Monday, 16 March 2015

Carmina Burana 41: a still valid poem.

The Middle Ages covers a period of some 800-1000 years depending where one reckons it to start and end. It is far from a monolithic block in which nothing seems to happen till – mirabile visu – out of nothing the Renaissance appears. In fact, a lot happened in the Middle Ages and major social shifts took place, universities were founded and thanks to the horrible Crusades, eastern commodities became known to the West. The Roman Church also underwent change. Critics raised their voices against the life of luxury, simony and corruption and one of them is Walter of Chatillon (fl. 1170), French theologian and writer. He is famous for his Alexandreis, a poem about the life of Alexander the Great, but he also wrote other poems like the Propter Sion non tacebo. It is a bitter and satirical poem against that major source of corruption: the pope and the curie at Rome. Walter of Chatillon had his fair share of being maltreated by the rich, so he had every reason to be cynical. It was written during the period at which various councils elected different popes. Nautical metaphors are widely used in this poem and there are many quotes from scripture - I have not indicated all of them – which with great skill are moulded into the meter of the Stabat mater Dolorosa. It needs only little imagination to see how this poem is still applicable to many governments. The root of all evil is money, yes, but that is often driven by corruption. May be some politicians should meditate on this poem…
It has come down to us in various manuscripts under which the Carmina Burana. The poem is fairly long, but the Latin is not that difficult and often hilarious.
(ps, what was a neat layout in word, has become ugly in Blogger.)

Carmina Burana 41

Propter Sion non tacebo,                (Jes. 62.)
sed ruinas Rome flebo,
quousque iustitia                                             till
rursus nobis oriatur
et ut lampas accendatur
iustus in ecclesia.

Sedet vilis et in luto                          poor, cheap; mud
princeps facta sub tribute                princeps = Rome; subjected under tribute
quod solebam dicere:
Romam esse derelictam,                  forsaken
desolatam et afflictam,
expertus sum opere.                         I know by experience (Walter had visited Rome)

Vidi, vidi caput mundi,
instar maris et profundi                   like (+ gen.): deep
vorax guttur Siculi.                            voracious throat of Sicily (= Street of Messina)
ibi mundi bithalassus,                      (dangerous)place where to seas meet (Greek)
ibi sorbet aurum Crassus                 drinks; famous rich man in Antiquity
et argentum seculi.

Ibi latrat Scylla rapax                        barks, rages; greedy
et Charybdis auri capax                    containing (+ gen.)
potius quam navium;
ibi cursus galearum                          galleys
et conflictus piratarum,
id est cardinalium.                            curie

Syrtes insunt huic profundo            dangerous sandbanks (Aeneid 1,110 ff)
et Sirenes, toti mundo
minantes naufragium.                      threatening; shipwreck
os humanum foris patet,                 from the outside
in occulto cordis latet
deforme demonium.

Habes iuxta rationem
bithalassum per Franconem;          Franco, papal chamberlain (1174-1178)
quod ne credas frivolum:
ibi duplex mare fervet,                     rages
a quo non est qui reservet
sibi valens obolum.                           worth a penny

Ibi fluctus colliduntur,
ibi panni submerguntur,                  clothes
byssus, ostrum, purpure;                cotton ; ostrum = purple
ibi mundus deglutitur,                     is swallowed
immo totus sepelitur                       is burried
in Franconis gutture.                        throat

Franco nulli miseretur,
nullum sexum reveretur,                 respects
nulli parcit sanguini.                         spares (+ dat.)
omnes illi dona ferunt;
illuc enim ascenderunt                     (Psalm 121,4)
tribus, tribus Domini.

Canes Scylle possunt dici
veritatis inimici,
advocati Curie,                                  lay `protectors’ of monasteries making a rich
qui latrando falsa fingunt,                 living  of their protection
mergunt simul et confringunt         they submerge and break
carinam pecunie.                               ship

Iste probat se legistam,                    he asserts to be a lawyer
ille vero decretistam,                        judge
inducens Gelasium;                          bringing pope Gelasius II (402-496) to court
ad probandum questionem             for settling the question
hic intendit actionem                       a third takes action
regundorum finium.                         for settling boundaries (i.e.questioning the
                                                            competence of those bringing forward a trial.)
Nunc rem sermo prosequatur:       comes back to the matter
hic Charybdis debacchatur,             is feasting
id est cancellaria,                                             the curie 
ubi nemo gratus gratis                     no one is accepted for free
neque datur absque datis
Gratiani gratia.                                  Founder of the canon law

Plumbum, quod hic informatur,     the lead of the papal seal
super aurum dominatur
et massam argenteam;
equitatis phantasia                           the fancy of justice (aequitas)
sedet teste Zacharia                         (Zacarias 5,7 ff. )
super bullam plumbeam.

