The bird-catcher

Schelte Adams Bolswert (Netherlandish, 1581-1659)
After Peter Paul Rubens
The Bird Trappers / The Bird Snarers, 17th Century
Gift of Herman Levy, Esq., O.B.E., 1984
McMaster Museum of Art
(Photo credit: John Tamblyn)

Here again is a request from the McMaster Museum of Art. The Latin caption reads

Pet. Paul Rubbens pinxit

Aspicis errantes fallax ut retibus auceps
Fallat aves, omnes aptat obitij; vias

Sic animae stygius fraudem parat hostis et astum :
Si vigiles ; laqueo vincitur ipse suo

Gaspar Huberti excudit Antuerpiae.

I believe aspicis should read aspicit. Translated into English, this says

Painted by Peter Paul Rubens

The deceitful man watches those going astray just as a bird-catcher
tricks birds with nets, he accommodates all the ways of meeting with it

thus the infernal and cunning enemy of the spirit prepares fraud :
if they are vigilant ; he is himself defeated by his own noose

Engraved by Gaspar Huberti of Antwerp.

Note that the Latin obiti, translated here as “meeting with” has a strong connotation of dying, i.e. meeting with death.

The final line of the admonition gives me some trouble. Vigiles could be read as a masculine, plural, nominative adjective. Taken substantively (as Latin often does) and assuming that the verb “to be” is implied (as Latin often does), you have “they are vigilant”. But it could also be read as a 2nd person singular verb in the subjunctive mood “you might be vigilant”. Here, with si: “if”, it would read “should you be vigilant”. I’m a little more confident in the first of the two interpretations, because if the condition of an if Clause is in the subjunctive, then the consequence should be too, and this is not the case here.

This entry was posted in McMaster Museum of Art and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s