Women writing poems in Latin

The BBC still has a listen again/download of a Woman's Hour item with Professor Jane Stevenson of Aberdeen and Dr Helen Morales, broadcast in September 2005. None of the poems quoted in Latin, but mildly interesting.



(Old) comment from Massachusetts in the Daily Mail

This was posted on the Daily Mail website last June. It illustrates two sides of the current debate on GCSE demands, but there may be an undistributed middle. It may be that a good teacher can both produce enthusiasm in her/his pupils and also help them to learn Latin thoroughly. Any comments?

Six years ago, I took over a Latin program in a private school here in Massachusetts. The previous teacher was a young woman who had been trained to make the subject “fun” to encourage and maintain enrollment. The students records all showed high grades in their classroom evaluations and in the absence of standardized tests or state exams, that is all I had to go on. It turned out, however, that they actually knew very little Latin. I tightened up the demands of the courses and required all my students to annually sit the National Latin Exam. The first year, only thirty-six percent scored above the national average; this year, sixty-two percent did. But the down side is that, because of a class of peculiarly whiney and unambitious seventh-graders, enrollment for beginning Latin next year dropped from 21 to 2. The problem your article dealt with is real and perhaps universal.

– G. V. Simmons, Middleborough, Massachusetts, USA

Ecce Romanus verissmus

Philip Howard has done us proud. I posted his review of Harrius Potter Et Camera Secretorum last night in English, not realising that the original Latin was in The Times. Ecce, adest. fruere!


The Times January 06, 2007


Ecce Romanus verissmus
Reviewed by Philip Howard
Harrius Potter Et Camera Secretorium
by J.K. Rowling
translated by Peter Needham

Haud Dubito Quin Harrius Potter Romanus sit puer. nam fecundissimi linguae Latinae, divites morum Romanorum sunt libri eius. quis sit Scholae Harrii Hogvardensis sententia propria quaerisne? quippe “Draco Dormiens Numquam Titillandus” — consilium melius de republica praeclara atque egregia sentiendi non potuit Quintus Horatius Flaccus dare: veri simile est in Arte Poetica sic dedit. Quid nomen habet Harrii inimicus maleficus Schola? Draco Malfoy, scilicet, id est, Draco malae fidei. Quidditch Ludus ritu gladiatorum nostrorum cum manubriis scoparum loco gladiorum tridentumque exercitur. num opus plus dicendi est?

novus puer Romanus est Harrius, sic ut verba nova reperiat: mystax fruticosus; perspecilla rotunda; autocineta; ludus Caledonicus; caligae aqua impenetralibes. felicitatem verborum curiosam novorum proponit. siquid inexpertum codicis committit et audet personam formare novam, servitur ad imum, qualis ab incepto processerit, et sibi constat. optimus est narrator qui historiam suam narrando animos liberorum legentum et docet, et delectat, et permovet. Docere, debitum est; delectare honorarium; permovere necessarium. et docet, et delectat, et permovet Harrius Potter. age vero, quid esse potest in otio aut jucundius, aut magis proprium humantitatis, quam historias facetas, ac nulla in res rudes scribere.

historiam Harrii edidisse dicunt Petrum Needham, Scholae Etonensis magistrum emeritum. Rex Henricus, conditor collegii illius, semper est amicus nobis in angustia, cuius prece nos a taedio inepto salvemur perpetue. genus scribendi Marci Tullii imitatur lucidum Petrus, non Publii Cornelii Taciti abruptum sermonis genus ac difficile. opus adgreditur ille opimum casibus, atrox terroribus, discors nodis ambiguis, lascivum cacchinis, ipsa etiam Schola mirabile ac magicum. magi, scilicet, veri et primigeni sunt Romani ac Graeci. Aspicite origines antiquas Abracadabrae atque Hocorum Pocorum: Hocus Pocus, toutous talontus, vade celerita jubes, ut animos Mugglum dubios faciatis. praestantissimi ingenii est ille Needham, capax persaepe leporis et facetiarum sine fuco et fallaciis. historiam Harrii Potter eius praestat in lingua Latina legere quam ex Latino in Anglicum verba translata. felicissima J. K. Rowling, quae talem fontem et originem rerum magicarum et puerilum repperit. Felicissimi nos qui nunc possumus et legere in lingua primigenia et praeclariore, et gaudere, et maxime ridere.

Latin among the dangerous things for boys to do?

The Dangerous Book for Boys has been in the bookshops for a while. I for one never knew that it includes Latin along with tying knots and science experiments. His novel Emperor: the Death of Kings is on my pile to read sometime soon. Anyway, this Times review article may be of interest.

Book reviews from The Times

The Times January 06, 2007

The extraordinary Mr Iggulden
Reviewed by Tim Teeman

Saddle sore, freezing, risking rabies. Just what dangers drive the author of that boyish bestseller as he researches his new book? Tim Teeman finds out

Wolf of the Plains
by Conn Iggulden
HarperCollins, £14.99; 464pp

The Dangerous Book for Boys
by Conn Iggulden
HarperCollins, £18.99, 294pp

CONN IGGULDEN GREW UP IN suburban Middlesex, but it may as well have been the jungles of Borneo. A true Boy’s Own adventurer, he climbed (and fell out) of every tree in the local park. His favoured yarns ripped: Hornblower, Flashman and Tai-Pan by James Clavell. He dissected dead animals, particularly birds, with his mother’s bread knife, “though I did disinfect it afterwards”.

