III 94 FIVE HUNDRED YEARS
1555 Lyon Bonhomme
De cinq cent ans plus compte lon tiendra
Celuy qu’estoit l’ornement de son temps:
Puis à vn coup grande clarté donrra
Que par ce siecle les rendra trescontens.
Five hundred years more one will keep a count
Of he who was the ornament of his time:
Then suddenly great clarity is given
This by that century will render them very fulfilled.
About five hundred years on they will examine accounts to determine his value
He who was the icon of his Age:
Then, at a stroke, a great transparency bestowed
Greatly pleasing to those of that century.
In five hundred years, more by the long count,
Then he who was the most honoured of his age:
In a trice will give (to them) clarity,
For that century to be will have rendered them self-satisfied.
This verse is obscure – normal for Nostradamus. This verse is open to interpretations – normal again. This verse may be about the resurrection of a good reputation after half a millennium – now that’s not so normal. ‘Five hundred years’ places the time of fulfillment of this prophecy (which fits well to a Western context) sometime around now give or take fifty years.
Line 1, OF ‘compte’ suggests ‘count’, a determining of a large number or a long time (or simply a title) to establish a value or to enumerate.
OF ‘lon’ would be l’on, the one, or long, a long time or lonc, the greatest dimension upon measuring as in “set piez de lonc” (Twelfth Century, ‘Chevalier Lion’, Chrétien de Troyes). OF ‘lon’ or ‘l’on’? If by mistake the latter, the indeterminate subject ‘on’ could mean the public, the people as a whole (or, as in English, the subjective pronoun ‘one’). It can also mean ‘je’, ‘nous’ and be written ‘om/um’ in OF or else might be ‘hon’ (the ‘h’ being necessarily silent) manifesting malcontent (1547, ‘Propos rustiques’, du Fail).
OF ‘tiendra’ is a dispensation of something (or the inclination to take care of/to hold together with/to take over the reins) and is the root of ‘tenant’. In OF metaphysics it would mean to contain or occupy a certain indefinable space, perhaps in some otherwise precise vocabulary of love. The verb ‘tenir’ has a huge and varied history, originally about keeping safe an object (a holding/a tenancy) and then some domain within oneself (get a grip, maintain a feelingful attitudinal belief or point of view, possess the key to some puzzling notion, occupy an office or reign over a region, extend one’s hand in friendship, place an image in one’s mind, attain self-possession or exhibit bearing, be firmly attached to or play host to or stabilize something, rest and depend upon some other, or to exert a comparison). Or simply “tenir si grand compte de” (Fourteenth Century, ‘Fontaine amoureuse’)
Line 2, OF ‘ornement’ is from the Latin ornamentum (trappings or decoration or else distinction) and it has its verb ‘orner’. Together they describe vestments, adornments, visible awards or badges and the processes of designing or assigning them. To personify the accumulation of these is to render that person iconic.
OF ‘estoit’ is usually assumed to be a past tense of ‘etre’, to be, worked back from a Modern French form such as ‘soit’. But soit also has its meanings of perpendicularity and production. And this could even be a local compound of ‘est’ or ‘is’ and ‘soit’ or ‘that is to say’, so giving us ‘… is, so to speak’.
Line 3, OF ‘coup’ carries the idea of a movement to separate something from the surrounding block as in ‘cut loose at a stroke’. It comes from ‘colp’, Ninth Century, meaning to draw away one’s body rapidly having touched another’s body unintentionally.
OF ‘clarté/clairté’ is like éclat or else an illumination from on high or transparency (including of character) being the “qualité de ce qui est facilement intelligible” (1580, Montaigne, ‘Essais’)
Line 4, OF ‘ce’ is ‘this’ and demonstrates proximity – to those of the Sixteenth Century Europe or to those up ahead in the Twenty First Century? Presuming the latter and unless these are 500 lunar and not solar years, this quatrain efficiently destroys the prevailing pre-millennium ‘meme’ that Nostredame said the world would collapse in 1999! (And no, he did not.)
Together the lines create the phrase “In 500 years from now the age will hold a person of rare importance” OR (with OF ‘plus/plut’ derived from ‘plaire’ and so the source of a feeling of agreement) “500 years on the time contains a tangible measure of agreement”.
If we should accept the commonest interpretation of OF ‘estoit’ (the comjugation seems ambiguous; was or will be?) as being a past tense of ‘être’ (it could also have the meaning to sue) we need to know ‘Who was this man?’ Then the understanding of this quatrain depends on the point of view and the faith of Michel Nostredame. He seems to have been a good Catholic. Yet sometimes we may pick-up a pro-Protestant tendency, especially towards Lutheranism. Of course, Luther mainly published what other people had been feeling and saying for a long time. Calvin added the notion of pre-selection by God (of Calvinists) that mocks at human free-will more than the certainty of death does. Perhaps surprisingly, Nostredame does not always go along with predestination as such. He allows that we can at least delay some acts of Fate. Is this a great Lutheran or Calvinist or a Pope or Holy Roman Emperor? Will they reappear in person or do words and pictures of theirs surface for the first time? After all, an illuminating book written by Archimedes did not appear in public for the first time until the Nineteenth Century.
Various candidates could be sponsored, so here goes … this might be Michel hisself, at last not being misunderstood, or his apparent hero HRE Charles V somehow resurrected – a king in whom several royal bloodlines of Europe were united, including Austria’s Habsburgs, or France’s Renaissance star, François 1er. Michel Nostredame might well have been genuflecting towards his contemporaneous French ruler (with only the innermost Court circle placed in the know about this fey stanza) or the Papacy or simply the general social arrangements peculiar to any restored kingdom, namely powerful kingship. (Nostredame was a fan of kingship yet the word ‘trescontent’ does not much fit to folk under an enigmatic or grasping royal ruler unless that should be an especially enlightened one.)
Alternatively, if the final word ‘trescontent’ is Nostredame towing the Catholic line and it really intends to mean ‘sheep-like’ or ‘bovine’, then He of the highest distinction was Jesus honoured by Pauline Christianity’s reflections upon Crucifixion-Resurrection. Five hundred years before Christ (520 B.C. to be exact, though who’s counting ?) was when the prophet Haggai declared his New Temple demands to the people and it had been up and running for five centuries by the time Jesus was born. To the Passover pilgrims it was a stunning sight and the experience of a lifetime. Whilst King Darius didn’t necessarily follow Haggai’s wishes ‘in a trice’ the work started only a trio of weeks after his first prophecy, so they say, which seems close enough in the circumstances. The intention was to concentrate the newly-returned Jews upon the specialness of their society’s religion and a first glimpse of it must have instantly illumined the very being of any poor country peasant who had never encountered such a huge, gleaming and majestic civil and spiritual edifice. Regretfully, the vast imposing beauty of it was to be smashed by the Romans before the First Century was out.
If this is not a royal ruler (or Pope) who else could produce clarity for everybody in a flash? Erasmus? Luther? The Christ? Maistre Michel deNostredame? Or the One due soon who comprehends the Centuries and to whom the Preface and Epistle to the King is really intended? Perhaps the grammatical play in ‘estoit’ fits to the Preface to Cesar and Epistle to the King writings underlining the Centuries, and the imminent appearance of the modern heir to Nostradame/Nostradamus, as he once predicted.
Interestingly, a nine-piece tapestry set entitled “Los Honores” that was created in 1520 for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s coronation was restored in 2000AD for the 500th anniversary of his birth in Belgium. Otherwise we are talking about the figure of unity to come: strongly hinted at by Nostredame and who is about as suddenly expected as the unexpected suddenly can be.
Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012