Sunday, 17 May 2020

Alcuin: lament for a nightingale.

One of the foremost scholars during the Carolinian Renaissance was Alcuin of York (735 – 804), probably the greatest intellectual of his time.  Apart from his theological works, he has also left a number of poems, of which this poem about a nightingale (luscinia) is particularly charming. One can imagine Alcuin sitting in his monastic cell enjoying the song a nightingale and suddenly that uplifting voice during a period of distress has gone. Was it written after the Vikings had ransacked Lindisfarne in 793?  

Alcuin: De Luscinia (meter: elegiac couplet)

QUAE te dextra mihi rapuit, luscinia, ruscis,
illa meae fuerat invida laetitiae.
tu mea dulcisonis implesti pectora musis,
atque animum moestum carmine mellifluo.
qua propter veniant volucrum simul undique coetus
carmine te mecum plangere Pierio.
spreta colore tamen fueras non spreta canendo.
lata sub angusto gutture vox sonuit,
dulce melos iterans vario modulamine Musae,
atque creatorem semper in ore canens.
noctibus in furvis nusquam cessavit ab odis,
vox veneranda sacris, o decus atque decor,
quid mirum, cherubim, seraphim si voce tonantem
perpetua laudent, dum tua sic potuit?

quae dextra: which right (hand), or simply `which hand’
rapio rapui raptum (-ere): to take away, seize
ruscum: butcher'sbroom Ruscus aculeatus
invidus: envying, jealous making
dulcisonus: sweet-sounding
implesti = implevisti
moestus = maestus: sad
mellifluus: sweet-flowing
qua propter: for which reason
volucer volucris (f.): bird
undique: from all sides
coetus –us (m.): gathering
plango planxi planctum: (-ere) to bewail
pierius: belonging to mount Pieria (in Macedonia), where the Muses live
sperno sprevi spretum (-ere): to despise, contemn (the ablatives are ablatives of description)
latus: wide, extending (with vox)
sub angusto gutture: under the disguise of a narrow throat
melos (n.): song (Greek loanword occurring only in nom. and dat. sg.)
itero (-are); to repeat
modulameninis: melody
os oris (n.): mouth
furvus: dark, gloomy
nusquam: on no occasion, never
oda: song
sacer sacri/ae: holy, sacred (i.e. a voice to be revered by the saints)
decus (decoris) and decor (decoris) are the same: elegance, glory etc.
quid mirum: what wonder/ miracle
cherubim and seraphim are classes of archangels. The plural is Hebrew and these words are not declined.
tono (-are): resound
dum tua (vox) sic potuit: I.e. while your voice was able to praise with such a small throat

Translation by Helen Waddell


Written for his lost nightingale

WHOEVER stole you from that bush of broom,
I think he envied me my happiness,
O little nightingale, for many a time
You lightened my sad heart from its distress,
And flooded my whole soul with melody.
And I would have the other birds all come,
And sing along with me thy threnody.

So brown and dim that little body was.
But none could scorn thy singing. In that throat
That tiny throat, what depth of harmony,
And all night long ringing thy changing note.
What marvel if the cherubim in heaven
Continually do praise Him, when to thee,
O small and happy, such a grace was given?

Aberdeen bestiary: nightingale Verlichte Letters, Aberdeen, Natuurhistorie, Ei, Gedichten, Vreemde Dieren, Initiaal, Kleine Tekeningen

From the Aberdeen Bestiary folio 52 verso (13th century)

Friday, 15 May 2020

Legenda Aurea: Saint Andrew and the seven demons.

The Legenda Aurea written by Jacobus de Voragine (1228-1298) was to some extent the 1001 Nights of Mediaeval Europe: all kinds of stories and anecdotes in some thousand pages. Its content though was not just amusement but also, or even more, exempla of miracle and devotion for the Christian laity.
Believe in demons was part of everyday Christianity and it must have been a reassuring thought that these could be driven away, as Saint Andrew does in this excerpt. From a modern perspective it has a strange ending: why would the apostle revive the son on the condition that he, the son, would follow the holy man? Such ethical considerations would not have bothered the audience, glad as they were to hear a miracle.
Legenda Aurea De sancto Andrea apostolo  (fragment).

Cum autem esset apostolus in civitate Nicaea, dixerunt ei cives, quod extra civitatem secus viam septem daemones erant, qui praetereuntes homines occidebant. Quibus ad iussum apostoli ante populum in specie canum venientibus praecepit, ut illuc irent, ubi nulli hominum nocere possent. Qui statim evanuerunt. Illi autem homines hoc viso fidem Christi receperunt. Et cum venisset ad portam alterius civitatis, ecce quidam iuvenis mortuus ferebatur. Quaerente apostolo, quid ei accidisset, dictum est ei, quod septem canes venerunt et eum in cubiculo necaverunt. Et lacrimans apostolus ait: "Scio, Domine, quod fuerunt daemones, quos a Nicaea urbe repuli." Dixitque patri: "Quid dabis mihi, si suscitavero filium tuum" Cui ille: "Nil carius ego possidebam, ipsum ergo tibi dabo." Et facta oratione surrexit et apostolo adhaesit.

secus (+ acc.): beside, along
praeter-eo: to pass by
occido occidi occisum (-ere): to kill
quibus…venientibus is an abl abs. with the words in between depending on it
in specie: in disguise of, disguised as
praecipio praecepi praeceptum (-ere): to order, command (subject: Andreas)
illuc: there, thither
noceo nocui (-ēre)
statim: immediately
evanesco evanui (-ere): to vanish
hoc viso: abl. abs.
ferebatur: was carried to a grave
quaero quaesivi quaesitum: to ask
cubiculum: bedroom
neco (-are): to kill
quod: that         
repello repuli repulsum: (-ere): to drive away repel
suscito (-are): to raise up, revive
carius: more dear
ipsum: his son
oratioonis (f.): prayer
adhaereo adhaesi adhaesum: to stick, adhere, follow

The translation is adapted from William Caxton’s Middle English edition.

(After this,) as the apostle was in the city of Nice, the citizens said to him that there were seven devils without the city, by the highway, which slew all them that passed forthby. And the apostle Andrew commanded them to come to him, which came in the likeness of dogs, and sith he commanded them that they should go whereas they should not grieve ne do harm to any man; and anon they vanished away. And when the people saw this they received the faith of Jesu Christ. And when the apostle came to the gate of another city there was brought out a young man dead. The apostle demanded what was befallen him, and it was told him that seven dogs came and strangled him. Then the apostle wept and said: O Lord God, I know well that these were the devils that I put out of Nice; and after said to the father of him that was dead: What wilt thou give to me if I raise him? And he said: I have nothing so dear as him, I shall give him to thee. And anon the apostle made his prayers unto almighty God, and raised him from death to life, and he went and followed him.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Seneca 61: accept fate willingly.

To comply with fate is a major premise of Stoic philosophy: not grudgingly, but willingly. In this letter Seneca tells us how to achieve that. It is of course not by reading this letter and nodding in agreement that one becomes a stoic; rather it is an exercise, a way of life. In times of distress stoicism has always had a certain appeal and let’s not forget that Antiquity was in many respects a time of distress with wars, hunger and diseases looming. Such a concept as a makeable society was completely foreign to Classical thinking. I won’t call Stoic philosophy a panacea for dealing with all our problems, but reading and rethinking a stoic text now and then can do no harm.


[1] Desinamus, quod voluimus, velle. Ego certe id ago <ne> senex eadem velim quae puer volui. In hoc unum eunt dies, in hoc noctes, hoc opus meum est, haec cogitatio, imponere veteribus malis finem. Id ago ut mihi instar totius vitae dies sit; nec mehercules tamquam ultimum rapio, sed sic illum aspicio tamquam esse vel ultimus possit. [2] Hoc animo tibi hanc epistulam scribo, tamquam me cum maxime scribentem mors evocatura sit; paratus exire sum, et ideo fruar vita quia quam diu futurum hoc sit non nimis pendeo. Ante senectutem curavi ut bene viverem, in senectute ut bene moriar; bene autem mori est libenter mori. [3] Da operam ne quid umquam invitus facias: quidquid necesse futurum est repugnanti, id volenti necessitas non est. Ita dico: qui imperia libens excipit partem acerbissimam servitutis effugit, facere quod nolit; non qui iussus aliquid facit miser est, sed qui invitus facit. Itaque sic animum componamus ut quidquid res exiget, id velimus, et in primis ut finem nostri sine tristitia cogitemus. [4] Ante ad mortem quam ad vitam praeparandi sumus. Satis instructa vita est, sed nos in instrumenta eius avidi sumus; deesse aliquid nobis videtur et semper videbitur: ut satis vixerimus, nec anni nec dies faciunt sed animus. Vixi, Lucili carissime, quantum satis erat; mortem plenus exspecto. Vale.

desino desii (-ere): to abandon, stop
id ago: I give heed, attention to
<ne>: the text is corrupt
opus meum: my need, business
impono finem: to put an end to
instar (+ gen.): equal to
ultimum (diem)
rapio rapui raptum (-ere): to snatch, seize, lay hold on
aspicio aspexi aspectum (-ere): to consider
hoc animo: with this state of mind
cum maxime: just now, more than ever
scribentem: while writing
evocatura sit: is about to/will summon
frui fructus (+ abl.) to enjoy
quam diu: how long
non nimis: not very much
pendeo pependi (-ēre): (here) to be in suspense (i.e. I don’t care much)
libenter: willingly
operam do: to give attention to
invitus: unwillingly
quidquid necesse futurum est repugnanti, id volenti necessitas non est: what will appear to be a necessary for one resisting, is not a necessity for one willing
imperium: command, order
excipio excepi exceptum: to follow, receive
acerbus: harsh, bitter
iussus: ordered
compono composui compositum (-ere): to arrange
exigo exegi exactum (-ere): to demand, require
in primis: especially
finem nostri: our end, death
cogito (-are): reflect upon
ante…quam: rather…than
praeparo (-are): to prepare
satis: sufficiently
instruo instruxi instructum (-ere): to furnish
nos in instrumenta eius avidi sumus: we are avid regarding to means/provisions for it
nec anni nec dies faciunt ut satis vixerimus
quantum: as much as
plenus: satisfied
Translation by Richard M. Gummere (1917, 1920, 1925).

LXI. On Meeting Death Cheerfully

1. Let us cease to desire that which we have been desiring. I, at least, am doing this: in my old age I have ceased to desire what I desired when a boy. To this single end my days and my nights are passed; this is my task, this the object of my thoughts, – to put an end to my chronic ills. I am endeavouring to live every day as if it were a complete life. I do not indeed snatch it up as if it were my last; I do regard it, however, as if it might even be my last. 2. The present letter is written to you with this in mind, – as if death were about to call me away in the very act of writing. I am ready to depart, and I shall enjoy life just because I am not over-anxious as to the future date of my departure.

Before I became old I tried to live well; now that I am old, I shall try to die well; but dying well means dying gladly. See to it that you never do anything unwillingly. 3. That which is bound to be a necessity if you rebel, is not a necessity if you desire it. This is what I mean: he who takes his orders gladly, escapes the bitterest part of slavery, – doing what one does not want to do. The man who does something under orders is not unhappy; he is unhappy who does something against his will. Let us therefore so set our minds in order that we may desire whatever is demanded of us by circumstances, and above all that we may reflect upon our end without sadness. 4. We must make ready for death before we make ready for life. Life is well enough furnished, but we are too greedy with regard to its furnishings; something always seems to us lacking, and will always seem lacking. To have lived long enough depends neither upon our years nor upon our days, but upon our minds. I have lived, my dear friend Lucilius, long enough. I have had my fill; I await death. Farewell.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Tibullus 2.1: a merry lent ritual.

This elegy by Tibullus is a description of some rural ritual, probably the ambarvalia. This assignation is not quite beyond dispute, but most modern commentators agree on that ritual. The ambarvalia was celebrated late April – early May, after seed had been planted and now the blessings of the gods, especially Ceres, was asked. It has a festive mood and the brightness of the whole scene is stressed by such word as casta, pura, candida etc. With these adjectives it has something of a locus amoenus, a lovely and arcane spot. The day ends with drinking wine. For those thinking that nothing has changed in Italy concerning the production and drinking of wine: don’t!

