Wednesday, October 31, 2012

King of Terrors

from LAMENT FOR THE MAKERS, by William Dunbar (1469-1520?)

I that in health was and gladness
Am troubled now with great sickness
And feebled with infirmity:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Our pleasance here is all vain glory,
This false world is but transitory,
The flesh is fragile, the Fiend is sly:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,
Now sound, now sick, now blithe, now sorry,
Now dancing merry, now like to die:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

No state in earth here stands secure;
As with the wind waves the wicker
So wanes this world's vanity:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Unto the dead go all estates,
Princes, prelates, potentates,
Both rich and poor of all degree:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takes the knights in the field
Unarmed under helm and shield;
Victor he is in all melee:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

This strong tyrant, merciless,
Takes the babe from mother's breast,
Harmless though the child may be;--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He spares no lord for his puissance,
No clerk for his intelligence;
His awful stroke may no man flee;--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Artful magicians and astrologists,
Rhetoricians, logicians, and theologists,
Aren't helped by their conclusions sly;--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In medicine the most practitioned,
Leeches, surgeons, and physicians,
Themselves from death may not supply;--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

(Slightly adapted and translated. Latin Timor Mortis conturbat me: "The Fear of Death troubles me.")

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Devil His Due

"None the less," observes Jurgen [a pawnbroker speaking to a monk], "it does not behoove God-fearing persons to speak with disrespect of the divinely appointed Prince of Darkness. To your further confusion, consider this monarch's industry! Day and night you may detect him toiling at the task Heaven set him. That is a thing that can be said of few communicants and of no monks. Think, too, of his fine artistry, as evidenced in all the perilous and lovely snares of this world, which it is your business to combat, and mine to lend money upon! Why, but for him we would both be vocationless! Then, too, consider his philanthropy, and deliberate how insufferable would be our case if you and I, and all our fellow parishioners, were to-day hobnobbing with other beasts in the Garden which we pretend to desiderate on Sundays! To arise with swine and lie down with the hyena?--Oh, intolerable!"

--from Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice, by James Branch Cabell.