Sunday, 29 September 2019

Ovid, Ariande Theseo (1-24): Theseus has sailed away.

After she had helped Theseus escaping from the labyrinth, Ariadne – deeply in love -fled with him. On their way to Athens, they stayed a night a Naxos. There Theseus was informed by Dionysus to leave her behind, as this god wanted her to be his wife. When Ariadne is asleep, Theseus secretly sails away. Ariadne of course is asked nothing.
For reasons I can’t remember anymore, I have commented on lines 25-58 long before turning my attention to this part. Maybe I found those somewhere in an anthology. To be honest, I completely forgot that I had already published of this poem, but when preparing this post, the text sounded a bit too familiar. Fortunately, all post have been labelled.  I have renamed that post now. Next blogs on this poem will be in the order Ovid had in mind.


Mitius inveni quam te genus omne ferarum;
     credita non ulli quam tibi peius eram.
quae legis, ex illo, Theseu, tibi litore mitto
     unde tuam sine me vela tulere ratem,
in quo me somnusque meus male prodidit et tu,
     per facinus somnis insidiate meis.
Tempus erat, vitrea quo primum terra pruina
     spargitur et tectae fronde queruntur aves;
incertum vigilans ac somno languida movi
     Thesea prensuras semisupina manus:
nullus erat. referoque manus iterumque retempto
     perque torum moveo bracchia: nullus erat.
excussere metus somnum; conterrita surgo
     membraque sunt viduo praecipitata toro.
protinus adductis sonuerunt pectora palmis
     utque erat e somno turbida, rupta coma est.
Luna fuit; specto siquid nisi litora cernam;
     quod videant oculi, nil nisi litus habent.
nunc huc, nunc illuc et utroque sine ordine, curro,
     alta puellares tardat harena pedes.
interea toto clamanti litore "Theseu!"
     reddebant nomen concava saxa tuum
et quotiens ego te, totiens locus ipse vocabat;
     ipse locus miserae ferre volebat opem.

mitius quam te
invenio inveni inventum: to find out, discover
fera: wild animal
non credita eram ulli (ferae) peius quam tibi :  I could  not have been entrusted
peius: worse
litus litoris (n.): coast, shore
tulere = tulerunt (perf. of fero `to carry’, subject vela `sails’)
ratis ratis (f.): raft, float
prodo prodedi proditum: to betray
per facinus somnis insidiate meis: you! With a shameful deed having plotted (insidior insidiatus, vocative) against my sleeps (poetic plural) = while I was sleeping
vitrea quo primum terra pruina spargitur = quo vitrea prunia (in) terra primum spargitur
vitreus: clear, bright
pruina: rime
spargo sparsi sparsum: to spread, sprinkle
frons frondis (f.): leafy branch
queror questus: to complain, lament
incertum: adverb with vigilans `half awake”
sumno languida: dull from sleep
Thesea: Greek acc.
prensuras (prendo prendi prensum): about/willing to touch
semisupinus: half bent backwards
iterum retempto: I tried again
torus: cushion
bracchium: forearm
excussere = excusserunt (metus is plural: they drive out)
viduus: spouseless, bereft
praecipito (-are): to cast down
protinus (adv.): immediately
adductis palmis: with my hands brought to (= beating)
utque: and as soon
turbidus: disordered
rumpo rupi ruptum: to tear
coma: hair (both beating the breast and tearing the hair out are signs of grief)
siquid nisi litora cernam: if I can distinguish anything (else) but the coast
quod videant oculi, nil nisi litus habent = oculi habent nil quod videant, nisi litus
huc… illuc: hither…tither
altus : 1) high, 2) deep
puellaris: of a girl, maidenly
tardo: impede, hinder
clamanti (mihi): returned along the whole shore to me shouting
ego te (vocabam)
miserae (mihi) to me in my distress
fero opem: to help, aid (i.e. by calling Theseus’ name too)

Translation by A.S. Klyne

The whole tribe of creatures contrive to be gentler than you:
not one have I had less confidence in than you.
Theseus, what you read has been sent to you from this land,
from which your sails carried your ship without me,
in which my sleep, and you, evilly betrayed me,
conceiving your plans against me while I slept.
It was the time when the earth’s first sprinkled with glassy frost,
and the hidden birds lament in the leaves:
waking uncertainly, and stirring languidly in sleep,
half-turning, my hand reached out for Theseus:
there was no one there. I drew back, and tried again,
and moved my arm across the bed: no one there.
Fear broke through my drowsiness: terrified, I rose
and hurled my body from the empty bed.
Straight away my hands drummed on my breast, and tore at my hair,
just as it was, on waking, from my confused sleep.
There was a moon: I looked and saw nothing but the shore:
wherever my eyes could see, there was nothing but sand.
I ran here and there without any sense of purpose,

the deep sand slowing a girl’s feet.
Meanwhile I called: ‘Theseus!’ over the whole beach
your name echoing from the hollow cliffs
and as often as I called you, the place itself called too:
the place itself wished to give aid to my misery.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Aulus Gellius: real tears.

Aulus Gellius (125 – after 180) is an ideal author for providing short anecdotes in not too difficult Latin. The following story is about Polus of Aegina, a famous Greek actor living in the 4th century BC. In his role of Electra he embraced the urn with the ashes of his deceased son. Indeed Electra, as it was not until the 18th century or so that women were active on stage. No need to say that his tears and grief were real. The impact on the public must have been enormous.  I see in detectives regularly actors and actresses grieving for someone just killed, but too often it is not quite convincing. I think I know a way of making it more real…

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 6.5

Historia de Polo histrione memoratu digna.  Histrio in terra Graecia fuit fama celebri, qui gestus et vocis claritudine et venustate ceteris antistabat:  nomen fuisse aiunt Polum, tragoedias poetarum nobilium scite atque asseverate actitavit.  Is Polus unice amatum filium morte amisit.  Eum luctum quoniam satis visus est eluxisse, rediit ad quaestum artis.  In eo tempore Athenis Electram Sophoclis acturus, gestare urnam quasi cum Oresti ossibus debebat. Ita compositum fabulae argumentum est, ut veluti fratris reliquias ferens Electra comploret commisereaturque interitum eius existimatum. Igitur Polus lugubri habitu Electrae indutus ossa atque urnam e sepulcro tulit filii et quasi Oresti amplexus opplevit omnia non simulacris neque imitamentis, sed luctu atque lamentis veris et spirantibus.  Itaque cum agi fabula videretur, dolor actus est.

memoratu: supine
histrio –ionis (m.): actor
fama celebri: ablative of description
gestus: while acting (gero)
venustas –atis (f.): elegance
antisto antisteti  (+ dat + abl): to excel
scite atque asseverate: thoughtfully and earnestly/ with dignity
aiunt: they say/ it is said
actito: to perform
unice: dearly
luctus –us (m.): grief
quoniam: because, since
eluceo eluxi: to be manifest (i.e. in public mourning)
quaestus –us (m.): way of making profit, profession
Athenis: at Athens
Electra: first performance not known, but probably at the end of Sophocles’ life (496 – 406)
acturus: he was about to perform
gestare urnam quasi cum Oresti ossibus: to carry the urn as if with the bones of Orestes (In the play Orestes pretended to have died in order to deceive his mother and her lover and so being able to kill them off-guard. Electra too initially thought her brother death, but later he makes himself known to her.))
fabula: story
argumentum: plot
reliqiae –arum: remains
comploro (-are): to bewail
commisereor: to grieve for
interitus –us (m.): death
existimo (-are): to suppose
lugubri habitu: in the mourning dress
induo indui indutum (-ere): to dress
amplector amplexus: to embrace
oppleo opplevi oppletum: to fill completely
simulacrum: appearance, semblance
spirantibus: inspired, true

Translation by John Carew Rolfe (1927)

A noteworthy story about the actor Polus.

