Friday, November 25, 2011

De Viva Voce et Scriptis

Here is today's distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 3.208. The paradox expressed by this distich is really delightful: Owen opens with the phrase viva vox of speaking as opposed to the vox mortua of writing, he then notes that it is those dead voices of the written word which live on, while spoken words do not.

De Viva Voce et Scriptis
Sit verbum vox viva licet, vox mortua scriptum,
Scripta diu vivunt, non ita verba diu.

Though words be living voices, writings dead,
Yet these survive, when those are vanished.

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

licet conj. - although, granted that
vīvus -a -um - living, alive

dē: down from, about, concerning (+ abl.)
diū: for a long time
et: and
ita: thus, so
morior morī mortuus sum: die
nōn: not
scrībō scrībere scrīpsī scrīptum: write
sum, esse, fuī: be, exist
verbum -ī n.: word
vīvō vīvere vīxī victum: live
vōx vōcis f.: voice, utterance

Here is a cuneiform inscription from the 26th century B.C.E. - written in stone, and still speaking to us, over 4000 years later.