Horror Nocturnus (Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in Latin)

Allegra Forbes |

This May Be The Most Appropriate Song For a Dead Language Ever

 Michael Jackson, from “Thriller.” (by Vectorportal, Wikimedia Commons).Michael Jackson, from “Thriller.” (by Vectorportal, Wikimedia Commons).

[Editor’s Note: For generations, people have called Latin a “dead” language. Others have debated this, saying instead it’s changeless and eternal — an undead language, so to speak. Dead or undead, it’s the perfect vehicle for Michael Jackson’s perennial Halloween hit, “Thriller.” The song, the greatest achievement of hit songwriter Rod Temperton, features monsters, tombs, grisly ghouls, rotting corpses, and “the funk of 40,000 years” — the stuff Latinists live on. And we have a Latin version worthy of it — perhaps the most impressive translation of a modern song ever done into an undead zombie language. Not only does it maintain both the rhythm and sense of the original lines, it just might finally get you to remember what “tabum” (rotting flesh!) and “tabescere” (to rot) mean. And for pure Latin achievement, these renderings by Jonathan Meyer cannot be admired enough: “lurking in the dark” becomes “caece latitat,” and that dative of purpose for “closing in to seal your doom” (“tu[o] adeunt excidio”) will give you shivers. If we had Michael Jackson and Vincent Price back, we’d call them to the studio and get them to record this Latin version for the ages.]

THRILLER/HORROR (Michael Jackson) (Temperton) (tr. Meyer)[1982]

[versus 1]

media nocte horrendum monstrum caece latitat

lunae sub luce aspicitur quod cor percutiat

exclamares, sed terror sonitum rapit non factum

gelu riges, timore intuent(e) in lumina

attonita

 

[chorus]

nam hic est horror nocturnus

nec quisquam te servabit bestiae ex impetu

ut scis, est horror nocturnus

discrimen est vitae, dum interfector horror lucubra-t

 

[versus 2]

ianuam audis: intelligis non esse quo curras

manumque sentis: an solem sis visura, dubitas

quod te speras, luminibus clausis, solum finxisse

interea a tergo audis repentem feram

fugit hora

 

[chorus]

nam hic est horror nocturnus

conatum alterum non sinit alter hic Argus

horror nocturnus

discrimen est vitae, dum interfector horror lucubra-t

 

[pons]

atri vocant, mortui ambulant ut pantomimi

non fugies faucibus ex Leviathani

vitae tuae est finis

 

[versus 3]

te nunc capessunt, appropinquant undique lamiae

te possidebunt, mutaris nisi id pelliculae

carpe diem: ego et tu quidni nunc amplectamur?

nam per noctem servabo t(e) ex terrore in albo

demonstrabo

 

[chorus 2x]

quod hic est horror nocturnus

te excitabo plus quam conatus larvalis ullus

horror nocturnus

t(e) amplectar artius, dum interfector cruor frigor horror lucubra-t

te excitabo nocte

 

[oratio]

caligo terram operit

et media nox advenit

cruentae reptant bestiae

ut noceant viciniae

et si quis prenditur ibi,

qui non est capax saltandi,

adstare debet Cerbero,

tabescer(e) et in sepulchro

in auris spargitur tabum

annorum odor milium

ex omni larvae tumulo

tu(o) adeunt excidio

et superesse cum temptes,

tamen horrescit corpus

nam nemo superare quit

malitiam horroris.

Subscribe

Sign up to receive email updates about new articles

Allegra Forbes

In Medias Res is the online magazine for lovers of Latin and Greek, published by the Paideia Institute.

Comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.