Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Verse: Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci

In English: The harvest, indeed, is great; the workers, however, are few. (Matt. 9:37)

Following up on the previous post about the postpositive particle quidem, I have chosen a verse which also uses the particle quidem, which this time is parallel with the postpositive particle autem.

The first particle, quidem, is emphatic, calling our attention to the word immediately preceding the particle, harvest. It is something like putting it in all-caps in English: The HARVEST is great (or, if you are speaking aloud, quidem is like a stage direction telling you to raise your voice).

The autem particle is called an "adversative" particle, indicating that the new statement is going to in some way contradict or oppose what came before. That is exactly what we see happen here, where the second statement about the paucity of workers stands in contrast to the abundance of the harvest.

It is important to understand that autem is being used here as a postpositive particle, a kind of "verbal punctuation," rather than a true conjunction. Just as in English, there is an adversative conjunction in Latin: sed, "but" in English. Yet this verse does not use the word "but," sed - instead, it uses the two postpositive particles in tandem in order to create an expressive effect. In the English translation that I've provided above, I used the English "however," which also functions in a postpositive role here, and the same also with "indeed," which I have used for quidem. Using the particles in this way, I have tried to imitate something of the Latin word order.

Not surprisingly, if you look at the Greek, you will see a pair of postpositive particles there as well: ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς, οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι - although in this case, I prefer the elegance of the Latin which is able to create the parallel statements without the interference of the definite articles that you see in the Greek.

I show also note that the Latin gains in expressive density by being able to rely on implied verbs (and the same is true of the Greek, too). This is an example of what is often called the "omitted copula" in Latin. These two little sentences both have a subject (messis and operarii), and they both have a predicate (multa and pauci), but the linking verb, the form of the verb "to be" (est and sunt) can be safely omitted from each statement here in Latin, unlike English.

So, hoping you are finding workers for your harvest, whatever that might be, here is today's verse read out loud:

69. Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Vulgate Verses: 4000 Sayings from the Bible for Teachers and Students of Latin.

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