Posted by Eric » 2 Comments »
Domenico Comparetti, in Vergil in the Middle Ages, relates a fascinating anecdote about the spiritual Nachleben (or wistful longing after same) of Vergil:
Hence [Vergil] is the first of those whom Dante, that faithful interpreter of the religious sentiment of the middle ages, would not put among the damned, but placed among those whose one involuntary fault was that they were not baptized. This spirit of compassion is well expressed in those lines, so often cited, which used to be sung at Mantua (in the 15th century still) in the Mass of St. Paul, relating how the apostle visited the poet’s grave at Naples and burst into tears, exclaiming, ‘What would I not have made thee had I found thee still alive, O greatest of the poets!’
In a footnote, he gives the Latin text:
Ad Maronis mausoleum
Ductus fudit super eum
Piae rorem lacrimae;
Quem te, inquit, reddidissem,
Si te vivum invenissem,
Having been led to the tomb of Vergil he poured out the dew of a pious tear over him. ‘What I would have (re)made you, greatest of poets, if I had found you alive!’
Posted by Dennis » 2 Comments »
Gandhi, writing in his autobiography about his time in England and his efforts to pursue literary studies in addition to law, opted for the London Matriculation at the suggestion of a friend. He was glad for the experience and the challenge without a high cost, ‘But’, he said, ‘the syllabus frightened me’:
Latin and a modern language were compulsory! How was I to manage Latin? But the friend entered a strong plea for it: ‘Latin is very valuable to lawyers. Knowledge of Latin is very useful in understanding law-books. And one paper in Roman Law is entirely in Latin. Besides a knowledge of Latin means greater command over the English language.’ I went home and I decided to learn Latin, no matter how difficult it might be.
These are, of course, among the most familiar promotional slogans among Latin teachers’ arsenals, and they were enough to win over Gandhi. But how did Gandhi fare?
He says he just didn’t have the time to digest all that he had ambitiously placed before himself: ‘The result was that I was ploughed in Latin. I was sorry but did not lose heart. I had acquired a taste for Latin…’. He made another go of it and did pass the London Matriculation.
But it went further. He understood the bar examinations to be a joke, which many could pass with exceedingly high marks ‘scrambling through notes’ in just weeks (in the case of Roman Law) or months (in the case of Common Law). ‘Question papers were easy and examiners were generous,’ he said, and added that the examinations ‘could not be felt as a difficulty’:
But I succeeded in turning them into one. I felt that I should read all the text-books. It was a fraud, I though, not to read these books. I invested much money in them. I decided to read Roman Law in Latin. The Latin which I had acquired in the London Matriculation stood me in good stead. And all this reading was not without its value later on in South Africa, where Roman Dutch is the common law. The reading of Justinian, therefore, helped me a great deal in understanding the South African law.
He had complained of his own command of the English language, and it’s reasonable to assume that Latin helped. When he later applied for a job as an English teacher to supplement his income in Bombay he was turned down. To his defense he said, ‘But I have passed the London Matriculation with Latin as my second language.’ The principal replied, ‘Yes, but we want a graduate.’
That sounds very much like a qualified Latinist being told, ‘yes, but we want you to jump through the hoops of OUR state’s licensing board, not another’s.’
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More from Pfeiffer, on the learned Angelo Ambrogini (i.e., Poliziano), who was tutor to the children of Lorenzo the Magnificent and lecture on Latin and Greek literature:
In [Politian's] circle the text of Callimachus’ Hymns was most eagerly copied, and he himself translated the Bath of Pallas. In his notes to this hymn he confessed ‘that he was not afraid to correct small corruptions of the original’; but in one passage (line 136), where he was thought to have divined the true Callimachean text, we now know that he was completely astray. Only the concluding word was preserved in Politian’s Greek manuscript, and in his Latin translation he supplied the pentameter according to the sense he expected. This seemed to be confirmed by the text F. Robortello used in his edition of Callimachus’ Hymns (1555), where the Greek line agreed completely with Politian’s Latin one. But unfortunately, it is the other way round. Robortello’s manuscript is one of the interpolated manuscripts of the sixteenth century in which all the gaps of the archetype are filled by modern supplements, and the one in question is nothing but a poor translation of Politian’s Latin into Greek. That both Politian’s guess at the contents of the line and all the Greek words are wrong is now proved by another group of manuscripts, unknown to him, in which four syllables of the beginning of the pentameter are preserved.
(History of Classical Scholarship, vol. 2, pp. 45-6)