Monday, January 10, 8450

Josquin des Pres (c. 1450 / 1455 - 1521)

Franco-Flemish composer Josquin des Pres (c. 1450 to 1455, near Hainault, Belgium, but probably over the border in France – August 27, 1521), is also known as Josquin des Prez, Josquin Desprez, Josken Van De Velde (Dutch diminutive of Joseph Van De Velde), and Josquinus Pratensis (Latin, alternatively Jodocus Pratensis), but everyone calls him Josquin. He was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Palestrina, the first master of the high Renaissance style, in sacred and secular music, utilizing all of the significant vocal forms of the age, including masses, motets, chansons, and frottole.

Josquin was born realm of the Dukes of Burgundy, close to the Belgium/France border, and he was classified legally as a Frenchman several times in his life, including when he made his will).

Josquin became a choirboy at the musical center of Saint-Quentin (where ultimately Jean Mouton and Loyset Compere were buried), c. 1460, and was in charge of its music.

Around 1466, perhaps on the death of his father, he was named by his uncle and aunt, Gilles Lebloitte dit Desprez and Jacque Banestonne, as their heir. Their will gives Josquin's actual surname as Lebloitte, and it has been suggested that "des Pres / des Prez" was a nickname.

It is possible that Josquin studied counterpoint at this time with Ockeghem, whom he greatly admired, as suggested much later by Gioseffo Zarlino.

His first definite record of employment is dated April 19, 1477, as a singer at the chapel of René, Duke of Anjou, in Aix-en-Provence, remaining there at least until 1478.

From 1480 to 1482, either Josquin was in France, or was already in the service of the Sforzas, namely Ascanio Sforza, who had been banished from Milan and resided temporarily in Ferrara or Naples.

If Josquin remained in the employ of René he would have transferred to Paris in 1481 along with the rest of the chapel. One of Josquin's early motets, Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo (France, c. 1480), suggests a direct connection with Louis XI, the reining monarch. The seven-part Passion cycle Vultum tuum deprecabuntur also dates to this period.

In any event, Josquin returned to Condé in 1483 to claim his inheritance from his aunt and uncle, who may have been killed by the army of Louis back in May 1478, when they besieged the town, and locked the population into the church, buring them alive. Nice guys.

By 1483 or 1484 Josquin was definitely with the Sforzas in Milan, making the aquaintance of Franchinus Gaffurius (maestro di capella), and making one or more trips to Rome, and possibly also to Paris.

His Missa L'ami Baudichon (c. 1485) probably his first mass, is based on a secular -- indeed ribald -- tune similar to Three Blind Mice, which survives in Sistine Chapel part-books copied during the papacy of Julius II (1503 to 1513). The relatively early and short Missa Ave maris stella (Rome, 1486–1495) probably also dates from these years, and paraphrases the Marian antiphon.

Josquin was in Milan again in 1489, but left later in the year.

From 1489 to 1495 Josquin was a member of the papal choir, first under Pope Innocent VIII, and later under the Borgia pope Alexander VI. While there, he may have been the one who carved his name into the wall of the Sistine Chapel; a "JOSQUINJ" was recently revealed by workers restoring the chapel. Since it was traditional for singers to carve their names into the walls, and hundreds of names were inscribed there during the period from the 15th to the 18th centuries, it is considered highly likely that the graffiti is by Josquin – and if so, it would be his only surviving autograph.

Josquin's eloquent chanson Deploration on the Death of Ockeghem dates from c. 1495/1497; its text, Nymphes des bois/Requiem aeternam, is based on a poem of Jean Molinet.

Josquin's chansons often used a cantus firmus, sometimes a popular song whose origin can no longer be traced, as in Si j'avoye Marion. Other times he used a tune originally associated with a separate text; and still other times he freely composed an entire song, using no apparent external source material.

