October 8th, 2013

Rhythmic Fluency 2: The Hendecasyllable

bust of Catullus in Sirmione. (via fickr user Elliot Brown, CC-BY-2.0)

bust of Catullus in Sirmione. (via fickr user Elliot Brown, CC-BY-2.0)

In this second installment of a three part series, Lance Piantaggini drums his way to a better understanding of the Latin hendecasyllable, using Catullus 1.1-2 as an example. He also discusses the downside of scansion, and suggests a system where, rather than indicating metrical feet above the line, we simply rely on macrons to make clear vowel quantities, and underline syllables that are long by position.

Rhythmic Fluency – 2

Cui dono lepidum novum libellum
arido modo pumice expolitum?

 

August 19th, 2013

Rhythmic Fluency: The Dactylic Hexameter

Rhythmic Fluency – 1

In this guest podcast (first of a three-part series) Latinist and drummer Lance Piantaggini discusses the dactylic hexameter, and provides drum backing tracks (of the kind a jazz musician might use) for us to practice feeling the natural rhythms of the line. He pays special attention to the caesura, and argues for a mode of reading that follows the natural word accent, rather than the ictus. When reading a line of poetry, he argues, it is easy to become bogged down in isolated dactyls and spondees, and inadvertently stress the ictus, when what we have to do is fluidly connect each word and anticipate the natural pause.

head shot of Lance Piantaggini

May 13th, 2013

Abracadabra (Serenus Sammonicus Lib. Med. 923-941)

Abracadabra

 

mortiferum magis est quod Graecis hemitritaeos
vulgatur verbis; hoc nostrā dicere linguā
non potuēre ulli, puto, nec voluere parentes.
inscribes chartae quod dicitur abracadabra
saepius et subter repetes, sed detrahe summam
et magis atque magis desint elementa figuris
singula, quae semper rapies, et cetera figes,
donec in angustum redigatur littera conum :
his lino nexis collum redimire memento.
nonulli memorant adipem prodesse leonis.

Quinctius Serenus Sammonicus, Liber Medicinalis 923-941 (ed. Vollmer in Corpus Medicorum Latinorum 3.2, Leipzig: Teubner, 1916). The work seems to date from the 2nd to the 4th centuries AD, and is usually assigned by scholars to around AD 200, based on the dubious identification of the author as Serenus Sammonicus, a scholar and moral critic of the age of Septimius Severus.

Vollmer sensibly suggests linques or scribes for figes, which he believes is a corruption carried over from figura in the previous line.

Here is my translation:

The malady the Greeks call hemitritaeos is more deadly. None of our ancestors could name this disease in our own language, nor did they feel the need to. On a piece of parchment, write the so-called “abracadabra” several times, repeating it on the line below; but take off the end, so that gradually individual letters, which you will take away each time, are missing from the word. Continue until the (last) letter makes the apex of a cone. Remember to wind this with linen and hang it around the neck. Many people say that the lard of a lion is effective . . .

Here is Daniel Defoe, in his (fictionalized) Journal of the Plague Year (1722):

But there was still another madness beyond all this, which may serve to give an idea of the distracted humour of the poor people at that time, and this was their following a worse sort of deceivers than any of these ; for these petty thieves only deluded them to pick their pockets and get their money, in which their wickedness, whatever it was, lay chiefly on the side of the deceivers deceiving, not upon the deceived. But in this part I am going to mention it lay chiefly in the people deceived, or equally in both, and this was in wearing charms, philtres, exorcisms, amulets, and I know not what preparations, to fortify the body with them against the plague ; as if the plague was not the hand of God, but a kind of a possession of an evil spirit, and that it was to be kept off with crossings, signs of the zodiac, papers tied up with so many knots, and certain words or figures written on them, as particularly the word Abracadabra, formed in triangle or pyramid, thus . . .

I might spend a great deal of time in my exclamations against the follies, and indeed the wickedness, of those things, in a time of such danger, in a matter of such consequences as this, of a national infection. But my memorandums of these things relate rather to take notice only of the fact, and mention only that it was so. How the poor people found the insufficiency of those things, and how many of them were afterwards carried away in the dead- carts and thrown into the common graves of every parish with these hellish charms and trumpery hanging about their necks, remains to be spoken of as we go along.

January 19th, 2013

The Wrath of Achilles (Homer, Iliad 1.1-8)

Iliad 1.1-8

Μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ’ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή,
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.
Τίς τάρ σφωε θεῶν ἔριδι ξυνέηκε μάχεσθαι;

Alexander Pope (1713):

Achilles’ wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Of woes unnumber’d, heav’nly goddess, sing!
That wrath which hurl’d to Pluto’s gloomy reign
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain;
Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore:
Since great Achilles and Atrides strove,
Such was the sov’reign doom, and such the will of Jove!
Declare, O Muse! In what ill-fated hour
Sprung the fierce strife, from what offended power?

Richmond Lattimore (1951):

Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.
What god was it then set them in together in bitter collision?

Robert Fagles (1990):

Rage––Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving towards its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles
What god drove them to fight with such fury?

Stanley Lombardo (1997):

Rage:
Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades’ dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done.
Begin with the clash between Agamemnon–
The Greek warlord–and godlike Achilles.
Which of the immortals set these two
At each other’s throats?

January 16th, 2013

I Hate and I Love (Catullus 85)

Catullus 85

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.

Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

 

C.H. Sisson (1967):

I hate and I love. You may well ask, why I do so.
I do not know, but I feel it and suffer.

 

Horace Gregory (1956):

I HATE and love.
And if you ask me why,
I have no answer, but I discern,
can feel, my senses rooted in eternal torture.

 

Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish (1979):

I hate and I love. Why do that? Good question.
No answer, save ‘I do’. Nailed, through either hand.

October 22nd, 2012

Now winter’s grip loosens (Horace, Odes 1.4)

Horace Odes 1.4

Solvitur acris hiems grata vice veris et Favoni
trahuntque siccas machinae carinas,
ac neque iam stabulis gaudet pecus aut arator igni
nec prata canis albicant pruinis.
iam Cytherea choros ducit Venus imminente luna, 5
iunctaeque Nymphis Gratiae decentes
alterno terram quatiunt pede, dum gravis Cyclopum
Volcanus ardens visit officinas.
nunc decet aut viridi nitidum caput impedire myrto
aut flore, terrae quem ferunt solutae. 10
nunc et in umbrosis Fauno decet immolare lucis,
seu poscat agna sive malit haedo.
pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
regumque turris. o beate Sesti,
vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam; 15
iam te premet nox fabulaeque Manes
et domus exilis Plutonia; quo simul mearis,
nec regna vini sortiere talis
nec tenerum Lycidan mirabere, quo calet iuventus
nunc omnis et mox virgines tepebunt.

September 25th, 2012

Wish to Be What You Are (Martial, Epigrams 10.47)

Guide to a happy life, from the Roman epigram writer Martial (M. Valerius Martialis). The Martialis mentioned in line 2 is L. Julius Martialis, the poet’s closest friend. My translation is below.

Martial 10.47

Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
Iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
Res non parta labore, sed relicta;
Non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
Lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
Vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
Prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
Convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis;
Non tristis torus, et tamen pudicus;
Somnus, qui faciat breves tenebras:
Quod sis, esse velis nihilque malis;
Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

Here are the essentials of a happy life,
my dear friend: money not worked for,
but inherited; some land not unproductive;
a hearth fire always going; law suits never;
the toga rarely worn; a calm mind;
a gentleman’s strong and healthy body;
circumspect candor, friends who are your equals;
relaxed dinner parties, a simple table,
nights not drunken, but free from anxieties;
a marriage bed not prudish, and yet modest;
plenty of sleep to make the dark hours short. Wish
to be what you are, and prefer nothing more.
Don’t fear your last day, or hope for it either.

August 17th, 2012

Basics of Scansion 7: Elision

Explanation of the concept and practice of elision in Latin poetry, with lots of examples.

August 17th, 2012

Basics of Scansion 6: The Mute + Liquid Rule

Explanation of the mute + liquid rule in Latin poetry, whereby a syllable is not counted long when a short vowel is followed by two consonants if those consonants are a mute and a liquid (br, tr, gl, etc.)

August 17th, 2012

Basics of Scansion 5: Syllable Quantities

Explanation of the concept of syllable quantity, with lots of examples from Latin poetry, with special attention to problems created by consonantal i, and qu- and su-.

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