Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Latin Without Latin: Omnia Mea Mecum Porto

This is my twenty-second "Latin without Latin" essay. For background and a link to other essays, see this page: About the English Essays. Like yesterday's essay, this essay is about one of the Latin emblems of Gabriel Rollenhagen (1583-1619). You can read more about Rollenghagen and his influential work in this blog post. I chose this particular emblem because today, May 23, is World Turtle Day - and, as you can see, this is a distich poem about a turtle!

As often with emblems, the title of the emblem is a Latin proverb: Ómnia Mea Mecum Porto. You can read about the history of this nice proverb her at Laudator Temporis Acti.

Here's how the proverb is put together:

Ómnia Mea. Here we have the Latin adjective omnis, meaning all or every (compare the English words omnipotent and omnibus), and the adjective meus, meaning my, mine. The form is neuter plural, so put them together and you've got ómnia mea, all my things, everything that is mine.

Mecum. The phrase mecum is actually made up of two words: cum and me. The preposition cum means with (as in the Latin phrase magna cum laude, with great praise) and me is the ablative form of the pronoun ego, meaning I. Put them together and you have mecum, with me. Now we just need a verb!

Porto. This is from the Latin verb portare meaning carry (as in the English words porter and transportation). The form is first-person singular, porto,  carry.

So, now we can put the title of the poem together: Ómnia Mea, all my things, Mecum Porto, I carry with me. You can see why this proverb would be a good one to choose for an emblem about a turtle! Now let's see what the poem itself tells us:

Porto domúmque meam mecum meáque ómnia; multis
Régibus hoc ipso dítior et pótior.

Porto. The poem starts with the same verb we saw in the title: porto, I carry.

domúmque meam. Here we have the Latin noun domus, meaning house or home (compare the English words domestic and domicile), with the adjective we saw earlier, meus, meaning my or mine. The phrase domum meam is in the accusative, making it the object of the verb: porto domum meam, I carry my house. (There's also a little que particle here, too; I'll say something about that in a minute.)

mecum. This is the phrase we saw already in the title, equivalent to cum me, with me. So now we have a complete statement: porto domum meam mecum, I carry my house with me.

meáque ómnia. Here we have the same words we saw already in the title, mea ómnia, all my things. Notice also that there is a que particle here also, just as in domúmque meam. The little que cannot stand by itself; instead, it is a particle that gets attached to the end of a word. A single que means and, but when you have que...que... in a pair, it means something like both...and... in English. Porto domúmque meam mecum, I carry with me BOTH my house, meáque ómnia, AND all my things.

So, that is the first statement; now let's see what the next statement says.

multis régibus. Here we have the Latin adjective multus, meaning much or many (compare the English words multiple, multitude, etc.) and the noun rex, meaning king (compare the English word regal). The number is plural, multis régibus, many kings - but the case could be either dative or ablative, so we'll need to keep reading.

hoc ipso. Here we have the Latin pronoun hic, meaning this - and the form is neuter singular, hoc, meaning this thing (you might know the Latin phrase post hoc ergo propter hoc; after this thing, therefore on account of this thing). The pronoun is intensified by ipse, meaning this very thing, exactly this thing we have been talking about - being able to carry your home and all your belongings with you. This phrase hoc ipso is definitely in the ablative case: by means of this thing, exactly because of this fact - but we still need some more clues to figure out how it all fits together.

dítior. This is from the Latin adjective dis, meaning rich or wealthy; it is in the comparative form, dítior, meaning richer or more wealthy. This comparative adjective fits perfectly with the two previous phrases, since the ablative can be used to express a comparison: precisely because of this thing, hoc ipso, I am richer, dítior, richer than many kings, multis régibus.

et pótior. The Latin word et means and, while pótior is another comparative adjective, meaning more important, more powerful (compare the English word potent). So, that is the concluding statement of the poem: because of this fact, hoc ipso, I am richer and more powerful, dítior et pótior, than many kings, multis régibus.

So, take a look at the whole poem again, this time observing the turtle in the emblem (see above), as she carries her house on her back:

Porto domúmque meam mecum meáque ómnia; multis
Régibus hoc ipso dítior et pótior.

There is a famous edition of Rollenhagen's emblems in English by the 17th-century English poet, George Wither. Here is how he renders this distich in English:

I beare, about mee, all my store
And, yet, a King enjoyes not more.

For more of Rollenhagen's poems in Latin, you can visit the Rollenhagen stream in my Latin distichs blog. Here is a link to the blog post for this specific poem. As I add new English essays, you will be able to find those in the English stream at the blog. The next essay is about a poem by John Owen: Deus et Homo.