Tibullus, Elegiae, 2,1 13-30.

casta placent superis: pura cum ueste uenite
    et manibus puris sumite fontis aquam.
cernite, fulgentes ut eat sacer agnus ad aras
    uinctaque post olea candida turba comas.
di patrii, purgarnus agros, purgamus agrestes:
    uos mala de nostris pellite limitibus,
neu seges eludat messem fallacibus herbis,
    neu timeat celeres tardior agna lupos.
tunc nitidus plenis confisus rusticus agris
    ingeret ardenti grandia ligna foco,
turbaque uernarum, saturi bona signa coloni,
    ludet et ex uirgis extruet ante casas.
euentura precor: uiden ut felicibus extis
    significet placidos nuntia fibra deos?
nunc mihi fumosos ueteris proferte Falernos
    consulis et Chio soluite uincla cado.
uina diem celebrent: non festa luce madere
    est rubor, errantes et male ferre pedes.

castus: pure
superi: the gods above
vestis –is (f.): clothing
sumo sumpsi sumptum: to take, get
cerno crevi cretum (-ere): perceive, see
fulgentes aras: i.e marble altars
sacer agnus: this sacred lamb was first led thrice around the farm estate and then led behind the crowd dressed in white (post candida turba) towards the altar.
vincta olea comas: having their hair tied (vincio vinxi vinctum) with an olive (olea: abl. i.e. olive leaves.)
agrestis –is (m.): peasant
pello pepuli pulsum (-ere): drive away
limes limitis (m.): boundary
neu = neve: and that not
seges segetis (f.): crop
eludo elusi elusum (-ere): elude, deceive, escape
messis –is (f.): harvest
fallacibus herbis: i.e. weeds
celer: swift
tardus: slow
nitidus: shining
confido confisus sum (-ere, + dat., abl.): to trust, confide
ingero ingessi ingestum (-ere): to load, put on
grandis: large
lignum: wood
focus: hearth, here: bonfire
verna: home-born slave (m. and f.)
satur: rich
bona signa: apposition to turba vernarum
colonus: farmer
ludet: this may mean the turba vernarum consisted of children, though not necessarily. The context of playing and building huts suggests a ritual setting.
ante focum
virga: branch, twig
extruo extruxi extructum: to build, erect
casa: hut
eventura precor: I pray for good omens (In the meantime the lamb has been slaughtered and its entrails are inspected for good signs.)
uiden ut felicibus extis  significet placidos nuntia fibra deos? Do you see how the forecasting liver (nuntia fibra) from the favourable entrails (felicibus extis) signifies the gods to be pleased?
proferte: bring (from the wine store)
fumosus Falernos: Falernan wine was considered the best wine available. The amphoras were stored near or above the hearth, so that smoke could reach these and preserve the wine. The consequence was of course a smoky taste. The amphoras were sealed and on that seal the names of the then reigning consuls were written, so one could see how old the wine was. The heavy Falerna was usually mixed with a softer wine, in this case from Chios: solvite vincla Chio cado `untie the bounds from the Chian jar (cadus).’
vina: ablative
festa luce: on a festive day
madeo madui (-ēre): to become wet, drunk
rubor -oris (m.): shame
erro (-are): to wander, stray
male ferre pedes: `to carry the feet badly’ i.e. walk with unsteady feet

Translation by A.S. Klyne (2002)

Purity pleases the gods: come with pure robes
and draw the fountain’s water with pure hands.
See how the sacred lamb goes to the shining altar
behind it the crowd, in white, heads crowned with olive.
Gods of our fathers, we purify worker and field:
drive evil far away from our boundaries,
let the fields not cheat us of harvest, failed in the shoot,
let our slow lambs not be in fear of swifter wolves.
Then let the glowing farmer sure of full fields
pile huge logs up, on his blazing hearth,
and a crowd of young slaves, true signs of wealth
play, and build little huts of sticks before it.
I pray, with success: see how the favourable entrails
show that the gods are pleased, by the liver’s markings.
Now bring out the smoky Falernian from old consulships,
and loosen the bindings from the Chian jar.
Let wine celebrate the day: no shame to be drunk
on a day of festival, and weave about on unsteady feet.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Carmina Burana, appendix 13: an Easter play.

