Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Twelve Words of Truth, The


THIS is a 'ritornella,' the whole being repeated over as each new sentence is added. I remember, years ago, meeting the same in Wiltshire, and then there was this additional refrain to be repeated:

'When want is all the go;         
And it evermore shall be so.'

                Then it went on:

'I'll sing you three O;         
Three O are rivo.'

                If I remember right, there were no numbers before three-o. Four, were the four Evangelists, and nine, the nine orders of angels, as in the text; but the seventh line was 'seven are the seven bright stars in the sky,' and this, taken in connexion with the text, establishes a curious link in popular mythology between the mysterious Seven-branch Candlestick and the Pleïades. Subjoined is a translation of the text.

               'One, and first, is the Lord God, ever ready to help us.' ('Domeniddio' is a popular way of naming God, like the French 'le bon Dieu,' identical with the German 'unser Herrgott.') [2]

               'Two stands for the keys of heaven. There is gold.' (This would be the literal rendering of this line, but it has manifestly been lamed by bad memory.) [3]

               'Three stands for three patriarchs, &c.' [4]

               'Four stands for the four columns which support the world, &c.' [5]

               'Five stands for the five wounds of Jesus Christ.' [6]

               'Six stands for the six cocks which crowed in Galilee.' [7]

               'Seven are the seven tapers that burnt in Jerusalem.' ('Cantorno' for cantarono, a vulgar transposition, like 'hunderd,' and 'childern,' in English; 'ardorno' similarly, instead of 'arderono,' though 'arsero' would be the correct form.) [8]

               'Eight' stands for the octave of Christ. (Probably in allusion to the 'octave,' or eight days' festival, of Christmas.) [231]

               'Nine' stands for the nine quires of angels. [10]

               'Ten' stands for the ten years of Christ. (What 'ten years' it is not easy to see.) [11]

               'Eleven' stands for the crowning with thorns. (St. Bridget or Soeur Emmerich, in their minute meditations or 'Revelations' on the Passion, have fixed a number for the thorns in our Lord's crown, but I do not remember what they make it; there may be a tradition that it was eleven.) [12]

               'Twelve' stands for the Twelve Apostles. [13]



[1] Le dodici Parole della Verità.

[2] 'Uno e primo è Domeniddio, che sempre c'aiuta.'

[3] 'Due sono le chiavi del cielo, c'è l'oro.'

[4] 'Tre sono tre Patriarchi Abramine, Giacobbe, e Isaache.'

[5] 'Quattro sono le quattro colonne che il mondo mantiene; Luca, Giovanni, Marco, e Matteo.'

[6] 'Cinque sono le piaghe de Gesù Cristo.'

[7] 'Sei sono i sei galli che cantorno in Galilea.'

[8] 'Sette sono i sette cerini ch' ardorno in Gerusalemme.'

[231] 'Otto è l'ottava di Cristo.'

[10] 'Nove sono i nove cori degli angeli.'

[11] 'Dieci è la diecenna di Cristo.'

[12] 'Undici è la coronazione di spine.'

[13] 'Dodici sono i dodici Apostoli.'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Twelve Words of Truth, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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