Wednesday, January 9th, 2008...12:47 pmfrancese

A cleanser of the teeth (Apuleius, Apology 6)

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Calpurniane, salue properis uersibus.
Misi, ut petisti, tibi munditias dentium,
nitelas oris ex Arabicis frugibus,
tenuem, candificum, nobilem puluisculum,
complanatorem tumidulae gingiuulae,
conuerritorem pridianae reliquiae,
ne qua uisatur taetra labes sordium,
restrictis forte si labellis riseris.

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  • Great work, I really enjoy these readings. Is it possible to note the meter before you read the passages? I am very interested in Latin prosody. What is you opinion: is the meter more noticeable when a piece is read aloud in English or in Latin? Along those lines, do we have any clues as to how poems were read in ancient times. Was there any stylization in the reading as far as you know? Alex

  • Thanks very much. I’m happy to talk about meter–this one is actually in iambic senarii, a very flexible and tricky meter to read. I pay attention to metrics, but try not to _over_emphasize it. Sense is more important, I think. No one wants to hear someone read, say, Shakespeare, thumping away on the iambs; but one does want to hear it read with genuine comprehension and feeling. The other thing I try to get right is vowel and syllabus length–which is the basis of the meter anyway. Get the pronunciation really right, and the meter should take care of itself. I scan everything to help me get the pronunciation right, but then essentially ‘forget’ the scansion. But I know there are others who disagree with this approach. We know a fair bit about how Latin sounded in classical times (_Vox Latina_ is the book to read), but there is plenty of room for disagreement at the margins, and little is known about exact performance practices. The best thing I have seen is Quintilian’s discussion of how to recite the first eight lines of the Aeneid (Institutiones Oratoriae 11.3.33-38). This is worth checking out. He emphasizes sense pauses, not meter. He discusses elision specifically. But the thing he really hammers home is the necessity of pausing properly, so as to be understood.

  • On consulting the passage in Quintilian mentioned above, I find the word “distinctio”, which in the English translation I consulted is rendered as “full stop”; yet needless to say, no full stop or period is (necessarily) placed after “Laviniaque venit/litora”, which is the place where Q. says he would make a “distinctio” – so I can’t help wondering what a “distinctio” really is.

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