Another technique he sometimes used was to take a popular song and write it as a canon with itself, in two inner voices, and write new melodic material above and around it, to a new text: he used this technique in one of his most famous chansons, Faulte d'argent ("The problem with money"), a song sung by a man who wakes in bed with a prostitute, broke and unable to pay her.

Josquin's most famous chansons circulated widely in Europe. Some of the better known include Mille regretz (the attribution of which has recently been questioned) and Je me complains.

[Deploration on the Death of Ockeghem (1497)]

Around 1498 Josquin was most likely re-employed by the Sforzas, but he probably did not stay in Milan long, for, in 1499, Louis XII captured the city in his invasion of northern Italy and imprisoned Josquin's former employers. Bummer.

Prior to departing Italy for France, he most likely wrote one of his most famous secular compositions, the frottola El Grillo (1499/1500),

with its opening harmonic ambiguity
(that is probably
C: IV V ii I V II V I
but could also be interpreted as
G: bVII I v IV I V I IV)
and call-and-response, tongue-twisting word play.

As to how the music sounds? Anybody's guess.


A Capella Versions


Rubato (flexible tempo -- the "robbing" of time)

Instrumental Version with Harpsichord

El Grillo, In Te Domine Sparavi, and Scaramella (below) are written in the manner of the Italian frottola, a popular Italian song form which Josquin would have encountered during his years in Milan. The former two are even more simple in texture than his French chansons, being almost uniformly syllabic and homophonic (although Scaramella is decidedly more contrapuntal) and they remain among the most frequently sung portions of his output.

In Te Domine Speravi (1499/1500) ("I have placed my hope in you, Lord"), based on the Vulgate Psalm 30 (corresponding to King James 31). The latter composition may have been a veiled reference to the religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola, who had been burned at the stake in Florence in 1498, and for whom Josquin seems to have had a special reverence; the text was the monk's favorite psalm, a meditation on which he left incomplete in prison prior to his execution.

Other of Josquin's compositions, such as the instrumental Vive le roy, have been tentatively dated to the period around 1500 when he was in France. This chanson and others were doubtless designed to be performed instrumentally. That Petrucci published many of them without text is strong evidence of this; additionally, some of the pieces contain writing more idiomatic for instruments than voices.

A motet, Memor esto verbi tui servo tuo ("Remember thy promise unto thy servant"), was, according to Heinrich Glarean writing in the Dodecachordon of 1547, composed as a gentle reminder to the king to keep his promise of a benefice to Josquin. According to Glarean, it worked: the court applauded, and the king paid up. Upon receiving his payment, Josquin reportedly wrote a motet on the text Benefecisti servo tuo, Domine ("Lord, thou hast dealt graciously with thy servant") to show his gratitude to the king. Apple polisher.

Also around this time were

Petite Camusette (1500)


Scaramella (1500), with its contrapuntal entrances at the unison, 5th, and octave.

A Capella Version (w/ Loyset Compere's version)

Accompanied Version with Renaissance Broken Consort

Strident Version

Josquin made extensive use of "motivic cells" (still practiced today)in his compositions, short, easily-recognizable melodic fragments which passed from voice to voice in a contrapuntal texture, giving it an inner unity.

Josquin wrote many motets for four voices, an ensemble size which had become the compositional norm around 1500, and he also was a considerable innovator in writing motets for five and six.

Almost all of Josquin's motets use some kind of compositional constraint on the process; they are not freely composed. Some of them use a cantus firmus as a unifying device; some are canonic; some use a motto which repeats throughout; some use several of these methods. The motets that use canon can be roughly divided into two groups: those in which the canon is plainly designed to be heard and appreciated as such, and another group in which a canon is present, but almost impossible to hear, and seemingly written to be appreciated by the eye, and by connoisseurs.

Josquin frequently used imitation, especially paired imitation, in writing his motets, with sections akin to fugal expositions occurring on successive lines of the text he was setting. An example is his setting of Dominus regnavit (Psalm 93), for four voices; each of the lines of the psalm begins with a voice singing a new tune alone, quickly followed by entries of other three voices in imitation.

