O Fortuna!

Milan in 2000 was, for me, a nightmare. Also not, but it’s way too much to say here. There I was for two weeks unless I could change my ticket. In one of my moments of calm and resignation, I walked into Francesco’s sister’s diving equipment store in the Naviglia, There I met a girl from Brazil.

“Fortuna!” she said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“No. My name. My name is Fortuna.”

It was also the name of the mountain I often climbed in San Diego.

In medieval times, the Wheel of Fortune explained what was going on in life. One day you’re up, the next day you’re down, who knows? You can pray, and maybe that will help, but there are no guarantees there, either. Success and glory are transitory. Your best bet is to set yourself up for the afterlife. And that means, if you’re a king, be generous and kind to your people, especially the lepers. First, the poor and ill might be Christ in disguise. Second, it might be you in a year or two. Giving alms and building homes for lepers are ways to be sure that when you stand before St. Peter, and this whole Wheel of Fortune thing is over, you’ve got a right good chance of getting in.



A one hit wonder from 1967 (I haven’t heard it since then, either)

O Fortuna! (Carmina Burana) music by Carl Orf interpreted by Ray Manzarek. Words below.


O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice.
Fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.
Fate is against me
in health
and virtue,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me! (O Fortuna, Carmina Burana)


9 thoughts on “O Fortuna!

  1. I have been to Milan a couple of times, but never really liked the town. It had some nice places, the cathederal and La Scala (which I also visited) but had no real charm.

    • I love Milan, but it’s not really a charming city. I think a person has to spend some time there before what it has begins to sink in. I was there two weeks and spent most of that time walking around. I ended up not wanting to leave. 🙂

  2. When I was at drama school, we had classes called ‘movement’ that involved set routines, one of them to this piece of Carmina Burana. Then as fortune would have it, I fell down the stairs from the studio, broke bits of my back and couldn’t do movement for a while.

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