Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Catullus 78: what not to teach your nephew...

Sometimes you read a poem which in itself is not difficult regarding the words, but what does it mean? As often when reading classical poetry – or whatever foreign poetry – the text itself is not enough, but you need a context. I came across this poem when I was preparing some other poems by Catullus for a pupil needing private lessons Latin. It intrigued me and when I was walking today with some friends through the mud I suddenly got the solution. Of course I had consulted my Quinn and Kroll commentaries on Catullus, but these are not very helpful concerning this poem.
You need to know that in Roman society a distinction was made between the paternal side of the family and the maternal side. This is not unusual, as many societies do this. A boy has uncles from his father’s side and from his mother’s side, but these uncles have different functions. The brother of his father is called patruus. It is not difficult to see the connection with pater and indeed, this uncle was the severe uncle, taking care of morality, but the uncle of mother’s side is called avunculus, a diminutive of avus `grandfather’. English has no diminutives, but Dutch and German have and often it does not refer to something small, but to a kind of intimate relation, so German Grossvaterchen does not mean a little granddad, he can be 6 feet tall, but it has the connotation of friendliness. The same with avunculus: this uncle had the task of upholding a friendly relationship with the family of his sister’s husband on behalf of his family. He did this by having a joking relationship with the sons of his sister. As we all know, grandparents are far more indulgent towards their grandchildren than they ever were to us…
Let’s now have a look at this poem by Catullus:

LXXVIII. ad Gallum

Gallus habet fratres, quorum est lepidissima coniunx
     alterius, lepidus filius alterius.
Gallus homo est bellus: nam dulces iungit amores,
     cum puero ut bello bella puella cubet.
Gallus homo est stultus, nec se uidet esse maritum,
     qui patruus patrui monstret adulterium.

As I said, the words are quite common.
Gallus has two brothers: one of them has a lepidissimus wife, the other a lepidus son. Lepidus means `charming, elegant, smart’. Catullus also uses this word for describing his own book of verses in poem 1. Gallus is a good guy as he makes it possible that a beautiful girl sleeps with a boy. Who are they? Well, the wife of his one brother and the son of his other brother- a patruus for this nephew like Gallus himself. We must keep in mind that there was often a big difference in age between wife and husband and apart from that, the rate of dying while giving birth was quite high, so remarrying with girls far younger was not uncommon. Note the irony in bellus, when we continue reading this poem. Also note that bella has of course the literal meaning of beautiful.
But Gallus is also foolish (stultus), because he doesn’t take account of himself being a married man (maritus) and as a patruus he teaches his nephew how (qui with long i, as the metre – elegiac couplets or disticha – shows) to commit adultery with the wife of a patruus, i.e. also with his own wife, if she and his nephew might like to have a wild party! Patrui is syntactically a bit difficult: is it elliptic for cum patrui uxore or a kind of genitive objective `with regards to a patruus’? Anyway, the meaning is clear enough. It is even more funny, because Gallus as a patruus was supposed to keep up the moral values of a Roman family for his nephew.. So all you uncles,  be careful what you teach the son of your sister! 
Soap series are nothing compared with what Latin literature has to offer....

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Infant Mary in the temple and the song of Anna.

Apart from the canonical gospels, there are various non-canonical or apocryphal gospels. These gospels filled the gaps left by the normal gospels. For instance, almost nothing is told about the youth of Jesus, but in the apocryphal gospels we have lots of information. No need to say that as historical documents about Jesus these works are worthless, but as sources for the development of what we may call Volksfrömmigkeit (piety of the masses – some German words can capture a whole complex in one word) these writings are invaluable. One of them is the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, a work of about the late 6th early 7th century. It is based on older sources and some sources which have not been traced - maybe phantasies of the unknown author. If you wonder where the ox and the donkey in the stable come from, well you will them here and many other details too, like the young Jesus cursing a boy to death after he had destroyed the dams of sand made by Jesus. A few lines later young Jesus curses another boy to death, so all parents are pretty afraid of this young lad with mighty gifts!
The Pseudo-Matthew especially reflects and in its turn has influenced the divinisation of Mary. As is well-known, Christianity has no goddess - a shame I think, as there is nothing wrong with good-looking goddesses like Parvati, Artemis or Uma. In a world full of goddesses a religion without a goddess was unthinkable and Mary was quick to fill up this gap. In her iconography she resembles the Egyptian Isis and she was and is venerated at places where before goddesses were venerated. Pseudo-Matthew tells us about the birth and youth of Mary, which as she is a very virtuous girl, is rather boring: praising God all day and de facto being the first nun.
Anna, the mother of Mary and her husband Joachim are already at an advanced age and still have no children, actually Anna is too old to become pregnant, but then a miracle happens and she is pregnant from Joachim. They go to the temple and young Mary at the age of 3 years runs up the stairs in her desire to serve God. After this Anna praises the Lord in a song which mirrors the Magnificat,

Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew chapters 4 and 5

4. Post haec autem expletis mensibus novem  peperit Anna filiam, et vocavit eam Mariam. Quam cum tertio anno ablactasset, abierunt simul Ioachim et Anna uxor eius ad templum domini, hostias deo oblaturi, tradentes infantulam nomine Mariam in contubernio virginum,     in quo die et nocte virgines in dei laudibus permanebant. Quae cum posita esset ante foras templi, ita veloci cursu ascendit quindecim gradus ut penitus retrorsum non respicet, neque, ut solitum est infantiae, parentes requireret. Unde parentes eius solliciti uterque infantem requirentes, pariter ambo stupuerunt, quousque eam invenerunt in templo, ita ut et ipsi templi pontifices mirarentur.

expleo: to fill
pario peperi partum: to give birth
ablacto (1): to stop giving milk (non-classical Latin)
hostia: sacrifice
obfero –tuli –latum: to offer (oblaturi part.fut.)
contubernium: companionship
foras + gen.: outside
velox: quick, fast
cursus –us (m): pace
penitus: deeply, completely (non penitus: not at all)
retrorsum: backwards (non-classical Latin, it is a combination of retro and prorsum)
gradus -us (m): step
soleo solitum: to be wont, accustomed
require –sivi –situm: to look after, search for
unde: therefor
sollicitus: worried
pariter: in an equal degree
ambo: both
quousque: till finally

5. Tunc Anna repleta spiritu sancto in conspectu omnium dixit:
    Dominus deus omnipotens exercituum memor factus verbi sui
visitavit plebem suam in bona visitatione et sancta,
    ut gentes quae insurgebant in nos, corda eorum humiliet et ad se convertat:
aures suas precibus nostris aperuit:
    exclusit a nobis omnium exultationes inimicorum nostrorum.
Sterilis facta est mater,
    et genuit exultationem et laetitiam Israel.
Ecce posita munera offerre domino meo,
    et non potuerunt a me prohibere inimici mei.
Deus autem convertit cor eorum ad me,
    et ipse dedit mihi gaudium sempiternum.

repleo –plevi –pletum: to fill
Dominus exercituum: Lord of (heavenly) hosts.
memor factus verbi sui = memoravit verbum suum
auris –is (f): ear
prex precis (f): prayer
aperio aperui apertum: to open
excludo exclusi exclusum: to keep away, withhold
inimicus: enemy
gigno genui genitum: to produce, bring forth
laetitia: gladness, joy
Israel: dative!
munus muneris (n): gift
sempiternus: eternal


More about the Pseudo Matthew:

For those wanting to read the complete text:

Mosaic of Saint Anna and Saint Mary. I can't trace any information about this mosaic.

Friday, 14 December 2012

What a good idea to die in a pub!