The Carmina Burana does not only contain songs, parody and revelry, but also religious drama. It has an appendix with a number of such texts – remember that the Carmina Burana is first of all a manuscript, a physical object, and not a collection of texts on internet or music by Carl Orff. One of these is a drama with texts mainly taken from Matthew 26 and 27, to be performed on Good Friday. The actors were priests and lower clergy. Such liturgical dramas served as a re-enactment of stories from the gospel, especially Christmas, Easter and Ascension. For more details see the link at the end. This ludus, dated between 1250 and 1300, is not a highlight of mediaeval literature, but it was never meant to be. Instead, it gives us a glimpse of religious practise. There is no translation, but those in dire need can take a Bible at hand. Note the differences between the Gospel text and this play.

Carmina Burana, Appendix 13

Ludus breviter de passione primo inchoatur ita. Quando Dominus cum discipulis procedere vult ad locum deputatum, ubi mandatum debet esse, et in processu dicant apostoli ad Dominum:
Ubi vis paremus tibi comedere pascha?

breviter (adv.) short (to be taken with ludus: play in the short way)
inchoo: (-are): to begin
quando.. .Dominum: this and the other cursive sentences are stage direction, partly taken from Matthew, but also containing specific directions for an actor.
deputatus: destined
ubi mandatum debet esse: `where what has been ordered has to take place’. Mandatum: the ritual of foot washing performed by the priest on Whitsun Thursday.
dicant: note the  use of the subjunctive in the stage directions: they must say, etc.
paro (-are): to prepare
comedo comedi comesum: to eat
pascha: the feast of Passover

Et Dominus respondet:
Ite in civitatem ad quendam et dicite ei: Magister dicit: «Tempus meum prope est; apud te facio pascha cum discipulis meis».

ad quendam: to some person
prope: near

Et in deputato loco faciant mensam parari cum mensale, cum pane et vino. Et Dominus discumbat cum duodecim apostolis suis, et edentibus illis dicat:
Amen dico vobis, quia unus vestrum me traditurus est in hac nocte.

faciant mensam parari : they must make a table to be prepared = they (the clergy in charge of preparing the scene ) must take care that a table is set ready.
mensalis –is (n.); table-service
trado tradidi traditum: to betray

Unusquisque pro se respondet:
Numquid ego sum, Domine?

unusquisque: each one
numquid: question particle expecting a negative answer

Et Dominus respondet:
Qui intinguit mecum manum in parapside, hic me tradet. Filius quidem hominis vadit, sicut scriptum est de illo. Ve autem homini illi, per quem filius hominis tradetur; bonum erat illi, si natus non fuisset homo ille.

Intinguo intinxi intinctum: to dip
parapsis (paropsis) –idid (f.): dish
quidem: certainly
vado vasi (-ere): to go
ve (vae) (+dat.): woe unto

Respondet Iudas:
Numquid ego sum, Rabbi?

Et Dominus dicat:
Tu dixisti.

Tunc medio tempore vadat Iudas ad pontifices et ad Iudeos et dicat:
Quid vultis michi dare, et ego vobis eum tradam?

medio tempore: in the meantime (stage direction!)
michi = mihi

At illi constituant ei:
Triginta argenteos.

constituo constitui constitutum: to agree

Et ista hora accipiat Dominus panem, frangat, benedicat et dicat:
Accipite et comedite, hoc est corpus meum.

panis – is (m.) : bread
frango fregi fractum: to break

Similiter et calicem. Et postquam cenavit, Dominus dicat:
Surgite, eamus hinc; ecce appropinquabit, qui me tradet.

similiter: in the same way
calix –icis (f.): bowl, chalice
ceno (-are): to eat
surgo surrexi (-ere): to arise, stand up
hinc: hither
approquinquo (+ dat.): to approach

Et Iudas accedens ad Iesum clamando dicat:
Ave, Rabbi!

clamando = clamans

Et osculando irruat in eum. Tunc Donimus dicat:
Amice, ad quid venisti?

