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Louis XIV's Death

When Louis XIV died on 1st September 1715, he had been on the throne for over 70 years. Set to a melodic version of the Dies Irae (and aided by the musical setting with a single voice here), the first two stanzas point to the possibility of a sincerely felt expression of grief for Louis’s passing, evoking those closest to him at the time of his death, his wife Mme de Maintenon, Le Tellier (the King’s confessor) and Fagon (his physician). Only when Desmarets, the Contrôleur général des finances, and Bourvalais, a royal financier, are mentioned in succeeding verses (here sung by a group of singers), does the parodic context of the song become clear, exacerbated by an explosion of violent anger in the fifth stanza. However, just as one settles into an acceptance of the mordant satire of the piece, through a brilliant sleight of hand, the poet/singer (here again expressed by a single voice) returns to what can more convincingly be perceived as a genuine wish for a better future under the Regent and the young Louis XV: ‘juste, paisible, humain’, by implication the opposite of what the five-year-old boy’s great-grandfather represented:

Il est donc mort ce Grand Bourbon,

Regretté de la Maintenon,

De le Tellier, et de Fagon.

 

Vous ses sujets la larme à l’oeil

Regardez ce Prince au Cercueil,

Et de sa mort portez le deuil.

 

Il nous laisse à tous en mourant

De quoy plus amerement,

Puisqu’il nous laisse sans argent.

 

Mais cherchez, vous entrouverez

Dans la bourse de des Maretz,

Et de gens comme Bourvalais.

 

Faites de génereux efforts,

Pour enfoncer leurs Coffres forts,

Puis pendez au gibet leurs corps.

 

Que le Régent doux et benin

Inspire à son petit Cousin

D’estre juste, paisible, humain.

[The Great Bourbon is now dead,

Mourned by Maintenon,

Le Tellier and Fagon.//

 You, his subjects, with tears in your eyes,

Look at this Prince in his coffin,

And bear the grief of his death.//

 By dying he is leaving us

In an even more bitter state,

Since he leaves us with no money.//

But search, and you will find some

In the purse of Desmarets

And of people like Bourvalais.//

Make a noble effort 

To break into their strong-boxes,

Then hang their bodies on the scaffold.//

May the kind and benign Regent

Inspire his little Cousin

To be just, peaceful and humane.]

 

Now listen to the song, performed by Katie Bray and members of 'Badinage': 

https://soundcloud.com/eerw2/il-est-donc-mort-final-1

 

Subspecialties

Lully

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Jun 29, 2019

Durham Arts Festival, College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham

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