Sweetpea, lately I’ve been having coffee at a café’s outdoor table in the tiny piazza Luca Balsofiore, next to the yellow-domed church of San Gaetano. They’re putting up these lattice-work arches in preparation for the three-day festival of St. Vito, Forio’s patron saint. St. Vito’s memorial day is June 17. Which you know is one day after Bloomsday!
After I finished my coffee, I went into the church. I’d been in there several times before and found it similar to many others on the island. But that day the light coming in from a window at the base of the dome was particularly bright, and gave the interior a delicate and evocative glow.
I looked up at the arch, and copied the inscription in my notebook.
PAVETE AD SANCTUARIUM MEUM
My Latin is terrible, and as far as I could make out this meant, “Fear my sanctuary.” Which seemed rather odd. I was thinking about it as I walked along the main street of the village. As I turned a corner, there was the professor. He was bent over, inspecting peaches in a fruit stall.
“Buon giorno!” I said.
He turned. “Ah, James, buon giorno,” he replied.
“I was thinking of paying you a visit to ask you a question about some Latin.”
“Well, here I am.”
I showed him my notebook.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “This is from Leviticus. ‘Custodite sabbata meum et pavete ad sanctuarium meum, ego Dominus.’ Ye shall keep my sabbaths and revere my sanctuary: I am the Lord.”
“I thought pavete meant to fear.”
“It’s an archiac, idiomatic verb. There is no accurate English translation. Revere is close, but not quite.”
When I got back home I went to the computer, clicked on a Bible search engine, and found Leviticus 19:30. Interesting. The King James translation of the passage uses the word “reverence” rather than “revere.” Well, all right. That’s settled.
But then I skimmed the next verse, and the next. And this caught my eye:
“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
The stranger…shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt…”
I thought: Italians have never made me feel like an alien, even though I’m an American and invariably mangle their language, what little I speak of it.
Anyway, sweetpea, this isn’t anything of cosmic importance, just one small interesting thing among a multitude, and I thought I would share it with you. Remember when you told me I had to go to Ischia because it’s a perfect place for an artist? Well, you were exactly right. Virtually every day I find something fascinating to examine, ponder, to write about.
You know I’m looking forward to your arrival, once you get that undisclosed medical problem taken care of. And, cara, you must come. Not only because I want you with me again, but also because I need to see this lovely place through YOUR eyes.
Write to me.