Sunday, June 24, 2018


Biblical Interpretation

John Milton (1608-1674), The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Book II, Chapter XIX:
Thus at length we see both by this and other places, that there is scarce any one saying in the Gospel, but must bee read with limitations and distinctions, to bee rightly understood; for Christ gives no full comments or continued discourses, but as Demetrius the Rhetoritian phrases it, speakes oft in Monosyllables, like a maister scattering the heavenly grain of his doctrine like pearls heere and there, which requires a skilfull and laborious gatherer, who must compare the words he findes, with other precepts, with the end of every ordinance, and with the generall analogie of Evangelick doctrine: otherwise many particular sayings would bee but strange repugnant riddles ...
The reference is to Demetrius, On Style 7 (tr. W. Rhys Roberts, rev. Doreen Innes):
Commands too are always terse and brief, and every master is monosyllabic to his slave ...

καὶ τὸ μὲν ἐπιτάσσειν σύντομον καὶ βραχύ, καὶ πᾶς δεσπότης δούλῳ μονοσύλλαβος ...

Saturday, June 23, 2018


A Liberal Education

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Barnaby Rudge, Chapter 15:
I have been, as the phrase is, liberally educated, and am fit for nothing.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Young People

Homer, Odyssey 7.294 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
For younger people are always thoughtless.

αἰεὶ γάρ τε νεώτεροι ἀφραδέουσιν.
My children, of course, are the exception to the rule. To each of them one could say (Homer, Odyssey 4.611):
You are of good blood, dear child, that you speak thus.

αἵματός εἰς ἀγαθοῖο, φίλον τέκος, οἷ᾿ ἀγορεύεις.
Related posts:

Saturday, June 16, 2018



Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), "Battle of Brunanburh," lines 15-19, in Tennyson, A Selected Edition. Edited by Christopher Ricks (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 622:
        Theirs was a greatness
        Got from their Grandsires —
        Theirs that so often in
        Strife with their enemies
Struck for their hoards and their hearths and their homes.
The original, lines 7-10, from The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems. Edited by Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942 = The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, VI), pp. 16-17:
                                  swa him geæþele wæs
from cneomægum,    þæt hi æt campe oft
wiþ laþra gehwæne    land ealgodon,
hord and hamas.

Friday, June 15, 2018


Something Knavish

Appian, Civil Wars 1.6.54 (tr. Horace White):
It seems that the ancient Romans, like the Greeks, abhorred the taking of interest on loans as something knavish, and hard on the poor, and leading to contention and enmity; and by the same kind of reasoning the Persians considered lending as having itself a tendency to deceit and lying.

ἀποστραφῆναι γάρ μοι δοκοῦσιν οἱ πάλαι Ῥωμαῖοι, καθάπερ Ἕλληνες, τὸ δανείζειν ὡς καπηλικὸν καὶ βαρὺ τοῖς πένησι καὶ δύσερι καὶ ἐχθροποιόν, ᾧ λόγῳ καὶ Πέρσαι τὸ κίχρασθαι ὡς ἀπατηλόν τε καὶ φιλοψευδές.
Related posts:


Few versus Many Readers

Henry Miller (1891-1980), "Autobiographical Note," The Cosmological Eye (New York: New Directions, 1961), pp. 365-371 (at 371):
I want to be read by less and less people; I have no interest in the life of the masses, nor in the intentions of the existing governments of the world. I hope and believe that the whole civilised world will be wiped out in the next hundred years or so. I believe that man can exist, and in an infinitely better, larger way, without "civilisation".
I would have written "fewer and fewer" instead of "less and less". But I'm just a nit-picking pedant, not a famous writer. On writing for a small, select audience, see:


Back Home

Homer, Odyssey 4.521-523 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Then indeed with rejoicing did Agamemnon set foot on his native land, and laying hold of his land he kissed it, and many were the hot tears that streamed from his eyes, for welcome to him was the sight of his land.

ἦ τοι ὁ μὲν χαίρων ἐπεβήσετο πατρίδος αἴης
καὶ κύνει ἁπτόμενος ἣν πατρίδα· πολλὰ δ᾽ ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ
δάκρυα θερμὰ χέοντ᾽, ἐπεὶ ἀσπασίως ἴδε γαῖαν.
Related posts:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


A Gift to Posterity

George Orwell, "A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray," The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters, IV: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), pp. 149-153 (at 151):
The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.
Id. (at 152-153):
A thing which I regret, and which I will try to remedy some time, is that I have never in my life planted a walnut. Nobody does plant them nowadays—when you see a walnut it is almost invariably an old tree. If you plant a walnut you are planting it for your grandchildren, and who cares a damn for his grandchildren? Nor does anybody plant a quince, a mulberry or a medlar. But these are garden trees which you can only be expected to plant if you have a patch of ground of your own. On the other hand, in any hedge or in any piece of waste ground you happen to be walking through, you can do something to remedy the appalling massacre of trees, especially oaks, ashes, elms and beeches, which has happened during the war years.

Even an apple tree is liable to live for about 100 years, so that the Cox I planted in 1936 may still be bearing fruit well into the twenty-first century. An oak or a beech may live for hundreds of years and be a pleasure to thousands or tens of thousands of people before it is finally sawn up into timber. I am not suggesting that one can discharge all one's obligations towards society by means of a private re-afforestation scheme. Still, it might not be a bad idea, every time you commit an antisocial act, to make a note of it in your diary, and then, at the appropriate season, push an acorn into the ground.
Related posts:


Like a Plank of a Shipwreck

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Advancement of Learning, Book II:
Antiquities, or remnants of history, are, as was said, tanquam tabula naufragii: when industrious persons, by an exact and scrupulous diligence and observation, out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books that concern not story, and the like, do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time.
On the source of the phrase "tanquam tabula naufragii" see Anthony Grafton, Worlds Made of Words (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009), pp. 137-139.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018



Appian, Civil Wars 1.12.104 (on Sulla; tr. Horace White):
But I think that because he was weary of war, weary of power, weary of Rome, he finally fell in love with rural life.

ἀλλά μοι δοκεῖ κόρον τε πολέμων καὶ κόρον ἀρχῆς καὶ κόρον ἄστεος λαβὼν ἐπὶ τέλει καὶ ἀγροικίας ἐρασθῆναι.


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