Learning Latin Inductively

It seems certain to me now that students must learn Latin grammar inductively, within the context of reading or speaking. Grammar occurs always within the flawed and fluid process of articulation, and only there does it make sense.  In math abstraction is the key to understanding.  y=2x+5 is somehow more real than the line you graph by it.  But to learn grammar is not to uncover the unifying system beneath a concrete superstructure, it is rather to make observations about an indefinite and mutable phenomenon.  Humans spoke thus, and usually in such patterns—who knows why?  Only our imagination can utter the formula.  Why would I have spoken thus?  How does my partaking in the eternal act of speech assent to the peculiar speech of the ancients?  The same goes for modern language, of course, since we are almost always merely partakers and not innovators.  The ever-changing nature of our race changed language, and so what we observe as we walk in the forests of articulation tells us about ourselves individually and communally.  No morphological forewarning spares me the strangeness of that self-discovery.  Anyhow, the point is that, in language, abstraction puts a veil over the eyes rather than enlightening them.  The student doesn’t see what is simply there in the words.  Those of us who have been here before should guide through the woods, pointing out the features of the trees and noting the patterns—but we cannot guard against encounters with the inexplicable and the bizarre.  These are the groves and hollows of speech, as they are of history.


Psalm 91 (92) Translation (Vulgate)

It is good to testify to the Lord
and to play strings to your name, God Most High!
To announce in the morning your mercy
and your truth throughout the night,
on the lovely-hearted lyre,
with a tune on the lute,

Because you have delighted me, Lord,
in what you are about to do,
and in the works of your hands
I am going to rejoice!

How highly esteemed are your works, Lord!
Much too deep are your thoughts and actions!

An insipid man does not realize
nor a fool understand this:
That when evildoers have sprung up like hay
and all have appeared who work wickedness,
just so they perish and are gone forever.

But you, Lord, are eternally God Most High.
For behold your enemies, Lord,
for behold your enemies will be lost
and all will be dispersed who work wickedness.
And my horn will be exalted like the unicorn’s
and my old age fertile with mercy.

Indeed my eye has looked down on my enemies
and my ear will hear it when the malicious are rising against me.

A righteous man will as a palm tree flourish,
as the cedars of Lebanon will he be multiplied.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
in the very courts of our God, will such men flourish.

They will go on being multiplied in fertile old age
and well they will endure so that they may announce:
For the Lord our God is upright, and there is no iniquity in him!





Psalm 92 (93) Translation (Vulgate)

(Note: I had forgotten the Vulgate Psalms don’t number like most of our Bibles’ do.  This is 92 in the Vulgate but 93 in my English Bible.)

The Lord has taken the throne–he has clothed himself in beauty.
Clothed himself, has the Lord, in mightiness; he has girded up his loins!
In fact it is he who made of the earth a strong fort, which will not be dislodged.

Your seat, Lord, was prepared from that time to this–beyond all age are you.
Rivers, Lord, have lifted up, rivers have lifted up their voice!
Rivers will lift their flowing floods:
By the voices of the many waters,
the ecstasies of the sea are wonderful!
In heights and depths is the Lord wonderful!
Your testimonies and your deeds are unbearable in evidence!

Holiness, Lord, befits your house for length of days.





Psalm 99 Translation (Vulgate)

Mercy and judgment I will sing to you, Lord.
I will play the lyre and understand in the immaculate way.
When will you come to me?
I will traverse it in the innocence of my heart, into the middle of my house.
I will not place before my eyes an unjust thing.
I have hated those who make collusions. They have not stuck to me.
Having shunned evil, I never knew what it was to have a crooked heart.
The one who dragged down his neighbor in secret: him I hunted.
The one with the insatiable eye and heart: with him I did not eat.
My eyes were toward the faithful of the earth, that they might sit down with me.
The one walking in the immaculate way: he served me.
No one lived in the middle of my house who exuded arrogance.
Those who followed iniquities did not give orders under the watch of my eyes.
In the morning I would kill all the sinners of the earth, that I might put them to ruin from the city of the Lord.

Psalm 98 Translation (from Vulgate)

(Note: Why translate from the Vulgate?  A. I don’t know Hebrew.  B. For Latin practice.  C. It’s its own study in translation, since we can see the import of word-choices made by Jerome, etc..  D. It’s fun to do your own Bible-translating, and why should Hebraists have all the fun?  I’m not publishing it!)

The Lord has reigned—the peoples rage! May He who sits above the cherubim move on the earth.
The Lord is great in Zion and has been lifted high above all peoples. May they confess your great name, seeing that it is both terrible and sacred.
And the honor of a king esteems judgment.
You have prepared straight ways.
You have enacted judgment and justice in Jacob.
Lift high the Lord our God and worship the very stool of His feet, seeing that it is sacred.
Moses and Aaron His priests, and Samuel, who called on His name—all these used to call on His name, and He used to attend to them.
In pillars of cloud He used to speak to them;
they used to guard his testimonies and the precepts that He gave them.
Lord our God, You Yourself used to listen to those men!
God, you were gracious to them, and vengeful against all their enemies!
Lift high the Lord our God and worship on his sacred mountain, seeing that the Lord our God is sacred.