Twelve days ago, on DAY 1, when I gave the pronunciation lecture, we used Catullus 101 as a pronunciation exercise, and our students read it merely as a series of sounds, words without meaning that had their accent on either the penult or the antepenult. I told them then that in 12 days they would read that poem again, with comprehension. Today was that day.
Today, in the second hour of afternoon lecture, I led our students in reading and translating Catullus 101, an elegy in memory of the poet's deceased older brother, structured as a direct address by the poet to the "mute ashes" of his brother's body. It was our fourth and final Catullus poem during afternoon lecture (we've previously done Poems 13, 9, and 51). Students still struggle with the scansion, the reading, and the translating, but they get it, word by word, phrase by phrase, line by line. Then, after each student has translated a line, haltingly, with much prompting from the teacher and much assistance from weary fellow students, each student translates his or her line again, this time as fluidly as possible, one student picking right up from the last, so they can all hear the flow of the lyric from beginning to end. It begins. It flows. It ends. It makes sense. They have made sense of a Latin poem. It is a beautiful thing.
I am training the next generation of classical philologists. It's all I ever wanted. It feels good.
Note: The opinions expressed in this blog entry are those of the blogger, and do not represent the opinions of the CUNY Latin/Greek Institute, its students, faculty, or administration.