ORACLES OF NOSTRADAMUS - Louis XIII
PUNISHMENT OF THE GREAT MONTMORENCY (OCTOBER 30, 1632.) [I. 113.]
Century IX.--Quatrain 18.
The Dauphin shall carry his lily standards into Nancy, just as in Flanders the Elector of Trèves shall be carried prisoner of the Spaniards into Brussels. A new prison will be given to the great Montmorency, who will be delivered for execution into the hands of Clerepeyne. This man will behead him in a spot not devoted to executions.
I HAVE given this in prose, as it could only yield ingenious doggerel in verse.
Louis XIII., of whom it may be remarked that he was the first who bore the title of Dauphin de France since the publication of Century IX., in 1506, entered Nancy on September 25, 1633, a day after his army. In 1635 he enters Flanders on behalf of the Elector, whom the Spaniards had, on t e 26th of March of that year, carried prisoner to Brussels. Nostradamus then reverts to October 30, 1632, when the great Montmorency was executed for rebellion, being first confined in the newly built (neufve obturée) Hotel de Ville at Toulouse. In the courtyard of this building Clerepeyne, a soldier, shall cut off his head, and not, as ought to have been the case, at the place appointed for public executions, such as was La Give at Paris.
It so happens that Clerepeyne's name is fully attested by Étienne Joubert and by the Chevalier de Jant, both contemporary with the event. Further than this, M. Motret has brought to light, after minute historic research, that the family, by solicitation of the King, could obtain only two concessions of mere formality--that the execution should be with closed doors, and by a soldier in lieu of the common headsman. The place publique or marché would be the place mentioned in the official order.
If the reader will carefully give his attention to the full drift of this quatrain, when the mere difficulty of verbal contortion has been resolved, he must feel that the prognostication has to be reckoned as one of the most astounding of oracles ever set forth in history. A French King takes Nancy. The Elector of Trèves is bandied about between France and Spain, like a shuttlecock of State; and then, by name, comes the execution of the great Montmorency, detailed with, it is true, the brevity of Tacitus, but, when understood, with a singular felicity of detail implied in the pregnant words neufve obturée, of the newly built town
hall. Not in the market-place is he executed, but in the central courtyard. Let clere peyne (clara pœna) stand merely for celebrated attainder, the thing is still prodigious beyond all precedent. But when you know, in addition, that a part of Nostradamus's prophetic method consists in using every possible play of words, including paronomasia and anagram, and you find that the soldier who acted as headsman--a man called upon by chance to gratify the almost absurd sensibilities of the family--was Clerepeyne, a name that corresponds to a title with the two words employed by the prophet, then, indeed, the marvel mounts into the stupendous. It cannot be paralleled out of the works of the individual we are busy with. It is incredible, and yet you must believe it. It is not to be understood, but it must be accepted. Joubert, de Jant, the Cure de Louvicamp, and Motret, have all contributed to its historical confirmation on independent lines. It was in print, beyond possibility of gainsaying, more than fifty years before any of the events occurred. Clerepeyne could not have been even born at the time his name was being put through the printing press at Lyons. The mind that can realize all these details, and then be content to fall back upon chance to explain them, or upon the verbal fact that visions must be visionary--an axiom quite as philosophic, by-the-bye, as Hume's "Essay on Miracles" is built upon--is a mind not at all to be envied, Such incredulity is more astounding than the prophecy itself. It is easier to believe the prophecy than the philosopher who says he does not believe it. The Tower is below London Bridge. Has anybody ever asked "why?" This 18th quatrain of Century IX. of Nostradamus is just as much a fact as the Tower of London is, and vastly more impregnable. Intelligent people will be amused by an explanation; but the substantive fact can stand without any,
till the day of Doom if necessary. It is only some human popinjay, Plato Pry, the philosopher, who would like to gossip to us the How, and so sport another borrowed feather in his feather-brain,--or hum us with another bee from his bonnet; that hive of mad insects.
THE CONSPIRACY OF CINQ MARS (MARCH 13, 1642.) [I. 115.]
Century VIII--Quatrain 68.
The old cardinal is supplanted by a young man, and will see himself deprived of his charge, and disarmed. [Le Pelletier renders]: If Arles you do not show, in a manner that shall be visible, a counterpart of the treaty, then the man who will cause himself to be conveyed by water will be embalmed, and the Prince also.
The above is the contortion to which Le Pelletier resorts to force out of it the sense it undoubtedly contains. My proposed reading reduces the difficulty.
The old Cardinal Richelieu shall find himself supplanted by the young Cinq Mars. He was but twenty-two when he achieved this bit of dexterous Court intrigue against Richelieu, 5 the most rusé fox in Europe, as rumour ran.
Cinq Mars was his own protégé, and no doubt threw him with a trick learned from his master. A sprightly youngster of the apt breed can learn such things quickly. But when the cardinal was at Arles he learnt that a certain treasonable treaty was negotiated with Spain by his rival in the name of the King's brother, and this made known brought Richelieu back to power straight. Now, if we read the line
Arles, le monstre double soit apperceu:
At Arles, let the monster diploma (treacherous treaty) be discovered,--
or Cinq Mars himself might be the double monster,--it would be but a gentle emendation in a classic line, and it makes the sense run well. Richelieu returned by water (Liqueduct) from Tarascon to Lyons, by the Rhone, with his bed upon the boat, but sick unto death, carrying Cinq Mars and De Thou prisoners along with him. In the same style he descended the Seine from Fontainebleau to Paris, where he died, two months later, on December 4, 1642. Louis XIII. died on the 14th of the following May. Both were embalmed, which was the practice then customary. The King when dead becomes a Prince again, when the breath was out of the body that 4th of December. Le roi est mort, vive le Roy Louis XIV.
IMPROVEMENT IN FIREARMS (1630-1671.) [I. 116.]
Century III.--Quatrain 44.
When the dog, 4 after many trials, shall begin to leap and speak, the powder loaded by ram-rod shall spread destruction round (sera très malefique.) Powder taken from the earth and exploded in the air.
When the firelock shall have been invented after many trials, and shall speak through the mouth of the gun, with recoil [sauts, or kick], after the powder-charge is well driven home with the ramrod, it will be most murderous by explosion in the air. The invention of the musket dates 1630. Troops, Le Pelletier says, were first armed with it in 1671. Nostradamus, it is to be observed, anticipates by an ingenious amplification and periphrasis the very name chien, by which the French designate this portion of the lock. It would not have served its purpose for the name of the same thing in English. This anticipation of the slang term of manufacture, a hundred years before the thing itself was used or named, seems to show an intimacy with what would be called matters of chance, that is inconceivable and beyond all comprehensibility.
I cannot but append here a translation of Guynaud's remarks upon this quatrain. They are, I think, the funniest that occur in the whole book. He says:
"Nostradamus warns us here that two prodigious things are to occur at last: one, that the industry and care of man will arrive at such a point that a domestic animal, such as dogs are, will be got to speak. For to imagine that this can be intended of birds is out of the question quite, as they are excluded from the list of domestic animals created by God for the service of man, as quadrupeds are. The words of the two first lines of the
prophecy are Quand après grande peine l'animal domestique viendra parler a l'homme et qu'il sautera,--just as dogs do in approaching their master. A further thing is to happen that is no less astonishing: a demon is to mingle himself with powder, and suddenly transport a girl into the air, when she will remain suspended for possibly a whole day long, according to these words: 'La foudre â vièrge sera si malefique; de terre prinse et surpendue en l'air.' The critics may suppose that to mean that the girl will be hanged; but this is not so, in my opinion, because the word malefique is derived from the Latin maleficus, which in itself indicates a maleficent spirit delighting to work evil, as the devil always is."--GUYNAUD, "Concordances," p. 271.
125:1 Dauffois, for Dauphinois synonym, for Dauphin.
125:2 Portera, for supportera, says Le Pelletier. For my part, it seems best to leave it to its natural rendering, that he will carry his colours into Nancy.
125:3 Latin, obturare, to shut up in.
125:4 Prouvés is for approuvés.
125:5 Delivré, is for livré.
125:6 This is a play upon words, unrecognized by Garencières, as he did not know that Clerepeyne was the name of the man who cut off Montmorency's head, although, of course, Garencières is quite alive to the fact that the quatrain refers to Louis XIII. and the great Montmorency. In Latin clara pœna means celebrated punishment. Here is another instance of the mention of a name of an obscure individual that history for a moment flashes light upon, and then drops him back into the mud of oblivious ooze for ever,--emblem apt of Fame! This was written, if not Printed, a good eighty years before Clerepeyne became the midge-mote of a sunbeam upon that late autumnal day in history, when the night struck chilly on high roofs in Dauphiny.
128:1 Latin, decisus, suppressed cut off.
128:2 Ne monstres. I think there is a printer's error here in the texte-type, and that we should read le monstre.
128:3 Double, diploma, or duplicate of a treaty.
128:4 Latin, ille aquâ ductus, he that is taken by water.
128:5 Richelieu, if you examine him by Philippe de Champagne's splendid triple portrait of him, hanging in our Gallery, may be read as if in life by any physiognomist who pleases to devote the time to it. I have gazed many a time, through long years, with gifted friends and others, and oftener still alone, into those heartless eyes, attracted irresistibly (I only now see why) by the vast discrepancy between the world-wide renown of this French Minister, and his cynically petty face-sly, vulpine, unfeeling, unprincipled, spiteful, a coxcomb of feminine manners, of an p. 129 egotism and paltry vanity inordinate, but of a refinement, showing the highest social culture, a tongue that could gloze with ladies; he might, by lettre de cachet, have shut up a French Walsingham in the Bastille to prevent his own overthrow; but as to coping with him or a Burleigh as a statesman, as an equal in any powerful cabinet in Europe, by force of character, he could not have done it. Artifice, backed by the force of France, then rising into unity of action, or helped by circumstances that tied the hands of his antagonist, he might even throw a giant unawares. Richelieu was an artificial contriver, not a born ruler, if a mature face of fifty be any index to the volume or memoir of a man's life.
129:1 Arrange these words, l'animal domestique à l'homme, i.e. the dog.
130:1 Latinism, fulmen à virgâ, saltpetre; that is, the powder and ram-rod.
130:2 Romance, si, synonym of très, very.
130:3 Romance, prinse, prise, taken, brought.
130:4 The chien is the cock or hammer of the lock.