Jerome on Naval Warfare

Those who fight in naval combat turn their rudders, draw out their oars, and prepare their iron grapples and hooks beforehand in port. They arrange the soldiers on the decks and get them used to standing with smooth footing even on a slippery surface. They do this so that what they have learned in a practice fight they do not fear in a real battle. So it is with me.

Qui navali praelio dimicaturi sunt, ante in portu et in tranquillo mari flectunt gubernacula, remos trahunt, ferreas manus, et uncos praeparant, dispositumque per tabulata militem, pendente gradu, et labente vestigio stare firmiter assuescunt, ut quod in simulacro pugnae didicerint, in vero certamine non pertimiscant. Ita et ego.

—Jerome, Vita Malchi monachi captivi 1

Jerome on Beginnings

What, then, should I do? I cannot satisfy and I dare not deny. I am an unskilled passenger put in charge of a freight ship; I am a man who has not yet commanded a rowboat and is entrusted to the crashing of the Euxine Sea. Now, with the land fading, “sky on every side, and on every side the sea,” now a shadowy wave rises up, and in a night gloomy with rainclouds, foamy surges grow white. You urge me to hoist my swelling sails, to loosen the halyards, to take the helm.

I submit to your demands. And because love has power over all things, I will entrust my course to the Holy Spirit as my guide, and will have this as my solace, whatever my lot. If the sea-swell pushes me into wished-for ports, I will be considered an inferior pilot; if my unrefined way of speaking instead puts us in the choppy channels of speaking, you may perhaps question my ability, but you certainly will not be able to criticize my intent.

Quid igitur faciam? quod implere non possum, negare non audeo. Super onerariam navem rudis vector imponor. Et homo, qui necdum scalmum in lacu rexi, Euxini maris credor fragoribus. Nunc mihi evanescentibus terris, “coelum undique et undique pontus” [Virg. Aen. 5.9]: nunc unda tenebris inhorrescit, et caeca nocte nimborum spumei fluctus canescunt. Hortaris, ut tumida malo vela suspendam, rudentes explicem, clavum regam.

Pareo iam iubenti, et quia caritas omnia potest, Spiritu Sancto cursum prosequente confidam, habiturus in utraque parte solatium; si me ad optatos portus aestus impulerit, gubernator putabor infirmior; si inter asperos orationis anfractus impolitus sermo substiterit, facultatem forsitan quaeras, voluntatem certe flagitare non poteris.

—Jerome, Epistulae 1.2

Jerome on an “Illustrious” Man

Tiberian, the Baetican, wrote a bloated and contrived defense of himself while he was under suspicion after being accused of heresy along with Priscillian. But after his friends died, he was overcome by the tedium of his exile and changed his mind, and just as in the holy scriptures a dog returns to its vomit, he married a girl devoted as a virgin to Christ.

Tiberianus, Baeticus, scripsit pro suspicione, qua cum Priscilliano accusabatur haereseos, apologeticum tumenti compositoque sermone; sed post suorum caedem, taedio victus exsilii, mutavit propositum, et juxta sanctam Scripturam, canis reversus ad vomitum suum [Prov 16.11; 2 Pet 2.22], filiam, devotam Christo virginem, matrimonio copulavit.

—Jerome, De viris illustribus 123

A Post-Classical Classical Insult

You are either Mercury, on account of his love of money—or Nocturnus, who in Plautus’ Amphitryon slept while Jupiter joined Alcmene in adultery for two nights, which led to brawny Hercules being born—or certainly Father Liber, for his drunkenness, and the jug hanging from his shoulder, and his perpetually red face, and his foaming lips, and his violent outbursts.

…te esse aut Mercurium propter nummorum cupiditatem; aut Nocturnum, iuxta Plauti Amphitryonem, quo dormiente, in Alcmenae adulterio, duas noctes Jupiter copulavit, ut magnae fortitudinis Hercules nasceretur ; aut certe Liberum patrem pro ebrietate et cantaro ex humeris dependente, et semper rubente facie, et spumantibus labiis, effrenatisque conviciis.

—Jerome, Contra Vigilantium 10

Worth noting that the erudite Jerome names Father Liber instead of just Bacchus, I think.