Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Latin and the Organ of Veneration

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, chapter 8:
They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or guessed at: they spoke of books: how many they had read! What stores of knowledge they possessed! Then they seemed so familiar with French names and French authors: but my amazement reached its climax when Miss Temple asked Helen if she sometimes snatched a moment to recall the Latin her father had taught her, and taking a book from a shelf, bade her read and construe a page of Virgil; and Helen obeyed, my organ of veneration expanding at every sounding line.
We always hear about the Brontë sisters, but they had a less well known brother who was an accomplished Latinist. Patrick Branwell Brontë translated the first book of Horace's Odes, including this hymn to the divine sister and brother Diana and Apollo (Ode 1.21):
Virgins, sing the Virgin Huntress;
  Youths, the youthful Phoebus, sing;
Sing Latona, she who bore them
  Dearest to the eternal King:
Sing the heavenly maid who roves
Joyous, through the mountain groves;
She who winding waters loves;
  Let her haunts her praises ring!

Sing the vale of Peneus' river
  Sing the Delian deity;
The shoulder glorious with its quiver;
  And the Lyre of Mercury.
From our country, at our prayer —
Famine, plague, and tearful war
These, benign, shall drive afar
  To Persias plains or Britains sea.

Dianam tenerae dicite virgines,
intonsum, pueri, dicite Cynthium
  Latonamque supremo
  dilectam penitus Iovi;

vos laetam fluviis et nemorum coma,
quaecumque aut gelido prominet Algido,
  nigris aut Erymanthi
  silvis aut viridis Gragi;

vos Tempe totidem tollite laudibus
natalemque, mares, Delon Apollinis
  insignemque pharetra
  fraternaque umerum lyra.

Hic bellum lacrimosum, hic miseram famem
pestemque a populo et principe Caesare in
  Persas atque Britannos
  vestra motus aget prece.

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