Arrogance (Look, Hilde)

We’re reading a few things by Hildegard of Bingen for Latin.

Here’s this little song (antiphon):

Latin.png Latin text

O virtus Sapientiae,
quae circuiens circuisti
comprehendendo omnia
in una via, quae habet vitam,
tres alas habens,
quarum una in altum volat,
et altera de terra sudat,
et tertia undique volat.
Laus tibi sit, sicut te decet,
O Sapientia.
English.png English translation

O strength of Wisdom
who, circling, circled,
enclosing all
in one lifegiving path,
three wings you have:
one soars to the heights,
one distils its essence upon the earth,
and the third is everywhere.
Praise to you, as is fitting,
O Wisdom.

Fine. Rather insensible. If you have a third wing that is everywhere, then obviously it is in the Earth and in the heights. Wisdom is either a ridiculous helicopter or some sort of unbalanced dragonfly.

But this could make a lot of sense by minor modification! If you change just ONE LETTER of the 8th line, et tertia undique volat, by adding a tiny ‘s’ into undique, “everywhere,” and changing it to undisque, “through the waves,” this poem makes sense: Now, three-winged wisdom is the bird in the sky, the plowshare in the earth, and the fish in the waves. This would say that wisdom can come from faith (bird ~ soul, sky ~ closer to the lord), work (plow in the ground), and fish (easy-living creature supported by god).

Now, this was really clever to me until I decided to stop ignoring that humanism was on the rise, and that wisdom-through-work (toil?) wasn’t quite in vogue anymore. But I think it’s much more clever. I really think the head copyist made a mistake and left out the s, and then all the other minions messed up. I am willing to warp history and a thousand crumbling sheets of parchment to satisfy my ego.

I want back my conception of Medieval Europe from Ms. Jennifer Horbal (Marganski)’s 8th grade class, when Peter Abelard was just Sic et Non, the plague and printing press helped the rise of humanism, when class didn’t sound like a bunch of little girls’ chatter. We had fact and discipline back then.


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