June 30, 2007

Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae

In English: There is no great talent without an admixture of madness.

I thought I would follow-up yesterday's proverb about the iactura famae with another proverb featuring a Latin -ura noun. So in today's proverb, there is mixtura dementiae, some madness mixed in!

You can find the saying cited in Seneca's De Tranquilitate Animi, "On the Tranquility of the Mind." He also cites a kindred saying: aliquando et insanire iucundum est, "sometimes it is a pleasure to also go crazy." In particular, you have to be delirious to write poetry: frustra poeticas fores compos sui pepulit, "in vain did the sane mind knock on the doors of poetry." (And recall that Seneca was not just the author of philosophical treatises, such as this one, but also tragic dramas written in verse!) You can find an English translation of this essay online at Stoics.com if you are interested in learning more.

My main reason for choosing this proverb, however, was not so much the sentiment behind it (which I do agree with!), but rather the lovely word mixtura. The Latin nouns formed with -ura are some of my favorites, and they give us the words that end in -ure in English. So Latin mixtura gives us mixture, coniectura gives us conjecture, etc. You can see the hundreds of English words that end in -ure by using OneLook.com, and most of them come from Latin. You can also see Latin words that end in -ura using Perseus (if this is one of the rare days on which Perseus is actually working...).

Basically, if you have a perfect passive participle stem, such as mixt-us, you can expect to find a verbal noun formed with -ura, like mixtura in today's proverb.

So, enjoy the "ura" as you listen to today's proverb read out loud:

151. Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae.

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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