natural and mechanical figures against gyno-idolatry

From the perspective of monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, idolatry is a terrible failing. Men nonetheless are prone to gyno-idolatry. The great classical Roman dispeller of delusions Lucretius vigorously satirized gyno-idolatry. Medieval authors more humanely used figures of natural scenery and nature-driven machines to emphasize the bodily humanity that unites women and men.

Boccaccio’s Corbaccio, an outrageous medieval work of men’s sexed protest, challenged gyno-idolatrous belief that women don’t fart. A specter recounted metaphorically his experience of sleeping with his wife:

What shall I say further to you therefore about the village of Evilhole, placed between two lofty mountains? From here sometimes just as from Mount Etna, first with great thunderclaps and then silently, issues forth a sulfurous smoke. It’s so fetid and repulsive that it pollutes the whole surrounding countryside. I do not know what to say to you about it except that, when I lived near it (for I remained there longer than I would have liked), I was offended many times by such blasts that I thought to die there something other than a Christian death.

{ Che ti dirò adunque più avanti del borgo di Malpertugio, posto tra due rilevati monti, del quale alcuna volta, quando con tuoni grandissimi e quando senza, non altrimenti che di Mongibello, spira un fummo sulfureo sì fetido e sì spiacevole che tutta la contrada atorno apuzola? Io non so che dirmiti, se non che, quando io vicino v’abitai (ché vi stetti più che voluto non arei), assai volte, da così fatto fiato offeso, mi credetti altra morte fare che di cristiano. }[1]

The two lofty mountains are his wife’s buttocks. Men historically have been attracted to women with large buttocks. Evilhole {Malpertugio} was the name of the gate in Bologna through which criminals passed on their way to execution. Evilhole here figures the wife’s anus. Her farting is like volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna {Mongibello} in Sicily. The ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles reportedly committed suicide by jumping into a volcanic crater of Mount Etna.[2] Imaginatively realizing his metaphor, the narrator admits to thoughts of unchristian death: suicide by sodomy in attempting to plug Evilhole. Boccaccio’s Corbaccio was appreciated in medieval Europe as a morally instructive work. Yet some might perceive in it a comic sense.

medieval windmill

John Heywood’s The Play of the Weather, which he composed about 1530 within the circle of the learned and devout Thomas More, similarly treats corporal reality. In this play, persons with different interests petition the god Jupiter for favorable weather. A water-miller seeks more rain and less wind. A wind-miller asks for more wind and less rain. The two millers viciously and ridiculously argue with each other about the relative merits of wind and water. The wise fool Merry-Report interrupts their bickering:

Stop, foolish knaves, for your reasoning is such
that you have reasoned even enough and too much.
I heard all the words that you both have had,
so help me God, the knaves be more than mad!
Neither of them two has wit nor grace
to perceive that both mills may serve in their place.
Between water and wind there is no such discord,
but each mill may have time for use in accord.
This matter I can tell by experience,
for I have my own not far hence,
in a corner together — a couple of mills
standing in a marsh between two hills.
They’re not from inheritance, but by my wife.
She is endowed in the tail for the term of her life
with one for wind and the other for water.
And between them both, I thank God, there stands another.
And, let this be solemnly spoken,
the water gate is no sooner open
then boom goes the windmill even straight behind,
there God help the devil and all they grind.

{ Stop folyshe knaue, for your reasonynge is suche
That ye haue reasoned euen ynonght and to muche
I harde all the wordes that ye bothe haue hadde
So helpe me god the knaues be more then madde
Nother of them bothe that hath wit nor grace
To perceyue that bothe mylles may serue in place
Betwene water and wynde there is no suche set
But eche myll may haue tyme to vse his fet
Whiche thynge I can tell by experiens
For I haue of myne owne not farre from hens
In corner togyther a couple of mylles
Standynge in a marres betwene two hylles
Nat of wherytaunce but by my wyfe
She is feofed in the tayle for terme of her lyfe
The one for wynde the other for water
And of them bothe I thanke god there standeth nother
For in a good houre be it spoken
The water gate is no soner open
But clap sathe the wyndemyll euyn streight behynde
There is good spedde, the deuyll and all they grynde }[3]

Just as in Boccaccio’s Corbaccio, the two hills represent the wife’s buttocks, and the wife farts. This important medieval understanding has now been largely lost, as least in literary works and public discourse.

Merry-Report frankly acknowledges his own bodily limitations. He reports that his wife often has sex with other men: “my water-mill many times is clogged {my water myll many tymes is choked}.” The water miller counsels:

So will she be, though you in working burst your bones,
except that you be perfect in setting your stones.
Don’t worry about the balls — beware your boner.
Yet as to the balls, before you have worked her,
consider if the balls lack good grinding.

{ So wyll she be thought ye shulde bruste your bones
Excepte ye be perfyte in settynge of stones
Fere nat the lydger beware your conner
Yet this for the lydger or ye haue wonne her
Perchaunce your lydger dothe lacke good peckynge }

Merry-Report responds:

So says my wife, and that causes all our quarreling.
She would have the mill grinding, grinding, grinding every day!
But, by God, millers must grind when they may.
So often have I ground that my stones have become very thin,
and all my other gear isn’t worth a pin,
because with grinding and grinding I have been so working
that I have ground a good grinding-rod to nothing.
However, if I stick no better with her,
my wife says she will have a new miller.

{ So sayth my wyfe and that maketh all our checkynge
She wolde haue the myll peckt, peckt peckt euery daye
But by god myllers must pecke when they maye
So ofte haue we peckt that our stones wax ryght thynne
And all our other gere nat worth a pynne
For with peckynge and peckynge I haue so wrought
That I haue pecke a good peckynge yron to nought
Howe be it yf I stycke no better tyll her
My wyfe saythe she wyll haue a newe myller }

Classical Latin literature recognized the epic disaster of men’s impotence. But bodily life is as it is.

Imaginative literature allows persons to perceive what they couldn’t otherwise perceive. That isn’t necessarily fantasies. In fact, even without imaginative literature, humans are fully capable of creating their own nonsense such as gyno-idolatry or belief in misogyny and patriarchy. Imaginative literature like Boccaccio’s Corbaccio and John Heywood’s Play of the Weather helps persons to perceive nothing more than human existential reality.

* * * * *

Read more:

Notes:

[1] Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Corbaccio, section 295, Italian text from Padoan (1994) via the Decameron Web, English translation (modified slightly) from Cassell (1993). The subsequent localization of Evilhole {Malpertugio} in Bologna is from Cassell (1993) p. 138, n. 255.

Boccaccio is thought to have written the Corbaccio about 1355, although Padoan dates it about 1365. Cassell (1993) p. xxvi. Boccaccio wasn’t shunned for having written the Corbaccio. Showing the extent of medieval interest in the Corbaccio, the Florentine notary Ser Lodovico Bartoli translated it into ottava rima about 1387. The Corbaccio was regarded as a “moral tract” for nearly three centuries following its composition. After the fall of the Middle Ages and the long slide to ignorance, repression, and bigotry, the Spanish Church in 1631 placed Boccaccio’s Corbaccio on the index of prohibited books. Id. pp. xxi-ii. Here’s some discussion of modern literary criticism of the Corbaccio.

[2] On Empedocles committing suicide by jumping into a volcanic crater of Mount Etna, Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers 8.69, 8.74. Different stories exist about how Empedocles died.

[3] John Heywood, The Play of the Weather, A new and very merry interlude of all manners of weather {The Play of the Wether, A new and a very mery enterlude of all maner wethers} vv. 710-29, Middle English text from Heywood (1544?), my English modernization. Axton & Happé (1991) is the best current critical edition. It uses the original Tudor spelling. For editions with modernized spelling, Bevington (1975) and Staging the Henrician Court. The subsequent three quotes above are similarly from The Play of the Weather, vv. 739, 740-44, and 745-53.

The Play of the Weather, called an “interlude,” encompasses aspects of morality plays, debate poems, and Shakespearean comedy. Bevington characterized this play as “essentially courtly.” Bevington (1975) p. 990. For context and review of interpretations of this play, Ailles (2013), Mullini (2017), and Staging the Henrician Court.

Merry-Report is the first character called a Vice in an English play. But Merry-Report has characteristics of a Shakespearean fool:

Mery Reporte has not the sinister and mischievous traits of later Vices, nevertheless he already impersonates a Vice’s ability in wordplay, bawdy language, and performance, and such a character’s skill in manoeuvring the plot, albeit a thin one like this.

Mullini (2017) p. 33. On the differences between Vices and Fools, Rycroft (2009).

[image] Medieval windmill: countships grainmill of Zeddam {Grafelijke Korenmolen van Zeddam}, Netherlands. This windmill was built early in the fifteenth century. Source image via Rasbak and Wikimedia Commons.

References:

Ailles, Jennifer L. 2013. “Ecocritical Heywood and The Play of the Weather.” Early Theatre. 16 (2): 185-196.

Axton, Richard and Peter Happé, eds. 1991. The Plays of John Heywood. Suffolk: D.S Brewer.

Bevington, David M. 1975. Medieval Drama. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Cassell, Anthony K. trans. 1993. Giovanni Boccaccio. The Corbaccio, or, The Labyrinth of Love. Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies.

Heywood, John. 1544?. The play of the wether. A newe and very mery enterlude of all maner wethers made by Iohn Heywood. The players names. Iupiter a god. Mery reporte the vyce. The gentylman. The marchant. The ranger. The water myller. The wynde myller. The gentylwoman. The launder. A boy the left that can play. London: W. Middleton. Via Early English Books.

