Friday, December 14, 2018


Old Peasant with Cow

Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, tr. Alan Shapiro (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), pp. 289-290:

                Fig. 226. Old peasant with cow before a rustic sanctuary. The
                aboriginal piety of one's ancestors was sought in the country,
                among the simple shepherds and peasants.

No less dogmatic in its own way is a fine, small relief in Munich (fig. 226). Amid this ostensibly innocent and loving view into a world of personal fulfillment, there is scarcely a single detail that does not function like a little didactic signpost. An old peasant drives his cattle to market. But unlike Hellenistic artists, whose detached studies of half-starved, scruffy fishermen and peasants bore a distinctly negative connotation, our sculptor is at great pains to show how the farmer prospers. His well-nourished cow carries two fat sheep, while the old man himself carries a hare over his shoulder and originally held a fruit basket. This is all portrayed as the reward not so much for hard work, but rather for the proper way of life. The background is dominated by an ancient sanctuary. We can make out the wall and gate of the sacred precinct, an altar with torch and cult vessels before it, and, in the distance, a small shrine of Priapus. From the middle of this round structure of marble ashlar blocks, a pillar soars up, supporting the Dionysiac grain basket with mystic tokens, the phallus, and bunches of fruit. As if this were not enough, the ancient tree, which has long ago already grown up through the gate, now miraculously spreads its fresh, luxuriant oak branches precisely over the holy objects. In the decaying state of the sanctuary we may suspect an allusion to the deserta sacraria (Propertius 3.13.47), which—until Augustus appeared on the scene—were tended to only by the unspoiled farmers and shepherds. The iconography of a scene like this is no less complex and richly textured than the bucolic imagery of Augustan poets.
The relief is in Munich at the Glyptothek, inv. 455.

John Burroughs (1837-1921), "Phases of Farm Life," Signs and Seasons (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1887), pp. 243-269 (at 262):
Indeed, all the ways and doings of cattle are pleasant to look upon, whether grazing in the pasture, or browsing in the woods, or ruminating under the trees, or feeding in the stall, or reposing upon the knolls. There is virtue in the cow; she is full of goodness; a wholesome odor exhales from her; the whole landscape looks out of her soft eyes; the quality and the aroma of miles of meadow and pasture lands are in her presence and products. I had rather have the care of cattle than be the keeper of the great seal of the nation. Where the cow is, there is Arcadia; so far as her influence prevails, there is contentment, humility, and sweet, homely life.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


A World of Peace and Calm

Naples, Museo Nazionale inv. 147501

Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, tr. Alan Shapiro (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), pp. 285-287:
Pietas is also the principal message of the novel landscape scenes with predominantly sacred and bucolic subject matter that were introduced along with the new decorative system and appear on many walls of the Candelabra Style (fig. 224c). These carry the viewer off into a world of peace and calm. Meadows and ancient trees, rocks and streams, here and there fishermen or shepherds with their flocks, as well as satyrs and nymphs, evoke thoughts of the carefree life in "unspoiled nature," though in reality the compositions consist of parklike settings with garden architecture, little temples and colonnades, even villas in the background. The focal point is always an artfully constructed shrine, with small sanctuaries, votive offerings, and statues of the gods, before which stand worshippers performing a sacrifice. Of the latter some are simple country folk, others festively attired priestesses. In this setting even the satyrs leave their maenads unmolested and instead piously bring offerings to Dionysus or Priapus.

The pastoral idyll was in fact already part of the thematic repertoire of earlier wall painting, but merely as a genre scene, one of several kinds of landscape. Now it becomes the principal subject, and always associated with statues of divinities, altars, votives, and cult activities. At least as early as Vergil's poetry the bucolic world had been burdened with "political" symbolism. In the Georgics, the simple life of Romulus and his shepherds, its unspoiled piety, is celebrated. For other Augustan poets as well, the pas­toral idyll always represents a longing for escape from city life, with its daily stress, ostentation, and moral decay (e.g., Horace Epodes 2.1.140). Ever since the happy shepherd and his peacefully grazing flock had become symbols of the saeculum aureum, visual imagery focused on the praise of simplicity and unaffected piety, turning the subject into a deliberate metaphor. We need only recall the grazing animals in the Pax relief on the Ara Pacis (cf. fig. 136).

The little landscapes are remarkably constructed. The individual elements do not compose a unified pictorial space, but are simply set beside one another, as in Chinese landscape painting. As a result the views have a peculiar, floating quality, and the lack of a frame gives them the character of a vision or epiphany. Artists were more concerned with communicating a certain atmosphere than with rendering specific details.

But these new idylls are full of contradictions. In this highly sophisticated society, sated in luxury, painters could only imagine the simple pastoral life against a background of elegant parks and villas. The simple stone altar stands in front of extravagant and exotic religious architecture and lavish votive offerings. These views of country landscape never reveal Roman peasants at work or the fertile Italian soil so rapturously celebrated by Vergil. We see only satyrs vintaging, not men and women. This vision of agriculture is unencumbered by the Augustan moral campaign, which only succeeded in redefining the imagery of escape into a world of otium. In place of the almost palpable luxury of the Late Republic, we are presented with nostalgic visions combining the very real urge for a quiet weekend in the country villa with the imagined longing for a simpler and harmonious way of life.


