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HPSCHD-L  January 2001

HPSCHD-L January 2001

Subject:

Re: Calling all Motto Grammarians

From:

"Cipolla, Phil" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 3 Jan 2001 13:42:14 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (111 lines)

More specifically the longest version of the epigram is an 'elegiac
couplet'.

With respect to the metrical form, the first line [Viua fui in siluis sum
dura occisa securi] scans correctly as a dactylic hexameter. The second line
[Dum uixi tacui mortua dulce cano] scans correctly as a pentameter. The
dactylic hexameter and the pentameter taken together make up the elegiac
couplet.  These terms refer to quantitative metrics and should not be
confused with whatever you may or may not remember about the verse forms of
modern English, Italian, French, etc.

Note that the reason it is called an elegiac couplet is based on the choice
of meter, not because there is some talk of death as in English 'elegies'.
This metrical form was often used for epigrams and one genre of epigram, the
riddle, was popular from medieval times to the renaissance and beyond when
composing verses in Latin was still in vogue. In Europe the practice of
writing poetry in quantitative Latin verse never died out completely but
began to wane around the time that harpsichords began to yield to the
fortepiano.

Note, however, that the use of the 'pentameter' line by itself would never
have been considered good form for a complete epigram. In normal practice it
was used exclusively in conjunction with the dactylic hexameter.  Used alone
it would immediately beg the question "what happened to the hexameter
line?"...

Also note that I have rendered the text in what is currently the considered
correct classical orthography: e.g. 'siluis' not 'sylvis'. I have spelt Viua
with a capital V since the that is really the only correct form for this
letter when used as a capital. The lower case 'u' (or 'v') was usually the
curved form in medieval manuscripts and hence often rendered that way in the
earliest typeface but there was much variety and inconsistency in this.  The
spelling as given in the previous postings, however, would reflect the
spelling that would have been used in the 17th or 18th century and therefore
perhaps more appropriate as an inscription on a harpsichord.

With respect to Chris Cartwright's comment, the ~ over the 'u' in 'du' was a
very common abbreviation for 'm' in medieval manuscripts.  Although its use
on formal inscriptions would seem less appropriate, it is also found in
title pages of early printed books.

By the way, it is not that the shortest line [Dum uixi tacui in morte cano]
does not scan but rather that it scans not as a pentameter but rather as two
anapaestic dimeters.  It is not according to the best classical tradition,
however, because there would normally be a complete 'diaeresis' (or '
division') between the two anapaestic dimeters. In this verse there is
elision between the 'i' in 'tacui' (end of the first dimeter) and the 'i' in
the following word 'in' (beginning of the second dimeter) rather than a
diaeresis.  As the famous scholar Richard Bentley noted in the early 18th
century there was much ignorance among the literate of his day concerning
the correct rules of the Latin anapaestic meter.  So it may be that using
this 'incorrect' anapaestic verse would be historically appropriate for the
17th or 18th century...and perhaps equally appropriate for the 21st century
when such knowledge has again become a rarity.

Valete,

Phil

                -----Original Message-----
                From:   Charles A. Marrin
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]
                Sent:   Tuesday, January 02, 2001 10:48 AM
                To:     [log in to unmask]
                Subject:        Re: Calling all Motto Grammarians

                I am surprised that no-one has yet pointed out that

                Viva fui in sylvis
                Sum dura occisa securi
                Dum vixi tacui
                Mortua dulce cano

                scans perfectly -- as does:

                Dum vixi tacui
                Mortua dulce cano

                However,

                Dum vixi tacui
                In morte cano

                definitely does not. The effect is more obvious if they are
juxtaposed thus:

                Viva fui in sylvis
                Sum dura occisa securi
                Dum vixi tacui
                In morte cano

                Moreover,

                Dum vixi tacui
                Mortua dulce cano

                which is all there is likely to be room for on the
instrument, has the additional appeal that it takes the form of a riddle (or
rebus, as they are called in Latin), of which the Romans were rather fond),
i.e.

                In life I was silent;
                In death I sing sweetly.

                (with the implied question: What am I?)

                It is, in my opinion, the best thing of its kind. I do not
know the original author. Perhaps someone else does.

                Charles Marrin
                Dartmouth

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