nous sommes ici, mais ou sont tes amis, alice la-bas, sur l'herbe qui est le garcon en mai
nous sommes ici, mais ou sont tes amis, alice
la-bas, sur l'herbe
qui est le garcon en maillot rouge
c'est guy, mon cousin. et le garcon sous l'arbre est
we are here, but where are your friends, alice?
down there, on the grass.
who is the boy in red tights?
it's guy, my cousin. and the boy under the tree is
how did you arrive at your "translation"? it is precisely mistranslations
such as yours which have made nostradamus famous. i offer the following,
taken directly from "the straight dope" by cecil adams (if you're not
familiar with "the straight dope", people write in with questions, which
"recently i saw a movie on cable tv called "the man who saw tomorrow",
about michael nostradamus the prognosticator. that film scared the shit
out of me. nostradamus claims that first halley's comet will screw up
the entire world and then in the 1990's a middle east/russian collaboration
will wage nuclear war on the west for 27 years, after which the u.s. and
russia will join together again to defeat the islamic horde. halley's
comet is supposedly due in 1986 - should i begin to say my prayers? how
good was nostradamus at predicting the future? did orson welles (the film's
narrator) con me again? -lisa l., river forest, illinois"
there are two schools of thought on nostradamus: either (1) he had
supernatural powers which enabled him to prophesy the future with uncanny
accuracy, or (2) he did for bullshit what stonehenge did for rocks. i am
inclined to the latter view, for reasons which will become clear presently.
michel de nostredame (nostradamus in latin) was born in southern
france in 1503. intelligent and well-educated, he worked as a travelling
physician for many years, but late in life his reason failed him and he
decided to become a free-lance writer. among his works (which include a
collection of jelly recipes, charmingly enough) were several books of
prophecy, organized into sets of 100 quatrains, or "centuries." there were
so many of these prophecies and they were so vaguely written that they
could be made to apply to nearly anything. for example, one quatrain
predicted prosperity for henry ii, the king of france. unfortunately,
henry was killed in a jousting accident a couple years later. no problem -
someone discovered the following gem among the 940 or so other quatrains:
"the young lion shall overcome the old/on the field of battle in single
combat;/in a cage of gold he shall pierce his eyes:/two knells one, then
to die, a cruel death" (sic). it was pointed out that a sliver from the
lance of henry's opponent had penetrated the king's golden helmet and
pierced his eye and brain. furthermore, the king was seven years older
than his opponent. ergo, nostradamus had really been on target after all.
(after nostradamus's death, some editors emended the enigmatic last line
to read, "two _wounds_ (from) one," which fits the circumstances even
better). fast shuffles like this do wonders for a guy's reputation.
true believers have since applied mike's predictions to nearly every
significant event in the 400 years since his death in 1566. this effort
has been aided, for those not fluent in french, by convinient mistrans-
lations. for example, the well-known "people's almanac" gives one verse
as follows: "the captive prince, conquered, to elba,/he will pass the
gulf of genoa by sea to marseilles,/though he escapes the fire, the
bees yeild liquor by the barrel." the mention of elba makes this otherwise
ambiguous quatrain appear to apply to napolean. in fact, however, the
original has "aux itales," which is generally translated to "to italy,"
not "to elba." (the more imaginative, it must be conceded, claim
"itales" derives from "aethalia," the classical name for elba.) similarly,
some say the following verse predicts the great fire of london in 1666:
"the blood of the just shall be dry in london./burnt by the fire of 3 times
20 and 6./the ancient dame shall fall from her high place,/of the same
sect many shall be killed." the ancient dame supposedly was the statue of
the virgin on st. paul's cathedral. sounds convincing, but a literal
translation of the first two lines is far more cryptic: "the blood of the
just will commit a fault at london,/burnt through the lightning of 23 the
sixes." yet another verse mentions a certain "hister," which some claim
refers to adolf hitler. in fact, though, hister is simply the classical
name for the lower danube, and nostradamus uses it as such in several
supposed predictions by nostradamus of future wars and disasters are
equally implausible. i didn't see the movie you allude to, but other
scenarios i've come across talk about an alliance between the u.s. and
the u.s.s.r. followed by a joint arab-chinese invasion of europe. there's
also something about a giant meteor falling in the indian ocean (maybe
this is the reference to halley's comet you mention). this last is based
on a quatrain supposedly beginning, "a great spherical mountain [i.e.,
a meteor] about one mile in diameter/...will roll end over end, then sink
great nations," etc. once again an overenthusiastic translator has been
at work - the first line in more plausibly rendered as "a great mountain
seven stadia around," and many nostradamus buffs say it refers to vesuvius.
in any case, it's not worth worrying about.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank