The LION & the CARDINAL by DANIEL MITSUI


The LION & the CARDINAL
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8 February 2013


DOUBLE ACROSTICS of ST. ALDHELM

St. Aldhelm was an English saint of the seventh century; he was Abbot of Malmesbury and later Bishop of Sherborne, as well as an accomplished man of letters. According to Herbert Thurston:
His chief prose work is a treatise, De Laude Virginitatis, preserved to us in a large number of manuscripts, some as early as the eighth century. This treatise, in imitation of Sedulius, Aldhelm afterwards versified. The metrical version is also still extant, and Ehwald has recently shown that it forms one piece with another poem, De Octo Principalibus Vitiis... Several other letters of Aldhelm are preserved. One of these, addressed to Acircius (Ealdfrith), King of Northumbria, is a work of importance on the laws of prosody. To illustrate the rules laid down, the writer incorporates in his treatise a large collection of metrical Latin riddles.
Both the poem De Laude Virginitatis and the collection of riddles accompanying the epistle to Acircius have prrefaces in verse, each containing an ingenious double acrostic.

The preface to the De Laude Virginitatis begins with the line Metrica Tirones nunc promant carmina castos. The first letters of each of the thirty-eight lines of poetry in the preface spell out these same words when read vertically. Moreover, the last letters of each of the thirty-eight lines spell out this message also - when read from bottom to top!

Metrica Tirones nunc promant carmina castoS,
Et laudem capiat quadrato carmine VirgO,
Trinus in arce Deus, qui pollens secla creaviT,
Regnator mundi, regnans in sedibus altiS,
Indigno conferre mihi dignetur in aethrA
Сum Sanctis requiem, quos laudo versibus istiC.
Arbiter altithronus, qui servat sceptra superaA
Tradidit his coeli per sudum scandere limeN
Inter sanctorum cuneos, qui laude perennI
Rite glorificant moderantem regna tonanteM
Omnitenens Dominus, mundi formator et auctoR
Nobis pauperibus confer suffragia certA,
Et ne concedas trudendos hostibus istinС
Sed magis exiguos defendens dextera tangaT
Ne praedo pellax coelorum claudere limeN
Vel sanctos valeat noxarum fallere scenA
Ne fur strophosus foveam detrudat in atraM
Сonditor a summo quos Christus servat olympO
Pastor ovile tuens ne possit rabula raptoR
Regalis vastans caulas bis dicere puppuP
Omnia sed custos defendat ovilia jam nunС
Maxima praecipuum quae gestas numine nomeN
Addere praesidium mater dignare precatU
Nam tu perpetuum prompsisti lumine lumeN
Titan quem clamant sacro spiramine VateS
Сujus per mundum jubar alto splendet ab axE
Atque polos pariter replet vibramine fulmeN
Rex regum et princeps populorum dictus ab aevО
Magnus de magno, de rerum regmine rectoR
Illum nec terrae, nec possunt cingere coelI
Nec mare navigerum spumoso gurgite vallaT
Aut zonae mundi, quae stipant aethera celsA
Сlarorum vitam, qui castis moribus istiС
Auxiliante Deo vernabant flore perennI
Sanctis aggrediar studiis edicere paupeR
Tanta tamen digne si pauper praemia prodaT
Omnia cum nullus verbis explanet apertE
Sotsac animract Namorp Cnunsenorita cirteM.


The last line of the preface is simply the first line spelled backwards: a clue to anyone who missed the second acrostic.

The acrostic in the preface to the collection of riddles spells out the words Aldhelmus cecinit millenis versibus odas. These are the first and last letters of each line of poetry, read vertically (each line begins and ends with the same letter):

Arbiter, aetherio jugiter qui regmine sceptrA
Lucifluumque simul coeli regale tribunaL
Disponis, moderans aeternis legibus illuD
Horrida nam mulctans torsisti membra BehemotH
Ex alta quondam rueret dum luridus arcE
Limpida dictanti metrorum carmina praesuL
Munera nunc largire: rudis quo pandere reruM
Uersibus aenigmata queam clandestina fatU
Sic Deus indignis tua gratis dona rependiS
Сastalidas nymphas non clamo cantibus istuС
Examen neque spargebat mihi nectar in orE
Сynthi sic nunquam perlustro cacumina sed neС
In Parnasso procubui nec somnia vidI
Nam mihi versificum potent Deus addere carmeN
Inspirans stolidae pia gratis munera mentI
Tangit si mentem, mox laudem corda rependunT
Metrica: nam Moysen declarant carmina vateM
Iamdudum cecinisse prisci vexilla tropaeI
Late per populos illustria, qua nitidus SoL
Lustrat ab Oceani jam tollens gurgite cephaL
Et Psalmista canens metrorum carmina vocE
Natum divino promit generamine NumeN
In coelis prius exortum, quam Lucifer orbI
Splendida formatis fudisset lumina saecliS
Vernm si fuerint bona haec aenigmata, versV
Explosis penitus naevis et rusticitatE
Ritu dactylico recte decursa, nec erroR
Seduxit vana specie molimina mentiS
Incipiam potiora: sui Deus arida servI
Вelligere quondam qui vires tradidit IoВ
Viscera perpetui roris si repleat haustU
Siccis nam laticis duxisti cautibus amneS
Olim, cum cuneus transgresso marmore rubrO
Desertum penetrat: cecinit quod carmine DaviD.
Arce poli genitor servas qui saecula cunctA
Solvere jam scelerum noxas dignare nefandaS.

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