Par Mars ouuert Arles ne donra guerre,
De nuict seront les soldats estonnez:
Noir, blanc à l’inde dissimulé en terre,
Sous la saincte ombre traistre verrez & sonnez.

I bet they taught you at school that the colours of the rainbow were Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet, didn’t they? Well look again at a rainbow. The borders of ‘indigo’ may be indistinct to the point of being apparitional. (OF ‘violet’ meant the colour close to purple that exists somewhere between blue and reddy brown.)

In fact, judging by the OF noun ‘inde’, derived from L.indicum, this colour may be variable from a dark blue that seems purplish to a purple-blue to a more reddy scum of colours that floats on boilers used for divers dyeings. All dyes were natural with many emanating from India, so ‘inde’ (which when capitalized means India in modern Fr.).

Line 1, OF/Occitan ‘Arles’ is a lovely old city in ravishing surrounds in Nostredame’s Provence. Some terrible events occur in the most beautiful places, it seems. Some researchers have translated ‘Mars’ as war and ‘inde’ as India.

Line 2, OF ‘estonnez ’ from ‘extonare’ may have given us the English word ‘astonished’ but in OF can have a much stronger meaning, physically shaken or violently shocked, whilst figuratively it would mean morally struck or hit and in stupor. OF ‘étonné had the adjectival meaning, struck or shot by misfortune.

If there were some antique link between OF ‘inde’ and India then Line 3 could mean fallen bodies ‘camouflaged in the ground by their whites blacks and browns’ rather than ‘deceptively concealed by the white black and indigo ground’ although the latter is a picturesque description of a moonlit night – or is it? Are these colours those of something that appears in, on or from the ground in a ghostly way? Deception tactics have ever been a part of war.

Line 4, ‘Sous la saincte’ has a variable meaning as OF ‘sous’ meant literally under, below or else beneath in rank. (But OF/Old Occitan had the similar ‘sus’ as meaning over or above like ‘sur’, on top, while modern Fr. has ‘sus’ to mean addition and ‘dessus’ to mean falling upon the enemy.) ‘Sous’ can be hyphenated with a great number of nouns to produce specialized meanings in OF though not including OF ‘saincte’, meaning sainted, sacred, holy (‘the sanctity of divinity’) respectworthy or venerable. I have taken it as meaning ‘less than saintly’ or reproachable/unworthy. This qualifies ‘ombre traistre’ which I translate as ‘treacherous cameo’. This sombre image is the subject of the coupled verbs ‘verrez & sonnez’.

Opened by Mars, Arles will not give war,
OR Arles will show no resistance in a war opened in March,*
At night the soldiers will be shot by surprise:
Black and white to indigo concealing the ground,
Treacherous cameo image, less than worthy, you seek and call.

*Alternative speculations on Line 1:

During dictated typesetting OF ‘Par’ could have been a mistaken OF ‘Pas’ with subsequent confusion ensuing. If so this line could possibly have been originally intended as ‘Arles will take up a war not opened by Mars’, which in modern terms would mean unjustifiable as a defensive or provoked action so envoking a devious political pretense.

If ‘Arles’ were mistaken for ‘Aries’ (the Ram, the First Point of Aries being celebrated at the vernal equinox, a Cardinal Fire Sign, late March or Mars to late April, the first month of the Roman calender, a hotheaded warlike young male and first Sign of the Zodiac otherwise associated with Egypt’s Amon-Ra and the constellation named Amri in Syria that refreshingly represents the Lamb of the World in Hebrew) we could have a war started in Aries yet not pursued, the geographical location being unstated and with the only other clue being a treacherous shadow-play that lures these soldiers to their nocturnal fate.

The bold courage of a warlike initiative such as this is wasted on Michel Nostredame who honourably views it as lacking in virtue.

(It is widely assumed that ‘soldats’ consistently means ‘soldiers’ in the ‘Opera Nostradamus’, as it certainly does in modern Fr., but the word is unavailable from some Middle French dictionaries. Nevertheless it resembles ‘soldada’ from ‘salaire’ (from Latin, the Roman soldiers’ wages paid in salt) and may be found as ‘soudadièr/soldat’ in such as the ‘Poésies complètes de Bertran de Born’ published 1888 with excerpts from a ‘Memorial dels Nòbles’ by professeur Antoine Thomas, Bibliothèque méridionale. It has been around for a long time: Godefroy’s Dictionary of the the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries has it as the soldier of a prince or else a government, along with its adjective ‘soldatesque’.)

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