Sunday, 17 May 2015

Gratillonius' Beloved Aeneid

Poul and Karen Anderson's character, Gratillonius, the last King of Ys, loved Virgil's Aeneid - and I also think that he disliked studying the Homeric epics because they were not Latin but incomprehensible Greek? Regular blog readers might remember that I attend a Latin class which sometimes tackles Virgil. We have just started to read excerpts from the Aeneid Chapter VI, in which Aeneas visits Orcus, the Underworld.

In Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return, Orcus is a region on the colonized planet, Aeneas, in the Virgilian system. The next planet towards Virgil is Dido which, of course, is another important name in the Aeneid. Dido was the first queen of Carthage, the city that was:

Rome's rival in the Punic Wars, consequently pivotal in Anderson's Time Patrol story, "Delenda Est;"
the power of which Ys was a colony;
an example cited both by Robert Heinlein and by Anderson's immortal character, Hanno, of an issue that had been resolved by force.

It is idle to wish that Anderson had written about Aeneas - the man, not the planet. We might as well include the Homeric epics and the Arthurian cycle as well. Everyone cannot write about everything (although why did Shakespeare not write a Robin Hood play?). I would like to be able to share some information about the Virgilian hereafter but like Aeneas himself, I am obscurus, in the darkness, and will have to decipher the opaque text before I am much wiser.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I know this is a painfully obvious point, but a native speaker and reader of Latin like Gratillonius would have little or no difficulty reading Virgil's AENEID. Or, for that matter, Rufus, the immortal Latin speaking companion of Hanno in THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS. We see him still speaking Latin in the 1800s.

Oddly enough, perhaps, I'm reminded of Pope Leo XIII (who died in 1903). He loved Latin so much and was so learned in it that he wrote much poetry in that language.

I'm also reminded of how ENGLISH will change so much that in time many works we can now read with ease would have to be translated into the succeeding forms of that language. An idea we see in Poul Anderson's A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS. That novel mentions how Dominic Flandry once read, in TRANSLATION, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "A Musical Instrument." English had changed so much, becoming Anglic, that 19th century works needed to be translated into the Anglic of the Terran Empire a thousand years from now.


Paul Shackley said...

Yes, at school we hated Caesar and Virgil although our teachers told us it was good. They understood it and we didn't. In Latin, St Augustine wrote that he and his class mates hated Greek although their teachers said it was good! Initially, he could not understand this contradiction but then realized the obvious explanation. Now, my experience of Latin is that I want to read and understand it but still find it almost impenetrable and am certainly not motivated enough to make it a full time study. Look how much more we can accomplish with a language that is virtually transparent to us, although even here I am continually googling Anderson's rich vocabulary.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Exactly, you have to KNOW a language to truly appreciate it. And it takes hard work and great effort to learn a language which was not the one one we grew up with. And I did recall how St. Augustine had trouble with Greek, for very similar reasons.

And I certainly agree with you about the rich and wide ranging vocabulary of Poul Anderson!