Martín Codax

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Cantigas de Amigo (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Vindel MS M979)

Martín Codax (Galician: [maɾˈtiŋ koˈðaʃ]) or Martim Codax (Portuguese: [mɐɾˈtĩ kuˈðaʃ]) was a Galician medieval joglar (non-noble composer and performer—as opposed to a trobador), possibly from Vigo, Galicia in present day Spain. He may have been active during the middle of the thirteenth century, judging from scriptological analysis (Monteagudo 2008). He is one of only two out of a total of 88 authors of cantigas d'amigo who uses only the archaic strophic form aaB (a rhymed distich followed by a refrain). And he also employs an archaic rhyme-system whereby i~o / a~o are used in alternating strophes. In addition Martin Codax consistently deploys a strict parallelistic technique known as leixa-pren (see the example below; the order of the third and fourth strophes is inverted in the Pergaminho Vindel but the correct order appears in the Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional and the Cancioneiro da Vaticana). His dates, however, remain unknown and there is no documentary biographical information concerning the poet.

His work in the Pergaminho Vindel[edit]

The body of work attributed to him consists of seven cantigas d'amigo which appear in the Galician-Portuguese songbooks and in the Pergaminho Vindel (Vindel parchment). In all three manuscripts he is listed as the author of the compositions, and in all three the number and the order of the songs is the same. This provides important evidence to support the view that the order of other poets' songs in the cancioneiros (songbooks) should not automatically be dismissed as random or attributed to later compilers. Rather, the identity of the poems and their order in all witnesses supports the view that the seven songs of Codax reflect an original performance set, and that the sets of poems by some other poets might also have been organized for performance.

This parchment was discovered by chance: the antiquarian bookseller and bibliophile Pedro Vindel in Madrid found it among his holdings in 1913; it had been used as the cover of a copy of Cicero's De Officiis.

Martim Codax's poems that appeared in the parchment are the following (untitled, they are listed by their first verse):

  • Ondas do mar de Vigo
  • Mandad'ey comigo
  • Mia irmana fremosa treydes comigo
  • Ay Deus, se sab'ora meu amigo
  • Quantas sabedes amar amigo
  • Eno sagrad' en Vigo
  • Ay ondas que eu vin veer

In the Pergaminho Vindel, musical notation (although with lacunae) survives along with the texts, except for the sixth one. They are the only cantiga de amigo for which the music is known (and, if Codax was indeed Galician, the only medieval Galician secular songs; see Cantigas de Santa Maria). The Pergaminho Sharrer contains seven melodies for cantiga de amor of Denis of Portugal, also in fragmentary form.

A cantiga by Martin Codax[edit]

Here is the third of his songs (text from Cohen 2003, slightly modified; tr. R. Cohen)

Mia irmana fremosa, treides comigo

a la igreja de Vigo u é o mar salido
e miraremos las ondas.

Mia irmana fremosa, treides de grado
a la igreja de Vigo u é o mar levado
e miraremos las ondas.

A la igreja de Vigo u é o mar salido
e verrá i mia madre e o meu amigo
e miraremos las ondas.


A la igreja de Vigo u é o mar levado
e verrá i mia madre e o meu amado
e miraremos las ondas.


Lovely sister, come with me
To the church in Vigo where the sea is rough,
And we will gaze at the waves.

Lovely sister, come willingly
To the church in Vigo, where the sea is up,
And we will gaze at the waves.

To the church in Vigo where the sea is rough,
And my mother and my darling will come,
And we will gaze at the waves.

To the church in Vigo, where the sea is up,
And my mother and my boyfriend will come,
And we will gaze at the waves.

See also[edit]

Basic bibliography[edit]

  • Cohen, Rip. 2010. The Cantigas d’Amigo: An English Translation. https://jscholarship.library.jhu.edu/handle/1774.2/33843.
  • Cohen, Rip. 2003. 500 Cantigas d’ Amigo: Edição Crítica / Critical Edition. Porto: Campo das Letras. https://jscholarship.library.jhu.edu/handle/1774.2/33843
  • Cunha, Celso. 1999. Cancioneiros dos Trovadores do Mar, edição preparada por Elsa Gonçalves. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional/Casa de Moeda.
  • Ferreira, Manuel Pedro. 1986. O Som de Martin Codax. Sobre a dimensão musical da lírica galego-portuguesa (séculos XII-XIV). Lisbon: UNISYS/ Imprensa Nacional - Casa de Moeda.
  • Ferreira, Manuel Pedro. 1998. “Codax Revisitado”, Anuario de Estudios Literarios Galegos: 157-168.
  • Monteagudo, Henrique. 2008. “Ortografia alfonsí? Para a análise grafemática dos testemuños poéticos en galego da segunda metade do século XIII”, in Ferreiro, Manuel et al.. (edd.), A edición da Poesia Trobadoresca en Galiza. A Coruña: Baía Edicións. 141-160

External links[edit]