Tuesday, April 25, 2017
With all his scorn for gentry, Ontario Moggs in his heart feared a gentleman. He thought that he could make an effort to punch Ralph Newton's head if they two were ever to be brought together in a spot convenient for such an operation; but of the man's standing in the world, he was afraid. It seemed to him to be impossible that Polly should prefer him, or any one of his class, to a suitor whose hands were always clean, whose shirt was always white, whose words were soft and well-chosen, who carried with him none of the stain of work. Moggs was as true as steel in his genuine love of Labour,—of Labour with a great L,—of the People with a great P,—of Trade with a great T,—of Commerce with a great C; but of himself individually,—of himself, who was a man of the people, and a tradesman, he thought very little when he compared himself to a gentleman. He could not speak as they spoke; he could not walk as they walked; he could not eat as they ate. There was a divinity about a gentleman which he envied and hated.
Happy is he who hath children dear and horses of uncloven hoofOthers interpret παῖδες sensu erotico as boys. See Ivan M. Linforth, Solon the Athenian (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1919), pp. 175-178, and Maria Noussia-Fantuzzi, Solon the Athenian, the Poetic Fragments (Leiden; Brill, 2010), pp. 343-346. A friend in a foreign land is useful in case one is exiled.
and dogs for the chase and a friend to receive him in a foreign land.
ὄλβιος, ᾧ παῖδές τε φίλοι καὶ μώνυχες ἵπποι
καὶ κύνες ἀγρευταὶ καὶ ξένος ἀλλοδαπός.
Related post: Recipes for Happiness.
Superior to Any Commentary
I have chosen to quote the Meditations abundantly. I hate those monographs which, instead of letting the author speak and staying close to the text, engage in obscure elucubrations which claim to carry out an act of decoding and reveal the "unsaid" of the thinker, without the reader's having the slightest idea of what that thinker really "said." Such a method unfortunately permits all kinds of deformations, distortions, and sleight of hand. Our era is captivating for all kinds of reasons: too often, however, from the philosophical and literary point of view, it could be defined as the era of the misinterpretation, if not of the pun: people can, it seems, say anything about anything. When I quote Marcus Aurelius, I want my reader to make contact with the text itself, which is superior to any commentary. I would like him to see how my interpretation tries to base itself on the text, and that he can verify my affirmations directly and immediately.
How Can Man Die Better?
To every man upon this earthMatthew Arnold (1822-1888), "Last Words On Translating Homer":
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods...
But Lord Macaulay'sCf. Arnold's "On Translating Homer," Lecture II:
Then out spake brave Horatius,(and here, since I have been reproached with undervaluing Lord Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome, let me frankly say that, to my mind, a man's power to detect the ring of false metal in those Lays is a good measure of his fitness to give an opinion about poetical matters at all)—I say, Lord Macaulay's
The captain of the gate:
'To all the men upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.' ...
To all the men upon this earthit is hard to read without a cry of pain.
Death cometh soon or late,
...one continual falsetto, like the pinchbeck Roman Ballads of Lord Macaulay...Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944), Studies in Literature: Third Series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933), p. 191
Or we may take Macaulay's Lays. Matthew Arnold was utterly wrong in suggesting that these encourage bad taste, or that a liking for them supposes bad taste. So far as they go the Lays are sound, sane, clean as a whistle; and it is a poor game, anyhow, to discourage a boy's thrill over Horatius at the bridgehead and teach him to feel like a little prig...
Monday, April 24, 2017
All the Necessary Ingredients for a Political Career
You've got everything else a demagogue needs:
a repulsive voice, low birth, marketplace morals—
you've got all the ingredients for a political career.
τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα σοι πρόσεστι δημαγωγικά,
φωνὴ μιαρά, γέγονας κακῶς, ἀγοραῖος εἶ·
ἔχεις ἅπαντα πρὸς πολιτείαν ἃ δεῖ.
If I Could Only Read
"If I could only read," he would say to August. "The rest of it doesn't matter. But if I could just read I'd be the happiest man in the world."The source (from p. 386) is Robert Allen Durr, "The Last Days of H.L. Mencken," Yale Review (Autumn, 1958), which is unavailable to me.
Philosophy and the Teaching of Philosophy
The idea of a conflict between philosophy and the teaching of philosophy goes back to my youth. I think I came across it in Charles Péguy, who said: "Philosophy doesn't go to philosophy classes," and certainly in Jacques Maritain, who wrote: "Thomist metaphysics is called 'Scholastic' after its most severe trial. Scholastic pedagogy is its own worst enemy: it always has to triumph over its intimate adversary, the professor." Ever since I started doing philosophy, I've always believed that philosophy was a concrete act, which changed our perception of the world, and our life: not the construction of a system. It is a life, not a discourse.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Much more than half of the matter the American newspapers print every day is interesting only to relatively small minorities, and it is thus no wonder that the average reader reads only a small part, and falls into the mental habit of taking that small part lightly. The more reflective reader goes further: he reads next to nothing, and believes the same amount precisely. Why should he read or believe more? Every time he alights upon anything that impinges upon his own field of knowledge he discovers at once that it is inaccurate and puerile. The essential difficulty here is that journalism, to be intellectually respectable, requires a kind of equipment in its practitioner that is necessarily rare in the world, and especially rare in a country given over to the superficial. He should have the widest conceivable range of knowledge, and he should be the sort of man who is not easily deluded by the specious and the fraudulent. Obviously, there are not enough such men to go round. The best newspaper, if it is lucky, may be able to muster half a dozen at a given moment, but the average newspaper seldom has even one. Thus American journalism (like the journalism of any other country) is predominantly paltry and worthless. Its pretensions are enormous, but its achievements are insignificant.
Even at its fundamental business of ascertaining and reporting what has happened in the world it fails miserably. Four-fifths of the so-called news it prints is dubious, and a very large proportion is downright false. Whenever a fraud with something to sell is afoot, whether in war or in peace, the great majority of journalists succumb to his blather very easily, for second- and third-rate men are always willing to follow anyone who has a loud voice, a cocksure manner, and a resilient conscience.
An Old Chinese Custom
In ancient China, women suffering from anger or grief would climb onto platforms specially constructed for them in the street, and there would give free rein to their fury or their lamentations. Such confessionals should be revived and adopted the world over, if only to replace the obsolete ones of the Church, or the ineffectual ones of various therapeutics.Not just for women, but for men, too.
Dans l'ancienne Chine, les femmes, lorsqu'elles étaient en proie à la colère ou au chagrin, montaient sur de petites estrades, dressées spécialement pour elles dans la rue, et y donnaient libre cours à leur fureur ou à leurs lamentations. Ce genre de confessionnal devrait être ressuscité et adopté un peu partout, ne fût-ce que pour remplacer celui, désuet, de l'Église, ou celui, inopérant, de telle ou telle thérapeutique.
This occasioned much snarling argument, till I put an end to the confusion and uproar by saying, "Friends, you must keep to orderly enquiry, as is the proper habit of educated people. You must therefore make an end of this disorderly, inconclusive contentiousness and each in turn exert yourself to defend your own opinion..."
πολλῶν οὖν ἀκρίτων ἀφυλακτουμένων λόγων τὸν συμμιγῆ καταπαύσας ἐγὼ θόρυβον, Ἄνδρες, εἶπον, ἑταῖροι, τῆς κατὰ κόσμον ἔχεσθε ζητήσεως, ὡς εὐπρεπὴς νόμος ἐστὶν παιδείας. ἀπαλλαγέντες οὖν τῆς ἀτάκτου καὶ πέρας οὐδὲν ἐχούσης φιλονεικίας ἐν μέρει ὑπὲρ τῆς αὐτὸς ἑαυτοῦ δόξης ἑκάτερος ἀποτείνασθε...
A Pervasive Despair
Anyone who tries to read the odes of Pindar and Bacchylides in the original Greek experiences at first a pervasive despair. Memorable words and phrases strike the ear; the narration of a myth intrigues; but the satisfaction of being able to understand another language and another's process of thought that draws us to the study of antiquity remains tantalizingly unattainable.Id., p. 3:
Much of the trouble derives from the way we go about reading this difficult literature, armed with dictionaries, surrounded by commentaries and translations.
