Tuesday, January 16, 2018

 

Suggestive Pronouns: This and That

Augustine, Confessions 8.11.26 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
Vain trifles and the triviality of the empty-headed, my old loves, held me back. They tugged at the garment of my flesh and whispered: 'Are you getting rid of us?' And 'from this moment we shall never be with you again, not for ever and ever'. And 'from this moment this and that are forbidden to you for ever and ever.' What they were suggesting in what I have called 'this and that' — what they were suggesting, my God, may your mercy avert from the soul of your servant! What filth, what disgraceful things they were suggesting!

retinebant nugae nugarum et vanitates vanitantium, antiquae amicae meae, et succutiebant vestem meam carneam et submurmurabant, 'dimittisne nos?' et 'a momento isto non erimus tecum ultra in aeternum' et 'a momento isto non tibi licebit hoc et illud ultra in aeternum.' et quae suggerebant in eo quod dixi 'hoc et illud,' quae suggerebant, deus meus, avertat ab anima servi tui misericordia tua! quas sordes suggerebant, quae dedecora!

 

Suicidal Exhibitionists

Peter Brown, The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), pp. 7-8, with notes on p. 214:
Yet, what for Christians such as Cyprian was an "extraordinary" death struck the average pagan as abnormal. Christians were seen by pagans as suicidal exhibitionists. As the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) wrote in his Meditations: a wise man could decide to leave the world through suicide. But to court death out of a mere spirit of opposition "as is the case with the Christians" was a form of "stage heroics" that repelled him. The phrase "as ... with the Christians" may have been added by a later copyist.11 But the copyist got the point. Some deaths (and not only the deaths of Christians) were public theater of the most obtrusive and unwelcome sort.

We should always remember that, for the average pagan, Christian martyrs were not a unique phenomenon. They fitted all too easily into a long line of gore-soaked and crazed figures. Gladiators played with death in the arena. Their blood and mangled corpses were associated with uncanny powers.12 Maverick philosophers also courted death by going out of their way to insult the powerful. The craziest of these, the philosopher Peregrinus, had even toyed for a time with Christianity. He gained great prestige among Christians as a potential martyr. He ended his life, in 165 AD, by committing suicide through burning himself near the crowds assembled at Olympia for the Olympic Games.13 The deaths of Christian martyrs did not necessarily impress outsiders. Rather, these deaths struck them as bizarre and disturbing. But pagans and Christians had one thing in common: heroic or pathological, the grisly, fully public deaths of the Christian martyrs held their attention, at the expense of more ordinary deaths.

11. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11.3, ed. C. Haines, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), 294. See R.B. Rutherford, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: A Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 188.

12. F. Dölger, "Gladiatorenblut and Märtyrerblut," Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg 1 (1923-1924), 196-214.

13. Lucian, Peregrinus, 11-14 and 35, ed. A.M. Harmon, Lucian 5, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972), 12-16 and 38-40; see J. König, "The Cynic and Christian Lives of Peregrinus," in The Limits of Ancient Biography, ed. B. McGing and J. Mossman (Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2006), 227-254.

 

Superlatives of Superlatives

Sophocles, Philoctetes 64-65 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
And you may add as many of the most extreme insults against me as you please.

                                                 λέγων ὅσ᾿ ἂν
θέλῃς καθ᾿ ἡμῶν ἔσχατ᾿ ἐσχάτων κακά.
More literally:
Speaking against me evils, most extreme of most extreme, as many as you wish.
T.B.L. Webster ad loc. (on ἔσχατ᾿ ἐσχάτων) cites two works by Holger Thesleff — Studies on Intensification in Early and Classical Greek (Helsingfors, 1954 = Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum, XXI.1), § 342, and Studies on the Greek Superlative (Helsingfors, 1955 = Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum, XXI.3), §§ 13, 35, both of which are unavailable to me.

In Latin cf. Naevius, comic fragment 118, in Otto Ribbeck, ed., Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta, 3rd ed., Vol. II: Comicorum Fragmenta (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1898), p. 31 (pessimorum pessime = worst of the worst), and Plautus, Captivi 836 (optumorum optume = best of the best).

