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help translating a passage

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help translating a passage

Postby gerardnfarrell » Mon Oct 18, 2010 6:35 pm

Can someone help me to make sense of this passage? I was going to add my effort at translating it but its just embarrassing...

Habet enim secreta quaedam mea, quae soli pietati vestrae profiteri debet, quaedam viva voce vobis dicere, quaedam per litteras notata ostendere, de quibusdam vero necessitatibus meis inquirere et interrogare et mihi paternitatis vestrae responsum et consilium ex auctoritate sancti Petri principis apostolorum ad solacium senectutis representare, ut his omnibus auditis et consideratis, si quae sint quae vobis placeant facta, adaugere Deo volente studeam, si autem quid, ut timendum est, displiceat, ex precepto sancti apostolatus vestri vel indulgentiam merear vel dignam penitentiam persolvam.
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Re: help translating a passage

Postby lauragibbs » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:27 pm

Sometimes it helps to see where the natural pauses are - does this maybe help to make it more clear?

Habet enim
secreta quaedam mea,
quae
soli pietati vestrae profiteri debet,

quaedam viva voce vobis dicere,
quaedam per litteras notata ostendere,
de quibusdam vero necessitatibus meis inquirere et interrogare,

et mihi
paternitatis vestrae responsum et consilium
ex auctoritate sancti Petri principis apostolorum
ad solacium senectutis
representare,

ut - his omnibus auditis et consideratis -

si quae sint quae vobis placeant facta,
adaugere - Deo volente - studeam,

si autem quid - ut timendum est - displiceat,
ex precepto sancti apostolatūs vestri
vel indulgentiam merear
vel dignam penitentiam persolvam.
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Re: help translating a passage

Postby gerardnfarrell » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:41 pm

Well I have had a stab at it but it's still mostly gibberish:

He has indeed certain secrets which he is to confess to the goodness of your throne, and tell you by word of mouth, and reveal by the written word, and is to be interrogated to be sure about my necessities and to represent the answer and advice of your descendants from the authority of St.Peter first of the apostles...to comfort a man in old age...
so having heard and considered all this
if those facts please you, God willing, I will busy myself
If, however, it is to be feared, he is displeased,
from the holy precepts of your apostle
may I earn your indulgence and pay the appropriate penalty

(I have just put the last few lines on separate rows because they don't even seem to make coherent sentences)
Can an experienced eye tell from my attempt what it is I am doing wrong? I feel I have been stuck on the same level in Latin for ages and I don't quite know how to move onto the next level...
gratias ago in advance for any help
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Re: help translating a passage

Postby lauragibbs » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:55 pm

This kind of very abstract, very formal, very ritualized Latin is the very hardest stuff to read, especially when it is out of context. So don't get discouraged! Rather than worrying about translating (why do you need a translation?), you could focus on getting the main idea - and the main idea is that someone is conveying these "secreta" and they might be good things, or they might be bad things, and if they are bad things, he wants to be forgiven and/or do penance (ut vel indulgentiam merear
vel dignam penitentiam persolvam), but if they are good things, he wants to be told to carry on doing them (ut augere studeam). It is a very very long and very very polite way of not saying much at all - and because it really does not say very much at all, it seems like nonsense, because all these Latin ecclesiastical formulas of politeness are very foreign to us in English.

Translating word for word from Latin into English is not something that is likely to increase your confidence in Latin because translating is HARD - Latin has all kinds of idioms that are peculiar to Latin, it has all kinds of grammatical constructions that are different from English, and it has a whole stylistic range that it takes time to get used to (and translating into English does not really help with that at all).

Just a few cautions:

soli: this is a very tricky word in Latin since it can mean quite different things (although English is full of such things: you wind a watch, but the wind blows, etc. - wind - wind; they look the same but they are different words and even pronounced differently) - anyway, soli is almost certainly the adjective "solus" in the dative singular agreeing with pietati vestrae; it's a good idea to be familiar with that list of adjectives like solus, unus, etc. which look like regular 1st-2nd declension adjectives, but which have irregularities in their declension, like a genitive in -ius, dative in -i (unus, ullus, nullus, uter, neuter, totus, alter, solus)

mihi: don't lose track of that little mihi - after the messenger conveys all the secrets he is support to REPORT back (representare is report back) to me, the sender, the consilium that will comfort the sender in his old age, etc.

paternitatis vestrae: this is just a formal way of speaking, like Your Holiness, Your Fatherness, etc. - it is a very fancy way of saying "your"
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Re: help translating a passage

Postby gerardnfarrell » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:34 pm

Thanks for getting back so quickly! Yes-I am making the usual mistake of being over-literal in my translation. Not the ideal sort of text to try and learn from. It's a letter from the missionary Boniface to the Pope in the 8th century, which was sent along with his messenger. I am doing a course on the Merovingian-Carolingian period and Papacy and sometimes useful sources are not translated into English anywhere, so sometimes I have a go myself.
Anyway thanks-it makes more sense to me now and yes, it's just a very long-winded way of saying very little.
Can you recommend any good source, either a book or online, for Latin idioms such as these ecclesiastical formulae?
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Re: help translating a passage

Postby lauragibbs » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:46 pm

That is a really good question, and one which I am not qualified to answer... but maybe someone else here at TextKit who reads more ecclesiastical writing would be able to give you a lead on a book with the polite formulas that you find in letters like these. I read a lot of medieval Latin, but usually not this kind of formal epistolary style - it is very elegant and very fancy! I work mostly on folklore, fables and proverbs, which is kind of just the opposite: nothing fancy at all! :-)
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