Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Argument and Invective
Upon the points in which we dissent from each other, argument will always secure the attention of the wise and good; whereas, invective must disgrace the cause which we may respectively wish to support.
Letter from Irenopolis, p. 5.
Life and Letters of Yeshua Bar-Yosef
First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. It sounds a strange charge to bring against men who have been steeped in those books all their lives. But that might be just the trouble. A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of New Testament texts and of other people's studies of them, whose literary experience of those texts lacks any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general, is, I should think, very likely to miss the obvious thing about them. If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel. But I had better turn to examples.Id., pp. 156-157:
In what is already a very old commentary I read that the fourth Gospel is regarded by one school as a 'spiritual romance', 'a poem not a history', to be judged by the same canons as Nathan's parable, the book of Jonah, Paradise Lost 'or, more exactly, Pilgrim's Progress'. After a man has said that, why need one attend to anything else he says about any book in the world? Note that he regards Pilgrim's Progress, a story which professes to be a dream and flaunts its allegorical nature by every single proper name it uses, as the closest parallel. Note that the whole epic panoply of Milton goes for nothing. But even if we leave our the grosser absurdities and keep to Jonah, the insensitiveness is crass—Jonah, a tale with as few even pretended historical attachments as Job, grotesque in incident and surely not without a distinct, though of course edifying, vein of typically Jewish humour. Then turn to John. Read the dialogues: that with the Samaritan woman at the well, or that which follows the healing of the man born blind. Look at its pictures: Jesus (if I may use the word) doodling with his finger in the dust; the unforgettable ἦν δὲ νύξ (xiii, 30). I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage—though it may no doubt contain errors—pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn't see this has simply not learned to read. I would recommend him to read Auerbach.
So there is no personality of Our Lord presented in the New Testament. Through what strange process has this learned German gone in order to make himself blind to what all men except him see? What evidence have we that he would recognize a personality if it were there? For it is Bultmann contra mundum. If anything whatever is common to all believers, and even to many unbelievers, it is the sense that in the Gospels they have met a personality. There are characters whom we know to be historical but of whom we do not feel that we have any personal knowledge—knowledge by acquaintance; such are Alexander, Attila, or William of Orange. There are others who make no claim to historical reality but whom, none the less, we know as we know real people: Falstaff, Uncle Toby, Mr Pickwick. But there are only three characters who, claiming the first sort of reality, also actually have the second. And surely everyone knows who they are: Plato's Socrates, the Jesus of the Gospels, and Boswell's Johnson. Our acquaintance with them shows itself in a dozen ways. When we look into the apocryphal gospels, we find ourselves constantly saying of this or that logion, 'No. It's a fine saying, but not His. That wasn't how He talked'—just as we do with all pseudo-Johnsoniana. We are not in the least perturbed by the contrasts within each character: the union in Socrates of silly and scabrous titters about Greek pederasty with the highest mystical fervor and the homeliest good sense; in Johnson, of profound gravity and melancholy with that love of fun and nonsense which Boswell never understood though Fanny Burney did; in Jesus of peasant shrewdness, intolerable severity, and irresistible tenderness. So strong is the flavour of the personality that, even while He says things which, on any other assumption than that of Divine Incarnation in the fullest sense, would be appallingly arrogant, yet we—and many unbelievers too - accept Him as his own valuation when He says 'I am meek and lowly of heart'. Even those passages in the New Testament which superficially, and in intention, are most concerned with the Divine, and least with the Human Nature, bring us fact to face with the personality. I am not sure that they don't do this more than any others. 'We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of graciousness and reality ... which we have looked upon and our hands have handled.' What is gained by trying to evade or dissipate this shattering immediacy of personal contact by talk about 'that significance which the early Church found that it was impelled to attribute to the Master'? This hits us in the face. Not what they were impelled to do but what impelled them. I begin to fear that by personality Dr Bultmann means what I should call impersonality: what you'd get in a D.N.B. article or an obituary or a Victorian Life and Letters of Yeshua Bar-Yosef in three volumes with photographs.
Another manneristic deformation of the line consists in getting as many words into it as possible. To attain this end the superfluous "and" must be omitted. Hence this piling up of words was also called "verse-filling asyndeton."39 Examples from Lucretius (I, 685 and 744):Related posts:
Concursus motus ordo positura figurae.Horace uses this type of asyndeton when he wants to dispose scornfully of an entire class of things—objects of value, for example (Epi., II, 2, 180 f.):
Aera solem ignem terras animalia fruges.
