From Wheelock to Virgil!

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iamrian
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From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by iamrian »

My original plan for this year was to go back through Wheelock, inch-by-inch. I am now seeing that this plan is just too painful. The joy of Latin is Latin, not grammar drills!

To that end, I am planning a new method: create flash cards for all of the important grammatical notes from Wheelock, as well as flash cards for paradigms, and then keep these flash cards as my foundation, to be reviewed over and over and over. Once I have finished compiling these flash cards, my next step is going to be a "soft translation" of Virgil's "Eclogues" and "Georgics"; and then, when I am ready, a real attempt at translating Virgil's great epic. By soft-translation I mean taking a stab at the original Latin first, and then using helps to generate a quality translation after a first draft.

The whole point of learning Latin, for me, has been to gain access to the brilliance of Virgil. It seems that by weaving between translation and flash cards, I will be preparing myself well. Virgil, like any writer, has a set of diction, a manner of style and a set frame of writing. I believe that by slowly and comfortably translating his shorter works I will be well-prepared for the "mountain" of the "Aeneid".

What I ask of you, dear reader, is any and all advise that would help prepare me for this adventure! What Virgil tools can you recommend? What insight can you provide?

Thanks for reading, and wish me luck!
Best,
Ryan

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seneca2008
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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by seneca2008 »

Virgil, like any writer, has a set of diction, a manner of style and a set frame of writing. I believe that by slowly and comfortably translating his shorter works I will be well-prepared for the "mountain" of the "Aeneid".
I wonder how helpful reading the eclogues and georgics would be? The eclogues for example engage directly with Theocritus and a whole tradition of Hellenistic poetry. Understanding them is a completely different proposal than understanding the Aeneid. The poetic diction and mode of expression is rather different.

The notion of "ascent" from eclogues to epic is something that we have imposed on the simple historical fact there is a chronology to Vergil's works. Rather than suspecting some kind of artistic programme or "development", might it not be more plausible that there were simply financial reasons that his first work was short. The Aeneid took him some time to write (and in fact he didnt really complete it - whether epic is "completable" is another issue) and presumably he didnt want to wait years before he published anything at all.

Pastoral, didactic and epic poetry are separate genres and they have their own conventions. I find the eclogues much more difficult to read than the Aeneid.

Rather than waste time with a lot of preparation why dont you just start reading the Aeneid if that's your ambition. In previous discussions on the forum MWH who knows what he is talking about suggests that maybe Ovid's Metamorphosis is a better preparation for the Aeneid. Thats worth thinking about.

Reading part of the Aeneid is entirely a respectable thing to do especially at first. Most people unless they have a professional interest dont read the whole of the Aeneid these days. Historically the last books (the "Iliad") were much less read.

"Reading Virgil Aeneid I and II" by Peter Jones, CUP, 2011 would be an excellent introduction to the Aeneid.

"This book follows the same pattern as my Reading Ovid (Cambridge University Press 2007). It assumes readers have done a year of Latin and have a grasp of basic grammar and vocabulary at about the level of Reading Latin (Jones and Sidwell, Cambridge University Press 1986) or Wheelock’s Latin (New York 2000). Line-by-line help with grammar and vocabulary is generous to start with, and regular learning vocabularies specify what must now be learned because it will not feature in the glossing again (though the total vocabulary set to be learned is contained at the back, pp. 302–15)."

Jones also says:

"Virgil is not easy. The text, therefore, is split into quite small passages to start with to encourage careful reading, gradually extending in length. "

Be warned. :D

But if you are serious about having a sound basis to work from after Wheelock I would suggest a prose author like Caesar or Cicero. Or read some prose alongside Vergil or Ovid.

Finally, there have been endless debates here about translation. You need to have a thorough understanding of Latin to be able to start to think about a translation. Making a good translation requires skills beyond understanding the Latin. Not all (most?) of us have those skills or are prepared to spend the necessary time to develop them. Historically "good" translations have been produced by accomplished poets. They usually have something to tell us about the text. Think of Dryden. What relation their translations have to Vergil is a complex question. That said it's possible to improve our translations a bit but matching Virgil's poetic genius is a tall order for anyone.

How you use your time is up to you. I dont want to sound to discouraging but I think the mountain you face is not just the length of the Aeneid or the complexity of the syntax, but many difficulties I am not sure are apparent to you. Like Dante you definitely need a guide (mountains and purgatory brought that image to mind :D )
Persuade tibi hoc sic esse, ut scribo: quaedam tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen est iactura, quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris attendere, maxima pars vitae elabitur male agentibus, magna nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus.

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by Piekarski »

iamrian,

I think that might be a difficult path for you to take.

It's a pretty big jump to go from textbook Latin to epic poetry, so it might be worthwhile to add another step along the way.

