Latin Poetry

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Amore
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Latin Poetry

Post by Amore » Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:23 pm

I'm taking a Latin course in high school - my teacher is getting us through his college textbook in a matter of months. I'm not doing too well, but I enjoy trying to write poetry in latin. He's told me that if I manage to write a longer than four line poem in latin, using the dactylic hexameter, then I'll get A LOT of extra credit. Anyone able to help with that? I don't really understand the hexameter.

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by thesaurus » Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:55 pm

Have you read any introductions to Latin hexameter poetry? Are there any key concepts that you're having trouble with, like metrical feet, vowel length, etc? Have you attempted to produce any lines thus far? It would be most useful if you took a shot at it and posted that here.

I think we are all happy to help, so long as this "help" takes the form of us helping you through difficulties and answering questions, rather than composing the lines for you.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by lauragibbs » Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:22 am

Although it is very rare to find Latin verse composition taught in schools anymore, it used to be a fundamental part of Latin education, and you can find lots of manuals and textbooks, along with keys to the exercises in those textbooks, at GoogleBooks. I haven't updated this list since about a year ago, but here is a list of the appx. 30 different verse composition textbooks that I found. Most of them focus on composing in dactylic hexameters and/or elegiac couplets, but you will find a few books that cover other meters as well:
http://www.delicious.com/lkgbooks/proso ... etcount=50

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by Amore » Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:33 am

Basically, I've made one latin poem so far:

Dissonantia

hic est dissonantia
magna, aspera, fracta
deformis
ego sum dissonantia

auscultā

hic est silentium
magnum, asperum, fractum
vacuum
ego sum silentium

ascultā

ego sum tacita dissonantia

auscultā mihi

ausculta


Yeah, I know, it isn't exactly the epitome of latin poetry, and doesn't follow any real meter or anything. But when I showed it to my teacher, he said it was a good start, and told me if I was serious about latin poetry, I should try dactylic hexameter. I looked it up, and I don't know, it just isn't clicking I guess. I mean, I think I've finally figured out what a dactyl is. I've read the Wiki entry on dactylic hexameter. I'm heading to the library soon to see if I can find any books on the subject. But if anyone could provide a comprehensive explanation for me? Or a link to where I could find one?

And believe me, I have no intention of taking something written by anyone else. I am, primarily, a writer (though my medium isn't usually Latin). I take plagarism seriously. I just wanted to know if anyone here as any experience and would be willing to help.

And thanks to anyone who does. :)

(Oh, and thank you, lauragibbs! I'll check the link out)

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by Hampie » Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:31 am

Amore wrote:I'm taking a Latin course in high school - my teacher is getting us through his college textbook in a matter of months. I'm not doing too well, but I enjoy trying to write poetry in latin. He's told me that if I manage to write a longer than four line poem in latin, using the dactylic hexameter, then I'll get A LOT of extra credit. Anyone able to help with that? I don't really understand the hexameter.
I'd say that's a pretty hard thing to require from a high schooler. To understand hexametre is hard enough, and to write it is beyond even most college education by today's standards.
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by furrykef » Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:12 am

Huh? Hexameter is easy to understand, and I could write Latin poetry in hexameter quite easily. Now, writing something that's meaningful or profound in it is an entirely different question!
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by Hampie » Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:42 am

furrykef wrote:Huh? Hexameter is easy to understand, and I could write Latin poetry in hexameter quite easily. Now, writing something that's meaningful or profound in it is an entirely different question!
If creating dadaistic poems in latin hexametre would count as doing it for real, then we all would be Vergils ;).
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by lauragibbs » Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:02 am

People might be interested in this very curious old book, Steganometrographia, which is a kind of elegiac verse generator in which people could encode secret messages, hidden inside the elegiac couplets:
http://tinyurl.com/3y87b5e

As you will see, starting at p. 21 of the book, there are some metrically equivalent bits of poetry, each of which is given a letter of the alphabet. You pick the first letter of the secret message you want to encode, and then proceed to the next table, choose a bit of verse based on the second letter of your secret message, and so on.

So, if I were to encode my name I would start with these two couplets (the system will generate many more couplets to continue encoding the message):

Promptus, Amice, velis, chartae perfringere gemmam;
E fortunatis advenit illa locis.
Non tibi fatales narrabit epistola questus;
Laetitias mentis servat et illa tuas.

That is the elegiac encoding of LAURAGIB

You can get a sense of the elegant substitutions if we encode DARTHVADER - there is a similarity of content, even though a different secret is encoded here, based on different elements chosen from the encoding tables:

Docta Thalia iubet chartae perfringere gemmam;
A tibi dilectis prodiit illa locis.
Non portentosos referet mea littera casus;
Mentis delicias non vetat illa tuas.

That is the elegiac encoding of DARTHVAD

No particular poetic virtue - but it's like a secret decoder ring in elegiac couplets. There are encoding/decoding tables for the epistle in verse, and then for the return epistle, plus another poem encoder.

Quite ingenious. I mention it here because the book is useful for beginners to really get to see how the variations in different chunks of verse might look. Even if you don't want to use this for your secret Latin decoder poetry ring, so to speak, you can still look at how the author has analyzed the different parts of a poem and see the different ways that the variant chunks are made up of material that is both metrically and grammatically interchangeable.

:-)

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by Kasper » Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:19 am

furrykef wrote: I could write Latin poetry in hexameter quite easily.
Such boasting must be substantiated. :!:
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by furrykef » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:38 am

Well, "quite easily" is pushing it, I suppose. :lol: There's nothing boastful about it, though. It's only a matter of making words match the meter. Now, doing fancy things like controlling how the stress matches the meter is another question, but I assume that the assignment has no such requirement.

It is a laborious process and it takes me much trial and error. Nevertheless, I don't think it's a daunting task; it just takes a while.

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by adrianus » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:31 am

furrykef wrote:It's only a matter of making words match the meter.
And writing is a matter of putting marks on paper (or on the screen).
Et ars scribendi signa in chartâ (vel scrinio) complectit.
Hampie wrote:If creating dadaistic poems in latin hexametre would count as doing it for real, then we all would be Vergils
As you say, Hampie. // Ut dicis, Hampie.

Vergil managed 3 lines a day, the story goes, and, translating into English hexameters far less artfully, I can manage only about the same.

Tres versus in die scripsit Vergilius, fama est, et ego anglicè in hexametros arte valdè inferiore non citiùs vertere possum.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by cantator » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:18 am

Amore wrote:...I don't really understand the hexameter.
Do you understand quantitative meter ? It is so different from the accentual poetry of English that you may spend some time just getting the hang of hearing quantities.

As has been pointed out already, there's a lot of material on Google Books that will guide you in this particular domain (Latin verse composition).

Best,

dp
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by furrykef » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:21 pm

adrianus wrote:And writing is a matter of putting marks on paper (or on the screen).
Et ars scribendi signa in chartâ (vel scrinio) complectit.
Well, it is. ;) Writing is easy; writing something good or interesting is hard. Same for Latin poetry. The assignment doesn't require that it be competent poetry, merely that it be poetry.
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by Kasper » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:08 pm

I'd still like to see you do it, Furrykef. :wink:

You are right that it is just a matter of making the words fit the meter, but in my fairly limited experience, it is an enormously fiddly and time consuming thing to do in latin, and requires one to constantly check the length of vowels and account for elision, the lenghting of final syllables when placed next to the following word, etc., while still rendering a comprehensible grammatical sentence, indeed, irrespective of poetical merit.

In my native dutch I do fare bettter, but it remains a most time consuming exercise.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by furrykef » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:19 pm

Here are two lines I cobbled together. Great? No. But neither is it dadaistic, and I do think it does fit the definition of dactylic hexameter:

Code: Select all

   _  . . / _  . . / _  .   . / _    _  / _  . . / _ _
  Scrībere sīc mihi nōn probum est, sed  sīc agit Aulus

   _  _ / _  . . / _  . .  / _  _ / _ _ / _ . . / _ _
  Parvō  tempore  in focum  Aulum  iactūrūm putŏ  esse
Yes, it's only two lines, but if I can write two, I can surely write more; it just takes a lot of time and effort. More time and effort than I'd anticipated, I admit...

(Now I'm wondering if the -um in "focum" or the -o in "putō" would normally be elided completely, throwing off the meter, but at this point I'm not going back and changing it. :lol:)

(EDIT: Corrected Aulus -> Aulum, per Adrianus; also probus -> probum)
Last edited by furrykef on Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:20 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by Kasper » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:48 pm

Not too bad at all Fk!

There are a few scansion issues in the second line:

- the final 'e' in tempore will elide because it is followed by 'in'
- the final syllable of 'focum' will elide because of Aulus
- same for puto (plus the final o is long, not short) and esse

To be honest, and this is likely due to my recent neglect of latin, i don't quite follow what the sentence says...

[EDIT: if it is to be "Aulum", this leads to another scansion problem]
Last edited by Kasper on Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by adrianus » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:10 pm

"To write to me thus he isn't a worthy man*, but Aulus acts thus.
Within a little time, I reckon that Aulus [=Aulum] is going to be thrown into the fire."
* [nor is this phrase Latin // nec latina haec clausula]

It is an anti-art couple of lines and so Dadaist.
Contra artem distichon tuum, ergô Dadaisticum.

There are many rocks between grammar and scansion and you hit them. If you had been more modest, no one would want to point out the collisions so rudely. The sound of crashing is enough to make all sympathetic.
Difficile non facile est iter inter grammaticae Scyllam et Charybdem scansionis. Si modestior fuisses, nemo tam impolitè momordisset. Frangores concursuum nos affabiles faciunt.
Last edited by adrianus on Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by thesaurus » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:12 am

We should start a ridiculous hexameter couplet contest to try our hands at it.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by furrykef » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:23 am

Thanks for catching Aulus -> Aulum, adrianus. In addition I meant "probum" rather than "probus" (to agree with scrībere).
Kasper wrote:- same for puto (plus the final o is long, not short) and esse
I thought final -ō can be either long or short in poetry. Not sure what you mean about "esse".

My intention was:
To write that way is, to me, improper [bad, evil, etc.], but Aulus does so anyway.
I believe in a short time Aulus will be thrown into the fire.
adrianus wrote:There are many rocks between grammar and scansion and you hit them. If you had been more modest, no one would want to point out the collisions so rudely.
I made a claim and, despite some problems, I believe I fulfilled that claim. Hence, there can be no immodesty involved. I said from the very outset that I was not talking about poetry that's at all good, or interesting, or even competent.

If you think I was being immodest, you were reading something into my claim that was never there.
adrianus wrote:It is an anti-art couple of lines and so Dadaist.
Unartistic and anti-art are not the same thing. ;) Any iconoclasm is accidental; any humor is just a natural result of the fact that, well, I'm a guy living in 2010 who doesn't speak Latin very well.
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by adrianus » Tue Oct 05, 2010 1:53 am

Ita, thesaure

Distichoni hexametris certamen constituatur
Ut tricas omnes hîc tunc stolidè traducant.

furrykef wrote:I believe I fulfilled that claim
Still not yet. You have ignored Kasper's corrections on elision.
Minimè. Illa corrigenda de Kasper quae elisionem spectant ignorasti.
Last edited by adrianus on Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by furrykef » Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:24 am

Eh, I think I'm content with knowing that it is harder than it initially seems. :lol:
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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by cantator » Tue Oct 05, 2010 11:23 am

From the text of Ver Erat at http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/rimbaud.html :

"First Prize in Latin Composition
Nov. 6, 1868
Arthur Rimbaud, age 14"

His hexameters aren't bad at all, ditto for the verses of his poem about Jugurtha.

Standards may have declined somewhat since then. ;)

From the Wikipedia bio of Rimbaud:

"When Arthur was nine, he wrote a 700-word essay objecting to his having to learn Latin in school."

So we may assume that he had at least five years of instruction in the language before he wrote his known Latin poetry. I've been studying the language for almost 40 years, and my composition skills still suck. :)

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by adrianus » Tue Oct 05, 2010 11:59 am

I guess Arthur became more open-minded about lots of things foreign in his short life. He ingested a lot without restraint.

Vitâ brevi is multis alienis se aperuit, puto. Tanta lascivè ingessit.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by cantator » Tue Oct 05, 2010 1:05 pm

adrianus wrote:Tanta lascivè ingessit.
Homo iocularis es.
Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by lauragibbs » Sun Oct 17, 2010 8:24 pm

A few weeks ago I posted something here about the odd little "Latin poetry-generating machine / secret message decoder" created by Melchias Uken, when he published in a book called Steganometrographia. Mark Walker asked me to write something up about that for Vates, and I've done that - with a dose of MI-5 and Arma virumque cano. I've put a draft version of the article up at my blog if anybody is curious - I would very much welcome comments and feedback! Uken's book is a marvelous and weird creation and I think it actually can be useful in guiding people in their own Latin verse composition efforts. Here's the link to the draft at my blog:

http://bestlatin.blogspot.com/2010/10/s ... aphia.html

in case the long link breaks:
http://tinyurl.com/2366ese

Laura

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Re: Latin Poetry

Post by lauragibbs » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:39 pm

Mark Walker's got the issue of Vates available online now - it has some great poetry in it; I especially like the poem about the Gliris Somnus, "The Sleep of the Dormouse." You can preview the new issue of Vates at this blog post, which also has links where you can download the latest issue of Vates along with the previous two issues as well!
http://bestlatin.blogspot.com/2010/04/m ... ues-3.html

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