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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nature's Complaint: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 13

NATURE'S SORROW AND NATURE'S RIGHTEOUS ANGER is shared by all the virtues. The virtues all gathered around her, as nobles around a king, or cardinals around the pope. Nature then announces that she intends to seek justice against mankind for having ousted the virtues from their proper place. She intends to use the faculties and office of Genius to help her in the process against recalcitrant, fallen mankind:

O sole lights for man's darkness, morning stars of a world going down, planks specially devised for the shipwrecked, outstanding harbours for those tossed on the waves of the world, by my mature and deep-rooted knowledge I know what is the reason for your visit, what occasions your coming here, what causes your lamentation, what gives rise to your grief. Men, the only species formed with the quality of humanity, becoming depraved within by the vileness of bestial inconstancy, men, whom I regret having clothed with the cloak of humanity, are trying to dispossess you of your patrimony of a home in the world by totally usurping control on earth and forcing you to return to your home in heaven. Since my interests are at stake when the partition wall between is in fiery flames, sympathizing with your suffering consoling with you in your grief, in your groans, I encounter my own and find my own loss in your misfortune. Accordingly, ignoring no pertinent fact and finding the proper motivation in myself, in so far as I can extend the arm of my power, I will smite men with a punishment commensurate with their crimes. However, since I cannot pass the limits of my strength and it is not in my power to eradicate completely the poison of the pestilence, I will attain what is allowed by my power and will burn with the grand of anathema men who are ensnared in the tangle of the vices that I have mentioned. It is fitting, however, to consult Genius who serves me in a priestly office. With the support and assistance of my judiciary power, with the favour and aid of your assent, let him, with the pastoral staff of excommunication, remove them from the catalogue of the things of Nature, from the confines of my jurisdiction. Hymenaeus will discharge the office of an ambassador to him in the most approved manner: in Hymenaeus the shining stars of eloquence show their light; with him is stored the equipage for a plan of security.O sola humanae tenebrositatis luminaria, occidentis mundi sidera matutina, naufragorum tabulae speciales, Portus mundialium fluctuum singulares! radicatae cognitionis maturitate cognosco quae sit vestri conventus ratio, quae adventus occasio, quae lamentationis causa, quae doloris exordia. Homines etenim sola humanitatis specie figurati, interius vero belluinae enormitatis deformitate dejecti, quos humanitatis chlamide doleo investisse, a terrenae inhabitationis patrimonio vos exhaeredare conantur, sibi terrenum funditus usurpando dominium, vos ad coeleste domicilium repatriare cogentes. Quoniam ergo res mea agitur, cum familiaris paries inflammatur incendio, vestrae compassioni compatiens, vestro dolori condolens, in vestro gemitu meum lego gemitum, in vestra adversitate meum invenio detrimentum. De contingentibus igitur nihil omittens, in me finem proprium consecuta, prout valeo brachium meae potestatis extendere, eos vindicta vitio respondente percutiam. Sed quia excedere limitem meae virtutis non valeo, nec meae facultatis est, hujus pestilentiae virus omnifariam exstirpare, meae possibilitatis regulam prosecuta, homines praedictorum vitiorum anfractibus irretitos anathematis cauteriabo charactere. Genium vero qui mihi in sacerdotali ancillatur officio, decens est suscitari, qui eos a naturalium rerum catalogo, a meae jurisdictionis confinio, meae judiciariae potestatis assistente praesentia, vestrae assensionis conveniente gratia, pastorali virga excommunicationis eliminet. Cujus legationis Hymenaeus erit probatissimus exsecutor; penes quem stellantis elocutionis astra lucescunt, penes quem examinatoris consilii locatur armarium.

Man had, indeed, made war on Nature and the virtues. Man had banished the virtues from their rightful home within man himself, had unjustly dispossessed them was to be rendered by Nature, through the advice and enforcement arm of Genius, the mediator and great high priest of reason. Man was to be excommunicate from Nature and declared renegade, and outlaw. Nature and mankind were at war. And Hymaneaus was appointed ambassador by which the message was brought to men. So it is, Alan of Lille's view, that the state of marriage determines the state of a people. It is in marriage and family life that we find Nature's judgment for man's rejection of virtue and the acceptance of vice. In the words of John Paul II at Perth, Australia on November 30, 1986: "As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." (John Paul II, Homily, 30 November 1986). A country that suffers from rampant divorce and remarriage (serial polygamy), single parents, cohabitation, homosexual "marriages," contraceptive unions, and abortion is judged already. Virtue is ostracized; vice welcomed; Nature's judgment follows; as the first execution of the judgment against mankind is a levy against marriages and family life as they fall apart and social evils follow.

Music then breaks forth, and the poet describes each instrument and its effect on men: the trumpet (tuba), horn (cornu), cither (cithara), lyre (lyra), pipes (fistula), drums (cursum), organs (organa), cymbals (cymbala), pentachord (pentasonae), psaltery (psalterii), and the sistra (sistra). It is as if these instruments, so varied and so uniquely able to elicit a particular response from men, are symbols of the virtues, and how each, though an instrument of Nature has its own subtle means of forming the character of he who welcomes it habitually.

While Hymanaeus was attending to his diplomatic duties, and Nature composing an elegiac oration of her complaints, she thought of a vice that, more than any other, deserved reproof. For it, more than any other, had corrupted the nobility that it had been given as the foster-child of Generosity (Largitate), and more than any other corrupted the other virtues. The vice was the most virulent of moral cancers. It was Prodigality. Prodigalitate.

"Prodigality" (Illustration for Dante's Inferno) by Salvador Dali

Generosity was deeply affected by Nature's ire towards Prodigality, and Nature and Generosity converse about the seeming inappropriateness of Generosity's grief for her errant, corrupt, and distorted foster-child. Nature seeks to console Generosity. In response to Nature's query, Generosity explains her sorrow:

O first principle of all things born, O special preserver of all things, O queen of the earthly regions, O faithful vicar of heaven's prince, you, who under the authority of the eternal commander corrupt your faithful administration with no leaven; you, whom the entire universe is bound to obey by the demands of original justice: a golden chain of love links me with you as the manifest equality of close kinship requires. He, then, who in putting his nature up for sale by his abominable losses [Prodigality] assails you with the affront of an extraordinary rebellion, revolts against me with teh insolence of an equally shattering attack. Although he may be deceived by a belief in shades and phatoms and think that he is bearing arms under the flag of my interests, and men, decieved by a staged display of prodigality, may scent traces of Generosity in him, yet he is suspended from the benefit of friendly relationship with us by banishment to a far-off place. However, since it is our practice to show compassion for, and sympathy with, the detours of wayward error, I cannot help being moved by the baleful deviation of his foolish will.O nativorum omnium originale principium! O rerum omnium speciale subsidium! O mundanae regionis regina! O suprema coelestis principis fidelis vicaria, quae sub imperatoris aeterni auctoritate, fidelem administrationem nulla fermentatione corrumpis. Cui universitas mundialis originis speciei exigentia obedire tenetur, prout intimae cognitionis expressa parilitas exigit, me tibi aurea dilectionis catena connectit. Illi igitur qui suam naturam damno venundans, te insultu nimiae rebellionis impugnat, mihi coequatae concussionis importunitate repugnat. Qui, quamvis umbratili credulitatis deceptus imagine, meis se credat commilitare comitiis, hominesque histrionali prodigalitatis figuratione decepti, in eo Largitatis odorent vestigia, tamen a nostrae amicationis beneficio longa relegatione suspenditur. Sed, quia nostrum est erroneae divagationis anfractibus compati condolendo, in ejus insensatae voluntatis exhibitione pestifera, non valeo non moveri.

Enter Genius.


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