Thursday, July 19, 2018


My Natural Inclination

Ovid, Amores 1.9.41 (tr. Grant Showerman):
For myself, my bent was all to dally in ungirt idleness.

ipse ego segnis eram discinctaque in otia natus.
Somewhat more literally:
I myself was lazy and born for careless leisure.
Related post: My True Nature.


The Fight

Heraclitus, fragment 44 (from Diogenes Laertius 9.2; tr. W.H.S. Jones):
The people must fight for their law just as for their city wall.

μάχεσθαι χρὴ τὸν δῆμον ὑπὲρ τοῦ νόμου ὅκωσπερ τείχεος.
See M. Marcovich, Heraclitus: Greek Text with a Short Commentary. Editio Maior (Merida: The Los Andes University Press, 1967), pp. 533-535.


A Love of Knowledge Is Gone

The Guy Davenport Reader, ed. Erik Reece (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2013), p. 399 (from Journal II):
Our problem now is that nobody knows anything to begin with. A love of knowledge is gone, and with it curiosity and a critical eye. We have theory instead of perception, contentiousness instead of discussion, dogma instead of inquiry.
Id. (p. 401):
The emptier a room the smaller it seems. The same is true of minds as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Alter Ego

Editor's "Afterword: Remembering Guy Davenport," in Erik Reece, ed., The Guy Davenport Reader (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2013), pp. 405-423 (at 416):
Friendship is really the dominant theme winding throughout his fiction. Heraclitus said that a friend is another self, and I think Guy was always looking for that elusive true friend, that other self.
But Heraclitus didn't say that a friend is another self, as least so far as I can tell. The expression doesn't occur in Davenport's own translation of the fragments of Heraclitus, in 7 Greeks (New York: New Directions, 1995), pp. 158-171. It seems to occur first in Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 9.4.5 (1066 a 32):
ἔστι γὰρ ὁ φίλος ἄλλος αὐτός.
See Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #471, pp. 382-384 (Alter ego).

Update from a learned reader:
That a friend is another self is a dictum Guy Davenport attributed to Pythagoras, a traditional attribution — Erasmus repeats it in Adages 1.1.2 — that suited his purposes in fiction. He translated it first in a list of Pythagorean dicta in "The Dawn in Erewhon" (Tatlin, p. 209). It turns up in other stories too (in "Badger" and "Wo es war, soll ich werden," The Drummer of the Eleventh North Devonshire Fusiliers, pp. 23 and 136), and as a theme it organizes many more. He mentions it in his criticism once that I recall (The Geography of the Imagination, p. 71).

I'd never thought to trace the citation before your post. There's at least one ancient source that makes the attribution: Porphyry's Life of Pythagoras 33. Porphyry writes that Pythagoras loved his friends to excess and that he was the first to declare that a friend is another self (τοὺς δὲ φίλους ὑπερηγάπα, κοινὰ μὲν τὰ τῶν φίλων εἶναι πρῶτος ἀποφηνάμενος, τὸν δὲ φίλον ἄλλον ἑαυτόν.) On the other hand, Diogenes Laertius attributes it to Zeno (ἐρωτηθεὶς τίς ἐστι φίλος, "ἄλλος," ἔφη, "ἐγώ" 7.23), and Aristotle seems to derive it from a proverb (Eudemian Ethics 1245a). Plutarch, On Having Many Friends 2 [93e] quotes the phrase but doesn't attribute it to anyone.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, best friend and alter ego.



Classics at Shrewsbury School

Henry W. Nevinson (1856-1941), Between the Acts (London: John Murray, 1904), pp. 18-21:
The others were content to teach what they had learnt, and in the same manner. Most of them were Shrewsbury boys themselves, and because Greek had been taught there for more than three centuries, they taught Greek. Of course, we had Latin too, and up to the sixth form our time was equally divided between the two languages; but Latin, as being easier and rather more connected with modern life, never ranked so high, and we turned to it with the relief which most men feel when the ladies rise from the dinner-table. Latin prose, it is true, was thought more of than Greek prose, and no doubt there was some instinctive reason why. I suspect that in reality it is the more difficult; for it was the unconscious rule of our ancient tradition, that of two subjects the more difficult was the better worth learning, provided always that both were entirely useless.

