By Mark Squibb | Vol. 12 No. 5 (March 7 2019)
A 17th century Latin text extolling the virtues and attractiveness of the Southern Avalon for settlement is being given a closer look.
"Cambrensium Caroleia" was written in 1625 by Sir William Vaughan, a wealthy Welshman who proposed the settlement of colonies in Newfoundland, to celebrate the Charles I succession and marriage to Henriette Marie of France.
"But he weaves into that celebration promotional statements regarding his project to establish colonies in Newfoundland," explained Professor Luke Roman, Head of Memorial University’s Classics Department.
"So that text was meant, at least in apart, to provide a certain sort of positive publicity for his project."
The title, Roman explained, roughly translates along the lines of "Songs of the Welsh in celebration of Charles" or "Welsh songs for Charles."
The Sir William Vaughan Trust, a not-for-profit group dedicated to preserving Newfoundland's Welsh connection, approached Roman in November to ask if he would translate the text, and with funding from both the Trust and MUN, along with help from a graduate student, Roman has set himself to the task.
"We thought this was an interesting project," said Roman. "The Department of Classics is always looking for ways to bring the classics into the present and connect them with people's concerns, and to better understand the culture and heritage of the province."
He said further that it's not uncommon for texts to remain untranslated for hundreds of years due to the large amount of work needed to do the job, and expects that this translation will be a long, slow process, and will take at least a year.
Roman said however, that perhaps the book would be translated in segments, with those passages that speak about Vaughn's desire to establish colonies in Newfoundland translated first.
So far he has skimmed the work and read enough to get the gist the of it.
Roman says that Vaughan often painted a picture of Newfoundland as a golden land with plenty of fish and fertile soil.
Unfortunately, his endeavours were largely unsuccessful.
"Everything that I've read suggest that he tried, he appointed a governor, but these colonies did not flourish, and eventually he yielded his rights to the land to other people... It was a grand idea that ultimately wasn't robustly successful."
Roman also said the translation might be the beginning of a larger project, which could see other Latin works that relate to the culture and history of Newfoundland translated.
Roman spoke about the project to members of the Trust during their Annual General meeting on Sunday, March 3.
March 1 also marked St. David's Day, a day set aside to celebrate the patron saint of Wales.