Tityrus the bellwether in the terrible ram vision of Sedulius Scottus

Dark-browed girl with beautiful glances, all stony-hearted,
embrace me, your goatherd, so that I can kiss you.
There is a sweet pleasure even in empty kisses.

{ ὦ τὸ καλὸν ποθορεῦσα, τὸ πᾶν λίθος, ὦ κυάνοφρυ
νύμφα, πρόσπτυξαί με τὸν αἰπόλον, ὥς τυ φιλήσω.
ἔστι καὶ ἐν κενεοῖσι φιλήμασιν ἁδέα τέρψις. } [1]

Tityros statuette

In Sedulius Scottus’s ninth-century bellwether poem, the stolen, castrated ram Tityrus got caught in a thicket and devoured. Meanwhile, the thief went free. Unhappiness is everywhere. The elderly, quarantined in nursing homes, are dropping dead from COVID-19. Boys and girls in separate households cannot see each other and sing to each other. We are substituting castration culture for the seminal blessing.

On a mountain in Moriah, Abraham bound his son Isaac and prepared to slaughter him for a burnt offering to God. Castration culture and the seminal blessing balanced on a knife-edge. God stopped the stroke of Abraham’s knife. God provided a ram caught by its horns in a thicket as a sacrifice in place of Isaac.

Men castrate rams to make them into more tame and tasty wethers. Wethers can’t multiply themselves. Sedulius credited God with multiplying wethers:

When lofty-powered God created the world’s animals,
which the sea, land, and sky contain,
he multiplied wethers with multiple honors,
and among those bleating, made them leaders.

Into their twin nostrils he scattered proud powers,
through multiple breaths he multiplied them.

{ Cum deus altipotens animalia condidit orbis
quae mare, quae tellus, quae tenet atque polus,
multo multones tunc multiplicavit honore
inter balantes fecit eosque duces.

naribus in geminis sparsit viresque superbas,
flatibus in multis multiplicavit eos. } [2]

Pride is a foul-smelling sin in the nose of Christians, who are grateful to God for their created being.[3] Lacking the seminal blessing carried in twin testicles, wethers comically have pride in their twin nostrils, in their own ability to breathe. Sheep and other bleating animals are known to be stupid. Being a leader among sheep is no great credit. Tityrus was a leader of sheep. He was a bellwether.

castrating lamb

Once men are castrated, they can be exploited more easily. When Iphiklos saw his father Phylakos castrating a ram, he understood and ran away.[4] Castration is the route to being slaughtered. Regarding wethers, Sedulius confessed:

Thus, I confess, my affection for them has increased,
as has my love for their fleece and fat belly.
I swear by these fingers, that in this I never lie:
that I crave them, prize them, always love them,
and not even the river Lethe will obliterate this holy love.
What my mouth proclaims, my mind consciously asserts.

{ Unde mihi, fateor, horum dilectio crevit,
crevit amor pepli, pinguis et umbilici.
Iuro per hos digitos, quod in hoc non mentior umquam:
tales quod cupio, diligo, semper amo
nec Lethes fluvius sacrum delebit amorem.
Os quod proloquitur, conscia mens perhibit. }

The Christian cleric Sedulius didn’t love wethers with the equal partnership that medieval Christianity required of wife and husband. Sedulius, who closely identified with Tityrus, sought to consume them.[5]

Sedulius figured Tityrus as a hero like Aeneas. A thief abducted the wether Tityrus. Then a pack of dogs gave chase. Tityrus was caught in a thicket, while the thief got away. Tityrus was a “pious wether {pius multo}” and a “great-hearted hero {magnanimumque ducem}.”[6] With the ravenous, barking dogs surrounding him, he fought strongly. He inflicted many wounds on the dogs, “who reckoned that the wild animal before them was like a lion {atque leoninam rentur adesse feram}.” That was an ominous simile.[7] Nonetheless, surrounded by vicious dogs, “the distinguished one shined with his pious mouth’s words {egregius fulserat ore pio}”:

“What madness is arising in your hearts?” he said.
“Recognize me, the servant of Bishop Hartgar.
I am not the bad thief, not that petty little pilferer;
rather, I am the pious wether, the eminent leader of the flock.
If for amusement you seek to overcome a tyrannical enemy,
behold, that robber is fleeing nearby. Let’s seize him!
But if to the contrary, your rage and raucous barking
would incite you to bloody war against my tranquillity,
I swear by this head of mine, by these horns, and by
this proud forehead, I will give you the rewards you deserve.”

