Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Darn Your Books

Charles Dickens, Bleak House, chap. XXI:
"Don't you read, or get read to?"

The old man shakes his head with sharp sly triumph. "No, no. We have never been readers in our family. It don't pay. Stuff. Idleness. Folly. No, no!"
Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit, chap. XVI:
"We are a busy people, sir," said one of the captains, who was from the West, "and have no time for reading mere notions. We don't mind 'em if they come to us in newspapers along with almighty strong stuff of another sort, but darn your books."

Here the general, who appeared to grow quite faint at the bare thought of reading anything which was neither mercantile nor political, and was not in a newspaper, inquired "if any gentleman would drink some?"


Visio (Vissio) and Pedo Again

Aurelian Isaïcq writes:
Concerning your post of Tuesday, November 28, 2006 [Visio and Pedo], I have been wondering if visio isn’t so much obscure as merely relegated to specialized literature. It seems both noun and verb have been productive in various romance languages. The Diccionario etimologico rumano (Alejandro Cioranescu, 1958-66) gives the following parallels:

BEŞÍNĂ (-ni), n.f. – Vînt, pîrţ. – fart
Lat. *vĭssīna, fr. vĭssīre (Puşcariu 190; REW 9380; Candrea-Dens., 140; DAR);
cf. sard. pisina, calabr. vissina, sicil. bissino, cat. veixina, sp. bejin, astur. bixin (Corominas, I, 437).

BEŞÍ (BES), v. – to fart
Lat. vĭssīre (Puşcariu 186; REW 9382; Candrea-Dens., 138; DAR);
cf. it. viscia, it. bessa.

And the Trésor de la Langue Française [] gives:

VESSE, s.f.
1410-20 vesse « vent qui sort du corps sans bruit » (Miracle Ste Geneviève, éd. C. Sennewaldt, 2556); Déverbal de l'anc. verbe vessir (vesser*).

VESSER, v. intrans. péter.
1608 vesser « laisser échapper une vesse » (J. BAUDOUIN, Nouv. dict. fr.-lat. ds FEW t. 14, pp. 530b-531a). vessir est encore en usage dans de nombreux pat., v. FEW t. 14, p. 531a), lequel représente le lat. pop. vissire, de même sens, lat. class. visire.

In response to an email from me, Angelo Mercado of Sauvage Noble politely pooh-poohed (forgive the pun!) the idea that Latin visio was derived from the Indo-European root peis-:
Unfortunately, Latin vis- is not possible from peis-: Latin preserves *p-, as in pe:d- from *pesd-. The v- can come from *w- (or *gw- and other sources, but the details escape me). If the -i- in the root is short, it was likely *-i-; if it's long, then the length could be the residue of a contraction or deletion. The -s- between vowels strikes me as late; an ancient -s- would have turned into -r-. So, -s- may have resulted from two dentals *-tt- or *-dt-.

A likely candidate is PIE *wet- 'blow, inspire'

survived as *wo:t- in Latin va:te:s. Perhaps *wet-to- > *wes-, then suffixed to *wes-yo-. (Though I'm having difficulty explaining the *-e- to -i-.) If you have access (I don't at present) to Ernout-Meillet and Walde-Hofmann's etymological dictionaries, I'm pretty sure you can dig something up.

Steve at LanguageHat writes:
I was intrigued by your Cicero quote and checked my Oxford Latin Dictionary (now the standard, rendering good old L&S obsolete), where I found:

uissio ~ire, intr. [source of Fr. vesser, etc.; cogn. w. ON. fisa] to fart softly.

~IRE TACITE CHILON DOCVIT SVBDOLVS A. Epig. 41.6; (implied) non honestum uerbum est diuisio? at inest obscenum, cui respondet intercapedo Cic. Fam. 9.22.4.

Sneaky Chilon! Nice to know neither graffiti nor young male senses of humor have changed in the last couple of millennia.
This inscription from Ostia (published in L'Année Épigraphique 1941, 6) is one of a series in which the Seven Sages gave advice on how to behave in a public latrine. It may be translated "Sneaky Chilon taught how to fart silently."

Angelo Mercado remains skeptical:
Note that the OLD may be wrong in relating Latin vissio to Old Norse fisa. The sound correspondence doesn't work if the Latin comes from *w-. Old Norse has to come from *p-.

It seems right indeed that Cicero and Quintilian were thinking of vissio; the double -ss- is a possible outcome for *-dt- or *-tt-.

But further mucking around in the Lexicon der indogermanischen Verben, I don't think *wet- withstands scrutiny.

The Latin verb could easily be onomatopoetic, too!

Antonio Vasconcelos de Saldanha writes:
I read with the usual attention your most curious and erudite post on "visio and pedo". Following my previous e-mail on the survival of classic obscenities in modern Portuguese and Spanish languages, let me add that a very popular (and clearly rude) word for "fart" in Portuguese is "peido"; the origin is obvious, and perhaps closer to its Latin ancestor than the French "pet". Still in the field of obscenities, the similar (rude) word for buttock (similar to "cu", from "culum") is "peida" (from Latin "podex"?).

Thanks to all for the illuminating comments!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Visio and Pedo

Some censorware programs erroneously reject web pages because the programs misinterpret innocent series of letters as obscenities. There is a curious parallel to this phenomenon in Cicero, Ad Familiares 9.22.4 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
So we utter obscenities when we use respectable words. Take 'divisio'. A respectable word, wouldn't you say? But it contains an obscenity, just like 'intercapedo'.

igitur in verbis honestis obscena ponimus. quid enim? non honestum verbum est divisio? at inest obscenum, cui respondet intercapedo.
Cf. Quintilian 8.3.46 (discussing κακέμφατον, tr. H. E. Butler):
A similar offence against modesty may be caused by the division of words, as, for example, by the use of the nominative of intercapedinis.

sed divisio quoque adfert eandem iniuriam pudori, ut si intercapedinis nominativo casu quis utatur.
Butler's translation of Quintilian seems incorrect, when considered in the light of the Ciceronian passage. More accurate might be "But divisio also causes the same offense against modesty, as if someone were to use the nominative case of intercapedo."

The only commentary available to me on Cicero's letters is by Tyrrell and Purser, who say:
divisio]: suggests visio = flatum ventris emitto, just as intercapedo in the nominative suggests pedo.
The Latin verb pedo means "break wind". But visio as a verb with the meaning flatum ventris emitto (send forth a blast of wind) doesn't seem to occur in the Latin Dictionary by Lewis & Short. I do find:
visĭum , ii, n. [Gr. βδέσμα],
I. a stench: βδέσμα, visio, Gloss.
Calvert Watkins' Indo-European Roots, published as an appendix to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, has the following entries of interest:
peis-.2 To blow. 1. Germanic *fis- in old Norse fisa, to fart, akin to the Scandinavian source of Middle English fise, fart: FIZGIG. 2. Germanic *fisti- in Old English *fistan, to fart (attested only in the gerund fisting): FEIST (FIZZLE). [Pok. 2. peis- 796.]

perd-. To fart. Germanic *fertan, *fartan in Old English *feortan, to fart: FART. 2. Greek perdix, partridge (which makes a sharp whirring sound when suddenly flushed): PARTRIDGE. See also variant root pezd-. [Pok. perd- 819.]

pezd-. To fart. Variant of perd-. 1. Latin pēdere, to fart: PETARD. 2. Possibly Latin pēdis, louse (? < "foul-smelling insect"): PEDICULAR. [Pok. pezd- 829.]
Pok. is a reference to Julius Pokorny's Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. I'm way out of my element here, but I wonder if the obscure Latin visio or visium could possibly be derived from the Indo-European root peis-. Pokorny s.v. peis- mentions some words starting with v-, such as Dutch veest meaning fart.

On a related note, proto-Indo-European apparently had separate words for breaking wind loudly versus silently. For details, see Loud vs Silent by LanguageHat and O rem ridiculam! by Sauvage Noble.

Anatoly Liberman, "Gone with the Wind: More Thoughts on Medieval Farting," Scandinavian Studies 68 (1996) 98-104, discusses on p. 100 the question of loudness versus softness:
A big fart was associated with great strength. Witches in folktales farted to raise a storm. Conversely, the inability to break wind with a loud noise marked one off as a weakling. The most offensive word is físa 'make a weak fart'; consequently, it was much better to be a fretr 'farter' and even a meinfretr 'poisonous farter, stinker' than a físs. German Pimpf 'little (inexperienced) boy' is someone who cannot produce a good manly Pumpf 'fart'.
Liberman's mention of Pumpf reminds me of the word pumpernickel. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language derives pumpernickel from
German Pumpernickel: early New High German Pumpern, a fart (imitative) + Nickel, "devil," general pejorative (see nickel); so named from being hard to digest.
For similarly named pastries cf. pets-de-nonne (nun's farts) and also H.L. Mencken, Happy Days: 1880-1892 (1936; rpt. New York: Knopf, 1968), pp. 135-136:
The humor of the young bourgeoisie males of Baltimore, in those days, was predominantly skatological, and there was no sign of the revolting sexual obsession that Freudians talk of. The favorite jocosities had to do with horse apples, O.E.A. wagons and small boys who lost control of their sphincters at parties or in Sunday school; when we began to spend our summers in the country my brother and I also learned the comic possibilities of cow flops. Even in the city a popular ginger-and-cocoanut cake, round in contour and selling for a cent, was called a cow flop, and little girls were supposed to avoid it, at least in the presence of boys.

Monday, November 27, 2006


A Private Epiphany

Homer, Iliad 1.193-198 (tr. A.T. Murray, emphasis added):
While he pondered thus in mind and heart, and was drawing from its sheath his great sword, Athene came from heaven, sent forth of the goddess, white-armed Hera, for in her heart she loved them both alike and had care of them. She took her stand behind him, and caught the son of Peleus by his golden hair, making herself to be seen by him alone, and of the rest no man beheld her.

ἧος ὃ ταῦθ᾿ ὥρμαινε κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν,
ἕλκετο δ᾿ ἐκ κολεοῖο μέγα ξίφος, ἦλθε δ᾿ Ἀθήνη
οὐρανόθεν· πρὸ γὰρ ἧκε θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη
ἄμφω ὁμῶς θυμῷ φιλέουσά τε κηδομένη τε·
στῆ δ᾿ ὄπιθεν, ξανθῆς δὲ κόμης ἕλε Πηλεΐωνα
οἴῳ φαινομένη· τῶν δ᾿ ἄλλων οὔ τις ὁρᾶτο.
Related posts:


Odysseus, Frodo, and James Bond

Yesterday I read the first five chapters of Robert Bittlestone, Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer's Ithaca (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). One thesis of the book is that "Homer wanted his Ithacan listeners to identify with these stories by basing them on actual locations that were personally known to them" (p. 20). Bittlestone (pp. 14-15) contrasts Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, in which everything is invented, including the topography, with Ian Fleming's Bond stories, in which the hero performs his fictional feats amid geographically accurate locations. In this respect, suggests Bittlestone, Odysseus is more like James Bond than Frodo.

Sunday, November 26, 2006



Plutarch, Life of Fabius Maximus 10.1-2 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
His attitude was like that of Diogenes the philosopher, who when he was once told, 'The people are mocking you', retorted 'But I am not mocked', meaning that the only people who really suffer ridicule are those who allow it to influence them and are put out by it. So Fabius endured these vexations calmly and without stress, in so far as they concerned him personally, thus confirming the truth of the philosophical maxim that a truly good man can neither be insulted nor disgraced.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Tom Tulliver Learns Latin

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Book II (School-Time), chap. I (Tom's "First-Half"):
Tom Tulliver, being abundant in no form of speech, did not use any metaphor to declare his views as to the nature of Latin; he never called it an instrument of torture; and it was not until he had got on some way in the next half-year, and in the Delectus, that he was advanced enough to call it a "bore" and "beastly stuff." At present, in relation to this demand that he should learn Latin declensions and conjugations, Tom was in a state of as blank unimaginativeness concerning the cause and tendency of his sufferings, as if he had been an innocent shrewmouse imprisoned in the split trunk of an ash-tree in order to cure lameness in cattle. It is doubtless almost incredible to instructed minds of the present day that a boy of twelve, not belonging strictly to "the masses," who are now understood to have the monopoly of mental darkness, should have had no distinct idea how there came to be such a thing as Latin on this earth; yet so it was with Tom. It would have taken a long while to make conceivable to him that there ever existed a people who bought and sold sheep and oxen, and transacted the every-day affairs of life, through the medium of this language; and still longer to make him understand why he should be called upon to learn it, when its connection with those affairs had become entirely latent. So far as Tom had gained any acquaintance with the Romans at Mr. Jacob's academy, his knowledge was strictly correct, but it went no farther than the fact that they were "in the New Testament"; and Mr. Stelling was not the man to enfeeble and emasculate his pupil's mind by simplifying and explaining, or to reduce the tonic effect of etymology by mixing it with smattering, extraneous information, such as is given to girls.

It did occur to him that he could perhaps get some help by praying for it; but as the prayers he said every evening were forms learned by heart, he rather shrank from the novelty and irregularity of introducing an extempore passage on a topic of petition for which he was not aware of any precedent. But one day, when he had broken down, for the fifth time, in the supines of the third conjugation, and Mr. Stelling, convinced that this must be carelessness, since it transcended the bounds of possible stupidity, had lectured him very seriously, pointing out that if he failed to seize the present golden opportunity of learning supines, he would have to regret it when he became a man, -- Tom, more miserable than usual, determined to try his sole resource; and that evening, after his usual form of prayer for his parents and "little sister" (he had begun to pray for Maggie when she was a baby), and that he might be able always to keep God's commandments, he added, in the same low whisper, "and please to make me always remember my Latin."


Knowledge and Wisdom

William Cowper, The Task (The Winter Walk at Noon, 88-108):
Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have ofttimes no connection. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass,
The mere materials with which wisdom builds,
Till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place,
Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich.
Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much,
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.
Books are not seldom talismans and spells
By which the magic art of shrewder wits
Holds an unthinking multitude enthralled.
Some to the fascination of a name
Surrender judgment hoodwinked. Some the style
Infatuates, and, through labyrinths and wilds
Of error, leads them by a tune entranced.
While sloth seduces more, too weak to bear
The insupportable fatigue of thought,
And swallowing therefore without pause or choice
The total grist unsifted, husks and all.

Friday, November 17, 2006


A Heathen Lament

Friedrich Schiller, Nänie (Lament, tr. Leonard Forster):

Even beauty has to die; what overcomes men and gods does not move the iron breast of the Zeus of the Styx. Only once did love soften the ruler of the shades, and even then he sternly called back his gift at the very threshold. Aphrodite cannot cure the lovely boy of the wound the boar savagely ripped in his delicate flesh. When the god-like hero falls at the Scaean gate and falling fulfills his destiny, his immortal mother cannot save him; but she rises from the sea with all the daughters of Nereus, and laments her glorified son. Look, the gods are weeping and all the goddesses too, weeping that beauty must pass, that perfect things must die. There is splendor even in this — to be a lament in the mouths of those we loved, for what has no distinction goes down to Orcus unsung.

Auch das Schöne muss sterben! Das Menschen und Götter bezwinget,
  Nicht die eherne Brust rührt es des stygischen Zeus.
Einmal nur erweichte die Liebe den Schattenbeherrscher,
  Und an der schwelle noch, streng, rief er zurück sein Geschenk.
Nicht stillt Aphrodite dem schönen Knaben die Wunde,
  Die in den zierlichen Leib grausam der Eber geritzt.
Nicht errettet den göttlichen Held die unsterbliche Mutter,
  Wenn er, am skäischen Tor fallend, sein Schicksal erfüllt.
Aber sie steigt aus dem Meer mit allen Töchtern des Nereus,
  Und die Klage hebt an um den verherrlichten Sohn.
Siehe! Da weinen die Götter, es weinen die Göttinnen alle,
  Dass das Schöne vergeht, dass das Vollkommene stirbt.
Auch ein Klaglied zu sein im Mund der Geliebten, ist herrlich,
  Denn das Gemeine geht klanglos zum Orkus hinab.

Schiller refers obliquely to three Greek myths:
  1. "Only once did love soften the ruler of the shades, and even then he sternly called back his gift at the very threshold." This is a reference to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Apollodorus 1.3.2 (tr. J.G. Frazer): "And when his wife Eurydice died, bitten by a snake, he went down to Hades, being fain to bring her up, and he persuaded Pluto to send her up. The god promised to do so, if on the way Orpheus would not turn round until he should be come to his own house. But he disobeyed and turning round beheld his wife; so she turned back."
  2. Adonis is "the lovely boy" whom "Aphrodite cannot cure ... of the wound the boar savagely ripped in his delicate flesh." The goddess of love, Aphrodite, loved Adonis, who was killed by a boar while hunting. See Ovid, Metamorphoses 10; Bion's Lament for Adonis; etc.
  3. Achilles is the "god-like hero" who "falls at the Scaean gate" of Troy, and "his immortal mother" who "cannot save him" is the sea-goddess Thetis. Homer, Iliad 9.410-416 (tr. A.T. Murray): "For my mother the goddess, silver-footed Thetis, telleth me that two-fold fates are bearing me toward the doom of death: if I abide here and war about the city of the Trojans, then lost is my home-return, but my renown shall be imperishable; but if I return home to my dear native land, lost then is my glorious renown, yet shall my life long endure, neither shall the doom of death come soon upon me." Achilles chose death with renown in battle at Troy.
Brahms set Schiller's poem to music in Nänie (opus 82, for chorus and orchestra), written in memory of his dead friend, the painter Anselm Feuerbach. Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), p. 464, writes:
In search of a text that would suit the neoclassicist Feuerbach, Brahms had happened on the verses after begging Lisl von Herzogenberg, "Won't you try to find me some words? ... The ones in the Bible are not heathen enough for me. I've bought the Koran but I can't find anything there either." The text he finally found is an evocation of the pagan and Classical world, a dirge once tragic and serene .... Perhaps no one but Brahms, with his constitutional reserve masking a feeling soul, could have set "Even the beautiful must die!" to a gently lilting, D major soprano melody that captures the sorrow of death and transcends it in the singing.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Men and Gods

Pindar, Nemean Odes 6.1-7 (tr. Henry David Thoreau):
One the race of men and of gods;
And from one mother
We all breathe.
But quite different power
Divides us, so that the one is nothing,
But the brazen heaven remains always
A secure abode. Yet in some respects we are related,
Either in mighty mind or form, to the Immortals;
Although not knowing
To what resting place
By day or night, Fate has written that we shall run.
The same (tr. Ernest Myers):
One race there is of men and one of gods, but from one mother draw we both our breath, yet is the strength of us diverse altogether, for the race of man is as nought, but the brazen heaven abideth, a habitation steadfast unto everlasting. Yet withal have we somewhat in us like unto the immortals' bodily shape or mighty mind, albeit we know not what course hath Destiny marked out for us to run, neither in the daytime, neither in the night.
The same (tr. C.M. Bowra):
Single is the race, single
Of men and of gods;
From a single mother we both draw breath.
But a difference of power in everything
Keeps us apart;
For one is as nothing, but the brazen sky
Stays a fixt habitation for ever.
Yet we can in greatness of mind
Or of body be like the Immortals,
Though we know not to what goal
By day or in the nights
Fate has written that we shall run.
The same (tr. G.S. Conway):
The race of men and of the gods is one.
  For from one mother have we both
    The life we breathe.
  And yet the whole discrete endowment
    Of power sets us apart;
For man is naught, but the bronze vault of heaven
Remains forever a throne immutable.
  Nevertheless some likeness still
May we with the immortals claim, whether
Of mind's nobility or body's grace,
  Though knowing not to what goal
Has destiny, by day or through the night,
  Marked out for us to run.
The same (tr. William H. Race):
There is one race of men, another of gods; but from one mother
we both draw our breath. Yet the allotment of a wholly
different power separates us, for the one race is nothing,
  whereas the bronze heaven remains a secure abode
forever. Nevertheless, we do somewhat resemble
the immortals, either in greatness of mind or bodily nature,
although we do not know
  by day or in the night
what course destiny
has marked for us to run.
The Greek original:
ἓν ἀνδρῶν, ἓν θεῶν γένος: ἐκ μιᾶς δὲ πνέομεν
ματρὸς ἀμφότεροι: διείργει δὲ πᾶσα κεκριμένα
δύναμις, ὡς τὸ μὲν οὐδέν, ὁ δὲ
  χάλκεος ἀσφαλὲς αἰὲν ἕδος
μένει οὐρανός. ἀλλά τι προσφέρομεν ἔμπαν ἢ μέγαν
νόον ἤτοι φύσιν ἀθανάτοις,
καίπερ ἐφαμερίαν οὐκ
  εἰδότες οὐδὲ μετὰ νύκτας
ἄμμε πότμος
οἵαν τιν' ἔγραψε δραμεῖν ποτὶ στάθμαν.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


The Social Fruit

John Burroughs, Winter Sunshine, VII (The Apple):
Emerson, I believe, has spoken of the apple as the social fruit of New England. Indeed, what a promoter or abettor of social intercourse among our rural population the apple has been, the company growing more merry and unrestrained as soon as the basket of apples was passed round!
But the apple failed to promote or abet social intercourse among the company at Emerson's house during the soiree described by Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau (1970; rpt. New York: Dover, 1982), p. 174:
Emerson, delighted to have so many stimulating young men gathered around him, decided in the fall of 1844 to organize a weekly discussion group, which was to meet Monday evenings in his library. Alcott, Hawthorne, Thoreau, George Bradford, the Curtis brothers, and Channing were all invited to attend. The first Monday evening there was an uneasy silence as though, as George Curtis recalls, each were asking, "Who will now proceed to say the finest thing that has ever been said?" Finally Alcott made one of his most orphic sayings. Silence. Thoreau made a brief observation. More silence. Emerson beamed and said nothing. Hawthorne shrunk further into the shadowed corner of the room. Finally a bowl of apples was brought in and each munched in silence. When the end of the long evening came, each disappeared his own way into the darkness. Two more Monday evenings they assembled but with no more success.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Theodore Dalrymple

More essays by the good doctor:Here is a sample from the essay on Doctor Johnson:
Johnson is an unusual writer, in that he is far greater than the sum of his parts. For all the excellence of Rasselas, Johnson is not among the greatest imaginative writers of English literature; only a few lines of his poetry are now remembered; his essays, though vastly more self-analytically honest and morally useful than anything Freud wrote, do not appeal to an age that prefers psychobabble to true reflection, and in which self-exculpation is de rigueur.


Human Life

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, First Period, chap. XV:
'This is a miserable world,' says the Sergeant. 'Human life, Mr Betteredge, is a sort of target — misfortune is always firing at it, and always hitting the mark.'

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Rudeness on Horseback

About ten days ago, I quoted Poggio's Facetiae 136. In the back of my mind was a classical parallel to the Cardinal of Tricarico's rude behavior, which I've been trying to recall ever since. Finally it came to me. Herodotus 2.162.3 (tr. A.D. Godley) tells the story:
When Apries heard of it, he sent against Amasis an esteemed Egyptian named Patarbemis, one of his own court, instructing him to take the rebel alive and bring him into his presence. When Patarbemis came and summoned Amasis, Amasis (who was on horseback) rose up and farted, telling the messenger to take that back to Apries.

πυθόμενος δὲ ταῦτα ὁ Ἀπρίης ἔπεμπε ἐπ᾽ Ἄμασιν ἄνδρα δόκιμον τῶν περὶ ἑωυτὸν Αἰγυπτίων, τῷ οὔνομα ἦν Πατάρβημις, ἐντειλάμενος αὐτῷ ζῶντα Ἄμασιν ἀγαγεῖν παρ᾽ ἑωυτόν. ὡς δὲ ἀπικόμενος τὸν Ἄμασιν ἐκάλεε ὁ Πατάρβημις, ὁ Ἄμασις, ἔτυχε γὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἵππου κατήμενος, ἐπαείρας ἀπεματάισε, καὶ τοῦτό μιν ἐκέλευε Ἀπρίῃ ἀπάγειν.
Rising up from one's seat prior to breaking wind seems to be a widespread custom.


Theopompus: Asyndetic, Privative Adjectives

I. Bekker, Anecdota Graeca 401.16:
Without force. Theopompus:
  Without breath, without sinews, without strength, without force.

ἀνέντατος· Θεόπομπος·
  ἄπνους, ἄνευρος, ἀσθενής, ἀνέντατος.
Related posts:

Saturday, November 11, 2006


An Attic Idiom Again

Professor David Whitehead wrote about An Attic Idiom:
Wycherley's version of that passage from Pollux omitted (perhaps because its precise wording is textually uncertain) perhaps the most interesting item in Eupolis's list: 'ta biblia'. LSJ recognises ta biblia only as meaning (in a passage of Dio Chrysostom) a library, but here it seems bound to mean a cluster of bookstalls (and/or stationers -- but that may be a distinction without a difference: so F.D.Harvey, 'Literacy in the Athenian Democracy', Revue des Etudes Grecques 79 (1966) 585-635, at 634 n.8).
I've combined the translations of Pollux by Wycherley and by John Maxwell Edmonds, The Fragments of Attic Comedy, vol. I (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1957), p. 419, as follows:
Among the public features of a city are the book-repositories, or as Eupolis says 'where books are for sale' or simply 'the books'; for the Attic writers called the place where they were sold just 'books' as they called other places after the after the things sold there; for instance they might say, 'I went off to the wine, the olive oil, the pots'; or again in the words of Eupolis, 'I went around to the garlic and the onions and the incense, and straight around to the perfume.'
Here is a transcription of the Pollux passage (9.47) from the old Bekker edition, which I found via Google Book Search:
ἓν δὲ τῶν κοινῶν καὶ βιβλιοθῆκαι, ἢ ὡς Εὔπολις φησιν "οὗ τὰ βιβλ᾽ ὤνια," καὶ αὐτὸ ἐφ᾽ αὑτοῦ· οὕτω γὰρ τὸν τόπον οὗ τὰ βιβλία οἱ Ἀττικοὶ ὠνόμαζον, ὥσπερ καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους τόπους ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς πιπρασκομένων, ὡς εἰ φαῖεν "ἀπῆλθον ἐς τοὖψον καὶ ἐς τὸν οἶνον καὶ ἐς τοὔλαιον καὶ ἐς τὰς χύτρας," καὶ κατὰ τὸν Εὔπολιν

περιῆλθον εἰς τὰ σκόροδα καὶ τὰ κρόμμυα
καὶ τὸν λιβανωτόν, κεὐθὺ τῶν ἀρωμάτων.
The Dio Chrysostom passage is 37.8 (to the Corinthians, tr. H. Lamar Crosby):
You did have a likeness made of me, and you took this and set it up in your Library.

ἀλλά γε τὴν εἰκὼ τοῦ σώματος ἐποιήσασθε καὶ ταύτην φέροντες ἀνεθήκατε εἰς τὰ βιβλία.
I adduced Catullus 55.3-5 (tr. F.W. Cornish) as a parallel to "books" meaning "place where books are sold":
I have looked for you in the lesser Campus, in the Circus, in all the booksellers' shops [literally, in all the books], in the hallowed temple of great Jove.

te Campo quaesivimus minore,
te in Circo, te in omnibus libellis,
te in templo summi Iovis sacrato.
Professor Whitehead replied:
By an odd coincidence, I see, there's textual uncertainty in Catullus 55.4 too: Lewis & Short say '(dub.; al. labellis)'.
D.F.S. Thomson in his critical apparatus doesn't mention labellis (baths). He prints:
libellis] ligellis B. Guarinus, tabernis Ald., tabellis Scaliger.
Commentators on Catullus also cite Martial 5.20.8-10 (tr. Walter C.A. Ker):
But the promenade, the lounges, the bookshops, the plain, the colonnades, the garden's shade, the Virgin water, the warm baths -- these should be our haunts always, these our tasks.

sed gestatio, fabulae, libelli,
campus, porticus, umbra, Virgo, thermae,
haec essent loca semper, hi labores.


This Long Disease, My Life

Adolf Erman, ed. The Ancient Egyptians: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, tr. Aylward M. Blackman (1927; rpt. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966), p. 91:
Death is before me to-day
As when a sick man becometh whole,
As when one walketh abroad after sickness.
Erman (p. 86, n. 1) gives the source as "A Berlin papyrus of the Middle Kingdom ... edited by me in Abh. der Berliner Akademie in 1896."

Related posts:



Gore Vidal, Julian (1962; rpt. New York: Modern Library, 1984), chap. IV:
As long as I could read, I was never entirely wretched.


Children of Homer

Gore Vidal, Julian (1962; rpt. New York: Modern Library, 1984), chap. VI:
"But I am surprised that you are interested in old monuments."

"I am a child of Homer."

"So is every educated man."

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The World

E.B. White, Letter to Carrie A. Wilson (May 1, 1951):
If the vexatious world of people were the whole world, I would not enjoy it at all. But it is only a small, though noisy, part of the whole; and I find the natural world as engaging and as innocent as it ever was. When I get sick of what men do, I have only to walk a few steps in another direction to see what spiders do. Or what the weather does. This sustains me very well, and I have no complaints.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


An Attic Idiom

R.E. Wycherley, The Stones of Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. 93:
What struck the ancient commentators most was the way in which the names of the various commodities were used for the places in which they were sold. Enumerating the parts of a city, Pollux says:
The Attic writers named places after the things sold there; for instance they might say, "I went off to the wine, the olive oil, the pots"; or again in the words of Eupolis, "I went around to the garlic and the onions and the incense, and straight around to the perfume."9
99.47-48; Edmonds FAC I 418.
Aristophanes, Wasps 788-789 (tr. anon.):
He received a drachma for the two of us and went on the fish-market [literally, on the fish] to get it changed.

δραχμὴν μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ πρώην λαβὼν / ἐλθὼν διεκερματίζετ᾽ ἐν τοῖς ἰχθύσιν.
Douglas M. MacDowell ad loc.:
It is an Attic idiom to use the names of goods sold for the places where they are sold; cf. Frogs 1068 περὶ τοὺς ἰχθῦς, Antiphanes 125 ἐν τοῖς ἰχθύσι, and for other instances with other types of goods Clouds 1065, Birds 13, Lys. 557, Ek. 303, Eupolis 304, Lys. 23.6, D. 19.245, Thphr. Char. 11.4. The existence of the idiom proves that in the Agora shops or stalls selling the same kind of goods were grouped together.
Here are some of the passages cited by MacDowell:

Lysias 23.6-7 (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
Well, they were all ignorant of his name, but they told me that I should get the most definite information if I went to the fresh-cheese market [literally, to the green cheese] on the last day of the month: for on that day in each month the Plataeans gathered there. So I went on that day to the cheese market [literally, to the cheese] and enquired of the people if they knew a certain Pancleon, their fellow-citizen.

πάντες οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, ἀκριβέστατα ἂν ἔφασάν με πυθέσθαι ἐλθόντα εἰς τὸν χλωρὸν τυρὸν τῇ ἕνῃ καὶ νέα: ταύτῃ γὰρ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ μηνὸς ἑκάστου ἐκεῖσε συλλέγεσθαι τοὺς Πλαταιέας. ἐλθὼν οὖν εἰς τὸν τυρὸν ταύτῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐπυνθανόμην αὐτῶν, εἴ τινα γιγνώσκοιεν Παγκλέωνα πολίτην σφέτερον.
Theophrastus, Characters 11.4 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
When the market-place is full, he will go up to the place where nuts or myrtleberries or fruits are sold [literally, to the nuts or the myrtleberries or the fruits], and stand munching while he chatters to the seller.

καὶ πληθούσης τῆς ἀγορᾶς προσελθὼν πρὸς τὰ κάρυα ἢ τὰ μύρτα ἢ τὰ ἀκρόδρυα ἑστηκὼς τραγηματίζεσθαι, ἅμα τῷ πωλοῦντι προσλαλῶν.


Dalrymple Watch

Here are some recent essays and reviews by Theodore Dalrymple:In the review of the biography of R.S. Thomas, Dalrymple quotes one of Thomas' poems, written in a Luddite vein:
Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil;
He is a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal, and his blood oil.
The clutch curses, but the gears obey
His least bidding, and lo, he's away
Out of the farmyard, scattering hens.
Riding to work now as a great man should,
He is the knight at arms breaking the fields'
Mirror of silence, emptying the wood
Of foxes and squirrels and bright jays.
The sun comes over the tall trees
Kindling all the hedges, but not for him
Who runs his engine on a different fuel.
And all the birds are singing, bills wide in vain,
As Cynddylan passes proudly up the lane.
Thomas was apparently a Luddite not just in words, but also in his actions. According to Dalrymple's review, he lived in an unheated cottage in Wales with few modern conveniences.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Election Day

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. (1783, aetat. 74):
Johnson, for sport perhaps, or from the spirit of contradiction, eagerly maintained that Derrick had merit as a writer. Mr. Morgann argued with him directly, in vain. At length he had recourse to this device. 'Pray, Sir, (said he,) whether do you reckon Derrick or Smart the best poet?' Johnson at once felt himself roused; and answered, 'Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.'
Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers, Chap. XIII:
'Slumkey for ever!' roared the honest and independent.

'Slumkey for ever!' echoed Mr Pickwick, taking off his hat.

'No Fizkin!' roared the crowd.

'Certainly not!' shouted Mr Pickwick.

'Hurrah!' And then there was another roaring, like that of a whole menagerie when the elephant has rung the bell for the cold meat.

'Who is Slumkey?' whispered Mr Tupman.

'I don't know,' replied Mr Pickwick, in the same tone. 'Hush. Don't ask any questions. It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.'

'But suppose there are two mobs?' suggested Mr Snodgrass.

'Shout with the largest,' replied Mr Pickwick.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Horace in the Holy Caves of India

Simon Winchester, In the Holy Caves of India (The New York Times, Nov. 5, 2006), on Captain John Smith of the Madras Army:
He clambered up the cliff and into the first cave: he found "a foetid smell arising from numerous bats ... the remains of a recent fire ... the entire skeleton of a man ... prints of the feet of tigers, jackals, bears, monkeys, peacocks etc., impressed into the dust formed by the plaster of the fresco paintings which had fallen from the ceiling." He reached a safe spot to sit in the sun, and there, gazing out over the river, he smoked a bidi and found himself moved — for seemingly he was an educated man — to quote Horace, the ode that begins "quae non imber edax non aquilo impotens ..." — "cannot be destroyed by gnawing rain or wild north wind, by the procession of unnumbered years or by the flight of time."
No ode of Horace begins with the words "quae non imber edax non aquilo impotens." Captain Smith was thinking of Ode 3.30, which starts as follows:
Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo inpotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
Hat tip: Jim K.


Perusing Catullus

David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, Part I, Essay XX (Of Simplicity and Refinement in Writing):
Each line, each word in Catullus, has its merit; and I am never tired with the perusal of him.


The Imperative Mood

Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Book II, chap. 12:
In the grammar of Mrs Merdle's verbs on this momentous subject, there was only one mood, the Imperative; and that Mood had only one Tense, the Present. Mrs Merdle's verbs were so pressingly presented to Mr Merdle to conjugate, that his sluggish blood and his long coat-cuffs became quite agitated.
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit,Book II, chap. 32:
'Is any gentleman present,' said Mr Pancks, breaking off and looking round, 'acquainted with the English Grammar?'

Bleeding Heart Yard was shy of claiming that acquaintance.

'It's no matter,' said Mr Pancks, 'I merely wish to remark that the task this Proprietor has set me, has been never to leave off conjugating the Imperative Mood Present Tense of the verb To keep always at it. Keep thou always at it. Let him keep always at it. Keep we or do we keep always at it. Keep ye or do ye or you keep always at it. Let them keep always at it.'

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Bee Palmer's Shoulders

Yesterday I quoted Keat's sonnet On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer. Franklin P. Adams wrote a parody of Keats, entitled On First Looking into Bee Palmer's Shoulders. Bee Palmer (1894-1967) was a jazz singer known as the Shimmy Queen.
On First Looking into Bee Palmer's Shoulders
["The World's Most Famous Shoulders"]

"Then I felt 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."

"BEE" PALMER has taken the raw human — all too human — stuff of the underworld, with its sighs of sadness and regret, its mad merriment, its swift blaze of passion, its turbulent dances, its outlaw music, its songs of the social bandit, and made a new art product of the theatre. She is to the sources of jazz and the blues what François Villon was to the wild life of Paris. Both have found exquisite blossoms of art in the sector of life most removed from the concert room and the boudoir, and their harvest has the vigour, the resolute life, the stimulating quality, the indelible impress of daredevil, care-free, do-as-you-please lives of the picturesque men and women who defy convention.
— From Keith's Press Agent.

Much have I travell'd in the realms of jazz,
And many goodly arms and shoulders seen
Quiver and Quake — if you know what I mean;
I've seen a lot, as everybody has.
Some plaudits got, while others got the razz.
But when I saw Bee Palmer, shimmy queen,
I shook — in sympathy — my troubled bean,
And said, "This is the utter razmatazz."

Then felt I like some patient with a pain
When a new surgeon swims into his ken,
Or like stout Brodie, when, with reeling brain,
He jumped into the river. There and then
I swayed and took the morning train
To Norwalk, Naugatuck, and Darien.
Steve Brodie (1863-1901) supposedly jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River. Naugatuck, Norwalk, and Darien are cities in Connecticut, stops on the commuter rail line.


Old Morality

Sir Thomas Browne, Christian Morals, Part I, Sect. XII:
Live by old Ethicks and the classical Rules of Honesty. Put no new names or notions upon Authentick Virtues & Vices. Think not that Morality is Ambulatory; that Vices in one age are not Vices in another; or that Virtues, which are under the everlasting Seal of right Reason, may be Stamped by Opinion. And therefore though vicious times invert the opinions of things, and set up a new Ethicks against Virtue, yet hold thou unto old Morality; & rather than follow a multitude to do evil, stand like Pompey's Pillar conspicuous by thy self, and single in Integrity.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Blood for the Ghosts

John Keats, On First Looking into Chapman's Homer:
Much have I travell'd 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-brow'd 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
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise —
  Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Chapman is George Chapman (1559-1634). Probably few look into Chapman's Homer these days. His translation of the Iliad isn't even available on the World Wide Web, so far as I can tell, although his translation of the Odyssey is. I bought his Iliad translation for a dollar at a used bookshop yesterday, edited by Adam Roberts (Ware: Wordsworth, 2003). In the introduction (pp. xii-xiii), Roberts writes:
Chapman did not sit down with a bald Greek text and translate into English; instead he used the edition of Homer edited by Jean de Sponde, a sixteenth-century French scholar often known by his Latinised name 'Johannes Spondanus'. Spondanus prints the Greek text alongside a line-by-line Latin translation by Andreas Divus, and adds (also in Latin) extensive commentaries upon the poem to show its moral qualities. In addition to this edition, Chapman possessed a Greek-to-Latin dictionary, the Lexicon assembled by Johannes Scapula. Scholars have demonstrated how fully Chapman relied upon these Latin renditions of the Greek text, and F.L. Schoell has suggested that 'Chapman n'a pas traduit un seul vers grec sans verifier le sens d'un ou de plusieurs mots dans son dictionnaire' ('Chapman did not translate a single line of Greek verse without checking the sense of one or several words in Divus's Lexicon', quoted in Lord, p. 25). Against this rather reductive view of Chapman's perspective we need to set his own vigorously phrased insistence that those who make the accusation that 'I turn Homer out of the Latin only etc.' are all 'envious windfuckers' ('Preface to the Reader', Nicoll, p. 17).
Andreas Divus' Latin translation of Homer is unavailable on the World Wide Web. About a hundred years ago Ezra Pound picked up a copy of Divus' translation of the Odyssey on a Paris quai. One recently went on sale for $8500, a bit out of my price range. But Hugh Kenner, in The Pound Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), reproduces on pp. 352-353 the beginning of Book 11 of the Odyssey in Divus' translation. Pound's first Canto contains a translation into English of some of Divus' Latin, followed by the comment:
Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.
Below are (1) George Chapman's translation of Homer, Odyssey 11.20-50; (2) my modernized transcription of Andreas Divus' Latin translation of the same lines; (3) Ezra Pounds' translation (from his first Canto) of Andreas Divus' Latin; and (4) the original Greek. The speaker, Odysseus, is following Circe's instructions for returning home, by getting directions from Tiresias in the underworld. The ghosts inhabiting the underworld are attracted by blood, so Odysseus sacrifices some animals to draw them near.

Here drew we up our ship, our sheep withdrew,
And walk'd the shore till we attain'd the view
Of that sad region Circe had foreshow'd;
And then the sacred offerings to be vow'd
Eurylochus and Persimedes bore.
When I my sword drew, and earth's womb did gore
Till I a pit digg'd of a cubit round,
Which with the liquid sacrifice we crown'd,
First honey mix'd with wine, then sweet wine neat,
Then water pour'd in, last the flour of wheat.
Much I importuned then the weak-neck'd dead,
And vow'd, when I the barren soil should tread
Of cliffy Ithaca, amidst my hall
To kill a heifer, my clear best of all,
And give in off'ring, on a pile composed
Of all the choice goods my whole house enclosed.
And to Tiresias himself, alone,
A sheep coal-black, and the selectest one
Of all my flocks. When to the Powers beneath,
The sacred nation that survive with death,
My prayers and vows had done devotions fit,
I took the off'rings, and upon the pit
Bereft their lives. Out gush'd the sable blood,
And round about me fled out of the flood
The souls of the deceas'd. There cluster'd then
Youths, and their wives, much-suffering aged men,
Soft tender virgins that but new came there
By timeless death, and green their sorrows were.
There men at arms, with armours all embrew'd,
Wounded with lances, and with faulchions hew'd,
In numbers, up and down the ditch, did stalk,
And threw unmeasured cries about their walk,
So horrid that a bloodless fear surprised
My daunted spirits. Straight then I advised
My friends to flay the slaughter'd sacrifice,
Put them in fire, and to the Deities,
Stern Pluto and Persephone, apply
Exciteful prayers. Then drew I from my thigh
My well-edged sword, stept in, and firmly stood
Betwixt the prease of shadows and the blood,
And would not suffer any one to dip
Within our offering his unsolid lip,
Before Tiresias that did all controul.

Navem quidem illuc venientes traximus, extra autem oves
Accepimus: ipsi autem rursus apud fluxum Oceani
Ivimus, ut in locum perveniremus quem dixit Circe:
Hic sacra quidem Perimedes Eurylochusque
Faciebant: ego autem ensem acutum trahens a femore
Foveam fodi quantum cubiti mensura hinc et inde:
Circum ipsam autem libamina fundimus omnibus mortuis:
Primum mulso, postea autem dulci vino:
Tertio rursus aqua, et farinas albas miscui:
Multum autem oravi mortuorum infirma capita:
Profectus in Ithacam, sterilem bovem, quae optima esset,
Sacrificare in domibus, pyramque implere bonis:
Tiresiae autem seorsum ovem sacrificare vovi
Totam nigram, quae ovibus antecellat nostris:
Has autem postquam votis precationibusque gentes mortuorum
Precatus sum, oves autem accipiens obtruncavi:
In fossam fluebat autem sanguis niger, congregatae sunt
Animae ex Erebo cadaverum mortuorum,
Nymphaeque iuvenesque, et multa passi senes,
Virginesque tenerae, nuper flebilem animum habentes,
Multi autem vulnerati aereis lanceis
Viri in bello necati, cruenta arma habentes,
Qui multi circum foveam veniebant aliunde alius
Magno clamore, me autem pallidus timor cepit.
Iam postea socios hortans iussi
Pecora, quae iam iacebant iugulata saevo aere,
Excoriantes comburere: supplicare autem Diis,
Fortique Plutoni, et laudatae Proserpinae.
At ego ensem acutum trahens a femore,
Sedi, neque permisi mortuorum impotentia capita
Sanguinem prope ire, antequam Tiresiam audirem.

The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place
Aforesaid by Circe.
Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,
And drawing sword from my hip
I dug the ell-square pitkin;
Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour.
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death's-head;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and at the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
These many crowded about me; with shouting,
Pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts;
Slaughtered the heards, sheep slain of bronze;
Poured ointment, cried to the gods,
To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine;
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead,
Till I should hear Tiresias.

νῆα μὲν ἔνθ᾽ ἐλθόντες ἐκέλσαμεν, ἐκ δὲ τὰ μῆλα
εἱλόμεθ᾽· αὐτοὶ δ᾽ αὖτε παρὰ ῥόον Ὠκεανοῖο
ᾔομεν, ὄφρ᾽ ἐς χῶρον ἀφικόμεθ᾽, ὃν φράσε Κίρκη.
"ἔνθ᾽ ἱερήια μὲν Περιμήδης Εὐρύλοχός τε
ἔσχον· ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἄορ ὀξὺ ἐρυσσάμενος παρὰ μηροῦ
βόθρον ὄρυξ᾽ ὅσσον τε πυγούσιον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα,
ἀμφ᾽ αὐτῷ δὲ χοὴν χεόμην πᾶσιν νεκύεσσι,
πρῶτα μελικρήτῳ, μετέπειτα δὲ ἡδέι οἴνῳ,
τὸ τρίτον αὖθ᾽ ὕδατι· ἐπὶ δ᾽ ἄλφιτα λευκὰ πάλυνον.
πολλὰ δὲ γουνούμην νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα,
ἐλθὼν εἰς Ἰθάκην στεῖραν βοῦν, ἥ τις ἀρίστη,
ῥέξειν ἐν μεγάροισι πυρήν τ᾽ ἐμπλησέμεν ἐσθλῶν,
Τειρεσίῃ δ᾽ ἀπάνευθεν ὄιν ἱερευσέμεν οἴῳ
παμμέλαν᾽, ὃς μήλοισι μεταπρέπει ἡμετέροισι.
τοὺς δ᾽ ἐπεὶ εὐχωλῇσι λιτῇσί τε, ἔθνεα νεκρῶν,
ἐλλισάμην, τὰ δὲ μῆλα λαβὼν ἀπεδειροτόμησα
ἐς βόθρον, ῥέε δ᾽ αἷμα κελαινεφές· αἱ δ᾽ ἀγέροντο
ψυχαὶ ὑπὲξ Ἐρέβευς νεκύων κατατεθνηώτων.
νύμφαι τ᾽ ἠίθεοί τε πολύτλητοί τε γέροντες
παρθενικαί τ᾽ ἀταλαὶ νεοπενθέα θυμὸν ἔχουσαι,
πολλοὶ δ᾽ οὐτάμενοι χαλκήρεσιν ἐγχείῃσιν,
ἄνδρες ἀρηίφατοι βεβροτωμένα τεύχε᾽ ἔχοντες·
οἳ πολλοὶ περὶ βόθρον ἐφοίτων ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος
θεσπεσίῃ ἰαχῇ· ἐμὲ δὲ χλωρὸν δέος ᾕρει.
δὴ τότ᾽ ἔπειθ᾽ ἑτάροισιν ἐποτρύνας ἐκέλευσα
μῆλα, τὰ δὴ κατέκειτ᾽ ἐσφαγμένα νηλέι χαλκῷ,
δείραντας κατακῆαι, ἐπεύξασθαι δὲ θεοῖσιν,
ἰφθίμῳ τ᾽ Ἀΐδῃ καὶ ἐπαινῇ Περσεφονείῃ·
αὐτὸς δὲ ξίφος ὀξὺ ἐρυσσάμενος παρὰ μηροῦ
ἥμην, οὐδ᾽ εἴων νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα
αἵματος ἆσσον ἴμεν, πρὶν Τειρεσίαο πυθέσθαι.

Friday, November 03, 2006


The Wind Blows Where It Lists

Poggio, Facetiae 135 (tr. anon., Paris: Isidore Liseux, 1879):
Cardinal de' Conti, a stout and burly man, had been out hunting, and, towards noon, feeling hungry, came down to dinner; he took his seat at table, perspiring copiously (it was summer time) and requested that someone should air him with a fan. The servants had left the room on various duties, and he asked a certain Everardo Lupi, Apostolic Secretary, to ventilate him. -- "But," said the latter, "I do not know how that is done with you." -- "Never mind," answered the Cardinal, "do it as you like, in your own way." -- "All right, by Jove," replied the Secretary, and raising his right leg, he emitted from the very depths of his bowels the most sonorous fart, saying at the same time that that was how he was accustomed to make a breeze for himself. There was a numerous company, who could not help bursting out into a fit of laughter.

Cardinalis de Comitibus, vir crassus et corpulentus, cum aliquando venatum isset, esuriens circa meridiem ad prandium descendit; sudans ad mensam (aestas enim erat) ac poscens ut ventus flabello sibi fieret, cum ministri abessent diversis rebus occupati, jussit quemdam Eberhardum Lupi, Scriptorem Apostolicum, sibi ventum facere. At ille, 'Nescio id vestro more,' cum respondisset, -- 'Ut scis,' ait Cardinalis, 'et tuo modo facito.' Tum ille, -- 'Libens me Hercule!' et, suspenso dextro crure, pergrandem ventris crepitum edidit, eo pacto se ventulum facere solitum dicens. Quo excitati omnes (multi enim jam aderant) ad risum sunt maximum compulsi.

Poggio, Facetiae 136 (tr. anon., Paris: Isidore Liseux, 1879):
A like reply was made by the Cardinal of Tricarico to the admonitions of Alto de' Conti. The Cardinal led a most dissolute life, and, one day, when hunting, Alto urgently lectured him that he should amend his ways. On hearing this remonstrance, the Cardinal looked him a minute full in the face, stooped on his horse's neck, and gave a tremendous fart, exclaiming: "To your beard." He then moved off without another word, thus showing the value he set upon his advice.

Eodem instrumento Cardinalis Tricaricensis, Alto de Comitibus se monenti respondit. Nam cum Cardinalis esset vitae dissolutioris, Altus vero illum in venatione admoneret multis verbis ad melioris vitae mores, auditis Alti verbis, in eum paululum respexit; et e vestigio se in equi caput reflectens, ventris crepitum edidit ingentem, inquiens: 'Ad barbam tuam!' Quo solo responso abiit, ostendens quanti faceret suas monitiones.


Bozzy's Blues

Samuel Johnson, letter to James Boswell, quoted by W. Jackson Bate, Samuel Johnson (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), p. 552:
You are always complaining of melancholy, and I conclude from those complaints that you are fond of it. No man talks of that which he is desirous to conceal, and every man desires to conceal that of which he is ashamed .... Make it an invariable and obligatory law to yourself, never to mention your own mental diseases; if you are never to speak of them, you will think of them but little, and if you think little of them, they will molest you rarely. When you talk of them, it is plain that you want either praise or pity; for praise there is no room, and pity will do you no good.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Donec Gratus Eram: Franklin P. Adams

About ten years ago the following collections of English translations of Horace by various hands appeared:Neither collection contains any versions by one of my favorite Horatian translators, American newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960). An important figure in his day, Adams is now almost totally forgotten. Every single one of his books is out of print.

Here are some translations of Horace's Donec gratus eram ode (3.9) by Franklin P. Adams.

When I was your stiddy, my loveliest Lyddy,
  And you my embraceable she,
In joys and diversions, the king of the Persians
    Had nothing on me.

When I was the person you penned all that verse on,
  Ere Chloe had caused you to sigh,
Not she whose cognomen is Ilia the Roman
    Was happier than I.

Ah, Chloe the Thracian -- whose sweet modulation
  Of voice as she lilts to the lyre
Is sweeter and fairer? Would but the Fates spare her
    I'd love to expire.

Tush! Calais claims me and wholly inflames me,
  He pesters me never with rhymes;
If they should spare Cally, I'd perish totally
    A couple of times.

Suppose my affection in Lyddy's direction
  Returned; that I gave the good-by
To Chloe the golden, and back to the olden? --
    I pause for reply.

Cheer up, mine ensnarer! Be Calais fairer
  Than stars, be you blustery and base,
I'll love you, adore you; in brief, I am for you
    All over the place.

What time I was your one best bet
  And no one passed the wire before me,
Dear Lyddy, I cannot forget
  How you would -- yes, you would -- adore me.
To others you would tie the can;
  You thought of me with no aversion.
In those days I was happier than
    A Persian.

Correct. As long as you were not
  So nuts about this Chloe person,
Your flame for me burned pretty hot --
  Mine was the door you pinned your verse on.
Your favourite name began with L,
  While I thought you surpassed by no man --
Gladder than Ilia, the well-
    Known Roman.

On Chloe? Yes, I've got a case;
  Her voice is such a sweet soprano;
Her people come from Northern Thrace;
  You ought to hear her play piano.
If she would like my suicide --
  If she'd want me a dead and dumb thing,
Me for a glass of cyanide,
    Or something.

Now Calais, the handsome son
  Of old Ornitus, has me going;
He says I am his honey bun,
  He's mine, however winds are blowing;
I think that he is awful nice,
  And, if the gods the signal gave him,
I'd just as lieve die once or twice
    To save him.

Suppose I'm gone on you again,
  Suppose I've got ingrown affection
For you; I sort of wonder, then,
  If you'd have any great objection.
Suppose I pass this Chloe up
  And say: "Go roll your hoop, I'm rid o' ye!"
Would that drop sweetness in your cup?
    Eh, Lydia?

Why, say -- though he's fair as a star,
  And you are like a cork, erratic
And light -- and though I know you are
  As blustery as the Adriatic,
I think I'd rather live with you
  Or die with you, I swear to gracious.
So I will be your Mrs. Q.

Lyddy, am I right or wrong?
Was I there? Did I belong?
Did you not -- you know you did --
Call me once the Headline Kid?
I had everybody stopped;
Persian potentates I topped;
Dun and Bradstreet, if you'd love me,
Wouldn't rate a king above me.

Friend Horatius, all that you
Say is absolutely true.
I was happy as a queen
When -- oh, you know what I mean.
When you gave no Chloe praise,
Them, ah, them was happy days!
When you used to coax and con me
Ilia's self had nothing on me.

Thracian Chloe -- she's a bear --
Has Q.H. up in the air;
Her I lamp without fatigue;
Chloe leads the Flaccus League.
Listen, I'm a selfish guy,
But I'd really love to die
If I thought she'd get a giggle
At my mortuary wriggle.

Speaking, as you often do,
Of affection, I'm there, too.
Who is my idea of joy?
Calais -- and quantus boy.
Why, if I believed that he
Could elicit any glee
from the sentence Lydia non est,
I'd bichloride. I would, honest.

Lyddy, listen, get me right:
Do you think that perhaps we might
Sort of start it up again
As 'twas in the glorious When?
If I tell this Chloe that
I am going to leave her, flat,
Do you think that you would let me
Write to you, and? -- well, you get me.

Listen, Horace, though you be
Roaring as the raging sea,
Though he be a Broadway sign,
I'm for you -- Q.H. for mine.
Whether you're the ocean's roar,
Angry and ferocious; or
Lighter than a cork, and giddy,
I am yours

While I was fussing you at home
You put the notion in my dome
That I was the Molasses Kid.
I batted strong. I'll say I did.

While you were fussing me alone
To other boys my heart was stone.
When I was all that you could see
No girl had anything on me.

Well, say, I'm having some romance
With one Babette, of Northern France.
If that girl gave me the command
I'd dance a jig in No Man's Land.

I, too, have got a young affair
With Charley -- say, that boy is there!
I'd just as soon go out and die
If I thought it'd please that guy.

Suppose I can this foreign wren
And start things up with you again?
Suppose I promise to be good?
I'd love you, Lyd. I'll say I would.

Though Charley's good and handsome -- oh, boy!
And you're a stormy, fickle doughboy,
Go give the Hun his final whack,
And I'll marry you when you come back.

In the happier years gone by me
  In a well-remembered day,
Yours the custom was to eye me
  In a not unflattering way.
When than I none was than-whicher,
  When none other dared to fling
Arms about you, I was richer
  Than the noted Persian king.

Those the days when sweet the savor
  Of mine overbrimming cup,
When no Chloe found your favor,
  When I was not runner-up.
As I scan my memorabilia,
  I observe with girlish glee
That the famous Roman Ilia
  Hadn't anything on me.

Now the roomy heart Horatian,
  Beating loudly in this breast,
By the sweetly singing Thracian
  Chloe's utterly possessed.
If I thought that lovely lass'd
  Like to see me dead, I'd take
Half a pint of prussic acid
  Gladly for her shining sake.

What a fascinating game is
  Love! My current cause for joy --
Thurian Calais his name is --
  He is Ornytus's boy.
If I thought he'd like to view me
  Moribund; that he would laugh
At my corse, I'd pour into me
  All the poison I could quaff.

If no longer I should find her
  As I used to find her -- fair;
If I casually consigned her
  To the celebrated air;
This affair -- if I could quit it;
  If I gazed again on you;
Do you think that we could hit it
  Off the way we used to do?

Yes. Though Calais is brighter
  Than a coruscating star;
Madder than the sea, and lighter
  Than a piece of cork you are,
Horace, you're the only guy for
  Me. The others I resign.
You're the one I'd live for, die for --
  And I'll be your Valentine.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006



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

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

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

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


Walking on Water: Dio Chrysostom

C.J. Canton and Ben C. Smith each independently supplied yet another classical parallel to the Biblical miracle of walking on water, Dio Chrysostom's Third Discourse on Kingship 30-31 (tr. J.W. Cohoon), where Hippias the Elean is speaking:
O Socrates, he says, this you know altogether well, that of humans under the sun that man is mightiest and has power not at all less than the gods themselves for whom it is possible to do seemingly impossible things as if they were possible, if he wishes, that the sea be walked upon [πεζεύεσθαι μὲν τὴν θάλατταν], that the mountains be sailed, and that rivers be drained, drunk by men. Or have you not heard that Xerxes the king of the Persians made a sea of the land, cutting through the greatest of mountains and separating Athos from the continent, and that he led his infantry through the sea and rode upon a chariot, just like Homer says Poseidon does? And perchance likewise the dolphins and monsters from below swam under the raft when that man drove along.
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