Tuesday, February 19, 2019



Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), Bitter Lemons, chapter 7:
She also was afflicted by the verb "dote," as indeed the whole class was. This was the unfortunate fruit of a day when Aphrodite asked me slyly why English had only one word for "love" when Greek had several; in my attempt not to let the Empire down I produced "adore" and "dote." The latter stuck like a burr. But unfortunately each girl elected to marry it to a different preposition so that my essays the next day were full of heart-rending examples. Electra described the King and Queen of Greece "doting at each other"; while Chloe wrote: "When they married they were in a great dote. He was so excitement and she was so excitement. They were both excitement."


Garbled Greek and Latin

Carl J. Richard, The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 35 (footnote omitted):
Known as "a man more familiar with his Horace than with his Bible," though also quite familiar with the latter, John Henry sent Patrick to an English school until he was ten and then personally taught his son Latin and some Greek. Constantly concerned with such questions as whether "the Greek word Aiwvios is always taken for a limited duration," John instilled in Patrick a reverence for the classics. Patrick studied Livy, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Ovid, Homer, and a translation of Demosthenes as a model of oratory. He then carried on the Henry tradition of demanding detailed classical knowledge of progeny. Patrick Henry's grandson claimed that he dreaded his grandfather's quizzes far more than any recitation before a professor.
Image of the passage:

For Aiwvios read Αἰώνιος. The transcription would be Aiōnios. Transcription seems to be the norm in this book (e.g. patrioi nomoi on p. 241).

Also, on p. 12 for Instituto Graecae Grammatices Compendiaria read Institutio etc.




Homer, Odyssey 15.343 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Nothing is more evil than homelessness for mortals.

πλαγκτοσύνης δ᾽ οὐκ ἔστι κακώτερον ἄλλο βροτοῖσιν.
The same, tr. Samuel Butler:
There is nothing worse than being always on the tramp.
The same, tr. E.V. Rieu:
Surely a tramp's life is the worst thing that anyone can come to.
Arie Hoekstra ad loc.:
As Cauer, Homerkritik, 438, has shown, the total number of abstract terms is greater in the Odyssey than in the Iliad and this also applies to the nouns in -οσύνη and -φροσύνη (439). In this case the noun is likely to have been derived from the verbal adj. (πλαγκτέ occurs at Od. xxi 363, although there it means 'distracted') and to mean 'the (social) position of a man driven from home', cf. δουλόσύνη (xxii 423).
W.B. Stanford ad loc:
Note O.'s attitude to his travels: he was no romantic adventurer indulging his Wanderlust, but a weary ex-soldier always yearning to reach home—yet, it must be added, with enough vitality and curiosity to take an interest in his enforced travels. But now, looking back on them, in this line he gives his melancholy considered judgement. With πλαγκτοσύνη cp. πλάγχθη in 1, 2: it implies unwilling deflection from one's chosen course.
I wondered about πλανάομαι and English planet, but Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden: Brill, 2010), p. 1202 (s.v. πλανάομαι), says:
The meaning strongly recalls πλάζω, but it is hard to think of a formal connection.



J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 89-90:
The quintessence of manliness is fearlessness, readiness to defend one's own pride and that of one's family. It is ascribed directly to a physical origin and the idiom in which it is expressed is frankly physiological. To be manly is to have cojones (testicles), and the farmyard furnishes its testimony in support of the theory. Castrated animals are manso (tame), a castrated ox is not dangerous like a bull. A castrated dog, it is thought, will always run away from an uncastrated one. A man who fails to show fearlessness is lacking in manliness and, by analogy, castrated or manso. While it is not supposed that he is literally devoid of the male physiological attributes, he is, figuratively, so. That part of his person does not possess the moral qualifies properly associated with it.
Id., p. 91:
The word which serves literally to translate manliness (hombría) also contributes to the same conception:

"The modern race is degenerate," said a friend once, "in the days of our grandfathers there was more manliness than today." To be "muy hombre" is to have an abundance of that moral quality which we have been discussing, and, through it, to command the respect of one's fellows.


