THE USE OF HENDIADYS IN LATIN

Hendiadys is a figure of speech, more correctly a figure of syntax, in which a phrase normally constituted by a noun and a modifying adjective is converted into one involving two nouns joined by a conjunction, usually 'and'. The word 'hendiadys' itself is a Latinised version of the Greek phrase 'ἓν διὰ δυοῖν' (one through two). Hendiadys is a form of emphasis, and it achieves its purpose by utilising a word structure which is relatively unusual and thereby grabs one's attention. Its best known exponent in the English language is William Shakespeare, who made particular use of it in "Hamlet" but also in other famous tragedies, such as "King Lear" and "Macbeth". In the latter, he describes life as "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" (Act 5, Sc. 5, ll. 25-27). In his most entertaining book "The Elements of Eloquence", Mark Forsyth writes as follows: "Whether Shakespeare was thinking of furious sound or sounding fury hardly signifies. The point and beauty of hendiadys is that it sets the words next to each other, that it removes the grammar and relation, that it doubles the words out to give breadth and beauty" (p. 77). 
 
Shakespeare acquired the taste for using hendiadys by reading Latin authors, particularly Virgil. Hendiadys is particularly suited to poetry where verbal exactness can legitimately be subordinated to atmospheric impression and rhythmic beauty. When it comes to translation, however, hendiadys will often present a challenge, particularly to those such as Sabidius, who are seeking to keep as closely as possible to the grammatical structure and word order of the original Latin. Firstly, one has to decide whether a hendiadys is actually intended - sometimes this is not quite clear, and translators clearly differ in their interpretations. Then, there may be a case for letting the literal words stand: retaining the two-noun phrase may be legitimate as a means of maintaining the emphasis which the author intended, or of portraying the poetic imprecision inherent in the original wording. Then, where it is unclear which of the nouns should receive primacy in the translation, there may be a case for a literal translation which then allows the reader to determine how best the hendiadys should be expressed. With regard to these dilemmas, Sabidius' usual policy is, firstly, to determine whether a hendiadys is intended by the author, and, if so, to then effect a translation which sounds most natural in the context. In some cases the hendiadys can best be retained in the English translation. However, these decisions are often difficult to make, and frequently involve some uncertainty and misgiving.  
 
In this item, Sabidius sets out to exemplify the way in which Latin authors, copying the usage of the Greeks, use the figure of hendiadys in their works. In the following examples the Latin (or Greek) is shown first in italics, followed by an English translation which renders the hendiadys colloquially, but then provides a literal translation of it in parentheses. At the same time, the words of the hendiadys itself are underlined both in the original Greek and Latin and then in both versions of the English.

Firstly we look at some examples of hendiadys in Greek:

Demosthenes:

Orationes:

19.123.  αἵ τε πόλεις ... χαλεπαὶ λαβεῖν ... μὴ οὐ χρόνῳ καὶ πολιορκίᾳ.  the cities were difficult to capture unless by protracted siege (lit. unless by length of time and siege). 
 
Euripides:

Helen:

l. 226-7.  ὁ δὲ σὸς ἐν ἁλὶ κύμασί τε λέλοιπε βίοτον.  your husband has lost his life in the salty waves (lit. in the salt and the waves).

Sophocles:

Electra:

l. 36-7.  ἄσκευον αὐτὸν ἀσπίδων τε καὶ στρατοῦ δόλοισι κλέψαι χειρὸς ενδίκους σφαγάς. that by cunning, without the help of armed force, (lit. of shields and an army) I should stealthily undertake my right hand's righteous slaughters.

Turning now to Latin, Virgil's poetry is the best source for the incidence of hendiadys:

Virgil:

Georgics, Book II:

l. 192.  quam pateris libamus et auro.  as we pour libations (to the gods) from golden bowls (lit. from bowls and gold).


Aeneid, Book I:
 
l. 52-54.  Hic vasto rex Aeolus antro / luctantes ventos tempestatesque sonoras / imperio premit ac vinclis et carcere frenat. Here King Aeolus in his vast cavern keeps the struggling winds and resounding storms in order and curbs (them) with imprisoning chains (lit. with chains and a prison).
 
l. 60-62.  Sed pater omnipotens speluncis abdidit atris / hoc metuens, molemque et montes insuper altos imposuit.  But, fearing this, the Almighty Father hid (them) in a black cave, and laid massive mountains high (lit. a mass and high mountains) on top (of them).
 
l. 110-111.  tres Eurus ab alto / in brevia et Syrtes urget  the East Wind drives three (ships) from the deep towards the shoals of the Syrtes (lit. the shoals and the Syrtes).  
 
l. 210.  illi se praedae accingunt dapibusque futuris.  they make ready the game for their forthcoming banquet (lit. the game and their forthcoming banquet).
 
l. 293.  dirae ferro et compagibus artis claudentur Belli portae.  grim with welded iron fastenings (lit. with iron and welded fastenings the gates of War will be closed.
 
l. 503-504.  se laeta ferebat / per medias instans operi regnisque futuris.  she joyfully rushed through the midst (of the throng) urging on the work of her future kingdom (lit. the work and her future kingdom).
 
l. 647-648.  Munera praeterea Iliacis erepta ruinis / ferre iubet, palam signis auroque rigentem.  In addition, he orders him to bring gifts saved from the ruins of Ilium, a robe stiff with figures (wrought) in gold (thread) (lit. stiff with figures and with gold).
 

Aeneid, Book II:
 
l. 116.  Sanguine placastis ventos et virgine caesa. You appeased the winds with the blood of a slaughtered maiden (lit. with blood and a slaughtered maiden).

l. 469-470.  Pyrrhus / exsultat, telis et luce coruscus aena.  Pyrrhus is exulting, gleaming with weapons of flashing bronze (lit. with weapons and bronze light).

l. 534.  nec voci iraeque pepercit.  nor did he hold back his angry words (lit. his voice and anger).

While hendiadys lends itself naturally to poetic expression, it it also appears in works of Latin prose. Examples are as follows:

Caesar:

Bellum Gallicum V:

Ch. 19.3.  quantum labore atque itinere legionarii milites efficere poterant.  as legionary soldiers could achieve by strenuous marching (lit. by their labour and by marching).

Bellum Gallicum VI:

Ch. 26.1  ab eius summo sicut palmae ramique late diffunduntur.  from its top branching hand-palms (lit. hand-palms and branches, i.e horn and antlers), as it were, stretch out for a considerable distance

Ch. 27.1  et crura sine nodis articulisque habent.  and have legs without knotted joints (lit. without knots and joints). 


Suetonius:

Divus Claudius:

Ch. 21.6  diu cunctatus an omnes igni ferroque absumeret.  he hesitated for some time, (wondering) whether he should destroy (them) all with fire and sword. (In this case it seems appropriate to retain the hendiadys in the English translation.)

Last modified onSaturday, 22 July 2017 11:14

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