Mais a cestuy enfer povons nous descendre par trois voyes.
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William himself is responsible for initiating this habit at least in the telling of the Orpheus legend, for he abandons the strictly Boethian details and adds the late classical story of Aristaeus, which he took from the Vatican Mythographies. Aristaeus, through the transvaluation beloved by allegorists, becomes Virtue, which seeks to lift Desire from earthly things.
Desire flees Virtue and descends to the pleasures of the world.
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One effect of such repeated narrations was to minimize the allegorical interpretation as the translators sought additional narrative details to enliven and distinguish their redactions. Je i sui venuz por ma femme, que est morte novelement.
To the narrative texture of the earliest version, the Burgundian also added other medievalizing details. En coer cui Dieu amours adourne. The story of Tytius follows, in eighty lines, and for this the Anonymous had to turn elsewhere for information. It begins with a retelling of the Ixion story but quickly passes into a lengthy dramatized narration of the judgment of Paris, in which Juno, Pallas, and the victorious Venus are seen as representative of the active, contemplative, and worldly lives.
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Finally, the translator returns to Orpheus for thirty-two concluding lines which lightly finish with a musical lesson:. The first is that the translator is quite aware of the structure of his narrative. Before showing the one important effect this has, I should perhaps instance a couple of examples of this contrived scholarship. Instead of attempting to harmonize their accounts, however, the Anonymous simply exhausted the interest that each had for him and then moved on. Thus, because Vincent noted that Boethius mentioned both Arion and Orpheus in his discourse on music, the Anonymous acquired one reason for interpolating the story of Arion into his translation.
But something quite different emerges from the translation just surveyed. As the Anonymous of Meun begins to multiply and elaborate on the sinful characters inhabiting hell, our interest turns to them and especially to the variety of reasons for their presence there. And as he elaborates on Orpheus as a failed contemplative, we can begin to discern in the whole collection of these persons something of a typical medieval panorama of the deadly sins.
In Ixion we see the prideful seeker of personal glory; in Tantalus both the angry and the covetous man; and in the first Tytius, the lustful man guilty also of vaunting pride, while in the second Tytius, we have a more complex kind of Faustian pride in his knowledge and ability to prophesy. Where in this spectrum lies the sin of Orpheus? Our first comparative glimpse comes in the characterization of Arion as a figure puzzled by his good fortune:.
Where Hercules opts for the active life—a taste for which he inherited from Juno—and Paris chooses the blandishments of Venus, Orpheus is exhibited as too passive and enervated to concentrate on the gift of Pallas: a life of disinterested contemplation of such things as the music and mathematics exalted earlier. Thus, I think it is possible to see in Orpheus a victim of the medieval equivalent of the Boethian disease itself: the sin of acedia. Concerning the kind of reallegorizing I am attempting here, Siegfried Wenzel offers a valid caution in his study of acedia.
In the sequence of equivalents of pride, anger, lust, and avarice that we see in the repeated portraits of Ixion, Tantalus, and Tytius, the association of Orpheus with tristitia and torpor animi allows us to fill the gap left for a victim of sloth; and, secondly, the positive portraits of Hercules, Paris, and the lucky Arion deepen by contrast the sad passivity of Orpheus.
Where William of Conches allegorized out of existence the patent and miserable defeat of Orpheus in Hades, the Anonymous of Meun, then, found in his miscellaneous materials the makings of a portrait of Boethian sloth. Thus the narratives based on the elaboration of the Consolatio by the Latin commentaries occasionally came to ignore the associated allegorical interpretations, because the fictive details accumulated by the translators were more easily structured by popular medieval schemata—such as the seven deadly sins—than by those arguments of interest to Neoplatonists.
I think this interpretation of the significance of the Orpheus legend is retained in the much-revised copy that appears in the only other manuscript of the version by the Anonymous of Meun: B.
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But the MS, so far from being negligible, is remarkable, I believe, and that for the evidence it offers of a real attempt at significant structural revision of the story so as to eliminate the very repetitiveness to which Thomas objected. That is, he may have decided that the story of Arion and some of the following matter on Calliope was of sufficient tangency to allow him to go on with the rest of the Orpheus story and return if time permitted. Other conjectures are of course possible, but it is the substantive revision of the latter part of the Orpheus material that is of greatest interest.
