30 August 2014

Autumn, and Mortality (NOT FOR ANTIPODEANS)

Oh dear! Today, the ORDO says "INCIPIT PARS AUTUMNALIS BREVIARII". (I recall that back in the fifties, when as a schoolboy I took up the use of a diurnale Romanum, some ORDOs were a bit more chatty about it: "Seposita parte aestiva Breviarii Romani, sumitur pars Autumnalis")***. Will this last summer prove indeed to have been the last summer of my life? Four times a year, one is reminded of one's mortality in the dry, deadpan, matter-of-fact, sort of way that rubricians do have. I find it far more chilling than revivalist sermons or even the warnings of the great Father Zed about imminent asteroids.

Mind you, things could have been worse. Summer could have been even shorter. The great John Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter in the fourteenth century, notes on August 21 **Estas finitur. Autumpnus oritur. Incidentally, he also reminds us on September 5 that Dies caniculares finiuntur. How interesting. This is just the sort of information last-year seminarians should be given when they are being prepared to hear confessions. For you will remember the sage warning of Hesiod, that during the Dog Days women are at their most lustful (makhlotatai) while men are at their most feak and weeble (aphaurotatoi) because Sirius parches the head and knees.

Thinking along very much the same lines, the Use of Sarum has an interesting piece of doggerel advice for August. Quisque sub augusto vivat medicamine iusto. Raro dormitet **estum coitum quoque* vitet. Balnea non curet nec multa comestio duret. Nemo laxari debet vel phlebotomari. Quite uncanny, isn't it, in its proleptic description, and condemnation, of the modern popular package holiday: going somewhere hot; sunbathing; hopping in and out of the pool; overeating and overdrinking; pursuing venerem et scortilla. Hesiod, likewise, goes on for several lines about hezomenos en skiei and eating boos hulophagoio kreas ... stirring up in me exquisite memories of lunches in Gardone this summer, sitting in the shade with a plate of vitello tonnato.
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* I assume this should be punctuated estum, coitum quoque, vitet.
** In medieval Latin, ae is pronounced and written e.
*** Reminders to clerics to put aside the Summer Volume of the Breviary and to get out the Autumn Volume.

3 comments:

Adrian said...

'Laxari' and 'phlebotomari' do not sound much like a package holiday - though you might need them after you return.

Joshua said...

Meanwhile, in temperate Tasmania, I have been enjoying warm, sunny weather, plus blossom on the trees and daffodils in flower, for the last ten days of August, taking pleasant walks most days - a delightful end to winter. Spring begins on Monday.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Grrrrrrrrr