Saturday, April 14, 2018


Literacy in the Old Sense

D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), Instaurations: Essays in and out of Literature, Pindar to Pound (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), p. 4:
Literacy, in the old sense, was learned primarily from Latin, from concentrating slowly and often painfully on the way words are put together. Nunc et latentis. Someone, in the genitive, now hiding. Proditor. Something, modifying the subject, not yet stated, which betrays or conceals. Intimo. (In?) the innermost. Gratus. The something that reveals is charming. Puellae. A girl's. So a girl is hiding. Risus. A girl's laugh, revealing where she is hiding. Ab angulo. From the corner—the shadows at the edge of the evening piazza. And suddenly, from this dense linguistic medium, a picture stands out sharp and clear:
Nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo.
No English poem needs to be read quite as hard as these lines of Horace. The sheer difficulty of construing has I think a positive value. English attracts a lot of people who are not, as we say, strongly motivated; they want a light rinse of humane letters and suppose that the English department is the least disagreeable place to get it. The briefest exposure to Horace would send these people packing. And there is something else. No doubt the student did not always profit from the old philological grind, but one thing it did impress upon him. It forced him, at however crude a level, to be conscious of the phenomenon of language.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?