|Procul Harum’s name, though misspelled, |
derives from the Latin for “Beyond these things.”
|The modern Greek lyrics, “kyrie eleison,” |
in Mr. Mister’s song “Kyrie” translate to “Lord, have mercy.”
To make this an effective project, first have students try to find the songs, and believe me, they’re out there. Artists working in a variety of genres have drawn on Latin and Greek, from the folky “Benedictus” off of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1964 album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. to the alternative U2 single, “Gloria” and the heavy, punk-rock song “Halloween II” by The Misfits. Have the student bring the song into the classroom and play the whole thing or an excerpt, ideally the Latin part.
As opposed to just translating, compel the student to give insight to the Latin or Greek lyrics. Present them with questions, such as:
- Why do you think the songwriter chose Latin or Greek, as opposed to a language more familiar to the audience, or English, even?
- Translate the Latin or Greek. What does it mean and why is it significant?
- Has the Latin or Greek been used in other texts or other places before?
This is the first of several posts I will write exploring the possibilities of incorporating pop culture and, specifically, music into the classics classroom. Stay tuned for next week’s post where I explore a more creative way of combining popular music and classics.