Saturday, January 14, 2017

Latin Reader (10): Seminate aurum vestrum

Today, it's Emblem VI from Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens: Seminate aurum vestrum. Last time, I had skipped ahead to do the egg, so now I going back to where we left off.

Seminate aurum vestrum in terram albam foliatam.

Sow your gold into the white, leafy earth.

For a hand-colored version, see Adam McLean's website: Emblem VI.

And here's the poem:

Ruricolae pingui mandant sua semina terrae,
Cum fuerit rastris haec foliata suis.
Philosophi niveos aurum docuere per agros
Spargere, qui folii se levis instar habent:
Hoc ut agas, illud bene respice, namque quod aurum
Germinet, ex tritico videris, ut speculo.

Farmers send their seeds (ruricolae mandant sua semina) into the rich earth (pingui terrae) when it has been made leafy (cum fuerit haec foliata) by their rakes (rastris suis). Philosophers have taught us (philosophi docuere) to scatter gold (aurum spargere) through the snowy fields (niveos per agros) whose condition is (qui se habent) like a slender leaf (folii levis instar). In order to do it (hoc ut agas), consider this carefully (illud bene respice): for you will see (namque videris) that gold sprouts forth (quod quod aurum germinet) from the wheat (ex tritico).

Maier's commentary does not provide a lot of clues to the oddities of this little poem. Alchemy is like farming, but also not like it as we can see here: the philosophers sow, but they do so in the snows of winter. My guess is that the mirror means a reflection, but inverted: left is right, and right is left; spring is winter, and winter is spring. The really interesting part of the commentary to me is where Maier implies that all the agricultural gods of mythology are really just alchemical gods which the common people misunderstood, taking them literally instead of allegorically. I'm not sure what he means by the "Golden Gods," unless perhaps he is referring to the list of gods he just gave, so that Ceres, Triptolemus, Osiris, and Dionysus should not be thought of as agricultural gods (and a goddess, too: Ceres) but alchemical gods who reveal the secrets of gold, "Dei aurei."
So the ancients brought forth (hinc antiqui producerunt) Ceres, Triptolemus, Osiris, Dionysus, the golden Gods (Cererem, Triptolemum, Osiridem, Dionysum, Deos aureos) or those gods involved in chemistry (seu ad chemiam spectantes) as if teaching mortals (quasi docentes mortales) to cast the seeds of the fruits (semina frugum proiicere) into the earth (in terram suam), showing them (monstrantes) farming and viticulture (agriculturam et vitium propagationem) and the use of wine (vinique usum). All these things (quae omnia) the ignorant twisted (ignari detorserunt) to rural endeavors (ad rustica opera), but wrongly (at falso). For these are (sunt nam) the most arcane mysteries of nature (illa arcanissima naturae mysteria) which are hidden from the crowd (quae prae vulgo absconduntur) by these agricultural veilings (hisce agriculturae velamentis) and are made clear to the wise (et sapientibus declarantur).
And now for your listening pleasure — a choral performance or just the musical fugue:

And the following is a list of the emblems I have completed so far:

Emblem I: Portavit eum ventus in ventre suo
Emblem II: Nutrius ejus terra est
Emblem III: Vade ad mulierem
Emblem IV: Conjunge fratrem cum sorore
Emblem V: Appone mulieri super mammas bufonem
Emblem VI: Seminate aurum vestrum
Emblem VIII: Accipe ovum
Emblem XXXVI: Lapis projectus

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