Thursday, March 14, 2013


Ubi Sunt?

"Death Takes All," in John Addington Symonds, Wine, Women, and Song: Mediaeval Latin Students' Songs. Now First Translated into English Verse, with an Essay (London: Chatto and Windus, 1884), pp. 159-160:
Hear, O thou earth, hear, thou encircling sea,
Yea, all that live beneath the sun, hear ye
How of this world the bravery and the glory
Are but vain forms and shadows transitory,
Even as all things 'neath Time's empire show        5
By their short durance and swift overthrow!
  Nothing avails the dignity of kings,
Naught, naught avail the strength and stuff of things;
The wisdom of the arts no succour brings;
Genus and species help not at death's hour,        10
No man was saved by gold in that dread stour;
The substance of things fadeth as a flower,
As ice 'neath sunshine melts into a shower.
  Where is Plato, where is Porphyrius?
Where is Tullius, where is Virgilius?        15
Where is Thales, where is Empedocles,
Or illustrious Aristoteles?
Where's Alexander, peerless of might?
Where is Hector, Troy's stoutest knight?
Where is King David, learning's light?        20
Solomon where, that wisest wight?
Where is Helen, and Paris rose-bright?
  They have fallen to the bottom, as a stone rolls:
Who knows if rest be granted to their souls?
  But Thou, O God, of faithful men the Lord,        25
To us Thy favour evermore afford
When on the wicked judgment shall be poured!
"Stour" in line 11 means "death-struggle."

Latin text, from Carl Bernh. Moll, ed., Hymnarium: Blüthen lateinischer Kirchenpoesie zur Erbauung (Halle: H. Petersen, 1861), p. 138:
Audi tellus, audi magni maris limbus,
Audi omne, quod vivit sub sole,
Huius mundi decus et gloria
Quam sint falsa et transitoria,
Ut testantur haec temporalia,        5
Non in uno statu manentia.
Nulli valet regalis dignitas,
Nulli valet corporis quantitas.
Nulli artium valet profunditas,
Nulli magnae valent divitiae,        10
Nullum salvat genus aut species,
Nulli prodest auri congeries.
Transierunt rerum materies,
Ut a sole liquescit glacies.
Ubi Plato, ubi Porphyrius;        15
Ubi Tullius aut Virgilius;
Ubi Thales, ubi Empedocles
Aut egregius Aristoteles;
Alexander ubi rex maximus;
Ubi Hector Troiae fortissimus;        20
Ubi David rex doctissimus;
Ubi Salomon prudentissimus;
Ubi Helena Parisque roseus —
Ceciderunt in profundum ut lapides:
Quis scit, an detur eis requies.        25
Sed tu, Deus, rector fidelium,
Fac te nobis semper propitium,
Quum de malis fiet iudicium.
There is a somewhat different Latin text in B. Hauréau, Notices et Extraits de Quelques Manuscrits Latins de la Bibliothèque Nationale, Vol. 4 (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck, 1892), pp. 331-332 (ms. 15363, fol. 231 = Prosa in officio mortuorum).

See James W. Bright, "The 'Ubi Sunt' Formula," Modern Language Notes 8.3 (March 1893) 94, and Geoffrey Shepherd, "'All the Wealth of Croesus...': A Topic in the 'Ancren Riwle'," Modern Language Review 51.2 (April 1956) 161-167. Mariantonia Liborio, "Contributi alla storia dell' Ubi sunt," Cultura Neolatina 20 (1960) 141-209, is unavailable to me.

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