Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mercurius Gallo-Belgicus

Here is today's distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 5.5. The title refers to the "Mercurius Gall0-Belgicus," which was a yearly summary of news and events; John Donne chose it as the title for one of his epigrams also. You can actually see it online at Google Books if you want! Meanwhile, the poem itself alludes to the Latin proverb that you cannot carve a statue of Mercury from just any piece of wood - unless, of course, you are as foolish as the "iste faber" of Owen's poem, who ignores the proverbial advice and makes the "Mercurius" from any old wood at all.

Mercurius Gallo-Belgicus
Mercurius non fit de quolibet arbore. Fingit
Mercurium ex ligno quolibet iste faber.

Not ev’ry Tree will make a Mercury,
This Artist yet doth t’t all Woods apply.

Here is the vocabulary:

Mercurius - Mercury, messenger
Gallo-Belgicus - French & Belgian
non - not, no
fio - become, be made
de - from
quilibet - whatever, any
arbor - tree
fingo - shape, fashion
ex - out of, from
iste - that, that there
faber - workman, artisan

(from the title page of the Mercurius, 1594)

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