Monday, November 22, 2010

We've got class, baby (and the classics)

Just discovered: the blog of the right-wing artsy, lit-crit-y, bellettristic (take your pick) The New Criterion is called Armavirumque. As in Arma virumque cano. As in 'of arms and a man I sing'. As in the Aeneid.

Now I did not have a classical education (cough, choke), but my mother attended Girls' Latin School, and as a kid/teenager/youth/young adult the one and only line of Latin I can recall hearing her utter was Arma virumque cano. I never read the Aeneid in English, one of many gaps in my supposedly (supposedly) first-class secondary and college education. And it was not until a bit later on that it dawned on me that vir means "man". As in "virility". As in virtú. As in Machiavelli. (Oh yeah, right....)

P.s. I am reliably informed by Wikipedia that Girls' Latin is now called Boston Latin Academy, and it probably has been for a long time (I'm too lazy to actually read the entry right now). O tempora O mores. Whatever.


bro said...

Or as in Vir Heroicus Sublimis (Man Heroic & Sublime), the title of one of Barnett Newman's biggest paintings.

LFC said...

As suggested in the post, the words "virtue" and "virtuoso" and their variations come from vir. Ironic perhaps, since up through, say, the early 20th cent. in certain circles people might refer to "a virtuous woman" meaning someone who observed the prevailing code(s) of sexual morality. (Surely someone in a Henry James novel uses the phrase [?].) The modern dictionary on my shelf continues to list "chastity, esp. in a woman" as one definition of "virtue".

There is also an English (not Italian, English) word "virtu" (which I just discovered now) whose first definition is "a love of, or taste for, artistic objects, esp. curios, antiques etc."