1555 Lyon Bonhomme

Avant conflit le grand mur tumbera:
Le grand a mort, mort trop subite & plainte:
Nay imparfaict : la plus part nagera:
Aupres du fleuue de sang la terre tainte.

Suffering problems the great wall will fall onto a grandee,
Killing him, death so immediate and so lamentable,
Built incorrectly: the greater part navigated:
After (the fall) a river of blood will taint the ground.

Line 1, ‘tomber’ has various meanings linked to descent including a figurative descent into cadaverousness or else to stand no chance. Whilst ‘tomber les cordes’ expresses heavy rainfall in a sonic sense that may have been related to the clatter of dropping a halberd, ‘tomber des mains’ means something falling through your hands as your concentration drifts or to make your escape from the hands of someone else; to cease to be retained by you or another.

Here a wet retaining wall looses its grip on stability and descends fatally onto the hapless victim below.

Nostredame delivers an eyewitness account and even knows of the fault in the wall that brought about the event. He clearly has sympathy for the dead.

Lyons, November 1305, Pope Clement V – a Frenchman who later moved the papacy toAvignon- was crowned in the presence of King Philip the Fair (a king who strove after the universality of the French monarchy). The Pope then made public procession but was thrown by his horse after a wall collapsed. The main gemstone from the ceremonial papal tiara disappeared. One of his brothers died. Another brother died in a duel the following day folowing a quarrel between the new Pope’s servants and some retainers of the Cardinals. Cardinal Orsini – a Church grandee who had seen out thirteen popes – had also died.  

The wall was long and held up a high embankment carrying a huge crowd wishing to see the king and the papal party pass by. It had been raining. The procession had almost reached the end of this section of their route when the wall gave way suddenly with a violent impact, killing outright a horse and two men in the process, injuring some others, unsettling the King and unseating the Pope that they had all come to cheer.

This quatrain is factual. The event itself was full of omens. The onset of the decline of the papacy inRome. The critical weight of the ‘low’ people ultimately fatal to the fragile pomp of their ‘betters’ due to a structural imbalance and the sheer weight of the inevitable.

                                              Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012