Thursday, 26 February 2015

Piccolomini: a hot scene.

In 1432 emperor Sigismund visited Siena with a large entourage and stayed there for some time. This event must have had a great impact for the citizens and talk of the town for years. At that time the Italian Humanist Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (1405-1464) was secretary to the Bishop of Fermo and though a native of Siena, not there at the time Sigismund stayed there.  In 1442 he was created Poet Laureate and free from daily business, he could compose even more literary works. One of these was the Historia de duobus amantibus, a remarkable piece of prose, as it uses letters written by the lovers to express their longings and inner thoughts and so was the first novel to use this literary device. The scene was set at Siena during the visit of Sigismund and the two protagonists are Euryalus,  a German knight from the emperor’s staff and Lucretia, a beautiful high ranking and young lady with a deeply unhappy marriage. After an exchange of letters, there was finally an opportunity meet each other: Lucretia’s husband is away and disguised as a baiulus (day-labourer) Euryalus enters her house. The following scene describes their first meeting and is full of eroticism. Their love was not destined to have an happy ending. When it becomes clear that thaey will never see each other again, Lucretia dies from grief and the last sentence – also the motto of this story – is: quem qui legerint, periculum ex aliis faciant, quod sibi ex usu fiet, nec amatorium poculum bibere studeant, quod longe plus aloës habet quam mellis. `And may all who read it take a lesson from others that will be useful to themselves: let them beware to drink the cup of love, that holds far more of bitter than of sweet. (Grierson)
The book became an instant success, but when in 1458 Piccolomini was elected pope, he deeply regretted having written such explicit passages…

Erat Lucretia levi vestita palla quae membris absque ruga haerebant; nec vel pectus vel clunes mentiebantur; ut erant arctus sic se ostentabant. Gulae candor nivalis, oculorum lumen tamquam solis iubar. Intuitus laetus, facies alacris, genae veluti lilia, purpureis immixta rosis. Risus in ore suavis atque modestus. Pectus amplum, papillae quasi duo punica poma ex utroque latere tumescebant pruritumque palpitantens movebant.
Non potuit Euryalus ultra stimulum cohibere sed, oblitus timoris, modestiam quoque abs se repulit aggressusque feminam:
«Iam», inquit, «fructum sumamus amoris», remque verbis iungebat. Obstabat mulier curamque sibi honestatis et famae fore dicebat; nec aliud eius amorem quam verba et oscula poscere.
Ad quae subridens Euryalus:
«Aut scitum est», inquit, «me huc venisse aut nescitum. Si scitum, nemo est qui non cetera suspicetur et stultum est infamiam sine re subire. Si vero nescitum et hoc quoque sciet nullus. Hoc pignus amoris est, emoriar prius, quam hoc caream».
«Ah, scelus est!» inquit Lucretia.
«Scelus est», refert Euryalus, «bonis non uti cum possis. At ego occasionem mihi concessam, tam quaesitam, tam optatam, amitterem?». Acceptaque mulieris veste, pugnantem feminam, quae vincere nolebat, abs negotio vicit.
Nec Venus haec satietatem, ut Amnoni cognita Tamar, peperit sed maiorem sitim excitavit amoris. Memor tamen discriminis Euryalus, postquam vini cibique paulisper hausit, repugnante Lucretia, recessit; nec sinistre quisquam suspicatus est, quia unus ex baiulis putabatur.

levi palla: in a light garment
absque ruga: without a wrinkle
haero haesi (both with dat. and abl.): to stick to
clunis (f. and m.): buttock
mentior:  (here) to conceal
arctus -us = artus –us (m.): limb
gula: throat
niveus:  snow-white
iubar  iubaris (n.): radiance
intuitus –us (m.): look
gena: cheek
pectus amplum:  a full bosom
punica poma: pomegranates
pruritus -us (m.): longing
palpito: to tremble
cohibeo cohibui: to contain
oblitus (+gen.): forgetting
(dicebat) amorem poscere (posco poposci: to demand)
subrido subrisi subrisum: to smile
aut scitum est: either it is known
infamiam sine re subire: to let a bad reputation come without any ground
pignus pignoris (n.): token
careo carui (+abl.): to be deprived of
accepta veste: the cloth being grasped
abs negotio:  without a problem
ut Amnoni cognita Tamar: Tamar was the daughter of king David and was raped by her half brother Ammon (2 Samuel 13, 1-14) The comparison is not that happy in my opinion.
satiatem peperit: did not extinguish their lust
sitis sitis (f.): thirst
memor tamen discriminis: mindful of the risk
cibus: food
paulisper: a little
haurio hausi haustum: to drink, take
repugno: to resist
sinistre: harm

Translation by Flora Grierson (London: Constable and Co., 1929).

LUCRETIA was wearing a light robe which clung to her body without a wrinkle, concealing neither her breasts nor her hips, and displayed her limbs exactly as they were. Her throat was snowy white, her eyes shone with the radiance of the sun; her glance was happy, her face animated, and her cheeks like lilies mixed with crimson roses. Laughter that was sweet and modest filled her mouth. She was deep-bosomed, and her breasts swelled out on either side like two pomegranates, so that one longed to touch them.
Euryalus could contain himself no longer, but forgot his fear and cast aside all modesty. Coming close to her, he said: ‘At last let us enjoy our love,’ and he matched his actions to his words. But she resisted and pleaded her honour and her reputation, saying their love demanded no more than words and kisses.
At this, Euryalus smiled, 'Is it known that I have come here, or is it not? If it is, there is no one will not suspect the worst, and it is stupid to lose one’s reputation for nothing. If indeed no one knows, then no one will know this either. This is the pledge of love, and I’ll die sooner than go without it.’
‘Oh, but it’s wrong,’ cried she, and he replied:
‘It is wrong not to use the good things we have got, and shall I let slip the opportunity accorded me, that I have sought so long, desired so ardently?’
He seized her dress, and while she resisted with no desire to win, he easily got the better of her.
Nor did their love bring satiety, as when Tamar gave herself to Amon, but roused in them a greater thirst for more. Yet they remembered their peril and, after they had eaten and drunk a little, Euryalus departed, much against Lucretia’s will. And no one suspected anything, for they thought he was one of the day-labourers.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Phaedrus: the war between mice and weasels.

For years now I have mice in my house,, I can even hear them when I am working behind my pc a meter or so away having fun in my living room and yesterday I saw a well-fed mouse running over my sink. I have tried mouse-traps and poison, but they keep up coming.
In the following fable by Phaedrus an army of mice lost a battle against weasels and are fleeing away into their holes. They escape, except for those generals who had put horns on their heads as a visible sign (conspicuum sgnum) for the soldiers to follow them. Thus far I haven’t seen such mice in my house, so I suspect I have to deal with guerrilla warfare. We all know you can’t win that…

Phaedrus , Fabulae book 4, VI. Pugna Murium et Mustelarum
(meter: iambic)

Cum victi mures mustelarum exercitu
(historia, quot sunt, in tabernis pingitur)
fugerent et artos circum trepidarent cavos,
aegre recepti, tamen evaserunt necem:
duces eorum, qui capitibus cornua
suis ligarant ut conspicuum in proelio
haberent signum quod sequerentur milites,
haesere in portis suntque capti ab hostibus;
quos immolatos victor avidis dentibus
capacis alvi mersit Tartareo specu.
Quemcumque populum tristis eventus premit,
periclitatur magnitudo principium,
minuta plebes facili praesidio latet.

mures: the very fact that this word is about the same in Latin, Germanic, Greek, Sanskrit, Russian and other Indo-European languages, proves that this animal has been a constant menace  since Indo-European came into existence.
mustela: weasel (weasels are known as mouse-catchers and one proposed etymology for this word is indeed `mouse-stealer’, but this is far from certain.)
in tabernis pingitur: the walls of pubs were decorated with various  images, like old-fashioned pubs  still have paintings hanging on the walls)
artus: narrow
trepido:  nervously tripping (as they can’t all at the same time escape into the narrow holes artos cavos.)
aegre recepti: concessive `though they were received with difficulty’(recepti cavis)
nex necis (f.): killing, violent death
ligo: to bind, fasten
haereo haesi: to stick
immolo: to sacrifice (immolatos is predicate `who as victims’)
avidus: greedy
capax,  capacis: large
alvus: womb
mergo mersi mersum: to plunge, swallow
specus, -us (f. and m.): chasm, pit
Tartareus; Tartarean   
tristis eventus: grim fate
periclitor: to be in danger
minuta= humilis
plebes, -es (f.) = plebs
facili praesidio latet: hides away in an easy protection/hiding (another possibility is to take praedisum as `government, high officials’  - so Siebilis and Polle in their edition (1889). In that case facili would mean `easy to find’ and facili praesidio.must be taken as in instrumental ablative; `hide away through (= behind)

Translation by Christopher Smart (1722–1771)

The Battle of the Mice and Weasels

The routed Mice upon a day
Fled from the Weasels in array;
But in the hurry of the flight,
What with their weakness and their fright
Each scarce could get into his cave :
Howe'er, at last their lives they save.
But their commanders (who had tied
Horns to their heads in martial pride,
Which as a signal they design'd
For non-commission'd mice to mind)
Stick in the entrance as they go,
And there are taken by the foe,
Who, greedy of the victim, gluts
With mouse-flesh his ungodly guts.
Each great and national distress
Must chiefly mighty men oppress;
While folks subordinate and poor
Are by their littleness secure.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Ovid: revenge, revenge!

