Quick Latin translation question.
May 22, 2009 6:17 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone please provide a quick translation of the following Latin: "Quid, qui emissitios nusquam non iactat ocellos? Hoc agit ut pandas mors involet atra senestras." Many thanks.
posted by washburn to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
Do you have a context?

Could senestras actually be fenestras? That might make more sense.
posted by gimonca at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2009

From my resident classicist:

Some of the words look... weird... I think some of those words are made up. I am really having trouble making sense of it.

"Pandas senestras" appears to be made up. Perhaps they're talking about pandas. Wait, maybe not... hmm... I still don't know what "senestras" are...

The second part is something like "he does it so that black death falls upon crooked [senestras]"
"emissitios" looks like it has a "sending" root, but it's not a word I can reconstruct even with a dictionary. Plus there's a double negative. "Why doesn't he cast his sent-out darlings for nothing? He does it so that black death falls on bent [senestras]"

So, gibberish basically. Might be from one of those LOREM IPSUM DOLOR things.
posted by Madamina at 8:58 AM on May 22, 2009

Ocellus appears to be a word used in biology for a simple eye or eyespot. One wonders if someone might have done a hasty dictionary lookup and chosen it for 'eye'. Emissitios ocellos could then mean 'prying eyes'.

I make no claims that this is how Cicero or Virgil or anyone would have said it, I'm just struggling with the author's possible intent.
posted by gimonca at 9:10 AM on May 22, 2009

Yes, as others have said some of the words look a bit odd. Ocellos is a form of oculus, meaning eye. Emissitios could be used in the sense of "emitting things", eg perhaps tears when paired with eyes. Non nusquam would technically be "everywhere" or "every time/always". "Senestras" is I think a form of "sinistras", ie sinister things. So that might make it something along the lines of:

Who is there who has not wept tears? This happens because black Death pounces upon crooked sinister things.

Not that this makes much more sense...
posted by greycap at 9:17 AM on May 22, 2009

My guess is that the original might have been copied over from some attempt at an old type or font, where s and f could be confused with one another. Hence 'fenestras' = windows (acc.pl.).

Greenfleeves? Rather unlikely title......for a fong.
posted by gimonca at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2009

Context, apparently.

So, yes, fenestras. And we're talking about the black death. And the lines are in dactylic hexameter, which makes them less likely to be gibberish, but only just a little.

"emissitios" is a complete mystery, and I'm nowhere near my hardcore references.

My German isn't good enough to piece the context together, but "hoc agit ut..." might be "this acts to [have black death fly through the bent window, or something]".
posted by Casuistry at 7:41 PM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry I've been so unresponsive; it's been a long day (and I've gotten a somewhat better handle on this now, I think, since the panic-rush of this morning).

I came across this this passage in a Jesuit emblem book: Veridicus Christianus, by Jan David (1601), which according to this website was based on text from an earlier catechism, as Casuistry points out.

Here's an image of the emblem in question, complete with illustration and parallel translations. Apologies for reading "f' as long s, and many thanks for the comments here.
posted by washburn at 10:40 PM on May 22, 2009

That's a wonderful engraving. Given the context I suppose the literal translation is something more like:

What always throws the eyes into emitting things? This does: the Black Death flying through bent windows.

So I suppose the sense is that having the Black Death steal into your house through open windows is something that always brings tears.
posted by greycap at 11:28 PM on May 22, 2009

Here's a link that I think discusses your engraving. Basically, it's a an abjuration against looking at things you shouldn't, using a house-like head as a metaphor. Don't look at pr0n, because it lets bad things into your head.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:43 AM on May 23, 2009

Ah, OK! It makes a bit more sense with the translations and the title and with the other verses. Very, very roughly: "What is the person who is always casting glances doing? / He's letting black Death fly in through arched windows." You know, the little semicircular windows that look like cartoon eyes. Something like that. Wandering eyes are the devil's entrance ways. I don't think it's the black death, but maybe.
posted by Casuistry at 7:49 AM on May 23, 2009

For what it's worth, the second caption appears to say close to the same thing, in Dutch/Flemish: "Wat doet hy, die syn oogh' int sien niet en bewaert? Hy heft die vensters hoogh', al waer de doot invaert", with my possible transcription errors.

Very rough guess for this: "What's he doing, that his eyes and vision [are] not guarded? He has the windows up, as though death would come in."
posted by gimonca at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2009

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