Mullini, Roberta. 2017. “The Play [not only] of the Wether: Gender, Genre, and Wordplay in a Very Early Modern Comedy.” British Institute of Florence. Online.

Padoan, Giorgio, ed. 1994. Giovanni Boccacio. “Il Corbaccio.” In Carlo Delcorno, ed. Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio. Volume 5, Book 2. Milano: Mondadori.

Rycroft, Eleanor. 2009. “The Vice and the Fool.” Staging the Henrician Court. Online.

great Saint Alexander Akimetes’s wicked rationalizing

According to a story that Goscelin of Saint-Bertin heard in the middle of the eleventh century, the anchorite Alexander was highly virtuous. Humble persons understand the risk of temptations and pray not to be led into them. The devil shrewdly seeks great persons like the anchorite Alexander, who became Saint Alexander Akimetes.

monk who had sex with an anchoress and killed a man becomes hairy anchorite in solitude and penance

After stealing a squalling baby girl from her cradle, the devil disguised as a monk brought her to the anchorite Alexander. The devil-monk said:

This baby girl is my sister’s daughter, deprived of both her parents. In pity I took her because she was facing death. From this I have anguish in my soul. It is unlawful to keep her in the cloister under my abbot and entirely impious to abandon her. You with your fraternal holiness and famous solitude are her sole refuge. With mercy as a foster-father you should thus take her and nourish her until she has strength to provide for herself.

{ Hanc sororis mee natam, utroque parente orbatam, collegi miseratus perituram. Hinc angor animi, quia et in cenobio sub abbate meo hanc tenere est inordinatum, et abicere prorsus impium. Tua fraterna sanctitas et famosa solitudo unicum est refugium, ut hanc misercordie alumnus suscipias, et, dum sibi preuidere valeat, enutrias. }[1]

No solitary monk with Christian love could reject a needy baby girl. Alexander the anchorite accepted her and raised her into a beautiful young woman. Then he had sex with her. She became pregnant.

nun shows hairy anchorite their baby

The devil disguised as a monk re-appeared to Alexander and asked about the girl. The hermit, “groaning deeply from the suffering of his conscience {conscientie dolore altius ingemiscens},” confessed his sin. The devil then urged him to commit a terrible crime with elaborate rationalizing:

He was famous for sanctity and advanced in age. Nothing is worse than an elderly apostate. If from the former odor of sanctity were to burst among the people such fetid disgrace, immediately everything would be mixed with uproar and scandal. The whole world, not so much against him as against all holy men, would be armed with hatreds, slanders, curses, mockeries, and reproaches. Everything holy would be cursed by all. He would be more guilty of the ruin of many than of his own crime. There remained for him one remedy, such that by one evil he might extinguish so many evils. Let him slit the throat of the unfortunate woman and bury her along with that crime in the earth, away from the sight of Heaven and all human notice. He could thus more easily be penitent and satisfy divine mercy rather than human madness.

{ illum esse preclarum sanctimonia, prouectum etate, nil turpius sene apostato, si in populum eruperit de priori odore tam feda infamia; protinus omnia turbis et scandalis misceri, totum mundum, non tam in eum quam in omnes sanctos uiros, odiis, detractionibus, maledictis, subsannationibus, conuitiis armari, omne sacrum ab omnibus execrari, illum perditionis multorum magis quam proprii criminis esse reum, unum sibi, ut uno malo tam multa mala extingueret, restare remedium, infelicem mulierem iugularet, et a conspectu celi omnique humana notitia cum scelere terra obrueret, eum facilius penitere et satisfacere posse apud diuinam clementiam, quam apud humanam uesaniam. }

The hermit Alexander, “relying on that good master of perdition {bono magistro perditionis fretus},” killed his “spouse {coniunx}” and buried her body.

The devil then appeared to Alexander and sought to claim him. Doing evil puts one in league with the devil. So the devil said to Alexander:

Ah, most evil of men, now you have become entirely mine. No one has obeyed my suggestions more cruelly than you. Well, lost one, was it not sufficient for you to have debauched without also staining your brothel with blood?

{ Eia, sceleratissime hominum, iam totus meus effectus es; nemo credulius meis suggestionibus paruit. Hem, perdite, non satis erat constuprasse, nisi et lupanar maculasses sanguine? }

In despair Alexander called on Christ. The devil fled in terror. God can overcome any demon. Moreover, Christian tradition offers much compassion toward holy harlots. Shouldn’t men truly sorrowful for their evil acts be offered mercy?

hairy anchorite with chain around his neck led to punishment

Alexander wasn’t redeemed instantaneously. He suffered a long, punishing Ovidian transformation:

Casting himself on the ground, he for three days continuously overflowed with such tears that blood flowed out from his weeping. At last standing up, he had before his eyes an open oak-tree, shining from within as if from golden metal. He approached and attempted to examine it. When he put both hands into it, the tree closed itself and detained the sinner against God. So that I don’t linger too much, there for fifteen years he is said to have stood, content with no other food than falling nuts and leaves, and no other drink than that which the dew and rain gave.

{ Hic triduo continuo affusus humi tantis lacrimis inundauit, ut cruor a fletibus excurrerit. Tandem erectus, quercum patentem, et quasi fuluo metallo deintus relucentem, pre oculis habuit. Accesssit experiendi studio, utque utrasque manus iniecit, arbor se occlusit et Dei preuaricatorem alligatum tenuit. Ibi, ne multum morer, quindecim annos stetisse perhibetur, cibo uel potu non alio contentus quam glandes et folium cadens, quam ros et pluuia dabat. }[2]

Alexander stood with the wood of the tree for fifteen austere years. Christ didn’t offer him cheap mercy.

One day King Gundofor was hunting in the woods. He came upon an old man encased in the tree. That old man was Alexander, who explained his crime and pointed to the woman’s grave nearby. Given the dates and circumstances, the King realized that the girl had been his own baby daughter. When he dug up her grave, he found her body uncorrupted and shining as if she were alive. She had received the bodily honor of a holy martyr. The murderer Alexander sought forgiveness from this holy martyr. Forgiveness involved the specific ritual of her foregoing capability to punish him:

Praying, the father placed the rod of forgiveness into the uncorrupted fingers of his daughter. Having taken it, she cast it from her in the manner of indulgence. At that same moment, the oak-tree, parting, set the captive free. Released from guilt and from long being bound, Saint Alexander sprang forth at liberty.

{ Pater orans festucam remissoriam incorruptis digitis nate imponit, illa susceptam more indulgentis proicit. Eodem momento quercus dehyscens captiuum relaxat, solutusque reatu et diutino nexu sanctus Alexander liber emicat. }[3]

As a martyr, the woman could bless Alexander from Heaven. At her grave site, King Gundofor built a huge monastery, lavished upon it royal wealth, and distinguished it by establishing within it a college of three hundred monks. The King then gave up his throne and himself became a monk there. Penance and forgiveness produced abundant holy fruits.

The monk Goscelin of Saint-Bertin recorded this story of illicit marriage and vicious murder within a long, ardent letter to his beloved nun Eve. She was about twenty years younger than he. Some today would say that’s creepy.[4] It was not so for loved-filled medieval women and men. Goscelin told this story to Eve to show the supernatural goodness and marvelous mercy of God. Medieval Christians believed that “from our evil God remakes his goods {de malis nostris sua bona reformat}.” Even those of us who aren’t medieval Christians might hope that to be true!

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Read more:

Notes:

[1] Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, Comforting Book {Liber confortatorius}, Latin text from Talbot (1955) pp. 104-5, English translation (modified) from Barnes & Hayward (2004) pp. 191-2. All subsequent quotes are similarly sourced from this story of Alexander in Liber confortatorius.

This story of Alexander is “a previously unnoticed example of the ‘hairy anchorite’ story.” Barnes & Hayward (2004) p. 190, ft. 49. On the “hairy anchorite” story type, Williams (1935) and Matheson (2019) pp. 218-24.

This story seems to be more specifically about Saint Alexander Akimetes (died 430 GC). He spent time in solitude in the desert near Antioch. He was also associated with founding of monasteries of Acoemetae {ἀκοίμηται} monks, including a monastery in the Byzantine capital Constantinople. Acoemetae monks celebrated the divine service perpetually through relays of monks. The practice of perpetual adoration continues that tradition.

[2] Ovid tells of Daphne being assimilated into a laurel tree and Myrrha transformed into a myrrh tree. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.525-52 (Daphne) and 10.431-502 (Myrrha). Lucian’s True History tells of men having their bodies joined inseparably to grape trees.

[3] Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:21, Luke 5:17-26. A “festuca {rod}” is possibly a “praetor’s rod (vindicta) laid upon the slave’s head in manumission (Plaut. Mil. Glor. iv. 1, 15; Pers.v. 175).” Peck (1898) via Perseus or Logeion. Using a “rod of forgiveness {festuca remissoria}” isn’t a well-attested medieval practice of forgiveness. On the origins of the idea of forgiveness, Konstan (2010). Jesus associated forgiveness with bodily self-mutilation.

[4] O’Brien O’Keeffe offered an intellectually elaborate interpretation of Goscelin as creepy through the story of Alexander:

I am arguing that the fantasy of Alexander {the devil’s depiction of spiritual disaster should Alexander’s crime be known} shows us that Goscelin’s desire for Eve, here as an obscene filling, requires her death. It is a death he has imagined before in the LC {Liber confortatorius} by ventriloquizing her burial in her cell. Such a death fends off the wicked eye and sly finger and, in ensuring her silence, guarantees Goscelin’s continuing desire for Eve.

