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Ave Verum Corpus ("Hail, true Body!") is a short Latin poem that was set to music by Mozart. For most of it, the language is quite plain and straightforward.

However, there's a bit in the middle where I can't understand the cases used.

cujus latus perforatum / fluxit aqua et sanguine

The general idea is that Christ's side (cujus latus) was pierced (perforatum), and water and blood (aqua et sanguine) flowed out (fluxit).

But I can't make heads nor tails of the noun cases used. Fluxit seems to be a singular verb with a plural subject in the ablative case, while the absolute clause before it is either nominative or accusative—which makes no sense to me.

What's going on here?

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  • I thought "aqua" was nominative giving "water (sweat) flows and (mixed) with blood". Trouble is, "sweat" would have been given as "sudor/ sudore", not "aqua", wouldn't it? – tony Jan 24 at 11:12
  • @tony, I don't think it would be so problematic to use aqua instead of sudor for 'sweat.' On the other hand, one really pressing problem with taking aqua as the nominative subject is, that it would leave latus syntactically 'stranded' – it wouldn't itself be the nominative subject in that case, but it couldn't be accusative direct object (because fluere is intransitive), and there's also no preposition for it to be the object of; it would have no function in the clause. – cnread Jan 24 at 20:10
  • Still, it is interesting that the verb fluere can have such different points of reference: the subject can be either the liquid substance that flows (which is the usage that's probably most familiar to people) or the solid substance that the liquid substance flows from. – cnread Jan 24 at 20:15
  • @cnread: If the sentence is treated as two clauses: "cuius latus perforatum" and "fluxit aqua et sanguine"; the former: "side" (subject); (having been) pierced (verb). This would free-up "aqua" to be a nominative subject, in the latter clause. I am assuming that this approach is incorrect; but, please, why is it incorrect? – tony Jan 27 at 10:59
  • If you look at the complete text, this is all part of one long vocative phrase; the sentence's main verb is esto in the next line. If fluxit aqua et sanguine were a separate independent clause, it would be the main clause of the sentence, which would shift the focus in a very strange, though not impossible, way. Regardless, it would leave sanguine 'stranded' in turn, because 'water and blood' isn't the same as 'water mixed with blood' grammatically, though it may be similar conceptually. 'And' would require that sanguine be nominative, and 'mixed with' would require a word that means 'mixed.' – cnread Jan 27 at 18:05
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The subject is latus. Definition 6 in OLD is most relevant here:

6 (of solid objects, usu. w. abl.) To be bathed or soaked (in a fluid specified or implied), run, stream, overflow, etc.)

For comparison, there's Ovid Metamorphoses 9.57-58:

vix tamen inserui sudore fluentia multo
bracchia
, vix solvi duros a corpore nexus.

...arms streaming (with) much sweat...

So, I'd translate the passage as something like 'And his side, having been pierced, streamed (with) water and blood.'

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  • There is a Biblical parallel in Exodus 3:17: "... ad terram fluentem lacte et melle" - "... to a land that floweth with milk and honey. – Jasper May May 19 at 11:02

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