Christ’s physical sufferings, these being a constant reminder that her suffering, however great, cannot be compared with his and that she is thus safe from the devil’s temptations – des duuels velsch beger(Vb). On the one hand she is the supplicant asking Mary for help, Mary as the mother who grieves for Christ; on the other hand she addresses Mary as the mediatrix, as the only person who is able to understand. By meditating on Christ’s wounds and the torture he had to suffer through the arma Christi– flagellation rod, the three nails, the spear, the crown of thorns – and finally the cross itself, the woman is able to cope with her own daily hardships. With every pain she suffers, she hopes to become more and more acceptable to God, that her last hours will no longer be frightening and that she, in the end, will gain eternal life.
The two additional stanzas in text Ja (IIa+b and IIIa+b), which W does not have, bring an even more detailed description of Christ’s sufferings and bloodshed. This leads us to the environment where prayers and songs of this kind originated, to the time when pictures like these were customary. It was common practice to meditate on these in certain circles of the Devotio Moderna. This pre-Reformation renewal, which started in the eastern provinces of the Low Countries, is seen as the background against which personal meditation on Christ’s Passion took place.