“O Fortuna”

“O Fortuna” in the Carmina Burana manuscript (Bavarian State Library; The poem occupies the last six lines on the page, along with the overrun at bottom right.

O Fortuna” is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem written early in the 13th century, part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana. It is a complaint about Fortuna, the inexorable fate that rules both gods and mortals in Roman and Greek mythology

…”O Fortuna” topped a 2009 list of the most-played classical music of the previous 75 years in the United Kingdom

(Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Fortuna)

About the composer:

Music and the Holocaust: Orff, Carl

Carl Orff at the piano, 1942.

Carl Orff remains something of an enigma in the musical history of Nazi Germany.  As an artist, the odds seemed stacked against him when the Nazis came to power: it was expected that the composer would become yet another victim of the Third Reich’s oppressive cultural policies.  Yet Orff managed to establish a place for himself and his music within Nazi Germany.  Like that of Paul Hindemith and Ernst Krenek, Orff’s music was often categorized as ‘degenerate’.  But the artist’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the regime paid dividends.  By the early 1940s, his music was celebrated by many Nazi elites, and his Carmina Burana was one of the most popular pieces in Nazi Germany.


Carl Orff – O Fortuna ~ Carmina Burana

O Fortuna [lyrics in Latin]:

O Fortuna
Velut luna
Statu variabilis
Semper crescis
Aut decrescis;
Vita detestabilis
Nunc obdurat
Et tunc curat
Ludo mentis aciem,
Dissolvit ut glaciem.
Sors immanis
Et inanis,
Rota tu volubilis
Status malus,
Vana salus
Semper dissolubilis,
Et velata
Michi quoque niteris;
Nunc per ludum
Dorsum nudum
Fero tui sceleris.
Sors salutis
Et virtutis
Michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
Sine mora
Corde pulsum tangite;
Quod per sortem
Sternit fortem,
Mecum omnes plangite!

Here they are again, translated into English:

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing,
ever waning,
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice
fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
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,
everyone weep with me!

Leave a Reply