Posted by Dennis » 2 Comments »
I’ve been away from this world for awhile. The opportunity presented itself to move 2,800 miles away, and despite a good job teaching Latin in a good school, and being a year shy of tenure (with good prospects), we decided to go for it. It was a struggle for awhile, and I learned to become very sympathetic to the truly poor.
But I digress. I was away from Latin in the wilderness for a good long while. I still am, as it happens. I’m working on the web now, or rather in a cubicle in a tower high over Seattle. I do work on the web, dealing with content, graphic design, and the like. We’re pretty well settled now and have insurance and pensions, and count ourselves lucky, which is what we are, and what you are if you have the same. There’s still something missing, though.
Through it all, and very tenuously, we’ve able to keep our several-thousand-book library in a storage unit, stacked high on two pallets and wrapped carefully in waterproof tarps. We have a few dictionaries on the mantle, but all of our grammars and commentaries, our Cambridge green & yellows and OCTs and Teubners and so on, all of these are still there in those stacks, itching to get out and be read.
I think about it from time to time, and I think about the kind of scholar I tried to be, both in graduate school, when I was paralyzed by my lifelong battle with social anxiety, and as a teacher, when I came to terms with the old saying that le mieux est l’ennemi du bien. There was a transformation there that wasn’t quite complete, even when clung to Hermann’s dictum, est quaedam etiam nesciendi ars et scientia (Opusc. ii.288).
I was too fastidious, too concerned with minutiae, and it wasn’t (as one professor blithely said) because I was a positivist. It was because I lived with constant self-doubt matched by an abiding belief that everyone else was looking to catch me out. That sounds pretty grand now that I type it, but it’s true.
I was accused of wanting to be a textual critic, and told I could never be one because I wasn’t born at the right time (the nineteenth century?) or in the right country (the UK? Germany?). But that wasn’t accurate. What I wanted to be was right, because my most vivid memories were always of being wrong, embarrassed, bullied, or a disappointment. Struggling to master everything (even the unknowable) wasn’t conscious or deliberate, but a visceral, psychological need.
I wasn’t the kind of scholar I was because I wanted to be a particular kind of scholar. I was just trying not to be wrong.
I found myself just now thinking deeply about teaching Latin, specifically oral Latin. That part of my inner monologue isn’t important now, but it led me down a path to thinking about how one reads Latin, which led me to this rambling post. While thinking about the sources of oral Latin in the classroom—poetry and prose (from all eras), legal texts, inscriptions, graffiti—I thought of how wrong it was to spend hours or sometimes days on a few poems or a dozen pages of prose, armed with grammars and dictionaries, commentaries and monographs, and buttressed by preconceived ideas and teachers’ intimations. I started to expound to an imaginary audience in my head on the ways to achieve real fluency, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever had the nerve to do with Latin and Greek.
When I uncrate those books again, I’m going to leave the grammars and the commentaries on the shelf for a while. I’m going to read the literature less closely than I ever have before, and I’m going to read more of it. I’m going to read it, and then read it again. I’ll let the volume and the variety of words say more to me than the notes of scholars or my own narrow reading. And I’m not going to let my little demons stall me on every little word and question.
Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
At least this is what it looked like when I worked a certain Greek textbook a few years ago. This may just be my experience, but this is the kind of note I wrote to my boss as I worked through the text. I probably argued with the author on similar points a few dozen times, but I happened upon this note by chance and thought I’d share it. (Note on the ‘Greek’ below.)
“I still have a problem with the etymology of a)reth/, etc. The notion that it is related to a)/rshn is unsupported. a)/ristos actually comes from PIE *ar- relating to ‘fitness’ (lots of obvious Greek and Latin words from this root). a)/ristos then means ‘most fitting, most suitable,’ not ‘most manly.’ a)reth/, if related to a)/ristos, may just mean something like ‘fitness,’ i.e., virtue as a particular kind of fitness, not manliness. As for a)rsh/n, I haven’t a clue as to its derivation (is it even Indo-European?), but I see no reason to suppose that it’s connected to a)reth/. Likewise Ares. Thus, the notion that a)reth/ was originally sexist and later became less so is dependent upon dubious etymology.”
I was thanked in the introduction for entering the text, but in reality I made major contributions to the integrity of the text, in places arguing for linguistic science, and elsewhere against emotionalism. Here I did both, and I feel no shame in taking more credit than I was offered for improving the book.
