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.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Nature's Complaint: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 5

RELEASED FROM HIS INTELLECTUAL DISEASE by his acceding to Nature's guidance, the poet in Alan de Lille's De Planctu Naturae sings a paean of praise to Nature in Sapphic meter.

O child of God, mother of creation,
Bond of the universe and its stable link, Bright gem for those on earth, mirror for mortals,
Light-bearer for the world.

Peace, love, virtue, guide, power, order, law, end, way, leader, source, Life, light, splendour, beauty, form,
Rule of the world:

You, who by your reins guide the universe, Unite all things in a stable and harmonious bond and
Wed heaven to earth in a union of peace;
Who, working on the pure ideas of Nous, mould the species of all created things,
Clothing matter with form and fashioning a mantle of form with your thumb:
You whom heaven cherishes, air serves, Whom earth worships, water reveres;
To whom, as mistress of the universe,
Each and every thing pays tribute:
You, who bind together day and night in their alternations,
Give to day the candle of the sun,
Put night's clouds to bed by the moon's bright, reflected light:
You, who gild the sky with varying stars Illuming our ether's throne, fill heaven with The gems of constellations and a varied
Complement of soldiers: You, who in a protean role, keep changing heaven's face with new shapes,
Bestow a throng of birds on our expanse of air and control them by your law:
You, at whose nod the world grows young again,
The grove is frilled with foliage-curls,
The land, clad in its garment of flowers, shows its pride:
You, who lay to rest and raise on high the threatening sea as you cut short the course of the raging deep so that the ocean's waves may not entomb the sun's face.

O Dei proles, genitrixque rerum,
Vinculum mundi, stabilisque nexus,
Gemma terrenis, speculum caducis, Lucifer orbis.

Pax, amor, virtus, regimen, potestas,
Ordo, lex, finis, via, dux, origo,
Vita, lux, splendor, species, figura
Regula mundi.

Quae tuis mundum moderas habenis,
Cuncta concordi stabilita nodo
Nectis et pacis glutino maritas coelica terris.
Quae Noys plures recolens ideas
Singulas rerum species monetans,
Res togas formis, chlamidemque formae
Pollice formas.
Cui favet coelum, famulatur aer,
Quam colit Tellus, veneratur unda,
Cui velut mundi dominae, tributum
Singula solvunt.
Quae diem nocti vicibus catenans
Cereum solis tribuis diei,
Lucido lunae speculo soporans
Nubila noctis.
Quae polum stellis variis inauras,
Aetheris nostri solium serenans
Siderum gemmis, varioque coelum
Milite complens.
Quae novis coeli faciem figuris
Protheans mutas aridumque vulgus
Aeris nostri regione donans,
Legeque stringis.
Cujus ad nutum juvenescit orbis,
Silva crispatur folii capillo,
Et tua florum tunicata veste,
Terra superbit.
Quae minas ponti sepelis, et auges,
Syncopans cursum pelagi furori
Ne soli tractum tumulare possit
Aequoris aestus.

After this hymn of praise, the poet asks Nature a series of questions, questions that Nature will later answer. Nature had her plaint, now the poet as a representative of mankind, has his own pleading. At this stage, he asks her a series of questions.

Do you in answer to my plea disclose
The reason for your journey.
Why do you, a stranger from heaven,
Make your way to earth?

Why do you offer the fit of your divinity to our lands?

Why is your face bedewed with a flood of tears?

What do the tears on your face portend?
Tu viae causam resera petenti,
Cur petis terras, peregrina coelis?

Cur tuae nostris deitatis offers
Munera terris?

Ora cur fletus pluvia rigantur?

Quid tui vultus lacrymae prophetant?

We do not often see the results of our moral corruption to the order of Nature, or perhaps better said, we ignore them. And Nature gently chastises our poet for not knowing what he drawn her to the "common brothels of earth" (vulgaria terrenorum lupanaria). The moral corruption, specifically the homosexual activity witnessed by the poet with which the poem began, is an intrinsic disorder from the order of Nature, one that affects its workings every bit as much as if the earth deviated from its rotation. It bespeaks of carelessness on the part of the caretakers of the world, an act of injustice against justice. It ought to be no surprise to see Nature there wishing order to be be imposed, her law to be followed, her rule conformed to.

"Pasiphae" by André Masson (1896-1987)

All things, Nature explains, are under her rule. All but man is under a rule of strict compliance. Man alone has freedom and must freely or voluntarily submit to Nature's rule, the deviation from which he intrinsically finds noxious or injurious to him. Man is Nature's anomaly. He alone can deviate from Nature, even though it is noxious or injurious to him.

As all things by the law of their origin are held subject to my laws and are bound to pay me the tribute rightly imposed, practically all obey my edicts as a general rule, by bringing forward the rightful tribute in the manner appointed by law. However from this universal law man alone exempts himself by a nonconformist withdrawal. . . .
Other creatures that I have equipped with lesser gifts from my bounty hold themselves bound in voluntary subjection to the ordinances of my decrees according to the rank of each's activity. Man, however, who has all but drained the entire treasury of my riches, tries to denature the natural things of nature and arms a lawless and solecistic Venus to fight against me. She how practically everything, obeying the edict I have promulgated, completely discharges the duties imposed by my law as the raison d'etre of its native condition demands.
Cum omnia lege suae originis meis legibus teneantur obnoxia, mihique debeant jus statuti vectigalis persolvere, fere omnia tributarii juris exhibitione legitima, meis edictis regulariter obsequuntur; sed ab hujus universitatis regula, solus homo anomala exceptione excluditur . . . . Caetera quibus meae gratiae humiliora munera commodavi, per suarum professionum conditionem subjectione voluntaria meorum decretorum sanctionibus alligantur; homo vero qui fere totum divitiarum mearum exhausit aerarium, naturae naturalia denaturare pertentans, in me scelestae Veneris armat injuriam. Attende, quomodo fere quaelibet juxta mei promulgationem edicti, prout ratio nativae conditionis expostulat, mei juris statuta persolvant.