Of Greek our knowledge was both peculiar and limited. We were allowed no devices to make the language in the least interesting, no designs, or pictures, or explanations. We had no idea what the Greek plays looked like on the stage, or why Demosthenes uttered those longwinded sentences. We knew nothing of the Dantesque pride underlying the tortured prose of Thucydides, and when a sixth-form master told us that the stupendous myth at the end of the Phaedo appeared to him singularly childish, we took no notice of the remark one way or the other. We only knew the passage was easy, just as Homer was easy, and the choruses hard. The greater part of the school believed that Greek literature was written as a graduated series of problems for Shrewsbury boys to solve, and when a sixth-form boy was asked by a new master whether he did not consider the Prometheus a very beautiful play, he replied that he thought it contained too many weak caesuras.

So there was nothing in the least artistic about our knowledge. No one expected to find either beauty or pleasure in what we read, and we found none. Nor were we scientific; we neither knew nor cared how the Greek words arose, or how the aorists grew, and why there were two of them, like Castor and Pollux. After all these things do the Germans seek, but us they never troubled. Our sole duty was to convert, with absolute precision, so much Greek into so much English. No possible shade of meaning or delicate inflection on the page was allowed to slide unnoticed. The phases of every mood with all its accompanying satellites were traced with the exactitude of astronomy. No one cared much about beauty of language provided the definite meaning was secure. Yet beauty sometimes came by accident, just as happiness comes, and I first learnt what style is from the renderings of the head-boy when he mounted the "rostrum." He was himself an antique Roman; his eagle nose, wide mouth, and massive chin, the low, broad brow, with black curls growing close to the square-backed head, were made to rule nations. But not long since he died in the serviceable obscurity of a mastership, for which his knowledge of Greek was his only qualification. It is true he was our captain of football, but he owed that position to his Greek rather than his play.

When as a new boy I was first taken for a walk out of bounds on a Sunday afternoon by one of the upper sixth, who is now an earthly saint, we went to a hillside with a long blue vision of western mountains, and while I had no thought or eyes for anything but them, he continued to talk quietly of Greek—the significance of various forms, the most telling way of turning this meaning or that, especially, I remember, the cunning idioms by which the idea of "self" might be rendered in verse, either with emphasis or modesty. So it was. The school breathed Greek, and through its ancient buildings a Greek wind blew. To enter head-room—a dim, panelled chamber which the upper sixth used as a study —was to become a scholar. I doubt if good Greek verse could be written anywhere else. Winged iambics fluttered through the air; they hung like bats along the shelves, and the dust fell in Greek particles.
Hat tip: Alan Crease.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


The Present Age

Acts of the Apostles 2.40 (from Peter's Pentecost sermon; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Be saved from this crooked generation.

Σώθητε ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς τῆς σκολιᾶς ταύτης.


Lacrimae Rerum

Ibn Ḥazm of Cordoba, quoted in Christopher Dawson (1889-1970), Medieval Essays (1954; rpt. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), p. 114, with his note (accents added):
Thou weepest for the dead. Let him be. He is at peace. Weep rather for the living. He is more worthy of your tears. The dead man rests in his tomb: there is no need to mourn over his lot. But as for the living, who perishes every day at the hands of injustice, there is none to comfort him.9

9 Á. González Palencia, Historia de la Literatura Arábigo-Española, p. 58 (1928).


Root of All Good

Aristophanes, Wealth 144-145 (Chremylus speaking to Wealth; tr. Jeffery Henderson):
And what's more, it's through you that people have anything radiant, fine, or charming.

καὶ νὴ Δί᾿ εἴ τί γ᾿ ἐστὶ λαμπρὸν καὶ καλὸν
ἢ χαρίεν ἀνθρώποισι, διὰ σὲ γίγνεται.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Proposed Papal Powers

Selections from the Dictatus Papae attributed to Pope Gregory VII (tr. G.A. Loud):
IX. All princes shall kiss the feet of the Pope alone.

IX. Quod solius papae pedes omnes principes deosculentur.

XII. It may be permitted to him to depose emperors.

XII. Quod illi liceat imperatores deponere.

XIX. He himself may be judged by no one.

XIX. Quod a nemine ipse iudicari debeat.

XXVII. He may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.

XXVII. Quod a fidelitate iniquorum subiectos potest absolvere.


A Greek Hexameter Consisting of Adjectives in Asyndeton

Homeric Hymn to Pan 37 consists entirely of a series of adjectives in asyndeton (my translation):
goat-footed, two-horned, loudly-ringing, sweetly-laughing

αἰγοπόδην δικέρωτα πολύκροτον ἡδυγέλωτα
For similar hexameter lines in Greek and Latin see:

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Sell All, Buy LXX Etc.

