Latin Verse & a Pipe

This is a video which I posted a little while back (when I actually had time).

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Aut lego vel scribo, doceo scrutorve sophiam:
obsecro celsithronum nocte dieque meum.
Vescor, poto libens, rithmizans invoco Musas,
dormisco stertens: oro deum vigilans.
Conscia mens scelerum deflet peccamina vitae;
parcite vos misero. Christe Maria, viro.

My latin is all but intermediate and while I’ve done some poetical translation I don’t have a great foundation in it, or a great knowledge of it. I did do my own translation of this, and while there are some words that I simply cannot find (I imagine later words, not in my classical lexicon) I have to say that I am curious why the translator of the version I read chose their words as they did. Here is my translation, not giving even a wink or a nod to English metre or cadence (I’ll leave that to the pros):

I read or write, I teach or seek out wisdom:

By night and by day I beseech the High Throne.

I feast, I joyfully drink, I invoke the muses,

Snoring, I sleep: Waking, to God I pray.

Aware of the wickedness of my life, my heart bewails

You, O Christ, O Mary: this miserable man, Spare.

Like any poet and like any translation I took some liberties and introduced, I am sure, some bias. In the book translation the author used truth for sophiam. I took wisdom to be a more apt translation simply because of the close relation σοφια  and wisdom long ago (I think specifically of Boethius, to name one).

Celsithronum was translated as God though because of how odd a word it is I wanted tease out the nature of the word, which is actually a compound. Celsi which can mean high, lofty, or elevated and thronum, which I take to simply be throne–thus, the High Throne.

While I do like the translators words for the fourth line, ‘and snoring sleep, or vigil keep…’ I wanted to capture the sort of opposition he sets up between the sleeping and the waking, and give more credence to the participial aspect of vigilans that Scottus used, ‘waking,’ and in the first half of the line, ‘sleeping.’

The final line is quite imperative. Parcite I took in pure imperative form together with vos, ‘you…spare!’

For any other Latinists who may be reading I would welcome any comment or discussion, or even your own translation.

For more on Sedulius Scottus, see the Wikipedia article here.


3 thoughts on “Latin Verse & a Pipe

  1. Waddell has written on Church history and done collections of desert Father material, if I remember correctly. I’ve read a few things by her.

    Also, well read! My Latin is probably more elementary than yours, but I mostly prefer a classical pronunciation.

  2. colinnic

    That’s great to know about Waddell, I do have a short collection of Desert Father sayings and what-not, but it’s not Waddell. I’ll have to see if I can hunt down a bit more of her work.

    And thanks, I’ve only done two years so this was done with much help from a dictionary, but the poem itself isn’t too hard decipher. I recall some of Virgil’s poetry to be a real mind-bender–completely leaving out words for the sake of metre that the reader then has to substitute. We did some of Cicero’s letters to family and friends, I remember those being quite enjoyable.


  3. Pingback: A Year of Blogging in Review « Letters from Nottingham


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