Reading Wilfried Stroh’s easy reading Latein ist tot, es lebe das Latein!, I came upon a quote: meum est propositum in taberna mori,  `It is my intention to die in a pub’ – quite an appealing idea! It is the first line of a drinking song, but I soon found out that it has been taken from another song, namely Estuans intrinsecus, also known as the `Confession’ by the Archpoet. It is found in the Carmina Burana as number 191. I copied the text from the, where it is classified under Archipoeta carmen x, but I soon found out that this was not the version in the Carmina Burana, as the copied text was shorter, missing most of the Meum est propositum. So I copied the remainder from another site and two verses I had to type myself from my book edition of the Carmina Burana. I also had to correct the text I copied, as the Latin library is not proofreading the texts they scan, pffff…..
The Archpoet or better: Archipoeta – is one of the most enigmatic poets of High Middle ages. His identity is unknown, but he must have lived in the twelfth century. Ten poems are ascribed to him and these are found in various manuscripts of which the Carmina Burana is the most well-known. This manuscript contains two poems, one of them being Estuans intrinsecus. It has been tried to reconstruct the life of the Archpoet by reading his poems as autobiography and on the basis of the Confession, he lived for some time in Padua, living there a life of Wein, Weib und Gesang. When back at Cologne he confessed his sins to the Bishop, hoping that he would be forgiven. Such an approach is nowadays suspected and for good reasons: the `I’ of the poem is not necessarily the `I’ of poet.
Apart from that, this poem is full of irony and that should make us extra cautious, so the setting might well have been completely different. For further discussion I refer to the web link below.
There are some 30 copies of this text and though I have no critical edition at hand, I immediately believe that the short version is the original and not the longer one in the Carmina Burana. What has happened is that Meum est propositum is inserted in the long version. On internet I found the text of this song in the order 12-15, 18, 16, 17 of the Carmina Burana edition, but when I looked further I found other versions too, either with a slightly different order of with one ore two stanzas missing.
The short version lacks stanzas 14-19.
The Latin is not difficult!

1.             Estuans intrinsecus ira vehementi
in amaritudine loquar mee menti:
factus de materia levis elementi
folio sum similis de quo ludunt venti.

estuans = aestuans aestuo: to bun, rage
ira: anger
intrinsecus (adv.): inwardly
amaritudo, -inis: bitterness
mee (= meae) menti: we would say `let me say to myself’
folium: leaf
similis + dat.
ludo lusi lusum: to play

2.              Cum sit enim proprium viro sapienti
supra petram ponere sedem fundamenti,
stultus ego comparor fluvio labenti
sub eodem aere nunquam permanenti.

For the first 2 verses cf. Matthew 7:24: omnis ergo qui audit verba mea haec et facit ea adsimilabitur viro sapienti qui aedificavit domum suam supra petram.
enim: `I say’, indeed
proprium + dat.: proper for
petra: rock
pono  posui positum: to put, place
sedes, -is (f): seat, dwelling-place
sedem fundamenti: the seat of his fundament, i.e.  for the wise man a fixed point from which he can philosophize.
stultus: foolish
fluvium: river
labor lapsus sum: to flow
permanenti with flavio

3.             Feror ego veluti sine nauta navis,
ut per vias aeris vaga fertur avis.
non me tenent vincula, non me tenet clavis,
quero mei similes et adiungor pravis.

feror: to go
vagus: roaming
teneo tenui tentum: to hold, keep
vinculum: cord, band
clavis (f): key
quero = quaero quaesivi quaesitum: to seek
adiungo –iunxi –iunctum + dat.: to join
pravus: crooked weird

4.             Mihi cordis gravitas res videtur gravis,
iocus est amabilis dulciorque favis;
quicquid Venus imperat, labor est suavis;
que nunquam in cordibus habitat ignavis.

gravitas –atis (f): seriousness, heaviness
iocus: jest, joke
dulcis: sweet
favus: honey
suavis: sweet
que = quae (Venus)
habito (1): to dwell
ignavus: lazy, sluggish

5.             Via lata gradior more iuventutis,
inplico me viciis immemor virtutis,
voluptatis avidus magis quam salutis,
mortuus in anima curam gero cutis.

via: abl.!
latus: broad
via lata cf. Matthew 7:13, the broad way leading to perdition (but a lot more fun to go than the narrow way!)
gradior gressum sum: to walk go
more iuventutis: the way of the youth has not changed since a 1000 years!
voluptas –atis: (sexual) desire
avidus + gen.: eagerly desiring for
salus –utis (f): salvation (of the soul)
gero curam + gen.: to take for
cutis cutis (f): skin (i.e. have a good look to attract girls)

6.             Presul discretissime, veniam te precor:
morte bona morior, dulci nece necor;
meum pectus sauciat puellarum decor,
et quas tactu nequeo, saltem corde mechor.

presul –is (m): bishop
discretissime: a priest is not allowed to speak about the confessions he hears.
venia: forgiveness
precor (1): to ask beg.
nex necis (f): violent death (contrary to mors)
neco (1): to kill, slay
pectus, -oris (n): breast, feelings
saucio (1): to hurt, wound
decor, -is (m): beauty, grace
tactus, –us (m): touch
nequeo (4): not be able to
saltem: at least
mechor = moechor (1): to commit adultery

