Monthly Archives: April 2023

The Poetess Sulpicia

We only have six poems from her…. But hoboy, they are different from other Augustan-era poetry.

The first one, like a lot of classic poetry, has echoes in a famous song in English.

“Tandem amor venit” literally means, “At last, love has come.”

I’m surprised that I’d never heard of this poetess before today, because I guarantee you that I read every single “famous women of ancient times” and “famous women writers” book that I could get ahold of, back in the Seventies and Eighties and Nineties.

But apparently there was some controversy over whether she were a real person or a fictional persona, and just why her stuff was in the third volume of the poet Albius Tibullus’ collected works, along with commentary poems by an unknown “amicus Sulpiciae”, and so on. There’s another later poet also named Sulpicia, who was a satirist in the days of Domitian, but this apparently isn’t her.

The second issue is that she was apparently a woman of the Sulpicius clan who was living at home, not yet wed, and therefore was likely to have been well under eighteen years old. (Although the Augustan era had a lot of variation in the ages of women’s first marriages, and she could have been well over eighteen, too.)

The third issue is that she has apparently not just been holding hands and making eyes at her dude, “Cerinthus,” because the first poem has very clear implications to the contrary. So she’s not exactly a good Christian example. She’s not even a good Roman matron.

And the fourth issue is that she is into a guy, not a girl or anything weirder. So there goes the academic Sappho fans.

On the other hand, her poems are short and memorable, so they probably should get more attention than they have. They may give us a better idea of what popular songs and poetry were like, in her time. And they certainly give us an idea that some Roman young women were smart and impassioned, whether or not they had high wisdom scores.

And her poetry has survived, so somebody liked her a lot. For centuries.

I’m sure it’s wishful thinking… but the first poem sort of implies that Cerinthus was a suitable marriage partner, and that maybe she was just running ahead of the formalities. The Camenae were domestic goddesses of springs, marriage, and childbirth, and Venus in Rome was a goddess of marriage too. But the other poems don’t sound like that.

Shrug. I guess I need to look up the other poems, and see what the scholars think.

UPDATE: Ha! There’s a poem after the Sulpicia poems and Amicus comments, which is straight up from the poet Tibullus to his friend Cornutus, congratulating him on his marriage, wife, and birthday. And a lot of scholars have thought that Cornutus is “Cerinthus,” and that his wife is Sulpicia. So maybe I’m not crazy, or at least I’m part of a crazy majority!

Again, I’m not condoning this… but given the disorder of Roman society at the time, you can understand why an engaged couple might “slip up.” They were pagans, they didn’t know better, and their society was busily discarding all the old virtues. So if they kept their promises to each other (mostly) and found respectability afterwards, that’s not so bad.

The Latin text of Sulpicia’s poems. Her first poem is ten lines long. The others are shorter.

A translation into English, by Anne Mahoney, dividing the poems up into six different pages.

Here’s my version of a translation:

At last now, love has come — one better for my name
If it were stripped bare naked than (as now) clothed with shame.

Persuaded by my Camenae, the Cytherean blest
Brought him into my cloak’s folds, snugged him to my breast.

Venus paid her promise off. And she could tell my pleasures,
If anyone could say it who will never hold his treasures.

(I hate to have to seal this up before I hand it over,
But what if someone reads what’s mine before you do, my lover?)

So having slipped up — pleases me. A pure face put on – bores me.
A worthy woman’s worthy of that worthy man won for me.

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I Probably Should Link My Catholic Memes

Anonymity-security versus obscurity: Which will win?

I’m not terribly good at composing memes, but the Catholic Memes subreddit is a nice one.

It’s more active than the Reddit obergefreiter admins allow it to be. If you want to see all the memes that are submitted and which are judged suitable by the actual subreddit mods, you have to go on the Catholic Diocese of Discord.

“Any Baptized Male Can Be Elected Pope”

“St. Macrina on Robots”

“St. Joseph in God’s House” – Not super-successful as an explanation, IMO.

“Emmaus: the Question Contains the Answer”

“The Secret Key to the Song of Songs”

“Toddler Mary” – a Davidic comparison story from the Proto-Evangelion of James, etc.

“Photo of Jesus Christ with Unrepentant Communicants”

“The Price of Spikenard” – sort of an infographic.

“He Feeds Them with Himself” – medieval rhyme.

“Rahab Was a Figure of the Church”

“The Cosmos Fights for the Just” – Nature doesn’t hate us.

“Thank a Papal Critic” – All things in moderation, of course.

“Talitha Koum/Tabitha Koum” – I like this connection a lot, but I’m not sure I presented it well.

“Not Exactly a Seamless Garment” – One of my first memes, and you can tell I didn’t understand the template. I should probably redo it, but I don’t care enough. (Yes, I’m lazy.)

“ADHD in Medieval Ireland” – Technically not a meme.

“St. Peter’s Is Great Pumpkin Central” – Another infographic.

“Bible = Library = Wine Cellar”

“Chair-ubs and Table-ubs” – Infographic with joke.

“Old St. Peter’s in Rome, Iconostasis” – Infographic.

“Biblical Multihorned Sheep” – Infographic. Useful for the Book of Revelation or for Christmastime.

“The Soul Should Make Herself a Car for God” – Probably needs better presentation.

“Wheeled Throne of Sargon II” – Infographic with joke.

“Apponius as a Goth” – Sadly, “night ravens” don’t look like ravens.

“Aquinas’ Handwriting” – Fresh off the Photoshop.

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When You Realize Why Your Computer Desk Wobbles

So you fix it by tightening everything.

And then you realize that it still isn’t tight enough, so you tighten it some more.

And then it still isn’t tight enough, and….

Let us say that the desk is wobbling less, but still is wobbling. I may have to resort to things like physically filling up the wobbly part with a shim made of cardboard or a little metal piece, or something like that.


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The Poet Horace: Venusian

He was from the town of Venusia, in an old Samnite area of southern Italy. So he was literally a Venusian. (Usually spelled Venutian in this case, to avoid confusion.)

Something else I didn’t know — he was freeborn, but the son of a freedman.

After being manumitted, his dad became a “coactor,” which was explained by ancient scholia (explanatory notes by scholars) as a “coactor argentarius,” a sort of auctioneer who paid the seller on spec, and then took his money plus interest from the buyer.

Horace wrote a surviving poem in tribute to his father, who not only paid for his education and encouraged him, but moved to Rome to oversee his education in the big city. He gives his father all the credit for his virtues and achievements, and says that he will never be ashamed of being a freedman’s son.

I have absolutely no idea why I’ve never seen this pointed out in any mentions of Horace, his elegance, his farm, and so on.

We don’t know anything about Horace’s mom.

Horace ended up going to Athens at the age of nineteen, and then got recruited by Brutus to serve as a tribunus militum. He ended up on the losing side, but accepted Octavian/Augustus’ amnesty in return for surrendering.

(And we don’t hear anything about his father from Athens on. So scholars think that Dad probably died and left Horace his money, and that’s how we went to Athens to study in the first place.)

The poem about Horace’s dad, being mocked for his dad’s status, and why he didn’t care who was jealous of his military career, is Satire 6 in Volume I of his Satires. It’s addressed to his buddy Maecenas, who was a rich guy of noble ancestry. He praises Maecenas for being the kind of guy who only worries about his friends’ character, and then gently teases him for having the care-worn life of a senator instead of the free life of an ordinary citizen. He is relieved of the burden of ambition, because he can’t legally rise any higher than he has. (And he had that Brutus tie to avoid flaunting.)

Which is kind of a wry note. All of Horace’s elegant living and writing is based on that, isn’t it? He couldn’t rise any higher, so his Sabine farm was something he could build himself.

And yet he himself owned slaves, which is kind of a twist. Sigh.

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St. Lilo? (plus Lilo and Stitch)

Well, maybe not… But the girl’s name Lilo, as in Lilo and Stitch, is complicated.

Some people think it’s derived from the Hawaiian name of King William Charles Lunalilo. (He was a Protestant, and William and Charles were his baptismal names.)

Lunalilo’s name was “high” (luna) + “lost [from sight]” (lilo).

So the character Lilo always getting lost, or going out of eyeshot of the adults, or going high up into space and high into galactic affairs… well, it makes sense.

OTOH, the female name “Lilo” supposedly means “generous one” in Hawaiian, and is a reference to a generous goddess.

Hawaiian is a complicated language, by all accounts, and there are a lot of expressions that have traditional implications that aren’t necessarily literal. I don’t have enough info to say what is right or wrong. But it seems like it’s a word about making something go from X to Y, or change states from X to Y. And if it has no noun after it, it would be something lost and gone forever, because it has no destination state.

