Thursday, 12 September 2013

De ramis cadunt folia.



Most love songs are set in springtime or summer, but this one is set in wintertime. It is found in a single manuscript from about 1200 and is written by an anonymous poet. The author describes how winter has everything in a firm grip, but thinking of his love he isn’t cold at all. In the last stanza there is a twist: suddenly the poet is in another mood. He states that Greek fire can be extinguished by vinegar, but not that (iste) fire of him, wretched man.  It is of course useless to speculate about his reasons, but it is this last stanza which makes this poem more interesting than many of the lent and summer love songs.


De ramis cadunt folia,
nam viror totus periit,
iam calor liquit omnia
et abiit;
nam signa coeli ultima
sol petiit.

ramus: branch
viror –oris (m.): green colour
calor –oris (m.): heat
linquo liqui lictus: to leave
signa coeli ultima: the last signs of the zodiac

Iam nocet frigus teneris,
et avis bruma leditur,
et philomena ceteris
conqueritur,
quod illis ignis etheris
adimitur.

noceo nocui nocitum (+ dat.): to harm
frigus frigoris (n.): cold weather
bruma:  the shortest day of the year, wintertime
leditur = laeditur (laedo laesi laesum: to hurt)
ceteris = cum ceteris
conqueror, conqueri, conquestus sum: to bewail, lament
ignis etheris: the sun
adimo ademi ademptum: to withdraw (se must be supplied)

Nec lympha caret alveus,
nec prata virent herbida,
sol nostra fugit aureus
confinia;
est inde dies niveus,
nox frigida.

Nec lympha caret alveus: the river bed does not lack (careo + abl.) water
prata herbida: grassy meadows
vireo virui: to be green
confinium: border
niveus: snowy

Modo frigescit quidquid est,
sed solus ego caleo;
immo sic mihi cordi est
quod ardeo;
hic ignis tamen virgo est,
qua langueo.

modo: just now
frigesco frixi: to become cold
caleo calui: to be warm
immo sic mihi cordi est: indeed, it is for me so (close) to the heart
ardeo ardui: to burn
langueo: to faint

Nutritur ignis osculo
et leni tactu virginis;
in suo lucet oculo
lux luminis,
nec est in toto seculo
plus numinis.

osculum: kiss
lenis tactus: soft touch
plus numinis: more divinity, divine beauty

Ignis grecus extinguitur
cum vino iam acerrimo;
sed iste non extinguitur
miserrimo:
immo fomento alitur
uberrimo.

ignis graecus : Greek fire was a weapon used by the Byzantines against ships. It is of unknown composition. The statement by the poet that this fire can be extinguished by vinegar (vinum acrum) is of course nonsense.
miserrimo: by me, very wretched
fomentum: kindling wood, fuel


Translation by Helen Waddell:

DOWN from the branches fall the leaves,
A wanness comes on all the trees,
The summer's done;
And into his last house in heaven
Now goes the sun.

Sharp frost destroys the tender sprays,
Birds are a-cold in these short days.
The nightingale
Is grieving that the fire of heaven
Is now grown pale.

The swollen river rushes on
Past meadows whence the green has gone,
The golden sun
Has fled our world. Snow falls by day,
The nights are numb.

About me all the world is stark,
And I am burning ; in my heart
There is a fire,
A living flame in me, the maid
Of my desire.

Her kisses, fuel of my fire,
Her tender touches, flaming higher.
The light of light
Dwells in her eyes : divinity
Is in her sight.

Greek fire can be extinguished
By bitter wine; my fire is fed
On other meat.
Yea, even the bitterness of love
Is bitter-sweet.

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