Ludwig Senfl, Arma virumque cano

Arma virumque cano (I, 1-11)

A. Text and translation

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris  

Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit

litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto

vi superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram;

inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum,

multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem,

Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.

Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso,

quidve dolens, reina deum tot volvere casus

insignem pietate virum, tot adire labores

impulerit. Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?

I sing of arms and of the man, fated to be an exile;

who long since left the land of Troy and came to Italy

to the shores of Lavinium; and a great pounding he took

by land and sea at the hands of the heavenly gods because

of the fierce and unforgetting anger of Juno.

Great, too, were his suffering in war before he could found     

his city and carry his gods into Latium. This was the begin-

ning of the Latin race, the Alban fathers and the high walls

of Rome. Tell me, muse, the causes of her anger. How did

he violate the will of the queen of gods? What was his

offense? Why did she drive a man famous for his piety to

such endless hardship, and such suffering? Can there be so

much anger in the hearts of the heavenly gods?

B. Musical Settings and Sources

1. Anon. [SATB]

            source: Zwickau, Ratsschulbibliothek, 69.1.38 (manuscript, ca. 1531)

 2. Sebastian Forster (fl. c1533) [SATB]

            source: Melodia Prudentianae et in Virgilium (Leipzig: Faber, 1533), 23v

            modern edition: G. Vecchi, ed. Melodiae Prudentianae et in Virgilium (Lipsiae 1533) (Bologna, 1952), 29-               31; Lowinsky 1989, 163.

 3. Paul Hoffhaimer (1459-1537) [SATB?]

            source: Harmoniae Poeticae Pauli Hofheimeri (Nuremberg: Petreius, 1539), no. 26

            modern edition: Moser 1929, 124 (no. 26).

 4. Claude Martin (fl. 1549-1557) (a4, 2 'exercises')

            source: Elementorum mjsices practicae pars prior (Paris, 1550)   

 5.  Benedictus Ducis (c1492-1544) [SATB: 'Melodia carminis hexametri']

            source: Geminae undeviginti odarum Horatii (Frankfurt: Egenolph, 1551; repr. Stuttgart, 2008), no. 21;                 Erotemata musicae usum scholae Lunebergensis (Nuremberg, 1563)        

            modern edition: Strunk 1930, p. 490                  

 *6. Ludwig Senfl (1486-c1543) [SATB]

            source: Geminae undeviginti odarum Horatii (Frankfurt: Egenolph, 1551; repr. Stuttgart, 2008), no. 20

            modern edition: Ludwig Senfl: Sämtliche Werke, Band. VI (Wolfenbüttel: Moseler Verlag, 1961), p. 81

 7. Petrus Tritonius (Peter Treybenreif) (c1465-c1525) [3-part setting]

            source: Geminae undeviginti odarum Horatii (Frankfurt: Egenolph, 1551; repr. Stuttgart, 2008), no. 22

 8. Heinrich Textor (fl. ca. 1554) [ATTB]

            source: Brevis Musicae Isagoge (Tiguri [Zurich]: Froschover, 1554)

C. Senfl's setting


            [facsimile (cantus only)] 

Ludwig Senfl (1486-1543) was a leading composer at the courts of Emperor Maximilian I in Vienna and Duke Wilhelm IV in Munich. His 42 settings of classical texts were devoted primarily to Horatian odes, but also included a setting of the opening lines of Vergil's Aeneid, beginning with one of the most famous poetic phrases from antiquity, Arma virumque cano. All of the settings of classical verse by Senfl and his contemporaries observe the chordal, declamatory four-part texture pioneered by Tritonius that appeared in print in 1507, and provide easily memorized singing templates for learning and properly declaiming verse in various classical meters. These works arose from the requests of humanist scholars to suit the pedagogical needs of the Cathedral schools and Lateinschulen, as well as the antiquarian interests of recently-formed humanist sodalities. Though most of the figures on the above list were minor composers at best, Senfl and his organist/composer colleague at the imperial court Paul Hoffhaimer were elite musicians, and their settings of classical verse were atypical within an overall output that was characterized by sophisticated polyphonic music.

Senfl's music is nothing more than a short musical template for singing two lines of Vergil's dactylic hexameter verse: each line is comprised of six feet, and the rhythm (which in Latin is quantitative, expressed in short and long durations, rather than qualitative and based on accents) within each foot can be either long + long (a spondee), or long + short/short (a "dactyl").  This is expressed in Senfl's setting as whole note + whole note (for a spondee), or whole note + half note/half note (for a dactyl). This is the simplest of musical means for harmonically declaiming Vergil's verse in musical rhythms that are true to the poem's metrical form. Though such works were hardly the medium for an accomplished composer to exhibit the range his abilities, Senfl's rises above the others in the fluidity of a melodic profile and harmonic sequencing that is well-adapted to the metrical unfolding of the poetic line. Nevertheless, a good deal of choral practice was required to master the diction and accents, and above all to coordinate the rhythmic subtleties demanded by caesuras within the line, enjambment, and the irregular sequencing of spondees and dactyls from line to line.