O’Brien O’Keeffe (2012) p. 237. That interpretation seems to me to reflect the anti-meninism now pervasive in medieval literary scholarship. Goscelin profoundly loved Eve and surely did want her to have her throat slit. The story of Alexander occurs in Liber confortatorius, Book IV, as part of Goscelin’s extensive exhortation to humility and his descriptions of reversal of fortune and the world turned upside down in Christ.

Hayward and Hollis offered a much more provisional biographic interpretation of Goscelin’s story about Alexander:

If we wish to argue that there is an element of sexual anxiety in Goscelin’s admission of sin in his appeals for the intercession of Eve in Book I, here {the story of Alexander}, if at all, is the narrative reflex of a guilty conscience.

Hayward & Hollis (2004) p. 397. Medieval Christians understood all persons, even women, to be guilty of sin. Men commonly feel sexual desire toward young, beautiful, warmly receptive women. Goscelin may have felt sexual desire toward Eve. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he indulged in lust in his heart or other activities that medieval Christian authorities would regard as sinful. It also doesn’t mean that he felt sexual anxiety or had a guilty conscience. He may have felt instead that he was a healthy heterosexual man.

[images] (1) Hairy anchorite enters seclusion. The devil enticed a monk to have sex with a nun. The monk then killed a miller who witnessed the monk and nun embracing. Feeling guilty, the monk confessed to a bishop. He then became a hairy anchorite and entered seclusion. Illumination in an instance of the Decretals of Gregory IX, edited by Raymund of Penyafort (or Peñafort), with the glossa ordinaria of Bernard of Parma in the margin. This manuscript, commonly known as the Smithfield Decretals, was made between about 1300 and 1340. Detail from folio 117v of British Library, MS Royal 10 E IV. The story of this monk / hermit is painted on the lower margins of folios 113v-118v. (2) Nun shows hairy anchorite their baby. Similarly a detail from folio 133r of the Smithfield Decretals. This image is from the story of a hairy anchorite who had a sexual affair with a nun. It plays across the bottom margins of folios 125v-136v. (3) A hairy anchorite with a chain around his neck is led away to punishment. Similarly a detail from folio 134r of the Smithfield Decretals. The official apparently is holding a rod indicating punishment. Men continue to suffer harsh punishment from unplanned parenthood.

References:

Barnes, W. R. and Rebecca Hayward, trans. 2004. “Goscelin’s Liber confortatorius.” Part 2 (pp. 97-216) in Hollis (2004).

Hayward, Rebecca, and Stephanie Hollis. 2004. “The Female Reader in the Liber confortatorius.” Pp. 385-399 in Hollis (2004).

Hollis, Stephanie, ed. 2004. Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber confortatorius. Turnhout: Brepols.

Konstan, David. 2010. Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Matheson, Anna. 2019. “New Developments in the Study of the Wild Man in Medieval Irish Literature.” Pp. 203-226 in Bouget, Hélène, and Magali Coumert, eds. Quel Moyen Âge?: La recherche en question. Histoires Des Bretagnes. Brest: Éditions du CRBC, Université de Bretagne occidentale.

O’Brien O’Keeffe, Katherine. 2012. Stealing Obedience: Narratives of Agency and Identity in Later Anglo-Saxon England. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Peck, Harry Thurston. 1898. Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York: Cooper Square Publishers.

Talbot, C. H, ed. 1955. “The Liber Confortatorius of Goscelin of Saint Bertin.” Pp. 1-117 in M. M. Lebreton, J. Leclercq, C. H. Talbot, eds. Analecta Monastica: Textes et études sur la vie des moines au moyen age. 3rd series. Studia Anselmiana, 37. Rome: Herder.

Williams, Charles Allyn. 1935. The German Legends of the Hairy Anchorite: with two old French texts of La vie de Saint Jean Paulus. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois.

vision in Clouds: Socratic method doesn’t burn

Strepsiades: Holy Amazon … what a night, Dr. Fauci! Two Ambien, three Tylenol, and only a splitting headache. The cock crow was hours ago. I never got up. The morning wood is gone. Must be the Ambien. If the MiraLAX doesn’t work, I’ll die full of crap.

And there’s my son, a pasty young fellow, farting peacefully, asleep in his silk onesie. He never has to get up to piss, not a prostate problem in the world. He was once a bed-wetting baby. He just grew out of it. Well, I’ll try to sleep like a baby.

Can’t do it. My mind’s racing even with the Prozac. My mother-in-law is going to move in with us and bring along the wife’s three-year-old “consolation” baby. No consolation to me. The kid’s not my son.

The wife says she’s lonely because of the covid lockdowns. The mother-in-law, too. The three-year-old isn’t allowed to get a covid vaccine. Science says. The kid’s going to give me covid. Three-year-old Aristotle is going to kill me. I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!

Phidippides, waking up: Dad, are you alright?

Strepsiades: I’m not alright. You know that!

Phidippides: I thought I heard you say you couldn’t breathe.

Strepsiades: I can’t breathe just thinking of your mother’s three-year-old moving in with us, along with your grandmother. Can’t you teach that old lady to keep herself company with video games like you do? I’m going to die of covid from Ari. The kid’s not vaccinated!

Phidippides: You’re vaccinated.

Strepsiades: But the kid’s not vaccinated!

Phidippides: Don’t worry about it.

Strepsiades: And what about the kid? Do you want your little baby half-brother to die of covid? You know nothing about science. All you do is play video games. Life isn’t a video game. This is serious!

Phidippides: Just let me sleep.

Strepsiades: By Dr. Fauci, I wish I had never married your mother. I was just a farmer, happy with my honeybees, sheep, and pressed olives. Elderberry syrup kept away all illnesses. Nobody could believe how healthy I was. I came to this city to sell some honey. Then your wealthy, haughty, pampered mother gazed on me. The rest is herstory. I’ve felt sick ever since!

Phidippides has fallen asleep while Strepsiades was talking.

Strepsiades: What a calamity! What am I to do? … That’s it! That’s the problem. That’s the solution! Questions aren’t allowed during a public health emergency!

Think of the children. They are particularly vulnerable with their soft minds. A three-year-old must be isolated as much as possible from hearing persons talking. It’s bad enough that I might accidentally ask a question and threaten the safety of my wife’s child. But it’s far, far worse. That scoundrel Socrates is operating a Thinkery right next door to me!

A student calls from outside the Thinkery next door: Teacher! Socrates! Please!

Socrates: Who do you say that I am?

Strepsiades shouts out his window: Stop asking questions! We’re in a public health emergency! Have faith in science!

He rushes out to confront Socrates.

Student to Socrates: You’re a teacher who still teaches.

Socrates: I ask questions. You teach yourself.

Student: I have no one else. The corona virus is killing us.

Socrates: You have the whole world.

Student:

Sunshine, blue skies, please go away.
My school is closed, and my friends have gone away.
With that went my future, my life is filled with gloom,
and day after day I stay locked up in my room.
I know to you, it might sound strange,

but I wish it would rain,
oh how I wish it would rain.

‘Cause so badly I wanna go outside,
but everyone knows that a boy ain’t supposed to cry.
Listen, I gotta cry ’cause crying eases the pain, oh yeah.
People, this hurt I feel inside, words could never explain.

I just wish it would rain,
oh, let it rain, rain, rain, rain,
ooh baby, let it rain,
oh yeah, let it rain.

Socrates:

Come, you gorgeous Clouds, appear.
Show yourselves to this fellow here.
Whether you’re lolling on Olympus now
on pinnacles in drifts of snow,
or whether you set the nymphs in motion,
among the flowers of father Ocean,
or whether the waters of the Nile are sucked
by you in vessels golden-cupped,
or if by Lake Maeotis you
dwell above in steeps of snow,
accept this offering of mine
and let these rituals be benign.

{ ἔλθετε δῆτ᾿, ὦ πολυτίμητοι Νεφέλαι, τῷδ᾿ εἰς ἐπίδειξιν·
εἴτ᾿ ἐπ᾿ Ὀλύμπου κορυφαῖς ἱεραῖς χιονοβλήτοισι κάθησθε,
εἴτ᾿ Ὠκεανοῦ πατρὸς ἐν κήποις ἱερὸν χορὸν ἵστατε Νύμφαις,
εἴτ᾿ ἄρα Νείλου προχοαῖς ὑδάτων χρυσέαις ἀρύτεσθε πρόχοισιν,
ἢ Μαιῶτιν λίμνην ἔχετ᾿ ἢ σκόπελον νιφόεντα Μίμαντος·
ὑπακούσατε δεξάμεναι θυσίαν καὶ τοῖς ἱεροῖσι χαρεῖσαι. }

Clouds enter and sing:

Clouds everlasting,
let us arise,
revealing our dewy bright form,
from deep roaring father Ocean
onto high mountain peaks
with tresses of trees, whence
to behold heights of distant vantage,
and holy earth whose crops we water,
and divine rivers’ rushing,
and the sea crashing with deep thunder.
For heaven’s tireless eye is ablaze
with gleaming rays.
So let us shake off the rainy haze
from our deathless shape and survey
the land, with telescopic eye.

{ ἀέναοι Νεφέλαι,
ἀρθῶμεν φανεραὶ δροσερὰν φύσιν εὐάγητον
πατρὸς ἀπ᾿ Ὠκεανοῦ βαρυαχέος
ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων κορυφὰς ἔπι
δενδροκόμους, ἵνα
τηλεφανεῖς σκοπιὰς ἀφορώμεθα
καρπούς τ᾿ ἀρδομέναν ἱερὰν χθόνα
καὶ ποταμῶν ζαθέων κελαδήματα
καὶ πόντον κελάδοντα βαρύβρομον·
ὄμμα γὰρ αἰθέρος ἀκάματον σελαγεῖται
μαρμαρέαισιν αὐγαῖς.
ἀλλ᾿ ἀποσεισάμεναι νέφος ὄμβριον
ἀθανάτας ἰδέας ἐπιδώμεθα
τηλεσκόπῳ ὄμματι γαῖαν. }

Socrates: Oh elegant Supremes, you have heard my cry and answered me. Now back in my arms again!

He turns to Strepsiades: Did you hear their voices and in concert the bellowing thunder of holy awe?

Strepsiades turns to address the clouds:

O most honored sacred goddesses, to your thunderous claps
I respond with farts, that’s how much I fear.
And right now, if allowed or not, I need to piss!

{ καὶ σέβομαί γ᾿, ὦ πολυτίμητοι, καὶ βούλομαι ἀνταποπαρδεῖν
πρὸς τὰς βροντάς· οὕτως αὐτὰς τετραμαίνω καὶ πεφόβημαι.
καἰ θέμις ἐστίν, νυνί γ᾿ ἤδη, καἰ μὴ θέμις ἐστί, χεσείω }

Socrates:

Don’t be scurrilous like those mediocre comic playwrights.
Quiet! The great swarm of goddesses is moving in song.

{ οὐ μὴ σκώψει μηδὲ ποιήσεις ἅπερ οἱ τρυγοδαίμονες οὗτοι,
ἀλλ᾿ εὐφήμει· μέγα γάρ τι θεῶν κινεῖται σμῆνος ἀοιδαῖς. }

Chorus:

When the moon is in the seventh house,
and Jupiter aligns with Mars,
then peace will guide the planets
and love will steer the stars!

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius,
the age of Aquarius,
Aquarius,
Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding,
sympathy and trust abounding,
no more falsehoods or derisions,
golden living dreams of visions,
mystic crystal revelation
and the mind’s true liberation,
Aquarius,
Aquarius!

Student:

By Zeus, Socrates, I beg you, tell me who they are,
these women who sing so solemnly. Are they mortal heroes?

{ πρὸς τοῦ Διός, ἀντιβολῶ σε, φράσον, τίνες εἴσ᾿, ὦ Σώκρατες, αὗται
αἱ φθεγξάμεναι τοῦτο τὸ σεμνόν; μῶν ἡρῷναί τινές εἰσιν }

Socrates:

Not at all. They are heavenly Clouds, great goddesses for idle persons.
From them we receive judgment and dialectic and intellect,
and fantasy, endless talk, and power of verbal thrust and parry.

{ ἥκιστ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ οὐράνιαι Νεφέλαι, μεγάλαι θεαὶ ἀνδράσιν ἀργοῖς,
αἵπερ γνώμην καὶ διάλεξιν καὶ νοῦν ἡμῖν παρέχουσιν
καὶ τερατείαν καὶ περίλεξιν καὶ κροῦσιν καὶ κατάληψιν. }

Leader of the chorus:

Friend, either you’re closing your eyes
to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
by the presence of a Thinkery in your community.
Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here
I say, trouble right here in Athens City.
Why sure I’m a certified doctor,
certainly mighty proud I say,
I’m always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
with a book in my hand are golden –
helps you cultivate horse sense
and a cool head and a keen eye.
Ever take and try to find
an iron-clad thought for yourself
on a four-part vaccine shot?
But just as I say,
it takes judgment, brains, and maturity to score
in the learning game.
I say that any boob can take
and shove a thought in a body
and I call that sloth
the first big step on the road
to the depths of deg-ra-day–
I say, first, Socratic talk with a great aunt,
then books from a library!
An’ the next thing ya know
your son is questionin’ too freely
in philosopher’s clothes
and list’nin to a big out-a-town thinker
asking questions about opioid treatin’,
not wholesome science respectin’, no!
but a case where they think things out for themselves!
Like to see some stuck-up thinkin’ boy
questioning Dr. Fauci? Make your blood boil?
Well, I should say.
Now, friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six levels of true science.
Levels that mark the diff’rence
between a scientist and a bum
with a capital “B,”
and that rhymes with “T” and that stands for think!
And all week long your Athens City
youth’ll be fritterin’ away,
I say your young men’ll be fritterin’
fritterin’ away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
Get the thought out for questionin’,
never mind doin’ what science be saying,
or the store-door notice or the newest mandate.
Never mind pumpin’ any water
’til your parents are caught with the cistern empty
on a Saturday night and that’s trouble.
Yes, you got lots and lots of trouble.
I’m thinkin’ of the kids with curiosity,
Greekless young ones, peekin’ in the think
hall window after school, ya got trouble, folks!
Right here in Athens City.
Trouble with a capital “T”
and that rhymes with “P” which leads to Q for questioning!

Now, I know all you folks are the right kind of parents.
I’m gonna be perfectly frank.
Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes
on while they’re loafin’ around thinkin’?
They be tryin’ out Plato, tryin’ out Horace,
tryin’ out Latin lit like cigarette fiends!
And braggin’ all about
how they’re gonna cover up Socrates with jive talk.
One fine night, they leave the Thinkery
headin’ for the dance at the Arm’ry!
Cynic men and Latin-speaking women!
And Roman elegy, scienceless music
that’ll grab your son, your daughter,
with the arms of Ovid’s animal instinct!
Mass-staria!
Friends, the active brain is the devil’s playground!
Trouble!

Chorus:
Oh, we got trouble.

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus leader:
With a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus leader:
We’ve surely got trouble.

Chorus:
We’ve surely got trouble!

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City.

Chorus:
Right here!

Chorus leader:
Gotta figure out a way
to keep the young ones in science after school.

Chorus:
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…

Chorus leader:
Mothers of Athens City!
Heed that warning before it’s too late!
Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption.
The moment your son leaves the house
does he take with ’em his dog-eared ancient Greek dictionary?
Is there a hexameter lilt in his dinner prayer?
A Greek novel hidden in the corn crib?
Is he starting to memorize lines from Virgil’s Aeneid?
Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
Words like, like “epic”?

Chorus:
Trouble, trouble, trouble!

Chorus leader:
Aha! And “the tears of things”?

Chorus:
Trouble, trouble, trouble!

Chorus leader:
Well, if so my friends,
ya got trouble.

Chorus:
Oh, we got trouble

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus leader:
With a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus leader:
We’ve surely got trouble!

Chorus:
We’ve surely got trouble!

Chorus leader:
Right here in Athens City!

Chorus:
Right here!

Chorus leader:
They be readin’ Oedipus, Socrates, and Diogenes.
Oh, we got trouble.
We’re in terrible, terrible trouble.
That study with the ancient, odd-shaped letters is the devil’s tool!

Chorus:
Devil’s tool!

Chorus leader:
Oh yes we got trouble, trouble, trouble!

Chorus:
Oh yes we got trouble here! We’ve got big, big trouble!

Chorus leader:
With a “T”!

Chorus:
With a capital “T”!

Chorus leader:
Gotta rhyme it with “P”!

Chorus:
Gotta rhyme with “P”!

Chorus leader:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Chorus:
Which leads to Q for questioning!

Strepsiades:

So that’s why they compose verses like
“dire downdraft of humid clouds zigzaggedly braceleted,”
and “locks of hundred-headed Typhus,” and “blasting squalls,”
and “airy scudders crooked of talon, birds swimming on high,”
and “rain of waters from dewy clouds.” Then, as their reward,
they stuff themselves with huge fish fillets and thrush cutlets!

{ ταῦτ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἐποίουν “ὑγρᾶν Νεφελᾶν στρεπταίγλαν δάϊον ὁρμάν”,
“πλοκάμους θ᾿ ἑκατογκεφάλα Τυφῶ”, “πρημαινούσας τε θυέλλας”,
εἶτ᾿ “ἀερίας διεράς”, “γαμψούς τ᾿ οἰωνοὺς ἀερονηχεῖς”,
“ὄμβρους θ᾿ ὑδάτων δροσερᾶν νεφελᾶν”· εἶτ᾿ ἀντ᾿ αὐτῶν κατέπινον
κεστρᾶν τεμάχη μεγαλᾶν ἀγαθᾶν κρέα τ᾿ ὀρνίθεια κιχηλᾶν. }

Student: Are these really clouds? I see some ordinary women wearing sheep-fleece dresses. Do clouds have noses that look like human noses?

Socrates:

Have you ever looked up and seen a cloud resembling a centaur,
or a leopard, or a wolf, or a bull?

{ ἤδη ποτ᾿ ἀναβλέψας εἶδες νεφέλην κενταύρῳ ὁμοίαν
ἢ παρδάλει ἢ λύκῳ ἢ ταύρῳ }

Student: Yes, yes I have. So what?

Socrates:

Clouds turn into anything they want. Thus, if they see a long-haired doctor,
one of these furry types like Rachel Levine, they mock her obsession
by making themselves look like centaurs.

{ γίγνονται πάνθ᾿ ὅτι βούλονται· κᾆτ᾿ ἢν μὲν ἴδωσι κομήτην
ἄγριόν τινα τῶν λασίων τούτων, οἷόνπερ τὸν Ξενοφάντου,
σκώπτουσαι τὴν μανίαν αὐτοῦ κενταύροις ᾔκασαν αὑτάς. }

Socrates continues:

Now think. Men’s risk of dying from covid is about twice that of women. Is Rachel Levine’s risk from covid like that of a woman or a man?

