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This is an excerpt from the dedicatio written by the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss to his sponsor, the Duke of Brunswick:

Nisi enim TUA gratia, Serenissime Princeps, introitum mihi ad scientias primum aperuisset, nisi perpetua TUA beneficia studia mea usque sustentavissent, scientiae mathematicae, ad quam vehementi semper amore delatus sum, totum me devovere non potuissem.

I'm not totally sure how to translate "ad quam vehementi semper amore delatus sum" into english.

Roughly, he means that he has an intense love for mathematics. But to translate it as "mathematical science, which I love intensely" wouldn't do justice to this beautiful sentence.

I think the main difficulty is the word delatus. It comes from defero, which by Lewis & Short could mean to carry, to bring, to deliver etc (other meanings, e.g. legal terminology, don't seem to fit). So we could say he is "brought into" mathematics or "carried into" it or something. Since he is a mathematician writing about mathematics with "vehement love", maybe it's not inapropriate to use some poetic license.

So my attempt was this:

"[...] mathematical science, by which I am always carried away with passionate love"

Is this too much of a strech? I'd love to hear some opinions.

(by the way, I'm open to suggestions about "vehementi amore")

2 Answers 2

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Is this too much of a strech?

I would not call it a stretch, but two points:

  • ad does not mean "by" (that would be ab). What you can translate as "by" is the ablative amore, though you don't necessarily have to.
  • delatus sum is perfect tense.

But the main question remains, which is how to translate deferre. Which is really more a question about English than about Latin, I guess. Now I am not a native English speaker, but it seems to me that one is not usually "carried" to a profession or academic discipline, and "brought" also sounds anodyne. Looking deferre up in Lewis & Short, I read:

Naut. t. t., to drive away, drive down, drive a ship, or those on board a ship, to any place

Obviously Gauss was not talking about ships, yet could this not also be a good translation for this context? Then we get:

... I could not have devoted myself entirely to mathematical science, to which I have always been driven with intense love.

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While Sebastian Koppehel's translation is solid, it doesn't quite capture the exact meaning of the expression - the meaning of dēlātus "driven" as a nautical term is "conveyed somewhere as a passenger" (a goal-oriented activity), but the translation ends up reading as "experiencing a lasting emotional drive; obsessed with" (a mental state). The latter is not among the Latin word's meanings.

The exact sense of the original is that of being constantly drawn towards and returning to a subject one is passionate about - it's a series of repeating events. The author used to constantly find himself returning to the study of mathematics, but was forced to give it up again and again in order to pay the bills - and now, with Duke of Brunswick's patronage, they can finally take it up full-time. Here's my attempt to capture this sense:

If it wasn't for Your kindness ... I could not have devoted myself fully to the science of mathematics, a subject I've been always passionate about and constantly drawn to

vehemēns amor translates to "passion" - this isn't really a poetical turn of phrase, there's simply no single word for it in Latin.

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