Calendrier

Versus de mensibus

Liturgical Calendars display at the beginning of each month a verse that points to the so-called ‘Egyptian days’, namely the two days in each month – one around the beginning and the other around the end of the month – that have been considered inauspicious in the Middle Ages. These are January 1 and 25, February 4 and 26, March 1 and 28, April 10 and 20, May 3 and 25, June 10 and 16, July 13 and 22, August 1 and 30, September 3 and 21, October 3 and 22, November 5 and 28, December 7 and 22. The verses indicate these two days in a variety of poetical ways, associating a date with a terrifying image. For example, the verse for January “Prima dies mensis et septima truncat ut ensis”, the first and the seventh day of the month cuts as a sword, indicates that the first day from the beginning and the seventh from the end of the month are inauspicious days.

John Hennig, in his article “Versus de mensibus”, Traditio 11 (1955), pp. 65-90, identified eight type-lists of these verses. He worked mostly on English sources, so his sample might be biased, comparing to continental Calendars. As surprisingly as it might seem, his article is still today the most complete study on these particular aspect of medieval liturgical calendars. It would then be helpful to introduce here his lists, bearing in mind that other verse-lists are supposed to be found in a wider and more comprehensive investigation.

Hennig I : 1. Iam prima dies et septima fine timentur – 2. Ast februi quarta est precedit tercia finem – 3. Martis prima necat cuius si cuspide quarta est – 4. Aprilis decimo est undeno a fine minatur – 5. Tercius in maio lupus est et septimus anguis – 6. Iunius in decimo quindenum a fine salutat – 7. Tredecimo Iulii decimo innuit ante kalendas – 8. Augusti nepa prima fugat de fine secunda – 9. Tercia septembris vulpis ferit a pede denam – 10. Tercius octobris gladius decimo ordine nectit – 11. Quinta novembris acus vix tercia mansit in urna – 12. Dat duodena cohors septem vide decemque december 

Hennig II : 1. Prima necat Iani nocet astans septima fini – 2. Quarta necat Februi nocet astans tertia fini – 3. Mars tua frons cuspis prope quarte fit aspis – 4. Aprilis decimam notat undecimam prope caudam – 5. Tertia mors Maii sed septima proxima fini – 6. Inius in decimo ferit et quindenus ab imo – 7. Alter ab undecimo nepa Iuli nonus ab illo – 8. Augusti primus ferit et de fine secundus – 9. Stat Septembris acus hinc tertius inde decenus – 10. Octobris stat acus hinc tertius inde decenus – 11. Quinta  necat capitis sed tertia fine Novembris – 12. Frontis septenam notat ultimus ordo decenam

Hennig III : 1. Prima dies mensis et septima truncat ut ensis – 2. Quinta subit mortem prosternit tertia fortem – 3. Primus mandantem disrumpit, quarta bibentem – 4. Denus et undenus est mortis vulnere plenus – 5. Tercius occidit et septimus hora relidit – 6. Denus pallescit, quindenus federa nescit – 7. Terdecimus mactat Julii decimus labefactat – 8. Prima necat fortem, sternitque secunda cohortem – 9. Tercia Septembris et denus fert mala membris – 10. Tercius et denus est sicut mors alienus – 11. Scorpius est quintus et tercius est nece cinctus – 12. Septimus exanguis virosus denus ut anguis

Hennig IV : 1. Vicenam quintam iam primamque cavebo – 2. Quarta refutatur februi qui tua sequatur – 3. Prima necat martis quartamque a fine timemus – 4. Denam et vicenam aprilis scito esse nocivam 5. Terna de maio nocet et vicesima quinta 6. Dena necat iunii quindena a fine minatur – 7. Terdecima in iulio vicena secunda nocebit – 8. Augusti prima simul et tredena cavenda est – 9. Tercia septembris nocet et vicesima prima – 10. Octobris ternum fuge vicenumque secundum – 11. Quinta novembris obest terna de fine caveto – 12. Septima dat letum dat dena decembris acetum

Hennig V : 1. Prima dies iani septenaque detur inani – 2. Quarta refutatur februi quam terna sequatur – 3. Prima necat martis simul huius quarta fit artis – 4. Sit denus vilis necnon undenus aprilis – 5. Terna timenda datur maii septena minatur – 6. Denus et ipse furit quindenus Iunius urit – 7. Tredecimus mutat Iulii decimusque salutat – 8. Prima dat augustum de fine secunda perustum – 9. Tercia vitetur septembris dena timetur – 10. Terna subit latebras octobris dena tenebras – 11. Quinta novat membris pestes et terna novembris – 12. Septima dat letum dat dena decembris acetum.

Hennig VI : 1. Prima dies iani septenaque detur vani (1. Prima dies iani timor est et septima vani) – 2. Alterius mensis post quartum tertius ensis – 3. Martius in prima cum quarta ducit ad ima (3. Martius in prima cum quarta dividit ima) – 4. Cui decimus cedit undenus aprilis obedit – 5. Tertius hic captat maii quod septimus aptat – 6. Cui nil dena dabit iunii quindena negabit – 7. Tredecimus fortis iulii decimus via mortis – 8. Sexti prima furit a fine secunda perurit – 9. Tertia turbatur septembris dena minatur – 10. Tertius octubris nulli decimusque salubris – 11. Quinta novembris obest nulli lux tertia prodest – 12. Hoc dat bisseni decimi quod septimo deno

Hennig VII : 1. Prima dies nona nocet hora septima quinta – 2. Quarta subit mortem consternit tercia fortem – 3. Prima dies primam sociat sibi quarta secundam – 4. Denus et undenus est mortis vulnere plenus – 5. Terna dies sexte fert crimina septima dei – 6. Lux undena tenet quintam quindenaque quartam – 7. Dat tredena dies decima dat – 8. Primam prima notas hii septenamque secunda – 9. Terna dies ternam demonstrat denaque quartam – 10. Tercia lux quintam male videt denaque nonam – 11. Octava fidat quinta et tercia quintam – 12. Septima lux primam condempnat denaque sextam

Hennig VIII : Prima dies nona nocet hora septima quintam – 2. Februis octava IIIIa pede IIIa dena – 3. Martis prima primam finalis quarta secundam – 4. In decimo prima est undeno undenaque aprilis – 5. Tercius in maio sextam pede septimam denam – 6. In decimo sextam iunius quindenacque quartam – 7. Terdecimo undenam iulius pede denus eandem – 8. Augusti in prima est pars septimo fine secunda – 9. Tercia septembris parilem decimus pede quartam – 10. Tercius octobris quinta decimus pede quarta – 11. Octava quinta novi pede tertia quintam – 12. missing 

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