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Old 03-08-2009, 10:19 PM   #97
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Originally Posted by Astrotoy7 View Post
*Would a reader/listener in late 1st century BCE have felt it was weird as well, or is there something that hs gone missing in teaching of Latin over the centuries. The decription of Marcellus apparently moved his mother Octavia to tears, which if true, would have been unlikely if it was written it in a truly mind boggling way.
It's not mind-boggling in and of itself, the syntax is highly poetic; Virgil relies an awful lot on hyperbaton which isn't a sort of electronic baton which does the washing-up for you and tells you the time of day in any part of the world you care to ask for, it's the rearrangement of word order beyond usual sense to achieve poetic effect. English isn't an inflected language and its sense is tied not to word-ending but word position so it's more difficult to do but essentially we're talking about Yoda-speak but to achieve drama, or bathos, or something.

The problem comes when you're facing unseen translation in an exam. A load of small birds bursting out of the roasted hog at Trimalchio's dinner (cena trimalchionis from Petronius's Satyricon, if you're wondering) perfectly amusing and we understand the humour of it when represented in English. But add to that an uncertainty in your ability to read or translate the language and things that seem to defy the laws of logic can throw you off. I seem to remember everyone an exam involving Trimalchio's dinner deciding that sweets came out of the hog because it made much more sense than birds. It's only mind-boggling to someone who can't read Latin fluently.

Originally Posted by Astrotoy7 View Post
*Why did Virgil choose the datylic hexameter? Is listening to it in Latin 'pleasant to the ear', as rhyming verse can be in English. The Dryden translation, has significnt addenda, and is a sure departure from a pure translation, but is still admired by many because it is a pretty piece in English.
He chose it because that happened to be the established form for epic poetry in Latin. The generation of epic poets before him had established it by hacking up parts of the Greek metre. You can rap Virgil if you want; the stresses of the lines are quantitative which means that they're worked out mathematically. Virgil doesn't sound like speech at all; the natural stresses on the words are all messed up by the metre. In English verse we rely on both accentual and syllabic metre (because its a truly weird language even in terms of poetic traditions which we derive from French and from Old English) which means that it sounds (even when highly lyrical in the case of Dryden, Marlowe, or Tennyson) like speech. The stresses fall where they would naturally if you were speaking (the syllabic part purloined from French) and also on alliterative or rhyming syllables (accentual).

Byron tried writing some quantative stuff in English but the language just won't allow for it. Virgil can sound both very dramatic and very cold as a result of its mathematical verse but English verse (provided it's done well) always sounds organic and natural on some level:

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt that truth be a liar:
But never doubt, I love.

Originally Posted by Astrotoy7 View Post
*One final query.. when speaking Latin, is it right when people pronunce the letter "I" as "eye''?
There's a fascinating book (well, fascinating to people like me...) called Vox Latina printed by the Cambridge University Press which details the way in which Latin words should be pronounced and the methods some very old, dusty people from Cambridge Colleges used to derive that pronunciation.

I wouldn't worry about it too much but the basic rules to keep in mind are: sound every syllable and that all consonants are hard.

i: ee as in "flee"
ae: like eye
oe: oy as in "coy"
iu: "y" as in "yes"

Bearing in mind that this sort of pronunciation is like speaking English in Received Pronunciation and if you do find yourself in ancient Rome, it's likely to get you beaten up by the Roman equivalent of chavs. -- News and features will be returning shortly...

I 'gin to be a-weary of the sun,
And wish the estate o' the world were now undone.

Last edited by Pavlos; 03-08-2009 at 10:55 PM.
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