SEPT SOEURS

In France, the underlying principles of talismanic magic were adapted to
poetry by the seven figures known (after the seven stars of the Pleiades)
as the Pleiade. The leader and most important poet of this group was Pierre
de Ronsard (1524-85). Among the others were Jean Dorat, Joachim du Bellay,
and Jean-Antoine de Baif. The members of the Pleiade experimented extensively
with the magic puissance of poetry, especially when set to music. Drawing in part
on Dante’s theory of allegory, and anticipating the principles of later symbolist
writers, Ronsard spoke of his and his collegues’ work in terms that might well be
applied to alchemical texts. He described ‘how one must dissemble and conceal
fables…and disguise well the truth of things with a fabulous cloak in which they
are enclosed…’ Thus the poet might ‘make enter into the minds of ordinary people,
by agreeable and colorful fables, the secrets which they coud not understand when
the truth is too openly disclosed’.

Perhaps inevitably, aspects of Hermetic and Kabbalistic mathematical magic
found their way into the Church, where they were adapted to Christian music.
They were applied most frequently in the cult of the Virgin. The number seven,
for example, was deemed especially sacred to Mary, symbolizing the seven joys
and seven sorrows ascribed to her by Church tradition. Thus, in 1498, the Dutch composer Matthaeus Pipelare wrote a seven-part song for the Feast of the Seven
Sorrows. Another composer, Pierre de la Rue, wrote two masses for the same feast,
the dominant motif in each consisting of a seven-note phrase. Marion masses in
seven parts became increasingly common. And during the sixteenth century, the
English composer Thomas Tallis wrote a number of works dedicated to the Virgin
which comprised verse texts of seven stanzas.

-Biagent & Leigh ‘The Elixer and the Stone’

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