Saturday, November 18, 2017


The New Worship

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XXVIII:
The ruin of the Pagan religion is described by the sophists as a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and of night. They relate, in solemn and pathetic strains, that the temples were converted into sepulchres, and that the holy places, which had been adorned by the statues of the gods, were basely polluted by the relics of Christian martyrs. "The monks" (a race of filthy animals, to whom Eunapius is tempted to refuse the name of men) "are the authors of the new worship, which, in the place of those deities who are conceived by the understanding, has substituted the meanest and most contemptible slaves. The heads, salted and pickled, of those infamous malefactors, who for the multude of their crimes have suffered a just and ignominious death; their bodies, still marked by the impression of the lash, and the scars of those tortures which were inflicted by the sentence of the magistrate; such" (continues Eunapius) "are the gods which the earth produces in our days; such are the martyrs, the supreme arbitrators of our prayers and petitions to the Deity, whose tombs are now consecrated as the objects of the veneration of the people."
Eunapius, Lives of the Sophists 6.11.6-10 = p. 472 Westermann (tr. Wilmer C. Wright):
Next, into the sacred places they imported monks, as they called them, who were men in appearance but led the lives of swine, and openly did and allowed countless unspeakable crimes. But this they accounted piety, to show contempt for things divine. For in those days every man who wore a black robe and consented to behave in unseemly fashion in public, possessed the power of a tyrant, to such a pitch of virtue had the human race advanced! All this however I have described in my Universal History. They settled these monks at Canobus also, and thus they fettered the human race to the worship of slaves, and those not even honest slaves, instead of the true gods. For they collected the bones and skulls of criminals who had been put to death for numerous crimes, men whom the law courts of the city had condemned to punishment, made them out to be gods, haunted their sepulchres, and thought that they became better by defiling themselves at their graves. "Martyrs" the dead men were called, and "ministers" of a sort, and "ambassadors" from the gods to carry men's prayers,—these slaves in vilest servitude, who had been consumed by stripes and carried on their phantom forms the scars of their villainy. However these are the gods that earth produces!


Following the Crowd

Seneca, On the Happy Life 1.3-4 (tr. John Davie):
Accordingly, the most important point to stress is that we should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go. And yet there is nothing that brings greater trouble on us than the fact that we conform to rumour, thinking that what has won widespread approval is best, and that, as we have so many to follow as good, we live by the principle, not of reason, but of imitation. What follows from this is that men are piled high, one on top of another, as they rush to their ruin.

Just as it happens that in a great crowd of humanity that is crushed together, when the people jostle against each other, no one falls without dragging someone else down with him, and the ones in front bring destruction on the ones behind, so you may see the same thing happening throughout all of life. No one who goes astray affects himself alone, but rather will be the cause and instigator of someone else going astray; it is harmful to attach oneself to the people in front, and, so long as each one of us prefers to trust someone else's judgement rather than relying on his own, we never exercise judgement in our lives but constantly resort to trust, and a mistake that has been passed down from one hand to another takes us over and spins our ruin. It is the example of others that destroys us: we will regain our health, if only we distance ourselves from the crowd.

nihil ergo magis praestandum est, quam ne pecorum ritu sequamur antecedentium gregem, pergentes non quo eundum est, sed quo itur. atqui nulla res nos maioribus malis implicat, quam quod ad rumorem componimur, optima rati ea, quae magno adsensu recepta sunt, quodque exempla nobis multa sunt, nec ad rationem sed ad similitudinem vivimus. inde ista tanta coacervatio aliorum super alios ruentium.

quod in strage hominum magna evenit, cum ipse se populus premit — nemo ita cadit, ut non et alium in se adtrahat, primique exitio sequentibus sunt —, hoc in omni vita accidere videas licet. nemo sibi tantummodo errat, sed alieni erroris et causa et auctor est; nocet enim applicari antecedentibus et, dum unusquisque mavult credere quam iudicare, numquam de vita iudicatur, semper creditur versatque nos et praecipitat traditus per manus error. alienis perimus exemplis; sanabimur, separemur modo a coetu.

Friday, November 17, 2017


A Blade of Grass

Jules Renard, Journal (July 11, 1898; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
No one will ever stop me from being moved when I look at a field, when I walk up to my knees through oats that spring up behind me. What thought is as fine as this blade of grass?

I don't give a straw for "my country" as a whole: my local country moves me to tears. The German emperor cannot take this blade of grass from me.

Jamais personne ne m'empêchera d'être ému quand je regarde un champ, quand je marche jusqu'aux genoux dans une avoine qui se redresse derrière moi. Quelle pensée est aussi fine que ce brin d'herbe?

Je me moque de la grande patrie: la petite toujours m'impressionne jusqu'aux larmes. L'empereur allemand ne m'ôterait pas ce brin d'herbe.
Related posts:


True Stories

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Under the Greenwood Tree, Part I, Chapter 8:
'Well, now,' said Reuben, with decisive earnestness, 'that sort o' coarse touch that's so upsetting to Ann's feelings is to my mind a recommendation; for it do always prove a story to be true. And for the same reason, I like a story with a bad moral. My sonnies, all true stories have a coarse touch or a bad moral, depend upon't.'


Herodotus by Heart

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), chapter 2 (page number unknown):
[H]e told another Trinity fellow, T.C. Nicholas, that if all the text of Herodotus were to disappear he could reproduce it by heart.66

66 Howarth, p184.
The reference is to T.E.B. Howarth, Cambridge Between Two Wars (London: Collins, 1978), which I haven't seen.

Related post: Fahrenheit 451.


Statutes of the New Academy

Aldus Manutius, The Greek Classics. Edited and Translated by N.G. Wilson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016 = I Tatti Renaissance library, 70), Appendix V (pp. 288-293) = Statutes of the New Academy, § 1 (at 289):
Whereas many benefits can accrue to people with a serious interest in education from speaking Greek, it has been jointly determined by the three of us, Aldus the Roman, John the Cretan and thirdly myself, Scipione Forteguerri, to pass a law that they should not speak to each other except in Greek. If any of us, whether deliberately or without thinking, talks in another language, forgetting this law or for some other reason, he shall be fined one small coin for each occasion on which he happens to do this. But there shall not be a penalty for solecism, unless someone does that too deliberately.
When enough money from fines has accumulated, it is to be spent on a party (§ 4, p. 291). A very interesting document. I noticed a typographical error on p. 320, where the title mistakenly appears as Statues of the New Academy.

A modern reincarnation of the New Academy is the educational Stammtisch, where only German is spoken.


Thursday, November 16, 2017


A County Motto?

Wikipedia entry for Morrow County, Ohio:
The county motto is "dolorem et dolor liberum" which is Latin for "pain and suffering are free" which was an epigram of the first century BC Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero and a favorite saying of one of the county's founders.
Screen capture:

The words "dolorem et dolor liberum" are all Latin words but make no sense when taken together. The phrase doesn't occur in the works of Cicero, so far as I can tell, or in any other Latin writer. See e.g. H. Merguet, Handlexikon zu Cicero (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1905), s.v. dolor, pp. 212-213.




D.B. Wyndham Lewis (1891-1969), François Villon: A Documented Survey (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1928), p. vii:
the Red-Headed Cerberus, regardant between the Pont Royal and
the Petit-Pont; to the Frothing Vorticist; to the Harpy behind
the Little Grille; to the Bilious but Gaitered Platonic; to
the Surgical, Hairy, yet invisible Troll of the Dieppois; to
the Stout Love-Child of the Pierides who Believes Aquinas
to be a Mineral-Water; to the Bouncing Benthamite of
Bloomsbury who is Unaware of the Medieval; to That
Other, the Cramoisy One; to the Dodging Lutheran
of the Rue de Grenelle; to the Pythoness of Bays-
water; to the Commandant of Infantry who Babbled
of the Grand-Orient; to the Lady with the Hard
Grey Eyes; to the Levantine of London who Did
Not Think Poetry Would Do; to the Military
Character who Sacked the Lot; and to all pratt-
ling Gablers, sycophant Varlets, forlorn Snakes,
blockish Grutnols, fondling Fops, doddi-
pol Joltheads, slutch Calf-Lollies, cods-
head Loobies, jobernol Goosecaps,
grout-head Gnat-Snappers, noddie-
peak Simpletons, Lob-Dotterels,
and ninniehammer

Some of this is borrowed from Urquhart's translation of Rabelais, Book I, Chapter XXV.


Use Your Noggin

Epicharmus, fragment 250 Kaibel (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Don't get drunk or trust your neighbour; there's the kernel of good sense.

νᾶφε καὶ μέμνασ᾽ ἀπιστεῖν· ἄρθρα ταῦτα τᾶν φρενῶν.
More literally, μέμνασ᾽ ἀπιστεῖν = remember to be mistrustful.

Quoted by Cicero, Letters to Atticus 1.19.8, where the Greek in the Digital Loeb Classical Library has an incorrect accent (grave instead of acute over ἄρθρα):

I think that this is fragment 218 in R. Kassel and C. Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. I: Comoedia Dorica, Mimi, Phlyaces, but the book isn't available to me.



Trust Your Senses

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.699-700 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith):
For to what shall we appeal? What can we find more certain than the senses themselves, to mark for us truth and falsehood?

quo referemus enim? quid nobis certius ipsis
sensibus esse potest, qui vera ac falsa notemus?
700 qui = quo, referring back to quid.

Related post: Believing One's Own Eyes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Lowbrow and Highbrow

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Foreheads Villainous Low," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 201-210 (at 201-202):
There was a time, not so long ago, when the stupid and uneducated aspired to be thought intelligent and cultured. The current of aspiration has changed its direction. It is not at all uncommon now to find intelligent and cultured people doing their best to feign stupidity and to conceal the fact that they have received an education. Twenty years ago it was still a compliment to say of a man that he was clever, cultivated, interested in the things of the mind. To-day 'highbrow' is a term of contemptuous abuse.
Id. (at 207-208):
A man who is exclusively interested in the things of the mind will be quite happy (in Pascal's phrase) sitting quietly in a room. A man who has no interest in the things of the mind will be bored to death if he has to sit quietly in a room.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Human, All Too Human, § 114 (tr. Marion Faber):
What is un-Greek in Christianity. The Greeks did not see the Homeric gods above them as masters and themselves below them as servants, as did the Jews. They saw, as it were, only the reflection of the most successful specimens of their own caste, that is, an ideal, not a contrast to their own nature. They felt related to them, there was a reciprocal interest, a kind of symmachia. Man thinks of himself as noble when he gives himself such gods, and puts himself into a relationship similar to that of the lesser nobility to the higher. Whereas the Italic peoples have a regular peasant religion, with continual fearfulness about evil and capricious powers and tormentors. Where the Olympian gods retreated, there Greek life too grew gloomier and more fearful.

Christianity, on the other hand, crushed and shattered man completely, and submerged him as if in deep mire. Then, all at once, into his feeling of complete confusion, it allowed the light of divine compassion to shine, so that the surprised man, stunned by mercy, let out a cry of rapture, and thought for a moment that he carried all of heaven within him. All psychological inventions of Christianity work toward this sick excess of feeling, toward the deep corruption of head and heart necessary for it. Christianity wants to destroy, shatter, stun, intoxicate: there is only one thing it does not want: moderation, and for this reason, it is in its deepest meaning barbaric, Asiatic, ignoble, un-Greek.

Das Ungriechische im Christenthum.— Die Griechen sahen über sich die homerischen Götter nicht als Herren und sich unter ihnen nicht als Knechte, wie die Juden. Sie sahen gleichsam nur das Spiegelbild der gelungensten Exemplare ihrer eigenen Kaste, also ein Ideal, keinen Gegensatz des eigenen Wesens. Man fühlt sich mit einander verwandt, es besteht ein gegenseitiges Interesse, eine Art Symmachie. Der Mensch denkt vornehm von sich, wenn er sich solche Götter giebt, und stellt sich in ein Verhältniss, wie das des niedrigeren Adels zum höheren ist; während die italischen Völker eine rechte Bauern-Religion haben, mit fortwährender Aengstlichkeit gegen böse und launische Machtinhaber und Quälgeister. Wo die olympischen Götter zurücktraten, da war auch das griechische Leben düsterer und ängstlicher.—

Das Christenthum dagegen zerdrückte und zerbrach den Menschen vollständig und versenkte ihn wie in tiefen Schlamm: in das Gefühl völliger Verworfenheit liess es dann mit Einem Male den Glanz eines göttlichen Erbarmens hineinleuchten, so dass der Ueberraschte, durch Gnade Betäubte, einen Schrei des Entzückens ausstiess und für einen Augenblick den ganzen Himmel in sich zu tragen glaubte. Auf diesen krankhaften Excess des Gefühls, auf die dazu nöthige tiefe Kopf- und Herz-Corruption wirken alle psychologischen Erfindungen des Christenthums hin: es will vernichten, zerbrechen, betäuben, berauschen, es will nur Eins nicht: das Maass, und desshalb ist es im tiefsten Verstande barbarisch, asiatisch, unvornehm, ungriechisch.


I Came Here to Work

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), chapter 2 (page number unknown):
Shortly after arriving at Trinity at the start of Michaelmas Term 1930, Powell was found by Henry Jamieson, his fellow Edwardian, sitting on packing cases in his room reading a Greek text. 'Come and have some tea‚' Jamieson said. 'Thank you very much‚' Powell replied, 'but I came here to work.'1

1 Sunday Times, 5 February 1956.


Inscription for a 30th Birthday Card

Jules Renard, Journal (May 29, 1894; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
The thought that I am thirty breaks my heart. A whole dead life behind me. Ahead of me, an opaque stretch in which I see nothing. I feel old, and sad as an old man.

Cette idée que j'ai trente ans me navre. Toute une vie morte derrière moi. Devant, une vie opaque où je ne vois rien. Je me sens vieux, triste comme un vieux.
Related posts:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017



Jules Renard, Journal (April 10, 1889; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
To have a horror of the bourgeois is bourgeois.

L'horreur des bourgeois est bourgeoise.


On the Imitation of Dog

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.404-409 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith):
For as hounds very often find by their scent the leaf-hidden resting-place of the mountain-ranging quarry, when once they have hit upon certain traces of its path, so will you be able for yourself to see one thing after another in such matters as these, and to penetrate all unseen hiding-places, and draw forth the truth from them.

namque canes ut montivagae persaepe ferai
naribus inveniunt intectas fronde quietes,        405
cum semel institerunt vestigia certa viai,
sic alid ex alio per te tute ipse videre
talibus in rebus poteris caecasque latebras
insinuare omnis et verum protrahere inde.

404 ferai Q corr.: ferare OQ: ferarum O corr.
Related post: How to Read.


Holy Writ

Ezra Pound, letter to Harriet Monroe (July 16, 1922):
Say that I consider the Writings of Confucius, and Ovid's Metamorphoses the only safe guides in religion. This doesn't repudiate 'The G<oodly> F<ere>'. Christ can very well stand as an heroic figure. The hero need not be of wisdom all compounded. Also he is not wholly to blame for the religion that's been foisted on to him. As well blame me for ... for all the bunk in vers libre.

Christianity as practised resumes itself into one commandment dear to all officials, American Y.M.C.A., burocrats, etc., 'Thou shalt attend to thy neighbor's business before attending to thine own.'

In your footnote you ought to point out that I refuse to accept ANY monotheistic taboos whatsoever. That I consider the Metamorphoses a sacred book, and the Hebrew scriptures the record of a barbarian tribe, full of evil.

Monday, November 13, 2017



Reflections of a Statesman: The Writings and Speeches of Enoch Powell (London: Bellew, 1991), p. 104:
I remember, as sharply as Keats recalled first looking into Chapman's Homer, the moment — it must have been in 1927 — when I opened my first German book. Here was the language I had dreamt of but never knew existed: sharp, hard, strict but with words which were romance in themselves, words in which poetry and music vibrated together.
Powell, The Observer (April 24, 1968):
The happiest and most glorious hours of my life with books have been with German books.



Catullus 46.7-8 (tr. Michael C.J. Putnam):
Now my mind, aquiver, yearns to wander;
now my joyous feet grow strong with eagerness.

iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.

8 vigescunt codd.: virescunt Ellis
Robinson Ellis' conjecture, made in his commentary, p. 131 ("uirescunt, 'feel a new spring,' is a natural conjecture"), doesn't appear in Catullus Online: An Online Repertory of Conjectures on Catullus, which reports
laeti OGR : uiae MS 120 s. XVI : laeto dub. Schwabe 1866 in app.


Culture-Fans and Erudition-Snobs

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "And Wanton Optics Roll the Melting Eye," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 32-42 (at 37-38):
What readers has the Divine Comedy now? A few poets, a few lovers of poetry, a few strayed cross-word puzzlers, and, for the rest, a diminishing band of culture-fans and erudition-snobs. These last feel as triumphantly superior in their exclusive learning as would the social snob if, alone of all his acquaintance, he had met the Prince of Wales, or could speak of Mr. Michael Arlen by his pet name.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Asyndeton Filling Hexameters: Bernard of Cluny, De Contemptu Mundi, Book I

In Book I of Bernard of Cluny, De Contemptu Mundi, I noticed the following hexameters consisting entirely of words in asyndeton:
55 pulchra, citissima, fortia, libera, deliciosa
118 inresolubilis, invariabilis, intemerata
312 provehit, excitat, auget, identitat, efficit, unit
364 frigore, grandine, carne, libidine, morte, timore
529 lumina, tempora, frons, labra, pectora, viscera, mammae
658 dilaniabitur, excruciabitur, arripietur
772 irreparabilis, irrevocabilis, officiosus
789 pulcher, amabilis, irreparabilis, unicus, aptus
878 dat, rapit, it, fremit, opprimitur, premit, uritur, urit
1017 seditionibus, illuvionibus, igne, procellis
1018 lite, libidine, fraude, gravedine, sanguine, bellis
I don't have access to Ronald E. Pepin, ed. and tr., Scorn for the World: Bernard of Cluny's De Contemptu Mundi (East Lansing: Colleagues Press, 1991), so the line numbers above come from an online version. I haven't yet read Books II and III (please don't send supplements). For similar lines in Greek and Latin poetry see:



Clemenceau: The Events of His Life as Told by Himself to His Former Secretary Jean Martet. Translated by Milton Waldman (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930), pp. 195-196:
The revolutionary of that model is generally a failure who hasn't been able to succeed in anything within the ordinary framework of Society by the normal and legal means which it has established, so he tells himself that by dragging Society into the mud, he will be able to profit from the resulting mess. He is quite a pretentious being, with a very high idea of himself, who, on beginning life, expected to reach the top immediately, at one stroke, thanks to his abilities, his eloquence and various other things of that kind. He perceived presently that, as far as the top is concerned, he is no more than the tram conductor or the street-sweeper. He concludes from this that there is no justice, or, if there is, it doesn't favour him—like everything else. They're fools, but fools who haven't much more courage than the bourgeois—and, good God! that's little enough.

It's ideas that give a man courage, and your revolutionaries are as gifted with ideas as my boot. They have spite, bitterness—but that doesn't get one very far. I saw them during the war; I have talked with them and tried to find something in them; it was pathetic.


Homer's Interpreter Nods

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Tragedy and the Whole Truth," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 3-18 (at 3-4):
There were six of them, the best and bravest of the hero's companions. Turning back from his post in the bows, Odysseus was in time to see them lifted, struggling, into the air, to hear their screams, the desperate repetition of his own name. The survivors could only look on, helplessly, while Scylla 'at the mouth of her cave devoured them, still screaming, still stretching out their hands to me in the frightful struggle.' And Odysseus adds that it was the most dreadful and lamentable sight he ever saw in all his 'explorings of the passes of the sea.' We can believe it; Homer's brief description (the too poetical simile is a later interpolation) convinces us.

Later, the danger passed, Odysseus and his men went ashore for the night, and, on the Sicilian beach, prepared their supper—prepared it, says Homer, 'expertly.' The Twelfth Book of the Odyssey concludes with these words: 'When they had satisfied their thirst and hunger, they thought of their dear companions and wept, and in the midst of their tears sleep came gently upon them.'
The Twelfth Book of the Odyssey does not conclude with those words. Those words (plus others — Huxley has abridged the quotation) occur at Odyssey 12.308-312, and the book has 453 lines in all.

Update from Joel Eidsath:
A strange error, as the quotations appear to be Huxley's own translation.

The essay was published twice in Spring 1931, once in the Virginia Quarterly, and a shorter version in The Spectator.

The Spectator version is more accurate "The story in the XIIth Book of the Odyssey ends with these words..." That is, the story of Charybdis and Scylla ended with those words, not the XIIth book of the Odyssey.

The Spectator version appears to be a trimmed version of the first, no doubt prepared by Huxley himself. Perhaps Huxley's error was pointed out to him immediately after publication of the first version. Or perhaps the Spectator version is Huxley's original statement. Another vexing textual question in Homeric scholarship.


Saturday, November 11, 2017


Golden Rule

Historia Augusta, 18: Life of Severus Alexander 51.7-8 (tr. David Magie):
He used often to exclaim what he had heard from someone, either a Jew or a Christian, and always remembered, and he also had it announced by a herald whenever he was disciplining anyone, "What you do not wish that a man should do to you, do not do to him." And so highly did he value this sentiment that he had it written up in the Palace and in public buildings.

clamabatque saepius, quod a quibusdam sive Iudaeis sive Christianis audierat et tenebat, idque per praeconem, cum aliquem emendaret, dici iubebat, "quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris." quam sententiam usque adeo dilexit ut et in Palatio et in publicis operibus praescribi iuberet.

praescribi Hermann Peter: perscribi
Mentioned by Albrecht Dihle, Die Goldene Regel: Eine Einführung in die Geschichte der antiken und frühchristlichen Vulgärethik (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1962), p. 10.


Wretched Man, Why Are You Proud?

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud misc. 111, f. 65 = Carleton Brown, Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century, number 133:
Wrecche mon wy artou proud,
þat art of herth I-maked?
hydyr ne browtestou no schroud,
bot pore þou come & naked.
Wen þi soule is faren out,
þi body with erthe y-raked,
þat body þat was so ronk and loud,
Of alle men is i-hated.
In Basil Cottle's translation:
Wretched man, why are you proud,
you who are made of earth?
You brought no garment here,
but came poor and naked.
When your soul has gone out,
and your body is covered over with earth,
that body that was so confident and loud-mouthed
is hated by all men.


The Acquisition of an Old Book is its Rebirth

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), "Unpacking my Library," Selected Writings, Vol. 2, Part 2: 1931-1934 (1999; rpt. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2005) pp. 486-493 (at 486; tr. Harry Zohn; endnotes omitted throughout)
I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. You need not fear any of that. Instead, I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with wood dust, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood—certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation—which these books arouse in a genuine collector.
Id. (at 486-487):
Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories. More than that: the chance, the fate, which suffuse the past before my eyes are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books. For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order? You have all heard of people whom the loss of their books has turned into invalids, or of those who in order to acquire books became criminals. These are the very areas in which any order is nothing more than a hovering above the abyss. "The only exact knowledge there is," said Anatole France, "is the knowledge of the date of publication and the format of books." And indeed, if there is a counterpart to the confusion of a library, it is the order of its catalogue.

Thus, the life of a collector manifests a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order.
Id. (at 487):
Habent sua fata libelli. These words may have been intended as a general statement about books. So books like The Divine Comedy, Spinoza's Ethics, and The Origin of Species have their fates. A collector, however, interprets this Latin saying differently. For him, not only books but also copies of books have their fates. And in this sense, the most important fate of a copy is its encounter with him, with his own collection. I am not exaggerating when I say that to a true collector the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth.
Id. (at 492):
Now I am on the last half-emptied crate, and it is way past midnight. Other thoughts fill me than the ones I am talking about—not thoughts but images, memories. Memories of the cities in which I found so many things: Riga, Naples, Munich, Danzig, Moscow, Florence, Basel, Paris; memories of Rosenthal's sumptuous rooms in Munich, of the Danzig Stockturm, where the late Hans Rhaue was domiciled, of Süssengut's musty book cellar in North Berlin; memories of the rooms where these books had been housed, of my student's den in Munich, of my room in Bern, of the solitude of lseltwald on the Lake of Brienz, and finally of my boyhood room, the former location of only four or five of the several thousand volumes that are piled up around me. O bliss of the collector, bliss of the man of leisure! No one has had less expected of him and no one has had a greater sense of well-being than the man who has been able to carry on his disreputable existence in the guise of Spitzweg's "Bookworm." For inside him there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for a collector—and I mean a real collector, a collector as he ought to be—ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to things. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. So I have erected before you one of his dwellings, with books as the building stones; and now he is going to disappear inside, as is only fitting.

Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885), The Bookworm

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who remarked, "Melancholy to think of the final dwelling the author disappeared inside, in Portbou in Catalonia, far from his books."

Friday, November 10, 2017



Jules Renard, Journal (January 30, 1889; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat.

L'idéal du calme est dans un chat assis.

Hans Thoma (1839-1924), Die Katze (Abendfrieden)

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Heathen Books

R. Hugh Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum: The Syriac Version Translated and Accompanied by the Verona Latin Fragments (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2009), p. 12 (1.6):
But avoid all books of the heathen. For what hast thou to do with strange sayings or laws or lying prophecies, which also turn away from the faith them that are young? For what is wanting to thee in the word of God, that thou shouldst cast thyself upon these fables of the heathen? If thou wouldst read historical narratives, thou hast the Book of Kings; but if wise men and philosophers, thou hast the Prophets, wherein thou shalt find wisdom and understanding more than that of the wise men and philosophers; for they are the words of the one God, the only wise. And if thou wish for songs, thou hast the Psalms of David; but if (thou wouldst read of) the beginning of the world, thou hast the Genesis of the great Moses; and if laws and commandments, thou hast the glorious Law of the Lord God. All strange (writings) therefore, which are contrary (to these), wholly avoid.
The Latin (id., p. 13):
Gentiles autem libros penitus ne tetigeris. Quid enim tibi est cum alienis uerbis uel legibus aut pseudoprofetis, quae facile leuioribus hominibus errorem praestant? Nam quid tibi deest in uerbo Dei, ut ad illas gentiles fabulas [as]pergas? Si uis storias † legere, discurre et habes † Regnorum; si autem sofistica et poetica, habes Profetas, in quibus totius poetiae et sofistiae maiorem † narrationem † inuenies, quoniam domini, qui solus est, sapientia et sonitus sunt. Si uero canticorum desideras, habes Psalmos; si autem initium generationis mundi, habes Genesim; aut si leges et praecepta, habes gloriosam domini legem. Ab omnibus igitur his tam alienis et diabolicis scribturis fortiter te abstine.


Emendation, Translation, and Interpretation of an Inscription

John Hollander (1929-2013), "Early Inscription," Tesserae & Other Poems (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1993), pp. 47-48:

[NIEMAND'S TRANSLATION: We are all born and we all die]

(NIMMERWAHR, 1868) Niemand's suggested emendation, as well as his translation based on it, will plainly not do; among other things, the plain uninterpretability of the text, which alone constitutes its significance, is thereby beclouded.

(SCHWARTZWEISS, 1869) Significance, indeed! "Sing if-"icance, only an easy transposition away, puts Nimmerwahr's whole flimsy matter more accurately. Mere lyrical hypothesis gets us nowhere.

(NIRGENDSWO, 1869) The text is quite clear, and if seemingly "uninterpretable" (thus Nimmerwahr!), only because it is merely so much a commonplace as to be trivial. Niemand's conjecture is, of course, quite sound.

(STILLSCHWEIGEND, 1870) Sound? Sound!!!??? A ridiculous suggestion, all the more dangerous in that it invites the ill-considered judgment to agree with the reductively positive Schwartzweiss, who is, as always, incapable of grasping critical nuance.

(LINDSAY-WOLSEY, 1902) There is something uncanny about Niemand's suggested syllable, which represents, after all, the only intelligible morpheme in the inscription; it is, in the Eastwest dialect, the word for "life." Niemand of course knew nothing of this, and his suggestion is as worthless as is the controversy it has elicited. Still, the very fact that he should have introduced it, sheds some ironic light not on the "meaning" of the text but on the meaning of the conditions generating its mode of reception.

(QUACKENBUSH, 1973) The very power of this fragment to elicit such particularly heavy and humorless debate from nineteenth-century German scholars usually known for their light-handedness and grace in controversy is in some way a function of the resonance of its assertion, particularly in view of the fact that it is now believed to be impossible to assert just what that assertion might be. I am reminded of how ...

(BERTOLDO, 1974) Quackenbush leads us—ha! ha!—into a quackmire. The text says what it says; the English translation from Niemand will do as well as any.

(PETERSCHREIER, 1988) Merely to quote this sentiment [Niemand's "We are all born and we all die." Ed.] is outrageous. We??? This means, as usual, humans, and the whole utterance manifests the worst sort of species-ism. The assertion is an affront to other species who can't be said to "know" that they will die. It is a slippery slope from boasting of the ultimate human knowledge to asserting, vilely, mankind's hegemony over "the garden of Creation."

(VRUN-LÜGNER, 1990) As we now know, Niemand went wrong in not realizing that the inscription falls into two parts that are actually in two different dialects; EIDLLA EW is in the lingua franca of the North, and NROBLLA ERAEW in the form used for inscriptions in the South. Whatever the words may mean, each "half" is a paraphrase of the other. Each says the same thing. Whether, at some level, Niemand's erroneous translation might be a tautology is not for us to consider.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, November 09, 2017


Our Dear Old Culture-Aunties and Uncles

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "On the Charms of History and the Future of the Past," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 133-153 (at 134-135):
Culture, as Emmanuel Berl has pointed out in one of his brilliantly entertaining pamphlets, is like the sum of special knowledge that accumulates in any large united family and is the common property of all its members. 'Do you remember Aunt Agatha's ear trumpet? And how Willie made the parrot drunk with sops in wine? And that picnic on Loch Etive, when the boat upset and Uncle Bob was nearly drowned? Do you remember?' And we all do; and we laugh delightedly; and the unfortunate stranger, who happens to have called, feels utterly out of it. Well, that (in its social aspect) is Culture. When we of the great Culture Family meet, we exchange reminiscences about Grandfather Homer, and that awful old Dr. Johnson, and Aunt Sappho, and poor Johnny Keats. 'And do you remember that absolutely priceless thing Uncle Virgil said? You know. Timeo Danaos ... Priceless; I shall never forget it.' No, we shall never forget it; and what more, we shall take good care that those horrid people who have had the impertinence to call on us, those wretched outsiders who never knew dear mellow old Uncle V., shall never forget it either. We'll keep them constantly reminded of their outsideness. So pleasurable to members of the Culture Family is this rehearsal of tribal gossip, such a glow of satisfied superiority does it give them, that the Times finds it profitable to employ some one to do nothing else but talk to us every morning about our dear old Culture-Aunties and Uncles and their delightful friends.


Some Imaginary Books

Piers Brown, "'Hac ex consilio meo via progredieris': Courtly Reading and Secretarial Mediation in Donne's The Courtier's Library," Renaissance Quarterly 61 (2008) 833-866 (from the text and translation on pp. 858-863):
18. Bonaventura, On Removing the Word Not from the Ten Commandments, and adding it to the Apostles' Creed.

21. The Judges' Handbook, containing the many confessions of poisoners given to Justice Manwood, and used by him afterwards in wiping his buttocks, and in examining his evacuations; now recovered from his servants, and gathered together for his own use, by John Hele.

23. Cardano, On the nothingness of a fart.

18. Bonaventura de particula Non a decalogo adimenda, et Symbolo Apostolorum adiicienda.

21. Manuale justiciariorum, continens plurimas confessiones veneficarum Manwoodo judici exhibitas, et ab illo abstergendis postea natibus, et evacuationibus adhibitas; nunc a servulis suis redemptae, et in usum suum collectae sunt a Io. Helo.

23. Cardanus de nullibietate crepitus.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who drew my attention to Maev Kennedy, "Scurrilous manuscript that could have undone John Donne discovered," The Guardian (November 3, 2017).



Reading in Bed

Robert Browning, "Byzantine Scholarship," Past & Present 28 (July, 1964) 3-20 (at 14):
So far as I know, the first reference to that besetting vice of the literate, reading in bed, occurs in an unpublished letter from the latter part of the [12th] century.21

21 Manuel Karantenos, letter to Constantine Kaloethes, Head of Patriarchal School and later Metropolitan of Madytus, in Vienna MS. phil. gr. 321, fol. 224.
Perhaps published by U. Criscuolo, "Due epistole inedite di Manuele Karenteno o Sarenteno," Bollettino della Badia Greca di Grottaferrata 31 (1977) 103-119 (non vidi).

Eddie and Ruth Frow, reading in bed

Eric Thomson (to whom I owe the picture): "Where else to find the supine of lego than in lecto?"

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Natus Abdomini et Voluptatibus

Historia Augusta, 23: The Two Gallieni 16.1 (tr. David Magie):
... born for his belly and his pleasures ...

... natus abdomini et voluptatibus ...
Jerome, Letters 22.10 (tr. F.A. Wright):
... man obeying his belly rather than God ...

... homo ventri magis obediens quam deo ...
According to Daniël den Hengst, Emperors and Historiography (Leiden: Brill, 2010), p. 198, both authors are probably imitating Cicero, Against Piso 17.41 (tr. N.H Watts):
For that whirlpool, that wastrel born for his belly and not for virtue or renown ...

nam ille gurges atque helluo, natus abdomini suo, non laudi et gloriae ...
If one adopts Bentley's conjecture in Terence, Eunuch 460:
ex homine hunc natum dicas

ex homine codd.: abdomini Bentley
then Cicero in turn might have been adapting Terence's description of the parasite Gnatho.

All of these authors intended their expressions as insults. But would they have been regarded as such by an Epicurean? See Epicurus, fragment 409 Usener = Athenaeus 12.546f:
The beginning and root of every good thing is the pleasure of the belly; both wise things and refined things have reference to this.

ἀρχὴ καὶ ῥίζα παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ ἡ τῆς γαστρὸς ἡδονή· καὶ τὰ σοφὰ καὶ τὰ περιττὰ ἐπὶ ταύτην ἔχει τὴν ἀναφοράν.
Cf. Metrodorus, fragment 41 Körte (from Plutarch, That Epicurus Actually Makes a Pleasant Life Impossible 16 = Moralia 1098 C, tr. Benedict Einarson and Philip H. De Lacy):
We are not called to save the nation or get crowned by it for wisdom; what is called for, my dear Timocrates, is to eat and drink wine, gratifying the belly without harming it.

οὐδὲν δεῖ σῴζειν τοὺς Ἕλληνας οὐδ᾽ ἐπὶ σοφίᾳ στεφάνων παρ᾽ αὐτῶν τυγχάνειν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐσθίειν καὶ πίνειν οἶνον, ὦ Τιμόκρατες, ἀβλαβῶς τῇ γαστρὶ καὶ κεχαρισμένως.

For similar insults see Charles Lamb, "Edax on Appetite," Miscellaneous Prose, ed. E.V. Lucas (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1913), pp. 138-144 (at 139):
The prying republic of which a great school consists, soon found me out: there was no shifting the blame any longer upon other people's shoulders,—no good-natured maid to take upon herself the enormities of which I stood accused in the article of bread and butter, besides the crying sin of stolen ends of puddings, and cold pies strangely missing. The truth was but too manifest in my looks,—in the evident signs of inanition which I exhibited after the fullest meals, in spite of the double allowance which my master was privately instructed by my kind parents to give me. The sense of the ridiculous, which is but too much alive in grown persons, is tenfold more active and alert in boys. Once detected, I was the constant butt of their arrows,—the mark against which every puny leveller directed his little shaft of scorn. The very Graduses and Thesauruses were raked for phrases to pelt me with by the tiny pedants. Ventri natus,—Ventri deditus,—Vesana gula,—Escarum gurges,—Dapibus indulgens,—Non dans froena gulae,—Sectans lautae fercula mensae, resounded wheresoever I past. I lead a weary life, suffering the penalties of guilt for that which was no crime, but only following the blameless dictates of nature. The remembrance of those childish reproaches haunts me yet oftentimes in my dreams.



Arnaldo Momigliano, "How Roman Emperors Became God," American Scholar 55.2 (Spring, 1986) 181-193 (at 182):
[W]e classical scholars are notoriously slow-witted.


Messius' Four-Horse Team

Cassiodorus, Institutions 1.15.7 (tr. Leslie Webber Jones, with his note):
Do not, therefore, wholly follow the rules of Latin style, that is, the Quadriga of Messius,41 when you are convinced of the authority of ancient codices; for upon occasion it is advantageous to overlook the idioms of human speech and to observe instead the criterion of divine communication.

41 Arusianus Messius (ca. A.D. 395). His work is so called (= "the four-horse team") because it contains examples of style taken from Terence, Vergil, Cicero, and Sallust.

Regulas igitur elocutionum Latinorum, id est quadrigam Messii, omnimodis non sequaris, ubi tamen priscorum codicum auctoritate convinceris; expedit enim interdum praetermittere humanarum formulas dictionum, et divini magis eloquii custodire mensuram.
The work survives and can be found in Heinrich Keil, ed., Grammatici Latini, Vol. VII: Scriptores de Orthographia (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1880), pp. 437-514, under the title Arusiani Messii Exempla Elocutionum ex Virgilio, Sallustio, Terentio, Cicerone Digesta per Litteras (with the actual text starting on p. 449). A sample entry, on p. 486:
In rem est pro utile est, Sal. Catil. (20,1) in rem fore credens, Ter. And. (III 3,14) si in rem est.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


Vision of Peace

Historia Augusta, 28: Life of Probus 20.5-6 (tr. David Magie):
"Soon," he said, "we shall have no need of soldiers." What else is this than saying: "Soon there will not be a Roman soldier? Everywhere the commonwealth will reign and will rule all in safety. The entire world will forge no arms and will furnish no rations, the ox will be kept for the plough and the horse be bred for peace, there will be no wars and no captivity, in all places peace will reign, in all places the laws of Rome, and in all places our judges."

"brevi," inquit, "milites necessarios non habebimus." quid est aliud dicere: Romanus iam miles erit nullus? ubique regnabit, omnia possidebit secura res publica. orbis terrarum non arma fabricabitur, non annonam praebebit, boves habebuntur aratro, equus nascetur ad pacem, nulla erunt bella, nulla captivitas, ubique pax, ubique Romanae leges, ubique iudices nostri.

possidebit Salmasius: possidebimus
boves habebuntur aratro Salmasius: vobis habebuntur atra P, vobis Σ
Eutropius, Abridgment of Roman History 9.17 (tr. H.W. Bird):
When he had waged innumerable wars and had obtained peace he stated that in a short time soldiers woud not be necessary.

hic cum bella innumera gessisset, pace parata dixit brevi milites necessarios non futuros.
Sextus Aurelius Victor, On the Emperors 37.3 (tr. H.W. Bird):
For this reason, when all those regions had been recovered and pacified, it is reported that he stated that in a short time soldiers would be unnecessary.

qua causa receptis omnibus pacatisque dixisse proditur brevi milites frustra fore.

Monday, November 06, 2017


The Highest Form of Life

Louis John Paetow, paraphrase of John of Garland, Morale Scolarium, chapter XII (In Praise of the Modest Life of Scholars), in "Morale Scolarium of John of Garland (Johannes of Garlandia), a Professor in the Universities of Paris and Toulouse in the Thirteenth Century," Memoirs of the University of California 4.2 (1927) 69-273 (at 162-163):
Jesus Christ, blessed son of holy Mary, guide and companion of life, excellent judge, avenger of Uriah, come to the assistance of poor scholars, you who have pity on the poor, who suffer the strong to fall ill and who heal the sick. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, penetrating into our inmost thoughts, govern us. Son of Mary, light of the sea, O Christ, with supernal power, take away from us the persecutions of the world, visit the humble lodgings of harried students, the firstborn of Egypt, thou who dost shine in the glory of the clergy. The poor scholar is overcome by study, not deprived of virtue; moreover, the rich man, who does not study and who lives in his high houses, gives poor scholars the heehaws and even blows. I eat sparingly in my little room, not high up in a castle; I have no silver money, nor do the Fates give me estates. Beets, beans, and peas are here looked upon as fine dishes, and we joke about meat which is not on our menu for a very good reason. The size of the bottle of wine on the table depends on the burse which is never large, and which is the weekly statement of expenditure made on oath. Intellectual virtue becomes potent only when it is followed by active or customary virtue which deserves reward because it leads to good works. This scholastic life is the highest form of life; it gives boys such a cleansing of mind and of body that these erstwhile dummies can explain the causes of eclipses of sun and moon, what keeps the sea within bounds, by what force the earth is rent asunder in earthquakes, whence come hail, snow, rain, and lightning, and what makes the days long in summer and short in winter.


Final Destination

Simonides, fragment 522 (tr. David A. Campbell):
For all things arrive at one single horrible Charybdis,
great excellences and wealth alike.

πάντα γὰρ μίαν ἱκνεῖται δασπλῆτα Χάρυβδιν,
αἱ μεγάλαι τ᾿ ἀρεταὶ καὶ ὁ πλοῦτος.

1 post γὰρ add. ἐς Page
Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Vol. I (Leiden: Brill, 2010), p. 305, s.v. δασπλῆτις: "of unknown meaning; used of the Erinyes, Hekate, the Eumenids, etc." and also of unknown etymology. Likewise Arie Hoekstra, commentary on Homer, Odyssey 15.234.

Wilhelm Trübner (1851-1917), Vanitas-Stillleben


La Plus Richa Joya Qui Al Mont Sia

Peter Lock, The Franks in the Aegean, 1204-1500 (1995; rpt. London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 299-300 (footnotes omitted):
Surprisingly the Latin occupation of Constantinople and the Aegean did not contribute significantly to the knowledge of the classics in the west. There were signs of an interest in Greek manuscripts on the part of a few exceptional scholars like William, a monk of St Denys who brought codices from Constantinople in 1167, but teachers and manuscripts in Greek were in short supply in the west in the twelfth century. Those involved in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 were not classical scholars; their concern was for precious metals and reliquaries and clearly libraries were not spared in their search for loot. Byzantine scholars of the late twelfth century like Eustathios of Thessalonika, Michael Choniates and John Tzetzes, a schoolmaster from Constantinople, had all read texts which disappeared forever in 1204, like works by Callimachus and Hipponax. Manuscript hunters from Italy did not tour the Aegean until the fifteenth century, but a modest start was made from a quite unexpected quarter, namely the diocese of Lincoln in England. When he became bishop in 1235 Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168-1253) was just getting into his stride as a Greek scholar. Both the chronicler Matthew Paris and the friar Roger Bacon described how the bishop gathered scholars and texts around him to assist in his translations of Greek theological works and, later, Aristotle's Nichomachaean Ethics. John of Basingstoke (d. 1252), who had visited Athens in the early thirteenth century, was made archdeacon of Leicester within months of his election. It may well have been he who stimulated the sending to foreign parts for scholars. Bacon stated that there were many Greeks in England and France at this time but only a very few who taught Greek correctly. Two of these 'veri Graeci' were in the Grosseteste circle — Robert Graecus and a magister Nicholas Graecus who seems to have been a clerk connected with the Abbey of St Albans which presented him to the church of Datchet (Bucks.) in 1239 and who in 1246 became a canon in Lincoln. Apart from the translation work, the 'Parcioarium', a Graeco-Latin lexicon, which made much use of the Suda in the bishop's translation, might also be attributed to this circle. It survives today in the College of Arms and was described by the late M.R. James as a monument to the study of Greek in thirteenth century England. Grosseteste did something to remedy the lack of teachers and books and his coincidence in time with the Latin occupation of the Aegean should not be dismissed lightly. He certainly inspired Roger Bacon (c. 1214-92), who regarded him as a pioneer in Greek studies, to produce a Greek grammar in the 1270s and to emphasise the importance of the Greek Fathers to theological studies, but both men were ahead of their times.
Id., p. 301:
This interest [in Greek history] did not extend to the preservation of ancient statuary about which attitudes were ambivalent. The magnificent group of gilded bronze horses were brought back to grace the facade of the basilica of San Marco but the bronze statues of pagan deities were melted down for small change. As Professor Setton has emphasized, the first aesthetic eulogy of a classical site from a western pen was written by Pedro IV of Aragon in 1388 when he described the Acropolis as 'the most precious jewel there is in the world' (la plus richa joya qui al mont sia). The king had never seen the Acropolis but was clearly moved by the accounts of those of his subjects like John Boyl who had.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Hello Mike,

I very much enjoyed the vigorous advice on bringing up young men dispensed by the bishop of London ('Punishment in school' 22 Oct.). The reference to 'beastliness' as warranting an immediate thrashing perhaps needs a scholion, given that the euphemism has entirely disappeared from the language. It is, I assume, an allusion to "the secret vice which gets hold of so many fellows. It is called in our schools 'beastliness', and that is about the best name for it". (R. Baden-Powell, Scouting for boys (7th ed. London 1915) p.196, under the heading of 'Continence'. The 7th ed. is available at (; first ed. was 1908.)

All the best,
Neil [O'Sullivan]

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Sunday, November 05, 2017



Thomas Ingoldsby (i.e. Richard Harris Barham), "The Old Woman's Cat," The Ingoldsby Lyrics (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1881), pp. 91-93:
The old woman sat in her rush-bottom'd chair,
And she snorted and sniff'd with her nose in the air;
            "Dear me! dear me!
            What's this?" quoth she;
"Here's a very bad smell; why, what can it be?
            I'll wager a hat
            It's that horrid Tom cat
      Has been on the rug, or the carpet, or mat;
            All this has been
            From his being shut in.
Betty, go run for Carpenter Gore,
Make him cut a great hole by the sill of the door,
And the cat will get out and annoy us no more."

Straight at the little old woman's command
Came Carpenter Gore with his saw in his hand,
And he saw'd and he chisel'd, and close by the floor
He cut a great hole by the sill of the door;
And the little old woman began for to snore,
            For now, without doubt,
            As the cat could get out,
She conceived he would "never do so any more."
            But when she awoke
            She was ready to choke;
            Oh dear! how she wheez'd
            And snuff'd and sneez'd,
For the smell was a hundred times worse than before.

The old woman bann'd and the old woman swore,
And she vented her spite upon Carpenter Gore;
But Carpenter Gore cared little for that,
He put up his saw and he put on his hat,
And to Betty he said with a grin:
            "A hole, no doubt,
            That lets one cat out
Will let half a score cats in!"

Little old women, wherever ye be,
Gentle or simple, come listen to me—
            Beware how you storm,
            And bawl for Reform,
And great alterations begin,
            Lest, in going about,
            To rout one grievance out,
You let half a score come in.
Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat.



Jules Renard, Journal (November 25, 1887; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
It is in the heart of the city that one writes the most inspired pages about the country.

C'est en pleine ville qu'on écrit les plus belles pages sur la campagne.


Always a Child

Cicero, Orator 34.120 (tr. H.M. Hubbell):
To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?

nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?


Turning Back the Clock

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), What's Wrong with the World (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1910), p. 41:
There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.

Saturday, November 04, 2017



Cicero, On Divination 1.58.132 (tr. W.A. Falconer):
I will assert, however, in conclusion, that I do not recognize fortune-tellers, or those who prophesy for money, or necromancers, or mediums, whom your friend Appius makes it a practice to consult. In fine, I say, I do not care a fig for Marsian augurs, village mountebanks, astrologers who haunt the circus grounds, or Isis-seers, or dream interpreters: —for they are not diviners either by knowledge or skill,—
But superstitious bards, soothsaying quacks,
Averse to work, or mad, or ruled by want,
Directing others how to go, and yet
What road to take they do not know themselves;
From those to whom they promise wealth they beg
A coin. From what they promised let them take
Their coin as toll and pass the balance on.
Such are the words of Ennius...

nunc illa testabor, non me sortilegos neque eos qui quaestus causa hariolentur, ne psychomantia quidem, quibus Appius, amicus tuus, uti solebat, agnoscere; non habeo denique nauci Marsum augurem, non vicanos haruspices, non de circo astrologos, non Isiacos coniectores, non interpretes somnium; non enim sunt ii aut scientia aut arte divini,
sed superstitiosi vates inpudentesque harioli
aut inertes aut insani aut quibus egestas imperat,
qui sibi semitam non sapiunt alteri monstrant viam;
quibus divitias pollicentur ab iis drachumam ipsi petunt.
de his divitiis sibi deducant drachumam, reddant cetera.
atque haec quidem Ennius...
It would be an easy matter to enumerate their modern equivalents. "I do not recognize pundits, gurus, television preachers," etc. I especially like the line "qui sibi semitam non sapiunt alteri monstrant viam."

A.S. Pease in his commentary on De Divinatione takes five pages of double columns in fine print to explicate this passage.


A Compliment?

Diskin Clay, "Greek Poets and Strangers: A Memoir," Arion 18.3 (Winter, 2011) 123-147 (at 127-128):
There [on Santorini] we stayed at the Hotel Atlantis, where we were the only foreigners. I got to speak with a judge on the island — he had been sending glasses of ouzo to our table, and I went over to the bar to treat him to a glass of ouzo. When he learned that I was studying the classics, he began speaking Latin — habeas corpus, mandamus, e pluribus unum. When he left the hotel, a group of amazed Greeks asked me about the judge's command of Latin. I told them that he spoke Latin that would make Cicero ashamed.


Seneca and His Bookcase

Dear Mike,

Apropos Crabbe's library, I'm not sure Seneca's was any less chaotic, to judge from this lovely miniature, from the Catalan monastery of Sant Cugat, now in the Archives of the Crown of Aragón in Barcelona.

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

Friday, November 03, 2017


More Meaning Than the Whole Human Race

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), "Their Beauty Has More Meaning," The Collected Poetry, Vol. 3: 1938-1962 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), p. 119:
Yesterday morning enormous the moon hung low on the ocean,
Round and yellow-rose in the glow of dawn;
The night herons flapping home wore dawn on their wings. To-day
Black is the ocean, black and sulphur the sky,
And white seas leap. I honestly do not know which day is more beautiful.
I know that to-morrow or next year or in twenty years
I shall not see these things: — and it does not matter, it does not hurt;
They will be here. And when the whole human race
Has been like me rubbed out, they will still be here: storms, moon and ocean,
Dawn and the birds. And I say this: their beauty has more meaning
Than the whole human race and the race of birds.


Hymn to the Moon

Orphic Hymns, 9: To Selene (tr. Apostolos N. Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow):
Hear me, O divine queen,
O light-bringing and splendid Selene,
O bull-horned Moon,
crossing the air as you race with night.
Nocturnal, torch-bearing,        3
maiden of beautiful stars, O Moon,
waxing and waning,
feminine and masculine,
luminous, lover of horses,
mother of time, bearer of fruit,
amber-colored, moody,        6
shining in the night,
all-seeing and vigilant,
surrounded by beautiful stars,
you delight in the quiet
and in the richness of the night,
you grant fulfillment and favor        9
as, like a jewel, you shine in the night.
Long-cloaked marshal of the stars,
wise maiden whose motion is circular,
come, O blessed and gentle lady,
lady of the stars, through your own light
shine and save, O maiden,        12
your new initiates.
The Greek, from Wilhelm Quandt, ed., Orphei Hymni, 2nd ed. (1955; rpt. Hildesheim: Weidmann, 2005), p. 9:
Κλῦθι, θεὰ βασίλεια, φαεσφόρε, δῖα Σελήνη,
ταυρόκερως Μήνη, νυκτιδρόμε, ἠεροφοῖτι,
ἐννυχία, δαιδοῦχε, κόρη, εὐάστερε, † Μήνη,
αὐξομένη καὶ λειπομένη, θῆλύς τε καὶ ἄρσην,
αὐγάστειρα, φίλιππε, χρόνου μῆτερ, φερέκαρπε,        5
ἠλεκτρίς, βαρύθυμε, καταυγάστειρα, † νυχία,
πανδερκής, φιλάγρυπνε, καλοῖς ἄστροισι βρύουσα,
ἡσυχίηι χαίρουσα καὶ εὐφρόνηι ὀλβιομοίρωι,
λαμπετίη, χαριδῶτι, τελεσφόρε, νυκτὸς ἄγαλμα,
ἀστράρχη, τανύπεπλ', ἑλικοδρόμε, πάνσοφε κούρη,        10
ἐλθέ, μάκαιρ', εὔφρων, εὐάστερε, φέγγεϊ τρισσῶι
λαμπομένη, σώζουσα νέους ἱκέτας σέο, κούρη.
In line 11 the translators keep the manuscript τῷ σῷ (not Platt's conjecture τρισσῷ, which Quandt adopts).


But Do We Really Know This?

Editorial Board, "AJP Today," American Journal of Philology 108.3 (Autumn, 1987) vii-x (at x):
[A]ll of us who are engaged in scholarly work should have the courage, when necessary, to confess our ignorance or, at least, our uncertainty. It is useful to ask, now and then, the simple question: "But do we really know this?" The tendency today is to rely on a system, a theory, a 'synthesis,' which seems to provide all the answers and to claim an authority which will, almost inevitably, be challenged by the next generation. It is often tempting to write: "As X (or Y or Z) has shown conclusively, ...", but the question remains: "Has he really shown anything?" There are very few certainties in this business, and our ignorance is great, but there is comfort and truth in Grotius' reminder: etiam quaedam nescire magna scientia est.

Thursday, November 02, 2017


Harmless Pursuits

Vauvenargues (1715-1747), Reflections and Maxims, no. 120 (tr. F.G. Stevens):
When a pursuit is harmless we should laugh at those who seek to dissuade us from it.

Lorsqu'une chose ne peut pas nous nuire, il faut nous moquer de ceux qui nous en détournent.


Against Homogenization

G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News (January 2, 1926):
If I dislike England being Americanised, I can fairly claim that I have always protested in the past against America being Anglicised. I think a nation is never so good as when it is national and never so bad as when it is international.


Classical Bowdlerization

The Scriptores Historiae Augustae, with an English Translation by David Magie, Vol. II (1924; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980 = Loeb Classical Library, 140), pp. 116-117 (Life of Antoninus Heliogabalus 6.5; footnotes omitted):
Hieroclem vero sic amavit ut eidem inguina oscularetur, quod dictum etiam inverecundum est, Floralia sacra se adserens celebrare.

And such was his passion for Hierocles that he kissed him in a place which it is indecent even to mention, declaring that he was celebrating the festival of Flora.
The Latin does mention the place (inguina), but the translation omits it. I don't see the Historia Augusta or Magie listed in the index of Stephen Harrison and Christopher Stray, edd., Expurgating the Classics: Editing Out in Greek and Latin (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2012).

In the same Loeb Classical Library volume, for beaste read beasts (p. 147) and for Richis read Rich is (p. 293). Both typographical errors (as well as the omission discussed above) persist in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.

Related post: Mutilation.


Wednesday, November 01, 2017


Always Busy, Never Bored

The Life of George Crabbe By His Son (London: Oxford University Press, 1932), p. 127:
As the chief characteristic of his heart was benevolence, so that of his mind was a buoyant exuberance of thought and perpetual exercise of intellect. Thus he had an inexhaustible resource within himself, and never for a moment, I may say, suffered under that ennui which drives so many from solitude to the busy search for notoriety. I can safely assert that, from the earliest time I recollect him, down to the fifth or sixth year before his death, I never saw him (unless in company) seated in a chair, enjoying what is called a lounge — that is to say, doing nothing. Out of doors he had always some object in view — a flower, or a pebble, or his note-book, in his hand; and in the house, if he was not writing, he was reading.
"If he was not writing, he was reading" — cf. Sulpicius Severus, Dialogues 1.9.5 (describing Jerome in Bethlehem), in Sulpicii Severi Opera ex rec. C. Halmii (Vienna, 1866 = Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, I), p. 161:
totus semper in lectione, totus in libris est: non die neque nocte requiescit: aut legit aliquid semper aut scribit.

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