By: Leo Tepper
Yesterday Sinterklaas has arrived in the Netherlands. Who? Well, Saint Nicolas, the patron of sailors, thieves and children. Every year around this time he arrives from Spain with his ship and leaves in the night of 5 to 6 December. As long as he is here, children, when going to bed, can put now and then their shoe next to the chimney (by lack of chimneys the central heating is also allowed) and the next morning they find a small present in it. On the evening of the 5th of December there is the grand finale: Sinterklaas is then celebrating his birthday, but instead of accepting presents, he gives presents away to children!
Various things are utterly wrong from a historical point of view: he is not from Spain, but from Asia Minor, it is not his birthday, but his death that is celebrated on the 6th of December – in earlier times a new day started at the sunset – and finally, he is not alive anymore. My parents told me that when I was 7 or 8 and as a staunch believer in Sinterklaas I was shocked. My dear daughter spoiled the fun for me when she was 6. Having watched the arrival of Sinterklaas at the place where my parents live, she said: `Dad, it is impossible that the same man arrives in various places at the same time and besides he has a false beard!’
Contrary to many early saints, Saint Nicolas was real, living from 270- 6th December 343. He was bishop of Myra, modern-day Demre on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. He was from rich parents and used his wealth to help poor people. That is to say according to legend, but as after his death his tomb soon became a pilgrim place, he must have been a remarkable man and there might well be some truth in the legend. Saint Nicolas has become one of the most popular saints both in the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.
It is from Sinterklaas that Santa Claus has been evolved, that obese and ugly fellow. When in 2000 the Russian government donated a statue of Saint Nicolas to Demre to be put in the centre of the city, the following happened (I quote from the wiki link below): `In 2005, mayor Suleyman Topcu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted the central statue to be more recognizable to visitors from all over the world. Protests from the Russian government against this action were successful only to the extent that the Russian statue was returned, without its original high pedestal, to a corner near the church.’ How tasteless!
The following extract is taken from the Legenda Aurea by Jacobus de Voragine (1228/9 – 1298). The Legenda Aurea is a large collection of the lives of saints and became widely popular in the late Middle Ages. To be honest, after reading 3 lives it becomes pretty boring and predictable.
Saint Nicolas hears that out of poverty one of his neighbours has no other option but to let his three daughters work as prostitutes. He decides to help the poor children.
Tunc quidam contermineus suus satis nobilis tres filias ob inopiam prostituere cogitur, ut sic earum commercio aleretur. Quod ubi sanctus comperit, scelus abhorruit et massam auri panno involutam in domum eius per fenestram nocte clam iecit et clam recessit. Mane autem surgens homo massam auri reperit et Deo gratiam agens primogenitae nuptias celebravit. Non multo post tempore Dei famulus simile peregit opus. Quod rursus ille reperiens etiam laudes immensas prorumpens de cetero vigilare proposuit, ut sciret, quis esset, qui suae inopiae subvenisset. Post paucos etiam dies duplicatam auri massam in dornum proiecit, ad cuius sonitum ille excitatur et Nicolaum fugientem insequitur talique voce alloquitur: “Siste gradum teque aspectui ne subtrahas meo.” Sicque accurrens velocius Nicolaum hunc esse cognovit. Mox humi prostratus osculari volebat pedes eius, quod ille refutans ab eo exegit, ne eum, quamdiu viveret, publicaret.
contermineus = neighbour
satis nobilis = though of noble birth
ob inopiam = because of poverty
commercio, –onis = income (commercio is mediaeval Latin forcommercium)
alo alui altum/alitum = to feed, nourish, increase
comperio peri pertum = to gain knowledge of
scelus, sceleris (n) = shameful deed
massa = mass. With this gold the neighbour had a dowry for his eldest daughter.
pannus = piece of cloth
involutus (involvo) = wrapped
clam = secretly
reperio repperi (reperi) repertus = to find
primogenita = firstborn daughter
nuptiae – arum = marriage
famulus = servant
perago opus = perform a work
rursus = again
ille: the poor neighbour
prorumpo rupi ruptum = to break out
de cetero = for the rest
propono posui positum = propose, decide
subvenio + dat. = come to the help of
sonitus , -us = sound
excito = to rouse
talis = such
Siste gradum teque aspectui ne subtrahas meo: Stop your pace, in order that you do not withdraw from my sight.
velocius = faster
mox = soon
humi = on the ground
osculor = to kiss
refuto = to refuse
exigo egi actum = to demand
publico = to make known
Translation (the extract is the third paragraph)
By: Leo Tepper
Last Sunday I went to a concert by one of the choirs of a friend of mine. She is a devoted amateur soprano and whenever she has a concert, I attend it. This time the theme was: `Rise up my love.’ with various settings of the Song of Songs in Latin, German and English and by composers from Fransesco Guerrero (1528-1599) till still living composers like Sven Sandström and Paul Mealor. I bought a booklet containing information and the texts with translations. Often I frown upon translations of Latin texts in such booklets, but here the Vulgate text of Ego flos campi and a modern Dutch bible translation went wide apart. I always assumed that the Vulgate was a translation of the Hebrew Bible and not from the Septuagint, so where do the differences come from? Time to sort this out! That was less easy than I thought. Internet has terabytes and terabytes of information and some people, especially youngsters, think that books and libraries are completely out of fashion – unfortunately the managers of the academic library here at Groningen think that too – but the fact is that a simple question like: `Dear mister Internet, did Jerome translate the Canticus Canticorum from the Septuagint or from the Hebrew Bible?’ will give only a massive silence from the other side of the computer. So I went to the library of the theological faculty to sort this out. Very handy as 10 commentaries on the Song of Songs where there neatly put together on a shelf. From next year, all decentralized libraries of the university will be closed and all the books which are now easily accessible on shelves will be put in the central store of the university library, inaccessible and every single copy has to be asked for by pc. Why? Students don’t look for books anymore, so the librarians can be fired. And what about the empty libraries? Students can sit there with their Ipods and laptops, studying and looking for information on the internet…
Hieronymus (347 – 420), better known in English as St. Jerome was a troublemaker and a religious zealot, but a highly prolific writer. In 382 he was asked by Pope Damasius 1 to make a new translation in Latin of the Bible. There was already a translation, known as the Vetus Latina, but this was considered as a poor translation. Initially St. Jerome translated anew from the Septuagint and had already completed a number of books under which the Song of Songs, when he heard of the decision of the Rabbinical council at Jamnia to reject the Septuagint in favor of the Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint was a translation of the Hebrew Bible made in Alexandria, started around 200 BC and ended decades later. It was made because many Jews were unable to read their holy scriptures. Hebrew had already for a long time been replaced by Aramaic as the spoken language and apart from that, Greek was the first language of many Jews living in Egypt. However, the Hebrew text on which the Septuagint was based, differed from Hebrew text which was later seen as authoritative and known as the Masoretic text. It also contained more books, some of which written in Greek from start. With the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the cultic center of the Jews shifted from the temple to the Hebrew holy scriptures. As there was no longer a physical place, a spiritual place had to be the focus of devotion. Jewish communities were living wide apart, and in the course of centuries there various texts of the Hebrew bible came into use. Out of these various versions a single text was adopted as constitutive for all Jews and the Septuagint was rejected as not inspired by God, because it was in Greek and not in God’s own language.
So St. Jerome started to translate from the Hebrew text. According to tradition he had to learn for this task Hebrew from rabbis. There might be some truth in this, but modern scholars believe that his Hebrew was not that good at all and that he made use of the Hexapla, a massive edition of the Old Testament containing the Hebrew text, a transliteration of the Hebrew in the Greek alphabet and four Greek translations of which one contained notes where the Greek differed from the Hebrew. The Hexapla was the work of Origen of Alexandria (184-253), one of the greatest minds Christianity ever had, but as religions find it difficult to cope with great minds, he was later condemned as a heretic – also by St. Jerome. The same fate happened to Averroes (1126-1198), the greatest scholar of the Islamic world and one of the best commentators on Aristotle’s philosophy.
If modern scholars are right, St. Jerome was translating in the way many people translate from a Loeb edition: looking at the English text with now and then a glance at the Greek or Latin. This is also evident from the new translation he made in 398 of the Song of Songs: often it agrees more with the Septuagint than with the Hebrew text, but there can be another reason to for this, namely the sheer difficulty of the text of the Song of Songs.
The Song of Songs is attributed to king Solomon but on linguistic grounds this is impossible as it contains many Aramaic forms and even a Persian word, so a date later than 500 BC and even the early Hellenistic period has been proposed. I must say that this is heretical to evangelical and orthodox protestant commentators. It contains many difficult words or words which only appear in this text and this may also have contributed to St.Jerome’s use of the Septuagint. The translators contributing to the Septuagint themselves had difficulty with the Hebrew of the Song of Songs too and many divergences between the Greek and the Hebrew masoretic text are mainly not due to a different Hebrew text, but to misunderstanding the words. The Song of Songs is not a unity, but consists of various love songs. These love songs are reminiscent of Egyptian and even Sumerian love songs, so they reflect a long history of a common Near Eastern literary heritage. Probably these songs were used for wedding festivities. They have the form of a dialogue between a man and a woman, with sometimes a choir too . It is unknown for what reasons these songs were put together and put to the canon of the Hebrew Bible, but it was not with the agreement of every rabbi. Only a spiritual interpretation could save it from being expelled and so it is now considered as a reflection of the love between God and Israel and for Christians as symbolizing the love between Jesus and the church. But whatever spiritual meaning can be attached to this work, it is first and foremost love poetry and that has been better understood by pop artists like Kate Bush and Sinéad O’Connor than by many theologians.
PS. I forgot to mention: the concert was beautiful!
Let us now turn to chapter two of the Song of Songs. I will consider this as a text in its own occasionally I will refer to the Hebrew in order to understand the modern translation of the New Standard Version to which I have a link below, but mostly I will refrain from that, partly because of my rusty Biblical Hebrew, partly to make the notes not too tedious.
Where the Latin widely diverges from the translation, it is due to the problems mentioned above. I have punctuated the text and put it in its poetic structure. I have given more text than what is usually set on music of the ego flos campi. It would be disappointing to read such a long introduction with only a few lines of Latin…
Canticus canticorum 2.
 Ego flos campi et lilium convallium.
 Sicut lilium inter spinas,
sic amica mea inter filias.
 sicut malum inter ligna silvarum,
sic dilectus meus inter filios,
sub umbra illius quam desideraveram sedi,
et fructus eius dulcis gutturi meo.
 Introduxit me in cellam vinariam,
ordinavit in me caritatem
 Fulcite me floribus,
stipate me malis quia amore langueo.
 Leva eius sub capite meo
et dextera illius amplexabitur me.
 Adiuro vos, filiae Hierusalem,
per capreas cervosque camporum,
ne suscitetis neque evigilare faciatis
dilectam quoadusque ipsa velit.
 Vox dilecti mei, ecce,
iste venit saliens in montibus,
 Similis est dilectus meus capreae
en ipse stat post parietem nostrum,
despiciens per fenestras,
prospiciens per cancellos
 et dilectus meus loquitur mihi:
surge, propera amica mea,
formonsa mea et veni.
 Iam enim hiemps transiit,
imber abiit et recessit.
