8

In the poem ‘O Fortuna’ (anon., 13th c., but made famous by Carl Orff’s setting), there is this verse:

Quod per sortem
sternit fortem
mecum omnes plangite!

This is typically translated as ‘since luck strikes down the strong, everyone, weep with me!’ or something to that effect. I am confused about the use of ‘per sortem’ (prep.+acc.) for what seems to be the subject of the quod-clause. At first I thought it was some form of passive voice, but sternit is conjugated in the active.

I cannot seem to find any other examples of this usage of quod per. Is it even grammatical?

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7

The subject here is Fortuna (also called Sors) after whom the song is named. Perhaps this translation makes the passage clearer:

Quod [Fortuna] = Because [Fortuna] (implied subject)

per sortem = by lot (idiomatically this means "at random")

sternit fortem = strikes down the brave [man]

mecum omnes plangite = mourn with me, everyone!

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5

The subject of sternit must be an unexpressed "he", perhaps meaning "God". "Since, through the workings of fate, he lays low the strong, weep with me all of you."

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  • Thanks! I would assume that ‘He’ (God) is indeed the subject. Somehow all of the English translations I've seen (verse or prose) manage to miss this, and treat ‘fortune’ as the subject. – Brent Bessemer Feb 22 '19 at 16:44
  • @BrentBessemer, fdb, O Fortuna is not a religious work. I guess the elided subject could be Fortuna herself – Rafael Feb 22 '19 at 16:52
  • 1
    @Rafael. That is possible, of course, though I do not quite understand the difference between "fortuna" and "sors" in this context. – fdb Feb 22 '19 at 17:02

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