Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Walter of Châtillon on the poverty of scholars.

A study in humanities is often a guarantee for not becoming rich and wealthy, well not materially, as I know from own experience. This is not a recent discovery, but as old as there are universities. Many mediaeval songs testify this: why learn and pay a lot of money, why collect books – books were VERY expensive – while learning is not respected and money, not intellect, makes the world go round? Of course these songs exaggerate, but there is also a big kernel of truth in them.
I found the following text in Millenium, A Latin Reader 374-1374 by F.E. Harrison. It is by Walter of Châtillon (1135 - 1201 (?) a French scholar who studied in Paris. As a student he wrote goliardic songs: satirical poetry of which a number found their way in the Carmina Burana. During his lifetime he was famous for his poem Alexandreis, a long Latin epic about Alexander the Great. He died of bubonic plague, a disease known as Black Death, making no difference between learned or simple, rich or poor, but equal to all.
The text in Harrison is an excerpt from a longer poem: stanzas 5-9, 12, 14, 17, 19 and 20 from Missus sum in vineam. The last line of each verse is a quote from a classical poet.

Qui virtutes appetit, labitur in imum,
querens sapientiam irruit in limum;
imitemur igitur hec dicentem mimum;
o cives, cives, querenda pecunia primum. (Horace, Ep. I.1.53)

appeto: to strive, seek
labor lapsus sum: to slide
imus: lowest, deepest
querens = quaerens from quaeror (to seek), not queror (to lament)!
irruo irrui: to rush or force one's way into
limus: slime, mud
mimus: poet, satirist (Horace)

Hec est, que in sinodis confidendo tonat,
in electionibus prima grande sonat;
intronizat presules, dites impersonat:
et genus et formam regina pecunia donat. (Horace, Ep. I.6.37)

haec (pecunia)
que in sinodis confidendo tonat: what jingles confidently in a synod. (A synod is an ecclesiastical assembly for deciding matters of faith or electing clergy.)
confidendo: gerund used as an adverb
intronizo: to put on a throne
presul -is (m): bishop     
ditis: rich
impersono: to make resound, make renown
genus et formam: nobility and beauty

Adora pecuniam, qui deos adoras:
cur struis armaria, cur libros honoras?
Longas fac Parisius vel Athenis moras:
si nichil attuleris, ibis, Homere, foras. (Ovid, Ars Am. II.280)

cur struis armaria: why do you set up libraries     
Longas fac Parisius vel Athenis moras: make long stays at Paris or at Athens (Parisius was used as a locative in ME Latin.)
nichil = nihil (of money)
Homere: you Homer! (= learned scholar)
ibis foras: you shall have to go outside (foras)

Disputet philosophus vacuo cratere,
sciat, quia minus est scire quam habere;
nam si pauper fueris, foras expellere,
ipse licet venias Musis comitatus, Homere. (Ovid, Ars Am. II.297)

vacuo cratere: while his cup is empty
quia = quod
expellere = expelleris     
ipse licet venias musis comitatus: even if come, accompanied by the Muses themselves (ipse = ipsae)

Sciat artes aliquis, sit auctorum plenus,
quid prodest, si vixerit pauper et egenus?
Illinc cogit nuditas vacuumque penus,
hinc usura vorax avidumque in tempore fenus. (Lucian I.181)

plenus + gen. : full of
prosum: to be of use
egenus: needy, in want
iliinc…  hinc:  from that place to this place
penus: a store of food, provision, victuals (this word can take all 3 genders and the genitive is both peni and penus)
usura vorax avidumque in tempore fenus: voracious usury and interest greedy (for money to be paid back) in the future.
Illud est, cur odiens studium repellam
paupertatem fugiens vitamque misellam;
quis ferret vigilias frigidamque cellam?
Tutius est iacuisse thoro, tenuisse puellam. (Ovid, Heroides 3.117)

misellus = miser
vigillia: night watches
cella: cell (of a monk)
tutius: more safe, pleasant
Tutius est iacuisse thoro, tenuisse puellam: It is more save to lie on couch, to hold a girl
thorus = torus

Idcirco divitias forsan non amatis,
ut eternam postmodum vitam capiatis.
Heu mentes perdite! numquid ignoratis,
quod semper multum nocuit differre paratis? (Lucian, I.281)

forsan: perhaps
postmodum: later
perdite = perditae (destroyed, wasted)
quod semper multum nocuit differre paratis: that it always harms to delay when things are ready (paratis: abl. abs. It is a quote from Lucian I.281, but within this poem paratis can also be taken as: for those who are ready.)

Semper habet comitem paupertas merorem,
perdit fructum Veneris et amoris florem,
quia iuxta nobilem versificatorem
non habet unde suum paupertas pascat amorem. (Ovid, Rem. Am. 749)

comes –itis (m. and f.): companion
maeror –oris (m): sadness
perdo perdidi perditum: to destroy        
nobilem versificatorem: Ovid
pasco pavi pastum: to feed

Sit pauper de nobile genere gigantum,
sciat quantum currat sol et Saturnus quantum,
per se solus habeat totum fame cantum:
gloria quantalibet quid erit si gloria tantum? (Juvenal 7.81)

(This stanza is not in the link below)
genere gigantum: there were giants in those days (Gen. 6,4)
totum fame cantum: `all the trumpeting of fame’.
gloria quantalibet quid erit si gloria tantum? How much glory (there is), what if it shall be just glory?

Audi, qui de Socrate disputas et scribis,
miser, vaca potius potibus et cibis;
quod si dives fieri noles vel nequibis,
inter utrumque tene, medio tutissimus ibis. (Combines Ovid, Met.  II. 140 and 137)

vaca potius potibus et cibis: devote yourself rather to  drinking end eating
nequeo nequire nequi(v)I nequitum: to be unable to
inter utrumque tene: keep yourself between the both (i.e. poverty and wealth)

Full text with translation:

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