But the character Lilo has the last name Pelekai, so being a Pelekai is her destination state. If that is how it works.

More meanings for the word “lilo.

Anyway… “ohana” does mean family, but the expression is about all the green shoots coming up from a root. (Very similar to the imagery of a Tree of Jesse, when you think about it.)

I got this because…

Thinking about the cartoon and not being enthused about the live action idea, I’ve been reading Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Beckwith, and it’s an interesting read.

The implication of the first chapter is that Lilo in the animated series might be a sort of divine/fey child (kupua) born into Nani’s family (or that Stitch is, or that Stitch is sort of Lilo’s fated fey power or spirit animal, or something like that).

Children like this are supposed to be treated well, because they are a sort of test or proposal from some nearby god (akua), who wants to become the family’s guardian god (aumakua).

But if the child is not treated well, bad things could happen. (Oops.)

A kupua child would be either very ugly, or very beautiful. They would be inhumanly strong, but their special powers would only have effect around the district where he/she lived. A kupua may become an aumakua after death, also. But generally, a kupua was a hero. (Who often fought or competed with other kupuas.)

(Kupu is a plant sprouting up from a root. Kupuna is an ancestor.)

Chapter 29 talks about kupua stories, which are considered fictional and not historical (or not historical mythology). The kupua child is precocious, a ravenous eater, mischievous, aggressive. He is a good friend to those suffering injustice, and a terrible enemy to those who do wrong. Sometimes the kupua does wrong too, punishing innocent friends or lovers. The kupua also avenges or rescues members of his family, or close friends.

Kupuas have various powers that belong to them. Many can transform into an animal shape and back. Some have animal friends, or menehune friends that just look like animals. They often have magic weapons or magic fighting powers. Some can travel magically into the heavens while seeming to be dead, only to awaken from their magical coma after months.

I think it’s possible that Myrtle, the antagonist mean girl, is also supposed to be a child with special powers, because honestly she seems to have mind-altering mean girl powers to control both kids and adults. (Especially in the animated series.) She would be an antagonist kupua, like the part-shark or part-squid kupuas in stories.

A lot of kupua heroes also find their own guardian gods, ghost gods, etc., and consult them on their adventures. And Elvis, being dead at the time in which the movie is set, could be construed as such a found ancestor/mentor for Lilo. Especially since she is an orphan.

The other thing going on with Hawaiian myths that seems to be echoed is that, while originally the first settlers (including gods) allegedly came from Tahiti (aka Kahiki), there were later waves of gods and human settlers. Sometimes very bad things happened if the newcomers didn’t respect the oldbies, and vice versa.

And of course the whole greater plot of Lilo and Stitch is about collisions between cultures and people, and is full of misunderstandings and adoptions. And instead of a voyage across the Pacific navigated by currents and the stars, we have visitors actually from the stars. So that’s pretty neat.

But none of this stuff is explicitly said, which was definitely the best way to keep out of trouble in the last few decades.

Hawaiian Mythology isn’t a book for kiddies, though. There’s a fair amount of info about human sacrifice rituals, and about the connection between war gods, divination, and sorcery. Some gods are cannibals (albeit depicted as baddies, mostly). Plus a lot of nekkid rituals, death for violating sacred customs or making a mistake in rituals, and so on.

We also learn that “moana” means “ocean” (as it does in a lot of other Polynesian languages).

And Nani? It means “glory, beauty, a good thing.

Finally, the Lilo and Stitch opening song is mostly a song praising King David Kalakaua, the successor to Lunalilo and the last king of Hawai’i. (The last queen was his sister, Lydia Lili’uokalani.) It’s blended with a song about Queen Lili’uokalani. Disney got copyright on the blend of two public domain songs, and this caused a lot of resentment.

Apparently the other sore point is that the direct to video sequel (Stitch Gets a Glitch) briefly retold the story of Pele, her sister Hi’iaka, and Lohi’au, the guy they both ended up in conflict over (and with) — as some sort of revival of a prince by true love’s kiss story. Um.

Yeah, I can see where that would be a problem, because it’s a story about Hi’iaka desperately trying to avoid sleeping with her sister Pele’s crush while fetching him back to Pele, while the guy makes moves on everyone (including Hi’iaka’s female best friend, who came along to help). And Hi’iaka throws Lohi’au off a cliff at one point and kills him, whereas Pele revives him.

