Friday, 8 November 2013

Isodore of Seville praising his library.

Isodore of Seville (c. 560 – 4 April 636) was an immensely learned bishop and has been called the last scholar of the ancient world. He thanks his fame to Etymologiae, a work in 20 volumes in which he summarizes all knowledge thus far known and to the Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum, a history of the Gothic, Vandal and Suevi kings in Spain. In order to compile such works he must have had an enormous library. He clearly was a lover of books and wrote two epigrams to urging his fellow monks to read.
I found these poems in a book I bought from the library of the faculty of letters of Groningen University. The open access to books will be closed and lots of pc’s will be installed as according to the managers everything can be found on internet. Of double copies one will go into the central library and only be available on demand, and the other will be sold. I have to disappoint the managers: the book I bought – Horst Kusch, Einführung in das Lateinische Mittelalter, Band 1, Dichtung (Darmstadt, 1957) – is not on internet and some of the massive collection of Latin poems with a facing German translation can only with the greatest difficulties be found – if at all -    on internet and often without a translation .  But well, I am afraid that these people are completely blank-faced when asked to tell some basic information about the middle ages.
When reading a text in Greek or Latin, I like to have one or preferably two commentaries at hand, a dictionary and a translation to control my interpretation. With a single screen this is impossible!
For the record: I had no commentaries here to help me, only a not always accurate German translation.

Isodore of Seville, two epigrams:

Sunt hic plura sacra, sunt mundalia plura;
  Ex his si qua placent carmina, tolle, lege.
Prata vides plena spinis et copia floris;
  Si non vis spinas sumere, sume rosas.

sacra…mundalia: both sacred books and books containing worldly matters
tolle, lege: a direct quote from St, Augustine, Confessiones 8,12 in which he tells that he heard a voice saying `take, read’. Upon hearing that, Augustine opened the Bible and that was - according to him - the beginning of his conversion.
si qua: if any
pratum: meadow
plenus (+ abl.): full of
spina: thorn (This refers to difficult and learned books.)
copia floris: a bit awkward expression `with abundance of flower’  This was  - I think – to keep the flower in the metrical line: more flowers would have fallen out… Note that in classical Latin the a of copia is long, but not so in late Latin.
sumo sumpsi sumptum: to pick

En multos libros gestant haec scrinia nostra ;
  Qui cupis, ecce lege, si tua vota libent.
Tolle hic segnitiem, pone fastidia mentis;
  Crede mihi, frater, doctior inde redis.
An dicis forte : «Quid iam mihi ista necesse est?
  Quod meditem studii nil superesse mei;
Explicui historias, percurri omnia legis» :
  Vere, hoc si dicis, iam nihil ipse sapis.

en: see! look!
gesto: to bear, contain
scrinium: book-box
si tua vota libent: if they are pleasing your religious vows
tolle: here not `take’, but `take away, put down’, just like pone
segnities –es (f.): slowness, tardiness
fastidium: distaste, aversion
inde: from here
redeo: to return
Quod meditem studii nil superesse mei: because I think nothing of my study is left  (Note that meditem is not classical Latin: the verb in classical Latin is meditor.)
percurro percurri percursum: to run through
explico explicavi/explicui explicatum/explicitum: to unfold, treat, explain
omnia legis: all things concerning law
sapio sapivi: to be wise

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