A Sip

Du Fu (712-770), "Expressing My Heart by My Deck on the Water," II, lines 7-8, in The Poetry of Du Fu. Translated and Edited by Stephen Owen (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), vol. 3, p. 19:
I take this shallow trickle of ale,
deeply dependent on it to see me through this life.



Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Pirates in England":
(SAXON INVASION, A.D. 400–600)

When Rome was rotten-ripe to her fall,
    And the sceptre passed from her hand,
The pestilent Picts leaped over the wall
    To harry the English land.

The little dark men of the mountain and waste,        5
    So quick to laughter and tears,
They came panting with hate and haste
    For the loot of five hundred years.

They killed the trader, they sacked the shops,
    They ruined temple and town—        10
They swept like wolves through the standing crops
    Crying that Rome was down.

They wiped out all that they could find
    Of beauty and strength and worth,
But they could not wipe out the Viking's Wind,        15
    That brings the ships from the North.

They could not wipe out the North-East gales,
    Nor what those gales set free—
The pirate ships with their close-reefed sails,
    Leaping from sea to sea.        20

They had forgotten the shield-hung hull
    Seen nearer and more plain,
Dipping into the troughs like a gull,
    And gull-like rising again—

The painted eyes that glare and frown,        25
    In the high snake-headed stem,
Searching the beach while her sail comes down,
    They had forgotten them!

There was no Count of the Saxon Shore
    To meet her hand to hand,        30
As she took the beach with a grind and a roar,
    And the pirates rushed inland.

4 English: British in C.R.L. Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling, A School History of England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911), p. 26.



Plutarch, On Superstition 4 (= Moralia 166 E - 167 A; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, with his note):
"In death is the end of life for all men,"a but not the end of superstition; for superstition transcends the limits of life into the far beyond, making fear to endure longer than life, and connecting with death the thought of undying evils, and holding fast to the opinion, at the moment of ceasing from trouble, that now is the beginning of those that never cease. The abysmal gates of the nether world swing open, rivers of fire and offshoots of the Styx are mingled together, darkness is crowded with spectres of many fantastic shapes which beset their victim with grim visages and piteous voices, and, besides these, judges and torturers and yawning gulfs and deep recesses teeming with unnumbered woes.

a From Demosthenes, Or. xviii. (On the Crown), 97; quoted again in Moralia, 333 c.

"πέρας ἐστὶ τοῦ βίου πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὁ θάνατος," τῆς δὲ δεισιδαιμονίας οὐδ᾿ οὗτος, ἀλλ᾿ ὑπερβάλλει τοὺς ὅρους ἐπέκεινα τοῦ ζῆν, μακρότερον τοῦ βίου ποιοῦσα τὸν φόβον καὶ συνάπτουσα τῷ θανάτῳ κακῶν ἐπίνοιαν ἀθανάτων, καὶ ὅτε παύεται πραγμάτων, ἄρχεσθαι δοκοῦσα μὴ παυομένων. Ἅιδου τινὲς ἀνοίγονται πύλαι βαθεῖαι, καὶ ποταμοὶ πυρὸς ὁμοῦ καὶ Στυγὸς ἀπορρῶγες ἀνακεράννυνται, καὶ σκότος ἐμπίπλαται πολυφαντάστων εἰδώλων τινῶν χαλεπὰς μὲν ὄψεις οἰκτρὰς δὲ φωνὰς ἐπιφερόντων, δικασταὶ δὲ καὶ κολασταὶ καὶ χάσματα καὶ μυχοὶ μυρίων κακῶν γέμοντες.
Small potatoes compared with the hell imagined by the sadistic Rev. J. Furniss, C.SS.R., The Sight of Hell (Dublin: James Duffy and Co., Ltd., 1874 = Books for Children and Young Persons, X), Chapter XVIII:
Little child, if you go to Hell, there will be a devil at your side to strike you. He will go on striking you every minute for ever and ever, without ever stopping.
Id. (Chapter XX):
Now look at that body, lying on the bed of fire. All the body is salted with fire. The fire burns through every bone and every muscle. Every nerve is trembling and quivering with the sharp fire. The fire rages inside the skull, it shoots out through the eyes, it drops out through the ears, it roars in the throat as it roars up a chimney. So will mortal sin be punished.
Id. (Chapter XXI):
St. Teresa says that she found the entrance into Hell filled with these venomous insects. If you cannot bear the sight of ugly vermin and creeping things on the earth, will you be content with the sight of the venomous things in Hell, which are a million times worse? The bite or the pricking of one insect on the earth sometimes keeps you awake, and torments you for hours. How will you feel in Hell, when millions of them make their dwelling-place in your mouth, and ears, and eyes, and creep all over you, and sting you with their deadly stings through all eternity? You will not then be able to help yourself or send them away because you cannot stir hand or foot.
For even worse, see Chapter XXVII. The Sight of Hell was recently reprinted by "Catholic Way Publishing. Publishers of Quality Catholic Paperbacks."


