Teaching Latin Prose Composition to the brightest in a community of young people is something that I profoundly enjoyed. You have to get them to understand that they can't just look up words in a dictionary and produce a wooden A=X, B=Y, C=Z set of transpositions from one language to another. They need to get inside the meaning of the English passage, and then radically transpose it into rhetoric that might have been uttered in such a different society by a Cicero; or history that looks as though it comes from the stylus of a Livy. It is best to work upon a piece of at least moderately good English. The speeches of Enoch Powell were splendid material ... for example, his wonderful evisceration of the policy of Nuclear Deterrence.
A decade and a half ago, in a period when the Irish Times was edited by Geraldine Kennedy and still contained a fair bit of literate English, I might, during my nine-week summer vacation, sit by the water at Knightstown on Valentia Island as the dolphins danced just outside the harbour, my pencil sustained by Beamish, rendering onto the back of an envelope one of that paper's Leading Articles, just for the fun of it.
These memories came to mind as I read the other day an address written not so long ago by the Rt Revd Nick Baines, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds, referring to a politician ... he shall be nameless ... who is now First Lord of the Treasury in this country in true and apostolical succession from the late unlamented Robert Walpole (Drain The Swamp). How, I wondered, might one render this:
"He is an immoral liar; a privileged and Oxford educated journalist and government minister who has the nerve to refer to others as 'the Establishment elite'."
Meat (or meet) for a piece of pastiche-Tully, perhaps? Rhetorical questions and praeteritio as if from the peroration of In Catilinam XV?