Descende, calve

"Descende, calve, ut ne nimium decalveris": this Latin sentence in Proteus initiates a series of further meditations on Joachim of Fiore. The sense is roughly "Go down, bald one (repeated a sentence later as "Get down, bald poll!"), so that you don't become totally bald." Stephen is altering a sentence from the book of prophecies supposedly authored by Joachim, and it in turn alludes to an appalling Old Testament story about male pattern baldness and divine wrath. Although the exact intentions behind both allusions are exceedingly obscure, he seems to be thinking about having escaped the clutches of the priesthood.

JH 2016

Elisha calling down the wrath of God on disrespectful children, by an unknown artist. Source:

The title page of Vaticinia, sive, Prophetiae Abbatis Ioachimi & Anselmi episcopi marsicani. . . (Venice, 1600), a printed edition of the Vaticinia that pairs the Latin text with an Italian translation. Source:

The first prophecy, on facing page. Source: