I just worked on translating a passage that was very difficult for me, and not without a lot of help from online resources. Here is the passage below:

Est nemus Haemoniae, praerupta quod undique claudit
silva: vocant Tempe. Per quae Peneus ab imo
effusus Pindo spumosis volvitur undis,
deiectuque gravi tenues agitantia fumos
nubila conducit summisque adspergine silvis
inpluit et sonitu plus quam vicina fatigat.

My English translation:

There is a grove in Thessaly, which an abrupt wood encloses on every side: they call it Tempe. Through which Peneus poured out from the foot of Pindus is rolled out in frothy waves, and by its heavy downfall gathers mists driving thin fumes, and rains on the tops of woods with its spray, and vexes more than the vicinity with its sound.

In general, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this translation? In particular, I have a few questions.

  1. The beginning clause uses the genitive to communicate location, i.e., "There is a grove in Thessaly". Is this a common use of the genitive? How would we qualify this use?

  2. Would you translate tenues fumos as thin fumes? I have a hard time seeing how a river creates "thin fumes", but the online resource I was using translated the phrase that way.

  3. I had a hard time translating the final clause: and vexes more than the vicinity with its sound. Do you think I arrived at a good translation? I happen to like this translation, so I would be happy to keep it if it works.

I appreciate any feedback. Thanks!


Ad 1: I would not be surprised if it were a genitive: Tempe as a grove of Thessaly sound unremarkable enough. However, there are two other options. The first is a locative: there is a grove in Thessaly. That would be semantically good, but the locative is not normally used with regions in prose (rather than with cities and small islands). Lastly, it could be a possessive dative: nemus est Haemoniae = "there is a grove to Thessaly" = "Thessaly has a grove". This construction is common.

Ad 2: that sounds OK; what it makes me think of is thin vapours of splashing water. The word "fume" is perhaps a bit misleading in English, because it's not normally used for mere water mists or vapours, I believe. Tenuis can mean thin in most senses, like delicate, subtle, but also just any opposite of thick. You could also translate it as fine in the context of mist.

Ad 3: sounds good. You seem to have captured both the construction and its intention very well. What did you think might be wrong with it?

  • 2
    I think 1 is definitely a genitive, specifically a "geographic" or "chorographic" genitive as this usage is sometimes known. – TKR Sep 22 '16 at 21:23

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