Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The epitaph of Alcuin.

Alcuin (735-804) was one of the towering figures of the Carolingian Renaissance: theologian, philosopher, poet, educator and industrious writer.  He must have been very good company: learned, witty and loving good wine. Unlike the Englishmen from his days up till now and for centuries to come donec angelica tuba personet, he disliked beer.  I like both and I wish I could share a good bottle of wine with him!
He died at Tours and was buried there with an epitaph on his stone written by himself.  The stone itself does not exist anymore, but the poem does.

Metrum: elegiac couplets

Hic, rogo, pauxillum veniens subsiste, viator.
  et mea scrutare pectore dicta tuo,
ut tua deque meis agnoscas fata figuris:
  vertitur o species, ut mea, sicque tua.
quod nunc es fueram, famosus in orbe, viator,
  et quod nunc ego sum, tuque futurus eris.
delicias mundi casso sectabar amore,
  nunc cinis et pulvis, vermibus atque cibus.
quapropter potius animam curare memento,
  quam carnem, quoniam haec manet, illa perit.
cur tibi rura paras? quam parvo cernis in antro
  me tenet hic requies: sic tua parva fiet.
cur Tyrio corpus inhias vestirier ostro
  quod mox esuriens pulvere vermis edet?
ut flores pereunt vento veniente minaci,
  sic tua namque, caro, gloria tota perit.
tu mihi redde vicem, lector, rogo, carminis huius
  et dic: 'da veniam, Christe, tuo famulo.'
obsecro, nulla manus violet pia iura sepulcri,
  personet angelica donec ab arce tuba:
'qui iaces in tumulo, terrae de pulvere surge,
  magnus adest iudex milibus innumeris.'
Alchuine nomen erat sophiam mihi semper amanti,
  pro quo funde preces mente, legens titulum.

Hic requiescit beatae memoriae domnus Alchuinus abba, qui obiit in pace XIV. Kal. Iunias. Quando legeritis, o vos omnes, orate pro eo et dicite, 'Requiem aeternam donet ei dominus.' Amen.

pauxillum: for a moment
scruto: scrutinize
agnosco agnoti agnitum: to recognize
vertitur o species, ut mea, sicque tua = o, ut mea  species (versa est), sicque tua vertitur 
verto verti versum: to change
species species (f.): appearance
cassus: empty
sector sectatus sum: to follow eagerly
deliciae deliciarum: allurement, pleasure
cinis cinis  (m.): ashes
pulvis  pulveris (m.): dust
quapropter: therefore
quoniam: because
rus ruris (n.): estate
cerno crevi certum: to see, perceive
antrum: cave
requies (f.): resting place
inhio: be eager for (litt. to open the mouth)
tyrio ostro: with Tyrian purple
vestirier: an early Latin passive infinitive of vestio `to cover with a garment’
esurio: being hungry
(in) pulvere
edo edi esum: to eat
vermis vermis (m.): worm
minax minacis: threatening
reddo vicem (+ gen.): to give something in return
famulus: servant
angelica tuba:  Revelation 11:15 et septimus angelus tuba cecinit et factae sunt voces magnae in caelo dicentes factum est regnum huius mundi Domini nostri et Christi eius et regnabit in saecula saeculorum
Alchuine nomen erat sophiam mihi semper amanti = mihi - sophiam semper amanti - nomen `Alchuine’ erat
fundo fudi fusum: to pour out
(in) mente, i.e.quietly
titulus: inscription

Translation by Luitpold Wallach (1959)

Here, I beg thee, pause for a while, traveler,
And ponder my words in thy heart,
That thou mayest understand thy fate in my shadow:
The form of thy body will be changed as was mine.
What thou art now, famous in the world, I have been, traveler,
And what I now am, thou wilt be in the future.
I was wont to seek the joys of the world in vain desire:
Now I am ashes and dust, and food for worms.
Remember therefore to take better care of thy soul
Than of thy body, because that survives, and this perishes.
Why dost thou look for possessions? Thou see'st in what a little cavern
This tomb folds me: Thine will be equally small.
Why are thou eager to deck in Tyrian purple thy body
Which soon in the dust the hungry worm will devour?
As flowers perish when comes the menacing wind,
So also thy flesh and all thy glory perish.
Give me, I beg thee, O reader, a return for this poem,
And pray: "Grant, O Christ, forgiveness to thy servant."
I implore thee, let no hand profane the holy rights of this tomb,
Until the angelic trumpet announces from Heaven high:
"Thou who liest in the tomb, rise from the dust of the earth,
The Mighty Judge appears to countless thousands."
My name was Alchuine, and wisdom was always dear to me.
Pour out prayers for me when thou quietly readest this inscription