Before the large gap, this second MS lacks only eight lines from the copy in MS —except for initial lost folios—but after the gap the compression is considerable. The two sections of new matter, however, are treated more cautiously. Only four lines are dropped from the final relation on Tytius, and these do not affect the new interpretation derived from Trevet. In all, the repetitive second half of the Orpheus meter is reduced by some lines without significant loss of detail important to our understanding of the perils of Orphic paralysis.
The deduction to be made from all this is that some medieval editor attempted to overcome one of the structural defects of eclecticism by making a narrative of cleaner lines, and it was on rewriting the exclusively narrative passages that the revisor expended his greatest effort. The first two-thirds of the poem consist of fifty-two seven-line stanzas devoted to a somewhat aureate narration of the legend. The first narration has been adapted to the succeeding commentary by the inclusion of the Aristaeus episode and the naming of the Furies.
When we narrow the focus from these structural matters to view the texture of the poem on Orpheus written by the Anonymous of Meun, we can see even more clearly how far we have come from an exclusive interest in moralization on the way to the delight in pure narrative exhibited by Renaut de Louhans. For example, William of Conches had supplied the Anonymous with the barest details of the fables of Ixion and the judgment of Paris.
I quote a bit of the latter:.
Vnde in fabulis invenitur quod tres dee Iuno, Pallas, Venus iudicio Paridis que dignior esset aureo pomo quesierunt, quia Iupiter diffinire noluit. Quod non fuit aliud quod tres vite sunt, scilicet teorica id est contemplativa, practica id est activa, philargiria id est voluptaria. Et ponitur Pallas pro contemplativa, Iuno pro activa, Venus pro voluptaria.
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Quod potest probari per premia que promittuntur Paridi. Pallas namque promittit sapientiam quia contemplatione fit aliquis sapiens. Iuno divicias quia per activam vitam acquiruntur divicie. Venus promittit feminam quia in ea est maxima voluptas. Iste tres dee pro pomo certant, id est pro beatitudine, quia unaqueque videtur facere beatum. Sed Iupiter hoc noluit diffinire ne libertatem arbitrii videretur auferre. Vnde querunt iudicium Paridis, scilicet cuiuslibet hominis. Sed Paris adquiescit Veneri quia maxima pars hominum consentit voluptati.
But Dame Venus has the longest, most persuasive speech and the most insistent character. Paris responds by throwing the apple at her feet and pledging himself to her in perfect courtly homage. In contrast, the version of the Orpheus meter by Renaut de Louhans represents the ultimate stage in the gradual rejection of explicit moralization in favor of the temptations of the integument, although it could have been written no more than two decades after the work of the Anonymous of Meun.
The narrative is everything. We have seen in the progress observed in this chapter something like a structural reflex of the situation described by Donald R. Howard in his study of Chaucer, Langland, and the Pearl -poet. We have, in effect, the replacement of the allusive, rhetorical Boethian mode by an explicit, narrative one, after an hermeneutic interlude.
The story of Orpheus had served Boethius as an exemplary allusion to the necessity for the good man to keep his eye on celestial things. Scholastic commentary explicated and rationalized the appearance of this pagan myth in its revered authority by allegorizing it, but medieval scholarship also contributed to the accumulation of additional narrative traditions. Villon, Le Testament, In the discussion thus far we have seen some examples of that terminology in operation.
When the medieval translators elaborated on the allusions to classical myth and history in the Consolatio, they were exercising their right to gloss and comment, define and describe, diminish or augment. In this final chapter we shall be looking at the ultimate stages of those processes heretofore discriminated, but the evidence will differ in two ways from that considered earlier. Part of the process of medievalizing the Consolatio consisted in submitting this valued text to the currents of poetic experimentation running so strongly through the century of Machaut and Deschamps.
The meters had received continuous attention, of course, throughout the Middle Ages, both from scholars and poets. This revision may stand as a sign of the times, for the only translations to be restricted to single metrical schemes throughout the text were the first mixed version and that by the Anonymous of Meun, and the latter, as we have seen, enormously elaborated his version in other ways. In his wholly verse translation, Renaut de Louhans used eight-line stanzas for his prologue and Book I—except for one meter—and then changed to couplets for Books II through V, again with the exception of two stanzaic interpolations.
In his interpretation of the second meter of Book I, Renaut experimented by turning it into six twelve-line stanzas riming a a b a a b b b a b b a. A closer look at these variations will, I hope, demonstrate the vitality of formal experimentalism as an aspect of medievalization as well as show the diverse effects of such efforts on the Boethian meaning. For the epitome in MS B. I see three states. The second, and most common, state is represented by MSS B.
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