It follows, then, that he should have gone on to make his name with books streaked with bone-crunching derring-do — first with the Emperor series of novels about Julius Caesar and latterly with The Dangerous Book for Boys, a retro, though far from ironic, compendium about making knots, Latin and science experiments that has sold nearly half a million copies. He puts its success down to “men feeling insecure about the knowledge they feel they ought to know”.

More …

Virgil to star in colossal musical

OK, it's Dante's Virgil, his guide during his visit to The Inferno. The Guardian report is below. You can see the trailer, with the fires of the Inferno spilling out and engulfing the audience, here.

Papal choirmaster writes musical based on Dante – and punk is the sound of hell

  • Huge production to debut in Rome before touring
  • Infernal fire to spill off stage and engulf audience

John Hooper in Rome
Wednesday January 3, 2007
The Guardian

It is being billed as the Vatican musical. One of the Pope's music officials, the choirmaster of St John Lateran, Monsignor Marco Frisina, has written the score for a song-and-dance extravaganza based on Dante's Divine Comedy. It includes punk, rock, jazz and even heavy metal numbers but early reports suggest they figure only in the section devoted to hell.

The impresario Riccardo Rossi was quoted yesterday as saying that the new work would makes its debut in Rome in autumn. The newspaper La Repubblica said the plan was to take The Divine Comedy – the Opera on a tour of Italy before staging it in other parts of Europe.

Catching up with the Guardian's take on Lister, Mount etc

Having posted a report on Bob Lister's book from another paper, I find that The Guardian report puts its finger on one important additional point: independent schools who “carry great weight with the … exam board” want to keep GCSE standards as they are. With the best maintained schools providing an education as good as or better than the average independent school, to keep Latin as an elite subject may seem to provide a selling point for the independents. It points up the choice: is Latin to be for the privileged few, or for the many?

But there is deep disagreement about how schools should respond. Mr Lister, former director of the Cambridge Schools Classics Project, is among those who argue GCSE Latin needs to be made easier – a Durham University study rated it as harder than physics and chemistry – with less translation and more emphasis on classical civilisation.

However, this approach infuriates traditionalists like Harry Mount, whose best-selling book, Amo, Amas, Amat and All That, takes a swipe at the Cambridge Latin Course and includes a strong personal attack on the current director of the project.

Leading public schools like Westminster (Mr Mount's alma mater) favour the traditional approach and as the independent sector provides the majority of candidates, they carry great weight with the only exam board in England that still offers Latin and Greek.

Mr Lister comments: “Some people argue the subject needs to be made considerably more accessible to compete with other GCSEs while another lobby argues that it needs to be made more difficult.”

However, Mr Lister argues that promoting “classics for all” is the way forward, and he sees the inclusion of Ancient Greece as a compulsory part of the history curriculum for eight to 11-year-olds as significant progress. Children also have to cover the Romans in Britain, but fighting for time in the curriculum remains a major concern.

Philip Howard reviews Harrius Potter

From The Times. My review is here.

Behold, the most genuine of Romans
Philip Howard
by J.K. Rowling
translated by Peter Needham

I have no doubt that Harry Potter is a Roman boy. For his books are full of Latin and rich in Roman attitudes. Guess the motto of Harry’s school, Hogwarts. Never Tease a Sleeping Dragon. The Poet Horace could not have invented a more noble Roman sentiment. He probably did in Ars Poetica.

What’s the name of Harry's wicked enemy at school? Draco Malfoy, of course. In Latin that means the “treacherous dragon”. What is Harry’s game of Quidditch other than our gladiatorial contests in the arena, with broomsticks instead of swords and tridents? Need I say more?

Harry is a modern boy, and so he is good at coining modern words: a fruity moustache, round gig-lamps, motor cars, golf, gumboots. He has an extraordinary knack of inventing new words. If he makes up something new in his books, and dares to create a novel character, he fleshes it out from beginning to end. The best storyteller is one who informs, and delights and excites his juvenile readers. He must inform. Delight is a bonus. He must excite. Harry Potter informs, delights and excites. For what could be a more pleasant and more humane recreation than writing and reading witty and intelligent mystery books.

They say that the author of Harry’s books is Peter Needham, an emeritus Classics beak from Eton College. King Henry VI, founder of that college, has always been our friend in tight spots. May we always be saved from coarse boredom by his foundation. Peter Needham writes in the clear style of Cicero, not the difficult text-message abbrevs of Publius Cornelius Tacitus. His subject is rich in excitement, frightening with alarms, teasing with puzzles, playful with guffaws. Even School is a marvellous and magical place. For, of course, the truly original wizards were Greek and Roman. Consider the ancient origin of Abracadabra and Hocus Pocus: Hocus Pocus, Toutous Talontus, vade celerita jubes [which are meaningless Latin gibberish]. So you will confuse silly Muggles. This Needham is without doubt a genius. His original version of Harry Potter is a far better read in Latin than in its English translation. Lucky J. K. Rowling to have discovered such an original source of childhood magic to translate. Lucky us who can now read it in the original language, beautifully written, and enjoy ourselves. And laugh and laugh and laugh.