Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More humor from A.E. Housman

From the indispensable Laudator Temporis Acti, a glimpse at A.E. Housman's silly side:

The Latin author Lucan
When bitten by a toucan,
Exclaimed in anguish "O!
That bird must have been frantic
To cross the broad Atlantic
From distant Mexico,
And come to ancient Rome,
And bite me in my home,
And make me cry in anguish
And in the Latin language

- A.E. Housman, Miscellaneous Verses, Chiefly Educational

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Polyphonic Virgil

This is a first for my blog: a CD review. I want to tell any of my readers who love poetry, Classics, or choral music that Rome's Golden Poets is a fantastic recording! Also: if anyone was put off by the king's ransom that Bolchazy-Carducci is asking for it, know that you can write directly to the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus and get it for $18. My copy got to me really fast.

The composers are Flemish, Italian, French, German, Brazilian, Hungarian, Czech, American. Dates of composition range from the 16th to the 20th century. But the Latin comes through loud and clear. The first track is a supercharged rendition of "Odi et Amo" (Catullus) by Jacob Handl (1550-1591), full of freshness and passion. Next there is a setting of "Lugete O Veneres Cupidinesque" by Gian-Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973), in which every nuance of this short, perfect poem about a girlfriend's dead sparrow is carefully brought out. There are three versions of the same passage from the Aeneid, all mournfully sacral in their treatment of Dido's grief and regret. There is a 1974 setting of a passage from the Fourth Eclogue, impressive with packed chords and intelligently placed discords. But the lion's share of the poetry on this CD belongs to Horace: "O fons Bandusiae," "Felices ter," "Nunc est bibendum," "Iam satis terris," and many others. Of all these, I thought that "Iam satis terris" was especially lovely. The American Randall Thompson does beautiful things with "O fons Bandusiae": you can just feel the burning sun at "atrox hora Caniculae," and you can positively splash around in the cascading music of "unde loquaces lymphae desiliunt tuae."

I should say that the last three tracks weren't to my taste: "Eheu fugaces" and "Tu ne quaesieris" were murky and strange, which was an especially sad fate for "Tu ne quaesieris," with its intoxicating rhythm. The last track is a Latin version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," which I found extremely quaint. Otherwise, though, this is a great recording. The music has increased my appreciation of the poems. Taken as a whole, this music is a testament to the happiness hidden in those Latin classes you took in high school. It's a glimpse at the ancient, glowing heart of Latin letters, and the warmth that writers and musicians and their audiences have taken from it through the centuries. Five stars.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My next move:

Grad school! I've been accepted to the Classics program at the University of Kentucky. Some of you already know about it, but for those who don't, I should say that it's an MA program, and that it's distinctive for its emphasis on active Latin and more recent Latin literature. Within the MA program is a series of courses where Latin, as in much of European history, is the language of instruction. This Institute for Latin Studies is the work of Terence Tunberg and Milena Minkova - if you go here, you can watch videos of them speaking fluent Latin to each other and to students. Last summer I went to a conventiculum led by Dr. Tunberg, and loved it. (Sadly, I don't think I'll be able to go this summer because of work.)

I'm really excited, because I know that I will learn how to teach Latin at UK, and I will go deeper into Latin literature than I ever thought was possible when I started learning the language.

My mom actually went to UK for library school. It's funny how life turns out!