Sunday, January 8, 2017

Latin Reader (9): Accipe ovum

I'm skipping ahead to Emblem VIII in honor of Mia's mysterious egg, from Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens: Accipe ovum et igneo percute gladio.

Which means: Take an egg (accipe ovum) and strike it (et percute) with a fiery sword (igneo gladio).

For a hand-colored version, see Adam McLean's website: Emblem VIII, and notice that he has chosen to make the egg a nice golden color!

And here's the poem:

Est avis in mundo sublimior omnibus, Ovum
Cujus ut inquiras, cura sit una tibi.
Albumen luteum circumdat molle vitellum,
Ignito (ceu mos) cautus id ense petas:
Vulcano Mars addat opem: pullaster et inde
Exortus, ferri victor et ignis erit.

In the world (in mundo) there is a bird (est avis) more sublime than them all (sublimior omnibus). Let your one concern be (cura sit una tibi) that you seek out its egg (Ovum cujus ut inquiras). A soft egg-white (albumen molle)
surrounds the golden-yellow yolk (luteum circumdat vitellum). Carefully you must strike it (cautus id petas) with a red-hot sword (ignito ense) as is the custom (ceu mos). Let Mars give strength to Vulcan (Vulcano Mars addat opem): and thus (et inde) a chick-like thing will arise (pullaster exortus erit), conqueror of iron and fire (ferri victor et ignis).

The discussion opens with the Roc (Ruc) who is able to carry elephants through the air (here's what that looks like), and Maier mentions several other species of real birds too, but admits that he has no idea exactly what type of bird is referred to in this poem.

The use of the word pullaster is really cool. You will not find the word in the Latin dictionary because it is a compound: pullus is the usual word for the young of some kind of animal, especially a chick (that's the origin of English "pullet"). The suffix -aster means something that is kind of like another thing, but not completely like it. The incompleteness of the resemblance often has a pejorative connotation. You see that in the English word "poetaster" for example: "a person who writes inferior poetry." People have also tried to use the words criticaster, philosophaster, and politicaster in English (among others), but none of those have caught on the way that poetaster has.

I wonder what would happen if Mia were to strike her egg with a red-hot sword of fire, using Mars and Vulcan to hatch the thing!

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 VIII: Accipe ovum
Emblem XXXVI: Lapis projectus

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