June 26, 2007

O Cupido, quantus es!

In English: O Cupid, how great thou art!

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's saying about Cupid. Yesterday, the emphasis was on what a dangerous advisor Cupid is, urging people to reckless deeds. Today's saying simply tells us that Cupid is a powerful force, but it does not say whether it is for good or for ill. In either case, Cupid is not to be trifled with!

The saying comes from a play by Plautus, the Mercator, and it is uttered by the character Charinus, the young lover who is at the center of the play's plot. Although he faces many obstacles in his love for Pasicompsa (not least of which is that his father is also in love with her!), the power of love emboldens him, convincing him that he will succeed in his quest for love:
egomet mihi comes, calator, equos, agaso, armiger,
egomet sum mihi imperator, idem egomet mihi oboedio,
egomet mihi fero quod usust. o Cupido, quantus es.
nam tu quemvis confidentem facile tuis factis facis,
eundem ex confidente actutum diffidentem denuo.

I myself am my own companion, footman, horse, driver, and arms-bearer, I myself am my own commander, yes, I am my own boss, I myself am equipped with whatever I need. O Cupid, how great thou art! For with your actions you easily embolden whomever you want, and then again that same person you can immediately plunge from confidence into despair.
Cupid is a god, and like any superhuman power, Cupid has his ups and downs, much like the goddess Fortune, who with her wheel can lift people up or send them down into the depths.

I chose the words "how great thou art!" for the English translation on purpose, thinking of that hymn to a very different god from Cupid. The Christian hymn "How Great Thou Art" is one of the most popular hymns of the modern age. You can read a history of the original Swedish hymn, along with the English lyrics, at this informative webpage by Matthias Prospero. You can read there about how it started out as a Swedish hymn composed in the late nineteenth century, then migrated to Germany, where it was then translated from German into Russian; then, an English missionary in the Ukraine heard the song, brought it back to England, and another English missionary took it to India, whereupon an American missionary heard the song sung there and brought it back to the United States where it became a big hit with the Billy Graham revival meetings of the 1950s. That's definitely the long way from Sweden to the U.S.!

Meanwhile, hoping you are on the great god Cupid's good side these days, here is the Roman saying read out loud:

953. O Cupido, quantus es!

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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Julia Ergane said...

I really enjoy having the Latin Proverb on my blog. However, I am teaching myself Attic Greek and it would be great to have an ancient Greek Proverb of the Day as well.

Laura Gibbs said...

Hi Julie, that is a great idea! When I first got into all the web publishing, doing Greek online was pretty challenging, but now most people have some kind of Unicode font on their computer allowing the Greek to be displayed without any problem. I actually use a script like that to do Greek Bible verses at random (hundreds of them) at my Greek Bible course online:
So, you have inspired me! Next week I'll put together a Greek proverb of the day list! I've got a lovely edition of Greek proverbs by Renzo Tosi, which contains hundreds of Greek proverbs, plenty for a year of script. Super! Thanks for the suggestion!