Wednesday, January 16, 2013


We Know Our Ignorance

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), A Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1848), pp. vii-viii:
We are ashamed to say, that we know less of Greek, in one sense of the word, than we did when young, and are obliged to look out more words in the dictionary; for to a dictionary we are still forced to resort, though we love the language next to Italian, and hold it in higher admiration. But then we know our ignorance better than we did at that time; are more aware of beauties to be enjoyed, and nice meanings to be discovered; and the consequence is, that whenever we undertake to translate a passage from Greek, we take our love on one side of us, and our dictionary on the other, and before we set about it, make a point of sifting every possible meaning and root of meaning, not excepting those in words the most familiar to us, in order that not an atom of the writer's intention may be missed. We do not say, of course, that we always succeed in detecting it; but it is not for want of painstaking.

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