Monday, November 24, 2008



Some, perhaps rightly, regard emendation, or the correction of a corruptly transmitted text, as the acme of the philologist's work. So Robert Renehan, Greek Textual Criticism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), p. 2:
The skill of a Porson or Housman at remedying with an easy dispatch crux after crux ought indeed to be numbered among the θεῶν ἐρικυδέα δῶρα; not without reason has this faculty been called in the Latin tongue divinatio.
The Homeric phrase quoted by Renehan means "glorious gifts of gods." But, at a more mundane level, we engage in something like emendation every time we silently correct a misprint encountered in reading the newspaper.

In P.G. Naiditch, A.E. Housman at University College, London: The Election of 1892 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), pp. 134-135, I found a humorous, anonymous poem about emendation which first appeared in The University College London Union Magazine 1.5 (March 1906) 177:
'I have found it: heureka! heureka!'
  I cried. 'Now the riddle is solved.
When before has so neat, so unique a
  Solution as this been evolved?'
With a hand that still shook with elation,
  The words in the margin I wrote,
Then I gazed at my great emendation,
  My marvellous critical note.

Though it flashed on my mind in a minute,
  No force would suffice to express
All the wealth of Greek learning that's in it—
  I've got the Greek spirit, I guess.
The Greek spirit—Professor G. Murray,
  At least as he seeks to imply,
Thinks he has it; he'll just have to hurry
  To get it as badly as I.

Where were Scaliger, Porson and Bentley?
  And Housman—ah! where wandered he?
(Yet with him I should wish to deal gently,
  That he may deal gently with me.)
Has he e'er in his books or his lectures
  Once chanced on a comment so fine?
(But I'm ready to praise his conjectures,
  If he will do justice to mine.)

When the study of classics is ended
  (And many to end it now seek),
And the line I so grandly emended,
  Has gone the long road of all Greek;
Yet my fame shall abide even then, and
  These words on my tomb you shall see:—
'He inserted a comma at μέν and
  Deleted the colon at δὲ.'
Related post: Emendatio.

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