Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Janus Secundus, Basium 4: hot, wet kisses!

Janus Secundus (15 November 1511 – 25 September 1536) was a Dutch humanist writer with an enormous output, taking into account that he did not reach the age of 25.
In 1534 Janus was appointed secretary of the archbishop of Toledo and it was in Spain that he met his mistress Neaera. Under the spell of her kisses he composed the cycle of poems: Basia, a cycle of 19 poems in various meters. It is not difficult to see where he got his inspiration from and indeed, he belonged to those poets who sought their inspiration in Catullus. Compare Catullus 5, 7-9:

da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.

With Basia 7, 1-6

Centum basia centies,
centum basia millies,
mille basia millies,
et tot milia millies,
quot guttae Siculo mari,
      quot sunt sidera caelo,

Hundred hundred times kisses,
hundrerd thousand times kisses.
thousand thousand times kisses
and as that many thousand,
as there are drops in the Sicilian sea,
as there are stars in heaven.

During his stay in Spain, he fell ill and returned to the Netherlands. Apparently he felt that he had not much time left before he would die. He spent his final year in writing an outburst of poems and editing his previous work. Not much was published during his lifetime, but after his death his poems were published by his two brothers and the high quality was immediately recognized. Janus Secundus: the most famous Dutch poet outside the Netherland. Here unknown....

Basium 4
(meter: hendecasyllabic)

Non dat basia, dat Neaera nectar,
dat rores animae suaveolentes,
dat nardumque, thymumque, cinnamumque,
et mel, quale iugis legunt Hymetti,
aut in Cecropiis apes rosetis,
atque hinc virgineis et inde ceris
saeptum vimineo tegunt quasillo.
Quae si multa mihi voranda dentur,
immortalis in iis repente fiam,
magnorumque epulis fruar deorum.
Sed tu munere parce, parce tali,
aut mecum dea fac, Neaera, fias:
non mensas sine te volo deorum:
non si me rutilis praeesse regnis,
excluso Iove, di deaeque cogant.

rores animae suaveolentes: sweet-smelling dews (ros roris, m.) of her soul
nardus: nard-oil (from the Indian nard-tree)
mel mellis (n.): honey
legunt (apes)
iugis Hymetti: on the tops of the Hymettus (a mountain near Athens.)
Cecropiis rosetis: the rose gardens of Cecrops (= Athens)
apis apis (f.): bee
atque hinc virgineis et inde ceris / saeptum vimineo tegunt quasillo: and they cover (the honey) from here and there stored (saeptus) with virgin wax (cerum) in twined (vimeneus) baskets (quasillum)
voranda: to be swallowed up
in iis (basiis)
repente: suddenly
epulum: banquet
frui fructus sum (+ abl,): to use
munere parce, parce tali: be sparing, sparing (parco peperci parsum + abl,) with such a gift
fac… fias: make that you become
non si me rutilis praeesse regnis, / excluso Iove, di deaeque cogant = non si di deaeque me cogant rutilis regnis praeesse, excluso Iove.  Not (even) if the gods and goddesses would force me to rule over (praesum + dat.) (their) shining kingdoms, when Jove has been removed.

16th century portrait of Janus Secundus by an unknown painter.

There is no modern translation of the Basia, but there is a free e-book published in 1812:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Secundus The Dutch wiki is more informative.

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