{ “Quis furor in vestris consurgit cordibus?” inquit,
“Gnoscite me famulum praesulis Hargarii.
Non sum latro malus, non sum furunculus ille,
sed sum multo pius, dux gregis eximius.
Si vos oblectet hostem superare tyrannum,
proximus ecce fugit fur, teneamus eum.
Sin autem rabies vestri raucusque latratus
in me tranquillum bella cruenta ciet,
per caput hoc iuro, per cornua perque superbam
hanc frontem: vobis praemia digna feram.” }

Sedulius himself was a scholar-servant of Bishop Hartgar. He probably also was the leader of a flock of scholars under Hartgar at Liège.

Sedulius had reason to sympathize with Tityrus’s battle against the dogs. Relatively liberal and tolerant medieval intellectual life didn’t repress and censor vigorous and wide-ranging criticism. Sedulius probably was subject to criticism like that which Theodulf in Charlemagne’s eighth-century court directed at the Irish scholar Cadac-Andreas:

And may that wild enemy burn with zeal to criticize,
he whose power now is distant from what he would want near.
He has learned much, but nothing solid, nothing that is certain;
he who is ignorant, yet thinks that he knows all.
He didn’t learn so that he might be able to have wisdom,
but so that he would have weapons ready for contention.
You know much and discern nothing, you many-learned ignorant one!
What more hence should I say? You know, yet you don’t know.

{ Et reprehendendi studio ferus aestuet hostis,
Cui sit posse procul iam quia velle prope est.
Plurima qui didicit, nil fixum, nil quoque certum,
Quae tamen ignorat, omnia nosse putat.
Non ideo didicit, sapiens ut possit haberi,
Sed contendendi ut promptus ad arma foret.
Multa scis et nulla sapis: plura inscie nosti,
Quid dicam inde magis? Non sapis atque sapis. } [8]

Scholars readily regard their biting critics as dogs. What scholar hasn’t at some time or other felt himself to be surrounded by vicious dogs?[9]

Tityrus’s epic speech soothed most of the dogs. But Cerberus, “the dog of Hell {canis inferni},” had a triple tongue like Satan in Prudentius’s The Origin of Sin {Hamartigenia}. Cerberus told his fellow dogs not to allow this wether to deceive them like a bear dressed in a fox’s skin. He called Tityrus a liar and proclaimed, “Like a fox he’s playing his resonant, treacherous words {Ceu vulpes ludit subdola verba sonans}.” Tityrus then shook his horns and smashed Cerberus’s forehead with his own. Tityrus would have been victorious in this scholarly battle, but he fled before striking with the killing article.

Cerberus then rushed in pursuit. When Tityrus got caught in a thicket, Cerberus tore into him repeatedly with blood-stained jaws. The bellwether Tityrus fell dead, “a pitiful sight {miserabile visu},” “bedewing the thorns with his purple blood {irrorans vepres sanguine purpureo}.”

Creation mourned the death of the castrated ram Tityrus. Sedulius presented him as an ordinary, innocent pastoral animal:

What did he merit, being just, simple, without deceit or malice?
Gifts of wine or fermented liquid he didn’t drink,
Drunkenness did not deflect this one from the path of righteousness,
nor did banquets of kings, nor did feasts of nobles.
His usual food was grass in the fields,
and the clear water of the Meuse gave him sweet drink.
He did not greedily desire vestments of crimson and ruby,
but was content with his hide tunic.
He didn’t proudly circle on horseback through green gardens,
but rightly migrated a path on his very own feet.
He was no liar, nor did he speak empty words:
“baa” or “bee” — mystical words he offered.