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Einhard: an almost lasting legacy of Charlemagne.

When at Christmas 800 Charlemagne was crowned as emperor, he was at the height of his power. With great zeal he undertook all kind of reforms regarding the government of his empire and one of these reforms was harmonizing the two Germanic law systems – the lex Salica and the lex Ribuaria.  For reasons not explained by Einhard, this was one of the few things Charlemagne was not successful in. As Einhard’s vita is a eulogy rather than a scholarly account of Charlemagne’s life, it was probably seen is a minor failure, Charlemagne also ordered that ancient heroic lays should be written down. Alas! Not a single copy has survived – to the deep regret of scholars of Germanic languages and literature.
What has been a legacy almost till the 20th are the Germanic names for the months. True, the Anglo-Saxons were earlier, but their names only partially overlap and the names of the months devised by Charlemagne were in use for a thousand years in parts of Western Europe.
Finally he gave Germanic names to the twelve winds. The Latin names for these winds go back to Isodore of Sevilla. Whereas the names of the months are imaginative and connected with agriculture, the names of the winds are just combinations of north, east, south and west. It is easy to reconstruct from the Germanic names the direction of the winds: north is nord, east is ost, south is sund and west is uuest. The suffix – roni makes the word an adjective.

Einhard, Vita Karoli Magni, c.29

[29] Post susceptum imperiale nomen, cum adverteret multa legibus populi sui deesse - nam Franci duas habent leges, in plurimis locis valde diversas - cogitavit quae deerant addere et discrepantia unire, prava quoque ac perperam prolata corrigere, sed de his nihil aliud ab eo factum est, nisi quod pauca capitula, et ea inperfecta, legibus addidit. Omnium tamen nationum, quae sub eius dominatu erant, iura quae scripta non erant describere ac litteris mandari fecit. Item barbara et antiquissima carmina, quibus veterum regum actus et bella canebantur, scripsit memoriaeque mandavit. Inchoavit et grammaticam patrii sermonis. Mensibus etiam iuxta propriam linguam vocabula inposuit, cum ante id temporis apud Francos partim Latinis, partim barbaris nominibus pronuntiarentur. Item ventos duodecim propriis appellationibus insignivit, cum prius non amplius quam vix quattuor ventorum vocabula possent inveniri. Et de mensibus quidem Ianuarium uuintarmanoth, Februarium hornung, Martium lenzinmanoth, Aprilem ostarmanoth, Maium uuinnemanoth, Iunium brachmanoth, Iulium heuuimanoth, Augustum aranmanoth, Septembrem uuitumanoth, Octobrem uuindumemanoth, Novembrem herbistmanoth, Decembrem heilagmanoth appellavit.

Ventis vero hoc modo nomina inposuit, ut subsolanum vocaret ostroniuuint, eurum ostsundroni, euroaustrum sundostroni, austrum sundroni, austroafricum sunduuestroni, africum uuestsundroni, zefyrum uuestroni, chorum uuestnordroni, circium norduuestroni, septentrionem nordroni, aquilonem nordostroni, vulturnum ostnordroni.

