Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For the Love of Latin

My Monday poetry stretch participants (Hi Julie! Hi Jane!) have kept me thinking and writing since I posted the challenge to write macaronic verse. Here's my contribution.
For the Love of Latin

We enter the room and silently take our seats.
“Good morning, class!”
“Salve magistra.”
“Quid agis?”
We raise our hands to respond.
Here I am Ceres, goddess of agriculture.
There are several Venuses, but I did not believe
myself deserving of such a name.
I wanted wisdom, but Minerva was taken
before Mrs. Shillington got to the S’s.
“Ceres, quid agis?”
I reach for a word other than very well,
but how do you say lousy in Latin?
“Bene, Magistra.”
She turns to the weather.
“Quinem es tempestas hodie?”
This daily ritual is a finely rehearsed play,
performed each day
for a language no longer spoken.

We open our books to translate.
I despise Virgil. He’s fine in English,
but getting there is no picnic.
“Arma virumque cano,”
I sing of arms and a man . . .
For years I have endured this. Why am I here?
Sometimes I forget, but in science class I remember.
I am reminded again when I beat my mother at Scrabble,
and the day I take the SAT.
I love words, their meaning and origins,
the way they feel on my tongue and sound in my ears.
Four years spent studying a long dead language
that invariably lives on.
Veni! Vidi! Vici!
Well, perhaps not Virgil, but high school.
I hope you're thinking about this challenge and writing some macaronic verse of your own. I'll be posting all the results here later this week.


  1. Wow--does that bring back memories. My Latin teacher greetedd us with "Ave discipili" And we would answer, "Ave Magistra." (Not sure of that spelling.) And when we wanted a hall pass to go to the bathroom, she would say "Tibi licet." (Again, brain--meet spelling.)

    Love the last line.


  2. Ohhhh, Tricia. How jealous I am that you had Latin offered. And what a fun poem!!

    Latin vincit. Or something like that.

  3. I wish my grandmother were alive to read this. She loved Latin. I wish I knew more about the language. Am working on a piece for Friday.

  4. Tricia,

    I had four years of Latin (required) in high school. I didn't appreciate it then--but I did as I grew older.

    I, too, fell in love with words, their meanings, the way they feel on my tongue. How could one write poetry and not be so disposed?

    I've had little energy to partcipate in your poetry stretchess in recent weeks--the result of fighting two respiratory infections. But I'm feeling better now and am working on a macaronic verse with some "made up" words. Hope it turns out okay.

  5. I have always regretted that I did not study Latin. My daughter thinks she might take it up in college. Is it possible to self teach? Are there any good resources online? I will have to look.