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Over and over, the poet calls Fortune veiled and shadowed; ravaging and healing; and treating human life as a game. Indeed, in this song, the poet is not having a good time.

What are the lyrics to ‘O Fortuna’ from Carmina Burana?

Two key differences separate this poem from the other. This stanza invokes Fortuna, the classical goddess—the classical bald goddess. As the poet explains, Fortuna is a lovely woman with a lovely head of hair. But when you go to seize the day, there is nothing there to grasp—Fortuna is bald. She cannot be grasped—fortune cannot be controlled by humanity.

Carl Orff - Carmina burana – ‘O fortuna’

Here it is, our explicit Wheel of Fortune—always turning, subject everyone to it. The poet portrays himself as crushed beneath the bottom of the wheel, but he warns that even the person at the top must beware. Fortune is the empress of the world and she does not care about you.

So C aveat ruinam : beware of ruin. Here, indeed, is our calamitous Dark Ages of disaster and death, where harvests fail for seven years straight and kings lose their thrones to their once-beloved rebelling sons.


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The poem starts off almost…dubiously admitting the system is not as bad as it could be? The manuscript tells a different story. O Fortune, like the moon you are changeable, ever waxing and waning; hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it; poverty and power it melts them like ice.

Luc Arbogast - O Fortuna

Fate — monstrous and empty, you whirling wheel, you are malevolent, well-being is in vain and always fades to nothing, shadowed and veiled you plague me too; now through the game I bring my bare back to your villainy. Fate is against me in health and virtue, driven on and weighted down, always enslaved. So at this hour without delay pluck the vibrating strings; since Fate strikes down the strong man, everybody weep with me!

Carmina Burana/O Fortuna Lyrics

It has a lean, un-stuffy quality that I think complements the spirit of the work. You are commenting using your WordPress.


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