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May 2nd, 2021 (Permalink)

2020 Hindsight, Part 3

In part 1, we saw a phony Nostradamus prediction of the coronavirus epidemic1, and in part 2, we looked at some alleged Nostradamus predictions for last year that didn't come true2. This month, let's turn to a genuine quatrain by Nostradamus that has been interpreted in hindsight as predicting the epidemic of 20203. The quatrain in question is II-65, that is, the 65th poem in the second book of Nostradamus' Les Propheties. Here it is, together with the English translation quoted in the article4:

French English
Le parc enclin grande calamité.
Par l'Hesperie & Insubre fera:
Le feu en nef peste et captivité,
Mercure en l'Arc Saturne fenera.
In the feeble lists, great calamity
Through America and Lombardy.
The fire in the ship, plague and captivity;
Mercury in Sagittarius, Saturn warning.

Before considering the interpretation of the poem, let's look at the English translation by Erika Cheetham. Even if you've no knowledge of French, let alone the French of Nostradamus' time, you'll notice that the French version of the word "America"―namely, "Americh" in the Old French spelling used by Nostradamus5―does not appear in the original. Instead, "America" is Cheetham's interpretation of the word "Hesperie", which is the French version of the Latin word "Hesperia". "Hesperia" came from a Greek word meaning "western land", which was used by the Greeks as a name for Italy, which is west of Greece. The Romans used their version of the word to refer to Spain, which was to their west. So, an accurate translation of "Hesperie" would be "western land"6.

Now, America is to the west of France, but translating "Hesperie" as "America" is an interpretation masquerading as a translation. Spain, is also west of most of France as is England. Such tendentious translation is one of the ways in which Nostradamus interpreters mislead English-speaking readers, who will probably not compare the translation to the original.

Another questionable translation is "le parc enclin" as "feeble lists". The author of the article touting this quatrain as a prediction of the coronavirus epidemic thinks that "feeble lists" refers to "the sick and the dead"3. However, "parc" appears to mean much the same as "park" in English, especially one intended for hunting; and "enclin" is similar to English "inclined". Thus, Edgar Leoni translates "le parc enclin" as "the sloping park"7, and Henry Roberts as "the park inclineth"8. I suppose that Cheetham may have been using "lists" in the sense of "inclines to one side", usually used of boats, but where she got "feeble" I don't know. At any rate, I see no connection between an inclined or listing park and the epidemic.

Once you remove the questionable translations, the only things left in this quatrain that suggest the coronavirus epidemic are "peste et captivité", that is, "plague and captivity", with the captivity referring to quarantines and shutdowns. However, plagues are favorite subjects of prophecies, with Nostradamus speaking of "peste" or "pestes" in 26 quatrains, and they are frequent occurrences throughout human history. Moreover, quarantines are nothing new in the history of epidemics, though there are only two quatrains among the Les Propheties that use the word "captivité"9. What reason is there to connect this poem to this epidemic and not another?

Perhaps the astrological information in the last line of the quatrain may allow us to determine when the "peste et captivité" are supposed to take place. The article author claims: "Mercury entered Sagittarius in December 2019, which is when the first cases of coronavirus occurred, and Saturn moved into Aquarius on March 21, right as New York City was going into lockdown.3" Where did Aquarius come from?

The last word of the poem, "fenera", seems to be obscure, making it unclear what it is that Saturn is supposed to be doing. Cheetham translates it as "warning", but her translations are often doubtful, as we've seen. Leoni translates the phrase as "Saturn will fade"7, and Roberts as "Saturn shall wither"8. They seem to be taking "fenera" as a form of the Old French word "fener" which literally meant "to make hay", but in the phrase "se fener" meant "to fade, wither, wax deadish, or decay"10. I don't know how Cheetham got "warning" out of this, nor what Aquarius has to do with it.

The article's author relies on Cheetham's translation of the poem, but makes no mention of what Cheetham herself writes about the last line: "According to Wöllner the next date for this configuration is 7th December 2044, the last being 1839"11. I don't know enough astrology to confirm or deny this, and I'm not sufficiently interested to learn it, so I'll just have to take the mysterious Wöllner's word for it.

In any case, it appears that either the plague predicted in the poem happened in 1839, or it won't happen until another 23 years have gone by. I may not be around on 12/7/2044, but if I am I'll add an update.


Notes:

  1. 2020 Hindsight, 3/10/2021.
  2. 2020 Hindsight, Part 2, 4/2/2021.
  3. Rae Alexandra, "Perhaps Nostradamus Predicted Coronavirus After All…", KQED, 4/6/2020. Thanks to KQED, a public television station, for wasting our tax money on this junk.
  4. Nostradamus, The Prophecies of Nostradamus, translated, edited & introduced by Erika Cheetham (1981).
  5. Nostradamus uses this word only once in Les Propheties, see: X-66.
  6. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, edited by Ivor H. Evans (Centenary Edition, Revised, 1981).
  7. Edgar Leoni, Nostradamus and His Prophecies (1982).
  8. Nostradamus, The Complete Prophecies of Nostradamus, translated, edited & interpreted by Henry C. Roberts (New Revised Edition, 1982).
  9. I used the following online edition to check the frequency of these words: Nostradamus, The Compleat Works of Nostradamus, accessed: 5/2/2021.
  10. See: Randle Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), under "Fener".
  11. Op. cit. I don't know who Wöllner is, and that name is not in the book's index.

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