mentem mortalia tangunt

Four years of boarding school Latin, four years of a hopeless crush on the boy with whom I was in a perennial contest for the Latin book prize. Two years he won, two years I did. He was diligent and analytical. I was not particularly diligent but I burrowed my way into noun declensions and Virgil by sheer force of will and love.

Junior year it was all Aeneas, all the time. The man was maddening. Sucking up to the gods and then getting in meaningless tiffs with them. Seducing Dido and then abandoning her for the sake of being a big shot on another continent. You couldn’t like the man or trust him, but when he said, as he did say, in plain and heartbreaking words, sunt lacrimae rerum–there are tears in things–you had to love him.

early dark
Venus et al.
wedged beneath
my breastbone

7 thoughts on “mentem mortalia tangunt

  1. love this! ” . . . you had to love him.” did u read Anne Carson’s NOX? u must, an astounding link between her rather wounded brother who dies out of sight & no word until afterwards . . . & the euology she learned in Latin high school, that she immediately loved . . . so half of the pages are her poetic dictionary of every word of that Latin eulogy. wow.

  2. Lovely… a wonderful directness and honesty inhabits your writing, like a house arranged not neatly but in just the right way to communicate its owner.

  3. I was always jealous of the girls who did Latin – top stream, brainy britches. I was just a student of French and with the second-tier teacher at that! Latin seems so austere, so high-minded. French is its rather wild offspring, and English the somewhat morose cousin who lives across the street.

    • LOL, Sandra, great personification of the languages. πŸ™‚ Over here no particular qualifications are generally needed to study Latin (if your school happens to offer it, which most of them don’t)…it’s just a personal choice and one mostly taken by those of us who are semi-lunatics to begin with. πŸ˜‰ I took French as well and probably would have liked it better if I’d had better teachers… And then I also studied Russian, which is everyone’s huge, eccentric, and slightly drunk uncle who drops by from time to time to borrow money and tell amazing stories.

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