Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where East Meets West :: III:3

A few weeks ago, I realized that word order in Latin poetry is not as crazy as I had thought it was. It is very similar to Chinese word order. Take the first line from today’s ode:

iustum et tenacem propositi virum
[the] just and firm of purpose man

A Chinese translation might go something like this:

[the] just purpose-resolved of man

The Chinese love to pile on modifiers before a noun. In fact, their grammar demands it. Latin grammar is not as constraining as Chinese grammar. A Roman could have said:

iustum virum et tenacem propositi
virum iustum et tenacem propositi

Even so, the way Horace ordered his words, is not something the Latin grammarians talk about. In fact, they fairly ignore the Chinese-like fronting of modifiers. 

But how Chinese-like is Latin? Take this sentence, which means ‘This is the house in which Horace lived’:


A literal translation in both Latin and English would be jibberish:

Hæc est Horatii habitabat domus.
This is Horace lived’s house.

Clearly Latin cannot mimic Chinese in all aspects. Nevertheless, we can approximate Latin to Chinese if we first translate the sentence with a relative clause:

Hæc est domus in qua Horatius habitabat.

Next we can front the relative clause:

Hæc est in qua Horatius habitabat domus.

Putting a relative clause before the noun it refers to may be odd to our ears, but not to a Roman’s. Here are further examples from Horace’s carmina:

vel quae loca fabulosus lambit Hydaspes [I:22:7-8] 
or which regions legendary washes Hydaspes
or the regions the legendary Hydaspes washes

sed quae Tibur aquae fertile praefluunt [IV:3:10] 
but which Tibur waters fertile flow by
but the waters which flow by the fertile Tibur 

et almum quae rapit hora diem [IV:7:7-8]
and kind which takes [the] hour day
and the hour that takes away the kind day

So, where are the rules to account for putting a relative clause before the noun it modifies? The answer is: there aren’t any. Where are the rules to account for these phrases from today’s ode?—

nostrisque ductum seditionibus bellum
and [the] from our drawn-out quarrels war
and the drawn-out war because of our quarrels

Troiæ renascens alite lugubri fortuna
Troy’s being reborn by a bird lugubrious fortune
The fortune of Troy being revived by a lugubrious bird

It is not enough to say that an adjective can come before or after the noun it modifies. It is wrong to give the impression that a relative clause always follows the noun it modifies. It would be better to prepare the student for sentences that look a bit more Chinese than they do schoolbook Latin. 

Human beings have varied and, I would say, amazing ways of stringing words together. Chinese reveals one of the ways, and so does Japanese. Here is a sentence from Kawabata’s Snow Country 雪国. I don’t think that even Horace could match Kawabata’s word order. 

The sentence comes after a long description of Mr. Shimamura aboard a train. As evening approaches, the window becomes a mirror of the interior of the train. He is able to observe, in the reflection, a beautiful woman caring for a sick man.
As for [the] in [the] evening scene’s mirror by Yoko being cared for sick man, 
[the] Shimamura for a meeting having come woman’s houses’s son he was.

If you let your mind relax, you can almost understand what Kawabata is trying to say:

The sick man being cared for by Yoko, in the mirror of the evening scene, 
was the son in the house of the woman Shimamura had come to meet.

Dare I contort Latin to mimic Japanese word order? Why not? For the fun of it, I’ll change Yoko to Iuno and Shimamura to Cincinnatus and give it a try. I wonder if a Roman would have understood my translation or whether he would have thought it was even correct.

In vesperālis prospectūs speculō Iūnōne servatus aeger 
quam Cincinnātus vīsitāre vēnit mulieris domūs fīlius erat.


The just man, firm of purpose, solid of mind, 
the flame of citizens prescribing wrongs, 
does not shake, neither does a tyrannt’s 
threatening face, neither the South wind,

wild commander of the restless Adriatic,
neither the great hand of thundering Jove:
even if, fractured, the world caved in,
its ruins would strike this man unafraid.

This is how Pollux and Hercules on the move,
having struggled, reached the castles of fire;
where with them recumbent, Augustus
will drink nectar, his mouth a violet red;

how worthy you, Father Bacchus, your
tigers carried, dragging the yoke with 
stubborn necks, how Quirinus on the
steeds of Mars put Acheron to flight,

a welcome thing Juno speaking up 
at the council of the divine: “Troy, Troy 
the impure judge of fate, the foreign 
woman too, has turned

to dust, damned to me and to chaste
Minerva with the people and the faudulent
leader, the day Laomedon defrauded
the gods of an agreed upon reward. 
No more does the well-known host 
of the Spartan adulteress shine nor does 
Priam’s house of lies shatter the warlike 
Achaeans with Hector’s might,

and a drawn-out war by our discord
he settled. And after this, the terrible 
anger and the hated grandson,
whom the Trojan priestess bore,

to Mars I shall return; I shall have him enter 
the shining houses, come to know the taste 
of nectar and be appointed
to the peaceful ranks of the gods.  

As long as the sea vast between Troy 
and Rome rages, let the blessed exiles 
rule wherever, as long as horses 
trample the tumulus of Paris and Priam 

and wild animals there conceal their litters 
unharmed, let the Capitolium stand 
shining, let warlike Rome mete out 
justice to the conquered Medes.

Let her who bristles extend her name broadly 
to the final shores, where the middle 
sea separates Europe from Africa,
where swollen the Nile waters the fields.

Undiscovered gold?—better left that way, 
as the earth hides it—braver to spurn than 
to snatch all the sacred stuff up
for man’s use with the right hand.[1]

whatever limit confines the world, 
she will get to by force, eager to see 
the part where fires rage out of control, 
the part of rains and misty dews.

But I have foretold and by this rule to the
warring Romans say, let not those too pious
and faithful to the country wish to 
repair the roofs of ancestral Troy.

The fortune of Troy, revived by some 
gruesome bird-omen, will be repeated 
in sad slaughter, when I, Jove’s wife and 
sister, lead the victorious troops.

If thrice the bronze wall rises from 
Apollo’s doing, thrice the ruins will by 
my Greeks perish, thrice the captured 
wife will weep for husband and sons.’

This does not suit the joyous lyre. Where, 
Muse, are you headed? Stop being stubborn 
and carrying on about the gods and lessening 
the magnificent with small measures.[2] 

translation © 2011 by James Rumford


1  There is a lot of discussion about the true meaning of these lines, indeed whether the word cum was not a scribal error for quo. Whatever has been said, I prefer to translate the lines just as they are and let them speak for themselves. Here are some translations in three of the daughter languages of Latin:

Spanish ¡Que sea más grande despreciando en oro que ocultaba la tierra, dentro de la cual estaría mejor que no empleándo para usos profanos y sacrílegos!

Italian   L’oro non anco scoverto (oh, il celino sempre le terre!) anzi che torcerlo a umani usi con man rapace fin tra l’are, più forte ella spregi. [Trad. di Mario Rapisardi, 1883]

French  qu’elle soit plus grande en méprisant l’or enfoui que cachait la terre, et où il était mieux, qu’en l’amassant pour l’usage de l’homme. après l’avoir, de sa main rapace, enlevé aux choses sacrées; [Trad: Ch.-M. Leconte de Lisle, Horace, traduction nouvelle, Paris, A. Lemerre, 1911]

2  ‘Small measures’ modis parvis refers also to the ‘mode of music,’ that is, Horace’s own poetry.

In Prose:

Non ardor civium prava iubentium, non vultus tyranni instantis, virum iustum et propositi tenacem, mente solida, quatit neque Auster, dux turbidus Hadriae inquieti, nec manus magna Iovis fulminantis. Si orbis fractus illabatur, ruinae impavidum ferient. 
Hac arte, Pollux et Hercules vagus enisus arces igneas attigit, inter quos Augustus recumbens nectar ore purpureo bibet. 
Hac [arte], [o] Bacche pater, tigres tuae, iugum collo indocili trahentes, te merentem vexer[unt]. 
Hac [arte], Quirinus Acheronta [in] equis Martis fugit, Iunone divis consiliantibus gratum elocuta: 
“Iudex fatalis incestusque et mulier peregrina Ilion in pulverem vertit—Ilion damnatum mihi Minervaeque castae cum populo et duce fraudulento, ex quo [tempore] Laomedon mercede pacta deos destituit. 
“Iam nec hospes famosus adulterae Lacaenae splendet. Nec domus periura Priami Achivos pugnaces opibus Hectoreis refringit. 
“Bellumque, seditionibus nostris ductum, resedit. Et protinus, iras graves et nepotem invisum, quem sacerdos Troica peperit, Marti redonabo. Ego patiar illum sedes lucidas inire, sucos nectaris discere et ordinibus quietis deorum adscribi. 
“Dum pontus longus inter Ilion Romamque saeviat, in qualibet parte exsules beati regnanto. Dum armentum busto Priami Paridisque insultet et ferae inultae catulos celent, Capitolium fulgens stet. Romaque ferox possit iura Medis triumphatis dare. [Roma] late horrenda, nomen in oras ultimas extendat, qua liquor medius Europen ab Afro secernit, qua Nilus tumidus arva rigat. 
“Aurum irrepertum? Et [Romae] melius sic situm cum terra [id] celat. Fortior [id] spernere quam cogere dextra rapiente sacrum omne in usus humanos. 
“Quicumque terminus mundo obstitit, [Roma] hunc armis tanget, gestiens visere qua parte ignes, qua [parte] rores nebulae pluviique debacchentur. 
“Sed, hac lege, fata Quiritibus bellicosis dico, ne velint nimium pii rebusque fidentes tecta Troiae avitae reparare. Fortuna Troiae, alite lugubri renascens, clade tristi iterabitur, me coniuge et sorore Iovis catervas victrices ducente. Si ter murus aeneus, Phoebo auctore, resurgat, [murus], ter Argivis meis excisus, pereat, ter uxor [Troiana] capta virum puerosque ploret.”
Hoc lyrae iocosae non conveniet. Quo, musa, tendis? Desine, [o] pervicax, sermones deorum referre et magna modis parvis tenuare.   [revised March 27, 2015]

Delphin Ordo:

Virum integrum et in sententià constantem de firmo propositio non dimovet vehementia civium improba præscribentium, nec facies tyranni urgentis, neque Notus turbator Adriatici maris procellosi, nec potens dextra Jovis fulmen vibrantis. Si ruat mundi soluta compages, intrepidum opprimet casus. Istâ pollens virtute Pollux, et errabundus Hercules, ædes ad ignitas ascendit : inter quos Augustus sedens ore roseo nectar potat. Istâ clarum te, Liber pater, traxere tuæ tigres indomitâ cervice jugum ferentes. Per istam Romulus Martis equis effugit inferos ; Junone apud Deos concilium habentes dicente rem jucundam : Funestus (dixit) et flagitiosus arbiter, et barbara fœ[æ?]mina in favillas redegit Trojam, mihi et pudicæ Palladi cum plebe et rege fallaci addictam, ex quo tempore Laomedon numina defraudavit promisso stipendio. Non ampliùs mœchæ Lacedæmoniæ fulget hospes infamis ; neque Priami gens fraudulenta Græcos feroces expugnat viribus Hectoris ; quievitque bellum nostris discordiis protractum. Ergo etiam deinceps grandes inimicitias, et nepotem odiosum, quem genuit sacrificula Trojana, Marti remittam. Hung ego sinam ingredi domicilium splendens, bibere nectaris liquores, atque numinum felici numero accenseri. Dummodo Trojam inter et Romam ingens mare fremat, quâcumque in regione imperent fortunati extorres. Modò super sepulchrum Priami et Paridis greges lasciviant, et belluæ illæsæ fœtus suos abscondant, stabile floreat Capitolium, et Roma bellicosa leges imponat victis Medis. Illa formidabilis procul ad extremas orbis partes famam propaget ; sive ubi mare interfusum separat Europam ab Africâ ; sive ubi Nilus intumescens agros perfundit : generosior contemnendo aurum nondum inventum, atque ita convenientiùs positum, dum terra contegit ; quàm addicendo illud usui hominum, manu quodlibet sanctum deprædante. Quisquis mundi finis impedivit, hunc bello obtineat, cupiens investigare, quo loco æstus, quo nubilia et imbres sæviant. Verùm fata sancio Romanis militiâ inclytis, eâ conditione, ut non plùs quàm fas est pii, neve opibus innixi, stagant antiquæ Trojæ domos instaurare. Namque sors Trojæ resurgens infaustis auspiciis repetetur casu iterum luctuoso, triumphantis exercitûs ductrice me Jovis uxore et sorore. Si ter ex ære mœnia reparentur favente Apolline, ter quoque diruta prosternantur à Græcis mihi dilectis : ter captiva conjux plangat maritum ac filios. At ludenti citharæ ista minimè congruunt. Quò pergis, ô Musa? Cessa audax Deorum verba narrare, atque humili carmine diminuere grandia.

