Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Recipe for a Classics Blog

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Prologue (tr. Walter Starkie):

All you have to do is to drag in some trite phrases and tags of Latin that you know by heart or at least that cost you little trouble to look up -- for instance, when dealing with liberty and captivity, to introduce
Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
and in the margin cite Horace or whoever said it. If you should deal with the power of death, come in with
Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas,
Regumque turres.
If you are writing of friendship and the love that God commands you to have for your enemy, come to the point at once with Holy Scripture, which you can readily do with a tiny bit of research by repeating no less than the Word of God Himself: Ego autem dico vobis: diligite inimicos vestros. If you are dealing with the subject of evil thoughts, turn to the Gospel: De corde exeunt cogitationes malae. If on the fickleness of friends, you have Cato, who will supply you with this distich:
Donec eris felix multos numerabis amicos,
Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris.
With these meagre scraps of Latin and the like, you may perhaps be taken for a scholar.

Part of the humor of this advice is that Cervantes (intentionally?) misattributes some of his quotations. Non bene etc. is not from Horace but from Walter of England, Fables of Aesop 54.25. Donec eris etc. is not from Cato, but from Ovid, Tristia 1.9.5-6. The translator, Walter Starkie, also in a footnote misattributes Pallida mors etc. to Horace, Odes LIV 13-14; it should be Horace, Odes 1.4.13-14.

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