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Oath of the Night's Watch

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Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Fri May 24, 2013 6:33 am

Third post from me in as many days, I know. Please don't think I'm just spamming the board or anything, this is just something that's foremost in my mind right now, hence the multiple posts. You have all been wonderful so far, so here's more of what I'm working on to keep myself busy and learning constantly.

The following excerpt is taken from the series A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin. It's an oath sworn by a certain band of pardoned outlaws that defend a huge Wall in the north from come-whatever's on the other side. Thought it would be fun to translate into Latin. Please let me know how I did, there were a few parts that I'm sure I'm completely off track. But that's what this forum is for, right? Learning from mistakes?

Oath of the Night’s Watch

Night gathers, and now my watch begins.
It shall not end until my death.
I shall take no wife,
hold no lands,
father no children.
I shall wear no crowns
and win no glory.
I shall live and die at my post.
I am the sword in the darkness.
I am the watcher on the walls.
I am the shield that guards the realms of men.
I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch,
for this night and all the nights to come.




Iuramentum Vigiliae Noctis

Nox colligitur, et vigilia mea nunc incipit.
Ea non finiet usque meam mortem.
Non uxorem ducam,
Non praedia obtinebo,
Non filii gignam,
Ego non coronas geram,
Et non gloriam vincam.
Vivam et moriar in meam stationem.
Ego sum gladius in tenebris.
Ego sum custos super muro.
Ego sum scutum quid terras hominum custodit.
Promitto vitam honoremque meum in Vigilia Noctis
Pro hanc noctem et noctes omnes successuras.

I look forward to the feedback of the general public. Thank you in advance for all your help.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby GJCaesar » Fri May 24, 2013 8:16 am

I love these haha.

-''hold no lands'' --> your translation: non praedia obtinebo. Be aware that praedium is ''spoil'' and not particularly a land. So I guess ''terram/terras'' is your best option.
-''filii'' should be filios
-''meam stationem'' should be mea statione (abl of location, since ''in'' doesn't indicate a direction here, but a position)
-''pro'' goes with ablative. I like the construction of your last sentence, so all you have to do is change the accusatives to ablatives :). --> pro hac nocte et omnibus noctibus successuris
vincatur oportet aut vincat
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby radagasty » Fri May 24, 2013 10:25 am

DWBrumbley wrote:Oath of the Night’s Watch

I'm not quite sure I quite grasp the import of the construction night's watch, as opposed to the standard night-watch.

At any rate, a few further points, in addition to those GJCaesar already mentioned:

Iuramentum Vigiliae Noctis: Note that vigilia already implies 'night'.
Nox colligitur: Colligitur sounds odd. How about appetit?
usque meam mortem: usque ad meam mortem
gloriam vincam: Vincam sounds odd; perhaps consequar?
scutum quid terras hominum custodit: Quod is required in place of quid. Custodit sounds a little odd too; how about protegit instead?
Promitto vitam honoremque meum in Vigilia Noctis: Vigiliae Noctis instead of in vigilia Noctis

GJCaesar wrote:I like the construction of your last sentence, so all you have to do is change the accusatives to ablatives :). --> pro hac nocte et omnibus noctibus successuris

Unlike GJCaesar, I'm afraid I do not like the construction of this sentence. I would have gone with bare accusatives myself: hanc noctem et noctes omnes successuras, or, if a preposition is required, then per rather than pro.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Fri May 24, 2013 1:46 pm

GJCaesar -- I considered Terra/Terram for "lands," but praedium seemed to imply more of a sense of ownership and estates the way I feel the oath intended. I've looked around at a number of sources online to try and get a consensus on the definition of the word, and I'm not really seeing where the sense of "spoils" comes from, but I'd love to know how the word acquires that kind of baggage. If that's the case, I'll gladly change back to "terras."

