Thursday, March 31, 2016


New Tricks for Old Dogs?

Aristophanes, Clouds 639-640 (Socrates to Strepsiades; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Very well then, what would you begin learning now,
of the subjects you were never taught anything about? Tell me.

ἄγε δή, τί βούλει πρῶτα νυνὶ μανθάνειν
ὧν οὐκ ἐδιδάχθης πώποτ' οὐδέν; εἰπέ μοι.
My answer might be chemistry, which I never studied in school. On the other hand, maybe it's too late. Id. 854-855 (Strepsiades speaking):
                    But every lesson I learned
I forgot right away because I'm too old.

                                ἀλλ᾿ ὅ τι μάθοιμ᾿ ἑκάστοτε
ἐπελανθανόμην ἂν εὐθὺς ὑπὸ πλήθους ἐτῶν.




Frederic Harrison (1831-1923), Among My Books (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1912), p. 117:
That word of ill-omen known as Research hangs upon literature like the microbe of Sleeping Sickness. No one who knows me will suggest that I disparage thorough and exact knowledge or show any mercy as a critic to superficial work. No man has any right to make public his thoughts upon any subject until he has thoroughly exhausted and assimilated all that can be reasonably learned about it. But he has got to give us his thoughts, not his materials; what is worth knowing, not what can be stated and printed; what conclusion can be reached by Research, not what Research can unearth and cast up in a rubbish-heap. Books are too often made nowadays by laborious poking into charnel-houses and dustbins of the past, instead of by intelligent understanding of men and things. The first thing and the last thing in a real book is Thought. Tons of Research will not weigh down an ounce of Mind. For this canonisation of dead Facts is the ruin of healthy and pleasant reading. And if reading gives no enduring pleasure it serves no humane purpose.


Dative Verbs

S.J.V. Malloch, "The Classicist," in Blair Worden, ed., Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Historian (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016), pp. 240-254 (at 241-242, with end notes on p. 328; ellipsis in original):
At the first [school], Belhaven Hill, which Trevor-Roper entered in 1924 aged ten, he was thoroughly drilled in the classical languages by Wilfred Ingham, or Bungey as he was called because of his springing step.9 One of the two founders of Belhaven, Bungey seemed a living embodiment of Victorian and Edwardian schoolmasterly eccentricity. He 'had some hobby horses which he would ride, with whip and spur', remembered Trevor-Roper in old age:
One of them was 'dative verbs'. Dative verbs are verbs which, in the Latin language, require the dative, not the accusative case in the nouns which they govern. They also have some other incidental eccentricities. Bungey could not mention dative verbs without making a human parallel and then launching into a diatribe against it. Dative verbs, he would declare, are tiresome, wayward, eccentric, unpredictable verbs which will not conform to the rational rules accepted by their verbal colleagues but insist on going their own way, just like certain persons who always try to be different, thus causing unnecessary difficulties in a well-ordered society ... and then he would be off, unstoppable, far from the set course, denouncing human dative verbs, sometimes, I felt, with a staring eye on me.10
9 Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography (London, 2010), p. 13.
10 SOC.Dacre 6/34/2: 'Memoirs chs 1-7', '[Ch.] 4 Belhaven Hill', p. γ.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Effect of Education

Robertson Davies (1913-1995), The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks (New York: Viking, 1986), p. 278:
[E]ducation does not really alter character, but merely intensifies it, making foolish people more foolish, superstitious people more superstitious, and of course wise people wiser.



Sextus, Sentences 162a (tr. Walter T. Wilson):
Regarding things you do not know, be silent.

περὶ ὧν οὐκ οἶδας σιώπα.

de quibus ignoras tace.
Strict observance of this rule would make the world a very quiet place.


"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen"

Ludwig Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Variously translated, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent" or less cumbersomely, "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence".

Chris Chambers


Liberal Arts, or Vocational Training?

Aristophanes, Clouds 648 (my own, slightly tendentious, translation):
What good will studying poetry do to help me earn a living?

τί δέ μ' ὠφελήσουσ᾿ οἱ ῥυθμοὶ πρὸς τἄλφιτα;
Jeffrey Henderson's more literal translation:
But how will these rhythms help me get my daily bread?
ἄλφιτα are barley-groats, but metaphorically they are also (Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ἄλφιτον, sense III) "one's daily bread, 'bread and cheese'." Liddell-Scott-Jones cite "AR.Pl.219, Nu.106, etc." for this meaning. A somewhat more complete list, for Aristophanes, would be "AR.Pl.219, Nu.106, 176, 648, Pax 477."


A Grotesque Idea

Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), "Apologia transfugae," Didaskolos 4 (1972) 393-412 (at 407):
How can anyone understand a society who does not read its literature? The professional historian goes back to the original documents: the documents of state. But what documents are more original than the art and literature of any people, the still living documents of society? Historical writing which is not nourished from such sources is dry and dead — as most academic theses, and most textbooks, too dismally testify. To study Elizabethan England without reading Shakespeare, or Puritan England without reading Milton, or Restoration England without reading Dryden — the idea is, to me, grotesque.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


New Versus Old Books

Frederic Harrison (1831-1923), Among My Books (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1912), p. 4:
How I pity the restless people who want the last book out, and worry till they can get sight of some ephemeral tale that they will forget the very name of to-morrow. These Danaids are for ever doomed to fill their little pitchers with a stream of printer's ink which runs out at the bottom, and a dull and unwholesome fluid it is. What pure draughts, fresh from the Pierian spring, are all the while at hand, if they would but open the poor old standard books, as they call them, of which they know nothing but the name. These prodigals are fain to fill themselves with husks that the swine eat, when they should arise and go home to sup off the fatted calf.
Id., p.109:
In closing these notes upon Books, my last word, as it was my first word, is this: Read again the good old books, and do not cast them aside as stale, for ever looking for the "last thing out," the very name of which, when it has been scampered through, will be forgotten in a week. To a reader of any brain the great books of the world are ever new; at each reading things strike us which we had never noticed, or perhaps had forgotten, or even had misunderstood. I take up again my Plato, my Shakespeare, my Gibbon, my Scott—and I say, How did I miss that, why did I forget that, did I really never read this before?
Id., p. 123:
As an old man, I stand by the old Books, the old Classics, the old Style.


Gun Control

Sextus, Sentences 324 (tr. Walter T. Wilson):
It would be best for there to be no such thing as a murderous weapon, but since there is, do not consider it to be for you.

σίδηρον ἀνδροφόνον ἄριστον μὲν ἦν μὴ γενέσθαι, γενόμενον δὲ σοὶ μὴ νόμιζε εἶναι.

ferrum quo homines interimuntur optimum quidem fuerat non fieri, factum tamen apud te non sit.
Pseudo-Phocylides, Sentences 32-34 (tr. Walter T. Wilson):
Gird on your sword not for murder but for defense.
But may you not need it at all, unlawfully or justly.
For if you slay a foe, you stain your hand.

τὸ ξίφος ἀμφιβαλοῦ μὴ πρὸς φόνον, ἀλλ' ἐς ἄμυναν.
εἴθε δὲ μὴ χρῄζοις μήτ' ἔκνομα μήτε δικαίως·
ἢν γὰρ ἀποκτείνῃς ἐχθρόν, σέο χείρα μιαίνεις.
Valerius Maximus 2.6.9 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
However, to return to the Massilian community from which I strayed into this digression, none may enter their town with a weapon. A person is in attendance to take such for safe keeping and return it to its owner as he leaves. So their hospitality is both kindly to strangers and safe for themselves.

sed ut ad Massiliensium civitatem, unde in hoc deverticulum excessi, revertar, intrare oppidum eorum nulli cum telo licet, praestoque est qui id custodiae gratia acceptum exituro reddat, ut hospitia sua, quemadmodum advenientibus humana sunt, ita ipsis quoque tuta sint.
Herodotus 1.155.4 (speech of Croesus to Cyrus, tr. Aubrey de Selincourt):
As for the Lydians, forgive them—but all the same, if you want to keep them loyal and to prevent any danger from them in future, I suggest that you put a veto upon their possession of arms. Make them wear tunics under their cloaks, and high boots, and tell them to teach their sons to play the zither and harp, and to start shopkeeping. If you do that, my lord, you will soon see them turn into women instead of men, and there will not be any more danger of them rebelling against you.

Λυδοῖσι δὲ συγγνώμην ἔχων τάδε αὐτοῖσι ἐπίταξον, ὡς μήτε ἀποστέωσι μήτε δεινοί τοι ἔωσι· ἄπειπε μέν σφι πέμψας ὅπλα ἀρήια μὴ ἐκτῆσθαι, κέλευε δὲ σφέας κιθῶνάς τε ὑποδύνειν τοῖσι εἵμασι καὶ κοθόρνους ὑποδέεσθαι, πρόειπε δ᾽ αὐτοῖσι κιθαρίζειν τε καὶ ψάλλειν καὶ καπηλεύειν παιδεύειν τοὺς παῖδας. καὶ ταχέως σφέας ὦ βασιλεῦ γυναῖκας ἀντ᾽ ἀνδρῶν ὄψεαι γεγονότας, ὥστε οὐδὲν δεινοί τοι ἔσονται μὴ ἀποστέωσι.


An Esoteric Parlour-Game

Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), "Apologia transfugae," Didaskolos 4 (1972) 393-412 (at 409):
Above all, they loved to emend those texts. How those famous scholars vied with one another in that esoteric parlour-game! How they conjured with syllables, transposed lines, inverted letters, in the hope of finding themselves immortalised, in the apparatus criticus of their successors, with that noblest of epitaphs 'emendatio palmaris'! When I first read the Greek tragedians, I was adjured to marvel at those brilliant tours de force which had made the names of Bentley and Porson and were still regularly continued, as a ritual exercise, in the pages of the Classical journals. Now (I am afraid) I view these ingenious reconstructions with considerable scepticism. My scepticism began when I had my own writings copied by a typist. The most regular error of any typist, I then discovered, was to jump from one word to the same word repeated a line or so later, omitting the intermediate text and thus making nonsense of the whole passage. Clearly, in such circumstances, no amount of textual tinkering can restore the original text. Assuming, as I do, that a certain common humanity links a modern typist with a monastic copyist of the Dark or Middle Ages, I now assume that such omissions are the cause of many corruptions in ancient manuscripts, and ingenious conjecture is effort wasted.
The "jump from one word to the same word repeated a line or so later," with omission of "the intermediate text," is called "saut du même au même" in manuals of textual criticism. See e.g. Louis Havet, Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1911), pp. 130-133 (§§ 441-467), and Martin L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973), pp. 24-25.

Monday, March 28, 2016



Dear Mike,

You've probably seen the headlines:


I think of the remark of Sydney Smith in a preface to a collection of sermons (1801):
The cry of a child, the fall of a book, the most trifling occurrence, is sufficient to dissipate religious thought, and to introduce a more willing train of ideas: a sparrow fluttering about the church is an antagonist which the most profound theologian in Europe is wholly unable to overcome.
See his daughter's Memoir of the Rev. Sydney Smith (London, 1855, second edition), vol. 1 p.50.

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

Servius on Vergil, Aeneid 1.398 (my translation):
Augurium is intentional and is revealed by specific birds, auspicium is accidental and is shown by any bird.

augurium petitur et certis avibus ostenditur, auspicium qualibet avi demonstratur et non petitur.


Flights of Fancy

Georg Luck (1926-2013), "Conjectural Emendations in the Greek New Testament," in M. Sanz Morales and M. Librán Moreno, edd., Verae Lectiones: estudios de crítica textual y edición de textos griegos (Huelva: Universidad de Huelvá, 2009), pp. 169-202 (at 182-183):
Jn. 19:29

After Jesus has spoken the words "I am thirsty", a sponge soaked in sour wine is put on a "hyssop stick" and held up to his mouth. A hyssop stick is an extremely unsuitable tool, and in the 16th century, Camerarius suggested ὑσσῷ for ὑσσώπῳ. Since Roman soldiers were standing near the Cross, a "spear" or "javelin" would make much more sense than a "hyssop stalk", whose "long, firm stalk" (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, s.v.) is pure fantasy, read out of this passage; the real hyssop is a small bush. Later, the reading proposed by Camerarius was found in a 12th c. Minuscule and in some witnesses of the Itala. It is obviously correct, and it is mentioned in a note in the NJB, but the editors reject it obstinately. One of the arguments is the "purifying effect of the hyssop" which is apparently essential here. G.D. Kilpatrick21 uses a different approach to disqualify the reading. According to him, ὑσσός is the Greek word for pilum; the characteristic weapon of the Roman legionary troops. But no legionary troops were stationed in Judaea before A. D. 66, says Kilpatrick. Pontius Pilate only had auxiliary troops serving under him, and they were not equipped with pila. Therefore, no pilum was available near the Cross. All of this is complete fiction, as any Roman historian will tell you, and all you need to do is read Lucan's Bellum Civile to find out how common a weapon the Roman pilum was. Along with the gladius, it belonged to the basic equipment of the Roman infantryman. It is a sobering experience to observe what flights of fancy Biblical scholars indulge in order to discredit a conjecture. This is a fight to the death, and truth, as in a real war, is its first casualty. I have to say, in all honesty, that Camerarius' conjecture has been accepted by a number of scholars, Catholic and Protestant alike, but it is still relegated to the apparatus criticus in modern editions, although it has been pointed out long ago22 that the stem of a hyssop branch would not be strong enough to take the weight of a wet sponge and palaeography offers an easy explanation of the error.

21 Bible Translator 9, 1958, 133-4.
22 M.-J. Lagrange, Commentary on John, Paris 1925, ad loc.


Envy and Schadenfreude

Stobaeus 3.38.32 = Hippias, fragment 16 Diels-Kranz = Plutarch, fragment 155 Sandbach (tr. David Gallop):
From Plutarch's <On> Slander: "Hippias says that there are two kinds of envy: one kind is just, when one begrudges bad men the honor given them; the other kind is unjust, when one begrudges it to good men. The envious have double the distress of others; for they are vexed not only, as others are, by their own ills but also by others' goods."

Πλουτάρχου ἐκ τοῦ <περὶ τοῦ> διαβάλλειν· Ἱππίας λέγει δύο εἶναι φθόνους· τὸν μὲν δίκαιον, ὅταν τις τοῖς κακοῖς φθονῇ τιμωμένοις· τὸν δ᾿ ἄδικον, ὅταν τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς. καὶ διπλᾶ τῶν ἄλλων οἱ φθονεροὶ κακοῦνται· οὐ γὰρ μόνον τοῖς ἰδίοις κακοῖς ἄχθονται, ὥσπερ ἐκεῖνοι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ἀλλοτρίοις ἀγαθοῖς.

περὶ τοῦ add. Otto Hense
One could look at it another way. The envious have double the joy of others; for they rejoice not only in their own goods, but also in others' misfortunes. See Plato, Philebus 49 D:
But certainly we see the envious man rejoicing in the misfortunes of his neighbours.

ἀλλὰ μὴν ὁ φθονῶν γε ἐπὶ κακοῖς τοῖς τῶν πέλας ἡδόμενος ἀναφανήσεται.
Related posts:

Saturday, March 26, 2016


The Concupiscence of the Book-Collector

Robertson Davies (1913-1995), The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks (New York: Viking, 1986), p. 285 (ellipsis in original):
Once again, after a pause of many years, catalogues are beginning to reach me from sellers of old books in England. If I had any strength of character I should throw these into the garbage pail as soon as they arrive but I am a weak creature, and I always risk a peek. This is fatal, for in no time at all the concupiscence of the book-collector burns hotly within me. I send off an order and in the course of time a new treasure is added to the cupboard at Marchbanks Towers....Real bibliophiles do not put their books on shelves for people to look at or handle. They have no desire to show off their darlings, or to amaze people with their possessions.They keep their prize books hidden away in a secret spot to which they resort stealthily, like a Caliph visiting his harem, or a church elder sneaking into a bar. To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope-fiend with those of a miser.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Variations on a Theme

G.O. Trevelyan (1838-1928), Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay (London: Oxford University Press, 1932), Vol. I, p. 76:
Macaulay detested the labour of manufacturing Greek and Latin verse in cold blood as an exercise; and his hexameters were never up to the best Etonian mark, nor his iambics to the highest standard of Shrewsbury. He defined a scholar as one who reads Plato with his feet on the fender.
Id., Vol. II, p. 433:
My uncle read Plato in a ponderous folio, sixteen inches long by ten broad, and weighing within half an ounce of twelve pounds; — which was very near the weight of a regulation musket at the period when he himself was Secretary at War. Published at Frankfort in the year 1602, it contained nearly fourteen-hundred closely-printed pages of antique Greek type, bristling with those contractions which are a terror to the luxurious modern scholar. The Latin translation by Marsilius Ficinus, arranged in parallel columns by the side of the original text, presents an aspect of positively revolting dullness.
Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Blood for the Ghosts: Classical Influences in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1982; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), p. 158:
Jowett defined a scholar as a man who read Thucydides with his feet on the mantelpiece; by that test he was a scholar, scarcely by any other.
One can easily imagine reading with one's feet on the fender, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, sense 3.a, as "A metal frame placed in front of a fire to keep falling coals from rolling out into the room," but it's harder to imagine reading with one's feet on the mantelpiece, which is usually several feet above the floor. The same dictionary does, however, define a mantelpiece as "An ornamental structure of wood, marble, etc., above and around a fireplace; the manteltree of a fireplace together with its supports" (emphasis added). Perhaps the scholar's feet were pressed against the side supports. For the mantelpiece in this connection see also John Buchan (1875-1940), The Island of Sheep (1936), Chapter VI:
I found Macgillivray reading Greek with his feet on the mantelpiece and the fire out. He was a bit of a scholar and kept up his classics.
I can't find any other attribution of the remark to Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893), but a couple of versions mention Thucydides in place of Plato.

George Strachey (1828-1912), "Reminiscences of Carlyle," New Review, Vol. 9, No. 50 (July 1893) 17-33 (at 29):
Carlyle was an illustration of Dugald Stewart's notion that "Greek had never crossed the Tweed in great force." He stated in the Reminiscences that his young pupil Charles Buller knew far more of that language than himself; it need hardly be said that his tastes never set strongly toward the ancients. I asked him if he ever looked into the classics, and he said that he was reading Thucydides, but that he stuck to the narrative. The speeches might be all very fine, but they bored him; and then they were as hard as the very deuce. He heard with satisfaction that the learned Madvig had told me in Copenhagen that, in his belief, Epaminondas or Alexander the Great would have found the said speeches hard nuts to crack: they were too involved and affected in style, and to a certain extent in the thoughts, for an average Greek to have read them, as Macaulay put it, with the feet on the fender.
Charles Wood (1819-1900), speech on "Relatives [sic, read Relations?] of Young People to the Church," quoted in The Lafayette Weekly 24.3 (October 8, 1897) 21:
A very famous definition of an educated man, given by Lord McCaulay [sic], is that he is one who can read Thucydides in the original Greek with his feet on the fender. Many people, however, think a man is somewhat educated who can even read a translation with his feet on the fender.
On reading Jowett's translation of Plato with one's feet on the fender, see H.D. Traill (1842-1900), "Our Learned Philhellenes," Fortnightly Review, n.s. 61 (January-June 1897) 504-512 (at 509; chorus of Platonic Journalists):
As for us, we were suckled on Plato,
And yearned, in our cots as we lay, to
    Expound that philosopher's meaning.
Can any revere him as we do—
We, fed, and fed full on the Phaedo
    And Gorgias, up to our weaning?

For whence comes our feeling for beauty
Our sense of religion and duty?
    To him, next to Scripture, we owe it.
That sage, whom for years the most tender,
We sat "with our feet on the fender"
    And read—in the version of Jowett.
The Maclise Portrait-Gallery of "Illustrious Literary Characters" with Memoirs Biographical, Critical, Bibliographical & Anecdotal Illustrative of the Literature of the Former Half of the Present Century by William Bates, new ed. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1891), opposite p. 7 (No. III = John Gibson Lockhart, The Editor of the Quarterly):

Hat tip: Christopher Stray and Ian Jackson.


Ventral Wrinkles

Martial 3.42 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, with his note):
You try to hide your belly's wrinkles with beanmeal,
Polla, but you smear your stomach, not my lips.50
Better that the blemish, perhaps a trifling one, be frankly shown.
Trouble concealed is believed to be greater than it is.

50 Os sublinere, "smear the face," meant to make a fool of, as practiced on someone drunk or asleep.

Lomento rugas uteri quod condere temptas,
    Polla, tibi ventrem, non mihi labra linis.
simpliciter pateat vitium fortasse pusillum:
    quod tegitur, maius creditur esse, malum.
Martial 3.72.1-4 (tr. W.P. Ker):
You wish to have an amour with me, and yet you do not wish, Saufeia, to bathe with me;
I suspect that some monstrous blemish is in question.
Either your dugs hang in wrinkles from your bosom,
or you fear by nakedness to betray the furrows in your belly...

Vis futui nec vis mecum, Saufeia, lavari.
    nescio quod magnum suspicor esse nefas.
aut tibi pannosae dependent pectore mammae,
    aut sulcos uteri prodere nuda times...
Were the ventral wrinkles of Polla and Saufeia stretch marks or fat folds? If the latter, not everyone considered them blemishes. See Mark Bradley, "Obesity, Corpulence, and Emaciation in Roman Art," Papers of the British School at Rome 79 (2011) 1-41 (at 12):
In particular, it is in the 'Crouching Aphrodite', a third-century BC Hellenistic prototype that was widely copied, imitated and adapted in Roman art, that we can detect the most striking exhibition of voluptuous fat.40 The very pose in which she is represented purposefully is designed to amplify these features, and sculptors reproducing the 'Crouching Aphrodite' had licence to exaggerate these details further: a Hadrianic copy from Tivoli, for example, exhibits no fewer than six fleshy folds as she crouches over (Fig. 2).41 These adipose rolls signal the playful sculptural animation that makes the upright Knidian Aphrodite crouch down, and indicate just how lifelike the subject has become; but at the same time her nude fleshiness feeds directly into a story about female fertility.

40 On the 'Crouching Aphrodite', see Smith (1991: fig. 102 (the Crouching Aphrodite in Terme (108597)); Ridgway (1990: plates 112a-c - cf. plates 179-80 for the Medici Venus with fat around the hips and upper arms and a flabby bottom).

41 On this copy, see Calandra (1998a).
Bradley doesn't mention the two epigrams by Martial.

Crouching Aphrodite. Roman copy of a Hellenistic original
(Tivoli, Villa Adriana. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome)


Scholarship and Commentators Go Hang!

Frederic Harrison (1831-1923), Among My Books (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1912), pp. 6-8:
The seventy years which have rolled over me since I first spelt out my menin aeide thea have not dulled the rapture of listening to the ringing clarion of Homer. As he was the first to give me that thrill, communicable only in a foreign tongue, indeed only in Greek, so he remains to the last my supreme joy. And even to this day I love to take him up in my dirty school text, scandalously devoid of critical scholarship and of modern research. When I was a boy a dear old widow lady presented me with the books of her husband who had taken his degree at Christ Church about 1820 A.D. Now the classics current in the first twenty years of the nineteenth century would be thought to-day quite puerile and obsolete. But, as a schoolboy from 1840 to 1850, I used them, a Delphin Horace, Clarke's Iliad and Odyssey, with Latin versions below the text, Porson's Euripides (and even Barnes' of the eighteenth century), a Tacitus in four volumes of 1790, and Pliny's Letters of 1805.

Barbarous and corrupt as these texts would now be pronounced to be by scholars, I used them at school and college. I keep them still. I love to take them up in a spare hour, though I now have the thick, profound, critical editions printed in Leipsic or Berlin on that horrid blotting-paper; and of course I have the editions of our own scholars, my Jebb, and Jowett, Munro, Robinson Ellis, Conington, Verrall, and Murray. But for sentimental reasons I often prefer to take up an old school book. Scholarship and commentators go hang!—I say. I see the sense of the Greek well enough, and I can hear the shout of Achilles in the fighting line, and the wail of the women at the funeral of Hector, without any German professor’s droning about the Digamma, or insisting on spurious lines which he marks to be obelised.

These editors are the death of Greek poetry. Who can really take to heart his Iliad whilst he is worried with disquisitions as to whether Δ belongs to the original poem, and if Ζ were not a later interpolation? Poetry is the very last thing these sages of the MSS., these sticklers for grammatical purism, ever think of or care for. I have never truly enjoyed my Homer until years after I had ceased to read him in those voluminous notes, and did not care one brass obol whether the Zoster panaielos of Menelaus meant a supple belt or a shining belt (of course a brilliant belt makes a better picture)—No! nor whether that aorist was rightly spelled in the Aeolic form. Does your "scholar" really feel the sublimity of the immortal epic, or does he merely dress up the words as the binder puts the pages into russia, calf, or vellum? Let me tell these pundits, if they want to understand the Iliad, to do what I have done: take a 12mo plain Bekker text, as easy to hold as a child's hymn-book, and lie on the deck of a ship as it sails off the plain of Troas in sight of Ida and Olympus; or take an Odyssey bare of notes, and read the story of leukolenos Nausicaa in Corcyra, or the picture of the awakening of Ulysses from the grotto in Ithaca, on the very spot where the myth was first imagined. Homer, gentlemen, was a mighty poet. He was not a meticulous grammarian, nor a garrulous scholiast.
menin aeide thea: Iliad 1.1 (μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ)
Zoster panaielos of Menelaus: Iliad 4.186 (ζωστήρ τε παναίολος) and 4.215 (ζωστῆρα παναίολον)
leukolenos Nausicaa: Odyssey 6.101 etc. (Ναυσικάα λευκώλενος)

Thursday, March 24, 2016


The Common Man

Robertson Davies (1913-1995), The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks (New York: Viking, 1986), p. 86 (ellipsis in original):
I see that some of his political supporters are telling President Truman that it will do him no good to be known throughout the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave as a fellow who plays the piano for relaxation; this, the politicos fear, may give the impression that Harry is a "longhair," and not a "regular guy." Here is a quaint sidelight on democracy, as interpreted by politicians....I fear I have a reactionary mind; I like to think of my leaders as wiser, more cultivated and more intelligent than myself; if they are not, God help us all! But the proper democratic attitude seems to be that a national leader should be the intellectual peer of a barbershop loafer, and as illiterate and undistinguished as possible.
Id., p. 131 (ellipsis in original):
I confess that I find the modern enthusiasm for the Common Man rather hard to follow. I know a lot of Common Men myself, and as works of God they are admittedly wonderful; their hearts beat, their digestions turn pie and beef into blood and bone, and they defy gravity by walking upright instead of going on all fours: these are marvels in themselves, but I have not found that they imply any genius for government or any wisdom which is not given to Uncommon Men....In fact, I suspect that the talk about the Common Man is popular cant; in order to get anywhere or be anything a man must still possess some qualities above the ordinary. But talk about the Common Man gives the yahoo element in the population a mighty conceit of itself, which may or may not be a good thing for democracy which, by the way, was the result of some uncommon thinking by some very uncommon men.


Translating the Classics

Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), "Fragmente," Athenaeum 1.2 (1798) 3-146 (at 121; tr. Peter Firchow):
In order to translate perfectly from the classics into a modern language, the translator would have to be so expert in his language that, if need be, he could make everything modern; but at the same time he would have to understand antiquity so well that he would be able not just to imitate it but, if necessary, re-create it.

Um aus den Alten ins Moderne vollkommen übersetzen zu können, müßte der Übersetzer desselben so mächtig sein, daß er allenfalls alles Moderne machen könnte; zugleich aber das Antike so verstehn, daß ers nicht bloß nachmachen, sondern allenfalls wiederschaffen könnte.


Old Truths

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995; rpt. 1999), p. 108, with notes on pp. 124-125 (ellipses and brackets in original):
Vauvenargues said, "A truly new and truly original book would be one which made people love old truths."184 It is my hope that I have been "truly new and truly original" in this sense, since my goal has indeed been to make people love a few old truths. Old truths: ... there are some truths whose meaning will never be exhausted by the generations of man. It is not that they are difficult; on the contrary, they are often extremely simple.185 Often, they even appear to be banal. Yet for their meaning to be understood, these truths must be lived, and constantly re-experienced. Each generation must take up, from scratch, the task of learning to read and to re-read these "old truths."

184 Vauvenargues, Réflections et maximes, § 400 [Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747), friend of Voltaire. - Trans.], together with § 398: "Every thought is new when the author expresses it in his own way," and above all § 399: "There are many things we do not know well enough, and that it is good to have repeated."

185 "It is contained in the very briefest statements," says Plato, speaking of the essence of his own doctrine (Seventh Letter, 334e). "The essence of philosophy is the spirit of simplicity ... always and everywhere, complication is superficial, construction is an accessory, and synthesis an appearance. Philosophizing is a simple act" (Henri Bergson, La pensée et le mouvant, Paris 1946, p. 139).


Refuge from the World of Everyday

H.G. Wells (1866-1946), The History of Mr. Polly, Chapter 7, § II:
And on summer evenings he would ride his bicycle about the country, and if he discovered a sale where there were books he would as often as not waste half the next day in going again to acquire a job lot of them haphazard, and bring them home tied about with a string, and hide them from Miriam under the counter in the shop. That is a heartbreaking thing for any wife with a serious investigatory turn of mind to discover. She was always thinking of burning these finds, but her natural turn for economy prevailed with her.

The books he read during those fifteen years! He read everything he got except theology, and as he read his little unsuccessful circumstances vanished and the wonder of life returned to him, the routine of reluctant getting up, opening shop, pretending to dust it with zest, breakfasting with a shop egg underdone or overdone or a herring raw or charred, and coffee made Miriam's way and full of little particles, the return to the shop, the morning paper, the standing, standing at the door saying "How do!" to passers-by, or getting a bit of gossip or watching unusual visitors, all these things vanished as the auditorium of a theatre vanishes when the stage is lit. He acquired hundreds of books at last, old dusty books, books with torn covers and broken covers, fat books whose backs were naked string and glue, an inimical litter to Miriam.


But he read all sorts of things; a book of old Keltic stories collected by Joyce charmed him, and Mitford's Tales of Old Japan, and a number of paper-covered volumes, Tales from Blackwood, he had acquired at Easewood, remained a stand-by. He developed a quite considerable acquaintance with the plays of William Shakespeare, and in his dreams he wore cinque cento or Elizabethan clothes, and walked about a stormy, ruffling, taverning, teeming world. Great land of sublimated things, thou World of Books, happy asylum, refreshment and refuge from the world of everyday!

John Frederick Peto (1854-1907), Job Lot Cheap

Related post: Subterfuges of Book Buyers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Transliteration of Greek

Douglas M. MacDowell (1931-2010), review of Paul Cartledge et al., edd., Nomos: Essays in Athenian Law, Politics and Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), in Classical Review 41.2 (1991) 379-381 (at 381):
The book also includes a useful glossary of technical terms such as atimia and endeixis. Words of this kind are naturally printed in the Roman alphabet within an English text, but I must add a protest here at the use of that alphabet for other Greek quotations. If this is an attempt to make Greek intelligible to Greekless readers, it is an obvious failure. Anyone who does not understand καί μοι κάλει τούτων τοὺς μάρτυρας will not understand kai moi kalei touton marturas (p. 31), and even those who do know Greek may be puzzled by the vegetable appearance of ton onion (p. 172). I hope that all the authors of this book will make further contributions to our understanding of Greek law and society, but next time will they please write their quotations in the proper letters?


What More Can Life Offer?

Robertson Davies (1913-1995), The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks (New York: Viking, 1986), pp. 139-140:
Once, years ago, I watched a chimpanzee in the London Zoo; the Latin name over his cage was Simia Satyrus, and truly he seemed like some bawdy, happy old satyr from the Golden Age when the world was young, and Rights, and Duties, and Social Problems were still maggots in the womb of time. He lay on his back with his arms folded under his head, and bit great mouthfuls of grapes from a bunch which he held in his toes. Every now and then he looked out at me, spat seeds, and shook with silent laughter, as though to say, "If you had any sense, old boy, you'd join me. This is the life." I have often regretted that I did not accept his invitation. A nice private cage and plenty of grapes—what more can life offer?



Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Andrew Lang, the Poet (London: Oxford University Press, 1948), pp. 25-26:
There is a word, I think a foolish word, highly characteristic of the literary criticism of the present day; the word 'escapism'. It is used as a term of strong reprobation. The prisoner is accused of trying to escape from his concentration camp, in which it is his duty to think continually of slums, crime, the divorce court, the capitalist system, and the wages of washerwomen in Patagonia, and of having wasted his talents on such subjects as Paradise Lost and Prometheus Unbound, or even, in the worst cases, The Faerie Queene, or A Midsummer Night's Dream, or The Tempest. Judged by such a tribunal Lang would be lucky if he got off with imprisonment for life. He was always escaping; possibly escaping too often and too much, since, of course, every social being has a duty to his fellow citizens and must give some pretty constant thought to the material troubles of his society. But is there to be no escape, no holiday? And, when we do let our thoughts escape beyond the actual walls of our house or street, is it not a splendid boon that these great escapist poets have conferred on us by creating another world, in which the mind can be enabled to see a higher beauty, to have glimpses of greater nobility and joy, than are granted by the practical cares of every day? Nay, more. I will not ask whether the power of visiting that land of imagination does not give most men more strength for doing their daily duties; but does it not, in Matthew Arnold's words, provide us with a 'criticism of life' deeper and more piercing than that given by statistics and blue books? If we are to make a list of the great benefactors and interpreters of the human race, must we not find a place in it not only for statesmen and philanthropists, not only for the creators of Lear and Hamlet, the Iliad and the Agamemnon and the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians, but even to many of those who helped to make a world of lyrics and old ballads and fairy-tales?



W.W. Briggs, entry for W.F. Jackson Knight (1895-1964) in R.B. Todd, ed., Dictionary of British Classicists, Vol. II (Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004), pp. 548-549:
In an effort to understand himself further, he began taking spiritualism more seriously. In 1947 [T.J.] Haarhoff [1892-1971] thought he had contacted the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus (on whom he was working) through a Johannesburg trance medium (aided by an Egyptian control named Tutu). Tutu had also learnt from the ghost of Benjamin JOWETT that he considered Knight his inspiration and partner. In 1948 Tutu confirmed Haarhoff's belief that in a previous life he had been Cornelius Gallus and that Knight had been Marcus Agrippa. When Knight was visiting lecturer at Witwatersrand in the summer that his mother died, he first got in touch with her, and two years later another medium (Emmy Vermey) put Haarhoff in touch with Virgil for help with certain cruces in the Aeneid, which Knight was translating for Penguin. Virgil answered (first in German, then in Latin) and though Knight did not accept all of the responses (which he thought were genuine), he was later assured by Haarhoff that Virgil was interested in the translation and that the poet sent Knight his 'love and greeting'.
Hat tip: Alan Crease.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


An Arid Activity

Douglas M. MacDowell (1931-2010), Aristophanes and Athens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 2:
Some modern critics ... consider their function to be simply to express their own reactions to the text. But this is an arid activity. Who wants to know the effect of a text on an individual modern critic? No doubt my personal reactions are interesting to myself, but your reactions may well be different, and there is no good reason for me to write, or for you to read, a book about my personal tastes.


Put Not Your Trust in Dictionaries

K.J. Dover (1920-2010), ed., Aristophanes, Clouds. Abridged Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970; rpt. 1980), p. xviii:
Since neither of the two creditors is represented as a money-lender, I call them χρήστης α′ and χρήστης β′, dropping the non-Attic term δανειστής* by which they are designated in the medieval MSS.
From the Corrigenda on p. 215:
'the non-Attic term δανειστής.' Exceptionally I trusted LSJ, omitting the word-indexes to the orators, and a gross error was the result. δανειστής in fact occurs several times in Demosthenes (e.g. xxxiv 8, lvi 6).
In his editio major (1968; rpt. 2003) Dover also substituted χρήστης for δανειστής (p. xxxi), but there doesn't seem to be a correction in that edition, if I can judge by's Look Inside! feature (I own only a copy of the abridged edition).


Poetic Diction

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Andrew Lang, the Poet (London: Oxford University Press, 1948), pp. 10-15:
Take, first, that famous translation of the Odyssey, Butcher and Lang. Scholars of my generation loved it. Why? Because, I think, it always remembered that the Odyssey was a poem, not merely a story; that it belonged, even when first spoken, to a past age, an age beautiful and far-away, when the world was a braver place than now. Also that it was written in a deliberately archaic poetical language, which neither the poets themselves nor their audiences spoke. Compare it with two recent translations which have their admirers. There is a translation in the Penguin series by Mr. E. V. Rieu, which, as the author modestly says, makes no attempt to represent the poetry; it tells excellently and in straightforward language the story of the poem. It makes good reading. Yet surely the sacrifice is very great. The Odyssey has lived to delight its readers for two thousand years not because it was a good story but because it was, line by line, canto by canto, a lovely poem. The second translation I will take is that by T. E. Lawrence—Lawrence of Arabia, a deservedly famous man and a friend of mine—which, I am sorry to say, I consider not exactly unskilful but definitely wrong in its whole aim. Lawrence, being obsessed by the current dogmas, explains in his preface that Homer, regarded as poetry, is quite bad; being written in a language which the poets did not normally speak it is 'all Wardour Street humbug'; regarded as a novel, however, the Odyssey is quite good. He then translates in such a way as to conceal that the work was ever a poem and, having thus—excuse the word—'debunked' the poetry, he proceeds to 'debunk' Penelope and the principal characters. On this I wish to make two remarks. First, Lawrence was pretty certainly wrong in saying that the Odyssey is a bad poem, when the universal opinion of poets and critics has for some two thousand years recognized it as an extremely good poem; and the abstract a priori ground on which he condemns it is therefore probably a wrong ground. Secondly, his aim was a bad one: to 'debunk' involves cultivating a lack of appreciation towards things of unusual beauty and a lack of respect towards things greater than ourselves; whereas the aim of true education and culture is exactly the opposite: to see and love the beauty and greatness which otherwise we might be too lazy or stupid to see, too dull and self-satisfied to love. I am tempted to add a third, and for our immediate purpose a most important, criticism: he does choose his language with the purpose of destroying the poetry and thereby shows his belief in the effect of poetic or unpoetic diction. His own practice disproves his theory.

On this whole issue, therefore, I am strongly for Lang against Lawrence, and with some hesitation for Lang against Rieu. But let us consider what can fairly be said against Lang. First, take the phrase 'Wardour Street', which, I ought perhaps to explain, was a famous street in London full of theatrical costumiers, where you could hire sham wigs and helmets and armour. If, say the critics, Mr. Lang could really write about King Arthur in the language of King Arthur's time, well and good; but he cannot. It is lost. All he can do is to write nineteenth-century English with a sprinkling of obsolete words. His quasi-medieval language is a sham. Homer was better off. Though he could not exactly compose in the real language of the heroic age, he had a long, continuous tradition coming down from that age and forming a recognized dialect for epic poets. Homer's language was a sham, too, but a much better sham.

How do we answer this? The answer is that all criticism based on the word 'sham' is dangerous and misleading. Pursue it, and you will soon find yourself in the same position as the negro in Mark Twain, who could not see why any sane person should give a thousand dollars for a picture of a cow by a Dutch artist when you could buy the cow itself for less. The whole question is whether the diction you choose produces the right aesthetic effect.

Next, the realist critic will say, why should any one suppose that there was any particular poetic value in the language of a past age. Human life is always much the same. The age of King Arthur was, no doubt, quite ordinary to the people then living, just as full as our own is of household worries and bills and tiresome children and colds. No doubt. But, to us, all that side of the Age of King Arthur is non-existent; it is forgotten; we know nothing of it; tradition has only preserved for us the chivalry and the wonders, Lancelot and Guinevere, and the traitor Modred, and the splendid quests on which the knights rode out to conquer or die. Just in the same way, Homer knew of his heroic age only by legend and tradition, which naturally preserved chiefly the high-lights and splendours. Consequently the language in which he sings of the heroic age preserves some touch of the heroic age about it, and of the heroic age in its grand moments. Quite different, I presume, from the language in which the bard himself asked to have his boots mended or his bill paid. Our feeling about the splendour of the past is rather like our belief in the excellence of its buildings; we judge it by the few very strong buildings that are now standing, and forget that all the common ones have disappeared.

Lastly, it may more fairly be said that Lang's slightly archaic prose is not at all like Homer's archaic poetry. Lang is medieval and romantic and a little languid, and, of course, makes no more attempt than Rieu to represent Homer's rolling splendour of sound. Homer has a magical language and metre of his own, which one cannot represent in English; why, then, attempt it? The answer of any translator to that criticism must be a modest one: 'I know I cannot reproduce the quality of the original, but I love it and hope that I can, to a certain extent, suggest it.'

Lang then tried by his choice of words and forms of sentence to bring back, or at least suggest, the atmosphere of an age which, to him and his contemporaries, was an age of imagination and legend, an age far removed from the trivial and commonplace. He believed in Poetic Diction. That is at present an extreme heresy. The young lions cry out against it as a reductio ad absurdum of Victorian romanticism. They have much moral support from the actors who produce Hamlet and Macbeth in modern dress and the scholars who translate the Bible into the sort of language that demands no effort from the reader, either of understanding or of imagination. 'Whatever you have to say,' they argue, 'can you not say it straight in the plain language of the common man?'

That demand, it seems to me, shows a curious failure to understand the extreme vitality and variability of language. It is not a mechanical thing serving all purposes equally without change. Think of speech itself. The ordinary manuals of phonetics recognize three kinds of pronunciation ordinarily practised in English—one for casual conversation, one for ordinary lectures or reading aloud, a third for public reading of the Bible or great literature. That is not an artificial invention. It is a natural development, and occurs in all languages. Then, as to the actual words used: listen to a mother talking to a child, to a group of scientific men or literary critics talking 'shop', to an average group of talkers in a public house, or of betting men returning from a racecourse. Which is 'plain language'? The realists fail to realize that every word and phrase has, besides what we call its 'meaning', a magnetic cloud of atmosphere or association hanging about it, and the nearer it is to poetry or to religion the deeper is that cloud and the more richly charged with memories and emotion. You can, of course, take any great passage in the Bible or in Milton and by stripping off all the cloud of emotion and association turn the thing into an exact statement. If an exact statement is what you want, well and good; but you will thereby have stripped off the poetry. This is why all the great poets of the Hellenic or European tradition have used poetic diction. It is most marked of all in the father of all our poetry, Homer. Not one line of Homer could be mistaken for prose. In Greek tragedy here and there, very rarely, there are such lines. That is because it is drama; and a phrase of ordinary work-a-day prose coming in the midst of poetic language has a special effect of dramatic shock. In the main the language of tragedy is completely lifted above that in which a man asks for his boots, or complains that his tea is cold. It is the same with Roman poetry, the same with Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley, Tennyson, Dante, Racine, Goethe, the whole line of the tradition.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


The Spoken Word

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995; rpt. 1999), p. 62:
True education is always oral because only the spoken word makes dialogue possible, that is, it makes it possible for the disciple to discover the truth himself amid the interplay of questions and answers and also for the master to adapt his teaching to the needs of the disciple. A number of philosophers, and not the least among them, did not wish to write, thinking, as did Plato and without doubt correctly, that what is inscribed in the soul by the spoken word is more real and lasting than letters drawn on papyrus or parchment.
Related post: Attendance in Class.


Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?

R.A. Kaster, "A Schoolboy's Burlesque from Cyrene?" Mnemosyne 37.3-4 (1984) 457-458 (at 458):
    ζήτημα· τῶν Πριάμου παίδων τίς πατήρ;
    ("Question: who was the father of Priam's children?")

Scrawled on the wall, the macaronic riddle is evidently a parody of the litany, τίς ἦν ὁ τοῦ Ἕκτορος πατήρ; ...: a scholastic origin is demonstrated not only by the form and content of the question itself, but by the introductory ζήτημα..., which places it in the tradition of academic ζητήματα and λύσεις. There is, of course, no way of proving that it was the work of a schoolboy's hand. It does, however, bear a remarkable resemblance to the farcical questions that American schoolchildren ask (or, at least, used to ask) each other, when bored by the minutiae of their lessons and in the mood to parody their teachers: "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?"; or, "What was the color of George Washington's white horse?"
I can't find the inscription in the Packard Humanities Institute's Searchable Greek Inscriptions. According to Kaster (p. 398, n. 5), it was first published by G. Pugliese Carratelli, "Supplemento epigrafico cirenaico," Annuario della Scuola archeologica di Atene n.s. 23-24 (1961-1962) 324 no. 192. I must be missing something obvious, but I don't understand why Kaster calls the graffito "macaronic." When I was a schoolboy, asking "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" and getting the answer "I don't know" was a source of great amusement.


Hatred of the Strenuous Life

H.G. Wells (1866-1946), The History of Mr. Polly, Chapter 3, § II:
A man whose brain devotes its hinterland to making odd phrases and nicknames out of ill-conceived words, whose conception of life is a lump of auriferous rock to which all the value is given by rare veins of unbusinesslike joy, who reads Boccaccio and Rabelais and Shakespeare with gusto, and uses "Stertoraneous Shover" and "Smart Junior" as terms of bitterest opprobrium, is not likely to make a great success under modern business conditions. Mr. Polly dreamt always of picturesque and mellow things, and had an instinctive hatred of the strenuous life. He would have resisted the spell of ex-President Roosevelt, or General Baden Powell, or Mr. Peter Keary, or the late Dr. Samuel Smiles, quite easily; and he loved Falstaff and Hudibras and coarse laughter, and the old England of Washington Irving and the memory of Charles the Second's courtly days.
One of the "ill-conceived words" here is stertoraneous. I haven't applied the Levenshtein distance algorithm to stertoraneous, but I believe its application might show that the closest real word is stercoraceous, with two substitutions (c for the second t and for the n). The Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. stercoraceous, doesn't quote my favorite example of the word, from Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, chap. 11 (April 18):
He had reason to believe the stercoraceous flavour, condemned by prejudice as a stink, was, in fact, most agreeable to the organs of smelling; for, that every person who pretended to nauseate the smell of another's excretions, snuffed up his own with particular complacency.
If shover is also a mistake for shoveller, then a "Stertoraneous Shover" would be a "Stercoraceous Shoveller," i.e. a shit shoveller, an emptier of privies, a gold-finder, a gong-man, a jakes-farmer, a nightman, a Tom Turdman.


Saturday, March 19, 2016


Holy Matrimony

H.G. Wells (1866-1946), The History of Mr. Polly, Chapter 6, § IV:
The officiating clergy sighed deeply, began, and married them wearily and without any hitch.

"D'b'loved, we gath'd 'gether sight o' Gard 'n face this con'gation join 'gather Man, Worn' Holy Mat'my which is on'bl state stooted by Gard in times man's innocency...."

Mr. Polly's thoughts wandered wide and far, and once again something like a cold hand touched his heart, and he saw a sweet face in sunshine under the shadow of trees.

Someone was nudging him. It was Johnson's finger diverted his eyes to the crucial place in the prayer-book to which they had come.

"Wiltou lover, cumfer, oner, keeper sickness and health..."

"Say 'I will.'"

Mr. Polly moistened his lips. "I will," he said hoarsely.

Miriam, nearly inaudible, answered some similar demand.

Then the clergyman said: "Who gifs Worn married to this man?"

"Well, I'm doing that," said Mr. Voules in a refreshingly full voice and looking round the church. "You see, me and Martha Larkins being cousins—"

He was silenced by the clergyman's rapid grip directing the exchange of hands.

"Pete arf me," said the clergyman to Mr. Polly. "Take thee Mirum wed wife—"

"Take thee Mirum wed' wife," said Mr. Polly.

"Have hold this day ford."

"Have hold this day ford."

"Betworse, richpoo'—"

"Bet worsh, richpoo'...."

Then came Miriam's turn.

"Lego hands," said the clergyman; "got the ring? No! On the book. So! Here! Pete arf me, 'withis ring Ivy wed.'"

"Withis ring Ivy wed—"

So it went on, blurred and hurried, like the momentary vision of an utterly beautiful thing seen through the smoke of a passing train....

"Now, my boy," said Mr. Voules at last, gripping Mr. Polly's elbow tightly, "you've got to sign the registry, and there you are! Done!"

Before him stood Miriam, a little stiffly, the hat with a slight rake across her forehead, and a kind of questioning hesitation in her face. Mr. Voules urged him past her.

It was astounding. She was his wife!


What Means of Livelihood Is Appropriate for a Philosopher?

Musonius Rufus, fragment 11 (pp. 59-60 Hense; tr. Cora E. Lutz):
But, speaking generally, if one devotes himself to the life of philosophy and tills the land at the same time, I should not compare any other way of life to his nor prefer any other means of livelihood. For is it not "living more in accord with nature" to draw one's sustenance directly from the earth, which is the nurse and mother of us all, rather than from some other source? Is it not more like the life of a man to live in the country than to sit idly in the city, like the sophists? Who will say that it is not more healthy to live out of doors than to shun the open air and the heat of the sun? Tell me, do you think it is more fitting for a free man by his own labor to procure for himself the necessities of life or to receive them from others? But surely it is plain that not to require another's help for one's need is more dignified than asking for it. How very good and happy and blessed of heaven is the life of the soil, when along with it the goods of the spirit are not neglected, the example of Myson of Chen may show, whom the god called "wise," and Aglaus of Psophis whom he hailed as "happy," both of whom lived on the land and tilled the soil with their own hands, and held aloof from the life of the town. Is not their example worthy of emulation and an incentive to follow in their footsteps and to embrace the life of husbandry with a zeal like theirs?

εἴ γε μὴν ἅμα φιλοσοφεῖ τις καὶ γεωργεῖ, οὐκ ἄλλον ἂν παραβάλοιμι τούτῳ βίον οὐδὲ πορισμὸν ἔτερον προτιμήσαιμι ἄν. πῶς μὲν γὰρ οὐ κατὰ φύσιν μᾶλλον ἀπὸ γής, ἣ τροφός τε καὶ μήτηρ ἐστὶν ἡμῶν, ἢ ἀπ' ἄλλου του τρέφεσθαι; πῶς δ' οὐκ ἀνδρικώτερον τοῦ καθήσθαι ἐν πόλει, ὥσπερ οἱ σοφισταί, τὸ ζῆν ἐν χωρίῳ; πῶς δ' οὐχ ὑγιεινότερον τοῦ σκιατροφεῖσθαι τὸ ἔξω διαιτᾶσθαι; τί δέ; ἐλευθεριώτερον αὐτὸν αὑτῷ μηχανᾶσθαι τὰ ἀναγκαῖα ἢ παρ' ἑτέρων λαμβάνειν; ἀλλὰ φαίνεται τὸ μὴ δεῖσθαι ἄλλου πρὸς τὰς χρείας τὰς αὑτοῦ πολὺ σεμνότερον ἢ τὸ δεῖσθαι. οὕτως ἄρα καλὸν καὶ εὐδαιμονικὸν καὶ θεοφιλὲς τὸ ζῆν ἀπὸ γεωργίας ἐστί, σύν γε τῷ καλοκἀγαθίας μὴ ὀλιγωρεῖν, ὥστε Μύσωνα τὸν Χηναῖον ὁ θεὸς ἀνεῖπε σοφὸν καὶ τὸν Ψωφίδιον Ἀγλαὸν εὐδαίμονα προσηγόρευσε, χωριτικῶς ἑκάτερον αὐτῶν βιοῦντα καὶ αὐτουργίᾳ χρώμενον καὶ τῆς ἐν ἄστει διατριβῆς ἀπεχόμενον. ἆρ' οὖν οὐκ ἄξιον ζηλοῦν τε καὶ μιμεῖσθαι τούτους καὶ περιέχεσθαι σπουδῇ τοῦ γεωργεῖν;
Related posts:

Friday, March 18, 2016


A Race Apart

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995; rpt. 1999), p. 57:
Thus philosophers are strange, a race apart. Strange indeed are those Epicureans, who lead a frugal life, practicing a total equality between the men and women inside their philosophical circle — and even between married women and courtesans; strange, too, those Roman Stoics who disinterestedly administer the provinces of the empire entrusted to them and are the only ones to take seriously the laws promulgated against excess; strange as well this Roman Platonist, the Senator Rogatianus, a disciple of Plotinus, who on the very day he is to assume his functions as praetor gives up his responsibilities, abandons all his possessions, frees his slaves, and eats only every other day. Strange indeed all those philosophers whose behavior, without being inspired by religion, nonetheless completely breaks with the customs and habits of most mortals.
Porphyry, Life of Plotinus 7 (tr. Mark Edwards):
There was also another senator, Rogatianus, whose conversion from that life was so complete that he renounced all his possessions, manumitted the whole of his household and even renounced his title. When he was about to go forth as a praetor, in the presence of the attendants he neither went forth nor paid any attention to his magistracy; electing not even to live in his own house, he went the rounds of his friends and associates, dining here and sleeping there, though eating only every other day. The consequence of his renunciation and indifference to life was that, though he suffered so much from gout that he had to be carried on a litter, he recovered his strength and, though he was unable to stretch out his hands, he used them much more ably than those who engaged in manual trades. Plotinus made him welcome and, heaping the highest praise upon him, constantly held him up as an example to those who engaged in philosophy.


A Crowded Room

Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), "Fragmente," Athenaeum 1.2 (1798) 3-146 (at 3; tr. Peter Firchow):
Both in their origins and effects, boredom and stuffy air resemble each other. They are usually generated whenever a large number of people gather together in a closed room.

Die Langeweile gleicht auch in ihrer Entstehungsart der Stickluft, wie in den Wirkungen. Beide entwickeln sich gern, wo eine Menge Menschen in einem geschlossenen Raum beisammen sind.


Inscription on a Gravestone

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 6.14672 = Inscriptiones Graecae 14.1746 = Inscriptiones Graecae Urbis Romae 3.1245 (Rome, 3rd century A.D.; partly in Latin, partly in Greek; my translation of the Greek part only):
Don't pass by my inscription, traveler,
but stop and listen, learn and then go away.
There's no boat in Hades, no ferryman Charon,
no key-bearer Aeacus, no dog Cerberus.
But all of us, the dead here below,        5
have become bones and ashes, nothing else at all.
I've spoken to you truly; withdraw, traveller,
lest even though I'm dead I seem a babbler to you.
Don't give perfumes or garlands to my grave; it's just a stone.
And don't burn a fire; the expense is wasted.        10
While I'm alive, if you have anything, give me a share; but by giving my ashes a libation
you'll just produce mud, and one who's dead won't drink.
For this is what I'll be, and when you've thrown earth on my remains,
say that what I was when I didn't exist, I've become again.

μή μου παρέλθῃς τὸ ἐπίγραμμα, ὁδοιπόρε,
ἀλλὰ σταθεὶς ἄκουε καὶ μαθὼν ἄπι.
οὐκ ἔστι ἐν Ἅδου πλοῖον, οὐ πορθμεὺς Χάρων,
οὐκ Αἰακὸς κλειδοῦχος, οὐχὶ Κέρβελος κύων∙
ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες οἱ κάτω τεθνηκότες        5
ὀστέα τέφρα <γ>εγόναμεν, ἄλλο δὲ οὐδὲ ἕν.
εἴρηκά σοι ὀρθῶς· ὕπαγε, ὀδοιπόρε,
μὴ καὶ τεθνακὼς ἀδέλεσχός σοι φανῶ∙
μὴ μύρα, μὴ στεφάνους στήλλῃ χαρίσῃ· λίθος ἐστίν·
μηδὲ τὸ πῦρ φλέξεις· ἰς κενὸν ἡ δαπάνη.        10
ζῶντί μοι, εἴ τι ἔχεις, μετάδος· τέφραν δὲ μεθύσκων
πηλὸν ποιήσεις καὶ οὐκ ὁ θανὼν πίεται∙
τοῦτο ἔσομαι γὰρ ἐγώ, σὺ δὲ τούτοις γῆν ἐπιχώσας
εἰπέ∙ ὅτ<ι> οὐκ <ὢν> ἦν∙ τοῦτο πάλιν γέγονα.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


One of the Keenest of Human Delights

Arthur Stanley Pease (1881-1964), "The Aims of a Liberal College," Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 14.2 (February, 1928) 135-141 (at 140):
[E]very study in the curriculum, however abstruse and at times even distasteful in anticipation, may powerfully contribute to a man's intellectual equipment, if it but awaken within him an eager curiosity, the satisfaction of which is one of the keenest of human delights. The highways of our thought and work are often crowded and dusty, but thank God that the byways are still cool and enticing. Both poles have been visited, the blank unexplored regions of the maps of our boyhood are fast darkening with the dots of settlements or the lines of railways; the oceans are daily flown as well as sailed; but still around each of us and within a moment's reach, if we but know to how look for it, is the great unexplored, the land of mystery, adventure, and challenge.


Notes, Translations, and Commentaries

Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), "Kritische Fragmente," Lyceum der schönen Künste 1.2 (1797) 133-169 (at 152; tr. Peter Firchow):
Notes are philological epigrams; translations are philological mimes; some commentaries, where the text is only the point of departure or the non-self, are philological idylls.

Noten sind philologische Epigramme; Übersetzungen philologische Mimen; manche Kommentare, wo der Text nur Anstoß oder Nicht-Ich ist, philologische Idyllen.



Phaedrus 2.5.1-4 (tr. Ben Edwin Perry):
There is at Rome a certain tribe of harlequins who are always dashing hither and yon in a flurry of excitement, very busy without having any business, puffing hard for no reward, and doing nothing with much ado. They are a nuisance to themselves and the greatest plague to others.

est ardalionum quaedam Romae natio,
trepide concursans, occupata in otio,
gratis anhelans, multa agendo nil agens,
sibi molesta et aliis odiosissima.
"Harlequin" is a somewhat odd translation of ardalio. Lewis and Short define ardalio (or ardelio, as they spell it) as busybody, as does the Oxford Latin Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. harlequin, does say that the harlequin is given to "mischievous intrigue."

Another character sketch of the ardalio, from Martial 4.78 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Although you have stored your sixtieth harvest and your face shines white with many a hair, you run vagabond all over Rome and there is no chair to which in your unceasing progress you do not bring a matutinal "good day." No tribune can lawfully go forth without you and neither consul lacks your attendance. Ten times a day you visit the Palace on the sacred slope and your talk is all of Sigeruses and Partheniuses. Young men may act so to be sure; but Afer, there is no uglier sight in the world than an aging busybody.

condita cum tibi sit iam sexagensima messis
    et facies multo splendeat alba pilo,
discurris tota vagus urbe, nec ulla cathedra est
    cui non mane feras irrequietus 'have';
et sine te nulli fas est prodire tribuno,        5
    nec caret officio consul uterque tuo;
et sacro decies repetis Palatia clivo
    Sigerosque meros Partheniosque sonas.
haec faciant sane iuvenes: deformius, Afer,
    omnino nihil est ardalione sene.        10
Sigerus and Parthenius (line 8) were freedman, officials at the court of the emperor Domitian. On the plurals ("people like Sigerus and Parthenius") see I. van Wageningen, "Cerdo sive de nominibus propriis Latinis appellativorum loco adhibitis," Mnemosyne 40 (1912) 147-172. Afer in Martial's poem was a name-dropper as well as a nosy-parker. In an excellent article on the busybody type, Jeannine K. Brown, "Just a Busybody? A Look at the Greco-Roman Topos of Meddling for Defining ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος in 1 Peter 4:15," Journal of Biblical Literature 125 (2006) 549-568, there is no mention of the word ardalio.

Lewis and Short derive ardelio from ardeo, but see Rosario Moreno Soldevila, Martial, Book IV. A Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 2006), p. 502:
Ardalio seems to come from Greek ἄρδαλος, which means 'dirty' (Erot. 56.9-11), but also 'agitating' (Hesychius lexicogr. alpha 7090 ἀρδαλωμένους· ταρασσομένους). See TGL 1910 s.v. c-d; DGE s.v.; Ernout-Meillet: 44-45. The manuscript variant ardelio must be due to false etymology (Calderinus ab ardeo = festino).
Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages (Leiden: Brill, 2008), doesn't seem to discuss ardalio. James Westfall Thompson, "The Origin of the Word 'Goliardi'," Studies in Philology 20.1 (January, 1923) 83-98 (at 96) derives goliardi from "gula + ardelio, plural gula + ardeliones."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Non Uno Itinere

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature, tr. Michael Chase (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), p. 71 (footnote omitted, ellipses added):
This apologetic theme was to be used a few years later, in 384, in the Latin West, when the pagan prefect Symmachus protested against the emperor's decision to have the Altar of Victory removed from the hall of the Roman Senate: "We contemplate the same stars, the Heavens are common to us all, and the same world surrounds us. What matters the path of wisdom by which each person seeks the truth? One cannot reach such a great mystery by a single path." This admirable text ... should be inscribed in letters of gold on churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples at this beginning of the third millennium, which has opened under the somber banner of religious quarrels ...
The Latin, from Symmachus, Relationes 3.10:
eadem spectamus astra, commune caelum est, idem nos mundus involvit. quid interest, qua quisque prudentia verum requirat? uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.

Jim O'Donnell writes in an email:
So in 384, the year of the relatio, the young Augustine pulled strings to get Symmachus to recommend him for appointment to the imperial chair in Milan, where he would meet Ambrose. In my 1992 commentary on the Confessions, ad 5.13.23 (the mention of Symmachus), I add:

"There are curious echoes of S.'s relatio in A. The one at sol. 1.13.23, 'sed non ad eam [sapientiam] una via pervenitur', was retracted at retr. 1.4.3, but cf. also vera rel. 28.51, 'quales patriarchae ac prophetae inveniuntur ab eis qui non pueriliter insiliunt, sed pie diligenterque pertractant divinarum et humanarum rerum tam bonum et tam grande secretum.' For both phrases, cf. S. rel. 3.10, 'uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.'"
The passage from the Retractions:
Item quod dixi: Ad sapientiae coniunctionem non una via perveniri, non bene sonat, quasi alia via sit praeter Christum qui dixit: Ego sum via. Vitanda ergo erat haec offensio aurium religiosarum, quamvis alia sit illa universalis via, aliae autem viae de quibus et in Psalmo canimus: Vias tuas, Domine, notas fac mihi, et semitas tuas doce me.


Freedom of Religion

Homer, Iliad 2.400-401 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
And they made sacrifice to the gods who are for ever, one to one god, another to another,
with the prayer that they might escape from death and the tumult of war.

ἄλλος δ᾿ ἄλλῳ ἔρεζε θεῶν αἰειγενετάων,
εὐχόμενος θάνατόν τε φυγεῖν καὶ μῶλον Ἄρηος.
Cowper catches the drift (emphasis added):
                                             Next, his God
Each man invoked (of the Immortals him
Whom he preferr'd
) with sacrifice and prayer
For safe escape from danger and from death.


The Ancients

Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), "Fragmente," Athenaeum 1.2 (1798) 3-146 (at 39; tr. Peter Firchow):
Up to now everyone has managed to find in the ancients what he needed or wished for: especially himself.

Jeder hat noch in den Alten gefunden, was er brauchte, oder wünschte; vorzüglich sich selbst.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Endlessly Content To Be

Robert Francis (1901-1987), "Museum Vase," Collected Poems 1936-1976 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1976), p. 221:
It contains nothing.
We ask it
To contain nothing.

Having transcended use
It is endlessly
Content to be.

Still it broods
On old burdens—
Wheat, oil, wine.


Macrophallic Old Age

J.D. Beazley (1885-1970), "Geras," Bulletin van de Vereeniging tot Bevordering der Kennis van de Antieke Beschaving te 's-Gravenhade 24-26 (1949-1951) 18-20, discusses some Greek vases depicting "Herakles quelling Geras, Old Age," one myth among many in which "the hero overcomes death and wins immortal life." According to Bessie Ellen Richardson, Old Age among the Ancient Greeks: The Greek Portrayal of Old Age in Literature, Art, and Inscriptions with a Study of the Duration of Life among the Ancient Greeks on the Basis of Inscriptional Evidence (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press 1933), pp. 72-76 (at 73), this particular myth "is wholly forgotten in literature," although Beazley thinks that "Euripides may have had it in mind when he wrote his famous chorus 'Old Age and Youth', in his Hercules Furens," i.e. Euripides, Heracles 637-700 (comparison of youth with old age in the first strophe, lines 637-654).

Beazley's description (p. 19) of Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 1943.79 (Beazley Archive Number 211723; the image comes from figure 1 in Beazley's article):
On the obverse, Herakles, who wears a leather corslet as well as the lionskin, and has his quiver at his flank, holds his club in his right hand (the club passes on the hither side of the quiver and corslet) and with his left hand grasps the right arm of Geras, who flees, looking round, with his mouth open, and his right arm extended in entreaty. He holds a crooked stick, and a himation hangs loose from his right arm. He is lean, has a hooked nose, and a large penis of unattractive shape—an important feature which confirms the interpretation as Geras.

Beazley's description (p. 19) of (I think) Adolphseck, Schloss Fasanerie 12 (Beazley Archive Number 303575):
The group of Herakles and Geras is flanked by two onlookers, women, who can scarcely be named. Herakles strides to right and seizes his adversary by the scruff. Geras, turned to left, is a puny naked creature, hairless, with gaping toothless mouth and large pudenda; he bends nearly double under the attack and stretches out his arms, one up, one down.

Beazley op. cit. mentions but doesn't describe Paris, Musée du Louvre, G234 (Beazley Archive Number 202622), in which "a large penis of unattractive shape" is also evident:

Beazley's description (pp. 19-20) of Rome, Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, 48238 (Beazley Archive Number 202604):
Herakles, dressed in chitoniskos and belted lionskin, his sword in its scabbard at his flank, his right arm akimbo, leans on his club, which rests on a rock. Geras supports himself on a crooked stick, with his garment rolled up under his right armpit. He looks up at Herakles and extends his right arm with an animated gesture. He is much more strongly characterized than the Geras of the Penthesilea Painter: small, bald, with a short white beard, hooked nose, receding chin, thin neck with jutting Adam's apple, broken back, emaciated legs, large realistic genitals.

Why is Old Age depicted with large, misshapen genitals? At first I thought it might represent the bulge of an inguinal hernia. But H.A. Shapiro, "Notes on Greek Dwarfs," American Journal of Archaeology 88.3 (July, 1984) 391-392, has a different theory. He first cites two sources testifying to the ancient belief that dwarfs had enlarged genitals. These sources are:
Shapiro then connects these well-endowed dwarfs with depictions of Old Age (at 391; footnotes omitted):
Although the dwarf with large phallus appears rarely in pre-Hellenistic Greek art, the tradition may help explain a puzzling feature of several Attic vase-representations of Old Age (Geras). Of five known vases depicting the encounter of Herakles and Geras, a story not found in any literary version, three show Geras as a very small creature, dwarfed by the hero, while on the other two he is of normal size. The three dwarf-like depictions of Geras are not consistent in physiognomy, but they all share one trait: a large and misshapen phallus. That it is misshapen could be a sign of old age, when, according to the poets, the body and limbs become weak and bent. But that the phallus becomes enlarged in old age is not recorded in any ancient source and, on the contrary, we might expect it to become shrivelled, as is often said of an old man's flesh.
Thanks to the ever helpful Ian Jackson, who sent me a copy of Beazley's article.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Name Changes

Avital Andrews, "An Ahwahnee by Any Other Name," Green Life Blog (March 9, 2016), on replacement of Native American place names in Yosemite National Park:
The ancient rivers will flow, the bears will slumber, the wildflowers will blossom, and the rain and snow will keep falling—all indifferent to the petty quibbling of the clothed primates that scurry about like ungracious insects on the valley floor.
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator.


Dangers of Learning Greek and Latin

Eugene S. McCartney, "Was Latin Difficult for a Roman?" Classical Journal 23.3 (December, 1927) 163-182 (at 163):
In a composition a little girl once wrote: "Lady Jane Grey studied Greek and Latin, and a few days thereafter she died." In a more scholarly source, the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, there is record of another fatality in a battle with Greek and Latin. An epitaph by a father runs as follows: "To Dalmatius, his very dear son, a boy of remarkable talent and learning, whose unhappy father was not permitted to enjoy his companionship for even seven full years, for, after studying Greek without an instructor, he took up Latin in addition, and in three days' time he was snatched from the world. Dalmatius, his father, set up this stone."2

2 Translation by F.F. Abbott in an article called "Some Latin Inscriptions," Sewanee Review, XXIX, 424-32. Unfortunately Professor Abbott did not give the reference and I have been unable to locate it.
Thanks to Google, identification of the inscription is easy. It's Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 6.33929:
Dalmatio filio dulcissimo totius ingeniositatis ac sapientiae puero quem plenis septem annis perfrui patri infelici non licuit qui studens litteras Graecas non monstratas sibi Latinas adripuit et in triduo ereptus est rebus humanis III Id(us) Fe(b)r(uarias) natus VIII Kal(endas) Apr(iles) Dalmatius pater fec(it).


Qualities in Need of Revival

Arthur Stanley Pease (1881-1964), "The Aims of a Liberal College," Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 14.2 (February, 1928) 135-141 (at 141):
We have tolerated too long from some recently imported elements in our country an easy and ignorant abuse of our ancestors, and the word "Puritan," in particular, has become a popular term of reproach among those inclined to think little and write much. The Puritans and their New England descendants had their faults, like the rest of us, yet if one examines their simple but beautifully proportioned architecture, their honestly built furniture, and the other surviving works of their hands, and then if he recalls their reverence for superiority (if not always for authority), their adventurous and pioneering spirit, their disregard of the easy, the shallow, and the dishonest, he may come to feel that they possessed qualities in need of revival in this age of the mechanical, the overgrown, the quick, the cheap, and the mediocre.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Loyalty to an Obscure Goddess

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 13.581 = Carmina Latina Epigraphica 871 Buecheler (from Bordeaux, stone now lost; my translation):
I'm a wanderer, I'm constantly carried around the whole world,
relying on the protection of Onuava's godhead,
but the remoteness of a distant world doesn't force me
to pay my vows to the name of another god, bound as I am.
Sure faith in the truth carried me to Tibur's citadel,        5
but Onuava's godhead also brings hope and strength.
Wherefore, o mother goddess, my solemn vows to you
I'm pleased to pay in the Ausonian land.

sum vagus assidue toto circum[feror orbe]
[tutela fretus] numinis Onuavae
nec me diversi cogit distan[t]ia mundi
alterius titulo subdere vota r[e]um.
veri ce[r]ta fides Tiburni vexit in arce[m],        5
[spes] etiam Onuavae numen o[p]e[sque g]erit.
quare o diva parens [tibi quae sollemnia vovi],
Ausonia in terra [reddere vota libet].
Other supplements from Buecheler's Carmina Latina Epigraphica:
2 [indigetis cultor]
7 [meritae tibi, cum procul absim]
8 [solvere vota decet]
On vota reum in line 4, cf. Vergil, Aeneid 5.237 voti reus, with the comment of Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.2.6 (tr. Robert A. Kaster, with his note):
This is the technical language of sacred rites: the person who incurs an obligation to divine powers by undertaking a vow is said to be "answerable" [reus] for it, the person who now discharges the vow he promised is said to have been "condemned" to do so.6

6Cf. E. 5. 80 (to the deified Daphnis), "You too will condemn (damnabis) men with their vows," on which Serv. says: "That is, when as a god you have begun to benefit humankind, you will oblige them to pay their vows, which keep people bound and, as it were, condemned (damnatos) until they are paid." For reus cf. Fest. p. 336.5–6; M. uses Virgil’s phrase, voti reus, at 1.12.31.

haec vox propria sacrorum est, ut reus vocetur qui suscepto voto se numinibus obligat, damnatus autem qui promissa vota iam solvit.
Line 5: Did the author of the inscription go to Tibur to consult the Sibyl? See Lactantius, Divine Institutes 1.6 (list of the Sibyls; tr. William Fletcher):
the tenth of Tibur, by name Albunea, who is worshipped at Tibur as a goddess, near the banks of the river Anio, in the depths of which her statue is said to have been found, holding in her hand a book.

decimam Tiburtem, nomine Albuneam, quae Tiburi colitur ut dea, iuxta ripas amnis Anienis, cuius in gurgite simulacrum eius inventum esse dicitur, tenens in manu librum.
The inscription is number 29 in Louis Maurin and Milagros Navarro Caballero, Inscriptions latines d'Aquitaine (ILA): Bordeaux (Pessac: Ausonius, 2010), which I haven't seen (I think the inscription is discussed on pp. 199-201).


Bertie's Doctorate

A.N. Wilson, The Victorians (2002; rpt. New York: 2003), p. 273 (on Albert, Prince of Wales):
It must have taxed the ingenuity of Oxford's chancellor, Lord Derby, to find reasons why Bertie should be made a doctor of civil law in 1863 — a ceremony which took place after Bertie had married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. In a speech of his own composing (how many twentieth- or twenty-first-century prime ministers could pen Latin prose which was praised for its ease and excellence by professional scholars?) the three-times prime minister chancellor of Oxford wisely chose to dwell on Princess Alexandra's enchanting beauty rather than the Prince's academic attainments.*

One can be certain that the amiable Bertie did not understand a word of it.

* 'Ipsa adest; et in egregia format pulchritudine in benigna dulcium oculorum luce, in fronte illa nobili et pudica, nobis omnibus qui hic adsumus innatus virtutes animae velut in speculo licet ...' (She is here present; and to all of us who are gathered here it seems as though, as in a looking-glass, these innate virtues are reflected, in the surpassing beauty of her appearance, in the kindly lights of her sweet eyes, in her noble, modest face.) Oratio ad illustrissimum principem Albertum Edwardum Principem Walliae ab Edwardo GaIfrido Comite de Derby. 16 June 1863.
There's a misprint in the Latin of the footnote. For innatus read innatas.

I think there's another mistake in the same book, p. 131 (on Wordsworth's Prelude):
As in his other long philosophical work, The Excursion, city life becomes synonymous with corruption. 'Cities where the human heart is sick' (XII.204) are contrasted with those small rural communities where there is still space and time to listen to the dictates of that inner voice which prompts virtue. Apart from its bearing on the question of religious language — Wordsworth saw in Nature 'the type of a majestic intellect' (XIV.64) — there is the vital issue of humankind itself. For the generation before Wordsworth's — that of Samuel Johnson — it was axiomatic that the good life, the civilized life, was to be lived in the civis.
In Latin, a civis is a person, not a place. Because a place seems to be called for here, perhaps civitas should be read.



The Prosperity Gospel

Plautus, Curculio 531 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Him to whom the gods are well-disposed they really shower with profit.

quoi homini di sunt propitii, lucrum ei profecto obiciunt.
Plautus, Persa 470 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
If the gods are well disposed toward someone, they throw some profit his way.

quoi homini di propitii sunt, aliquid obiciunt lucri.
More at Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #558, p. 447.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Fool and Scholar

Robert Francis (1901-1987), "Though a Fool," Collected Poems 1936-1976 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1976), p. 254:
The wayfaring man though a fool
Will often fare as well
As one who has been to school
And knows how to scan and spell.

The scholar is melancholy
Too often on his way
While the fool may well be jolly
Though why he cannot say.
The first line seems to recall Isaiah 35.8:
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.


Blood for the Ghosts

John Conington (1825-1869), "The Academical Study of Latin," Miscellaneous Writings, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1872), pp. 198-228 (at 219-220):
Whoever may complain of the difficulties which beset the pursuit of classical scholarship, assuredly it will not be the scholar himself. He knows it is precisely by means of these difficulties that he is made perfect in his work. If he is led to repine at times that knowledge should be hidden, it is not as wishing to evade the pains of searching, but because he is already longing to bestow his labour on some other part of the field. It is nothing to him that his time has often to be spent on minute and seemingly trivial points, for he feels that the smaller is to be estimated by the standard of the greater, and that in accepting his calling he has accepted a duty, more or less defined, to everything that appertains to it. The task of recovering a lost word or allusion is not resented as a gratuitous hardship, but embraced as a welcome boon, which compels the student, as it were, to enter the author's laboratory, not as a spectator, but as a fellow-worker, and rewards the restoration with something of the same delight which must have attended the original invention. It is his labour that he has to go down among those who have long been dead; but there is conscious pleasure in every step of the way, and it is his glory that he can break their sleep and revive them, that he can make them drink the blood of life and speak living words, that he can endow them, if not with the gift of prophecy, at least with the human power of memory.
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. 25:
Yet let us be honest. We ourselves, when once Dryasdust has done his work within us, and we advance to the shaping of our scientific results—from that time forth we do just the same, we use our free formative imagination. The tradition yields us only ruins. The more closely we test and examine them, the more clearly we see how ruinous they are; and out of ruins no whole can be built. The tradition is dead: our task is to revivify life that has passed away. We know that ghosts cannot speak until they have drunk blood; and the spirits which we evoke demand the blood of our hearts.
Both Conington and Wilamowitz are alluding to Homer, Odyssey 11.34-50, here in Richmond Lattimore's translation:
Now when, with sacrifices and prayers, I had so entreated
the hordes of the dead, I took the sheep and cut their throats        35
over the pit, and the dark-clouding blood ran in, and the souls
of the perished dead gathered to the place, up out of Erebos,
brides, and young unmarried men, and long-suffering elders,
virgins, tender and with the sorrows of young hearts upon them,
and many fighting men killed in battle, stabbed with brazen        40
spears, still carrying their bloody armor upon them.
These came swarming around my pit from every direction
with inhuman clamor, and green fear took hold of me.
Then I encouraged my companions and told them, taking
the sheep that were lying by, slaughtered with the pitiless        45
bronze, to skin these, and burn them, and pray to the divinities,
to Hades the powerful, and to revered Persephone,
while I myself, drawing from beside my thigh my sharp sword,
crouched there, and would not let the strengthless heads of the perished
dead draw nearer to the blood, until I had questioned Teiresias.        50

Jan van der Straet (1523-1605), Ulysses at the Entrance of Hades

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