 Flores apparuerunt in terra,
tempus putationis advenit,
vox turturis audita est in terra nostra.
 Ficus protulit grossos suos,
vineae florent, dederunt odorem.
Surge amica mea speciosa mea et veni.
 Columba mea in foraminibus petrae,
in caverna maceriae.
Ostende mihi faciem tuam.
Sonet vox tua in auribus meis,
vox enim tua dulcis et facies tua decora
 capite nobis vulpes,
vulpes parvulas quae demoliuntur vineas,
nam vinea nostra floruit.
 Dilectus meus mihi et ego illi,
qui pascitur inter lilia.
 Donec adspiret dies
et inclinentur umbrae revertere,
similis esto, dilecte mi,
capreae aut hinulo cervorum super montes Bether.
ego flos campi et lilium convallium: a so-called parallelismus membrorum. It is a feature of Hebrew poetry to say the same thing twice with a difference in phrasing.You will find lots of examples in this short text.
flos campi: not any flower of the field, but a specific flower, though it is unclear what. It is often considered as a rose. The word campus is a translation of Hebrew Sharonand is taken by Hebrew commentators as a geographical designation, hence the translation `I am a rose of Sharon’.
convallius: belonging to a valley
dilectus: lovely, beloved
desideraveram sedi: plusquam perfect and perfect. In Hebrew it is perfect, but modern translations take the Hebrew original as a present. Originally, Semitic languages had no tenses in the way Indo-European languages have and what is called the perfect tense also has a punctual aspect: I desire now to sit under the shadow, whom I love.
guttur, -uris (n): throat
ordino: to place
caritas, -atis (f): love, charity
fulcio fulsi fultum: to bolster. fulcite: directed to the filiae Hierusalem.
stipo (1): to surround
langueo (2): to be faint, be languid
leva: not from levare, but laevus: left (suppl. manus)
amplexor amplexatus sum: to embrace
adiuro (1): to swear to
caprea: a wild she goat
suscito (1): to raise
evigilo (1): to be awake
salio: (4): to leap
transilio: to jump over
hinulus: young deer (class. Latin: hinnuleus)
paries, –etis (m): wall
cancelli: a lattice of a window
propero (1): to hasten
formonsa = formosa, formosus: beautiful (probably the n was not strongly pronounced but a nasalisation like in French)
hiemps = hiems, -emis (f): winter
transeo: pass by
imber, imbris (m): heavy rain
putatio, -onis (f): a pruning or lopping of trees
turtur, -uris (m) turtle dove
ficus (f): fig tree
profero, -tuli, -latum: bring forth, produce
grossus (m): an unripe fig
foramen, –inis (n): hole
caverna: cave, hole
vulpes, es (f): fox
pasco pavi pastum: to feed, pasture
adspiro (1): to come: (litt: to breath forward)
inclinentur umbrae revertere: the shadows (= darkness of the night) are inclined to draw themself back.
esto: a formal form of the imperative `you must be’.
Bether: genitive. Hebrew names in Greek or Latin often have no declination.
About St. Jerome:
About Song of Songs, but when you can read German, go also to the German wiki:
Lovis Corinth, Das hohe Lied (1911)
By : Leo Tepper
There are some reasons for me to pay attention to Saint Martin. First of all the main church of the city where I live – Groningen – is dedicated to this saint. It is visible from far outside the city and for students living here the point of orientation when deep in the night lost in some outer part of Groningen. Secondly, Saint Martin’s day is approaching: 11 November. At around 5 in the afternoon children are going with lampoons from door to door, sing a song about Saint Martin and get some candy in return. Apparently I live in a part of the city where reproduction has dramatically dropped: the last 6 years the number of children at my door varied between one and zero, leaving me with a bag full of candies. And no I am not a candy eater, but some female friends are and they had no problems with helping me to get rid of the stuff….
Saint Martin (316-397) was born in Pannonia, current Hungary. His father was a senior cavalry officer in the Roman army. At 10 he went to the church, against the will of his parents, who were not Christians. Initially he was destined to follow the career of his father and so at the age of 15 he joined the Roman cavalry. He was stationed at Gaul, when at the age of 18 he got a mystical experience: he met a beggar asking for some clothing and Saint Martin cut his army cloak in two and gave one part to the poor man. That night he got a dream in which Jesus appeared, urging him to be baptized. And indeed, he became now a baptized Christian and being convinced that the life of the military is incompatible with being a Christian, he left the army. From that moment he worked for the church. He was mainly working in Gaul, spreading Christianity there and in 371 He was elected bishop of Tours. Apart from building churches he also propagated monastic life and founded monasteries in Gaul. Already during his lifetime he was very famous and seen as a miracle worker. A follower of him, Sulpicius Severus, of whom little is known, not even the dates of his birth and death, wrote after the death of Saint Martin a biography about him, or rather a hagiography, the Vita Sancti Martini.Martin was the first to be called a saint without dying as a martyr. It is the earliest example of a hagiography and thus set the pattern for later hagiographies. The Latin is remarkably good for that period.
Saint Martin is the patron saint of soldiers, a bit strange for someone with conscience objections.
In Chapter 13 Sulpicius describes how Saint Martin wants to destroy a sacred tree at some village. This was not an unusual practice: in 754 Bonifatius tried to do the same at Dokkum, a Frisian place not fat away from here, but he was less lucky than Saint Martin and the Frisians killed him!
