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Musica laetitiae comes, medicina dolorum

Original post date: Monday, April 23, 2007

In English: Music is a companion to joy and a medicine for pains.

I thought this would be a positive follow-up to the proverbs about doctors and medicine I've posted in the past few days. As today's saying explains, music is something that can be enjoyed by people when things are going well (laetitiae comes) and when they are not doing well, music is as good as medicine.

Of course, just as there are many music lovers out there, there are many variants on this saying, such as Musica laborum dulce levamen, "Music is a sweet relief for labors," Musica magnorum solamen dulce laborum, "Music is a sweet solace for great labors," or Musica mentis medicina maestae, "Music is medicine for a sad mind."

The form of the saying which I chose for today has been made especially famous through being included by Vermeer as the inscription on one of the instruments in his painting "The Music Lesson." You can use the "zoom" feature at Royal Collection website in order to see the inscription (which uses the early modern rather than the classical spelling: letitie, rather than laetitiae).

And while it's not related to the musica...medicina theme, I think it is worth noting that both the words laetitiae and dolorum give us pretty names in English: Leticia (also spelled Lettice, or Letizia, the name of Napoleon's mother), and also Dolores (an epithet of the Virgin Mary, "Our Lady of Sorrows," in Spanish Nuestra SeƱora de los Dolores).

Meanwhile, here is today's proverb read out loud!

275. Musica laetitiae comes, medicina dolorum.

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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