Thursday, 31 January 2013

Paulinus of Nola on friendship

Last week I bought The wandering Scholars by Helen Waddell second hand  for 50 cents. I felt overjoyed as I wanted to have this book already for a long time and suddenly there it stood almost overlooked by me! It describes the lives of the vagantes in the Middle-Ages and as Helen Waddell was a gifted writer and poet herself, she delighted in making translations of the Latin poems those scholars wrote.
The following poem is written by Paulinus of Nola (354-431) for his friend and teacher Ausonius (310-394). Both men belong to the great minds of late Antiquity
Paulinus withdrew from public life and left for Spain where he later was ordained as bishop, without telling, taking leave and answering letters. Ausonius wondered what happened and also felt a bit offended by Paulinus. Then finally after years Paulinus answered and ended his letter with a poem for Ausonius which is still one of the best poems ever written about friendship. But alas, despite the strong wish of Ausonius to see his younger friend once more before death would take him, they never met again…

Carmen XI
Ecce te per omne quod datum mortalibus
   et destinatum saeculum est,
claudente donec continetor corpore,
   discernar orbe quolibet,

nec ore longe, nec remotum lumine,
   tenebo fibris insitum,
videbo corde, mente complectar pia
   ubique praesentem mihi.

Et cum solitus corporale carcere
   terraque provolavero,
quo me locarit axe communis Pater,
   illic quoque animo geram. 

Neque finis idem qui meo corpore
   et amore laxabit tuo.
mens quippe, lapsis quae superstes artubus
   de stirpe durat coeliti.

Sensus necesse est simul et affectus tuos
   teneat aeque ut vitam suam,
et ut mori sic oblivisci non capit,
  perenne vivax et memor.

te…..discernar: I will be set apart from you
saeculum: predicate to destinatum: by all what is destined as world (as opposite to heaven)
donec continetor: as long as I am held
longe ore: you are not far away from my mouth ( i.e. in my thoughts I am speaking to you)
fibris insitum: insitum (insero) is a bit strange, but it can mean `incorporated’, so `wearing clothes’ In heaven people wear no clothes as the soul is incorporeal, so fibris insitum `  in this world’.
solvo solvi solutum: to set free
provolo: to fly forth
axis: here `heaven’
illic: in this place, there
animo geram: I will keep you in my heart
finis laxabit : both with meo corpore and amore tuo: nor shall the same end, which shall release me from my body, release me from my love for you.
quippe: of course
superstes: surviving
lapsis artubus: when the joints (= body) has collapsed
duro: to last, remain
de stirpe coeliti: because of a heavenly origin
Sensus necesse est et affectus tuos / teneat aeque ut vitam suam =  necesse est ut (mens) simul sensus et affectus tuos teneat aeque simul vitam suam (it is necessary that the mind holds to the feelings and affections for you equal as to its own life)
capio: to choose (and in order that mind doesn’t choose to die and so to forget)
vivax: holding to life, everlasting
memor: mindful 

Here is the translation and adaption by Helen Waddell:

    I, through all chances that are given to mortals,
    And through all fates that be,
    So long as this close prison shall contain me,
    Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,

    Thee shall I behold, in every fibre woven,
    Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
    Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
    Instant and present, thou, in every place.

    Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken,
    And from the earth I shall have gone my way,
    Wheresoe'er in the wide universe I stay me,
    There shall I bear thee, as I do today.

    Think not the end, that from my body frees me,
    Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee;
    Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin,
    Deathless, begot of immortality.

    Still must she keep her senses and affections,
    Hold them as dear as life itself to be.
    Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:
    Living, remembering, to eternity.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Pliny the Elder `Shoemaker, stick to your last!

Pliny the Elder (23 AD – August 25, 79 AD) was a Roman scholar and scientist, who is sadly enough more famous for the description of his death, than for his own massive writing. At the request of Tacitus, his nephew Pliny the Younger made an exhaustive description of how his uncle was excited by the outburst of the Vesuvius and instead of staying away, he wanted to see it from nearby. This letter is printed in almost every Latin-course book. Pliny the Elder wrote in his Naturalis Historia extensively about nature. This work is the longest text of a single Roman author which has come down to us and it is indispensable for our knowledge of what the Romans knew about the world. But it was not just the natural world he described: when he came to write about colours, he also talked about painters and by far the best in his opinion was Apelles (4th century BC). It is mainly through Pliny that we have anecdotes about him. The following story explains the origin of the word ultracrepidarian `noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise’. It is a word coined by William Hazlitt in a letter of 1819, with this story by Pliny the Elder in mind. It is the ideal word for describing people who we all sometimes meet and at worst can’t escape from…
Plinius Maior, Naturalis Historia Book 35 c. 84
Apelli fuit alioqui perpetua consuetudo numquam tam occupatum diem agendi, ut non lineam ducendo exerceret artem, quod ab eo in proverbium venit. idem perfecta opera proponebat in pergula transeuntibus atque, ipse post tabulam latens, vitia quae notarentur auscultabat, vulgum diligentiorem iudicem quam se praeferens; 85 feruntque reprehensum a sutore, quod in crepidis una pauciores intus fecisset ansas, eodem postero die superbo emendatione pristinae admonitionis cavillante circa crus, indignatum prospexisse denuntiantem, ne supra crepidam sutor iudicaret, quod et ipsum in proverbium abiit. 

Apelli fuit: to Apelles was = Apelles had
alioqui: for the rest, always
consuetudo –inis (f): habit
agendi: gerundium: the habit of spending a day so busy
ducendo: gerundium depending on  artem and lineam depending on ducendo: so the clause is: that he did not exercise his artistry by drawing a picture.
propono- -posui –positum: to expose to view
pergula: a projection or shed in front of a house, used as a booth, stall, shop or in this case Apelles’ art studio
tabula: picture
ausculto: to hear with attention (note the imperfect: it describes a repeated action)
vulgus –i (mostly n, but here m): common people, folk (vulgus and folk, though they sound somewhat similar, are not etymologically connected)
iudicem in apposition to vulgum
ferunt: people say, it is told
reprehendo –hendi – hensum: to blame, censure
sutor sutoris (m): shoemaker
crepida: shoe, sandal (from Greek κρηπίς)
intus: i.e. on the painting
ansa: the loop on the edge of a sandal, through which the shoetie was drawn
pauciores ansas: than he painted the other shoe with
eodem postero die superbo emendatione pristinae admonitionis cavillante circa crus abl. abs. the core is eodem (sutore) cavillante
pristinus: former, earlier
cavillor –atus sum: to criticize
crus cruris (n): leg
denuntio: to declare, denounce
supra crepidam = ultra crepidam


This mural from Pompeii is believed to be based on Apelles', Venus Anadyomene, brought to Rome by Augustus.

The following translation is by John Bostock and H.T. Riley, published in 1855. It is rather free now and then…

It was a custom with Apelles, to which he most tenaciously adhered, never to let any day pass, however busy he might be, without exercising himself by tracing some outline or other; a practice which has now passed into a proverb. It was also a practice with him, when he had completed a work, to exhibit it to the view of the passers-by in some exposed place;47 while he himself, concealed behind the picture, would listen to the criticisms that were passed upon it; it being his opinion that the judgment of the public was preferable to his own, as being the more discerning of the two. It was under these circumstances, they say, that he was censured by a shoemaker for having represented the shoes with one shoe-string too little. The next day, the shoemaker, quite proud at seeing the former error corrected, thanks to his advice, began to criticize the leg; upon which Apelles, full of indignation, popped his head out, and reminded him that a shoemaker should give no opinion beyond the shoes, a piece of advice which has equally passed into a proverbial saying.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Catullus 69 or how using deodarant can help

By chance I saw this poem by Catull on the Facebook Learning Latin site. I posted a poem by Catull, in which he laments the unfaithfulness of his mistress Lesbia. Some more post followed by other men with unflattering quotes about women. A female member took her revenge and placed this poem. I must admit that I have never read this poem before, or maybe I did and forgot about it: too much stench coming out of it….
Catull addresses a serious problem: a certain Rufus tries to lure girls into his bed, but without success. Catull knows why this happens all the time and gives some good advice.

Noli admirari, quare tibi femina nulla,
Rufe, uelit tenerum supposuisse femur,
non si illam rarae labefactes munere uestis
aut perluciduli deliciis lapidis.
laedit te quaedam mala fabula, qua tibi fertur
ualle sub alarum trux habitare caper.
hunc metuunt omnes, neque mirum: nam mala ualde est
bestia, nec quicum bella puella cubet.
quare aut crudelem nasorum interfice pestem,
aut admirari desine cur fugiunt.

Noli admirari: a negative command is constructed with noli + infinitive. admirari is of course not `to admire’ in this context, but `to wonder, be surprised’.
supposuisse = supponere to put under,
femur –oris (n): the thigh
rarae vestis: thin clothing was of course expensive
labefacto -avi –atum: to cause to totter, shake. Here: to corrupt  
munus muneris: here; gift
perlucidulus: very bright, transparent
laedo –si –sum: to hurt, damage 
fabula, qua tibi fertur: a rumour according to which
vallis –is: valley
ala: armpit
trux trucis: fierce
caper capri (m): he-goat
mala bestia: for everyone who has never been in the neighbourhood of a he-goat: it spreads a certain smell….
valde: very
quicum = cum qua (quicum is an archaic form)
cubo cubui cubitum cubare: to lie down, sleep
nasorum: gen. obj.
interficio –feci –factum: to kill
desino desii desitum desinere: to stop, cease

Be not surprised, Rufus, that no woman
will put her soft thighs under you,
not even when you corrupt her by a gift of fine clothing
or by the delights of a very bright stone.
Some evil rumour is hurting you, according to which
under the valley of your armpits a fierce he-goat is living.
Everyone fears him, no wonder: as it is a very bad
beast, and no pretty girl will sleep with that.
Therefore: either kill that cruel stench for noses,
or stop being surprised, why they run away.


Rufus before using deodorant……

Rufus after using deodorant!