Cantigas de Amigo


Cantigas de Amigo
   The Cantigas de Amigo (or “songs to a friend”) are Galician-Portuguese lyrics written between the 12th and 14th centuries. In this kind of lyric, a female persona sings to or about her lover. Generally the subject is the suffering the woman felt at her lover’s absence and her longing to be happily reunited with her beloved. These lyrics are less likely to express the conventions of COURTLY LOVE than they are to emphasize the pain of separation and the importance of loyalty in love. Peter Dronke points out that most of the best cantigas de amigo focus on a single memorable image, and he quotes a song of Pero MEOGO to illustrate:
   Hinds on the hillside, tell me true,
   my love has gone, and if he lingers there,
   fair ones, what shall I do?
   Hinds on the hillside, I’m telling you:
   My love has gone, and I long to know,
   fair ones, what I shall do.
   (Dronke 1996, 104)
   While the majority of such poems are written, like this one, by male composers using a female persona (as in the case of Martin CODAX, for example), it seems clear that such poems come from a very old folk tradition. The KHARJAS that form the concluding stanzas in the romance vernacular of Hebrew and Arabic muwashshah poetry bear a close resemblance to cantigas de amigo: They are generally lyric outcries on love from a female perspective. It seems likely that these snatches of col-loquial songs are traditional, probably associated with folk dances.Written between 1000 and 1150, these kharjas predate the cantigas de amigo, and suggest an oral tradition behind the genre. That tradition seems to have been common far beyond the Iberian Peninsula. Dronke points out that between the sixth and ninth centuries, church councils across Europe regularly condemned the composition of licentious songs, specifically puellarum cantica or the songs of girls. Charlemagne, in 789, expressly forbade nuns in his kingdom to write or send winileodas (that is, “songs for a friend”—essentially the same term as cantigas de amigo), and Dronke identifies the Old English lyric WULF AND EADWACER as an example of what this early Germanic analogue to the cantigas de amigo was like (Dronke 1996, 86–92).
   Bibliography
   ■ Dronke, Peter. The Medieval Lyric. 3rd ed. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell and Brewer, 1996.
   ■ Klinck,Anne L., and Ann Marie Rasmussen, eds. Medieval Woman’s Song: Cross-Cultural Approaches. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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