7.             Res est arduissima vincere naturam,
in aspectu virginis mentem esse puram;
iuvenes non possumus legem sequi duram
leviumque corporum non habere curam.

arduus: difficult, arduous, hard
vinco vici victus: to defeat
in aspectu virginis mentem esse puram is the res arduissima!
aspectus, -us (m) sight, glance, view
sequor secutus sum: to follow, obey
lex dura, sed lex is a legal saying
levis, -is: here: light-hearted, easily inflammable

8.           Quis in igne positus igne non uratur?
quis Papie demorans castus habeatur,
ubi Venus digito iuvenes venatur,
oculis illaqueat, facie predatur?

uror ussi ustum: to burn
Papie = Paviae. Pavia – in Italy – was proverbial as a place of delights
demoror (1): to stay, dwell
castus: chaste
digitus: finger
venor (1): to hunt
illaqueo (1): to ensnare (non-classical Latin, from laqueus: snare)
praedor (1): to make prey of

9.           Si ponas Ypolitum hodie Papie,
non erit Ypolitus in sequenti die:
Veneris in thalamos ducunt omnes vie;
non est in tot turribus turris Alethie.

Ypolitus = Hippolytus, the main character of a play by Euripides, who as a follower of the chaste goddess Artemis, was a model of chastity.
vie = viae
thalamus: bedroom (Greek loanword)
turris, -is (f): tower
Alethie = Alethiae, Aletheia, as the correct spelling is, is Greek for `truth’, but here has the meaning `chastity, virtue’.

10.         Secundo redarguor etiam de ludo,
sed cum ludus corpore me dimittit nudo,
frigidus exterius, mentis estu sudo;
tunc versus et carmina meliora cudo.

secundo: secondly
redarguo: to rebuke, charge (non-classical Latin)
ludus: playing dice (I am charged of playing dice)
dimitto –misi – missum: to send away
corpore nudo: i.e. when he has lost even his clothes by gambling
frigidus: coldness
estu = aestu, aestus, -us (m): heat, glow
sudus: serene, pleasant
tunc versus et carmina meliora cudo: the idea that poor poets make better poems.
codu (3): to beat, strike, make

11.         Tercio capitulo memoro tabernam.
illam nullo tempore sprevi neque spernam,
donec sanctos angelos venientes cernam
cantantes pro mortuis "Requiem eternam."

tercio ( tertio) capitulo: in th third place
taberna: tavern
sperno sprevi spretum: to despise, spurn
cerno crevi certum: to discern, see

12.         Meum est propositum in taberna mori,
ut sint vina proxima morientis ori.
tunc cantabunt letius angelorum chori:
"Sit deus propitius huic potatori."

propositum: plan, intention
os oris (n): mouth
letius = laetius: cheerfully
propitius: kind. gracious
potator, -oris (m): boozer

13.         Poculis accenditur animi lucerna;
cor imbutum nectare volat ad superna.
mihi sapit dulcius vinum de taberna
quam quod aqua miscuit presulis pincerna.

poculum: bowl, drinking vessel
accendo –cendi –censum: to kindle
lucerna: light
imbuo –bui –butum: to soak, saturate
vola (1): to fly
sapio sapivi: to taste (the meaning `to be wise, to know’ is secondary, cf  `to have a good taste for’’= `to have knowledge of’)
aqua: normally wine was mixed with water
pincerna (m): cupbearer

14.         Loca vitant publica quidam poetarum
et secretas eligunt sedes latebrarum,
student, instant, vigilant non laborant parum
et vix tandem reddere possunt opus clarum.

vito (1): to avoid
latebra: hiding-place
insto –stiti –statum: to pursue (in writing poems)
parum: too little
vix: hardly
tandem: at the end
reddo –didi –ditum: to give back, produce

15.         ieiunant et abstinent poetarum chori,
vitant rixas publicas et tumultus fori,
et, ut opus faciant, quod non possit mori,
moriuntur studio subditi labori.

ieiuno (1): to fast
rixa: quarrel
fori: outside
ut: although
quod non possit mori: ironical of course! Such bad poems are doomed to die.
subditus: subdued
studio labori: by exertion for their heavy labour

