On the Difficulty of Poetic Language: Varro, On the Latin Language VII 1.1


“The words of poets are hard to analyze. For often sudden destruction has obscured a different meaning used in prior times or else a word has been changed from the same letters it used when some of them have been taken away and for this reason the intention of the one who used it is unclear. It isn’t necessary though to find fault with those who, in trying to understand a word, add a letter or subtract that one so that what underlies this expression may seem easier. In the same way, so that the eyes may see the unclear work of Myrmecides’ ivory, we place black material behind the sculptures.”


Difficilia sunt explicatu poetarum vocabula. Saepe enim significationem aliquam prioribus temporibus impositam repens ruina operuit, aut verbum quod conditum est e quibus litteris oportet inde post aliqua dempta, sic obscurior fit voluntas impositoris. Non reprehendendum igitur in illis qui in scrutando verbo litteram adiciunt aut demunt, quo facilius quid sub ea voce subsit videri possit: ut enim facilius obscuram operam Myrmecidis ex ebore oculi videant, extrinsecus admovent nigras setas.

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