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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Trustworthiness of Oral Tradition

A disturbing proof of the capacity of oral literature to keep entire texts unaltered over millennia consists in this incantation, gathered at the end of the previous [nineteenth] century in Oltenia [south-western Romania], and which is identical with the one cited by Marcellus Empiricus fifteen centuries earlier:

Original LatinRomanian versionEnglish translation of both

Pastores te invenerunt
Sine manibus colligerunt
Sine foco coxerunt
Sine dentibus comederunt

Ciobanasii te aflara
Fara maini te culesera
Fara foc te fripsera
Fara gura te mancara

Shepherds found you
Without hands they plucked you
Without fire they fried you
Without mouth they ate you

Alexandru Diaconescu, Rhetorical Discourse on the Original Spirit of the Romanians,
Interval magazine, No. 3/1990, page 29.