I was enthusing to a friend about the Philharmonic’s upcoming performance of the Carmina Burana when the woman sitting next to me said “It’s disgusting that pagan music is going to be performed in Savannah.”
I gave her a quizzical look and said “Pagan music?”
“Yes” she replied, glaring at me “It shouldn’t be allowed, and you should be ashamed of yourself for singing it”. She finished her beer and left.
I rolled my eyes and dismissed her comments as an aberration. However, I’ve come to find out that she isn’t alone in her misguided opinion of the Carmina “non-Christian”. Medieval Europe was tough, unrefined and earthy but I wouldn’t call it pagan. The Catholic church held sway over every day life.
According to the church, paganism includes any religion that doesn’t worship the one revealed God; that’s anything except Christianism, Judaisim, and Islamism. Considering that many of the poets were clerics (one was even a bishop) and the rest, while secular, were almost certainly Catholic, one can hardly say that the poems in the Carmina were written by pagans.
Many of them are certainly bawdy and sensual but many are religious and moralistic. The poems can be grouped into 4 categories: satirical or moralizing; celebrating spring and love; gambling and drinking; religious content. The themes of the collection are as common to the 21st century as they were to the 11th and 12th: fate and wealth are fickle; life is ephemeral; joy when spring arrives (no central heating and no mild winters – it’s not Savannah); pleasures and perils of drinking and gambling. Satire was often used to teach moral lessons, and the Carmina is full of the hazard of allowing human frailty to triumph over virtue.
You only have to read the translations to see that not much has changed during the intervening centuries. But wait, that would take doing a little research; taking the time to educate yourself. I’ve yet to hear this opinion from someone that is actually familiar with the text and history of the Carmina.
Personally, I think that God has already bought his ticket….you should do the same.