Sunday, October 31, 2004


Ghost Stories

Father Jim Tucker links to an Associated Press story by Jeff Douglas on Yahoo about the ghost of Henry David Jardine, an Episcopal priest from St. Mary's in Kansas City who supposedly still haunts his church. Since Yahoo news links don't survive long in cyberspace, here are excerpts:
As the legend goes, St. Mary's Episcopal Church is haunted by the ghost of Father Henry David Jardine, a 19th century priest whose footsteps still echo throughout the Gothic-style sanctuary.

St. Mary's yesterday tried to separate fact from fiction by bringing together the ghostly tales and historical documents about Jardine's life, which has been shrouded for years in mystery and intrigue.

"He is quite a legend. And sometimes it's hard to know what to believe," said Todd Chenault, the unofficial church historian who organized the $45-a-plate dinner. The event featured fake fog and music from the church's 30-foot organ.

Chenault, 45, who has gone to St. Mary's all his life, remembers trading spooky stories about Jardine with his fellow Sunday school students in the 1960s. As an adult, however, he has worked to learn the true story about the priest.

Rumor has it that Jardine killed himself in the church's third-story living area and was buried in a basement vault. Not true, Chenault said.

Old newspaper clippings show Jardine died in 1886 in St. Louis, not Kansas City. St. Mary's does have a tomb, but the downtown parish that Jardine commissioned was not finished until months after his death. The stigma of suicide kept him from ever resting in the crypt, which instead holds boxes of cereal and canned goods for the needy.

On more than one occasion, Chenault says, he has heard footsteps shuffling from behind the organ. When he was a child, Christmas trees fell off ledges near the instrument for no reason, year after year.

"Have I heard things? Yes, plenty of times," Chenault said. "Have I seen any ghosts? No, never."


Betty Herndon, who will help lead the Saturday event billed as "The Historic Haunting," said many church members during Jardine's time praised his emphasis on old Roman Catholic ways, but others were not as accepting. Influential members spread rumors, hoping for his resignation, Herndon said.

Jardine also was accused of misusing parish funds, drug use and immoral behavior with young church girls. The scandal prompted the priest to file a libel suit against a former editor of The Kansas City Times, John Shea. Jardine lost the case.

"It was a kangaroo court; witnesses made outrageous claims with no evidence. You name it," said Chenault, who said he reviewed court documents from the lawsuit.

Jardine then traveled to St. Louis, where his priesthood was revoked. Days before he was scheduled to contest the decision, he was found dead. In his hands, according to newspaper accounts, were a crucifix and rag soaked in chloroform.

Herndon said Jardine commonly inhaled the toxic drug to ease facial muscle spasms, so his death might have been accidental. He said few believed Jardine committed suicide or the allegations that came before. Arriving by train, Jardine's casket was covered in black cloth and his congregation came to view it.

"The scene was sorrowful, even to a stranger," The Kansas City Times reported.

Church archives show St. Mary's buried the priest a day later on unconsecrated ground for $88. The funeral precession stretched for more than a mile.

Over the past 100 years Jardine's remains have been exhumed and moved three times, most recently in 2000 to return his remains to St. Mary's. His ashes rest by the organ, under the church's high altar.
I grew up attending St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Holyoke Street in Brewer, Maine. The church building has since been sold to the Episcopalians and the rectory was for a while a bed-and-breakfast inn, but there are reports that the ghost of our parish priest, Father Thomas H. Moriarty, who died in 1969, is not at rest. I was one of Father Moriarty's altar boys, and so chapter 6 of Thomas A. Verde's book Maine Ghosts and Legends (Camden: Downeast Books, 1989), entitled The Lingering Ghost of Father Moriarty (pp. 35-40), has a special interest for me. Much of the chapter is devoted to ghostly manifestations at the rectory, including "pacing back and forth, such as a priest does when saying his breviary, or daily office" (pp. 37-38), but the final incident takes place outdoors, in broad daylight (pp. 39-40):
Not long ago, a new family moved into Brewer. The wife was outside in her yard washing the windows of her new home when she noticed a priest walking across the lawn to greet her. He introduced himself and then asked whether she and her family were Catholic.

"Yes," she replied. "Yes, we are."

"Then why," thundered the priest, "haven't I seen you down at church?"

The woman apologized, saything that with all the chaos of moving in she hadn't had the time. The priest made her promise to be there with her family the following Sunday and went on his way. When the woman told her neighbor about the incident, the neighbor was a bit surprised. It didn't sound like the behavior of the current pastor at St. Joseph's.

"What was the priest's name?" asked the neighbor.

"Father Moriarty."
The verb "thundered" has the ring of verisimilitude. I was always scared of Father Moriarty.


Regret in Sparta

Let's start out with a mythological refresher. The goddess Eris (Greek for strife or discord) was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In retaliation for this snub, she rolled a golden apple inscribed "For the fairest" into the midst of the wedding guests. A squabble arose among the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite over who deserved the apple. They held a beauty contest to decide the question and chose Paris, son of Troy's king Priam, as judge. Each of the three contestants tried to bribe Paris. Hera offered him power, Athena offered him martial prowess, and Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world.

Paris decided in favor of Aphrodite. The most beautiful woman in the world was Helen, already married to Menelaus of Sparta, so Paris travelled to Sparta, seduced Helen, and carried her off with him to Troy. Menelaus' brother Agamemnon summoned an army of Greek warriors to win her back. They sailed to Troy, and so began the ten-year Trojan War.

In the midst of the conflict, the old men of Troy caught a glimpse of Helen on the battlements, and concluded that, despite the hardships of war, she was worth fighting for. Homer described the scene in Iliad 3.146-160, translated in the form of a sonnet by Andrew Lang (1844-1912) entitled Helen on the Walls:
Fair Helen to the Scaean portals came,
Where sat the elders, peers of Priamus,
Thymoetas, Hiketaon, Panthous,
And many another of a noble name,
Famed warriors, now in council more of fame.
Always above the gates, in converse thus
They chattered like cicalas garrulous;
Who marking Helen, swore "It is no shame
That armed Achaean knights, and Ilian men
For such a woman's sake should suffer long.
Fair as a deathless goddess seemeth she.
Nay, but aboard the red-prowed ships again
Home let her pass in peace, not working wrong
To us, and children's children yet to be."
The ancient sophist Gorgias also composed an encomium in defense of Helen.

Eventually Paris was slain in battle, the Greeks won the war, and Helen returned to her husband. By most accounts she and Menelaus lived happily ever after in Sparta. We see their domestic bliss, for example, in the fourth book of Homer's Odyssey. But a modern poet, Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), imagined another ending to the story, in a pair of sonnets entitled Menelaus and Helen:

Hot through Troy’s ruin Menelaus broke
  To Priam's palace, sword in hand, to sate
  On that adulterous whore a ten years' hate
And a king's honour. Through red death, and smoke,
And cries, and then by quieter ways he strode,
  Till the still innermost chamber fronted him.
  He swung his sword, and crashed into the dim
Luxurious bower, flaming like a god.

High sat white Helen, lonely and serene.
  He had not remembered that she was so fair,
And that her neck curved down in such a way;
And he felt tired. He flung the sword away,
  And kissed her feet, and knelt before her there,
The perfect Knight before the perfect Queen.


So far the poet. How should he behold
  That journey home, the long connubial years?
  He does not tell you how white Helen bears
Child on legitimate child, becomes a scold,
Haggard with virtue. Menelaus bold
  Waxed garrulous, and sacked a hundred Troys
  'Twixt noon and supper. And her golden voice
Got shrill as he grew deafer. And both were old.

Often he wonders why on earth he went
  Troyward, or why poor Paris ever came.
Oft she weeps, gummy-eyed and impotent;
  Her dry shanks twitch at Paris' mumbled name.
So Menelaus nagged; and Helen cried;
And Paris slept on by Scamander side.

