Aspicis ut densas ponant arbusta coronas
et linquant virides vitis et herba comas,
arida purpurei fugiant violaria flores,
horreat elapsis aspera spina rosis,
cernis et ut nudi iaceant sine gramine campi,
quos florum quondam pinxerat ampla Venus.
pro placidis Zephiris audis Aquilona frementem,
audis nymbriferi flamina saeva Nothi.
nec solitum placidus blanditur in aethere Phoebus,
pendet in oceanas quin mage pronus aquas,
succedentis ubi brumae vice labitur aestas
tristeque sorte venit vere cadente gelu.
sic, sic flos aevi, sic, dulcis amice, iuventus,
heu, properante cadit irreparata pede.
forma perit, pereunt agiles in corpore vires,
et subito ingenii visque calorque cadit.
tristior inde ruit ac plena doloribus aetas,
inde subit propero curva senecta pede.
haec tibi canitie est flavos, formose, capillos
sparsura et frontem findet amara tuam.
candida deformi pallore tibi induet ora,
et rosa purpureis excidet ista genis.
iamque abient numquam redeuntia gaudia vitae,
succedent quorum morsque laborque locis.
ergo ferox dum Parca sinet, patiantur et anni,
dum vireat vicibus laeta iuventa suis,
utamur, ne frustra abeat torpentibus, aevo,
carpamus primes, dulcis amice, dies.
(Erasmus, Elegia de mutabilitate temporum ad amicum)

You see how the trees have put off their thick-
leafed crowns and the vines and the meadows
have lost their green tresses, how the crimson
flowers have fled from the arid violet beds and
the harsh thorns bristle now that the roses
have fallen away. And you perceive how the
fields lie bare of grass, where once Venus had
bountifully bedecked them with flowers.
Instead of gentle western winds, you hear the
raging wind from the north, you hear the
savage blasts of the rain-laden wind from the
south. Nor does mild Phoebus smile as usual
in the sky, but rather he leans down low
toward the waters of the ocean, now that
summer slips away and winter follows in turn
and melancholy frosts, after the end of spring,
have taken their allotted place.
Just so, my sweet friend, just so the flower of
our lifetime, youth, hastens away, alas, and
fails, never to be recovered. Beauty dies, the
nimble strength of the body dies, and suddenly
the force and vitality of the mind fail. Then
age, sad and full of griefs, rushes upon us;
then crook-backed old age steals upon us all
too swiftly. Beautiful lad, she will sprinkle your
yellow locks with gray; she will bitterly plough
furrows in your brow. She will cast an ugly
pallor over the fair white of your face, and
those roses will depart from your ruddy
cheeks. The joys of life are already about to go
away, never to return, and their places will be
taken by hardship and death.
Therefore, while the fierce goddess of fate
still permits it, while the years still allow it,
while youth rejoices and flourishes in its own
season, let us make use of this time in our
lives, lest we lose it in vain through our own
lethargy. Let us seize, sweet friend, the days of
our youth.
(tr. Clarence H. Miller)



A naribus absit mucoris purulentia, quod est sordidorum. id quoque vitium Socrati philosopho datum est probro. pileo aut veste emungi, rusticanum; brachio cubitove, salsamentariorum; nec multo civilius id manu fieri, si mox pituitam vesti illinas. strophiolis excipere narium recrementa decorum, idque paulisper averso corpore, si qui adsint honoratiores. si quid in solum deiectum est, emuncto duobus digitis naso, mox pede proterendum est. indecorum est subinde cum sonitu spirare naribus: bilis id indicium est. turpius etiam ducere ronchos, quod est furiosorum, si modo fiat usu. nam spiritosis qui laborant orthopnoea danda est venia. ridiculum, vocem naribus emittere: nam id cornicinum est et elephantorum. crispare nasum irrisorum est et sanniorum. si aliis praesentibus incidat sternutatio, civile est corpus avertere; mox ubi se remiserit impetus, signare os crucis imagine; item sublato pileo resalutatis qui vel salutarunt, vel salutare debuerant (nam sternutatio, quemadmodum oscitatio, sensum aurium prorsus aufert), precari veniam, aut agere gratias. alterum in sternutamento salutare, religiosum: et si plures adsunt natu maiores qui salutant virum aut feminam honorabilem, pueri est aperire caput. porro vocis tinnitum studio intendere, aut data opera sternutamentum iterare, nimirum ad virium ostentationem, nugonum est. reprimere sonitum quem natura fert, ineptorum est, qui plus tribuunt civilitati quam saluti.
(Erasmus, De Civilitate Morum Puerilium 5)

The nostrils should be free from any filthy collection of mucus, as this is disgusting (the philosopher Socrates was reproached for that failing too). It is boorish to wipe one’s nose on one’s cap or clothing; to do so on one’s sleeve or forearm is for fishmongers and it is not much better to wipe it with one’s hand, if you then smear the discharge on your clothing. The polite way is to catch the matter from the nose in a handkerchief, and this should be done by turning away slightly if decent people are present. If, in clearing your nose with two fingers, some matter falls on the ground, it should be immediately ground under foot. It is bad manners to breathe noisily all the time, which is the sign of furious anger. It is even worse to make a habit of snorting like one possessed, although we must make allowance for heavy breathers who are afflicted with asthma. It is ridiculous to trumpet with one’s nose; this is for horn-blowers and elephants. Twitching the nose is for scoffers and buffoons. If you must sneeze while others are present, it is polite to turn away. When the attack has subsided you should cross your face, then, raising your cap and acknowledging the blessings of those who have (or you assume to have) blessed you (for sneezing, like yawning, completely mocks one’s sense of hearing), beg pardon or give thanks. One should be scrupulous in blessing another when he sneezes. If older people are present and bless a high-ranking man or woman, the polite thing for a boy to do is to raise his cap. Again, to imitate or consciously repeat a sneeze—in effect to show off one’s strength—is the sign of a fool. To suppress a sound which is brought on by nature is characteristic of silly people who set more store by ‘good manners’ than good health. (tr. Brian McGregor)



This is part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here.

Quid inter haec animi Erasmo tuo fuisse credis? insidebat attonito equo eques attonitus; qui quoties aures erigebat, ego animum deiciebam, quoties ille in genua procumbebat, mihi pectus saliebat. iam Bellerophon ille poeticus suo terrebat exemplo, iam meam ipse temeritatem exsecrabar, qui mutae beluae vitam et una literas meas commiserim. sed audi quiddam, quod tu credas ex veris Luciani narrationibus petitum, ni mihi ipsi Batto teste accidisset. cum arx iam ferme in prospectu esset, offendimus omnia undique glacie incrustata, quae ut dixi in nivem inciderat. et erat tanta ventorum vis, ut eo die unus atque alter collapsi perierint. flabant autem a tergo. itaque per declive montium me demittebam, per summam glaciem velificans, atque interim hastili cursum moderans. id erat clavi vice. novum navigandi genus. toto fere itinere obvius fit nemo, sequitur nemo, adeo non solum saeva sed etiam monstruosa erat tempestas. quarto vix demum die solem aspeximus. hoc unum ex tantis malis commodi excerpsimus, quod latronum incursus timuimus minus; timuimus tamen, ut homines pecuniosos decebat.
(Erasmus, Ep. 88)

How do you think your Erasmus responded to all this? He sat, a terrified rider, on a terrified horse. When my mount’s ears pricked up, my spirit fell; and as often as he fell down on his knees, my heart jumped up into my mouth. I was becoming alarmed at the precedent set by the poets’ Bellerophon, and cursing my foolhardiness in entrusting my life and my letters at one and the same time to a dumb creature. But I will tell you something you would suppose I had borrowed from Lucian’s Vera historia, if I did not have Batt to witness that it really happened to me. When we were almost within sight of the castle, we found the entire countryside covered with a layer of ice which, as I have explained, had fallen on top of the snow. The wind blew so hard that more than one person was blown down and died that day. Since it blew from behind us, I slid down the slopes of the hills, sailing on the surface of the ice, and from time to time steering with my staff, using it as a rudder, a new kind of navigation. In our entire journey we scarcely met a soul or were overtaken by anyone, so wild, indeed monstrous, was the weather. It was only on the fourth day that at last we had a glimpse of the sun. All these difficulties brought us only one advantage: we stood in less fear of attack by robbers; yet fear it we did, as rich men should! (tr. R.A.B. Mynors & D.F.S. Thomson)


winter forest

This is part 1 of 2. Part 2 is here.

Pervenimus tandem et quidem incolumes, tametsi invitis (ut apparet) et superis et inferis. o durum iter! quem ego posthac Herculem, quem Ulyssem non contemnam? pugnabat Iuno semper poëticis viris infesta; rursum Aeolum sollicitarat; nec ventis modo in nos saeviebat, omnibus armis in nos dimicabat, frigore acerrimo, nive, grandine, pluvia, imbre, nebulis, omnibus denique iniuriis. hisque nunc singulis nunc universis nos oppugnabat. prima nocte post diutinam pluviam subitum atque acre obortum gelu viam asperrimam effecerat; accessit nivis vis immodica; deinde grando, tum et pluvia, quae simul atque terram arboremve contigit, protinus in glaciem concreta est. vidisses passim terram glacie incrustatam, neque id aequali superficie, sed colliculis acutissimis passim exstantibus. vidisses arbores glacie vestitas adeoque pressas, ut aliae summo cacumine imum solum contingerent, aliae ramis lacerae, aliae medio trunco discissae starent, aliae funditus evulsae iacerent. iurabant nobis e rusticis homines natu grandes se simile nihil umquam in vita vidisse antea. equis interim eundum erat nunc per profundos nivium cumulos, nunc per sentes glacie incrustatos, nunc per sulcos bis asperos, quos primum gelu duraverat, deinde et glacies acuerat, nunc per crustum quod summas obduxerat nives; quod quidem mollius erat quam ut equum sustineret, durius quam ut ungulas non scinderet.
(Erasmus, Ep. 88)