Everything else, you're absolutely right, and they were rather foolish mistakes on my part. That dern ablative case messes me up every time. That's what I get for being a monolingual English speaker for most of my life, I suppose. I shall make the necessary corrections when posting the "final" version. Thank you, as always.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby GJCaesar » Fri May 24, 2013 2:11 pm

Then I think I was too quickly in suggesting praemium as a better solution for terras/terram :) I didn't check my vocabulary for this, but maybe I was having a completely different word in mind when I sent you my advice. My apologies.
vincatur oportet aut vincat
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby whsiv » Fri May 24, 2013 7:32 pm

Instead praedia/terras, regna (regnum, -ī, n.) may also work, in the sense of a land that one possesses and rules over. Regnum is ultimately the source of our word realm, after all. Its kingly overtones might be suitable for something from A Song of Ice and Fire.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Fri May 24, 2013 8:08 pm

Regna makes sense. And it'll also accentuate the nature of what they're giving up when they join the Watch.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby GJCaesar » Sat May 25, 2013 10:37 am

Yeah that's a pretty clever solution for you word-choice problem. :wink:
vincatur oportet aut vincat
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Scribo » Sat May 25, 2013 5:42 pm

Nice. I started but got bored after two minutes, just a few points though.

This wouldn't be a Iuramentum but a Sacramentum given its nature. "Ea non finiet usque meam mortem" is nice but the Roman attitude would basically be, predictably, dum spero and you'd take nullam uxorem I believe.

Coronas is problematic in that the plural suggests Republican military awards. You could use the singular or, even better, diadema, -atis as a sign of sovereignity. This goes with Regna (which I like! Elsewise you could use something like I rule with the prep. "over" lands but...weird).

Not much else really. Liber, liberi would be more sensible than sons here and you could even use a periphrastic construction for variety if you liked.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Sat May 25, 2013 8:57 pm

Scribo -

Thank you for your suggestions, but I fear you're shooting just a touch above my head. Let me make sure I'm more or less keeping up.

Scribo wrote:This wouldn't be a Iuramentum but a Sacramentum given its nature.


Perfect! That's actually much better, thank you.

Scribo wrote:"Ea non finiet usque meam mortem" is nice but the Roman attitude would basically be, predictably, dum spero


"Dum spero" I don't really get. Dum spiro, perhaps? "While I live"? I understand the basis for saying it this way, but I think the phrasing of the oath as rendered in English is important, given some of the context later in the books. The act of dying for the Watch is significant. Nonetheless, I'll think about it. Thanks for the suggestion.

Scribo wrote: and you'd take nullam uxorem I believe.


If I were to change that to nullam, I suppose I'd have to change the rest of the section as well to match. The repeated "non" seemed better for the parallel construction, but in terms of the sense of the words themselves, you're right. The English is "take no wife" not "Not take a wife" as I have it. I shall modify the section to match.

Scribo wrote:Coronas is problematic in that the plural suggests Republican military awards. You could use the singular or, even better, diadema, -atis as a sign of sovereignity. This goes with Regna (which I like! Elsewise you could use something like I rule with the prep. "over" lands but...weird).


Diadema - Check. I was not previously aware of the 'coronas' implications, though in this sense, the lack of military awards is appropriate as well, since the Night's Watch doesn't really get those either. Nonetheless, Diadema is the appropriate usage here, as you said.

Scribo wrote:Not much else really. Liber, liberi would be more sensible than sons here and you could even use a periphrastic construction for variety if you liked.


Do you mean Liberi, liberorum? I had been searching for a word just for children, but never came across this one. Fits very nicely, though the close proximity to "father no books" and "father no freedom" is unfortunate, since the Night's Watch does a fair bit of both. Oh well. The word fits better than others. As for the periphrastic construction option, in other prose context I would agree with you just to break things up a little, but in the context of a structured oath, the lack of variety is more appropriate for the sake of repetition, I think.

With all that being said, version 2.0 -

Sacramentum Vigiliae Noctis

Nox colligitur, et vigilia mea nunc incipit.
Ea non finiet usque mortem meam.
Nullam uxorem ducam,
Nulla praedia obtinebo,
Nulla liberos gignam.
Ego nulla diademata geram,
Et nullas gloriam vincam.
Vivam et moriar in meam stationem.
Ego sum gladius in tenebris.
Ego sum custos super muro.
Ego sum scutum quid terras hominum custodit.
Promitto vitam honoremque meum in Vigilia Noctis
Pro hanc noctem et noctes omnes successuras.


Thanks again to all of you who are commenting and helping out. I'm learning a lot, and this site kinda rocks for making that possible. Further thoughts?
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby GJCaesar » Sun May 26, 2013 9:59 am

Your 2.0 version:
Nox colligitur, et vigilia mea nunc incipit.
Ea non finiet usque mortem meam.
Nullam uxorem ducam,
Nulla praedia obtinebo,
Nulla liberos gignam.
Ego nulla diademata geram,
Et nullas gloriam vincam.
Vivam et moriar in meam stationem.
Ego sum gladius in tenebris.
Ego sum custos super muro.
Ego sum scutum quid terras hominum custodit.
Promitto vitam honoremque meum in Vigilia Noctis
Pro hanc noctem et noctes omnes successuras


You left some mistakes here, not sure if you are aware..

Nox colligitur, et vigilia mea nunc incipit.
Ea non finiet usque mortem meam.
Nullam uxorem ducam,
Nulla praedia obtinebo,
Nullos liberos gignam.
Ego nulla diademata geram,
Et nullam gloriam vincam.
Vivam et moriar in mea statione.
Ego sum gladius in tenebris.
Ego sum custos super muro.
Ego sum scutum quod terras hominum custodit.
Promitto vitam honoremque meum in Vigilia Noctis
Pro hac nocte et noctibus omnibus successuris
vincatur oportet aut vincat
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Craig_Thomas » Sun May 26, 2013 10:48 am

There are some pronouns and possessive adjectives there that are redundant in Latin. I would erase ea from the second line, mea from in mea statione, and every ego.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby GJCaesar » Sun May 26, 2013 11:36 am

Craig_Thomas wrote:There are some pronouns and possessive adjectives there that are redundant in Latin. I would erase ea from the second line, mea from in mea statione, and every ego.


I do agree with ea and all the ego. Not sure about the in mea statione though, since you leave meam mortem as well, I think it gives a nice touch. Still a matter of stile I guess.
vincatur oportet aut vincat
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Craig_Thomas » Sun May 26, 2013 2:41 pm

in statione is better because he could not reasonably be thought to be at anyone else's station; meam mortem remains because his watch could plausibly end upon another's death. That said, I share Scribo's suspicion about the construction usque meam mortem, and would prefer something with dum or donec.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Qimmik » Tue May 28, 2013 3:29 pm

A few suggestions.

Nox colligitur This looks like a word for word translation of an English idiom that would probably sound strange or unintelligible to a native speaker of Latin who had never learned English. "Night is being collected? Huh?" Unless a parallel from a Roman author can be found (I haven't looked), why not use the expression with which the Sibyl impatiently hurries Aeneas along when he stops too long to chat in hell in the afternoon? Nox ruit, Aenea. Aen. 6.539. "Night is rushing on," conveying a sense of urgency.

Ea in the second line -- substitute quae. "Until my death" -- dum moriar.

For "lands" how about arva, which literally means "ploughed fields" but is used in poetry more broadly to mean "broad swatches of real estate"?

For "hold", potior with genitive or ablative: nullorum arvorum potiar or nullis arvis potiar.

"I am the sword in the darkness.
I am the watcher on the walls.
I am the shield that guards the realms of men."

Instead of deleting ego, delete sum, and put ego last in each clause. Also, the metaphors "sword" and "shield" are somewhat jarring in Latin. They would be interpreted literally, which would sound comical. They need quasi or velut, at the expense of the parallelism with "watcher on the walls" (but "I am the watcher on the walls" seems rather feeble, anyway.) For "walls," either plural muri or better moenia. "On" should be in, not super, which means "above".

Velut ensis in tenebris ego.
Custos in moenibus ego.
Velut scutum terras tuens hominum ego.


Somehow this all sounds too biblical and not nearly pagan enough, though.
Last edited by Qimmik on Tue May 28, 2013 10:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Scribo » Tue May 28, 2013 5:58 pm

I like the usage of potior but it always makes me think of making something one's dominions rather than being handed over. I definitely prefer dum moriar.

I feel the same as you in terms of the last metaphors and got something similiar in my own pass, the problem is much of the original piece is somewhat contra typical Roman thought. But then such is the perils of translation I guess. I mean whenever I think of "watchers in the night" I think of Rome's para military "fire fighters" you know?
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Qimmik » Tue May 28, 2013 6:57 pm

nullam gloriam vincam
Vinco means "to overcome," or "defeat", and can't be used with gloriam. Vinco means "to win" only in the sense of "to win a contest or battle," or "defeat an enemy," not "to gain something by winning." How about adipiscar? And I'm not sure that nullus can be used with a mass or innumerable noun. Unlike wives and kids, gloria doesn't come in discrete packages. gloriam non adipiscar would probably be preferable, but someone correct me if I'm wrong about that.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Qimmik » Tue May 28, 2013 10:31 pm

"No crowns" -- nullos lauros

The laurel wreath (laurea) was worn by victorious generals, as well as those achieving distinction in other fields. Plural lauri -- "laurels" in English -- is a poetic way of expressing this concept.

First lines: Nox ruit; nunc vigilia incipit finem dum moriar nullum repertura.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Wed May 29, 2013 2:35 am

Wow, lots of responses. This makes me very happy. In no apparently order -

Qimmik - You're absolutely right, I was trying to work the English idiom and it just wasn't working. I did the rest of the oath first and then went back to that phrase and didn't find anything that felt like it quite fit, but you are especially awesome for pointing out the passage from Vergil. It conveys everything the phrase should convey and is obviously attested. To use another English idiom that I'm sure doesn't translate well into Latin, rock on.

With the abundance of suggestions on here to get away from usque and go to dum moriar, I'll have to go with public and expert opinion on that, but if you could provide an example of why usque doesn't work and where usque would work better, it would help my beginner brain understand what's going on.

Arvum vs. Regnum vs. Praedium. If arva has that as its poetic usage, then that certainly is the sense I'm going for, but I'm not sure it's better than praedia, unless there's other baggage with one term over the other. I think of all the offered choices, arva feels like the simplest (since holding lands doesn't necessarily mean holding a kingdom or an estate, just lands and farms), so I like that about it, but I'm just not convinced of one word over the others in the context of the oath.

Adipiscar - Absolutely. Thank you for clarifying the nature of the transitive with Vincam. Much appreciated.

Not sure I'm completely with you on the diademata vs. lauros. The purpose of the oath in this section is to renounce any claim to current or future sovereignty or nobility. I'm not sure the 'victorious generals' is the essence of what's being said.

super vs. in. I had understood super to mean on top of something, which I thought was appropriate for a watcher on a wall. The plural was a stupid mistake, obviously that was my own dumb fault. Moenia I don't really agree with, since these are not city walls the Watch walks on. Much bigger walls. Well, wall, really. (any other George Martin fans out there reading this? Why would the word Walls in the oath be plural? There's only one wall they stand on. THE Wall. Kinda odd, isn't it?)

It's unfortunate that the metaphors don't translate well. I kinda liked the way they rolled off in the original translation. I understand the need for the change, though, and the repeated ego at the end has its own kind of death knell to it that's a nice fit here. I don't, however, understand what you did with the last bit. "Velut scutum terras tuens hominem ego." Why tuens instead of custodiens? In that same respect, why ensis instead of gladius?

