Monday, 11 April 2016

A complain from an Irish monk.

Sedulius Scottus was an Irish monk living in the ninth century and flourishing around 840 - 860.. Nothing is known about his early life. According to the English wiki entry, he stayed at Iceland in a monastery set up by Irish monks, but when the Vikings came to settle there, they were driven away. This interesting piece of information is absent from Hellen Waddell’s biographical note, so I am not sure about this claim. What is certain is that he went to Liège, where bishop Hartgar took care of him  Sedulius Scottus was very learned, being both fluent in Latin and Greek – very rare in Western Europe at that time. He was a prolific writer in Latin and a translator of Greek. No wonder Hartgar was found of him and made him his clerk. A lifelong friendship developed, which came to an end by Hartgar’s death – deeply bemoaned by Sedulius.  He must have had a fine sense of humour as is clear from this poem in which he asks bishop Hartgar for a drink: he needs it for writing poetry. Indeed, monk or not, an Irishman.  


Ad Hartgarium

Nunc viridant segetes, nunc florent germine campi,
nunc turgent vites, est nunc pulcherrimus annus,
nunc pictae volucres permulcent ethera cantu,
nunc mare, nunc tellus, nunc celi sidera rident.

At non tristificis perturbat potio sucis,
cum medus atque Ceres, cum Bacchi munera desint,
heu - quam multiplicis defit substantia carnis,
quam mitis tellus generat, quam roscidus ether.

Scriptor sum (fateor), sum musicus alter et Orpheus,
sum bos triturans, prospera quaeque volo.
sum vester miles sophie preditus armis;
pro nobis nostrum, Musa, rogato patrem.

virido: to become green
seges, segetis (f.): corn
germen, germinis (n.): bud
turgeo tursi: to be swollen
vitis, vites (f.): vine
permulceo permulsi permulsum: to charm
potio, potionis (f.): a drink
At non tristificis perturbat potio sucis =  At non potio (me) perturbat (cum) trisificis sucis : but no drnik disturbs me with saddening liquor.  Tristificus refers to the effect of too much alcohol and perturbat is at first sight also strange, but remember that this poem was written in a joking spirit.
medus: mead
Ceres: beer
defit: (rare form) passive of deficio: `is lacking’
multiplicis carnis substantia: the substance of multiple flesh are the various forms of alcoholic drinks mentiond above.
roscidus: dewy (roscidus ether = rain)
trituro: to thrash, tread (bos triturans: "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." Is it for the oxen that God cares (1 Corinthians 9.9)   

prospera quaeque volo: I want all that is prosperous (for you)
praeditus (c. abl.): gifted with        
rogato: 2nd sg fut imperat act   

There are various translations on internet, but the one by Hellen Waddell is the only one I can copy paste.                           

The standing corn is green, the wild in flower,
The vines are swelling, 'tis the sweet o' the year,
Bright-winged the birds, and heaven shrill with song,
And laughing sea and earth and every star.

But with it all, there's never a drink for me,
No wine, nor mead, nor even a drop of beer.
Ah, how hath failed that substance manifold,
Born of the kind earth and the dewy air !

I am a writer, I, a musician, Orpheus the second,
And the ox that treads out the corn, and your wellwisher I,
I am your champion armed with the weapons of wisdom and logic,
Muse, tell my lord bishop and father his servant is dry.                         


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