Moon Fruit ["Dum Diane vitrea" Third Stanza] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
A Fruitful Opening
That Spontaneous Spark
Closing

{Handle it, but don’t hold it, the poem counsels. Image found on a blog called Imprint.}

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Abstract

Some of the virtues of sex are indirectly extolled.

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Translation

“Oh how fruitful is that remedy of drowsiness,
Which tempestuous cares and sorrows sedates!
So long as it steals up to sore open eyes,
themselves a sweet joy of love to have.”
(“Dum Diane vitrea” Stanza 3)

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Recordings

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

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A Fruitful Opening

The opening pun of this week’s stanza is, thankfully, something that works in both languages.

“Felix” may not unerringly translate into “fruitful” but it’s one of many possibilities, just as one could say that there are many English synomnyms for “fruitful.” In any case, this is about as subtle as it gets, since the rest of the poem is just a celebration of sex.

Turning back to the pun in line one, though, it’s possible that the play on the word fruitful/felix, could be a reference to the fertility rate of having sex during this waking interval.

But even something like the Domesday book didn’t keep records of when children that women managed to carry to term were conceived down to the hour, so the potency of the hours between midnight and second sleep isn’t really something we can check.

It’s possible, though, that since the two hour window of wakefuless would be the best time for sex from a social/scheduling point of view (one of the few times you wouldn’t be toiling away at your daily labour, eating, or, well, sleeping), that this is billed as the ideal time.

After all, it’s not like that was the only time that medieval people knocked boots. Any time at which they could gain a private moment they’d do it, just as we do. There’s no particular evidence that I can cite for that, but it’s definitely something that just stands to reason.

With that sort of sexual freedom from a temporal standpoint, it makes sense that an authority like the Church would try to suggest an ideal time for sex.

It’s a cold view of what is through-and-through a love poem, but since the “Dum Diane vitrea” was written in Latin, and Latin was the language of the Church and the educated (who were educated by the Church), it’s not outside of the realms of the probable that this poem is a propaganda piece aiming to keep sex in (or move it to) a set time.

This interpretation of stanza three is also supported by the idea that Abelard may have written the whole of the “Dum Diane vitrea.” Having been a victim of wild passions with his student, Eloise, and winding up castrated for his pleasures, he’d be the perfect person to get to sit down and write a stirring love song about how sex should be kept in the appropriate place. Make that appropriateness cosmic, and you’ve got a powerhouse on your hands.

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That Spontaneous Spark

Once we get to line three, things heat up a bit further.

At this part of the stanza we get the conditional “So long as” (“Dum”). So, though the exclamation effectively closes the statement that covers lines one and two, we also have to consider sex something that sneaks up on a person.

In other words, it can’t be a cold duty between a married couple (assuming that those are the people the poem addresses), but rather something spontaneous.

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Closing

Check back here on Thursday for the rest of Wiglaf’s mourning, and the return of the cowardly thanes!

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Fading Light, Rising Passion ["Dum Diane vitrea" Second Stanza] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Sleeping on It
Setting Speculation in a Bed of Structure
Closing

{The evening star, shining bright within the embrace of coming night. Image found on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day webpage.}

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Abstract

Some action parallel to that of the previous stanza occurs, as the evening star fades.

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Translation

“As the light of the evening star fades,
Charm’s humour is given to
The drowsy dew of fleeting passion.”
(“Dum Diane vitrea” Stanza 2)

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Recordings

Watch for the recordings of the whole poem once its translation is fully posted (around November 20).

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Sleeping on It

Time is a tricky thing to pin down when it’s not referred to with a clock reference.

All the same, this brief stanza looks like it’s about the point in a typical night when people would rise from sleep for a brief period to do some night activities. This dual-phase sleep practice goes back to the pre-artificial light days, when people would go to bed around sunset, wake around midnight and then go back to bed two hours later until day break.

It might sound a little useless to sleep in bursts like this, but aside from the practical purposes (like guard shifts), sleeping in two phases seems to make the mind more perceptive and to really help cognition (just ask any regular napper).

