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POETIC HARMONIES

by PAUL HOFHAIMER,
a man distinguished by the rank of knight, and an excellent musician,
composed just before his death, and quite unlike anything seen before,
equally suitable for human voices and instruments,
and prefaced by a little book containing testimonials to Master Paul
by several erudite scholars;
together with selected passages from the poets,
suitable both for singing separately, or for reading aloud.
Printed at Nuremberg by Johannes Petreius, 1539.
With a privilege of His Imperial and Royal Majesty for five years.

[a1v]
To the most reverend father in Christ,
and most mighty prince,
Lord Matthaeus Lang, cardinal of the Holy Roman Church,
Archbishop of Salzburg,
His most merciful master,
Johannes Stomius sends greetings.

Most Reverend lord! Right unto the present, the fate of many men, and especially
that of Paul Hofhaimer, a truly noble man, has demonstrated the truth of Horace’s
saying that “the Muses prevent the praiseworthy man from perishing.”1 Since the
heirs to his property can boast of only the last remains of that wealth with which he
was anything but extravagant during his lifetime; and since noble birth is nowadays
the cause of envy, even becoming ridiculous when enjoyed by certain useless
individuals distinguished only by the golden chains of their order: what is left to
commend this great man and to promote his immortal fame, than to recall in the
memory of men the lively powers of his mind, to examine his talents and evaluate
them carefully? These cannot be appreciated anywhere more clearly than in his
offspring, that is, in his writings and in the success of his students. However, since
I saw that posterity snores nowhere more deeply than when people have to praise
others of equal or superior skill in the liberal arts—one can only despair for those
in a different field of study—it seemed a great shame to me that, either through
ignorance or the ingratitude of the age, people gave no more thought to Paul’s
memory, the one thing he most cared about. [a2r] For this reason I wanted to save
something, if only a shadow, of his memory from oblivion. I do not think that
anyone will find it dishonourable of me to publish material written by others, nor
will anyone blame him for deriving well-deserved glory from an image drawn by
others, since there is no lack of precedent for both things.
Though Paul lacked a perfect knowledge of literature, nevertheless he
followed learned men with sincerity and true affection, to the extent that you
might believe for this reason alone that he abounded in the many virtues he loved
and respected in others. And although he was endowed with a most fortunate
nature that could have been trained in any one of the liberal arts, he turned all his

                                                                                                               
1
Horace, Odes, IV.8.28.This phrase is the final verse of a section of text set by Hofhaimer.
attention to the cultivation of one alone, music, and strove to excel in that, thereby
to please the very best men. On his own terms then he gained the highest approval
of the learned men in whose footsteps he continually trod. In him they recognised
the divine genius that allowed him to be the first—let no one be offended at what I
say—to shed light on the art of music, to bring it from a state of disorder through
sure rules, and to expand its possibilities. They recognised and took exquisite
delight in his most gentle manners, which corresponded so closely to his musical
harmony, which revealed his love of what is good and honest, and which aspired,
even more than is usual in such men, to mix in the company of good men. For
although Paul had a reputation of being normally grim and severe, nevertheless
throughout his entire life he was cheerful when in the company of scholars, whom
in general he admired greatly. From this one can easily understand that there is an
unspoken harmony joining all the Muses in one mind, in sympathy and
friendship.2 That this happily befell Hofhaimer most of all is proven by these most
elegant panegyrics, written both in prose and verse, which give ample evidence
that our Paul lived in utmost familiarity with the most learned men. [a2v]
Moreover, I often remember him saying that he, already on the threshold
of old age, was not motivated by the desire for glory, but since the writings of
those great men had been preserved, he was reluctant to let them perish, not so
much for his own sake as for that of Germany as a whole, so that we might have
some means to defend ourselves against those foreigners who accuse us of being
ignorant in this art. I count myself very lucky that since I was frequently at his
house—indeed, I was virtually a member of his household—he used amongst his
other tasks to admonish me with all his charm, encourage me, and at last beg of me
to take up the task of copying out whatever of such writings were in his possession,
promising that he would not fail to repay my efforts.3 And though driven to
distraction by the other responsibilities of my employment, which often kept me
busy for entire days on end, what else could I do? Finally acceding to his cajoling—
for I could deny virtually nothing anything he asked—I promised to publish them,
all the more readily since this forest of praises was to be dedicated to your
Eminence. And that I might persist in my promise, he began to uphold his side of
the bargain, producing model settings of this or that poem for four voices, just as I
had requested him. Since these settings, real swan songs, delighted me so greatly, I
did not cease to push him on until he had finished weaving the whole set from the
same thread. For my part, I girded myself to the task with which I had been
charged, and certainly would have completed it, had he not died suddenly, just as
he was beginning to set the hymns of Prudentius after the same fashion.
Meanwhile, the fact that I hardly managed to save those fragments from
bookworms and moths proved how true it is that people take no account of those
who are absent, let alone those who are dead.4 [a3r] And had the lawyer Georg

                                                                                                               
2
Cf. Ausonius [ps.-Vergil], Idyll XX.10, The Works of Ausonius, ed. R. P. H. Green (Oxford: OUP,
1991), 677: “Mentis Apollineae vis has movet undique Musas.”
3
Asymbolus (ἀσύμβολος): a freeloader; cf. Terence, Phormio II.2.25; Horace, Odes IV.12.23.
4
The proverbial blattæ et tinneæ (moths and bookworms) are a reminiscence of Horace, Satires
II.3.119 and Martial, Epigrams XIV.37.2; the phrase became a regular element of the language of
literary criticism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. See Henk Jan de Jonge, “Die
Patriarchentestamente von Roger Bacon bis Richard Simon, mit einem Namenregister,” in
Marinus de Jonge (ed.), Studies on the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Leiden: Brill, 1975), 3–42,
Teisenperger not been so diligent about preserving the memory of the deceased,
those papers would have perished entirely, which would have been a great disgrace
to his relatives. There also exist some brand new settings of chant melodies in
score, which are worth publishing at some stage.
Now it was the custom of our Paul to observe all the rules of music
scrupulously, to express the modes (or tones, as they are called) religiously, to
notate even the shortest notes exactly, and to measure the rhythms, and thus
nothing lacked definite order. Nothing was indistinct in its timing, nothing
marred by gaps, nothing was ever dissonant, nothing harsh, nothing obscure,
nothing that was not always new, nothing that sounded accidental. But in that
most happy abundance and copiousness of his divine breast, each element flowed
so sweetly, so exquisitely, so finely attuned to the text, so full of variety, so devoid
of vulgarity whenever he set his mind and his hands to the task, that it seemed that
this alone had been his entire life’s study. Whatever excellence in the art of organ
playing is displayed by several people today, they must confess to have learned
under his instruction, even if it kills them to admit it. But to be sure, whenever
they try to dissent from him in any regard—if it should please the gods—and seek
to avoid criticism through a sheer mass of voices, they offend the ears and quote
Quintilian’s dictum that it is the nature of art to conceal art, although it is clear that
they never learned this art to begin with.5 In short, one might more readily criticise
Paul than imitate him.6
But finally, as regards these our harmonies, you will observe in them what
the Greeks call charis or grace, so successfully achieved, that from these alone
posterity might be able to tell how proficient Paul was in his art, as one might
guess the nature of a lion from its claws.7 For he sang the verses of the poets in such
a way that Mt Rhodope and the city of Ismarus were not so astonished by the song
of Orpheus as how Paul surpasses all who have achieved any glory in this kind of
composition, if one considers either his forceful melodies [a3v] or the narrow
confines of the genre. Although we know that not all the songs of the poets as a
whole have one and the same form, it is however a useful task to train children in
this way, both so that through play they should learn the poems by heart, and also
that they might begin to love music, until they are capable of varying the music as
their talents allow and according to the meaning, just as the ancients did.

