Efforts to uncover biographical data in the text of Jacob Obrecht's motet Mille quingentis have led scholars to minimize the significance of the poem's figurative language. Written in response to the death of the composer's father, the text is a hybrid of different poetic styles, a reflection of the rich web of literary and cultural practices that lies behind it. Allusions to the poetry of Vergil figure more prominently in the motet than has been previously recognized. Other examples of the kinds of allusions found in Mille quingentis, drawn from a wide range of works, demonstrate that Obrecht was here participating in a more general commemorative practice, wherein the assimilation of well-known classical texts served to express private sentiments using a "public" language newly charged with meaning. A consideration of texts that possibly mediated his use of Vergilian language and themes (among them a treatise of Johannes Tinctoris) suggests that the motet's biographical significance lies principally in what it can tell us about Obrecht's intellectual background and tendencies, as well as his engagement with the humanistic literary environment he would have encountered during his first stay at the Ferrarese court.
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