Monday, May 31, 2010
When asked why he had decided to enlist in the Artists' Rifles in 1915, Edward Thomas stopped, picked up a pinch of earth, and said, 'Literally, for this.'58Farjeon's book is unavailable to me, but see the last stanza of Edward Thomas' poem Digging:
58 Eleanor Farjeon, Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years (Oxford, 1958; repr. 1979), p. 154.
It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth.
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.
On this Memorial Day, I remember my mother's brother, my Uncle Phil (born June 22, 1925, died August 28, 2007). In World War II he fought as part of 3rd Platoon "E" Co. 2nd Battalion, 511th Parachute Inf., 11th Airborne Division. Five years ago he sent me this first-person account of a near brush with death on the island of Luzon in the Philippines (February, 1945):
When I was in New Guinea, before going to the Philippines, I ran into a paratrooper who had been wounded in combat. He gave me a few tips, which included taking part of a mess kit with me. He said that sometimes a unit is taken out of combat for a few days, it stays on rations. If there is a rear echelon unit with a kitchen close by, they will feed you if you have something to put the food in. So, when we were on Leyte preparing for the jump on Tagatay Ridge, on Luzon, I put the top of my mess kit and a spoon in my pack. After the close house-to-house fighting in and around Manila, the rolling open terrain approaching Ft. McKinley was a welcome change. Generally, the Japs were 200-300 yards away.
On this February day we were moving out to attack towards Ft. McKinley in fairly open terrain. There was not much cover. As a machine gunner, I always carried a carbine, a tripod or machine gun, and sometimes a box of ammunition. I never carried rations, as they would get in the way during a firefight. It was obvious that we did not anticipate any action this early in our advance. That day I had all of the above, along with a box of 5-in-1 rations. Right behind me was my ammo bearer named Lingerfelt. As we moved into an area with some bushes and trees, there was some enemy fire, but we kept on moving. We hit the ground, then ran a ways, then hit the ground again. We lost sight of the two scouts, Squad Leader, and a couple others who had been ahead of us. So we kept moving forward, trying to catch up. As we hurried across an open area, I was hit in the back with what was probably a .30 caliber bullet. It sent me sprawling onto the ground. It felt like someone had hit me with a 2x4. At the same time, Lingerfelt, just a couple yards behind me, was hit by a bullet that creased his ear and went around just inside his helmet, cutting up his helmet liner. At almost the same time, the ammo box that he had been carrying and set down by his head was hit and a couple rounds were exploded.
I thought that I had actually been wounded and maybe could not feel anything because of shock. Lingerfelt said he could see where the bullet went into my pack and where it came out. Lingerfelt was O.K. except for a sore ear. None of our troops were anywhere in sight. Still thinking that our guys were ahead of us, we decided to press on. I had a carbine on one shoulder, a tripod on the other, a box of ammo in one hand, and a box of 5-in-1 rations in the other. I could not run well enough without leaving something behind. I had to have the carbine, tripod, and ammo. The rations were left behind.
What we did not realize was that our company had doubled back to our own lines. Lingerfelt and I would run a few yards then dive onto the ground. All the while we were receiving enemy fire. I do not understand why they did not hit us again. After about 100 more yards, we came to a dirt road crossing the area. We were being fired on from the left so we turned right at the road. During this time we did not see any Japs or Americans.
There were shallow ditches on each side of the road. We would run a few yards then lay down in a ditch. When we were on one side, we received fire from that side; when we used the other ditch, we received fire from that side of the road. It turned out that we were taking fire from Americans on one side. We thought that Japs were on both sides firing at us.
Meanwhile, back in where our platoon was re-assembling, they realized we were missing. A radioman in our company, (E), overheard a message on his radio requesting that a tank go knock out a two-man "Jap Patrol". He realized that the "Jap Patrol" was us. He was able to contact personnel in the tank organization just in time to stop them from using their .50 cal machine gun. Guys from the tank outfit then came towards us yelling for us to come in. Until then we did not know that the firing from that side was "friendly fire".
When we finally made our way back to "E" Company I opened my pack (Musette Bag). The bullet had entered my pack and hit my mess kit top at about a 45-degree angle. It made a deep groove in the bottom, pushing out the metal for several inches to the end of the mess kit, where it came out through the end, leaving a jagged hole. The bullet also went through an oil bottle, a fairly fresh egg well-packaged in a grenade case, and after leaving the mess kit, it went along the folded olive drab towel which had been positioned between the mess kit and the back of my pack. When the towel was un-folded, it was shredded, and useless.
We ate light that evening due to the 5-in-1 box of rations left behind.
Related post: Pietas Erga Patrem.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
In New-street, Shoe-Lane, until within a few weeks, stood an old house, the property of Mr. William Spottiswoode, formerly the residence of his great grandfather, Mr. Strahan, the great friend of Dr. Johnson. Its removal has exposed to public view an old lime-tree, known by the name of 'Dr. Johnson's Tree'; not that it was planted by him, as it appears to have been a full grown tree in his time, but from the peculiar notice he seems to have taken of it. The Doctor was a frequent visitor at the house. It is related that in some of his particular fits of abstraction the Doctor would go out, regardless of weather, and even without his hat, and would hug this tree for a considerable time, apparently absorbed in his own thoughts and heeding nothing around him. There were then and for half a century after his death several other trees in the garden, but they have all given way to time and the atmosphere of an increasing town. The house itself, which was built immediately after the Great Fire of London, worn out with hard work, has been obliged to give way to one more vigorous and better suited to the requirements of the day. And even 'Dr. Johnson's Tree' although it has outlived its former associates, is not destined to survive long, its top being near decayed and showing every year less vitality.Archives of The Illustrated London News are available on the Internet, for a fee, but only to institutions, not to individuals, so I don't know if this passage represents the entire article, or if the author of the article is anonymous. It appears to reflect an oral family tradition ("it is related"). It is unclear how much reliance can be placed on the tradition, more than seventy-five years or four generations ("great grandfather") after Johnson’s death. It is the type of story one wishes were true.
The first historical tree hugger known to me is Passienus Crispus (see Pliny the Elder, Natural History 16.91.242). William Wordsworth hugged a pine tree on Monte Mario in Rome.
Thanks to Eric Thomson for tracking down the source of the anecdote about Samuel Johnson.
The online Oxford English Dictionary (OED), s.v. tree, defines the noun tree-hugger as follows:
chiefly U.S. a person who cares for trees or the environment, an environmentalist (usu. depreciative); (also lit.) a person who adopts a position embracing a tree to prevent it from being felled.The OED's earliest citation is from the Appleton Post Crescent, September 10, 1965: "The battle was between the tree huggers and the city. The city won, 100-0." This led Mark Peters, "The history of tree-hugging, and the future of name-calling," Grist (October 12, 2006), to assume that there was a "battle in Appleton, Wis., between 'the tree huggers and the city.'" But in fact the newspaper article came from the Associated Press and described a protest in Chicago, Illinois, not in Appleton, Wisconsin. Thanks to Google News archive, here is the entire article from another newspaper on the same day"Chicagoans Cling to Past in Vain: Road Crews Fell Park Trees Around Protesting Group," The Blade (Toledo, Ohio, Friday, September 10, 1965):
[col. 1]It is appropriate that the name of one of the protesters was Bernard Baum, as Baum is the German word for tree.
CHICAGO, Sept. 10 (AP) The battle was between the tree huggers and the city. The city won, 100-0.
Conservationist Stuart Chase described the holding action on the lakefront yesterday:
"They started up their chain saws and, with blades whirring, charged at us and cut the tree off right on top of us. They tried to drop trees on people and waved whirling chain saws at everybody. If people had been chained to trees, they would have been cut in half.
"People were hugging trees and standing next to trees, and they'd see how close they could cut. I swear I thought they'd cut Bernie Baum's hand off."
Dr. Bernard Baum, 39, a sociologist, had sawdust in his hair as he talked to newsmen, his back pressed against a large tree:
"I wrapped my legs around one tree trunk a little while ago," he said, "but they cut it down anyway."
"Don't you feel like a brute?" one tree fancier asked a workman.
"How did Lincoln ever build his log cabin?" the worker retorted.
One hundred trees fell as the city began widening and straightening South Shore Drive through three city parksincluding Jackson Park, site of the 1893 Columbian Exposition and one of the country's most beautiful urban parks.
The 75 or so stalwarts of the Burnham Associationnamed for Daniel Burnham, who designed Jackson parksay the $6 million, high speed, eight-lane divided road is no substitute for 800 trees and lost park space.
"What are 800 trees against a saving of, say, two lives a year?" Commissioner Milton Pikarsky of the Chicago department of public works asked in an interview.
Mr. Pikarsky said there were 500 serious accidentsfour of them fatalin 1962 in the 20-block stretch of road to be rebuilt. The drive snakes through the parks, abruptly narrowing from eight lanes divided to six undivided and then back to eight. Some sections are more than 35 years old.
He said that Burnham and other groups had ample opportunity to offer suggestions, some of which were accepted.
"He's not a planner, not an architect, he knows nothing about traffic," Mr. Pinarsky said of Mr. Chase, who is a statistician. "But he feels that if you sit back for another year, someone will come up with a plan."
Told that Mr. Pinarsky said all trees would be replaced, Mr. Chase retorted: "Yeahwith smaller ones right in front of a carbon monoxide-filled highway. They'll die in a year."
"The park is considered the greatest example of controlled landscape architecture in the world," his wife, Joan, 29, interjected. "And this is what Mayor Daley is running an eight-lane, federal, class 1 highway through. Parks and expressways can't mixit's like oil and water."
Mr. Pikarsky said land taken for the road would be restored as parkswith a two-acre bonus.
He summed up the attitude on the South Side when he told a newsman that he had received dozens of telephone calls.
"The kindest thing the callers told me was to drop dead."
One might guess from Google Books that there is an earlier example of the expression tree hugger from 1960, but one would be wrong. That example actually comes from a 1990 English translation of a 1960 Finnish novel by Kalle Päätalo (1919-2000). The Finnish title is Koillismaa, and the title of the English translation by Richard A. Impola is Our Daily Bread. I don't know what Finnish expression Impola translated as "tree-hugger" on p. 259:
In the same instant, the policemen shifted to either side of him and pinioned his arms.
"Let's go now, tree-hugger," gasped one of them.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
The Return of the Native
A person on a heath in raiment of modern cut and colours has more or less an anomalous look. We seem to want the oldest and simplest human clothing where the clothing of the earth is so primitive.II.1:
"Strange notions, has he?" said the old man. "Ah, there's too much of that sending to school in these days! It only does harm. Every gatepost and barn's door you come to is sure to have some bad word or other chalked upon it by the young rascalsa woman can hardly pass for shame sometimes. If they'd never been taught how to write they wouldn't have been able to scribble such villainy. Their fathers couldn't do it, and the country was all the better for it."II.5:
To dance with a man is to concentrate a twelvemonth's regulation fire upon him in the fragment of an hour.III.1:
When the instinctive question about a person is, What is he doing? it is felt that he will be found to be, like most of us, doing nothing in particular. There is an indefinite sense that he must be invading some region of singularity, good or bad. The devout hope is that he is doing well. The secret faith is that he is making a mess of it.III.5 (Eustacia Vye):
"Pleasure not known beforehand is half wasted; to anticipate it is to double it."III.6 (Mrs. Yeobright):
"And this is maternityto give one's best years and best love to ensure the fate of being despised!"VI.1:
Human beings, in their generous endeavour to construct a hypothesis that shall not degrade a First Cause, have always hesitated to conceive a dominant power of lower moral quality than their own; and, even while they sit down and weep by the waters of Babylon, invent excuses for the oppression which prompts their tears.VI.1:
Resources do not depend upon gross amounts, but upon the proportion of spendings to takings.VI.4 (Clym Yeobright):
"I wish I could be there without dashing your spirits," he said. "But I might be too much like the skull at the banquet."
Friday, May 28, 2010
Jude the Obscure
I.1 (Mr. Phillotson):
"Be a good boy, remember; and be kind to animals and birds, and read all you can."I.4:
He learnt for the first time that there was no law of transmutation, as in his innocence he had supposed (there was, in some degree, but the grammarian did not recognize it), but that every word in both Latin and Greek was to be individually committed to memory at the cost of years of plodding.I.5:
Jude flung down the books, lay backward along the broad trunk of the elm, and was an utterly miserable boy for the space of a quarter of an hour. As he had often done before, he pulled his hat over his face and watched the sun peering insidiously at him through the interstices of the straw. This was Latin and Greek, then, was it, this grand delusion! The charm he had supposed in store for him was really a labour like that of Israel in Egypt.
On a day when Fawley was getting quite advanced, being now about sixteen, and had been stumbling through the "Carmen Saeculare," on his way home, he found himself to be passing over the high edge of the plateau by the Brown House. The light had changed, and it was the sense of this which had caused him to look up. The sun was going down, and the full moon was rising simultaneously behind the woods in the opposite quarter. His mind had become so impregnated with the poem that, in a moment of the same impulsive emotion which years before had caused him to kneel on the ladder, he stopped the horse, alighted, and glancing round to see that nobody was in sight, knelt down on the roadside bank with open book. He turned first to the shiny goddess, who seemed to look so softly and critically at his doings, then to the disappearing luminary on the other hand, as he began:IV.2 (Sue Bridehead):
"Phoebe silvarumque potens Diana!"
The horse stood still till he had finished the hymn, which Jude repeated under the sway of a polytheistic fancy that he would never have thought of humouring in broad daylight.
"When people of a later age look back upon the barbarous customs and superstitions of the times that we have the unhappiness to live in, what will they say!"IV.4 (Mr. Phillotson):
"I am only a feeler, not a reasoner."V.5:
And they left the tent together, this pot-bellied man and florid woman, in the antipathetic, recriminatory mood of the average husband and wife of Christendom.V.7 (Sue Bridehead):
"He still thinks it a great centre of high and fearless thought, instead of what it is, a nest of commonplace schoolmasters whose characteristic is timid obsequiousness to tradition."V.8 (Mr. Phillotson):
"Cruelty is the law pervading all nature and society; and we can't get out of it if we would!"VI.1 (Jude Fawley):
"Eight or nine years ago when I came here first, I had a neat stock of fixed opinions, but they dropped away one by one; and the further I get the less sure I am. I doubt if I have anything more for my present rule of life than following inclinations which do me and nobody else any harm, and actually give pleasure to those I love best."VI.8:
The landlord of the lodging, who had heard that they were a queer couple, had doubted if they were married at all, especially as he had seen Arabella kiss Jude one evening when she had taken a little cordial; and he was about to give them notice to quit, till by chance overhearing her one night haranguing Jude in rattling terms, and ultimately flinging a shoe at his head, he recognized the note of genuine wedlock; and concluding that they must be respectable, said no more.VI.8 (Jude Fawley):
"I was gin-drunk; you were creed-drunk. Either form of intoxication takes away the nobler vision."VI.10:
"How you keep a-mumbling!" said Arabella. "I should have thought you'd have got over all that craze about books by this time. And so you would, if you'd had any sense to begin with."
Saved from the Sordid Axe
We had scarcely been two hours in Rome when we walked up to the Pincian hill, near our hotel. The sun was just set, but the western sky glowed beautifully. A great part of the city of modern Rome lay below us, and St. Peter's rose on the opposite side; and, for dear Sir George Beaumont's sake, I will mention that at no great distance from the dome of the church on the line of the glowing horizon was seen one of those broadtopped pines, looking like a little cloud in the sky, with a slender stalk to connect it with its native earth. I mention this because a friend of Mr. Robinson's whom we had just accidentally met told us that this very tree which I admired so much had been paid for by our dear friend, that it might stand as long as nature might allow.Letter of William Wordsworth to Mary and Dorothy Wordsworth (May 6, 1837):
The Monte Mario commands the most magnificent view of modern Rome, the Tiber, and the surrounding country. Upon this elevation I stood under the pine, redeemed by Sir G. Beaumont, of which I spoke in my former letter. I touched the bark of the magnificent tree, and I could almost have kissed it out of love for his memory.William Wordsworth, The Pine of Monte Mario at Rome, text with some notes from The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, ed. William Knight, Vol. VIII (London: Macmillan and Co., 1896), pp. 58-59:
[Sir George Beaumont told me that, when he first visited Italy, pine-trees of this species abounded, but that on his return thither, which was more than thirty years after, they had disappeared from many places where he had been accustomed to admire them, and had become rare all over the country, especially in and about Rome. Several Roman villas have within these few years passed into the hands of foreigners, who, I observed with pleasure, have taken care to plant this tree, which in course of years will become a great ornament to the city and to the general landscape. May I venture to add here, that having ascended the Monte Mario, I could not resist embracing the trunk of this interesting monument of my departed friend's feelings for the beauties of nature, and the power of that art which he loved so much, and in the practice of which he was so distinguished.—I.F.]"I.F." at the end of the introductory note stands for Isabella Fenwick, to whom Wordsworth dictated notes to some of his poems. According to Jared Curtis, The Fenwick Notes of William Wordsworth (Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1993; rev. electronic edition 2007), p. 356, this sonnet was written "between late November 1838 and 8 February 1839, perhaps in January 1839."
I saw far off the dark top of a Pine
Look like a cloud—a slender stem the tie
That bound it to its native earth—poised high
'Mid evening hues, along the horizon line,
Striving in peace each other to outshine.
But when I learned the Tree was living there,
Saved from the sordid axe by Beaumont's care,
Oh, what a gush of tenderness was mine!
The rescued Pine-tree, with its sky so bright
And cloud-like beauty, rich in thoughts of home,
Death-parted friends, and days too swift in flight,
Supplanted the whole majesty of Rome
(Then first apparent from the Pincian Height)
Crowned with St. Peter's everlasting Dome.
Within a couple of hours of my arrival at Rome, I saw from Monte Pincio the Pine tree as described in the Sonnet; and, while expressing admiration at the beauty of its appearance, I was told by an acquaintance of my fellow-traveller, who happened to join us at the moment, that a price had been paid for it by the late Sir G. Beaumont, upon condition that the proprietor should not act upon his known intention of cutting it down.—W.W. 1842.
Wordsworth's "fellow-traveller" was Henry Crabb Robinson (1775–1867). See his Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence, ed. Thomas Sadler, Vol. III (London: Macmillan and Co., 1869), pp. 116-117 (Reminiscences, April 26, 1837):
We entered Rome in good spirits. We were driven to the Europa, where, till we procured lodgings, we contented ourselves with two rooms on a third story. Before sunset we took a walk to my favorite haunt, the Pincian Hill, where I was accosted by my name. It was Theed, who informed us of the pine-tree referred to in Wordsworth's poem as the gift of Sir George Beaumont.Theed was the sculptor William Theed (1804-1891). The savior of the pine tree was painter and art patron Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827). Various guide books to Rome state that the pine tree survived, at least until the early 20th century (e.g. Baedeker, 1904).
I am indebted to Eric Thomson for most of the content of this post.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
When All Went Well
A time there wasas one may guess
And as, indeed, earth's testimonies tell
Before the birth of consciousness,
When all went well.
None suffered sickness, love, or loss,
None knew regret, starved hope, or heart-burnings;
None cared whatever crash or cross
Brought wrack to things.
If something ceased, no tongue bewailed,
If something winced and waned, no heart was wrung;
If brightness dimmed, and dark prevailed,
No sense was stung.
But the disease of feeling germed,
And primal rightness took the tinct of wrong;
Ere nescience shall be reaffirmed
How long, how long?
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Give Me That Old-Time Religion
Sweet lady, thou art come to us again:The second edition has another version ("aliter") of the same sonnet on p. 365:
The mountains still are in their ancient seats;
Still on the turfy mound the young lamb bleats,
Whose coat of March is wash'd with April rain.
But since no Philomel can here complain,
Let, lady, one poor bard lament to thee
The murderous death of many a noble tree,
That wont to shade thee in the grassy lane.
Would that religion of old time were ours,
(In that one article, not all the others,)
Which the first Romans held, who rear'd the towers,
Nigh the moist cradle of the Foundling Brothers,
The faith that did in awe and love instal,
For many an age, the Fig-Tree Ruminal.*
*The Fig-Tree Ruminal,Ficus ruminalis, beneath which Romulus and Remus, according to the tradition, were found by the shepherd Faustulus.
Sweet lady, thou art come to us again:On the Roman legend, see Livy 1.4.5-7 (tr. B.O. Foster):
Old Loughrigg still is on his wonted seat;
Still on the springy mound the young lambs bleat;
The wee birds chirp as if to see thee fain.
Then why should I, no Philomel, complain?
Yet can I but lament for what must be,
The untimely death of many a noble tree.
Would that religion of old times were ours,
(In that one article, not all the others)
Which those brave shepherds held, who reared the towers,
Nigh the moist cradle of the foundling Brothers,
The faith that did in awe and love instal
For many an age the Fig-Tree Ruminal.
 So they made shift to discharge the king's command, by exposing the babes at the nearest point of the overflow, where the fig-tree Ruminalis—formerly, they say, called Romularis—now stands.  In those days this was a wild and uninhabited region. The story persists that when the floating basket in which the children had been exposed was left high and dry by the receding water, a she-wolf, coming down out of the surrounding hills to slake her thirst, turned her steps towards the cry of the infants, and with her teats gave them suck so gently, that the keeper of the royal flock found her licking them with her tongue.  Tradition assigns to this man the name of Faustulus, and adds that he carried the twins to his hut and gave them to his wife Larentia to rear.Pliny the Elder, Natural History 15.20.77 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley), records the care lavished on the fig-tree:
In the Forum even, and in the very midst of the Comitium of Rome, a fig-tree is carefully cultivated, in memory of the consecration which took place on the occasion of a thunderbolt which once fell on that spot; and still more, as a memorial of the fig-tree which in former days overshadowed Romulus and Remus, the founders of our empire, in the Lupercal Cave. This tree received the name of "ruminalis," from the circumstance that under it the wolf was found giving the breast—rumis it was called in those days—to the two infants. A group in bronze was afterwards erected to consecrate the remembrance of this miraculous event, as, through the agency of Attus Mavius the augur, the tree itself had passed spontaneously from its original locality to the Comitium in the Forum. And not without some direful presage is it that that tree has withered away, though, thanks to the care of the priesthood, it has been since replaced.I don't know who Hartley Coleridge's "sweet lady" was, or what the circumstances were surrounding "the murderous death of many a noble tree."
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A Mock History Examination
1. Draw a historical parallel (after the manner of Plutarch) between Hannibal and Annie Laurie.For an answer to the first question, see "Hannibal and Anna Laurie," by Prof. Geschichtsmacher, of the University of Weissnichtwo, in Kottabos 3 (1881) 138-140.
2. What internal evidence does the Odyssey afford, that Homer sold his Trojan war-ballads at three yards an obolus?
3. Show the strong presumption there is, that Nox was the god of battles.
4. State reasons for presuming that the practice of lithography may be traced back to the time of Perseus and the Gorgon's head.
5. In what way were the shades on the banks of the Styx supplied with spirits?
6. Show the probability of the College Hornpipe having been used by the students of the Academia; and give passages from Thucydides and Tennyson in support of your answer.
7. Give a brief account of the Roman Emperors who visited the United States, and state what they did there.
8. Show from the redundancy of the word γᾶς in Sophocles, that gas must have been used by the Athenians; also state, if the expression οἱ Βάρβαροι would seem to signify that they were close shavers.
9. Show from the words 'Hoc erat in votis' (Sat. VI., Lib. II.,) that Horace's favourite wine was hock, and that he meant to say 'he always voted for hock.'
10. Draw a parallel between the Children in the Wood and Achilles in the Styx.
11. When it is stated that Ariadne, being deserted by Theseus, fell in love with Bacchus, is it the poetical way of asserting that she took to drinking to drown her grief?
12. Name the prima donnas who have appeared in the operas of Virgil and Horace since the 'Virgilii Opera,' and 'Horatii Opera' were composed.
The Kottabos article is of course a joke, but as if in answer to the second half of the eighth question ("state, if the expression οἱ Βάρβαροι would seem to signify that they were close shavers"), Robert Hendrickson, QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd ed. (New York: Facts on File, 2004), p. 53, in all seriousness makes the following absurd suggestion about the origin of the word barbarian:
Barba means "beard" in Latin, and when the Romans called hirsute foreigners barbarians they were strictly calling them "bearded men," though the word shortly came to mean, rightly or wrongly, "rude, uncivilized people."
Those Old Classical Parties
"What! Harry Bouncer devoting himself to study! But this is the age of wonders," said Charles Larkyns, who entered the room in company with Mr. Verdant Green, whose forehead still betrayed the effects of the blow he had received a few nights before.
"It ain't reading that I meant," replied Mr. Bouncer, "though that always does floor me, and no mistake! and what's the use of their making us peg away so at Latin and Greek, I can't make out. When I go out into society, I don't want to talk about those old Greek and Latin birds that they make us get up. I don't want to ask any old dowager I happen to fall in with at a tea-fight, whether she believes all the crammers that Herodotus tells us, or whether she's well up in the naughty tales and rummy nuisances that we have to pass no end of our years in getting by heart. And when I go to a ball, and do the light fantastic, I don't want to ask my partner what she thinks about Euripides, or whether she prefers Ovid's Metamorphoses to Ovid's Art of Love, and all that sort of thing; and as for requesting her to do me a problem of Euclid, instead of working me any glorified slippers or woolleries, I'd scorn the haction. I ain't like you, Charley, and I'm not guv in the classics: I saw too much of the beggars while I was at Eton to take kindly to 'em; and just let me once get through my Greats, and see if I don't precious soon drop the acquaintance of those old classical parties!"
Monday, May 24, 2010
Hymn to Health
Eldest born of powers divine!The same, tr. Hartley Coleridge:
Blest Hygeia! be it mine
To enjoy what thou canst give,
And henceforth with thee to live:
For in power if pleasure be,
Wealth or numerous progeny,
Or in amorous embrace
Where no spy infests the place;
Or in aught that Heaven bestows
To alleviate human woes
When the wearied heart despairs
Of a respite from its cares;
These and every true delight
Flourish only in thy sight;
And the sister Graces three
Owe, themselves, their youth to thee,
Without whom we may possess
Much, but never happiness.
Holiest and first of all the happy powers,The same, tr. J.M. Edmonds:
Sacred Hygeia! let me dwell with thee—
For all the remnant of my living hours,
Come thou, benign, and share my home with me;
For if there be or good or grace
In riches, offering, or high place
Of godlike empery or delight,
Which, in the hidden nets of Aphrodite,
We would inveigle—aught at all
That from the gods poor man obtains
To soothe him in his toils and pains,—
Blest Hygeia! at thy call
Blossoms every pleasant thing:
With thee the Graces spend their spring;
But without thee
No living thing can happy be.
Health, eldest of Gods, with thee may I dwell for the rest of my life and find thee a gracious house-mate. If there be any joy in wealth or in children, or in that kingly rule that maketh men like to Gods, or in the desires we hunt with the secret nets of Aphrodite, or if there be any other delight or diversion sent of Heaven unto man, 'tis with thy aid, blessed Health, that they all do thrive and shine in the converse of the Graces; and without thee no man alive is happy.I don't have access to D.L. Page's Poetae Melici Graeci, where Ariphron's hymn is number 813, so the following Greek text comes from Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Melic Poets (London: Macmillan and Co., 1900), p. 134, with excerpts from his notes on p. 457:
Ὑγίεια, πρεσβίστα μακάρων, μετὰ σεῦ ναίοιμι τὸ λειπόμενονThere are three Latin versions in Henry Wellesley, ed., Anthologia Polyglotta (London: John Murray, 1849), pp. 292-293.
βιοτᾶς, σὺ δέ μοι πρόφρων σύνοικος εἴης·
εἰ γάρ τις ἢ πλούτου χάρις ἢ τεκέων,
ἢ τᾶς ἰσοδαίμονος ἀνθρώποις βασιληΐδος ἀρχᾶς, ἢ πόθων,
οὓς κρυφίοις Ἀφροδίτας ἕρκυσιν θηρεύομεν,
ἢ εἴ τις ἄλλα θεόθεν ἀνθρώποισι τέρψις ἢ πόνων ἀμπνοὰ πέφανται,
μετὰ σεῖο, μάκαιρ' Ὑγίεια,
τέθαλε πάντα καὶ λάμπει Χαρίτων ὄαρος.
σέθεν δὲ χωρὶς οὔτις εὐδαίμων ἔφυ.
ὄαρος: vulg. ἔαρ, and so Boeckh, and Schneidewin, who explain instar veris, quod Gratiae reddunt pulchrum, affulgent (cf. Hor. 4.5.6)....Bergk read ἔαρι, Crusius ὀάροις.
By Federicus Morellus:
Divarum antiquissima Sanitas,By George Booth:
Utinam semper tecum habitarem,
Animus dum meus hos reget artus!
Placeant nostri tibi, Diva, lares.
Nam si gratia opum est, aut sobolis,
Superisque homines reddentis pares
Regalis honoris, amorumque,
Occultis quos Veneris laqueis
Carpimus; aut siqua viris a Deo
Missa voluptas, requiesque mali est;
Ubi ades cunque, alma favens Sanitas,
Florent omnia; Charitum ver nitet:
Te sine nulli esse beato licet.
Alma Salus, qua nulla magis veneranda dearumBy John Ernest Bode:
Incolit aeterni regna serena poli;
Esse velim tecum, superest quod mobilis aevi,
Tuque meo faveas hospes amica lari.
Siquis enim dives censu laetatur opimo,
Seu pia cui sobolis pectora mulcet amor:
Regia coelesti par visa potentia sorti,
Praeda Cytheriacis illaqueanda dolis;
Sive alia est hominum divinitus orta voluptas,
Grata vel alterno facta labore quies:
Omnia, blanda Salus, florent ea gaudia tecum,
Et Charitum vernans splendet ubique decus.
Te sine, non hominum cuiquam licet esse beato,
Non superis placita, te sine, luce frui.
Alma Salus, superos inter sanctissima, tecum
Sit mihi vitai degere quod superest.
Tuque volens in tecta veni; nam siquid amoeni
Divitiae, si quid pignora amoris habent,
Regis honos si quid, superisque aequata potestas,
Aut dolus, et Paphiae dulcia furta Deae,
Sive alia humanis dantur bona munera votis,
Si requies curae, si medicina mali,
Alma Salus, tecum surgunt tecumque virescunt,
Tecum agitat nitidos Gratia verna choros.
Omnia tu tecum mortalibus optima praebes,
Teque carens felix vivere nemo potest.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
A Precocious Grecian
I was sent to various schools, great and small; and was very early distinguished for my classical attainments, especially for my knowledge of Greek. At thirteen I wrote Greek with ease; and at fifteen my command of that language was so great that I not only composed Greek verses in lyric metres, but could converse in Greek fluently and without embarrassmentan accomplishment which I have not since met with in any scholar of my times, and which in my case was owing to the practice of daily reading off the newspapers into the best Greek I could furnish extempore; for the necessity of ransacking my memory and invention for all sorts and combinations of periphrastic expressions as equivalents for modern ideas, images, relations of things, &c., gave me a compass of diction which would never have been called out by a dull translation of moral essays, &c. "That boy," said one of my masters, pointing the attention of a stranger to me, "that boy could harangue an Athenian mob better than you and I could address an English one."
It is a bad thing for a boy to be and to know himself far beyond his tutors, whether in knowledge or in power of mind. This was the case, so far as regarded knowledge at least, not with myself only, for the two boys, who jointly with myself composed the first form, were better Grecians than the headmaster, though not more elegant scholars, nor at all more accustomed to sacrifice to the Graces. When I first entered I remember that we read Sophocles; and it was a constant matter of triumph to us, the learned triumvirate of the first form, to see our "Archididascalus" (as he loved to be called) conning our lessons before we went up, and laying a regular train, with lexicon and grammar, for blowing up and blasting (as it were) any difficulties he found in the choruses; whilst we never condescended to open our books until the moment of going up, and were generally employed in writing epigrams upon his wig or some such important matter.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Antipathy to Larch Plantations
Antipathy to larch plantations was probably quite widespread, at least among those who made no money out of them. Cobbett in Rural Rides calls larches 'infernal', 'beggarly', and 'fit for [burning]'. Within Wordsworth's immediate circle there was another poet who wreaked poetic revenge on the tree. Given the near vagrancy of his later years in the Lake District, he must have been very well acquainted with Thomas King's plantations. Poems by Hartley Coleridge, with a memoir of his life by his brother, 2nd ed. (London: Edward Moxon, 1851) vol. ii p. 244:
The Larch Grove....
Line above line the nursling larches planted,
Still as they clomb with interspace more wide,
Let in and out the sunny beams that slanted,
And shot and crankled down the mountain side.
The larches grew, and darker grew the shade;
And sweeter aye the fragrance of the Spring;
Pink pencils all the spiky boughs arrayed,
And small green needles called the birds to sing.
They grew apace as fast they could grow,
As fain the tawny fell to deck and cover,
They haply thought to soothe the pensive woe,
Or hide the joy stealthy tripping lover.
Ah, larches! that shall never be your lot;
Nought shall you have to do with amorous weepers,
Nor shall ye prop the roof of cozy cot,
But rumble out your days as railway sleepers.
An afterword about Drumlanrig. I've been reading Dorothy Wordsworth's Recollections of a Tour in Scotland in 1803 (a facsimile reprint of an edition of 1894 by David Douglas). Almost at the beginning of their excursion, after visiting Burns' grave they pass through the Drumlanrig estates (Friday, August 19th 'The situation [the surroundings of the mansion] would be noble if the woods had been left standing; but they have been cut down and the hills above and below the house are quite bare') and then a month later, on the return leg, they visit the Duke of Queensbury's other decaying Scottish pile, Neidpath Castle. Sunday September 18th '...but I need not describe the scene, for William has done it better than I could do in a sonnet he wrote the same day;...'
"Degenerate Douglas! Oh the unworthy Lord!I looked up Scott's Journals (Canongate, ed. W.E.K. Anderson) for any mention of Neidpath and Drumlanrig and found that he (re)visited Drumlanrig on 24 August 1826 (p. 214):
Whom mere despite of heart could so far please,
And love of havoc (for with such disease
Fame taxes him) that he could send forth word
To level with the dust a noble horde,
A brotherhood of venerable Trees,
Leaving an ancient Dome, and towers like these,
Beggared and outraged! Many hearts deplored
The fate of those old trees: and oft with pain
The traveller, at this day, will stop and gaze
On wrongs, which Nature scarcely seems to heed;
For sheltered places, bosoms, nooks and bays
And the pure mountains and the gentle Tweed,
And the green silent pastures, yet remain."
'What visions does this magnificent old house bring back to me. The exterior is much improved since I first knew it. It was then in a state of dilapidation to which it had been abandoned by the celebrated Old Q., and was indeed scarce wind and water tight. Then the whole wood had been felled and the outraged castle stood in the midst of waste and desolation, excepting a few scattered old stumps not judged worth the cutting. Now the whole has been ten or twelve years since completely re-planted and the scattered Seniors look as graceful as fathers surrounded by their children.'The next day he has a long walk through the new plantations. Plantations of what I wonder? Not larches at any rate.
Two months later, Scott visits the chateau of Beauvais, near Paris:
Sunday, 29 October (p. 255) '[A]lso woods, sometimes deep and extensive, at other times scattered in groves or single trees. Amidst these the oak seldom or never is found; England, lady of the ocean, seems to claim it exclusively as her own. Neither are there any quantity of firs. Poplars in abundance give a formal air to the landscape. The forests chiefly consist of beeches, with some birches, and the roads are bordered by elms cruelly cropped, pollarded, and switched. The demand for firewood occasions these mutilations. If I could waft by a wish the thinnings of Abbotsford here it would make a little fortune of itself. But then to switch and mutilate my trees!not for a thousand francs. Ay, but sour grapes, quoth the fox.'Always a kindly soul, Sir Walter.
We, thus disposed, waited with many a sighThe Greek:
The sacred dawn; but when, at length, aris'n,
Aurora, day-spring's daughter rosy-palm'd
Again appear'd, the males of all his flocks
Rush'd forth to pasture, and, meantime, unmilk'd,
The wethers bleated, by the load distress'd
Of udders overcharged.
ὣς τότε μὲν στενάχοντες ἐμείναμεν Ἠῶ δῖαν.A wether is a gelded male sheep. Cowper acknowledged his mistake in a letter to Joseph Hill (April 15, 1792):
ἦμος δ᾽ ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς,
καὶ τότ᾽ ἔπειτα νομόνδ᾽ ἐξέσσυτο ἄρσενα μῆλα,
θήλειαι δὲ μέμηκον ἀνήμελκτοι περὶ σηκούς·
οὔθατα γὰρ σφαραγεῦντο.
I have heard about my wether mutton from various quarters. First, from a sensible little man, curate of a neighbouring village; then from Walter Bagot; then from Henry Cowper; and now from you. It was a blunder hardly pardonable in a man who has lived amid fields and meadows, grazed by sheep almost these thirty years. I have accordingly satirized myself in two stanzas which I composed last night, while I lay awake, tormented with pain, and well dosed with laudanum. If you find them not very brilliant, therefore, you will know how to account for it.Related post: Elaborate Defence of Howlers.Cowper had sinn'd with some excuse,
If, bound in rhyming tethers,
He had committed this abuse
Of changing ewes for wethers;
But, male for female is a trope,
Or rather bold misnomer,
That would have startled even Pope,
When he translated Homer.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Greek, Grammar, Nonsense, Learning
'You see me, young man; I never learned Greek, and I don't find that I have ever missed it. I have had a Doctor's cap and gown without Greek; I have ten thousand florins a year without Greek; I eat heartily without Greek; and, in short,' continued he, 'as I don't know Greek, I do not believe there is any good in it.'Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer, Act I (first stanza of Tony Lumpkin's song):
Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain,
With grammar, and nonsense, and learning;
Good liquor, I stoutly maintain,
Gives genus a better discerning.
Let them brag of their heathenish gods,
Their Lethes, their Styxes, and Stygians,
Their quis, and their quaes, and their quods,
They're all but a parcel of pigeons.
Toroddle, toroddle, toroll.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Hares at Play
The birds are gone to bed the cows are stillSturt = startle, move suddenly
And sheep lie panting on each old mole hill
And underneath the willows grey-green bough
Like toil a restinglies the fallow plough
The timid hares throw daylights fears away
On the lanes road to dust and dance and play
Then dabble in the grain by nought deterred
To lick the dewfall from the barleys beard
Then out they sturt again and round the hill
Like happy thoughtsdancesquatand loiter still
Till milking maidens in the early morn
Gingle their yokes and sturt them in the corn
Through well known beaten paths each nimbling hare
Sturts quick as fearand seeks its hidden lair
Gingle = jingle
Nimbling = darting
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Comminations and Maledictions
Mr. K received us with civility and hospitality—checked, however, and embarrassed, by a very evident reserve. The reason of this was, partly, that he distrusted the feelings towards himself of two scholars; but more, perhaps, that he had something beyond this general jealousy for distrusting Wordsworth.If travel back in time were possible, that's a scene I'd love to see–Wordworth cursing and throwing his hat at a row of larch trees newly planted where native birches had been cut down to make room for them. In the passage just quoted, De Quincey mentioned Wordsworth's habitual abuse of larches and larch planters. An example can be found in Wordsworth's Description of the Scenery of the Lakes in the North of England, 4th ed. (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1823), pp. 78-82. Here are some excerpts.
He had been a very extensive planter of larches, which were then recently introduced into the Lake country, and were, in every direction, displacing the native forest scenery, and dismally disfiguring this most lovely region; and this effect was necessarily in its worst excess during the infancy of the larch plantations; both because they took the formal arrangement of nursery grounds, until extensive thinnings, as well as storms, had begun to break this hideous stiffness in the lines and angles, and also because the larch is a mean tree, both in form and colouring (having a bright gosling glare in spring, a wet blanket hue in autumn) as long as it continues a young tree. Not until it has seen forty or fifty winters does it begin to toss its boughs about with a wild Alpine grace.
Wordsworth, for many years, had systematically abused the larches and the larch planters; and there went about the country a pleasant anecdote, in connexion with this well-known habit of his, which I have often heard repeated by the woodmen—viz. that, one day, when he believed himself to be quite alone—but was, in fact, surveyed coolly, during the whole process of his passions, by a reposing band of labourers in the shade, and at their noontide meal—Wordsworth, on finding a whole cluster of birch-trees grubbed up, and preparations making for the installation of larches in their place, was seen advancing to the spot with gathering wrath in his eyes; next he was heard pouring out an interrupted litany of comminations and maledictions; and, finally, as his eye rested upon the four or five larches which were already beginning to "dress the line" of the new battalion, he seized his own hat in a transport of fury, and launched it against the odious intruders.
Mr. K had, doubtless, heard of Wordsworth's frankness upon this theme, and knew himself to be, as respected Grasmere, the sole offender.
But this deformity, bad as it is, is not so obtrusive as the small patches and large tracts of larch-plantations that are over-running the hill-sides.P. 80:
But a moment's thought will shew that, if ten thousand of this spiky tree, the larch, are stuck in at once upon the side of a hill, they can grow up into nothing but deformity; that, while they are suffered to stand, we shall look in vain for any of those appearances which are the chief sources of beauty in a natural wood.P. 81:
In spring, the Larch becomes green long before the native trees; and its green is so peculiar and vivid, that, finding nothing to harmonise with it, wherever it comes forth a disagreeable spot is produced. In summer, when all other trees are in their pride, it is of a dingy, lifeless hue; in autumn, of a spiritless, unvaried yellow; and, in winter, it is still more lamentably distinguished from every other deciduous tree of the forest; for they seem only to sleep, but the Larch appears absolutely dead.See also a November 7, 1805 letter from Dorothy Wordsworth to Lady Beaumont, in Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, ed. E. de Selincourt, The Early Years, 1787-1805, rev. Chester L. Shaver (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), pp. 636 ff., in which she complains, "You may remember that I spoke of the white-washing of the church, and six years ago a trim Box was erected on a hill-side; it is surrounded with fir and Larch plantations, that look like a blotch or scar on the fair surface of the mountain." The editors of the letters identify this with Thomas King's house. Later in the same letter she laments:
Add to all that Sir Michael Fleming has been getting his woods appraised, and after Christmas the Ax is to be lifted against them, and not one tree left, so the whole eastern side of the Lake will be entirely naked, even to the very edge of the water!–but what could we expect from Sir Michael? who has been building a long high wall under the grand woods behind his house which cuts the hill in two by a straight line; and to make his doings visible to all men, he has whitewashed it, as white as snow. One who could do all this wants a sense which others have. To him there is no "Spirit in the Wood"."Spirit in the Wood" is an allusion to the last line of Wordsworth’s poem Nutting.
Reminders of Death
I looked at the walls of my native place, once strong and now dilapidated, weary with the passing of time, as a result of which their strength is now sapped. I went out into the countryside, I saw that the sun drank the streams released from ice, and the cattle complaining that the mountain stole their daylight with its shadows. I went into my house; I saw that it was the rubble of an old, tarnished habitation; my walking-stick, more curved and less strong; I felt my sword overcome by age. And I found nothing on which to set my eyes that was not a reminder of death.The same, tr. Willis Barnstone:
I gazed upon my country's tottering walls,The Spanish:
one day grandiose, now rubble on the ground,
worn out by vicious time; only renowned
for weakness in a land where courage fails.
I went into the fields. I saw the sun
drinking the springs just melted from the ice,
and cattle moaning as the forests climb
against the thinning day, now overrun
with shade. I went into my house. I saw
my old room yellowed with with the sickening breath
of age, my cane flimsier than before.
I felt my sword coffined in rust, and walked
about, and everything I looked at bore
a warning of the wasted gaze of death.
Miré los muros de la patria mía,
si un tiempo fuertes, ya desmoronados,
de la carrera de la edad cansados,
por quien caduca ya su valentía.
Salíme al campo, vi que el sol bebía
los arroyos del yelo desatados,
y del monte quejosos los ganados,
que con sombras hurtó su luz al día.
Entré en mi casa; vi que, amancillada,
de anciana habitación era despojos;
mi báculo, más corvo y menos fuerte;
vencida de la edad sentí mi espada,
y no hallé cosa en que poner los ojos
que no fuese recuerdo de la muerte.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Greek Anthology 16.12 (on a statue of Pan), tr. J.W. Mackail:
Come and sit under my stone-pine that murmurs so honey-sweet as it bends to the soft western breeze; and lo this honey-dropping fountain, where I bring sweet sleep playing on my lonely reeds.The same, tr. W.R. Paton:
Come and sit under my pine that murmurs thus sweetly, bending to the soft west wind. And see, too, this fountain that drops honey, beside which, playing on my reeds in the solitude, I bring sweet sleep.A Latin translation by Hugo Grotius:
Veni, et sub mea conside pinu, quae mellitumThe Greek:
ad molles sonat inclinata Zephyros.
En etiam scatebra melliflua, ubi modulans melos
dulcem in deserto sonantibus somnum adduco calamis.
Ἔρχευ, καὶ κατ' ἐμὰν ἵζευ πίτυν, ἃ τὸ μελιχρὸν
πρὸς μαλακοὺς ἠχεῖ κεκλιμένα Ζεφύρους.
ἠνίδε καὶ κρούνισμα μελισταγές, ἔνθα μελίσδων
ἡδὺν ἐρημαίοις ὕπνον ἄγω καλάμοις.
Monday, May 17, 2010
One Day We Shave the Planet
At dinner he sat next to Filostrato. There were no other members of the inner circle within earshot. The Italian was in good spirits and talkative. He had just given orders for the cutting down of some fine beech trees in the grounds.
"Why have you done that, Professor?" said a Mr. Winter who sat opposite. "I shouldn't have thought they did much harm at that distance from the house. I'm rather fond of trees myself."
"Oh yes, yes," replied Filostrato. “The pretty trees, the garden trees. But not the savages. I put the rose in my garden, but not the brier. The forest tree is a weed. But I tell you I have seen the civilised tree in Persia. It was a French attaché who had it made because he was in a place where trees do not grow. It was made of metal. A poor, crude thing. But how if it were perfected? Light, made of aluminium. So natural it would even deceive."
"It would hardly be the same as a real tree," said Winter.
"But consider the advantages! You get tired of him in one place: two workmen carry him somewhere else: wherever you please. It never dies. No leaves to fall, no twigs, no birds building nests, no muck and mess."
"I suppose one or two, as curiosities, might be rather amusing."
"Why one or two? At present, I allow, we must have forests, for the atmosphere. Presently we find a chemical substitute. And then, why any natural trees? I foresee nothing but the art tree all over the earth. In fact, we clean the planet."
"Do you mean," put in a man called Gould, "that we are to have no vegetation at all?"
"Exactly. You shave your face: even, in the English fashion, you shave him every day. One day we shave the planet."
"I wonder what the birds will make of it?"
"I would not have any birds either. On the art tree I would have the art birds all singing when you press a switch inside the house. When you are tired of the singing you switch them off. Consider again the improvement. No feathers dropped about, no nests, no eggs, no dirt."
"It sounds," said Mark, "like abolishing pretty well all organic life."
"And why not? It is simple hygiene. Listen, my friends. If you pick up some rotten thing and find this organic life crawling over it, do you not say, `Oh, the horrid thing. It is alive,' and then drop it?"
"Go on," said Winter.
"And you, especially you English, are you not hostile to any organic life except your own on your own body? Rather than permit it you have invented the daily bath."
"And what do you call dirty dirt? Is it not precisely the organic? Minerals are clean dirt. But the real filth is what comes from organisms—sweat, spittles, excretions. Is not your whole idea of purity one huge example? The impure and the organic are interchangeable conceptions."
"What are you driving at, Professor?” said Gould. "After all we are organisms ourselves."
"I grant it. That is the point. In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it. We do not want the world any longer furred over with organic life, like what you call the blue mould—all sprouting and budding and breeding and decaying. We must get rid of it. By little and little, of course. Slowly we learn how. Learn to make our brains live with less and less body: learn to build our bodies directly with chemicals, no longer have to stuff them full of dead brutes and weeds. Learn how to reproduce ourselves without copulation."
"I don't think that would be much fun," said Winter.
"My friend, you have already separated the Fun, as you call it, from the fertility. The Fun itself begins to pass away. Bah! I know that is not what you think. But look at your English women. Six out of ten are frigid, are they not? You see? Nature herself begins to throw away the anachronism. When she has quite thrown it away, then real civilisation becomes possible. You would understand if you were peasants. Who would try to work with stallions and bulls? No, no; we want geldings and oxen. There will never be peace and order and discipline so long as there is sex. When man has thrown it away, then he will become finally governable."
The point of this life is—I think—its imperfection. The point of human beings to me is that they are full of faults and weaknesses and wickedness—it is because of all that that they are human, made up of a thousand things: defects, qualities, idiosyncrasies, tricks, habits, crotchets, hobbies, little roughnesses and queer pitfalls, unexpected quaintnesses: unexpected goodness, and unexpected badness; take all that away, and what is left?Maurice Baring, "High-Brows and Low-Brows," from Lost Lectures:
I mean by the good high-brow the man who is well educated and glad of the fact without thrusting it down other people's throats, who, without being ashamed of his knowledge, his intellectual or artistic superiority, or his gifts and aptitudes, does not use them as a rod to beat others with, and does not think that because he is the fortunate possessor of certain rare gifts or talents, he is therefore a better or a more useful man: such is the good high-brow....My point is that the more of these there are the better for the nation, the better for all of us. When there shall be no more of them, it will mean the extinction of our civilisation.Both of these quotations are second-hand, from Joseph Epstein's essay "Maurice Baring and the Good Highbrow," in his collection Pertinent Players: Essays on the Literary Life (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993), pp. 349-367. I've never read anything by Maurice Baring, but perhaps I should.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Mastery Over Languages
On my first becoming acquainted with Miss Smith's pretensions, it is very true that I regarded them with but little concern; for nothing ever interests me less than great philological attainments, or at least that mode of philological learning which consists in mastery over languages. But one reason for this indifference is, that the apparent splendour is too often a false one. They who know a vast number of languages rarely know any one with accuracy; and, the more they gain in one way, the more they lose in another. With Miss Smith, however, I gradually came to know that this was not the case; or, at any rate, but partially the case; for, of some languages which she possessed, and those the least accessible, it appeared, finally, that she had even a critical knowledge. It created also a secondary interest in these difficult accomplishments of hers, to find that they were so very extensive. Secondly, That they were pretty nearly all of self-acquisition. Thirdly, That they were borne so meekly, and with unaffected absence of all ostentation. As to the first point, it appears (from Mrs. H. Bowdler's Letter to Dr. Mummsen, the friend of Klopstock) that she made herself mistress of the French, the Italian, the Spanish, the Latin, the German, the Greek, and the Hebrew languages. She had no inconsiderable knowledge of the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Persic.
The Best of Company
"I must confess, my dear," said the Honourable Mrs. Pinmoney, "there is a great deal of comfort in your way of living, that is, there would be in good company; but you are so solitary"Chapter 4 (on meeting Sylvan Forester):
"Here is the best of company," said Anthelia smiling, and pointing to the shelves of the library.
The Hon. Mrs. Pinmoney. Very true: books are very good things in their way; but an hour or two at most is quite enough of them for me: more can serve no purpose but to muddle one's head.
"Aha!" said Sir Telegraph, "your old way, now I recollectalways fond of railing at civilised life, and holding forth in praise of savages and what you called original men."Chapter 7 (Mr. Fax):
"Bachelors and spinsters I decidedly venerate. The world is overstocked with featherless bipeds."Chapter 13 (Desmond):
"I delighted in the poets of Greece and Rome, but I thought that the igneus vigor et coelestis origo of their conceptions and expressions was often utterly lost sight of in the microscopic inspection of philological minutiae. I studied Greek, as the means of understanding Homer and Aeschylus: I did not look on them as mere secondary instruments to the attainment of a knowledge of their language. I had no conception of the taste that could prefer Lycophron to Sophocles because he had the singular advantage of being obscure; and should have been utterly at a loss to account for such a phenomenon, if I had not seen that the whole system of public education was purposely calculated to make inferior minds recoil in disgust and terror from the vestibule of knowledge, and superior minds consume their dangerous energies in the difficiles nugae and labor ineptiarum of its adytum."Chapter 16 (the Rev. Mr. Portpipe):
"There are two reasons for drinking: one is, when you are thirsty, to cure it; the other, when you are not thirsty, to prevent it. The first is obvious, mechanical, and plebeian; the second is most refined, abstract, prospicient, and canonical. I drink by anticipation of thirst that may be. Prevention is better than cure. Wine is the elixir of life. 'The soul,' says St. Augustine, 'cannot live in drought.' What is death? Dust and ashes. There is nothing so dry. What is life? Spirit. What is Spirit? Wine."Chapter 23 (Lord Anophel Achthar, who turns out to be the villain of the tale):
"Confound your Greek and Latin! you know there is nothing I hate so much; and I thought you did so too, or you have finished your education to no purpose at college."Chapter 24:
Sir Telegraph Paxarett. Upon my word, Forester, you will almost talk me out of my barouche, and then what will become of me? What shall I do to kill time?Chapter 31 (spoken by "the poeticopolitical, rhapsodicoprosaical, deisidaemoniacoparadoxographical, pseudolatreiological, transcendental meteorosophist, Moley Mystic, Esquire, of Cimmerian Lodge," a caricature of Coleridge):
Mr. Forester. Read ancient books, the only source of permanent happiness left in this degenerate world.
Sir Telegraph Paxarett. Read ancient books! That may be very good advice to some people: but you forget that I have been at college, and finished my education.
"But the spirit of Antichrist is abroad:—the people read!—nay, they think!! The people read and think!!! The public, the public in general, the swinish multitude, the many-headed monster, actually reads and thinks!!!! Horrible in thought, but in fact most horrible!"Chapter 39 (Mr. Feathernest):
"Oh for the happy ignorance of former ages! when the people were dolts, and knew themselves to be so. An ignorant man, judging from instinct, judges much better than a man who reads, and is consequently misinformed."
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Another Kind of Pedant
There is another kind of pedant, who, with all Tom Folio's impertinencies, hath greater superstructures and embellishments of Greek and Latin, and is still more insupportable than the other, in the same degree as he is more learned. Of this kind very often are editors, commentators, interpreters, scholiasts, and critics; and in short, all men of deep learning without common sense. These persons set a greater value on themselves for having found out the meaning of a passage in Greek, than upon the author for having written it; nay, will allow the passage itself not to have any beauty in it, at the same time that they would be considered as the greatest men in the age for having interpreted it. They will look with contempt upon the most beautiful poems that have been composed by any of their contemporaries; but will lock themselves up in their studies for a twelvemonth together, to correct, publish, and expound, such trifles of antiquity as a modern author would be contemned for. Men of the strictest morals, severest lives, and the gravest professions, will write volumes upon an idle sonnet that is originally in Greek or Latin; give editions of the most immoral authors, and spin out whole pages upon the various readings of a lewd expression. All that can be said in excuse for them is, that their works sufficiently show they have no taste of their authors; and that what they do in this kind, is out of their great learning, and not out of any levity or lasciviousness of temper.I couldn't help thinking of A.E. Housman when I read this paragraph by Addison.
First, the pedant "will allow the passage itself not to have any beauty in it, at the same time that they would be considered as the greatest men in the age for having interpreted it." Housman spent years of toil on editions of Latin authors, but he discouraged those who were not scholars from reading them. To Robert Bridges he wrote (September 25, 1924), "I adjure you not to waste your time on Manilius." He similarly advised Arnold Rubin (undated, not before 1918), "Do not be so infatuated as to think of studying Manilius, who is a very poor poet as well as a very difficult one." To James George Leippert he wrote (March 27, 1928), "Lucan would do you no good. He has rhetoric and epigram but no true poetry."
Second, Addison's pedant will "spin out whole pages upon the various readings of a lewd expression." Housman did something like this when he published his "Praefanda," Hermes 66 (1931) 402-412, on the meaning of some dirty Latin words, in the decent "obscurity of a learned language." The prurient who cannot read Latin may consult James Jayo's translation of Housman's article, in Arion 9.2 (Fall 2001) 180-200.
Friday, May 14, 2010
At various times I have asked myself what reasonsAccording to an interview with Rita Guibert, reprinted in Richard Burgin, ed., Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations (University Press of Mississippi, 1998), pp. 44-45, Borges began to study Old English in 1955, i.e. in his mid 50's.
moved me to study while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.
Used up by the years my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history.
Then I tell myself: it must be that the soul
has some secret sufficient way of knowing
that it is immortal, that its vast encompassing
circle can take in all, accomplish all.
Beyond my anxiety and beyond this writing
the universe waits, inexhaustible, inviting.
Bernard Ashmole, "Sir John Beazley (1885-1970)," in Donna Kurtz, ed., Beazley and Oxford: Lectures delivered in Wolfston College, Oxford, 28 June 1985 (Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, 1985), pp. 57-71 (at 70):
When convalescing in his seventies from an attack of pneumonia, he was reading through Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary. He explained that he had never had time systematically before; that his tutor at Balliol had once recommended it, but at the time he had managed only to read through Liddell and Scott. 'It is amazing what one does not know.' Dietrich von Bothmer also recalls finding him working steadily through a Russian dictionary and making a note of every word with which he was not acquainted. His memory often seemed incredible because it was not the mechanical memory of a prodigy, but ruminative - the memory of a humanist. He could quote, and quote with relevance and scholarly accuracy, much of the world's great poetry in many languages, and there was no subject, except perhaps music, which he could not illuminate."It is amazing what one does not know" reminds me of the motto of Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655) "Quantum est quod nescimus" ("How much there is that we don't know").
Thanks to R. Threadgall for the generous gift of Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Poems (Penguin Books, 1999), and to Eric Thomson for the quotation about Beazley.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
A Higher Law
Strange that so few ever come to the woods to see how the pine lives and grows and spires, lifting its evergreen arms to the light, — to see its perfect success; but most are content to behold it in the shape of many broad boards brought to market, and deem that its true success! But the pine is no more lumber than man is, and to be made into boards and houses is no more its true and highest use than the truest use of a man is to be cut down and made into manure. There is a higher law affecting our relation to pines as well as to men. A pine cut down, a dead pine, is no more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man. Can he who has discovered only some of the values of whalebone and whale oil be said to have discovered the true use of the whale? Can he who slays the elephant for his ivory be said to have "seen the elephant"? These are petty and accidental uses; just as if a stronger race were to kill us in order to make buttons and flageolets of our bones; for everything may serve a lower as well as a higher use. Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine-trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.
A Lesson in Latin
Our Latin books, in motley row,In Latin, amare can be both present active infinitive of the verb amo (I love) and vocative masculine singular of the adjective amarus (bitter).
Invite us to our task
Gay Horace, stately Cicero:
Yet there's one verb, when once we know,
No higher skill we ask:
This ranks all other lore above
We've learned "'Amare' means 'to love'!"
So, hour by hour, from flower to flower,
We sip the sweets of Life:
Till, all too soon, the clouds arise,
And flaming cheeks and flashing eyes
Proclaim the dawn of strife:
With half a smile and half a sigh,
"Amare! Bitter One!" we cry.
Last night we owned, with looks forlorn,
"Too well the scholar knows
There is no rose without a thorn"
But peace is made! We sing, this morn,
"No thorn without a rose!"
Our Latin lesson is complete:
We've learned that Love is Bitter-Sweet!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Being Very Learned With Little or No Reading
Possibly you may think it a very severe task to arrive at a competent knowledge of so many of the ancients as excel in their way; and indeed it would be really so, but for the short and easy method lately found out, of abstracts, abridgments, summaries, &c., which are admirable expedients for being very learned with little or no reading; and have the same use with burning-glasses, to collect the diffused rays of wit and learning in authors, and make them point with warmth and quickness upon the reader’s imagination. And to this is nearly related that other modern device of consulting indexes, which is to read books Hebraically, and begin where others usually end. And this is a compendious way of coming to an acquaintance with authors. For authors are to be used like lobsters, you must look for the best meat in the tails, and lay the bodies back again in the dish. Your cunningest thieves (and what else are readers, who only read to borrow, i. e. to steal) use to cut off the portmanteau from behind, without staying to dive into the pockets of the owner. Lastly, you are taught thus much in the very elements of philosophy, for one of the first rules in logic is, Finis est primus in intentione.
Gilleland's Wild Kingdom
A pair of wrens nested in our garage and laid five eggs. One of the hatchlings got ejected by the other four, but we helped it back in the nest with a plastic spoon and they all finally fledged. They spent a couple of days in "flight school" flapping around the garage before they took their leave. Here's a photo attached.My son also contributed the following example of a series of asyndetic, privative adjectives to my collection, from Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, chapter 32:
Here, every night, the child was too, unseen by them, unthought of, unregarded; but feeling as if they were her friends, as if they had confidences and trusts together, as if her load were lightened and less hard to bear; as if they mingled their sorrows, and found mutual consolation.Here's another example, from a Song by Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849):
Like a rootless rose or lily;
Like a sad and life-long sigh;
Like a bird pursued and weary,
Doom'd to flutter till it die;
Landless, restless, joyless, hopeless,
Gasping still for bread and breath,
To their graves by trouble hunted,
Albion's helots toil for death.
Tardy day of hoarded ruin,
Wild Niagara of blood!
Coming sea of headlong millions,
Vainly seeking work and food!
Why is famine reaped for harvest?
Planted curses always grow;
Where the plough makes want its symbol,
Fools will gather as they sow.
Labels: asyndetic privative adjectives
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Clearing the Wood for the Iron Way
The "iron way" is of course the railway. This painting reminds me of William Wordsworth's sonnet On the Projected Kendal and Windermere Railway:
Is then no nook of English ground secureWordsworth himself attached the following note to his sonnet:
From rash assault? Schemes of retirement sown
In youth, and 'mid the busy world kept pure
As when their earliest flowers of hope were blown,
Must perish;how can they this blight endure?
And must he too the ruthless change bemoan
Who scorns a false utilitarian lure
'Mid his paternal fields at random thrown?
Baffle the threat, bright Scene, from Orrest-head
Given to the pausing traveller's rapturous glance:
Plead for thy peace, thou beautiful romance
Of nature; and, if human hearts be dead,
Speak, passing winds; ye torrents, with your strong
And constant voice, protest against the wrong.
The degree and kind of attachment which many of the yeomanry feel to their small inheritances can scarcely be over-rated. Near the house of one of them stands a magnificent tree, which a neighbour of the owner advised him to fell for profit's sake. 'Fell it!' exclaimed the yeoman, 'I had rather fall on my knees and worship it.' It happens, I believe, that the intended railway would pass through this little property, and I hope that an apology for the answer will not be thought necessary by one who enters into the strength of the feeling.On the supposed identity of the yeoman, see William Knight, The English Lake District as Interpreted in the Poems of Wordsworth, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1904), p. 150:
Dr. Cradock says: "The yeoman was, I believe, Mr. Birkett, owner of a farm which lies a few fields back on the left of the road, between Waterhead and Troutbeck Bridge. My informant was the Reverend Mr. Jefferies of Grasmere, who was living in the country at the time of the occurrence which provoked the sonnet. I am told that the tree (an oak) is still standing, but I have not seen it."
I Cannot Gulp It
Indeed, Sir Peter, I could wish, I own,Ronald C. White, Jr., Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), pp. 138-139, quotes Lincoln as saying about Phineas Densmore Gurley (minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church):
That parsons would let politics alone;
Plead, if they will, the customary plea
For such like talk when o'er a dish of tea;
But when they tease us with it from the pulpit,
I own, Sir Peter, that I cannot gulp it.
If on their rules a Justice should intrench,
By preaching us a sermon from the bench,
Would you not think, your brother magistrate
Was touch'd a little in his hinder pate?
Now, which is worse, Sir Peter, on the total,—
The LAY vagary or the SACERDOTAL?
In ancient times when preachers preach'd indeed
Their sermons, ere the learned learnt to read,
Another Spirit and another life
Shut the Church doors against all party strife;
Since then how oft is heard from sacred rostrums
The lifeless din of Whig and Tory nostrums!
'Tis wrong, Sir Peter, I insist upon't,—
To common sense a manifest affront.
The parson leaves the Christian in the lurch,
Whene'er he brings his politics to Church.
If he his cant, on either side, calls preaching —
The man's wrong-headed, and his brains want bleaching.
Recall the time from Conquering William's reign,
And guess the fruits of such a preaching vein:
How oft its nonsense must have veer'd about,
Just as the politics were in or out!
The pulpit govern'd by no Gospel data,
But new success still mending old errata.
Were I a king,—God bless me!—I should hate
My chaplains meddling with affairs of state;
Nor would my subjects, I should think, be fond
Whene'er their priests the Bible went beyond.
How well, methinks, we both should live together,
If these good folks would keep within their tether!
I like Gurley. He don't preach politics. I get enough of that through the week, and when I go to church, I like to hear the gospel.
Monday, May 10, 2010
He confessed to me and the present Bishop of Durham (Maltby), that he knew comparatively little of Thucydides,—that, when he read him, he was obliged to mark with a pencil, in almost every page, passages which he did not understand.I can't find the source of Benjamin Jowett's definition of a scholar, mentioned by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Blood for the Ghosts: Classical Influences in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1982; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), p. 158:
Jowett defined a scholar as a man who read Thucydides with his feet on the mantlepiece; by that test he was a scholar, scarcely by any other.
The Search of Knowledge
I persuade myself, that the life and faculties of man, at the best but short and limited, cannot be employed more rationally or laudably, than in the search of knowledge; and especially of that sort, which relates to our duty, and conduces to our happiness. In these Inquiries therefore, wherever I perceive any glimmering of truth before me; I readily pursue, and endeavour to trace it to its source; without any reserve or caution of pushing the discovery too far, or opening too great a glare of it to the public. I look upon the discovery of any thing which is true, as a valuable acquisition to society; which cannot possibly hurt, or obstruct the good effect of any other truth whatsoever: for they all partake of one common essence, and necessarily coincide with each other; and like the drops of rain, which fall separately into the river, mix themselves at once with the stream, and strengthen the general current.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Taste and Try This Temper, Sirs
I am content, I do not care,
Wag as it will the world for me;
When fuss and fret was all my fare,
It got no ground as I could see:
So when away my caring went,
I counted cost, and was content.
With more of thanks, and less of thought,
I strive to make my matters meet;
To seek, what ancient sages sought,
Physic and food in sour and sweet;
To take what passes in good part,
And keep the hiccups from my heart.
With good, and gentle humour'd hearts,
I choose to chat where'er I come,
Whate'er the subject be that starts;
But if I get among the glum,
I hold my tongue to tell the troth,
And keep my breath to cool my broth.
For chance or change, of peace or pain,
For fortune's favour, or her frown,
For lack or glut, for loss or gain,
I never dodge, nor up, nor down;
But swing what way the ship shall swim,
Or tack about, with equal trim.
I suit not where I shall not speed,
Nor trace the turn of ev'ry tide;
If simple sense will not succeed,
I make no bustling, but abide:
For shining wealth, or scaring woe,
I force no friend, I fear no foe.
Of ups and downs, of ins and outs,
Of they are wrong, and we are right,
I shun the rancours and the routs,
And, wishing well to every wight,
Whatever turn the matter takes,
I deem it all but ducks and drakes.
With whom I feast, I do not fawn,
Nor if the folks should flout me, faint;
If wonted welcome be withdrawn,
I cook no kind of a complaint;
With none dispos'd to disagree,
But like them best, who best like me.
Not that I rate myself the rule
How all my betters should behave;
But fame shall find me no man's fool,
Nor to a set of men a slave:
I love a friendship free and frank,
And hate to hang upon a hank.
Fond of a true and trusty tie
I never loose where'er I link;
Though if a bus'ness budges by,
I talk thereon just as I think:
My word, my work, my heart, my hand,
Still, on a side, together stand.
If names or notions make a noise,
Whatever hap the question hath,
The point impartially I poise,
And read or write, but without wrath;
For should I burn or break my brains,
Pray, who will pay me for my pains?
I love my neighbour as myself,
Myself like him too, by his leave;
Nor to his pleasure, pow'r, or pelf,
Came I to crouch, as I conceive:
Dame Nature doubtless has design'd
A man—the monarch of his mind.
Now taste and try this temper, Sirs,
Mood it, and brood it in your breast;
Or if ye ween, for worldly stirs
That man does right to mar his rest,
Let me be deft and debonair,
I am content, I do not care.