Sunday, January 31, 2016


Sunday Morning

Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), p. 222 (June 3, 1888; ellipsis in original; Anodos was a pseudonym of the author):
Anodos had in his early youth a great liking for sermons. Not that he ever understood or remembered them, but the taste of them was sweet to his palate. It is not so now. He left Church this morning especially to avoid one. Outside the birds held Morningsong, and the wind that bloweth where it listeth preached out of St. John's Gospel, 'Thou canst not tell whence it cometh.' It might have been crisping the waves, ruffling the heather, scattering the powdery snow upon some distant Alp, before it folded its great wings, and fluttered peacefully down into that London Churchyard. .... I incline to think that it is not three people who make a congregation, but one. Alone, I am a host in myself; oppressed on every side by masses of yawning fellow-Christians, how can I be devout? (I am not.) Even if they are not yawning, what is the feverish excitement of a crowd hanging on the rhetoric of the local Vicar to the quiet Apocalypse of a solitary person under the sky among trees? 'The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth His handiwork.' After all, even a Cathedral declares the glory of Man.
Related posts:


Religio Grammatici

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Saint Paul, tr. Ingersoll Lockwood (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1869), p. 139:
The pedagogue is the least convertible of men; for he has a religion of his own, namely, his routine, faith in his old authors, and taste for his literary exercises. This contents him, and extinguishes in him every other need.

Le pédagogue est le moins convertissable des hommes; car il a une religion à lui, qui est sa routine, la foi en ses vieux auteurs, le goût de ses exercices littéraires; cela le contente et éteint chez lui tout autre besoin.
Id., p. 144:
When we have well studied what constitutes in our day the character of a cultivated Hellene, we see that he has very little Christianity about him. He is Christian in form, as a Persian is Mussulman, but at bottom he is "Hellenist." His religion is the adoration of the ancient Greek genius. He pardons every heresy to the philhellene, to him who admires his past. He is much less the disciple of Jesus and St. Paul than of Plutarch and Julian.

Quand on a bien étudié ce qui fait de nos jours le fond d'un Hellène cultivé, on voit qu'il y a chez lui très-peu de christianisme: il est chrétien de forme, comme un Persan est musulman; mais au fond il est «helléniste». Sa religion, c'est l'adoration de l'ancien génie grec. Il pardonne toute hérésie au philhellène, à celui qui admire son passé; il est bien moins disciple de Jésus et de saint Paul que de Plutarque et de Julien.

Saturday, January 30, 2016


Greek Pleasures

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Saint Paul, tr. Ingersoll Lockwood (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1869), pp. 140-141 (footnote omitted):
If, as it may be sustained, anticipation of death is the most important feature of Christianity, and of the modern religious sentiment, then the Greek race is the least religious of races. It is a superficial race, looking upon life as a thing without aught of supernatural or after-plan. Such a simplicity of conception results in a great measure from the climate, from the purity of the air, from the wonderful joy that one breathes in, but still more from the instincts of the Hellenic race, adorably idealistic. A nothing, a tree, a flower, a lizard, a tortoise, giving rise to the recollection of a thousand metamorphoses sung by the poets; a thread of water; a little hollow in the rock, which they term a nymph's cave; a well with a cup on the curb-stone; a strait of the sea, so narrow that the butterflies cross it and still navigable for the largest vessels, as at Poros; orange-trees, cypresses, of which the shade extends upon the sea; a little forest of pines in the midst of rocks;—are sufficient in Greece to produce the contentment awakened by beauty. Walking in the gardens at night, listening to the locusts, sitting in the moonlight while playing the flute, going to the mountain for water and taking with them a little roll of bread, a fish, and a cyathus of wine, which is drunk while singing; in family festivities, hanging a crown of leaves over their door, or going with flowers in their hats; on public fête days, carrying the thyrsus ornamented with leaves; passing whole days in dancing, playing with tame goats,—such are Greek pleasures, the pleasures of a race, poor, economical, eternally young, inhabiting a beautiful country, finding their fortune in themselves and in the gifts which the gods have made them. The pastoral, after the manner of Theocritus, was a reality in Hellenic countries. Greece always took pleasure in this little species of fine and pleasing poetry, one of the most characteristic of her literature, the mirror of her own life; almost everywhere else, foolish and fictitious. Good-humor, joy at living, are things preeminently Greek. This race is always twenty years old. For them, indulgere genio is not the dull intoxication of the Englishman, the gross diversion of the Frenchman. It is simply thinking that nature is good, and that one can and should yield to it. In fact, nature, for the Greek, is a counsellor in matters of elegance, a mistress teaching rectitude and virtue. "Concupiscence," that idea that nature leads us to do wrong, is nonsense to him.



William Cory (1823-1892), quoted in Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), pp. 328-329:
I must say I like books which set young men above old. They are so much better. Goodness begins to decline after 25—cleverness after 30; at 40 or 50 the clouds of vanity gather.


A Spurious Auto-Antonym

P.G.W. Glare, "Liddell-Scott-Jones: Then and Now," Hyperboreus 3.2 (1997) 205–217 (at 211-212):
A more complicated example can be found in the entry under συγχωρέω. The opening definition is come together, meet; the second is get out of the way, make way, which would appear to be the exact opposite of the first. Although there is an old joke which says that in Arabic every word means itself, its opposite, a name of God, and a part of a camel, this is a ludicrous exaggeration, and is no more true of Greek than it is of Arabic. The first example quoted under the second sense comes from Aristophanes Wasps 1516; it runs:
φέρε νυν ἡμεῖς αὐτοῖς ὀλίγον ξυγχωρήσωμεν ἅπαντες,
ἵν᾽ ἐφ᾽ ἡσυχίας ἡμῶν πρόσθεν βεμβικίζωσιν ἑαυτοῖς.
One of the characters is certainly telling the others to get out of the way so that the chorus can proceed with its dance; what he actually says is: "Let us all get together in a group (so as to leave room, etc.)". The writer of the article has translated what he supposed to be the sense of the passage, without considering whether the word could possibly have the meaning he assigns to it. He then goes on give way, yield, defer to. These translations again express the general drift of the passages cited to support them, but it would be more accurate to say agree with, fall in with; the dictionary user would then have a much clearer idea of how one sense leads into the other.
Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 44:
[I]t used to be said that every Sanskrit word means itself, its opposite, a name of god, and a position in sexual intercourse.†

† This was said at Harvard, when I was there in the sixties, and it seems to have been based on another Orientalist joke sometimes ascribed to Sir Hamilton A.R. Gibb of Oxford and Harvard, that every Arabic word has its primary meaning, then its opposite, then something to do with a camel, and last, something obscene.


Friday, January 29, 2016


Proliferation of Books

Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), p. 268:
I am so glad you have not got any books. Never, O! never, begin to have any! If you do, they all marry each other, and increase at the rate of half a library per annum. Then, when you have lived in the house forty-five years they have all got grand-children, and there is no room in the house for anything else whatever.


Manual Labor

Thaddeus Zielinski (1859-1944), The Religion of Ancient Greece, tr. George Rapall Noyes (1926; rpt. Chicago: Ares Publishers Inc., 1975), pp. 38-39:
Some one once ventured to assert that the ancient Greeks despised and scorned physical work, and ever since that time this absurd statement has been wandering unchecked through the pages of manuals and compendiums that derive their material at second hand or at tenth hand. Of course, this allegation must have had some basis. It was founded on the opinion of the aristocratic writer Plato and of a few others concerning the injurious effect on man's mental processes of artisan labour, which chains him to the workshop and at the same time directs his thoughts exclusively towards gain. But, to say nothing of the fact that Plato and his fellow-writers are not speaking of all physical labour, and in particular not of labour in the fields, what warrant have we to make Plato's words representative of the view of Greece as a whole? Why not oppose to them the Homeric Odysseus, who appeals with equal pride to his endurance at the time of harvest and to his deeds in war?—Odysseus, who with his own hands made himself his marriage bed and the boat that saved him! Why should we not mention Hesiod, who dedicated to his heedless brother Perses his Works and Days, with their guiding thought, 'To work, foolish Perses', and with the famous verse:
Now work is no disgrace, sloth is disgrace (verse 311).
Hesiod's famous verse in Greek:
ἔργον δ' οὐδὲν ὄνειδος, ἀεργίη δέ τ' ὄνειδος.


What Will You Do When You Retire?

Frank Kermode (1919-2010), Not Entitled: A Memoir (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), pp. 164-165 (Golding = William Golding):
Another thing comes to mind as typical of Golding: he once asked me whether I was keeping up my Greek. When I admitted I wasn't, he asked, "But what will you do when you retire if you can't read Homer?" Greek was basic know-how. Having it, you could see how Homer worked, and also Achilles. That's where I fall down.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


A Personal Affront

J.C. Stobart, "The Teaching of English," The Living Age, No. 3940 (January 10, 1920) 83-91 (at 90):
I write as a Pharisee of the Pharisees, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. A man like Robert Whitelaw loved the literature of Greece and Rome with such devotion that its very forms were sacred to him. A false quantity or a false concord was to him a personal affront: it caused him physical pain. Accents and particles mattered to him and so they mattered to us. There was a right and a wrong. We did not understand why, but we knew and felt his scorn of anything careless or superficial. He read Sophocles aloud with an intensity that at first puzzled and then infected us.
We have buried our Grammarian upon his peak, fronting the sunrise. He settled hoti's business. I have heard him lecture for an hour upon the future sense of the optative with an enthusiasm that was drawn from some pure source in the depths.


