I am sorry that I have not been heard from much on the Forum in recent days. I've been terribly busy in Real Life.

But part of what has kept me busy has been a project involving clock- and sundial-mottoes, many of which-- the majority of which-- are in Latin. And it occurs to me that I might well share some of that work here, and perhaps gain some useful input.

Because of the nature of the task, I am relatively uninterested in mottoes that depend for their wit on the particular location of a timepiece: Hora Fugit Ora (on a dial placed high up) is the first example that leaps to mind. I need generalizable mottoes.

The space available for the inscription of these mottoes is small, so none can be more than about 45 characters in toto. And no one word can be more than about 10 characters. Inserviendum is too long.

I here append a discussion of some of the mottoes so far considered. I would be very grateful for any corrections, comments, or additions. Thank you.


Carpe Diem: "Seize the Day". Long a commonplace, this can be traced back to Horace (Odes 1.11). The immediately preceding words are dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas ("as we speak, jealous time runs away").

Dies Dolorem Minuit: "Time Diminishes Sorrow". Another commonplace; this I can trace back only to Robert Burton's 17th-century Anatomy of Melancholy (2: 3: 1: 1).

Eheu Fugaces Labuntur Anni: "Alas, the Fleeting Years Glide By". Horace again, and the Odes again, 2.14. In the original the first two words were separated from the last two by by the name (in the vocative case) of the person addressed, one Postumus, repeated: Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume, labuntur anni ("Ah Postumus, Postumus, the fleeting years glide by").

Festina Lente: "Make Haste Slowly". Hurrying may not be the fastest way to get the job done. This might have been the motto of that tortoise who raced the hare, but in fact it was associated (by Suetonius) with the Emperor Augustus, and much later was a motto of the early printer Aldus Manutius.

Fugit Hora: "The Hour is Fleeting".

Gutta Cavat Lapidem: "The Drop Hollows Out the Stone". This is Ovid, Ex Ponto iii: 10; the original continues consumitur annulus usu, atteritur pressa vomer aduncus humo (â€the ring is worn away with use, and the curved plowshare by the pressurof the earth”). One often sees the alternative continuation non vi sed saepe cadende (“not by force but by frequent dropping”); I understand (Notes and Queries #21, 1850) that this goes back at least as far as Gilles Menage, aka Aegidius Menagius, “Amsterdam 1713”.

Haec Olim Meminisse Juvabit: Literally “Someday it will be pleasant to remember this”; more loosely “Someday we’ll laugh about this”. The original is Virgil, Aeneid I: 203: Aeneas, driven ashore in Africa, is addressing the remnant of his men. He precedes the remark with Forsan et (“Perhaps even”).

Hodie Non Cras: “Today, Not Tomorrow”. This is the motto of the First (Canadian) Hussars.

Horae Quidem Cedunt…: “The hours indeed fall…”. These famous words are from Cicero’s De Senectute (“On Old Age”: 69); by themselves they might not be remembered, but they begin (and on a clock are supposed to evoke) a powerful polysyndeton: Horae quidem cedunt, et dies et mensis et anni, nec prateritum tempus umquam revertitur, nec quid sequatur sciri potest (“The hours depart indeed, and the days, and the months, and the years; nor do the past times ever return, nor is that which may follow to be known”).

Horas Non Numero Nisi Serenas: “I Do Not Count the Hours Unless They Be Bright”; a traditional sundial motto which seems less fitting on a clock.

Maximum Remedium Irae Mora Est: “Delay is the Greatest Remedy for Anger”. I find this in Seneca Minor (De Ira ii: 29.1) and also in Publilius Syrus .

Mox Nox in Rem: “Soon Night; to the Matter”, or loosely, “C’mon; we’re burning daylight”. Often seen on sundials; sometimes only the first two words are used. I have also seen as a motto Ad Rem Mox Nox, which means much the same thing.

Nescis Quid Vesper Serus Vehat: “Thou Knowest Not What the Late Evening Bringeth”. This was the title of one on Varro’s Menippean Satires. As far as I know the original text does not survive, but the work is cited by Aulus Gellius (XIII: 11). It seems likely that this was already a proverb in Varro’s time.

Non Semper Erit Aestas: “It Will Not Always Be Summer”. I have seen this commonplace cited as from Erasmus’ Adagia, iv. iii, 86 (1523), but have not been able to verify the citation. In any case that work was (as I understand it) only a collection of existing Greek and Latin sayings.

Nullus Agenti Dies Longa [Est]: “To An Active Man No Day is Long”. (Seneca Minor, Epistulae Morales xx: cxxii: 1).

Occasionem Cognosce: “Know the [Proper] Time [to Act]” or in other words, “Recognize Opportunity”.

Omnia Tempus Habent: “All Things Have Their Time”. This is the Vulgate version of Ecclesiastes iii: 1, “To every thing there is a season…”.

Saepe Dat Una Dies Quod Totus Denegat Annus: “Often A Single Day Giveth What A Whole Year Doth Deny”. One also sees Saepe Dat Una Dies Quod Non Evenit in Anno (“Often One Day Giveth What Cometh Not in a Year”).

Tempora Labuntur More Fluentis Aquae: “The Times Glide [By] Like Flowing Water”. A fitting motto for a sundial (or a clock I suppose) by a river, but perhaps generalizable. One also sometimes sees Tempora Labuntur Tacitisque Senescimus Annis (“The Times Glide [By], and By the Silent Years We Grow Old”). This latter is Ovid, Fasti vi: 701; the concluding line of the couplet is et fugiunt freno non remorante dies “and the days fly, no bridle hindering”.

Tempora Mutantur: “Times Change”. The probverb often continues nos et mutamur in illis, forming a line of the common Latin verse-form know as the hexameter. This saying appears to go back at least to medieval times; a variant with Omina (“all things”) instead of Tempora (“Times”) is associated with the ninth-century Emperor Lothar I.

Tempori Parendum: Literally “The Time Should Be Heeded”, this seems in fact to mean “adapt to the times”. A similar phrase with a very similar meaning is Temporibus Inserviendum-- but that last word is too long for our purposes.

Tempus Fugit: “Time Flies”.

Utima Forsan: “Perhaps the Last [Hour]”. This is a traditional motto for sundials and clocks. There are a number of similar phrases. Ultimam Time (“Fear the Last”) is perhaps likely to lead to confusion among Anglophones with little Latin. Una ex iis erit tibi ultima means “One of these will be your last”.

Vigilate et Orate: "Watch and Pray". A not uncommon phrase in the old liturgy, this occurs in the Gospel of Mark (xiii: 33): Videte, vigilate et orate, nescitis enim quando tempus sit ("Take ye heed: watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is"); as with a number of these mottoes, the short phrase is intended to bring to mind the longer quotation.

Vita Brevis Ars Longa: "Life is Short, the Art is Long". This medical commonplace is traced back to the beginning of the Aphorisms of Hippocrates; the originals were in Greek, of course, but in the more familiar Latin the saying continues: occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile (“opportunity is fleeting, experiment perilous, judgment difficult”).


Civis Illustris
I just wanted to say that the Aeneid quote gave me a bit of a grin :) I feel that the "haec" deserve a clarification:
"O socii (neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum)
O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.
Vos et Scyllaeam rabiem penitusque sonantis
accestis scopulos, vos et Cyclopia saxa
experti: revocate animos maestumque timorem
mittite; forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
(Aeneid 1.198-203)
My suggestion:
et sine tempore vita [goes on].
Not sure what verb to use for that.
This referring to an occasion where you've run out of time to do something and/or are in a hurry.