Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Miles and I are reading Missee Lee (our eighth "Swallows and Amazons" book by Arthur Ransome). Chapter Five is called "Hic Liber est Meus." Miles asked me what it meant.

I told him it was Latin and that I did not know what it meant, but that we might find out in the chapter.

"It must be about God," he said. "Latin is always about gods."


renew said...

"This book is mine/belongs to me;" apparently a common inscription by book owners, back in the old days. It is sometimes immediately followed by "Testis est Deus" ("[as] God is my witness"). So yes, Latin is always about God...

Andrew Shields said...

In the chapter, an even longer text appears:

Hic liber est meus
Testis est Deus
Si quisquis furetur,
Per collum pendetur,
Like hic poor creatur.

Then there's a little drawing of someone hanging from a gallows.

renew said...

Okay, as you say in German: "Ich bin mit meinem Latein am Ende." I did some amateurish research and found this:

Hic liber est meus,
Et testis est Deus,
Si quisquis furetur,
Per collum penderetur.
[Note how it's "penderetur," not "pendetur."]

There was also a nice rhymed translation:

As God can see,
This book belongs to me,
Which, if anyone nicks,
Should be hanged by their necks.

The "like hic poor creatur" is obviously an addition by Ransome, attempting to mix Latin and English. The line points to the drawing (hic = this/that). "Creatur" is not really Latin, either.

Here's where I found the info. Do a quick word search (Ctrl+F or Apple+F) for "quisquis" and you'll have it: http://www.ilab.org/services/catalogues.php?lang=en&membernr=849&catnr=2107&pg=2&br=

mrjumbo said...

This book is mine
God is [my] witness
If anyone steals it,
By the neck he will hang
Like this poor creature

Andrew Shields said...

Ransome's narrative implies that the "like this poor creatur" part, with the drawing of the hanged man, is an English schoolboy addition.

Business Writer said...

Puzzled me too - when I read it last night - thanks to the wonderful world of Google I found the following site http://www.livinglatin.co.uk/index.html - which is a handy crib for such matters (your other translators are spot on).
Jibooms and bobstays the net is a wonderful thing.

anearthwithoutgrammar said...

This same chapter and verse amused and vexed us at bedtime-story time just last night (seven years on from your original post). I will be happy to report back to my anxious children tonight. Thanks!

Andrew Shields said...

My son was seven those seven years ago. I haven't been able to get my daughters (now 9 and 7) into reading S&A yet.

My favorite of all the books is "Great Northern": http://andrewjshields.blogspot.ch/2007/07/simple-dreadful-truth.html