Archpoet

Archpoet

The Archpoet, or Archipoeta, is a name given to the bibulous and boastful anonymous author of ten poems from medieval Latin literature. The tenth and most famous of these poems is his Goliardic confession, found within the Carmina Burana manuscript. He worked in the court of Rainald of Dassel, the bishop elect of Cologne, Germany and Archchancellor to Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor.

His existence has been surmised from consistencies in usage and style among certain of the otherwise anonymous poems in that collection. He was decidedly a follower of the Goliardic tradition, writing student drinking songs and satires on the life of itinerant clergy in the Middle Ages. Very little else can be said with certainty about his life. He does refer to Rainald of Dassel as Archbishop of Cologne, which shows that he must have been alive and active between 1159, when Rainald became archbishop, and 1167, when he died. He refers to himself as ortus a militibus, of knightly birth. In another of the poems attributed to him, he refers to Salerno, suggesting that he travelled between Germany and Italy. Little more can be said about his life.

His best known poem is the "Goliardic confession," a satirical confession on his love of drink, gambling, and women. For example, it contains the lines:

Meum est propositum in taberna mori,
Ut sint vina proxima morientis ori.
Tunc cantabunt letius angelorum chori:
"Deus sit propitius huic potatori."

(I mean to die in a tavern, so that wine will be close by my dying mouth. Then the choirs of angels will sing more happily, "May God have mercy on this drunkard.")
[The satirical effect is produced by the replacement of peccatori (sinner) by potatori (drunkard).]

Another section of this long poem supplies the text to the aria Estuans interius ira vehementi (burning with inner rage) that was set to music by Carl Orff in his Carmina Burana cantata. A metrical translation is provided by George Whicher in his Goliardic Poetry and by John Addington Symonds in his Wine, Women, and Song (1884). The Archpoet is a character in the novel Baudolino by Umberto Eco.

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