13 (1) Item, cum in vico quodam templum antiquissimum diruisset et arborem pinum, quae fano erat proxima, esset aggressus excidere, tum vero antistes loci illius ceteraque gentilium turba coepit obsistere. (2) et cum idem illi, dum templum evertitur, imperante Domino quievissent, succidi arborem non patiebantur. ille eos sedulo commonere, nihil esse religionis in stipite: Deum potius, cui serviret ipse, sequerentur: arborem illam succidi oportere, quia esset daemoni dedicata. (3) tum unus ex illis qui erat audacior ceteris: si habes, inquit, aliquam de Deo tuo, quem dicis te colere, fiduciam, nosmet ipsi succidemus hanc arborem, tu ruentem excipe: et si tecum est tuus, ut dicis, Dominus, evades. (4) tum ille intrepide confisus in Domino facturum se pollicetur. hic vero ad istius modi condicionem omnis illa gentilium turba consensit, facilemque arboris suae habuere iacturam, si inimicum sacrorum suorum casu illius obruissent. (5) itaque cum unam in partem pinus illa esset acclinis, ut non esset dubium, quam in partem succisa corrueret, eo loci vinctus statuitur pro arbitrio rusticorum, quo arborem esse casuram nemo dubitabat. (6) succidere igitur ipsi suam pinum cum ingenti gaudio laetitiaque coeperunt. aderat eminus turba mirantium. iamque paulatim nutare pinus et ruinam suam casura minitari. (7) pallebant eminus monachi et periculo iam propiore conterriti spem omnem fidemque perdiderant, solam Martini mortem exspectantes. (8) at ille confisus in Domino intrepidus opperiens, cum iam fragorem sui pinus concidens edidisset, iam cadenti, iam super se ruenti, elevata obviam manu, signum salutis opponit. tum vero – velut turbinis modo retro actam putares – diversam in partem ruit, adeo ut rusticos, qui toto in loco steterant, paene prostraverit. (9) tum vero in caelum clamore sublato gentiles stupere miraculo, monachi flere prae gaudio, Christi nomen in commune ab omnibus praedicari: satisque constitit eo die salutem illi venisse regioni. nam nemo fere ex immani illa multitudine gentilium fuit, qui non impositione manus desiderata Dominum Iesum, relicto impietatis errore, crediderit. et vere ante Martinum pauci admodum, immo paene nulli in illis regionibus Christi nomen receperant: quod adeo virtutibus illius exemploque convaluit, ut iam ibi nullus locus sit, qui non aut ecclesiis frequentissimis aut monasteriis sit repletus. nam ubi fana destruxerat, statim ibi aut ecclesias aut monasteria construebat.
item: in the same way. In later Latin item is often used to introduce a new topic.
diruo (3) destroy, demolish
pinus: pine-tree, fir (arborem is a bit superfluous). pinus is feminine, because arbor is femine, see at 5 pinus illa.
fanum = templum
aggredi, agressi sum: to approach
excido (3): to cut down
antistes, -itis: priest
gentilis: `belonging to a clan’, but here it is used as noun
coepio: to begin
everto: to turn upside down
imperante Domino: it is more likely that this was a Roman temple with no religious significance for the Cetls, provided there is some truth in this episode.
quiesco, -evi: to be quiet
succido (3): to cut down
patior: to endure
sedulo: eagerly, zealously
commoneo: to put in mind commonere is a historic infinitive, to be translated as a main verb. Also nutare and minitari at 6, stupere, flereand praedicari at 9. The historic infinitive is known to everybody who has struggled with Livy. It is used to make a story more lively. Compare a live report of a football match: Manchester coming forward. X passing the ball to y and GOAL!!!!
nihil + gen.
stipes, stipites, m.: trunk
oportet: it is proper. It occurs only as an impersonal verb
colo (3): to worship
nosmet is a strengthened nos.
ruo (3) to fall. The English to ruin comes from the noun ruina `a falling, crushing down’ which has the same root ru as ruo.
excipit: i.e. on his body.
intrepide : unshakably. In 8 the adjective intrepidus is used, where in English the adverb is required
confido – confisus sum: to trust on, believe in
polliceor: to promise
istius modi condicionem: litt. `on the condition of that way’ = on that condition
facilemque arboris suae habuere iacturam; `taking the loss of their tree easy
casus, -us: fall
obruo: to destroy
acclinis: hanging over
casurus: fut. participle of cado (3) : to fall
vincio – vinxi – vinctus: to bind
statuo (3): to set
rusticus: a person living in the countryside (rus), hence: heathen. This word is derived from heath and so has undergone the same semantic development
ingens, -entis: great
eminus (adv.): at a distance
nuto: waver, to be ready to fall
ruinam suam probably for ruinam eius: the tree was not threatening its own destruction but that of St. Martin, but the translation takes it – with some hesitation – as it stands and referring to the tree.
minitor: to threaten
palleo: to turn pale
periculo propiore: by very the imminent danger
solam mortem: solam must be translated as an adverb: solely
opperior: to wait, attend
fragor,- oris, (m): a crashing noise
obviam (adv.): against
signum salutis: The sing of the cross: he stretches one hand towards falling tree while with his other making the sign of the cross.
oppono + dat.
velut turbinis modo retro actam putares: you would think as led by way of a whirlwind (it turned) back. Note how whole section 8 gives a lively description
prosterno- prostravi – prostratus: to throw to the ground
clamor (m): cry, loud noise
suffero –sustuli –sublatum: to take up, carry
caelum clamore sublato: standard expression in Latin, but here significant because of the Christian context.
stupeo + dat.: to be stupefied about
praedico: to proclaim
satisque constitit: it has been sufficiently ascertained
qui non impositione manus desiderata Dominum Iesum, relicto impietatis errore, crediderit. non with crediderit. The imposition of the hand by a priest means that one is allowed to become acatechumenen, the first stage of becoming a member of the church.
