Thursday, September 04, 2014


A Prayer for Deliverance from Plague

Carol Maddison, Marcantonio Flaminio: Poet, Humanist and Reformer (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), pp. 38-39:
As soon as Flaminio had recovered from his illness he and Sauli went to Rome, in January, 1522,3 to be there for the coronation of the new pope. The plague was raging, the Tiber in flood, the cardinals had fled, paganism had come to life—an ox was crowned with flowers and sacrificed in the Colosseum—and Rome was full of warring factions.4 Flaminio describes these conditions in a poem to Apollo found in a manuscript which had belonged to his nephew, Gabriele Flaminio, and which was published by the eighteenth-century editor of the joint edition of Flaminio's and Fracastoro's poems.5 The poem can be dated from the reference to the siege of Rhodes. It is illustrative of the spirit of the times that Flaminio addresses his prayer, 'That he free us from the plague' to Apollo, the author of the famous epidemic among the Greek forces at Troy, rather than to the Archangel Michael whose statue stands on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo, sheathing his sword, in commemoration of the vision of St. Gregory the Great during the Roman plague of A.D. 590.

3 Longolio, fol. 274r-276r.
4 Cantù, I, p. 512.
5G. Fracastoro and M.A. Flaminio, Carmina (Verona, 1747), p. 180.
Hunc tibi, Phoebe pater, lunata fronte juvencum,
    Tibris qua undoso largius amne fluit,
Alcimedon jactata alte post terga securi
    Mactat, et in sacros porrigit exta focos.
Tu si saevitum est satis, et si caedis abunde,
    Poenarum exsolvit si tibi Roma satis,
Illuviem hanc expelle, inimicaque tela retunde,
    Et melius Turcas mitte perire feros,
Qui cinxisse Rhodon perstant nunc fortibus armis
    Dilectam, et cives perdere classe tuos.
I corrected undose in the second line to undoso, and Ey in the eighth line to Et.

This poem interests me because it is a good example of epipompē. Flaminio prays that the plague not simply disappear, but that it be sent away to a specific place, against a specific target. So far as I know, the poem hasn't been translated, so here is my rough version:
For you, Father Phoebus, here where the Tiber flows more copiously with billowy stream, Alcimedon sacrifices this horned bullock, with axe buried deep from behind, and he spreads the entrails on the holy fires. If your rage has been sufficiently vented, if there has been enough slaughter, if Rome has adequately paid penalties to you, drive out this filthy plague, blunt your hostile missiles, and cause the savage Turks to perish instead, who now persist in surrounding your beloved Rhodes with powerful weapons and in destroying your citizens with their fleet.

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