TheRoman de Fauvel

The Roman de Fauvel is a long poem by Gervais de Bus written in two parts, the first completed in 1310, the second in 1314. Gervais earned his living as a clerk in the chancellery of the kings of France from 1313 to 1338. His poem bitingly satirizes social corruption along the general model of the well-known tale of Reynard the Fox, versions of which date back to the late 12th century. The wily fox Renard is replaced by the conniving ass Fauvel. The very name Fauvel is full of hidden meanings. It is an anagram built from the initial letters of the vices Flatérie, Avarice, Vilanie (depravity), Variété (fickleness), Envie, and Lascheté (cowardice). Besides the word's derivation as an anagram, it also represents Fauvel's color, a dirty reddish-yellow (fauve), and his thinly veiled falsehood (Faux-vel).

Fauvel obviously struck a responsive chord, for the poem became enormously popular. All told, Gervais' poem was preserved in 12 manuscripts, though only one of these has music. This forms the first important collection of Ars Nova pieces. The extensive musical interpolations were chosen by Chaillou de Pesstain (c. 1316). Fauvel's music dates from 1189 right up to 1316, most of it to Latin texts and most of it monophonic. From a purely historical point of view the thirty-four motets comprise the heart of the collection, forming as they do a contemporary anthology of the entire early history of the motet, from the early 13th century to the latest works of Philippe de Vitry.

IID: The Ars Nova In France