I wish I had found this poem a week ago...
(Poem #499) Lay of Ancient Rome
Oh, the Roman was a rogue, He erat was, you bettum; He ran his automobilis And smoked his cigarettum; He wore a diamond studibus And elegant cravattum, A maxima cum laude shirt, And a stylish hattum! He loved the luscious hic-haec-hoc, And bet on games and equi; At times he won, at others, though, He got it in the necqui; He winked (quo usque tandem?) At puellas on the Forum, And sometimes even made Those goo-goo oculorum! He frequently was seen At combats gladiatorial, And ate enough to feed Ten boarders at Memorial; He often went on sprees And said, on starting homus, "Hic labor --- opus est, Oh, where's my hic--hic--domus?" Although he lived in Rome -- Of all the arts the middle -- He was (excuse the phrase) A horrid individ'l; Ah! what a diff'rent thing Was the homo (dative, hominy) Of far-away B.C. From us of Anno Domini.
"Quiquid latine dictum sit altum viditur" - whatever is said in Latin sounds profound <grin>. Well, not always, as today's poem makes clear. A neat little follow-up to Martin's theme of last week: patchy in parts, but very entertaining in sum. thomas. [Notes] Bettum, automobilis, cigarettum, studibus, cravattum, hattum, necqui, homus - are all pseudo-Latin, as is the word 'pseudo-Latin' itself. (self-reference, anyone?). "erat" - a pun on 'a rat'. "maxima cum laude" - with the maximum distinction (compare 'magna cum laude', with great distinction, and 'summa cum laude', with the highest distinction). Used usually in the context of graduation. Note the pun on 'laundered'. "hic-haec-hoc" - a reminiscence of grammar exercises while studying Latin cases, but also a clever pun on (drunken) hiccoughs and hock (slang for cheap liquor). "equi" - horses. "domus" - unlike 'homus' above, 'domus' actually does mean 'home'. "puellas" - wenches. "forum" - 'the marketplace or public place of an ancient Roman city forming the center of judicial and public business' [Merriam-Webster]. The modern meaning derives from this. "oculorum" - eye "quo usque tandem?" - the opening phrase from Cicero's first oration to Catiline. The full sentence is, "Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?" - "How long, oh Catiline, will you abuse our patience?". The entirety is a masterpiece of rhetoric - not for nothing is Cicero considered the greatest orator of all time. O tempora, o mores! "Hic labor --- opus est" - a take on Virgil, the Aeneid, book VI, where the Sybil tells Aeneas: "Facilis descensus Averno; noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis; sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras, hoc opus, hic labor est. In Robert Fitzgerald's beautiful translation, "The way downward is easy from Avernus. Black Dis's door stands open night and day. But to retrace your steps to heaven's air, There is the trouble, there is the toil." Avernus is 'the burning lake', and Dis is another name for Pluto, God of the Underworld. The phrase also appears in Ovid. "homo" - short for Homo sapiens - Man, the Wise (!). "(dative, hominy)" - Latin words change their form based on their case; schoolchildren studying Latin therefore have to memorize various inflections and declensions, such as dative, possessive, ablative and so on... needless to say, 'hominy' has nothing to do with 'homo'; instead, it means "kernels of corn that have been soaked in a caustic solution (as of lye) and then washed to remove the hulls" [Merriam-Webster], as in 'hominy grits'. "Anno Domini" - literally, the Year of Our Lord; colloquially used to refer to 'modern times'. [Moreover] Thomas Ybarra's only other claim to fame (insofar as Google is concerned) is that he was the originator of the following aphorism: "A Christian is a man who feels repentance on Sunday for what he did on Saturday and is going to do on Monday". [Administrivia and Gloatitude] You may have noticed that advertisements have started to pop up at the beginning of each Minstrels email. This is not our doing; it's just that the powers-that-be at eGroups decided it would be a nice change. Needlees to say, we disagree, and are looking into ways of getting rid of the 'service'. With any luck the issue will be resolved in a day or two. On a happier note, you may also have noticed that today is our 500th poem - yup, five hundred. That's quite a milestone, wouldn't you say? The good thing is, it's still every bit as much fun sending out Minstrels emails today as it was a year and a half ago, and we have no plans to stop any time in the near future. Besides, there are still so many wonderful poems that we have yet to cover... watch this space!