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