More to the point for our poem, with this bi-phasal sleeping pattern in mind this stanza describes the influence of Venus, the evening star (“Hesperus”) on the people as they sleep. This stirs their passions and their loins as “the drowsy dew of fleeting passion” (“roris soporiferi
mortalium generi”) falls upon them.

To be more direct, the couples in the poem have sex – one of the many things that people would do during their nightly two hour vigil. And an activity that’s quite perfectly suited to that time between sleeps. After all, you’d be out working all day and probably a little to weary and weighted to be in the mood for sex before sunset, but after that initial rest, your mind would be relaxed, your loins would be fired,and you’d be ready for it.

So perhaps the action of last week’s stanza wasn’t so much about the power of palour to assauge the woes of a person’s public life and to soothe them as it was simply about the moon rising (since it would be the middle of the night) when people woke after their first shift of sleep.

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Setting Speculation in a Bed of Structure

As per how these two stanzas work together, this one doesn’t seem to be moving anything forward, rather it just describes another act that goes on during the action of the first stanza.

As Diana rises in the moon and the stars come out, the evening star fades and its influence over the sleepers is complete as they awake and are ready to consummate the desire of their hearts.

Structurally, it’s also likely that this stanza would work as the first chorus of this poem as a song. After all, it is from the “Carmina Burana” – a collection of such songs. Further, this stanza’s brevity also suggests that it’s a chorus.

Yet, however “Dum Diane vitrea” develops from verse to chorus to verse to chorus and onwards will need to be seen next week.

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Closing

Leave your thoughts on my theories in the comments for today’s entry, and check back here on Thursday for how the poet portrays Wiglaf’s immediate reaction to Beowulf’s death.

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Moon Love ["Dum Diane vitrea" First Stanza] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Liminal Evening
Sister to the Stars
Lifting the Cloud of Unloving
Closing

{The moon and stars looking ready for a night out. Image found on NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” website.}

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Abstract

The poem begins like so many days: with the dawning of the sun as a stand in for love.

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Translation

“When Diana’s glassy torch rises late
And is kindled by her rosy brothers,
A pleasant breath of wind lifts
the etheric cloud from all couples;
Thus she softens emotive power
And immoveable hearts, which
Towards the pledge of love she sways.”
(“Dum Diane vitrea” Stanza 1)

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Recordings

Since this is a poem, it will be recorded as a whole and then posted as a whole once it’s been completely translated. Once that happens, and all of the individual stanzas have been posted, an entry will be dedicated to looking at the poem as a whole. This entry will also include a complete recording.

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Liminal Evening

What is “Diana’s glassy torch”? Is it the final light of evening? Or is it the way that the sun reflects from the curvature of the earth so that we can still see some light even though the sun’s already set. Whatever it is, it makes it clear that this stanza is about a liminal moment.

That is, this moment is one between two set, concrete points of time – the day and the night.

Yet, even with this stanza’s liminality established, what is it that causes this cloud that’s apparently settled over couples to lift?

As far as can be told from this stanza, it’s just the switching over from day to night.

The most relevant aspect of this transition seems to be that it’s a move from the outward show of day toward the private and unknown night.

The reference to Diane’s mysterious brothers (or allies, “fratris”) supports this interpretation, after all, only when night has fully arrived do the stars emerge.

And that’s just what her brothers are – the stars.

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Sister to the Stars

For, Diane is the moon and her glassy torch is the moon as it sheds its pale light, so her rosy allies are the stars. Why they’re described as being rosy is unclear, unless it used to have a meaning along the lines of self-luminescent. A person with rosy cheeks is usually blushing, and a rose itself is red – a colour that is vibrant enough to pull in human attention.

With all of that out of the way, just what is the cloud that settles over couples?

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Lifting the Cloud of Unloving

Since this cloud is dispelled as the moon rises and the stars come out, it sounds likely to be the troubles of the day. The moon, accompanied by the stars gives such a different atmosphere that it changes the context of perception and allows people to forget their troubles.

