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Orus Apollo - Cumulative translation of main text (Book 1) - 1
Translation copyright (c) Peter Lemesurier 1999 -- Peter Lemesurier

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THE FIRST BOOK OF ORUS APOLLO OF THE NILE OF EGYPT - 1

Hieroglyphic notes put into verse in the form of epigrams

---------------------------------------------------------------------

How they signified Eternity

For time or for eternity immense
They did depict the moon or else the sun -
Which planets twain of time are elements -
Nor of infinity the sign did shun.
In shining gold they causèd to be done
The basilisk that with its tail so tight
Its body in a circle covers quite.
With edge of gold this circle they decked out,
Painted and formed it to impress the sight.
Their gods with serpents they did gird about.

What the Basilisk serpent denoted

Th' Egyptians did withal the serpent use
To signify of age the passing time,
Of which three species represent three views.
While some the death do die, shall fear no crime
Th' immortal whose sheer facial paradigm
Breathes death to others who are mortal made
And subject are to life and death and time.
Far, far above the gods he is portrayed.

How they represented the world

Wishing the world to show and venerate
They paint a snake with divers scales indent
Who clearly would his own tail masticate
And by his shape the world would represent.
This creature is by nature crude and bent,
Yet in its size imposing as you wish,
Like unto earth, as smooth as any fish,
That every year doth change its state and skin,
Thus ever staying young, year out, year in.
So, too, the world: and when its body it
Would fain consume, the act of God, they say
Makes weak and strong alike from out of it
Who all would fail if it should pass away.

How they signified the year

Wishing to show us how the year to write
They painted ISIS, queen and goddess too,
Who for th' Egyptians was a planet bright -
Called in their language Sothis, it is true -
Whom as ASTROMYON the Grecians knew.
Over all others strong and masterly
Now big, now small she's sometimes seen to be,
Shedding her light when first she doth appear,
And by her rising one can oft foresee
What future times shall surely summon near.

How they otherwise signified the year

Nor did their wisdom vainly give it name
Calling it ISIS as they spoke of it.
For otherwise the sense thereof to claim
Of Egypt's year, as does the name befit,
The palm they painted, whose antique remit
Of all earth's trees exceeded any yet.
Each moon another branch it doth beget
So that in twelve months twelve of them appear
Each sprouting green, and verdantly beset,
Producing one for each month of the year.

Notes on the Figure of Isis for representing her
other than she is, according to the most ancient
descriptions

[translated from Nostradamus's quoted Latin]

'For all its beauty we are pleased to set
What in blest Araby* has been undecked
As writers numerous have passed to us.
For it doth seem in Nisa, Araby,
Of ISIS and OSIRIS are the tombs
Whose columns each are carved with sacred scripts,
And that of Isis reads as now doth follow:

* [see V.55]

[Nostradamus's Latin transcription, translated below, is full of
technical errors]:

"I am Isis Queen of Egypt, educated by Mercury.
What I have laid down in laws.
Let none dissolve.
I am the mother of Osiris**.
I am the the discoverer of the first of fruits.
I am the mother of king Horus.
I am resplendent in the Dog Star.
The city of Bubastis was established by me.
Rejoice, rejoice, O Egypt who hast nourished me!"

[** Other versions have 'uxor' = 'wife'].

'The horns of Isis are added.

[Nostradamus now continues in French...]

'The ancients added horns to the head in the form of a half-crescent,
each horn opposite to the other, because of the aspect of the moon
that appears in its first days, and for this reason it has to be so
represented.

[The French verse-translations continue]

Interpretation of the epigram
(Dixain)

I Isis am who once was Egypt's queen
What I by law did once by statute give
(For I by Mercury long taught have been)
Shall no one ever trample while he live.
Dam of Osiris who his life did give
Am I; the first of fruits I did create;
Of royal Horus mother was and mate.
On starry Procyon I shine my rays:***
Bubastis I once founded in my state.
Joy, joy in Egypt, who did once me raise!

[*** Wrong constellation - Canis Minor instead of Canis Major - but
possibly Nostradamus realised this when he wrote it.]

[Comparison of this with the prose text above gives a fair idea of
Nostradamus's own approach to verse-translation!]

How they signified the month

Wishing for us the month to signify
They paint a branch of palm all fresh and green
Or else the moon that upside-down doth fly -
The branch because of what above we've seen,
The moon aloft, for it perceiving thus
When this occurs its fifteen parts remain,
With horns turned downward over us again.
And when its form becomes occulted, soon
Its thirtieth part once more the light shall gain
Till down again shall point the hornèd moon...

