Nostradamus and Princess Diana

Okay. So a friend of mine sent me this the other day:
  "Turns out that the Old Master has hit another home run.  Check out this
  item--Century 2, Quatrain 28

        'La penultieme du surnom de prophete
         Prendra Diane pour son jour et repos
         Loing vaguera par frenetique teste
         En deliverant un grand peuple d'impos.'

         ('The last son of the man with the Prophet's name
          Will bring Diana to her day of rest.
          At a distance they wander in frenetic grief
          Delivering a great people from ruin.')

  The father of Dodi al-Fayed, the owner of Harrod's department store, is named
  Mohammed, the name of the Islamic Prophet.
  The rest of Nostradamus's  prophecy is self-evident.  It's strange how his
  prophecies always become perfectly obvious.....but only after the event."
Which got me to thinking about how this quatrain was being interpreted before Princess Diana was killed. So I did a little research. Here's one example:
   "The last but one to bear the Prophet's name uses 
   Monday as a day of rest from his incessant travels 
   to free a great people from tribute."
The exact interpretation was uncertain. (Go figure. A prophecy that's hard to interpret? Who would have thought?) Anyway, as far as translation goes, my dictionary and my memories of French class say that this second version is actually a little better. The French word 'fils', meaning 'son', for instance, isn't in the quatrain anywhere. 'Penultieme' is penultimate, the next to last. That's it. I can't figure out who 'they' are or why their frenetic grief delivers a great people from ruin, but that's typical of the grammatical weirdnesses one finds in Nostradamus' prophecies. French also has some innate problems, like the word 'son' meaning his, hers, and its depending on context, only there isn't any useful context here. Oh, and if you're wondering how Monday got in there, that's the day that was associated with Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon (Moon day = Monday).

My next tactic was to research what people used to think Nostradamus foretold for Princess Diana. There was a quatrain (Century 6, Quatrain 74) translated in yet another book as:

   "La dechassée au regne tournera,
   Ses ennemis trouvés de conjurés:
   Plus que jamais son temps triomphera,
   Trois et septante à mort trop assurés.

   "She who was cast out will return to reign,
   Her enemies found among conspirators:
   More than ever will her reign be triumphant,
   At three and seventy her death is very sure."
Though the book thought that this might perhaps refer to Margaret Thatcher, the primary intrepretation was that Princess Di would become queen of England and rule until her death at age seventy-three. Of course, this used to be taken as a prediction of Elizabeth I's death in 1603 at age seventy, the advent of communism in France (which will last for three years and seven days), the return of Nazis to Germany, and the return of Charles II to the English throne at various points in history. Yes, there are some problems with the numbers. Some people like to add commas to the last line (after trois and septente, for instance) and say that Nostradamus liked to leave the first three digits out when mentioning years, just to keep people on their toes, or something. So 'three' can mean 1603 (or 1633, or 1983, or 2013, etc., etc.)

So what does all this mean? Well, it means that it's always difficult to translate anything, especially anything poetry-like. It also means that if you write THOUSANDS of strangely worded-little 'prophetic' poems and wait several centuries, eventually people are going to start noticing coincidences and marvelling at your powers. It also means that there's a very, very good reason why Nostradamus' prophecies "always become perfectly obvious.....but only after the event." It's because after a similar sounding event has happened, we then know how to tweak the quatrain to provide maximum prophetic effect.