Therefore we dedicate both works to you, most mighty prince, both


because he himself had once intended one of them for you, his most generous
patron and greatest admirer, and also because we know that you are a most
exceptional and at the same time a most fair judge of the entire range of the arts.
We ask no more than to know that you, who guarded his reputation while he was

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
at 22 n. 29; and Henk Jan de Jonge’s notes in Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert (ed.), The
Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger (Geneva: Droz, 2012) III, 437 n. 8; VII, 642 n. 24. Moser
(1966), 65, mistranslated as follows: “Als ich heimkehrte, fand ich (von Hofhaimers Werken) kaum
noch Bruchstücke, die Würmer und Motten unverschont gelassen.” This led Wagner (1975), 66,
to the unjustified conclusion that Stomius was absent from Salzburg when Hofhaimer died.
5
Quintilian, On the education of an orator XII.9.5.
6
A paraphrase of Plutarch, De proverbiis Alexandrinorum 41; cf. Erasmus, Adages 1184 (II.2.84), in
ASD III, 198–200 (Carpet citius aliquis quam imitabitur, Μωμήσεταί τις μᾶλλον ἢ μιμήσεται).
7
Erasmus, Adages 834 (I.9.34).
alive, might do likewise now that he is dead, and might likewise be a kindly patron
to all scholars, as generous as you have been until now. Farewell. [a4r]

A letter to the most reverend lord,


the cardinal of Gurk,
written by Joachim Vadianus of Switzerland
in praise of Paul Hofhaimer,
Knight of the Golden Spur and musician to the Holy Roman Emperor.

Illustrious philosophers have established, most excellent prince, that those things
that bring people pleasure are of two kinds. They assert that while there are many
things that relate to the stimulation of the mind [animus], and even more to the
excitement of the body, the intellect [mens] finds virtually its sole refreshment in
virtue and in the fine arts. They have said that the enticements of the senses derive
from the things that belong to the body, or from the association of bodies with the
things that relate to the the body. And although the senses are all of the body,
nevertheless there is a distinction between them; for some of them are subject
more properly to the flesh, others to the mind. The former senses, more extended
through the body, have a more obvious seat, like touch, the first of the senses,
which has sovereignty over the entirety of the flesh, even encompassing the hardest
parts of the bones. The latter senses, closer to the mind [animus], do not only not
burden the mind, but go yet further, miraculously aiding and satisfying it beyond
the specific pleasure derived from the objects placed before it. Senses of this kind
are vision and hearing, which more than the others are the judges of the arts and
ministers of knowledge, such that Aristotle was not rash in saying that vision is
especially apt to bring knowledge of things.8 For this reason these hold the place
nearest the citadel, as if through their vigilance all things might be safe, for we
know that the seat of the intellect and the memory is in that citadel.9 [a4v] I might
even be so bold as to place hearing before sight, perhaps for this reason particularly,
that we have often noticed that those who are born blind but not deaf often reach a
high level of proficiency in the liberal arts, especially in those that bring delight to
the mind. By contrast, deaf people, even if they have excellent vision, rarely if ever
make much progress, because they are not possessed of speech, or rather of voice,
from which all instruction proceeds. It seems to me that the next most important
reason for this is that hearing is generally the messenger of sound. The most
learned authorities have declared that the mind is affected by this more than can be
believed, and everyday experience shows that this is true. The classical writers
provide more evidence than I need to recount here that sound often moves people
to joy, tears, anger, meekness, love, play and dancing, not to mention the fact that
sound is an effective remedy to many illnesses. Indeed, since the nature of sound is
manifold, that type most closely associated with the human voice is held in highest
regard. Next is that kind which the Greeks call pneumatic and we call spiritual, that
is, that which is brought about by means of air. This is the kind of sound produced
by virtually all the musical instruments of our time, especially that which we call

                                                                                                               
8
Aristotle, Metaphysics 980a; cf. notes on the Latin text of this letter in Conradin Bonorand, Die
Dedikationsepisteln von und an Vadian, Vadian-Studien 11 (St Gallen: VGS, 1983), 128.
9
Cicero, De natura deorum II.140; Bonorand (1983), 128.
the organ, which is made up of ranks of many tuned pipes and which, in imitation
of ancient custom, is used particularly in the sacred liturgy. But it is remarkable
that just as a fair house loses its reputation if its master is wicked or ignorant,
likewise outstanding instruments, even if bought at great expense, are as nothing,
and fail to produce the sound desired by the mind and the ears unless played by
someone skilled in this art, for whom the instrument was procured for this very
purpose. [a5r] Consequently, the natural talent that fills the mind and permits one
to invent well-modulated sounds and sweet harmony is considered far more
outstanding than the charm of all instruments, but is only pleasing and intelligible
to us when, through the use of the instruments, it succeeds in awakening the
spirits of those that hear it.10 For placing a good musician before a beautiful
instrument is like infusing a beautiful and naturally wise soul into a beautiful body.
I have never observed this more vividly than when the Holy Roman
Emperor Maximilian was recently at Vienna in Austria, in anticipation of his
conference with the three kings, accompanied by a large retinue of dignitaries of
various ranks. Paul Hofhaimer of Styria was there amongst the other imperial
musicians, shining like the sun. Playing on the very beautiful and well made organ
in the Stephansdom, he seemed to me—I say this with no disrespect to the other
musicians there—not merely to exhibit a beautiful tone, but to lay bare his very
being and his genuine grace. Good heavens, what recherché grace (if I may call it
thus) is in his fingers, what art, what sonorous concord of distant sounds, what
finely honed and accurate skill! For in the entire sequence of pieces nothing was
out of place, and in his harmony there was nothing thin, nothing vile, nothing you
could wish to have been either sweeter or more graceful.11 When I have the
opportunity I shall leave behind to posterity, as best I may, some account of the
great genius of this man, and his grace, which surpasses all previous ages. But for
now, having made the acquaintance of this great man and having had the good
fortune to observe closely his upright mind and his most wholesome life, I could
not refrain from leaving some lasting evidence my respect for him. It is dedicated
to you, [a5v] most reverend prince, since Paul was born in that province which
some time ago elected you to be its ruler. For when you are made archbishop of
Salzburg, the see of which you are now coadjutor—something demanded both by
your merits and outstanding virtues, as well as by the fact that you are already
distinguished by the high rank of the cardinal, an honour given to Germans very
rarely—you will have sway equally over Paul and over his homeland.12 For I have
seen that he respects and venerates you as befits a prince, loves and courts you as
his lord and most worthy patron. First of all—something that offers a great
testimony of the great power of nature in human minds—he was by temperament
                                                                                                               
10
The [vis] inventrix of which Vadianus speaks here is that described by Ficino, Platonic Theology
VI.2, ed. James Hankins, transl. Michael J. B. Allen, 6 vols (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2001–
2006) II, 128: “[Anima humana] per 
seipsam agit, quando […] ipsa mera vis animae
incorporeaque incorporeum aliquid investigat et invenit, quod neque corpus sit neque corporis
alicuius imago […]” (“[The human soul] acts through itself […] when the soul’s pure and
incorporeal power tracks down and discovers an incorporeal something which is neither a body,
nor the image of some body […]”).
11
See also Johannes Cuspinianus, Congressus ac celeberrimi conventus Cæsaris Max. et trium regum
([Vienna]: [Johann Singriener the Elder], [1515]), c4r–v.
12
Lang was made a cardinal in pectore in 1511, Coadjutor of Salzburg in 1512 (with right of
succession), and Archbishop of Salzburg in 1519.
inclined to music from his earliest youth, particularly to the organ, unassisted by
his parents, who were very honest folk, nor evidently with the assistance or
support of anyone else, he reached the absolute consummation of that art through
private study, not by listening to other players, as most of us who are going to
distinguish ourselves in some art are accustomed to do.13 But he made progress
through private study, since in the meantime he had never left his native territory.
If the ancients considered it a marvellous gift of nature when people educated
themselves through private study, that is with no teacher showing the path they
should follow, why should contemporaries not also marvel at Paul as a unique
specimen of his art? Pliny recorded with admiration that the senator Manilius
distinguished himself with his great learning even though he had no teacher to
show him the way.14 And amongst those of our religion, St Augustine confirms in
the fourth book of his Confessions that he learned a great many things without the
assistance of a teacher.15 And Jerome indicates that his opponent Rufinus learned
Greek without a teacher.16 [a6r] As soon as we have the opportunity, we shall leave
some account to posterity of the way in which the musician Paul reached such
mastery of his art, such inventiveness, such grace, such skill, all without the
assistance of a teacher. I add that since time immemorial, there has been nobody in
Germany—in all Germany I say, a land that has produced many other men skilled
in music—who has taught his young students on such true and solid principles as
Paul, as his many students unanimously declare, and as a result of which they have
been able to bring their art to such maturity. I remember hearing him saying once
while we were speaking about these arts, that he had expended more effort
developing a method of handing down the principles of playing and handing these
down to willing students than one for making daily progress in his own playing. I
think that this is because it has never been never difficult for his mind,
distinguished by the gifts of all the Muses and Phoebus Apollo, to understand what
others of lesser gifts cannot but find difficult. However, he always added—for he is
a man of unusually frank expression—that he had never been made any the less
learned by continually having to think about how to pass on his instruction
succinctly, and that he had personally experienced was is frequently confessed by
practitioners in another field, academic philosophy: that a person who teaches
others faithfully himself becomes daily more learned. And in the following, unless
I am quite mistaken, he has followed his gift, though whether this has come from
art or nature I do not know: that much more than any other player I have heard,
when observing and exploring whatever tone is presented to him, it is his habit to
balance everything carefully while bringing out its particular properties. And
though displaying incredible variety, he would not easily admit anything to be
introduced, or suffer anything that might offend against the natural sequence of the
set melody. [a6v] In this matter many—though they are fooling only themselves—

