image of Hrabanus Maurus

Week 7: Hrabanus Maurus: De rerum naturis.

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Reading #1: Hrabanus Maurus, De terra

Go to Reading #2 ->

But first pause here for a moment and think of all the different ways you can translate the Latin terra into English: remember that for Hrabanus, these are all combined in a single word: but Hrabanus is interpreting the Bible here, so he will also surprise you with allegorical interpretations! Because these allegorical meanings are sometimes difficult for modern readers to grasp, I have sometimes provided a kind of commentary here instead of the usual "question" format.

Terra enim mystice
plures significationes habet

plures: s.v. multus
  how is Hrabanus going to analyze the meaning of the word "terra"? how many meanings will he present?
aliquando significat 
patriam celestem
ut est illud:
"Credo uidere bona domini
in terra uiuentium."

[terra] significat patriam celestem
viventium: s.v. vivo

the verse is from Psalm 26 (27)

Credo videre
This verse is part of the matins for the dead. So, when the monks sang for the dead, they sang about the dead in "terra viventium". Thus Hrabanus concludes that the word "terra" does not always mean this "earth"; it can mean "patria celestis", or "heaven". Terra can mean "heaven", mystice.
et illud euangelii:
"Beati - inquit - mites,
quoniam ipsi possidebunt terram."
beati [sunt] mites

[the verse is Matthew 5:4]

  Hrabanus takes this interpretation - terra means "heaven" - and applies that to this version from Matthew 5: blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth = heaven.
carnem domini saluatoris 
ut est illud:
terram tuam,
auertisti captiuitatem Iacob."

carnem: s.v. caro
Iacob: genitive singular [Hebrew names usually do not decline]

[The verse if from Psalm 84 (85), which is part of the introit for Roman Catholic mass during Advent]

Hrabanus now proposed another interpretation: terra means "heaven" and it also means "caro domini salvatoris". He is moving on down the chain of being: terra means heaven and then, one notch down, it means the incarnation of Jesus. But how does Hrabanus understand "captivitas Iacob" here? He is about to explain!
(Iacob enim patriarcha
significat populum fidelem,
qui liberatus est
a captiuitate diaboli
per incarnationem saluatoris.)
Iacob...patriarcha:  apposition
  how does Hrabanus interpret the figure of Jacob? what does Jacob represent? what does the "captivitas Jacob" represent? how is "Jacob" saved from this "captivitas"?
Item terra significat
sanctam Mariam uirginem,
de qua dominus 
nasci dignatus est,
unde est illud:
"Veritas de terra orta est,
et iustitia 
de caelo prospexit."
virginem: s.v. virgo
nasci: present infinitive (deponent)
orta est: s.v. orior (deponent)
prospexit:  s.v. prospicio

[note that this verse is also from Psalm 84 (85), as the previous verse was: you can read Psalm 84 (85) with a facing English text translation here]

veritas de terra
Hrabanus continues on down: from heaven, to the incarnation, and now to the Virgin Mary. When the Bible says "veritas de terra orta est", Hrabanus interprets this as "Salvator de Maria ortus est".
Terra homo ipse, 
ut in euangelio:
"Aliud cecidit 
in terram bonam."
aliud [semen] cecidit in terram bonam

[you read the parable of the sower earlier this semester]

  Hrabanus moves further on down: terra can mean heaven, or the incarnation, or the Virgin Mary and now: homo ipse. Terra means "homo". So in the parable of the sower, when Jesus says the see fell "in terram bonam", this means it fell "in hominem bonum."
Item in Genesi 
arida terra nominatur,
ut est illud:
"Et uocauit 
aridam terram"
[Deus] vocavit aridam terram

[the verse is Genesis 1]

  Hrabanus is also going to see what happens if terra means "homo" in this passage from Genesis: what does it mean if God vocavit aridam terram = hominem? What is a dry person?
(populum scilicet 
fontem fidei sitientem,
et bonorum operum germen 
fontem: s.v. fons
sitientem: s.v. sitio
operum: s.v. opus
germen: neuter accusative singular
  Hrabanus explains what a dry person is: what is the mystical meaning of "arida terra" = "aridus homo" ?
Terra uero 
in malum posita est,
ubi corruptionem humanae naturae,
uel peccatores et perditos homines,
posita est:  s.v. pono
  Now Hrabanus is going to provide interpretations of terra "in malum", negative interpretations, when terra is a symbol of the world of the Devil, not the world of God. What does terra mean when it is interpreted negatively?
Corruptionem autem naturae
illa domini sententia 
qua ad hominem peccantem ait:
"Terra es et in terram ibis."