The Essence of Greek Religion

C.M. Bowra (1898-1971), "Recent Homeric Studies," Sewanee Review 63.2 (April-June, 1955) 337-343 (at 340):
The essence of Greek religion is its assumption that gods and men belong to a single world, that they resemble one another in many important respects, even if the gods live forever and enjoy eternal youth, that relations between them can be those of human friendship with its loyalties and obligations, that the best things in life are those in which men come close, if only for a moment, to the felicity of the gods.
George Santayana (1863-1952), Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1922), p. 63:
To the Greek, in so far as he was a Greek, religion was an aspiration to grow like the gods by invoking their companionship, rehearsing their story, feeling vicariously the glow of their splendid prerogatives, and placing them, in the form of beautiful and very human statues, constantly before his eyes.
Related post: Men and Gods.


An Eruption of Merdal Air

The Grand Mystery, or Art of Meditating over an House of Office, Restor'd and Unveil'd; After the Manner of the Ingenious Dr. S——ft, 2nd ed. (London: J. Roberts, 1726), pp. iv-v (dedication to Dr. W———d, where Corn = our American wheat and Flower = flour):
To a Philosopher there is no one thing more vile than another: His Business is to be acquainted with all Bodies, their Compositions and Properties, with the Reasons of their Changes. Whatever Form Matter is indu'd with, it is an Object to him of Contemplation, and the Transformation of a Pudding into a T——d, merits no less to be consider'd than the Growth of the Corn of which the Flower is made, which composes the main Substance of that Pudding; nay, if any Preference is given, it is rather a Subject of so much more Dignity, as the Operations of Nature in our Bodies are of a higher Estimation than those she performs in the Earth, and as Flesh, and Blood is of more Value than Dirt.
Id., p. 2:
There is nothing the Vulgar betray their Ignorance and the wrong Conceptions they entertain of Things more in, than when they bid a Person, whom they would shew their disesteem of, Go Shite; for, can we wish our best Friends a greater Pleasure, than to discharge those sensible Membranes, the intestines, of a Load, which often produces such dreadful Consequences, when retain'd, and is always an occasion of Fear to us, till we are rid of it.
Id., p. 3:
A Man, to understand the whole Process of the stercoral Matter, besides being perfect in Human Anatomy, must be a profound Philosopher, deeply learned in the Doctrine of Gravity and Motion, and perfectly acquainted with the Laws of Statics. He must know, according to the old saying, How many Farts goes to an Ounce, a Fart being only an eruption of merdal Air, whereby the Body it proceeds from, is diminish'd in Substance and Weight. He must also reason upon, and account for the variety we find in T——ds, their different Consistency, Colours and Smells. He must know why my Lady Squitter does nothing but Water, while Country Jug leaves something at the bottom of a Hay Stack as hard as a Stone.
Id., pp. 13-14:
I know very few who are Masters of the Grand Air in Shi—ting; the generality of People doing it with Precipitancy and Heat, as if frighted with what they are about; or else with Indolence and Unconcern, as if it were an Action of no Moment: The common Form of letting down the Breeches: The aukward Postures in Sitting, the frightful Grimaces and barbarous Exclamations now in vulgar Use, all highly require a Reformation.

I should therefore not think it amiss, if Academies were erected, to be under the Direction of Persons of distinguish'd good Breeding and Ingenuity, where young Gentlemen might learn to do what no Body can do for them, En Cavilier, and little Misses to sh—t in Pots like Ladies: They should be there taught how to walk to the House of Office or Close-Stool, with a handsome Air and Step, and how to take up, or let down, their Cloaths in a genteel Manner, and to sit down with a good Grace, and in an inviting Posture: They should there learn how to draw their Features into agreeable Forms, and to utter musical and significant Interjections; They should moreover be instructed in the Art of wip——g, it being, as generally now practis'd, but what the Puritan calls the Paint upon the Face of the Great Whore, a filthy Daubing.
Id., p. 17:
There is no Body, I believe, who goes abroad, but has been sometimes attacked in the Streets by a sudden and violent Motion to evacuate: What Agonies are we then in? How disorder'd is our whole Frame of Body? And what Care and Dread sits on the Countenance? The Women fly to Shops, where, after cheapening something they have no need to buy, and perhaps dropping the greatest part of their Burden on the Floor or into their Shoes, they desire to speak with the Maid; while we, unhappy Wretches, hurry to some blind Ale-House or Coffee-House, where, before we can get a Candle to light us to a nasty Corner in the Cellar, the fierce Foe, too violent to be resisted, gains the Breach, and lodges itself on our Shirts and Breeches, to our utter Confusion, Sorrow and Shame. And tho' they who keep Coaches have the Convenience of sh———ng under the Seats, I believe they would be better satisfy'd to alight, if, in every Quarter of the Town, there were handsome Receptacles for them.



The Human Condition

Solon, fragment 14 (tr. M.L. West):
Nor yet is any mortal fortunate, but all
    are wretched that the sun looks down upon.

οὐδὲ μάκαρ οὐδεὶς πέλεται βροτός, ἀλλὰ πονηροὶ
    πάντες ὅσους θνητοὺς ἠέλιος καθορᾷ.
See Maria Noussia-Fantuzzi, Solon the Athenian, the Poetic Fragments (Leiden; Brill, 2010), pp. 357-358.


A Dying Kind

Donald Davie (1922-1995), "To a Teacher of French," In the Stopping Train & Other Poems (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 44:
Sir, you were a credit to whatever
Ungrateful slate-blue skies west of the Severn
Hounded you out to us. With white, cropped head,
Small and composed, and clean as a Descartes
From as it might be Dowlais, 'Fiery' Evans
We knew you as. You drilled and tightly lipped
Le futur parfait dans le passé like
The Welsh Guards in St James's, your pretence
Of smouldering rage an able sergeant-major's.

We jumped to it all right whenever each
Taut smiling question fixed us. Then it came:
Crash! The ferrule smashed down on the first
Desk of the file. You whispered: Quelle bêtise!
Ecoutez, s'il vous plait, de quelle bêtise
On est capable!

                           Yet you never spoke
To us of poetry; it was purely language,
The lovely logic of its tenses and
Its accidence that, mutilated, moved you
To rage or outrage that I think was not
At all times simulated. It would never
Do in our days, dominie, to lose
Or seem to lose your temper. And besides
Grammarians are a dying kind, the day
Of histrionic pedagogy's over.

You never taught me Ronsard, no one did,
But you gave me his language. He addressed
The man who taught him Greek as Toi qui dores
(His name was Jean Dorat) la France de l'or.
I couldn't turn a phrase like that on 'Evans';
And yet you gild or burnish something as,
At fifty in the humidity of Touraine,
Time and again I profit by your angers.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Understanding Roman Lyric

The Grand Mystery, or Art of Meditating over an House of Office, Restor'd and Unveil'd; After the Manner of the Ingenious Dr. S——ft, 2nd ed. (London: J. Roberts, 1726), p. vi (dedication to Dr. W———d):
But for nothing are we more indebted to you, great SIR! than for your Recovery of that inestimable VASE, in which the divine HORACE deposited his Fœcal Burdens, which Vase the silly Vulgar are pleas'd to misname an URN. Oh! could you but in the same Manner bestow on us some Part of the Treasure that Pot once contain'd, what Improvements might then be made in critical Learning: The Roman Lyric would then be perfectly understood, and B——tl—y (if he can be asham'd) wou'd blush at his Comment.
Cf. Julian Barnes, Something to Declare: Essays on France (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002), p. 150 (on Sartre's biography of Flaubert, L'Idiot de la famille; ellipses in original):
"We recognize at the outset that we cannot know the vicissitudes of his intrauterine life." Not even Sartre will invade Mme Flaubert's womb. And there are some other frustrations for the investigative psychobiographer: "the nursing, the digestive and excretory functions of the infant, the earliest efforts at toilet training ... about these fundamental givens, nothing." If only Gustave's parents had had the foresight to preserve one of Gustave's earliest stools; if only the fossilized excrement had been passed down to the Musée de Rouen ...



A Bit of Greek

Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), p. 235:
I read some of Medea; it stiffens one's mind to do a bit of Greek.



Euripides, Phoenician Women 528-530 (tr. David Kovacs):
My son Eteocles, not all that attends old age is bad: the old have experience, which can speak more wisely than youth.

ὦ τέκνον, οὐχ ἅπαντα τῷ γήραι κακά,
Ἐτεόκλεες, πρόσεστιν· ἀλλ᾿ ἡμπειρία
ἔχει τι λέξαι τῶν νέων σοφώτερον.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.28-29 (tr. Frank Justus Miller, rev. G. P. Goold):
Old age has some things at least that are not to be despised; experience comes with riper years.

                                non omnia grandior aetas,
quae fugiamus, habet: seris venit usus ab annis.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden, chapter 1 ("Economy"):
Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose.



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal (May 1849):
I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 10.26 (tr. R.D. Hicks):
Epicurus was a most prolific author and eclipsed all before him in the number of his writings: for they amount to about three hundred rolls, and contain not a single citation from other authors; it is Epicurus himself who speaks throughout.