                                                                                                               
13
Moser (1965), 3–5, suggested that Hofhaimer came from “eine alte Organistenfamilie,” and that
“dem Sohn sei die Musikbegabung vom Vater vererbt, der dann vielleicht zum Typ der
‘Patrizierorganisten’ […] gehört hätte.” However, Vadianus was evidently of the opinion that
Conrad Hofhaimer was not a musician, and that his son Paul was essentially an autodidact.
14
Pliny, Natural History X.4; Bonorand (1983), 128.
15
Augustine, Confessions IV.28; Bonorand (1983), 128.
16
Jerome, Adversus Rufinum I.30, PL 23, 441C; Bonorand (1983), 128.
persuade themselves that they have consumed much effort and exertion17 in this
kind of playing, but are normally so frivolous—I might even say insolent and
wanton—that even they cannot even forsee which cadence they will use to
terminate the melody. Moreover, Paul has the custom of harmonising plainsong
(which is nowadays generally called cantus choralis)18 with a variety and sweetness of
counterpoint, and finally by varying the rhythms and the metre, such that if
anyone else were said to do the same thing more sweetly or with more variety, I
would assert that such a person was no longer a human being, but something far
surpassing the level of human nature. Those who have ever listened carefully to
Paul believe this, as several people I know have testified to me. And since he
usually performs these feats in church, in the midst of the liturgy, no one can deny
that the genius and grace of this one man regularly add as much beauty to the
divine service as is normally achieved by many performers, even those who play
beautifully, tunefully and elegantly. For in the exercise of his hands and feet, and in
his masterful “application,” as they call it,19 however he shows it, it is agreed that
there is no mind to equal his, let alone one to outclass it. There is another detail in
his playing that is not only unfamiliar to others experienced in playing the organ,
                                                                                                               
17
Cf. Erasmus, Adage 362 (I.4.62); Bonorand (1983), 128.
18
Cf. Sebald Heyden, De arte canendi, ac vero signorum in cantibus usu, libri duo (Nuremberg: Johannes
Petreius, 1540), 2: “Quot sunt species Musicæ? Vulgo duæ traduntur, Choralis, & Figurata.
Choralis quæ est? Ea est, in qua simplex & penè unica Notularum forma, eodem colore, eandem
perpetuò quantitatem, extra omnem Augmentationem ac Diminutionem, retinet. Exemplo sunt
Cantiones, quarum quotidianus usus in templis habetur.”
19
The phrase magistralis applicatio is ambiguous. Moser (1965), 43, translates: “in seinem Fingersatz,
den man meisterhaft nennt.” Bonorand (1983), 128, considered this translation impossible, since it
presupposed the existence of the adjective magistralis, which is not found in classical Latin.
However, in mediaeval and renaissance Latin, the adjective magistralis can refer to things pertaining
to a master at school or university, such as his teaching chair, his sayings or his logical definitions;
see for example Thomas Aquinas, Catena aurea in Matthaeum, cap. 21, lectio 4; cap. 23, lectio 2; In
IV Sententiarum 4.1.2.2.1; Quaestiones disputatae de malo III.14; Quodlibetum III.4.1; cf. also René
Hoven, Lexique de la prose latine de la Renaissance (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 210. The word applicatio is
rare in classical Latin; Cicero uses it (De amicitia 27; De oratore I.177) to signify the attachment of a
client to a patron; see Oxford Latin Dictionary, ad loc. From the time of Chalcidius and Boethius, this
word becomes more common. It may be that Vadianus means to praise Hofhaimer’s devotion to
his students. In renaissance musical discourse, applicatio developed a technical meaning: the choice
of a particular tone for a given psalm. Gregor Reisch speaks of “the application of the tenors [i.e.
tones] to the psalms” (applicatio tenorum ad psalmos), explaining that “tenors are not applied equally to
all psalms, but some are applied to the lesser psalms, others to the more important psalms” (Tenores
non ęqualiter omnibus psalmis sed aliter minoribus atque aliter maioribus applicantur); see Gregor Reisch,
Margarita Philosophica (Freiburg: Johann Schott, 1503; VD16 R 1033), I7r. Stefano Vanneo,
Recanetum de musica aurea (Rome: Valerius Doricus, 1533), 36r–v, has a chapter (lib. I, cap. LVII)
called “On the solemn application of the tones to the psalms” (De Solenni tonorum applicatione ad
Psalmos). Hermann Finck complains of organists who in their search for novelty “forge their own
‘application,’ as they say.” See PRACTICA || MVSICA HERMANNI FINCKII […]
(Wittenberg: Heirs of Georg Rhau, 1556; VD16 ZV 5843), Oo2v–3r: “Satis igitur liquet, Tonorum
cognitionem maximè necessariam esse, adeoque præcipuum fundamentum & fontem suauitatis in
cantilenis. Mirari autem satis non possum, uanam quorundam Instrumentistarum recentiorum, &
præcipuè Organariorum ambitionem, inter quos tanta æmulationis concertatio est, quilibet ut
altero præstantiorem se haberi uelit. Ac quo facilius, & quidem sub plausibili specie, quod
intendunt, consequantur, propriam [Oo3r] quilibet applicationem, ut uocant, sibi fingit, ne ab alijs
quid didicisse, uel cum eis quid commune habere, uideri possit.” Vadianus is probably using this
meaning of applicatio; his awareness that this was a technical term is indicated by his phrase “as they
call it” (quam appellant).
but which, if someone were to claim it to be true, would even seem impossible:
that Paul, when improvising or accompanying the prescribed tone, plays on the
instrument’s manuals and pedals (as they are called today), running from the top of
the keyboard to the bottom, and from the bottom back up to the top, striking
suitable chords and employing most elegant cadences in such a way that they seem
to arise out of the natural sequence of the tone rather than being produced
artificially, since everything fits together naturally.20 For in his playing there are no
gaps, no awkward passages, [a7r] nothing constructed from ungainly leaps or
inelegantly spaced intervals, as one hears from many players nowadays, who do not
make the instrument sing but squeeze music out of it against its natural grain,
grinding out sounds against Minerva’s will, as the adage goes.21 But when people
hear his skilful playing (or rather, his artistry) live in person, they are astonished at
the man’s genius, but conclude that with a certain diligence one could reproduce a
similar inventiveness, but—and I have heard that several people have worn
themselves out in the attempt—they can only been able to imitate Paul’s
consummate grace like parrots who imitate human speech, repeatedly trying out
human words though they are utterly ignorant where they come from or where
they are going. Likewise, when they attempt this, they do not even tread in the
footsteps of that man, because in music, whether one regards the matter from the
theoretical or the practical aspect, Paul is accustomed to write very sweet songs
distinguished by uncommonly tasteful counterpoint. For that reason, as the most
learned men in that field judge, he does not merely merit praise from the crowd,
but the palm of victory. I have heard many people who have earned a considerable
reputation as musicians confess frankly that they look up to Paul for his sweet,
artful, various and very personal style of composition, and bear great respect for his
genius as one distinguished by rare talent in that art, bestowed by a gift of nature.
And since indeed it often happens that outstanding talents have no place at
the courts of great princes, it was due the outstanding elegance of his mind and his
manners that Paul managed, even as a young man, to appear frequently in the
courts and meetings of princes. And finally, just as he rose to very first place in his
art, just so he offered his service and his activity to none but the very highest of
princes, [a7v] the Emperor Maximilian, whom he has served now for many years,
such that he has earned glory not so much for himself as for his prince. Indeed, it
customarily happens that the names of princes, however august, are made even
more eminent and celebrated amongst mortals by the reputation and fame of the
outstanding men in their retinue. This was clear to Scipio Africanus who, though
himself clearly possessed of the spirit of a great prince, considered it to his own
credit that the poet Ennius was a member of his retinue. Scipio wanted some
monument to their association to exist even after his death, so he ordered that a
statue of Ennius should be erected by the tomb of the Scipiones.22 Pompey the
Great venerated Posidonius in the same way,23 and likewise other princes have
shown their regard for other famous men. In short, there is no truer mark of a
                                                                                                               
