Et vidit Deus

Et vidit Deus

In Brief

Not least of the bewildering ways in which Proteus plunges the reader into the waves of Stephen's thoughts, with little connection to the dry land of plot, dialogue, and action, is its refusal to translate his kaleidoscopic multilingualism into English. Along with French and Italian, he thinks frequently in the church language of Latin, where he has an impressive command thanks to the rigorous Jesuit education in which he excelled. This note glosses five easily glossable phrases.

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"Duces Tecum" is a legal phrase, which Stephen thinks of in connection with the law-court work that his uncle Richie is doing at home. Literally "Bring with you," it is a form of subpoena ("a writ") requiring the person who is handed the summons to bring certain documents or other forms of evidence into court.

"Terribilia meditans" means "meditating on terrible things," which Stephen is doing as he thinks of being "bayed about" by a hostile dog. Commentators have been unable to locate any precise allusion in the phrase, so Stephen probably has coined it.

"Omnis caro ad te veniet" means "All flesh will come to you." It recites Psalm 65:2 ("O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come"). Thornton notes that it is chanted in the Introibo or Introit (the priest's entrance chant) that begins the funeral mass. Stephen is thinking about his mother's death as he mentally recites this line, and it is reasonable to assume that he is continuing to indulge his fantasy of God as a carnivorous killer. He recalls the phrase again in Oxen of the Sun.

"Et vidit Deus. Et erant valde bona" means "And God saw (them). And they were very good." It paraphrases the Latin of the Vulgate in Genesis 1:31, "viditque Deus cuncta quae fecit et erant valde bona" ("and God saw the things that he had made, and they were very good"). Stephen is remembering Kevin Egan's way of lying back for a "sabbath sleep," i.e. a Sunday nap. The words from Genesis describe the very first sabbath nap, after God's six busy days of Creation. Stephen's whimsy in transforming Kevin Egan into a god pleased with his handiwork seems friendly, and Egan's greeting is as well, as he looks up from his nap to see that Stephen has arrived.

"Tripudium" means something like a "triple beat" of feet on the ground. It is a Latin word for religious dances, associated with solemn rejoicing. Stephen thinks of some unspecified time in the past when his foot "beat the ground in tripudium," and in Circe his foot does so again.

Separate notes discuss the use of Latin in other passages of Proteus that require more discussion: Aquinas' concept of a "lex eterna," Ambrose's sentence "diebus ac noctibus iniurias patiens ingemiscit," the Joachim-inspired sentence "Descende, calve, ut ne nimium devalveris," and the strange conflation of Christ and Satan in "Lucifer, dico, qui nescit occasum."

John Hunt 2016
An American subpoena Duces Tecum. Source:
Score for chant opening the requiem mass, with phrase "ad te omnis caro veniet." Source:
Calvin and Hobbes. Source: