Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Ambrosius: Intende qui regis Israel.

As it is now almost Christmas, it is sobering to remind that the date this feast was only fixed somewhere at the end of the 4th century. The Bible tells us nothing about the date and the Gospel of Marc - the oldest gospel – has nothing to say at all about the birth of Jesus. Under popular pressure and theological reflections, such as the rise of the prominence of Mary, a date was fixed, which conveniently was around the same date as some heathen feasts like the Saturnalia. This is of course more than coincidence: though it would be nonsense to claim that it was under the direct influence of Mithraism, the connection between Christ and light was easily made and had its foundation in the Gospel of John. Indeed, there are pictures of Christ resembling the sun-god Apollo; an iconographical resemblance, not a theological.
Possibly Ambrose of Milan (340 – 397) introduced the date of the birth of Jesus in his diocese – Rome had already preceded. It is tempting to think that the following hymn was written for that occasion, but as with the exact historical circumstances of fixing the date of Christmas, this too would overstretch our sources.

Ambrosius, Intende, qui regis Israel. (By far not all biblical parallels have been noted.)

1 Intende, qui regis Israel,            
super Cherubim qui sedes,             qui sedes super
appare Ephraem coram, excita    one of the tribes of Israel
potentiam tuam et veni!               For the first stanza cf. Psalm 79/80

intendo intendi intentum: to give attention
appareo apparui: to appear
coram: before, in front of
excito (-are): bring out, rouse

2 Veni, redemptor gentium,          note the repeating veni
ostende partum virginis,
miretur omne saeculum,             saeculum: both world and age
talis decet partus deo.                    (that) such (a low) birth
                                                            decet here with dative
ostendo ostendi ostentum: to show
partus –us (m.): birth, delivery

3 Non ex virili semine, 
sed mystico spiramine                    spiramen = Holy Ghost
verbum dei factum est caro          cf. John 1.14
fructusque ventris floruit.

4 Alvus tumescit virginis,
claustrum pudoris permanet,        the barrier of chastity remains (closed)
vexilla virtutum micant,
versatur in templo deus.                in templo: i.e. the belly of Mary

alvus (m./f.) : belly
tumesco tumui: to (begin to) swell
vexillum: banner, flag, standard
mico (-are): to vibrate, shine
versor versatus: to dwell

5 Procedat e thalamo suo,           
pudoris aula regia,                          the royal court of chastity (ablative!) = Mary
geminae gigas substantiae,           i.e. His divine and human nature
alacris occurrat viam.                     may he enter the road (of salvation)
procedo processi (-ere): to come/go forth
thalamus: chamber
gigas gigantis (m.): giant
alacris = alacer: quick, eager, happy

6 Egressus eius a patre,                  note the use of e (out) and re (return)
regressus eius ad patrem, 
excursus usque ad inferos,            to those below, i.e. hell
recursus ad sedem dei.

7 Aequalis aeterno patri,               vocative: you who are equal etc.
carnis tropaeo accingere,              accingere: inf. pro imp.
infirma nostri corporis                    infirma firmans: making strong the weak things etc.
virtute firmans perpeti.                 

tropaeum: trophy
perpetuus: eternal (perpeti = perpetii)

8 Praesepe iam fulget tuum
lumenque nox spirat novum, 
quod nulla nox interpolet
fideque iugi luceat.

praesepe –is (n.): stable
fulgeo fulsi (-ere): to flash, glitter
interpolo (-are): to alter
iugis –e: continual, perpetual

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor afbeelding kerst middeleeuwen

Picture from de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.

Performance by Capella Antiqua München, conductor Konrad Ruhland.

Translation by Peter G. Walsh with Christopher Husch (One Hundred Latin Hymns, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 18, 2012)

    Give ear, O king of Israel,
    seated above the Cherubim,
    appear before Ephraim’s face,
    stir up thy mightiness, and come.

    Redeemer of the Gentiles, come;
    show forth the birth from virgin’s womb;
    let every age show wonderment;
    such birth is fitting for our God.

    Not issuing from husband’s seed,
    but from the Spirit’s mystic breath,
    God’s Word was fashioned into flesh,
    and thrived as fruit of Mary’s womb.

    The virgin’s womb begins to swell;
    her maidenhead remains intact:
    the banner of her virtues gleam;
    God in his temple lives and stirs.

    From his chamber let him come forth,
    the royal court of chastity,
    as giant of his twin natures
    eager to hasten on his way.

    First from the Father he set forth,
    then to his Father he returns;
    he sallies to the realms below,
    then journeys back to God’s abode.