peccantem: s.v. pecco
ibis: s.v. eo

  [the Vulgate reads "pulvis es et in pulverem revertis," Gen. 3, but this alternate Latin translation, using the word "terra" persisted side by side with the Vulgate translation; see the Latin rebus in this week's discussion questions]
  In order to support the negative interpretation of terra as "the corruption of human nature", Hrabanus invokes the Biblical passage when God says to Adam: "
Peccatores quoque 
terrae nomine ibi notantur,
ubi dominus 
ad serpentem ait:
"Terram comedes 
cunctis diebus"

ibi: in that same place in the Bible

serpentem: s.v. serpens
cunctis diebus = omnibus diebus

[the verse is from Genesis 3]

When God speaks to the snake about "terra", Hrabanus also interprets that to mean "peccatores": so the phrase "terram comedes cunctis diebus" means "peccatores comedes cunctis diebus"
(hoc est:
in sortem tuam et perditionem
et eorum iniquitatibus 
sortem: s.v. sors
pasceris: s.v. pascor (deponent)
  what does it mean to say to the snake ( = Devil) that "peccatores comedes"?
Similiter et illud 
quod alibi legitur:
"Recedentes a te
in terra scribentur"
(id est qui 
per apostasiam
a te auertentur,
inter peccatores 

scribentur: note the future tense

[verse is Jeremiah 17]

avertentur...connumerabuntur: future

  in this passage, Hrabanus interprets the words "in terra scribentur" to mean "inter peccatores connumerabuntur". who is going to be recorded "in terra" = numbered "inter peccatores"?
Terra carnalis potentia,
ut in Aecclesiastico:
"Quid superbit terra et cinis."

terra [est] carnalis potentia
Aecclesiastico: Ecclesiastico (hypercorrection)


  [this is not the book of Ecclesiastes, but Ecclesiasticus, an apocryphal book of the Bible, also called The Wisdom of Sirach.
[9] How can he who is dust and ashes be proud? for even in life his bowels decay.
[10] A long illness baffles the physician; the king of today will die tomorrow.
[11] For when a man is dead, he will inherit creeping things, and wild beasts, and worms.
  now Hrabanus equates "terra" with "potentia carnalis" (or simply "caro"), and he uses a verse from the Wisdom of Sirach to illustrate this meaning: terra et cinis = caro et cinis
Terra deserta 
populus Iudaeorum,
siue omnes peccatores,
terra deserta [est] populus Iudaeorum
  remember that Hrabanus provided an analysis of terra arida (in bonum!), but now he provided an interpretation (in malum) of terra deserta: what does terra deserta symbolize?
ut in Hieremia:
deserta et inhabitabilis,
in qua nullus habitet,
nec pertranseat per eam
filius hominis,"
(id est dominus Iesus Christus).

in qua [terra] nullus habitet

[verse is from Jeremiah 51]

  Hrabanus now describes a terra deserta ( = the Jews) through which the filius hominis non pertransit: how does Hrabanus interpret the phrase filius hominis? based on this interpretation, what is Hrabanus's attitude toward the Jews?
Puluis peccatores sunt,
sicut in Esaia dicitur
(pro diabolo)
"et serpenti puluis panis eius,"
et alibi
"non sic impii non sic,
sed tamquam puluis."

serpenti (pro diabolo): dative of possession

[the first verse is from Isaiah 65]

[the second verse is from Psalm 1; see Burnet Psalter, Psalm 1 for an example of this version in manuscript form]

sed tamquam pulvis
Hrabanus now turns from terra to the related word pulvis: what does the word "pulvis" mean, acording to Hrabanus? is this an interpretation in bonum, or in malum?
medicinae caelestis glutinum,
ut in euangelio:
"Lutum fecit
et liniuit oculos meos."

lutum [est] medicinae glutinum

linivit: s.v. linio

[the verse is from John 9]

  Hrabanus now moves from pulvis to another related word: lutum. The first passage about lutum is from John 9: what does the "lutum" used by Jesus symbolize? is this an interpretation in bonum, or in malum?
Aliter lutum 
peccatorum glutinum,
ut in Psalmo:
"Eripe me
de luto
ut non inhaerear."

lutum [est] peccatorum glutinum
ut non inhaerear: ut (non) + subjunctive (not classical usage)

[the verse is from Psalm 68 (69)]

me de luto ut non
now Hrabanus turns to a passage about lutum from the Pslams: what does lutum represent in this passage? is this an intepretation in bonum or in malum?

Go to Reading #2 ->

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM