The earliest reliable source of the L’homme armé
melody is a late-fifteenth-century manuscript in Naples, which contains six anonymous Masses based on the song. The text may be translated, ‘Fear the armed man. Word has gone out that everyone should arm himself with a haubregon1 of iron’, which may refer to a crusade against the Turks (see Lewis Lockwood in Grove, 1980). This Neapolitan version of L’homme armé
poses two unresolved problems; whether it was originally a monophonic song or the tenor of a lost three-voice chanson; and whether it originally had any more verses, as the refrain structure rather suggests.
from notes by Peter Phillips © 1989