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prose or poetry

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prose or poetry

Postby Aquinas » Wed May 21, 2008 6:15 am

What are some of the differences between (classical) Latin poetry and prose? Should an intermediate student study one or the other or does it not matter? I was just wondering if the poets use all the different grammatical constructions that I have learned (just finished the Oxford Latin Course and some of Petronius' Satyricon) or if they do a lot of unorthodox things that would just confuse me.

For example, I would like to read some of the Aeneid, but should I go with some prose before I try that?
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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed May 21, 2008 6:49 am

Really they are inseparable. I learned poetry immediately after prose (tho actually I wished later I had known the poetry better early on, since the natural scansion of Latin poetry is the same as that in verse — elisions and contractions, for example — in short, understanding poetry made my pronunciation and prose better), and that was at the end of the first volume of Lingua Latina by Ørberg. Altho you're more advanced, this text might put some things into perspective (I was at your level before I started LL, and I feel I benefited enormously from it — ask others here who have completed LL for their views), especially poetry; it did for me, anyway.
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Postby Aquinas » Wed May 21, 2008 5:12 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:Really they are inseparable. I learned poetry immediately after prose (tho actually I wished later I had known the poetry better early on, since the natural scansion of Latin poetry is the same as that in verse — elisions and contractions, for example — in short, understanding poetry made my pronunciation and prose better), and that was at the end of the first volume of Lingua Latina by Ørberg. Altho you're more advanced, this text might put some things into perspective (I was at your level before I started LL, and I feel I benefited enormously from it — ask others here who have completed LL for their views), especially poetry; it did for me, anyway.


Okay. See I didn't know if Latin poetry was as non-grammatical as some English poetry. What I mean is, no one who was trying to learn English would study Shakespeare poems. It would just be confusing. Take something like this for example:

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
'Twixt the turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.


That would actually be harmful to someone trying to learn English, but if it was put into standard prose it would be fine. See what I mean? I didn't know if Virgil did all kinds of strange things like Shakespeare.
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Postby timeodanaos » Wed May 21, 2008 5:17 pm

Poetry can be really tricky sometimes, because everything has to fit to the metre, and especially Vergil is quite fond of long sentences with phrases scattered across numerous verses (go check out the prooimion of the Aeneid! - e.g. 'saeuae memorem Iunonis ob iram')

It is never ungrammatical like some modern poetry (modern as a very broad term) - the ancients had principles and ideals, and all poetry is idealistic.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed May 21, 2008 5:18 pm

You think that's strange? Shame! it's beautiful English! :) Poetical forms of prose are essential in our language, as they are in Latin. There are certain arrangements done for verse, but a lot of those creep into prose as well (like in Cicero).
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Postby timeodanaos » Wed May 21, 2008 5:50 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:You think that's strange? Shame! it's beautiful English! :) Poetical forms of prose are essential in our language, as they are in Latin. There are certain arrangements done for verse, but a lot of those creep into prose as well (like in Cicero).
Imagine English were not your mother tongue, you are not sure of every word as you read Forster, you guess them out of context, when speaking English, you sometimes have to substitute the more fitting word for explanations, as you do not remember the right glosses.

Now imagine being presented with the verse above. I know I don't understand it prima vista.
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Postby Aquinas » Wed May 21, 2008 5:52 pm

I've got nothing against Shakespeare but I wouldn't tell an intermediate student of English to study it. If, as timeodanaos says, Latin poetry is never ungrammatical, then I'm gonna give the Aeneid a shot. I've been looking at this textbook: http://www.bolchazy.com/prod.php?cat=latin&id=5785. Some of it is too elementary for me, but I would rather have something like that than a bare copy of the Aeneid in front of me. Using that textbook (the one I linked to) would be like having a teacher helping me. That same publisher also has a few nice textbooks on Cicero; they have facing vocabulary and grammatical notes beneath the text. Like this one: http://www.bolchazy.com/prod.php?cat=latin&id=6420

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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed May 21, 2008 6:11 pm

Just make sure you don't parse. Feliciter tibi!
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Postby thesaurus » Wed May 21, 2008 6:48 pm

Now I don't think English poetry is any more "non-grammatical" than Latin poetry. Rather, the grammar is convoluted and ornate: it is the nature of poetry to stretch the bounds of grammar and experiment in form. This is true of Latin and English. I don't think you're better off with the Aeneid than you would be as an English novice with Shakespeare.

As a native speaker of English and a scholar of literature, there are many poems that I have to read several times carefully to fully understand the grammar (Milton leaps to mind). Now I imagine many Romans had to pause and think in order to understand some of their own poetry.

With that said, go right ahead with Virgil if that's what you want to read. I highly recommend Clyde Pharr's edition of Virgil Books I-VI. It has all the grammar aides, vocabulary, and commentary on the same page as the text, so you'll avoid flipping around. Plus, he provides helpful tools like vocabulary frequency charts, helpful introductions, a grammar reference, and pictures. It's expertly designed for people at your level.
http://www.amazon.com/Vergils-Aeneid-Bo ... 654&sr=8-1
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Postby timeodanaos » Wed May 21, 2008 6:51 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:Just make sure you don't parse. Feliciter tibi!
In the beginning, this can still be of help. As long of course as you re-read the passage again and again until it makes sense in the correct word order. And read it again the next day to make sure it still makes sense.

If you adopt a strict non-parsing policy (wow, what a euphonious expression, by the way) right from the beginning of reading the most complicated poetry, what good is it to read it at all, when reading a page takes several hours?
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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed May 21, 2008 7:28 pm

timeodanaos wrote:
Lucus Eques wrote:Just make sure you don't parse. Feliciter tibi!
In the beginning, this can still be of help. As long of course as you re-read the passage again and again until it makes sense in the correct word order. And read it again the next day to make sure it still makes sense.

If you adopt a strict non-parsing policy (wow, what a euphonious expression, by the way) right from the beginning of reading the most complicated poetry, what good is it to read it at all, when reading a page takes several hours?


If you have to parse when you start poetry, for more than a day or two, then you haven't learned Latin well enough yet, and are making unnecessary hardship for yourself, and moreover rob yourself of all the pleasure of the rhythm, sound, and meaning experienced at one glorious time.
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Postby timeodanaos » Wed May 21, 2008 7:40 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:
timeodanaos wrote:
Lucus Eques wrote:Just make sure you don't parse. Feliciter tibi!
In the beginning, this can still be of help. As long of course as you re-read the passage again and again until it makes sense in the correct word order. And read it again the next day to make sure it still makes sense.

If you adopt a strict non-parsing policy (wow, what a euphonious expression, by the way) right from the beginning of reading the most complicated poetry, what good is it to read it at all, when reading a page takes several hours?


If you have to parse when you start poetry, for more than a day or two, then you haven't learned Latin well enough yet, and are making unnecessary hardship for yourself, and moreover rob yourself of all the pleasure of the rhythm, sound, and meaning experienced at one glorious time.
My face is now as red as a Latin Loeb, and I shall recede into shameful hiding, touching no piece of poetry for years to come.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed May 21, 2008 8:25 pm

timeodanaos wrote:
Lucus Eques wrote:
timeodanaos wrote:
Lucus Eques wrote:Just make sure you don't parse. Feliciter tibi!
In the beginning, this can still be of help. As long of course as you re-read the passage again and again until it makes sense in the correct word order. And read it again the next day to make sure it still makes sense.

If you adopt a strict non-parsing policy (wow, what a euphonious expression, by the way) right from the beginning of reading the most complicated poetry, what good is it to read it at all, when reading a page takes several hours?


If you have to parse when you start poetry, for more than a day or two, then you haven't learned Latin well enough yet, and are making unnecessary hardship for yourself, and moreover rob yourself of all the pleasure of the rhythm, sound, and meaning experienced at one glorious time.
My face is now as red as a Latin Loeb, and I shall recede into shameful hiding, touching no piece of poetry for years to come.


Well, like I said, in a matter of months you can go from no Latin to reading poetry fluently without parsing in Ørberg's LL.
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Postby Aquinas » Fri May 23, 2008 5:16 pm

thesaurus wrote:Now I don't think English poetry is any more "non-grammatical" than Latin poetry. Rather, the grammar is convoluted and ornate: it is the nature of poetry to stretch the bounds of grammar and experiment in form. This is true of Latin and English. I don't think you're better off with the Aeneid than you would be as an English novice with Shakespeare.

As a native speaker of English and a scholar of literature, there are many poems that I have to read several times carefully to fully understand the grammar (Milton leaps to mind). Now I imagine many Romans had to pause and think in order to understand some of their own poetry.

With that said, go right ahead with Virgil if that's what you want to read. I highly recommend Clyde Pharr's edition of Virgil Books I-VI. It has all the grammar aides, vocabulary, and commentary on the same page as the text, so you'll avoid flipping around. Plus, he provides helpful tools like vocabulary frequency charts, helpful introductions, a grammar reference, and pictures. It's expertly designed for people at your level.
http://www.amazon.com/Vergils-Aeneid-Bo ... 654&sr=8-1


Thanks for the link. That looks like a pretty good book. As an aside, although the excerpts of the book that the publisher provided to Amazon only include the introduction (how stupid is that?), you can use the "search inside this book" feature, if you sign in first, and can get a good sampling of the book. Search for "virumque" and you can view the first page, for example. (Just though I'd mention that in case someone didn't know about that feature; I didn't know about it until someone pointed it out to me.)
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