Perhaps, along with factors of wealth and work, this is also why palour was sought after among women in classic ideas of beauty – just as Diane’s pale light could inspire lovers to come together, so too could the palour of a young woman be considered a palliative against the troubles of the day. Maybe such paleness was also important because it helped to wash away whatever troubles a husband/lover experienced in the public sphere.

Th public/private binary is definitely an interesting thing to apply to this poem since it already invokes the binary of night and day (through implication), but it’s also problematic.

Medieval life wasn’t exactly one that leant itself to privacy – walls were thin, roads were narrow, and small towns banded together not to be cliquey and such, but because it was necessary for survival and protection.

As a result, private/public would be better represented as public/less-public, in that at least around the house (most) people wouldn’t be intentionally watching you.

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Closing

Next week’s stanza continues along the way of love and calls on a lot of night imagery, so perhaps we’ll see all of these ideas come into play again then. In the meantime, leave your own thoughts in the comments, and watch for Beowulf’s final farewell on Thursday.

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Shining a Light Fore and Aft

Welcome to the first Sunday Edition of A Glass Darkly.

In keeping with the themes of my other entries in this blog, since Sunday is named for the Sun, these entries will shine a light on what I did related to my writing over the previous week, while also using that light to peer ahead into the next. Yes, there will be lists, but there’ll also be a little bit of description. Let’s get to it.

As you might remember from the last “Update Entry” I made, I wrote that I was going to provide an update every three days rather than every two. That was back on Monday, and so things have sort of slackened on that end of things.

However, I’m now yanking that slack and drawing in the last parts of that blog update for this Sunday entry. So, in the future, those sorts of blog updates will come out every Sunday. In the meantime, these entries will be all about my writing efforts.

Over the past week, here’s what I’ve done for the sake of my fiction and poetry writing:

  • Re-organized the schedule of A Glass Darkly to better accomodate my fiction and poetry writing;
  • Come up with the climactic moment for my current fantasy novel (Working title: Dekar 4);
  • Made notes for a number of short stories;
  • Done some world building for that fantasy series I’m working on (the world’s cosmology, history, and magic system, specifically);
  • Compiled a list of Canadian science fiction magazines.

As a refresher, here are the things still outstanding from the blog update of August ’12:

  • Send out two short stories to magazines
  • Outline entirety of the fantasy novel I’m writing
  • Completed 10 of those chapters
  • Completed the next act (4 scenes) of an audio drama I’m working on

It’s my hope that I’ll have all of these wrapped up come next Sunday.

Until then, don’t miss tomorrow’s creative writing entry and Friday’s look at Luke Wilson and Samuel L. Jackson’s Meeting Evil over at A Glass Darkly. Plus, on Saturday, you’ll be able to find the newest “Annotated Links” at that blog as well.

And keep an eye out for Tuesday’s translation of a poem possibly written by Peter Abelard (of the famed pair of star-crossed medieval lovers Héloïse and Abelard), “Dum Diane vitrea,” followed by Thursday’s look at Beowulf’s burial instructions here at Tongues in Jars.

Oh, you might also have remembered that I mentioned a video game blog that I’d be starting up soon. I still intend to start it sooner rather than later, so watch for a link in future entries.

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Fortune Beguiled? ["O Fortuna," Third Stanza] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Final Notes
Sorrow maybe made Joyous
Closing

{Lady Fortune likes to greet those she favours with a fist bump – for obvious reasons. Image found on Doctor Michael Haldane’s Translation Homepage.}

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Abstract

The poem’s speaker finally gives in under the crushing weight of Fortune, and laments, calling all others to join him.

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Translation

Ah Fortune, you do invert
My health and my power,
Ay do you torture me with desire and weakness.
Now without hindrance let us strike
The chord in time, lament loudly with me,
For Fortune foils even the fortunate.
(“O Fortuna”, 3rd stanza)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Final Notes

Once more, the translation above is not entirely literal – but that’s just not my modus operandi.

Though the most altered line is the final one. Not that the original Latin (“quod per sortem sternit fortem”) doesn’t come out to something similar when translated literally, word for word (“which by fortune overthrow the strong”). It’s just that the above translation dwells less on the words of the original and attempts to delve more into the sense of those original words.

The basic idea is that Fortune treats everyone equally, regardless of their merits. What better way to express that in English than to match “Fortune” with “fortunate”? Plus, though not necessarily a quality in thirteenth century Goliardic poetry, the alliteration is also very English.

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Sorrow maybe made Joyous

Now, although this poem ends on a pretty down note, one phrase is curious. In the original Latin it is “mecum omnes plangite,” in the above translation it’s “lament loudly with me.” What’s interesting here is that, though it’s framed by the sorrowful “lament” the speaker calls for everyone to come together to lament Fortune’s tyranny.

But, what usually happens when a bunch of people get together (even medieval people)? A cracking party ensues – of one sort or another.

So it might be something that’s coming from looking a little too deep, but including the call for everyone to come complain with him suggests that the speaker is aware that Fortune is not the only thing that runs in cycles.

It could be that he’s trying to start some kind of spirit boosting gathering, even if it’s just a bunch of monks getting together and moaning about their misfortunes. Unless they’re all Dominicans, chances are one will tell a joke or relate a misfortune that another will chuckle at, and things will go up from there.

Or, of course, they’ll reason that this Fortune stuff is all pagan nonsense and go off to read the loose-parchment copies of the story of Christ jousting against Satan that they’ve hidden in their bound books of theology.

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Closing

Come Thursday, Wiglaf is in the dragon’s hoard and does some hoarding of his own – while the poet ornaments his tale with a brief meditation on the dragon.

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Fortune Bemoaned ["O Fortuna," Second Stanza] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Quick Notes
Fortuna’s Subtlety
Translating Poetry can be Torturous
Closing

{Another of Fortune’s wheels? Image found on Wikipedia.}

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Abstract

The speaker further builds on his complaint against Fortune.

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Translation

“Ah, Fortune, vast and void,
On your spinning wheel idle health ay turns to bad standing;
Both ever dissoluble, viewed but darkly,
Yet always to me seeming vainly lovely
As you bring your laughing, desecrating lash
To my naked back.”
(“O Fortuna”, 2nd stanza)

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Quick Notes

If you look at the translation offered on Wikipedia, and then at the one that I present here you’ll probably notice some differences. Once more, they’ve been made to keep the medieval flavor of the poem more or less intact.

Line 4 might be going a bit too far with its phrasing, but nothing was ever said about the poem’s original flavor being mild.

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Fortuna’s Subtlety

In fact, torture is clearly at play here. The wheel as a torture device was used in the middle ages, and the poem was written right in the middle of this period, sometime in the thirteenth century. But even then, there’re the final two lines of the stanza that explicitly mention a “laughing, desecrating lash” (ludum, ) that is brought to the speaker’s “naked back.”

There’s really no question that torture imagery is at play here. This might even be building on the subtle dominance of women peeked at in the first stanza of the poem.

Though they lacked prominence in places of power, their influence, however subtle and unseen in history books, cannot be overlooked. Even through to today, women who are villains (and even heroines) more often than not work their schemes through wit and wiles rather that brawn and brawling.

The binary stereotype that men are strong and women are smart (though usually not book smart) has persisted for a long time, and “O Fortuna” definitely looks like a medieval manifestation.

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Translating Poetry can be Torturous

Although it might be a unique variation, what does it mean for the sort of torture imagery here (variably the breaking wheel, and fortune’s laughingly lashing a person’s back or taking her “pleasure” (“ludum”) on a naked back (“dorsum nudum”))?

The Latin word used for “laughter” or “pleasure” is “ludum.” This word refers to things like laughter, play, jests, or just a generally fun, interactive time. So how does that relate to being whipped?

On the one hand it could be a bit of the repressed seeping through. In the middle ages those who could write and had the means to do so were trained by the Church. So, it could be that the whip is “laughing” as well as “desecrating” because it injures the body that god created while also relieving the pent up desires that that body has through taking on pain: a feeling as extreme as pleasure.

