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Book Dedication (Latin Elegiac Couplet)

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Book Dedication (Latin Elegiac Couplet)

Postby Tom » Tue Mar 28, 2006 12:27 am

I would like to write a short book dedication in a Latin elegiac couplet. I have given it a go as follows:

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hunc libellum dono meum illae quae amica diu iam
    optima nobis est, quae mihi semper erit.

"I dedicate this little book of mine to the one who has been my best friend all along, who will always be to me."

Sadly I am aware of a couple of problems. First there are probably too many elisions, although I figure that for 2 lines I can get away with it. Also there is a monosyllable at the end of the first hemiepes.

Is it a problem that the pentameter ends with two disyllabic words?

I am using brevis in longo in both lines for the final syllable. Is this admissible?

Does anyone else spot any other errors or have any suggestions? Will the gods strike me down for using something like this in its currently impure state?

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Postby whiteoctave » Tue Mar 28, 2006 8:19 am

metrically the pentameter is fine (although the switch from nobis to mihi, without any semantic force, is a little jarring). the hexameter however has a number of distinct problems. if it be stated that libellum scans as a bacchius (short-long-long) and illae as a spondee, you should perhaps be able to see the problems with scansion in the line. if quae is elided, it is a very harsh elision of a diphthong and a monosyllable, and should be altered; if it is correpted in hiatus (such as in the formalae 'ita me di ament', with 'di' being short) then this is a licence not used by the elegists after Catullus, and too should be altered; ending the hexameter with a monosyllable is not a feature of elegy, although the hexameters of Lucretius and Virgil, say, use it as a striking device; illae should presumably be illi.
the effort is all in all a good one, but if your dedicatee knows elegy herself, perhaps the above should be tweaked.

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Postby Tom » Tue Mar 28, 2006 3:24 pm

Thanks for the quick response!

Of course illae is an embarassing mistake for illi. No particular excuse can be offered for this one. As far as the scansion libellum and illi, I had been misrembering the rule about when liquid consonants could and could not be used to make position. Evidently only when they are preceded by a mute is it acceptable to regard the vowel coming before them as short or long (e.g., tenebrae).

Back to the drawing board a bit. I will post anon.
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Postby auctor » Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:36 pm


Regarding the mute/liquid situation... You are probably working in the correct direction but as you have quoted the 'rule' you are leaving yourself open to future complications. In Latin and Greek a mute/liquid combination MAY leave the preceding syllable short IF it was already short. Which is not quite as you implied.
That is to say, the consonantal combination will not shorten a naturally long syllable. You probably realise this deep down but I hope that this extra elucidation saves you some heart-ache in the future.

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Postby Tom » Wed Mar 29, 2006 12:23 am

auctor, you are right on both counts -- I understood what I meant, and I failed to express it sufficiently clearly.

This is a tentative second effort. I am not sure that it is better.

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dono libellum illi quae semper amica diu iam
    optima nobis est, quae mihi semper erit.

"I dedicate the little book to the one who has all along always been my best friend, who always will be."

Metrically I had to use iambic shortening on the final o in dono, which is probably inadmissible, or inelegant at best. I also have one elision in the hexameter.

I scan it as follows:
hexameter: _ u u | _ _ | _ // _ | _ u u | _ u u | _ _
pentameter: _ u u | _ _ | _ // | _ u u | _ u u | _

I am vexed by being unable to place hunc somewhere in the first part of the hexameter. I think it's rather important to know just what libellum I am referring to!


PS: As far as the monosyllabic ending in the first line: for now I will worry about other things, but if I can resolve the other issues, I will try to treat it as well.
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