If it all feels biblical instead of pagan, that's perfectly fine too. I'm fairly certain the Night's Watch is intended to satirize monastic oaths and priestly life in a variety of ways, so the echoes are appropriate.

Whew. Long reply.

v3.0 --

Nox ruit, et vigilia mea nunc incipit.
Non finiet dum moriar.
Nullam uxorem ducam,
Nulla arva obtinebo,
Nullos liberos gignam.
Nulla diademata geram,
Et nullam gloriam adipiscar.
Vivam et moriar in statione.
Velut ensis in tenebris ego.
Custos super muris ego.
Velut scutum terras hominum custodiens ego.
Promitto vitam honoremque meum in Vigilia Noctis,
Pro hac nocte et noctibus omnibus successuris.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Qimmik » Wed May 29, 2013 3:46 am

why ensis instead of gladius?


Why not? Gladius is more pedestrian; the poets use ensis.

Why would the word Walls in the oath be plural?
Because murus is too specific. Plural is less pedestrian. Moenia aren't necessarily city walls; muri can also mean city walls, too.

Why tuens instead of custodiens?
Because you already used custos. Although Latin is not as averse to repeating words, tuens, which connotes "watching over," "guarding", "protecting" provides some variety.

scutum terras tuens hominum
Interlocking alliteration of u and t. The alliteration sounds a little like Ennius, i.e., archaic and ritual, and why not some hyperbaton, which is very Latin? But you could rearrange the words if you like--Latin word order is flexible.

The purpose of the oath in this section is to renounce any claim to current or future sovereignty or nobility.
Then maybe corona is the word you're looking for.

Praedium seems a little prosaic: a "farm" or a "manor". I think arva is less specific and more poetic.

Usque ad mortem might work. But you can work in the idea of "my death" using the finite verb better than usque ad meam mortem. Avoid possessive adjectives and personal pronouns in Latin wherever possible, especially where the sense is obvious. Do the same thing in French and Italian, too!

Nox ruit, et vigilia mea nunc incipit.
If you don't like my version (Latin prefers longer periods than English), at least leave out et. It doesn't do anything either in English or in Latin. nunc incipit mea vigilia seems more effective.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Qimmik » Thu May 30, 2013 2:30 pm

How about this:

nunc vigiliam suscipio non nisi morte desituram.

literally:

"I now undertake a watch that will not end except with death."

This reflects an assumption of responsibility on the part of the oath-taker and bundles the otiose possessive adjectives into the verbal ending. non nisi morte seems to me like a very idiomatic way to express idea of "until my death." desituram future participle from desino. The participle combines two related clauses seamlessly without use of a relative or anaphoric pronoun.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Thu May 30, 2013 7:37 pm

I cannot express enough how excited I am to be getting feedback from all of you. I wish I'd known about this site a long, long time ago.

Ensis vs. Gladius - Ensis it is, then.

I'll also trust your judgment on the Moenia vs. murus.

Tuens vs. custodiens - Fair enough. Variety it is. And with tuens, I also bow to your sense of alliteration. Gotta love a language flexible enough to pull that off.

It's good to know that Latin prefers longer statements than English, but for the purposes of translation, I feel like the stop-and-start nature of the oath, with its stylistically short declaratives, is something that's part of the general flavor that I wouldn't want to be rid of. I respect the translation you've done, and if it were a basic prose translation, I would agree, but with the pseudo-poetic incantatory nature of the Oath, I think maintaining the original separation of the statements would be appropriate. With that in mind, I'll stick with the nunc incipit mea vigilia, as you suggested.

Other possibilities I'm considering while looking over the translation as it currently stands -

Promitto vs. Obligo. Promitto seems somehow less solemn and dignified and life-altering than Obligo. Please correct me if I'm wrong or the sense is out of place.

