Notker the Stammerer: Quid tu, virgo

This is day fourteen of the A-toZ Challenge in which I attempt to blog every day (excepting Sundays) during the month of April. During this month, I am curating a collection of “classical” music pieces, which are lesser known or by lesser known composers (to me at least).  Today’s composer is the medieval composer Notker the Stammerer (840-912).

I chose Notker, simply because his attribution as “the stammerer,” which is probably the least politically correct name I’ve ever heard, strikes me as funny and sad at the same time. Amazingly learned, he studied at the monastery of the Swiss town now known as Saint Gall. There he became a monk and the school’s librarian. He is famous for having written a book of anecdotes from life of Charlemagne, who died a few years before Notker’s birth. The book focuses on Charlemagne, whose virtue it praises and members of his family.

Musically Notker, wrote the “Liber hymnorum” (book of hymns) which were mnemonic poems that helped one replicate the pitch of songs sung during the mass. The earliest manuscripts of musical notation date from the time of Notker and are house in the monastery where he lived.

Below is the Latin text which appears below the Youtube performance of Quid Tu, Virgo. The Latin was accompanied by a French translation, which I translated into English.  It concerns the Slaughter of the Innocents, mentioned in the book of Matthew.

Quid tu, virgo

(my translation from the French translation of the Latin Text)

Mater, ploras,Rachel formosa,

Iacob delectat ?

Ceu sororis aniculae

lippitudo eum iuvet

!Terge, mater,

Quam te decent genarum rimulae ?

Heu, heu, heu,

qui me incusatis Fletus

incassum fudisse ?

Cum sim orbata

qui solus curaret,

Qui non hostibus cederet

angustos terminos,

quos mihi

Jacob adquisivit,

quique stolidis fratribus,

quos multos, pro dolor,


esset profuturus.

Numquid flendus est iste,

qui regnum possedit caelestie?

quique prece frequenti

miseris fratribus

apud deum auxiliatur ?

Oh beautiful mother Rachel, why these tears, you

whose face gives such joy to Jacob?

As if the red eyes of your older sister

Could be agreeable to him.

Wipe them, mother

It would be unbecomming to have your cheeks

Streaked with tears

Ah, Ah, Ah,

Why are you accusing me

Of shedding tears in vain?

When I am deprived of my son,

The sole solace to my poverty

Who would not have yielded to enemies

The narrow house that Jacob bought me

And which would have helped all the stupid brothers

That I gave birth to. Alas.

Must you cry about it?

You who possesses the celestial kingdom

And who, helps his miserable brothers,

through your constant prayers to God?


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

3 Responses to Notker the Stammerer: Quid tu, virgo

  1. kvennarad says:

    Fascinating that there is 10c music extant. I wonder how authentic the non-classical pronunciation of the Latin text is; I’m aware that various sounds changed in ecclesiastical usage over the centuries.


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