{ Iustus qui meruit, simplex, sine fraude maligna?
Munera nec Bachi non siceramque bibit;
non hunc ebrietas deflexit tramite recti,
non epulae regum nec procerumque dapes.
Illi pastus erat sollemnicus herba per agros
ac dulcem potum limphida Mosa dabat.
Non ostri vestes rubei cupiebat avarus,
sed contentus erat pellicia tunica;
nonque superbus equo lustrabat amoena virecta,
sed propriis pedibus rite migrabat iter.
Non mendosus erat nec inania verba locutus:
baa seu bee mystica verba dabat. } [10]

Lacking a functioning pipe, Tityrus never played a song. Yet the killing of Tityrus engendered a mythic scene of cosmic sadness as if that lack didn’t matter:

Nymphs wept, all of the woods resounded,
the flock of bleating sheep groaned at the crime.
You, bright two-horned moon, for that snow-white wether
you have shined; rightly you grieve as does Aries in the sky.

{ Fleverunt Nymphae, sonuerunt omnia silvae
balantumque greges ingemuere nefas.
Multonem niveum tu, candida Luna bicornis,
luxisti merito fles Ariesque poli. }

Tityrus was a pagan goatherd-poet and a castrated ram. Sedulius, however, analogized him to Christ and Isaac:

Just as the lamb enthroned on high, the son of God himself,
tasted bitter death for sinners,
so you, taking the path of death, lacerated by wicked dogs,
you perish, pious wether, for that bad thief.
Just as the holy ram became a sacrifice for Isaac,
so you continue to be a pleasing victim for the wretched.

{ Agnus ut altithronus pro peccatoribus acrem
gustavit mortem filius ipse dei,
carpens mortis iter canibus laceratus iniquis
pro latrone malo sic, pie multo, peris.
Quomodo pro Isaac aries sacer hostia factus,
sic tu pro misero victima grata manes. } [11]

Christ was a fully masculine man. Isaac procreated two children. Both Christ and Isaac differed significantly from the bellwether Tityrus.

The hungry, impoverished scholar Sedulius understood Tityrus, “a pleasing victim for the wretched,” in part as tasty meals stolen by dogs. Sedulius offered a concluding epitaph for Tityrus:

To you, good wether, farewell; renowned leader of the snow-white flock,
alas, that my garden will no longer have you alive.
Perhaps, beloved one, a hot bath might have been made for you
for no other purpose than the right of hospitality.
With devout heart I myself would have ministered pure water
to your horned head and to your heels.
You, I must confess, I have desired; now I desire your widow, and your mother,
and your brothers I will always love. Farewell.

{ Tu, bone multo, vale, nivei gregis inclite ductor!
Heu, quia nec vivum te meus hortus habet;
forsan, amice, tibi fieret calidumque lavacrum,
non alia causa iure sed hospitii.
Ipse ministrassem devoto pectore limphas
cornigero capiti calcibus atque tuis.
Te, fateor, cupii, viduam matremque cupisco,
fratres atque tuos semper amabo. Vale! }

With an ironic reference to Tityrus being alive in his garden, Sedulius imagines himself slaughtering Tityrus for the hospitality of sharing a meal. In “Our glory returns {Gloria nostra redit},” Sedulius appealed to his patron Bishop Hartgar for sheep to provide him with parchment for writing.[12] Here, Sedulius seems to be savoring memories of ram soup. As the fate of the bellwether Tityrus shows, castrating males doesn’t serve them well.

castrating boy

When the relatively enlightened European medieval era was ending, a medieval philosopher lamented the further development of castration culture. He observed:

That good man {Pope Paul IV}, who in my youth castrated so many beautiful and antique statues in his great city {Rome} so as not to corrupt our gaze, was following the advice of that other ancient good man {Ennius} who wrote, “The origin of disgraceful acts is baring the body in the city-space.” He should have recognized, as did the mysteries of the Good Goddess in which all appearances of the masculine were banned, that nothing is achieved unless one would also castrate horses and asses and finally all of nature.

