Thou buildest houses of five hundred by a hundred feet, forgetting that of six by two.

Another example of the beauty, suspense and drama, which only an author, who has mastered the English language by mastering the Latin, may create through the use of periodic sentences:

———

The captain was made large amends for the unpleasant minutes which he passed in the conversation of his wife (and which were as few as he could contrive to make them), by the pleasant meditations he enjoyed when alone.

[Here Fielding goes on to describe the captain’s plans to remodel the house when his brother-in-law should have died]

Nothing was wanting to enable him to enter upon the immediate execution of this plan, but the death of Mr Allworthy; in calculating which he had employed much of his own algebra, besides purchasing every book extant that treats of the value of lives, reversions, &c. From all which he satisfied himself, that as he had every day a chance of thsi happening, so had he more than an even chance of its happening within a few years.

But while the captain was one day busied in deep contemplations of this kind, one of the most unlucky as well as unseasonable accidents happened to him. The utmost malice of Fortune could, indeed, have contrived nothing so cruel, so mal-a-propos, so absolutely destructive to all his schemes. In short, not to keep the reader in long suspense, just at the very instant when his heart was exulting in meditations on the happiness which would accrue to him by Mr Allworthy’s death, he himself—died of an apoplexy.

This unfortunately befel the captain as he was taking his evening walk by himself, so that nobody was present to lend him any assistance, if indeed, any assistance could have preserved him. He took, therefore, measure of that proportion of soil which was now become adequate to all his future purposes, and he lay dead on the ground, a great (though not a living) example of the truth of that observation of Horace:

Tu secanda marmora Locas sub ipsum funus; et sepulchri Immemor, struis domos.

Which sentiment I shall thus give to the English reader: “You provide the noblest materials for building, when a pickaxe and a spade are only necessary: and build houses of five hundred by a hundred feet, forgetting that of six by two.”

De mortuis nil nisi bonum, Bugs. Even thy time cometh, thou wily hare.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum, Bugs. Even thy time cometh, thou wily hare.

———

It’s not a translation, of course, but now is not the time for an essay on what makes a good translation. The original would go:

Tu secanda marmora / Locas sub ipsum funus; et sepulchri / Immemor, struis domos. Horace, Odes 2.18.17–19

…and be translated:

You assign marbles to be cut at the foot of the grave and, unmindful of your final resting place [lit. “tomb”—see? I can’t resist either. It’s poetry!], build houses.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly.

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About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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