Fit siluester homo

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description of Merlin depressed and seeking solitude has links with some of the stuff on the landscape of traditional tales  I have looked at before. Here is a key passage:

He entered the wood and rejoiced to lie hidden under the ash trees; he marvelled at the wild beasts feeding on the grass of the glades; now he chased after them and again he flew past them; he lived on the roots of grasses and on the grass, on the fruit of the trees and on the mulberries of the thicket.  He became a silvan man just as though devoted to the woods. For a whole summer after this, hidden like a wild animal, he remained buried in the woods, found by no one and forgetful of himself and of his kindred.  But when the winter came and took away all the grass and the fruit of the trees and he had nothing to live on, he poured out the following lament in a wretched voice.

“Christ, God of heaven,  what shall I do?  In what part of the world can I stay, since I see nothing here I can live on, neither grass on the ground nor acorns on the trees?  Here once there stood nineteen apple trees bearing apples every year; now they are not standing.  Who has taken them away from me?  Whither have they gone all of a sudden?  Now I see them – now I do not!  Thus the fates fight against me and for me, since they both permit and forbid me to see.  Now I lack the apples and everything else.  The trees stand without leaves, without fruit; I am afflicted by both circumstances since I cannot cover myself with the leaves or eat the fruit.  Winter and the south wind with its falling rain have taken them all away.  If by chance I find some navews [turnips] deep in the ground the hungry swine and the voracious boars rush up and snatch them away from me as I dig them up from the turf.  You, O wolf, dear companion, accustomed to roam with me through the secluded paths of the woods and meadows, now can scarcely get across fields; hard hunger has weakened both you and me.  You lived in these woods before I did and age has whitened your hairs first.  You have nothing to put into your mouth and do not know how to get anything, at which I marvel, since the wood abounds in so many goats and other wild beasts that you might catch.

and here from the same site, is part of the Latin text (in a rather dreadful edition):

Et fugit ad siluas- nec uult fugiendo uideri
Jngreditur que nemus gaudet que latere sub ornis
Miratur que feras pascentes gramina saltus
Nunc has insequitur- nunc cursu preterit illas
Utitur herbarum radicibus utitur herbis
Vtitur arboreo fructu- moris que rubeti
Fit siluester homo- quasi siluis deditus esset
Jnde per estatem totam- nulli que repertus
Oblitusque sui- cognatorum que suorum
Delituit siluis- obductus more ferino
At cum uenit yems herbasque tulisset et omnes:
Arboreos fructus- nec quo frueretur haberet:
Diffudit tales miseranda uoce querelas

Celi christe deus quid agam- qua parte morari
Terrarum potero- cum nil quo uescar adesse:
Inspicio- nec gramen humi- nec in arbore glandes
Tres quater et iuges septene poma ferentes
Hic steterant mali- nunc non stant ergo quis illas
Quis michi surripuit- quo deuenere repente:
Nunc illas uideo- nec non sic fata repugnant
Sic quoque concordant cum dant prohibent que uidere
Deficiunt nunc poma michi- nunc cetera queque
Stat sine fronde nemus- sine fructu plector utroque
Cum neque fronde tegi ualeo- neque fructibus uti:
Singula bruma tulit- pluuiisque cadentibus auster
Jnuenio si forte napes tellure sub ima
Concurrunt auideque sues- aprique voraces
Eripiunt que napes michi quas de cespite vello

Tu lupe care comes nemorum qui deuia mecum
Et saltus peragrare soles: vix preteris arua
Et te dura fames et me languere coegit
Tu prior has siluas coluisti- te prior etas
Protulit in canos- nec habes- nec scis quid in ore:
Proicias- quod miror ego- cum saltus habundet
Tot capreis- aliisque feris- quas prendere posses

In some ways it has it all: a man outside society hidden in the woods, the element of the pagan (since this is where he becomes a seer – although we have to note who Merlin prays to), even the wolf

1 Response to Fit siluester homo

  1. Pingback: Merlins | Early Years: Nick

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