Tuesday, July 31, 2007



Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for July 2007, Crepidotus crocophyllus, the orange crep:
Crepidotus usually grows on very old, very rotten logs that dry out easily. Yet it is in these dry conditions that you can often find Crepidotus fruiting bodies. The mycelium must be able to survive these harsh times while it is decaying the wood. Thus, despite its persistent mycelium, the fruiting bodies are pretty delicate and seem to be falling apart. In fact the genus name Crepidotus means "cracked ear." You may recognize the similarity to the word "decrepit," which literally means "thoroughly cracked up."
Ian Gibson, Crepidotus in the Pacific Northwest:
The name "Crepidotus" may come from crepido = base or pedestal (Latin), ous, otos = ear (Greek). According to Schalkwijk-Barendsen it means "with a base like an ear".
Schalkwijk-Barendsen is Helene M.E. Schalkwijk-Barendsen, Mushrooms of Western Canada (Edmonton: Lone Pine, 1991), unavailable to me.

I suspect that the second etymology is correct, but despite Latin crepido both roots of Crepidotus are probably Greek:Latin crepido is derived from Greek κρηπίς, κρηπῖδος.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Continental Breakfast

Thomas Mann, Goethe's Career as a Man of Letters (Goethes Laufbahn als Schriftsteller, tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter):
"Every morning," sighs Émile Zola, "each of us has to swallow his toad."
Mann is probably quoting from memory. I think (although I cannot be sure from Google Book Search's snippet view) that Zola's sentence comes from an article first published in the newspaper Le Figaro and reprinted in his Nouvelle campagne (1896), p. 69:
Moi, voici trente ans que, tous les matins, avant de me mettre au travail, j'avale mon crapaud, en ouvrant les sept ou huit journaux qui m'attendent, sur ma table.
In my rough translation:
As for me, for the past thirty years, every morning, before getting to work, I swallow my toad, by opening the seven or eight newspapers that await me on my table.
Zola sounds like he's referring to a well-known expression, and in fact he is. See Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 231:
M. de Lassay, a very gentle man but with a great knowledge of society, said that one must swallow a toad every morning, when one had to go out into the world, so as not to find anything more disgusting during the day.

M. de Lassay, homme très doux, mais qui avait une grande connaissance de la société, disait qu'il faudrait avaler un crapaud tous les matins, pour ne trouver plus rien de dégoûtant le reste de la journée, quand on devait la passer dans le monde.
On a related note, Reuters recently reported:
A man in southeast China says 40 years of swallowing tree frogs and rats live has helped him avoid intestinal complaints and made him strong.

Jiang Musheng, a 66-year-old resident of Jiangxi province, suffered from frequent abdominal pains and coughing from the age of 26, until an old man called Yang Dingcai suggested tree frogs as a remedy, the Beijing News said on Tuesday.

"At first, Jiang Musheng did not dare to eat a live, wriggling frog, but after seeing Yang Dingcai swallow one, he ate ... two without a thought," the paper said.

"After a month of eating live frogs, his stomach pains and coughing were completely gone."

Over the years Jiang had added live mice, baby rats and green frogs to his diet, and had once eaten 20 mice in a single day, the paper said.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Though Dynasties Pass

Edwin Way Teale, A Walk Through the Year (July 20):
On this evening walk of ours, at the end of another torrid day, we come upon the deep red of wood lilies along the skirts of Juniper Hill; we find a firefly asleep, its lamp still unlit, clinging to the furry underside of a mullein leaf; we smell the honeyed fragrance of the sweetest flower of our north meadow, the purple bloom of a pasture thistle; we watch a small butterfly in the sunset weaving in and out, up and down among the forests of the mowing grass. With such small and pleasant things we round out our day. Small they are. Pleasant they are. But unimportant they are not. They are the enduring things. They are part of all that steadfast, unconquered, timeless, simple progression in nature that Thomas Hardy pointed out will "go onward the same though dynasties pass."
The quotation comes from Thomas Hardy's poem In Time of "The Breaking of Nations":
Only a man harrowing clods
  In a slow silent walk,
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
  Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
  From the heaps of couch grass:
Yet this will go onward the same
  Though dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
  Come whispering by;
War's annals will fade into night
  Ere their story die.
The last stanza of Hardy's poem reminds me of the great love story hidden in the pages of Teale's A Walk Through the Year. "We" in the paragraph above are Nellie and Edwin Teale, an old woman and man when the book was written, but once "a maid and her wight." In an episode from "war's annals," their only son David died in World War II.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


More Zucchini

Dear Mr. Gilleland,

Many years ago, Russell Baker wrote a very funny and memorable article about the annual zucchini plague for his Sunday Observer column in the New York Times Magazine. I was unable to locate the article, but this archived letter to the Times suggests that the joke attributed to Garrison Keillor may not have originated with him.


David Doster

August 5, 1984

Although Russell Baker refers many times to "planting" squash, he overlooks the truism that "zucchini grows whether you plant it or not" ("Squash," Sunday Observer, June 24).

In these parts - and only in the summer - we are urged to lock our cars when we park; otherwise, when we return, we may find someone has dumped some zucchini in it.

But, joking aside, we really love the stuff. Why else would thousands of us go to celebrate the annual Zucchini Festival, in late August, in the nearby town of Harrisville, N.H.? DEECE LAMBERT Hancock, N.H.


Not To Be Born Is Best

Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence examines the poetry of Sean Rafferty and quotes this couplet from one of his poems:
Let the chorus sing
Not to be born is best.
When Rafferty says "the chorus", he probably means the chorus from Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, which sings (1224-1238, tr. R.C. Jebb):
Not to be born is, past all prizing, best; but, when a man hath seen the light, this is next best by far, that with all speed he should go thither, whence he hath come.

For when he hath seen youth go by, with its light follies, what troublous affliction is strange to his lot, what suffering is not therein? - envy, factions, strife, battles and slaughters; and, last of all, age claims him for her own, - age, dispraised, infirm, unsociable, unfriended, with whom all woe of woe abides.

μὴ φῦναι τὸν ἅπαντα νι-
κᾷ λόγον· τὸ δ᾽, ἐπεὶ φανῇ,
βῆναι κεῖθεν ὅθεν περ ἥ-
κει πολὺ δεύτερον, ὡς τάχιστα.
ὡς εὖτ᾽ ἂν τὸ νέον παρῇ
κούφας ἀφροσύνας φέρον,
τίς πλαγὰ πολύμοχθος ἔ-
ξω; τίς οὐ καμάτων ἔνι;
φθόνος, στάσεις, ἔρις, μάχαι
καὶ φόνοι· τό τε κατάμεμπτον ἐπιλέλογχε
πύματον ἀκρατὲς ἀπροσόμιλον
γῆρας ἄφιλον, ἵνα πρόπαντα
κακὰ κακῶν ξυνοικεῖ.
Sophocles in turn echoes Theognis 425-428 (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
The best lot of all for man is never to have been born nor seen the beams of the burning Sun; this failing, to pass the gates of Hades as soon as one may, and lie under a goodly heap of earth.

Πάντων μὲν μὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον
μηδ᾽ ἐσιδεῖν αὐγὰς ὀξέος ἠελίου·
φύντα δ᾽ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀίδαο περῆσαι
καὶ κεῖσθαι πολλὴν γῆν ἐπαμησάμενον.

Friday, July 27, 2007



I've never studied Italian in school or been to Italy, so take what follows with a grain of salt.

In my garden this summer I planted a type of zucchini called on the seed packet Costata Romanesco. Costata is an adjective meaning "ribbed", and Romanesco is an adjective meaning "Roman". The few I've harvested so far definitely have ribs, and I assume that the cultivar originated in Rome.

But Costata looks to me like a feminine adjective, Romanesco like a masculine one. Why don't the adjectives agree in gender? Why isn't the name Costata Romanesca, or Costato Romanesco? Google has 1080 hits for "Costata Romanesco", 339 for "Costata Romanesca", 4 for "Costato Romanesco", and even 1 for "Costato Romanesca". But Google hits indicate usage, not correctness (899,000 hits for the correct "ad nauseam" versus 1,040,000 for the incorrect "ad nauseum").

I also wonder what implied noun the adjectives modify. In American English we say zucchini, which is masculine and plural in form, even when we mean a single vegetable. Garzanti's online Italian dictionary has an entry for feminine zucchina (plural zucchine), but none for masculine zucchino (plural zucchini). However, under zucchina the dictionary does recognize zucchino as an alternative. The word is a diminutive of feminine zucca, so I would expect zucchina.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New College Edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979) defines zucchini as "A variety of squash having an elongated shape and a smooth, thin dark-green rind." That definition fits the typical zucchini I see in the grocery store, but the samples of Costata Romanesco [sic] in my garden have a rough, grayish green rind. They are very tasty.

Someone told me a joke about zucchini, supposedly first told by Garrison Keillor. Why do the inhabitants of Lake Wobegon lock their cars in the month of August? So their neighbors won't leave bags of zucchini on the back seat. The point is that zucchini are prolific. I looked for this joke in the online Prairie Home Companion archives but couldn't find it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007



Giacomo Leopardi, Pensieri (1845), XCIX (tr. W.S. Di Piero):
People are ridiculous only when they try to seem or to be that which they are not. The poor, the ignorant, the rustic, the sick, and the old are never ridiculous so long as they are content to appear such and to stay within the limits imposed by these conditions; it is absurd, however, when the old wish to seem young, the sick healthy, the poor rich, or when an ignorant man tries to appear educated, or the rustic cosmopolitan. Even physical deformities, no matter how serious, draw nothing more than momentary laughter so long as one does not try to hide them; that is, so long as he does not try to pretend he does not have them, which is like saying that he's different than he really is. Any keen observer can see that it's not our disadvantages or shortcomings that are ridiculous, but rather the studious way we try to hide them and our desire to act as if they did not exist.

Those who try to seem more likable by affecting a moral nature not their own are making a terrible mistake. The incredible effort required to sustain this illusion is bound to become obvious, the contradiction between the true and the false more transparent, and as a result one becomes more unlikable and unpleasant than if he were to act honestly and consistently like himself. Everyone, even the most unfortunate, possesses a few pleasant natural traits; when displayed at the right time, these are surely more attractive, because more true, than any finer false quality.
Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena (1851), Counsels and Maxims, chap. 3 (Our Relations to Others), § 30 (tr. T. Bailey Saunders):
And in this connection let me utter a word of protest against any and every form of affectation. It always arouses contempt; in the first place, because it argues deception, and the deception is cowardly, for it is based on fear; and, secondly, it argues self-condemnation, because it means that a man is trying to appear what he is not, and therefore something which he thinks better than he actually is.

To affect a quality, and to plume yourself upon it, is just to confess that you have not got it. Whether it is courage, or learning, or intellect, or wit, or success with women, or riches, or social position, or whatever else it may be that a man boasts of, you may conclude by his boasting about it that that is precisely the direction in which he is rather weak; for if a man really possesses any faculty to the full, it will not occur to him to make a great show of affecting it; he is quite content to know that he has it. That is the application of the Spanish proverb: herradura que chacolotea clavo le falta—a clattering hoof means a nail gone.

To be sure, as I said at first, no man ought to let the reins go quite loose, and show himself just as he is; for there are many evil and bestial sides to our nature which require to be hidden away out of sight; and this justifies the negative attitude of dissimulation, but it does not justify a positive feigning of qualities which are not there.

It should also be remembered that affectation is recognized at once, even before it is clear what it is that is being affected. And, finally, affectation cannot last very long, and one day the mask will fall off. Nemo potest personam diu ferre fictam, says Seneca; ficta cito in naturam suam recidunt—no one can persevere long in a fictitious character; for nature will soon reassert itself.
A common form that affectation takes in our day is the inflated job résumé. One apparently serious web site gives advice on how to fake your college education, how to lie at the interview and get away with it, etc.


Practicing Law Without a Degree: Virginia

Code of Virginia § 54.1-3926 (Preliminary proof of education required of applicant):
Before an applicant will be permitted to take any examination under this article the applicant shall furnish to the Board satisfactory evidence that he has:

1. Completed all degree requirements from a law school approved by the American Bar Association or the Board; or

2. Received a bachelor's degree from a four-year accredited college or university and studied law for three years, consisting of not less than eighteen hours per week for at least forty weeks per year in the office of an attorney practicing in this Commonwealth, whose full time is devoted to the practice of law; or

3. Studied law for at least three years partly in a law school approved by the American Bar Association or the Board and partly, for not less than eighteen hours per week for at least forty weeks per year, in the office of an attorney practicing in this Commonwealth whose full time is devoted to the practice of law; or

4. Received a bachelor's degree from a four-year accredited college or university and studied law for three years, consisting of not less than eighteen hours per week for at least forty weeks per year, with a retired circuit court judge who served the Commonwealth as a circuit court judge for a minimum of ten years and who at the time of commencement of the three-year study period was retired for not more than five years.

The attorney in whose office or the judge with whom the applicant intends to study shall be approved by the Board, which shall prescribe reasonable conditions as to the course of study.
Related posts:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Liddell and Scott

Thomas Hardy, Liddell and Scott On the Completion of their Lexicon:
'Well, though it seems
Beyond our dreams,'
Said Liddell to Scott,
'We've really got
To the very end,
All inked and penned
Blotless and fair
Without turning a hair,
This sultry summer day, A.D.
Eighteen hundred and forty-three.

'I've often, I own,
Belched many a moan
At undertaking it,
And dreamt of forsaking it.
-- Yes, on to Pi,
When the end loomed nigh,
And friends said: "You've as good as done,"
I almost wished we'd not begun.
Even now, if people only knew
My sinkings, as we slowly drew
Along through Kappa, Lambda, Mu,
They'd be concerned at my misgiving,
And how I mused on a College living
    Right down to Sigma,
    But feared a stigma
If I succumbed, and left old Donnegan
For weary freshmen's eyes to con again:
And how I often, often wondered
What could have led me to have blundered
So far away from sound theology
To dialects and etymology;
Words, accents not to be breathed by men
Of any country ever again!'

    'My heart most failed,
    Indeed, quite quailed,'
    Said Scott to Liddell,
    'Long ere the middle!...
    'Twas one wet dawn
    When, slippers on,
    And a cold in the head anew,
    Gazing at Delta
    I turned and felt a
    Wish for bed anew.
    And to let supersedings
    Of Passow's readings
    In dialects go.
    "That German has read
    More than we!" I said;
Yea, several times did I feel so!...

'O that first morning, smiling bland,
With sheets of foolscap, quills in hand,
To write ἀάατος and ἀαγής,
Followed by fifteen hundred pages,
What nerve was ours
So back to our powers,
Assured that we should reach ᾠώδης
While there was breath left in our bodies!'

Liddell replied: 'Well, that's past now'
The job's done, thank God anyhow.'

    'And yet it's not,'
    Considered Scott,
    'For we've to get
    Subscribers yet
    We must remember;
    Yes; by September.'

'O Lord; dismiss that. We'll succeed.
Dinner is my immediate need.
I feel as hollow as a fiddle,
Working so many hours,' said Liddell.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Harry Potter and Aeschylus

At the beginning of J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I saw the following motto from Aeschylus' Libation Bearers:
Oh, the torment bred in the race, the grinding scream of death and the stroke that hits the vein, the haemorrhage none can staunch, the grief, the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house and not outside it, no, not from others but from them, their bloody strife. We sing to you, dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground - answer the call, send help. Bless the children, give them Triumph now.
Libation Bearers, or Choephori, is the second play in Aeschylus' dramatic trilogy Oresteia, and gets its name from the chorus of women who carry drink offerings to be poured on the grave of Agamemnon. Agamemnon was murdered by his wife Clytemnestra in the first play of the trilogy. The "children" in the quotation are Orestes and Electra, son and daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, who are plotting to kill their mother in revenge for her murder of their father.

Rowling quotes Robert Fagle's translation of the end of the kommos, sung by the chorus. In A.F. Garvie's edition of the Choephori (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), this passage is found at lines 466-478. Here is the original Greek:
ὦ πόνος ἐγγενής,
καὶ παράμουσος ἄτας
αἱματόεσσα πλαγά,
ἰὼ δύστον᾽ ἄφερτα κήδη,
ἰὼ δυσκατάπαυστον ἄλγος.

δώμασιν ἔμμοτον
τῶνδ᾽ ἄκος, οὐδ᾽ ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων
ἔκτοθεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν,
δι᾽ ὠμὰν ἔριν αἱματηράν·
θεῶν <τῶν> κατὰ γᾶς ὅδ᾽ ὕμνος.

ἀλλὰ κλύοντες, μάκαρες χθόνιοι,
τῆσδε κατευχῆς πέμπετ᾽ ἀρωγὴν
παισὶν προφρόνως ἐπὶ νίκῃ.
Here is a more literal translation:
O trouble bred in the family, and discordant bloody stroke of doom, alas woeful cares not to be borne, alas pain hard to stop!

It is for the house [to apply the] absorbent remedy for these [wounds], not from others outside, but from themselves, through savage bloodstained strife. This is a hymn to the gods beneath the earth.

But paying heed, o blessed ones under ground, to this prayer, send aid to the children, graciously, for victory.
Garvie has a good note on the adjective ἔμμοτον, which I translated as "absorbent":
μοτοί are plugs of lint for dressing festering wounds, or, more precisely, for keeping them open until they suppurate and can heal from within .... This is one of the most certain cases of a borrowing by Aeschylus from medical terminology...
The English word for such a plug is tent, defined by Webster's Dictionary (1913) as
A roll of lint or linen, or a conical or cylindrical piece of sponge or other absorbent, used chiefly to dilate a natural canal, to keep open the orifice of a wound, or to absorb discharges.
A synonym for tent in this sense is pledget.

J.K. Rowling studied classics for two years at the University of Exeter, before switching to French. Some think that the Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore was modelled on one of her classics professors, Peter Wiseman.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Born Again

Holbrook Jackson, Anatomy of Bibliomania, Part XV (The Origin of a Species), V (Men Who Become Books: Biblianthropus Defined):
On that note I close this volume and affirm that bookmen, men of letters, students, and all manner of passionate readers are a species apart finding their sustenance in the printed word as plants imbibe air and fishes animalculae; they do not look upon life with their own eyes, but through the eyes of books as through an optical glass, magnifying, intensifying, distorting or glorifying, according as they fancy it; or sometimes they eschew all common affairs and use books as kaleidoscopes to make for their own delight fantastic patterns which they use as substitutes for life. They become natives of a world of books, creatures of the printed word, and in the end cease to be men, as, by a gradual metastasis, they are resolved into bookmen: twice-born, first of woman (as every man) and then of books, and, by reason of this, unique and distinct from the rest.
William Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, gives us glimpses of the books on the shelves of his study. On the second photograph from the top on the right I see some volumes of the Loeb Classical Library, including Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius, and Marcus Aurelius.


Thoreau on Blogging

Thoreau, Journal (March 5, 1838):
But what does all this scribbling amount to? What is now scribbled in the heat of the moment one can contemplate with somewhat of satisfaction, but alas! tomorrow—aye, tonight—it is stale, flat and unprofitable,—in fine, is not; only its shell remains, like some red parboiled lobster-shell which, kicked aside never so often, still stares at you in the path.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Sunday Salmagundi

I noticed an example of asyndetic privative adjectives in a poem by Paulus Silentarius (Greek Anthology 5.268.5): "He sits unmoved, unshaken" (ἀστεμφής, ἀδόνητος ἐνέζεται).

A prayer from Plato, Phaedrus 279 b-c (tr. Benjamin Jowett):
SOCRATES: Should we not offer up a prayer first of all to the local deities?

PHAEDRUS: By all means.

SOCRATES: Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry. -- Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.

οὐκοῦν εὐξαμένῳ πρέπει τοῖσδε πορεύεσθαι;
τί μήν;
ὦ φίλε Πάν τε καὶ ἄλλοι ὅσοι τῇδε θεοί, δοίητέ μοι καλῷ γενέσθαι τἄνδοθεν: ἔξωθεν δὲ ὅσα ἔχω, τοῖς ἐντὸς εἶναί μοι φίλια. πλούσιον δὲ νομίζοιμι τὸν σοφόν: τὸ δὲ χρυσοῦ πλῆθος εἴη μοι ὅσον μήτε φέρειν μήτε ἄγειν δύναιτο ἄλλος ἢ ὁ σώφρων.

ἔτ' ἄλλου του δεόμεθα, ὦ Φαῖδρε; ἐμοὶ μὲν γὰρ μετρίως ηὖκται.

I learned a couple of new words lately. The first is fipple, defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as "the plug at the mouth of a wind-instrument, by which its volume was contracted" and the subject of a learned essay by Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence.

The second is perry, defined by Webster's Dictionary (1913) as "A fermented liquor made from pears; pear cider."

Commenting on The Importance of Gold, E.J. Moncada notes that in Petronius, Satyricon 27,
a eunuch slave holds forth a silver jordan (matellam argenteam...OK, not auream) for the use of the wine sodden Trimalchio. Pliny (HN 33. 48-50), discussing the misuse of gold, relates the orator Messala's accusation that the triumvir Anthony used vessels of gold in satisfying all sorts of indecent necessities (aureis usum vasis in omnibus obscenis desideriis).... Long before More, Herodotus (III.23) relates scouting Ethiopians and learning that their prisoners were all bound with fetters of gold. Tertullian (On Apparel of Women, c.7) states that "there are some barbarians with whom, because gold is indigenous and plentiful, it is customary to keep (the criminals) in their convict establishments chained with gold." And, as a curious link, Strato, known as a dedicated pederast, finds in AG XI. 6, that the numerical value of the letters in πρωκτός (anus) and χρυσός (gold) is the same (1570). Ubi thesaurus ibi cor?
He also recalls Dr. Johnson's definition of goldfinder as "one who finds gold. A term ludicrously applied to those who empty jakes." Some have found gold, or at least yen, in Japanese jakes recently, according to an Associated Press story:
Envelopes containing 10,000 yen -- about $82 -- and notes wishing the finder well have been discovered in municipal toilets across Japan, media reports said, baffling civil servants and triggering a nationwide hunt.

Local media have estimated that more than $16,400 worth of bills were found at men's rooms in city halls in at least 15 prefectures in recent weeks.

Each package of 10,000-yen bills, some wrapped in traditional Japanese washi paper, was accompanied by handwritten letters that read "Please make use of this money for your self-enrichment,'' and "One per person,'' according to reports.

Officials are baffled over the identity of the benefactor or any motives, the reports said. Packages turned over to police were to be kept for a time in case someone claimed them.

Also from the Far East, Bounty on flies sets central China city buzzing (China Daily, July 10, 2007):
The authorities in a central China city have set a bounty on dead flies in a bid to clean up their image and promote public hygiene.

But critics have swatted down the move, questioning the benefits of paying 0.5 yuan (seven US cents) per insect turned in at the Xigong district office of Luoyang city, Henan Province.

Xigong District paid more than 1,000 yuan (US$125) for about 2,000 dead flies on July 1, the day it launched the bounty, with the aim to encourage cleanliness in residential areas.

"I and colleagues believe it's the best way to push residents to do more for their living environment," said Hu Guisheng, the office chief, adding it had proved effective with the district's 390,000 residents.

The payment scheme is the first of its kind in Luoyang, a medium-sized city of 1.55 million people, which is striving to earn the title of "state-level hygienic city".

The "State Hygienic City Standard", issued in 2005, has ten criteria for the award, including the prevention and treatment of disease-transmitting lifeforms, which requires hygienic cities to effectively control pests like rats, mosquitoes, flies and blackbeetles.

The Xigong District office has set up cash desks with signs urging everyone to "participate in the campaign against mosquitoes and flies" at the entrances to six residential compounds. The office staff have been busy in counting dead flies and giving out cash.

A passerby surnamed Ge was attracted by the red board at a compound. "I couldn't believe anyone was willing to buy such disgusting things," said Ge, who admitted his compound seemed to have fewer flies since the campaign was launched.

"I support the move," said Ge.
The Roman emperor Domitian also took a personal interest in the eradication of flies, according to Suetonius, Life of Domitian 3.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
At the beginning of his reign he used to spend hours in seclusion every day, doing nothing but catch flies and stab them with a keenly-sharpened stylus. Consequently when someone once asked whether anyone was in there with Caesar, Vibius Crispus made the witty reply: "Not even a fly."

Inter initia principatus cotidie secretum sibi horarum sumere solebat nec quicquam amplius quam muscas captare ac stilo praeacuto configere, ut cuidam interroganti, essetne quis intus cum Caesare, non absurde responsum sit a Vibio Crispo, ne muscam quidem.


Alone Again

From E.J. Moncada, on Sappho, fragment 168b Voigt:
The poem is often labeled Fragmentum Adespotum as being of unknown authorship, but traditionally it has been ascribed to Sappho and its "secretive" mood serves only to enhance its connection with her. I am unable to read that early English lyric
Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
  Christ that my love were in my arms
  And I in my bed again.
with its appeal to sense impression and emotion without recalling Sappho's four-line poem, especially her "climactic" last line, ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.
I can remember only once having read a line similar to that, Idyll XX, 45 where Theocritus writes
μώνη δ᾽ ἀνὰ νύκτα καθεύδοι
but let her sleep the night alone
but the context is quite different from the emotion expressed in Sappho.

At a far remove from the poets mentioned, there is another poem which always brings me back to Sappho and that is A.E. Housman's
The weeping Pleiads wester,
And the moon is under seas,
From bourn to bourn of midnight
Far sighs the rainy breeze.

It sighs for a lost country
To a land I have not known,
The weeping Pleiads wester,
And I lie down alone.

(More Poems. X.)
It has been mentioned that AEH's poem is more of a free translation of Sappho's than it is an original poem. It's certainly difficult to imagine AEH having written the last line without having Sappho in mind....

Those more impatient than others with poetic mountains being made out of romantic four-line molehills might very well suggest that Sappho actually had another and more practical reason for bemoaning her solitary state. We must posit some pre-existing conditions such as the time of year, winter, and her familiarity with the writings of the Hebrew Preacher (Time lines!) who with his practical acumen reminds us that it is folly to sleep alone for "si dormierunt duo, fovebuntur mutuo; unus [or una] quomodo calefiet?" (If two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? Eccles. 4:11)

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Comfort Books

Edward Cook asks:
Given that there is such a thing as "comfort food," why shouldn't there also be "comfort books"? Comfort books, as I imagine them, are personal, much-read favorites, to be resorted to when other reading (or life in general) seems flat, stale, and unprofitable.
My list of comfort books includes:


Practicing Law Without a Degree: Maine

Maine Bar Admission Rules, Rule 10 (The Bar Examination), c (Education Qualifications):
Before taking the bar examination, each applicant shall produce to the Board satisfactory evidence that the applicant

(1) graduated with a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university or successfully completed at least 2 years' work as a candidate for that degree at an accredited college or university; and

(2) graduated with a juris doctor or a bachelor of laws from a law school which had received its provisional or final accreditation from the American Bar Association by the time of the graduation of the applicant; or

(3) graduated from a law school accredited by the United States jurisdiction in which it is located and has been admitted to practice by examination in one or more jurisdictions within the United States and has been in active practice there for at least 3 years; or

(4) graduated from a foreign law school with a legal education which, in the Board's opinion pursuant to regulations adopted by the Board, is equivalent to that provided in those law schools accredited by the American Bar Association and has been admitted to practice in that country or by examination in one or more jurisdictions within the United States and has been in active practice in a jurisdiction in which the applicant is licensed for at least 3 years; or

(5) successfully completed two thirds of the requirements for graduation from a law school that had received its provisional or final accreditation from the American Bar Association by the time of the applicant's completion of those requirements and then within 12 months following such successful completion pursued the study of law in the law office of an attorney in the active practice of law in the State of Maine continuously on a full-time basis for at least one year; provided that the attorney must, in advance, present the proposed course of study to the Board for its approval and, at its conclusion, certify that the course, as approved, was completed.
Items 1 and 5 show how it is possible to complete the process without a degree. Thanks to Katie Gray for providing this information.

Related post: Practicing Law Without a Degree: Washington.

Friday, July 20, 2007


The Importance of Gold

Valerie Conners, World's Best Bathrooms, 1. Lam Sai Wing's Golden Bathroom:
No expense was spared when jeweler Lam Sai Wing created a golden bathroom in his Hong Kong jewelry store. Spending over $4 million on 24K gold amenities, Lam has created a wash closet with over-the-top opulence.

After his jeweler's business achieved extraordinary financial success and having been inspired by Vladimir Lenin's aspirations to give golden toilets to the masses, Lam decided to take the plunge and build the bathroom.

Not a single bathroom nook or cranny lacks the shiny ore. Golden sinks, toilet paper dispensers, tissue boxes, tiles, a chandelier and mirror frames fill the room, but aren't for just any average visitor to see … customers are granted access only after spending at least $200 in the store.

Such an extravagant washroom isn't without its rules: Shoes are not allowed inside, for fear of tracking out gold on their soles. Before leaving the sumptuous loo, take a look toward the heavens; Lam had the golden ceiling encrusted with rubies, emeralds, pearls and sapphires.

The quotation from Lenin comes from his essay on The Importance Of Gold Now And After The Complete Victory Of Socialism, Pravda 251 (Nov. 6-7, 1921), tr. David Skvirsky and George Hanna:
When we are victorious on a world scale I think we shall use gold for the purpose of building public lavatories in the streets of some of the largest cities of the world. This would be the most "just" and most educational way of utilising gold for the benefit of these generations which have not forgotten how, for the sake of gold, ten million men were killed and thirty million maimed in the "great war for freedom", the war of 1914-18, the war that was waged to decide the great question of which peace was the worst, that of Brest or that of Versailles; and how, for the sake of this same gold, they certainly intend to kill twenty million men and to maim sixty million in a war, say, in 1925, or 1928, between, say, Japan and the U.S.A., or between Britain and the U.S.A., or something like that.
But I wonder if Lam Sai Wing might have been inspired not by the words of Lenin but by the example of Bassus (Martial 1.37):
You capture your bowels' load in unfortunate gold, Bassus, nor does it shame you. You drink from glass. Therefore it costs you more to defecate.

Ventris onus misero, nec te pudet, excipis auro,
  Basse, bibis vitro: carius ergo cacas.
See also Thomas More, Utopia II (tr. G.C. Richards, rev. Edward Surtz):
While they eat and drink from earthenware and glassware of fine workmanship but of little value, from gold and silver they make chamber pots and all the humblest vessels for use everywhere, not only in the common halls but in private homes also. Moreover, they employ the same metals to make the chains and solid fetters which they put on their slaves. Finally, as for those who bear the stigma of disgrace on account of some crime, they have gold ornaments hanging from their ears, gold rings encircling their fingers, gold chains thrown around their necks, and, as a last touch, a gold crown binding their temples. Thus by every means in their power they make gold and silver a mark of ill fame. In this way, too, it happens that, while all other nations bear the loss of these metals with as great grief as if they were losing their very vitals, if circumstances in Utopia ever required the removal of all gold and silver, no one would feel that he were losing as much as a penny.

nam cum in fictilibus e terra vitroque elegantissimis quidem illis, sed vilibus tamen edant bibantque. ex auro, atque argento non in communibus aulis modo, sed in privatis etiam domibus, matellas passim, ac sordidissima quaeque vasa conficiunt. ad haec catenas et crassas compedes, quibus cohercent servos; iisdem ex metallis operantur. postremo quoscumque aliquod crimen infames facit, ab horum auribus anuli dependent aurei, digitos aurum cingit, aurea torques ambit collum, et caput denique auro vincitur. ita omnibus curant modis, uti apud se aurum argentumque in ignominia sint, atque hoc pacto fit, ut haec metalla, quae ceterae gentes non minus fere dolenter ac viscera sua distrahi patiuntur, apud Utopienses, si semel omnia res postularet efferri, nemo sibi iacturam unius fecisse assis videretur.

Thursday, July 19, 2007



Sappho, fragment 168b Voigt (tr. Kenneth Rexroth):
The moon has set,
And the Pleiades. It is
Midnight. Time passes.
I sleep alone.

δέδυκε μὲν ἀ σελάννα
καὶ Πληΐαδες, μέσαι δέ
νύκτες, πάρα δ' ἔρχετ' ὤρα,
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.



E.J. Moncada comments on some recent posts:

The Secret Life of Books

I recalled a passage from Steiner's "No Passion Spent" wherein he broaches this topic of books continuing on long after author and readers are long gone. "Marble crumbles, bronze decays, but written words - seemingly the most fragile of media - survive. They survive their begetters - Flaubert cried out against the paradox whereby he lay dying like a dog whereas that whore, Emma Bovary, his creature, sprung of lifeless letters scratched on a piece of paper, continued alive."

Laws and Lawyers

"Erasmus, a sensitive and authoritative judge of Latinity, held that if allowances were made for the fact (a rather unfortunate fact, he seems to think) that More was a lawyer, and that from the standpoint of letters nothing is more barbarous than English law, his literary talents were remarkable. Writing in 1528, he regrets that More's immersion in public life does not allow him more literary activity." Ciceronianus, I, 1012-1013. Footnote in The Yale Edition of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Vol.3, Pt.1, xxxvi. Ed. Craig R. Thompson.

Door-Shutting in Antiquity

Copley's "Exclusus Amator" is the text most often referred to anent this topic (the title is from Lucretius, 4. 1177). Nisbet and Hubbard in their discussion of Horace's Parcius Iunctas (Car. I. 25) offer a generous number of references on this topic (e.g. Alcaeus, Plautus, Asclepiades, Catullus, Propertius, Ovid, Horace). A Commentary on Horace's Odes. Bk I.

There are variations on the theme. Propertius, for example, represents the door as speaker, quoting the lover's song (I.16). Rufinus (P.A. 5.103) and Ovid (Ars, 3.69 ff.) take umbrage at the locked door but concentrate on scolding the woman hiding behind it and foretelling a cold, wrinkled, loveless future for her. Moses Hadas, discussing Theocritus (3), properly identifies the poem as being of the paraklausithyron type and goes on to show "how absurd convention can become for the lady lives in a doorless cave and the lover has only to stride in." A History of Greek Literature, p. 206.

Phaedromos in Plautus' Curculio sings the praises of the door of the pimp's house where he'll find his beloved. He speaks of "otiumst oculissimum" (15) - most adorable - and Palinurus answers mockingly "ostium occlussissumum" (16) - most shut.

Squeaky hinges could be problematic in erotic contexts, v. Nisbet, loc. cit., pp. 294-5 for references. Hor., Car. 3. 5. speaks of the lover stretched out before the heartless door and queries the unresponding woman, do you hear the noise the door makes? (Audis quo strepitu janua?) As one might expect, a lover would be very grateful for a door that made no sound opening or closing (Curculio). And so on...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Practicing Law Without a Degree: Washington

In case you haven't noticed, this blog is my private file cabinet, and Google is its index. I welcome the occasional reader, but I would continue to blog for myself even with no readers.

My brother recently told me that it was possible to be admitted to the bar in certain states without a law degree. Over the next week or two, I will file in this blog information I find on this topic. If it doesn't interest you, skip it.

For the State of Washington, see the Admission to Practice Rules (APR).

From APR Rule 3 (Applicants To Take the Bar Examination), b (Qualification for Bar Examination):
To qualify to sit for the bar examination, a person must present satisfactory proof of either (i) graduation from a law school approved by the Board of Governors, or (ii) completion of the law clerk program prescribed by these rules, or (iii) admission to the practice of law by examination, together with current good standing, in any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia or any jurisdiction where the common law of England is the basis of its jurisprudence, and active legal experience for at least 3 of the 5 years immediately preceding the filing of the application.
Emphasis added.

APR Rule 6 (Law Clerk Program) is too long to quote, and this is a summary of some points. Applicants must (1) be of good moral character; (2) have a 4-year college degree; (3) be the full-time employee of a judge or lawyer in the State of Washington who will act as a tutor for only one clerk at a time; (4) make application for the clerk program to the state bar; (5) appear for an interview; and (6) pay fees. Tutors must (1) be members in good standing of the bar; (2) have at least 10 years of experience; and (3) certify the clerk's employment, the tutor's eligibility, etc. The length of study is 4 years, with 12 months of study per year, and 120 hours of study per month, including 3 hours of tutorial supervision per week. The course of study is prescribed by the bar's Law Clerk Committee. There must be monthly written examinations of the clerk by the tutor and an annual oral examination by the Law Clerk Committee. Tutors must submit monthly certificates of progress, and a final certificate of completion.


Laws and Lawyers

Thomas More, Utopia, II (tr. G.C. Richards, rev. Edward Surtz):
They have very few laws because very few are needed for persons so educated. The chief fault they find with other peoples is that almost innumerable books of laws and commentaries are not sufficient. They themselves think it most unfair that any group of men should be bound by laws which are either too numerous to be read through or too obscure to be understood by anyone.

Moreover, they absolutely banish from their country all lawyers, who cleverly manipulate cases and cunningly argue legal points. They consider it a good thing that every man should plead his own cause and say the same to the judge as he would tell his counsel. Thus there is less ambiguity and the truth is more easily elicited when a man, uncoached in deception by a lawyer, conducts his own case and the judge skillfully weighs each statement and helps untu­tored minds to defeat the false accusations of the crafty. To secure these advantages in other countries is difficult, owing to the immense mass of extremely complicated laws.

Leges habent perquam paucas. Sufficiunt enim sic institutis paucissimae. Quin hoc in primis apud alios improbant populos, quod legum interpretumque volumina, non infinita sufficiunt. Ipsi uero censent iniquissimum: ullos homines his obligari legibus quae aut numerosiores sint, quam ut perlegi queant, aut obscuriores quam ut a quovis possint intelligi.

Porro causidicos, qui causas tractent callide ac leges vafre disputent, prorsus omnes excludunt. Censent enim ex usu esse ut suam quisque causam agat, eademque referat iudici quae narraturus patrono fuerat. Sic et minus ambagum fore et facilius elici veritatem dum eo dicente quem nullus patronus fucum docuit. Iudex solerter expendit singula et contra versutorum calumnias simplicioribus ingeniis opitulatur. Haec apud alias gentes in tanto perplexissimarum acervo legum difficile est observari.
Thomas More was a lawyer.


The Secret Life of Books

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (Fourth Day, Terce, tr. William Weaver):
Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Bathing as a Cure for Sorrow

Saint Augustine, Confessions 9.12.32 (after the death of his mother, tr. J.G. Pilkington):
It appeared to me also a good thing to go and bathe, I having heard that the bath [balneum] took its name from the Greek βαλανεῖον, because it drives trouble from the mind. Lo, this also I confess unto Thy mercy, "Father of the fatherless," that I bathed, and felt the same as before I had done so. For the bitterness of my grief exuded not from my heart. Then I slept, and on awaking found my grief not a little mitigated...

visum etiam mihi est ut irem lavatum, quod audieram inde balneis nomen inditum quia Graeci balanion dixerint, quod anxietatem pellat ex animo. ecce et hoc confiteor misericordiae tuae, pater orphanorum, quoniam lavi et talis eram qualis priusquam lavissem, neque enim exudavit de corde meo maeroris amaritudo. deinde dormivi et evigilavi, et non parva ex parte mitigatum inveni dolorem meum...
James O'Donnell, in his commentary on the Confessions, doesn't elucidate this passage, beyond correctly noting that the derivation is spurious.

Isidore, Etymologies 15.2.40 (tr. Stephen A. Barney) repeats the spurious derivation:
Baths (balneum) are assigned their name from the idea of the lifting of sorrow, because the Greeks called it βαλανεῖον (cf. βάλλειν, "cast away"; ἀνία, "grief"), since it takes away one's anxiety of spirit.

balneis vero nomen inditum a levatione maeroris; nam Graeci BALANEION dixerunt, quod anxietatem animi tollat.
Hjalmar Frisk in his Griechisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch says that there is no satisfactory etymology of Greek βαλανεῖον ("unerklärt"). Apparently Pierre Chantraine in his Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue grecque (unavailable to me) suggests that it comes from βάλανος (acorn) because bath stoppers were shaped like acorns, but Robert Beekes in his online Greek etymological dictionary calls that an "improbable" suggestion.

René Ginouves, Balaneutike: Recherches sur le bain dans l'antiquité grecque (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1962) has no index, and the table of contents doesn't lead me to think that he discusses the etymology.

I wonder where Saint Augustine got the idea. He admits (Confessions 1.13.20 and 1.14.23) that he didn't learn much Greek as a boy. Pierre Courcelle, Recherches sur les Confessions de Saint Augustin, new ed. (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1968) is not available to me. Varro knows that Latin balneum comes from Greek βαλανεῖον, but he doesn't discuss the derivation of the Greek word.

Thanks to Fr. Gerard Deighan, whose email on this subject prompted me to look further into it.

Monday, July 16, 2007


New Testament Greek

In Robinson Davies' novel The Rebel Angel (Penguin Books, 1983), a Greek professor named Simon Darcourt describes New Testament Greek thus (p. 46):
A splendid ruin, like a Greek statue with nose knocked off, arms gone, privy parts lost, but still Greek, splendid in decay, and capable of saying mighty things.
I have not read the novel, and I owe the quotation to an essay by Barry Baldwin entitled "Classicists in Fiction".


Door-Shutting in Antiquity

Anthony Griffin, "Germany and the West 1830-1900," in K.J. Dover, Perceptions of the Ancient Greeks (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), pp. 225-245 (at 242):
More than half a century after Burckhardt's Berlin years, another young student, Ludwig Hatvany, a Hungarian, published his account of his experiences as a young classicist. He did so in a pamphlet that took the form of mock notes on a year's work in classics in Berlin and bore the brilliant title Die Wissenschaft des nicht Wissenswerten (Berlin, 1911) - 'The science of what is not worth knowing'. With splendid brutality he pilloried his teacher, the infamous 'Woepke', who took the passage in the Protagoras where the porter shuts the gate on Socrates and his companions as the pretext for a discourse on 'the important and still unsolved question of door-shutting in antiquity'.
The line between satire and reality is a thin one. I can think offhand of at least one book on door-shutting in antiquity - Frank O. Copley, Exclusus Amator: A Study in Latin Love Poetry (New York: American Philological Association, 1956). Exclusus amator means "shut-out lover," and the book is a study of the paraclausithyron, or address to a closed door by a lover who has been shut out by his mistress.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Sleep and Baths

Danny Garland Jr. has a clever parody of St. Thomas Aquinas in which the Angelic Doctor examines the question Whether Naps Are Necessary For Salvation.

I'm reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, and I recently happened on this passage (Second Day, Terce, tr. William Weaver):
"I wonder," William said, "why you are so opposed to the idea that Jesus may have laughed. I believe laughter is a good medicine, like baths, to treat humors and the other afflictions of the body, melancholy in particular."

"Baths are a good thing," Jorge said, "and Aquinas himself advises them for dispelling sadness, which can be a bad passion when it is not addressed to an evil that can be dispelled through boldness. Baths restore the balance of the humors. Laughter shakes the body, distorts the features of the face, makes man similar to the monkey."

"Monkeys do not laugh; laughter is proper to man, it is a sign of his rationality," William said.
This led me to Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Ia-IIae q. 38 a. 5 (First Part of the Second Part, Question 38, Article 5, tr. Fathers of the English Dominican Province):
Whether pain and sorrow are assuaged by sleep and baths?

Objection 1. It would seem that sleep and baths do not assuage sorrow. For sorrow is in the soul: whereas sleep and baths regard the body. Therefore they do not conduce to the assuaging of sorrow.

Objection 2. Further, the same effect does not seem to ensue from contrary causes. But these, being bodily things, are incompatible with the contemplation of truth which is a cause of the assuaging of sorrow, as stated above (04). Therefore sorrow is not mitigated by the like.

Objection 3. Further, sorrow and pain, in so far as they affect the body, denote a certain transmutation of the heart. But such remedies as these seem to pertain to the outward senses and limbs, rather than to the interior disposition of the heart. Therefore they do not assuage sorrow.

On the contrary, Augustine says (Confess. ix, 12): "I had heard that the bath had its name [Balneum, from the Greek balaneion] . . . from the fact of its driving sadness from the mind." And further on, he says: "I slept, and woke up again, and found my grief not a little assuaged": and quotes the words from the hymn of Ambrose [Cf. Sarum Breviary: First Sunday after the octave of the Epiphany, Hymn for first Vespers], in which it is said that "Sleep restores the tired limbs to labor, refreshes the weary mind, and banishes sorrow."

I answer that, As stated above (37, 4), sorrow, by reason of its specific nature, is repugnant to the vital movement of the body; and consequently whatever restores the bodily nature to its due state of vital movement, is opposed to sorrow and assuages it. Moreover such remedies, from the very fact that they bring nature back to its normal state, are causes of pleasure; for this is precisely in what pleasure consists, as stated above (31, 1). Therefore, since every pleasure assuages sorrow, sorrow is assuaged by such like bodily remedies.

Reply to Objection 1. The normal disposition of the body, so far as it is felt, is itself a cause of pleasure, and consequently assuages sorrow.

Reply to Objection 2. As stated above (31, 8), one pleasure hinders another; and yet every pleasure assuages sorrow. Consequently it is not unreasonable that sorrow should be assuaged by causes which hinder one another.

Reply to Objection 3. Every good disposition of the body reacts somewhat on the heart, which is the beginning and end of bodily movements, as stated in De Causa Mot. Animal. xi.
I sometimes fall asleep in the bath, which should be doubly effective at assuaging sorrow.

For a variety of cures for melancholy, see Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. II.

Also, on laughter as proper to man, see Aristotle, On the Parts of Animals 3.10 (673a, tr. William Ogle):
That man alone is affected by tickling is due firstly to the delicacy of his skin, and secondly to his being the only animal that laughs.


Hell and Sin

Brandon at Siris discusses the famous astronomer Father Maximilian Hell, S.J. and his unusual name. There's also Jaime Cardinal Sin of Manila, Philippines. Angelo Mercado once told me that the locals called the Cardinal's residence "The House of Sin."


The Investigation of Nature

Thomas More, Utopia, II (tr. G.C. Richards, rev. Edward Surtz):
They think that the investigation of nature, with the praise arising from it, is an act of worship acceptable to God.

Gratum deo cultum putant naturae contemplationem, laudemque ab ea.
Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, I, 13:
The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man: 'tis the debt of our reason wee owe unto God, and the homage wee pay for not being beasts; without this the world is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixt day when as yet there was not a creature that could conceive, or say there was a world. The wisedome of God receives small honour from those vulgar heads, that rudely stare about, and with a grosse rusticity admire his workes; those highly magnifie him whose judicious enquiry into his acts, and deliberate research into his creatures, returne the duty of a devout and learned admiration.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Hymn to Philosophy

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.2.5-6 (tr. C.D. Yonge):
o vitae philosophia dux,
[O Philosophy, thou guide of life!]

o virtutis indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum!
[thou discoverer of virtue and expeller of vices!]

quid non modo nos, sed omnino vita hominum sine te esse potuisset?
[what had not only I myself, but the whole life of man, been without you?]

tu urbis peperisti,
[To you it is that we owe the origin of cities;]

tu dissipatos homines in societatem vitae convocasti,
[you it was who called together the dispersed race of men into social life;]

tu eos inter se primo domiciliis, deinde coniugiis, tum litterarum et vocum communione iunxisti,
[you united them together, first, by placing them near one another, then by marriages, and lastly, by the communication of speech and languages.]

tu inventrix legum,
[You have been the inventress of laws;]

tu magistra morum et disciplinae fuisti;
[you have been our instructress in morals and discipline;]

ad te confugimus,
[to you we fly for refuge;]

a te opem petimus,
[from you we implore assistance;]

tibi nos, ut antea magna ex parte, sic nunc penitus totosque tradimus.
[and as I formerly submitted to you in a great degree, so now I surrender up myself entirely to you.]

est autem unus dies bene et ex praeceptis tuis actus peccanti inmortalitati anteponendus.
[For one day spent well, and agreeably to your precepts, is preferable to an eternity of error.]

cuius igitur potius opibus utamur quam tuis, quae et vitae tranquillitatem largita nobis es et terrorem mortis sustulisti?
[Whose assistance, then, can be of more service to me than yours, when you have bestowed on us tranquillity of life, and removed the fear of death?]


The Pleasure of the Belly

Epicurus, fragment 409 Usener = Athenaeus 12.546f:
The beginning and root of every good thing is the pleasure of the belly; both wise things and refined things have reference to this.

ἀρχὴ καὶ ῥίζα παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ ἡ τῆς γαστρὸς ἡδονή· καὶ τὰ σοφὰ καὶ τὰ περιττὰ ἐπὶ ταύτην ἔχει τὴν ἀναφοράν.
Presumably, to Epicurus, the belly feels pleasure when it is filled.

But there are those who hold that the belly also feels pleasure when it is emptied. Among these is former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation chairman Guy Fournier, who resigned last year after a series of controversial public statements. One of the sins that caused his downfall was a radio interview in which he spoke for over ten minutes about the joys of defecation. According to a story by Graeme Hamilton in the National Post,
Mr. Fournier recounted a train trip in the early 1960s during which a friend named Michel said going number two was as pleasurable as having sex.

"From that moment, I started paying closer attention -- and I have to tell you, I quickly realized that Michel was entirely right," Mr. Fournier said.

"And the most extraordinary thing is that, in the end, as you grow older, you continue to go poop once a day if you are in good health, while it is not easy to make love every day. So finally, the pleasure is longer-lasting and more frequent than the other."
Although my first name in French is Michel, I deny that I ever went on a train trip with Guy Fournier in the early 1960's.

Fournier and his friend Michel are in good company. Thomas More, Utopia, Book II (tr. G.C. Richards, rev. Edward Surtz), wrote about the pleasure felt when the belly is emptied:
Bodily pleasure they divide into two kinds. The first is that which fills the sense with clearly perceptible sweetness. Sometimes it comes from the renewal of those organs which have been weakened by our natural heat. These organs are then restored by food and drink. Sometimes it comes from the elimination of things which overload the body. This agreeable sensation occurs when we discharge feces from our bowels ...

corporis voluptatem in duas partiuntur formas, quarum prima sit ea, quae sensum perspicua suavitate perfundit, quod alias earum instauratione partium fit, quas insitus nobis calor exhauserit. nam hae cibo potuque redduntur, alias dum egeruntur illa, quorum copia corpus exuberat. haec suggeritur, dum excrementis intestina purgamus ...

Friday, July 13, 2007


The World's Ugliest Word Contest

The World's Ugliest Dog Contest takes place each year at the Sonoma-Marin county fair in California. If there were a contest for the world's ugliest word, I would propose statementize as a contestant. I actually came across this ugly word in a legal document recently. Apparently it means "obtain a statement from." Google has only 130 hits for statementize. LexisNexis Research identifies about half a dozen appellate court decisions containing the word, the earliest dated 1972.


Epipompē in Popular Culture

From my son:
Yesterday when I was mowing the lawn I was contemplating one of the recurring themes on your blog, the ancient idea about the fixed amount of evil in the world. I thought of two occurrences of this theme in popular culture. One was in Star Trek: The Next Generation, about an entity of pure evil, a sort of residue that was created by a civilization that tried to rid itself of evil. http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Vagra_II.

The other was in the climax of the movie The Exorcist, when Father Damian Karras induces the devil to take possession of him in place of the possessed girl Regan, right before hurling himself out the window. http://www.ruinedendings.com/film438ending.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Putting Away Childish Things

St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13.11:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Childish things here are obviously childish speech, understanding, and thinking.

But might some ancient readers have thought also of those ceremonies in which boys, becoming men, put away the physical objects of childhood, the insignia pueritiae? I'm thinking mainly of the Liberalia (March 17), when boys coming of age put away the bordered toga (praetexta) and the amulet (bulla) and put on the toga virilis. See Marquardt and Mommsen, Handbuch der römischen Alterthümer 7.1 (Leipzig, S. Hirzel, 1879), pp. 122-124 for a collection of ancient references.

On the Greek side, some dedicatory epigrams from the Greek Anthology are relevant. One is 6.309 (Leonidas, tr. W.R. Paton):
To Hermes Philocles here hangs up these toys of his boyhood: his noiseless ball, this lively boxwood rattle, his knuckle-bones he had such a mania for, and his spinning top.
For a girl see e.g. Greek Anthology 6.280 (anonymous, tr. W.R. Paton):
Timareta, the daughter of Timaretus, before her wedding, hath dedicated to thee, Artemis of the lake, her tambourine and her pretty ball, and the caul that kept up her hair, and her dolls, too, and their dresses; a virgin gift, as is fit, to virgin Dian. But, daughter of Leto, hold thy hand over the girl, and purely keep her in her purity.
W.H.D. Rouse, Greek Votive Offerings: An Essay in the History of Greek Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1902), pp. 249-250, gives more examples and discusses some archaeological finds.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


A Community of Wild Beasts

Seneca, On Anger 2.8.1-3 (tr. John W. Basore):
[1] Whenever you see the forum with its thronging multitude, and the polling-places filled with all the gathered concourse, and the great Circus where the largest part of the populace displays itself, you may be sure that just as many vices are gathered there as men.

[2] Among those whom you see in civilian garb there is no peace; for a slight reward any one of them can be led to compass the destruction of another; no one makes gain save by another's loss; the prosperous they hate, the unprosperous they despise; superiors they loathe, and to inferiors are loathsome; they are goaded on by opposite desires; they desire for the sake of some little pleasure or plunder to see the whole world lost. They live as though they were in a gladiatorial school - those with whom they eat, they likewise fight.

[3] It is a community of wild beasts, only that beasts are gentle toward each other and refrain from tearing their own kind, while men glut themselves with rending one another. They differ from the dumb animals in this alone - that animals grow gentle toward those who feed them, while men in their madness prey upon the very persons by whom they are nurtured.

[1] Cum videris forum multitudine refertum et saepta concursu omnis frequentiae plena et illum circum in quo maximam sui partem populus ostendit, hoc scito, istic tantundem esse vitiorum quantum hominum.

[2] Inter istos quos togatos vides nulla pax est: alter in alterius exitium levi compendio ducitur; nulli nisi ex alterius iniuria quaestus est; felicem oderunt, infelicem contemnunt; maiorem gravantur, minori graves sunt; diversis stimulantur cupiditatibus; omnia perdita ob levem voluptatem praedamque cupiunt. Non alia quam in ludo gladiatorio vita est cum isdem viventium pugnantiumque.

[3] Ferarum iste conventus est, nisi quod illae inter se placidae sunt morsuque similium abstinent, hi mutua laceratione satiantur. Hoc uno ab animalibus mutis differunt, quod illa mansuescunt alentibus, horum rabies ipsos a quibus est nutrita depascitur.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007



One thing that unites politicians of every stripe is the lip service paid to the idea that the United States should be "energy independent." On his web site, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson says:
And everyone -- every American -- must make an effort to make us energy independent and combat global warming.
Similarly on Republican presidential candidate Tommy Thompson's web site we read:
Governor Thompson believes America must become more independent in its energy needs and break reliance on foreign oil. We must begin with greater investments in renewable energy, like ethanol, so we can bring these technologies to market faster and more efficiently. And we must come together and deal with our changing climate.
The idea that a state should be self-sufficient to the greatest degree possible is an old one. Pericles in his funeral oration praised Athens for its self-sufficiency (Thucydides 2.36.3, tr. Benjamin Jowett):
And we ourselves assembled here to-day, who are still most of us in the vigour of life, have carried the work of improvement further, and have richly endowed our city with all things, so that she is sufficient for herself both in peace and war.
Aristotle (Politics 1.2, tr. Benjamin Jowett) says that self-sufficiency should be the goal or end of the state:
When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. And therefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or a family. Besides, the final cause and end of a thing is the best, and to be self-sufficing is the end and the best.
Varro, lamenting the decline of farming in Italy, writes (On Agriculture 2 praef. 3, tr. William Davis Hooper and Harrison Boyd Ash):
As therefore in these days practically all the heads of families have sneaked within the walls, abandoning the sickle and the plough, and would rather busy their hands in the theatre and in the circus than in the grain-fields and the vineyards, we hire a man to bring us from Africa and Sardinia the grain with which to fill our stomachs, and the vintage we store comes in ships from the islands of Cos and Chios.

Monday, July 09, 2007


At Odds With The World

John Derbyshire, June Diary, on the iPhone craze:
I am more and more at odds with the world. It isn’t just a matter of disagreement about principles or taste. There are ever-expanding zones of early-21st-century life that I just don’t get. I suppose someone looking from the outside would say that this is just the effect of advancing age working on an innately contrary and antisocial personality.


Omnia Mea Mecum Porto

In his Epistulae Morales 9.18-19, Seneca tells this story about the Greek philosopher Stilpon (c. 380-300 B.C.):
For when his homeland was captured, his children lost, his wife lost, and he was walking away from the public conflagration by himself and yet unconcerned, Demetrius (whose nickname was Poliorcetes, after his destruction of cities) asked him if he had lost anything. He said, "All my goods are with me." Behold a strong and stalwart man! He was victorious over the victory of his enemy. "I have lost nothing," he said: he made Demetrius doubt whether he had actually conquered. "All of my goods are with me": justice, virtue, prudence, the very fact that he considered nothing good that could be snatched away.

Hic enim capta patria, amissis liberis, amissa uxore, cum ex incendio publico solus et tamen beatus exiret, interroganti Demetrio, cui cognomen ab exitio urbium Poliorcetes fuit, num quid perdidisset, 'omnia' inquit 'bona mea mecum sunt'. Ecce vir fortis ac strenuus! ipsam hostis sui victoriam vicit. 'Nihil' inquit 'perdidi': dubitare illum coegit an vicisset. 'Omnia mea mecum sunt': iustitia, virtus, prudentia, hoc ipsum, nihil bonum putare quod eripi possit.
Cicero, in his Paradoxa Stoicorum 1.1.8, tells a very similar story about Bias, one of the "seven sages" of ancient Greece:
I shall also often praise that famous sage, Bias I think, who is included among the seven. When the enemy had captured his homeland and others were fleeing in such a way as to carry many of their possessions with them, and he was told by someone to do likewise, he said, "I am indeed doing it; for I am carrying all my things with me."

nec non saepe laudabo sapientem illum, Biantem, ut opinor, qui numeratur in septem; cuius quom patriam Prienam cepisset hostis ceterique ita fugerent, ut multa de suis rebus asportarent, cum esset admonitus a quodam, ut idem ipse faceret, 'Ego vero', inquit, 'facio; nam omnia mecum porto mea.'
Valerius Maximus 7.2.ext.3 seems to follow and elaborate on Cicero:
When enemies had invaded his homeland Priene and all (at least those whom the savagery of war had permitted to get away safe) were fleeing loaded with the weight of their precious possessions, Bias was asked why he was carrying none of his goods with him. He said, "Indeed, all my goods I carry with me," for he was carrying them in his heart, not on his shoulders, things not to be seen by the eyes but to be valued by the spirit.

Bias autem, cum patriam eius Prienen hostes invasissent, omnibus, quos modo saevitia belli incolumes abire passa fuerat, pretiosarum rerum pondere onustis fugientibus interrogatus quid ita nihil ex bonis suis secum ferret 'ego vero' inquit 'bona <omnia> mea mecum porto': pectore enim illa gestabat, non humeris, nec oculis visenda, sed aestimanda animo.

bona <omnia> mea mecum Gertz, omnia om. A Halm, bona mecum omnia Par.
According to Henry David Thoreau in The Maine Woods, his Indian guide Joe Polis literally carried all of his possessions, or at least all necessary ones, with him:
I observed that he wore a cotton shirt, originally white, a greenish flannel one over it, but no waistcoat, flannel drawers, and strong linen or duck pants, which also had been white, blue woollen stockings, cowhide boots, and a Kossuth hat. He carried no change of clothing, but putting on a stout, thick jacket, which he laid aside in the canoe, and seizing a full-sized axe, his gun and ammunition, and a blanket, which would do for a sail or knapsack, if wanted, and strapping on his belt, which contained a large sheath-knife, he walked off at once, ready to be gone all summer. This looked very independent; a few simple and effective tools, and no India-rubber clothing. He was always the first ready to start in the morning, and if it had not held some of our property would not have been obliged to roll up his blanket. Instead of carrying a large bundle of his own extra clothing, etc., he brought back the great-coats of moose tied up in his blanket. I found that his outfit was the result of a long experience, and in the main was hardly to be improved on, unless by washing or an extra shirt.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


A Radiant Vision

Richard Jefferies, Wild Flowers, from The Open Air:
If we had never before looked upon the earth, but suddenly came to it man or woman grown, set down in the midst of a summer mead, would it not seem to us a radiant vision? The hues, the shapes, the song and life of birds, above all the sunlight, the breath of heaven, resting on it; the mind would be filled with its glory, unable to grasp it, hardly believing that such things could be mere matter and no more. Like a dream of some spirit-land it would appear, scarce fit to be touched lest it should fall to pieces, too beautiful to be long watched lest it should fade away. So it seemed to me as a boy, sweet and new like this each morning; and even now, after the years that have passed, and the lines they have worn in the forehead, the summer mead shines as bright and fresh as when my foot first touched the grass.


Eating Weeds

My mother served us children dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) on occasion. I didn't like them much, but they were a healthy food. According to Sara B. Stein, My Weeds: A Gardener's Botany (1988; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1990), p. 15, "Its leaves contain nine times the scurvy-battling vitamin C in lettuce, three times the anemia-preventing iron in spinach, and forty-two times the vitamin A in ordinary iceberg." I've never tried dandelion wine.

My mother also fed us fiddleheads (the young curled leaves of ferns), which I did like. Some people eat fiddleheads from bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), which the USDA's Common Weeds of the United States (1970; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1971), p. 8, classifies as a weed, but I think we ate fiddleheads from the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris).

Another weed I keep pulling out of my garden, Portulaca oleracea or purslane, is supposedly also edible either raw or cooked, but I haven't yet tried it.

The scientific name for ragweed is Ambrosia. Ambrosia was the food of the gods in Greek mythology. I've never heard of humans eating ragweed, and even most animals won't touch it. The larvae of some butterflies apparently do eat it.


Ad Deum Qui Laetificat Juventutem Meam

Pope Benedict XVI has issued Summorum Pontificum, which grants priests the right to celebrate Mass in Latin using the 1962 Roman Missal. See Fr. John Zuhlsdorf for the text of Summorum Pontificum, with a translation and perspicacious commentary.

As a young altar boy before the Second Vatican Council, I knew much of the Latin Mass by heart. We didn't mumble or slur the Latin responses. Our parish priest, Fr. Daniel J. Honan, insisted on a clear pronunciation. Fr. Honan was a fine Latinist. He was a former high school Latin teacher, and he translated books 17-22 of St. Augustine's City of God for the Catholic University of America's Fathers of the Church series. He was the first learned man of my acquaintance and an inspiration to me.

Saturday, July 07, 2007



It used to be that Google Book Search only showed page images, but in the past week I've noticed that some Google Book Search pages (not all) make it possible to toggle between "View plain text" and "View page images."

This is a major improvement, because it allows text to be copied and pasted. The mediocre quality of the optical character recognition is surprising, though, and the copied text must be carefully compared with the page image so that errors can be caught and removed. There are a dwindling number of things that humans can do better than computers, and character recognition is still one of them. Because of Google Book Search's problems with character recognition, it sometimes fails to find hits for text actually present in its books.

It would be nice if Google Book Search had a "Print Page Image" button. I don't know how many times I've been forced to resort to this trick: hit Alt and Print Scrn simultaneously to capture the screen image, start Microsoft Paint, paste the screen image, crop away everything except the page image, and print. That's unnecessarily tedious.

Along the same lines, why does Google Book Search return hits that say "No preview available?" This is like the punishment meted out to Tantalus. I'd rather not have the search results cluttered with items I am not allowed to access.

Under Google Advanced Book Search, "All books," "Limited preview," "Full view," and "Library catalogs" should not be mutually exclusive radio buttons. Most of the time I want both "Limited preview" and "Full view" hits returned.

Also, why does Google Book Search sometimes store two or more copies of the same edition of the exact same text? The identical copies are obviously copied from different libraries. This seems wasteful of the effort required to copy books, especially when there are so many books out there still not copied.

I have another minor peeve about Google. Surely every Googler has had an experience like this. You search for, say, "nemini nocere possitis" and get a few hits. Google unhelpfully asks:
Did you mean to search for: "nemini nocere positions"
You didn't, but for a lark you click on "nemini nocere positions," to which Google predictably replies:
Your search - "nemini nocere positions" - did not match any documents.
Google should know ahead of time that there are no hits for "nemini nocere positions" and should not make ridiculous suggestions.

Despite these criticisms, Google is still the best thing on the Internet.



In most of the exorcisms recorded in the Gospels, Jesus simply drove demons away from the possessed (apopompē, "sending away"). But at Gadara (or Gerasa or Gergesa), Jesus drove the demons into a herd of pigs (epipompē, "sending to or against"). Matthew 8.30-32 (cf. Mark 5.11-13 and Luke 8.32-33):
And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.
Richard Wünsch first used the terms apopompē and epipompē to describe these two different ways of banishing evil in "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13-14 (1911) 9-32.

Jesus performed the exorcism by epipompē in pagan territory, the Decapolis, and it so happens that there are numerous examples of epipompē in pagan literature, usually in the context of a prayer.

Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), pp. 410-411, described the belief that underlies the most primitive form of epipompē:
This type of prayer is based on a widespread and very ancient belief. If a daemon or god is bent on harming you -- and in the early days, before the gods became humanized, that seems to have been their favorite occupation -- it will do you little good if you just cry out 'spare me' (pheidou, parce). You have to do that as a matter of form, but if you are wise you will add some more effective bait. If you are able to point to a really attractive substitute, then, perhaps, you may succeed in diverting the god from his original object, from you and yours. An obvious candidate for such a substitute is an enemy, either your country's or a personal one; but if you do not want to be so specific, you may be content with asking the daemon to prey on 'others'.
There is a good example of this primitive form of epipompē in a Vedic charm against fever, Atharvaveda 5.22.6-7 (tr. Ralph Griffith):
Fever, snake, limbless one, speak out! Keep thyself far away from us.
  Seek thou a wanton Dāst girl and strike her with thy thunderbolt.
Go, Fever, to the Mūjavans, or, farther, to the Bahlikas.
  Seek a lascivious Sara girl and seem to shake her through and through.
In another form of epipompē, you don't address the personified evil itself, but rather you ask one of the gods who are good at averting evil to send it somewhere else. This is what we see, for example, in an Orphic hymn to Artemis (36.14-17):
Come savior goddess, dear one, propitious to all your initiates, bringing good fruits from the earth and beloved Peace and fair-tressed Health; but may you send to mountain tops diseases and pains.

ἐλθέ, θεὰ σώτειρα, φίλη, μύστῃσιν ἅπασιν
εὐάντητος, ἄγουσα καλοὺς καρποὺς ἀπὸ γαίης
εἰρήνην τ' ἐρατὴν καλλιπλόκαμον θ' ὑγίειαν·
πέμποις δ' εἰς ὀρέων κεφαλὰς νούσους τε καὶ ἄλγη.
I have discussed this topic before on this blog, and now I have devoted a separate web page to it.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Sit Still

Richard Jefferies, Out of Doors in February, from The Open Air:
This, too, is one reason why a fixed observer usually sees more than one who rambles a great deal and covers ten times the space. The fixed observer who hardly goes a mile from home is like the man who sits still by the edge of a crowd, and by-and-by his lost companion returns to him. To walk about in search of persons in a crowd is well known to be the worst way of recovering them. Sit still and they will often come by. In a far more certain manner this is the case with birds and animals. They all come back. During a twelvemonth probably every creature would pass over a given locality: every creature that is not confined to certain places. The whole army of the woods and hedges marches across a single farm in twelve months. A single tree--especially an old tree--is visited by four-fifths of the birds that ever perch in the course of that period. Every year, too, brings something fresh, and adds new visitors to the list. Even the wild sea birds are found inland, and some that scarce seem able to fly at all are cast far ashore by the gales. It is difficult to believe that one would not see more by extending the journey, but, in fact, experience proves that the longer a single locality is studied the more is found in it. But you should know the places in winter as well as in tempting summer, when song and shade and colour attract every one to the field. You should face the mire and slippery path. Nature yields nothing to the sybarite. The meadow glows with buttercups in spring, the hedges are green, the woods lovely; but these are not to be enjoyed in their full significance unless you have traversed the same places when bare, and have watched the slow fulfilment of the flowers.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Water in Plastic Bottles

Charles Fishman, Message in a Bottle:
Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Last year, we spent more on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani than we spent on iPods or movie tickets--$15 billion. It will be $16 billion this year.
I'm reminded of an exchange from The Story of Bob, a Young Artist, a skit which aired on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion (June 9, 2007). Hollywood producer David Dagmar and his assistant Penelope Pembroke are visiting the home of Bob Berger, author of the screenplay "Tramelling the Abyss." Here is part of the dialogue between Bob's unsophisticated sister Bernice and Penelope Pembroke:
BB: All right. Something to drink? Iced tea? Coffee?

PP: You wouldn't have bottled water, would you? Non-sparkling?

BB: No, but I could put some water in a bottle for you.
I'm also reminded of a remark attributed to Socrates by Diogenes Laertius (2.25, 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!"
Finally, from Dennis Mangan:
And those bottles are ugly, too. Just like almost everything else in modern life.
Hat tip: Dave Haxton at MacRaven.


In een huechsken met een buexken

Thanks to Eric Thomson for the following comments on some recent posts on this blog. Additions by me are enclosed in square brackets.

You are quite right about the Thomas à Kempis quotation. It’s a vain quest. The conundrum is discussed in:

    Notes and Queries 1925 CXLIX: 224

    Notes and Queries 1925 CXLIX: 264

    Notes and Queries 1925 CXLIX: 263-264

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to this exchange, but what seems likely to have happened is that a caption beneath what may have been a portrait of Thomas à Kempis was erroneously assumed to be a quotation from the Imitatio.

I’ve found this extract from Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church (1910):
“He [Thomas] became skilful as a copyist, and was thus enabled to support himself. Later he was admitted to the Augustinian convent of Mt. St. Agnes, near Zwolle, received priest’s orders, 1413, and was made sub-prior, 1429. His brother John, a man of rectitude of life, had been there before him, and was prior. Thomas’ life seems to have been a quiet one, devoted to meditation, composition and copying. He copied the Bible no less than four times, one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt. His works abound in quotations of the New Testament. Under an old picture, which is represented as his portrait, are the words, "In all things I sought quiet, and found it not save in retirement and in books."* They fit well the author of the famous Imitation of Christ, as the world thinks of him.

* [footnote 520]In omnibus requiem quaesivi et non inveni nisi in een huechsken met een buexken. Franciscus Tolensis is the first to ascribe the portrait to à Kempis.”
But let Thomas have the last laugh: ‘Non quaeras quis hoc dixerit: sed quid dicatur attende’. Imitatio bk. 1, ch. 5, sect. 1.

[In an email Rev. Gerard Deighan draws my attention to an article on Thomas à Kempis by Albrecht Classen, which states that the portrait with the motto is to be found in Gertruidenberg. Apparently the motto also appears on Thomas à Kempis' gravestone in Agnetenberg, according to Dieter Mertens, "Deutscher Renaissance-Humanismus," Humanismus in Europa (Winter 1998) 187-210, at 192-193, n. 12:
So in der lateinischen Grabinscrift des Thomas von Kempen auf dem Agnetenberg; diese beginnt mit einer Vergil-Allusion (Aen. 4, 373 nusquam tuta fides) als Teil eines Hexameters, fährt in Prosa mit Bibelallusionen fort (Eccli. 24, 11 in his omnibus requiem quaesivi; Ierem. 45, 3 et requiem non inveni) und mündet in die oben zieterten deutschen Worte, die ebenso wie der Hexameter sentenzen- und devisenartig wirken und in Kreisen der Devoten sprichwörtlich gewesen sein mögen: Nusquam tuta quies nisi cella, codice, Christo. In omnibus requiem quaesivi et non inveni nisi in een huechsken met een buexhen.]

Pygmies and Cranes:
Saepe improvisas mactabat, saepe iuvabat
Diripere aut nidum, aut ulcisci in prole parentem.
Nempe larem quoties multa construxerat arte,
Aut uteri posuisset onus, volucremque futuram;
Continuo vultu spirans immane minaci
Omnia vastaret miles, foetusque necaret
Immeritos, vitamque abrumperet imperfectam,
Cum tepido nundum maturit hostis in ovo. l. 35-42

Examen poeticum duplex, sive, Musarum anglicanarum delectus alter cui subjicitur Epigrammatum seu poematum minorum specimen novum. Londini Impensis Ric. Wellington, 1698.
Oft where his feather'd foe had rear'd her nest,
And laid her eggs and household gods to rest,
Burning for blood, in terrible array,
The eighteen-inch militia burst their way;
All went to wreck; the infant foeman fell,
When scarce his chirping bill had broke the shell.
(Translation: James Beattie: The Minstrel London: T. Gillet 1762 [1799].

I like the idea of the still warm shell. Not everything in mock-heroic is mockery. Johnson also made a translation this poem in his youth (about 1725) but only about half survives.

I agree with you about ‘O Clod Almighty’ being a rather feeble rendering of ‘ὦ Βδεῦ δέσποτα': ‘Farter Almighty’ might be better, particularly in a Southern Irish accent, in which the fricative ‘D‘ has a plosive realization.

Jug- Eared: You mention Horace but not that he was himself jug-eared by name. Lewis & Short’s entry on ‘flaccus’ has the reference from Pliny.

Fixed Quantities:

Destruction as movement: ‘eliminate’ has a doublet in ‘exterminate’ which must have been something like ‘run out of town’.

Demolish and destroy (downwards),
eradicate (upwards),
raze, erase and obliterate (side to side).

The only completely abstract term I can think of annihilate and that comes from ecclesiastical Latin.

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