{ Ce bon homme, qui en ma jeunesse, chastra tant de belles et antiques statues en sa grande ville pour ne corrompre la veue, suyvant l’advis de cet autre antien bon homme; “Flagitii principium est nudare inter cives corpora”; se devoit adviser, comme aux misteres de la Bonne Deesse toute apparence masculine en estoit forclose, que ce n’estoit rien avancer, s’il ne faisoit encore chastrer et chevaux et asnes, et nature en fin. } [13]

Western crusaders who sacked Constantinople in 1204 melted down Octavian’s triumphant statues of a naked ass-driver and ass. Castration culture promotes a generation of vipers. It ultimately leads to the destruction of human society and all of nature as well.

Let us sing, “Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields.” Translated from urban gynocentrism to the innocence of the countryside, men-abasing gynocentric conventions of love elegy led the goatherd Tityros to lament to his beloved Amaryllis:

My head aches, but you don’t care. I will sing no longer,
but fall dead and lying here the wolves will devour me.
May that be as sweet as honey in your throat.

{ Ἀλγέω τὰν κεφαλάν, τὶν δ’ οὐ μέλει. οὐκέτ’ ἀείδω,
κεισεῦμαι δὲ πεσών, καὶ τοὶ λύκοι ὧδέ μ’ ἔδονται.
ὡς μέλι τοι γλυκὺ τοῦτο κατὰ βρόχθοιο γένοιτο. } [14]

Men must cease to lament passively and pathetically their own destruction. Men must actively join together with women of goodwill and rewrite the Aeneid. They must establish imaginatively a new, humane republic.

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[1] Theocritus, Idyll 3.18-20, Greek text and English translation (modified insubstantially) from Hopkinson (2015). In this idyll, the goatherd Tityros sings outside the cave of his beloved Amaryllis.

Tityrus is a shepherd in Virgil, Eclogues 1. Most scholars think that Theocritus heavily influenced Virgil’s eclogues and that Virgil sought to redirect thematically pastoral poetry. Tityrus became associated with Virgil himself as an author. On the relation between Theocritus and Virgil, Van Sickle (2004). With inspiring dedication to philology, Van Sickle declared:

avena proves to be an example and an instrument. It reveals a poet {Virgil} determined — daring to commit catachresis and risk the charge of cacozelia — and destined to impose his metaphoric mark.

Id. pp. 352-3.

In the archaic Mediterranean world, Tityros / Tityrus apparently was a ithyphallic goat-demon who carried a cornucopia associated with fertility. The name Tityrus is rooted in references to intact genitals:

the Greek word τíτος and the Latin titus means bird used as a synonym both for the γυναικεῖον and the ἀνδρεῖον αἰδοῖον. … The use of the word tityros to signify a reed and a monkey has the same metaphorical meaning as when it is used to signify a bird. The flute called tityrinos, which was made of reeds, was an instrument of revelry.

Baur (1905) p. 165, with n. 4 indicating “reed” > “penis.” The Musimon Tityrus in Ziolkowski (1983a), p. 11, is thus best interpreted as castrated. For other ancient artistic representations likely to be more central to the ancient and medieval understanding of Tityrus, Hoffman (1964).

[2] Sedulius Scottus, About a certain wether torn apart by a dog {De quodam verbece a cane discerpto} vv. 1-4, 9-10, Latin text from Düchting (1970) via Ziolkowski (1983a) pp. 12-18, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. and Godman (1985) pp. 293-301. A Latin text is also freely available in Traube (1896). Ziolkowki notes that the edition of Düchting (1970) supercedes that of Traube. All subsequent quotes from De quodam verbece are similarly sourced.

Sedulius wrote De quodam verbece in Liège between 848, when Sedulius arrived there from Ireland, and 855. Ziolkowski (1983a) p. 1. The narrator of Sedulius’s poem refers to the ram as Tityron (v. 42). I use the Latin form Tityrus, rather than the Greek form Tityros, to connect more clearly to Virgil’s Eclogues.

Sedulius is an imporant forerunner to the eminent twelfth-century poets Hugh Primas (Hugh of Orleans) and the Archpoet. All three wrote begging poems and drinking songs, used nature and animals similarly, and had other sylistic similarities. Jarcho (1928). Sedulius was “the best Carolingian goliardic poet {goliardus Karolinus par excellence}.” Id. p. 578. Sedulius, like Hugh Primas and the Archpoet, sympathetically understood and poetically represented oppressive aspects of medieval men’s lives. Writng in the difficult, early years of the Russian Revolution, Jarcho missed this important point.

Subsequent quotes above from De quodam verbece are (cited by verse number): 13-18 (Thus, I confess, my affection…), 47 (pious wether), 52 (great-hearted hero), 62 (who reckoned that…), 64 (the distinguished one…), 65-74 (What madness is arising…), 84 (Like a fox…), 99 (pitiful sight), 100 (bedewing the thorns…), 105-16 (What did he merit…), 101-4 (Nymphs wept…), 117-22 (Just as the lamb…), 133-40 (To you, good wether…). In v. 99, Traube’s inferior text has “wondrous sight {mirabile visu}.”

[3] See, e.g. Proverbs 8:13, 11:2, 16:18; Luke 18:9-14; James 4:6; Romans 12:16. About 1238, the learned Italian notary-author Albertanus Brixiensis (Albertanus of Brescia) wrote:

Pride is the love of one’s own excellence, and pride makes to the contrary the beginning of sin.

{ Est autem superbia amor proprie excellentie, et fuit initium peccati superbia. }

Albertanus Brixiensis, On love and delight in God and in neighbor and other matters concerning the rule of life {De amore et dilectione Dei et proximi et aliarum rerum et de forma vitae} 4.4 (On pride {De superbia}), Latin text from Bibliotheca Augustana, my English translation.

[4] This apparently archaic Greek myth is preserved in Pherekydes, fragment 33 (scholia to the Odyssey). With some variants, it’s also preserved in two later authors, Eustathius and Apollodorus, Library {Bibliotheca} 1.9.11-12 (1.98-102). For a synoptic review of the surviving evidence, Fowler (2000) pp. 164-9. Displaying modern classical scholarship’s contempt for men’s gendered concerns, Fowler declared of this story about Phylakos and Iphiklos:

There is a fear of castration and anxiety about sexuality. … The myth thus addresses deep-rooted male guilt, fear, and anxiety about sexual inadequacy and rivalry with one’s father.

Id. p. 168. These inane abstractions function to obfuscate the reality of castration culture and oppressive institutional expressions of gynocentrism.

[5] Ratkowitsch (1989) argues that Sedulius alludes to himself with Tityrus. Like many scholars, Sedulius apparently felt that liars and slanderers were making false accusations against him. This biographical strand provides an additional interpretive line through De quodam verbece.

[6] “Pious” is a standard Virgilian epithet for Aeneas. Godman (1985) p. 296, n. for v. 47. Sedulius applies that adjective five times to Tityrus. In v. 68, Tityrus declares, “I am a pious wether {sum multo pius}.” Cf. Aeneas in Aeneid 1.378. “I am pious Aeneas {sum pius Aeneas}.” More generally, Tityrus speaks with the diction of an epic hero. Sedulius’s description of Tityrus’s death echoes Aeneid 8.645:  “the thornbush dripped with the dew of blood {sparsi rorabant sanguine vepres}.” Sedulius’s poem shows considerable classical learning with “a bedrock of classical expressions absorbed from Ovid, Persius, and Vergil.” Ziolkowski (1983a) pp. 4, 20-3.

[7] In the Iliad, Achilles is figured as a lion as he prepares to fight Aeneas. Iliad 20.164-73. Just as Achilles is about to kill Aeneas, Poseidon intervenes to save him. Paris killes Achilles near the end of the Trojan War, while Aeneas survives and goes on to found Rome.

In the Aeneid, Turnus is figured as a lion. Aeneid 9.792-6, 10.454-6, 12.4-9. Aeneas kills Turnus near the end of the Aeneid.

In the enormously influential Iliad and Aeneid, central warrior-men figured as lions thus die in combat. So too did Tityrus in De quodam verbece a cane discerpto.

[8] Theodulf of Orléans, “The entire world resounds in your praise, my king {Te totus laudesque tuas, rex, personat orbis}” (Carmena 25) vv. 227-34, Latin text from Godman (1985) p. 160, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. Here’s a freely available Latin text of Theodulf’s poem on Charlemagne’s court. Bischoff (1955) identified the Irishman as Cadac-Andreas. As Godman noted, the second distiche of v. 234 quotes Martial, Epigrams 8.20.2.

