Sunday, 27 November 2016

Jerome: rumours of a disaster.

The Crimean War (1853-1856) was the first war in which the home front could follow the outcome of the various battles within days, thanks to the invention of the telegraph. Modern technology makes it possible that we can watch a war life on television. Not so in Antiquity: it took two years before the news of the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410 reached Saint Jerome, who was at that time at Bethlehem. It was an utter shock, when slowly and in bits news about this this disaster reached him. As a theologian he immediately recalled to mind Isaiah and the Psalms, but Jerome was also deeply learned in classical literature – his first love which he later so resented – and he could not help but quote Vergil too.

Saint Jerome, Letter 127, 12

Dum haec aguntur in Iebus, terribilis de Occidente rumor adfertur, obsideri Romam et auro salutem civium redimi spoliatosque rursum circumdari ut post substantiam vitam quoque amitterent. Haeret vox et singultus intercipiunt verba dictantis. Capitur  Urbs, quae totum cepit Orbem, immo fame perit ante quam gladio  et vix pauci qui caperentur, inventi sunt. Ad nefandos cibos erupit esurientium rabies et sua invicem membra laniarunt, dum mater non parcit lactanti infantiae et recipit utero, quem paulo ante effuderat. Nocte Moab capta est, nocte cecidit murus eius. Deus, venerunt gentes in hereditatem tuam, polluerunt templum sanctum tuum, posuerunt Hierusalem in pomorum custodiam, posuerunt cadavera  servorum tuorum escas volatilibus caeli, carnes sanctorum tuorum bestiis terrae. Effuderunt sanguinem ipsorum sicut aquam in circuitu Hierusalem et non erat qui sepeliret.
Quis cladem illlus noctis, quis funera fando
Explicet , aut possit lacrimis aequare dolorem?
Urbs antiqua ruit  multos dominata per annos,
Plurima perque vias sparguntur inertia passim
Corpora , perque domos et plurima mortis imago.

Iebus: name for Jerusalem, cf.  Jebusites
obsideo obsedi obsessum: to besiege
redimo redemi redemptum: to buy (in 408 the besieged Romans tried to buy peace with a large amount of gold.)
spolio (-are): to rob plunder
rursum: again
substantia: resources, wealth
haereo haesi: to stick
singultus -us (m.): a sobbing
dictantis: for me dictating this letter
fames famis (f.): hunger
immo….ante quam: (The City) has fallen indeed before by hunger rather than by the sword
vix: hardly
qui caperentur: who could be taken captive
nefandos cibus: heinous nutriment
erumpo erupi eruptum: to burst out. (Here used as a vivid and rhetorical description for what the esurientium rabies (the madness of the hungry) has led to.)
invicem: mutually
lanio (-are): to tear in pieces, butcher
parco peperci parsum (+ dat.): to save, spare
lacto: to suck milk
infantia: children (collective use of the singular.)
dum..effuderat: This rhetoric is far beyond what we would nowadays consider palpable…
recipit (in) utero: received in her belly
effundo effudi effusum: to pour out, give girth
Nocte eius: Is. 15, 1
Deus...sepeliret: Ps. 79, 1-3
Posuerunt custodiam:  They have turned …into an orchard (pomorum custodiam. This translation is from the Septuagint, which has ὀπωροφυλάκιον. The Hebrew has a different word, meaning `ruims’.)
esca: food
volatilibus cœli: for the birds of the sky
circuitus –us (m.): surrounding
Hierusalem: Hebrew words are not declined
Quis…imago: Verg. Aen. II 361-365
clades cladis (f.): destruction, slaughter
fando: by speaking
lacrimis aequare dolorem: i.e. there are not enough tears to equal the pain
urbs: Troy
spargo sparsi sparsum: to scatter
iners inertis: motionless
plurima imago: the manifold image, face

Sack of Rome by Alaric - sacred vessels are brought to a church for safety. Picture from a French manuscript (1475)

Translation:  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6.  (1893) (old fashioned, sometimes misleading and incomplete, but the only available on internet )

12. Whilst these things were happening in Jebus a dreadful rumour came from the West. Rome had been besieged and its citizens had been forced to buy their lives with gold. Then thus despoiled they had been besieged again so as to lose not their substance only but their lives. My voice sticks in my throat; and, as I dictate, sobs choke my utterance. The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken; nay more famine was beforehand with the sword and but few citizens were left to be made captives. In their frenzy the starving people had recourse to hideous food; and tore each other limb from limb that they might have flesh to eat. Even the mother did not spare the babe at her breast. In the night was Moab taken, in the night did her wall fall down. Isaiah 15:1 O God, the heathen have come into your inheritance; your holy temple have they defiled; they have made Jerusalem an orchard. The dead bodies of your servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of your saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.
Who can set forth the carnage of that night?
What tears are equal to its agony?
Of ancient date a sovran city falls;
And lifeless in its streets and houses lie
Unnumbered bodies of its citizens.
In many a ghastly shape does death appear.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Caesarius of Heisterbach XI, 56: two querulous farmers.

Mediaeval writers have a predilection for wondrous and miraculous stories. For us this may seem naïve, especially when such stories are used as exemplum. But were people then really so childish? I have no illusions about the uneducated masses, tiling their land and hardly leaving their village, but the educated? In this story taken from Caesarius of Heisterbach’s Dialogus Miraculorum, two farmers fight even after death, when buried in the same grave. This to the horror of their families, who decided to end their mutual strive afterwards. Did Heisterbach’s readers and listeners really belief this? Or maybe there was not such a strict line between the acceptable and unacceptable. I remember a story of an anthropologist, telling that in the area of Africa where he did his fieldwork, people told him about miraculous events. No, they had not seen these themselves, but they happened some villages away.
The lesson of this story is however clear: people dwelling in small communities should live in peace.

