I’ve found a nut too tough for me to crack, and naturally I’m tossing it in the direction of the Varied Reader. Frequent commenter (and slayer of prescriptivist dragons) jamessal sent me a quote from Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era (which changed my life when I read it thirty years ago, and helped make me the Languagehat you see before you); I’ll provide the full context from page 116. Kenner has been explaining the conundrum of the hapax noigandres in an Arnaut Daniel poem (“Levy” is Emil L. Lévy, 1855-1918, the German philologist):
And some years before the young American’s visit, Levy had solved the problem, divining (after six months, the Canto bids us realize) that the second part of noigandres must be a form of gandir (protect, ward off); then enoi is cognate with modern French ennui; and the word comes apart neatly into d’enoi gandres, ward off ennui, and the line reads,
e jois lo grans, e l’olors d’enoi gandres
—“And joy is its seed, and its smell banishes sadness.” He entered this triumphant emendation, complete with Arnaut’s reconstructed line, under gandir in his great Provenzalisches Supplement-Wörterbuch, page 25, Vol. IV (G-L), 1904, where it would have eluded Pennsylvania inquirers await for the volume that should treat of N. But one member of Prof. Rennet’s seminar was rewarded with the solution he went to Freiburg for (we are not to suppose that Levy spoke that day only of his six months’ bafflement); and Pound’s text and final translation, first published in Instigations, concur with Lavaud’s 1910 edition (which he cites) in following Levy’s reading:
… Bestir my heart to put my song in sheen
T’equal that flower which hath such properties,
It seeds in joy, bears love, and pain ameises.
So all is clear (although apparently modern editions of Daniel reconstruct the line slightly differently—James J. Wilhelm’s The Poetry of Arnaut Daniel has “e l’olors d’enuo[c] ga[i]ndres”), but Kenner has left us with a conundrum of his own: what the hell is “ameises”? There’s no “ameise” in the OED or in any other dictionary I have access to, I can’t find an Old English word Pound might have extrapolated it from, and no Greek or Latin roots come to mind that might explain it. Kenner must have tried looking it up himself; I can’t decide whether he left it as an exercise for the reader or whether he simply couldn’t be bothered to investigate that particular detour, but it’s driving me nuts (as the pirate with the steering wheel sticking out of his pants told the bartender); if anyone has any plausible theories, let’s hear ‘em.