osculor osculatus : to kiss (osculando = osculans)
irruo irrui: to rush

Iudei et milites accedant ad Dominum et manus iaciant in eum et teneant eum. Et ita ducant eum ad Pilatum. Tunc discipuli omnes relicto eo fugiant. Et accusent eum coram eo in tribus causis et dicant:
Hic dixit: Possum destruere templum Dei et post triduum reedificare illud.

manus iaciant in eum : throw their hands on him
teneo tenui (-ēre): to grasp, hold fast
relicto eo: he being left = leaving him
accussent: the Jewish priests
coram (+abl.): in the presence of
causa: complaint, cause
triduum: three days
reedifico (-are): to rebuild (note the spelling e for ae: reaedifico in Classical Latin. Also Cesari for Caesari)

Hunc invenimus subvertentem gentem nostram et prohibentem tributa dari Cesari et dicentem se Christum regem esse.

invenio inveni inventum (-ire): to find out, discover
subverto  –versi –versum (-ere) : to destroy, corrupt (cf subversive)
prohibeo –hibui –hibitum (-ere): to prevent, prohibit
tributum: tax, tribute

Commovit populum docens per universam Iudeam et incipiens a Galilea usque huc.

commoveomovimotum (-ēre): to stir up, agitate
incipio –cepi  -ceptum (-ere): to start, begin
usque huc: till here

Tunc Pilatus respondet:
Quid enim mali fecit?

Dicant Iudei:
Si non esset malefactor, non tibi tradidissemus eum.

malefactor –oris (m. : evil-doer

Respondet Pilatus:
Accipite cum vos et secundum legem vestram iudicate eum. Ego nullam causam invenio in hoc homine. Vultis ergo, dimittam regem Iudeorum?

accipio -cepi –ceptum (-ere): to take, receive
secundum: according
causa: guilt
dimitto dimisi dimissum (-ere): to release, send away

Iudei clamando dicant:
Non, sed crucifigatur.

Et clamando magis dicant:
Crucifige, crucifige eum!

magis: more

Et Pilatus respondet:
Accipite eum vos et crucifigite!

Dicant Iudei:
Non, nos legem habemus, et secundum legem debet mori, quia filium Dei se fecit.

Respondet Pilatus:
Regem vestrum crucifigam?

Tunc dicant pontifices:
Regem non habemus nisi Cesarem.

Et Pilatus accipiat aquam et dicat:
Mundus sum a sanguine huius iusti; vos videritis.

mundus: clean, innocent

Et baiulet sibi crucem, et ducant eum, ubi crucifigatur. Tunc unus ex militibus veniat cum lancea, tangat latus eius. Tunc ipse Dominus in cruce alta voce clamet:
Ely, Ely, lema sabactani: Deus <meus>, Deus meus, ut <quid dereliquisti me?>

baiulo (-are): to carry a burden
latus lateris (n.): flank
altus: high, loud
derilnquo –liqui –lictum: to forsake

Tunc Maria mater Domimi veniat et due alie Marie et Iohannes. Et Maria planctum faciat quantum melius potest. Et unus ex Iudeis dicat:
Si filius Dei es, descende nunc de cruce!

due = duae: two
aliae Mariae: Maria Magdalena and Maria the mother of james
planctus –us (m.): beating of the breast, lamentation
quantum melius: as good as

Alter Iudeus:
Confidit in Deo; liberet eum nunc si vult.

alter: second
confido –fisus sum (-ere): to trust

Item tertius:
Alios salvos fecit, seipsum autem non potest salvum facere.

salvum facio : to rescue
seipsum: him self

Et Dominus dicat:
Consummatum est.

consumo –sumpsi -sumptum: to consume,  fulfil

In manus tuas commendo spiritum m<eum>.

Et inclinato capite emittat spiritum. Tunc veniat Ioseph ab Arimathia et
petat corpus Iesu. Et permittat Pilatus. Et Ioseph honorifice sepeliat eum.

inclino (-are): to bend, incline
peto petivi petitum: to ask
sepelio seplivi (-ire): to burry

Et ita inchoatur ludus de resurrectione.

i.e. the next play, which is to performed at Sunday.
As the next line suggest, this text was spoken aloud.

O domine, recte meminimus.

pontifices: the officiating priests during the performance and mass
memini: to remember

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Pliny IX, 36: how I spend my day.

