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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

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Donc cette merveille des cieux

Pierre Guédron

Source : ‘Soupirs Meslés d’Amour – Pierre Guédron: airs de cour’; Claudine Ansermet, soprano; Paolo Cherici, luth; Symphonia SY 96153 (1997).

Caption

As soon as he saw her dancing in the Ballet de la Reine in January 1609, Henri IV was seized with an overwhelming passion for the young Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency. He commissioned five poems from François de Malherbe (Revenez mes plaisirs Madame est revenue, Donc cette merveille des cieux, Quelque ennui donc qu’en cette absence, Que d’épines Amour accompagnent tes roses and Que n’êtes-vous lassée), which were probably composed between July 1609 and January-February 1610; they express the king's successive states of passion of the king Alcandre for the young Orante. The verses provoked the jealousy of the prince de Condé, who married Charlotte on 7 July 1609 and then took his bride away to Muret, near Soissons, in order to remove her from the king's attentions.
At least four of the poems were set to music, including this effort, circa 1610, by Pierre Guédron, who was then Maître et Compositeur de la Musique de la Chambre du Roi.

Composer

Pierre Guédron

(ca. 1565–1620)

Pierre Guédron was the youngest of the three composers at the court of Henri IV. He was born at Châteaudun in 1565 or 1567. In contrast to his older colleagues Claude Le Jeune and Eustache Du Caurroy, Guédron excelled only in the composition of secular music, and rapidly became a master of the genre.

His name appears in the historical record for the first time in 1583, when he was listed as one of five singers from the chapel of Louis II de Guise, cardinal de Lorraine, that had performed at the Puy de Musique d'Évreux that year. He is described as singing "countertenor in an excellent manner", despite being "of changing voice", i.e. between 15 and 18 years old. The date of his arrival at court is unknown. Perhaps he joined the singers of the Musique du Roi after the death of the cardinal de Lorraine in 1588. His name first appears in the royal accounts in 1599, as Maître des enfants de la Musique de la Chambre. By March 1601 at the latest, Guédron was appointed Compositeur de la Musique de la Chambre, replacing Claude Le Jeune, who had died the previous year. His career reached its apogee under Louis XIII, when in 1613 he was appointed Surintendant de la Musique de la Chambre du roi and Maître de la Musique de la reine mère Marie de Médicis, leaving the post of Maître des enfants to his son-in-law Antoine Boesset (1587–1643). Guédron rapidly made a name for himself by his masterful treatment of the air de cour, a secular genre in which he was unrivalled. After several of his pieces had been quietly published in anonymous anthologies (1595, 1596 and 1597), in 1602 Ballard published the first collection devoted exclusively to Guédron, which made the musician famous. Guédron also supplied airs and recitatives for the main ballets performed at the French court between 1598 and 1620, from Ballet des Étrangers to Ballet d’Alcine. He is considered the finest French craftsman of the accompanied solo song. He died in 1620, sometime around 9 July.

A total of 185 of his airs de cours and ballet music have come down to us, in versions for four or five voices, or for voice and lute. These were published in anthologies and collections starting in 1595. The lion's share of them were published in six polyphonic collections signed by the Guédron and published by Ballard, "music printer to the king", between 1602 and 1620.

Transcription (in French)

Donc cette merveille des cieux,
Pour ce qu’elle est chere à mes yeux,
En sera toujours éloignée :
Et mon impatient amour
Par tant de larmes tesmoignées,
N’obtiendra jamais son retour.

Mes vœux donc ne servent de rien,
Les Dieux ennemis de mon bien
Ne veulent plus que je la voye :
Et semble que les rechercher
De me promettre ceste joye
Les incite à me l’empescher.

O beauté ! royne des beautés,
Bel astre de qui les clartés
President sur ma destinée :
Pourquoy n’est comme la toison
Vostre conqueste abandonnée
Aux efforts de quelque Jason ?

Quels feux, quels dragons, quels toreaux,
Quel horreur de monstres nouveaux,
Et quelle puissance de charmes
Garderoyent que jusqu’aux Enfers
Je n’alasse avecques les armes
Rompre vos chaisnes & vos fers.

Ainsi d’une mourante voix
Alcandre au silence des bois
Tesmoignoit les vives ataintes :
Et son visage sans couleur,
Faisoit cognoistre que ses plaintes
Estoyent moindres que sa douleur.

Orante, qui pour les Zephirs
Reçeut les funestes soupirs
D’une passion si fidelle :
De cœur outré de mesme ennuy,
Jura que s’il mouroit pour elle,
Elle mouroit avecque luy.

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