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ON DERSUA, MERSTA.
Dersua has a moral notion akin to “favourable" in every passage. For instance VIb. 51, “Then let him invoke Parrha dersua ; and let him not turn back until he get a sight of the dersua. After he has seen the dersua," etc.; where the general idea is “the lucky bird.” Dersecor in VIa. 26, an epithet of armies, cannot mean appearing in a quarter of the heavens, but must mean something like well-omened. Again, Mersta is an opposite to Dersua, VIa. 15, 16: yet it too in its own limits is lucky. This appears from the emphatic repetition, Merstaf aueif, merstaf anglaf esonaf, VIa. 3. Notoriously in antiquity Dextra and Sinistra were, each in its turn, lucky; although Sinistra might also be unlucky. Cicero says (Divin. 2, 39), “ Haud ignoro quae bona sint, sinistra nos dicere, etiamsi dextra sint:” “I am not unaware that, whatever is good, we call sinister, even if it be on the right hand ;' i.e., the true sense of sinister was fortunate, prosperous; its secondary sense, left. This agrees with the two Greek words for “left," evórumos well-omened, and åplotepds an irregular derivative from plotos, as though Optimusculus, “second best?” Is it by chance that in Gaelic and Irish Sonas means prosperity, whence might come Sonas-ter αριστερός ? Be that as it may; if αριστερός be connected with plotos, åpett), ’Apns, then as 'Apns in Italy is Mars, (and åppnu is Mas, maris), so špiotos might be Mersto. [I am aware that Vir, virtut, side by side with Marem, Martem deride à priori reasoning as to what must be.] On the other hand Dersua is certainly very like dečić. When the sense of the two words Dersua, Mersta must fulfil just the conditions which defià and åplotepà do fulfil, it is far more probable that the words etymologically coincide, than that the double similarity of sound be the result of pure accident. Besides, Dersecor VIa. 26, is excellently represented in sense and sound by değixoi : is this also accident?
Dersua and Mersua certainly mean something : yet Messrs. A.K. do not help us to guess what they can mean. They have no counter theory. What is to be said against this obvious hypothesis, started (I learn from them) by Grotefend ? 1. That we already have Destro for right, and Nertru for left. This is as though we refused to believe begiós to mean right, and åplotepds left, because deţitepds is right, and ευώνυμος left. . Latin also has two words for left, viz., læpus connected with Greek; and Sinister, perhaps Sabine, and connected with Umbrian and Gaelic. Moreover Destro is obviously dečitepo in disguise, and Dersua is to Destra nearly as detid to detetepá. Against such coincidences it is in vain to argue that “ther in Dersua remains unaccounted for.” Such delicate accuracy assumes that a language is equably developed by one law; whereas, in fact, it is the product of many inconsistent laws acting at once, and it is sure to import both words and analogies from foreign sources. Loyal and Legal are both English: this is but a type of a multitude of instances. Besides we have Desua as well as Dersua; Aceronia, Acersonia, Acesonia, for the same place. 2. A more formidable objection arises from comparing Ia. 1, 2, with VIa. 1; which seem to show Pernaie Postnaie as replaced by Dersua and Mersta. Now if the former mean Antica, Postica, how can the latter mean Dextra, Sinistra ? for what is in front is not at the right hand. If there were no other way of escape, I should render Pernaie, Postnaie, early and late (as I did in my first paper) rather than abandon the obvious sense of Dersua and Mersta, while unable to imagine any substitute; for our proof that Antica, Postica are the truer rendering, begins and ends in the fact that these are words common with Latin augurs. Nevertheless, Messrs. A.K. themselves, in a remarkable quotation from Paulus Diaconus, remove our difficulty (vol. i. 98); for he says: “Denique et quæ ante nos sunt, antica, et quae post nos, postica dicuntur; et dexteram anticam, sinistram posticam dicimus.” I am incompetent to canvass the subtle explanation offered of these words. Be the cause what it may, the fact is attested that, through some confusion or other, what is one moment called Antica, may the next be called Dextera. The Sabine augury, used at the installation of Numa Pompilius in Livy, is irreconcileable with Varro's doctrine, probably Latin ; the former making Antica the east, the latter making it the south. Cicero, above quoted, says that things on the right are called Sinistra, if they are good; yet Virgil uses Sinistra of things bad. No à priori reasoning avails us in such a mixture of inconsistencies, nor must even verbal contradictions shock us.
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