Sunday, July 31, 2016



Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 6774-6789 (tr. David Luke):
In dotage years, to keep up the pretence
Of being somebody, is sheer impertinence.        6775
Man's life lives in the blood: where does blood stir
More strongly than in youth? That, ancient sir,
Is the young living blood, blood that creates
A new life out of life as it pulsates.
Here all's in movement, here's where things get done;        6780
The weak fall down, the strong take over. We
Have conquered half the world, as all can see,
While you've been nodding, dreaming, meditating,
Making your plans, plotting and ruminating!
Old age is a cold fever, it's an ague        6785
That freezes, fancies that torment and plague you.
Once over thirty you're as good as dead.
We'd do better to knock you on the head
At once, and finish you off straight away.

Anmaßlich find' ich, daß zur schlechtsten Frist
Man etwas sein will, wo man nichts mehr ist.        6775
Des Menschen Leben lebt im Blut, und wo
Bewegt das Blut sich wie im Jüngling so?
Das ist lebendig Blut in frischer Kraft,
Das neues Leben sich aus Leben schafft.
Da regt sich alles, da wird was getan,        6780
Das Schwache fällt, das Tüchtige tritt heran.
Indessen wir die halbe Welt gewonnen
Was habt ihr denn getan? genickt, gesonnen,
Geträumt, erwogen, Plan und immer Plan.
Gewiß! das Alter ist ein kaltes Fieber        6785
Im Frost von grillenhafter Not;
Hat einer dreißig Jahr' vorüber,
So ist er schon so gut wie todt.
Am besten wär's, euch zeitig todtzuschlagen.


Weights and Measures

Roger Scruton, News from Somewhere: On Settling (London: Continuum, 2004), p. 157:
The criminalization of the old moral economy took a radical step forward when a decree from Brussels — a decree that was not even debated in our Parliament — abolished our old weights and measures. Our neighbours received this as a profound shock. Hitherto they had measured wheat and barley in bushels, rather than metric tonnes, exploiting the fluidity of grain, so as to deal it out with a scoop, a bushel being eight gallons, or 64 pints. Moreover a bushel is the most that a man can easily carry, and the right quantity to fill a sack. It is as reasonable to measure wheat in bushels as it is to measure beer in pints, petrol in gallons, meat in pounds, fields in acres, and distances in miles. These measures derive from human nature, and from our continual encounters with the objects themselves. They are not arbitrary or irrational, since they reflect a long acquaintance with the earth and things produced by it. Far more arbitrary is the metric system, which derives from the biological oddity that people have 10 fingers.


A Shadow

Euripides, Medea 1224-1230 (tr. David Kovacs):
As for our mortal life, this is not the first time that I have thought it to be a shadow, and I would say without any fear that those mortals who seem to be clever and crafters of polished speeches are guilty of the greatest folly. For no mortal ever attains to blessedness. One may may be luckier than another when wealth flows his way, but blessed never.

τὰ θνητὰ δ᾿ οὐ νῦν πρῶτον ἡγοῦμαι σκιάν,
οὐδ᾿ ἂν τρέσας εἴποιμι τοὺς σοφοὺς βροτῶν        1225
δοκοῦντας εἶναι καὶ μεριμνητὰς λόγων
τούτους μεγίστην μωρίαν ὀφλισκάνειν.
θνητῶν γὰρ οὐδείς ἐστιν εὐδαίμων ἀνήρ·
ὄλβου δ᾿ ἐπιρρυέντος εὐτυχέστερος
ἄλλου γένοιτ᾿ ἂν ἄλλος, εὐδαίμων δ᾿ ἂν οὔ.        1230

1227 μωρίαν editio Aldina: ζημίαν codd.
Gilbert Murray's version (he translates ζημίαν in line 1227, which is also printed in his Oxford Classical Text edition):
                                                   Long ago
I looked upon man's days, and found a grey
Shadow. And this thing more I surely say,
That those of all men who are counted wise,
Strong wits, devisers of great policies,
Do pay the bitterest toll. Since life began,
Hath there in God's eye stood one happy man?
Fair days roll on, and bear more gifts or less
Of fortune, but to no man happiness.

Saturday, July 30, 2016



Robertson Davies (1913-1995), A Celtic Temperament: Robertson Davies as Diarist, edd. Jennifer Surridge and Ramsay Derry (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2015), p. 7 (January 21, 1959):
I read and read and make notes and am a pedant and a drudge but happy.


The Sequence and Numeration of Fragments

A.E. Housman (1859-1936), "Dorotheus of Sidon," Classical Quarterly 2 (1908) 47-63 (at 49) = his Classical Papers, Vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972; rpt. 2004), pp. 740-757 (at 742):
Is it a rule of etiquette, or pure vanity, or irrepressible originality of genius, which ordains that each successive editor of a collection of fragments shall complicate our studies by changing the sequence and numeration established by his predecessor?

Friday, July 29, 2016


An Unmanly Complexion

Plato, Phaedrus 16 (239 C-D; on a lover whose aim is pleasure alone; tr. R. Hackforth):
We shall find him, of course, pursuing a weakling rather than a sturdy boy, one who has had a cozy, sheltered upbringing instead of being exposed to the open air, who has given himself up to a soft unmanly life instead of the toil and sweat of manly exercise, who for lack of natural charm tricks himself out with artificial cosmetics, and resorts to other similar practices which are too numerous to need further enumeration...

ὀφθήσεται δὲ μαλθακόν τινα καὶ οὐ στερεὸν διώκων, οὐδ᾿ ἐν ἡλίῳ καθαρῷ τεθραμμένον ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ συμμιγεῖ σκιᾷ, πόνων μὲν ἀνδρείων καὶ ἱδρώτων ξηρῶν ἄπειρον, ἔμπειρον δὲ ἁπαλῆς καὶ ἀνάνδρου διαίτης, ἀλλοτρίοις χρώμασι καὶ κόσμοις χήτει οἰκείων κοσμούμενον, ὅσα τε ἄλλα τούτοις ἕπεται πάντα ἐπιτηδεύοντα, ἃ δῆλα καὶ οὐκ ἄξιον περαιτέρω προβαίνειν...
Hackforth's "one who has had a cozy, sheltered upbringing instead of being exposed to the open air" is more literally "one brought up not in pure sunshine but under mottled shade."

Harvey Yunis, ed., Plato, Phaedrus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 116-117 (on ἀλλοτρίοις χρώμασι ... κοσμούμενον):
this erōmenos, pale from lack of sun, uses cosmetics to make himself darker and thus more manly, the opposite of the traditional female use of cosmetics (Grillet 1975). Pale skin in men could be associated with effeminacy (Rep. 8.556d, Eur. Bacch. 457-8).
Grillet 1975 = Bernard Grillet, Les femmes et les fards dans l'antiquité grecque (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1975).

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Plato Comicus, Fragment 117

Plato Comicus, fragment 117, in Ian C. Storey, ed. and tr., Fragments of Old Comedy, Vol. III: Philonicus to Xenophon. Adespota (Harvard: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 147:

The same in the Digital Loeb Classical Library version (screen shot taken today, with Google Chrome Browser):

What the heck is "alabel"?

The Greek, from Priscian, Institutes of Grammar 18.275 = Heinrich Keil, ed., Grammatici Latini, vol. III (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1859), pp. 351-352:
ἀλλ᾿ ἡγούμεσθ᾿ εὖ κἀνδρείως πολλῷ πάντων προέχοντες.


Thursday, July 28, 2016


More Asyndetic Privative Adjectives in the Greek Anthology

There is a pair of asyndetic privative adjectives in the Greek Anthology, at 1.94.2:
ἐς δόμον ἀχράντοιο ἀμωμήτοιο γυναικὸς
W.R. Paton's translation, by the addition of a conjunction, obscures the asyndeton:
to the house of the immaculate and blameless woman



Enthroned in Majesty

Montaigne (1533-1592), Essays 3.13 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
And on the loftiest throne in the world we are still sitting only on our own rump.

Et au plus eslevé throne du monde, si ne sommés assis que sus nostre cul.



Dacre Balsdon, "Open Letter," in To Nevill Coghill from Friends. Collected by John Lawlor and W.H. Auden (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1966), pp. 23-37 (at 36):
I remember a dinner of the Adelphi Club in College, the President's solemn recital of the Club's grace, 'Edite, bibite, Collegiani, post multa saecula pocula nulla,' and the silence which followed being punctured by your, 'Ah, let us be merry and poculate.'
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016



Charles S. Singleton (1909-1985), Journey to Beatrice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958 = Dante Studies, 2), p. v:
[F]or some time now, we have been reading the great work in what amounts to an amputated version. It is not that the text of the poem, as we have it, suffers from any serious lacunae. We would seem to have the work in its entirety as to text. The lacunae are rather in us, the readers, and reside in that deficient knowledge and lack of awareness which we continue to bring to our reading of the poem.


Arguments Against Having Children

Euripides, Medea 1090-1115 (tr. David Kovacs):
I say that those mortals who are utterly without experience of children and have never borne them have the advantage in good fortune over those who have. For the childless, because they do not possess children and do not know whether they are a pleasure or a vexation to mortals, hold themselves aloof from many griefs. But those who have in their house the sweet gift of children, them I see worn down their whole life with care: first, how they shall raise their children well and how they may leave them some livelihood. And after that it is unclear whether all their toil is expended on worthless or worthy objects. But the last of all misfortunes for all mortals I shall now mention. Suppose they have found a sufficient livelihood, suppose the children have arrived at young manhood and their character is good: yet if their destiny so chances, off goes death carrying the children's bodies to Hades. How then does it profit us that for the sake of heirs the gods cast upon mortals, in addition to their other troubles, this further grief most painful?

καί φημι βροτῶν οἵτινές εἰσιν        1090
πάμπαν ἄπειροι μηδ᾿ ἐφύτευσαν
παῖδας προφέρειν εἰς εὐτυχίαν
τῶν γειναμένων.
οἱ μὲν ἄτεκνοι δι᾿ ἀπειροσύνην
εἴθ᾿ ἡδὺ βροτοῖς εἴτ᾿ ἀνιαρὸν        1095
παῖδες τελέθουσ᾿ οὐχὶ τυχόντες
πολλῶν μόχθων ἀπέχονται·
οἷσι δὲ τέκνων ἔστιν ἐν οἴκοις
γλυκερὸν βλάστημ᾿, ἐσορῶ μελέτῃ
κατατρυχομένους τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον,        1100
πρῶτον μὲν ὅπως θρέψουσι καλῶς
βίοτόν θ᾿ ὁπόθεν λείψουσι τέκνοις·
ἔτι δ᾿ ἐκ τούτων εἴτ᾿ ἐπὶ φλαύροις
εἴτ᾿ ἐπὶ χρηστοῖς
μοχθοῦσι, τόδ᾿ ἐστὶν ἄδηλον.
ἓν δὲ τὸ πάντων λοίσθιον ἤδη        1105
πᾶσιν κατερῶ θνητοῖσι κακόν·
καὶ δὴ γὰρ ἅλις βίοτόν θ᾿ ηὗρον
σῶμά τ᾿ ἐς ἥβην ἤλυθε τέκνων
χρηστοί τ᾿ ἐγένοντ᾿· εἰ δὲ κυρήσαι
δαίμων οὕτω, φροῦδος ἐς Ἅιδου        1110
θάνατος προφέρων σώματα τέκνων.
πῶς οὖν λύει πρὸς τοῖς ἄλλοις
τήνδ᾿ ἔτι λύπην ἀνιαροτάτην
παίδων ἕνεκεν
θνητοῖσι θεοὺς ἐπιβάλλειν;        1115


A Grammatical Anomaly

In the controversy over celebration of the Mass versus populum or ad orientem, General Instruction of the Roman Missal, § 299, is often cited:
Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.
The "official" translation:
The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.
Translation by Father John Zuhlsdorf:
The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.
Much ink has been spilled in discussing the antecedent of the neuter relative pronoun quod, with everyone agreeing that it cannot be the feminine celebratio. For a lark, I tried to find an example of relative quod with a feminine antecedent. The one example I found comes from a textually dubious passage in a medieval text which is far from being a model of correct, standard Latin, viz. Anonymi Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolymitanorum, ed. Heinrich Hagenmeyer (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1890), p. 497 (39.16; August 12, 1099; footnotes and most of apparatus omitted):
Veniens itaque ammiravissus ante civitatem, dolens et maerens lacrimando dixit: O Deorum spiritus! Quis unquam vidit vel audivit talia! Tanta potestas, tanta virtus, tanta militia, quae nunquam ab ulla gente fuit superata, modo a tantilla gente Christianorum, quod in pugillo potest claudi, est devicta! Heu mihi tristis ac dolens! Quid amplius dicam? Superatus sum a gente mendica, inermi et pauperrima, quae non habet nisi saccum et peram.

quod ... claudit om. ABCDERM
See John Joseph Gavigan, "The Syntax of the Gesta Francorum," Language 19.3, Suppl. (July-September, 1943 = Language Dissertation No. 37), p. 18, § 7:
The following example shows a neuter relative referring, not to the thought of the preceding sentence, but to a feminine collective antecedent: a tantilla gente Christianorum, quod in pugillo potest claudi 39.116-7 (96).

However, quod ... claudi is omitted by Mss. ECB and by editions R and Ha.
The translation by Nirmal Dass, The Deeds of the Franks and Other Jerusalem-Bound Pilgrims: The Earliest Chronicle of the First Crusade (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011), p. 107, omits the relative quod clause:
Then the emir came up before the city, grieving and sorrowing, and he said, weeping, "O spirits of the gods. Who has seen or heard of such things? Such might, such courage, such an army has never before been defeated by any nation, as has been defeated by these few Christian people. Alas, what pain and suffering for me. What more can I say? I have been defeated by a race of beggars, unarmed and poverty stricken, who have nothing but a sack and a beggar's bag."

Monday, July 25, 2016


Euripides' Worst Play

Seth Benardete (1930-2001), Encounters and Reflections: Conversations with Seth Benardete, ed. Ronna Burger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 59:
Ronna: Do you remember what you talked about with Bowra when you met him that day?

Seth: He was very amusing, as he was supposed to be. I do remember a funny story he told me about Beazley. He once met Beazley on the path of one of the colleges, and Beazley asked him what he had been reading. He had just finished Euripides' Hecuba, and he thought this was the very worst play of Euripides he had ever read. And Beazley said, "Whichever play of Euripides you read the last, you always think that's the worst."
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


The Scholar's Special Duty

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Tradition and Progress (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922), p. 18:
Proceeding on these lines we see that the Scholar's special duty is to turn the written signs in which old poetry or philosophy is now enshrined back into living thought or feeling. He must so understand as to re-live.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Oral Examination

Shane Leslie, Memoir of John Edward Courtenay Bodley (London: Jonathan Cape, 1930), pp. 13-14:
It is pleasant to record that Oxford did not leave him without some knowledge of Scripture and even a slight prejudice in favour of Christianity, as anecdotes were left to prove. When up for his viva voce at Oxford he was asked to say a few words on Balaam's death. He paused for a moment trying to remember any details of the holy man's demise, and then in broken tones replied that the circumstances of Balaam's death were so painful that he preferred not to refer to them.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Praise of Athens

Euripides, Medea 824-845 (tr David Kovacs):
From ancient times the sons of Erechtheus have been favored; they are children of the blessed gods sprung from a holy land never pillaged by the enemy. They feed on wisdom most glorious, always stepping gracefully through the bright air, where once, it is said, the nine Pierian Muses gave birth to fair-haired Harmonia.

Men celebrate in song how Aphrodite, filling her pail at the streams of the fair-flowing Cephisus, blew down upon the land temperate and sweet breezes. And ever dressing her hair with a fragrant chaplet of roses she sends the Loves to sit at Wisdom's side, joint workers in every kind of excellence.

Ἐρεχθεΐδαι τὸ παλαιὸν ὄλβιοι
καὶ θεῶν παῖδες μακάρων, ἱερᾶς        825
χώρας ἀπορθήτου τ᾿ ἄπο, φερβόμενοι
κλεινοτάταν σοφίαν, αἰεὶ διὰ λαμπροτάτου
βαίνοντες ἁβρῶς αἰθέρος, ἔνθα ποθ᾿ ἁγνὰς        830
ἐννέα Πιερίδας Μούσας λέγουσι
ξανθὰν Ἁρμονίαν φυτεῦσαι·

τοῦ καλλινάου τ᾿ ἐπὶ Κηφισοῦ ῥοαῖς        835
τὰν Κύπριν κλῄζουσιν ἀφυσσαμέναν
χώρας καταπνεῦσαι μετρίους ἀνέμων
ἀέρας ἡδυπνόους· αἰεὶ δ᾿ ἐπιβαλλομέναν        840
χαίταισιν εὐώδη ῥοδέων πλόκον ἀνθέων
τᾷ Σοφίᾳ παρέδρους πέμπειν Ἔρωτας,
παντοίας ἀρετᾶς ξυνεργούς. 845
In my copy of Euripides, Cyclops. Alcestis. Medea. Edited and translated by David Kovacs (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), p. 373, καλλινάου is not translated ("filling her pail at the streams of the Cephisus") but this omission is repaired in the digital Loeb Classical Library version ("the fair-flowing Cephisus").

Euripides, Medea. The Text Edited with Introduction and Commentary by Denys L. Page (1938; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971) is of course excellent throughout, but the commentary on these lines (pp. 131-134) is especially illuminating, e.g. (summing up at 134):
The structure of these two stanzas is remarkably artistic, not only in language (αἰεὶ διὰ λαμπροτάτου corresponds to αἰεὶ δ᾿ ἐπιβαλλομέναν), but also in thought. As we have seen, Erechtheus leads easily, through the two versions of his origin, to the thought of the land as inviolate and of the people as divinely born: Attic wit and Attic climate are naturally connected: Harmonia suggested the transition to her mother Aphrodite: Kephisos, like Erechtheus, was an ancestor of the Athenian people: the Harmony of the Nine Muses provoked the conception of Excellence as the harmony of the passions and the understanding.
C.M. Bowra's translation of these lines, from his The Greek Experience (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1957), p. 187:
From old the sons of Erechtheus know felicity;
The children of blessed gods,
Born from a land holy and undespoiled,
They pasture on glorious Wisdom,
Ever walking gracefully through the brightest of skies,
Where once, men tell, the Holy Nine,
The Pierian Muses,
Created golden-haired Harmony.

On the fair-flowing waters of Cephisus
They say that Aphrodite fills her pitcher
And breathes over the land
The sweet gentle air of winds,
And ever she crowns her hair
With a fragrant wreath of roses;
She sends her Loves to be throned at Wisdom's side,
And with her to work all manner of excellence.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Too Much Fat

D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), Instaurations: Essays in and out of Literature, Pindar to Pound (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), p. 235:
And there is too much fat on our library shelves. Certainly there would be less time for reading, out there in the woods, and fewer books to read. But then those who still read now read far too much—reading, often, as a defense against the surrounding society. And we spend too much time on the wrong kind of books, the books—too numerous to absorb and rapidly becoming too expensive to buy—that one must at least have looked at in order to keep up. What a relief if the whole parastructure of commentary and critique and much of what passes for scholarship were to fall away into silence: a silence out of which the few, primary, texts could speak.


Alcinous the Meat-Tray

Adela Marion Adam, in Proceedings of the Classical Association 9 (1912) 22:
I should like to relate a little anecdote of a small class of three little girls, whose average age was 11. These children were in a wild state of delight over beginning Greek; after a few months of some easy stories they made a dash for Homer; they turned me out of the room; they would not have me; they wished to track everything down in Liddell and Scott for themselves; and they did so with considerable success. Their mistakes afforded them even more joy than their success, especially their furious hunt over the meaning of Ἀλκίνοε κρεῖον, which came out as 'Alcinous the meat-tray.' They knew it was not the right translation; but it gave them satisfaction in the right one when they heard it.
Related posts:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Study Abroad

Propertius 3.21 (tr. G.P. Goold):
I am constrained to embark on distant travel to learned Athens, that the long journey may free me from oppressive love, for my passion for my sweetheart grows steadily with looking at her: love itself provides its chief source of sustenance. I have tried all means of escape in any quarter: but on every side the god is there in person to assail me. But she receives me hardly ever or just once after many snubs: or if she comes to me, she sleeps fully dressed on the edge of the bed.

There is only one remedy: if I travel to another land, love will be as far from my mind as Cynthia from my eyes. Up now, my friends, and launch a ship upon the sea, and draw lots in pairs for places at the oars, and hoist to the mast-top the fair-omened sails: already the breeze speeds the mariner over his watery path. Farewell, ye towers of Rome, and farewell, friends, and you, sweetheart, however you have treated me, farewell!

So now I shall sail as a new guest of the Adriatic, and now be forced to approach with prayer the gods of the roaring waves. Then when my yacht has crossed the Ionian and rested its weary sails in the calm waters at Lechaeum, for what remains of the journey, hasten ye, my feet, to endure the toil, where the Isthmus beats back either sea from the land. Then when the shores of Piraeus' haven receive me, I shall ascend the long arms of Theseus' Way.

There I will begin to improve my mind in Plato's Academy or in the garden of sage Epicurus; or I will pursue the study of language, the weapon of Demosthenes, and savour the wit of elegant Menander; or at least painted panels will ensnare my eyes, or works of art wrought in ivory or, better, in bronze. Both the passage of time and the sea's far-sundering will ease the wounds that linger in my silent breast: or if I die, it will be naturally and not laid low by a shameful love: in either case the day of my death will bring me no dishonour.

Magnum iter ad doctas proficisci cogor Athenas
    ut me longa gravi solvat amore via.
crescit enim assidue spectando cura puellae:
    ipse alimenta sibi maxima praebet amor.
omnia sunt temptata mihi, quacumque fugari        5
    posset: at ex omni me premit ipse deus.
vix tamen aut semel admittit, cum saepe negarit:
    seu venit, extremo dormit amicta toro.

unum erit auxilium: mutatis Cynthia terris
    quantum oculis, animo tam procul ibit amor.        10
nunc agite, o socii, propellite in aequora navem,
    remorumque pares ducite sorte vices,
iungiteque extremo felicia lintea malo:
    iam liquidum nautis aura secundat iter.
Romanae turres et vos valeatis, amici,        15
    qualiscumque mihi tuque, puella, vale!

ergo ego nunc rudis Hadriaci vehar aequoris hospes,
    cogar et undisonos nunc prece adire deos.
deinde per Ionium vectus cum fessa Lechaeo
    sedarit placida vela phaselus aqua,        20
quod superest, sufferre, pedes, properate laborem,
    Isthmos qua terris arcet utrumque mare.
inde ubi Piraei capient me litora portus,
    scandam ego Theseae bracchia longa viae.

illic vel stadiis animum emendare Platonis        25
    incipiam aut hortis, docte Epicure, tuis;
persequar aut studium linguae, Demosthenis arma,
    libaboque tuos, culte Menandre, sales;
aut certe tabulae capient mea lumina pictae,
    sive ebore exactae, seu magis aere, manus.        30
et spatia annorum et longa intervalla profundi
    lenibunt tacito vulnera nostra sinu:
seu moriar, fato, non turpi fractus amore:
    aeque erit illa mihi mortis honesta dies.

6 posset Richards: possit Ω
8 amicta Scaliger: amica Ω
25 stadiis Fonteine, Broekhuyzen: studiis Ω
28 libaboque Suringar: librorumque Ω; culte Heinsius: docte Ω



Dear Mike,

I thought you might enjoy this anecdote. It's from Michele Feo's Persone: Da Nausicaa a Adriano Soffri (Florence, Il Grandevetro, 2012), vol. 2, p.556. He cites his source as Schmidt's Die Faszination lateinischer Verskunst. Rede anläßlich des 65. Geburtstags von Franco Munari gehalten am 8.2.1985, Berlin 1985, p.1. Unfortunately neither I nor UC Berkeley own that volume.
Raccontò una volta Paul Gerhard Schmidt la storia di un filologo tedesco dell'età di Goethe, geniale e bizzarro, Karl Reisig, che, dopo essersi spremuto il cervello per dare un senso a un passo corrotto di autore classico, quando finalmente trovò la soluzione, corse a prendere la tromba, aprì la finestra dello studio e si diede a suonare lo strumento per annunciare l'evento ai concittadini.

Paul Gerhard Schmidt once told the tale of a brilliant and eccentric German philologist from the time of Goethe, Karl Reisig, who, having wracked his brains to make sense of a corrupt passage in a classical author, when he finally arrived at the solution, rushed to get his trumpet, opened the window of his study, and began to play the instrument to announce the event to his neighbors.
As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

Cf. Hermann Paldamus, Narratio de Carolo Reisigio Thuringo (Greifswald: C.A. Koch, 1839), p. 23:
Audivique ipsum quum diceret Ienae sibi morem fuisse, ubi per noctem litteris vacans aliquid sibi invenisse visus esset, id ut fenestra aperta buccinae clangore vicinis quasi indicaret.
Ienae = at Jena, where Reisig (1792-1829) taught.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Our Best Acquaintance

Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738), "To the Dean, When in England, in 1726," lines 5-14, in The Poems of Thomas Sheridan, ed. Robert Hogan (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), pp. 163-164 (at 163):
While you are trudging London town,
I'm strolling Dublin up and down;
While you converse with lords and dukes,
I have their betters here, my books:
Fixed in an elbow-chair at ease,
I choose companions as I please.
I'd rather have one single shelf
Than all my friends, except yourself;
For, after all that can be said,
Our best acquaintance are the dead.


Henry Wild

William Dunn Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, A.D. 1598-A.D. 1867 (London: Rivingtons, 1868), pp. 141-142 (anno 1715):
A learned tailor of Norwich was in this year recommended by Dr. Tanner, then Chancellor of Norwich Cathedral, for the Janitor's place in the Library should it be vacant. Although but a journeyman tailor of thirty years of age, who had been taught nothing but English in his childhood, Henry Wild had contrived within seven years to master seven languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic and Persian, to which Tanner adds, in another letter to Dr. Rawlinson, Samaritan and Ethiopic. The application appears to have been unsuccessful so far as the holding office in the Library was concerned; but Wild found some employment in the Library for a time in the translating and copying Oriental MSS1. He removed to London about 1720, and died in the following year, as we learn from an entry in Hearne's MS. Diary, (xcii. 128-9,) under date of Oct. 29, 1721, where we read:—

'About a fortnight since died in London Mr. Henry Wild, commonly called, the Arabick Taylour. I have more than once mentioned him formerly. He was by profession a taylour of Norwich, and was a married man. But having a strange inclination to languages, by a prodigious industry he obtain'd a very considerable knowledge in many, without any help or assistance from others. He understood Arabick perfectly well, and transcrib'd, very fairly, much from Bodley, being patroniz'd by that most eminent physician, Dr. Rich. Mead. He died of a feaver, aged about 39. He was about a considerable work, viz. a history of the old Arabian physicians, from an Arabick MS. in Bodley. The MS. was wholly transcrib'd by him a year agoe, but what progress he had made for the press I know not.'

1 Letters by Eminent Persons, i. 271, 300. [On p. 270 for Turner, read Tanner.]
Z.A., "Extraordinary Life of Mr Henry Wild," The Gentleman's Magazine (March 1755) 105-106:
Mr Henry Wild, professor of the oriental languages, was born in the city of Norwich, and educated there at a grammar school, and almost fitted for the university; but his friends wanting fortune and interest to maintain him there, bound him an apprentice to a taylor, with whom he served out the term of seven years; after which he worked as a journeyman seven years more. About the end of the last seven years, he was seized with a fever and ague, which held him two or three years, and reduced him at last so low, as to disable him from working at his trade. In this situation, he amused himself with some old books of controversial divinity, wherein he found great stress laid on the Hebrew original of several texts of scripture. Tho' he had almost lost his school learning, his curiosity, and strong desire of knowledge, excited him to attempt to make himself master of it. He was obliged at first to make use of an English Hebrew grammar and lexicon, but by degrees he recovered the language he had learnt at school. As his health was re-established, he divided his time between the business of his profession, and his studies, which last employed the greatest part of his nights. Thus self taught and assisted only by his own great genius, by dint of continual application, and almost unparallelled industry, he added the knowledge of all, or the much greater part of the oriental languages, to that of the Hebrew. But still he laboured in obscurity, till at length he was accidentally discover'd to the world.

The late worthy Dr. Prideaux, dean of Norwich, a name justly celebrated in the learned world, was offered some Arabic MSS. in parchment, by a bookseller of that city. But whether he thought the price demanded was too great, or whether he expected, as few would buy them, the bookseller would be obliged to lower his price, he left them on his hands. Soon after Mr Wild heard of them, and purchased them. Some weeks after, the dean called at the shop, and enquired for the MSS. but was informed they were sold. Chagrined at his disappointment, he asked the name and profession of the person who had bought them. On his being told he was a taylor; Run instantly, said the dean, in a passion, and fetch them, if they are not cut in pieces to make measures. He was soon relieved from his fears, by Mr Wild's appearance with the MSS. He enquir'd whether he would part with them, but was answered in the negative. The dean hastily asked what he did with them? he replied he read them. He was desired to read, which he did; he was then bid to render a passage or two into English, which he did readily and exactly. Amazed at this, the dean partly at his own expence, partly by a subscription, raised among persons, whose inclinations led them to this kind of learning, sent him to Oxon, where, tho' he was never a member of the university, he was by the dean's interest admitted to the Bodleian library, and employed for some years in translating, or making extracts out of, oriental MSS.—Thus he bid adieu to his needle.

About 1718 I found him at Oxon, and learned Hebrew of him; but do not recollect how long he had been there before. He was there known by the name of the Arabian taylor. All the hours that the library was open, he constantly attended; when it was shut, he employed most of his leisure time in teaching the oriental languages to young gentlemen, at the moderate price of half a guinea a language, except for the Arabic, for which, as I remember, he had a guinea.

About 1720 he removed to London, where he spent the remainder of his life, under the patronage of the famous Dr Mead; there I saw him at the latter end of 1721. When he died I know not, but in 1734 his translation, out of the Arabic, of Al-Mesra, or Mahomet's journey to Heaven, was publish'd: In the dedication, which was addressed to Mr Mackrel of Norwich, it is said to be a posthumous work. It is the only piece of his that ever was printed, and I have heard him read it in MS.

When I knew him he seemed to be about 40, tho his sedentary and studious way of life might make him look older than he really was. His person was thin and meagre, his stature moderately tall, and his air and walk had all the little particularities observed in persons of his profession. His memory was extraordinary. His pupils frequently invited him to spend an evening with them, when he would often entertain us with long and curious details out of the Roman, Greek, and Arabic histories. His morals were good: He was addicted to no vice, was sober and temperate modest and diffident of himself, without any tincture of conceitedness or vanity. In his lectures he would frequently observe to us, that such an idiom in Hebrew, resembled one in Latin or Greek; then he would make a pause, and seem to recal his words, and ask us, whether it were not so? This caused a suspicion, which will be after mentioned, that it was done to conceal his real profession.

So much merit and industry met with little reward, and procured him a subsistence not much better than what his trade might have produced; as I remember, his subscriptions amounted to no more than 20 or 30l. per annum. That part of learning which he excelled in, was cultivated and encouraged by few. Unfortunately for him, the Rev. Mr Gagnier, a French gentleman, skilled in the oriental tongues, was in possession of all the favours the university could bestow in this way, for he was recommended by the heads of houses to instruct young gentlemen, and employed by the professors of those languages to read publick lectures in their absence.

Such uncommon attainments in a person, who made so mean an appearance, led some to suspect that he was a Jesuit under this disguise. These suspicions were heightened by his modesty and diffidence, his affecting sometimes to talk of foreign cities and countries, his frequenting the university church only, where by way of exercise the sermons treat more of speculative and controversial points, than practical ones. But these suspicions were without any other foundation; for after I left the university, I lived in a family, where I met with a woman who was a native and inhabitant of Norwich, who came there on a visit. I took this opportunity of making many enquiries about him. She confirmed many of the particulars before mentioned, and assured me that she knew him from a child, that he was born and bred up in the city, and never heard or knew he was absent from it any considerable time, till his removal to Oxon.

The memory of so extraordinary a person, who was so striking an example of diligence and industry, deserves to be perpetuated. Such an attempt is an act of justice due to such merit, and cannot but be of service to the world. I heartily wish that these imperfect memoirs may induce one of his fellow citizens to correct, improve, and compleat them, especially since the late Rev. Mr Blomfield, in his history of the city of Norwich, if I remember right, takes no notice of a man, who did honour to the place of his nativity, and his country.
See also D.M. Dunlop, "The 'Arabian Tailor', Henry Wild," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 19.3 (1957) 579-581.

From Jim O'Donnell:
A learned tailor of Norwich
Began with but trifling knowledge
    But soon he learned Greek
    And other tongues eke
Without ever going to college.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Excess and Moderation in Love

Euripides, Medea 627-641 (tr. David Kovacs):
Loves that come to us in excess bring no good name or goodness to men. If Aphrodite comes in moderation, no other goddess brings such happiness. Never, O goddess, may you smear with desire one of your ineluctable arrows and let it fly against my heart from your golden bow!

May moderation attend me, fairest gift of the gods! May dread Aphrodite never cast contentious wrath and insatiate quarreling upon me and madden my heart with love for a stranger's bed! But may she honor marriages that are peaceful and wisely determine whom we are to wed!

ἔρωτες ὑπὲρ μὲν ἄγαν
ἐλθόντες οὐκ εὐδοξίαν
οὐδ᾿ ἀρετὰν παρέδωκαν
ἀνδράσιν· εἰ δ᾿ ἅλις ἔλθοι        630
Κύπρις, οὐκ ἄλλα θεὸς εὔχαρις οὕτως.
μήποτ᾿, ὦ δέσποιν᾿, ἐπ᾿ ἐμοὶ χρυσέων τόξων ἀφείης
ἱμέρῳ χρίσασ᾿ ἄφυκτον οἰστόν.

στέργοι δέ με σωφροσύνα,        635
δώρημα κάλλιστον θεῶν·
μηδέ ποτ᾿ ἀμφιλόγους ὀρ-
γὰς ἀκόρεστά τε νείκη
θυμὸν ἐκπλήξασ᾿ ἑτέροις ἐπὶ λέκτροις
προσβάλοι δεινὰ Κύπρις, ἀπτολέμους δ᾿ εὐνὰς σεβίζουσ᾿        640
ὀξύφρων κρίνοι λέχη γυναικῶν.
Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis 543-557 (tr. David Kovacs):
Blessed are they who with moderation
and self-control where the goddess is concerned
share in the couch of Aphrodite,
experiencing the calm absence
of mad passion's sting. In love
twofold are the arrows of pleasure
golden-haired Eros sets on his bowstring,
the one to give us a blessed fate,
the other to confound our life.
I forbid him, O Cypris most lovely,
to come to my bedchamber!
May my joy be moderate,
my desires godly,
may I have a share in Aphrodite
but send her away when she is excessive!

μάκαρες οἳ μετρίας θεοῦ
μετά τε σωφροσύνας μετέ-
σχον λέκτρων Ἀφροδίτας,        545
γαλανείᾳ χρησάμενοι
μανιάδων οἴστρων· ὅθι δὴ
δίδυμ᾿ Ἔρως ὁ χρυσοκόμας
τόξ᾿ ἐντείνεται χαρίτων,
τὸ μὲν ἐπ᾿ εὐαίωνι πότμῳ,        550
τὸ δ᾿ ἐπὶ συγχύσει βιοτᾶς.
ἀπενέπω νιν ἁμετέρων,
ὦ Κύπρι καλλίστα, θαλάμων.
εἴη δέ μοι μετρία
μὲν χάρις, πόθοι δ᾿ ὅσιοι,        555
καὶ μετέχοιμι τᾶς Ἀφροδί-
τας, πολλὰν δ᾿ ἀποθείμαν.


Difficulty of Pindar

Hugh Lloyd-Jones (1922-2009), "Modern Interpretation of Pindar: The Second Pythian and Seventh Nemean Odes," Journal of Hellenic Studies 93 (1973) 109-137 (at 114):
People fail to appreciate Pindar not only because they find him not to be progressive, but because they find him difficult. He is indeed difficult, but the nature of the difficulty is not always appreciated. His style and language present grave problems; but they are hardly as difficult as those of Sophocles, who is confidently read by many people who will not dare tackle Pindar. That would be the case even if Pindar's text were as corrupt as that of Sophocles, whereas in fact it is a good deal better preserved. The source of many of the greatest difficulties is not the language itself, nor the corruption of the text, but the conventions of the genre and the sometimes abrupt transitions from one topic to another which these entail. Many readers who can see the beauty of Pindar's style and language find it hard to read a Pindaric poem as a whole. We need to be taught how to read Pindar not only in the sense of how to construe him, but in that of how to view each poem and each section of each poem in the light of the tradition to which it belongs; and in this few books written in English are of much help to us.


Busy People

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), ‎Waste Books, K 125 (my translation):
The people who never have time accomplish the least.

Die Leute, die niemals Zeit haben, tun am wenigsten.


The Global Economy

Roger Scruton, News from Somewhere: On Settling (London: Continuum, 2004), p. 159:
Advocates of the global economy argue that it is an inevitable development of the capitalist system, and that it will spread freedom, prosperity and democracy around the globe. Much intellectual effort is wasted on such half-baked predictions, which are usually not predictions at all, but intentions in the minds of maniacs. By pretending to predict when you are really deciding, you exonerate yourself from blame. You describe your purpose as 'inevitable', `irreversible', a part of 'progress'. Anyone who resists is 'anachronistic', 'reactionary', a victim of 'nostalgia'. It was in such unsettling language that the revolutions of the twentieth century were sold to their gullible consumers, and the 1000-year Reich and the socialist millennium notwithstanding, people go on mouthing this trash and go on believing it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016



John Muir (1838-1914), Steep Trails (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1918), p. 104:
The great wilds of our country, once held to be boundless and inexhaustible, are being rapidly invaded and overrun in every direction, and everything destructible in them is being destroyed. How far destruction may go it is not easy to guess. Every landscape, low and high, seems doomed to be trampled and harried.


A Bird in the Hand

Demetrius of Phalerum, fragment 116B Fortenbaugh–Schütrumpf, preserved in Athenaeus 6.233e (tr. S. Douglas Olson, with his note):
People often spend what they have in hand to get what they cannot see, and fail to get what they intended, but throw away what they had, so that their bad luck resembles a riddle.80

80 A reference to the riddle posed to Homer by unsuccessful fishermen at Vita Herodot. 499 (OCT Homer vol. V p. 215 Allen): "We got rid of everything we caught, and we've brought with us everything we didn't catch." The solution is "Lice".

πολλάκις καταναλώσαντες τὰ φανερὰ τῶν ἀδήλων ἕνεκα ἃ μὲν ἔμελλον οὐκ ἔλαβον, ἃ δ᾿ εἶχον ἀπέβαλον ὥσπερ αἰνίγματος τρόπον ἀτυχοῦντες.


Nature Writing

V. Sackville-West (1892-1962), Country Notes (London: Michael Joseph Ltd, 1939), pp. 75-76:
I do try to set down on paper as simply and directly as possible the feelings by which I am moved. It is a hard thing to do; hard not to appear either exaggerated or mawkish, precious or inexact. It is very difficult indeed to write about nature and the natural processes without getting bogged in morasses of sentimental language. It is difficult for any honest writer to express his feelings in a way which will convince himself, let alone his readers, of his original sincerity; and if it is hard enough to be starkly honest towards ourselves even in our own private thoughts, to arrive without embellishment or gloss at what we really mean, the writer alone knows how far harder it is to be faithful on paper. Something comes between the writer and his pen; the passionate feeling, the urgency to record, emerge as a blob of ink, a smudge, a decoration. As Orlando discovered, green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Thus if I set down that I have to-day seen apple-blossom strewn by wind on grass, I am stating a fact, and if I should happen to re-read my own words in future years (which is unlikely) they will probably recall that vision, as fresh and bright in memory as on that morning in the month of May. If, on the other hand, I start to expand my statement, in the hope of evoking a similar vision in the mind's eye of another, I shall immediately find myself drawn into semi-falsities, into truth wrapped round with untruth; I shall immediately begin to search for what the apple-blossom was 'like'; I shall find confetti or snowflakes as a convenient comparison; I shall hit on the word shell-pink to express the delicacy, the papery delicacy of the scattered petals; I shall begin to 'write'; but really, if I can be sufficiently severe with myself, I shall put my pen through all those blobs of ink, those wordy words, and cut myself back to the short phrase about apple-blossom strewn by wind on grass. It ought to be evocative enough, without amplification; but such is the impuissance of the human mind that it requires expansion before the experience of one person can be communicated to another. Or, at any rate, it requires a magic which mere prose is unable to provide. This is where poetry comes in; where poetry is, or should be, so far more evocative, more suggestive, than prose. Prose is a poor thing, a poor inadequate thing, compared with poetry which says so much more in shorter time.

Writing is indeed a strange and difficult profession.

Saturday, July 16, 2016



Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), The Double Axe & Other Poems (New York: Random House, 1948), p. vii:
The first part of The Double Axe was written during the war and finished a year before the war ended, and it bears the scars; but the poem is not primarily concerned with that grim folly. Its burden, as of some previous work of mine, is to present a certain philosophical attitude, which might be called Inhumanism, a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to not-man; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence. It seems time that our race began to think as an adult does, rather than like an egocentric baby or insane person. This manner of thought and feeling is neither misanthropic nor pessimist, though two or three people have said so and may again. It involves no falsehoods, and is a means of maintaining sanity in slippery times; it has objective truth and human value. It offers a reasonable detachment as a rule of conduct, instead of love, hate and envy. It neutralizes fanaticism and wild hopes; but it provides magnificence for the religious instinct, and satisfies our need to admire greatness and rejoice in beauty.


An Inexorable Law

George Bernard Shaw, letter to Gilbert Murray (March 23, 1902), quoted in Gilbert Murray, An Unfinished Autobiography, with Contributions by his Friends (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1960), p. 135:
Now let me tell you that every university professor is an ass and that you, like any common man, are subject to this inexorable law.


The Store-Room

V. Sackville-West (1892-1962), Country Notes (London: Michael Joseph Ltd, 1939), p. 158:
There are few sights more agreeable than shelves neatly loaded with glass jars as coloured as jewels with jam, juice, and jellies; the ruby of raspberry, the aquamarine of gooseberry, the fire-opal of marmalade, the pearls of white currant. Then there are—or should be—the big brown crocks full of chutney and of beans layered in salt; the pails of eggs preserved in isinglass. There should also be large marrows laid aside; and perhaps one of them may be hanging up, disembowelled and stuffed with brown sugar, destined eventually to produce a decoction of which it is said that one drink is quite enough and two a great deal too much. Add a few dangling bunches of dried herbs, and the store-room begins to wear the aspect it ought to wear. An air of proper pride presides over it; a quiet, independent air; a practical expression of trouble taken.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Under the Greenwood Tree, Part IV, Chapter II:
Geoffrey Day's storehouse at the back of his dwelling was hung with bunches of dried horehound, mint, and sage; brown-paper bags of thyme and lavender; and long ropes of clean onions. On shelves were spread large red and yellow apples, and choice selections of early potatoes for seed next year;—vulgar crowds of commoner kind lying beneath in heaps. A few empty beehives were clustered around a nail in one corner, under which stood two or three barrels of new cider of the first crop, each bubbling and squirting forth from the yet open bunghole.

Friday, July 15, 2016


The Fleshless One

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), Don Quixote, part II, chapter XX (tr. John Ormsby):
"In good faith, señor," replied Sancho, "there's no trusting that fleshless one, I mean Death, who devours the lamb as soon as the sheep, and, as I have heard our curate say, treads with equal foot upon the lofty towers of kings and the lowly huts of the poor. That lady is more mighty than dainty, she is no way squeamish, she devours all and is ready for all, and fills her alforjas with people of all sorts, ages, and ranks. She is no reaper that sleeps out the noontide; at all times she is reaping and cutting down, as well the dry grass as the green; she never seems to chew, but bolts and swallows all that is put before her, for she has a canine appetite that is never satisfied; and though she has no belly, she shows she has a dropsy and is athirst to drink the lives of all that live, as one would drink a jug of cold water."

A buena fe, señor, respondió Sancho, que no hay que fiar en la descarnada, digo en la muerte, la cual tan bien come cordero como carnero, y á nuestro cura he oído decir, que con igual pié pisaba las altas torres de los reyes, como las humildes chozas de los pobres. Tiene esta señora más de poder que de melindre; no es nada asquerosa, de todo come y á todo hace, y de toda suerte de gentes, edades y preeminencias hinche sus alforjas. No es segador que duerme las siestas, que á todas horas siega y corta así la seca como la verde yerba, y no parece que masca, sino que engulle y traga cuanto se le pone delante, porque tiene hambre canina, que nunca se harta; y aunque no tiene barriga, da á entender que esta hidrópica y sedienta de beber solas las vidas de cuantos viven, como quien se bebe un jarro de agua fría.
"treads with equal foot upon the lofty towers of kings and the lowly huts of the poor": an echo of Horace, Odes 1.4.13-14: "Pale Death knocks with indiscriminate foot at the hovels of the poor and the towers of kings." (pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas / regumque turris).


Better Off

[Seneca,] Octavia 377-384 (Seneca speaking; tr. John G. Fitch):
Why, wilful Fortune, smiling on me with your deceiving face—why, when I was content with my lot, did you raise me on high, so that once admitted to this lofty eminence I could fall more heavily, and look out on so many terrors?

I was better off when hidden far from envy's mischief, out of the way amidst Corsica's sea crags, where my mind was free and sovereign and always at liberty for me to pursue my studies.

quid, impotens Fortuna, fallaci mihi
blandita vultu, sorte contentum mea
alte extulisti, gravius ut ruerem edita
receptus arce totque prospicerem metus?        380

melius latebam procul ab invidiae malis
remotus inter Corsici rupes maris,
ubi liber animus et sui iuris mihi
semper vacabat studia recolenti mea.

377 impotens ... mihi Siegmund: me impotens ... diu Heinsius: me potens ... mihi A


A Small Matter After All

John Burroughs (1837-1921), Pepacton (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1902), p. 26:
The camper-out often finds himself in what seems a distressing predicament to people seated in their snug, well-ordered houses; but there is often a real satisfaction when things come to their worst,—a satisfaction in seeing what a small matter it is, after all; that one is really neither sugar nor salt, to be afraid of the wet; and that life is just as well worth living beneath a scow or a dug-out as beneath the highest and broadest roof in Christendom.


College Homecoming

Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 6701-6710 (tr. David Luke):
But, bless me! this is the same
Place—long years ago I came
Here, a freshman fond and shy;
What a silly boy was I!
Trusted those old greybeard farts,        6705
Let them peddle me their arts.
Lies they told me from a few
Scabby books, that's all they knew,
And they knew it's all moonshine;
Thus they'd waste their lives and mine.        6710

Doch was soll ich heut erfahren!
War's nicht hier, vor so viel Jahren,
Wo ich, ängstlich und beklommen,
War als guter Fuchs gekommen?
Wo ich diesen Bärtigen traute,        6705
Mich an ihrem Schnack erbaute?
Aus den alten Bücherkrusten
Logen sie mir, was sie wußten,
Was sie wußten, selbst nicht glaubten,
Sich und mir das Leben raubten.        6710

Thursday, July 14, 2016


The World's Posteriors

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), A Tale of a Tub, preface:
I have observed some satirists to use the public much at the rate that pedants do a naughty boy, ready horsed for discipline: First, expostulate the case, then plead the necessity of the rod from great provocations, and conclude every period with a lash. Now, if I know anything of mankind, these gentlemen might very well spare their reproof and correction: for there is not, through all nature, another so callous and insensible a member, as the world's posteriors, whether you apply to it the toe or the birch.


Like It or Not

Jerome, Letters 54.14.2 (to Furia; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
His hair is already gray, his knees tremble, his teeth fall out, his brow is furrowed through years, death is near even at the doors, the pyre is all but laid out hard by. Whether we like it or not, we grow old.

iam incanuit caput, tremunt genua, dentes cadunt "et frontem obscenam rugis arat," vicina est mors in foribus, designatur rogus prope: velimus nolimus, senes sumus.
et frontem obscenam rugis arat: Vergil, Aeneid 7.417 (sc. Allecto, disguising herself as an old woman).


No New Messages

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), The Good-Natur'd Man, Act I, Scene 1:
HONEYWOOD. Well, Jarvis, what messages from my friends this morning?
JARVIS. You have no friends.


Know Thyself

Jerome, Letters 61.3.1 (to Vigilantius; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
It is no small gain to know your own ignorance. It is a man's wisdom to know his own measure, that he may not be led away at the instigation of the devil to make the whole world a witness of his incapacity.

non parum est scire quod nescias: prudentis hominis est nosse mensuram suam nec zelo diaboli concitatum imperitiae suae cunctum orbem testem facere.


A Modern Reformer

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Notebooks (September 7, 1835):
A sketch to be given of a modern reformer, — a type of the extreme doctrines on the subject of slaves, cold water, and other such topics. He goes about the streets haranguing most eloquently, and is on the point of making many converts, when his labors are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of the keeper of a mad-house, whence he has escaped. Much may be made of this idea.


Consolations of a Pedestrian

John Owen (1564-1622), Epigrams 9.89 (tr. Thomas Harvey):
A Horse int' Heaven did not Castor bear,
Nor rode Triptolemus in's Chariot there:
Heav'ns way's strait-narrow, Foot-men travel it;
The broad way's most for Horse and Chariot fit.

Non equus ad coelos generosum Castora vexit,
    Nec puto Triptolemum currus in astra tulit.
Semita coelorum est angusta, pedestribus apta,
    Ambulat in lata currus equusque via.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related posts:


The Classics

Mark Steyn, "Present-Tense Culture," in Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball, edd., The Future of the European Past (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1997), pp. 153-175 (at 169):
Today, the word "classics" is applied not to Greek and Latin but to early Stones cuts or some newly discovered digitally remastered episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


The New Barbarian

W.H. Auden (1907-1973), "The Age of Anxiety," Collected Poems (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), p. 460:
But the new barbarian is no uncouth
Desert-dweller; he does not emerge
From fir forests; factories bred him;
Corporate companies, college towns
Mothered his mind, and many journals
Backed his beliefs. He was born here.


The Golden Key

John Herington (1924-1997), "Possessing the Golden Key," in Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball, edd., The Future of the European Past (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1997), pp. 109-125 (at 118-119):
In the sixty-sixth chapter of his Decline and Fall, as he approached the reign of the last Emperor of the East and the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Edward Gibbon at long last rendered his judgement on the Greek language. He did so in a majestic sentence whose incantatory, almost psalmlike quality is best brought out if it is transcribed as verse:
In their lowest servitude and depression,
the subjects of the Byzantine throne
      were still possessed
of a golden key that could unlock the treasures of antiquity;
of a musical and prolific language,
      that gives
a soul to the objects of sense
and a body to the abstractions of philosophy.
Everyone who has managed to read even a little ancient Greek philosophy or poetry in the original will, I think, feel the complete justice of this description. But it also serves as a most powerful reminder that in the last resort it is language that lies nearest to the heart, whatever society, whatever literature, is under study. The future integrity of classical studies, if not their survival, depends ultimately on the future of Greek and Latin learning. Only if such learning continues can we look forward to genuine, firsthand research, or count on the honesty of future translations. Much the same, of course, will apply to the study of any of the other great national literatures that have arisen on the European continent; the future of the European past generally seems to be bound up with the future of language studies.


Pindar's Vocabulary

Basil L. Gildersleeve (1831-1924), ed., Pindar, The Olympian and Pythian Odes, with an Introductory Essay, Notes, and Indexes (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892), p. xli:
Even the most familiar words are roused to new life by the revival of the pristine meaning. It is a canon of Pindaric interpretation that the sharp, local sense of the preposition is everywhere to be preferred, and every substantive may be made to carry its full measure of concreteness. This is distinctly not survival, but revival....In fact it is hardly possible to go wrong in pressing Pindar's vocabulary until the blood comes.
Id., p. xxv:
And yet the poetry of Pindar does not lose itself in generalities. He compares his song to a bee that hastes from flower to flower, but the bee has a hive. He compares his song to a ship, but the ship has a freight and a port. His song does not fly on and on like a bird of passage. Its flight is the flight of an eagle, to which it has so often been likened, circling the heavens, it is true, stirring the ether, but there is a point on which the eye is bent, a mark, as he says, at which the arrow is aimed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Winning the Lottery

Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 6143-6154 (tr. David Luke):
Now for some gifts; but you must each confess
What use you intend to make of my largesse.

A PAGE [receiving some money].
I'll have high life, song, dance and jollity.        6145

ANOTHER [likewise].
I'll go and buy my sweetheart jewellery.

A LORD OF THE BEDCHAMBER [accepting a gift].
From now on I'll drink wine at twice the price.

ANOTHER [likewise].
My fingers itch already for the dice!

A KNIGHT-BANNERET [reflecting].
I'll pay the debts off now on my estates.

ANOTHER [likewise].
I'll watch my fund as it accumulates.        6150

I hoped it would inspire you to new deeds.
But it's easy to guess your well-known needs.
It's obvious that however rich you grow,
Whatever you have been you'll still be so.

Beschenk' ich nun bei Hofe Mann für Mann,
Gesteh' er mir wozu er's brauchen kann.

PAGE [empfangend].
Ich lebe lustig, heiter, guter Dinge.        6145

EIN ANDRER [gleichfalls].
Ich schaffe gleich dem Liebchen Kett' und Ringe.

KÄMMERER [annehmend].
Von nun an trink' ich doppelt bess're Flasche.

EIN ANDRER [gleichfalls].
Die Würfel jucken mich schon in der Tasche.

BANNERHERR [mit Bedacht].
Mein Schloß und Feld ich mach' es schuldenfrei.

EIN ANDRER [gleichfalls].
Es ist ein Schatz, den leg' ich Schätzen bei.        6150

Ich hoffte Lust und Muth zu neuen Thaten;
Doch wer euch kennt, der wird euch leicht errathen.
Ich merk' es wohl, bei aller Schätze Flor
Wie ihr gewesen bleibt ihr nach wie vor.



Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter XXXVII, note 17 (on Jerome):
The stories of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus, by the same author, are admirably told: and the only defect of these pleasing compositions is the want of truth and common sense.


A Misprint

David S. Wiesen, St. Jerome as a Satirist: A Study in Christian Latin Thought and Letters (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1964), p. 120, quoting Jerome, Letters 22.13:
Videas plerasque viduas ante quam nuptas infelicem conscientiam mentita tantum vestem protegere, quas nisi tumor uteri et infantum prodiderit vagitus, erecta cervice et ludentibus pedibus incedunt.
When I read that, I couldn't parse mentita, so I knew there must be something wrong. For vestem read veste. Here is F.A. Wright's translation, with his note:
You may see many women who have been left widows before they were ever wed,3 trying to conceal their consciousness of guilt by means of a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by a swelling womb or by the crying of their little ones they walk abroad with tripping feet and lifted head.

3 I.e. unmarried women who pretend to be widows.
James Willis, Latin Textual Criticism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), has exercises for the budding textual critic in the form of corrupt passages from Latin authors to be emended. It would be an easy matter to assemble a large collection of corrupt passages, not from medieval manuscripts, but from modern printed books.


Monday, July 11, 2016


An Age That Has Abandoned Greek

D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), "The Means and the Moment," Arion 7.4 (Winter, 1968) 549-557 (at 551-552, discussing Leontius Pilatus' interlinear, Greek and Latin, version of Homer, as studied by Petrarch and Boccaccio):
It is moving to watch the two great Italians struggling with the elements: to see them garnering their small trophies of Greek learning or puzzling over difficulties that, until yesterday, a well-educated schoolboy could have solved for them. Moving, but in the end deeply depressing. For the great structure at which they were laboring, that nearly miraculous recovery of Greek culture which has been among the major intellectual achievements of the last five centuries is, it appears, on the point of being abandoned. The texts they peered at, and many more they did not possess, are all at our immediate disposal, well-printed, with their apparatus, their commentaries, their special lexica, their thickening clusters of learned studies. And fewer and fewer people read them. The knowledge they would have given their eyes for is on the shelves of every college library. And the world does not want it. As one looks at Leontius' laborious versions, one has, even more sharply, the comfortless sense that we are back where we started. For most educated people must now, once again, encounter Homer in a form almost as nerveless and inadequate as the one which Petrarch suffered:
Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus' son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.
This, we are repeatedly told, is "Homer for our time." This, after centuries of Greek scholarship, is what Homer has been reduced to. No doubt Lattimore is slightly superior to Leontius, but however one settles the point of precedence the sad fact is that Leontius' crib looks beyond itself to the original (and to the Renaissance) whereas Lattimore's has very much the air of being a terminal case, the Homer of an age that has abandoned Greek.
Id. (at 553-554):
We should be quite clear about what "survival" means. It means that the classics continue to be read—and not merely by a handful of "specialists"—in the original languages. The texts cannot get a real bite on the mind unless they are possessed in Greek and Latin. If it survives only in translation, classical literature can never play more than a marginal or decorative part in our educational system or in our society at large. We will not keep the classics as a living force unless a substantial number of people have them in the original.

Saturday, July 09, 2016


Beware of Him

Dorothy Sayers, letter to James Welch (July 25, 1946), in The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, Vol. III: 1944-1950. A Noble Daring, ed. Barbara Reynolds (The Dorothy L. Sayers Society, 1998), pp. 248-249 (at 249):
The trouble with Dante is that, if one once gets a taste for him, one is liable to become a Dante-addict. He acts like a drug — or rather, like an attack of rabies; the people who are bitten rush madly about biting all their friends. Beware of him. If you once come under the spell he will haunt your imagination, lay violent hands on your theology, intrude into your sermons and seep through your most casual conversation like a dye. But very likely you will escape the fever. To many people he seems dry as a stone and to others he is actively repulsive.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Dark Ages

Denys L. Page (1908-1978), introduction to Euripides, Medea. The Text Edited with Introduction and Commentary (1938; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. xlii:
The lamp of learning burned fitfully and low, but was never quite extinguished. Even the darkest age of ignorance and confusion produced a Stobaeus. Neither the hostility of the Church nor the indifference of the State could utterly subdue the scholar's enthusiasm. Early in the sixth century there sat on the thrones of the Western and Eastern empires a king and an emperor who could neither read nor write. The rise of Goths and Tartars throughout the Roman world from the gutter to the throne, the destruction of libraries by choleric and fanatical popes and emperors, were unfavourable to the progress but not entirely fatal to the preservation of literary studies. The sensitive Roman must have blushed to ponder that while Justinian was closing the schools of Athens, Nushirvan was diligently translating the most celebrated writers of Greece into what Agathias impudently called 'savage and unmusical Persian'; and that while a Saracen caliph of Baghdad was making Arabian versions of Greek science and medicine, three Roman emperors within one hundred years were receiving and deserving the nicknames Rhinotmetus, Copronymus, and Infelix.
A nice purple patch, worthy of Gibbon.

From Neil O'Sullivan:
Consider the phrase:
the destruction of libraries by choleric and fanatical popes
Let's ignore the adjectives, but is there any evidence for the destruction of any library by any pope? We expect them to burn individual works by heretics, and to ignore unhelpful pagan books, but what evidence is there that they destroyed whole libraries of pagan literature - or even a single pagan work - which is what Page means here? Sensible discussion of similar myths in the eminently learned and useful Scribes & Scholars, by L.D. Reynolds and N.G. Wilson (OUP, now in its 4th ed. 2013), chap.2.ii 'The Christian Church and classical studies'.

B.L. Ullman, Studies in the Italian Renaissance, 2nd ed. (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1973), p. 60:
Another mediaeval story was that the missing books of Livy had been destroyed by Pope Gregory the Great. The motive attributed to him was that Livy's style was so alluring that it kept the reader from becoming acquainted with the severer charms of sacred literature. Sicco Polenton acutely disposes of this canard by asking why Gregory should have destroyed books which contained no attack on the Christian religion and not the entire work while he was at it.10

10 In his Scriptorum illustrium Latinae linguae libri, p. 182.
There is thin evidence of destruction of pagan books by a bishop, if not a pope. See Mark the Deacon, Life of Porphyry, Bishop of Gaza, 71 (tr. G.F. Hill):
And after this, search was made in the houses also (for there were many idols in most of the courts), and of those which were found some were given to the fire and others were cast into the jakes. And there were found also books filled with witchcraft, which they called sacred, out of which they of the idol-madness performed their mysteries and other unlawful things. And unto these was done even as unto their gods.
But this refers to magical handbooks, not works of classical literature. Thomas Werner, Den Irrtum liquidieren: Bücherverbrennungen im Mittelalter (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), is unavailable to me.

Friday, July 08, 2016



Ezekiel 4.12:
And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.
Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738), "The Tale of the T––d," in The Poems of Thomas Sheridan, ed. Robert Hogan (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), pp. 177-178:
A pastry-cook once moulded up a t––d
(You may believe me when I give my word)
With nice ingredients of the fragrant kind
And sugar of the best, right doubl' refin'd.
He blends them all, for he was fully bent        5
Quite to annihilate its taste and scent.
With outstretched arms, he twirls the rolling-pin,
And spreads the yielding ordure smooth and thin.
'Twas not to save his flour, but show his art,
Of such foul dough to make a sav'ry tart.        10
He heats his ov'n with care, and baked it well,
But still the crust's offensive to the smell;
The cook was vexed to see himself so soiled,
So works it to a dumpling, which he boiled;
Now out it comes, and if it stunk before,        15
It stinks full twenty times as much, and more.
He breaks fresh eggs, converts it into batter,
Works them with spoon about a wooden platter,
To true consistence, such as cook-maids make
At Shrovetide, when they toss the pliant cake.        20
In vain he twirls the pan; the more it fries,
The more the nauseous, fetid vapors rise.
Resolved to make it still a sav'ry bit,
He takes the pancake, rolls it round a spit,
Winds up the jack, and sets it to the fire;        25
But roasting raised its pois'nous fumes the high'r.
Offended much (although it was his own),
At length he throws it where it should be thrown;
And in a passion, storming loud, he cried,
"If neither baked, nor boiled, nor roast, nor fried,        30
Can thy offensive, hellish taint reclaim,
Go to the filthy jake from whence you came."

                                                 The Moral
This tale requires but one short application,
It fits all upstart scoundrels in each nation,
Minions of fortune, wise men's jest in pow'r,        35
Like weeds on dunghills, stinking, rank and sour.
According to the editor's note on p. 351,
This adroit and noxious piece first appeared in the fourteenth Intelligencer, for which Woolley suggests a dating of "probably 29 October-2 November 1728." The printing here is based on the first collected edition (London: A. Moor, 1729, pp. 153-55). The poem's most recent appearance is in Woolley's 1992 edition of The Intelligencer.
Woolley's edition is unavailable to me. Hogan modernizes punctuation and spelling (see pp. 18-19 of his edition), but it's obvious from the 1729 edition of The Intelligencer that, in line 13, foiled should be read (for soiled). Here are the title page and pp. 153-155 of the 1729 edition:

Sheridan and Swift were friends, and Sheridan's poem reminds me of this passage from Gulliver's Travels (visit to the Academy of Lagado):
I went into another chamber, but was ready to hasten back, being almost overcome with a horrible stink. My conductor pressed me forward, conjuring me in a whisper "to give no offence, which would be highly resented;" and therefore I durst not so much as stop my nose. The projector of this cell was the most ancient student of the academy; his face and beard were of a pale yellow; his hands and clothes daubed over with filth. When I was presented to him, he gave me a close embrace, a compliment I could well have excused. His employment, from his first coming into the academy, was an operation to reduce human excrement to its original food, by separating the several parts, removing the tincture which it receives from the gall, making the odour exhale, and scumming off the saliva. He had a weekly allowance, from the society, of a vessel filled with human ordure, about the bigness of a Bristol barrel.
Cf. also H.L. Mencken, Happy Days: 1880-1892 (1936; rpt. New York: Knopf, 1968), pp. 135-136:
The humor of the young bourgeoisie males of Baltimore, in those days, was predominantly skatological, and there was no sign of the revolting sexual obsession that Freudians talk of. The favorite jocosities had to do with horse apples, O.E.A. wagons and small boys who lost control of their sphincters at parties or in Sunday school; when we began to spend our summers in the country my brother and I also learned the comic possibilities of cow flops. Even in the city a popular ginger-and-cocoanut cake, round in contour and selling for a cent, was called a cow flop, and little girls were supposed to avoid it, at least in the presence of boys.
O.E.A. = odorless excavating apparatus, used to clean cesspools and privies. In my childhood we called a truck which cleaned septic tanks a cuckah suckah (i.e. caca sucker).

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Thursday, July 07, 2016



Tibullus 1.1.41-50 (tr. J.P. Postgate):
I ask not for the riches of my sires or the gains which garnered harvests brought to my ancestors of yore. A small field's produce is enough—enough if I may sleep upon my bed and the mattress ease my limbs as heretofore. What delight to hear the winds rage as I lie and hold my love safe in my gentle clasp; or, when the stormy South Wind sheds the chilling showers, to seek sleep in safety, aided by a fire! This be my lot; let him be rightly rich who can bear the rage of the sea and the dreary rain.

non ego divitias patrum fructusque requiro,
    quos tulit antiquo condita messis avo:
parva seges satis est; satis est, requiescere lecto
    si licet et solito membra levare toro.
quam iuvat immites ventos audire cubantem        45
    et dominam tenero continuisse sinu
aut, gelidas hibernus aquas cum fuderit Auster,
    securum somnos igne iuvante sequi!
hoc mihi contingat: sit dives iure, furorem
    qui maris et tristes ferre potest pluvias.        50


Path to Sainthood

1 John 2.15:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
E.M. Cioran (1911-1995), The Trouble with Being Born, tr. Richard Howard (New York: Viking Press, 1976), p. 25:
If disgust for the world conferred sanctity of itself, I fail to see how I could avoid canonization.

Si le dégoût du monde conférait à lui seul la sainteté, je ne vois pas comment je pourrais éviter la canonisation.


Recipe for the Writing of Classical Dissertations

John Herington (1924-1997), "Litterae Inhumaniores," Arion 3rd ser. 5.1 (Spring-Summer, 1997) 7-21 (at 14-16, with notes at 21):
It is perhaps no caricature of the present system—and if it is in any serious degree a caricature, I hope this may be forgiven as an understandable attempt to draw attention to an urgent problem—to say that we have a well tried recipe for the writing of classical dissertations, which will now be described. There exists a periodical called L'Année Philologique, which lists and indexes all publications bearing on classical studies, in all languages, from the year 1926 until the present. (One may note in passing that its volumes become on the whole progressively thicker, with a sudden and pronounced expansion in girth during the years around 1950; examining the sequence rather as palaeobotanists study tree rings, our innocent observer might deduce that there has been a vast upswing in classical learning from that period onward. How right he would be this time, let the reader judge.) The student chooses, or is assigned, a dissertation topic, which broadly speaking may be one of three kinds. He or she may study an obscure author (shall we say Aeneas Tacticus?), with some moderate prospect of saying something about his manner or message that has not actually been put in print before, at any rate since 1926. He may study one or more of the great authors, in which case he had better select a minor aspect (Cloud Imagery in Euripides? The Donkey in Old Attic Comedy?), or a minor stylistic or metrical point (The particle gar in Demosthenes?). Or he may take an option which is still less usual in classical studies than in others: he may apply to any one of the classical writers a recently developed psychological, linguistic, or literary critical methodology2 (A Structuralist Analysis of Pindar's First Olympian Ode to Hieron of Syracuse?). Once a topic is obtained, the route is clear, if laborious. You work through the Année Philologique, and collect a complete bibliography of all monographs or articles that might seem to bear on the topic; by this day and age the list will in most cases prove to be surprisingly long, no matter how abstruse, minute, or methodologically novel the topic may be. These contributions you read thoroughly, regardless of their intellectual and stylistic quality, and you would be well advised to card-index what you find. This process will consume a very great deal of time and energy, even if—following what seems to be a rather widespread gentlemen's agreement—you discard any bibliographical items that are (a) written in any of the modern languages that are not usually read by students or professors in this field, such as Finnish or Japanese, and (b) date from before 1926.3 It is a serious and insufficiently considered question, whether this vast labor will leave you free to widen your knowledge and understanding even of the classical authors in their original languages, let alone of the major authors in the modern languages that you have learned at the behest of the Graduate School. (And yet, our observer might well ask, is the best way to take the measure of Virgil's mind and style really to plow through yet another tired secondary tract on the poet, rather than sinking oneself in the texts of Homer or Dante?) But never mind; you have now the material for a dissertation. The first chapter will concern what literary scholars regularly refer to—and that without even the flicker of a smile—as The Literature; in it you will describe the contributions of your predecessors to the topic in hand, with appropriate castigation or adulation (it should not be forgotten that under our system those of them who are alive are very apt to be perceived, not as fellow-enquirers into a mighty heritage, but either as potential business rivals or as potential employers). You may next introduce whatever previously unnoticed scrap of evidence, or novel slant, you may have come up with in the course of your researches; and in the subsequent chapters you may rake over the previously known material in the light of this. The text of these chapters must absolutely be accompanied by a broad stream of footnotes, in which, above all, you will demonstrate to your readers that you really did read and digest The Literature.

2. It might be surmised that the enormous proliferation of such methodologies during the last thirty years is actually due, in part, to the even more frantic quest for that originality which the Graduate School demands. For the student, the advantages of developing or applying a new methodology will be quite obviously [sic: read obvious]: a near total originality, or the semblance of it, will result. The disadvantage to that ideal humanistic community which we are trying to outline in these pages is less obvious, but it is there: a near-total breakdown of communication, since in order to open a dialogue at all one must master an ever-increasing number of obsolescent jargons, disciplinary and even (quite often) personal. But to pursue this culture-historical question fully would require a separate article.

3. It is in practice very rare even for those students who range beyond the volumes of L'Année Philologique to search back beyond about 1870, even though an enormous amount of superb factual and analytical work on the classics was carried out before that date. I have been told of a student who took the trouble to read all the studies on the philosopher Empedokles ever produced since the invention of the printing press (a manageable project, for once, because Empedokles survives only in fragments). He reported that in his judgment all the major lines of research on this author had been pretty well explored before about 1700 AD.
Related post: The Weakness of Modern Latin Studies.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Always on the Sidelines

Garry Wills, Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer (New York: Viking, 2010), p. 3:
My father thought I was guaranteeing my inability to make a living when I got my doctorate in classical Greek. That, he thought, would make me a perpetual sideliner.
Related post: Appalling and Horrifying.


Mercifully Short

Mortimer Chambers, "Grant, John Ratcliffe," in Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, ed. Ward W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 229-230 (at 230):
Grant's dissertation closed a long Harvard tradition by being the last ever written in Latin; he always spoke in favor of this custom because it tended to keep dissertations mercifully short.
The dissertation was De decretis Atticis quae e memoria scriptorum veterum tradita sunt. Chambers gives the date of the dissertation as 1948, and it is summarized in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 58/59 (1948) 223-226. But was the date really 1948? See the citation in Martin Ostwald, "The Athenian Legislation against Tyranny and Subversion," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association (1955) 103-128 (at 111, note 40): "diss. Harvard 1946; typewritten". According to the Harvard Library, the date was 1947. The dissertation wasn't all that short: Ostwald cites pp. 163-65.

Thanks to Michael Hendry, who draws my attention to J.A. Willis, "The 'Silvae' of Statius and Their Editors," Phoenix 20.4 (Winter 1966) 305-324 (at 323):
That all doctoral dissertations should be written in Latin, and failed for bad Latin (e.g., magistro meo, qui studiis meis semper favuit, which I have seen on a printed title-page), seems to me another very simple step which might help to halt the decay. At the same time it would tend to lessen the length of theses, which would again be an advantage.


Criticism Criticised

A.B. C[ook], "Criticism Criticised," Cambridge Review, Vol. XIII, No. 333 (June 9, 1892) 364 (in the original, the annotations are in a bold, smaller font, which I've replaced with red):
Those who, for other than Littlego purposes, have sat through Classical lectures or dipped into Classical books know well how the comments of the learned spoil the flavour of the original authors. Others may judge the matter from the effect of similar interpositions on the following artless ballad:—
She was a tiny whaler,
    And had a tiny crew,
Consisting of one sailor:
    Most manuscripts read "two."

This merry little fellow
    In a fantastic way
Had dyed his whiskers yellow:
    Madvig conjectures "grey."

Within his murderous cabin
    Full six harpoons had he,
Leviathan to dab in:
    Note the hypallage.

History surfeited tightly;
    Andrew of course hast supped;
Mad dabby will jam white lie:
    This stanza seems corrupt.

"His trousers fitted tightly,
    And were of choicest tweed,
Made up by William Whitely,"
    Perhaps we ought to read.

So thus his form adorning
    With colours brave and bright,
He sailed away one morning:
    The scholiast has "night."

Far, far across the ocean
    His buoyant boat did fly,
Till the rough rolling motion—!
    Effective Aposi.

At last on the horizon
    A reef rose dire and dim;
He dreaded reefs like pison:
    "Sailors dread reefs," says Grimm.

But lest my tale be tirin'
    I'll give you just the pith;
On the rocks there sat a Siren:
    This seems a Solar Myth.

One of those antique Misses
    Who long ago did try
To tempt the deaf Ulysses:
    vid. Homer's Odyssey.

With languishing soprano
    She wove her treble toil:
But he only whispered "Ah, no!"
    Subaudi, "Give me oil!"

Still on the Siren whistles
    Her sombre song and sad;
He looked around for missiles:
    Headlam says "Metre bad!"

Out spoke that savage sailor,
    "Your wailing's quite outshone,
For I too am a whaler":
    Verrallian etymon.

Then, then in desperation,
    His huge harpoon he heaves:
For fine alliteration
    See Spenser's "bony, beeves."

The Siren caught it neatly;
    Bent; broke; dropped; jumped upon;
Fused; bruised; contused completely:
    Unique asyndeton!

The sailor "caught it" also
    Like an ill-mannered cur;
Beneath her blows he falls o-
    ver. Mark Hypermeter.

There, where the wild winds waver,
    She built a solemn pyre,
And cremated his cadaver.
    Splendid περιπέτεια!
Of the many learned lucubrations which have been lavished on this simple tale, we select the two following as conspicuous examples of their kind:—

Prof. Mayor. It will not escape notice that in the good old days (for which cp: Columella, i. 2, 3: Sedulius, iv. 5, 6: Cyprian, vii. 8, 9: Sulpicia, 10) when the stout mariners of Spain (see my Univ. Serm. as published in the Review—and by the way our younger scholars might profitably devote their lives to making a complete index to its crowded columns: I have myself noticed some six omissions of the word "and" in the existing lists) did not shrink from the dangers of the deep (vide Horace, Seneca, Varro, Tzetzes, Apuleius, etc., passim) men were undoubtedly born and bred on vegetarian diet. I could cite a million quotations to prove the point, but content myself with calling attention to the careful wording of the above-mentioned poem. For example, "pith" is significant, and "give me oil" conclusive: nor must we suppose (with Nauck, Gruppe, Schweiger-Sidler3, Tücking, Puchta etc.) that the hunting of the whale was for purposes of food-supply—I deny in toto that any sailor of that epoch had ever eaten a whale.

Dr. Verrall. The common misinterpretations of this ode are too notorious to call for detailed refutation. As mangled by most critics and commentators it is a mere agglomeration of meaningless verbiage, or—if we credit one savant—replete with vegetarian vagaries. The fact is that they all (like the Siren before them) have "missed the point" entirely. It clearly represents the Festival Choir, whose adventurous and successful career was frowned upon by the Muse of classic song. We cannot of course expect to appreciate all the subtleties of contemporary Criticism; but in each words as "wailer," "Sail," and "yell-ow," I detect a distinct musical significance. Take again the connection between the adjective "murderous" and the phrase "harpoon": this latter word must be a dialectal variant for the verb to "harp on"; the fact that no such form is known elsewhere is the strongest argument in favour of its restoration here. For "ill-mannered cur" I restore with confidence "ill-Manned choir," exact metrical correspondence being of no importance. Similarly the stress laid upon the syllable "ver" by its position in the line recalls the word "vir" and reinforces my argument about "Mann."

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