Jean Maillard and “Hélas mon Dieu”: Confusion in Paris

The second of two conflicting attributions concerning Janequin and the prolific but sparsely documented Parisian (?) composer Jean Maillard is easily disposed of. “Si Dieu vouloit que je feusse arondelle” first appears in print in Nicolas Du Chemin’s Unziesme livre of 1554 with an attribution to Janequin. At this point in time, Janequin was living in Paris and had been working closely with Du Chemin (and Du Chemin’s music editor Claude Goudimel) for going on five years. Two years later, in Antwerp, the composer Hubert Wælrant and his business associate Jean de Laet were putting together the second book of their Jardin musical series. Wælrant and de Laet were relatively new to music printing, with only ten previous collections to their credit. The contents of the Jardin series were largely newly written—of the ninety-eight works presented, only five (three by Janequin, one by Thomas Crecquillon and one by Canis) had previously appeared in print. Why Wælrant and de Laet chose to assign “Si Dieu vouloit” to Maillard is not clear. There are no additional pieces by Maillard in the second Jardin book, and Maillard is not represented in the Du Chemin Unziesme from which Wælrant and de Laet presumably borrowed “Si Dieu vouloit.” It would appear that the attribution was a mistake, pure and simple. Certainly, later scribes and printers were in no doubt: the chanson appears in a mid-century tablature manuscript (Uppsala87) and in LeRoy & Ballard’s Setieme livre from 1565 (reissued in 1572 and 1573), all securely attributed to Janequin.

If “Si Dieu vouloit” is unproblematic, “Hélas mon Dieu, ton ire s’est tournée” (LM111) [sic] is less so. Wonderfully popular in its own time, and copiously reproduced, “Hélas mon Dieu, ton ire” still occasionally shows up with doubts and question marks. The earliest known appearance of “Hélas mon Dieu ton ire” is in an Attaingnant publication of 1545, “Seysiesme livre contenant XXIX chansons nouvelles” (RISM 15458), where it is attributed to “Jannequin.” Normally, an attribution from Attaingnant is sufficient for placing a work in the Janequin canon; the business relationship between the two men lasted from 1528 to around 1549, and the overwhelming majority of nearly 180 Attaingnant attributions to Janequin are clear and uncontested. Perhaps on this basis, and in spite of subsequent attributions to Jean Maillard, Lesure and Merritt argue for including “Hélas mon Dieu” in Chansons polyphoniques: “There is no reason to doubt the original attribution, inasmuch as the following editions are composed almost entirely of reprints of previous editions.”[1]

The first strong indication to the contrary comes from Attaingnant himself. Attaingnant reprinted “Hélas mon dieu ton ire” in the Second livre contenant xxix chansons (RISM 154918) on December 3, 1549, when he changed the attribution to “Maillard.” Attaingnant also took the trouble on the title page to announce that it is “nouvellement recoligees de plusieurs livres Et trescorectement imprimees”—that is to say, “newly collected from several music books and very correctly printed.” It is hard to know if Attaingnant had clearing up the Janequin-Maillard confusion in mind when he composed his title page, but it is worth noting that just a few blocks away, in a music print which seems to have been part of some kind of cooperative project between the two publishers, Nicolas Du Chemin was releasing his own version of the print, including the same setting of “Hélas mon dieu ton ire,” attributed here as well not to Janequin, but to “Maillart.”[2]

Not a lot is known about Jean Maillard, but from 1538 through 1541 Attaingnant published nineteen chansons by Maillard, suggesting that in this period there was at least some contact between the composer and the publisher.[3] In the seven-year period that followed (1542–1548), Attaingnant attributes only five pieces to Maillard, of which three are reprints, suggesting that during this period there was significantly less contact between composer and publisher. The attribution of “Hélas mon dieu” to Janequin in 1545 comes in the middle of this period in which there seems to have been less contact between Maillard and Attaingnant. In 1549, 1550, and 1551, a new string of chansons by Maillard was published in Paris, this time by Nicolas Du Chemin. Twelve chansons by Maillard were published by Du Chemin in this three-year period, during which it would seem likely that there was contact between Maillard and his new publisher. It was during this period that Du Chemin published his Second receuil, in which “Hélas mon dieu ton ire” is attributed to Maillard.

The initial attribution to Janequin, it will be remembered, came at a time (1545) when Janequin was still residing in Angers. Four years later, when both Attaingnant and Du Chemin attributed “Hélas mon dieu ton ire” to Maillard, Janequin had begun his move to Paris, and judging by the amount of Janequin’s music being published by both printers at this time, one would expect there to have been considerable contact. If we are nevertheless to maintain that “Hélas mon Dieu ton ire” is Janequin’s work (and his only setting of a sacred text not part of a larger collection[4]), we then have to imagine a scenario in which Attaingnant got it right in 1545 (at a time when Janequin was living in Angers), but after Janequin moved to Paris in 1549 both Attaingnant and other printers started getting it wrong, and continued to get it wrong through innumerable subsequent reprints. All things considered, it seems reasonable to believe that the attribution to Maillard that was introduced in 1545, and continued to be used in all later publications, had the approval of both composers.[5]

