Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 

A New Twist on an Old Saying


Tim Worstall
recalls Cato's famous expression "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" ("Furthermore it is my opinion that Carthage must be destroyed"), with which the crusty old Roman ended every speech in the senate. It is sometimes quoted as "Carthago delenda est" ("Carthage must be destroyed"). Carthage was Rome's arch-enemy, and eventually it was destroyed, wiped off the map completely.

Worstall facetiously recommends as a modern equivalent "Ceterum censeo Unionem Europaeam esse delendam" ("Furthermore it is my opinion that the European Union must be destroyed"), or "Unio Europaea delenda est" ("The European Union must be destroyed") for short. Of course, Worstall does not wish Europe itself to be destroyed, only the European Union. Indeed, he sees the destruction of the European Union as a way to save Europe.

These sentences are good ways to remember the passive periphrastic, otherwise known as the second periphrastic (Allen and Greenough §§ 158.d, 194.b, 196; Bradley's Arnold §§ 200, 392), and the rule that the nominative subject of a main clause in direct discourse becomes accusative in indirect discourse, while the indicative verb becomes infinitive (Allen and Greenough § 580; Bradley's Arnold § 445).

Incidentally, both forms of Cato's recommendation seem to be modern reconstructions of his exact words from ancient evidence.

Plutarch, Life of Cato 27.1 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
Afterwards he adopted a still more forceful method of driving home his point: whenever his opinion was called for on any subject, he invariably concluded with the words, 'And furthermore it is my opinion that Carthage must be destroyed!'
Florus, Epitome 1.31:
Cato with implacable hatred used to declaim that Carthage must be destroyed, even when the debate was on another subject.

Cato inexpiabili odio delendam esse Carthaginem et cum de alio consuleretur pronuntiabat.
Pliny, Natural History 15.20.74-76 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
[74] The mention by Cato of the variety which bears the name of the African fig, strongly recalls to my mind a remarkable fact connected with it and the country from which it takes its name. Burning with a mortal hatred to Carthage, anxious, too, for the safety of his posterity, and exclaiming at every sitting of the senate that Carthage must be destroyed, Cato one day brought with him into the Senate-house a ripe fig, the produce of that country. Exhibiting it to the assembled senators, "I ask you," said he, "when, do you suppose, this fruit was plucked from the tree?"

[75] All being of opinion that it had been but lately gathered, -- "Know then," was his reply, "that this fig was plucked at Carthage but the day before yesterday --so near is the enemy to our walls." It was immediately after this occurrence that the third Punic war commenced, in which Carthage was destroyed, though Cato had breathed his last, the year after this event. In this trait which are we the most to admire? was it ingenuity and foresight on his part, or was it an accident that was thus aptly turned to advantage? which, too, is the most surprising, the extraordinary quickness of the passage which must have been made, or the bold daring of the man?

[76] The thing, however, that is the most astonishing of all -- indeed, I can conceive nothing more truly marvellous -- is the fact that a city thus mighty, the rival of Rome for the sovereignty of the world during a period of one hundred and twenty years, owed its fall at last to an illustration drawn from a single fig! Thus did this fig effect that which neither Trebia nor Thrasimenus, not Cannæ itself, graced with the entombment of the Roman renown, not the Punic camp entrenched within three miles of the city, not even the disgrace of seeing Hannibal riding up to the Colline Gate, could suggest the means of accomplishing. It was left for a fig, in the hand of Cato, to show how near was Carthage to the gates of Rome!

[74] Sed a Catone appellata iam tum Africana admonet Africae ad ingens documentum usi eo pomo. namque perniciali odio Carthaginis flagrans nepotumque securitatis anxius, cum clamaret omni senatu Carthaginem delendam, adtulit quodam die in curiam praecocem ex ea provincia ficum ostendensque patribus: Interrogo vos, inquit, quando hanc pomum demptam putetis ex arbore.

[75] cum inter omnes recentem esse constaret: Atqui tertium, inquit, ante diem scitote decerptam Carthagine. tam prope a moeris habemus hostem! statimque sumptum est Punicum tertium bellum, quo Carthago deleta est, quamquam Catone anno sequente rapto. quid primum in eo miremur, curam ingeni an occasionem fortuitam, celeritatemque cursus an vehementiam viri?

[76] super omnia est, quo nihil equidem duco mirabilius, tantam illam urbem et de terrarum orbe per CXX annos aemulam unius pomi argumento eversam, quod non Trebia aut Trasimenus, non Cannae busto Romani nominis perficere potuere, non castra Punica ad tertium lapidem vallata portaeque Collinae adequitans ipse Hannibal. tanto propius Carthaginem pomo Cato admovit!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

 

My Kind of Liturgical Dance

Jacques Maritain, Art and Scholasticism, chapter 8 (Christian Art), tr. Joseph W. Evans:
Nothing is more beautiful than a High Mass -- a dance before the Ark in slow motion, more majestic than the advance of the heavenly hosts. And yet in it the Church is not seeking for beauty, nor for decorative motifs, nor to touch the heart. Her sole aim is to adore, and to unite herself with the Savior; and from this loving adoration beauty, too, overflows.

 

A Change of Profession

In "The Question of Latin" Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) tells the story of Père Piquedent, who found love and abandoned Latin teaching for selling groceries. The French original and an English translation are available on the World Wide Web. Here are two excerpts, one before the change of profession and one after:
But his love for Latin did not leave him and harassed him like an unhealthy passion. He continued to read the poets, the prose writers, the historians, to interpret them and penetrate their meaning, to comment on them with a perseverance bordering on madness.



"And what about Latin, Monsieur Piquedent?"
"Oh, good heavens! Latin, Latin, Latin--you see it does not keep the pot boiling!"

 

Lang on Martial

Andrew Lang, Martial in Town, from Grass of Parnassus (1892):
Last night, within the stifling train,
Lit by the foggy lamp o'erhead,
Sick of the sad Last News, I read
Verse of that joyous child of Spain,

Who dwelt when Rome was waxing cold,
Within the Roman din and smoke.
And like my heart to me they spoke,
These accents of his heart of old:-

"Brother, had we but time to live,
And fleet the careless hours together,
With all that leisure has to give
Of perfect life and peaceful weather,

"The Rich Man's halls, the anxious faces,
The weary Forum, courts, and cases
Should know us not; but quiet nooks,
But summer shade by field and well,
But county rides, and talk of books,
At home, with these, we fain would dwell!

"Now neither lives, but day by day
Sees the suns wasting in the west,
And feels their flight, and doth delay
To lead the life he loveth best."

So from thy city prison broke,
Martial, thy wail for life misspent,
And so, through London's noise and smoke
My heart replies to the lament.

For dear as Tagus with his gold,
And swifter Salo, were to thee,
So dear to me the woods that fold
The streams that circle Fernielea!
In stanzas 3 to 5 (from "Brother" to "best"), Lang is translating Martial 5.20:
Si tecum mihi, care Martialis,
securis liceat frui diebus,
si disponere tempus otiosum
et verae pariter vacare vitae:
nec nos atria nec domos potentum
nec litis tetricas forumque triste
nossemus nec imagines superbas;
sed gestatio, fabulae, libelli,
campus, porticus, umbra, Virgo, thermae,
haec essent loca semper, hi labores.
Nunc vivit necuter sibi, bonosque
soles effugere atque abire sentit,
qui nobis pereunt et inputantur.
Quisquam vivere cum sciat, moratur?
Expatriates Martial and Lang both felt themselves out of place, the former in Rome, the latter in London. Tagus and Salo are rivers in Martial's native country of Spain, mentioned by him together in 1.49, and Fernielea (sometimes spelled Fairnilee) is about five miles distant from Lang's birthplace of Selkirk in Scotland.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

 

Censure of the Young by the Old

Jean de la Bruyère (1645-1696), Caractères, XI, 112:
Few people remember having been young and how hard it was for them to be chaste and temperate. The first thing that happens to men after they have given up pleasures (whether out of a sense of propriety, through laziness, or for reasons of health) is to condemn them in others. There enters into this behavior a kind of attachment to the very things that one has just abandoned; we would prefer that a good thing which we no longer enjoy also not be enjoyed by the rest of the world: it is a feeling of envy.

Peu de gens se souviennent d'avoir été jeunes, et combien il leur était difficile d'être chastes et tempérants. La première chose qui arrive aux hommes après avoir renoncé aux plaisirs, ou par bienséance, ou par lassitude, ou par régime, c'est de les condamner dans les autres. Il entre dans cette conduite une sorte d'attachement pour les choses mêmes que l'on vient de quitter; l'on aimerait qu'un bien qui n'est plus pour nous ne fût plus aussi pour le reste du monde: c’est un sentiment de jalousie.

 

Seeking Happiness

Jean de la Bruyère (1645-1696), Caractères, XI, 76:
We seek our happiness outside of ourselves, in the opinion of men whom we know to be fawning, insincere, unfair, envious, capricious, and prejudiced. What an odd thing!

Nous cherchons notre bonheur hors de nous-mêmes, et dans l'opinion des hommes, que nous connaissons flatteurs, peu sincères, sans équité, pleins d'envie, de caprices et de préventions. Quelle bizarrerie!

 

Sympotic Recitation of Thucydides

Donald Lateiner, in a review of volume II (books IV-V.24) of Simon Hornblower's commentary on Thucydides, derides the theory that parts of Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War were recited at symposia (Greek drinking parties):
H believes in "sympotic recitation" of significant chunks of the Histories (e.g., 120) and suggests that the stasis in Corcyra passage, narrative and analysis, qualifies as a candidate. I don't know about Oxford drinking parties (or Athenian or Ohioan, really), but using Plato's Symposium as the friendliest witness to higher-level confabulation, I'd say that the hiccoughing, self-promoting, and name-calling hoplites, the hip-wagging flute-girls and pitcher-boys, and the generality of slumping heads--not to mention kottabos-games, lollygagging, throwing up, and general raucous clamor of non-Platonic venues in Corinth, Miletus, up-scale Athens and downhome Thrace--render this difficult and Ur-academic scenario unlikely, even if we allow for the dedicated friendship of Thucydides' small circle of friends and an awesome tolerance for Thucydides' agonized syntax. A labyrinthine passage, such as III.82-83, is hard to parse on the tenth go-round of the krater extended by boys and girls in deshabillé.
A few glosses:

Friday, November 26, 2004

 

Entrance Examination

The Spectator publishes an entrance examination for 11-year-olds applying to King Edward's School in Birmingham in 1898. Here is the Latin portion of the examination:
1. Write in columns the nominative singular, genitive plural, gender, and meaning of:— operibus, principe, imperatori, genere, apro, nivem, vires, frondi, muri.

2. Give the comparative of noxius, acer, male, diu; the superlative of piger, humilis, fortiter, multum; the English and genitive sing. of solus, uter, quisque.

3. Write these phrases in a column and put opposite to each its Latin: he will go; he may wish; he had; he had been; he will be heard; and give in a column the English of fore, amatum, regendus, monetor.

4. Give in columns the perfect Indic. and active supine of ago, pono, dono, cedo, jungo, claudo.

Mention one example each of verbs followed by the nominative, the accusative, the genitive, the dative, the ablative.

5. Translate into Latin:—

1. The general's little son was loved by the soldiers.
2. Let no bodies be buried within this city.
3. Ask Tullius who found the lions.
4. He said that the city had been taken, and, the war being finished, the forces would return.
6. Translate into English:—

Exceptus est imperatoris adventus incredibili honore atque amore: tum primum enim veniebat ab illo Aegypti bello. Nihil relinquebatur quod ad ornatum locorum omnium qua iturus erat excogitari posset.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

 

Thucydides on Coalitions and Alliances

Thucydides 1.141.6-7 (tr. Benjamin Jowett):
In a single pitched battle the Peloponnesians and their allies are a match for all Hellas, but they are not able to maintain a war against a power different in kind from their own; they have no regular general assembly, and therefore cannot execute their plans with speed and decision. The confederacy is made up of many races; all the representatives have equal votes, and press their several interests. There follows the usual result, that nothing is ever done properly. For some are all anxiety to be revenged on an enemy, while others only want to get off with as little loss as possible. The members of such a confederacy are slow to meet, and when they do meet, they give little time to the consideration of any common interest, and a great deal to schemes which further the interest of their particular state. Every one fancies that his own neglect will do no harm, but that it is somebody else's business to keep a look-out for him, and this idea, cherished alike by each, is the secret ruin of all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 

Witnesses

Anatole France, The Queen Pedauque (tr. Jos. A. V. Stritzko), chap. 3, describing an episode at the bookseller's shop at the sign of the Golden Bible:
I went there frequently to thumb the books she received from Holland and also those Bipontic editions illustrated with notes, comments and commentaries of great erudition. I was amiable and Mistress Pigoreau became aware of it, which was my misfortune.

She had been pretty, and still knew how to be pleasing. Her eyes spoke. One day the Cicero, Livy, Plato and the Aristotle, Thucydides, Polybius and Varro, the Epictetus, Seneca, Boethius and Cassiodorus, the Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plautus and Terence, the Diodorus of Sicily and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil, St. Jerome and St. Augustine, Erasmus, Saumaise, Turnebe and Scaliger, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Bossuet dragging Ferri with him, Lenain, Godefroy, Mezeray, Maimbourg, Fabricius, Father Lelong and Father Pitou, all the poets, all the historians, all the fathers, all the doctors, all the theologians, all the humanists, all the compilers, assembled high and low on the walls, became witnesses to our kisses.

 

von Neumann and the Classics

John von Neumann (1903-1957) was a towering figure in twentieth century mathematics and also a man of wide reading and culture. S.M. Ulam, in Adventures of a Mathematician (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), relates some interesting anecdotes about von Neumann's fondness for the classics.

p. 102:
His knowledge of history was really encyclopedic, but what he liked and knew best was ancient history. He was a great admirer of the concise and wonderful way the Greek historians wrote. His knowledge of Greek enabled him to read Thucydides, Herodotus, and others in the original; his knowledge of Latin was even better.

The story of the Athenian expedition to the island of Melos, the atrocities and killings that followed, and the lengthy debates between the opposing parties fascinated him for reasons which I never quite understood. He seemed to take a perverse pleasure in the brutality of a civilized people like the ancient Greeks. For him, I think it threw a certain, not-too-complimentary light on human nature in general. Perhaps he thought it illustrated the fact that once embarked on a certain course, it is fated that ambition and pride will prevent a people from swerving from a chosen course and inexorably it may lead to awful ends, as in the Greek tragedies. Needless to say this prophetically anticipated the vaster and more terrible madness of the Nazis. Johnny was very much aware of the worsening political situation. In a Pythian manner, he foresaw the coming catastrophe.
p. 244:
By then he was very, very ill. I would sit with him and try to distract him. There was still some scientific curiosity in him; his memory still seemed to work sporadically, and on occasion almost uncannily well. I will never forget the scene a few days before he died. I was reading to him in Greek from his worn copy of Thucydides a story he liked especially about the Athenians' attack on Melos, and also the speech of Pericles. He remembered enough to correct an occasional mistake or mispronunciation on my part.

 

Roof of the Mouth

Someone else must have made the following suggestion about the English expression "roof of the mouth," but I've never seen or heard it mentioned elsewhere. I wonder if the phrase might be derived from that part of the Mass in which we say "Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea" ("Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed"), just before receiving the body and blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. In the jejune ICEL translation we hear at Sunday Mass nowadays, this becomes, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

This is a slight modification of the Vulgate Bible verse (Matthew 8:8) spoken by the centurion to Jesus: "Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur puer meus" ("Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed"). The Latin word for roof is "tectum." In the centurion's case it was a literal roof; in the case of our mouths, it's a metaphorical roof.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

 

Slings

In a recent article published in the Chicago Tribune, James Janega tells about U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Thornton of Norristown, Pennsylvania, now fighting in Fallujah, Iraq:
As his team slept, he used a marker to write "This is 4 my buddy" on a 40 mm grenade for his M203 launcher.

"His wife lives right across the street from my wife," he said softly. "I'm all about fighting."
His buddy was killed in battle a few days earlier.

Sgt. Thornton in marking his grenade was keeping alive an ancient tradition. Many sling bullets survive from antiquity, some with inscriptions scratched on them. The Greek for one of these leaden projectiles is molybdis, and in Latin they are called glandes plumbeae (literally leaden acorns). Here are a couple of inscriptions, from Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, I:Karl Zangemeister collected some of these Latin inscriptions in his Glandes plumbeae latine inscriptae (Rome, 1885) = Ephemeris epigraphica, VI.

The sling was not a toy in antiquity but a deadly, accurate weapon, made usually of a strip of leather narrow at the ends and broader in the middle where the bullet was held in a kind of pouch. Its Latin name was funda, and the warrior equipped with a sling was called a funditor. The Greek equivalents are sphendone for sling and sphendonetes for slinger.

The most famous slinger of antiquity was of course David, who slew Goliath with a shot from his sling:Other Biblical references include:One advantage of the sling in battle was its long range, longer than that of spears or even arrows. Xenophon makes that clear in these passages from his Anabasis (tr. Carleton L. Brownson):Certain ancient peoples were well known for their skill with the sling. Thucydides (2.81.8, tr. Charles Forster Smith) mentions the Acarnanians in particular:
But when the barbarians in their flight broke in upon them, they took them in and uniting their two divisions kept quiet there during the day, the Stratians not coming to close quarters with them, because the rest of the Acarnanians had not yet come to their support, but using their slings against them from a distance and distressing them; for it as not possible for them to stir without armour; and indeed the Acarnanians are famous for their excellence in the use of the sling.
Livy (38.29.3-8, tr. Evan T. Sage) refers to the inhabitants of three Greek cities on the northern coast of the Peloponnesus as expert slingers:
A hundred slingers were recruited from Aegium and Patrae and Dymae. These peoples were trained from boyhood, in accordance with a tradition of the race, in hurling with a sling at the open sea the round stones which, mingled with sand, generally strew the coasts. In consequence they use this weapon at longer range, with greater accuracy, and with more powerful effect than the Balearic slinger. Moreover, the sling is not composed of a single strap, like those of the Baleares and other peoples, but the bullet-carrier is triple, strengthened with numerous seams, that the missle may not fly out at random, from the pliancy of the strap at the moment of discharge, but seated firmly while being whirled, may be shot out as if from a bow-string. Having been trained to shoot through rings of moderate circumference from long distances, they would wound not merely the heads of their enemies but any part of the face at which they might have aimed. These slings prevented the Sameans from making sallies so frequently or so boldly, to such an extent that they begged the Achaeans to withdraw for a while and in quiet to watch them fighting with the Roman outguards.

centum funditores ab Aegio et Patris et Dymis acciti. a pueris ii more quodam gentis saxis globosis, quibus ferme harenae immixtis strata litora sunt, funda mare apertum incessentes exercebantur. itaque longius certiusque et validiore ictu quam Baliaris funditor eo telo usi sunt. et est non simplicis habenae, ut Baliarica aliarumque gentium funda, sed triplex scutale, crebris suturis duratum, ne fluxa habena volutetur in iactu glans, sed librata cum sederit, velut nervo missa excutiatur. coronas modici circuli magno ex intervallo loci adsueti traicere non capita solum hostium vulnerabant, sed quem locum destinassent oris. hae fundae Samaeos cohibuerunt, ne tam crebro neve tam audacter erumperent, adeo ut precarentur ex muris Achaeos, ut parumper abscederent et se cum Romanis stationibus pugnantis quiete spectarent.
As Livy mentions in passing, another people famous for their skill with the sling were the inhabitants of the Balearic islands (today Majorca and Minorca). Strabo (3.5.1, tr. Horace Leonard Jones) writes:
They are spoken of as the best of slingers. And this art they have practised assiduously, so it is said, ever since the Phoenicians took possession of the islands. And the Phoenicians are also spoken of as the first to clothe the people there in tunics with a broad border; but the people used to go forth to their fights without a girdle on — with only a goat-skin, wrapped round the arm, or with a javelin that had been hardened in the fire (though in rare cases it was also pointed with a small iron tip), and with three slings worn round the head, of black-tufted rush (that is, a species of rope-rush, out of which the ropes are woven; and Philetas, too, in his "Hermeneia" says, "Sorry his tunic befouled with dirt; and round about him his slender waist is entwined with a strip of black-tufted rush," meaning a man girdled with a rush-rope), of black-tufted rush, I say, or of hair or of sinews: the sling with the long straps for the shots at short range, and the medium sling for the medium shots. And their training in the use of slings used to be such, from childhood up, that they would not so much as give bread to their children unless they first hit it with the sling. This is why Metellus, when he was approaching the islands from the sea, stretched hides above the decks as a protection against the slings.
Florus 3.8 (1.43 Rossbach) also mentions the three sizes of slings:
Each one fights with three slings. Who would be surprised at their accurate strikes, since these are the only weapons of that people, this alone their pursuit from childhood on?

tribus quisque fundis proeliantur. certos esse quis miretur ictus, cum haec sola genti arma sint, id unum ab infantia studium?
Vegetius 1.16 (tr. John Clarke) gives similar details about the Balearic islanders:
Recruits are to be taught the art of throwing stones both with the hand and sling. The inhabitants of the Balearic Islands are said to have been the inventors of slings, and to have managed them with surprising dexterity, owing to the manner of bringing up their children. The children were not allowed to have their food by their mothers till they had first struck it with their sling. Soldiers, notwithstanding their defensive armor, are often more annoyed by the round stones from the sling than by all the arrows of the enemy. Stones kill without mangling the body, and the contusion is mortal without loss of blood. It is universally known the ancients employed slingers in all their engagements. There is the greater reason for instructing all troops, without exception, in this exercise, as the sling cannot be reckoned any incumbrance, and often is of the greatest service, especially when they are obliged to engage in stony places, to defend a mountain or an eminence, or to repulse an enemy at the attack of a castle or city.

ad lapides vero vel manibus vel fundis iaciendos exerceri diligenter convenit iuniores. fundarum usum primi Balearium insularum habitatores et invenisse et ita perite exercuisse dicuntur, ut matres parvos filios nullum cibum contingere sinerent, nisi quem ex funda destinato lapide percussissent. saepe enim adversum bellatores cassidibus catafractis loricisque munitos teretes lapides de funda vel fustibalo destinati sagittis sunt omnibus graviores, cum membris integris letale tamen vulnus importent et sine invidia sanguinis hostis lapidis ictu intereat. in omnibus autem veterum proeliis funditores militasse nullus ignorat. quae res ideo ab universis tironibus frequenti exercitio discenda est, quia fundam portare nullus est labor. et interdum evenit, ut in lapidosis locis conflictus habeatur, ut mons sit aliquis defendendus aut collis, ut ab obpugnatione castellorum sive civitatum lapidibus barbari fundisque pellendi sint.
The velocity required for a bullet to puncture the skin is sometimes given as 163 feet per second, to break a bone 213 feet per second. Modern sling projectiles have been clocked at about 130 miles per hour, or approximately 190 feet per second. We have no reason, therefore, to doubt the testimony of the ancient medical writer Celsus, who writes (7.5):
There is a third type of weapon that sometimes needs to be removed, a leaden bullet or rock or something similar, which breaking through the skin lodges inside in one piece. In all of these cases, the wound needs to be opened a bit wider, and what is inside must be extracted with pincers along the same pathway by which it entered.

tertium genus telorum est, quod interdum evelli debet; plumbea glans aut lapis aut simile aliquid, quod perrupta cute integrum intus insedit. in omnibus his latius vulnus aperiundum, idque quod inest, ea, qua venit, forfice extrahendum est.
It was a common misconception in antiquity, from Aristotle onward, that bullets propelled by slings travelled so fast that they became molten. Lucretius makes this mistake (6.178-179, tr. H.A.J. Munro): "A leaden ball in whirling through a long course even melts" (plumbea vero / glans etiam longo cursu volvenda liquescit), and so does Vergil, Aeneid 9.586-589:
The hero Mezentius, putting aside his spears, with tightened thong whirled thrice around his head the whirring sling and split his adversary's forehead with the molten bullet and stretched him out flat over a great stretch of sand.

stridentem fundam positis Mezentius hastis
ipse ter adducta circum caput egit habena
et media adversi liquefacto tempora plumbo
diffidit ac multa porrectum extendit harena.
I haven't seen Manfred Korfmann, "The Sling as a Weapon," Scientific American 229.4 (1973) 36-42. There is a web site devoted to this interesting ancient weapon.

 

Euclid

Here are two poems on the ancient Greek geometrician Euclid.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950):
Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.
Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931):
Old Euclid drew a circle
On a sand-beach long ago.
He bounded and enclosed it
With angles thus and so.
His set of solemn graybeards
Nodded and argued much
Of arc and of circumference,
Diameter and such.
A silent child stood by them
From morning until noon
Because they drew such charming
Round pictures of the moon.

 

Kimball and Aristotle

In a fine essay on Lichtenberg, Roger Kimball defined aphorisms as "insights shorn of supporting ratiocination." Aristotle in his treatise on Rhetoric 2.21.2 (1394 a, tr. John Henry Freese) said something similar: "Maxims are the premises or conclusions of enthymemes without the syllogism."

Friday, November 19, 2004

 

Aglaus of Psophis

Herodotus (1.13-15) mentions that the Lydian king Gyges consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, but doesn't relate a story found in some later authors.

Valerius Maximus 7.1.2:
Gyges was puffed up in spirit because his kingdom of Lydia abounded in military might and riches. He went to ask Pythian Apollo if any mortal was happier than he. The god, in an utterance sent forth from his shrine's hidden cave, pronounced Aglaus of Psophis happier. Aglaus was the poorest of the Arcadians. Now rather old, he had never left the boundaries of his little farm, satisfied with the produce of his small country spot. But in fact Apollo through the wisdom of his oracle covered the goal of a happy life in clear outline. Wherefore in answer to one who was arrogantly bragging about the splendor of his own good fortune, the god replied that he preferred a cottage cheerful in safety to a court sad with cares and worries, a few clods of earth without anxiety to Lydia's fertile fields full of fear, a yoke or two of oxen easy to maintain to an army and weapons and a cavalry burdensome with boundless expenses, a tiny barn sufficient for one's needs but not excessively envied by anyone to treasure chests exposed to the ambushes and desires of all. Thus Gyges, while he wanted to have the god as a supporter of his own empty opinion, learned where well-founded and genuine happiness was to be found.

cum enim Gyges regno Lydiae armis et divitiis abundantissimo inflatus animo Apollinem Pythium sciscitatum venisset an aliquis mortalium se esset felicior, deus ex abdito sacrarii specu voce missa Aglaum Psophidium ei praetulit. is erat Arcadum pauperrimus, sed aetate iam senior terminos agelli sui numquam excesserat, paruuli ruris fructibus contentus. verum profecto beatae vitae finem Apollo non adumbratum oraculi sagacitate conplexus est. quocirca insolenter fulgore fortunae suae glorianti respondit magis se probare securitate ridens tugurium quam tristem curis et sollicitudinibus aulam, paucasque glebas pavoris expertes quam pinguissima Lydiae arva metu referta, et unum aut alterum iugum boum facilis tutelae quam exercitus et arma et equitatum voracibus inpensis onerosum, et usus necessarii horreolum nulli nimis adpetendum quam thesauros omnium insidiis et cupiditatibus expositos. ita Gyges, dum adstipulatorem vanae opinionis deum habere concupiscit, ubinam solida et sincera esset felicitas didicit.
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.46.151 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
In reference to this point, two oracles of Delphi may come under our consideration, which would appear to have been pronounced as though in order to chastise the vanity of man. These oracles were the following: by the first, Pedius was pronounced to be the most happy of men, who had just before fallen in defence of his country. On the second occasion, when it had been consulted by Gyges, at that time the most powerful king in the world, it declared that Aglaus of Psophis was a more happy man than himself. This Aglaus was an old man, who lived in a poor petty nook of Arcadia, and cultivated a small farm, though quite sufficient for the supply of his yearly wants; he had never so much as left it, and, as was quite evident from his mode of living, his desires being of the most limited kind, he had experienced but an extremely small share of the miseries of life.

subeunt in hac reputatione Delphica oracula velut ad castigandam hominum vanitatem ab deo emissa. duo sunt haec: Pedium felicissimum, qui pro patria proxime occubuisset; iterum a Gyge rege tunc amplissimo terrarum consulti: Aglaum Psophidium esse feliciorem. senior hic in angustissimo Arcadiae angulo parvum, sed annuis victibus large sufficiens praedium colebat, numquam ex eo egressus atque, ut e vitae genere manifestum est, minima cupidine minimum in vita mali expertus.
Pausanias 8.24.13-14 (tr. Peter Levi) makes Aglaus contemporary with Croesus, not Gyges, and casts doubt on the whole tale:
I did not really believe the story I heard at Psophis about Aglaos, a Psophidian contemporary with Kroisos of Lydia, that he was truly happy throughout his entire life. One may have smaller troubles to put up with than one's contemporaries, just as one ship may suffer less than another from bad weather, but it is absolutely impossible to find a man permanently untouched by tragedy or a ship that always has a prosperous wind.
The story reminds me of another told about King Croesus of Lydia, who asked the Athenian Solon who was the happiest man he had ever seen. Croesus expected Solon to answer, "You are, o King," but instead Solon named first Tellus, who died in battle defending Athens, and second Cleobis and Biton, who pulled their mother in an ox-cart to a festival in honor of Hera and were rewarded by the goddess with a painless death as they slept in her temple. Herodotus tells the story of Croesus and Solon at 1.30-33.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

 

Curmudgeon

It's sometimes difficult to translate a single word from one language to another. The following ancient Greek compounds all overlap in meaning somewhat with English curmudgeon:All except misanthropos are still available as blog names on blogspot.com. The blog name misanthropos is unfortunately wasted, as it only contains a single entry.

 

Mars Pacifer

HobbyBlog's ancient coin of the day features Mars Pacifer (Mars the Bringer of Peace) on the reverse, with an olive branch and a spear. I had never heard of this epithet of Mars, the Roman god of war, but it's a neat epitome of the idea that if you want peace, you should prepare for war.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

GBS on Classical Education

In his Treatise on Parents and Children, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) includes some thoughts on studying Greek and Latin in school:
My school made only the thinnest pretence of teaching anything but Latin and Greek. When I went there as a very small boy I knew a good deal of Latin grammar which I had been taught in a few weeks privately by my uncle. When I had been several years at school this same uncle examined me and discovered that the net result of my schooling was that I had forgotten what he had taught me, and had learnt nothing else. To this day, though I can still decline a Latin noun and repeat some of the old paradigms in the old meaningless way, because their rhythm sticks to me, I have never yet seen a Latin inscription on a tomb that I could translate throughout. Of Greek I can decipher perhaps the greater part of the Greek alphabet. In short, I am, as to classical education, another Shakespear.



A word must also be said about the opposition to reform of the vested interest of the classical and coercive schoolmaster. He, poor wretch, has no other means of livelihood; and reform would leave him as a workman is now left when he is superseded by a machine. He had therefore better do what he can to get the workman compensated, so as to make the public familiar with the idea of compensation before his own turn comes.



At school I began with a fairly complete knowledge of Latin grammar in the childish sense of being able to repeat all the paradigms; and I was kept at this, or rather kept in a class where the master never asked me to do it because he knew I could, and therefore devoted himself to trapping the boys who could not, until I finally forgot most of it. But when progress took place, what did it mean? First it meant Caesar, with the foreknowledge that to master Caesar meant only being set at Virgil, with the culminating horror of Greek and Homer in reserve at the end of that. I preferred Caesar, because his statement that Gaul is divided into three parts, though neither interesting nor true, was the only Latin sentence I could translate at sight: therefore the longer we stuck at Caesar the better I was pleased.



It is a monstrous thing to force a child to learn Latin or Greek or mathematics on the ground that they are an indispensable gymnastic for the mental powers. It would be monstrous even if it were true; for there is no labor that might not be imposed on a child or an adult on the same pretext; but as a glance at the average products of our public school and university education shews that it is not true, it need not trouble us. But it is a fact that ignorance of Latin and Greek and mathematics closes certain careers to men (I do not mean artificial, unnecessary, noxious careers like those of the commercial schoolmaster). Languages, even dead ones, have their uses; and, as it seems to many of us, mathematics have their uses. They will always be learned by people who want to learn them; and people will always want to learn them as long as they are of any importance in life: indeed the want will survive their importance: superstition is nowhere stronger than in the field of obsolete acquirements. And they will never be learnt fruitfully by people who do not want to learn them either for their own sake or for use in necessary work. There is no harder schoolmaster than experience; and yet experience fails to teach where there is no desire to learn.

 

Perspective

Plato, Republic 10.604 (tr. Benjamin Jowett):
No human thing is of serious importance.

 

Blessings

On eBay (item number 5535890757) Diana Duyser is selling a grilled cheese sandwich with an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She describes her treasure thus:
You are viewing an extroidinary out of this world item!! I made this sandwich 10 years ago, when I took a bite out of it, I saw a face looking up at me, It was Virgin Mary starring back at me, I was in total shock, I would like to point out there is no mold or disingration, The item has not been preserved or anything, It has been keep in a plastic case, not a special one that seals out air or potiental mold or bacteria, it is like a miracle, It has just preserved itself which in itself I consider a miracle, people ask me if I have had blessings since she has been in my home, I do feel I have, I have won $70,000 (total) on different occasions at the casino near by my house, I can show the recipts to the high bidder if they are interested, I would like all people to know that I do believe that this is the Virgin Mary Mother Of God.
Apparently correct spelling and proper punctuation are not among the blessings imparted by the miraculous sandwich.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

 

Vergil and Malt Liquor

Kihm Winship, one of my favorite writers, has a new essay on malt liquor. He points out that cans and bottles of Hornell Brewing Company's Midnight Dragon had the Latin motto "Epulis Accumbere Divum" ("To recline at the feasts of the gods"). This motto comes from the first book of Vergil's Aeneid, line 79.

 

Karl Marx and the Classics

E.M. Butler, The Tyranny of Greece over Germany (1935), p. 144:
Living in Trier, under the shadow of the Porta Nigra, Marx received as good an education as the Europe of his day could give. At school he acquired a firm grasp of both Greek and Latin, and throughout life kept up his acquaintance with both literatures. Shaw, never without a strain of cheap Voltairianism, sneered at Homer; Marx adored him, and in his family Homer was regularly read aloud. At school he read in the original Sophocles, Thucydides and Plato, Cicero, Virgil and Tacitus. It may seem odd to find Marx translating Ovid, yet this interest persisted into later life; he preferred the poems of exile. In the questionnaire he filled up in 1865, Marx names Aeschylus, together with Shakespeare and Goethe, as one of his three favorite poets. Each year he read him through in Greek; on him, as on Goethe and Shelley, the Prometheus made a particularly strong impression.

 

Thoreau on Keeping a Journal

Henry David Thoreau, Journals (January 22, 1853):
Associate reverently and as much as you can with your loftiest thoughts. Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid. Thoughts accidentally thrown together become a frame in which more may be developed and exhibited. Perhaps this is the main value of a habit of writing, of keeping a journal, -- that so we remember our best hours and stimulate ourselves. My thoughts are my company. They have a certain individuality and separate existence, aye, personality. Having by chance recorded a few disconnected thoughts and then brought them together into juxtaposition, they suggest a whole new field in which it was possible to labor and to think. Thought begat thought.

 

The Lord's Mark

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, chapter 30:
The Welshman said Huck had good spots in him, and the widow said: "You can depend on it. That's the Lord’s mark. He don't leave it off. He never does. Puts it somewhere on every creature that comes from his hands."

Monday, November 15, 2004

 

Noble Homer

Thomas Elyot, The Governour (1531) 1.10:
I feare me to be to longe from noble Homere: from whom as from a fountaine proceded all eloquence and lernyng. For in his bokes be contained, and moste perfectly expressed, nat only the documentes marciall and discipline of armes, but also incomparable wisedomes, and instructions for politike gouernaunce of people: with the worthy commendation and laude of noble princis: where with the reders shall be so all inflamed, that they most feruently shall desire and coueite, by the imitation of their vertues, to acquire semblable glorie.

 

Milton's God

C.S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942):
Many of those who say they dislike Milton's God only mean that they dislike God: infinite sovereignty de jure, combined with infinite power de facto, and love which, by its very nature, includes wrath also -- it is not only in poetry that these things offend.

 

Solitude

William Wordsworth, The Prelude, 4.354-357:
When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

 

Hardy Boys Quiz

  1. What are the first names of the Hardy Boys?
  2. Which brother is older?
  3. What is the first name of the Hardy Boys' father?
  4. In what town do the Hardy Boys live?
  5. What is the name of the Hardy Boys' motorboat?
  6. Who is the Hardy Boys' "stout chum"?
  7. What is the first name of the Hardy Boys' aunt?
  8. Who wrote the Hardy Boys books? The pseudonym will do.


No questions about the dreadful 1970s TV show. No answers. You'll have to dig those old Hardy Boys books out of the attic and do some detective work on your own.

 

After Reading

Digby Mackworth Dolben (1848-1867):

After Reading Aeschylus:
I will not sing my little puny songs.
It is more blessed for the rippling pool
To be absorbed in the great ocean-wave
Than even to kiss the sea-weeds on its breast.
Therefore in passiveness I will lie still,
And let the multitudinous music of the Greek
Pass into me, till I am musical.
After Reading Homer:
Happy the man, who on the mountain-side
Bending o'er fern and flowers his basket fills:
Yet he will never know the outline-power,
The awful Whole of the Eternal Hills.

So some there are, who never feel the strength
In thy blind eyes, majestic and complete,
Which conquers those, who motionlessly sit,
O dear divine old Giant, at thy feet.

 

More Theodore Dalrymple


Thursday, November 11, 2004

 

Cures for Melancholy

From Henry David Thoreau's Journals:

October 31, 1857:
If you are afflicted with melancholy at this season, go to the swamp and see the brave spears of skunk-cabbage buds already advanced toward a new year.
November 13, 1857:
See the sun rise or set if possible each day. Let that be your pill.
December 27, 1857:
Do not despair of life. You have no doubt force enough to overcome your obstacles. Think of the fox prowling through wood and field in a winter night for something to satisfy his hunger. Nonwithstanding cold and hounds and traps, his race survives. I do not believe any of them ever committed suicide.
January 10, 1858:
If you are sick and despairing, go forth in winter and see the red alder calkins dangling at the extremities of the twigs, all in the wintry air, like long, hard mulberries, promising a new spring and the fulfillment of all our hopes.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

On the Ignorance of the Learned

William Hazlitt, On the Ignorance of the Learned (Edinburgh Magazine, July, 1818):

 

Four Necessary Things

William Hazlitt, A Farewell to Essay-Writing (London Weekly Review, March 29, 1828):
Food, warmth, sleep, and a book; these are all I at present ask -- the ultima Thule of my wandering desires.

 

Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

You may at some time have taken a test in which you were asked a question like "What's the next number in the following sequence? 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 ... "

The answer is 21, and this sequence is known as the Fibonacci sequence. Each term is the sum of the previous two terms.

There is an entire encyclopedia of sequences like this, the Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, which recently passed the 100,000 entry mark. Started by mathematician Neil J. A. Sloane in 1963 on punched cards, the Encyclopedia is now a major research tool and collaborative database.

Here are some sequences contributed by yours truly:I also contributed a comment and bibliographical reference to sequence A069283.

Monday, November 08, 2004

 

Landor on Some Latin Poets

If someone tries to persuade you that the sum of human knowledge is available on the Internet, tell him to look for the works of Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864). Only bits and pieces of his voluminous works can be found. I don't think that the following short pieces by Landor on some Latin poets have previously appeared in cyberspace.

Among the remains of the Latin poet Catullus are some scurrilous poems which verge on the obscene. In the following epigrams on Catullus, Landor argues that the good far outweighs the bad, and that even some of the bad has its charms.

On Catullus (1853):
Tell me not what too well I know
About the bard of Sirmio ..
  Yes, in Thalia's son
Such stains there are .. as when a Grace
Sprinkles another's laughing face
  With nectar, and runs on.
Written in a Catullus (1863):
Among these treasures there are some
That floated past the wreck of Rome;
But others, for their place unfit,
Are sullied by uncleanly wit.
So in its shell the pearl is found
With rank putridity around.
Landor, who with Milton and Housman was one of the most learned of the English poets, also wrote a long essay entitled "The Poems of Catullus," which appeared in the Foreign Quarterly Review (1842).

In the following verses, Landor touches on some prominent themes in Tibullus' poetry. Some Latin poets, such as Vergil and Horace, advanced the political agenda of the emperor Augustus, and were rewarded for their allegiance by the patronage of Augustus' minister Maecenas. Tibullus followed a different path. His patron was Messalla. When Tibullus' lady-love Delia deceived him, he tried to forget his sorrow by accompanying Messalla on military campaigns (the ancient equivalent of the French Foreign Legion), and he eventually found a new flame, a woman named Nemesis after the Greek goddess of vengeance. In the final line, "Rome's last poet" is Ovid, who wrote a well-known poem on Tibullus' death (Amores 3.9).

Tibullus (1863):
Only one poet in the worst of days
Disdain'd Augustus in his pride to praise.
Ah, Delia! was it wantonness or whim
That made thee, once so tender, false to him?
To him who follow'd over snow and seas
Messalla storming the steep Pyrenees.
But Nemesis avenged him, and the tear
Of Rome's last poet fell upon his bier.
In the following couplet, Flaccus is the Latin poet better known as Horace. His full name was Quintus Horatius Flaccus.

The Two Satirists (1858):
While we are frolicking with Flaccus
Comes Juvenal to slash and hack us.
Satire was the one literary genre in which the Romans were not indebted to the Greeks. Quintilian (10.93) says "Satira quidem tota nostra est" (Satire at least is completely ours). The satires of Horace were gentler in tone than the savage indignation of the poems of Juvenal.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

 

Smollett on Current Events

Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771).

On political parties (June 2):
Considering the temper of the times, it is a wonder to see any institution whatsoever established for the benefit of the Public. The spirit of party is risen to a kind of phrenzy, unknown to former ages, or rather degenerated to a total extinction of honesty and candour.
On campaigning (June 2):
When I see a man of birth, education, and fortune, put himself on a level with the dregs of the people, mingle with low mechanics, feed with them at the same board, and drink with them in the same cup, flatter their prejudices, harangue in praise of their virtues, expose themselves to the belchings of their beer, the fumes of their tobacco, the grossness of their familiarity, and the impertinence of their conversation, I cannot help despising him, as a man guilty of the vilest prostitution, in order to effect a purpose equally selfish and illiberal.
On voting (May 19):
The truth is, I look upon both candidates in the same light; and should think myself a traitor to the constitution of my country, if I voted for either.

Friday, November 05, 2004

 

Fickleness

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 52.1-2:
What is it, Lucilius, that drags us in one direction when we're pushing in the other, that forces us to a place we want to withdraw from? What wrestles with our soul and doesn't let us will something once and for all? We drift among different plans; we desire nothing freely, nothing completely, nothing for all time. You say that "Foolishness is the possession of him who has no steady purpose, whom nothing pleases for long." But how or when will we snatch ourselves away from that foolishness? No one by himself is strong enough to escape; another must lend a hand, another must pull us out.

Quid est hoc, Lucili, quod nos alio tendentes alio trahit et eo unde recedere cupimus impellit? quid colluctatur cum animo nostro nec permittit nobis quicquam semel velle? Fluctuamur inter varia consilia; nihil libere volumus, nihil absolute, nihil semper. 'Stultitia' inquis 'est cui nihil constat, nihil diu placet.' Sed quomodo nos aut quando ab illa revellemus? Nemo per se satis valet ut emergat; oportet manum aliquis porrigat, aliquis educat.

 

Dostoyevsky Against Botox Treatments

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, part 3, chapter 1 (tr. Constance Garnett):
Although Pulcheria Alexandrovna was forty-three, her face still retained traces of her former beauty; she looked much younger than her age, indeed, which is almost always the case with women who retain serenity of spirit, sensitiveness and pure sincere warmth of heart to old age. We may add in parenthesis that to preserve all this is the only means of retaining beauty to old age. Her hair had begun to grow grey and thin, there had long been little crow's foot wrinkles round her eyes, her cheeks were hollow and sunken from anxiety and grief, and yet it was a handsome face.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

 

The Lap of Jupiter

The German humanist Brassicanus on the library acquired by King Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490) of Hungary:
I have looked at all the books. But shall I say books? Every book I saw is a treasure ... It seemed in truth as if I were not in a library but -- as it is customary to say -- on the lap of Jupiter. There were more Greek as well as Hebrew volumes which King Matthias had bought for immense amounts of money in the interior of Greece after the fall of Constantinople and the destruction of many other Greek cities ... And more ancient and new Latin books here ... than anywhere else within my knowledge.
More here.

 

Winter and Summer

Henry David Thoreau, Journals, October 13, 1851:
The alert and energetic man leads a more intellectual life in winter than in summer. In summer the animal and vegetable in him are perfected as in a torrid zone. In winter cold reason and not warm passion has her sway; he lives in thought and reflection; he lives a more spiritual, a less sensual, life.

 

Vox Populi

John Dryden (1631-1700), Absalom and Achitophel 1.781-782:
Nor is the people's judgment always true:
The most may err as grossly as the few.

 

The Real Names of Things

Sallust, On the Conspiracy of Catiline 52.11 (tr. John Selby Watson):
For some time past, it is true, we have lost the real names of things; for to lavish the property of others is called generosity, and audacity in wickedness is called heroism; and hence the state is reduced to the brink of ruin.

iam pridem equidem nos vera vocabula rerum amisimus: quia bona aliena largiri liberalitas, malarum rerum audacia fortitudo vocatur, eo res publica in extremo sita est.

 

Power

Luke 4.5-6:
And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 

Kemosabe Ruled Politically Correct

It's not against the law to say kemosabe in Canada.

 

Dalrymple Watch

I don't know how long these links to recent essays by Theodore Dalrymple will survive in cyberspace. The last one appears under his real name, Anthony Daniels.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

 

Political Parties

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), Parties:
Tories don't like me, Whigs detest;
Then in what quarter can I rest?
Among the Liberals? most of all,
The Liberals are illiberal.

 

Orwell on the Classics

George Orwell, column As I Please, in the Tribune (July 7, 1944):
When the Calpih Omar destroyed the libraries of Alexandria he is supposed to have kept the public baths warm for eighteen days with burning manuscripts, and great numbers of tragedies by Euripides and others are said to have perished, quite irrecoverably. I remember that when I read about this as a boy it simply filled me with enthusiastic approval. It was so many less words to look up in the dictionary -- that was how I saw it. For, though I am only forty-one, I am old enough to have been educated at a time when Latin and Greek were only escapable with great difficulty, while "English" was hardly regarded as a school subject at all.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 

Talk Like a TV Evangelist Day

In the spirit of Talk Like a Pirate Day, Jim Watkins proposes Talk Like a TV Evangelist Day and offers these tips:
When greeting other students, co-workers, "Hello, faa-rend" (friend).

When the copier jams or computer crashes, stike it with the heel of your hand and shout, "Heeee-ole" (heal).

If this is not effective, shout, "Come OUT foul spirits!"

Once the copier is unjammed or computer rebooted, "Pa-raise (praise) God; thank ya, Jeeeeeeeeeeee-sus."

During planning meetings shout, "Name it and claim it, fa-riend!"

While standing by the office vending machine, "Faa-rend, if you will just buy me a cup of coffee—yes, just one cup—the Lord will ba-less (bless) and reward you ten fold."

 

November

You might think that November is the eleventh month, but from an etymological point of view, it's the ninth month, from Latin novem, as September is the seventh (septem), October the eighth (octo), and December the tenth (decem). These are probably remnants of an old, ten-month calendar in use among the early Romans. Before the advent of the Caesars (Julius and Augustus), July in Latin was Quintilis (fifth month) and August was Sextilis (sixth month). For details on the Roman calendar, with references to ancient sources, the article by Thomas Hewitt Key in Smith's Classical Dictionary, though old, is still useful.

Here are a couple of poems to celebrate the month. The first is by Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864):
November! thou art come again
With all thy gloom of fogs and rain,
Yet woe betide the wretch who sings
Of sadness borne upon thy wings.
The gloom that overcast my brow,
The whole year's gloom, depart, but now;
And all of joy I hear or see,
November! I ascribe to thee.
The second, by Robert Frost (1874-1963), is entitled My November Guest:
My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
  Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
  She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
  She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
  Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
  The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
  And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
  The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
  And they are better for her praise.

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