Wednesday, April 19, 2006


From the Mailbag

Fr. Gerard Deighan writes:
Your Palm Sunday post immediately brought to mind another famous classical strewing, that of the mysterious purple cloths under Agamemnon's feet in Ag. 908 ff; I especially like the typically Aeschylean sound of v. 910: euthus genesthoo pophurostrootos poros [εὐθὺς γενέσθω πορφυρόστρωτος πόρος] .... Agamemenon is reluctant to tread on the strewn garments, believing that such behaviour befits the gods, not men. How fitting, then, for Him who is God to enter Jerusalem on a garment-strewn path!
For throwing leaves, see also the passages listed in Liddell, Scott, and Jones s.v. φυλλοβολία (phyllobolia). Most of the texts cited by LSJ are not available to me.

To the collection of asyndetic privative adjectives, Neil Sullivan adds two examples from Aristophanes' Frogs, lines 204 (ἄπειρος ἀθαλάττωτος ἀσαλαμίνιος) and 838 (ἀχάλινον ἀκρατὲς ἀπύλωτον).

K.J. Dover in his commentary on line 204 cites Eduard Fraenkel on Aeschylus, Agamemenon 412-413 (ἄτιμος ἀλοίδορος / ἄλιστος), where the text is uncertain. I don't have access to Fraenkel's commentary, but Dr. Sullivan writes:
As you would expect, Fraenkel has quite a bit to say, quoting a number of the passages (in Greek & English) you independently turned up, as well as some secondary literature. One of the passages he quotes is (now) Phrynichus Com. 57 Kassel-Austin, who refer to p.22 of Wilhelm von der Brelie, Dictione trimembri quomodo poetae Graeci imprimis tragici usi sint. Diss. Goettingen 1911. I knew that there must be the inevitable German dissertation on this somewhere...
Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.

I can also add one more example, from Menander, Aspis 415 (ἄπιστον ἄλογον), probably a quotation from an unknown tragedy.

Fr. Deighan also contributes two examples from the New Testament, Hebrews 7.3 (ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος) and 7.26 (ἄκακος ἀμίαντος). The only commentary I have on Hebrews, by F.F. Bruce, passes over this feature in silence.

On the puzzle surrounding Thoreau's
... and looked at me beseechingly, as much as to say, --
"O Christian, will you send me back?"
(Walden, chapter 6), Mark Ynys-Mon writes:
Whilst it is perfectly possible, indeed probable, that Emerson was making some things up - I don't think the above *is* a quote. Surely he is just reporting imagined speech?

Mr Gilleland looked at me beseechingly, as much as to say, --
"How can you even suggest such things?"
In a follow up email, Mr. Ynys-Mon adds:
I mean not Emerson of course, but Mr Hammerwater.
Hammerwater is clever word play on Thoreau's name, from the god Thor's hammer and French eau = water. Hammerwater is also a British place name.

On the same subject, Roger Kuin suggests that Kenelm Digby's Two Treatises, in the one of which the Nature of Bodies; in the other, the Nature of Mans Soule is looked into: in way of Discovery, of the Immortality of Reasonable Soules (Paris: Gilles Blaizot, 1644), 466 pp., might be the source of the quotation in Walden, chapter 7 (The Bean-Field):
Moreover, this being one of those "worn-out and exhausted lay fields which enjoy their sabbath," had perchance, as Sir Kenelm Digby thinks likely, attracted "vital spirits" from the air. I harvested twelve bushels of beans.
Electronic copies of Digby's Two Treatises are apparently page images, not searchable.

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