Caesarius of Heisterbach, Dialogus Miraculorum,  XI,26

De rusticis qui post mortem in sepulchro contendebant.

In Episcopatu Coloniensi duae generationes rusticorum inimicitias mortales exercebant. Habebant autem duo capita, duos videlicet rusticos magnanimes ac superbos, qui semper nova bella suscitabant, suscitata fovebant, nullam fieri pacem permittentes. Divino igitur nutu factum est, ut ambo uno die morerentur. Et quia de una erant parochia nomine Nuenkirgen, quia sic Domino placuit, qui per illos dissensionis malum ostendere voluit, in una fossa corpora eorum sunt posita. Mira res et inaudita. Cunctis qui aderant videntibus, corpora eadem dorsa verterunt ad invicem, capitibus, calcibus, ipsisque dorsis tam impetuose collidentibus, ut caballos indomitos putares. Mox unum extrahentes, remotius in alio sepulchro tumulaverunt. Et facta est rixa eorundem mortuorum causa pacis et concordiae vivorum.

rusticus: farmer
contendo contendi contentus (-ere): to strife, fight
Coloniensis:  of Cologne
inimicitias mortales: deadly enmities
capita: leaders
magnanimis: proud, arrogant
superbus: insolent
suscito (-are): to raise
foveo fovi fotum: to keep warm, nourish
nutus (u stem, only nom sing. and acc. and abl sing. and plur, m.): command
Neunkirgen: Neunkirchen
dissensionis malum: the evil of dissent
fossa: grave
inauditus: unheard
Cunctis qui aderant videntibus: for all visible (`seeing’), who were present
dorsum: back
ad invicem: to each other
capitis…collidentibus: abl abs
calx calcis (f.): heel
impetuose: violently
caballos indomitus: wild horses
extraho extraxi extractum: to draw out (extrahentes i.e. those present)
remotius: further away
tumulo (-are): to burry
facta…rixa…causa: the quarrel became the cause

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Carmina Burana 117: vows, vows.

I have a weak spot for mediaeval Latin, actually for the Middle Ages as a whole. The centre of the town I live is dominated by two late mediaeval churches and almost every town or hamlet in my province has a church from at least 1400. The physical nearness of such buildings serves as a kind of bridge overlapping ages. I have read with reading club Das Nibelungenlied, Dante’s Inferno and a mediaeval chronicle written in a monastery nearby. So now and then I read texts in Middle English and Middle Dutch and I am now trying to decipher Beowulf. Maybe I am a reincarnation of some vagans scholasticus: reading, writing, pubs and good company.

The following poem is from the Carmina Burana. A lover declares his unconditional love for a girl and any tongue saying otherwise is lying! Our ardent lover swears by all pagan gods that he will love her and only when a reversal of the natural order shall appear, he will stop loving her. But wait: this poem was written by a Christian author, so calling upon pagan gods with no existence outside literature is misleading! I guess he vowed to these gods with every new love.

This poem hardly needs a vocabulary and commentary, but in case someone likes to use it for teaching purposes, feel free to use it.

Carmina Burana 117



Lingua mendax et dolosa,         false ; deceitful (full of dolus `deceit’)

lingua procax, venenosa,              bold, insolent ; venomous

lingua digna detruncari                 to be cut off

et in igne concremari,                    to be burnt



Que me dicit deceptorem            que = quae ; deciever

et non fidum amatorem,

quam amabam, dimisisse             to have sent away

et ad alteram transisse!               alteram (puellam) : to have gone to



Sciat deus, sciant dei:

non sum reus huius rei!                 guilty of

sciant dei, sciat deus:

huius rei non sum reus!



Unde iuro Musas novem,              therefore ; to vow, swear; nine

quod et maius est, per Iovem,     greater

qui pro Dane sumpsit auri,           Dane = Danae ; took the form of

in Europa formam tauri;                in Europa = pro Europa

Jupiter went after Danae in the form of golden rain and after Europa as a bull.

Danae is a Greek name (Δανάη) and hence has no ablative. Note that the ae in Danae is dissyllabic (Danaë), but this pronunciation was not recognized in Mediaeval Latin.



Iuro Phebum, iuro Martem,         Phebum = Apollo

qui amoris sciant artem;               Mars had an affair with Venus. Apollo had a lot.

iuro quoque te, Cupido,

arcum cuius reformido;                 bow; to fear



Arcum iuro cum sagittis,               arrows

quas frequenter in me mittis:

sine fraude, sine dolo

fedus hoc servare volo!                 fedus = foedus



Volo fedus observare!

et ad hec dicemus, quare:       hec = haec ; why

inter choros puellarum

nichil vidi tam preclarum.     nichil = nihil; such a beautiful thing (neuter!)

The re in quare is long in in Classical Latin, but not Mediaeval Latin.



Inter quas appares ita

ut in auro margarita.                    pearl

humeri, pectus et venter              shoulders (umeri) ; breast ;  belly

sunt formata tam decenter;



Frons et gula, labra, mentum      forehead ; neck ; lips ; chin

dant amoris alimentum;                amoris `to my love’(gen. ob.) ;  nourishment

crines eius adamavi,                       hair

quoniam fuere flavi.                       because ; fuere = fuerunt ; blond



Ergo dum nox erit dies,                 until

et dum labor erit quies,

et dum aqua erit ignis,

et dum silva sine lignis,                  forrest ; wood



Et dum mare sine velis,                  sails

et dum Parthus sine telis,             missiles, arrows

cara michi semper eris:                 michi = mihi

nisi fallar, non falleris!                   I will be cheated

The Parthi (Persians) were famous for their bows. Of course this topos is taken from classical literature.