Thursday, June 30, 2011


The More Idle, the More Deserving

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883), letter to Bernard Barton (July 24, 1839):
For all which idle ease I think I must be damned. I begin to have dreadful suspicions that this fruitless way of life is not looked upon with satisfaction by the open eyes above. One really ought to dip for a little misery: perhaps however all this ease is only intended to turn sour by and bye, and so to poison one by the very nature of self-indulgence. Perhaps again as idleness is so very great a trial of virtue, the idle man who keeps himself tolerably chaste, etc., may deserve the highest reward; the more idle, the more deserving. Really I don't jest: but I don't propound these things as certain.
In the same spirit, these mottoes, suitable for display on your cubicle wall, are scattered throughout Don Marquis' The Almost Perfect State (1927):








Related posts:


Great Brutes

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883), letter to Bernard Barton (October 20, 1839):
I have gone through Homer's Iliad—sorry to have finished it. The accounts of the Zoolu people, with Dingarn their king, etc., give one a very good idea of the Homeric heroes, who were great brutes: but superior to the Gods who governed them: which also has been the case with most nations. It is a lucky thing that God made Man, and that Man has not to make God: we should fare badly, judging by the specimens already produced—Frankenstein Monster Gods, formed out of the worst and rottenest scraps of humanity—gigantic—and to turn destructively upon their Creators—
But be ye of good cheer! I have overcome the world—
So speaks a gentle voice.


No Hostile Hand

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), Upon the Hill and Grove at Bill-Borow. To the Lord Fairfax, stanzas V-VI:

Upon its crest this Mountain grave
A Plump of aged Trees does wave.
No hostile hand durst ere invade    35
With impious Steel the sacred Shade.
For something alwaies did appear
Of the Great Masters terrour there:
And Men could hear his Armour still
Ratling through all the Grove and Hill.    40


Fear of the Master, and respect
Of the great Nymph did it protect;
Vera the Nymph that him inspir'd,
To whom he often here retir'd,
And on these Okes ingrav'd her Name;    45
Such wounds alone these Woods became:
But ere he well the Barks could part
'Twas writ already in their Heart.
38, 41: the master is Lord Fairfax, i.e. Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1612-1671).
43: Vera stands for Anne de Vere, whom Fairfax married.

Text in The Poems & Letters of Andrew Marvell, ed. H.M. Margoliouth, Vol. I (Poems) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), pp. 56-58 (these stanzas on p. 57); discussion in A.J.N. Wilson, "Andrew Marvell: Upon the Hill and Grove at Bill-Borow and Musicks Empire," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 51 (1969) 453-482.

Thanks very much to the generous patron who gave me Marvell's Poems & Letters, together with many other valuable books.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011



Walter Raleigh (1861-1922), Some Thoughts on Examinations, from Laughter from a Cloud (London: Constable and Company Limited, 1923), pp. 119-121:
God gave Faculties, and the Devil sent Examiners.

We are as near to Heaven in the Fourth Class as in the First.

No one was ever injured by missing a First: all who deserve a First read for fun, and have their reward.

Tutors believe in Predestination: Examiners in Works.

The World was made in a week, and its Maker pronounced it good. At that time there were no Examiners.

A Fourth Class Honours degree is a degree with Honours. Examiners often forget this.

A Second Class Honours degree is a degree with Honours. Candidates often forget this.

The Oxford Final Schools and the Day of Judgement are two examinations, not one.

Doctor Johnson said that questioning is not the mode of conversation among gentlemen. Doctor Johnson left Oxford without a degree.

Not all Firsts are geniuses.

There goes more to a First than hearsay.

The fastest runner lost the obstacle race.

No race was ever won except on the race-course.

A headache lost the battle of Waterloo.

Candidates write their opinions in manuscript books: Examiners on class lists. Both are often wrong.

The brilliant man who did not know, and the learned man who did not think, met in the Second Class and disliked each other. The poet sat in the Third and laughed.

Knowledge cries out for recognition: Wisdom that asks for recognition is Folly.

The nightingale got no prize at the poultry show.

No instrument smaller than the World is fit to measure men and women: Examinations measure Examinees.

When three Examiners differ, the odd man is the Holy Ghost.

When three Examiners agree, then is the time to study the psychology of middle-aged pedagogues.

The King who made all his subjects Dukes was an anarchist.

In Examinations those who do not wish to know ask questions of those who cannot tell.

The apprentice spent three years hammering at leather. Then said the shoemaker, "This shoe is badly cobbled." " Who talks of cobbling?" said the apprentice; " I am a man of genius."

If preferment and merit always went together, there would be no escape from the pit.

"Why do you condemn that man? " said the Philanthropist. "Because," said the Judge, "the jury and I think him guilty." "That is merely an opinion," said the Philanthropist, "as a matter of fact he is the best man I ever knew." " I daresay," said the Judge.

The Idealist took a giraffe to the cattle market. "An intelligent lot of farmers you have there," he said, when he came home; "my beast was the tallest in the place, and there was no bid for it."

Shakespeare did not write so much in all his life as is written in a single room during one week of examination. Yet some dotards deny progress.


Photographs of Tolkien with Trees as Background

By Lord Snowdon, at Branksome Chine (May 25, 1971):

By Michael Tolkien, at Oxford Botanical Gardens (August 9, 1973):

By Billett Potter (place and date unknown to me):

Related posts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The Most Economical Intellectual Investment One Can Make

Garry Wills, Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer (New York: Viking, 2010), no page numbers in Google Books preview (this passage describes a conversation in jail with Karl Hess):
An autodidact and devourer of books, he asked what was the volume I carried with me through the arrest. It was the Greek New Testament. He asked why I had it. I answered that I read it every day for spiritual sustenance. Besides, "It's the most influential book in Western culture." Yeah, but why Greek?

I said that learning Greek is the most economical intellectual investment one can make. On many things that might interest one—law and politics, philosophy, oratory, history, lyric poetry, epic poetry, drama—there will be constant reference back to the founders of those forms in our civilization. Politics and law will refer to Aristotle on constitutions and balanced government. Philosophy will argue endlessly with Plato. Historians must go back to Herodotus and Thucydides. Students of Virgil or Milton have to gauge their dependence on Homer. Drama harks back to Sophocles or Euripides for tragedy, to Aristophanes or Menander for comedy. Oratory is measured against Demosthenes or Isocrates, lyric poetry against Sappho or Anacreon. The novel begins with Longus and others. It helps, in all these cases, to know something about the originals. He objected that the remains of ancient literature seem exiguous. That is partly true. Only three of the dozens of Greek tragedians survive, and only about 10 percent of their output. But that gives a kind of detective-story interest to their study. To rebuild the social setting for judging them, one must call on the study of papyri, coins, inscriptions, vase paintings, and archaeological ruins. (The only art history course I ever took was a graduate class on Greek vases.) Karl liked the puzzle aspect of this.
I haven't read the book—I owe my knowledge of the quotation to the review by Michael McDonald in The New Criterion (June 2011).


A Misprint

James Willis, Latin Textual Criticism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), has an appendix consisting of "One Hundred Passages for Conjectural Emendation" on pp. 191-213, as well as "Trial Passages" for emendation following several chapters.

Sometimes one finds in classical texts errors introduced not by medieval scribes but by modern editors or typesetters. Emendation is needed here, too. One such error appears to lurk in Ovid, Ex Ponto 1.7.23, as printed in Ovid, Tristia. Ex Ponto, tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, 2nd ed. rev. G.P. Goold (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988; rpt. with corrections 1996 = Loeb Classical Library, 151), p. 300:
nec tamen inrumpto quo non licet ire.
For "inrumpto" read "inrumpo," an easy correction. Apparently the misprint first appeared in G.P. Goold's revised edition. I've seen at least one earlier printing (before the revision) of this Loeb Classical Library volume with the correct text.



The Hermit Crab

Jean Grenier (1898–1971), Notebooks (March 5, 1962, my translation):
The hermit crab, for its dwelling, uses a shell made by other mollusks. We make use of furniture and buildings made neither by nor for us. Why not once in a while express ourselves by sentences in which others, besides ourselves, have cast their own thought (and ours)? One can imagine a confidential diary composed solely of quotations, by means of which, without a single sentence of one's own, a person might express himself perfectly and reveal completely, precisely, without holding back, his own most complicated thoughts and innermost feelings.
French text, from Jean Grenier, Carnets 1944-1971, ed. Claire Paulhan (Paris: Seghers, 1991), pp. 342-343:
Le bernard-l'hermite utilise pour s'y loger une coquille construite par d'autres mollusques; nous nous servons de meubles et d'immeubles qui n'ont été faits ni par, ni pour nous; pourquoi ne pas à l'occasion nous exprimer par des phrases dans lesquelles d'autres que nous ont coulé leur pensée et la nôtre? On conçoit un journal intime composé uniquement de citations et par lequel, sans une seule phrase de lui, un homme s'exprimerait parfaitement et livrerait totalement, exactement, sans réserve, ses pensées les plus complexes et ses sentiments les plus secrets.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who also adds to How Would You Recognize a God? a reference to Waldemar Deonna, "ΕΥΩΔΙΑ: Croyances antiques et modernes: l'odeur suave des dieux et des élus," Genava 17 (1939) 167-263, rpt. as a book with introduction and epilogue by Carlo Ossola (Torino: Nino Aragno, 2003).

Update: Thanks to Pierre Wechter for pointing out misprints in my French transcription, which I've corrected.

Monday, June 27, 2011


A Scholar Manqué

Holbrook Jackson, The Anatomy of Bibliomania (1931; rpt. New York: Avenel Books, 1981), p. 17:
I frankly confess I am a scholar without scholarship, pursuing learning without attaining it...


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Excerpts from Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).

Chapter 3:
Many a time I had seen a couple of boys, strangers, meet by chance, and say simultaneously, "I can lick you," and go at it on the spot; but I had always imagined until now that that sort of thing belonged to children only, and was a sign and mark of childhood; but here were these big boobies sticking to it and taking pride in it clear up into full age and beyond.
Chapter 8:
It was pitiful for a person born in a wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble nd hearty outpourings of loyalty toward their king and Church and nobility; as if they had any more occasion to love and honor king and Church and noble than a slave has to love and honor the lash, or a dog has to love and honor the stranger that kicks him! Why, dear me, any kind of royalty, howsoever modified, any kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don't believe it when somebody else tells you. It is enough to make a body ashamed of his race to think of the sort of froth that has always occupied its thrones without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-rate people that have always figured as its aristocracies—a company of monarchs and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions.
Inherited ideas are a curious thing, and interesting to observe and examine. I had mine, the king and his people had theirs. In both cases they flowed in ruts worn deep by time and habit, and the man who should have proposed to divert them by reason and argument would have had a long contract on his hands. For instance, those people had inherited the idea that all men without title and a long pedigree, whether they had great natural gifts and acquirements or hadn't, were creatures of no more consideration than so many animals, bugs, insects; whereas I had inherited the idea that human daws who can consent to masquerade in the peacock-shams of inherited dignities and unearned titles, are of no good but to be laughed at.
Chapter 10:
[S]piritual wants and instincts are as various in the human family as are physical appetites, complexions, and features, and a man is only at his best, morally, when he is equipped with the religious garment whose color and shape and size most nicely accommodate themselves to the spiritual complexion, angularities, and stature of the individual who wears it...
Chapter 11:
In my experience boys are the same in all ages. They don't respect anything, they don't care for anything or anybody.
Chapter 18:
If I had the remaking of man, he wouldn't have any conscience. It is one of the most disagreeable things connected with a person; and although it certainly does a great deal of good, it cannot be said to pay, in the long run; it would be much better to have less good and more comfort. Still, this is only my opinion, and I am only one man; others, with less experience, may think differently. They have a right to their view. I only stand to this: I have noticed my conscience for many years, and I know it is more trouble and bother to me than anything else I started with. I suppose that in the beginning I prized it, because we prize anything that is ours; and yet how foolish it was to think so. If we look at it in another way, we see how absurd it is: if I had an anvil in me would I prize it? Of course not. And yet when you come to think, there is no real difference between a conscience and an anvil—I mean for comfort. I have noticed it a thousand times. And you could dissolve an anvil with acids, when you couldn't stand it any longer; but there isn't any way that you can work off a conscience—at least so it will stay worked off; not that I know of, anyway.
Chapter 22:
Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.
Chapter 28:
Words realize nothing, vivify nothing to you, unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which the words try to describe. There are wise people who talk ever so knowingly and complacently about "the working classes," and satisfy themselves that a day's hard intellectual work is very much harder than a day's hard manual toil, and is righteously entitled to much bigger pay. Why, they really think that, you know, because they know all about the one, but haven't tried the other. But I know all about both; and so far as I am concerned, there isn't enough in the universe to hire me to swing a pickaxe thirty days, but I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down—and I will be satisfied, too.

Intellectual "work" is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and is its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer, general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator, actor, preacher, singer is constructively in heaven when he is at work; and as for the musician with the fiddle-bow in his hand who sits in the midst of a great orchestra with the ebbing and flowing tides of divine sound washing over him—why, certainly, he is at work, if you wish to call it that, but lord, it's a sarcasm just the same. The law of work does seem utterly unfair—but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash, also. And it's also the very law of those transparent swindles, transmissible nobility and kingship.
Chapter 31:
Well, there are times when one would like to hang the whole human race and finish the farce.
A man who hasn't had much experience, and doesn't think, is apt to measure a nation's prosperity or lack of prosperity by the mere size of the prevailing wages; if the wages be high, the nation is prosperous; if low, it isn't. Which is an error. It isn't what sum you get, it's how much you can buy with it, that's the important thing; and it's that that tells whether your wages are high in fact or only high in name.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Drink, and Be Filled

Archibald Lampman (1861-1899), Comfort of the Fields:
What would'st thou have for easement after grief,
  When the rude world hath used thee with despite,
  And care sits at thine elbow day and night,
Filching thy pleasures like a subtle thief?
To me, when life besets me in such wise,
'Tis sweetest to break forth, to drop the chain,
  And grasp the freedom of this pleasant earth,
  To roam in idleness and sober mirth,
Through summer airs and summer lands, and drain
The comfort of wide fields unto tired eyes.

By hills and waters, farms and solitudes,
  To wander by the day with wilful feet;
  Through fielded valleys wide with yellowing wheat;
Along gray roads that run between deep woods,
Murmurous and cool; through hallowed slopes of pine,
  Where the long daylight dreams, unpierced, unstirred,
  And only the rich-throated thrush is heard;
By lonely forest brooks that froth and shine
  In bouldered crannies buried in the hills;
By broken beeches tangled with wild vine,
  And log-strewn rivers murmurous with mills.

In upland pastures, sown with gold, and sweet
  With the keen perfume of the ripening grass,
  Where wings of birds and filmy shadows pass,
Spread thick as stars with shining marguerite:
To haunt old fences overgrown with brier,
  Muffled in vines, and hawthorns, and wild cherries,
  Rank poisonous ivies, red-bunched elder-berries,
And pièd blossoms to the heart's desire,
  Gray mullein towering into yellow bloom,
  Pink-tasseled milkweed, breathing dense perfume,
And swarthy vervain, tipped with violet fire.

To hear at eve the bleating of far flocks,
  The mud-hen's whistle from the marsh at morn;
  To skirt with deafened ears and brain o'erborne
Some foam-filled rapid charging down its rocks
With iron roar of waters; far away
  Across wide-reeded meres, pensive with noon,
  To hear the querulous outcry of the loon;
To lie among deep rocks, and watch all day
  On liquid heights the snowy clouds melt by;
Or hear from wood-capped mountain-brows the jay
  Pierce the bright morning with his jibing cry.

To feast on summer sounds; the jolted wains,
  The thresher humming from the farm near by,
  The prattling cricket's intermittent cry,
The locust's rattle from the sultry lanes;
Or in the shadow of some oaken spray,
  To watch, as through a mist of light and dreams,
  The far-off hayfields, where the dusty teams
Drive round and round the lessening squares of hay,
  And hear upon the wind, now loud, now low,
With drowsy cadence half a summer's day,
  The clatter of the reapers come and go.

Far violet hills, horizons filmed with showers,
  The murmur of cool streams, the forest's gloom,
  The voices of the breathing grass, the hum
Of ancient gardens overbanked with flowers:
Thus, with a smile as golden as the dawn,
  And cool fair fingers radiantly divine,
  The mighty mother brings us in her hand,
For all tired eyes and foreheads pinched and wan,
Her restful cup, her beaker of bright wine:
  Drink, and be filled, and ye shall understand!
George Inness (1825-1894), Summer Morning

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I Shall Become Bacon

Cecil Torr, Small Talk at Wreyland (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1918), p. 112:
A learned German told me that Thomas Aquinas was one of the most genial men that ever lived. (By a genial man he meant a man of genius). Being in Berlin, I went to see an antiquarian friend, who was a surgeon by profession. I was then at work upon the sort of book that Germans call a Corpus; and he said he hoped to get much information from my corpse.

I have made much worse mistakes myself. On a hot summer day at Ferrara I went into a cafe to see if I could get an ice. Instead of asking the man if he had got Gelati, which are ices, I asked if he had got Geloni, which are chilblains. Arriving quite exhausted at an inn in the Tyrol, I said I wanted the Abendmahl at once. The word means Supper, just like Abendessen, but is now used only of the Sacrament.

In all probability I shall never again say Thank-you to a German; but I find that, if I do, I must say Donkey's-hair. I fancied it was Danke-sehr, but am corrected by a girl from a superior sort of school near here.
Cecil Torr, Small Talk at Wreyland: Second Series (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1921), p. 83:
Foreign languages ought to be begun in nurseries, and not left for schools: all good linguists have begun by learning words in different languages as soon as they could speak. If children are only told that a certain creature is a cat, they will afterwards learn the word 'chat' as a translation of the word 'cat.' But if they are told that the creature is called 'cat' by some people and 'chat' by others, they are prepared to find that other people call it 'katze,' others 'gatto,' and so on. And they connect the creature with its foreign names at once, instead of indirectly through the English name. However, these nursery lessons are not always a success. I remember a Parisian who learnt her English from an Irish nurse, and always spoke it with a brogue.

Good linguists sometimes get confused, when languages have words with similar sounds but different meanings. Thus, the German 'nehmen' sounds like the English 'name' and 'dumm' like 'dumb' and 'bekommen' like 'become.' A man once said to me at breakfast, "I shall name bacon": then, seeing that I did not grasp what he had said, he hurriedly corrected it, "Ach, I am dumb. I shall become bacon."
I used to love the story that President John Kennedy, when he said "Ich bin ein Berliner," uttered the equivalent of "I am a jelly donut." Unfortunately, it turns out that his German was correct in every way, and any German speaker hearing him would have understood him to mean "I am a Berliner." I haven't seen Jurgen Eichhoff, "'Ich bin ein Berliner': A History and Linguistic Clarification," Monatshefte für den deutschen Unterricht, deutsche Sprache und Kultur 85 (1993) 71–80, who apparently vindicated Kennedy in this matter.

Related post: Elaborate Defence of Howlers.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Friday, June 24, 2011


The Cypress of Kashmar

I often feel like Tom Sawyer persuading his friends to do the work of painting Aunt Polly's fence. Today is one of those days. Thanks to Eric Thomson for all of what follows.

From the mid-seventeenth century Persian Dabistān-i Mazāhib. Mazāh apparently means ‘sect’ in this context so ‘school of manners’ is not quite accurate.

The Dabistan or School of Manners, tr. David Shea and Anthony Troyer, Volume I (Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1843), pp. 306-308:
The professors of the excellent faith and the Moslem historians agree, that in Kashmir or Kashmar,2 a place celebrated for female beauty, a dependency of Naishapur, there was formerly a cypress3 [p. 307] planted by Zardusht [Zoroaster] for king Gushtasp, the like of which was never seen before or since, for beauty, height, or straightness: mention of this tree having been made at the court of Mutawakkal1 when he was engaged in building the Sarman raï, or Samarah2 palace in the Jâafriyah,3 the Khalif felt a great desire to behold it: and as it was not in his power to go to Khorasan, he wrote to Abdallah Táhir Zavalimin, "possessor of happiness," to have the tree cut down, fastened on rollers, and sent to Baghdád. When intelligence of this came to the people of the district and the inhabitants of Khorasan, they assembled at the foot of the tree, imploring for mercy with tears and lamentations, and exhibiting a scene of general desolation. The professors of the excellent faith offered the governor fifty thousand dinars to spare the tree, but the offer was refused. When the [p. 308] cypress was felled, it caused great detriment to the buildings and water-courses of the country; the birds of different kinds which had built their nests on it issued forth in such countless myriads as to darken the air, screaming out in agony with various tones of distress: the very oxen, sheep, and other animals which reposed under its sheltering shade, commenced such piteous moans of woe that it was impossible to listen to them. The expense of conveying the trunk to Baghdad was five hundred thousand dinars; the very branches loaded one thousand and three hundred camels. When the tree had reached one station from the Jaafriyah quarter, on that same night, Mutawakkal the Abasside was cut in pieces by his own guards,1 so that he never beheld the tree. Some Muhammedan writers state the circumference of the trunk at twenty-seven táziáynah, each a cubit and a quarter long, and also that fourteen hundred and fifty years had elapsed from the time of its being planted to the year 252 of the Hejirah (846, A. D.).2


[p. 306]

2 Kashmar, Kishmar is the name of a town in the country of Tirshez, in Khorasan or in Bactria (Hyde, p. 332).
3 Upon the cypress, see notes pp. 236 [sic, read 246], 280. According to the Ferhang Jehangiri and the Burhani Kati, Zardusht planted two cypress-trees; one in the town just mentioned, and the other in the town of Faru’mad, or Feru'yad, or Ferdi'd, which is in the country of Tus. The Magi believe, he planted these trees by means of two shoots brought by him from paradise. – A. T.
[footnote p. 246: To these miracles add that related in the Shah nameh naser, quoted by Hyde (p. 324): Zoroaster planted before the king's palace a cypress-tree, which in a few days grew to the height and thickness of ten rasons (measure undetermined), and upon the top of it he built a summer palace. – A. T.]

[p. 307]

1 He was the tenth Khalif of the Abbassides, and began to reign in the year of the Hejira 232, A.D. 846. – A. T.
2 Samarah is a town in Chaldaea, from which the Samaritan Jews have their name, and which was for some time the seat of the Muselman empire (Herbelot). – A. T.
3 Jâafriyah is a town in the Arabian Irak, so called from its builder, Jâfar, the original name of the khalif who assumed the title of Matavakhel al Allah, "he who confides in God." – A. T.

[p. 308]

1 He had then reigned fourteen years and two months. The Turks were excited to murder him by his own son Montassar, in the town of Makhuriah, on the very spot where Khosru Parviz had been put to death by his son Shiruyah (Siroes)–(Herbelot). – A. T.
2 According to the above statement, the tree would have been planted 604 years before our era, that is, about the time of Gushtasp, king of Persia, if the years above stated be taken for solar years; but if for lunar (that is for only 1408 solar) years, the epoch of the plantation of the cypress would be 562 years B.C., and 548, if the computation be referred to the end of Mutawakhal's life. – A. T.

Hyde is Thomas Hyde, Veterum Persarum et Parthorum et Medorum Religionis Historia, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1760), who says (p. 332):
Mira multa de eo credunt Magi, ejus Asseclae, quale est illud in Libro Pharh. Gj. [= Farhang-i Jahangiri, a seventeenth-century Persian lexicon], apud Káshmer, seu Keshmer, quod est nomen urbis ex regione Terjhíz, quae in Chorasân, seu Bactriâna. Magi credunt quòd Zerdusht duas Cupressos sub fausto Sydere plantavit; unam sc. in dicta urbe, & alteram in urbe Pharûyad (aliàs dicta Pharâyad, seu Pherdíd) quae ex regione Tus. Credunt eum has arbores plantasse ex duobus ramis [seu virgultis] quos secum ex Paradiso attulit.— Dicitur quòd Chalípha Mutawâkkil Abbasides scripsit ad Tâhìr Ibn Abdallah, qui tunc praefectus Chorasaniae fuit, ut dictam arborem succideret, & Truncum Currubus seu Plaustris, Ramos verò Camelis imponeret, & hoc modo mitteret ad Bagdâd. Magi, hoc audito, obtulerunt 50,000 Dinar ut illa Arbor non succideretur: sed Táhir non acceptavit. — Ajunt sub hujus Arboris umbrâ plures quàm 10,000 Boum Ovium & Caprarum cubasse; & alia innumera Animalia inter ejus ramos nidificâsse, terram casu ejus tremuisse, & Aves ex eâ avolantes totum aërem operuisse, eásque, quasi per modum precandi, gemitum suum edidisse, & Oves ac Boves mugitu ingemuisse. Trunci ad Bagdâd Translatio constitit 500,000 Dirèm, & Ramis ejus onusti fuêre 1600 Cameli.

A.V. Williams Jackson cites other sources for this story, including the geographer Zakariya al-Qazwini (1280-1283), in ‘The Cypress of Kashmar and Zoroaster’, Section D of ‘Miscellaneus Zorastrian Studies’ in Zoroastrian Studies: The Iranian Religion and Various Monographs (New York: Columbia, 1928).



Putting Good Greek into Bad English

Joseph Fontenrose, Classics at Berkeley: The First Century, 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics History Fund, 1982), p. 34 (on Ivan Mortimer Linforth):
In the years that followed I had a class or individual study with Linforth in, I believe, every term. He was an excellent teacher who knew Greek thoroughly, every nicety of the language. One knew that he loved the language and the great books written in it, and he could convey his feeling to his students. His method was indebted to Flagg's: he seldom had students translate, rightly considering deadly a class hour devoted to putting good Greek into bad English. I regret to say that student oral translation remains a common practice (and often the sole method) of Greek and Latin teachers, whose students never read the original texts aloud and so mispronounce Greek and Latin ever after. His usual, but not invariable, procedure was first to answer students' questions on the assignment, then ask them questions, and finally call on students to read the Greek text, teaching them to phrase it properly; and he would discuss literary and metric topics. His own reading of Greek was perfect, and he did not ignore word accents in his reading of quantitative poetry. In his forty-four years of teaching (from 1905 to 1949) he must have taught classes in every major Greek author; he also taught beginning Greek and Attic prose composition, besides lecture classes on the Greek Heritage, religion, and sometimes tragedy.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


When All Authorities Agree

Cecil Torr, Small Talk at Wreyland (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1918), p. 110:
There is no stopping a mistake after it has started. In the preface to my Ancient Ships I gave the history of a blunder that was made by Scheffer in 1654, and is now in four authoritative books of reference. In fact, when I am told that all authorities agree, I feel certain that one of them has blundered, and the rest have followed him without inquiry.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Ovid's Georgics

Ovid, Remedia Amoris 169-196 (tr. J.H. Mozley, rev. G.P. Goold):
The country also delights the mind, and the pursuit of husbandry: no care is there but must yield to this. Bid the tamed bulls bow their necks to the burden, that the curved share may wound the stubborn ground; bury the seeds of Ceres in the upturned soil, that the earth may restore them to you with lavish usury. Watch your boughs bent with the weight of apples, so that the tree scarce sustains the burden of its produce; watch the streams gliding with cheerful sound; watch the sheep cropping the fertile grass. Lo! the goats make for the rocks and precipitous cliffs: soon they will bring back full udders to their kids; the shepherd plays a ditty on his unequal pipes, nor lacks the company of his faithful dogs; elsewhere the deep glades resound with lowings, and a mother complains that her calf is lost. What of the swarms that flee from the torch-smoke set beneath them, that the taking of the combs may unburden the rounded osiers? Autumn brings fruit: summer is fair with harvest: spring gives flowers: winter is relieved by fire. At fixed seasons the countryman picks the ripened grapes, and the vintage flows beneath his naked foot; at fixed seasons he cuts and binds the grasses, and harrows the shaven earth with wide-toothed comb. You yourself can plant a shoot in a well-watered garden, you yourself can guide the runnels of gentle water. The time of grafting has come: see that bough adopts bough, and that the tree stands covered with leaves that are not its own.
The same, tr. Nahum Tate (1652-1715):
Or country-work and tillage can disarm
Your am'rous cares, for ev'ry grief a charm.
Yoke oxen, plough the painful field, you'll find
The wounded earth will cure the love-sick mind.
Then trust your grain to the new-furrow'd soil,
That with large int'rest will requite your toil.
Behold what kind returns your fruit trees send,
Down to your hand the burden'd branches bend.
Behold a murm'ring brook through pastures glide;
Behold the gazing sheep on either side;
While in the shade his pipe the shepherd tries,
The watchful dog his master's care supplies.
With loud complaints another grove is fill'd,
Of heifers lowing for their firstlings kill'd,
What pleasure 'tis with smoke of yew to drive
The murm'ring swarm, and seize the loaded hive.
All seasons friendly to the swain are found;
Autumn with fruit, with harvest summer's crown'd:
The spring's adorn'd with flow'rs to charm the eye,
And winter fires the absent sun supply.
At certain times you'll see the vintage full,
And for your wine-press may choice clusters cull.
At certain times your pond'rous sheafs may bind,
Yet for the rake leave work enough behind.
In mellow ground your plants no wat'ring need;
The thirsty you from neighb'ring springs may feed.
Then grafting make old stocks sprout fresh and green,
And various fruits on one proud branch be seen.
The Latin:
Rura quoque oblectant animos studiumque colendi:
    Quaelibet huic curae cedere cura potest.    170
Colla iube domitos oneri supponere tauros,
    Sauciet ut duram vomer aduncus humum:
Obrue versata Cerialia semina terra,
    Quae tibi cum multo faenore reddat ager.
Aspice curvatos pomorum pondere ramos,    175
    Ut sua, quod peperit, vix ferat arbor onus;
Aspice labentes iucundo murmure rivos;
    Aspice tondentes fertile gramen oves.
Ecce, petunt rupes praeruptaque saxa capellae:
    Iam referent haedis ubera plena suis;    180
Pastor inaequali modulatur harundine carmen,
    Nec desunt comites, sedula turba, canes;
Parte sonant alia silvae mugitibus altae,
    Et queritur vitulum mater abesse suum.
Quid, cum suppositos fugiunt examina fumos,    185
    Ut relevent dempti vimina curva favi?
Poma dat autumnus: formosa est messibus aestas:
    Ver praebet flores: igne levatur hiems.
Temporibus certis maturam rusticus uvam
    Deligit, et nudo sub pede musta fluunt;    190
Temporibus certis desectas alligat herbas,
    Et tonsam raro pectine verrit humum.
Ipse potes riguis plantam deponere in hortis,
    Ipse potes rivos ducere lenis aquae.
Venerit insitio; fac ramum ramus adoptet,    195
    Stetque peregrinis arbor operta comis.
Telemaco Signorini (1835-1901),
Pascoli a Castiglioncello


Hereditary Feud with Trees

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), letter to James T. Fields (1868):
My heart was almost broken yesterday by seeing nailed to my willow a board with these words on it, "These trees for sale." The wretch is going to peddle them for firewood! If I had the money, I would buy the piece of ground they stand on to save them—the dear friends of a lifetime. They would be a loss to the town. But what can one do? They belong to a man who values them by the cord. I wish Fenn had sketched them at least. One of them I hope will stand a few years yet in my poem—but he might just as well have outlasted me and my works, making his own green ode every summer.

Well, this is a free country!
Text in James Russell Lowell, Letters, ed. Charles Eliot Norton, Volume I (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), pp. 397-399 (this excerpt on pp. 398-399). By “my poem” Lowell means Under the Willows. Here are lines 84-148 of the poem:
I care not how men trace their ancestry,
To ape or Adam: let them please their whim;    85
But I in June am midway to believe
A tree among my far progenitors,
Such sympathy is mine with all the race,
Such mutual recognition vaguely sweet
There is between us. Surely there are times    90
When they consent to own me of their kin,
And condescend to me, and call me cousin,
Murmuring faint lullabies of eldest time,
Forgotten, and yet dumbly felt with thrills
Moving the lips, though fruitless of all words.    95

And I have many a lifelong leafy friend,
Never estranged nor careful of my soul,
That knows I hate the axe, and welcomes me
Within his tent as if I were a bird,
Or other free companion of the earth,    100
Yet undegenerate to the shifts of men.

Among them one, an ancient willow, spreads
Eight balanced limbs, springing at once all round
His deep-ridged trunk with upward slant diverse,
In outline like enormous beaker, fit    105
For hand of Jotun, where mid snow and mist
He holds unwieldy revel. This tree, spared,
I know not by what grace,—for in the blood
Of our New World subduers lingers yet
Hereditary feud with trees, they being    110
(They and the red-man most) our fathers' foes,—
Is one of six, a willow Pleiades,
The seventh fallen, that lean along the brink
Where the steep upland dips into the marsh,
Their roots, like molten metal cooled in flowing,    115
Stiffened in coils and runnels down the bank.
The friend of all the winds, wide-armed he towers
And glints his steely aglets in the sun,
Or whitens fitfully with sudden bloom
Of leaves breeze-lifted, much as when a shoal    120
Of devious minnows wheel from where a pike
Lurks balanced 'neath the lily-pads, and whirl
A rood of silver bellies to the day.

Alas! no acorn from the British oak
'Neath which slim fairies tripping wrought those rings    125
Of greenest emerald, wherewith fireside life
Did with the invisible spirit of Nature wed,
Was ever planted here! No darnel fancy
Might choke one useful blade in Puritan fields;
With horn and hoof the good old Devil came,    130
The witch's broomstick was not contraband,
But all that superstition had of fair,
Or piety of native sweet, was doomed.
And if there be who nurse unholy faiths,
Fearing their god as if he were a wolf    135
That snuffed round every home and was not seen,
There should be some to watch and keep alive
All beautiful beliefs. And such was that,—
By solitary shepherd first surmised
Under Thessalian oaks, loved by some maid    140
Of royal stirp, that silent came and vanished,
As near her nest the hermit thrush, nor dared
Confess a mortal name,—that faith which gave
A Hamadryad to each tree; and I
Will hold it true that in this willow dwells    145
The open-handed spirit, frank and blithe,
Of ancient Hospitality, long since,
With ceremonious thrift, bowed out of doors.
Text of Under the Willows in James Russell Lowell, The Complete Poetical Works (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1896), pp. 286-291 (these lines pp. 287-288).


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Apopompē and Epipompē in Euripides' Ion

Ion, attendant of Apollo's temple at Delphi, doesn't want bird turds fouling the shrine, so he shoos the birds away (Euripides, Ion 154-183, tr. David Kovacs):
But look!
They are coming, the birds, leaving
their nests on Parnassus!
Do not come near the coping stones
or the golden temple of Apollo!
My bow will bring you down, herald
of Zeus, although your beak
routs the strength of other birds!
Here toward the temple wings another,
a swan! Take your feet that show red against your belly
and go elsewhere!
The lyre of Apollo
that accompanies your song cannot save you from my bow!
Fly off to somewhere else!
Alight upon the lake at Delos!
Your tuneful song will change
to shrieks of pain if you do not obey!
See, see!
What strange bird is this that comes?
Does he mean to make under the gable
a nest of straw for his young?
The twang of my bowstring will prevent you!
Obey! Go to the eddies
of the Alpheus to hatch your brood,
or the groves of the Isthmus!
Thus the offerings and the <fair-gabled>
temple of Phoebus will remain unfouled.
Yet I hesitate to kill you,
who convey the gods' words
to mortals. But I shall duly perform
the tasks I am devoted to for Phoebus and never cease
serving him who feeds me.
Michael Lloyd, "Divine and Human Action in Euripides' Ion," Antike und Abendland 32 (1986) 33-45 (at p. 36, n. 18):
It has sometimes been found surprising that when Ion scares birds away from the temple he encourages them to go to some other holy place (164, 174–7): 'the ministrant of Apollo does not seem to mind if the shrines of other gods are defiled by the birds, nor even what happens in Apollo’s own shrine in Delos' (Owen on 174–5). But Ion is in fact alluding wittily to the formulae of the ἀποπομπή (sending way) of a malevolent power: 'if he is to spare his intended victim, another (or others) must be shown him on which he can wreak his will ... by no means necessarily ... the person or property of an enemy of the man who makes the prayer' (Fraenkel on Aesch. Ag. 1573, comparing Theognis 351–4, Eur. Hel. 360–1). We thus have an Ion capable of sophisticated humour, rather than another Hippolytus, obsessed with his own cult to the exclusion of others.
More accurately, when Ion tells the birds simply to go away ("go elsewhere," "fly off to somewhere else"), it is apopompē; when he tells them to go away to some specific place ("the lake at Delos," "the eddies of the Alpheus," "the groves of the Isthmus"), it is epipompē.

Richard Wünsch first used the terms apopompē and epipompē to describe these two different ways of banishing evil in "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13-14 (1911) 9-32. Wünsch used apopompē to mean simply driving away evil, epipompē to mean driving away evil onto someone or something else. More here.


Natural Beauties

George Berkeley (1685-1753), Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 1901), p. 62:
Look! are not the fields covered with a delightful verdure? Is there not something in the woods and groves, in the rivers and clear springs, that soothes, that delights, that transports the soul? At the prospect of the wide and deep ocean, or some huge mountain whose top is lost in the clouds, or of an old gloomy forest, are not our minds filled with a pleasing horror? Even in rocks and deserts is there not an agreeable wildness? How sincere a pleasure is it to behold the natural beauties of the earth!
Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), California Spring


A Very Manly Man

Henry David Thoreau, Journals (October 20, 1857, on Brooks Clark, over eighty years old):
It pleased me to see this cheery old man, with such a feeble hold on life, bent almost double, thus enjoying the evening of his days. Far be it from me to call it avarice or penury, this childlike delight in finding something in the woods or fields and carrying it home in the October evening, as a trophy to be added to his winter's store. Oh, no; he was happy to be Nature's pensioner still, and birdlike to pick up his living. Better his robin than your turkey, his shoes full of apples than your barrels full; they will be sweeter and suggest a better tale. He can afford to tell how he got them, and we to listen. There is an old wife, too, at home, to share them and hear how they were obtained. Like an old squirrel shuffling to his hole with a nut. Far less pleasing to me the loaded wain, more suggestive of avarice and of spiritual penury.

This old man's cheeriness was worth a thousand of the church's sacraments and memento mori's. It was better than a prayerful mood. It proves to me old age as tolerable, as happy, as infancy. I was glad of an occasion to suspect that this afternoon he had not been at "work" but living somewhat after my own fashion (though he did not explain the axe),—had been out to see what nature had for him, and now was hastening home to a burrow he knew, where he could warm his old feet. If he had been a young man, he would probably have thrown away his apples and put on his shoes when he saw me coming, for shame. But old age is manlier; it has learned to live, makes fewer apologies, like infancy. This seems a very manly man.
For all his "feeble hold on life," John Brooks Clark (1775-1865) outlived Thoreau. The maiden name of his "old wife" was Lydia Flint.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


An Exiled Line of Verse

Ovid, Tristia. Ex Ponto, tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, 2nd ed. rev. G.P. Goold (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988; rpt. with corrections 1996 = Loeb Classical Library, 151), p. 287 (translating Ex Ponto 1.4.1-8):
Now is the worse period of life upon me with its sprinkling of white hairs, now the wrinkles of age are furrowing my face, now energy and strength are weakening in my shattered frame. On a sudden shouldst thou see me, thou couldst not recognize me; such havoc has been wrought with my life. I admit that this is the work of the years, but there is yet another cause—anguish and constant suffering.
The translation of Wheeler and Goold omits line 4. Here is the Latin, with line 4 underlined:
Iam mihi deterior canis aspergitur aetas,
  iamque meos vultus ruga senilis arat:
iam vigor et quasso languent in corpore vires,
  nec, iuveni lusus qui placuere, iuvant.
nec, si me subito videas, agnoscere possis,
  aetatis facta est tanta ruina meae.
confiteor facere hoc annos, sed et altera causa est,
  anxietas animi continuusque labor.
After "my shattered frame" add something like "nor do the games which pleased me when I was young still delight me."

Thanks to my son for the gift of this book.



Going for the Sake of Going

J.B. Priestley, Outcries and Asides (London: Heinemann, 1974), pp. 87-88:
In 1856 Peacock's old novel, Melincourt, was reprinted and he wrote a new preface for it. Observing the changes that had taken place, he wrote:
'Thirty-nine years ago, steam-boats were just coming into action, and the railway locomotive was not even thought of. Now everybody goes everywhere: going for the sake of going, and rejoicing in the rapidity with which they accomplish nothing....'
If he could spend just half a day in our age of the internal combustion engine, when millions and millions every weekend set out just because they own a car, not knowing or caring where they are going, Thomas Love Peacock would be out of his mind.
Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885),
Gnome Watching a Railway Train




Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883), Letters and Literary Remains, vol. I (London: Macmillan and Co., 1889), pp. 124-125 (letter to Frederic Tennyson, February 24, 1844):
Here I sit, read, smoke, and become very wise, and am already quite beyond earthly things. I must say to you, as Basil Montagu once said, in perfect charity, to his friends: 'You see, my dear fellows, I like you very much, but I continue to advance, and you remain where you are (you see), and so I shall be obliged to leave you behind me. It is no fault of mine.' You must begin to read Seneca, whose letters I have been reading; else, when you come back to England, you will be no companion to a man who despises wealth, death &c. What are pictures but paintings—what are auctions but sales! All is vanity. Erige animum tuum, mi Lucili &c. I wonder whether old Seneca was indeed such a humbug as people now say he was: he is really a fine writer. About three hundred years ago, or less, our divines and writers called him the divine Seneca; and old Bacon is full of him. One sees in him the upshot of all the Greek philosophy, how it stood in Nero's time, when the Gods had worn out a good deal. I don't think old Seneca believed he should live again. Death is his great resource. Think of the rocococity of a gentleman studying Seneca in the middle of February 1844 in a remarkably damp cottage.
Id., pp. 144-145 (letter to Frederic Tennyson, December 8, 1844):
Old Seneca, I have no doubt, was a great humbug in deed, and his books have plenty of it in word; but he had got together a vast deal of what was not humbug from others; and, as far as I see, the old philosophers are available now as much as two thousand years back. Perhaps you will think that is not saying much. Don't suppose I think it good philosophy in myself to keep here out of the world, and sport a gentle Epicurism; I do not; I only follow something of a natural inclination, and know not if I could do better under a more complex system.
Id., p. 311 (letter to W.A. Wright, December 11, 1867):
It has been the fashion of late to scoff at Seneca; whom such men as Bacon and Montaigne quoted: perhaps not Seneca's own, but cribbed from some Greek which would have been admired by those who scoff at the Latin.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines rocococity as "the fact or quality of being outmoded or excessively mannered." FitzGerald's letter is the first of the dictionary's two examples.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Profitable Friends

Po Chu-i, The Pine Trees in the Courtyard (A.D. 820), tr. Arthur Waley in More Translations from the Chinese (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919), pp. 74-75:
                Below the hall
The pine-trees grow in front of the steps,
Irregularly scattered,—not in ordered lines.
                Some are tall and some are low:
The tallest of them is six roods high;
                The lowest but ten feet.
                They are like wild things
                And no one knows who planted them.
They touch the walls of my blue-tiled house;
Their roots are sunk in the terrace of white sand.
Morning and evening they are visited by the wind and moon;
Rain or fine,—they are free from dust and mud.
In the gales of autumn they whisper a vague tune;
From the suns of summer they yield a cool shade.
At the height of spring the fine evening rain
Fills their leaves with a load of hanging pearls.
At the year's end the time of great snow
Stamps their branches with a fret of glittering jade,
Of the Four Seasons each has its own mood;
Among all the trees none is like another.
Last year, when they heard I had bought this house,
Neighbours mocked and the World called me mad—
That a whole family of twice ten souls
Should move house for the sake of a few pines!
Now that I have come to them, what have they given me?
They have only loosened the buckles of my care.
Yet even so, they are "profitable friends,"
And fill my need of "converse with wise men."
Yet when I consider how, still a man of the world,
In belt and cap I scurry through dirt and dust,
From time to time my heart twinges with shame
That I am not fit to be master of my pines!
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


The Work of a Life

Richard Jefferies, Field and Hedgerow, 2nd ed. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1889), pp. 28-29:
The author spends perhaps twenty years in collecting his material, during which time he must of course come across a great variety of amusing information, and then he spends another ten years writing out a fair copy of his labours. Then he thinks it does not quite do in that form, so he snips a paragraph out of the beginning and puts it at the end; next he shifts some more matter from the middle to the preface; then he thinks it over. It seems to him that it is too big, it wants condensation. The scientific world will say he has made too much of it; it ought to read very slight, and present the facts while concealing the labour. So he sets about removing the superfluous—leaves out all the personal observations, and all the little adventures he has met with in his investigations; and so, having got it down to the dry bones and stones thereof, and omitted all the mortar that stuck them together, he sends for the engraver, and the next three years are occupied in working up the illustrations. About this time some new discovery is made by a foreign observer, which necessitates a complete revision of the subject; and so having shifted the contents of the book about hither and thither till he does not know which is the end and which is the beginning, he pitches the much-mutilated copy into a drawer and turns the key. Farewell, no more of this; his declining days shall be spent in peace. A few months afterwards a work is announced in Leipsic which 'really trenches on my favourite subject, and really after spending a lifetime I can't stand it.' By this time his handwriting has become so shaky he can hardly read it himself, so he sends in despair for a lady who works a type-writer, and with infinite patience she makes a clean manuscript of the muddled mass. To the press at last, and the proofs come rapidly. Such a relief! How joyfully easy a thing is when you set about it! but by-and-by this won't do. Sub-section A ought to be in a foot-note, family B is doubtful; and so the corrections grow and run over the margin in a thin treble hand, till they approach the bulk of the original book—a good profit for the printer; and so after about forty years the monograph is published—the work of a life is accomplished. Fifty copies are sent round to as many public libraries and learned societies, and the rest of the impression lies on the shelves till dust and time and spiders' webs have buried it.
From Frans Masereel, Die Stadt (1925)

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The Prince of Clowns

Walter Raleigh (1861-1922), Stand on the Trestles of the World, from Laughter from a Cloud (London: Constable and Company Limited, 1923), p. 151:
Stand on the trestles of the world,
  And mark the humours of the fair,
Where jugglers' flaming knives are hurled,
  And God leads round His starry bear.

Here, on the boards, the prince of clowns,
  Man, in his motley struts and leers,
And with his mirthless laughter drowns
  The humming music of the spheres.

The air grows chill; the farce is played;
  His tinsel doffed, in tattered plight
(See how the torches flare and fade!)
  He passes out into the night.


Something to Offend Everyone

Walter Raleigh (1861-1922), Of the Nations: A Hymn of Love and Praise, from Laughter from a Cloud (London: Constable and Company Limited, 1923), pp. 175-177:
Damn the Russian
And the Prussian;
Clap a tax on
Every Saxon;
Beat the Gael
With a flail.
What a sot
Is the Scot!
Who says thankee
For the Yankee,
Or has need
Of the Swede,
Or would ask
For the Basque?
That rapscallion,
The Italian
Rolls in sin
(Like the Finn).
Men of Spain
Are a bane,
And the French
Yield a stench;
The Chinese
Fail to please,
So perhaps
Do the Lapps.
Good men spit on
Celt and Briton,
And abuse
The Hindus.
The Icelander
Is a gander.
Dangers lurk
In the Turk.
May the low
Go to pot
With the lot!
In Japan a
Finds a devil
On his level.
The Armenian
And the Fenian
And the Swiss
Are amiss.
Let us squelch
All the Welsh,
Not to speak
Of the Greek,
And the Norse
Too, of course.
They are more
Than a bore,
If they fell
Down to hell
With their bibs on.
Praising Ibsen,
Or were sent
By a gent
To the Zoo—
That would do.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Sorts of Talk

Plato, Symposium 173c-d (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
For my own part, indeed, I commonly find that, setting aside the benefit I conceive they do me, I take an immense delight in any philosophic discourses, whether I speak them myself or hear them from others: whereas in the case of other sorts of talk—especially that of your wealthy, money-bag friends—I am not only annoyed myself but sorry for dear intimates like you, who think you are doing a great deal when you really do nothing at all.

καὶ γὰρ ἔγωγε καὶ ἄλλως, ὅταν μέν τινας περὶ φιλοσοφίας λόγους ἢ αὐτὸς ποιῶμαι ἢ ἄλλων ἀκούω, χωρὶς τοῦ οἴεσθαι ὠφελεῖσθαι ὑπερφυῶς ὡς χαίρω: ὅταν δὲ ἄλλους τινάς, ἄλλως τε καὶ τοὺς ὑμετέρους τοὺς τῶν πλουσίων καὶ χρηματιστικῶν, αὐτός τε ἄχθομαι ὑμᾶς τε τοὺς ἑταίρους ἐλεῶ, ὅτι οἴεσθε τὶ ποιεῖν οὐδὲν ποιοῦντες.


To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence

From Robert J. O'Hara:
Michael, the delightful Macaulay post about "blubbering for imaginary beings" and his exclamation "Think what it would be to be assured that the inhabitants of Monomotapa would weep over one's writings Anno Domini 4551!" put me in mind of the poem below by James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915). I always take note of people addressing the distant future—Macaulay imagines writing something now that people would read in 2700 years and so look back to us. Flecker tried to do just that, addressing himself to another poet like him 1000 years in the future. It's not the best poem in the world, but I like the theme; and it has a Homer reference that links it to Macaulay:
"To a poet a thousand years hence"

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.
There a quite nice musical setting by Gerald Finzi. The whole doesn't appear to be online, but you can hear a clip here:

Friday, June 17, 2011


Like Disembodied Spirits

Excerpts from James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915), The Grecians: A Dialogue on Education (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1910):

pp. 18-19:
"Thank God one does not often see a congregation of schoolmasters. Those withered trees are usually surrounded by the fair and delectable shrubs of youth: they look ill in a forest by themselves. Usually we see the usher's unromantic figure graced by the boys who flock around him; and to them he is so familiar and trite a thing that they pay no heed to his sagging trousers and rusty coat, to his surly manners and unkempt hair, to his unchanging cravat and rectangular boots. But when I saw that unearthly congregation of men who had failed, whose lips were hard and their faces drawn and sallow, when I remarked the imbecile athletes who taught football, the puny scientists who expounded the dark mystery of nature, the blighted and sapless scholars who taught Plato and Catullus by the page and hour, the little wry-bodied men in spectacles who trained their pupils in King Lear for the Cambridge Locals, I shuddered and felt faint; for I remembered that I, too, was one of these: I, too, was rusty—I effete—I growing old."
p. 24:
"Do you dare to insinuate that any one was ever taught to think about the universe by learning perfects and supines, or those eccentrics in -μι?"
p. 26:
"You are well enough aware that the moment the dead languages cease to be required in State or University examinations which lead to emolument the whole fabric of classical education instantly disappears, and the scholars who now secure for themselves snug and comfortable berths would then be wandering up and down the land like disembodied spirits. A few might still be needed for museums and libraries, or to teach the sons of some old-fashioned American millionaire; but the rest would die of hunger or take to breaking stones."
pp. 102-105:
"There will be no writing, and certainly (if Dr. Rouse will forgive us) no speaking, of Latin and Greek. We shall let such portions of the grammar as are not very important (genders and the parts of Latin verbs) be rather learnt in the course of reading than laboriously committed to memory. We shall read very quickly in class, and confine ourselves to works which are either good in themselves, historically interesting, or influential on subsequent thought. We shall divert the young with Homer, easiest of great poets, with Lucian's Vera Historia, with a few legends of old Rome from Livy, and with fairy tales from Apuleius. We will not weary even Grecians with Thucydides when he talks about dreary expeditions into Aetolia; but all Grecians shall read the fate of the Sicilian expedition and learn by heart the speech of Pericles. Into Demosthenes we will only dip; of Sophocles and Euripides we will select the finest plays and read them, as well as the Aeschylean trilogy, more than once. Herodotus we shall read through lightly, as is fitting, and we shall take parts in the plays of Aristophanes in merry congress; of Plato we shall never weary, for he is good for the soul. Nor shall we presume to forget Theocritus and the lyric fragments, or those unfading roses of the Anthology which tell how roses fade. And only for the very young shall we bowdlerise anything, since we are dealing, not with urchins, but with the select and chosen few.

"In Latin we will trouble no reasonable soul with Plautus and Terence, or with more of Cicero than is needed to grasp the excellent style of that second-rate intellect. Of Ovid too, who is only interesting when immoral, we shall read, for the style's sake, some of the duller portions. To the claims of those deathless school-books, the Aeneid of Virgil, the Odes of Horace, and the Satires of Juvenal, we shall submit, for their fame is deserved; Lucretius and Catullus are too obvious to mention; Tibullus is a sleepy fellow; and from Propertius we select. Tacitus tells us much history and is pleasant to read, nor are the letters of Pliny the Younger disagreeable; but Caesar I would abandon to the historical specialist and Livy I would read in haste. Of Apuleius only one book is essentially disagreeable: the rest is charming, and too long neglected.

"Now the total bulk of all that I have commended as readable in these two languages is not very large, and could easily be stowed away into some twenty well-printed volumes. As soon as the preliminaries are mastered we shall read through the classics for three hours a week for three years. No boy except the specialist shall begin Latin or Greek till he is fifteen years old: this will ensure, I think, that he does not waste about five years in learning grammar, but attacking a not very difficult subject at a riper age, will master it within a quarter of the time it would have taken him had he, after the usual school fashion, begun Latin at the age of nine and Greek at the age of eleven. He should therefore be ready at the age of sixteen for our three years' classical course, and though we shall not spend anything like as much time over the classics as do other schools which are still hampered by the Renaissance and scholastic traditions, and by external examinations, I believe our boys will love the classics more and obtain a fuller understanding of the classical spirit than those to whom Latin and Greek are a ceaseless drudgery and evil. I believe they will learn, no less than others have learnt, from these timehonoured studies that calm and even fervour of mind, that sane and serene love of beautiful things, that freedom from religious bigotry and extravagance which marks the writings of the Greeks, and that seriousness, decorum, and strength, that sense of arrangement and justice which marks the writings and still more the history of the Romans."



Sidney Lanier (1842-1881), letter to Paul Hamilton Hayne (April 17, 1872), quoted in Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962; rpt. 1969), pp. 460-461:
Trade, Trade, Trade. Pah, are we not all sick? A man cannot walk down a green alley of the woods, in these days, without unawares getting his mouth and nose and eyes covered with some web or other that Trade has stretched across, to catch some gain or other. 'Tis an old spider that has crawled all over our modern life, and covered it with a flimsy web that conceals the Realities. Our religions, our politics, our social life, our charities, our literature, nay, by Heavens, our music and our lives almost, are all meshed in unsubstantial concealments and filthy garnitures by it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


A Use in Measured Language

Tennyson, In Memoriam, V:
I sometimes hold it half a sin
  To put in words the grief I feel;
  For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
  A use in measured language lies;
  The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.


Regula Monicae

Antonio La Penna, Aforismi e autoschediasmi. Riflessioni sparse su cultura e politica degli ultimi cinquant'anni (1958-2004) (Firenze: Società Editrice Fiorentina, 2005), p. 208:
Regula Monicae (Lewinsky): non ora et labora, ma ore adlabora.

Ore adlaborare è una splendida iunctura di Orazio, che si riferisce ad una pratica erotica tanto immonda quanto largamente diffusa.
For the callida iunctura, see Horace, Epodes 8.15-20 (at 20):
quid quod libelli Stoici inter sericos
  iacere pulvillos amant?
illitterati num magis nervi rigent
  minusve languet fascinum?
quod ut superbo provoces ab inguine,
  ore allaborandum est tibi.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.



Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1692), Christian Morals, Part III, Sect. 11:
Look not for Whales in the Euxine Sea, or expect great matters where they are not to be. Seek not for Profundity in Shallowness, or Fertility in a Wilderness. Place not the expectations of great Happiness here below, or think to find Heaven on Earth; wherein we must be content with Embryon-felicities, and fruitions of doubtful Faces.


Not Wholly Starless is the Ill-Starred Life

Trumbull Stickney (1874-1904), Poems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1905), p. 90:
Tho' lack of laurels and of wreaths not one
Prove you our lives abortive, shall we yet
Vaunt us our single aim, our hearts full set
To win the guerdon which is never won.
Witness, a purpose never is undone.
And tho' fate drain our seas of violet
To gather round our lives her wide-hung net,
Memories of hopes that are not shall atone.
Not wholly starless is the ill-starred life,
Not all is night in failure, and the shield
Sometimes well grasped, tho' shattered in the strife.
And here while all the lowering heaven is ringed
With our loud death-shouts echoed, on the field
Stands forth our Nikè, proud, tho' broken-winged.
This sonnet has the title The Pilgrims in its first publication, The Harvard Monthly XIX.4 (January 1895) 154, where there is also a variant line 12:
Witness! while all the lowering heaven is ringed
Nike of Samothrace

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Laboring Under a Delusion

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (Boston: Phillips, Samson and Company, 1858), p. 271:
It won't do to be exclusive in our taste about trees. There is hardly one of them which has not peculiar beauties in some fitting place for it. I remember a tall poplar of monumental proportions and aspect, a vast pillar of glossy green, placed on the summit of a lofty hill, and a beacon to all the country round. A native of that region saw fit to build his house very near it, and, having a fancy that it might blow down some time or other, and exterminate himself and any incidental relatives who might be "stopping" or "tarrying" with him,—also laboring under the delusion that human life is under all circumstances to be preferred to vegetable existence,—had the great poplar cut down. It is so easy to say, "It is only a poplar!" and so much harder to replace its living cone than to build a granite obelisk!



Act as of Old, When Men Were Men

Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915), A Call to Action, from Marlborough and Other Poems, 4th ed. (Cambridge: University Press, 1919), pp. 45-47:

A thousand years have passed away,
   Cast back your glances on the scene,
Compare this England of to-day
   With England as she once has been.

Fast beat the pulse of living then:
   The hum of movement, throb of war,
The rushing mighty sound of men
   Reverberated loud and far.

They girt their loins up and they trod
   The path of danger, rough and high;
For Action, Action was their god,
   "Be up and doing" was their cry.

A thousand years have passed away;
   The sands of life are running low;
The world is sleeping out her day;
   The day is dying—be it so.

A thousand years have passed amain;
   The sands of life are running thin;
Thought is our leader—Thought is vain;
   Speech is our goddess—Speech is sin.


It needs no thought to understand,
   No speech to tell, nor sight to see
That there has come upon our land
   The curse of Inactivity.

We do not see the vital point
   That 'tis the eighth, most deadly, sin
To wail, "The world is out of joint"—
   And not attempt to put it in.

We see the swollen stream of crime
   Flow hourly past us, thick and wide;
We gaze with interest for a time,
   And pass by on the other side.

We see the tide of human sin
   Rush roaring past our very door,
And scarcely one man plunges in
   To drag the drowning to the shore.

We, dull and dreamy, stand and blink,
   Forgetting glory, strength and pride,
Half—listless watchers on the brink.
   Half—ruined victims of the tide.


We question, answer, make defence,
   We sneer, we scoff, we criticize,
We wail and moan our decadence,
   Enquire, investigate, surmise;

We preach and prattle, peer and pry
   And fit together two and two:
We ponder, argue, shout, swear, lie—
   We will not, for we cannot, do.

Pale puny soldiers of the pen,
   Absorbed in this your inky strife,
Act as of old, when men were men,
   England herself and life yet life.
Charles Hamilton Sorley

Monday, June 13, 2011


Brown Eggs

J.B. Priestley, "The Meaning of Brown Eggs," The New Statesman (December 10, 1971) p. 815, rpt. as "Brown Eggs" in Outcries and Asides (London: Heinemann, 1974), pp. 124-126:
Let us make a modest start—as I do four mornings out of five—with eggs. Now here in England most of us, all ages, prefer brown eggs to white eggs. In America, brown eggs are despised, sold off cheaply, perhaps sometimes thrown away. Can any sense be made out of this queer difference in taste? I believe it can. But will it take us anywhere? Yes, I believe it will. Not only that—behavioral sciences, take note—it will move us almost at once from the visible world of white eggs and brown eggs into the vast invisible world where our lives are shaped.

We English prefer brown eggs because they seem to us to have a more reliable look of rusticity. They are closer to Nature, and appear to promise us a richer and more sustaining interior. A brown egg, we feel, has come to us, magically perhaps, straight out of the ancient pastoral world. Unlike the white egg, it has escaped factory farming, machines and mass production, higher productivity. It belongs to the enduring dream of the English, who ever since the Industrial Revolution have created wretched towns chiefly because they never really accepted urban life, always hoping to move sooner or later into the country. What we English want is to live in the country, with some splendid free-range fowls just down the road, none of your deprived and pallid prisoners of the battery, desperately ridding themselves of smaller and smaller white eggs; and then to enjoy every morning a big brown egg. Any public man in England who does not understand this cannot understand the English, and should retire from public life—into the country.

The Americans, well outside the ghettoes, despise brown eggs just because they do seem closer to Nature. White eggs are much better, especially if they are to be given to precious children, because their very whiteness suggests hygiene and purity, for which Americans have a passion that we English do not share. It is as if Nature, after being taught some hard lessons, had been forced to attempt some progressive hygienic packaging with that white shell.

It is a mistake—and one that is all too common—to accuse Americans of being 'materialistic'. They are far less so than, for example, the Chinese and the French, the best cooks in the world. The weakness of American civilization, and perhaps the chief reason why it creates so much discontent, is that it is so curiously abstract. It is a bloodless extrapolation of a satisfying life. For all those thick steaks and gammon rashers, all that scotch and bourbon, a melancholy enchantment seems to turn it into statistics and mere images of good living. You dine off the advertiser's 'sizzling' and not the meat of the steak. Sex is discovered in manuals and not in bed. And as soon as guaranteed egg-substitute has been packaged and marketed, from a huge factory in New Jersey called 'Old Mother Giles', then real white eggs will be even more sharply despised than brown eggs are now.
An odd essay, one that doesn't square with my experience as an American born and bred. For the first seventeen years of my life, so long as I lived under my parents' roof, I neither saw nor ate any eggs except brown ones. Every week the "egg man," a local farmer, knocked on our door, peddling fresh brown eggs. It was a shock to see white eggs for the first time in a grocery store, and to this day I prefer brown ones.

E.B. White answered Priestley in a New York Times article, "Farmer White's Brown Eggs," reprinted as "Riposte" in his Essays (1977; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992), pp. 60-61.


More on the Arval Brethren and Tree-Cutting

Thanks to Karl Maurer for the following email, to which I've added references to Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum numbers, etc.:
Michael, this apropos of your note on Friday, about the Arval Brethren making expiatory sacrifice for the fig they dug up. They were guardians of the grove of the Dea Dia; and it looks as if they used to make expiation for any damaged tree of hers, no matter what the cause. If you go to the splendid online “Epigraphik Datenbank” ( and type “arbor” in the search window, you get stuff like this (here the headings are mine; these are excerpts from 8 or 9 longer inscriptions):

CIL 06, 02023a (p 864, 3261) = CIL 06, 32339a = AE 1888, 00111 = CFA 00002 = D 05042
TREE FELL FROM OLD AGE: quod] / [Cn(aeus) Corneliu]s Cn(aei) f(ilius) Lentulus augur mag(ister) in locum [3] / [factus ad] fratres Arvales rettulit arborem / [in luco d]e<ae=EM> Diae vetustate cecidisse q(uid) d(e) e(a) r(e) f(ieri) p(laceret) d(e) e(a) r(e) i(ta) c(ensuerunt) / [cum arbo]r vetustate in luco deae Diae cecidisset ut / [in luc]o ad sacrificium consumeretur neve quid / [ligni] exportaretur / [adfuerun]t L(ucius) Domitius Cn(aei) f(ilius) Ahenobarbus L(ucius) Calpurnius / [Piso p]ontifex Paullus Fabius Q(uinti) f(ilius) Maximus /

CIL 06, 02053 (p 864, 3261) = CIL 06, 32360 = CFA 00042
TREE FELL IN STORM: [piaculu]m factum [in luc]o deae Diae ob arborem qua[e] / [a] tempestate d[eciderat] per calatorem et publicos / C(aio) Licinio Mucia[no II]I T(ito) Flavio Sabino II co(n)s(ulibus)

CIL 06, 02044 = CIL 06, 32355 = CFA 00030
TREES HURT IN SNOWSTORM: IIII K(alendas) Apr(iles) in luco deae Diae piaculum factum / per kalatorem et publicos eius sacerdoti ob arbores quae a tempestate nivis / deciderant exp[i]andas porcam et agnam opimam

CIL 06, 02075 (p 864, 3261) = CIL 06, 32372 = CFA 00064 = D 05046 = IDRE-01, 00005
LAURELS HIT BY LIGHTNING, THEN CUT DOWN: in aedem Conco[rdiae fratres Arvales convenerunt] / ibique referent[e M(arco) Valerio Trebicio Deciano mag(istro) ad] / collegas de arbor[ibus lauribus in luco deae Diae quod] / a tempestatibus per[ustae essent placuit piaculo fac]/to caedi adfuerunt in co[llegio M(arcus) Valerius Trebicius (etc.)

CIL 06, 02099 (p 864, 3261) = CIL 06, 32386 = CFA 00094 = D 05047
TREE PULLED UP TO REMAKE TEMPLE: M(arco) Herennio Secundo M(arco) Egnatio Postumo co(n)s(ulibus) III Id(us) Mai(as) / in luco deae Diae Q(uintus) Licinius Nepos mag(ister) operis perfecti causa quod arboris / eruendae et aedis refectae(!) immolavit suovetaurilibus maioribus

CIL 06, 02107a (p 864, 3261) = CIL 06, 32390a = CFA 00105b
TREE HIT BY LIGHTNING AND PULLED UP: VII Id(us) Nov(embres) / fratres Arval(es) in luc(o) d(eae) D(iae) via Camp(ana) apud lap(idem) V conv(enerunt) per C(aium) Porc(ium) Priscum / mag(istrum) et ibi imm(olaverunt) quod vi tempestat(is) ictu fulmin(is) arbor(es) sacr(i) l(uci) d(eae) D(iae) attact(ae) / arduer(int) ear(um)q(ue) arbor(um) eruendar(um) ferr(o) <f=P>endendar(um) adolendar(um) commolendar(um) / item aliar(um) restituendar(um) causa

CIL 06, 02107a (p 864, 3261) = CIL 06, 32390a = CFA 00105b
TREES HIT BY LIGHTNING AND PULLED UP TO PLANT OTHERS: IIII Id(us) Dec(embres) fratres Arval(es) in luco deae Diae via Campana apud lap(idem) V convener(unt) / per C(aium) Porc(ium) Priscum mag(istrum) et ibi immolav(erunt) quod ab ictu fulminis arbores luci / sacri d(eae) D(iae) attactae arduerint earumq(ue) arborum adolefactarum et coinquen/darum et [quod] in eo luco sacro aliae sint repositae et arae temporal(es) refectae ferri / effer(endi) <h=R>uius oper(is) perfe[c]ti causa lustrum missum suovetaurilib(us) maioribus / et cetera q(uae) s(upra) adfuer(unt) P(ublius) Ael(ius) Se<c=I>undinus T(itus) Fl(avius) Arc<h=R>esilaus (etc.)
See also the useful list in George N. Olcott, Thesaurus Linguae Latinae Epigraphicae: A Dictionary of the Latin Inscriptions, Vol. I (Rome: Loescher, 1904), pp. 430-431 (s.v. arbor).

There doesn't appear to be an English translation of the entire Acts of the Arval Brethren, but I did find some translations of excerpts illustrating expiatory sacrifices for tree-cutting. In the following translations, I've added underlining and omitted footnotes.

Mary Beard et al., Religions of Rome, Volume 2: A Sourcebook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; rpt. 2003), p. 151 (CIL VI.2107, lines 2-13; ILS 5048; 224 A.D.):
Seven days before the Ides of November <7 November>, the Arval Brothers assembled in the grove of Dea Dia on the Campanian Road <via Campana>, at the fifth milestone, on the instructions of Caius Porcius Priscus, the master. And there they made sacrifice because in a violent storm some trees in the sacred grove of Dea Dia were struck by lightning and burnt; and in expiation for uprooting those trees, striking them with iron and consuming them in fire, for grinding down their remains and then for replacing them with others, and for initiating the work and rebuilding altars for the occasion, sacred to Dea Dia — in expiation for these things a purificatory sacrifice was carried out with the offering of a full-grown pig, ram and bull <suovetaurilia>. Then in front of the temple cows, their horns bound with gold, were sacrificed to Dea Dia — total 2; then at the altars built for the occasion sacrifices were made to the gods as listed below: to Janus Pater, rams — 2; to Jupiter, wethers — 2; to Mars Pater Ultor, rams — total 2; to deity, male or female, wethers — 2; to the spirit of Dea Dia, sheep — total 2; to the virgin deities, sheep — total 2; to the attendant deities, wethers — total 2; to Fons <the god of springs>, wethers — total 2; to Flora, sheep — total 2; to Summanus Pater, black wethers — 2; to Vesta Mater, sheep — 2; to vesta of the gods and goddesses, sheep — 2; likewise to Adolenda and Coiquenda, sheep — 2; and before the shrine of the Caesars, to the spirit of our lord, the emperor Severus Alexander, a bull with gilded horns; likewise to the divi, totalling 20, wethers — 20.
Naphtali Lewis and Meyer Reinhold, Roman Civilization, Volume II: Selected Readings, 3rd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), p. 518 (CIL VI.2065, lines 15-40; ILS 5037; 87 A.D.):
In the consulship of Gaius Bellicus Natalis Tebianus and Gaius Decenius Proculus, May 19, in the grove of Dea Dia, during the mastership of Gaius Nonius Bassus Salvus Liberalis, the Arval Brethren made a sacrifice to Dea Dia. Gaius Salvus Liberalis, acting master in place of Gaius Julius Silanus, before the grove sacrificed on the altar two expiatory sows for the pruning and the work done in the grove; then he sacrificed a white honorary cow to Dea Dia. Gaius Salvius Liberalis Nonnius Bassus, Lucius Maecius Postumus, Aulus Julius Quadratus, Publius Sallustius Blaesus, Quintus Tillius Sassius sat down in the tetrastyle and dined from the sacrifice, and assuming their purple-bordered robes and wreaths with ears of grain and fillets, they ascended the grove of Dea Dia to the retreat, and through Salvius Liberalis Nonius Bassus, acting master, and Quintus Tillius Sassius, acting flamen, they sacrificed a fat lamb to Dea Dia, and when they had completed the sacrifice they all offered incense and wine. then, after the wreaths were brought in and the images were anointed, they made Quintus Tillius Sassius annual master from the coming Saturnalis to the next, likewise Tiberius Julius Celsus Marius Candidus flamen; then they descended to the tetrastyle and there, reclining on couches, they dined in honor of[?] the master Gaius Julius Silanus. After the banquet, veiled and wearing sandals and a wreath plaited with roses, he ascended to the retreat above the starting point and sent a signal to the charioteers and acrobats, who were supervised by Lucius Maecius Postumus; he honored the victors with palms and silver wreaths. On the same day at Rome at the home of Gaius Julius Silanus the same persons dined as had dined in the grove.
Jesse Benedict Carter, "Arval Brothers," in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, Volume II (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), pp. 7-11 (at 10, translating CIL VI.2014; ILS 5039; 218 A.D.):
Likewise on the fourth day before the Kalends of June (May 29), in the grove of the Dea Dia, Alfenius Avitianus, the vice-magister, sacrificed at the altar two young sows, an offering of expiation for the cutting of the grove and the work thus done, and then he sacrificed a heifer in honour of the Dea Dia, and going to the Tetrastylum he sat in his chair. Then returning to the altar, he offered the exta of the young sows.


Sunday, June 12, 2011


How Would You Recognize a God?

Jörg Rüpke, Religion of the Romans, tr. Richard Gordon (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), p. 73:
How would you recognize a god if you met one in the street? By the features I just mentioned: size, beauty, attributes; or by the divine scent that drifts about him (important in antiquity, a world without deodorants); or by his strangely radiant face.
By "attributes" Rüpke means (p. 75) "signs (objects) that regularly accompanied the image of a deity: at Rome, say, Jupiter's thunderbolt or his eagle, Minerva's owl, the helmet of Mars or Roma, the cornucopiae of Annona or a Genius."

On size, beauty, and attributes in epiphanies see the fake epiphany described by Herodotus 1.60.4-5 (tr. A.D. Godley):
There was in the Paeanian deme a woman called Phya, three fingers short of four cubits in stature, and for the rest fair to look upon. This woman they equipped in full armour, and put her in a chariot, giving her all such appurtenances as would make the seemliest show, and when they came into the town made proclamation as they were charged, bidding the Athenians "to give a hearty welcome to Pisistratus, whom Athene herself honoured beyond all men and was bringing back to her own citadel." So the heralds went about and spoke thus: immediately it was reported in the demes that Athene was bringing Pisistratus back, and the townfolk, persuaded that the woman was indeed the goddess, worshipped this creature and welcomed Pisistratus.
On sweet odors in epiphanies see Euripides, Hippolytus 1391-1393 (tr. David Kovacs):
O breath of divine fragrance! Though I am in misfortune I feel your presence and my body's pain is lightened. The goddess Artemis is in this place!

ὦ θεῖον ὀσμῆς πνεῦμα· καὶ γὰρ ἐν κακοῖς
ὢν ᾐσθόμην σου κἀνεκουφίσθην δέμας·
ἔστ' ἐν τόποισι τοισίδ' Ἄρτεμις θεά.
and Vergil, Aeneid 1.403-404 (of Venus, tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
From her head her ambrosial tresses breathed celestial fragrance.

ambrosiaeque comae divinum vertice odorem
and Ovid, Fasti 5.376 (of the goddess Flora, tr. James George Frazer):
A fragrance lingered; you could know a goddess had been there.

mansit odor: posses scire fuisse deam.

Newer›  ‹Older

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