When Ovid was allegedly banned to the Black Sea in 8 AD, he did not quit writing. One of the works written there is the Ibis. It is a poem address to an unknown former friend and now enemy of Ovid.  This man is referred to as ibis after a poem of Callimachus with the same name. Callimachus wrote an invective poem against his former friend and pupil Apollonios Rhodios , who was librarian at Alexandria.  The ibis is revered in Egypt, but despised – don’t know why – in Greece, so it had two different characters depending on the perspective. Ovid uses his large knowledge about mythology to come up with all kinds of punishments and curses in this 644 line poem. This may sound heavy stuff, but Ovid is humorous as ever: It is so over the top and full of exaggeration that it is hard to take it seriously. Actually, I wonder if ibis refers to a real person at all. Indeed, I doubt the reality of the exile to the Black Sea.
In the following lines Ovid imagines himself standing at an altar and invoking the gods to help him making his curses effective. As literature has an eternal value, these words may still help when you want to take revenge on someone by cursing him or her. And don’t forget to put anger in these words! Take Leonie Rysanek performing Ortrud in Wagner’s Lohengrin as an example:   

Ovid, Ibis  67-96.

Di maris et terrae, quique his meliora tenetis
     Inter diversos cum Iove regna polos,
Huc, precor, huc vestras omnes advertite mentes,
     Et sinite optatis pondus inesse meis:               70
Ipsaque tu tellus, ipsum cum fluctibus aequor,
     Ipse meas aether accipe summe preces;
Sideraque et radiis circumdata solis imago,
     Lunaque, quae numquam quo prius orbe micas,
Noxque tenebrarum specie reverenda tuarum;               75
     Quaeque ratum triplici pollice netis opus,
Quique per infernas horrendo murmure valles
     Inperiuratae laberis amnis aquae,
Quasque ferunt torto vittatis angue capillis
     Carceris obscuras ante sedere fores;               80
Vos quoque, plebs superum, Fauni Satyrique Laresque
     Fluminaque et nymphae semideumque genus:
Denique ab antiquo divi veteresque novique
     In nostrum cuncti tempus, adeste, chao,
Carmina dum capiti male fido dira canentur               85
     Et peragent partes ira dolorque suas.
Adnuite optatis omnes ex ordine nostris,
     Et sit pars voti nulla caduca mei.
Quaeque precor, fiant: ut non mea dicta, sed illa
     Pasiphaes generi verba fuisse putet.               90
Quasque ego transiero poenas, patiatur et illas;
     Plenius ingenio sit miser ille meo!
Neve minus noceant fictum execrantia nomen
     Vota, minus magnos commoveantve deos:
Illum ego devoveo, quem mens intellegit, Ibin,               95
     Qui se scit factis has meruisse preces.

quique =  et (dii) qui
teneo: (often) to live, dwell
polus: heaven
opatis meis: (in) my things wished for
pondus, ponderis (n.): weight
Tellus, Telleris (f.): earth
aequor, aequoris (n.): sea
summe aether
prex, precis (f.): prayer, curse
Lunaque, quae numquam quo prius orbe micas: and you moon, who never shines with your orbit by which (you shone) previously. (This refers to the changing face of the moon.)
quaeque: the three Parcae or goddesses of Fate, who spin (neo) with their fingers (pollex, pollicis m., thumb, finger) the thread of life. As no one can escape this, it is an unfailing (ratum) work.
quique… amnis = et amnis inperiuratae aquae, qui (i.e. the Styx. The gods had to take oaths by this    water. As we all know, gods never swear falsely, so this water is  inperiuratae ` that is never sworn falsely by’.)
Quasque ferunt: and those who people say (i.e. the three Furies, whose hair is wreathed by snakes (vittatits angue) and sit in front of the prison of underworld.)
superum = superorum (an archaic  gen. plur. like semideum = semideorum)
ab antiquo Chao
carmina: (here) incantations
capiti male fido: by a treacherous heads (= mouth)
peragent partes.. suas: perform their tasks
adnuo (+ dat.): to nod, approve
omnes ex ordine: all one by one
Et sit pars voti nulla caduca mei : and be no part of my vow failing!
Pasiphaes generi: the son in law (gener) of Pasiphae (i.e. Theseus who cursed his son Hippolytus.)  
putet: may one believe
trans-eo: to sum up
Plenius ingenio sit miser ille meo: may that wretched person be more full (of punishments) then my mind (can imagine)
ex(s)ecror: to curse 
devoveo: to curse
Qui se scit factis has meruisse preces: who knows that he has deserved these curses because of his deeds.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Carmina Burana 153 (153 a): winter has gone away.

