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I need help translating these four phrases, which all regard a student that the rector of the Copenhagen Metropolitan School reluctantly lets graduate in 1672. The transcription is from H. Blache, Et Bidrag tii Kjøbenhavns Metropolitanskoles Historie (Historisk Tidsskrift, 1864), p. 662 (PDF available)

The original Danish text with interspersed latin is:

  1. Canutus Iani Lemvicensis var født i Lemvig, og blev 1668 optagen i Metropolitanskolen. Hans Naturgaver vare meget maadelige. Han havde, hedder det, forladt sin Fødeby »cælum forte non animum mutaturus. Mittimus Vobis, skriver B., hominem crassioris pituitæ, hebetioris ingenii et fallacis nimium labilisqve memoriæ, sed cetera non improbum, non perversum, non malitiosum«. Hans Flid havde kun baaret ringe Frugt; men da han gik i sit 27de Aar, og der intet Haab var, at han vilde gjøre større Fremgang, om han endog endnu 100 Aar forblev i Skolen – si vel centum anni nostræ cum ipso consvetudini additi fuissent, – havde B. besluttet at dimittere ham. Han mener, at denne gamle Discipels Optagelse ved Universitetet vil geraade Professorerne til stor Ros – Vestris jam laudibus maximus profecto cumulus accedet, si seniorem hunc discipulum benigne admittatis. Sine egne frugtesløse Bestræbelser undskylder han med at henvise til Personens kjødfulde Ansigt og rynkede Pande – solus et unicus carneæ, et rugosæ frontis aspectus.

Below translated to English with the latin as-is:

  1. Canutus Iani Lemvicensis [ie. Knud Jensen Lemvig] was born in Lemvig, and was 1668 admitted to the Metropolitan School. His natural gifts were quite modest. He had, it says, left his hometown »cælum forte non animum mutaturus. Mittimus Vobis, writes [rector] B., hominem crassioris pituitæ, hebetioris ingenii et fallacis nimium labilisqve memoriæ, sed cetera non improbum, non perversum, non malitiosum«. His efforts had borne little fruit; but as he was in his 27th year, and there was no hope that he would make further progress even if he stayed another 100 years at the school – si vel centum anni nostræ cum ipso consvetudini additi fuissent, – [Rector] B. had decided to graduate him. He thinks that this old student's admission to the university [of Copenhagen] would be to the great credit of the professors – Vestris jam laudibus maximus profecto cumulus accedet, si seniorem hunc discipulum benigne admittatis. He excuses his own fruitless efforts by referring to the person's meaty face and furrowed brow – solus et unicus carneæ, et rugosæ frontis aspectus.

It seems the last three phrases are adequately summarized in the text (is anything missing?), but the first one is left entirely untranslated. What does it mean?

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  • The first phrase seems to be introduced by a few words in Dutch, and grammatically, the Latin is missing something at the beginning. Would you mind adding this to the question? It might help a lot with the translation.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 20:16
  • @Draconis I have double checked the phrases and removed a spurious hyphen. There's unfortunately nothing more in the transcription I have available.
    – meide
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 23:50

1 Answer 1

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Mittimus Vobis, writes [rector] B., hominem crassioris pituitæ, hebetioris ingenii et fallacis nimium labilisqve memoriæ, sed cetera non improbum, non perversum, non malitiosum

This is translated as:

We send to You a man of rather thick phlegm, dull mental faculties, and a memory far too faulty and slipping, but otherwise not wicked, not perverse, not malicious.

The idiom in the 17th century was different from the Classical idiom, but the above should be mostly accurate.

The "phlegm" should not be taken literally, but rather in reference to the "four humors." Celsus mentions crassa pituita a couple of times, but doesn't actually define it - it's probably something that became more defined during the Renaissance.

That first fragment, as cnread points out in the comments, is alluding to Horace's Epistulae:

caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt.
Those who race across the sea alter the sky, not their mind.

It seems the idea here is that he left home not to better himself, not to learn more, but just as a change of scenery, "to change the sky, perhaps, not his mind."

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    The first fragment, 'caelum forte non animum mutaturus,' appears to be an allusion to Horace Epistulae 1.11.27: 'caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt.'
    – cnread
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 17:57
  • @cnread Good catch!
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 18:40
  • Excellent, many thanks both of you!
    – meide
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 19:26
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    One small emendation I'd suggest: I think hebes means "dull/stupid," not "youthful." I also think ingenium refers to mental faculties more than temperament.
    – brianpck
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 19:30
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    @brianpck Good suggestions. I thought ingenium would mean that, but was mislead by Hebe. Oops.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 20:00

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