Earlier in this verse-epistle, Theodulf used an animal metaphor to threaten an Irishman:

I shall send these kisses to him as long as I live;
these the fierce wolf gives you, ass with long ears.
Sooner will the dog feed the hare or the cruel wolf feed the lambs,
or the cat turn and flee from the timid mouse,
than a Goth will join with an Irishman in a friendly treaty of peace.

{ Cui dum vita comes fuerit, haec oscula tradam,
Trux, aurite, tibi quae dat, aselle, lupus.
Ante canes lepores alet aut lupus improbus agnos,
Aut timido muri musio terga dabit,
Quam Geta cum Scotto pia pacis foedera iungat }

Carmena 25.161-5, Latin text and English translation from Godman (1985) pp. 158-9. The “Goth {Geta}” is an etymological allusion to Theodulf’s own name. Id. p. 158 n. 162ff. The Irishman is probably the same Irishman who is subsequently attacked (Cadac-Andreas), but not necessarily so. Sedulius himself wrote poems using wolves, foxes, and asps attacking sheep as metaphors for the attacks of liars and false witnesses. Ziolkowski (1983a) pp. 5-6. Facebook bans symbolic expressions that dehumanize persons. Such poetry might thus be banned on Facebook.

Theodulf’s attack on Cadac-Andreas is far more extensive than merely the quote above, which provides only the concluding verses. Prior to that quote, Theodulf taunted Cadac-Andreas:

While this is happening, while my poem is being read,
let the miserable Irishman stand there, a lawless and raging thing,
a dire thing, a hideous enemy, a horror of dullness, a terrible plague,
a bane of quarrelsomeness, a wild thing, a great abomination,
a wild thing, a foul thing, a lazy thing, a wicked thing,
a thing hateful to the pious, a thing opposed to the good,
with curved hands, its neck bent back a little,
may it fold its crooked arms across its stupid chest.
Doubting, astonished, trembling, raging, panting,
let it stand there, unstable of hearing, hand, eyes, mind and step.
With swift movement let it repress now one, now another feeling,
at one moment bellowing forth mere groans, at another fierce words.
May it turn now to the reader, now to all the chief men
who are there, it doing nothing rationally.

{ Haec ita dum fiunt, dum carmina nostra leguntur,
Stet Scottellus ibi, res sine lege furens,
Res dira, hostis atrox, hebes horror, pestis acerba,
Litigiosa lues, res fera, grande nefas,
Res fera, res turpis, res segnis, resque nefanda,
Res infesta piis, res inimica bonis.
Et manibus curvis, paulum cervice reflexa,
Non recta ad stolidum brachia pectus eant.
Anceps, attonitus, tremulus, furibundus, anhelus
Stet levis aure, manu, lumine, mente, pede.
Et celeri motu nunc hos, nunc comprimat illos,
Nunc gemitus tantum, nunc fera verba sonet.
Nunc ad lectorem, nunc se convertat ad omnes
Adstantes proceres nil ratione gerens }

Carmina 25.213-26, Latin text and English translation from Godman (1985) pp. 160-1. Godman interprets this passage as “describing a reaction which it was designed to provoke”; it’s an example of Theodulf deploying “a deadly weapon for literary feuds with his enemies.” Id. pp. 12-3. Dieter Schaller has called these verses “hateful invective.” As quoted in Knight (2012) p. 33. Such a labeling would also cause this poetry to be banned on Facebook.

In an extensive, erudite analysis of Theodulf’s verse-epistle, Knight associated it with Virgilian pastoral. She perceptively commented:

Theodulf’s injection of vigorous invective can be seen as restoring a vital element of masculine aggression to an otherwise somewhat emasculated pastoral refraction.

Knight (2012) p. 40. On Theodulf’s attack on Cadac-Andreas, id. pp. 26-9, 32-40. Both the animal metaphors and the issue of emasculation in pastoral connect Theodulf’s verse-epistle on Charlemagne’s court to Sedulius Scottus’s epyllion on the castrated ram Tityrus.