[Gustave Dore (1832-1883) - The Death of Absalom]

From 1502 are probably Absalon, Fili Mi (Absalom, My Son),


Ave Maria

and the two Missa "L'Homme Arme"s,

Missa "L'Homme Arme" Super Voces Musicales, is a technical tour-de-force on the tune, containing numerous mensuration canons and contrapuntal display. It was by far the most famous of all his masses.

The cantus can be heard clearly in



Sanctus, whereas the

Agnus Dei II includes a mensuration canon, where the written monophony

becomes 3-part metrically-splayed polyphony.

The middle voice (at pitch) is the slowest; the lowest voice sings at twice the speed of the middle voice (transposed down a 5th), and the top voice (up a 4th) at three times the speed. The first four notes of the canon are shown connected by lines of the same color. (The first eight notes of the canon are a quotation of the contratenor of Ockeghem's Ma bouche rit, the result here as a paraphrase).

Missa "L'Homme Arme" Sexti Toni is a "fantasia on the theme of the armed man," a paraphrase mass, with cantus fragments appearing in all voices. Technically it is almost restrained, compared to the other L'homme armé mass, until the closing Agnus Dei, which contains a complex canonic structure including a rare retrograde canon, around which other voices are woven.


[22 second or so of silence, but worth the wait]

Hatsune Miku (初音ミク?) is a singing synthesizer application and its female character, developed by Crypton Future Media. It uses Yamaha Corporation's Vocaloid synthesizing technology. Her voice is sampled from Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita.


Salve regina dates from the same busy year (1502).

Josquin probably remained in the service of Louis XII until 1503, when Duke Ercole I of Ferrara hired him for the chapel there for a year. One of the rare mentions of Josquin's personality survives from this time. Prior to hiring Josquin, one of Duke Ercole's assistants recommended that he hire Heinrich Isaac instead, since Isaac was easier to get along with, more companionable, was more willing to compose on demand, and would cost significantly less (120 ducats vs. 200). Ercole, however, chose Josquin.

While in Ferrara, Josquin wrote some of his most famous compositions, including the austere, Savonarola-influenced Miserere, which became one of the most widely-distributed motets of the 1500's; the utterly contrasting, virtuoso motet Virgo Salutiferi; and possibly the Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae (1503), which is written on a soggetto cavato ("carved subject") cantus firmus (the earliest known mass utilizing the technique) derived from the musical letters in the Duke's name (Re - Ut - Re - Ut - Re - Fa - Mi - Re.) Another solmization mass is the Missa "la sol fa re mi" — A, G, F, D, E — based on the syllables of Lascia fare mi ("leave me alone.") The story, as told by Glareanus, was that an unknown aristocrat used to order suitors away with this phrase, and Josquin immediately wrote an "exceedingly elegant" mass on it as a jab.

Around the time of Miserere mei Deus (1503), Josquin did not stay in Ferrara long. An outbreak of the plague in the summer of 1503 prompted the evacuation of the Duke and his family, as well as two thirds of the citizens, and Josquin left by April of the next year, having completed Virgo salutiferi (Ferrara, 1504), possibly also to escape the plague. His replacement, Jacob Obrecht, died of the plague in the summer of 1505 (so Josquin's instinct to flee had proved correct) to be replaced by Antoine Brumel in 1506, who stayed until the disbanding of the chapel in 1510.

Josquin went home to Condé-sur-l'Escaut, southeast of Lille on the present-day border between Belgium and France, becoming provost of the collegiate church of Notre-Dame on May 3, 1504, a large musical establishment that he headed for the rest of his life.

From thereafter date Pater noster, qui es in caelis (Condé, 1505–1521) and Plus nulz regretz (1508, commemorating the 1507 Treaty of Calais)

The chapter at Bourges Cathedral asked him to become master of the choirboys there in 1508, but evidence (or lack thereof) suggest he remained in Condé.

Several of Josquin's masses are "parodies," the source material was not a single line, but an entire texture, often of a popular song. Several works by Josquin fall loosely into this category, including the Missa Fortuna desperata, based on the three-voice song (possibly by Antoine Busnois); the Missa Malheur me bat (based on a chanson variously ascribed to Obrecht, Ockeghem, or, most likely, Abertijne Malcourt); and the Missa Mater Patris, based on a three-voice motet by Antoine Brumel. The latter is probably the first true parody mass to be composed, for it no longer contains any hint of a cantus firmus.[

Parody technique was to become the most usual means of mass composition for the remainder of the 16th century, although the mass gradually fell out of favor as the motet grew in esteem.

During the last two decades of his life, Josquin's fame spread abroad along with his music. The newly-developed technology of printing made wide dissemination of his music possible, and Josquin was the favorite of the first printers: one of Petrucci's first publications, and the earliest surviving print of music by a single composer, was a book of Josquin's masses which he printed in Venice in 1502. This publication was successful enough that Petrucci published two further volumes of Josquin's masses, in 1504 and 1514, and reissued them several times.

The late Missa de Beata Virgine paraphrases plainchants in praise of the Virgin Mary. A Lady Mass, a votive mass for Saturday performance, it was his most popular mass of the times.

But by far the most famous of Josquin's masses using the technique, and one of the most famous mass settings of the entire era, was the Missa pange lingua (1517) based on the hymn by Thomas Aquinas for the Vespers of Corpus Christi. It was probably the last mass that Josquin composed. This mass is an extended fantasia on the tune, using the melody in all voices and in all parts of the mass, in elaborate and ever-changing polyphony. One of the high points of the mass is the et incarnatus est section of the Credo, where the texture becomes homophonic, and the tune appears in the topmost voice; here the portion which would normally set "Sing, O my tongue, of the mystery of the divine body" is instead given the words "And he became incarnate by the Holy Ghost from the Virgin Mary, and was made man."


On his death-bed Josquin asked that he be listed on the rolls as a foreigner, so that his property would not pass to the Lords and Ladies of Condé. Additionally, he left an endowment for the performance of his late motet, Pater noster/Ave Maria (possibly his last work) at all general processions in the town when they passed in front of his house, stopping to place a wafer on the marketplace altar to the Holy Virgin.

Writers as diverse as Baldassare Castiglione and Martin Luther wrote about his reputation and fame, the latter to the effect that, other composers follow the bidding of the notes, but the notes follow the bidding of Josquin.

At least 374 works are attributed to him, and he was so admired that many anonymous compositions were attributed to him by copyists, probably to increase their sales. The German editor Georg Forster summed up the situation admirably in 1540 when he wrote, "Now that Josquin is dead, he is putting out more works than when he was alive."

Heinrich Glarean wrote in 1547 that Josquin was not only a "magnificent virtuoso" (the Latin can be translated also as "show-off") but capable of being a "mocker", using satire effectively.

Josquin's fame lasted throughout the 1500's, and indeed increased for several decades after his death. Zarlino, writing in the 1580's, was still using examples from Josquin in his treatises on composition; and Josquin's fame was only eclipsed after the beginning of the Baroque era, with the decline of polyphonic style. During the 18th and 19th centuries Josquin's fame was overshadowed by later Roman School composer Palestrina, whose music was seen as the summit of polyphonic refinement, and codified into a system of composition by theorists such as Johann Fux; however, during the 20th century, Josquin's reputation has grown steadily, to the point where scholars again consider him "the greatest and most successful composer of the age."

Since the 1950s Josquin's reputation has been boosted by the increasing availability of recordings, of which there are many, and the rise of ensembles specializing in the performance of 1500's vocal music, many of which consider Josquin's output to be at the heart of their repertory.


