Last week, on Ash Wednesday, I happened to read some crazy claim by a neopagan that Ash Wednesday derived in some weird way from Woden (!). Since then I have been working on a post about the origins of Ash Wednesday, and specifically the imposition of ashes. It’s been a long and weary haul, as I have to work with Dark Ages sacramentaries, but I’m gradually getting there. Yesterday I discovered the old DACL encyclopedia article on Cendres, which is proving very useful. It is interesting to see that modern scholarly literature is often unaware of it. I hope my own article will be done by the end of the week.
March 5 was St Piran’s Day, and I wrote something about that yesterday. But doing so caused me to retrieve the Latin text of the Vita of St Piran. This was published by Capgrave in Nova Legenda Anglie, at some remote date, and this in turn was nicely reprinted and edited by Horstman in 1901. Looking at it, I felt that old urge, and fired up Abbyy Finereader 15, and scanned the 9 pages. Today I finished correcting this to produce a Latin text. The orthography is dreadful, and a real barrier to the non-specialist. I’ve corrected some of it in the Word document.
On a whim I pasted it into Google Translate. I was astonished – but delighted – to find that I got back something very readable indeed:
The translation engine for Latin is clearly going great guns. There are a few mistakes, but not many at all. If this is now the standard for medieval Latin, then we all need to get out there and start using it and start producing cleaned-up translations of medieval saints’ lives. My own hitherto faint urge to translate the Life of St Piran has just received a boost. On Thursday I might well take a look at doing this.