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The Archpoet (Medieval poetry)

The Archpoet’s life circumstances must be deduced from the content of his poems. Because he designates Rainald of Dassel as Archbishop of Cologne, the Archpoet was probably alive between 1159 (when Rainald became archbishop) and 1167 (when he died). Furthermore, all the Archpoet’s datable poems fall between 1162 and 1164.

The Archpoet’s irreverent, hedonistic lines about drinking in “the tavern” are reminiscent of later work by Rumi and Omar Khayyam, so he may have been influential beyond his seeming anonymity. The Archpoet may also have been an early “model” for anti-establishment poets like William Blake and rebellious singer-songwriters like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Kurt Cobain.

The Archpoet left us ten poems, all written in Latin. The best-known poem, “His Confession,” appeared in the Carmina Burana manuscript, a collection of medieval Latin and German writings. The Archpoet is considered to be an exemplar of the Goliardic school of poets, along with Hugh Primas of Orleans, Pierre de Blois, Gautier de Châtillon and Phillipe the Chancellor. The Goliards wrote bibulous poems: satires and parodies in which they lampooned the Catholic Church over the excesses and abuses of its clergy. […]

In any case, by the 14th century the term “goliard” had become synonymous with “minstrel” and no longer referred to rebellious clerics. The term “goliard” survives in “jongleur,” which appears in Chaucer and in Piers Plowman. A jongleur was a juggler, a jester, a court fool, an acrobat, a troubadour and/or a minstrel. The jongleurs were the original entertainers — singing, dancing and cavorting for tips.

Source: The Archpoet: His Confession, translated from the Latin by Helen Waddell

The Archpoet (c. 1130 – c. 1165),[1] or Archipoeta (in Latin and German),[2] is the name given to an anonymous 12th-century author of ten medieval Latin poems, the most famous being his “Confession” found in the Carmina Burana manuscript (under CB 191). Along with Hugh Primas of Orléans (with whom he has sometimes been confused),[nb 1] he is cited as the best exemplar of Goliardic poetry[3] and one of the stellar poets of the Latin Middle Ages.[4]

Knowledge about him comes essentially from his poems found in manuscripts:[5] his noble birth[6] in an unspecified region of Western Europe,[7][8] his respectable and classical education,[9][10] his association with Archchancellor Rainald of Dassel’s court,[11] and his poetic activity linked to it in both content and purpose.[4][12] As such, it has been speculated that the bibulous, extravagant personality emanating from his work could be only serving as a façade despite its apparent autobiographical trend.[13]

Source: Archpoet – Wikipedia


Clerici vagantes (Medieval wandering clergy)


Ars dictaminis (Medieval composition)


  1. Tim B.


    “While some recent—and so far inconclusive—attempts have been made to identify the Archpoet as either one of two Rodulfuses from the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa’s entourage,[14] his real identity has never been found and is most likely lost for good. […]

    There has been report of at least two other “clericus vagus”, itinerant clerics, bearing the “Archipoeta” pseudonym or title around that time: one Nicholas who briefly resided with the Cistercians at their abbey,[18] and Henry of Avranches (around 1250);[19] yet both are distinct from the “Archipoeta” of Barbarossa’s reigning period (1155–1190). “

  2. Tim B.

    “The Archpoet is a character in Italian writer Umberto Eco’s 2000 novel Baudolino.”

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