Sunday, February 6, 2011

Frontiers of Latin Research

William James is one of the heroes of this blog.  This morning, towards the end of his great work of 1890, The Principles of Psychology, I came upon the following passage, both insightful and droll:

The cooling advice which we get from others  when the fever-fit is on us  is the most jarring and exasperating thing in life. …”Don’t speak to me of that!”  This is the sudden cry of all those who, in a passion, perceive some sobering considerations about to check them in mid-career.  “Hæc tibi erit janua leti”, we feel.

Delightful. But -- what is that Latin phrase?  A Google search was unsatisfactory (the digraph doesn’t help, nor the different ways of spelling janua).    So I turned to Dr. Valquist, the world’s premier crypto-Latinist, currently undercover in an undisclosed location, but reachable by semaphore.  He instantly replied:

The original quote is a bit fuller:

Haec rebus tibi erit pars ianua leti
This will be for things the very door of death

It's from Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, On the Nature of Things. The context is a cosmological flourish at the end of book one that seems, as far as I can tell, to touch on the conservation of matter and atoms.

Henceforward, when frustrated Jacobophiles search on the phrase, they will be whisked to this very site, a place of grace and learning.

~  Posthumous Endorsement ~
"If I were alive today, and in the mood for a mystery,
this is what I'd be reading: "
(Lucretius sum, and I approved this message.)
~         ~

[More for Latin-lovers here.]

No comments:

Post a Comment