Friday, November 10, 2023

Augustine's Prose

Oh my! I just read these words in Augustine's Confessions:
Ita fornicatur anima, cum avertitu abs te et quaerit extra te ea quae pura et liquida non invenit, nisi redit ad te. 

I've been reading almost as long as I've been able to talk, but seldom do I find an author who can write crisp and concise prose like Augustine can. I had never read this sentence before in Latin. At first it was extremely evocative, then I had to read it again to see how the words flowed. I am filled with awe, admiration, and appreciation. Augustine makes me reread a lot, in a good way. He crafts incredibly detailed and dense sentences. This one I find haunting and beautiful. Someone once likened beautiful prose to the opacity of stained glass. You can still see what's on the other side of the window, but the window itself is beautiful to behold. You enjoy it on its own merits. Prose is beautiful in the same way music or art is beautiful. 

Augustine is well loved because he got to the heart of Christianity. I plan to read his City of God next. 
As for the above sentence, here's my rendering:
Thus the soul commits fornication when it turns away from you and seeks apart from you what is pure and untainted. It cannot find it except by returning to you. 
There are as many ways to find peace as there are people seeking it. But our Lord said only one way works. What he gives is different from what the world gives. When souls behave promiscuously and turn to another, they wither and die. But when they return to him, new life surges into their lives, pushing off the old and making room for the new. 

Augustine found this to be true. Thousands like him -- and I am one of them -- can heartily agree.