LETTER TO HENRI II - Part I|
Translation Copyright 1998 by Peter Lemesurier
TO THE MOST INVINCIBLE, MOST PUISSANT and most Christian Henry King of France the Second, Michel Nostradamus his most humble and obedient servant and subject [bids] victory and felicity.
BY VIRTUE OF that sovereign precept which I have observed, O most Christian and victorious King, ever since my long-since obscure face did present itself before the deity of your immeasurable Majesty - since when I have been perpetually dazzled, never ceasing to honor and worthily to venerate that day when first I presented myself before it, as before a Majesty at once so unique and so human:
Now, seeking for some occasion whereby I might manifest the goodness and sincerity of my heart, so that in this way I might amply extend my gratitude towards your most serene Majesty:
Now, seeing that to declare it in terms of deeds was beyond my power - and this combined with my singular desire to be suddenly illuminated and transported from my over-long darkness and obscurity before the face of the sovereign eye and Prime Monarch of the World - in such wise I was long in doubt to whom I should dedicate these three Centuries of my remaining Prophecies that complete the thousand, and after cogitating thereon for a long time have taken the daringly audacious step of addressing your Majesty, without being daunted thereby - just as the most eminent author Plutarch recounts in his 'Life of Lycurgus' that, in view of the offerings and gifts that were presented as sacrifices to the temples of the immortal gods of that time, people did not dare to present themselves at the temples, lest they be too frequently daunted by [the sheer cost of the] the said fees and vestments.
This notwithstanding, seeing that your Royal splendour is accompanied by an incomparable humanity, I have addressed myself not as to the kings of Persia, whom it was in no wise permitted to visit, still less to approach:
But it is to a Prince most prudent and wise that I have dedicated my nocturnal and prophetic computations, [which I have] put together by natural instinct, accompanied by poetic frenzy, rather than by poetic rule; [which are] for the most part composed and harmonised with Astronomical calculations relating by the year, month and week to the regions, countries and most of the Towns and Cities of all Europe, taking in those of North Africa and part of Asia Minor, as modified in respect of those regions that come closest to all these latitudes; and which I have composed in an instinctive manner.
The snotty-nosed will retort that the scansion is as easy as understanding the meaning is difficult. And since, O most humane King, most of the prophetic quatrains are so difficult that people would not know how to approach them, still less interpret many of them, nevertheless - in the hope of setting out in writing the years, towns, cities and regions where most of them will occur, notably those of the years 1585 and 1606, starting from the present day, which is the 14th March 1557, and extending far beyond to the advent (which will be thoroughly calculated thereafter) of the beginning of the seventh millennium (in so far as my astronomical calculation and other knowledge has been able to extend thereto) when the adversaries of Jesus Christ and his Church shall begin to mutiply more vigorously - the whole has been composed and calculated in days and hours, carefully chosen and set out, and as accurately as I have been able.
And the whole of it 'Minerva libera, et non invita' (Latin ref. to Horace - 'insofar as my natural ability allows, and not otherwise'), by calculating almost as many of the events of future times as of ages past, including the present - and of whatever can be ascertained about future events in all regions as time rolls by - precisely as this has been recorded, and without adding anything superfluous, even though it is said 'Quod de futuris non est determinata omnino veritas' (Latin: 'For concerning future events the truth has not been fully determined').
It is true, Sire, that not thinking to prophesy (merely) by the natural instinct which has been bequeathed to me by my ancestors, and (so) adjusting and harmonising this natural instinct in conjunction with my lengthy calculations, and emptying my soul, spirit and heart of all care, worry and upset through mental calm and tranquillity. All of it harmonised and foretold partly 'trepode aeneo' [Latin ref. to Iamblichus - 'on the brass tripod'].
Although they be many who attribute to me that which is no more mine than that which has nothing to do with me, only God Eternal, who is the holy, just and merciful examiner of human hearts, is the true judge of it - whereupon I pray that he will defend me from the slanders of the wicked, who for equally slanderous reasons would also enquire how it was that your most ancient forebears the Kings of France cured people of the scrofula, while those of other nations cured them of snake-bites, and yet others had a certain instinct for the divining art, [to say nothing of] other examples that would be [too] long to recount here.
Notwithstanding those in whom the malignity of the evil spirit shall NOT be apprehended, over the course of time after my earthly extinction my writings shall be more so than during my lifetime. Nevertheless, if I should fall short in my calculation of the ages or if it should not be according to the will of some, may it please your more than imperial Majesty to pardon me, for I protest before God and his Saints that I do not claim to put anything whatever in writing in the present epistle that is against the true Catholic faith, but have collated the Astronomical calculations to the best of my knowledge: for the space of time since our first ancestors is such (deferring as I do to correction by the soundest judgement) that the first man, Adam, lived about 1242 years before Noah, not calculating the time by the Gentile method, as Varro wrote: but solely according to the sacred Scriptures, and according as my poor mind has been able to cope with my Astronomical calculations.
Around 1080 years after Noah, from him and the world flood, came Abraham, who was a consummate astrologer according to some, and was the first inventor of Chaldean writing: around 515 or 516 years after him came Moses, and between the time of David and Moses was about 570 years.
After that, between the time of David and the time of our Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ, born of the only Virgin, was (according to some chronographers) 1350 years - though it could be objected that this calculation is not accurate because it differs from that of Eusebius.
And from the time of man's redemption until the detestable blandishments of the Saracens there were 621 years or thereabouts, and therefrom one can easily add together how long has passed [overall], if my reckoning be but good and valid for all nations. And thus it is that the whole of it has been calculated according to the celestial revolutions, by association with impressions absorbed at certain desolate hours from affections [that I have] inherited from my ancient ancestors. But the violence of the times requires, O most serene King, that such secret events be expressed only in enigmatic terms, [even though] having but one sole sense and single meaning, free of ambiguous or equivocal reckoning - nay, rather under a cloudy obscurity, in the form of an instinctive inpouring akin to the utterances of the one thousand and two prophets that have been since the world began. As the reckoning and Punic Chronicle of Joel has it, 'Effundam spiritum meum super omnem carnem, et prophetabunt fillii vestri, et filiae vestrae' [I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons shall prophesy, and your daughters].
But such prophecy proceeded from the mouth of the Holy Spirit, which was the sovereign eternal power, in conjunction with the celestial, and some of this number predicted great and marvellous happenings: [though, ] for me, I in no way attribute to myself such a title here.
God forbid! I confess truly that the whole of it comes from God, and render him thanks, honour and immortal praise, without having adulterated it with any of that divination that comes 'a fato' [from any direct prophetic gift]], but 'a Deo, a natura' [from God, from the natural order of things], and most of it backed up by the movements of the celestial round, rather like seeing in a burning-mirror [a concave mirror for concentrating the sun's rays], as though with clouded sight, the great and ominous events and the calamitous happenings that (now) loom at the hands of members of the major religious groups.