From John Stroup, Houston, to the July 8 item from and about Fred Danker

Fred Danker said this many times in his seminary teaching days in St. Louis as I recall, and certainly it was repeated by others often with Danker credited—though I don’t remember any discussion of the German original source. In Red Fred’s final examination in the NT theology course, 1971-72, the permitted helps were Nestle-Aland, the 2-vol. Rahlfs, and Schmoller’s Hand-Konkordanz. This course was conducted while Danker was more or less still under investigation for heresy by way of an extraordinary procedure—see his 1971 Under Investigation, if you can find a copy.

Rahlfs: here is oral tradition that I have from a participant in Rahlfs’s last (?) days of teaching There were five or six enrolled, and they followed the custom (this is Göttingen around 1930 or so, whenever he was failing but still hanging on, so not later than September of 1933) of reverently rapping on the desk by way of restrained applause before he started to speak after entering the room. He suffered some kind of medical episode connected with his eyes; class was continued at his house, probably Friedländer Weg 10, with one dropping out. The maid ushered the theological students in to the front parlor and they sat down. He then came in, slowly, and sat down. Nothing. He looked at them. They looked at him. Nothing. Then one grad student realized what was wrong and so started rapping with knuckles on the chair arm, with others joining in. So continued the interrupted course. Or so my aged source told me around 1976, and so I pass it along, filtered through details in Christian Schäfer’s book on Rahlfs.

Saturday, July 14, 2018


An Enjoyable and Civilized Existence

Christopher Dawson (1889-1970), Medieval Essays (1954; rpt. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), p. 31:
Even a comparatively remote and unimportant town like Timgad, in North Africa, possesses public buildings and monuments finer than those of many a modern city of vastly superior wealth and population. It had its theatres and amphitheatres in which free spectacles were provided for the entertainment of the people. It had porticoes and basilicas where the citizens could attend to public business or idle away their leisure time. It had baths and gymnasia, libraries and lecture halls, and temples which were not, like our churches, destined solely for religious worship, but were the centre of civic ceremonial and public festivities. There has probably never been an age in which the opportunities for living an enjoyable and civilized existence were so widely diffused. For the ancient city was not, like the average modern town, a factory, or a place of business; it existed for the enjoyment of its citizens and it was the centre of an active communal life, lived in public and at the public expense.


Never Bored

Li Po (701-762), "Sitting Alone by Ching-t'ing Mountain," tr. Stephen Owen, The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T'ang (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), p. 138:
The flocks of birds have flown high and away,
A solitary cloud goes off calmly alone.
We look at each other and never get bored—
Just me and Ching-t'ing Mountain.


A New Kind of Beauty

Christopher Dawson (1889-1970), Medieval Essays (1954; rpt. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), p. 184:
The rediscovery of the Middle Ages by the Romantics is an event of no less importance in the history of European thought than the rediscovery of Hellenism by the Humanists. It meant an immense widening of our intellectual horizon. To Boileau and Pope and their contemporaries the Middle Ages were simply a gap in the history of culture. They had no eyes for the beauty of medieval art and no ears for the melody of medieval verse. All this was restored to us by the Romantics. They went to the Middle Ages not in order to prove a case or to justify their political or religious beliefs, but because they found in them something utterly different from the world that they knew—the revelation of a new kind of beauty.

Friday, July 13, 2018


Ubi Sunt?

R.T. Davies, ed., Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1964; rpt. 1988), pp. 56-57 (first four stanzas only):
Where beth they, beforen us weren,
Houndes ladden and havekes beren,
And hadden feld and wode?
The riche levedies in hoere bour,
That werenden gold in hoere tressour,
With hoere brighte rode?

Eten and drounken and maden hem glad;
Hoere lif was all with gamen ilad:
Men keneleden them beforen.
They beren hem well swithe heye,
And, in a twinkling of an eye,
Hoere soules weren forloren.

Where is that lawing and that song,
That trailing and that proude yong,
Tho havekes and tho houndes?
All that joye is went away,
That wele is comen to weylaway,
To manye harde stoundes.