[Painting of Savonarola's execution in the Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), Florence, Italy]

Girolamo Savonarola (September 21, 1452 - May 23, 1498), also translated as Jerome Savonarola or Hieronymus Savonarola, was an Italian Dominican priest and leader of Florence from 1494 until his execution in 1498. He was known for anti-Renaissance preaching, book burning, and destruction of what he considered immoral art. He vehemently preached against what he saw as the moral corruption of the clergy, and his main opponent was Pope Alexander VI. He is sometimes seen as a precursor of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, though he remained a devout and pious Roman Catholic during his whole life.

His religious actions have been compared to those of the later Jansenists, although many theological differences exist.

Savonarola was born in Ferrara, the capital of an independent Duchy. According to another source, he was born at Occhiobello, 7 km from Ferrara.

In his youth he studied the Bible, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle. Savonarola initially studied at the University of Ferrara, where he appears to have taken an advanced Arts degree.

His stance against morally corrupt clergy was initially manifested in his poem on the destruction of the world entitled De Ruina Mundi (On the Downfall of the World), written at the age of 20. It was at this stage that he also began to develop his moral voice, and in 1475 his poem De Ruina Ecclesiae (On the Downfall of the Church) displayed his contempt of the Roman Curia by terming it "a false, proud whore."

Savonarola became a Dominican friar in 1475, and entered the convent of San Domenico in Bologna. He immersed himself in theological study, and in 1479 transferred to the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Finally in 1482 the Order dispatched him to Florence, the ‘city of his destiny’. Savonarola was lambasted for being ungainly, as well as being a poor orator. He made no impression on Florence in the 1480s, and his departure in 1487 went unnoticed. He returned to Bologna where he became "master of studies."

Savonarola returned to Florence in 1490 at the behest of Count Pico della Mirandola. There he began to preach passionately about the Last Days, accompanied by visions and prophetic announcements of direct communications with God and the saints. Such fiery preachings were not uncommon at the time, but a series of circumstances quickly brought Savonarola great success. The first disaster to give credibility to Savonarola’s apocalyptic message was the Medici’s family weakening grip on power due to the French-Italian wars. The flowering of expensive Renaissance art and culture paid for by wealthy Italian families now seemed to mock the growing misery in Italy, creating a backlash of resentment among the people. The second disaster was the appearance of syphilis (or the “French pox”), possibly brought back by sailors from the New World, which was a running epidemic and as deadly as the plague. Finally, the year 1500 was approaching, which brought about a mood of millennialism. In minds of many, the Last Days were impending and Savonarola was the prophet of the day.

His Church of St. Mark was always crowded to excess during his celebration of Mass and his sermons. Savonarola was not an academic theologian. He did not proclaim theological theories or difficult teachings. Instead, he preached that Christian life involved being good, practicing the virtues, rather than carrying out displays of excessive pomp and ceremonies. He did not seek to make war on the Church of Rome. Rather, he wanted to correct the transgressions of worldly popes and secularized members of the Papal Curia.

Lorenzo de Medici, the previous ruler of Florence and patron of many Renaissance artists, was also a former patron of Savonarola. Eventually, Lorenzo and his son Piero de Medici became targets of Savonarola’s preaching.

After Charles VIII of France invaded Florence in 1494, the ruling Medici were overthrown and Savonarola emerged as the new leader of the city, combining in himself the role of secular leader and priest. He set up a rather modern democratic republic in Florence. Characterizing it as a “Christian and religious Republic,” one of its first acts was to make sodomy, previously punishable by fine, into a capital offence. Homosexuality was previously tolerated in the city, and many homosexuals from the elite left Florence. His chief enemies were the Duke of Milan and Pope Alexander VI, who issued numerous restraints against him, all of which were ignored.