Do the same thing in French and Italian, too!


Qimmik, When I eventually get to French and Italian, I will try and remember that. I make no promises.

As a means of cleaning up the last line a bit - Noctem hanc noctes omnes futurasque.

So, just to keep it all in one place -

Nox ruit, nunc incipit mea vigilia.
Non finiet dum morior.
Nullam uxorem ducam,
Nulla arva obtinebo,
Nullos liberos generabo.
Nulla diademata geram,
Et nullam gloriam adipiscar.
Vivam et moriar in statione.
Velut ensis in tenebris ego,
Custos in moenia,
Velut scutum terras tuens hominum.
Vitam honoremque meum Vigilis Noctis obligo,
Noctem hanc noctes omnes futurasque.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Craig_Thomas » Fri May 31, 2013 2:01 am

dum morior means "while I am dying". dum moriar (the subjunctive) would be "until I die".
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Fri May 31, 2013 2:07 am

Apologies, I meant to type moriar. Apparently even undead languages aren't immune to typos.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Ultrus » Fri May 31, 2013 3:08 am

dum morior means "while I am dying". dum moriar (the subjunctive) would be "until I die".


dum + indicative can mean "until."

When it's used with the indicative to mean "until", it implies that the action actually happened, with the subjunctive, it can't be certain whether or not the action happened
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Qimmik » Fri May 31, 2013 7:37 pm

When it's used with the indicative to mean "until", it implies that the action actually happened, with the subjunctive, it can't be certain whether or not the action happened


Not invariably: multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem Inferretque deos Latio

moriar could be fut. indic. or pres. subj.

better: non nisi morte finiet

In the last line, a preposition is needed, probably in+acc. Also, -que should be attached to the first element of the noun phrase, not the last.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:47 pm

Qimmik & Ultrus - Thank you for your feedback. It's much appreciated.

Is there a good discussion or resource you can recommend for understanding when prepositions are needed and when they can be inferred from case markings alone, or is this something that will simply have to come naturally over the course of absorbing the language through reading?

The only reason I hesitate on the 'non nisi morte finiet' version of the phrase is because I agree with the much-earlier comment by Craig_Thomas - "meam mortem remains because his watch could plausibly end upon another's death." That said, since there's been use of alliteration elsewhere in the oath, adding in 'mea' would not only specify 'morte' but also enhance that aspect of the oath as well. Just a thought.

So, the corrected lines -

Non nisi mea morte finiet
. . .
In noctem hanc noctesque omnes futuras.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:53 pm

No one would expect someone else's death to be in issue here without some reference to another person. It's crisper without mea. And mea should probably follow morte if you leave it in.
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Re: Oath of the Night's Watch

Postby DWBrumbley » Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:47 pm

It's been pointed out to me rather embarrassingly by a friend of mine that I began this thread with an incomplete oath, having watched a little too much of the HBO show and committed the sin of forgetting that the book's version was different. With that being said, here's my attempt at the complete oath, with the previously-omitted lines in bold.

Verba mea audite,
Sacramentum meum testificamini.

Nox ruit, nunc incipit vigilia mea.
Non nisi morte finiet.
Nullam uxorem ducam,
Nulla arva obtinebo,
Nullos liberos generabo.
Nulla diademata geram,
Nullam gloriam adipiscar.
Vivam et moriar in statione.
Velut ensis in tenebris ego.
Custos in moenia ego.
Velut ignis contra frigus incendere,
Velut lux auroram perficere,
Velut bucina dormientes excitare.

Velut scutum terras tuens hominum.
Vitam honoremque meum Vigilis Noctis obligo,
In noctem hanc noctesque omnes futuras.

"Hear my words, and bear witness to my vow."
. . .
"I am the fire that burns against the cold,
the light that brings the dawn,
the horn that wakes the sleepers."
DWBrumbley
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