Thursday, July 05, 2007


In een huechsken met een buexken

Thanks to Eric Thomson for the following comments on some recent posts on this blog. Additions by me are enclosed in square brackets.

You are quite right about the Thomas à Kempis quotation. It’s a vain quest. The conundrum is discussed in:

    Notes and Queries 1925 CXLIX: 224

    Notes and Queries 1925 CXLIX: 264

    Notes and Queries 1925 CXLIX: 263-264

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to this exchange, but what seems likely to have happened is that a caption beneath what may have been a portrait of Thomas à Kempis was erroneously assumed to be a quotation from the Imitatio.

I’ve found this extract from Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church (1910):
“He [Thomas] became skilful as a copyist, and was thus enabled to support himself. Later he was admitted to the Augustinian convent of Mt. St. Agnes, near Zwolle, received priest’s orders, 1413, and was made sub-prior, 1429. His brother John, a man of rectitude of life, had been there before him, and was prior. Thomas’ life seems to have been a quiet one, devoted to meditation, composition and copying. He copied the Bible no less than four times, one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt. His works abound in quotations of the New Testament. Under an old picture, which is represented as his portrait, are the words, "In all things I sought quiet, and found it not save in retirement and in books."* They fit well the author of the famous Imitation of Christ, as the world thinks of him.

* [footnote 520]In omnibus requiem quaesivi et non inveni nisi in een huechsken met een buexken. Franciscus Tolensis is the first to ascribe the portrait to à Kempis.”
But let Thomas have the last laugh: ‘Non quaeras quis hoc dixerit: sed quid dicatur attende’. Imitatio bk. 1, ch. 5, sect. 1.

[In an email Rev. Gerard Deighan draws my attention to an article on Thomas à Kempis by Albrecht Classen, which states that the portrait with the motto is to be found in Gertruidenberg. Apparently the motto also appears on Thomas à Kempis' gravestone in Agnetenberg, according to Dieter Mertens, "Deutscher Renaissance-Humanismus," Humanismus in Europa (Winter 1998) 187-210, at 192-193, n. 12:
So in der lateinischen Grabinscrift des Thomas von Kempen auf dem Agnetenberg; diese beginnt mit einer Vergil-Allusion (Aen. 4, 373 nusquam tuta fides) als Teil eines Hexameters, fährt in Prosa mit Bibelallusionen fort (Eccli. 24, 11 in his omnibus requiem quaesivi; Ierem. 45, 3 et requiem non inveni) und mündet in die oben zieterten deutschen Worte, die ebenso wie der Hexameter sentenzen- und devisenartig wirken und in Kreisen der Devoten sprichwörtlich gewesen sein mögen: Nusquam tuta quies nisi cella, codice, Christo. In omnibus requiem quaesivi et non inveni nisi in een huechsken met een buexhen.]

Pygmies and Cranes:
Saepe improvisas mactabat, saepe iuvabat
Diripere aut nidum, aut ulcisci in prole parentem.
Nempe larem quoties multa construxerat arte,
Aut uteri posuisset onus, volucremque futuram;
Continuo vultu spirans immane minaci
Omnia vastaret miles, foetusque necaret
Immeritos, vitamque abrumperet imperfectam,
Cum tepido nundum maturit hostis in ovo. l. 35-42

Examen poeticum duplex, sive, Musarum anglicanarum delectus alter cui subjicitur Epigrammatum seu poematum minorum specimen novum. Londini Impensis Ric. Wellington, 1698.
Oft where his feather'd foe had rear'd her nest,
And laid her eggs and household gods to rest,
Burning for blood, in terrible array,
The eighteen-inch militia burst their way;
All went to wreck; the infant foeman fell,
When scarce his chirping bill had broke the shell.
(Translation: James Beattie: The Minstrel London: T. Gillet 1762 [1799].

I like the idea of the still warm shell. Not everything in mock-heroic is mockery. Johnson also made a translation this poem in his youth (about 1725) but only about half survives.

I agree with you about ‘O Clod Almighty’ being a rather feeble rendering of ‘ὦ Βδεῦ δέσποτα': ‘Farter Almighty’ might be better, particularly in a Southern Irish accent, in which the fricative ‘D‘ has a plosive realization.

Jug- Eared: You mention Horace but not that he was himself jug-eared by name. Lewis & Short’s entry on ‘flaccus’ has the reference from Pliny.

Fixed Quantities:

Destruction as movement: ‘eliminate’ has a doublet in ‘exterminate’ which must have been something like ‘run out of town’.

Demolish and destroy (downwards),
eradicate (upwards),
raze, erase and obliterate (side to side).

The only completely abstract term I can think of annihilate and that comes from ecclesiastical Latin.

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