immo paene: nay, almost
quod = Christi nomen
adeo: to such extent
convalesco – convalui: to grow strong
frequens, -entis: crowded
By : Leo Tepper
In my post on Jordanes I mentioned Theodoric the Great (451-526), the Gothic emperor of the Italy. He was a successful ruler, praised for his cleverness and his support of Roman culture, but there is one very black stain on his life: he was responsible for the death of the philosopher Boethius (480-524 or 525). Boethius was of high Roman descent with good connections with the Roman upper-class. He was a Platonist with a great knowledge of the logic of Aristotle. He wrote various treatises on logic and music and though a layman, he was also asked to write treatises on various aspects of the Christian faith, especially on such difficult topics as the Trinity, because of his deep knowledge of logic. He held a high position at the court of Theodoric, but in 523 he accused of having a treacherous correspondence with Justian 1, emperor of the Eastern Roman empire with whom Theodoric had bad relations. Boethius disputed the charge, but was not believed and was put into prison. It was under such circumstances that he wrote his De consolatione Philosophiae , The consolation of Philosophy. It would become one of the most wide read texts of the Middle Ages, being translated in various languages such as Old High German and Anglo-Saxon. The latter translation was made by Alfred the Great (849-899), king and scholar, in order to introduce his people into philosophy..
What is remarkable about this work is that – facing death – Boethius seeks consolation in philosophy, not in Christian faith. It is possible of course that philosophy is an allegory for Christianity and indeed since it was published, or rather copied, readers have sought all kind of allusions to Christianity.
There are, but living in a Christian culture and Christianity being explained within the concepts of Neo-Platonism , this is not surprising. Somehow I have the feeling that Boethius turned away from Christianity or maybe he was more platonic than Christian all his life and with his execution imminent, he sought consolation with his true love…
There are, but living in a Christian culture and Christianity being explained within the concepts of Neo-Platonism , this is not surprising. Somehow I have the feeling that Boethius turned away from Christianity or maybe he was more platonic than Christian all his life and with his execution imminent, he sought consolation with his true love…
Boethius was executed and according to one version a rope was attached round his head and tightened till his eyes bulged out, but this seems to me more belonging to hagiography, than to historical truth, but you never know.
The De consolatione Philosophiae consists of both prose and poetry, a form known as the mennipean satire. Don’t misunderstand here the word satire: it comes from Latin satura, dish with various ingredients offerd to the gods and hence a literary work with both prose and poetry. The modern word `satire’ comes from Greek Satyr,
In the beginning Boethius complains about his situation, but then a woman appears to him, at one moment a normal woman, but at the other of infinite height with her head reaching the stars. He recognizes her as Philosophia and she tells him that he has always been a faithful pupil and she will not let him down in these moments of distress and misery. Ah yes, but what does it help me that I am innocently imprisoned and waiting for my execution? And Boethius starts complaining about the injustice in the world. He addresses the maker of the universe accusing him of having made laws for everything, but not for human behavior:
O stelliferi conditor orbis,
qui perpetuo nixus solio
rapido caelum turbine uersas
legemque pati sidera cogis, 5
ut nunc pleno lucida cornu
totis fratris obuia flammis
condat stellas luna minores,
nunc obscuro pallida cornu
Phoebo propior lumina perdat 10
et qui primae tempore noctis
agit algentes Hesperos ortus
solitas iterum mutet habenas
Phoebi pallens Lucifer ortu.
Tu frondifluae frigore brumae 15
stringis lucem breviore mora,
tu cum fervida uenerit aestas
agiles nocti dividis horas.
Tua vis varium temperat annum,
ut quas Boreae spiritus aufert
revehat mites Zephyrus frondes, 20
quaeque Arcturus semina vidit
sirius altas urat segetes:
nihil antiqua lege solutum
linquit propriae stationis opus.
Omnia certo fine gubernans, 25
hominum solos respuis actus
merito rector cohibere modo.
Nam cur tantas lubrica uersat
Fortuna uices? Premit insontes
debita sceleri noxia poena, 30
at peruersi resident celso
mores solio sanctaque calcant
iniusta vice colla nocentes .
Latet obscuris condita virtus
clara tenebris iustusque tulit 35
Nil periuria, nil nocet ipsis
fraus mendaci compta colore.
Sed cum libuit viribus uti,
quos innumeri metuunt populi 40
summos gaudent subdere reges.
O iam miseras respice terras,
quisquis rerum foedera nectis!
Operis tanti pars non vilis
homines quatimur fortunae salo. 45
Rapidos, rector, comprime fluctus
et quo caelum regis immemsum
Firma stabiles foedere terras.
The poem is in anapestic dimeters, but let’s not worry about that.
stellifer, – feri: star-bearing, starry
conditor: this word does not necessarily refer to the Christian god
orbis, orbis: circle
nitor, nixus sum: here: to rest
turbo, turbinis: whirl
verso (1): keep turning
patior, passus sum: undergo, endure
pleno lucida (luna r.8) cornu: the shining (moon) with full horn (i.e. with full crescent)
fratris: the Sun. In Latin the sun is masculine, whereas in Germanic languages it is feminine (German: die Sonne) and the moon is masculine (German: der Mond). Latin sol, English sun, Greek helios, Sanskrit svar all go back to the same Indo-European root *séh2u-l with originally a root n in the oblique cases. This explains the variance between sol and sun. In Sanskrit l and r are interchangeable in some cases, so therefore svar. The complexity of this word indicates that it belongs to the earliest strata of Indo-European. The difference in grammatical gender between Germanic and the other languages is unexplained.
condo (3): to hide
nunc obscuro pallida cornu Phoebo propior lumina perdat = nunc(luna), Phoebo propior, obscuro cornu pallida lumina perdat
Phoebus: the sun. Originally an epithet for Apollo, who was from the 4th century BC regarded as the sungod.
propior + dat.: closer to
obscuro cornu: with dark crescent
perdo (3): to lose
et qui…Hesperos = et Hesperos, qui. Hesperos is Venus as Eveningstar and is a Greek nominative.
agit algentes ortus: brings cooling risings = who brings coldness, when she rises.
