I am trying to translate the lyrics of the Eric Bogle's song "The Green Fields of France" to Latin. The first two verses of the last stanza of the song are:

And I can't help but wonder, oh Willie McBride,
do all those who lie here know why they died?

How would you say that in Latin? A literal translation from English might be:

Et ego non possum mihi adiuvare praeter me ipsum rogare, o Willie McBride,
num omnes ii qui iacent hic sciant cur mortui sint?

However, I guess that's not proper Latin. In Croatian, you would say:

A ja ne mogu da se ne zapitam, o Willie McBride,
znaju li svi oni koji ovdje leže zašto su umrli?

Which would be literally translated as:

Et ego non possum ut me non rogem, o Willie McBride,
num omnes ii qui iacent hic sciant cur mortui sint?

But I guess that's not proper Latin either.

So, how would you say that in Latin?

1 Answer 1


My first inclination is that quin is the right word for the job. Though it has a lot of meanings (including "why not," after verbs of hesitation, and even to mean "qui non"), there are several examples from Cicero's letters that seem close to your target sentence:

Facere non possum quin in singulas res meritaque tua tibi gratias agam, sed mehercules facio cum pudore. (Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, 10.24)

tamen facere non possum quin cottidie ad te mittam ut tuas accipiam. (Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, 12.27)

So, one possible translation with this construction might be:

Neque facere possum quin admirer, o Guilelme Fili Brigittae, an omnes hic iacentes sciant quem ad finem mortui sint.

(I'm a bit dubious about this usage of admiror...an, but perhaps that's material for a different question. I can't find any Latin precedent for se rogare, which seems to be the favored idiom in many other languages.)

  • 2
    The second quote seems to be, Cic. ad Atticum 12.27.2.
    – tony
    Aug 31, 2023 at 10:55

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