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

162a

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



Thursday, 30 May 2019

Livy 1.7: stolen cattle.


When Romulus founded Rome, he sacrificed to various gods and also to Hercules at the very place where Hercules was said to have crossed the Tiber, after he had killed the giant Geryon and got hold of his cattle. But after he had driven the herd across the Tiber, he fell asleep and another giant, Cacus stole the most beautiful cows. In order to deceive Hercules, not the brightest anyway, Cacus drew those cows backwards at their tails, so Hercules, following their footprints, might think they had disappeared miraculously. Of course it ends well and Cacus is killed.
There is not a single trace in Greek mythology hinting that Hercules had ever visited Italia, but the Romans were very good in cultural appropriation, especially when it came to claiming Greek gods. Thus far Italy has never compensated Greece for this injustice.

Livius  1.7, 4-7

Herculem in ea loca Geryone interempto boves mira specie abegisse memorant, ac prope Tiberim fluvium, qua prae se armentum agens nando traiecerat, loco herbido ut quiete et pabulo laeto reficeret boves, et ipsum fessum via procubuisse. Ibi cum eum cibo vinoque gravatum sopor oppressisset, pastor accola eius loci, nomine Cacus, ferox viribus, captus pulchritudine boum cum avertere eam praedam vellet, quia, si agendo armentum in speluncam compulisset ipsa vestigia quaerentem dominum eo deductura erant, aversos boves, eximium quemque pulchritudine, caudis in speluncam traxit. Hercules ad primam auroram somno excitus cum gregem perlustrasset oculis et partem abesse numero sensisset, pergit ad proximam speluncam, si forte eo vestigia ferrent. Quae ubi omnia foras versa vidit nec in partem aliam ferre, confusus atque incertus animi ex loco infesto agere porro armentum occepit. Inde cum actae boves quaedam ad desiderium, ut fit, relictarum mugissent, reddita inclusarum ex spelunca boum vox Herculem convertit. Quem cum vadentem ad speluncam Cacus vi prohibere conatus esset, ictus claua fidem pastorum nequiquam invocans morte occubuit.

The first sentence is complicated and I have restructured it a bit to make it clear. However there is something more which is understandable in Latin, but difficult to translate: loco herbido is both the place where Hercules leads the cattle to and where they and he are resting: et ipsum `and he himself too’.
memorant, Geryone interempto, Herculem…abegisse ac (= et). Tiberim (qua…traiecerat)…, ut…reficeret,.. procubuisse
memorant: people remember/ it is said (both with abegisse and procubuisse)
in ea loca: i.e. the places where Romulus was sacrificing 
interimo interemo interemptus: to kill
mira specie: ablative of description, species = beauty
abigo abegi, abactum: to drive away
prope (+ acc.): near
qua: across which
armentum: cattle
prae se agens: driving before him
no: to swim
herbidus: grassy
pabulum: food, fodder
laetus: luxuriant
reficio refeci refectum: to restore, refresh
fessum via: tired by the journey
procumbo procubui procubitum (-ere): to fall down
cibus: food
sopor (m.): deep sleep
accola: a dweller nearby
cum captus
boum: gen. plur. of bos
eam praedam: it as booty
averto averti adversum: to take away
quia…traxit
spelunca: cave
compello compuli compulsum: to drive together
ipso vestigia eo deductura erant: the very footprints would lead to that place (deductura erant = deduxissent)
aversos boves: the cows turned the other way around
eximium quemque pulchritudine: apposition with boves
eximius: excelling, distinguished
cauda: tail
grex grecis (f.): herd
perlustro: to view all over, examine
forte: by chance
quae (vestigia)
foras versa: turned to the outside
infestus: inimical, hostile
porro: farther, further on
occipio occepi occeptum: to begin
actae: driven
ad desiderium relictarum: for longing for those left behind
mugio mugivi: to bellow
reddo reddidi redditum: to return
quem vadentem: him (= Hercules) going
conor conatus: to try
ico/icio ici ictus: to hit (in classical prose only the ppp is used)
clava: club
fidem: help
nequiquam: in vain
occombo occubui occubitum: to fall in death

 Translation by H.G. Bohn (1853) (note that this translation takes some liberties.)