20
Bonorand (1983), 128, suggested that this passage was corrupt; taking this sentence as a rather
harsh constructio ad sensum, the implied referents of the adjectives geniti and redditi are probably the
soni arising from the consonantiae and clausulae.
21
Erasmus, Adages 42 (I.1.42).
22
Cicero, For Archias the poet 22.
23
Pliny, Natural History VII.112; Bonorand (1983), 129.
prince than if he loves, fosters and protects those endowed with exceptional talent
in the honest arts, for this is the way for them to achieve eternal remembrance.
The Emperor Maximilian has come to realise this with others, but especially with
Paul. For Paul, “whole of life and free of wickedness” (if I may quote Horace’s
phrase in passing),24 has offered his bounden service, and has never been seduced
into the kind of partisan politics in which the majority of people in the courts of
princes are engaged, and has never been compromised in his duty. When he was
living in Vienna, he considered nothing more gratifying or pleasing than the
approval of learned men, and could not easily be parted from them, except when
his duty called. And when he took vacations, he turned these into an opportunity
to study, to think and to come up with new ideas. This is quite different from the
lifestyle of most musicians these days, who, like many members of the poets’ guild,
who doubt that they are really musicians unless they act in a frivolous and slippery
fashion, who want to appear as though in the grip of some Platonic frenzy, who
engage in idiotic pranks on a daily basis, perpetually addicted to jokes, mutual
insults, [a8r] and other things best passed over in silence. Since it was not merely
his reason but also nature which bestowed their prizes upon his virtue,25 and since
(as Juvenal says) those people are truly noble who become famous for their virtue,26
it came to pass that Paul, deserving not so much for his outstanding erudition as for
the integrity of his life, was distinguished with the rank of nobility and admitted
into the company of nobles by the most sacred authority of the emperor. Later, at
Vienna, Ladislaus, the most illustrious king of Hungary, in the presence of two
other kings, King Sigismund of Poland, his brother, and Louis, son of the crowned
king of Hungary and Bohemia, drew his golden sword and dubbed Paul as a
Knight of the Golden Spur. Ladislaus touched him on the shoulders with his
sword, and the others gave their consent and agreement to the act. When this had
taken place, the emperor too graced him further with honours, for a range of still
more impressive achievements earned Paul an even higher rank of honour and
dignity. But through all of this, as far as I could tell, he remained unaffected and
true to himself, and not in the least odious to those around him, as almost
invariably happens to those recently distinguished by titles; as the adage goes:
“Honours change manners.”27 For there are few who are not flattered by fortune,
whose mind is not struck by honours, whose manners are not entirely changed
when they are covered in distinctions, even when they had previously been modest
and easy with their peers; such people become quite unbearable. But in the case of
our Paul, he is just as firm a friend, just as constant with his associates, even when

                                                                                                               
24
Horace, Odes I.22; Bonorand (1983), 129.
25
A verb such as contulerint must be supplied here.
26
Juvenal, Satire VIII.20; Bonorand (1983), 129.
27
Attested for example in Guerric of Igny, Sermo In assumptione beatae Mariae Virginis 2, Sources
Chrétiennes 202, 438; Polythecon I.25, ed. A. P. Orbán, CCCM 93, 31; Salimbene de Adam, Cronica,
CCCM 125, 191; Vincent of Beauvais, De morali principis institutione 9, CCCM 137, 50. See also
Samuel Singer and Ricarda Liver, Thesaurus Proverbiorum Mediiaevi (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1996) II,
359–360. This may be a Latin rendering of a Greek proverb transmitted in Zenobius, Epitome, I.21
(E. L. von Leutsch and F. G. Schneidewin, Corpus paroemiographorum graecorum (Göttingen:
Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1839) I, 7: “Ἄλλος βίος, ἄλλη δίαιτα.” Erasmus’ comment on this
Greek proverb is: “In eos quadrabit, qui commutata in melius fortuna, pariter et vitae rationem
moresque commutant”, Adagia 806 (I.9.6), ASD II, 328, ll. 92–93. But Erasmus translates: “Alia
vita, alia vivendi ratio.” Thanks to Henk Jan de Jonge for this note.
they little deserve it, just as full of good will to all men as he had been before. [a8v]
It seems to me that he learned the following lessons both through his own
prudence and also through the judgement of the learned men with whom he
associated: that he should not become proud because of the wealth he had gathered
through honest labour; because of his talent, though this was outstanding; because
of his honours, though he had been laden with these in all fullness; but rather, that
he should add humanity, affability and modesty to his other benefits, so that they
might thereby shine with more light and grace amongst mortals. For even good
qualities in a proud man are odious.
But I have wandered too far, most illustrious prince, and have forgotten to
respect the natural boundaries of a letter. The cause of my effusiveness is not the
affection which virtually compelled me to follow this man almost as soon as I had
met him; it was not my desire to become one of his followers; rather, it is the
merits of his great genius that have rendered me incapable here in this letter to
praise Paul’s art as I ought, his genius, manner and entire life, even if this letter
might seem much longer than is customary. However, I find this not so bad
knowing that you, o excellent prince, prelate endowed with the highest powers of
judgment, are well able to understand that many of Paul’s particular gifts are more
outstanding and more worthy of the benevolence and love of your Most Reverend
Paternity than I or any other common person, basing his judgment on external and
well known qualities, might describe. I hope that you, Most Reverend Prince,
might always fare well. Vienna, December 1517. [b1r]

To the musician Herr Paul Hofhaimer,


a man of most delightful and acute genius,
Knight of the Golden Spur,
by Joachim Vadianus.

I congratulate you, Paul, o glory of the Muses,


That your virtue has brought you worthy gifts,
Gifts which were previously reserved for feats of bravery,
And which today are given to none but to great minds.
Ladislaus, famous king of Hungary and glory of his land,
Has distinguished you with the honour of a knighthood,
Drawing his sword and testifying to your genius, your great art
And to your pleasing, simple faithfulness.
This was proven to you by the great Sigismund, king of Poland,
Terrifying in the just war against Muscovy.28
The crowd of nobles at court also stood by as your witnesses,
Amongst whom sat the emperor enthroned.
I pass over the rest of the crowd that was there for you,
Who might be witnesses in all places to the honour born to you,
And rightly too, for you win the prize
In the art of playing the organ,

                                                                                                               
28
A reference to the Third (1507–1508) and Fourth (1512–1517) Muscovite Wars, brought about
by Sigismund’s insistence that Moscow honour the terms of the truce signed in 1503 following an
earlier conflict.
No less nimble in fingers and feet than in your mind
To make the pipes pour forth their heavenly song.
You have earned the emperor’s favour on account of your rare art,
And have received gifts from the generous hands of kings.
May the gods give you as many long years as Nestor,
That you, Paul, may long enjoy this honour. [b1v]

Conrad Celtis, poet laureate,


sang this poem in praise of Paul Hofhaimer
of Radstadt,
prince of organists.

You who desire to recognise the glory of the Muse of the organ,
You who wish to learn the music of the organ,
Come and meet Paul of Radstadt,
A great man favoured by the court of the great Kaiser.
As a child he learned the art of the organ, as fate had dictated,
Creating beautiful melodies with voice, hands and feet.
For this reason the noble hero Sigismund, light of Austria,
Desired to number him amongst his own.
No one has been able to touch the singing pipes better than he,
No one better able to move the delightful plectrum with his hand.
For this reason his fame has spread throughout the entire world,
And he is known from east to west.
The land of Pannonia has entrusted its students to him,
The land of Mysia and Germany, from the furthest Ocean.
Not even the citizens of Venice have disdained such a teacher,
And crowds of French have marvelled at his new way of playing.
His glory and renown have grown so high
That he alone brings glory to the sacred chorus of the Muses.
When the Austrian archduke departed from this life,
The emperor desired to have such a great man
To adorn the divine service with his learned music,
As the regal snarled at his new manner of playing.29
Therefore whoever desires to learn the Muses of the organ,
Should imbibe his miraculous music with thirsty ear. [b2r]

                                                                                                               
29
Moser (1965), 21, notes that the misapprehension that Hofhaimer invented the regal is first
expressed fully by Johann Reusch, Stifftung vnd Prelaten vnser lieben Frauen Gottshaus, Benedicter ordens,
genannt zu den Schotten, zu Wienn in Osterreich, Anno Domini, M. C. LVIII. ([n. p.]: [n. p.], 1586),
F2v: “[…] Paul Hoffhaymer Organist von Saltzburg damals am ersten die Regal oder Portatif
instrument auff vnd furbrachte / vnd niemand kund drauff schlagen / als gleich nur eben er allein /
darumben er von höchsternennter Kay. May. zu ritter geschlagen ward. Also stehts im ausgangen
büechlein vnd Orationibus de congressu trium regum Viennæ.” I suggest that Reusch’s mistake
may be due to the fact that he was relying on the abbreviated German version of Johannes
Cuspinianus’s account, Der namhaftigen kay. Ma. vnd dreyer Kunigen zu Hungern Beham vnd Poln
zamenkumung vnd versamlung so zu wienn in dem Heymonat: nach Christi gepurd M. D. xv. iar geschehen
ain kurtze vnd warhafte erzelung vnd erklarung ([Vienna]: [Johann Singriener the Elder], [1515]; VD16
C 6484), d1r.
Fantin Memo to Paul Hofhaimer, best of musicians: greetings.

Paul, honour and glory of musicians! I was recently engaged in conversation with
my brother Dionisio, and not for the first time, about your supreme excellence in
music. He repeatedly and volubly praised you in the highest terms and at
considerable length, and led on by his remarkable enthusiasm, seemed quite unable
to find any end of telling stories about you. At the same moment we both came to
the conclusion that you rightly and richly deserve the prize as the most outstanding
exponent of this art by far. And indeed, as I ponder the matter in more detail, I
consider that when the best judges have heard your polyphonic music, an art in
which you are supremely talented, they will eagerly confirm this. It will not escape
them that this talent, so well developed in you, is not vouchsafed to everyone, but
is bestowed on a very few by some gift of providence, that the majesty of nature
might sometimes shine forth more clearly on the earth. As evidence for this may
be mentioned your very sweet compositions. You would never be able to unfold
such excellent harmonies, which seem almost carried down from heaven, had not
the spirit of God bestowed upon you this very special distinction. Moreover, when
the chorus of the Muses and the Graces attended at your golden birth (as the poets
write about you), they vied with each other to take up this new-born babe, so
indebted to their own divinity, into their lap, [b2v] strewn with springtime flowers.
They marvelled at your natural gifts, prophesying that you would soon be the
darling of all men, and when you had barely begun your studies of music they
inspired you with its basic principles. The way they brought you up was so
successful that they had no doubt that people would believe that you were truly
the foster-child of such nurses.
For who can more play the organ with more precision, running over the
keys with such sure and accomplished fingering? Who was ever possessed of such a
pleasing capacity to soothe the ears of his audience? The way you join individual
pitches to each other so smoothly could easily convince a listener that the sounds
elicited by your hands are virtually identical with the singing of a human voice.30
Indeed, people say that you do full justice to each sound, playing grand matters in a
lofty manner, joyful matters sweetly, and intermediate matters with grace,
compelling the entire structure of the piece to conform to the proper affects.

                                                                                                               
30
David Yearsley, Bach’s Feet: The Organ Pedals in European Culture (Cambridge: CUP, 2012), 75 n
12 writes: “Interestingly, one of the dedicatory poems by Fantinus Memmus, a relative of Memo,
for Hofhaimer’s Harmoniae poeticae (Nuremberg, 1539), praises Hofhaimer for his general mastery of
music, his heavenly melody, and his magical hands, but never mentions the feet, as if this aspect of
the German organ art did not indeed have purchase in Venice.” However, the fact that Hofhaimer
used pedals is mentioned in the testimonia by Vadianus, Celtis and Bonomo. It should also be
noted that Fantin Memo had apparently never heard or seen Hofhaimer. Curiously, on the next
page, Yearsley (2012), 76, acknowledges that Hofhaimer did use pedals: “We can assume that
Hofhaimer taught his Italian charge [Dionisio Memo] how to play like a German, and that he used
Bernhard’s Venetian pedals to their fullest. As an organ expert and virtuoso, Hofhaimer himself had
been called over the Alps at least one other time, around 1486 to Bozen (Bolzano), just north of
Trent in South Tyrol.” This is also not correct; in 1486 Hofhaimer travelled to Frankfurt am Main
for the coronation of Maximilian as King of the Romans [see Moser (1965), 17], but I am not
aware of any documentary evidence that he was in Bolzano at this time. Yearsley (2012), 39 and
101, also describes Hofhaimer as “the celebrated blind Innsbruck organist,” but he was neither
from Innsbruck nor blind.
For this reason, since everyone agrees that in the production of honest
pleasure, all the disciplines yield first place to the art of music; and since nothing is
thought to be more delightful, nothing more apt to make people more graceful,
then surely we must confess that you have pursued the highest felicity, if such great
happiness can exist in human affairs. For those who study the natural world strive
only to please those thinkers who are dedicated the contemplation of these
matters; dialecticians rejoice in competing with each other in disputations and
debates; and—not to spend too long on details—those skilled in poetry and
oratory require a learned audience. However, this heavenly gift of harmony
simultaneously reconciles all human gatherings and both sexes to itself, and
impresses various effects on their minds. [b3r] For it increases the joy of those who
are happy, and by winding its way around the innermost parts of those who are in
sorrow, it brings them comfort. It cools the mental disorder of those who are
prone to anger, and prompts them to act with more moderation. It restores
equilibrium to those boiling over with the snares of desire. It excites the
languishing powers of the mind and body, and finally brings healing to all human
travails.
For this reason, your talent has made you worthy of the company of the
most illustrious monarchs, and a fellow of the most influential lords. This same
talent has joined you in a pleasant bond of familiarity with people of all ranks and
fortunes, and has made your name famous amongst foreign nations, even those far
away, the object of great wonderment. It was therefore not without good reason
that those men of old who were considered both sages and seers held a place of
great respect amongst the company of the musicians. For they were quite aware
that this most celebrated art would contribute a great deal to amplifying their
virtues. As witnesses to this fact are Linus, Orpheus, Amphion, famous in the
records of the Greeks. The latter two were held to be so illustrious that one was
held to have built the walls of Thebes with the sound of his lyre (hence Horace
wrote the verses: “Amphion, founder of Thebes, is said to have moved stones with
his song”),31 and the other reached such a height of fame that the writers of
antiquity told the tale that he recalled his wife from the Underworld through the
sweet sounding harmonies of his lyre, as one can read in Vergil, amongst other
places: “If Orpheus was able to summon the shades of his wife, relying on his lyre
and its tuneful strings….”32 Therefore, those with a reputation for wisdom in
ancient times did not shy away from the study of music.33 And likewise, whoever
was said to be inexperienced in the exercise of this art—as Cicero and Quintilian
tell of Themistocles, a general who had won a distinguished reputation in war—
was considered to have an inadequate education.34 [b3v] And this art holds a serious
and distinguished place amongst the most serious concerns of the greatest kings
and princes. To take but one example, Probus [i.e. Cornelius Nepos], Plutarch and
many other writers testify that Epaminondas, that bravest of the Thebans, of all
Greek generals the most distinguished in both domestic and military affairs, took
                                                                                                               
31
Horace, De arte poetica 394–395.
32
Vergil, Aeneid VI.119–120.
33
Cf. Niccolò Burzio, Musices opusculum incipit: cum defensione Guidonis aretini: aduersus quendam
hyspanum veritatis preuaricatorem (Bologna: Ugo Ruggeri, 1487), A6r: “Denique in prouerbium vsque
grecorum celebratum est indoctos musicen abhorrere.”
34
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations I.4; Quintilian, On the education of an orator, I.10.19.
constant pains in the practice of this skill, to the extent of taking extensive
instruction from Dionysius, the most distinguished teacher at that time in the art
of playing the cithara.35 Cicero writes of him in his Tusculan Disputations: “The
Greeks believed that the highest learning was to be found in songs performed by
voice accompanied by strings. Therefore Epaminondas, whom I consider the most
outstanding of the Greeks, is said to have sung exceptionally well to the lyre.”36
Thus far Cicero. And Socrates too, the best of the philosophers, and the most
outstanding of moral teachers, did not blush to devote himself as a student of the
lyre.37 And I shall not leave Lycurgus wrapped in silence; amongst the very strict
laws that he gave to the Spartans, judged that music was to be admitted. Pythagoras
and his followers invested so much in this science that they said that it was
according to its laws alone that the hinges of the cosmos and their motions depend.
Aristotle’s Politics demonstrate how much he recommended music and encouraged
youth to learn it. How fortunate and blessed you are then! For there is no reason
why you, who are universally considered outstanding amongst the teachers of this
art, should not enjoy perpetual spiritual felicity. [b4r]
For these reasons Dionisio, speaking of your good deeds, declared that he is
so indebted to you that he insists that no attentive service or good turn on his part
will ever be able to repay what you so richly deserve. For you were not merely a
most faithful and kind teacher to him; you have that kind of character that you
took a parental concern towards him in your domestic arrangements. As a result of
all this, he promises that he will never forget the great responsibility you took for
him. And had he not been prevented by those savage armed conflicts that have
overwhelmed us for so many years now, he would have demonstrated at least
something of the enthusiasm that he feels towards you. However, in the meantime
he wanted to honour you with a small gift, so that when you wear it on your head,
it might remind you of your most devoted pupil. This gift is not shining with gold
or gems, but is skilfully and intricately embroidered. If you look at it carefully you
will see clearly that in the fine cloth there is much more work than is immediately
evident. Please also accept too the poem in which a certain famous poet once
summed up your praises at our encouragement and under our instruction. I was
also at pains to place this letter before the poem so that you might know of the
high regard in which I hold your skill, which can never be praised highly enough,
and so that there might be some relic for posterity to attest to the candour of our
friendship.
Finally, I would like to ask you this one thing most earnestly; indeed I trust
that I can insist that will kindly show your willingness to accede to my brother’s
wish. [b4v] For he requests urgently, with most solemn entreaties, that you share
with him some large-scale setting in five or six voices as soon as possible, well
wrought and including something really special, something worthy of your
workshop,38 something that seems truly to have emanated from the most fertile
breast of such a great artist. And if it is convenient for you, please to not delay in
                                                                                                               
35
Cornelius Nepos, Life of Epaminondas 2. Memo’s reference to Plutarch’s Life of Epaminondas is
evidently an exaggeration, since this work has not survived; see G. Shrimpton, “Plutarch’s Life of
Epaminondas,” Pacific Coast Philology 6 (1971), 55–59.
36
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations I.4.
37
Plato, Euthydemus 272c, 295d; Menexenus 235e.
38
Moser (1965), 41, mistranslates as “zu verbessern (‘auszuarbeiten,’ ‘zu intavolieren’?).”
showering us with pleasure. Therefore, drawing on the stock of your talents and
your goodwill towards us, please do not refuse to accede to our wish. For I am
bound to promise you that we will both strive always to remind each other of your
goodness towards us, and to show ourselves always grateful to you. Farewell.

While Memo loves you, Paul, and celebrates your name,


While he calls you his idol,
While he dares to rate your music higher than the song of Arion,
And prefers your playing to that of Orpheus,
While he says nothing could be truer than the praises heaped upon you,
He proves it through the following argument:
One might wonder that the dolphin, summoned by the strings,
Should have borne the lyre of Lesbos on its back;
Granted that it is a feat to have soothed wild beasts, wandering rivers, oaks,
And the guardians of the Underworld, Cerberus and the Eumenides;
Granted that Orpheus of Rhodope bent rude and rustic men with this cithara,
People you might describe as more like oaks or flint
Since we see that these rude, savage, unlovely and unskilled folk
Are more like rocks or cattle.
If there is any praise to be had in attracting this sort of men,
Then this prize must go to Menalcas, Meliboeus, Tityrus and Corydon.
Whenever Mopsus draws his wandering she-goats from the rocks
By playing his pipes, he too merits such praise. [b5r]
They believed that the forest responded to the singing of the Thracian lyre
When the air vigorously shook the foliage of the trees,
Or that the forest-tops seemed to bend to one side
And follow when they were whipped by Zephyrus;
And the cithara was invested with magical abilities
Merely because stones happened to be washed along by the foaming rapids:
This is the source of authority for the story
That Orpheus drew rivers, caves, groves, oaks, rocks and wild beasts.
But to you, o Paul, it is not only the humble forest-folk who have lent their ears,
Nor merely the chorus of the Dryads,
Nor is it simply the woodland gods, fauns and satyrs, half man and half goat,
Who gather joyfully at your song.
But whenever you wander about, drawing your fingers over the brazen strings,
A miraculous ornament amongst musicians,
Or when you skillfully bring the rounded pipes to life with your fleet hand,
Releasing the breath pent up in the bellows,
Then ranks of nobles, multitudes of worthies, clouds of poets,
Lords too run to hear you play.
But these are of secondary importance; diadems, sceptres, crowns, bishops,
Those considered almost divine, also gather to hear.
With her song, your Muse Terpsichore draws not merely those who are near
But also summons Antipodeans from the far side of the world
While your repute, with Fame at the stern,
Traverses climes seen by the sun as its rises, stands at its height and as it sets again.
To you Rome entrusts the ears of its youth to be enchanted,
To you the flower of the Venetian patriciate comes.
To you comes many a guest from the cities of the east,
From those warm climes to those lying under the chilly North Star.
Nowhere is there a people or nation so barbarous
That you cannot bend them with the lure of your sweet song.
While there is nothing respecting the honour of voice or plectrum
In which you do not surpass all others,
Even if admirers were to come from the whole world to witness,
Were not their desire frustrated by the Alps, by rivers, ponds and lakes; [b5v]
For the Caucasus, Haemus, Athos, snow-covered Rhodope and Atlas,
Stand like solid walls preventing them from approaching from afar.
Some are blocked by the Euphrates of Babylon, others by the swift Tiber,
Churning with its rapid waters.
The Nile and Eurotas, Ganges, Tanais and Caister
Block them on all sides with their spreading, treacherous waters.
The Sirens would bend their ears to your song
Did they not inhabit the territory of Verona, the land of the Heliades.
Even if it were easy to travel to hear him, and no obstacles prevented your return,
None of those things that slow the traveller’s journey,
Spaniards would come to hear the melody of your plectrum,
Thracians, Scythians, Persians, Cilicians, Phrygians, Getans, Parthians and Arabs.
And why not? For all our innermost parts are captured by his music-making,
Even those below the level of reason.
There is scarcely any other art that can bring one so close to the gods
Than following a pursuit by which God himself is worshiped.
For surely, whenever you work the organ with the fleet movement of your fingers,
You reconcile the hosts of heaven with God himself.
Who could deny that the entire race of the stars, all the heavenly ranks
And all below the heavens are governed by the Muses?
Those born of Mars celebrate his harsh contests in song,
But once the accent of the song has changed, these contest fall languidly.
There is nothing so fierce that it does not put off its angry threats
And its fierceness when it hears a well-modulated voice.
At the gentle sound anger is stilled, and the hissing of the Furies is silenced;
The lyre can bring dreams and hold them in check.
Without music, the soul, which slipped down from heaven into our limbs,
Cannot return from whence it came.
For this reason singing accompanies the husk of the soul,
That with song as guide, the soul might fly back whence it came.
Through song flagging courage is sustained,
But when it threatens to rise too high, it falls again as the voice sinks down.
That there are rhythms in the heart, the seat of the veins,
Hierophilus learned from the rhythmical pulse.39 [b6r]
As a result, he discovered the ways in which the lyre, under his fingers,

                                                                                                               
39
Cf. Burzio (1487), B1r: “Vnde illud Hierophili artis medicine clarissimi dictum. Cum quid
loquimur vel intrinsecus venarum pulsibus commouemur. per musicos rythimos [sic] armonie virtutibus sociatum
esse probatur [Isidore of Seville, Etymologies III.17].”
Might be more delightful to the sick, without anything marring their enjoyment.
Thus every kind of ill is lessened by song,
Such that Hippocrates offers less help than he who sings to the lyre.
Groups of dancers are joined in mixed array
When the rustic folk blow their bagpipes.
Musicians are employed to play at the feasts of kings,
And wedding ceremonies require adornmenet with sweet-sounding song.
The delightful sound of the lyre banishes mourning from the mind,
And returns old cheer to its fortress.
But why should we wonder at this? Who would deny
That all things are softened by song, that nothing is greater than song,
When it alone is enough to drive fish and birds alike into traps
And entwine them in snares?
The swan sings, and Procne’s sister, the nightingale, is well practised in song;40
The phoenix, presaging its own fate, sings sweetly.
Even though I have come thus far, I still have not explained in full
The venerable power of the voice.
It would be easier for me to circumnavigate the globe in a vulnerable ship
Than to enumerate the various good offices of Euterpe.
With what words shall I adorn you, o high priestess of song?
How shall I pile praise upon praise to rise to your heights?
Shall I approach what should be recalled with the deep voice of thunder
Merely with my chattering, buzzing reed-pipe?
Might I even step over the venerable threshold of your praises,
When my brow is not garlanded with flower buds?
I, who have no voice, no skill on instruments,
Shall I not be like a bull or an ass at the lyre?41
This task awaits someone taught by your hand,
To wafts the sweet perfume of Arion’s art.
This task is more fitting to Memo,
Who recently gave me a bronze portrait of you.
This sign of Memo’s dedication towards you was exceptional,
A great witness and pledge of his exceptional friendship. [b6v]
But in fact it would not mean much to survive only as a portrait,
If your good reputation were not also a byword amongst the nations.
For this reason, since you are alive through the art of portraiture, Paul,
You should enjoy also eternal memory for your mental talents.
Therefore, accept this poem, the work of a sincere mind,
As a fulsome enumeration of your great honours.
With your lineaments graven in my verse no less clearly than if in marble,
May you escape the obliterating flow of oblivion and time!
Accept it so that, in exalted veneration of the Graces,
In whose name you rejoice, you might enjoy long life.
Meanwhile there will be no lack of those who venerate,
Honour and admire your works, and worship your image.

                                                                                                               
40
Ovid, Metamorphoses VI.424–674.
41
Erasmus, Adages 335 (I.4.35).
In honour of the musician Paul,
first amongst organists,
a poem by Pietro Bonomo of Trieste.

You, whoever you are, whose mind is delighted by the sound of the organ,
And who always seek out its ornate sounds,
Approach the capital of Austria with joy,
For here your ear will find music to bring it refreshment and instruction.
Whatever the Thracian bard sang by the waters of his native Hebrus
When he drew the woods, rivers, rocks and wild beasts;
Whatever the songs with which he is said to have tamed the spirits of hell
When he went to visit his spouse;
Whatever songs Amphion of Thebes learned by heart
And played skilfully upon his lyre;
All this has Paul surpassed, under the guidance of Apollo,
As his well-trained hands run up and down the organ.

To the most learned and celebrated gentleman,


Herr Paul Hofhaimer, Knight of the Golden Spur,
First of the musicians in the chapel of His Imperial Majesty,
a small letter
by Philipp Gundelius of Passau.

O Paul, peak and glory of the harmonious Muse,


Whose equal has not been seen for centuries:
So that your songs, interrupted by my poem,
May strike those ears grown accustomed to them more pleasingly,
Take a short break and turn your attention to my trifles,
But a break which, as is appropriate, relieves charming things with serious ones.
Whether you, Paul, unfold a new work before the emperor’s ears,
Wrought by the divine labour of your genius,
Or run your fingers over the sweet keys with your melodious fingers,
You alone are worthy to hold the imperial ear.
So fully has the sweet Grace taken possession of your mind,
So firmly has delightful Venus set up her throne in your breast,
That never did Apollo more skilfully touch his golden lyre
In the Aonian cave at the Muses’ behest.
Nor did the walls of Laius, marvelling at Amphion as he sang,
Come together so well from the moving stones.
With his song Orpheus moved the Odrysian woods,
But in comparison with you, alas how rustic he seems!
That dolphin who bore Arion of Molivos,
How unequal was his burden to you,
For you excel them both in your genius and your well-cultivated art,
Just as the moon, Phoebus’ sister, shines brighter than all the stars.
Whether the myths simply give sense to dumb things,
Or a mystic truth lies hidden beneath the veil of fiction,
Nevertheless, antiquity, once so marvellous to us,
You must confess (if I may be so bold) that you are simply too crude. [b7v]
For after all, how much skill did a living man actually require
To take an oak, cut from its stump, wherever he wished?
Even if you do not move rocks or have mastery over the lairs of wild beasts,
Though you do not sit upon the slippery back of a fish,
Nevertheless this age, rich in greater miracles,
Places your name on an even higher level.
The emperor himself, deeply experienced in every art,
Rejoices in your skill and your talent,
And distracted from his grave responsibilities over the common weal,
Arises, ready to take them up again, thanks to your playing.
It is not a dolphin, stones or beasts that follow you;
The entire world, set in the ear of its king, is in your thrall.
The many gifts you have received at his sacred hand
Testify that you have always merited his well-deserved favour.
The many honours freely conferred upon you are a testimony of such weight
That you do not have to place any store by those silly Greek stories.
Through the skilled reports of those who sing your praises, your fortunate talent
And your skilled hand are now celebrated throughout the entire world.
May you and the great Emperor both live long and prosperous years,
Each ever worthy to enjoy the greatness of the other.

A tetrastichon by Pietro Bonomo


To accompany the portrait of Paul Hofhaimer.

Of Paul, who played the organ with ease, with hands and feet,
Whose fame shall survive for ever,
This small tablet bears the image,
An offering worthy of the Muses by Lucas of Saxony.42 [b8r]

On the building of the house of Paul,


first amongst organists,
by Pietro Bonomo of Trieste.

Paul, who soothes the ears of the Emperor of Austria


When he flies across the grand organ with his skilful hand,
Is pleased to build his dear house here,
Which he shall later bequeath to his heir.
May the gods grant his line to survive long centuries,
And may each one who dwells in this house live many happy days.

                                                                                                               
42
Lucas Cranach (1472–1553), court painter to Friedrich the Wise of Electoral Saxony. Cranach’s
portrait of Hofhaimer is not known to have survived. On Hofhaimer’s links with the Saxon court,
see Matthias Herrmann, “Der Torgauer »Orgelkongress« und Paul Hofhaimer,” in Salmen (1997),
169–178.
Riccardo Sbruglio, poet,
On the heraldic arms of Paul Hofhaimer.

The arms which the emperor gave you out of love for your virtues,
Are appropriate to your merits, illustrious Paul:
Your honesty corresponds to the white, the red corresponds to the Muses’ ardour:
May the colours of Austria belong to the nation’s servant.

Willibald Pirckheimer,
for the noble title given to Hofhaimer.43

On account of Paul Hofhaimer’s mental talents and natural skill, for the exquisite
elegance of his way of joining rhythms and melodies, and for his consummate skill
and self-evident virtue in playing the organ, the Emperor Maximilian decorated
him with these heraldic arms, and moreover honoured him with the rank of
nobility. At the sight of such glory, King Ladislaus [of Bohemia] honoured him
with the dignity of a knight, that he, not knowing how else to recompense the
splendid gifts of such a man, might at least do so with a gift of shining gold. [b8v]

On the construction of the house of Herr Paul, first amongst musicians,


begun in 1530,
a tetrastich by Christoph Stathmio.

