Sunday, January 12, 8070

Anon (b. c. 1070) - Song of the Ass (c. 1100)

Latin Lyric Conductus Composer (b. c. 1070) - Song of the Ass (Orientis Partibus) (1100)

Denis Stevens (3/4 - History of European Music)

Noah Greenberg (4/4 - The Play of Herod)

Oxford History of Music in Sound (4/4/ 2-Part Harmonization)

The 12th-century Latin song Orientis Partibus first appeared in France and is sometimes attributed to Pierre de Corbeil, Bishop of Sens (d 1222) ("Office de la circoncision," "Lew manuscrit de l’office de la Circoncision de Notre-Dame-du-Puy," or "L’Office de Pierre de Corbeil," circa 1210). The Feast of the Circumcision is celebrated on January 1. The song is associated with the Feast of Fools.

The tune is said to have been part of the Fete de l’Ane (The Donkey’s Festival), which celebrated the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt and was a regular Christmas observance in Beauvais and Sens, France in the 13th Century. During the mass, it was common for a donkey to be led or ridden into the church.

The words and tune were designed to give thanks for the ass on which Mary rode, and began: Orientis partibus Adventavit asinus (‘From the East the ass has come’). Each verse was sung, and finished with the chorus "Hail, Sir donkey, hail’ "It was a solemn affair, but the tune became very popular in 17th and 18th century Germany.

Orientis partibus
adventavit asinus,
pulcher et fortissimus,
Sarcinis aptissimus.

Hez, Sir Asnes, hez!

Saltu vincit hinnulos
damas et capreolos
super dromedarios
velox madianeos

Hic in collibus Sychen
iam nutritus sub Ruben
transiit per Jordanem
saliit in Bethlehem

Dum trahit vehicula
multa cum sarcinula
illius mandibula
dura terit pabula

Cum aristis, hordeum
comedit et carduum
triticum ex palea
segregat in area

Amen dicas, asine
Iam satur ex gramine
amen, amen itera
aspernare vetera

An English Translation:

From the East the donkey came,
Stout and strong as twenty men;
Ears like wings and eyes like flame,
Striding into Bethlehem.
Heh! Sir Ass, oh heh!

Faster than the deer he leapt,
With his burden on his back;
Though all other creatures slept,
Still the ass kept on his track.
Heh! Sir Ass, oh heh!

Still he draws his heavy load,
Fed on barley and rough hay;
Pulling on along the road --
Donkey, pull our sins away!
Heh! Sir Ass, oh heh!

Wrap him now in cloth of gold;
All rejoice who see him pass;
Mirth inhabit young and old
On this feast day of the ass.
Heh! Sir Ass, oh heh!

The song emigrated to England in the 12th century, where it began to take on a new character. It is for this reason that some sources will give the origin of this song as England.

Orientis Partibus was harmonized in 4/4 time for Church Hymn Tunes, ancient & modern (1853) by Richard Redhead (1820-1901) and given triple time by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) in English Hymnal (1906).

It is also known as "The Song of the Ass," The Donkey Carol," "The Animal Carol" and "The Gift of the Animals."


The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum or asinaria festa, French: Fête de l'âne) was a medieval, Christian feast observed on January 14th, celebrating the Flight into Egypt. It was celebrated primarily in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating the donkey-related stories in the Bible, in particular the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus's birth.

This feast may represent a Christian adaptation of the pagan feast, Cervulus, integrating it with the donkey in the nativity story.

In connection with the Biblical stories, the celebration was first celebrated in the 11th century, inspired by the pseudo-Augustinian "Sermo contra Judaeos" c. 6th century.

In the second half of the 15th century, the feast disappeared gradually, along with the Feast of Fools, which was stamped out around the same time. It was not considered as objectionable as the Feast of Fools.

A girl with child on a donkey would be led through town to the church, where the donkey would stand beside the altar during the sermon, and the congregation would "hee-haw" their responses to the priest.


Latin (lingua Latīna) is an ancient Indo-European language that was spoken in Ancient Rome. It was also the de facto international language of science and scholarship in mid and western Europe until the 17th century. Through Roman conquest, Latin spread throughout the Mediterranean and a large part of Europe. It later evolved into the languages spoken in France, Italy, Romania, and the Iberian peninsula, and through them to the Americas and Africa. There are two distinctions of Latin: Classical Latin, the form used in poetry and formal prose, and Vulgar Latin, the name given to a common set of Latin based dialects, until they diverged into the various Romance languages. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Catholic Church, Latin became the ecclesiastical language of the Catholic Church and the lingua franca of educated classes in the West.

After 2,300 years, Latin began a slow decline around the 16th century. Vulgar Latin, however, was preserved in several regional dialects, which by the 800s had become the ancestors of today's Romance languages. Latin lives on in the form of Ecclesiastical Latin spoken in the Catholic Church. Some Latin vocabulary is still used in science, academia, and law. Classical Latin, the literary language of the late Republic and early Empire, is still taught in many primary, grammar, and secondary schools, often combined with Greek in the study of Classics, though its role has diminished since the early 20th century. The Latin alphabet, together with its modern variants such as the English, Spanish and French alphabets, is the most widely used alphabet in the world.


Lyric may refer to:

Lyric poetry is a form of poetry that expresses a subjective, personal point of view

Lyric, from the Greek language, a song sung with a lyre

Lyrics, the composition in verse which is sung to a melody to constitute a song

Lyric is a classification of the human voice in European classical music. The adjective describes a specific vocal weight and a range at the upper end of the given voice part, e.g. lyric soprano.


In medieval music, conductus (plural: conducti) is a type of sacred, but non-liturgical vocal composition for one or more voices. The word derives from Latin conducere (to escort), and the conductus was most likely sung while the lectionary was carried from its place of safekeeping to the place from which it was to be read. The conductus was one of the principal types of vocal composition of the ars antiqua period of medieval music history.

The form most likely originated in the south of France around 1150, and reached its peak development during the activity of the Notre Dame School in the early 13th century. Most of the conductus compositions of the large mid-13th century manuscript collection from Notre Dame are for two or three voices. Conductus are also unique in the Notre Dame repertory in admitting secular melodies as source material, though sacred melodies were also commonly used. Common subjects for the songs were lives of the saints, feasts of the Lord, the Nativity, as well as more current subjects such as exemplary behavior of contemporary witnesses to the faith, such as Thomas à Becket. A significant and interesting repertory of conductus from late in the period consists of songs which criticize abuses by the clergy, including some which are quite outraged. While it might be difficult to imagine them being sung in church, it is possible that the repertory may have had an existence beyond its documented liturgical use.

Almost all composers of conductus are anonymous. Some of the poems, all of which are in Latin, are attributed to poets such as Philip the Chancellor and John of Howden.

G Major (Ionian) - Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do

G Mixolydian - Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Te Do ("Blues Major")

G Dorian - Do Re Me Fa Sol La Te Do ("Blues Minor")

G Minor (Aeolian) - Do Re Me Fa Sol Le Te Do

[8071 Turks / 8070 Orientis Partibus]