    You are the eternal Father’s peer;
    gird on your trophy of the flesh,
    and strengthen with your constant power
    the frailties of our bodies’ frame.

    Your manger now is all aglow,
    the night breathes forth a light unknown;
    a light that never night may shroud,
    and that shall gleam with constant faith.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Pliny II,6: a parsimonious host.

Being a patronus in ancient Rome implied that you had to sustain your clientes and invite them for dinner. In return the clientes supported a patronus when he was striving for some office. Pliny describes in this letter to his young friend Avitus how some patronus cut down the expenses of a meal by serving different qualities of wine and food for the guests, depending on their social status. Pliny felt uneasy about this and disapproved it. Apparently this phenomenon was something new in Rome and spreading, maybe under the pressure of economic circumstances or because of a sharper articulation of differences in social class. Martial too (III. 60) is complaining about this, but unlike Pliny, he belonged to the lower social strata and got the cheaper dishes.
It is as at a Christmas dinner, where friends and family are invited, the host serves cheaper dishes to the new boyfriend of his daughter, as he is not familiar with him, or to other people not belonging to his inner circle. There would be some frowning amongst the guests. Well, it could be a good means to get rid of unwelcome people next Christmas.

Pliny, Letters, II,6


[1] Longum est altius repetere nec refert, quemadmodum acciderit, ut homo minime familiaris cenarem apud quendam, ut sibi videbatur, lautum et diligentem, ut mihi, sordidum simul et sumptuosum. [2] Nam sibi et paucis opima quaedam, ceteris vilia et minuta ponebat. Vinum etiam parvolis lagunculis in tria genera discripserat, non ut potestas eligendi, sed ne ius esset recusandi, aliud sibi et nobis, aliud minoribus amicis (nam gradatim amicos habet), aliud suis nostrisque libertis. [3] Animadvertit qui mihi proximus recumbebat, et an probarem interrogavit. Negavi. 'Tu ergo' inquit 'quam consuetudinem sequeris?' 'Eadem omnibus pono; ad cenam enim, non ad notam invito cunctisque rebus exaequo, quos mensa et toro aequavi.' [4] 'Etiamne libertos?' 'Etiam; convictores enim tunc, non libertos puto.' Et ille: 'Magno tibi constat.' 'Minime.' 'Qui fieri potest?' 'Quia scilicet liberti mei non idem quod ego bibunt, sed idem ego quod liberti.' [5] Et hercule si gulae temperes, non est onerosum quo utaris ipse communicare cum pluribus. Illa ergo reprimenda, illa quasi in ordinem redigenda est, si sumptibus parcas, quibus aliquanto rectius tua continentia quam aliena contumelia consulas.
[6] Quorsus haec? ne tibi, optimae indolis iuveni, quorundam in mensa luxuria specie frugalitatis imponat. Convenit autem amori in te meo, quotiens tale aliquid inciderit, sub exemplo praemonere, quid debeas fugere. [7] Igitur memento nihil magis esse vitandum quam istam luxuriae et sordium novam societatem; quae cum sint turpissima discreta ac separata, turpius iunguntur. Vale.

altius repetere: to go into the matter too deeply
nec refert: and it is not of importance
minime familiaris: hardly familiar
ceno (-are): to dine
ut sibi videbatur, …, ut mihi: as he appeared to himself…, so he appeared to me
lautus: refined
sumptuosus: lavish, extravagant
opina: rich dishes
minuta: poor dishes
parvolus: rather small
laguncula: a small bottle
tria genera: serving two unequal sorts of wine was considered not done, let alone three
describo descripsi descriptum: to distribute
non ut potestas eligendi, sed ne ius esset recusandi: not in order that there would be possibility of choosing, but that there was no right to refuse, i.e. those served the chateau migraine had to drink it as there was no alternative
gradatim: in different social classes
libertus: freedman
animadverto = animam adverto: to turn ones attention
recumbo recubui: to lie down ( = accumbo, remember that the Romans did not sit at around the table but were half lying on couches.)
probo (-are): approve
non ad notam: not ad degradation (referring to the nota censoria, the mark or note which the censors affixed in their lists of citizens to the name of any one whom they censured for immorality or want of patriotism.
(ex)aequo (-are): to make/regard as equal
torus: cushion (on which the guests were lying.)
etiamne libertos? Etiam: even the freedman? Even them
convictor –oris (m.): table companion, guest
consto (-are): to cost (with magno as abl. of price)
quia scilicet (of course, namely) … ego quod liberti: i.e. Pliny drinks the cheaper wine
gula: throat, lavish eating and drinking
tempero (-avi) + dat.: to be moderate in
onerosus: burdensome, costly
quo utaris: what one eats
communico: to share divide
illa (gula)
reprimo repressi repressum: to restrain
ordinem redigenda: to be brought down in rank (properly said of a centurion who was reprimanded and lowered in rank.)
sumptus –us (m.): expense
parco peperci/parsi parsum + abl. : to spare
quibus aliquanto rectius tua continentia quam aliena contumelia consulas: by which you take somewhat better care for containing your expenses than caring for the reproaches of others
quorsus: for what purpose
optimae indolis iuveni (agreeing with tibi): best youthful character = you promising young man
luxuria specie frugalitatis: self-indulgence in the guise of thriftiness  
impono imposui impositum:  (here) to deceive someone (dat.)
convenit: it behoves
amori meo in te: by my affection towards you
sub exemplo: by way of example
praemoneo -ui –itum: to warn beforehand
vito (-are): to avoid
societatem; alliance
sordes -is (f.): meanness,
turpis –is: ugly
discretus: set apart, individual

Translation by J.B.Firth (1900)

It would be a long story - and it is of no importance - to tell you how I came to be dining - for I am no particular friend of his - with a man who thought he combined elegance with economy, but who appeared to me to be both mean and lavish, for he set the best dishes before himself and a few others and treated the rest to cheap and scrappy food. He had apportioned the wine in small decanters of three different kinds, not in order to give his guests their choice but so that they might not refuse. He had one kind for himself and us, another for his less distinguished friends - for he is a man who classifies his acquaintances - and a third for his own freedmen and those of his guests. The man who sat next to me noticed this and asked me if I approved of it. I said no. "Then how do you arrange matters?" he asked. "I set the same before all," I answered, "for I invite my friends to dine not to grade them one above the other,  and those whom I have set at equal places at my board and on my couches I treat as equals in every respect."   "What! even the freedmen?" he said. "Yes," I replied, "for then I regard them as my guests at table, not as freedmen." He went on: "It must cost you a lot."   "Not at all," said I. "Then how do you manage it?"   "It's easily done; because my freedmen do not drink the same wine as I do, but I drink the same that they do." And, by Jove, the fact is that if you keep off gluttony it is not at all ruinously expensive to entertain a number of people to the fare you have yourself. It is this gluttony which is to be put down, to be reduced as it were to the ranks, if you wish to cut down expenses, and you will find it better to consult your own moderate living than to care about the nasty things people may say of you. What then is my point? Just this, that I don't want you, who are a young man of great promise, to be taken in by the extravagance with which some people load their tables under the guise of economy. Whenever such a concrete instance comes in my way it becomes the affection I bear you to warn you of what you ought to avoid by giving you an example. So remember that there is nothing you should eschew more than this new association of extravagance and meanness; they are abominable qualities when separated and single, and still more so when you get a combination of them.   Farewell.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Lucretius I, 271-289: storm and rain.

It is now the first of December, start of the meteorological winter, the season of storms. With vivid imagination Lucretius describes the power of the wind, which he – rightly – saw as a stream of small particles and the force of swollen rivers. This text is best read in the evening at the fireplace with a glass of wine or whiskey and the windows closed. Preferably when it storms outside and heavy rain is lashing the streets. Better don’t leave your house!

Lucretius, De Rerum Naturae I, 271-289.

Principio venti vis verberat incita pontum
ingentisque ruit navis et nubila differt,
interdum rapido percurrens turbine campos
arboribus magnis sternit montisque supremos
silvifragis vexat flabris: ita perfurit acri               275
cum fremitu saevitque minaci murmure pontus.
sunt igitur venti ni mirum corpora caeca,
quae mare, quae terras, quae denique nubila caeli
verrunt ac subito vexantia turbine raptant,
nec ratione fluunt alia stragemque propagant               280
et cum mollis aquae fertur natura repente
flumine abundanti, quam largis imbribus auget
montibus ex altis magnus decursus aquai
fragmina coniciens silvarum arbustaque tota,
nec validi possunt pontes venientis aquai               285
vim subitam tolerare: ita magno turbidus imbri
molibus incurrit validis cum viribus amnis,
dat sonitu magno stragem volvitque sub undis
grandia saxa, ruit qua quidquid fluctibus obstat.

vis viris (f.): power
verbero (-are): to beat, strike
pontus: sea (some editions have corpus instead of pontum, like the one used for the translation below)
ingens entis: huge, vast
ingentis navis: acc pl! (= ingentes naves)
ruo rui rutum : to cast down with violence
differo distuli dilatum: to disperse, scatter
interdum: meanwhile
turbo turbinis (m.): whirlwind
campus: open country
sterno stravi stratum: to spread, scatter (cf. street)
montis = montes
supremos montes: mountain tops
silvifragus: crushing trees
vexo (-are): to shake
flabra –orum (n.pl.): blasts, winds
perfuro (-ere): to rage furiously
acri cum fremitus = cum acri fremitus
fremitus –us: loud noise
saevio saevii saevitum: to be fierce, rage
minax minacis: menacing
murmur murmeris (n.): murmer, roar
ni mirum: no wonder
venti is nom. pl. in apposition with corpora caeca: unseen particles
verro (-ere): to sweep
rapto (-are): to snatch, seize
nec ratione alia: nor with another intent = in the same way
strages –is (f.): massacre, destruction
propago (-are): to spread (cf. propaganda)
mollis aquae natura: quietly flowing water (aquae natura is water in Lucr.)
fertur: turns into
repente: suddenly
imber imbris (m.): heavy rain
augeo auxi auctum: to increase
decursus –us (m.): downward stream
aquai: old spelling for aquae
fragmen fragminis (n.): broken piece, fragment
coniciens: piling on each other
arbustum: wood
validus: strong
venientis: attacking
sub-eo –ii –itum: to come under
turbidus: disturbed, wild
molibus: against the piles of a bridge
amnis –is (m.): river
qua quidquid: where anything
obsto obstiti (-are) + dat: to oppose,, hinder

Translation by William Ellery Leonard (1916)

The winds infuriate lash our face and frame,
Unseen, and swamp huge ships and rend the clouds,
Or, eddying wildly down, bestrew the plains
With mighty trees, or scour the mountain tops
With forest-crackling blasts. Thus on they rave
With uproar shrill and ominous moan. The winds,
'Tis clear, are sightless bodies sweeping through
The sea, the lands, the clouds along the sky,
Vexing and whirling and seizing all amain;
And forth they flow and pile destruction round,
Even as the water's soft and supple bulk
Becoming a river of abounding floods,
Which a wide downpour from the lofty hills
Swells with big showers, dashes headlong down
Fragments of woodland and whole branching trees;
Nor can the solid bridges bide the shock
As on the waters whelm: the turbulent stream,
Strong with a hundred rains, beats round the piers,
Crashes with havoc, and rolls beneath its waves
Down-toppled masonry and ponderous stone,
Hurling away whatever would oppose.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Jacques de Vitry, exemplum 248: a clever adulteress.

A class of literature already in existence in Antiquity, but very popular in de Middle Ages, were the Exempla, anecdotes to illustrate a moral point. These exempla were often used by preachers to ornate their sermons. Especially for such purposes collections of exempla were gathered and one of those collectors was Jacques de Vitry (Jacobus de Vitriaco, c. 1160/70 – 1 May 1240), a French theologian. These stories have often a comic and even absurd twist and are full with stereotypes.  Still – or because of that - they do have their  charm, and as the language is often quite simple, they can serve as easy reading, be it not in flawless Classical Latin. In the following story a wife has to bring the best tooth of her husband to her lover, as proof that she loves him more than her husband. Shrewd wives and credulous men are recurring topics in exempla and I guess much to the joy of the public.
There is no translation, but that isn’t necessary with these simple texts.

Jacques de Vitry, Exempla, number 248 (text after Jakob Ulrich, Proben der Lateinischen Novellistik des Mittelalters, Leipzig 1906)

Audivi de quadam mala muliere, cui maritus ejus per omnia credebat, quae cum ire vellet adulterum suum, dicebat viro suo, "Infirmus es, intra lectum meum, et sudabis, et vide ne surgas donec dixero tibi." Tunc illa firmans ostium camerae, et secum clavem portans, ibat, et non revertebatur usque ad vesperum. Illе vero credens se esse infirmum, non audebat de lecto surgere donec rediret uxor ejus, et diceret, "Amice, potes surgere: video quod curatus es ab infirmitate." Quadam autem die, cum illa diceret adultero quod diligeret eum plusquam maritum suum, ille respondit, "In hoc probabo quod verum est quod dicis,  si meliorem dentem quem habet maritus tuus dederis mihi." At illa ad maritum reversa, cepit plorare et tristitiam simulare. Cui maritus ait, " Quid habes ? Quare luges?" At illa, "Non audeo dicere." "Volo," inquit, "ut dicas mihi." Cumque ille multum instaret, tandem illa dixit, "Tantus fetor ex ore tuo procedit, quod jam non possum sustinere." Ille vero admirans et dolens ait, "Quare non dixeras mihi prius: possemne aliquod remedium adhibere?" Cui illa, "Non est aliquod remedium, nisi ut facias extrahi dentem illum ex quo tantus fœtor procedit." Et ita ad exhortationem uxoris fecit extrahi bonum et sanum dentem quem illa ostendit illi, et statim dentem illum asportavit et dedit leccatori. Non est facile credendi uxori nec consiliis adulterae acquiescendi.

maritus: husband
credo credidi creditum (+ dat.): to trust
per omnia: completely
infirmus: ill
intro (-are): to enter
lectus: bed
sudo (-are): to sweat
vide: take care
donec: until
firmo (-are): to lock
ostium: door
camera: chamber, room
audeo ausus sum: to dare
deligo delegi delectum: to love
in hoc probabo: I will believe with this (proof)
cepit = incepit: began
ploro (-are): to cry
lugeo luxti luctum: to mourn, lament
insto institi (-are): to urge, press
tandem: finally
fetor fetoris (m.): bad smell
admiror admiratus: to wonder
doleo dolui: to suffer, to feel sorry
adhibeo adhibui adhibitum: to furnish, apply, give
ut facias extrahi dentem: that you make the tooth to be extracted = you let extract the tooth
quem illa ostendit illi: whom she pointed to him
asporto = abs-porto (-are): to carry away, transport,
leccator leccatoris: drunken person, lecher,  adulter
non..acquiescendi: It is not easy to trust a wife nor (is it easy) to believe the counsels of an adulteress. (Note facile plus genitive: in ML the genitive is often substituted for the dative. Apart from that in CL facile is also constructed with the infinitive and ad plus gerund, never with the gerund in the dative. ML happily mixes all constructions.)

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Carmina Burana 10: the sin of simony.

In Acts 8:9-24 we are told of Simon Magus, according to Acts a kind of sorcerer, but more likely to be one of the many leaders of religious sects. This Simon was baptized and when he saw the powers of the Apostles in healing people, he offered them money for receiving these powers too.  By various early Christian authors he is mentioned as the founder of a sect, but little is further known of this sect. Simon had however also a further life in Christian texts as the arch-briber and his name became synonym with the buying and selling of lucrative ecclesiastical functions. In the apocryphal Acts of Peter (ca. 250 AD?) we are told of a contest at Rome between Saint Peter and Simon Magus. The latter shows his power by flying through the air, but Peter prays that he may fall and thus happens.
Simony was endemic in the High Middle Ages, much to the frustration of poor scholars and clergymen, but apart from satirizing there was little they could do. One such a satire is Carmina Burana 10: in short and biting lines the author complaints about the practise of simony. Almost every line is an allusion to the Vulgate, of which I have noted a few. There is no English translation of this song. The text is taken from the critical edition by Hilka/ Schumann (1930-197)). Note how often the name of Simon occurs: fill in the name of almost every oligarch and this song has not lost it 

Carmina Burana 10.

Ecce sonat in aperto                       in the open
vox clamantis in deserto:               Mt. 3:3, Isaiah 40:3
nos desertum, nos deserti,            we (are) the desert, we are deserted
nos de pena sumus certi.               pena = poena (punishment)
nullus fere vitam querit,                 fere: almost, vitam = Christ
et sic omne vivens perit. querit = quaerit (seeks)
omnes quidem sumus rei,              pereo: to pass away, reus: guilty
nullus imitator Dei,
nullus vult portare crucem,
nullus Christum sequi ducem.       as leader
quis est verax, quis est bonus,      verax: truthful
vel quis Dei portat onus?               onus oneris (n.) : burden
ut in uno claudam plura: let me finish much in one word
mors extendit sua iura.
iam mors regnat in prelatis:          prelatus: bishop etc.
nolunt sanctum dare gratis,          sanctum: the sacraments
quod promittunt sub ingressu,      at the start of their office
sancte mentis in excessu;              in ecstasy with their `holy’ mind
postquam sedent iam securi,
contradicunt sancto iuri.
rose fiunt saliunca,                          saliunca: wild nard, i.e. weed
domus Dei fit spelunca.                  den (of thieves)
sunt latrones, non latores,            latro (m.) robber, lator (m.): bringer
legis Dei destructores.
Simon sedens inter eos
dat magnates esse reos.                he makes the powerful guilty
Simon prefert malos bonis,           bad persons over good
Simon totus est in donis,
Simon regnat apud Austrum,        (kingdom of) the South, cf Dan. 11.5; Mt 12.42
Simon frangit omne claustrum.    breaks open every lock
cum non datur, Simon stridet,      strideo: to make a harsh moise
sed si detur, Simon ridet;
Simon aufert, Simon donat,          aufero: to take away
hunc expellit, hunc coronat,         expello: to expel, drive away
hunc circumdat gravi peste,          surrounds with a severe illness
illum nuptiali veste;                         wedding clothes
illi donat diadema,
qui nunc erat anathema.               anathema: forbidden, e.g. Deut. 7.26; Jos. 7.13
iam se Simon non abscondit,        abscondo: to hide, conceal
res permiscet et confundit.           permisceo: to confuse
iste Simon confundatur,                 confundo: to confound, put to shame
cui tantum posse datur!                 tantus: so much
Simon Petrus hunc elusit             Saint Peter deceived him
et ab alto iusum trusit;                   and drove (trudo) him down (iusum) from the high sky;
dum superbit motus penna,          while he (Simon) took pride moved by feathers,
datus fuit in gehenna.                     he was given to hell
quisquis eum imitatur,
cum eodem puniatur                      let him be punished in the same way
et sepultus in infernum                   sepelio: to burry
penas luat in eternum! Amen.      let him pay his penalty forever!