[N]ot even experienced classicists can comfortably read Pindar and Bacchylides at "sight"...Related post: Difficulty of Pindar.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
The Desire to Know
While they were preparing the hemlock, Socrates was learning how to play a new tune on the flute. "What will be the use of that?" he was asked. "To know this tune before dying."
If I dare repeat this reply long since trivialized by the handbooks, it is because it seems to me the sole serious justification of any desire to know, whether exercised on the brink of death or at any other moment of existence.
Alors qu'on préparait la ciguë, Socrate était en train d'apprendre un air de flûte. "À quoi bon cela te servira-t-il?" lui demande-t-on. — "À savoir cet air avant de mourir."
Si j'ose rappeler cette réponse trivialisée par les manuels, c'est parce qu'elle me paraît l'unique justification sérieuse de toute volonté de connaître, qu'elle s'exerce au seuil de la mort ou à n'importe quel autre moment.
Reading the Gospels
One cannot read these Gospels too warily; there are difficulties behind every word.
Diese Evangelien kann man nicht behutsam genug lesen; sie haben ihre Schwierigkeiten hinter jedem Wort.
Friends Don't Let Friends Make Grammatical Errors
For one should not let a friend make a grammatical error, but instruct him how to avoid it.
οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρεπτέον σολοικίζοντι τῷ φίλῳ, ἀλλὰ διδακτέον ὅπως τοῦτο μὴ πείσεται.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Translation as Exercise
What is the excuse for translating a poem? Is not a poem by definition something that cannot be translated? Every word is immutable; every sound, once it has been brought into a poetic order, is immovable. Every language, like every land, has its own genius. I recall Elinor Wylie's words on turning Latin into English:
Alembics turn to stranger thingsElinor Wylie, as I recall it, wrote those lines only after spending some time trying to do what she had to admit in the end could not be done. And I have spent some time, over a period of twenty years, trying to turn, now Latin lines, now lines written in some speech derived from the Latin, into an English that could be read without displeasure and without distrust. I ought to have some excuse for an activity whose aim I have felt impelled to put down in these negative terms.
Strange things, but never while we live
Shall magic turn this bronze that sings
To singing water in a sieve.
The positive gain for the translator is that he keeps his pencil sharp. There are times with all of us when we are dull, when there is nothing within which wants to come out, and yet when, uneasy with idleness, we need to write, if only to keep the hand in. Translation is an excellent exercise; it is a test, I believe, which tries less the knowledge of the foreign speech than of our own. The limits of English cannot be accurately determined until we have ventured beyond its borders. We can compute our wealth at home the better for having been abroad.
How little the subject matters! It is the spirit that gives life! What stuffy and sickroom air arises from all that excited chatter about "redemption," love, blessedness, faith, truth, "eternal life"! Take, on the other hand, a really pagan book, e.g., Petronius, where fundamentally nothing is done, said, desired and valued but what by peevish Christian standards is sin, mortal sin even. And yet how pleasant is the purer air, the superior spirituality of its quicker pace, the liberated and overflowing strength that feels sure of the future! In the entire New Testament there is not one single bouffonnerie: but that fact refutes a book—
Wie wenig liegt am Gegenstand! Der Geist ist es, der lebendig macht! Welche kranke und verstockte Luft mitten aus all dem aufgeregten Gerede von »Erlösung«, Liebe, »Seligkeit«, Glaube, Wahrheit, »ewigem Leben«! Man nehme einmal ein eigentlich heidnisches Buch dagegen, z. B. Petronius, wo im Grunde nichts gethan, gesagt, gewollt und geschätzt wird, was nicht, nach einem christlich-muckerischen Wertmaaß, Sünde, selbst Todsünde ist. Und trotzdem: welches Wohlgefühl in der reineren Luft, der überlegenen Geistigkeit des schnelleren Schrittes, der freigewordenen und überschüssigen zukunftsgewissen Kraft! Im ganzen Neuen Testament kommt keine einzige Bouffonnerie vor: aber damit ist ein Buch widerlegt...
When two poets produce a hymn,
the Muses are wont to work strife between them.
τεκόντοιν θ᾿ ὕμνον ἐργάταιν δυοῖν
ἔριν Μοῦσαι φιλοῦσι κραίνειν.
476 τεκόντοιν θ᾿ ὕμνον Goram: τεκτόνοιν θ᾿ ὕμνοιν (vel -οι vel -οις) fere C
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Tests of a Civilization
For the South, whatever may be said, had at least passed those two tests which the French have devised for a civilization and to which they admit only themselves and the Chinese. It had devised a code of etiquette and created a native cookery.Id., p. 5:
For it is to be noted that the Confederacy, for all the brevity of its formal existence, achieved more surely the qualities of a nation than the enduring Republic has been able to do. There were more emotions shared; its soldiers knew how to speak to one another or without speaking to arrive at a common understanding. Their attitude toward life was alike, and when they faced death it was in the same way.Id., p. 6:
For when all is said and done, a myth is far more exciting to the mind than most discoveries of mere things.Id., p. 7:
But what distinguishes an aristocracy is that the government is directed in the interests of a class which acts together and whose individuals do not, as plutocrats do, destroy one another—and eventually the state—in a mean competition for privileges. It is this which gives it stability. A government by businessmen, as we have seen, not only corrupts government, but, being a cut-throat affair, frequently ends by destroying business.Id., p. 8:
What is necessary, if a tradition is to be carried on, is that it should be inculcated in children before they have acquired minds of their own. It is too late to teach a child morality at seven. And in modern America, where the parents have given up all hope of controlling their progeny and have thrust the moral task on the school—which, in the more modern classes, is now passing it on to the children themselves—we have not only a great number of unmannerly brats, but a constantly increasing host of youthful criminals.Id., p. 9:
The assumption commonly made in America is that the machine has so altered the present from the past that nothing our parents knew is of any use to us. The answer to that, which may be a futile one, is that had we retained our integrity as men, we should never have allowed mechanization to proceed so rapidly as to destroy all that accumulated wisdom. How meagre life is without it, needs no demonstration by me.
Political Leadership Today
No, political leadership's no longer a job for a man of education and good character, but for the ignorant and disgusting.
ἡ δημαγωγία γὰρ οὐ πρὸς μουσικοῦ
ἔτ᾿ ἐστὶν ἀνδρὸς οὐδὲ χρηστοῦ τοὺς τρόπους,
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς ἀμαθῆ καὶ βδελυρόν.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The Difference Between Irregular and Regular Verbs
But as for the Latin, Madame, you can really have no idea how muddled it is. The Romans would never have found time to conquer the world if they had been obliged first to learn Latin. Those happy people knew in their cradles the nouns with an accusative in -im. I, on the contrary, had to learn them by heart, in the sweat of my brow, but still it is well that I knew them. For if, for example, when I publicly disputed in Latin, in the College Hall of Göttingen, on the 20th of July 1825—Madame, it was well worth while to hear it—if, I say, I had said sinapem instead of sinapim, the blunder would have been evident to the Freshmen, and an endless shame for me. Vis, buris, sitis, tussis, cucumis, amussis, cannabis, sinapis—these words, which have attracted so much attention in the world, effected this, because they belonged to a determined class, and yet were exceptions; on that account I value them highly, and the fact that I have them ready at my finger's ends when I perhaps need them in a hurry affords me in many dark hours of life much internal tranquillity and consolation. But, Madame, the verba irregularia—they are distinguished from the verbis regularibus by the fact that in learning them one gets more whippings—are terribly difficult. In the damp arches of the Franciscan cloister near our school-room there hung a large crucified Christ of grey wood, a dismal image, that even yet at times marches through my dreams and gazes sorrowfully on me with fixed bleeding eyes—before this image I often stood and prayed, "Oh thou poor and equally tormented God, if it be possible for thee, see that I get by heart the irregular verbs!"Hat tip: Ian Jackson.
I will say nothing of Greek; I should irritate myself too much. The monks of the Middle Ages were not so very much in the wrong when they asserted that Greek was an invention of the devil. Lord knows what I suffered through it.
Was abei das Lateinische betrifft, so haben Sie gar keine Idee davon, Madame, wie das verwickelt ist. Den Römern würde gewiß nicht Zeit genug übrig geblieben sein, die Welt zu erobern, wenn sie das Latein erst hätten lernen sollen. Diese glücklichen Leute wußten schon in der Wiege, welche Nomina den Akkusativ auf -im haben. Ich hingegen mußte sie im Schweiße meines Angesichts auswendig lernen; aber es ist doch immer gut, daß ich sie weiß. Denn hätte ich z.B. den 20. Juli 1825, als ich öffentlich in der Aula zu Göttingen lateinisch disputierte — Madame, es war der Mühe wert, zuzuhören—hätte ich da sinapem statt sinapim gesagt, so würden es vielleicht die anwesenden Füchse gemerkt haben, und das wäre für mich eine ewige Schande gewesen. Vis, buris, sitis, tussis, cucumis, amussis, cannabis, sinapis—diese Wörter, die soviel Aufsehen in der Welt gemacht haben, bewirken dieses, indem sie sich zu einer bestimmten Klasse schlugen und dennoch eine Ausnahme blieben; deshalb achte ich sie sehr, und daß ich sie bei der Hand habe, wenn ich sie etwa plötzlich brauchen sollte, das gibt mir in manchen trüben Stunden des Lebens viel innere Beruhigung und Trost. Aber, Madame, die verba irregularia—sie unterscheiden sich von den verbis regularibus dadurch, daß man bei ihnen noch mehr Prügel bekömmt—, sie sind gar entsetzlich schwer. In den dumpfen Bogengängen des Franziskanerklosters, unfern der Schulstube, hing damals ein großer, gekreuzigter Christus von grauem Holze, ein wüstes Bild, das noch jetzt zuweilen des Nachts durch meine Träume schreitet und mich traurig ansieht mit starren, blutigen Augen—vor diesem Bilde stand ich oft und betete: »O du armer, ebenfalls gequälter Gott, wenn es dir nur irgend möglich ist, so sieh doch zu, daß ich die verba irregularia im Kopfe behalte.«
Vom Griechischen will ich gar nicht sprechen; ich ärgere mich sonst zuviel. Die Mönche im Mittelalter hatten so ganz unrecht nicht, wenn sie behaupteten, daß das Griechische eine Erfindung des Teufels sei. Gott kennt die Leiden, die ich dabei ausgestanden.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Rooted to the Land
I think it is the lonely, without a fireside or an affection they may call their own, those who return not to a dwelling but to the land itself, to meet its disembodied, eternal, and unchangeable spirit — it is those who understand best its severity, its saving power, the grace of its secular right to our fidelity, to our obedience. Yes! few of us understand, but we all feel it though, and I say all without exception, because those who do not feel do not count. Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life.
Let Us Drink
Greetings to our king, our saviour and father1; and for us let the wine-pouring attendants mix the bowl from silver pitchers; and let him who holds in his hands the golden jug wash our hands on to the floor.2 Let us make holy libation to Heracles and Alcmena, to Procles and Perseus' descendants,3 beginning with Zeus, and let us drink and play; let the singing last all night, let there be dancing; begin the jollity with a will; and if any one has a shapely woman waiting to share his bed, he will drink more confidently than the rest.Gentili and Prato, edd., Poetae Elegiaci, 2nd ed., Vol. II (2002; rpt. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), pp. 65-66:
1 Dionysus or wine (cf. 'king wine' in 26.16) rather than the Spartan king.
2 Text of this sentence very insecure.
3 Ion lists the ancestors of the Spartan king Archidamus: Perseus was great-grandfather of Heracles (son of Alcmena), whose descendants, the Heracleidae, carried out the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnese; Procles established the Eurypontid line of kings. Jacoby, C.Q. 41 (1947) 9 dated the poem to 463/2, when Cimon led Athenian troops to help Archidamus against the Messenians; West, B.I.C.S. 32 (1985) 74 to c. 450, when Cimon was in Sparta to negotiate the 5-year truce.
χαιρέτω ἡμέτερος βασιλεὺς σωτήρ τε πατήρ τε·
ἡμῖν δὲ κρητῆρ᾿ οἰνοχόοι θέραπες
κιρνάντων προχύταισιν ἐν ἀργυρέοις· †ὁ δὲ χρυσὸς
οἶνον ἔχων χειρῶν νιζέτω εἰς ἔδαφος.†
σπένδοντες δ᾿ ἁγνῶς Ἡρακλεῖ τ᾿ Ἀλκμήνῃ τε, 5
Προκλεῖ Περσείδαις τ᾿ ἐκ Διὸς ἀρχόμενοι
πίνωμεν, παίζωμεν· ἴτω διὰ νυκτὸς ἀοιδή,
ὀρχείσθω τις· ἑκὼν δ᾿ ἄρχε φιλοφροσύνης.
ὅντινα δ᾿ εὐειδὴς μίμνει θήλεια πάρευνος,
κεῖνος τῶν ἄλλων κυδρότερον πίεται. 10
See Edmund Stewart, "Ion of Chios: The Case of a Foreign Poet in Classical Sparta."
The older I grow, the more I am persuaded that hedonism is the only sound and practical doctrine of faith for the intelligent man.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
The happiest, brightest, most beautiful Easter I have ever spent. I woke early and looked out. As I had hoped the day was cloudless, a glorious morning. My first thought was 'Christ is Risen'. It is not well to lie in bed on Easter morning, indeed it is thought very unlucky. I got up between five and six and was out soon after six. There had been a frost and the air was rimy with a heavy thick white dew on hedge, bank and turf, but the morning was not cold. There was a heavy white dew with a touch of hoar frost on the meadows, and as I leaned over the wicket gate by the mill pond looking to see if there were any primroses in the banks but not liking to venture into the dripping grass suddenly I heard the cuckoo for the first time this year. He was near Peter's Pool and he called three times quickly one after another. It is very well to hear the cuckoo for the first time on Easter Sunday morning. I loitered up the lane again gathering primroses.
The village lay quiet and peaceful in the morning sunshine, but by the time I came back from primrosing there was some little stir and people were beginning to open their doors and look out into the fresh fragrant splendid morning.
There was a very large congregation at morning church, the largest I have seen for some time, attracted by Easter and the splendour of the day, for they have here an immense reverence for Easter Sunday. The anthem went very well and Mr. Baskerville complimented Mr. Evans after church about it, saying that it was sung in good tune and time and had been a great treat. There were more communicants than usual: 29. This is the fifth time I have received the Sacrament within four days. After morning service I took Mr. V. round the churchyard and showed him the crosses on his mother's, wife's, and brother's graves. He was quite taken by surprise and very much gratified. I am glad to see that our primrose crosses seem to be having some effect for I think I notice this Easter some attempt to copy them and an advance towards the form of the cross in some of the decorations of the graves. I wish we could get the people to adopt some little design in the disposition of the flowers upon the graves instead of sticking sprigs into the turf aimlessly anywhere, anyhow and with no meaning at all. But one does not like to interfere too much with their artless, natural way of showing their respect and love for the dead. I am thankful to find this beautiful custom on the increase, and observed more and more every year. Some years ago it was on the decline and nearly discontinued. On Easter Day all the young people come out in something new and bright like butterflies. It is almost part of their religion to wear something new on this day. It was an old saying that if you don't wear something new on Easter Day, the crows will spoil everything you have on.
Between the services a great many people were in the churchyard looking at the graves. I went to Bettws Chapel in the afternoon. It was burning hot and as I climbed the hill the perspiration rolled off my forehead from under my hat and fell in drops on the dusty road. Lucretia Wall was in chapel looking pale and pretty after her illness. Coming down the hill it was delightful, cool and pleasant. The sweet suspicion of spring strengthens, deepens, and grows more sweet every day. Mrs. Pring gave us lamb and asparagus at dinner.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
The Educational Establishment
When you see the many and manifold institutions for teaching and learning and the great crowd of pupils and masters which throngs them you might think the human race was much occupied with wisdom and insight. But here too appearance is deceptive. The latter teach to earn money, and strive not for wisdom but for the appearance of it and to be credited with it; the former learn, not to achieve knowledge and insight, but so as to be able to chatter about them and give themselves airs. Every thirty years a new generation appears which knows nothing and then sets about trying to gulp down summarily and as fast as possible all the human knowledge assembled over the millennia, after which it would like to think it knows more than all the past put together. To this end it resorts to universities and reaches out for books, and for the most recent ones too, as being its own contemporaries and fellows of its own age. Everything quick and everything new! as new as it itself is. And then off it goes, loud with its own opinions!
Wenn man die vielen und mannigfaltigen Anstalten zum Lehren und Lernen und das so große Gedränge von Schülern und Meistern sieht, könnte man glauben, daß es dem Menschengeschlechte gar sehr um Einsicht und Wahrheit zu thun sei. Aber auch hier trügt der Schein. Jene lehren, um Geld zu verdienen und streben nicht nach Weisheit, sondern nach dem Schein und Kredit derselben: und diese lernen nicht, um Kenntniß und Einsicht zu erlangen, sondern um schwätzen zu können und sich ein Ansehn zu geben. Alle dreißig Jahre nämlich tritt so ein neues Geschlecht auf, ein Kuck in die Welt, der von nichts weiß und nun die Resultate des durch die Jahrtausende angesammelten menschlichen Wissens, summarisch, in aller Geschwindigkeiten sich fressen und dann klüger als alle Vergangenheit seyn will. Zu diesem Zweck bezieht er Universitäten und greist nach den Büchern, und zwar nach den neuesten, als seinen Zeit- und Altersgenossen. Nur Alles kurz und neu! wie er selbst neu ist. Dann urtheilt er darauf los.
Why I Blog
This book was written in good faith, reader. It warns you from the outset that in it I have set myself no goal but a domestic and private one. I have had no thought of serving either you or my own glory. My powers are inadequate for such a purpose. I have dedicated it to the private convenience of my relatives and friends, so that when they have lost me (as soon they must), they may recover here some features of my habits and temperament, and by this means keep the knowledge they have had of me more complete and alive.Si licet parvum (me) componere magno (Montano).
book Montaigne: blog Gilleland
The King Dupe of the Cosmos
Man's natural instinct, in fact, is never toward what is sound and true; it is toward what is specious and false. Let any great nation of modern times be confronted by two conflicting propositions, the one grounded upon the utmost probability and reasonableness and the other upon the most glaring error, and it will almost invariably embrace the latter. It is so in politics, which consists wholly of a succession of unintelligent crazes, many of them so idiotic that they exist only as battle-cries and shibboleths and are not reducible to logical statement at all. It is so in religion, which, like poetry, is simply a concerted effort to deny the most obvious realities. It is so in nearly every field of thought. The ideas that conquer the race most rapidly and arouse the wildest enthusiasm and are held most tenaciously are precisely the ideas that are most insane. This has been true since the first "advanced" gorilla put on underwear, cultivated a frown and began his first lecture tour in the first chautauqua, and it will be so until the high gods, tired of the farce at last, obliterate the race with one great, final blast of fire, mustard gas and streptococci.
Man is the yokel par excellence, the booby unmatchable, the king dupe of the cosmos. He is chronically and inescapably deceived, not only by the other animals and by the delusive face of nature herself, but also and more particularly by himself—by his incomparable talent for searching out and embracing what is false, and for overlooking and denying what is true.
But if truth thus has hard sledding, error is given a loving welcome. The man who invents a new imbecility is hailed gladly, and bidden to make himself at home; he is, to the great masses of men, the beau idéal of mankind. Go back through the history of the past thousand years and you will find that nine-tenths of the popular idols of the world—not the heroes of small sects, but the heroes of mankind in the mass—have been merchants of palpable nonsense. It has been so in politics, it has been so in religion, and it has been so in every other department of human thought. Every such hawker of the not-true has been opposed, in his time, by critics who denounced and refuted him; his contention has been disposed of immediately it was uttered. But on the side of every one there has been the titanic force of human credulity, and it has sufficed in every case to destroy his foes and establish his immortality.
Therefore, Father Dionysus, you who please garland-loving
men, president of cheerful drinking parties—
hail to you! Grant us the time, assistant in good deeds,
to drink, and to play, and to have just thoughts!
τῷ σύ πάτερ Διόνυσε, φιλοστεφάνοισιν ἀρέσκων
ἀνδράσιν, εὐθύμων συμποσίων πρύτανι,
χαῖρε· δίδου δ᾿ αἰῶνα, καλῶν ἐπιήρανε ἔργων, 15
πίνειν καὶ παίζειν καὶ τὰ δίκαια φρονεῖν.
13 τοῦ A, deest epit.: corr. Bergk
15 δ' ἄρ' Ἴωνα Hecker ἐπιήρανον Schneidewin
Friday, April 14, 2017
We forget that this is an oral, public, epideictic literature dedicated to the single purpose of eulogizing men and communities; that these eulogies are concentrated upon athletic achievement; that the environment thus created is hostile to an allusiveness that would strain the powers of a listening audience, hostile to personal, religious, political, philosophical and historical references that might interest the poet but do nothing to enhance the glory of a given patron, hostile to abruptness in transitions, to gross irrelevance, to lengthy sermonizing, to literary scandals and embarrassments, hostile in short to all the characteristics of style and temper that we ascribe to Pindar.
Pity the Poor Viking
Pity the Viking. Modern scholarship, relentless dismantler of stereotypes, has trimmed his blond hair, disputed the blueness of his eyes, and taken away his horned helmet (Loyn 1977:10; Frank 2000).References:
- H.R. Loyn, The Vikings in Britain (London: B.T. Batsford, 1977)
- Roberta Frank, "The Invention of the Viking Horned Helmet," in Michael Dallapiazza et al., edd., International Scandinavian and Medieval Studies in Memory of Gerd Wolfgang Weber (Trieste: Edizioni Parnaso, 2000), pp. 199-208
Thursday, April 13, 2017
To buy this book I sold a sleeved pullover, Edmund Parsons, 1913.Erasmus, letter 160 (to Nicholas Bensrott; July 18, 1501; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
If there is any fresh Greek to be bought, I would rather pawn my coat than not get it.Related posts:
Si quid est nouae Graecanitatis, vestem citius oppignerauerimus quam non potiamur.
A Feeling of Superiority
The crowds made him dizzy, especially on Sundays, when, from the Bastille to the Madeleine, there was a vast torrent of humanity surging over the asphalt, in the midst of clouds of dust and a continuous din. He felt utterly nauseated by the vulgarity of their faces, the stupidity of their talk, and the imbecile satisfaction glistening on their sweating brows. However, the knowledge that he was worth more than these men lessened the fatigue of looking at them.
La foule l'étourdissait, — le dimanche surtout, — quand, depuis la Bastille jusqu'à la Madeleine, c'était un immense flot ondulant sur l'asphalte, au milieu de la poussière, dans une rumeur continue; il se sentait tout écoeuré par la bassesse des figures, la niaiserie des propos, la satisfaction imbécile transpirant sur les fronts en sueur! Cependant, la conscience de mieux valoir que ces hommes atténuait la fatigue de les regarder.
Avoid Intellectual Junk Food
The most important rule of study is to see to it that we study only those works that are written by the best and most approved authors, and avoid the crude and ignorant writings which only ruin and degrade our natural abilities. The reading of clumsy and corrupt writers imbues the reader with their own vices and infests his mind with a similar corruption. Study is, so to speak, the pabulum of the mind by which the intellect is trained and nourished. For this reason, just as gastronomes are careful in the choice of what they put in their stomachs, so those who wish to preserve purity of taste will only allow certain readings to enter their minds.
Caput vero huius diligentiae ruerit videre primum, ut in eorum tantum librorum, qui ab optimis probatissimisque latinae linguae auctoribus scripti sunt, lectione versemur, ab imperite vero ineleganterque scriptis ita caveamus, quasi a calamitate quadam et labe ingenii nostri. Inquinate enim inepteque scriptorum lectio vitia sua lectori affigit et mentem simili coinquinat tabe. Est enim veluti pabulum animi, quo mens imbuitur atque nutritur. Quam ob rem, ut ii, qui stomachi curam habent, non quemvis cibum illi infundunt, ita, qui sinceritatem animi conservare volet, non quamvis lectionem illi permittet.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
I dreamed last night that I saw Keble—he was a bishop, and quite naked except for a pair of gaiters. He had the most enormous leg muscles, which I felt and examined, and wondered how a man with such muscles could ever have died: for he was dead.Keble = John Keble, author of The Christian Year. I owe the quotation and the title of this post to Ian Jackson, "Preface," The Imperfect Correspondent in Historical Perspective (Berkeley, 2005), p. 12, n. 20.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
One of the Greatest Things That Ever Happened
"You don't have to be all that intelligent, but Latin takes a little bit of toughness," he growls. "I hope you are all here voluntarily. I don't like the idea that some of you have been pushed into this classroom by some requirement," a word he pronounces with the utmost scorn and distaste. "Because if that's the case, I'd like to push you right back out. If you have to take Latin and don't want to, there is a list here, and you can just put your name on it and leave. And I will give you a passing grade for the year. I'm interested in teaching Latin to people who want to learn. So, if you don't like me or you don't like Latin, then you can leave and that will be that. Got it? If you want to learn Latin, we'll learn Latin. I don't care if you are registered. You can sit here for five years and not be registered. I don't know how much they're charging downstairs — I think it's too much."Id.:
"Why do you want to study Latin? The question is, Why don't people want to study Latin?" he asks the class in a loud rhetorical shout, pacing back and forth in front of the blackboard. "If you don't know Latin, you know nothing! I had my first experience of Latin forty years ago, and I have not been bored by Latin for ten minutes in these forty years. Latin is one of the greatest things that ever happened in human history."Id. (at 500):
When Foster begins to shift into high gear, he picks up in speed and volume, like a high-performance car moving into overdrive. "If you don't know Latin, you're sitting out there on the sidelines — don't worry, most of the world is out there with you. But if you want to see what's going on in this whole stream of two thousand years' worth of gorgeous literature, then you need Latin."
"People are not told what Latin is all about," Foster says. "They are just told to memorize all the forms, the conjugations and declensions. Latin has nothing to do with memorization. Every bum and prostitute in ancient Rome spoke Latin and they didn't learn it by memorization. Got it?"
Monday, April 10, 2017
A Very Present Help in Trouble
In the crucial ordeals, a cigarette is more effective help than the Gospels.A.E. Housman (1859-1936), A Shropshire Lad, LXII, lines 21-22:
Dans les épreuves cruciales, la cigarette nous est d'une aide plus efficace que les Évangiles.
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Has there ever been a time or place in which a race has not produced a variety of intellects, although some races seem stupider and some wiser than others? The Scythians are the stupidest of men, and yet the wise Anacharsis was a Scyth. The Athenians are shrewd, and yet the Athenian Meletides was a fool.Commentary by H.E. Butler and A.S. Owen:
quando non in omnibus gentibus varia ingenia provenere? quanquam videantur quaedam stultitia vel sollertia insigniores, apud socordissimos Scythas Anacharsis sapiens natus est, apud Athenienses catos Meletides fatuus.
Both Sides of the Story
Two parties are present: I have had only half the story.Sommerstein in his commentary ad loc.:
δυοῖν παρόντοιν ἥμισυς λόγου πάρα.
'Though two <parties> are here, <only> half of the argument is before me.' The scholia aptly cite the maxim μηδὲ δίκην δικάσηις πρὶν ἂν ἀμφοῖν μῦθον ἀκούσηις ([Hes.] fr. 338 M-W; cf. Ar. V. 725-6).Translation of the maxim (by Glenn W. Most):
Do not pass judgment before you hear the speech of both.
Sunday, April 09, 2017
A Nation of Unbelievers
In our land there dwell no more immortals, such as were adored on the heights and in the caverns of Aeschylean Attica. Unlike that people to whom the poet belonged, we have no faith in the thousand various phantom powers above and below the earth, gods and goddesses, heroes and demons and holy serpents. We build them no temples to house their images, celebrate no festivals at which they are our invited guests. Their sublime portraits are not everywhere before our eyes in cult-statue or temple-frieze. We do not encounter in the streets their priests and priestesses, processions and sacrificial trains. We have no trust in oracles, mysteries, soothsayings and dreams; we do not pray at sunrise and sunset, before we drink, at departure and home-coming. We make no libation of bread and wine, no sacrifice to the souls of our dead; we do not give the god his share at each success in battle, in the games, in the theatre, in the work of our hands.
In unserem Lande wohnen keine Unsterblichen mehr, wie sie auf den Höhen und in den Höhlen des aischyleischen Attika gläubig verehrt wurden; wir glauben nicht an die tausend verschiedenen Gestalten über- und unterirdischer Macht, an Götter und Göttinnen, an Heroen und Dämonen und heilige Schlangen wie das Volk, dessen Teil auch der Dichter war; wir errichten ihnen keine Tempel als Wohnstätten ihrer Abbilder, feiern keine Feste, zu denen wir sie als Gäste laden, schauen nicht ihre erhabenen Ebenbilder überall in Kultstatue und Tempelgiebel, begegnen nicht in den Strassen ihren Priestern und Priesterinnen, Prozessionen und Opferzügen, vertrauen nicht Orakeln, Mysterien, Weissagungen und Träumen, beten nicht bei Sonnenaufgang und -untergang, vor dem Trunk, bei Abschied und Heimkehr, spenden nicht von Brot und Wein, opfern nicht den Seelen der Verstorbenen, geben nicht dem Gotte nach jedem Erfolge auf dem Schlachtfelde, im Stadion oder Theater oder Handwerk sein Teil.
Saturday, April 08, 2017
Odysseus' supremacy in the athletics arena leads Alcinous to admit that the Phaeacians are no great boxers or wrestlers, though good runners and sailors. He adds:J.B. Hainsworth on the lines from the Odyssey (8.248-249):
αἰεὶ δ᾽ ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη κίθαρις τε χοροί τεThis manifesto strikingly recalls the values that the alewife recommends to Gilgamesh in the Old Babylonian version of the Akkadian epic, especially as the parallel items come in precisely the same order:
εἵματά τ᾽ ἐξημοιβὰ λοετρά τε θερμὰ καὶ εΰναί.
What we always like is feasting, the lyre, dances,
clean clothes, hot baths, and bed.
'But you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full (δαίς);33 Od. 8.26-9 [sic, should be 8.246-9]; Gilg. Meissner fr. iii 6-13; cf. C.R. Beye in H.D. Evjen (ed.), Mnemai. Studies in Memory of K.K. Hulley, Chico 1984, 17.
day and night keep on enjoying yourself.
Every day establish enjoyment:
day and night dance and sport (χοροί),
let your clothes be kept cleaned (εἵματα ἐξημοιβά),
let your head be washed, be you bathed in water (λοετρά).
Take care of the child who holds your hand;
let your wife keep on enjoying herself in your lap (εΰναί).'33
These lines naturally attracted the animadversions of the censorious, e.g. Heracleides Ponticus (ap. schol. Od. xiii 119) συνειδότας γὰρ ἑαυτοῖς φιληδονίαν καὶ ἀπολαυστικὸν τρόπον ..., Hor. Epp. i 2 28-9 'sponsi Penelopae, nebulones, Alcinoique | in cute curanda plus aequo operata iuventus'. But the lines merely summarize the delights of a society at peace...
Friday, April 07, 2017
The Sacred Way
Along the Sacred Way, from Daphni to the sea, I was on the point of madness several times. I actually did start running up the hillside only to stop midway, terror-stricken, wondering what had taken possession of me. On one side are stones and shrubs which stand out with microscopic clarity; on the other are trees such as one sees in Japanese prints, trees flooded with light, intoxicated, corybantic trees which must have been planted by the gods in moments of drunken exaltation. One should not race along the Sacred Way in a motor car—it is sacrilege. One should walk, walk as the men of old walked, and allow one's whole being to become flooded with light. This is not a Christian highway: it was made by the feet of devout pagans on their way to initiation at Eleusis. There is no suffering, no martyrdom, no flagellation of the flesh connected with this processional artery. Everything here speaks now, as it did centuries ago, of illumination, of blinding, joyous illumination. Light acquires a transcendental quality: it is not the light of the Mediterranean alone, it is something more, something unfathomable, something holy. Here the light penetrates directly to the soul, opens the doors and windows of the heart, makes one naked, exposed, isolated in a metaphysical bliss which makes everything clear without being known. No analysis can go on in this light: here the neurotic is either instantly healed or goes mad. The rocks themselves are quite mad: they have been lying for centuries exposed to this divine illumination: they lie very still and quiet, nestling amid dancing colored shrubs in a blood-stained soil, but they are mad, I say, and to touch them is to risk losing one’s grip on everything which once seemed firm, solid and unshakeable. One must glide through this gully with extreme caution, naked, alone, and devoid of all Christian humbug. One must throw off two thousand years of ignorance and superstition, of morbid, sickly subterranean living and lying. One must come to Eleusis stripped of the barnacles which have accumulated from centuries of lying in stagnant waters. At Eleusis one realizes, if never before, that there is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy. At Eleusis one becomes adapted to the cosmos. Outwardly Eleusis may seem broken, disintegrated with the crumbled past; actually Eleusis is still intact and it is we who are broken, dispersed, crumbling to dust. Eleusis lives, lives eternally in the midst of a dying world.Jan N. Bremmer, Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2014), pp. 5-8 (footnotes omitted):
On the morning of the 19th Boedromion, after three days rest (a free period of time that had made it possible to intercalate the Epidauria festival for Asclepius), the prospective initiates assembled again in the agora and formed the procession to the sanctuary of Demeter and her daughter Persephone in Eleusis. At the front went the Eleusinian dignitaries, dressed in their full glory, the priestesses carrying sacred objects on their heads in special baskets closed by red ribbons, and, in later times, the ephebes, the Athenian male youth. They were followed by a huge cavalcade of Greeks, each holding a kind of pilgrim's staff consisting of a single branch of myrtle or several held together by rings and accompanied by their donkeys with provisions and torches for the coming days. The procession now left the city, and it would have been quite a few hours before they completed the roughly 15 mile journey, which was repeatedly interrupted by sacred dances, sacrifices, libations, ritual washings, and the singing of hymns accompanied by pipes. It was hot and dusty, but the crowds did not care and rhythmically chanted 'Iakch', o Iakche', invoking the god Iakchos at the head of the procession, who was closely related to and sometimes identified with Dionysos. Later reports told how during the battle of Salamis (480 BC), 'a great light flamed out from Eleusis, and an echoing cry filled the Thriasian plain down to the sea, as of multitudes of men together conducting the mystic Iakchos in procession'. At times, the scene must have resembled that of fervent Catholic or Shi'ite processions.
The participants were now in that transitory stage of betwixt and between, which, as the anthropologist Victor Turner (1920–1983) has taught us, is often characterised by reversals and confusions of the social order. During the journey the young mocked the old, at the bridge over the Athenian river Kephisos a prostitute hurled mockery at the passers by, and the wealthier women who rode in buggies reviled one another. Although some couples must have been initiated together, in general the occasion presented an opportunity for the two sexes to take a close look at one another in a way that would have been unthinkable in normal circumstances. Aristophanes even has one of his male characters peep at a slave girl who had performed a Janet Jackson act with her top. That will have been wishful thinking, but Phaedra, a kind of Athenian desperate housewife, first saw Hippolytus when he came to Athens for, to quote Euripides, 'the viewing of and initiation into the most solemn mysteries' (Hippolytos 25).
At the end of the day, the procession finally reached the sanctuary 'together with Iakchos', and they entered it from the east through the relatively new Propylon that had been constructed around 430 BC. The night fell early, and the flickering of the thousands of torches must have produced a near psychedelic effect among the weary travellers. Recent neurological research has stressed that a good walk can produce euphoric effects. I take it therefore that the 'pilgrims' were already in a state of excitement when they reached their goal, which can only have increased that mood. At the entry to the sanctuary was the Kallichoron Well, literally meaning 'Beautiful dancing', which was the location for dancing during the Mysteries cited by Euripides in his Ion (1074); apparently, the 'pilgrims' danced their way into the sanctuary. Demeter is portrayed several times as seated on the well, so the place clearly had a marked symbolic significance.
The Two Cultures
Of course, there is only one. Of course, the natural sciences are just as "humane" as letters. There are, however, two languages, the spoken verbal language of literature, and the written sign language of mathematics, which is the language of science. This puts the scientist at a great advantage, for, since like all of us, he has learned to read and write, he can understand a poem or a novel, whereas there are very few men of letters who can understand a scientific paper once they come to the mathematical parts.
When I was a boy, we were taught the literary languages, like Latin and Greek, extremely well, but mathematics atrociously badly. Beginning with the multiplication table, we learned a series of operations by rote which, if remembered correctly, gave the "right" answer, but about any basic principles, like the concept of number, we were told nothing. Typical of the teaching methods then in vogue is this mnemonic which I had to learn.
Minus times Minus equals Plus:
The reason for this we need not discuss.
Thursday, April 06, 2017
Demosthenes copied out Thucydides eight times. That is how you learn a language. One ought to have the courage to transcribe all the books one loves.Lucian, The Ignorant Book Collector 4 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
Démosthène copia de sa main huit fois Thucydide. C'est comme cela qu’on apprend une langue. Il faudrait avoir le courage de transcrire tous les livres qu'on aime.
On that theory, collect and keep all those manuscripts of Demosthenes that the orator wrote with his own hand, and those of Thucydides that were found to have been copied, likewise by Demosthenes, eight times over...
κατὰ δὴ ταῦτα, ἐκεῖνα ἔχε συλλαβὼν τὰ τοῦ Δημοσθένους ὅσα τῇ χειρὶ τῇ αὑτοῦ ὁ ῥήτωρ ἔγραψε, καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θουκυδίδου ὅσα παρὰ τοῦ Δημοσθένους καὶ αὐτὰ ὀκτάκις μεταγεγραμμένα εὑρέθη...
It does not become a man of years to follow the fashion either in ideas or in dress.
Es ziemt sich dem Bejahrten, weder in der Denkweise, noch in der Art, sich zu kleiden, der Mode nachzugehen.
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Monologue of Crepitus
makes himself heard.
I too was honoured once. Libations were made to me. I was a god!
An Athenian would greet me as a lucky omen, while a devout Roman would curse me with raised fists, and the pontiff of Egypt, abstaining from beans, quailed at my voice and paled at my odour.
When the army vinegar ran down unshaven beards and people tucked into acorns, peas and raw onions, and the goat was chopped up and cooked in shepherds' rancid butter, no one was bothered — never mind your neighbour. Solid foods made for ringing digestions. In the sunlight of the countryside, men relieved themselves at leisure.
So I got by without scandal, like the other natural necessities, like Mena the virgins' affliction and like Rumina, who protects the the nurse's breasts swollen with bluish veins. I was happy. I raised a laugh! And gladly distended on my account, a guest would let all his gaiety out through the apertures of his body.
I had times to boast of. Good Aristophanes put me on the stage, and the Emperor Claudius Drusus had me sitting at his table. In the patricians' laticlaves I moved majestically! Gold pots echoed under me like tympani — and when, full of eels and truffles and paté, the master's intestine noisily disgorged itself, the attentive universe learnt that Caesar had dined!
But now I'm confined to the populace — and people object to my very name!
And Crepitus moves off with a groan.
d'une voix flûtée.
Moi aussi l'on m'honora jadis. On me faisait des libations. Je fus un dieu.
L'Athénien me saluait comme un heureux présage de fortune, tandis que le Romain dévot me maudissait, les poings crispés, et que le pontife d'Égypte, s'abstenant de fèves, tremblait à ma voix et pâlissait à mon odeur.
Quand le vinaigre militaire coulait sur les barbes non rasées, que l'on se régalait de glands, de ciboules et d'oignons crus, et que le bouc en morceaux cuisait dans le beurre rance des pasteurs, sans souci du voisin, personne alors ne se gênait. Les nourritures solides faisaient les digestions retentissantes; au soleil de la campagne, les hommes se soulageaient avec lenteur.
Ainsi, je passais sans scandale, comme tous les autres besoins de la vie, comme Mena tourment des vierges, et la douce Rumina qui protège le sein de la nourrice gonflé de veines bleuâtres. J'étais joyeux! Je faisais rire! et, se dilatant d'aise à cause de moi, le convive exhalait sa gaieté par les ouvertures de son corps.
J'ai eu mes jours d'orgueil! Le bon Aristophane me promena sur la scène et l'empereur Claudius Drusus me fit asseoir à sa table. Dans les laticlaves des patriciens j'ai circulé majestueusement. Les vases d'or, comme des tympanons, résonnaient sous moi, et quand plein de murènes, de truffes et de pâtés, l'intestin du maître se dégorgeait avec fracas, l'univers attentif apprenait que César avait dîné.
Mais à présent on rougit de moi. On me dissimule avec effort. Je suis confiné dans la populace, et l’on se récrie même à mon nom!
Et Crépitus s'éloigne en poussant un gémissement.
Labels: noctes scatologicae
Polytheism versus Monotheism
Polytheism corresponds better to the diversity of our tendencies and our impulses, which it offers the possibility of expressing, of manifesting; each of them being free to tend, according to its nature, toward the god who suits it at the moment. But how deal with a single god? How envisage him, how utilize him? In his presence, we live continually under pressure. Monotheism curbs our sensibility: it deepens us by narrowing us. A system of constraints which affords us an inner dimension at the cost of the flowering of our powers, it constitutes a barrier, it halts our expansion, it throws us out of gear. Surely we were more normal with several gods than we are with only one. If health is a criterion, what a setback monotheism turns out to be!I couldn't find the French, but Ian Jackson came to the rescue, with a transcription from the Pléiade edition of Cioran's Oeuvres, edited by Nicolas Cavaillès and Aurélien Demars (Gallimard, 2011), pp. 636 & 638:
With all due respect to Tertullian, the soul is naturally pagan. Any god at all, when he answers to our immediate needs, represents for us an increase of vitality, a stimulus, which is not the case if he is imposed upon us or if he corresponds to no necessity.
Le polythéisme correspond mieux à la diversité de nos tendances et de nos impulsions, auxquelles il offre la possibilité de s'exercer, de se manifester, chacune d'elles étant libre de tendre, selon sa nature, vers le dieu qui lui convient sur le moment. Mais qu'entreprendre avec un seul dieu? comment l'envisager, comment l'utiliser? Lui présent, on vit toujours sous pression. Le monothéisme comprime notre sensibilité: il nous approfondit en nous resserrant; système de contraintes qui nous confère une dimension intérieure au détriment de l'épanouissement de nos forces, il constitue une barrière, il arrête notre expansion, il nous détraque. Nous étions assurément plus normaux avec plusieurs dieux que nous ne le sommes avec un seul. Si la santé est un critère, quel recul que le monothéisme!Cioran is of course reversing Tertullian's expression (Apology 17.6) "O testimonium animae naturaliter Christianae."
N'en déplaise à Tertullien, l'âme est naturellement païenne. N'importe quel dieu, quand il répond à des exigences immédiates, pressantes de notre part, représente pour nous un surcroît de vitalité, un "coup de fouet"; il n'en va pas de même s'il nous est imposé ou s'il ne correspond à aucune nécessité.
Rule Number One
Rule number one is always, don't quote Latin if you don't know it!A corollary:
Don't use Google Translate to translate English into Latin. The result is almost always ungrammatical nonsense.
More Latinoid expressions emanating from the ever-failing Googoracle:
"Locus in domos" and "loci populum" is what the Googoracle will shortchange you with when you feed in "place of homes" and "local people". If this catches on, we may have another proto-Romance language on our hands.
'Abite!' would have saved a bit of paint, and is after all what the Britunculi would have told their Roman invaders; or perhaps 'hic est locus damnatorum', which would make it scarier for the home-owners.
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
The River Selemnus
I heard too another tale about the water, how that it is a useful remedy for both men and women when in love; if they wash in the river they forget their passion. If there is any truth in the story the water of the Selemnus is of more value to mankind than great wealth.
ἤκουσα δὲ καὶ ἄλλον ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ λόγον, τὸ ὕδωρ τοῦ Σελέμνου σύμφορον καὶ ἀνδράσιν εἶναι καὶ γυναιξὶν ἐς ἔρωτος ἴαμα, λουομένοις ἐν τῷ ποταμῷ λήθην ἔρωτος γίνεσθαι. εἰ δὲ μέτεστιν ἀληθείας τῷ λόγῳ, τιμιώτερον χρημάτων πολλῶν ἐστιν ἀνθρώποις τὸ ὕδωρ τοῦ Σελέμνου.
Monday, April 03, 2017
Commendable Greek Prose
Philip Vellacott had set the Sixth form a passage of English to translate into Greek prose, and one of the boys recognised it as being a direct translation of a passage of one of the Greek orators — Lysias, I think. The boy simply copied out the original Greek, and handed it in as his own work. It came back with a few corrections and suggested improvements in red ink, with a comment something like 'Very commendable!' and given a mark of 8 out of 10!
A Polyglot in His Own Mind
He tried to speak to all people in their language, and since he had only learned these languages on the side, while traveling, his knowledge of them, except of the Balkan languages (which included his Ladino), was highly defective. He liked counting his languages off on his fingers, and the droll self-assurance in totting them up—God knows how, sometimes seventeen, sometimes nineteen languages—was irresistible to most people despite his comical accent. I was ashamed of these scenes when they took place in front of me, for his speech was so bristling with mistakes that he would even have been flunked by Herr Tegel in my elementary school, not to mention our home, where Mother corrected our least errors with ruthless derision. On the other hand, we restricted ourselves to four languages in our home, and when I asked Mother if it was possible to speak seventeen languages, she said, without mentioning Grandfather: "No. For then you know none at all!"Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.
Er suchte zu allen Menschen in ihrer Sprache zu sprechen, und da er diese nur nebenher auf seinen Reisen gelernt hatte, waren seine Kenntnisse, mit Ausnahme der Sprachen des Balkans, zu denen auch rein Spanisch gehörte, höchst mangelhaft. Er zählte gern an den Fingern auf, wieviel Sprachen er spreche, und die drollige Sicherheit, mit der er es bei dieser Aufzählung — Gott weiß wie — manchmal auf 17, manchmal auf 19 Sprachen brachte, war trotz seiner komischen Aussprache für die meisten Menschen unwiderstehlich. Ich schämte mich dieser Szenen, wenn sie sich vor mir abspielten, denn was er da von sich gab, war so fehlerhaft, daß er selbst in meiner Volksschule beim Herrn Lehrer Tegel damit durchgefallen wäre, wie erst bei uns zu Hause, wo die Mutter uns mit erbarmungslosem Hohn den kleinsten Fehler verwies. Dafür beschränkten wir uns zu Hause auf bloß vier Sprachen, und wenn ich die Mutter fragte, ob es möglich sei, 17 Sprachen zu sprechen, sagte sie, ohne den Großvater zu nennen: »Nein! Dann kann man keine!«
Sunday, April 02, 2017
A Classical Education
As a mystery writer, I think I am a bit of an anomaly, since most mystery writers of the American school are only semi-literate; and I am not only literate but intellectual, much as I dislike the term. It would seem that a classical education might be rather a poor basis for writing novels in a hard-boiled vernacular. I happen to think otherwise. A classical education saves you from being fooled by pretentiousness, which is what most current fiction is too full of. In this country the mystery writer is looked down on as sub-literary merely because he is a mystery writer, rather than for instance a writer of social significance twaddle. To a classicist—even a very rusty one—such an attitude is merely a parvenu insecurity.Chandler was an alumnus of Dulwich College, where the Master was A.H. Gilkes.
Come, tell me why it is that the Celts and the Germans are fierce, while the Hellenes and Romans are, generally speaking, inclined to political life and humane, though at the same time unyielding and warlike? Why the Egyptians are more intelligent and more given to crafts, and the Syrians unwarlike and effeminate, but at the same time intelligent, hot-tempered, vain and quick to learn? For if there is anyone who does not discern a reason for these differences among the nations, but rather declares that all this so befell spontaneously, how, I ask, can he still believe that the universe is administered by a providence?
λεγέσθω γάρ μοι, τίς αἰτία τοῦ Κελτοὺς μὲν εἶναι καὶ Γερμανοὺς θρασεῖς, Ἕλληνας δὲ καὶ Ῥωμαίους ὡς ἐπίπαν πολιτικοὺς καὶ φιλανθρώπους μετὰ τοῦ στερροῦ τε καὶ πολεμικοῦ, συνετωτέρους δὲ καὶ τεχνικωτέρους Αἰγυπτίους, ἀπολέμους δὲ καὶ τρυφηλοὺς Σύρους μετὰ τοῦ συνετοῦ καὶ θερμοῦ καὶ κούφου καὶ εὐμαθοῦς. ταύτης γὰρ τῆς ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι διαφορᾶς εἰ μὲν οὐδεμίαν τις αἰτίαν συνορῴη, μᾶλλον δὲ αὐτά φησι καὶ ἐκ τοῦ αὐτομάτου συμπεσεῖν, πῶς ἔτι προνοίᾳ διοικεῖσθαι τὸν κόσμον οἴεται;
These walls the gods have founded, and these the gods also protect.
haec di condiderunt, haec di quoque moenia servant.
But for most it was a happy time, this season passed in the fresh, mountain air far from the squalid and sometimes disease-ridden conditions of the 'township'. For all the hard work it was a sort of holiday, an escape from the routine and the humdrum, a taste of freedom and self-reliance amid scenery of immense grandeur. For some it was a release from the constraint of organised religion. In the shielings of Finglen in the central Scottish Highlands, a woman voiced her own delight at being far from the sermons and catechising of the minister: 'Fionna Ghleann mo chridhe, far nach bitheadh Didomhnaich' — Finglen of my heart, where there would be no Sunday.16Campbell:
16 Duncan Campbell, 'Highland Shielings [Sheilings in original] in the Olden Time', Transactions of the Inverness Scientific [Society] and Field Club, [Vol. V,] 1895-9, p. 87 [mistake for p. 69].
Parish ministers looked after the sheiling population, and by field preachings at convenient stations afforded opportunities for general gatherings of the flitted and those left behind. But in the opinion of an old Chesthill wife, who could not say her catechism questions, and was bothered with sermons, the glory of Finglen in the forest was that it was outside the religious pale. Her hail to it was—"Fionna Glileann mo chridhe far nach bitheadh Di-domhnaich," "Finglen of my heart, where there would be no Sunday." She was apparently alone in her hearty heathenism, but although the religious influence was predominant it placed no bar on dancing, songs, tales of other days, or innocent amusement of every kind.
Saturday, April 01, 2017
Let Us Not Feign Agreement
At bottom, a union of faiths, should it ever come about, could have but the most unfortunate consequences for reason and liberty of conscience. For supposing that people do come to terms with one another about the formula of faith to be introduced and established, that they devise symbols to which none of the religious parties now dominant in Europe could find any reason to object. What would thereby be accomplished? Shall we say that all of you would think just alike concerning religious truths? Whoever has but the slightest conception of the nature of the human mind cannot allow himself to be persuaded of this. The agreement, therefore, could lie only in the words, in the formula. It is for this purpose that the unifiers of faiths want to join forces; they wish to squeeze, here and there, something out of the concepts; to enlarge, here and there, the meshes of words, to render them so uncertain and broad that the concepts, regardless of their inner difference, may be forced into them just barely. In reality, everyone would then attach to the same words a different meaning of his own; and you would pride yourselves on having united men's faiths, on having brought the flock under a single shepherd? Oh, if this universal hypocrisy shall have any purpose whatsoever, I fear it would be intended as a first step again to confine within narrow bounds the now liberated spirit of man. The shy deer would then be sure enough to let itself be captured and bridled. Begin only by binding the faith to symbols, the opinion to words, as modestly and pliantly as you please; only establish, for once and for all, the articles: then woe to the unfortunate, who comes a day later, and who finds something to criticize even in these modest, purified words! He is a disturber of the peace. To the stake with him!
Brothers, if you care for true piety, let us not feign agreement where diversity is evidently the plan and purpose of Providence. None of us thinks and feels exactly like his fellow man; why then do we wish to deceive each other with delusive words?
Speaking in Tongues
A week passed in which we saw no one except the mayor of a mountain village some miles away who came to look us over. He came on a day when I was dozing alone in the shade of a huge rock. I knew about ten words of Greek and he knew about three words of English. We had a remarkable colloquy, considering the limitations of language. Seeing that he was half-cracked I felt at ease and, since the Durrells were not there to warn me against such antics, I began to do my own cracked song and dance for him, which was to imitate male and female movie stars, a Chinese mandarin, a bronco, a high diver and such like. He seemed to be vastly amused and for some reason was particularly interested in my Chinese performance. I began to talk Chinese to him, not knowing a word of the language, whereupon to my astonishment he answered me in Chinese, his own Chinese, which was just as good as mine. The next day he brought an interpreter with him for the express purpose of telling a whopping lie, to wit, that some years ago a Chinese junk had been stranded on this very beach and that some four hundred Chinamen had put up on the beach until their boat was repaired. He said he liked the Chinese very much, that they were a fine people, and that their language was very musical, very intelligent. I asked did he mean intelligible, but no he meant intelligent. The Greek language was intelligent too. And the German language. Then I told him I had been in China, which was another lie, and after describing that country I drifted to Africa and told him about the Pygmies with whom I had also lived for a while. He said they had some Pygmies in a neighboring village. It went on like this from one lie to another for several hours, during which we consumed some wine and olives. Then someone produced a flute and we began to dance, a veritable St. Vitus' dance which went on interminably to finish in the sea where we bit one another like crabs and screamed and bellowed in all the tongues of the earth.This reminds me of a fellow I once met who claimed that, although he spoke no language but English, he could make himself understood in all of the countries of Europe, in the following way. In Germany he spoke English with a German accent, like Colonel Klink; in France, he spoke English with a French accent, like Pepé Le Pew; in Spain, he spoke English with a Spanish accent, like Speedy Gonzales. In all of those countries, so he said, he was perfectly understood by non-English speakers.
In early youth we sit before the impending course of our life like children at the theatre before the curtain is raised, who sit there in happy and excited expectation of the things that are to come. It is a blessing that we do not know what will actually come. For to the man who knows, the children may at times appear to be like innocent delinquents who are condemned not to death, it is true, but to life and have not yet grasped the purport of their sentence. Nevertheless everyone wants to reach old age and thus to a state of life, whereof it may be said: 'It is bad today and every day it will get worse, until the worst of all happens.'
In früher Jugend sitzen wir vor unserm bevorstehenden Lebenslauf, wie die Kinder vor dem Theatervorhang, in froher und gespannter Erwartung der Dinge, die da kommen sollen. Ein Glück, daß wir nicht wissen, was wirklich kommen wird. Denn wer es weiß, dem können zu Zeiten die Kinder vorkommen wie unschuldige Delinquenten, die zwar nicht zum Tode, hingegen zum Leben verurtheilt sind, jedoch den Inhalt ihres Urtheils noch nicht vernommen haben. — Nichtsdestoweniger wünscht Jeder sich ein hohes Alter, also einen Zustand, darin es heißt: „es ist heute schlecht und wird nun täglich schlechter werden, — bis das Schlimmste kommt.”