Saturday, December 13, 2008

Amore, More, Ore, Re

While looking online recently for a good Latin quote on love, I found

amore, more, ore, re

I stopped. I reread the quote. I thought this was the most ingenious thing I had ever found! The quote was attributed to Vergil (actually it said "Virgilius") and I assumed that this was something very few people knew. Boy, was I wrong! When I googled the phrase, I discovered that lots of people already knew this phrase, called it their favorite Latin quote, used it on their blogs, and even had it tatooed on their wrists! Thirty years ago this fall I stepped into a Latin classroom for the very first time. Since that time I have been learning, studying, translating, reading, and teaching the language and literature and never came across this clever item. I felt like I had missed out on something!

Next I started to search for the source. Several people attributed this ditty to Vergil but it didn't seem very Vergilian. It doesn't sound like something Vergil would say and the meter doesn't work. Nevertheless, I began a search on the internet and had very little success. At one point I was directed toward the story of Nisus and Euryalus in the Aeneid and thought that I was making progress, but skimming the lines in the text produced nothing. I remembered that I had A Vergil Concordance and pulled that out, but soon found nothing there as well. I was beginning to have my doubts that this quote was classical at all.

I did find that the entire quote was

Verus amicus amore, more, ore, re cognoscitur

but again there was no citation... so I posted the request on LatinTeach and received a wealth of information. I should have started there!

*Robert Maier found

Amore, more, ore, re, Iunguntur amicitiae!

and suggested that it was medieval. He was among the first to mention that it didn't fit a meter.

*Dennis McHenry II found

Ob id ergo maximas agimus gratias vestrae amori et labore verus enim amicus cognoscitur labore, amore, more, ore, re.

and cited the closing of a letter by the Dutch cartographer Nicolaas Witsen (1641-1717).

*Laura Gibbs revealed: "About the widely used and re-used amore more ore re, you are not likely to find a specific literary source (i.e. in the sense of who said it "first"), and that kind of word play is not the sort of thing you would expect from Vergil or a classical Roman writer. It is much more typical of later Latin - and it shows up in the work of the Jesuit author and scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) in an even more elaborate form, with clamore added in as a first term in the series: Tibi vero gratias agam quo clamore? Amore more ore re.

For the friend version - verus amicus noscitur ex amore more ore re (and also: amore, more, ore re iunguntur amicitiae), see #1436 in this marvelous collection: Philosophia patrum versibus praesertim leoninis, rhythmis Germanicis adiectis, iuventuti studiosae hilariter tradita by Julius Wegeler (1869).

It's online at Google Books - and it is a treasure trove of fun stuff (hilariter tradita indeed!). You can download the PDF of the book, or read it online - just click the "read this book" tab.

There are all kinds of delightful word play represented here. I especially like all the rhyming verses. Here are just a few:
- Dum canis os rodit, socium - quem diligit - odit.
- Res satis est nota, foetent plus stercora mota.
- Non de ponte cadit, quocum sapientia vadit.
- Vultus fortunae mutatur imagine lunae: Crescit, decrescit, in eodem sistere nescit.
It's a shame the ancient Romans did not go in for rhyme!"

I thoroughly enjoyed my little foray into finding "who dunnit". The bottom line? The quote isn't classical but much later. It's still ingenious, and my students love it! I noticed a couple have already written it on the cover of their notebooks or textbooks where they record and preserve those lyrics from a special song or meaningful comments or notes from friends. The phrase lives on!

1 comment:

aboshin said...

Thanks a lot for this ! Translation of latin sentences would have been a plus :)