Monday, December 26, 2016

Latin Reader: Virtus Unita Fortior

Okay, I had really sworn off new Latin projects a few years ago (after my school turned down every request I made to teach Latin over a ten-year period... yes, even I can learn, eventually, to stop banging my head against the wall, ha ha). But now, with this new alchemy project, I don't think I can resist: this combination of image and text is irresistible. So, slowly but surely, I am going to start piecing together a Latin Alchemical Reader, focusing on the words that appears in emblematic images along with the Latin texts that might accompany the image. Of all my hobbies, Latin is apparently the one I cannot give up no matter how hard I try!

So, for the first item in the Alchemical Latin Reader, I want to use the image that I found in this book by Baro Urbigerus. The book is in English, but the emblematic frontispiece is in Latin. The book's title pretty much says it all: Aphorismi Urbigerani, or, Certain rules clearly demonstrating the three infallible ways of preparing the grand elixir, or circulatum majus of the philosophers : discovering the secret of secrets, and detecting the errors of vulgar chymists in their operations : contain'd in one hundred and one aphorisms : to which are added, The three ways of preparing the vegetable elixir, or circulatum minus / all deduc'd from never-erring experience by Baro Urbigerus. It's online at Hathi Trust.

The title page describes Baro Urbigerus as "a servant of God in the Kingdom of Nature," but who was this fellow exactly? It's not clear at all. The CERL Thesaurus says only "Pseudonym e. unbekannten Alchimisten, vermutl. aus England." So, our Baron Urbiger gives us a mystery to begin with. I wonder if we will ever know who he was!

Here is the emblematic frontispiece; I will translate the Latin bits one by one:

Virtus unita Fortior. Vigor (virtus) united (unita) is stronger (fortior). 

Nil sine vobis. Nothing (nil) without (sine) you (vobis). The "you" is plural. 

Per Nos omnia. Through (per) us (nos) everything (omnia). 

Pulchritudine tua captus sum. By your beauty (pulchritudine tua) I am captured (captus sum). The speaker is masculine (Apollo paired with Diana), as indicated by masculine captus.

Ulterius te vinciam. Further (ulterius) I will bind / would bind (vinciam) you (te). 

Regeneratio tua in mea Potentia. Your regeneration (regeneratio tua) is in my power (in mea Potentia).
Per te vivam. Through you (per te) I will live / would live (vivam). 

The book contains a "postscript" which is a commentary on the emblematic image: you can see what you think of the interpretation provided!

~ ~ ~

Having in our One Hundred and One Aphorisms so perspicuously laid open all the Difficulties, and so amply taught the compleat Theory and Practice of the whole Hermetic Mystery, that any ingenious Lover of Chymistry will not only be enabled to understand the most abstruse writings of the Philosophers, but also to effect any real Experiment, which is to be expected in the Progress of our Celestial Art; and yet being apt to believe, that such, as are not our Disciples, may perhaps meet with some of the Philosophical Figures, the meaning of which they may not so easily comprehend, we have judg'd it highly experient, in the Front of this our little Book to place this our Figure, by which, being a perfect Compendium of all the Philosophical Emblems, the rest maybe without any great difficulty understood. Now since this our Figure, mystically representing all our subjects and Operations, cannot but admit of many and various Interpretations, all which if we should here set down, our Aphorisms (where they are already delivered, and of which this would then be a Repetition,) would be altogether useless and insignificant: we therefore at first esteemed it very superfluous to give any farther Illustration of it. But our desire being to do all the good, we can, to the Public, we have on second Thoughts resolved with our wanted Brevity to deliver the following Explanation for the better Comprehension both of It and our Aphorisms. The Tree is a Supporter of the Motto, Virtus unita fortior: which, being to be read from the side of the Serpent, representing by the Half-Moon on its Head the Planet, under whose Influence it is born, is to be referred to it according to its particular Motto, which signifies, that, if you take it alone, it can do little or nothing in our Art, as wanting the Assistance of others. By the Green Dragon is to be understood our first undetermined Matter, comprehending all our Principles, (as is demonstrated by the Half-Moon on its Head, the Sun in its Body, and the Cross on its Tail,) and denoting by its Motto, that it can perform the whole work without being joined with any other created or artificially prepared thing: which is our first way. But this our Dragon, when copulating with our Serpent, is forced to comply with her, degrading itself from its undetermined Being for the production of our second way. Apollo with the Sun on his head, and Diana with the Half-Moon, embracing each other, shew our third way, and the Continuation of our first and second. The River, into which they descend, signifies the State, they must be reduced into, before they can be in a Capacity of being born again, and before in any of our three ways they can be brought to a perfect Spiritualization and Union. Apollo and Diana, coming out of the River in one wonderful Body, Diana having obtained all, represent our Herculean works, ready finished, and the beginning of their Conjunction, and by their going to set their foot on firm, ground, where she is to sow the noble Fruits for the Procreation, is to be understood the Continuation of their Conjunction, till they are fully united and perfected. In this Scheme also, as well as in our Aphorisms, are mystically exhibited all the principal Points of Faith and Religion, comprised in the Volumes of the Old and New Testament: whence it manifestly appears, that the Contemplation of Nature truly leads to the Comprehension of those heavenly Verities, by which alone we can expect to arrive at the Enjoyment of that blessed Immortality, to which, as to the true and ultimate End of our Creation, all our Endeavors are to be directed.

~ ~ ~

I also found this commentary online, extracted from The Golden Game by Stanislas Klossowski De Rola p. 307, note 497 (1988, and quite rare; the used copies online are very expensive!).

'Virtue united is stronger.' (Virtus unita fortior.) The virtue inherent in the Seed produces the miracle of the Tree. As the acorn becomes the oak, so does the Stone of the Philosophers grow into the Philosopher's Stone. Nil sine vobis, 'Naught without you,' says the mercurial Snake with the martial tail, to his opposite number the winged Dragon with the saturnine tail. Per Nos omnia, 'Through us, everything,' answers the latter who, being the symbol of the Materia Prima, contains its future potentialities.

'I am a captive of thy beauty,' whispers Apollo to his sister Diana, indicating his incestuous designs (and the initial domination of the female in their tryst). 'I will vanquish thee yet further,' answers Diana, pointing to the rising Waters of Dissolution. The hieroglyph, which is in the place of an arrow on her bow, is the symbol of Gaea, the Earth, which indicates the kind of earth that must be dissolved in their fiery embrace. On the other side of the Tree, as the waters recede, the Rebis~Hermaphrodite emerges, and his/her lunar face addresses its alter ego (the Sun): 'Thy Regeneration is in my power.' The other face gratefully exclaims: 'By thee [living water] I shall live.'

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