Of Sleep, Nature, and Maidens Bright ["Dum Diane vitrea" Seventh Stanza] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Euphemisms and Implications
So What
Transformations
Closing

{Edmund Spenser’s Una with the lion and the lamb, a maiden bright indeed. Image found on Wikipedia}

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Abstract

Pure nature comes alive in this penultimate stanza.

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Translation

“As beneath a leafy canopy of trees,
it is so sweet to cease when the nightingale sings.
How sweet to play in the meadow grass
with a bright beauty of a maid,
if there be many fragrant herbs to breath
if there be a bed of roses on which to lay,
oh how sweet the nourishment of sleep
after being exhausted by the chase of Venus’ trade,
which instills such sleepiness.”
(“Dum Diane vitrea” Stanza 7)

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Recordings

The entire poem will be recorded once it’s all been translated and posted.

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Euphemisms and Implications

Where stanza four offered us a look at some quasi-natural imagery, this stanza brings it all back to pure nature. And, as was the case with previous stanzas, the poet’s lingering obsession seems to be on sleepiness after sex.

But, more importantly, the reference to sex is never made directly. “Venus’ trade” (“Veneris commercia”) appears as it did in stanza five, but that is, after all, a euphemism. However, the romp described throughout this stanza can be likened to a sort of Edenic experience, and things that have made their way into modern romance (such as the “bed of roses” (“torum rosa”), make the association between this sort of natural play and sex quite clear.

But so what? The connections are there, but why are they there? Matters of who wrote this poem aside, the question to tackle now is why this poem – up to this stanza – has been written quite clearly about sex in such an indirect way.

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So What?

The lack of direct reference to sex is definitely not suspect considering the poem’s medieval origin. It was only the most bawdy of broadsheets that would refer to sex directly, and even when Chaucer wants to emulate the style of the basest of the base with his Cook he doesn’t reference sex directly but uses the contemporary equivalent of our “fuck” (“swyve” (The Canterbury Tales, l.4422 (or II.iv.98, depending on your edition))).

So the euphemism via natural imagery and the idyllic setting are certainly not out of place. The connection to sex is essentially there because it’s how medieval poets spoke of such things.

After all, the last thing sex was supposed to be then (and some would no doubt argue still is to be in the eyes of the Catholic Church) was fun or pleasurable. People who shared the opinion of the Wife of Bath, that human genitals are there to use, come kids or not, were definitely in the vocal minority. Hence, the need for this sort of natural imagery to create an allegorical window between the subject of a poem like this and readers.

It could be argued that as readers themselves, writers and poets like the composer of “Dum Diane vitrea” would be aware of these sorts of double meanings, but things like poetry and fiction could be dismissed as frivulous entertainments with no deeper meanings (hence there being so much lewdness couched within them).

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Transformations

And what imagery it is! the poet here definitely describes something as any poet should: with brevity, depth, and affect. More importantly, however, is the fact that the image of a forest and a bright maid definitely contrast with the dusk and night imagery from poem’s first stanza.

This shift in tone reflects a shift in the poem’s subjects, from worn out daily toilers to rested and enraptured lovers. And, perhaps that is the poet’s point. That in the eye of the storm that is the everyday, there is to be found a moment of calm, quiet, sunshiny love that inspires poetry, frolics, and fine words.

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Closing

Check back here Thursday for Beowulf!

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