In my last post, I lamented that there were no grammar books that exposed the student to the types of word order found in Latin literature. However, there are grammar books out there that do expose the student to more than just the usual subject-object-verb word-order. Tempus ad hoc, I’ve found two.
The first one is a book written in 1858 by George J. Adler [1821–1868], a long-ago professor of German Language and Literature at the University of the City of New York. He was a genius, I suppose, having written a massive German-English dictionary. He was also crazy and resided for most of his adult life in an insane asylum in upper Manhattan. And he was a friend of Herman Melville’s, whom he had met on a boat trip to Europe in 1849. (This last is interesting because it is said that Melville modeled Bartleby [http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11231] after Adler, and because Melville was one of handful who attended Adler’s funeral.)
Adler’s book can be found on line at:
It is worth taking a good look at. The method is based upon the assumption that even though Latin is dead, it can be taught as a living language. The sentences seem normal at the beginning, but soon they become extremely repetitive and even downright bizarre. Take this sentence from Lesson 43: “Do you wish to cut his finger?” Was this Adler’s insanity peeking through or was this just Adler’s attempt to find sentences that would illustrate the peculiarities of Latin grammar? I don’t know.
But apart from the oddities, there are sentences that teach uncommon word order such as these:
Núm hábes ménsas íllas púlchras?
[Have you those fine tables?] [pg. 51]
Utrum cultros habent tuos an (illos) Anglorum?
[Have they your knives or those (illos)
of the English [end of Exercise 17]
The nice thing about this book is that Adler made a key to the exercises. This can be found at:
The only problem I found with Adler’s key is that you never know which conjunction he is going to choose or, more to the point of this posting, which word order.
The second book that presents literary word order is one done in 1957 by three authors steeped in the language learning theories of the day (Waldo Sweet, Ruth Craig, and Gerda Seligson). It is called Latin: A Structural Approach [Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press]. The book is available to buy online and probably a copy can be gotten through abebooks.com. The good thing about this book is that the sentences are all, it seems, taken from Latin authors—not just the classical ones but those writing in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and even in modern times. Thus, we are learning not only grammar but style.
For example, on page 105, we find:
Ā cane lātrante nōn tenētur aper.
(A boar is not held by a barking dog.)
The common subject-object-verb word order would have produced this dazzling high school Latin:
Aper ā cane lātrante nōn tenētur,
which, by the way, we find a variant of a few pages later. This exposure to various word-order combinations is exactly what is needed to prepare a student for the rigors of reading literary Latin. And it is especially gratifying to find—among the exercises—this kind of sentence wherein the adjective is separated from its noun:
Lātrantem cūratne alta Diāna canem? (pg. 110)
Does lofty Diana care for the barking dog?
What would the student have learned, if the authors had written:
Cūratne Diāna alta canem lātrantem?
Today’s epode is a nasty one. There is no other way to put it. It reviles and condemns some woman. Horace’s description of her is a bit shocking. Isn’t he the poet who gave us non omnis moriar and vides ut alta stet nive candidum? Be that as it may, I present you with an unusual poem and an unusual translation as I attempt to use Horace’s word order. Why not feel what it was like to have the information streaming into your ears disjointed, Roman-style? Some of the word order I did have to change such as chiasmus. This is when adjectives and nouns do a cross-over dance (thus the word “chiasmus” taken from the Greek letter X (chi). Chiasmus is almost impossible in English, but if I try I can come up with an example:
the wooden girl in the pregnant house
Logic tells us that this has to be
the pregnant girl in the wooden house.
(As an aside, screwy Latin word order only works because the reader/hearer knows which endings go together and because he uses his knowledge of the world to make the sentence meaningful.)
The two examples of chiasmus in this epode are found highlighted in red below.
Since this epode is full of sexual references, better not read it, if you’re too young or too prudish or too annoyed by such things. I found it amusing that in all languages, there seem to be a lot of words for genitalia. In Latin the membrum virile can be vires (forces < vis) or nervi (nerves) or fascinum (apparently an amulet in the shape of a phallus which was worn around a child’s neck to protect it from harm.) How vulgar these expressions were is really unknown to me; so I have taken my cue from other translations.
To ask long-stinking you
for a century
about my cock
what unnerves it,
when you have a tooth all black,
on your forehead
old, old age ploughs up,
and gapes your vile
(between dry butt cheeks)
like from cow diarrhea.
But it excites me
your breasts and
and a belly mushy
and thighs thin
with swelling calves
Bless you! A funeral? Yes, and
may they lead it
triumphant for you!
Nor may there be
a married woman,
who with rounder burdened
pearls walks about.
What about the books by Stoics
between silken pillows
and loving it?
Does more my
get hard or less
limp my willy?
Though you may
call it out
with your mouth
work it over
is what you’ll have
translation © 2013 by James Rumford
in prose ::
Rogare te putidam saeculo longo
quid viris meas enervet,
cum tibi ater dens sit et
senectus vetus frontem rugis exaret
podexque turpis inter natis aridas
velut crudae bovis hiet.
sed pectus et mammae putres
quales ubera equina me incitat
venterque mollis et femur exile
suris tumentibus additum.
esto beata, funus tuum atque
imagines triumphales ducant,
nec sit marita, quae bacis rotundioribus
quid quod libelli Stoici inter pulvillos
sericos iacere amant?
Nervi num illiterati minus rigent,
fascinumve minus languet?
quod ut ab inguine superbo provoces,
ore allaborandum tibi est.
Rogare longo putidam te saeculo,
viris quid enervet meas,
cum sit tibi dens ater et rugis vetus
frontem senectus exaret.
hietque turpis inter aridas natis
podex velut crudae bovis!
sed incitat me pectus et mammae putres
equina quales ubera,
venterque mollis et femur tumentibus
exile suris additum.
esto beata. funus atque imagines
ducant triumphales tuum,
nec sit marita, quae rotundioribus
onusta bacis ambulet.
quid quod libelli Stoici inter sericos
iacere pulvillos amant?
illiterati num magis [minus] nervi rigent,
minusve languet fascinum?
quod ut superbo provoces ab inguine,
ore allaborandum est tibi.
:: Latin books by James Rumford ::
For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetized, for $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.