Thursday, February 26, 2015


Agrarian Man and Industrial Man

Ernest Gellner (1925-1995), Nations and Nationalism, 2nd ed. (Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006), p. 50:
Agrarian man can be compared with a natural species which can survive in the natural environment. Industrial man can be compared with an artificially produced or bred species which can no longer breathe effectively in the nature-given atmosphere, but can only function effectively and survive in a new, specially blended and artificially sustained air or medium. Hence he lives in specially bounded and constructed units, a kind of giant aquarium or breathing chamber.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


On Laziness

Bai Juyi (772-846), "On Laziness," tr. Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping:
When offices are open I'm too lazy to apply for office.
And though I have lands I'm too lazy to farm them.
My roof leaks but I'm too lazy to fix it
and I'm too lazy to patch my gown when it splits.
I'm too lazy to pour my wine into my cup;
it's like my cup is always empty.
I'm too lazy to play my lute;
it's as if it has no strings.
My family says the steamed rice is all eaten;
I want some but am too lazy to hull it.
I receive letters from relatives and friends
I want to read, but am too lazy to slit them open.
I heard about Qi Shuye
who spent all his life in laziness,
but he played the lute and smelted iron.
Compared with me, he isn't lazy at all!
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Down with Everything Philological

Roberta Frank, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Philologist," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 96 (1997) 486-513 (at 487):
Depressed, we seem agreed on only one thing, that we are living in a bustling, brash, brazen present that does not quite know what to make of us. And never did. At the end of William L'Isle's "Preface" to A Saxon Treatise concerning the Old and New Testament (1623), a rather plaintive King Alfred looks down from heaven and laments that his countrymen can no longer be bothered to read his Old English writings or language: "That all should be lost, all forgot, all grow out of knowledge and remembrance," he mourns, "what negligence, what ingratitude is this?"4 Links untended snap, the lineaments of the past whirl away and vanish. "Down with antiquities," Bacon had written in 1620, "and citations or supporting evidence from texts; ... down with everything philological."5

4. "The Complaint of a Saxon King," par. 20 in "Preface" to A Saxon Treatise concerning the Old and New Testament. Written about ... (700 yeares agoe) by Aelfricus Abbas (London, 1623). The book was reissued with a different title page as Divers Ancient Monuments in the Saxon Tongue. Written seven hundred yeares agoe shewing that both in the Old and New Testament, the Lords Prayer and the Creede, were then used in the Mother Tongue ... (London, 1638). See Rosemund Tuve, "Ancients, Moderns, and Saxons," English Literary History, 6 (1939), 165-90.

5. Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, Parasceve ad historiam naturalem et experimentalem, aphorism 3; Works, ed. T. Fowler (London: Reeves, 1879), II, 505.



Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Journal GH, p. [74] (August–September, 1847):
Patriotism is balderdash. Our side, our state, our town, is boyish enough. But it is true that every foot of soil has its proper quality, that the grape on either side of the same fence has its own flavor, and so every acre on the globe, every group of people, every point of climate has its own moral meaning whereof it is the symbol. For such a patriotism let us stand.
Related posts:

Saturday, February 21, 2015



Terence, Brothers 739-741 (tr. John Barsby):
Life is like a game of dice. If you don’t get the exact throw you want, you have to use your skill and make the best of the one you do get.

ita vitast hominum quasi quom ludas tesseris.
si illud quod maxume opus est iactu non cadit,
illud quod cecidit forte, id arte ut corrigas.


More Firmly Fixt to the Glebe

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Branch Giles (April 27, 1795):
I shall be rendered very happy by the visit you promise me. The only thing wanting to make me completely so is a more frequent society with my friends. It is the more wanting as I am become more firmly fixt to the glebe. If you visit me as a farmer, it must be as a condisciple: for I am but a learner; an eager one indeed but yet desperate, being too old now to learn a new art. However I am as much delighted and occupied with it as if I was the greatest adept. I shall talk with you about it from morning till night, and put you on very short allowance as to political aliment. Now and then a pious speculation for the French and Dutch republicans, returning with due dispatch to clover, potatoes, wheat &c.


O Salutaris Hostia

Philip Caraman, C.C. Martindale: A Biography (London: Longmans, 1967), p. 99 (on teaching at Stonyhurst College):
After his first class he was appalled by the low standard of Jesuit teaching at the time. He found that his pupils could not scan ordinary Latin verse, whereas at Harrow, at the same age, they would have been set to write Greek epigrams, and quite possibly in dialect. But he was quick to see the potentialities of his small class. He tutored them individually and strove to make them think. Early on he set his class the Benediction hymn, O salutaris hostia, to render as an unseen. Two boys translated hostia as enemy, and half the rest thought that it meant one who invited guests. Already he reflected that sheer ignorance was at the root of many apostasies. Latin prayers were not understood, and consequently much of the services held no meaning for the boys.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Friday, February 20, 2015



Lines quoted by Strabo 9.2.40, tr. Horace Leonard Jones in Strabo, Geography, Books 8-9 (1927; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001 = Loeb Classical Library, 196), p. 337:
Money is the most valuable thing to men, and it has the most power of all things among men.
The Greek (id., p. 336):
τὰ χρήματ᾿ ἀνθρώποισι τιμιώτατα,
δύναμίν τε πλείστην τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἔχει.
Strabo refers to this as a "common saying," but doesn't identify the source. Neither does Jones in his Loeb edition. The lines come from Euripides, Phoenician Women 439-440.


A Little-Known Latin Treatise

T.S. Eliot, letter to Bonamy Dobrée (April 17, 1931), in The Letters of T.S. Eliot, edd. Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden, Vol. 5: 1930-1931 (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), pp. 550-551:
The next talk is more difficult; it is easier to applaud Dryden in general than to make out a popular case for his Tragedy — but my method is to proceed from the simple to the complex, which was the method laid down by Johannes Procopius in his great work De Flatu, which begins 'All farts are in three dimensions' before proceeding to his elaborate theory of the time-space reality in flatulence, anticipating modern physics.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.



Zopyrus' Victims

Greek Anthology 11.124 (by Nicarchus; tr. W.R. Paton, with his notes):
A. Stranger, what dost thou seek to know? B. Who are here in earth under these tombs?
A. All those whom Zopyrus robbed of the sweet daylight,
Damis, Aristoteles, Demetrius, Arcesilaus,
Sostratus, and the next ones so far as Paraetonium.1
For with a wooden herald's staff and counterfeit sandals,2
like Hermes, he leads down his patients to Hell.

1 On the Egyptian coast a considerable distance west of Alexandria. The cemetery of Alexandria did not of course extend so far.
2 Attributes of Hermes Psychopompus; but there is some point here which eludes us.

α. ξεῖνε, τί μὰν πεύθῃ; β. τίνες ἐν χθονὶ τοῖσδ᾽ ὑπὸ τύμβοις;
    α. οὓς γλυκεροῦ φέγγους Ζώπυρος ἐστέρισεν,
Δᾶμις, Ἀριστοτέλης, Δημήτριος, Ἀρκεσίλαος,
    Σώστρατος, οἵ τ᾽ ὀπίσω μέχρι Παραιτονίου.
κηρύκιον γὰρ ἔχων ξύλινον, καὶ πλαστὰ πέδιλα,
    ὡς Ἑρμῆς, κατάγει τοὺς θεραπευομένους.
Zopyrus is of course a physician. The third line of the epigram is a hexameter consisting entirely of proper names in asyndeton. For similar lines see:

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Holes That Cannot Be Filled

Oliver Sacks, "My Own Life," New York Times (February 19, 2015):
There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.


A Cure for Dropsy

Thomas Gray, letter to William Mason (November, 1764):
Doctor Ridlington has been given over with a dropsy these ten weeks. He refused all tapping and scarifying, but obeyed other directions, till, finding all was over, he prescribed to himself a boiled chicken entire, and five quarts of small beer. After this he brought up great quantities of blood, the swelling and suffocation, and all signs of water disappeared, his spirits returned, and, except extreme weakness, he is recovered.


A Wish

Tacitus, Dialogue on Orators 13.5 (Curiatius Maternus speaking; tr. W. Peterson, rev. M. Winterbottom):
As for myself, may the 'sweet Muses,' as Virgil [Georgics 2.475-477] says, bear me away to their holy places where sacred streams do flow, beyond the reach of anxiety and care, and free from the obligation of performing each day some task that goes against the grain.

me vero dulces, ut Vergilius ait, Musae, remotum a sollicitudinibus et curis et necessitate cotidie aliquid contra animum faciendi, in illa sacra illosque fontes ferant.


A Played Out Field

Dorrit Hoffleit, Misfortunes as Blessings in Disguise: The Story of My Life (Cambridge: American Association of Variable Star Observers, 2002), p. 127 (on her brother Herbert Hoffleit):
My brother had always wanted to live to a ripe old age. As Harvard at commencement always honored the oldest graduate who came to reunion, Herbert hoped to be the one so honored—simply for old-age flexibility. Instead, his last year, at age 76, he spent in a wheel chair and with too diminished eyesight to continue reading. And nobody seemed to be able to read his classics with the proper accents, certainly not I when I last visited him. With all the promise of scholarship he showed as a young man, I am aware of hardly half a dozen publications by him; his last was one of the Loeb classical series, a translation with annotations of Plutarch's Moralia, Vol. 8, Books IV-VI. His colleagues and friends honored his memory at a heart warming service at UCLA soon after his death. I could not help but think that his apparent low productivity over the years depended upon the fact that he had specialized in a field that was largely played out; hardly anything new was left to write about, whereas mine was a rapidly developing field with something new for anyone of any ability. Classicists were there to keep alive a subject of great importance for the understanding of the correct usage of our own language, the use of whose parts of speech and grammar seem to be steadily deteriorating.
The entry on Herbert Hoffleit (by Mortimer Chambers) in Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, ed. Ward W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 286-287, lists the following publications:
"An Un-Platonic Theory of Evil in Plato," AJP 58 (1937) 45-58; "A Latin Medical Manuscript," Studies Rand, 133-41; Epigrammata: Greek Inscriptions in Verse from the Beginnings to the Persian Wars, with Paul Friedländer (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1948); Plutarch, Moralia Vol. VIII Table-Talk, Books IV-VI (trans.) (Books I-III by P.A. Clement), LCL (Cambridge & London, 1969).
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Small Improvements

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Sudelbücher K 140 (tr. J.P. Stern):
The pulling down of familiar institutions is a great evil, especially in politics, economics, and religion. To the planner novelty is agreeable, but those whom it affects generally find it very disagreeable. The former fails to consider that he has to do with people who should be guided imperceptibly and gently, and that in this way much more can be accomplished than by a transformation the value of which only future experience can show. (I wish people bore this in mind!) Do not let us amputate limbs which can still be healed, even though they may remain somewhat maimed; otherwise the patient might die during the operation. And do not let us hastily pull down a building which is a little inconvenient, lest in the end we find ourselves worse inconvenienced. Let us make small corrections.

Das Einreißen bei gewöhnlichen Anstalten ist ein großes Verderben, vorzüglich in der Politik, Ökonomie und Religion. Das Neue ist dem Projektmacher so angenehm, aber denen, die es betrifft, gemeiniglich sehr unangenehm. Der erste bedenkt dabei nicht, daß er es mit Menschen zu tun hat, die mit Güte unvermerkt geleitet sein wollen, und daß man dadurch sehr viel mehr ausrichtet, als mit einer Umschaffung, deren Wert denn doch erst durch die Erfahrung entschieden werden muß. Wenn man doch nur das letztere bedenken wollte! Man schneide die Glieder nicht ab, die man noch heilen kann, wenn sie auch gleich etwas verstümmelt bleiben; der Mensch könnte über der Operation sterben. Und man reiße nicht gleich ein Gebäude ein, das etwas unbequem ist, und stecke sich dadurch in größere Unbequemlichkeiten. Man mache kleine Verbesserungen.


The Cry of the Flesh

Epicurus, Sententiae Vaticanae 33 (tr. A.A. Long and D.N. Sedley):
The flesh's cry is not to be hungry or thirsty or cold. For one who is in these states and expects to remain so could rival even Zeus in happiness.

σαρκὸς φωνὴ τὸ μὴ πεινῆν, τὸ μὴ διψῆν, τὸ μὴ ῥιγοῦν. ταῦτα γὰρ ἔχων τις καὶ ἐλπίζων ἕξειν κἂν <Διὶ> ὑπὲρ εὐδαιμονίας μαχέσαιτο.
ταῦτα γὰρ ἔχων, having these things, i.e., food, drink, and a way to stay warm (fire, clothing, or shelter).


Classics Is Not a Subject

George Watson, Heresies and Heretics: Memories of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2013), p. 166 (on Moses Finley):
His stance was unremittingly devastating. He was against dilettantism, textual criticism ('the textual-criticism racket') and amateur enthusiasms. Classics, he would often say, is not a subject. Ancient history is a job for historians, ancient philosophy for philosophers, ancient literature for those whose concerns are literary. Classics is not a subject. That was his mantra, his chosen heresy. I did not know him before he believed it, if there ever was a time. It is certain he never ceased to believe it. It was a view that left the humanistic views of the Victorians absolutely nowhere.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


As Good as a Hundred Thousand

Cicero, Brutus 51.191 (on Antimachus; tr. G.L. Hendrickson):
When reading that long and well-known poem of his before an assembled audience, in the very midst of his reading all his listeners left him but Plato: 'I shall go on reading,' he said, 'just the same; for me Plato alone is as good as a hundred thousand.'

cum convocatis auditoribus legeret eis magnum illud quod novistis volumen suum et eum legentem omnes praeter Platonem reliquissent: legam, inquit, nihilo minus; Plato enim mihi unus instar est centum milium.

centum milium Orelli, omnium me illum L
Related posts:


To Speak or To Be Silent

Isocrates 1.41 (tr. George Norlin):
Always when you are about to say anything, first weigh it in your mind; for with many the tongue outruns the thought. Let there be but two occasions for speech—when the subject is one which you thoroughly know and when it is one on which you are compelled to speak. On these occasions alone is speech better than silence; on all others, it is better to be silent than to speak.

πᾶν ὅ τι ἂν μέλλῃς ἐρεῖν, πρότερον ἐπισκόπει τῇ γνώμῃ· πολλοῖς γὰρ ἡ γλῶττα προτρέχει τῆς διανοίας. δύο ποιοῦ καιροὺς τοῦ λέγειν, ἢ περὶ ὧν οἶσθα σαφῶς, ἢ περὶ ὧν ἀναγκαῖον εἰπεῖν. ἐν τούτοις γὰρ μόνοις ὁ λόγος τῆς σιγῆς κρείττων, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἄμεινον σιγᾶν ἢ λέγειν.


A Well Known Fact?

Alan Cameron, Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 479:
It is well known that Nonnus contrived to avoid ending even one of his 20,000 odd hexameters with a proparoxytone word.


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