The Virgin Mary In Du Fay's Poem

Improved Essays
in fact – seemingly sacrilegiously – include the ‘most renowned Virgin’ among these ‘girls’. The veneration of the Virgin Mary in this respect was in fact neither unheard of nor decried in the Renaissance period; even in the Late-Medieval Era, this type of imagery was commonplace (Pesce 2009: 152). However, the pre-enlightenment reverence of the physical features of the Virgin Mary can be viewed more as a stylistic and poetic custom than a sign of growing materialist and secular influences, which would not truly begin until philosophers such as Machiavelli, another Florentine, normalised resentment of the Church in the 1510s (Unger 2011:180), paving the way for some composers to distance themselves from the sacred origins of the motet.

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Through the Renaissance period, composers found ways of using textual heterogeneity to implement meaning into their works, such as in Du Fay’s Ave regina celorum III (1464), one of his later, non-isorhythmic works, in which the Virgin Mary is referred to in the second person and Du Fay himself is addressed in the third (Nosow 2012: 204), as he asks the Virgin to ‘Miserere tui labentis Du Fay’ (‘Have mercy on thy dying Du Fay’). Du Fay was an exception in terms of Fifteenth Century textual substance, but, during the Sixteenth Century, it was commonplace for motets to contain cleverly crafted texts with multiple interpretations (Pesce 2009: 10), a now significant contrast to the transposition of chant and song into several voices. Motets were performed at many extravagant ceremonies, and the texts of late motets are often reflective of contemporary politics as well as faith (Nosow 2012: 5), which has interested both musicologists and historians. William Byrd’s Cantiones sacraes motet collections of 1589 and 1591 are of particular political significance, as they show overtly Catholic sympathies in an oppressive, post-Reformation Elizabethan England. For example, in Facti sumus opprobrium, Byrd quotes Psalm 79:4, which states ‘We are become a reproach to our neighbours, and scorn and derision to those round about us’; this is an obscure fragment, most commonly associated with Catholic martyrdom (Bacon 2012: 21). Furthermore, the mere existence of so many motets among Byrd’s compositions is a sign of political and religious subversion, as the motet had no place in the new Protestant liturgy (Bacon 2012: 19). Byrd also uses various examples of ‘pictorial devices’ (Sanders et al., 2007-17), such as in Vigilate (1589), where the word ‘vigilate’,

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