Saturday, October 30, 2004


A Parcel of Pigeons

Oliver Goldsmith, song from She Stoops to Conquer, Act 1:
Let school-masters puzzle their brain,
With grammar, and nonsense, and learning;
Good liquor, I stoutly maintain,
Gives genus a better discerning.
Let them brag of their heathenish gods,
Their Lethes, their Styxes, and Stygians:
Their Quis, and their Quaes, and their Quods,
They're all but a parcel of Pigeons.
                Toroddle, toroddle, toroll.
Lethe and Styx are rivers in the underworld, and the adjective Stygian is derived from Styx. Qui, quae, and quod are nominative singular relative pronouns in Latin, masculine, feminine, and neuter respectively.

Friday, October 29, 2004


Regret in Ithaca

In the fifth book of Homer's Odyssey, we see Odysseus held against his will on the goddess Calypso's island, pining to return to his homeland Ithaca and his wife Penelope. Andrew Lang (1844-1912) wrote a sonnet entitled In Ithaca about Odysseus' second thoughts once he was back home:
"And now am I greatly repenting that ever I left my life with thee, and the immortality thou didst promise me." -- Letter of Odysseus to Calypso. Luciani Vera Historia.

'Tis thought Odysseus when the strife was o'er
  With all the waves and wars, a weary while,
  Grew restless in his disenchanted isle,
And still would watch the sunset, from the shore,
Go down the ways of gold, and evermore
  His sad heart followed after, mile on mile,
  Back to the Goddess of the magic wile,
Calypso, and the love that was of yore.

Thou too, thy haven gained, must turn thee yet
  To look across the sad and stormy space,
  Years of a youth as bitter as the sea,
Ah, with a heavy heart, and eyelids wet,
  Because, within a fair forsaken place
  The life that might have been is lost to thee.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


The Lord Apollo

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935), Many Are Called:
The Lord Apollo, who has never died,
Still holds alone his immemorial reign,
Supreme in an impregnable domain
That with his magic he has fortified;
And though melodious multitudes have tried
In ecstasy, in anguish, and in vain,
With invocation sacred and profane
To lure him, even the loudest are outside.

Only at unconjectured intervals,
By will of him on whom no man may gaze,
By word of him whose law no man has read,
A questing light may rift the sullen walls,
To cling where mostly its infrequent rays
Fall golden on the patience of the dead.


Parable of the Birds

John Burroughs (1837-1921), The Art of Seeing Things:
I once spent a summer day at the mountain home of a well-known literary woman and editor. She lamented the absence of birds about her house. I named a half-dozen or more I had heard or seen in her trees within an hour -- the indigo-bird, the purple finch, the yellowbird, the veery thrush, the red-eyed vireo, the song sparrow.

"Do you mean to say you have seen or heard all these birds while sitting here on my porch?" she inquired.

"I really have," I said.

"I do not see them or hear them," she replied, "and yet I want to very much."

"No," I said, "you only want to want to see and hear them."

You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Fed Up

No matter what your political persuasion, you probably agree with Bill Keezer's cri du coeur:
Tonight I am simply full up to here (just below chin) with constant polling, punditry, prognostication, dirty tricks, speeches, media bias, and all the rest of it, and we still have another week of it.
I fear that, if the election is close, we will have many more months of it.


Living for Kicks

Read Theodore Dalrymple's essay Living for kicks: the ugly face of Britain. A sample:
Self-esteem is an egotistical quality, self-respect a social one. Self-esteem imposes obligation on others, that they treat one as if one were of supreme importance, far more important than anyone else; self-respect imposes obligations on oneself, for example that one behaves with decency and controls oneself for the convenience of others, even in the most difficult circumstances.


The Classics Serialized

Dickens serialized his novels in magazines. Some bloggers are serializing works of ancient literature in similar fashion: Xenophon's Anabasis at The Bayou City Perspective, Plato's Republic at The Bourgeois Burglar, and the epigrams of Martial at Martialis.


The Thirsty Dead

A story in the San Francisco Chronicle by Meredith May opens with these words:
Earl "E.J." Jackson cracked open a Miller High Life and poured a dribble into the gutter before taking a swig. "That's for my dead homies," he said.
Although he might not have been aware of it, Mr. Jackson was following an ancient tradition. His action refutes the assertion of Walter Burkert in Greek Religion, tr. John Raffan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 70, that "The outpouring of liquids, libation, ... has now disappeared from our culture."

Lucian, On Mourning 9, after telling how the very good are rewarded after death and the very evil are punished, explains the rationale behind the custom of libation:
But those of the middle sort, and they are numerous, wander in the meadow without bodies, having become shadows and vanishing like smoke on contact with anything. They are nourished by the libations we pour and by burnt offerings over their tombs, so that if any one of them lacks a friend or relative above ground, that one ekes out an existence among the dead as a fasting and famished corpse.
The ancient Greeks for this reason were anxious to leave behind them heirs who would perform the customary rites for them. In a lawsuit involving a disputed inheritance, Isaeus 6.51 (tr. Edward Seymour Forster) says:
You have, therefore, gentlemen, to consider whether this woman's son ought to be heir to Philoctemon's property and go to the family tombs to offer libations and sacrifices, or my client, Philoctemon's sister's son, whom he himself adopted.
Other passages from ancient Greek literature give details about the liquids poured out to the thirsty dead. In Aeschylus' Persians 607-615 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth) Atossa is trying to summon the spirit of her husband Darius from the dead:
'Tis for this reason that I have directed my course from the palace once again, without my chariot and my former pomp, and bring, as proptiatory libations for the father of my son, offerings that serve to soothe the dead, both white milk, sweet to drink, from an unblemished cow, and bright honey, distillation wrought from from blossoms by the bee, together with lustral water from a virgin spring; and this unmixed draught, the quickening juice of an ancient vine, its mother in the fields.
Compare the liquids that Odysseus pours out in order to raise the dead in the Nekyia (Homer, Odyssey 11.23-33, as Circe had commanded at 10.516-526, tr. Butcher and Lang):
There Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, but I drew my sharp sword from my thigh, and dug a pit, as it were a cubit in length and breadth, and about it poured a drink-offering to all the dead, first with mead and thereafter with sweet wine, and for the third time with water. And I sprinkled white meal thereon, and entreated with many prayers the strengthless heads of the dead, and promised that on my return to Ithaca I would offer in my halls a barren heifer, the best I had, and fill the pyre with treasure, and apart unto Teiresias alone sacrifice a black ram without spot, the fairest of my flock.
In Euripides' Iphigenia among the Taurians 157-166 (tr. David Kovacs), Iphigenia incorrectly thinks that her brother Orestes is dead, and so she pours out similar liquids to his ghost:
Cruel fate, you stripped me of my only brother and sent him to Hades! To him these libations, this mixing bowl for the dead, I shall pour upon the earth's expanse, the milk of young cows of the mountains, the wine libation of Bacchus, and honey made by the toil of tawny bees. All these are poured out to soothe the dead.
In some remains of ancient Greek tombs we even find clay pipes leading from the surface of the ground downward, to ensure that the libations reach their intended recipients. For more on this subject, see Robert Garland, The Greek Way of Death (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 113-115 (Drink offerings).

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


A Middle Course

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France:
But in this, as in most questions of state, there is a middle. There is something else than the mere alternative of absolute destruction, or unreformed existence. Spartam nactus es; hanc exorna. This is, in my opinion, a rule of profound sense, and ought never to depart from the mind of an honest reformer. I cannot conceive how any man can have brought himself to that pitch of presumption, to consider his country as nothing but carte blanche, upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases. A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it; but a good patriot, and a true politician, always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.
The Latin phrase "Spartam nactus es; hanc exorna" means "You have received Sparta as your portion; adorn her." It is a translation of a line from Euripides' Telephus.


Seneca on Vegetarianism

Seneca, Epistulae Morales 108.17-22 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
[17] Inasmuch as I have begun to explain to you how much greater was my impulse to approach philosophy in my youth than to continue it in my old age, I shall not be ashamed to tell you what ardent zeal Pythagoras inspired in me. Sotion used to tell me why Pythagoras abstained from animal food, and why, in later times, Sextius did also. In each case, the reason was different, but it was in each case a noble reason.

[18] Sextius believed that man had enough sustenance without resorting to blood, and that a habit of cruelty is formed whenever butchery is practised for pleasure. Moreover, he thought we should curtail the sources of our luxury; he argued that a varied diet was contrary to the laws of health, and was unsuited to our constitutions.

[19] Pythagoras, on the other hand, held that all beings were interrelated, and that there was a system of exchange between souls which transmigrated from one bodily shape into another. If one may believe him, no soul perishes or ceases from its functions at all, except for a tiny interval -- when it is being poured from one body into another. We may question at what time and after what seasons of change the soul returns to man, when it has wandered through many a dwelling-place; but meantime, he made men fearful of guilt and parricide, since they might be, without knowing it, attacking the soul of a parent and injuring it with knife or with teeth -- if, as is possible, the related spirit be dwelling temporarily in this bit of flesh!

[20] When Sotion had set forth this doctrine, supplementing it with his own proofs, he would say: "You do not believe that souls are assigned, first to one body and then to another, and that our so-called death is merely a change of abode? You do not believe that in cattle, or in wild beasts, or in creatures of the deep, the soul of him who was once a man may linger? You do not believe that nothing on this earth is annihilated, but only changes its haunts? And that animals also have cycles of progress and, so to speak, an orbit for their souls, no less than the heavenly bodies, which revolve in fixed circuits?

[21] Great men have put faith in this idea; therefore, while holding to your own view, keep the whole question in abeyance in your mind. If the theory is true, it is a mark of purity to refrain from eating flesh; if it be false, it is economy. And what harm does it do to you to give such credence? I am merely depriving you of food which sustains lions and vultures."

[22] I was imbued with this teaching, and began to abstain from animal food; at the end of the year the habit was as pleasant as it was easy. I was beginning to feel that my mind was more active; though I would not today positively state whether it really was or not. Do you ask how I came to abandon the practice? It was this way: the days of my youth coincided with the early part of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Some foreign rites were at that time being inaugurated, and abstinence from certain kinds of animal food was set down as a proof of interest in the strange cult. So at the request of my father, who did not fear gossip, but who detested philosophy, I returned to my previous habits; and it was no very hard matter to induce me to dine more comfortably.

[17] Quoniam coepi tibi exponere quanto maiore impetu ad philosophiam iuvenis accesserim quam senex pergam, non pudebit fateri quem mihi amorem Pythagoras iniecerit. Sotion dicebat quare ille animalibus abstinuisset, quare postea Sextius. Dissimilis utrique causa erat, sed utrique magnifica.

[18] Hic homini satis alimentorum citra sanguinem esse credebat et crudelitatis consuetudinem fieri ubi in voluptatem esset adducta laceratio. Adiciebat contrahendam materiam esse luxuriae; colligebat bonae valetudini contraria esse alimenta varia et nostris aliena corporibus.

[19] At Pythagoras omnium inter omnia cognationem esse dicebat et animorum commercium in alias atque alias formas transeuntium. Nulla, si illi credas, anima interit, ne cessat quidem nisi tempore exiguo, dum in aliud corpus transfunditur. Videbimus per quas temporum vices et quando pererratis pluribus domiciliis in hominem revertatur: interim sceleris hominibus ac parricidii metum fecit, cum possent in parentis animam inscii incurrere et ferro morsuve violare, si in quo cognatus aliqui spiritus hospitaretur.

[20] Haec cum exposuisset Sotion et implesset argumentis suis, 'non credis' inquit 'animas in alia corpora atque alia discribi et migrationem esse quod dicimus mortem? Non credis in his pecudibus ferisve aut aqua mersis illum quondam hominis animum morari? Non credis nihil perire in hoc mundo, sed mutare regionem? nectantum caelestia per certos circuitus verti, sed animalia quoque per vices ire et animos per orbem agi? Magni ista crediderunt viri.

[21] Itaque iudicium quidem tuum sustine, ceterum omnia tibi in integro serva. Si vera sunt ista, abstinuisse animalibus innocentia est; si falsa, frugalitas est. Quod istic credulitatis tuae damnum est? alimenta tibi leonum et vulturum eripio.'

[22] His ego instinctus abstinere animalibus coepi, et anno peracto non tantum facilis erat mihi consuetudo sed dulcis. Agitatiorem mihi animumesse credebam nec tibi hodie adfirmaverim an fuerit. Quaeris quomodo desierim? In primum Tiberii Caesaris principatum iuventae tempus inciderat: alienigenatum sacra movebantur et inter argumenta superstitionis ponebatur quorundam animalium abstinentia. Patre itaque meo rogante, qui non calumniam timebat sed philosophiam oderat, ad pristinam consuetudinem redii; nec difficulter mihi ut inciperem melius cenare persuasit.

Monday, October 25, 2004



Robert Hendrickson, QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd edition (New York: Facts on File, 2004), has this to say about the origin of the word giddy (p. 295):
The Greek word that gives us giddy, first recorded in about 1000, translates as "possessed by a god." Giddy, however, started off meaning mad, insane, and foolish, in English, and today generally means frivolous and lighthearted, flighty, though it sometimes means to be dizzy or affected with vertigo.
There is no Greek word that gives us giddy. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary gives the correct derivation, from Middle English gidy, itself from Old English gydig (possessed, mad), akin to Old English god. The ancient Greek equivalent of Old English gydig is entheos (full of a god, inspired, possessed), which occurs as early as Aeschylus (5th century B.C.). English enthusiastic is derived from Greek entheos.


Wine and Water

As a rule, the ancient Greeks and Romans did not drink their wine pure, but mixed with water. The Romans called unmixed wine merum, from the adjective merus (unadulterated, whence English mere). The Greek equivalent is the adjective akratos (unmixed), from alpha privative and the verb kerannymi (mix). The Greek word for a mixing bowl, krater (whence Latin cratera and English crater), comes from the same verb. In English we use the word neat, meaning without admixture or dilution.

It was considered barbaric to drink wine neat in ancient times. Herodotus 6.84 (tr. George Rawlinson) tells this cautionary tale:
The Argives say that Cleomenes lost his senses, and died so miserably, on account of these doings. But his own countrymen declare that his madness proceeded not from any supernatural cause whatever, but only from the habit of drinking wine unmixed with water, which he learnt of the Scyths. These nomads, from the time that Darius made his inroad into their country, had always had a wish for revenge. They therefore sent ambassadors to Sparta to conclude a league, proposing to endeavour themselves to enter Media by the Phasis, while the Spartans should march inland from Ephesus, and then the two armies should join together in one. When the Scyths came to Sparta on this errand Cleomenes was with them continually; and growing somewhat too familiar, learnt of them to drink his wine without water, a practice which is thought by the Spartans to have caused his madness. From this distance of time the Spartans, according to their own account, have been accustomed, when they want to drink purer wine than common, to give the order to fill "Scythian fashion."
Likewise Plato, Laws 637 E (tr. Benjamin Jowett), says:
But the Scythians and Thracians, both men and women, drink unmixed wine, which they pour on their garments, and this they think a happy and glorious institution.
An exchange between one of the ambassadors (A) and Dicaeopolis (D) in Aristophanes' Acharnians (73-78, tr. Alan H. Sommerstein) also illustrates the barbaric nature of the custom:
A: And when we were entertained, we were compelled to drink unmixed sweet wine from cups of glass and gold -- D: City of Cranaus! are you aware how these ambassadors mock you? A: Because the barbarians regard as real men only those who can eat and drink vast quantities.
A Greek or Roman who drank wine neat was more likely than not a drunkard or a glutton. Martial 1.11 (tr. Walter C.A. Ker) criticizes one such individual:
While twice five wine-tokens are a knight's allowance, why do you, Sextilianus, all to yourself take twice ten drinks? By this time the warm water would have failed the attendants who bring it, were it not, Sextilianus, that you drink your wine unmixed.

Cum data sint equiti bis quina nomismata, quare
  bis decies solus, Sextiliane, bibis?
Iam defecisset portantis calda ministros,
  si non potares, Sextiliane, merum.
The 21st epigram of Ausonius is a labored pun on an old woman named Meroe after the Egyptian city of that name. After giving several examples of "significant names," Ausonius ends the poem by claiming that Meroe's name is really derived from merum (unmixed wine):
And so you too, Meroe, not because you are black in color, as one who is born in Meroe on the Nile River, but because you do not dilute the wine poured into your cup with water, accustomed as you are to drink unmixed wine, pure merum.

et tu sic, Meroe, non quod sis atra colore,
  ut quae Niliaca nascitur in Meroe,
infusum sed quod vinum non diluis undis,
  potare immixtum sueta merumque merum.
According to Xenophanes (fragment B 5 West, tr. J.M. Edmonds) you're supposed to put the water in the mixing bowl first, then the wine:
Nor would a man pour wine first into the cup when he mingled it, but water and thereafter the liquor.
It was the function of the master of the drinking (Greek symposiarchos, Latin magister bibendi) to decide the proportion of water to wine. The master of the drinking was elected by his fellows (Xenophon, Anabasis 6.1.30) or chosen by lot (Horace, Odes 1.4.18 and 2.7.25-26).

Three parts water to one part wine is the proportion recommended by Hesiod, Works and Days 596, although the proper proportions were a matter of much dispute in antiquity. Aristophanes, Wealth 1132 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein) mentions one part water to one part wine, a strong mixture:
Ah me, the cup of fifty-fifty blend!
Athenaeus in his Deipnosophistae (Professors at Dinner) goes on for pages (10.426b-427a, 10.430d-431b) quoting various authorities on the question. Most recommend more water than wine, although Alcaeus, fragment Z 22 (tr. Denys Page) favors more wine than water:
The son of Semele and Zeus [Bacchus] gave wine to men for oblivion of sorrow; mix one of water to two of wine, pour them full from the brim down, let one cup jostle another.
See Denys Page, Sappho and Alcaeus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), p. 308, for a learned discussion of proportions of water to wine in antiquity.

A variation on this ancient custom is performed even today as part of the Mass, when the priest pours a few drops of water into the wine and says this prayer (Novus Ordo):
By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Per huius aquae et vini mysterium eius efficiamur divinitatis consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps.
That this has been part of the Mass since early times is shown by the evidence of Justin Martyr in his first Apology (chapter 45), written around 150 A.D.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


More Latin Blog Names

The Maverick Philosopher started a list of Latin blog names. Here are a few more. Many are blogs by lawyers or by Catholics of a traditionalist bent.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Fear of Ancient Greek

From Reuters:
Four Italian teenagers have confessed to flooding one of Milan's best known schools, causing an estimated 500,000 euros ($630,900) in damage, because they did not want to sit a Greek exam.

The three girls and one boy, aged between 16 and 17, delivered a letter to the school's headmaster on Thursday, explaining how last weekend they blocked drains in a bathroom before they turned on washbasin taps and left them running.

The headmaster, Carlo Arrigo Pedretti, said the pupils wrote in the letter that they flooded the school to avoid having to sit their ancient Greek test on Monday morning.

"I am stunned, I cannot believe it," Pedretti said. "These kids have no idea of the consequence of their actions."

The Parini school, located in the heart of Milan and which was recently refurbished, is the oldest state school in Italy.

The pupils have been suspended from school until next Monday. They were questioned by police on Thursday and could be put under investigation for aggravated vandalism, breaking and entering and causing a disruption to public services.


Gems from Housman

Some excerpts from A.E. Housman's 1921 lecture The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism:

We exercise textual criticism whenever we notice and correct a misprint. A man who possesses common sense and the use of reason must not expect to learn from treatises or lectures on textual criticism anything that he could not, with leisure and industry, find out for himself. What the lectures and treatises can do for him is to save him time and trouble by presenting to him immediately considerations which would in any case occur to him sooner or later. And whatever he reads about textual criticism in books, or hears at lectures, he should test by reason and common sense, and reject everything which conflicts with either as mere hocus-pocus.


Most men are rather stupid, and most of those who are not stupid are, consequently, rather vain; and it hardly possible to step aside from the pursuit of truth without falling a victim either to your stupidity or else to your vanity. Stupidity will then attach you to received opinions, and you will stick in the mud; or vanity will set you hunting for novelty, and you will find mare's-nests. Added to these snares and hindrances there are the various forms of partisanship: sectarianism, which handcuffs you to your own school and teachers and associates, and patriotism, which handcuffs you to your own country. Patriotism has a great name as a virtue, and in civic matters, at the present stage of the world's history, it possibly still does more good than harm; but in the sphere of intellect it is an unmitigated nuisance.


The things which the textual critic has to talk about are not things which present themselves clearly and sharply to the mind; and it is easy to say, and to fancy that you think, what you really do not think, and even what, if you seriously tried to think it, you would find to be unthinkable. Mistakes are therefore made which could not be made if the matter under discussion were any corporeal object, having qualities perceptible to the senses. The human senses have had a much longer history than the human intellect, and have been brought much nearer to perfection: they are far more acute, far less easy to deceive. The difference between an icicle and a red-hot poker is really much slighter than the difference between truth and falsehood or sense and nonsense; yet it is much more immediately noticeable and much more universally noticed, because the body is more sensitive than the mind. I find therefore that a good way of exposing the falsehood of a statement or the absurdity of an argument in textual criticism is to transpose it into sensuous terms and see what it looks like then.


There is one foolish sort of conjecture which seems to be commoner in the British Isles than anywhere else, though it is also practiced abroad, and of late years especially at Munich. The practice is, if you have persuaded yourself that a text is corrupt, to alter a letter or two and see what happens. If what happens is anything which the warmest good-will can mistake for sense and grammar, you call it an emendation; and you call this silly game the palaeographical method.

The palaeographical method has always been the delight of tiros and the scorn of critics. Haupt, for example, used to warn his pupils against mistaking this sort of thing for emendation. "The prime requisite of a good emendation," said he, "is that it should start from the thought; it is only afterwards that other considerations, such as those of metre or possibilities, such as the interchange of letters, are taken into account." And again: "If the sense requires it, I am prepared to write Constantinopolitanus where the MSS. have the monosyllabic interjection o."


Textual criticism, like most other sciences, is an aristocratic affair, not communicable to all men, nor to most men. Not to be a textual critic is no reproach to anyone, unless he pretends to be what he is not. To be a textual critic requires aptitude for thinking and willingness to think; and though it also requires other things, those things are supplements and cannot be substitutes. Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary; and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders and brains, not pudding, in your head.


The Old Paths

Jeremiah 6:16:
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.


A Literary Curiosity

Here is a short poem by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) entitled A Love Song:
Apud in is almi de si re,
Mimis tres i ne ver re qui re,
Alo veri findit a gestis,
His miseri ne ver at restis.
These are all perfectly good Latin words. For example, "ver" means "spring," "alo" means "I nourish," "restis" means "rope," etc. But put them all together, and they make no grammatical sense whatsoever in Latin. However, if you say the poem out loud, you realize that it makes perfect sense phonetically in English:
A pudding is all my desire,
My mistress I never require;
A lover I find it a jest is,
His misery never at rest is.
There is an entire book like this, in a sort of French derived from English -- Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames (i.e. Mother Goose Rhymes), by Luis d'Antin Van Rooten (1906-1973), which in turn inspired N'Heures Souris Rames (i.e. Nursery Rhymes) by Ormonde de Kay (1923-1998), although these authors made a humorous attempt to extract some far-fetched sense from the French.

Friday, October 22, 2004


FPA on Modern Poetry and Art

Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960), To the Neo-Pseudoists, from By and Large (Garden City: Doubleday, Page, 1914), p. 84:
Poets and painters and sculptors,
  Ye of the Screeching schools,
Scorners of Art's conventions,
  Haters of bonds and rules,

Mockers of line and rhythm,
  Loathers of color and rhyme,
What of your new creations?
  What of the Test of Time?

Fetters no longer bind you,
  Ye of the New To-day,
But -- if a dolt may ask it --
  What have ye got to say?

Here is another question,
  Less of the head than heart:
Is the new stuff wonderful merely
  Because it is rotten art?


De Senectute

John Gould, Tales from Rhapsody Home. Or, What They Don't Tell You About Senior Living (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2000), pp. 179-180:
Summing things up, as we should do about now, calls for a reference to De Senectute, in English, Old Age, the essay of Marcus Tullius Cicero written in 44 B.C. I, and numerous others, read it when we were young, perhaps in high school Latin class, in the blithe days when growing old wasn't important. The year I was fifty, I began making it a practice of re-reading De Senectute every October 22, my birthday and also my anniversary. Each year I find something in it I had not appreciated the previous year. I recommend reading it before moving to your own Rhapsody Home. It will tell you how to be young when you are old.
John Gould, prolific Maine author and long-time columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, died last year at the age of 94. I honor his memory on his birthday today.

Thursday, October 21, 2004



James Willis, Latin Textual Criticism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), pp. 45-46:
It is hard to leave this subject without railing against the topsy-turvydom of modern classical studies, when over 200 periodicals are abstracted in L'année philologique and there is no complete Plutarch in print, nor a complete Cicero, nor a complete Plato with commentary. Perhaps Orelli and Bekker and Wyttenbach could do such things only because they did not have to read the Literatur; or perhaps scholarly effort was then directed towards gaining a better knowledge of antiquity, while now it is directed towards gaining a better job.
How many periodicals are abstracted in L'année philologique today? 1,500. Wow, that's progress! And it's on the Internet, too, if you can afford to pay the subscription fee.

See also Selections from the Brief Mention of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, edited by C.W.E. Miller (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1930), p. 361:
The story is told of a Harvard Professor of Greek, one of the old, old time, that when he was asked what he was going to do with himself after his retirement, 'I am going to read the authors,' he said, and it was well. So few professors find time to read the authors.



Who wrote this and approximately when? No googling! The answer follows the quotation. I've altered the orthography and punctuation slightly.
I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believed in (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings) nor is humanity itself believed in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the littérateurs is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, etc., the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion. Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable....The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time. In business (this all-devouring modern word, business) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician's serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magician's serpent, remaining today sole master of the field.
Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas (1871). Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

By the "fable" Whitman means Exodus 7:9-12:
When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004



Last night Mrs. Laudator and I watched a show on the telly about a palimpsest containing Archimedes' Method. L.D. Reynolds and N.G. Wilson, in Scribes and Scholars, 2nd edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 76, define palimpsests as "manuscripts in which the original texts have been washed off to make way for works which at the time were in greater demand." The word comes from Greek palin (again, for a second time) and psestos (scraped, rubbed, from the verb psao).

Technological advances make it somewhat easier these days to recover the original writing from palimpsests. I think it was Wilhelm Studemund in the nineteenth century who ruined his eyesight trying to decipher the Ambrosian palimpsest of Plautus. As I recall, he prefixed the following motto from Catullus (14.1) to his transcription: Ni te plus oculis meis amarem... (Did I not love thee more than my eyes...).


Yanks and Limeys

Dennis Mangan reprints some spirited American reponses to the Guardian's lame Operation Clark County. If you want to know what they really think of Americans (and Jews) in Merry Olde England, read Carol Gould's An American in London.


I Approve This Message

I approve this gross distortion of my opponent's position. I approve this misleading characterization of my opponent's record of public service. I approve these scare tactics. I approve this blatant psychological manipulation. I approve this violation of the divine prohibition "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." I approve this message.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Charvers, Radgys, Divvies, Goths, Freaks

More depressing news about schools, this time from England.



Euripides, Bacchae 196 (tr. Moses Hadas and John McLean):
We alone are right. The others are wrong.



Nicharchus, Greek Anthology 11.17 (tr. W.R. Paton):
Stephanus was poor and a gardener, but now having got on well and become rich, he has suddenly turned into Philostephanus, adding four fine letters to the original Stephanus, and in due time will be Hippocratippiades or, owing to his extravagance, Dionysiopeganodorus. But in all the market he is still Stephanus.


Difficulty and Obscurity

Selections from the Brief Mention of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, edited by C.W.E. Miller (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1930), p. 238:
There are hard writers, there are obscure writers. Some of the greatest writers are hard writers, and we must submit to their conditions. But obscure writers deserve the blackness of the bottomless pit.


Party On

Herodotus 2.78 (on the Egyptians, tr. G.C. Macaulay):
In the entertainments of the rich among them, when they have finished eating, a man bears round a wooden figure of a dead body in a coffin, made as like the reality as may be both by painting and carving, and measuring about a cubit or two cubits each way; and this he shows to each of those who are drinking together, saying: "When thou lookest upon this, drink and be merry, for thou shalt be such as this when thou art dead." Thus they do at their carousals.

Monday, October 18, 2004



Fr. Jim Tucker's sermon on prayer is well worth reading.

Thanks to the civilizing influence of my wife, we always say a prayer before family meals. It has become second nature, to the extent that I don't feel right eating a meal by myself in a cafeteria without giving thanks.

I once witnessed a touching scene in a fast food restaurant. I was bent over my food when I heard the clear voices of a man and his young daughter suddenly raised in song. They were singing their grace before eating. Bis orat qui cantat (he prays twice who sings).

On another occasion I was sitting in my cubicle at work very early one morning, when I was startled to hear a rich contralto voice. It was the security guard making her rounds, singing the hymn "King Jesus."


The Smell of Fear

[Warning: Scatological content, with the aim of elucidating a passage from Plautus.]

In the opening slapstick act of Plautus' Amphitruo, the real Sosia encounters the fake Sosia (the god Mercury) in the darkness of night. Mercury flexes his muscles and balls his fist, and Sosia gets scared. At line 321 Mercury says, "Olet homo quidam malo suo" ("A certain fellow stinks, to his own detriment"), to which Sosia replies, "Ei, numnam ego obolui?" ("Yikes! I didn't make a stench, did I?")

Older commentators (Ussing, Palmer) were too polite to inquire about the source of the smell. David M. Christenson in his commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 203-204, discusses two possibilities: either Sosia has broken wind or his armpits are rank. Christenson favors the latter explanation.

But there is another possibility. Perhaps Sosia is so frightened that he soils himself. Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse, 2nd edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 189, #402, lists over a dozen passages from Aristophanes where fear has precisely this physical effect. I'll quote only one (Ecclesiazusae 1059-1062, tr. Eugene O'Neill):
YOUNG MAN. Oh! let me go to the can first, so that I may gather my wits somewhat. Else I should be so terrified that you would see me letting out something yellow. OLD WOMAN. Never mind! you can crap, if you want, in my house.
Another relevant passage, which I haven't seen mentioned in this connection, is Pseudo-Aristotle, Problems 27.3 (tr. W.S. Hett):
Why is it that in a state of anger, when the heat collects within, men become heated and bold, but in a state of fear they are in the opposite condition? Or is not the same part affected? In the case of the angry it is the heart that is affected, which is the reason why they are courageous, flushed and full of breath, as the direction of the heat is upwards. But in the case of the frightened the blood and the heat escape downwards, whence comes the loosening of the bowels.
I haven't seen W.B. Sedgwick's commentary on Plautus' Amphitruo (Mancester: Manchester University Press, 1960), and I haven't searched the periodical literature.

Sunday, October 17, 2004



The few times I saw the TV show Hercules, I was amused by the garb of actor Kevin Sorbo, who played the Greek hero. He was wearing pants, a thing no self-respecting Greek, much less a hero, would have done. We take trousers for granted as normal male attire and snigger at alternatives like kilts, but throughout much of ancient Greek and Roman history pants were seen as clothing typical of barbarians. In the late fourth century A.D. they were even banned by imperial order within the city limits of Rome.

The Greeks didn't have a native word for trousers, so they borrowed anaxurides from Persian. The Latin word bracae (sometimes spelled braccae), whence English breeches, may also be a loan word from Gaul.

Here are some passages from ancient sources on trousers.

Saturday, October 16, 2004



How do I know you are who you say you are? Aeons ago, when I attended graduate school at the University of Virginia, John E. Manahan was a familiar figure on campus. People called him Archduke Jack, because at the age of 49, he had married a woman almost twenty years his senior, Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Anna Anderson Manahan died in 1984, and her gravestone bears the inscription "Anastasia Manahan."

The controversy over her identity still rages. In 1994 DNA testing suggested that she was not in fact a member of the Russian royal family, but rather a former Polish factory worker, Franzisca Schanzkowska. Peter Kurth, author of Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1983), said of the DNA tests, "If that woman was a Polish factory worker, I'm the Pope." Just a few days ago a musical about Anna Anderson (Unbekannt, music by Brooke Joyce, lyrics by Frederick Gaines) received its premiere performance.

Anna Anderson might have been Anastasia, for all I know. I mention the story only to show how difficult it can be, even in this day and age, to establish one's true identity.

Impostors were even more common in earlier ages without photographs and birth certificates. In 31 A.D. there was an impostor masquerading as Drusus. Tacitus, Annals 5.10 (tr. Church and Brodribb) tells the story:
About the same time Asia and Achaia were alarmed by a prevalent but short-lived rumour that Drusus, the son of Germanicus, had been seen in the Cyclades and subsequently on the mainland. There was indeed a young man of much the same age, whom some of the emperor's freedmen pretended to recognise, and to whom they attached themselves with a treacherous intent. The renown of the name attracted the ignorant, and the Greek mind eagerly fastens on what is new and marvellous. The story indeed, which they no sooner invented than believed, was that Drusus had escaped from custody, and was on his way to the armies of his father, with the design of invading Egypt or Syria. And he was now drawing to himself a multitude of young men and much popular enthusiasm, enjoying the present and cherishing idle hopes of the future, when Poppaeus Sabinus heard of the affair. At the time he was chiefly occupied with Macedonia, but he also had the charge of Achaia. So, to forestall the danger, let the story be true or false, he hurried by the bays of Torone and Thermae, then passed on to Euboea, an island of the Aegaean, to Piraeus, on the coast of Attica, thence to the shores of Corinth and the narrow Isthmus, and having arrived by the other sea at Nicopolis, a Roman colony, he there at last ascertained that the man, when skilfully questioned, had said that he was the son of Marcus Silanus, and that, after the dispersion of a number of his followers' he had embarked on a vessel, intending, it seemed, to go to Italy. Sabinus sent this account to Tiberius, and of the origin and issue of the affair nothing more is known to me.
Dio Cassius 58.25 (tr. E. Cary) says that this false Drusus was eventually captured:
While affairs at Rome were in this state, the subject territory was not quiet either. The very moment a youth who claimed to be Drusus appeared in the regions of Greece and Ionia, the cities received him gladly and espoused his cause. He would have gone on to Syria and taken over the legions, had not someone recognized him, arrested him, and taken him to Tiberius.
After the death of Nero (68 A.D.), false Neros appeared at least three times, in 69, between 79 and 81, and in 88.

Tacitus is our source of information about the first Nero redivivus:

Histories 1.2 (tr. Church and Brodribb):
There was success in the East, and disaster in the West. There were disturbances in Illyricum; Gaul wavered in its allegiance; Britain was thoroughly subdued and immediately abandoned; the tribes of the Suevi and the Sarmatae rose in concert against us; the Dacians had the glory of inflicting as well as suffering defeat; the armies of Parthia were all but set in motion by the cheat of a counterfeit Nero [falsi Neronis ludibrio].
Histories 2.8-9 (tr. Church and Brodribb):
About this time Achaia and Asia Minor were terrified by a false report that Nero was at hand. Various rumours were current about his death; and so there were many who pretended and believed that he was still alive. The adventures and enterprises of the other pretenders I shall relate in the regular course of my work. The pretender in this case was a slave from Pontus, or, according to some accounts, a freedman from Italy, a skilful harp-player and singer, accomplishments, which, added to a resemblance in the face, gave a very deceptive plausibility to his pretensions. After attaching to himself some deserters, needy vagrants whom he bribed with great offers, he put to sea. Driven by stress of weather to the island of Cythnus, he induced certain soldiers, who were on their way from the East, to join him, and ordered others, who refused, to be executed. He also robbed the traders and armed all the most able bodied of the slaves. The centurion Sisenna, who was the bearer of the clasped right hands, the usual emblems of friendship, from the armies of Syria to the Praetorians, was assailed by him with various artifices, till he left the island secretly, and, fearing actual violence, made his escape with all haste. Thence the alarm spread far and wide, and many roused themselves at the well-known name, eager for change, and detesting the present state of things. The report was daily gaining credit when an accident put an end to it.

Galba had entrusted the government of Galatia and Pamphylia to Calpurnius Asprenas. Two triremes from the fleet of Misenum were given him to pursue the adventurer: with these he reached the island of Cythnus. Persons were found to summon the captains in the name of Nero. The pretender himself, assuming a studied appearance of sorrow, and appealing to their fidelity as old soldiers of his own, besought them to land him in Egypt or Syria. The captains, perhaps wavering, perhaps intending to deceive, declared that they must address their soldiers, and that they would return when the minds of all had been prepared. Everything, however, was faithfully reported to Asprenas, and at his bidding the ship was boarded and taken, and the man, whoever he was, killed. The body, in which the eyes, the hair, and the savage countenance, were remarkable features, was conveyed to Asia, and thence to Rome.
Dio Cassius (66.19.3b, tr. E. Cary) gives information about the second Neronian impostor, who appeared during the reign of Titus (79-81 A.D.):
In his reign also the False Nero appeared, who was an Asiatic named Terentius Maximus. He resembled Nero both in appearance and in voice (for he too sang to the accompaniment of the lyre). He gained a few followers in Asia, and in his advance to the Euphrates attached a far greater number, and finally sought refuge with Artabanus, the Parthian leader, who, because of his anger against Titus, both received him and set about making preparations to restore him to Rome.
And finally Suetonius, in his Life of Nero (57.2, tr. J.C. Rolfe), has this to say about the third and final false Nero:
In fact, twenty years later, when I was a young man, a person of obscure origin appeared, who gave out that he was Nero, and the name was still in such favor with the Parthians, that they supported him vigorously and surrendered him with great reluctance.
I'm not a new Testament scholar, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that someone had used these cases of impostors impersonating Drusus and Nero to impugn the resurrection of Jesus.

Friday, October 15, 2004


Vergil's Birthday

What better way to celebrate the birthday of the Roman poet Vergil (70-19 B.C.) than to recall a few lines from his epic Aeneid?O that Jupiter would bring back to me the bygone years, the carefree days when I sat in a classroom studying Vergil's Aeneid!


The Ancient Greeks

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), On the Manners of the Ancients:
What was achieved in Greece between the birth of Pericles in 499 B.C. and the death of Aristotle in 322 B.C. was undoubtedly, whether considered in itself or with reference to the effects it has produced upon the subsequent destinies of civilized men, the most memorable in the history of the world. So potent has been the appeal of Greece, so passionate the devotion which it arouses, that there is almost no sphere of spiritual or intellectual activity which has not been touched by its living flame. Ever since the Italian Renaissance of the 15th Century brought a new interest in the ancient world, what the Greeks said or thought or made, has affected living men and women and enabled them to discover new truths about themselves, their conditions and their capacities.


Synoptic Color Schemes

Stephen C. Carlson presents the synoptic gospel accounts of the imprisonment of John in different colors that show the agreement of all three, the agreement of any two against the third, and the features unique to each, in both Greek and English. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is a fascinating experiment, and I hope he continues to put up more pages.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


The Law of the Conservation of Idiocy

Joy of Knitting proposes her law of the conservation of idiocy: "In any given society, irrespective of all other variables, the quantity of idiocy will remain constant."

Joy is an optimist. When I plot the numbers over time and draw my graph, the quantity of idiocy increases, and the quantity of wisdom decreases, both asymptotically.

But perhaps Joy is right after all, and the reason why my graph appears skewed is because "trash rarely survives, and so we tend to regard the past as an epoch of unsurpassed beauty."


Lileks for Senate

There's a tongue-in-cheek movement to draft local blogger James Lileks to run for the United States Senate. In all seriousness, I'd vote for him to replace either one of the Minnesota misfits now "representing" us: Mark "Fraidy-Cat" Dayton and Norm "Lap-Dog" Coleman.



The Maverick Philosopher tells the cautionary tale of artist Maria Alquilar, whose $40,000 mosaic commissioned by the Livermore Library contains the names of Einstein, Shakespeare, Van Gogh, and Michelangelo, all spelled incorrectly. Alquilar doesn't understand why people are so upset, and now she's demanding an apology from library officials for their insensitivity in pointing out her mistakes.

The incident reminds me of Lord Chesterfield's advice to his son (Letter CXXXIV, November 19, 1750, Old Style):
You spell induce, enduce; and grandeur, you spell grandure; two faults of which few of my housemaids would have been guilty. I must tell you that orthography, in the true sense of the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters, or a gentleman, that one false spelling may fix ridicule upon him for the rest of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w.
There's a Jewish expression about someone who can't spell: "He writes Noah with seven mistakes."

My mother, who never went to college and whose native tongue was not English, worked for many years as a secretary in a high school. She spent a lot of her time correcting spelling errors in documents written by teachers and school officials.


Daniels on Bigley

Read Dr. Anthony Daniels, aka Theodore Dalrymple, on the death of Kenneth Bigley in Iraq.


Roman Calendar

Your cubicle wall or refrigerator door could probably use a Roman calendar for the month of October, with the words "Beam me up, Scotty!" in Latin. Before printing, go to Internet Explorer, File, Page Setup..., set paper size to Letter, orientation to Portrait, all margins to 0.25 inches, and remove headers and footers. Courtesy of the Cambridge School Classics Project.


There But for the Grace of God

Chapter 13, pp. 465-519, of Nicholas A. Basbane's A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (New York: Henry Holt, 1995), is entitled The Blumberg Collection. Blumberg is biblioklept Stephen Carrie Blumberg, a fellow St. Paul resident, about my age, who served four and a half years in prison in the 1990s for stealing about 20 million dollars' worth of books from academic libraries. His psychiatric evaluation revealed "overconcern with things of the past," as well as "inability to deal with what is going on in the present" (p. 497), both traits that I share in spades.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


False Dichotomy

I've received more than one email message recently with this tag at the end:
If you agree, pass this on. If not, delete it.
I hardly ever forward email messages, especially partisan political ones, but on the other hand I don't necessarily disagree with all messages I delete.


Fontanalia and the Fons Bandusiae

Today is the Roman festival of Fontanalia, devoted to fountains and springs. Some think it was for this festival that Horace wrote his exquisite Ode 3.13:
O Bandusian spring, clearer than glass, worthy of sweet wine and flowers too, tomorrow you'll receive the gift of a kid goat, whose head, swollen with horns newly grown, gives promise of love and battles; in vain: for this offspring of a playful flock will stain your ice-cold waters with his crimson blood. The harsh season of the blazing Dog Star is powerless to affect you. You grant welcome coolness to oxen weary of the plow and to the wandering herd. You too will become one of the famous springs, when I sing of the oak tree perched upon your hollow rocks, whence your babbling waters leap forth.

O fons Bandusiae, splendidior vitro,
dulci digne mero non sine floribus,
  cras donaberis haedo,
    cui frons turgida cornibus

primis et venerem et proelia destinat;
frustra: nam gelidos inficiet tibi
  rubro sanguine rivos,
    lascivi suboles gregis.

Te flagrantis atrox hora Caniculae
nescit tangere, tu frigus amabile
  fessis vomere tauris
    praebes et pecori vago.

Fies nobilium tu quoque fontium,
me dicente cavis impositam ilicem
  saxis unde loquaces
    lymphae desiliunt tuae.
This was too bloodthirsty a poem for some nineteenth century souls to stomach. In his poem An Evening Walk (lines 72-85), William Wordsworth (1770-1850) accused Horace of being a "ruthless minister of death" because of his intention to sacrifice the kid goat. The English poet Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), in some Latin verses addressed Ad Haedum (To a Goat) published in the collection Dry Sticks Fagoted (1858), wrote: "You will be safe with me, little goat! Your blood will not flow for any Bandusia" (per me salvus es, haedule! / nulli Bandusiae cruor / manabit tuus). And Samuel Taylor Coleridge's son, Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849), who was a poet in his own right, wrote an odd poetic meditation on Horace's ode, in which he regarded the pagan Horace as a kind of anima naturaliter christiana, who never would have slain the kid in fact: "He never did the thing / Which he was constrain'd to sing."

On a lighter note, here's a good parody of Horace's ode by my favorite Horatian translator, Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960), in which the Bandusian spring becomes a soda fountain:
Worthy of flowers and syrups sweet,
  O fountain of Bandusian onyx,
To-morrow shall a goatling's bleat
  Mix with the sizz of thy carbonics.

A kid whose budding horns portend
  A life of love and war -- but vainly!
For thee his sanguine life shall end --
  He'll spill his blood, to put it plainly.

And never shalt thou feel the heat
  That blazes in the days of Sirius,
But men shall quaff thy soda sweet,
  And girls imbibe thy drinks delirious.

Fountain whose dulcet cool I sing,
  Be thou immortal by this Ode (a
Not wholly metricious thing),
  Bandusian fount of ice-cream soda!
In his learned travelogue Old Calabria (1915), British writer Norman Douglas (1868-1952) devoted an entire chapter to his search for the actual location of The Bandusian Fount.


Domestic Happiness

Samuel Johnson, Rambler 68 (Saturday, November 10, 1750):
The great end of prudence is to give cheerfulness to those hours, which splendour cannot gild, and acclamation cannot exhilarate; those soft intervals of unbended amusement, in which a man shrinks to his natural dimensions, and throws aside the ornaments or disguises, which he feels in privacy to be useless incumbrances, and to lose all effect when they become familiar. To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Philosopher Finger Puppets

At the Unemployed Philosophers Guild you can buy a set of four philosopher finger puppets, featuring Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer. You can also buy Nietzsche "Will to Power" energy bars and a Nietzsche "Eternal Return" watch.


Shakespeare's Sonnets in Latin

Among the treasures at St. Louis University's Latin Teaching Materials web site, you can find Shakespeare's sonnets translated into Latin by Alfred Thomas Barton. Here is Sonnet 73, first in Shakespeare's English, then in Barton's Latin:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth from the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed by that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

In me, care, potes velut anni noscere tempus
  Lutea cum pendens arbore rara coma est,
Vel potius cum nulla, at frigore nuda tremiscunt
  Bracchia, nuper avis templa canora sono.
Tale meae videas lumen pallere diei
  Pallet ad occiduas vespere quale plagas;
Quod nox furva brevi totum, mors altera, tollit
  Omniaque obsignans inde secuta quies.
Dispicias in me tantum vitale caloris
  In cinere est quantum relliquiisque foci,
Qua rubet exiguo languescens igne favilla
  Ab nutrimentis interitura suis.
Illa vides, et amas auctis affectibus omne
  Vnde recedendum post breve tempus erit.



Keith Burgess-Jackson recently reprinted one of his old journal entries about friendship:
It is important to me to have one or two close male friends -- friends with whom to share secrets, discuss music and politics, and participate in sports. I feel more comfortable around men than women, so it is natural that men provide my closest friends. In fact, come to think of it, this is probably a typical feeling among males in this country, married or unmarried. We all need close friends of the same sex.
Although I'm by nature a loner, I once had a close friend like that. We used to play chess, grouse about work, swap books, and perform music together.

It was the kind of friendship Augustine talks about in his Confessions (4.8.13, tr. Albert C. Outler):
There were other things in our companionship that took strong hold of my mind: to discourse and jest with him; to indulge in courteous exchanges; to read pleasant books together; to trifle together; to be earnest together; to differ at times without ill-humor, as a man might do with himself, and even through these infrequent dissensions to find zest in our more frequent agreements; sometimes teaching, sometimes being taught.

alia erant, quae in eis amplius capiebant animum, colloqui et corridere et vicissim benevole obsequi, simul legere libros dulciloquos, simul nugari et simul honestari, dissentire interdum sine odio tamquam ipse homo secum atque ipsa rarissima dissensione condire consensiones plurimas, docere aliquid invicem aut discere ab invicem.

Monday, October 11, 2004


The Joy of Diagramming Sentences

Kitty Burns Florey celebrates the joy of diagramming sentences in Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog. This was a part of English class (pardon me, I meant "Language Arts") when I was a lad, although English grammar never made much sense to me until I learned some Latin.

Thanks to Fr. Jim Tucker at Dappled Things for the link.


Tiberius on Taxes

Suetonius, Life of Tiberius 32.2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
To the governors who recommended burdensome taxes for the provinces, he wrote in answer that it was the part of a good shepherd to shear his flock, not skin it.

praesidibus onerandas tributo provincias suadentibus rescripsit boni pastoris esse tondere pecus, non deglubere.


Housman's Fragment of a Greek Tragedy

A.E. Housman (1859-1936), well-known for his elegant, wistful poetry, was also a classical scholar of international renown. His parody "Fragment of a Greek Tragedy" is amusing to those who have tried to slog through the Greek of the ancient Athenian tragedians, as well as to those who have read Greek tragedy in translation. It starts out thus:
O suitably-attired-in-leather-boots
Head of a traveller, wherefore seeking whom
Whence by what way how purposed art thou come
To this well-nightingaled vicinity?
My object in inquiring is to know.
But if you happen to be deaf and dumb
And do not understand a word I say,
Then wave your hand, to signify as much.
David M. Johnson gives the full text with some useful notes. I would like to see a full-blown scholarly commentary on Housman's spoof, replete with parallel passages from Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. I also wish someone would translate Housman's English into ancient Greek verse. David Kovacs, who is so adept at detecting lacunae in Euripides and filling them, would be a good man for the job.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


Ancient and Modern Books

C.S. Lewis, Introduction to Athanasius, On The Incarnation:
There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.



Ovid, Tristia 2.348:
One cannot teach what one knows hardly anything about.

quodque parum novit, nemo docere potest.


Ancient Greek and Christian Literature

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, "De tragicorum Graecorum fragmentis commentatio," Index scholarum aestivum (Gottingae, 1893), p. 33:
Christian literature cannot rightly be understood or judged without Greek literature, and neither can Greek literature without Christian literature.

Neque sine Graecis Christianae neque sine Christianis Graecae litterae recte aut intellegi aut aestimari possunt.

Saturday, October 09, 2004



This quotation occurs in Julian Barnes' novel Flaubert's Parrot:
Me and my books, in the same apartment. Like a gherkin in its vinegar.
Many of the quotations in that novel are actually Flaubert's own words, and this one has a Flaubertian ring to it, but I can't find the original in Flaubert himself. Googling "cornichon" etc. did no good.


The Domestic Circle

Nietzsche (tr. Walter Kaufman), Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, V, 369:
No one knows a child less well than its parents do. (Niemand kennt ein Kind schlechter als seine Eltern.)
The reverse is also true -- no one knows a man and woman less well than their child. Add this (Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra, III, section Von den drei Bösen, 2) and the circle of misunderstanding is nearly complete:
Who can comprehend how strange man and woman are to each other? (Wer begriff es ganz, wie fremd sich Mann und Weib sind!)


Ad Multos Annos

Happy birthday to blog The Charlock's Shade, now one year old. Among his reflections on the occasion is this:
One of the positive things about blogging is the fact that you are able to verify your complete insignificance and total lack of any talent, not only locally, we already knew that, but globally as well.

Friday, October 08, 2004


Gratification or Curse?

Keith Burgess-Jackson calls Microsoft Windows his Gratification #19. I'd call it my Curse #666.



The Latin word "peccavi" means "I have sinned." There is a possibly apocryphal story that Charles James Napier (1782-1853), after his military victories at Mlani and Dubba in 1843, sent the one-word message "Peccavi" (I have sinned, i.e. I have Sind) to announce his conquest. Sind is part of what is now Pakistan.

Once the modern-day Saracens have succeeded in overrunning Eurabia completely, Napier's statue in Trafalgar Square will doubtless be pulled down. London's mayor Ken Livingstone actually proposed doing it a few years ago.



Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands (1959; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), p. 37:
In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance. I had found, too, a comradeship inherent in the circumstances, and the belief that tranquillity was to be found there. I had learnt the satisfaction which comes from hardship and the pleasure which springs from abstinence: the contentment of a full belly; the richness of meat; the taste of clean water; the ecstasy of surrender when the craving for sleep becomes a torment; the warmth of a fire in the chill of dawn.


Real Journalists and Bloggers

Nick Coleman, of the Star Tribune (a local newspaper), on bloggers:
Do bloggers have the credentials of real journalists? No. Bloggers are hobby hacks, the Internet version of the sad loners who used to listen to police radios in their bachelor apartments and think they were involved in the world.

Bloggers don't know about anything that happened before they sat down to share their every thought with the moon. Like graffiti artists, they tag the public square -- without editors, correction policies or community standards. And so their tripe is often as vicious as it is vacuous.

Thursday, October 07, 2004



Rogueclassicism reprints a job announcement for a Latinist in Miami University's Department of Classics . The announcement says, "Qualifications in such areas as cultural studies, film studies, Women's Studies are desirable." What the heck do film studies have to do with Latin? Is the goal to titillate and pander to undergraduates, or to educate them? If I were posting a job announcement for a Latinist, I would say, "Submit two cover letters in Latin, one in the style of Cicero, the other in the style of Seneca." That would narrow the field.


Diction Appropriate for Character Type

K.J. Dover, in his paper on "Language and Character in Aristophanes," in Greek and the Greeks. Collected Papers, Volume I: Language, Poetry, Drama (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), pp. 236-248, cites passages from the Athenian playwright where the language is especially appropriate or fitting for the character who utters it. Some of the examples involve dialect or bad Greek spoken by foreigners, and others suit the age or social standing of the speakers in one way or another. Dover doesn't cite the scholia to Aristophanes, but some of them mention the same phenomenon (tr. W.G. Rutherford):These comments in the scholia to Aristophanes are all the more interesting in the light of Plutarch's criticism of Aristophanes for failing to make distinctions of this sort (Comparison of Aristophanes and Menander 853d, tr. H.N. Fowler):
Moreover, in his diction there are tragic, comic, pompous, and prosaic elements, obscurity, vagueness, dignity, and elevation, loquacity and sickening nonsense. And with all these differences and dissimilarities his use of words does not give to each kind its fitting and appropriate use; I mean, to a king his dignity, to an orator his eloquence, to a woman her artlessness, to an ordinary man his prosaic speech, to a market-lounger his vulgarity; but he assigns to his characters as if by lot such words as happen to turn up, and you could not tell whether the speaker is son or father, a rustic or a god, or an old woman or a hero.


Progress or Regress?

Nietzsche, The Will to Power (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):

§ 881 (1887-1888):
With all the tensions of the past three hundred years, for example, we have not yet reattained the man of the Renaissance, and the man of the Renaissance, in turn, is inferior to the man of antiquity.
§ 957 (1885):
For in the world of antiquity there reigned a different, more lordly morality than today; and the man of antiquity, raised in this morality, was a stronger and deeper man than the man of today -- he alone has hitherto been "the man that has turned out well."

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