Solitas iterum mutet habenas: The idea is that Venus as Morningstar halts her car (mutet habenas: brings her reins to silence. The conjunctive is because it is still dependent on ut in line 5) when the sun arises. Solitas (usual) and iterum emphasizes that this is all in tune with the laws of the Conditor.
frondifluae frigore brumae: wintertime
frigor, -oris: cold
bruma: the shortest day
stringo: draw tight, compress
breviore mora: into a very short interval (mora: lapse of time, interval)
fervidus: glowing, burning
venerit: conjuntive of the perfect where classical Latin uses the conjunctive of the imperfect.
aestas, –atis: summer
agilis; quick, agile
vis, viris: power
tempero (1): to regulate, arrange
ut quas Boreae spiritus aufert revehat mites Zephyrus frondes = ut frondes, quas Boreae spiritus aufert, mites Zephyrus revehat
Boreas, Boreae: the northern wind
spiritus, -us: breath, air
aufero (3): to take away
reveho (3): bring back
mites, is: soft
Zephyrus: a gentle west wind, western breeze, zephyr
quaeque Arcturus semina vidit = et semina, quae Arcturus vidit
Arcturus: The brightest star in Bootes,, whose rising and setting was supposed to portend tempestuous weather.
semen, seminis: seed
Sirius: the Dog star
uro (3): to burn
seges, segitis (f): corn, crop
nihil antiqua lege solutum linquit propriae stationis opus. (asyndeton) = nihil antiqua lege solutum (est et) (re)linquit propriae stationis opus.
solutus + abl.: free from
linquit propriae stationis opus: and leaves the work of it proper position (i.e. the work it is ordered to do)
finis, -s (f): limit, boundary
solos… actus: solos is predicate: the acts of mankind as the only.
respuo (3): to dislike
rector: predicate: as ruler
cohibeo: to confine, contain
vicis, -is: change, alternation
Premit insontes debita sceleri noxia poena = noxia poena debita sceleri insontes premit
insons, -ontis: innocent
debita sceleri: which ought to be given to a wicked deed (scelus,sceleris (n))
perversi with mores
calco (1): trample, tread on
vice: instead of
collum: the neck
nocens, -entis: wicked (noceo: to hurt)
Latet obscuris condita virtus clara tenebris = virtus clara (in) obscuris tenebris latet
lateo: to lie hidden
tenebrae. -arum: darkness, gloom
tulit: fero ferre tuli latum: to bear, carry
iniquus: wicked, evil (person)
periurium: false oath
noceo + dat.: to hurt
fraus, fraudis (f): fraud
mendax, –acis: cheatful (with colore, adjectives with a consonant stem have the ablative in i, though e is also possible.)
libet, libuit: it pleases
utor + abl.: to make use of
metuo (3): to fear
subdo (3): to subdue
respicio: to look down
quisquis, not qui: whoever that god might be.
rerum: genitivus obiectivus: for the world. Res has her the meaning `material world’, cf. De Rerum Naturae
foedus, foederis (n): treaty, but here more or less equivalent with lex.Also in line 48.
necto (3): bind, fasten
Operis tanti pars non vilis is apposition to homines: we human beings, not the meanest part of such a creation, etc.
quatio: shake, break, crush
salum: open sea
comprimo (3): press together, restrain
fluctus, -us: wave, tide
quo: where, in what place
firmo, to make firm, strengthen
stabiles: resultative adjective: in order that the world is stabile ..
In a school edition I have from the German catholic publishing house Aschendorff, the editor wants to see in the last two lines a rephrasing of fiat voluntas tau, sicut in caelo et in terra from the Lord’s prayer, but I am not so sure…
In one of the next posts I will give Philosophia’s answer.
On the Consolatione:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolation_of_Philosophy
Mahmoud Darwish and the Trio Joubran produced this eternal piece.
The Roman poet Lucretius (99-55 BC) was a follower of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC). Epicurus did not believe in gods and created a cosmology in which everything had a natural explanation. The basis of this cosmology was grounded on the views of the Greek atomists Leucippus and Democritus. As the name `atomists’ already suggests, they were the first to introduce the idea of atoms: invisible small parts out of which everything is constructed, though their idea that atoms are indivisible (Greek atomoj) proved wrong. This idea was not only a revolutionary step in physics, but had also its consequences for morality and religion: if there are no gods who intervene in our lives, there is no reason to fear them.
Lucretius expounded the philosophy of Epicurus in his De Rerum Natura (About the nature of things), a poem in six books written in the heroic meter of the Greek hexameter. Latin is not particularly suited for this meter and Lucretius is clearly fighting to have the words fitting into the metrical pattern. In doing so he sometimes invents new words and now and then the Latin syntax is a bit awkward.
In the following extract Lucretius takes away the fear of the reader that doing away with religion opens the door for immoral behavior. He refers to the story of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, eldest daughter of Agamemnon. There are various versions of this story and Lucretius is mainly following the version by Euripides: Agamemnon, one of the Greek leaders sailing to Troy, had once promised Artemis to sacrifice the most beautiful thing the year had produced. It happens that Iphigenia was born that year and Agamemnon `forgets’ all about his promise. When sailing with his fleet to Troy he stops at Aulis and then unfavorable winds withheld him from going further. Agamemnon goes to the seer Calchas, who tells him that it is Artemis who is preventing him from going further, unless he fulfills his promise and sacrifices his own daughter. Iphigenia is still at home, but Odysseus devices a plan to get her to Aulis without any suspicion. Under the pretext of marrying Achilles, she comes over… In some versions she is saved by Artemis, who replaces her on the altar with a deer, but in the version told by Lucretius there is no room for the goddess to show any mercy.
