Saturday, January 12, 2008


Few, One, or None

George Chapman, dedication of The Shadow of Night (1594) to Matthew Roydon:
I rest as resolute as Seneca, satisying myself if but a few, if one, or if none like it.
Chapman refers to a letter of Seneca to Lucilius on crowds. Here is the end of the letter (7.10-12, tr. Richard M. Gummere):
[10] In order, however, that I may not to-day have learned exclusively for myself, I shall share with you three excellent sayings, of the same general purport, which have come to my attention. This letter will give you one of them as payment of my debt; the other two you may accept as a contribution in advance. Democritus says [frg. 302a Diels-Kranz]: "One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man."

[11] The following also was nobly spoken by someone or other, for it is doubtful who the author was; they asked him what was the object of all this study applied to an art that would reach but very few. He replied: "I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all." The third saying-and a noteworthy one, too-is by Epicurus [frg. 208 Usener], written to one of the partners of his studies: "I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other."

[12] Lay these words to heart, Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure which comes from the applause of the majority. Many men praise you; but have you any reason for being pleased with yourself, if you are a person whom the many can understand? Your good qualities should face inwards.

[10] Sed ne soli mihi hodie didicerim, communicabo tecum quae occurrunt mihi egregie dicta circa eundem fere sensum tria, ex quibus unum haec epistula in debitum solvet, duo in antecessum accipe. Democritus ait, 'unus mihi pro populo est, et populus pro uno'.

[11] Bene et ille, quisquis fuit - ambigitur enim de auctore -, cum quaereretur ab illo quo tanta diligentia artis spectaret ad paucissimos perventurae, 'satis sunt' inquit 'mihi pauci, satis est unus, satis est nullus'. Egregie hoc tertium Epicurus, cum uni ex consortibus studiorum suorum scriberet: 'haec' inquit 'ego non multis, sed tibi; satis enim magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus'.

[12] Ista, mi Lucili, condenda in animum sunt, ut contemnas voluptatem ex plurium assensione venientem. Multi te laudant: ecquid habes cur placeas tibi, si is es quem intellegant multi? introrsus bona tua spectent.
Hermann Usener in his Epicurea (p. 163) gives no other source for Epicurus' fragment 208 than this letter of Seneca. I don't have access to Diels-Kranz to check on Democritus' fragment 302a, but there is a similar remark in some verses quoted by Diogenes Laertius 9.16 about Heraclitus (tr. R.D. Hicks = Palatine Anthology 7.128):
Heraclitus am I. Why do you drag me up and down, ye illiterate? It was not for you I toiled, but for such as understand me. One man in my sight is a match for thirty thousand, but the countless hosts do not make a single one. This I proclaim, yea in the halls of Persephone.

Ἡράκλειτος ἐγώ· τί μ' ἄνω κάτω ἕλκετ' ἄμουσοι;
  οὐχ ὑμῖν ἐπόνουν, τοῖς δ' ἔμ' ἐπισταμένοις.
εἷς ἐμοὶ ἄνθρωπος τρισμύριοι, οἱ δ' ἀνάριθμοι
  οὐδείς. ταῦτ' αὐδῶ καὶ παρὰ Φερσεφόνῃ.
George Chapman again, as the motto to Ovid's Banquet of Sense (1595), abridges Persius: "Quis leget haec? Nemo Hercule Nemo, vel duo vel nemo."

This is Persius 1.2-3 (tr. John Conington):
Friend. Whom do you expect to read you?
P. 'Was your question meant for me ? Nobody, I assure you.'
F. Nobody?
P. 'Well—one or two at most.'

'quis leget haec?' min tu istud ais? nemo hercule. 'nemo?'
vel duo vel nemo.
Horace too (Satires 1.10.74) is "satisfied with a few readers" (contentus paucis lectoribus). Arthur Palmer in his commentary ad loc. cites Milton, Paradise Lost 7.30: "still govern thou my song, / Urania, and fit audience find though few."

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