Qui sunt Syrtes vel Sirenes?
qui sermone blando lenes                              smoothly with flattering speech
attrahunt byzantium;                       byzantine gold
spem pretendunt lenitatis,              hope of leniency
sed procella parcitatis                      with a storm of greed
supinant marsupium.                       they turn empty the purse (of another)

Dulci cantu blandiuntur
ut Sirenes, et loquuntur
primo quedam dulcia:
«Frare, ben je te cognosco,              Brother, I know you well
certe nichil a te posco,                     demand
nam tu es de Francia.

Terra vestra bene cepit                    has made a good start (with standing behind pope
et benigne nos excepit                     Alexander III)
in portu concilii.                                Either the council of Tours (1163) or Montpellier (1162)
nostri estis, nostri! cuius?
sacrosancte sedis huius                  
speciales filii.

Nos peccata relaxamus
et laxatos collocamus                       sit on
sedibus ethereis.
nos habemus Petri leges
ad ligandos omnes reges  (              Psalm 149,8) check, control
in manicis ferreis.»                           fetters

Ita dicunt cardinales,
ita solent di carnales                        human gods
in primis allicere.                               At first they draw (people) to them
sic instillant fel draconis,                 poison of a dragon
et in fine lectionis                             reading of the mass
cogunt bursam vomere.                   wallet

Cardinales, ut predixi,
novo iure Crucifixi
vendunt patrimonium.                     sell the privileges of the Church
Petrus foris, intus Nero,
intus lupi, foris vero
sicut agni ovium.

Tales regunt Petri navem,
tales habent eius clavem,
ligandi potentiam.                            collecting power
hi nos docent, sed indocti,
hi nos docent, et nox nocti
indicat scientiam.

In galea sedet una                             galea= navis Petri transformed into a pirate ship
mundi lues inportuna,                      plague ; distressing
camelos deglutiens.                          eating camels (Matth. 23,24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat,
involuta canopeo                                             and swallow a camel.)  musquito-curtain
cuncta vorat sicut leo
rapiens et rugiens.                            dragging and roaring

Hic piratis principatur,                     rules
Spurius qui nuncupatur,                 counter pope Callixtius III? who is called
sedens in insidiis,
ventre grosso, lata cute,                  with big belly thick skin
grande monstrum nec virtute
redemptum a vitiis.

Maris huius non est dea
Thetis, mater Achillea,
de qua sepe legimus,                        saepe
immo mater sterlingorum,                             of pound sterlings
sancta soror loculorum,                   the holy sister of monasteries
quam nos Bursam dicimus.

Hec dum pregnat, ductor ratis        when she (the purse) is pregnant (=full); steersman
epulatur cum piratis                         dines
et amicos reperit;                                            finds
nam si Bursa detumescit,                becomes empty
surgunt venti, mare crescit,
et carina deperit.                               the ship sinks     

Tunc occurrunt cautes rati,              rocks appear for the raft
donec omnes sint privati
tam nummis quam vestibus.
tunc securus fit viator,                     traveller
quia nudus, et cantator                    singer    
it coram latronibus.                          In front of the robbers

Qui sunt cautes? ianitores,              door-keepers
per quos, licet seviores                    more fierce than
tigribus et beluis,                                             monsters
intrat saccus ere plenus,                  a purse full of money
pauper autem et egenus                  needy
tollitur a ianuis.

Quod si verum placet scribi,
duo tantum portus ibi,
due tantum insule,
ad quas licet applicari                       to go to
et iacturam reparari                         repair the damage
confracte navicule.                            of the small ship

Petrus enim Papiensis,                     cardinal of Pope Alexander III
qui electus est Meldensis,                              as bishop of Meaux
portus recte dicitur.
nam cum mare fluctus tollit,
ipse solus mare mollit,                     softens
et ad ipsum fugitur.

Est et ibi maior portus,
fetus ager, florens ortus,                  fertile
pietatis balsamum:
Alexander ille meus,                         Pope Aexander III, who had to flee to France
meus, inquam, cui det Deus
paradisi thalamum.                          treasure

Ille fovet litteratos,
cunctos malis incurvatos,                all who bend to evil
si posset, erigeret.
verus esset cultor Dei,
nisi latus Elisei                                   (2 Kings 5,20 ff) Giezi was the servant of Elisa and was asking
Giezi corrumperet.                            money for the healings Elisa did for free. (latus = side, flank)

Sed ne rursus in hoc mari
me contingat naufragari,
dictis finem faciam,
quia, dum securus eo,
ne submergar, ori meo
posui custodiam.

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