Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Disappearance of Latin

Kingsley Amis (1922-1995), "Disappearance of Latin," in The King's English: A Guide to Modern Usage (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998), pp. 51-56 (at 51-52):
My own career is a good example of many things, but none more than in my experience of the language and the literature of Ancient Rome. Like millions of my fellows, I was brought up in the 1930s to study Latin. When I was seventeen I switched to English, which nevertheless meant that I continued to study the classics, though less inflexibly than before. When I secured an award in English and went up to Oxford in 1941 I had the advantage of a classical training, for all that it seldom felt like any sort of advantage at the time.

The foregoing is a mere exordium in that I have no intention of going on to say that to have studied Latin is in itself somehow good for you or for your English style. It is not that a knowledge of Latin protects anybody from making mistakes about the meaning of English words, because the meanings of words are not fixed, they change in and after their move from one language to another. It is true that defendo means 'I defend,' but a muscle is not a little mouse, which etymologically it is, nor is a pencil what its origins declare it to be, a doubly small penis. Neither is it the case that, as schoolmasters are supposed to have thought or said at one time, one was helped to think by mastering that language, as if it were a course of mental gymnastics. Nevertheless the student of Latin, as of any considerable dead language, must constantly be trying to choose the right word to give the meaning of a Latin expression in English or an English expression in Latin. And if the writing of English generally is in decline, as many would say it is, we may be tempted to say that people no longer try to choose the right word as they once did. They often got it wrong, but they tried. Do they now?

Something like the foregoing sketch might be developed to accompany an analysis of English poetry as written over the last fifty years or so. If this is seen as having become not only less formally organised but less exact in its expression, then the loss of Latin has surely had a hand in the matter somewhere. Again, I do not simply mean that an acquaintance with Propertius or Catullus in the original is beneficial to any sort of poet, though I think I do think so, but just as simply that translation into and out of Latin verse calls for exactness, and that that quality is demanded in the writing of poetry as nowhere else. Exactness, by the way, is to be understood as applying to more than denotation: a word or phrase must be suitable to its context, so that a dialectal or slang term, for instance, is on the whole unlikely to fit well into a passage of high seriousness — except for special effect, as teachers used to add.

The chances are that no particular virtue attaches to Latin as a language, although its role in our culture is unique and uniquely important. Any dead language will do as the kind of trainer I mean, such as Ancient Greek or, were it copious enough and intelligible, Etruscan. But deadness is necessary. A living language is by definition unfixed, in a state of continuous development and change, adapting and often dropping dialecticisms, provincialisms, technical terms, slang of all sorts, foreign expressions and more. It has no choice but to be useless as any sort of example.

The preceding paragraphs are no doubt speculative. What follows is all too manifest. Not just Latin itself has disappeared but in many cases any certain knowledge of what it was. A phrase like mutatis mutandis, apart from being offensively unintelligible to almost every British person, will be taken as a bit of Italian or French or (it's tempting to add) Choctaw rather than Latin. You come across it on old gravestones and monks used to sing it, or in it. The rest is silence. Latin is not only dead but cancelled.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.



James M. Pfundstein:
Loebsprache: "language one would only see on the English side of a Loeb edition."


After Construing

A.C. Benson (1862-1925), "After Construing":
Lord Caesar, when you sternly wrote
    The story of your grim campaigns,
And watched the ragged smoke-wreath float
    Above the burning plains,

Amid the impenetrable wood,      5
    Amid the camp's incessant hum,
At eve, beside the tumbling flood
    In high Avaricum,

You little recked, imperious head,
    When shrilled your shattering trumpet's noise,     10
Your frigid sections would be read
    By bright-eyed English boys.

Ah me! who penetrates to-day
    The secret of your deep designs?
Your sovereign visions, as you lay     15
    Amid the sleeping lines?

The Mantuan singer pleading stands;
    From century to century
He leans and reaches wistful hands,
    And cannot bear to die.     20

But you are silent, secret, proud,
    No smile upon your haggard face,
As when you eyed the murderous crowd
    Beside the statue's base.

I marvel: that Titanic heart     25
    Beats strongly through the arid page,
And we, self-conscious sons of art,
    In this bewildering age,

Like dizzy revellers stumbling out
    Upon the pure and peaceful night,     30
Are sobered into troubled doubt,
    As swims across our sight

The ray of that sequestered sun,
    Far in the illimitable blue,—
The dream of all you left undone,     35
    Of all you dared to do.
8 Avaricum: Attacked by Julius Caesar, defended by Vercingetorix in 52 B.C. (De Bello Gallico 7.15-31)
17 Mantuan singer: Vergil

Monday, April 29, 2013


A Classical Alphabet

[Percival Leigh (1813-1889)], Paul Prendergast; or, The Comic Schoolmaster (In Three Parts.), Comprising a New and Facetious Introduction to the English Language; Arithmetic; and the Classics (London: Ward & Lock, 1858), Part I, pp. 14-15:
The English letters are twenty-six in number. There is nothing like beginning at the beginning; and we shall now therefore enumerate them, with the view also of rendering their insertion subsidiary to mythological instruction, in conformity with the plan on which some account of the Heathen Deities and ancient heroes is prefixed or subjoined to a Dictionary. We present the reader with a form of Alphabet composed in humble imitation of that famous one, which, while appreciable by the dullest taste, and level to the meanest capacity, is nevertheless that by which the greatest minds have been agreeably inducted into knowledge.

                THE ALPHABET.

A was Apollo, the god of the carol,
B stood for Bacchus, astride on his barrel;
C for good Ceres, the goddess of grist,
D was Diana, that wouldn't be kiss'd;
E was nymph Echo, that pined to a sound,
F was sweet Flora, with buttercups crown'd;
G was Jove's pot-boy, young Ganymede hight,
H was fair Hebe, his barmaid so tight;
I, little Io, turn'd into a cow,
J, jealous Juno, that spiteful old sow;
K was Kitty, more lovely than goddess or muse;
L, Laocoon—I would'nt have been in his shoes!
M was blue-eyed Minerva, with stockings to match,
N was Nestor, with grey beard and silvery thatch;
O was lofty Olympus, King Jupiter's shop,
P, Parnassus, Apollo hung out on its top;
Q stood for Quirites, the Romans, to wit;
R, for rantipole Roscius, that made such a hit;
S, for Sappho, so famous for felo-de-se,
T, for Thales the wise, F.R.S. and M.D.
U was crafty Ulysses, so artful a dodger,
V was hop-a-kick Vulcan, that limping old codger;
Wenus—Venus I mean—with a W begins,
(Vell, if I ham a Cockney, wot need of your grins?)
X was Xantippe, the scratch-cat and shrew,
Y, I don't know what Y was, whack me if I do!
Z was Zeno the Stoic, Zenobia the clever,
And Zoilus the critic, Victoria for ever!


Hic, Haec, Hoc

[Percival Leigh (1813-1889)], The Comic Latin Grammar; A New and Facetious Introduction to the Latin Tongue (London: Charles Tilt, 1840), pp. 25-26:
The nominative singular's hic, haec, and hoc,—
Which, to learn, has cost school-boys full many a knock;
The genitive's hujus, the dative makes huic,
(A fact Mr. Squeers never mentioned to Smike);
Then hunc, hanc, and hoc, the accusative makes,
The vocative—caret—no very great shakes;
The ablative case maketh hôc, hac, and hôc,
A cock is a fowl—but a fowl's not a cock,
The nominative plural is hi, hae, and haec,
The Roman young ladies were dressed à la Grecque;
The genitive case horum, harum, and horum,
Silenus and Bacchus were fond of a jorum;
The dative in all the three genders is his,
At Actium his tip did Mark Antony miss:
The accusative's hos, has, and haec in all grammars,
Herodotus told some American crammers;
The vocative here also—caret—'s no go,
As Milo found rending an oak-tree, you know;
And his, like the dative, the ablative case is,
The Furies had most disagreeable faces.


Humor in Greek Grammar and Lexicon

T. Selby Henrey, Good Stories from Oxford and Cambridge: The Saving Grace of Humour (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd., 1919), pp. 86-87 (ellipses in original):
In the Homeric Grammar by D. B. Monro, late Provost of Oriel, the following words are to be found on page 7: "Meaning of the Middle ... (2) The use in which the agent is the direct object of the action, as λούο-μαιI wash myself. This is comparatively rare." It is current in Oxford that an undergrad first detected the humorous side of this sentence.

Where is humour to be found in the Lexicon? Under the word "σῡκοφάντης, a common informer—sycophants began to multiply from the time of Pericles. Derived from ... one who informed against persons exporting figs from Attica....But this explanation is probably a mere figment."3

My attention was directed to the following Greek word by Mr. Hubert Brinton, M.A., in his sanctuary at Eton. If a prize were offered for the noun which has adapted itself to the greatest number of things, it could surely be claimed by the complaisant word σκινδαψός, as described in Liddell and Scott: I. a four-stringed musical instrument....2. a word without a meaning....II. an ivy-like tree....III. an unknown bird....IV. a what d'ye call it...."

"Once a freshman, being examined by Dr. Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, in Hall, gave a very curious translation of a Greek word. 'Where did you get that from?' asked the Dean. 'Liddell and Scott,' was the prompt answer. 'It must have been Scott then: it wasn't I,' said the Dean."1

Oxford men have been heard to say that, when Liddell and Scott's Lexicon was first published, it contained not a few touches of hidden humour, which were deleted in later editions—one explanation of this being that Scott smuggled them in and Liddell was too matter of fact to detect them.

3 See Liddell and Scott's Lexicon, 1869 ed.

1 Rev. F. Arnold.
Hat tip: Alan Crease, who writes, "BTW – the 'unknown bird' is, sadly, no longer in my edition of L&S (9th edition, 1953) as a possible meaning of the skindapsos."

Update (September 30, 2013). Christopher Stray writes:
L and S7 has the entry as described, except that 'IV' is not there, and 'what d'ye call it' is within 2.

Henrey is fun, but not reliable.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Da Mihi Calix

Johann Adelphus Muling, "Facetiae Adelphinae," no. 9, in Margarita Facetiarum Alfonsi Aragonum Regis Vafre Dicta... (Strasbourg: Grüninger, 1508), the Latin and an English translation in One Hundred Renaissance Jokes: An Anthology, ed. Barbara C. Bowen (Birmingham: Summa Publications, Inc., 1988), pp. 46-47:
De aedituo qui erat doctior suo sacerdote
Edituus quidam ministrans ad altare suo plebano viro admodum agresti & indocto. Cum tandem tempore offertorij calicem peteret: dixit. Vbi est calicem. Cui aedituus: domine non sic: sed calix dicendum est: tunc subdit plebanus. Da mihi calix. Cui aedituus: domine non sic dicendum est: sed calicem. Ad quem tum sacerdos. Abi hinc: in malam crucem: cum tua logica. gib mir den kelch her.1

Of the Sacristan who was more learned than his Priest
A certain sacristan was serving at the altar for his priest, a very rough and ignorant man. When it was time for the offertory and the priest asked for the chalice, he said: "Where is the calicem?" The sacristan replied: "My lord, that is not correct; you should say calix." Then the priest said: "Give me the calix." The sacristan said: "My lord, you should not say calix but calicem." The priest said, "To hell with you and your logic. Give me the damned chalice."1

1 This joke makes little sense in English, but it is very funny in the original. The point is that in the priest's first sentence he should use "chalice" in the nominative, calix, while in the second sentence it should be accusative, calicem. This is an elementary mistake, proving his almost complete ignorance of the Latin he is supposed to use every day. He thereupon falls back on his native German: "gib mir den kelch her."
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


The Plagiarist

John Donne (1572-1631), Satyre II, lines 25-30:
But hee is worst, who (beggarly) doth chaw
Others wits fruits, and in his ravenous maw
Rankly digested, doth those things out-spue,
As his owne things; and they are his owne, 'tis true,
For if one eate my meate, though it be knowne
The meate was mine, th'excrement is his owne.


Sepulcri Inmemor Struis Domos

Charles Mackay (1812-1889), "The Two Houses":
"'Twill overtask a thousand men,
    With all their strength and skill,
To build my lord ere New Year's eve
    His castle on the hill."
"Then take two thousand," said my lord,
    "And labour with a will."

They wrought, these glad two thousand men,
    But long ere winter gloom,
My lord had found a smaller house,
    And dwelt in one dark room:
And one man built it in one day,
    While the bells rang ding, dong, boom!
Shut up the door! shut up the door!
    Shut up the door till Doom!
Lucian, Charon 17 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
Yonder is a man building his house, urging the workmen to use all dispatch. How would he take the news, that he was just to see the roof on and all complete, when he would have to take his departure, and leave all the enjoyment to his heir?—hard fate, not once to sup beneath it!

Saturday, April 27, 2013


The Caste System

Charles Mackay (1812-1889), Under the Blue Sky (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low and Searle, 1871), pp. 2-3:
Though the rich may not know it or wish it, there is almost as great a distinction of "caste" in England as there is in India. It is something more than money that divides the rich from the poor, and the poor from the rich; and something else than money or education—or the absence of one or both—that separates trades from each other, or one class of work-people from another; and it is exceedingly difficult for one whose dress, manners, and conversation mark him as belonging to the professional, commercial, or gentlemanly classes to establish friendly and intimate relations with the peasantry and lower orders of labourers, or to get at the secrets of their moral and intellectual life. To call upon poor working people in their homes, suggests to them that you have a "mission "—religious or otherwise—to reform or lecture them, and they immediately—whether male or female—put on a mental armour to defy you. They do not like to be preached at, or lectured, or patronised, by "unco' guid" or "rigidly righteous" people; and though they will most likely take your money if you offer it, you will get but little insight into their mode of life or habits of thought, if you talk to them for a twelvemonth. They are on their guard against you, and will not admit you into their confidence, strive as hard as you may. If you sit with them in their beerhouses, they discover at a glance, in whatever way you may have dressed yourself, that you are not one of them; and they look upon you as a flock of sheep might look upon a wolf, or a congregation of crows upon an alien magpie, who had obtruded into their clan or companionship.


The Gospel of the Body

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Far from the Madding Crowd, chapter XXII (Joseph Poorgrass speaking):
"Yes; victuals and drink is a cheerful thing, and gives nerves to the nerveless, if the form of words may be used. 'Tis the gospel of the body, without which he perish, so to speak it."


Tree Legends

C. Grant Loomis (1901-1963), White Magic: An Introduction to the Folklore of Christian Legend (Cambridge: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1948), p. 49:
Fallen trees arose again at the request of several saints.56 Contrarily, trees were felled by miraculous means. Builders wished to use a tree for a timber, but it leaned in such a direction that its fall would make it useless. Samthanne's girdle was placed at a point opposite to the arboreal inclination, and the tree fell contrary to the pull of gravity.57 Valery felled a tree by the touch of his finger.58 Divination derived from falling trees appears in the legend of Maedoc. This saint sat with Lasrianus in the shade of two trees. They asked heaven to show them whether they should stay together or whether they should take different routes. Whereupon, the two trees fell, one to the south and the other to the north in answer to their question.59 John of Dailam felled a thousand trees with one sweep of his ax.60 Beams bowed down to Salaberga,61 and a tree leaned and became a bridge in the legend of Cadoc.62
Notes on p. 167:
56. AASS: Mochoemus, Mar., II, 286, col, 1; Ruadanus, Apr., II, 385, col. 2; and Carthacus, May, III, 387, col. 1. See also, Eanswida, Horstman, I, 298; Cronan, Plummer, II, 29; and Philip, Apostle, Budge, I, 259.
57. Plummer, II, 257.
58. Petits Boll.IV, 107.
59. Plummer, II, 143.
60. Budge, I, 170.
61. AASS, Sept., VI, 528, col. 1.
62. Rees, Cambro British Saints, p. 79.

Id., pp. 94-95:
One of the most familiar phenomenon of folklore is the miracle of the flowering staff. This sort of white magic is the most common of a variety of spectacles which are based upon an unexpected or unseasonable flourishing of plant life or other natural excrescences. The saint thrust his staff into the ground at some opportune moment, and his saintliness was revealed by the immediate bursting forth of leaves. In most instances the growth was continued until the mature tree was produced.1 Although the pastoral staff was the usual object of this miracle, any piece of dry wood served as well. A dry fagot sprouted in token of John Gualbertus' holiness;2 Andrew caused a dead elm to come back to verdant life;3 and Joseph's staff was broken into a number of segments, each of which took root, put forth leaves, and emitted a sweet perfume.4 In George's legend, a piece of dried wood sprouted inside a house.5 John the Short's patience was rewarded, for the piece of old wood which he planted and watered each day finally came back to life after three years of faithful attention.6 The place where Benignus' staff bloomed was a sign to him to settle at that designated site.7

Dead trees and wood fashioned into various objects show astounding growth in a variety of miracles. Coleta caused an entire forest to come into rapid existence.8 Many withered and dead trees suddenly blossomed at a saint's command.9 George Chozebitae made a sterile palm produce fruit.10 A fig tree moistened by the blood of Narsete, Joseph, and their companions blossomed immediately.11 John the Good caused a partly burned stick to flourish again.12 The board upon which Fina lay flowered.13 When Eusebia was whipped with a birch branch, one of the twigs fell, took root, and grew to a stately tree.14 A dry log besprinkled with Aelphege's blood became flourishing over night.15 When Brigida touched a wooden altar it showed immediate signs of life.16 Rapid growth is exemplified a number of times. In the legend of Yves, the trunks of certain trees which had been cut down for the building of a new church each sprouted three new trees over night, so that in place of twenty trees which were cut, sixty equally large were found.17 A miracle of Pantaleon is most remarkable. One day, he planted a tree at dawn. By evening, the tree had grown tall, dried up, been cut down, been burned for charcoal, and had been made ready for the censer.18 A tree grew upon the stone of Coleta's window.19 Withered or storm-damaged grape-vines were restored by Clarus, Bartholomew, and Garima.20

The metamorphosis of one tree into another occurs several times. Samthanne changed a willow into a pine tree.21 Apple bearing willows are found in the legends of Lugidius and Lawrence of Dublin.22 The unseasonable flourishing of many trees and shrubs which produce in winter a variety of fruits is a miracle often told.23
Notes on pp. 205-206:
1. AASS: Sabinian, Jan., II, 939, col. 1; Thiadilda, Jan., II, 1158, col. 2; Severus, Feb., I, 189, col. 2; Vedastus, Feb., I, 811, col. 2; Tresanus, Feb., II, 54, col. 1; Charalampius, Feb., II, 386, col. 1; Basiliscus, Mar., I, 239, col. 1; Senan, Mar., I, 762, col. 1; Eusebia, Mar., II, 456, col. 1; Guig- nerus, Mar., III, 459, col. 1; John, Hermit, Mar., III, 699, col. 1; Theodulphus, May, I, 97, col. 1; Dorothea, May, III, 511, col. 1; Alena, June, III, 391, col. 2; Hartwick, June, VI, 1, 132, col. 1; Sidronius, July, III, 182, col. 2; Kinga, July, V, 714, col. 2; John Agno, July, VI, 226, col. 2; Ninian, Sept., V, 325, col. 2; Gummarus, Oct., V, 685, col. 2; John Colobo, Oct., VIII, 40, col. 1; Peter of Alcantara, Oct., VIII, 656, col. 2 and 730, col. 2; John the Good, Oct., IX, 719, col. 1; Martin, Abbot, Oct., X, col. 1; Cungarus, Nov., III, 406, col. 1; and Benignus, Nov., IV, 148, col. 1 and 169, col. 2. See also, Monon, Analecta Bollandiana, V, 198; Paul Tricastinensis, ibid., XI, 376; Aldhelm, Horstmann, I, 40; Edwold ibid., I, 363; Elphege, ibid., I, 389; Etheldreda, ibid., I, 425; Indractus, ibid., II, 57; Gregory Thaumaturgus, Surius, XI, 561; Gereboldus, J, Gielemans, De Cod., p. 108; Volusien, Petits Boll., II, 488; Oreus, ibid., V, 181; Germier, ibid., V, 573; Christopher, Budge, III, 776; Joseph, ibid., III, 911; and Kenelm, Caxton, IV, 63.
2. AASS, July, III, 345, col. 2.
3. AASS, Feb., III, 662, col. 1. See 'Arsatos, Budge, III, 844.
4. Budge, III, 924.
5. Ibid., III, 826.
6. Ibid., I, 172.
7. Horstmann, I, 112.
8. AASS, Mar., I, 547, col. 1.
9. AASS: Gudila, Jan., I, 518, col. 2; Finian, Mar., II, 447, col. 1; Michael de Barga, Apr., III, 981, col. 1; John, May, II, 50, col. 2; Magdalena, May, III, 258, col. 1; Carthacus, May, III, 376, col. 1; Eneconis, June, I, 115, col. 2; Bardo, June, II, 318, col. 2; Rumold, July, I, 246, col. 1; Radegundis, Aug., III, 73, col. 2; Colman, Oct., VI, 350, col. 1; Teresia, Oct., VII, 364, col. 1; Bertrandus, Oct., VII, 1178, col. 2; and John the Good, Oct., IX, 758, col. 2.
10. Analecta Bollandiana, VII, 102. See Bononius, AASS, Oct., VI, 631, col. 2.
11. AASS, Nov., IV, 422, col. 2.
12. AASS, Oct., IX, 761, col. 2.
13. AASS, Mar., II, 238, col. 2.
14. Baring-Gould, III, 280.
15. Matthew of Westminster, Flowers of History, A.D. 1011.
16. Horstmann, The Lives of Women Saints, EETS, p. 41.
17. A. le Grand, p. 170. See also, Genoveva, AASS, Jan., I, 141, col. 2.
18. Budge, I, 117. See also, Columba ab Hiensi, AASS, June, II, 214, col. 2.
19. AASS, Mar., I, 611, col. 2.
20. AASS, Jan., I, 56, col. 1; Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, p. 98 and Budge, IV, 1010.
21. Plummer, II, 257.
22. AASS, Aug., I, 351, col. 1 and Surius, XI, 484. See also, Maglorius, Analecta Bollandiana, VIII, 377; and Kevin, Giraldus Cambrensis, The Topography of Ireland, Bk. II, c. 8.
23. See the relationship of this miracle to the materials of romance in my article, "Sir Cleges and Unseasonable Growth in Hagiology," Modern Language Notes, LIV, 591-594 (1938), where numerous examples are given.

Id., p. 130:
Gummar journied on his pilgrimage to Rome. One night, he cut down a tree to serve him as a pillow. The owner of the tree was very angry that the saint had destroyed his property. However, Gummar set up the tree again, tied on the branches with his girdle, and the tree grew as it did before.61
Note on p. 221:
61. Baring-Gould, XI, 284.

I'm too tired to give full references. See Loomis' bibliography on pp. 135-136.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Barbarians, Butter, and Trousers

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 18.27.105 (tr. H. Rackham):
Some use eggs or milk in kneading the dough, while even butter has been used by races enjoying peace, when attention can be devoted to the varieties of pastry-making.
In Latin:
quidam ex ovis aut lacte subigunt, butyro vero gentes etiam pacatae, ad operis pistorii genera transeunte cura.
Richard T. Bruère, Classical Philology 48 (1953) 119, objected to Rackham's rendering:
But Pliny wishes to say that barbarian tribes (gentes), even after they have been subdued and incorporated into the Empire (pacatae), persist in using butter, actually employing it in pastry-making, a practice to which in their new status they have begun to turn their attention [presumably from petty warfare and marauding], much as an Eskimo, after learning about baking cakes from contact with white men, might nevertheless remain faithful to his traditional seal blubber, shortening his pastry with it, rather than with lard or Mazola.
I wonder if Pliny might have written bracatae (trousered) instead of pacatae (pacified). Barbarians have odd customs, like wearing trousers and eating butter. Take the Thracians, for example. Anaxandrides, fragment 42, line 8 (preserved in Athenaeus 4.131 b) calls the Thracians ἄνδρας βουτυροφάγους (butter-eating men), and Ovid, in exile among the Thracians, mentions their trousers (e.g. Tristia 3.10.19: pellibus et sutis arcent mala frigora bracis, and 4.6.47: vulgus adest Scythicum bracataque turba Getarum). Among the trouser-wearing Gauls (Cicero, Letters to His Friends 9.15; Diodorus Siculus 5.30.1; etc.), the Burgundians smeared butter on their hair as a pomade (Sidonius Apollinaris, Carmina 12.7: infundens acido comam butyro), and Anthimus, in his treatise De Observatione Ciborum, addressed to Theudoric, a Frankish king in the vicinity of Rheims, recommended butter as a cure for consumption (77: similiter et de butiro recente si acceperit pthisicus). On the Gallic provenance of Anthimus' treatise see J.N. Adams, The Regional Diversification of Latin 200 BC - AD 600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 329-335.


The Prayer of the Mammonites

Charles Mackay (1812-1889), "The Prayer of the Mammonites":
Six days we give thee heart and brain;
In grief or pleasure, joy or pain,
Thou art our guide, O god of Gain!

And on the seventh, although we kneel
At other altars, and conceal,
For fashion's sake, the love we feel;

'Tis but our outward looks that pray;
Our inward thoughts are far away,
And give thee homage night and day,

Though often at a purer shrine
Our thoughts and actions disincline,
We're never hypocrites at thine.

Oh, no! we love thee far too well,
More than our words can ever tell,
With passion indestructible.

When thou art kind, all Earth is fair,
Men's eyes incessant homage glare,
Their tongues perennial flatteries bear.

But when thou frownest, all men frown;
We dwell among the stricken-down,
The scum and by-word of the town.

Though we are good, and wise and true,
Deprived of thee, men look askew:
We have no merit in their view.

Though we have wit and eloquence,
The world denies us common sense,
If thou no golden shower dispense.

But mean, bad, stupid, all the three—
It matters not whate'er we be,
We have all Virtue, having thee.

Men hold us in their hearts enshrined,
To all our faults their eyes are blind,
We are the salt of humankind.

If we are old, they call us young;
And if we speak with foolish tongue,
The praises of our wit are sung.

If we are ugly, gold can buy
Charms to adorn us in the eye
Of universal flattery.

If we are crooked, we grow straight—
If lame, we have Apollo's gait,
Seen in thy light, O Potentate!

Shine on us, Mammon, evermore—
Send us increase of golden store—
That we may worship and adore;

And that by look, and voice, and pen
We may be glorified of men,
And praise thy name. Amen! Amen.

Related posts:

Thursday, April 25, 2013


The Blue-Devil-Hunting Crew

Peter Pindar, i.e. John Wolcot (1738-1819), Ode X, from The Rights of Kings; or, Loyal Odes to Disloyal Academicians:
"Man may be happy, if he will:"
I've said it often, and I think so still:
Doctrine to make the million stare!
Know then, each mortal is an actual Jove;
Can brew what weather he shall most approve,
Or wind, or calm, or foul, or fair.

But here's the mischief—man's an ass, I say;
Too fond of thunder, lightning, storm, and rain;
He hides the charming, cheerful ray
That spreads a smile o'er hill and plain!
Dark, he must court the scull, and spade, and shroud—
The mistress of his soul must be a cloud!

Who told him that he must be cursed on earth?
The God of Nature?—No such thing;
Heaven whispered him, the moment of his birth,
"Don't cry, my lad, but dance and sing;
Don't be too wise, and be an ape:—
In colours let thy soul be dressed, not crape.

"Roses shall smooth life's journey, and adorn;
Yet mind me—if, through want of grace,
Thou mean'st to fling the blessing in my face,
Thou hast full leave to tread upon a thorn."

Yet some there are, of men, I think the worst,
Poor imps! unhappy, if they can't be cursed—
For ever brooding over Misery's eggs,
As though life's pleasure were a deadly sin;
Mousing for ever for a gin
To catch their happinesses by the legs.

Even at a dinner some will be unblessed,
However good the viands, and well dressed:
They always come to table with a scowl,
Squint with a face of verjuice o'er each dish,
Fault the poor flesh, and quarrel with the fish,
Curse cook and wife, and, loathing, eat and growl.

A cart-load, lo, their stomachs steal,
Yet swear they cannot make a meal.
I like not the blue-devil-hunting crew!
I hate to drop the discontented jaw!
O let me Nature's simple smile pursue,
And pick even pleasure from a straw.
In the second stanza, "scull" is skull, and in the fifth stanza, "gin" means trap.

Related posts:


The Toper and the Flies

Thanks to Ian Jackson for tracking down the probable source of Peter Pindar's verses about the toper who removed flies from the shared punch bowl and then put them back in after taking a drink. The story appears in Ottmarus Luscinius (1487-1536), Ioci ac Sales Mire Festivi (1524), no. CLXVIIII. Latin text and English translation are in One Hundred Renaissance Jokes: An Anthology, ed. Barbara C. Bowen (Birmingham: Summa Publications, Inc., 1988), pp. 61-62 (joke no. 66):
Propinans quidam in conuiuio amicis, muscas quae in calicem casu inciderant extrahens, accepta potione, reiecit in uinum, quod cum graviter & iniquo animo ferrent conuiuae. Ego, inquit, muscas odi in poculis, at fieri potest ut uobis haec condimenta sint plurimum grata. Extat de hoc ioco Mori epigramma:
Muscas è cratere tulit conuiua priusquàm.
Ipse bibit, reddit rursus, ut ipse bibit.
Addidit & causam, muscas ego non amo dixit,
Sed tamen è uobis, nescio, num quis amet.6
A man, drinking a toast at a dinner with friends, took out the flies which had happened to fall into the cup, and, after he had drunk, dropped them back into the wine, which seriously annoyed the other guests. "I hate flies in cups," he said, "but it might happen that you find such seasoning very agreeable." There is an epigram by Sir Thomas More about this joke:
The guest took the flies out of the wine-cup
Before he drank, and put them back as he drank.
He gave this reason: "I do not like flies,
But I don't know, maybe one of you might."6
6 Is this the first "Waiter-there's-a-fly-in-my-soup" joke? Luscinius quotes More's epigram 115 ("Ridiculum in ministrum") correctly, except for the punctuation: there should not be a period at the end of the first line.
Here is an image of the joke in Luscinius' book:

Bowen (p. 61) cites the joke as no. 168 in Luscinius' collection, but the image shows that it is really no. 169 (CLXVIIII).

An English version of Luscinius' joke appears in Certayne Conceyts and Jeasts (1614), no. 33. See W. Carew Hazlitt, Shakespeare Jest-Books; Reprints of the Early and Very Rare Jest-Books Supposed to Have Been Used by Shakespeare (London: Willis & Sotheran, 1864; rpt. New York: Burt Franklin, [1964]), in Vol. III:
A certaine conceyted Traueller being at a Banquet, where chanced a flye to fall into his cuppe, which hee (being to drinke) tooke out for himselfe, and afterwards put in againe for his fellow: being demanded his reason, answered, that for his owne part he affected them not, but it might be some other did.

There is extant to this Ieast, an Epigram of Syr Thomas Moores, which I haue here inserted, as followeth:

Muscas è Cratere tulit Conuiua, priusquam
Ipse bibit: reddit rursus vt ipse bibit;
Addidit et causam; muscas ego non amo, dixit;
Sed tamen e vobis nescio an quis amat.

Which I English thus:—

Out of his Glasse, one tooke a Flye,
In earnest or in ieast
I cannot tell; but hauing drunke,
Return'd it to the rest.

And for hee would offencelesse seeme,
Hee shewed his reason too:
Although I loue them not my selfe,
It may bee some heere doo.
The joke, with More's epigram, also appears in other collections, e.g. Johann Adam Weber, Annulus Memoriae ex Dictaminibus Ethicis Et Politicis (Salzburg: J.B. Mayr, 1679), p. 193, and Pierre-Joseph du Bois, Eruditionis tam Sacrae quam Prophanae Gazophylacium (Augsburg: M. Rieger, 1754), p. 541.

Charles Mackay, in Dickens' All the Year Round No. 454 (January 4, 1686) 89, called the house-fly a "veritable dipsomaniac," and the problem of flies in the wine seems to be a perennial one. See Tom Standage, A History of the World in 6 Glasses (New York: Walker & Company, 2006), p. 45, where there is an illustration of "Ashurnasirpal II seated in state, holding a shallow wine bowl. Attendants on either side hold flyswatters to keep flies away from the king and his wine":

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Others Might

Peter Pindar, i.e. John Wolcot (1738-1819), "The Toper and the Flies":
A group of topers at a table sat,
With punch that much regales the thirsty soul:
Flies soon the party joined, and joined the chat,
Humming, and pitching round the mantling bowl.

At length those flies got drunk, and for their sin,
Some hundreds lost their legs, and tumbled in;
And sprawling 'midst the gulph profound,
Like Pharoah and his daring host, were drowned!

Wanting to drink—one of the men
Dipped from the bowl the drunken host,
And drank—then taking care that none were lost,
He put in every mother's son agen.

Up jumped the Bacchanalian crew on this,
Taking it very much amiss—
Swearing, and in the attitude to smite:—
"Lord!" cried the man, with gravely-lifted eyes,
"Though I don't like to swallow flies,
I did not know but others might."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


See Fierce Bigots Rise

Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824), The Landscape, II.380-387:
                                  See fierce bigots rise!      380
Faith in their mouths, and fury in their eyes;
With mystic spells and charms encompass'd round,
And creeds obscure, to puzzle and confound;
While boding prophets in hoarse notes foretell
The ripen'd vengeance of wide-gaping hell;      385
And pledging round the chalice of their ire,
Scatter the terrors of eternal fire.


Cherish the Weeds

Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824), The Landscape, II.186-199:
But here again, ye rural nymphs, oppose
Nature's and Art's confederated foes!
Break their fell scythes, that would these beauties shave,
And sink their iron rollers in the wave!
Your favourite plants, and native haunts protect,      190
In wild obscurity, and rude neglect;
Or teach proud man his labour to employ
To form and decorate, and not destroy;
Teach him to place, and not remove the stone
On yonder bank, with moss and fern o'ergrown;      195
To cherish, not mow down, the weeds that creep
Along the shore, or overhang the steep;
To break, not level, the slow-rising ground,
And guard, not cut, the fern that shades it round.
On "iron rollers" (line 189), see Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. roller, n.1, sense 4.a: "A heavy cylinder of wood, stone, or (now usually) metal, fitted in a frame with shafts or a handle, used for flattening and smoothing the ground, crushing clods of earth, etc."


Amidst Books and Solitude

Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824), The Landscape, I.309-334:
    Hence, proud ambition's vain delusive joys!
Hence, worldly wisdom's solemn empty toys!      310
Let others seek the senate's loud applause,
And, glorious, triumph in their country's cause!
Let others, bravely prodigal of breath,
Go grasp at honour in the jaws of death;—
Their toils may everlasting glories crown,      315
And Heaven record their virtues with its own!
    Let me, retir'd from bus'ness, toil, and strife,
Close amidst books and solitude my life;
Beneath yon high-brow’d rocks in thickets rove,
Or, meditating, wander through the grove;      320
Or, from the cavern, view the noontide beam
Dance on the rippling of the lucid stream,
While the Wild woodbine dangles o'er my head,
And various flowers around their fragrance spread;
Or where, 'midst scatter'd trees, the op'ning glade      325
Admits the well-mix'd tints of light and shade;
And as the day's bright colours fade away,
Just shews my devious solitary way:
While thick'ning glooms around are slowly spread,
And glimm'ring sun-beams gild the mountain's head:      330
Then homeward as I saunt'ring move along,
The nightingale begins his ev'ning song;
Chaunting a requiem to departed light,
That smooths the raven down of sable night.

Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of
Richard Payne Knight

Monday, April 22, 2013


Dying from Pure Boredom

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), "London Letter," The Dial (December 1922), rpt. as "Marie Lloyd," in his Selected Essays, new ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1964), pp. 405-408 (at 407-408):
The working man who went to the music-hall and saw Marie Lloyd and joined in the chorus was himself performing part of the act; he was engaged in that collaboration of the audience with the artist which is necessary in all art and most obviously in dramatic art. He will now go to the cinema, where his mind is lulled by continuous senseless music and continuous action too rapid for the brain to act upon, and will receive, without giving, in that same listless apathy with which the middle and upper classes regard any entertainment of the nature of art. He will also have lost some of his interest in life. Perhaps this will be the only solution. In an interesting essay in the volume of Essays on the Depopulation of Melanesia, the psychologist W.H.R. Rivers adduced evidence which has led him to believe that the natives of that unfortunate archipelago are dying out principally for the reason that the "Civilization" forced upon them has deprived them of all interest in life. They are dying from pure boredom. When every theatre has been replaced by 100 cinemas, when every musical instrument has been replaced by 100 gramophones, when every horse has been replaced by 100 cheap motor cars, when electrical ingenuity has made it possible for every child to hear its bedtime stories from a loud speaker, when applied science has done everything possible with the materials on this earth to make life as interesting as possible, it will not be surprising if the population of the entire civilized world rapidly follows the fate of the Melanesians.


The Task of Scholarship

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), History of Classical Scholarship, tr. Alan Harris (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), p. 1:
This [Graeco-Roman] civilisation is a unity, though we are unable to state precisely when it began and ended; and the task of scholarship is to bring that dead world to life by the power of science — to recreate the poet’s song, the thought of the philosopher and the lawgiver, the sanctity of the temple and the feelings of believers and unbelievers, the bustling life of market and port, the physical appearance of land and sea, mankind at work and play.
The German:
Diese Kultur ist eine Einheit, mag sie sich auch an ihrem Anfang und ihrem Ende nicht scharf abgrenzen lassen. Die Aufgabe der Philologie ist, jenes vergangene Leben durch die Kraft der Wissenschaft wieder lebendig zu machen, das Lied des Dichters, den Gedanken des Philosophen und Gesetzgebers, die Heiligkeit des Gotteshauses und die Gefühle der Gläubigen und Ungläubigen, das bunte Getriebe auf dem Markte und im Hafen, Land und Meer und die Menschen in ihrer Arbeit und in ihrem Spiele.


Spring Morning

A.E. Housman (1859-1936), "Spring Morning" = Last Poems XVI:
Star and coronal and bell
     April underfoot renews,
And the hope of man as well
     Flowers among the morning dews.

Now the old come out to look,
     Winter past and winter's pains,
How the sky in pool and brook
     Glitters on the grassy plains.

Easily the gentle air
     Wafts the turning season on;
Things to comfort them are there,
     Though 'tis true the best are gone.

Now the scorned unlucky lad
     Rousing from his pillow gnawn
Mans his heart and deep and glad
     Drinks the valiant air of dawn.

Half the night he longed to die,
     Now are sown on hill and plain
Pleasures worth his while to try
     Ere he longs to die again.

Blue the sky from east to west
     Arches, and the world is wide,
Though the girl he loves the best
     Rouses from another's side.


Aquae Potoribus

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), Antepenultimata (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 353-355:
Do I not drink water? Yes, a little—when instigated by thirst. Does any one drink it under any other circumstances? Does any one drink it because he likes it?—or rather, does any one like it when not suffering from a disagreeable disorder? We take water as medicine for the disease thirst. It is to be considered as a remedial agent—but so vilely compounded in nature's laboratory and so distasteful to the normal palate that the world in all ages has been virtually united in avoiding it. Nothing has so stimulated human ingenuity and invited such constant investments as the discovery, invention and manufacture of palatable substitutes for plain water; and nothing could be more unphilosophical than to attribute this universal movement to perversity or caprice. Extravagant as are some of its manifestations, deplorable as are some of its consequences, at the back of it all, as at the back of every wide and persistent trend of human activity, is some imperious and unsleeping necessity.

Consider, if you will be so good, what "drinking-water" actually is. It is the world's sewage. It is what that dirty boy, the earth, has washed his face with. The wells, rivers and rills are nature's slop-buckets, and the lowland springs are not much better; all soluble substances on or near the surface of the earth eventually get into them. Melted mountain snow is pure enough, but by the time it reaches the lip of the flatlander it is a solution of abomination. It is macerated man. It is hydrate of dead dog with an infusion of all that is untidy—infested with germs of nameless plagues, carrying ferocious anthropophagi and loaded with mordant minerals. By many scientists it is held that age is simply a disease caused, mainly, by cumulative deposits of lime and other inorganic matter in the organs of the body, most of them taken in water. If our drink were free of minerals and depeopled of its little reptiles it is probable that we might live a thousand years and die of the minerals and reptiles in our food—those of us who are not shot or hanged.

The protagonists of water tell us that it is the natural drink of man. We drink it for economy, from ignorance or inattention, from hereditary habit bequeathed to us by barbarian ancestors who had nothing else and knew not the sacred grape. They ate beetles, too, stale fish and one another. Were these the natural food of man? Man has no natural food and drink; he takes what he can get. An infant race is like an infant individual: whatever it can lay its hands on goes into its dauby mouth.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


To Believe as They Believed

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), Greek Historical Writing and Apollo. Two Lectures Delivered before the University of Oxford, June 3 and 4, 1908, tr. Gilbert Murray (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908), p. 45:
That emotion which inspired the hearts of men long dead must live again in our hearts. We must feel with them that awe and that rapture whose source they worshipped in their gods. We must learn to believe as they believed. Be it in the quiet of our chamber, when we read the verses of some religious poet, be it on the floor of some ancient temple which to the historical sense still preserves its sanctity, we must feel in our own lives the epiphany of the god.
ὡπόλλων οὐ παντὶ φαείνεται, ἀλλ' ὅτις ἐσθλός·
ὅς μιν ἴδηι, μέγας οὗτος· ὃς οὐκ ἴδε, λιτὸς ἐκεῖνος·
ὀψόμεθ’, ὦ Ἑκάεργε, καὶ ἐσσόμεθ’ οὔποτε λιτοί.
The quotation is from Callimachus, Hymns 2.9-11 (tr. A.W. Mair):
Not unto everyone doth Apollo appear, but unto him that is good. Whoso hath seen Apollo, he is great; whoso hath not seen him, he is of low estate. We shall see thee, O Archer, and we shall never be lowly.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


The Best Linguist of Our Age

John Marston (1576-1634), The Malcontent, I.iii.28-31:
FERRARDO. I study languages. Who dost think to be the best linguist of our age?
MALEVOLE. Phew! the devil: let him possess thee; he'll teach thee to speak all languages most readily and strangely; and great reason, marry, he's travelled greatly i' the world, and is everywhere.


He Would Be a Boy Again

Henry Howard (1516/17-1547), "How no age is content with his owne estate, and how the age of children is the happiest, if they had skill to vnderstand it,' in Songes and Sonettes written by the right honorable Lorde Henry Haward late Earle of Surrey, and other ([London]: Apud Richardum Tottel, 1557), fo. 18 (line numbers added):
Layd in my quiet bed, in study as I were,
  I saw within my troubled head, a heape of thoughtes appere:
  And euery thought did shewe so liuely in myne eyes,
That now I sighed, & then I smilde, as cause of thought did rise.
  I saw the litle boy in thought, how oft that he      5
Did wish of god, to scape the rod, a tall yong man to be.
  The yongman eke that feles, his bones with paines opprest
How he would be a rich olde man, to lyue, and lye at rest.
  The rych old man that sees his end draw on so sore,
How he would be a boy again, to liue so much the more.      10
  Whereat full oft I smilde, to se, how all these three,
From boy to man, from man to boy, would chop & change degree,
  And musing thus I think, the case is very strange,
That man from welth, to liue in wo, doth euer seke to change.
  Thus thoughtfull as I lay, I saw my witherd skyn,      15
How it doth show my dented chewes, the flesh was worne so thyn:
  And eke my totheless chaps, the gates of my right way,
That opes and shuttes, as I do speake, doe thus vnto me say:
  Thy white and horish heeres, the messengers of age,
That shew like lines of true belife, that this life doth asswage,      20
  Byds thee lay hand, and fele them hanging on thy chin:
The which do write two ages past, the third now comming in.
  Hang vp therfore the bit of thy yong wanton time:
And thou that therin beaten art, the happiest life define,
  Whereat I sighed, and sayd, farewell, my wonted ioy:      25
Trusse vp thy pack, and trudge from me to euery little boy:
  And tell them thus from me, their tyme most happy is:
If, to their time, they reason had to know the trueth of this.
12 chop: barter
16 chewes: jaws
17 chaps: jaws
19 horish heeres: hoary hairs
Related posts:

Friday, April 19, 2013



Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), Antepenultimata (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 306-308:
That I should give my hand, or bend my neck, or uncover my head to any man in mere homage to, or recognition of, his office, great or small, is to me simply inconceivable. These tricks of servility with the softened names are the vestiges of an involuntary allegiance to power extraneous to the performer. They represent in our American life obedience and propitiation in their most primitive and odious forms. The man who speaks of them as manifestations of a proper respect for "the President's great office" is either a rogue, a dupe or a journalist. They come to us out of a fascinating but terrible past as survivals of servitude. They speak a various language of oppression and the superstition of man-worship; they carry forward the traditions of the sceptre and the lash. Through the plaudits of the people may be heard always the faint, far cry of the beaten slave.

Respect? Respect the good. Respect the wise. Let the President look to it that he belongs to one of these classes. His going about the country in gorgeous state and barbaric splendor as the guest of a thieving corporation, but at our expense—shining and dining and swining—unsouling himself of clotted nonsense in pickled platitudes calculated for the meridian of Coon Hollow, Indiana, but ingeniously adapted to each water tank on the line of his absurd "progress," does not prove it, and the presumption of his "great office" is against him.

Can you not see, poor misguided "fellow citizens," how you permit your political taskmasters to forge leg-chains of your follies and load you down with them? Will nothing teach you that all this fuss-and-feathers, all this ceremony, all this official gorgeousness and brass-banding, this "manifestation of a proper respect for the nation's head" has no decent place in American life and American politics? Will no experience open your stupid eyes to the fact that these shows are but absurd imitations of royalty, to hold you silly while you are plundered by the managers of the performance?—that while you toss your greasy caps in air and sustain them by the ascending current of your senseless hurrahs the programmers are going through your blessed pockets and exploiting your holy dollars? No; you feel secure; power is of the People, and you can effect a change of robbers every four years. Inestimable privilege—to pull off the glutted leech and attach the lean one!



Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), Antepenultimata (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), p. 225:
This is my ultimate and determining test of right—"What, in the circumstances, would Jesus have done?"—the Jesus of the New Testament, not the Jesus of the commentators, theologians, priests and parsons. The test is perhaps not infallible, but it is exceedingly simple and gives as good practical results as any.
Id., p. 245:
The poor were Christ's peculiar care. Ever for them and their privations, and not greatly for their spiritual darkness, fell from his lips the compassionate word, the mandate for their relief and cherishing. Of foreign missions, of home missions, of mission schools, of church building, of work among pagans in partibus infidelium, of work among sailors, of communion table, of delegates to councils—of any of these things he knew no more than the moon man. They are later inventions, as is the entire florid and flamboyant fabric of ecclesiasticism that has been reared, stone by stone and century after century, upon his simple life and works and words. "Founder," indeed! He founded nothing, instituted nothing; Paul did all that. Christ simply went about doing, and being, good—admonishing the rich, whom he honestly but foolishly regarded as criminals, comforting the luckless and uttering wisdom with that Oriental indirection wherein our stupid ingenuity finds imaginary warrant for all our pranks and fads.


No City of Refuge

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), Antepenultimata (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), p. 147:
In all the world there is no city of refuge—no temple in which to take sanctuary, clinging to the horns of the altar—no "place apart" where, like hunted deer, we can hope to elude the baying pack of Nature's malevolences. The dead-line is drawn at the gate of life: Man crosses it at birth. His advent is a challenge to the entire pack—earthquake, storm, fire, flood, drought, heat, cold, wild beasts, venomous reptiles, noxious insects, bacilli, spectacular plague and velvet-footed household disease—all are fierce and tireless in pursuit. Dodge, turn and double how he can, there's no eluding them; soon or late some of them have him by the throat and his spirit returns to the God who gave it—and gave them.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


An Indolent Hour

Isaac Hawkins Browne (1706-1760), "The Fire Side: A Pastoral Soliloquy," in his Poems upon Various Subjects, Latin and English (London: J. Nourse and C. Marsh, 1768), pp. 125-128 (lines 25-30 on p. 126):
Now I pass with old authors an indolent hour,
And reclining at ease turn Demosthenes o'er.
Now facetious and vacant, I urge the gay flask
With a set of old friends—who have nothing to ask;
Thus happy, I reck not of FRANCE nor of SPAIN,
Nor the balance of power what hand shall sustain.
James Boswell, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (September 5, 1773):
After supper, Dr. Johnson told us, that Isaac Hawkins Browne drank hard for thirty years, and that he wrote his poem, "De Animi Immortalitate," in some of the last of these years. I listened to this with the eagerness of one, who, conscious of being himself fond of wine, is glad to hear that a man of so much genius and good thinking as Browne had the same propensity.

Johann Hamza, An Old Man Reading


The New Testament

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter XXV (on old Mr. Clare):
He loved Paul of Tarsus, liked St John, hated St James as much as he dared, and regarded with mixed feelings Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The New Testament was less a Christiad than a Pauliad to his intelligence—less an argument than an intoxication.


Cut, Cut! Na, Na!

Susanna Blamire (1747-1794), "The Nabob," in her Poetical Works, ed. Henry Lonsdale (Edinburgh: John Menzies, 1842), pp. 198-202 (5th stanza, p. 200):
Some pensy chiels, a new sprung race,
  Wad next their welcome pay,
Wha shudder'd at my Gothic wa's,
  And wish'd my groves away:
"Cut, cut," they cried, "those aged elms,
  Lay low yon mournfu' pine:"
Na! na! our fathers' names grow there,
  Memorials o' langsyne.
An earlier version, in note on p. 201:
Some hafflin' chiels, a new sprung race,
  Wad next their welcome pay,
Wha shudder'd at my Gothic walls,
  And wish'd my groves away:
"Cut, cut those odious trees," they cried,
  "And low lay yonder pine:"
Deed no; your fathers' names grow there,
  Memorials o' langsyne!
"Our fathers' names grow there" because they carved their names or initials into the bark, and as the bark expands the letters become larger. A chiel is a child, but according to Joseph Wright's English Dialect Dictionary it can also refer to adults, and here (I think) means young women. Wright, s.v. pensy, cites this passage under sense 3 ("Delicate, fastidious; having a poor appetite"). As for hafflin' in the earlier version, I suspect it's a form of halfling in the sense of "half-witted," rather than a participle from haffle (i.e. "stammering"). Langsyne is "long since, long ago" or "time past," as in auld lang syne.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The Sovereign Queen

Richard Barnfield (1574-1620), "The Prayse of Lady Pecunia," lines 91-114:
But now vnto her Praise I will proceede,
Which is as ample, as the Worlde is wide:
What great Contentment doth her Pressence breede
In him, that can his wealth with Wysdome guide?
  She is the Soueraigne Queene, of all Delights:
  For her the Lawyer pleades; the Souldier fights.

For her, the Merchant venters on the Seas:
For her, the Scholler studdies at his Booke:
For her, the Vsurer (with greater ease)
For sillie fishes, layes a siluer hooke:
  For her, the Townsman leaues the Countrey Village:
  For her, the Plowman giues himselfe to Tillage.

For her, the Gentlemen doeth raise his rents:
For her, the Seruingman attends his maister:
For her, the curious head new toyes inuents:
For her, to Sores, the Surgeon layes his plaister.
  In fine for her, each man in his Vocation,
  Applies himselfe, in euerie sev'rall Nation.

What can thy hart desire, but thou mayst haue it,
If thou hast readie money to disburse?
Then thanke thy Fortune, that so freely gaue it;
For of all friends, the surest is thy purse.
  Friends may proue false, and leaue thee in thy need;
  But still thy Purse will bee thy friend indeed.
See also Barnfield's "The Combat, betweene Conscience and Couetousnesse, in the Mind of Man," lines 29-38 (Covetousness speaking):
The greatest Princes are my followars,
The King in Peace, the Captaine in the Warres:
The Courtier, and the simple Countrey-man;
The Iudge, the Merchant, and the Gentleman;
The learned Lawyer, and the Politician:
The skilfull Surgeon, and the fine Physician:
In briefe, all sortes of men mee entertaine,
And hold mee, as their Soules sole Soueraigne,
And in my quarrell they will fight and die,
Rather then I should suffer iniurie.
Otto van Veen (1556-1629), aka Otto Vaenius, Quinti Horatii Flacci Emblemata (Antwerp: Philip Lisaert, 1612), p. 125 ("Pecuniae obediunt omnia"):


Gabriel Oak's Library

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Far from the Madding Crowd, chapter VIII:
The Young Man's Best Companion, The Farrier's Sure Guide, The Veterinary Surgeon, Paradise Lost, The Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Ash's Dictionary, and Walkingame's Arithmetic, constituted his library; and though a limited series, it was one from which he had acquired more sound information by diligent perusal than many a man of opportunities has done from a furlong of laden shelves.

John Frederick Peto (1854-1907), Books


Nature's Holy Plan

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter III:
All these young souls were passengers in the Durbeyfield ship—entirely dependent on the judgement of the two Durbeyfield adults for their pleasures, their necessities, their health, even their existence. If the heads of the Durbeyfield household chose to sail into difficulty, disaster, starvation, disease, degradation, death, thither were these half-dozen little captives under hatches compelled to sail with them—six helpless creatures, who had never been asked if they wished for life on any terms, much less if they wished for it on such hard conditions as were involved in being of the shiftless house of Durbeyfield. Some people would like to know whence the poet whose philosophy is in these days deemed as profound and trustworthy as his song is breezy and pure, gets his authority for speaking of 'Nature's holy plan.'
The poet is William Wordsworth, and the phrase comes from his "Lines Written in Early Spring," line 22.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


They Have Earned Their Neglect

Jack Upland, Friar Daw's Reply, and Upland's Rejoinder. Edited by P.L. Heyworth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 52-53 (from the editor's Introduction):
It remains to be said that the modest interest of these texts is that of a footnote to a historical controversy. In five hundred years they have received barely a dozen pages of desultory academic discussion scattered over as many books, and it is to their credit that they cannot claim a single learned article to themselves. They have earned their neglect. If I tidy them away to an honest grave it is not with any claim to 'definitiveness', but because there is no good reason why they should ever be disinterred again.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Correct Usage

Multatuli, i.e. Eduard Douwes Dekker (1820-1887), The Oyster & the Eagle: Selected Aphorisms and Parables of Multatuli. Translated, edited, annotated, with an Introductory Essay by E.M. Beekman (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1974), p. 43 (from Over specialiteiten):
He who does not bother with the correct usage of a word shows unconcern for the purity of his thoughts and consequently doesn't care very much about distinguishing between good and evil.
Id., pp. 19-20 (from the editor's introduction):
The third collection of Ideeën appeared in 1870-71, Millioenen-studiën in 1873, and Duizend-en-eenige-hoofdstukken over specialiteiten (Thousand and One Chapters about Specialties) in 1871. The latter book is an elegant defense of diversity and rages against the curse of specialization. This concern—still relevant today—can be found throughout his work, even as early as 1851, when he wrote in a letter:
Imagine Christ saying: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a mustard seed." And the answer: "No—that—is—incorrect.—Mustard seed—is—etc." With a botanical and culinary lecture on mustard. Can't stand it any more.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


That's How Heaven Mostly Does

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter XXXII:
'I don't quite feel easy,' she said to herself. 'All this good fortune may be scourged out of me afterwards by a lot of ill. That's how Heaven mostly does.'


Words in Logy and Ism

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter XIX:
[H]e reflected that what are called advanced ideas are really in great part but the latest fashion in definition—a more accurate expression, by words in logy and ism, of sensations which men and women have vaguely grasped for centuries.



Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter XLV (Tess to Alec d'Urberville):
'You, and those like you, take your fill of pleasure on earth by making the life of such as me bitter and black with sorrow; and then it is a fine thing, when you have had enough of that, to think of securing your pleasure in heaven by becoming converted!'

Monday, April 15, 2013


Better for Mankind

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter XXV:
Once upon a time Angel had been so unlucky as to say to his father, in a moment of irritation, that it might have resulted far better for mankind if Greece had been the source of the religion of modern civilization, and not Palestine; and his father's grief was of that blank description which could not realize that there might lurk a thousandth part of a truth, much less a half truth or a whole truth, in such a proposition.


Only a Passing Thought

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter XIV:
The past was past; whatever it had been it was no more at hand. Whatever its consequences, time would close over them; they would all in a few years be as if they had never been, and she herself grassed down and forgotten. Meanwhile the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so profoundly—the thought of the world's concern at her situation—was founded on an illusion. She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself. To all humankind besides Tess was only a passing thought. Even to friends she was no more than a frequently passing thought. If she made herself miserable the livelong night and day it was only this much to them—'Ah, she makes herself unhappy.' If she tried to be cheerful, to dismiss all care, to take pleasure in the daylight, the flowers, the baby, she could only be this idea to them—'Ah, she bears it very well.' Moreover, alone in a desert island would she have been wretched at what had happened to her? Not greatly. If she could have been but just created, to discover herself as a spouseless mother, with no experience of life except as the parent of a nameless child, would the position have caused her to despair? No, she would have taken it calmly, and found pleasure therein. Most of the misery had been generated by her conventional aspect, and not by her innate sensations.


Sun Worship

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter XIV:
The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious sentient, personal look, demanding the masculine pronoun for its adequate expression. His present aspect, coupled with the lack of all human forms in the scene, explained the old-time heliolatries in a moment. One could feel that a saner religion had never prevailed under the sky. The luminary was a golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature, gazing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon an earth that was brimming with interest for him.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Horror of the Cliché

Henry James (1843-1916), "Gustave Flaubert," in Essays in London and Elsewhere (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1893), pp. 121-150 (at 146):
The horror, in particular, that haunted all his years was the horror of the cliché, the stereotyped, the thing usually said and the way it was usually said, the current phrase that passed muster. Nothing, in his view, passed muster but freshness, that which came into the world, with all the honors, for the occasion. To use the ready-made was as disgraceful as for a self-respecting cook to buy a tinned soup or a sauce in a bottle.


Why Cringe and Bow?

Paul Elmer More (1864-1937), A Century of Indian Epigrams, Chiefly from the Sanskrit of Bhartrihari (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899), p. 112 (no. LXXXIX):
Are there no caverns in the mountains left?
Are all the forest boughs of leaves bereft
And mellowing fruit? are the wild cataracts still
    On every lonely hill?

Why haunt the servile press? or cringe and bow
To win the nod of some majestic brow
That wears for honor the low insolence
    Of wealth—how got and whence?



Paul Elmer More (1864-1937), A Century of Indian Epigrams, Chiefly from the Sanskrit of Bhartrihari (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899), p. 96 (no. LXXIV):
    When like an arrow in the dark
    Sorrow hath made our breast her mark,
    Piercing the mail 'twixt link and link,
One balm there is, one salve: just not to think.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


A While

Paul Elmer More (1864-1937), A Century of Indian Epigrams, Chiefly from the Sanskrit of Bhartrihari (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899), p. 92 (no. LXX):
    A while the helpless wailing child,
    A while the youth by lusts defiled,
    A while for gold to cringe and swink,
A while to hear the yellow counters clink:

    A while of lonely eld's disgrace,
    The palsied limb and wizened face,—
    Then like the player he too creeps
Behind the heavy curtain—he too sleeps.



Paul Elmer More (1864-1937), A Century of Indian Epigrams, Chiefly from the Sanskrit of Bhartrihari (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899), p. 56 (no. XXXIV):
    I saw an ass who bore a load
    Of sandal wood along the road,
    And almost with the burden bent,
    Yet never guessed the sandal scent;
    So pedants bear a ponderous mass
Of books they comprehend not,—like the ass.



Paul Elmer More (1864-1937), A Century of Indian Epigrams, Chiefly from the Sanskrit of Bhartrihari (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899), p. 54 (no. XXXII):
Better, I said, in trackless woods to roam
  With chattering apes or the dumb grazing herds,
Than dwell with fools, though in a prince's home,
  And bear the dropping of their ceaseless words.

Friday, April 12, 2013



William Ellery Leonard (1876-1944), "Choice," in The Vaunt of Man and Other Poems (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1912), p. 185:
(From the Norwegian of Björnson.)

My choice be April, then,
In which departs the old,
In which the new takes hold,
With hubbub round again —
For peace is not the best,
But doing things with zest.

My choice be April, then,
Because it storms and sweeps,
Because it smiles and weeps,
And owns the strength of ten —
Because it stirs the powers
Whence summer and its flowers.
The original:
Jeg vælger mig april!
i den det gamle falder,
i den det ny får fæste;
det volder lidt rabalder, —
dog fred er ej det bedste,
men at man noget vil.

Jeg vælger mig april,
fordi den stormer, fejer,
fordi den smiler, smelter,
fordi den ævner ejer,
fordi den kræfter vælter, —
i den blir somren til!


Saint Epicurus

William Ellery Leonard (1876-1944), Socrates: Master of Life (Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Co., 1915), p. 114:
The other philosophic movements, as is well known, derive also from Socrates. Aristippus, stressing and revising the utilitarian criterion, develops a hedonism, which, combined with the atomism of Democritus, gives birth to Saint Epicurus, the long misjudged.


Primeval Instincts

William Ellery Leonard (1876-1944), "The Wildman," in The Vaunt of Man and Other Poems (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1912), p. 41:
But still the wildman calls the tameless boy;
Primeval instincts of the cave and tree,
The summons of the years that used to be,
Ages before Achilles fought at Troy,
Calls him abroad to his ancestral joy
With spear and belt and arrow; and he stands
Out on the rocks, and peers with lifted hands
For wolf to flee or wigwam to destroy.

Thus, when I mark in our museums a lance,
A feathered stick, a twisted curio,
I think with pride in my omnipotence:
"I made these things ten thousand years ago,
Where the sun set on plains that now are France,
Upon my ways from Pyrenees to Po."

Thursday, April 11, 2013


A Haunter of Bookshops

Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy (New York: The Penguin Press, 2007), p. 40, with note on p. 395:
He was a haunter of bookshops, and was remembered for it by the son of a Dorchester bookseller, who used to watch Tom at the shop's counter, reading his way through one volume after another. The boy welcomed Hardy, because he brought him some particularly good eating apples, the Bockhampton Sweets from his parents' garden, and the bookseller was too good-natured to complain, knowing that a reader will one day turn into a buyer.34

34. This is from Florence Hardy's letter of 3 Apr. 1937 to Morris Parish about Joshua J. Foster, a few years younger than Hardy, son of the Dorchester bookseller James Foster, listed in the 1861 Census as bookseller and printer. Florence reported that 'JJF told me this himself, and he was the only person I ever spoke to who remembered T.H. at that early age.' Letters of E & F Hardy, 346.


Twenty-Seven Years in the Woods

Craig Crosby, "After 27 years of burglaries, 'North Pond Hermit' is arrested," Kennebec Journal (April 10, 2013; on Christopher Knight):
"He said he just came into the woods one day in 1986," [Maine State Police Trooper Diane] Perkins-Vance said. "He claims he hadn't had a conversation with another human being since the mid-1990s, when he encountered someone on a trail. I was the first person he talked to since the 1990s."


Knight went to great lengths to make the camp invisible from the ground and the air, even covering a yellow shovel with a black bag. Knight never had a fire, even on the coldest days, for fear of being detected. He covered shiny surfaces, like his metal trash cans, with moss and dirt and painted green a clear plastic sheet over his tent.


The campsite is neat and orderly — remarkably civilized for someone who tried so desperately to avoid civilization. Knight even set up mouse traps inside his tents to keep the critters from eating his food.


Clothes hung for drying on rope stretched between trees immediately outside the tent. Nearby, Knight had erected a makeshift shower well hidden behind a small growth of fir trees.

There were no permanent structures — nothing was nailed down. The dirt was worn in the area, but otherwise there were no permanent reminders of a life lived in the space.

Knight said he spent his days at camp reading and meditating.

"I asked him, 'What kind of books do you read?'" [Sgt. Terry] Hughes [of the Maine Warden Service] said. "He said, 'Whatever I can steal.'"


Knight, who shaves without a mirror, said he has caught only glimpses of his reflection in pools of water.

"He hasn't seen himself in the mirror for well over 20 years," Hughes said. "It's a very unusual situation."


Knight said he never got sick in those 27 years because he never had contact with any people, Hughes said. Knight managed to avoid significant injuries, such as broken bones, despite traipsing through the woods at night.
Apart from the thefts, I find much to admire in Knight's story. Ever since I was a small boy, I have dreamed of doing something similar.

Hat tip: Jim K.


Praise of Philosophy

Valerius Maximus 3.3 ext 1 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
There is another strong and resolute soldiering of the spirit, powerful through letters, priestess of the venerable rites of learning, Philosophy. Once received in the heart, she drives away every unseemly and useless emotion, confirms its entirety with the bulwark of solid virtue, makes it more powerful than fear of pain.

Est et illa vehemens et constans animi militia, litteris pollens, venerabilium doctrinae sacrorum antistes, Philosophia. quae ubi pectore recepta est, omni inhonesto atque inutili adfectu dispulso, totum [in] solidae virtutis munimento confirmat, potentiusque metu facit ac dolore.

in del. Gertz
Related post: Hymn to Philosophy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Shall We Sae Sour and Sulky Sit?

John Skinner (1721-1807), Tullochgorum:
Come, gie's a sang, Montgomery cried,
And lay your disputes a' aside,
What signifies't for folks to chide
  For what's been done before 'em?
Let Whig and Tory a' agree,        5
Whig and Tory, Whig and Tory,
Let Whig and Tory a' agree,
  To drop their Whig-mig-morum;
Let Whig and Tory a' agree,
To spend this night in mirth and glee,        10
And cheerfu' sing alang wi' me
  The reel o' Tullochgorum.

O, Tullochgorum's my delight,
It gars us a' in ane unite,
And ony sumph that keeps up spite,        15
  In conscience I abhor him.
For blythe and cheerie we's be a',
Blythe and cheerie, blythe and cheerie,
Blythe and cheerie we's be a',
  And mak' a happy quorum.        20
For blythe and cheerie we's be a',
As lang as we ha'e breath to draw,
And dance, till we be like to fa',
  The reel o' Tullochgorum.

There needs na' be sae great a phraise,        25
Wi' dringing dull Italian lays,
I wadna gi'e our ain strathspeys,
  For half a hundred score o' 'em.
They're douff and dowie at the best,
Douff and dowie, douff and dowie,        30
They're douff and dowie at the best,
  Wi' a' their variorum:
They're douff and dowie at the best,
Their allegros, and a' the rest,
They canna please a Scottish taste,        35
  Compar'd wi' Tullochgorum.

Let warldly minds themselves oppress
Wi' fears o' want, and double cess,
And sullen sots themselves distress
  Wi' keeping up decorum:        40
Shall we sae sour and sulky sit,
Sour and sulky, sour and sulky,
Shall we sae sour and sulky sit,
  Like auld Philosophorum?
Shall we sae sour and sulky sit,        45
Wi' neither sense, nor mirth, nor wit,
Nor ever rise to shake a fit
  In the reel o' Tullochgorum?

May choicest blessings still attend
Each honest open-hearted friend,        50
And calm and quiet be his end,
  And a' that's good watch o'er him!
May peace and plenty be his lot,
Peace and plenty, peace and plenty,
May peace and plenty be his lot,        55
  And dainties a great store o' 'em:
May peace and plenty be his lot,
Unstain'd by ony vicious spot!
And may he never want a groat
  That's fond o' Tullochgorum.        60

But for the sullen, frampish fool,
That loves to be oppression's tool,
May envy gnaw his rotten soul,
  And discontent devour him!
May dool and sorrow be his chance,        65
Dool and sorrow, dool and sorrow,
May dool and sorrow be his chance,
  And nane say, Wae's me, for 'im!
May dool and sorrow be his chance,
Wi' a' the ills that come frae France,        70
Whae'er he be, that winna dance
  The reel o' Tullochgorum!

14 gars: makes
15 sumph: fool
26 dringing: singing in a melancholy manner
27 strathspeys: Scottish dances
29 douff: dull
29 dowie: sad
38 cess: tax
47 fit: foot
61 frampish: quarrelsome
65 dool: grief



William Godwin (1756-1836), Fleetwood: or, The New Man of Feeling, Vol. II (London: Richard Phillips, 1805), pp. 198-200 (chapter XV; Macneil speaking):
"Fleetwood, you are too much alone. I hear people talk of the raptures of solitude; and with what tenderness of affection they can love a tree, a rivulet, or a mountain. Believe me, they are pretenders; they deceive themselves, or they seek, with their eyes open, to impose upon others. In addition to their trees and their mountains, I will give them the whole brute creation; still it will not do. There is a principle in the heart of man which demands the society of his like. He that has no such society, is in a state but one degree removed from insanity. He pines for an ear into which he might pour the story of his thoughts, for an eye that shall flash upon him with responsive intelligence, for a face the lines of which shall talk to him in dumb but eloquent discourse, for a heart that shall beat in unison with his own. If there is any thing in human form that does not feel these wants, that thing is not to be counted in the file for a man: the form it bears is a deception; and the legend, Man, which you read in its front, is a lie. Talk to me of rivers and mountains! I venerate the grand and beautiful exhibitions and shapes of nature, no man more; I delight in solitude; I could shut myself up in it for successive days. But I know that Christ did not with more alacrity come out of the wilderness after his forty days' sequestration, than every man, at the end of a course of this sort, will seek for the interchange of sentiments and language. The magnificence of nature, after a time, will produce much the same effect upon him, as if I were to set down a hungry man to a sumptuous service of plate, where all that presented itself on every side was massy silver and burnished gold, but there was no food."

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


In My Own Manner

Byron, letter to his sister Augusta Leigh (December 14, 1808):
I live here much in my own manner, that is, alone, for I could not bear the company of my best friend, above a month; there is such a sameness in mankind upon the whole, and they grow so much more disgusting every day, that, were it not for a portion of Ambition, and a conviction that in times like the present we ought to perform our respective duties, I should live here all my life, in unvaried Solitude.


The Proverb Nulla Dies Sine Linea

Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1283, pp. 953-954 (at 953):
Nulla dies sine linea
Pas un jour sans une ligne
Cet adage, célèbre déjà au Moyen Age (cf. De gestis episcoporum Antissiodorensium, PL 138, 835b; cf. aussi Walther 18899)...n'est pas d'origine classique, même si un proverbe similaire existait certainement dans l'Antiquité...
Walther is Hans Walther, Proverbia Sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Aevi (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963-1969), unavailable to me (the proverb is in vol. III, I think).

There are two problems with Tosi's citation from De Gestis Episcoporum Antissiodorensium (Concerning the Deeds of the Bishops of Auxerre). First, the column number is incorrect. The correct reference is De Gestis Episcoporum Antissiodorensium, Pars II, Cap. XCIII (De Francisco a Dintavilla secundo), in Patrologia Latina, tome 138, column 385 B, where the following sentence occurs:
Pictoria vero summopere delectabatur, ejus artis peritos domi semper alens; temporis parcissimus, vetus illud Apelleum saepiuscule adducebat, ut nulla dies sine linea abiret.
My translation:
He was certainly very fond of painting, always supporting at his home adepts in that art; most frugal in his use of time, he quite often quoted that old saying of Apelles, that no day should go by without a line.
Secondly, Tosi misleadingly implies that this passage from De Gestis Episcoporum Antissiodorensium comes from the Middle Ages. Although the core of that work does date from the 9th century, the passage in question is no earlier than the late 16th century. Its subject is François de Dinteville II, who lived from 1498 to 1554.

Hubertus Kudla, Lexikon der lateinischen Zitate, 2nd ed. (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2001), #2840, p. 432, cites an earlier example of the proverb, from the Italian humanist Publio Fausto Andrelini (ca. 1460-1518), his Epistolae Proverbiales (1513). The relevant passage occurs in letter VI (Temporis iactura nihil esse, neque pernitiosius, neque detestabilius), at the bottom of this page (click to enlarge):

My transcription, followed by my translation:
Apelles picturae venustate insignis, numquam tam occupatam diem egit, quin artis lineam duceret, quod et in proverbium cessit, nulla dies sine linea.

Apelles, famed for the beauty of his painting, never spent a day so full of business that he didn't draw a line, which also passed into a proverb: no day without a line.
Credit for first tracking the source of the proverb to Andrelini belongs to Oleg Nikitinski, "Zum Ursprung des Spruches Nulla Dies Sine Linea," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 142 (1999) 430-431, who mentions (note 6) editions of Andrelini's Epistolae Proverbiales (or Epistolae Adagiales) earlier than the 1513 edition cited above.

Update from Ian Jackson:
I do have a set of Walther. The line is indeed in vol.3 (page 443). He prints the Latin and simply gives locations where it may be found. Here are his references, which I've expanded, and in two cases, corrected a misprint:

"Flor. Poet 58 (Apelles)" This is the page number in Flores Poetarum hieme et aestate fragrantes, sive sententiosi versus ... Prague, 1684.

"s. Reichert S. 401 ff" This is under a page number in Heinrich G. Reichert: Lateinische Sentenzen: Essays. Wiesbaden, 1948.

"s. Hempel Nr. 3766" This is under an item number in Hermann Hempel: Lateinischer Sentenzen-und Sprichwörterschatz. 2 Ausg. Bremen 1890.

"Dielitz 222" This is a page number in Die Wahl- und Denksprüche, Feldgeschreie, Losungen, Schlacht- und Volksrufe, besonders des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit gesammelt ... v. J. Dielitz. Frankfurt 1884.

"Lipp. 834" This is a page number in Franz, Freiherr von Lipperheide: Spruchwörterbuch. Berlin 1907.

"Wa, s.v. Tag 342" This is K.F.W. Wander: Deutsches Sprichwörter-Lexikon. 5 Bande. Leipzig 1867-80.


Monday, April 08, 2013



Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter II:
The dialect was on her tongue to some extent, despite the village school: the characteristic intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing approximately rendered by the syllable UR, probably as rich an utterance as any to be found in human speech.
Id., chapter III:
Mrs Durbeyfield habitually spoke the dialect; her daughter, who had passed the Sixth Standard in the National School under a London-trained mistress, spoke two languages: the dialect at home, more or less; ordinary English abroad and to persons of quality.


A Blighted One

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, chapter IV:
"Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?"


"All like ours?"

"I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound—a few blighted."

"Which do we live on—a splendid one or a blighted one?"

"A blighted one."

"'Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, when there were so many more of 'em!"


Sunday, April 07, 2013


Mania for Translations

Henry James (1843-1916), review of A Winter in Russia. From the French of Théophile Gautier. By M.M. Ripley. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1874, in Nation (November 12, 1874), rpt. in Henry James, Literary Criticism: French Writers, Other European Writers, The Prefaces to the New York Edition (New York: The Library of America, 1984) pp. 384-386 (at 384-385):
We have observed for some time past an increasing mania for translations.

It is a very good fashion, but even the best things may be overdone. Of course, dull books should never be translated, but it by no means follows that because a book is clever it should be translated into another tongue. A book may be very clever in French or in German and very dull in English, and translation, intended as a compliment, may become in fact an unpardonable injury. There are certain cases, indeed, in which it seems to us really immoral; when it deliberately encumbers a foreign language, namely, with books of a light and trivial order. Natives have a certain property in their language, and though we may regret their using it for frivolous purposes, one can hardly pretend to legislate against them. As a general thing, a people may be trusted to produce its own padding, and there is no good reason why our groaning English idiom should be weighted with exotic commonplaces. A great many things are said in society which it is very well to hear once, if you happen to be sitting near the speaker; but he would be a very officious master of ceremonies who should insist on repeating and propagating them. In so far as we may lay down a general rule in the case we should say that the books translatable were books of matter, and books untranslatable books of manner. If the substance of a book is light and its chief attraction is in the way things are said, it had certainly better be left in the closely-fitting garment of the original. This, of course, limits very much the translation of merely entertaining and amusing books, but the restriction in such cases is especially wholesome. If a writer has nothing but sweetened froth to offer the public, it is well that he should at least have been at pains to beat his froth into the finest possible consistency; and just so it is well that readers who have an appetite for the compound should be forced, to take such exercise as is involved in a walk to the confectioner's. To read such a writer as Théophile Gautier, for instance, is pure diversion, and a healthy-minded reader ought to pay for his pastime by making the very moderate effort required for reading him in the original. It is true that readers are becoming such abandoned Sybarites, and the aversion of the public at large to anything which compels attention to pause for an instant and touch her feet to the earth is so strikingly on the increase, that the "healthy mind" in question can be but rarely postulated. Gautier is precisely one of the writers who are everything in their own tongue, and nothing, or almost nothing, out of it. He is what the French call a fantaisiste, and his fantasies are four-fifths verbal to one-fifth intellectual. Half the charm of his writing is in the mere curl and flutter of his phrase, as he unreels it in long bright-colored ribands; but in an English version the air of spontaneity soon disappears, and this ceaseless play of style becomes rigid and awkward. Moreover, Gautier chose his words with an extraordinary fineness of instinct, and in his pictures, as they stand, every hair-stroke tells. A translator rarely chooses the foreign equivalent with the care with which such an artist as Gautier selects the original term, so that the phrase must often be at best but a rough approximation to the author's. In each case the deflection is slight, but in the whole is enormous. The house when it is finished is found to stand crooked. The translation before us is executed with commendable skill; its only fault is that it is a translation. It will have rendered a service, however, if it sends a few readers to its untranslated companions.

Newer›  ‹Older

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