Saturday, 29 September 2012

Potatores exquisiti! You students, join the party and get drunk!

When looking through the book Mediaeval Latin by K.P. Harrington, published in 1950, I saw this poem, listed as Carmina Burana 179.  Strange enough it does not correspond with my edition of the Carmina Burana, a bilingual Latin-German edition. However, poem 202 in this edition is very much the same, but with more strophes and some textual variations, for instance the first line `O potores exquisiti’. Strange, are there two different editions? Anyway, this song is one of the many songs sung by students and scholars going from university to university all over Europe. They were called vagabundi  `the roamers’ form Latin vago. And wherever there are students, there are parties, where sometimes a little bit more is consumed than the WHO would advise.
This lighthearted song takes up that theme:

Potatores exquisiti,
licet sitis sine siti,
et bibatis expediti
et scyphorum inobliti,
scyphi crebro repetiti
non dormiant,
et sermones inauditi

Potatores exquisiti: vocative
potator: drinker,  toper, boozer
exquisitus:  excellent, exquisite
sitis: thirst
bibo (3): to drink
expeditus: free, unimpeded (Latin can use an adjective where English requires an adverb)
scyphus: cup
inoblitus + gen: not forgetting
crebro (adv): repetedly, often
repeto (3) : to demand anew, retake
inauditus: unheard of. i.e. talks which are not heard when people are sober
prosilio: to spring up, break forth

Qui potare non potestis
ite procul ab his festis,
non est locus hic modestis
Inter letos mos agrestis
et est sue certus testis

procul (adv): far away
modestis: substantized adjective
laetus: gay
mos agrestis modestie: agrestis is predicate to mos: `the way of modesty is’ or in better English: `modest behavior  is’.
agrestis: litt: `pertaining to the land’. In the Lewis and Short dictionary you will find `wild, coarse, boorish, clownish’ etc.. Classical Latin was the Latin of the urbane upper class…  here `clownish, ridiculous, stupid’ fits the context.
ignavia: laziness, worthlessness

Si quis latitat hic forte,
qui non curat vinum forte
ostendantur illi porte,
exeat ab hac cohorte:
plus est nobis gravis morte,
si maneat,
si recedat a consorte,
tunc pereat.

latito  (1): to hide (frequentative of lateo.  A frequentative is a verb that denotes that an action often takes place)
forte is used twice, but in with a different meaning and actually from different  roots. The first is an adverb from fors (gen. fortis) `chance’ (cf. fortuna), so `by chance, perhaps’, the second forte is from fortis `strong’ and goes with vinum.
curo: to take care for
ostendo (1): to show.  ostendantur  the plural is general: who ever… they are shown the way out!
cohors, -ortis: company
plus est nobis gravis morte = (ille) est nobis plus gravis morte. (plus gravis morte = gravior quam mors)
recedo (3): to go away
consors,  -ortis: company, group (meant is the company of potatores exquisiti)
pereo = per-eo: to go down, perish

Cum contingat te prestare,
ita bibas absque pare,
ut non possis pede stare,
neque recta verba dare,
sed sit tibi salutare
semper vas evacuare
quam maximum.

contingo (3): to happen
praesto (1): to stay
absque pare: and without `the mate’ (of wine: i.e. water)
verba do = dico, loquor
sit tibi salutare potissimum semper vas evacuare: may it be to you to greet always the biggest cup for emptying
quam maximum:   `as deep as possible’,  `to the bottom’.

Dea deo ne iungatur,
deam deus aspernatur,
nam qui Liber appellatur
libertate gloriatur,
virtus eius adnullatur
in poculis,
et vinum debilitatur
in copulis.

dea is pure water,  deus is wine
iungo (3): to join together, unite, marry
aspernor: to dispise
Normally wine was mixed with water, but this was something not done amongst vagabonds.
Liber: Roman god equated with Bacchus/Dionysus, the god of wine, but also a pun on liber `free’ as the next line shows.
virtus eius: the virtue of the goddess
adnullo (1): (Eccl. Latin) to cancel, annihilate
debilito (1): to crush
in copulis i.e. in the wedding of wine and water

Cum regina sit in mari,
dea potest appellari,
sed indigna tanto pari,
quem presumat osculari,
nunquam Bacchus adaquari
se voluit,
nec se Liber baptizari

cum: as long as
indigna tanto pari: not worthy for such a match (Liber)
praesumo (3): to expect, presume (subject: dea)
osculor (1): to kiss
adaquor (1): to fetch water
sustineo (2): to endure

Here is a (rather free) translation by HelenWaddell from her Mediaeval Latin Lyrics, published in 1929:

To you, consummate drinkers,
Though little be your drought,
Good speed be to your tankards,
And send the wine about.
Let not the full decanter
Sleep on its round,
And may unheard of banter
In wit abound.

If any cannot carry
His liquor as he should,
Let him no longer tarry,
No place here for the prude.
No room among the happy
For modesty.
A fashion only fit for clowns,

If such by chance are lurking
Let them be shown the door;
He who good wine is shirking,
Is one of us no more.
A death's head is his face to us,
If he abide.
Who cannot keep the pace with us,
As well he died.

Should any take upon him
To drink without a peer,
Although his legs go from him,
His speech no longer clear,
Still for his reputation
Let him drink on,
And swig for his salvation
The bumper down.

But between god and goddess,
Let there no marriage be,
For he whose name is Liber
Exults in liberty.
Let none his single virtue
Wine that is wed with water is

Queen of the sea we grant her,
Goddess without demur,
But to be bride to Bacchus
Is not for such as her.
For Bacchus drinking water
Hath no man seen;
Nor ever hath his godship
Baptized been.


  1. I did not know these meanings of Dea and Deus.

    1. Neither did I, but the notes on the text by Harrington and on the translation by Waddell explained it this way. And of course it can not mean anything else within the context of this song. It also proves that knowledge of the cultural setting of a text is pivotal for its understanding: you have to know that wine was normally mixed with water, but not by those students for decoding the text.