Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Fate of Scholarly Journals

The Way It Wasn't: From the Files of James Laughlin (New York: New Directions, 2006), p. 36:
Do you know Kenneth Burke? We went out there to interview him for the WCW dokuku. 88 and all bent over but what an ouragon of passion for ideas and language. He's lived on the same farm in New Jersey for over 60 years. His daughters made him put in plumbing but he still uses the old privy in summer. Pages from learned journals for bumwad. And I have shat / where that great mind sat.
Related posts:
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.



Rum Thing

Peter Brown, "Dialogue With God," New York Review of Books (October 26, 2017), a review of Sarah Ruden's translation of Augustine, Confessions:
He spends a large part of book two (nine entire pages) examining his motives for robbing a pear tree. Modern readers chafe. "Rum thing," wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to Harold Laski in 1921, "to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens."

But Holmes was wrong to be impatient. Only by winnowing every motive that played into that obscure act of small-town vandalism was Augustine able to isolate the very smallest, the most toxic concentrate of all—the chilling possibility that he had acted gratuitously, simply to show that he (like God, and then like Adam) could do whatever he wished. The publishers were right to put on the jacket of this book, which contains a succession of sins, each reduced to chillingly minute proportions, the image of a half-eaten pear.


Cause for Rejoicing

Homer, Odyssey 23.47-48 (Eurycleia to Penelope, "him" = Odysseus; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
The sight of him would have warmed your heart with cheer,
all befouled with blood and filth like a lion.

                                          ἰδοῦσά κε θυμὸν ἰάνθης
αἵματι καὶ λύθρῳ πεπαλαγμένον, ὥς τε λέοντα.
λύθρον isn't filth in general but rather "defilement from blood, gore" (Liddell-Scott-Jones).

Alfred Heubeck in his commentary on line 48:
= xxii 402. This line, omitted in many MSS, is considered by a number of editors and critics (among them Ameis-Hentze-Cauer; von der Mühll, Odyssee, col, 761; W. Schadewaldt, op. cit. (Introd.), 15 n. 9) to be a late interpolation, largely on account of its 'unseemliness', which may already have led to its athetesis by the Alexandrian critics (which then influenced the MS tradition). Such purely subjective arguments can, however, lead to false conclusions. Here it must be borne in mind that the speaker is Eurycleia who earlier had herself been moved to jubilation by the sight of the dead suitors (xxii 407 ff.: ἴθυσέν ῥ' όλολύξαι). For the authenticity of the line cf. Stanford, ad loc.; van der Valk, Textual Criticism, 271; G. Scheibner, DLZ lxxxii (1961), col. 622 ('xxiii 48 recalls once again the description of xxii 204 [sic, read 402] ff.').
I'm also reminded of Hector's prayer for his son (Homer, Iliad 6.480-481, tr. Richmond Lattimore):
                                                             ... and let him kill his enemy
and bring home the blooded spoils, and delight the heart of his mother.

                                 φέροι δ᾽ ἔναρα βροτόεντα
κτείνας δήϊον ἄνδρα, χαρείη δὲ φρένα μήτηρ.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


You Young Puppies!

The Way It Wasn't: From the Files of James Laughlin (New York: New Directions, 2006), p. 86:
Were it not for Dudley Fitts, my English master at Choate, I would never have become a scribbler, nor for that matter a publisher. For it was Fitts, in correspondence with Pound, who arranged for me to study at the "Ezuversity" in Rapallo. And Pound, descrying no talent for poetry, ordained that I become a publisher.

Fitts was a handsome but slightly odd-looking man. He couldn't see much without his horn-rimmed glasses, but that wasn't it. Finally, as I observed him in class, it came to me. His forehead. His brow was higher by three eighths of an inch than that of anyone else in the room. He was indeed a highbrow.

My first brief conversation with him is forever etched, as they say, on the plate of memory. As an underformer I had seen him around, but had never been assigned — we were rotated every two weeks — to his table in the dining hall. One day when I was rushing up the stairs from the mail room and he was coming down wearing the black Dracula cape which he affected, I bumped into him and knocked him half down. The irate gaze of Hermes was fixed upon me and he uttered: "You young puppies who haven't even read Thucydides!" And the God continued on his errand.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


How Few Boys Relish Latin and Greek Lessons!

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), "Observations upon the study of the Latin and Greek languages, as a branch of liberal education, with hints of a plan of liberal instruction, without them, accommodated to the present state of society, manners, and government in the United States," Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 21-56 (at 23):
The famous Busby is said to have died of "bad Latin;" that is, the ungrammatical versions of his scholars broke his heart. How few boys relish Latin and Greek lessons! The pleasure they sometimes discover in learning them, is derived either from the tales they read, or from a competition, which awakens a love of honour, and which might be displayed upon a hundred more useful subjects; or it may arise from a desire of gaining the good will of their masters or parents. Where these incentives are wanting, how bitter does the study of languages render that innocent period of life, which seems exclusively intended for happiness! "I wish I had never been born," said a boy of eleven years old, to his mother: "Why, my son?" said his mother. "Because I am born into a world of trouble." "What trouble," said his mother smiling, "have you known, my son?" — "Trouble enough, mamma," said he, "two Latin lessons to get, every day."
Id. (at 24):
The study of some of the Latin and Greek classics is unfavourable to morals and religion. Indelicate amours, and shocking vices both of gods and men, fill many parts of them. Hence an early and dangerous acquaintance with vice; and hence, from an association of ideas, a diminished respect for the unity and perfection of the true God.
Id. (at 34):
Happy will it be for the present and future generations, if an ignorance of the Latin and Greek languages, should banish from modern poetry, those disgraceful invocations of heathen gods, which indicate no less a want of genius, than a want of reverence for the true God.
Id. (at 39):
We occupy a new country. Our principal business should be to explore and apply its resources, all of which press us to enterprize and haste. Under these circumstances, to spend four or five years in learning two dead languages, is to turn our backs upon a gold mine, in order to amuse ourselves in catching butterflies.
Id. (at 43, discussing "the advantages [that] would immediately attend the rejection of the Latin and Greek languages as branches of a liberal education"):
It would be the means of banishing pride from our seminaries of public education. Men are generally most proud of those things that do not contribute to the happiness of themselves, or others. Useful knowledge generally humbles the mind, but learning, like fine clothes, feeds pride, and thereby hardens the human heart.


Song of Benediction

Friedrich Solmsen, "Aeschylus: The Eumenides," Hesiod and Aeschylus (1949; rpt. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), pp. 178-224 (at 211-212, footnotes omitted):
The song of benediction is one of the old forms of religious poetry which Aeschylus embodied in his tragedy. Like the hymns, γόοι and θρῆνοι, it is a 'ritual' feature, a reminder to us of the fundamentally religious character of tragedy which to its first great poet was still a vividly felt reality. For the spectators of the original performance the songs and blessings pronounced in such a solemn form and on such a solemn occasion must have carried a strong conviction of fulfillment.

The first stanza promises in general terms 'helpful wavelets of livelihood gushing forth,' a boon which is made specific by the wish that the shining light of the Sun will produce them from the earth. Thus we know to what kind of wealth allusion is made. The next stanza elaborates this source of blessing, announcing absence of anything that may harm the plants, promising prosperity of the flocks and rich gifts from the mines. The Furies also banish from Attic territory sickness and disease that may intercept the youth in their growth to manhood and maturity, and for the maidens in particular they desire that they shall reach their natural goal of marriage. The last stanza alone has a bearing upon the political situation. It promises that civic strife and the slaughter and bloodshed that accompany it will not visit Athens and hopes that the citizens will be united in their loves and hatreds. Evidently it would be utopian, and it would perhaps never occur to Aeschylus, to expect that hatred might altogether be extirpated in the community. Like fear and awe it is a part of the material that the lawgiver or statesman has to fashion, and the best that he can hope to achieve is to give their loves and hatreds identical objects or directions.
D.S. Carne-Ross, "The Beastly House of Atreus," Kenyon Review 3.2 (Spring, 1981) 20-60 (at 54):
Through the words of the Furies' final song of blessing, all that remains of a greater whole, there breathes a note of solemn and yet festive joy as of a Bach chorale.
Aeschylus, Eumenides 902-909 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
So what blessings do you bid me invoke upon this land?
Such as are appropriate to an honourable victory, coming moreover both from the earth, and from the waters of the sea, and from the heavens; and for the gales of wind to come over the land breathing the air of bright sunshine; and for the fruitfulness of the citizens' land and livestock to thrive in abundance, and not to fail with the passage of time; and for the preservation of human seed.

τί οὖν μ᾿ ἄνωγας τῇδ᾿ ἐφυμνῆσαι χθονί;
ὁποῖα νίκης μὴ κακῆς ἐπίσκοπα,
καὶ ταῦτα γῆθεν ἔκ τε ποντίας δρόσου
ἐξ οὐρανοῦ τε· κἀνέμων ἀήματα        905
εὐηλίως πνέοντ᾿ ἐπιστείχειν χθόνα·
καρπόν τε γαίας καὶ βοτῶν ἐπίρρυτον
ἀστοῖσιν εὐθενοῦντα μὴ κάμνειν χρόνῳ·
καὶ τῶν βροτείων σπερμάτων σωτηρίαν.
Id. 922-926:
For which city I pray,
and prophesy with kind intent,
that the bright light of the sun
may cause blessings beneficial to her life
to burst forth in profusion from the earth.

ᾇ τ᾿ ἐγὼ κατεύχομαι
θεσπίσασα πρευμενῶς
ἐπισσύτους βίου τύχας ὀνησίμους
γαίας ἐξαμβρῦσαι        925
φαιδρὸν ἁλίου σέλας.
Id. 938-948:
And may no wind bringing harm to trees —
I declare my own gracious gift —
blow scorching heat that robs plants of their buds:
let that not pass the borders of the land.
Nor let any grievous, crop-destroying
plague come upon them;
may their flocks flourish, and may Pan
rear them to bear twin young
at the appointed time; and may their offspring always
have riches in their soil, and repay
the lucky find granted them by the gods.

δενδροπήμων δὲ μὴ πνέοι βλάβα —
τὰν ἐμὰν χάριν λέγω —
φλογμοὺς ὀμματοστερεῖς φυτῶν,        940
τὸ μὴ περᾶν ὅρον τόπων·
μηδ᾿ ἄκαρπος αἰα-
νὴς ἐφερπέτω νόσος·
μῆλα δ᾿ εὐθενοῦντα Πὰν
ξὺν διπλοῖσιν ἐμβρύοις        945
τρέφοι χρόνῳ τεταγμένῳ· γόνος <δ᾿ ἀεὶ>
πλουτόχθων ἑρμαίαν
δαιμόνων δόσιν τίνοι.
Id. 977-987:
I pray that civil strife,
insatiate of evil,
may never rage in this city;
and may the dust not drink up the dark blood of the citizens
and then, out of lust for revenge,
eagerly welcome the city's ruin
through retaliatory murder;
rather may they give happiness in return for happiness,
resolved to be united in their friendship
and unanimous in their enmity;
for this is a cure for many ills among men.

τὰν δ᾿ ἄπληστον κακῶν
μήποτ᾿ ἐν πόλει στάσιν
τᾷδ᾿ ἐπεύχομαι βρέμειν,
μηδὲ πιοῦσα κόνις μέλαν αἷμα πολιτᾶν        980
δι᾿ ὀργὰν ποινᾶς
ἀντιφόνους ἄτας
ἁρπαλίσαι πόλεως·
χάρματα δ᾿ ἀντιδιδοῖεν
κοινοφιλεῖ διανοίᾳ        985
καὶ στυγεῖν μιᾷ φρενί·
πολλῶν γὰρ τόδ᾿ ἐν βροτοῖς ἄκος.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Four-Fold Remedies

The Epicureans had their four-fold remedy, their τετραφάρμακος (tetrapharmakos):
Not to be feared—god,
not to be viewed with apprehension—death;
and on the one hand, the good—easily acquired,
on the other hand, the terrible—easily endured.

ἄφοβον ὁ θεός,
ἀνύποπτον ὁ θάνατος,
καὶ τἀγαθὸν μὲν εὔκτητον,
τὸ δὲ δεινὸν εὐεκκαρτέρητον.
Less spiritual, but still fortifying the inner man, was the dish called tetrapharmacum (Historia Augusta, 1: Life of Hadrian 21.4, tr. David Magie):
As an article of food he was singularly fond of tetrapharmacum, which consisted of pheasant, sow's udders, ham, and pastry.

inter cibos unice amavit tetrapharmacum, quod erat de phasiano sumine perna et crustulo.
Cf. Historia Augusta, 2: Life of Aelius 5.4-5 (tr. David Magie):
For it is Verus who is said to have been the inventor of the tetrapharmacum, or rather pentapharmacum, of which Hadrian was thereafter always fond, namely, a mixture of sows' udders, pheasant, peacock, ham in pastry and wild boar. Of this article of food Marius Maximus gives a different account, for he calls it, not pentapharmacum, but tetrapharmacum, as we have ourselves described it in our biography of Hadrian.

nam tetrapharmacum, seu potius pentapharmacum, quo postea semper Hadrianus est usus, ipse dicitur repperisse, hoc est sumen phasianum pavonem pernam crustulatam et aprunam. de quo genere cibi aliter refert Marius Maximus, non pentapharmacum sed tetrapharmacum appellans, ut et nos ipsi in eius vita persecuti sumus.
and Historia Augusta, 18: Life of Severus Alexander 30.6 (tr. David Magie):
And he often partook of Hadrian's tetrapharmacum, which Marius Maximus describes in his work on the life of Hadrian.

ususque est Hadriani tetrapharmaco frequenter, de quo in libris suis Marius Maximus loquitur, cum Hadriani disserit vitam.
In the Digital Loeb Classical Library, this last passage is corrupt (Maximum instead of Maximus), both in the Latin and the English (the printed book is correct):

I haven't seen Ignazio Cazzaniga, "Il tetrapharmacum cibo adrianeo (H.A. Spart., Vit. Hadr. 21, 4, Vit. Ael. 5, 4 e Philod. P. Herc. 1005, IV, 10). Esegesi e critica testuale," in Poesia latina in frammenti (Genoa: Università di Genova, Facoltà di lettere, Istituto di filologia classica e medievale, 1974), pp. 359-366.

Celsus in his treatise on medicine (5.19.9) mentions a plaster made of four ingredients (wax, pitch, resin, and beef suet) "called by the Greeks tetrapharmacon."

A friend of mine calls the Historia Augusta the ancient equivalent of "fake news," but I'm finding it interesting reading, when taken with a grain of salt. I wonder if anyone in modern times has cooked and eaten pheasant, sow's udders, and ham en croûte.

Related post: The Epicurean Tetrapharmakos.


Sunday, October 15, 2017



Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9.36 (tr. A.S.L. Farquharson):
The rottenness of the matter which underlies everything. Water, dust, bones, stench.

τὸ σαπρὸν τῆς ἑκάστῳ ὑποκειμένης ὕλης· ὕδωρ, κόνις, ὀστάρια, γράσος.


Bread and Circuses

Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563), Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (tr. Harry Kurz):
Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.

Roman tyrants invented a further refinement. They often provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble, always more readily tempted by the pleasure of eating than by anything else. The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, "Long live the King!" The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.

Les theatres, les jeus, les farces, les spectacles, les gladiateurs, les bestes estranges, les medailles, les tableaus et autres telles drogueries c'estoient aus peuples anciens les apasts de la servitude, le pris de leur liberté, les outils de la tirannie: ce moien, ceste pratique, ces alleschemens avoient les anciens tirans pour endormir leurs subjects sous le joug. Ainsi les peuples assotis trouvans beaus ces passetemps amusés d'un vain plaisir qui leur passoit devant les yeulx, s'accoustumoient a servir aussi niaisement, mais plus mal que les petits enfans, qui pour voir les luisans images des livres enluminés aprenent a lire.

Les rommains tirans s'adviserent ancore d'un autre point de festoier souvent les dizaines publiques abusant ceste canaille comme il falloit, qui se laisse aller plus qu'a toute autre chose au plaisir de la bouche. Le plus avisé et entendu d'entr'eus n'eust pas quitté son esculée de soupe pour recouvrer la liberté de la republique de Platon. Les tirans faisoient largesse d'un quart de blé, d'un sestier de vin, et d'un sesterce; et lors c'estoit pitié d'ouir crier Vive le roi: les lourdaus ne s'avisoient pas qu'ils ne faisoient que recouvrer une partie du leur, et que cela mesmes qu'ils recouvroient, le tiran ne le leur eust peu donner, si devant il ne l'avoit osté à eus mesmes.


Another Bundle of Contradictions

Historia Augusta, 6: Life of Avidius Cassius 3.4 (tr. David Magie):
Such was his character, then, that sometimes he seemed stern and savage, sometimes mild and gentle, often devout and again scornful of sacred things, addicted to drink and also temperate, a lover of eating yet able to endure hunger, a devotee of Venus and a lover of chastity.

fuit his moribus, ut nonnumquam trux et asper videretur, aliquando mitis et lenis, saepe religiosus, alias contemptor sacrorum, avidus vini item abstinens, cibi adpetens et inediae patiens, Veneris cupidus et castitatis amator.
See Thomas Wiedemann, "The Figure of Catiline in the Historia Augusta," Classical Quarterly 29.2 (1979) 479-484 (esp. 482-483), who remarks (at 480, footnotes omitted):
Men who were not straightforwardly black or white were rather a problem for educated Romans. Popular moral philosophy assumed that a man's character (physis, natura) never normally changed: the Lives of Plutarch are perhaps the most obvious expression of this widespread attitude. But this was not just a philosophical postulate. During their years at school, Romans had not merely read through with their grammaticus innumerable character-sketches in historians and orators which were little more than lists of either good or bad qualities; they had formally learnt at the rhetorician's school the framework into which any conceivable person would have to be fitted if he was going to be mentioned in a speech, either positively or negatively. We can see this (for example) from Cicero's summary of the 'laudandi vituperandique rationes' in the Partitiones Oratoriae, or Quintilian's scheme 'de laude ac vituperatione'.

After this kind of education, any figure who combined positive and negative qualities was bound to be a problem...
Related post: A Bundle of Contradictions.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


The Great and the Good, Doing What No One Else Can Do for Them

Thanks to a friend (or enabler, as the case may be) for sending me this photograph of a shop display in Barcelona:

Caganers — they're not just for Christmas. The title of this post comes from Cervantes, Don Quixote 1.21 (lo que otro no pudiera hacer por el). Here is the entire passage, one of my favorites, in John Ormsby's translation:
Just then, whether it was the cold of the morning that was now approaching, or that he had eaten something laxative at supper, or that it was only natural (as is most likely), Sancho felt a desire to do what no one could do for him; but so great was the fear that had penetrated his heart, he dared not separate himself from his master by as much as the black of his nail; to escape doing what he wanted was, however, also impossible; so what he did for peace's sake was to remove his right hand, which held the back of the saddle, and with it to untie gently and silently the running string which alone held up his breeches, so that on loosening it they at once fell down round his feet like fetters; he then raised his shirt as well as he could and bared his hind quarters, no slim ones. But, this accomplished, which he fancied was all he had to do to get out of this terrible strait and embarrassment, another still greater difficulty presented itself, for it seemed to him impossible to relieve himself without making some noise, and he ground his teeth and squeezed his shoulders together, holding his breath as much as he could; but in spite of his precautions he was unlucky enough after all to make a little noise, very different from that which was causing him so much fear.

Don Quixote, hearing it, said, "What noise is that, Sancho?"

"I don't know, senor," said he; "it must be something new, for adventures and misadventures never begin with a trifle." Once more he tried his luck, and succeeded so well, that without any further noise or disturbance he found himself relieved of the burden that had given him so much discomfort. But as Don Quixote's sense of smell was as acute as his hearing, and as Sancho was so closely linked with him that the fumes rose almost in a straight line, it could not be but that some should reach his nose, and as soon as they did he came to its relief by compressing it between his fingers, saying in a rather snuffing tone, "Sancho, it strikes me thou art in great fear."

"I am," answered Sancho; "but how does your worship perceive it now more than ever?"

"Because just now thou smellest stronger than ever, and not of ambergris," answered Don Quixote.

"Very likely," said Sancho, "but that's not my fault, but your worship's, for leading me about at unseasonable hours and at such unwonted paces."

"Then go back three or four, my friend," said Don Quixote, all the time with his fingers to his nose; "and for the future pay more attention to thy person and to what thou owest to mine; for it is my great familiarity with thee that has bred this contempt."

"I'll bet," replied Sancho, "that your worship thinks I have done something I ought not with my person."

"It makes it worse to stir it, friend Sancho," returned Don Quixote.



Death-Bed Decorum

George Santayana (1863-1952), "Death-Bed Manners," Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1922), pp. 90-92 (at 91-92):
No summoning of priests, no great concourse of friends and relations, no loud grief, no passionate embraces and poignant farewells; no endless confabulations in the antechamber, no gossip about the symptoms, the remedies, or the doctors' quarrels and blunders; no breathless enumeration of distinguished visitors, letters, and telegrams; no tearful reconciliation of old family feuds nor whisperings about the division of the property.

Instead, either silence and closed doors, if there is real sorrow, or more commonly only a little physical weariness in the mourners, a little sigh or glance at one another, as if to say: We are simply waiting for events; the doctors and nurses are attending to everything, and no doubt, when the end comes, it will be for the best.

In the departing soul, too, probably dulness and indifference. No repentance, no anxiety, no definite hopes or desires either for this life or for the next. Perhaps old memories returning, old loves automatically reviving; possibly a vision, by anticipation, of some reunion in the other world: but how pale, how ghostly, how impotent this death-dream is!

I seem to overhear the last words, the last thoughts of a mother: "Dear children, you know I love you. Provision has been made. I should be of little use to you any longer. How pleasant to look out of that window into the park! Be sure they don't forget to give Pup some meat with his dog-biscuit." It is all very simple, very much repressed, the pattering echo of daily words.

Death, it is felt, is not important. What matters is the part we have played in the world, or may still play there by our influence. We are not going to a melodramatic Last Judgement. We are shrinking into ourselves, into the seed we came from, into a long winter's sleep. Perhaps in another springtime we may revive and come again to the light somewhere, among those sweet flowers, those dear ones we have lost. That is God's secret. We have tried to do right here. If there is any Beyond, we shall try to do right there also.
Related post: My Bed of Death.


IQ Contest

Toluse Olorunnipa, "Trump Suggests He'd Beat Tillerson in an IQ Test," Bloomberg (October 10, 2017):
President Donald Trump defended his intelligence after reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a "moron."

"I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests," Trump said in an interview with Forbes Magazine published Tuesday. "And I can tell you who is going to win."
Historia Augusta, 1: Life of Hadrian 15.10-13 (tr. David Magie):
[10] And although he was very deft at prose and at verse and very accomplished in all the arts, yet he used to subject the teachers of these arts, as though more learned than they, to ridicule, scorn, and humiliation. [11] With these very professors and philosophers he often debated by means of pamphlets or poems issued by both sides in turn. [12] And once Favorinus, when he had yielded to Hadrian's criticism of a word which he had used, raised a merry laugh among his friends. For when they reproached him for having done wrong in yielding to Hadrian in the matter of a word used by reputable authors, [13] he replied: "You are urging a wrong course, my friends, when you do not suffer me to regard as the most learned of men the one who has thirty legions".

[10] et quamvis esset oratione et versu promptissimus et in omnibus artibus peritissimus, tamen professores omnium artium semper ut doctior risit contempsit obtrivit. [11] cum his ipsis professoribus et philosophis libris vel carminibus invicem editis saepe certavit. [12] et Favorinus quidem, cum verbum eius quondam ab Hadriano reprehensum esset, atque ille cessisset, arguentibus amicis, quod male cederet Hadriano de verbo quod idonei auctores usurpassent, risum iucundissimum movit. [13] ait enim: 'non recte suadetis, familiares, qui non patimini me illum doctiorem omnibus credere, qui habet triginta legiones.'

Friday, October 13, 2017


Withdraw Your Support

Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563), Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (tr. Harry Kurz):
Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.

Soiés resolus de ne servir plus, et vous voila libres; je ne veux pas que vous le poussies ou l'esbranlies, mais seulement ne le soustenés plus, et vous le verrés comme un grand colosse a qui on a desrobé la base, de son pois mesme fondre en bas et se rompre.



Procopius, Buildings 2.1.8 (tr. H.B. Dewing):
For stability is never likely to keep company with speed, nor is accuracy wont to follow swiftness.

τῷ γὰρ συντόμῳ τό γε ἀσφαλὲς οὐδαμῆ εἴωθε ξυνοικίζεσθαι, οὐδὲ τῷ ὀξεῖ τὸ ἀκριβὲς φιλεῖ ἕπεσθαι.
Plutarch, Life of Pericles 13.2 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
And yet they say that once on a time when Agatharchus the painter was boasting loudly of the speed and ease with which he made his figures, Zeuxis heard him, and said, "Mine take, and last, a long time." And it is true that deftness and speed in working do not impart to the work an abiding weight of influence nor an exactness of beauty; whereas the time which is put out to loan in laboriously creating, pays a large and generous interest in the preservation of the creation.

καίτοι ποτέ φασιν Ἀγαθάρχου τοῦ ζωγράφου μέγα φρονοῦντος ἐπὶ τῷ ταχὺ καὶ ῥᾳδίως τὰ ζῷα ποιεῖν ἀκούσαντα τὸν Ζεῦξιν εἰπεῖν· "Ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ." ἡ γὰρ ἐν τῷ ποιεῖν εὐχέρεια καὶ ταχύτης οὐκ ἐντίθησι βάρος ἔργῳ μόνιμον οὐδὲ κάλλους ἀκρίβειαν· ὁ δ᾿ εἰς τὴν γένεσιν τῷ πόνῳ προδανεισθεὶς χρόνος ἐν τῇ σωτηρίᾳ τοῦ γενομένου τὴν ἰσχὺν ἀποδίδωσιν.


The Scum of the Earth

George Santayana (1863-1952), "The Irony of Liberalism," Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1922), pp. 178-189 (at 189):
The scum of the earth gathers itself together, becomes a criminal or a revolutionary society, finds some visionary or some cosmopolitan agitator to lead it, establishes its own code of ethics, imposes the desperate discipline of outlaws upon its members, and prepares to rend the free society that allowed it to exist.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Last Wishes

Euripides, Orestes 1163-1166 (tr. David Kovacs):
Now since I am in any case going to breathe out my life,
I want to do something to my enemies before I die
so that I can repay with destruction those who have betrayed me        1165
and so that those who have made me miserable may smart for it.

ἐγὼ δὲ πάντως ἐκπνέων ψυχὴν ἐμὴν
δράσας τι χρῄζω τοὺς ἐμοὺς ἐχθροὺς θανεῖν,
ἵν᾿ ἀνταναλώσω μὲν οἵ με προύδοσαν,        1165
στένωσι δ᾿ οἵπερ κἄμ᾿ ἔθηκαν ἄθλιον.


The Surest Proof of Stupidity

Montaigne (1533-1592), Essais 8.3 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
Obstinacy and heat of opinion is the surest proof of stupidity. Is there anything so certain, resolute, disdainful, contemplative, grave, and serious as an ass?

L'obstination et ardeur d'opinion, est la plus seure preuve de bestise. Est il rien certain, resolu, dedeigneux, contemplatif, serieux, grave, comme l'asne?


The Ancient, Fundamental, Normal State of the World

George Santayana (1863-1952), "Tipperary," Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1922), pp. 99-106 (at 101):
If experience could teach mankind anything, how different our morals and our politics would be, how clear, how tolerant, how steady! If we knew ourselves, our conduct at all times would be absolutely decided and consistent; and a pervasive sense of vanity and humour would disinfect all our passions, if we knew the world. As it is, we live experimentally, moodily, in the dark; each generation breaks its egg-shell with the same haste and assurance as the last, pecks at the same indigestible pebbles, dreams the same dreams, or others just as absurd, and if it hears anything of what former men have learned by experience, it corrects their maxims by its first impressions, and rushes down any untrodden path which it finds alluring, to die in its own way, or become wise too late and to no purpose.
Id. (at 103-104):
Reserve a part of your wrath; you have not seen the worst yet. You suppose that this war has been a criminal blunder and an exceptional horror; you imagine that before long reason will prevail, and all these inferior people that govern the world will be swept aside, and your own party will reform everything and remain always in office. You are mistaken. This war has given you your first glimpse of the ancient, fundamental, normal state of the world, your first taste of reality. It should teach you to dismiss all your philosophies of progress or of a governing reason as the babble of dreamers who walk through one world mentally beholding another.



George Santayana (1863-1952), "The English Church," Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1922), pp. 83-88 (at 83):
Compromise is odious to passionate natures because it seems a surrender, and to intellectual natures because it seems a confusion; but to the inner man, to the profound Psyche within us, whose life is warm, nebulous, and plastic, compromise seems the path of profit and justice. Health has many conditions; life is a resultant of many forces. Are there not several impulses in us at every moment? Are there not several sides to every question? Has not every party caught sight of something veritably right and good? Is not the greatest practicable harmony, or the least dissension, the highest good?
Id. (at 85):
Heresy is to be conceived as eccentricity within the fold, not as separation from it; it is the tacking of the ship on its voyage.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


A Bundle of Contradictions

Historia Augusta, 1: Life of Hadrian 14.11 (tr. David Magie):
He was, in the same person, austere and genial, dignified and playful, dilatory and quick to act, niggardly and generous, deceitful and straightforward, cruel and merciful, and always in all things changeable.

idem severus comis, gravis lascivus, cunctator festinans, tenax liberalis, simulator <simplex>, saevus clemens, et semper in omnibus varius.

simplex add. Reimarus (dissimulator Hohl, sincerus Brakmann)
One can imagine other supplements, e.g. apertus (or perhaps even apertior, accounting for the omission by homoeoteleuton). I don't have access to Herbert W. Benario, A Commentary on the Vita Hadriani in the Historia Augusta (Chico: Scholars Press, 1980), Barry Baldwin, "Hadrian's Character Traits," Gymnasium 101 (1994) 455-456, or Jörg Fündling, Kommentar zur Vita Hadriani der Historia Augusta (Bonn: Habelt, 2006). The critical apparatus in Ernest Hohl's Teubner edition (1965) is very spare.


Border Control

Historia Augusta, 1: Life of Hadrian 12.6 (tr. David Magie):
During this period and on many other occasions also, in many regions where the barbarians are held back not by rivers but by artificial barriers, Hadrian shut them off by means of high stakes planted deep in the ground and fastened together in the manner of a palisade.

per ea tempora et alias frequenter in plurimis locis, in quibus barbari non fluminibus sed limitibus dividuntur, stipitibus magnis in modum muralis saepis funditus iactis atque conexis barbaros separavit.
Id. 11.2:
And so, having reformed the army quite in the manner of a monarch, he set out for Britain, and there he corrected many abuses and was the first to construct a wall, eighty miles in length, which was to separate the barbarians from the Romans.

ergo conversis regio more militibus Britanniam petiit, in qua multa correxit murumque per octoginta milia passuum primus duxit, qui barbaros Romanosque divideret.

regio codd.: egregio Novák: rigido Frankfurter: recto Baehrens


The Path to Contentment

Diogenes of Oenoanda, fragment 40, tr. C.W. Chilton in Diogenes of Oenoanda, The Fragments. A Translation and Commentary (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 18:
Nothing is so productive of contentment as not being too busy, not undertaking disagreeable tasks, and not pushing ourselves beyond our powers; for all these things cause worry and trouble to our nature.
Greek text, from Diogenis Oenoandensis Fragmenta, ed. C.W. Chilton (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1967), p. 71:
Οὐδὲν οὕτως εὐθυµίας ποιητικὸν ὡς τὸ µὴ πολλὰ πράσσειν µηδὲ δυσκόλοις ἐπιχειρεῖν πράγμασιν µηδὲ παρὰ δύναμίν [τ]ι βιάζεσθαι τὴν ἑαυτοῦ· πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα ταραχὰς ἐνποιεῖ τῆ φύσ[ει.]
I was surprised to see τῆ without an iota subscript, but it's also printed that way in Ernst Kalinka and Rudolf Heberdey, "L'inscription philosophique d'Oenoanda," Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 21 (1897) 345-443 (at 374; fragment 27), and in Diogenis Oenoandensis Fragmenta, ed. Iohannes William (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1907), p. 54 (fragment LVI). The iota subscript seems to be present in Epicuro, Opere. Introduzione, testo critico, traduzione e note di Graziano Arrighetti (Turin: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1960), p. 508, unless my eyes are playing tricks on me.

Thanks very much to the friend who gave me a copy of Chilton's translation of Diogenes of Oenoanda. For me, books like this are "productive of contentment."

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


An Odd Duck

Lee Child, 61 Hours (New York: Delacorte Press, 2010), p. 81:
"Lowell's an odd duck," Peterson said. "He's a loner. He reads books."
Hat tip: A friend.


Regress, not Progress

H.D. Jocelyn, "The Teubner of Varro's Menippean Satires," Classical Review 38.1 (1988) 33-36 (at 36):
These things were much better done in the nineteenth century.


Flocking Together

Cicero, On Old Age 3.7 (tr. Cyrus R. Edmonds):
Equals with equals, according to the old proverb, most easily flock together.

pares autem vetere proverbio cum paribus facillime congregantur.
A. Otto, Die Sprichwörter und sprichwörtlichen Redensarten der Römer (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1890), p. 264:
Cic. de sen. 3, 7 pares autem vetere proverbio cum paribus facillime congregantur (citiert von Quintil. 5, 11, 41). Amm. Marcell. 28,1, 53 ut solent pares facile congregari cum paribus. Macrob. 7, 7, 12 Similibus enim similia gaudent. Augustin de spir. et an. 14. Porphyr. zu Hor. ep. 1, 18, 89 ostendit similem similibus delectari. Cassiod. Var. 1, 4 ut se pares animi solent semper eligere. Isidor synon. 2, 44 similes enim similibus coniungi solent.*) Vgl. Liv. 1, 46, 7 contraxit celeriter similitudo eos, ut fere fit malum malo aptissimum. Hom. Od. 17, 218 αἰεὶ τὸν ὁμοῖον ἄγει θεὸς ὡς τὸν ὁμοῖον. Plato sympos. 18, 3 p. 195 B. ὁ παλαιὸς λόγος εὖ ἔχει, ὡς ὅμοιον ὁμοίῳ ἀεὶ πελάζει. Gorg. p. 510 B. Diogen. 5, 16. Apost. 12, 68. — Ter. Heaut. 419 Nos quoque senes est aequom senibus obsequi erinnert an die griechische vollständigere Form ἥλιξ ἥλικα τέρπει, γέροντα δὲ γέρων (Diogen. 5, 16). 'Gleich und gleich gesellt sich gern' (Düringsf. I n. 601). Vgl. Cic. de amic. 27, 101.
See also Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), pp. 380-382 (#469: Ὡς αἰεὶ τὸν ὁμοῖον ἄγει θεὸς ὡς τὸν ὁμοῖον), and Erasmus, Adagia I ii 20 (Aequalis aequalem delectat). In English, "Birds of a feather flock together" — Bartlett Jere Whiting, Early American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977), pp. 31-32 (B177), and also his Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly Before 1500 (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1968), pp. 29 (B129: Every Beast loves its like), 164 (E171: Everything seeks its semblable), 210 (F574: Fowls come to their like), and 339-340 (L272: Like to like).

Monday, October 09, 2017


Alternative Names for America

Samuel Whelpley (1766-1817), An Historical Compend: Containing a Brief Survey of the Great Line of History from the Earliest Times to the Present Day; Together with a General View of the Present State of the World, with Respect to Civilization, Religion, and Government; and a Brief Dissertation on the Importance of Historical Knowledge, Vol. II (Morris-Town: Henry P. Russell, 1807), pp. 164-165 (ellipsis marks in original):
The new world has been peculiarly unfortunate, in all respects, as it relates to the matter of a name. In the first place, it should have been called Columbia — a name which yields to none in point of dignity, harmony, and convenience. The word Columbia, in its very sound, is grave, and proper for is dignified and adapted to is full, smooth, and harmonious, and is unrivalled in poetry. In its very orthography, it is perfectly neat, convenient, and agreeable....neither too short nor too long.

That the new continent should be called America, after Americus Vesputius, was the greatest act of folly, caprice, cruelty, and injustice of the kind, that ever mankind were guilty of. To deprive Columbus of that honor which he so justly merited — to bestow it upon one who had no sort of title to it — to violate at once justice, propriety, and harmony, by rejecting a name which that of no nation ever excelled, and substituting a name which sounds but indifferently in prose, and is absolutely intolerable in every possible species of poetry, is an enormity of caprice and folly which cannot be thought of with any degree of patience. It will forever be regretted by every reflecting mind. Indeed, the name of Columbia will always reign in poetry, and in the pathetic and sublime of prose. It will probably gain ground upon its spurious, upstart rival, and it may in a good measure supplant it.
Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days (New York: Viking, 1985), p. 94:
It saddens Norwegians that America still honors the Italian Columbus, who arrived late in the New World and by accident, who wasn't even interested in New Worlds but only in spices. Out on a spin in search of curry powder and hot peppers — a man on a voyage to the grocery — he stumbled onto the land of heroic Vikings and proceeded to get the credit for it. And then to name it America after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian who never saw the New World but only sat in Italy and drew incredibly inaccurate maps of it. By rights, it should be called Erica, after Eric the Red, who did the work five hundred years earlier. The United States of Erica. Erica the Beautiful. The Erican League.
Gary Snyder, "Introductory Note," Turtle Island (New York: New Directions, 1974):
Turtle Island — the old/new name for the continent, based on many creation myths of the people who have been living here for millenia [sic], and reapplied by some of them to "North America" in recent years. Also, an idea found world-wide, of the earth, or cosmos even, sustained by a great turtle or serpent-of-eternity.

A name: that we may see ourselves more accurately on this continent of watersheds and life-communities — plant zones, physiographic provinces, culture areas; following natural boundaries. The "U.S.A." and its states and counties are arbitrary and inaccurate impositions on what is really here.
Happy Columbus Day.

John Vanderlyn (1775-1852), Landing of Columbus

Saturday, October 07, 2017



Peter Hitchens, The Abolition of Britain (London: Quartet Books Limited, 1999), pp. 33-34:
Most of us were born yesterday, to all intents and purposes. The lore of our tribe, the stories of our ancestors, the memories which our parents held in common, have simply ceased to be. Thirty or forty years ago, we might all have known the stories of Alfred and the cakes, of Canute and the waves, of Caractacus and Boadicea, Hereward the Wake and Thomas à Becket. The titles of the parables — the Sower, the Prodigal Son, the Talents — would have instantly conjured up a picture in the rich colours of a stained-glass window. Phrases such as 'all sorts and conditions of men' and 'when two or three are gathered together', 'the fatted calf' and 'he passed by on the other side' would have meant the same thing to everyone who heard them. Now these things are as meaningless to millions as the forgotten myths of Greece. We drive past ancient churches, Victorian town halls, abandoned grammar schools and guano-spattered statues, quite unaware of the forces that brought them into being, the struggles they commemorate or the sort of people who built them.


Late and Inferior Latin

[Thanks to Eric Thomson for the first part of this post. My additions appear after the horizontal line.]

Michael Grant (1914-2004), My First Eighty Years (Oxford: Aidan Ellis Publishing, 1994), p. 9:
As far as my studies were concerned, I now had to concentrate on trying to gain a classical scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. I owed a great deal to the two teachers of the Classical Sixth Form, in which I spent nearly three years. They were Norwood himself and, to a larger extent, E V C Plumptre. When we were discussing Henryk Sienkiewicz's highly charged novel Quo Vadis, those being the words with which the ghost of Jesus reputedly stopped St. Peter when he was fleeing persecution in Rome, Plumptre commented: 'A classical Roman would have said Quo Is. What a pity our Lord spoke such late and inferior Latin!'
Michael Grant was St Peter's biographer (St. Peter, Prentice Hall, 1994), yet both he and his teacher attribute the words to Jesus. In the novel and the apocryphal Acts of Peter (Vercelli Acts) on which the incident is based, it is actually St Peter who asks the question:
'And as he went forth of the city, he saw the Lord entering into Rome. And when he saw him, he said: Lord, whither goest thou thus (or here)? And the Lord said unto him: I go into Rome to be crucified.' (translator M.R. James).
The "late and inferior" 'Quo vadis?' ultimately derives from St Jerome's translation of John 13:36 Λέγει αὐτῷ Σίμων Πέτρος Κύριε, ποῦ ὑπάγεις; 'dicit ei Simon Petrus Domine quo vadis'.

If these words were actually uttered in Jerusalem, then the Galilean dialect of Shemayon Keppa's question and Isho's reply would indeed have sounded rebarbative, "inferior" if not exactly late Aramaic.

Would a classical Roman have said "Quo is?" as Plumptre claimed? On the rarity of monosyllabic forms of eo in the classical period, see J.N. Adams, Social Variation and the Latin Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 794-795:
The reality (despite the desire of scholars to see late or Vulgar Latin as the forerunner of the Romance situation) is that monosyllabic forms had already been dropped by the classical period. E. Löfstedt (1956: ii.40–1) offered a few observations about Cicero's letters, remarking that ueni(t) is sometimes used there where ire might have been expected (on this phenomenon see Adams 1976a: 111), but a distinction should not be implied between the letters and the other works. Cicero's writings in general suggest that the monosyllabic forms were no longer in use. He has almost 260 examples of ire, with only two monosyllabic forms, of which one is in a formula from the official language (Rab. perd. 13 i, lictor) and the other is linked with a supine in what was probably a fixed expression (Nat. 3.74 sessum it praetor; cf. Sen. Contr. 7.3.9 ire sessum). Of over 450 instances of ire in Livy only six are monosyllabic (1.26.7, 1.26.11 twice, 3.48.3, 8.7.19, 9.11.13), and all of these are in the same official phrase as that used by Cicero. Sallust (42 times), Caesar (62), Valerius Maximus (25), Velleius (4), Pliny the Younger (18), Pliny the Elder (49) and Suetonius (15) all use ire more or less frequently but avoid the monosyllables completely.2 Petronius has it once, but in what looks like a traditional expression, of 'going to the head' (47.6 anathymiasis in cerebrum it: see Löfstedt 1911: 288 n. 1). In Quintilian, who uses ire forty-seven times, there are two monosyllabic forms, both in quotations (6.3.78,3 9.2.48). Tacitus has ire well over a hundred times but avoids the monosyllabic forms as well as ii(t). Seneca the Younger is an exception. He uses ire 132 times in his prose works, ten times in the form it and seven times in the form i.

Poetry was a different matter. Here a form such as it was bound to be useful, and if it was obsolete, so much the better in an archaising medium. In Ovid there are twenty-one examples of i and fifteen of it. In Virgil there are thirty examples of it (all but two in the Aeneid) and seven of i (all in the Aeneid).

2 On Pliny the Elder see Önnerfors (1956: 49–50).

3 Here a joke is reported in which is is picked up by redis. The collocation it/redit is a common one, found several times, for example, in Ovid (Fast. 1.126, Ars 1.93).
Adams (op. cit., pp. 811-819) also discusses vado at length, and remarks (p. 812) on its use in the classical period:
Vado seems to have been stylistically and semantically marked, referring particularly to an impressive, terrifying, threatening, rapid, dangerous or showy advance...


Are You a Cat or a Prot?

André Gide (1869-1951), If It Die..., tr. Dorothy Bussy (London: Secker & Warburg, 1915), pp. 92-93:
My class, and indeed the whole school, was divided into factions: there was the Catholic party and the Protestant party. When I had first gone to the Ecole Alsacienne, I had learnt I was a Protestant; at the very first break, the boys had crowded round me and asked:

"Are you a Cat or a Prot?"

As I heard these mysterious words for the first time, I was perfectly dumbfounded — for my parents had taken good care not to let me know that all French people might not have the same faith, and the perfect amity that reigned between my relations in Rouen blinded me to their differences of religious belief. So I replied that I had not the least idea what they were talking about. An obliging schoolfellow took it upon himself to explain:

"Catholics are people who believe in the Holy Virgin."

Upon which I exclaimed I was certainly a Protestant. By some miracle there were no Jews among us, but a little whippersnapper, who had not spoken before, suddenly announced:

"My father is an atheist." This was said with such an air of superiority as somewhat to perplex the rest of us.

I noted the word to ask my mother what it meant.

"What does atheist mean?" I asked.

"It means a horrid foolish man."

This failing to satisfy me, I questioned further; I insisted; mamma at last, wearied out, cut me short, as she often did, with:

"You're not old enough to understand" or "There's no need for you to understand that just yet." (She had a choice of such answers which drove me wild.)

Does it seem curious that children of ten or twelve should concern themselves with such matters? I think not. It shows nothing after all but that all Frenchmen, of whatever age or class of society, have an innate need to take sides, to belong to a party.
In my elementary school it was easy to spot who was a Cat or a Prot, without asking. During the daily recitation of the Lord's Prayer (this was in the olden days, before Engel v. Vitale), the Protestants said at the end, "For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever," but the Catholics shut their mouths and skipped those words.

Friday, October 06, 2017



Jan M. Ziolkowski, ed. and tr., Solomon and Marcolf (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008 = Harvard Studies in Medieval Latin, 1), pp. 58-59 (1.30b-34b; all said by Marcolf):
Duodecim torciones faciunt unam iussam.
Duodecim bombi faciunt unum strontum.
Duodecim stronti faciunt unam paladam.
Duodecim palade faciunt unam tinariam.
Duodecim tinarie faciunt unam carradam.

Twelve gas-pains make a fart.
Twelve booming farts make one turd.
Twelve turds make a spadeful.
Twelve spades make one tubful.
Twelve tubs full make one cart load.
Id. (at 127-128, on 1.14b "Mulier pinguis et grossa est largior in dando iussa"):
Rather than being the past participle of the verb iubeo, -ere, "to order," the noun iussum, -i n. means "fart." It and related words figure repeatedly in Marcolf's sallies (15b has the adjectival iussosus; 30b and 46b the noun iussa [feminine, not neuter as here], and 54b the verb iusso, -are).

Benary speculated that the word might have derived not from ius, iuris n., "broth" (compare juice) but from viscum, -i n., "mistletoe, birdlime > stickiness," and viscosus, "sticky, viscous." It may argue against his speculation that viscosus appears at 1.91b and that none of the manuscripts substitutes iussosus for it. In any case, his hypothesis requires accepting the rather unusual metathesis of vi- to iu-, which would have been likely only so long as the initial u was pronounced as a semivowel. After the u became fully consonantalized, the reversal of the two letters would have been caused more by visual than phonological factors.

Another possible origin would be in vissio, -ire (OLD 2077), a verb meaning "to fart softly" that may have had an onomatopoetic origin: see Adams, Sexual Vocabulary, 249. Vissium, a noun related to vissio, is found in Du Cange 6:856. The Latin verb survives in the French vesser: see ML 783, no. 9382. Once again, the transformation of viss- to iuss- could have resulted from metathesis, less of sounds than of written letters. If the two groups of words are related in this way, the verb iusso, -are is formed from the noun without direct awareness of the Classical Latin vissio, -ire but rather of its French derivative.

Marcolf's obsession with flatulence, which intrudes into the text incessantly, matches well the predisposition for farting that peasants as a group allegedly shared. The most extreme expression of this trait is in Rutebeuf (died about 1285), Le pet au vilain (The Peasant's Fart), which adduces an etiology for why peasants are allowed entrance into neither heaven nor hell (and which concludes with a reference to Audigier's shitting into his hat): see Oeuvres complètes de Rutebeuf, ed. Edmond Faral and Julia Bastin (Paris, 1959), 2:305-308. The story goes that the soul of a dying peasant emitted not from the mouth but from the rectum. The smell accompanying the soul of the peasant was so rank that the denizens of hell refused to keep it there. For a detailed contextualization of the peasant's fart in Old French literature, see Luciana Borghi Cedrini, La cosmologia del villano: secondo testi extravaganti del Duecento francese (Turin, 1989), 79-85.
I corrected "viscum, -i m." to "viscum, -i n." I reconstructed pp. 127-128 from Google Books' snippet view, but I think the reconstruction is accurate.

On the anal egress of the soul see also Valerie Allen, On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), pp. 69-70, with notes on p. 198:
How do body and soul actually separate? Popular tradition has it that the soul exits through the dying person's mouth. To breathe one's last is more than a figure of speech; the egress of the soul is made audible in the death rattle, crepitus mortis, or, as Rabelais calls it, the "le ped de la mort" [death-fart],295 thereby suggesting that mouth and nostrils are not the only available exits for the departing soul. He recounts how intestinal wind, which is just a gross kind of pneuma, governs the entire life of everybody on the island of Ruach, and marks the death of each one. "They all fart as they die, the men loudly, the women soundlessly, and in this way their souls depart by the back passage."296 Rabelais again genders the fart, in this case at death, when the loud pet befits the man and the soundless vesse the woman.

The soul's egress through the bottom is a marker of low social estate. Rutebeuf recounts the story of how a devil mistakes a peasant's fart for his soul. The peasant, bent double with pain, retires to bed:
Tant ot mangié bon buef aux aux
Et dou graz humei qui fu chauz,
Que sa pance n'estoit pas mole,
Ainz li tent con corde a citole.
N'a mais doute qu'il soit periz
S'or puet porre il ert garis.
A cest effort forment s'efforce,
A cest effort mest il sa force;
Tant s'esforce, tant s'esvertue,
Tant se torne, tant se remue,
C'uns pes en saut qui se desroie.297

[He had eaten so much hearty beef with garlic and swallowed so much rich stock that his belly isn't soft, but stretched as tight as the string of a zither. Without doubt he is a goner. If only he could cut a fart now he would be cured. To that end he forces himself, so mightily does he strain, he gives it everything he's got, so much does he squirm, so much does he wriggle that at last a fart leaps out, which throws everything into disarray.]
A passing devil thinks the peasant to be in extremis and so he bags the fart and takes it off to hell. No one can tell the difference between a churl's soul and his fart, so debased is peasant nature.

The possible anal egress of the soul appears, at least in some cultures, to have provoked real anxiety. In his study of middle eastern sexual life, Allen Edwardes attests to the case of a Brahmin having been found by another in the act of sodomy with one of a lower caste: "having been tainted below the waist, the dishonored Brahmin desired to be suspended by his feet so that his soul would not pass out of his anus, a foul route, into the purgatory of eternal reincarnation in the basest forms of life."298 Hanging also appears to have been considered to block the passage of the soul through the mouth,299 which may contribute to its perceived ignominy as a way of dying. Despite insistence from the theologians that the soul is immaterial, there is a pervading sense that it inhabits the body in concrete ways, and needs a real physical orifice to exit. Medieval legend has it that one of the reasons Judas's bowels spilled out was that the soul was unable to exit from his mouth because he had kissed Christ only days before.
And for þe fiend might not draw his soule out by þe moþe þat had kyssed þe mouþe of Goddys sonne so late befor, þerfor he barst his wombe, and outsched hys guttys, and drew out his soule þat way, and bar hyt to helle.300
Touched by sanctity, Judas's mouth blocked the passage of his corrupted soul, "for it would have been incongruous that a mouth which had touched the lips of Christ should be so foully soiled."301 Thus, his soul sought the nearest way out.

295. Rabelais, Oeuvres, 5.16 (p. 762).
296. Rabelais, Oeuvres, 4.43 (p. 639).
297. Rutebeuf, Le Pet au Vilain, in NRCF 5:369, ll. 35–45.
298. Allen Edwardes, The Jewel in the Lotus: A Historical Survey of the Sexual Culture of the East (New York: Julian Press, 1959), p. 235.
299. John G. Bourke, Scatalogic [sic] Rites of All Nations (Washington, DC: Lowdermilk, 1891; repr, Johnson Corp., 1969), p. 162.
300. Mirk, Festial, p. 79.
301. Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, trans. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 1:168.




M.L. West (1937-2015), "Problems in Euripides' Orestes," Classical Quarterly 37.2 (1987) 281-293 (at 281, footnote omitted):
'Begin at the beginning, go on until you come to the end, and then stop.' Hardly any literary artist succeeds in composing substantial works in quite such a straightforward way, by uninterrupted linear progression from start to finish. As he composes, he has new ideas, and sometimes he goes back and changes what he has already written or makes insertions in it. If he is not very careful, this is liable to lead, if not to actual contradictions, at least to mild discontinuities and interruptions of the logical sequence of thought.

The occurrence of such discontinuities and interruptions in classical texts often provokes proposals for deletion or transposition. In some cases these are no doubt the correct answers. But it seems to me extraordinary how little use scholars have made of the concept of the author's afterthought — something that nearly all texts must contain, whether detectable or not — to account for irregularities of those kinds. In many instances what is recognizable as an insertion is at least as likely to be due to the author as to a second hand, unless one takes the a priori view (easily disprovable by experience) that an author will not fail to notice all the structural implications of an insertion in his own work. In certain instances we may recognize interpolations or rearrangements that cannot plausibly be ascribed to anyone but the author himself.
Id. (at 285):
I anticipate two kinds of adverse reaction to all these hypotheses of Euripidean afterthoughts. One is to say that it is all empty speculation, because we have no evidence for prior drafts and never will have. Of course there is no documentary evidence. The position is not much better for other sorts of textual criticism: in exceptional cases a new papyrus may confirm a conjecture, but in the vast majority of cases there is not going to be a new papyrus. That does not mean that in the absence of manuscript variation it is pointless to try to identify corruptions. The evidence is internal, in the coherence or otherwise of the text. It is the same with authorial revisions. There is evidence of that kind, whatever conclusions one ventures to draw from it.

The other possible objection is that our concern should be with the text as the author finally intended it to be, and that it is not our business to pry into the stages by which he arrived at it. I disagree. The creative process is a legitimate object of scholarly interest, and especially when it holds the key to difficulties that the finished text poses.



Euripides, Orestes 485 (tr. David Kovacs):
You have turned barbarian from being so long among barbarians.

βεβαρβάρωσαι, χρόνιος ὢν ἐν βαρβάροις.

Thursday, October 05, 2017


Food and Drink

Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), Personal Pleasures (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1935), p. 179:
Here is a wonderful and delightful thing, that we should have furnished ourselves with orifices, with traps that open and shut, through which to push and pour alien objects that give us such pleasurable, such delicious sensations, and at the same time sustain us. A simple pleasure; a pleasure accessible, in normal circumstances and in varying degrees, to all, and that several times each day. An expensive pleasure, if calculated in the long run and over a lifetime; but count the cost of each mouthful as it comes, and it is (naturally) cheaper. You can, for instance, get a delicious plate of spaghetti and cheese, or fried mushrooms and onions, for very little; or practically anything else, except caviare, smoked salmon, the eggs of plovers, ostriches and humming-birds, and fauna and flora completely out of their appropriate seasons, which you will, of course, desire, but to indulge such desires is Gluttony, or Gule, against which the human race has always been warned. It was, of course, through Gule that our first parents fell. As the confessor of Gower's Amans told him, this vice of gluttony was in Paradise, most deplorably mistimed.

We shall never know what that fruit was, which so solicited the longing Eve, which smelt so savoury, which tasted so delightful as greedily she ingorged it without restraint. The only fruit that has ever seemed to me to be worthy of the magnificently inebriating effects wrought by its consumption on both our parents is the mango. When I have eaten mangoes, I have felt like Eve.
Id., pp. 180-181:
The part of the soul (see Timaeus) which desires meats and drinks lies torpid and replete by its manger, somewhere between midriff and navel, for there the gods housed these desires, that wild animal chained up with man, which must be nourished if man is to exist, but must not be allowed to disturb the council chamber, the seat of reason. For the authors of our race, said Timaeus, were aware that we should be intemperate in eating and drinking, and take a good deal more than was necessary or proper, by reason of gluttony. Prescient and kindly authors of our race! What a happy companion they allotted to mankind in this wild animal, whom I should rather call a domestic and pampered pet. How sweet it is to please it, to indulge it with delicious nourishment, with superfluous tit-bits and pretty little tiny kickshaws, with jellies, salads, dainty fowls and fishes, fruits and wines and pasties, fattened and entruffled livers of geese, sturgeons' eggs from Russia, salmon from the burn, omelettes and soufflés from the kitchen.
Id., pp. 184-185:
My subject runs away with me; I could, had I but time and space, discourse on it for ever. I could mention the great, the magnificent gourmets of history; I could dwell on the pleasures experienced by Lucullus, Heliogobalus, those Roman Emperors, those English monarchs, those Aldermen, who, having dined brilliantly and come to sad satiety, had their slaves tickle them with feathers behind the ears until this caused them to retire in haste from the table, to which they presently returned emptied and ready to work through the menu again. These are the world's great gluttons; to them eating and drinking was a high art.

But they are beaten by one Nicholas Wood, a yeoman of Kent, who, in the reign of James I, "did eat with ease a whole sheep of 16 shillings price, and that raw, at one meal; another time he eat 13 dozen of pigeons. At Sir William Sedley's he eat as much as would have sufficed 30 men; at the Lord Wotton's in Kent, he eat at one meal 84 rabbits, which number would have sufficed 168 men, allowing to each half a rabbit. He suddenly devoured 18 yards of black pudding, London measure, and having once eat 60 lbs. weight of cherries, he said, they were but wastemeat. He made an end of a whole hog at once, and after it swallowed three pecks of damsons; this was after breakfast, for he said he had eat one pottle of milk, one pottle of pottage, with bread, butter, and cheese, before. He eat in my presence, saith Taylor, the water poet, six penny wheaten loaves, three sixpenny veal pies, one pound of sweet butter, one good dish of thornback, and a sliver of a peck household loaf, an inch thick, and all this within the space of an hour; the house yielded no more, so he went away unsatisfied....He spent all his estate to provide for his belly; and though a landed man, and a true labourer, he died very poor in 1630."

Wednesday, October 04, 2017



Euripides, Orestes 418 (tr. David Kovacs):
We are slaves to the gods, whatever "the gods" are.

δουλεύομεν θεοῖς, ὅ τι ποτ' εἰσὶν οἱ θεοί.
Matthew Wright, Euripides: Orestes (London: Bloomsbury, 2008), pp. 65-66, with notes on p. 144:
Passages like this can be hard to interpret: what sort of attitude to the gods is being expressed? In older scholarship one often encounters the view that Euripides was an 'atheist'. This view — like many views about Euripides that still persist in some form or another — is partly derived from the inaccurate ancient biographies of the poet: the Lives record that Euripides was noted for his unorthodox theological views. In turn, the biographers were probably relying on the 'evidence' of comedy: Aristophanes often seems to have cracked jokes about the tragedian's supposed 'atheism' or impiety.27 But, leaving aside the unanswerable question of what Euripides 'really’ believed, his plays do not contain views which can be described as atheistic (a label which would be anachronistic, since it really reflects a Judaeo-Christian type of outlook).28

The plays always take the gods for granted — but that does not mean that they never express a sceptical or critical attitude towards them. It may be more helpful to regard Euripidean (and other) tragedy as questioning and exploratory in outlook — a spirit that well reflects the intellectual climate of its time and the nature of Greek religion in general.29 For the Greeks, to believe in and worship their gods did not mean that they expected to understand the gods; and they certainly did not expect that the gods would always treat them with love or kindness. Worshipping the gods in fifth-century Greece (or, for that matter, mythical Argos) certainly did not imply the unquestioning acceptance of any particular set of beliefs or doctrines, nor did it preclude criticism of the divine powers.

Orestes' phrase 'whatever gods are' (418), like similar phrases in Euripidean tragedy, has sometimes been seen as an expression of disbelief,30 but it can be interpreted more literally in its context as hopeless ignorance leading to frustration. Orestes does not really doubt that the gods exist, but he does not understand why they treat him as they do; and, in particular, he is confused and disappointed by Apollo's treatment of him.

27. For example, Aristophanes, Women at the Thesmophoria 450-1; Frogs 885-93, 936, etc.

28. Attempts to reconstruct the author's opinions and beliefs from his works alone are now usually seen as doomed to failure (how can we know what Euripides 'really' thought?). See Lefkowitz, '"Impiety" and "Atheism" in Euripides' for an excellent discussion of the scholarship on this issue.

29. Sourvinou-Inwood, Tragedy and Athenian Religion, provides a full and up-to-date discussion of this aspect of tragedy (which is only sketched here).

30. See Willink's commentary ad loc. (cf. Bacchae 894, Heracles 1263-4, Helen 1137). On 'seeming expressions of disbelief' in Euripides, see Stinton, 'Si Credere Dignum Est'.


Reading in Bed

Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), Personal Pleasures (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1935), pp. 62-64:
Climb, then, into this paradise, this epicurism of pleasure, this pretty world of peace. Push up the pillows, that they support the head at an angle as you lie sideways, your book held in one hand, its edge resting on the pillow. On the bed-head is a bright light canopied by an orange shade; it illustrates the page with soft radiance, so that it shines out of the environing shadows like a good deed in a naughty world. You are reading, I would suggest, a novel; preferably a novel which excites you by its story, lightly titillating, but not furrowing, the surface of the brain. Not poetry; not history; not essays; not voyages; not biography, archeology, dictionaries, nor that peculiar literature which publishers call belles-lettres. These are for daytime reading; they are not somnifacient; they stimulate the mind, the esthetic and appreciative faculties, the inventive imagination; in brief, they wake you up. You will never, I maintain, get to sleep on Shakespeare, Milton, or Marvell, or Hakluyt, or Boswell, or Montaigne, or Burton's Anatomy, or Sir Thomas Browne, or Herodotus, or any poetry or prose that fundamentally excites you by its beauty, or any work that imparts knowledge. These will light a hundred candles in your brain, startling it to vivid life. A story, and more particularly a story which you have not read before, will hold your attention gently on the page, leading it on from event to event, drowsily pleased to be involved in such fine adventures, which yet demand no thought. Let the story amuse, thrill, interest, delight, it matters not which; but let it not animate, stimulate or disturb, for sleep, that shy night-bird, must not be startled back as it hovers over you with drowsy wings, circling ever near and nearer, until its feathers brush your eyes, and the book dips suddenly in your hand. Lay it aside then; push out the light; the dark bed, like a gentle pool of water, receives you; you sink into its encompassing arms, floating down the wandering trail of a dream, as down some straying river that softly twists and slides through goblin lands, now dipping darkly into blind caves, now emerging, lit with the odd, phosphorescent light of oneiric reason, unsearchable and dark to waking eyes.

Painting by Federico Maldarelli (1826-1893)



Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), Pleasure of Ruins (1953; rpt. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1984), pp. 454-455 (the penultimate sentence of the book):
Ruin must be a fantasy, veiled by the mind's dark imaginings: in the objects that we see before us, we get to agree with St Thomas Aquinas, that quae enim diminutae sunt, hoc ipso turpia sunt, and to feel that, in beauty, wholeness is all.
The Latin itself is in ruins, and it's not just a printer's error, because it appears the same way in two other places in the same book (pp. 12 and 39). Any first-year Latin student could make the correction. Read as follows (from Summa Theologiae 1a.39.8):
quae enim diminuta sunt, hoc ipso turpia sunt.


Tuesday, October 03, 2017


What Do You Want To Do?

Deirdre Bair, Samuel Beckett: A Biography (1978; rpt. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 145 (brackets in original), with note on p. 662:
Lowenfels expounded on his theory of anonymity at great length, especially in the relationship of art to the desolate condition of society. Beckett, according to Lowenfels, nodded, but said nothing:
Finally I [Lowenfels] burst out, "You sit there saying nothing while the world is going to pieces. What do you want? What do you want to do?"

He [Beckett] crossed his long legs and drawled, "Walter, all I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante."25
25 "Ibid." I.e. (from note 24) Walter Lowenfels, "The Paris Years, 1926-1934", Expatriate Review, No. 1 (Summer 1971), p. 13.
An appropriate verse for Beckett to meditate on might have been Inferno 21.139:
ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta.


Monday, October 02, 2017


Herodotus in the Skip

Henri Thomas, letter to Pierre Leyris (January 4, 1947), in Henri Thomas, Choix de lettres, 1923-1993, ed. Joanna Leary (Paris: Gallimard, 2003), pp. 243-244 (at 243, brackets in original):
Je t'écris de la Bibliothèque de la BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] au troisième étage du Bush House, Aldwych. C'est un endroit délicieux, où l'on peut avoir tous les livres ou à peu près.
I'm writing to you from the Library of the BBC on the fourth floor of Bush House, Aldwych. It's a delightful place, stocked with every book, or nearly so.
Julian Potter, Stephen Potter at the BBC (Orford: Orford Books, 2004), p. 214:
When I myself was researching this book at Broadcasting House, I was told by someone in the Library: 'We've just had another big clear-out. We've only got management reports left on the shelves. You'll find Herodotus in the skip.'
The skip, for Yanks like myself, is the dumpster. I translated troisième étage into American English as fourth floor. I remember being taught, long ago, that the French don't count the ground floor, the rez-de-chaussée, when numbering floors.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Nos Nequiores

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), from his poem "Melancholia" (my translation):
Ah, what a difference, and what midgets we seem compared with these ancients! Like wine turned sour, the blood of our ancestors has gone bad in our veins...

Ah! quelle différence, et que près de ces vieux
Nous paraissons mesquins! Le sang de nos aïeux,
Comme un vin qui s'aigrit s'est tourné dans nos veines...
Related post: Progress or Regress?


This One Is For You

Julian Barnes, "The Man Who Saved Old France," Through the Window: Seventeen Essays and a Short Story (New York: Vintage Books, 2012), page number unknown:
In La Charité-sur-Loire, two locksmiths had built their houses against the wall of the abbey church, so that their sleeping alcoves were decorated with spectacular eleventh- and twelfth-century bas-reliefs. A month before Mérimée's arrival, a soldier had lodged with one of the locksmiths and slept next to a sculpture of God the Father surrounded by saints and angels. He had a less than satisfactory night. In the morning he took his stick, chastised the figure of God with the words, 'You invented bedbugs, so this one is for you,' and knocked its head off.

Sunday, October 01, 2017


Master and Herd

Voltaire (1694-1778), Republican Ideas by a Member of the Corps, II (tr. G.K. Noyer):
A society governed arbitrarily perfectly resembles a herd of cows placed under a yoke for the service of a master. He only feeds them enough to put them in condition to serve. He only treats their illnesses insofar as their health can be useful to him. He only fattens them in order to feed off of them, and he uses the skin of some to harness others to the plough.

Une société d'hommes gouvernée arbitrairement ressemble parfaitement à une troupe de boeufs mis au joug pour le service du maître. Il ne les nourrit qu'afin qu'ils soient en état de le servir; il ne les panse dans leurs maladies qu'afin qu'ils lui soient utiles en santé; il les engraisse pour se nourrir de leur substance; et il se sert de la peau des uns pour atteler les autres à la charrue.
Id., LXIV:
Tolerance is as necessary to politics as to religion. It is pride alone that is intolerant. It is pride that revolts minds, in trying to force others to think like us. It is the secret source of all factions.

La tolérance est aussi nécessaire en politique qu'en religion; c'est l'orgueil seul qui est intolérant. C'est lui qui révolte les esprits, en voulant les forcer à penser comme nous; c'est la source secrète de toutes les divisions.
In II, I would translate "boeufs" as "oxen;" in LXIV, I would translate "qui révolte les esprits, en voulant les forcer à penser comme nous" as "that disgusts men of intelligence, in trying to force them to think like us." But my knowledge of French is rudimentary.


In Defence of Their City

[Simonides], Epigrams LIV = Greek Anthology 7.442 (tr. David A. Campbell):
Let us remember the fair-fighting men, whose tomb this is, who died to save Tegea, rich in sheep, spearmen in defence of their city, lest they should see Greece perish and have freedom removed from her head.

εὐθυμάχων ἀνδρῶν μνησώμεθα, τῶν ὅδε τύμβος,
    οἳ θάνον εὔμηλον ῥυόμενοι Τεγέαν,
αἰχμηταὶ πρὸ πόληος, ἵνα σφίσι μὴ καθέληται
    Ἑλλὰς ἀποφθιμένη κρατὸς ἐλευθερίαν.

4 ἀποφθιμένη Bergk: ἀποφθιμένου codd.
ἀποφθιμένοις κάρτος ἐλευθερίας Planudes
D.L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 279-280:

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