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Two English motets on Simon de Montfort

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

Peter M. Lefferts
Columbia University


The libraries of Jesus College and St John's College, Cambridge, preserve two fragmentary motets of thirteenth-century English origin which bear witness to the veneration in which Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, was held by many in the years immediately following his death in 1265. One of these motets, Miles Christi from St John's, provides two new texts for Simon's hagiology, though they are both unfortunately incomplete. The other motet, Salve Symon from Jesus College, also incomplete, is a previously unnoticed setting of the Latin poem on Simon which is the last entry in the Evesham collection of Simon's miracula. These two motets are among the very few polyphonic compositions from England that refer directly to contemporary events of the later thirteenth century. The unusually precise terminus ante quem which they share provides the music historian with one of the few firm guideposts to the chronology of the contemporary musical repertory and its notation. In addition, the decoration of Simon's feast-day with polyphony, for which there is evidence here, emphasises not only the specific regard in which the earl was held by the religious establishment, but more generally the functional context of the English motet in the liturgy of services dedicated to the saints and Mary. These motets are also witnesses to the familiar insular patterns of preservation and destruction of polyphonic music from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1981

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1 Miles Christi is Cambridge, St John's College, MS 138 (f.1) [Cjc 138], item 4, and Salve Symon is Cambridge, Jesus College, MS qb 5 [Cjec 5], item 7. The Evesham collection (London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian a vi, [Lbl A VI] fols. 162–183) is printed in Halliwell, J. O., ed., The Chronicle of William de Rishanger (London, 1840), pp. 67110Google Scholar. The poem in question (on fol. 183) was previously published in Wright, T., The Political Songs of England, from the Reign of John to that of Edward II (London, 1839), p. 124Google Scholar, and has often been cited in the literature on Montfort.

2 Examples include a motet on St Peter of Verona, a Dominican martyr canonised in 1254, O decus predicancium (Worcester, Cathedral Library, Additional MS 68 [WO 68], item [37]), and a motet referring to Thomas of Dover, a monk slain in 1295, Thomas gemma (Cambridge, Gonville and Caius, MS 512/543, item 6; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS lat. liturg. d.20 [Ob 20], item 67; Princeton, University Library, MS Garrett 119 [Pu 119], item a 4. Dittmer, Luther (The Worcester Fragments, Musicological Studies and Documents 2 (Dallas, 1957), p. 38)Google Scholar has suggested that Sol in nube tegitur (WO 68, item [17]) may be in honour of Archbishop Peccham of Canterbury (died 1292). Further, Christopher Hohler has noticed that the index, London, British Library, MS Harley 978 [Lbl 978], to a lost codex lists a conductus that may be on St Dominic (died 1221, canonised 1234), In celesti ierarchia (Lbl 978, item 3.2); see Hohler, C., ‘Reflections on Some Manuscripts Containing 13th-Century PolyphonyJournal of the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society, 1 (1978), pp. 14, 24CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 ‘le véritable chef, politique et religieux, de la grande révolution du xiiie siècle’, Bémont, C., Simon de Montfort (Paris, 1884), p. xvGoogle Scholar. Bémont is Montfort's principal biographer.

4 See especially Treharne, R. F., ‘The Personal Role of Simon de Montfort in the Period of Baronial Reform and Rebellion 1258–65’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 40 (1954), pp. 75102Google Scholar; and the summary of the positions of Treharne, and Powicke, F. M. in Knowles, C. H., Simon de Montfort 1265–1965 (London, 1965)Google Scholar.

5 Halliwell (The Chronicle of William de Rishanger) gives several accounts of the storms (pp. xxxivxxxv) and of the mutilation of the body (pp. xxx–xxxiii). Some accounts have it that the earl's body was actually removed from the abbey; see Halliwell, op. cit., pp. xxxiixxxiii, and Bémont, C., Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, E. F. (Oxford, 1930), p. 243Google Scholar.

6 The latest dated miracle is said to have taken place in 1278; see Halliwell, op. cit., p. 108. The accounts of some of these miracles are translated from the Latin in Prothero, G. W., The Life of Simon de Montfort (London, 1877), pp. 371–3Google Scholar. Some other miracles are mentioned by chroniclers.

