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Origins of Scots Latin

GUEST,Rahere 11 Dec 14 - 10:55 AM
Lighter 11 Dec 14 - 11:17 AM
Jack Campin 11 Dec 14 - 11:37 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 11 Dec 14 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,Rahere 11 Dec 14 - 07:24 PM
Jack Campin 11 Dec 14 - 07:56 PM
GUEST,Rahere 12 Dec 14 - 03:53 PM
Snuffy 21 Dec 14 - 10:39 AM
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Subject: Origins of Scots Latin
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 11 Dec 14 - 10:55 AM

The Rorate Coeli desuper thread brings me back to the old question of a lost poem behind Ruari Dall O'Cathain's Da Mihi Manum.

BEFORE well-meaning but ignorant Gaels start saying "Oh, but there are wonderful Gaelic or English versions" - which they are quite welcome to discuss on the existing threads on the subject to be found by using the search box above - let me point out that Malcolm Douglas has established that none of these predate 1840 and that the work is only known by its Latin name before that, which perfectly fits the first notes. It is to be emphasised that Rory Dall O'C spent most of his life in Scotland, moreover, so a well-documented case would need to be made if any Hibernian interpretation could be considered. ie Butt out Woolfe Tones and the rest, this is Scottish!

What I'm interested in is getting back to the practice of the circle Dunbar was part of, to improve the quality of knowledge about the practice used by Dunbar and his circle, which O'Cathain was almost certainly on the edge of. They were writing in a no-Renaissance Latin (which distinguishes from Church Latin, to settle the Irish RC angle) - but where was this coming from? To show that they were at least as cultured as the English? Or was it an English importation? Or derviative of Mary Stuart's affiliations? As we see in the Rorate Coeli instance, it was often hybridised with a soft form of Doric English, was Latin ever hybridised with Scots Gaelic?

One of the approaches to setting a piece like the Rorate is to take the natural beat of the words as the rhythm, and adjust it to bar lengths to see where extreme rubato has to be applied to fit the words in. That done, the question then arises of the notes, and that starts with the natural pitch of the text. And so might it be done backwards?


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Subject: RE: Origins of Scots Latin
From: Lighter
Date: 11 Dec 14 - 11:17 AM

If you mean William Dunbar, I don't see how O Cathain could have been even "on the edge of his circle," since Dunbar died around 1520 and "Give Me Your Hand" is said to have been composed more than a century later.

Macaronic or hybrid verse like Dunbar's appears to have originated on the Continent in the 12th century. The paradigm macaronic poem consists of alternating lines written in each language.

But I think you know that. I don't know if any surviving work combines Latin and Gaelic. In any case, the Scots could easily have imported the macaronic style from the Continent and adopted it, not to show off their level of sophistication, but because it was a novel and interesting style well suited to the writing of Christian poetry.


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Subject: RE: Origins of Scots Latin
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Dec 14 - 11:37 AM

George Buchanan was the really important Scottish writer in Latin. The Scottish History Society reprinted a collection of his Latin political verse, which is as forceful as anything Dunbar or Lyndsay produced. Far from deriving from the court of Mary Queen of Scots, he was a ferocious anti-Catholic satirist. Latin was his appropriate medium because he tore into every Catholic ruler in Europe (and spent some time in jail in Portugal for it) - he wanted to be understood by the educated class everywhere in the continent.

Buchanan mostly used classical Latin verse forms. There are some epigrams and shorter poems that might fit Scottish song tunes.

The editors of the SHS edition think Buchanan's native language was probably Gaelic, but they don't have solid evidence for that.

A somewhat earlier Scots Latinist was Gavin Douglas, but his major work is a translation of the Aeneid into Scots. Not sure if he wrote much in Latin.


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Subject: RE: Origins of Scots Latin
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 11 Dec 14 - 03:53 PM

Mary wrote poetry in Latin as well as French but I agree with Jack in that Buchanan wasn't influenced by her in his use of Latin. In fact he wasn't doing anything new by writing in Latin. Latin had been the language of the church and actually the language of law etc. Only being ousted by Scots as the language of Scottish gvt in the 15thC. Buchanan came on the back end of a long line of Latin writers. John Fordun wrote his Scotichronicon in Latin about 200 years before Mary. Walter Bower in the early 15thC wrote in Latin. As did Hector Boece in his "Scotorum Historiae" in the early 16thC. Likewise did John Major (Mair) who is described as the greatest of Scottish writers in Latin by J H Millar in his "Literary History of Scotland" - and Millar goes on to point out that Buchanan studied under Major at university in Paris. If Buchanan was influenced by anything it was by his mentor Major and by the long standing tradition of Latin in Scotland. Millar describes the latter three writers as writing in a more cultured form whilst he dismisses Fordun and Bower's Latin as decidedly unattractive. In fact some of the earliest poetry written in what is now Scotland was written in Latin. ie the poetic works ascribed to Columba! Though yes that was church latin.
I think the idea that Scottish literary figures may have written in Latin to try and imitate the English is missing the point that the Scottish kingdom was a part of a wider European tradition with close links to the continent and that the educated classes were as educated as anywhere else. Despite being much smaller Scotland had four universities to England's two at that time plus Scots studied in France etc.

Because of the latin tradition in Scotland then of course the medieval makars who were writing in Scots had their form of Scots influenced by Latin.


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Subject: RE: Origins of Scots Latin
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 11 Dec 14 - 07:24 PM

I know of Continental practice - the Scottish use was a curiosity I'd never really taken time to consider before - and thank you for your concise replies!
One further aspect is that I think there was always a certain competiton between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth - and Elizabeth spent her years in imprisonment at Hatfield doing what would these days be at least a Doctorate in Latin poetry of the Classical period, with the result that English pronunciation is utterly unique, putatively a throwback to the days of Cicero, and giving a hint at an earlier roughness - the rest of Europe uses a Hispano-Italian elision and nasality. The Arabists are even more interesting.


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Subject: RE: Origins of Scots Latin
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Dec 14 - 07:56 PM

I didn't know that. Buchanan has a poem in praise of Elizabeth, addressed to the god Janus in January 1568 asking rhetorically "what can you ask for for somebody who has everything?" - it's very cleverly constructed. But the metre doesn't fit any kind of Scottish tune I can think of:

Jane pater, solus partes qui versus in omnes
Quicquid habet tellus ante retroque vides:
Prospice quae possim non dedignanda Kalendis
Saxonidum dominae mittere dona tuis...


BTW by that point Buchanan was sufficiently pissed off with Mary (his employer) that he was dropping broad hints that political assassination might not be unthinkable.


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Subject: RE: Origins of Scots Latin
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 12 Dec 14 - 03:53 PM

The Part B countermelody of one of the Carmina Burana tunes fits, Fortune Plango Vulnera.


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Subject: RE: Origins of Scots Latin
From: Snuffy
Date: 21 Dec 14 - 10:39 AM

So does Yankee Doodle (just about)


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