1557 Lyon Du Rosne

En nauigant captif prins grand pontife,
Grans apretz faillir les clercz tumultuez:
Second esleu absent son bien de bise,
Son sauory bastard à mort tué.

The great Pontif taken captive during his term,
Better apprised the clerics break down in tumult:
A second chosen lacking his good bite,
The sound of impure wisdoms butchered to death.

Line 1, OF ‘prins’ has plural meanings including ‘prendre’, to take, a gesture of understanding, a prince, internalization, seize by stealth, initialize, a person’s territory, attack, sustain, occupy and to set. 

Line 2, OF ‘apretz’ is either ‘informed’ or ‘after’. OF ‘grans’ is old Occitan for great, large. OF ‘faillir’ means to reach an end, fail, failure.

Line 3, OF ‘esleu’ can mean chosen, elect, elected to office. (OF ‘élu’ means the same plus ‘of first-class quality’.)  OF ‘bise’ = bitter in the sense “the wind, bitterly cold and bitingly dry”.

Line 4. OF ‘son’ is aural perception/ song/noise, especially bell. OF ‘savory’ is linked to knowing, wise. OF ‘bâtard/bastard’ means born out of wedlock or is the expression of a feeling about impurity. OF ‘tuer’ is to kill, butcher.

All modern Popes are highly quotable. It seems to go with the territory. Pope John XXIII (Malachy’s legend is ‘Pastor and Navigator’) was less given to headline quotes than his successor Paul VI but at first sight his words were more heartfelt. Pope Paul’s words are witty but far more worldly, less humble in spiritual terms. Or so it seems. Who knows? He died in office, as is normal for a pope. Perhaps Line 1 really means that ‘the Navigator’ simply expired, i.e. ‘captured’ only if Death were being personified poetically? Was Nostredame so spiritually-evolved and well-informed about the future that he could compare the life’s words of two Popes? Maybe that would be asking too much. And to Michel every pope was a navigator of the barque of Church.

Looking a long way back in time gives us the first valid papal resignation, that of Pope Celestine V in 1294 who had been a hermit and not a Cardinal before his very rapid election in absentia by a group of Cardinals who did not want to be Pope. They had been advised by him in a letter that they had best hurry up and make a choice of Pope so they immediately chose him! He lasted five months then lived as a poor hermit again and eventually inspired the order of Celestine. He justified his resignation as a need for humility, for a purer life, a happier conscience, citing an inability at his age to cope physically and a lack of the requisite knowledge of the wide world.

He has been accused of cowardice for putting down his papal power but Nostredame seems to have admired him in comparison with his dreadful successor. This was Pope Boniface VIII who had been a papal notary and collector of tithes. Boniface rounded up Celestine and imprisoned him. Captured, perhaps murdered. Boniface spent much of his papal life struggling with France over extruding French treasures and passing them over to Rome. He was himself captured by an agent of the French King, badly beaten and then released after three days but only to die as a result of his shock. Rumours that he gnawed his own arm and smashed his head against a wall during those three days do not fit well to such a brief time unless he was tortured. Could it be that this rumour reflects what actually happened to Celestine in Boniface’s castle dungeon? There is a suspect hole in St. Celestine’s preserved skull that has never been accounted for.

We do not know the details of the last part of retired Pope Celestine V’s life other than that he was imprisoned by wicked Pope Boniface VIII. In the following quatrain Michel Nostredame may be offering us an insight:

III 72

1555 Lyon Bonhomme

Le bon viellard tout vif enseuli,
Pres du grand fleuue par fauce souspeçon:
Le nouueau vieux de richesse ennobli
Prins au chemin tout l’or de la rançon.

The old great man buried quite alive,
Near the great river through false suspicion:
The new Elder ennobled by riches, (simonism)
Seized on the path all the gold for the ransom.

This interpretation depends on me using the common translation of ‘to bury’ for OF ‘ensevel’. It appears again in Nostradamus Quatrain III 36 and Line 1 seems to support a burial or interment:

III 36

1555 Lyon Bonhomme

Enseueli non mort apopletique
Sera trouue auoir les mains mangées:
Quand la cité damnera l heretique,
Qu’a uoit leurs loys si leur sembloit changées.

Buried apoplectic not dead,
Will be found to have the hands eaten:
When the city will curse the heretic,
Who has seen their laws as if they seemed otherwise.

By coincidence or not, once again we find one who, like Pope Celestine V, was imprisoned to death, with talk of gnawed hands, in the first couplet and in the second couplet a description that is very vague, it’s true, yet applies appositely to foul Pope Boniface VIII.

Whether forward-facing or in retrospect, Nostredame’s recounting of his visions always adds something new to our expectations or to the sum of recorded history.

                               Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012