Man is homo . . . naturae naturalia denaturare pertentans, a creature that can denature that which naturally pertains to his nature. It is the concomitant to his voluntary submission, the freedom of his powers, which are to be used by him in a manner compliant to Nature. Man, nevertheless, abuses these powers. So it is that: "He, stripping himself of the robe of chastity, exposes himself in unchastity for a professional male prostitute and dares to stir up the tumult of legal strife against the dignity of his queen, and, moreover, to fan the flame of civil war's rage against his mother." The planets, the sun and moon, the stars, the air and its birds, the waters and the fish they contain, the earth and its beasts, all follow Nature, and so all these cooperate in a harmonious pattern and are fruitful. None abuse sexuality in the way that man does.

Man alone turns with scorn from the modulated strains of my cithern and runs deranged to the notes of mad Orpheus' lyre. For the human race, fallen from its high estate, adopts a highly irregular (grammatical) change when it inverts the rules of Venus by introducing barbarisms in its arrangement of genders. Thus many, his sex changed by a ruleless Venus, in defiance of due order, by his arrangement changes what is a straightforward attribute of his. Abandoning in his deviation the true script of Venus, he is proved to be a sophistic pseudographer. Shunning even a resemblance traceable to the art of Dione's daughter, he falls into the defect of inverted order. While in a construction of this kind he causes my destruction, in his combination he devises a division in me.
Solus homo meae moderationis citharam aspernatur; et sub delirantis Orphei lyra delirat: humanum namque genus a sua generositate degenerans, in conjunctione generum barbarizans, venereas regulas immutando, nimis irregulari utitur metaplasmo: sicque homo a venere tiresiatus anomala, directam praedicationem in contrapositionem inordinate convertit. A Veneris igitur orthographia homo deviando recedens, sophista falsigraphus invenitur. Consequenter etiam Dioneae artis analogiam devitans, in anastrophem vitiosam degenerat.

"Pasiphae" by Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)

Man alone can corrupt his natural language, and so fall from moral orthographus or orthography to moral falsigraphus to heterography or falsigraphy. He alone is capable into falling into venereal anomaly, and so barbarizes and corrupts the sexual grammar which ought to govern the use of his sexual faculties. Man's accession to Venus's lawless ways seems almost endemic throughout his history. The abuse of the grammar of the sexual faculties is seen in historical or mythical figures: Helen defiles her marriage bed in her adulterous dalliance with Paris; Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, King of Crete, lusted after Poseidon's bull, and even had Daedalus build a shell in the form of a heifer so that she would trick the bull into having relations with her, falling into a gross bestiality and resulting in the Minotaur; Myrrha unnaturally incestuously desired her own father, Cinyras; similarly Medea killed the offspring of her own body in spiteful vengeance to her husband Jason who had abandoned her; Narcissus destroyed himself by his self-love. Of the men that fall into the hands of lawless Venus, the variety is legion:

Of those men who subscribe to Venus' procedures in grammar, some closely embrace those of masculine gender only, others, those of feminine gender. Some, indeed, as though belonging to the heteroclite class [showing more than one declension], show variations in deviation by reclining with those of female gender in Winter and those of masculine gender in Summer. There are some, who in the disputations in Venus' school of logic, in their conclusions reach a law of interchangeability of subject and predicate. There are those who take the part of the subject and cannot function as predicate. There are some who function as predicates only but have no desire to have the subject term duly submit to them. Others, disdaining to enter Venus' hall, practice a deplorable game in the vestibule of her house.
Eorum siquidem hominum qui Veneris profitentur grammaticam, alii solummodo masculinum, alii feminum, alii commune, sive promiscuum genus familiariter amplexantur: quidam vero quasi heterocliti genere, per hiemem in feminino, per aestatem in masculino genere irregulariter declinantur. Sunt qui in Veneris logica disputantes, in conclusionibus suis, subjectionis, praedicationisque legem relatione mutua sortiuntur. Sunt, qui vicem gerentes supposito, praedicari non norunt. Sunt, qui solummodo praedicantes, subjecti subjectionem legitimam non attendunt. Alii autem Diones regiam ingredi dedignantes, sub ejusdem vestibulo ludum lacrymabilem comitantur.

It is in view of the current abuses of the sexual faculties among men that Nature has traveled down from heaven to pay a visit to the poet, and which forms the central part of her complaint.
For this reason, then, did I leave the secreted abode of the kingdom in the heavens above and come down to this transitory and sinking world so that I might lodge with you, as my intimate and confidant, my plaintive lament for the accursed excesses of man, and might decide, in consultation with you, what kind of penalty should answer such an array of crimes so that conformable punishment, meting out like for like, might repay in kind the biting pain inflicted by tghe above-mentioned misdeeds.

Ideo enim a supernis coelestis regiae secretariis egrediens, ad hujus caducae terrenitatis occasum deveni, ut de exsecrabilibus hominum excessibus, tecum quasi cum familiari et secretario meo, querimoniale lamentum exponerem, tecumque decernerem, tali criminum oppositioni, qualis poenae debeat dari responsio: ut praedictorum facinorum morsibus coaequata punitio, poenae talionem remordeat.

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