Monday, 22 December 2008

sia santificato il tuo nome,

Line 2!



Hmm. Well, this is 'essere' in a subjunctive form. Let's skip to the end and say that it can be translated "(may it) be".

I think that it warrants perhaps a little more explanation, because the subjunctive is used a few times in the prayer, but I suppose you can skip ahead if you're not interested, because it's not really everyday language. The subjunctive just about survives in English. Have a look at these:
Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he 'live, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
If I were you...

He be? I were?

Normally, of course, 'he is', and 'I was', but these are subjunctive forms. In Italian, as in English, the subjunctive is used to express wishes, thoughts and beliefs. The giant says 'be he' because he's supposing, first, the situation that Jack's alive, second, that he's dead, but he doesn't know in either case. The giant has remarkably correct grammar. He could have said "whether he's alive or dead" but that would have ruined the scansion, so it seems that we're dealing with a rather poetic giant. "If I were you" is another conjecture. In fact, the Italians say much the same thing using the subjunctive, "If I were in you", which I suppose means "in your shoes", "in your place".

The normal form of verbs, past present and future, is called the indicative because it indicates. So if I were were to re-write the second line of the Our Father, using the indicative, it would indicate a fact, rather than express a desire. Thus:

'your will is done' - indicative
'your will be done', 'may your will be done' - subjunctive