Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Latin Question

From 8th grade through college I took nine years of Latin and four of Greek, so even though that time is fast receding into the past, I generally consider myself up to figuring out Church Latin pretty well, with the occasional help of my Collins Gem pocket dictionary. (For such a tiny thing, the Collins Gem is pretty much the most useful dictionary you can have short of Lewis & Short. It looks a little silly sitting next to Allen and Greenough's Latin Grammar, but it's worth every penny of the 6.95 it costs you.)

However, as MrsDarwin was prepping the introit for next Sunday the other night, I found myself confronted by several difficulties. The introit is: Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes: et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suae, in laetitia cordis vestri.

The first thing that struck me as a bit odd was the veniet ad salvandas gentes construction. "ad" normally carries a meaning of "to or for", but using a verbal adjective "salvandas" seemed a bit odd. By the details of verbal clauses are one of those things that's probably fading in my memory, so although I wasn't sure that this was a very classical construction, I had a rough idea of what it was saying. Literally it would be something like "come for saving the peoples". The translation of the gradual gives "come to save all nations".

Am I right that that's a bit odd, or am I just forgetting stuff?

However, when we come to the second half of the sentence we really go crazy on the verbal clauses. "et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suae, in laetitia cordis vestri." Conjunction, subject and verb are all pretty easy: et Dominus faciet -- and the Lord makes/does.

"vocis suae" clearly go together as singular genitives -- "of his (reflexive referring back to Dominus) voice"

"auditam" could be a future subjunctive first person "I shall hear" or it could be the feminine singular accusative of the verbal auditus, -a, -um. I'm taking it to be the latter, since we're about to run into a second person pronoun in the next bit, and so throwing in the first person seemed very strange. Thus, auditam goes with gloriam and is something like "hearing the glory of his voice". This would fit in with faciet, which can take a verbal clause as something that an agent allows or ordains.

However, we have complications, because next we get "in laetitia cordis vestri." which is pretty simply "in the joy of our heart".

Please tell me this is at least a bit odd? Or have I simply lost my classical mind?

The best I can come up with is something like "The Lord makes your hearts rejoice, with the glorious sound of his voice", but that's working completely at gut level and invoking the principle that "facio" can mean just about anything.

UPDATE: American Pheonix put up a post specifically to answer this, and cites the relevant Wheelock.


Rob F. said...

Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes: et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suae, in laetitia cordis vestri.

"Ad salvandas gentes" means, as you say, to save the gentiles. It is quite common for a gerundive phrase to be governed by "ad" to imply a purpose. I do not think it is odd.

"Auditam" is a participle that modifies "gloriam". "Dominus faciet auditam gloriam vocis suae" means that the Lord will make heard the glory of his voice.

"Populus" is a slightly irregular noun. It is quite common for its vocative to be "populus" rather than "popule". In this respect it can be similar to "Deus" or "Agnus".

O people of Sion, behold the Lord will come to save the gentiles: thus the Lord shall make heard the glory of his voice in the joy of your heart.

Darwin said...

It is quite common for a gerundive phrase to be governed by "ad" to imply a purpose. I do not think it is odd.

Hmmm. Okay. Memory lapse on my part then, that's for sure. I'd done a quick check through Wheelock and Allen & Greenough for uses of ad with verbal clauses, but this must have been too basic to show up in the index, or I missed it.

I suppose that it makes sense that seven years of (until recently complete) disuse would undo most of what one can learn in nine years, but it's a depressing thought. What I really need to do, I guess, is make the time to power through Wheelock straight through again. After this long a lapse I'm sure it's needed.

jnewl said...

I haven't looked at Wheelock in twenty years, so I'm even more out of practice than you, but my first inclination was to translate "ad salvandas" as "for the saving of." I know there's no genitive to be found there, but if the literal translation is "to/for the saving the gentiles," then to make sense of it in English would seem to require the insertion of an "of." Then you end up with "unto (or for) the saving of the gentiles."

Probably not a technically correct approach, but it got the job done :)

American Phoenix said...

See my answer to this question: Ad Salvandas Gentes!

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I only did three years of high school Latin... enough to translate some of Caesar etc at the time... but your problem is well beyond me. However, I was able to work out some genealogy more recently from a microfilm of a parish register written in Latin (for a parish in Ticino in the south of Switzerland) and thereby make my contribution to our family genealogy ;-)

Rob F. said...


It is almost always permitted to translate a participial phrase with an abstract noun + of + the subject or object of the participle. The classic example is "Caesar occisus terruit cives", the murder of Caesar terrified the citizens.

On the other hand, the classic counter-example is "Caesar occisus cecidet humum". It does not mean, "the murder of Caesar fell to the ground", but rather, "Caesar, having been murdered, fell to the ground".

"Ad salvandas gentes" is in the middle ground, it could be translated either way. Literally it means "for the gentiles, who should be saved". But it could just as well be translated as, "for the salvation of the gentiles".

In this case there a third wrinkle, as american phoenix pointed out. Gerundive phrases are not just like other participial phrases, they are also commonly used as substitutes for the gerund: "ad salvandum gentes", to save the gentiles. Classicists consider the unnecessary use of a gerund to be bas clas, so the gerundive is very often used "ad substituendum gerundium".

Rob F. said...

Oops, "ad substituendum gerundio", I meant to say.