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Tonight my family and I were at a chamber orchestra concert, and this text was written on the underside of the harpsichord's lid:

DEUM ⋅
DELECTARE ⋅
DEI ⋅ LAVDES ⋅ DECORARE ⋅

(see photo below). I'm not sure if there are any sentence breaks in there.

We're struggling to parse this text. The individual words are clear enough, and might be strung together something like "To please God ⋅ Praises to God ⋅ To honor / adorn." But we can't figure out whether DEUM DELECTARE is part of a larger clause, or what the subject or object of DECORARE is, and how that verb fits with DEI ⋅ LAUDES.

Any help is appreciated.

harpsichord lid: DEVM DELECTARE DEI LAVDES DECORARE

1 Answer 1

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Laudes can be the direct object of decorare: "to adorn the praises of god."

As it's given, there is no subject, just two infinitives and their objects (and the genitive of the second object). But the words actually come from Johannes Tinctoris, who expounds what good the use of music is:

Primo itaque: Musice usus Deum delectat. (And so firstly: The use of music delights god.)
...
Secundo: Divinam laudem decorat. (Secondly: [The use of music] adorns the divine praise (=the praise of god).)

The particular formulation that gets so often quoted comes from the Complexus effectuum musices. These are just the first two purposes, but I find the rest even more worthy of being read.

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  • Thank you. I especially appreciate knowing the source.
    – LarsH
    Feb 27 at 12:07

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