Yeah, there’s a kiddie story of twue wuv.

So something very weird is going on with the story construction — somewher between movie 1 with hidden depths, and movie 2 that misconstrues explicit cultural stuff. I would assume that different writers were involved during development, possibly in an uncredited way… Or that Chris Sanders, who originated the Lilo and Stitch story, was the knowledgeable one.

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Churchill and Moriarty??

I was reading Churchill: A Life, and they were talking about Churchill’s attempts to pass the Sandhurst entrance test.

One of his tutors at Harrow for their “Army class” was named… Louis Martin Moriarty.

No, seriously.

Moriarty was also a gifted fencer, who helped coach Churchill on his way to winning not just Harrow’s fencing championship, but the yearly tournament of all the public schoo

Alas… he was French, taught history and French, lived out his entire life at Harrow without a single scandal, and generally was not the Napoleon of Crime in any way.

But it is pretty hilarious as a coincidence, because of course the archcriminal Moriarty was an army tutor of mathematics.

Churchill learned most of his high school mathematics in just a few months, from a teacher named Mayo, who seems to have been determined that the kid was going to pass the Sandhurst exam’s math section. And he did, which was pretty remarkable on both their parts.

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Eucharistic Procession!

St. John Bosco Chapel, and the Raider Catholics campus ministry, did a Eucharistic procession at Wright State University today.

It was a really nice day for it, and it worked out okay.

I love processions, because we almost never did any when I was a kid. It’s so great to walk in prayer with Jesus!

This worked out nicely, because it’s a reversal of Jesus hiding Himself (John 8:59), which is the Gospel for Passion Sunday (a week before Palm Sunday, and two weeks before Easter Sunday).

After Easter, Jesus goes out and reveals Himself, to both small and large groups of people. You never know where He’s going to show up!

So there He is, showing His Presence at Wright State. He’s always there, of course; but this makes people remember it.

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Irish Guggie Eggs!

This is a great video from an Irish folklore expert, who is also down to earth (and Irish, which helps) on Easter customs and crafts in Ireland.

Plus YET ANOTHER GUISING DAY! Seriously, y’all over in Europe were dressing up in costumes a lot more often than we Americans do. (Pace-Egging and Easter guising is also a thing in parts of England and Finland.)

Yes, little kids went googing (spelled gugging, but it’s a longish oo that just stops short of the oo in goo) for Easter eggs, and still do in Wexford. The usual days are Holy Saturday or Easter Monday, and the question at the door is “Eggs or money, mam?”

All the Guggin’ for Eggs info that you need! Plus a video of COVID reverse-Gugging (with bonus cruel separation, poor kids).

So Barney Google with the goo-goo-googly eyes was supposed to be understood as having eyes like eggs, maybe….

Cludogs and Guggies.

This is a super-informative Irish Easter video, and I wish I had known about it sooner.

This video also explains why you really want blessed salt on Easter, or in a blessed Easter basket — to salt your after-Lent eggs with, of course! This makes a lot of sense… People tend to forget that consumption of blessed salt is totally valid use of a sacramental. Cows and calves would also get blessed salt as a protective treat.

Also, RTE says that kids were often sent out of the house to build “Easter houses,” which were basically little dens or camps where the kids could roast or boil their Easter eggs over their own little campfires. Probably this allowed the adults to get Easter dinner done.

In some places, the adults joined the fun and had a Cludog egg picnic with a fire. This was also a good time to color your eggs with natural (and short-lived) dyes like gorse-yellow or onion-skin red/brown. In the old days, they would get spotted with wax, or strings would be used for dye resist.

The Easter folklore video shows pics of these children’s campfire techniques!

Egg-rolling (down a hill) and egg-eating contests are also Irish traditions for Easter. (And if you had gotten up at 4 in the morning to watch the sun rise (and possibly dance for joy), you’d be pretty slaphappy also.

Apparently Polish immigrants getting Easter baskets blessed, have been an impetus for Irish people to start getting their Easter baskets blessed again! Ha! This is a Holy Saturday thing.

Finally, there’s decorating May Bushes, on May 1, with SAVED EASTER EGG SHELLS strung on rags and strings. So a May bush is really an egg tree, possibly even with blessed eggs from Holy Saturday.

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