Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir
(Ballade 34) is a song of which Machaut was especially proud. The lyrics are the product of a competitive lyric ‘joust’ between Machaut and a certain Thomas Paien, one of the composer’s real-life peers at the cathedral of Rheims, which forms an interlude in the story. In the narrative, Machaut laments how Thomas composed his own lyric (Quant Theseus
) first, thereby taking ‘all the grease from the pot’ in terms of poetic conceits and imagery. Machaut endeavoured to surpass Thomas’s effort by providing a greater number of extravagant images, many from classical mythology. But from his comments to his lady, it seems that where Machaut considered he had trumped his opponent was in the musical setting he crafted for the two poems. Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir
is unusual in its scoring for two equal texted voices over two accompanying lower voices. The novelty of this song and its lyrics may explain why these were imitated and quoted by a variety of Machaut’s contemporaries.
from notes by Yolanda Plumley © 2013