7 My translation relies on Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, , pp. 256–7Google Scholar, and Treharne, R. F. and Sanders, I. J., eds., Documents of the Baronial Movement of Reform 1258–67 (Oxford, 1973), p. 323Google Scholar. The Latin, also taken from the latter work (p. 322), is as follows: ‘Rogantes humiliter tam dominum legatus quam dominum regem ut ipse dominus legatus sub districtione ecclesiastica prossus inhibeat, ne S. comes Leycestrie a quocumque pro sancto vel iusto reputetur, cum in excommunicacione sit defunctus, sicut sancta tenet ecclesia; et mirabilia de eo vana et fatua ab aliquibus relata nullis unquam labiis proferantur; et dominus rex hec eadem sub pena corporali velit districte inhibere.’

8 In fact some of the earliest Robin Hood legends may stem from their guerrilla campaign; see Lee, S., ‘Hood, Robin’, Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Stephen, L. and Lee, S., 66 vols. (London, 18911901), xxvii, pp. 258–61Google Scholar, and Powicke, F. M., Henry III and the Lord Edward: The Community of the Realm in the Thirteenth Century, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1947), esp. ii, pp. 529–30Google Scholar and notes.

9 Knowles, , Simon de Montfort, p. 6Google Scholar.

10 Powicke, F. M., The Thirteenth Century, 1216–1307, The Oxford History of England 4 (Oxford, 1962), p. 203Google Scholar.

11 Weisheipl, J. A., ‘Adam Marsh’, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 16 vols. (New York, 19691974), i p. 117Google Scholar.

12 Treharne, ‘The Personal Role’, p. 79.

13 Ibid., p. 80.

14 Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, , p. 47Google Scholar.

15 Pantin, W. A., ‘Grosseteste's Relations with the Papacy and the Crown’, Robert Grosseteste: Scholar and Bishop, ed. Callus, D. A. (Oxford, 1955), p. 206Google Scholar. The ‘close connection of Grosseteste and de Montfort in the popular imagination’ (Prothero, , The Life of Simon de Montfort, p. 144)Google Scholar is attested by a number of stories, in one of which Grosseteste, on his deathbed, foretells that the earl and his son will die together, on one day, for the cause of justice; see Halliwell, , ed., The Chronicle of William de Rishanger, pp. 67Google Scholar, and the translation of this passage in Prothero, op. cit., pp. 380–1. See also, for instance, the quaint story quoted by Prothero (op. cit., pp. 143–4, n. 3) and the poem published in Maitland, F. W., ‘A Song on the Death of Simon de Montfort’, English Historical Review, 11 (1896), pp. 314–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 Knowles, David has pointed out (The Religious Orders in England, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 19481959), i, p. 4, n. 2Google Scholar; ii, p. 115) that in thirteenth-century England the major candidates for canonisation were zealous diocesan bishops; Grosseteste, Berksted, and Walter Cantelupe are among those he names for conspicuous holiness of life. In fact Thomas Cantelupe achieved canonisation as the last medieval English saint (1320); Grosseteste narrowly missed canonisation; Walter Cantelupe, second only to Grosseteste in greatness, ‘would have merited canonisation had it not been for his adherence to Simon de Montfort’, according to one contemporary chronicler, Wykes, Thomas (quoted in Dictionary of National Biography, viii, p. 454Google Scholar). Berksted was excommunicated for his role in Montfort's cause and was only reconciled in 1276, according to Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, (citing Dictionary of National Biography, iv, p. 371)Google Scholar.

17 Treharne, R. F., Essays on Thirteenth Century England (London, 1971), p. 28Google Scholar.

18 Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, , p. 211, n. 5Google Scholar.

19 Little, A., Studies in English Franciscan History, Publications of the University of Manchester, Historical Series 29 (Manchester, 1917), p. 51Google Scholar.

20 Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, , p. 206Google Scholar.

21 Ibid., p. 248.

22 Ibid., p. 47.

23 Ibid., p. 248–9 and notes after Jacob, E. F., Studies in the Period of Baronial Reform and Rebellion 1258–67, Oxford Studies in Social and Legal History 8 (Oxford, 1925), pp. 293–4Google Scholar.

24 Powicke, F. M., Treharne, R. F. and Lemmon, C. H., The Battle of Lewes (Lewes, 1964), p. 2Google Scholar, which draws on Kingsford, C. L., ed., The Song of Lewes (Oxford, 1890), pp. xviiixxvGoogle Scholar.

25 ‘comes iste, sicut alter Josias, coluit justiciam’, Halliwell, , ed., The Chronicle of William of Rishanger, p. 7Google Scholar.

26 ‘Sicut Simon Machabeus pro fratre suo Juda … sic Simon de Mote-forti pro Anglia erexit se, ut pro legibus et libertatibus ejus usque ad mortis perniciem dimicaret.’ Translated as: ‘As of old Simon Machabeus has risen in arms for his father Judah, so Simon rose to defend to death the liberties and rights of England.’ Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, , p. 54Google Scholar. (See i Maccabees 13.) See also: ‘sed, ut in preliis Machabeorum’, Halliwell, , ed., The Chronicle of William de Rishanger, p. xxxvGoogle Scholar.

27 Kingsford, , ed., The Song of Lewes, lines 75–8, notes p. 61Google Scholar (See i Maccabees 2.)

28 ‘qui se christo similis dat pro multis morti’, Kingsford, op. cit., lines 345–6.

29 Knowles, D., Thomas Becket (London, 1970), p. 171Google Scholar.

30 Stevens, D., ‘Music in Honor of St. Thomas of Canterbury’, Musical Quarterly, 56 (1970), pp. 311–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Husmann, H., ‘Zur Überlieferung der Thomas-Offizien’, Organicae voces: Festschrift Joseph Smits van Waesberghe (Amsterdam, 1963), pp. 87–8Google Scholar.

31 The calendar is bound into London, British Library, MS Harley 2951, fols. 126–131v; it probably dates from the thirteenth century and had many additions made to it over a long period of time. The remarkable number of saints favoured with twelve lessons may point to a large Benedictine establishment. Observance of Simon's feast-day is made by the entry for 4 August: ‘anno domini mcclxv occisus est Symon de Monteforti’. Two other entries (for October) are in the same, perhaps late-thirteenth-century hand: ‘Denis Abbat 1280’ and the anniversary of King John (19 October). Miss Janet Blackhouse of the Department of Manuscripts, British Library, informs me that there is no clear indication of the provenance of the calendar.

32 Kingsford, , ed., The Song of Lewes, p. xxiGoogle Scholar. The original, from Stevenson, J., ed., Chronica de Mailros (The Melrose Chronicle) (Edinburgh, 1835), p. 212Google Scholar, reads: ‘Post occubitum vero Simonis in mortem preciosam, fratres Minores, quos ipse dilexerat religioso more, qui et ipsi conscii fuerunt conscientie ejus in plurimis, materiam loquendi fumentes de vita ejus, ex optimis gestis ejus venerandam de illo ediderunt hystoriam, scilicet lectiones, responsoria, versus, hymnum, et alia que pertinent ad decus unius martiris et honorem.’

33 Kingsford (op. cit., p. xxiii, n. 1) notes the sense of the passage; the Latin is: ‘que dum Edwardus superest, solempnem, ut speratur, non obtinebunt in ecclesia Dei decantationem’, Stevenson, , ed., Chronica de Mailros, p. 212Google Scholar.

34 Prothero, , The Life of Simon de Montfort, p. 388Google Scholar. The volume is now in Cambridge, University Library, Kk.4.20 [Cu Kk.4.20]. The office, on folio 77v, is printed by Prothero (op. cit., pp. 388–91). The incipit of the first hymn is ‘Rumpe celos et descende’; it is listed in Walther, H., Initia carminum (Göttingen, 1959)Google Scholar, as no. 16934. See also Kingsford, , ed., The Song of Lewes, pp. xviiixxiiiGoogle Scholar.

35 Gunton, S., The History of the Church of Peterborough (London, 1886), p. 215Google Scholar. (Reference initially from Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, p. xvi, n. 1Google Scholar.) It is surely no coincidence that, according to the ancient library catalogue that Gunton publishes, the next item in the same book was a Vita S. Thomae Martyris Anglice.

36 Cologne, [Universitäes- und Stadtbibliothek], MS 28 [Cologne 28], cited in Dreves, G. M., ed., Liturgische Reimoffizien, Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi 13 (Leipzig, 1892), p. 7Google Scholar. If the scribe or collector had a single English exemplar from which he drew items on Simon, Thomas and Osmundus, its likely provenance would be Salisbury. The texts of the well-travelled antiphon and collects are as follows:

37 Prothero, , The Life of Simon de Montfort, p. 379Google Scholar.

38 For reference to the versicle alone, see Proctor, F. and Wordsworth, C., eds., Breviarium ad usum insignis ecclesiae Sarum, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 18761986), iii, pp. (cviii), (cxcxi)Google Scholar. For a reference to the memoria, see Frere, W. H., The Use of Sarum, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 18891901), i, p. 299Google Scholar (index entry ‘Memoria’).

39 Prothero, (The Life of Simon de Montfort, p. 391)Google Scholar labels that memoria ‘Suffragium de B. Symone’ and also gives labels to the three items, calling them ‘Antiphona’, ‘Vers’ and ‘Oratio’. On p. 388 Prothero quotes Henry Bradshaw, who identified the ‘Suffragium’ with the Commemoration at Lauds.

40 It is of interest to note that the memorial antiphon for the Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury after second Vespers, Pastor cesus, is used as the cantus firmus of the thirteenth-century English motet Opem nobis–Salve Thoma–Pastor cesus (London, Westminster Abbey, MS 33327, item 6). The texts of the triplum and duplum are short rhymed antiphons for the Benedictus at Lauds and the Magnificat at Vespers on the same feast. See Proctor, and Wordsworth, , eds., Breviarium, ii, cols. ccxlvii, cclix, cclxGoogle Scholar; for a modern edition of this motet, see Sanders, E. H., ed., English Music of the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries, Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century 14 (Paris and Monaco, 1979), no. 87Google Scholar.

41 The letters ‘p’ and ‘pp’ indicate paroxytonic (or penultimate) and proparoxytonic (or antepenultimate) stress in each verse.

42 The motet… recollat ecclesia–Virgo sancta Katerina–[pes] (Ob 20, item 32), with its irregularly versified triplum and regular duplum (in seven stanzas of 8p/8p/7pp) is a model for the contrast between the two texts of Salve Simon which I am hypothesising.

43 The Franciscans are best known for their authorship of vernacular religious lyrics; on their role in English poetry see, for instance, Robbins, R. H., ‘The Authors of the Middle English Religious Lyrics’, Journal of English and German Philology, 39 (1940), pp. 230–8Google Scholar, and more recently, Jeffrey, D. L., The Early English Lyric and Franciscan Spirituality (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1975)Google Scholar. The scarcity of motets by Englishmen using vernacular English lyrics is now explained; the two creative spheres — Middle English lyrics and motet composition — could not be expected to overlap. Their creators, friars or monks, had different intentions and different audiences in mind. The one extant motet that sets an English text, Worldes blisce–Benedicamus Domino (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 8, item 2), is perhaps the exception that proves the rule. Its text is in the mainstream of the devotional lyric, its affective piety and visual imagery dwelling on the details of Christ's Passion; part of the text is preserved in Friar John Grimestone's Commonplace Book of sermon materials, dated 1372 (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocate's Library, MS 18.7.21, fol. 124). If the motet is indeed complete in two voices perhaps polytextuality was deliberately avoided in the interests of clear presentation of the single text — a concern which is not part of the usual aesthetic of the motet. Worldes blisce's source must also be judged atypical, since it contained French motets, settings in score of both English and French texts, and textless three-voice clausulae.