Hoere paradis hy nomen here,
And now they lien in helle ifere:
The fuir it brennes evere;
Long is 'ay!' and long is 'ho!'
Long is 'wy!' and long is 'wo!'
Thennes ne cometh they nevere.
Modern English translation (ibid.):
Where are they who lived before us,
who led hounds and carried hawks,
and owned field and wood?
The great ladies in their chambers,
who wore gold in their head-bands
and whose faces shone?

They ate and drank and entertained themselves;
their life was spent wholly in pleasure:
men kneeled before them.
They carried themselves most proudly,
and, in the twinkling of an eye,
their souls were utterly lost.

Where is that laughter and that singing,
that trailing of garments, and that proud gait,
those hawks and those hounds?
All that joy has vanished,
that happiness has turned to misery
and many hard times.

They took their paradise here,
and now they lie in hell together:
the fire burns without end;
long lasts their 'ah!' and long their 'oh!'
long their 'alas! and long their 'woe!'—
they shall never come out of that place.


Fire and Fanaticism and Rivalry

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), The Return of Don Quixote, chapter III:
Few realise how much of controversial war and tumult can be covered by an obscure hobby. The fighting spirit has almost taken refuge in hobbies as in holes and corners of the earth; and left the larger public fields singularly dull and flat and free from real debate. It might be imagined that the Daily Wire was a slashing paper and the Review of Assyrian Excavation was a mild and peaceful one. But in truth it is the other way. It is the popular paper that has become cold and conventional, and full of clichés used without any conviction. It is the scholarly paper that is full of fire and fanaticism and rivalry.


A Simile

Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), chapter 38 (tr. Archibald Colquhoun):
Man (says our anonymous chronicler; and you already know by experience that he had rather a strange taste in similes, but bear with this one for it is likely to be the last), man, as long as he is in this world, is like an invalid lying on a more or less uncomfortable bed who sees other beds around him which look outwardly smooth, level, and better made, and imagines he would be very happy on them. But if he succeeds in changing, scarcely is he lying on the new bed than he begins, as his weight sinks in, to feel a piece of flax pricking into him here, and a lump pressing into him there; so that, in fact, he is more or less back where he started. And for this reason, adds our anonymous chronicler, we should think more of doing well rather than of faring well, and we will end by faring better too. This simile is somewhat far-fetched, laboured, and very seventeenth-century; but it is true in the main.

L'uomo (dice il nostro anonimo: e già sapete per prova che aveva un gusto un po' strano in fatto di similitudini; ma passategli anche questa, che avrebbe a esser l'ultima), l'uomo, fin che sta in questo mondo, è un infermo che si trova sur un letto scomodo più o meno, e vede intorno a sè altri letti, ben rifatti al di fuori, piani, a livello: e si figura che ci si deve star benone. Ma se gli riesce di cambiare, appena s'è accomodato nel nuovo, comincia, pigiando, a sentire qui una lisca che lo punge, lì un bernoccolo che lo preme: siamo in somma, a un di presso, alla storia di prima. E per questo, soggiunge l'anonimo, si dovrebbe pensare più a far bene, che a star bene: e così si finirebbe anche a star meglio. È tirata un po' con gli argani, e proprio da secentista; ma in fondo ha ragione.
Cf. Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 1759 (Z 4104, June 25, 1824):
Someone used to say that coming into this life, we are like a man who lies down on a hard bed. He feels uncomfortable in it, cannot keep still, he tosses and turns a hundred times. In various ways he endeavors to smoothe out, to soften, etc., the bed, always trying and hoping to be able to rest and get to sleep until, not having slept or feeling rested at all, the hour comes when he has to get up. Such and for a similar reason is our restlessness in life, our natural and justified discontent with every state; the efforts and exertions, etc., of a thousand different kinds to make ourselves comfortable and to soften this bed of ours a little; hopes of happiness or at least of some repose, and death which arrives before our hopes come to anything.

Il tale diceva che noi venendo in questa vita, siamo come chi si corica in un letto duro e incomodo, che sentendovisi star male, non vi può star quieto, e però si rivolge cento volte da ogni parte, e proccura in vari modi di appianare, ammollire ec. il letto, cercando pur sempre e sperando di avervi a riposare e prender sonno, finché senz'aver dormito né riposato vien l'ora di alzarsi. Tale e da simil cagione è la nostra inquietudine nella vita, naturale e giusta scontentezza d'ogni stato; cure, studi ec. di mille generi per accomodarci e mitigare un poco questo letto; speranza di felicità o almen di riposo, e morte che previen l'effetto della speranza.


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