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 13, 2010

Nature's Complaint: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 12

MODERATION, MODERATION, MODERATION. This is Nature's advice on avoiding the vices. This is the wisdom of the ancients. "Nothing too much!" Ne quid nimis. Mηδὲν ἄγαν (meden agan). Know yourself! Scito te ipsum. Γνῶθι σεαυτόν (gnothi seauton). These sayings were inscribed upon Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It is as if Alan of Lille put these sayings, along with the wisdom of Ecclesiastes (Eccl. 6:40: "In all they works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin") in poetic form in Nature's poem in Alcaic meter. As Nature recites the poem, the virtues gather around her.

Oracle at Delphi, Sistine Chapel

To prevent Scylla with her greedy whirlpool
From plunging you into the deep night of lust,
Apply the restraint of moderation to your palate. Pay a more modest tribute to your stomach.
Let your gullet moderate its taste for the liquid of Lyaeus, the cups of Bacchus.
Drink sparingly that your lips may be thought to kiss, so to speak, the cups of Bacchus.
Let water break Lyaeus' pride and
An abundance of it temper Bacchus' rage.
Let Thetis offer herself in marriage to Lyaeus
And let her, once married to him, restrain her husband's tyrannical sway. Let a meal of food, that is ordinary, plain and rarely taken,
Grind down the proud complaining flesh,
So that the tyrant, ever arrogantly reigning in that flesh, may exercise a more moderated pressure on you.
Thus tenacious Cupid will take a rest.
Let the reins on Cupid within you be tightened And the sting of the flesh will grow faint and dull:
The flesh will thus become the handmaiden of the spirit.
Add bolts to the door of your sight to
Keep your eyes in check, lest your eager eye hunt abroad with too little shame and bring back to your mind a report of game.
If the desire of possession intoxicates some,
Let them compel money to quit their minds.
Let ambition feel the mind's triumph over it.
Let greed be overcome and its neck be put beneath the yoke.
Let not money itself tarry in closed purses and indulge in a sluggard's sleep, devoting itself to no one:
Rather let it rise from its bed to be the guardian of right and to be of use to the rich man.
If the opportunity offers, if the occasion demands it, let the mass of buried treasure arise,
Let the purses completely disgorge their cash.
Let every gift be a soldier in the army of the right.
If you wish to trample on pride's neck, on the winds of vanity, on the powers that destroy the spirit, consider the burden of being born destined to die, the toils of life, death that cuts you off at the end.
Ne te gulosae Scylla voraginis
Mergat profunda nocte libidinum
Praebe palato frena modestiae,
Ventri tributum solve modestius,
Imbrem Lyaei semita gutturis
Libet modeste Bacchica pocula:
Pota parumper, ut quasi poculis
Bacchi putetur os dare basia.
Frangat Lyaei lympha superbiam,
Bacchi furorem flumina temperent:
Nuptam Lyaeo se Thetis offerat,
Frenet mariti nupta tyrannidem.
Plebaea, simplex, rara comestio
Carnis superbae murmura conterat.
Ut te tyrannus parcius urgeat,
Semper in ista carne superbiens,
Lentus Cupido sic aget otia,
Frenentur in te frena libidinis,
Languens stupescat carnis aculeus,
Ancilla fiet sic caro spiritus:
Largire visus pessula januae,
Frenes ocellos, ne nimis improbe
Venentur extra luminis impetus,
Praedamque menti nuntius offerat.
Si quos habendi fervor inebriat,
Exire cogant, mente pecuniam,
Mentis triumphum sentiat ambitus,
Victi premantur colla Cupidinis.
Non in crumenis ipsa pecunia
Clausis moretur, pigraque dormiat,
Nulli vacando, sed magis excubet,
Custos honoris divitis usibus:
Si tempus adsit, si locus exigat,
Surgat sepultae massa pecuniae,
Nummos crumenae funditus evomant.
Quaevis honori munera militent.
Calcare si vis colla superbiae,
Flatus tumoris, fulmina spiritus,
Pensa caducae pondus originis,
Vitae labores mortis et apocham.

Titian's "Allegory of Marriage"

As Nature recites her poem, Hymenaeus, Venus's husband and the god of marriage, appears, displaying both the resiliency of youth, and the wisdom of age. He is the golden mean personified. Hymenaeus had a robe similar to Nature's robe, one which displayed stories that exalted the state of marriage. (For a description of Nature's robe in Alan de Lille's De Planctu Naturae, see Nature's Compliant: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 2) But the "black paint of age," had almost covered up the images. Yet the images could still, however faintly, be seen.

Yet the picture's message kept insisting that there had been woven there the faithfulness proceeding from the sacrament of matrimony, the peaceful unity of married life, the inseparable bond of marriage, the indissoluble union of the wedded parties. For in the book of the picture there could be read in faint outline what solemn joy gives approval to marriage at its beginning, what sweet melody gives a festive, religious tone to the nuptials, what special gathering of guests shows their approbation of the marriage, what general joy rounds of the Cytherean's ceremonies.Ibi tabulam sacramentalem testimonii, finem matrimonii, connubii pacificam unitatem, nuptiarum inseparabile jugum, nubentium indissolubile vinculum, lingua picturae fatebatur intextum. In picturae etenim libro umbratiliter legebatur, quae nuptiarum exsultationis applaudit solemnitas, quae in nuptiis melodiae solemnizet suavitas, quae connubiis convivarum arrideat generalitas specialis, quae matrimonia citharae concludat jucunditas generalis.

Nature places Hymenaeus on her right, the place of honor, and offers him her right hand, a sign of deep affection and affinity. Soon, chastity, a maiden of great beauty wearing resplendent white garments, and a turtle dove on her left hand, followed. She was followed by a group of virgins.

Chastity's clothes also showed pictures as if they were tableaux vivant, all in a variety of colors, of chastity's great victories, great martyrs, and her great traitors. Hipppolytus, resisting Phaedra, his stepmother. Daphne, who resisted the desires of Apollo, and was turned into the laurel. Lucretia, the wife of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, who, to redeem her rape and the involuntary violation of her chastity by Sextus Tarquinius. Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who was faithful to her husband over the clamor of myriad suitors. Nature greeted Chastity with much joy.

Death of Lucretia by Botticelli

It appears that a synod of virtues was assembling. Chastity is followed by Temperance, who is the epitome of the Golden Mean, and displayed it in her mien, her gait, her clothing, and her jewelry. Following Temperance was Generosity, with her hands open an eager to embrace the needs of others, and whose hair and clothing bespoke of a heavenly heritage. Behind Generosity came Humility, a woman of diminutive stature, her eyes downcast, but of great beauty. Temperance and Generosity and Humility were all welcomed by Nature. Generosity and Humility's clothing also showed pictures:
On the these garments [of Generosity] a picture, unreal but credible by reason of the sophistic delusion inherent in painting, damned with the disgrace of anathema men who are afflicted with the notorious crime of Avarice.

. . .

There [on Humility's garment], inscribed in invented stories, could be read how in the catalogue of virtues Humility shines forth with the standard of distinction, while Pride, suspended by the brand of excommunication from the sacred synod of virtues, is condemned to the exile of ultimate banishment.

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