Friday, 15 February 2013

Isodore of Sevilla gives a detailed explanation of the night.

Nowadays we have Wiki for an answer to all our questions, but what before the time of internet? -indeed young people, such a time has really existed. Well, for a long time people consulted the Etymologiae by Bishop Isodore of Sevilla (560-636). He compiled this work at the end of his life and with 448 chapters in 20 volumes it is a remarkable achievement. It is a condensation of many learned books of antiquity, many of which are lost now, and only known from excerpts in the Etymologiae. It is called that way because Isodore gave an etymology for almost every word. As comparative linguistics did not exist at that time – it came into existence in the 19th century with the knowledge of Sanskrit in the West – these etymologies are mostly very fanciful. However, they give us an idea of how scholars at that time thought. For centuries the Etymologiae were seen as the final answer and indisputable authority.
The following section is the lemma nox

Liber IV. Caput XXXI.

[1] Nox a nocendo dicta, eo quod oculis noceat. Quae idcirco lunae ac siderum lucem habet, ne indecora esset, et ut consolaretur omnes nocte operantes, et ut quibusdam animantibus, quae lucem solis ferre non possunt, ad sufficientiam temperaretur. [2] Noctis autem et diei alternatio propter vicissitudinem dormiendi vigilandique effecta est, et ut operis diurni laborem noctis requies temperet. [3] Noctem autem fieri, aut quia longo itinere lassatur sol, et cum ad ultimum caeli spatium pervenit, elanguescit ac tabefactus efflat suos ignes; aut quia eadem vi sub terras cogitur qua super terras pertulit lumen, et sic umbra terrae noctem facit. Unde et Vergilius (Aen. 2,250):

Ruit Oceano nox,
involvens umbra magna terramque polumque.

[4] Noctis partes septem sunt, id est vesper, crepusculum, conticinium, intempestum, gallicinium, matutinum, diluculum. [5] Vesperum ab stella occidentali vocatum, quae solem occiduum sequitur et tenebras sequentes praecedit. De qua Vergilius (Aen. 1,374):

Ante diem clauso conponit vesper Olympo.

[6] Tenebras autem dictas, quod teneant umbras. [7] Crepusculum est dubia lux. Nam creperum dubium dicimus, hoc est inter lucem et tenebras. [8] Conticinium est quando omnes silent. Conticescere enim silere est. [9] Intempestum est medium et inactuosum noctis tempus, quando agi nihil potest et omnia sopore quieta sunt. Nam tempus per se non intellegitur, nisi per actus humanos. [10] Medium autem noctis actum caret. Ergo intempesta inactuosa, quasi sine tempore, hoc est sine actu, per quem dignoscitur tempus; unde est: «Intempestive venisti». Ergo intempesta dicitur quia caret tempora, id est actum. [11] Gallicinium propter gallos lucis praenuntios dictum. [12] Matutinum est inter abscessum tenebrarum et aurorae adventum; et dictum matutinum quod hoc tempus inchoante mane sit. [13] Diluculum quasi iam incipiens parva diei lux. Haec et aurora, quae solem praecedit. [14] Est autem aurora diei clarescentis exordium et primus splendor aeris, qui Graece ἠὼς dicitur; quam nos per derivationem auroram vocamus, quasi eororam. Unde est illud (Virg. Aen. 2,417):

et laetus Eoos
Eurus equis.

nox nocendo:  the roots of these words are not related, but the etymology is less far-fetched than you might think: reading at night with only a candle can indeed harm the eyes. (nox has cognates in every Indo-European language: cf.  English night, Greek nuks, Sanskrit nakt, Hettitic nekuz  `at night’. Noceo is a verb derived from nex `violent death’.
quae idcirco: because the night etc.
indecorus: without beauty
consolor consolatus sum: to cheer, console
omnes nocte operantes: I wonder what night workers Isodore is thinking of, but as a churchman surely not of thieves and prostitutes.
sufficientia: sufficiency (post classical Latin)  understand lucem as object.
vicissitudo –inis (f): alternation
diurnus: daily
lasso: to make weary
elanguesco elangui: to grow faint
tabefactus: wearied
afflo: to breath out
vi: what kind of force Isodore thinks of is not clear.  His picture of the world is unclear: it must be flat, but in what shape is difficult to decide.
Vergil 2.250: Night rushes from the Ocean, cloaking with its great shadow both earth and sky.
crepusculum: evening twilight
conticinium: silence
intempestus: dark (intempestum tempus)
gallicinium: cock-crow
matutinum: early morning
diluculum:: day break
stella occidentali: the western star is Vesper, of course not a star but the planet Venus.
occiduus: going down
Vergil 1.374Sooner, as the heavens are closed up, Vesper lay the day to rest. (ante is adverbial and claudere Olympum is poetic for the oncoming of darkness, which shuts heaven from view)
creperum: darkness (rare and post classical Latin)
inactuosus: without activity
sopor soporis (m): deep sleep
Nam tempus per se non intellegitur, nisi per actus humanos: a very fancy etymology follows now:
careo : be deprived of, lack (Here constructed with the acc, instead of abl. a clear sign of carelessness in cases in vulgar Latin.)
intempestasine tempore: it is true that tempestas, from which intempestus is connected with tempus, but intempestus has the meaning `unseasonable, unpropitious, dark’ and the idea of time has almost whole gone to the background.
dignosco dignovi: perceive
intempestive: untimely
gallus: cock
praenuntius: announcer
inchoo: to begin
mane: morning
matutinum mane: that Isodore derives tenebrae from tenere umbrae is somehow conceivable, but this etymology is of great imagination!
Diluculum is a deminuitive therefore parva lux (diminutives are in English almost unknown, save for words like booklet `a small book’, but they are common in German and especially Dutch, in which every noun can be made into a diminutive.)
incipio –cepi –ceptum: to begin
exordium: beginning
ἠὼς and aurora are indeed related, but not in the way Isodore thinks: aurora comes from *ausus + a.  (ἠὼς and aurora are related to English east.)
Vergil 2.417: And the East Wind rejoices in its horses of Dawn.

Translation (go to page 127)

About Isodore

And Schubert’s song Die Nacht

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