That weird text, by the way, is so-called Beta Code, which is a way of representing ancient Greek in ASCII text. It was sort of standard in the days before Unicode Classical Greek became relatively easy to produce, and we used it while editing for simplicity and to ensure no encoding issues with mail servers, etc. It’s still used by many today (but it’s worth the small effort to learn to type in Greek).
Posted by Dennis » 5 Comments »
I thought others might find it useful to have collected in one place all instances of hypermetric verses in classical Latin poetry (i.e., lines that have an ‘extra’ syllable at the end that elides with the opening vowel of the following line).
Lucilius, fragment 17. 6: (cf. Vergil, Aeneid
- … magna ossa lacertique
- apparent homini …
Lucretius, De rerum natura 5. 849–50:
- multa videmus enim rebus concurrere debere,
- ut propagando possint procudere saecla
Catullus, carmen 64. 298:
- inde pater divum sancta cum coniuge natisque
- advenit caelo, te solum, Phoebe, relinquens
Catullus, carmen 115. 5:
- prata arva ingentes silvas saltusque paludesque
- usque ad Hyperboreos et mare ad Oceanum?
1. 4. 96:
- me Capitolinus convictore usus amicoque
- a puero est causaque mea permulta rogatus
Horace, Satires 1. 6. 102:
- et comes alter, uti ne solus rusve peregreve
- exirem, plures calones atque caballi
- aut dulcis musti Volcano decoquit umorem
- et foliis undam trepidi despumat aeni.
Vergil, Georgics 2. 69:
- inseritur vero et fetu nucis arbutus horrida,
- et steriles platani malos gessere valentis,
- si non tanta quies iret frigusque caloremque
- inter, et exciperet caeli indulgentia terras.
Vergil, Georgics 2. 443:
- navigiis pinus, domibus cedrumque cupressosque;
- hinc radios trivere rotis, hinc tympana plaustris
- Omne adeo genus in terris hominumque ferarumque
- et genus aequoreum, pecudes pictaeque volucres,
Vergil, Georgics 3. 377:
- otia agunt terra, congestaque robora totasque
- advolvere focis ulmos ignique dedere.
- et spumas miscent argenti vivaque sulpura
- Idaeasque pices et pinguis unguine ceras
Vergil, Aeneid 1. 332:
- iactemur, doceas. Ignari hominumque locorumque
- erramus, vento huc vastis et fluctibus acti
- aerea cui gradibus surgebant limina, nexaeque
- aere trabes, foribus cardo stridebat aenis.
Vergil, Aeneid 2. 745:
- quem non incusavi amens hominumque deorumque,
- aut quid in eversa vidi crudelius urbe?
- omnia Mercurio similis, vocemque coloremque
- et crinis flavos et membra decora iuventa
Vergil, Aeneid 4. 629:
- imprecor, arma armis: pugnent ipsique nepotesque.
- Haec ait, et partis animum versabat in omnis
- et magnos membrorum artus, magna ossa lacertosque
- exuit atque ingens media consistit harena.
Vergil, Aeneid 5. 753:
- robora navigiis, aptant remosque rudentisque,
- exigui numero, sed bello vivida virtus.
- quos super atra silex iam iam lapsura cadentique
- imminet adsimilis; lucent genialibus altis
Vergil, Aeneid 7. 160:
- iamque iter emensi turris ac tecta Latinorum
- ardua cernebant iuvenes muroque subibant.
- se satis ambobus Teucrisque venire Latinisque.
- haec ubi dicta dedit divosque in vota vocavit
Vergil, Aeneid 8. 228:
- ecce furens animis aderat Tirynthius omnemque
- accessum lustrans huc ora ferebat et illuc
- omnia longaevo similis vocemque coloremque
- et crinis albos et saeva sonoribus arma
Vergil, Aeneid 10. 781:
- sternitur infelix alieno vulnere, caelumque
- aspicit et dulcis moriens reminiscitur Argos.
- clamore incendunt caelum Troesque Latinique.
- advolat Aeneas vaginaque eripit ensem
Vergil, Aeneid 11. 609:
- substiterat: subito erumpunt clamore furentisque
- exhortantur equos, fundunt simul undique tela
- turaque dant Bacchumque vocant Bromiumque Lyaeumque
- ignigenamque satumque iterum solumque bimatrem
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 780:
- perque vias vidisse hominum simulacra ferarumque
- in silicem ex ipsis visa conversa Medusa
- inter seque datas iunxit natamque nepotemque
- absentes pro se memori rogat ore salutent
Do with that what you will. (Including, of course, correcting me if I’m wrong or missed anything.)