A Precious Relic of Indo-European Times

Christopher Stray, "Flying at dusk: the 1906 praelections," in The Owl of Minerva: The Cambridge Praelections of 1906, ed. Christopher Stray (Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society, 2005), pp. 1-12 (at 4, footnote omitted):
At the other extreme, [A.W.] Verrall was caricatured in print as well as visually: H.R. Tottenham of St John's College — who had described Verrall as 'splendide emendax' — published 'Notes on an old world play' in which Punch and Judy are analysed in characteristically Verrallian fashion.
[Harry Rede Tottenham (1856-1937),] "Notes on an Old-World Play," The Cambridge Review, Vol. II, No. 40 (March 9, 1881) 219-220:
Now that we have all been hearing so much of the Agamemnon and of Greek Drama, it seems a fitting occasion for me to make public some notes of an Old-World Play, at which I have lately had the privilege of attending.

I was walking down the street the other day, when suddenly before me I saw a small wooden stage, and standing, or rather reclining, on the proscenium appeared a grotesque figure. On approaching I found that the play was just going to commence, and I began to note the details; the orchestra, with no doubt the thymele,—contrary, I believe, to classical custom—was situated beneath the stage, and screened from view by a green baize curtain, nor was I at a loss to understand the reason, when to my astonishment I distinctly made out that the strains were those of the enervating Mixolydian measure, which it is to be hoped our Rulers will soon banish from the city, together with Compulsory Greek, and everything else, which gives us an unworthy conception of the gods.

The play, I soon saw, was a precious relic of Indo-European times; the very names were a sufficient index. The hero is called Punch, in which word who can fail to trace the nasalisation of the root, which appears in Latin as PUG, and signifies "to strike" a name amply justified by the sequel? though I believe myself that it has here the general sense of "Warrior," while in Judy (root YU, cf. con-jux) we have the typical wife. Here then is the primeval idea of the Family—the Warrior and his Spouse. All is peace, but it is not long to last; a deep spirit of world-annihilation (Welt-Vernichtung) comes over Punch, and in a moment of recklessness he dashes his baby from the topmost battlement, and slays with the strokes of his club the wife of his bosom. It were long to tell of all the woes that follow from this Primeval Atê of the House, how the Doctor, the Beadle, and the Executioner fall victims to the Hero's wrath; but there is one character, whom we must discuss: he is described as a Clown, and is for ever, under various forms, torturing the otherwise unconquerable Punch, but disappears at the latter's final apotheosis. May he be the Nemesis, which is provoked by the spilling of Family Blood, and is ever ready, like a foul bird, to swoop down upon the head of the devoted warrior? Only he doesn't swoop, and Punch too wears a curious conical cap to prevent any unpleasant results (cf. the halos of medieval saints, and Paley in loc.) I have since thought, from the apparent comicality of some of his doings, that he may be the Protean YA himself. I do not insist upon this, but merely throw it out tentatively, and, as I shall probably have changed my opinion on all these matters before next lecture, you had better not put it down.

But what I want to point out is the insight we may gain from this play into the manners and customs of our ancestors. Let us then see what we can learn from it of the habits of those dwellers of old on the central tableland of the festive Hindu-Kush, to whom we are all so much indebted for their happy thought of continuing the Indo-European race. "Our ancestors" then, to quote from a well-known work on Etymology, "would seem to have been troubled by" babies. They had learned the use of the stick, an accomplishment, which, like Max Muller's root AR, has since travelled "from India to Ireland." They had domesticated the Dog, though he had hardly arrived at that stage of devotion, which Darwin has compared with our emotion of worship. They had in fact reached a high pitch of civilisation: beadles and gallows were familiar sights to the Indo-European gamin. The drink of the soberer sort was MADHU, or mead, while the gay young men preferred a modest soda and split-A. They were a many-sided people; in fact from their arrogating to themselves the title of Arya, their enemies thought that they had too much of that useful quality concealed about their persons. Oh, but it was a merry life they led, tending their flocks, and inventing words! Think of the triumph of the mad wit, who started the root VAS with three distinct meanings, so that when one Indo-European said to another, "in a waggishnesse," "I'll have your VAS," the second did not know, whether it was his house, his fire-place, or his waistcoat that was threatened. This must have led to much drollery, and subsequent punching of heads. But space fails me to tell of all their social aspects, of the traces of the "original Kankan," (cf. Peile, 2nd edit. p. 383.) too soon, alas! corrupted by an improper labialism, or of the assemblies of the chiefs, where, at least, we know Grimm's Law was passed by a large majority, though the Teutonic Irreconcilables voted solid against one clause. Their religion would seem to have been of that joyous bright Greek type, (so different to the brooding Semitic element in our own,) which saw no harm in anything in particular, and didn't stick at it, when it did; but I have developed this point later. I trust however that this is sufficient to shew that the Indo-European is no mere abstraction of the study, but that they were a real people, as large as life, and twice as natural.

