goliardic verse


goliardic verse
   With the rise of the medieval university system, secular learning also gained in importance. Many student scholars who had to learn the Latin language and ancient Roman literature turned to imitating the love poetry by Horace, Propertius, and Ovid, among others, and also composed many drinking songs, satirical songs ridiculing the church authorities, erotic songs, but also religious songs in Latin.At times in central Europe they also composed in Middle High German or combinations of Latin and German. Most goliards tended to be vagrant students (vagantes), but many of them were also learned and highly esteemed scholars. Some scholars have tried to distinguish between the social classes of the goliards, vagantes, and gleemen, called ioculatores or histriones (courtly fools or actors), but since we do not know a great deal about any of these poets, we can continue using the terms interchangeably.
   The earliest representative of goliardic poetry was the ninth-century Irish scholar Sedulius Scotus who settled at the Carolingian court and gained fame for his satirical poetry. The name goliard has often been connected with a certain Golias, a legendary, learned bishop, although many goliardic songs were highly irreverent and rebellious, emphasizing a hedonistic enjoyment of life. GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS (1146–1223) related the term “goliards” to the Latin gula (gluttony), but the most common etymological explanation today relies on the biblical name Goliath, who represented monstrous wickedness in the Middle Ages.
   Most goliardic poetry has come down to us anonymously, collected in such famous manuscripts as Arundel 384 and Harleian 913 and 978 in the British Museum; Rawlinson G109 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the Cambridge Songbook (Ff. 1.17, 11th century); and the famous CARMINA BURANA (early 13th century), today in the Staatsbibliothek Munich. Some goliardic poetry has been attributed to famous poets, teachers, and clerics such as Gauthier de Châtillon, the Primas of Orléans, the ARCHPOET, the Marner, Otloh of St. Emmeram, Marbod of Rennes, Geoffrey of Winchester, Hugh of Orléans, Hilarius, Philip the Chancellor, Geoffrey of St. Victor, and Peter of Blois. The Goliards, when they did not deal with the themes of wine, women, and song, deftly satirized the moral and political decline in the church and attacked vices among the lay audience. Most of them seem to have been students and teachers especially at French universities of the 12th and 13th centuries, but they could be found in other parts of Europe as well. Through wordplay, poetic strategies, skillful rhyme schemes, and other literary elements the goliards demonstrated their command of classical Latin poetry and language and at the same time turned their criticism against the church and the worldly authorities, exposing a wide range of sinful behavior and moral depravity. A number of goliardic poems utilized well-known religious songs and replaced their texts with erotic verses (a process called contrafactum). Most goliardic verses have come down to us without musical notation, but the Carmina Burana contains a number of neumes or early musical notations that indicate the melodies at least in rough terms.
   Bibliography
   ■ Breul,Karl, ed. The Cambridge Songs: A Goliard’s Song Book of the XIth Century. 1915. New York: AMS Press, 1973.
   ■ Parler, David, trans. Selections from the Carmina Burana. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1986.
   ■ Waddell, Helen. Songs of the Wandering Scholars. 1927. London: The Folio Society, 1982.
   ■ Whicher, George Frisbe, ed. and trans. The Goliard Poets: Medieval Latin Songs and Satires with Verse Translations. Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1965.
   ■ Zeydel, Edwin H. Vagabond Verse: Secular Latin Poems of the Middle Ages. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1966.
   Albrecht Classen

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

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