The death of Simon Magus, from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Ovid, Ariande Theseo (1-24): Theseus has sailed away.

After she had helped Theseus escaping from the labyrinth, Ariadne – deeply in love -fled with him. On their way to Athens, they stayed a night a Naxos. There Theseus was informed by Dionysus to leave her behind, as this god wanted her to be his wife. When Ariadne is asleep, Theseus secretly sails away. Ariadne of course is asked nothing.
For reasons I can’t remember anymore, I have commented on lines 25-58 long before turning my attention to this part. Maybe I found those somewhere in an anthology. To be honest, I completely forgot that I had already published of this poem, but when preparing this post, the text sounded a bit too familiar. Fortunately, all post have been labelled.  I have renamed that post now. Next blogs on this poem will be in the order Ovid had in mind.


Mitius inveni quam te genus omne ferarum;
     credita non ulli quam tibi peius eram.
quae legis, ex illo, Theseu, tibi litore mitto
     unde tuam sine me vela tulere ratem,
in quo me somnusque meus male prodidit et tu,
     per facinus somnis insidiate meis.
Tempus erat, vitrea quo primum terra pruina
     spargitur et tectae fronde queruntur aves;
incertum vigilans ac somno languida movi
     Thesea prensuras semisupina manus:
nullus erat. referoque manus iterumque retempto
     perque torum moveo bracchia: nullus erat.
excussere metus somnum; conterrita surgo
     membraque sunt viduo praecipitata toro.
protinus adductis sonuerunt pectora palmis
     utque erat e somno turbida, rupta coma est.
Luna fuit; specto siquid nisi litora cernam;
     quod videant oculi, nil nisi litus habent.
nunc huc, nunc illuc et utroque sine ordine, curro,
     alta puellares tardat harena pedes.
interea toto clamanti litore "Theseu!"
     reddebant nomen concava saxa tuum
et quotiens ego te, totiens locus ipse vocabat;
     ipse locus miserae ferre volebat opem.

mitius quam te
invenio inveni inventum: to find out, discover
fera: wild animal
non credita eram ulli (ferae) peius quam tibi :  I could  not have been entrusted
peius: worse
litus litoris (n.): coast, shore
tulere = tulerunt (perf. of fero `to carry’, subject vela `sails’)
ratis ratis (f.): raft, float
prodo prodedi proditum: to betray
per facinus somnis insidiate meis: you! With a shameful deed having plotted (insidior insidiatus, vocative) against my sleeps (poetic plural) = while I was sleeping
vitrea quo primum terra pruina spargitur = quo vitrea prunia (in) terra primum spargitur
vitreus: clear, bright
pruina: rime
spargo sparsi sparsum: to spread, sprinkle
frons frondis (f.): leafy branch
queror questus: to complain, lament
incertum: adverb with vigilans `half awake”
sumno languida: dull from sleep
Thesea: Greek acc.
prensuras (prendo prendi prensum): about/willing to touch
semisupinus: half bent backwards
iterum retempto: I tried again
torus: cushion
bracchium: forearm
excussere = excusserunt (metus is plural: they drive out)
viduus: spouseless, bereft
praecipito (-are): to cast down
protinus (adv.): immediately
adductis palmis: with my hands brought to (= beating)
utque: and as soon
turbidus: disordered
rumpo rupi ruptum: to tear
coma: hair (both beating the breast and tearing the hair out are signs of grief)
siquid nisi litora cernam: if I can distinguish anything (else) but the coast
quod videant oculi, nil nisi litus habent = oculi habent nil quod videant, nisi litus
huc… illuc: hither…tither
altus : 1) high, 2) deep
puellaris: of a girl, maidenly
tardo: impede, hinder
clamanti (mihi): returned along the whole shore to me shouting
ego te (vocabam)
miserae (mihi) to me in my distress
fero opem: to help, aid (i.e. by calling Theseus’ name too)

Translation by A.S. Klyne

The whole tribe of creatures contrive to be gentler than you:
not one have I had less confidence in than you.
Theseus, what you read has been sent to you from this land,
from which your sails carried your ship without me,
in which my sleep, and you, evilly betrayed me,
conceiving your plans against me while I slept.
It was the time when the earth’s first sprinkled with glassy frost,
and the hidden birds lament in the leaves:
waking uncertainly, and stirring languidly in sleep,
half-turning, my hand reached out for Theseus:
there was no one there. I drew back, and tried again,
and moved my arm across the bed: no one there.
Fear broke through my drowsiness: terrified, I rose
and hurled my body from the empty bed.
Straight away my hands drummed on my breast, and tore at my hair,
just as it was, on waking, from my confused sleep.
There was a moon: I looked and saw nothing but the shore:
wherever my eyes could see, there was nothing but sand.
I ran here and there without any sense of purpose,

the deep sand slowing a girl’s feet.
Meanwhile I called: ‘Theseus!’ over the whole beach
your name echoing from the hollow cliffs
and as often as I called you, the place itself called too:
the place itself wished to give aid to my misery.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Aulus Gellius: real tears.

Aulus Gellius (125 – after 180) is an ideal author for providing short anecdotes in not too difficult Latin. The following story is about Polus of Aegina, a famous Greek actor living in the 4th century BC. In his role of Electra he embraced the urn with the ashes of his deceased son. Indeed Electra, as it was not until the 18th century or so that women were active on stage. No need to say that his tears and grief were real. The impact on the public must have been enormous.  I see in detectives regularly actors and actresses grieving for someone just killed, but too often it is not quite convincing. I think I know a way of making it more real…

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 6.5

Historia de Polo histrione memoratu digna.  Histrio in terra Graecia fuit fama celebri, qui gestus et vocis claritudine et venustate ceteris antistabat:  nomen fuisse aiunt Polum, tragoedias poetarum nobilium scite atque asseverate actitavit.  Is Polus unice amatum filium morte amisit.  Eum luctum quoniam satis visus est eluxisse, rediit ad quaestum artis.  In eo tempore Athenis Electram Sophoclis acturus, gestare urnam quasi cum Oresti ossibus debebat. Ita compositum fabulae argumentum est, ut veluti fratris reliquias ferens Electra comploret commisereaturque interitum eius existimatum. Igitur Polus lugubri habitu Electrae indutus ossa atque urnam e sepulcro tulit filii et quasi Oresti amplexus opplevit omnia non simulacris neque imitamentis, sed luctu atque lamentis veris et spirantibus.  Itaque cum agi fabula videretur, dolor actus est.

memoratu: supine
histrio –ionis (m.): actor
fama celebri: ablative of description
gestus: while acting (gero)
venustas –atis (f.): elegance
antisto antisteti  (+ dat + abl): to excel
scite atque asseverate: thoughtfully and earnestly/ with dignity
aiunt: they say/ it is said
actito: to perform
unice: dearly
luctus –us (m.): grief
quoniam: because, since
eluceo eluxi: to be manifest (i.e. in public mourning)
quaestus –us (m.): way of making profit, profession
Athenis: at Athens
Electra: first performance not known, but probably at the end of Sophocles’ life (496 – 406)
acturus: he was about to perform
gestare urnam quasi cum Oresti ossibus: to carry the urn as if with the bones of Orestes (In the play Orestes pretended to have died in order to deceive his mother and her lover and so being able to kill them off-guard. Electra too initially thought her brother death, but later he makes himself known to her.))
fabula: story
argumentum: plot
reliqiae –arum: remains
comploro (-are): to bewail
commisereor: to grieve for
interitus –us (m.): death
existimo (-are): to suppose
lugubri habitu: in the mourning dress
induo indui indutum (-ere): to dress
amplector amplexus: to embrace
oppleo opplevi oppletum: to fill completely
simulacrum: appearance, semblance
spirantibus: inspired, true

Translation by John Carew Rolfe (1927)

A noteworthy story about the actor Polus.

