Sunday, November 17th, 2019...3:37 pmChris Francese

J.K. Rowling and Peter Needham: Distribuens Petasus

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J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) has a delightful Latin version, Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis (2003), by Peter Needham. Needham taught Classics at Eton for over thirty years and also translated A Bear Called Paddington into Latin. In this edition of Latin Poetry Podcast we check out his elegant version of the Sorting Hat Song. The meter is the elegiac couplet.

Hat on stool in large hall

discipuli, pulchrum si me non esse putatis,

externa specie plus valet ingenium.

nam petasus nusquam toto si quaeritis orbe

me melior vobis inveniendus erit.

lautitias odi: nolo tegmenta rotunda,

neve cylindratos tradite mi petasos.

Distribuens Petasus vobis Hogvartius adsum

cui petasos alias exsuperare datur.

Distribuens Petasus scrutatur pectora vestra,

quodque videre nequit nil latet in capite.

in caput impositus vobis ostendere possum

quae sit, vaticanans, optima cuique domus.

vos forsan iuvenes Gryffindor habebit alumnos;

hanc semper fortes incoluere domum.

gens hominum generosa illa est fortisque feroxque;

illi nulla potest aequiperare domus.

gentibus a iustis et fidis Huffle tenetur

Puff. adversa tamen scit domus illa pati.

hic homines animisque piis verique tenaces

invenietis. erit vestra secunda domus.

tertia restat adhuc Ravenclaw nomine dicta;

est vetus et sapiens ingeniisque favet.

sunt lepus hic hominum cultorum artesque Minervae;

discipulos similes hic habitare decet.

forsitan in Slytherin veri invenientur amici;

improbus es? fallax? haec erit apta domus.

ut rata vota habeant scelus omne patrandum est

gentibus his; quaerunt nil nisi lucra sua.

verticibus iubeo me vos imponere nec non

pectoribus firmis rem tolerare velim!

‘incolumes eritis petasi tutamine,’ dicunt,

‘cum careat manibus, cogitat ille tamen.’

And here is the J.K. Rowling original (via Mugglenet):

Oh, you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There’s nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can’t see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don’t be afraid!
And don’t get in a flap!
You’re in safe hands (though I have none)
For I’m a Thinking Cap!

For an appreciation of Harrius Potter and how it can bring more Latin into your life, see Justin Slocum Bailey’s article from Eidolon 2017.




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