Monday, 3 June 2013

Erasmus has some good advice for the maid of his landlady...



In 1495 Erasmus went to Paris to study theology at the university. He lived there with fellow students in a lodge run by a landlady. In order to earn some money he taught Latin to students. Two of the students - Henry and Christian Nordhoff – lived elsewhere in Paris and to improve their Latin, there was a daily interchange of letters between them. In his letters Erasmus told about what he had experienced that day. In the fragment of the following letter from 1497 Erasmus tells about a fight between his landlady and her maid. The landlady is a strong woman, but at the first quarrel of that day between her and maid the quarrel ends undecided. When to maid comes to Erasmus room to make his bed tidy,  Erasmus gives the maid jokingly some advice, but the maid takes it seriously and at the next outburst the consequences of his advice are clearly visible….

II. A DOMESTIC AFFRAY
ERASMUS CHRISTIANO S. D.


Spectavimus hodie matremfamilias cum famula domestica fortiter depugnantem. Sonuerat diu tuba ante congressum, convicia fortiter utrinque regeruntur. Hic aequo Marte discessum est, triumphavit nemo. Haec in hortis, nos e cenaculo taciti spectabamus, non sine risu. Sed audi catastrophen. A pugna conscendit cubiculum meum puella, concinnatura lectos. Inter confabulandum laudo fortitudinem illius, quod voce conviciisque nihil cesserit dominae; ceterum optasse me ut quantum lingua valebat, tantundem valuisset et manibus. Nam hera, virago robusta ut vel athleta videri posset, subinde caput humilioris puellae pugnis contundebat. 'Usque adeone' inquam 'nullos habes ungues, ut ista impune feras?' Respondit illa subridens sibi quidem non tam animum deesse quam vires. 'An tu putas' inquam 'bellorum exitus a viribus tantum pendere? Consilium ubique valet plurimum.' Roganti quid haberem consilii, 'Ubi te rursus adorietur,' inquam 'protinus caliendrum detrahe' (nam mulierculae Parisiorum mire sibi placent nigris quibusdam caliendris): 'eo detracto mox in capillos invola.'

famula: maid
tuba ante congressum: as if before a military battle
convicium: abuse
regero: cast back
hic: this occasion
aequo Marte: Mars being equal, explained by the following
haec (acta sunt)
cenaculum: dinning-room
concinno: to make tidy
confabulo: to chat, talk
optasse me: depending on laudo, with an implied dicens or et dico
hera: (female) boss, landlady
virago –onis (f): female warrior
subinde: repeatedly
pugnus: fist
contundo: to strike
usque adeone…habes: have you to such an extend…. i.e. Do you really have no nails
ut ista impune feras: that you bear these things unpunished
protinus: immediately
caliendrum: false hair piled on top of the head (not really a wig)
involo: to fly at
mire sibi placent: are very found of


Haec ut a me ioco dicebantur, itidem accipi putabam. Atqui sub cenae tempus accurrit anhelus hospes;  is erat Caroli regis caduceator, vulgato cognomine dictus Gentil Gerson. 'Adeste,' inquit 'domini mei, videbitis cruentum spectaculum.' Accurrimus, offendimus matremfamilias ac puellam humi colluctantes. Vix a nobis diremptae sunt. Quam cruenta fuisset pugna res ipsa declarabat. Iacebant per humum sparsa, hic caliendrum, illic flammeum. Glomeribus pilorum plenum erat solum; tam crudelis fuerat laniena. Ubi accubuimus in cena, narrat nobis magno stomacho materfamilias quam fortiter se gessisset puella, 'Ubi pararem' inquit 'illam castigare, hoc est pugnis contundere, illa mihi protinus caliendrum detraxit e capite.' Agnovi me non surdae cecinisse fabulam. 'Id detractum' inquit 'mihi venefica vibrabat in oculos.' Id non admonueram. 'Tum' inquit 'tantum capillorum  evulsit quantum hic videtis.' Coelum ac terram testata est se nunquam expertam esse puellam tam pusillam ac perinde malam. Nos excusare casus humanos et ancipitem bellorum exitum, tractare de componenda in posterum concordia. Ego interim mihi gratulabar dominae non subolere rem meo consilio gestam; alioqui sensissem et ipse illi non deesse linguam.

anhelus: out of breath
caduceator: herald
Gerson: GarHon
offendo -fendi -fensum: to meet
collucto: to fight together
dirimo -remi -remptum: to separate
flammeum: veil
glomus: ball of wool, handful of hair
pilus: hair
laniena: butcher’s shop
magno stomacho: in great anger
non surdae cecinisse fabulam: (proverbial saying) not to have sung/told a story to a deaf ear
venefica: witch
vibro: shake
in oculos: in front of my eyes
pusilus: insignificant `wretched’
excuso: `plead by way of excuse’   excusare: historic infinitive (like tractare)
anceps anicipitis: doubtful, uncertain
dominae non subolere: subolet mihi `it smells to me’ i.e. I suspect

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