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Currently doing some beginner practice with Alexander Lenard's translation of Winnie the Pooh. It says, "Ecce Eduardus Ursus scalis nunc tump-tump-tump occipite gradus pulsante post Christophorum Robinum descendens."

'Occipite' is in the imperative mood, but why? I don't see how the context calls for it. Any help is appreciated.

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It isn't imperative. It's the ablative singular of occiput, occipitis, 'the back of the head.' So occipite gradus pulsante is ablative absolute: 'the back of his head striking the stairs'

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    It should probably be noted that the more regular word is occipitium. Weird that that wasn't chosen for clarity's sake.
    – cmw
    Jul 31 '17 at 4:12
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    Lenard was a (medical) doctor, who would use occiput professionally.
    – Tom Cotton
    Jul 31 '17 at 16:40
  • Thank you all! 'Occipitium' is in my Latin dictionary and not 'occiput'. I appreciate all your clarifications. <3 Aug 1 '17 at 15:34
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    The answer "So occipite gradus pulsante is ablative absolute" turned on a light for me, a Latin dilettante, and it also answered other snippets that I was struggling to understand. The secret was in finding out what the ablative absolute is and what it does; until I looked that up, I was still in mystery. Thanks very much. Dec 1 '17 at 18:50
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    Can't resist observing that occiput is probably just as acceptable as occipitium, Persius I, 61-2 : vos, o patricius sanguis, quos vivere fas est occipiti caeco, posticae occurrite sannae.
    – Tom Cotton
    Dec 1 '17 at 20:33
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As others said, it's the ablative of occiput (back of the head, occiput). Noone is ever going to learn any Latin from Alexander Lenard's absolutely terrible translation of Winnie-the-Pooh. There is nothing to salvage in this whole mess - even Lenard's grammar is shaky at best. The sentence "Ecce Eduardus Ursus scalis nunc tump-tump-tump occipite gradus pulsante post Christophorum Robinum descendens" is in fact a great example of how poor Lenard's Latin is : "scalis" without a preposition means "with a ladder" not "in the stairs" which would be "in scalis" or "per scalas" His thumping onomatopaea (not a good idea to use onomatopaeas in latin but - oh well) is poorly placed in the sentence. The bear's occiput does not push or knock or slap the steps, so using pulsare is just a bad idea. I can think of several latin verbs that could have expressed the idea. Offendere and impingere come to mind. "Descendens" : as most English speakers, and many latinists, Lenard doesn't really understand how the present participle works. He overuses it and doesn't use relative clauses enough. "Ecce ursus... descendens" sounds something like "Here is the bear... while it comes down" not "the bear coming down". In THIS context it is weird and awkward. In other contexts it would work just fine. Just as with other languages, you have to read/know enough latin to have a sense of what works in context. Of course the difficulty with latin is that there aren't so many intermediate-level texts to get to that level in the first place. Lenard and his Winnie-ille-Pu are just a fraud.
I read a few pages of it on the web and was horrified. It is a sloppy, lazy and faulty translation, by someone who didn't have good enough command of the language (let alone of its stylistics) to have any business translating a book, or anything, into latin. Even Harrius Potter is better, and it's pretty damn bad.

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    In scalis descendens would mean 'climbing down to the stairs'. The bare ablative of scalis descendens is perfectly fine for 'climbing down the stairs', which is what is meant.
    – Cairnarvon
    Aug 17 at 23:16
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    The issue of climbing and stairs (in this case, up them) is addressed in another question here. As Cairnarvon notes, the simple ablative appears to be fine. As for Ecce Eduardus...descendens, what Lenard is doing closely matches, e.g. Vergil Aeneid 7.706–9: ecce Sabinorum prisco de sanguine magnum / agmen agens Clausus....: 'Behold Clausus leading a great line.....,' where there's no expressed main verb.
    – cnread
    Aug 18 at 0:06
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    @cmw I don't think this answer is relevant to the question. It's a rant. But it could be reworked into an interesting question+answer, or maybe several, e.g. "What does Ecce…descendens mean?"
    – Ben Kovitz
    Aug 18 at 10:51
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    I'm also a bit confused by the criticism of the choice of pulso: it's pretty clear that the "bumps" in the original are the head hitting the stairs. I haven't read through the Latin translation, so it may well be terrible as you say, but I'm failing to see this as an illustration of that!
    – brianpck
    Aug 18 at 12:53
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    @cmw, Not really. Lenard is doing basically the same thing as Vergil: a sentence, w/o an expressed main verb, saying, 'Behold individual x doing y.' The original sentence is 'Here is Edward Bear, coming down-stairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.' I myself (like, I assume, Laurent) would have used a relative clause instead of a participle; but since there's precedent for the participle, that comes down to stylistic choice. If there's a grammatical problem here, I think it's that 'tump-tump-tump' isn't grammatically tethered to the sentence in any way.
    – cnread
    Aug 18 at 16:56

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