"Ponderynge together yestardayes promise, and two-dayes doyng"
(Hall's Chronicle - 1548)


"Goronigl gwyr yr Ynys" (Lewis Glyn Cothi - 1450)

Sunday, 28 December 2008

EX MARIA VIRGINE




Following my comments on Vernon Watkins I found - co-incidentally - that I had in my stocking this year the above CD of John Tavener's Ex Maria Virgine which includes a setting of Vernon Watkin's 'Birthday Sleep'. My attention has also been drawn to Mary recently in my reading of the early Robin Hood ballads in preparation for a talk  {details HERE} In spite of the anti-clericalism expressed by Robin and his men in the ballads, there is a strong devotional attachment to Mary. In some cases this is expressed in fairly conventional terms and reflects the strength of the cult of Mary at this time. But there are also some apparently unorthodox aspects in the presentation of Mary as patron of the Outlaws that seem to me to have more to do with the sort of relationship one expects to find between a pre-christian goddess and her favoured followers. Certainly a monk from St Mary's Abbey kidnapped by Robin's men  is dumbfounded by the suggestion that he comes to them on Her behalf.

So I'm currently following this up. Having consulted standard pious sources such as the Catholic Encyclopaedia, I've also located a second-hand copy of Marina Warner's Alone of All her Sex , a book which I knew of but neglected to read when it was in print. But if anyone knows of other sources I should be consulting, I'd be glad to hear of them.   Meanwhile .... Back to John  Tavener.

3 comments:

Bo said...

I got this last month and much as I adore JT - really, truly, read the biographies, got every single recording, that kind of thing - I found Ex Maria nearly unlistenable. (V. impressed with Schuon Hymnen of a couple of years ago though, and The Veil of the Temple.)

Marina W.'s book is grand. (I went to college with her son, as it happens.) But another really excellent resource is Barbara Newman's 'God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry and Belief in the Middle Ages'. All sorts of odd things in it, described by a luminously good scholar in wonderful prose. She explores in great detail the links made between Mary, Sapientia/Sophia, Frau Minne, Ecclesia, Natura, the Virtues, and so on. Some are very unexpected!

The Heron's Stare said...

Having just had one proper listen to 'Ex Maria ...' after being knocked out by flu and still recovering, I'll reserve judgement. I did think it needed the ear tuned-in to it perhaps more than some of his more mellifluous pieces, and I'm never quite sure about big organs as an accompaniment to plain voices, but I've often grown to like things on better acquaintance.

Thanks for the Barbara Newman recommendation - it sounds just the thing so I'll certainly go in search of a copy.

Bo said...

Get well soon!