Translating “cum chordis corda, cum fidibus fides”

Latin Language Asked by Ionică Bizău on October 18, 2020

I’m having trouble understanding the following construction:

cum chordis corda, cum fidibus fides

It is taken from a German manuscript by Dietericus mentioning that the human body should be like a divine pipe organ praising God. At the end he mentions:

Der Finger in Gottes rechter Hand, der soll mit seinem Finger das
clavir unseres Hertzens schlagen, solches durch den Wind seiner Worte
bewegen, damit unser Leib, unsere Füße, unsere Hände, Sinn und
Gedanken, unsere Affecten und Begierden eine rechte und geistliche,
liebliche anmuthige Resonanz geben, dadurch cum chordis corda, cum
fidibus fides, mit den Seiten clavir und Klange die Hertzen mit dem
Glauben die Werck zusammen stimmen

A quick translation of the very last part would be:

cum chordis corda, cum fidibus fides, the hearts should match the sound of the keyboard, and the works should match with the faith

I’m not sure if chordis refers to the hearts or strings.

I’ve been interested in explaining the construction above and its translation.

One Answer

This is a double pun.

Cum chordis means "with the chords" or "with the strings"; corda means "the hearts". Similarly, cum fidibus means "with the lyre" or "with the strings"; fides means "faith".

So literally: the hearts [should align] with the chords, and the faith [should align] with the strings. But unfortunately, the pun doesn't translate well at all: chordis comes from chorda (which looks very similar to corda), and fidibus comes from fides (which looks identical to fides).

Correct answer by Draconis on October 18, 2020

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