Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Latin Via Proverbs 18

Note for the month of December: You can find Latin Christmas Carols, with a new one for each day, at my Latin Carols Blog. December 5: O Viri, Este Hilares, "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen."

This is another set of proverbs based on the "X is the Y of Z" model, using third declension nouns, as well as first and second declension nouns and adjectives.

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 lulu.com! 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 18

237. Luck is the ruler of the world. (Notice the lovely Latin word imperatrix, the female ruler or empress. Because Fortuna is a feminine noun, she is the imperatrix, instead of the masculine imperator. This is one of the famous medieval songs called the Carmina Burana.)

238. Rome is the head of the world. (A variant on this famous phrase was Roma caput orbis terrarum, "Rome is the head of the circle of the lands," another way to refer to the whole world in Latin.)

239. Watchfulness is the price of liberty. (The Latin word vigilia, which literally means "staying awake," also gives us the English word "vigilance.")

240. Leisure is the devil's cushion. (Compare the English phrase, "idle hands are the devil's workshop." The Latin pulvinar was literally a cushion or couch, and it also referred to the "seat of honor." )

241. Light is the shadow of God. (The English writer John Addington Symonds chose this motto for the title of one of his poems.)

242. The body is the abode of the soul. (This is a phrase adapted from the medieval question-and-answer Dialogue of Pippin and Alcuin. You can also find the saying used in Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.)

243. The eyes are the containers of light. (This is a phrase adapted from the medieval question-and-answer Dialogue of Pippin and Alcuin.)

244. Prayer is the food of the soul. (Although Latin oratio meant "speaking" in general, in Christian Latin it came to refer more specifically to "prayer." Hence we have the word "oratory" in English meaning "the art of public speaking" as well as "a small chapel or place for prayer.")

245. The word is the betrayer of the mind. (In other words, what you say betrays what you are thinking. The Latin word animus can be translated with a wide variety of English words: mind, spirit, passion, intellect, etc., and you have to choose what is best for the context. This particular phrase is adapted from the medieval question-and-answer Dialogue of Pippin and Alcuin.)

246. Words are the signs of the mind. (The Latin word index has been adopted into English, as in the word "index" itself, or the phrase "index finger.")

247. Friends are thieves of time. (In his "Advancement of Learning," Francis Bacon called this saying in particular to the attention of students: "And therefore as we use to advise young students from company keeping, by saying, Amici fures temporis: so certainly the intending of the discretion of behaviour is a great thief of meditation.")

248. The footstep of the master is the best manure. (In other words, a farm flourishes when the master walks around and keeps an eye on things. The master's presence is more likely to contribute to the yield of the crop than any other form of fertilizer.)

249. Grey hairs are a sign of time, not of wisdom. (It would indeed be delightful if the passage of time always guaranteed an accumulation of wisdom, but I think we all know, sadly, that this is not the case.)

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

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