Saturday, May 24, 2008

oratio, sed non Ciceronis...

A speech, but not of Cicero...


The following is the beginning of Barack Obama's “Speech on Race,” delivered in 2008, which perhaps like the great speeches of Cicero, can survive the test of time. And, of course,---Latine scriptus.


I welcome translational comments from the Latin readers of the blog. For the rest, try reading it out loud. It still sounds pretty spectacular.

Nos Populi, ut perfectiorem societatem statuamus.”

abhinc ducenti unetviginti annos, in illa basilica iam stanti in adversa via, his claris dictis illi conventi incepere suum democratiae inauditum experimentum. agricolae et docti, senatores et studiosissimi patriae, qui iter trans marem fecerant ut tyrannidem persecutionemque effugerent, tandem in eo conventu qui usque per verem in anno MDCCLXXXVII Philadelphiae constat suam veram declarationem libertatis effecere.

haec tabulae effectae demum insignatae sunt sed non ultime confectae sunt. has servitus, nostri populi nefas princeps, foedavit; cuius consultatio omnes provincias divisit dum patres decrevere ut liceat commercium servorum viginti quidem annos permanere et ullum ultimum consultum sequentibus saeculis relinquatur.

inerat enim resolutio de servitute consultationis iam in nostra Constitutione, quae civitatem sub lege aequam maxime habuit ac pollicita est suis civibus libertatem iustitatiamque et societatem quae possit et usque per temporem perficiendum sit.

And the English text (NYTimes):

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

I would eventually like to try my hand at the rest of this speech. Could there be a better way to spend a Sunday morning than with an exercise in Latin composition...?


Also, I apologize for the light blogging. I am making the great trek back across the country, and will return as quickly as I can.

3 comments:

Roy said...

My impression was that you would not be returning to CA anytime soon.

navar.daniel said...

Good translation! I Found it pretty easy to understand for the most part. Not sure if inauditum quite means "improbable" like Senator Obama said (more like "new", isn't it?). Perhaps you could use incredibilis or haud verisimilis to get a bit closer to the meaning. The last bit with possit is a little awkward too, but I am not going to pretend to be able to translate that sentence better.

Nelly said...

"When I was in middle school, my friends in Latin class used to tease me that my name meant smelly swords!"

-E.O.