Saturday, November 05, 2005

AP Vergil

I am teaching AP Vergil this year, and I have a student who is trying to write in meter. I check his work, show him his mistakes, and he comes back with more mistakes than before. He is a rather smart guy, and he does not give up easily. I like to see his efforts, but I feel that somehow, his time might be spent better in other Latinic pursuits. I want to encourage him to pursue communication through other means until his vocabulary and his awareness of meter are more consolidated. So, I wrote a little poem for him in dactyllic hexameter. His latin name is Tertullus. I need some feedback.

Tu, Tertulle, loqui nunc visne aut scribere metro?
non facile est mihi simpliciter fandum vacuumque
verbum adipisci, verum est insanum modulate.

How's my meter? Have I missed anything? I am concerned about the use of "metro" and "modulate." Does the poem make sense to you? Any suggestions for word choice? Thanks!
Magister Coke


dennis said...

The main caesura of the second line is hephthemimeral (i.e. after the '7th half portion,' or the 4th long). The Latin hexameter favors the penthemimeral caesura (AKA masculine, after the 3rd long), while greek favors the trochaic (AKA feminine) caesura (so-called because it falls after the trochee, _ u, of the third foot).

It's not unheard of, but it's uncommon enough that you shouldn't make a habit of it, especially in short compositions.

The third line doesn't scan properly because of elision:

verb(um) adipisci veru(m e)st

This is a hemipes, _ u u _ u u _, with a penthemimeral caesura.

The second half of the line is short a syllable:

insanum modulate
_ _ _ u u _ _

The missing syllable would have to supplied before or after insanum.

For the second line, also, I don't think you want fandum. The participle fatum has a long a.

Simplicter may not capture the sense you want. Perhaps this instead:

non facile (e)st mihi deinde parum fatum vacuumque

There's a nice series of rhymes in the second half, and a trochaic caesura.

Unless I misunderstand the sense, I also think asipisci is off. Are you saying that it's not easy for you to receive this sort of word? If so, I think you should do it more concretely (a verb of hearing?). I think adipiscor, in that sense, should be used more of inheritance or maybe punishment, unless you were going for that sort of metaphor.

The last part ... 'but it is melodiously unsound?'

Coke said...

I see what you are saying about the second line. I have noticed only recently in Vergil that this form appears so often (penthemimeral), vergil strays from it perhaps every 15-20 lines and so it must have been a big deal. That's is most Roman hexameter, eh? BOY is it hard to get a line that is both in meter and fits to the standards! I'll keep working on it.

Maybe I should have given a translation to make my sentence clear.
I was trying to say:
It isn't easy for me to get ahold of a phrase (verbum)in prose (simpliciter), (even if merely) speakable and meaningless , but it's crazy (to try to get ahold of a phrase) in meter (modulate). The two adverbs were supposed to be the focus of the sentence - writing in a simple manner v.s. writing in meter, but there is too much vagueness. Damn.
I think I am trying to say too much with too few words. As you see what I am trying to express, with what guidelines would you suggest I start when entering a project of writing hexameter?

also - isn't the last "i" in adipisci long? and also the "e" in verbum? Would it fit the meter if so?

Coke said...

I am sorry about the terrible spelling and punctuation in that last comment. I will do my best to edit before I publish, but is it possible for me to edit my comments after they have been published?

Coke said...

ugh - the "e" in verum, not in verbum

dennis said...

You're right about the quantities in adipisci and verum. My bad. It's clear when you read it aloud though that something's off in the rhythm.

So much goes into verse composition, that when you try your hand at it you gain a new appreciation of what the ancient poets did. We're so removed from the constraints of formal poetry that we lose sight of how those constraints elicit great artistry.

Back to saying 'meter,' I'd try to use some form of numerus rather than modulate, which is rare. Numerus is the normal way of discussing meter or verse, in Cicero at any rate (it's how he translates rhythmos).

I may submit a reworking tommorw.

And unfortunately you can't edit comments.

eric said...

Interesting discussion, folks.

Coke: I don't know if any of these resources will be helpful, but I came across this site ( and thought I'd pass it on. This one in particular seemed like it could be of some use:

Latin Hexameter Verse. An Aid to Composition. S. E. Winbolt Methuen 1903. This is perhaps the final analysis of Virgil’s art. Apart from longer exercises and demonstrations at the end of the book, there are 363 short passages for turning into hexameter verse. No aspect of writing Latin verse in this metre is overlooked. Key This gives the versions of all the exercises in the larger book. Many of them are by the great T. S. Evans, perhaps the greatest writer of Latin verse in modern times.

Also, does anyone know of a site that has free ebooks of latin verse comp textbooks?

dennis said...

We have a copy of Winboldt's book in Carpenter. There are some other, shorter introductions to verse composition, but if memory serves, this is the best and most useful.

Coke said...

I think I would like to share this entire section of comments with my AP Latin class. Would you mind?

dennis said...

Feel free. As for me, I've spent nearly the entire weekend editing the Greek textbook (twelve hours today alone), and I'm teaching a full load tomorrow, so I'm off to bed for 4 hours.

The worst part about subbing is figuring out how to run the class based on an e-mail received with short notice. Tomorrow's 8th graders? 'Teach them the superlative.'