Original Ode:

Iustum et tenācem prōpositī virum
nōn cīvium ardor prāva iubentium,
  nōn vultus instantis tyranni
      mente quatit solidā neque Auster,
dux inquiētī turbidus Hādriae,
nec fulminantis magna manus Iovis:
  sī fractus illābātur orbis,
      impavidum ferient ruīnae.
hāc arte Pollux et vagus Hercules
ēnīsus arcıs attigit igneās,
  quōs inter Augustus recumbēns
      purpureō bibet ōre nectar,
hāc tē merentem, Bacche pater, tuae
vexēre tīgrēs indocilī iugum 
  collō trahentēs, hāc Quirīnus
      Martis equīs Acheronta fūgit,
grātum ēlocūtā consiliantibus
Iunōne dīvīs: īlion, īlion
  fātālis incestusque iūdex
      et mulier peregrīna vertit
in pulverem, ex quō destituit deōs
mercēde pactā Lāǒmedon, mihi
  castaeque damnātum Minervae
      cum populō et duce fraudulentō.
iam nec Lacaenae splendet adulterae
fāmōsus hospēs nec Priamī domūs
  periūra pugnācēs Achīvōs
      Hectoreīs opibus refringit,
nostrīsque ductum seditiōnibus
bellum resēdit. prōtinus et gravıs
  īrās et invīsum nepōtem,
      Trōica quem peperit sacerdōs,
Martī redōnābo; illum ego lūcidās
inīre sēdēs, discere nectaris
  sūcōs et adscrībī quiētīs
      ordinibus patiar deōrum.
dum longus inter saeviat īlion
Rōmamque pontus, quālibet exsulēs
  in parte regnantō beātī
      dum Priamī Paridisque bustō
insultet armentum et catulōs ferae
cēlent inultae, stet Capitōlium
  fulgēns triumphātīsque possit
      Rōma ferox dare iūra Mēdīs.
horrenda lātē nōmen in ultimās
extendat orās, quā medius liquor
  sēcernit Eurōpēn ab āfrō,
      quā tumidus rigat arva Nīlus.
aurum irrepertum et sīc melius situm,
cum terra cēlat, spernere fortior
  quam cogere hūmānōs in ūsūs
      omne sǎcrum rapiente dextrā.
quīcumque mundō terminus obstitit,
hunc tanget armīs, vīsere gestiēns,
  quā parte dēbacchentur ignēs,
      quā nebulae pluviīque rōrēs.
sed bellicōsīs fāta Quirītibus
hāc lēge dīcō, nē nimium piī
  rēbusque fīdentēs avītae
      tecta velint reparāre Trōiae.
Trōiae renascēns ālite lūgubrī
fortūna tristī clāde iterābitur,
  dūcente victrīcēs catervās
      coniuge mē Iovis et sorōre.
ter sī resurgat mūrus aeneus
auctōre Phoebō, ter pereat meīs
  excīsus Argīvīs, ter uxor
      capta virum puerōsque plōret.’
nōn hōc iocōsae conveniet lyrae.
quō, Mūsa, tendis? dēsine pervicax
  referre sermōnēs deōrum et
      magna modīs tenuāre parvīs.

:: Latin books by James Rumford ::

For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetizedfor $11.50 at 

For a Latin translation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at $12, click here: 

To find out more about Carpe Diem go to the blog of March 26, 2015; 
for more about Pericla Thomae Sawyer, go to the blog of November 22, 2016.