Wednesday, March 01, 2017


Build Up the Stones Again

Julia Budenz (1934-2010), "Learning Latin," Vergilius 37 (1991) 20-21 (lines 31-56):
                                                The glow
Of Rome will fade if teachers do not stress
(I turn prosaic and pedestrian)
Latin's immutable eternal law:
To read one must be a grammarian.
Rome will have fallen if one fatal flaw
Enters and penetrates and undermines
Its adamantine everlastingness,
The Latin language. When no one declines
And conjugates the rubble is a mess.
Build up the stones again as they must be
Constructed and construed eternally.

But read. Read as the Romans read, aloud,
Word after word. This is not really rubble.
The Roman stones already are inscribed
In order. This is not a game of scrabble.
The Latin that one loves was once hard work.
The Latin that one loves is subtlest play.
Happy are they who somehow did not shirk
The one. They see the other's blessed day.
Like Daphnis they will marvel as they stand
Upon the threshold of Olympus, where
They look down on the clouds and planets and
The traffic of the stars and, breathing air
Azure, celestial, pass through the facades
And learn they are conversant with the gods.
The final sentence refers to Vergil, Eclogues 5.56-57 (quoted at the beginning of the poem):
candidus insuetum miratur limen Olympi
sub pedibusque videt nubes et sidera Daphnis.

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