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.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nature's Complaint: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 14 and Conclusion

GENIUS MAKES HIS ENTRANCE AMIDST JOYFUL MUSIC. He wears a coat of many colors, displayed seriatim: purple, then hyacinth, then scarlet, then white. On his garments flash, but briefly, too fast for mortal eyes to see, images of objects, so ephemeral is an individual life in the context of eternity. Genius has a reed-like pen in his right had that never rests. In his left, a parchment made of animal hide, in fact, a palimpsest, as it has been written upon, erased, written upon over and over again since the beginning of time, and will be erased and written upon again and again until time's end. On the palimpsest, "with the help of the obedient pen, he endowed with the life of their species images of things that kept changing from the shadowy outline of a picture to the realism of their actual being," in qua styli obsequentis subsidio, imagines rerum ab umbra picturae ad veritatem essentiae transmigrantes, vita sui generis donabantur. Alan of Lille's philosophy is showing here. On the issue of universals, Alan de Lille is clearly a philosophical moderate realist, and not a nominalist. The species are conceptual, blueprints, as it were, which Genius with his stylus individuates on the palimpsest within degress of freedom so as to make each unique, as they repeatedly are drawn (born) only to be erased (die) in a seemingly endless cycle of individuation of the ideal. Genius is given some freedom within a range of the species, as he can write with either his right hand or his left. If he writes with his right hand, the image is closer to the Ideal. If he writes with his left, it is further from the Ideal. Thus, if he writes with his right hand, Helen appears on the palimpsest as an image of Beauty, Turnus [King of the Rutulians] an image of impetuosity, Hercules of strength, Ulysses of cleverness, Cato of modest sobriety, Plato of genius, Cicero of speech, Aristotle of philosophical expression. If he writes with his left hand, instead of Helen shows up ugly Thersites. Instead of Cicero, who used his rhetorical gift for truth, Genius's left hand draws us Sinon, who used his rhetorical talent to deceive the Trojans. Instead of dexterous Plato, a genius among philosophers, appears sinistrous Ennius, a poet without genius.

Gustav Klimt "Veritas Nuda" (Detail)

Truth, Genius's daughter, stood beside Genius. She was the miraculous offspring of the chaste kiss, one of epicene, even mystic, love between Nature and Genius, her son. Truth was dressed in a robe "alight with a never-failing low of red" that never faded, symbol of the Holy Spirit, and which hung so close to her body so that there was no separation possible. Truth was born "at the time when the eternal Idea greeted Hyle [Unformed Matter, Urstoff, from Greek hyle (ὕλη)] as she begged for the mirror of forms and imprinted a vicarious kiss on her through the medium and intervention of Image," cum Ilem speculum formarum meditantem, aeternalis salutavit idea, eam iconiae interpretis interventu vicario osculata. The ternary of Nature, her son Genius, and his daughter Truth, are therefore temporal images of the very relationships between the Eternal Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit--Spiritus veritatis--the Spirit of Truth is linked to the truth in Creation.

Falsehood was the ape of Truth.

Her face, darkened with the soot of ugliness, bespoke no gifts given her by Nature; rather old age, subjecting her face to the hollows of wrinkles, had gathered it all over into folds. It was plain to see that her head was not clothed with a veil of hair and it had no robe to cover its baldness: rather, a countless assemblage of rages, joined by limitless conjunction of threads, had woven a garment for her. This one, secretly lying in wait for the picture of truth, disgraced by deformity whatever truth graced by conformity.Cujus facies turpitudinis nubilata fuligine, nulla in se naturae munera fatebatur, sed senectus faciem rugarum vallibus submittens, eam universaliter implicans collegerat. Caput nec crinis vestimento videbatur indutum, nec pepli velamentum excusabat calvitiem, sed panniculorum infinita pluralitas, quos filiorum pluralis infinitas ei texuerat vestimentum. Haec autem, picturae veritatis latenter insidians, quidquid illa conformiter informabat, ista informiter deformabat.

