Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Black Raspberries

Berries grow behind my house. When ripe they look like blackberries, but they're actually black raspberries, Rubus occidentalis.

For the genus see Nathaniel Lord Britton and Addison Brown, An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions, 2nd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913; rpt. New York: Dover, 1970), II, 275:
Perennial herbs, shrubs or trailing vines, often prickly, with alternate simple lobed or 3-7-foliolate leaves, the stipules adnate to the petiole. Flowers terminal or axillary, solitary, racemose or panicled, white, pink or purple, perfect or sometimes dioecious. Calyx persistent, not bracted, deeply 5-parted, its tube short and broad. Petals 5, deciduous. Stamens ∞, usually numerous, inserted on the calyx, distinct. Carpels ∞, rarely few, inserted on a convex or elongated receptacle, ripening into drupelets and forming an aggregate fruit, which in many species is edible, sweet and delicious, in others sour, or nearly tasteless. Ovules 2, one abortive. Style nearly terminal, slender. Seed pendulous. [The ancient name of the bramble, from ruber, red.]
For the species (common name thimble-berry), see Britton and Brown, II, 277:
Very glaucous, stems cane-like, recurved, often rooting at the tip, sometimes 10°-12° long, sparingly armed with small hooked prickles, rarely slightly glandular-bristly above. Stipules setaceous, deciduous; leaves pinnately 3-foliolate (rarely 5-foliolate); leaflets ovate, acuminate, coarsely incised-serrate, very white-pubescent beneath; flowers as in the preceding species [i.e. flowers 4"-5" broad]; inflorescence corymbose, compact, usually only terminal; pedicels short, ascending or erect in fruit; fruit purple-black (rarely yellow), depressed-hemispheric.

New Brunswick to Quebec, Ontario, Georgia and Missouri. Ascends to 3000 ft. in Virginia. The original of the Gregg, Hilborn and other raspberries. May-June. Fruit ripe July. Called also scotch-cap and black-cap. Purple raspberry. Black-berry.
Thoreau mentions black raspberries under the common name thimble-berries, e.g. Journal (July 16, 1851):
The black thimble-berry is an honest, homely berry, now drying up as usual. I used to have a pleasant time stringing them on herd's-grass stems, tracing the wallsides for them.
Journal (December 1, 1856):
I see great thimble-berry bushes rising above the snow, with still a rich, rank bloom on them, as in July. Hypaethral mildew, elysian fungus! To see the bloom on a thimble-berry stem lasting into midwinter! What a salve that would make, collected and boxed!
I usually eat black raspberries plain or with a little milk or cream, but this year I may try to make black raspberry liqueur as well.

Rubus occidentalis


An Epigram by Thomas More

Thomas More (1478-1535), Epigram 254 (Medicinae ad tollendos foetores anhelitus provenientes a cibis quibusdam,i.e. Cures to remove bad breath arising from certain foods):
Sectile ne taetros porrum tibi spiret odores,
  protinus a porro fac mihi caepe vores.
Denuo foetorem si vis depellere caepae,
  hoc facile efficient allia mansa tibi.
Spiritus at si post etiam gravis allia restat,
  aut nihil, aut tantum tollere merda potest.
Translated by John Harington (1560-1612) as Of Garlick. To my Ladie Rogers:
If Leekes you like, and doe the smell disleeke,
Eate Onions, and you shall not smell the Leeke:
If you of Onions would the sent expell,
Eate Garlick, that will drowne th' Onyons smell.
  But sure, gainst Garlicks sauour, at one word,
  I know but one receit, what's that? (go looke).
As others have noted, "go looke" is the equivalent of a series of asterisks. In order to rhyme with the preceding line, "a turd" must be read (which matches More's "merda").


Tuesday, June 29, 2010


The Life of the Mind

Theodore Dalrymple, "The Brothers Grim," First Things (June/July 2010):
[H]e does not seem spiteful, malicious, or petty (common characteristics of those who lead the life of the mind).


A Reason Fair

There seem to be several versions extant of The Toper's Apology by Charles Morris (1745-1838). The following is from Lyra Urbanica; or, The Social Effusions of the Celebrated Captain Charles Morris of the Late Life-Guards, vol. I (London: Richard Bentley, 1840), pp. 73-76:
I'm often ask'd by plodding souls,
  And men of crafty tongue,
What joy I take in draining bowls
  And tippling all night long.
Now, though these cautious knaves I scorn,
  For once I'll not disdain
To tell them why I sit till morn,
  And fill my glass again;

'Tis by the glow my bumper gives,
  Life's picture's mellow made;
The fading light then brightly lives,
  And softly sinks the shade.
Some happier tint still rises there,
  With every drop I drain—
And that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.

My Muse, too, when her wings are dry
  No frolic flight will take;
But round a bowl she'll dip and fly,
  Like swallows round a lake.
Then, if the nymph will have her share
  Before she'll bless her swain—
Why that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.

In life I've rung all changes too,
  Run every pleasure down,
Tried each extreme of Fancy through,
  And lived with half the town;
For me there's nothing new or rare
  Till wine deceives my brain—
And that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.

Then, many a lad I liked is dead,
  And many a lass grown old;
And as the lesson strikes my head,
  My weary heart grows cold.
But wine, awhile, drives off despair,
  Nay, bids a hope remain—
And that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.

Then, hipp'd and vex'd at England's state
  In these convulsive days,
I can't endure the ruin'd fate,
  My sober eye surveys.
But 'midst the bottle's dazzling glare,
  I see the gloom less plain—
And that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.

I find, too, when I stint my glass,
  And sit with sober air,
I'm prosed by some dull reasoning ass,
  Who treads the path of care;
Or, harder tax'd, I'm forced to bear
Some coxcomb's fribbling strain—
And that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.

Nay, don't we see Love's fetters, too,
  With different holds entwine?
While nought but death can some undo,
  There's some give way to wine.
With me the lighter head I wear
  The lighter hangs the chain—
And that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.

And now I'll tell, to end my song,
  At what I most repine:
This cursed war, or right or wrong,
  Is war against all wine;
Nay, Port, they say, will soon be rare
  As juice of France or Spain—
And that I think's a reason fair
  To fill my glass again.
To my ear, the fifth stanza has the ring of one of A.E. Housman's lyrics. There is a clever translation of The Toper's Apology by R.Y. Tyrrell "into a Greek song in the metre of the famous scolion about Harmodius and Aristogiton" in The Classical Review 7 (1893) 368-369.

Lyra Urbanica contains many delightful verses in the Anacreontic vein, and I may post more of them in future. According to a disapproving notice by S. Austin Allibone in A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors Living and Deceased, Vol. II (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1891), p. 1321, Captain Charles Morris
served in the British army during the American Revolution, in the 17th Regiment of Foot; on his return to England he exchanged to a dragoon-regiment, and subsequently entered the Life-Guards. He married the widow of Sir William Stanhope. He was a great favourite in fashionable society, for the amusement of which he wrote many bacchanalian songs and uttered many witty sayings.
Morris is such a minor figure that he doesn't even merit an entry in Margaret Drabble, The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985). But his graceful verses are pleasing, and he deserves to be rescued from oblivion.

Captain Charles Morris

Related posts:


Monday, June 28, 2010


Without a Human Presence

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (chapter Bedrock and Paradox):
In deep stillness, in a somber solemn light, these beings stand, these fins of sandstone hollowed out by time, the juniper trees so shaggy, tough and beautiful, the dead or dying pinyon pines, the little shrubs of rabbitbrush and blackbrush, the dried-up stalks of asters and sunflowers gone to seed, the black-rooted silver-blue sage. How difficult to imagine this place without a human presence; how necessary. I am almost prepared to believe that this sweet virginal primitive land will be grateful for my departure and the absence of the tourists, will breathe metaphorically a collective sigh of relief—like a whisper of wind—when we are all and finally gone and the place and its creations can return to their ancient procedures unobserved and undisturbed by the busy, anxious, brooding consciousness of man.

Grateful for our departure? One more expression of human vanity. The finest quality of this stone, these plants and animals, this desert landscape is the indifference manifest to our presence, our absence, our coming, our staying or our going. Whether we live or die is a matter of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the desert. Let men in their madness blast every city on earth into black rubble and envelop the entire planet in a cloud of lethal gas—the canyons and hills, the springs and rocks will still be here, the sunlight will filter through, water will form and warmth shall be upon the land and after sufficient time, no matter how long, somewhere, living things will emerge and join and stand once again, this time perhaps to take a different and better course. I have seen the place called Trinity, in New Mexico, where our wise men exploded the first atomic bomb and the heat of the blast fused sand into a greenish glass—already the grass has returned, and the cactus and the mesquite. On this bedrock of animal faith I take my stand, close by the old road that leads eventually out of the valley of paradox.
Abbey's musings are mild compared with this screed by the outrageous Fred Reed, in which he pleads the case for human extinction:
We breed incontinently as flies, spread like impetigo, and burn and cut and poison and bulldoze. To what end? Why is a lake, solitary and wild, made better by a subdivision of six thousand units, with unnecessary children littering the pavement with plastic bottles while their parents gawp at televisions? Yes, I know. It is Progress. I just don't see why it is.

I wonder what the world must have been a million years ago, before our sordid race of moralizing apes arose to invent the sewage outfall, before we learned to perforate the floor of oceans and poison whole seas with the bile of the inner earth. Yes, I know of property rights and the desperate need for the economy to grow, though to what end I cannot imagine. It seems to me that we should strive to shrink the economy. Pelicans and seals do not grow their economies and, I think, seldom use bulldozers. Yet they prosper.
Related post: Misanthropy.


The Way We Live Now

I just finished reading Anthony Trollope's novel The Way We Live Now. It was first published 135 years ago, but its description of financial shenanigans seems very up-to-date in 2010. The villain Augustus Melmotte reminds me of no one so much as Bernie Madoff, except that the former had the decency to kill himself with prussic acid when his crime was discovered, while the latter is now a guest at taxpayers' expense in Butner Federal Prison, affectionately known to its inmates as Camp Fluffy. Here are some excerpts from The Way We Live Now.

Chapter 2 (example of asyndetic, privative adjectives):
fathomless, bottomless, endless
Chapter 6:
Land is a luxury, and of all luxuries is the most costly.
Chapter 8:
Roger Carbury did not quite believe in the forgiveness of injuries. If you pardon all the evil done to you, you encourage others to do you evil! If you give your cloak to him who steals your coat, how long will it be, before your shirt and trousers will go also?
Chapter 11:
There is the review intended to sell a book,—which comes out immediately after the appearance of the book, or sometimes before it; the review which gives reputation, but does not affect the sale, and which comes a little later; the review which snuffs a book out quietly; the review which is to raise or lower the author a single peg, or two pegs, as the case may be; the review which is suddenly to make an author, and the review which is to crush him.
Chapter 16 (boodying = sulking):
'He is a man of that kind,—so stiff and stubborn and old-fashioned that nothing will change him. He will go on boodying over it, till he will become an old misanthrope.'
Chapter 30:
But then dear Roger was old-fashioned, and knew nothing of people as they are now. He lived in a world which, though slow, had been good in its way; but which, whether bad or good, had now passed away.
Chapter 39:
If one has to be hung on a given day, would it not be well to be hung as soon after waking as possible? I can fancy that the hangman would hardly come early enough. And if one had to be hung in a given week, would not one wish to be hung on the first day of the week, even at the risk of breaking one's last Sabbath day in this world? Whatever be the misery to be endured, get it over. The horror of every agony is in its anticipation.
Chapter 42:
'If men were equal to-morrow and all wore the same coats, they would wear different coats the next day.'
Chapter 44 (cf. "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet"):
It seemed that there was but one virtue in the world, commercial enterprise,—and that Melmotte was its prophet.
Chapter 44 (too big to fail):
'There are a good many who say that Melmotte will burst up.'

'I don't believe it,' said Lord Alfred. 'They don't know what they're talking about. There are too many in the same boat to let him burst up. It would be the bursting up of half London.'
Chapter 46:
'People live now in a way that I don't comprehend.'
Chapter 50:
There is an intoxication that makes merry in the midst of affliction,—and there is an intoxication that banishes affliction by producing oblivion. But again there is an intoxication which is conscious of itself though it makes the feet unsteady, and the voice thick, and the brain foolish; and which brings neither mirth nor oblivion.
Chapter 53 (example of rhetorical device known as climax or ladder):
Mr Longestaffe in the meantime had progressed from weariness to impatience, from impatience to ill-humour, and from ill-humour to indignation.
Chapter 54:
He was one of those men whom success never mollified, whose enjoyment of a point gained always demanded some hoarse note of triumph from his own trumpet.
Chapter 55:
'A failure! Of course he's a failure, whether rich or poor;—a miserable imposition, a hollow vulgar fraud from beginning to end,—too insignificant for you and me to talk of, were it not that his position is a sign of the degeneracy of the age.'
Chapter 55:
'Taking society as a whole, the big and the little, the rich and the poor, I think that it grows better from year to year, and not worse. I think, too, that they who grumble at the times, as Horace did, and declare that each age is worse than its forerunner, look only at the small things beneath their eyes, and ignore the course of the world at large.'
Chapter 55 (quotation unidentified in the Penguin Classics edition, note on p. 776, but it's from Horace, Epodes 4.20):
hoc, hoc tribuno militum
Chapter 62:
When such rumours are spread abroad, they are always believed. There is an excitement and a pleasure in believing them. Reasonable hesitation at such a moment is dull and phlegmatic. If the accused one be near enough to ourselves to make the accusation a matter of personal pain, of course we disbelieve. But, if the distance be beyond this, we are almost ready to think that anything may be true of anybody.
Chapter 64 (example of rhetorical device known as praeteritio):
'I scorn,' said he, 'to say anything against the personal character of a political opponent, which I am not in a position to prove. I make no allusion, and have made no allusion, to reports which were circulated yesterday about him, and which I believe were originated in the City. They may be false or they may be true.'
Chapter 64:
Masses of men will almost feel that a certain amount of injustice ought to be inflicted on their betters, so as to make things even, and will persuade themselves that a criminal should be declared to be innocent, because the crime committed has had a tendency to oppress the rich and pull down the mighty from their seats. Some few years since, the basest calumnies that were ever published in this country, uttered by one of the basest men that ever disgraced the country, levelled, for the most part, at men of whose characters and services the country was proud, were received with a certain amount of sympathy by men not themselves dishonest, because they who were thus slandered had received so many good things from Fortune, that a few evil things were thought to be due to them.
Chapter 64:
'A child has such a hold upon his mother. When her reason has bade her to condemn him, her heart will not let her carry out the sentence.'
Chapter 67:
But he was chiefly tormented in these days by the want of amusement. He had so spent his life hitherto that he did not know how to get through a day in which no excitement was provided for him. He never read. Thinking was altogether beyond him. And he had never done a day's work in his life. He could lie in bed. He could eat and drink. He could smoke and sit idle. He could play cards; and could amuse himself with women,—the lower the culture of the women, the better the amusement. Beyond these things the world had nothing for him.
Chapter 69:
It was astonishing, some people said, what things attorneys would do in these days!
Chapter 70:
Throughout the world, the more wrong a man does, the more indignant is he at wrong done to him.
Chapter 78:
'Do nothing for you! Haven't you got a home to live in, and clothes to wear, and a carriage to go about in,—and books to read if you choose to read them? What do you expect?'
Chapter 84:
'Everybody is a burden to other people. It is the way of life.'
Chapter 84:
'Love is like any other luxury. You have no right to it unless you can afford it.'
Chapter 93:
To a man not accustomed to thinking there is nothing in the world so difficult as to think. After some loose fashion we turn over things in our mind and ultimately reach some decision, guided probably by our feelings at the last moment rather than by any process of ratiocination;—and then we think that we have thought. But to follow out one argument to an end, and then to found on the base so reached the commencement of another, is not common to us.
Chapter 96 (quotation unidentified according to the Penguin Classics edition, note on p. 779, but it's from The Toper's Apology by Charles Morris (1745-1838)):
'In life I've rung all changes through,
  Run every pleasure down,
'Midst each excess of folly too,
  And lived with half the town.'
Chapter 100:
As to giving his coat to the thief who had taken his cloak,—he told himself that were he and others to be guided by that precept honest industry would go naked in order that vice and idleness might be comfortably clothed. If any one stole his cloak he would certainly put that man in prison as soon as possible and not commence his lenience till the thief should at any rate affect to be sorry for his fault.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


As You Like It

Excerpts from Shakespeare, As You Like It:

1.3.12 (Rosalind):
O, how full of briers is this working-day world!
2.1.12-14 (Duke Senior):
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
2.3.15-16 (Adam):
O, what a world is this, when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!
2.3.51-57 (Adam):
Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty;
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly.
2.4.16-17 (Touchstone):
When I was at home I was in a better place; but travellers must be content.
2.5.12-13 (Jaques):
I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs.
2.6.5 (Orlando):
Live a little; comfort a little; cheer thyself a little.
2.7.60-64 (Jaques):
Give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.
2.7.204-208 (Duke Senior, add to collection about children resembling fathers):
If that you were the good Sir Rowland's son,
As you have whisper'd faithfully you were,
And as mine eye doth his effigies witness
Most truly limn'd and living in your face,
Be truly welcome hither.
3.2.72-76 (Corin):
Sir, I am a true labourer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear; owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness; glad of other men's good, content with my harm; and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.
3.2.191-193 (Celia):
O wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!
3.2.248-249 (Rosalind):
Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.
3.2.275-276 (Jaques):
Will you sit down with me? and we two will rail against our mistress the world, and all our misery.
3.5.62-63 (Rosalind disguised):
Down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love.
4.1.3-4 (Rosalind disguised and Jaques):
Ros. They say you are a melancholy fellow.
Jaq. I am so; I do love it better than laughing.
4.1.10-19 (Jaques):
I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer's, which is politic; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels; in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.
4.1.101-102 (Rosalind):
Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.
5.4.83-85 (Touchstone):
I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier's beard; he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was. This is call'd the Retort Courteous. If I sent him word again it was not well cut, he would send me word he cut it to please himself. This is call'd the Quip Modest. If again it was not well cut, he disabled my judgment. This is call'd the Reply Churlish. If again it was not well cut, he would answer I spake not true. This is call'd the Reproof Valiant. If again it was not well cut, he would say I lie. This is call'd the Countercheck Quarrelsome. And so to the Lie Circumstantial and the Lie Direct.
5.4.105-106 (Touchstone):
Your If is the only peace-maker; much virtue in If.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Romeo and Juliet

Excerpts from Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet:

1.1.150-156 (Montague, speaking of the secretive Romeo):
But he, his own affections' counsellor,
Is to himself—I will not say how true,
But to himself so secret and so close,
So far from sounding and discovery,
As is the bud bit with an envious worm
Ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air
Or dedicate his beauty to the sun.
1.1.234 (Romeo):
O, teach me how I should forget to think!
1.2.62-64 (servingman and Romeo):
Serv. I pray, sir, can you read?
Rom. Ay, mine own fortune in my misery.
Serv. Perhaps you have learned it without book.
1.4.14-16 (Romeo, to be said when asked to dance):
Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles; I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.
2.1.22-23 (Mercutio, part of an oath):
By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh,
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie...
2.2.1 (Romeo):
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
2.3.17-20 (Friar Lawrence):
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give;
Nor aught so good but, strain'd from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
2.3.34-40 (Friar Lawrence to Romeo):
What early tongue so sweet saluteth me?
Young son, it argues a distempered head
So soon to bid good morrow to thy bed.
Care keeps his watch in every old man's eye,
And where care lodges sleep will never lie;
But where unbruisèd youth with unstuff'd brain
Doth couch his limbs, there golden sleep doth reign.
2.3.101 (Friar Lawrence):
Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.
2.5.16-17 (Juliet):
But old folks, many feign as they were dead,
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.
3.1.17-25 (Mercutio to Benvolio):
Thou! why, thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair more or a hair less in his beard than thou hast. Thou wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no other reason but because thou hast hazel eyes. What eye but such an eye would spy out such a quarrel? Thy head is as full of quarrels as an egg is full of meat; and yet thy head hath been beaten as addle as an egg for quarrelling.
3.1.207 (Prince):
Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill.
3.3.13-15 (Romeo):
Ha, banishment? Be merciful, say "death,"
For exile hath more terror in his look,
Much more than death. Do not say "banishment."
3.3.58 (Friar Lawrence):
...Adversity's sweet milk, philosophy...
3.3.95 (Nurse, chiasmus):
Blubb'ring and weeping, weeping and blubb'ring.
3.5.74-75 (Lady Capulet):
Some grief shows much of love;
But much of grief shows still some want of wit.
4.2.6-7 (servingman):
Marry, sir, 'tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.
4.5.55-60 (Nurse, suitable to be said on many occasions):
O woe, O woeful, woeful, woeful day!
Most lamentable day, most woeful day
That ever, ever I did yet behold!
O day, O day, O day, O hateful day!
Never was seen so black a day as this!
O woeful day, O woeful day!


St. Columba

Betha Colaim Chille: Life of Columcille, Compiled by Manus O'Donnell in 1532. Edited and translated from manuscript Rawlinson B.514 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford... by A. O'Kelleher and G. Schoepperle (Chicago: Irish Foundation Series of America, 1918), Gaelic on pp. 82, 84, English translation on facing pp. 83, 85:
89. Herein is seen how greatly Columcille loved Derry, and how loth he was to cut or fell the grove of trees there. When he was building the oratory that men call today Dubhreigles, because of the nearness of that grove, he could not find a place to build the oratory in such wise that the front of the altar should be toward the east. And so loth was he to cut down the grove, that he bade the side of the oratory be toward the east. In proof hereof the altar where he was wont to say the mass is on the side thereof, and it is manifest to all today that thus is the site of the oratory. And he charged his successors to chop no tree that fell of itself or that was blown down by the wind, till the end of nine days, and then to divide it among all the folk of the place, good and bad; a third part of it to be put in the guest-house for the guests, and a tenth part as a share for the poor. And this is the quatrain he made after going into exile in Alba, and it proveth that naught was so grievous to him as to cut the grove of Derry.
"Though I am affrighted, truly,
By death and by Hell;
I am more affrighted, frankly,
By the sound of an ax in Derry in the West."
Cf. also these lines from a poem in Gaelic attributed to St. Columba, edited and translated by William Reeves among the notes to his edition of The Life of St. Columba, Founder of Hy; written by Adamnan (Dublin: Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, 1857), pp. 285-289 (at 288):
The reason why I love Derry is,
For its quietness, for its purity,
Crowded full of heaven's angels
Is every leaf of the oaks of Derry.

My Derry, my little oak-grove,
My dwelling, and my little cell;
O eternal God, in heaven above,
Woe be to him who violates it!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010



Asa Gray (1810-1888) seems to have been the first to use the word arboricide in English, but we should also give credit to Abraham Cowley (1618-1667), who in his Libri Plantarum 2.117-118 wrote:
Hanc hedera intexit ditem fallacibus ulnis,
  Blanditiisque malis Arboricida necat.
In Thomas Sprat's translation:
Her treacherously the Ivy does embrace,
And kills the Tree with Kindness in her Face.
Here is Cowley's own note, with my translation:
Arboricida. Verbum fictitium, sed satis ex analogia aliorum.

Arboricida. A made-up word, but sufficiently analogous to others.
See Otto Gradenwitz, Laterculi vocum Latinarum: voces Latinas et a fronte et a tergo ordinandas (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1904), pp. 282-283, for a list of Latin words ending in -cida, one of which is lignicida, and p. 330 for a list of words ending in -cidium.

Agennius Urbicus, in Brian Campbell, The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary (London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2000), pp. 70 (Latin) and 71 (translation):
in Italia autem multi crescente religione sacratissima Christiana lucos profanos sive templorum loca occupaverunt et serunt.

Now, in Italy, as the most holy Christian religion increases, many people have taken over pagan groves or sites attached to temples, and now sow them.
On Agennius Urbicus see Schanz-Hosius, Geschichte der römischen Literatur, 4. Teil, 2. Band = Die Literatur des fünften und sechsten Jahrhunderts (München: C.H. Beck, 1920; rpt. 1971), § 1138, pp. 302-304.

Gregory the Great (540-604), Dialogues 2.8, tr. by Hilary Costello and Eoin de Bhaldraithe in Gregory the Great, The Life of St. Benedict, tr. (Petersham: St. Bede's Publications, 1993; rpt. 2003), p. 64:
The stronghold called Casinum is situated on the side of a high mountain, where a broad shelf of land forms the site. Behind this the mountain rises steeply for a distance of three miles, as if to rear its summit to the skies. On the top there was a very old temple and there, according to ancient customs among the heathens, Apollo was worshipped by the poor foolish natives of the rustic population. Sacred groves dedicated to demons grew all around the temple where a horde of pagans still took great pains to offer their sacrilegious sacrifices.

As soon as he arrived, the man of God smashed up the idol, overturned the altar and felled the sacred trees. In the temple of Apollo itself he built an oratory to Blessed Martin, and on the site of the altar to Apollo he built an oratory to St. John.
The Latin:
Castrum namque quod Cassinum dicitur, in excelsi montis latere situm est, qui videlicet mons distenso sinu hoc idem castrum recepit, sed per tria millia in altum se subrigens, velut ad aera cacumen tendit: ubi vetustissimum fanum fuit, in quo ex antiquorum more gentilium a stulto rusticorum populo Apollo colebatur. Circumquaque etiam in cultu daemonum luci succreverant, in quibus adhuc eodem tempore infidelium insana multitudo sacrificiis sacrilegis insudabat.

Illuc itaque vir Dei perveniens, contrivit idolum, subvertit aram, succidit lucos, atque in ipso templo Apollinis oraculum beati Martini, ubi vero ara eiusdem Apollinis, fuit oraculum sancti Ioannis construxit.

succidit: succendit alii

Sermon of St. Eligius (588-660), Bishop of Noyon-Tournai, quoted in Dado (aka Audoen or Ouen or Owen), Life of St. Eligius 2.16, tr. Jo Ann McNamara:
Venerate no creature beyond God and his saints. Shun springs and arbors which they call sacred. You are forbidden to make the crook which they place on the crossroads and wherever you find one you should burn it with fire. For you must believe that you can be saved by no other art than the invocation and cross of Christ. For how will it be if groves where these miserable men make their devotions, are felled and the wood from them given to the furnace? See how foolish man is, to offer honor to insensible, dead trees and despise the precepts of God almighty.
Another day taking the road for necessary purposes, he came to a place not far from the royal estate at Compiègne. Weary from traveling, he turned into a certain colonus's field. There was an arbor of nut trees there, heavily laden with edible fruit. And when Eligius had rested a while, some of his servants went out and began to pick nuts from the trees for it was time for them to eat together. Rushing forward, the lord of the orchard loudly complained that his nuts were being stolen from him. Eligius called his men to him and softly and mildly soothed him saying: "Friend, don't be a nuisance to us because of this. If the boys took a little, there is much still remaining and I will give you money in satisfaction for anything that they have taken." But with swollen mind, spurning his mildness, he reviled him, taxing him closely with hard words. Thus Eligius with unruffled spirit, scolded his servants more harshly for what they had done and ordered them to give the man three gold pieces for the substance he had lost. Then, after the example of the Lord with the fig tree, he turned toward the orchard and ordered: "Since we were so attacked for you, nevermore till eternity shall you bear fruit." And, oh wonderful power of God, whose example was followed in this word, his virtue achieved the same effect. For after a little while the arbor dried up and remained permanently arid. So in this case he merited to follow the Lord's example, ordering the orchard with confidence, because he had put his whole faith in the Lord's words Who said, "He who believes in me, not only shall he do what I do but what is more it shall be done."
Original Latin in Vita Eligii episcopi Noviomagensis, ed. B. Krutsch, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptorum Rerum Merovingicarum Tomus IV (Hanover: Hahn, 1902), pp.669-742 (2.16 at pp. 707-708):
Nulli creaturae praeter Deum et sanctis eius venerationem exhibeatis; fontes vel arbores quos sacrivos vocant succidite; pedum similitudines, quos per bivios ponunt, fieri vetate, et ubi inveneritis, igne cremate. Per nullam aliam artem salvari vos credatis nisi per invocationem et crucem Christi. Nam illud quale est, quod si arbores illae, ubi miseri homines vota reddunt, ceciderint, nec ex eis ligna ad focum sibi deferunt? Et videte, quanta stultitia est hominum, si arbori insensibili et mortuae honorem inpendunt et Dei omnipotentis praecepta contempnunt.
2.22 (pp. 713-714):
Una autem dierum iter necessarium carpens, devenit ad quendam locum haud longe a Conpendio regali, optimum praedium, et fatigatus ex itinere, divertit in agrum cuiusdam coloni; erat autem illi arbor magna nucarii onusta fructu vescibili. Cumque Eligius in diversorium quiesceret, egressi quidam ex ministris eius coeperunt ex praefata arbuscula avellere nuces; erat enim tempus, quo congrue vesci poterant. Accurrens autem concite dominus arbustae, causabatur procaciter nuces sibi subripere; quo Eligius conperto vocat ad se virum, et blande ac leniter eum demulcens, ait: 'Noli, amice, huiuscemodi ob causam molestus nobis existere, et si pauca pueri praesumpserunt, plurima tibi adhuc supersunt; nam et hoc quod attigerunt ego, data pecunia, tibi gratifice satisfaciam'. At ille tumida mente lenitatem eius spernens, duris eum amaricabat verbis, eadem crebrius taxans. Tunc Eligius animo inmutatus famulos quidem pro rei facto durius obiurgavit, homini vero pro substantiae damno tres aureos dari iussit; ad arbustam tamen conversus, nimirum salvatoris ficulneae imperantis exemplo usus, ait: 'Quoniam tantopere pro te lacescimur, numquam ex te ex hoc iam fructus nascatur in aeternum'. Et, o mira Domini potentia! cuius exemplum secutus fuerat in verbo, eiusdem et virtus subsequitur in effectu; nam post non longum spatium arefacta arbusta, sicca demum permanet in aevum. Merito igitur in hoc opere dominicum secutus exemplum, arbustae cum fiducia imperavit, qui fide plenissimat dominicam tenebat sententiam, qua dicitur, quia qui credit in me, non solum faciet ea quae ego facio, sed et maiora, inquit, faciet.

Council of Nantes (7th or 9th century?), c. 18, in Jacques Sirmond, ed. Concilia Antiqua Galliae (Paris, 1629; rpt. Aalen: Scientia, 1970), vol. 3, p. 607 (my translation):
Bishops and their clergy ought to struggle with the greatest zeal to cut down and burn trees consecrated to demons, which the common people worship and hold in such veneration that they dare not cut branch or shoot from them.

Summo studio decertare debent episcopi et eorum ministri, ut arbores demonibus consecratae quas vulgus colit, et in tanta veneratione habet, ut nec ramum vel surculum inde audeat amputare, radicitus excidantur atque comburantur.
For bibliography on the disputed existence and date of the Council of Nantes, see Bernadette Filotas, Pagan Survivals, Superstitions and Popular Cultures in Early Medieval Pastoral Literature (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005 = Studies and Texts, 151), p. 367.




Jasper Griffin, "Augustan Poetry and the Life of Luxury," in Latin Poets and Roman Life (London: Duckworth, 1985; rpt. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), pp. 1-31 (at 17):
The private life of the Latin love poets will have borne little resemblance to that of a modern scholar.
William Butler Yeats, The Scholars:
Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?


Bad Breath

Martial 3.17 (tr. Tony Harrison):
The tart passed round for sweet's so hot
no one touches it. No one, but NOT
Sabidius whose greed burns more.
He blows on it 1-2-3-4.
It's cool. Still no one touches it —
Sabidius's breath turns all to shit.

Circumlata diu mensis scribilita secundis
  urebat nimio saeva calore manus;
sed magis ardebat Sabidi gula: protinus ergo
  sufflavit buccis terque quaterque suis.
illa quidem tepuit digitosque admittere visa est,
  sed nemo potuit tangere: merda fuit.
Martial 3.28 (tr. Paul Nixon):
"There's a horrible smell in poor Marius' ear."
  You're surprised at the matter?
A coincidence, Nestor, escapes you, I fear —
  That's just where you chatter.

Auriculam Mario graviter miraris olere.
  tu facis hoc: garris, Nestor, in auriculam.
Related post: Halitosis.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Jerome of Prague

In Theodor Hirsch et al., edd., Scriptores Rerum Prussicarum: Die Gesichtsquellen der preussischen Vorzeit bis zum Untergange der Ordensherrschaft, 4. Bd. (Leipzig, 1870), p. 239 = Aeneas Sylvius (Pope Pius II), Historia de Europa (Basel, 1551), c. XXVI, f. 417, there is the following account of missionary work in Lithuania by Jerome of Prague, who lived from 1379 to 1416:
Then he came to other peoples who worshipped forests sacred to devils and who considered one particular forest to be more worthy of worship than others. For several days, revealing the sacraments of our faith, he preached to this folk, and at last he ordered them to cut down the forest. Although people were present with axes, there was no one who dared to touch the holy wood with iron. Therefore Jerome, taking the lead, grabbed a two-headed axe and felled a certain tall tree. Then the crowd followed in eager emulation; some were cutting down the forest with saws, some with picks, some with axes. They reached the middle of the grove, where they thought that a very old oak, holy above all the others, was in particular the dwelling place of gods. For some time no one dared strike; finally one man, bolder than the others, upbraiding his comrades for being afraid to strike the wood (an inanimate thing), raised his axe and was planning to chop the tree, when he struck his thigh and fell down in a faint.

The surrounding crowd was astonished — they wept, lamented, and accused Jerome of persuading them to violate the sacred home of the god. There was no longer anyone who dared to ply the axe. Thereupon Jerome, claiming that these were demonic illusions designed to bamboozle the eyes of the deceived crowd, ordered the man (whom I said fell down wounded) to get up, and he showed that the man wasn't harmed at all. Soon, with the aid of the crowd, he drove the axe against the tree, felled the huge mass with a loud crash, and cut down the entire grove.

In that region there were several other forests, considered holy by reason of the same superstition. While Jerome was hastening to them in order to cut them down, a large crowd of women approached Witold with weeping and wailing. They complained that their sacred grove had been cut down and the home of their god taken away, in which they had been accustomed to seek divine aid, and whence they had obtained rain and sun. They no longer knew where to seek the god, because Jerome and his followers had taken away the god's dwelling. There were other, smaller groves, in which gods were accustomed to be worshipped, but Jerome wanted to destroy these, too — he was introducing certain strange rites to uproot their ancestral customs. The women therefore asked and beseeched Witold not to allow the places of their ancestral rites and their ceremonies to be abolished. Men also followed the women and claimed they could not endure the new religion; they said they would rather leave their land and their ancestral hearths than abandon the religion they had received from their forefathers. Moved by this circumstance and fearing a popular uprising, Witold wished Christ, rather than himself, to be without followers. He recalled the letters in which he had told the chiefs of his provinces to obey Jerome, and ordered Jerome to depart from the territory.
The preceding rough translation is my own, because I couldn't find one by anyone else. Here is the Latin, divided into paragraphs by me:
Postremo alios populos adiit, qui sylvas daemonibus consecratas venerabantur et inter alias unam cultu digniorem putavere. Praedicavit huic genti pluribus diebus fidei nostrae aperiens sacramenta, denique ut sylvam succideret imperavit; ubi populus cum securibus affuit, nemo erat, qui sacrum lignum ferro contingere auderet. Prior itaque Hieronymus assumpta bipenni excellentem quandam arborem detruncavit. Tum secuta multitudo alacri certamine; alii serris alii dolabris alii securibus sylvam deiiciebant. Ventura erat ad medium nemoris, ubi quercum vetustissimam et ante omnes arbores religione sacram et quam potissime sedem [Deorum?] esse putabant. Percutere aliquamdiu nullus praesumpsit; postremo ut est alter altero audacior increpans quidam socios, qui lignum rem insensatam percutere formidarent, elevata bipenni magno ictu cum arborem caedere arbitraretur, tibiam suam percussit atque in terram semianimis cecidit.

Attonita circum turba flere, conqueri, Hieronymum accusare, qui sacram Dei domum violari suasisset, neque jam quisquam erat, qui ferrum exercere auderet. Tum Hieronymus illusiones daemonum esse affirmans, quae deceptae plebis oculos fascinarent, surgere quem cecidisse vulneratum diximus imperavit et nulla in parte laesum ostendit et mox ad arborem adacto ferro adiuvante multitudine ingens onus cum magno fragore prostravit totumque nemus succidit.

Erant in ea regione plures sylvae pari religione sacrae, ad quas dum Hieronymus amputandas pergit mulierum ingens numerus plorans atque eiulans Vitoldum adit, sacrum lucum succisum queritur et domum Dei ademptam, in qua divinam opem petere consuessent, inde pluvias inde soles obtinuisse; nescire iam quo in loco Deum quaerant, cui domicilium abstulerint; esse aliquos minores lucos, in queis Dii coli soleant, eos quoque delere Hieronymum velle, qui nova quaedam sacra introducens patrium morem extirpet; rogare igitur atque obtestari, ne maiorum religionum loca et caeremonias auferri sinat. Sequuntur et viri mulieres nec se ferre posse novum cuitum asserunt, relinquere potius terram et patrios lares quam religionem a maioribus acceptam dicunt. Motus ea re Vitoldus veritusque populorum tumultum Christo potius quam sibi deesse plebem voluit. Revocatisque literis, quas praesidibus provinciarum declarat jubens parere Hieronymo, hominem ex provincia decedere iussit.
Jerome of Prague's missionary work ultimately didn't redeem him in the eyes of church authorities. He was burned at the stake as a heretic.



A Lonely Hut

John Clare, note from Peterborough MS A57:
An almost boundless solitary heath with its stumpy bushes & a lonely hut built up of brush wood & thacked with fern would to my feelings be more delightful to meet with then a crowded City full of mighty streets triumphal arches & marble temples
John Clare, The Woods:
I love to roam the woods
Oft patted by the boughs
That meet from either side
& form an arch of leaves
Till hidden as it where from all the world
I stand & muse upon the pleasant scene

I seem to be myself
The only one that treads
The earth at such a time
So vacant is the mass
That spreads around me one hugh sea of leaves
& intertwining grains of thickest shades

No human eye is visible
No human sound attracts
The ear—but musing solitude
One unembodied thought
Thinks the heart into stillness as the world
Was left behind for somthing green & new

& lonely—& Ive thought
In such a spot to build
An hermitage or hut
With books & leisure left
How sweet t'would be but then again
I've turned to my old home & felt it vain

Yet sure a hut close thatched
Chafed by oerleaning boughs
In such a place when night
Dark on the crowd of trees
Found us locked in beside a blazing fire
Might give us happiness & pleasing fears

Fear books can give us
When we read strange tales
Of dwellers in the depths
Of earths untrodden shades
Where woods surround lone huts impassable
& nought lives near them but the hope of heaven
John George Brown, Camp in the Maine Wood, No.3 (1879)

Related posts:

Monday, June 21, 2010


Improve the Summer

Henry David Thoreau, Journal (July 23, 1851):
The wind has fairly blown me outdoors; the elements were so lively and active, and I so sympathized with them, that I could not sit while the wind went by. And I am reminded that we should especially improve the summer to live out-of-doors. When we may so easily, it behooves us to break up this custom of sitting in the house, for it is but a custom, and I am not sure that it has the sanction of common sense. A man no sooner gets up than he sits down again. Fowls leave their perch in the morning, and beasts their lairs, unless they are such as go abroad only by night. The cockerel does not take up a new perch in the barn, and he is the embodiment of health and common sense. Is the literary man to live always or chiefly sitting in a chamber through which nature enters by a window only? What is the use of the summer?
George Inness, Summer Morning

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Not at All Points Improving

William Allingham, By the Way: Verses, Fragments, and Notes, arranged by Helen Allingham (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912), p. 75:
"Laudator temporis acti" is a very old jest or taunt; and no doubt the world looks brighter to most of us at twenty than at sixty; nevertheless a man must have leave to say, if he think so, that the world—even supposing general progress to be a necessary doctrine—is not at all points improving. Nay, does not history teach us that the praisers of the good old times must have been sometimes in the right of it, at least in the comparison of one generation with another?
Hat tip: Stephen Pentz.


St. Amand and the Blind Woman of Ressons

Life of St. Amand, tr. by J.N. Hillgarth in The Conversion of Western Europe, 350-750 (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969), rpt. as Christianity and Paganism, 350-750: The Conversion of Western Europe (Philadelpha: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), pp. 139-148 (at 147-148):
[24] The faithful testimony of the venerable priest Erchangelisus should not be passed over. When the man of God Amand was preaching in the county of Beauvais he came to a place called Ressons on the River Aronde. There was a blind woman there, who had lost her sight a long time ago. Entering her house the man of God began to ask her how this blindness had come upon her. She replied that the only reason was that she had always venerated auguries and idols. She then indicated the place where she used to pray to her idol, a tree dedicated to the demon. The man of God said: "I am not amazed that you became blind for this folly but I wonder that the mercy of God has sustained you so long. For when you should adore your Creator and Redeemer, you adore demons and dumb idols, who cannot do you or themselves any service. Now take an axe and cut down this abominable tree by which you have lost your bodily sight and your soul's salvation. I trust that, if you firmly believe, you may receive the sight you once had from the Lord." With her daughter leading her by the hand the woman hastened to the tree and endeavored to cut it down. Then the man of God called her to him, made the Sign of the Cross on her eyes and, invoking Christ's Name, restored her to her former health, instructed her how she should act, and left her. Changing her life for the better, she spent the rest of her days chastely and soberly.
Latin text of Vita S. Amandi, ed. B. Krusch, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptorum Rerum Merovingicarum Tomus V (Hannover: Hahn, 1910), pp. 428-449 (at 447):
[24] Nec illud quoque preatereundum putavi, quod, presbitero quodam nomen Erchengiliso venerabili atque fideli viro narrante, didici. Quadam die, dum vir Domini Amandus in pago Belloacinse verbum Domini praedicaret, pervenit ad quendam locum, cui vocabulum est Rosonto, secus Oronnam fluvium, eratque ibi mulier quaedam caeca, quae longo iam tempore, amisso lumine, nil praeter tenebras agnoverat. Ingressus autem vir Dei domum illius, coepit percunctari ab ea, qualiter ei haec caecitas evenisset. Respondente illa, quod non ob causam aliam ei ipsa caecitas evenerat, nisi quod auguria vel idola semper coluerat, insuper ostendente ei locum, in quo praedictum idolum orare consueverat, scilicet arborem, quae erat daemoni dedicata, vir Domini ait: 'Non miror, si pro hac stultitia caeca facta sis, sed admiror clementiam Domini, qui te tamdiu exspectando sustenat, ut, cum factorem et redemptorem tuum adorare debeas, adoras daemones et idola muta, quae nec tibi nec sibi possunt prodesse. Nunc igitur accipe securim et hanc nefandam arborem quantotius succidere festina, per quam et lumen amisisti corporis et animae perdidisti salutem; confido enim, si firmiter credideris, lumen pristinum a Domino consequi possis. Educente autem illa puellae suae manibus, ad arborem citius mulier perrexit atque eam excidere conabatur. Tum vir Domini Amandus eam ad se advocans, signum crucis super oculos eius inprimens, invocatoque Christi nomine, pristinae reddidit sanitati; instructamque, qualiter se agere deberet, relinquens, omnibus diebus vitae suae caste atque sobrie se exhibuit, et correctiorem vitam deinceps gerens, moresque commutavit in melius.
Saint Amand, patron saint of brewers, lived from approximately 584 to 675.


Saturday, June 19, 2010


Worse Than Boorish

Thoreau, Journal (October 23, 1855):
Now is the time for chestnuts. A stone cast against the trees shakes them down in showers upon one's head and shoulders. But I cannot excuse myself for using the stone. It is not innocent, it is not just, so to maltreat the tree that feeds us. I am not disturbed by considering that if I thus shorten its life I shall not enjoy its fruit so long, but am prompted to a more innocent course by motives purely of humanity. I sympathize with the tree, yet I heaved a big stone against the trunks like a robber,—not too good to commit murder. I trust that I shall never do it again. These gifts should be accepted, not merely with gentleness, but with a certain humble gratitude. The tree whose fruit we would obtain should not be too rudely shaken even. It is not a time of distress, when a little haste and violence even might be pardoned. It is worse than boorish, it is criminal, to inflict an unnecessary injury on the tree that feeds or shadows us. Old trees are our parents, and our parents' parents, perchance. If you would learn the secrets of Nature, you must practice more humanity than others. The thought that I was robbing myself by injuring the tree did not occur to me, but I was affected as if I had cast a rock at a sentient being,—with a duller sense than my own, it is true, but yet a distant relation. Behold a man cutting down a tree to come at the fruit! What is the moral of such an act?



Fors Clavigera, VI

From John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, VI (June 1, 1871):
When I only opine things, I hold my tongue; and work till I more than opine—until I know them. If the things prove unknowable, I, with final perseverance, hold my tongue about them, and recommend a like practice to other people. If the things prove knowable, as soon as I know them, I am ready to write about them, if need be; not till then.
It's good advice, although I'm not sure the prolific Ruskin always strictly followed it.

Friday, June 18, 2010



Wikipedia, s.v. Coulrophobia:
Coulrophobia is abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns....The prefix "coulro=" comes from the Ancient Greek κωλοβαθριστής (kōlobathristēs), "one who goes on stilts".
Questions arise:
  1. Whence comes the r after the l?
  2. Why is Greek omega transliterated as English ou?
  3. Why is -phobia attached to only the beginning of the Greek word?
Coulrophobia started to pop up in English in the late 1990s. There is a spurious 1997 example in Google News Archives (actually from 2008). The earliest example in Google Books is Mary Ann D'Onofrio and Elizabeth D'Onofrio, Psychiatric Words and Phrases, 2nd ed. (Health Professions Institute, 1998), but this is a "no preview" book. The word has recently started to show up in French and German as coulrophobie.

No ancient Greek word starts with κουλρο- (koulro-), and no other English word starts with coulro-. It's a meaningless prefix, so far as I can tell, and the word coulrophobia should be avoided.

According to Liddell-Scott-Jones, κωλοβαθριστής is a rare word, occurring only in Hesychius. It and its rare cousin κωλόβαθρον (kōlóbathron = stilt) apparently come from κῶλον (kōlon = limb, member).

The standard ancient Greek word for clown is γελωτοποιός (gelōtopoiós, literally laughter-maker), e.g. Xenophon, Symposium 1.11, etc. See S.C. Woodhouse, English-Greek Dictionary: A Vocabulary of the Attic Language (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1910), s.vv. buffoon, clown, and jester. Woodhouse s.v. buffoon also gives βωμόλοχος (bōmólochos) as a possibility.

If psychobabble needs a sesquipedalian word for abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns, gelotopoiophobia or bomolochophobia would be better than coulrophobia.



The Devil Made Me Do It

Porphyry, On Philosophy from Oracles, quoted by Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, tr. E.H. Gifford (4.23, on evil spirits):
[T]hey also force men to fall into inarticulate noises and flatulence by sharing the same enjoyment with them.


Thursday, June 17, 2010



Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, Eng. tr. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), §§ 882-886 (pp. 393-394), discusses the rhetorical device known as praeteritio, defined as "the announcement of the intention to leave certain things out." The intention is ironic, because by alluding to and enumerating the things to be passed over, the speaker actually draws attention to them.

A classic example is Cicero, Against Catiline 1.14 (tr. C. Macdonald):
Or again, shortly after you had made room for a new bride by murdering your former wife, did you not compound this deed with yet another crime that defies belief? I do not dwell on this and readily allow it to be glossed over in silence lest it be thought that this state has allowed so heinous a crime to have been committed or to have gone unpunished. I pass over the total ruin to your fortune which you will feel hanging over you on the coming Ides.

Quid vero? nuper, cum morte superioris uxoris novis nuptiis locum vacuefecisses, nonne etiam alio incredibili scelere hoc scelus cumulavisti? quod ego praetermitto et facile patior sileri, ne in hac civitate tanti facinoris immanitas aut exstitisse aut non vindicata esse videatur. Praetermitto ruinas fortunarum tuarum quas omnes proximis Idibus tibi impendere senties.
There is also an amusing example in Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz, Our Parish IV (The Election for Beadle):
He would not allude to individuals (the ex-churchwarden continued, in the celebrated negative style adopted by great speakers). He would not advert to a gentleman who had once held a high rank in the service of his majesty; he would not say, that that gentleman was no gentleman; he would not assert, that that man was no man; he would not say, that he was a turbulent parishioner; he would not say, that he had grossly misbehaved himself, not only on this, but on all former occasions; he would not say, that he was one of those discontented and treasonable spirits, who carried confusion and disorder wherever they went; he would not say, that he harboured in his heart envy, and hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness. No! He wished to have everything comfortable and pleasant, and therefore, he would say—nothing about him (cheers).


A Saying of Alex Therien

Thoreau, Journal (February 14, 1855):
I said to Therien, "You didn't live at Smith's last summer. Where did you live? At Baker's?" "Yes," said he. "Well, is that a good place?" "Oh, yes." "Is that a better place than Smith's?" "Oh, a change of pasture makes a fatter calf."
There is a French proverb to this effect—"Changement d'herbe réjouit les veaux." According to Littré, it "se dit pour exprimer que les changements plaisent d'ordinaire aux jeunes gens." Eugène Rolland, Faune Populaire de la France, Tome V (Les Mammifères Domestiques), Deuxième Partie (Noms Vulgaires, Dictons, Proverbes, Contes et Superstitions) (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1882), p. 49, gives the following English equivalent—"Change of pasture makes fat calves."

Alex Therien was French Canadian, and I wonder if he had this French proverb in mind when answering Thoreau's question.

On the relations between the two men, see Robert W. Bradford, "Thoreau and Therien," American Literature 34 (1962-1963) 499-506.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010



In the novel Cradock Nowell: A Tale of the New Forest by R.D. Blackmore (1825-1900), Bull Garnet is the steward of Sir Cradock Nowell. Bull likes nothing more than tree-felling, but his young son Bob hates nothing more. Chapter XII shows the two in conflict:
Why Bull Garnet so enjoyed the cutting down of a tree, none but those who themselves enjoy it may pretend to say. Of course we will not refer it to the reason assigned in the well-known epigram, which contains such a wholesale condemnation of this arboricidal age. In another century, London builders will perhaps discover, when there are no trees left, that a bit of tuck-pointing by the gate, and a dab of mud-plaster beside it, do not content the heart of man like the leaves, and the drooping shadowy rustle, which is the type of himself.

Bull Garnet stood there in the October morning, with the gate wide open, flung back by his strong hand upon its hinges, as if it had no right to them. The round bolt dropped from the quivering force, dropped through the chase of the loop, and bedded deep in the soft, wet ground.

With much satisfaction the gate brought up, and felt itself anchored safely; Bull Garnet gave the bolt a kick, which hurled all the rusty screws out. Then he scarcely stopped to curse the blacksmith; he wanted the time for the woodcutters. At a glint from the side of his vast round eyes—eyes that took in everything, and made all the workmen swear and believe that he could see round a corner—he descried that the axemen were working the tree askew to the strain of the ropes. The result must be that the comely young oak, just proud of its first big crop of acorns, would swerve on the bias of the wind, stagger heavily, and fall headlong upon the smart new fence. There was no time for words—in a moment he had kicked the men right and left, torn off his coat, and caught up an axe, and dealt three thundering strokes in the laggard twist of the breach. Away went the young oak, swaying wildly, trying once to recover itself, then crashing and creaking through the brushwood, with a swish from its boughs and leaves, and a groan from its snaggy splinters. A branch took one of the men in his face, and laid him flat in a tussock of grass.

"Serve you right, you lubber; I'm devilish glad," cried Bull Garnet; " and I hope you won't move for a week."

The next moment, he went up and raised him, felt that his limbs were sound, and gave him a dram of brandy.

"All right, my fine fellow. Next time you'll know something of the way to fell a tree. Go home now, and I'll send you a bottle of wine."


The boy leaped the new X fence very cleverly, through the fork of the fingers, and stood before his father in a flame of indignation. Mr. Garnet, with that queer expression which the face of a middle-aged man wears when he recalls his boyhood, ere yet he begins to admire it, was looking at his own young life with a contemplative terror. He was saying to himself, "What cheek this boy has got!" and he was feeling all the while that he loved him the more for having it.

"Hurrah, Bob, my boy; you're come just in time." Mr. Garnet tried very hard to look as if he expected approval. Well enough all the time he knew that he had no chance of getting it. For Bob loved nature in any form, especially as expressed in the noble eloquence of a tree. And now he saw why he had been sent to the village on a trifling errand that morning.

"Just in time for what, sir?" Bob's indignation waxed yet more. That his father should dare to chaff him!

"Just in time to tell us all about these wonderful red-combed fungi. What do you call them—some long name, as wonderful as themselves?"

Bob kicked them aside contemptuously. He could have told a long story about them, and things which men of thrice his age, who have neglected their mother, would be glad to listen to. Nature, desiring not revenge, has it in the credulous itch of the sons who have turned their backs on her.

"Oh, father," said Bob, with the tears in his eyes; "father, you can't have known that three purple emperors came to this oak, and sat upon the top of it, every morning for nearly a week, in the middle of July. And it was the most handsomest fifty-year oak till you come right to Brockenhurst bridge."

"Most handsomest, Bob!" cried Mr. Garnet, glad to lay hold of any thing; "come along with me, my son; I must see to your education."

Near them stood a young spruce fir, not more than five feet high. It had thrown up a straight and tapering spire, scaled with tender green. Below were tassels, tufts, and pointlets, all in triple order, pluming over one another in a pile of beauty. The tips of all were touched with softer and more glaucous tone. But all this gentle tint and form was only as a framework now, a loom to bear the web of heaven. For there had been a white mist that morning—autumn's breath made visible; and the tree with its net of spider's webs had caught the lucid moisture. Now, as the early sunlight opened through the layered vapours, that little spruce came boldly forth a dark bay of the forest, and met all the spears of the orient. Looped and traced with threads of gauze, the lacework of a fairy's thought, scarcely daring to breathe upon its veil of tremulous chastity, it kept the wings of light on the hover, afraid to weigh down the whiteness. A maiden with the love-dream nestling under the bridal faldetta, a child of genius breathing softly at his own fair visions, even an infant's angel whispering to the weeping mother—what image of humanity can be so bright and exquisite as a common tree's apparel ?

"Father, can you make that?" Mr. Garnet checked his rapid stride; and for once he admired a tree.

"No, my son; only God can do such glorious work as that."

"But it don't take God to undo it. Smash!"

Bob dashed his fists through the whole of it, and all the draped embroidery, all the pearly filagree, all the festoons of silver, were but as a dream when a yawning man stretches his scraggy arms forth. The little tree looked woe-begone, stale, and draggled with drunken tears.

"Why, Bob, I am ashamed of you."

"Father, so am I of you."



Henry IV, Part I

Excerpts from Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I:

1.2.209-212 (Prince Hal):
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wished-for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
1.3.260 (Hotspur):
...this prince of smiles...
1.3.247-248 (Earl of Worcester to Hotspur, a useful retort at family gatherings):
Farewell, kinsman. I will talk to you
When you are better tempered to attend.
2.2.24-26 (Falstaff):
Eight yards of uneven ground is threescore and ten miles afoot with me...
2.3.6-10 (Hotspur):
"The purpose you undertake is dangerous"—Why, that's certain! 'Tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink; but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.
2.4.129-131 (Falstaff):
If manhood, good manhood, be not forgot upon the face of the earth, then am I a shotten herring.
2.4.133 (Falstaff):
A bad world, I say.
2.4.239-244 (Falstaff):
What, upon compulsion? Zounds, an I were at the strappado or all the racks in the world, I would not tell you on compulsion. Give you a reason on compulsion? If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon compulsion, I.
2.4.330-332 (Prince Hal to Falstaff):
Here comes lean Jack; here comes bare-bone. How now, my sweet creature of bombast? How long is't ago, Jack, since thou sawest thine own knee?
2.4.407-411 (Falstaff masquerading as Henry IV to Prince Hal, add to collection about children resembling fathers):
That thou art my son I have partly thy mother's word, partly my own opinion, but chiefly a villainous trick of thine eye and a foolish hanging of thy nether lip that doth warrant me.
2.4.453-465 (Prince Hal masquerading as Henry IV to Falstaff masquerading as Prince Hal):
There is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an old fat man; a tun of man is thy companion. Why dost thou converse with that trunk of humours, that bolting hutch of beastliness, that swoll'n parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuff'd cloakbag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend Vice, that grey Iniquity, that father Ruffian, that Vanity in years? Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink it? wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it? wherein cunning, but in craft? wherein crafty, but in villainy? wherein villainous, but in all things? wherein worthy, but in nothing?
2.4.475-476 (Falstaff masquerading as Prince Hal to Prince Hal masquerading as Henry IV):
If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked!
3.1.57-59 (Glendower and Hotspur):
Glen. I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hot. Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
3.1.139-145 (Hotspur):
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballet-mongers.
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turned
Or a dry wheel grate on the axletree,
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
Nothing so much as mincing poetry.
3.1.165 (Hotspur):
...such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff...
3.1.171-176 (Hotspur, about Glendower):
O, he is as tedious
As a tired horse, a railing wife;
Worse than a smoky house. I had rather live
With cheese and garlic in a windmill far
Than feed on cates and have him talk to me
In any summer house in Christendom.
3.2.17 (Prince Hal):
...base newsmongers...
3.3.2-4 (Falstaff, to be said when hungry):
Do I not bate? Do I not dwindle? Why, my skin hangs about me like an old lady's loose gown! I am withered like an old applejohn.
4.2.64 (Prince Hal):
I did never see such pitiful rascals.
4.3.59-60 (Hotspur):
The King is kind; and well we know the King
Knows at what time to promise, when to pay.
5.1.75-83 (Henry IV):
...To face the garment of rebellion
With some fine colour that may please the eye
Of fickle changelings and poor discontents,
Which gape and rub the elbow at the news
Of hurlyburly innovation.
And never yet did insurrection want
Such water colours to impaint his cause,
Nor moody beggars, starving for a time
Of pell-mell havoc and confusion.
5.1.133-143 (Falstaff):
How then? Can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour hath no skill in surgery then? No. What is honour? A word. What is that word honour? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died a Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he bear it? No. 'Tis insensible then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I'll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon—and so ends my catechism.
5.2.85-88 (Hotspur):
O gentlemen, the time of life is short!
To spend that shortness basely were too long
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


How Gracious, How Benign

William Wordsworth, The Prelude 4.354-357:
When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.
Related posts:



Ecclesiastes 1.2-4:
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
Pieter Claesz, Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill (1628)

Monday, June 14, 2010


Not a Luxury But a Necessity

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (Down the River):
No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.

If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making. He will make himself an exile from the earth and then will know at last, if he is still capable of feeling anything, the pain and agony of final loss. He will understand what the captive Zia Indians meant when they made a song out of their sickness for home:
My home over there,
Now I remember it;
And when I see that mountain far away,
Why then I weep,
Why then I weep,
Remembering my home.
The translation of the song is by Herbert J. Spinden (1879-1967), "Home Songs of the Tewa Indians," The American Museum Journal 15 (1915) 73-78 (at 73). See also his Songs of the Tewa (New York: Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts, Inc., 1933). There is a biographical sketch of Spinden by Frederic W. Gleach in Celebrating a Century of the American Anthropological Association: Presidential Portraits (Arlington: American Anthropological Association; Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 73-76.


False Pride

John Ruskin, letter to Susan Beever (December 17, 1873):
What translation of Aristophanes is that? I must get it. I've lost I can't tell you how much knowledge and power through false pride in refusing to read translations, though I couldn't read the original without more trouble and time than I could spare; nevertheless, you must not think this English gives you a true idea of the original. The English is much more "English" in its temper than its words. Aristophanes is far more dry, severe, and concentrated; his words are fewer, and have fuller flavor; this English is to him what currant jelly is to currants. But it's immensely useful to me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Religion and Laughter

Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960), p. 41 (tr. T.G. Rosenmeyer):
We find it difficult to understand how the gods of one's faith could be subjected to Aristophanic jests. But laughter is part of the meaning, the fruitfulness, the positive side of life, and it is therefore, in the eyes of the Greeks, more godlike than the sour solemnity which we associate with piety.
Hugh Lloyd-Jones, The Justice of Zeus, 2nd edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p. 133:
The occasional fun poked at the gods in comedy is no evidence against the religious conservatism of the common man; it is when religion is sure of itself that such amusement is permitted.
Richard Janko, The Iliad: A Commentary, Volume IV: Books 13-16 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 170 (on 14.153-353):
Few Greeks ever took their gods wholly seriously: this is, perhaps, the Greeks' greatest gift to civilization.


Long Dumps and Spoony Glum

Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz, Tales XI (The Bloomsbury Christening):
Mr. Nicodemus Dumps, or, as his acquaintance called him, "long Dumps," was a bachelor, six feet high, and fifty years old: cross, cadaverous, odd, and ill-natured. He was never happy but when he was miserable; and always miserable when he had the best reason to be happy. The only real comfort of his existence was to make everybody about him wretched—then he might be truly said to enjoy life.
Ambrose Bierce, The Man Out of the Nose:
The bearing of the man was one of profound dejection; indeed, the unsympathetic youth of the neighborhood, with that keen sense for visible characteristics which ever distinguishes the young male of our species, sometimes mentioned him among themselves by the name of Spoony Glum.


The Women You Will Wow

Cole Porter, "Brush Up On Your Shakespeare," from Kiss Me, Kate:
The girls today in society
Go for classical poetry
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Aeschylus and Euripides.
One must know Homer, and b'lieve me, Bo,
Sophocles, also Sappho-ho.
Unless you know Shelley and Keats and Pope,
Dainty debbies will call you a dope.
But the poet of them all
Who will start 'em simply ravin'
Is the poet people call
The bard of Stratford-on-Avon!

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
Just declaim a few lines from "Othella"
And they'll think you're a helluva fella.
If your blonde won't respond when you flatter 'er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopatterer.
If she fights when her clothes you are mussing,
What are clothes? "Much Ado about Nussing."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
With the wife of the British embessida
Try a crack out of "Troilus and Cressida."
If she says she won't buy it or tike it
Make her tike it, what's more, "As You Like It."
If she says your behavior is heinous
Kick her right in the "Coriolanus."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
If you can't be a ham and do "Hamlet"
They will not give a damn or a damnlet.
Just recite an occasional sonnet
And your lap'll have "Honey" upon it.
When your baby is pleading for pleasure
Let her sample your "Measure for Measure."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now,
Brush up your Shakespeare,
And the women you will wow.
Better mention "The Merchant Of Venice"
When her sweet pound o' flesh you would menace.
If her virtue, at first, she defends—well,
Just remind her that "All's Well That Ends Well."
And if still she won't give you a bonus
You know what Venus got from Adonis!
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now,
Brush up your Shakespeare,
And the women you will wow.
If your goil is a Washington Heights dream
Treat the kid to "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
If she then wants an all-by-herself night
Let her rest ev'ry 'leventh or "Twelfth Night,"
If because of your heat she gets huffy
Simply play on and "Lay on, Macduffy!"
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow,
We trow, and they'll all kowtow.

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now,
Brush up your Shakespeare,
And the women you will wow.
So tonight just recite to your matey,
"Kiss me, Kate, kiss me, Kate, kiss me, Katey."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.
Related posts:

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Some Homeric Similes

All translations are by Richmond Lattimore.

Iliad 4.482-487 (Simoesios, slain by Aias):
He dropped then to the ground in the dust, like some black poplar,
which in the land low-lying about a great marsh grows
smooth trimmed yet with branches growing at the uttermost tree-top:
one which a man, a maker of chariots, fells with the shining
iron, to bend it into a wheel for a fine-wrought chariot,
and the tree lies hardening by the banks of a river.

ὃ δ᾽ ἐν κονίῃσι χαμαὶ πέσεν αἴγειρος ὣς
ἥ ῥά τ᾽ ἐν εἱαμενῇ ἕλεος μεγάλοιο πεφύκει
λείη, ἀτάρ τέ οἱ ὄζοι ἐπ᾽ ἀκροτάτῃ πεφύασι·
τὴν μέν θ᾽ ἁρματοπηγὸς ἀνὴρ αἴθωνι σιδήρῳ
ἐξέταμ᾽, ὄφρα ἴτυν κάμψῃ περικαλλέϊ δίφρῳ·
ἣ μέν τ᾽ ἀζομένη κεῖται ποταμοῖο παρ᾽ ὄχθας.
Iliad 5.559-560 (Orsilochos and Krethon, slain by Aineias):
Such were these two who beaten under the hands of Aineias
crashed now to the ground as if they were two tall pine trees.

τοίω τὼ χείρεσσιν ὑπ᾽ Αἰνείαο δαμέντε
καππεσέτην, ἐλάτῃσιν ἐοικότες ὑψηλῇσι.
Iliad 13.389-391 (Asios, slain by Idomeneus) = 16.482-484 (Sarpedon, slain by Patroklos):
He fell, as when an oak goes down or a white poplar,
or like a towering pine tree which in the mountains the carpenters
have hewn down with their whetted axes to make a ship timber.

ἤριπε δ᾽ ὡς ὅτε τις δρῦς ἤριπεν ἢ ἀχερωῒς
ἠὲ πίτυς βλωθρή, τήν τ᾽ οὔρεσι τέκτονες ἄνδρες
ἐξέταμον πελέκεσσι νεήκεσι νήϊον εἶναι.


Busy Little Men

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (Down the River):
While we dream and drift on the magic river the busy little men with their gargantuan appliances are hard at work, day and night, racing against the time when the people of America might possibly awake to discover something precious and irreplaceable about to be destroyed.
                              ...Nature's polluted,
There's man in every secret corner of her
Doing damned, wicked deeds.
The verse quotation is from Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Death's Jest-Book, or the Fool's Tragedy, Act II, Scene III.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Fors Clavigera, V

Excerpts from John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, Letter V (May 1, 1871):
That telegraphic signalling was a discovery; and conceivably, some day, may be a useful one. And there was some excuse for your being a little proud when, about last sixth of April (Coeur-de-Lion's death-day, and Albert Durer's), you knotted a copper wire all the way to Bombay, and flashed a message along it, and back.

But what was the message, and what the answer? Is India the better for what you said to her? Are you the better for what she replied?

If not, you have only wasted an all-round-the-world's length of copper wire,—which is, indeed, about the sum of your doing. If you had had, perchance, two words of common-sense to say, though you had taken wearisome time and trouble to send them;—though you had written them slowly in gold, and sealed them with a hundred seals, and sent a squadron of ships of the line to carry the scroll, and the squadron had fought its way round the Cape of Good Hope, through a year of storms, with loss of all its ships but one,—the two words of common-sense would have been worth the carriage, and more. But you have not anything like so much as that to say, either to India, or to any other place.


There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the Vale of Tempe; you might have seen the Gods there morning and evening—Apollo and all the sweet Muses of the light—walking in fair procession on the lawns of it, and to and fro among the pinnacles of its crags. You cared neither for Gods nor grass, but for cash (which you did not know the way to get); you thought you could get it by what the Times calls "Railroad Enterprise." You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley—you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange—you Fools Everywhere.


A man and a woman, with their children, properly trained, are able easily to cultivate as much ground as will feed them; to build as much wall and roof as will lodge them, and to spin and weave as much cloth as will clothe them. They can all be perfectly happy and healthy in doing this. Supposing that they invent machinery which will build, plough, thresh, cook, and weave, and that they have none of these things any more to do, but may read, or play croquet, or cricket, all day long, I believe myself that they will neither be so good nor so happy as without the machines.


There are three Material things, not only useful, but essential to Life. No one "knows how to live" till he has got them.

These are, Pure Air, Water, and Earth.


You can vitiate the air by your manner of life, and of death, to any extent. Toil might easily vitiate it so as to bring such a pestilence on the globe as would end all of you. You or your fellows, German and French, are at present busy in vitiating it to the best of your power in every direction;— chiefly at this moment with corpses, and animal and vegetable ruin in war: changing men, horses, and garden-stuff into noxious gas. But everywhere, and all day long, you are vitiating it with foul chemical exhalations; and the horrible nests, which you call towns, are little more than laboratories for the distillation into heaven of venomous smokes and smells, mixed with effluvia from decaying animal matter, and infectious miasmata from purulent disease.

On the other hand, your power of purifying the air, by dealing properly and swiftly with all substances in corruption; by absolutely forbidding noxious manufactures; and by planting in all soils the trees which cleanse and invigorate earth and atmosphere,— is literally infinite. You might make every breath of air you draw, food.

Secondly, your power over the rain and river-waters of the earth is infinite. You can bring rain where you will, by planting wisely and tending carefully;— drought, where you will, by ravage of woods and neglect of the soil. You might have the rivers of England as pure as the crystal of the rock;— beautiful in falls, in lakes, in living pools;— so full of fish that you might take them out with your hands instead of nets. Or you may do always as you have done now, turn every river of England into a common sewer, so that you cannot so much as baptize an English baby but with filth, unless you hold its face out in the rain; and even that falls dirty.

Then for the third, Earth,— meant to be nourishing for you, and blossoming. You have learned, about it, that there is no such thing as a flower; and as far as your scientific hands and scientific brains, inventive of explosive and deathful, instead of blossoming and life-giving, Dust, can contrive, you have turned the Mother-Earth, Demeter, into the Avenger-Earth, Tisiphone — with the voice of your brother's blood crying out of it, in one wild harmony round all its murderous sphere.


A Historian's Workbench

A couple of months ago, while spending a day in the library at Georgia State University, I happened upon a wonderful book by Keith Thomas, his Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500-1800 (London: Allen Lane, 1983), from which I culled much information relevant to a topic which amounts to a monomania with me—protests against arboricide.

Now Thomas, in an essay in London Review of Books, Vol. 32, No. 11 (10 June 2010) 36-37, has given us a fascinating look at his decidedly low-tech, but highly effective, method of research:
When I go to libraries or archives, I make notes in a continuous form on sheets of paper, entering the page number and abbreviated title of the source opposite each excerpted passage. When I get home, I copy the bibliographical details of the works I have consulted into an alphabeticised index book, so that I can cite them in my footnotes. I then cut up each sheet with a pair of scissors. The resulting fragments are of varying size, depending on the length of the passage transcribed. These sliced-up pieces of paper pile up on the floor. Periodically, I file them away in old envelopes, devoting a separate envelope to each topic. Along with them go newspaper cuttings, lists of relevant books and articles yet to be read, and notes on anything else which might be helpful when it comes to thinking about the topic more analytically. If the notes on a particular topic are especially voluminous, I put them in a box file or a cardboard container or a drawer in a desk. I also keep an index of the topics on which I have an envelope or a file. The envelopes run into thousands.


My notes are voluminous because my interests have never been very narrowly focused. My subject is what I think of as the historical ethnography of early modern England. Equipped with questions posed by anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers, as well as by other historians, I try to look at virtually all aspects of early modern life, from the physical environment to the values and mental outlook of people at all social levels. Unfortunately, such diverse topics as literacy, numeracy, gestures, jokes, sexual morality, personal cleanliness or the treatment of animals, though central to my concerns, are hard to pursue systematically. They can't be investigated in a single archive or repository of information. Progress depends on building up a picture from a mass of casual and unpredictable references accumulated over a long period. That makes them unsuitable subjects for a doctoral thesis, which has to be completed in a few years. But they are just the thing for a lifetime's reading. So when I read, I am looking out for material relating to several hundred different topics. Even so, I find that, as my interests change, I have to go back to sources I read long ago, with my new preoccupations in mind.


When the time comes to start writing, I go through my envelopes, pick out a fat one and empty it out onto the table, to see what I have got. At this point a pattern usually forms. As Beatrice Webb rightly said, the very process of shuffling notes can be intellectually fertile. It helps one to make new connections and it raises questions to which one must try to find the answer. So after scrutinising my scraps of paper, I set about reading more systematically, often discovering in the process that somebody somewhere has already said most of what I thought I had found out for myself. If not too discouraged, I add my new notes to the old ones and try to create some coherence out of these hundreds of pieces of paper. This involves dividing the topic into a great many subheadings, writing each subheading at the top of a page of A4, stapling the relevant slips onto the appropriate page, and arranging the sheets in a consecutive order. Only then do I start writing. Compared with the labour of making, sorting and arranging notes, this is a relatively speedy business. But it is followed by a much more time-consuming task, that of travelling round the libraries to check the references in my footnotes, only too many of which, thanks to poor handwriting, carelessness and an innate tendency to 'improve' what I have read, turn out to be either slightly wrong or taken out of context. I wish I possessed the splendid insouciance of David Hume, about whom a Scottish friend said, 'Why, mon, David read a vast deal before he set about a piece of his book; but his usual seat was the sofa, and he often wrote with his legs up; and it would have been unco' fashious to have moved across the room when any little doubt occurred.'

When all my mistranscriptions have been sorted out, the task is finished. Months later, the proofs arrive, by which time more books and articles have been published and I have found several more delicious passages which cry out to be inserted. By then, of course, it is too late.
Hat tip: Languagehat.

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