(This is a bit of non-political weekend fun. Don't take it too
No, I'm not pulling a Dan Brown on you: Leonardo da Vinci really did write "prophecies," found in the Codex Atlanticus
. Many of these quotes seem more like axioms or observations, applicable to any time, although the ones printed here seem intended to be taken as forecasts of things to come. Each prophecy carries a poetic title. Quite a few of these prophecies are very trippy and weird, at least on first reading. The strange language becomes clearer as the reader starts to grasp Leonardo's metaphorical argot.
Let's see how the old bugger did...
It shall seem to men that they see new destructions in the sky, and the flames descending there from shall seem to have taken night and to flee away in terror; they shall hear creatures of every kind speaking human language; they shall run in a moment, in person, to divers parts of the world without movement; amidst the darkness they shall see the most radiant splendours. O marvel of mankind! What frenzy has thus impelled you! You shall hold converse with animals of every species, and they with you in human language. You shall behold yourselves falling from great heights without suffering any injury; the torrents will bear you with them as they mingle in their rapid course.
Aside from the talking animal stuff, this one seems pretty damned impressive. The first part provides an adequate description of a night-time bombing raid, or perhaps a nuclear attack. The "radiant splendours" in the darkness sounds like a visit to Vegas.
Falling from great heights, borne by torrents (of air)? The parachute, obviously.
OF BOOKS WHICH INCULCATE PRECEPTS
Bodies without souls shall by their sayings supply precepts which shall help us to die well.
Maybe he's talking about James Arthur Ray.
OF CATCHING LICE
There will be many hunters of animals who the more they catch the fewer they will have; and so conversely they will have more in proportion as they catch less.
Species depletion. Over-fishing. Or maybe he really is
talking about lice, in which case the riddle is just plain silly.
OF THE WORSHIPPING OF PICTURES OF SAINTS
Men shall speak with men who shall not hear them; their eyes shall be open and they shall not see; they will speak to them and there shall be no reply; they will ask pardon from one who has ears and does not hear; they will offer light to one who is blind, and to the deaf they will appeal with loud clamour.
Boy, tell me about it. Ever send a letter to a politician?
OF THE BELLS OF MULES WHICH ARE CLOSE TO THEIR EARS
There shall be heard in many parts of Europe instruments of various sizes making divers melodies, causing great weariness to those who hear them most closely.
Hey, I like
my headphones! Maybe Leo's just being bitchy. Or maybe, on a psychic visit to the 21st century, he heard a few minutes of hip-hop.
OF SOLDIERS ON HORSEBACK
Many shall be seen carried by large animals with great speed, to the loss of their lives and to instant death. In the air and on the earth shall be seen animals of different colours, bearing men furiously to the destruction of their lives.
For "animals" read "vehicles." Now it makes perfect sense, dunnit?
OF A STICK WHICH IS A DEAD THING
The movement of the dead shall cause many who are living to flee away with grief and lamentation and cries.
Obviously, on one of his psychic trips to our times, Leo caught a George Romero flick.
More seriously: One of the other prophecies (not printed here) makes clear that Leo used "dead" as a poetic metaphor for iron or metal. Thus, a moving metallic thingamawhatzit will cause many to flee: The tank
. The mobile machine gun.
OF BEATING THE BED TO REMAKE IT
To such a pitch of ingratitude shall men come that that which shall give them lodging without any price shall be loaded with blows, in such a way that great parts of the inside of it shall be detached from their place, and shall be turned over and over within it.
That which gives us lodging without price is, of course, the Earth.
OF THE PRECIOUS METALS
There shall come forth out of dark and gloomy caves that which shall cause the whole human race to undergo great afflictions, perils, and death. To many of those who follow it, after much tribulation it will yield delight; but whosoever pays it no homage will die in want and misery. It shall bring to pass an endless number of crimes; it shall prompt and incite wretched men to assassinate, to steal, and to enslave; it shall hold its own followers in, suspicion; it shall deprive free cities of their rank: it shall take away life itself from many; it shall make men torment each other with many kinds of subterfuge, deceits, and treacheries. O vile monster! How much better were it for men that thou shouldst go back to hell! For this the vast forests shall be stripped of their trees; for this an infinite number of creatures shall lose their lives.
Obviously, he's talking about gold -- lucre, lolly, dinero, cash. "Vast forests shall be stripped of their trees" -- well, that's South America.
OF WRITING LETTERS FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER
Men from the most remote countries shall speak one to another and shall reply.
And they shall receive news from Nigeria of great bequests and winning lottery numbers.
OF THE HEMISPHERES WHICH ARE INFINITE AND DIVIDED BY AN INFINITE NUMBER OF LINES, IN SUCH A WAY THAT EVERY MAN HAS ALWAYS ONE OF THESE LINES BETWEEN HIS FEET
Men shall speak with and touch and embrace each other while standing each in different hemispheres, and shall understand each other's language.
An infinite number of lines beneath our feet, connecting us all together. In other words, a World Wide Web. With Babelfish!
OF FRIARS WHO HOLD CONFESSION
The unhappy women of their own accord shall go to reveal to men all their wantonness and their shameful and most secret acts.
Shrinks. IRC. MySpace.
OF THE SELLING OF PARADISE
A countless multitude will sell publicly and without hindrance things of the very greatest value, without licence from the Lord of these things, which were never theirs nor in their power; and human justice will take no account of this.
Leo meets Pat Robertson.
OF SAILING IN SHIPS
The trees of the vast forests of Taurus and of Sinai, of the Apennines and of Atlas, shall be seen speeding by means of the air from east to west, and from north to south, and transporting by means of the air a great quantity of men. Oh, how many vows! How many deaths! What partings between friends and relatives shall there be! How many who shall nevermore behold their own lands or their native country, and shall die unsepulchred and their bones be scattered in divers parts of the world!
He's talking about air
OF FRIARS WHO BY SPENDING ONLY WORDS RECEIVE GREAT RICHES AND BESTOW PARADISE
Invisible money will cause many who spend it to triumph.
Televangelists. Electronic funds transfers.
OF THE BARBERS
All men will take refuge in Africa.
Damned if I can figure this one out. But it seems pregnant with meaning. What do you think he meant by "barbers"? Berbers
live in Africa...
OF THE THURIFER WITH INCENSE
Some shall go about in white vestments with arrogant gestures threatening others with metal and fire, which yet have never done them any harm.
A thurifer is a cleric who swings a thurible. A thurible is that round metal thingie which emits smoke -- a.k.a. a censer. (You've seen it.) Except for da Vinci, no-one ever thought that "clouds" could be used as weapons -- until the advent of chemical warfare.
OF THE LIFE OF MEN WHO EVERY TEN YEARS ARE CHANGED IN BODILY SUBSTANCE
Men will pass when dead through their own bowels.
"When we're healthy we essentially regrow an entirely new skin every seven weeks or so; we replace all the cells in our bones about every ten years." That quote comes from here
. How could Leonardo have known...?