Medieval insomnia: a poem

Of all medieval Italian poets, Enrico of Settimello (fl. 1192) (or Arrighetto, as he’s otherwise known) may have been the most sleep-deprived. Though we know very little about him, he seems to have had a lot in common with modern-day insomniacs. The only difference between him and most of us here is that he got up to write elegiac couplets about it. Here’s a passage that’s not likely to make one sleep, but rather nod in solidarity.

“I toss and turn and my softest of beds pricks my sad body with sharp thorns. Now too high, now to low, my pillow never is in the right place. Now I lower my head, now raise it, now I roll to the left, now to the right, now I sink down, now raise myself up. Now this way, now that, now on my back, now face down; and now I put my feet where my head was. I can’t remain like this: I rise up and turn the bed; thus now I turn my feet to where my head had been.”

Volvor et evolvor; lectus, bene mollis, acutis
urticat spinis tristia membra meus.
Nunc nimis est altum, nimium nunc decidit, unquam
pulvinar medium nescit habere modum.
Nunc caput inclino, nunc elevo, parte sinistra
nunc ruo, nunc dextra, nunc cado nuncque levor,
Nunc hac, nunc illac, nunc sursum, nunc rotor infra,
et modo volvo caput qua michi parte pedes.
Non ita stare queo: surgo lectumque revolvo:
sic modo volvo pedes qua michi parte caput.
(Elegia, ed. Giovanni Cremaschi (Bergamo, 1949), translated by R. Witt)

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