Latin · Translation

Translation: Ovid, Elegy XI

Jupiter posted this tiny bit of Latin in a quote and I thought that I would share it with all, as well as translation, to help illustrate once again the grammatical breakdown and structure of the Latin language.

Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim.” (to read the entire Elegy, please see this link.
– Ovid, Amores, Book III, Elegy XI

Endure and persist: this pain will one day do good for you.

Translation breakdown:

Perfer– This particular word means “to endure” or undergo something. This verb is in the imperative form, which is the “command” form. The actual verb is perferre. An imperative is made when you remove the “re” ending from a verb and are left with the stem. Words like Salvē! are imperative.

Et– “And.” That is an easy one.

Obdurā– Obdura is another word in the imperative form. It comes from the verb obdurāre, which means “to persist” or continue, and also to endure.

Dolor– This is a 3rd declension masculine singular noun that means “pain” or “grief” or “sorrow.” Dolor is its nominative form, which indicates that dolor of the subject of the phrase.

Hic– Hic means “he” or “this,” and hic is the nominative form of hic, haec, hoc demonstrative table. It is in the nominative masculine singular form because it refers to the noun dolor, and therefore must agree with it in GNC (gender, number, case).

Tibi– Tibi is the dative form of “tu,” or “you.” The dative case is used to indicate when something is “to” or “for” someone or something. So this word would mean, “to you.”

Proderit– Proderit comes from the verb prosum, which means “to help,” “to benefit,” and simply “to do good.” Proderit is its singular active future form, which speaks of a future action. That means you can add “will” to the sentence to indicate the actual tense. “-Erit” is the future ending for words that relate to he/she/it. So simply put, proderit means, “will benefit” or “will be helpful.”

Ōlim– Ōlim is an adverb. It means “once,” “some day,” “one day,”… it means many things. For the sake of this translation it I chose “one day.”

Rough literal translation: Endure and persist: pain this to you will do good one day.

Switch order of words for poetic translative flow: Endure and persist: this pain will one day do good for you.

24 thoughts on “Translation: Ovid, Elegy XI

  1. Thank you Professor Marius, this is helpful.  I studied Spanish for several years and I am noticing some of the grammar rules are similar. At one point I wanted to major in Linguistics or Anthropology so I was trying to truly learn a second language is though it was my primary.  I started with Spanish because I had taken it in high school and my choices were limited.  I wanted Latin or Greek but the community college I attended didn’t offer it.
    Now to practice vocabulary I have started labeling things around the house with their Latin names and while at work saying the words for the Latin abbreviations that I use, then translating it into English.

    Also thank you for the link to the complete poem, I rather enjoy it.  I will have to print it out so I can practice reading the Latin out loud.

    What else could you suggest to help me learn?  

    1. Spanish is very much like Latin. Once you have a good grasp of Latin, you will find that Latin-based languages are made much easier.

      I would suggest you study your declensions and tenses until they are embedded in your memory. As long as you remember the endings and their rules, you can apply them to any word. Get a good dictionary that will give you the four principle parts of verbs, a verb’s conjugation, and will clearly tell you which declension a noun is in. Practise adjective agreement. When I was in school learning Latin, it was the hardest thing for me. Take a small quote in Latin like you see me do here, and translate it. Even if it is using words and cases/tenses you do not know, use the internet and a dictionary. Challenge yourself. Also, feel free to try out a few things on me. Never feel foolish or that you may be using Latin wrong.

      1. Thank you for the advise, looks like I have an excuse to go to the book store…and you know I just hate it there *eye roll/smile* 

        I must confess I had to look up most of what you said about declensions, tenses, and adjective agreement.  I understand now, and what you described is exactly how I learned Spanish so hopefully my routines will come back to me.  I know a lot of people struggle with adjective agreement, time will tell how I fair. 

        I did my first official translation last night, wrote it out as you instructed. This may sound strange but after a very frustrating day it brought me the calm I needed to end my day on.  Thank you again for your instruction and encouragement. 

        1. When I was first learning Latin as a child, adjective agreement was precisely what I had the most trouble with. Of course, it was likely made easier by the fact that I could listen to it spoken all around me, which a learner of today’s age cannot benefit from.

          What was it that you translated the other night? Your first official translation, a true milestone.

          I understand what it is that you say. Translating Latin is something that I can both calm and relax myself with, as well.

  2. I took notes of this in my new Latin notebook (hmm, “new Latin”…seems a bit of an oxymoron). Anyway, it actually made a lot of sense, which was surprising. I hope one day to talk in it fluently to you.

        1. Fortunately, they are not something you need use that often. As long as you keep from giving orders and commands.

  3. That’s a very wise little sentence. Perfectly fitting my life since I started uni and especially the last week. But I don’t want to complain, I never learned so much before, neither did I make so much progress in my personal development.

    1. You are coming into an unquestionably challenging period of your life, but with the challenges comes knowledge and satisfaction. Of course, you will do wonderfully, but will be much relieved when it is all over. Even, I am sure, miss it at times.

      1. The last few days were not a challenge, they were hell. But that means next week can only get better. I am most grateful for the change to go to uni and I love it but it’s a fight and I don’t always win. The intellectual challenge isn’t so big really, but it takes a lot of energy to maintain self confidence, motivation and courage to say “stop”. When I started my courses, we were 150 students, now 80 are left. Nobody cares if you make it or not.
        But I will make it, get my degree and probably even take the next steps without medicine or therapy.
        Well, I think I’ll copy those lines from Ovid and put them up over my desk in the lab. It needs decoration.

        1. That is how advanced classes are meant to be. Professors do purposefully “weed out” the weak so that only the intellectually and physically strong can survive and progress. It is the way academia needs to be. Unfortunately, it has become entirely too lax and easy these days, which I dislike. The rigour of the experience is what qualifies and shapes an individual. Not to mention nurturing endurance and responsibility. The only person who need care if you make it is yourself, though it is unfortunate that support is scarce. Yet you are wonderfully intelligent and driven, and I know wholeheartedly that you will succeed.

  4. My first translation (rightly so) were your words: “Gravitas, honestas, virtus, dignitas, auctoritas, firmitas, providentia, et patientia habeō.”
    I was able to translate it mostly in my head but I still wrote it out, just for good measure.  Then I went on to translate “Multa diuque tuli; vitiis patientia victa est; cede fatigato pectore, turpis amor!”  I had printed out the entire Elegy XI from the link you provided and am working through it, translating a line or more at time. I thought this would be good practice because I can check my work against the English version that is along side it.  When I bought my new dictionary I also picked up a Latin Grammar quick look lamented card that is proving helpful as well. 

    1. I hope you know that if you ever have any questions, you can ask me. Latin can be both simple and impossible. Once you get beyond the simple and straightforward cases and into the intricacies, it is exhaustive and frustrating. How far have you gotten in the elegy translation?

      1. Oh thank you, I did have a couple of questions, you must have known.  I think I have it right but nouns ending in – us denotes masculine, the endings -a or -ia are feminine, and -um is neuter right?  Also I ran across a word I was not able to translate with either the dictionary or the internet, would you be able to illuminate me?  The word was fugique.  

        As far as the intricacies…I have come to understand that as well, my dictionary nearly took flight the other night.  

        I just finished translating the 9th line, so I will be starting at Ergo ego sustinui…  I would be further but I had to take a step back and do some conjugation because it was getting all jumbled up in my head.  

        1. Right off the bat, Latin is confusing. We have declensions and then gender within that. 1st declension are feminine words, and so the endings begin with the nominative singular -a. 2nd declension has both masculine and neuter words. The masculine nominative singular typically end in -us, -ir (words like vir), and -er. 2nd declension neuter ends in -um. But then in certain instances, a neuter word will mirror the feminine and take on -a or -ia- endings.


          “Que” is sometimes used in place of the word “et,” or “and.” Consider these two phrases:
          Vinum et panem.
          Vinum panemque.

          They are both the same phrase. Wine and bread.

          Fugique could be (without seeing the whole phrase) be the first person perfect, fūgī, with que added. Which would mean, “I fled/hastened and…”

  5. Yes I agree it can be very confusing.  When trying to understand the declination of nouns I had to re-read the explanation several times, this is not something I am accustom to.  My understanding is better now, (still not perfect) looks like I have to write out more tables for the declinations. 

    Thank you for the help.  The translation you gave would make sense. Off the top of your head are there any other endings like -que?

    1. Yes, there are other endings like -que.

      There is -ne. You attach -ne to the first word of a sentence if you are asking a yes or no question, but you are uncertain of the answer.

      Consider this: Vīnumne aquaque cupis.

      Translated, it means: Do you want wine and water? To which there would be a yes or no answer. The -ne lets you know it is a question because we do not use question marks. The -que indicates and.

      Then there is also -ve. The ending -ve works much like -que because it is attached to a word to indicate “or.”

      Consider this: Vīnum aquave bibam.

      Translated: I will drink wine or water.

  6. This is sort of related; when learning a new language I like to learn about the people too. So I was wondering if you could recommend a book that covers the Etruscan Kings, the revolt, and the rise of the Republic of Rome? Or any other books that you think might be good.

    Thank you, by the way, for the tips. They are proving helpful.

  7. I notice that it states at the bottom that switching the words into a poetic flow.. Endure and persist; this pain will one day do good for you. Can that exact saying be translated into Latin, or can it only be stated in the beginning that way?

    1. It can absolutely be translated back, but the typical sentence structure is compromised by the fact that Latin is not a Germanic language as English is, so the two formulate differently. I hope I understood your question. Please tell me if I did not.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.