Sunday, February 26, 2017


Upright Saints

Stavros Deligiorgis, "Boccaccio and the Greek Romances," Comparative Literature 19.2 (Spring, 1967) 97-113 (at 108), discussing Boccaccio's "San Cresci-in-Valcava" (Decameron 2.7):
...a form derived from the Latin crisco...
There is a Latin verb cresco, but not crisco. Is this a Freudian slip, unconsciously recalling the use of Crisco vegetable shortening as a lubricant?

On Boccaccio's two saints "San Cresci-in-Mano" and "San Cresci-in-Valcava," both mentioned in Decameron 2.7, see the definitions in John Florio (1553?-1625), A Worlde of Wordes. A Critical Edition with an Introduction by Hermann W. Haller (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), p. 594 (p. 342, col. 3, of the 1598 edition; p. 462, col. 2, of the 1611 edition):
SAN CRESCI IN MANO, used for a mans pricke, bicause it growes in ones hand.

SANCRESCI IN VALLE, used for a mans prick bicause it riseth in a hollow cave.

From Eric Thomson:
I think these two saints are the object of universal vener(y)ation.

They have certainly risen in stature in my estimation after reading Florio's gloss. San Crisco in Mano is obviously a saint of last resort for horny-handed sons of toil but not to be despised.

Spiritually akin to these two saints in Boccaccio is Rabelais' Saint Andouille (1.17). See Jacques E. Merceron, "Saints, Imaginary," The Rabelais Encyclopedia, ed. Elizabeth Chesney Zegura (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004), pp. 218-219 (at 218).

Dear Mike,

I attach portions of a couple of relevant pages from Valter Boggione & Giovanni Casalegno's Dizionario letterario del lessico amoroso: metafore, eufemismi, trivialismi (Turin, UTET, 2000). References:

Belo = F. Belo: El Beco (Rome, 1538)
G. Gozzi = G. Gozzi: Rime burlesche inedite, ed. E. Falqui (Florence, 1938)
Bevilaqua = A. Bevilaqua: L'Eros (Milan, 1994)
Benigni = R. Benigni: E l'alluce fu (Turin, 1996)

You'll note from p. 500 that there is a Beato Crisco, which is perhaps the source of the error. There are many references to him in Google Books.

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

Boggione & Casalegno, p. 142:

Boggione & Casalegno, pp. 500-501:



An Insatiable Desire

Petrarch, Familiar Letters 3.18, to Giovanni dell'Incisa (tr. Betty Radice):
Here, brother, is a topic which I have hitherto been too forgetful or too lazy to mention. If you will permit me to boast in your hearing, I should like to do so now, on the one subject where it can be safely allowed. I have been largely, if not wholly, delivered from the burning of nearly every human desire by divine mercy — for this is surely heaven-sent, whether it has come to me through natural virtue or in course of time. Widening experience and deep reflection have led me to understand at last the true value of the passions which inflame mankind.

But lest you think me innocent of every human failing, let me add that I am in the grip of one insatiable desire which so far I have been quite unable to control. Nor indeed have I wished to do so, preferring to excuse myself with the thought that a desire for worthy objects cannot be unworthy in itself. You will want to know what I am suffering from: books are the answer, and the impossibility of getting enough of them. Maybe I have more than I need, but it is the same with books as with everything else — success finding them spurs one on to greed for more. There is moreover something special about books; gold and silver, jewels and purple raiment, marble halls and well-tended fields, pictures and horses in all their trappings, and everything else of that kind can afford only passing pleasure with nothing to say, whereas books can worm the heart with friendly worlds and counsel, entering into a close relationship with us which is articulate and alive.

Quod sepe olim vel oblivio vel torpor abstulit, attingam, frater. Si gloriari licet apud te, gloriabor in illo in quo solo gloriari tutum est: fere iam ex omnibus humanarum cupiditatum ardoribus, etsi non totum, magna tamen ex parte, divina me pietas eripuit; e celo enim est, seu id michi nature bonitas seu dies prestiterit. Multa quidem videndo multumque cogitando, intelligere tandem cepi quanti sint studia hec, quibus mortale genus exestuat.

Ne tamen ab omnibus hominum piaculis immunem putes, una inexplebilis cupiditas me tenet, quam frenare hactenus nec potui certe nec volui; michi enim interblandior honestarum rerum non inhonestam esse cupidinem. Expectas audire morbi genus? libris satiari nequeo. Et habeo plures forte quam oportet; sed sicut in ceteris rebus, sic et in libris accidit: querendi successus avaritie calcar est. Quinimo, singulare quiddam in libris est: aurum, argentum, gemme, purpurea vestis, marmorea domus, cultus ager, picte tabule, phaleratus sonipes, ceteraque id genus, mutam habent et superficiariam voluptatem; libri medullitus delectant, colloquuntur, consulunt et viva quadam nobis atque arguta familiaritate iunguntur, neque solum se se lectoribus quisque suis insinuat, sed et aliorum nomen ingerit et alter alterius desiderium facit.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Multum Legendum, Non Multa

Martin Luther, Table Talk, No. 2894a (January 1533; tr. Theodore G. Tappert):
A student who doesn't want his work to go for nothing ought to read and reread some good author until the author becomes part, as it were, of his flesh and blood. Scattered reading confuses more than it teaches. Many books, even good ones, have the same effect on the student. So he is like the man who dwells everywhere and therefore dwells nowhere. Just as in human society we don't enjoy the fellowship of every friend every day, but only of a few chosen ones, so we ought to do in our studies.

Ein Student, der seine Mühe nicht verlieren möchte, der sollte irgend einen guten Schriftsteller so lesen und wieder lesen, daß er ihm gleichsam in Fleisch und Blut überginge. Denn unnützes Lesen verwirrt, lehrt nicht. Ebenso macht das Lesen vieler, aber guter Sachen den Studierenden zu einem solchen, der überall zu Hause ist, und darum nirgends. Und wie wir in der menschlichen Gesellschaft nicht jeden Tag mit jedem einzelnen Freunde Freundschaft pflegen, sondern mit auserlesenen, so sollte es auch im Studium sein.
Related post: Advice on Reading.



Emil Cioran (1911-1995), De l'inconvénient d'être né, part VIII (tr. ‎Richard Howard):
"You're against everything that's been done since the last war," said the very up-to-date lady.

"You've got the wrong date: I'm against everything that's been done since Adam."

— Vous êtes contre tout ce qu'on a fait depuis la dernière guerre, me disait cette dame à la page.

— Vous vous trompez de date. Je suis contre tout ce qu'on a fait depuis Adam.


How to Become Famous

Lucian, A Professor of Public Speaking 22 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
Effrontery and shamelessness, a prompt lie, with an oath to confirm it always on the edge of your lips, jealousy and hatred of everyone, abuse and plausible slanders — all this will make you famous and distinguished in an instant.

ἡ τόλμα γὰρ καὶ ἡ ἀναισχυντία καὶ ψεῦδος πρόχειρον καὶ ὅρκος ἐπ᾿ ἄκροις ἀεὶ τοῖς χείλεσι καὶ φθόνος πρὸς ἅπαντας καὶ μῖσος καὶ βλασφημία καὶ διαβολαὶ πιθαναί — ταῦτά σε ἀοίδιμον ἐν βραχεῖ καὶ περίβλεπτον ἀποφανεῖ.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Corrections Welcome

Lucian, Anacharsis 17 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
And take care not to regard everything that I may say to you as a law, so as to believe it at all hazards. Whenever you think I am incorrect in anything that I say, contradict me at once and set my reasoning straight. One thing or the other, certainly, we cannot fail to accomplish: either you will become firmly convinced after you have exhausted all the objections that you think ought to be made, or else I shall be taught that I am not correct in my view of the matter.

καὶ ὅπως μὴ καθάπερ νόμοις προσέξεις οἷς ἂν λέγω πρὸς σέ, ὡς ἐξ ἅπαντος πιστεύειν αὐτοῖς, ἀλλ᾿ ἔνθα ἄν σοι μὴ ὀρθῶς τι λέγεσθαι δοκῇ, ἀντιλέγειν εὐθὺς καὶ διευθύνειν τὸν λόγον. δυοῖν γὰρ θατέρου πάντως οὐκ ἂν ἁμάρτοιμεν, ἢ σὲ βεβαίως πεισθῆναι ἐκχέαντα ὁπόσα οἴει ἀντιλεκτέα εἶναι ἢ ἐμὲ ἀναδιδαχθῆναι ὡς οὐκ ὀρθῶς γιγνώσκω περὶ αὐτῶν.


Religious and Political Conflict

Emil Cioran (1911-1995), De l'inconvénient d'être né, part VIII (tr. ‎Richard Howard):
I read some pages on Jovinian, Saint Basil, and several others. The conflict, during the first centuries of Christianity, between orthodoxy and heresy seems no more insane than the one to which modern ideologies have accustomed us. The modalities of the controversy, the passions at work, the follies and the absurdities, are almost identical. In both cases, everything turns on the unreal and the unverifiable, which form the very basis of either religious or political dogmas. History would be tolerable only if we escaped both kinds. True, it would then cease altogether, for the great good of everyone—those who endure it as well as those who make it.

Je lis des pages sur Jovinien, saint Basile et quelques autres. Le conflit, aux premiers siècles, entre l'orthodoxie et l'hérésie, ne paraît pas plus insensé que celui auquel nous ont accoutumés les idéologies modernes. Les modalités de la controverse, les passions en jeu, les folies et les ridicules, sont quasi identiques. Dans les deux cas, tout tourne autour de l'irréel et de l'invérifiable, qui forment les assises mêmes des dogmes tant religieux que politiques. L'histoire ne serait tolérable que si on échappait et aux uns et aux autres. Il est vrai qu'elle cesserait alors, pour le plus grand bien de tous, de ceux qui la subissent, comme de ceux qui la font.



Bendt Alster, "Paradoxical Proverbs and Satire in Sumerian Literature," Journal of Cuneiform Studies 27.4 (October, 1975) 201-230 (at 212):
The fox urinated into the sea:
"The sea—(all) its surface(?) is my urine!" (he said).
The fox urinated into the Tigris:
"I am causing the high tide to rise!" (he said).


Not Altogether in Favor of Progress

Michael King (1945-2004), Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native (Auckland: Penguin Books, 1999), pp. 74-75:
In 1969 I was asked to cover the Cook Bicentenary celebrations in Mercury Bay. There, on the beach where James Cook and his men observed the transit of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun in November 1769 and claimed possession of the surrounding countryside in the name of King George III, I heard gentle and implicit criticism of policies that seemed at that time destined to reshape the peninsula's future appearance and economic growth. The keynote speaker was the chairman of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the great Cook scholar and former teacher at my first university, J.C. Beaglehole. His idea of a fitting memorial to James Cook, he told the large crowd, 'is a place left as nearly as possible as he found it — so that you can, when conditions are favourable, almost feel his presence. I am not altogether in favour of progress, development, of more and more people living in more and more houses — even if the people and houses are undeniably nice. There is something very satisfactory about a waste of sandhills.' The irony was not lost on the audience. Only weeks before planning permission had been given to subdivide the very sandhills of which the professor was speaking.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


A Lovable Buffoon

M.L. West (1937-2015), "Prolegomena" to Hesiod, Works & Days (1978; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 69 (footnote omitted):
The next commentary after Proclus' was written by that lovable buffoon, John Tzetzes, about 1135-40. Actually it is the text of his lectures, delivered to an audience to whom he had supplied a text equipped with interlinear glosses. As lectures they must have been entertaining. For example, discussion of physical theory apropos of lines 414-22 leads him to observe that some people are naturally fragrant; so it is reported of Alexander the Great; 'and I myself have been often assured of it, although I do not use scents or anoint myself, or take baths either, except two or three times a year'.


Decline and Fall

Emil Cioran (1911-1995), De l'inconvénient d'être né, part VIII (tr. ‎Richard Howard):
Alaric claimed that a "demon" drove him against Rome. Every exhausted civilization awaits its barbarian, and every barbarian awaits his demon.

Alaric disait qu'un «démon» le poussait contre Rome. Toute civilisation exténuée attend son barbare, et tout barbare attend son démon.
Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 7.10 (tr. A.C. Zenos):
It is said that as he was advancing towards Rome, a pious monk exhorted him not to delight in the perpetuation of such atrocities, and no longer to rejoice in slaughter and blood. To whom Alaric replied, "I am not going on in this course of my own will; but there is a something that irresistibly impels me daily, saying, 'Proceed to Rome, and desolate that city.'"

λέγεται δὲ ὡς ἀπιόντι αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τὴν Ῥώμην εὐλαβής τις ἀνὴρ, μοναχὸς τὸν βίον, παρῄνει, "μὴ ἐπιχαίρειν ἐν τηλικούτοις κακοῖς, μηδὲ χαίρειν φόνοις καὶ αἵμασιν." ὁ δὲ, "οὐκ ἐγὼ," ἔφη, "ἐθελοντὴς ἐπὶ τὰ ἐκεῖ πορεύομαι· ἀλλά τις καθ' ἑκάστην ὀχλεῖ μοι βασανίζων, καὶ λέγων, ἄπιθι, τὴν Ῥωμαίων πόρθησον πόλιν."


