Drinking Song

Many years ago, Latin was still taught in schools, and we had it inflicted on us. Actually I realise now that if you have an interest in the English language then knowing Latin is a useful tool in helping to understand it, as so many English words have Latin roots. So, better late than never: I’m sure our Latin teacher, Mr Carter-Johnson, would be pleased at even such a delayed appreciation of his efforts.

Even so, about the only thing I can remember clearly from those lessons is the motto at the top of this page. which we were told meant “It is my intention to die in the pub”.  At the time I though that this was a great ambition and ever since I have considered it to be the family motto.

I have since discovered that it is a medieval song from around 1160 and the full text, with a translation, is shown here.

I must make it clear that this translation is not my work: I am indebted to the following site for the full text and a literal translation. http://ingeb.org/Lieder/meumestp.html

Meum est propositum in taberna mori 
ubi vina proxima morientis ori. 
Tunc cantabunt laetius angelorum chori: 
Deus sit propitius isti potatori, isti potatori.

Poculis accenditur animi lucerna, 
cor inbutum nectare volat ad superna. 
Mihi sapit dulcius vinum de taberna, 
quam quod aqua miscuit praesulis pincerna.

Jejunant et abstinent poetarum chori, 
vitant rixas publicas et tumultus fori, 
et, ut opus faciant, quod non possit mori, 
oriuntur studio subditi labori. 

Unicuique proprium dat natura donum, 
ego versus faciens bibo vinum bonum 
et quod habent purius dolia cauponum; 
tale vinum generat copiam sermonum. 

Mihi nunquam spiritus poetriae datur, 
nisi prius fuerit venter bene satur. 
Cum in arce cerebri Bacchus dominatur, 
in me Phoebus irruit et miranda fatur. 

Tales versus facio, quale vinum bibo, 
nihil possum facere, nisi sumpto cibo. 
Nihil valent penitus, quae jejunus scribo, 
Nasonem post calicem carmine praeibo 

Archipoeta, around 1160

My proposal is to die in the tavern
Where the wine will be near my dying mouth; 

Then choirs of angels will quite happily sing, 
“May God be propitious to this drunkard!” 

The lamp of my soul is lit by goblets; 
My heart when imbued with nectar flies to the upper regions. 
Wine from the tavern tastes sweeter to me 
Than that which my patron’s butler mixes with water.

The choirs of poets fast and abstain, 
They avoid public quarrels and outdoor brawls 
And in order to create a work which cannot die 
They die of devotion, bowed down by hard work.

Nature gives each person his personal gift; 
I drink good wine and fashion verses, 
And because the landlord’s jugs have the purer stuff, 
Such wine generates an abundance of poems.

Poetic inspiration is never given to me 
Unless my belly has first been well filled; 
When Bacchus is lord in the citadel of my brain, 
Phoebus rushes upon me and says marvelous things. 

The verses I make are as good as the wine I drink; 
I can do nothing unless I have had a meal. 
What I write when hungry has no real value; 
After a glass, I excel Naso in song. 

Literal translation by J. Mark Sugars, 1997