Friday, March 31, 2006


Ugliest Building in the World Contest

Theodore Dalrymple writes in the New Criterion:
Not having seen every building in the world, I cannot positively assert that the Centre Pompidou in the Place Beaubourg in Paris is the worst, but I should be surprised if anyone were able to point to a building that was very much worse....The building has recently undergone what is described as a facelift, though perhaps enema would be a more accurate metaphor in the circumstances.
Dalrymple has evidently never visited Minneapolis, Minnesota. Not having seen every building in the world, I cannot positively assert that the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis is the ugliest, but I should be surprised if anyone were able to point to a building that was very much uglier.

This public domain photograph doesn't really do justice to the eyesore that is the Weisman:

For more views, see here.

The Weisman will apparently also undergo an enema, according to an article by Geoff Edgers in the Boston Globe (December 4, 2005):
The stainless steel Weisman Art Museum, part of the University of Minnesota, will announce an expansion later this winter. Frank Gehry will design it.
Gehry is also guilty of the original design.

Update: Rick Brannan of Ricoblog nominates another Gehry opus, the Experience Music Project in Seattle, for the ugliest building award:
The patchwork of colors always makes me think it is a monument to vomit when I drive by it. I hope architecture gets through this phase it is in very quickly.
A monument to vomit, but also a provocation to vomit. Click on the photo link only if you have a strong stomach.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Free Verse

Franklin P. Adams, To a Vers Librist, from Something Else Again (1912), pp. 43-44:
"Oh bard," I said, "your verse is free;
The shackles that encumber me,
The fetters that are my obsession,
Are never gyves to your expression.

"The fear of falsities in rhyme,
In metre, quantity, or time,
Is never yours; you sing along
Your unpremeditated song."

"Correct," the young vers librist said.
"Whatever pops into my head
I write, and have but one small fetter:
I start each line with a capital letter.

But rhyme and metre -- Ishkebibble! --
Are actually negligible.
I go ahead, like all my school,
Without a single silly rule."

Of rhyme I am so reverential
He made me feel inconsequential.
I shed some strongly saline tears
For bards I loved in younger years.

"If Keats had fallen for your fluff,"
I said, "he might have done good stuff.
If Burns had thrown his rhymes away,
His songs might still be sung to-day."

O bards of rhyme and metre free,
My gratitude goes out to ye
For all your deathless lines -- ahem!
Let's see now....What is one of them?


One Impulse From a Vernal Wood

Thoreau, Journals, February 14, 1856:
May I ever be in as good spirits as a willow! How tenacious of life! How withy! How soon it gets over its hurts! They never despair. Is there no moisture longer in nature which they can transmute into sap? They are emblems of youth, joy, and everlasting life.


Misery and Exhilaration

Thoreau, Journals, June 17, 1857:
I go along the settled road, where the houses are interspersed with woods, in an unaccountably desponding mood, but when I come out upon a bare and solitary heath am at once exhilarated. This is a common experience in my travelling. I plod along, thinking what a miserable world this is and what miserable fellows we that inhabit it, wondering what it is tempts men to live in it: but anon I leave the towns behind and am lost in some boundless heath, and life gradually becomes more tolerable, if not even glorious.


Aches and Pains

Thoreau, Journals, February 23, 1857:
If the teeth ache they can be pulled. If the heart aches, what then? Shall we pluck it out?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Join Nothing

The motto of the blog Maverick Philosopher is a twofold bit of good advice by Paul Brunton: "Study everything, join nothing." Occasionally I'm tempted to join something, although usually I resist the temptation. There's an amusing list of fictitious organizations in Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, under
REGALIA, n. Distinguishing insignia, jewels and costume of such ancient and honorable orders as Knights of Adam; Visionaries of Detectable Bosh; the Ancient Order of Modern Troglodytes; the League of Holy Humbug; the Golden Phalanx of Phalangers; the Genteel Society of Expurgated Hoodlums; the Mystic Alliances of Gorgeous Regalians; Knights and Ladies of the Yellow Dog; the Oriental Order of Sons of the West; the Blatherhood of Insufferable Stuff; Warriors of the Long Bow; Guardians of the Great Horn Spoon; the Band of Brutes; the Impenitent Order of Wife-Beaters; the Sublime Legion of Flamboyant Conspicuants; Worshipers at the Electroplated Shrine; Shining Inaccessibles; Fee-Faw-Fummers of the Inimitable Grip; Jannissaries of the Broad-Blown Peacock; Plumed Increscencies of the Magic Temple; the Grand Cabal of Able-Bodied Sedentarians; Associated Deities of the Butter Trade; the Garden of Galoots; the Affectionate Fraternity of Men Similarly Warted; the Flashing Astonishers; Ladies of Horror; Cooperative Association for Breaking into the Spotlight; Dukes of Eden; Disciples Militant of the Hidden Faith; Knights-Champions of the Domestic Dog; the Holy Gregarians; the Resolute Optimists; the Ancient Sodality of Inhospitable Hogs; Associated Sovereigns of Mendacity; Dukes-Guardian of the Mystic Cess-Pool; the Society for Prevention of Prevalence; Kings of Drink; Polite Federation of Gents-Consequential; the Mysterious Order of the Undecipherable Scroll; Uniformed Rank of Lousy Cats; Monarchs of Worth and Hunger; Sons of the South Star; Prelates of the Tub-and-Sword.
Of these, the Ancient Order of Modern Troglodytes sounds like it would suit me. And if there were a Polite Federation of Gents-Inconsequential, I think I could qualify.


More on Tooth and Nail

Thanks to E.J. Moncada, who writes anent my Tooth and Nail post:
V. Erasmus, Adagia I.iv.23: "Toto corpore, omnibus unguiculis," (With the whole body, with all one's nails) with citations like those in your blog for Cicero and Lucian.

In English, earlier than Ninian Winget example (1562), see Nicholas Udall, Terence Flowers, f.3.: "He doeth all thynges...with tothe and nayle, as moche as in him lyeth." (1533)


Latin Prepositions

I found these mnemonic rhymes in an old notebook, with no indication of source. Google reveals that they're on the WWW in a few places, but I thought they might be new to some readers of this blog.

Prepositions with accusative
Ante, apud, ad, adversus,
Circum, circa, citra, cis,
Contra, inter, erga, extra,
Infra, intra, iuxta, ob,
Penes, pone, post, and praeter,
Prope, propter, per, secundum,
Supra, versus, ultra, trans:
Add super, subter, sub, and in,
When 'motion' 'tis, not 'state' they mean.
Prepositions with ablative
A, ab, absque, coram, de,
Palam, clam, cum, ex, and e,
Sine, tenus, pro, and prae:
Add super, subter, sub, and in,
When 'state,' not 'motion,' 'tis they mean.

Update: Close by in the same notebook, I found this:
F.G. Moore, "A Grammatical Excursion," Classical Weekly 8 (1914-1915) 81-87, on mnemonic devices to help learn Latin grammar.
So perhaps that's the source.

Another update: David Gwynne-Jones reports (via email), "I learnt the list in the early 60s at Prep School from Kennedy's Shorter Latin Primer."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Naughty Bits

Curculio is reluctant to post an epigram from the Palatine Anthology (10.45), because some of his students occasionally read his blog. His reluctance is probably a good idea. Recall that a Latin teacher recently lost her job at a Vermont high school, because she had her students read some ancient graffiti from Pompeii.

Censorship and bowdlerization can actually promote enthusiasm for scholarship among students. Witness Selections from the Brief Mention of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, ed. C.W.E. Miller (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1930), p. 52: "Unregenerate boys are especially fond of looking up the lacunae in expurgated editions."

In the essay on Juvenal in his book Classical Bearings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), Peter Green tells about the great lengths to which he and some of his Sixth Form fellows at Charterhouse went to find out as much as they could about obscene passages omitted in bowdlerized school editions of the classics, for example Juvenal 1.39 (vetulae vesica beatae), much of Juvenal's sixth satire, all of Juvenal's second and ninth satires, etc.

They spent long hours of their free time in the well-stocked school library tracking down these naughty bits, poring over commentaries and lexicons, and trying to figure out what the censored passages meant. In the course of doing so they greatly improved their knowledge of Greek and Latin.

Green goes so far as to say (p. 242), "This was how I first acquired the basic techniques of scholarly research."

Update: On this same subject, Laura Gibbs at Bestiaria Latina discusses a naughty fable that Ben Edwin Perry refused to translate in his Loeb edition of Babrius and Phaedrus.

I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend Bestiaria Latina, which is now on my daily reading list and will soon be added to my sidebar of links. Lovers of the classics are deeply indebted to Laura Gibbs for her excellent web site devoted to ancient and medieval fables, and her blog is also a must-read. Check out, for example, her post on the English word nice.



Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 128:
Living is an ailment which is relieved every sixteen hours by sleep. A palliative. Death is the cure.

Vivre est une maladie dont le sommeil nous soulage toutes les seize heures; c'est un palliatif: la mort est le remède.
Cf. Alexander Pope, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, line 132: "this long disease, my life," and Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, Part 2, § 9: "I boast nothing, but plainly say, we all labour against our own cure; for death is the cure of all diseases."

There are probably many classical analogues, but only two come to mind.

Aeschylus, fragment 353 Nauck (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Since unjustly men hate death, which is the greatest defence against their many ills.

ὡς οὐ δικαίως θάνατον ἔχθουσιν βροτοί,
ὅσπερ μέγιστον ῥῦμα τῶν πολλῶν κακῶν.
Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 27.9 (tr. H.W. and F.G. Fowler):
Well, we need wonder no more at youth, when age is still in love with life; one would have thought it should court death as the cure for its proper ills.

τί οὖν ἄν τις ἔτι λέγοι περὶ τῶν νέων͵ ὁπότε οἱ τηλικοῦτοι φιλόζωοί εἰσιν͵ οὓς ἐχρῆν διώκειν τὸν θάνατον ὡς τῶν ἐν τῷ γήρᾳ κακῶν φάρμακον.


Excessive Reading

Robert Darnton, The Kiss of Lamourette. Reflections in Cultural History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990), pp. 171-172:
In a tract of 1795, J.G. Heinzmann listed the physical consequences of excessive reading: "susceptibility to colds, headaches, weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout, arthritis, hemorrhoids, asthma, apoplexy, pulmonary disease, indigestion, blocking of the bowels, nervous disorder, migraines, epilepsy, hypochondria, and melancholy."

Monday, March 27, 2006


Evil Smells

Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillian, 1969), p. 192:
One could apply to Paris St. Theresa's definition of Hell: "The place that stinks and where no one loves."

On pourrait appliquer à la ville de Paris les propres termes de sainte Thérèse, pour définir l'enfer: "l'endroit où il pue et où l'on n'aime point."
There are apparently smells in hell other than the odor of fire and brimstone, if we can judge from Dante, Inferno 21.136-139 (tr. John D. Sinclair):
They wheeled round by the dike on the left; but first each pressed his tongue between his teeth at their leader for a signal and he made a trumpet of his rear.

Per l'argine sinistro volta dienno;
ma prima avea ciascun la lingua stretta
coi denti, verso lor duca, per cenno;
ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta.
See also Dante, Inferno 28.21-24 (tr. John D. Sinclair):
No cask ever gapes by loss of end-board or stave like him I saw who was ripped from the chin to the part that breaks wind.

Già veggia, per mezzul perdere o lulla,
com'io vidi un, così non si pertugia,
rotto dal mento infin dove si trulla.
Dorothy Sayers translated "dove si trulla" as "fart-hole".



A good way to get your daily dose of ancient Greek is to mosey on over to Curculio, who has been printing epigrams by Palladas and others from the Palatine Anthology, with original texts and English translations. If people (myself included) took 10.98 (tr. W.R. Paton) to heart, there wouldn't be many blogs around:
Every uneducated man is wisest if he remains silent, hiding his speech like a disgraceful disease.
10.85 is sure to cheer you up:
We all are tended and fed for death, like a herd of pigs slaughtered at random.
There is a clear echo of Epicurus in 15.20 (tr. W.R. Paton):
Pass by this miserable life in silence, imitating by your silence Time himself. Live likewise unnoticed [λαθὼν δὲ καὶ βίωσον]; or if not, you will be so in death.
Cf. Epicurus, fragment 551 Usener (λάθε βιώσας = live unknown). For other parallels to this saying by Epicurus see here.

In his selection of translations from the Greek Anthology, J.W. Mackail has this to say about Palladas:
PALLADAS of Alexandria is the author of one hundred and fifty-one epigrams (besides twenty-three more doubtful) in the Anthology. His somber and melancholy figure is one of the last of the purely pagan world in its losing battle against Christianity. One of the epigrams attributed to him on the authority of Planudes is an eulogy on the celebrated Hypatia, daughter of Theon of Alexandria, whose tragic death took place A.D. 415 in the reign of Theodosius the Second. Another was, according to a scholium in the Palatine MS., written in the reign of Valentinian and Valens, joint-emperors, 364-375 A.D. The epigram on the destruction of Berytus, ix. 27 in this selection, gives no certain argument of date. Palladas was a grammarian by profession. An anonymous epigram (Anth. Pal. ix. 380) speaks of him as of high poetical reputation; and, indeed, in those dark ages the harsh and bitter force that underlies his crude thought and half-barbarous language is enough to give him a place of note. Casaubon dismisses him in two contemptuous words as "versificator insulsissimus"; this is true of a great part of his work, and would perhaps be true of it all but for the saeva indignatio which kindles the verse, not into the flame of poetry, but as it were to a dull red heat. There is little direct allusion in his epigrams to the struggle against the new religion. One epigram speaks obscurely of the destruction of the idols of Alexandria by the Christian populace in the archiepiscopate of Theophilus, A.D. 389; another in even more enigmatic language (Anth. Pal. x. 90) seems to be a bitter attack on the doctrine of the Resurrection; and a scornful couplet against the swarms of Egyptian monks might have been written by a Reformer of the sixteenth century. For the most part his sympathy with the losing side is only betrayed in his despondency over all things. But it is in his criticism of life that the power of Palladas lies; with a remorselessness like that of Swift he tears the coverings from human frailty and holds it up in its meanness and misery. The lines on the Descent of Man (Anth. Pal. x.45), which unfortunately cannot be included in this selection, fall as heavily on the Neo-Platonic martyr as on the Christian persecutor, and remain even now among the most mordant and crushing sarcasms ever passed upon mankind.
I hope that we can look forward to more Palladas at Curculio, especially the lines on the Descent of Man.


Heart Disease

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, I, 4 (tr. Thomas P. Whitney):
Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig.



Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 231:
M. de Lassay, a very gentle man but with a great knowledge of society, said that one must swallow a toad every morning, when one had to go out into the world, so as not to find anything more disgusting during the day.

M. de Lassay, homme très doux, mais qui avait une grande connaissance de la société, disait qu'il faudrait avaler un crapaud tous les matins, pour ne trouver plus rien de dégoûtant le reste de la journée, quand on devait la passer dans le monde.


Retirement Plans

Don Marquis, The Almost Perfect State (Garden City: Doubleday, 1927), p. 182:
Personally we look forward to an old age of dissipation and indolence and unreverend disrepute.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


New Cabinet Office

I was looking through F.E. Halliday's A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964 (Baltimore: Penguin, 1964), and I found an entry for the Revels Office. It occurred to me that a Revels Office, with a Secretary of the Revelry, would be a good addition to the President's Cabinet. There are fifteen Cabinet offices, two thirds of them created in the past hundred years. If we add the Revels Office, we should probably get rid of one of the existing fifteen.


Desert Places

Robert Frost, Desert Places:
Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it — it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less —
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars — on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.


The Human Condition

Blaise Pascal, Pensées 199 (tr. W.F. Trotter):
Let us imagine a number of men in chains and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of men.

Qu'on s'imagine un nombre d'hommes dans les chaînes, et tous condamnés à la mort, dont les uns étant chaque jour égorgés à la vue des autres, ceux qui restent voient leur propre condition dans celle de leurs semblables, et, se regardant les uns et les autres avec douleur et sans espérance, attendent à leur tour. C'est l'image de la condition des hommes.


Two Men

Arthur Schopenhauer, On Ethics, from Parerga and Paralipomena (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
The question has been raised what two men who have grown up entirely alone in the desert would do when they met one another for the first time. Hobbes, Pufendorf and Rousseau have given quite different answers to this question. Pufendorf believed they would approach one another affectionately; Hobbes, that they would be hostile; Rousseau, that they would pass one another by in silence.
Cf. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Enemies: A Love Story (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972), p. 38:
The last two people on earth will kill each other.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


New Blog

I've been reading Balashon - Hebrew Language Detective, which describes itself thus:
An American in Israel investigates language - modern and classic Hebrew, slang, Yiddish, Aramaic, Yeshivish, and more - with an eye on etymology. I'm not a professional linguist, and will be using this blog to explore my own questions, and I welcome yours as well.
If, like me, you don't know Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic, or Yeshivish, you can still learn a lot from this interesting blog, such as words in various languages for the @ symbol. English has the most boring name of all - at sign.

I wish Balashon, or Ralph the Sacred River, or someone else would investigate the claim that the Hebrew translated by "sweet calamus" (qaneh bosem) at Exodus 30.23 really means cannabis.

Thanks to Edward Cook at Ralph the Sacred River, who responded quickly with an informative post entitled Pot in the Bible?.


Tooth and Nail

Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd edition (New York: Facts on File, 2004), p. 728:
tooth and nail. The Latin equivalent for this ancient phrase was toto corpore atque omnibus ungulis, "with all the body and every nail." The French have a similar saying, too: bec et ongles, "beak and talons." All mean the same: to fight with tooth and nails, biting and scratching, with weapons, with all the powers at one's command. Figurative use of the expression in England brings us back to the early 16th century, and it was listed as a proverb then.
The Latin phrase occurs at Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 2.24.56 (toto corpore atque omnibus ungulis, ut dicitur, contentioni vocis adserviunt), where the ut dicitur shows that it was proverbial in his day.

I have not seen James Rogers, The Dictionary of Cliches (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985), but I find the following entry quoted on the WWW:
FIGHTING TOOTH AND NAIL - Fight fiercely, with all one's resources; cling tenaciously. A Latin proverb expressed this thought as 'dentibus et vnguibus.' In the sense of fighting, it appeared in English in 1562 in Ninian Winget's 'Certain Tractates': 'Contending with tuith and nail (as is the prouverb).' In the sense of holding fast, it is equally old, as in Erasmus' 'Enchiridion Militis Christiani' (1533): 'Take and holde this toth and nayle, that to be honour onely which springeth of true virtue.'
The Latin original of Erasmus' Enchiridion (9.5) does not use the tooth and nail phrase:
hoc mordicus teneto solum eum honorem esse, qui a vera virtute proficiscitur.
It's possible to find ancient equivalents closer to the modern English tooth and nail, e.g.

Lucretius 5.1284:
Ancient weapons were hands, nails, and teeth.

arma antiqua manus ungues dentesque fuerunt.
Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 11.4:
But gold they would guard with teeth and nails and any other way.

τὸ δὲ χρυσίον ὀδοῦσι καὶ ὄνυξι καὶ πάσῃ μηχανῇ ἐφύλαττον.

Friday, March 24, 2006


The Study of the Past

Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), tr. R.J. Hollingdale:

I, IX, 602:
Ruins as ornamentation. — Those who go on many intellectual journeys retain certain outlooks and habits belonging to earlier ages, which then intrude into their modern thoughts and actions like a piece of inexplicable antiquity and grey stonework: often to the embellishment of the whole region.

Die Ruine als Schmuck. — Solche, die viele geistige Wandlungen durchmachen, behalten einige Ansichten und Gewohnheiten früherer Zustände bei, welche dann wie ein Stück unerklärlichen Alterthums und grauen Mauerwerks in ihr neues Denken und Handeln hineinragen: oft zur Zierde der ganzen Gegend.
I, IX, 616:
Estranged from the present. — There is great advantage to be gained in distantly estranging ourselves from our age and for once being driven as it were away from its shores back on to the ocean of the world-outlooks of the past. Looking back at the coast from this distance we command a view, no doubt for the first time, of its total configuration, and when we approach it again we have the advantage of understanding it better as a whole than those who have never left it.

Der Gegenwart entfremdet. — Es hat große Vortheile, seiner Zeit sich einmal in stärkerem Maasse zu entfremden und gleichsam von ihrem Ufer zurück in den Ocean der vergangenen Weltbetrachtungen getrieben zu werden. Von dort aus nach der Küste zu blickend, überschaut man wohl zum ersten Male ihre gesammte Gestaltung und hat, wenn man sich ihr wieder nähert, den Vortheil, sie besser im Ganzen zu verstehen, als Die, welche sie nie verlassen haben.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


He-Men and Girlie-Men

Usually when I hear words like "gender studies," I start running as fast as I can in the opposite direction. But I did read a brief review of Cynthia R. Chapman, The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter (Harvard Semitic Museum/Eisenbrauns, 2004) = Harvard Semitic Monographs, 62, at the blog Idle Musings of a Bookseller. The review states:
Her basic thesis is that by comparing the Neo-Assyrian warfare texts with the prophetic texts relating to warfare, we can see how they both used gendered terms to discredit the other side. In the Neo-Assyrian texts, the enemy is shown to be "feminine" and the king is portrayed as a "man's man." On the other hand, in the Hebrew texts, the enemy is also feminized, but it is YHWH who is shown to be the true man and Jerusalem is the bride/daughter of YHWH who spurns or whores with (depending on the time period) the enemy.
I've noticed the same type of thing in the classical epic poems. There's a very clear example at Vergil, Aeneid 9.603-620 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough), where the Rutilian Numanus Remulus is taunting the Trojans:
A race of hardy stock, we first bring our newborn sons to the river, and harden them with the water's cruel cold; as boys they keep vigil for the chase, and tire the forests; their sport is to rein the steed and level shafts from the bow; but, patient of toil, and inured to want, our youth tames earth with the hoe or shakes cities in battle. All our life is worn with iron's use; with spear reversed we goad our bullocks' flanks, and sluggish age weakens not our hearts nor changes our vigour. On white hairs we press the helm: and we ever delight to drive in fresh booty and live on plunder.

But ye are clothed in embroidered saffron and gleaming purple; sloth is your joy, your delight is to indulge the dance; your tunics have sleeves and your turbans ribbons. O ye Phrygian women, indeed! -- for Phrygian men are ye not -- go ye over the heights of Dindymus, where to accustomed ears the pipe utters music from double mouths! The timbrels call you, and the Berecynthian boxwood of the mother of Ida: leave arms to men, and quit the sword.

durum a stirpe genus natos ad flumina primum
deferimus saevoque gelu duramus et undis;
venatu invigilant pueri silvasque fatigant,
flectere ludus equos et spicula tendere cornu.
at patiens operum parvoque adsueta iuventus
aut rastris terram domat aut quatit oppida bello.
omne aevum ferro teritur, versaque iuvencum
terga fatigamus hasta, nec tarda senectus
debilitat viris animi mutatque vigorem:
canitiem galea premimus, semperque recentis
comportare iuvat praedas et vivere rapto.

vobis picta croco et fulgenti murice vestis,
desidiae cordi, iuvat indulgere choreis,
et tunicae manicas et habent redimicula mitrae.
o vere Phrygiae, neque enim Phryges, ite per alta
Dindyma, ubi adsuetis biforem dat tibia cantum.
tympana vos buxusque vocat Berecyntia Matris
Idaeae; sinite arma viris et cedite ferro.
Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized the term "girlie-men." See here for some equivalents in ancient Greek.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006



William Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, has been publishing some good aphorisms, e.g.More essays by Theodore Dalrymple:Sauvage Noble, in a list of "Best Practices in Academic Blogging," recommends:
Autobiography, be the blog anonymous or ... onymous, which does not bear on professional matters and activities, should be avoided.
But the autobiographical bits, those of the Sauvage included when he breaks his own rule, are some of the most enjoyable parts of academic blogs. For example, Horace Jeffery Hodges at Gypsy Scholar, in addition to scholarly posts like this one, has been publishing a delightful series of boyhood memories:It's almost like a serialized Dickens novel. I'm looking forward to the next episode.


The Loeb Classical Library

There's a nice essay by A.N. Wilson, entitled Wrestling with Latin and Greek, about the Loeb Classical Library series, which has now reached volume 500 (hat tip: Sauvage Noble).

I'm reminded of a neat poem by Charles Larcom Graves (1844-1956), written when the 100th Loeb volume was published. Graves' poem appeared in his collection of verse New Times and Old Rhymes (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1921), pp. 35-36:

(The Loeb Classical Library, founded by a munificent
American millionaire, Mr. James Loeb (prononcez "Lobe"),
and edited by Dr. E. Capps, Mr. T.E. Page and Dr.
W.H.D. Rouse, has now reached its hundredth volume.)

When ways are foul and days are damp,
When agitators rage and ramp,
And Smillie, with the aid of Cramp,
  Threatens to rend the globe;
When margarine is scarce, or beef,
And drinks are dear and few and brief,
I find refreshment and relief
  And comfort in my Loeb.

Good print, good company, a text
By no vain annotations vexed
Which call from students sore perplexed
  The patience of a Job;
And, page by page, a first-rate crib,
Neither too faithful nor too glib --
That, without fulsomeness or fib,
  Is what we get in Loeb.

Let scientists on various fronts
Indulge in their atomic stunts,
Or harness to our prams and punts
  The puissant radiobe;
Me rather it delights to roam
Across the salt Aegean foam
With old Odysseus, far from home,
  And bless the name of Loeb.

To soar with Plato to the heights;
To find in Plutarch's kings and knights
The human touch that more delights
  Than crown or regal robe;
To taste the fresh Pierian springs,
To see Catullus scorch his wings
With the fierce flame that sears and stings --
  For this I thank thee, Loeb.

I've made no fortune out of beer;
I'm not a plutocrat or peer,
Nor yet a bloated profiteer,
  An OM or e'en an OBE;
But if I'd thirty pounds to spare
I'd go and blow them then and there
Upon the Hundred Books that bear
  The sign and seal of Loeb.
Robert Smillie (1857-1940) was a labor leader and politician opposed to Britain's involvement in the First World War, while Cramp was the name of a famous Philadelphia family of shipbuilders. In real life, pacifist Smillie would never have asked for aid from arms dealer Cramp.

The word "radiobe" isn't in my dictionary. Is it a hapax legomenon, coined to rhyme with Loeb?

An OM is one who has been awarded the Order of Merit (established by King Edward VII in 1902), and an OBE is an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (established by King George V in 1917).

I own close to a hundred Loebs, I reckon, more of the green Greek volumes than the red Latin ones, almost all purchased in used book stores. But if I had ten thousand dollars to spare, "I'd go and blow them then and there / Upon four hundred books that bear / The sign and seal of Loeb."

Maybe I should also buy an Oxford English Dictionary. Mike Webb comes to the rescue, with the OED's definition of "radiobe:"
A cell-like body observed to form in large numbers in gelatin solutions in the presence of radium salts, which was formerly claimed to be a living organism owing its existence to radioactivity.
Mark Ynys-Mon sent me all of the OED citations, from which I learned that J.B. Burke coined the word:
1905 J.B. Burke in Nature 25 May 79/2: As these bodies cannot be identified with microbes, on the one hand, nor with crystals on the other, I have ventured to give them a new name, Radiobes, which might be more appropriate as indicating their resemblance to microbes, as well as their distinct nature and origin.


Sonnets by Keats on Homer

John Keats' sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer is well known:
Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific – and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Less well known is his sonnet To Homer:
Standing aloof in giant ignorance,
Of thee I hear and of the Cyclades,
As one who sits ashore and longs perchance
To visit dolphin-coral in deep seas.
So thou wast blind! – but then the veil was rent,
For Jove uncurtain’d Heaven to let thee live,
And Neptune made for thee a spumy tent,
And Pan made sing for thee his forest-hive;
Aye on the shores of darkness there is light,
And precipices show untrodden green;
There is a budding morrow in midnight;
There is a triple sight in blindness keen;
Such seeing hadst thou, as it once befel
To Dian, Queen of Earth, and Heaven, and Hell.


What Latin Lacks

Latin lacks the following features:The list could be expanded.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Birthday Greetings

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal D (1838-1839), 198:
After thirty a man wakes up sad every morning.
Albert Camus, The Plague (tr. S. Gilbert):
At thirty one's beginning to age, and one's got to squeeze all one can out of life.
Henri Troyat, Chekhov, tr. M.H. Heim (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1986), p. 288:
When we're young, we all chirp fervently like sparrows on a dung-heap, but we're old by the time we reach forty, and we start thinking of death.
Ogden Nash, Lines On Facing Forty:
I have a bone to pick with Fate.
Come here and tell me, girlie,
Do you think my mind is maturing late,
Or simply rotted early?
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground (tr. J. Coulson):
I am forty now, and forty years is a lifetime; it is extreme old age. To go on living after forty is unseemly, disgusting, immoral! Who goes on living after forty? Give me a sincere and honest answer! I'll tell you: fools and rogues.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Golden Apples

Henry David Thoreau, Wild Apples:
Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits. Let the most beautiful or the swiftest have it. That should be the "going" price of apples.
Thoreau seems to be referring to stories from classical mythology here. The first allusion ("the most beautiful") is a straightforward reference to the Judgment of Paris. Lucian, Dialogues of the Sea-Gods 5 (tr. H.W. and F.G. Fowler), tells the beginning of the tale:
PANOPE. Galene, did you see what Eris [Strife] did yesterday at the Thessalian banquet, because she had not had an invitation?

GALENE. No, I was not with you; Posidon had told me to keep the sea quiet for the occasion. What did Eris do, then, if she was not there?

PANOPE. Thetis and Peleus had just gone off to the bridal chamber, conducted by Amphitrite and Posidon, when Eris came in unnoticed -- which was easy enough; some were drinking, some dancing, or attending to Apollo's lyre or the Muses' songs -- Well, she threw down a lovely apple, solid gold, my dear; and there was written on it, FOR THE FAIR. It rolled along as if it knew what it was about, till it came in front of Hera, Aphrodite, and Athene. Hermes picked it up and read out the inscription; of course we Nereids kept quiet; what should we do in such company? But they all made for it, each insisting that it was hers; and if Zeus had not parted them, there would have been a battle. He would not decide the matter himself, though they asked him to. 'Go, all of you, to Ida,' he said, 'to the son of Priam [Paris]; he is a man of taste, quite capable of picking out the beauty; he will be no bad judge.'
Isocrates 10.41-42 (tr. George Norlin) picks up the thread of the story:
For not much later when strife arose among the goddesses for the prize of beauty, and Alexander [Paris], son of Priam, was appointed judge and when Hera offered him sovereignty over all Asia, Athena victory in war, and Aphrodite Helen as his wife, finding himself unable to make a distinction regarding the charms of their persons, but overwhelmed by the sight of the goddesses, Alexander, compelled to make a choice of their proffered gifts, chose living with Helen before all else.
The Judgment of Paris, of course, started the Trojan War, when Helen's husband Menelaus wanted her back.

Thoreau's second allusion is more problematical. At first glance, one might think he's referring to the story of Atalanta. See Apollodorus 3.9.2 (tr. J.G. Frazer):
Grown to womanhood, Atalanta kept herself a virgin, and hunting in the wilderness she remained always under arms. The centaurs Rhoecus and Hylaeus tried to force her, but were shot down and killed by her. She went moreover with the chiefs to hunt the Calydonian boar, and at the games held in honor of Pelias she wrestled with Peleus and won. Afterwards she discovered her parents, but when her father would have persuaded her to wed, she went away to a place that might serve as a racecourse, and, having planted a stake three cubits high in the middle of it, she caused her wooers to race before her from there, and ran herself in arms; and if the wooer was caught up, his due was death on the spot, and if he was not caught up, his due was marriage. When many had already perished, Melanion came to run for love of her, bringing golden apples from Aphrodite, and being pursued he threw them down, and she, picking up the dropped fruit, was beaten in the race. So Melanion married her.
In other words, Atalanta ran a hoplitodromos, a foot race in armor, like the competitors in the Olympic games. If she caught her competitor in the race, she slew him. If she lost the race, she gave her hand in marriage to the winner. Melanion (aka Milanion or Hippomenes) distracted Atalanta by throwing golden apples and so won the race.

Was Thoreau referring to the story of Atalanta? In this story, the apples are clearly not the prize for "the swiftest." I don't know of any other classical myth that fits, though.


More Privative, Asyndetic Adjectives

Rev. Gerard Deighan writes via email:
Particular thanks for your recent post on the asyndetic privative adjectives, which was most interesting. It brought back to me that ponderous, lumbering line of Vergil:

monstrum horrendum informe ingens cui lumen ademptum (Aeneid 3:658)

I hadn't thought of in-gens as a privative formation before, but of course it is: 'that goes beyond its kind or species' (Lewis and Short, s.v.)
Here are a few more Latin examples:Finally, a couple of examples from Milton's Paradise Lost missed in the earlier post:

Saturday, March 18, 2006


I Love...

From John Clare, The Winter's Come:
'Tis Winter, and I love to read indoors,
  When the Moon hangs her crescent up on high;
While on the window shutters the wind roars,
  And storms like furies pass remorseless by.
How pleasant on a feather bed to lie,
  Or, sitting by the fire, in fancy soar
With Dante or with Milton to regions high,
  Or read fresh volumes we've not seen before,
  Or o'er old Burton's Melancholy pore.
I've been reading some of Clare's poems, and I'm struck by how often the words "I love..." occur in them. Mostly what he loves is out of doors, not inside:
All day long I love the oaks...

I love to rustle through the sedge...

I love at early morn, from new mown swath,
  To see the startled frog his route pursue...

I love the south-west wind, or low or loud...

I love to walk the fields, they are to me
  A legacy no evil can destroy;
They, like a spell, set every rapture free
  That cheered me when a boy...

I love with my old haunts to be
  By quiet woods and gravel springs...

Huge elm, with rifted trunk all notched and scarred,
  Like to a warrior's destiny! I love
To stretch me often on thy shadowed sward,
  And hear the laugh of summer leaves above...

I love the weeds along the fen,
  More sweet than garden flowers...
But enough snippets. Here are two complete poems:

I love the fitful gust that shakes
  The casement all the day,
And from the glossy elm tree takes
  The faded leaves away,
Twirling them by the window pane
With thousand others down the lane.

I love to see the shaking twig
  Dance till the shut of eve,
The sparrow on the cottage rig,
  Whose chirp would make believe
That Spring was just now flirting by
In Summer's lap with flowers to lie.

I love to see the cottage smoke
  Curl upwards through the trees,
The pigeons nestled round the cote
  On November days like these;
The cock upon the dunghill crowing,
The mill sails on the heath a-going.

The feather from the raven's breast
  Falls on the stubble lea,
The acorns near the old crow's nest
  Drop pattering down the tree;
The grunting pigs, that wait for all,
Scramble and hurry where they fall.

Emmonsail's Heath in Winter

I love to see the old heath's withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps his melancholy wing,
And oddling crow in idle motions swing
On the half rotten ashtree's topmost twig,
Beside whose trunk the gipsy makes his bed.
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread,
The fieldfares chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the awe round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.
In this last poem I wonder if "awe" means haw, the fruit of the hawthorn. Compare "haws on which the fieldfares feed," from Clare's poem Schoolboys in Winter. "Closen" also puzzles me -- I would expect "closes," the plural of "close" = "an inclosed place; especially, a small field or piece of land surrounded by a wall, hedge, or fence of any kind" (Webster). I don't own a copy of Clare's poetry, and I'm quoting from the online Project Gutenberg edition. Despite the puzzles, Emmonsail's Heath in Winter is a beautiful poem, especially to read aloud. I'd like to hear Garrison Keillor, with his mellifluous voice, read it on Writer's Almanac.


Hellish Noise

Most people, I suppose, have their own mental picture of hell. To me, being confined to a crowded, smoky bar and being forced to listen to loud rock 'n roll music for all eternity would be a terrible punishment. Yet many people voluntarily spend lots of their free time on earth doing just that. Suum cuique.

The first thing that Dante notices when he enters the gates of hell is the noise (Inferno 3.22-30, tr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow):
There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud
  Resounded through the air without a star,
  Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.
Languages diverse, horrible dialects,
  Accents of anger, words of agony,
  And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,
Made up a tumult that goes whirling on
  For ever in that air for ever black,
  Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.

Quivi sospiri, pianti e alti guai
risonavan per l'aere sanza stelle,
per ch'io al cominciar ne lagrimai.
Diverse lingue, orribili favelle,
parole di dolore, accenti d'ira,
voci alte e fioche, e suon di man con elle
facevano un tumulto, il qual s'aggira
sempre in quell'aura sanza tempo tinta,
come la rena quando turbo spira.
Charles Singleton explains "sound of hands" thus: "The damned smite themselves and each other with their hands."

On a reconnoitering expedition to the gates of hell, this is what the angel Raphael and his mates encountered (Milton, Paradise Lost 8.240-244):
                       Fast we found, fast shut,
The dismal gates, and barricadoed strong;
But long ere our approaching heard within
Noise, other than the sound of dance or song,
Torment, and loud lament, and furious rage.
After he successfully tempted Adam and Eve to disobedience, Satan returned to hell to report to his fellow demons. He expected applause after his speech, but instead heard "a dismal universal hiss, the sound / of public scorn" (PL 10.508-509) and realized that he and his followers had been temporarily turned into serpents: "dreadful was the din / of hissing through the hall." (PL 10.521-522).

Milton coined the word "Pandemonium" to mean "the high capitol / of Satan and his peers" (PL 1.756-757). Its meaning soon shifted from that particular noisy place to any noisy place, and is now used of noise pure and simple. The etymology of this word is an apt reminder of the hellish, diabolical nature of noise.

Friday, March 17, 2006


More Classical Dog Names

Many thanks to Dr. Max Nelson, who sent via email a wealth of information on classical dog names to supplement yesterday's post:
A different list of Acteon's hounds can be found at Pseudo-Apollodorus's Biblotheca 3.4.4 and more hunting dog names are found at Columella, De re rustica 7.12.13.

The comic poet Eupolis's pet Molossian hound, named Augeas after the friend who gave him the dog, was said to have protected his master's works from theft and lamented his master's death bitterly (Aelian, Nat. anim. 10.41).

The dog of the tyrant Gelo was named Pyrrhos (Philistus in Pliny, Hist. nat. 8.61.144).

Alexander's beloved dog, was named Peritas after the Macedonian name for the month of January. Alexander raised him from a puppy and when he died named a city after him (Plut., Vit. Alex. 61.3).

Persa or Perseus was the puppy of Lucius Aemilius Paulus's daughter Aemilia Tertia, which died suddenly, supposedly foretelling the father's success against King Perseus of Macedonia at Pydna in 168 B.C. (Cic., De div. 1.46.103 and 2.40.83, cited by Plut., Vit. Aem. 9 and Rom. Apophth. [= Mor. 197f-198a], and Val. Max., 1.5.3). Cicero and Valerius Maximus have Persa as the name of the dog while Plutarch has Perseus.

Hyrkanus was the dog of King Lysimachus, who threw itself on the funeral pyre of his master (Duris in Pliny, Hist. nat. 8.61.143).

In Petronius's Satyricon, the names Margarita and Scylax are found for dogs (64).

Many more could be added to the list. There is one work devoted solely to Greek dog names: Elimarus Bäcker. De canum nominibus Graecis (Regimonti 1884 [Königsberg University doctoral dissertation]).

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Where Man Has Never Trod

John Clare (1793-1864), I Am:
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
  My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
  They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
  Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
  But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest - that I loved the best -
Are strange - nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod,
  A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my Creator, God,
  And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below - above the vaulted sky.


Classical Dog Names

Xenophon, On Hunting 7.5 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
Give the hounds short names, so as to be able to call to them easily. The following are the right sort: Psyche, Thymus, Porpax, Styrax, Lonché, Lochus, Phrura, Phylax, Taxis, Xiphon, Phonax, Phlegon, Alcé, Teuchon, Hyleus, Medas, Porthon, Sperchon, Orgé, Bremon, Hybris, Thallon, Rhomé, Antheus, Hebe, Getheus, Chara, Leusson, Augo, Polys, Bia, Stichon, Spudé, Bryas, Oenas, Sterrus, Craugé, Caenon, Tyrbas, Sthenon, Aether, Actis, Aechmé, Noës, Gnomé, Stibon, Hormé.

Τὰ δ' ὀνόματα αὐταῖς τίθεσθαι βραχέα, ἵνα εὐανάκλητα ᾖ. εἶναι δὲ χρὴ τοιάδε: Ψυχή, Θυμός, Πόρπαξ, Στύραξ, Λογχή, Λόχος, Φρουρά, Φύλαξ, Τάξις, Ξίφων, Φόναξ, Φλέγων, Ἀλκή, Τεύχων, Ὑλεύς, Μήδας, Πόρθων, Σπέρχων, Ὀργή, Βρέμων, Ὕβρις, Θάλλων, Ῥώμη, Ἀνθεύς, Ἥβα, Γηθεύς, Χαρά, Λεύσσων, Αὐγώ, Πολύς, Βία, Στίχων, Σπουδή, Βρύας, Οἰνάς, Στέρρος, Κραύγη, Καίνων, Τύρβας, Σθένων, Αἰθήρ, Ἀκτίς, Αἰχμή, Νόης, Γνώμη, Στίβων, Ὁρμή.
Marchant ad loc.:
The names are significant of the colour, strength, spirit, sagacity or behaviour of the hounds. Hebe and Psyche are still in the list of bitches' names, and modern equivalents of several of the other names are in use, e.g. Lance (Lonché), Sentinel (Phylax), Ecstasy (Chara), Blueskin (Oenas), Crafty (Medas), Hasty (Sperchon), Vigorous (Thallon), Impetus (Hormé), Counsellor (Noës), Bustler (dog) or Hasty (bitch); cf. Sperchon. For Πολύς we should probably read Πολεύς, "Rover."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.206-225 (tr. Frank Justus Miller, revised by G.P. Goold):
But while he [Actaeon] stands peplexed he sees his hounds. And first come Melampus and keen-scented Ichnobates, baying loud on the trail -- Ichnobates a Cretan dog, Melampus a Spartan; then others come rushing on swifter than the wind; Pamphagus, Dorceus, and Oribasos, Arcadians all; staunch Nebrophonos, fierce Theron and Laelaps; Pterelas, the swift of foot, and keen-scented Agre; savage Hylaeus, but lately ripped up by a boar; the wolf-dog Nape and the trusty shepherd Poemenis; Harpyia with her two pups; Sicyonian Ladon, thin in the flanks; Dromas, Canache, Sticte, Tigris, Alce; white-haired Leucon, black Astobolos; Lacon, renowned for strength, and fleet Aëllo; Thoos and swift Lycisce with her brother Cyprius; Harpalos, with a white spot in the middle of his black forehead; Melaneus and shaggy Lachne; two dogs from a Cretan father and a Spartan mother, Labros and Argiodus; shrill-tongued Hylactor, and others whom it were too long to name.

Dum dubitat, videre canes, primique Melampus
Ichnobatesque sagax latratu signa dedere,
Cnosius Ichnobates, Spartana gente Melampus.
inde ruunt alii rapida velocius aura,
Pamphagos et Dorceus et Oribasos, Arcades omnes,
Nebrophonosque valens et trux cum Laelape Theron
et pedibus Pterelas et naribus utilis Agre
Hylaeusque ferox nuper percussus ab apro
deque lupo concepta Nape pecudesque secuta
Poemenis et natis comitata Harpyia duobus
et substricta gerens Sicyonius ilia Ladon
et Dromas et Canache Sticteque et Tigris et Alce
et niveis Leucon et villis Asbolos atris
praevalidusque Lacon et cursu fortis Aello
et Thoos et Cyprio velox cum fratre Lycisce
et nigram medio frontem distinctus ab albo
Harpalos et Melaneus hirsutaque corpore Lachne
et patre Dictaeo, sed matre Laconide nati
Labros et Argiodus et acutae vocis Hylactor
quosque referre mora est.
Miller/Goold ad loc.:
The English names of these hounds in their order would be: Black-foot, Trail-follower, Voracious, Gazelle, Mountain-ranger, Faun-killer [sic, should be Fawn-killer], Hurricane, Hunter, Winged, Hunter, Sylvan, Glen, Shepherd, Seizer, Catcher, Runner, Gnasher, Spot, Tigress, Might, White, Soot, Spartan, Whirlwind, Swift, Cyprian, Wolf, Grasper, Black, Shag, Fury, White-tooth, Barker, Black-hair, Beast-killer, Mountaineer.
Hyginus 181 reproduces fairly closely Ovid's list (without mentioning Ovid's name) and adds:
Item alii auctores tradunt haec nomina: Acamas Syrus Aeon Stilbon Agrius Charops Aethon Coran Boreas Draco Eudromus Dromius Zephyrus Lampus Haemon Cyllopodes Harpalycus Machimus Ichneus Melampus Ocydromus Borax Ocythous Pachitus Obrimus, feminae: Argo Arethusa Urania Theriope Dinomache Dioxippe Echione Gorgo Cyllo Harpyia Lynceste Leaene Lacaena Ocypete Ocydrome Oxyroe Orias Sagnos Theriphone Volatos Chediaetros.
Odysseus' dog was named Argos (Homer, Odyssey 17.290-327).

Maybe I should have entitled this blog post Greek Dog Names, since I see there isn't even a single Latin name represented.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Biercean Latin

Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary is a fairly short book, but it contains a surprising amount of Latin. e.g. s.v. MIND:
From the Latin mens, a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed the motto "Mens conscia recti," emblazoned his own shop front with the words "Men's, women's and children's conscia recti."
The phrase mens conscia recti comes from Vergil, Aeneid 1.604, more accurately mens sibi conscia recti, translated by R.D. Williams in his commentary as "your own inner knowledge that you have done right." In reality, mind is not derived from mens. They are cognate, with a common Indo-European ancestor.

In a few spots, Bierce invented new scientific names of species, e.g.:
RATTLESNAKE, n. Our prostrate brother, Homo ventrambulans.

SLANG, n. The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis) with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.
Despite Bierce's evident interest in Latin, his grasp of the language was a bit shaky at times, e.g. s.v.
R.I.P. A careless abbreviation of requiescat in pace, attesting an indolent goodwill to the dead. According to the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally meant nothing more than reductus in pulvis.
The fictitious Dr. Drigge was not learned in Latin grammar. This should be reductus in pulverem, not reductus in pulvis. The phrase means "reduced to dust, or ashes." Pulvis is nominative and cannot be the object of a preposition. All of the oblique cases show the stem pulver, whence English pulverize.There is also a mistake s.v.
ZENITH, n. The point in the heavens directly overhead to a man standing or a growing cabbage. A man in bed or a cabbage in the pot is not considered as having a zenith, though from this view of the matter there was once a considerably dissent among the learned, some holding that the posture of the body was immaterial. These were called Horizontalists, their opponents, Verticalists. The Horizontalist heresy was finally extinguished by Xanobus, the philosopher-king of Abara, a zealous Verticalist. Entering an assembly of philosophers who were debating the matter, he cast a severed human head at the feet of his opponents and asked them to determine its zenith, explaining that its body was hanging by the heels outside. Observing that it was the head of their leader, the Horizontalists hastened to profess themselves converted to whatever opinion the Crown might be pleased to hold, and Horizontalism took its place among fides defuncti.
The phrase fides defuncti is clearly supposed to mean dead or obsolete faiths. But fides is feminine, and defuncti is masculine. Bierce should have written fides defunctae.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Privative, Asyndetic Adjectives

In a few passages of the ancient Greek tragedians, especially Euripides, we find adjectives compounded with alpha privatives and joined in asyndeton. In most cases these adjectives modify women bereft of support.

Sophocles, Antigone 876-877:
unwept, unloved, unwed
áklautos áphilos anuménaios
ἄκλαυτος ἄφιλος ἀνυμέναιος
Euripides, Andromache 491:
godless lawless graceless
átheos ánomos ácharis
ἄθεος ἄνομος ἄχαρις
Euripides, Iphigenia Among the Taurians 220:
unmarried, without a child, without a city, without a friend
ágamos áteknos ápolis áphilos
ἄγαμος ἄτεκνος ἄπολις ἄφιλος
Euripides, Orestes 310:
without a brother, without a father, without a friend
anádelphos ápatōr áphilos
ἀνάδελφος ἀπάτωρ ἄφιλος
Euripides, Hecuba 669:
without a child, without a husband, without a city
ápais ánandros ápolis
ἄπαις ἄνανδρος ἄπολις
Euripides, Hippolytus 1027-1028:
without fame, without a name, without a city, without a home
akleés anónumos ápolis áoikos
ἀκλεὴς ἀνώνυμος ἄπολις ἄοικος
Euripides, Trojan Women 1185:
without a city, without a child
ápolis áteknos
ἄπολις ἄτεκνος
An earlier example, not from tragedy, is Homer, Iliad 9.63-64 (tr. A.T. Murray):
ἀφρήτωρ ἀθέμιστος ἀνέστιός ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος
ὃς πολέμου ἔραται ἐπιδημίου ὀκρυόεντος.

A clanless, lawless, hearthless man is he that loveth dread strife among his own folk.
Walter Leaf and M.A. Bayfield in their commentary write:
Nestor alludes to the three foundations of early society: the relationship of the clan or φρήτρη (see on B 363); the common traditions of law embodied in the 'dooms' (θέμιστες) or inherited principles of justice administered by the king to the people (see on 99); and the common fire which formed the centre of the religion of the community. The man who stirs up strife within the circle of his own people, violates all these common bonds of the body politic, and destroys the roots of civil existence.
There are some similar privative, asyndetic adjectives in the first half of Milton's Paradise Lost:

unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved
unprevented, unimplored, unsought
immutable, immortal, infinite
unadmonished, unforewarned
unworshipped, unobeyed
unmoved, unshaken, unseduced, unterrified
In all of the Greek examples, the adjectives are pejorative. But in some of the examples from Milton, the adjectives express a good condition, e.g. the last example quoted, which describes the faithful angel Abdiel.

It's probably not a coincidence that the Greek examples include two of Milton's three favorite authors, according to Samuel Johnson's Life of Milton:
The books in which his daughter, who used to read to him, represented him as most delighting, after Homer, which he could almost repeat, were Ovid's Metamorphoses and Euripides.

Update. Tony Prost writes via email:
I recently completed a verse translation of the Paraphrase of the Gospel of John by Nonnos of Panopolis. Nonnos uses this literary device twice in his paraphrase, in the very first line,

"Ere time, ere space, ere speech, dwelt the archaic Word..."
  achronos Hn, akichHtos, en arrHtWi logos archHi...
1:1 (Ch 1, v.1)

and later in Chapter twelve when he is describing how

"A grain of wheat that falls upon the thirsty earth,
Unless it dies, lies fruitless there upon the spot,
Unsown, unused, unploughed, unharvested..."
  asporos, achrHistos, anErotos, ammoros harpHs
12:97 (Ch 12, v, 24)



Thoreau, Journals (November 9, 1857):
See the sun rise or set if possible each day. Let that be your pill.


Oaths, Minced and Unminced

Gypsy Scholar discusses minced oaths.

In Alfred Hitchcock's last film, Family Plot (1976), actor Bruce Dern's character, the crook and taxi driver George Lumley, several times exclaims to his girlfriend, "Oh, for Christ's sake, Blanche!" In the made-for-TV version, he says "Oh, for rice cakes, Blanche!" instead, a good example of a minced oath.

It always shocks me to hear the name Jesus Christ taken in vain. Those with more forthright and assertive personalities than mine might object and demand that the blasphemer cease and desist. Adherents of a different religion might even react to blasphemy by taking to the streets and burning cars. As it is, I just bow my head and recite silently the beginning of the Divine Praises:
Blessed be God.
Blessed be His holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus....
Other suitable rejoinders to blasphemy are these:
All that is within me, bless His holy name. (Psalm 103:1)
Let all flesh bless His holy name for ever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow. (Philippians 2:10)


Portrait of a Supposed Scholar

Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions, Part I, Chapter 3 (tr. Herbert J. Hunt):
Astolphe was reckoned to be a first-class scholar. Though he was an absolute ignoramus, he had contributed articles on sugar and brandy to a Dictionary of Agriculture, every detail of them pilfered from all the newspapers and out-of-date works dealing with these two products. Everyone in the département believed he was writing a treatise on modern methods of tilling. Although he remained shut up in his study every morning, he had not written so much as a couple of pages during the past twelve years. If anyone came to see him, they found him scrabbling among his papers, looking for a mislaid note or sharpening his quill; but he squandered the time he spent in his study, lingering over his newspaper, carving corks with his penknife, tracing fantastic doodles on his blotting-pad, skimming through his Cicero in the hope of lighting on a sentence or passage which might have some bearing on events of the day. Then, that evening, he would try to lead the conversation on to a subject which allowed him to say: 'There's a page in Cicero which could well be taken for a comment on what is happening today.' Thereupon he would recite the passage to the great astonishment of his listeners, who would repeat to one another: 'Really Astolphe is a mine of knowledge.'
Reminds me of a certain blogger I know.

Saturday, March 11, 2006



Thoreau, Journals (October 12, 1857):
This is what those scamps did in California. The trees were so grand and venerable that they could not afford to let them grow a hair's breadth bigger, or live a moment longer to reproach themselves. They were so big that they resolved they should never be bigger. They were so venerable that they cut them right down. It was not for the sake of the wood; it was only because they were very grand and venerable.
At least one tree survived the carnage, a magnificent valley oak, about 500 years old, in Round Valley, Mendocino County, California. Hat tip: Dennis Mangan.



From George Crabbe (1754-1832), The Library:
But what strange art, what magic can dispose
The troubled mind to change its native woes?
Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see
Others more wretched, more undone than we?
This BOOKS can do;--nor this alone; they give
New views to life, and teach us how to live;
They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise,
Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise:
Their aid they yield to all: they never shun
The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone:
Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud,
They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd;
Nor tell to various people various things,
But show to subjects what they show to kings.


Lines from Horace

From Horace, Epistles 1.10 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):

I praise the lovely country's brooks, its groves and moss-grown rocks. In short: I live and reign, as soon as I have left behind what you townsmen with shouts of applause extol to the skies.

                          ego laudo ruris amoeni
rivos et musco circumlita saxa nemusque.
quid quaeris? vivo et regno, simul ista reliqui
quae vos ad caelum fertis rumore secundo.
Flee grandeur: though humble be your home, yet in life's race you may outstrip kings and the friends of kings.

     fuge magna; licet sub paupere tecto
reges et regum vita praecurrere amicos.
So he who through fear of poverty forfeits liberty, which is better than mines of wealth, will in his avarice carry a master, and be a slave for ever, not knowing how to live on little.

sic, qui pauperiem veritus potiore metallis
libertate caret, dominum vehet improbus atque
serviet aeternum, quia parvo nesciet uti.
You will live wisely, Aristius, if cheerful in your lot.

laetus sorte tua vives sapienter, Aristi.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Johnny Voter

Roy Morris, Jr., Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company (c1995; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 180:
The main problem, to Bierce, was not the character of the nation's politicians, but the overweening stupidity of the electorate, exemplified by the paradigmatic figure he dubbed, with supreme scorn, "that immortal ass, the average man." "Surely 'the average man,' as everyone knows him, is not very wise, not very learned, not very good," he railed. "It seems to me that the average man is very much a fool, and something of a rogue as well. He has only a smattering of education, knows virtually nothing of political history, nor history of any kind, is incapable of logical, that is to say clear, thinking, is subject to the suasion of base and silly prejudices, and selfish beyond expression." When such men interrupted their leisure to vote, it was usually with predictable results. "Do you know, Johnny Voter, that you are a dupe? Does it penetrate your poor understanding that every time you throw off the top of your head to give tongue for the man of another man's choice the worthy persons who keep the table in the little game of politics are affected with merriment? Have you ever a dawnlight of suspicion that in the service of their purpose your wage is their derision, your pension their silent contempt? O, you will uphold principle. You will stand in to avert the quadrennial peril to the country. You will assist in repelling the treasonable attempt of one half its inhabitants whose interest (obviously) lies in its destruction. You will be a 'Republican' -- or a 'Democrat'; you will be it diligently, loudly and like the devil. Pray do; and when you have processioned your feet sore and your teeth loose, and been a spectacular extravaganza to the filling of your ambition's belly, may it comfort you to know that you have been a Tool."

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Gloom, Despair, and Agony On Me

Thoreau, 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. Their gravestones are not bespoken yet. Who shall be sexton to them? Is it the winter of their discontent? Do they seem to have lain down to die, despairing of skunk-cabbagedom? "Up and at 'em," "Give it to 'em," "Excelsior," "Put it through," — these are their mottoes. Mortal human creatures must take a little respite in this fall of the year; their spirits do flag a little. There is a little questioning of destiny, and thinking to go like cowards to where the "weary shall be at rest." But not so with the skunk-cabbage. Its withered leaves fall and are transfixed by a rising bud. Winter and death are ignored; the circle of life is complete. Are these false prophets? Is it a lie or a vain boast underneath the skunk-cabbage bud, pushing it upward and lifting the dead leaves with it? They rest with spears advanced; they rest to shoot!

I say it is good for me to be here, slumping in the mud, a trap covered with withered leaves. See those green cabbage buds lifting the dry leaves in that watery and muddy place. There is no can't nor cant to them. They see over the brow of winter's hill. They see another summer ahead.
Thoreau, Journals (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. Notwithstanding cold and the hounds and traps, his race survives. I do not believe any of them ever committed suicide.
Thoreau, Journals (January 6, 1858):
Very little evidence of God or man did I see just then, and life not as rich and inviting an enterprise as it should be, when my attention was caught by a snowflake on my coat-sleeve. It was one of those perfect, crystalline, star-shaped ones, six-rayed, like a flat wheel with six spokes, only the spokes were perfect little pine trees in shape, arranged around a central spangle. This little object, which, with many of its fellows, rested unmelting on my coat, so perfect and beautiful, reminded me that Nature had not lost her pristine vigor yet, and why should man lose heart?



Thoreau, Journals (January 1, 1858):
There are many words which are genuine and indigenous and have their root in our natures, not made by scholars, and as well understood by the illiterate as others. There are also a great many words which are spurious and artificial, and can only be used in a bad sense, since the thing they signify is not fair and substantial, — such as the church, the judiciary, to impeach, etc., etc. They who use them do not stand on solid ground. It is vain to try to preserve them by attaching other words to them as the true church, etc. It is like towing a sinking ship with a canoe.
Thoreau, Journals (January 26, 1858):
Some men have a peculiar taste for bad words, mouthing and licking them into lumpish shapes like the bear her cubs, — words like "tribal" and "ornamentation," which drag a dead tail after them. They will pick you out of a thousand the still-born words, the falsettos, the wing-clipped and lame words, as if only the false notes caught their ears. They cry encore to all the discords.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006



Scholars have devoted extraordinary efforts to discover meaning in some of the following examples of gibberish. Whether traces of foreign languages might lurk behind these syllables, they would have sounded like nonsense in their original contexts.

At Aristophanes, Acharnians 100 ff. (tr. anon.), Pseudartabas speaks a sentence of what is supposed to be Persian:
PSEUDARTABAS. I artamane Xarxas apiaona satra.
AMBASSADOR (to DICAEOPOLIS). Do you understand what he says?
AMBASSADOR (to the PRYTANES). He says that the Great King will send you gold.

In Plautus' Poenulus, Hanno the Carthaginian utters snatches of supposed Punic here and there between lines 930 and 1142. The longest example is from 930 to 949. Here is a shorter example at 1108-1120 (tr. George E. Duckworth):
MILPHIO (to HANNO). Hey, you fellow there without a belt, why have you come to this city, and what are you looking for?
HANNO. Muphursa.
AGORASTOCLES. What does he say?
HANNO. Miuulechianna.
AGORASTOCLES. What's he here for?
MILPHIO. Don't you understand? He says that he wants to give African mice to the aediles to display at the games.
HANNO. Lechlachananilimniichot.
AGORASTOCLES. What does he say now?
MILPHIO. He says he has brought latchets, channels, and nuts; he wants you to help him have them sold.
AGORASTOCLES. He's a merchant, I presume.
HANNO. Assam.
MILPHIO. And certainly fat.
HANNO. Palumergadetha.
AGORASTOCLES. Milphio, what does he say now?
MILPHIO. He says that he's got pails and garden tools for sale, for harvest time, I suppose, unless you've a better idea; probably for digging a garden and reaping grain.

At Dante, Inferno 31.67, Nimrod speaks a line of gibberish:
Raphèl mà amècche zabì almi.

In Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book II, chapter 9, at the first meeting between Pantagruel and Panurge, the latter speaks in foreign languages, some recognizable, others not. Here's a sample of one that's unintelligible:
Al barildim gotfano dech min brin alabo dordin falbroth ringuam albaras. Nin porth zadilkin almucathim milko prim al elmin enthoth dal heben ensouim: kuth im al dim alkatim nim broth dechoth porth min michas im endoth, pruch dal maisoulum hol moth dansririm lupaldas im voldemoth. Nin hur diavolth mnarbothim dal gousch pal frapin duch im scoth pruch galeth dal chinon, mir foultrich al conin butbathen doth dal prim.

In Molière's The Bourgeois Gentleman, Covielle pretends to be an emissary of the Son of the Grand Turk, who is eager to marry Monsieur Jourdain's daughter. Specimens of "Turkish" appear throughout Acts IV and V, such as this exchange in Act IV, Scene 3 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN. Faith. You do well to tell me so, for personally I would never have thought that marababa sahem meant "Ah, how I love her!" What a wonderful language this Turkish is!
COVIELLE. More wonderful than you'd believe. Do you know what cacaracamouchen means?
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN. Cacaracamouchen? No.
COVIELLE. It means "My dear heart."
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN. Cacaracamouchen means "My dear heart"?
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN. That is marvelous! Cacaracamouchen, "My dear heart." Who'd have thought it? That amazes me.

Monday, March 06, 2006


The Contrary Man

Molière, The Misanthrope, Act II, Scene IV (lines 669-680), tr. Donald M. Frame:

Don't you see, he must be opposed to you?
Would you have him accept the common view,
And not display, in every company,
His heaven-sent gift for being contrary?
The ideas of others he must not admit;
Always he must maintain the opposite;
He'd fear he was an ordinary human
If he agreed with any man -- or woman.
For him contrariness offers such charms,
Against himself he often turns his arms;
And should another man his views defend,
He will combat them to the bitter end.

Et ne faut-il pas bien que Monsieur contredise?
À la commune voix, veut-on qu'il se réduise?
Et qu'il ne fasse pas éclater, en tous lieux,
L'esprit contrariant, qu'il a reçu des cieux?
Le sentiment d'autrui, n'est jamais, pour lui plaire,
Il prend, toujours, en main, l'opinion contraire;
Et penserait paraître un homme du commun,
Si l'on voyait qu'il fût de l'avis de quelqu'un.
L'honneur de contredire, a, pour lui, tant de charmes,
Qu'il prend, contre lui-même, assez souvent, les armes;
Et ses vrais sentiments sont combattus par lui,
Aussitôt qu'il les voit dans la bouche d'autrui.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Tying One On

David Meadows at Rogueclassicism makes an interesting and plausible suggestion about the Greek vase painting I displayed a few days ago. He thinks that the girl isn't comforting a boy who's vomiting, but is instead helping him tie a ribbon around his head. The more I look at the painting, the more I think David is correct.

On headbands or garlands worn at ancient drinking parties, see especially book 15 of Athenaeus' Deipnosophistae and book 21 of Pliny's Natural History. Athenaeus 15.674 (tr. C.D. Yonge) writes:
But Aristotle, in the second book of his treatise on Love Affairs, and Ariston the Peripatetic, who was a native of Ceos, in the second book of his Amatory Resemblances, say that "The ancients, on account of the headaches which were produced by their wine-drinking, adopted the practice of wearing garlands made of anything which came to hand, as the binding of the head tight appeared to be of service to them. But men in later times added also some ornaments to their temples, which had a kind of reference to their employment of drinking, and so they invented garlands in the present fashion. But it is more reasonable to suppose that it was because the head is the seat of all sensation that men wore crowns upon it, than that they did so because it was desirable to have their temples shaded and bound as a remedy against the headaches produced by wine."
Athenaeus goes on at great length about various materials used to make garlands, such as osier or myrtle.

The most famous ancient poem about a garland is probably Horace, Ode 1.38:
Persicos odi, puer, apparatus;
displicent nexae philyra coronae;
mitte sectari rosa quo locorum
  sera moretur.

Simplici myrto nihil adlabores
sedulus curo; neque te ministrum
dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta
  vite bibentem.
Here is an amusing translation of Horace's ode by Eugene Field, from his Echoes from the Sabine Farm:
Boy, I detest the Persian pomp;
  I hate those linden-bark devices;
And as for roses, holy Moses!
  They can't be got at living prices!

Myrtle is good enough for us,--
  For you, as bearer of my flagon;
For me, supine beneath this vine,
  Doing my best to get a jag on!
I haven't been to any drinking parties lately, but I imagine nowadays baseball caps worn backwards are more common than myrtle wreaths.



In the introduction to his translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais, J.M. Cohen writes:
One needs, as I have said, no comprehensive knowledge of his sources. Many of the questions are there only to tease, and nothing would amuse the spirit of Rabelais, in whatever limbo he may be, more heartily than the sight of a literal-minded reader hunting up and speculating on his every allusion to his curious learning.
Well then, I'll amuse the spirit of Dr. Rabelais by hunting up an allusion to his curious learning in an imaginary conversation between Villon and King Edward IV of England (Gargantua and Pantagruel IV, 67, tr. Cohen):
'Gracious me,' answered Villon, 'how wise and prudent, and how careful of your health your Majesty is. How well you are served, too, by Thomas Linacre, your doctor! For naturally he sees that in your old age you'll become constipated, and that you'll have to fetch an apothecary to your bum every day. I mean that without a suppository, you'll have no droppings. So he has cunningly made you paint the French arms up here and nowhere else, which was a most singularly providential precaution. For at the mere sight of them you get in such a funk and become so hideously afraid, that all of a sudden you shit like eighteen wild bulls of Paeonia.'

Sacre Dieu (respondit Villon) tant vous estez saige, prudent, entendu, et curieux de vostre santé. Et tant bien estez servy de vostre docte medicin Thomas Linacer. Il voyant que naturellement sus vos vieulx jours estiez constippé du ventre : et que journellement vous failloit au cul fourrer un apothecaire, je diz un clystere, aultrement ne povyez vous esmeutir, vous a faict icy aptement, non ailleurs, paindre les armes de France, par singuliaire et vertueuse providence. Car seulement les voyant vous acez telle vezarde, et paour si horrificque, que soubdain vous fiantez comme dixhuyct Bonases de Paeonie.
I'm sure any commentary on Rabelais would note the source, but I don't have a commentary. I did recall encountering the wild bulls of Paeonia recently, though, in Pliny, Natural History 8.16.40 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
In Paeonia, it is said, there is a wild animal known as the bonasus; it has the mane of the horse, but is, in other respects, like the bull, with horns, however, so much bent inwards upon each other, as to be of no use for the purposes of combat. It has therefore to depend upon its flight, and, while in the act of flying, it sends forth its excrements, sometimes to a distance of even three jugera; the contact of which burns those who pursue the animal, just like a kind of fire.

tradunt in Paeonia feram quae bonasus vocetur, equina iuba, cetera tauro similem, cornibus ita in se flexis, ut non sint utilia pugnae. quapropter fuga sibi auxiliari reddentem in ea fimum, interdum et trium iugerum longitudine, cuius contactus sequentes ut ignis aliquis amburat.
There are some very funny illustrations of the bonasus in medieval bestiaries, available on the World Wide Web:For more on the connection between fear and defecation, see here.

Out of his vast store of curious learning Michael Hendry at Curculio adds more information.


Hypocrites in Hell

Dave Haxton writes:
I can only hope that there's a special place in the Christian Hell for hypocrites. It'd be the biggest section in the whole realm.
That got me wondering about exactly which subdivision hypocrites do occupy in Hell. I went for an answer to Dante's Inferno, and found what I was looking for in Canto 23, lines 58 ff. (tr. Charles S. Singleton):
There below we found a painted people who were going round with very slow steps, weeping and looking weary and overcome. They had cloaks with cowls down over their eyes, of the cut that is made for the monks of Cluny, so gilded outside that they were dazzling, but within all lead and so heavy that those Frederick imposed were of straw. O toilsome mantle of eternity!
Their punishment corresponds to their fault -- a garment with gold on the outside, lead on the inside, just as in life their feigned righteousness masked sin and corruption. Concerning their garb, C.H. Grandgent in his commentary says:
The exact form of their punishment was probably suggested to Dante by the Magnae Derivationes of Uguccione da Pisa, who defines 'ypocrita' as 'superauratus,' taking it from ὑπέρ and χρυσός.
A bogus etymology, of course, although it makes for good poetry. Concerning Frederick, Singleton in his commentary quotes and translates from the early commentator Lana:
You must know that the Emperor Frederick II used to punish those who committed crimes against the crown in the following manner: he had a leaden cover made for the condemned man, to cover him entirely. The cover was about an inch thick. Then he had the man placed in a cauldron, and the leaden cape put over him. Then he had a fire made under the cauldron. The heat melted the lead, which took the skin off piece by piece. Finally, both the lead and the condemned man boiled. This punishment was not without immeasurable pain.
The hypocrites live in the eighth circle of Hell, known as Malebolge, in ditch number six. Apparently it's not "the biggest section in the whole realm," since Dante's Hell is funnel-shaped, and the eighth (or next to last) circle is therefore narrower than the ones above it.

Saturday, March 04, 2006



One of the many interesting features of the premier classics blog, Rogueclassicism, is the daily collection of Classical Words of the Day. One source for Classical Words of the Day is Anu Garg's A.Word.A.Day. A.Word.A.Day for March 1, 2006 was mulligrubs, which I did not see included in Classical Words of the Day.

But despite its outlandish appearance, there might be a classical forerunner to mulligrubs, defined by A.Word.A.Day as follows:
mulligrubs (MUL-i-grubz) noun
1. Grumpiness; colic; low spirits.

2. An ill-tempered person.
[From mulliegrums, apparently from megrims (low spirits).]
I believe that mulliegrums here is a misprint for mulligrums. The Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. mulligrubs, dates its first appearance in English to 1599, but says simply "fanciful formation," with no other derivation. Webster's Dictionary (1913) says "Cf. Prov. E. mull to squeeze, pull about, mulling numb or dull," but the American Heritage Dictionary agrees with A.Word.A.Day in connecting mulligrubs to megrims.

And megrims itself? That's where the classical connection comes in. The Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. migraine, says:
1373, megrim, from O.Fr. migraigne (13c.), from vulgar pronunciation of L.L. hemicrania "pain in one side of the head, headache," from Gk. hemikrania, from hemi- "half" + kranion "skull." The M.E. form was re-spelled 1777 on Fr. model.
So the etymological chain seems to be this:Mulligrubs. An interesting word, and a new one for me. Now, instead of saying "I'm depressed," I can say "I've got the mulligrubs."

Update: I'm indebted to Mike Webb, who sent via email the Oxford English Dictionary entry on mulligrubs. According to the OED, the origin of the word is uncertain. The first citation, from Thomas Nashe, spells the word mulliegrums, so I was wrong when I said that was a misprint. Here are the OED definitions, without citations:
1. In pl. Now chiefly regional.
a. A state or fit of depression; low spirits. Also: a bad temper or mood. In early use in (in) his (also her, etc.,) mulligrubs.

b. Stomach-ache, colic; diarrhoea. In early use in sick of the mulligrubs.
2. A fit or bout of mulligrubs. Obs. rare.

3. A sulky or ill-tempered person. Now Eng. regional.
I can't resist quoting one of the OED's examples, from c1750:
M. PALMER Dialogue in Devonshire Dial. (1837) 5 A call'd her a purting glum-pot, zed her'd got the mulligrubs.
Glum-pot is also a good description of a melancholy person.

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