The Motor Bus
The mixed English-Latin text makes fun of the difficulties of Latin declensions. It takes off from puns on the English words "motor" and "bus", ascribing them to different declensions in Latin, and declining them.
At the time of writing Godley, a distinguished Classical scholar, was resident at Oxford University. The poem traditionally commemorates the introduction of a motorised omnibus service in the city of Oxford (Corn and High are the colloquial names of streets in the centre of the city where several Colleges of the University are located), thereby shattering the bucolic charm of the horse-drawn age. It has since also been cited in the context of the recent introduction of larger vehicles (including "bendy" buses).
The poem owes its continuing popularity to the large number of pupils who had to learn Latin as a compulsory subject for University entrance (not just Oxford and Cambridge) in the United Kingdom. Most of them will have used a "primer" in which Latin nouns were "declined" (the correct declensions written out), for example, servus, serve, servum, servi, servo, servo (depending upon the order in which the cases – nominative, accusative, dative, etc. – were cited). The poem provides leavening to what is a very dry subject for most school pupils.
- What is this that roareth thus?
- Can it be a Motor Bus?
- Yes, the smell and hideous hum
- Indicat Motorem Bum!
- Implet in the Corn and High
- Terror me Motoris Bi:
- Bo Motori clamitabo
- Ne Motore caedar a Bo---
- Dative be or Ablative
- So thou only let us live:---
- Whither shall thy victims flee?
- Spare us, spare us, Motor Be!
- Thus I sang; and still anigh
- Came in hordes Motores Bi,
- Et complebat omne forum
- Copia Motorum Borum.
- How shall wretches live like us
- Cincti Bis Motoribus?
- Domine, defende nos
- Contra hos Motores Bos!
- Est praedulcis esu Mars-Bar.
- Nil est cibo tuo, Mars, par.
- Tune vis beatum larem?
- Habe promptum Martem-Barem.
- Captus dono Martis-Baris
- Helenam liquisset Paris.
- Dum natabunt ponto scari,
- Dentur laudes Marti-Bari!
- Carmen Possum
- "What is this that roareth thus?" [article on the London Electrobus Company ] in The Economist Technology Quarterly (8 September 2007) p. 9
- Alfred Godley (1914). Letter to C.R.L. Fletcher, Jan. 10, 1914. "The Motor Bus," Printed in Reliquae, vol. 1 (1926).
- The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
- Kingsley Amis (ed.), The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse
- Ireland's Other Poetry: An Unfashionable Poet: A D Godley
- Dorothy Sayers The Greatest Single Defect of My Own Latin Education Online version accessed on 2009-06-25.
- Dorothy Sayers (1952), Address to the Association for Latin Teaching (ARLT) 1952. Online version accessed on 2009-06-25.
- Latin For Today vol. 2, p. 10
- Herbert H. Huxley (1975), Mars-Bar. In LACT Newsletter. Translations & versions accessed on 2009-06-25.