It is a bit early for this poem, but I hope that it serves as a spell for spring to come early. Every winter I hope for lots of snow and ice, but most times I get disappointed.  This morning what was left of ice has melted away, not to be seen again this winter and dreary weather with some rain and around 5-7 covers now my hometown. Sometimes I think I am born in the wrong country, as I prefer cold winters and hot summers. Well, with the climate change, those hot summers are now more or less guaranteed, but alas! – so are winters with hardly any ice….
The following poem from the Carmina Burana tells about the passing of winter and playfulness of the virgines on the grass.  The Latin is not too difficult, but there are mediaeval Latin words which may cause trouble. The syntax is subordinate to rhyming, or better, to the effect of sound e.g. annuunt favore/ volucres canore. The meaning is clear `the birds approve with applause by singing’, but few Roman children would have got away with such a sentence at school.
CB 153a is a sequel to 153 and in the first youtube link below it is part of the musical setting, covering 153 1-2 and 153a.


Tempus transit gelidum,           gelidus: icy
mundus renovatur,
verque redit floridum,               floridus: flowery
forma rebus datur.
avis modulatur,                         modulor: to sing
modulans letatur                       laetor: to rejoice
. . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
et lenior                                    lenis: soft
aer iam serenatur;                     sereno: to make clear. bright
iam florea,
iam frondea                              frondeus: covered with leaves
silva comis densatur.                 coma: folliage

Ludunt super gramina               gramen, -inis (n): grass
virgines decore,
quarum nova carmina
dulci sonant ore.                       (ex) dulci ore
annuunt favore                         annuo:  to approve
volucres canore,
favet et odore
tellus picta flore.                       tellus, telluris (f.) : earth
cor igitur
et cingitur
et tangitur    amore,
et avibus
strepentibus sonore.                  strepo –ui: to make a noise

Tendit modo retia                     rete (n.): net
puer pharetratus;                       pharetratus: wearing a quiver (i.e. Cupid)
cui deorum curia                       curia: house
prebet famulatus,                      praebeo: to offer; famulatus, –us (m.): servitude
cuius dominatus                        dominatus, -us (m.) : command
nimium est latus,                      is very difficult to bear
per hunc triumphatus
sum et sauciatus:                      sauciatus: wounded
et fueram
in primis reluctatus,                  reluctor: to resist
sed iterum
per puerum                               i.e. Cupid
sum Veneri prostratus.

Unam, huius vulnere
saucius, amavi,                         saucius: wounded
quam sub firmo federe              federe = foedere (foedus , -eris (n): treaty
michi copulavi.                         copulo: to unite
fidem, quam iuravi,                  iuro: to swear
numquam violavi;
rei tam suavi
totum me dicavi.                      dico: to dedicate
quam dulci
sunt basia                                 basium: kiss
puelle!    iam gustavi:               puelle = puellae; gusto: to taste
nec cinnamum                          cinnamum:  cinnamon
et balsamum                             balsamum:  fragrant gum of the balsam-tree
esset tam dulce favi!                 favus: honey-comb, honey


 Vrowe, ih pin dir undertan                   Lady, I am your servant
des la mich geniezen!                            let me enjoy this!
ih diene dir, so ih beste chan;                I will serve you as best as I can;
des wil dih verdriezen.                          you will regret that.
nu wil du mine sinne                            Now you want to close
mit dime gewalte sliezen.                      my desire with your sovereignty.
nu woldih diner minne                          Now I want to enjoy
vil sůze wunne niezen.                          your love full with lust.
vil reine wip,                                        Much pure lady,
din schoner lip                                      your beautiful body
wil mih ze sere schiezen!                      wants to shoot wounds in me!
uz dime gebot                                       From your demand
ih nimmer chume,                                I will never withdraw,
obz alle wibe hiezen!                             even if all women order it!

Link including the middle high German stanza

Link with the first three stanzas with translation: