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.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nature's Complaint: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 4

GRATIA SUPPONIT ET ELEVAT NATURAM, Grace supposes and elevates Nature. For all importance Nature has as the deputy of God, she recognizes that there is a greater reality beyond her. According to reliable testimony (fidele testimonium), the revealed Word of God, man is born by Nature, but is reborn by the power of God: homo mea actione nascitur, Dei auctoritate renascitur.
Through me he is called from non-being into being, through Him he is led from being to higher being; by me man is born for death, by Him he is reborn for life.

Per me, a non esse vocatur ad esse; per ipsum, ad melius esse perducitur. Per me enim homo procreatur ad mortem, per ipsum recreatur ad vitam.
Nature's services are "set aside," ablegatur, in this mystery of the second birth, secundae natitivatis mysterio. These mysteries are beyond Nature, beyond her ken, her spheres of knowledge. Indeed, the "entire reasoning process dealing with Nature is brought to a standstill," omnibus naturalis ratio langueat. Reason languishes. We are at that Wittgensteinian point of silence. And where Reason languishes, where the words of Nature and of Man fails us, Faith supplies the means to reach the arcane regions of mystery:
By the power of firm faith alone, pay homage to something so great and mysterious.

Sola fidei firmitate, tantae rei veneramur arcanum.
Here, again, Nature shows a dualism in man. Earlier, she had distinguished between reason and sensual desire. Now she distinguishes between the things of reason and the things of faith:

I establish truths of faith by reason, she establishes reason by the truths of faith. I know in order to believe, she believes in order to know. I assent from knowledge, she reaches knowledge by assent. It is with difficulty that I see what is visible, she in her mirror understands the incomprehensible. My intellect has difficulty in compassing what is very small, her reason compasses things immense. I walk around like a brute beast, she marches in the hidden places of heaven.
Ego ratione fidem, illa fide comparat rationem; ego scio, ut credam, illa credit ut sciat; ego consentio sciens, illa sentit consentiens; ego vix visibilia video, illa incomprehensibilia comprehendit in speculo; ego vix minima metior intellectu, illa immensa ratione metitur; ego quasi bestialiter in terra deambulo, illa vero coeli militat in secreto.

Nature then distinguishes three degrees of power, tres potestatis gradus possumus invenire, in God and Nature and Man.

God's power is superlative; Nature's power is comparative; Man's power is positive. There is no confusion of powers, though they clearly may cover the same subject: man. God's power is preeminent, Nature's relatively comparatively or relatively preeminent, man's is subordinate to both God and Nature. We are not dealing here with some sort of Spinozan pantheism. There is nothing of the sort of the Deus sive Natura of Baruch Spinoza in Alan of Lille. Alan of Lille neither deifies Nature, nor naturalizes God. There is no conflation of God and Nature.

Nature here ends her introduction, and it does the poet well, as he spews forth, vomiting as it were, the "dregs of phantasy" that had captured his mind. These are words we would want modern man to say: Omnes phantasiae reliquias quasi nauseans, stomachus mentis evomuit. The stomach of modern man's mind should vomit all the leavings, the residue, the remains of fantasy that give him la nausée de Sartre, the Sartrean nausea. Nature is just the thing that can take him away from existentialism to essentialism, from autonomy to physionomy and ultimately to theonomy. Man ought to do what the poet does once he upchucks falsehood:
I fell down at Nature's feet and marked them with the imprint of many a kiss to take the place of formal greeting. Then straightening up and standing erect, with humbly bowed head, I poured out for her, as for a divine majesty, a verbal libation of good wishes.

Salutationis vice, pedes osculorum multiplici impressione signavi. Tum me explicans erigendo, cum reverenti capitis humiliatione velut majestati divinae, ei voce viva salutis obtuli libamentum.
In such position of humility and submission, and his mind being clarified of the poisons that had made it sick, the poet asks his question of Nature: why is it that she has paid him such a extraordinary visit?


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