With regard to the date of the drama, I must confess that I have arrived at only a rough approximation; it is in fact quite possible that we have here, confused together, a Punchiad and a Clowniad of two perfectly distinct authors. However, leaving such matters to be decided by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Paley, I shall treat it as a systematic whole, and judging from internal evidence, I should place it somewhere between the times of the Cavemen, about B.C. 100,000 I am told (but I am unfortunately no geologist myself), and the age of Aeschylus and Sophokles, say B.C. 470. That it is not earlier than the first date seems certain from the sanctity of the marriage-tie, and other evidences of civilisation in the piece, while, that it is not later than the second, is amply proved by the fact that there is no trace throughout of a tritagônistês, for the baby was, in those happy times, a mere kôphon prosôpon, while Toby we may consider a parachorêgêma, like the pigs in the Acharnians, only more adapted to primeval taste, and less likely to be expunged by the Censor of Plays. Think of the sleepless nights that functionary must have passed, in determining the exact length of the frill round Toby's neck, for the morals (he felt) of the Indo-European public must be preserved.

Turn we however from these dry details to observe the beauties of the piece, and they are many; but I will ask you especially to note four points. In the first place mark the essentially tragic situation. It has been well said, with reference to the Antigone, that the highest possibilities of tragedy are reached, when we have before us a conflict, in which both parties can claim the right on their side. And is not this the case here? For who is there, at least what bachelor among us, who does not feel that the first act of our hero, from which springs every succeeding catastrophe, is a righteous act? (Cf. Malthus on Population, passim). Then consider the masterly blending of the comic with the tragic element. This is a point, which the Greek tragedians did not think unworthy of their attention. For instance, in the Choephoroe, think how our feelings are worked up to the highest pitch of excitement, as we watch Electra recognising her long-lost brother by the simple fact of their wearing the same sized boots (I am afraid, by the way, her feet must have been a bitter detestation to beetles), and by his happy fore-thought in putting on the very garment, in which he was carried out of the country, a baby-in-arms, some years before. This last fact, I must confess, has always been a difficulty to me; the climate of Greece was of course warmer than our own, but still where were the Bowmen? Think, I say, when our hearts have been thrilled by such scenes as these, what a relief it is to listen to the naïve revelations of the prattling nurse! Look once more at the truly Sophoklean Irony of some of the situations; listen to Punch, as he sings his song of triumph, while behind him stands the Form, visible to the spectators, though unseen by him, with staff upraised, ready to fell him to the ground. I doubt if a parallel to this could be found, except in the Oedipus of the Prince of Tragedy, or Mr. Caldecott's prematurely triumphant dog. Do you love the Pathetic? Then gaze with me awhile on the prostrate form of the hero, while the skilled leech bends over him, exhausting all the teachings of his art. The dialogue is indeed hard to catch, but may we not suppose that he is uttering some such words as those, which have gone to the hearts of so many: "when the cold gets up to his nose (says he) τότε οἰχήσεται—our friend will be gone?" But, as has been well observed on the parallel passage, this is a scene, which we hardly care to make the field for mere verbal criticism.

A word, then, before we have done, on the moral of the play. Though, as to its exact scope and meaning, there are considerable difficulties in the way of interpretation, I have a decided opinion of my own on them. Mere opinion, however, as we know, may be true or false. This is unfortunately hardly the place to enter on this interesting psychological question, or I could tell you of a friend of mine, who, when returning home after dinner, saw under a lamp the figure of a proctor, (probably placed there by some University), and being uncertain whether it was a man or a statue, he not only formed an incorrect opinion about it, but, being very drunk at the time, his opinion became a spoken proposition, and a very blasphemous proposition at that.

But let that pass. My opinion, for whatever it is worth, is that in this drama we have a type of the purification of the human soul, till, as personified in Punch, it utters its triumphant cry of victory over the conquered passions and distractions of this world of sense. In the murder, then, of (1) Judy and the child, (2) the Doctor, and (3) the Executioner, I seem to see the story of the struggle of the soul to free itself from the bonds of (a) family, (b) social, and (c) political ties, and in self-centred exaltation to rise to communion with the great Sky-Father.

[Note here, for future use, that, according to Mommsen, the Roman, like the modern country gentleman, said his prayers into his hat, while the Greek climbed the handiest eminence, and looked up fearlessly, with nothing between him and the azure of a Southern sky, an azure as unclouded as the countless ripple of his own sweet tongue. I believe I have got this last metaphor wrong end on, but it will do either way,—a regular amphisbaena among metaphors.]

And now, my reader, it is time that we be going on our several ways, I to my every-day work, and you to prepare for making acquaintance with Ajax, Electra, Philoctetes, Oedipus,—and others likely to pay,—at the bidding of the Eleven; and which of us will fare the better, especially under the new regulations, is known only to the Syndics.


P.S.—Go, my wanton little book, though about to be introduced to pepper, frankincense, and mackerel, and whatsoever is wrapped up in foolish writings, and to find out—alas, too late!—that it is in vain for such a disreputable young party to knock for re-admittance at the gate of this religious Foundation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018



Thucydides 6.39.2 (Athenagoras speaking to the Syracusans; tr. C.F. Smith):
An oligarchy, on the other hand, gives the many a share of the dangers, but of the advantages it not merely claims the lion's share, but even takes and keeps all.

ὀλιγαρχία δὲ τῶν μὲν κινδύνων τοῖς πολλοῖς μεταδίδωσι, τῶν δ᾿ ὠφελίμων οὐ πλεονεκτεῖ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ξύμπαντ᾿ ἀφελομένη ἔχει.


Thus the Mighty Falls

Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, IV.cvii:
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown
Matted and massed together—hillocks heaped
On what were chambers—arch crushed, column strown
In fragments—choked up vaults, and frescos steeped
In subterranean damps, where the owl peeped,
Deeming it midnight:—Temples—Baths—or Halls?
Pronounce who can: for all that Learning reaped
From her research hath been, that these are walls—
Behold the Imperial Mount! 'tis thus the Mighty falls.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Our Ancestors Were Not Fools

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Uses of Reading," A Book of Words (London: Macmillan and Company, 1938), pp. 73-91 (at 83):
I have spoken already of the advisability of a man knowing something about the classics. I have no Greek. Mine stopped at a little Greek Testament on Monday morning by gaslight before breakfast, and I depend for the rest of my knowledge on Bohn's cribs. But I got the ordinary allowance of Latin, ending with Virgil and Horace — specially Horace. I don't pretend that I liked it, any more than I should have liked anything else that purported to be education, but looking back at it now, it strikes me as valuable. I believe in the importance of a man getting some classics ground into him in his youth even though, as far as his elders can see (but I don't think one's elders are quite the judges) there is no visible result.
Id. (at 85-86):
I attach a certain amount of importance to the spirit of a few old Latin tags and quotations. Some of them, not more than three lines long, give one the very essence of what a man ought to try to do. Others, equally short, let you understand once and for all, the things that a man should not do — under any circumstances. There are others — bits of odes from Horace, they happen to be in my case — that make one realise in later life as no other words in any other tongue can, the brotherhood of mankind in time of sorrow or affliction. But men say that one can get the same stuff in an easier way and in a living tongue. They say there is no sense in dragging men up and down through grammar and construe for years and years, when at the last, all they can produce ("produce" is a good word) is a translation that would make Virgil, Horace or Cicero turn in their graves. Here is my defence of this alleged wicked waste of time. The reason why one has to parse and construe and grind at the dead tongues in which certain ideas are expressed, is not for the sake of what is called intellectual training — that may be given in other ways — but because only in that tongue is that idea expressed with absolute perfection. If it were not so the Odes of Horace would not have survived. (People aren't in a conspiracy to keep things alive.) I grant you that the kind of translations one serves up at school are as bad and as bald as they can be. They are bound to be so, because one cannot re-express an idea that has been perfectly set forth. (Men tried to do this, by the way, in the revised version of the Bible. They failed.) Yet, by a painful and laborious acquaintance with the mechanism of that particular tongue; by being made to take it to pieces and put it together again, and by that means only; we can arrive at a state of mind in which, though we cannot re-express the idea in any adequate words, we can realise and feel and absorb the idea.
Id. (at 86):
Our ancestors were not fools. They knew what we, I think, are in danger of forgetting — that the whole background of life, in law, civil administration, conduct of life, the terms of justice, the terms of science, the value of government, are the everlasting ramparts of Rome and Greece — the father and mother of civilisation. And for that reason, before they turned a man into life at large, they arranged that he should not merely pick up, but absorb into his system (through his hide if necessary) the fact that Greece and Rome were there. Later on, they knew, he would find out for himself how much and how important they were and they are, and that they still exist.


The Best Instructors and Companions

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), Melincourt, or Sir Oran Haut-ton, chapter XXXVI:
In a state of society so corrupted as that in which we live, the best instructors and companions are ancient books...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


How Often After This?

Du Fu (712-770), "Haphazard Inspirations: Quatrains," IV, in The Poetry of Du Fu. Translated and Edited by Stephen Owen (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), vol. 2, p. 347:
The second month is already through, the third month comes along,
gradually aging, I'll meet the spring how often after this?
Don't brood on the endless troubles beyond the immediate,
and finish the limited number of cups in the time while you're alive.


Jacobus Boswell

From Eric Thomson:
I've just been rereading this morning Boswell on the Grand Tour: Italy, Corsica and France 1765-66 (London: Heineman, 1955). From Naples on March 2nd 1765, he writes a letter to John Wilkes in Latin:
...Latinam linguam scribere haud assuetus, tamen in hac regione classica experiri volui. Excusas et valeas. (p. 56)
'Haud assuetus' he might have been, but to qualify as an advocate in Edinburgh the following year he would write a thesis in Latin on the 'Legacies of Household Furniture'.

In Rome, two weeks later, B. is on the Palatine:
Struck by these famous places, I was seized with enthusuasm. I began to speak Latin. Mr Morison* replied. He laughed a bit at the beginning. But we made a resolution to speak Latin continually during this course of antiquities. We have persisted, and every day we speak with greater facility, so that we have harangued on Roman antiquities in the language of the Romans themselves. (p. 65)

* Colin Morison, a Jacobite refugee and guide (p. 54 n. 3)


A Kind of Hell

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life, Chap. V: Counsels and Maxims, from Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
It is really the greatest absurdity to try to turn this scene of woe and lamentation into a pleasure-resort and to aim at joys and pleasures, as do so many, rather than at the greatest possible freedom from pain. Whoever takes a gloomy view regards this world as a kind of hell and is accordingly concerned only with procuring for himself a small fireproof room; such a man is much less mistaken.

Es ist wirklich die größte Verkehrtheit, diesen Schauplatz des Jammers in einen Lustort verwandeln zu wollen und, statt der möglichsten Schmerzlosigkeit, Genüsse und Freuden sich zum Ziele zu stecken; wie doch so Viele tun. Viel weniger irrt, wer mit zu finsterm Blicke diese Welt als eine Art Hölle ansieht und demnach nur darauf bedacht ist, sich in derselben eine feuerfeste Stube zu verschaffen.


Flight from God

Plutarch, On Superstition 4 (= Moralia 166 D; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
But as for the man who fears the rule of the gods as a sullen and inexorable despotism, where can he remove himself, where can he flee, what country can he find without gods, or what sea? Into what part of the universe shall you steal away and hide yourself, poor wretch, and believe that you have escaped God?

ὁ δὲ τὴν τῶν θεῶν ἀρχὴν ὡς τυραννίδα φοβούμενος σκυθρωπὴν καὶ ἀπαραίτητον ποῦ μεταστῇ ποῦ φύγῃ, ποίαν γῆν ἄθεον εὕρῃ, ποίαν θάλατταν; εἰς τί καταδὺς τοῦ κόσμου μέρος καὶ ἀποκρύψας σεαυτόν, ὦ ταλαίπωρε, πιστεύσεις ὅτι τὸν θεὸν ἀποπέφευγας;
Cf. Psalms 139.7-10 (KJV):
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.


Holiday Reading

Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948), Southward Ho! and Other Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1914), pp. 37-38:
Perhaps modern life is becoming too rapid for overmuch dalliance with books, and it becomes increasingly more difficult for bookish persons to catch up with the lost reading of yesterday. Still, it is good to have dreams, and the dream of a holiday in a library is a very pleasant one. We realise something of it, I fancy, when we drop into our kit-bags a few very friendly books, books that have stood the test of time and the sterner tests of familiarity—the "Religio Medici," "The Golden Treasury," the "Essays of Elia," the "Greek Anthology," the "Compleat Angler"—holiday books all, because they promote reflection in a gentle and intimate way.

Monday, December 10, 2018


Keeping in a Little Blast of Wind

The School of Salernum: Regimen Sanitatis Salerni. The English Version by Sir John Harrington (Salerno: Ente Provinciale per il Turismo, 1953), p. 24:
Quatuor ex vento veniunt in ventre retento,
Spasmus, hydrops, colica, vertigo, quatuor ista.
Ex magna coena stomacho fit maxima poena.
Ut sis nocte levis sit tibi coena brevis.

Great harmes have growne, & maladies exceeding,
By keeping in a little blast of wind:
So Cramps & Dropsies, Collickes have their breeding,
And Mazed Braines for want of vent behind:
Besides we finde in stories worth the reading,
A certaine Romane Emperour was so kind,
Claudius by name, he made a Proclamation,
A Scape to be no losse of reputation.
Great suppers do the stomacke much offend,
Sup light if quiet you to sleepe intend.
Suetonius, Life of Claudius 32 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
He is even said to have thought of an edict allowing the privilege of breaking wind quietly or noisily at table, having learned of a man who ran some risk by restraining himself through modesty.

dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum quendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset.
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. scape n.1, sense 4a:
to let a scape: to break wind. (See also ESCAPE n.1 4b) Obsolete.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson (†).



Curriculum Vitae

Theodore Dalrymple, "The Merits of Nepotism and Boasting," Taki's Magazine (December 8, 2018):
Take that ghastly soul-destroying document, the curriculum vitae. It is as inherently inflationary as clipping the coinage or fiat money. A friend of mine, whom I knew to be competent and conscientious, consistently failed to be appointed to positions for which he was eminently qualified. My wife, who knew the ways of modern appointment committees, asked to see the curriculum vitae he was supplying with his applications for the jobs.

She was horrified: He would never get a job with such a curriculum, it was far too old-fashioned. It gave merely his formal qualifications and the positions he had previously held, with references. No, no, said my wife to him, what you need is to boast. You have to make out that your piddling research might be chosen very soon for a Nobel Prize, that your occasional good deeds were as at great a personal sacrifice as those of Mother Teresa, and that you are a person whose outside interests are carried out at levels equal to the professional; in other words that you are multitalented, multivalent, and quite out of the ordinary. Moreover, your ambition must be to save the world, to be a pioneer and a path-breaker, not merely to do your best in the circumstances. You must be grandiose, not modest.

Of course, every other applicant would be similarly boastful, and so, like star architects trying to outdo each other in the outlandish nature of their buildings, my friend's boasts had to be preposterous, quite out of keeping with his admirable character. But once he had swallowed the bitter pill of realism, he was appointed at once. We all have to be Barons Munchausen now.