Nature, Genius, and Truth gather together, and Genius, hand in air to enjoin silence, utters the following formal declaration of excommunication against man, for having shunned the virtues, courted vices, and thereby taken arms against Nature, Genius, and Truth. First the verdict.

O Nature, it is not without the divine breath of interior inspiration that there has come from you balanced judgement this imperial edict, to the effect that all who strive to make our laws obsolete by misuse and desuetude . . . should be struck with the sword of anathema. . . .O Natura, non sine internae spirationis afflatione divina, a tuae discretionis libra istud imperiale processit edictum, ut omnes qui abusiva desuetudine, nostras leges aboletas reddere moliuntur, et in nostrae solemnitatis feria feriantes, anathematis gladio feriantur. . . .

Nature accepted Genius's statement, thanked him, and Genius then changed into his priestly garments. Then in all formality, with his full robes of hieratic office, Genius declares the decree of excommunication.

Henry IV Excommunicated by Pope Gregory VII

By the authority of the super-essential Usia [from the Greek, Ousia (Οὐσία) or "Being")] and his eternal Idea, with the assent of the heavenly army, with the combined aid and help of Nature and the other recognised virtues, let everyone who blocks the lawful path of Venus, or courts the shipwreck of gluttony or the nightmares of drunkennes, or indulges the fire of thirsty avarice, or scales the shadowy heights of insolent arrogance, or submits to the death of the heart in envy, or makes a companion of the hypocritical love of flattery--let every such be separate from the kiss of heavenly love as his ingratitude deserves and merits, let him be demoted from Nature's favour, let him be set apart from the harmonious council of the things of Nature.Auctoritate superessentialis Usiae, ejusque notionis aeternae, assensu coelestis militiae, naturae etiam, caeterarumque virtutum ministerio suffragante, a supernae dilectionis osculo separetur, ingratitudinis exigente merito, a naturae gratia degradetur, a naturalium rerum uniformi concilio segregetur, omnis qui aut legitimum Veneris obliquat incessum, aut gulositatis incurrit naufragium, aut ebrietatis sentit insomnium, aut avaritiae sitiens experitur incendium, aut insolentis arrogantiae umbratile ascendit fastigium, aut praecordiale patitur livoris exitium, aut adulationis amorem communicat fictitium.

Following the judgment of excommunication, Genius follows with the announcement of the sanction against those who have betrayed Nature. What follows is a sort of Dantean contrapasso (or "counterpoise" or "countersuffering"), where the sins are punished by being subjected to a process that either apes or contrasts with the sin being punished.

Let him who makes an irregular exception to the rule of Venus be deprived of the seal of Venus. Let him who buries himself in the abyss of gluttony be punished by a shameful impoverishment. Let him who benumbs himself in the Lethe-flood of drunkenness be harassed by the fires of perpetual thirst. Let him who has burning thirst for gain be assailed by the wants of unceasing poverty. Let him who has raised himself to the top of the precipice of avarice and belches forth his wind of exaltation come down in ruination to the valley of humiliation and dejection. let him who in envy gnaws the riches of another's happiness with the worm of detraction be the first to discover that he is his own enemy. Let him who hunts for paltry gifts from the rich by his hypocritical flatter by cheated by the reward of deceptive worth.
Qui autem a regula Veneris exceptionem facit anormalam, Veneris privetur sigillo. Qui gulositatis mergitur in abysso, mendicitatis erubescentia castigetur. Qui ebrietatis lethaeo flumine soporatur, perpetuatae sitis vexetur incendiis. Ille in quo sitis incandescit habendi, perpetuatas egestates incurrat. Qui in praecipitio arrogantiae exaltatus, spiritum elevationis eructat, in vallem dejectae humilitatis ruinose descendat. Qui alienae felicitatis divitias tinea detractionis invidendo demordet, primo se ibi hostem inveniat. Qui adulationis hypocrisi a divitibus venatur munuscula, sophistici meriti fraudetur praemio

Nature's court applauded the condemnation of the vicious. The candles of the formal rite of excommunication are extinguished.

And the poet, waking from his ecstatic swoon, leaves the presence of Nature and her court.

So the poem ends.


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