Animal Pictures in Gallus' Moralia

  • Danilo Pokorn


Gallus used also for his secular music the Latin language, indicating the contentual difference from madrigals by designations "Harmoniae morales", "Moralia", – in a free translation: "Golden Lessons". They are characterized by moral seriousness and the ethical idea, yet among them there are also a few pictures from the animal world. Their total number is eight, six in the collection "Harmoniae morales" (1589, 1590), and two in the posthumously-issued collection "Moralia" (1596). In these compositions the author reproduces the characteristics of various animals, mostly the voices of domestic and wild fowls, "Currit parvus lepulus" (HM 3) portrays the young hare trying to escape from the hunters, "Gallus amat Venerem" (HM 6) the cock's courting and crowing, "Quam gallina sum parit ovum" (HM 7) the cackling of a hen before and after laying an egg, and "Dulcis amica veni" (HM 21) is a song of praise of a nightingale, while "Permultos liceat cuculus" (M 27) is about a cuckoo, which can sing but its own cuck-oo, although it has been singing for years and years. These compositions are clearly pictures of the animal world, whereas the other three are clearly moralia, i. e. compositions treating facts of life with admixture of instructive suggestions drawing on pictures from the animal world. In this respect the outstanding one is "Anseris est giga" (EM 47), in which the composer renders imitations of the goose, the coocku, and the raven; ""Linguo coax ranis" (HM 46) introduces beside the raven a new soloist – the frog; and in "Qui cantum corvi" (M 26) we again come across the croaking of the raven. All in all, these are brief compositions of bright moods, sometimes coming close to the chanson, but especially based on onomatopoetic elements which impart to them a peculiar colouring and charm. Even if the total number of them in Gallus' entire ouevre is not big, the composer belongs among those composers of his time who explored motives from the animal world comparatively often and in an artistically convincing way. With such works he has expanded the motifs of his art by subjects that were in his time in vogue, has enriched the vocabulary of his musical idiom and thus demonstrated new dimensions of his creative talent.


Download data is not yet available.
How to Cite
PokornD. (1985). Animal Pictures in Gallus’ Moralia. Musicological Annual, 21(1), 17-32.