adverteret = animadverteret
prava quoque ac perperam prolata corrigere: to correct the distorted and wrongly (perperam adv.) transmitted (things)
Omnium tamen nationum: Saxons, Thuringians and Frisians
litteris mandari:  to be entrusted to writings (No copies have survived: the oldest extant law books are from the 13th century and probably don’t derive directly from the Carolingian manuscripts, though in content they are likely to be much the same.)
barbara  = Germanica (i.e. non-Christian)
inchoavit: the word indicates that is was never completed
iuxta propriam linguam: according to his own language
uuintarmanoth: winter month
horning: the shedding of antlers
lenzinmanoth: spring month (lenzin = lent)
ostarmanoth: Easter month (Eostra was a Germanic  goddess in whose honour celebrations took place in April. Her name was transferred to Cristian feast of the death and resurrection of Jesus.)
uuinnemanoth: pasture month (winne is an Old High German word for pasture, but as the word became obsolete at a quite early stage, it was connected with Wonne `love’.)
brachmanoth: breaking month (i.e. breaking the soil, ploughing
heuuimanoth: hay month
aranmanoth: harvest month
uuitumanoth:  wood month (gathering wood for winter)
uuindumemanoth: month of raping grapes
herbistmanoth:  autumn month (herbist is connected with English `harvest’ and Latin carpo.)
heilagmanoth: holy month (because of Christmas.)

Translation by Samuel Epes Turner (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880)

It was after he had received the imperial name that, finding the laws of his people very defective (the Franks have two sets of laws, very different in many particulars), he determined to add what was wanting, to reconcile the discrepancies, and to correct what was vicious and wrongly cited in them. However, he went no further in this matter than to supplement the laws by a few capitularies, and those imperfect ones; but he caused the unwritten laws of all the tribes that came under his rule to be compiled and reduced to writing . He also had the old rude songs that celebrate the deeds and wars of the ancient kings written out for transmission to posterity. He began a grammar of his native language. He gave the months names in his own tongue, in place of the Latin and barbarous names by which they were formerly known among the Franks. He likewise designated the winds by twelve appropriate names; there were hardly more than four distinctive ones in use before. He called January, Wintarmanoth; February, Hornung; March, Lentzinmanoth; April, Ostarmanoth; May, Winnemanoth; June, Brachmanoth; July, Heuvimanoth; August, Aranmanoth; September, Witumanoth; October, Windumemanoth; Novemher, Herbistmanoth; December, Heilagmanoth. He styled the winds as follows; Subsolanus, Ostroniwint; Eurus, Ostsundroni-, Euroauster, Sundostroni; Auster, Sundroni; Austro-Africus, Sundwestroni; Africus, Westsundroni; Zephyrus, Westroni; Caurus, Westnordroni; Circius, Nordwestroni; Septentrio, Nordroni; Aquilo, Nordostroni; Vulturnus, Ostnordroni.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

An early Cristmas post.

I know it is still a bit early for Christmas posts, but a befriended cellist and leader of a baroque ensemble asked me to translate the following text. It has been set on music and she wants to perform it for her Christmas program. I have been unable to trace the author, but my guess is late Mediaeval or Renaissance period.
There is no performance of this song on Youtube, but maybe early next year with me amongst the public!

1.Illibata, ter beata
Jesu natalitia
Collaudemus, et clamemus
Omnia felicia.
Terra plaude, caelum gaude
Resonet laetitia.

2.Virgo mirum, ventre virum
Amplexata tenuit
Et Creator, hic Viator
Fieri non renuit.
Terra plaude, caelum gaude
Virgo Deum genuit

 3.Ille piae, flos Mariae
Virginale lilium
Huc de caelo, magno zelo
Venit in exilium.
Terra plaude, caelum gaude
Lauda Dei Filium.

4.Non in aula, sed in caula
Natus est puerulus.
Deus gemit, vento tremit,
Flet pro nobis querulus.
Terra plaude, caelum gaude
Venit ad nos Iesulus

illibatus: uninjured, immaculate
Illibata  natalitia: unlike the Buddha, who is born every aeon again, Jesus as far as I know has only been born once, so why the plural? One could argue that it is because of the rhyme with felicia and laetitia, but the plural in Latin is sometimes used to intensify, like soles is used for `great heat’, so: the great immaculate birth.
Virgo mirum, ventre virum amplexata tenuit = Virgo mirum virum tenuit, amplexata ventre
venter ventris (m.): belly
amplexor amplexatus sum: to embrace
teneo tenui: to keep, hold
Viator: the idea is that a human being is just passers-by (viator) on earth, so viator = homo
hic fieri non renuit: does to refuse to become here
Ille piae, flos Mariae Virginale lilium = Ille flos piae Mariae, virginale lilium,
lilium: the lily is the flower of purity
huc: to this place
zelus: zeal
exilium: again the idea of the world as a transitory place
caula (Late Latin): stable
gemo gemui: to sigh, groan
tremo tremui: tremble, shiver
querulus: complaining

Friday, 17 October 2014

Ovid: Girls, don't laugh immoderately!

Ovid’s Ars Amatoria is a treatise of how to gain love. The first two books are for men and the third and final book is directed to women. As such a work has also to deal with things sexual, Ovid can’t avoid being explicit and so – as I was surprised to read in the wiki link below-   US Customs found reason to seize an English translation of it. In 1930 that was - I hope they have come to their senses by now.
As love is of every time, so are the advices Ovid tells his readers. In the following extract Ovid is talking about laughing. I hope female readers of this blog can still take profit from Ovid’s thoughts about this subject! As a bonus there is some more advice by Ovid.

Ovidius, Ars Amatoria 3, 281-396

Quis credat? discunt etiam ridere puellae,
     Quaeritur atque illis hac quoque parte decor.
Sint modici rictus, parvaeque utrimque lacunae,
     Et summos dentes ima labella tegant.
Nec sua perpetuo contendant ilia risu,               285
     Sed leve nescio quid femineumque sonent.
Est, quae perverso distorqueat ora cachinno:
     Risu concussa est altera, flere putes.
Illa sonat raucum quiddam atque inamabile ridet,
     Ut rudit a scabra turpis asella mola.               290
Quo non ars penetrat? discunt lacrimare decenter,
     Quoque volunt plorant tempore, quoque modo.
Quid, cum legitima fraudatur littera voce,
     Blaesaque fit iusso lingua coacta sono?
In vitio decor est: quaerunt male reddere verba;               295
     Discunt posse minus, quam potuere, loqui.

quaeritur decor: charm is also looked for
rictus –us (m.): opening of the mouth
lacuna:  hole, dimple
Et summos dentes ima labella tegant: litt.  let the deepest parts of the lips cover the highes parts of the teeth. A typical Ovidian sentence: with a few words an image is created. What is meant is that the lips should only be opened to such extent, that they cover the gum (summos dentes, `dental roots’, so the gum) and they should not uncover more.
contendere ilia: to shake the entrails
quae…altera: the one…the other
distorqueo distorti distortum:  to twist, distort
cachinnus: immoderate laughter
flere putes: cf. crying from laughing     
Ut rudit a scabra turpis asella mola: like a wretched she-donkey roars from the rough millstone. (so
Quoque volunt plorant tempore, quoque modo = et plorant quo tempore volunt et quo modo
ploro: to weep
legitima littera: the correct pronunciation
Blaesaque fit iusso lingua coacta sono: the tongue becomes lisping, forced by the imposed sound   I found an online German translation with an excellent commentary by Heinrich Lindemann (1861) who thinks that these lines refer to colloquial language (gemüthliche Umgangssprache), but I rather think that Roman girls distorted their voice in a childish manner in order to appear charming.)
reddere verba = loqui
vitium: imperfection
minus: less perfect
potuere = potuerunt

Translation by A. S. Kline (2001)

Who’d believe it? Girls must even learn to laugh,
they seek to acquire beauty also in this way.
Laugh modestly, a small dimple either side,
the teeth mostly concealed by the lips.
Don’t strain your lungs with continual laughter,
but let something soft and feminine ring out.
One girl will distort her face perversely by guffawing:
another shakes with laughter, you’d think she’s crying.
That one laughs stridently in a hateful manner,
like a mangy ass braying at the shameful mill.
Where does art not penetrate? They’re taught to cry,
with propriety, they weep when and how they wish.
Why! Aren’t true words cheated by the voice,
and tongues forced to make lisping sounds to order?
Charm’s in a defect: they try to speak badly:
they’re taught, when they can speak, to speak less.

Latin text with German translation and commentary: