January 26, 2007

Duris dura franguntur.

In English: Hard things are broken by hard things.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to the other proverbs based on the passive voice which I've posted over the past few days. This saying is basically the Latin equivalent of "fight fire with fire." In this case, if you have something hard to crack, you better have a hard tool to do the job.

A variant form of this saying, in Petrarch, is Dura duris efficacius leniuntur, "Hard things, by means of hard things, are more effectively softened." Although Petrarch is definitely far better known today for his works composed in Italian, he also wrote a large body of work in Latin, which you can read online. This saying is found in a tract called De remediis utriusque fortune, "On the remedies for both good and bad fortune." It is a conversation with these allegorical speakers: Dolor, "Pain," Gaudium, "Joy," Ratio, "Reason," and Spes, "Hope." They discuss a wide range of topics, including a section entitled De Duritie Paterna, "On What To Do When Your Father is Difficult." Not surprisingly, the dura duris strategy is one of the pieces of advice that is given!

Dolor explains, Patior durum patrem, "I suffer from a hard father." Ratio replies, Quid si durus est filius? Dura duris efficacius leniuntur, et sepe medici mollioris deformior est cicatrix. "What then if the son is hard? Hard things by means of hard things are more effectively softened, while it is often the case the scar of a soft doctor is more disfiguring."

Dolor doesn't take any comfort form this, and says again: Patrem durum habeo, "I have a hard father." Ratio responds, Si pater verus est, diligit, et si diligit non que mulceant, sed que prosint cogitat, "If the father is a true father, he is a loving father, and if he is a loving father, he is thinking not which things are softening, but things which are uplifting."

But poor Dolor is not consoled: Durissimus pater est michi, "My father is really really hard on me."

So, hoping that it might be of some help to poor Dolor in trying to understand his father's "tough love" strategy, here is today's proverb read out loud:

3032. Duris dura franguntur.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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