Saturday, November 11, 2006

Latin Via Proverbs 3

The proverbs in Group 1 and Group 2, contained first declension nouns and adjectives in the nominative case only.

In Group 3, you will encounter first declension nouns and adjectives in other cases. Your textbook should give you a good overview of how the different cases - genitive, dative, accusative and ablative - function in Latin.

Note that the vocative is, in technical terms, not a case, because it does not play a grammatical role in the sentence. Instead, a vocative is simply added to the sentence, calling out ("voca-tive") to someone or something as the addressee of the sentence. In the comments on the proverbs below, I will note any unusual case usage that might catch you by surprise!

Latin prepositions take either the genitive, accusative or the ablative case. Some prepositions can take more than one case, depending on the meaning. Note that no preposition can take the dative case! In addition, you know that no preposition can take the nominative case... why? Because the only thing, absolutely the only thing, the nominative case can do is to be the subject of a sentence.

I hope these notes will help you tackle this group of proverbs in Latin Via Proverbs. Please note: to read the proverbs in Latin, you need to acquire a copy of the book from! What I am providing here in the blog are notes to help people who are making their way through the book either in a Latin class or on their own.

Group 3

22. The road to glory is arduous. (Notice that you need to be careful where to separate the subject of the sentence, which comes at the end, from the predicate adjective, which comes first in the sentence. The Latin preposition ad takes the accusative case.)

23. To glory through the thorns! (Notice that there is no verb stated here, but you can imagine a variety of implied verbs: "let's go," "we must go," "I'll go," etc. Both the prepositions ad and per take the accusative case. This saying also serves as a motto of the Thorn family, based on a nice play on words.)

24. After thorns, the palm. (Again, the verb is implied: "comes" or "will be" would fit nicely. The Latin preposition post takes the accusative case. The palm here refers to the palm of victory.)

25. From the moon, knowledge. (The verb again is implied; you need to supply something like "comes." The preposition ex takes the ablative case. This phrase was the motto of the Apollo 13 moon mission; read more at wikipedia. And for all you Trekkies out there, compare the motto of Starfleet Academy: Ex astris scientia; you can read more about this at wikipedia also.)

26. Abundance as a result of effort. (Again, you need an implied verb, something like "comes" or "is produced," etc. Be careful with the Latin word copia; it means "copiousness, abundance," not copy.)

27. Trust in physical beauty is unreliable. (The word formae is in the dative case. The word "trust" in Latin takes the dative case; we say "trust in" something, but Latin is more like "trust to," as in the English phrase "giving credit to" something.)

28. Rarely is there beauty with wisdom. (The preposition cum takes the ablative case. The word raro is an adverb, and does not change its ending, although you will see later that many adverbs are derived from adjectives, so this word does come from the Latin adjecdtive rarus, "rare.")

29. Plenty of eloquence, a smidgen of wisdom. (The words satis and parum are indeclinable; in other words, their endings never change. Both words take the genitive case, which is easy to see in the English translation: "plenty of," and "a smidgen of." This saying comes from Sallust's famous description of Catiline.)

30. In the greatest power is the least license. (The preposition in takes the ablative case.)

31. History is the teacher of life. (Notice that the word for teacher here, magistra, is feminine. That is because the word for "history" itself is feminine, historia. You will sometimes see this translated as "History is the mistress of life," but this is not "mistress" in the sense of a lover, but rather in the sense of "school-mistress." The English words "master" and "mistress" do, in fact, ultimately derive from the Latin words magister, which is the masculine form of magistra.)

32. Philosophy is the teacher of life. (Like the word historia in the proverb above, the word philosophia is also a term that the Romans borrowed from the Greeks, as you can see by the telltale "ph" in the spelling.)

33. One quarrel is the cause of another. (Compare the similar, and even more sobering, proverb: Ex bellis bella seruntur, "From wars wars are sown." Read more about that one at Latin Audio Proverbs.)

34. Dawn is a friend to the Muses. (The Romans were great fans of getting up extremely early and setting to work at once. This is advice I give to my students as well, although most of them are more likely to "burn the midnight oil" than to arise at dawn and see what inspiration strikes them in the early part of the day.)

35. The cricket is dear to the cricket, the ant to the ant. (This is a variant on the idea of "birds of a feather flock together," contrasting the fellow-love felt by one cricket for another, and one ant for another. Meanwhile, the unfortunate lack of fellow-feeling between the ant and the cricket is made famous by the Aesopic fable of The Ant and The Cricket.)

36. Wealth is a good maid servant but the worst possible mistress. (The Latin word for "mistress," domina, is the word used for someone in charge, someone who "dominates," and so the female owner of a slave; the masculine form of domina is dominus, "master." The idea is that you want wealth to be your slave, not your master. The word wealth is feminine, hence the use of the feminine domina. This phrase can be found in Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning 6.3. Unfortunately, I do not see this work at The Latin Library online, but they do have some other works by Bacon avaialble!)

37. Concern for wealth is anxiety-producing. (The Latin word cura, "care" takes the genitive case: "care of" something, rather "care for" something, as the English idiom has it. This saying forms part of the "emblem tradition," and you can see a 1612 illustration online, prominently featuring Diogenes the Cynic happily inside his barrel.)

38. There is no rose without thorns. (The preposition sine takes the ablative. This is a typical double negative in Latin, which is logically a positive; in other words, "Every rose has its thorns.")

39. The rose is often close to the stinging nettle. (Notice the word order here: you have the noun rosa as the subject of the sentence at the end, and the predicate of the sentence, the adjectival phrase urticae proxima comes at the beginning of the sentence. You will find this line in Ovid's Remedia Amoris.) Urticae proxima saepe rosa est.

40. Always the thorn is near the sweet-smelling roses. (This proverb has an even more intricate, even poetic, word order, with the subject of the sentence, spina plopped down into the middle of the adjectival phrase which is the predicate: odoriferis proxima rosis. The noun-adjective phrase odoriferis...rosis poetically "wraps" around the main part of the sentence.)

This blog post is part of an evolving online guide for users of the book Latin Via Proverbs.

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