Sunday, 25 May 2014

Gregory of Tours: A miracle by a Breton priest.

In a few days’ time I will go to France for a short holiday, to Brittany to be exact. With two friends we will visit menhirs and other archaeological and historical places of interest.  It can therefore be no coincidence that I found this little story about a Breton man in Gregory of Tours’ Historia Francorum, when I was just opening some pages.
Winnocus, a Breton monk, is on his way to Jerusalem and visits Tours, where Gregory is bishop. It is immediately clear that he is a man of great holiness and rather than having him traval further to Jerusalem, Gregory wants him to stay there at Tours. He is given the office of priest and performs a miracle: when a certain nun Inghitrudis , who uses to collect water from the grave of St. Martin – probably the water which was used to wash the grave – had not enough of this water to fill her jar, she asks Winnocus to bring a jar of wine to the grave. The wine is sanctified by standing near to St. Martins grave and the next morning she asks Winnicus to throw half of the wine away and to add a drop of her holy water to the jar.  A miracle happens and the jar is full of wine again and this trick is performed two more times. Wish I had such water!
Winnocus would end badly:  in book 8.34 Gregory tells how Winnocus gave up his ascetic lifestyle and got used to drinking wine and when drunk he was chasing after people visiting him with a knife. The Devil had gotten hold of him and this once holy man had to be chained by his former devotees.
I wonder what kind of people we will meet in Brittany…

Gregory is very lax in the use of gender and cases and his syntax is not always clear, but the general sense is not difficult to grasp.

Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum 5. 21. De Winnoco Brittone.

Tunc Winnocus Britto in summa abstinentia a Brittaniis venit Toronus, Hierusolimis accedere cupiens, nullum alium vestimentum nisi de pellibus ovium lana privatis habens; quem nos, quo facilius teneremus, quia nobis relegiosus valde videbatur, presbiterii gratia honoravimus. Inghitrudis autem relegiosa consuetudinem habebat, aquam de sepulchrum sancti Martini collegere. Qua aqua deficiente, rogat, vas cum vino ad beati tumulum deportari. Transacta autem nocte, eum exinde hoc presbitero praesenti adsumi mandavit; et ad se delatum, ait presbitero: 'Aufer hinc vino et unam tantum guttam de aqua benedicta, unde parum superest, effunde'. Quod cum fecisset, mirum dictu, vasculum, quod semeplenum erat, ad unius guttae discensum impletum est. Idem bis aut tertio vacuatum, per unam tantum guttam est impletum; quod non ambigetur  et in hoc beati Martini fuisse virtutem.

Britto: Breton
in summa abstinentia: (a man living) in high abstinence
Toronus: Tours (undeclined)
vestimentum: clothing
pellis pellis (f.): skin
lana privatis: without wool
presbiterii gratia: with the honour of priesthood
religiosa: nun         
vas vasis (n.): jar
eum: the jar (note that Gregory uses the masculine instead of the neuter.)
exhinde: from there
adsumo adsumpsi adsumptum: to take away
hoc presbitero praesenti: abl. abs.
et ad se delatum: and (the jar) being brought to her
Aufer hinc vino:  Hopeless syntax `take away from the wine from there.’ i.e. `pour some wine out of the jar’.
gutta: drop
parum: a little
semiplenus : half full
ad unius guttae discensum: by the falling of just one drop
quod non ambigetur et: therefore it shall not be doubted that also etc.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ausonius to his wife.

Decimus Magnus Ausonius (310 Bordeaux – 393/4) was the most famous poet and teacher of rhetoric of his time. He was summoned to Rome to become the teacher Gratian, son of Valentian 1 and spent the years between 365 and 388 mostly at Rome or at campaign with Gratian. His final years he spent at his home town Bordeaux, writing poems and enjoying his estate.
He is best known from his poem Mosella, which he wrote around 370, in which gives an idyllic picture of the river Moselle.  Apart from this poem he wrote lots of other poems amongst them this epigram for his wife in which he imagines that at old age they will still be youthful. Alas, she died when she was 28, leaving him three children of which one died in infancy.  Though in later life he married a girl captured from the Alamanni,  the loss of his first wife would cast a shadow over the rest of his life.
This epigram was probably written a year before her death:


Ad Uxorem

Uxor, vivamus quod viximus et teneamus
nomina quae primo sumpsimus in thalamo ;
nec ferat ulla dies, ut commutemur in aevo,
quin tibi sim iuvenis tuque puella mihi.
Nestore sim quamvis provectior aemulaque annis
vincas Cumanam tu quoque Deiphoben,
nos ignoremus quid sit matura senectus,
scire aevi meritum, non numerare decet.

quod: most manuscripts read quod and one family ut. quod has been suspected and the emendation ceu by Heyne is accepted by most editors. However N. M. Kay has defended quod, pointing out that quod in Late Latin is used for sicut.
nomina: names showing affection, cuddling names
thalamus: bedroom  and by extension: marriage
in aevo: in old age
quin = ut non
Nestore provectior: more advanced (in age) than Nestor
aemulus: rivalling
Cumana Deiphobe: The Cumaean Sybille, proverbial for old age of women
matura senectus: old age
scire aevi meritum, non numerate decet: It is proper to know the merits of the years, not to count them

Translation by Helen Waddell:

To his Wife

LOVE, let us live as we have lived, nor lose
The little names that were the first night's grace,
And never come the day that sees us old,
I still your lad, and you my little lass.
Let me be older than old Nestor's years,
And you the Sibyl, if we heed it not.
What should we know, we two, of ripe old age?
We'll have its richness, and the years forgot.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Tibullus 2.2: happy birthday Cornutus!

