Tuesday, 8 January 2008

altus prosator

one of scotland's earliest latin praise poems, attributed to columba, is the altus prosator. i haven't really read it, my latin being too sketchy but being the sort of person who would go down to ruthwell cross so that i could read it (the dream of the rood), in the original mind (though my old english, like my latin, failed me!), it was only a matter of time before its marvellous loopiness ensnared me. you can read about it here and you can listen to it here

can you get a better opening?

Ancient exalted seed scatterer whom time gave no progenitor:
he knew no moment of creation in his primordial foundation
he is and will be all places in all time and all ages
with Christ his first-born only-born and the holy spirit-borne
throughout the high eternity of glorious divinity:
three gods we do not promulgate one God we stare and intimate
salvific faith victorious: three persons very glorious

then there's beasts

Dauntingly huge and horrible the dragon ancient and terrible
known as the lubric serpent subtler in his element
than all the beats and every fierce thing living earthly
dragged a third - so many - stars to his gehenna
down to the infernal regions not devoid of dungeons
benighted ones hell's own parasite hurled headlong.

and landscapes

Irrigating clouds showering wet winter from sea-fountains
from floods of abysses three-fourths down through fishes
up to the skyey purlieus in deep blue whirlpools
good rain then for cornfields vineyard-bloom and grain-yields
driven by blasts emerging from their airy treasuring
desiccating not the land-marches but the facing sea-marshes

translation - Edwin Morgan

it's such a shame that stuff like this isn't better known, especially where it originates. still, i shall take my rubbish latin and when i get on my bike to cycle round mull in the spring i'll take it back to iona and give it a go on the shore. see what happens....

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