Thursday, July 28, 2011

Phoenix et Vipera

Here is another distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 2.185. Note that while the dictionary gender of the phoenix is masculine, Owen sees the phoenix here as feminine (mortua), with the rebirth of the phoenix being understand as a variation on the way a mother gives birth. You can read about the legend of the phoenix's birth from its own funeral pyre here, and here you can read about the story of what happens when the poor viper gives birth, as the legends tell it.

Phoenix et Vipera
Tu pereundo paris viventem mortua, phoenix;
Vipera, vi pariens, tu pariendo peris.

The dying Phoenix leaves a living seed;
But living Vipers dying are to breed.

The vocabulary is keyed to the DCC Latin Vocabulary list. There are two words in this poem that are not on the DCC list:

phoenix (phoenīcis, m.): phoenix
vīpera (vīperae, f.): viper, snake

et: and
morior morī mortuus sum: die
pariō parere peperī partum: bring forth, give birth to; accomplish
pereō -īre -iī -itum: perish, be lost
tū tuī tibi tē: you (sing.)
vīs f.: force; (acc.) vim, (abl.) vī; (pl.) vīrēs, strength
vīvō vīvere vīxī victum: live