It is an advantage to have a famous poet amongst your friends as you might be immortalized in one of his – or her - poems. This happened to some Cornutus, who was befriended with Tibullus. Cornutus could be M. Cornutus, praetor urbanus (magistrate for civil cases at Rome) in 43 BC., but this in no way certain. Tibullus is hardly read anymore at schools, so this immortality has its limits, but it is better than nothing. I have no poet amongst my friends…
The following poem is for Cornutus’ birthday. He is also just married or about to marry.

Tibullus Elegies 2.2

Dicamus bona verba: venit Natalis ad aras:
    quisquis ades, lingua, vir mulierque, faue.
urantur pia tura focis, urantur odores
    quos tener e terra divite mittit Arabs.
ipse suos Genius adsit visurus honores,
    cui decorent sanctas mollia serta comas.
illius puro destillent tempora nardo,
    atque satur libo sit madeatque mero,
adnuat et, Cornute, tibi, quodcumque rogabis.
    en age (quid cessas? adnuit ille) roga.
auguror, uxoris fidos optabis amores:
    iam reor hoc ipsos edidicisse deos.
nec tibi malueris, totum quaecumque per orbem
    fortis arat valido rusticus arva bove,
nec tibi, gemmarum quidquid felicibus Indis
    nascitur, Eoi qua maris unda rubet.
uota cadunt: utinam strepitantibus advolet alis
    flavaque coniugio vincula portet Amor,
vincula quae maneant semper dum tarda senectus
    inducat rugas inficiatque comas.
haec veniat, Natalis, avis prolemque ministret,
    ludat et ante tuos turba novella pedes.

bona verba: not just good or friendly words, but words which won’t bring any harm to the birthday rituals.
Natalis: genius Natalis, the genius of birth, a protective spirit, who accompanied every individual till his or her death.
ara: altar
fave lingua: be silent! (a solemn expression)
uro ussi ustum: to burn
tus turis (n.): incense
focus: fire-place
tener Arabs: because of their rich country (terra dives) Arabs were seen as weak and effeminate.
suos honores: the honores for a birthday consisted of incense, wine (merum) and a cake (libum). The hair (coma) of the statue of the genius was decorated with garlands (serta) and the temple of the head (tempus, -oris, n.) smeared with nard-oil (nardum).
destillo (destillare): to drip
satur satura saturum (+ abl.): full
madeo madui (+ abl.): to be wet
adnuo adnui: to nod, to approve by nodding
en age: come on!
cesso: to delay, hesitate
auguror auguratus sum: to predict
Eium mare: the whole ocean between Arabia and India
iam reor hoc ipsos edidicisse deos: I reckon (reor ratus sum) that the gods know this very well (litt. have learnt this by heart) by now (As Cornutus must have often prayed for this.)
nec tibi malueris, totum quaecumque per orbem fortis arat valido rusticus arva bove = nec tibi malueris quaecumque arva per totum orbem fortis rusticus valido bove arat: nor do you prefer for yourself whatever fields (arvum) on the whole world a strong farmer ploughs (aro) with a robust ox.
gemma: gem
rubet: the gulf is red because of the nearness of the rising sun.
cadunt: turn out favourably (a term from playing dice.)
strepitantibus alis: with rustling wings
flavaque coniugio vincula: and a yellow fetter for your marriage (yellow is the colour of a marriage and flavus has in this context also the connotation `ardent’.)
tardus: sluggish
induco induxi: to bring
ruga: wrinkle
inficio infeci infectum: to infect, spoil
haec avis: the wingend Amor
proles prolis (f.): offspring
turba novella: a new crowd (i.e. grandchildren)

I could find only this rendering into English verse by Theodore C. Williams from 1908:

Burn incense now! and round our altars fair
    With cheerful vows or sacred silence stand!
  To-day Cerinthus' birth our rites declare,
    With perfumes from the blest Arabian land.

  Let his own Genius to our festal haste,
    While fresh-blown flowers his heavenly tresses twine
  And balm-anointed brows; so let him taste
    Our offered loaf and sweet, unstinted wine!

  To thee Cerinthus may his favoring care
    Grant every wish! O claim some priceless meed!
  Ask a fond wife thy life-long bliss to share—
    Nay! This the great gods have long since decreed!

  Less than this gift were lordship of wide fields,
    Where slow-paced yoke and swain compel the corn;
  Less, all rich gems the womb of India yields,
    Where the flushed Ocean rims the shores of Morn.

  Thy vow is granted! Lo! on pinions bright,
    The Love-god comes, a yellow cincture bearing,
  To bind thee ever to thy dear delight,
    In nuptial knot, all other knots outwearing.

  When wrinkles delve, and o'er the reverend brow
    Fall silver locks and few, the bond shall be
  But more endeared; and thou shall bless this vow
    O'er children's children smiling at thy knee.