Sunday, August 30, 2015


An Example of Epipompē in Ronsard

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), "Les Daimons," lines 309-316 (tr. Malcolm Quainton and Elizabeth Vinestock):
O Eternal Lord in whom alone resides my faith, for the glory of thy name, by thy grace grant me, grant me this: that I may never encounter in my way these panic terrors, but, O Lord, send these Larvae, these Daemons, these Lares and Lemures far away from Christendom into the lands of the Turks, or upon the heads of those who dare to speak ill of the songs that I set to the music of my new lyre.

Ô Seigneur Eternel en qui seul gist ma foy,
Pour l'honneur de ton nom, de grace donne moy,
Donne moy que jamais je ne trouve en ma voye
Ces paniques terreurs: mais ô Seigneur envoye
Loin de la Chrestienté dans le pays des Turcs
Ces Larves ces Daimons ces Lares et Lemurs,
Ou sur le chef de ceux qui oseront mesdire
Des chansons que j'accorde à ma nouvelle lyre.
Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē (ἀποπομπή) and epipompē (ἐπιπομπή) to describe two different ways of banishing evil. See his "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13/14 (1911) 9-32. Wünsch used apopompē to mean simply driving away evil, epipompē to mean driving away evil onto someone or something else or to some other specific location. In these lines by Ronsard we see an example of epipompē.


Mere Philologists

John Churton Collins (1848-1908), The Study of English Literature: A Plea for Its Recognition and Organization at the Universities (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), pp. 65-66 ("it" = philology; footnotes omitted):
As an instrument of culture it ranks—it surely ranks—very low indeed. It certainly contributes nothing to the cultivation of the taste. It as certainly contributes nothing to the education of the emotions. The mind it neither enlarges, stimulates, nor refines. On the contrary, it too often induces or confirms that peculiar woodenness and opacity, that singular coarseness of feeling and purblindness of moral and intellectual vision, which has in all ages been characteristic of mere philologists, and of which we have appalling illustrations in such a work as Bentley's Milton. Nor is this all. Instead of encouraging communion with the nobler manifestations of human energy, with the great deeds of history, or with the masterpieces of art and letters, it tends, as Bacon remarks, to create habits of unintelligent curiosity about trifles. It too often resembles that rustic who, after listening for several hours to Cicero's most brilliant conversation, noticed nothing and remembered nothing but the wart on the great orator's nose.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


All the Things I Shall Not Do

Charles Tomlinson (1927-2015), Selected Poems 1955-1997 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) pp. 221-222:
                 to my wife

I see now all the things I shall not do—
Read the whole of À la Recherche to you,
Learn Greek enough to tackle Sophocles
No longer fog-bound in translatorese.
It's difficult enough to keep in trim
Italian, stop French from going dim,
See that my German doesn't wholly vanish,
Or speaking Tuscan strangulate my Spanish.
So, Sophocles, farewell. I still can pace
On uncertain feet the labyrinths of Horace—
Helped by that crib of Smart's that I once found,
Dusted and bought for far less than one pound.
That was before all selling became dealing
And profit just another word for stealing.
Go south, young man! Yet now I'm far too old
To join the other poets in that fold
Where puffs and prizes 're handled by a clique
Who haunt each other's parties week by week.
Now critics will grow kinder to my verse,
Since they can see the shadow of the hearse
Creeping across my pages. Youth, farewell,
Though not without that retrospective swell
Stretching the sails of age's caravel.
Happy those early days when we supposed
Verse either good or bad, the same as prose.
What culpable innocence, for now we see
The point is poetry's unreadability
Where unintentions couple and produce
Meanings unmeant and monsters on the loose
Less rational than that of Frankenstein
Who wished to be understood. That wish is mine.
I lived for art, as Tosca says, harmed none,
Suffered to see harms casually done;
I lived for you and friendship, made my verse
Out of that daily mutual universe
Surrounding us whichever way we look,
A plenitude to overflow each book.
And so my birthday, brief day, 's come and gone:
What solemn music shall we play it out on?
Not Götterdämmerung—the gods have died
But we remain, so why not take the tide
With Nielsen's Inextinguishable? I think
The January sun about to sink
ls all the Untergang we need tonight.
Short as the day is, yet a lingering light
Tells us the shortest day of all has been,
And leaves us now this dubious in-between,
While the year prepares to make itself anew,
As chrysalises, trees and poets do.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


A Job for Which I'm Qualified

François Rabelais (1494-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book II, Chapter XXXII (tr. Thomas Urquhart):
Then (after a little further travelling) I fell upon a pretty village (truly I have forgot the name of it) where I was yet merrier than ever, and got some certain money to live by. Can you tell how? by sleeping; for there they hire men by the day to sleep, and they get by it sixpence a day; but they that can snore hard, get at least nine-pence.

Puis trouvay une petite bourgade à la devallée (j'ay oublié son nom), où je feiz encore meilleure chere que jamais, et gaignay quelque peu d'argent pour vivre. Sçavez-vous comment? A dormir, car l'on loue les gens à journée pour dormir, et gaignent cinq et six solz par jour; mais ceux qui ronflent bien fort gaignent bien sept solx et demy.

Friday, August 28, 2015



Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter XXV:
In the first place, they were vaguely persuaded that every foreigner had a knife about him; in the second, they held it to be a sound constitutional national axiom that he ought to go home to his own country. They never thought of inquiring how many of their own countrymen would be returned upon their hands from divers parts of the world, if the principle were generally recognised; they considered it practically and peculiarly British. In the third place, they had a notion that it was a sort of Divine visitation upon a foreigner that he was not an Englishman, and that all kinds of calamities happened to his country because it did things that England did not, and did not do things that England did.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Holy, Holy, Holy

Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), Griechischer Frühling (Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag, 1908), pp. 84-85 (tr. W. A. Oldfather, slightly altered):
Why are we afraid and despise as trivial to sing of our native landscapes, mountains, rivers, and valleys, yes, even to mention their names except in poetical images? Because all these things, which, as being Nature, have been regarded as works of the devil for a thousand years, have never truly been reconsecrated. But here gods and demigods wedded with every white mountain-peak, every vale and valley, every tree and shrub, every river and spring, have made everything holy. Holy was all that is above and on and in the earth. And round about her the sea was likewise holy. And so complete was this hallowing, that the lateborn, millennia too late, the barbarian still today — and even in a railway coach — is permeated in profoundest wise therewith.

You must look for trees where trees grow; for gods not in a godless land, on godless ground. Here gods and heroes are products of the soil.

Warum scheuen wir uns und erachten für trivial, unsere heimischen Gegenden, Berge, Flüsse, Täler zu besingen, ja, ihre Namen nur zu erwähnen in Gebilden der Poesie? Weil alle diese Dinge, die als Natur jahrtausendelang für teuflisch erklärt, nie wahrhaft wieder geheiligt worden sind. Hier aber haben Götter und Halbgötter, mit jedem weißen Berggipfel, jedem Tal und Tälchen, jedem Baum und Bäumchen, jedem Fluß und Quell vermählt, alles geheiligt. Geheiligt war das, was über der Erde, auf ihr und in ihr ist. Und rings um sie her, das Meer, war geheiligt. Und so vollkommen war diese Heiligung, daß der Spätgeborene, um Jahrtausende Verspätete, daß der Barbar noch heut — und sogar in einem Bahncoupe — von ihr im tiefsten Wesen durchdrungen wird.

Man muß die Bäume dort suchen, wo sie wachsen, die Götter nicht in einem gottlosen Lande, auf einem gottlosen Boden. Hier aber sind Götter und Helden Landesprodukte.


Wine and Song

Horace, Epodes 13.17-18 (Chiron to Achilles; tr. Niall Rudd, with his note):
Lighten all your woes with wine and song,22 those sweet assuagers of horrid despair.

22 In Iliad 9.186ff. Achilles in his tent is found singing to the lyre; he greets his visitors with wine.

omne malum vino cantuque levato,
    deformis aegrimoniae dulcibus alloquiis.
Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 65, called the 13th Epode "a perfect poem."


Petitionary Prayer in the Chapel of Ease

Dear Mike,

This would be my inscription for a privy, from the lost Pervigilium Cloacinae:
Cras cacet qui nunquam bene cacavit; quique cacavit cras cacet.
The version in the Pervigilium Veneris doesn't quite have the same ... well, assonance let's say.

Apropos of petitionary prayer in the chapel of ease, see Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), pp. 113-114 (footnotes omitted):
In the toilet of the Suburban Baths [Pompeii], the nail holes in the plaster are visible on each side of the painted garland. Very likely, real flowers were at least occasionally hung there there both to honor the goddess and perhaps also to diminish the powerful smells from the toilet drains. Fortuna is not only in the central position of the toilet decoration (as she is in others), but in the toilet of the Suburban Baths she looks directly at the toilet users, as they must have looked at her, and it appears she was actually worshipped in these settings. An altar is present, if only painted; there are garlands (painted but there is evidence of fresh garlands, with the nail holes); and a sacrificial fire is represented in the paintings as well. Perhaps toilet users could ask Fortuna for a satisfactory bowel movement, the favor of finding no blood in one's stool, the favor of escaping the toilet unharmed.
Unharmed in the nether regions by explosions of trapped methane, or Aelian and Pliny the Elder's octopus in the sewer* or, less fancifully, rats and insects (p. 114).

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

* Camilla Asplund Ingemark, "The Octopus in the Sewers: An Ancient Legend Analogue," Journal of Folklore Research 45.2 (May-August, 2008) 145-170.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The Old Order Passeth Away

Tertullian, To the Nations 10.4-7 (tr. Peter Holmes):
4. For when I look through your life and customs, lo, what do I discover but the old order of things corrupted, nay, destroyed by you? Of the laws I have already said, that you are daily supplanting them with novel decrees and statutes. 5. As to everything else in your manner of life, how great are the changes you have made from your ancestors—in your style, your dress, your equipage, your very food, and even in your speech; for the old-fashioned you banish, as if it were offensive to you! 6. Everywhere, in your public pursuits and private duties, antiquity is repealed; all the authority of your forefathers your own authority has superseded. 7. To be sure, you are for ever praising old customs; but this is only to your greater discredit, for you nevertheless persistently reject them.

4. Ecce enim per omnia vitae ac disciplinae corruptam, immo deletam in vobis antiquitatem recognosco. De legibus quidem iam supra dictum est, quod eas novis de die consultis constitutisque obruistis. 5. De reliqua vero conversationis humanae dispositione palam subiacet, quantum a maioribus mutaveritis, cultu habitu apparatu, ipsoque victu ipsoque sermone; nam pristinum ut rancidum relegatis. 6. Exclusa ubique antiquitas, in negotiis, in officiis: totam auctoritatem maiorum vestra auctoritas deiecit. 7. Sane, quod vobis magis probro est, laudatis semper vetustates et nihilominus recusatis. Qua perversitate tan<...> maiorum apud vos permanere probari debuerunt, cum ea, quae probatis, recusetis?


Inscription for a Privy

Robert Graves (1895-1985), I, Claudius, chapter 33:
Soft but cohesive let my offerings flow,
Not roughly swift, nor impudently slow.



What Would We Not Give?

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1913), pp. 19-20:
Some of us, at least, have often wished that it were possible to live for a season in the beautiful vanished world of Greek culture. Inspired by our first acquaintance with the charm of Greek art and thought, this wish comes to us even before we are capable of imagining the true conditions of the antique civilization. If the wish could be realized, we should certainly find it impossible to accommodate ourselves to those conditions,—not so much because of the difficulty of learning the environment, as because of the much greater difficulty of feeling just as people used to feel some thirty centuries ago. In spite of all that has been done for Greek studies since the Renaissance, we are still unable to understand many aspects of the old Greek life: no modern mind can really feel, for example, those sentiments and emotions to which the great tragedy of Oedipus made appeal. Nevertheless we are much in advance of our forefathers of the eighteenth century, as regards the knowledge of Greek civilization. In the time of the French revolution, it was thought possible to reestablish in France the conditions of a Greek republic, and to educate children according to the system of Sparta. To-day we are well aware that no mind developed by modern civilization could find happiness under any of those socialistic despotisms which existed in all the cities of the ancient world before the Roman conquest. We could no more mingle with the old Greek life, if it were resurrected for us,—no more become a part of it,—than we could change our mental identities. But how much would we not give for the delight of beholding it,—for the joy of attending one festival in Corinth, or of witnessing the Pan-Hellenic games?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


An Interesting Mistake

Arturo Pérez-Reverte, The Dumas Club, tr. Sonia Soto (London: Vintage Books, 2003), p. 127:
"We'd feel no horror at profaning a religion to which we were indifferent. It would be like an atheist blaspheming. Absurd."

Corso agreed.

"I know what you mean. It's Julian the Apostate crying, 'You have defeated me, Galileo.'"

"I'm not familiar with that quotation."
The original Spanish:
—Jamás experimentaríamos horror profanando una religión que nos causara indiferencia; sería blasfemar sin un dios dándose por aludido. Absurdo.

Corso no tuvo problema en mostrarse de acuerdo.

—Sé a qué se refiere. Es el Me has vencido, Galileo de Juliano el Apóstata.

—Desconozco esa cita.
In the English translation Galileo should be Galilean, i.e. Jesus of Galilee. In Spanish Galileo can mean (I think) not only the astronomer Galileo Galilei, but also Galilean, of Galilee.

See the account of the death of Julian the Apostate in Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 3.25.6-7 (tr. Blomfield Jackson):
Some say that he was wounded by an invisible being, others by one of the Nomads who were called Ishmaelites; others by a trooper who could not endure the pains of famine in the wilderness. But whether it were man or angel who plied the steel, without doubt the doer of the deed was the minister of the will of God. It is related that when Julian had received the wound, he filled his hand with blood, flung it into the air and cried, You have won, O Galilean. Thus he gave utterance at once to a confession of the victory and to a blasphemy. So infatuated was he.
Here is the Greek, from Theodoret, Kirchengeschichte, ed. Léon Parmentier (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1911), pp. 204-205:
ἀλλ' οἱ μέν τινα τῶν ἀοράτων ταύτην ἐπενηνοχέναι φασίν, οἱ δὲ τῶν νομάδων ἕνα τῶν Ισμαηλιτὥν καλουμένων, ἄλλοι δὲ στρατιώτην τὸν λιμὸν καὶ τὴν ἔρημον δυσχεράναντα. ἀλλ εἴτε ἄνθρωπος εἴτε ἄγγελος ὦσε τὸ ξίφος, δῆλον ὡς τοῦτο δέδρακε τοῦ θείου νεύματος γενόμενος ὑπουργός. ἐκεῖνον δέ γέ φασι δεξάμενον τὴν πληγὴν εὐθὺς πλῆσαι τὴν χεῖρα τοῦ αἵματος καὶ τοῦτο ῥίψαι εἰς τὸν ἀέρα καὶ φάναι· νενίκηκας Γαλιλαῖἑ, καὶ κατὰ ταὐτὸν τήν τε νίκην ὁμολογῆσαι καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν τολμῆσαι· οὕτως ἐμβρόντητος ἦν.
Latin translation from Patrologia Graeca, vol. 82, col. 1119:
Sunt qui ab invisibili quopiam incussum dicant, alii ab uno e nomadibus, quos Ismaelitas vocant: alii a milite famis et solitudinis molestias non ferente. Verum sive homo, sive angelus ferrum impulit, certum est, quisquis fuit, divinae voluntatis ministrum fuisse. Ferunt porro illum vulnere accepto implesse manum sanguine, et hoc in aerem projecto dixisse: Vicisti, Galilaee; simulque et victoriam confessum esse, et blasphemiam, adeo vecors erat, evomuisse.
The phrase is probably better known in its Latin form (Vicisti, Galilaee), used as the motto of Swinburne's "Hymn to Proserpine."

A friend writes:
An egregious blunder and anachronism. What are gal(i)ley proofs for? Proofreader where else but to the galleys and a ducking-chair in the Sea of Galilee for the translator.

"You have defeated me, Galileo." © Vatican.

Jose L. Campos suggests that a more accurate translation of the beginning of the quotation from The Dumas Club would be:
We would never feel horror profaning a religion that is indifferent for us. It would be like blaspheming without a god that could feel the sting. Absurd.


Monday, August 24, 2015



Thanks to the very generous reader who gave me a birthday present—Adagia, Id est: Proverbiorum, Paroemiarum et Parabolarum Omnium, Quae apud Graecos, Latinos, Hebraeos, Arabes, &c. in usu fuerunt, Collectio absolutissima in locos communes digesta (Francofurti: Sumptibus Iohannis Pressii Viduae, 1646). It's a beautiful book. Old as I am now, my hands shake too much to take a good photograph, so here instead is a photograph of the title page taken from Google Books:

There is a suitable birthday quotation on p. 456, col. 2, from Euripides' Aeolus:
φεῦ φεῦ, παλαιὸς αἶνος ὡς καλῶς ἔχει·
γέροντες οὐδέν ἐσμεν ἄλλο πλὴν ψόφος
καὶ σχῆμ᾽, ὀνείρων δ᾽ ἕρπομεν μιμήματα·
νοῦς δ᾽ οὐκ ἔνεστιν, οἰόμεσθα δ᾽ εὖ φρονεῖν.

ψόφος Hirzel: ὄχλος codd.
In the translation of Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp:
Oh, alas, how true the ancient saying is: we old men are nothing but noise and mere shapes, and we move as imitations of dreams; there is no intelligence in us, yet we think we have good sense.


I'd Rather Be a Pagan Suckled in a Creed Outworn

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), "Remonstrance to the People of France," lines 57-68, 79-84 (tr. Malcolm Quainton and Elizabeth Vinestock, slightly altered):
Indeed, if I did not have an unshakeable faith,
which God has placed in me by the grace of his spirit,
seeing that Christianity is no longer anything but a laughing stock,
I would be ashamed at having had my head baptized;        60
I would repent of having been a Christian,
and I would become a Pagan like the first men.

At night I would worship the rays of the Moon,
in the morning the Sun, the universal light,
the eye of the world, and if God has eyes in his head,        65
the rays of the Sun are his radiant beams,
which give life to all, which preserve and keep us,
and watch over the deeds of humans in this world.


I would worship Ceres, who brings us corn,
and Bacchus, who fortifies the hearts of men,        80
Neptune the abode of winds and vessels,
Fauns and Pans and water Nymphs,
and the earth, haven for all creatures,
and those gods who are fabled to be the ministers of nature.

Certes si je n'avois une certaine foy
Que Dieu par son esprit de grace a mise en moy,
Voyant la Chrestienté n'estre plus que risée,
J’aurois honte d’avoir la teste baptisée:        60
Je me repentirois d'avoir esté Chrestien,
Et comme les premiers je deviendrois Payen.

La nuict j'adorerois les rayons de la Lune,
Au matin le Soleil la lumière commune,
L'oeil du monde, et si Dieu au chef porte des yeux,        65
Les rayons du Soleil sont les siens radieux,
Qui donnent vie à tous, nous conservent et gardent,
Et les faits des humains en ce monde regardent.


J'adorerois Cerés qui les bleds nous apporte,
Et Bacchus qui le coeur des hommes reconforte,        80
Neptune le sejour des vents et des vaisseaux,
Les Faunes et les Pans et les Nymphes des eaux,
Et la Terre hospital de toute creature,
Et ces Dieux que l’on feint ministres de Nature.



From Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), The Devil's Dictionary:
ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.

LEARNING, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


A Difficult Conversationalist

Jane L. Lightfoot, "Martin West obituary," The Guardian (August 13, 2015):
Martin was a notoriously difficult conversationalist. Speaking only when he considered he had something worth saying, he often launched shafts of wit so perfectly formulated that it was hard to respond to them. To a colleague who had just returned from lecturing on a subject on which he was no expert: "Fallible, but not wholly fallacious. Unlike the Pope, who is the opposite."
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Pitch Pine

Robert Francis (1901-1987), "Pitch Pine":
The pitch pine is a plain-man tree
Rough with masculinity
Any seeing man can see.

Its needles are no tree-girl's dress.
It scorns all pretty-prettiness.
Better the ornament the less.

The land it loves is any land
With plenty of stone, plenty of sand.
For dainties it makes no demand.

Small tufts of needles here and there
Bristle from the bark like hair
On a man's knuckle, in his ear.


Living with Death

Donald Richie (1924-2013), Journals (September 28, 1973):
How well the Japanese live with death, and consequently life. There was no hypocrisy in this simple ceremony I have taken part in: neither the hypocrisy of exaggerated respect, nor that of unnatural solemnity; there was no talk of a better life he had gone to; no talk of well, seeing as how he was so sick perhaps it was better so, etc. No such talk at all and — consequently — compassion.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


A Danger to Themselves and to Others

J. Enoch Powell (1912-1998), "A Classic Case of Barbarism," Times Literary Supplement, May 31, 1990, p. 31, quoted by R.S. Merrillees, "Greece and the Australian Classical Connection," Annual of the British School at Athens 94 (1999) 457-473 (at 470):
Through Latin and Greek, modern man enters a different dimension, not merely of time and space, not merely of language and thought, but a different dimension of life. People who have no sense of the past, no sense of proportion, no sense of what mankind has accomplished already, are a danger to themselves and to others. They suffer from stunted vision, laboriously re-making old mistakes, reconquering continents already known and mapped.

Friday, August 21, 2015


As Inaccessible as Akkadian

D.S. Carne-Ross (1921–2010), "Classics and the Intellectual Community," Arion 1.1 (Spring, 1973) 7-66 (at 14; ellipses in original):
And as for the masterpieces of the past....They presuppose an elaborate intellectual training that gave those lucky enough to receive it entry into the air and the ease of a family; gave them the ability to read, slowly and carefully and with sensual relish, language of contrived indirections and agreed rhetorical strategies. It taught its members the family's system of reference and allusion, to mythology and history and philosophy and earlier literature, all those cultural shorthands that make discourse possible. The names of Milton and Pope still appear in the syllabus. How many students can still really read them?
Or whether thou to our moist vows deny'd
Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus old,
Where the great vision of the guarded Mount...
The day is coming when we may have to admit that High Western is as inaccessible as Akkadian.
Id. (at 17):
And at a time when every thing is made easy; when the Great Books come packaged in up-to-the-moment translations and music is not something to play but something to listen to—the approved pieces in approved renderings at cut-rate prices; when the works of high culture are treated in the only way our society knows how to treat anything, as so many commodities served up for instant consumption: at such a time the real difficulty of Greek and Latin can come as a positive attraction, a consolation, a joy. An incurably fraudulent society breeds the forces that oppose it and there will always be a few people who do not want what is easy, who suspect that what they deeply want cannot be made easy.
Id. (at 31):
It is this strange passion that marks the genuine scholar who I would describe if not define as a man who knows a great deal more than he ever needs to know. He holds the particular question he is working on in a plenum of knowledge, much of which he may never directly use. Though his subject is, let us say, classical epigraphy, he proves to be very knowledgeable about Burgundian lute music or the private life of Stendhal. He may have forgotten why he acquired this lore; perhaps it simply stuck to him as he passed that way in search of something else. If he is a second-rate scholar, this knowledge will lie about his mind higgledy-piggledy, though others may put his bits and pieces to work. In the case of the great scholar, the erudition slowly and carefully amassed will gradually come together, "till meditation master all its parts," and compose a great luminous whole.
Id. (at 32):
There is little occasion to speak of scholarship: that austere word should be reserved for the few who have a right to it. Even less call to speak of "research," a type of activity that has a very modest place in humane studies. (Students should be taught, when they go to the library to check a couple of references, not to describe themselves as "doing research.")
Id. (at 61):
To watch a line of trees being cut down to make room for another stretch of highway; to drive later on that highway past the dead animals killed by people going nowhere in particular at high speeds; to return to the place where I was born and look for the hillside where I played as a child— having felt in those days some unspoken kinship with it (the minor of what Aeschylus' women felt for hilly Argos?), as though it were alive to my hands and feet—and find that this hill is no longer there, that it has been bulldozed away, cut off the face of the earth to give place to another "development"; even to be offered, in lieu of bread, cellophaned pulp that feels and tastes like cotton wool. It is experiences of this sort that arouse my sense of outrage.


A Terrible Hoarder of Books

Herbert H. Huxley, "John Enoch Powell and Vergil, Aeneid 6.86-87," Vergilius 44 (1998) 24-27 (at 24-25):
To my regret I never took up the offer Enoch made to me in a letter dated 27 January 1982 that I should spend an hour or two at his London home looking over his shelves. Confessing himself a terrible hoarder of books, he ended thus: "If you succeeded in dissolving my attachment to some of the volumes, you would be my wife's friend for ever."

Thursday, August 20, 2015


An Old Saying

In Charles Clay Doyle et al., The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (New Haven : Yale University Press, 2012), p. 26, the earliest example of "You can take a boy (man, girl, etc,) out of the country, but you can't take the country out of a boy (man, girl)" is from Burr S. Tottle, Hunting the Tango (Kansas City: Burton Publishing Company, 1916), p. 10:
You know the old saying, Hazel, that you can take a man out of the country but you can't take the country out of a man, and I guess that is true of your old uncle.
There are some similar proverbs from other languages in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1657, p. 1223:


Herodotus 2.49.2

There is something amiss, or at least awkward, in A.D. Godley's translation of Herodotus 2.49.2 (vol. I, p. 337 of the Loeb Classical Library edition [1926; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990]):
I think, then, that Melampus showed himself a clever man, in that he had acquired the prophetic art, and in his teaching of the worship of Dionysus, besides much else, came from Egypt with but slight change.
In the English, what is the subject of the verb "came"? Godley seems to say that Melampus came from Egypt little changed.

The Greek is straightforward:
ἐγὼ μέν νυν φημὶ Μελάμποδα γενόμενον ἄνδρα σοφὸν μαντικήν τε ἑωυτῷ συστῆσαι καὶ πυθόμενον ἀπ᾿ Αἰγύπτου ἄλλα τε πολλὰ ἐσηγήσασθαι Ἕλλησι καὶ τὰ περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον, ὀλίγα αὐτῶν παραλλάξαντα.
Note that Ἕλλησι ("to Greeks") is also missing from Godley's translation.

There are two aorist infinitives following φημὶ: συστῆσαι ("bring prophetic art into union with himself, i.e. win, acquire it," according to Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. συνίστημι, II.b) and ἐσηγήσασθαι ("bring in, introduce...of religious rites," id., s.v. εἰσηγέομαι).

Perhaps Godley's translation could be salvaged thus, by omitting the first "of," adding "to Greeks" (or "to Greece") and making "the worship of Dionysus" the subject of the verb "came":
I think, then, that Melampus showed himself a clever man, in that he had acquired the prophetic art, and in his teaching the worship of Dionysus, besides much else, came from Egypt to Greece with but slight change.
But there is a better, more accurate translation of the sentence in Jon D. Mikalson, Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), p. 184:
I say that Melampus, a wise man, devoted himself to the art of prophecy and both learned and introduced to Greeks many other things from Egypt and the things concerning Dionysus and changed few of them.
Jon D. Mikalson taught me Greek many years ago. I'm still learning from him.

Eric Thomson points out that Godley's Loeb Herodotus of 1920, before the 1926 revision, reads as follows (p. 337):
I think, then, that Melampus showed himself a cunning man, in that he set himself up as a prophet, and his teaching of the worship of Dionysus, besides much else, came from Egypt with but slight change.



The Merry Time

Nicholas Breton (1545–1626), "August," Fantasticks (London: Printed for Francis Williams, 1626):
It is now August, and the Sunne is somewhat towards his declination, yet such is his heat as hardeneth the soft clay, dries up the standing ponds, wythereth the sappy leaves, and scorcheth the skin of the naked: now beginne the Gleaners to follow the Corne Cart, and a little bread to a great deal of drinke makes the Travailers dinner: the Melowne and the Cucumber is now in request: and the Oyle and vineger give attendance on the Sallet hearbes: the Alehouse is more frequented then the Taverne, and a fresh River is more comfortable than a fiery Furnace: the Bathe is now much visited by diseased bodies, and in the fayre Rivers, swimming is a sweet exercise: the Bow and the Bowle picke many a purse, and the Cockes with their heeles spurne away many a mans wealth: the Pipe and the Taber is now lustily set on worke, and the Lad and the Lasse will have no lead on their heeles: the new Wheat make the Gossips Cake, and the Bride Cup is carried above the heads of the whole Parish: the Furmenty pot welcomes home the Harvest Cart, and the Garland of flowers crownes the Captaine of the Reapers. Oh, 'tis the merry time, wherein honest Neighbours make good cheere, and God is glorified in his blessings on the earth. In summe, for that I find, I thus conclude, I hold it the worlds welfare, and the earths Warming-pan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


One World

Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 42:
"One world" is becoming a hideous possibility and I wish to celebrate our differences for as long as is possible.
Related post: Le Patriotisme de Clocher.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Prayer to the Fates

Lyric fragment preserved by Stobaeus, Anthology 1.5, in Ioannis Stobaei Anthologium, Vol. I: Libri Duo Priores, ed. Curt Wachsmuth (Berlin: Weidmann, 1884), pp. 76-77 (tr. David A. Campbell, with his notes):
Aisa,2 Clotho and Lachesis, fair-armed daughters of Night, hear our prayers, you all-terrible deities of heaven and the lower world: send us rose-bosomed Eunomia3 and her bright-throned sisters Justice and garland-wearing Peace, and make this city forget its heavy-hearted misfortunes.

2 Dispensation or Destiny; in Hesiod, Theog. 905 the Fates are Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.
3 Good Order in civic government; in Hesiod, Theog. 901 ff. the sisters are the three Seasons (Horai).

Αἶσα <καὶ> Κλωθὼ Λάχεσίς τ᾿, εὐώλενοι
κοῦραι Νυκτός,
εὐχομένων ἐπακούσατ᾿,
οὐράνιαι χθόνιαί τε
δαίμονες ὦ πανδείματοι·
πέμπετ᾿ ἄμμιν <τὰν> ῥοδόκολπον
Εὐνομίαν λιπαροθρόνους τ᾿ ἀδελφὰς
Δίκαν καὶ στεφανηφόρον Εἰράναν,
πόλιν τε τάνδε βαρυφρόνων
λελάθοιτε συντυχιᾶν.