Fuscus, a good friend of Pliny, asks how Pliny spends his day at his summer-house in Toscana. What follows is an elaborate list of activities during the day of a rich – very rich – man. At his disposal were lots of slaves, among them a secretary to whom he dictated his letters, actors and musicians. Further a private hippodrome and a private bathhouse. As a chroniqueur of daily life and teller of anecdotes Pliny never disappoints.


 [1] Quaeris, quemadmodum in Tuscis diem aestate disponam. Evigilo cum libuit, plerumque circa horam primam, saepe ante, tardius raro. Clausae fenestrae manent; mire enim silentio et tenebris ab iis quae avocant abductus et liber et mihi relictus, non oculos animo sed animum oculis sequor, qui eadem quae mens vident, quotiens non vident alia. [2] Cogito, si quid in manibus, cogito ad verbum scribenti emendantique similis, nunc pauciora nunc plura, ut vel difficile vel facile componi tenerive potuerunt. Notarium voco et die admisso quae formaveram dicto; abit rursusque revocatur rursusque dimittitur. [3] Ubi hora quarta vel quinta (neque enim certum dimensumque tempus), ut dies suasit, in xystum me vel cryptoporticum confero, reliqua meditor et dicto. Vehiculum ascendo. Ibi quoque idem quod ambulans aut iacens; durat intentio mutatione ipsa refecta. Paulum redormio, dein ambulo, mox orationem Graecam Latinamve clare et intente non tam vocis causa quam stomachi lego; pariter tamen et illa firmatur. [4] Iterum ambulo ungor exerceor lavor. Cenanti mihi, si cum uxore vel paucis, liber legitur; post cenam comoedia aut lyristes; mox cum meis ambulo, quorum in numero sunt eruditi. Ita variis sermonibus vespera extenditur, et quamquam longissimus dies bene conditur. [5] Non numquam ex hoc ordine aliqua mutantur; nam, si diu iacui vel ambulavi, post somnum demum lectionemque non vehiculo sed, quod brevius quia velocius, equo gestor. Interveniunt amici ex proximis oppidis, partemque diei ad se trahunt interdumque lasso mihi opportuna interpellatione subveniunt. [6] Venor aliquando, sed non sine pugillaribus, ut quamvis nihil ceperim non nihil referam. Datur et colonis, ut videtur ipsis, non satis temporis, quorum mihi agrestes querelae litteras nostras et haec urbana opera commendant. Vale.