Student: Abstract gender category doesn’t control risk particularity.

Strepsiades: Stop your hateful thinking before you’re beaten or imprisoned. Thinkers like Socrates asking questions is why my wife’s three-year-old can’t move in with us. If it weren’t for questions, that kid would already be vaccinated.

Socrates:

Learn from your own experience.
Have you ever gorged yourself with soup at the Panathenaea
and then had an upset stomach, and a sudden turmoil sets it arumble?

{ ἀπὸ σαυτοῦ ᾿γώ σε διδάξω.
ἤδη ζωμοῦ Παναθηναίοις ἐμπλησθεὶς εἶτ᾿ ἐταράχθης
τὴν γαστέρα καὶ κλόνος ἐξαίφνης αὐτὴν διεκορκορύγησεν }

Student:

By Apollo I have! It does carry on terribly and shake me up,
and like thunder that bit of soup crashes and roars terribly,
gently at first, pappax pappax, and then stepping up the pace, papapappax,
and when I shit it absolutely thunders, papapappax, just like those clouds!

{ νὴ τὸν Ἀπόλλω, καὶ δεινὰ ποιεῖ γ᾿ εὐθύς μοι καὶ τετάρακται,
χὤσπερ βροντὴ τὸ ζωμίδιον παταγεῖ καὶ δεινὰ κέκραγεν,
ἀτρέμας πρῶτον, παππὰξ παππάξ, κἄπειτ᾿ ἐπάγει παπαπαππάξ·
χὤταν χέζω, κομιδῇ βροντᾷ, παπαπαππάξ, ὥσπερ ἐκεῖναι. }

Strepsiades: I’m going back into my house to get more social distance from you two. You should keep quiet and stay safe.

Going back into his house, Strepsiades sees his mother-in-law talking with her grandson Phidippides.

Grandmother singing:

I can turn the gray sky blue,
I can make it rain whenever I want it to,
oh, I can build a castle from a single grain of sand,
I can make a ship sail, huh, on dry land,
but my life is incomplete and I’m so blue,
’cause I can’t get next to you.

I can fly like a bird in the sky,
hey, and I can buy anything that money can buy,
oh, I can turn a river into a raging fire,
I can live forever if I so desire,
unimportant are all the things I can do,
’cause I can’t get next to you.

I can turn back the hands of time,
you better believe I can,
I can make the seasons change just by waving my hand,
oh, I can change anything from old to new,
the things I want to do the most, I’m unable to do,
unhappy am I with all the powers I possess,
’cause boy you’re the key to my happiness,
and I can’t get next to you.

Grandson, you’re blowing my mind,
’cause I can’t get next to you.
Can’t you see these tears I’m crying?
I can’t get next to you.
Grandson, it’s you that I need,
I gotta get next to you.
Can’t you see these tears I’m crying?
I can’t get next to you.
I, I, I, I
I can’t get next to you.

Phidippides: Don’t worry about social distancing, grandma. I will die from you, if you cause me to.

Grandmother: You’re a princely sweetie. Oh, I wish little Aristotolly wasn’t at such grave risk from hearing questions. Such a cute little boy. I don’t want him to die from covid! At least my grandson is safe isolated in his sound-proof room in my house.

Phidippides: When will I be able to talk with my half-brother?

Grandmother: When science says it’s safe. That’s when.

Phidippides: When’s that?

Grandmother: I don’t know. When the public health emergency ends, I guess.

Phidippides: There’s no covid in Elden Ring, no public health emergency there, and players can ask each other questions about where to go and how to get new powers and be as awesome as you, grandma. Why can’t Ari come here and just play in Elden Ring with me?

Grandmother: Are you sure that there’s no corona virus there, and that questions in that place aren’t unsafe?

Phidippides: I’m sure. I play games like that all the time.

Grandmother: Wonderful. We’ll move in here tonight. Your mother has been pleading with me to move in with her for months. I’ll make special meals for you and give you lots of presents!

As grandmother is leaving, she calls out to Phidippides: Thanks so much for asking me if Ari could play with you in Elden Ring. That question pointed to the answer to so many problems!

Strepsiades to Phidippides: You know it’s a public health emergency, and you know that you’re not allowed to ask questions. But you behaved irresponsibly right here in my own house. Irresponsibly!

Phidippides: Calm down, dad. Calm down. It’s only your mother-in-law and your wife’s little kid.

Strepsiades: It’s questioning. It’s the principle of asking questions. You got that, I’m sure, from that scoundrel Socrates living next door.

Phidippides: Hey, if you’re so afraid of dying of covid, why don’t you just hang yourself? Then you won’t die of covid!

Strepsiades: There you go again. You disgraceful, disrespectful, reprobate social isolate! Are you trying to kill me, your own father?

Phidippides: No cause to report me to the authorities. I support Electra, a woman hero of gender equality. I’ll kill mother just as I kill you {τὴν μητέρ᾿ ὥσπερ καὶ σὲ τυπτήσω}!

Strepsiades:

What’s that? What did you say?
That’s different, a far greater crime!

{ τί φῄς, τί φῂς σύ;
τοῦθ᾿ ἕτερον αὖ μεῖζον κακόν. }

Phidippides: Why? What do you know? Look outside.

Strepsiades opens the front door and seeing the house across the street, he exclaims: “There’s a Y painted on the front door of that house!”

He runs outside and screams: “There’s an iron Y erected above the front door of the Thinkery! There’s a Y painted on the street! There’s a Y hanging from the back of that chariot!”

He groans and raises his eyes to the sky. He ponders the clouds for a moment, then screams: “The clouds form a Y in the sky! Y! Y! Y?”

He falls to the ground sobbing. A minute later he stands up, enraged. He howls: “The Thinkery must burn! Burn! Slaves, come here and bring torches and hatches, right now!”

The blond-haired slave Xanthias comes out from the house carrying two torches and two hatchets.

Xanthias: “Sir, the rest of the slaves ask that you ensure that everyone in the Thinkery is evacuated before you burn it down. They won’t come out until you swear a solemn oath to have it evacuated before it’s destroyed.”

Strepsiades: “More questions? Those traitor scum slaves aren’t even capable of being slaves. We’ll clean our own house of questioners later. Right now, let’s make that cockroach Socrates choke to death in his own house if he doesn’t roast first.”

Strepsiades and Xanthias climb onto the roof of the Thinkery. They cut open holes in the roof, ignite broken-off roof staves, and start hurling them down on the straw mats inside. The students within start screaming.

Socrates desperately asks: “Is the tongue spitting fire from the Clouds into the void?”

Anguished student: “Do something, Socrates!”

Socrates: “How am I to know what to do?”

A stiff wind suddenly blows down upon the Thinkery. Stresiades and Xanthias, attempting to cling to the roof, get blown off. Then clouds, forming what some saw as an Α and others saw as an Ω, release a torrential downpour. Rainwaters flow down through the holes in the Thinkery’s roof and extinguish the fires within. Socrates and all his pupils emerge alive, looking as if they had just been dunked into a river.

The chorus of Clouds dances and sings as they leave the stage:

People movin’ out, people movin’ in.
Why? From the counting of shots in their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sure can’t hide,
an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,
vote for me, and I’ll set you free.
Rap on, sister, rap on!
Well, the only person talkin’ ’bout “Love thy father”
is the preacher,
and it seems nobody’s interested in learnin’
but the teacher.
Segregation, vaccination, demonstration, disintegration,
aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation.

Ball of confusion,
oh, yeah,
that’s what the world is today.
Woho, hey, hey!

The sale of pills is at an all-time high,
young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky,
cities aflame in the summertime.
And oh, the beat goes on.
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the loss of soul.
Shooting rockets at Ukraine, kids’ lives lost in vain.
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.
And the band played on.

So ’round and around and around we go.
Where the world’s headed, nobody knows.

Oh, Great Googa Mooga
can’t you hear me talking to you?

Just a ball of confusion,
oh yeah, that’s what the world is today.
Woho, hey, hey!

Fear in the air, tension everywhere,
big inflation rising fast,
purple motes new post’s a gas.
And the only safe place to live is on a Trappist reservation.
And the band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
covid inspectors, bill collectors.
face masks in demand, population out of hand,
suicide, too many bills,
rich folks moving to the hills.
People all over the world are shouting, “End the war!”
And the band played on.

* * * * *

Read more:

Notes:

The above play is a modernization of Aristophanes’s comedy Clouds {Νεφέλαι}. Clouds was originally presented in comedic competition in Athens in 423 BGC. It came in third, meaning last. The surviving text of Clouds represents a revision Aristophanes made between 419 and 416 BGC.

Socrates’s Thinkery {Phrontisterion / ϕροντιστήριον} is Aristophanes’s satirical construction. Socrates didn’t charge for teaching and didn’t run a formal school. While in many ways Aristophanes presents Socrates as ridiculous, Aristophanes also presented important aspects of ancient intellectual thought. Questioning is central to what has come to be known as the Socratic method. “Aristophanes’ Clouds treats Socrates as distinctly interested in promoting self-knowledge of the sort related to self-improvement.” Moore (2015) p. 534.

The destructive ending of Clouds isn’t typical of Aristophanean comedy. Interpretations of the extent of the violence have varied considerably. Some think Phidippides exited into the Thinkery and that Strepsiades killed his own son along with Socrates and students in the Thinkery. Another view is that Strepsiades didn’t kill anyone in destroying the Thinkery. His destructive action functioned as “legal self-help” rather than a lynching. Davis (1990) and Johnston (1998) pp. xxvii-xxix.

Rain quenching the fire in the Thinkery is my extension. Cf. Elijah calling down fire from God to consume a sacrificial offering in 1 Kings 18:36-8; rain saving Croesus from burning on a pyre at the hands of King Cyrus in Herodotus, Histories 1.87.

In his Apology, Plato indicated that Aristophanes’s depiction of Socrates motivated the Athenians’ subsequent decision to execute Socrates. But the depiction of Socrates in Clouds is conventional comedic mockery of intellectuals. “Clouds did not kill Socrates.” Andújar (2014). For contrasting interpretations of the significance of Clouds, Morris (1937) and Fisher (1988).

The Greek texts above are from Clouds, with preceding texts the corresponding English translations, with some small but significant changes. The Greek texts and English translations (modified) are from Henderson (1998), except for the first corresponding English translation, which is from Rocke (2005) p. 146. Freely available online is the Greek text of Hall & Geldart (Oxford, 1907). For a dual-language edition with Ian Johnston’s English translation, Hayes & Nimis (2017). English translations by George Theodoridis (2007) and by an unnamed translator are also freely available online. Here’s an overview of Clouds.

The Greek quotes above are Clouds, vv 269-74 (Come, you gorgeous Clouds…), 275-90 (Clouds everlasting…), 293-5 (O most honored sacred goddesses…), 296-7 (Don’t be scurrilous…), 314-5 (By Zeus, Socrates, I beg you…), 316-8 (Not at all. They are heavenly Clouds…), 335-9 (So that’s why they compose verses like…) , 346-7 (Have you ever looked up and seen a cloud…), 348-50 (Clouds turn into anything they want…), 385-7 (Learn from your own experience…), 388-91 (By Apollo I have!…), 1443-4 (What’s that?…).

The above text includes transformed lyrics and embedded videos performing the original songs. These songs are:

  1. The Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain,” released as a single on Dec. 21, 1967. Via YouTube.
  2. “Aquarius” as performed in the 1979 film Hair, adapted from the 1968 Broadway musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Via YouTube.
  3. “Ya Got Trouble” from the 1962 film The Music Man, adapted from the 1957 Broadway musical The Music Man. Via YouTube.
  4. The Temptations, “I Can’t Get Next to You,” released as a single on July 30, 1969. Via YouTube.
  5. The Temptations, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today),” released as a single on May 7, 1970. Via YouTube.

References:

Andújar, Rosa. 2014. “Aristophanes’ Socrates in Context.” Aristophanes’ Clouds Study Guide, University College London. Online.

Davies, Malcolm. 1990. “‘Popular Justice’ and the End of Aristophanes’ Clouds.” Hermes. 118 (2): 237-242.

Fisher, Raymond K. 1988. “The Relevance of Aristophanes: a New Look at Clouds.” Greece and Rome. 35 (1): 23-28.

Hayes, Evan and Stephen Nimis, eds. 2017. Aristophanes’ Clouds: A Dual Language Edition. Greek Text Edited (1907) by F.W. Hall and W.M. Geldart, English Translation and Notes by Ian Johnston. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing.

Henderson, Jeffrey, ed. and trans. 1998. Aristophanes. Clouds. Wasps. Peace. Loeb Classical Library 488. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Johnston, Ian. 1998. “On Satire in Aristophanes’ Clouds.” Lecture, November 1998. Pp. ix-xxxi in Hayes & Nimis (2017).

Moore, Christopher. 2015. “Socrates and Self-Knowledge in Aristophanes’ Clouds.” The Classical Quarterly. 65 (2): 534-551.

Morris, Bertram. 1937. “Totalitarian Clouds: Human versus Dictatorial Values.” The Sewanee Review. 45 (2): 150-165.

Roche, Paul, trans. 2005. Aristophanes. The Complete Plays. New York, N.Y.: New American Library.

Jerome to Eustochium on shameful and ashamed women

In 384 GC, the learned Christian scholar and teacher Jerome wrote a letter to the fifteen-year-old Eustochium. She was the daughter of his dear friend Paula, a wealthy, high-born Roman widow. Shunning her life of privilege, Eustochium sought to become a Christian nun living vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Jerome addressed Eustochium as “my Eustochium, my daughter, lady-lord, fellow-servant, and sister {mi Eustochia, filia, domina, conserua, germana}.”[1] With loving concern and great wisdom, Jerome taught Eustochium about shameful and ashamed women.

Jerome didn’t shirk from presenting shocking images to Eustochium. He quoted to her a biblical verse describing a fallen, rejected spouse:

“At your right hand stood the queen wrapped in embroidered clothes of gold.” She shall be made naked, and her skirt thrown over her face. She shall sit by the waters of loneliness with her pitcher put down. She shall spread her legs to all who pass by and be polluted to the top of her head.

{ adstitit regina a dextris tuis in uestitu deaurato, circumdata uarietate. nudabitur et posteriora eius ponentur in facie ipsius; sedebit ad aquas solitudinis et posita base diuaricabit pedes suos omni transeunti et usque ad uerticem polluetur. }[2]

Covering one’s face typically indicates modesty or a sense of shame. But a woman whose face is covered by her lifted skirt is shamefully exposed, at least from a traditional Roman perspective. Jerome urged Eustochium not to be like that woman.

While most Roman men were poor laborers or soldiers enduring brutal violence against men, some women were vastly more privileged. Jerome described to Eustochium such widows:

Look at them in their sedan-chairs with a row of eunuchs preceding them, and their rouged cheeks and their plump, sleek skin. You wouldn’t think that they had lost a husband, but were seeking one. Their houses are full of flatterers, full of banquets. The very clerics whose teaching authority ought to call forth awe, kiss these lady-patrons on the head and extend their hands. You would think, if you didn’t know, that they wanted to bless. In fact they extend their hands to receive a fee for their visit. Meanwhile these ladies, seeing that priests need their help, are lifted up in pride.

{ praecedit caueas basternarum ordo semiuir et rubentibus buccia cutis farsa distenditur, ut eas putes maritos non amisisse, sed quaerere. plena adulatoribus domus, plena conuiuia. clerici ipsi, quos et magisterio esse oportuerat et timori, osculantur capita patronarum et extenta manu, ut benedicere eos putes uelle, si nescias, pretium accipiunt salutandi. illae interim, quae sacerdotes suo uident indigere praesidio, eriguntur in superbiam }

Before recent decades, Christian priests had been exclusively men since the birth of Christ. But that doesn’t mean that men historically have been privileged relative to women, or even that priests have had higher status than wealthy women. The rows of eunuchs carrying women in sedan-chairs aptly represent men’s social position under castration culture and gynocentrism.

eunuchs carry Empress Dowager Cixi in sedan-chair

Although equally deserving of compassion as fully human beings, men tend to receive less compassion than do women. Headlines often efface men, like “missile strike kills 20 civilians, including 2 women.” Jerome described to Eustochium similarly emotive circumstances:

Recently I saw the noblest Roman woman — I keep silent about her name, for I am not a satirist — in the Basilica of Saint Peter. Her eunuchs were in front of her. With her own hand so as to increase her reputation for religiosity she was disbursing single coins to paupers. One moment, such as you might readily know by experience, an old woman of years and rags ran forward to receive another coin. When her turn came, in the place of money she received an extended fist. Thus she, guilty of a crime, had an outflow of blood.

{ uidi nuper — nomina taceo, ne saturam putes — nobilissimam mulierum Romanarum in basilica beati Petri semiuiris antecedentibus propria manu, quo religiosior putaretur, singulos nummos dispertire pauperibus. interea — ut usu nosse perfacile est — anus quaedam annis pannisque obsita praecurrit, ut alterum nummum acciperet; ad quam cum ordine peruenisset, pugnus porrigitur pro denario et tanti criminis reus sanguis effunditur. }

The old, poor dear is of course a woman. The vicious rich Roman whom eunuchs attend is also a woman. Her castrated men attract little concern and compassion.

Jerome understood that human life centers on women. He advised Eustochium:

Let your voice always resonate in your mouth with these words: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return” and “We brought nothing into this world, and we can carry out nothing.”

{ illa tibi semper in ore uox resonet: nudus exiui de utero matris meae, nudus et redeam et: nihil intulimus in hunc mundum nec auferre quid possumus. }[3]

In these key words, “my mother’s womb” is a metonym for “mother earth,” or more generally, the whole world of lived life. Mother earth isn’t a recent sexist social construction. Even apart from the ancient earth goddess Gaia, humans have long regarded the earth as their mother.

Despite her female privilege, Jerome didn’t want Eustochium to be ashamed to be a woman. He observed:

Other women dress as men, changing their clothes as if they are ashamed to be the females that they were born. They cut off their hair and impudently hold up their faces like eunuchs.

{ aliae uirili habitu, ueste mutata, erubescunt feminae esse, quod natae sunt, crinem amputant et inpudenter erigunt facies eunuchinas. }[4]

From Jerome’s Christian perspective, women shouldn’t be ashamed of being women. In contrast, women pretending to be eunuchs belittle women and trivialize castration culture. Such women should be ashamed of their ignorance and heartlessness.

Today no forty-year-old man would write to a fifteen-year-old woman like Jerome wrote to Eustochium more than 1600 years ago. Nonetheless, young women today would benefit significantly from thinking carefully about the issues that Jerome raised to Eustochium. Christians rightly revere Jerome as a great saint. Everyone should honor Jerome as a wise and courageous ally of women.

