“Interpretez seront les extipices”
On the Correct Interpretation of Nostradamus
Part the First
by Roger Prentiss Claremont
Independent Sovereign Scholar
Nostradamus, or Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566), often also called “Nostrum-Addled,” is world-famous as a prophet and soothsayer. His prophecies are cast in the form of 1200 poems (only 949 of which are extant), mostly quatrains, grouped in twelve “Centuries,” which have provided steady employment for any number of people in the years since their publication in 1555. However, even the most scholarly study of his works available, the article in Reader’s Digest’s Strange Stories, Amazing Facts (1981), is unable to make much headway in convincing the skeptical reader that there’s very much there. Now, were there nothing there, it is doubtful they would have stayed in print; but the fact that no consensus exists on what any of the quatrains actually means shows that a different approach must be taken.
This author has been fascinated by Nostradamus for many years, but it was only when listening to an audio recording of Les propheties de M. Michel Nostradamus that the true key to their decipherment was made clear: They are not French at all, but rather English encoded phonetically in French. To test this, this author randomly selected one entry from each century for decipherment and interpretation using a random number generator to generate twelve numbers (in most cases between 1 and 100) to select the quatrains to treat,1 and in every single case the resulting English form makes more sense than the French.
The results of this study will be published in three monthly installments, four quatrains per month. For each quatrain the French text, a public-domain translation, the English transcribed phonetically by the French, and the interpretation are given. There then follows a discussion of the lessons we have learned.
§ § §
D’vn chef vieillard naistra sens hebeté,
Degenerant par sçauoir & par armes :
Le chef de France par sa sœur redouté,
Champs diuisez, concedez aux gens d’armes.
He will be born of an old chief with dull senses
Degenerating in knowledge and in arms:
The chief of France feared by his sister,
Fields divided, granted to the troops.
Done Chevy a yard nest, Ross on Subutei,
Degener-runt parse of war: ape her arm.
Lush aid of runts sparse, saw a sewer “do tay.”
Sean’s TV seconds adaze, O John D’Harm.
This poem is clearly a lament for a dying civilization, in which the typical landscape of the South (a rusting [“done,” i.e. “finished”] car in the front yard in which birds are nesting) is equated to commentaries on the great Mongol general Subutei by a not-fully-identified Orientalist (perhaps Edward Denison Ross). The next line gives an unkind but doubtless accurate assessment of the Orientalist as both decadent (“degenerate”) and diminutive (“runt”), and possessed of so little understanding of his subject, war, that he can only ape the gestures of a woman. The third line shows that the rot is general—all one can find is the overripe (and perhaps drunken) help of a few diminutive children, and even the institution most closely associated with high culture, the afternoon tea, is, in a turn of phrase T.S. Eliot himself would have envied, infused with waste and an Irish accent. The fourth line continues the theme of Irish depravity while showing another source of effluents and pollutants, television and its endless mindless reruns (“TV seconds”), and ends with an allusion to Jeanne d’Arc that obliquely comments on the fact that while she led armies, modern men can only ape her piteous epigones. The name “John D’Harm” is well-chosen, for where the TV glows it cannot be dark (“d’Arc”), but in place of a bow, all he can bring his followers is harm.
§ § §
Foudre en Bourgogne fera cas portenteux,
Que par engin homme ne pourroit faire :
De leur senat sacrifiste fait boyteux,
Fera sçauoir aux ennemis l’affaire,
Lightning in Burgundy will perform a portentous deed,
One which could never have been done by skill,
Sexton made lame by their senate
Will make the affair known to the enemies.
Food run, beer gone, offer all a cup poured into,
Cup o’ rum-gin, hominy-poor wafer
Dealers in its sucker feast; February too
For us of war, hosanna, a meal offer!
This quatrain paints an indelible and inimitable picture of an important moment in the history of the American South. Some have gone for food (that is, they have abandoned planting cotton), but with the keg tapped out (clearly a reference to the agricultural depression following the decline of cotton prices in the 1870s), the remaining partiers must pass around a cup filled with a scrofulous mixture of rum (the drink of the planting classes of the Caribbean, and thus a symbol of the landed rich of the Deep South) and gin (the drink of the poor working classes); they are described as poor white trash (not just poor but “hominy-poor,” and all of them “wafer[s]”—that is to say, crackers) engaging (“dealers”) in false revelry (a “sucker feast”). So while it’s a doomed party, we must ask which party, and this is easily answered: This is clearly a depiction of the splintering of older Southern Progressivism in 1896 (“beer gone”) and the rise of the white supremacist alliance of rich and poor whites in the Democratic Party (the “cup o’ rum-gin”). The remainder of the poem references the sinking of the Maine in February 1899, which by causing war held out the hope to many poor Southerners of a regular meal and an escape from poverty (and of drinking lots of rum, if not gin) by fighting in Cuba.
