19 December 2019

Latin Prose Compo

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?


8 comments:

Fr. C. A. Fogielman said...

Well, it's been a good fifteen years since I tried my hand at this kind of thing, but here goes...
Num iste non solum impudens, sed etiam mendax homo, patricia gente ortus atque in Oxoniensibus ludis eruditus, primum in litteris posteaque in cursu honorum famam consecutus, ideo pudicitiam amisit ut alios accusaret quod in optimatium numero reputandi essent?

Banshee said...

Never really got much composition in any languages I took. (Yeah, there are good language programs in the US, but I never got to take one.) They always said we would focus on conversation instead, but we never did much of that, either.

OTOH, if I spend enough time focusing on reading stuff in a language I know well, I do tend to start composing things in my dreams. Which is weird, because I usually don't remember dreams at all.

Had a weird one yesterday. Native Spanish speaker was on the phone in the restroom, speaking slowly and loudly, and using standard Spanish vocabulary. Every so often, her daughter would chime in, just as loudly. But I was still having trouble following it, because I couldn't figure out what the conversation was about.

At first I thought it was Star Wars, but then I thought maybe it was Pentecostal stuff, and then finally I thought it was some kind of ghost problem or medium she had consulted. But I think I just came in on the conversation too late.

Andreas Meszaros said...

Hoc flagitium hominis mendax: dum ipse generis sui et institutionis Oxoniensis pollet privilegiis, honoresque gerit magistratus, audet alios ut “turbam” exprobrare "Patriciam".

Feed Room Five said...

Of all the Latin I have studied, the most helpful and most enjoyable was Prose Composition. To tell the truth, I had only memorized vocabulary before. At University of Texas Professor Garth Morgan never had more than 2 or 3 students and the instruction was really a private tutorial. Sometimes if Dr. Morgan was busy and his 10 year old son was around, the lad would correct my exercises. Those were the days.

Sprouting Thomas said...

Like Father above, it's been a while...but...

At iste barbatus, qui ascensu prolem lupinam non “Quirites” sed, decursu lucorum Palladis falsus, primam superatam vel cum “ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι” prosecutus, moribus non tantum amici, non tantum pudici sed etiam Punici, plebis se tribunum facit?

"And is this philosophe, who, the first time he got up to address the wolfborn race (forgetting how far he’d come down in the world since he used to stroll in Pallas’ groves) began not with “Countrymen!” but with a blithe “Fellow Athenians!”; whose manner is not only chummy, not only decorously plummy, but also quite thoroughly scummy, now going to bill himself as Tribune of the Plebs?"

Possibly? Gamma plus? I hope Fr. Hunwicke has an automated howler-correction system for these comments...

Charlesdawson said...

Slightly off-topic but I hope you will forgive and let this through: Can you or any of your correspondents tell me when Tully morphed into Cicero, and why? Horace stayed Horace, Livy stayed Livy, after all...

pdm said...

quamquam verba Patris Fogielman magni aestimo, hoc offero:

Quid?! Iste nobilis homo, cum Oxonii educatus, scriptor praeclarus, denique minister regius sit, tam audax, tam pravus, tam mendax erit, ut alios incuset, quod optimates censendi sint?! O magnam impudicitiam! O fallacem hominem!

(Dixerit aliquis: Tu, qui episcopus Anglicanus es, qui itaque multum vales apud optimates britannicos, quare nobilitatem alicui obicis? Respondendum erit episcopos Anglicanos vix de pravis hominum moribus solliciti, nisi Brexitianorum).

pdm said...

Sorry: for 'alicui' read 'cuiquam'!