The house speaks.

Though admittedly a small house, I am dear to my great owner,


Paul Hofhaimer, prince of the Muses.
For he wished to entrust the remaining years of his life to my care,
And to adorn me with the arms earned though his art.

Johannes Stomius wrote the following lines


to be written on the same house.

You who are delighted by the musical glory of the famous Paul,
Behold the narrow threshold of Hofhaimer’s house.
It may seem small, but here Apollo with his mighty godhead
Poured forth a swan song to the stars.
And the organ, to him most dear of all things, will always have him as its master,
As is proven by his contribution to the development of this art.

To the most famous musician Paul Hofhaimer,


first amongst organists,
an epitaph, placed in devotion.

His ghost speaks to the traveller.

                                                                                                               
43
Moser (1965), 28, wrote that Pirckheimer “wohl um 1485 Hofhaimers Schüler in Innsbruck
gewesen ist.” There is no evidence for this assertion.
No artistic skill can halt the progress of our life,
Which rules our failing limbs on their uncertain path,
Neither morals, nor patriotism, nor the grace of kings,
Nor a generous hand dispensing gifts.
I now speak in full knowledge of this fact, dear traveller:
No one can bend the will of the implacable Fates. [c1r]
I who lay here, a naked and lifeless corpse,
Was famous in the days of Maximilian.
My skill, strengthened by nature and long practice,
Gained me the glorious favour and firm affection of the emperor.
For my entire life I taught this skill, and the most powerful men in Europe
Knew me as a celebrated teacher of the organ.
But now, as you see, I lie here, a corpse shut up in the darkness,
And a marble slab weighs down my buried limbs.
If you love the name of Paul, and if you treasure the art
In which he excelled, shed a tear upon this stone.
Pray for the souls of the departed, for their eternal life and their rest;
Of all we are, only our reputation shall survive.44

Another memorial inscription for the same.

Traveller.

Paul, you who imitated the harmonies of heaven and earth, lie here.
What are you doing? Alas, the cruel Fates!
He was the messenger of the gods, who was able to teach mortal hearts rightly
The sound of the stars.

One of the Fates.

You are mistaken: Unable to bear


That Paul had lived so long on earth, Jupiter complained.
For this reason, that the heavens too might swell with joy,
He summoned the skilful hands of Paul to his realm.
Jupiter rewards his talent, morals and ethical conduct,
And loves his skill entirely and wholeheartedly.

By Joachim Vadianus,
an admirer of his talent and skill.
Vienna,
1 August 1513.

Another, by Riccardo Sbruglio.

                                                                                                               
44
Cf. Ovid, Tristia III.7.50: “Me tamen extincto fama superstes erit.”
Here lies buried the prince of the art of organ playing, Paul Hofhaimer of
Radstadt, whose most rare and equally faithful talent was greatly admired from his
youth, first by the most illustrious Archduke Sigismund of Austria, then for many
years by the invincible Emperor Maximilian. On account of his astonishing
proficiency in music and his very honest way of life, he acquired not merely the
splendour of nobility and of the rank of knight, but even acquired an immortal
name amongst all the nations of Europe. For this reason he is the eternal glory not
only of his family and his territory, but even of all Germany. May God, the greatest
and the best, grant rest and heavenly felicity to him and the souls of the faithful
departed. Amen.

On the tomb of his father.

Here you lie, Conrad, while your son adorns your name
And raises it to eternal glory in the stars.
Why is Paul remembered with such reverence on earth?
He was the invincible master of harmony.45

Epitaph for Margaret Zeller,


wife of Paul Hofhaimer,
by Riccardo Sbruglio.

Here lies the excellent wife of Paul Hofhaimer,


Worthy of her husband, the first amongst organists,
Margareta Zeller is buried here, bearer of an illustrious name.
You who approach, please pray for her eternal rest! Farewell. [c2r]

Johannes Stomius,
On the heraldic arms of Paul Hofhaimer.

Paul richly deserved his illustrious decorations through his musical talent,
Ennobled by the strength of his genius.

An epitaph for Hofhaimer by Stomius.

Here in this place lies buried Paul Hofhaimer,


Who cultivated music with upright conduct, with genius and manual skill.

On the settings of Horace


by Paul Hofhaimer,
a poem by Franciscus Paedoreus of Salzburg.

As the swan, singing of its own death,


Utters a sweet melody with its tuneful tongue,

                                                                                                               
45
Moser (1965), 3 and 9, argued that the words Harmoniæ inuictus ille magister refer to Conrad
Hofhaimer, but it is clear from the context that they refer to his son Paul, who had brought honour
to his father’s name through his own fame.
When it senses from its failing voice that it too must perish,
From the depths of its throat it pushes out the last of its song.
Likewise, as ghastly death beat on Paul Hofhaimer’s roof,
At whose command music had there been cultivated,
The Muses tweaked his ear and encouraged him in his dismay
To produce these harmonies with their suave rhythms.
From these you will sing of games, feasts and loves,
Poems sprung from learned minds, joined to music.

Epitaph for Paul Hofhaimer,


by Johannes Stomius.

I Paul Hofhaimer, famous throughout the entire world,


Lie here; my tuneful Muse shows who I was. [c2v]

A hexastichon in praise of
the most outstanding musician,
Herr Paul Hofhaimer, knight,
by Hieronymus Anfang.

Read, gentle reader, of the exceptional mental endowments


Of Paul, prince of the harmonious Muse,
Although it is admittedly rare that in one person so many qualities excel
To make such a man shine out before all the world;
But we are to celebrate his virtue with worthy prizes,
He must be decorated in all metres of verse.

An epitaph for the most outstanding musician,


Paul Hofhaimer,
knight of the Golden Spur,
by Hieronymus Anfang.

Paul Hofhaimer, famous organist and prince of the Muses


Lies buried in this tomb,
Mourned by the Nymphs, Dryads and the Greek sisters,
And bewailed by all lovers of musical instruments. [c3r]

Otmar Luscinius,
from his book on music.46

What use is it to enumerate all the excellent musicians of the first rank, who were
so thoroughly imbued with music that it completely cleansed their minds of vice?
If a future historian wished to make a catalogue of such men, he will properly
begin his list with Paul Hofhaimer, as Aratus began with Jupiter, or Quintilian

                                                                                                               
46
Extract from Otmar Luscinius, Musurgia seu praxis musicæ (Straßburg: Johann Schott, 1536), 15–
16.
with Homer.47 He was born in the Austrian Alps, not far from Salzburg, and was
granted a noble title by the Emperor Maximilian; for whenever he plays the organ
during the divine service, he holds the emperor by the ears and draws his mind
wherever he will. Besides that he was already ennobled by his incomparable genius
and the consummate skill of his invention. The same debt that Rome owed to
Romulus or Camillus is owed by the entire art and science of music to Paul, its
restorer. The way he handles music has a great innate gravity, and no less charm.
He does not bore anyone by playing too long, nor make himself contemptible by
not playing long enough. Whenever he stretches out his hands and his mind, all
that emerges is clear and fluent. There is nothing bare of ideas, nothing cold,
nothing that ever languishes to any extent in that angelic harmony. On the
contrary, everything proceeds from a fertile vein and open passage, seething full of
sap. The astonishing suppleness of his joints allows the sublime majesty of his
playing to continue uninterrupted. And nor is it enough for him to play something
merely erudite unless it also sounds delightful and florid as well. Everything he
plays is so well proportioned that if you were to take away a single detail, you
would sense clearly that integrity of the harmony had been compromised. [c3v] His
playing possesses such variety that if anyone were to hear his playing even for
several years, he would wonder less where all the Ocean’s streams come from, than
where he finds all his musical material. And it has never happened that this great
man, who has been teaching his students for some thirty years now, and has greatly
surpassed many who have strained every nerve in mastering this art, has ever been
surpassed or even equalled. Finally, to be brief, I see that what Quintilian said of
Cicero is now commonly confirmed:48 namely that anyone knows that he is
already beginning to make progress in music if he takes great pleasure in that of our
Paul, and strives night and day to imitate him as closely as possible.

THE END.

                                                                                                               
47
Quintilian, On the education of an orator X.1.46.
48
Quintilian, On the education of an orator X.1.112.