44 Bent, M., ‘The Transmission of English Music, 1300–1500: Some Aspects of Repertory and Presentation’, Studien zur Tradition in der Musik: Kurt von Fischer zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. Eggebrecht, H. and Lütolf, M. (Munich, 1973), pp. 73–4Google Scholar; Bowers, R., ‘Choral Institutions within the English Church: Their Constitution and Development, 1340–1500’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of East Anglia, 1975), p. 1006Google Scholar. An alternative view is argued by Hohler in ‘Reflections on Some Manuscripts’, esp. pp. 28, 32.

45 There are perhaps a dozen or more lyrics altogether, see Bémont, Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob. I list five which refer to the period immediately after Simon's death and which are therefore most comparable with the Cambridge motet texts.

1. Chaunter m'estoit, London, British Library, MS Harley 2253, fol. 59. Edited, with an introduction and translation, in Aspin, I., ed., Anglo-Norman Political Songs (Oxford, 1953), pp. 2435Google Scholar. See also Shields, H., ‘The Lament for Simon de Montfort: An Unnoticed Text of the French Poem’, Medium Aevum, 41 (1972), pp. 202–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2. Ubi fuit mons est vallis, Cambridge, Gonville and Caius, MS 85/167, fol. ii. Listed in Walther, Initia carminum, as no. 19591. Printed in Maitland, ‘A Song on the Death of Simon de Montfort’.

3. Illos salvavit, London, British Library, MS Cotton Otho d viii, fol. 219. Listed in Chevalier, U., Repertorium hymnologicum, 6 vols. (Louvain, 18921912, Brussels, 19201921)Google Scholar, as no. 27907. Printed in Halliwell, , ed., The Chronicle of William de Rishanger, pp. 139–46Google Scholar.

4. Anno milleno bis centeno, Cambridge, Gonville and Caius, MS 349/542, fol. 2V. Listed in Walther, Initia carminum, as no. 1146.

5. Vulneratur caritas, London, British Library, MS Harley 746, fol. 103v. Listed in Walther, Initia carminum, as no. 20866. Printed in Wright, , The Political Songs, pp. 133–6Google Scholar.

46 Aspin, , ed., Anglo-Norman Political Songs, p. 27Google Scholar.

47 Franconis de Colonia, Ars cantus mensurabilis, ed. Reaney, G. and Gilles, A., Corpus Scriptorum de Musica 18 (n.p., 1974), p. 34Google Scholar, note; p. 36, ex. 12.

48 Bémont, , Simon de Montfort, trans. Jacob, , p. 243Google Scholar, n. 2.

49 Proctor, and Wordsworth, , eds., Breviarium, i, p. ccxlviGoogle Scholar.

50 The nineteenth tenor statement does not fit the melodic line above it, nor does it fit the harmonic archetype presented by the pes. Two longs on g have been omitted from the transcription before the final f. This final f is written as four longs, a feature that may not be merely decorative but may possess numerical significance.

51 Sanders, E. H., ‘Duple Rhythm and Alternate Third Mode in the 13th Century’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 15 (1962), pp. 272–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

52 The motet is [O mores perditos] … agant infera–… et dileccio–[O]pem [nobis], of which only small fragments survive in both its sources (Cjec 5, item 1, and Göttingen, Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, MS Theol. 220g [Gu 220], items 1 and 5).

53 It is interesting that the double column format for motets, not common in English sources, appears in both Cjc 138 and Cjec 5. The Montfort motet in Cjec 5 is not laid out in this way, but see for instance Cjec 5, item 3.

54 The motet written above Miles Christi in the source is based on seven statements of a pes of sixteen longs. The pes does not happen to be tonally closed; it is made up of two phrases each of eight longs, related as ouvert and clos. The pes of Miles Christi may have been similar in design. See Sanders, , ed., English Music, no. 45Google Scholar.

55 In voice i of Miles Christi there appears to be an effort to make text phrases correspond with the four- and eight-bar musical units. Also, the repeated rhythmic figure on the rhyme words ‘a subversione’, ‘et a lesione’, and ‘satisfactione’ is distinctive and deliberate. Voice ii shows less regularity.

56 Maitland, ‘A Song on the Death of Simon de Montfort’, p. 315.

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