Related post: King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

Monday, January 15, 2018

 

Modern Philosophers

Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), The Decline of the West, Vol. I: Form and Actuality, tr. Charles Frances Atkinson (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1926), pp. 42-43 (footnote omitted):
And herein, I think, all the philosophers of the newest age are open to a serious criticism. What they do not possess is real standing in actual life. Not one of them has intervened effectively, either in higher politics, in the development of modern technics, in matters of communication, in economics, or in any other big actuality, with a single act or a single compelling idea. Not one of them counts in mathematics, in physics, in the science of government, even to the extent that Kant counted. Let us glance at other times. Confucius was several times a minister. Pythagoras was the organizer of an important political movement akin to the Cromwellian, the significance of which is even now far underestimated by Classical researchers. Goethe, besides being a model executive minister though lacking, alas! the operative sphere of a great state was interested in the Suez and Panama canals (the dates of which he foresaw with accuracy) and their effects on the economy of the world, and he busied himself again and again with the question of American economic life and its reactions on the Old World, and with that of the dawning era of machine-industry. Hobbes was one of the originators of the great plan of winning South America for England, and although in execution the plan went no further than the occupation of Jamaica, he has the glory of being one of the founders of the British Colonial Empire. Leibniz, without doubt the greatest intellect in Western philosophy, the founder of the differential calculus and the analysis situs, conceived or co-operated in a number of major political schemes, one of which was to relieve Germany by drawing the attention of Louis XIV to the importance of Egypt as a factor in French world-policy. The ideas of the memorandum on this subject that he drew up for the Grand Monarch were so far in advance of their time (1672) that it has been thought that Napoleon made use of them for his Eastern venture. Even thus early, Leibniz laid down the principle that Napoleon grasped more and more clearly after Wagram, viz., that acquisitions on the Rhine and in Belgium would not permanently better the position of France and that the neck of Suez would one day be the key of world-dominance. Doubtless the King was not equal to these deep political and strategic conceptions of the Philosopher.

Turning from men of this mould to the philosophers of to-day, one is dismayed and shamed. How poor their personalities, how commonplace their political and practical outlook! Why is it that the mere idea of calling upon one of them to prove his intellectual eminence in government, diplomacy, large-scale organization, or direction of any big colonial, commercial or transport concern is enough to evoke our pity? And this insufficiency indicates, not that they possess inwardness, but simply that they lack weight. I look round in vain for an instance in which a modern "philosopher" has made a name by even one deep or far-seeing pronouncement on an important question of the day. I see nothing but provincial opinions of the same kind as anyone else's. Whenever I take up a work by a modern thinker, I find myself asking: has he any idea whatever of the actualities of world-politics, world-city problems, capitalism, the future of the state, the relation of technics to the course of civilization, Russia, Science? Goethe would have understood all this and revelled in it, but there is not one living philosopher capable of taking it in.

 

A Fish Out of Water

Theodore Dalrymple, "Mary Neal Lives On," Taki's Magazine (January 13, 2018):
I feel a profound cleavage between my own generation and that of young adults today: I do not understand, and do not really like, their tastes, their ambitions, their enjoyments, their sorrows, their opinions, or even their humor. But then I could say that of my own generation also: I never really belonged to it, or wanted to belong to it. I have always been a fish out of water, ever since I can remember.

 

They Couldn't Bear to Leave

Herodotus 1.165.3 (tr. A.D. Godley):
Not only so, but they sank in the sea a mass of iron, and swore never to return to Phocaea before the iron should again appear. But while they prepared to voyage to Cyrnus, more than half of the citizens were taken with a longing and a pitiful sorrow for the city and the life of their land, and they broke their oath and sailed back to Phocaea.

πρὸς δὲ ταύτῃσι καὶ μύδρον σιδήρεον κατεπόντωσαν καὶ ὤμοσαν μὴ πρὶν ἐς Φωκαίην ἥξειν πρὶν ἢ τὸν μύδρον τοῦτον ἀναφανῆναι. στελλομένων δὲ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὴν Κύρνον, ὑπερημίσεας τῶν ἀστῶν ἔλαβε πόθος τε καὶ οἶκτος τῆς πόλιος καὶ τῶν ἠθέων τῆς χώρης, ψευδόρκιοι δὲ γενόμενοι ἀπέπλεον ὀπίσω ἐς τὴν Φωκαίην.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

 

All Alone

Sophocles, Philoctetes 169-179 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
I pity him, in that
with none among mortals to care for him        170
and with no companion he can look on,
miserable, always alone,
he suffers from a cruel sickness
and is bewildered by each
need as it arises. How, how        175
does the unhappy man hold out?
O contrivances of the gods!
O unhappy race of mortals
to whom life is unkind!

οἰκτίρω νιν ἔγωγ᾿, ὅπως,
μή του κηδομένου βροτῶν        170
μηδὲ σύντροφον ὄμμ᾿ ἔχων,
δύστανος, μόνος αἰεί,
νοσεῖ μὲν νόσον ἀγρίαν,
ἀλύει δ᾿ ἐπὶ παντί τῳ
χρείας ἱσταμένῳ. πῶς ποτε πῶς        175
δύσμορος ἀντέχει;
ὦ παλάμαι θεῶν,
ὦ δύστανα γένη βροτῶν,
οἷς μὴ μέτριος αἰών.

177 θεῶν
Lachmann: θνητῶν codd.
R.C. Jebb ad loc.:


Seth Schein ad loc.:


Friday, January 12, 2018

 

Tubs and Figs

Aristophanes, fragment 927 Kassel and Austin (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I'm from the country: I call the tub a tub.

ἄγροικός εἰμι· τὴν σκάφην σκάφην λέγω.
Poetae Comici Fragmenta, Vol. III 2: Aristophanes, Testimonia et Fragmenta, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984), pp. 415-416:


Menander, fragment 507 Kassel and Austin (August Meineke's reconstruction in his Fragmenta Comicorum Graecorum, Editio Minor, Pars I [Berlin: G. Reimer, 1847], p. xxi; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I am Refutation here before you,
the friend of truth and frankness,
who calls the figs figs, and the tub a tub.

                 Ἔλεγχος οὗτός εἰμ' ἐγώ
ὁ φίλος ἀληθείᾳ τε καί παρρησίᾳ,
τὰ σῦκα σῦκα καὶ σκάφην σκάφην λέγων.
Poetae Comici Fragmenta, Vol. VI 2: Menander, Testimonia et Fragmenta apud scriptores servata, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1998), p. 285:


See also Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), p. 1626 (#2272: Τὰ σῦκα σῦκα, τὴν σκάφην σκάφην ὀνομάζων), and Bruce M. Metzger, "'To Call a Spade a Spade' in Greek and Latin," Classical Journal 33.4 (January, 1938) 229-231.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

 

Men and Beasts

Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492), Altercazione 5.142-153 (tr. ‎Jon Thiem):
But lives like ours within this world include
    so many evils that ferocious beasts
    inside some cave lead lives far happier.
The more the eyes of mortals see the good,        145
    the more they suffer from not having it:
    thus greater knowledge brings us greater woe.
Moreover, all the while we live our lives
    the sum of things we covet ever grows,
    yet beasts want only grass and cooling springs.        150
Who has the fewest needs is happiest:
    hence man appears least happy in this world,
    where all his life he dreams and vacillates.

Ma al mondo vita tal mal tanto ha seco
    che in vita più felice gli animali
    sarien bruti e selvaggi in qualche speco.
Quanto più veggon gli occhi de' mortali        145
    il ben, si dolgon più se ne son privi,
    e maggior cognizion ne dà più mali.
Ed oltre a questo, mentre siam qui vivi,
    assai più cose nostra vita agogna,
    che a lor basta l'erbetta e i freschi rivi.        150
Felice è più a chi manco bisogna;
    così par l'uomo più infelice al mondo,
    mentre che in vita qui vacilla e sogna.

 

New Youth Group

Natalie Zemon Davis, "The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France," Past & Present, No. 59 (May, 1973) 51-91 (at p. 89, n. 121):
The most interesting new youth group formed in this period was, however, the Whistlers or Sifflars of Poitiers, so-called from a whistle the members wore around their necks. Founded among students around 1561, it initially mocked both religions. Initiates had to swear by flesh, belly, death and "the worthy double head, stuffed with Relics" and by all the Divinity in this pint of wine, that they would be devoted Whistlers, and that instead of going to Protestant service, mass or Vespers, they would go twice a day to a brothel, etc. The group grew to some sixty-four youths and became especially hostile to the Reformed Church and its services, perhaps because of Reformed hostility to them. Its members began to go around armed. Hist. eccl., i, pp. 844-5.
The reference is to Histoire ecclésiastique des églises réformées au royaume de France, edd. G. Baum and E. Cunitz, 3 vols. (Paris, 1883-1889).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

 

Chaucer Garbled

James Como, "Nine-Tenths A Loaf: A Review of Geoffrey Chaucer: a New Introduction [by David Wallace]," The New English Review (January, 2018; screen capture January 10, 2018):


I.e.:
I would certainly assign this book if I were teaching Chaucer, or for that matter any survey course on early English literature; further, I recommend it to the generally literate reader as a mini-introduction, not only to Chaucer but to key touchstones of Western literature, such is its richness of reference. But I would add the following, not noted by Professor Wallace. If we look to the end of the Tales we find the devout Parson. In his tale, Chaucer (with not long to live), takes his leave with a faithful gravitas:
Al that is written is writen for oure doctrine, and that is myn entente . . . thanke I oure Lord Jhesu Crist and his blisful Mooder . . . and graunte me grace of verray penitence . . . thrugh the benigne grace of hym that is kyng of kynges so that I may been oon of hem at the day of doom that shulle be saved. Qui cumpatre et Spiritu Sancto vivit et regnat Deaus per omnia scuela. Amen.
The quotation from Chaucer is garbled:
I don't know if these mistakes appear in the print edition of The New English Review (or even if there is a print edition). To quote Chaucer in the Manciple's Tale, lines 353-356:
But he that hath mysseyd, I dar wel sayn,
He may by no wey clepe his word agayn.
Thyng that is seyd is seyd, and forth it gooth,
Though hym repente or be hym nevere so looth.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

 

The Boastful Man

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 4.7.2-6 (1127 a 21-32; tr. Benjamin Jowett, rev. Jonathan Barnes):
The boastful man, then, is thought to be apt to claim the things that bring glory, when he has not got them, or to claim more of them than he has, and the mock-modest man on the other hand to disclaim what he has or belittle it, while the man who observes the mean is one who calls a thing by its own name, being truthful both in life and in word, owning to what he has, and neither more nor less. Now each of these courses may be adopted either with or without an object. But each man speaks and acts and lives in accordance with his character, if he is not acting for some ulterior object. And falsehood is in itself mean and culpable, and truth noble and worthy of praise. Thus the truthful man is another case of a man who, being in the mean, is worthy of praise, and both forms of untruthful man are culpable, and particularly the boastful man.

δοκεῖ δὴ ὁ μὲν ἀλαζὼν προσποιητικὸς τῶν ἐνδόξων εἶναι καὶ μὴ ὑπαρχόντων καὶ μειζόνων ἢ ὑπάρχει, ὁ δὲ εἴρων ἀνάπαλιν ἀρνεῖσθαι τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ἢ ἐλάττω ποιεῖν, ὁ δὲ μέσος αὐθέκαστός τις ὢν ἀληθευτικὸς κἂν τῷ βίῳ καὶ τῷ λόγῳ, τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὁμολογῶν εἶναι περὶ αὑτόν, καὶ οὔτε μείζω οὔτε ἐλάττω. ἔστι δὲ τούτων ἕκαστα καὶ ἕνεκά τινος ποιεῖν καὶ μηθενός· ἕκαστος δ᾿ οἷός ἐστι, τοιαῦτα λέγει καὶ πράττει καὶ οὕτω ζῇ, ἐὰν μή τινος ἕνεκα πράττῃ. καθ᾿ αὑτὸ δὲ τὸ μὲν ψεῦδος φαῦλον καὶ ψεκτόν, τὸ δ᾿ ἀληθὲς καλὸν καὶ ἐπαινετόν· οὕτω δὲ καὶ ὁ μὲν ἀληθευτικὸς μέσος ὢν ἐπαινετός, οἱ δὲ ψευδόμενοι ἀμφότεροι μὲν ψεκτοί, μᾶλλον δ᾿ ὁ ἀλαζών.

 

Praise of Ourselves

Plutarch, On Praising Oneself Inoffensively 1 (Moralia 539 D; tr. Phillip H. De Lacy and Benedict Einarson):
For while praise from others, as Xenophonc said, is the most pleasant of recitals, praise of ourselves is for others most distressing.

c Memorabilia, ii.1.

αὑτῷ μὲν γὰρ ὁ παρ᾿ ἄλλων ἔπαινος ἥδιστον ἀκουσμάτων ἐστίν, ὥσπερ ὁ Ξενοφῶν εἴρηκεν, ἑτέροις δὲ ὁ περὶ αὑτοῦ λυπηρότατον.
Related post: Self-Praise.

 

No Greater Happiness

Auberon Waugh (1939-2001), writing in the Daily Telegraph, quoted in Alexander Waugh, Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family (London: Headline, 2004), p. 452:
I would be surprised if there is any greater happiness than that provided by a game of croquet played on an English lawn through a summer's afternoon, after a good luncheon and with the prospect of a good dinner ahead.

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