Saturday, April 16, 2016

You Have To Go Back To The Sources

You have to go back to the sources, you really do. Today I was reading of a comment made by Hernan Núñez de Gúzman regarding his former professor in Salamanca and later colleague at the Universidad de Alcalá. The original text, which was published in the sixteenth century–some books mention it was published in 1512 (which I think is a typo), others 1528 (which I think is accurate)–is not found in any of the sources that discuss these renowned Spaniards. The date alone was worth the digging. Did Núñez write what he wrote before Nebrija joined the faculty in Alcalá, or years later? Certainly he could have written them in 1512, but it seems more likely that he would have wrote the words he wrote years later remembering the instrumental professor who was adamant about resurrecting Latin in the universities of Spain and the church. Anyways, here is the quote that is translated by a researcher on the Complutensian Polyglot:
"He was learned in all kinds of teaching, and his powerful and most sweet lute was more favored than that by which Orpheus sought to draw Eurydice from the underworld, for I wish to declare by this that it was he who amongst us restored the Latin language and humane learning with for so many years had been almost extinguished in Spain."
And here are the actual words written by Núñez about Nebrija (I've included first clause in reference to Nebrija, which the translator above did not include):
". . . el muy venerable y literatissimo varon Antonio de Nebrija nuestro preceptor doctissimo en todos generos de doctrina, cuya potente y dulcissima vihuela, mas dichosa que la de aquel thracense Orfeo, sacó a la verdadera Euridice del infierno: quiero decir, resucitó entre nosotros la lengua latina y letras de humanidad, que tantos años ha estaban exterminadas de España."
So, here are just a couple of quick comments. But first my translation, which differs significantly from the one above.
". . . the highly esteemed and well versed man Antonio de Nebrija, our most educated preceptor in all areas of learning, whose powerful and so very sweet lute, which was more blessed than that of Thracian Orpheus, drew the true Eurydice out of the underworld: for I wish to say, he brought back from the dead amongst us the Latin language and the humanities, which for so many years had been extinguished in Spain"
The initial translation does not capture that this is not a declarative statement. The sentence does not start "He was." Rather, Núñez is taking a moment to reflect on Nebrija and interjects a thought about him in his commentary on Juan de Mena's "La quinta orden de Mars." I back the quote up so that we can capture this. And by doing so I also get another very remarkable description about the man Nebrija that the original translation does not capture, specifically that he considered him "muy venerable y literatissimo." The real important part of the translation occurs in the following part of the sentence: "cuya potente y dulcissima vihuela . . . sacó a la verdadera Euridice del infierno." The original translation totally misses that Núñez is referring to the Latin language and humanities as Eurydice and he is talking about how they were dead (not almost dead). He is talking about how Nebrija succeeded in bringing Latin and the humanities back from the dead. Notice the comma after Orpheus. Notice it calls him "Thracian Orpheus," not just "Orpheus." Notice it says "true Eurydice," not just "Eurydice." Small details, but very important ones if we want to know what the original author actually said.

It took a while to find out where I could access an original of this note. I found the only copy available online. Thanks to the university library in Seville and their "fondo antiguo" digitized manuscripts I was able to view it and not lean on another's translation.

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