§ § §
Des Roys & princes dresseront simulachres
Augures creuz, escleuez arus ices :
Corne victime doree, & d’azur d’acres,
Interpretez seront les extipices.
They will prepare idols of Kings and Princes,
Soothsayers and empty prophets elevated:
Horn, victim of gold, and azure, dazzling,
The soothsayers will be interpreted.
There was a princess dresser on some wool locker,
Ogres’ crews ask leave as a ruse ceases:
Corn the weak team’d array it as your docker,
Enter pretty sarong, lace, extra pieces.
This quatrain provides a snapshot of the state of physical theory in the mid and late 20th century. The “princess dresser” was Helen Rose, who designed Grace Kelly’s wedding gown; however, her husband’s family name was originally Rosenstein, which combines the names Einstein and Rosen of the EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) paradox. The term “wool locker” clearly refers to locker hooking, a method of weaving with yarn, and thus to the space-time continuum and, by extension, special relativity and the requirement of localism. Ogre, as is well-known, derives from some form of “Hungary,” so the “Ogres’ crews” must refer to “the Martians,” the great generation of émigré (hence they “ask leave” to stay in the US) Hungarian scientists like Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard, and above all John von Neumann, whose analysis of hidden variable theories (ruses) like the EPR paradox can be seen as putting an end to certain types of them (hence, “a ruse ceases”).
In the third line, “corn” (cf. German Kern) refers to the nucleus of the atom, and “weak team” suggests “weak force”; that is, the weak force is responsible for nuclear decay (it “would array” the “corn”) as it interchanges up and down quarks like a docker raises and lowers grain (also “corn”). The last line leads us to the introduction of the rest of the Standard Model. “Pretty” refers to “beauty,” the original name of the bottom quark, and as beauty is truth, truth beauty, so also to the truth or top quark, while the sarong is an exotic (i.e., strange) and charming garment. “Lace” refers to simply-laced groups and thus, more generally, to Lie groups, which form the basis of much of the Standard Model, while “extra pieces” refers to the leptons and bosons.
§ § §
Bien defendu le fait par excellence,
Garde toy Tours de ta proche ruyne :
Londres & Nantes par Reims fera deffence
Ne paſſez outre au temps de la bruine.
The fact well defended by excellence,
Guard yourself Tours from your near ruin:
London and Nantes will make a defense through Reims
Not passing further in the time of the drizzle.
Bee in the fondue’ll fit, break salamis,
Guarded waiters that approach a ruin:
Laundry none to pre-rinse for all the funds
In a posse’s suit th’rotunda’ll have brewing.
This quatrain concerns the international character of the liquor smuggling trade during Prohibition. “Bee in the fondue” symbolizes Canada: As the bee was the symbol of the Bonapartist regime, it clearly stands for “Napoleon,” which, as we know from Napoleon torte, originally Neapolitan torte, is equivalent to “Neapolitan” for all practical culinary purposes. Neapolitan fondue has been aptly described as a mixture of (1) macaroni and cheese (or, in the local argot, “Kraft Dinners”), representing English Canada, and (2) cheese soufflé, representing Québec. “Salami” is clearly a reference to Italian bootleggers in the US, who simply were unable to compete with such famed Canadian bootleggers as the Bronfmans. The “guarded waiters” were employed by the Lucerne Hotel in Nassau, the Bahamas, which was the hotel where the major smugglers in the southern end of the rum-running trade were based; the ruin the waiters approach refers to Nineveh, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II, and is thus a reference to Nebuchadnezzar, the tame pelican that lived in the Lucerne Hotel’s garden. The last two lines are obvious references to money laundering, pin-striped (“suit”) mobsters (“posse”), and political corruption on the highest levels of state government.
§ § §
Although a fuller discussion of the character and origin of the prophecies will have to wait until the next part, we can already see the superiority of this method of interpretation.
1 In cases where fewer than 100 quatrains survive and a number was generated outside the current range, another number was generated within the current range. Thus, Century VII has only 42 quatrains, so the seventh random number generated, 73, was discarded and a new random number between 1 and 42 was generated. The exception was Century XII, for which only 11 quatrains numbered between 4 and 71 were found and thus a random number between 1 and 11 was generated.