1 There was in the land of Greece an actor of wide reputation, who excelled all others in his clear delivery and graceful action. 2 They say that his name was Polus, and he often acted the tragedies of famous poets with intelligence and dignity. 3 This Polus lost by death a son whom he dearly loved. 4 After he felt that he had indulged his grief sufficiently, he returned to the practice of his profession.
5 At that time he was to act the Electra of Sophocles at Athens, and it was his part to carry an urn which was supposed to contain the ashes of Orestes. 6 The plot of the play requires that Electra, who is represented as carrying her brother's remains, should lament and bewail the fate that she believed had overtaken him. 7 Accordingly Polus, clad in the mourning garb of Electra, took from the tomb the ashes and urn of his son, embraced them as if they were those of Orestes, and filled the whole place, not with the appearance and imitation of sorrow, but with genuine grief and unfeigned lamentation. 8 Therefore, while it seemed that a play was being acted, it was in fact real grief that was enacted.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Horace 3.18: an invitation to Faunus.

Thanks to his benefactor Maecenas, Horace was owner of a small estate. In this function he had to officiate in ceremonies and this poem is a prayer to the rural god Faunus. This god belongs to the oldest strata of Roman religion and mythology, but as usual, the Romans equated this god with the Greek god Pan. This is evident from the first line as chasing fleeing nymphs was clearly a characteristic of Pan. Nowadays Pan would have been chased and charged for harassing nymphs.
As for the belief in such rural deities and spirits: some weeks ago I was walking with some friends on the hills accompanying the river Rhine. It was very hot and there were no other hikers. In the distance there was a ruin of a mediaeval castle. I wouldn’t have been surprised had there suddenly been a wood spirit or a nymph – or even Lorelei herself combing her golden hair.

Horatius, Carmina, 3.18 (meter:

Faune, Nympharum fugientum amator,
per meos finis et aprica rura
lenis incedas abeasque parvis
     aequus alumnis,

si tener pleno cadit haedus anno               5
larga nec desunt Veneris sodali
vina craterae, vetus ara multo
     fumat odore.

Ludit herboso pecus omne campo,
cum tibi Nonae redeunt Decembres,               10
festus in pratis vacat otioso
     cum bove pagus;

inter audacis lupus errat agnos,
spargit agrestis tibi silva frondes,
gaudet invisam pepulisse fossor               15
     ter pede terram.

apricus: sunny
lenis: gentle
aequus: with good will (lenis.,.aequus: note the chiastic construction.)
incedas abeasque: may you enter and leave
rus ruris (n.): lands, field, estate
alumnus: litt. `that is nourished’, here a young animal
haedus: young goat, kid
pleno anno: at the full year = at the end of the year (from line 10 it is clear that Faunus was honoured at December 5.)
larga vina: large quantities of wine (both for libations and consumption.)
desum: to lack
craterae Veneris sodali: (lack) for  the mixing bowl, the companion of Venus. Veneris sodali is in apposition to craterae. Wine and love go of course closely together.
ara: altar
herbosus: grassy
nonae nonarum: the 5th day of every month, except March
pratum: meadow
vaco: to be at leasure
otiosus: unemployed, idle (otiose bove, as in December no land is ploughed and no calves are borne.)
pagus: the country people
audacis agnos: the idea of a wolf wandering among lambs, who need to be audacious for this occasion, marks the transition from the description of a festive rural community to mythical entry of Faunus into the festivities. It also refers back to lines 3-4: thanks to the presence of Faunus the lambs will not be harmed
spargo sparsi sparsum: to strew
agrestis frondes: rural foliage (in autumn the leaves fall and thus form a carpet for Faunus
fossor fossoris (m.): ditch-digger (the humblest of agricultural workers.)
invisus: detested (invisam terram, because cultivating the earth requires so much labour.)
pello pepulli pulsum: to strike, beat (pepulisse ter pede: folk-dances and religious dances  had a triple beat. Note that Horace with some irony has put the ditch-digger into the front of the festive folk: he enjoys specially trampling the earth which costs him so much labour.)

