Friday, September 30, 2016


A Grave Mistake

Robert Renehan, "A New Commentary on Euripides," Classical Philology 80.2 (April, 1985) 143-175 (at 143):
Serious commentaries are of fundamental importance for the understanding of Greek and Latin literature, perhaps more so for Greek drama than for any other genre, and it is no accident that so many great classical scholars have labored in this particular vineyard. The common practice of using commentaries as works of reference to be consulted desultorily for the odd passage is a grave mistake. A proper commentary is a book with a unity all its own, and should be read from cover to cover.


The Library

Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer (1901-1991), The Farm in the Green Mountains, tr. Ida H. Washington and Carol E. Washington (Sherburne: New England Press, 1987), p. 177 (on Dartmouth College's Fisher Ames Baker Memorial Library):
Here is then the library: my rock, my refuge, my cloister. When I sit in my cell, no goat bleats, no chicken cackles, no pig grunts, no duck quacks, no goose honks, no rooster crows.

It has the good smells of leather and dust. It is cool, isolated, and completely quiet.

I am speaking of my own cell on the tenth floor. It takes three keys to get to it. The first key unlocks the elevator that takes me to the ninth floor. This is the place where all religions are brought together. Here the popes stand in long rows, and not far from them is Martin Luther in a splendid edition. Calvin and Zwingli are here, the Mormons and the Shakers. Here also are the church fathers and Buddha, Confucius, the Jews, the saints, and Mohammed. The dogmatists and the heretics are here, the peacemakers and the fighters, the saints and the devils.

Sometimes, when I hurry out through the half darkened corridors of this floor as the closing bell is ringing, it seems to me that they are all trapped in their books by a spell and condemned to frustrated silence.
Id., pp. 185-186:
Finding books is not difficult after you master the system. But then comes the best part — the book you are looking for is surrounded by books you didn't know about, or have forgotten, or that you perhaps knew once and now find again.

Sometimes, when I had worked in my room on the tenth level for eight or nine hours and was tired, I went down and wandered through the avenues and alleyways of books, stopped where I wanted to, drew out a book, leafed through it, and laid it on one of the tables so that I could look into it again when I pleased.

Books that have been taken from the shelves should be piled up on tables so that they can be replaced correctly by trained hands and not exposed to the danger of accidental misplacing. Every morning a staff of young people is busy putting books back in the places where they belong so that they can be found again.

So I go through the stacks, look at the books, taste many, and sometimes find a new friend. And as I go through the rows of hundreds of thousands of books, I think these are all mine to use. These belong to me, to the students, to the professors, and to the visitors who come to the library. It is this feeling of common property, or of the possession of the unusual by the common people, that underlies the fact that hardly anyone wants to take anything away and keep it. Theft is not a problem in the library and does not have to be taken into consideration. In my rounds I go down to the third and fourth stacks, where the alleyways are lit by bluish fluorescent lights on the ceilings.

Here are the Greeks and Romans, the old geographers that reported about the Island of Thule and the Amazons. Here stagecoach travelers tell about the Alps, rickshaw travelers about China, and flyers about the South Pole. Here is the fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity. Here are the biographies, from Alexander the Great to Bernard Shaw and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here are the Russians in their anarchist and religious, Christian and terrorist, pacifist and revolutionary writers, represented up to the recent Soviet comedies and plays. Here is Shakespeare in old and new editions, in all interpretations, appearing in all his different characters. Here are the English, from Beowulf to Priestley.

Here are the Germans, from the Ulfilas Bible through the editions of classical and romantic writers to Barlach's "Blauer Boll." No stop is made with the modern writers. They stream in, newer and newer, without end or censorship.

In the fall of 1945, Nazi books arrived: novels, magazines, schoolbooks, poetry. They were sorted and set out. A small display of them was put together in the glass cases in the entrance hall. There were no propagandists among them, no goose-step display. They were legitimate books like Mein Kampf, a Rosenberg, a Ludendorf, poems by Schirach, photographs of the Führer, German magazine pictures of the war. The aggressive titles, the ugly Führer, the poor-quality printing all drew amazed comments and derision from the students. In another case were pictures from German magazines, mostly nature shots, and they called forth admiration.

The books are all here, the Americans, the French, the Scandinavians, the Dutch, and the Italians, the Russians, the Indians, the Chinese, and the Spanish. Here are the masses of people of all eras in their literature and their history. Here are religion, law, music, folklore, the sciences, agriculture, fishing and hunting, sports, technology, detective stories. Everything is arranged, but not abridged and not selected. The students to whom this library has been given are to search, choose, and decide for themselves what they want to do with it. The older generation does not want to rule the younger, and the young people do not fear their elders.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Greek Tragedy

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (May 1, 1825; tr. John Oxenford):
And were not the productions of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, of that kind and of that depth, that they might be heard again and again without being esteemed trite, or put on one side? Even the few noble fragments which have come down to us, are so comprehensive and of such deep significance, that we poor Europeans have already busied ourselves with them for centuries, and shall find nutriment and work in them for centuries still.

Und war das von Äschylos, Sophokles und Euripides Hervorgebrachte nicht der Art und Tiefe, daß man es hören und immer wieder hören konnte, ohne es trivial zu machen und zu töten? — Sind doch diese auf uns gekommenen wenigen grandiosen Trümmer schon von solchem Umfang und solcher Bedeutung, daß wir armen Europäer uns bereits seit Jahrhunderten damit beschäftigen und noch einige Jahrhunderte daran werden zu zehren und zu tun haben.


In Defence of Heavy Drinking

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Essay on Criticism 215-218:
A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Largely (218) = "Copiously, abundantly; extensively, greatly, considerably; on a large scale" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., sense 2.a). The adverb of course modifies drinking, not sobers.



M.L. West (1937-2015), "Melica," Classical Quarterly 20.2 (November, 1970) 205-215 (at 209, n. 3):
The desire to find hitherto unsuspected sexual meanings in ancient literature frequently seems to blind American scholars to all considerations of relevance, style, and common sense.


Textual Criticism

K.J. Dover (1920-2010), ed., Aristophanes, Clouds (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. vii:
I recognize one 'principle' of textual criticism, and one only: to take into account, so far as is humanly possible, everything that is relevant, recognizing that what the manuscripts actually say in a given passage is never more than a portion of the evidence relevant to that passage and that the decisive evidence may appear from any quarter and from any distance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Four Seasons

Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.199-213 (tr. Frank Justus Miller; rev. G.P. Goold):
Then again, do you not see the year assuming four aspects, in imitation of our own lifetime? For in early spring it is tender and full of fresh life, just like a little child; at that time the herbage is young, swelling with life, but as yet without strength and solidity, and fills the farmers with joyful expectation. Then all things are in bloom and the fertile fields run riot with their bright-coloured flowers; but as yet there is no strength in the green foliage. After spring has passed, the year, grown more sturdy, passes into summer and becomes like a strong young man. For there is no hardier time than this, none more abounding in rich, warm life. Then autumn comes, with its first flush of youth gone, but ripe and mellow, midway in time between youth and age, with sprinkled grey showing on the temples. And then comes aged winter, with faltering step and shivering, its locks all gone or hoary.

quid? non in species succedere quattuor annum
adspicis, aetatis peragentem imitamina nostrae?        200
nam tener et lactens puerique simillimus aevo
vere novo est: tunc herba recens et roboris expers
turget et insolida est et spe delectat agrestes;
omnia tunc florent, florumque coloribus almus
ludit ager, neque adhuc virtus in frondibus ulla est.        205
transit in aestatem post ver robustior annus
fitque valens iuvenis: neque enim robustior aetas
ulla nec uberior, nec quae magis ardeat, ulla est.
excipit autumnus, posito fervore iuventae
maturus mitisque inter iuvenemque senemque        210
temperie medius, sparsus quoque tempora canis.
inde senilis hiems tremulo venit horrida passu,
aut spoliata suos, aut, quos habet, alba capillos.


A Lesson for All of Us

P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), Uncle Fred in the Springtime, chapter 8:
We start out in life with more pimples than we know what to do with, and in the careless arrogance of youth think they are going to last for ever. But comes a day when we suddenly find that we are down to our last half-dozen. And then those go. There is a lesson in this for all of us.


Is Crudus an Auto-Antonym? Probably Not

Lindsay C. Watson, A Commentary on Horace's Epodes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 297-298 (on Epode 8.5-6: hietque turpis inter aridas natis / podex velut crudae bovis):

Discussing crudae bovis, Watson rejects the explanations of Lambinus (quae cibum non concoquit ideoque nec continet, πολυχέσον = which doesn't digest food and so doesn't hold it in, much-defecating) and Müller (quae frustra studet exonerare ventrem = which tries in vain to empty the stomach). Watson used Lambinus' 1561 Lyon edition of Horace, where I don't see the word πολυχέσον on p. 438, nor in Lambinus' 1588 Paris edition, p. 306. The accent seems off in Watson's quotation, wherever he got it (lemma πολύχεσος in Liddell-Scott-Jones) — should it be πολυχέσου? Judging from the explanations of Lambinus and Müller, one would assume that crudus can have two contradictory meanings, viz. afflicted with diarrhea and afflicted with constipation. Neither meaning is recognized in the Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. crudus, although constipated could be inferred from sense 3.b: "(of persons or animals) having undigested food in the stomach, dyspeptic," with the citation from Horace's Epodes.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Learning Foreign Languages

Anna Danilova, "Metropolitan Hilarion: I Owe Everything in My Life to the Church," PRAVMIR.COM. Orthodox Christianity and the World (July 27, 2016):
Vladyka, you work with a great amount of literature in various languages. How many foreign languages do you know?

– Several languages to varying degrees. I speak and write fluently in English. I would even think in this language when I studied in England. I speak and read in French when the necessity arises, but not so fluently. I also speak Greek, but not so confidently (I don't have enough practice), although I can read fluently in it. And then in descending order of importance I read but don't speak Italian, Spanish and German. Of the ancient languages I studied Ancient Greek, Syrian and Hebrew.

How did you learn foreign languages?

– I studied foreign languages using the Gospel. I always began with the Gospel of John. It is the most convenient Gospel for learning words, they are repeated constantly: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the same was in the beginning with God." Experts say that the vocabulary of the Gospel of John is half of that of the other Gospels, although in volume it is no less than the others. This lexical laconicism is connected to the fact that many of the words are repeated.

Why is it convenient to learn language from the Gospels? Because when you read a familiar text which you know practically off by heart, you don't have to look up words in the dictionary, you recognize the words. That's how I learnt Greek. At first I read the Gospel of John, then I read the three other Gospels, then I began to read the Epistles of the apostles, then I began to read the Church Fathers in Greek. Moreover, when I studied Greek, I listened to a tape recording of the Liturgy in Greek. I studied it in the pronunciation which is used by Greeks today.

I studied Syrian in a different way. This was in Oxford, I had an excellent professor, the best specialist in Syrian literature in the world, Sebastian Brock. But he said to me right away: I have no intention of teaching you the language, I'm interested in reading texts. So I began to read the texts of Isaac the Syrian with him, and along the way I read the Gospels in Syrian and used Robinson's textbook to master the basics of grammar and syntax.

The most important thing in languages is, of course, practice. No textbook can be a substitute for practical work with a text.
I made one small correction (changed "arise" to "arises").


Cutting Corners on Proofreading

Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 33: Adages II i 1 to II vi 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 11 (II i 1 Festina lente = Make haste slowly):
It is provided by law that no man should sew a shoe together or make a cupboard, unless he has been approved by his trade guild; yet these eminent authors, to whose works we owe religion itself, are published to the world by men so ill-educated that they cannot so much as read, so idle that they are not prepared to read over what they print, and so mercenary that they would rather see a good book filled with thousands of mistakes than spend a few paltry gold pieces on hiring someone to supervise the proof-correcting.
In Latin:
Curatum est legibus, ne quis consuat calceum, ne quis faciat scrinium, nisi fuerit ab eius opificii sodalitio comprobatus; et tantos autores, quorum monumentis etiam religio debetur, emittunt in vulgus adeo literarum ignari, vt ne legere quidem possint, adeo ignaui, vt nec relegere libeat, quod excuditur, adeo sordidi, vt citius patiantur sex milibus mendarum oppleri bonum librum quam paucis aureolis velint conducere, qui praesit castigationi.
For a modern example of cutting corners on proofreading see Michael Hendry, "G or L: Who Can Tell?" Curculio (September 26, 2016).


Last Day of Work

Charles Lamb, letter to Henry Crabb Robinson (March 29, 1825):
I have left the d———d India House for Ever!
Give me great joy.
"A Chronology of C.P. Cavafy," in C.P. Cavafy, The Collected Poems. Translated by Evangelos Sachperoglou. Greek Text Edited by Anthony Hirst. With an Introduction by Peter Mackridge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. xlv-xlviii (at xlvii, under the year 1922):
Cavafy resigns from his office job and proclaims: 'I have been liberated at last from this hateful thing.'

Monday, September 26, 2016



Seneca, On Tranquillity of Mind 2.13-15 (tr. John W. Basore):
[13] Hence men undertake wide-ranging travel, and wander over remote shores, and their fickleness, always discontented with the present, gives proof of itself now on land and now on sea. "Now let us head for Campania," they say. And now when soft living palls, "Let us see the wild parts," they say, "let us hunt out the passes of Bruttium and Lucania." And yet amid that wilderness something is missing—something pleasant wherein their pampered eyes may find relief from the lasting squalor of those rugged regions: "Let us head for Tarentum with its famous harbour and its mild winter climate, and a territory rich enough to have a horde of people even in antiquity." Too long have their ears missed the shouts and the din; it delights them by now even to enjoy human blood: [14] "Let us now turn our course toward the city." They undertake one journey after another and change spectacle for spectacle. As Lucretius [3.1068] says:
Thus ever from himself doth each man flee.
[15] But what does he gain if he does not escape from himself? He ever follows himself and weighs upon himself as his own most burdensome companion. And so we ought to understand that what we struggle with is the fault, not of the places, but of ourselves; when there is need of endurance, we are weak, and we cannot bear toil or pleasure or ourselves or anything very long. It is this that has driven some men to death, because by often altering their purpose they were always brought back to the same things and had left themselves no room for anything new. They began to be sick of life and the world itself, and from the self-indulgences that wasted them was born the thought: "How long shall I endure the same things?"

[13] Inde peregrinationes suscipiuntur vagae et invia litora pererrantur et modo mari se modo terra experitur semper praesentibus infesta levitas. "Nunc Campaniam petamus." Iam delicata fastidio sunt: "Inculta videantur, Bruttios et Lucaniae saltus persequamur." Aliquid tamen inter deserta amoeni requiritur, in quo luxuriosi oculi longo locorum horrentium squalore releventur: "Tarentum petatur laudatusque portus et hiberna caeli mitioris et regio vel antiquae satis opulenta turbae." Nimis diu a plausu et fragore aures vacaverunt, iuvat iam et humano sanguine frui: [14] "Iam flectamus cursum ad urbem." Aliud ex alio iter suscipitur et spectacula spectaculis mutantur. Ut ait Lucretius:
Hoc se quisque modo semper fugit.
[15] Sed quid prodest, si non effugit? Sequitur se ipse et urget gravissimus comes. Itaque scire debemus non locorum vitium esse quo laboramus, sed nostrum; infirmi sumus ad omne tolerandum, nec laboris patientes nec voluptatis nec nostri nec ullius rei diutius. Hoc quosdam egit ad mortem, quod proposita saepe mutando in eadem revolvebantur et non reliquerant novitati locum. Fastidio esse illis coepit vita et ipse mundus, et subît illud tabidarum deliciarum: "Quousque eadem?"
Related posts:

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Preparation for Study

A.D. Nuttall, Dead from the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 142 (on Isaac Casaubon), with notes on p. 218:
He is berating himself for rising as late as five o'clock — "A quinta (heu quam sero) surreximus." "Got up at five (gosh, how late!)." I have translated this into colloquial modern idiom in order to reflect the extraordinarily easy, free immediacy of Casaubon's Latin. He writes of books as though they were friends or acquaintances. This may momentarily confuse the unprepared reader. Casaubon keeps referring to time given to "Basilius." At last one realises that Basilius is a long-dead author (he is reading Hieronymus Froben's 1598 edition — 698 close-packed folio pages). One sentence sticks in the memory: "Dein pro more pexo capillo museum ingressi," "Then I combed my hair in the usual way and went into my study." Why does Casaubon, the least narcissistic of men, record in his diary that he combed his hair? One wonders for a moment if there is a strain of ritual in this careful preparation of his person before engaging in the wholly private activity of study. Machiavelli famously tells posterity that he put on his court robes before passing into the world of the ancients and reading for four hours, alone.28 Keats told his brother George on 17 September 1819 in a letter how he would brush his hair, put on a clean shirt, and "in fact adonize as I were going out" before sitting down to write poetry.29

28. Letter to Francesco Vettori, 10 December 1513, in The Literary Works of Machiavelli, trans. J.R. Hale (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 139.

29. The Letters of John Keats, 1814-1821, ed. H.E. Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), 2:186.
For the endnotes (not visible in Google Books) I'm indebted to Ian Jackson, who adds, "And let us not forget that Haydn put on his best wig and formal garb before sitting down to compose." I'm also reminded of the Spartans' habit of combing their hair before battle (Herodotus 7.209.3: νόμος γάρ σφι ἔχων οὕτω ἐστί· ἐπεὰν μέλλωσι κινδυνεύειν τῇ ψυχῇ, τότε τὰς κεφαλὰς κοσμέονται).


An Italian Custom

Byron, letter to Douglas Kinnaird (October 26, 1819):
I have been faithful in my honest liaison with Countess Guiccioli — and can assure you that She has never cost me directly or indirectly a sixpence — indeed the circumstances of herself and family render this no merit. — I never offered her but one present — a broach of brilliants — and she sent it back to me with her own hair in it (I shall not say of what part but that is an Italian custom) and a note to say she was not in the habit of receiving presents of that value — but hoped I would not consider her sending it back as an affront — nor the value diminished by the enclosure.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Munching to the Glory of God

Rebecca West (1892-1983), Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia (1941; rpt. New York: Penguin Books, 2007), pp. 764-765:
He drove us through the town to the ruins of Heracleia, the Roman city which lay a mile or so beyond it on the Via Egnatia, the Roman road that ran from the Adriatic through Albania to Salonika and Constantinople. Its excavations are at a stage that can interest only dogs and archaeologists, and my husband and I went and sat for a few minutes in the Orthodox cemetery, which straggles over the hillside near by. I have a deep attachment to this cemetery, for it was here that I realized Macedonia to be the bridge between our age and the past. I saw a peasant woman sitting on a grave under the trees with a dish of wheat and milk on her lap, the sunlight dappling the white kerchief on her head. Another peasant woman came by, who must have been from another village, for her dress was different. I think they were total strangers. They greeted each other, and the woman with the dish held it out to the new-comer and gave her a spoon, and she took some sups of it. To me it was an enchantment; for when St Monica came to Milan over fifteen hundred years ago, to be with her gifted and difficult son, St Augustine, she went to eat her food on the Christian graves and was hurt because the sexton reproved her for offering sups to other people on the same errand, as she had been wont to do in Africa. That protocol-loving saint, Ambrose, had forbidden the practice because it was too like picnicking for his type of mind. To see these women gently munching to the glory of God was like finding that I could walk into the past as into another room.
I owe the reference to James J. O'Donnell, Augustine: A New Biography (New York: Ecco, 2005), p. 355, n. 265.


Textual Criticism as Dentistry

Bernard M.W. Knox (1914-2010), The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), pp. 104-105 (on Antigone 905-912; endnote omitted):
If we are to believe that these lines were in fact inserted after Sophocles' death by some later actor, producer, or editor, we must face the consequences. And they are grave. Aristotle, the greatest scientific and scholarly intellect of the century after Sophocles, the most influential literary critic there has ever been, the head of a research school which busied itself among many other things with the history of tragedy, saw clearly the difficulties posed by the speech, and called the sentiment 'improbable' (ἄπιστον) and so demanding an explanation by the poet, but it never for a moment occurred to him that the lines might be an interpolation. If they are, then we are forced to conclude that already, in Aristotle's time, the text of the Antigone was so fundamentally corrupt in a crucial passage that there was no criterion, no record, no tradition by which it could be corrected. Such a supposition deals a mortal blow to our confidence in the general soundness of the tragic texts. If that is possible, anything is, and we cannot object to those who would delete and transpose right and left. We must even give our late and reluctant blessing to the shade of August Nauck, who, acting on a principle somewhat like that of the English provincial dentist—"If you won't miss it, why not have it out?" —gave the ungrateful world a text of Euripides some four hundred lines shorter than any it had seen before.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Call to Revolution

Sallust, The War with Catiline 20.11-14 (Catiline speaking; tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Pray, what man with the spirit of a man can endure that our tyrants should abound in riches, to squander in building upon the sea and in levelling mountains, while we lack the means to buy the bare necessities of life? That they should join their palaces by twos or even more, while we have nowhere a hearthstone? They amass paintings, statuary and chased vases, tear down new structures and erect others, in short misuse and torment their wealth in every way; yet, with the utmost extravagance, they cannot get the upper hand of their riches. But we have destitution at home, debt without, present misery and a still more hopeless future; in short, what have we left, save only the wretched breath of life? Awake then! Lo, here, here before your eyes, is the freedom for which you have often longed, and with it riches, honour, and glory; Fortune offers all these things as prizes to the victors.

etenim quis mortalium, cui virile ingenium est, tolerare potest, illis divitias superare, quas profundant in extruendo mari et montibus coaequandis, nobis rem familiarem etiam ad necessaria deesse? illos binas aut amplius domos continuare, nobis larem familiarem nusquam ullum esse? cum tabulas, signa, toreumata emunt, nova diruunt, alia aedificant, postremo omnibus modis pecuniam trahunt, vexant, tamen summa lubidine divitias suas vincere nequeunt. at nobis est domi inopia, foris aes alienum, mala res, spes multo asperior; denique quid reliqui habemus praeter miseram animam? quin igitur expergiscimini? en illa illa quam saepe optastis libertas, praeterea divitiae, decus, gloria in oculis sita sunt. Fortuna omnia ea victoribus praemia posuit.


The Sabines

Ronald Syme (1903-1989), Sallust (1964; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), p. 8:
The Sabines earned universal commendation as a people of hardy mountaineers, plain and parsimonious, austere and god-fearing, tenaciously attached to the ancient ways. Some will have it that Sabines were prone to mysticism.6 That notion can do little harm if it be added that they also had a tendency to emigration, liked money, and were good with donkeys.

6 E. Bolaffi, Sallustio e la sua fortuna nei secoli (1949), 23: "quella terra di montanari ... proclivi al misticismo." Also ib. 75.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


An Extravagant Horror of Feminine Society

Owen Chadwick (1916-2015), John Cassian: A Study in Primitive Monasticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), p. 54:
The ascetic movement as a whole suffered from an extravagant horror of feminine society, illustrated by the ascetic cry 'Approach a fiery furnace rather than a young woman!'4 Cassian did not escape this monomania.5 But a sojourn of several years in the cities of Constantinople and Rome had perhaps restored to him a certain balance, for we owe to him a diverting tale of justice. Walking in the desert, Abbot Paul met a woman and turned to run for home as though she were a dragon. This retreat being judged over-prudent by the Almighty, Paul was punished by an attack of paralysis which could not be treated by male hands, and forced his transfer to a convent where thoroughly feminine virgins nursed him until he died.6

4 Nilus, De Octo Spir. 5.
5 Coll. XIX.16.5. Cf. the story of Paphnutius in Coll. XV.10.
6 Coll. VII.26.
John Cassian, The Conferences. Translated and Annotated by Boniface Ramsey (New York: Newman Press, 1997), pp. 265-266 (7.26.3-5):
3. Here, then, Abba Paul had made such progress in purity of heart in the stillness and silence of the desert that he did not even permit himself to look at a woman's clothing, much less on a woman's face. For when a woman from nearby chanced to meet him on his way to the cell of a certain elder, along with Abba Archebius who was from the same desert, he, distressed at encountering her, ran back to his own monastery in greater haste than a person would use to flee from a lion or an immense dragon, forgoing the duty of the pious visit that he had set out upon. The situation was such that he was not even prevailed upon by the shouts and pleas of the aforesaid Abba Archebius, who was calling him back so that they might stay on the road that they had started out on in order to ask the elder what they had planned.

4. Although this was done with zeal for chastity and ardor for purity, nonetheless because it was not done according to knowledge and because the observance of discipline and the measure of appropriate strictness were excessive (for he believed that not merely familiarity with women, which really is harmful, but even the very form of that sex was to be abominated) he immediately suffered such a seizure that his whole body was paralyzed and none of its members could perform any of their functions. For not only his feet and hands but even the mechanism of his tongue, by which speech is formed, were affected, and his very ears lost their sense of hearing. The result was that nothing remained of his humanity apart from an immobile and senseless shape.

5. To such a state was he reduced that men's care was in no way sufficient to minister to his sickness, and only womanly attention was of use to him. For when he was brought to a cenobium of holy virgins, food and drink, which he was unable even to beckon for, was produced for him with feminine graciousness, all his needs of nature were satisfied, and this same care was at his disposal for nearly four years—that is, until the end of his life.
Id., pp. 280-281 (note on 7.26.3):
Flight from women is spoken of in Inst. 11.18, where the famous advice is offered: "A monk must always flee from women and bishops." Such a sentiment is a commonplace in ascetical literature. Cf. Ps.-Clement, 4.2 de virg., passim; Evagrius, Prac. 96; Apophthegmata patrum, de abbate Marco 3; ibid., de abbate Poemene 76; ibid., de abbate Sisoe 3; Hist monach. in Aegypto 1.4ff., 1.36; Regnault 71, N459; John Moschus, Pratum spirituale 88 (the story of a monk's grave that rejects a female corpse), 217. 7.26.4ff. represents a criticism of the exaggerations that often accompanied this flight, as does Verba seniorum 4.62: "A monk met some handmaidens of God on a certain road. Upon seeing them he left the path. But their superior said: 'If you were a perfect monk, you would not have looked at us in such a way as to know that we were women.'" For a study that seeks to show a more accepting attitude toward women in ancient monasticism cf. Louis Leloir, "La femme et les Pères du désert," Collectanea Cisterciensia 39 (1977): 149-159. On the possibility of heterosexual friendships within the context of monasticism cf. Rosemary Rader, Breaking Boundaries: Male/Female Friendship in Early Christian Communities (New York, 1983), 72-85.



Tibullus 1.10.45-52 (tr. Guy Lee):
Meanwhile let Peace attend the fields. White Peace in the beginning
led ploughing oxen under the curved yoke.
Peace fed the vines and stored the juices of the grape
for sons to draw wine from their fathers' casks.
In peacetime hoe & ploughshare shine while rust in the dark attacks
the soldier's cruel weapons.
Home from the sacred grove the farmer far from sober
drives wife and children in the wagon.

interea pax arva colat. pax candida primum        45
    duxit araturos sub iuga curva boves;
pax aluit vites et sucos condidit uvae,
    funderet ut nato testa paterna merum;
pace bidens vomerque nitent, at tristia duri
    militis in tenebris occupat arma situs,        50
rusticus e lucoque vehit, male sobrius ipse,
    uxorem plaustro progeniemque domum.

51 ante hunc versum lacunam statuit Moritz Haupt (Opuscula, vol. III, pp. 40-41)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Facts Not Necessary

Owen Chadwick (1916-2015), John Cassian: A Study in Primitive Monasticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), p. 7:
One wonders why some later Massilian monk did not compose a life of Cassian. In such enterprises a knowledge of the facts was not considered an invariable prerequisite.


Language as No Barrier

Here are some excerpts from Michael Lapidge, ed., H.M. Chadwick and the Study of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic in Cambridge (Aberystwyth: Department of Welsh, Aberystwyth University, 2015 = Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 69/70), pp. 242-253 = "Appendix III. Reminiscences of H.M. Chadwick's teaching by former pupils."

Dorothy Whitelock (p. 244):
[W]hen I once gave as a reason for unfamiliarity with a book the fact that it was in Danish, his only reply was 'I don't think you will find Danish very difficult.'
Q.D. Leavis (p. 248):
He was himself a linguistic genius, and as his students used to complain, he apparently thought that everyone is born with a knowledge of runes, Celtic languages and Old High German; but when his attention was drawn to this misunderstanding, he was always very patient and considerate.
Glyn Daniel (p. 252):
His main teaching was based extensively on non-archaeological sources: we read Tacitus and Bede, Procopius and St Germanus, the Mabinogion and the Flateyjarbök. He showed us that we were not just archaeologists but general students of antiquity and ancient history. He himself was primarily a linguist, and an historical and linguistic scholar; he mildly expected us to read everything from Greek and German and Gothic, from Beowulf to Cyndellan. Like another great scholar but in the strict field of archaeology, Vere Gordon Childe, he regarded language as no barrier. Both these great men thought their students ought to have no difficulty in all the main Indo-European languages.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


John Thomas

Thomas Browne, letter to his son Edward (June 14, 1676):
Some have queried why since nature hath been so sollicitous about the provisions for generation, this penis is only single and not double in masles, for which Sinibaldus thincks sufficiently answerd when hee sayth, Absit certe, nimis est unus. O no, God forbid, one is to much. However, the question is not altogether groundlesse, for in some animals this part is double, as in the viper, Sinibaldus, lib. 3, tractat. 1, cap. 3...
Robert Burns, letter to Robert Ainslie (March 3, 1788):
I took the opportunity of some dry horse-litter, & gave her such a thundering scalade that electrified the very marrow of her bones. Oh, what a peace-maker is a guid weel-willy pintle! It is the mediator, the guarantee, the umpire, the bond of union, the solemn league and covenant, the plenipotentiary, the Aaron's Rod, the Jacob's Staff, the prophet Elisha's pot of oil, the Ahasuerus Sceptre, the sword of mercy, the philosopher's stone, the Horn of Plenty, and Tree of Life between Man and Woman.

Monday, September 19, 2016



Libanius, Orations 7.4 (tr. Craig A. Gibson):
And so, there are thousands of human pursuits, but the best one is farming; for it gives the greatest profit to those who farm—namely, that they are good. For a man who is devoted to his fields and serious about his land stays far from the marketplace and quarreling in the marketplace, far from the courts and false accusations in the courts, far from the assembly and uproars in the assembly, neither indicting, nor lying, nor acting as a defendant, nor giving false testimony, nor demanding fair restitution, nor working for money with which to overwhelm another man with disasters. Rather, after sowing and doing everything else for his plants, he awaits the harvest and the resulting profit, planting his seeds with prayers, offering the first-fruits to the gods who have granted them, and refraining as much as possible from being a busybody, inasmuch as he spends his time among oxen and sheep and goats. As a result, farmers also seem to me to obtain what they ask from the gods easily, whenever they call upon them, because they ask for something good for themselves and certainly not for anything evil for others.

Μυρία μὲν οὖν ἐπιτηδεύματα κατὰ ἀνθρώπους, ἄριστον δὲ ἡ γεωργία. τὸ γὰρ μέγιστον κέρδος δίδωσι τοῖς γεωργοῦσι. τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν αὐτοὺς ἀγαθοὺς εἶναι. ἀνὴρ γὰρ ἀρούρᾳ προσκείμενος καὶ περὶ τὴν γῆν ἐσπουδακὼς πόρρω μὲν ἀγορᾶς καὶ τῆς ἐν ἀγορᾷ φιλονεικίας, πόρρω δὲ δικαστηρίων καὶ τῶν ἐν δικαστηρίοις συκοφαντιῶν, πόρρω δὲ ἐκκλησίας καὶ τῶν ἐπ’ ἐκκλησίας θορύβων, οὐ γραφόμενος, οὐ ψευδόμενος, οὐ φεύγων, οὐ τὰ ψευδῆ μαρτυρῶν, οὐ τὴν ἴσην ἀνταπόδοσιν ἀπαιτῶν, οὐκ ἐργαζόμενος χρήματα ἐξ ὧν ἕτερον συμφοραῖς περιέβαλλεν, ἀλλὰ σπείρας καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ποιήσας ὁπόσα περὶ τὰ φυτὰ περιμένει τὰς ὥρας καὶ τὸν ἐκεῖθεν πόρον, μετὰ μὲν εὐχῶν καταβάλλων τὰ σπέρματα, τῶν δὲ καρπῶν ἀπαρχόμενος τοῖς δεδωκόσι θεοῖς, φιλοπραγμοσύνης ὅτι πλεῖστον ἀπέχων ἅτε ἐν βουσὶ καὶ προβάτοις καὶ αἰξὶ διατρίβων, ὥστε μοι δοκοῦσι καὶ ῥᾷον τυγχάνειν τῶν θεῶν, ἡνίκα ἂν αὐτοὺς καλῶσιν αἰτοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς ἀγαθά, οὐ γὰρ δὴ ἑτέροις κακά.
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query XIX:
Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phaenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistance, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependance begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. This, the natural progress and consequence of the arts, has sometimes perhaps been retarded by accidental circumstances: but, generally speaking, the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good-enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. While we have land to labour then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff.


Against the Refugees

Libanius, Orations 23.1-2 (tr. A.F. Norman):
1. We all hear the news that everywhere is full of the bodies of the dead—fields, roads, hills, ridges, caves, hilltops, groves and gullies,—some a feast for birds and beasts, others borne by the river down to the sea.

2. At such tidings, I am at times shocked, at other times am full of reproof for the sufferers and feel that they have just got what they deserve in these consequences of their flight. You could say that they drew upon themselves the swords of the assassins. If they had stayed at home, they would not have suffered such a fate...

1. Τὰ μὲν ἀγγελλόμενα πάντες ἀκούομεν, ἅπαντα εἶναι μεστὰ νεκρῶν, τάς τε ἀρούρας τάς τε ὁδοὺς τά τε ὄρη τούς τε λόφους τά τε σπήλαια καὶ τὰς κορυφὰς τῶν ὀρῶν καὶ τὰ ἄλση καὶ τὰς φάραγγας, τῶν τε νεκρῶν τοὺς μὲν ἑστιᾶν ὄρνιθας καὶ θηρία, τοὺς δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ πρὸς θάλατταν φέρεσθαι.

2. πρὸς τοίνυν τὰς ἀγγελίας ποτὲ μὲν πλήττομαι, ποτὲ δὲ τοῖς παθοῦσιν ἐγκαλῶ καί φημι δίκαια πεπονθέναι τοὺς τῆς φυγῆς ταῦτα ἀπολαύσαντας. οὓς φαίη τις ἂν αὐτοὺς ἐπισπάσασθαι τὰ τῶν κακούργων ξίφη. ἃ γὰρ οὐκ ἂν ἐπεπόνθεσαν οἴκοι μένοντες...

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Bacchylides, Fragment 13

From the digital Loeb Classical Library (image of Greek and English merged together by me):

Note the missing accent in the fourth word of the Greek. It should be δαίμων. I don't have access to the physical book—David A. Campbell, ed., Greek Lyric, Vol. IV: Bacchylides, Corinna, and Others (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992)—so I don't know if the accent is missing there as well. According to the Teubner text, Robert Renehan conjectured <τοι> as the second word.

The English and Greek as corrected:
(since) for all mortals God
ordained toils, these for one, those for another.

πάντεσσι <γὰρ> θνατοῖσι δαίμων
ἐπέταξε πόνους ἄλλοισιν ἄλλους.


Saturday, September 17, 2016


Leaked Emails

Philip Sidney, letter to Edward Molyneux (May 31, 1578):
Few woordes are beste. My lettres to my Father have come to the eys of some. Neither can I condemne any but yow for it. If it be so yow have plaide the very knave with me; and so I will make yow know if I have good proofe of it. But that for so muche as is past. For that is to come, I assure yow before God, that if ever I know yow do so muche as reede any lettre I wryte to my Father, without his commandement, or my consente, I will thruste my Dagger into yow. And truste to it, for I speake it in earnest. In the meane time farwell.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Reading as Conversation

Erasmus, Adages I vi 1 to I x 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), p. 268 (I x 74 Corrumpunt mores bonos colloquia prava = Evil communications corrupt good manners):
And so I never remember reading an utterance by any famous philosopher which seems to me fit to be compared with words my friend John Colet, a man of equal scholarship and integrity, used to repeat: 'We are, what we are made by our daily conversation: we are shaped by what we hear round us every day.' And what he said about conversation is also to be understood of what we read. Those who spend their whole lives on gentile literature end up as pagans; those who read nothing but filthy books must needs develop in their own characters a streak of filth. For reading surely is a kind of conversation.
In Latin:
Proinde nullum adhuc apophthegma philosophorum memini legere, quod mihi videatur cum illo conferendum, quod Ioannes Coletus meus, vir pariter et eruditus et incorruptus, subinde dictitare consueuit 'Tales nos esse, qualia sunt quotidiana colloquia, tales euadere, qualia frequenter audimus'. Iam vero quod de colloquio dictum est, idem oportet et de studiis accipere. Qui vitam omnem in ethnicis conterunt literis, gentiles euadunt. Qui praeter obscoenos autores nil euoluunt, moribus obscoenis reddantur oportet. Etenim lectio colloquium quoddam esse videtur.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


A Property of Proverbs

Erasmus, Adages I vi 1 to I x 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), p. 196 (I ix 26 Ab impiis egressa est iniquitas = Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked):
For it is a property of most proverbs that they require to be uttered in the language in which they originated, and if they migrate into another tongue, they lose much of their charm. Some wines are like that: they refuse to travel, and do not retain their native qualities except in the regions in which they are grown.
In Latin:
Quandoquidem habent hoc peculiare pleraque prouerbia, vt in ea lingua sonari postulent, in qua nata sunt; quod si in alienum sermonem demigrarint, multum gratiae decedat. Quemadmodum sunt et vina quaedam, quae recusent exportari nec germanam saporis gratiam obtineant, nisi in his locis, in quibus proueniunt.


Greek and English

Walter Headlam (1866-1908), A Book of Greek Verse (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1907), pp. xxi-xxii:
Greek, in my experience, is easier to write than English; you have only to speak simply, with the words in the right places and due care for logic and for rhythm, and the language then seems somehow to put on a charm and beauty of its own. It is more than any quality of neatness merely—what is terse and definite and lucid and concise; it is complete harmonious grace and unsuperfluous adequacy, the knit strength and quiet beauty of an athlete. But translate it literally, and the charm is apt to vanish like a perfume that escapes,—to English taste especially, because the tendency of English is to be redundant and diffuse, to load with ornament and colour, and to overcloud with varied and obscuring imagery. A translator, therefore, has a strong temptation to embellish what he fears may seem too flat and bald. But that should be resisted. As in sculpture, so in poetry, the characteristic of Greek Art was its melodious outline, and it is a grave artistic sin to falsify so cardinal a feature.



Thomas Heywood (1575-1641), An Apology for Actors III.2:
Oh shallow! because such a man hath his house burnt, we shall quite condemne the use of fire; because one man quaft poyson, we must forbeare to drinke; because some have bean shipwrak’t, no man shall hereafter trafficke by sea. Then I may as well argue thus: he cut his finger, therefore must I weare no knife; yond man fell from his horse, therefore must I travell a foot; that man surfeited, therefore I dare not eate. What can appeare more absurd then such a grosse and sencelesse assertion?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Negative Campaigning

[Cicero], Rhetorica ad Herennium 1.5 (tr. Harry Caplan):
From the discussion of the person of our adversaries we shall secure goodwill by bringing them into hatred, unpopularity, or contempt.

We shall force hatred upon them by adducing some base, highhanded, treacherous, cruel, impudent, malicious, or shameful act of theirs.

We shall make our adversaries unpopular by setting forth their violent behaviour, their dominance, factiousness, wealth, lack of self-restraint, high birth, clients, hospitality, club allegiance, or marriage alliances, and by making clear that they rely more upon these supports than upon the truth.

We shall bring our adversaries into contempt by presenting their idleness, cowardice, sloth, and luxurious habits.

ab adversariorum persona benivolentia captabitur si eos in odium, in invidiam, in contemptionem adducemus.

in odium rapiemus si quid eorum spurce, superbe, perfidiose, crudeliter, confidenter, malitiose, flagitiose factum proferemus.

in invidiam trahemus si vim, si potentiam, si factionem, divitias, incontinentiam, nobilitatem, clientelas, hospitium, sodalitatem, adfinitates adversariorum proferemus, et his adiumentis magis quam veritati eos confidere aperiemus.

in contemptionem adducemus si inertiam, ignaviam, desidiam, luxuriam adversariorum proferemus.

Monday, September 12, 2016



E.R. Dodds (1893-1979), Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety (1965; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1970), p. 113:
Christians did not behave like loyal citizens. To the average pagan their refusal to burn a few grains of incense on the Emperor's birthday must have appeared as a deliberate and insolent expression of disloyalty, rather like refusing to stand up when the national anthem is played.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Bald-Headed, Pot-Bellied, Underbred, Sycophantic

Ezra Pound (1885-1972), "Horace," Criterion 9 (January 1930) 217-227, rpt. in Arion 9.2/3 (Summer-Autumn, 1970) 178-187 (at 178-179):
Neither simple nor passionate, sensuous only in so far as he is a gourmet of food and of language, aere perennius, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, bald-headed, pot-bellied, underbred, sycophantic, less poetic than any other great master of literature, occupies one complete volume of the British Museum Catalogue and about half the bad poetry in English might seem to have been written under his influence, but as almost no Englishman save Landor has ever written a line of real criticism this is not perhaps very surprising. There are people called the 'English Critics' (sometimes the gt. E.C.) who have put down a few rules of thumb about finding rhymes, or about the religious bearing of literature, or indulged in metaphysical speculation, but Landor was almost unique in examining specific passages of verse to see whether they were well or ill written or if they could be improved. Thus books on Horace abound, but there has been very little attempt to define the art of Maecenas' protégé.

Horace is a liar of no mean pomposity when he claims to have been the first to bring in the 'Æolic modes', for Catullus preceded him, and Catullus wrote better Sapphics. Catullus frankly translated one poem and frequently improves on Greek style. Horace lifts passages; incorporates lines; I doubt if he improves on Alc‎æus.

Both Catullus and Ovid add something to world poetry, something which is not in the Greek poetry that has come down to us. Horace at his best is sometimes more, sometimes less than a translation, but there is a definitely Horatian art. Apart from Catullus he was the most skillful metrist among the Latins, Propertius excelling him in but one habitual metre.

Against the granite acridity of Catullus' passion, against Ovid's magic, and Ovid's sense of mystery, Horace has but the clubman's poise and no stronger emotion than might move one toward a particularly luscious oyster. His jibes at old women are like petty personal fusses lacking the charm of Palladas' impartial pessimism or the artistic aloofness, the Epicurean and really godlike impersonality of Catullus' poem containing the phrase, 'habet dentes', which is the first Wyndham Lewis drawing, perhaps the only Wyndham Lewis drawing, in literature.

Yet Horace remains untranslated. There are charming approximations. For four centuries, French and English poets have written pleasing poems on Horatian themes, but he has given rise to nothing comparable with Gavin Douglas' Virgil, Golding's Metamorphoses or Marlowe's translations of the Ovidian Elegies.
Id. (at 186):
Horace lived under that crapulous presbyterian Caesar Augustus and carried his camouflage with all the unction of an adulterous Methodist deacon.
Related post: Huysmans on Vergil and Horace.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Fate of a Heretic

François Rabelais (1494-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel III.22 (Panurge talking about Raminagrobis; tr. J.M. Cohen):
He's a heretic, by God! A full-blown heretic I say, a scabby heretic, a heretic as fit for the fire as any little clockmaker. His soul will be sliding off shortly to thirty thousand cartloads of devils. And do you know where? God's truth, my friend, right under Proserpina's close-stool, in the very infernal pot into which she drops the fecal produce of her suppositories, on the left hand side of the great cauldron, within six yards of Lucifer's claws, on the way to the black chamber of Demogorgon. Ho, the villain!

Il est, par la vertus Dieu, haeréticque. Je dis haeréticque formé, haeréticque clavelé, haeréticque bruslable comme une belle petite horologe. Son ame s'en va à trente mille charrettées de diables. Sçavez vous où? Corbieu! mon amy, droict dessoubs la scelle persée de Proserpine, dedans le propre bassin infernal, on quel elle rend l'operation fécale de ses clystères, à cousté guausche de la grande chauldière, à trois toises près les gryphes de Lucifer, tirant vers la chambre noire de Demiourgon. Ho le villain!
Cohen's "little clockmaker" is literally "pretty little clock." See Rabelais, Oeuvres complètes. Texte établi et annoté par Jacques Boulenger. Édition revue et complétée par Lucien Scheler (Paris: Gallimard, 1955), p. 407, n. 21:
Un commentateur du XVIIe s., rapporte qu'une horloge faite par un huguenot nommé Clavel, à La Rochelle, au début de la Réforme, fut brûlée par ordre du magistrat.
According to other authorities, the clockmaker was burned along with his clock. I don't have access to Judith Pugh Meyer, Reformation in La Rochelle: Tradition and Change in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1568 (Genève: Droz, 1996).


Monsieur Bergeret's Study

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Amethyst Ring, tr. B. Drillien (London: John Lane, 1922), pp 132-133 (from Chapter VI):
From floor to ceiling his study was lined with deal shelves, bearing books arranged in methodical order. One glance, and all that remains to us of Latin thought was ready to his hand. The Greeks lay half-way up. In a quiet corner, easy of access, were Rabelais, the excellent story-tellers of the Cent nouvelles nouvelles, Bonaventure des Périers, Guillaume Bouchet, and all the old French "conteurs" whom M. Bergeret considered better adapted to humanity than writings in the more heroic style, and who were the favourite reading of his leisure. He only possessed them in cheap modern editions, but he had discovered a poor bookbinder in the town who covered his volumes with leaves from a book of anthems, and it gave M. Bergeret the keenest pleasure to see these free-spoken gentlemen thus clad in Requiems and Misereres. This was the sole luxury and the only peculiarity of his austere library. The other books were paper-backed or bound in poor and worn-out bindings. The gentle friendly manner in which they were handled by their owner gave them the look of tools set out in a busy man's workshop. The books on archaeology and art found a resting-place on the highest shelves, not by any means out of contempt, but because they were not so often used.

Il avait établi dans son cabinet des rayons de sapin qui montaient jusqu'au plafond, portant les livres méthodiquement rangés. Il les embrassait tous d'un regard, et ce qui nous reste de la pensée latine était sous sa main. Les Grecs se pressaient à mi-hauteur. En un coin discret et d'accès facile se tenaient Rabelais, les diseurs excellents des Cent Nouvelles nouvelles, Bonaventure des Périers, Guillaume Bouchet, tous les vieux conteurs français, que M. Bergeret jugeait mieux proportionnés à l'humanité que les auteurs plus sublimes, et qu'il lisait de préférence en ses moments de loisir. Il ne possédait leurs ouvrages qu'en éditions modernes et communes, mais il avait fait couvrir, par un humble relieur de la ville, ses exemplaires avec des feuillets d'antiphonaires, et il prenait quelque plaisir à voir ces francs parleurs ainsi habillés de Requiem et de Miserere. C'était là le seul luxe et l'unique fantaisie de sa bibliothèque austère. Les autres livres étaient ou brochés ou contenus dans des reliures pauvres et fatiguées. L'usage amical et patient qu'en faisait le maître leur donnait pourtant l'aspect agréable des outils rangés dans l'atelier d'un laborieux ouvrier. Les traités d'archéologie et d'art étaient logés sur la plus haute tablette, non certes par mépris, mais comme d'un usage peu fréquent.


Nocturnal Pursuits

Propertius 4.6.85-86 (tr. G.P. Goold):
So will I spend the night with goblet and with song, until
the day sheds its rays upon my wine.

sic noctem patera, sic ducam carmine, donec
    iniciat radios in mea vina dies.

Friday, September 09, 2016


Damnatio Memoriae: Frederic Stanley Dunn

There is, or was, a building at the University of Oregon named Dunn Hall after classical scholar Frederic Stanley Dunn (1872-1937). For Dunn's sins, set forth in David Alan Johnson et al., Report on the History of Matthew P. Deady and Frederick S. Dunn, pp. 23-34, the current President of the University of Oregon, Michael H. Schill, has recommended that the building be renamed (or denamed, to use the word that Schill prefers). Because he never received a Ph.D., there is no entry for Dunn in Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, ed. Ward W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994).

Dunn's publications include:

Frederic Stanley Dunn


An Incantation Against Headache

Papyri Graecae Magicae 20.13–18, in Patricia Gaillard-Seux, "Magical Formulas in Pliny's Natural History: Origins, Sources, Parallels," 'Greek' and 'Roman' in Latin Medical Texts: Studies in Cultural Change and Exchange in Ancient Medicine, ed. Brigitte Maire (Leiden: Brill, 2014 = Studies in Ancient Medicine, 42), pp. 201-223 (at 216-217):
Φιλίννης Θε[σσ]αλῆς ἐπαοιδή π[ρὸς]
Κεφαλῆς π[ό]νον.
Φεῦγ' ὀδύν[η κ]εφαλῆς, φεῦγε φθ[ίνουσ']
ὑπὸ πέτ[ρα]ν φεύγουσιν δὲ [λύ]
κοι, φεύγ[ουσι] δὲ μώνυχες [ἵπ]
ποι, ἐ[σσύμενοι] πληγαῖς ὑπ' [ἐμῆς τελέας ἐπαοιδῆς]

The incantation of Philinna the Thessalian for headache: flee, headache, flee in weakness under a rock! Wolves flee and single-hoofed horses flee [propelled] with blows [by my perfect incantation] (trans. by Faraone [2000: 197–198] modified).

The structure is not completely canonical, but there seems to be an underlying identification between headaches and wolves and horses, the threat being represented by the incantation itself.

49 Revised text by Henrichs (1970: 204–209). See also Maas (1942: 34), Lloyd-Jones/Parsons (1983: n° 900), Furley (1993: 93–94). Bibliography: see de Haro Sanchez (2010: n° 1871).
References from the bibliography at the end of the article:
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. A classic example of epipompē can be found in the Gospels (Matthew 8.30-32, Mark 5.11-13, Luke 8.32-33), when Jesus, in performing an exorcism, drove demons into a herd of pigs.

Although the text is uncertain, this incantation against headache may be an example of epipompē, because the headache is apparently driven away to a specific location, under a rock. For more examples of epipompē see here.

Related post: Epipompē in a Spell against Headache.


The Dear Departed

Euripides, Alcestis 877-878, in Euripides, Cyclops. Alcestis. Medea. Edited and translated by David Kovacs (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), pp. 248-249:
τὸ μήποτ᾿ εἰσιδεῖν φιλίας ἀλόχου
πρόσωπόν σ᾿ ἔσαντα λυπρόν.

877 σ᾿ ἔσαντα Wilamowitz: ἄντα C

No more to see your dead wife face to face is painful.
I think that "dead wife" is a misprint for "dear wife" here. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library version. Cf. id., line 917, pp. 254-255, where the same phrase φιλίας ἀλόχου is translated as "dear wife."


Thursday, September 08, 2016


The Good Old Days and the Bad New Days

Pausanias 8.2.4-5 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
For the men of those days, because of their righteousness and piety, were guests of the gods, eating at the same board; the good were openly honoured by the gods, and sinners were openly visited with their wrath. Nay, in those days men were changed to gods, who down to the present day have honours paid to them—Aristaeüs, Britomartis of Crete, Heracles the son of Alcmena, Amphiaraüs the son of Oicles, and besides these Polydeuces and Castor. So one might believe that Lycaon was turned into a beast, and Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, into a stone.

But at the present time, when sin has grown to such a height and has been spreading over every land and every city, no longer do men turn into gods, except in the flattering words addressed to despots, and the wrath of the gods is reserved until the sinners have departed to the next world.

οἱ γὰρ δὴ τότε ἄνθρωποι ξένοι καὶ ὁμοτράπεζοι θεοῖς ἦσαν ὑπὸ δικαιοσύνης καὶ εὐσεβείας, καί σφισιν ἐναργῶς ἀπήντα παρὰ τῶν θεῶν τιμή τε οὖσιν ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἀδικήσασιν ὡσαύτως ἡ ὀργή, ἐπεί τοι καὶ θεοῖ τότε ἐγίνοντο ἐξ ἀνθρώπων, οἳ γέρα καὶ ἐς τόδε ἔτι ἔχουσιν ὡς Ἀρισταῖος καὶ Βριτόμαρτις ἡ Κρητικὴ καὶ Ἡρακλῆς ὁ Ἀλκμήνης καὶ Ἀμφιάραος ὁ Ὀικλέους, ἐπὶ δὲ αὐτοῖς Πολυδεύκης τε καὶ Κάστωρ. οὕτω πείθοιτο ἄν τις καὶ Λυκάονα θηρίον καὶ τὴν Ταντάλου Νιόβην γενέσθαι λίθον.

ἐπ᾿ ἐμοῦ δὲ—κακία γὰρ δὴ ἐπὶ πλεῖστον ηὔξετο καὶ γῆν τε ἐπενέμετο πᾶσαν καὶ πόλεις πάσας—οὔτε θεὸς ἐγίνετο οὐδεὶς ἔτι ἐξ ἀνθρώπου, πλὴν ὅσον λόγῳ καὶ κολακείᾳ πρὸς τὸ ὑπερέχον, καὶ ἀδίκοις τὸ μήνιμα τὸ ἐκ τῶν θεῶν ὀψέ τε καὶ ἀπελθοῦσιν ἐνθένδε ἀπόκειται.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016



William M. Brashear (1946-2000), "Out of the Closet: Recent Corpora of Magical Texts," Classical Philology 91.4 (October, 1996) 372-383 (at 372):
The final decades of the nineteenth century saw the publication of most of the ancient magical handbooks preserved on papyrus, and the turn of the century witnessed a flurry of activity in the field of ancient magic. Wilamowitz, however, scornfully repudiated Hermann Usener and his student, Albrecht Dieterich, as "Verehrer des Aberglaubens," and archly dismissed their research as "Botokudenphilologie,"2 thus setting the tone for the vast majority of classical scholars to follow for years to come.

2. Quoted by F. Pfister, ARW 35 (1938): 183. The Botocudes are a now extinct tribe of eastern Brazil. Their name obviously represented for the scion of a turn-of-the-century German Junker family all that was foreign, barbaric, and abhorrent.


On Theologians Ignorant of Ancient Languages

Erasmus, Adages I vi 1 to I x 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), p. 212 (I ix 55 Illotis manibus = With unwashed hands, also referring to I ix 54 Illotis pedibus ingredi = To enter with unwashed feet):
Either proverb will properly be used of those who plunge into some undertaking full of self-confidence or ignorant of what they ought to know; for instance, anyone who assumes the office of a prince with no equipment of virtue or wisdom or experience of affairs, or sets out to interpret Holy Scripture untaught and unpractised in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew and indeed in the whole of antiquity, without which it is not only foolish but impious to undertake to treat of the mysteries of theology. And yet, outrageous as it is, this is now common practice. Equipped with a few frosty syllogisms and some childish sophistries, where (Heaven help us) do they draw the line? Where do they not lay down the law? What problems are insoluble? Could they but see the merriment, or rather, the sorrow that they cause to those with some experience of the ancient tongues and of antiquity, could they see the monstrosities that they produce and the shameful errors into which they fall continually, they would surely be ashamed of their headlong incompetence and return even in old age to the rudiments of a liberal education. Many men come to a right conclusion unaided by the laws of dialectic, to say nothing of the quillets of sophistry. There was sense and wisdom among mortals, even before the idol of these people, Aristotle, was born. No one ever understood another person's meaning without a knowledge of the tongue in which that meaning was expressed. And so St Jerome, when he had decided to interpret Holy Scripture and was determined not to take up such a task with unwashed feet, as the saying goes — I ask you, did he equip his mind with sophistic rubbish? With Aristotelian principles? With nonsense yet more nonsensical than this? Not he. How did he start then? With incalculable efforts he acquired a knowledge of the three tongues. The man who is ignorant of these is no theologian, he treats divine theology with outrage, and with both hands and feet in very truth unwashed he does not take up this most sacred of all subjects, he profanes it and defiles it and outrages it.
In Latin:
Vtrunque prouerbium recte vsurpabitur in eos, qui vel audacius vel parum instructi rebus his, quibus oportuit, negocium inuadunt. Veluti si quis principis munus capessat nulla neque virtute neque sapientia neque rerum vsu prae|ditus. Aut si diuinas literas interpretari conetur Graecae, Latinae et Hebraicae linguae, denique et omnis antiquitatis rudis et imperitus, sine quibus non stultum modo, verum etiam impium est theologiae mysteria tractanda suscipere. Quod tamen, heu nefas, iam passim plerique faciunt, qui frigidis aliquot instructi syllogismis et puerilibus sophismatis. Deum immortalem, quid non audent? Quid non praecipiunt? Quid non decernunt? Qui si possent cernere, quos risus vel potius quem dolorem moueant linguarum et antiquitatis peritis, quae portenta proferant, in quam pudendos errores subinde prolabantur; nimirum puderet illos tantae temeritatis et vel senes ad prima literarum elementa redirent. Multi recte iudicant absque dialecticae praeceptis, vt ne dicam sophisticis cauillis. Sapiebant mortales et prius quam deus istorum Aristoteles nasceretur. Nullus vnquam sententiam alicuius intellexit ignarus sermonis, quo sententiam ille suam explicuit. Proinde diuus Hieronymus cum constituisset arcanas interpretari literas, ne illotis, vt aiunt, pedibus rem tantam aggrederetur, quaeso, num sophisticis nugis instruxit ingenium? Num Aristotelicis decretis? Num his etiam nugacioribus nugis? Minime. Quid igitur? Inaestimabili sudore trium linguarum peritiam sibi comparauit. Quas qui ignorat, non theologus est, sed sacrae theologiae violator. Ac vere manibus pariter ac pedibus illotis rem omnium maxime sacram non tractat, sed prophanat, conspurcat, violat.


Avoiding Small Talk

Alexander McCall Smith, Corduroy Mansions (2009; rpt. New York: Anchor Books, 2011), pp. 80-81:
This technique of asking just the right question to inhibit further conversation was a useful one, and was used by William in other social circumstances when small talk needed to be avoided. At cocktail parties, where one might quite reasonably simply wish to stand, or sit, and not be pestered by other guests seeking to make small talk, the use of a discreet lapel badge was sometimes to be recommended. This badge might state one's religious position in unequivocal terms, and invite discussion on it. Thus a small badge saying "Please talk to me about Salvation" usually had the effect of ensuring a peaceful time at any party, leaving one untroubled by other guests coming up to engage one in unwanted conversation. Similarly a badge saying "No longer infectious" could usually be calculated to ensure physical space, another commodity in short supply at the more popular cocktail parties.
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


A Greek Lesson

Alfred Andersch (1914-1980), The Father of a Murderer, tr. Leila Vennewitz (New York: New Directions, 1994), p. 53:
He turned back toward Franz, shook his head as he looked at the εηεινεισθει that Franz had written, walked to the blackboard, picked up the cloth lying on the shelf—still damp from Werner Schröter's use of it—erased the "e's" after the "pi" and the "theta," and replaced them with "a's," so that finally, in a mixture of such differing handwritings as Franz Kien's and the Headmaster's—one inconsistent and sloppy and one vigorous and betraying not a shred of self-doubt—the word appeared correctly on the black-board: εηαινεισθχι.
Image of the paragraph:

I shake my head. You'd think that, in a short novel that takes place inside a Greek class, words quoted in Greek letters would be printed accurately. For εηεινεισθει read επεινεισθει (the student's mistake, without accent and breathing), and for εηαινεισθχι read επαινεισθαι (the headmaster's correction, still without accent and breathing, which are added later in the lesson).

I haven't seen the German original. Thanks to Alan Crease for recommending the book to me.



Formulaic Openings of Monologues

Euripides, Alcestis 747-750 (servant speaking about Heracles; tr. David Kovacs):
I have known many men from all manner of lands to come as guests to Admetus' house, and I have served them dinner. But never yet have I welcomed a worse guest to our hearth than this one.

πολλοὺς μὲν ἤδη κἀπὸ παντοίας χθονὸς
ξένους μολόντας οἶδ᾿ ἐς Ἀδμήτου δόμους,
οἷς δεῖπνα προύθηκ᾿· ἀλλὰ τοῦδ᾿ οὔπω ξένον
κακίον᾿ ἐς τήνδ᾿ ἑστίαν ἐδεξάμην.
Euripides, Alcestis. Edited with Introduction and Commentary by A.M. Dale (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954; rpt. 1971), p. 108:
This is the earliest appearance of what was to become so common a gambit in the dramatic monologues of comedy — the assertion of a superlative by the denial of a comparative (or by οὐχ οὕτω with the positive), in describing the behaviour of someone within the house; the speaker enters bursting, as it were, with irrepressible feelings about it, as Socrates (Nub. 627) about the stupidity of Strepsiades. E. Fraenkel, Plaut. im Plautus, pp. 165 ff., gives many examples from Greek and Latin comedy.
Eduard Fraenkel, Plautine Elements in Plautus, tr. Tomas Drevikovsky and Francis Muecke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 110-111 (notes omitted):
I cite the beginning of a monologue in Curculio (591) as an example. Antiquam [sic, read Antiquom] poetam audivi scripsisse in tragoedia mulieres duas peiores esse quam unam. res itast. verum mulierem peiorem quam haec amica est Phaedromi non vidi aut audivi, neque pol dici nec fingi potest peior quam haec est ('I heard a poet of old wrote in a tragedy that two women are worse than one. So it is. Truly a worse woman than this girlfriend of Phaedromus' I have never seen or heard of, nor by god can any worse than she be described or imagined'); the narrative then follows in the usual way with ubi (= ἐπεί). Here there are actually two introductory phrases: the monologue could easily begin with the second (mulierem peiorem quam haec ... est ... non vidi, 'I have never seen a worse woman than she is'). This is a formula very popular in Greek comedy, used to present a character coming on stage who is bursting with an impression (usually created by an encounter with another character in the play), and to highlight the intensity of this impression. Thus in a play as early as Clouds (627), Socrates, after an unsuccessful lesson with Strepsiades, steps out of the house and curses to himself: μὰ τὴν Ἀναπνοήν ... οὐκ εἶδον οὕτως ἄνδρ᾿ ἄγροικον οὐδένα οὐδ᾿ ἄπορον οὐδὲ σκαιὸν οὐδ᾿ ἐπιλήσμονα ('By Respiration ... I have never seen a country bumpkin so helpless, absurd, and forgetful'). Likewise in Menander, The Arbitration 382-3 (206 f. Körte) we find Onesimos coming out of the house and saying: μάγειρον βραδύτερον οὐδεὶς ἑόρακε ('no one has seen a slower cook'). Similarly in Menander's The Man She Hated (176-7, 9-10 Körte), an old lady enters and begins her monologue with the words: μανικώ- or σοβαρὼ]τερον τούτου, μὰ τὼ θεώ, ξένον οὐπώποτ᾿ εἶδον ('By the two goddesses I have never seen a guest [more mad or more violent] than this fellow'). It is certain, too, that the words from Diphilos' The Merchant (Ath. 6.226e = fr. 33 Kock (ii.551), K-A v.68): οὐ πώποτ᾿ ἰχθῦς οἶδα τιμιωτέρους ἰδών ('I know I have never seen a more expensive fish') come from the beginning of a monologue. In the Latin adaptations we find this same kind of monologue opening, for example, Aul. 60 (at the beginning of the aside): scelestiorem me hac anu certo scio vidisse numquam ('I am sure I have never seen anyone more of a crook than this old woman'), Cist. 653: nullam ego me vidisse credo magis anum excruciabilem quam illaec est etc. ('I believe I have never seen any old woman more deserving to be crucified than she'), Mil. 538: numquam edepol hominem quemquam ludificarier magis facete vidi ('By god I have never seen anyone fooled more amusingly'), Most. 532: scelestiorem ego annum argento faenori numquam ullum vidi quam hic mihi annus optigit ('I have never seen a more unfortunate year for interest on money than this year which has befallen me') (most probably Philemon, compare the jokes of the same kind in Trin. 32 f., Most. 159), Pseud. 136 (as he steps out of the house): neque ego homines magis asinos numquam vidi ('I have never seen fellows more like asses'), 1017: peiorem ego hominem magisque vorsute malum numquam edepol quemquam vidi quam hic est Simia ('By god I have never seen a worse and wilier fellow than this Simia'); Ter. Phorm. 591: ego hominem callidiorem vidi neminem quam Phormionem ('I have never seen a more cunning fellow than Phormio'), Andr. 844 (at the beginning of a short soliloquy which is immediately interrupted): ego commodiorem hominem, adventum, tempus non vidi ('I have never seen a more convenient fellow, arrival or time'). We see, therefore, if Curculio opened his monologue with the words (593): mulierem peiorem quam haec amica est Phaedromi non vidi aut audivi ('a worse woman than this girlfriend of Phaedromus' I have never seen or heard of'), he would be remaining entirely within the bounds of convention.

Monday, September 05, 2016


Use It or Lose It

François Rabelais (1494-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel III.27 (Frère Jan advising Panurge; tr. M.A. Screech):
If you don't exercise your mentula, she'll lose her milk too and serve only as a pisser, and your bollocks likewise will serve merely as game-bags.

Si continuellement ne exercez ta mentule, elle perdra son laict et ne te servira que de pissotière; les couilles pareillement ne te serviront que de gibbessière.
French mentule is derived from Latin mentula = membrum virile. If I were translating the sentence I might introduce the pun man-tool to render mentule. I would also translate the adverb continuellement, which Screech omits.

Sunday, September 04, 2016


The Pleasures of the Lowly

Plautus, Stichus 693-695 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
What each man's station allows him suits him best. Those who have wealth at home, drink from good beakers, tankards, and goblets, but we, from our little Samian cups; all the same, we do drink, all the same, we do perform our functions as our means allow.

suom quemque decet: quibus divitiae domi sunt, scaphiis, cantharis,
batiocis bibunt, at nos nostro Samiolo poterio:
tamen bibimus nos, tamen efficimus pro opibus nostra moenia.

695 bibimus Ritschl: vivimus codd.
Wolfgang de Melo interprets moenia (line 695) as an archaic spelling of munia = duties, functions, rather than as moenia = walls. If walls were understood, the translation would be "We build our walls as our means allow." Erasmus, Adages I vii 62, quotes the last part of line 695 as "efficimus pro nostris opibus moenia."

Rereading this play in the Loeb Classical Library edition, I see that de Melo adopted my conjectural restoration of a lacuna in line 617. This is my sole contribution to classical scholarship. If I'm remembered for anything, it will be for this.

Saturday, September 03, 2016


The Separation of the Soul from the Body

François Rabelais (1494-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel IV.43 (on the Island of Ruach; tr. J.M. Cohen):
They do not shit, piss, or spit on this island. But, on the other hand, they poop, fart, and belch most copiously. They suffer from all sorts and varieties of diseases. For every malady originates and develops from flatulence, as Hippocrates proves in his book, On Wind. But the worst epidemic they know is the windy colic, as a remedy for which they use large cupping-glasses, and so draw off much wind. They all die of dropsy or tympanites; they all fart as they die, the men loudly, the women soundlessly, and in this way their souls depart by the back passage.

Ilz ne fiantent, ilz ne pissent, ilz ne crachent en ceste isle. En récompense, ilz vesnent, ilz pètent, ilz rottent copieusement. Ils pâtissent toutes espèces de maladies. Aussi toute maladie naist et procède de ventosité, comme déduyt Hippocrates, lib. de Flatibus. Mais la plus épidémiale est la cholicque venteuse. Pour y remédier, usent de ventoses amples et y rendent fortes ventositéz. lls meurent tous hydropicques, tympanites, et meurent les hommes en pétent, les femmes en vescent. Ainsi leur sort l'âme par le cul.
On the Hebrew word ruach see Primo Levi (1919-1987), The Periodic Table, tr. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Schocken Books, 1995), p. 12:
From rúakh, plural rukhòd, which means "breath," an illustrious term that can be read in the dark and admirable second verse of the Genesis ("The wind of the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters") was taken tiré 'n rúakh, "make a wind," in its diverse physiological significances, where one catches a glimpse of the Biblical intimacy of the Chosen People with its Creator. As an example of practical application, there has been handed down the saying of Aunt Regina, seated with Uncle David in the Café Florio on Via Po: "Davidin, bat la cana, c'as sento nen le rukhòd!" ("David, thump your cane, so they don't hear your winds!"), which attests to a conjugal relationship of affectionate intimacy.



At the Top?

John Burroughs (1837-1921), Birds and Poets, with Other Papers (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1905), pp. 53-54:
It is well to let down our metropolitan pride a little. Man thinks himself at the top, and that the immense display and prodigality of Nature are for him. But they are no more for him than they are for the birds and beasts, and he is no more at the top than they are. He appeared upon the stage when the play had advanced to a certain point, and he will disappear from the stage when the play has reached another point, and the great drama will go on without him. The geological ages, the convulsions and parturition throes of the globe, were to bring him forth no more than the beetles. Is not all this wealth of the seasons, these solar and sidereal influences, this depth and vitality and internal fire, these seas, and rivers, and oceans, and atmospheric currents, as necessary to the life of the ants and worms we tread under foot as to our own? And does the sun shine for me any more than for yon butterfly?
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Journals (April 2, 1852):
It appears to me that, to one standing on the heights of philosophy, mankind and the works of man will have sunk out of sight altogether; that man is altogether too much insisted on. The poet says the proper study of mankind is man. I say, study to forget all that; take wider views of the universe. That is the egotism of the race.

Thursday, September 01, 2016


Old Dogs and New Tricks

Erasmus, Adages I i 1 to I v 100, translated by Margaret Mann Phillips, annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), pp. 200-201 (I ii 61):
Senis mutare linguam
To teach an old man a new language

Age is slow at any kind of learning, but especially at learning a language, a faculty which is given by nature to children. It is generally well known that children can learn to speak any tongue, while older people do not achieve it or imitate it very badly. Hence the proverb 'to teach an old man a new language,' applied to those who labor at the wrong time and in vain. St Jerome says in the preface to the four Gospels: 'It is a worthy task, but one of dangerous presumption, to judge others when one is open to be judged by all, and to teach an old man a new language, and turn back a world that is turning grey to its childish beginnings,' by which he means that the adult age is less amenable in all ways than those unformed and tender years, and Ovid puts this in an elegant metaphor:
The tree spreading wide its shade to the walkers beneath it
Once was a wand, when first it was planted in earth.
Then a mere hand's turn could pull it from shallow ground simply,
Now it stands firm, by its own strength grown huge.
For this reason the character must be formed while the age is malleable; the mind accustomed to the best, while it is impressionable as wax. For later on, by the force of years, the mind becomes rigid, and we can hardly unlearn what we have learnt wrong; what we do not know can only be taught us with infinite trouble. I am not saying this to deter older people from learning, since it is never too late to learn, but in order to urge children to study.

We must not leave out the saying, common though it is, 'the old parrot takes no notice of that rod.' Although the meaning of the adage is not obscure, it will become clearer from the words of Apuleius, in the Florida, book 2, about the parrot: 'When being trained to imitate our country speech, it is tapped on the head with an iron key so that it really feels who is master. This takes the place of the cane while it is learning. The young bird learns at once, up to the age of two years, while the mouth is pliable and can be moulded, and the tongue is tender and vibrates quickly. But if an old one is caught, it is both unteachable and forgetful.' Thus far Apuleius. Pliny also mentions, book 10 chapter 42, the wonderful teachableness of the bird, but only up to two years old. Close to these remarks is a common but not inelegant expression: 'it is too late to accustom old dogs to the leash.'

Jerome] Preface to the Vulgate version of the Gospels; PL 29.525 (557).

Ovid] Remedia amoris 85-8.

Apuleius] See I i 15n; Florida 12

Pliny] Naturalis historia 10.119; added in 1517/8.

expression] Tilley D 500 An old dog will learn no new tricks. This was in Collectanea no 311 as a popular saying; see i iv 43n.
In Latin:
Senis mutare linguam

Cum ad omnem disciplinam tardior est senectus tum potissimum ad discendam linguam, quae facultas maxime pueris a natura data est. Quapropter etiam vulgo compertissimum pueros facile quamuis exprimere linguam, contra natu grandiores aut non assequi aut parum feliciter imitari. Inde prouerbium Senis mutare linguam de frustra atque intempestiue laborantibus. Diuus Hieronymus praeloquens in quatuor Euangelia Pius, inquit, labor, sed periculosa praesumptio, iudicare de caeteris ipsum ab omnibus iudicandum, senis mutare linguam et canescentem mundum ad initia retrahere paruulorum. Quo significatur adultam aetatem ad omnia minus esse tractabilem quam rudes illos ac teneros annos, id quod eleganti metaphora dictum est a Nasone:
Quae praebet latas arbor spaciantibus vmbras,
    Quo posita est primum tempore virga fuit.
Tunc poterat manibus summa tellure reuelli,
    Nunc stat in immensum viribus aucta suis.
Quare tunc formandi mores, cum mollis adhuc aetas, tunc optimis assuescendum, cum ad quiduis cereum est ingenium. Nam posteaquam annis iam ceu diriguit animus, et vix dediscimus quae perperam didicimus, et quae nescimus, non sine maximo negocio nobis inculcantur. Neque haec dixerim, vt adultiores a discendo deterream, cum nulla sit aetas ad discendum sera, sed vt pueros ad discendi studium acuam.

Ne hoc quidem praetermittendum, quanquam vulgo iactatum: 'Senex psittacus negligit ferulam'. Adagii sensus tametsi per se non est obscurus, tamen magis liquebit ex Apulei verbis, quae sunt in libro Floridorum secundo de psittaco: Quae rusticum nostrum sermonem cogitur aemulari, ferrea clauicula caput tunditur, imperium magistri vt persentiscat. Haec ferula discenti est. Discit autem statim pullus vsque ad duos aetatis suae annos, dum facile os vti conformetur, cum tenera lingua vti conuibretur. Senex autem captus et indocilis est et obliuiosus. Hactenus Apuleius. Indicat et Plinius libro decimo, capite quadragesimosecundo miram esse docilitatem huic aui, verum non nisi primis duobus vitae annis. His finitimum est quod vulgo quidem, attamen haudquaquam ineleganter dicitur, serum esse canes vetulos loris assuefacere.


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