Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Democritus et Heraclitus

Here is today's distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 2.46. Democritus was the proverbially laughing philosopher, while Heraclitus was his weeping counterpart. For more about this tradition, see Michael Gilleland's post at Laudator Temporis Acti. As often, Owen embraces the paradox of a weeping philosopher who might deserve to be laughed at as opposed to a laughing philosopher whom we should bewail.

Democritus et Heraclitus
Ille nihil nisi risit, et iste nihil nisi flevit.
Istene ridendus, flendus an ille magis?

That only laugh’d, this only wept: but whether
Shall be laugh’d at, or wept for? Both, or Neither?

The vocabulary is keyed to the DCC Latin Vocabulary list. All the words in this poem are on that list, except for the two proper names:

Democritus - proper name
Heraclitus - proper name

an: or
et: and
fleo flēre flēvī flētum: weep
ille, illa, illud: that
iste, ista, istud: that, that of yours; adv. istīc or istūc, over there; istinc, from over there
magis: more
ne: interrogative particle attached to the emphatic word in a question
nihil, nīl: nothing; not at all
nisi/nī: if not, unless
rīdeo -ēre rīsī rīsum: laugh, laugh at

(Donato Bramante, Heraclitus and Democritus)