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Carmina Cantabrigiensia - The Cambridge Songs - Background information
The Carmina Cantabrigiensa, also known as The Cambridge Songs, are a collection of 83 poems (canticles or carmen - songs) composed in Latin by various German-Rhineland authors between 968 and 1039, transcribed in the same period, probably in South Tyrol, and kept in part (Carmina 1 to 49) in the Cambridge Manuscript from the first half of the 11th century. They bear witness to the extraordinary poetic flourishing in Latin under the Ottonians and in the medieval culture and with their joyfully individualistic and Goliardic tones they signal the first assertion of secular and earthly values.
CoverAs many other poems of the period, the Carmina Cantabrigiensia have been classified as a collection of goliardic poems. This classification could easily mislead if the term goliardic were interpreted according to its present usage: in the late middle ages the goliards were people of limited means and good intelligence who, as they could not afford to study and did not want to take the vows, roamed across Europe living by their wits or occasionally at the service of the rich.
Often they succeeded in being acknowledged at ecclesiastical institutions and were also able to gain the same level as students and teachers, thus acquiring some of their privileges and immunities.
Their behaviour, often rowdy and morally questionable, however, was not always well tolerated by the Church and when they sided with the university centres run by students (rather than by clerics), they drew the Church's anger upon themselves. There is knowledge of this type of character, also called vagantes clerics,2 until the beginning of the 13th century.
Their works extend across all genres and often certain parts or whole works were censored by the church authorities.
The Carmina Cantabrigiensia were also the subject of deletion and cuts so as to hide those parts of the text considered to be unseemly.
Very few words remain of Carmen XLIX, recomposed in part in recent times.
Songs 28 and 31 are identical. This means that on the 10 remaining sheets in Cambridge (numbered from 432 to 441) 47 songs numbered from 1 to 48 are considered.
Furthermore, there is a 49th song, extensively reduced (for reasons of censorship) but partially detectable on sheet 441.
The carmina were long believed to have been limited to 49 until in 1992 others were discovered in Germany at the Stadt-und Universitätsbibliothek: 27 works penned by the same hand and 7 that use the same Codex. Today, therefore, the total number of carmina is 83. No music has been found for any of these but the evidence suggests that they were sung.

Below is a list of the carmina forming this musical work with an indication of the corresponding genre:
IDe EpiphaniaReligion
XDe LusciniaMusic
XIIICarmen Christo DictumReligion
XIVDe Puero NiveoNarrative
XVMendosa CantilenaNarrative
XVICantilena in Heinricum III Regem CoronatumPolitical
XXDe Asino AlfradaeNarrative
XIDiapente et DiatesseronMusic
XVVersus ad PopponemPolitical
XXVIIInvitatio AmicaeArt of love
XXXDe Proterii FiliaMusic
XXXIHipsipile Archemorum PloratMythological
XXXIIINenia de Mortuo Conrado II ImperatoreCommemorative
XXXVSacerdos et LupusNarrative
XXXVIAd MariamReligion
XXXVIIINisus OmnigeniPolitical
XLIGratulatio Reginae a Morbo RecreataePolitical
XLIIDe Iohanne AbbateNarrative
XLVIIIMagister PueroArt of love
XLIXVeni DilectissimeArt of love
LXXXIIIEia ObsecraReligion

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