Sunday, January 1, 2017

Latin Reader (6): Vade ad mulierem

Today, it's Emblem III from Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens: Vade ad mulierem. Yesterday, we had the Earth-as-Nurse, and today we have an ordinary woman doing ordinary laundry, but she is interpreted as a symbol of the alchemical craft:

Emblem III. Vade ad mulierem lavantem pannos, tu fac similiter.

Go do the woman who is washing clothes; do you the same.

Latin etymology: You can see in that Latin phrase "fac similiter" what will eventually become the English word "fax," i.e. fac simile, "make the same."

For a hand-colored version, see Adam McLean's websiteEmblem III.

Abdita quisquis amas scrutari dogmata, ne sis
Deses, in exemplum, quod juvet, omne trahas:
Anne vides mulier maculis abstergere pannos
Ut soleat calidis, quas superaddit, aquis?
Hanc imitare, tua nec sic frustraberis arte,
Namque nigri faecem corporis unda lavat.

You whoever love (quisquis amas) to examine hidden doctrines (abdita scrutari dogmata), don't be idle (ne sis deses): you should extract (trahas) all that could be helpful (quod juvet omne) as an example (in exemplum). Don't you see (anne vides) how a woman is accustomed (mulier ut soleat) to cleanse garments of their stains (maculis abstergere pannos) by means of hot waters (calidis aquis) which she pours on them (quas superaddit)? Imitate her (hanc imitare): thus you will not be disappointed (nec sic frustraberis) in your technique (tua arte), for the wave washes (namque unda lavat) the residue of the black substance (nigri faecem corporis).

The commentary explains how this "alchemical" process starts with clothes that are dirty (earth) but the woman washes the clothes (water), and then hangs them to dry (air) in the sun (fire). This is the natural art of women alchemists: Haec est ars mulierum, quam ab ipsa natura didicerunt, "This is the women's art which they learned from nature herself."

Next time I do laundry, I will be thinking alchemical thoughts! :-)

Finally, for your listening pleasure:

I'm not sure why Burt Griswold's recording of this particular fugue is not set up for embedding, but you can listen to it at YouTube.

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 XXXVI: Lapis projectus

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