Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nature's Complaint: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 3

NATURE’S BEAUTY WAS AFFLICTED, afflicted by sorrow, and no amount of encomia by the creation of which she was the foster mother (nutricis familiari) or deputy of the Creator God (Dei auctoris vicaria) could assuage it. The poet, unaccustomed to the purity of Nature’s ideal, swoons in delirium, a state of ecstasy between life and death. Nature, however, raised the poet up and strengthened the poet, and spoke to the poet in words archetypal, as if she spoke to him in the realm of the Ideal.
When she realized that I had been brought back to myself, she fashioned for me, by the image of a real voice, mental concepts and brought forth audibly what one might call archetypal words that had been preconceived ideally.

Quae postquam mihi me redditum intellexit, in mentali intellectu materialis vocis mihi depinxit imaginem, cum quasi archetypa verba idealiter percontexta, vocaliter produxit in actum.
Nature chastises our poet, severely yet gently, for having ignored her in his musings, thereby clouding up his mind, defrauding his reason, and banishing her from his memory. It is as if Nature informally sues the poet in a series of complaints, framed under one big cause of action Why?
Why do you force the knowledge of me to leave your memory and go abroad, you in whom my gifts proclaim me who have blessed you with the right bounteous gifts of so many favours?

Cur a tua memoria mei facis peregrinari notitiam, in quo mea munera me loquuntur, quae te tot beneficiorum praelargis beavi muneribus?

Who, acting by an established covenant as the deputy of God, the creator, have from your earliest years established the appointed course of your life . . .

Quae a tua ineunte aetate, Dei auctoris vicaria, rata dispensatione, legitimum tuae vitae ordinavi curriculum?

Who, of old brought your material body into real existence from the mixed substance of primordial matter . . .

Quae olim tui corporis materiam adulterina primordialis materiae essentia fluctuantem, in verum esse produxi?

Who, in pity for your ill-favoured appearance that was, so to speak, haranguing me continually, stamped you with the stamp of human species and with the improved dress of form brought dignity to that species when it was bereft of adornments of shape?

[Quae] cujus vultum miserata deformem, quasi ad me crebrius declamantem, humanae speciei signaculo sigillavi, eamque honestis figurarum orphanam ornamentis, melioribus formatis vestibus honestavi?
What sort of ingrate is man, that he forgets that Nature gave him his senses to protect him? That he forgets how well she him “adorned with the noble purple vestments of nature,” totius corporis materia nobilioribus naturae purpuramentis ornate, so that his body might, in a union analogous to marriage, join with the spirit in a sort of conjugal harmony? “I have blessed both parts of you,” Nature reminds man, but with a caveat:
But just as the above-mentioned marriage [between body and spirit] was solemnized by my consent, so, too, at my discretion this marital union will be annulled.

Sicut ergo praefatae nuptiae meo sunt celebratae consensu, sic pro meo arbitrio, eadem cessabit copula maritalis.
It is this marriage-like union between man’s spirit, his intellect, his reason, and his body that comes undone when Nature is not followed. And so it is that disobedience to Nature introduces a cacophonous divorce between the body and the spirit, and causes the mind to be darkened as the body pursues its unnatural loves. The poet's complaints against the sterile, homosexual love that prevailed around him, and with which the Planctus started, had already noticed the divorce between reason and desire.

Nature continues to expand on how man fits into the entirety of the cosmos, for her role with regard to man is not limited to the giving of his form, to the union between the spirit and matter, so uniquely his. She has also fitted him within the context of the greater macrocosmos. He is indeed, a microcosmos, a world in miniature. The macrocosmos is man writ large. There is an analogy between man and the cosmos. In a way, the one is in the other.
For I am the one who formed the nature of man according to the exemplar and likeness of the structure of the universe so that in him, as in a mirror of the universe itself, Nature’s lineaments might be there to see.

Ego sum illa, quae ad exemplarem mundanae machinae similitudinem, hominis exemplavi naturam; ut in eo velut in speculo, ipsius mundi scripta natura appareat.
Within himself, man experiences the same stresses as the cosmos:
For just as concord in discord, unity in plurality, harmony in disharmony, agreement in disagreement of the four elements unite the parts of the structure of the royal palace of the universe, so too, similarity in dissimilarity, equality in inequality, like in unlike, identity in diversity of four combinations bind together the house of the human body.

Sicut enim quatuor elementorum concors discordia, unica pluralitas, consonantia dissonans, consensus dissentiens, mundialis regiae structuras conciliat, sic quatuor complexionum compar disparitas, inaequalis aequalitas, deformis conformitas, divisa identitas, aedificium corporis humani compaginat
Man mimics the retrograde motions of the planets, as he finds within himself “continual hostility between sensuousness and reason,” sensualitatis rationisque continua reperitur hostilitas. There is in him an eternal tug of war, a dualism, between reason and sense, body and spirit:

In this state [republic], then, God gives commands, the angels carries them out, man obeys. God creates man by his command, the angels by their operation carry out the work of creation, man by obedience re-creates himself. By his authority God decrees the existence of things, by their operation the angesl fashion them, man submits himself to the will of the spirits carrying out the operation. God gives orders by his magisterial authority, angels operate by ministerial administration, man obeys by the mystery of regeneration.

In hac ergo republica Deus est imperans; angelus operans, homo obtemperans. Deus operando hominem creat, angelus operando procreat; homo obtemperando se recreat. Deus rem auctoritate disponit; angelus actione componit; homo se operantis voluntati supponit. Deus imperat auctoritatis magisterio; angelus operatur actionis ministerio; homo obtemperat regenerationis mysterio.

Sheridan's translation cannot convey the tripartite verbal order between God, angels, and man. imperans, operans, obtemperans; creat, procreat; se recreat; disponit, componit, se supponit. Man is to follow God in a manner unique to himself. He has been given an active role in participation in God's eternal order, in his eternal law. This is what compliance with the natural law is all about. It is through Nature that man is created. It is through Nature that man is re-created. It is through Nature that man is regenerated. This order between God and angel and man is also found within man himself. Hujus ergo ordinatissimae reipublicae in homine resultat simulacrum.

Man's internal constitution thus mimics the universal constitution. He is a microcosmos. And this analogy goes far beyond the analogy between God and the Angelic and Human orders and the internal constitution of man regarding Wisdom/Mind and Heart [Magnaminity (magnanimitas)]/Body. "In other things, too, the form of the human body takes over the image of the universe." In aliis etiam corporis humani partibus, mundi figuratur effigies. Much of this analogy between the cosmos and the inner constitution of man is, however, shrouded in secrecy, and it goes beyond what words can express even if the concept could be grasped. This analogy between cosmos and man is veiled in secrecy so that it may not be cheapened by too vulgar a knowledge. Nature thus hides the secret things of God. But man is not to think that Nature arrogates to herself Divinity. God transcends Nature. Nature is not God, but under God.

But, lest by thus first canvassing my power, I seem to be arrogantly detracting from the power of God, I most definitely declare that I am but the humble disciple of the Master on High. For i my operations I have not the power to follow closely in the footprints of God in His operations, but with sighs of longing, so to speak, gaze on His work from afar. His operation is simple, mine is multiple; His work is complete, mine is defective; His work is the object of admiration, mine is subject to alteration. He is ungeneratable, I was generated; He is the creator, I was created; He is the creator of my work, I am the work of the Creator; He creates from nothing, I beg the material for my work from someone; He works by His own divinity, I work in His name; He, by His will alone, bids things come into existence, my work is but a sign of the work of God. You can realise that in comparison with God's power, my power is powerless; you can know that my efficiency is deficiency; you can decide that my activity is worthless.

Sed ne in hac meae potestatis praerogativa, Deo videar quasi arrogans derogare, certissime summi magistri me humilem profiteor esse discipulam. Ego enim operans, operantis Dei non valeo expresse inhaerere vestigiis, sed a longe, quasi suspirans, operantem respicio. Ejus operatio simplex, mea multiplex; ejus opus sufficiens, meum deficiens; ejus opus mirabile, meum opus mutabile. Ille innascibilis, ego nata; ille faciens, ego facta; ille mei opifex operis, ego opus opificis; ille operatur ex nihilo, ego mendico opus ex aliquo; ille suo operatur nomine, ego operor illius sub nomine; ille, rem solo nutu jubet existere, mea vero operatio nota est operationis divinae. Et ut, respectu potentiae divinae, meam potentiam impotentem esse cognoscas, meum effectum scias esse defectum, meum vigorem, vilitatem esse perpendas.



  1. Allan of Lille has much to say. His work should be the intro to any book on the Natural Law. Notice this:

    "For just as concord in discord, unity in plurality, harmony in disharmony, agreement in disagreement of the four elements unite the parts of the structure of the royal palace of the universe, so too, similarity in dissimilarity, equality in inequality, like in unlike, identity in diversity of four combinations bind together the house of the human body.

    That is part of the Natural Law. Notice that it is equality IN Inequality. Very different from the make up of America, and the book previously just discussed from Coons and Brennan. Today these concepts from Nature are TOTALLY Lost! All you hear today is equality, equality, equality. One never hears "inequality" or that it is very evil.

    What is going on is "monomaniacalism". Just like "Sola Scriptura", it is "Sola Equalite". The world is not built on "Sola" anything.

    You are doing the Lord's work here. This book needs to be a standard in Seminaries, Catholic colleges and universities. This book is opposite of what is going on today! Why these posts shouldn't have thousands of hits by Catholic clergy reading them is beyond me. This here is necessary reading by all and sundry.

  2. Does his Latin text actually say "microcosm" "macrocosm" or are you paraphrasing?

    And where is macrocosm/microcosm in Catholic thought today? Where is it? When those terms are used one knows that the real original Natural Law is being used.

  3. I think a little exploration on the role of the cosmos in understanding man is probably warranted. There is so much to write about.

    Alan did not use the words macrocosm/microcosm. I used the terms to encapsulate what is his concept.

    There is a diffidence in natural law thought, arising I would suppose from the time of Descartes, in linking man with the larger cosmos.