*Poetic Translation

As my wife pointed out, it would have been more meaningful if I’d have added the translation to the latin I was studying.  My problem is that the translation loses so much, especially since a five-hundred year old version of that passage in english is perhaps the most well known prayer in Christianity, and english from five hundred years ago doesn’t really speak to the intent of the passage as well as I’d like.

The latin is taken from the Roman Catholic Common Mass.  If I were to translate it myself, it would start something like:

Father of all things, existing above and beyond in a place outside of our dimension, we hold sacred even the invocation of our feeble human attempt to describe you.  May the entirety of creation come to know unity, and a transcendence of our mortal existence through an utter and all encompassing surrender to the perfection and peace that is your intent and plan for all creations in every shard and facet of the universe.

As a child asks for food at a grand dinner table, laid out with delicious things to eat, so do we ask for that which you have already prepared for us.  The request honoring the offer to provide that you have already made to us.

We ask that you will actively and personally forgive and redeem us from the failures we have stumbled into; both failures with the holy and infinite, and failures with others here in our day-to-day experiences.  As you forgive and redeem us, so do we seek the knowledge and grace to imitate and repeat that forgiveness with others who have failed in their relationships with us.

Guide us away from those things which will cause us to fail you and others, and when we begin to go down the wrong paths and blind alleys, we ask that you would lead us back to the best roads and the safe harbors that will help us continue to improve ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world.

That about covers the first paragraph, from “Pater noster” down to “sed libera nos a malo.”

The current Missal translates that paragraph as follows:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Yes, I realize my translation is more “wordy” but there’s just so much more poetry to the actual latin (and even more so with the actual source Greek, but that’s another post for another time).

7 thoughts on “*Poetic Translation

  1. Your translation is MUCH better. It carries a lot of humble eloquence – not that the KJV one doesn’t, but to me it’s the difference between the Japanese businessman’s bow and a more elaborate thing like a tea ceremony.

    “It carries a lot of humble eloquence” is one of the finest compliments I’ve ever recieved, thank you.

  2. It might be wordier than the Latin, but your translation is much prettier than the KJV, which, is boring. You know how much I dislike boring. Besides, I think TB said it all. 😉

  3. Speaking as a high school Latin teacher, I think your translation is fantastic! You’ve really captured the specific meaning of each word and phrase and set it in English the way a master jeweler would set a perfect diamond. In my opinion, it’s beyond beautiful.

    First, thank you.

    Second, as someone who had to take Latin by correspondence for two years in high school because it wasn’t available ANYWHERE near me, I assume you teach at a private Catholic school? My grandmother taught Latin in public school, but I always assumed that went the way of the dodo well before I was born. I’m honestly shocked that there is a place left in the US (I am assuming the US, perhaps you live in Rome?) that teaches Latin to high school students.

  4. Actually, I teach at a public high school on the east coast of the USA. The abundance (or lack of abundance) of Latin in public schools really depends on where you go.

    That’s almost unbelievable…really.

    My husband and I are looking into moving to the west coast (his family lives out that way) and I am curious about what I will do for a job whenever we manage to get out there because they don’t offer any Latin in the public schools in the specific area we hope to move to.

    That’s a true statement for basically the entire west coast. And inland empire. And rocky mountain states. And desert southwest. Honestly, I have a hard time believing there’s a place where that isn’t true outside of the miraculous bubble that you live in. I hope and pray that perhaps you can help bring a latin revolution to the west, because it ain’t here right now.

    I happen to have grown up where Latin was available and (relatively) thriving in the public schools and so I started studying it there. There are also state and national Latin conventions that bring thousands Latin students and teachers together from all over the state/country. So, believe it or not, Latin is alive and growing (though it hasn’t always been).

    I really hope you understand that I’m not trying to be rude, my grandmother taught latin in a public school…in the 1930s. I personally had incredible difficulty finding latin education even in college, in high school it was only offered by private tutor at our local catholic high school. So to think that latin education in the US is on the upswing is like learning that unicorns have been captured in the wild and are now breeding in captivity. It’s fabulous, but defies belief.

    I’m not sure of your age so I can’t be sure what “Latin Era” you grew up in, but it did almost die out in all schools across the country at one point. That episode is what prompted the conventions and the academic competitions that help Latin blossom in the USA today.

    Mid-thirties (that’s age, not era TYVM) and it was definitely on life support if not already in the casket in the early 90’s. I’ll have to look into what latin clubs and competitions and whatnot are in our area and volunteer some support. I’m honestly beyond shocked that latin has any role in today’s education system.

  5. Just to completely explode your whole unicorns being bred in captivity feeling: not only am I teaching at a public high school, I am the second Latin teacher this particular public high school has hired and although I started out as part-time, I will be working full time next year. We will have a total of ten Latin classes on various levels.

    And you should check out the National Junior Classical League (njcl.org). You should be able to find your local Junior Classical League chapter through their website.

  6. Wow. Even my podunk high school offered Latin alongside Spanish and French. Those were the only 3 languages offered when I was there (they later added German, but I’m not sure that’s still being offered today – they were taking advantage of one particular polyglot teacher’s talents).

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