»Bone Jesu dulcis cunctis« 2v · Anonymous
The source is a Rituale/processionale from an abbey of the Order of Saint Clare in Meaux. The manuscript can be dated c 1490-1510 (cf. RISM B IV/2, pp. 123-124, and RISM BIV/3, p. 549). It is a luxurious small parchment manuscript (the space for writing measures 60 x 90 mm only) with illuminated initials on backgrounds of gold; it was probably a private book made for the use of a leader of the institution. It contains processional songs, sequences, litanies etc., and ff. 43 onwards bring the rituals for administering to the sick and for funerals and commemorations (the responsory “Libera me” can be found ff. 63v-65). The voices for “Bone Jesu” stand opposite each other on the openings, the [Tenor] to the left, and [Duplum] at right.
Claremont, CA, Honnold/Mudd Library, MS Crispin 14, ff. 69v-79v “Bone Jesu dulcis cunctis” 2v
Philadelphia, PA, Free Library, Collection John F. Lewis, MS E 180, ff. 89v-101 “Bone Jesu dulcis cunctis” 2v
– A setting of eight stanzas as in MS Paris 10581, cf. RISM BXIV/2, pp. 494-495, Dutschke 1986. pp. 32-33, and Fenner 2014, p. 23 (incl. facsimile from MS Claremont 14). MS Claremont 14 is a Franciscan processional, probably contemporary with Paris 10581 and made for an abbey of the Order of Saint Clare (in Paris?); it is very similar in contents to Paris 10581. Also the Philadelphia MS belonged to the Poor Clares of Paris; the last section of this manuscript, made in 1603, seems to be copied after Paris 10581, Claremont 14 or a similar source. These small books were probably produced by Clarisse nuns in many copies after closely related exemplars during a period beginning in the late 15th century.
Text: Tropes/verses for the responsory “Libera me, domine, de morte eterna”; 8 stanzas of eight octosyllabic verses riming ababbcbc. Paris 10581 probably gives the original version of the poem, because it rimes all the way through, and because it refers to St Bernardinus of Siena (1380-1444) who was canonized in 1450. He was a popular preacher and reformer of the Franciscan order and was important for the Poor Clares and other Franciscan nuns.
After stanza 1 the tenor has the textual and musical clue “Quando celi [movendi]” and after stanza 2 the clue for “Dum ve[veneris]”; these clues alternate regularly until stanza 8, which has the clue for the repeat of the responsory’s beginning, “Libera me”. This produces the following sequence in performance, which is more regular than the one demanded for the version in the MS Amiens 162: (R Libera me), V Bone Ihesu (1), R1 Quando, V Maria fons (2), R2 Dum veneris, V ... V Turbe sanctorum (8), R Libera me.
 Bone Jesu dulcis cunctis
 Maria fons dulcedinis
 O tu princeps angelorum
 Johannes ardens lucerna
 Stephane qui meruisti
 Gregori doctrine sator
 O maria magdalena
 Turbe sanctorum omnium
A setting of tropes for “Libera me” in simple polyphony for two equal voices of restricted ranges (c-c’ and d-b) and using constant crossing of parts. It consists of eight stanzas with identical music; each stanza is followed by textual and musical clues for the repetitions of “Libera me” (see above). It is regularly built of repetitions, ababcde(a’)b, with the a- and b-lines ending on F and D, c- and d-lines on C and F, and e(a’)- and b-lines again on F and D. The words are set syllabic and note-against-note with a small three-note embellishment on the third to the last syllable in every line. The counter voice [Duplum] is for the first five syllables of each line in near perfect contrary motion followed, as in many other simple polyphony settings, by a cadential formula in parallel thirds.
The very regular and ear-catching tune in the voice on the left-hand pages in Paris 10582 apparently caught the attention of John Mason Neale (1811-1866) who combined it with another Latin poem “Veni, veni, Emmanuel”, which first had appeared in a German print, Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum, in Cologne 1710. In his English translation it was printed as “O come, 0 come, Emmanuel” in Thomas Helmore (ed.), The Hymnal Noted. Part II, London 1854, p. 131 (in the first edition starting “Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel”; cf. More 1966). Since then, it has been immensely popular as an Advent hymn and was translated in many languages (German: “O komm, o komm, du Morgenstern”). The tune in the Hymnal is identical to the tenor in Paris 10581, also if we look at notational details (cf. the facsimiles in Pocknee 1970 – here the 2nd page of Paris 10581 is wrong, it shows f. 89 in stead of f. 90v!), therefore the modern hymn has to be based on the older two-part trope. The Hymnal states that the tune was taken “From a French Missal in the National Library, Lisbon.”
John Mason Neale was in Lisbon in May-June 1853, and here he studied a French MS “written for some Franciscan convent”, which at the end had a sequence for St Francis “Fregit victor virtualis” (cf. Fenner 2014, p. 22). This sequence is also found near “Bone Jesu” in the three preserved manuscripts in Paris, Claremont and Philadelphia. MS Paris 10581 had been in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris since it was acquired for its collections in 1830, and the similar MS Claremont 14 was probably in Germany or England at that time (cf. Dutschke 1986, p. 33), but the whereabouts of the later copy in Philadelphia during the 19th century is unknown until the bibliophile John F. Lewis picked it up early in the 20th century. However, several more copies of this apparently widespread Clarisse processional may have existed. Neale published the sequence in his series ‘Sequentiæ ineditæ’ in The Ecclesiologist (August 1853, pp. 228-230) and the tune of “Bone Jesu” were used in The Hymnal. In May 1859 he visited Amiens, where he looked through MS Amiens 162 and published in the same series (February 1860, pp. 14-15) a jumbled transcript of the texts on ff. 1, 2v-17v and 19v-21, including “Bone Ihesu”; he does not remark on the interesting fact that he had seen the same poem with different music in Lisbon. He probably at that time had forgot all about it.
In spite of the retrospective character of the two-part setting, this composition, like the one in MS Amiens 162, must have been quite new when it was copied into this processional and other manuscripts belonging to the Poor Clares around 1500. The text must be dated after the canonization of St Bernardinus in 1450.
Contemporary setting of the text:
Amiens 162 D, ff. 2v-10 »Bone Ihesu dulcis cunctis« 3v
- has no melodic affinity to the setting in Paris 10581. The text shows up only small variants against Paris 10581; for example, the last line of stanza 1 has “tui perenni titulo” instead of “... gaudio”, and stanza 7 has “exorate ihesum pium” (line 5) instead of “exhortare deum pium”.
PWCH April 2014, revised October 2015