I'm reading the beginning of St. Augustine's Confessions (Liber I Caput I), and had some trouble translating the word circumferens. How would you translate it?

magnus es, domine, et laudabilis valde. magna virtus tua et sapientiae tuae non est numerus. et laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae, et homo circumferens mortalitatem suam, circumferens testimonium peccati sui et testimonium quia superbis resistis; et tamen laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae.

Great you are, Lord, and very praiseworthy: great is your virtue, and of your wisdom there is no number. And this man wishes to praise you, to some extent a part of your creation, and this man carrying about him a testimony of his own sin and a testimony that you resist the proud; and yet this man wishes to praise you, to some extent a part of your creation.

I'm afraid my translation might not read very well, so any other tips would be appreciated. Also, why is the demonstrative this implied with homo? I couldn't figure that one out.

  • 1
    Why do you think "this" is implied? Just after the portion you quoted, Augustine has his famous "fecisti nos ad te," so I don't think he's just talking about himself.
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 23:54
  • @brianpck Oh, thanks for the comment. I was referring to another English translation to see how the translator translated "homo", and they used the word this. That's why.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 0:02
  • Your translation is extremely literal. There's nothing wrong with this if you are using it as a crib for the Latin, but if you want it to stand alone in English, I could suggest some more idiomatic expressions.
    – Figulus
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 5:54
  • I can also add that you seem to have overlooked translating mortalitatem suam.
    – Figulus
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 5:55

1 Answer 1


At the risk of sounding like I'm suggesting some schoolboy calque, I think translating circumferens as "carrying around" is pretty spot on. Man is carrying around his mortality and his various testimonies.

I don't think you need the "this". I think that these gratuitous thises were a common idiom in 19th century English. I don't hear them much in more recent literature.

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