Monday 7 August 2023

A Poem for a Carolingian August Feast

‘Octava Augusti’

Conuiuae tetricas hodie secludite curas,
   ne maculent niueum nebula corda diem.
Omnia sollicitae ponantur murmura mentis,
   ut uacet totum pectus amicitiae.
Non semper gaudere licet. Fugit hora: iocemur!
   difficile est fatis subripuisse diem.
‘On the Octave of August’
Today, banquet-companions, cast off your gloomy anxieties,
   Lest our hearts blot with darkness this snow-white day.
Let all the murmurs of a fretful mind be laid aside,
   So that a full heart allows time for friendship.
One cannot always rejoice. Time flies: Let us make merry!
   For is it difficult to steal a day from the fates.
MS Bern 109, fol. 136v. My translation.

murmura mentis
, cf. Bernardus Silvestris, Cosmographia, XII.8 (ed. Peter Dronke, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978, p.145).

This epigram has intrigued scholars since Hermann Hagen resolved the abbreviated title Octā auğ as Octaviani Augusti and attempted to connect it with the lost collection of epigrams of Emperor Augustus. Konrad Müller later demonstrated parallels for the long a in vacet in the works of Luxorius and the Salmasianus codex and thus dated the poem to the fifth or beginning of the sixth century. And finally John Contreni argued convincingly instead for a Carolingian date and an attribution to Heiric of Auxerre (841–876), suggesting that the heading refers the octave of the feast of St. Germanus of Auxerre, which fell on August 7th.

I use the text established by Konrad Müller, though I have replaced e caudata with the more familar ae. And I have used sollicitae for sollicite, also for clarity.

I am a little intrigued with Hagen’s emending nebula (2) with the adjective nubila. If the epigram were the work of the emperor Augustus, one would except a dactyl there instead of anapestic ablative ‘nebulā’. Though Carolingian verse might not require such a correction it is possible to imagine that Heiric of Auxerre would have preferred nubila, had the suggestion been made to him!

Hermann Hagen, ‘Über ein neues Epigramm mit der Aufschrift: Octaviani Augusti’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 35 (1880), 569–577

Konrad Müller, ‘Neue Fragmente in Tironischen Noten aus der Berner Handschriftensammlung’, Schweizer Beiträge zur allgemeinen Geschichte, 13 (1955), 16-47

Augustus, Imperatoris Caesaris Augusti operum fragmenta, ed. by Enrica Malcovati, 4th edn (Aug. Tarinorum: In aedibus Io. Bapt. Paraviae, 1967), p. 2

John J. Contreni, ‘What was Emperor Augustus doing at a Carolingian Banquet (Anth. Lat. 2 719F)?’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 146.3-4 (2003), 372-94