Illud in his rebus vereor, ne forte rearis 80
impia te rationis inire elementa viamque
indugredi sceleris. quod contra saepius illa
religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.
Aulide quo pacto Triviai virginis aram
Iphianassai turparunt sanguine foede 85
ductores Danaum delecti, prima virorum.
cui simul infula virgineos circum data comptus
ex utraque pari malarum parte profusast,
et maestum simul ante aras adstare parentem
sensit et hunc propter ferrum celare ministros 90
aspectuque suo lacrimas effundere civis,
muta metu terram genibus summissa petebat.
nec miserae prodesse in tali tempore quibat,
quod patrio princeps donarat nomine regem;
nam sublata virum manibus tremibundaque ad aras 95
deductast, non ut sollemni more sacrorum
perfecto posset claro comitari Hymenaeo,
sed casta inceste nubendi tempore in ipso
hostia concideret mactatu maesta parentis,
exitus ut classi felix faustusque daretur. 100
tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.
illud refers to ne: `I fear this in these matters, that….’
rearis: Lucretius addresses his reader
reor, ratus sum: to be of the opinion, think
ratio, – onis: system of philosophy
indugredi: Lucretius has a preference for archaic forms : indu is old Latin for in
ingredior, ingressus sum: to enter
scelus, sceleris: wicked deed, crime
quod contra: whereas on the contrary
pario peperi partum: to bring forward
Aulide …virorum: The skeleton of this sentence is ductores aram turparunt: `the leaders defiled the altar’ Whose altar? Triviai virginis. With what? sanguine foede Iphianassai.
Aulide: locative case `at Aulis’. The locativus was lost in Latin, except in place names (Romae: at Rome) and in some words (humi: on the ground)
quo pacto: `on the grounds of a certain pact’ the promise of Agamemnon.
Triviai virginis : Artemis. Triviai is an old genitive. The adjective itself does not apply to Artemis, but to Diana, the Roman goddess equated with Artemis. Trivius means `of the crossways’ and as tri makes clear those crossways where three ways meet. At such crossways altars for Diana were erected.
Iphianassai: again an old genitive. In Homer Iphianassa is the youngest daughter of Agamemnon, but Lucretius uses the name here as an alternative for Iphigenia.
turparunt = turpaverunt.
sanguis, sanguinis: blood
foedus, foederis:, horrible, repulsive
Danai, Danaum: the Greek
delectus: singled out, elected
prima virorum = primi virorum. prima is neuter plural. Lucretius imitates Greek usage of neuter plural adjective plus genitive to qualify a noun even when the noun is not neuter.
simul = simul atque : as soon as
infula: A sacred fillet (a woolen band, white and red, worn upon the forehead by priests, victims, and suppliants, as a badge of consecration. The end of the strands were hanging down at either side.)
virgineos with comptus.
comptus, –us: ornament of the hair, but here = coma `hair’.
ex utraque pari malarum parte profusast: ambigious sentence. Read: (infula) profuse est pari parte ex utraque malarum
profusus: hanging down
pari parte: in equal lengths
ex utraque malarum: from both sides of her cheeks
sensit gouverns a) parentem adstare, b) ministros celare and c) civis effundere
hunc propter: beside him
celo: to conceal
aspectu suo: `at sight of her’
civis (acc. plur.!): the citizens of Aulis
tremibundus = tremens
metus – us: fear
genibus summissa: lowered by her knees, kneeling
peto: to fall upon, sink down
prosum + dat.: to be useful for
in tali tempore: tempus has here the meaning of `circumstance, danger,’
queo: to be able to. The subject is the quod clause: `It could not serve the poor girl, that…’
princeps = prima: she as first
donarat = donaverat . to whom one gives is in the acc. and what is given is in the abl.
patrio nomine = nomine `pater’
sublatus ppp of suffer: to take up
tremibundus = archaic form of tremens
deductast = deducta est. Both sublata and deducta are taken from the Roman marriage ceremony at which at a certain point the bride was lifted off the ground, and finally escorted home by the marriage company.
sollemni more sacrorum perfecto: on the customary way of rites done
comitari is here passive form of the rare word comito: to accompany. Normally comitari is a deponent verb
Hymenaeus: wedding choir. At Roman weddings `Hymen , o hymeneae’ were shouted. Hymen was the Roman god of marriage.
casta inceste…tempore…hostia…maesta: as a sinless sorrowful victim on a sinful moment. The e in incestus is because of the influence of the preceding i.
nubo: to marry
concido: to fall down
mactatus, – us: sacrifice. The word is coined by Lucretius and is only found here.
mactatu parentis: parentis is subjective genitive `of the father’.
exitus ut = ut exitus
exitus, -us: way out
classis. –is: fleet
felix faustusque: a stock combination in Latin `happy and favorable’
tantum + gen.: such a degree of
I found a translation by William Ellery Leonard, published in 1916. His English is even more archaic than the Latin of Lucretius…
I fear perhaps thou deemest that we fare
An impious road to realms of thought profane;
But ’tis that same religion oftener far
Hath bred the foul impieties of men:
As once at Aulis, the elected chiefs,
Foremost of heroes, Danaan counsellors,
Defiled Diana’s altar, virgin queen,
With Agamemnon’s daughter, foully slain.
She felt the chaplet round her maiden locks
And fillets, fluttering down on either cheek,
And at the altar marked her grieving sire,
The priests beside him who concealed the knife,
And all the folk in tears at sight of her.
With a dumb terror and a sinking knee
She dropped; nor might avail her now that first
‘Twas she who gave the king a father’s name.
They raised her up, they bore the trembling girl
On to the altar- hither led not now
With solemn rites and hymeneal choir,
But sinless woman, sinfully foredone,
A parent felled her on her bridal day,
Making his child a sacrificial beast
To give the ships auspicious winds for Troy:
Such are the crimes to which Religion leads.
When looking through the book Mediaeval Latin by K.P. Harrington, published in 1950, I saw this poem, listed as Carmina Burana 179. Strange enough it does not correspond with my edition of the Carmina Burana, a bilingual Latin-German edition. However, poem 202 in this edition is very much the same, but with more strophes and some textual variations, for instance the first line `O potores exquisiti’. Strange, are there two different editions? Anyway, this song is one of the many songs sung by students and scholars going from university to university all over Europe. They were calledvagabundi `the roamers’ form Latin vago. And wherever there are students, there are parties, where sometimes a little bit more is consumed than the WHO would advise.
This lighthearted song takes up that theme:
licet sitis sine siti,
et bibatis expediti
et scyphorum inobliti,
scyphi crebro repetiti
et sermones inauditi
Potatores exquisiti: vocative
potator: drinker, toper, boozer
exquisitus: excellent, exquisite
bibo (3): to drink
expeditus: free, unimpeded (Latin can use an adjective where English requires an adverb)
inoblitus + gen: not forgetting
crebro (adv): repetedly, often
repeto (3) : to demand anew, retake
inauditus: unheard of. i.e. talks which are not heard when people are sober
prosilio: to spring up, break forth
Qui potare non potestis
ite procul ab his festis,
non est locus hic modestis
Inter letos mos agrestis
et est sue certus testis
procul (adv): far away
modestis: substantized adjective
mos agrestis modestie: agrestis is predicate to mos: `the way of modesty is’ or in better English: `modest behavior is’.
agrestis: litt: `pertaining to the land’. In the Lewis and Short dictionary you will find `wild, coarse, boorish, clownish’ etc.. Classical Latin was the Latin of the urbane upper class… here `clownish, ridiculous, stupid’ fits the context.
ignavia: laziness, worthlessness
Si quis latitat hic forte,
qui non curat vinum forte
ostendantur illi porte,
exeat ab hac cohorte:
plus est nobis gravis morte,
si recedat a consorte,
latito (1): to hide (frequentative of lateo. A frequentative is a verb that denotes that an action often takes place)
forte is used twice, but in with a different meaning and actually from different roots. The first is an adverb from fors (gen. fortis) `chance’ (cf. fortuna), so `by chance, perhaps’, the second forte is from fortis`strong’ and goes with vinum.
curo: to take care for
ostendo (1): to show. ostendantur the plural is general: who ever… they are shown the way out!
cohors, -ortis: company
plus est nobis gravis morte = (ille) est nobis plus gravis morte. (plus gravis morte = gravior quam mors)
recedo (3): to go away
consors, -ortis: company, group (meant is the company of potatores exquisiti)
pereo = per-eo: to go down, perish
Cum contingat te prestare,
ita bibas absque pare,
ut non possis pede stare,
neque recta verba dare,
sed sit tibi salutare
semper vas evacuare
contingo (3): to happen
praesto (1): to stay
absque pare: and without `the mate’ (of wine: i.e. water)
verba do = dico, loquor
sit tibi salutare potissimum semper vas evacuare: may it be to you to greet always the biggest cup for emptying
quam maximum: `as deep as possible’, `to the bottom’.
Dea deo ne iungatur,
deam deus aspernatur,
nam qui Liber appellatur
virtus eius adnullatur
et vinum debilitatur
dea is pure water, deus is wine
iungo (3): to join together, unite, marry
aspernor: to dispise
Normally wine was mixed with water, but this was something not done amongst vagabonds.
Liber: Roman god equated with Bacchus/Dionysus, the god of wine, but also a pun on liber `free’ as the next line shows.
virtus eius: the virtue of the goddess
adnullo (1): (Eccl. Latin) to cancel, annihilate
debilito (1): to crush
in copulis i.e. in the wedding of wine and water
Cum regina sit in mari,
dea potest appellari,
sed indigna tanto pari,
quem presumat osculari,
nunquam Bacchus adaquari
nec se Liber baptizari
cum: as long as
indigna tanto pari: not worthy for such a match (Liber)
praesumo (3): to expect, presume (subject: dea)
osculor (1): to kiss
adaquor (1): to fetch water
sustineo (2): to endure
Here is a (rather free) translation by HelenWaddell from herMediaeval Latin Lyrics, published in 1929:
To you, consummate drinkers,
Though little be your drought,
Good speed be to your tankards,
And send the wine about.
Let not the full decanter
Sleep on its round,
And may unheard of banter
In wit abound.
If any cannot carry
His liquor as he should,
Let him no longer tarry,
No place here for the prude.
No room among the happy
A fashion only fit for clowns,
If such by chance are lurking
Let them be shown the door;
He who good wine is shirking,
Is one of us no more.
A death’s head is his face to us,
If he abide.
Who cannot keep the pace with us,
As well he died.
Should any take upon him
To drink without a peer,
Although his legs go from him,
His speech no longer clear,
Still for his reputation
Let him drink on,
And swig for his salvation
The bumper down.
But between god and goddess,
Let there no marriage be,
For he whose name is Liber
Exults in liberty.
Let none his single virtue
Wine that is wed with water is
Queen of the sea we grant her,
Goddess without demur,
But to be bride to Bacchus
Is not for such as her.
For Bacchus drinking water
Hath no man seen;
Nor ever hath his godship