Sunday, December 10, 2006

Latin Via Proverbs 23

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 10: Resonet in laudibus, a popular Latin hymn which was adapted into English under the title "Christ Was Born on Christmas Day."
This is the last set of proverbs based on nominative-genitive combinations using third declension nouns.

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 23

303. Great is the power of gold. (Remember that the Latin word vis is an irregular noun. There is not a genitive singular form that you can memorize, and instead you need to just memorize the forms that are found: vis, nominative singular; vi, dative and ablative singular; vim, accusative singular; vires, nominative and accusative plural; and virium, genitive plural.)

304. There is a great concern for food, and a great lack of concern for virtue. (Notice how the Latin word order has been shifted to throw emphasis on the contrast between cura and the contrasting incuria. This phrase is cited by Ammianus Marcellinus, who attributes the saying to Cato the Censor.)

305. He is his father's son. (Notice how elegant and compact the Latin saying is, since it does not need to express the pronoun or the possessive adjective.)

306. A bad ending to a bad beginning. (In other words, something that got off to a bad start has come to a predictably bad end!)

307. Wicked crops from wicked seeds. (Compare the saying from Latin Via Proverbs Group 9: Mala gallina, malum ovum., "Bad chicken, bad egg.")

308. A good ending from a good beginning. (This is why it is important to put your best foot forward: if something gets off to a good start, it is likely to come to a good conclusion.)

309. Art for art's sake. (Be careful with the grammar here: the Latin word gratia is in the ablative case, meaning "for the sake of" + genitive. This is famously the motto of MGM Studios.)

310. The death of the wolf is life for the lambs. (Notice that the Latin agnis is dative plural, while lupi is genitive singular.)

311. A pack of dogs is a rabbit's death. (Notice that the Latin canum is genitive plural, while leporis is genitive singular.)

312. Water and bread is a dog's life. (The idea is that while dogs would like to eat meat, they often end up having to content themselves with far less. The Latin saying has a very nice rhyme: panis...canis, although note that panis is nominative singular, while canis is genitive singular.)

313. The bathhouse keeper's donkey never takes part in a bath. (This is a very Roman equivalent to the English saying "the cobbler's children are worst shod.")

314. Alliance with a lion is full of dangers. (Notice that Latin has a very nice adjective, leoninus, meaning "having to do with a lion." We do have the word "leonine" in English, but it is not in common usage. The Aesop's fable about the lion's share warns the dangers of associating with lions.)

315. Many are the ears of kings and many are their eyes. (Notice that the parallel structure allows Latin to omit repeated words: multae regum aures atque [multi regum] oculi. This saying made its way into Erasmus's Adagia, 1.2.2.)

316. Reason is a ray of divine light. (Compare a similar saying in Latin Via Proverbs Group 17, Scientia sol mentis, "Knowledge is the sun of the mind.")

317. Love is a god of peace. (Note the word order here, which is very different from what you would expect in English: of-peace love god is. The phrase is found in the Roman poet Propertius, who says: Pacis Amor deus est, pacem veneramur amantes, "Love is a god of peace and we lovers venerate peace.")

318. The swallow is the messenger of spring. (Again, note the Latin word order: of-spring swallow is messenger. The feminine nuntia is used here because hirundo is a feminine noun.)

319. The sun and moon are the world's watchmen. (This phrase is adapted from the Roman poet Lucretius.)

320. He is a man of five letters: T-H-I-E-F. (Obviously the Latin says a man "of three letters," since the Latin word for thief, fur, has only three letters. From this Latin root we get the wonderful English word "furtive." The saying is found in the Roman playwright Plautus.)

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

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