Friday, November 13, 2009

An Epigram by Martial

Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare:
hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.

There is a famous English translation of this couplet which you may recognize. It was produced ex tempore by Tom Brown, an undergraduate at Oxford in the 17th century who was such a slacker he was on the verge of being expelled. The Dean of Christ Church and Bishop of Oxford, John Fell, gave him one last chance at redemption: He challenged him to translate this epigram on the spot. Here's what Tom came up with:

I do not love thee, Dr. Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell.
But this alone I know full well,
I do not love thee, Dr. Fell.

Pretty good, hey? Tom wasn't expelled, but he dropped out later.

Here's a more literal translation, completely lacking in the charm of Tom Brown's:

I do not love you, Sabidius, nor can I say why;
I am only able to say this much, I do not love you.

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