I was reminded, by Mary Beard’s recent excellent piece for Point of View about exams, of my own Honour Moderations in Literae Humaniores (second year Classics exams!) at Oxford back in 1996. One of the papers was Latin hexameter verse composition. It was a LOT of fun but very difficult.
I thought I would find out if I could still do it.
Here’s my attempt at translating the first few lines of Mary’s article about exams into flowing Virgilian Latin. It isn’t unmetrical or nonsensical, as far as I can tell (though it may well be…!) but it also isn’t very good, as my tutor at the time Donald Russell would no doubt have pointed out…
It also diverges, as any translation must, from Mary’s original for which apologies!
innumerabilium similis iuvenum, puerorum
atque puellarum per terram sollicitorum,
nunc examina agam, quamquam non ipsa rogabor.
somnia quantumvis trepidantia vere etiamnunc
dira mihi veniunt exsangui, mente reposta…