There is a tradition, that Hercules, having killed Geryon, drove his oxen, which were extremely beautiful, into those places; and that, after swimming over the Tiber, and driving the cattle before him, being fatigued with travelling, he laid himself down on the banks of the river, in a grassy place, to refresh them with rest and rich pasture. When sleep had overpowered him, satiated with food and wine, a shepherd of the place, named Cacus, presuming on his strength, and charmed with the beauty of the oxen, wished to purloin that booty, but because, if he had driven them forward into the cave, their footsteps would have guided the search of their owner thither, he therefore drew the most beautiful of them, one by one, by the tails, backwards into a cave. Hercules, awaking at day-break, when he had surveyed his herd, and observed that some of them were missing, goes directly to the nearest cave, to see if by chance their footsteps would lead him thither. But when he observed that they were all turned from it, and directed him no other way, confounded, and not knowing what to do, he began to drive his cattle out of that unlucky place. Upon this, some of the cows, as they usually do, lowed on missing those that were left; and the lowings of those that were confined being returned from the cave, made Hercules turn that way. And when Cacus attempted to prevent him by force, as he was proceeding to the cave, being struck with a club, he was slain, vainly imploring the assistance of the shepherds.


Thursday, 23 May 2019

Horace, Odes 1 ix: carpe diem.


The expression carpe diem is well known, even amongst those without any further knowledge of Latin. It comes from a poem by Horace in which he is talking to his girlfriend Leuconoe (Greek: `empty head’, note that it is a fictitious name). The reader is put in medias res, as overhearing a conversation of which he has to guess the context. Apparently Leuconoe had asked about the future, maybe the future of their love, but Horace points out that we should not weary ourselves with such questions: pluck the day! Let’s hope for Horace that indeed his girlfriend stopped asking.

Horatius, Carmina 1, XI
Meter: greater asclepiad x x  - u u -  - u u -  - u u -  u -

Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. Ut melius quicquid erit pati!
Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare               
Tyrrhenum, sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

ne quaesi(v)eris: stop asking (the subjunctive of the perfect is often used in prohibitions, as it had for the Romans a more polite ring than the subjunctive of the present.)
nefas: forbidden, impious
finem (vitae)
Babylonios numeros: Babylonian calculations (of the course of stars, thus astrology. Babylonian astrologers were seen as experts in their profession and though they were now and then banned, there was popular demand for their predictions. )
tempto/ tento:  to try, meddle (temptaris = temptaveris)
ut melius: how much better
pati: to endure
seu = sive
pluris = plures
hiemes: years could also be counted in summers or as here in winters (hiems). Counting in winters though has a sombre connotation and especially here, as the poem suggests that the conversation took place during a winter storm.)
ultimam (hiemem), quae:  here the meaning of hiems shifts to `winter storm’.
oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare Tyrrhenum; `makes the sea spend its strength on the confronting rocks’ (T.E. Page in his commentary). The image is thus: the storm makes the Thyrrenian sea beat against the rocks and so lessens (debilitat) its strength. The rocks are however of pumice, as the coastal rocks of Etruria where Horace lived actually are. Pumice is a soft stone, so the gulfs eat holes in it.  Probably storms and rocks are here metaphors for the conditio humana.  
sapias: be wise
vina liques: strain the wine (as wine had a lot of residue, it was poured out through a cloth or sieve.)
spatio brevi spem longam reseces: curtail your excessive hope into a short period (for living).
dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: i.e. as long as we keep talking, we can’t enjoy life.
fugerit: will be gone
invida aetas: grudging time
quam minimum credula postero: trusting (credulus) as little as possible on the following day

Translation by A.S. Klyne (2003)

Leuconoë , don’t ask, we never know, what fate the gods grant us,
whether your fate or mine, don’t waste your time on Babylonian,
futile, calculations. How much better to suffer what happens,
whether Jupiter gives us more winters or this is the last one,
one debilitating the Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing cliffs.
Be wise, and mix the wine, since time is short: limit that far-reaching hope.
The envious moment is flying now, now, while we’re speaking:
Seize the day, place in the hours that come as little faith as you can.


Sunday, 24 March 2019

Ovid. Tristia 5,11: not exiled but sent away.


In 8 AD Augustus punished Ovid by sending him away to the shores Black Sea. The reasons are far from clear, but it is assumed the poems from the Ars Amatoria could not charm Augustus, who was by all accounts very prude. There is one big problem: was Ovid really sent away or was it his poetic construction? Much ink has been spoiled on this issue, but as long as we do not use his Tristia and Littera ex Ponto as real biographical accounts and stay within the frame of the poems, this does not affect the interpretation.
In this poem Ovid is offended because he was called an exul – an exile. This was not true as he had been sent away (relegatus), not exiled. This is not a mere play of words, but had juridical implications: an exul was stripped of his property and civil rights, a relegatus not. In the second part of this poem Ovid admits his trespass and flatters Augustus. It is reminiscent of Stalinist or Maoist show trials at which the accused confessed guilt and praised the leadership. Ovid had no success.

Ovidius, Tristia 5.11

Quod te nescioquis per iurgia dixerit esse
exulis uxorem, littera questa tua est.
indolui, non tam mea quod fortuna male audit,
qui iam consuevi fortiter esse miser,
quam quod cui minime vellem, sum causa pudoris, 5
teque reor nostris erubuisse malis.
perfer et obdura; multo graviora tulisti,
eripuit cum me principis ira tibi.
fallitur iste tamen, quo iudice nominor exul:
mollior est culpam poena secuta meam. 10
maxima poena mihi est ipsum offendisse, priusque
venisset mallem funeris hora mihi.
quassa tamen nostra est, non mersa nec obruta navis,
utque caret portu, sic tamen extat aquis.
nec vitam nec opes nec ius mihi civis ademit, 15
qui merui vitio perdere cuncta meo.
sed quia peccato facinus non affuit illi,
nil nisi me patriis iussit abesse focis,
utque aliis, quorum numerum comprendere non est,
Caesareum numen sic mihi mite fuit. 20
ipse relegati, non exulis utitur in me
nomine: tuta suo iudice causa mea est.
iure igitur laudes. Caesar, pro parte virili
carmina nostra tuas qualiacumque canunt:
iure deos, ut adhuc caeli tibi limina claudant, 25
teque velint sine se, comprecor, esse deum.
optat idem populus; sed, ut in mare flumina vastum,
sic solet exiguae currere rivus aquae,
at tu fortunam, cuius vocor exul ab ore,
nomine mendaci parce gravare meam! 30