1 There was in the land of Greece an actor of wide reputation, who excelled all others in his clear delivery and graceful action. 2 They say that his name was Polus, and he often acted the tragedies of famous poets with intelligence and dignity. 3 This Polus lost by death a son whom he dearly loved. 4 After he felt that he had indulged his grief sufficiently, he returned to the practice of his profession.
5 At that time he was to act the Electra of Sophocles at Athens, and it was his part to carry an urn which was supposed to contain the ashes of Orestes. 6 The plot of the play requires that Electra, who is represented as carrying her brother's remains, should lament and bewail the fate that she believed had overtaken him. 7 Accordingly Polus, clad in the mourning garb of Electra, took from the tomb the ashes and urn of his son, embraced them as if they were those of Orestes, and filled the whole place, not with the appearance and imitation of sorrow, but with genuine grief and unfeigned lamentation. 8 Therefore, while it seemed that a play was being acted, it was in fact real grief that was enacted.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Horace 3.18: an invitation to Faunus.

Thanks to his benefactor Maecenas, Horace was owner of a small estate. In this function he had to officiate in ceremonies and this poem is a prayer to the rural god Faunus. This god belongs to the oldest strata of Roman religion and mythology, but as usual, the Romans equated this god with the Greek god Pan. This is evident from the first line as chasing fleeing nymphs was clearly a characteristic of Pan. Nowadays Pan would have been chased and charged for harassing nymphs.
As for the belief in such rural deities and spirits: some weeks ago I was walking with some friends on the hills accompanying the river Rhine. It was very hot and there were no other hikers. In the distance there was a ruin of a mediaeval castle. I wouldn’t have been surprised had there suddenly been a wood spirit or a nymph – or even Lorelei herself combing her golden hair.

Horatius, Carmina, 3.18 (meter:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapphic_stanza)

Faune, Nympharum fugientum amator,
per meos finis et aprica rura
lenis incedas abeasque parvis
     aequus alumnis,

si tener pleno cadit haedus anno               5
larga nec desunt Veneris sodali
vina craterae, vetus ara multo
     fumat odore.

Ludit herboso pecus omne campo,
cum tibi Nonae redeunt Decembres,               10
festus in pratis vacat otioso
     cum bove pagus;

inter audacis lupus errat agnos,
spargit agrestis tibi silva frondes,
gaudet invisam pepulisse fossor               15
     ter pede terram.

apricus: sunny
lenis: gentle
aequus: with good will (lenis.,.aequus: note the chiastic construction.)
incedas abeasque: may you enter and leave
rus ruris (n.): lands, field, estate
alumnus: litt. `that is nourished’, here a young animal
haedus: young goat, kid
pleno anno: at the full year = at the end of the year (from line 10 it is clear that Faunus was honoured at December 5.)
larga vina: large quantities of wine (both for libations and consumption.)
desum: to lack
craterae Veneris sodali: (lack) for  the mixing bowl, the companion of Venus. Veneris sodali is in apposition to craterae. Wine and love go of course closely together.
ara: altar
herbosus: grassy
nonae nonarum: the 5th day of every month, except March
pratum: meadow
vaco: to be at leasure
otiosus: unemployed, idle (otiose bove, as in December no land is ploughed and no calves are borne.)
pagus: the country people
audacis agnos: the idea of a wolf wandering among lambs, who need to be audacious for this occasion, marks the transition from the description of a festive rural community to mythical entry of Faunus into the festivities. It also refers back to lines 3-4: thanks to the presence of Faunus the lambs will not be harmed
spargo sparsi sparsum: to strew
agrestis frondes: rural foliage (in autumn the leaves fall and thus form a carpet for Faunus
fossor fossoris (m.): ditch-digger (the humblest of agricultural workers.)
invisus: detested (invisam terram, because cultivating the earth requires so much labour.)
pello pepulli pulsum: to strike, beat (pepulisse ter pede: folk-dances and religious dances  had a triple beat. Note that Horace with some irony has put the ditch-digger into the front of the festive folk: he enjoys specially trampling the earth which costs him so much labour.)

Translation by A.S. Klyne.

Faunus, the lover of Nymphs who are fleeing,
may you pass gently over my boundaries,
my sunny fields, and, as you go by, be kind
to all my new-born,

if at the end of the year a tender kid
is sacrificed to you: if the full bowls of wine,
aren’t lacking, friend of Venus: the old altar
smoking with incense.

All the flock gambols over the grassy plain,
when the fifth of December returns for you:
the festive village empties into the fields,
and the idle herd:

the wolf wanders among the audacious lambs:
for you the woods, wildly, scatter their leaves:
the ditcher delights in striking the soil he
hates, in triple time.

 File:Pieter Bruegel de Oude - De bruiloft dans (Detroit).jpg

Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Wedding Dance (ca. 1566). Though not exactly a Roman setting, it is clearly rural feast.