Nous voyons que les hommes (Guillaume Costeley)

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  • (Posted 2014-09-19)  CPDL #32981:        (Sibelius 5)
Editor: Jonathan Goodliffe (submitted 2014-09-19).   Score information: A4, 2 pages, 28 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Note values halved. French spelling modernised.

General Information

Title: Nous voyons ques les hommes
Composer: Guillaume Costeley

Number of voices: 4vv   Voicing: SATB
Genre: SecularChanson

Language: French
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1570 in Musique de Guillaume Costeley, no. 87
Description: A four part chanson using part of the same text used several years earlier by Jacques Arcadelt. The Costeley version seems to include more verses. However the text of the final verse (which no doubt had a strong punchline) seems to have been scraped away from the published volume. Perhaps this was because it was considered indecent or blasphemous. See illustration.

External websites:

Superius section of the source showing deletion of the last verse. Click to expand

Original text and translations

French.png French text

Nous voyons que les hommes
Font tous vertu d'aimer,
Et sottes qui nous sommes
Voulons l'amour blamer:

Ce que leur est louable,
Nous tourne à deshonneur,
Et faute inexcusable,
O dure loi d'honneur,

Nature plus qu'eux sage
Nous a en un corps mis,
Plus propre à cet usage,
Et nous est moins permis.

O peu de connaissance
De leur trop grand vouloir,
Et de leur impuissance,
Et de notre pouvoir.

O malheureuse ennuie
Des hommes rigoureux,
Qui privent notre vie
Des plaisirs amoureux.

Si des le premier age
Ce sexe audacieux
Par injure et outrage
Voulut forcer les cieux.

Et si fut si moleste
Jadis au dieu des dieux ,
Osant son feu céleste
Porter en ces bas lieux.

Ce n'est point de merveille
S'il nous a aussi fait
Presqu'injure pareille,
Sans lui avoir méfait.

Ayant par sa malice
Introduit finement,
Qu'aimer ne serait vice,
Qu'aux femmes seulement.

Si leur outrecuidance
Surent punir les dieux,
Nous avons espérance
Qu'ils nous vengeront d'eux.

Et sera la vengeance
Les uns mourant d'avoir
Eu trop de jouissance,
Les autres de le voir.

[Last verse lost]

English.png English translation

Translation by Mick Swithinbank
Men, plainly enough, all think it a feather in their cap if they make love. It is foolish of us women to speak ill of love:
what is seen as praiseworthy for them is dishonourable for us and an inexcusable fault; morality is harsh.
Nature has more sense than they do: it has given us a body better designed than men’s for amorous practices, yet to us they are more forbidden.
Little do they realise that their desires are too pressing, while we have all the power and they have none.
Oh vexatious men with your severe rules, depriving us of love’s pleasures!
If even in antiquity it was men (note: represented by Prometheus) who brazenly sought to set aside the laws
instituted by the king of the gods, outraging him by seizing his celestial fire and bringing it back to these lowly realms,
it is no wonder if men have done us a wrong nearly as great, although we have done them none,
as, in their malice, they have cunningly ruled that love should be a vice only for women.
If the gods once punished men for their overweening presumption, we have good reason to hope that they will also take revenge on them for what they have done to us.
This is the form which that revenge will take: some of them will die as a result of making love too much, and the rest will die (of envy) after beholding it.