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