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The motto of the Harvard Glee Club is "cantantes licet usque eamus." This appears to be an approximate quote from Virgil's Eclogue 9, lines 63-64:

aut si, nox pluviam ne colligat ante, veremur, cantantes licet usque (minus via laedit) eamus;

I want to make sure I understand the syntax of the second line. Now that I know more Latin I am guessing it is unusual in order to fit the meter, but want to make sure I am not making unwarranted assumpion.

The explanation of the quote I recall is something like: "It is fitting that we go forth singing, for it makes the road less weary." Now that I understand more Latin, the phrase seems to mean something slightly different. I understand the two lines to mean: "Or if we fear lest the rain hinder us beforehand, it is fitting that we go singing as far as we may go. It makes the road less wearying." Is this correct?

Could someone explain the syntax of the second line? What, if anything, does "licet" govern? Is "minus via laedit" an independent sentence from everything else? I see that the editors used the striking device of putting this phrase in parentheses, presumably because it is odd to separate "usque" from the verb it governs. Is this assumption correct?

Is the sentence intended to mean the same as: "Licet ut cantemus usque eamus. Minus via laedit?

I don't need answers to each specific question, but just wanted to explain fully what I find doubtful about the syntax.

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Licet often occurs with a bare subjunctive without ut: see examples in section 1δ of the L&S entry. In this case, that subjunctive is eamus, so the line is equivalent to

licet ut cantantes usque eamus "We may go singing all the way" (lit. "It is allowed/possible/etc. that we go...")

As for minus via laedit, yes, it seems to be a syntactically independent sentence inserted parenthetically into the line. This is certainly unusual, but it isn't unparalleled -- there are other instances of this device in Latin verse, and specifically in Vergil (at least I seem to recall coming across it in the Aeneid).

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  • Thanks for the response. Would I be correct to assume, then, that "usque" does not need some sort of complement of place or time? That is what it seems to say in Lewis & Short under definition II.B,2 (perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=usque&la=la#lexicon), where it even has my sentence as a reference. I don't readily understand the examples, however. Nov 21, 2021 at 19:33
  • @Vegawatcher That's right -- it usually does take such a complement, but there are occasional cases where it doesn't.
    – TKR
    Nov 21, 2021 at 19:37

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