In 1497, he and his followers carried out the Bonfire of the Vanities. They sent boys from door to door collecting items associated with moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, lewd pictures, pagan books, immoral sculptures (which he wanted to be transformed into statues of the saints and modest depictions of biblical scenes), gaming tables, chess pieces, lutes and other musical instruments, fine dresses, women’s hats, and the works of immoral and ancient poets, and burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence.

Many fine Florentine Renaissance artworks were lost in Savonarola’s notorious bonfires -- including paintings by Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo Buonarroti, which are said to have been thrown on the pyres by the artists themselves, though there are some who question this claim.

Florence soon became tired of Savonarola because of the city’s continual political and economic miseries, where God did not seem to intervene to come to the city's aid, and the Last Days did not seem to come about despite the city government's insistence that the Apocalypse was near to fulfillment.

During his Ascension Day sermon on May 4, 1497, bands of youths rioted, and the riot became a revolt: dancing and singing taverns reopened, and men again dared to gamble publicly.

On May 13, 1497, the rigorous Father Savonarola was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI, and in 1498, Alexander demanded his arrest and execution. On April 8, a crowd attacked the Convent of San Marco; a bloody struggle ensued, during which several of Savonarola’s guards and religious supporters were killed: he surrendered along with Fra Domenico da Pescia and Fra Silvestro, his two closest associates. Savonarola was faced with charges such as heresy, uttering prophecies, sedition, and even other crimes, called religious errors by the Borgia pope.

During the next few weeks all three were tortured on the rack. All three signed confessions; the torturers spared only Savonarola’s right arm, in order that he might be able to sign his confession, which he did sometime prior to May 8. On that day he completed a written meditation on the Miserere mei, Psalm 50, entitled Infelix ego, in which he pleaded with God for mercy for his physical weakness in confessing to crimes he believed he did not commit. On the day of his execution, May 23, 1498, he was still working on another meditation, this one on Psalm 31, entitled Tristitia obsedit me.

On the day of his execution he was taken out to the Piazza della Signoria along with Fra Silvestro and Fra Domenico da Pescia. The three were ritually stripped of their clerical vestments, degraded as "heretics and schismatics," and given over to the secular authorities to be burned. The three were hanged in chains from a single cross; an enormous fire was lit beneath them; they were thereby executed in the same place where the "Bonfire of the Vanities" had been lit, and in the same manner that he had condemned other criminals himself during his own reign in Florence. Jacopo Nardi, who recorded the incident in his Istorie della città di Firenze, wrote that his executioner lit the flame exclaiming, “The one who wanted to burn me is now himself put to the flames.” Luca Landucci, who was present, wrote in his diary that the burning took several hours, and that the remains were several times broken apart and mixed with brushwood so that not the slightest piece could be later recovered, as the ecclesiastical authorities did not want Savonarola’s followers to have any relics for a future veneration of the rigorist preacher they considered a Saint. The ashes of the three were afterwards thrown in the Arno beside the Ponte Vecchio.

Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince, also witnessed and wrote about the execution. The Medici subsequently regained control of Florence.

His religious actions have been compared to those of the later 17th and 18th century Jansenists, although theologically many differences exist. Savonarola did not produce a theological doctrine on salvation, and faithfully adhered to even minor theological definitions of the papal Magisterium. However Savonarola's call to simplicity in church interior and his rigorous moral stances have been compared to those of Jansenists. Also the insistence on the immediate danger of hell and the fewness of the elect can be considered to be a similarity.

After Savonarola's death, a secret Catholic group known as the Piagnoni sprang up in Florence to preserve his memory, organized into a sort of Catholic guild. Franciscan Friars were prominent among the Piagnoni, and they briefly re-appeared in 1527 when they once again overthrew the Medici, but through intervention of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation it was brought to an end in 1530 at the Battle of Gavinana and the Medici were restored to power.

Savonarola left many admirers throughout Europe, in particular among religiously pious humanists who valued his deep spiritual convictions. Erasmus, who refused to become a Protestant is said to have remained Catholic due to the lecture of Savonarola.

In the twentieth century, a movement for the canonization of Frà Savonarola began to develop within the Roman Catholic Church, particularly among Dominicans, with many judging his excommunication and execution to have been unjust. His potential beatification and canonization is opposed by many Jesuits, who consider Savonarola's (secular) conflict with the papacy to have been an intolerable crime.


[Photo of Absalom's Tomb near Jerusalem - Popularly believed to have been built by Absalom before his death]

Absalom or Avshalom (Hebrew:"Father/Leader of/is peace," Standard Hebrew Avšalom, Tiberian Hebrew ʾAḇšālôm), in the Bible, is the third son of David, king of Israel. He was deemed the most beautiful man in the kingdom.

His sister Tamar had been raped by David's eldest son, Amnon, who was in love with her.

Absalom, after waiting two years, avenged her by sending his servants to murder Amnon at a feast to which he had invited all the king's sons (2 Samuel 13):

"18. Now she had on a long-sleeved garment; for in this manner the virgin daughters of the king dressed themselves in robes. Then his attendant took her out and locked the door behind her.

19. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.

20. And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house....

22. But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar.

23. Now it came about after two full years that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons.

28. Absalom commanded his servants, saying, 'See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant."

After this deed Absalom fled to Talmai, "king" of Geshur (see Joshua 12:5 or 13:2), his maternal grandfather, and it was not until three years later that he was fully reinstated in his father's favour.

Four years after this Absalom raised a revolt at Hebron, the former capital. He was now the eldest surviving son of David, and the present position of the narratives (15-20) -- after the birth of Solomon and before the struggle between Solomon and Adonijah -- may represent the view that the suspicion that he was not the destined heir of his father's throne excited the impulsive youth to rebellion.

All Israel and Judah flocked to his side, and David, attended only by the Cherethites and Pelethites and some recent recruits from Gath, found it expedient to flee. The priests remained behind in Jerusalem, and their sons Jonathan and Ahimaaz served as his spies. Absalom reached the capital and took counsel with the renowned Ahithophel (sometimes Achitophel).

The pursuit was continued and David took refuge beyond the Jordan River. However, David took the precaution of instructing a servant, Hushai, to infiltrate Absalom's court and subvert it. To that end, Hushai convinced the prince to ignore Ahithophel's advice to attack his father while he was on the run and instead to better prepare his forces for a major attack. This gave David critical time to prepare his own troops for the coming conflict.

A battle was fought in the Wood of Ephraim (the name suggests a locality west of the Jordan) and Absalom's army was completely routed. Absalom himself, having long hair, was caught by his hair in the boughs of an oak-tree, and, as David had strictly charged his men to deal gently with the young man, Joab was informed. What a common soldier refused to do even for a thousand shekels of silver, the king's general at once undertook. Joab thrust three spears through the heart of Absalom as he struggled in the branches and his ten armour-bearers came around and slew him. Despite the revolt, David was overwhelmed with grief and ordered a great heap of stones to be erected where he fell, whilst another monument near Jerusalem (not the modern "Absalom Tomb" - "Yad Avshalom" which is of later origin) was erected by Absalom in his lifetime to perpetuate his name 2 Samuel 18:

"18. Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a monument, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's monument."

Josquin Desprez composed the motet Absalon, fili mi on the occasion of the death of Juan Borgia.

Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672) composed Fili mi, Absalon as part of his Sinfoniae Sacrae, Op. 6

John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel is a political satire in verse.

Rainer Maria Rilke alludes to Absalom in his two poems Absalom's Rebellion and Absalom's Abfall.

Absalom, Absalom! is the title of a novel by William Faulkner, and refers to the return of Thomas Sutpen's son.

Mark Alburger's King David includes a double trope on Josquin's Absalon, Fili Mi and Arthur Honegger's Le Roi David.


[Josquin / Chord Names]

[8450 Obrecht / 8450 Josquin / 8450 Ilorin]