Part 2 of the Guide to a Good Horse [12:47-49] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Two Notes on the Translation
Guide to a Good Horse (Part 2)
Closing

{Those are some formidable limbs, and it almost looks like they’re trembling. Image from FreeFoto.com.}

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Abstract

‎Isidore concludes the medieval guide to a good horse and discusses the Latin word for reddish/chestnut brown (“badius” 12:47).

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Translation

‎[‏47‎] “M‏erit,‭ ‬that is a bold spirit,‭ ‬brisk hooves,‭ ‬trembling limbs,‭ ‬which indicate strength:‭ ‬those who are easily roused from their stillness to their maximum speed,‭ ‬or that are not difficult to be held in their excited hurry.‭ ‬On the other hand a horse’s motion can be perceived in their ears,‭ ‬their power in the tremors of their limbs.

‎[‏48‎] ‏”Color is especially visible:‭ ‬reddish,‭ ‬golden,‭ ‬rosy,‭ ‬myrtle,‭ ‬deer brown,‭ ‬pale yellow,‭ ‬bluish gray,‭ ‬checkered,‭ ‬gray,‭ ‬white,‭ ‬speckled,‭ ‬black.‭ ‬Moreover the sequence must be ordered,‭ ‬black from reddish distinguished,‭ ‬leaving behind varied color or preventing ash gray.

‎[‏49‎] ‏”Moreover reddish was called bay (vadium) of old,‭ ‬which among the other animals made its way (vadat) through strength.‭ ‬Itself is chestnut brown (spadicus),‭ ‬as it is called by the Phoenicians, and was called the color of glory,‭ ‬which the Sicilians called spadicus.‭”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:47-49)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Two Notes on the Translation

First, there is one marked difference between last week’s translation of the guide to a good horse and this week’s.

Last week, the word “meritum” (12:45) was translated as “kindness,” but this week it was translated as “merit.” The reason for the difference is context. Initially, it seemed that translating “meritum” as “kindness” would work best since it makes sense that a horse with a generous spirit is better than one with a mean spirit.

However, the list of qualities mentioned in this week’s translation makes it clear that “meritum” should be translated as “merit.”

Second, the final paragraph is an odd tangle of nouns.

Originally, “Phoenicians” was translated simply as “phoenix” and the second clause of the second sentence read “or called phoenix,” which doesn’t make as much sense. Yet, even changing “phoenicatum” (12:49) to “Phoenician” is not entirely satisfactory, since the sentence seems to be about different names for the same colour, though both are given the same.

Of course, it is possible that this paragraph is supposed to point out some sort of weird parallel between the words that two diverse cultures use, but I don’t know enough about the early medieval Sicilians and Phoenicians to make such a call.

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Guide to a Good Horse (Part 2)

Color’s a given here, but there is a curious idea presented in the description of merit.

This is that the trembling of a horse’s limbs (when idle, it seems) suggests the horse’s power – as if the muscles are so powerful that they tremble and quaver, are simply overflowing with energy, when not in use.

This diagnostic technique for detecting a horse’s power is interesting because it feeds directly into the then popular field of deducing what’s going on inside a body from what’s going on outside of it. This way of looking at things also explains why there’s an order to the colors that are listed, but the meaning of that list is not clear.

Nonetheless, the same principle of externals pointing to internals goes for using the ears as a guide to a horse’s speed.

In a way these two things are perhaps the most secret of ways to tell if a horse is good or not – and thus the most effective – since they’re given such vague descriptions.

Should the muscles tremble when the horse is idle? When it’s just at a trot? Or a when it’s at a full gallop? And what about the ears indicates speed? If they’re kind of pulled back, as they might be when a horse runs so fast that the wind (or the horse itself) pulls them back? Maybe the ear thing is a matter of an early understanding of aerodynamics. And why not?

Though, back then, explanations of how air moves and interacts with other things would have been called something like “aerodynamikos” rather than “aerodynamics.” Ah, well.

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Closing

Check back here Thursday for the next installment of Beowulf. This time, Wiglaf has rushed to Beowulf’s aid, and shares words of support as the dragon draws in for another attack.

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