We have arrived at last, and safely, too, though the gods above and below, it seems, conspired against us. What a dreadful journey! From now on, I shall feel superior to heroes such as Hercules or Ulysses. Juno was against us: she always dislikes poets. She stirred Aeolus up once again and, not content with unleashing the winds’ rage at us, used every weapon in her armoury: biting cold, snow, hail, rain, showers, mist, in fact every mean trick, sometimes one at a time and sometimes all together. The first evening, after a prolonged period of rain, a sudden keen frost made the road extremely hard going; on top of this came a heavy snowfall, followed by hail, and then again rain, which as soon as it touched the ground, or a tree, turned immediately into ice. Everywhere you would have seen the ground covered with a layer of ice; and its surface was not even flat, but had horribly sharp little ridges protruding all over it. You would also have seen the trees so heavily laden with ice that some of them were bent over, with their tops touching the very ground, while others had branches ripped off or their trunks split in two, and others again lay completely uprooted. The old countrymen swore to us that they had never seen such a sight in their lives before. The horses meanwhile had sometimes to walk through deep drifts of snow or through thickets coated with ice; sometimes in ruts which were doubly difficult going, because first they set hard with frost and then ice made their edges sharp; and sometimes upon a surface crust which had covered the top layer of snow and was too soft to bear the horses’ weight, yet hard enough to injure their hooves. (tr. Roger Aubrey Baskerville Mynors & Douglas Ferguson Scott Thomson)



Ad hos stimulos haudquaquam segnes accedit et urbis Gandavi splendor. neque enim arbitror, quaqua patet Christiana dicio, civitatem ullam reperiri quae cum hac conferri queat, sive spectes amplitudinem urbis ac potentiam, sive politiam, sive gentis indolem. nec enim aliunde feliciora prodeunt ingenia, nec expressiora priscae virtutis exempla.
(Erasmus, Ep. 2093)

On top of these stimuli, hardly ineffectual in themselves, there is the splendor of the city of Ghent. For I don’t believe that in the entire Christian world a single city can be found that compares to this one, whether you look at its size or might, its political regime, or the character of its inhabitants. Nowhere else in fact do we encounter more fertile minds or clearer examples of ancient virtue. (tr. David Bauwens)


Colourful easter eggs on grass

Πολλῶν πανηγύρεων Διὸς βαλάνων ἔφαγεν [Michael Apostolius, Paroimiai 14.66], id est Multorum festorum Iovis glandes comedit. de sene longoque plurimarum rerum usu docto; perinde valet quasi dicas; ‘multas vixit Olympiadas’. quercus autem Iovi sacra; unde nuces iuglandes. simili ioco et hodie dicunt nostrates: Comedit multa ova paschalia, senem indicantes.
(Erasmus, Adagia 3149)

He has eaten acorns at many feasts of Jupiter. Said of a man who is old and wise through long and varied experience; it means exactly the same as ‘He has lived many Olympiads.’ The oak is sacred to Jupiter, whence the expression ‘Jove’s oak nuts.’ People in my country still say nowadays, ‘He has eaten many Easter eggs’ as a humorous way of referring to an old man. (tr. Denis L. Drysdall)



Principio quis nescit primam hominis aetatem multo laetissimam multoque omnibus gratissimam esse? quid est enim illud in infantibus, quod sic exosculamur, sic amplectimur, sic fovemus, ut hostis etiam huic aetati ferat opem, nisi stultitiae lenocinium, quod data opera prudens natura recens natis adiunxit, ut aliquo voluptatis velut autoramento et educantium labores delinire queant et tuentium favores eblandiantur? deinde quae succedit huic adolescentia, quam est apud omnes gratiosa, quam illi candide favent omnes, quam studiose provehunt, quam officiose porrigunt auxiliares manus! at unde quaeso ista iuventae gratia? unde nisi ex me? cuius beneficio quam minimum sapit atque ob id quam minime ringitur.
(Erasmus, Moriae Encomium LB4.413)

First of all, who does not know that the earliest period of a man’s life is by far the happiest for him and by far the most pleasant for all about him? What is it in children, that we should kiss them the way we do, and cuddle them, and fondle them – so that even an enemy would give aid to one of that age – except this enchantment of folly, which prudent nature carefully bestows on the newly born; so that by this pleasure, as a sort of prepayment, they win the favor of their nurses and parents and make these forget the pains of bringing them up. After this comes adolescence. How welcome it is in every home! How well everyone wishes it! How studiously does everyone promote it, how officiously they lend it the helping hand! But, I ask, whence comes this grace of youth? Whence but from me, by whose favor the young know so little-and how lightly worn is that little! (tr. Hoyt Hopewell Hudson)