Latin Word of the Day: A Story

I have been ridiculously jealous of my northern sistren who are enjoying the beauty and grandeur of Winter’s Blessing: SNOW.

I might not miss the driving conditions or the car troubles, but I miss the tingling feeling of life and beauty and purity that cold and snow inspire. While I have been trying to sympathize with all the winter mishaps that Thalia and Terpsichore have, I have been heartsore and homesick for a good, old-fashioned white snow.

This week Dallas has been enduring a cold and wind like the harbinger of an apocalypse. By which I mean, 30 degrees with a wind chill of 12. Weather Channels warned that there was a slight chance of precipitation, (around 13%,) and that precipitation might turn into snow.

Yesterday, my 7th graders asked if I would let them play in the snow. I laughed, and promised them that if it snowed, I would require them to make snow angels. They cheered.

Guess what was happening this morning?

SNOW WAS COMING DOWN IN DALLAS, TX.

Even before classes, my 7th graders were trying to catch my eye and mouth, “SNOW! Outside, right?” I just grinned at them.

By the second period, the snow was sticking and word had spread about my rash promise, and I had to strike a deal with the Freshman Latin Class: if they finished correcting homework sentences and reviewing vocabulary, they could have the rest of the period to play in the snow.

I have never seen them work so hard or fast. Usually I draw random names for boardwork translations, but today almost everyone “volunteered as tribute”. A few even had to fight it out (with rock-paper-scissors) over doing a sentence. They had a good 20 minutes of skating around the frosty parking lot and trying to throw powdery snow at each other.

My 7th graders were next – and they finished the classroom work in under 20 minutes. Of course, few of them had not thought to wear appropriate coats, so they had a strict if-you-get-wet-you-will-not-complain warning. They didn’t mind.

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For kids who have never played in snow before, they got the idea of it pretty quickly! The first 5 minutes or so were spent marveling at the perfect shapes of the snowflakes. Seriously, every single one cam running over to show me a big fluffy flake and gasp over the beauty, and wonder over the incredible detail that God put into each snowflake. (Their words, not mine.) I love these kids.

And then the snowball fights and snow angels and snow-skating began in earnest. The sheer joy and exhilaration was contagious. One of the girls ran up proudly to show me the snowball that she had made, and then earnestly asked my advice on at whom she should throw it. The boys proceeded to chase after each other like middle school boys.

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By lunch the roads were so bad that we had early dismissal. On the 7 miles between school and home, I slid into two intersection and passed three accidents. Winter Mishap Quota: check.

Right now I am curled up with a mug of soup, enjoying the sensation of cold toes, and watching the light reflected off snow shine on my ceiling. One of my students did give me fuzzy socks for Christmas . . . where did I put those?

But before leaving, I gave my students one last thing: a Latin Word of the Day.

Nix, nicis


SNOW

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Carmina Burana

It’s concert week once again!  For the next four days, the Choral Union is performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, so it’s looming large in my mind.  Last night, as we went to dress rehearsal, I read the translation of the Latin and Middle High German choruses to my brother.  Wouldn’t you know it: I then had an easier time singing the words, knowing more or less what they meant.  So I thought I’d share.

Go here to see the live-stream of the performance, 7:30 PM Eastern TONIGHT!

When I was in college and our choir director announced that we’d perform Carmina Burana, I was nonplussed as I’d never heard of it before.  But, as he then pointed out, every single one of us had probably heard its first movement, “O Fortuna,” at least once.  It’s very popular for any given Moment of Epic Import, so much so that it’s a bit cliché.  Typically the folks using it ignore the fact that it’s crying out at Fortune, lamenting and snarling in anger at the whims of cruel Fate.  This is how Carmina Burana begins, and it’s also how it ends – angrier than ever at the Wheel of Fortune for spinning onward.

But what about the other 23 movements?

Well.  That’s why I’m here. Continue reading

Rhyme Schemes Send Me Silly Places

Merry 6th day of Christmas!  I hope your home is not overrun by poultry sent by your true love.  In lieu of six geese a’laying and a summation of other bird-gifts, I have some exploration of a hymn for you.  Just what you always wanted, right?  I know, I know, I shouldn’t have.

Yesterday at church, we sang “From East to West.”  I’d call it a run-of-the-mill Christmas hymn and forget about it, but it struck my ear with a thing I call Éponine rhymes – so called because of a section of Les Miserables that always stuck in my brain:

Marius:   Get out before the trouble starts!
Get out, ‘Ponine, you might get shot!
Éponine: I’ve got you worried now, I have.
That shows you like me quite a lot!

If you don’t know that “quite a lot” is coming, you sit there wondering why Éponine would fail so badly at rhyming with the fellow she adores.  How else to prove you were made to finish his duet?

Taking a musket ball for him is not conducive to singing duets with him, I'm afraid.

Taking a musket ball for him is not conducive to singing duets with him, I’m afraid.

It’s not unrhymed; the rhyme just takes longer than expected to show up.  Thus with “From East to West”: it’s an ABAB rhyme scheme, but was set to a tune more frequently employed for “From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come,” which has an AABB scheme.  The ear expects a rhyme immediately, and is startled by the wait.

I contemplated sending a note to Thalia, saying Thought of you this morning whilst singing LSB 385.  The power of rhyme, it is not strong with Mr. Ellerton.  But John Ellerton, as it happens, was but translating the words of 5th century poet Coelius Sedulius.

Obviously I had to see what sort of rhyming Coelius Sedulius did or didn’t do.  This is what I found: “A Solis Ortus Cardine,” or “From the point of the rising of the sun,” is an acrostic with twenty-three verses about Christ’s birth, his ministry, his miracles, his betrayal, his death, and his resurrection.  Coelius Sedulius used every letter of the Roman alphabet to start the verses, which calls for some creativity: not only does he juggle different rhyme schemes (ABBA, ABCB, AABB, AABA, etc.), but he had to be extra inventive when he reached the letter X.  So far as I can determine, “xeromurram” is a hapax legomenon referring to myrrh (myrrham, rendered as murram for postclassical vulgar Latinate Reasons) intended to anoint the body of Christ, whose name is alluded to via a spelled-out Chi Rho.

Since it’s not always practical to sing all 23 verses, the church used the first 7 (plus a doxology) as a Christmas hymn, and 4 of the later verses (plus a doxology) as an Epiphany hymn.  Luther translated these two hymns into German (with an AABB scheme throughout), and later on Ellerton translated the Christmas hymn into “From East to West” as we sing it today.

Admittedly, these renditions do not necessarily reflect how we sing it today.  I thought they were interesting, though, and wanted to share them:

Gregorian plainchant hymn adapted to English by St. Meinrad Benedictine Archabbey in Indiana

Alan Charlton’s Advent motet, sung by the Meridian Singers

Guillaume Dufay, or so it says, alternating polyphony and chant.

All glory for this blessed morn
To God the Father ever be;
All praise to You, O Virgin-born,
And Holy Ghost eternally.

Earworm Alleluia

It’s that time of year when Choral Union prepares for Handel’s Messiah, which always confuses the inner calendar.  We skate from Isaiah’s prophecies to Luke 2 fulfillment, from Lenten sorrow to resurrection triumph, to judgment, and then back in reverse order because that’s how rehearsal works.  Truly, it is a glorious liturgical muddle.

This week, we ran through the happier movements of part 2 (“Lift up your heads, O ye gates” and the choruses following) and all the choruses of part 3.  Instead of picky melismata, there’s more emphasis on dynamic contrast and fugal exposition.  The music rises in one great crescendo, such that I left practice with “Worthy is the Lamb” resounding in my head.  There is such a fierce joy in proclaiming Christ’s victory over sin and death, a taste of what is to come.

That vehement delight also accounts for my aural addiction to Anuna’s “Dicant Nunc,” a new setting of an old Easter antiphon:

Christus resurgens ex mortuis          Christ, being raised from the dead,
iam non moritur:                         dies no more;
mors illi ultra non dominabitur.        Death hath no more dominion over him.
Quod enim vivit, vivit Deo.              For in that He lives, He lives to God.
Alleluia.                                    Alleluia!
Dicant nunc Iudaei,                      Let the Jews now say
quomodo milites custodientes            how the soldiers guarding
sepulchrum perdiderunt Regem         the sepulchre lost the King
ad lapidis positionem.                    sealed with a stone.
Quare non servabant                    Why did they not watch
petram iustitiae?                          the rock of justice?
Aut sepultum reddant,                  Let them either return him buried,
aut resurgentem adorent nobiscum    or with us worship him risen,
dicentes Alleluia.                         saying Alleluia.

This whole text makes me waggle my fingers in exultation.  Death has no mastery over Him!!  In the same way, we may count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

What welcome news at any and all times of year.  Alleluia indeed!

I Expect a Guardian!

Book Group Thing has started back up, and with
it, a stream of winding Harrius Potterdiscourse on more diverse topics than our ostensible subject, Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy.  A tangent on book-thievery and book-reclaiming prompted me to bring up Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis, which is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Latin.

“How did the translator render the spells?” wondered my fellow bibliophiles.  “Some of them are already in Latin, yeah?  How do they get set apart as spells?”

“Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much to the characters, does it?” said I.  “Instead of thinking of the spell as Nox, they just say, Night!  Or [instead of Expecto Patronum,] I EXPECT A GUARDIAN!

Which prompted a bit more laughter than I expected, and more thought on the Patronus Charm than is typical.  Not everyone reading is a Potterite, so here’s a brief description: a Patronus is a sort of offensive shield, a silvery animal-shaped guardian which is the corporeal form of a happy memory or thought.  It launches itself at both Dementors and Lethifolds, holding them at bay if not driving them off.

There are several occasions where Harry or other characters conjure a Patronus; the spell’s use becomes ever more frequent in the later books, as war descends and Dementors appear more and more often.  I wanted to focus on three particular occasions of Patronus charm use:

- In the maze Harry goes through to reach the Goblet of Fire, he meets a Dementor-shaped Boggart.  Driving it away isn’t quite the same as driving away a real Dementor, but the mechanism is the same: he concentrates on getting out of the maze and celebrating with Ron and Hermione, something that hasn’t happened, but which he hopes for.

- During battle in Deathly Hallows, Harry attempts to conjure a Patronus but cannot summon up any happy thought whatsoever.  Luna prompts him with “We’re all still here; we’re still fighting.”  It costs him more effort to conjure than it ever has before, as the situation is so grim, but Harry’s Patronus still bursts forth to stand guard.

- Harry uses one to drive away a lot of Dementors near the end of Prisoner of Azkaban.  In his words, “I knew I could do it this time, because I’d already done it – does that make sense?”  In this event, he focuses not on a happy memory, nor a positive thought, but on his certainty that the Patronus will save him because it already has in his other-time’s experience.

Dementors as Rowling wrote them aren’t a foe we ever meet with; that said, it is Monday again, and we have our own battles to fight, be they e’er so humble.  Where a happy memory may not get us through, our hopes may; perseverance may; or faith may, the assurance about what we do not see.

There are occasions, even in the Muggle world, when our happiness is drained away, when we feel as though we will never be happy again.  What happy memory or hope is your guardian against Dementor-like feelings?

Words, and Otherwords

I am doing some preliminary preparation for teaching a segment on poetry to my fifth graders.

The segment begins on Monday.

It will be a busy weekend.

But since my first goal is to teach them to enjoy poetry, I am scrambling to find a copy of Richard Wilbur’s Words Inside Words collection. Understandably – albeit sadly – no version is available online.

Instead, I did find a reading and animation of a few snippets, put forth by that eternally – entertaining TV station, PBS.

It is actually rather unnerving, but you can see what kind of fun things Wilbur did with words.  And poems.

 

 

 

 

Is your appetite whetted? For the sake of fostering Beauty and Truth, I give you . . . .

Richard Wilbur reading and commenting on “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”!!!!!!

*swoons*

I pine.

I long.

My heart aches to find such expression of truth.

Trial by Handkerchief

This morning I took my Latin exam.

The big Latin exam.

The one that assures my school that I know the ins and outs of at least one language well enough to be let into the truculant world. The one that allows me to graduate with an official Master of Arts degree. (Now I just need to start finish my thesis!)

So in celebration, I thought I would share with you all on of Catullus’s (I was translating Catullus) more deep, dark, and delicate of poems.

The poem that he wrote to a former friend or guest who had stolen his linen handerchief. To threaten him with three hundred more poem unless the handerchief were returned.

As poets do, ya know.

 

Catullus 12:

Marrucine Asini, manu sinistra

non belle uteris in ioco atque vino:

tollis lintea neglegentiorum.

hoc salsum esse putas? fugit te, inepte!

quamvis sordida res et invenusta est

non credis mihi? crede Pollioni

fratri, qui tua furta vel talent

mutari velit; est enim leporum

disertus puer ac facetiarum.

quare aut hendecasyllabos trecentos

exspecta, aut mihi linteum remitte,

quod me non movet aestimatione,

verum est mnemosynum mei sodalis.

nam sudaria Saetaba ex Hiberis

miserunt mihi muneri Fabullus

et Veranius: haec amem necesse est

et Veraniolum meum et Fabullum.

My Translation. Behold:

Asinius Marrucinus, your left hand

You do not use nicely in either jest or in wine;

You pilfer the linens of the more careless!

You consider this to be amusing? It escapes from you, idiot!

As how sordid and uncharming a thing it is.

You do not credit me? Believe Pollionus

Your brother, who for your thefts to be undone

would give a fortune. He is, in fact,  a boy

Of agreeableness, loquacious and witty.

So unless you would expect three hundred hendecasyllabic poems,

Return to me my linen!

It does not trouble me for its worth,

But in truth, it is a remembrance of my friends.

For Fabullus and Veranius sent to me

From Spanish Saetaba the handkerchiefs as a

Saturnalia gift: so it is necessary that I love the handkerchiefs

As I do my Veranius and Fabullus.

 

Woe to those who pilfer from poets; you might be pestered with poetry!

Someday I will go back and try to make it look more like a poem in the English, but I find the straight up translation fun and sweet enough.

Epic Meme Saturday: An Apocalyptic End to the Meme

If it was truly the end of the world I would not bring a book, that would be pointless as I shall have no need of it, either being in Heaven and experience the Beatific Vision which is better than anything word can give, or I shall be in Hell, and I don’t think I would really care about books in Hell…

However, the end of the world, the end of technology, the end of how this culture perceives life, an Apocalypse, would call for a very special book indeed. It would have to be foundational to what is good about our culture, it would have to exemplify what it means to be human, and contain the foundation of Christianity. Well, I think the only thing that really does that perfectly is the complete works of St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas wrote a massive amount, both of philosophical, theological and poetical. He wrote this hymn;

Pange, lingua, gloriosi

Corporis mysterium,

Sanguinisque pretiosi,

quem in mundi pretium

fructus ventris generosi

Rex effudit Gentium.

Sing, tongue, the mystery

of the glorious Body

and of the precious Blood,

which, for the price of the world,

the fruit of a noble womb,

the King of the nations, flowed forth.

Such beauty truly belongs to man as human and as children of God! St. Thomas is called the Angelic Doctor for a reason and his lucid prose is a joy to read. (Though due to modern understandings of words it can be a bit hard to get used to.) Plus, I am sure that throughout his entire library of work the great saint quote the entire bible, new and old testament, so that is an added happiness! Hmm… lovely.

Although it would not be the easiest thing to read as a the world as we know it is crumbling apart, I think it would be the thing that I most want to preserve.