Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Helen of Troy's Remarkable Recesses

In the second part of last week's Latin Therapy, we began tackling a rather challenging poem - as you'll see, we didn't get very far!

It was an excerpt from De bello troiano by the 12th-century poet Joseph of Exeter, and was discussed in a paper at the recent conference to celebrate the completion of the final fascicule of the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources.

The excerpt is from Book 4, lines 193-207.  I'll paste the Latin below, followed by our attempt at the first few lines.  Any comments or suggestions welcome!  If you need help, you can download a complete translation, by A.G. Rigg, by clicking on this link.

Haut minus insignes latebras secretius ornat
Vitalesque colit thalamus et digerit urbem
Interior natura suam. Cor principe motu
Libratum disponit opus, modulamina lingue
Limat pulmo loquax, modico dipensat hiatu
Splen risum, facili fal castigatius ira
Uritur. At teneri titillat mollius equo
Pruritus iecoris meriteque insignia fame
Mergens natiue titulos incestat amoris.
Hoc monstrum non ales edax, non labile saxum,
Non axis torquens non mendax uicerit unda;
Cum bene fracta tepet moriturque sepulta libido,
Respirant plenis incendia pristina fibris.
Sic Helenam totam pars unica mergit et ipsum
Excitat in cladem regnis certantibus orbem.


No less the chamber quite secretly adorns her remarkable recesses and cultivates the life-giving ones and her inner nature shakes apart her own city.  The heart by its principal motion disposes a balanced work, and the loquacious lung polishes the tongue’s melodies, the spleen dispenses laughter through a modest open mouth, the more controlled gall bladder is burned by easy anger.  (No, that doesn't fill us with pride!)

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