King Sisibut of the Visigoths: Excerpt from “On an Eclipse of the Moon.”

After receiving St. Isidore of Seville’s book De Natura Rerum (On the Nature of Things), which included an explanation of several lunar and solar eclipses in 611 and 612 (for the benefit of the people, and at King Sisibut’s urgent request), King Sisibut sent back a very interesting and learned Latin poem. (Possibly to show that he had read the book.) It’s called various things: “De Eclipsis,” “De Eclipsis Lunae,” and “Sisebuti Epistola: Ad Isidorum.”

Here’s the beginning, which gives some interesting insight into Visigoth mythology or legends still being alive among the people.

You, perhaps, in a sacred grove
slowly give birth to a wandering song
Among melodious springwaters
And musical breezes;
You pour forth a clear-flowing mind
with Pierian nectar.

But a confused mess of things
clouds up our heads,
And cares pursue with
thousands of sword-bearing soldiers.

Heralds crack the ear, law courts bark,
trumpets awaken,
And we are brought across the Ocean,
even as far as the snowy Basque-country
when it may hold,
nor does cringing Cantabria spare us.

Lo! what things you point out —
how they wreathe Phoebus’ hair with leafy ivy;
They would shade his rays
more reverently!

Lo! you may order one to fly about
through the enflaming aether!

But, o magus, as the calamity-eagles outran
the slow elephant-strength
And the tortoise, weakened by the Molossian flyer;
so we have followed the dew-spraying moon with our song.

Yet I, struggling under an earthborn burden,
will tell these things: why the curved circle
May bruise the tired orb dark red,
And why its snowy face’s glow may be wasted away.

It is not (as the people believe)
That totally hateful woman
Howling in the murky shadows
Of underworld caves,
Who draws it down with her high-roving mirror.

Nor has she conquered it with a charm,
Nor with Stygian dew, nor with earth-herbs
Does she attack with an air-cracking
and binding clang.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Translations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s