Wednesday, January 23, 2019


The Greatest Delight

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 999 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
It is the greatest delight to see the faces of one's parents.

τὰ τῶν τεκόντων ὄμμαθ᾿ ἥδιστον βλέπειν.


The Devil in the Machine

John Aubrey (1626-1697), "Thomas Allen," Brief Lives:
He was generally acquainted, and every long vacation, he rode into the countrey to visitt his old acquaintance and patrones, to whom his great learning, mixt with much sweetnes of humour, rendred him very welcome. One time being at Hom Lacy in Herefordshire, at Mr. John Scudamore's (grandfather to the lord Scudamor), he happened to leave his watch in the chamber windowe—(watches were then rarities)—The maydes came in to make the bed, and hearing a thing in a case cry Tick, Tick, Tick, presently concluded that that was his Devill, and tooke it by the string with the tongues, and threw it out of the windowe into the mote (to drowne the Devill.) It so happened that the string hung on a sprig of an elder that grew out of the mote, and this confirmed them that 'twas the Devill. So the good old gentleman gott his watch again.
Hom = Holme; tongues = tongs.


Braggart Soldiers

Sallust, Jugurthine War 53.8 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Thereupon in place of fear a sudden joy arose. The exultant soldiers called out to one another, told of their exploits and heard the tales of others. Each man praised his own valiant deeds to the skies. For so it is with human affairs; in time of victory the very cowards may brag, while defeat discredits even the brave.

igitur pro metu repente gaudium exortum, milites alius alium laeti appellant, acta edocent atque audiunt, sua quisque fortia facta ad caelum fert. quippe res humanae ita sese habent: in victoria vel ignavis gloriari licet, advorsae res etiam bonos detrectant.

exortum codd.: mutatur Priscian (Grammatici Latini 3.296.7)
Prisciani Caesariensis Ars, Liber XVIII, Pars Altera, 2: Commento a cura di Elena Spangenberg Yanes (Hildesheim: Weidmann, 2017), p. 109:
In Sall. Iug. 53, 8 la variante priscianea mutatur per exortum dei codici sallustianni appare una lectio difficilior ed è sostenuta dal confronto con Iug. 83, 1 incerta pro certis mutare (vd. Koestermann 1971, p. 213). Ernout, Kurfess e Reynolds mettono a testo mutatur. Nitzschner 1884, pp. 96-97, ritiene, invece, che si tratti di un errore di memoria del grammatico.
Leighton D. Reynolds, "Experiences of an Editor of Classical Latin Texts," Revue d'histoire des textes 30 (2000) 1-15 (at 13):
I do not see how it is possible to form any general policy with regard to the ancient evidence. The ancient variant is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and each case must be judged on its merits and by the normal methods of textual criticism. There is a tendency to overvalue such 'venerable' variants; but, when one comes to think of it, the medieval tradition which has given us such a good text of Sallust must be full of venerable readings too.

I shall give just two examples:
Iug. 53.8 Igitur pro metu repente gaudium mutatur: milites alius alium laeti appellant.

mutatur Priscianus: exortum ω
The Romans suddenly realized that the troops approaching in the darkness were not the enemy, but their own comrades, and fear turned to joy. Priscian is quoting this passage precisely to illustrate the use of mutare pro. mutare fell out before milites through homoearcton and was replaced by the obvious stopgap exortum.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019



Du Fu (712-770), "The Four Pines," lines 17-18 (tr. Stephen Owen):
Observing things, I sigh at their decline,
but when it comes to these trees, they console my gloom.


A Debt Owed

Euripides, Andromache 1270-1272 (tr. Deborah Roberts):
Stop grieving on behalf of those who have died,
since this is the decree the gods have ordained
for all human beings, and death is what they owe.

παῦσαι δὲ λύπης τῶν τεθνηκότων ὕπερ·
πᾶσιν γὰρ ἀνθρώποισιν ἥδε πρὸς θεῶν
ψῆφος κέκρανται κατθανεῖν τ' ὀφείλεται.
Euripides, Alcestis 782-784 (tr. Moses Hadas and John McLean):
All men have to pay the debt of death,
and there is not a mortal who knows
whether he is going to be alive on the morrow.

βροτοῖς ἅπασι κατθανεῖν ὀφείλεται,
κοὐκ ἔστι θνητῶν ὅστις ἐξεπίσταται
τὴν αὔριον μέλλουσαν εἰ βιώσεται.
Greek Anthology 11.62, lines 1-2 (by Palladas; tr. W.R. Paton):
Death is a debt due by all men and no
mortal knows if he will be alive to-morrow.

πᾶσι θανεῖν μερόπεσσιν ὀφείλεται, οὐδέ τις ἐστὶν
    αὔριον εἰ ζήσει θνητὸς ἐπιστάμενος.



Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400), "Pardoner's Prologue," lines 93-94, Canterbury Tales:
Thus spitte I out my venim under hewe
Of holynesse, to seme holy and trewe.
This is easy to understand, but nevertheless here it is in modern English:
Thus I spit out my venom under hue
of holiness, to seem holy and true.
This style of preaching is still much in vogue.

Monday, January 21, 2019


Requirement for a Commentary

A.S. Hollis, ed., Ovid, Ars Amatoria, Book I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977; rpt. 1992), p. vii (Preface):
I remember him [R.G.M. Nisbet] saying that a commentary should not be duller than the text on which it is based...


Socrates Dancing

Xenophon, Symposium 2.15-19 (tr. O.J. Todd):
[15] At this point the boy performed a dance, eliciting from Socrates the remark, "Did you notice that, handsome as the boy is, he appears even handsomer in the poses of the dance than when he is at rest?"

"It looks to me," said Charmides, "as if you were puffing the dancing-master."

[16] "Assuredly," replied Socrates; "and I remarked something else, too,—that no part of his body was idle during the dance, but neck, legs, and hands were all active together. And that is the way a person must dance who intends to increase the suppleness of his body. And for myself," he continued, addressing the Syracusan, "I should be delighted to learn the figures from you."

"What use will you make of them?" the other asked.

"I will dance, by Zeus."

[17] This raised a general laugh; but Socrates, with a perfectly grave expression on his face, said: "You are laughing at me, are you? Is it because I want to exercise to better my health? Or because I want to take more pleasure in my food and my sleep? Or is it because I am eager for such exercises as these, not like the long-distance runners, who develop their legs at the expense of their shoulders, nor like the prize-fighters, who develop their shoulders but become thin-legged, but rather with a view to giving my body a symmetrical development by exercising it in every part?

[18] Or are you laughing because I shall not need to hunt up a partner to exercise with, or to strip, old as I am, in a crowd, but shall find a moderate-sized room large enough for me (just as but now this room was large enough for the lad here to get up a sweat in), and because in winter I shall exercise under cover, and when it is very hot, in the shade?

[19] Or is this what provokes your laughter, that I have an unduly large paunch and wish to reduce it? Don't you know that just the other day Charmides here caught me dancing early in the morning?"

"Indeed I did," said Charmides; "and at first I was dumbfounded and feared that you were going stark mad; but when I heard you say much the same things as you did just now, I myself went home, and although I did not dance, for I had never learned how, I practised shadow-boxing, for I knew how to do that."
In a detailed analysis of the scene, Bernhard Huss, "The Dancing Socrates and the Laughing Xenophon, or The Other Symposium," American Journal of Philology 120 (1999) 381-409, rpt. in Vivienne J. Gray, ed., Oxford Readings in Classical Studies: Xenophon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 257-282, concluded that "Sokrates never danced" (p. 263).

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Socrates at Aspasia's Home


This Generation

Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), "On Encountering Trouble," lines 89-96 (tr. Fusheng Wu):
Truly this generation are cunning artificers,
They reject rules to fashion their own measurements.
They disregard ruled lines to follow their crooked fancies,
And to emulate in flattery is their only principle.
But I am sick and sad at heart and stand irresolute:
I alone am at loss in this generation.
Yet I would rather quickly die and meet dissolution,
Before I ever would consent to ape their behavior.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Achsah's Action

Joint Committee on the New Translation of the Bible, The New English Bible: The Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), p. 307 (Joshua 15:18):
As she sat on the ass, she broke wind, and Caleb asked her, 'What did you mean by that?'
Id., p. 321 (Judges 1:14):
As she sat on the ass, she broke wind, and Caleb said, 'What did you mean by that?'
Godfrey R. Driver, "Problems of Interpretation in the Heptateuch," in Mélanges bibliques rédigés en l'honneur de André Robert (Paris: Bloud & Gay, 1957), pp. 66-76 (at 73-75; non vidi), proposed the translation "she broke wind."

Arthur Gibson, "ṣnḥ in Judges I 14: NEB and AV Translations," Vetus Testamentum 26.3 (July, 1976) 275-283, argued against it.




