Work in progress: remembering there’s a “HAG” in hagiography, inspired by Saint Enimia on her feast-day today

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Bibliothèque nationale de France MS lat. 913,
the Office and Life of St Enimia.
Latin, c. 1300-10.
?Mende (Lozère, in the Gévaudan, Languedoc; a stone’s throw or short dragon-flight across the Causses from Ste-Énimie).

Now that term is settling down, and its extra undergraduate advising work, and as we approach the dusk of the year and witchy loamy twlight gloamings, in lieu of contemplating hibernation (alas, it is not to be for us humble humans) it is time to turn to long-distance slower deeper projects. A particular kind of feeling of seasonal rhythmic shift happens every year, and it has as much to do with the move into the rowing season of longer head-races, back when I spent a decade doing such things.

This year’s seasonal turn has had other motivating factors.

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It is now officially time to return to translating the Old Occitan life of St Enimia / Enimie by Bertran de Marcilia.

I’m not going to claim that this work has it all, but it does have a lot to offer. Princesses, loyal friendship, high and low and middling politics and politicking, cunningly evading forced marriage, spa treatments and skin conditions, physical fragilities and disability, sarcasm, dragons, battles of wits and words, nuns, women who answer back, metamorphoses involving stone and flesh and water, satire, miracles, inappropriately possessive men, women who outwit them posthumously. All this in verse narrative, so it has the seasonally-appropriate rhythm and length.

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I first read and worked on Enimia around 2003-4, then again in 2011, started thinking about a need for a translation to bring it to other people around then, started some sketchy drafty work on that in 2015. At that time, readers had the option of reading the original (and the earlier Latin vita, obviously related but with significant differences) and a local modern French translation. Every time I’ve read this text or been reminded of it, the sense grows stronger that it is ever more worth reading and ought to be more accessible and shared more widely.

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It is an awesome work that needs to be read more, and that may fill needs in readers. This is not just proselytising what to believers would be an obvious universal truth about hagiographical literature and its consolations for the faithful; as with any literature, there are many ways of reading saints’ lives and many paths into and around their gardens of unearthly delights, and Enimia has the added benefit of being Occitan, including perhaps in its hospitable heterodoxy.

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The main edition of the text is, as far as I know (sitting on a sofa at home on a Saturday afternoon), still the Clovis Brunel 1916 one. The manuscript, an unicum, is Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 6355. It has, alas, not yet been digitised.

I’ll also be trying again (fifth time lucky?) to read a copy of this more recent transcription and edition; should any nice friendly readers happen to have it, I’d be very grateful if you could send or lend me a copy:

  • Machio Okada, “La Vie de Sainte Enimie, text établi d’après le manuscrit unique, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 6355.” Journal of Social Science and Humanities (Tokyo University) 255 (1994): 1-48.

This new thing I’m doing is going to be a simple bare-bones facing-page translation / version, in verse, and initially in electronic form with footnotes re. variae lectiones in the Occitan and Latin.

Here is the Brunel text of this wonderful witty woeful whimsical wise poem, meanwhile, thanks to archive.org

And here’s the 2011 and 2015 versions of how I was last reading it, and some other later vague ponderings thereon.

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(Wish me luck, and here’s hoping that this will prove to be sustaining, and eventually for others too once it’s done and released out in public.)

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