Latin vs. Philology, Part XXIV

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 24):

“The same thing happened in Latin use in the common language that is happening now in Greek, which everyone, since they learn it from infancy, has no difficulty with when it comes to nouns, verbs, or the other parts of speech.

But Leonardo judges that illiterate people, whom he embraces with the name of Latinity, can understand the Missarum Sollemnia. Everyone understands what truth that suggests.

But I don’t think that the Missarum Sollemnia are either Latin or grammatical. I know that there is this difference between sollemnia and stata, that the grammarians wish the stata to be sacrifices which occur on certain times, but consider the sollemnia to be those which occur on specific days. But we see that those which Leonardo calls the Missas, i.e. the celebrations and consecrations of the body of Christ, occur not on certain and fixed days, but rather on individual days.

But why do Leonardo and Poggio call them ‘Missas’ to me, when no learned person in the entire Christian church from antiquity onward has named them thus? Nor could anyone consistently say that missa is a participle, which cannot stand without a substantive. For when at the end of this rite the priest says, ‘Go, it has been sent,’ one must understand it to be ‘the prayer to Christ.’ Rightly can we call that type of sacrifice, which the Greeks call liturgy (i.e. the suppliant operation or the operative prayer) the celebration or the consecration of the body of Christ. We could even call it a sacred compliance, where liturgy is written with the dipthong ei (leiturgy).

You have then, my Lorenzo, what I judge we should think both about this language of Italy which we all have on our tongues, as well as about Latin both common and literary. I don’t doubt that you, who are so powerful with your sharpness of intellect, your study, and your diligence, will come to the same conclusion.

It only remains that, since you have now been made a father, you get those nurses for your children which have sober lives respecting their characters, and speak the Tuscan dialect as beautifully as possible. For, in all of Italy, Tuscan – and especially the Florentine variety – is the most elegant and certainly the finest language.

As concerns Latinity, one should employ instructors who are both erudite and eloquent, whose speech smells of nothing but Caesar and Cicero and similar authors who were considered the most learned at that time. Nor should you think that anyone is sufficiently learned in Latin if they have neglected literature, which – if it be good – does not only improve every part of one’s Latin, but even governs and guards it.”

Image result for leonardo bruni

Idem veniebat usu latina in lingua quae vulgaris erat, quod hoc etiam tempore in graeca, quam omnes, cum a prima discant infantia, nihil habere possunt difficultatis, neque in nominibus, neque in verbis, nec in aliis orationis partibus.

Quod autem afferat Leonardus homines illetteratos, quos eosdem latinitatis nomine complectitur, evangelia intelligere Missarumque sollemnia, quam id veritatem sapiat, omnes intelligunt.

At Missarum solemnia neque latine dictum reor, nec grammatice. Scio inter sollemnia et stata hoc interesse, quod stata grammatici ea sacrificia esse volunt, quae certis fierent temporibus, at sollemnia quae certis diebus fieri consueverunt. At quas Leonardus Missas nominat, hoc est celebrationes consecrationesve corporis Christi, non certis statutisque diebus, sed singulis potius fieri videmus.

Verum quid Missas mihi Leonardus aut Poggius appellat, quas nemo unquam doctus in universa ecclesia christiana ex omni antiquitate nominavit? Nec congrue quisquam dicat: missa enim participium est, quod per sese stare sine substantivo non potest. Nam quod in fine huius consecrationis a sacerdote dicitur: “Ite, missa est”, “ad Christum oratio” intelligatur necesse est. Recte id sacrificii genus, quam Graeci litourghian vocant, idest supplicem operationem, vel precem operativam, nos corporis Christi vel celebrationem, vel consecrationem, appellemus. Possimus etiam sacrum obsequium nominare, ubi leitourghia per ei diphtongum in prima syllaba scribatur.

Habes, mi Laurenti, quid ego sentiendum censeam, cum de hac Italiae lingua quae nunc omnibus est in ore, tum de latina atque litterali. Nec ambigo tibi quoque, qui et ingenii acrimonia et studio atque diligentia plurimum vales, idem visum iri.

Reliquum est ut, quoniam pater iam factus es, eas nutrices infantibus tuis compares, quae et vita sint sobria quo ad mores, et ethrusce quam pulcherrime loquantur. Nam ex universa Italia ethruscus sermo, et maxime florentinus, elegantissimus est et optimus.

Nam, quantum ad latinitatem attinet, doctoribus est utendum et eruditis et eloquentibus, quorum oratio aliud nihil oleat praeter Caesarem et Ciceronem atque horum similes qui per idem temporis habiti sunt disertissimi. Nec quenquam latinitatis satis excultum putes, qui litteraturam neglexerit, quae bona si fuerit, non solum adiuvat omnem latinitatis rationem, sed etiam regit ac tuetur.

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