Sunday, June 24, 2012

Latin Without Latin: Ede Tua

This is my fifty-fourth "Latin without Latin" essay. For background and a link to other essays, see this page: About the English Essays. I had fun with the Martial poem yesterday, so I thought I would do another Martial poem today. The object of Martial's sharp-tongued wit in this poem is a fellow poet named Laelius:

Cum tua non edas, carpis mea cármina, Laeli;
Cárpere vel noli nostra, vel ede tua.

Here is how it works:

Cum. This Latin word can mean either when or with. We will have to wait and see what fits.

tua. This is from the Latin possessive adjective, tuus, meaning your, yours. The form could be either feminine singular or neuter plural so, again, we are going to have to wait and see.

non edas. Here we have the Latin verb edere, meaning to give out, put out, publish (it is a compound of ex- out, and -dare, give; this verb is the origin of our English words edit, edition, etc.) The form is second-person singular: edas, you give out, you publish. The mood is subjunctive, which lets us know what to do with cum: the word cum, meaning when, often takes a subjunctive verb and expresses a logical concession, something like English even when or although: cum non edas, even when you do not publish, although you don't publish. The word tua now fits as the neuter object of the verb: tua, your (things). Put it all together, and you have a complete clause: cum tua non edas, although you don't publish your own (things).

carpis. This is from the Latin verb carpere, meaning to pick, to pluck and, metaphorically, to gnaw at or criticize, to carp or complain. The form is second-person singular: carpis, you criticize.

mea cármina. Here we have a form of the first-person possessive adjective, meus, meaning my, mine. The Latin noun carmen means song or poem (and it is the origin of the English word charm). The gender is neuter and the form is plural: mea cármina, my poems. That gives us an object for our verb: carpis mea cármina, you criticize my poems. The cármina also lets us be more specific about the word tua as we can now see the parallel structure: cum tua (cármina) non edas, although you don't publish your (poems).

Laeli. This is the vocative form of the Roman name Laelius. As often, Martial is addressing his poem to a specific person, although we do not know anything about who this Laelius was.

So, in the first line, Martial sets up the occasion for the poem: Laelius has been criticizing Martial's poems, carpis mea cármina, Laeli - even though Laelius does not publish his own, cum tua non edas. The second line contains Martial's advice about how to remedy this situation:

Cárpere vel. Here we have again the verb cárpere, to criticize, along with the conjunction vel, meaning or. When used in a pair, velvel… means something like the English either…or… The second line of the poem has two halves, each coordinated by this word vel.

noli. This is from the verb nolle, meaning to not want (it is a contraction: non+velle = nolle, not to want). The form is an imperative and is used to express negative commands: cárpere noli, don't criticize!

nostra. This is from the Latin first-person plural possessive adjective, noster, meaning our, ours. The form nostra is neuter plural, so Martial is talking about poems, cármina, again - and he is using the "royal" we in this line as he gives Laelius a direct command: cárpere vel noli nostra (cármina), either don't criticize our (poems)… The second half of the line will give the alternative!

vel ede tua. Here we have again the verb edere, to give out, to publish, along with the neuter plural, tua, your (meaning tua cármina, your poems). The verb form is imperative, expressing a command: ede, publish! So, either don't criticize our poems, cárpere vel noli nostra, or publish yours: vel ede tua!

Thus in the second line Martial presents his addressee with a choice: he tells Laelius to publish his poetry, ede tua, or else he better stop criticizing Martial's poems: cárpere noli nostra. Notice also the nice chiasmus (criss-cross pattern) of the verbs; the order is edas...carpis in the first line, and then carpere...ede in the second. Martial, as always, is very elegant, in addition to being sharp-tongued:

Cum tua non edas, carpis mea cármina, Laeli;
Cárpere vel noli nostra, vel ede tua.

As someone who publishes a lot online, and who has received her fair share of sometimes carping comments, I really like this poem. I am far more likely to take criticism seriously from someone who has their own website or blog, as opposed to someone who just wants to complain without making their own contribution. After all, it takes about two minutes to create a blog with ... and the Internet has room for everyone! So just as Martial can say to Laelius, ede tua, I would say the same to all the students and teachers out there: the more blogs, the better!

Meanwhile, for more of Martial's poems in Latin, you can visit the Martial stream in my Latin distichs blog, which includes a blog post for this specific poem. As I add more of these English essays, you will be able to find those in the English stream at the blog. The next poem is about that proverbial critic, Zoilus.