Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Epic Fail: the Latin lyrics of Globus

Globus is the performance off-shoot of a successful producer of epic "trailer" music, i.e., music designed to be played during the display of short promotional films for movies many of which can loosely be described as epics (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Angels & Demons, Terminator Salvation, Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3, Astroboy).  Apparently the fandom of the work of Immediate Music grew to such an extent that its chief creative person, Yoav Goren, put together a band or ensemble for live performance and the making of albums.  There was a performance at Wembley in the UK in 2006 accompanying the release of the first CD, Epicon, which did not come out in the USA until 2008.  You can check out a review of the album here and have a look at the official Globus website.   In 2011 a second album was released, Break From This World.

The music is grand and sweeping, often with full orchestral instrumentation, frequently accompanied by big chorales singing big full chords moving from one to another in big beautiful ways.  Those elements are fused with the apparatus of rock groups (electric guitars, synthesizers, drums) and soaring tenor and soprano leads so as to make what the reviewer called "cinematic rock."  I forget how I got tipped off to it, but I liked it right away, got both albums from iTunes, and listen to them a lot while biking.

Some of the lyrics seemed to be Latin, so it occurred to me it might be worth the effort to find transcriptions of them and see exactly what these poems were saying.  That was a big disappointment.

There are two songs with lyrics entirely (or almost) in Latin on the first album, Preliator and Diem ex Dei.  They are complete gibberish.  Take a look at this video of Diem ex Dei from (I think) the performance at Wembley:

Then take a look at this poor guy's attempt at translating - evidently it was a student project:

As even those of you who are Latinless may readily see, the Latin is entirely junk. Preliator is somewhat worse.   I reproduce the words in full here:

Hossana Meus
Fortuna Deus
Aeterna Teus
Mystrie, Morte, Sancte, Prior

Fortuna, Hossana meus
Legionus ab comae
Fortuna, fortuna equis
Ad pugnatoris, in veritae

Protego causa in sanctus
Aeternus praetor, firmitas semper
Coryphaeus, rex Regis univers

Prosay solis hossana
Protego Sanctus causa
Padre illuminata
Gloria in resurrectum

Gloria in unum Diem

Terra tenebrae, telluris malus
Quiseri pere curiatus
Genitor edo, in ex domino
Patris illuminata, rex Premis univers

Lacrimosa, lacrimosa, in ex dominum
Somebody at a website called "Latin Discussion" has illustrated rather well the utter absence of sense with this literal translation, in a thread responding to some poor fellow's request for an English translation:

Hossana My Man
Fortune God
Eternal Lady Yoru Mna
MYSTRIE, By Death, O Previous Saint

Fortune, Hossana my man
Legionyish Man from hair
Fortune, fortune by means of horses
To the fighter's, in of she who revered

I shelter for the reason that in, holy man
Eternal chief executive, always firmness
Chorus leader, king of a King univer

PROSAY of the sun hossana
I, a Saint, shelter for the reason
PADRE illuminated girl
Glory into a thing risen again

Glory into one Day

The land the darkness, the apple tree of the earth
Whichlatemen PERE passed by the assembly of wards
Creator I eat, in out of the lord
Of the father illuminated girl, king You Squeeze univer

Crying lady, crying lady, in out of s the lord.

