Jacques Acadelt, At trepida et coeptis immanibus effera Dido

At trepida et coeptis (IV, 642-654)

A. Text and Translation

At trepida et coeptis immanibus effera Dido

sanguineam volvens aciem, maculisque trementes

interfusa genas et pallida morte futura,

interiora domus inrumpit limina et altos  

conscendit furibunda rogos ensemque recludit

Dardanium, non hos quaesitum munus in usus.

hic, postquam Iliacas vestes notumque cubile

conspexit, paulum lacrimis et mente morata

incubuitque toro dixitque novissima verba: 

Dulces exuviae, dum fata deusque sinebat,

accipite hanc animam meque his exsolvite curis.

vixi et quem dederat cursum Fortuna peregi,

et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago.

But Dido, desperate, beside herself with awful under-

takings, eyes bloodshot and rolling, and her quivering

cheeks flecked with stains and pale with coming death,

now bursts across the inner courtyards of her palace.

She mounts in madness that high pyre, unsheathes the

Dardanian sword, a gift not sought for such an end. And

when she saw the Trojan's clothes and her familiar bed,

she checked her thought and tears a little, lay upon the

couch and spoke her final words:

O relics, dear while fate and god allowed, receive my

spirit and free me from these cares; for I have lived a life

and completed the journey that fate gave me, and now my

proud spirit will pass beneath the earth.

B. Musical Sources and Settings

*1. Jacques Arcadelt (c1507-1568), a4

            sources: Sixiesme Livre de Chansons (Paris: Leroy et Ballard, 1556)

            modern edition: Johannes Aradelt: Opera Omnia, ed. A. Seay (CMM, 1965-71), viii; Osthoff 1955, 13-16.

C. Arcadelt's setting




Arcadelt's setting of At trepida bears comparison to Rore's Dissimulare: both are largely homophonic, declamatory settings that steer a via media between strict metrical declamation and more elaborate polyphonic treatment; both are unique settings of lengthy and dramatic passages from the Aeneid; and both are the fruits of Franco-Flemish masters whose styles were strongly tempered by long experience in Italy setting secular madrigal texts. And like Rore's setting, Arcadelt's is divided into three sections:

I. lines 642-647          

II. lines 648-650

III. lines 651-654

In desperation, Dido mounts pyre and unsheathes sword

Dido checks herself and prepares to speak

Dido speaks her final words: Dulces exuvie

In contrast to Rore's setting, however, Arcadelt avoids text repetition (until the final phrase) and delivers a more compact delivery of lines in a much shorter overall work (93 vs 253 measures), and while all fifteen lines of Dissimulare are first-person utterance by Dido, only the final four of the thirteen lines of At trepida are spoken in the first person by Dido. Much as in his madrigal settings like Il bianco e dolce cigno, Arcadelt adopts a milder harmonic chromaticism than Rore, his phrases are clearly delineated by complete rests in all four voice parts, and the homophonic phrases often lead to contrapuntal flourishes at the cadences that provide some textural variety.

Like most of the other Vergil settings by reputable composers, Arcadelt's arose in the rarified circumstances of aristocratic humanist environments (see essay). Arcadelt's setting was composed around 1558 for his patron Cardinal Charles di Lorraine, and a poem by Pierre de Ronsard describing a performance of At trepida at the Cardinal's palace of Meudon (outside Paris) provides a rare glimpse of how the work was performed and received. Though Arcadelt's four-voice setting has text underlaid in all four parts, Ronsard describes a performance for solo voice accompanied by Charle's Italian lutenist Alonso Ferrabosco and his brothers playing the lower three parts on lutes (very much like the performance of Dulces exuvie sung by Isabella d'Este as described by Baldassare Castiglione in Mantua). This is perhaps a key to understanding the aesthetic goals of Rore and Arcadelt in their homophonic settings. It was not uncommon for polyphonic madrigals in Italy to be arranged and performed for solo voice and accompaniment, due in part to native Italian performance practices that favored solo singing, but also to the increasingly dramatic and narrative qualities of sixteenth-century madrigal poetry. Jessie Ann Owens argues that "de Rore's Dido is a full-blown operatic heroine," and that in a likely performance for solo singer and instruments, Dissimulare could stand as an early example of the dramatic monody that would emerge fully in the context of early opera by the end of the century (Owens 2016, 388-90). The same could be said of Arcadelt's At trepida