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Biography

Martín Codax (or Martim Codax) was a Galician medieval jogral (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 de 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.

The body of work attributed to him consists of seven cantigas d' amigo which appear in the Galician-Portuguese songbooks and in the 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 Pero 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 Vindel parchment musical notation (although with lacunae) survives along with the texts, except for the sixth one. They are the only cantigas 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 cantigas de amor of Denis of Portugal, also in fragmentary form.

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