1555 Lyon Bonhomme

En Germanie naistront diuerses sectes,
S’approchans fort de l’heureux paganisme,
Le cueur captif & petites receptes,
Feront retour à payer le vray disme.

In Germany will be born divers sects,
Coming very close to happy paganism,
The heart in check and small the returns,
They will come back to paying the true tithe.

Line 1, OF ‘Germanie’ is the general region known asGermany. If this quatrain were somehow retrospective, it could be one of the specific areas called Germania. OF ‘secte’ meant a connected partisan group or a group with divergent religious doctrines.

Line 2. Despite Court corruption and problems with local lords and country priests, the swing of the pendulum of personal morality tended towards relative strictness in Nostredame’s world. At times likes these many will voice the longing that if things would only loosen-up then they could feel as happy as people appear to have been in the  free and easy times.

Line 4, OF ‘disme’ (dixième) is one-tenth (a dime is a tenth of a dollar) usually of a value such as income or wealth and relates to a ‘tithe’, as applied by the Church but usurped by secular rulers. A tenth part of the Hebrew-Jewish harvest was offered to God or given to the Levites. A tenth of the spoils of war were offered to the gods byRome.

At one and the same time Nostredame comments upon his Protestant contemporaries and the nature of alternative attitudes to love.

At a time when I was interested in the methodology of psychotherapy, I necessarily embarked on a study of human sexuality only to find out that I and presumably most other people really have no idea how diverse and alternately risible/arousing/nauseating a subject this is. (No right or wrong responses, morality aside, eroticism is a highly individual matter but observationally falling into those three headings and further modulated by hormone distribution into variable enthusiasm/distaste.)

Much like an unquestioning approach to religion, most will assume that there is not much for us to learn about sex other than the usual commonsense rights and wrongs to it. Yet I was to emerge from this practical study entirely re-educated and with a few theories of my own to boot. One was that the way we first enter into sexual relations defines our sexual comfort zone and that this in itself can release intimations of arousal. Those who sustain a first loving relationship with emotion accompanying their sexual pasions will become easily aroused by any loving relationship encountered later on but would be very dismayed by hard, unloving, animalistic use of their body by a stranger. The obverse is that those who first experience only loveless encounters may be unable to sustain a long-term sexual relationship within something as emotionally charged yet stable as a good marriage should be. Absolute fidelity is important to one person, absolute freedom is important to another.

Lines 2 and 3 suggest that carefree freedoms will be enjoyed but not widely enough to become a lasting principle. When Nostredame wrote of the heart being held in check he implied our expression “the head should rule the heart”. This points up the approaching Age of Reason as much as any intellectual justification for abandoning the great social shows of worship – obtrusive lights, rich colours and textures, noisesome processions or crowds and pungently-scented smoke billows – as still beloved today by the Catholic and High Churches.

By Line 4 they come back to paying the true tithe. Nostredame foresees that the breakaway sects will either drift back unavoidably into the manner of the mainstream or else they will be financially levied to the tenth part by their new pastors exactly as they had been by the old. To a great extent every religion needs land security and capital wealth, the very objects that the Buddah Gautama chose to abandon utterly and Jesus rose above to set His example to us. But in another sense, they have come back to the rule of the heart. The bard approves.

                                                     Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012