How they signify the following year

And when they wish to show us all in all
The year that follows, they do write withal
A quarter field whose measurements befall
A hundred cubits, quite symmetrical.
And half an hour is reckoned, in their tongue,
As quarter, their two rising stars among.
By rising of the star that's Sothis* named
The quarter part denotes a day still young.
With solar year three hundred sixty days,
Five days, five hours, if we aright but count,
Do each four quarters then depart their ways,
Which to a day each fourth time doth amount.

* Sirius

[I'm not sure that Nostradamus fully understood what he was
translating here: I'm sure I don't!]

What they meant by the eagle

When they a god in power would represent
In rank disgrace, or high and excellent,
In blood or triumph, an eagle they would paint -
A god because it is a bird potènt
Long-lived as any bird that roams the sky
And image of the sun that reigns on high,
Because the solar nature doth excel,
And o'er all birds the sun doth see full well.
For this apothecaries, sky-inspired,
Do use a herb by eagles oft required,
Whose burning eyes like rays do pierce the skies
And sun as master and as lord apprise:
Which, when applied, the power of the sight
Doth much improve, as such a product might,
Because when it would mount aloft the sky
To rise so high it takes a slanting route,
But, diving downwards, straight and true doth shoot.

[In this and the next verse, Nostradamus temporarily gives up the
struggle to maintain the complex rhyme scheme, and reverts to simple
rhyming couplets - except that for line 15 he can't manage to find a
rhyme at all!]

How they use the eagle to signify abasement

...Abasement in that, when he would descend,
No further does he then his flight extend,
But stoops straight down in sudden passage steep
From air to earth, his vigour for to keep.
The eagle also stood for excellence
Who o'er all other birds has precedence.
Blood, too, the eagle did for them portray:
Ne'er any other drink he will essay.
Victory, too - for all can see full plain
Over all other birds he has domain.
But if she beaten is by fate adverse
She lies at once upon her back reverse,
Feet to the sky, her wings upon the soil
And, thus stretched out, to save herself doth toil
And fight whatever enemy attack
So that, seeing herself reduced, aback,
She can with ease turn round and take to flight
When man pursues her with his deadly might.

[Here it is worth noting that Nostradamus, as elsewhere in the book,
offers us a *pair* of verses - thus suggesting that it is worth
looking for such pairs in the Propheties, too, albeit for the most
part widely scattered. Curiously, too, he changes from 'il' to 'elle'
at line 10 - as signified by the change from 'he' to 'she' above.
Unless it is the result of sheer muddle-headedness, I cannot suggest a
reason for this.]

How they showed the soul

Also the eagle for the soul they writ
And so did it interpret by their art.
The soul 'Baieth' they called, which then they split,
As master-name for what they split apart.
'Bai' was the soul*, and 'Eth' the beating heart*,
For heart it is encompasseth the soul,
And thus the sound of it they firmly hold
To be the soul together with it bound.
Wherefore the eagle bonds with nature's sound
As with the soul that never fades away,
Nor drinks but blood (water doth it confound),
For so the soul with blood is fed for aye.

[Nostradamus is presumably referring to the twin souls known as 'ka'
and 'ba'. The Egyptian for 'heart' was ''ib' - as apparently in
'Hor-'eb' (=heart of Horus, or heart of the sky)]

How they signified Mars and Venus

When Mars and Venus they desired to show
They painted eagles twain in comely state,
And nearby showed for each of them a crow -
Mars for the male, and Venus for his mate.
While th' other creatures all do seem to hate
This love-match, this the eagle seems to flout.
Though from the male he'll suddenly retreat
If thirty times he hear the male call out,
He almost seems his loving to entreat.
Th' Egyptians, seeing the eagle prompt to love
Her did compare with Venus' star above
And to the sun the eagle dedicate,
By virtue of her thirty acts of love
Whereby she makes the male her loving mate.

[Once again, taking advantage of the fact that in French 'aigle' can
be either masculine or feminine, there is some confusion in the verse
as to the eagle's true gender!]

Mars and Venus as otherwise painted by them

They Mars and Venus painted otherwise
By crows or rooks twain, carefully portrayed.
Female or male they showed them to our eyes,
For of each two eggs laid, so it is said,
One must be male, the other, though, instead
Female, as doth necessity recall.
But if it chances, rare as it befall,
That both eggs when they hatch do males produce,
Or females both, then nought can them induce
To join themselves with other meet females
Nor such females to any other males:
Therefrom emerge mere solitary birds.
And so if on your road you chance to meet
A crow as omen dogging both your feet,
A presage 'tis that you alone shall stay
As widow or as widower one day.

[Once again the paired verses suggest the possiblity that the
Propheties, too, may be similarly arranged, even if in that case the
pairs of verses are widely scattered.]

 

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