Serve, tributum est istud inutile vileque vere.
Istud substituas vivo aliquo atque novo.
Servant, that tribute of yours is truly worthless and cheap.
You may replace that with something living and fresh.
ˉ = Full beat
˘ = Half beat
° = Either a full or half beat may be used
ˉ ˘ ˘ = D = Dactyl (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˉ = S = Spondee (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˘ = T = Trochee (a metrical foot)
/ = Separator between metrical feet
|| = A hiatus – a pronounced pause
X = Either a dactyl or spondee may be used
Y = Either a spondee or a trochee may be used
Form = Elegiac Couplet
X / X / X / X / D / Y
X / X / ° || D / D / ˉ
Sērvĕ, trĭ / būtŭm-ēst* / īstŭd ĭn / ūtĭlĕ / vīlĕquĕ / vērē.
(ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˉ)
Īstūd / sūbstĭtŭ / ās || vīvō-ălĭ / quō-ātquĕ nŏ / vō.
(ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ || ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ )
* A note on scansion: if a word ends in a vowel, am, em, or um, AND the next word begins with a vowel (or an h), then the ending vowel (or am, em, um) of the first word is dropped completely (beat value and all) and the two words are joined. This is known as elision.
The Vocabulary and Grammar
Serve = servus, noun, 2nd declension, singular, masculine, vocative (used when directly address someone), meaning = servant.
tributum = tributum, noun, 2nd declension, singular, neuter, nominative (subject), meaning = tribute.
est = sum (sum, esse, fui, futurum), verb, irregular, 3rd person, singular, present, active only, indicative, meaning = it is.
istud = iste (iste, ista, istud), adjective, irregular (1st & 2nd declension-ish), neuter, nominative, modifies tributum, meaning = that (iste has a negative connotation, often translated as “such” or “that of yours,” e.g. “such a x” or “that x of yours.”)
inutile = inutilis (inutilis, inutile), adjective, 3rd declension, singular, neuter, nominative, modifies tributum, meaning = useless.
vile = vilis (vilis, vile), adjective, 3rd declension, singular, neuter, nominative, modifies tributum, meaning = cheap.
que = conjunction, indeclinable, added to the second of two similar words to be joined, meaning = and.
vere = adverb, indeclinable, modifies est, meaning = truly.
Istud = see istud above. However the case is accusative (direct object)(The nominative and accusative forms are always the same for neuter nouns). Still referring to tributum.
substituas = substituo (substituo, -uere, -ui, -utum), verb, 3rd conjugation, 2nd person, singular, present, active, subjunctive, meaning = you may replace (this form and use of the subjunctive is known as the jussive subjunctive. It carries the weight of a command.)
vivo = vivus (vivus -a -um), adjective, 1st & 2nd declension, singular, neuter, ablative, modifies aliquo, meaning = living.
aliquo = aliquis (aliquis, aliqua, aliquid), adjective (used as a noun) , irregular (1st & 2nd declension-ish), neuter, ablative, meaning = by means of (with) something.
atque = conjunction, indeclinable, meaning = and. (Usually used before a word beginning with a vowel, and its other form “ac” usually used before a word beginning with a consonant. However, this is Latin poetry, and they bent the rules a bit for the sake of keeping the meter.)
novo = novus (novus -a -um), adjective, 1st & 2nd declension, singular, neuter, ablative, modifies aliquo, meaning = new (i.e. fresh).
* “Week” is a used here as to specify an undefined length of time, possibly at times equal to an actual week.