The piece is a four-voice chanson-motet. It follows the structure of a motet insofar as it has a cantus firmus line based on Gregorian plainchant in its tenor voice, but the structure of a chanson insofar as there is only one other text sung, in French, in the upper voices. The text is a poem in Middle French, presenting the voice of a mother lamenting the sufferings of her son and addressing God as her son’s father – evoking both the image of the Virgin Mary in the Lamentation of Christ, and the personification of the Church as the mystical mother of the faithful.
O tres piteulx de tout espoir fontaine,
Pere du filz dont suis mere esplorée,
Plaindre me viens a ta court souveraine,
De ta puissance et de nature humaine,
Qui ont souffert telle durté villaine
Faire à mon filz, qui tant m’a hounourée.
O most merciful fount of all hope,
Father of the son whose weeping mother I am:
I come to complain before your sovereign court,
about your power and about human nature,
which have allowed such grievous harm
to be done to my son, who has honored me so much.
Dont suis de bien et de joye separée,
Sans qui vivant veule entendre mes plaints.
A toy, seul Dieu, du forfait me complains,
Du gref tourment et douloureulx oultrage,
Que voy souffrir au plus bel des humains.
Sans nul confort de tout humain lignage.
For that I am bereft of all good and joy,
without anyone alive to hear my laments.
To you, the only God, I submit my complaints,
about the grievous torment and sorrowful outrage,
which I see the most beautiful of men suffer
without any comfort for the whole human race.