Friday, June 20, 2008

speaking, singing, weighing, numbering and tending

This Parent's Review article -- Greek in modern education -- gave me this little description of the Seven Liberal Arts:

Gram loquitur, Dia ver docet, Rhe verba colorat,
Mus canit, ar numerat Geo ponderat As colit astra.
and searching for that gave me this Seven Liberal Arts post from the Common Room. It is part of a whole series and the comments on the article are interesting.

Christine Miller at Classical Christian Homeschooling says that CS Lewis quoted the couplet in The Discarded Image, and translated it this way:

Grammar talks, Dialectic teaches words, Rhetoric colors words,
Music sings, Arithmetic numbers, Geometry weighs, Astronomy tends the stars.

ETA: Drew pointed out that the Latin from the AO article didn't match the English translation (see comments). Apparently CS Lewis remembered the tag as "Dia verba docet" and translated it accordingly. I didn't notice the difference between the two versions when I pasted them in.

Other sources, like the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Liberal Arts, had it as

Dia vera docet

The whole mnemonic there is:

Lingua, tropus, ratio, numerus, tonus, angulus, astra.
Gram. loquiter, Dia. vera docet, Rhe. verba colorat
Mu. canit, Ar. numerat, Geo. ponderat, Ast. colit astra.

That's different again. (By the way, that's a typo I found above in the CE. It ought to be "loquitur", and it is written that way in the original CE text. )

I need a librarian emoticon ;-).


Drew said...

Wouldn't the "ver" in the second phrase be for "veritatem" - Dialectic teaches truth? (I can't believe I'm suggesting that C. S. Lewis might have made a mistake!)

Willa said...

You know, you're right.

The problem was in the original Latin couplet as he quoted it, though, not his actual translation, at least that's how I think it went....

He writes it as Dia verba docet (at least in the edition of the Discarded Image I quoted) and then translates it as "Dialect teaches words".

According to the Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations, and the Catholic Encyclopedia, and several other sources, both the versions are wrong -- it should be:

"Dia vera docet"

That's odd, isn't it?

Drew said...

Maybe he just didn't have the Internet to check his reference? :-) Thanks for clearing it up. That's the kind of thing that will keep me up nights!