Some scholars today take a more economic approach to literary debates. For example in “Thomas on Van Sickle on Meban on Thomas and Kuipers on Hubbard,” Thomas declared:

I strongly urge all BMCR readers to buy my book immediately (it can be ordered at: {commercial link omitted}), read my chapter, and then go on line and decide whether I should have referred to Van Sickle’s 1976 APA abstract.

That’s a much less poetic approach, but more acceptable to businesses such as Facebook and Amazon.

[9] Cf. Psalm 22:16. In Christian understanding, this verse also applies typologically to Jesus. Ziolkowski (1983a) p. 5.

[10] In medieval Latin, a stupid person might be described as knowing “neither bu nor ba {nec bu nec ba}.” That expression goes back to teaching of the alphabet in schools of the Roman Empire. Petronius’s Satyricon may allude to it. Ziolkowski (1983b). Tityrus knows bu (bee) and ba (baa), and hence isn’t a stupid castrated ram.

[11] This passage associates Tityrus with Jesus, the lamb of God, crucified for sinners. John 1:29, 36. Christians understand Abraham’s offering of Isaac as a sacrifice to prefigure God offering Jesus as a sacrifice. Sedulius also associates Tityrus with John the Baptist. Cf. De quodam verbece vv. 106-7, Luke 7:33 (not drinking wine).

Tityrus being a sacrifice for the bad thief reverses the salvation balance of the good thief and the bad thief in Luke 23:39-43. The bad thief blasphemes Jesus on the cross. God may have condemned the bad thief to Hell. The good thief acknowledges Jesus, and Jesus welcomes him into Heaven.

Scholars have understood De quodam verbece to balance classical allusions, particularly to Aeneas, with Christians allusions to Isaac, Christ, and Christian martyrs. Advocating for a “both and” approach, Kratz stated:

The artistry of Sedulius’ poem turns on the balancing and not the separation of two discordant traditions.

Kratz (1976) p. 322. Similarly, Ziolkowski (1983a) p. 6. The medieval epic Waltharius performs a similar balancing of traditions.

[12] Ziolkowski (1983a) p. 2. Hartgar was Bishop of Liège.

[13] Michel de Montaigne, Essays {Essais} III.5, “On some lines of Virgil {Sur des vers de Virgile},” French text from the Villey & Saulnier (1965) version of the 1595 edition of Essais, my English translation, benefiting from that of Screech (1993) p. 970. Here’s the freely accessible English translation of Charles Cotton (1910).

Paul IV was pope from 1555 to 1559. Ennius was an early Roman poet who died about 169 BGC. Montaigne quotes Ennius as preserved in Cicero, Tusculan Disputations {Tusculanae Disputationes} 4.33.70.

Montaigne further commented:

Now my law-giver {Pope Paul IV} should have also considered, that perhaps a more chaste and fruitful practice is to let women know life as it is early rather than to allow them the liberty to conjecture according to the freedom and heat of their fantasy. In place of the true organs, they substitute, by desire and hope, others that are three times more extravagant.

{ Or se devoit aviser aussi mon legislateur, qu’à l’avanture est-ce un plus chaste et fructueux usage de leur faire de bonne heure connoistre le vif que de le leur laisser deviner selon la liberté et chaleur de leur fantasie. Au lieu des parties vrayes, elles en substituent, par desir et par esperance, d’autres extravagantes au triple. }

Essais III.5, sourced as for previous quote.

[14] Theocritus, Idyll 3.52-4, Greek text and English translation (modified insubstantially) from Hopkinson (2015). These are the final verses of this idyll.

[images] (1) Tityros statuette. Greek, middle to late fifth century BGC. Preserved as accession # 01.7777 in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Image thanks to the Museum of Fine Arts. (2) Johannes Flote and Anton Reite castrating a lamb in Norway about 1910. Photo (with my cropping) by Anders Folkestadås. Thanks to flickr and to the County Archives in Vestland (Fylkesarkivet i Vestland), Norway. (3) Castrating boy. Medical illustration by Charaf-ed-Din. Made about 1466. Preserved in Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris, France). Thanks to Wikimedia Commons. On castration in the ancient Islamic world, Pökel (2014).


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