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Augustine, Honey Bees, Latin Literature

On Easter and Bees, or as it is Good Friday some thoughts from Augustine for Richard Dawkins…

Carmen Paschale
(Sedulius Scottus)

Surrexit Christus sol versus vespere noctis,
surgit et hinc domini mystica messis agri,
nunc vaga puniceis apium plebs laeta labore
floribus instrepitans poblite mella legit.
nunc variae volucres permulcent aethera cantu,
temperat et pernox nunc philomela melos.
nunc chorus ecclesiae cantat per cantica Sion,
alleluia suis centuplicatque tonis.
Tado, pater patriae, caelestis gaudia paschae
percipias meritis limina lucis: ave.

Easter Sunday

Last night did Christ the Sun rise from the dark,
The mystic harvest of the fields of God,
And now the little wandering tribe of bees
Are brawling in the scarlet flowers abroad.
The winds are soft with birdsong; all night long
Darkling the nightingale her descant told,
And now inside the church doors the happy folk
The Alleluia chant a hundredfold.
O father of thy folk, be thine by right
The Easter joy, the threshold of the light.

from Mediaeval Latin Lyrics, trans. Helen Waddell.  NY: WW Norton & Co.

(got to use one of my texts from university!)

 I do have a few bee reports to make with the assistance of my guide, but felt it required of me as this is a Latin notebook, and of beekeeping in Latin no less, to find something that reflects the nature of this holiday.  According to Wikipedia, Sedulius Scottus was an Irish teacher, Latin grammarian and Scriptural commentator, who lived in the ninth century.  So we can do happy Easter thoughts….

or we can do dour Augustinian Good Friday kind of thoughts, if you prefer your Good Friday straight up, hold the bank holiday, chocolate bunnies, sacrificial lamb…Good Friday being the kind of day to contemplete the darker nature of things (also, I have just returned from the oldest Augustinian priory in England, so of course he’s been on my mind a bit):

For why in your calamities do you complain of Christianity, unless because you desire to enjoy your luxurious license unrestrained, and to lead an abandoned and profligate life without the interruption of any uneasiness or disaster? For certainly your desire for peace, and prosperity, and plenty is not prompted by any purpose of using these blessings honestly, that is to say, with moderation, sobriety, temperance, and piety; for your purpose rather is to run riot in an endless variety of sottish pleasures, and thus to generate from your prosperity a moral pestilence which will prove a thousandfold more disastrous than the fiercest enemies….

City of God, Book 1, Chapter 30

Not that I am accusing Richard Dawkins of licentiousness or luxuriousness….


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