17 January 2009

Timor Mortis Conturbat Me

"Timor mortis conturbat me" is a quotation from the Latin version of the Roman Catholic office for the dead, and means something like afear of death troubles me. Morales's setting can be heard in the youtube video embedded below, and those who can read music can follow the score.

This example of a 15th century book of hours contains the office of the dead (scroll down to the link for folio v116-117r).

I first came across the words "timor mortis conturbat me" in the 15th century Scottish poet William Dunbar's "Lament for the Makers", a poem in 25 stanzas, the last line of each of which is "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me". Here are the first two stanzas as an example:

I THAT in heill was and gladness
Am trublit now with great sickness
And feblit with infirmitie:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Our plesance here is all vain glory,
This fals world is but transitory,
The flesh is bruckle, the Feynd is slee:--
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The poem continues with a poetic version of the Dance Macabre in contemporary art, and then moves on specifically to poets remembered by William Dunbar. Dunbar's works, including "Lament for the Makers" were among the first books to be printed in Scotland. (picture of danse macabre courtsey of P. Charpiat, via wikicommons under creative commons licence)


davidderrick said...

You've just made me realise that Tim R Mortiss is an alias. This is the name of the author of the strange blog La Explanada de Avente to which I link (he links to me).

RWMG said...

Of course, the possibility of parents with a strange sense of humour can never be ruled out.