Adrian Willaert, O socii, durate

O socii, neque enim ignari sumus (I, 198-207)

A. Text and Translation

'O socii—neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum—

O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.

Vos et Scyllaeam rabiem penitusque sonantis               

accestis scopulos, vos et Cyclopea saxa 

experti: revocate animos, maestumque timorem

mittite: forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.

Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum

ostendunt; illic fas regna resurgere Troiae.

tendimus in Latium; sedes ubi fata quietas               

Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.'

O comrades--surely we're not ignorant of earlier disasters,

we who have suffered things heavier than this--our god will

give an end to this as well. You have neared the rage of

Scylla and her caves' resounding rocks; and you  have known

the Cyclops' crags; call back your courage, send away your

grieving fear. Perhaps one day you will remember even these

our adversities with pleasure. Through so many crises and

calamities we make for Latium, where fates have promised

a peaceful settlement. It is decreed that there the realm of

Troy will rise again. Hold out, and save yourselves for kinder


B. Musical Settings and Sources

*1. Adrian Willaert (c1490-1562), a6

            source: Rore, Il quinto libro de' madrigali, 156617, no. 16

            modern edition: Adriani Willaert: Opera Omnia, vol. XIV, CMM 3, ed. H. Meier (AIM, 1977), 142-48

2. Cipriano de Rore (1515/16-1565), a5

            sources: Rore, Il quinto libro de' madrigali, 156617, no. 17

            modern edition: Cipriani Rore: Opera Omnia, vol. V, CMM 14, ed. B. Meier (AIM, 1971), 110-15.

C. Willaert's setting  




 Adrian Willaert (c1490-1562) was a Franco-Flemish composer whose illustrious career unfolded primarily in Ferrara, Rome, and finally Venice where from 1527 on he served as maestro di cappella of St. Mark's. Around 1557 or 1558, Cardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle (1517-1586), a powerful statesman and discerning patron of artists and musicians, approached Willaert with a commission to compose a setting of what Willaert described as quei versi di Virgilio 'O socii' ("those verses by Vergil O socii"). After battling through his gout and some trepidation about meeting his patron's expectations, Willaert completed a six-part setting in 1559 that had to have pleased Granvelle, both in terms of its expressive power and beauty, but also the extraordinary manner in which the music was fashioned to pay tribute to the Cardinal. It was printed in 1566 bearing the dedication Illustrissimi et Reverendissimi Cardinalis Granvellani Emblema, The emblema, as it turns out, is a reference to the Cardinal's personal motto, Durate (link to facsimile), drawn from Aeneas'  famous O socii speech in Book I of the Aeneid, during which he exhorts his beleaguered men to endure (durate) in order to "save yourselves for kinder days." But how could such a thing be not merely set to music, but expressed in music itself?

Trained Renaissance composers like Willaert commanded a distinctive alchemy by which they could convert a word directly into a musical theme by rendering each vowel of the word as a musical pitch by means of the widely used solmization (or solfège) system of the day. The three vowels of the word durate (u, a, e) convert to ut (equal to the modern 'do'), fa, and re, yielding a musical subject that rises by the interval of a fourth (ut to fa), and descends by a third (fa to re). A glance at the two inner parts responsible for bearing this musical "emblem" (alto and bass 1) shows that these two voices consist entirely of this three-note figure, repeated throughout at varying pitch levels and in differing rhythmic values, but unvarying pitch content (link to facsimile). As a kind of corporate logo that expressed the Cardinal's official persona, his visual emblem (which included the image of Aeneas' storm-tossed ship) was deployed in medals (link to image), paintings, architectural decoration, official documents, books, and so on, but unique among these was Willaert's motet, which not only gave (or one might say restored) voice to Vergil's rendering of Aeneas' inspirational command, but returned the motto to its context in the ten lines of his speech and surrounded it with exquisite polyphony that suited the elevated diction of Vergil's verse. As the speech and surrounding musical fabric unfold, the repeated calls of "durate" are at first heard in slower rhythms, but near the end the rhythms grow shorter and more urgent, and finally the figure spills over into all the voices as Aeneas' injunction to his men to "hold on" becomes surreal and ghostly in its pervasiveness. Equally deserving of comment is the singing that surrounds the repeated durate subject, for it is here that we find Willaert's unique style of text setting: in each voice the text is set to a chanted, almost recitative-like melody, but overall the voices overlap contrapuntally. The result is as close as one could hope to come to a reconciliation between the conflicting demands of text and counterpoint, as the multi-stranded linear choral chanting unfolds in a gradually-developing wave of emotionally charged harmony.