A Constitutional Right

Emil Cioran (1911-1995), De l'inconvénient d'être né, part VIII (tr. ‎Richard Howard):
The right to suppress everyone that bothers us should rank first in the constitution of the ideal State.

Le droit de supprimer tous ceux qui nous agacent devrait figurer en première place dans la constitution de la Cité idéale.


Odium Philosophicum

Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum 1.8.27 (tr. H. Rackham):
Insult and abuse, or ill-tempered wrangling and bitter, obstinate controversy are beneath the dignity of philosophy.

maledicta, contumeliae, tum iracundae contentiones concertationesque in disputando pertinaces indignae philosophia mihi videri solent.


The Bibliotheca Latrina

James Duff Brown (1862-1914), The Small Library: A Guide to the Collection and Care of Books (London: George Routledge & Sons Limited, 1907), pp. 44-45:
[T]he Bibliotheca Latrina, as this department of the Household Library may be called, has a considerable claim to attention, and its furnishing with books should be undertaken along with the rest of the house. Considering the peculiar characteristics of the apartment in question, and the large amount of desultory reading which takes place in it, the books procured must necessarily be of a slight and unsustained kind. A capital class of book, eminently suitable for the purpose, will be found in small collections of anecdotes like Joe Miller, Chambers, Seton, Laird of Logan, and dozens of others which need not be named. Books of aphorisms, like MacNish or Smith's Tin Trumpet; short moral reflections, like those of La Rochefoucauld; or amusing works, like Beresford's Miseries of Human Life, (an admirable book which ought to be reprinted at once); and all short and pithy collections, such as proverbs, epigrams, etc., might with perfect propriety find a place in the Bibliotheca Latrina. In this, as in other departments of the Household Library, ultimate selection of books must be left to the individual tastes and preferences of householders; but the object of this paragraph will be gained if it succeeds in preventing the claims of the Bibliotheca Latrina from being entirely overlooked.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


A Dedication to Artemis

Dedication to Artemis Proseoia (dawn-facing Artemis), in the Artemisium district of Euboea, preserved by Plutarch, Life of Themistocles 8.3 (my translation):
Sons of the Athenians, having once in this part of the sea overpowered in a battle of ships races of all sorts of men from the country of Asia, set up these tokens for Maid Artemis after the host of the Medes perished.

παντοδαπῶν ἀνδρῶν γενεὰς Ἀσίας ἀπὸ χώρας
    παῖδες Ἀθηναίων τῷδέ ποτ᾿ ἐν πελάγει
ναυμαχίῃ δαμάσαντες, ἐπεὶ στρατὸς ὤλετο Μήδων
    σήματα ταῦτ᾿ ἔθεσαν παρθένῳ Ἀρτέμιδι.
Commentary in D.L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 236-238, who remarks (at 236-237):
The contents are remarkable. The Athenian fleet at Artemisium was indeed almost as large as that of all the other allies together (Hdt. 8.1; 127 ships out of 267), and the Athenians greatly distinguished themselves both in the first battle (Hdt. 8.11.2, an Athenian won the prize of valour, τὸ ἀριστήιον) and in the second (8.17, the Athenians ἠρίστευσαν); but it is remarkable that they should have claimed all the credit, to the exclusion of nine allied states, in a public inscription in an Euboean temple. Moreover the phrase ναυμαχίαι exaggerates greatly. The outcome of the two sea-battles at Artemisium was indecisive (Hdt. 8.11 and 16), and though it is understandable that the Greeks should claim to have had the better of either or both, the verb is much too strong, even if it takes account of the fortuitous destruction of two hundred Persian ships in a storm off south-west Euboea (Hdt. 8.13-14), remote from the fighting.

The editors appear to impute a vastly greater exaggeration by putting a comma after ἐπεὶ στρατὸς ὤλετο Μήδων, as if this clause referred backwards; but to say that 'the Persian host perished' at Artemisium would be a ridiculous untruth, hollow gasconade of a type alien to early inscriptions. The clause looks forward, 'they made these dedications after the destruction of the Persian army', i.e. after the final expulsion of the Persians from Hellas.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Unmanly versus Manly Complexions

Lucian, Anacharsis 25 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
You can imagine, I suppose, the consequence—what they are likely to be with arms in hand when even unarmed they would implant fear in the enemy. They show no white and ineffective corpulence or pallid leanness, as if they were women's bodies bleached out in the shade, quivering and streaming with profuse sweat at once and panting beneath the helmet, especially if the sun, as at present, blazes with the heat of noon. What use could one make of men like that, who get thirsty, who cannot stand dust, who break ranks the moment they catch sight of blood, who lie down and die before they get within a spear's cast and come to grips with the enemy?

