8

Can anybody explain the two last words in the following sentence?

Veni, venite, spiritus sylvani, dives fluminarum.

The beginning seems to be "Come, come, the spirit of woods" or something of the kind. The context is the following: Two little boys are playing and one of them, who is learning Latin, wants to show how he will summon magical spirits of nature. So perhaps there can be mistakes in the sentence.

  • Hah, "Veni, venite" is a clever way of saying "come one, come all". – Nic Hartley Nov 27 '18 at 17:14
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Venī, venīte means "come" in both singular and plural. Perhaps "come one, come all" would be a good translation? Personally I would just have used venīte twice.

Spīritŭs means "spirit", while spīritūs means "spirits"; without the length marking on the u it could mean either. But the adjective sylvānī "of the forest" makes it clear that it's plural "spirits".

I'm guessing that dīvēs is a mistake. Literally it means something like "wealthy people"; a connection to dīvus "divine" exists, but is extremely old and doesn't really affect the meaning any more. Flūminārum is definitely a mistake: it means "of the rivers", but using the first declension ending on a third declension noun. It's like saying "childs" instead of "children" in English: it's easy to understand the meaning, but native speakers would consider it wrong.

As for the intended meaning, ignoring the mistakes, I'd say:

Come one, come all, spirits of the forest, divinities of the rivers.

(All the mistakes, by the way, are perfectly reasonable from a child who's just learning the language.)

EDIT: As Hugh pointed out in the comments, while sylvānus literally means "of the forest", it's most often used as the title of a particular deity. The more usual word for "of the forest" is sylvaticus.

  • Sylvanus, Silvanus is usually the Forest God himself; and silvaticus the woodland adjective. – Hugh Nov 27 '18 at 16:48
  • Thanks for such a nice answer, so deep, for explanations. – V.V. Nov 27 '18 at 16:50
  • @Hugh Good call! Added – Draconis Nov 27 '18 at 17:05
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This so neatly recreates all the oddities of medieval popular and superstitious hocus pocus Latin. All the words are real Latin except fluminarum, which is a neuter-plural '-a' mistaken for a First declension singular.

All the other words would have been familiar to a bright child:
Veni & Venite from Christmas carols.

Dives from the legend of Dives and Lazarus based on a parable (Luke 16:19–31); the Rich Man and the Beggar covered in sores; who became patron of leper hospitals as S. Lazare.

Silvanus or Sylvanus is the God of woods and forests; introduced by Kipling or Hawthorne or C.S.Lewis to children's literature.

  • What is "medieval hocus pocus Latin"? – brianpck Nov 27 '18 at 17:31
  • brianpck hocus-pocus "Early 17th century: from hax pax max Deus adimax, a pseudo-Latin phrase used as a magic formula by conjurors." Oxford Dictionary on-line – Hugh Nov 27 '18 at 18:50

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