nescioquis: someone
quod…,  littera = littera…, quod..
per iurgia dicere aliquid: in the heat of a dispute call someone something
queror questus:  to complain
indolesco indolui: to feel pain
non tam…quam: not so much…but
male/ bene audio: to have a bad/ good name
consuesco sonsuevi consuetum: to become used to
fortiter: bravely
pudor pudoris (m.): shame
reor ratus: to believe, think
erubesco erubui (+ abl): to blush
prefer et obdura: bear and endure
eripio eripui ereptum: to tear away from
principis:  Augustus
ira: anger
fallor: to err
iste: the man who had called Ovid an exsul
quo iudice: in whose judgement
mollis: soft, mild
sequor secutus: to follow
ipsum: Augustus
priusque venisset mallem = et mallem prius venisset
funus funeris (n.): burial, death
quatio quassum (-ere): to shake
mergo sersi mersum: to sink
obruo obrui obrutum: to overwhelm, overflow
careo carui (+ abl): to lack
exto/ exsto: to stand/ rise above
(ops) opis (no nom. or dat sing.) (f.): wealth
ius civis: civil rights
abimo abemi abemptum: to take away, deprive of
mereo merui meritum: to deserve
vitium: fault
perdo: to lose
quia peccato facinus non affuit illi: because a crime did not accompany the fault. i.e. Ovid did not commit a criminal act
nil nisi: nothing but
focus: hearth
aliis: other people ordered to leave
Caesareum numen: the divine will of the Emperor
mitis: mild
utitur in me nomine: he uses for me the name of
tuta causa: my case is safe i.e. I am not an exsul.
iure: rightly
laus laudis: praise, glory
pro parte virile: to the best of their power
quails-cumque: of what quality so ever
adhuc: thus far
limen liminis (n.) threshold
teque velint sine se esse deum: i.e. Ovid prays that the gods grant Augustus divinity while still alive.
comprecor compratus: to pray
opto: to wish
ut in mare flumina vastum (solent currere), sic solet exiguae currere rivus aquae:  i.e. the prayers of the people for the wellbeing of Augustus are a river, that of Ovid.
vastus: vast, immense
exiguus: small, poor
rivus: a small stream, brook
mendax mendacis: false, untrue
parco peperci/parsi parsum: to spare, refrain from
gravo: to load, burden

Translation by A.S. Klyne (2003)

Your letter complains that someone has said
that you’re ‘an exile’s wife’, by way of insult.
I was aggrieved, not so much that my fate is spoken of
with malice, I’m used to suffering pain bravely now,
as to think that I’m a cause of shame to you, to whom
I’d wish it least of all, and that you blushed at our ills.
Endure, and be true: you’ve suffered much worse,
when the Prince’s anger tore me away from you.
Still the one who called me ‘exile’ judges wrongly:
a milder sentence punishes my fault.
My worst punishment is having offended him,
and I wish the hour of my death had come before.
Still my ship was wrecked, but not drowned and sunk,
and though deprived of harbour, it still floats.
He didnt take my life, my wealth, my civil rights,
though I deserved to lose them all by my offence.
But since no criminal act accompanied my sin,
he only ordered I should leave my native hearth.
Caesar’s power proved lenient to me,
as to others, whose number is immeasurable.
He applied the word relegatus to me not exul:
my case is sound because he judged it so.
So my verses, rightly, sing your praises, Caesar,
however good they are, to the best of their abilities:
I beg the gods, rightly, to close the gates of heaven
o you still, and will you to be a god, separate from them.
So the people pray: and as rivers run to the deep ocean
so a stream runs too, with its meagre waters.
And you, the one whose mouth calls me ‘exile’,
stop burdening my fate with that lying name!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis: making fire on a whale.


One of the most charming poems in Middle Dutch is De Reis van Sint Brandaan (the voyage of Saint Brendan), dating from the 12th century. It is based on a Latin prose story, which was widely popular in the Middle Ages. It tells the story of the Irish abbot Brendan, who with 16 monks sets sail for finding the Island of the Blessed. Saint Brendan of Clonfert (c. AD 484 – c. 577) was indeed a historical figure, but the earliest story of his voyage dates from the ninth century. During their voyage, Brendan and his monks visit all kinds of mysterious islands. Traces of Celtic mythology are clearly visible in this story. On one occasion it is not an island, but a sea-monster, mostly considered a whale. The monks make a fire on it for cooking…
Note: this text is taken from the Bibliotheca Augustana (Transcription du manuscrit d'Alençon à la bibliothèque municipale d'Alençon, Codex 14, f° 1 r à 11 v., XIème siècle) and differs from the standard edition by C. Selmer (1959). Also the numbering of the chapters and the order in which the adventures appear differs in the various manuscripts. The translation below comes from a different edition, but apart from the beginning it mainly agrees with the Latin text below.

Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis, Cap.  XI.    
Sanctus vero Brendanus sciebat qualis erat illa insula sed tamen noluit illis indicare ne fuissent perterriti. Mane autem facto precepit sacerdotibus ut singuli missas cantasset et ita fecerunt. Cum ergo sanctus Brendanus et ipse cantasset missam in navim, ceperunt fratres crudas carnes portare foras de navi ut condidissent sale et etiam pisces quos secum tulerunt de alia insula. Cum haec fecissent posuerunt cacabum super ignem. Cum autem ministrassent lignis ignem et fervere cepisset cacabus, cepit illa insula se movere sicut unda. Fratres vero ceperunt currere ad navim deprecantes patrocinium sancti patris.
At ille singulos per manus trahebat intus. Relictisque omnibus quae portabant in illam insulam ceperunt navigare. Porro illa insula ferebatur in oceanum. Tunc poterant videre ignem ardentem super duo miliaria. Sanctus Brendanus narravit fratribus quod hoc esset, dicens: Fratres admiramini quod fecit haec insula?» Aiunt: «Admiramur valde nec non et ingens pavor penetravit nos.» Qui dixit illis: «Filioli mei nolite expavescere. Deus enim revelavit mihi hac nocte per visionem sacramentum hujus rei. Insula non est ubi fuimus sed piscis. Prior omnium natancium in oceano querit semper suam caudam ut simul jungat capiti et non potest pro longitudine, quam habet nomine Jasconius».

illis: the brethren
mane facto: when morning had arrived
praecipio praecepi praeceptum: to instruct, order
singuli: one by one, individually
crudus: raw
caro carnis (f.): flesh, meat
foras: outside
condo sale: to pickle
cacabus: cooking pot
ministro: (here) to add
lignum: wood
fervo: to become hot, boil
cepisset: not from capio but from coepio coepi coeptum, to start, begin (mediaeval spelling)
deprecor deprecatus: to pray, beg
patrocinium: protection
traho traxi tractum: to draw
intus: inside
porro: next
ferebatur: the medial-passive of fero means `to move (one’s self)
super duo miliaria: from more than two miles distance
admiror admiratus: to wonder
valde: very much
nec non: very, indeed
pavor pavoris: fear
filiolus: diminutive of filius
expavesco: to be terrified
sacramentum: mystery
natancium = natantium
prior: the greatest
quaero quaesivi quaesitum: to seek, strive
cauda: tail
ut simul: at the same time
pro longitudine: because of it length
iungo iunxi iunctum: to join (when whales jump above water, they have a curved back, hence the idea that they try to touch their tail with their head.)
Jasconius: latinization of the Irish word iasc, `fish’
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor brendan whale 

16th century engraving.

Translation by D. O’Donoghue (1893)

When they drew nigh to the nearest island, the boat stopped ere they reached a landing-–place; and the saint ordered the brethren to get out into the sea, and make the vessel fast, stem and stern, until they came to some harbour; there was no grass on the island, very little wood, and no sand on the shore. While the brethren spent the night in prayer outside the vessel, the saint remained in it, for he knew well what manner of island was this; but he wished not to tell the brethren, lest they might be too much afraid. When morning dawned, he bade the priests to celebrate Mass, and after they had done so, and he himself had said Mass in the boat, the brethren took out some un–cooked meat and fish they had brought from the other island, and
put a cauldron on a fire to cook them, After they had placed more fuel on the fire, and the cauldron began to boil, the island moved about like a wave; whereupon they all rushed towards the boat, and implored the protection of their father, who, taking each one by the hand, drew them all into the vessel; then relinquishing what they had removed to the island, they cast their boat loose, to sail away, when the island at once sunk into the ocean. Afterwards they could see the fire they had kindled still burning more than two miles off, and then Brendan explained the occurrence: ‘Brethren, you wonder at what has happened to this island,’ ‘Yes, father,’ said they: ‘we wondered, and were seized with a great fear.’ ‘Fear not, my children,’ said the saint, ‘for God has last night revealed to me the mystery of all this; it was not an island you were upon, but a fish, the largest of all that swim in the ocean, which is ever trying to make its head and tail meet, but cannot succeed, because of its great length. Its name is Iasconius.’