But these young men of ours have a ruddy skin, coloured darker by the sun, and manly faces; they reveal great vitality, fire, and courage; they are aglow with such splendid condition; they are neither lean and emaciated nor so full-bodied as to be heavy, but symmetrical in their lines; they have sweated away the useless and superfluous part of their tissues, but what made for strength and elasticity is left upon them uncontaminated by what is worthless, and they maintain it vigorously.

Ἐννοεῖς γάρ, οἶμαι, τὸ μετὰ τοῦτο, οἵους εἰκὸς σὺν ὅπλοις ἔσεσθαι τοὺς καὶ γυμνοὺς ἂν φόβον τοῖς δυσμενέσιν ἐμποιήσαντας, οὐ πολυσαρκίαν ἀργὸν καὶ λευκὴν ἢ ἀσαρκίαν μετὰ ὠχρότητος ἐπιδεικνυμένους οἷα γυναικῶν σώματα ὑπὸ σκιᾷ μεμαρασμένα, τρέμοντα ἱδρῶτί τε πολλῷ εὐθὺς ῥεόμενα καὶ ἀσθμαίνοντα ὑπὸ τῷ κράνει, καὶ μάλιστα ἢν καὶ ὁ ἥλιος ὥσπερ νῦν τὸ μεσημβρινὸν ἐπιφλέγῃ. οἷς τί ἄν τις χρήσαιτο διψῶσι καὶ τὸν κονιορτὸν οὐκ ἀνεχομένοις καὶ εἰ αἷμα ἴδοιεν, εὐθὺς ταραττομένοις καὶ προαποθνήσκουσι πρὶν ἐντὸς βέλους γενέσθαι καὶ εἰς χεῖρας ἐλθεῖν τοῖς πολεμίοις;

Οὗτοι δὲ ἡμῖν ὑπέρυθροι εἰς τὸ μελάντερον ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου κεχρωσμένοι καὶ ἀρρενωποί, πολὺ τὸ ἔμψυχον καὶ θερμὸν καὶ ἀνδρῶδες ἐπιφαίνοντες, τοσαύτης εὐεξίας ἀπολάμποντες, οὔτε ῥικνοὶ καὶ κατεσκληκοτες οὔτε περιπληθεῖς εἰς βάρος, ἀλλὰ εἰς τὸ σύμμετρον περιγεγραμμένοι, τὸ μὲν ἀχρεῖον τῶν σαρκῶν καὶ περιττὸν τοῖς ἱδρῶσιν ἐξαναλωκότες, ὃ δὲ ἰσχὺν καὶ τόνον παρεῖχεν ἀμιγὲς τοῦ φαύλου περιλελειμμένον ἐρρωμένως φυλάττοντες.
Id. 29:
I should like to put side by side one of those white-skinned fellows who have lived in the shade and any one you might select of the athletes in the Lyceum, after I had washed off the mud and the dust, and to ask you which of the two you would pray to be like. I know that even without testing each to see what he could do, you would immediately choose on first sight to be firm and hard rather than delicate and mushy and white because your blood is scanty and withdraws to the interior of the body.

καὶ ἔγωγε ἡδέως ἂν παραστησάμενος πλησίον τῶν τε λευκῶν τινα ἐκείνων καὶ ὑπὸ σκιᾷ δεδιῃτημένων καὶ ὃν ἂν ἕλῃ τῶν ἐν τῷ Λυκείῳ γυμναζομένων, ἀποπλύνας τὴν κόνιν καὶ τὸν πηλόν, ἐροίμην ἄν σε ποτέρῳ ἂν ὅμοιος εὔξαιο γενέσθαι· οἶδα γὰρ ὡς αὐτίκα ἕλοιο ἂν ἐκ πρώτης προσόψεως, εἰ καὶ μὴ ἐπὶ τῶν ἔργων πειραθείης ἑκατέρου, συνεστηκὼς καὶ συγκεκροτημένος εἶναι μᾶλλον ἢ θρύπτεσθαι καὶ διαρρεῖν καὶ λευκὸς εἶναι ἀπορίᾳ καὶ φυγῇ εἰς τὰ εἴσω τοῦ αἵματος.
Related posts:



Emil Cioran (1911-1995), De l'inconvénient d'être né, part VII (tr. ‎Richard Howard):
In one medieval exorcism, all the parts of the body, even the smallest, are listed from which the demon is ordered to depart: a kind of lunatic anatomy treatise, fascinating for its hypertrophy of precision, its profusion of unexpected details. A scrupulous incantation. Leave the nails! Fanatic but not without poetic effect. For authentic poetry has nothing in common with "poetry."