Thank God I have reached an age where I shall never have to apply for anything again, except perhaps for a plot in a cemetery (that too is becoming more difficult, and certainly more expensive). I don't want to boast, but I have a fixed aversion to boasting. I prefer things, for good or ill, to speak for themselves.


Offenses Against Gods

Tacitus, Annals 1.73.5 (reporting a speech by Tiberius; tr. John Jackson):
The gods must look to their own wrongs.

deorum iniuriae dis curae.
Codex of Justinian 4.1.2 (tr. Fred H. Blume, rev. Dennis P. Kehoe):
The scorned sanctity of an oath has a sufficient avenger in God.

iuris iurandi contempta religio satis deum ultorem habet.
Tacitus' dis curae (with ellipsis of sunt) is a good example of the double dative construction described in Charles E. Bennett, A Latin Grammar, rev. ed. (1908; rpt. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1913), p. 133 (§ 191, 2, a):
The Dative of Purpose or Tendency designates the end toward which an action is directed or the direction in which it tends. It is used—


    Much more frequently in connection with another Dative of the person:—

      Especially with some form of esse; as,—

        fortunae tuae mihi carae sunt, your fortunes are a care to me (lit. for a care);

        nobis sunt odio, they are an object of hatred to us;

        cui bono? to whom is it of advantage?


These Things Please Me Well

Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948), Southward Ho! and Other Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1914), p. 17:
I like to do nothing. To sit by a fire in winter, or in a garden in summer; to loaf on a sea-beach with the sun on me; to hang over the wall of a pier-head and watch the waves in their green and white tantrums; to sit in a brasserie on a Parisian boulevard with a common bock, and the people moving to and fro; to idle in parks or public squares, or in the quadrangles and closes of colleges, or the Inns of Court, or the great cathedrals; to forget haste and effort in old empty churches, or drowsy taverns; to rest by a roadside hedge, or in a churchyard where sheep browse; to lie in a punt in the green shade of the willows; to sit on a fence—these things please me well.


Sources of Irritation

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Typee, chapter XVI:
There were none of those thousand sources of irritation that the ingenuity of civilized man has created to mar his own felicity. There were no foreclosures of mortgages, no protested notes, no bills payable, no debts of honour in Typee; no unreasonable tailors and shoemakers, perversely bent on being paid; no duns of any description; no assault and battery attorneys, to foment discord, backing their clients up to a quarrel, and then knocking their heads together; no poor relations everlastingly occupying the spare bed-chamber, and diminishing the elbow room at the family table; no destitute widows with their children starving on the cold charities of the world; no beggars; no debtors' prisons; no proud and hard-hearted nabobs in Typee; or to sum up all in one word—no Money! "That root of all evil" was not to be found in the valley.

Sunday, December 09, 2018



Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life, Chap. III: What a Man Has, from Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
People are often reproached because their desires are directed mainly to money and they are fonder of it than of anything else. Yet it is natural and even inevitable for them to love that which, as an untiring Proteus, is ready at any moment to convert itself into the particular object of our fickle desires and manifold needs. Thus every other blessing can satisfy only one desire and one need; for instance, food is good only for the hungry, wine for the healthy, medicine for the sick, a fur coat for winter, women for youth, and so on. Consequently, all these are only ἀγαθὰ πρός τι, that is to say, only relatively good. Money alone is the absolutely good thing because it meets not merely one need in concreto, but needs generally in abstracto.

Daß die Wünsche der Menschen hauptsächlich auf Geld gerichtet sind und sie dieses über alles lieben, wird ihnen oft zum Vorwurf gemacht. Jedoch ist es natürlich, wohl gar unvermeidlich, das zu lieben, was, als ein unermüdlicher Proteus, jeden Augenblick bereit ist, sich in den jedesmaligen Gegenstand unsrer so wandelbaren Wünsche und mannigfaltigen Bedürfnisse zu verwandeln. Jedes andere Gut nämlich kann nur einem Wunsch, einem Bedürfnis genügen: Speisen sind bloß gut für den Hungrigen, Wein für den Gesunden, Arznei für den Kranken, ein Pelz für den Winter, Weiber für die Jugend usw. Sie sind folglich alle nur ἀγαθὰ πρός τι, d.h. nur relativ gut. Geld allein ist das absolut Gute: weil es nicht bloß einem Bedürfnis in concreto begegnet, sondern dem Bedürfnis überhaupt in abstracto.


Huysmans on Petronius

J.-K. Huysmans (1848-1907), À Rebours, chapter 3 (tr. Brendan King):
The author he really loved, and who caused him to leave aside forever his reading of Lucan's resounding addresses, was Petronius.

This latter was a shrewd observer, a discerning analyst, a marvellous painter; calmly, without prejudice, without hate, he described the daily life of Rome, recounted in the short, lively chapters of the Satyricon the manners and morals of his age.

Noting down the facts one after another, establishing them in a definitive form, he unfolded the petty existences of the common people, their chance meetings, their bestialities, their couplings.

Here, it's the inspector of rented accommodation who has come to ask the names of some recently arrived travellers; there, it's a brothel where the men prowl around naked women standing next to placards with scales of charges, while through the half-closed doors of the bedrooms, you catch a glimpse of cavorting couples; there again, in successive scenes in the book, whether in insolently luxurious villas, insanely rich and ostentatious, or whether in miserable inns, with their unmade camp-beds full of fleas, we see the society of the time going about its business: filthy pickpockets such as Ascyltus and Eumolpus, on the look out for some rich pickings; old hags with hitched-up skirts and cheeks plastered with white lead and red acacia; catamites of sixteen, plump and curly-haired; women subject to attacks of hysteria; legacy-hunters offering their sons and daughters to the debauches of rich testators; all run through his pages, arguing in the streets, touching each other up in the public baths, beating each other black and blue as if in a pantomime.

And all this recounted in a style of peculiar vitality, of a very particular tone, in a style drawing on every dialect, borrowing expressions from all the languages imported into Rome, pushing back every limit, all the trammels of that so-called Golden Age, letting everyone speak in his own idiom: uneducated freedmen in vulgar Latin, the argot of the streets; foreigners in their barbarous patois, a bastard offspring of African, Syrian and Greek; idiotic pedants, like the character Agamemnon in the book, in a rhetoric of overblown words. These people are sketched in a single stroke, sprawled round a table, exchanging insipid drunken gossip, spouting senile maxims and stupid sayings, their snouts turned towards Trimalchio who picks his teeth and offers chamberpots to the assembled company, telling them about the state of his bowels and his flatulence, inviting his guests to put themselves at their ease.

This realist novel, this slice cut from the heart of Roman life, completely unconcerned, whatever anyone might say, with social reform or satire, with no need of a carefully worked-out ending or a moral; this story without intrigue or action, putting on stage the amorous intrigues of those game birds of Sodom; analysing with a calm finesse the joys and sorrows of their love-affairs and their couplings, depicting life in a splendidly wrought language without the author revealing himself once, without him making a single comment, without him approving or condemning the acts and thoughts of his characters, the vices of a decrepit civilisation, of an Empire coming apart at the seams, gripped des Esseintes and he glimpsed in the refinement of its style, the acuity of its observations, and in the firmness of its method, peculiar correspondences and curious analogies with the few modern French novels he could bear.

Certainly, he bitterly regretted the Eustion and the Albutiae, those two works by Petronius mentioned by Planciades Fulgentius and which are lost forever; but the bibliophile in him consoled the man of letters, as with worshipful hands he leafed through the superb edition he possessed of the Satyricon, an octavo bearing the date 1585 and the name of J. Dousa of Leyden.

Saturday, December 08, 2018


Such Students Are Rare

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), Higher Schools and Universities in Germany (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), p. 178:
To combine the philological discipline with the matter to which it is ancillary,—with Alterthumswissenschaft itself,—a student must be of the force of Wolf, who used to sit up the whole night with his feet in a tub of cold water and one of his eyes bound up to rest while he read with the other, and who thus managed to get through all the Greek and Latin classics at school, and also Scapula's Lexicon and Faber's Thesaurus; and who at Göttingen would sweep clean out of the library-shelves all the books illustrative of the classic on which Heyne was going to lecture, and finish them in a week. Such students are rare...


Country Life

Aelian, Letters of Farmers 20 (Phaedrias to Sthenon; tr. Allen Rogers Benner and Francis H. Fobe):
It is in the country that all beautiful things grow; with them the earth is adorned, and with them the earth provides nourishment for all. Some of the products keep throughout the year, whereas some keep but a short time and are eaten in their season; of all these things the gods are creators, but the earth is their mother and she is likewise their nurse. And righteousness and temperance, these also, grow in the country; loveliest of trees are they, most profitable of fruits. So then do not be contemptuous of farmers; for in them too is wisdom of a sort—not elaborately expressed in speech nor decking itself out with forceful rhetoric, but conspicuous by its silence and confessing its virtue through its very life.

Φύεται μὲν ἐν τοῖς ἀγροῖς καλὰ πάντα, κεκόσμηταί τε ἡ γῆ τούτοις καὶ τρέφει πάντας· καὶ τὰ μέν ἐστιν τῶν καρπῶν διετήσια, τὰ δὲ καὶ πρὸς ὀλίγον ἀντέχοντά ἐστιν τρωκτὰ ὡραῖα· πάντων δὲ τούτων θεοὶ μὲν ποιηταί, ἡ γῆ δὲ μήτηρ ἅμα καὶ τροφὸς αὕτη· φύεται δὲ καὶ δικαιοσύνη καὶ σωφροσύνη καὶ ταῦτα ἐν τοῖς ἀγροῖς, δένδρων τὰ κάλλιστα, καρπῶν τὰ χρησιμώτατα. μὴ τοίνυν γεωργῶν καταφρόνει· ἔστι γάρ τις καὶ ἐνταῦθα σοφία, γλώττῃ μὲν οὐ πεποικιλμένη οὐδὲ καλλωπιζομένη λόγων δυνάμει, σιγῶσα δὲ εὖ μάλα καὶ δι᾿ αὐτοῦ τοῦ βίου τὴν ἀρετὴν ὁμολογοῦσα.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?