FIVE UNNUMBERED QUATRAINS ON LIFE AND DEATH
The Ordinance for the printing of Almanacs and Predictions of M. Michel Nostradamus was granted by the Marshall of Lyon and from 1550 through to 1566 a Nostradamus Almanac for the following year, variously printed, was published each Autumn. (These were continued-on even after his death by certain ‘disciples of Nostradamus’.)
The genuine editions were a major source of his income and personal wealth. Although they detail lunar phases, constellation particulars and weather forecasts that largely appealed to farmers their subject-matter was not always rural nor even contemporary. I have not examined all the annual Almanachs and Presages and Prognostications of Michel Nostredame. I call them the periodicals of presage. Some versions had been reconstructed or retouched. Nevertheless certain quatrains have struck me as fully deserving of further investigation. For example, here are the final 5 quatrains in his periodical of presage for 1567 (published in 1566, the year he died) which make revealing reading;
Longues langueurs de teste, nopce, ennemi publique
Par Prelat & voyage, songe dream du grand, terreur.
Feu & ruine grande, trouué en lieu oblique.
Par torrent decouuert, sortir noues erreurs.
Stays in the wilderness/elongated tests, superficial existence as a public enemy
Wanderings because of the Prelate, great visionary dreams, terror.
Fiery light and great ruin found at the distant roundabout.
Revealed by the abundant onrush, resolving the knots of errors.
Line 2. OF ‘songe’ means the same as dream. (Fr. ‘songe-creux’ is a visionary: dream interpretation is Fr. ‘interprétation des rêves’).
Line 3. The roundabout is doubtless the precessional Zodiac on its great cycle.
In this verse Nostredame seems to be reflecting upon his life, including running away from a ‘figure religieuse’. He lists his terrifying dream-viewing, his discovery of future details via the cycles of the Zodiac and a great and abundant rush – an altered state? – that he believed had allowed him to see more clearly into the general human confusion.
Les Rois & magistrats par les morts la main mettre.
Jeunes filles malades, & des grânds le corps enfle.
Tout par langeurs & nopces, ennemis serfs au maistre.
Les publiques douleurs, le Cômposeur tout enfle.
The Royals and public functionaries put to death by hand.
Virgins stricken, and the swollen corpses of the grandees.
All through languishings and superficiality, the serfs made enemies with the master.
The public dolorous, the Author (of this verse) all swelled up.
OF ‘enfle’ could mean a state more important than reality, e.g. inflamed by love, but usually meant swollen including by morbidity. Nostredame gives his readers a glimpse of coming days of callous debauchery (notably, but not limlited to, the religious wars) and the slayings or executions of some major stake holders in the status quo during the coming Common Advent/French Revolution.
Du retour d’ambassade, don de Roy, mis au lieu.
Plus n’en sera: sera allé à Dieu.
Parens plus proches, amis, freres du sang
Trouué tout mort prés du lict & du banc.
On return from the ambassador’s, gift to the King, put in place/at that place.
More will not be done, will be gone to God.
Parents closer, friends, brothers by blood.
Found quite dead near the bed and the bench.
‘Ambassade’ is embassy but OF can have it as meaning the diplomatic functionary himself. Perhaps here we have some of both. Nostradame wrote the dedicatory address for his 1557 Prognostication “To the very virtuous Guillaume de Guadagne, Seigneur of Sainct-Victor, Baron of Lunel, Bailiff of Mascon, Marshall of Lyon, & Gentleman of the King’s Chamber”. This high man’s father had been a wealthy immigrant and was a benefactor to the plague victims. The son had played host to Nostradame during the author’s trip in 1555, rendering “a goodly welcome which Your Excellency gave me at your house inLyon, when I was en route to the Court.” Did Dr. Nostredame make one final gesture to thatRoyal Courtwhich had helped make his high standing in his community? A trip to give a special representative of the monarchy a last gift for the Royal Family before Michel’s imminent death which he had by then foreseen, leaving this at the house of the Crown representative? (A letter addressed to Queen Mother Catherine de’Medicis, written in December 1565 by Michel Nostredamus, was printed by Benoist Rigaud in 1566.) It seems he somehow may have known in advance of his very moment of death. A contemporary account has it that Nostredame was indeed found dead on or by the bench at the foot of his bed – unless this tale was told by Jean Chavigny to conjure a good story!
Enfants, freres & soeurs, amis, thresor trouve.
Le jeune le prelat, le legat & voyage,
La maladie, la femme aura prouve
Que pour la mort changera de visage.
Children, brothers and sisters, friends, ‘treasure trove’.
Youth, the Prelate, the Legate and travels,
The sickness, the wife will have verification
That in death a face is changed.
Michel’s malady was painful gout and it helped killed him off. Seeing the dead face of one we know can be a shock. The many facial micro muscles that constantly change – and which we can learn to discern so well – are no longer functioning and if, as is often the custom, that face is worked into a smile posthumously, so to speak, it can be unrecognizable. As a man who had many encounters with death, Nostredame gives a warning to his wife in advance of her widowing.
Notably, Nostredame encapsulates a treasured childhood in Line 1 contrasted with wanderings as a young man in Line 2 (spurred by Prelate and Legate, his apparent troublers) but nowhere here or in the other four verses does he name-drop the various people of prestige in his life. Nor does Nostredame make mention of his fame as a plague doctor inProvencenor the loss of his first wife and children to an epidemic. Perhaps he was still smarting over the apparent incompatibility of that pair of distinctions.
La fin de l’an.
Un trist estat sera, touts estats & des sectes,
Entre freres & soeurs inimitie’ discorde,
Thresors & libertez, plus apparents les testes,
Seicheresse l’este’, mourir ceci a’ corde.
A sad condition, of all states and sects,
Between brothers and sisters discordant enmity,
Treasuries and liberties put to more transparent tests,
The spirit dried, adjudged as died.
Line 4 ‘a’corde’ = accorde, to grant a judgement.
Whatever your nation or faith there will be a discordance, even within families says Nostredame. At that time any connectivity between national and private financial accounts, also the quality of public and private freedoms, will be ‘on trial’ as never before. But the physical span of Michel de Nostredame will have elapsed before then, his spirit finally evaporated.
In 1566 the horrific French Religious Wars were just getting underway and the conventionally unforeseeable French Revolution was to follow, each as bad as he describes. If Michel de Nostredame a.k.a. Nostradamus was the author of these connected verses – and it seems improbable that he wasn’t – then they are a brilliant window onto his changeable young life and proof of his prophetic importance by the end.
(Also see Nostradamus Quatrains ‘V 75 & IV 31 THE TAROT CARDS’)
Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012