Tempore felici multi numerantur amici (Jacob Handl)

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  • (Posted 2006-07-26)  CPDL #12090:        (Finale 2004)
Editor: Vladimir Ursic (submitted 2006-07-26).   Score information: A4, 5 pages, 93 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes:

General Information

Title: Tempore felici multi numerantur amici
Composer: Jacob Handl

Number of voices: 8vv   Voicing: SATB.SATB
Genre: SecularMotet

Language: Latin
Instruments: A cappella

First published:
Description: from Moralia

External websites:

Original text and translations

Latin.png Latin text

Tempore felici, multi numerantur amici.
 Cum fortuna perit, nullus amicus erit.

Donec eris felix, multos numerabis amicos.
 Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris.

English.png English translation

Translation by Paul Pascal
In a time when you prosper, many are counted as friends.
 When the good fortune ends, no friend will there be.

As long as you prosper, you will count many friends.
 If the weather has turned cloudy, you will be alone.

This text consists of two couplets, each of which consists of two lines in iambic meter. The first couplet is anonymous; it is known to us from a medieval text that dates from long before the time of Jacob Handl, the composer of this musical setting. The second couplet, clearly the source and model for the first one quoted, is much older. In fact, it dates back to the Golden Age of Roman literature, being the work of the poet Ovid (43 BC-AD 17), who is famous for such popular works as "Metamorphoses" and "The Art of Love." The lines here quoted by Jacob Handl are from Ovid's work called "Tristia" ("Sadness"), Book I, 9, 5-6. In it, Ovid laments his exile from Rome by the Emperor Augustus, for reasons that are not clearly known to us. This sad event is what elicits Ovid's proverb-like statement. Whether the anonymous medieval author thought he was improving on Ovid's diction, and what purpose Jacob Handl may have had for setting the two synonymous couplets together, are subjects for conjecture. --Paul Pascal, Professor Emeritus of Classics, University of Washington