Dans un exorcisme du Moyen Age, on énumère toutes les parties du corps, même les moindres, que le démon est invité à quitter: on dirait un traité d'anatomie fou, qui séduit par l'excès de précision, la profusion de détails et l'inattendu. Une incantation minutieuse. Sors des ongles! C'est insensé mais non exempt d'effet poétique. Car la vraie poésie n'a rien de commun avec la «poésie».
Cf. Girolamo Menghi (1529-1609), Fustis Daemonum Adiurationes Formidabiles, et potentissimas ad malignos spiritus effugandos de oppressis corporibus humanis, complectens (1621), pp. 162-163:
Expelle, Domine Deus omnipotens, ab hac creatura tua N. omnia maleficia diaboli, omnesque incantationes, ligaturas, signaturas, facturas, & omne opus Satanae, & ministrorum eius, a capite, a capillis, a vertice, a cerebro, a paniculis cerebri, a fronte, ab oculis, a lingua, a sublingua, de auribus, de naribus, de collo, de maxillis, de dentibus, de gutture, de gingiuis, de ore, de palato, de ciliis, de superciliis, de pilis, de pedibus, de tibiis, de genibus, de cruribus, de partibus verecundis, de renibus, de lateribus, de intestinis superioribus, & inferioribus, de femore, de ventre, de stomacho, de corde, de spatulis, de humeris, de pectore, de vberibus, de brachiis, de manibus, de vnguibus, de ossibus, de neruis, de venis, de medullis, de pulmone, de compaginibus membrorum suorum, de omnibus iuncturis, de toto corpore suo intus, & extra, de quinque sensibus corporis, & animae: nullumque locum ipsa habeant intus, & foris amplius, vt sana & salua fiat per inuocationem sanctissimi nominis tui, & per inuocationem Spiritus sancti paraclyti.


Buying Books on a Modest Scale

A.N.L. Munby (1913-1974), Essays and Papers, ed. Nicolas Barker (London: The Scolar Press, 1977), p. 39:
Even if one buys on a modest scale — say, one book a day on an average — they fill room after room with the inevitability of the rising tide. I once visited a house in Blackheath after its owner had died. It was solid books. Shelves had been abandoned years before; in every room narrow lanes ran between books stacked from floor to ceiling, ninety per cent of them utterly inaccessible. In one of the bedrooms there was a narrow space two feet wide round the bed, and there the owner had died, almost entombed in print.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


Men Unlike Us

Lucien Febvre (1878-1956), Life in Renaissance France, tr. Marian Rothstein (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 2 (footnote omitted):
Renaissance, Humanism, Reformation are not mere abstractions, personifications wandering over the heavens where the Chimera chases Transcendent Ideals. To understand these great changes we must recreate for ourselves the habits of mind of the people who brought them about.

Were those minds like our minds? I know that man's essential nature is unchanging through time and space. I know that old tune. But that is an assumption, and I might add, a worthless assumption for a historian. For him, as for the geographer, as we have had occasion to remark earlier, man does not exist, only men. His efforts are directed toward discerning the particular originality, the distinguishing marks, all that in which and by which those men differed from us, men who did not live or feel or behave as we do.
Id., p. 20:
Was man in the abstract the same? Possibly. I know nothing about him. He and the historian have little contact, for the historian is concerned with reality rather than abstractions. Concrete man, living man, man in flesh and blood living in the sixteenth century and modern man do not much resemble each other. He was a country man, a nomad, a rustic, and in all these we are far from him.
Id., p. 23:
These are the things we should try to remember when we wish to understand the "things of the sixteenth century." We must remember that we are all, like it or not, hothouse products; the man of the sixteenth century grew in the open air.
Id., p. 48:
Obviously the projection of the present, which has no special claim to eternity, into the past is not acceptable.
Id., p. 73:
We must banish the France of today from our minds.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


A Baneful Notion

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), "The Literary Influence of Academies" (discussing vagaries in spelling):
Some people will say these are little things; they are not; they are of bad example. They tend to spread the baneful notion that there is no such thing as a high, "correct" standard in intellectual matters; that every one may as well take his own way; they are at variance with the severe discipline necessary for all real culture; they confirm us in habits of wilfulness and eccentricity, which hurt our minds, and damage our credit with serious people.


Protest of the Month Club

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), "Protest of the Month Club," San Francisco Examiner (April 17, 1963):
Larry and Chris Handelin of San Francisco have launched a unique experiment — Protest of the Month. "Once each month," says their leaflet, "you'll be notified of a protest." They suggest that each following monthly protest be decided on the picket line of the ongoing protest, with notices sent out to all interested in joining the Protest of the Month Club.

What a splendid idea! Nuclear submarines, Cuban invasions, Jackie's taste in lipstick or cultural advisers, Jack's hairdo, Mac's Common Market, Charley's Common Market, Sedar-Senghor's Negritude, Nasser's Anti-Semitism, Ben Gurion's Semitism, Barry's Democracy, Gus Hall's Democracy, Senator Eastland's Democracy, Martin Luther King's Satyagraha, Malcolm X's Soul Force ... take a position ... grab a placard ... march up and down.

How do you feel about Birth Control? Women's Suffrage? Evolution? Edward Teller? Bishop Pike? Make your opinions known on the picket line. You haven't got any opinions? Fine! Join the picket line, any picket line. Placards free, tattered jeans, holey sneakers and false whiskers at a slight charge.

Whither are we drifting? Certainly past the point of diminishing returns.


Talking to Plants and Tree-Hugging

Dear Mike,

Talking to plants and tree-hugging in Aristophanes' Peace:

ὦ ποθεινὴ τοῖς δικαίοις καὶ γεωργοῖς ἡμέρα,
ἄσμενός σ᾽ ἰδὼν προσειπεῖν βούλομαι τὰς ἀμπέλους,
τάς τε συκᾶς, ἃς ἐγὼ 'φύτευον ὢν νεώτερος,
ἀσπάσασθαι θυμὸς ἡμῖν ἐστι πολλοστῷ χρόνῳ.

O day that gladdens the wishes of the just and of the husbandmen, how I delight to behold you, and long to salute the vines! and after the lapse of so long a time, I am impatient to embrace the fig-trees I planted in the days of my youth. (Sir Edwin Arnold, 1840)

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

Friday, February 17, 2017


Necessary Evils

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Preface to Shakespeare:
Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him, that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play from the first scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let him read on through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt exactness, and read the commentators.

Particular passages are cleared by notes, but the general effect of the work is weakened. The mind is refrigerated by interruption; the thoughts are diverted from the principal subject; the reader is weary, he suspects not why; and at last throws away the book, which he has too diligently studied.


Only Good News, Please

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), Decameron, introduction to the 1st day (Pampinea's instructions to the servants; tr. John Payne, rev. Charles S. Singleton):
And it is our will and command that all and several, as they hold our favor dear, take care that, whithersoever they go or whencesoever they return and whatsoever they hear or see, they bring us from without no news other than joyous.

E ciascun generalmente, per quanto egli avrà cara la nostra grazia, vogliamo e comandiamo che si guardi, dove che egli vada, onde che egli torni, che che egli oda o vegga, niuna novella altra che lieta ci rechi di fuori.



Emil Cioran (1911-1995), De l'inconvénient d'être né, part III (tr. ‎Richard Howard):
Anything in folklore that remains alive comes from before Christianity. — The same is true of whatever is alive in each of us.

Tout ce qui est encore vivant dans le folklore vient d'avant le christianisme. Il en est de même de tout ce qui est vivant en chacun de nous.


A Moral Duty

A.N.L. Munby (1913-1974), Essays and Papers, ed. Nicolas Barker (London: The Scolar Press, 1977), p. 17:
I must confess to having had in the past slight qualms of conscience before spending a month's income on a book — now it becomes almost a moral duty, an act of selfless devotion.


A Scholar's Fantasy

London, British Museum Add. 12195, fol. 64v (15th century; tr. Peter Dronke):
Once there was a lady,
very rich and famous,

and she loved a lad,
a very handsome lad.

And he went into the chamber,
kissing his lady-love.

'Scholar, scholar, do you know—
what you must do now?

You've got to take me now
three times, in any way you like!'

When he had done his mistress' will,
the clerc began to weep.

'Quiet, quiet now, my clerc—
I want to pay you now.

I'll give you lots of daytime clothes,
some woollies and some shirts.'

The scholar became quiet at last,
because he liked this well.
The Latin:
Erat quedam domina
Valde dives et clara,

Et dilexit puerum,
Iuvenum pulcherimum,

Et intravit cameram
Osculando dominam—

'Scis tu, scis tu, clerice,
Quid tu debes facere?

