At 4:00 pm -0400 13/6/01, Douglas Koller, Latin & French wrote:
>(Side note: my dictionary says that "dirae" on its own can mean "the

Quite right.

>so instead of "of the fearsome sisters", could one interpret
>it as apposition and translate: "of the sisters, the Furies"? Or does
>apposition have be right next to what it's apposing?)

Interesting idea.  In verse almost anything's possible, and Vergil pushed
the language to its limits.

One might argue that the last vowel of _dirarum_ is elided so that
_sororum_ takes the full genitive plural ending, therefore it is likely to
be the noun with _dirarum_ unsure till the noun fixes the case.  But,
though this is often so with elided endings, this case ending has enough of
left to be absolutely certain; _dirar'_ couldn't be anything other than
gen. plural.

_adsum Dirar'ab sede_ is complete in itself: "I am here from the abode of
the Furies."  Moreover, it is noteworthy, surely, that as early as the 4th
foot in the line the verse beat (ictus) coincides with word stress, thus:

                 |3rd foot| 4th f.  | 5th f.
verse ictus:      /        /         /
              ad-|sum di: |ra: r'ab |se: de.....
word stress:  /            /         /

Indeed, in this line we find counterpoint between verse ictus & (prose)
word stress only in the 2nd and 3rd feat and, as I said in my earlier
email, the caesura comes unusually early in the middle of the 2nd foot.
Vergil was not an incompetent poet; he surely knew exactly what he was
doing here.

Also, remembering that ancient verse was composed to be _heard_ (not many
written books about at that time), then surely Douglas makes a very valid
point here.  Those hearing the words read aloud (which was the usual way to
encounter verse) would understand already by the 5th foot what Alecto was
saying; and that fact that she is one of the Furies is hammered home, so to
speak, by the coincidence of verse ictus and word stress on _Dirarum_.

So the _sororum_ at the end is redundant?

In that we do not need it to complete any uncertain meaning, yes.  But
remember that Turnus has just mocked her for being a senile old woman who's
going a bit batty; he tells her to get back to her temple and images and
leave the business of war to _men_ (uiri - adult [and capable] males).  She
is surely adding the 100% feminine _sororum_ in its significant position at
the end of the line as a counter to Turnus' _uiri_.

But we mustn't lose sight that _dirus_ carries the meanings of _fear
provoking, causing awe_ etc. So Vergil's packing a whole lot of meaning
into: dirarum.....sororum; and that's what makes well written verse in any
language so darn difficult to translate.  If you try to get every nuance
across, the translation becomes over-long and loses the punch of the
original. One has to, I guess, concentrate on what one thinks are the
really essential bits of meaning and get something something just as punchy
- not easy.

But now that Douglas has raised that interesting point, I've looked at the
whole line more carefully; I mark the verse ictus & 'natural' word stress,
as well as the caesura (break, or pause, which normally came in the middle
of the 3rd or 4th foot):
      | 1st foot   | 2nd foot | 3rd ft.| 4th ft. | 5th ft.  | 6th ft
ictus:  /            /         /        /         /          /
       re spi c'ad |haec * ad |sum di: |ra: r'ab |se: de so |ro: rum
stress: /            /      /           /         /          /

Look at the piling up of emphasis on _haec_.  Alecto now appears in all her
terrible divinity - "You thought I was just a stupid old woman; just take a
look at *THIS*!"

And the verse beat on _adsum_ falls on _sum_, she is downgrading the prefix
- obviously she's there! - and throwing the main meaning back onto _sum_ :
"I AM of the Furies....."

So what of that second, half line?  I have wondered why Vergil uses
_letumque_ here and not _mortemque_, since both scan equally well.  I guess
that as well as its being an archaic word (therefore befitting an ageless
divinity) it picks the /l/ sound of _bella_ and links the two together more
closely than _mortem_ would.  _gero_ at then is interesting; as well as
meaning "I carry, I bear", it was also used of clothing to mean "I wear" -
"I'm wearing on my hand....."; but the phrase _bellum gerere_ was, as every
schoolkid knows, an idiom meaning "to wage war".  So the simple verb Vergil
chooses to break the line with has several layers of meaning.
      | 1st foot | 2nd ft.| 3rd ft.   | 4th
ictus:  /         /        /           /
       bel la ma |nu: le: |tum que ge |ro: *
stress: /      /           /        /

The line breaks off at the caesura, with the counterpoint between word
stress and verse rhythm.  She's made her point; why say more?

Actually, to come clean, there is much controversy over Vergil's half
lines.  Some hold that they were a brilliant innovation of Vergil's and
others hold that they were just temporary expedients that Vergil intended
to do something about in his final revision.  If they were all as effective
as this one, I might side with those who see them as an innovation; but in
my mind I'm quite certain that had Vergil lived to finish the Aeneid as he
intended to do, these half lines would no longer be there.  That the Aeneid
is such a brilliant work even though its author never lived to complete it
as he wished (he actually requested it to be destroyed because he was not
able to revise & complete it) says much for Vergil's talent.

Anyway, get the full force of Vergil's line & half across in verse in your
Conlang - there's the challenge  :)


A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
                   [J.G. Hamann 1760]