Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Donec Gratus Eram: Rudyard Kipling

One of Horace's most charming and appealing odes is the dramatic skit Donec gratus eram (3.9). Here is C.E. Bennett's prose translation (with my headings indicating the three "acts" of the skit), followed by the Latin original. Horace is the speaker in the odd-numbered stanzas, Lydia in the even-numbered ones.

'While I was dear to thee and no more favoured youth flung his arms about thy dazzling neck, I lived in greater bliss than Persia's king.'

'While thou wast enamoured of no other more than me, and Lydia ranked not after Chloë, in joy of my great fame I, Lydia, lived more glorious than Roman Ilia.'


'Me Thracian Chloë now doth sway, skilled in sweet measures and mistress of the lyre; for her I will not fear to die, if the Fates but spare my darling and suffer her to live.'

'Me Calais, son of Thurian Ornytus, kindles with mutual flame; for him right willingly I twice will die, if the Fates but spare the lad and suffer him to live.'


'What if the old love come back again and join those now estranged beneath her compelling yoke; if fair-haired Chloë be put aside and the door thrown open to rejected Lydia?'

'Though he is fairer than the stars, and thou less stable than the tossing cork and stormier than the wanton Adriatic, with thee I fain would live, with thee I'd gladly die.'

  'Donec gratus eram tibi
nec quisquam potior bracchia candidae
  cervici iuvenis dabat,
Persarum vigui rege beatior.'

  'Donec non alia magis
arsisti neque erat Lydia post Chloen,
  multi Lydia nominis,
Romana vigui clarior Ilia.'

  'Me nunc Thressa Chloe regit,
dulcis docta modos et citharae sciens,
  pro qua non metuam mori,
si parcent animae fata superstiti.'

  'Me torret face mutua
Thurini Calais filius Ornyti,
  pro quo bis patiar mori,
si parcent puero fata superstiti.'

  'Quid si prisca redit Venus
diductosque iugo cogit aeneo,
  si flava excutitur Chloe
reiectaeque patet ianua Lydiae?'

  'Quamquam sidere pulchrior
ille est, tu levior cortice et inprobo
  iracundior Hadria,
tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam lubens.'
At the age of about 16, Rudyard Kipling translated this poem. He is the boy described in this paragraph from An English School, in Land & Sea Tales For Scouts and Guides:
There was one boy, however, to whom every Latin quantity was an arbitrary mystery, and he wound up his crimes by suggesting that he could do better if Latin verse rhymed as decent verse should. He was given an afternoon's reflection to purge himself of his contempt; and feeling certain that he was in for something rather warm, he turned "Donec gratus eram" into pure Devonshire dialect, rhymed, and showed it up as his contribution to the study of Horace.
Here is the young Kipling's translation:
So long as 'twuz me alone
  An' there wasn't no other chaps,
I was praoud as a King on 'is throne —
  Happier tu, per'aps.

So long as 'twuz only I
  An' there wasn't no other she
Yeou cared for so much — surely
  I was glad as could be.

But now I'm in love with Jane Pritt —
  She can play the piano, she can;
An' if dyin' 'ud 'elp 'er a bit
  I'd die laike a man.

Yeou'm like me. I'm in lovv with young Frye —
  Him as lives out tu Appledore Quay;
An' if dyin' 'ud 'elp 'im I'd die —
  Twice ovver for he.

But s'posin' I threwed up Jane
  An' niver went walkin' with she —
An' come back tu yeou again —
  How 'ud that be?

Frye's sober. Yeou've allus done badly —
  An' yeou shifts like cut net-floats, yeou du:
But — I'd throw that young Frye ovver gladly
  An' lovv 'ee right thru!


A Cure for Nature's Coyness

Letter from Madame d'Arblay (Fanny Burney) to her son Alex, a student at Cambridge University, from Joyce Hemlow et al., edd., The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame d'Arblay) 1791-1840 (1972-1984), vol. 9, p. 76:
Have you Cocoa?
Have you got Shoes?
Do you take a Rhubarb pill from time to time?
an analeptic if you have any headache?
a black one if Nature is coy?
Nature's coyness is constipation, and rhubarb is well-known for its laxative properties.

The word rhubarb has an interesting history. See the Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. rhubarb:
c.1390, from O.Fr. rubarbe, from M.L. rheubarbarum, from Gk. rha barbaron "foreign rhubarb," from rha "rhubarb" (associated with Rha, ancient Scythian name of the River Volga) + barbaron, neut. of barbaros "foreign." Grown in China and Tibet, it was imported into ancient Europe by way of Russia. Spelling altered in M.L. by association with rheum. European native species so called from 1650.
Ammianus Marcellinus mentions the plant (22.8.28):
Nearby this is the river Ra, on whose banks grows a certain invigorating root of the same name, which is beneficial for various curative applications.

huic Ra vicinus est amnis, in cuius superciliis quaedam vegetabilis eiusdem nominis gignitur radix, proficiens ad usus multiplices medelarum.
The plant's genus is Rheum, and the native European species is Rheum rhaponticum. According to the New American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, College Edition (1979), "the dried, bitter-tasting rhizome and roots of R. palmatum or R. officinale, of Central Asia" is "used as a laxative." Calvert Watkins' Indo-European Roots, an appendix to this dictionary, says s.v. ers-2:
To be wet. 1. Variant form *ros- in Latin rōs, dew: ROSEMARY. 2. Suffixed variant form *ros-ā in Avestan Ra(n)hā, name of a mystical river: RHUBARB. 3. Extended root ersen-, male (< "that sprinkles or ejects semen"), in Old Persian arshan-, man: XERXES. [Pok. 2. ere-s- 336.]
Pok. is a reference to J. Pokorny's Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch.

Monday, October 30, 2006



Hector Hugh Munro (Saki), The Talking-Out of Tarrington:
'My name is Tarrington,' resumed the candidate for recognition.

'A very useful kind of name,' said Clovis; 'with a name of that sort no one would blame you if you did nothing in particular heroic or remarkable, would they? And yet if you were to raise a troop of light horse in a moment of national emergency, "Tarrington's Light Horse" would sound quite appropriate and pulse-quickening; whereas if you were called Spoopin, for instance, the thing would be out of the question. No one, even in a moment of national emergency, could possibly belong to Spoopin's Horse.'

The new-comer smiled weakly, as one who is not to be put off by mere flippancy, and began again with patient persistence:

'I think you ought to remember my name —'

'I shall,' said Clovis, with an air of immense sincerity. 'My aunt was asking me only this morning to suggest names for four young owls she's just had sent her as pets. I shall call them all Tarrington; then if one or two of them die or fly away, or leave us in any of the ways that pet owls are prone to, there will be always one or two left to carry on your name. And my aunt won't let me forget it; she will always be asking "Have the Tarringtons had their mice?" and questions of that sort.'
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Book II, Chap. 17:
One of the servants of the hotel presented himself bearing a card. Mr Dorrit, taking it, read:

'Mrs Finching.'

The servant waited in speechless deference.

'Man, man,' said Mr Dorrit, turning upon him with grievous indignation, 'explain your motive in bringing me this ridiculous name. I am wholly unacquainted with it. Finching, sir?'
Matthew Arnold, The Function of Criticism at the Present Time:
Wragg! If we are to talk of ideal perfection, of 'the best in the whole world,' has anyone reflected what a touch of grossness in our race, what an original shortcoming in the more delicate spiritual perceptions, is shown by the natural growth amongst us of such hideous names, — Higginbottom, Stiggins, Bugg!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Kipling on the Classics

Rudyard Kipling, A Book of Words, chap. XI (The Uses of Reading):
I attach a certain amount of importance to the spirit of a few old Latin tags and quotations. Some of them, not more than three lines long, give one the very essence of what a man ought to try to do. Others, equally short, let you understand once and for all, the things that a man should not do — under any circumstances. There are others — bits of odes from Horace, they happen to be in my case — that make one realise in later life as no other words in any other tongue can, the brotherhood of mankind in time of sorrow or affliction. But men say that one can get the same stuff in an easier way and in a living tongue. They say there is no sense in dragging men up and down through grammar and construe for years and years, when at the last, all they can produce (“produce” is a good word) is a translation that would make Virgil, Horace or Cicero turn in their graves. Here is my defence of this alleged wicked waste of time. The reason why one has to parse and construe and grind at the dead tongues in which certain ideas are expressed, is not for, the sake of what is called intellectual training — that may be given in other ways — but because only in that tongue is that idea expressed with absolute perfection. If it were not so the Odes of Horace would not have survived. (People aren’t in a conspiracy to keep things alive.) I grant you that the kind of translations one serves up at school are as bad and as bald as they can be. They are bound to be so, because one cannot re-express an idea that has been perfectly set forth. (Men tried to do this, by the way, in the revised version of the Bible. They failed.) Yet, by a painful and laborious acquaintance with the mechanism of that particular tongue; by being made to take it to pieces and put it together again, and by that means only; we can arrive at a state of mind in which, though we cannot re-express the idea in any adequate words, we can realise and feel and absorb the idea. To put it in this way. No one can play cricket like Ranji at his best. But to appreciate Ranji’s play; to pick up enough from it to try and improve your own with; you must have played cricket for more than two terms.

Our ancestors were not fools. They knew what we, I think, are in danger of forgetting — that the whole background of life, in law, civil administration, conduct of life, the terms of justice, the terms of science, the value of government, are the everlasting ramparts of Rome and Greece — the father and mother of civilisation. And for that reason, before they turned a man into life at large, they arranged that he should not merely pick up, but absorb into his system (through his hide if necessary) the fact that Greece and Rome were there. Later on, they knew, he would find out for himself how much and how important they were and they are, and that they still exist.


Walking on Water Again

Thanks to C.J. Canton, who supplements yesterday's post with two parallels from Lucian.

Lucian, A True Story 2.4 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
After spending five days there we started again with a gentle breeze and a rippling sea. A few days later, when we had emerged from the milk into blue salt water, we saw numbers of men walking on the sea [ἐπὶ τοῦ πελάγους διαθέοντας]; they were like ourselves in shape and stature, with the one exception of the feet, which were of cork; whence, no doubt, their name of Corksoles [Φελλόποδες]. It struck us as curious that they did not sink in, but travelled quite comfortably clear of the water. Some of them came up and hailed us in Greek, saying that they were making their way to their native land of Cork. They ran alongside for some distance, and then turned off and went their own way, wishing us a pleasant voyage. A little further we saw several islands; close to us on the left was Cork, our friends' destination, consisting of a city founded on a vast round cork; at a greater distance, and a little to the right, were five others of considerable size and high out of the water, with great flames rising from them.
Lucian, The Lover of Lies 13 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
'Ah, you will have your joke,' Cleodemus put in; 'I was an unbeliever myself once -- worse than you; in fact I considered it absolutely impossible to give credit to such things. I held out for a long time, but all my scruples were overcome the first time I saw the Flying Stranger; a Hyperborean, he was; I have his own word for it. There was no more to be said after that: there was he travelling through the air in broad daylight, walking on the water [ἐφ᾽ ὕδατος βαδίζοντα], or strolling through fire, perfectly at his ease!' 'What,' I exclaimed,' you saw this Hyperborean actually flying and walking on water [ἐπὶ τοῦ ὕδατος βεβηκότα]?' 'I did; he wore brogues [καρβατίνας], as the Hyperboreans usually do.'

Also, Javier Álvarez at Edad de Oro cites Vergil, Aeneid 7.803-811 (here in H. Rushton Fairclough's translation):
To crown the array comes Camilla, of Volscian race, leading her troop of horse, and squadrons gay with brass, — a warrior-maid, never having trained her woman's hands to Minerva's distaff or basket of wool, but hardy to bear the battle-brunt and in speed of foot to outstrip the winds. She might have flown o'er the topmost blades of unmown corn, nor in her course bruised the tender ears; or sped her way o'er mid sea, poised above the swelling wave, nor dipped her swift feet in the flood.

hos super advenit Volsca de gente Camilla
agmen agens equitum et florentis aere catervas,
bellatrix, non illa colo calathisve Minervae
femineas adsueta manus, sed proelia virgo
dura pati cursuque pedum praevertere ventos.
illa vel intactae segetis per summa volaret
gramina nec teneras cursu laesisset aristas,
vel mare per medium fluctu suspensa tumenti
ferret iter celeris nec tingeret aequore plantas.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Averting Evil

Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 1.1132-1134 (tr. E.V. Rieu):
Jason, pouring libations on the blazing sacrifice, earnestly besought the goddess to send the stormy winds elsewhere.

Πολλὰ δὲ τήν γε λιτῆισιν ἀποστρέψαι ἐριώλας
Αἰσονίδης γουνάζετ' ἐπιλλείβων ἱεροῖσιν
Jason didn't ask the goddess Rhea (aka Cybele or Dindymene) simply to make the winds subside. He asked her to turn the winds away (ἀποστρέφω), to send them in a different direction.

In Greek and Latin literature petitioners sometimes beg the gods not to eliminate an evil altogether, but rather to transfer it from one place to another, or from one person to another.

Related posts:


Running and Walking on Water

Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 1.179-184 (tr. E.V. Rieu):
After them, from Taenarum, came Euphemus, the fastest runner in the world, whom Europa daughter of the mighty Tityos bore to Poseidon. This man could run across the rolling waters of the grey sea without wetting his swift feet. His toes alone sank in as he sped along his watery path.

Ταίναρον αὖτ' ἐπὶ τοῖσι λιπὼν Εὔφημος ἵκανε,
τόν ῥα Ποσειδάωνι ποδωκηέστατον ἄλλων
Εὐρώπη Τιτυοῖο μεγασθενέος τέκε κούρη.
Κεῖνος ἀνὴρ καὶ πόντου ἐπὶ γλαυκοῖο θέεσκεν
οἴδματος, οὐδὲ θοοὺς βάπτεν πόδας, ἀλλ' ὅσον ἄκροις
ἴχνεσι τεγγόμενος διερῆι πεφόρητο κελεύθωι.
John 6.16-21 (cf. Mark 6.45-52 and Matthew 14.22-33):
And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

Ὡς δὲ ὀψία ἐγένετο κατέβησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν, καὶ ἐμβάντες εἰς πλοῖον ἤρχοντο πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης εἰς Καφαρναούμ. καὶ σκοτία ἤδη ἐγεγόνει καὶ οὔπω ἐληλύθει πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, ἥ τε θάλασσα ἀνέμου μεγάλου πνέοντος διεγείρετο. ἐληλακότες οὖν ὡς σταδίους εἴκοσι πέντε ἢ τριάκοντα θεωροῦσιν τὸν Ἰησοῦν περιπατοῦντα ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ ἐγγὺς τοῦ πλοίου γινόμενον, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν. ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε. ἤθελον οὖν λαβεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον, καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένετο τὸ πλοῖον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἰς ἣν ὑπῆγον.
The only modern commentary on the entire Argonautica is George W. Mooney's (1912), which I haven't seen. Raymond E. Brown's commentary on John's gospel doesn't mention the parallel, which is so obvious that it cannot have escaped notice and comment by scholars.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006



Diogenes Laertius 2.25 (Socrates, tr. R.D. Hicks):
Often when he looked at the multitude of wares exposed for sale, he would say to himself, "How many things I can do without!"

πολλάκις δ᾽ ἀφορῶν εἰς τὰ πλήθη τῶν πιπρασκομένων ἔλεγε πρὸς αὑτόν, "πόσων ἐγὼ χρείαν οὐκ ἔχω."


Three Kinds of Grapes

Diogenes Laertius 1.103 (Anacharsis, tr. R.D. Hicks):
It was a saying of his that the vine bore three kinds of grapes: the first of pleasure, the next of intoxication, and the third of disgust.

Οὗτος τὴν ἄμπελον εἶπε τρεῖς φέρειν βόρτυς· τὸν πρῶτον ἡδονῆς· τὸν δεύτερον μέθης· τὸν τρίτον ἀηδίας.


Divine and Human Words

Diogenes Laertius 1.119 (Pherecydes, tr. R.D. Hicks):
He maintained that the divine name for "table" is θυωρός, or that which takes care of offerings.

ἔλεγέ τε ὅτι οἱ θεοὶ τὴν τράπεζαν θυωρὸν καλοῦσιν.
Cf. those passages from the Iliad in which a distinction is made between divine and human words for the same things.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Portrait of a Blogger

W. Jackson Bate, Samuel Johnson (1975; rpt. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), p. 198:
This temptation to act a role, and in the process to shock the complacent, is partly the simple willingness of most people to live up to the picture others have of us, provided it does not demand too much effort, and even at times, if our spirits are high, to offer them a self-caricature. But it also involves something else in Johnson, which goes much deeper and which we can only call "self-burlesque": a self-burlesque in which so much of what we find ourselves defending or disputing with such heat is, against the cosmic backdrop, seen as trivial, and as little more than doomed posturings and gestures.
Si parva licet componere magnis, I see self-caricature and even self-burlesque in my blogging persona at times.


Between the Rivers

Rudyard Kipling, Mesopotamia (1917):

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
  The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
  Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
  In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
  Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide –
  Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
  Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
  When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
  By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
  Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their friends,
  To confirm and re-establish each career?

Their lives cannot repay us – their death could not undo –
  The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
  Shall we leave it unabated in its place?

Although the circumstances are different, some of the lines in Kipling's poem nevertheless have a strangely familiar resonance when considered in the light of current events. Stanzas 3-5 seem especially relevant as the first Tuesday in November approaches and idle-minded overlings, seeking to confirm and re-establish their careers, once again thrust for high employments.

Monday, October 23, 2006



Steve Hartsoe, Bee Shortage Could Lead to Agriculture Crisis (Associated Press, January 28, 2005):
North Carolina is trying to boost the buzz surrounding the state's crops. As farmers leave tobacco and move into new crops like cucumbers, melons, and berries, the state is confronting a crisis: it simply doesn't have enough honeybees to pollinate all those flowering plants.

"I feel that if we don't do something now about (this) we may be heading toward an agriculture crisis in the state," said David Tarpy, the state's cooperative extension apiculturist and assistant professor at North Carolina State University.
Killer bees and tracheal mites are the culprits. I was interested to read recently about a new part-time business, Overland Apiary, run by Scott and Erin Forbes in Portland, Maine. Their 11 hives are already bringing in $3,000 a year.

In the final part of his Georgics, Vergil tells the farmer what to do if his supply of bees runs out. He explains (4.284-285, tr. H. Ruston Fairclough)
the mode whereby oft, in the past, the putrid blood of slain bullocks has engendered bees.

quoque modo caesis iam saepe iuvencis / insincerus apes tulerit cruor.
Of course bees don't really arise spontaneously from the carcass of a bullock. But this error was fairly common among ancient writers. R.A.B. Mynors in his commentary on the Georgics traces the belief at least as far back as the 3rd century B.C., when Philetas (fr. 22 Powell) called the bee βουγενής (ox-born). According to St. Jerome's chronicle (for 760 B.C.), an early Greek poet named Eumelus wrote a work entitled Bugonia (birth from an ox), although we don't know whether it dealt with bees.

Rudyard Kipling wrote an amusing poem about what would happen if a farmer actually tried to follow Vergil's advice and generate bees spontaneously from the carcass of an ox. To give the title of Kipling's poem too soon would spoil the ending.
A farmer of the Augustan age
Perused in Virgil's golden page,
The story of the secret won
From Proteus by Cyrene's son --
How the dank sea-god showed the swain
Means to restore his hives again.
More briefly, how a slaughtered bull
Breeds honey by the bellyful.

The egregious rustic put to death
A bull by stopping of its breath,
Disposed the carcass in a shed
With fragrant herbs and branches spread,
And, having thus performed the charm,
Sat down to wait the promised swarm.

Nor waited long. The God of Day
Impartial, quickening with his ray
Evil and good alike, beheld
The carcass -- and the carcass swelled!
Big with new birth the belly heaves
Beneath its screen of scented leaves.
Past any doubt, the bull conceives!

The farmer bids men bring more hives
To house the profit that arrives;
Prepares on pan, and key and kettle,
Sweet music that shall make 'em settle;
But when to crown the work he goes,
Gods! What a stink salutes his nose!

There are the honest toilers?
Where the gravid mistress of their care?
A busy scene, indeed, he sees,
But not a sign or sound of bees.
Worms of the riper grave unhid
By any kindly coffin-lid,
Obscene and shameless to the light,
Seethe in insatiate appetite,
Through putrid offal, while above
The hissing blow-fly seeks his love,
Whose offspring, supping where they supt,
Consume corruption twice corrupt.
The title of Kipling's poem is The Bees and the Flies.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


The New Canon

Carlyle said the best university is a collection of books. Not if your collection consists of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (New York: Rizzoli, 2006), edited by Peter Boxall. This list was compiled by Derek Attridge, Cedric Watts, Laura Marcus, David Mariott, and others. In my provincial backwardness, I've never heard of any of these luminaries, and I've never heard of most of the books they recommend either.

Their list doesn't include the Iliad or the Odyssey, and so who can take it seriously? Schiller had it right:
If only a man has lived to read the 23rd book of the Iliad, he cannot complain of his lot.

Wenn man auch nur gelebt hätte, um den 23. Gesang der Ilias zu lesen, so könnte man sich über sein Dasein nicht beschweren.
Read the Iliad before you die, not Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, which is on Boxall's list.

Hat tip to Dennis Mangan, who may be interested to know that Boswell's Life of Johnson and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations are on Clifton Fadiman's carefully chosen Lifetime Reading Plan. Beware of revisions to Fadiman's original plan, though. Fadiman's original list had a hundred books, as opposed to Boxall's thousand. Pliny, Letters 7.9.15 (tr. Betty Radice):
For the saying is that a man should be deeply, not widely, read.

Aiunt enim multum legendum esse, non multa.


A Thousand Ships?

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, Act V, Scene 2:
Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
The precise number, according to Homer's catalogue of ships (Iliad, Book 2), was 1,186. Thucydides rounds it up to the nearest hundred (1,200 at 1.10.4).

But most ancient authorities do say an even thousand (e.g. Vergil, Aeneid 2.198).


Nursery Rhymes in Free Verse

Franklin P. Adams, Weights and Measures:
John Spratt detested carbohydrates.
The deglutition of proteins, to his wife,
Was intolerable.
Wherefore, coöperating,
There was no waste of provender.

Twinkle, starlet,
Loftily, supramundanely, diamondly.

Little Miss Muffet sat in a corner,
Absorbing casein --
A food of great nutritive power,
Rich in butter fats.
A spider -- an arachnid of the species
Araneidae -- came along;
Ugly, motive, horrendous,
Terrorizing her to the point of departure.


Two Greek Auto-Antonyms

The word γενέτης (genétēs) can mean both the begetter (father) and the begotten (son). Likewise γενέτειρα (genéteira) can mean she who bears (mother) and she who is born (daughter).

Related posts:

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Sage Advice

Verses by Samuel Johnson, from Hester Lynch Piozzi's Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson:
Hermit hoar, in solemn cell
    Wearing out life's evening gray,
Strike thy bosom, sage, and tell
    What is bliss, and which the way.

Thus I spoke, and speaking sigh'd,
    Scarce repress'd the starting tear,
When the hoary sage replied,
    'Come, my lad, and drink some beer.'


Far Above Rubies

E.B. White, Letter to John McNulty (August 21, 1949):
When I got your letter I turned right to Forbush ("Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States," 3 volumes). This is the set of books my wife once gave fifty bucks for. Most of the females I know, they get fifty dollars together it don't go to no set of bird books.



T.H. White, The Once and Future King, Book I (The Sword in the Stone), chap. 21:
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then -- to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn -- pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics -- why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough."

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Our God Is Marching On

Homer, Iliad 4.439-445 (tr. William Cowper):
                    These Mars to battle roused,
Those Pallas azure-eyed; nor Terror thence
Nor Flight was absent, nor insatiate Strife,
Sister and mate of homicidal Mars,
Who small at first, but swift to grow, from earth
Her towering crest lifts gradual to the skies.
She, foe alike to both, the brands dispersed
Of burning hate between them, and the woes
Enhanced of battle wheresoe'er she pass'd.

ὦρσε δὲ τοὺς μὲν Ἄρης, τοὺς δὲ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη
Δεῖμός τ᾽ ἠδὲ Φόβος καὶ Ἔρις ἄμοτον μεμαυῖα,
Ἄρεος ἀνδροφόνοιο κασιγνήτη ἑτάρη τε,
ἥ τ᾽ ὀλίγη μὲν πρῶτα κορύσσεται, αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
οὐρανῷ ἐστήριξε κάρη καὶ ἐπὶ χθονὶ βαίνει·
ἥ σφιν καὶ τότε νεῖκος ὁμοίϊον ἔμβαλε μέσσῳ
ἐρχομένη καθ᾽ ὅμιλον, ὀφέλλουσα στόνον ἀνδρῶν.
Alexander Pope's translation:
Each host now joins, and each a god inspires,
These Mars incites, and those Minerva fires,
Pale flight around, and dreadful terror reign;
And discord raging bathes the purple plain;
Discord! dire sister of the slaughtering power,
Small at her birth, but rising every hour,
While scarce the skies her horrid head can bound,
She stalks on earth, and shakes the world around;
The nations bleed, where'er her steps she turns,
The groan still deepens, and the combat burns.
William Cullen Bryant's translation:
These Mars encouraged to the fight; but those
The blue-eyed Pallas. Terror too was there,
And Fright, and Strife that rages unappeased, -
Sister and comrade of man-slaying Mars, -
Who rises small at first, but grows, and lifts
Her head to heaven and walks upon the earth.
She, striding through the crowd and heightening
The mutual rancor, flung into the midst
Contention, source of bale to all alike.
Samuel Butler's translation:
These were inspired of Mars, but the others by Minerva - and with them came Panic, Rout, and Strife whose fury never tires, sister and friend of murderous Mars, who, from being at first but low in stature, grows till she uprears her head to heaven, though her feet are still on earth. She it was that went about among them and flung down discord to the waxing of sorrow with even hand between them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006



John Ruskin, The Queen of the Air: Being a Study of the Greek Myths of Cloud and Storm, § 148:
I believe we can nowhere find a better type of a perfectly free creature than in the common house-fly. Nor free only, but brave; and irreverent to a degree which I think no human republican could by any philosophy exalt himself to. There is no courtesy in him; he does not care whether it is king or clown whom he teases; and in every step of his swift mechanical march, and in every pause of his resolute observation, there is one and the same expression of perfect egotism, perfect independence and self-confidence, and conviction of the world's having been made for flies. Strike at him with your hand, and to him, the mechanical fact and external aspect of the matter is, what to you it would be if an acre of red clay, ten feet thick, tore itself up from the ground in one massive field, hovered over you in the air for a second, and came crashing down with an aim. That is the external aspect of it; the inner aspect, to his fly's mind, is of a quite natural and unimportant occurrence -- one of the momentary conditions of his active life. He steps out of the way of your hand, and alights on the back of it. You cannot terrify him, nor govern him, nor persuade him, nor convince him. He has his own positive opinion on all matters; not an unwise one, usually, for his own ends; and will ask no advice of yours. He has no work to do -- no tyrannical instinct to obey. The earthworm has his digging; the bee her gathering and building; the spider her cunning network; the ant her treasury and accounts. All these are comparatively slaves, or people of vulgar business. But your fly, free in the air, free in the chamber -- a black incarnation of caprice, wandering, investigating, flitting, flirting, feasting at his will, with rich variety of choice in feast, from the heaped sweets in the grocer's window to those of the butcher's back-yard, and from the galled place on your cab-horse's back, to the brown spot in the road, from which, as the hoof disturbs him, he rises with angry republican buzz -- what freedom is like his?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The Whole Duty of Man

Ecclesiastes 12.13:
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Book I, chap. XIII:
'A fresh night!' said Arthur.

'Yes, it's pretty fresh,' assented Pancks. 'As a stranger you feel the climate more than I do, I dare say. Indeed I haven't got time to feel it.'

'You lead such a busy life?'

'Yes, I have always some of 'em to look up, or something to look after. But I like business,' said Pancks, getting on a little faster. 'What's a man made for?'

'For nothing else?' said Clennam.

Pancks put the counter question, 'What else?' It packed up, in the smallest compass, a weight that had rested on Clennam's life; and he made no answer.

'That's what I ask our weekly tenants,' said Pancks. 'Some of 'em will pull long faces to me, and say, Poor as you see us, master, we're always grinding, drudging, toiling, every minute we're awake.

I say to them, What else are you made for? It shuts them up. They haven't a word to answer. What else are you made for? That clinches it.'

'Ah dear, dear, dear!' sighed Clennam.

'Here am I,' said Pancks, pursuing his argument with the weekly tenant. 'What else do you suppose I think I am made for? Nothing.

Rattle me out of bed early, set me going, give me as short a time as you like to bolt my meals in, and keep me at it. Keep me always at it, and I'll keep you always at it, you keep somebody else always at it. There you are with the Whole Duty of Man in a commercial country.'

Monday, October 16, 2006


Monday Miscellany

From languagehat I learned about the existence of Trésor de la langue française informatisé. This is a rich resource for those interested in lexicography. I don't know anything comparable on the Web for the English language.

Dave Lull passes along a link to an interesting article on the etymology of gringo. There is a classical connection.

I received a flyer in my mailbox from the City of Saint Paul, Public Works Department, about snow emergency plowing. The flyer was printed in English, Somali, Amharic, and Arabic.

At the Department's web site there are also translations of the flyer in Spanish, Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Nuer, and Oromo.

Back in the days when Swedish immigrants inhabited Saint Paul's Swede Hollow neighborhood, were city announcements translated into Swedish at public expense? I somehow doubt it.

Every few years a new fad sweeps the world of business. Remember the book Who Moved My Cheese? Some companies actually bought copies of that book for all their employees.

Dennis Mangan at Mangan's Miscellany alerts us to the latest bit of corporate silliness -- lovemarks, which are brand names of products especially beloved by consumers. And I always thought a lovemark was a reason for wearing a turtleneck sweater to school or work the morning after.

At the Lovemarks web site, I submitted a nomination (with testimonial) for Phillips' Laxative Soft Chews (Chocolate Crème flavor). The web site is moderated, and for some inexplicable reason my submission was not accepted.

Matthew 3.10:
Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Cf. Luke 13.6-9:
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
Of course the parable is about us, not just about a barren fig tree. Apuleius, Apologia 2.23 (tr. H.E. Butler), also compares worthless fellows to trees without fruit:
But as for you, Aemilianus, and ignorant boors of your kidney, in your case the fortune makes the man. You are like barren and blasted trees that produce no fruit, but are valued only for the timber that their trunks contain.

tu vero, Aemiliane, et id genus homines uti tu es inculti et agrestes, tanti re vera estis quantum habetis, ut arbor infecunda et infelix, quae nullum fructum ex sese gignit, tanti est in pretio, quanti lignum eius in trunco.

In my post on footprints in the sand, I quoted Shakespeare's "High'st queen of state / Great Juno comes; I know her by her gait." (The Tempest, IV, I, 101-102). Fr. Gerard Deighan points out that Shakespeare is probably recalling Vergil, Aeneid 1.405 (tr. T.E. Page):
By her gait she was revealed true goddess.

vera incessu patuit dea.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Footprints in the Sand

While Agamemnon was fighting at Troy, his wife Clytemnestra engaged in a dalliance with Aegisthus, and when Agamemnon finally returned from Troy, the pair of lovers murdered him.

The offspring of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Electra and Orestes, disapproved of the crime of their mother and her paramour. Sent away as a child, Orestes returned home with his friend Pylades when he grew up. With the help of Electra, the two friends slew Clytemnestra and Aegisthus in revenge for their murder of Agamemnon.

The three great Greek tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, all tell this tale. In Aeschylus (Libation Bearers 205-210, tr. Herbert Weir Smyth), one way in which Electra recognizes that her brother Orestes has returned is as follows:
And lo! why here are tracks -- a second proof -- tracks of feet, matching each other -- and like unto my own! Yes, for here are two sorts of footprints, his own and some companion's. The heels and markings of the tendons agree in their proportions with mine own tracks.

καὶ μὴν στίβοι γε, δεύτερον τεκμήριον,
ποδῶν ὅμοιοι τοῖς τ᾽ ἐμοῖσιν ἐμφερεῖς—
καὶ γὰρ δύ᾽ ἐστὸν τώδε περιγραφὰ ποδοῖν,
αὐτοῦ τ᾽ ἐκείνου καὶ συνεμπόρου τινός.
πτέρναι τενόντων θ᾽ ὑπογραφαὶ μετρούμεναι
εἰς ταὐτὸ συμβαίνουσι τοῖς ἐμοῖς στίβοις.
Euripides (Electra 532-537, tr. David Kovacs) made fun of this episode from Aeschylus:
Step into his footprints and see whether the mark of his boot agrees with your foot, my child.
But how could a footprint be made on ground well-stoned? And if there is one, the feet of siblings will not be of equal size when one is male and the other female: the male will be larger.

σὺ δ' εἰς ἴχνος βᾶσ' ἀρβύλης σκέψαι βάσιν
εἰ σύμμετρος σῷ ποδὶ γενήσεται, τέκνον.
πῶς δ' ἂν γένοιτ' ἂν ἐν κραταιλέῳ πέδῳ
γαίας ποδῶν ἔκμακτρον; εἰ δ' ἔστιν τόδε,
δυοῖν ἀδελφοῖν ποὺς ἂν οὐ γένοιτ' ἴσος
ἀνδρός τε καὶ γυναικός, ἀλλ' ἅρσην κρατεῖ.
Sophocles in his Electra does not mention recognition by footprints.

A.H. Garvie in his commentary on Aeschylus' Choephori (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 86, gives a bibliography on the recognition scene. The only work on his list that I have read is Hugh Lloyd-Jones, "Some Alleged Interpolations in Aeschylus' Choephori and Euripides' Electra," Classical Quarterly n.s. 11 (1961) 171-184, reprinted in Greek Epic, Lyric, and Tragedy: The Academic Papers of Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. 335-352. At 177 (343), Lloyd-Jones wrote about those who would excise the lines from Aeschylus' play as an interpolation:
In its essence the argument of Schütz and Fraenkel boils down to this: Aeschylus was a great poet: great poets do not write bad poetry: the footprint episode is bad poetry: therefore, it was not written by Aeschylus.
I have a half-baked idea that might help to rehabilitate Aeschylus. Perhaps the poet was not thinking about the size and shape of Orestes' footprints, but rather what the footprints revealed about Orestes' distinctive, recognizable gait, for example, the pressure of toe and heel, the distance between the steps, the direction of the toes, etc. Although I can't dredge up the parallels right now, there are many passages from ancient literature that refer to someone's distinctive way of walking. I vaguely recall an article on this subject (by M.L. West?) published sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. One passage I've recently encountered is a couplet by Phocylides (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
Many that are of little wit seem to be wise if their walk be orderly.

Πολλοί τοι δοκέουσι σαόφρονες ἔμμεναι ἄνδρες
σὺν κόσμῳ στείχοντες ἐλαφρόνοί περ ἐόντες.
What is really wanted is some ancient analogue to Shakespeare's "High'st queen of state / Great Juno comes; I know her by her gait." Emphasis added.

Perhaps Electra and Orestes shared a distinctive gait learned in early childhood from their father Agamemnon. I have more than once noticed the charming similarity in gait between small children (especially boys) and their fathers.

Smyth translates 209-210 as "The heels and markings of the tendons agree in their proportions with mine own tracks." Lloyd-Jones' translation is similar: "The heels and the outlines of the tendons agree in their proportions with my prints." Emphasis added. For agree in their proportions, the Greek says μετρούμεναι ... συμβαίνουσι (being measured ... they correspond). Did Electra measure with a ruler? One way to measure is to pace off, and thus μετρέω can mean traverse as well as measure. If I were staging the play, I might have Electra walk in Orestes' footprints as she utters these lines. We might also recall the root elements that make up the verb συμβαίνω (agree). Like its Latin counterpart convenio, it contains a verb of motion, βαίνω (go, walk).

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Mempirium and Gumphus

In chap. 10 (Toilet Papers and Other Abstergents) of his magisterial Merde: Excursions in Scientific, Cultural, and Sociohistorical Coprology (New York: Random House, 1999), Ralph A. Lewin states (p. 75):
In medieval times, when paper was less abundant than it is at present, many people had to resort to whatever came to hand, such as hayballs (which Reynolds [1943] refers to as "mempiria," though I cannot find this word in any Latin dictionary) or little wooden sticks (which the Japanese called sutegi).
Reynolds is a reference to Reginald Reynolds, Cleanliness and Godliness; or, The Further Metamorphosis. A Discussion of the Problems of Sanitation Raised by Sir John Harington, together with Reflections upon Further Progress Recorded since that Excellent Knight, by his Invention of the Metamorphosed Ajax, Father of Conveniences, Revolutionised the System of Sanitation in this Country but Raised at the Same Time Fresh Problems for Posterity which are Discussed in All their Implications, with Numerous Digressions upon All Aspects of Cleanliness. Reynold's learned treatise, at once amusing and serious, has been published at least three times -- London, G. Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1943; Garden City: Doubleday, 1946; and New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976. In the 1976 edition, the word mempirium is discussed on p. 306. Reynolds refers to certain remarks of his "friend the Antiquarian":
What, he says, have you no note on the use of mempiria, those balls of hay with which our mediaeval ancestors completed their toilet? Surely you are familiar with those instructive hexameters upon this subject, where the notable line is found:
Dum paro mempirium, sub gumpho murmurat anus?
The word appears in Du Cange's Glossarium Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis, under the spelling memperium, with a reference to Glos. Lat. Gal. Bibl. Insul. E.36 (15th century), where it is glossed as Torchon de cul.

There are three works cited in R.E. Latham et al., Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources (London: Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 1975 ff.), s.v. memperium: John of Garland's Dictionarius; T. Wright and R.P. Wülcker, Anglo-Saxon and Old-English Vocabularies, 2 vols. (1884); and Catholicon Anglicum (1483). Latham et al. suggest that memperium is probably derived from manupiarium (itself from manus + piare + -arium). In Latham et al. s.v. gumphus, we find Reynold's verse, with a reference to Wright and Wülcker's Vocabularies. One of the glosses of gumphus, from Catholicon Anglicum, is a sege of a priuay, i.e. the chaise percée, which gives a meaning suitable for the Latin Dum paro mempirium, sub gumpho murmurat anus ("While I get the wiper ready, my arse roars beneath the privy seat").

This solves half of the mystery. The Latin word mempirium (with various spellings) does appear in medieval dictionaries. But I could find no evidence that hay is the material from which mempirium is made.

Friday, October 13, 2006



Sun of the 21st Century, Eternal Sun, Guardian Deity of the Planet, Sun of Socialism, Ever-Victorious General, Lode Star of the 21st Century, Peerless Leader, Beloved Leader, Great Leader, Dear Leader, Great Suryong (chieftain), Sun of Revolution, Sun of Life, Sun of Juche (self-reliance), Fatherly Leader of all Koreans.

All these are titles of Kim Jong Il.

But my favorite titles are the ones bestowed on the Great Suryong by Big Hominid: Little Bighair and Bouffanted One.

Mark Ynys-Mon writes:
I prefer Elizabeth I's little collection:

Proclamation announcing the regnal style of Elizabeth I

The most high and mighty Princess, our dread sovereign Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England, France, and Ireland, defender of the true, ancient, and Catholic faith, most worthy Empress from the Orkney Isles to the Mountains Pyrenée.


Ezra Pound on Homer

Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), p. 559:
He listened to a lengthy exposition of the Homer de nos jours, the formulaic Homer of Milman Parry and Lord, a Homer improvising with interchangeable parts, a wealth of formulae to fill out the meter; and replied with a wicked twinkle, "But that doesn't explain why Homer is so much better than everyone else."

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Decline and Fall

G.K. Chesterton, Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays:
The beginnings of a decline, in every age of history, have always had the appearance of being reforms.


Do Your Duty

G.K. Chesterton, Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays:
Doing nothing is sometimes one of the highest of the duties of man.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


From the Mailbag

Theognis on the ship of state reminds Professor David Whitehead of Polybius 6.44.3-8 (tr. W.R. Paton):
For the Athenian populace always more or less resembles a ship without a commander. In such a ship when fear of the billows or the danger of a storm induces the mariners to be sensible and attend to the orders of the skipper, they do their duty admirably. But when they grow over-confident and begin to entertain contempt for their superiors and to quarrel with each other, as they are no longer all of the same way of thinking, then with some of them determined to continue the voyage, and others putting pressure on the skipper to anchor, with some letting out the sheets and others preventing them and ordering the sails to be taken it, not only does the spectacle strike anyone who watches it as disgraceful owing to their disagreement and contention, but the position of affairs is a source of actual danger to the rest of those on board; so that often after escaping from the perils of the widest seas and fiercest storms they are shipwrecked in harbour and when close to the shore. This is what has more than once befallen the Athenian state. After having averted the greatest and most terrible dangers owing to the high qualities of the people and their leaders, it has come to grief at times by sheer heedlessness and unreasonableness in seasons of unclouded tranquillity.
On Johnson's definition of goldfinder as "One who finds gold. A term ludicrously applied to those that empty jakes," E.J. Moncada cites:
Cassiodorus, Inst. I, 1.8.: aurum in stercore quaerere, cited as a proverb. But earlier, Vita Vergilii interpolata. Donatus auctus. 71 Diehl, se aurum colligere e stercore Ennii.
In both of these passages, the saying is attributed to Vergil.

Cassiodorus, Institutes 1.1.8:
While Vergil was reading Ennius, he was asked by someone what he was doing and he answered, "I'm searching for gold in dung."

Vergilius, dum Ennium legeret, a quodam quid faceret inquisitus respondit - "Aurum in stercore quaero."
Donatus auctus, Life of Vergil:
When Vergil was holding Ennius in his hand and was asked what he was doing, he answered that he was collecting gold from the dung of Ennius.

Quom (Maro) Ennium in manu haberet rogareturque quidnam faceret, respondit se aurum colligere de stercore Ennii.
I cannot find Donatus auctus online, and so I quote from Domenico Comparetti's Virgilio nel Medioevo. I have not seen Georges Folliet, "La fortuna du dit de Virgile Aurum colligere de stercore dans la littérature chrétienne", Sacris Erudiri 41 (2002) 31-53.


In Hiding

Robert Redeker, philosophy teacher.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The Ship of State

Theognis 855-856 (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
Often and often through the worthlessness of her leaders this city, like a ship out of her course, hath run too nigh the shore.

πολλάκις ἡ πόλις ἥδε δι᾽ ἡγεμόνων κακότητα
    ὥσπερ κεκλιμένη ναῦς παρὰ γῆν ἔδραμεν.



The University of Minnesota Press will publish Anatoly Liberman's etymological dictionary of the English language in 2007.

The Cambridge New Greek Lexicon (a dictionary of ancient, not modern, Greek) is supposed to be complete in 2010.


Mad Dogs and Philosophers

Lucian, Hermotimus 86 (tr. K. Kilburn):
If in the future I ever meet a philosopher while I am walking on the road, even by chance, I will turn round and get out of his way as if he were a mad dog.

φιλοσόφῳ δὲ εἰς τὸ λοιπὸν κἂν ἄκων ποτὲ ὁδῷ βαδίζων ἐντύχω, οὕτως ἐκτραπήσομαι καὶ περιστήσομαι ὥσπερ τοὺς λυττῶντας τῶν κυνῶν.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Hitchings on Johnson's Dictionary

I just finished reading Henry Hitchings, Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), aka Dr Johnson's Dictionary: The Extraordinary Story of the Book that Defined the World. What follows is a series of notes to myself.

Johnson was literally a tree-hugger. What is the source of this anecdote (p. 60)?
Besides, there were more immediately analgesic rewards to be had from visiting the Strahans' home. In the courtyard stood a lime tree which Johnson, in moments of abstraction, liked to hug.
Quotation from Samuel Richardson (p. 105, from Clarissa):
A man who is gross in a woman's company, ought to be knocked down with a club.
Quotation from John Dryden (p. 112, from what work?):
This melancholy flatters, but unmans you;
What is it else but penury of soul,
A lazy frost, a numbness of the mind?
See also p. 166 on the 18th century use of opium to remove melancholy.

Quotation from Johnson (p. 117, from Rambler 173, Nov. 12, 1751):
As any action or posture long continued, will distort and disfigure the limbs; so the mind likewise is crippled and contracted by perpetual application of the same set of ideas.
Quotation from Milton (p. 134, from Of Education):
Though a linguist should pride himself to have all the tongues that Babel cleft the world into, yet if he had not studied the solid things in them as well as the words and lexicons, yet he were nothing so much to be esteemed a learned man.
Obscenities included in Johnson's dictionary (p. 139): arse, bum, fart, piss.

Word seeksorrow (p. 140), defined by Johnson as "One who contrives to give himself vexation." Cf. Heautontimoroumenos.

Good prayer by Johnson (p. 161):
'O God who hast hitherto supported me,' he could write in his diary, 'enable me to proceed in this labour & in the Whole task of my present state', so that 'when I shall render up at the last day an account of the talent committed to me I may receive pardon for the sake of Jesus Christ.'
Word whitewash (p. 163), defined by Johnson as "A wash to make the skin seem fair," with a quotation from Addison: "The clergy, during Cromwell's usurpation, were very much taken up in reforming the female world; I have heard a whole sermon against a whitewash." Cf. post on white lead.

On umbrellas (pp. 163-164):
He even has an entry for 'umbrella', which is a 'skreen [sic] used in hot countries to keep off the sun, and in others to bear off the rain'. He doesn't seem too sure of the spelling of the word: he offers 'umbrel' and, in his definition of 'parasol', the sadly unadopted 'umbrello'. Umbrellas were certainly something new. They are mentioned by Dryden, Swift and Defoe (as well as his spats, Robinson Crusoe has an umbrella made of goatskin), and are recognized in more than one dictionary before Johnson's, but they were rarely used as a form of protection against British rain until the late eighteenth century. The powerful philanthropist Jonas Hanway was supposedly the first Londoner to carry one for such a purpose, in the early 1750s, and he was ridiculed for doing so.
Pp. 170-171:
Voguish philosophies did little for Johnson. He saw his contemporaries 'dazzled in a bazaar of facile systems' which promised to resolve their problems. In his view, however, experience was a far more reliable guide than the tenets of artificial theories. In one of the earliest instalments of the Rambler he observed how many people's minds were 'not fixed by principles' and were therefore susceptible to 'the current of fancy', 'to every false suggestion and partial account'. The Dictionary manifests his resistance to such newfangledness. Indeed, as a lasting, exemplary resource, it marks the eddies of fashionable thought, but evinces Johnson's belief that popular theories could debilitate or deprave moral standards, and that religious values were far more durable than the shiny bric-a-brac of topicality.
On the missionary position (p. 175):
Together with Sir Hans Sloane, the president of the College of Physicians, Stukeley had in 1720 dissected the genitalia of a female elephant that had been brought back from Sumatra (and had died as a result of being given a great deal of ale). He concluded from his observations that elephants had recumbent sex. But he was wrong, and Johnson perpetuates his error.
Word potvaliant (p. 195), defined by Johnson as "Heated with courage by strong drink." Cf. post on Some Effects of Wine, #4 (Wine drives out fear and instills courage).

Word goldfinder (p. 196), defined by Johnson as "One who finds gold. A term ludicrously applied to those that empty jakes."

P. 197:
Readers are encouraged to believe that millipedes swallowed whole are a convenient laxative.
Johnson's pocket watch (p. 224) was inscribed with the Greek ἔρχεται νύξ ("the night cometh"), from John 9.4: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." What is the source of this information? Does the watch survive?

Word urinator (p. 256), defined by Johnson as "A diver; one who searches under water."

Criticisms of Johnson's dictionary in John Horne Tooke's Diversions of Purley (p. 240) and Archibald Campbell's Lexiphanes (p. 241). From the latter:
In the first Edition of this work, I had used the phrase between you and I, which tho' it must be confessed to be ungrammatical, is yet almost universally used in familiar conversation, and sometimes by our best comick writers: see Wycherley's Plain Dealer. This very trivial slip, if it be one, has not escaped the diligence and sagacity of the learned and candid Reviewers.
Between you and I can also be found in Shakespeare and Dickens, but it is nevertheless a solecism.

Word depeditation invented by Johnson during tour of Hebrides (p. 242).

The Johnson Dictionary Project is useful.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Good Advice

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, chap. 33:
We need be careful how we deal with those about us, when every death carries to some small circle of survivors, thoughts of so much omitted, so little done -- of so many things forgotten, and so many more which might have been repaired! There is no remorse so deep, as that which is unavailing; if we would be spared its tortures, let us remember this, in time.


Greek and Latin Verse Composition: Four Methods

From Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays, part II, chap. III (headings added by me):


So the table was cleared, the cloth restored, and the three fell to work with Gradus and dictionary upon the morning's vulgus.

They were three very fair examples of the way in which such tasks were done at Rugby, in the consulship of Plancus. And doubtless the method is little changed, for there is nothing new under the sun, especially at schools.

Now be it known unto all you boys who are at schools which do not rejoice in the time-honoured institution of the vulgus (commonly supposed to have been established by William of Wykeham at Winchester, and imported to Rugby by Arnold more for the sake of the lines which were learnt by heart with it than for its own intrinsic value, as I've always understood), that it is a short exercise in Greek or Latin verse, on a given subject, the minimum number of lines being fixed for each form.

The master of the form gave out at fourth lesson on the previous day the subject for next morning's vulgus, and at first lesson each boy had to bring his vulgus ready to be looked over; and with the vulgus, a certain number of lines from one of the Latin or Greek poets then being construed in the form had to be got by heart. The master at first lesson called up each boy in the form in order, and put him on in the lines.

If he couldn't say them, or seem to say them, by reading them off the master's or some other boy's book who stood near, he was sent back, and went below all the boys who did so say or seem to say them; but in either case his vulgus was looked over by the master, who gave and entered in his book, to the credit or discredit of the boy, so many marks as the composition merited. At Rugby vulgus and lines were the first lesson every other day in the week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; and as there were thirty-eight weeks in the school year, it is obvious to the meanest capacity that the master of each form had to set one hundred and fourteen subjects every year, two hundred and twenty-eight every two years, and so on. Now, to persons of moderate invention this was a considerable task, and human nature being prone to repeat itself, it will not be wondered that the masters gave the same subjects sometimes over again after a certain lapse of time. To meet and rebuke this bad habit of the masters, the schoolboy mind, with its accustomed ingenuity, had invented an elaborate system of tradition.

Almost every boy kept his own vulgus written out in a book, and these books were duly handed down from boy to boy, till (if the tradition has gone on till now) I suppose the popular boys, in whose hands bequeathed vulgus-books have accumulated, are prepared with three or four vulguses on any subject in heaven or earth, or in "more worlds than one," which an unfortunate master can pitch upon. At any rate, such lucky fellows had generally one for themselves and one for a friend in my time. The only objection to the traditionary method of doing your vulguses was the risk that the successions might have become confused, and so that you and another follower of traditions should show up the same identical vulgus some fine morning; in which case, when it happened, considerable grief was the result. But when did such risk hinder boys or men from short cuts and pleasant paths?

I (Traditionary Method)

Now in the study that night Tom was the upholder of the traditionary method of vulgus doing. He carefully produced two large vulgus-books, and began diving into them, and picking out a line here, and an ending there (tags, as they were vulgarly called), till he had gotten all that he thought he could make fit. He then proceeded to patch his tags together with the help of his Gradus, producing an incongruous and feeble result of eight elegiac lines, the minimum quantity for his form, and finishing up with two highly moral lines extra, making ten in all, which he cribbed entire from one of his books, beginning "O genus humanum," and which he himself must have used a dozen times before, whenever an unfortunate or wicked hero, of whatever nation or language under the sun, was the subject. Indeed he began to have great doubts whether the master wouldn't remember them, and so only throw them in as extra lines, because in any case they would call off attention from the other tags, and if detected, being extra lines, he wouldn't be sent back to do more in their place, while if they passed muster again he would get marks for them.

II (Dogged Method)

The second method, pursued by Martin, may be called the dogged or prosaic method. He, no more than Tom, took any pleasure in the task, but having no old vulgus-books of his own, or any one's else, could not follow the traditionary method, for which too, as Tom remarked, he hadn't the genius. Martin then proceeded to write down eight lines in English, of the most matter-of-fact kind, the first that came into his head; and to convert these, line by line, by main force of Gradus and dictionary into Latin that would scan. This was all he cared for -- to produce eight lines with no false quantities or concords: whether the words were apt, or what the sense was, mattered nothing; and as the article was all new, not a line beyond the minimum did the followers of the dogged method ever produce.

III (Artistic Method)

The third, or artistic method, was Arthur's. He considered first what point in the character or event which was the subject could most neatly be brought out within the limits of a vulgus, trying always to get his idea into the eight lines, but not binding himself to ten or even twelve lines if he couldn't do this. He then set to work as much as possible without Gradus or other help, to clothe his idea in appropriate Latin or Greek, and would not be satisfied till he had polished it well up with the aptest and most poetic words and phrases he could get at.

IV (Vicarious Method)

A fourth method, indeed, was used in the school, but of too simple a kind to require a comment. It may be called the vicarious method, obtained amongst big boys of lazy or bullying habits, and consisted simply in making clever boys whom they could thrash do their whole vulgus for them, and construe it to them afterwards; which latter is a method not to be encouraged, and which I strongly advise you all not to practise. Of the others, you will find the traditionary most troublesome, unless you can steal your vulguses whole (experto crede), and that the artistic method pays the best both in marks and other ways.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Classical Pretension

Gilbert and Sullivan, The Grand Duke:
At this juncture I may mention
That this erudition sham
Is but classical pretension,
The result of steady "cram":
Periphrastic methods spurning,
To this audience discerning
I admit this show of learning
Is the fruit of steady "cram"!
From the same opera:
LUD. I endeavoured to persuade Ernest Dummkopf, our manager, to lend us the classical dresses for our marriage. Think of the effect of a real Athenian wedding procession cavorting through the streets of Speisesaal! Torches burning -- cymbals banging -- flutes tootling -- citharae twanging -- and a throng of fifty lovely Spartan virgins capering before us, all down the High Street, singing "Eloia! Eloia! Opoponax, Eloia!" It would have been tremendous!

NOT. And he declined?

LUD. He did, on the prosaic ground that it might rain, and the ancient Greeks didn't carry umbrellas!
Herr Dummkopf should have crammed harder. Ancient Greek women did carry umbrellas (or their attendants carried umbrellas for them). However, they did so to protect themselves from the sun, not the rain.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Thoreau and Bellew

A couple of years ago, before I owned a copy of Thoreau's Journals, I wrote the following.

Thoreau, Journals, October 19, 1855:
Talking with Bellew this evening about Fourierism and communities, I said that I suspected any enterprise in which two were engaged together. "But," said he, "it is difficult to make a stick stand unless you slant two or more against it." "Oh, no," answered I, "you may split its lower end into three, or drive it single into the ground, which is the best way; but most men, when they start on a new enterprise, not only figuratively, but really, pull up stakes. When the sticks prop one another, none, or only one, stands erect."
I wonder if Bellew could possibly be Adin Ballou (1803-1890), who founded the Hopedale utopian community in Massachusetts.

I see now that the index to the Torrey-Allen edition of Thoreau's Journals identifies Bellew as "F.A.T. Bellew". Someone just sent me an email suggesting that Thoreau meant artist and cartoonist Frank Henry Temple Bellew (1828-1888). Frank Bellew did write Recollections of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in "News and Notes," in The Literary World (July 12, 1884), p. 12, which I have not seen.

I would be interested in further evidence that Thoreau's interlocutor was actually Frank Henry Temple Bellew.


Scholar of the Dark Armchair

Scholar of the Dark Armchair is the name of an elegant new blog. The name comes from Rimbaud's poem Enfance (tr. A.S. Kline):
I'm the scholar in the dark armchair. Branches and rain fling themselves at the library casement.

Je suis le savant au fauteuil sombre. Les branches et la pluie se jettent à la croisée de la bibliothèque.
The scholar and author of the blog is Katie Gray. She is a law student, but her intellectual interests are obviously wide-ranging. She also happens to be my niece. Welcome to the blogosphere, Katie!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Sponges, Moss, and Stones

P.C. Buckland, The Environmental Evidence from the Church Street Roman Sewer System (London: Council for British Archaeology, 1976) = The Archaeology of York, fasc. 14/1, p. 14:
Some support for the presence of excretory products in the system is provided by the abundant sponge spicules noted in all sub-samples taken for diatoms (A.G. Greenfield, pers. comm.). A piece of sponge mounted on a short stick formed the Roman equivalent of toilet paper, with the added advantage that it could be washed out.
Buckland goes on to cite Martial 12.47.7 and Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 70.25, both of which can be found here.

I owe this reference to Ralph Jackson, Doctors and Diseases in the Roman Empire (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), p. 51, with n. 72 on p. 189.

Jackson also (ibid.) cites D.J. Breeze, "The Roman Fort on the Antonine Wall at Bearsden," in Studies in Scottish Antiquity presented to Stewart Cruden (Edinburgh, 1984), pp. 33 ff., for the use of moss as a tersive material. Unfortunately this book is not available to me.

In addition, Jackson (p. 53, fig. 11) reproduces a photograph of a vase, with this caption:
Baby on a potty. Scene from a red-figured vase made in Athens c. 440-430 BC. The potty chair comprises a tall base surmounted by a deep bowl with leg holes. The object in the child's hand is more probably a rattle than a cleansing sponge.
The vase is identified more closely as a chous (now in London at the British Museum, 1910.6-15.4) by Kathleen M. Lynch and John K. Papadopoulos, "Sella Cacatoria: A Study of the Potty in Archaic and Classical Athens," Hesperia 75 (2006) 1-32 (on. p. 19, fig. 11). Like Jackson, Lynch and Papadopoulos identify the object in the child's hand as a rattle.

John K. Papadopoulos is also the author of another very interesting article, "Παίζω ἢ χέζω: A Contextual Approach to Pessoi (Gaming Pieces, Counters, or Convenient Wipes?)," Hesperia 71 (2002) 423-427, in which he argues that the word πεσσός (pessos, whence English pessary) might sometimes refer to clay disks used to wipe after defecation.

Papadopoulos reproduces an Athenian red-figure kylix tondo fragment by the Ambrosios Painter from Orvieto (now in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts, Res. 08.31b) showing a man wiping his bottom with what looks like a smooth stone or pessos.

In addition to passages from Aristophanes' Peace and Wealth (discussed here), Papadopoulos cites Aristophanes, Acharnians 1168-1175 for the practice of wiping with stones. I'm not convinced that the passage from Acharnians is relevant. The chorus wishes that evil might befall Antimachus (tr. anonymous):
I also hope for him a misfortune at night. That returning all-fevered from horse practice, he may meet an Orestes, mad with drink, who will crack him over the head; that wishing to seize a stone, he, in the dark, may pick up a fresh turd, hurl, miss him and hit Cratinus.
S. Douglas Olson, in his commentary on Acharnians 1168-1170, makes no mention of using stones as tersive materials in connection with this passage.

But Papadopoulos does make an intriguing and attractive suggestion, that the Athenians may have used discarded ostraka (potsherds), with the names of prominent politicians scratched on them for ostracism, to wipe after defecation.

If true, the practice reminds me somewhat of the inscriptions scratched on lead bullets used in ancient slings. See W. Kendrick Prichett, The Greek State at War, Part V (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), chap. I (Stone Throwers and Slingers in Ancient Greek Warfare), pp. 1-67, esp. pp. 49-53 on these inscriptions, which fall into the following categories: names of enemy states, names of military leaders, names of military contingents, invocations to gods, recommendations addressed to the bullets, abuse addressed to the foe, and names of the artisans who fabricated the bullets. Before I became aware of Pritchett's exhaustive treatment of the subject, I discussed ancient slings here and quoted two of these of these inscriptions, which fall into the category "recommendations addressed to the bullets," from Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, I:I am also reminded of historical novelist Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957), who despised Franklin Delano Roosevelt so much that he glued Roosevelt dimes to his ashtrays, and took delight in grinding the ashes of his cigars into the image of Roosevelt's face.

Related posts:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Interrogation of Enemy Combatants

On the Greek side, Nestor calls for volunteers to spy on the Trojans (Iliad 10.204-217). Diomedes and Odysseus volunteer, arm themselves, and set forth (10.218-298).

On the Trojan side, Hector calls for volunteers to spy on the Greeks (10.299-312). Dolon volunteers, arms himself, and sets forth (10.313-337).

Diomedes and Odysseus catch sight of Dolon and capture him (10.338-377). Dolon begs to be spared and promises ransom (10.378-381). Odysseus reassures Dolon, tells him not to be afraid, and interrogates him (10.382-445).

But after Dolon tells all he knows, he is put to death (10.446-459, tr. Samuel Butler):
Diomed looked sternly at him and answered, "Think not, Dolon, for all the good information you have given us, that you shall escape now you are in our hands, for if we ransom you or let you go, you will come some second time to the ships of the Achaeans either as a spy or as an open enemy, but if I kill you and make an end of you, you will give no more trouble."

On this Dolon would have caught him by the beard to beseech him further, but Diomed struck him in the middle of his neck with his sword and cut through both sinews so that his head fell rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking. They took the ferret-skin cap from his head, and also the wolf-skin, the bow, and his long spear.

Monday, October 02, 2006



From Eddie Barnes, Composer damns happy-clappy din:
Trendy guitar-strumming folk groups are ruining church services by playing "embarrassing, maudlin and sentimental dirges", Scotland's leading classical composer has declared.

James MacMillan, who wrote the fanfare for the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, has described modern hymns as "excrescences" and called for a return to traditional chants and organ music.

A devout Catholic, MacMillan uses an article in a religious magazine this weekend to confess his despair of the "screaming microphones" and "incompetently strummed guitars and cringe-making, smiley, cheesy folk groups" which fill churches every Sunday.

He reserves particular venom for two well-known modern hymns, 'Bind Us Together, Lord' and 'Make Me a Channel Of Your Peace', the latter having even been recorded to popular acclaim by Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell.

MacMillan says the hymns amount to "cultural vandalism" and that a backlash against such groups is growing, with more church-goers demanding a return to the traditional music which filled churches before reforms of the 1960s.

He declared: "The church has simply aped the secular West's obsession with 'accessibility', 'inclusiveness', 'democracy' and 'anti-elitism'. The effect of this on liturgy has been a triumph of bad taste and banality and an apparent vacating of the sacred spaces of any palpable sense of the presence of God."
I changed "cheesy foil groups" in Barnes' article to "cheesy folk groups".


Forms of Address

Anu Garg, A.Word.A.Day (Oct. 2, 2006, abecedarian):
Millions around the globe will celebrate World Teachers' Day on October 5. Growing up in India, I came to regard my teachers with the highest respect. Kabir, a mystic poet in 15th century India, wrote in one of his couplets (in Hindi),
"Guru Govind dou khade, kaake laagoon paye
Balihari guru aapki, Govind diyo milaye."
I face both God and my guru. Who should I bow to first?
I first bow to my guru because he's the one who showed me the path to God.
The word guru is from Sanskrit via Hindi where its literal meaning is venerable or weighty. Ultimately the word is derived from the same Indo-European root that gave us the word gravity.

When I came to the US to attend graduate school, I was horrified to hear students addressing the professors by their names, even first names. Eventually, I persuaded myself to call my professors Dr. White or Dr. Kennedy but I could never address them Lee or Miles.
In other cultures pupils were once expected to show respect in a similar way, as the following examples show.

In Plautus' Bacchides, when the pedagogue Lydus discovers that his pupil Pistoclerus has been paying court to a prostitute, the following quarrel ensues (132-138):
LY. Now you've ruined me, yourself, and my effort.
To no avail did I often point out to you the correct way.
PI. I wasted my effort in the same place you wasted yours:
Your teaching is of no use to me or to you.
LY. O stubborn heart! PI. You annoy me.
Keep quiet and follow me, Lydus. LY. Just look,
Now he doesn't call me "pedagogue", but "Lydus".
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, I (The Book of Knowledge), Study of the Torah 5.5, translated by M. Hyamson (Jerusalem, 1965), p. 62 a:
A disciple is forbidden to call his teacher by name, even when the latter is not present. This rule only applies if the name is unusual, so that anyone hearing it knows who is meant. In his presence, the pupil must never mention his teacher's name, even if he desires to call another person who bears the same name; the same is the rule with his father's name.
M. Aberbach, "The Relations between Master and Disciple in the Talmudic Age," in Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday (London, 1967), pp. 1-24, puts the prohibition on naming in a wider context. Apparently this prohibition on naming has survived until modern times. According to H.M. Rabinowicz, Hasidim: The Movement and Its Masters (London, 1988), p. 125, the appellation "Holy Jew" (Yehudi HaKadosh) may have been given to Rabbi Jacob Isaac (1765-1814) of Przysucha because his master, the Seer of Lublin, was also Rabbi Jacob Isaac (1745-1814) and "rabbinic ruling forbids a disciple to call himself by the same name as his teacher". Rabinowicz (p. 413, n. 1) refers to that part of the Shulhan Arukh known as Yoreh De'ah, ccxlii, 15.

For more on this topic see my paper on Names and Titles in Forms of Address.


Dalrymple Watch

For fans of Theodore Dalrymple:

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Fog Everywhere

David Warren, Armies are offensive:
It is alleged, by former Lt. Gen. Mike DeLong, that Donald Rumsfeld once interrupted a briefing of his with the remark: “General, there was no verb in the last sentence.” The retired general gave this to CNN as evidence of Mr Rumsfeld’s obsession with trivial details.

Let me explain the U.S. defence secretary’s curious remark. A sentence without a verb has no meaning. It is a waste not only of the speaker’s breath, but of his auditor’s time. As Harry Truman once said, being stupid “is hardly against the law for a general”; but it is an inconvenience. And the inability to form sentences is not trivial.
Charles Dickens, Bleak House, chap. 1:
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes--gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls deified among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.


Says I To Myself

Henry David Thoreau, Journals (Nov. 11, 1851):
"Says I to myself" should be the motto of my journal.
"Says I to myself" should be the motto of my blog.

On similar expressions, see here.


Party On, Dude!

Henry David Thoreau, Journals (Nov. 14, 1851):
In the evening went to a party. It is a bad place to go to, - thirty or forty persons, mostly young women, in a small room, warm and noisy. Was introduced to two young women. The first one was as lively and loquacious as a chickadee; had been accustomed to the society of watering-places, and therefore could get no refreshment out of such a dry fellow as I. The other was said to be pretty-looking, but I rarely look people in their faces, and, moreover, I could not hear what she said, there was such a clacking, - could only see the motion of her lips when I looked that way. I could imagine better places for conversation, where there should be a certain degree of silence surrounding you, and less than forty talking at once.

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