Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Latin Worth Knowing: Nulla Dies Sine Linea - No Day Without a Line

I learned this quote from a dear man, David McCarthy, PhD, who taught me Syriac at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He died before the world was ready for him to pass, but that is too often the way of the world.

The quote comes to us from Pliny the Elder, who translates it from the Greek of the artist Apeles:

Nulla dies sine linea 
Not a day without a line
Apeles, Greek painter, quoted by Pliny, Natural History 35.36


The artist Apeles means this to refer only to art. An artist should not let a single day pass without drawing something, even a single line on the medium.

But Dr. McCarthy cast a wonderful secondary sense upon it. Those of you who love languages, who love Scripture, who love learning of any topic whatsoever--never let a day pass without a line. 

A line, a single line of text in that language you want to keep in your heart. A line of Scripture, open the Bible and read just a bit of what you see. Whatever it is you want to keep strong in ability, do just even a little bit of it every day.

Who am I to tell you all this? A shameful hypocrite. I haven't read so much as a line of the Syriac Dr. McCarthy taught me in--no more lying--years.

[Five Minutes Later]

I've just remedied that. I just read Matthew 1:1 in Syriac. 

In other words, I've just read a line. Tomorrow is another day.

Requiescas in pace, David. Memory Eternal. May you be in a Place of Brightness, a Place of Verdure, a Place of Repose.

I promise you, David, tomorrow, I will read another line...


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