Do I actually read any Latin?

It was coming across a 70-year-old book that started me off.

The book was on my shelves, with a pencilled price of 50p on the
flyleaf, and I don't think I'd ever read a word of it since buying it
on a whim. Alongside the price were the initials OB. Somewhere in the
back of my mind is the foggy memory of a second-hand bookshop shared by
two men, each of whom wrote his initials in his books, and by some
clever accounting they both got what was due to them.  I'm sure
one of them had a goatee beard.

But where was the bookshop? Like so many others, it has doubtless shut
down. It's just part of my bibliophile past, when I was an addict
hooked on second-hand books of almost any description. It is taking me
ages clearing the attic of them.

Where was I? Oh yes. This book that I don't remember buying is called A
Book of Latin Prose and Verse, and is a selection by a certain
Professor of London University, called F.A. Wright. It saw the light of
day in 1933. It is fascinating.

What is so wonderful is that it surveys the whole history of Latin
writing, “from its beginnings down to the period when Latin ceased to
be the common literary language of Europe” as the Professor writes.

So the prose section starts with a decree about the Bacchanalia dated
186 BC. 'Nequis eorum Bacanal habuise velit. Sei quis esent, quei sibei
deicerent necessus ese Bacanal habere, eeis utei ad pr. urbanum Romam
venirent, deque eeis rebus, ubei eorum verba auditi esent, utei senatus
noster decernerent, dum ne minus senatoribus c adesent quom res

Isn't that splendid? Doesn't the senate sound worried! And the speling!! How would an A level examiner mark that? Obviously the Romans couldn't write proper Latin.

The verse section begins with Scipio's epitaph:

Honc oino ploirume cosentiont Romai
Duonoro optumo fuisse viro viroro
Luciom Scipione. Filios Barbati
Consol censor aidilis hic fuet apud vos.
Hec cepit Corsica Aleriaque urbe pugnandod,
Dedet Tempestatebus aide meretod votam.

Doesn't that make you feel that we've been sold short by learning and
reading only Golden Age and Silver Age Latin? I get the same feeling I
have when reading Plautus, that I'm getting a tiny taste of the Latin
that the Romans actually spoke.

And at the other end of the period, what about this by Peter Damiani, a versification of part of the Song of Songs:

Quis est hic qui pulsat ad ostium
Noctis rumpens somnium?
Me vocat: “O virginum pulcherrima,
Soror, coniunx, gemma splendidissima,
Cito surgens aperi, dulcissima. …”

Mox ego dereliqui lectulum,
Cucurri ad pessulum:
Ut dilecto tota domus pateat,
Et mens mea plenissime videat
Quem videre maxime desiderat.

At ille iam inde transierat,
Ostium reliquerat.
Quid ergo, miserrima, quid facerem?
Lacrimando sum secuta iuvenem,
Manus cuius plasmaverunt hominem. …

I think as a youngster I would have warmed to that – and I would have
understood it more easily than much classical Latin. I have determined
to do some more reading in Latin, and not to get stuck simply with The
Great Authors. I want to be surprised now and then, and having at some
time read all of Virgil, he can't surprise me in any major way. I'm
aware that Martial probably has much entertainment in store for me
still. Cicero's letters (rather than Pliny's) also probably hold
surprises, and the feeling of being in the room with a real Roman,
overhearing his thoughts. But there's so much more.

Here are just a couple of epigrams written by John Owen in 1560. The first is about women and their cosmetics:

Quae pictas facies geritis, vos iure potestis
    Dicere cum Flacco: 'Pulvis et umbra sumus.'

The second is a neat thank-you to a lady for the gift of a mirror:

In quo me videam, speculum mihi, Paula, dedisti:
    In quo te possem cernere, malo dares.

Yes, I think Latin is worth reading.