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Thomas Makin, Descriptio Pennsylvaniae, Anno 1729, Lines 1-28

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Thomas Makin’s most notable trait is that he stands as one of the oldest known settlers in Pennsylvania. Records show him serving as an usher in the Friend’s public grammar school in 1689, not long after which he rises to the post of headmaster.  He stayed on at the school for some years teaching Latin but eventually began to move around and eventually was forced to give up teaching all together. The end result of this was that Makin ended up destitute and often living on the kindness of friends and family.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Two major explanations exist for why Makin wrote the poems he did and why he wrote them in Latin. First and foremost, it has been claimed that he wrote them simply for entertainment, an understandable assumption given that he had, at one point, taught Latin. The other claim is that he did so in the hopes of amassing some small gifts from his “patrons”, to whom he sent the works. Namely we see Makin’s two major works, Encomium Pennslyvaniae and In laudes Pennslyvaniae poema seu descriptio Pennsylvaniae, dedicated to an acquaintance of Makin’s named James Logan. This argument is born up by the fact that, in his own letter to Makin, Logan comments that the servants of the Muses are often afflicted with want and that it is not surprising that Makin has been so as well. In another letter Makin comments that Logan has in his possession a poem meant to teach his son about the geography and nature of Pennsylvania, likely referring to one of the two afore mentioned poems (likely the descriptio).

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In form, the poem is written in elegiac couplets and takes a strongly didactic tone regarding its subject matter. It begins with a description of the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, dead only a couple years at the point of the poem’s writing, before moving into a description of the colony as a whole. The verses have been described as crude and at points it is clear that they were not written by a Roman, as strange grammatical constructions abound and words seem in odd places. Nevertheless the work shows a strong adherence to its metrical form and even those critics who fault its’ verses refinements admit that it should be respected on that front at least.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The poem provides a useful glimpse into the place Latin held in America at this point. It was a subject still taught in schools, with enough people devoted to it that Makin felt confident his poem would be able to be read, and may have thought he could make money for writing it. The art form itself, however, may have become more about structure and less about flair, losing some of its artistic soul as authors strove to hold to the ancient meters and rhythms which would have come so much more easily to the likes of Horace and Ovid.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0  

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Descriptio Pennslyvaniae

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Haec habet et regio memorabile nomen habebit

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 auctior auctoris tempus in omne sui;

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 qui fuit illustri proavorum stemmate natus,

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 sed virtute magis nobilis ipse sua.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Praecipue illustrem sua se sapientia fecit;             5

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 vixit apud claros dignus honore viros.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Qui quamvis obiit, tamen usque memoria vivet,

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 nominis atque sui fama perennis erit.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Semper honos nomenque suum laudesque manebunt

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 hujus qui terrae nobilis auctor erat.                        10

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Haec sua proprietas; hinc Pennsylvania primum

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 haec fuit ex domini nomine dicta sui,

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 rege sibi Carolo concessa suisque Secundo

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 pro claris meritis officioque patris.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Zonae terra subest alternae, ubi veris et aestus,       15

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 autumni gelidae sunt hiemisque vices.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Hic ter quinque dies numerat longissimus horas,

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 cum sol in cancro sidere transit iter.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Hic tamen interdum glacialis frigora brumae

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 et calor aestivus vix toleranda premunt.                   20

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Saepe sed immodicum boreale refrigerat aestum

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 flamen, et australis mitigat aura gelu.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Hic adeo inconstans est et variabile caelum,

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 una ut non raro est aestus hiemsque die.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 Saepe prior quamvis nitido sit sole serena,               25

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 postera fit multis imbribus atra dies.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Vis adeo interdum venti violenta ruentis,

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 ut multa in sylvis sternitur arbor humi.

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Source: http://iris.haverford.edu/philly-latin/descriptio-pennsylvaniae-anno-1729-thomas-makin-lines-1-28/