Gemmas, marmor, ebur, Tyrrhena sigilla, tabellas,or forms of superstition (Epi., II, 2, 208 f.):
Argentum, vestis Gaetulo murice tinctas ...
Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,The practice becomes more frequent in Statius, and in Dracontius is carried to excess.40 In the Middle Ages it is a well-known stylistic device, recommended by the rhetoricians.41 I give but one medieval Latin example, from Alan (SP, II, 473):
Nocturnos lemures portentaque Thessala ...
Furta doli metus ira furor fraus impetus errorThe seventeenth-century German poets are fond of using the device, especially Gryphius. It still occurs in Brockes:
Tristities hujus hospita regna tenent.
Blitz, Donner, Krachen, Prasseln, Knallen,I take this example from a dissertation on "The Accumulation of Words in Baroque." The author comments: "Such an exhaustion of all the possibilities of accumulation in a single sentence belongs only to Baroque."42 So people say, but I am on another track ...
Erschüttern, stossweis abwerts fallen,
Gepresst, betäubt von Schlag zu Strahl,
Kam, ward, war alles auf einmal
Gesehn, gehört, gefühlt, geschehn.
(Flash, thunder, crashing, rustling, booming,
Shudd’ring, a sudden falling back,
Oppressed, benumbed from stroke to streak,
Came, was, then suddenly had been
Seen, heard, felt, done.)
39 Carl Weyman, Beiträge zur Geschichte der christlichlateinischen Poesie (1926), 126; ibid., 51 f., and 154, n. 1.
40 Statius, Thebais I, 431; VI, 116; X, 768.—Dracontius, De laudibus Dei I, 5 ff.; I, 13 ff.; etc.
41 Bede in Keil, Grammatici Latini, VII, 244.—Albericus Casinensis, Flores rhetorici, ed. Inguanez and Willard (1938), p. 44, § 4.
42 Hans Pliester, Die Worthäufung im Barock (Bonn, 1930), 3.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Here is Amazon's web page offering for sale Roger Dawes' edition of Sophocles' Trachiniae in the Teubner series (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana).
There are two supposed reviews of the book on the web page. The reviews, however, don't discuss Dawes' edition. Rather, they discuss P.E. Easterling's edition and commentary on the play (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
Further, on the same web page Amazon invites you to "Click to LOOK INSIDE!" Dawes' edition. But if you click as invited, you don't see inside the book pictured. Instead, you see inside some wretched paperback edition of R.C. Jebb's translation of Trachiniae.
Amazon recently announced plans to deliver its products using drones. Mindless drones are already at work, composing Amazon's web pages.
The Evidence of Style
Textual problems have led some modern scholars to question the credibility of the Gospels and even to doubt the historical existence of Christ. These studies have provoked an intriguing reaction from an unlikely source: Julien Gracq—an old and prestigious novelist, who was close to the Surrealist movement—made a comment which is all the more arresting for coming from an agnostic. In a recent volume of essays,2 Gracq first acknowledged the impressive learning of one of these scholars (whose lectures he had attended in his youth), as well as the devastating logic of his reasoning; but he confessed that, in the end, he still found himself left with one fundamental objection: for all his formidable erudition, the scholar in question had simply no ear—he could not hear what should be so obvious to any sensitive reader—that, underlying the text of the Gospels, there is a masterly and powerful unity of style, which derives from one unique and inimitable voice; there is the presence of one singular and exceptional personality whose expression is so original, so bold that one could positively call it impudent. Now, if you deny the existence of Jesus, you must transfer all these attributes to some obscure, anonymous writer, who should have had the improbable genius of inventing such a character—or, even more implausibly, you must transfer this prodigious capacity for invention to an entire committee of writers. And Gracq concluded: in the end, if modern scholars, progressive-minded clerics and the docile public all surrender to this critical erosion of the Scriptures, the last group of defenders who will obstinately maintain that there is a living Jesus at the central core of the Gospels will be made of artists and creative writers, for whom the psychological evidence of style carries much more weight than mere philological arguments.
2. Julien Gracq, Les carnets du grand chemin (Paris: José Corti, 1992), pp. 190-91.
Arbiters of Commas
However extensive may be the importance of the studies which are now most prevalent, and however brilliant may be the success with which they have been prosecuted, we feel no diminution of our reverence for the labours of those scholars who have employed their abilities in explaining the sense, and in correcting the text, of ancient authors. Verbal criticism has been seldom despised sincerely by any man who was capable of cultivating it successfully; and if the comparative dignity of any kind of learning is to be measured by the talents of those who are most distinguished for the acquisition of it, philology will hold no inconsiderable rank in the various and splendid classes of human knowledge. By a trite and frivolous sort of pleasantry, verbal critics are often holden up to ridicule as noisy triflers, as abject drudges, as arbiters of commas, as measurers of syllables, as the very lacqueys and slaves of learning, whose greatest ambition is to "pursue the triumph, and partake the gale," which wafts writers of genius into the wished-for haven of fame. But, even in this subordinate capacity, so much derided, and so little understood, they frequently have occasion for more extent and variety of information, for more efforts of reflection and research, for more solidity of judgment, more strength of memory, and we are not ashamed to add, more vigour of imagination, than we see displayed by many sciolists, who, in their own estimation, are original authors.
Review of the Variorum Horace, British Critic, p. 122.
The Summum Bonum of Human Life
When at Cambridge, being one day in a party of young men who were discussing somewhat pompously the summum bonum of human life, he heard their arguments with patience, and then with a half smile, and in a dry sarcastic tone, replied, "I differ from you all; the true summum bonum of human life consists in reading Tristram Shandy, in blowing with a pair of bellows into your shoes in hot weather, and in roasting potatoes in the ashes under the grate in cold."Related post: The Summum Bonum.
Monday, December 02, 2013
He Had Eaten Paper and Drunk Ink
He was not a stranger to many niceties in the structure of the Latin tongue. He never attempted to show off his own powers in that frivolous jargon, or that oracular solemnity which I have now and then observed in persons who prated yesterday, as they prate to-day, and will prate again to-morrow about subjects which they do not understand. "He, to my knowledge, had fed on the dainties that are bred in a book. He had eaten paper, as it were, and drunk ink. His intellect was replenished."Hat tip: Ian Jackson.
Remarks on the Statement of Dr. Coombe, p. 21.
It Will Surely Mislead Librarians
I notice that David Petrain ends his interesting note on your posting on Filelfo with the remark, "It looks as if a new translation of Jovius's work has just appeared in the I Tatti Library".Again:
Should one really have to say "It looks as if..." about a well-advertised publication from a major university press? But he is absolutely right to be cautious. Harvard, annoyingly, makes it difficult to tell what lurks behind their English titles. Most, of course are obvious, but surely they owe their readers a plain and prominent statement both in advertising and at the very beginning of each volume. The book to which Prof. Petrain refers, Kenneth Gouwens' Notable Men and Women of our Time (I Tatti Library, 2013) is in fact a translation of quite another work by Giovio, De Viris et Feminis aetate nostra florentibus, not that you'd necessarily discover this without having the book in hand. And even then, the usual easy path to an answer (a glance at the Library of Congress cataloguing-in-publication entry on the verso of the title-page) leads in the wrong direction. LC claims that this is an English translation of the very book under discussion, Giovio's Elogia doctorum virorum! Did they make this up themselves, or did Harvard misguide them? In either case, it will surely mislead librarians who really don't have the time (or means? or knowledge?) to investigate.
I forgot that I owned Franco Minonzio's edition and translation of Giovio's Elogi degli uomini illustri (Einaudi, 2006). He agrees (p.60) with Prof. Petrain’s reading:
gli negasti di poter salvare la barba pagando la stessa somma di denaro
you refused to allow him to preserve his beard by paying the same amount of money
Perhaps, however, Gragg has simply expressed herself clumsily and elliptically. Petrain asks "Why would Philelphus buy a beard?" but if we take her first "you" to mean Filelfo and her second to mean "one" or "someone," it accords with the versions of both Petrain and Minozio:
You won, and declaring that [a person] could not buy a beard for the amount of the wager...
Gold and Figs
If someone locked a lot of gold up in a houseThe Greek, from Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum Cantati, ed. M.L. West, Vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 35:
with two or three people, and a small amount of figs,
he'd soon find out how much more figs are worth than gold.
εἴ τις καθείρξαι χρυσὸν ἐν δόμοις πολὺν
καὶ σῦκα βαιὰ καὶ δύ᾽ ἢ τρεῖς ἀνθρώπους,
γνοίη χ᾽ ὅσωι τὰ σῦκα τοῦ χρυσοῦ κρέσσω.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
The Punishment of Exile
Anyone wishing to grasp the difference between ancient love of country and modern, and between the ancient and modern condition of the nations, and between the idea one had in times past, and the idea one has at present of one's own country, etc., should consider the punishment of exile, a supreme and very frequently used punishment among the ancients, and the ultimate punishment for Roman citizens. And yet today it has almost fallen into disuse, and is always the least of punishments, and  often ridiculous. Nor is it helpful to invoke the smallness of states. Among the ancients, being exiled from a single city, even if it were as small, poor, and unhappy as you like, was dreadful, if that was the exiled person's homeland.In Italian:
Chi vuol vedere la differenza fra l'amor patrio antico e moderno, e fra lo stato antico e moderno delle nazioni, e fra l'idea che s'aveva anticamente, e che si ha presentemente del proprio paese ec. consideri la pena dell'esilio, usitatissima e somma presso gli antichi, ed ultima pena de' cittadini romani; ed oggi quasi disusata, e sempre minima, e  spesso ridicola. Nè vale addurre la piccolezza degli stati. Presso gli antichi l'essere esiliato da una sola città, fosse pur piccola, povera, infelice quanto si voglia, era formidabile, se quella era patria dell'esiliato.
The Summum Bonum
Perhaps a due mixture of tea Greek & pedestrianism constitute the summum bonum.Mentally supply a comma after "tea". Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. pedestrianism, sense 1: "The activity of travelling on foot, walking..."
May the earth refuse thee her fruits and the river his waters, may wind and breeze deny their breath. May the sun not be warm for thee, nor Phoebe bright,  may the clear stars fail thy vision. May neither Vulcan nor the air lend thee their aid, nor earth nor sea afford thee any path. Mayst thou wander an exile and destitute, and haunt the doors of others, and beg a little food with trembling mouth.  May neither thy body nor thy sick mind be free from querulous pain, may night be to thee more grievous than day, and day than night. Mayst thou ever be piteous, but have none to pity thee; may men and women rejoice at thy adversity. May hatred crown thy tears, and mayst thou be thought worthy,  having borne many ills, to bear yet more. And (what is rare) may the aspect of thy fortune, though its wonted favour be lost, bring thee but ill-will. Mayst thou have cause enough for death, but no means of dying; may thy life be compelled to shun the death it prays for.  May thy spirit struggle long ere it leave thy tortured limbs, and rack thee first with long delaying.The Latin:
Terra tibi fruges, amnis tibi deneget undas,Phoebe is the moon, Vulcan fire. Commentary on these lines, from P. Ovidii Nasonis Ibis: ex novis codicibus edidit, scholia vetera, commentarium cum prolegomenis, appendice, indice addidit R. Ellis (Oxonii: e Typographeo Clarendoniano, 1881), pp. 110-111:
Deneget afflatus ventus et aura suos.
Nec tibi sol calidus, nec sit tibi lucida Phoebe,
Destituant oculos sidera clara tuos. 110
Nec se Vulcanus nec se tibi praebeat aër,
Nec tibi det tellus nec tibi pontus iter.
Exul, inops erres, alienaque limina lustres,
Exiguumque petas ore tremente cibum.
Nec corpus querulo nec mens vacet aegra dolore, 115
Noxque die gravior sit tibi, nocte dies.
Sisque miser semper, nec sis miserabilis ulli:
Gaudeat adversis femina virque tuis.
Accedat lacrimis odium, dignusque puteris,
Qui mala cum tuleris plurima, plura feras. 120
Sitque, quod est rarum, solito defecta favore
Fortunae facies invidiosa tuae.
Causaque non desit, desit tibi copia mortis:
Optatam fugiat vita coacta necem:
Luctatusque diu cruciatos spiritus artus 125
Deserat, et longa torqueat ante mora.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
A Contest over the Length of a Syllable Revisited
About two months ago I had the good fortune of stumbling on your blog, and I wanted to thank you for assembling such a consistently appealing set of texts. I browse at random, non servato temporis ordine, using the archives.
Today I looked at "A contest over the length of a syllable" (Nov.8). A few points in the text had me scratching my head, and I thought I'd share what I found. Line 6 of the poem isn't metrical at present: correcting semper to super is easy, and it's printed that way in at least one text I found through Google books. But I wondered what exactly the dispute between Philelphus and Timotheus was about. The following epigram by Latomus says Lis super accentus Graeci ratione: accent rather than length. This is nice because Philelphus seems to have married for the sake of having someone teach him accents: uxorem duxit, quae Graecae elocutionis magistra, quotidiano usu Atticorum accentuum, inepto sed docili coniugis ori dulcedinem instillaret.
I don't think the translation has the details of the bet right: "You won, and declaring that you could not buy a beard for the amount of the wager,..." But Timotheus didn't put up any money, and why would Philelphus buy a beard? It should be "you refused him the opportunity (posse) of redeeming his beard for the same amount, when you won": after losing, Timotheus offered a sum identical (eadem) to the one Philelphus first wagered, if only he could keep his beard.
It looks as if a new translation of Jovius's work has just appeared in the I Tatti library.
He anoints his nostrils with perfume; a highly important element of health is to put good odours to the brain.
ἐναλείφεται τὰς ῥῖνας· ὑγιείας μέρος
μέγιστον ὀσμὰς ἐγκεφάλῳ χρηστὰς ποιεῖν.
A Very Useful Book
I have found a very useful book. You may be surprised — Larousse 1965! When I have insomia, I switch on light and read it. The caleidoscope of names and faces has a powerful distracting effect, so that all sorts of black thoughts become expelled and some kind of peace of mind descends. And then I sleep till morning. A really useful book! What a pity that neither in Russian nor in English there is something like this!Hat tip: Ian Jackson.
Related post: Treatment for Angst.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Musonius built me with great labour, this large and imposing house, exposed to the north wind's blasts. Yet did he not avoid the dark house of Fate, but abandoning me he dwells underground. In a narrow bed of earth he lies, and I, his chiefest delight, am given up to strangers.Related post: Sepulcri Inmemor Struis Domos.
τεῦξέ με πολλὰ καμὼν Μουσώνιος οἶκον ἀγητὸν
τηλίκον, ἀρκτῴοις ἄσθμασι βαλλόμενον.
ἔμπης οὐκ ἀπέειπεν ἀφεγγέα δώματα Μοίρης,
ἀλλά με καλλείψας ἐν χθονὶ ναιετάει.
καὶ ῥ᾽ ὁ μὲν εἰς ὀλίγην κεῖται κόνιν· ἡ δὲ περισσὴ
τέρψις ἐπὶ ξείνοις ἀνδράσιν ἐκκέχυμαι.
Alone With His Books
The house is nearly all over library. On the ground-floor three spacious rooms open upon one another, and these from floor to ceiling have the walls covered with excellent books; while, upstairs, in bedrooms and dressing-rooms, there is another collection. The works are in a great variety of languages. Many are Italian, as he is very fond of that language and literature. It is delightful always to have so many good books of reference at hand, and to see how constantly and with what spirit he uses them. Though very infirm, and though suffering much in his eyes, he never calls in either servant or amanuensis, but always goes himself to the shelves and takes down the book or books he wants. He knows where to lay his hand on every volume, every pamphlet, every map and chart. He takes just as much interest in all that is doing in science, literature, and art, as he did when I first knew him. I never knew so keen an interest in any man, for his time of life. He is almost sure to have read himself, or to have had read to him, the last new novel, for not even novels escape him. He sees but little society; for months at a time he lives alone with his books, thoughts, and remembrances.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
He rejected authority absolutely. It is fairly easy for a recluse to reject it or at all events to elude it, but he was not a recluse, he was always in the world and keenly interested in its details, and it is difficult for such a man to avoid being overawed by the imposing figures who surround him and try to set the pace. He is tempted to listen not to what they say but to their names. But a name meant nothing whatever to Fry. He had, in this respect, the unworldliness of his Quaker forebears, and he could always shake an opinion out of its husk, and hold it up to the light of reason, where it often shrivelled to nothing at all. If you said to him, 'This must be right, all the experts say so, all the Trustees of the National Gallery say so, all the art-dealers say so, Hitler says so, Marx says so, Christ says so, The Times says so,' he would reply in effect, 'Well. I wonder. Let's see.' He would see and he would make you see. You would come away realizing that an opinion may be influentially backed and yet be tripe.
Life is Like an Artichoke
Life is like an artichoke; each day, week, month, year, gives you one little bit which you nibble off — but precious little compared with what you throw away.
A Real Satisfaction
I like to think how easily Nature will absorb London as she absorbed the mastodon, setting her spiders to spin the winding sheet and her worms to fill in the graves, and her grass to cover it pitifully up, adding flowers—as an unknown hand added them to the grave of Nero. I like to see the preliminaries of this toil where Nature tries her hand at mossing the factory roof, rusting the deserted railway metals, sowing grass over the deserted platforms and flowers of rose-bay on ruinous hearths and walls. It is a real satisfaction to see the long narrowing wedge of irises that run alongside and between the rails of the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway almost into the heart of London.
A Mental Waste-Paper Basket
A MENTAL WASTE-PAPER BASKET
Every one should keep one and the older he grows the more things will he the more promptly consign to it — torn up to irrecoverable tatters.