Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Lexicographical Light Verse

Thomas Hardy wrote a humorous poetic dialogue with the title Liddell and Scott On the Completion of their Lexicon.

Thanks to Farrago, I learned that Gordon M. Messing, following Hardy's lead, wrote some light verse about H.G. Liddell, Robert Scott, H. Stuart Jones, Greek-English Lexicon: A Supplement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968). It also takes the form of a dialogue between Liddell and Scott, and it can be found in Messing's review of the Supplement in Classical Philology 64 (1969) 238-239 (at 239):
Says Scott to Liddell,
"Is there some jot or tittle
Of Greek that we've not
In our lexicon got?
Editions reach nine
And I want to resign;
I'm just skin and bones,
Though we did bring in Jones."
Says Liddell to Scott,
"Despite all our swot,
By nineteen sixty-eight
Greek words are in spate—
Papyri, potsherds,
Lord, all the new words!"
Says Scott to Liddell,
"I just won't fiddle
With more Addenda
Nor yet Corrigenda.
Our laurels are age-proof;
I won't read more page-proof,
No more errant glosses.
Let's cut our losses—
If we've missed a couple,
We'll leave them for Suppl.!
Related post: O Precious Codex.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Grosse Seelen Dulden Still

Joseph Wood Krutch, The Twelve Seasons: A Perpetual Calendar for the Country (New York: William Sloan Associates, 1949), p. 93 (September):
To accuse his fate and to rail against it, is man's dubious prerogative. Few would be willing to deny it to themselves but it is not attractive in others. And that, certainly, is one of the reasons why the fellowship with animals who, for the most part, will not compete with us in lamentations, is so agreeable.
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 32:
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
Related posts: Hiding Troubles; Nietzsche on Emotional Incontinence; Buckled Lips; Emotional Incontinence; Euripidea; Hostile Laughter; Hostile Laughter in Euripides' Medea; Icy Laughter; Notes to Myself; On Concealing One's Misfortunes; Quotations about Complaints.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Preserving One's Honor in Retreat

John Dooley, Private, 1st Virginia, on the flight from Bloody Lane at Antietam, quoted in Geoffrey C. Ward et al., The Civil War: An Illustrated History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 160:
Oh, how I ran! I was afraid of being struck in the back, so I frequently turned around in running, so as to avoid if possible so disgraceful a wound.
Tyrtaeus 11.17-20 (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
For pleasant it is in dreadful warfare to pierce the midriff of a flying man, and disgraced is the dead that lieth in the dust with a spear-point in his back.

ἀργαλέον γὰρ ὄπισθε μετάφρενόν ἐστι δαΐζειν
  ἀνδρὸς φεύγοντος δηίῳ ἐν πολέμῳ·
αἰσχρὸς δ' ἐστὶ νέκυς κατακείμενος ἐν κονίῃσι
  νῶτον ὄπισθ' αἰχμῇ δουρὸς ἐληλάμενος.
Cf. also Diomedes urging the Greeks to retreat in Homer, Iliad 6.605-6 (tr. A.T. Murray):
But with faces turned toward the Trojans give ye ground ever backwards...

ἀλλὰ πρὸς Τρῶας τετραμμένοι αἰὲν ὀπίσσω
Related posts:

Sunday, September 27, 2009


How to Smile

Theodore Dalrymple, "The British Disease," The Wall Street Journal (September 26, 2009), on Gordon Brown:
[H]e is widely believed to have taken lessons in how to smile, though he has not been an apt pupil, for he now makes disconcertingly odd grimaces at inappropriate moments.
Samuel Beckett, Watt:
Watt had watched people smile and thought he understood how it was done. And it was true that Watt's smile, when he smiled, resembled more a smile than a sneer, for example, or a yawn. But there was something wanting to Watt's smile, some little thing was lacking, and people who saw it for the first time, were sometimes in doubt as to what expression exactly was intended. To many it seemed a simple sucking of the teeth.
Photographs show that I have the same disability as Brown and Watt.


It Is Enough

Edward Thomas, Digging:
To-day I think
Only with scents,—scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot's seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke's smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth.
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.
Related posts:

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Some Spot on Earth

Donald Culross Peattie, Flowering Earth (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1939; rpt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 144:
For every man there is some spot on earth, I think, which he has pledged himself to return to, some day, because he was so happy there once. Even to long for it is holiday of a sort. These visits of revery may be all that he can pay it, for years, perhaps until his shade is free to haunt where it pleases. But some are lucky; some get back, and find it, to every trembling leaf and stanch old tree trunk, untouched by any alteration but the seasons'.
Frederic Edwin Church, New England Landscape

I'm off to my favorite spot on earth for a couple of weeks, so there will be few or no posts at Laudator Temporis Acti until I return.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Epitaph for Eumelus

Greek Anthology 7.156 (Isidorus of Aegae), tr. William Cowper:
With seeds and bird-lime, from the desert air,
Eumelus gather'd free, though scanty, fare.
No lordly patron's hand he deign'd to kiss,
Nor lux'ry knew, save liberty, nor bliss.
Thrice thirty years he liv'd, and to his heirs
His seeds bequeath'd, his bird-lime, and his snares.
The same, tr. W.R. Paton:
By his bird-lime and canes Eumelus lived on the creatures of the air, simply but in freedom. Never did he kiss a strange hand for his belly's sake. Thus his craft supplied him with luxury and delight. Ninety years he lived, and now sleeps here, having left to his children his bird-lime, nets and canes.
The original Greek:
Ἰξῷ καὶ καλάμοισιν ἀπ' ἠέρος αὑτὸν ἔφερβεν
  Εὔμηλος, λιτῶς, ἀλλ' ἐν ἐλευθερίῃ.
οὔποτε δ' ὀθνείην ἔκυσεν χέρα γαστρὸς ἕκητι·
  τοῦτο τρυφὴν κείνῷ, τοῦτ' ἔφερ' εὐφροσύνην.
τρὶς δὲ τριηκοστὸν ζήσας ἔτος ἐνθάδ' ἰαύει,
  παισὶ λιπὼν ἰξὸν καὶ πτερὰ καὶ καλάμους.
Norman Douglas, Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology (London: Chapman and Hall, 1927), p. 95:
We have a number of allusions, however, to fowling, to snares of various kinds for feet and necks of birds, to traps and nets, and to birdlime which the fowler carried about with him, spread on canes—canes that could be fitted into each other and so lengthened out after the manner (says Mr. W. R. Paton) of a fishing-rod. The practice is referred to in Bion's idyll of Love and the boy-fowler. The invention of gunpowder has brought most of these implements into disuse, besides making the birds both shyer and scarcer. Decoy-birds and birdlime, for which the old name ixos has been revived, though prohibited, are still used in Greece to catch chiefly goldfinches, and also chaffinches and green linnets.

Thursday, September 10, 2009



John Betjeman, Inexpensive Progress:
Encase your legs in nylons,
Bestride your hills with pylons
  O age without a soul;
Away with gentle willows
And all the elmy billows
  That through your valleys roll.

Let's say goodbye to hedges
And roads with grassy edges
  And winding country lanes;
Let all things travel faster
Where motor-car is master
  Till only Speed remains.

Destroy the ancient inn-signs
But strew the roads with tin signs
  'Keep Left,' 'M4,' 'Keep Out!'
Command, instruction, warning,
Repetitive adorning
  The rockeried roundabout;

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small 'amenity,'
  Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
  With floodlights in between.

Leave no old village standing
Which could provide a landing
  For aeroplanes to roar,
But spare such cheap defacements
As huts with shattered casements
  Unlived-in since the war.

Let no provincial High Street
Which might be your or my street
  Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of black glass facia
  And traffic thunder through.

And if there is some scenery,
Some unpretentious greenery,
  Surviving anywhere,
It does not need protecting
For soon we'll be erecting
  A Power Station there.

When all our roads are lighted
By concrete monsters sited
  Like gallows overhead,
Bathed in the yellow vomit
Each monster belches from it,
  We'll know that we are dead.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


No Name for the Yew

W.H. Auden, The Epigoni:
No use invoking Apollo in a case like theirs;
The pleasure-loving gods had died in their chairs
And would not get up again, one of them, ever,
Though guttural tribes had crossed the Great River,
Roasting their dead and with no name for the yew;
No good expecting long-legged ancestors to
Return with long swords from pelagic paradises
(They would be left to their own devices,
Supposing they had some); no point pretending
One didn't foresee the probable ending
As dog-food, or landless, submerged, a slave;
Meanwhile, how should a cultured gentleman behave?
It would have been an excusable failing
Had they broken out into womanish wailing
Or, dramatising their doom, held forth
In sonorous clap-trap about death;
To their credit, a reader will only perceive
That the language they loved was coming to grief,
Expiring in preposterous mechanical tricks,
Epanaleptics, rhopalics, anacyclic acrostics:
To their lasting honor the stuff they wrote
Can safely be spanked in a scholar's foot-note,
Called shallow by a mechanised generation to whom
Haphazard oracular grunts are profound wisdom.
This short poem invites lengthy commentary. I'll confine myself to brief remarks on lines 20 ("Epanaleptics, rhopalics, anacyclic acrostics") and 5 ("no name for the yew").

In epanaleptic elegaics, the second half of the pentameter repeats the opening words of the preceding hexameter. In rhopalic verses, the first word is a monosyllable, the second a disyllable, the third a trisyllable, etc. Anacyclic verses can be read and scanned backwards as well as forwards, e.g. these by Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius (Latin Anthology 1.1.81):
Blanditias fera mors Veneris persensit amando,
  Permisit solitae nec Styga tristitiae.
Tristitiae Styga nec solitae permisit, amando
  Persensit Veneris mors fera blanditias.
In acrostic verses the initial letters of each line spell out a word or message—see E. Courtney, "Greek and Latin Acrostics," Philologus 134 (1990) 3-13.

A possible source for "no name for the yew" (line 5) is T. Peisker, in The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. II (New York: Macmillan, 1913), chap. XIV (The Expansion of the Slavs), p. 418:
Until lately the place where the Old Balto-Slavonic branched off from the other Indo-European languages and the place of origin of the Slavs were matters of dispute. But in 1908 the Polish botanist Rostafiński put forward from botanical geography evidence from which we can fix the original home of the Balto-Slavs (and consequently that of the Germans too, for the Balts could only have originated in immediate proximity to the Germans). The Balto-Slavs have no expressions for beech (fagus sylvatica), larch (larix europaea), and yew (taxus baccata), but they have a word for hornbeam (carpinus betulus). Therefore their original home must have been within the hornbeam zone but outside of the three other tree-zones, that is within the basin of the middle Dnieper (v. map). Hence Polesie—the marshland traversed by the Pripet, but not south or east of Kiev—must be the original home of the Slavs. The North Europeans (ancestors of the Kelts, Germans, and Balto-Slavs) originally had names for beech and yew, and therefore lived north of the Carpathians and west of a line between Konigsberg and Odessai. The ancestors of the Balto-Slavs crossed the beech and yew zone and made their way into Polesie; they then lost the word for beech, while they transferred the word for yew to the sallow (Slav. iva, salix caprea) and the black alder (Lithuan. yeva, rhamnus frangula), both of which have red wood.
See also P.M. Barford in Abbott Gleason, ed. A Companion to Russian History (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), pp. 21-22 (footnotes omitted):
Another variant of the loan-words method was linguistic research on the terminology of plants with limited geographical extent. In the 1880s, the Polish botanist and humanist Józef Rostafiński concluded that the Urheimat of the Slavs must have been a region devoid of beech, larch, and yew. This is because all Slavic languages have words of Germanic origin for these trees. Proto-Slavic had, therefore, been spoken outside the range of such trees but in a zone where hornbeam grew, since there was an old Slavic word for hornbeam. Rostafiński concluded on the basis of the distribution of these species that the homeland of the Slavs was the marshes along the Pripet River, near the present-day Ukranian-Belarus border. Many later scholars have also found this "beech argument" enticing. The Urheimat in the Pripet marshes was also endorsed by a number of scholars, among them Max Vasmer, the Russian-born German linguist.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


A Catalogue of Trees in Ovid

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.86-103 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
A hill there was, and on the hill a wide-extending plain, green with luxuriant grass; but the place was devoid of shade. When here the heaven-descended bard [Orpheus] sat down and smote his sounding lyre, shade came to the place. There came the Chaonian oak, the grove of the Heliades, the oak with its deep foliage, the soft linden, the beech, the virgin laurel-tree, the brittle hazel, the ash, suitable for spear-shafts, the smooth silver-fir, the ilex-tree bending with acorns, the pleasant plane, the many-coloured maple, river-haunting willows, the lotus, lover of the pools, the evergreen boxwood, the slender tamarisk, the double-hued myrtle, the viburnum with its dark-blue berries. You also, pliant-footed ivy, came, and along with you tendrilled grapes, and the elm- trees, draped with vines; the mountain-ash, the forest-pines, the arbute-tree, loaded with ruddy fruit, the pliant palm, the prize of victory, the bare-trunked pine with broad, leafy top...

collis erat collemque super planissima campi
area, quam viridem faciebant graminis herbae:
umbra loco deerat; qua postquam parte resedit
dis genitus vates et fila sonantia movit,
umbra loco venit: non Chaonis afuit arbor,
non nemus Heliadum, non frondibus aesculus altis,
nec tiliae molles, nec fagus et innuba laurus,
et coryli fragiles et fraxinus utilis hastis
enodisque abies curvataque glandibus ilex
et platanus genialis acerque coloribus inpar
amnicolaeque simul salices et aquatica lotos
perpetuoque virens buxum tenuesque myricae
et bicolor myrtus et bacis caerula tinus.
vos quoque, flexipedes hederae, venistis et una
pampineae vites et amictae vitibus ulmi
ornique et piceae pomoque onerata rubenti
arbutus et lentae, victoris praemia, palmae
et succincta comas hirsutaque vertice pinus...
Paulus Potter, Orpheus Charming the Beasts (1650, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

One of the things Ovid hated about his exile in Tomis was the lack of trees: "aspiceres nudos sine fronde, sine arbore, campos" (Tristia 3.10.75; cf. Ex Ponto 1.3.52, 3.8.13-14).

Related post: A Catalogue of Trees (in Spenser)

Monday, September 07, 2009



Plato, Laws 2.653d (tr. T.J. Saunders):
The gods, however, took pity on the human race, born to suffer as it was, and gave it relief in the form of religious festivals to serve as periods of rest from its labours. They gave us the Muses, with Apollo their leader, and Dionysus; by having these gods to share their holidays, men were to be made whole again, and thanks to them, we find refreshment in the celebration of these festivals.

θεοὶ δὲ οἰκτίραντες τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπίπονον πεφυκὸς γένος, ἀναπαύλας τε αὐτοῖς τῶν πόνων ἐτάξαντο τὰς τῶν ἑορτῶν ἀμοιβὰς τοῖς θεοῖς, καὶ μούσας Ἀπόλλωνά τε μουσηγέτην καὶ Διόνυσον συνεορταστὰς ἔδοσαν, ἵν' ἐπανορθῶνται, τάς τε τροφὰς γενομένας ἐν ταῖς ἑορταῖς μετὰ θεῶν.


Name for a Misanthrope's Dwelling

Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. Τιμώνιον (Timonion): "a Timon's, i.e. a misanthrope's, dwelling, Str.17.1.9."

Strabo 17.1.9 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
To this elbow of land Antony added a mole projecting still farther, into the middle of a harbour, and on the extremity of it built a royal lodge which he called Timonium. This was his last act, when, forsaken by his friends, he sailed away to Alexandria after his misfortune at Actium, having chosen to live the life of a Timon the end of his days, which he intended to spend in solitude from all those friends.
Plutarch, Life of Antony 69.4 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
And now Antony forsook the city and the society of his friends, and built for himself a dwelling in the sea at Pharos, by throwing a mole out into the water. Here he lived an exile from men, and declared that he was contentedly imitating the life of Timon, since, indeed, his experiences had been like Timon's; for he himself also had been wronged and treated with ingratitude by his friends, and therefore hated and distrusted all mankind.
Related posts:

Sunday, September 06, 2009


When the Last Tree Falls

C.S. Lewis, The Future of Forestry:
How will the legend of the age of trees
Feel, when the last tree falls in England?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
The country's heart; when contraceptive
Tarmac's laid where farm has faded,
Tramline flows where slept a hamlet,
And shop-fronts, blazing without a stop from
Dover to Wrath, have glazed us over?
Simplest tales will then bewilder
The questioning children, 'What was a chestnut?
Say what it means to climb a Beanstalk,
Tell me, grandfather, what an elm is.
What was Autumn? They never taught us.'
Then, told by teachers how once from mould
Came growing creatures of lower nature
Able to live and die, though neither
Beast nor man, and around them wreathing
Excellent clothing, breathing sunlight—
Half understanding, their ill-acquainted
Fancy will tint their wonder-paintings
—Trees as men walking, wood-romances
Of goblins stalking in silky green,
Of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn's
Collar, pallor in the face of birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
Catch from afar (for soul is watchful)
A sight of tree-delighted Eden.
Related posts: The Hamadryads of George Lane; Sorbs and Medlars; So Foul a Deed; Like Another Erysichthon; The Fate of Old Trees; Scandalous Misuse of the Globe; The Groves Are Down; Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Hornbeams; Protection of Sacred Groves; Lex Luci Spoletina; Turullius and the Grove of Asclepius; Caesarian Section; Death of a Noble Pine; Two Yew Trees in Chilthorne, Somerset; The Fate of the Shrubbery at Weston; The Trees Are Down; Hornbeams; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Ach So!

In 1944 Patrick Leigh Fermor and W. Stanley Moss devised a successful plot to kidnap German General Karl Heinrich Kreipe on the island of Crete. Janice M. Benario, "Horace, Humanitas, and Crete," Amphora 2.1 (Spring 2003) 1-3, tells the thrilling story. Benario writes (at 2):
In his book, A Time of Gifts (1977), Leigh Fermor describes the moment when Horace helped create a profound sense of humanitas, "humane conduct toward others," between himself and his enemy:
It was a time of anxiety and danger; and for our captive, of hardship and distress. During a lull in the pursuit, we woke up (April 30) among the rocks just as a brilliant dawn was breaking over the crest of Mount Ida.

We had been toiling over it through snow and then rain, for the last two days. Looking across the valley at this flashing mountain-crest, the general murmured to himself:
Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte . . .

You see how Soracte stands white with deep
Snow . . .
It was one of the ones I knew! I continued from where he had broken off:
And the laboring trees no longer bear their
Burden, and rivers have become frozen
Because of the piercing cold,
and so on through the remaining five stanzas to the end. The general's blue eyes had swiveled away from the mountain top to mine – and when I'd finished, after a long silence, he said: "Ach so, Herr Major!" "Ah, yes, Major!" It was very strange. As though, for a long moment, the war had ceased to exist. We had both drunk at the same fountains long before; and things were different between us for the rest of our time together.
Recently, Leigh Fermor wrote to me that Kreipe, in addition to this ode (Ode 1.9), also knew the ode to Aristius Fuscus (Ode 1.22) and that together they were able to reconstruct the last part of the Regulus Ode (Ode 3.5). Horace, known for moderation and decorum, proved to be the stimulus for continuing gentlemanly behavior between captor and captive.
I recently read an account of the kidnapping by Patrick Leigh Fermor's colleague W. Stanley Moss, Ill Met by Moonlight (1950; rpt. London Cassell, 1999). I had hoped for more details about this episode, but Moss only says (April 29, p. 119):
For a long time we sat and talked. Paddy discovered that the General is a fair Greek scholar, and much to the amusement of our Cretan colleagues, the two of them entertained themselves by exchanging verses from Sophocles.
I own a battered, dog-eared copy of Horace: The Odes, Epodes and Carmen Saeculare. Edited with Introduction and Commentary by Clifford Herschel Moore (New York: American Book Company, 1902). A stamp inside the front cover reads "Lagerbücherei Camp Edwards." In other words, the book once sat on the shelves of the POW library at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, where perhaps some captured German soldier read the Soracte Ode and sighed, "Ach so!"

Here is a translation of Horace, Ode 1.9 by William Sinclair Marris, followed by the original Latin:
How deep the snows upon Soracte glisten!
    The groaning forests yield
Beneath their load, and fast in icy prison
    The streams are pent and sealed.

Come, Thaliarchus, heap the logs on thicker,
    To melt this bitter cold,
And draw me freely of yon Sabine liquor;
    The jar is four years old.

Leave all the rest to Jove; the winds that riot
    With Ocean, at his will
Are laid; the ancient ash-trees all are quiet,
    The cypresses are still.

What matter of To-morrow and its chances?
    Count each To-day among
Thy gains, and make the most of loves and dances
    Now while the heart is young,

And crabbed age is far: and get thee roaming
    By city-square and mead,
To catch a gentle whisper in the gloaming
    At hour and place agreed;

A merry laugh that tells the maid who lingers
    Hid in some corner deep;
A token plundered from the wrist or fingers
    That feign so fast to keep.

Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte, nec iam sustineant onus
    silvae laborantes geluque
    flumina constiterint acuto.

Dissolve frigus ligna super foco
large reponens atque benignius
    deprome quadrimum Sabina,
    o Thaliarche, merum diota.

Permitte divis cetera; qui simul
stravere ventos aequore fervido
    deproeliantis, nec cupressi
    nec veteres agitantur orni.

Quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere et
quem fors dierum cumque dabit lucro
    adpone, nec dulcis amores
    sperne puer neque tu choreas,

donec virenti canities abest
morosa. Nunc et Campus et areae
    lenesque sub noctem susurri
    composita repetantur hora;

nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
    pignusque dereptum lacertis
    aut digito male pertinaci.

Friday, September 04, 2009



D.G. Myers (A Commonplace Blog) and Patrick Kurp (Anecdotal Evidence) sent a questionnaire to a group of "book bloggers," and they included me on their list. Their questions and my answers are on Patrick's blog.

One of the questions was about differences between traditional book reviewing and book blogging, and one difference I mentioned was the ease of correcting mistakes in a blog post. But the very sentence in which I discussed how easy it was to correct errors itself had an embarrassing grammatical error! I wrote:
[P]rint is unforgiving -- if one is lucky, one can later add corrigenda, but the plasticity of bits and bytes allow easy corrections...
I should have written:
[P]rint is unforgiving -- if one is lucky, one can later add corrigenda, but the plasticity of bits and bytes allows easy corrections...


The Study of Antiquity

The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, tr. Bailey Saunders (New York: Macmillan: 1906), p. 162:
If we set our gaze on antiquity and earnestly study it, in the desire to form ourselves thereon, we get the feeling as if it were only then that we really became men.

Denn wenn wir uns dem Altertum gegenüberstellen und es ernstlich in der Absicht anschauen, uns daran zu bilden, so gewinnen wir die Empfindung, als ob wir erst eigentlich zu Menschen würden.


Casting Stones

John 8.3-7 (regarded by many scholars as an interpolation):
[3] And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, [4] They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. [5] Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? [6] This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. [7] So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
Diogenes Laertius 6.62 (on Diogenes, tr. R.D. Hicks):
Seeing the child of a courtesan throw stones at a crowd, he cried out, "Take care you don't hit your father."

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Is There Beauty Yet to Find?

Rupert Brooke, from The Old Vicarage, Grantchester:
Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
Unforgettable, unforgotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
Anadyomene, silver-gold?
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?
And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? ... oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Born Bare, Buried Bare

Palladas, Greek Anthology 10.58, tr. W.R. Paton:
Naked I alighted on the earth and naked shall I go beneath it. Why do I toil in vain, seeing the end is nakedness?
Tr. William M. Hardinge:
Naked to earth was I brought—naked to earth I descend.
Why should I labour for nought, seeing how naked the end?
Tr. J.W. Burgon:
Naked I entered at my birth;
Naked I hie me back to earth:
Why then should I so anxious be?
Since naked still the end I see.
Tr. Tony Harrison:
Born naked. Buried naked. So why fuss?
All life leads to that first nakedness.
Latin translation by Samuel Johnson:
Terram adii nudus, de terra nudus abibo.
  Quid labor efficiet? non nisi nudus ero.
Greek original:
Γῆς ἐπέβην γυμνός, γυμνός θ' ὑπὸ γαῖαν ἄπειμι·
  καὶ τί μάτην μοχθῶ, γυμνὸν ὁρῶν τὸ τέλος;
Cf. Job 1.21:
Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither.
On nakedness at birth, see Pliny, Natural History 7.1.2 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
In the first place, she [nature] obliges him alone, of all animated beings, to clothe himself with the spoils of the others; while, to all the rest, she has given various kinds of coverings, such as shells, crusts, spines, hides, furs, bristles, hair, down, feathers, scales, and fleeces. The very trunks of the trees even, she has protected against the effects of heat and cold by a bark, which is, in some cases, twofold. Man alone, at the very moment of his birth cast naked upon the naked earth, does she abandon to cries, to lamentations, and, a thing that is the case with no other animal whatever, to tears: this, too, from the very moment that he enters upon existence. But as for laughter, why, by Hercules!—to laugh, if but for an instant only, has never been granted to man before the fortieth day from his birth, and then it is looked upon as a miracle of precocity.

ante omnia unum animantium cunctorum alienis velat opibus. ceteris sua varie tegimenta tribuit, testas, cortices, coria, spinas, villos, saetas, pilos, plumam, pinnas, squamas, vellera; truncos etiam arboresque cortice, interdum gemino, a frigoribus et calore tutata est: hominem tantum nudum et in nuda humo natali die abicit ad vagitus statim et ploratum, nullumque tot animalium aliud ad lacrimas, et has protinus vitae principio; at Hercule risus praecox ille et celerrimus ante XL diem nulli datur.
On nakedness at burial, see Propertius 3.5.13-14:
You won't carry any riches to the waters of Acheron: fool, you will ride naked in the hellish boat.

haud ullas portabis opes Acherontis ad undas:
  nudus in infera, stulte, vehere rate.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Sweet as Eden

George Meredith, Woodland Peace:
Sweet as Eden is the air,
  And Eden-sweet the ray.
No Paradise is lost for them
Who foot by branching root and stem,
And lightly with the woodland share
  The change of night and day.

Here all say,
We serve her, even as I:
We brood, we strive to sky,
We gaze upon decay,
We wot of life through death,
How each feeds each we spy;
And is a tangle round,
Are patient; what is dumb
We question not, nor ask
The silent to give sound,
The hidden to unmask,
The distant to draw near.

And this the woodland saith:
I know not hope or fear;
I take whate'er may come;
I raise my head to aspects fair,
From foul I turn away.

Sweet as Eden is the air,
  And Eden-sweet the ray.
Jasper Francis Cropsey, Pool in the Woods

Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?