The New Hercules: A Poem For His
Dr. Joseph S. Salemi
Department of Classics, Hunter College
The following Latin hexameters
were written shortly after the election of the new Pope. They are more
in the nature of an exercise than a literary attempt; many persons are
far more adept at Latin verse composition than I am. An English
translation has been appended to the Latin text.
In Latin, the hero Hercules is often given the epithet of claviger, or "club-bearer," because
of the large club he carries. But claviger
can also mean "key-bearer," originally in reference to Janus the
god of doorways, and later by extension to the Supreme Pontiff, who is
the keeper of the keys of St. Peter. This double meaning is the
essential rhetorical core of the poem. Our new Pope bears the keys, but
he also wields a club. That is why I call him haereticorum malleus, or "the
hammer of heretics."
Some of the lines are heavily substituted with spondaic feet, to suit
the solemn subject matter. In dactylic hexameter, many spondees add
gravity and weight to the Latin line. In the last verse I employed the
Greek ecclesiastical phrase oikos
kyriakos ("the Lord's house") to start. I have taken the upsilon
of the second word to be long--as it is by nature in Greek--even though
an orthographic y usually does
not make position in Latin meter. Mea
My thanks to my colleague Robert White at Hunter College, and his wife
Jane White, for reviewing these hexameters and saving me from two
in honore Sanctitatis Eius
Pontificis Maximi Sanctissimae Ecclesiae Romanae
ut celebretur electio eius
ad Sedem Apostolicam.
Ecce, sacerdotem peperit Germania fortis
Mirifice doctum. Regnet securus et amplus!
Accrescat pietas; doctrina stet, Benedicte;
Christi nuptam duxisti feliciter almam.
Haec dilecta est perpetuo pulchrissima coniunx.
Palliolum tibi nunc offertur splendidius quam
Mundi vestimentum. Petri claviger esto
Et solus sacrosanctus Vicarius alti.
Haereticorum malleus es; cum robore persta!
Oikos kyriakos regnatur
non sine pugna.
--Joseph S. Salemi
in honor of His Holiness
Supreme Pontiff of the Most Holy Roman Church
to celebrate his election
by God's grace
to the Apostolic See.
THE NEW HERCULES
Behold, strong Germany has brought forth a priest
Wonderfully learned. May he reign safely and honorably!
Let piety increase; let doctrine endure, Benedict;
You have happily wedded the nurturing bride of Christ.
This most beautiful spouse has been chosen in perpetuity.
A small pallium is now offered to you more splendid
Than worldly raiment. You shall be the keeper of Peter's keys
And the single, sacrosanct Vicar of high heaven.
You are the hammer of heretics--persevere with strength!
The Lord's house is not governed without fighting.
Latin hexameters and translation by
Joseph S. Salemi
Copyright © 2005 by Dr.
Joseph S. Salemi
All rights reserved