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Old 09-20-2013, 03:00 PM   #1
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Default English translation of "[Cento vergilianus] de laudibus Christi" ?

Does anyone know of an (online, or archived) English translation for this 4th century poem?
The Cento vergilianus de laudibus Christi is a cento composed with verses by Virgil
re-ordered to form an epic poem centred around the life of Jesus

It was authored by Faltonia Betitia Proba (c. 306/c. 315 - c. 353/c. 366)
who was a Latin Roman Christian poet, possibly the most influential Latin poet of Late Antiquity.

After her conversion, around 362,[6] Proba composed a Christian epic poem, the Cento Vergilianus de laudibus Christi, also known as De laudibus Christi.

The poem is a Virgilian cento, a patchwork of verses extracted from several works of Virgil, with minimal modifications (in this case, with the introduction of Biblical names). The 694 lines are divided into a proemium with invocation (lines 1-55), episodes from the Old Testament (lines 56-345), episodes from the New Testament (lines 346-688) and the end.[7]

Proba was skilled in both Greek and Latin. She knew Virgil's poems quite well and memorized most of them. She devised a scheme one day that the history of the Bible could be compiled in a pleasant easy-to-read verse. She researched Bucolics, the Georgics, and the Aeneid and would then mix various lines from each with great care and skill to complete a story following all the rules of meter and the respect of verse that a connoisseur had trouble detecting the scheme. The resulting cento presents the Biblical story from the creation of the world up to the coming of the Holy Spirit by using 694 lines from Virgil. She also wrote a Homeric cento with verses taken from Homer that followed a similar scheme.

Jerome heavily criticized this work, claiming that an "old chatterbox" wanted "to teach Scriptures before understanding them", considering "the Christless Maro a Christian" (Letters 53.7, written from Bethlehem to Paulinus of Nola).[8]

Pope Gelasius I (492-496) declared the De laudibus Christi an apocryphal; therefore, even though the poem was not considered heretical, its public reading was forbidden. Despite this prohibition, the work had some success.

Emperors Arcadius (395-408) and Theodosius II (408-451) requested copies of the poem, for example, and Isidore of Seville praised the author of this work;[9] furthermore, during the Middle Ages this cento was widely used in education, leading Giovanni Boccaccio to include Proba on his list of famous women.

The first printed edition of the De laudibus Christi, dating back to 1472, is possibly the first printed work composed by a woman.
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Old 09-20-2013, 03:22 PM   #2
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It was not by Virgil. A 'Virgilian Cento' is a type of poem.
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Old 09-20-2013, 03:23 PM   #3
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Old 09-20-2013, 04:23 PM   #4
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There was an English translation published as
"The Golden Bough, the Oaken Cross: The Virgilian Cento of Faltonia Betitia Proba"

Elizabeth Ann Clark, Diane F. Hatch
Scholars Press, Jan 1, 1981 - Bible - 249 pages

Google Books does not have a preview, and Amazon only lists a used copy for over $300.
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Old 09-21-2013, 12:57 AM   #5
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There are 5 copies in the United Kingdom, as I can tell from Is there an Australian union catalogue of academic libraries?
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Old 09-21-2013, 01:37 AM   #6
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Thanks everyone, and for the PM's as well.

I am slowly working my way through JSTOR. There is enough background on WIKI for the poet, for the earlier "lost" canto, and for some commentaries on this work and its structure. It starts with an introduction, the Latin of which I have found here:

Proba's Introduction to Her Cento
Author(s): R. P. H. Green
Source: The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 47, No. 2 (1997), pp. 548-559
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association
Stable URL:

Originally Posted by LATIN version of Proba's Introduction to Her Cento

Iam dudum temerasse duces pia foedera pacis,
regnandi miseros tenuit quos dira cupido, diversasque neces,
regum crudelia bella cognatasque acies,
pollutos caede parentum insignis clipeos nulloque ex hoste tropaea,
sanguine conspersos tulerat quos fama triumphos,
innumeris totiens viduatas civibus urbes,
confiteor, scripsi. satis est meminisse malorum.

nunc deus omnipotens, sacrum, precor,
accipe carmen aeternique tui septemplicis ora resolve
spiritus atque mei resera penetralia cordis,
arcana ut possim vatis Proba cuncta referre.

non nunc ambrosium cura est mihi quaerere nectar,
nec libet Aonio de vertice ducere Musas,
non mihi saxa loqui vanus persuadeat error laurigerosque sequi tripodas
et inania vota iurgantesque deos procerum victosque penates.
nullus enim labor est verbis extendere famam
atque hominum studiis parvam disquirere laudem.

Castalio sed fonte madens, imitata beatos quae sitiens
hausi sanctae libamina lucis hinc canere incipiam.
praesens deus, erige mentem: Vergilium cecinisse loquar pia munera Christi.
rem nulli obscuram repetens ab origine pergam,
si qua fides animo, si vera infusa per artus mens
agitat molem et toto se corpore miscet spiritus
et quantum non noxia corpora tardant terrenique
hebetant artus moribundaque membra.
Here is a very rough Google translate version ....

Originally Posted by Google Latin to English Translation of Proba's Introduction to Her Cento

Outraging religious leaders have been talking of peace,
a ruling which held miserable longing, and the various murders,
The wars of kings cognatasque line
defiled with the murder of the parents of the famous shield, no trophies,
whose fame had taken blood tempered triumphs
countless times, robbed citizens of cities,
I confess, I have written. is enough to remember the bad.

now God Almighty, so sacred, I pray,
Take your eternal song of the seven mouths open
Unlock the recesses of my heart and spirit,
Prove that I can relate all the secrets of the bard.

now do not take care for me to seek ambrosial nectar;
Aonian not want to lead from the top of the Muses,
vain to convince me not to speak rocks error laurelled follow tripod
and empty vows iurgantesque tall gods vanquished gods.
for no one to stretch out the words of the report of the task is
and human studies to investigate a little praise.

Whereas but wet spring, which followed those happy thirsty
I drank from the holy offerings of light begin to sing.
God is present, set up the mind of Christ 's Virgil sung speak.
nothing back from obscure origins go,
if there be faith in my mind, if the truths the mind is infused through the limbs,
is driven by the mass and total body blends the spirit
and not as harmful bodies stayed his earthly
dull mortal limbs.
While I have not yet read the book "The Golden Bough, the Oaken Cross: The Virgilian Cento of Faltonia Betitia Proba", with a far better translation of the introduction (above), and of the course the text of the poem that follows, I will first try and source the book through a University library.

Thanks again for the assistance. I was surprised to stumble over not only the female 4th century poet, Faltonia Betitia Proba, but also the "history and use cento".
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