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Muito faz grand’ erro, e em torto jaz

Galician Song – Cantiga de Santa Maria n. 209

Muito faz grand' erro, e em torto jaz (He commits a great error, and is grievously wrong) is one of the 420 poem-songs called the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Songs to Holy Mary). These Cantigas were written under the aegis of King Afonso X the Wise (13th century) in honor of Our Lady and are accounts of Marian miracles sung in the Galician dialect, which is still to be found in some areas of Northwest Spain and Northern Portugal.

The Cantigas have survived in four manuscript codices: two at El Escorial, one at Madrid's National Library, and one in Florence, Italy. These manuscripts are richly illuminated with narrative vignettes and colored miniatures showing pairs of musicians playing a wide variety of instruments. The compilation of the Cantigas is one of the largest collections of monophonic songs from the Middle Ages and is characterized by the mention of Our Lady in every song, while every tenth song is a hymn.

Cantiga 209, Muito faz grand' erro, e em torto jaz, describes how King Don Alfonso of Castile fell ill in the city of Vitoria and had such a severe pain that his courtiers thought he would die from it. The doctor prescribed hot cloths to be placed on the parts of his body where he felt pain, but he refused, and asked instead for the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Songs to Holy Mary). They laid the book upon him, and he was cured. (1)

The Cantiga teaches confidence in Our Lady's mercy, and that "he who denies the goodness God shows him commits a great error and is grievously wrong."

Muito faz grand' erro is here interpreted by Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX.

Old Galician Text (2):

Muito faz grand’ erro, e em torto jaz,
a Deus quem lhe nega o bem que lhe faz.

1. Mas em este torto per rem nom jarei
Que nom cont’ o bem que del recebud’ hei
Per sa madre Virgem, a que sempr’ amei,
E de a loar mais doutra rem me praz.

2. E, como nom devo haver gram sabor
Em loar os feitos daquesta senhor,
Que me val nas coitas e tolhe door
E faz-m’ outras mercees muitas assaz?

3. Porém vos direi o que passou per mi,
Jazend’ em Bitoira enfermo assi
Que todos cuidavam que morress’ ali
E nom atendiam de mi bom solaz.

4. Ca una door me filhou [i] atal
Que eu bem cuidava que era mortal,
E braadava: “-Santa Maria, val,
E por ta vertud’ aqueste mal desfaz.”

5. E os físicos mandavam-me poñer
Panos caentes, mas no-no quix fazer,
Mas mandei o livro dela aduzer;
E poserom-mi o, e logo jouv’ em paz.

6. Que nom braadei nem senti nulha rem
Da door, mas senti-me logo mui bem;
E dei ende graças a ela porém,
Ca tenho bem que de meu mal lhe despraz.

7. Quand’ esto foi, muitos eram no logar
Que mostravam que haviam gram pesar
De mià door e filhavam-s’ a chorar,
Estand’ ante mi todos come em az.

8. E, pois virom a mercee que me fez
Esta Virgem santa, senhor de gram prez,
Loaro-na muito todos dessa vez,
Cada um poendo em terra sa faz.

English Translation (3)

Refrain (beginning, and after every verse):
He commits a great error and is grievously wrong,
Who denies the goodness God shows him.

1. Into this error, however, I shall not fall
By failing to tell of the good I received from Him
Through His Virgin Mother, whom I always loved
And to praise pleases me more than anything.

2. And how should I not take great delight
In praising the works of this Lady,
Who assists me in trouble and takes away pain
And grants me many other mercies?

3. Therefore I shall tell you what happened to me,
While I lay in Vitoria so ill
That all believed I should die there,
And did not expect a good recovery for me.

4. For such a pain afflicted me
That I believed it to be mortal.
And I cried out: “Holy Mary, help me,
And by thy virtue (merit) dispel this malady.”

5. And the doctors ordered to be placed on me
Hot cloths, but I did not wish to have this,
But I ordered that her book be brought;
And they placed it on me, & at once I lay in peace,

6. I neither cried out nor felt anything
Of the pain, but at once I felt very well;
I gave thanks to her for this,
For I know full well that my affliction saddened her.

7. When this occurred, many were in the place
Who expressed their great sorrow
At my suffering and began to weep,
Standing before me all as in a line.

8. And so they saw the mercy she granted me,
This Holy Virgin, Lady of great worth,
They all praised her greatly,
Each one prostrating himself to the ground.

lyrics and music Muito faz grand' erro Cantiga 209

For a high-resolution JPG version, click here.

For a PDF version, click here.

For a facsimile of the original manuscript, click here.

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Muito faz grand' erro Cantiga 209

King Alfonso teaches his subjects about the mercies of Our Lady.
From the Prologue of the Escorial Codex, here.

For a high-resolution JPG version of the above illumination, see here.

  1. Translation adapted from Songs of Holy Mary of Alfonso X, The Wise: A Translation of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, by Kathleen Kulp-Hill, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Tempe, Arizona, 2000.
  2. Text courtesy of José-Martinho Montero Santalha's 2021 critical edition, here.
  3. Ibid. footnote 2

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