This textbook comes to mind: Latin Via Ovid.

Each chapter gives you a myth and new grammar and vocabulary. The book builds from prose retelling of myths, to reading unadapted selection's of Ovid's poetry. I think once you have learned the vocabulary from this book and had a more gentle introduction to reading Latin poetry, you'll get more out of reading Virgil.

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iamrian
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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by iamrian »

seneca2008 and Piekarski,

Thank you for your sobering replies.

I have fluctuated between two "camps" of thought since beginning my adventure in Latin. The first was "just jump into the text" and the second was "ground yourself in fundamentals".

My new plan is to do both.

I am completing an exhaustive flash card database from Wheelock, which I plan on going through until I have fully memorized it all. These flash cards will include grammar, vocabulary and paradigms. I will be doing this alongside my new adventure with Virgil.

Seneca2008, I appreciate your insight about Virgil. You are right that his three works are different from each other; but, they are all from Virgil and Virgil is the reason I "got in this game". While the form and diction will vary, I cannot believe that the three works are unrelated, or that starting with his earlier texts won't help me see his development over time.

In truth, I am tired of working so hard on a language and having nothing to show for it. I am extremely excited to purchase multiple translations of Virgil's works, to see how each writer arrived at their stylistic decisions, to read-up on all-things-Virgil and to produce my own real translation.

Trust me, the hesitation you two have provided is justified. However, I think I am finding a path for myself that is "gracious" to myself, that allows me to engage the texts I am most excited about, and also ensures my fundamentals continue to develop.

Thank you for reading and for your replies! Wish me luck!
Best,
Ryan

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by Aetos »

Hi Ryan,
Speaking as one who has read the Aeneid 'from cover to cover', I have to agree with Seneca 2008 and Piekarski and I'll add that It was a slog. A delightful project and one I'd always wanted to accomplish, but a slog nonetheless. I too did not attempt it without preparation. Although I'd studied Latin at school and at college, there was a huge interval between then and now, so I revised my grammar and reread Caesar, Cicero and Ovid (some of the stories, not all) before sitting down to read Virgil in earnest. It took me over a year, reading for an hour to an hour and a half a day every day. I found I could usually read roughly 50 lines a day the first time through. Each book took roughly three weeks with a second read through requiring a week to ten days. I was also reading commentaries (Conington's and Page's) along with the text which consumed some of that time.
As Seneca2008 and Piekarski suggested, reading some Caesar and Cicero or at least Ovid to get your feet wet would be a good first step. If you do want to dive in at the deep end, be prepared for somewhat slow progress. Each book is roughly 800-900 lines, so if you're managing 20 lines a day, that's roughly two months to read each book, or two years to complete the entire work. You might be able to go a bit faster, but bear in mind that you are not only trying to gain a literal understanding of the lines in the poem but you're trying to 'smell the roses' along the way, i.e. appreciating the rhythm, the wordplay, the mythological references, the historical references, and the poetical influences (Homer, Hellenistic poetry), in addition to enjoying a fine, if not at times tragic story. The Aeneid requires close reading, which is something I didn't truly appreciate until I came to Textkit, so don't rush it. This is a long term project, Ryan.
One resource that I believe Seneca and Barry Hofstetter have recommended in the past is Haverford College's classics website. They have an app called the Bridge which allows you to build tailored word lists for many authors' works, so for each section you intend to read you can have a list containing only the words found in that section. Here's the URL:
https://bridge.haverford.edu/
In any event, good luck to you and whatever you decide, as Seneca2008 reminds me from time to time, this is supposed to be fun! So enjoy the journey, wherever it may take you.

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iamrian
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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by iamrian »

Aetos,

Thank you for your reply. I am glad to hear from someone who has made "the journey" and it is useful to hear that it was a slog. If you are willing to share more about your experience, I am very eager to hear!

For a sense of my expectation: I am giving myself three to five years to complete translating all of Virgil's works. I know going from Wheelock to Virgil is ambitious; but, to your point, we need to be motivated! I am feeling motivated!

If you, or anyone else, would be interested, here is what I am planning on doing for my "translation method". Before I get started, I am going to print out the Latin with lots of space in between each line.

Then I will follow this method: 1) make educated guesses for as much as I can 2) use commentary and aides to fill-out the rest of the words I don't know 3) do my own sloppy translation 4) use other translations to polish what I have.

Does that seem like a workable way to move forward? It makes sure I am giving it my own effort first, but allows me to see where I am wrong, and, importantly, to enjoy a quality finished product.

I will definitely look-up the references you provided. Thank you! Last question, it looks like there is a universe of commentary for "Aeneid"; but I am not finding as much for his shorter works. Any thoughts?
Best,
Ryan

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by Aetos »

Hi Ryan,
As I mentioned before, I agree with Seneca as to the order in which to study Vergil's works. Personally, I've never had much interest in the Georgics and reading the Eclogues is less of a priority for me than reading some of the other poets with whom I have less familiarity, such as Lucretius, Propertius, Horace, or Martial or exploring further the area of Roman drama and comedy, so I'm afraid I can't give you much guidance on secondary materials for Virgil's other works. The only commentary I know of that is freely accessible is that of Maurus Servius Honoratus (edited by George Thilo), written in Latin sometime close to the turn of the 5th century A.D. The Latin is not difficult and the commentary is quite valuable from an historical and tradition standpoint, but obviously lacks the benefit of later research. Conington and Page both refer occasionally to him in their commentaries on the Aeneid. If you look at the text of these works on Perseus you'll find his commentaries. Here is a link to his commentary on the Eclogues:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... mmline%3D1

As to your plan of attack, it's not much different from the way I approach every work, although I don't write out the original text (writing it out, though, is an excellent technique-so more power to you!) . The only element of your plan that I'll probably never try is trying to produce a polished translation. I'm not a poet! As far as using translations, I have yet to read an full translation of the Aeneid in English, although someday I'll probably read Dryden's and I would caution you to use them only to gain the sense of a passage and to confirm your understanding, not as a tool for analysing the syntax. Part of the beauty of the poem lies in how it is constructed and that is often lost in translation.
That said, I first read a passage, try to understand as much as I can (including guessing at some words!) and then I look up any words I don't know or whose meanings I have to confirm. I then reread the passage metrically, stopping at the ends of the sentences for secondary information in the commentaries. The next day, I reread that section (to make sure I haven't forgotten anything new) and then carry on to the next section. After completing a book, I then reread the book (metrically) before starting the next. For each book, this process took me roughly a month. Bear in mind that being retired, I was able to devote time to this project every day, which helped immensely. For someone with a demanding work schedule, this might not be feasible.

Again, I would suggest reading some Ovid first, but I'm not familiar enough with Wheelock to know how thorough his presentation of the language is. In the end, there's no harm in trying. You can always come back to Ovid, if you find Vergil too daunting. I will say that at school, we went straight from Caesar to Vergil, simply because the teacher had a rather small group of students that carried on after Caesar, so Vergil and Cicero were given on alternate years. I'll also say that 40 odd years later, I remembered very little of it; hence, I spent some time with Ovid first.

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by seneca2008 »

I wasn't going to post again on this but this is a good commentary on the Eclogues and the one I use.

R. COLEMAN: Vergil: Eclogues. Cambridge University Press, 1977.

I suggest you try to look at preview on Amazon or somewhere to see if it suits you and to gauge the difficulty of the commentary and text. I suspect you will find it tough going. It does however provide a bit more grammatical help than the average "green and yellow".

You have been given lots of advice which you are free to ignore. I would just add two things. First, there are lots of posts on here about great projects being started and the gathering of resources and working out of plans. We very rarely hear about how those projects go. As Aetos' experience shows simply, quietly and slowly working away at something is the best way forward. All these great projects really need is one text and one commentary and a willingness to persevere. With the greatest of respect setting out as a relative beginner to translate as opposed to read Vergil seems like an act of hubris.

Secondly, I dont believe making flash cards for Wheelock is going to be at all helpful although I am sure someone must have done it already. Memorising all the grammatical rules, even if it's possible, is not going to get you through Vergil or anything else. I suggest that it would be of much greater use to work through a prose composition book like "North and Hillard's Latin Prose Composition". You need practice in grammatical constructions by a) reading prose and b) working on prose comp.

I am sorry that this this seems so negative and the last thing I want to do is dampen your enthusiasm. But being realistic now will save a lot of heartache and frustration later.

If you are determined to start on Vergil Peter Jones' book covering the first two books of the Aeneid is excellent (from what I have seen). Piekarski's suggestion of Latin via Ovid also looks good.

Finally "The Last Trojan Hero, A Cultural History of Virgil's Aeneid", Philip Hardie, Tauris, 2014 its a wonderful introduction to the Aeneid and it's reception written by a major Virgil scholar.
Persuade tibi hoc sic esse, ut scribo: quaedam tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen est iactura, quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris attendere, maxima pars vitae elabitur male agentibus, magna nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus.

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by iamrian »

Aetos and seneca2008,

Thanks both for your replies.

Aetos, thank you for detailing your method. It is helpful to hear how someone else is doing it on the "nuts and bolts" level. I can understand not wanting to do a polished version, but that is actually one of my favorite parts! When I look back on all of my time I have spent grinding away at Latin, what I look back on with the most pride is the minimal work I did on Seneca's letters. Translating that first letter was a pure joy; especially because I didn't put the pressure on myself to avoid someone else's translation. I am very excited to get back into that process.

seneca2008, thank you for your advice as well. To your point about hubris, that is exactly what I found myself doing before. With my Greek, for instance, I jumped right from a couple semesters in school to doing Sophocles; but, importantly, without allowing myself to see another translation. For me, the fact that my method will include reviewing other interpretations in order to make a polished work of my own feels miles apart from how I translated before.

Now, this doesn't mean that translating all of Virgil isn't still very ambitious; it is just that I feel I am really taking the edge off of the project. I have started many things before; not just projects, but entire languages. Doing a "soft translation" (including the translation of others so I can quickly check my work) of these works feels like a good middle-point between pursuing easier works without interest and pursuing a work I care about without assistance.

Last, I accept that this project may join the others on the bon-fire of Latin efforts. To that end, you can expect to get some updates on my project as I go along. This website, and your prudent input, provide great motivation to keep going!
Best,
Ryan

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by cb »

Hi, I agree with others that a summary of Wheelock won't be a strong enough foundation for reading Vergil. That would be like trying to swim after having summarised the principles of constructing a swimming pool.

However if you are keen to read Vergil and this pushes you into reading the other resources—even if your translation never sees the light of day—then it's a good idea to ride that momentum.

To get an initial sense of what goes beyond Wheelock, I'd suggest you read Winbolt's book on the Latin hexameter:

https://archive.org/details/latinhexame ... 6/mode/1up

Perhaps start with chapters 7 and 8, then move to the appendix, then the exercises. These exercises are from English to Latin, but they pick out nuances in both languages which you'll need to recognise, even if you are translating in the other direction. After this, I'd suggest you go back and read all the other chapters: you'll need a sense of pauses, caesurae, etc. to be able to closely read Vergil. Winbolt's book is highly focused on Vergil, and so directly relevant, even though it is actually aimed at verse comp.

Then for commentaries, you've got good recommendations above. For the Georgics, I have Mynors 1990 (he died leaving his commentary in close to final form), plus a helpful little set of notes by Plaistowe. There's also a recent Cambridge green and yellow (by Thomas, in two volumes) which is meant to be good: I don't have this yet.

I can't see how one could read the Georgics without help from commentaries: you're constantly having to read up right from the beginning on e.g. why vines are being attached to elms (1.2 ulmisque adiungere vitis), details about the 12 deities in his opening invocation (and how these compare to the deities in invocations by previous authors), etc.

I also agree with others above that it would be better to focus on reading Vergil closely than making a translation: my motto has always been 'every line translated is a line lost'. Others do disagree on this, seeing translation as a component of close reading, which is fair enough. Producing a well-polished English translation is, however, an exercise in English, not Latin.

Cheers, Chad

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by hlawson38 »

iamrian wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 4:23 pm What I ask of you, dear reader, is any and all advise that would help prepare me for this adventure! What Virgil tools can you recommend? What insight can you provide?

Thanks for reading, and wish me luck!

For general Latin, not special to Virgil, here is what I've found especially helpful.

1. William Whitaker's Words, especially useful when I can't parse the words. Smartphone apps are available.

2. Traupman, The Bantam New College Latin and English Dictionary. Caveat: this is a *student* dictionary. It has a useful resume of the forms. Moreover, it glosses proper names, and gives English translations of the examples. I've worn out several copies of this book. It only costs about six dollars US. Every Barnes & Noble I've been in stocks this.

3. For verbs, Barron's 501 Latin Verbs. I don't use this so much any more, but it was very helpful in the early years.

4. https://orbilius.org/glossa/ This is a useful online presentation of Lewis and Short.

5. The Dover Press version of Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar. Mine is beginning to fall apart. Many, many examples, translated into English.
Hugh Lawson

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by johnwheater »

I remember a Latin course years ago, which involved translating the Aeneid book 2.

I hesitate to reveal my efforts, but the record I made (http://www.johnwheater.net/Aeneid2Translation.php)might be helpful.

I'd just add Michael Oakley's verse translation to the recommended resources, for the poetic swing of the thing.

And maybe say that Caesar is easier to construe than our hero, and would build up confidence. And wholeheartedly endorse the Allen & Greenhough recommendation.

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Re: From Wheelock to Virgil!

Post by cantator »

Pharr's edition of the first six books of the Aeneid was my guide.

https://www.amazon.com/Vergils-Aeneid-B ... 0865164215

I'm not a scholar, I can't compare it to other introductions. I used Pharr's book on Homeric Greek to get started into the Iliad, I figured I'd try his approach to the Aeneid as well.

Best regards,

dp
Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

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