1568 Lyon Benoist Rigaud

Car le mont de Bailly & la Bresle
Seront caichez de Grenoble les fiers,
Oultre Lyon, Vien eulx si grande gresle,
Langouit en terre n’en restera un tiers.

What with the heights of Bilieu, what with L’Arbresle
The full force will be hidden from those of Grenoble,
Beyond Lyons so great a hail falls upon those of Vienne,
One third (of the hailstones/the crops) will remain languishing on the ground.
The year that not a third of the land remains
The year of the arc/the bow not a third remain on the land
Torpidity within the earth arrests (growth) by a third
‘Langouit’ one third laid to rest

Line 1. The facsimile B.R. ’68 edition I use has the first three letters torn. OF ‘Sur’ would be ‘on’ (but in some circumstances can be the taste ‘sour’). Alternatively, OF ‘Car’ here would be ‘que’, what.

L’Arbresle, with Grenoble and urban Lyons, is in the Rhône-Alpes region of South Eastern France, to the North of Languedoc. There is a commune called Bilieu in the Rhône-Alpes. Bailly proper is in North Western France and nearer to Vienne whilst Bailly-Romanvilliers is near to Disneyland Paris.

Line 4, OF ‘langouit/langoult’. Avoiding the temptation to link this with the tasty North Sea ‘langoustine’ (OF ‘langrout/langouste’ is a Gallic-Norman name for a lobster) we are left with some equally odd choices: OF ‘langoyrer’ concerned examination of the tongues of pigs: OF ‘langué/languer’ comes no closer with its heraldic enamelled animal tongue: OF ‘goût’, taste, has a separate hunting association featuring a bow or arc so I suppose that ‘L’an goût’ could be the year of the arc but the full OF for ‘goût’ was ‘goust’ so perhaps not. OF ‘L’Angeus’ would now be Angers (Maine-&-Loire) but that’s a step too far off the beaten track. OF ‘languiment’ was ‘désir sexuel’ but now we are drifting off-target altogether. It might have been a local version of langour derived from the OF adj. ‘langoros’ or the OF verb ‘langori/langourir’ (“les ungs malades, les autres langoris”, ‘Louanges de Marie’ by Macial, 1492) and that is a mite closer to fitting the context. The OF negative ‘ne … qqc’ had various second parts including ‘goutte’ or drop and OF ‘restera’ could mean ‘will be remaindered’. If I should rewrite Line 4 as ‘L’an goutte en terre n’en restera un tiers’ – the year that not a third of the land remains – then at least we would have a conclusion to this quatrain (but a ‘beginning, middle and end’ was not a necessity back then, especially for a writer like Nostradame).

The odd word ‘Langoult/Langouit’ must certainly be cast as suspect. Even the Rigaud print is open to dispute (it looks more like ‘Langouit’ to my tired eyes).

Aside from this search I am reminded once again of sounds that may be heard in Saigon today that could chime with words in the Centuries. Saigon was built-up by colonial France 300 years ago and I wonder whether a dialect of ‘soldier French’ was absorbed in Vietnam that is otherwise lost to history. Although ‘Langouit’ is awkward-to-unpronounceable in modern Fr. should we are include the final ‘t’, if the ‘t’ is to remain silent we can discern ‘ngoui’. Even first-time French-hazarded pronunciations of that sonic construct will match clearly to the regular Vietnamese noun ‘ngoui’, meaning person(s).

In summary, a great storm passes to the North of the Rhône-Alpes and releases heavy hail around Vienne – always devastating to fields and orchards and possibly faminous – leading to what appears to be a serious spelling downfall!

(also see IX 65 VIII 28 and IX 44 SAMPLING THE ‘68 RIGAUD)