If, therefore, as the evidence suggests, “Hélas mon Dieu ton ire” was indeed written by Jean Maillard, how then do we explain this lapse by the otherwise so reliable Pierre Attaingnant? One (faint) possibility is that Maillard’s setting of “Hélas mon Dieu ton ire” got confused with another chanson Janequin wrote, a setting of Mellin de St. Gelays’ poem “Hélas mon Dieu y a il.”[6] Called by its author a “complainte amoureuse,” Janequin’s music setting was first published[7] in 1547, but since Attaingnant published nothing whatsoever by Janequin in 1546, the Janequin chanson could possibly have been lying around the shop awaiting its turn in 1545. Or, an ordinary printer error could have been the cause. In the Seysiesme livre of 1545, “Hélas mon Dieu ton ire” is printed on page xviii verso. Immediately preceding it, on page xvii verso, one finds “Ma peine n’est pas grande,” correctly attributed to “Jennequin.” Since pieces by the same composer were not infrequently grouped together in anthologies, a moment of contagious attribution may have occurred at Maillard’s expense.

Most likely, the reasons for the error are rooted in the unsettled conditions that marked Attaingnant’s shop in this period. Attaingnant’s wife, Claude Pigouchet, died in 1543, and his son-in-law, partner, and heir apparent, Hubert Jullet, died sometime in late 1544 or early 1545, possibly from the plague.[8]. In fact, the Seysiesme livre is the last collection bearing the name of both Attaingnant and Jullet. Whether this was because Jullet was still alive when it was printed, or whether it was a tribute to Jullet’s work on the collection, is not known, but when the anthology was reprinted later in the same year, Jullet’s name was no longer mentioned on the title page.

“Hélas mon Dieu ton ire” proved popular. At least eighteen different editions are known to have been printed between 1545 and 1568, including several instrumental arrangements.[9] It also engendered several responses in the Renaissance “réplique-response” tradition, wherein a new text begins by quoting the last line of the original text, and then, after “responding” to the themes explored in the original version, completes the symmetry by ending with the first line of the original poem.[10] This is the case with “Au moins, mon Dieu, ne m’abandonne point,” in which the incipit faithfully reproduces the last line of “Hélas mon Dieu ton ire.” Janequin wrote a setting of “Au moins, mon Dieu,” which appears in LeRoy & Ballard’s Premier livre des chansons spirituels (RISM J454) of 1556. He was not, however, the only composer to “respond” to “Hélas mon Dieu ton ire”; Claude Goudimel preceded him with a setting of “Au moins, mon Dieu” in 1550, and Nicolas Le Gendre did the same in 1552. All three composers related their responses not only to relationships between the texts, but also to musical traits in the 1545 setting.

  1. “Il n’y a aucune raison de mettre en doute l’attribution originale, d’autant que les éditions suivantes empruntent presque entièrement à des recueils antérieurs.” Clément Janequin, Chansons polyphoniques III, ed. François Lesure and A.Tillman Merritt (Monaco: Editions de L’oiseau-Lyre, 1967), 213.
  2. This is the Second livre du receuil (RISM 154928). Twenty-three of thirty pieces in the collection are identical to pieces in Attaingnant’s Second livre (RISM 154918).
  3. In RISM 153811, 153814, 153916, 153917, 15401, 154011, and 1540M. Maillard’s sacred and devotional output outnumbers his secular output. See R. H. Rosenstock, “Jean Maillard (Fl. 1538–1572): French Renaissance Composer” (City University of New York, 1981).
  4. With the exception of the motets of 1533, perhaps composed in connection with his tenures in the Auch and Angers cathedrals, Janequin seems to have set only secular texts until the psalm settings of 1549.
  5. The work is attributed to Maillard in Premier Livre de Tabulature de Luth (1551), ed. Richard de Morcourt and André Souris (CRNS, 1960); and in M. Honegger, “Les chansons spirituelles de Didier Lupi et les débuts de la musique protestante en France au XVIe siècle” (Service de reproduction des thèses de l’Université de Lille, 1971).
  6. On the background of the “Hélas mon Dieu il y a” text, see Daniel Heartz, “‘Les Gôuts Réunis’ or The World of the Madrigal and the Chanson Confronted,” in Chanson and Madrigal 1480–1530: Studies in Comparison and Contrast, ed. James Haar (Harvard University Press, 1964), 119.
  7. In Vingtcinquiesme livre contentant xxviii Chansons nouvelles…Attaingnant (RISM 154712).
  8. Heartz, Pierre Attaingnant, Royal Printer of Music, 144.
  9. These are in RISM 15458, 15459, 154918, 154928, 15516, 155123, 155124, 15523, 155319, 155324, 155335, 1560-Stratton, 1567-C85, 15689, and in mss. Paris255, VienNB18811, BasU59–62, Flor-Ash, and S. Kargel.
  10. The author of the text remains unknown. The frequent and erroneous attribution to Guillaume Guéroult is the result of the sandwiching of the “Hélas” setting into a 1568 reprint (156810/C95) of the 1559 volume Premier livre de chansons spirituelles composées par Guillaume Gueroult & mises en musique par Didier Lupi Second. See Honegger, “Les chansons spirituelles de Didier Lupi et les débuts de la musique protestante en France au XVIe siècle,” 45–54.