Pellente Lascivos Amores Canitie

Duanaire Finn. The Book of the Lays of Fionn, Part I: Irish Text, with Translation into English by Eoin Mac Neill (London: David Nutt, 1908), p. 194 (no. XXV):
Once I was yellow-haired, ringleted,
    Now my head puts forth only a short grey crop.

I would rather have locks of the raven's colour
    Grow on my head, than a short hoary crop.

Courting belongs not to me, for I wile no women;
    To-night my hair is hoar, it will not be as once it was.
The same, tr. Eleanor Hull, The Poem-Book of the Gael. Translations from Irish Gaelic Poetry into English Prose and Verse (Edinburgh: Ballantyne, Hanson & Co., 1913), p. 91:
Once I was yellow-haired, and ringlets fell
In clusters round my brow;
Grizzled and sparse to-night my short grey crop,
No lustre in it now.

Better to me the shining locks of youth,
Or raven's dusky hue,
Than drear old age, which chilly wisdom brings,
If what they say be true.

I only know that as I pass the road,
No woman looks my way;
They think my head and heart alike are cold,—
Yet I have had my day.
The same, tr. Barbara Hughes Fowler, Medieval Irish Lyrics (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), p. 97:
Once I had golden curls.
Now my crown sprouts only
a short crop of hoary hair.

I'd prefer to have raven locks
upon my head rather than
this scanty crop of hoary hair.

Wooing is not for me. I wile
no women. Tonight my hair is hoar.
I'll never be as I once was.
The original:
Do bádussa úair
fa folt buide chas,
is nách fuil trem chenn
acht finnfad ferr glas.

Robad luinne lem
folt ar dath in fíaich
do thoidecht trem chenn
ná finnfad gerr líath.

Suirge ní dluig dam,
óir ní mellaim mná;
m' folt in-nocht is líath;
ní bía mar do bá.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Book Learning

Augusta J. Evans (1835-1909), St. Elmo, chapter II:
Education, she contended, was useless to poor people, who could not feed and clothe themselves with "book learning;" and experience had taught her that those who lounged about with books in their hands generally came to want, and invariably to harm.



George Broderick, A Handbook of Late Spoken Manx, Vol. 2: Dictionary (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1984), pp. 239-240:
JOUYL: [phonetic transcription omitted here and throughout] - devil; motor-car. Ir. diabhal.
a. ta'n jouyl aynjee – the devil is in her, ie. she's mischievous.
b. t'ad goll nish gollrish yn jouyl hene - they go now like the devil himself.
c. cheet magh dy fakin yn jouyl cheet er y raad – coming out to see the car coming along the road.
Related posts:
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Knowledge About the Gods

Herodotus 2.3.2 (tr. A.D. Godley):
Now, such stories as I heard about the gods I am not ready to relate, except their names, for I believe that all men are equally knowledgeable about them.

τὰ μέν νυν θεῖα τῶν ἀπηγημάτων οἷα ἤκουον οὐκ εἰμὶ πρόθυμος ἐξηγέεσθαι, ἔξω ἢ τὰ οὐνόματα αὐτῶν μοῦνον, νομίζων πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἴσον περὶ αὐτῶν ἐπίστασθαι.
Alan Lloyd ad loc., in A Commentary on Herodotus, Books I-IV (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 244:
αὐτῶν here and in περὶ αὐτῶν below is probably masculine plural, referring to the θεοί implicit in θεῖα.      νομίζων ... ἐπίστασθαι: 'considering that all men have equal knowledge concerning them (sc. θεοί)', i.e. all men have equal lack of knowledge of them.


Bad Soldiers

Frank Thompson, letter to Iris Murdoch (July 31, 1943), in Iris Murdoch. A Writer at War. Letters & Diaries 1938-46, ed. Peter J. Conradi (London: Short Books, 2010), p. 152 (with the editor's notes):
Have been reading the Orlando Furioso and find it a little dull. What bad soldiers those cavalieri antiqui57 were! In the middle of battle they would drink of some magic fountain, go berserk with passion, and spend the next five years chasing some terrified donzella58 from the Pyrenees to China. And what would I say to one of my men who, while drinking from a river, lost his steel helmet in the water?!! Their adventures have none of the reality which those of Homeric heroes have. You could put Achilles and Patroclus in FMSO59, land 'em on the coast of Sicily instead of the Troad, and they would be quite at home, would say and do almost exactly the same things. But Oliver and Rinaldo, chasing around in tanks after women, would look pretty silly.

57 Knights of old.
58 Damsel.
59 Full Service Marching Order.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


The Writing Was the Writing of God

J.E. Littlewood (1885-1977), A Mathematician's Miscellany (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1953), p. 29 (under the heading "Cross-purposes, unconscious assumptions, howlers, misprints, etc."):
A good, though non-mathematical, example is the child writing with its left hand 'because God the Father does'. (He has to; the Son is sitting on the other one.)
Christ "sits on the right hand of the Father" according to the Creed.

Id., p. 41 (brackets in original):
Schoolmaster: 'Suppose x is the number of sheep in the problem'. Pupil: 'But, Sir, suppose x is not the number of sheep'. [I asked Prof. Wittgenstein was this not a profound philosophical joke, and he said it was.]


Arboristirpal Succession

Robert Byron (1905-1941), First Russia, Then Tibet: Travels Through a Changing World (London: Macmillan, 1933; rpt. London: Tauris Parke, 2011), pp. 246-247:
The pipal-tree, whose shade induced so momentous a consequence, still exists by courtesy, though its position has altered and it is probably fifteenth or twentieth in descent from its original ancestor. An actual child of the latter has survived elsewhere, at Anaradjpura in Ceylon, where I saw it, now but a fragment of arboreal senility. This was planted about 240 BC, and its guardianship at the hands of the Buddhist monks has suffered no recorded interruption. The trees of Buddh Gaya, on the other hand, have endured much violence. The original was cut down by Asoka of all people, when he was still an unbeliever. Next day, having sprung miraculously to life, his queen cut it down again, and the roots had to be revived with perfumed milk. So tells Huien-Thsang. When he saw the tree its height was no more than forty or fifty feet. For in the the year 600 the Rajah Sasangka had cut it down again, and had further dug up the roots and burnt them. Twenty years later came the Rajah Purnavarma, who revived the roots once more with the milk of a thousand cows. The next mention of the tree is by Doctor Buchanan in 1811, who described it as in full vigour and not exceeding one hundred years of age. When, in 1876, this tree had decayed and was blown down, there were seedlings ready to replace it. A few years later, remains of a pipal-tree were found which could not have been less than twelve-hundred years old, owing to a buttress which had stood that time on top of them. These were in the proper place, the vicinity of the Vajrasan throne, the diamond meridian, centre of the Universe, a sandstone seat which still survives and which marks the actual point of the great Illumination.
"Arboristirpal succession" is a pun on "apostolic succession," from arbor, arbŏris = tree and stirps, stirpis = stem, stock, race, family, lineage. I also considered "arboristolonic," from stŏlo, stolōnis = shoot, branch, twig, scion. "Arboristolic" would be a hybrid, from Latin and Greek roots (cf. apostolic, from ἀποστέλλω = dispatch on some mission or service).

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Desecration of a Tree in a Churchyard

Meg Bateman and Anne Loughran, edd., Bàird Ghleann Dail. The Glendale Bards: A Selection of Songs and Poems by Niall MacLeòid (1843-1913), 'The Bard of Skye', His Brother Iain Dubh (1847-1901) and Father Dòmhnall nan Òran (c.1787-1873) (Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited, 2013), from an electronic edition without page numbers (introduction to a poem by Iain Dubh):
38. Aoir Dhòmhnaill Ghrannd

Sam Thorburn can be heard describing the circumstances that gave rise to this poem in Tobar an Dualchais. Sheep were climbing the wall of Dòmhnall Grannd's cabbage patch. He intended to protect it by blocking the breaches in the wall with branches he cut under cover of darkness from a tree growing in Cill Chomhghain churchyard in Glendale. On hearing of this, Iain Dubh composed his poem in which the hapless Dòmhnall is visited by the ghost of Tiel, the son of a Norwegian king, found washed ashore at Loch Pooltiel, said to have been the first person to have been buried in the graveyard and to have given the loch its name. The recitations of Sam Thorburn and Peigi Shamaidh use a stentorian voice for the ghost upbraiding the wheedling and terrified Dòmhnall for undertaking such a hideous crime as the desecration of the tree. While there is much humour in the poem, it reflects both something of the reverence given to trees in the Gaelic tradition and the degree of control levied traditionally by poets on members of their community through praise and satire.
Id. (translation of a few stanzas of the poem; the ghost is speaking):
4. Man, don't take fright at my appearance,
though you've sadly removed me from glory;
if I've come to your dwelling on a visit,
it isn't to ask for you with cheer and a greeting.
Your axe in the night brought sorrow
to the saints who with me were blissful;
when you chopped the shady cover of the graveyard
since in you wisdom's light was extinguished.

5. I am the spirit of Tiel, son of the King of Norway,
who was the first to be buried in the hill of Kilchoan,
to give true testament of the evil
of the act you committed tonight with your fingers.
I watched you disturbing the dead
as they lay at rest below boards,
though you managed to get back safe
with the earth of my sod on your shoes.

6. Rogue, what did you think you were doing,
when you robbed those sticks in your clutches,
an anointed bush that burst forth from the ground
by order of the enthroned Creator?
Memorial tree of widows and children,
whose beauty drew their sorrow from them,
that grew for death and for mourning us,
like the plant that cheered Jonah.


Saturday, August 15, 2015


Social Anxiety Disorder

Aelian, Letters of Farmers 16 (Cnemon to Callipides; tr. Allen Rogers Benner and Francis H. Fobes):
I am frightfully averse to seeing many people and to associating with many people.

τὸ πολλοὺς ὁρᾶν καὶ συνεῖναι πολλοῖς δεινῶς πέφρικα.


A Game

Robert A. Rankin (1915-2001), "George Campbell Hay as I Knew Him," Chapman 40 (Winter 1984) 1-12 (at 2):
George early showed his phenomenal powers of learning other languages. I do not think he ever needed to consult a Latin or Greek dictionary. In comparison with classical Greek, Homer's Greek is like the English of Chaucer compared with present-day English, and we had a special Homeric dictionary for use when studying the Iliad or the Odyssey. I remember playing a game with George, in which I opened the Homeric dictionary at random and asked him the meaning of a word. I was never able to catch him out. A few years later we played the same game with Maceachan's Gaelic dictionary, and with the same results.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


I Long for a Hut in the Wildwood

"Manchan's Wish" (Irish, 10th century), stanzas 1-4, tr. Kathleen Jamie:
Oh Son of the living god,
ever-abiding king,
I long for a hut in the wildwood
to dwell therein.

A bothy, and beside it,
for the washing away of sin
by grace of the holy spirit:
a clear flowing burn with a linn.

The beautiful greenwood
cloistering every side,
where many-voiced songbirds
might flit and hide.

Facing the warm south,
with stream-fed lands
bountiful and beneficent
for every plant.
[In the second stanza Jamie stays close to words in the original: bothy (= hut, cottage, cf. booth) ~ buith, and linn (= waterfall, pool).]

The same, tr. Barbara Hughes Fowler:
I wish, O Son of the Living God,
    eternal and ancient King,
for a little hidden hut in the wild
    that it might be my home.

Water shallow and very gray,
    a clear pool nearby
to wash away my sins by grace
    of the Holy Spirit above.

A lovely wood neighboring it,
    enclosing on every side,
for nurture of birds of many notes,
    a shelter concealing them.

A southerly prospect to keep me warm,
    a little stream to cross
its glebe, bounteous choice soil
    nourishing every plant.
The same, tr. Kuno Meyer:
I wish, O Son of the living God, O ancient eternal King, for a hidden little hut in the wilderness, that it may be my dwelling.

An all-grey lithe little lark to be by its side, a clear pool to wash away sins through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Quite near, a beautiful wood around it on every side, to nurse many-voiced birds, hiding it with its shelter.

A southern aspect for warmth, a little brook across its floor, a choice land with many gracious gifts such as be good for every plant.
The original:
Dúthracar, a Maic Dé bí,
a Rí suthain sen,
bothán deirrit díthraba
commad sí mo threb,

Uisce treglas tanaide
do buith ina taíb,
linn glan do nigi pectha
tria rath Spirta Naíb,

Fidbaid álainn immocus
impe do cech leith,
fri altram n-én n-ilgothach,
fri clithar día cleith,

Deisebar fri tesugud,
sruthán dar a lainn,
talam togu co méit raith
bad maith do cach clainn.

Friday, August 14, 2015



W.M. Lindsay (1858-1937), quoted in Kuno Meyer, "Neu aufgefundene altirische Glossen," Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 8 (1912) 173-177 (at 175):
All these entries are written in the top margins of the pages as clearly and carefully as the text itself. And that is a curious thing. How came the head of the scriptorium to allow his monks to spoil a manuscript by so prominent insertions of trivialities? It almost makes one guess that he must have been ignorant of Irish, i.e. that the MS. was written in a continental monastery where the authorities were continental, and that the Irish strangers felt they could play pranks with impunity. When asked what he had written the scribe would point to the Latin pious sentences on the preceding top margins and say "merely the Irish equivalents of sentences like these".


Vergil Unveiled

Simone Martini, frontispiece to Petrarch's manuscript of Vergil (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS S.P. 10, 27, formerly A 49 inf.):

Danielle Joyner, in Jan M. Ziolkowski and Michael C.J. Putnam, edd., The Virgilian Tradition: The First Fifteen Hundred Years (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 452-453:
In the upper right corner of the image, Virgil reclines against a tree and props an open book in his lap. Represented as a bearded older man wearing long white robes and crowned with a laurel wreath, he lifts a feather pen and tilts his head back to gaze up into the sky, caught in a moment of contemplative reverie before writing the inspired words. Servius (see below, IV.B) reveals him to the reader not only by his commentary, which is included in the manuscript, but also by his action of drawing aside a checked curtain that hangs from a rod painted across the entire image. A soldier or knight with a sheathed knife on his belt and a long spear in his right hand stands behind Servius. Below them to the left, a farmer prunes a small orchard of trees, and in the center a shepherd milks one of four sheep. The curtain rod and plaid curtain are not the only artificial notes in this otherwise Edenic landscape; two scrolls unfurled and held open by a pair of red- and blue-winged hands are painted below Virgil. The couplets inscribed on each scroll and a third verse in the lower margin are identified as written by the hand of Petrarch himself.

The first couplet reads:
Itala praeclaros tellus alis alma poetas
Sed tibi Graecorum dedit hic attingere metas.

Italy, dear land, you nurture the famous poets,
But this man has enabled you to attain the eminence of the Greeks.
A certain amount of nationalistic pride blends with a pastoral reference to the land as nourishment for the poet, a verbal parallel to Martini's lush landscape of trees and flowering fields.

The second couplet reads:
Servius altiloqui retegens archana Maronis
Ut pateant ducibus pastoribus atque colonis.

Servius unveiling the secrets of Virgil the eloquent,
So that they may be plain to knights, shepherds, and farmers.
This reference to knights, shepherds, and farmers has been interpreted in several ways: as the three social groups for whom Servius wrote, the three allegorical stages of Virgil's life, the three levels of poetry written by Virgil, or even as the three rhetorical styles exemplified in the language of the Eclogues (shepherd), Georgics (farmer), and Aeneid (knight) as diagrammed by John of Garland’s "Virgilian Wheel" (see below, IV.S). (Discussion: A. Martindale, Simone Martini [Oxford, 1988]; M.L. Lord, "Petrarch and Vergil's First Eclogue: The Codex Ambrosianus," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 86 [1982], 253–76; J. Brink, "Simone Martini, Francesco Petrarca and the Humanistic Program of the Vergil Frontispiece," Mediaevalia 3 [1977], 83–117; C.J. Campbell, "'Symoni nostro senensi nuper iocundissima.' The Court Artist: Heart, Mind, and Hand," in Artists at Court: Image-making and Identity, 1300–1550, ed. S.J. Campbell, Fenway Court 31 [Boston, 2004], 33–45)
Eric Thomson writes:
The trees are surely more than just pastoral props for the curtain rail. Isn't the central tree a kind of visual prolepsis, the cross of Golgotha partially veiled as symbolic of the partial revelation bestowed on Vergil? If so, you have a neat triangle formed by Christ the Vine on the left and Lamb of God on the right. It would be surprising if there weren't a Christian triad to superimpose on the others.

I dare say say it's all in the bibliography. Even so it's always satisfying to arrive unaided at a destination even if it seems the glaringly obvious one to others.


I Have No Anger for Their Divergences

Maximus of Tyre, Discourses 8.10, tr. Gilbert Murray, Four Stages of Greek Religion (New York: Columbia University Press, 1912), pp. 98-99, n. 1:
God Himself, the father and fashioner of all that is, older than the Sun or the Sky, greater than time and eternity and all the flow of being, is unnameable by any lawgiver, unutterable by any voice, not to be seen by any eye. But we, being unable to apprehend His essence, use the help of sounds and names and pictures, of beaten gold and ivory and silver, of plants and rivers, mountain-peaks and torrents, yearning for the knowledge of Him, and in our weakness naming all that is beautiful in this world after His nature—just as happens to earthly lovers. To them the most beautiful sight will be the actual lineaments of the beloved, but for remembrance' sake they will be happy in the sight of a lyre, a little spear, a chair, perhaps, or a running-ground, or anything in the world that wakens the memory of the beloved. Why should I further examine and pass judgement about Images? Let men know what is divine (τὸ θεῖον γένος), let them know: that is all. If a Greek is stirred to the remembrance of God by the art of Pheidias, an Egyptian by paying worship to animals, another man by a river, another by fire—I have no anger for their divergences; only let them know, let them love, let them remember.

Ὁ μὲν γὰρ θεός, ὁ τῶν ὄντων πατὴρ καὶ δημιουργός, πρεσβύτερος μὲν ἡλίου, πρεσβύτερος δὲ οὐρανοῦ, κρείττων δὲ χρόνου καὶ αἰῶνος καὶ πάσης ῥεούσης φύσεως, ἀνώνυμος νομοθέταις καὶ ἄρρητος φωνῇ καὶ ἀόρατος ὀφθαλμοῖς· οὐκ ἔχοντες δὲ αὐτοῦ λαβεῖν τὴν οὐσίαν, ἐπερειδόμεθα φωναῖς καὶ ὀνόμασιν, καὶ ζῴοις καὶ τύποις χρυσοῦ καὶ ἐλέφαντος καὶ ἀργύρου, καὶ φυτοῖς καὶ ποταμοῖς, καὶ κορυφαῖς καὶ νάμασιν, ἐπιθυμοῦντες μὲν αὐτοῦ τῆς νοήσεως, ὑπὸ δὲ ἀσθενείας τὰ παρ' ἡμῖν καλὰ τῇ ἐκείνου φύσει ἐπονομάζοντες, αὐτὸ ἐκεῖνο τὸ τῶν ἐρώντων πάθος, οἷς ἥδιστον εἰς μὲν θέαμα οἱ τῶν παιδικῶν τύποι, ἡδὺ δὲ εἰς ἀνάμνησιν καὶ λύρα καὶ ἀκόντιον καὶ θῶκός που καὶ δρόμος καὶ πᾶν ἁπλῶς τὸ ἐπεγεῖρον τὴν μνήμην τοῦ ἐρωμένου. τί μοι τὸ λοιπὸν ἐξετάζειν καὶ νομοθετεῖν ὑπὲρ ἀγαλμάτων; θεῖον ἴστωσαν γένος, ἴστωσαν μόνον. εἰ δὲ Ἕλληνας μὲν ἐπεγείρει πρὸς τὴν μνήμην τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ Φειδίου τέχνη, Αἰγυπτίους δὲ ἡ πρὸς τὰ ζῷα τιμή, καὶ ποταμὸς ἄλλους, καὶ πῦρ ἄλλους — οὐ νεμεσῶ τῆς διαφωνίας. ἴστωσαν μόνον, ἐράτωσαν μόνον, μνημονευέτωσαν.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


They Lie

George Campbell Hay (1915-1984), "Homer," Collected Poems and Songs of George Campbell Hay (Deòrsa Mac Iain Dheòrsa), ed. Michel Byrne (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), vol. I, p. 426:
They say that you were blind. Yet, from the shore
    you saw the long waves cresting out at sea;
before the climbing dawn, from heaven's floor
    you saw the dark night flee.

You saw the swordmen; Helen without flaw.
    You saw the spearmen by the Skaean Gate.
Hector, Achilles, Priam – those you saw –
    Odysseus homeward late.

Demodocus still sings within the hall,
    Telemachus still sails and seeking goes,
and Deienera tells of Ilium's fall,
    and Ajax faces foes.

The torrents whirling in the springtime thaw,
    the shady slopes of Ida many-pined,
the curving flash of falling swords you saw.
    They lie. You were not blind.
As the editor points out (vol. II, p. 225), Heracles' wife Deienera (or Deianeira) doesn't appear in Homer.

Update—Joel Eidsath notes that Homer mentions the sisters of Meleager (Iliad 9.584), of whom Deianeira was one, although he doesn't name her.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Carpe Diem

Theognis 973–978 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
No man, once the earth has covered him and he has gone down into the darkness, the home of Persephone, has the pleasure of listening to lyre or piper or of raising to his lips the gift of Dionysus. In view of this, I'll give my heart a good time, while my knees are nimble and my head does not shake.

οὐδεὶς ἀνθρώπων, ὃν πρῶτ᾿ ἐπὶ γαῖα καλύψῃ
    εἴς τ᾿ ἔρεβος καταβῇ, δώματα Περσεφόνης,
τέρπεται οὔτε λύρης οὔτ᾿ αὐλητῆρος ἀκούων
    οὔτε Διωνύσου δῶρ᾿ ἐπαειρόμενος.
ταῦτ᾿ ἐσορῶν κραδίῃ εὖ πείσομαι, ὄφρα τ᾿ ἐλαφρὰ
    γούνατα, καὶ κεφαλὴν ἀτρεμέως προφέρω.

Saturday, August 08, 2015


No Effort, No Communication

Donald Richie (1924-2013), Journals (May 23, 1978):
Autograph signing for the Japanese translation of the [Yasujiro] Ozu book. I gave an introduction to Tokyo Story, recounting how Ozu hated just this kind of introduction. Explanation is always unnecessary. If you use your eyes and your ears properly you will understand; if you do not, no amount of explanation will inform you. The reason is that Ozu is interested in showing, not explaining. He implies; you infer. He builds his half of the bridge; you build yours. Each having made some effort, a real communication becomes possible. No effort, no communication.

This, I realize, is the only kind of art I admire. Jane Austen, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Henry Green. In the movies Ozu, Bresson, sometimes Tarkovsky, and less often Antonioni; lots of examples from painting because pictures cannot explain, and from music—in this sense the most mute of all the arts.

