…itaque paululum scibendi; Spero hanc rem in paucis diebus correcturam esse.
Summary: The elder Micon gives pastoral advice to his younger ward Canthus.
A student recently commented that “Latin sure has a lot of words for ‘he’". She meant that, in the ecclesiastical text we were translating, the words hic, iste, ille, and is were all used at some point for the third-person pronoun. I suppose she could have added se to her list, but most students understand the reflexive nature of se and habitually translate it “he himself/she himself/etc.”
Spring is a fickle season in Chicago. It must have been so in ancient Rome too…
Veris enim dubitanda fides: Modo fronte serena
blandius arrisit, modo cum caligine nimbos
(Calp. Buc. V.46-8)
“For Spring’s trust should be doubted: One moment she charmingly smiles with her fair face, the next she ushers in rainclouds with mist.”
Still a tease after 2000 years…
A merciless work schedule has left little time for detailed reading, and a few sections of this poem have me scratching my head. Here’s an example of the difficulties, with text taken directly from the Latin Library:
at si forte uaces, dum matutina relaxat
frigora sol, tumidis spumantia mulctra papillis
implebit quod mane fluet; rursusque premetur
mane quod occiduae mulsura redegerit horae.
parce tamen fetis: ne sint compendia tanti,
destruat ut niueos uenalis cascus agnos;
nam tibi praecipuo fetura coletur amore. (V.32-38)
I could not agree more with Mary Beard’s analysis of the promotional issues facing Classics generally and Latin in particular. But I wanted to comment on one particular point:
It is one thing to get primary school children enthusiastic about little Latin mice (that’s Minimus) or 11 and 12 year olds keen on the Romans. But you need structures in place to take some of them onto the next stage – where Latin starts to get harder. Now that’s what the Classics Academy is doing, but still on a relatively small scale. And that’s where the teacher training comes in. For it is perfectly possible for an enthusiastic teacher to keep one step ahead of a class of seven year olds doing Minimus (in a way that’s the beauty of it).You cant teach GCSE and beyond like that. Then you have to be able to give good and informed answers to tricky questions like “Why is that in the subjunctive?” or “What exactly is a gerund?”
One of the things that has always attracted bright children to Latin is the fact that their teachers could give interesting answers to that kind of question. The stereotype of Classics teachers does indeed paint them as a bit eccentric, not to say, in some cases, quite bonkers. But it also recognises that they are dead clever. And bright students (at any level) respond best, unsuprisingly, to bright teachers.
It seems to me most Latin enthusiasts are desperate to get past the “relevancy” question. For example, here in the US Latin is invariably touted as a proven route to higher student SAT scores (presumably because it improves English vocabulary). That may be an incentive for students (or more probably their parents) to choose Latin as an elective, but it’s hardly a reason to stick around for the more “demanding” (and, IMO, more rewarding) aspects of the subject.
The problem with the “relevancy” question is that almost any subject can be tagged “irrelevant” if the argument rests solely on the subject matter. Math, for example, is often touted as an essential subject for students, but really, when is the last time you had to do long division, factor a quadratic equation, or prove that two lines were indeed parallel? That’s not to say the subject is unimportant, but rather that the “relevancy” judgement–when applied strictly to the facts or skills taught in school–isn’t really fair. Obviously, one of the benefits of math is that it trains logical and systematic thinking within a system complex enough to challenge it, which alone justifies its presence in the curriculum even if we all use calculators to do arithmetic today.
The same can be said of the systematic complexities of Latin grammar and syntax. I’d also lump in elements of style, which shows how languages can influence thought. Chiasmus–to borrow one small example–is far more common in an inflected language like Latin than in positional English; understanding how it works in Latin naturally develops insight in the rhetoric of one’s own native language. And how could I fail to mention Latin as a means to understand human culture itself? We have in Latin a fully functional language spoken over many centuries which is completely divorced (at least in Classical terms) from modernity. So the study of Latin, paradoxically, illuminates modern culture by showing us its absence; a study of Pliny’s letters to/from Trajan, for example, might highlight issues with modern, rapid communication that may be overlooked because of their ubiquity.
Call me greedy, but I want more for this language than just translations of Harry Potter books or JCL projects on catapults.
The newly-built Citi Field–like many other recent ballparks–has generated revenue by allowing fans to leave personal messages inscribed in bricks installed in walkways/concourses around the yard. Mets fans in New York paid $400 apiece to immortalize their words in an 8″x8″ brick along the Fan Walk, and if it’s anything like similar projects around the US there are probably more than a few in Latin. The New York Times did a brief survey, and you can probably guess the favorite quote…
BTW, if anyone spots another favorite Latin ballyard inscription, that’s what comments are for…
Author Matt Richtel has an interesting column in the Sunday NY Times about how modern technology has made some venerable literary devices obsolete. In an age of cellphones, GPS and instant messaging, could Shakespeare get away with the fake death in Romeo and Juliet or Homer the 20-year wandering of Odysseus?
Pilleo annuam to the LATINTEACH blog for highlighting the discovery of a Medieval Latin reference to Robin Hood. The image above–taken from the Daily Mails’s story about the find–shows what I presume is the text.
I’m no paleographer, but I think I can apply a few principles from scripts I’m more familiar with to decipher what is written there. If you want to give it a try, here are a few tips:
If poetry in general is a dying art form, then the corpse of panegyric (along with it’s broader cousin occasional poetry) rotted away centuries ago. Yet its fossilized remains linger in many poems of the classical age, when the courtly role of writers was understood to be a serious calling:
Hos potius, magis hos calamos sectare: Canales
exprime qui dignas cecinerunt consule silvas. (76-7)
“Rather, pursue these reeds more: Press
the pipes which sing of woods worthy of a consul.”
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