Ego sum abbas Cucaniensis – too much drinking and gambling?

Last night I heard the Wokingham choral Society sing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The highlight was a brilliant rendition of the drinking song of the “Abbot of Cucany”, who boasts that if he drinks with someone all day in the tavern by the evening that person has lost his clothes. The baritone soloist was Grant Doyle. The next song in the cycle explains that in the tavern they gamble to excess as welll as drink too much, and that is where the money goes.
The songs are based on the poems of the wandering scholars or goliads of the Middle Ages, who sung of Fortune’s turns, of love, singing and drinking. The songs and the poems in Orf’s version have a life and a passion which is tremendous. The Choral Society did it full justice with their strong performance.
Listening to that medieval world recorded in verse is like peering under the seats in a cathedral at the misericord carvings to see those scenes of everyday life long ago. The Abbot of Cucany reminded us that just as our present condition drives too many to excessive drink and gambling, with government promoted gaming and high taxes on drink, so too did conditions in medieval Europe.


  1. Freeborn John
    March 30, 2008

    People should be free to do what they want, so long as they do not cause anyone else nuisance. Even if drinking, smoking or gambling can be harmful to the individual, and those who indulge to excess are looked down upon by society, the criminal law should still not be prevent adults from engaging in such activities so long as they affect no-one else adversely. Since the state must raise revenue somehow I think it fair that it taxes the consumption of these vices at whatever rate maximises its revenue as any other rate will mean higher taxes on more worthy activities to the detriment of society at large. And by licensing the sale of these things the state can attach conditions such that publicans, casino owners etc. are effectively co-opted into ensuring their customers cause minimum nuisance to their locality in a way that say pimps or drug dealers do not.

    The main reason that gambling, alcohol, and tobacco are legal, but other vices are not, is custom. The medieval songs reflect a society in which the church was strong enough to ensure that its own (often illiberal) views of what is wrong were often imposed as the criminal law on all of society, including on followers of other faiths or non-believers that see no evil in the act. There is a desire in all of us that what we find distasteful should not be tolerated in others even when they find it agreeable and it does us no harm that they do it. But is seems to me that the causes of individual liberty, public order and a reduced burden of taxation on more wholesome activities are all better advanced by legalising, better regulating and taxing the provision of ‘immoral’ activities rather than falling back to the instinct to prevent others from doing what we think they ought not to.

  2. Bazman
    March 31, 2008

    Ego sum abbas is quite close to Ee bah gum!
    If you are as stupid as myself.

  3. Anoneumouse
    March 31, 2008

    Feudal dee dee, Feudal dee da

    and we are all now EU Villeins

  4. Matthew Reynolds
    April 1, 2008

    The more things change the more they stay the same ! People who do not learn from the errors of history are thus doomed to repeat them !

  5. Matthew Reynolds
    April 1, 2008

    The more things change the more they stay the same ! People who do not learn from the errors of history are thus doomed to repeat them !

  6. Rose
    April 4, 2008

    If you happen to be back in Cardiff tonight you may "Witness a dramatic, sinister and chilling concert with the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales with Bristol Choral Society at St David's Hall on Friday 4 April." (Thierry Fischer conducting La Damnation de Faust, a period piece morally but Berlioz at his best.) I wish our MP came to our concerts.

  7. Casino Junkie
    May 18, 2009

    TOO much Drinking and Gambling might destroy your life.
    Just be moderate on both…
    it helps you become a better person..

  8. Rakeback
    September 7, 2009

    I think all these are bad things from the relegious point of view of Christians.That is the simple reason why these all are illegal in this part of the world

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