Latin Proverbs I - Tangor, non frangor, ab undis



Tangor, non frangor, ab undis

In English: I am touched but not broken by the waves.







From Bestiaria Latina: Audio Latin Proverbs

This is one of those proverbs that loses a lot in translation! The charm of the Latin depends on the word play between tangor-frangor, which I can't quite figure out how to reproduce in English. Perhaps "I am touched but not tumbled by the waves," or something like that? Well, as I've often said, the point is not to translate into English but to enjoy in the Latin, with its lovely tangor-frangor.

I chose this proverb for today as a follow-up to yesterday's proverb, which was about the philosopher who remains silent even when he is being beaten and insulted. The verbal and physical blows do not affect him, and that is the proof that he is a philosopher.

Like so many Latin sayings, this one can be found in the early modern emblem literature. You can see an image for this emblem as published in Jacob Cats's Sinne- en minne-beelden (1627). The emblem page for Tangor, non frangor, ab undis includes additional moralizing material including this observation which takes the metaphor of the waves and provides a whole series of interpretations for the dangerous "waves" that might make trouble: Periclitatur castitas in delitiis, humilitas in divitiis, pietas in negotiis, veritas in multiloquio, charitas in hoc mundo, "Chastity is endangered in pleasures, humility is endangered in wealth, piety is endangered in business matters, truth is endangered in talkativeness, and charity is endangered in this world."

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