Monday, July 28, 2008

On Spoken Latin

Here is a link to a video produced by the University of Kentucky. One of the profs there runs a summer seminar in which, for the first day, you are allowed to converse in whatever language you choose, and then, for the next 8 or so days, you can only converse in Latin.

I think this would be immensely beneficial; it's a shame more people don't actively engage in spoken Latin. Pretentious as it may sound, the best way to learn a language is to use it. Merely reading the language won't ingrain the grammatical points and vocabulary in your head as well as actually using the language and, if one attends a spoken Latin seminar, immersing oneself in the language completely. The classic grammar/translation method perhaps makes learning Latin easier, but it doesn't mean you learn it well. To be fair, many people are quite good at Latin who have used the grammar/translation method, however, I seriously doubt the are as good with the Latin language as the professors who run the spoken Latin seminars.

At the very least, people should be doing more prose composition, whether it be an original work or a paraphrase of some poem or prose selection they read in class. Both Romans and Greeks used paraphrase, as well as other exercises such as translating from Latin into Greek or Greek into Latin, to improve their writing and, most importantly, their oratorical skills. If it worked for Cicero, why can't it work for you? For myself, at least, prose comp has been beneficial in terms of my Latin grammar and vocabulary, painful as it is at first. It reinforces concepts: if you can generate constructions, surely you would be able to recognize them in Latin. Actively using a language is the only way to learn it well, thus, speaking and writing Latin would be great ways to improve one's skills.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Catullus 5 Translation

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus
Rumoresque senum severiorum

Omnes unius aestimenus assis.

Soles occidere et redire possunt

Nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,

Nox est perpetua una dormienda.

Da mis basia mille, deinde centum,

Dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,

Deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum,

Dein, cum milia multa fecerimus

Conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,

Aut ne quis malus invidere possit

Cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love.
Let us reckon all the rumors
of harsh old men as worth a single penny.
Suns are able to sink and to return
But, when our brief light sets,
We must live in perpetual night.
Give me 1000 kisses, then 100,
then another 1000, then 100 again,
Then another 1000, then 100.
Then, when we have made many thousands of kisses
We will jumble those kisses together, lest we know how many there are
or lest any person with bad intent cast an evil eye
when he knows just how many kisses we have shared.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Catullus 51 Translation

Ille mi par esse deo videntur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,

qui sedens adversus identidem te
spectat et audit

dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis

eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,

Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi

[vocis in ore.]

Lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus

flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures, gemina teguntur

lumina nocte.

Otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:

otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas

perdidit urbes.

This man seems to be an equal of the gods.
This man, if it is right, appears to surpass the gods:
He who, sitting opposite you,
gazes at you and listens to your
sweet laughter again and again. Those things
from my misery snatch my senses: indeed,
the instant I look at you, Lesbia,
nothing of my voice is left in my mouth.

My tongue is tied, a thin flame of love
flows down through my limbs,
my ears ring with their own sound and
my eyes are covered with the twin night.

Catullus, leisure for you is troublesome:
In leisure do you rejoice and delight too much:
Leisure has, in the past, ruined kings and beautiful cities.

Short Commentary [lines refer to the Latin text]:

Line 2: si fas est (if it is right); The sense here is really "if it is divinely sanctioned". That is, Catullus doesn't want to offend the gods in saying that he might even surpass them, thus he's being more polite about it.

Line 7: Lesbia; This is who Catullus addresses his love poetry and, after the relationship deteriorates, his hate poetry, to. The name is not a reference to her sexual orientation; instead, it is a poetic nod to Sappho, the Greek poet of the the 6th Century BC. She was from the island of Lesbos and addressed most of her love poetry to another woman (hence the word "lesbian"). Catullus makes use of Sappho's meters as well in some of his poetry. I think Catullus is trying to fit himself in with the lyric love poetry of the Greeks.

Line 8: [vocis in ore]; This line is missing in all the Catullus manuscripts. This is the "standard" reconstruction of what the line probably said

Lines 11-12: gemina teguntur/lumina nocte (my eyes are covered with the twin night); These lines, though incredibly good, are incredibly confusing in the Latin. I think the sense is that darkeness overwhelmes his two eyes.