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