Meditatio Mortis

Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), Hagakure, tr. Alexander Bennett (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), p. 43 (I.2):
Rehearse your death every morning and night.
Id., p. 237 (III.11-133):
Begin each day pondering death as its climax. Each morning, with a calm mind, conjure images in your head of your last moments. See yourself being pierced by bow and arrow, gun, sword, or spear, or being swept away by a giant wave, vaulting into a fiery inferno, taking a lightning strike, being shaken to death in a great earthquake, falling hundreds of feet from a high cliff top, succumbing to a terminal illness, or just dropping dead unexpectedly. Every morning, be sure to meditate yourself into a trance of death.
Plato, Phaedo 80e-81a (tr. Hugh Tredennick, rev. Harold Tarrant):
I mean doing philosophy in the right way and really getting used to facing death calmly: wouldn't you call this "practising death"?

τὸ δὲ οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἐστὶν ἢ ὀρθῶς φιλοσοφοῦσα καὶ τῷ ὄντι τεθνάναι μελετῶσα ῥᾳδίως· ἢ οὐ τοῦτ' ἂν εἴη μελέτη θανάτου;

Monday, February 18, 2019


Nietzsche and Wagner's Underpants

Sue Prideaux, I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2018), p. 70, with note on p. 411:
Once, just as he had returned from his usual Sunday visit to Tribschen, he asked one of his students casually where he might find a good silk shop in Basel. Nietzsche eventually had to admit to his student that he had undertaken to shop for a pair of silk underpants. For reasons best known to himself, Wagner wore tailor-made silk underwear. This important commission filled Nietzsche with anxiety. Directed to the daunting shop, he squared his shoulders manfully, observing before going in, "Once you've chosen a God, you've got to adorn him."9

9. "Zwei Nietzsche Anekdoten," Frankfurter Zeitung, March 9, 1904, quoted in Millington, Richard Wagner, p. 153.
Id., pp. 164-165, with note on p. 415:
The Wagners were also wintering in Sorrento, in the Hotel Vittoria, close to the Villa Rubinacci. The only contact between Nietzsche and Wagner since the Bayreuth Festival had been in September, when the Master had written out of the blue to request Nietzsche to buy some silk underwear in Basel and post it to him. When he received the letter, Nietzsche had been so ill that he was unable to put pen to paper but he organized for the underwear to be purchased and posted, and he dictated a long and affectionate letter to accompany it. The letter expressed unaffected delight at being of service: the little commission had brought back fond memories of the happy times at Tribschen.11

11. Nietzsche to Richard Wagner, from Basel, September 27, 1876.


A Sort of World

John Henry Newman, letter to Henry Wilberforce (from Milan, September 24, 1846):
[A] Catholic Cathedral is a sort of world, every one going about his own business, but that business a religious one; groups of worshippers, and solitary ones — kneeling, standing — some at shrines, some at altars — hearing Mass and communicating — currents of worshippers intercepting and passing by each other — altar after altar lit up for worship, like stars in the firmament — or the bell giving notice of what is going on in parts you do not see — and all the while the canons in the choir going through matins and lauds, and at the end of it the incense rolling up from the high altar, and all this in one of the most wonderful buildings in the world and every day — lastly, all of this without any show or effort, but what everyone is used to — everyone at his own work, and leaving everyone else to his.


Books Full of Lies

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XLIX (tr. Edith Grossman):
For myself, I can say that when I read them, as long as I do not set my mind to thinking that they are all frivolous lies, I do derive some pleasure from them, but when I realize what they actually are, I throw even the best of them against the wall, and would even toss them in the fire if one were near, and think they richly deserved the punishment, for being deceptive and false and far beyond the limits of common sense, like the founders of new sects and new ways of life, and for giving the ignorant rabble a reason to believe and consider as true all the absurdities they contain.

De mí sé decir que cuando los leo, en tanto que no pongo la imaginación en pensar que son todos mentira y liviandad, me dan algún contento; pero cuando caigo en la cuenta de lo que son, doy con el mejor dellos en la pared, y aun diera con él en el fuego, si cerca ó presente le tuviera, bien como á merecedores de tal pena, por ser falsos y embusteros y fuera del trato que pide la común naturaleza, y como á inventores de nuevas sectas y de nuevo modo de vida, y como á quien da ocasión que el vulgo ignorante venga á creer y á tener por verdaderas tantas necedades como contienen.


The Rich

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 62-63 (footnote omitted):
Los ricos, the rich, are always wicked when treated generically. They are responsible for the hardships of the poor. They have perverted the social order through their ambitions. They are the source of corruption. Who the particular ricos are is obscure, but they are generally thought of as being distant personalities far richer than anyone in the pueblo. These opinions, although encouraged by the political creeds of the Left are by no means inspired by them, nor are they necessarily found in company with them. They are, rather, part of the value system of the pueblo.

The moneyed people of the place are thought of by many, in many social contexts, as evil. Their fatness is pointed out as a proof of their over-indulgence and idleness. The shop-keepers in particular come in for adverse comment, and the advantages which wealthier people have, particularly with regard to what they are able to do for their children, are bitterly resented. Yet here, already, the sentiment of moral indignation has made way for personal jealousy. It is felt that such advantages are wrong, and yet few will not admit that they would take them if they had the chance.

The values relating to money may be summed up as follows. They are not those of protestant capitalism. The possession of money here is in no way a sign of grace, or a basis for moral distinctions. It is morally neutral. But the ways in which it is acquired or spent are subject to moral judgement. If it is gained at the expense of others, it is ill-gotten. If it is guarded avariciously, if it is spent in self-indulgence, it is evil. If it is gained by intelligence or hard work, if it is spent in meeting moral obligations, then it is good. Money is something which enables a man to be what he wants. It gives him power, power to be either good or evil. It bestows prestige only if it is employed in a morally approved manner.
Id., p. 57:
As in many other contexts things are cheaper for the rich.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 34 [162] (tr. Kate Sturge):
Today, in the age when the state has an absurdly fat belly, all the fields and disciplines have, alongside their real workers, also 'representatives', e.g., alongside the scholars there are the literati, alongside the suffering classes there are the chattering, boastful scoundrels who 'represent' those sufferings, not to mention the professional politicians, who are perfectly comfortable and 'represent' hardship before Parliament with their powerful lungs. Our modern life is extremely costly because of the large number of intermediaries; whereas in an ancient city, and, echoing that, still in many a Spanish and Italian city, a man appeared in person and wouldn't have given this kind of modern representative and middle-man the time of day — at best a kick!

Heute, in der Zeit wo der Staat einen unsinnig dicken Bauch hat, giebt es in allen Feldern und Fächern, außer den eigentlichen Arbeitern noch „Vertreter“ z. B. außer den Gelehrten noch Litteraten, außer den leidenden Volks-Schichten noch schwätzende prahlerische Thunichts-gute, welche jenes Leiden „vertreten,“ gar nicht zu reden von den Politikern von Berufswegen, welche sich wohl befinden und Nothstände vor einem Parlament mit starken Lungen „vertreten.“ Unser modernes Leben ist äußerst kostspielig durch die Menge Zwischenpersonen; in einer antiken Stadt dagegen, und im Nachklang daran noch in mancher Stadt Spaniens und Italiens, trat man selber auf und hätte nichts auf einen solchen modernen Vertreter und Zwischenhändler gegeben — es sei denn einen Tritt!

Sunday, February 17, 2019


A Change for the Worse

Sallust, The War with Catiline 5.9 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Since the occasion has arisen to speak of the morals of our country, the nature of my theme seems to suggest that I go farther back and give a brief account of the institutions of our forefathers in peace and in war, how they governed the commonwealth, how great it was when they bequeathed it to us, and how by gradual changes it has ceased to be the noblest and best, and has become the worst and most vicious.

res ipsa hortari videtur, quoniam de moribus civitatis tempus admonuit, supra repetere ac paucis instituta maiorum domi militiaeque, quo modo rem publicam habuerint quantamque reliquerint, ut paulatim immutata ex pulcherrima atque optuma pessuma ac flagitiosissuma facta sit, disserere.


Like Ants

Yoshida Kenkō (c. 1283–c. 1352), Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), no. 74, tr. Donald Keene:
They flock together like ants, hurry east and west, run north and south. Some are mighty, some humble. Some are aged, some young. They have places to go, houses to return to. At night they sleep, in the morning get up. But what does all this activity mean? There is no ending to their greed for long life, their grasping for profit. What expectations have they that they take such good care of themselves? All that awaits them in the end is old age and death, whose coming is swift and does not falter for one instant. What joy can there be while waiting for this end?


Patria Chica

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 30-31 (footnote omitted):
To sum up, then, the pueblo is a highly centralised community, both structurally and also emotionally. In Spanish political jurisprudence it is the "natural" unit of society compared with which the state is an artificial structure. In many aspects it resembles other rural communities of the Mediterranean. All are composed of agricultural workers living under urban conditions, with a background of dry-farming and olive cultivation. All possess a strong sense of local patriotism; devotion to the patria chica in Spain; in Italy campanilismo, attachment to the local campanile, the highest building in the village. A conception of community based upon locality runs through the cultural idiom of Southern Europe, which is demonstrated in many ways: for example, in their legal codes the preference for the principle of jus soli, in contrast to the Germanic jus sanguinis; in the institution of local patron saints, in everyday conversation the importance attached to their place of birth.

In fact, the Greek word polis far more nearly translates "pueblo" than any English word, for the community is not merely a geographical or political unit, but the unit of society in every context. The pueblo furnishes a completeness of human relations which makes it the prime concept of all social thought. That is why Argolla uses the word "pueblo" in a way which recalls Sophocles. During the Reconquest pueblos were founded, with special municipal charters, for the express purpose of defence against the Moors. And in the archives of later pueblos the vestiges of a concept of purpose may be detected. Upon the foundation of the town hall of La Carolina in 1835, the municipality solemnly pledged the pueblo to defend, among other more temporal things, the "misterio de la Purisima Concepción".
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Grammar Lesson

Arthur Wellington Brayley, Schools and Schoolboys of Old Boston (Boston: Louis P. Hager, 1894), pp. 44-45 (incident related by Rufus Dawes; Sawney = Benjamin Apthorp Gould, one of Ralph Waldo Emerson's teachers; some quotation marks removed):
"Go on," says Sawney; "Bangs, what is an active verb?"

"An active verb," replies Bangs, "is a verb which expresses —"

"Well, what does an active verb express?"

Bangs twists and turns, and looks imploringly first at his right-hand classmate and then at his left, but neither can prompt him, if he knows, as probably he does — not.

"Well," continues Sawney, switching the air with his cane, "well, mutton-head, what does an active verb express?"

"I'll tell you what it expresses," he screams, after a little delay, bringing the stick down upon the boy's haunches with decided emphasis; "it expresses an action, and necessarily supposes an agent (flourishing the cane, which again descends as before), and an object acted upon, as 'castigo te' — I chastise thee. Do you understand now, hey?"

"Yes sir, yes sir!" replies the boy, doing his best to get out of the way of the rattan, but Sawney is not disposed to let him off so.

"Now tell me when an active verb is also called transitive?" "I don't know, sir," drawls Bangs, doggedly.

"Don't you?' follows Sawney, "then I'll inform you. An active verb is called transitive when the action passeth over (whack, whack!) to the object. You (whack) are the object, I am (whack!) the agent. Now take care how you go home and say that I never taught you anything. Do you hear?" (Whack!)
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Excessive Praying

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 34 [141] (tr. Kate Sturge):
The emasculating and perhaps castrating effect of so much praying is another of those injuries done to the German character since the Reformation. It is always bad taste to ask much instead of giving much: the combination of meek servility and an often arrogant, vulgar importunity with which, e.g., St Augustine wallows before God in his Confessions reminds us that man may not be the only one of the animals to have religious feeling: the dog has a similar 'religious feeling' for man. —Communicating with God in prayer breeds the humiliating mood and attitude which still, even in impious times, asserts its right through heredity: it's well known that the Germans have swooned before princes or party leaders or the assurance of being 'ever your most humble and obedient servant'. Let that now be over.

Die entmännlichenden und vielleicht entmannende Wirkung des vielen Betens gehört auch unter die Schädigungen des deutschen Wesens seit der Reformation. Es ist eine Sache schlechten Geschmacks unter allen Umständen, viel zu bitten, statt viel zu geben: die Mischung demüthiger Servilität mit einer oft hoffärtig-pöbelhaften Zudringlichkeit, mit der sich z.B. der heilige Augustin in seinen confessiones vor Gott wälzt, erinnert daran, daß der Mensch vielleicht nicht allein unter den Thieren das religiöse Gefühl hat: der Hund hat für den Menschen ein ähnliches "religiöses Gefühl." — Der betende Verkehr mit G[ott] züchtet die erniedrigende Stimmung und Attitüde, welche auch in unfrommen Zeiten, durch Vererbung, noch ihr Recht behauptet: die Deutschen erstarben bekanntlich vor Fürsten oder vor Parteiführern oder vor der Phrase "als unterthänigster Knecht." Es soll damit vorüber sein.

Saturday, February 16, 2019


How Do People Behave Towards Outsiders?

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 26-27:
Yet how do people behave towards outsiders? The stranger, as in Ancient Greece where he was protected by Zeus, enjoys a special status. It is a duty to assist him, for the reputation of the pueblo is felt to be at stake in his eyes. The visitor of wealth or standing is treated with great courtesy and hospitality. He is probably invited to a glass of wine in the casino, the club. People inquire what brings him and put themselves at his disposal.

This standard of hospitality is a very noble feature of the Spanish people, yet its analysis would not be complete if one were not to point out that it is also a means whereby the community defends itself against outside interference. For a guest is a person who, while he must be entertained and cherished, is dependent upon the goodwill of his hosts. He has no rights and he can make no demands. On the other hand, the good name of the pueblo is his protection. For the sake of that, the members of the community prevent one another from taking advantage of him.



Excerpt from Kamo no Chōmei (1155-1216), An Account of a Ten-Foot-Square Hut (tr. Anthony H. Chambers):
When I came to live in this place, I thought that I would stay for only a short time, but already five years have passed. Gradually my temporary hut has come to feel like home as dead leaves lie deep on the eaves and moss grows on the foundation. When news of the capital happens to reach me, I learn that many of high rank have passed away since I secluded myself on this mountain. There is no way to know how many of lower rank have died. How many houses have been lost in the frequent fires? Only a temporary hut is peaceful and free of worry. It may be small, but it has a bed on which to lie at night and a place in which to sit by day. Nothing is lacking to shelter one person. The hermit crab prefers a small shell. This is because he knows himself. The osprey lives on rugged shores. The reason is that he fears people. I am like them. Knowing myself and knowing the world, I have no ambitions, I do not strive. I simply seek tranquillity and enjoy the absence of care.


Return to Ithaca

Homer, Odyssey 13.353-354 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Glad then was the much-enduring, noble Odysseus,
rejoicing in his own land, and he kissed the earth, the giver of grain.

γήθησέν τ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔπειτα πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
χαίρων ᾗ γαίῃ, κύσε δὲ ζείδωρον ἄρουραν.


Sadness Amidst Beauty

A sonnet by Luís de Camões (1524-1580), tr. William Baer:
The beauty of the sweet, fresh mountains here,
the shade of the green chestnut trees, the pace
of all the gently crawling streams, this place
where all one's sadness seems to disappear.

The hoarse sounds of the sea, the lands that lie
below, the sun hiding near the hills, the last
of the lingering cattle slowly moving past,
the clouds still gently warring in the sky.

But, finally, all these beauties of nature, pouring
forth their various splendors, only create
harsh fresh wounds since you're not here with me.

Without you, everything is disgusting, and boring;
without you, I feel, even within this great
natural happiness, the greatest possible misery.

A fermosura desta fresca serra
e a sombra dos verdes castanheiros,
o manso caminhar destes ribeiros,
donde toda a tristeza se desterra;

o rouco som do mar, a estranha terra,
o esconder do sol pelos outeiros,
o recolher dos gados derradeiros,
das nuvens pelo ar a branda guerra;

enfim, tudo o que a rara natureza
com tanta variedade nos of'rece,
me está, se não te vejo, magoando.

Sem ti, tudo me enoja e me avorrece;
sem ti, perpetuamente estou passando,
nas mores alegrias, mór tristeza.

Friday, February 15, 2019


Local Chauvinism

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 8-9:
The sentiment of attachment to the pueblo is counter-balanced, as might be expected, by a corresponding hostility towards neighbouring pueblos. Thus, for the Alcalareño, those of Jacinas are boastful and false, those of Montejaque cloddish and violent, those of Benalurín are mean, those of El Jaral drunken and always drawing their knives.
Id., p. 9:
This hostility finds expression in various customs. It is usual for the boys of a pueblo to object to the visits of forasteros—a word which I shall translate as "outsiders", since it means a person born elsewhere—for the purpose of courting one of their girls. In some places they follow the practice of ducking the visitor in the fountain when he first comes, but allowing him to come freely thereafter. In others, however, they ambush him and beat him up when ever they are able to catch him there. Two Alcalareños have had to break off their engagements on account of the rough treatment which they received in their fiancée's town.
Id., pp. 10-11:
The most proud saying of all comes from the town of Jimena, which challenges the rest of the world in terms of piteous contempt:
"Ay! que pena             "What a shame!
No ser de Jimena!"     Not to be from Jimena!"
But, typically, the neighbouring pueblos have found a line to add:
"Y arrastrarse el culo en la arena."
"And drag your arse along in the sand."
for the people of Jimena enjoy a local reputation for being short in the leg.
Id., p. 11:
The traditional fighting between two towns near Seville, Mairena and El Viso, is well known, though today it takes place only between the school-children of the two towns. At the fiesta of Haro in the Rioja, not many years ago, the bull-ring was festooned with an announcement reading: "A hearty welcome is extended to all outsiders with the exception of those from Logroño."

Pueblos are commonly linked in pairs, each one, supposedly, hating its rival above all others. Thus, El Jaral—Villa Faderique, Montejaque—Benaoján, Ubrique—Grazalema, even, on a far greater scale, Cádiz and Jerez.


Diabolical Smells

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XLVII (tr. Edith Grossman):
"Do not be surprised at this, Sancho my friend," responded Don Quixote, "because I can tell you that devils know a great deal, and although they bring odors with them, they themselves do not smell at all because they are spirits, and if they do smell, it cannot be of pleasant things, but only of things that are foul and putrid. The reason is that since they, wherever they may be, carry hell with them and cannot find any kind of relief from their torments, and a pleasant odor is something that brings joy and pleasure, it is not possible for them to have an agreeable smell. And so, if it seems to you that the demon you have mentioned smells of ambergris, either you are mistaken or he wants to deceive you by making you think he is not a demon."

No te maravilles deso, Sancho amigo —respondió don Quijote—; porque te hago saber que los diablos saben mucho, y, puesto que traigan olores consigo, ellos no huelen nada, porque son espíritus, y si huelen, no pueden oler cosas buenas, sino malas y hidiondas. Y la razón es que como ellos, dondequiera que están, traen el infierno consigo, y no pueden recebir género de alivio alguno en sus tormentos, y el buen olor sea cosa que deleita y contenta, no es posible que ellos huelan cosa buena; y si á ti te parece que ese demonio que dices huele a ámbar, ó tú te engañas ó él quiere engañarte con hacer que no le tengas por demonio.
Valerie Allen, On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 92, with note on p. 202:
The stage devils of medieval theater are notorious farters, frequently punctuating their exits offstage with a rasping fart. One demon took possession of a worthless fellow who mocked a sacred shrine.
Primoque nudato inguine incestavit aera, tum deinde crepitu ventris emisso turbavit auras.391

[And first with his privates exposed he befouled the atmosphere, then next having emitted a loud fart he disturbed the air.]
391. William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum: Libri quinque, ed. N.E.S.A. Hamilton (London: Longman & Co., Trübner, 1870), 5.275 (p. 438). See also Malcolm Jones, Secret Middle Ages (Stroud: Sutton, 2002), p. 276.
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Thursday, February 14, 2019


The Wisdom of the Ancients

Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), Hagakure, tr. Alexander Bennett (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), p. 44 (I.6):
We can tap into knowledge that serves to steer us away from egotism by studying the aphorisms and deeds of the ancients.
Id., p. 64 (I.44):
Listening to men and reading books helps complement your own good sense with the wisdom of the ancients.
Id., p. 114 (I.166):
Alas, there are no worthy men. Few pay attention to useful stories passed down from the great men of old, let alone engage in rigorous training to better themselves.


Divine Admonition

Homer, Odyssey 13.362 (Athena to Odysseus; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Be of good cheer, and let not these things distress your heart.

θάρσει, μή τοι ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ σῇσι μελόντων.


The Way That Historians Are Made

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), The Use of History (London: Hodder & Stoughton, Limited, 1946), pp. 42-43:
Any walk you choose to take can have a fascination for a cultivated mind. One would not be uncultivated for anything. For that way lies infinite boredom and dreariness of spirit. The truest thing—and the most useful—that ever Dean Inge said was that "the true intellectual is never bored." And what a strength that is when you come to think of it. A friend of mine, the Cornish antiquary and historian, Charles Henderson, had the habit from his school-days of walking or taking bus or train to some particular parish and then settling down upon it for the day, traversing it, following its boundaries, looking up everything of interest in it, camp or stone-circle, holy-well or chapel, villages and farms. Often it meant several visits, returning to the same parish. It was that that filled out and made real and concrete his remarkable knowledge of documents and deeds relating to the past. In this way he came to know not only every parish and church in Cornwall, but almost every farm and field. This is the way that historians are made. It could not be better put than by R.H. Tawney when he tells us that what economic history needs at present is not more documents but a pair of sturdy boots.

This advice is for current historians, all too many of whom need it or they would be more alive and readable than they are. But the pleasure and fun of it are for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Le chat mange le rat

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), A Cornish Childhood (London: Jonathan Cape, 1942), pp. 169-170:
That first French lesson was perhaps the chief difference that struck me in changing over from the elementary to the secondary school — a small symbol of the new world of intellectual interest that change was to lead to. It was an excitement and a pleasure from the first moment: I shall never forget that lesson, the first French words I learnt, the strangeness of the pronunciation. The first word — appropriately enough for a fanatical lover of cats from childhood — was 'le chat': pronounced like 'Shah' (as the Parisians impressed upon a visiting Shah of Persia in the eighties, by setting up a fearful miaowing and caterwauling in the streets: he thought it a form of greeting). It was very surprising and ridiculous that you didn't pronounce the 't' at the end of the word: that took some getting used to; I had to suppress a fit of giggles at its oddity. And the same with 'rat' — which was pronounced 'rah'. It was a little unbelievable: could it be that we were being had on? But no, impossible; whatever teachers said must ipso facto be right. So I accepted it on trust, and at the end of the lesson we had achieved our first French sentence:
Le chat mange le rat.
It was a new world opening before me indeed. I was thrilled, as never by any lesson before or since. It was as if I stood upon that peak in Darien and caught a glimpse of the Pacific. Coming home to dinner I trod on air: Le chat mange le rat, I said over and over to myself. My excitement was a right intuition, for though I had no conception of what it would lead to, that simple ridiculous sentence out of a French grammar was the narrow door which led to a whole world of thought and experience, only second to that occupied by my own language: to Daudet, Anatole France, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Gide, Valéry, Mauriac — something in that order — to Stendhal and Balzac, in the end to Proust and Flaubert.
With Rowse's delight in learning French, contrast the attitude of some present-day students in this horror story.



Aristotle, Politics 7.11.8-12 (1330b31-1331a18; tr. C.D.C. Reeve, with his notes):
Some people say54 that city-states that lay claim to virtue should not have walls. But this is a very old-fashioned notion. Especially when it is plain to see that city-states that pride themselves on not having walls are refuted by the facts.55 It may not be noble to seek safety behind fortified walls against an evenly matched or only slightly more numerous foe, but it can and does happen that the superior numbers of the attackers are too much for human virtue56 or the virtue of a small number of people. Hence if the city-state is to survive without suffering harm or arrogant treatment, it should be left to military expertise to determine what the most secure kind of fortified walls are for it to have, particularly now that the invention of projectiles and siege engines57 has reached such a high degree of precision. To claim that city-states should not have surrounding walls is like flattening the mountains and trying to make the territory easy to invade, or like not having walls for private houses, on the grounds that they make the inhabitants cowardly. Furthermore, we should not forget that the inhabitants of a city-state with surrounding walls can treat it either as having walls or as not having them, whereas the inhabitants of a city-state without walls lack this option. Given that this is how things stand, a city-state not only should have surrounding walls, it should take care to ensure that they both enhance the beauty of the city-state and satisfy military requirements, especially those brought to light by recent discoveries. For just as attackers are always busily concerned with new ways to get the better of city-states, so too, though some defensive devices have already been discovered, defenders should keep searching for and thinking out new ones. For when people are well prepared in the first place, no one even thinks of attacking them.

54. See Plato, Laws 778d-779b. The virtue in question is primarily courage (see 1331a6).

55. Probably an allusion to Sparta, which prided itself on having no walls, and suffered humiliating defeat in 369, when it was invaded by the Theban Epaminondas (1269b37).

56. The level of nonheroic virtue achievable by most humans (1295a25-31).

57. Catapults, siege towers, and battering rams had all been fairly recently introduced.
See Josiah Ober, Fortress Attica: Defense of the Athenian Land Frontier 404-322 B.C. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985), pp. 83-84.



Homer, Odyssey 9.27-28 (tr. Peter Green):
It's rough land, but fine for raising young men. Myself,
I can't think of a sweeter sight than one's own country.

τρηχεῖ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἀγαθὴ κουροτρόφος· οὔ τοι ἐγώ γε
ἧς γαίης δύναμαι γλυκερώτερον ἄλλο ἰδέσθαι.
Id., 13.242-247:
It's rough terrain, not fit for the driving of horses,
Yet not wholly worthless, even if lacking broad plains.
Grain grows there abundantly, wine too is a product,
there's always rain and dew to keep it fertile, it's good        245
pasture for goats and cattle, there's also fine ground cover
of every sort, together with all-year watering-places.

ἦ τοι μὲν τρηχεῖα καὶ οὐχ ἱππήλατός ἐστιν,
οὐδὲ λίην λυπρή, ἀτὰρ οὐδ᾽ εὐρεῖα τέτυκται.
ἐν μὲν γάρ οἱ σῖτος ἀθέσφατος, ἐν δέ τε οἶνος
γίγνεται· αἰεὶ δ᾽ ὄμβρος ἔχει τεθαλυῖά τ᾽ ἐέρση·        245
αἰγίβοτος δ᾽ ἀγαθὴ καὶ βούβοτος· ἔστι μὲν ὕλη
παντοίη, ἐν δ᾽ ἀρδμοὶ ἐπηετανοὶ παρέασι.
Related post: A Good Land.


Books and Reading

Chaucer, House of Fame 652-660:
For when thy labour doon al ys,
And hast ymad alle thy rekenynges,
Instede of reste and newe thynges,
Thou goost hom to thy hous anoon        655
And, also dombe as any stoon,
Thou sittest at another book,
Tyl fully daswed is thy look,
And lyvest thus as an heremyte,
Although thyn abstynence ys lyte.        660

655 anoon = at once
656 also = as
658 daswed = dazed
660 lyte = little
Chaucer, Legend of Good Women, Prologue 29-34:
And as for me, though that I konne but lyte,
On bokes for to rede I me delyte,        30
And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertely, that ther is game noon
That from my bokes maketh me to goon.

29 konne = know, lyte = little
31 yive = give
33 game = diversion


Pursuit of Perfection

Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), Hagakure, tr. Alexander Bennett (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), p. 65 (I.45):
Lord Yagyū once said, "I do not know how to defeat others. All I know is the path to defeat myself. Today one must be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today. The pursuit of perfection is a lifelong quest that has no end."
Id., p. 74 (I.59):
It is unwise to be fixated on a single point of completion. A man who has devoted himself to his studies and believes he has reached a consummate level will assume his training has finished, but this is erroneous. Devotion to the study of one's path—first acquiring the fundamentals, and then continuing to refine your knowledge and skills—is a lifelong pursuit with no end.
Id., p. 106 (I.138):
There is no point in one's training in which one reaches the end. The instant you think you have finished, you have already strayed from the path. Realize that nothing you do is perfect until you have taken your last breath...


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