Allen Ginsberg and Tom Schwartz on John Milton – 5

“Priscian, or the Grammarian”  (the Latin teacher) – marble cameo panel (dated 1437-1439), from the bell tower of Florence, Italy. – Luca della Robbia – Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

Allen Ginsberg and Tom Schwartz on John Milton’s poetry continues 

AG: So, the other thing is, do you know anything about the syntax?  the Latin, the effect of Latin on his (Milton’s) syntax?

TS: No not really, except for a (quality) of many of these versions.

AG: Well, do you know Latin at all?

TS: No.

AG: Has anybody studied Latin? – Could you explain Latin? ..oh – {to two students] – you’re both seminarians… ok, could you, and then you..  What we need is, now.. is a presentation, of how is Latin syntax different from American syntax? You know, where they have inversions?  Do you know about that?      Would you start from that

TS: Well, the verbs are heavily conjugated and the nouns…

AG: What’s “conjugated” mean?

TS: And the one verb that contains all the auxilaries – “He should have gone” – one word –  and nouns…

AG: The verb changes its form, slightly, to have the different – “should have gone”, “would have gone”,  “had gone”…

TS: The tense..the person..

AG: Okay, now can you you give us an example?

TS:  “I Love” – Amo . “I loved”Amavi  – “He loved”..  god knows, who remembers it, but you can explain even complex .. like,  “If he should have loved” – all in one word

AG: Amarabit? or something?.

TS; …(In). the conjugation.  (And) all the adjectives and nouns have endings depending on their case, (some are accusative, dative, indirect object..)  The result of that is…

AG: It’ s called “inflected”, right? – That’s called “inflected”, meaning that, attached to the verb is a little suffix, thing at the end of the verb, a little part.  that says whether it belongs to “he”, “she”  or “it”,  “we”, “you”,  or “they”,  and also indicates whether it’s past tense or future tense, or past participle, or any of the other tenses. That’s called an “inflected language“. In English, it doesn’t happen. In English we have “I have had..” – “Mine eyes have seen”, or “I have had”, “I could have had, “I could have seen it” – “could have” are added in as extra words, but where they’re built in, words with extra little syllables at the end of the word in Latin

Student: In Latin there are no personal pronouns?

AG: Yes but the verb must agree with pronouns. Is that in German too?  German is also inflected. French is also inflected. So you know what it is, from French, German –  some Italian, some Spanish. Because, the Latin languages are the Romance languages that come out of Latin anyway.  Yeah..

TS:  And the result of that is that you have a whole lot of freedom of word order because . the relationships between subject and object  – The man bite (the) dog – you make the (word order) any way you want to (to make the) emphasis in Latin, without being constrained by word order, which you are in English.

AG:  Why is that? Because?

TS: The ending of the.word shows you exactly what the realtionship is to the.. sentence.

AG: To the verb, to the verb.

TS: To the verb, and the noun and to the adjective as well.

AG: Well the relationship of the noun-subject tells you it’s a noun-subject, and not a noun-object?

TS: Because of the declension, we know the relationship.

AG: Yeah.  “Declension”,  meaning changing the last few letters of the verb or the noun to indicate whether it’s “he”,  “she”,  or “it”, “I” , “you” , “we”, “they”, possessive (of  him), to him.. …..Could we give some examples of..  Could you give some examples, in Latin. Because..  lets say, for a… “this book is mine”, or “this book..” – .ok – “Librum meum est”  – or you could say “Est meum librum“?

TS: Right.

AG: Est? – Pardon me?

TS: The first part of Caesar’s Gallic WarsCaesar in Agricola Italia“,,,, something like that.. Caesar waged war in..
AG: “Caesar in Agricola waged war”?
TS: Yeah but…
AG: “Caesar in Agricola bellum“?
TS:  But usually the verb is at the end of the sentence.  [bellum gerere]
AG: So the verb is at the end?

Student: Yes, well, like the first lines of the AeneidArma virumque canō, Trōiae quī prīmus ab orīs
AG: Okay –  “Arms and the man I sing”,
Student:  “Arma virumque..
AG: “Arma” – arms – ” virumque” – man and  (so man and arms, arms and man)
Student: canō 
AG: canō – I sing.   Now, in English you’d say “I sing of arms and the man”.  In Latin you’d say  “Arms and the man I sing”, or “Arms Man and Arms..Man and..””   or  “Of arms, Man and,. Sing I ”  –Canō 
Student: And the second line is great because Trōiae  (of Troy)  ab orīs”
AG: “Trōiae..” – what’s the second one?
Student: Trōiae ab orīs”
AG: Ab?
Student: Oris
AG:  “Oris?” – That’s the shore?
Student: Yeah. it’s “Trōiae quī prīmus ab orīs”- “Trōiae” refers to the shores_  referring to Aeneas (the hero) carrying his father from the shores of Troy..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-two-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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