In 1518, the Cologne humanist Hermann von dem Busche published Vallum Humanitatis, which he meant in the sense of A Defensive Rampart around the Humanities. As Hermann tells it, this defense was provoked by a university preacher who railed against humanists from the pulpit, and during a Christmas service!

Below is Hermann's account of the dreadful Christmas sermon, with a translation I hastily composed. The part vexing me is at the very end.

Anno superiore, dum forte fortuna, ego & una mecum aliquot iuvenes studiosi auscultaremus cuidam concionatori, de natali Salvatoris nostri, pro concione dicenti, pro sermone huic rei accomodato, audivimus egregiam vituperationem studiorum humanitatis, Quae ad hunc ferme modum erat concinnata. Perversitatis vanitatisque, ac potius falsitatis quam humanitatis, & turpium lenonum, quam proborum hominum esse haec studia, & nihil divini continere, nihil honesti. Poetas & oratores non solum scire videri potius, quam scire aliquid, & finem suum in dicendo tamen constituere, & anxie ne quid forte non Tullianam redolens officinam illis excidat cavere, item curiosius distinguere, & unumquodque verbum quomodo dicant eloquentius, attendere sollicitius, quam curare quomodo vivere oporteat sanctius, fatigare sese, vox haec amo aspiretur necne, amorem autem dei & proximi, & qualiter in ipso vivendum sit, parvipendere, sed insuper eos permiscue porcos esse.

"Last year, when by chance I and a few young students were listening to a certain preacher, instead of a discourse about the birth of our Savior, instead of a sermon fitting the subject matter, we heard egregious criticism of humane studies, which went something close to this: “These studies are marked by perversity and vanity, and more by falsehood than humanity; they are more for shameful seducers than upright people. They contain nothing divine, nothing honorable. Poets and orators seem to know things rather than actually know anything, and nevertheless they have fixed mere speaking as their goal. They anxiously beware anything not smacking of Ciceronian craftsmanship slipping from them. Likewise they excessively adorn their speech, and they give obsessive attention to how they might express every single word more elegantly rather than caring about how they ought to live holier lives. They wear themselves out over whether the word “amo” should be aspirated or not, but they give little consideration to the love of God and neighbor and to how one ought to live in this love. And besides all that, they are, without exception, pigs."

I believe "permiscue" is a late medieval substitute for "promiscue", but even operating on that assumptions, it's not clear to me how promiscue is to be understood with esse. The poets are indistinguishable from pigs? Perhaps (ut per jocum dicam) it's ēsse, and the poets are promiscuously eating pigs!

1 Answer 1


An article in Renaissance Quarterly seems to cite from this passage as promiscue. But your edition has permiscue? At any rate, you say permiscue is used for promiscue, and the former does not seem to exist in classical Latin, so let us go with promiscue.

Lewis & Short say the adverb exists in three forms, of which promisce can mean "in common, indiscriminately, indifferently", and promiscue "in common, promiscuously". The adjective promiscuus can mean "without distinction, indiscriminate".

So I think a translation "that they are, without distinction, pigs" would make sense. I.e. all poets are pigs, even good ones; we're not going to make any distinction between good or bad poets. And your slightly more liberal translation, "that they are, without exception, pigs", would seem to carry the same import, so I think your translation is perfectly fine? What makes you doubt it?

Perhaps it is that pigs eat poets indiscriminately.

  • I looked at my text again and believe it is promiscue; I incorrectly resolved the abbreviation. Mostly I wasn’t sure whether promiscue combined with esse should be taken primarily as referring to the poets (they, without distinguishing between them) or to the poet-pig connection (they are so thoroughly pigs that there’s no distinguishing between a poet and a pig). Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 12:03
  • 1
    @Kingshorsey: Ah, OK. Hmm the former sounds much more logical to me.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 13:05

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