Le vent se lève ! … Il faut tenter de vivre !
The wind is rising! … We must try to live!
Then you must know from the start that if you want the truth without flummery you must seek it and seek it diligently.
Ibn Tufayl (early 12th century). Hayy Ibn Yaqzān.[a]
We are always hearing of people who are around SEEKING AFTER TRUTH. I have never seen a (permanent) specimen. I think he has never lived. But I have seen several entirely sincere people who THOUGHT they were (permanent) Seekers after the Truth. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment — until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the Truth. THAT WAS THE END OF THE SEARCH. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather. … In any case, when he found the Truth HE SOUGHT NO FURTHER; but from that day forth, with his soldering-iron in one hand and his bludgeon in the other he tinkered its leaks and reasoned with objectors.
Mark Twain (1906). What is Man?
CLARERE AUDERE GAUDERE1
Be bright: be daring: be joyful.
This seemingly classical tricolon urges mindfulness — in the manner of the now somewhat trite carpe diem[b] (Latin ▸ pick, pluck or gather the day) or laetus in praesens[c] (Latin ▸ joyful in the present moment) — yet the motto was also once merely clarere audere, both words being puns on familial surnames, with the later addition of gaudere completing the tricolon: †
Clarere (Latin) ▸
Geal is Irish Gaelic for bright, clear, white; Scottish Gaelic for white, bright, fair; related to Ancient Greek ἀγλαός (I. splendid, shining, bright; II. of men, either beautiful or famous, noble) from αἴγλη (I. the light of the sun or moon; II. radiance, gleam; III. metaph., splendour, glory); from Proto-Indo-European *ghel- ‘to shine’.2
A matrilineal, Hardy:
Audere (Latin) ▸ to venture, dare, be bold, risk.
Hardy is Middle English for bold, courageous, daring; from Anglo-Norman French and Old French hardi (hardy, tough, durable), of Germanic origin.
Completing the tricolon:
Gaudere (Latin) ▸ to rejoice, be glad, be joyful, from Ancient Greek γαῦρος (exulting in).
The precise syllabic balance of the isocolonic Latin phrase is retained in another translation, ‘[be] bright, bold, glad’. This also yields yet another oblique pun on the bearer's name: glad being from the Old English glæd (originally in the sense bright, shining), of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse glathr (bright, joyous).
Notwithstanding this, the motto is still plainly an intentional exhortation to mindfulness.
ΖΗΤΕΙΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑΝ
Seek the truth.
This Ancient Greek quotation accords with several interpretations of the crest (Fig. 1): for instance, as an eagle is a traditional attribute of St. John the Evangelist, to Christians the crest and motto taken together may evoke a passage in the New Testament:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32
although the implicit scepticism3 of the motto contrasts with the absolute certainty of the biblical promise.
For others the crest could be seen as representing freedom triumphant over bondage and the motto as urging an unrelenting endeavour necessary for liberty4 (and much else besides) to flourish and endure.
* The poem has a prefatory verse from a Pindar ode:
μή, φίλα ψυχά, βίον ἀθάνατον σπεῦδε, τὰν δ’ ἔμπρακτον.
Do not crave immortal life, my soul, but use to the full the resources of what is possible.
The urgency of Valéry's poem also reflects that of others:
?אם אין אני לי, מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי
If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? When I am only for myself, then what am “I”? And if not now, when?
and was in turn, with striking but unwitting fidelity, evoked in an innocently hedonistic call of American West Coast youth in the 1960's, Surf's up!
\,,,/ Hang loose!
And from a clear-eyed and stern critic of human folly, a nevertheless tender benediction on all who are heedless of time's passing:
May you live all the days of your life.
Jonathan Swift (c. 1738). Polite conversation in three dialogues.
† Mottoes are not blazoned in English heraldry. Their selection and display has always been subject to the absolute will of the bearer alone — likewise, any subsequent bearer may freely alter a motto. See: glossary.