Thursday, December 29, 2016

Latin Reader (3): De secretis Naturae.

Here is an item for the Alchemical Latin Reader from Atalanta fugiens which is online at Hathi Trust and also at Dresden; the Dresden copy is the source I used for the image below. I chose this one because it shows up in Roos; see the Roos post (and comments!) for more context. There's also a Wikipedia article about this fascinating book.

Here is a full-sized view of the image. For a hand-colored version, see Adam McLean's websiteEmblem XXXVI.

If you look closely, the alchemical symbol for Mercury is hidden in the picture.

XXXVI. De secretis Naturae.

36. Concerning Nature's secrets

Lapis projectus est in terras, et in montibus exaltatus, et in aere habitat, et in flumine pascitur, id est, Mercurius.

The stone (Lapis) has been cast (projectus est) onto the lands (in terras), and it has been lifted up (et exaltatus) in the mountains (in montibus), and it abides (et habitat) in the air (in aere), and it feeds (et pascitur) in the stream (in flumine), i.e. (id est) Mercury (Mercurius).

Vile recrementum fertur Lapis atque jacere
Forte viis, sibi ut hinc dives inopsque parent.
Montibus in summis alii statuere, per auras
Aeris, at pasci per fluvios alii.
Omnia vera suo sunt sensu, postulo sed te
Munera montanis quaerere tanta locis.

And the stone (atque Lapis), vile refuse (vile recrementum), is said to lie (fertur jacere) by chance (forte) along the ways (viis), so that thus (ut hinc) rich and poor (dives inopsque) come across it (sibi parent). Others have stated (alii statuere) that on the highest mountains (montibus in summis), by the breezes of air (per auras aeris) it is fed (pasci), but others (at alii) that is is fed by the rivers (per fluvios). All these things (omnia) are true (vera sunt) in their own meaning (suo sensu), but I advise you (postulo sed te) to seek (quaerere) such great gifts (munera tanta) in the mountain places (montanis locis).

There is also a musical rendering, and I even found audio recordings at YouTube! Here is what the Wikipedia article says about the pieces of music that accompany each epigram: "An epigram in verse set to music in the form of a fugue for three voices - Atalanta, or the vox fugiens; Hippomenes, or the vox sequens, and Pomum objectum (Apple) or vox morans. "Atalanta fugiens" is a play on the word fugue."

This one has a vocal performance:

There is some good stuff in the discussion that accompanies the epigram also, invoking the story of Medea as a prophetess and illustrating how a lump of earth can possess arcane powers:

Quid gleba terrae communius? Attamen Euripylus Neptuni filius eam Heroibus Argonautis pro xenio obtulit, ex qua non recusata, sed grato animo accepta, post dissoluta in aqua Medea multa vaticinata est.

What is more common (Quid  communius) than a lump of earth (gleba terrae)? Yet Eurypylus (Attamen Euripylus), the son of Neptune (Neptuni filius), offered it (eam obtulit) to the Argonaut heroes (Heroibus Argonautis) as a gift (pro xenio). It was not rejected (non recusata) but accepted (sed accepta) in a grateful spirit (grato animo), and then (post ) from it (ex qua), dissolved in water (dissoluta in aqua), Medea (Medea ) made many prophecies (multa vaticinata est).


  1. Listening to the music now ...

    1. Isn't that wild? I don't know a lot about fugue music, but it's very haunting. I guess this will be a go-to book for me doing this project. It's so cool that each emblem I work on would have its own musical accompaniment! :-)