Speciosa misericordia Dei in tempore tribulationis, quasi nubes pluviae in tempore siccitatis. Beautiful is the mercy of God in a time of trouble, just as a cloud of rain in a time of drought. (Sirach 35:20)
One of the most common stylistic features of Latin is its use of parallel structure, so I thought I would do a series of posts in this blog focusing on verses which feature a strongly parallel structure. That is why I chose today's verse, which is from the apocryphal wisdom book sometimes called The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, The Wisdom of Ben Sirach, or simply Sirach. In Latin, it is often referred to as Ecclesiasticus - not to be confused with the canonical book of Ecclesiastes!
The verse has two distinct parts which are parallel in structure. The first part is about the mercy of God:
Speciosa (est) misericordia Dei in tempore tribulationis.The second part is about a cloud of rain:
Beautiful is the mercy of God in a time of trouble.
(Speciosa est) nubes pluviae in tempore siccitatis.The word quasi, "as if" or "like," is used to provide the explicit link between the two statements.
(Beautiful is) a cloud of rain in a time of drought.
The parallelism is reinforced by the word order and by the grammatical structures, with misericordia Dei (noun+genitive) parallel to nubes pluviae (noun+genitive), and in tempore tribulationis parallel to in tempore siccitatis.
The word speciosa, "beautiful," is not stated in the second clause, but carries over from the parallel with the first clause. It is often the case with parallel structures that words or phrases which apply to both clauses can be omitted in one of the clauses, which adds to the poetic quality of the statement. Especially when you are a beginning a Latin student, it can be a big help to write out the missing words in a parallel construction, just to make sure you see how it all fits together grammatically!
Meanwhile, as you listen to the audio, see if you can let your mind "hear" the parallelism of the two statements here: 157. Speciosa misericordia Dei in tempore tribulationis, quasi nubes pluviae in tempore siccitatis.
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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