Why would anybody compose such rubbish?  And more pointedly, why would anybody make recordings of such rubbish and sell them?  Is the psychology behind this similar to that which underlies this scene from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
So he went to marching up and down, thinking, and frowning horrible every now and then; then he would hoist up his eyebrows; next he would squeeze his hand on his forehead and stagger back and kind of moan; next he would sigh, and next he'd let on to drop a tear. It was beautiful to see him. By and by he got it. He told us to give attention. Then he strikes a most noble attitude, with one leg shoved forwards, and his arms stretched away up, and his head tilted back, looking up at the sky; and then he begins to rip and rave and grit his teeth; and after that, all through his speech, he howled, and spread around, and swelled up his chest, and just knocked the spots out of any acting ever I see before. This is the speech—I learned it, easy enough, while he was learning it to the king:
To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane,
But that the fear of something after death
Murders the innocent sleep,
Great nature's second course,
And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune
Than fly to others that we know not of.
There's the respect must give us pause:
Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The law's delay, and the quietus which his pangs might take,
In the dead waste and middle of the night, when churchyards yawn
In customary suits of solemn black,
But that the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns,
Breathes forth contagion on the world,
And thus the native hue of resolution, like the poor cat i' the adage,
Is sicklied o'er with care,
And all the clouds that lowered o'er our housetops,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia:
Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws,
But get thee to a nunnery—go!
In other words, is this some kind of scam perpetrated by poorly educated frauds who know their target audience is even more poorly educated than they?  That seems a bit harsh. From a gentler perspective it may be akin to the use J. K. Rowling has made of Latin in the Harry Potter series by writing most of the spells in pseudo-latin.  As the wikipedia article on these spells kindly phrases it: "most spoken phrases resemble Latin words of appropriate meaning but are not proper Latin themselves."  In other words, maybe it's just kind of a fun thing, making use of the symbolic authority of Latin and its nexus with the mystique of antiquity.  After all, 99.9% (or more) of the population neither knows nor cares about proper Latinity.  The other tenth of a percent (or less) can either tut-tut in a sort of grotesque futility all they want or relax and enjoy it for what it is: some sort of private language created out of Latin for a limited purpose (for Rowling, helping to make Harry Potter a best-seller; for Globus, helping to sell albums). Of course this preys upon two characteristics of that 99.9%: its indolent ignorance and its desire to partake effortlessly of that which is uncommon and difficult.  That sort of depredation (by the more clever of the less) has been going on for millenia; indeed, it seems to be inherent in civilization. I suppose the sane, common sense reaction is simply to note that the range of "more clever" folk now includes those who have no ability to write Latin intelligibly, but who possess the chutzpah to purport to have it, and, having made that observation, simply to relax and enjoy the music.

The second album has one song partly in Latin, Doomsday, and its Latin is just as awful as the Latin lyrics on the first album, so awful that there is really no point in even reproducing those lines here; however, there is a track on this one, In Memoriam, significantly different from these.  This song has one of those simple, smooth, pleasant melodies you can't get out of your head for hours after you've heard it.  It also has less than a dozen goofs in terms of spelling or grammar and only one serious pronunciation flaw [audax, if you're wondering].  Check out this video [okay, I know: I've picked one where the author is the sort of person who doesn't know how to spell "remembrance" but at least this version will give the Latinless reader a leg up figuring out what's going on here]:

What has happened?  In the five years between releases did someone at Globus/Immediate Music learn Latin?  I suspect not.  It looks to me like somebody just seems to have got the bright idea of finding – probably via internet, though possibly in books, maybe both – a bunch of Latin clichés and proverbs and snatches of poetry all loosely organized around real fuzzy ideas about things like valor, death, the brevity of life, and the diachronic koinonia effectuated by tradition (i.e., memory), and just stringing them together.  For the fun of it, I've gone and looked up where all this stuff has come from.  [Yes, you're right: way too much time on my hands]

Fortes et liber [correctly: Fortis et liber]
"Strong and free"
on the coat of arms of the province of Alberta

This would appear to be a Latin translation of a line in "O Canada" – "The True North strong and free" – i.e., a relatively recent cliché.
In infinitum
"into infinity (forever)"
very popular on the internet, and in the past with mathematicians and philosophers, e.g., Fermat's Last Theorem: Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet.
Caeli enarrant gloriam amor [correctly: Caeli enarrant gloriam amoris]
"The heavens make manifest the glory of love."
a modified version of Psalms 18.2 caeli enarrant gloriam Dei [The heavens shew forth the glory of God]

Inter spem et metum
"between hope and fear"
This is another one plastered all over the internet, but already probably a cliche in antiquity, and often with some form of fluctuari.  From Livy: (Ab Urbe Condita, 42, 59, 8) fluctuante rege inter spem metumque tantae rei conandae; from Suetonius (Claudius, 4) ne semper inter spem et metum fluctuemur
In vinculis, etiam audax
"courageous even in bondage" [note that I am reading etiam as sort of a transferred epithet; it could also be "in bondage, still bold"]
I can't find an ancient source for this anywhere (Perseus, OLD, L&S). There are however a couple hundred repetitions of it on the internet.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
"It is a sweet and fitting thing to die for one's native land."
Horace, Ode 3.2, line 13
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:
mors et fugacem persequitur uirum
     nec parcit inbellis iuuentae
     poplitibus timidoue tergo
You could have a look at Wilfred Owen's poem commenting on this idea.
Qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum
"Let him who longs for peace prepare for war."
from Book 3 of the De Re Militari of Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus (ca. 4th or 5th century A.D.).  The immediate context is thus: Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum; qui victoriam cupit, milites inbuat diligenter; qui secundos optat eventus, dimicet arte, non casu. Nemo prouocare, nemo audet offendere quem intellegit superiorem esse, si pugnet. The Latin Library has a copy.  Of course this shows up on the internet a bit more frequently paraphrased as Si vis pacem, para bellum. E.g., Niall Ferguson quoted that version in an article in Newsweek (the Daily Beast) in November. Wiki article here.
Homo vitae, commodatus non donatus est
"Man is lent, not given, to life."
One of Publilius Syrus' nuggets. Odd little thing, since you'd think it'd be the other way around: vita homini commodata non donata est.  See Personal and Literary Letters of Robert, First Earl of Lytton, p. 225: "I have purchased a cheap edition of Publius [sic] Syrus and am now reading him for the first time.  Some of his sentences are excellent.  This amongst others (the wisdom of which I am now – having left behind me all I love best out of my migratory home – in a mood to appreciate): 'Homo vitae commodatus non donatus est' (man is lent not given to life).  Is not this finer and truer than the common way of putting it from our pulpits, that "life is lent not given to man"? Text of Publilius is at the Latin Library.

Esto perpetua
"Let it be everlasting"

Motto of the state of Idaho:
"Let her. . ." might be more grammatically correct, since perpetua (with the singular esto) can only be feminine, but the neuter pronoun would not necessarily be wrong in English assuming the nominal reference is to an entity feminine in Latin but neuter in English.
Honor virutis preamium [correctly: honor virtutis praemium – though it is interesting that the orthographically damaged version turns up fifty thousand hits or so in a quoted search string on Google]
"Honor is the reward of virtue"
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 8, Chapter 14, section 2 ("At all events it seems that each party is justified in his claim, and that each should get more out of the friendship than the other -- not more of the same thing, however, but the superior more honour and the inferior more gain; for honour is the prize of virtue and of beneficence, while gain is the assistance required by inferiority.") Discussed by St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae, prima pars secundae partis quaestio II, articulus II (Sed honor maxime videtur esse id quod est virtutis praemium, ut philosophus dicit in IV Ethic. Ergo in honore maxime consistit beatitudo.) Caveat: a reading of articulus II in full is necessary to an appreciation of the theologian's entire thinking about the maxim.
Nil homini certum est
"There is no such thing as certainty for humankind." Ovid, Tristia, 5.5.27:
Nil homini certum est. Fieri quis posse putaret,
     ut facerem in mediis haec ego sacra Getis?
Eram quod es, eris quod sum
"I was what you are; you will be what I am." Believed to be a common funerary inscription and probably was.  The Latin Library page on Epitaphs has a couple similar:

 B 799
Vos qui transitis, nostri memores rogo sitis:
q[uo]d sumus, h[o]c eritis, fuimus quandoque q[uo]d estis.

 CIL 11.6243
Viator, viator!
Quod tu es, ego fui; quod nunc sum, et tu eris

The thought shows up in a poem in elegiac couplets quoted by Petrus Alfonsus in his Disciplina Clericalis, under the heading XXXII. Exemplum de philosopho per cimiterium transeunte, from which I excerpt the first four lines:
Tu prope qui transis nec dicis: aveto! resiste,
Auribus et cordis haec mea dicta tene:
Sum quod eris; quod es, ipse fui, derisor amarae
Mortis, dum licuit pace iuvante frui.
According to Google the authors of some 20,000 webpages attribute the form used in the song to Horace. It is not, however, in any of his extant writings.

Memoria in aeterna
"in everlasting remembrance" – pretty obvious really.  Jerome used it in Liber Psalmorum Iuxta LXX, Psalmus 111.7: In memoria aeterna erit iustus, ab auditione mala non timebit. In the Iuxta Hebraeos version he used sempiterna instead of aeterna.
Pulvis et umbra sumus
"We are dust and shadow"
Horace, Ode 4.7:
Damna tamen celeres reparant caelestia lunae:
     nos ubi decidimus
quo pater Aeneas, quo diues Tullus et Ancus,
     puluis et umbra sumus.
this is just "reborn" – in classical times it applied mostly to using materials over again.  For later usage see Prudentius, Cathemerina 3, 201-5:
spes eadem mea membra manet,
quae redolentia funereo
iussa quiescere sarcophago,
dux parili redivivus humo
ignea Christus ad astra vocat
Note that if it is to agree with the subject of sumus it should be redivivi

Incedium [correctly incendium]
this is just "fire" i.e., "passion"
ex amino [correctly: ex animo]
simply "from the heart/soul/spirit" – so common as to be in Merriam-Webster.  Curiously it was adopted as a name in 2000 by some Ukrainian heavy metal or Goth kind of band
finis coronat noster opus
"Our end crowns the work."
Where the noster came from is anybody's guess [fortuitously it can agree in case, number and gender with finis, so grammatically this is okay, even though one suspects the author's intention was agreement with opus, in which case the form would need to be nostrum] but this expression has been around a long time.  There is a lovely little exegesis in something called "Notes & Queries" [4th S. IX March 9, '72]: "I suspect that we have the earliest trace of this idea in Ovid (Heroid. ii. 85), though the words are not the same.  Ovid says, 'Exitus acta probat.' I can go to a somewhat earlier date than Lehman (1630), whom Mr. Tiedeman quotes, and of whose work in two volumes I possess the second edition 1640, published at Frankfort.  In "Thesaurus Proverbialium Sententiarum uberrimus, etc. per Joannem Buchlerum à Gladbach, Scholae Wicradinae Moderatorem, edition tertia, Coloniae, apud Bernardum Gualtheri, 1613, " I find this proverbial expression; but Buchler does not, any more than Lehman, tell us where he found it.  He says, however in his preface, that when he did not find a Latin proverb suitable to translate a modern proverb, he did his best to present it in a Latin dress. . . His work is full of Latin proverbs, which he occasionally refers to some classical source; but opposite to many of them he uses the word "vulgo," by which I imagine that he intends us to understand that it is of modern date, though in a Latin form, which he has himself given to it. Opposite to 'Finis coronat opus – Res indicabit – Non statim finis apparet,' we have 'vulgo.'. . ."
In memoriam
"in memory of"  - also so common as to be in Merriam-Webster
in excelsius [correctly in excelsis]
"in the highest"
part of the first set of phrases in the Greater Doxology: Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis, from Luke 2.14 (where Jerome has translated the Greek ὑψίστοις as altissimis, which is of course roughly synonymous with excelsis) – it is noteworthy in kind of a depressing way that the misspelling in excelsius has been put on tens of thousands of webpages
pax vobiscum
"peace be with you"
now a standard liturgical formula with scriptural provenance: Luke 24.36: Dum haec autem loquuntur, ipse stetit in medio eorum et dicit eis: “Pax vobis!”  This expression of course makes use of the dative case instead of the ablative with cum.  For both expressions one supplies an implied optative or hortatory subjunctive sit.
Pax et bonnum  [correctly bonum]
"Peace and goodness"
in addition to being a traditional Franciscan salutation and valediction, it is also a rentable house at Duck on the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

Is this poetry, at least in the basic sense of having rhythm or meter?  You can detect a loose mix of trochees and iambs, particularly if you ignore or know nothing about Latin quantitative meters or the rules governing the placement of the normal stress accent.  Is it any kind of literature?  Well, there's nothing original about it, and there doesn't seem to be much structure to the way the various bits are assembled, but maybe it can be likened to what Guy Davenport has termed "resonant quotation" in his discussion of the tendencies of some modernist writers to copy things [see his essay Style as Protagonist in Donald Barthelme in The Hunter Gracchus, (Counterpoint, 1997), p. 109: "resonant quotation belongs to modernism as one of its major devices" and compare this passage in The Waste Land (ll. 196-202):
But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the Spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter
They wash their feet in soda water
Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole.
in which Eliot has borrowed lines from Andrew Marvel, John Day, Thurland Chattaway, a bawdy Australian ballad, and Paul Verlaine [see Davenport, op. cit. p. 79], and we are left wondering (at least I am) what the coy mistress has to do with Actaeon, and how he turned into Sweeney, and why Sweeney/Actaeon is looking for a prostitute and how the chaste Diana could turn into one of those, and how she could have a daughter, and when was soda water invented, and what Parsifal and his holy grail, for whom presumably the children's choir is singing, have to do with all this, and where are the hounds.]  Actually, now that I've written that, it occurs to me that the structure of In Memoriam, haphazard and amorphous as it is, may make about as much sense as this bit of Eliot's famous poem does.  Does In Memoriam say anything important? Not really. Certainly nothing that hasn't been said thousands of times before, except maybe in putting all kinds of incongruous things together in one song.  It's kind of clever in a way to have Idaho's state motto and part of the Canadian national anthem right up there next to or near one of Horace's or Ovid's famous lines, but perhaps just a tad theologically confusing to be told pulvis et umbra sumus redivivus as if we're not quite sure whether we're pagans or Christians (let alone whether we are singular or plural).

Anyway, when the ear buds are in, and the rhythms and chords and melodic lines are roiling around together like celestial surf in my head while I'm pedaling my TCR-1 along quiet country roads, I like this music, whether or not the lyrics are lousy Latin or lame poetry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very thorough and love the citations.