aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Virgil, Aeneid 1.604

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After that long post the other day, here is some light relief. Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary is a joy to dip into for its cynical humour, still just as biting over a century after its publication. Here’s a little excerpt from the entry for Mind, which includes a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid.

From the Latin mens, a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed his motto “Mens conscia recti,” emblazoned his own shop front with the words “Men’s, women’s and children’s conscia recti.”

The full Virgilian phrase is

mens sibi conscia recti

A mind which is conscious of having done right.

I was about to discuss Bierce further, but at this point Google leads me to a Laudator Temporis Acti post on the subject, where you can read more. I’ve always assumed that the occasional dodgy Latin phrases were a deliberate joke for the cognoscenti, akin to his ludicrously named “sources” and the illustrative “quotations” of their often atrocious verse – but on reflection Laudator could well be correct in saying that they’re just failings in Bierce’s own Latin.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 14, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Virgil

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