Translation by A.S. Klyne.

Faunus, the lover of Nymphs who are fleeing,
may you pass gently over my boundaries,
my sunny fields, and, as you go by, be kind
to all my new-born,

if at the end of the year a tender kid
is sacrificed to you: if the full bowls of wine,
aren’t lacking, friend of Venus: the old altar
smoking with incense.

All the flock gambols over the grassy plain,
when the fifth of December returns for you:
the festive village empties into the fields,
and the idle herd:

the wolf wanders among the audacious lambs:
for you the woods, wildly, scatter their leaves:
the ditcher delights in striking the soil he
hates, in triple time.

 File:Pieter Bruegel de Oude - De bruiloft dans (Detroit).jpg

Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Wedding Dance (ca. 1566). Though not exactly a Roman setting, it is clearly rural feast.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Carmina Cantabrigiensia 14: an unfaithful wife.

The Carmina Cantabrigiensia or Cambridge Songs is a collection of texts preserved in Cambridge, but probably written in Canterbury around 1050. The content however is Southern German. For details see the link below.
This song tells the story of a woman from Swabia, an area in Southern Germany, who get pregnant after her husband, a merchant, went away for a couple of years. When he returns she tells him that she got pregnant by eating snow. A few years later the husband goes again away for trade and takes the boy with him. He sells the boy and when he returns he tells his wife that the child has melted away by the heat of the sun. This story must have been popular as various versions and translations exist. It has the structure of a sequentia, a hymn sung or recited during mass before the reading of the Gospel. This antithesis between formal structure and comic content is quite common in mediaeval poetry. Sacrilege? No, comic relief.

Advertite, omnes populi (CC 14)
Text after Strecker and with normalized spelling.

Advertite,                           pay attention
omnes populi,
ridiculum                            comic story
et audite, quomodo
Suevum mulier                  her Swabian husband
et ipse illam                      
defraudaret.                      cheated              

Constantiae                       Konstanz (city in Swabia)
civis Suevulus
trans aequora                    sea
gazam portans navibus   treasure
domi coniugem                 at home
lascivam nimis                   too playful/horny
relinquebat.                       left behind

Vix remige                          hardly, with oarsmen (remix singular as collective)
triste secat mare,             sails
ecce subito                        suddenly
orta tempestate              
furit pelagus,                     the sea rages
certant flamina,                lightning flashes
tolluntur fluctus,               the streams are rising high
post multaque exulem    
vagum litore
longinquo notus

And after many events the South wind put him as a wandering exile on a faraway shore.

Nec interim
domi vacat coniux;           stays alone
mimi aderant,                    mimusplayers
iuvenes sequuntur,
quos et immemor             not thinking of
viri exulis
excepit gaudens;              subject : the wife
atque nocte proxima      
praegnans filium
iniustum fudit                    delivers
iusto die.                            note the word play iniustum – iusto.         

volutis annis                       two years having passed by
exul dictus
Occurrit                              meets
infida coniux
secum trahens
Datis osculis                       kiss
maritus illi                          husband
ʺDe quoʺ, inquit, ʺpuerum
istum habeas,
dic, aut extrema
patieris.ʺ                             or you will suffer severe beatings (extrema)

At illa
maritum timens
dolos versat                       applies deceit
in omnia.                           
ʺMiʺ, tandem,                   finally
ʺmi coniuxʺ, inquit            mi…mi, wordplay with mimi?
ʺuna vice                            once upon a time
in Alpibus nive sitiens       snow (nix nivis, f.)
exstinxi sitim.                    In the Alps thirsty I quenched my thirst with snow (
Inde ergo gravida             thence pregnant
istum puerum
damnoso fetu,                  in a terrible labour
heu, gignebam.ʺ               gave birth

Anni post haec quinque
transierant aut plus,         had passed by
et mercator vagus
instauravit remos;            he had renewed the oars
ratem quassam reficit,    repairs the shattered ship
vela alligat                         puts sails on
et nivis natum                    snow child
duxit secum.

Transfretato mari             to pass over
producebat natum           offered for sale
et pro arrabone                money
mercatori tradens            handing over to (another) merchant
centum libras accipit        pound
atque vendito                    sold
infante dives

Ingressusque domum      having entered
ad uxorem ait:
ʺConsolare, coniux,         comfort (me)
consolare, cara:
natum tuum perdidi,        I have lost
quem non ipsa tu
me magis quidem
dilexisti.                              whom you did certainly not love more than I did

Tempestate orta
nos ventosus furor           a rage full of wind
in vadosas syrtes              on shallow sandbanks
nimis fessos egit,              too tired, drove
et nos omnes graviter
torret sol, at il‐                  scorches
le nivis natus
liquescebat.ʺ                     melted away

Sic perfidam
Suevus coniugem
deluserat,                           deceived
sic fraus fraudem vicerat:              overcame
nam quem genuit             has brought forth
nix, recte hunc sol

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Walter of Châtillon: On the murder of Thomas Becket.

When in 1170, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered at the instigation of King Henry II, the whole Western world was shocked. Initially both were close friends, but as the dispute between Rome and the kings of Europe about the ultimate authority heightened, Becket chose in 1164 the side of the Pope. Becket fled to France There was a kind of reconciliation in the summer of 1170 and Becket was allowed to return to Canterbury, but King Henry refused to give Becket a kiss as a sign of peace (stanza 2, 3-4). The dispute about authority was still not settled and kept lingering. "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?", is King henry reported to have said. Four knights took this as an order and in the evening of December 29 they forced themselves into Canterbury Cathedral and slew Becket in from of the altar.
Note: this is the very short version of this event.
The French poet Walter of Châtillon (1135 – 1190 or 1201) was furious and wrote this poem.

Orba suo pontifice
tristatur Cantuaria.
O monstrum gentis Anglicae
scribendum in historia,
quod stantem pro iustitia,
quod viventem canonice,
martyrizavit publice
tyranni violentia!
      O regio
digna res epitaphio!

orbus: bereaved
tristor: to mourn
monstrum: evil deed
quod: because
stantem, viventem: Becket
canonice: according to the rules of the Church
O regio etc: i.e. for defaming the royal epitaph of Henry II. Digna res is of course ironic.

Haec levis excusatio
quae praetendit ad populum :
`Dum osculum refugio,
quod pacis est signaculum,
proditionis iaculum
nequaquam’, inquit, `iacio’,
ac si non sit proditio,
quod non praecessit osculum!
O regio etc.

excusatio –ionis (f.) : excuse
dum = cum: because
osculum: kiss
proditio  -onis (f.): betrayal
iaculum: javelin
nequaquam: not at all
ac si non: and if it is not
praecedo –cessi –cessum: to precede

O quanto dignus fulmine
vel qua Megaera creditur!
Infausto natus omine,
cui scelus obicitur,
rex abusive dicitur
qui totus est in sanguine ;
sic emutato nomine
rex in tyrannum vertitur.
O regio etc.

O quanto: O how much
qua Megaera: of some Megaera (one of the Furies)
infaustus: unlucky
cui scelus obicitur: who is reproached for (such a) crime
abusive: wrongly
emutato nomine: the name being altered

In tota regum serie
quos habuit Brittania
ab antiqua barbarie
quae processit a Phrygia
pollutus hac infamia
numquam fuit rex Angliae,
in isto tribus regiae
degloriavit gloria.
O regio etc.

barbaries = barbaria
a Phrygia:  according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Brutus, cousin of Aeneas, was the first king of Britain (Phrygia is modern Turkey)
pullutus rex
in isto (rege)
tribus –us (f.): tribe, lineage
gloria: abl.

