Carmina Burana is edgy. And to think that the lyrics are based on manuscripts discovered in a monastery! In contrast to their sacred hiding place, these poems are decidedly secular. Check out this excerpt from “The Courts of Love” section of the piece:
If a boy and a girl
happy is their union;
good sense far behind,
and inexpressible pleasure fills
their limbs, their arms, their lips.
Yes, the lyrics of Carmina push the envelope. Even the way the piece is set up tells you it’s not the work of a prude: the sections are titled, “Springtime,” “In the Tavern,” and “The Courts of Love.”
Take the section about the tavern. It starts out with:
When we are in the tavern,
we spare no thought for the grave
but rush to the gaming tables
where we always sweat and strain.
What goes on in the tavern
where a coin gets you a drink,
if this is what you would know
then listen to what I say.
Later the song talks about the way members of every class and profession drink, creating visions of nuns imbibing alongside soldiers, travelers, and even the king and the pope! The vivid imagery surprises.
Perhaps the most famous part of the piece is the epic “O Fortuna” that starts and ends it. Those lyrics ring true without the risk of offending:
Like the moon
treats us badly
then with kindness
making sport with our desires,
and poverty alike
to melt like ice.
But don’t worry about the edgier stuff – this really is a family friendly event. After all, the lyrics are in Latin and German, so unless you’re fluent in both, you might never know how titillating some of these songs really are!