Living Language vs. Language of Living

I have noticed a curious characteristic of Renaissance Latin verse: the social world of its authors often found more direct, and far more intimate expression than vernacular verse of the same place and time, even the vernacular verse of the same poet.

We need only put, say, Du Bellay's French "Regrets" beside his Latin "Amores", both composed in the same period and place, to see the difference. In the French work, Du Bellay can only hint through an impersonal sonneteer's mask at what was actually going on in his life. In the Latin work, Du Bellay reveals to the reader that he fell in love with a young woman who was in an unhappy marriage to an old man, that he won her with the assistance of her mother, and that her husband put a stop to it by abducting her and locking her away.

I'm not sure why this is, though I suspect it has to do with the general trend I have noticed that when writing for an elite one is usually freer to be indecorous. I can't even imagine the respectable Thomas More writing De Puella Quae Raptum Finxit in English in the 15th century. 

1 comment:

  1. Good points. My best stab at another possibility - based on personal experience - is the sense of "distance" one feels when speaking a foreign language. Even if a language is near and dear to your heart, and you speak it extremely well, you find yourself saying and doing things in it that you might never do in English.