Amphora by Euthymides
(Munich, Antikensammlungen, inv. 2307)


See Jenifer Neils, "Portrait of an Artist: Euthymides, Son of Pollias," in Kristen Seaman and Peter Schultz, edd., Artists and Artistic Production in Ancient Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 23-36 (at 28, 31), and H. Engelmann, "'Wie nie Euphronios' (Euthymides, Amphora München 2307)," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 68 (1987) 129-134.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Poor Scholars

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), Hero and Leander I.471-472:
And to this day is every scholar poor,
Gross gold from them runs headlong to the boor.


Made of Clay

Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, Part II, Book 9, Chapter 4 (tr. Ioannis D. Evrigenis and Daniel Pellerin):
Nature raises families; the most natural state is therefore also one people, with one national character. Through the millennia, this national character is maintained within a people and can be developed most naturally if its native prince so desires, for a people is as much a plant of nature as a family, only with more branches. Nothing, then, seems to run so obviously counter to the purpose of governments as the unnatural expansion of states, the wild mixture of all types of races and nations under one scepter. The human scepter is much too weak and small for such contrary parts to be implanted into it; pasted together, they become a fragile machine called the machine of state, without inner life or sympathy of the parts for one another. States of this kind, which turn the name Father of the Fatherland into such a burden for the best of monarchs, appear in history like those symbols of the monarchies in the prophet's vision where the lion's head is united with the dragon's tail and the eagle's wings with the bear's claws into one unpatriotic state-structure. Like Trojan horses, such machines close ranks, vouching for each other's immortality, since without national character there is no life within them and only the curse of fortune could condemn the forcibly united to immortality. For the very statecraft that brought them into being is also the one that plays with peoples and human beings as with lifeless bodies. But history shows sufficiently that these instruments of human pride are made of clay, and like all clay on earth, they crumble and dissolve.

Die Natur erzieht Familien; der natürlichste Staat ist also auch ein Volk, mit einem Nationalcharakter. Jahrtausendelang erhält sich dieser in ihm und kann, wenn seinem mitgebornen Fürsten daran liegt, am natürlichsten ausgebildet werden; denn ein Volk ist sowohl eine Pflanze der Natur als eine Familie, nur jenes mit mehreren Zweigen. Nichts scheint also dem Zweck der Regierungen so offenbar entgegen als die unnatürliche Vergrößerung der Staaten, die wilde Vermischung der Menschengattungen und Nationen unter einen Zepter. Der Menschenzepter ist viel zu schwach und klein, daß so widersinnige Teile in ihn eingeimpft werden könnten; zusammengeleimt werden sie also in eine brechliche Maschine, die man Staatsmaschine nennet, ohne inneres Leben und Sympathie der Teile gegeneinander. Reiche dieser Art, die dem besten Monarchen den Namen Vater des Vaterlandes so schwer machen, erscheinen in der Geschichte wie jene Symbole der Monarchien im Traumbilde des Propheten, wo sich das Löwenhaupt mit dem Drachenschweif und der Adlersflügel mit dem Bärenfuß zu einem unpatriotischen Staatsgebilde vereinigt Wie trojanische Rosse rücken solche Maschinen zusammen, sich einander die Unsterblichkeit verbürgend, da doch ohne Nationalcharakter kein Leben in ihnen ist und für die Zusammengezwungenen nur der Fluch des Schicksals sie zur Unsterblichkeit verdammen könnte; denn eben die Staatskunst, die sie hervorbrachte, ist auch die, die mit Völkern und Menschen als mit leblosen Körpern spielet. Aber die Geschichte zeigt gnugsam, daß diese Werkzeuge des menschlichen Stolzes von Ton sind und wie aller Ton auf der Erde zerbrechen oder zerfließen.
Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism (New York: Basic Books, 2018), pp. 112-113:
In this passage, Herder describes the imperial state as nothing other than a "curse" to all involved. According to this point of view, human government is inherently limited in what it can attain, and can be strong and effective only when it relies on the "bonds of sentiment" that unite a single nation in a national state whose leaders are drawn from the people. The "unnatural enlargement of states," which forces many nations together under a single rule, is not based on such bonds of sentiment. It only increases the burdens and difficulties piled on the state as "incongruous parts" that are not bound together by mutual loyalty are added to it, until eventually it survives only as a "patched up contraption" groaning under the weight of these troubles.



Francis Grose (1731-1791), A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd ed. (London: S. Hooper, 1788), unpaginated:
FART CATCHER. A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress.

George Cardinal Pell, with cappa magna

Pedosequus is my own coinage, suggested by the following:
  1. Latin pĕdĭsĕquus = footman, man-servant, page
  2. Latin pēdo = break wind
  3. Greek παῖς, παιδός = child, boy (cf. pedophile and its apocopated form pedo)

Friday, January 18, 2019


Wish List

John Ruskin, letter to Charles Eliot Norton (December 28, 1858):
I want to get all the Titians—Tintorets—Paul Veroneses, Turners and Sir Joshuas—in the world—into one great fireproof Gothic gallery of marble and serpentine. I want to get them all perfectly engraved. I want to go and draw all the subjects of Turner's 19,000 sketches in Switzerland & Italy elaborated out myself. I want to get everybody a dinner who has'nt got one. I want to macadamize some new roads to heaven with broken fool's heads. I want to hang up some knaves out of the way: not that I've any dislike to them; but I think it would be wholesome for them; and for other people, and that they would make good crow's meat. I want to play all day long and arrange my cabinet of minerals with new white wool. I want somebody to nurse me when I'm tired. I want Turner's pictures not to fade. I want to be able to draw clouds, and to understand how they go—and I can't make them stand still—nor understand them—They all go sideways—πλάγιαι—(what a fellow that Aristophanes was—and and yet to be always in the wrong, in the Main—except in his love for Aeschylus and the country—Did ever a worthy man do so much mischief on the face of the Earth?) Farther, I want to make the Italians industrious—the Americans quiet;—the Swiss Romantic;—the Roman Catholics Rational—and the English Parliament honest—and I can't do anything and don't understand what I was born for.
Some items on Ruskin's wish list overlap with items on mine.


The Hyaenas

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Hyaenas," The Years Between (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1919), pp. 66-67:
After the burial-parties leave
    And the baffled kites have fled;
The wise hyaenas come out at eve
    To take account of our dead.

How he died and why he died
    Troubles them not a whit.
They snout the bushes and stones aside
    And dig till they come to it.

They are only resolute they shall eat
    That they and their mates may thrive,
And they know that the dead are safer meat
    Than the weakest thing alive.

(For a goat may butt, and a worm may sting,
    And a child will sometimes stand;
But a poor dead soldier of the King
    Can never lift a hand.)

They whoop and halloo and scatter the dirt
    Until their tushes white
Take good hold in the army shirt,
    And tug the corpse to light,

And the pitiful face is shewn again
    For an instant ere they close;
But it is not discovered to living men—
    Only to God and to those

Who, being soulless, are free from shame,
    Whatever meat they may find.
Nor do they defile the dead man's name—
    That is reserved for his kind.


More Obvious to the Nose Than Ears

Francis Grose (1731-1791), A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd ed. (London: S. Hooper, 1788), unpaginated:
FICE, or FOYSE. A small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap dogs. See FIZZLE.
Related posts:



The Academic Study of Literature

Michel Houellebecq, Submission, Part I (tr. Lorin Stein):
The academic study of literature leads basically nowhere, as we all know, unless you happen to be an especially gifted student, in which case it prepares you for a career teaching the academic study of literature — it is, in other words, a rather farcical system that exists solely to replicate itself and yet manages to fail more than 95 per cent of the time.

Les études universitaires dans le domaine des lettres ne conduisent comme on le sait à peu près à rien, sinon pour les étudiants les plus doués à une carrière d'enseignement universitaire dans le domaine des lettres — on a en somme la situation plutôt cocasse d'un système n'ayant d'autre objectif que sa propre reproduction, assorti d'un taux de déchet supérieur à 95 %.
I'd never felt the slightest vocation for teaching — and my fifteen years as a teacher had only confirmed that initial lack of calling. What little private tutoring I'd done, to raise my standard of living, soon convinced me that the transmission of knowledge was generally impossible, the variance of intelligence extreme, and that nothing could undo or even mitigate this basic inequality. Worse, maybe, I didn't like young people and never had, even when I might have been numbered among them.

Je n'avais jamais eu la moindre vocation pour l'enseignement — et, quinze ans plus tard, ma carrière n'avait fait que confirmer cette absence de vocation initiale. Quelques cours particuliers donnés dans l'espoir d'améliorer mon niveau de vie m'avaient très tôt convaincu que la transmission du savoir était la plupart du temps impossible; la diversité des intelligences, extrême; et que rien ne pouvait supprimer ni même atténuer cette inégalité fondamentale. Peut-être plus grave encore, je n'aimais pas les jeunes — et je ne les avais jamais aimés, même du temps où je pouvais être considéré comme faisant partie de leurs rangs.