γέγονε δὲ πολυγραφώτατος ὁ Ἐπίκουρος, πάντας ὑπερβαλλόμενος πλήθει βιβλίων· κύλινδροι μὲν γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς τριακοσίους εἰσί. γέγραπται δὲ μαρτύριον ἔξωθεν ἐν αὐτοῖς οὐδέν, ἀλλ᾿ αὐτοῦ εἰσιν Ἐπικούρου φωναί.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Fonder of Wine Bibbing than Bible Reading

Dear Mike,

Mediaeval monastic lumpen could be obdurate misobiblists, as Richard of Bury (1287-1345) complained (Philobiblon 5.78-80, tr. Ernest C. Thomas):

Liber Bacchus is ever loved,
And is into their bellies shoved,
    By day and by night;
Liber Codex is neglected,
And with scornful hand rejected,
    Far out of their sight.

And as if the simple monastic folk of modern times were deceived by a confusion of names, while Liber Pater is preferred to Liber Patrum, the study of the monks nowadays is in the emptying of cups and not the emending of books; to which they do not hesitate to add the wanton music of Timotheus, jealous of chastity, and thus the song of the merrymaker and not the chant of the mourner is become the office of the monks.

Flocks and fleeces, crops and granaries, leeks and potherbs, drink and goblets, are nowadays the reading and study of the monks, except a few elect ones, in whom lingers not the image but some slight vestige of the fathers that preceded them.

Liber Bacchus respicitur
    et in ventrem traicitur
    nocte dieque;
liber codex despicitur
    et a manu reicitur
    longe lateque.

tanquam si cuiusdam aequivocationis multiplicate fallatur simplex monachica plebs moderna, dum Liber pater praeponitur libro patrum, calcibus epotandis non codicibus emendandis indulget hodie studium monachorum: quibus lascivam musicam Timothei pudicis moribus aemulam non verentur adiungere, sicque cantus ludentis non planctus lugentis officium efficitur monachale.

greges et vellera, fruges et horrea, porri et olera, potus et patera, lectiones sunt hodie et studia monachorum, exceptis quibusdam paucis electis, in quibus patrum praecedentium non imago sed vestigium remanet aliquale.

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]

Wine-bibbing monk, from British Library
manuscript Sloane 2435 (ca. 1285), f. 44v
(Aldobrandino of Siena, Li livres dou santé)



The King's Mirror (Speculum Regale—Konungs Skuggsjá). Translated from the Old Norse with Introduction and Notes by Laurence Marcellus Larson (New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., & The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1917), pp. 205-206:
Remember that many a man lives but a brief time, while his deeds live long after him; and it is of great importance what is remembered about him. Some have reached fame through good deeds, and these always live after them, for one's honor lives forever, though the man himself be dead. Some win fame by evil deeds and these men, though they be dead, bear a burden of lasting disgrace when their deeds are recalled; their kinsmen, too, and all their descendants after their days have to bear the same dishonor. Those, however, are most numerous who drop away like cattle and are remembered neither for good nor for evil; but you shall know of a truth that such is surely not the purpose of mankind; for all other creatures were made for the pleasure and subsistence of man, while man was created to enjoy the glories of both this and the other world, if he is to realize the purpose of his creation. Every one, therefore, while he still lives, should strive to leave a few such deeds after him as will cause him to be remembered with favor after he has departed this life.


New Testament Greek

William Cory (1823-1892), quoted in Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), p. 327:
The Authorised Version goes on translating γάρ, for, till it becomes perfectly nauseous. In the case of the Epistle to the Romans, it makes the argument hopelessly confusing. I recommend total abstinence.
There was an old scholar, George Kennedy. A friend Faber, a very poetical man, who afterwards turned R.C., came into the room once, and, to his surprise and joy, found him reading the New Testament, which was unusual. But all the old fellow said was, 'Rum fellow, Luke! uses ἄν with the Future Optative!'


Real Religion

Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), p. 233:
How dull is the Life of Dean Church! How much worse than dull the Life of Dr. Pusey! I think the devil writes religious biography. There's much more real religion in the Bacchae of Euripides, which is simply glorious—a sort of Greek Salvation Army business, all drums and cymbals and ecstasy. Macaulay says he hasn't the least idea whether Euripides meant to run up or run down fanaticism, but it's one of the finest things going. The revel of vine and ivy and bryony and wind—blown torches and roofless rocks and wild delirious joy in freedom and music and open air—is quite intoxicating. Then there's Bacchus himself, the god come down in the likeness of man, the men of Thebes refusing to understand, obstinate not to worship him, punished accordingly. There's no real tipsiness as far as I can make out. The Hallelujah Lasses get drunk on the wine of the spirit, not the wine of the grape.

Monday, January 25, 2016


The Curious Incident of the Dogs

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), "Silver Blaze," Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes:
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Homer, Odyssey 16.4-5 (my translation):
But around Telemachus fawned the always barking dogs,
and did not bark at him as he approached.

Τηλέμαχον δὲ περίσσαινον κύνες ὑλακόμωροι,
οὐδ᾽ ὕλαον προσιόντα.


A Misobiblist

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Studies in Classic American Literature, chapter 7 ("Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter"):
My father hated books, hated the sight of anyone reading or writing.
Cf. Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Bleak House, chapter XXI:
"Don't you read, or get read to?"

The old man shakes his head with sharp sly triumph. "No, no. We have never been readers in our family. It don't pay. Stuff. Idleness. Folly. No, no!"
The word misobiblist (hater of books) doesn't occur in the Oxford English Dictionary. Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948) used it in The Fear of Books (1932; rpt. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), p. 4.



In a Country Churchyard

The King's Mirror (Speculum Regale—Konungs Skuggsjá). Translated from the Old Norse with Introduction and Notes by Laurence Marcellus Larson (New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., & The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1917), pp. 108-109 (with translator's note; on Ireland):
There is another little island in that country, which the natives call Inhisgluer.† There is a large village on this island and also a church; for the population is about large enough for a parish. But when people die there, they are not buried in the earth but are set up around the church along the churchyard fence, and there they stand like living men with their limbs all shriveled but their hair and nails unmarred. They never decay and birds never light on them. And every one who is living is able to recognize his father or grandfather and all the successive ancestors from whom he has descended.

† Inhisgluair, now Inishglory, is on the west coast of Ireland in county Mayo. Giraldus mentions the legend but assigns it to a different locality; see Opera, V, 83 and note. The Irish Nennius (193) adds that the nails and hair grow and that unsalted meat does not decay on the island. The island is also referred to in the Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 103.



W.H. Auden (1907-1973), "The Fall of Rome," 'In Solitude, for Company': W.H. Auden After 1940. Unpublished Prose and Recent Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 120-137 (at 136):
I think a great many of us are haunted by the feeling that our society, and by ours I don't mean just the United States or Europe, but our whole world-wide technological civilisation, whether officially labelled capitalist, socialist or communist, is going to go smash, and probably deserves to.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Theology Lesson

Solon, fragment 17 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
The mind of the immortals is altogether hidden from men.

πάντῃ δ᾿ ἀθανάτων ἀφανὴς νόος ἀνθρώποισιν.
Or, keeping the force of both privatives,
From every angle the mind of the immortals is invisible to men.



The King's Mirror (Speculum Regale—Konungs Skuggsjá). Translated from the Old Norse with Introduction and Notes by Laurence Marcellus Larson (New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., & The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1917), p. 82:
Train yourself to be as active as possible, though not so as to injure your health. Strive never to be downcast, for a downcast mind is always morbid; try rather to be friendly and genial at all times, of an even temper and never moody. Be upright and teach the right to every man who wishes to learn from you; and always associate with the best men. Guard your tongue carefully; this is good counsel, for your tongue may honor you, but it may also condemn you. Though you be angry speak few words and never in passion; for unless one is careful, he may utter words in wrath that he would later give gold to have unspoken. On the whole, I know of no revenge, though many employ it, that profits a man less than to bandy heated words with another, even though he has a quarrel to settle with him. You shall know of a truth that no virtue is higher or stronger than the power to keep one's tongue from foul or profane speech, tattling, or slanderous talk in any form.
Id., p. 84:
This, too, you must keep constantly in mind, if you wish to be counted a wise man, that you ought never to let a day pass without learning something that will profit you. Be not like those who think it beneath their dignity to hear or learn from others such things even as might avail them much if they knew them. For a man must regard it as great an honor to learn as to teach, if he wishes to be considered thoroughly informed.



Ian Rutherford and James Irvine, "The Race in the Athenian Oschophoria and an Oschophoricon by Pindar," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 72 (1988) 43-51 (at 43, footnote omitted):
The Oschophoria was a vintage festival held in the month of Pyanepsion (October/November) and dedicated jointly to Athena and Dionysus, and in all likelihood Theseus also. Our sources attribute two main elements to it: first, a procession from a certain temple of Dionysus to the temple of Athena Sciras at Phalerum, led by two young men dressed as women and carrying vine-branches (ὦϲχαι); second, a foot-race between adolescent boys, probably run along the same route as the procession, with a special potion called the πενταπλόα as the prize.
See also Edward Kadletz, "The Race and Procession of the Athenian Oschophoroi", Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 21 (1980) 361-371.

Classical scholar Rhys Carpenter (1889-1980) wrote an imaginative reconstruction of the processional hymn for this festival in The Sun-Thief and Other Poems (London: Humphrey Milford / Oxford University Press, 1914), pp. 128-130:

The staffs are wreathed; move on, move on,
While the youths and maidens sing
    'Io, Bacchus, lord and king,
    Worshipful in Phaleron,
    To thy mystic shrine we bring
    Song and sacred offering.'

The sun laughs overhead; the white way gleams;
About us are the olives and the vineyards where the light
    Leaps and dances in the heat
    And the autumn's restless feet
Dance the harvest dances, where the might
    Of September, month of dreams,
    Holds the valleys, hills, and streams,
Still the sun laughs: still the white way gleams.

    Away, away, move on, move on,
    Worshipping at Phaleron
With festival and sound of dancing feet:
Mid-summer's past and autumn's here to greet.
Dance the harvest-dances on the bursting vine,
Harvest well the vine-crop, well tread out the wine,
    While September, month of dreams,
    Holds the valleys, hills, and streams,
    And the wine-press in the heat
    Gleams with glint of naked feet.
        Away! away!
    The blithe processional moves on
    From Athens unto Phaleron.

The staffs are wreathed, the choruses of youths and maidens sing
    'Io, Bacchus, lord and king,
    To thy mystic shrine we bring
    Song and sacred offering,
    Ancient legends, ever new,
    How the godlike Theseus slew
    Far in Crete the Minotaur,
    How for his return he swore
    Sails of white, and was forsworn,
    How King Aegeus hope-forlorn
    Hurled himself into the sea,
    How the festive revelry
    Knew not aught of Aegeus dead,
    But, by smiling Theseus led,
    Heard not, till their mirth was spent:
    —Revelry became lament.'
So they sing, and so move on,
    Worshipping, to Phaleron.

So they move, and so they sing
    'Io, Bacchus, lord and king,
    Thou art hid, the mystic wine-god,
    In the hot sun-beaten vine;
    In the must, mad feet of thine trod;
    In the spurting purple wine.
    Sun and summer, they are thine,
    Song and gay brain-reeling mirth,
    Revelry and riot,
    Laughter and delight of earth,
    Joy shall not be quiet.'—
    Fiercer grows the strain,
    Awakening dull pain.

    'Thou art the foam upon the must,
    The purple in the lees of lust,
The cup o'erturned, the dregs spilt in the dust.'
    Suddenly the sadness falls;
    Weary lamentation calls,
        Evoe, evoe,
        Iou, iou.
    'Io, Bacchus, lord and king,'—
    Speech there is no fathoming;
    Revel spent and sorrow come,
    Mirth and merriment made dumb.
        Iou! iou!
        Evoe! evoe!—

So they sang, and so moved on
    From Athens into Phaleron.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


No Escape

Solon, fragment 4, lines 26-29 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
And so the public evil comes home to each man
and the courtyard gates no longer have the will to hold it back,
but it leaps over the high barrier and assuredly finds him out,
even if he takes refuge in an innermost corner of his room.

οὕτω δημόσιον κακὸν ἔρχεται οἴκαδ᾿ ἑκάστῳ,
    αὔλειοι δ᾿ ἔτ᾿ ἔχειν οὐκ ἐθέλουσι θύραι,
ὑψηλὸν δ᾿ ὑπὲρ ἕρκος ὑπέρθορεν, εὗρε δὲ πάντως,
    εἰ καί τις φεύγων ἐν μυχῷ ᾖ θαλάμου.


Two Irish Jesters

The King's Mirror (Speculum Regale—Konungs Skuggsjá). Translated from the Old Norse with Introduction and Notes by Laurence Marcellus Larson (New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., & The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1917), p. 118 (with translator's note; on Ireland):
Long time ago a clownish fellow lived in that country; he was a Christian, however, and his name was Klefsan.* It is told of this one that there never was a man who, when he saw Klefsan, was not compelled to laugh at his amusing and absurd remarks. Even though a man was heavy at heart, he could not restrain his laughter, we are told, when he heard that man talk. But Klefsan fell ill and died and was buried in the churchyard like other men. He lay long in the earth until the flesh had decayed from his bones, and his bones, too, were largely crumbled. Then it came to pass that other corpses were buried in the same churchyard, and graves were dug so near the place where Klefsan lay that his skull was unearthed, and it was whole. They set it up on a high rock in the churchyard, where it has remained ever since. But whoever comes to that place and sees that skull and looks into the opening where the mouth and tongue once were immediately begins to laugh, even though he were in a sorrowful mood before he caught sight of that skull. Thus his dead bones make almost as many people laugh as he himself did when alive.

* A somewhat different version of this tale is found in the poem on the "Wonders of Ireland" (Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 105). See also Ériu, IV, 14.
Aislinge Meic Conglinne. The Vision of MacConglinne. A Middle-Irish Wonder Tale. Edited with a Translation (Based on W.M. Hennessy's), Notes, and a Glossary by Kuno Meyer (London: David Nutt, 1892), p. 131 (editor's note):
Mac Rustaing, according to a note in the LBr. commentary on the Félire (Stokes' ed., p. cxlv), was a brother of St. Coemán Brecc. But this cannot have been the case, for Coemán died in 615. In the same note it is stated that Mac Rustaing lies buried at Ross Ech (now Russagh, near the village of Street, in the north of co. West Meath), and that no woman can look at his grave without breaking wind or uttering a loud foolish laugh. This is also mentioned as one of the wonders of Erin in Todd's Irish Nennius, p. 201, and a similar story is told in the Old-Norwegian Speculum Regale about the skull of an Irish jester called Clefsan. It would seem, then, that Mac Rustaing was a famous jester in his time.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Dreary Work

B.L. Gildersleeve (1831-1924), "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 5.2 (1884) 278:
Drearier work than teaching Caesar's Gallic War to beginners can hardly be imagined.
Related posts:


Rich and Poor

Solon, fragment 15, line 1 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
Many base men are rich and many good men poor.

πολλοὶ γὰρ πλουτέουσι κακοί, ἀγαθοὶ δὲ πένονται.


A Difficult Language

Henry James, letter to Thomas Sergeant Perry (August 5, 1860):
I am now working at Schiller's play of Maria Stuart, which I like exceedingly, though I do get on so slowly with it. I am convinced that German may take its stand among the difficult languages of the earth. I shall consider myself fortunate if I am able, when I leave Bonn, to translate even the simplest things.


Bracket Blindness

Voula Tsouna, The Ethics of Philodemus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 4:
I have tried to avoid the phenomenon that David Sedley was the first to characterize as 'bracket blindness': i.e., the tendency to overlook the brackets surrounding editorial restorations of a word or passage and thus develop interpretations based on slim or even non-existent evidence.

Thursday, January 21, 2016



Evelyn, Princess Blücher (1876-1960), An English Wife in Berlin: A Private Memoir of Events, Politics, and Daily Life in Germany Throughout the War and the Social Revolution of 1918 (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1920), p. 295:
The greater part of them were men fighting blindly to guard an ideal, the "Heimat," some patch of mother earth, a small cottage half hidden in its sheltering fruit trees, ploughed fields rising on the slope of a hill up to the dark forest of pines, maybe, or a wide stretch of flat country where the golden corn-fields sway and wave in the wind as far as the eye can reach.

This everything, that meant "home" to them, they were told was in danger, and this they went out to save.


The Blame Game

Homer, Odyssey 1.32-34 (Zeus is speaking, tr. A.T. Murray and George E. Dimcock):
It's astonishing how ready mortals are to blame the gods.
It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they even by themselves,
through their own blind folly, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.

ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται·
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ᾽ ἔμμεναι, οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε᾽ ἔχουσιν.
Solon, fragment 11, lines 1-2 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
If you have suffered grief because of your wrong action,
do not lay the blame for this on the gods.

εἰ δὲ πεπόνθατε λυγρὰ δι᾿ ὑμετέρην κακότητα,
   μὴ θεοῖσιν τούτων μοῖραν ἐπαμφέρετε.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016



Dante, Inferno 7.73-96 (tr. John D. Sinclair; slightly altered):
He whose wisdom transcends all
made the heavens and gave them guides,
so that every part shines to every part,        75

dispersing the light equally.
In the same way for worldly splendours
He ordained a general minister and guide

who should in due time change vain wealth
from race to race and from one to another blood,        80
beyond the prevention of human wits,

so that one race rules and another languishes
according to her sentence
which is hidden like the snake in the grass.

Your wisdom cannot strive with her.        85
She foresees, judges, and maintains
her kingdom, as the other heavenly powers do theirs.

Her changes have no respite.
Necessity makes her swift,
so fast men come to take their turn.        90

This is she who is so reviled
by the very men that should give her praise,
laying on her wrongful blame and ill repute.

But she is blest and does not hear it.
Happy with the other primal creatures        95
she turns her sphere and rejoices in her bliss.

Colui lo cui saver tutto trascende,
   fece li cieli e diè lor chi conduce
   sì ch'ogne parte ad ogne parte splende,        75

distribuendo igualmente la luce:
   similemente alli splendor mondani
   ordinò general ministra e duce

che permutasse a tempo li ben vani
   di gente in gente e d'uno in altro sangue,        80
   oltre la difension d'i senni umani;

per ch'una gente impera e l'altra langue,
   seguendo lo giudicio di costei,
   che è occulto come in erba l'angue.

Vostro saver non ha contasto a lei:        85
   questa provede, giudica, e persegue
   suo regno come il loro li altri dei.

Le sue permutazion non hanno triegue:
   necessità la fa esser veloce,
   sì spesso vien chi vicenda consegue.        90

Quest' è colei ch'è tanto posta in croce
   pur da color che le dovrien dar lode,
   dandole biasmo a torto e mala voce;

ma ella s'è beata e ciò non ode:
   con l'altre prime creature lieta        95
   volve sua spera e beata si gode.



Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Recollections of My Youth, tr. C.B. Pitman (London: Chapman and Hall, 1883), pp. 312-314 (footnote omitted):
Theirs was the true French politeness; that which is shown not only towards acquaintances but towards all persons without exception. Politeness of this kind implies a general standard of conduct, without which life cannot, as I hold, go on smoothly; viz. that every human creature should be given credit for goodness failing proof to the contrary, and treated kindly. Many people, especially in certain countries, follow the opposite rule, and this leads to great injustice. For my own part, I cannot possibly be severe upon any one a priori. I take for granted that every person I see for the first time is a man of merit and of good repute, reserving to myself the right to alter my opinions (as I often have to do) if facts compel me to do so....The right way to behave at table is to help oneself to the worst piece in the dish, so as to avoid the semblance of leaving for others what one does not think good enough—or, better still, to take the piece nearest to one without looking at what is in the dish. Any one who was to act in this delicate way in the struggle of modern life, would sacrifice himself to no purpose. His delicacy would not even be noticed. "First come, first served," is the objectionable rule of modern egotism. To obey, in a world which has ceased to have any heed of civility, the excellent rules of the politeness of other days, would be tantamount to playing the part of a dupe, and no one would thank you for your pains.

C'était la vraie civilité française, je veux dire celle qui s'exerce, non seulement envers les personnes que l'on connaît, mais envers tout le monde sans exception. Une telle politesse implique un parti général sans lequel je ne conçois pas pour la vie d'assiette commode; c'est que toute créature humaine, jusqu'à preuve du contraire, doit être tenue pour bonne et traitée avec bienveillance. Beaucoup de personnes, surtout en certains pays, suivent la règle justement opposée; ce qui les mène à de grandes injustices. Pour moi, il m'est impossible d'être dur pour quelqu'un a priori. Je suppose que tout homme que je vois pour la première fois doit être un homme de mérite et un homme de bien, sauf à changer d’avis (ce qui m'arrive souvent) si les faits m'y forcent.... La bonne règle à table est de se servir toujours très mal, pour éviter la suprême impolitesse de paraître laisser aux convives qui viennent après vous ce qu'on a rebuté. Peut-être vaut-il mieux encore prendre la part qui est la plus rapprochée de vous, sans la regarder. Celui qui, de nos jours, porterait dans la bataille de la vie une telle délicatesse serait victime sans profit; son attention ne serait même pas remarquée. «Au premier occupant» est l'affreuse règle de l'égoïsme moderne. Observer, dans un monde qui n'est plus fait pour la civilité, les bonnes règles de l'honnêteté d'autrefois, ce serait jouer le rôle d'un véritable niais, et personne ne vous en saurait gré.


Patriae Solum Carum

Ovid, Letters from Pontus 1.3.35-36 (my translation):
By some inexplicable charm our native land attracts us all and doesn't allow us to forget her.

nescioqua natale solum dulcedine cunctos
    ducit et inmemores non sinit esse sui.
Henry David Thoreau, Journal (November 12, 1853):
I cannot but regard it as a kindness in those who have the steering of me that, by the want of pecuniary wealth, I have been nailed down to this my native region so long and steadily, and made to study and love this spot of earth more and more. What would signify in comparison a thin and diffused love and knowledge of the whole earth instead, got by wandering? The traveller's is but a barren and comfortless condition.

Monday, January 18, 2016


Interest in the Past

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Recollections of My Youth, tr. C.B. Pitman (London: Chapman and Hall, 1883), p. 228:
For the day is not, we may be sure, very far distant when man will cease to attach much interest to his past. I am very much afraid that our minute contributions to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, which are intended to assist to an accurate comprehension of history, will crumble to dust before they have been read.

On voit poindre, en effet, un âge où l'homme n'attachera plus beaucoup d'intérêt à son passé. Je crains fort que nos écrits de précision de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, destinés à donner quelque exactitude à l'histoire, ne pourrissent avant d'avoir été lus.



Aratus, Phaenomena 1142-1144 (tr. A.W. Mair):
Good rule it is to look for sign confirming sign. When two point the same way, forecast with hope; when three, with confidence.

                                      καλὸν δ᾿ ἐπὶ σήματι σῆμα
σκέπτεσθαι· μᾶλλον δὲ δυοῖν εἰς ταὐτὸν ἰόντων
ἐλπωρὴ τελέθοι, τριτάτῳ δέ κε θαρσήσειας.


Labial Courtesies, Hideous to English Eyes

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), History of a Six Weeks' Tour Through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland (London: T. Hookham, 1817), pp. 67-68:
We took our places in the diligence-par-eau for Cologne, and the next morning (September 4th) departed. This conveyance appeared much more like a mercantile English affair than any we had before seen; it was shaped like a steam-boat, with a cabin and a high deck. Most of our companions chose to remain in the cabin; this was fortunate for us, since nothing could be more horribly disgusting than the lower order of smoking, drinking Germans who travelled with us; they swaggered and talked, and what was hideous to English eyes, kissed one another...
Thomas Hood (1799-1845), Up the Rhine, new ed. (London: E. Moxon, Son, & Co., 1869), p. 150:
The bell now rang, forewarning the passengers and their friends that it was time to separate; whereupon, to the infinite surprise of my aunt, two remarkably corpulent old gentlemen tumbled into each other's arms, and exchanged such salutes as are only current in England amongst females, or between parties of opposite sexes. To our notions there is something repulsive in this kissing amongst men; but when two weather-beaten veterans, "bearded like the pard," or like Blücher, indulge in these labial courtesies, there is also something ludicrous in the picture.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Star Gazing

Aratus, Phaenomena 469-476 (tr. A.W. Mair):
If ever on a clear night, when Night in the heavens shows to men all her stars in their brightness and no star is borne faintly gleaming at the mid-month moon, but they all sharply pierce the darkness—if in such an hour wonder rises in thy heart to mark on every side the heaven cleft by a broad belt, or if someone at thy side point out that circle set with brilliants—that is what men call the Milky Way.

εἴ ποτέ τοι νυκτὸς καθαρῆς, ὅτε πάντας ἀγαυοὺς
ἀστέρας ἀνθρώποις ἐπιδείκνυται οὐρανίη Νύξ,        470
οὐδέ τις ἀδρανέων φέρεται διχόμηνι σελήνῃ,
ἀλλὰ τά γε κνέφαος διαφαίνεται ὀξέα πάντα—εἴ
ποτέ τοι τημόσδε περὶ φρένας ἵκετο θαῦμα,
σκεψαμένῳ πάντη κεκεασμένον εὐρέϊ κύκλῳ
οὐρανόν, ἢ καί τίς τοι ἐπιστὰς ἄλλος ἔδειξεν        475
κεῖνο περιγληνὲς τροχαλόν, Γάλα μιν καλέουσιν.

471 διχόμηνι A: νεόμηνι MES
My "lesse Greek" led me to scratch my head over πάντη in line 474, thinking it should be πάντῃ, with an iota subscript beneath the eta. Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. πάντῃ, don't give πάντη as an alternate spelling, but Pape-Sengesbusch-Benseler do: "πάντη, auch πάντῃ."

On these lines see Emanuele Dettori, "Arat. 469-476: Una Risposta a Il. 8,555-559?", Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 151 (2008) 426-429. Here are the lines from the Iliad (8.555-559; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
Just as in the sky about the gleaming moon the stars shine clear when the air is windless, and into view come all mountain peaks and high headlands and glades, and from heaven breaks open the infinite air, and all the stars are seen, and the shepherd rejoices in his heart...

ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἐν οὐρανῷ ἄστρα φαεινὴν ἀμφὶ σελήνην
φαίνετ᾽ ἀριπρεπέα, ὅτε τ᾽ ἔπλετο νήνεμος αἰθήρ·
ἔκ τ᾽ ἔφανεν πᾶσαι σκοπιαὶ καὶ πρώονες ἄκροι
καὶ νάπαι· οὐρανόθεν δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπερράγη ἄσπετος αἰθήρ,
πάντα δὲ εἴδεται ἄστρα, γέγηθε δέ τε φρένα ποιμήν


How I Would Live Most Gladly

Roger Ascham (1515-1568), letter to William Cecil, in Henry Ellis, ed., Original Letters of Eminent Literary Men (London: Camden Society, 1843), p. 14:
I having now som experience of liffe led at home and abrode, and knowing what I can do most fitlie, and how I wold live most gladlie, do wel perceyve their is no soch quietnesse in England, nor pleasur in strange contres, as even in S. Jons Colledg to kepe company with the Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, and Tullie.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


A Donkey Loaded with Latin

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Recollections of My Youth, tr. C.B. Pitman (London: Chapman and Hall, 1883). pp. 140-141:
As a natural consequence of my assiduity in study I was destined for the priesthood. Moreover, I was of sedentary habits and too weak of muscle to distinguish myself in athletic sports. I had an uncle of a Voltairian turn of mind, who did not at all approve of this. He was a watchmaker, and had reckoned upon me to take on his business. My successes were as gall and wormwood to him, for he quite saw that all this store of Latin was dead against him, and that it would convert me into a pillar of the Church which he disliked. He never lost an opportunity of airing before me his favourite phrase, "a donkey loaded with Latin."

La prêtrise était donc la conséquence de mon assiduité à l'étude. Avec cela, j'étais sédentaire, impropre par ma faiblesse musculaire à tous les exercices du corps. J'avais un oncle voltairien, le meilleur des hommes, qui voyait cela de mauvais œil. Il était horloger, et m'envisageait comme devant être le continuateur de son état. Mes succès le désolaient; car il sentait bien que tout ce latin contreminait sourdement ses projets et allait faire de moi une colonne de l'Eglise, qu'il n'aimait pas. Il ne manquait jamais l'occasion de placer devant moi son mot favori: «Un âne chargé de latin!»


The Golden Age

Aratus, Phaenomena 108-113 (tr. A.W. Mair):
Not yet in that age had men knowledge of hateful strife,
or carping contention, or din of battle,
but a simple life they lived. Far from them was the cruel sea        110
and not yet from afar did ships bring their livelihood,
but the oxen and the plough and Justice herself, queen of the peoples,
giver of things just, abundantly supplied their every need.

οὔπω λευγαλέου τότε νείκεος ἠπίσταντο
οὐδὲ διακρίσιος πολυμεμφέος οὐδὲ κυδοιμοῦ,
αὕτως δ᾿ ἔζωον· χαλεπὴ δ᾿ ἀπέκειτο θάλασσα,        110
καὶ βίον οὔπω νῆες ἀπόπροθεν ἠγίνεσκον,
ἀλλὰ βόες καὶ ἄροτρα καὶ αὐτή, πότνια λαῶν,
μυρία πάντα παρεῖχε Δίκη, δώτειρα δικαίων.
Cicero's translation of the beginning of line 110 survives (Aratea, fragment XVII Buescu, my translation):
They preferred to live content with minimal effort.

malebant tenui contenti vivere cultu.
See also the version ascribed to Germanicus, lines 112-119 (tr. D.B. Gain):
Men were not yet so savage as to bare their swords in rage against each other; discord among blood relations was unknown; no one sailed the seas, men's own lands being satisfaction enough. Greed for wealth from far away did not cause them to build ships and entrust them to the hazards of the winds. The peaceful lands bore fruit unaided for those who dwelt in them. There were no boundary stones marking off their owners' small domains, for they were quite safe without them.

nondum vesanos rabies nudaverat ensis
nec consanguineis fuerat discordia nota,
ignotique maris cursus, privataque tellus
grata satis, neque per dubios avidissima ventos        115
spes procul amotas fabricata nave petebat
divitias, fructusque dabat placata colono
sponte sua tellus nec parvi terminus agri
praestabat dominis, sine eo tutissima, rura.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Born to be Rich

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Recollections of My Youth, tr. C.B. Pitman (London: Chapman and Hall, 1883), p. 85 (his mother speaking):
There are some people who are born to be rich, while there are others who never would be so. The former have claws, and do not scruple to help themselves first. That is just what we have never been able to do. When it comes to taking the best piece out of the dish which is handed round our natural politeness stands in our way.

Il y a des gens qui naissent pour être riches, d'autres qui ne le seront jamais. Il faut avoir des griffes, se servir le premier. Or c'est ce que nous n'avons jamais su faire. Dès qu'il s'agit de prendre la meilleure portion sur le plat qui passe, notre politesse naturelle s'y oppose.

Cartoon by William Gropper


The Sacred and the Profane

Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, tr. Joseph Ward Swain (New York: Collier Books, 1961), p. 56:
But the real characteristic of religious phenomena is that they always suppose a bipartite division of the whole universe, known and knowable, into two classes which embrace all that exists, but which radically exclude each other. Sacred things are those which the interdictions protect and isolate; profane things, those to which these interdictions are applied and which must remain at a distance from the first. Religious beliefs are the representations which express the nature of sacred things and the relations which they sustain, either with each other or with profane things. Finally, rites are the rules of conduct which prescribe how a man should comport himself in the presence of these sacred objects.

Mais ce qui est caractéristique du phénomène religieux, c'est qu'il suppose toujours une division bipartite de l'univers connu et connaissable en deux genres qui comprennent tout ce qui existe, mais qui s'excluent radicalement. Les choses sacrées sont celles que les interdits protègent et isolent; les choses profanes, celles auxquelles ces interdits s'appliquent et qui doivent rester à distance des premières. Les croyances religieuses sont des représentations qui expriment la nature des choses sacrées et les rapports qu'elles soutiennent soit les unes avec les autres, soit avec les choses profanes. Enfin, les rites sont des règles de conduite qui prescrivent comment l'homme doit se comporter avec les choses sacrées.



An Attic skolion = Poetae Melici Graeci, no. 902 (tr. David A. Campbell):
Drink with me, be youthful with me, love with me, wear garlands with me,
be mad with me when I am mad, sober with me when I am sober.

σύν μοι πῖνε συνήβα συνέρα συστεφανηφόρει,
σύν μοι μαινομένῳ μαίνεο, σὺν σώφρονι σωφρόνει.
Commentators compare Theognis 313-314 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
Among those who rave I rave with the best, but among the level–headed
I am the most level–headed of all.

ἐν μὲν μαινομένοις μάλα μαίνομαι, ἐν δὲ δικαίοις
    πάντων ἀνθρώπων εἰμὶ δικαιότατος.
See Robert Renehan, "An Unnoticed Proverb in Theognis," Classical Review 13.2 (June, 1963) 131-132.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


The Pig

Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms 73.25 (tr. Maria Boulding):
Now it is possible that the one who maintains, "Once I'm dead, I shall no longer exist," is a person of some education, and he has learned this from a crazy fellow named Epicurus, a so-called philosopher, but in truth a lover of futility rather than a lover of wisdom. Philosophers themselves dubbed him "the Pig," because they held that a "philosopher" who held bodily pleasure to be the supreme good deserved to be called a pig wallowing in the mire of the flesh. So perhaps it is from this man that our educated objector has learnt to say, "Once I'm dead, I shall no longer exist."

et forte qui dicit: cum mortuus fuero, postea nihil ero: et litteras didicit, et ab Epicuro didicit hoc, nescio quo deliro philosopho, vel potius amatore vanitatis, non sapientiae; quem ipsi etiam philosophi porcum nominaverunt: qui voluptatem corporis summum bonum dixit, hunc philosophum porcum nominaverunt, volutantem se in coeno carnali. ab illo forte didicit iste litteratus dicere: non ero posteaquam mortuus fuero.
Partially quoted, without an indication of source, by Isidore, Etymologies 8.6.15 (tr. Stephen A. Barney et al.):
The Epicureans ... are so called from a certain philosopher Epicurus, a lover of vanity, not of wisdom, whom the philosophers themselves named 'the pig,' wallowing in carnal filth, as it were, and asserting that bodily pleasure is the highest good.

Epicurei dicti ab Epicuro quodam philosopho amatore vanitatis, non sapientiae, quem etiam ipsi philosophi porcum nominaverunt, quasi volutans in caeno carnali, voluptatem corporis summum bonum adserens.
I am "Epicuri de grege porcum," in the words of Horace (Epist. 1.4.16) — a pig from Epicurus' herd.


Statue of a pig, Villa dei Papiri, Herculaneum (from Warren, p. 133)


A Kind of Wisdom

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Recollections of My Youth, tr. C.B. Pitman (London: Chapman and Hall, 1883), p. 59:
A philosophy, perverse no doubt in its teachings, has led me to believe that good and evil, pleasure and pain, the beautiful and the ungainly, reason and folly, fade into one another by shades as impalpable as those in a dove's neck. To feel neither absolute love nor absolute hate becomes therefore wisdom.

Une philosophie, perverse sans doute, m'a porté à croire que le bien et le mal, le plaisir et la douleur, le beau et le laid, la raison et la folie se transforment les uns dans les autres par des nuances aussi indiscernables que celles du cou de la colombe. Ne rien aimer, ne rien haïr absolument, devient alors une sagesse.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Misspelled Words

F.D. How, Six Great Schoolmasters, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co., 1905), pp. 246-247 (on George Granville Bradley, the Bradley of "Bradley's Arnold" Latin Prose Composition):
The present writer can supply another example from his own experience. He had to take a "leave of absence" for a particular Tuesday, to be signed by Bradley. He was then a small boy, and spelt two important words thus: "Teusday" and "abscence." He will never forget the sting of the tone in which he was asked where he had been at school, nor the master's voice saying, "Leave it on my mantelpiece, for the little children in my nursery to scoff at it!"
Related post: Spelling.


The True Philosophy of Life?

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Recollections of My Youth, tr. C.B. Pitman (London: Chapman and Hall, 1883), p. 137:
I cannot get out of my head the idea that perhaps the libertine is right after all and practises the true philosophy of life.

Je ne peux m'ôter de l'idée que c'est peut-être après tout le libertin qui a raison et qui pratique la vraie philosophie de la vie.


The Abode of the Gods

Homer, Odyssey 6.41-46 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
So the gray-eyed Athene spoke and went away from her
to Olympos, where the abode of the gods stands firm and unmoving
forever, they say, and is not shaken with winds nor spattered
with rains, nor does snow pile ever there, but the shining bright air
stretches cloudless away, and the white light glances upon it.
And there, and all their days, the blessed gods take their pleasure.

ἡ μὲν ἄρ᾽ ὣς εἰποῦσ᾽ ἀπέβη γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη
Οὔλυμπόνδ᾽, ὅθι φασὶ θεῶν ἕδος ἀσφαλὲς αἰεὶ
ἔμμεναι. οὔτ᾽ ἀνέμοισι τινάσσεται οὔτε ποτ᾽ ὄμβρῳ
δεύεται οὔτε χιὼν ἐπιπίλναται, ἀλλὰ μάλ᾽ αἴθρη
πέπταται ἀνέφελος, λευκὴ δ᾽ ἐπιδέδρομεν αἴγλη·
τῷ ἔνι τέρπονται μάκαρες θεοὶ ἤματα πάντα.
Lucretius 3.18-22 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin Ferguson Smith):
Before me appear the gods in their majesty, and their peaceful abodes, which no winds ever shake nor clouds besprinkle with rain, which no snow congealed by the bitter frost mars with its white fall, but the air ever cloudless encompasses them and laughs with its light spread wide abroad.

apparet divum numen sedesque quietae
quas neque concutiunt venti nec nubila nimbis
aspergunt neque nix acri concreta pruina
cana cadens violat semperque innubilus aether
integit, et large diffuso lumine ridet.
Lucan 2.266-271 (tr. J.D. Duff):
Fitter than war for you is peaceful life and tranquil solitude; so the stars of heaven roll on for ever unshaken in their courses. The part of air nearest earth is fired by thunderbolts, and the low-lying places of the world are visited by gales and long flashes of flame; but Olympus rises above the clouds.

                 melius tranquilla sine armis
otia solus ages; sicut caelestia semper
inconcussa suo volvuntur sidera lapsu.
fulminibus propior terrae succenditur aer,
imaque telluris ventos tractusque coruscos
flammarum accipiunt: nubes excedit Olympus.
Seneca, On Anger 3.6.1 (tr. John W. Basore):
The higher region of the universe, being better ordered and near to the stars, is condensed into no cloud, is lashed into no tempest, is churned into no whirlwind; it is free from all turmoil; it is in the lower regions that the lightnings flash.

pars superior mundi et ordinatior ac propinqua sideribus nec in nubem cogitur nec in tempestatem impellitur nec versatur in turbinem; omni tumultu caret, inferiora fulminantur.
Parallels are from J.B. Hainsworth's commentary on the Odyssey (1988; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), p. 296. Lucan and Seneca, however, seem to me to be influenced more by the popular science of their day than by Homer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Anguish of Soul

F.D. How, Six Great Schoolmasters, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co., 1905), p. 124 (on Benjamin Hall Kennedy):
[I]n a fit of sudden exasperation at the sound of a false quantity he threw up his hands and cried, "Ah, the anguish of my soul! I'll give up education altogether!"
Id., p. 125:
Dr. Kennedy used to say, "My Sixth Form is the hardest Sixth Form in England, and I intend it to be so."


Campaign Thoughts

Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960), "Campaign Thoughts," In Other Words (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1912), pp. 57-58:
This is a presidential year.
    (An unassailable reflection.)
"Things will be better," so we hear,
                "After election."

Now comes the questing of the Vote,
    The Call to Arms, the Appeal to Reason,
The Keynote Speech, the Clarion Note —
                This is the season

When everywhere and roundabout,
    From coast to coast, and vicy-versy,
The candidates will speak and spout,
                Sans fear or mercy;

When from the Peerless Pines of Maine
    To California's Pebbly Beaches,
We are enthralled by the campaign,
                And many speeches.

Perhaps I ought to add "enthralled,"
    (Cf. line 3, above tetrastich)
As Mr. Ward once might have drawled
                Was wrote sarkastick.

And therefore I demand a word,
    A message to This Glorious Nation.
I crave the right of being heard
                On Conservation.

On Conservation: Not of trees
    Of waterways, or fish, or horses —
Of something greater far than these:
                Human Resources.

Resources wasted in campaigns,
    In oratory dry and juiceless.
The waste of energy and brains
                Strikes me as useless.

For him I'd vote who said "Enough!
    I scorn the terrible traditions
Of the campaign. I leave that stuff
                To politicians."

That's all. I might do five or six
    More stanzas, but I find it dreary.
Do you care much for politics?
                They make me weary.


Coffee-Table Inanities

Angus Calder (1942-2008), "Iam pauca aratro iugera regiae," Horace in Tollcross: eftir some odes of Q.H. Flaccus (Kingskettle: Kettilonia, 2000), p. ? (line numbers added):
Soon, I foresee, all the cornershops will go under
crushed by the chains fastened by megamoney.
      With sparrowhead sales staff lounging bored,
      book superstores will outglare city lights.

Once scholarly codgers yarned about their shelves        5
where editions published decades before still peeked
      — ignorance, now, is insouciant about prices
      which then provided small dealers canny margins

when little lefty presses stood some kind of chance
and a slightly-nicked cover could get you a nifty discount.        10
      Johnson would have detested these glitzy mazes
      of glib fiction and coffee-table inanities.

In my far youth, we valued public ownership,
and private wealth conducted itself discreetly.
      Now it's consume! in yer face, consume!        15
      Entrepreneurs ettle to bottle the rain.

No one back then dared dispraise engine drivers — mighty
those gods who commanded our trains: and public libraries
      were cherished like Pallas Athene's temples,
      which, for us, in effect, they were.        20
As the title indicates, Calder's poem is an imitation of Horace's ode on unrestrained real-estate development (2.15), here translated by W.G. Shepherd:
Now regal villas will leave few acres
for ploughing; on all sides ornamental ponds
will appear as extensive
as Lake Lucrinus; bachelor plane-trees

usurp the elm; beds of violets        5
and myrtles and all olfactory crops
scatter their scents in olive-groves
which previous owners farmed;

dense laurels exclude the burning strokes
of the sun. This is not the norm        10
our ancestors divined, that Romulus
and rough-bearded Cato prescribed.

For them private wealth was small,
the commonweal great: no private
north-facing shady porches        15
were laid out with ten-foot rules:

the law forbade abuse of the common turf
and enjoined the adornment at public expense
of towns and temples
with fresh-hewn marble.        20
The Latin:
Iam pauca aratro iugera regiae
moles relinquent, undique latius
    extenta visentur Lucrino
        stagna lacu, platanusque caelebs

evincet ulmos; tum violaria et        5
myrtus et omnis copia narium
    spargent olivetis odorem
        fertilibus domino priori;

tum spissa ramis laurea fervidos
excludet ictus. non ita Romuli        10
    praescriptum et intonsi Catonis
        auspiciis veterumque norma.

privatus illis census erat brevis,
commune magnum: nulla decempedis
    metata privatis opacam        15
        porticus excipiebat Arcton,

nec fortuitum spernere caespitem
leges sinebant, oppida publico
    sumptu iubentes et deorum
        templa novo decorare saxo.        20
Eric Thomson writes in an email about Calder's poem:
I like the poem partly because I share his dismay at the demise of the corner-shop (supermarket chains are man-forged manacles of woe) and the aesthetic and cultural degeneration of the bookshop into a 'glitzy maze of glib fiction and coffee-table inanities' and partly because Ramsay gave Horace the keys to the city of Edinburgh two hundred years ago and there he is always welcome and at home. C.H. Sisson transposed the same ode to London; someone needs to do the same for the Spanish Costa del Sol, where the golf courses, lego-built hotels and gaudy villas encroach on the old groves of the hinterland.

'Once scholarly codgers yarned about their shelves...': I suspect that 'yarned' is partly Scots 'to yarn' – 'yearn' (for the books they couldn't afford to buy), but there is tweed yarn there too. I remember attending a Classics association meeting at Edinburgh University and amusing myself by counting how many of those attending were wearing (Harris) tweed jackets with or without elbow patches — virtually the lot as far as I could see.

Saturday, January 09, 2016


They Would Make You So Happy

J. Moultrie, "Memoir of William Sidney Walker," in The Poetical Remains of William Sidney Walker (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1852), pp. iv-v (quoting from a "narrative of Walker's early years" written by his mother):
He had read History extensively at five years old, and Poetry still more devotedly; and it is a known circumstance that when, at six years old, the tailor came to measure him for his first suit, he was sent into what was called Sidney's little study, a small quiet room he much favoured; and on the man stating his errand, and his mother repeating it, Sidney said, "I am reading, come and tell me about this line; I cannot tell quite what Milton means here." To which the man replied, "I know nothing about books, Sir, I am come to take your measure for your new clothes;" and poor Sidney was obliged to put down his Milton, saying, in his always sweet manner when a child "I am so sorry you do not know about such books, they would make you so happy."


Horror in the Loo

Miracles of Saint Thekla 7.2-3, tr. Scott Fitzgerald Johnson, Miracle Tales from Byzantium (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012), p. 27 (footnote omitted; angle brackets in original):
In the middle of the night, while Dexianos was seated on the privy, there stood before him a demonic creature, wild and raving mad. As soon as he perceived it standing next to him—<he knew it was there> because, even though he was sitting in pitch black darkness, <he could see> it was panting, leering, and making insane noises—he was stupefied and trembled with fear, completely overwhelmed with dread and drenched with sweat. And because of his great fright, his head and his neck slipped from their normal base and position, and the vertebrae were no longer aligned and slipped out of joint with one another, his head trembled and was shifting all around. As a result, there was common grief among those who saw him <in this state>.

What then did the martyr do? Recognizing the demon who had done this, and pitying the miserably afflicted man, <whom she knew> as a priest, an honorable man, and her own attendant, immediately she delivered him from his suffering, so that even so great an affliction as this ceased immediately and disappeared through the miracle.



Good God

Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 440 (on Odes 4.5.1; footnote omitted):
On divis bonis a word must be said. To the modern reader it seems natural, and indeed self-evident, that a god should be good. But this conception is due to the influence of Christianity. A Greek god (speaking of the pre-philosophic period), to prove himself a god, has to be powerful and superior, κρείσσων, but goodness is no primary concern of his, nor of a Roman god either.

Friday, January 08, 2016


The Smell of Latin

F.D. How, Six Great Schoolmasters, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co., 1905), pp. 120-121:
A grey-haired man in latter middle age remembers the arrival of Dr. Kennedy at his home on a visit to his father, who was one of the Doctor's old pupils, and how the great man produced a copy of his Latin Grammar and presented it to the awestruck little boy. It was bound in bright green cloth, and smelt strongly of bookbinder's paste, a smell which the small boy firmly believed to be that of "Latin," and disliked accordingly!
Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments, chapter VII:
It was almost more than human nature could bear to have to sit holding up to my face the dreary little Latin book, with its sheepskin cover that smelt of mildewed paste.
See Christopher Stray, "The Smell of Latin Grammar: Contrary Imaginings in English Classrooms," Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 76.3 (1994) 201-220, esp. 205.


The Most Beautiful Line in Homer?

Samuel Eliot Bassett (1873-1936), The Poetry of Homer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1938), pp. 156-157:
The pleasurable momentary experiences which stir Homer to melody have not received much attention. No one seems to have looked for his most beautiful verse. I propose for this honor a verse from the picture of the herd on the shield of Achilles, Σ 576 [i.e. Iliad 18.576]. The lowing cows were hurrying from the barnyard to their pasture,
By the river murmuring ever, by the slender, waving reeds,

πὰρ ποταμὸν κελάδοντα, παρὰ ῥοδανὸν δονακῆα.
Formally considered, the second half-verse almost repeats the first, as we see if we write the halves independently,

Much of the formal beauty depends on the word "almost." παρά almost repeats πάρ. Both verses are made up of three words, each longer than the preceding, but only the second is a perfect ῥόπαλον of 2+3+4 syllables. The vowels α and ο alternate throughout each verse—almost, but not quite—and the order is inverted after the first pair of alternations. Thus the most "vocal" articulate sound, α, is placed in the opening and closing syllables. There are no harsh-sounding consonants, and only one sonant mute, δ, occurring thrice. Of the twenty consonants, ten are liquids. (But this is to anatomize beauty!) The verse is otherwise pure poetry. It is quite unnecessary for the action, which is given in the preceding verse. It is rather the overflowing of the poet's feeling. The asyndeton shows this: how much the verse would lose if the conjunction ἰδέ were read in place of παρά! The poet calls upon the ear to hear the river murmuring, and then the eye to see the slender reeds waving; both "murmuring" and "waving" give life to the picture. The selection of two universal characteristics gives the picture a lyric quality, but without sentimentality. Finally, the poet does not attempt to catalogue the features of the scene; he stops where we would be glad to have him continue.
Related post: Some Lines from Vergil's Eclogues.

Thursday, January 07, 2016


More Than Just a Witty Allegory

John Ruskin (1819-1900), Modern Painters, Vol. III, Part IV, Chapter XIII, § 4:
I do not think we ever enough endeavor to enter into what a Greek's real notion of a god was. We are so accustomed to the modern mockeries of the classical religion, so accustomed to hear and see the Greek gods introduced as living personages, or invoked for help, by men who believe neither in them nor in any other gods, that we seem to have infected the Greek ages themselves with the breath, and dimmed them with the shade, of our hypocrisy; and are apt to think that Homer, as we know that Pope, was merely an ingenious fabulist; nay, more than this, that all the nations of past time were ingenious fabulists also, to whom the universe was a lyrical drama, and by whom whatsoever was said about it was merely a witty allegory, or a graceful lie, of which the entire upshot and consummation was a pretty statue in the middle of the court, or at the end of the garden.


You Nasty, Vulgar Little Boy

F.D. How, Six Great Schoolmasters, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co., 1905), p. 48 (on George Moberly):
The other story shows his horror of anything approaching what he considered a lack of refinement in speech. He was taking a Horace lesson, in the course of which a boy was put on to construe at the passage, 'Descende caelo,' etc. "Come down from heaven," began the boy, and then went on "'et dic age tibia'—and give us a tune." "You nasty, vulgar little boy," burst out the Doctor, "order your name!" which was the Wykehamical phrase for ordering a flogging.
Id., p. 58:
Another story is interesting as showing the origin of what has become a familiar tale. The occasion was when the division were each composing a vulgus (i.e. a Latin elegiac composition of six verses). A wag, unable to remember the Latin word for ladder, used junior in its place. "What's this?" said the Doctor, "I can't construe it." "Please, sir," was the answer, "ladder: juvenis, lad; junior, ladder." Dr. Moberly, with his rather exaggerated delicacy of taste, was the very last person to whom such jesting would be palatable. "Write me," he said, "two vulguses: one for being a rude lad, and one for not knowing the Latin for ladder."

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


A Solution to Pressing Problems

Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), I Promessi Sposi, chapter II (tr. Archibald Colquhoun):
People of far greater importance than Don Abbondio have more than once found themselves in situations so unpleasant, and been so uncertain what to do next, that they have found the best expedient was to take to their beds with a fever.

È accaduto più d'una volta a personaggi di ben più alto affare che don Abbondio, di trovarsi in frangenti così fastidiosi, in tanta incertezza di partiti, che parve loro un ottimo ripiego mettersi a letto con la febbre.


Muphry's Law

B.L. Gildersleeve (1831-1924), "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 15.4 (1894) 520-523 (at 523):
In Brief Mention I often find myself adverting to the importance of typographical exactness. A man who makes remarks of that kind ought to abstain from article-writing and proof-reading. 'Un jour,' records that frivolous person, Jules Janin, Histoire de la littérature dramatique, III I72, 'on demandait à Geoffroy, pourquoi il ne faisait pas de comédies, lui qui les jugeait si bien? "Quand on donne le fouet aux autres, disait-il, il ne faut pas montrer son derrière."' And Brief Mention, as Nemesis will have it, is a veritable nidus of typographical errors.
It seems unnecessary to translate Janin's French, but in case someone can't understand it, here's a rough English equivalent:
One day someone asked Geoffroy why he didn't write comedies himself, since he was such a good judge of them. He answered, "When you give a whipping to others, you shouldn't expose your own backside."

Karl Narveson writes:
I think "quand on donne" refers to a habit, not a single occasion, and therefore I question whether the "whipping" in your rough translation should be singular. "When you're in the business of administering whippings" might be more like it.


Diva Triformis

Paul Shorey (1857-1934), in his commentary on Horace, Odes 3.22.4, quotes a "quaint old Latin distich," with no indication of its source:
Terret, lustrat, agit Proserpina, Luna, Diana,
Ima, suprema, feras, sceptro, fulgore, sagitta.
One could translate this as follows:
Proserpina, Luna, Diana, frightens, brightens, pursues,
Hell, heaven, beasts, with sceptre, gleam, arrow.
I find the Latin couplet in Thomas Dempster (1579-1625), Antiquitatum Romanarum Corpus Absolutissimum in quo praeter ea quae Ioannes Rosinus delineauerat, Infinita supplentur, mutantur, adduntur (Paris: Le Bouc, 1613), p. 189, first column, section B, where he calls the lines "vulgatos illos, sed ingeniosissimos versus."

But the couplet can be traced back even farther, to a note by Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406) in his manuscript of Cassiodorus' Variae, now in Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Pl. 16 sin. 11. See the edition of Cassiodorus' Variae in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctorum Antiquissimorum Tomus XII (Berlin: Weidmann, 1894), p. cv, where the lines are quoted with superna for suprema.

A variant version occurs in Guido da Pisa (14th century), Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis, ed. Vincenzo Cioffari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974), p. 199:
Yma superna silvas sceptro fulgore sagitta
Terret, lustrat, agit Proserpina Luna Dyana.
I don't have access to Walther's Initia Carminum.

Dear Mike,

Walther lists it as no. 8754, printing "sagittis" instead of "sagitta" and giving as a reference Jakob Werner's Beiträge zur Kunde der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters, ed. 2, Aarau 1905. I note that this is available on Hathi Trust. [See Werner, p. 138, no. 354 (f.152r of 12th century "Handschrift C. 58/275 der Stadtbibliothek Zürich").]

Walther also cites two 12th and 13th century manuscripts:

Leipzig, 350 (s.XII.) f.94v

Catalogus codicum latinorum Bibliothecae regiae monacensis (Munich 1868 et seq.) 17212 (s.XII/XIII.) f.24v. This is available on Google Books, though you'd have to spend a fair amount of time navigating through the various volumes — I haven't bothered to try.

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

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