Mar. 4th, 2011

Part of the Song a Day Project!

So I really love historical music. Once, while I was at college, historian-musicians came to talk to us about music in Ancient Greece. They crafted reconstructions of ancient instruments and tried to recreate tunes that they found described or even transcribed in ancient texts. It was really freaking cool. The Mediæval Bæbes don't really do that — they take historical texts and poems and set them to music of their own composition, sometimes using period-appropriate instruments and sometimes not. But I still really love the historical flavour.

The lyrics to this song are in Middle English, ~15th century or maybe a little before (with a bit of Latin for the chorus). This was before the Great Vowel Shift, which forms one of the biggest differences between Middle and Modern English (though of course there's also been a bit of morphological and syntactic change since then). By the way, did you know that my degree is in linguistics? Social linguistics, not historical linguistics, but man I LOVED that course.

So I think all of this is fascinating, and I think it's really neat to see the connection between this and our modern variants of English — how different they sound and yet how easily you can show the common root (haha, including for the Latin). So I'm doing something fun with the lyrics today — I'm providing the original Middle English, a translation into Modern English, and also a kind of middle ground version that tries to preserve the structure and word-use of the original. (For those of you out there who would get the joke: Kind of like Lattimore and Fagles versions.)

Oh by the way, the music is pretty too. The meaning's actually pretty interesting, too — tell me your interpretation! There are some interesting comments on this other upload, about halfway down the page.

Youtube Link: Mediæval Bæbes - Erthe Upon Erthe

Remember, O man, that you are ashes
And unto ashes you will return

Lyrics after the cut )



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