Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Sleeping Jonah (Before His Wake-up Call)

In the brief entry in Schanz/Hosius on the anonymous poem De Jona, the author of the poem is praised for his 'originality' and 'blooming imagination' in his description of the storm at sea. Schanz/Hosius then comments that the rest of the narrative is in accordance with the Biblical account: 'Die weitere Erzaehlung schliesst sich an den biblischen Bericht an' (p. 189). This is not entirely correct, however, in one interesting respect. The anonymous poet states that Jonah goes to sleep in the interior of the boat, just as the Biblical account does (et Iona descendit ad interiora navis et dormiebat sopore gravi, Jonah 1:5, Vulg.), but he adds the humanizing and somewhat comic detail that he is snoring through his swollen or puffed up nose:

Nescius haec reus ipse cavo sub fornice puppis
stertens inflata resonabat nare soporem. (53-4)

I also wonder whether there is a play on a double-meaning of inflata here, since the word can also mean 'haughty' or 'proud', which describes fairly well the attitude of Jonah in not wanting the Ninevites to come to repentance (cf. Jonah 3:10-4:2 (NASB): 'When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.').

1 comment:

dennis said...

This may be way off base, but I thought of Horace's 'emunctae naris' (Serm. 1.4.8) referring to Lucilius. This would be the opposite, a 'stuffed up nose' rather than a 'blown out nose.'

It could be a simple detail to explain stertens, but it could be something more.