On the other hand, the above translation does take some license in coming out with “As you bring your laughing, desecrating lash/to my naked back.” The poem in Latin reads “…ludum dorsum nudum…,” all three of those words are together, but it’s not entirely clear what’s doing what.

If they all create a single direct object phrase (since they are in the accusative case), then any order could be used. “Laughing naked back,” “back laughing naked,” “naked back laughing.” Even if any of these are used, the element of fun remains in the act of torture.

The only real change in meaning that results from these variations is that the laughter’s moved from the whip to the speaker’s back: the gashes opened by the whip being likened to the open mouth of someone laughing.

In either case, this is definitely a poem that has more going on than another, more pious piece translated earlier.

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Closing

Check back here on Thursday when Wiglaf views the hoard for the first time, helped by the luminescence of a battle standard.

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Fortune Bewailed ["O Fortuna," First Stanza] (Latin)

Introduction
Abstract
Translation
Translation Notes
A Few Words on the Moon
Closing

{A picture of the page of the Carmina Burana manuscript, where “O Fortuna” first appears. Image found on Wikipedia.}

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Introduction

I’ve chosen to spend the next three weeks with “O Fortuna” because of it’s wide popularity, because of my own curiousity, and because I wanted to be clear on just what the lyrics are.

Although in the coming weeks I’ll be back to my trusty pocket Latin dictionary, today’s translation was done with the help of Google Translate and InterTran. Rather than just presenting a literal translation though, some parts have been embellished in an effort to keep something of a medieval feel.

Recordings of this poem will be posted, but not until all three stanzas have been translated and posted.

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Abstract

Fortune’s instability is bemoaned, and the extremity of bad fortune rather than that of good fortune is dwelt upon.

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Translation

“Oh Dame Fortune, as variable of state as the &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbspmoon,
Ever waxing, ever waning –
Ah execrable life – now firm, now full of cares,
A game for the sharp-minded,
Down in the depths of poverty –
As does ice you too often melt away.”
(“O Fortuna,” 1st stanza)

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Translation Notes

Along with moving the words of the poem from Medieval Latin to Modern English, I’ve also made some other changes to it as part of the translation. Some of these changes involve leaving things just as they are, while others involve me taking some poetic license with words or phrases. What follows is a general overview of these changes.

Literally, the second line reads “ever rising, or ever falling” (“semper crescis aut decrescis”). This literal translation captures the sense of a person’s fortune rising or falling, using senses of those two verbs that are still commonly understood.

However, the above translation makes the case that the second line is supposed to describe the first line’s simile further. The words “waxing” and “waning” are still used of the moon specifically, but their otherwise medieval flavour is one of the things done to keep the original medieval feel of the poem.

Punctuation is another thing that was altered.

In the version from Wikipedia, there’s a comma after the first line, a semi-colon after the second, and a comma after the fourth and fifth. However, because the last line refers back to Fortune herself, everything from line three to line five has been put between em-dashes.

These em-dashes mark lines three to five as the diversion that they are. For these lines aren’t about Fortune directly, but are about the wretched uncertainty of life under such a constantly shifting power.

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A Few Words on the Moon

That the power of Fortune is represented by the moon shows that the poem’s original composer had a sense being under such consistent inconsistency. Yet, although much of this stanza focuses on the ills of Fortune and of being on the bottom of her wheel, the fact that she uses a wheel does instill some hope; just as the moon will grow full and light the night after being absent.

Moreover, in addition to being linked with shifting Fortune, the moon was also associated with virginity in the medieval world. The two are connected in medieval thought because of the moon’s classical association with the ever-virgin Roman goddess Diana.

This association with virginity may be working in “O Fortuna” to imply that Fortune is not only fickle and ever-changing, but also impossible to impregnate. That is, you cannot change Fortune from outside of Fortune, if you wanted to somehow alter your Fortune you would need to have some sort of “in” with Dame Fortune.

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Closing

Come Thursday, Beowulf will give Wiglaf his penultimate command, and the young thane will run to the hoard to fulfil it.

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