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Tangor, non frangor, ab undis

Original post date: Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In English: I am touched but not broken by the waves.

This is one of those proverbs that loses a lot in translation! The charm of the Latin depends on the word play between tangor-frangor, which I can't quite figure out how to reproduce in English. Perhaps "I am touched but not tumbled by the waves," or something like that? Well, as I've often said, the point is not to translate into English but to enjoy in the Latin, with its lovely tangor-frangor.

I chose this proverb for today as a follow-up to yesterday's proverb, which was about the philosopher who remains silent even when he is being beaten and insulted. The verbal and physical blows do not affect him, and that is the proof that he is a philosopher.

Like so many Latin sayings, this one can be found in the early modern emblem literature. You can see an image for this emblem as published in Jacob Cats's Sinne- en minne-beelden (1627). The emblem page for Tangor, non frangor, ab undis includes additional moralizing material including this observation which takes the metaphor of the waves and provides a whole series of interpretations for the dangerous "waves" that might make trouble: Periclitatur castitas in delitiis, humilitas in divitiis, pietas in negotiis, veritas in multiloquio, charitas in hoc mundo, "Chastity is endangered in pleasures, humility is endangered in wealth, piety is endangered in business matters, truth is endangered in talkativeness, and charity is endangered in this world."

The text for this emblem also includes a delightful little poem in English:
Though clamorouse tongues both curse and blame,
A constant harte is stil the same.
You sit as chiefest counseller, in Venus goulden hall;
And are saluted solemnely, with wordes, and eke with all
The courtesie, that lovers can invent, for to youre grace,
Whee kneele, and soule and body both wee offer up apace.
Yet for all this, you still are coole, which sheweth unto mee,
That through the salt sea ofte are founde, fresh currants for to bee,
Which keepe themselves stil fresh and pure, not mingled as wee see,
My love through flames can passe, and yet no harme receaveth shee.
If you have not looked through the early modern emblem books, they are a lot of fun - with Latin and often materials in many other languages. You can find a whole series of emblem books online at Emblem Project Utrecht.

And here is today's proverb read out loud:

3031. Tangor, non frangor, ab undis.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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