Sallust, Jugurthine War 41.5 (tr. William W. Batstone):
For the aristocracy twisted their 'dignity' and the people twisted 'liberty' towards their desires; every man acted on his own behalf, stealing, robbing, plundering. In this way all political life was torn apart between two parties, and the Republic, which had been our common ground, was mutilated.

namque coepere nobilitas dignitatem, populus libertatem in libidinem vertere, sibi quisque ducere, trahere, rapere. ita omnia in duas partis abstracta sunt, res publica, quae media fuerat, dilacerata.
See D.C. Earl, The Political Thought of Sallust (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), pp. 53-57.

Id. 41.9:
And so, joined with power, greed without moderation or measure invaded, polluted, and devastated everything, considered nothing valuable or sacred, until it brought about its own collapse.

ita cum potentia avaritia sine modo modestiaque invadere, polluere et vastare omnia, nihil pensi neque sancti habere, quoad semet ipsa praecipitavit.
Id. 42.4:
In general, this is what destroys great states: one group wants to overcome the other in any possible way and then to take a bitter vengeance on the defeated.

quae res plerumque magnas civitatis pessum dedit, dum alteri alteros vincere quovis modo et victos acerbius ulcisci volunt.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Burckhardt's Philosophy

H.R. Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), "The Faustian Historian: Jacob Burckhardt," Historical Essays (London: Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1963), pp. 273-278 (at 275):
For if one looks for the heart of Burckhardt's philosophy, it always comes back to this: civilisation is a delicate and precarious thing which only an educated and perhaps unscrupulously self-preserving hierarchy can protect against the numerical revolt of the masses with their materialism, their indifference to liberty, their ready surrender to demagogic power; and the crises of civilisation consist in precisely that revolt of the masses which, however, can never prevail against the strength of conservative institutions unless it is aided from within by moral and intellectual decay.


The Best Part of Waking Up

John Ruskin, letter to Charles Eliot Norton (October 5, 1876, from Venice):
I wake as a matter of course, about half-past five, and get up and go out on my balcony in my nightgown to see if there's going to be a nice dawn.

That's the view I have from it—with the pretty traceried balcony of the Contarini Fasan next door. Generally there is a good dawn (nothing but sunshine and moonlight for the last month). At six I get up, and dress, with, occasionally, balcony interludes but always get to my writing table at seven, where, by scolding and paying, I secure my punctual cup of coffee, and do a bit of the Laws of Plato to build the day on. I find Jowett's translation is good for nothing and shall do one myself, as I've intended these fifteen years.

Charles Spencelayh, Morning Chapter

Related post: Necessary to My Existence.



Du Fu (712-770), "Hiding My Traces," last two lines (tr. Stephen Owen):
May I attain a hundred years of general drunkenness
and not comb my hair for a whole month.


Charlatans in Charge

Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.7.5 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
The man who persuades you to lend him money or goods and then keeps them is without doubt a rogue; but much the greatest rogue of all is the man who has gulled his city into the belief that he is fit to direct it.

ἀπατεῶνα δ' ἐκάλει οὐ μικρὸν μὲν οὐδ' εἴ τις ἀργύριον ἢ σκεῦος παρά του πειθοῖ λαβὼν ἀποστεροίη, πολὺ δὲ μέγιστον ὅστις μηδενὸς ἄξιος ὢν ἐξηπατήκοι πείθων ὡς ἱκανὸς εἴη τῆς πόλεως ἡγεῖσθαι.
Marchant's translation omits μηδενὸς ἄξιος ὢν. The translation of Hugh Tredennick (rev. Robin Waterfield) is closer to the Greek:
It was no slight deception, he said, even to deprive another person by persuasion of a sum of money or an article of value, but it was the grossest deception of all for a good-for-nothing person to convey the false impression that he was capable of directing the State.



The word corybungus isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Albert Barrère and Charles G. Leland, A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant, Vol. I (London: Ballantyne Press, 1889), p. 274:
Corybungus (pugilistic), backside.
History of the Great International Contest between Heenan and Sayers (London: George Newbold, 1860), p. 163 (describing the "Fight between Tom Sayers and George Sims, for £75, (£50 to £25) on Tuesday, the 28th of February, 1854, at Longreach"):
Round 1.—Sims, although much taller than Sayers, seemed quite a lath before him, and as soon as he held up his hands, displayed such extreme awkwardness that it was evidently "sovereigns to sassingers" on Sayers, and Dan Dismore immediately offered 4 to 1 on him, which was taken by Jem Burn on the off chance. Sims, after a little unartistic squaring, lunged out awkwardly, and caught Tom on the chest with his left. Tom, who was evidently waiting to find out what his adversary could do, returned smartly on the gob, and in getting back, fell on his corybungus.
Sassinger (meaning sausage) isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary either.


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