Vittae imbelles gerere
licebat priscis vatibus
et bellis non intendere
sacris sacratos usibus;
sed nunc moris est regibus
in pace pacem solvere
et suis pontificibus
Parcarum fila rumpere.
O regio etc.

vitta: headband
gero gessi gestum: to wear
priscus: of old
licebat…vatibus et sacratos plus an acc. cum inf. with sacratos (priests, clergymen) as acc. and sacris usibus as adverbial phrase (according to sacred customs). These two different constructions are for reasons of rhythm and rime.
intendo intendi intentum: to strive for (mostly constructed with acc, but here with dat.)
moris est: it is of practice  = it is practice
pacem solvere: to dissolve peace
Parcarum fila: the threads of the Parcae, the goddesses of fate
rumpo rupi ruptum: to break

 Afbeeldingsresultaat voor murder becket

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Carmina Burana 162: summer holliday.

Within a few weeks students at universities will have their well-deserved holiday and can put their books aside for eight weeks. The end of an academic year is not only a relief for modern students, but also for their consocii in the Middle Ages. No wonder that a number of mediaeval student songs address this theme: time for Venus and Bacchus! The following song is an example of this, but unfortunately the melody is not or just poorly notated. Between the lines it gives us also a glimpse of the poor conditions of students. They had to pay cash for every lecture, so little money was left for food and drink. Only during the period the universities were closed they could afford wine: Bacchus instead of Neptune (= water) and away with tristis ieiunus! Till the university opens again…

Carmina Burana 162

O consocii,
quid vobis videtur?
quid negotii
nobis adoptetur?
leta Venus ad nos    iam ingredietur,
illam chorus Dryadum sequetur.

O vos socii,
tempus est iocundum,
dies otii
redeunt in mundum;
ergo congaudete,    cetum letabundum
tempus salutantes <ob>  iocundum.

Venus abdicans
cognatum Neptunum
venit applicans
Bachum oportunum,
quem dea pre cunctis    amplexatur unum,
quia tristem spernit et ieiunum.

His numinibus
volo famulari!
ius est omnibus,
qui volunt beari;
que dant eccellenti    populo scolari,
ut amet et faciat amari.

Ergo litteris
cetus hic imbutus
signa Veneris
militet secutus!
exturbetur autem    laicus ut brutus!
nam ad artem surdus est et mutus.

As a bonus this song in Middle-high German


Svoziv vrowe min,
la mih des geniezen:
du bist min ovgenschin.
Venus wil mih schiezen!
nu la mih, chuniginne, diner minne niezen!
ia nemag mih nimmer din uerdriezen.

My sweet lady,
let my enjoy this;
you are the shine of my eyes.
Venus wants to shoot me!
Now let me, queen, have your love!
Yes, I can never have enough of you!

(may be lines 2 and 4 must be exchanged.)

consocius: fellow
quid vobis videtur: what are your plans (some scholars read nobis for vobis)
negotium: affair, business
adopto: to choose
ingredior ingressus: to approach
leta = laeta
chorus Dryadum: choire of Nymphs, i.e. a band of maids
iocundus: joyful
otium: leisure
cetus = coetus: a coming together, (sexual) union, company (so in 5.2)
letabundus: full of joy
ob must be inserted, both for metrical reasons and for making sense of tempus iocundum, so salutantes cetum letabundum ob tempus iocundum
abdico: reject
cognatus: kinsman
Neptunum: as the god of the sea, he is stand for water
applico: to join
oportunus: friendly
prae cunctis: above all others
amplexo: to embrace
sperno sprevi spretum (-ere): to despise
ieiunus: fasting (to be taken with tristem)
numen numinis (n.): god
famulor: to serve
beor: to be happy
que = quae
eccellenti = excellenti: thanks to their learning students and scholars felt superior to the uneducated masses, as is lo clear in stanza 5
imbutus: steeped in
signum: banner
exturbo (-are): to expel, thrust out
ut brutus: as being stupid
artem: i.e. the art of love
surdus: deaf