Rubrica a cura di Sinclair de Courcy Williams
Talking Dante, Episode 3
Scots’ king Jimmy is James VI of Scotland, who later also became James I, King of England and Ireland. He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. He convened the Hampton Court Conference, during which the decision was made to undertake a new authorized translation into English of the Geneva Bible. The King James Bible was completed in 1611 and so it is written in the English of Shakespeare’s time, also called Early Modern English. The translation is famous for its ‘majesty of style’ and it is, still today, the version that I prefer. In 2011, during its 400th Anniversary, The Times described it as ‘one of the most important books in English culture’. On the flyleaf (risguardo), you can still read that it is appointed (ufficialmente nominato / incaricato) to be read in churches.
Blast off is the verb used instead of take off (decollare) when a rocket or a missile leaves the ground. You have probably heard a similar expression at the end of a countdown (conto alla rovescia) during Apollo launches from the Kennedy Space Centre: ‘… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – Houston, we have lift off.’ I used the verb blast off because I wanted to connect the creation story with the theory of the Big Bang.
Spake is the Early Modern English past tense form (it is sometimes called the preterite) of the verb speak. Today that would more normally read spoke. In the first chapter of the book of Genesis, God speaks a lot (‘in the beginning was the word’) and that is why, instead of using the verb create, I say he theorized (ha teorizzato) the Earth. Thereon means ‘and then’ (e poi). You could also use thereupon or thereafter, but remember those three words are extremely formal.
Command (that) space should commence. That is an example of the putative use of should. It can be used after a certain number of verbs, for instance command. I will give you an example with the verb suggest (suggerire / consigliare /proporre). If there is no indirect object (complemento di termine), you use the –ing form: ‘He suggested calling a doctor.’ If you need an indirect object, you use putative should: He suggested (that) she should call a doctor. You can omit putative should but in that case the verb takes the infinitive: ‘He suggested (that) she (should) call (i.e., not calls) a doctor. If you want more information about that, contact me.
In our Bible, God creates from nothing or out of (da) nothing (creatio ex nihilo). That is a very different idea from the theory of the big bang, because the big bang is preceded (preceduto) by the big crunch (il grande scricchiolio), when all the matter (materia) of the universe is attracted by the force of gravity into an almost inexistent space, smaller than a pinhead (capocchia di spillo). There it becomes so dense and unstable that it explodes (or blasts off) and everything starts again!
Get cracking or get things cracking is an expression that means start working at once. A phrasal verb with a similar meaning is get down to something (mettersi al lavoro / darsi da fare /tirarsi su le maniche).
Time is music – that’s probably not really true. But in a sense, music is a question of time or has a lot to do with time. A fiddle is a violin, especially a violin used in traditional or folk music. I don’t know why the instrument has such a different name in that type of music. If anyone can, please feel free to explain!
Tick is the noise (il rumore) made by a clock – tick, tock (un ticchettio). A tick is also a horrible little, blood-sucking insect often found on dogs (zecca).
Your kith and kin are your extended family and your very close friends (amici e parenti).
Here waltzed is a verb. The dance a waltz (un walzer).
Float is a verb which means to rest or move or cause (a buoyant – galleggiante – object) to rest or move on the surface of a liquid (galleggiare). A float (noun) is a mechanised platform carrying decorations, as in a carnival float (carro di carnivale). It ‘floats’ on the crowd.
Midstream means ‘in the middle’ of a stream (ruscello). If you ‘stop somebody midstream’, it means you probably stop them in the middle of what they were saying – you don’t let them finish.