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Notes:

[1] Jerome, Letters 22, Jerome to Eustochium, section 26, Latin text from Hilberg (1910-18), my English translation, benefiting from those of Carroll (1956), Wright (1933), and Freemantle (1892). All quotes from Jerome are similarly sourced from his letter to Eustochium.

Jerome was about forty years old when he wrote this letter to Eustochium. With respect to “daughter, lady-lord, fellow-servant, sister,” Jerome explained:

one specifies your age, another your merit, yet another your religious vocation, and that one our love

{ aliud enim aetatis, aliud meriti, illud religionis, hoc caritatis est nomen }

Id, section 26. Jerome described Eustochium as “reared among a noble lineage and always in luxury, always in soft pillows {nobili stirpe generatam, et semper in deliciis, semper in plumis}.” Id, section 11. Jerome and Eustochium were fellow religious servants of God. Medieval men referred to their beloved women as “sister.”

[2] Jerome to Eustochium, section 6. Cf. Psalms 44:9, Jeremiah 13:26, Ezekiel 16:25. This quote is colored with historical disparagement of men’s sexuality. From a Jewish and Christian perspective, men do not pollute women through men’s sexuality itself. To the contrary, men offer to women through their sexuality the gift of God’s seminal blessing. Medieval hymns such as “Hail, mother of our Savior {Salve, mater Salvatoris}” dealt with this discursive legacy in a sophisticated way.

Jerome spoke frankly with Eustochium. He wasn’t ashamed to specify directly genitals:

Hear what God says about the devil: “Its strength is in the loins and its power in the navel.” For decency the genitals of man and woman are altered to be called with those names. Thus from the loins of David is said to come the descendant promised to sit on the throne. The seventy-five souls who entered into Egypt similarly came from Jacob’s thigh. When after wrestling with God the girth of his thigh shrank, Jacob ceased to produce children. … To Jerusalem, who was found splattered with blood in the wandering plain, Ezekiel said: “Your navel has not been penetrated.” Therefore, in all attacks against men, the devil’s strength is in the loins. Against women, all its force is in the navel.

{ audi, quid de diabolo suspicetur: uirtus eius in lumbis et potestas eius in umbilico. honeste uiri mulierisque genitalia inmutatis sunt appellata nominibus, unde et de lumbis Dauid super is sedem eius promittitur esse sessurus; et septuaginta et quinque animae introierunt Aegyptum, quae exierunt de femore Iacob, et postquam conluctante deo latitudo femoris eius emarcuit, a liberorum opere cessauit … ad Hierusalem uero, quae respersa sanguine in campo inuenitur erroris, in Ezechiel dicitur: non est praecisus umbilicus tuus. omnis igitur aduersus uiros diaboli uirtus in lumbis est, omnis in umbilico contra feminas fortitudo.}

Jerome to Eustochim, section 11. Cf. Job 40:16, 2 Samuel 7:12, Genesis 46:26, Genesis 32:24-5, Ezekiel 16:4-6. Modern philology, unlike Jerome, has a penis problem.

The subsequent two quotes above are from Jerome to Eustochium, sections 15 (Look at them in their sedan-chairs…) and 32 (Recently I saw the noblest Roman woman…).

[3] Jerome to Eustochium, section 31. Cf. Job 1:21, Genesis 3:19, Sirach 40:1. On Biblical gynocentrism, Song of Songs 5:2-6, Genesis 2:24, and Ephesians 5:31.

[4] Jerome to Eustochium, section 27. Transmen have been readily accepted historically, while transwomen have faced hostility and rejection from women and men aggressively defending women’s privileged social position.

[image] Chinese eunuchs carry Empress Dowager Cixi in a sedan-chair in front of the Summer Palace in Beijing sometime from 1903 to 1905. Photo by Xunling. Preserved with identifier FSA A.13 SC-GR-261 in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

References:

Carroll, Paul, trans. 1956. The Satirical letters of St. Jerome. Chicago: Gateway Editions, distributed by H. Regnery Co.

Freemantle, William Henry, trans. 1892.  The Principal Works of St. Jerome.  Philip Schaff, ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, vol. 6. Oxford: Parker.

Hilberg, Isidorus, ed. 1910-1918. Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Epistulae {Letters of Saint Eusebius Hieronymus (Jerome)}. Vindobonae: Tempsky. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL) 54 (Epistulae 1-70), 55 (Epistulae 71-120), and 56 (Epistulae 120-154).

Wright, F. A., ed. and trans. 1933. Select Letters of St. Jerome. Loeb Classical Library, no. 262. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

medieval control of the male gaze and impending triumph of love

Men have long experienced attempts to control the male gaze. Even in the relatively liberal and tolerant medieval period, the male gaze was manipulated and regulated. For example, in a late-thirteenth-century Galician-Portuguese “song about a beloved man {cantiga d’amigo},” a mother guided her daughter in manipulating the male gaze:

Oh my daughter, by God, work out a way
for your boyfriend to see you wearing that
skirt, and do everything you can
so he’ll see you near to him, closely clad,
because if he sees you, I know he’ll die
for you
, daughter, it fits you so well.

If that skirt fit you badly,
I wouldn’t tell you to go before
his eyes, but for God’s sake work it out quickly
for him to see you, just do that,
because if he sees you, I know he’ll die
for you, daughter, it fits you so well.

And though he may be angry with you now,
once he sees you with that skirt on,
he’ll be very glad to look you over,
and work it out that he can see you,
because if he sees you, I know he’ll die
for you, daughter, it fits you so well.

{ Ai mha filha, por Deus, guisade vós
que vos veja esse fustan trager
voss’ amig’ e tod’ a vosso poder
veja vos ben con el estar en cos,
ca, se vos vir, sei eu ca morrerá
por vós, filha, ca mui ben vos está

Se vo-lo fustan estevesse mal,
non vos mandaria ir ant’ os seus
olhos, mais guisade cedo, por Deus,
que vos veja, non façades end’ al,
ca, se vos vir, sei eu ca morrerá
por vós, filha, ca mui ben vos está

E como quer que vos ele seja
sanhudo, pois que vo-lo fustan vir,
averá gran sabor de vos cousir,
e guisade vós como vos veja,
ca, se vos vir, sei eu ca morrerá
por vós, filha, ca mui ben vos está }[1]

Men tend to enjoy gazing upon nicely shaped women in tight skirts. That makes men vulnerable to being sexually harassed.

The early Christian church leader Saint Basil the Great reportedly attempted to protect men from being sexually harassed in church. One day in celebrating mass, Basil elevated the consecrated body and blood of Christ. Then he noticed that the golden dove hanging above the altar didn’t move three times as usual. Something was wrong:

Wondering how this could be, he saw one of the deacons with fans, while bending backwards, nodding to a woman.

{ cogitante eo quod hoc esset uidit unum uentilantium diaconem innuentem mulieri inclinante deorsum. }[2]

Following the counsel of the Holy Spirit, Basil took action to prevent the male gaze in church:

He subjected indeed the deacon to fasting and vigils … In addition, he immediately ordered curtains to be hung in the aisles. He directed that any woman who would show herself outside the curtains by leaning forward while he was celebrating the divine liturgy should be sent away from the Mass and be permanently without Communion.

{ Diaconem autem ieiuniis et uigiliis submisit … Vela etiam statim iussit appendi instructoriis, praecipiens de mulieribus quae foris uelorum apparuerit inclinans se, diuinum ministerium peragente, foris poni mysterio et incommunicatam permanere. }

In retrospect, Basil’s regulation of the male and female gaze was quite mild. Basil sought to prevent women and men from gazing on each other during a religious service. Many women and men today don’t even attend religious services. Moreover, Basil’s regulation did nothing to impede men and women from gazing upon each other any time other than during the religious service. Today’s literary critics and sex police issue much more severe and all-encompassing edicts against the male gaze.

dove-shaped hanging tabernacle

With astonishing foresight, medieval poets recognized the future implications of moral doctrines and preceptorial fulminations against the male gaze. According to a mid-thirteenth-century Galician-Portuguese singer associated with Alfonso X “the Learned {el Sabio},” a woman lamented:

By God, ladies, what will be?
Since now this world is nothing,
nor does a boyfriend love his lady.
And this world — what is it now?
Since love has no power here,
what good are her good looks or figure
to a girl who has them both?

You see why I’m saying this:
because there’s not a king in the world
who could see the figure I have
and then not just die for me.
Why, my eyes are even green!
And my boyfriend didn’t even
see me, and he passed by here.

But the lady who has a boyfriend
from now on (believe me, by God!)
shouldn’t rely on her pretty eyes,
because from now on there is no point.
Because just now someone saw my eyes
and my lovely figure and yet he comes
and goes as soon as he wants to go.

And since good looks and a fine figure
just aren’t worth anything,
it doesn’t matter how we appear!

{ Por Deus, amigas, que será?
pois ja o mundo non é ren
nen quer amig’ a senhor ben,
e este mundo que é ja?
pois i amor non á poder,
que presta seu bon parecer
nen seu bon talh’ a quen o á?

Vedes por que o dig’ assi:
por que non á no mundo rei
que viss’ o talho que eu ei
que xe non morresse por min;
si quer meus olhos verdes son,
e meu amig’ agora non
me viu, e passou per aqui

Mais dona que amig’ ouver
des oje mais (crea per Deus)
non s’ esforç’ enos olhos seus,
ca des oi mais non lh’ é mester,
ca ja meus olhos viu alguen
e meu bon talh’, e ora ven
e vai se tanto que s’ ir quer

E, pois que non á de valer
bon talho nen bon parecer,
parescamos ja como quer }[3]

With stern repression of the male gaze, men poet-singers (troubadours) stopped composing and singing love songs. Women then lashed out at men with hateful death-wishes:

Oh friends, all the men troubadours
in the kingdom of Portugal
have lost their skill. They don’t want
to speak well of us, as they used to do.
And they don’t even speak of love,
And they do something else that’s even worse —
they no longer want to praise good looks.