quemadmodum: how, in what way
aestas –atis (f.): summer
diem dispono: to arrange the day
evigiilio (-are): to wake up
cum libuit: as it pleased (me)
plerumque: often
horam primam: in summer around 6 a.m. (look at the link below for further information)
saepe: often
tardius: later
clausus: closed (The bedrooms in Pompeian houses…and in Italy ...up to this day, go far to prove that man can live without oxygen. Elmer Truesdel  Merril, Selected Letters of the Younger Pliny (London, 1924)
mire: wonderful, astonishing
silentio et tenebris ab iis quae avocant abductus: in the silence and darkness/shadows I am separated from the things which divert (me)
mihi relictus: left to myself
non oculos animo sed animum oculis sequor: i.e. In this darkness he is able to think and imagine (I follow (sequor secutus) with my eyes my mind/thoughts.)
quae mens (videt)
quotiens: as often as
cogito: i.e. thinking of what to write
quid in manibus: engaged in something
ad verbum: word by word
emendo (-are): to improve
paucus: little, few
ut: according to
componi tenerive: to be written down or to be kept in memory
notarius: secretary, stenographer
die admisso: after having let in daylight
formo (-are): composed (in the mind)
rursus: again
dimitto dimisi dimissum: to send away
hora quarta vel quinta: see link
dimetior dimensum: to measure out
dies: weather
suadeo suasi suasum: to recommend, urge
xystus: an open colonnade or portico, or a walk planted with trees
cryptoporticusa: a covered gallery, hall
confero: to bring oneself, go
relicta: what has been left, remains
meditator meditatus: to consider
vehiculum ascendo: Pliny had a private hippodrome
ibi:  there
idem (facio)
iaceo iacui: to lie down, rest
duro (-are): to continue
intentio –onis (f.): concentration
reficio refeci refectum: to renew
paulum: a little
redormio: i.e. a siesta
clare et intente: clear and concentrated (with lego)
non tam vocis causa quam stomachi: not so much because of the voice, as for the stomach (reading aloud – the normal procedure- was also recommended by physicians for a better digestion.)
pariter: at the same time
illa = vox
iterum: again
ungo (ungeo) unxi unctum: to anoint with oil (ungor either passive or, like exerceor, medial)
exerceor: taking exercises was recommended before taking a bath (lavo, lavor medial)
ceno: to dine
lyristes –ae: luteplayer
meis: his slaves and freedmen (Pliny was very kind to his slaves and considered them as fellow humans.)
vespera = vesper
quamquam longissimus dies bene conditur: whatever a very long day, it is closed well
non nunquam: not never = sometimes
diu: all day, a little too long
post…demum: (but) not till after
velocius: a horse under saddle goes faster than a  harnessed horse
equo gestor: to ride a horse (gestor medial)
interveniunt: intervenio refers to an unwelcome, distracting visit, subvenire (+ dat.) a pleasant visit
oppidum: town
ad se traho: to demand
interdum: sometimes, now and then
lassus: tired
opportuna interpellatione: with a welcome interruption
venor venatus: to hunt
aliquando: sometimes
pugilaris –is (n.): writing tablet (Pliny was not a very successful and devoted huntsman, as he confesses in letter I.6)
ut quamvis: if in case
referam: if he catches no game, he has at least something written down to take back home. A true man of letters!
datur: subject tempus
colonus: farmer (working on Pliny’s estate)
agrestes querelae: boorish complaints (agrestis `belonging to the countryside’, as opposed to urbanus `urbane, civilised’)
commendo (-are): to make agreeable  (Pliny uses these querelae as anecdotes for his letters)

Translation by J.B. Furth (1900)
[36] L   To Fuscus.

You ask me how I spend the day on my Tuscan villa in summer time. Well, I wake at my own sweet will, usually about the first hour, though it is often before, and rarely later. I keep my windows shut, for it is remarkable how, when all is still and in darkness, and I am withdrawn from distracting influences and am left to myself, and free to do what I like, my thoughts are not led by my eyes, but my eyes by my thoughts; and so my eyes, when they have nothing else to look at, only see the objects which are present before my mind. If I have anything on hand, I think it over, and weigh every word as carefully as though I were actually writing or revising, and in this way I get through more or less work, according as the subject is easy or difficult to compose and bear in mind. I call for a shorthand writer, and, after letting in the daylight, I dictate the passages which I have composed, then he leaves me, and I send for him again, and once again dismiss him.

At the fourth or fifth hour, according as the weather tempts me - for I have no fixed and settled plan for the day - I betake myself to my terrace or covered portico, and there again I resume my thinking and dictating. I ride in my carriage, and still continue my mental occupation, just as when I am walking or lying down. My concentration of thought is unaffected, or rather is refreshed by the change. Then I snatch a brief sleep and again walk, and afterwards read aloud a Greek or Latin speech, as clearly and distinctly as I can, not so much to exercise the vocal organs as to help my digestion, though it does at the same time strengthen my voice. I take another walk, then I am anointed, and take exercise and a bath. While I am at dinner, if I am dining with my wife or a few friends, a book is read to us, and afterwards we hear a comic actor or a musician; then I walk with my attendants, some of whom are men of learning. Thus the evening is passed away with talk on all sorts of subjects, and even the longest day is soon done.

Sometimes I vary this routine, for, if I have been lying down, or walking for any length of time, as soon as I have had my sleep and read aloud, I ride on horseback instead of in a carriage, as it takes less time, and one gets over the ground faster. My friends come in from the neighbouring towns to see me, and take up part of the day, and occasionally, when I am tired, I welcome their call as a pleasant relief. Sometimes I go hunting, but never without my tablets, so that though I may take no game, I still have something to bring back with me. Part of my time too is given to my tenants - though in their opinion not enough - and their clownish complaints give me a fresh zest for my literary work and my round of engagements in town.   Farewell.