Friday, December 30, 2011

De Vita et Morte

Here is today's distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 4.266. This epigram by Owen plays with the old motif of how we are all born in the same way, but we die in many different ways, e.g. _Nascimur uno modo, multis morimur_. Owen expresses that idea in the first line; in the second line, he draws his paradoxical conclusion: the abundance of ways to die makes sense, given that death is a good thing. The epigram thus belongs to what we could call the genre of "ars moriendi," the art of dying - in particular, the art of dying a good death.

De Vita et Morte
Una via est vitae, moriendi mille figurae.
Est bene: nam mors est res bona, vita mala.

One way to Life, to Dath a thousand’s had;
’Tis well Death is a good thing, Life a bad.

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

figūra f. - form, shape, figure

bene: well
bonus -a -um: good
dē: down from, about, concerning (+ abl.)
et: and
malus -a -um: bad, evil; male: (adv.) badly
mille (pl.) milia: thousand
morior morī mortuus sum: die
mors mortis f.: death
nam or namque: for, indeed, really
rēs reī f.: thing (rēs pūblica, commonwealth; rēs familiāris, family property, estate; rēs mīlitāris, art of war; rēs novae, revolution)
sum, esse, fuī: be, exist
ūnus -a -um: one
via -ae f.: way, street
vīta -ae f.: life