Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vae Soli

438     -     439     -     440

Here is today's distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 4.36. The poem is addressed Ad Amicum Suum Ioannem Suckling, Coniugatum, "To His Friend John Suckling, A Married Man." The poem alludes to the Biblical verse in Ecclesiastes 4.10, si unus ceciderit ab altero fulcietur vae soli quia cum ruerit non habet sublevantem, "For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."

In the beginning (principio) he created (creavit) the heaven and earth and man (caelum terramque hominemque); why did God do this (cur Deus) except because (nisi quod) he didn't want (noluit) to be alone (esse solus).

Vae Soli
Principio coelum terramque hominemque creavit;
Cur nisi quod solus noluit esse Deus?

In the beginning God made Heaven, Earth, Man.
Why? ’cause not to be sole he then began.

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:

vae - alas, woe

caelum -ī n.: sky, heavens
creō -āre: produce, create; elect, choose
cūr: why?
deus -ī m.; dea -ae f. god; goddess
homo hominis m.: human being
nisi/nī: if not, unless
nōlō nōlle nōluī: be unwilling
principium -iī n.: beginning
que (enclitic) - and
qui quae quod: who, which, what / quis quid: who? what? which?
sōlus -a -um: only, alone; sōlum (adv.), only, merely
sum, esse, fuī: be, exist
terra -ae f.: land

(painting by William Blake)