Saturday, January 27, 2007


Saturday Salmagundi

Javier Álvarez at Edad de Oro prints a poem on sleep by Fernando de Herrera. I wish someone would translate it into English. I don't have the skill to do it, but the scholar and gentleman who translated this sonnet by Quevedo does:
Retired to the peace of this deserted place
Together with a few but learned books
I live in conversation with those passed away,
And with my eyes listen to the dead.

If not always understood, the books are ever open.
They either correct or fertilize my ideas.
And in silent contrapuntal music
To life's sleep, they speak, awake.

Great souls which death makes absent,
The learned press, the avenger of the years' insults,
Frees, O great Don Joseph!

In irrevocable flight the hour flees,
But that hour is reckoned best
Which in reading and study betters us.

Dennis at Campus Mawrtius coins misomophyly to mean "hatred of one's own race," improving on an old suggestion of mine.

Conrad H. Roth at Varieties of Unreligious Experience, in a learned disquisition on The Bat, also coins a new word, mammiptera.

He doesn't discuss the etymology of bat itself, which the Online Etymology Dictionary gives as:
"flying rodent," c.1575, a dialect alteration of M.E. bakke, which is prob. rel. to O.Sw. natbakka, O.Dan. nathbakkæ "night bat," and O.N. leðrblaka "leather flapper," so orig. sense is likely "flapper." The shift from -k- to -t- may have come through confusion with bakke "nocturnal insect," from L. blatta "moth." O.E. word for the animal was hreremus, from hreran "to shake."
Apparently there is no connection between bat and bate:
c.1300, "to contend with blows or arguments," from O.Fr. batre, from L.L. battere, from L. batuere (see batter (v.)). In falconry, "to beat the wings impatiently and flutter away from the perch." Figurative sense of "to flutter downward" attested from 1590.

Nicholas at Nestor's Cup surveys ancient execution techniques, a timely topic in light of recent executions here and abroad that did not go as smoothly as expected.

In addition to being an accomplished Greek scholar, Nicholas is a stonemason. Much as I enjoy and learn from his posts on ancient Greek, I wish he'd also write something about stonemasonry. I'm reading Charles McRaven's Building with Stone (North Adams: Storey Books, 1989), and I look with new interest on the stonework I see around town. Yesterday I drove by the elegant Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.

There is a magazine about stonemasonry entitled Stonexus. The Table of Contents of Number VI (Spring/Summer 2006) lists a section called Miscellanae. Better a misprint on paper than in stone, I suppose. It should be Miscellanea. Don't let the Google hits for Miscellanae persuade you otherwise.

According to Soldier and Scholar: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and the Civil War, edited by Ward W. Briggs Jr. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998), p. 111, n. 19, Gildersleeve's tombstone is defaced by a mistake in the Greek, which is a quotation from the tragic poet Aeschylus meaning "Life's bivouac is over." The stonecutter engraved an English V instead of a Greek upsilon.

I don't have access to Briggs' book now, and I can't find the source of the Aeschylean quotation.

Update -- Professor David Whitehead writes:
Briggs's chapter on Gildersleeve in Briggs & Calder (eds.) Classical Scholarship: a biographical encyclopedia, gives the reference [but doesn't mention the mason's error]: fr.265 Nauck, preserved by Hesychius from the lost play Phrygians -- διαπεφρούρηται βίος.

I always enjoy Brandon's poems at Siris. His latest collection includes "A Graduate Student Reflects on Footnotes," with the great line "And many more have been led into folly by footnotes than by strange women."

Brandon also posts his favorite poem by Robert Burns. My vote goes to For a' That and a' That, especially this stanza:
Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.
Coof (fool) is a delightful term of abuse, one that deserves wider circulation.

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