Friday, August 07, 2015


The Citizens and Their Leaders

Theognis 41-42 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
These townsmen are still of sound mind, but their leaders have changed and fallen into the depths of depravity.

ἀστοὶ μὲν γὰρ ἔθ᾿ οἵδε σαόφρονες, ἡγεμόνες δὲ
    τετράφαται πολλὴν εἰς κακότητα πεσεῖν.


Faith of Our Fathers

Herodotus 1.172 (tr. A.R. Godley):
Certain foreign rites of worship were established among them; but presently when they were otherwise minded, and would worship only the gods of their fathers, all Caunian men of full age put on their armour and went together as far as the boundaries of Calynda, smiting the air with their spears and saying that they were casting out the stranger gods.

ἱδρυθέντων δέ σφι ἱρῶν ξεινικῶν, μετέπειτα ὥς σφι ἀπέδοξε, ἔδοξε δὲ τοῖσι πατρίοισι μοῦνον χρᾶσθαι θεοῖσι, ἐνδύντες τὰ ὅπλα ἅπαντες Καύνιοι ἡβηδόν, τύπτοντες δόρασι τὸν ἠέρα, μέχρι οὔρων τῶν Καλυνδικῶν εἵποντο, καὶ ἔφασαν ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς ξεινικοὺς θεούς.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015


Taciturn in Seven Ancient Languages

Obituary of Martin Litchfield West in The Times (July 24, 2015):
No great conversationalist, he was once described as "taciturn in seven ancient languages". Sometimes he would go silent as he paused for thought in the middle of a discussion, until his companion was forced to ask, "Are you going to reply Martin or is that it?" "I haven't decided yet," he would respond.
A similar phrase, "silent in seven languages," was applied to the classical philologist Immanuel Bekker (1785-1871).

Related posts:


Local Attachment

Herodotus 1.134 (tr. A.D. Godley; on the Persians):
They honour most of all those who dwell nearest them, next those who are next farthest removed, and so going ever onwards they assign honour by this rule; those who dwell farthest off they hold least honourable of all; for they deem themselves to be in all regards by far the best of all men, the rest to have but a proportionate claim to merit, till those who dwell farthest away have least merit of all.

τιμῶσι δὲ ἐκ πάντων τοὺς ἄγχιστα ἑωυτῶν οἰκέοντας μετά γε ἑωυτούς, δεύτερα δὲ τοὺς δευτέρους· μετὰ δὲ κατὰ λόγον προβαίνοντες τιμῶσι· ἥκιστα δὲ τοὺς ἑωυτῶν ἑκαστάτω οἰκημένους ἐν τιμῇ ἄγονται, νομίζοντες ἑωυτοὺς εἶναι ἀνθρώπων μακρῷ τὰ πάντα ἀρίστους, τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους κατὰ λόγον τῆς ἀρετῆς ἀντέχεσθαι, τοὺς δὲ ἑκαστάτω οἰκέοντας ἀπὸ ἑωυτῶν κακίστους εἶναι.
Related posts:

Tuesday, August 04, 2015


Vain Thoughts

Theognis 133-142 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
No one, Cyrnus, is responsible on his own for ruin or profit,
but it is the gods who give both.
Nor does anyone know in his heart whether his toil        135
will turn out well or badly in the end.
For often a man who thought he would fail succeeds
and a man who thought he would succeed fails.
No one has at hand everything he wants,
since the constraints of grievous helplessness hold him back.        140
We mortals have vain thoughts, not knowledge;
it is the gods who bring everything to pass according to their own intent.

οὐδείς, Κύρν᾿, ἄτης καὶ κέρδεος αἴτιος αὐτός,
    ἀλλὰ θεοὶ τούτων δώτορες ἀμφοτέρων·
οὐδέ τις ἀνθρώπων ἐργάζεται ἐν φρεσὶν εἰδὼς        135
    ἐς τέλος εἴτ᾿ ἀγαθὸν γίνεται εἴτε κακόν.
πολλάκι γὰρ δοκέων θήσειν κακὸν ἐσθλὸν ἔθηκεν,
    καί τε δοκῶν θήσειν ἐσθλὸν ἔθηκε κακόν.
οὐδέ τῳ ἀνθρώπων παραγίνεται ὅσσ᾿ ἐθέλῃσιν·
    ἴσχει γὰρ χαλεπῆς πείρατ᾿ ἀμηχανίης.        140
ἄνθρωποι δὲ μάταια νομίζομεν, εἰδότες οὐδέν·
    θεοὶ δὲ κατὰ σφέτερον πάντα τελοῦσι νόον.

Monday, August 03, 2015


Shroud of Inattention

Donald Richie (1924-2013), Journals (May 12, 1992):
In Japan I interpret, assess an action, infer a meaning. Every day, every hour, every minute. Life here means never taking life for granted, never not noticing. For me alone I wonder? I do not see how a foreigner can live here and construct that shroud of inattention, which in the land from whence he came is his natural right and his natural tomb.

E.M. Forster used to say, "...only connect..." and it is with this live connection that the alert foreigner here lives. The electric current is turned on during all the waking hours: he or she is always occupied in noticing, evaluating, discovering and concluding.

Maybe in another country the resemblances to where one came from would be strong enough that such continual regard would not be necessary and would not be rewarding. But Japan, which now so seems to resemble the worst of the land I came from, is actually so different that none of my habits protect, none of my prior assumptions are valid.

Denied, fortunate foreigner, the tepid if comfortable bath which is daily life back "home," he cannot sink back and let the music flow over, mindless, transparent; he must listen, score in hand.

Sunday, August 02, 2015


Temperance and Intemperance: A Greek Auto-Antonym

Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ἀκορία:
not eating to satiety, moderation in eating, Hp.Epid.6.4.18.

ἀ. ποτοῦ insatiable desire of drink, Aret.CD2.2.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Saturday, August 01, 2015


The Eleventh Commandment

Kallistos Ware, "Through Creation to the Creator," in John Chryssavgis and Bruce V. Foltz, edd., Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature and Creation (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), pp. 86-115 (at 86-87; footnotes omitted):
On the Holy Mountain of Athos, the monks sometimes put up beside the forest paths special signposts offering encouragement or warning to the pilgrim as he passes. One such notice used to give me particular pleasure. Its message was brief and clear: "Love the trees." Fr. Amphilochios (d. 1970), the geronta or "elder" on the island of Patmos when I first stayed there, would have been in full agreement. "Do you know," he said, "that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment 'love the trees.'" Whoever does not love trees, so he believed, does not love God. "When you plant a tree," he insisted, "you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God's blessing." An ecologist long before ecology had become fashionable, when hearing confessions of the local farmers he used to assign to them as penance the task of planting a tree. During the long summer drought, he himself went round the island watering the young trees. His example and influence have transformed Patmos: photographs of the hillside near the Cave of the Apocalypse, taken at the start of the twentieth century, show bare and barren slopes; today there is a thick and flourishing wood.

Fr. Amphilochios was by no means the first spiritual teacher in the modern Greek tradition to recognize the importance of trees. Two centuries earlier, the Athonite monk St. Kosmas the Aetolian, martyred in 1779, used to plant trees as he traveled around Greece on his missionary journeys, and In one of his "prophecies" he stated, "People will remain poor, because they have no love for trees." We can see that prophecy fulfilled today in all too many parts of the world. Another saying attributed to him—not in this instance about trees—is equally applicable to the present age: "The time will come when the devil puts himself inside a box and starts shouting; and his horns will stick out from the roof-tiles." That often comes to my mind as I survey the skyline in London, with its serried ranks of television masts.
St. Kosmas was born, fittingly, in the village of Mega Dendron.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who also supplies the Greek originals of the quotations from St. Kosmas:

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