Saturday, May 31, 2014


Commentaries on Fragments

J. Linderski, review of Gary Forsythe, The Historian L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi and the Roman Annalistic Tradition (Lanham: University Press of America, 1994), in American Journal of Philology 117 (1996) 329–332 (at 330), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 299-302 (at 300):
A commentary on a fragmentary work normally requires much more space than a commentary on a fully surviving author. In a surviving author the context for every piece of information is automatically provided; for fragments the historical and literary context of each piece has to be divined by a modern commentator.


A Strange Apartment

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdröckh in Three Books, Book I, Chapter III:
It was a strange apartment; full of books and tattered papers, and miscellaneous shreds of all conceivable substances, 'united in a common element of dust.' Books lay on tables, and below tables; here fluttered a sheet of manuscript, there a torn handkerchief, or nightcap hastily thrown aside; ink-bottles alternated with bread-crusts, coffee-pots, tobacco-boxes, Periodical Literature, and Blücher Boots.
A friend's apartment:


Wash Your Ears

A poem by Ryōkan (1758-1831), tr. Kazuaki Tanahashi, Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan (Boston: Shambhala, 2012), p. 137:
Before listening to the way, do not fail to wash your ears.
Otherwise it will be impossible to listen clearly.
What is washing your ears?
Do not hold onto your view.
If you cling to it even a little bit,
you will lose your way.
What is similar to you but wrong, you regard as right.
What is different from you but right, you regard as wrong.
You begin with ideas of right and wrong.
But the way is not so.
Seeking answers with closed ears is
like trying to touch the ocean bottom with a pole.
Related post: Ear Wax.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Cultural Cohesion

Herodotus 8.144.2 (tr. Aubrey de Sélincourt):
Again, there is the Greek nation—the common blood, the common language; the temples and religious ritual; the whole way of life we understand and share together—indeed, if Athens were to betray all this it would not be well done.

αὖτις δὲ τὸ Ἑλληνικὸν ἐὸν ὅμαιμόν τε καὶ ὁμόγλωσσον καὶ θεῶν ἱδρύματά τε κοινὰ καὶ θυσίαι ἤθεά τε ὁμότροπα, τῶν προδότας γενέσθαι Ἀθηναίους οὐκ ἂν εὖ ἔχοι.


Literary and Textual Criticism

David Kovacs, "Treading the Circle Warily: Literary Criticism and the Text of Euripides," Transactions of the American Philological Association 117 (1987) 257-270 (at 258-259):
Literary critics sometimes think of their own studies as occupying a position of lofty elevation over the niggling work of textual critics, and of textual criticism as involving excessive worry about whether to read δέ, τε, or γε, to the neglect of weightier issues. Likewise, some text-critics speak as if their subject were somehow exempt from the vagaries of opinion and subjective judgment that beset literary criticism. Both these views are mistaken. Even the choice between δέ, τε, and γε is sometimes fraught with important questions of interpretation editors themselves may be unaware of. And if the literary interpreters compound the editors' omissions by not considering all the textual evidence for themselves, they may never learn that some of the questions they bring to the text have already been answered—perhaps incorrectly—before they themselves even began to consider them.
Id., pp. 269-270 (footnote omitted):
If these discussions carry conviction, certain general conclusions are suggested. First, progress in the establishment or interpretation of the text can be made only by those who relinquish prejudices and predispositions about how sound the text is. At one time the readings of the manuscripts must be defended against misguided criticism, and at another they must be attacked and their misguided defenses exploded. There is no room for parti pris, and the consistent conservative, prepared to defend the mss. at all costs, and the thorough-going skeptic, indulging his prurigo emendandi in season and out, are equally likely to miss the truth. Second, neither the literary critic who cannot be bothered with the small print at the foot of the page nor the textual critic who thinks he can leave literary questions to others is well fitted to advance our understanding of classical antiquity's imperfectly transmitted remains. What is needed is the ability to see and weigh all the relevant evidence, to be neither a textual nor a literary critic but a critic simpliciter.


A Type of Oxymoron

Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 44: χάριν ἀχάριτον (where ἀχάριτον is Elmsley's emendation of the transmitted ἄχαριν)

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 545: ἄχαρις χάρις

Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 862: θέλεος ἀθέλεος

Sophocles, Ajax 665: ἄδωρα δῶρα

Sophocles, Electra 1154: μήτηρ ἀμήτωρ

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 1214: ἄγαμον γάμον

Sophocles, Philoctetes 848: ὕπνος ἄϋπνος

Euripides, Hecuba 612: νύμφην τ' ἄνυμφον παρθένον τ' ἀπάρθενον

Euripides, Helen 363: ἔργ' ἄνεργ'

Euripides, Iphigenia among the Taurians 566: χάριν ἄχαριν

Euripides, Phoenician Women 1757: χάριν ἀχάριτον (where ἀχάριτον is Hermann's emendation of the transmitted ἀχάριστον or ἄχαριν)

Euripides, Suppliant Women 32: δεσμὸν δ' ἄδεσμον

Euripides, fragment 370.41 (from Erechtheus): ἱερὸν ἀνίερον ὅσιον ἀνόσιον (where ἱερὸν ἀνίερον is Diggle's emendation of the transmitted ἀνίερον ἀνίερον)

Euphorion of Chalcis, fragment 26.ii.17 Lightfoot: ἄταφος τάφος

Greek Anthology 7.561.6 (Julian): κόσμον ἄκοσμον

Greek Anthology 9.323.3 (Antipater): κόσμον ἄκοσμον

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Honest Old Fellows

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734), Introductio ad Prudentiam: Or, Directions, Counsels, and Cautions, Tending to Prudent Management of Affairs in Common Life, Part II (London: Stephen Austen, 1727), p. 55, no. 2350:
When there is no Recreation or Business for thee abroad, then may'st thou have a Company of honest old Fellows, in leathern Jackets in thy Study, which may find thee excellent Divertisement at home.

C.E. Brock, A Library with Reader


A Sound Methodological Principle

J. Linderski, "The Augural Law," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 16.3 (1986) 2146-2312 (at 2244):
It is a sound methodological principle never to begin at the beginning, for in history the beginning is more often than not a product of ancient or modern fantasy.


A Series of Intoxications

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), "Montaigne," Reperusals and Re-Collections (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1936), pp. 1-8 (at 1):
There are readers—and I am one of them—whose reading is rather like a series of intoxications. We fall in love with a book; it is our book, we feel, for life; we shall not need another. We cram-throat our friends with it in the cruellest fashion; make it a Gospel, which we preach in a spirit of propaganda and indignation, putting a woe on the world for a neglect of which last week we were equally guilty.

I am not at all sorry that I have never been cured of this form of youthful susceptibility; one may after all become the victim of more inadvisable forms of folly.
Related post: An Addiction.


Sinister: An Auto-Antonym

An auto-antonym is a word that can mean the opposite of itself. Lewis and Short, Latin Dictionary, s.v. sinister, sense II.B:
Unlucky, injurious, adverse, unfavorable, ill, bad, etc.
Id., sense II.C:
With respect to auspices and divination, acc. to the Roman notions, lucky, favorable, auspicious (because the Romans on these occasions turned the face towards the south, and so had the eastern or fortunate side on the left; while the Greeks, turning to the north, had it on their right...)


Wednesday, May 28, 2014



Robert Burton (1577-1640), Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. II, Sect. III, Memb. VII, with notes from the edition of A.R. Shilleto, Vol. II (London: George Bell & Sons, 1920), p. 220:
It is an ordinary thing in these days to see a base impudent ass, illiterate, unworthy, insufficient, to be preferred before his betters, because he can put himself forward, because he looks big, can bustle in the world, hath a fair outside, can temporise, collogue, insinuate, or hath good store of friends or money, whereas a more discreet, modest, and better deserving man shall lie hid, or have a repulse. 'Twas so of old, and ever will be, and which Tiresias adviseth Ulysses in the 1Poet,
——Accipe quâ ratione queas ditescere, &c.
is still in use; lie, flatter and dissemble: if not, as he concludes,
——Ergo pauper eris,2
then go like a beggar as thou art. Erasmus, Melancthon, Lipsius, Budaeus, Cardan, lived and died poor. Gesner was a silly old man, baculo innixus,3 amongst all those huffing Cardinals, swelling Bishops that flourished in his time, and rode on foot-clothes. It is not honesty, learning, worth, wisdom, that prefers men. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but as the wise man said, 4chance, and sometimes a ridiculous chance. 5Casus plerumque ridiculus multos elevavit.

1 Hor. lib. 2. Sat. 5.[10. Learn how you may grow rich.]
[2 Hor. Sat. ii.5.19, 20.]
[3 Ovid, Met. viii.218. leaning on his staff.]
4 Solomon, Eccles. ix.11.
5 Sat. Menip.
Related post: The Way to Preferment.


Scholars Lose

J. Linderski, review of Mary Beard et al., Religions of Rome, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), in Journal of Roman Archaeology 13.2 (2000) 453-463 (at 454), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 501-514 (at 503):
But the praise is mixed: it is magniloquent if we regard the book as a work of informed, and yes, inspired scholarship aimed at a broad readership, but muted if we reckon it as a work of pure Wissenschaft. For all excerpts are in translation; Latin and Greek are not allowed to speak for themselves. The educated public perhaps gains. Scholars lose. There is a middle way (though more expensive): to provide both original texts and translations. No scientific study of any topic in history or the humanities can proceed without the engagement of original sources, their textual analysis, investigation of the idiom, phrases, and terms.
Id., p. 458 (rpt. pp. 507-508):
But in order not to be accused of blatant partisanship, we hasten to add that the study of Roman religion has been bedeviled not only by those Christian believers who cannot bring themselves to take seriously any "pagan" creed; it has no less been bedeviled by those adherents of the Enlightenment whose rationalism is so fierce that they cannot take seriously any religion.


The Deadly Enemy of Culture

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), The Outlook for Intelligence, tr. Denise Folliot and Jackson Mathews (New York; Harper & Row, 1962), pp. 149-150:
Let us confess: the real object of education is the diploma.

I never hesitate to declare that the diploma is the deadly enemy of culture. As diplomas have become more important in our lives (and their importance has done nothing but grow as a result of economic conditions), the less has education had any real effect. As regulations have multiplied, the results have grown worse.

Worse in their effect on the public mind and on the mind generally. Worse because a diploma creates hopes and the illusion that certain rights have been acquired. Worse because of the stratagems and subterfuges it gives rise to: the recommendations, the strategic "cramming," and, indeed, the use of every expedient for crossing the redoubtable threshold. That, we must admit, is a strange and detestable preparation for intellectual and civic life.
Id., pp. 150-151:
The aim of education being no longer the development of the mind but the acquisition of the diploma, the required minimum becomes the goal of study. It is no longer a matter of learning Latin, Greek, or geometry. It is a matter of borrowing—not of acquiring—of borrowing what is needed to get the baccalauréat.

That is not all. The diploma grants to society a phantom guarantee; and to the diploma-holders, phantom rights. The diploma-holder is officially considered to know; all his life he keeps that certificate of some momentary and purely expedient knowledge. Moreover, the holder of a diploma is led in the name of the law to believe that something is owed to him. No practice ever instituted was more fatal for everyone, the State and the individual (and, in particular, for culture). It is with a view to the diploma, for example, that the reading of authors has been replaced by the use of summaries, manuals, absurd digests of knowledge, ready-made collections of questions and answers, extracts, and other abominations. The result is that nothing in this adulterated form of culture can be helpful or suitable to the life of a developing mind.
Id., pp. 151-152 (ellipsis in original):
Let us not go into the question of Greek and Latin; the vicissitudes in the history of these studies is a mockery. By ebb and flow, a little Greek, a little Latin, is added to or withdrawn from the program. But what Greek and what Latin! The quarrel about the so-called "humanities" is merely a fight over the semblances of culture. When we see the use to which those unhappy, twice-dead languages are put, we have the impression of some strange fraud. They are no longer dealt with as real languages or literatures; these tongues seem never to have been spoken but by ghosts. For the immense majority of those who make a pretense of studying them, they are bizarre conventions that have no function but to make up the difficult part of an examination. No doubt Latin and Greek have greatly changed within the past century. Antiquity, nowadays, is no longer at all what it was for Rollin, any more than the "Apollo Belvedere" and the "Laocoön" have been considered, for the past hundred years, the masterpieces of ancient sculpture; nor is there any doubt that no one now knows the Latin of the Jesuits or that of the doctors of philology. Some know a sort of Latin, or rather make a pretense of knowing a sort of Latin, whose final and only use is in the translation required for the baccalauréat. For my part, I believe it would be better to make the teaching of dead languages entirely optional, with no examination required, and to give only a few students a solid knowledge of them rather than force all of them to swallow indigestible scraps of languages that never existed....I shall believe in the teaching of ancient languages when, in a railway carriage, I see one passenger out of a thousand take a small Thucydides or a charming Virgil from his pocket and become absorbed in it, trampling under foot the newspapers and the more or less pulp stories.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The Art of the Aphorist

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), "English Aphorists," Reperusals and Re-Collections (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1936), pp. 98-178 (at 109-110):
To polish commonplaces and give them a new lustre: to express in a few words the obvious principles of conduct, and to give to clear thoughts an even clearer expression: to illuminate dimmer impressions and bring their faint rays to a focus: to delve beneath the surface of consciousness to new veins of precious ore, to name and discover and bring to light latent and unnamed experience; and finally to embody the central truths of life in the breadth and terseness of memorable phrases—all these are the opportunities of the aphorist; and to take advantage of these opportunities, he must be a thinker, an accurate observer, a profound moralist, a psychologist, and an artist as well. Above all an artist! So great are the difficulties of his task, so numerous are the pitfalls which beset him, so repellent the pompous attitude which his tedious, stilted and oracular mode of expression forces upon him, that it is only by the greatest care that he can escape these perils; and Lord Morley's admonition to the would-be aphorist—'beware of cultivating this delicate art'—is no doubt a sound one. For the aphorist's pills, if we are to swallow them, must be gilded pills; his coins, if they are to be added to the currency of thought, must be minted of precious metal; many grains must be sifted from the sands of life to compose them, many thoughts and observations melted and fused together to give them weight. Each aphorism should contain, as Hazlitt said, the essence or groundwork of a separate essay; it should be the concentration or residuum of much meditation, and it must glitter with the finest sheen; for 'weight,' as one of our masters of this art has expressed it—'weight without lustre is lead.'
Id., pp. 113-114:
I do not know whether I can infect any reader with my taste (which I am proud to share with Coleridge) for these coins of aphoristic thought—these penny and often golden pieces, stamped as they are with the image of the Master of Thought from whose mint they issue. The search for them through old books, old letters, old volumes of Table-Talk, I find a fascinating one; I enjoy it as the archaeologist delights, as he digs in the soil of ancient cities, to discover coins engraved with the busts of the princes of antiquity, each with his own expression—the strength and energy of Alexander the Great, the ferocity of Mithridates, the assured power of Augustus, the philosophic calm of Antoninus, or the truculence of Nero.


What Would He Say Now?

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), "Maxims for Revolutionists," Man and Superman. A Comedy and a Philosophy (Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co., Ltd., 1903), pp. 227-244 (at 241):
We are told that when Jehovah created the world he saw that it was good. What would he say now?


Bibliographical Pitfalls

J. Linderski, review of Claudia Bergemann, Politik und Religion im spätrepublikanischen Rom (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1992 = Palingenesia, 28), and Loretana de Libero, Obstruktion. Politische Praktiken im Senat und in der Volksversammlung der ausgehenden römischen Republik (70–49 v.Chr) (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1992 = Hermes Einzelschriften, 59), in Classical Philology 90 (1995) 192–195 (at 194), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 520-524 (at 522; footnotes omitted):
Bibliography appended to the book is haphazard, avoiding the difficult and the technical, and it is infested by the belief "the newer the better," a tendency as pernicious as it is ahistorical: for it consigns to neglect great minds of the previous generations, and loses sight of the historical progression of our investigations. Frequently the book draws its information from the tepid tap of recent distillations, and not from the spring of the original masters. Unfortunately it is a familiar disease—for it also thrives in American graduate programs, together with another pest, the scholarly oligoglottism. Bergemann adduces modern literature only in German and English, one solitary entry in French, and none in Italian: not even a tiniest article.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Modern Pharisees

Robert Burton (1577-1640), Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. III, Sect. IV, Memb. I, Subs. I, from the edition of A.R. Shilleto, Vol. III (London: George Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1920), p. 367:
Some of us again are too dear, as we think, more divine and sanctified than others, of a better metal, greater gifts, and with that proud Pharisee, contemn others in respect of ourselves, we are better Christians, better learned, choice spirits, inspired, know more, have special revelation, perceive God's secrets, and thereupon presume, say and do many times which is not fitting to be said or done.
Luke 18.9-14:
[9] And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: [10] Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. [12] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. [13] And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


Why We Chose to Study Classics

David Sansone, review of Helma Dik, Word Order in Ancient Greek: A Pragmatic Account of Word Order Variation in Herodotus. Amsterdam Studies in Classical Philology 5. Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1995, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.11.08:
But, when it comes to the practical realities, what exactly are the "rules" for word order in ancient Greek? A number of attempts have been made over the years; until now the most successful effort has been that of Sir Kenneth Dover, whose Greek Word Order of 1960, however, has not been as influential among classicists as it might have been, in part, perhaps, because of the presence in it of statements like the following (47): "Here FASI/N is strictly speaking Mq in character, and the word-group which I have analysed as N Cq C is therefore on the borderline of the category 'C group'; it admits of the analysis N Mqq C." It was in order to avoid having to read sentences like this that many classicists became classicists in the first place.


Heroes in the Realm of Ghosts

"Guo shang," from Ch'u Tz'u, tr. David Hawkes:
Grasping our great shields and wearing our hide armour,
Wheel-hub to wheel-hub locked, we battle hand to hand.
Our banners darken the sky, the enemy teem like clouds:
Through the hail of arrows the warriors press forward.
They dash on our lines; they trample our ranks down.
The left horse has fallen, the right one is wounded.
Bury the wheels in; tie up the horses!
Seize the jade drumstick and beat the sounding drum!
The time is against us: the gods are angry.
Now all lie dead, left on the field of battle.
They went out never more to return:
Far, far away they lie, on the level plain,
Their long swords at their belts, clasping their elmwood bows.
Head from body sundered: but their hearts could not be vanquished.
Both truly brave and also truly noble;
Strong to the last, they could not be dishonoured.
Their bodies may have died, but their souls are living:
Heroes among the shades their valiant souls will be.
The same, tr. Burton Watson:
We take up the halberds of Wu,
    put on rhino hide armor.
Chariots clash, hub against hub,
    short swords parry.
Banners blot out the sun,
    the enemy come on like clouds.
Arrows fall in answering volleys,
    warriors vie for the lead.
They have broken through our formations,
    trampled over our lines.
The trace-horse on the left has fallen,
    the right one is slashed with knives.
The chariot wheels are dug in,
    teams of four horses entangled.
We seize our jade drumsticks,
    beat a call on the drums.
But Heaven's season frowns on us,
    the awesome gods are angry.
Our stalwart ones are all slaughtered,
    cast away on field and plain.
They set out, never to come back;
    went, never to return.
The level plains are distant,
    the road stretches on and on.
They buckled on their long swords,
    shouldered the bows of Ch'in.
Though heads are parted from bodies,
    their hearts have no regret.
Truly they were courageous,
    true men of arms as well.
To the end fierce and unyielding,
    they could never be cowed.
Though in body they have died,
    their spirits take on divinity.
Valiant are their souls,
    they are heroes in the realm of ghosts.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Morbus Thesarum Franco-Gallicarum

J. Linderski, review of Marianne Bonnefond-Coudry, Le Sénat de la république romaine de la guerre d'Hannibal à Auguste: Pratiques délibératives et prise de décision (Rome: École française de Rome, 1989), in American Journal of Philology 113.1 (Spring 1992) 125-128 (at 126), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 37-39 (at 38):
The opus of Bonnefond-Coudry will be immensely useful; yet when we proceed to details (and the book will be used as an encyclopedia) doubts emerge. There are often too many words and too few facts (morbus thesarum Franco-Gallicarum). And the facts are not always the right facts, and if they are right they are not always presented in a right way.



Thomas Fuller (1654-1734), Introductio ad Prudentiam: Or, Directions, Counsels, and Cautions, Tending to Prudent Management of Affairs in Common Life, Part II (London: Stephen Austen, 1727), p. 3, no. 1798:
Be not of any Faction: A wise Man is always free.
Id., p. 5, no. 1833:
Engage not so far in any Party, as to make its Quarrels thine.


Some Remote Geological Era of Human Thought

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), "Donne's Sermons," Reperusals and Re-Collections (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1936), pp. 222-255 (at 224):
[T]o the more secular-minded, the old divines, whose severe brows and square faces meet our eyes when we open their great folios, seem, with their imposed dogmas, their heavy and obsolete methods of exposition and controversy, almost as if they belonged to some remote geological era of human thought. We are reminded of Taine's image of them as giant saurians, slowly winding their scaly backs through the primeval slime, and meeting each other, armed with syllogisms and bristling with texts, in theological battle, to tear the flesh from one another's flanks with their great talons, and cover their opponents with filth in their efforts to destroy them.
Id., p. 233, n. 1:
Book-collectors should by the way be warned against collecting old books for their bindings; there are sometimes dangerous spirits imprisoned in these leather bottles.
Id., p. 241:
A preacher or moralist often betrays himself indirectly, for he is apt to see his own faults in others, and to dwell, in his exhortations, on the temptations and weaknesses to which he is especially exposed.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


More for You to Learn

Jane Austen (1775-1817), Mansfield Park, chapter II (Maria and Julia Bertram talking with their aunt, Mrs. Norris, about their cousin, Fanny Price):
"I cannot remember the time when I did not know a great deal that she has not the least notion of yet. How long ago it is, aunt, since we used to repeat the chronological order of the kings of England, with the dates of their accession, and most of the principal events of their reigns!"

"Yes," added the other; "and of the Roman emperors as low as Severus; besides a great deal of the heathen mythology, and all the metals, semi-metals, planets, and distinguished philosophers."

"Very true indeed, my dears, but you are blessed with wonderful memories, and your poor cousin has probably none at all. There is a vast deal of difference in memories, as well as in everything else, and therefore you must make allowance for your cousin, and pity her deficiency. And remember that, if you are ever so forward and clever yourselves, you should always be modest; for, much as you know already, there is a great deal more for you to learn."

"Yes, I know there is, till I am seventeen."



Stanislaw J. Lec (1909-1966), Unkempt Thoughts, tr. Jacek Galazka (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1962), p. 78:
Is it progress if a cannibal uses knife and fork?


A Bond Between People

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), "Gertrude Jekyll," Reperusals and Re-Collections (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1936), pp. 49-65 (at 52):
To share with one or two people, with perhaps a little group of people, a hobby or special and intense interest, to know all about something of which others know and care nothing—door-knockers, perhaps, jade, or shoe-buckles, fifteenth-century editions of the Bible, or monastic tiles—to collect the finest specimens, to boast of them to fellow-collectors; to dispute and quarrel over them with the subtlest shades of depreciation and discrimination—this is the sort of thing that forms a bond between people which is capable of outlasting many other ties. It will chafe them sometimes, but they cannot break it—they cannot get on without each other. Delicate hoops of steel grapple their souls together; and the fewer there are who share their interest, the more they love to correspond and perhaps to meet. They are often far apart in age, place and social standing; great abysses, moral, political or religious, may yawn between them; they may most strongly disapprove of, and even dislike, each other, but when they gather in a little group to discuss their special subject all other considerations seem of no importance—all seem, indeed, as that great nobleman in The Young Visiters, the Earl of Clincham, said to Mr. Salteena, 'as piffle before the wind.' Language being never adequate to describe all the relationships of people to each other, I have invented the word milver to describe those who share a fad in common. I find it both a useful and a pretty word; it fills a gap in my vocabulary, and provides, moreover, an echo for the word silver, which is otherwise without a rhyme.
Id., pp. 59-60:
I have said that Miss Jekyll did not like our modern ways of speech: I think, indeed, that her plain, old, aristocratic face was firmly set against all new fashions and innovations; that if they were ever forced upon her attention an immense Disapproval would be the expression which would settle on her features. One felt with her that one was in the presence of another and now vanished generation, with standards of its own, discriminations, exclusions, niceties of speech and behaviour, which would be almost incomprehensible to young people now.
Related post: Milver.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Bibles of Benignity

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), p. 37:
For my part, I greatly enjoy certain books that breathe a calm and contented disconsolateness, such as Cervantes' incomparable romance, or Candide,—works which are, if rightly regarded, manuals of tolerance and indulgent pity, holy bibles of benignity.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 39-40:
Je goûte beaucoup pour ma part quelques livres d'une sereine et riante désolation, comme cet incomparable Don Quichotte ou comme Candide, qui sont, à les bien prendre, des manuels d'indulgence et de pitié, des bibles de bienveillance.



J. Linderski, "Transitus. Official Travel Under the Sign of the Obelus," Philologus 143 (1999) 288-299 (at 288), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 307-318 (at 307):
To philologians corruptelae are like dragons. Those who slay them may gain a place in the text or a mention in the apparatus. Most often the dragon wins, the crux remains, ready for the next victim. Win or lose, we descend to the field to attack an obelus.


Apopompē and Epipompē

Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē (ἀποπομπή) and epipompē (ἐπιπομπή) to describe two different ways of banishing evil. See his "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 or to some other specific location. A classic example of epipompē can be found in the Gospels (Matthew 8.30-32, Mark 5.11-13, Luke 8.32-33), when Jesus, in performing an exorcism, drove demons into a herd of pigs. All other exorcisms in the Gospels are examples of apopompē.

Frank R. Trombley, Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529 (Leiden: Brill, 1993; rpt. 2001), p. 132, translates an interesting 6th century exorcism of hail found on a marble plaque from the district of Philadelphia in Lycia. I would classify it as an example of apopompē, because the hail is told just to get out of town, not told to go to some specific place:
Exorcism for the turning back of hail. I adjure you, O daimon, who presides over the suddenly turbulent air, when you thunder and cause lightning flashes and send hail out from the sky! I adjure you, O daimon, in the name of the egg of a male-begotten bird! I adjure you, the furnace-mouthed daimon, go outside the horoi of the village of Ennaton! I adjure you by the power of the God of Hosts and of the throne of the Lord, go outside the horoi! I adjure you ... by the elder and the younger, go outside the horoi of the village of Ennaton! I adjure you by Ouphridiel and ...! I adjure you by the letters of the planets, alpha, epsilon, eta, iota, omicron, upsilon, and omega, go outside the horoi of the village of Ennaton! You archangels Raphael, Ragouel, Istrael, Agathoel, make a seal around ... the village of Ennaton.
I think the most recent edition of the Greek is in Georg Petzl, Tituli Asiae minoris, Vol. 5: Tituli Lydiae linguis Graeca et Latina conscripti, Fasc. 3: Philadelpheia et ager philadelphenus (Wien: Verl. d. Österr. Akad. d. Wiss., 2007), pp. 166 ff., but the book is unavailable to me. Here is an image of the Greek from Henri Grégoire, Recueil des inscriptions grecques-chrétiennes d'Asie mineure (Paris: E. Leroux, 1922), p. 124:

A similar exorcism, with the characteristic features of epipompē however, appears in Francisco Javier Fernández Nieto, "A Visigothic Charm from Asturias and the Classical Tradition of Phylacteries against Hail," in Richard L. Gordon and ‎Francisco Marco Simón, edd., Magical Practice in the Latin West: Papers from the International Conference held at the University of Zaragoza, 30 Sept.-1 Oct. 2005 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 551-600 (at 568-569, translating a Byzantine exorcism of hail of unknown provenance, with footnote):
Exorcism of hail: a black cloud rose up from Bethlehem full of hail with thunder and lightning, and it was met by an archangel of the host of God, who said: where are you going, black cloud full of hail with thunder and lightning? It answered: I am going to the fields in (such-and-such a place) which are planted with vines to dry up the orchards, ruin the trees and their buds, and spoil the fruits and cause all types of damage. The archangel of the host of God said: I entreat you through God invisible, the creator of the heaven, earth and sea and everything that therein is. I entreat you before the four pillars that hold the unmovable throne of God and before the river of fire, do not try to go to the pieces of land in (such-and-such a place), and instead go to the wild mountains where no cock crows, no semantron45 sounds or is heard for the glory of the great God in heaven. Amen.

45 In Byzantine texts, the term σημαντήριον (σήμαντρον) denotes the semantron, the bar-gong used in Orthodox churches, cf. Longo 1989, 69.
An image of the Greek (id., p. 568):

Finally, another example of epipompē, by Maffeo Barberini (1568-1644), aka Pope Urban VIII, hymn in honor of Saint Martina, Virgin and Martyr (January 30), stanza 7, tr. Joseph Connelly in Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (London: Longmans, 1957), p. 172:
Protect your native land and give all Christian nations the respite of true peace. Banish the tumult of arms and the savagery of wars into far-distant lands.
The Latin (id.):
Tu natale solum protege, tu bonae
Da pacis requiem Christiadum plagis;
Armorum strepitus et fera proelia
    In fines age Thracios.
The Latin is more geographically specific than Connelly's translation would lead one to believe. Instead of "far-distant lands," a more literal translation is "the boundaries of Thrace."

More examples of epipompē here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Their Minds Remain Empty

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), "De la mode," Les caractères, ou, Les moeurs de ce siècle (tr. Helen Stott):
Some people have such an eager thirst for knowledge that they cannot bear to be ignorant of anything. They dip into everything and master nothing; they prefer to learn much rather than learn well, to be superficial and weak in many sciences rather than to be deeply versed in one. Thus they find that on every subject there is someone who excels them and can correct them; they are mere dupes of their own vain curiosity, and can only after long and painful efforts overcome their gross ignorance.

Others possess the keys of all learning, yet never use them. They spend their lives in puzzling out all the known languages, and even would discover that which is spoken in the moon. The most useless idioms, the most ridiculous and mystical characters, are precisely those which awake their passion for languages and excite their industry. They pity those who are contented to know their own language, or at most, Greek and Latin. Such people read all books of history and yet know nothing at all of history; they skim through so many books that they profit by none; they could not well be more barren of facts and principles, but they certainly have the best collection of words and phrases which can be imagined; their memories are oppressed and loaded with them, while their minds remain empty.
In French:
Quelques-uns par une intempérance de savoir, et par ne pouvoir se résoudre à renoncer à aucune sorte de connaissance, les embrassent toutes et n'en possèdent aucune: ils aiment mieux savoir beaucoup que de savoir bien, et être faibles et superficiels dans diverses sciences que d'être sûrs et profonds dans une seule. Ils trouvent en toutes rencontres celui qui est leur maître et qui les redresse; ils sont les dupes de leur curiosité, et ne peuvent au plus, par de longs et pénibles efforts, que se tirer d'une ignorance crasse.

D'autres ont la clef des sciences, où ils n'entrent jamais: ils passent leur vie à déchiffrer les langues orientales et les langues du nord, celles des deux Indes, celles des deux pôles, et celle qui se parle dans la lune. Les idiomes les plus inutiles, avec les caractères les plus bizarres et les plus magiques, sont précisément ce qui réveille leur passion et qui excite leur travail; ils plaignent ceux qui se bornent ingénument à savoir leur langue, ou tout au plus la grecque et la latine. Ces gens lisent toutes les histoires et ignorent l'histoire; ils parcourent tous les livres, et ne profitent d'aucun; c'est en eux une stérilité de faits et de principes qui ne peut être grande, mais à la vérité la meilleur récolte et la richesse la plus abondante de mots et de paroles qui puisse s'imaginer: ils plient sous le faix; leur mémoire en est accablée, pendant que leur esprit demeure vide.


Saggy Pants

Evan Bleier, "Tennessee city will no longer put up with saggy pants," UPI (May 14, 2014):
The City Council of Pikeville unanimously approved an ordinance that would make individuals who wear their pants "more than three inches below the top of the hips (crest of the ilium)" guilty of public indecency.
This is neither a new nor a local phenomenon. See Marcel Pagnol (1895-1874), Manon of the Springs, chapter 15 (tr. W.E. van Heyningen; ellipsis in original):
"You poor simpleton!" cried the Papet. "Just look at the rich—they always have their trousers well supported, whereas peasants, with their woollen belts, the backsides of their trousers hang down to their knees..."
Related posts:


Another Dedication of Trees to Gods?

This post is a supplement to Dedications of Trees to Gods.

H.S. Versnel, Coping with the Gods: Wayward Readings in Greek Theology (Leiden: Brill, 2011 = Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 173), p. 120, with footnote:
An early 5th-century inscription from a Nymph grotto at Pharsalos (Thessalia) records that a certain Pantalkes “has dedicated to the goddesses the tree (?) (and) the laurel” (Παντάλκης ἀνέθεκε τὸ δέ[νδρον] τὰν δὲ δάφ[ναν] ἇ[ι] ἑδ’ ἀπ’ ἀέ[θλον] Φάν[ι]π[πος).353

353 I give the text as in Himmelmann-Wildschütz 1957, 28, where SEG 1.247 is rather more reticent with respect to conjecture. Most recent edition of this inscription and the one following: J.-Cl. Decourt, Études épigraphiques 3. Inscriptions de Thessalie 1: Les cités de la vallée de l’Enipeus (Athens 1995), 88–90, nos. 72 and 73. He reads: Παντάλκης ἀνέθεκε τόδ’ ἔργον. Τὰν δὲ δάφ[ναν] ἄερ ἅπαξ ΕΦΑΝΠ. See discussions in Himmelmann-Wildschütz; Versnel 1981a, 79; Pleket ibid. 162. Full translation in Connor 1988, 162 f. Texts and discussion also in Purvis 2003, 17 f., with n. 23. We cannot be sure about the ‘tree’ and the ‘daphne’. However, the emphasis on trees, plants and gardening is remarkable in these private cults, as also noticed by M.P.J. Dillon, The Ecology of the Greek Sanctuary, ZPE 118 (1997) 113–127, espec. 119 f. One might say that both these ‘hermits’ created their own ‘sacred grove’. Sacred groves are marked as places of purity and bliss outside urban civilisation where the human meets the divine, as F. Graf argues in: Bois sacrés et oracles en Asie Mineure, in: O. de Cazaneuve & J. Scheid (edd.), Les bois sacrés. Actes du Colloque international Centre J. Bérard (Naples 1993) 23–29. On the phenomenon of the sacred grove in general: G. Rüpke, Kulte jenseits der Polisreligion: Polemiken und Perspektiven, JAuC 47 (2004) 5–15, espec. 9–12. On such groves in Greek regions with a collection of epigraphic testimonia see: G. Ragone, in: C. Albore Livadie & F. Ortolani (edd.), La sistema uomo-ambiente tra passato e presente (Bari 1998) 11–22; cf. J. Mylonopoulos, Natur als Heiligtum—Natur im Heiligtum, ARG 10 (2008) 51–83, espec. 60–65, with more literature. Full treatment: M. Horster, Landbesitz griechischer Heiligtümer in archaischer und klassischer Zeit (Berlin – New York 2004) 92–138. On utopian aspects of gardens see: A.L. Giesecke, The Epic City. Urbanism, Utopia, and the Garden in Ancient Greece and Rome (Washington DC. 2007). Angelos Chaniotis sent me a photo of a wooden table fixed at a eucalyptus tree somewhere in Crete with the text: ΤΑ ΔΕΔΡΑ 7 ΕΥΚΑΠ [. . .], ΤΑ ΑΝΘΗ, ΤΗ ΒΡΥΣΗ ΚΑΙ ΤΟ ΕΡΓΟ ΠΡΟΣΤΑΣΙΑΣ, ΤΑ ΧΑΡΙΖΩ ΣΤΗΣ ΠΑΝΑΓΙΑΣ ΤΗ ΧΑΡΗ (“the seven eucalyptus trees, the flowers, the well, and the work of supervision, I give in gratitude to the Panaghia” [then follows the name of the giver]).
Versnel (id., pp. 18-20) answers critics who complain that the footnotes in his books are too many and too long. I wish they were even more numerous and longer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The Popularity of Poetry

Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993; rpt. 1995), p. 108 (footnote omitted):
It is very difficult for Westerners, especially Americans, to apprehend how significant poetry can be as an expressive mechanism in society. For many of us poetry has connotations of elitism, obscurity, impracticality. Few of us read poetry, and fewer still have a real appreciation of it. But in Vietnam this is not the case. Many Vietnamese read poetry with enjoyment, commit it to memory, and recite poems to each other with unfeigned enthusiasm. Everyday speech is liberally sprinkled with poetic allusions. Even the poor and the illiterate imbibe deeply of a rich oral tradition that has incorporated much that originated in the written literature of the educated elite. Poetry has been and remains much more popular and important in Vietnam than in the United States.
Hat tip: Jim K., who pointed me to the quotation in Morris Berman, "Thoughts on a Rainy Day."


My True Nature

Tu Fu (712-770), "On the Spur of the Moment," tr. Burton Watson in The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), p. 232 (with translator's footnote):
River slopes, already into the midmonth of spring,
under the blossoms, bright mornings again:
I look up, eager to watch the birds;
turn my head, answering what I took for a call.
Reading books, I skip the difficult parts;
faced with wine, I keep my cup filled.
These days I've gotten to know the old man of O-mei;1
he understands this idleness that is my true nature.

1. O-mei is a famous mountain southwest of Ch'eng-tu.
The same, tr. David Hinton in The Selected Poems of Tu Fu (New York: New Directions, 1989), p. 62:
Already mid-spring on the riverside,
Sunrise opens beneath the blossoms again.
Hoping to see the bird, I look up. And
Turning away, I answer . . . no one there.

I read, skipping over hard parts easily,
Pour wine from full jars. . . . The old
Sage on O-mei is a new friend.
It is here, in idleness, I become real.
The same, tr. Edna Worthley Underwood and Chi Hwang Chu in Tu Fu: Wanderer and Minstrel Under Moons of Cathay (Portland: Mosher Press, 1929), p. 92:
On this river-bank Middle Spring has come.
Under trees in flower at the morning's prime
I can lean to look at the swinging birds.
I lie to the man who asks my health.

I read. I skip unfamiliar words.
I face wine and I fill my cup to the brim.
'Tis not long since I met Hermit O Mei.
He knows the truth—just how lazy I am.


Patagus Morbus

J.N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982; rpt. 1993), has an appendix on the Vocabulary Relating to Bodily Functions (pp. 231-250). One of the bodily functions discussed is farting (pp. 249-250). In his discussion Adams doesn't mention a fragment of Plautus (fab. inc. 62 Goetz) preserved by Macrobius, Saturnalia 5.19.11:
me<di>cum habet patagus morbus aes.

medicum Bücheler: mecum ω
patagus Canter (pet- A): p(a)eagus ω
Robert A. Kaster, in his Loeb Classical Library edition of Macrobius, Saturnalia, Vol. II: Books 3-5 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011), p. 439, translates the fragment thus (with footnote on p. 438):
The disease of flatulence79 is healed by bronze.

79 Plautus' patagus = Gk. patagos, which denotes a range of harsh sounds, including the clatter of arms, the crash of thunder, and the rumbling of flatulence (LSJ9 s.v.).
For the meaning "rumbling caused by flatulence" Liddell-Scott-Jones s.v. πάταγος cite HP.VM22, i.e. Hippocrates, On Ancient Medicine 22.7 (tr. Mark J. Schiefsky):
All that produces wind and flatulent colic in the body is apt to bring about noise and rumbling in the hollow and spacious parts such as the belly and the chest: for if the wind does not fill up a part so as to come to rest, but is able to shift its place and move about, this necessarily gives rise to both noise and evident movements.

ὅσα δὲ φῦσάν τε καὶ ἀνειλήματα ἀπεργάζεται ἐν τῷ σώματι, προσήκει ἐν μὲν τοῖσι κοίλοισι καὶ εὐρυχωώρέσιν, οἷον κοιλίῃ τε καὶ θώρηκι, ψόφον τε καὶ πάταγον ἐμποιεῖν· ὅ τι γὰρ ἂν μὴ ἀποπληρώσῃ οὕτως ὥστε στῆναι ἀλλ’ ἔχῃ μεταβολάς τε καὶ κινήσιας, ἀνάγκη ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ψόφον καὶ καταφανέας κινήσιας γίνεσθαι.
Lewis and Short define patagus as simply "a sort of disease." In the quotation from Plautus, aes perhaps means copper rather than bronze. Copper was an ingredient in ancient medical prescriptions, although not (so far as I know) as a remedy for flatulence. A slightly more literal translation of the fragment from Plautus might be:
Flatulence, a disease, has copper as a physician.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Wedded to Stupidity

[Plato], Alcibiades I 118B (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
You are wedded to stupidity, my fine friend, of the vilest kind; you are impeached of this by your own words, out of your own mouth; and this, it seems, is why you dash into politics before you have been educated. And you are not alone in this plight, but you share it with most of those who manage our city's affairs...

ἀμαθίᾳ γὰρ συνοικεῖς, ὦ βέλτιστε, τῇ ἐσχάτῃ, ὡς ὁ λόγος σου κατηγορεῖ καὶ σὺ σαυτοῦ· διὸ καὶ ᾁττεις ἄρα πρὸς τὰ πολιτικὰ πρὶν παιδευθῆναι. πέπονθας δὲ τοῦτο οὐ σὺ μόνος, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν πραττόντων τὰ τῆσδε τῆς πόλεως...


The Two-Footed Beast That Inflicts Terror

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), "The King of Beasts," The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Vol. 3: 1939-1962, ed. Tim Hunt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), p. 138:
Cattle in the slaughter-pens, laboratory dogs
Slowly tortured to death, flogged horses, trapped fur-bearers,
Agonies in the snow, splintering your needle teeth on chill steel,—look:
Mankind, your Satans, are not very happy either. I wish you had seen the battle-squalor, the bombings,
The screaming fire-deaths. I wish you could watch the endless hunger, the cold, the moaning, the hopelessness.
I wish you could smell the Russian and the German torture-camps. It is quite natural the two-footed beast
That inflicts terror, the cage, enslavement, torment and death on all other animals
Should eat the dough that he mixes and drink the death-cup. It is just and decent. And it will increase, I think.
Related posts:


Slow Reading

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, "Fraenkel, Eduard David Mortier (1888–1970)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
He lectured effectively on Catullus, Virgil, and Horace; but he exerted special influence through his famous seminars on Aeschylus's Agamemnon, in which he went through the play in almost as much time as it took Agamemnon to capture Troy.
Aeschylus' Agamemnon has 1673 lines; it took Agamemnon ten years to capture Troy.

Update from Dr. Christopher Stray:
Re yr post on Fraenkel, quoting the late Hugh Lloyd-Jones, let me offer you this, from an unpublished text:

In his ODNB article on Fraenkel, Hugh Lloyd-Jones repeated what was doubtless a contemporary witticism in remarking that in the seminar, Fraenkel ‘went through the play in almost as much time as it took Agamemnon to capture Troy’ (Lloyd-Jones 2004). There were eight weekly seminars (Fridays, 5-7pm) for two terms each year, a total of 192 hours. The average speed with which the text was read and discussed was thus just under ten lines per hour.
Related post: Reading Quickly or Slowly.


A Quotation Attributed to Goethe

Fedwa Wazwaz, An Invitation to Grow Together," Minneapolis Star Tribune (May 17, 2013), quotes Goethe as follows:
Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.
This quotation can be found elsewhere on the Internet. When I read it, my bullshit detector sounded an alarm. Did Goethe really say something so much like New Age claptrap? My suspicion increased when, looking deeper, I found the quotation in German on the Internet, as "Jeder will jemand sein, niemand will wachsen." To my admittedly untrained ear this had the ring of a translation from English back into German, not of an original statement by Goethe in German. I couldn't find this supposed quotation from Goethe anywhere in his printed works.

Then, thanks to a hint from a friend, I unearthed the quotation in The Viking Book of Aphorisms: A Personal Selection, edd. W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger (New York: Viking Press, 1962; rpt. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993), p. 52:
Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.
Here the quotation is attributed to Goethe, but with no indication of chapter and verse.

The closest approximation I could find in Goethe's works was this epigram in the Gesamtausgabe, Bd. I: Gedichte (Stuttgart: J.G. Cotta, 1949), p. 664 (from Xenien, Book IV):
Mit seltsamen Gebärden
Gibt man sich viele Pein,
Kein Mensch will etwas werden,
Ein jeder will schon was sein.
This, I think, means something like the following in English:
With a singular manner
One takes great suffering upon himself.
No one wants to become something,
Everyone wants to be something right now.

Monday, May 19, 2014


A Farm

Philemon, fragment 105, Greek text in R. Kassel and C. Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. VII (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1989), p. 284 (my translation):
A most fitting possession for men is a farm;
For what nature asks, a farm provides with care:
Wheat, oil, wine, figs, honey.
Silver plate and purple dye are
Well suited for the stage, but not for life.

διακαιότατον κτῆμ' ἐστὶν άνθρώποις άγρός·
ὧν ἡ φύσις δεῖται γὰρ ἐπιμελῶς φέρει,
πυρούς, ἔλαιον, οἶνον, ἰσχάδας, μέλι.
τὰ δ' ἀργυρώματ' ἐστὶν ἥ τε πορφύρα
εἰς τοὺς τραγῳδοὺς εὔθετ', οὐκ εἰς τὸν βίον.

1 διακαιότατον: εὐκταιότατον


Memory and Oblivion

Greek Anthology 11.67 (Macedonius the Consul, tr. W.R. Paton):
Memory and Oblivion, all hail! Memory I say in the case of good things, and Oblivion in the case of evil.

Μνήμη καὶ Λήθη, μέγα χαίρετον· ἡ μὲν ἐπ' ἔργοις
    Μνήμη τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς, ἡ δ' ἐπὶ λευγαλέοις.
Related post: Remembering and Forgetting.


A High School Dropout

Natasha Singer, "Never Forgetting a Face," New York Times (May 17, 2014), on Dr. Joseph J. Atick:
Eventually, he dropped out of high school to write a physics textbook. His family moved to Miami, and he decided to skip college. It did not prove a setback; at 17, he was accepted to a doctoral program in physics at Stanford.


Jungles in Every Square Foot of Turf

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), "My Winter-Garden," Miscellanies, Vol. I, 2nd ed. (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1860), pp. 134-163 (at 144-145):
Have you eyes to see? Then lie down on the grass, and look near enough to see something more of what is to be seen; and you will find tropic jungles in every square foot of turf; mountain cliffs and debacles at the mouth of every rabbit burrow: dark strids, tremendous cataracts, 'deep glooms and sudden glories,' in every foot-broad rill which wanders through the turf. All is there for you to see, if you will but rid yourself of 'that idol of space;' and nature, as every one will tell you who has seen dissected an insect under the microscope, as grand and graceful in her smallest as in her hugest forms.
Related posts:

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Be Prepared

Jane Austen (1775-1817), Mansfield Park, chapter I (Sir Thomas Bertram speaking):
[We] must prepare ourselves for gross ignorance, some meanness of opinions, and very distressing vulgarity of manner...
A quotation of wide application. It could be said, for example, by a teacher anticipating the first day of school, or by anyone facing an upcoming family reunion.


An Absurd Academic System

J. Linderski, review of Marianne Bonnefond-Coudry, Le Sénat de la république romaine de la guerre d'Hannibal à Auguste: Pratiques délibératives et prise de décision (Rome: École française de Rome, 1989), in American Journal of Philology 113.1 (Spring 1992) 125-128 (at 127-128), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 37-39 (at 39):
It is easy to carp. The blame rests not with the hand that wrote the book, but with the absurd academic system that rewards effuse scribbling and frowns upon concise lucidity. It is not by accident that Louis Robert had never written a thèse.


Understanding Horace

Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), "The Latin Studies of Hermann and Wilamowitz," Journal of Roman Studies 38 (1948) 28-34 (at 31):
Only those who equal Horace in philhellenism and insight into the nature of Greek poetry are in a position to understand the poet of Venusia and the Italic vigour of his Muse.
Id., p. 32:
But this article and many occasional remarks of his on Horace are overshadowed by the essay 'Horaz und die griechischen Lyriker', at the end of his book Sappho und Simonides. This brief chapter is a masterpiece, and from its twenty pages a student who reads them patiently and intelligently, and is capable of following up their laconic hints, will gain more for his understanding of Horace than by plodding through whole libraries of more voluminous works.
Hat tip: Karl Maurer.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Formula for Producing a Useless Book

J. Linderski, review of Elisabeth H. Erdmann, Die Rolle des Heeres in der Zeit von Marius bis Caesar: Militärische und politische Probleme einer Berufsarmee (Neustadt/Aisch: Druck und Verlag Ph. C.W. Schmidt, 1972), in American Classical Review 2 (1972) 216-217 (at 217), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 284-285 (at 285, with author's supplement in brackets):
Old German dissertations, while often narrow-minded and dull, were almost invariably very useful as they collected dispersed evidence or presented interesting solutions of particular problems. This apparently is no more in vogue. A pretence of sociological open-mindedness coupled with philological negligence is an excellent formula for producing a useless book. {Since these lines were composed the pest has spread far and wide producing vast libraries of hot air}.


An Act of Hubris

Hans-Friedrich Mueller, "Doctus vir et perfectus magister," in C.F. Konrad, ed., Augusto Augurio: Rerum Humanarum Et Divinarum Commentationes in Honorem Jerzy Linderski (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004), pp. 1-4 (at 2):
We had at the beginning of the term been instructed to read the first five books of Livy in Latin, to consult always Ogilvie, that to read Latin without a commentary was an act of hubris (though, on the other hand, commentaries were not to be trusted implicitly, and usually failed when one turned to them with real questions; but then again, there was no such thing as a completely useless commentary), and to read another five books as well, but to choose whatever else was pleasing (later we were told to read Book Six along with others because they too were essential).



Joachim Du Bellay (1522-1560), Les Regrets, sonnet 68, tr. Richard Helgerson:
I hate the Florentine's usurious greed. I hate the crazy Sienese's lack of judgment. I hate the Genovese's rare truthfulness, and the Venetian's excessively sly malice.

I hate the Ferraran for I know not what vice. I hate all Lombards for disloyalty, the proud Neapolitan for his great vanity, and the lazy Roman for working so little.

I hate the unruly Englishman and the blustering Scot, the treacherous Burgundian and the gossipy Frenchman, the haughty Spaniard and the drunken German.

In short, I hate some vice in every nation. I even hate myself for my imperfection. But above all, I hate pedantic learning.
The same, tr. David R. Slavitt:
I hate the Florentines, usurious leeches;
I hate the Sienese, who are wild and crazy;
I hate the Genevans, whose notions of truth are hazy
at best, and Venetians, those cunning sons of bitches.

I hate Ferrarans, whose vices I can't even
imagine, and Lombards, who will always break
their promises, and Neapolitans, fake
arrogant peacocks...And Romans? That's a given!

The surly English and braggart Scots I despise.
Burgundians I hate for telling lies.
French yammer, Spaniards are vain, and the German drinks.

Each nation has its defect that wants correction.
And I hate myself for my own imperfection.
But what I hate worst is pedantry. That stinks.
The French, in modern spelling, from Joachim Du Bellay, Les Regrets précédé de Les Antiquités de Rome et suivi de La Défense et Illustration de la Langue française (Paris: Gallimard, 1967), pp. 113-114:
Je hais du Florentin l'usurière avarice,
Je hais du fol Siennois le sens mal arrêté,
Je hais du Genevois la rare vérité,
Et du Vénitien la trop caute malice:

Je hais le Ferrarais pour je ne sais quel vice,
Je hais tous les Lombards pour l'infidélité,
Le fier Napolitain pour sa grand' vanité,
Et le poltron romain pour son peu d'exercice:

Je hais l'Anglais mutin et le brave Écossais,
Le traître Bourguignon et l'indiscret Français,
Le superbe Espagnol et l'ivrogne Tudesque:

Bref, je hais quelque vice en chaque nation,
Je hais moi-même encor mon imperfection,
Mais je hais par sur tout un savoir pédantesque.
Related posts:

Friday, May 16, 2014


Hallmarks of a Mature Scholar

J. Linderski, "Agnes Kirsopp Michels and the Religio," Classical Journal 92.4 (April-May 1997) 323-345 (at 328):
This youthful work shows all the hallmarks of a mature scholar: painstaking attention to detail, dogged hunt for facts, distrust of fancy theories, and independence of mind.
Id., p. 336, n. 31:
[B]efore we proceed to a literary or historical study we have first to know in the analyzed text the sense of every word, in all its applications and shades, a step all too often omitted.

Agnes Kirsopp Michels (1909-1993),
photograph by Bern Schwartz


A Botched Experiment

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), "Orca," The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Vol. 3: 1939-1962, ed. Tim Hunt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), pp. 205-206 (at 206):
But the breed of man
Has been queer from the start. It looks like a botched experiment that has run wild and ought to be stopped.


The Bird of Wisdom Flies Low

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), "Diogenes and Plato," Imaginary Conversations of Greeks and Romans (London: Edward Moxon, 1853), pp. 73-131 (at 75; Diogenes speaking):
The bird of wisdom flies low, and seeks her food under hedges: the eagle himself would be starved if he always soared aloft and against the sun. The sweetest fruit grows near the ground, and the plants that bear it require ventilation and lopping. Were this not to be done in thy garden, every walk and alley, every plot and border, would be covered with runners and roots, with boughs and suckers. We want no poets or logicians or metaphysicians to govern us: we want practical men, honest men, continent men, unambitious men, fearful to solicit a trust, slow to accept, and resolute never to betray one.
Id., p. 93:
Keep always to the point, or with an eye upon it, and instead of saying things to make people stare and wonder, say what will withhold them hereafter from wondering and staring. This is philosophy; to make remote things tangible, common things extensively useful, useful things extensively common, and to leave the least necessary for the last. I have always a suspicion of sonorous sentences. The full shell sounds little, but shows by that little what is within. A bladder swells out more with wind than with oil.
Id., p. 97:
Why not at once introduce a new religion? since religions keep and are relished in proportion as they are salted with absurdity, inside and out; and all of them must have one great crystal of it for the centre; but Philosophy pines and dies unless she drinks limpid water.
Id., p. 100:
I want sense, not stars.
The only thing I know about the soul is, that it makes the ground slippery under us when we discourse on it...
Id., p. 101:
Thou hast many admirers; but either they never have read thee, or do not understand thee, or are fond of fallacies, or are incapable of detecting them. I would rather hear the murmur of insects in the grass than the clatter and trilling of cymbals and timbrels over-head. The tiny animals I watch with composure, and guess their business: the brass awakes me only to weary me: I wish it under-ground again, and the parchment on the sheep's back.

Thursday, May 15, 2014



ΠΕΡΙ ΔΕΙCΙΔΑΙΜΟΝΙΑC. Plutarchus, and Theophrastus, On Superstition; with Various Appendices, and a Life of Plutarchus (Kentish Town: Julian Hibbert, 1828), p. vi:
I terminate this my Preface by consigning all "Greek Scholars" to the special care of Beelzebul.



Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916), "Requies," The Poetical Works of Thomas MacDonagh (Dublin: The Talbot Press, 1916), p. 28:
He is dead, and never word of blame
    Or praise of him his spirit hears,
Sacred, secure from cark of fame,
    From sympathy of useless tears.



Euripides, Hippolytus 1328-1330 (Artemis speaking; tr. David Kovacs):
Among the gods the custom is this: no god will cross the will of another, but we all stand aside.

                         θεοῖσι δ' ὦδ' ἔχει νόμος·
οὐδεὶς ἀπαντᾶν βούλεται προθυμίᾳ
τῇ τοῦ θέλοντος, ἀλλ' ἀφιστάμεσθ' ἀεί.


We Must Unhumanize Our Views

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), "Carmel Point," The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Vol. 3: 1939-1962, ed. Tim Hunt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), p. 399:
The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rock-heads—
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.—As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


A Mountain Spring

Ch'u Ch'uang I, "A Mountain Spring," tr. Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese: Love and the Turning Year (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 51:
There is a brook in the mountains,
Nobody I ask knows its name.
It shines on the earth like a piece
Of the sky. It falls away
In waterfalls, with a sound
Like rain. It twists between rocks
And makes deep pools. It divides
Into islands. It flows through
Calm reaches. It goes its way
With no one to mind it. The years
Go by, its clear depths never change.


A Primary Responsibility of a Translator

Peter A. Boodberg (1903-1972), Cedules from a Berkeley Workshop in Asiatic Philology, 013: On Fishing Snow:
In this cedule I wish to confess to twenty years of academic treason: two decades of grudging admiration for the clumsy and sometimes pathetic, but always honest and sincere attempts of the late Florence Ayscough to metaphrase Chinese poetry verbatim. Her grasp of Chinese grammar may have been infirm and her enthusiasm for the graphic analysis of characters as unbridled as Ezra Pound's. Yet her scripts show recognition of a primary responsibility of a translator, the search for diction in some degree commensurate with that of the original; perhaps also a deeper respect for great poetry than is evident in the product of so many of us, staid academicians, who dismiss her efforts with an indulgent smile. Her work often betrays her innocent fallibility; ours, as often, unfaithfulness to our knowledge.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.



John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), Studies of the Greek Poets: First Series, 2nd ed. (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1877), p. 249:
[H]e has the peculiar and private disability of never having been really appreciated at his worth except by a few scholars and enthusiastic poets. The reason for this want of intelligence in the case of Aristophanes is not hard to see. First of all, his plays are very difficult. Their allusions require much learned illustration. Their vocabulary is copious and rare. So that none but accomplished Grecians or devoted students of literature can hope to read him with much pleasure to themselves. In a translation his special excellence is almost unrecognizable. Next—and this is the real reason why Aristophanes has been unfairly dealt with, as well as the source of the second class of difficulties which meet his interpreters—it is hard for the modern Christian world to tolerate his freedom of speech and coarseness. Of all the Greeks, essentially a nude nation, he is the most naked—the most audacious in his revelation of all that human nature is supposed to seek to hide.
Id., p. 255:
It must be acknowledged that the Greeks were devoid of what we call shame and delicacy in respect of their bodies. It was only in the extreme old age of the Greek race, and under the dominion of Oriental mysticism, that the Alexandrian Plotinus was heard to exclaim that he blushed because he had a body. The true Greeks, on the contrary, were proud of the body, loved to display their physical perfections, felt no shame of any physical needs, were not degraded by the exercise of any animal function, nay poetized the pleasures of the flesh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Philologists' Credo

Peter A. Boodberg (1903-1972), Cedules from a Berkeley Workshop in Asiatic Philology, 019: Translations, Hyperbatic and Hyperbathetic:
A pedant I take to be: 'a self-disciplined and disciplinarian disseminator of painfully acquired knowledge to the young'. His decalogue begins: "Thou shalt not, without apology, attempt to avoid an issue which thou hast taught thy disciple to face squarely". Now, pedants who call themselves philologists have a short and simple confession of faith: 'Grammar = Order = Beauty'. This naive credo sustains them through endless hours of drudgery spent in scribbling palimpsestic paradigms, and serves them as a potent incantation for dispelling phantasmagorias conjured by the solecistic sprites who haunt them in the night.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


A Gentleman Never Misplaces His Accents

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), "Autumn Journal: XIII," Collected Poems (London: Faber & Faber, 1966; rpt. 1979), pp. 125-127:
Which things being so, as we said when we studied
    The classics, I ought to be glad
That I studied the classics at Marlborough and Merton,
    Not everyone here having had
The privilege of learning a language
    That is incontrovertibly dead,
And of carting a toy-box of hall-marked marmoreal phrases
    Around in his head.
We wrote compositions in Greek which they said was a lesson
    In logic and good for the brain;
We marched, counter-marched to the field-marshal'’s blue-pencil baton,
    We dressed by the right and we wrote out the sentence again.
We learned that a gentleman never misplaces his accents,
    That nobody knows how to speak, much less how to write
English who has not hob-nobbed with the great-grandparents of English,
    That the boy on the Modern Side is merely a parasite
But the classical student is bred to the purple, his training in syntax
    Is also a training in thought
And even in morals; if called to the bar or the barracks
    He always will do what he ought.
And knowledge, besides, should be prized for the sake of knowledge:
    Oxford crowded the mantlepiece with gods—
Scaliger, Heinsius, Dindorf, Bentley and Wilamowitz—
    As we learned our genuflexions for Honour Mods.
And then they taught us philosophy, logic and metaphysics,
    The Negative Judgement and the Ding an Sich,
And every single thinker was powerful as Napoleon
    And crafty as Metternich.
And it really was very attractive to be able to talk about tables
    And to ask if the table is,
And to draw the cork out of an old conundrum
    And watch the paradoxes fizz.
And it made one confident to think that nothing
    Really was what it seemed under the sun,
That the actual was not real and the real was not with us
    And all that mattered was the One.
And they said '‘The man in the street is so naïve, he never
    Can see the wood for the trees;
He thinks he knows he sees a thing but cannot
    Tell you how he knows the thing he thinks he sees.'
’And oh how much I liked the Concrete Universal,
    I never thought that I should
Be telling them vice-versa
    That they can'’t see the trees for the wood.
But certainly it was fun while it lasted
    And I got my honours degree
And was stamped as a person of intelligence and culture
    For ever wherever two or three
Persons of intelligence and culture
    Are gathered together in talk
Writing definitions on invisible blackboards
    In non-existent chalk.
But such sacramental occasions
    Are nowadays comparatively rare;
There is always a wife or a boss or a dun or a client
    Disturbing the air.
Barbarians always, life in the particular always,
    Dozens of men in the street,
And the perennial if unimportant problem
    Of getting enough to eat.
So blow the bugles over the metaphysicians,
    Let the pure mind return to the Pure Mind;
I must be content to remain in the world of Appearance
    And sit on the mere appearance of a behind.
But in case you should think my education was wasted
    I hasten to explain
That having once been to the University of Oxford
    You can never really again
Believe anything that anyone says and that of course is an asset
    In a world like ours;
Why bother to water a garden
    That is planted with paper flowers?
O the Freedom of the Press, the Late Night Final,
    To-morrow’s pulp;
One should not gulp one’'s port but as it isn'’t
    Port, I'’ll gulp it if I want to gulp
But probably I'’ll just enjoy the colour
    And pour it down the sink
For I don'’t call advertisement a statement
    Or any quack medicine a drink.
Good-bye now, Plato and Hegel,
    The shop is closing down;
They don'’t want any philosopher-kings in England,
    There ain'’t no universals in this man'’s town.

Monday, May 12, 2014


De Officiis

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), How About Europe? Some Footnotes on East and West (London: Chatto and Windus, 1930), p. 161:
Far too many excellent people are rushing about needlessly, groaning under a load of duties to be performed and puzzling how to avoid them. When a duty ceases to be a pleasure, then it ceases to exist. I recommend this maxim to those who would like to be masters of their own lives.


He Rolled the Stone of Sisyphus

Thomas Thornley (1855-1949), "Over-Worked," Verses from Fen and Fell (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1919), pp. 53-54:
(A visit to a Government Department)

A gifted friend, I long had known,
Has lately risen to power and place;
I made a pilgrimage of grace,
To see him seated on his throne.

I found him, as my way I picked
Through serried desks, in acid tone,
Complaining through a telephone,
While all around the typers ticked.

He answered with a dreary laugh,
My question how his labour sped,
'If all were done and I were dead,
These words might be my epitaph—

"His labour served but to reveal
A modern type of mountain 'mus,'
He rolled the stone of Sisyphus,
And turned Ixion's useless wheel.

Behind him, whispering bad advice,
An atra-bilious 'Cura' sat—
A care that would have killed the cat
That lapped the milk of Paradise."'

The wine of life, he said, was corked,
The country speeding to the dogs,
The people, foolish as the frogs,
Their log deposed, were now be-storked.

Quoth he 'The wisdom of the day,
Hard on the heels of folly treads,
And thinks, by counting brainless heads,
To charm a nation's ills away.'

He said that no one cared a jot
For aught but his peculiar fad,
There was no balm in Gilead,
Physicians were a wrangling lot;

That things were 'ganging all agley,'
With food, munitions, mice and men,
And, adding 'England is a fen,'
He sighed old Chelsea's 'Ay di mi';

That politicians all were bought,
And trimmed to every wind that blew,
In short, that everyone he knew,
Was doing nothing that he ought.

I let him say his saddening say,
Then, thinking over-work and spleen
Sat on the pulse of his machine,
I softly took myself away.
Oliver Heslop, Northumberland Words, Vol. I (London: English Dialect Society, 1892), p. 23:
AY-DI-MI! a common exclamation expressive of regret or pity, Probably shortened from Ah, dear me! Familiarised by Thomas Carlyle's letters, but often heard as a sigh expressed by old people in Northumberland.


How Do You Grow Old?

Wang An-shih (1021-1086), "Hymn," tr. David Hinton:
Dawn lights up the room. I close my book and sleep,
dreaming of Bell Mountain and full of tenderness.

How do you grow old living with failure and disgrace?
Just go back to the cascading creek: cold, shimmering.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Pet Peeves

Theodore Dalrymple, "From Sir, With Love," Taki Magazine (May 4, 2014):
"Are you a tyrant yourself, sir?" asked another customer.

"No, sir," I replied, "I am not."

"An aspiring tyrant, perhaps?"

I think I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have no tyrannical leanings, though no doubt like everyone else there are a few things that I should like to see prohibited, such as (in my case) chewing gum, drinks sold in cans, baseball caps, rock and other forms of pop music in public places, and preferably in private as well, fast food, men wearing suits without ties, television, mobile telephones in trains and restaurants, burqas (except for drunken British girls on Friday and Saturday nights, for whom they should be compulsory), tattoos, piercings, celebrity magazines, pasteurised cheese, the use of the word chair for chairman, conversations in public about football, the Olympic Games, jeans, skateboards, eating in the streets, coffee served in plastic containers, basketball, etc.


The Balkanization of Literary Studies

Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994), pp. 517-518:
I began my teaching career forty years ago in an academic context dominated by the ideas of T.S. Eliot; ideas that roused me to fury, and against which I fought as vigorously as I could. Finding myself now surrounded by professors of hip-hop; by clones of Gallic-Germanic theory; by ideologues of gender and of various sexual persuasions; by multiculturalists unlimited, I realize that the Balkanization of literary studies is irreversible. All of these Resenters of the aesthetic value of literature are not going to go away, and they will raise up institutional resenters after them. As an aged institutional Romantic, I still decline the Eliotic nostalgia for Theocratic ideology, but I see no reason for arguing with anyone about literary preferences. This book is not directed to academics, because only a small remnant of them still read for the love of reading. What Johnson and Woolf after him called the Common Reader still exists and possibly goes on welcoming suggestions of what might be read.

Such a reader does not read for easy pleasure or to expiate social guilt, but to enlarge a solitary existence. So fantastic has the academy become that I have heard this kind of reader denounced by an eminent critic, who told me that reading without a constructive social purpose was unethical and urged me to re-educate myself through an immersion in the writing of Abdul Jan Mohammed, a leader of the Birmingham (England) school of cultural materialism. As an addict who will read anything, I obeyed, but I am not saved, and return to tell you neither what to read nor how to read it, only what I have read and think worthy of rereading, which may be the only pragmatic test for the canonical.
Id., p. 519:
I do not believe that literary studies as such have a future, but this does not mean that literary criticism will die. As a branch of literature, criticism will survive, but probably not in our teaching institutions. The study of Western literature will also continue, but on the much more modest scale of our current Classics departments. What are now called "Departments of English" will be renamed departments of "Cultural Studies" where Batman comics, Mormon theme parks, television, movies, and rock will replace Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and Wallace Stevens. Major, once-elitist universities and colleges will still offer a few courses in Shakespeare, Milton, and their peers, but these will be taught by departments of three or four scholars, equivalent to teachers of ancient Greek and Latin. This development hardly need be deplored; only a few handfuls of students now enter Yale with an authentic passion for reading. You cannot teach someone to love great poetry if they come to you without such love. How can you teach solitude? Real reading is a lonely activity and does not teach anyone to become a better citizen. Perhaps the ages of reading—Aristocratic, Democratic, Chaotic—now reach terminus, and the reborn Theocratic era will be almost wholly an oral and visual culture.
Id., pp. 519-520:
[T]he teaching of poems, plays, stories, and novels is now supplanted by cheerleading for various social and political crusades. Or else, the artifacts of popular culture replace the difficult artifices of great writers as the material for instruction. It is not "literature" that needs to be redefined; if you can't recognize it when you read it, then no one can help you to know it or love it better. "A culture of universal access" is offered by post-Marxist idealists as the solution to "crisis," but how can Paradise Lost or Faust, Part Two ever lend themselves to universal access? The strongest poetry is cognitively and imaginatively too difficult to be read deeply by more than a relatively few of any social class, gender, race, or ethnic origin.

When I was a boy, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, almost universally part of the school curriculum, was an eminently sensible introduction to Shakespearean tragedy. Teachers now tell me of many schools where the play can no longer be read through, since students find it beyond their attention spans. In two places reported to me, the making of cardboard shields and swords has replaced the reading and discussion of the play. No socializing of the means of production and consumption of literature can overcome such debasement of early education. The morality of scholarship, as currently practiced, is to encourage everyone to replace difficult pleasures by pleasures universally accessible precisely because they are easier. Trotsky urged his fellow Marxists to read Dante, but he would find no welcome in our current universities.

I am your true Marxist critic, following Groucho rather than Karl, and I take as my motto Groucho's grand admonition, "Whatever it is, I'm against it!" I have been against, in turn, the neo-Christian New Criticism of T.S. Eliot and his academic followers; the deconstruction of Paul de Man and his clones; the current rampages of New Left and Old Right on the supposed inequities, and even more dubious moralities, of the literary Canon.


Three Things

H.S. Versnel, "A Parody on Hymns in Martial V 24 and Some Trinitarian Problems," Mnemosyne 27 (1974) 365-405 (at 366, n. 3):
By now I am convinced of three things: 1. every commentator copies his predecessor(s); 2. though carefully seeing to it that the really good comments, preferably those from the 17th century, be omitted; 3. "L'étude approfondie des réalités doit nécessairement précéder le jugement esthétique: sans elle il n'est point d'interprétation littéraire" (L. Robert, in L'Épigramme grecque, Entretiens Hardt, XIV, Genève 1967, 201).
Related post: Scholarly Psittacism.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Latin Translations of Greek Literature

Ezra Pound (1885-1972), "Translators of Greek," Instigations (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), pp. 321-356 (at 350):
The Latin can be a whole commentary on the Greek, or at least it can give one the whole parsing and order, and let one proceed at a comforable [sic, read comfortable] rate with but the most rudimentary knowledge of the original language. And I do not think this a trifle; it would be an ill day if men again let the classics go by the board; we should fall into something worse than, or as bad as, the counterreformation: a welter of gum-shoes, and cocoa, and Y.M.C.A. and Webbs, and social theorizing committees, and the general hell of a groggy doctrinaire obfuscation; and the very disagreeablizing of the classics, every pedagogy which puts the masterwork further from us, either by obstructing the schoolboy, or breeding affectation in dilettante readers, works toward such a detestable end.


Go East, Young Man

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), How About Europe? Some Footnotes on East and West (London: Chatto and Windus, 1930), pp. 22-23:
Go to the East, young man; leave behind you the frowsy and fidgety little hole called Europe. Savour the remedial effects of that other continent before you are caught in our humiliating machinery; before you are ticketed and labelled as to your monetary worth to a worthless 'community'; before you are taxed, and overtaxed, for the purpose of keeping alive thousands of people who ought to be dead.

Get out of Europe! Rectify your values while there is still some flexibility in your mind, and learn to laugh at the flabby gibberings of our cultured classes and the comical bestiality of their inferiors, our nauseating politics and childish social ideals, our moral hypocrisy that breeds liars, the inquisitorial tyranny of our laws that breeds cowards, and certain absurd newspapers whose function consists in persuading us to attach importance to what is not worth thinking about. Get out of it!


Man and Beast

Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, letter to Annie Adams Fields (May 1862):
I suppose he [Thoreau] believed that beasts and reptiles, birds and fishes fulfilled their ends, and that man generally came short. So he respected the one and avoided the other.

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