Stabat Mater

views updated


A hymn that was traditionally sung during Lent. It was also prescribed as a sequence for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It was suppressed at the Council of Trent, but was restored to the Mass in 1727. This venerable poem is probably of 13th-century origin, but its authorship is attributed variously to St. bonaventure, jacopone da todi, and even to Pope innocent ii, who lived a century earlier. A notable number of scholars point to Da Todi as author, since two 14th-century codices and the 1495 edition (Brescia) of the sequence attribute it to him. While it cannot be denied that the composition's general tone and sentimentality parallel that of Da Todi's poems, strictly stylistic comparisons yield uncertain and even disputable results. Recent scholars, such as M. Casella and L. Russo, are not impressed by the arguments in favor of Jacopone's authorship.

The chant setting uses the simplest of melodic lines, applied in strophic fashion with the same tune for each single versicle. Although early sequences, devised as they were to conform to the Jubilus of a preexistent alleluia, were unrhymed and of irregular meter, the Stabat Mater, as a late sequence, evidences the regular meter (most often trochaic) and more intricate rhyme scheme that most scholars date from the 12th century. Again, like all true sequences, the poem is cast in double versicles, or couplets. The rhyme scheme of the first couplet, AABCCB, is duplicated in each of the nine subsequent couplets:

Stabat Mater dolorosa/Juxta crucem lacrimosa/Dum pendebat Filius. Cuius animam gementem/Contristatam et dolentem/Pertransivit gladius.

The end rhyme of the versicles is supplemented by additional rhymes between the first two segments of each versicle.

Bibliography: f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 436442. g. reese, Music in the Middle Ages (New York 1940). g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (New York 1959).

[l. e. cuyler]