Thursday, 31 January 2013

Paulinus of Nola on friendship

Last week I bought The wandering Scholars by Helen Waddell second hand  for 50 cents. I felt overjoyed as I wanted to have this book already for a long time and suddenly there it stood almost overlooked by me! It describes the lives of the vagantes in the Middle-Ages and as Helen Waddell was a gifted writer and poet herself, she delighted in making translations of the Latin poems those scholars wrote.
The following poem is written by Paulinus of Nola (354-431) for his friend and teacher Ausonius (310-394). Both men belong to the great minds of late Antiquity
Paulinus withdrew from public life and left for Spain where he later was ordained as bishop, without telling, taking leave and answering letters. Ausonius wondered what happened and also felt a bit offended by Paulinus. Then finally after years Paulinus answered and ended his letter with a poem for Ausonius which is still one of the best poems ever written about friendship. But alas, despite the strong wish of Ausonius to see his younger friend once more before death would take him, they never met again…

Carmen XI
Ecce te per omne quod datum mortalibus
   et destinatum saeculum est,
claudente donec continetor corpore,
   discernar orbe quolibet,

nec ore longe, nec remotum lumine,
   tenebo fibris insitum,
videbo corde, mente complectar pia
   ubique praesentem mihi.

Et cum solitus corporale carcere
   terraque provolavero,
quo me locarit axe communis Pater,
   illic quoque animo geram. 

Neque finis idem qui meo corpore
   et amore laxabit tuo.
mens quippe, lapsis quae superstes artubus
   de stirpe durat coeliti.

Sensus necesse est simul et affectus tuos
   teneat aeque ut vitam suam,
et ut mori sic oblivisci non capit,
  perenne vivax et memor.

te…..discernar: I will be set apart from you
saeculum: predicate to destinatum: by all what is destined as world (as opposite to heaven)
donec continetor: as long as I am held
longe ore: you are not far away from my mouth ( i.e. in my thoughts I am speaking to you)
fibris insitum: insitum (insero) is a bit strange, but it can mean `incorporated’, so `wearing clothes’ In heaven people wear no clothes as the soul is incorporeal, so fibris insitum `  in this world’.
solvo solvi solutum: to set free
provolo: to fly forth
axis: here `heaven’
illic: in this place, there
animo geram: I will keep you in my heart
finis laxabit : both with meo corpore and amore tuo: nor shall the same end, which shall release me from my body, release me from my love for you.
quippe: of course
superstes: surviving
lapsis artubus: when the joints (= body) has collapsed
duro: to last, remain
de stirpe coeliti: because of a heavenly origin
Sensus necesse est et affectus tuos / teneat aeque ut vitam suam =  necesse est ut (mens) simul sensus et affectus tuos teneat aeque simul vitam suam (it is necessary that the mind holds to the feelings and affections for you equal as to its own life)
capio: to choose (and in order that mind doesn’t choose to die and so to forget)
vivax: holding to life, everlasting
memor: mindful 

Here is the translation and adaption by Helen Waddell:

    I, through all chances that are given to mortals,
    And through all fates that be,
    So long as this close prison shall contain me,
    Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,

    Thee shall I behold, in every fibre woven,
    Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
    Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
    Instant and present, thou, in every place.

    Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken,
    And from the earth I shall have gone my way,
    Wheresoe'er in the wide universe I stay me,
    There shall I bear thee, as I do today.

    Think not the end, that from my body frees me,
    Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee;
    Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin,
    Deathless, begot of immortality.

    Still must she keep her senses and affections,
    Hold them as dear as life itself to be.
    Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:
    Living, remembering, to eternity.

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