16.         Unicuique proprium dat natura munus:
               ego numquam potui scribere ieiunus,
               me ieiunum vincere posset puer unus.
               Sitim et ieiunium odi tamquam funus

unusquisque: everyone individually
proprium: special, proper
munus muneris (n): task, function
ieiunus: hungry, fasting
sitis, sitis (f): thirst
ieiunium: hunger
odi: to hate
funus funeris (n): death

17.         Unicuique proprium dat natura donum,
ego versus faciens bibo vinum bonum
et quod habent purius dolia cauponum;
tale vinum generat copiam sermonum.

bibo bibi: to drink
purius: very pure
caupo, -onis (m): innkeeper
dolium: a very large jar
copia: an abundance
sermo, -onis (m): conversation

18.         Tales versus facio, quale vinum bibo,
nihil possum facere, nisi sumpto cibo.
Nihil valent penitus, quae ieunus scribo,
Nasonem post calicem carmine preibo.

talis….qualis: such….such (the better the wine, the better the poems!)
sumo sumpsi sumptum: to take
cibum: food
sumpto cibo: abl. abs.!
valent: with a tacitly understood carmina as subject.
penitus: profoundly, very much
Nasonem post calicem carmine preibo: after a bowl (calix) I will precede (prae-ibo) Ovid in a poem.

19.         Mihi nunquam spiritus poetriae datur,
nisi prius fuerit venter bene satur.
Cum in arce cerebri Bacchus dominatur,
in me Phoebus irruit et  miranda fatur.

venter ventris (m): belly
satur ura urum: full
in arce cerebri: `in the brain box’
Phoebus: Apollo, god of music and poetry.
irruo irrui: to invade

20. (14) Ecce mee proditor pravitatis fui,
de qua me redarguunt servientes tui.
sed eorum nullus est accusator sui,
quamvis velint ludere seculoque frui.

mee = mea
proditor, -oris (m): betrayer
pravitas, atis (f): crookedness
serviens = servus
saeculoque frui: and make use of worldly pleasures

21. (15) Iam nunc in presentia presulis beati
secundum dominici regulam mandati
mittat in me lapidem neque parcat vati,
cuius non est animus conscius peccati.

secundum dominici regulam mandati John 7:5 in lege autem Moses mandavit nobis huiusmodi lapidare tu ergo quid dicis (against the woman taken in adultery)
mando (1) to demand
lapis, lapidis (m): stone
parco peperci (parsi) (+ dat.): to spare, have mercy upon
vates: poet
conscius + gen.: conscious of
peccatum: sin

22. (16) Sum locutus contra me quicquid de me novi
et virus evomui quod tam diu fovi.
vita vetus displicet, mores placent novi;
homo videt faciem, sed cor patet Iovi.

nosco novi notum: to know
virus, i (n): poison (note that the gender is neuter. The acc. is of course also virus! The plural does not exist)
evomo –ui –itus: to vomit
foveo fovi fotus: to cherish
vetus veteris: old
pateo patui: to lie open for

23. (17) Iam virtutes diligo, viciis irascor,
renovatus animo spiritu renascor;
quasi modo genitus novo lacte pascor,
ne sit meum amplius vanitatis vas cor.

diligo –lexi –lectum: to value, love
vicium = vitium:  fault, sin
irascor iratus (+dat.): to be angry
renascor renatus sum: to be born again
gigno genui genitum: to give birth
lac, lactis (n): milk
pascor pascus sum (+abl.) to be fed with
amplius: further more
vas vasis (n): vase

24. (18) Electe Colonie, parce penitenti,
fac misericordiam veniam petenti
et da penitenciam culpam confitenti:
feram quicquid iusseris animo libenti.

Electe Colonie: elected bishop of Cologne (city in Germany)
penitens, -entis: non classical Latin
veniam peto petivi petitum: to ask for forgiveness
culpam confiteor –fessus sum: to confess guild
animo libenti: with an eager mind

25. (19) Parcit enim subditis leo ex ferarum
et est erga subditos immemor irarum,
et vos idem facite, principes terrarum:
quod caret dulcedine, nimis est amarum.

fera: wild animal
erga + acc.: towards
immemor + gen.: not thinking of
careo + abl.: to miss, lack
dulcedo, --inis: sweetness, charm
amarus: bitter

More about the Archpoet:

A translation of the short (original ) version:

A modern version of Meum est propositum: