Augustine in the Confessions writes:

tu etiam mihi dabas nolle amplius quam dabas, et nutrientibus ??? me dare mihi velle quod eis dabas:??? dare enim mihi per ordinatum affectum volebant quo abundabant ex te.

which is translated as:

Thou also gavest me to desire no more than Thou gavest, and ??? to my nurses willingly to give me what Thou gavest them.??? For they, with a heaven-taught affection, willingly gave me what they abounded with from Thee.

To me the English translation between the ? is not good English. In the Latin I don't see how 'me' can be the object of 'dare' and 'mihi' the indirect object, unless it is an infinitive accusative, if that were the case then I think the translation would be:

to my nurses you permitted that I wanted what you gave them

But that can't be right since it doesn't make any sense. Still, from the English translation I cannot tell what 'me' and 'mihi' refers to. One of them refers to Augustine but would about the other? Perhaps the ablative/dative 'nutrentibus' could be translated as 'through my nurses' or 'due to my nurses' in which case it would be:

due my nurses you permitted ( or made it happen) that I wanted what you gave them.

Which might work but I'm still doubtful.

1 Answer 1


Me is indeed not the object of dare but, as noted by cnread in a comment to a since-deleted answer, of nutrire, so nutrientes me are "those who bring me up, those who nourish me."

As Kingshorsey pointed out in a comment, the subject of the paragraph is how the author was breastfed by his mother and wet-nurses (nutrices). The translator therefore translated nutrientes me as "my nurses," although I think that the mother is included here as well.

Nutrientibus is dative, it is another indirect object (after mihi) of the first dabas: "You gave those who nourish me ..."

Gave them what? That is an infinitive clause: dare mihi velle, to want to give me. "You gave them to want to give me" is, I think, best interpreted as "you gave them the willingness to give me." The translator chose "Thou gavest to my nurses willingly to give me," which sounds strange indeed, but it only reflects the strangeness of the Latin here, in my opinion.

Okay, again, give me what? Quod eis dabas -- "what you gave them."

So all in all we get: "You gave to me not to wish for more than you gave me, and to those who fed me, to wish to give me that which you gave them: for they wished to give me etc..."

Note there is a parallelism going on with nolle and velle, which I tried to reproduce with the repetition of "wish."

  • 1
    Cool, as is clear, a very hard answer.
    – bobsmith76
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 18:07
  • 1
    @bobsmith76 nutrientibus refers to wet-nurses. quod eis dabas is breast milk. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 20:06
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    @Kingshorsey I thought you were joking, but then I looked up the context. The subject of the text is indeed breastfeeding! Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 20:43
  • cool,............
    – bobsmith76
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 11:25

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