They, friends, have lost the desire
to see you, and I’ll tell you something else.
These troubadours just go from bad to worse.
There isn’t one that can serve a lady,
nor even one that composes for a woman.
Cursed be she who would ever say
of someone who can’t compose, “He’s a troubadour.”

But, friends, there must be some remedy
for a lady that loves her good name and looks.
Bide the time, and not complain,
and let this awful time just pass away,
because I really think that someone will come soon
who likes a girl that’s beautiful,
and you’ll see that love will triumph then.

And those of them who have stopped
serving you, we know who they are.
May God let them die an awful death!

{ Ai amigas, perdud’ an conhocer
quantos trobadores no reino son
de Portugal, ja non an coraçon
de dizer ben que soían dizer
de vós, e sol non falan en amor
e al fazen de que m’ ar é peor:
non queren ja loar bon parecer

Eles, amigas, perderon sabor
de vos veeren; ar direi vos al:
os trobadores ja van pera mal;
non á i tal que ja servha senhor
nen sol que trobe por ũa molher;
maldita sej’ a que nunca disser
a quen non troba que é trobador

Mais, amigas, conselho á d’ aver
dona que prez e parecer amar:
atender tempo e non se queixar
e leixar ja avol tempo perder,
ca ben cuid’ eu que cedo verrá alguen
que se paga da que parece ben
e veeredes ced’ amor valer

E os que ja desemparados son
de vos servir, sabud’ é quaes son:
leixe os Deus maa morte prender }[4]

Women and men rightly feel entitled to each other’s love. Without resentment, hate, or death-wishes, the human entitlement to love will be vindicated when a sufficient number of persons read and appreciate medieval literature. Act now to promote love’s triumph!

Of course love in its fullness presents dangers. Addressing fundamental gender inequality in parental knowledge can lessen love’s danger to men. So too can reproductive choice for men and eliminating grotesque anti-men gender discrimination in child custody and child support rulings. Moreover, penal justice shouldn’t vastly gender-disproportionately incarcerate persons with penises, and the propaganda apparatus shouldn’t stereotype men as violent criminals. Act now to defund unjust penal policing!

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Notes:

[1] Johan Airas (João Airas de Santiago) 6, song about a beloved man {cantiga de amigo}, “Oh my daughter, by God, work out a way {Ai mha filha, por Deus, guisade vós}” (V 599), Galician-Portuguese text (editorial marks eliminated) from Cohen (2003), English translation (modified slightly) from Cohen (2010). Here’s this song at Galician-Portuguese Medieval Songs.

In verse 1.4 of this song, “en cos” means literally “on the body.” It means wearing the skirt without any underclothes or overclothes. A well-fitting skirt worn “en cos” would reveal well the woman’s figure. For discussion of women’s clothing in cantigas d’amigo as well as an example of clothes worn “en cos” to a dance, Corral Diaz (2002) pp. 86-8.

While literary critics have castigated the male gaze much more than the female gaze, the female gaze is quite important in practice. For example, a Galician-Portuguese song from the first half of the thirteenth century provides a woman’s poignant lament:

When, my boyfriend and my light, I can’t
see you, look what happens to me:
I have eyes and look and yet can’t see,
my boyfriend, anything that could please me.

When I can’t see you with these
eyes of mine, so help me God,
I have eyes and look and yet can’t see,
my boyfriend, anything that could please me.

And I don’t sleep, there’s no chance of that,
when I don’t see you, and, in good faith,
I have eyes and look and yet can’t see,
my boyfriend, anything that could please me.

Without you, what good are my eyes to me?
Since they don’t let me sleep, and certainly
I have eyes and look and yet can’t see,
my boyfriend, anything that could please me.

{ Quando vos eu, meu amig’ e meu ben,
non posso veer, vedes que mh aven:
tenh’ olh’ e vej’ e non posso veer,
meu amig’, o que mi possa prazer

Quando vos eu con estes olhos meus
non posso veer, se mi valha Deus,
tenh’ olh’ e vej’ e non posso veer,
meu amig’, o que mi possa prazer

E non dorm’ eu, nen en preito non é,
u vos eu non vejo, e, per bõa fe,
tenh’ olh’ e vej’ e non posso veer,
meu amig’, o que mi possa prazer

E os meus olhos sen vós que prol mh an?
pois non dorm’ eu con eles, e de pran
tenh’ olh’ e vej’ e non posso veer,
meu amig’, o que mi possa prazer }

Vaasco Praga de Sandin (Vasco Praga de Sandim) 4, Galician-Portuguese text (editorial marks eliminated) from Cohen (2003), English translation (modified slightly) from Cohen (2010). Here’s this song at Galician-Portuguese Medieval Songs.

[2] BHL 1023 (earliest known Latin translation of the pseudo-Amphilochian Life of Basil), chapter 8, “How he understood the Holy Spirit coming and about a certain deacon and about Libanio the sophist {Quomodo sancti spiritus adventum vidit et de quodam diacone et de Libanio sophista},” Latin (modified slightly) text from Corona (2006) p. 232, English translation (modified slightly) from id. p. 89, n. 53. The subsequent quote above is sourced similarly, with the English translation from id. p. 31, n. 8.

Corona’s Latin text is “uidit unum uentilantium diaconem innuentem mulieri inclinatae deorsum,” She translated that text as: “he saw one of the deacons with fans nodding to a woman while bending backwards.” Since inclinatae is the feminative genitive form, the woman is bending backwards. But in Corona’s English translation, “while bending backwards” is more naturally read as an adverbial phrase than an adjectival phrase.

The priest celebrates Mass with the deacon in front of the congregation. In this Mass, the priest and the deacon have their backs to the congregation, which faces forward. So why would the woman-congregant lean backwards? Manuscripts in the Cotton-Corpus tradition have the reading inclinante / inclinantem. Corona (2006) p. 149. Those readings seem to me better in context. I use inclinante in the Latin text above.

The pseudo-Amphilochian Life of Basil was composed in Greek sometime from the seventh to the ninth century, probably about 800. BHL 1023, the first known Latin translation of the pseudo-Amphilochian Life of Basil, was first written in the ninth century before 843. BHL 1024, which is Ursus’s translation of the pseudo-Amphilochian Life of Basil and is included in Heribert Rosweyde’s Lives of the Fathers {Vitae Patrum} (1628) (Patrologia Latina 73.293-312A) doesn’t include the story of the deacon and the woman congregant eyeing each other.

The golden dove above the altar arose from Basil’s inspiration. After God allowed Basil to celebrate the divine liturgy in his own words, Basil handled the consecrated host in a special way:

He divided the bread into three parts. One part he partook with much awe. Another part he reserved to be buried with him. The third part he placed upon the golden dove that he suspended above the altar.

{ dividens panem in tres partes unam quidem communicavit cum timore multo, alteram autem reservavit consepelire sibi, tertiam vero inponens columbae aureae quae pependit super altare. }

BHL 2013, ch. 4, Latin text from Corona (2006), my English translation. The dove-tabernacle was made from pure gold according to Basil’s instructions. Id. BHL 1024 has similar text in ch. 6.

[3] Johan Garcia de Guilhade (João Garcia de Guilhade / Joan Garcia de Guilhade) 2, song about a beloved man {cantiga de amigo}, “By God, ladies, what will be {Por Deus, amigas, que será}?” (B 742, V 344), Galician-Portuguese text (editorial marks eliminated) from Cohen (2003), English translation (modified slightly) from Cohen (2010). Here’s this song at Universo Cantigas and at Galician-Portuguese Medieval Songs.

[4] Johan Garcia de Guilhade 21, song about a beloved man {cantiga de amigo}, “Oh friends, all the men troubadours {Ai amigas, perdud’ an conhocer}” (B 786, V 370), Galician-Portuguese text (editorial marks eliminated) from Cohen (2003), English translation (modified slightly) from Cohen (2010). Here’s this song at Universo Cantigas and at Galician-Portuguese Medieval Songs.

[image] Dove-shaped hanging tabernacle made of silver. Item in the Attarouthi Treasure. Made 500-650 in Attarouthi, Syria. Preserved as accession # 1986.3.15 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, USA). Credit Line: Purchase, Rogers Fund and Henry J. and Drue E. Heinz Foundation, Norbert Schimmel, and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1986. Source image thanks to The Metropolitan Museum’s public-spirited Open Access Policy. In Christianity, the dove is associated with the Holy Spirit. John 1:32. On the history of ciboria and tabernacles, Rievallensis (2019).

References:

Cohen, Rip. 2003. 500 Cantigas d’Amigo. Porto: Campo das Letras.

Cohen, Rip. 2010. The Cantigas d’Amigo: An English Translation. Online. Quotes are based on the 2016 edition.

Corona, Gabriella. 2006. Aelfric’s Life of Saint Basil the Great: Background and Context. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer.

Corral Diaz, Esther. 2002. “Feminine Voices in the Galician-Portuguese cantigas de amigo.” Ch. 5 (pp. 81-98) in Klinck, Anne L., and Ann Marie Rasmussen, eds. Medieval Woman’s Song: cross-cultural approaches. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Rievallensis, Aelredus. 2019. “Ciboria and Tabernacles: A Short History.” Canticum Salomonis. Online. Posted May 13, 2019.