Debes me supponere
Velud vis ter opere.'

Quando factum fuerat
Clericus ploraverat.

'Tace, tace, clerice,
Volo tibi solvere;

Dabo tibi tunicas,
Tractas et camisias.'

Clericus tunc tacuit,
Quia sibi placuit.
I think this is also in Bryan Gillingham, Secular Medieval Latin Song: An Anthology (Ottawa: The Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1993 = Musicological Studies 60/1), but the book is unavailable to me.

I tried to find an image of the manuscript page here, but there wasn't one.

Thursday, February 16, 2017



Wang An-Shih (1021-1086), "Reading History" (tr. David Hinton):
Renowned achievement's been bitter business from the beginning.
Who can you trust to tell the story of all you've done and not done?

Whatever happens is already murky enough, and full of distortion,
then small minds muddle the truth further and it's utter confusion:

they only hand down dregs. Their azure-green and cinnabar inks
can't capture the fresh kernel of things, the quintessential spirit,

and how could they fathom a lofty sage's thoughts, those mindless
sentinels guarding thousand-autumn dust on their pages of paper?



Herodotus 7.135 (on the Spartans Sperthias and Bulis; tr. A.D. Godley):
Worthy of all admiration was these men's deed of daring, and so also were their sayings which I here record. As they journeyed to Susa, they came to Hydarnes, a Persian, who was general of the sea-coast of Asia; he entertained and feasted them as guests, and as they sat at his board, "Lacedaemonians," he questioned them, "why do you shun the king's friendship? You can judge from what you see of me and my condition how well the king can honour men of worth. So might it be with you; would you but put yourselves in the king's hands, being as you are of proven worth in his eyes, every one of you might by his commission be a ruler of Hellas." To this the Spartans answered: "Your counsels to us, Hydarnes, are ill assorted; one half of them rests on knowledge, but the other on ignorance; you know well how to be a slave, but you have never tasted of freedom, to know whether it be sweet or not. Were you to taste of it, not with spears you would counsel us to fight for it, no, but with axes."

Αὕτη τε ἡ τόλμα τούτων τῶν ἀνδρῶν θώματος ἀξίη καὶ τάδε πρὸς τούτοισι τὰ ἔπεα. πορευόμενοι γὰρ ἐς Σοῦσα ἀπικνέονται παρὰ Ὑδάρνεα· ὁ δὲ Ὑδάρνης ἦν μὲν γένος Πέρσης, στρατηγὸς δὲ τῶν παραθαλασσίων ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἐν τῇ Ἀσίῃ· ὅς σφεας ξείνια προθέμενος ἱστία, ξεινίζων δὲ εἴρετο τάδε. "Ἄνδρες Λακεδαιμόνιοι, τί δὴ φεύγετε βασιλέι φίλοι γενέσθαι; ὁρᾶτε γὰρ ὡς ἐπίσταται βασιλεὺς ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς τιμᾶν, ἐς ἐμέ τε καὶ τὰ ἐμὰ πρήγματα ἀποβλέποντες. οὕτω δὲ καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰ δοίητε ὑμέας αὐτοὺς βασιλέι, δεδόξωσθε γὰρ πρὸς αὐτοῦ ἄνδρες εἶναι ἀγαθοί, ἕκαστος ἂν ὑμέων ἄρχοι γῆς Ἑλλάδος δόντος βασιλέος." πρὸς ταῦτα ὑπεκρίναντο τάδε. "Ὕδαρνες, οὐκ ἐξ ἴσου γίνεται ἡ συμβουλίη ἡ ἐς ἡμέας τείνουσα. τοῦ μὲν γὰρ πεπειρημένος συμβουλεύεις, τοῦ δὲ ἄπειρος ἐών· τὸ μὲν γὰρ δοῦλος εἶναι ἐξεπίστεαι, ἐλευθερίης δὲ οὔκω ἐπειρήθης, οὔτ᾿ εἰ ἔστι γλυκὺ οὔτ᾿ εἰ μή. εἰ γὰρ αὐτῆς πειρήσαιο, οὐκ ἂν δόρασι συμβουλεύοις ἡμῖν περὶ αὐτῆς μάχεσθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ πελέκεσι."


Mother Nature

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), "Sopra in basso relievo antico sepocrale," lines 44-64 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
Nature, mother feared and wept for
since the human family was born,        45
marvel that cannot be praised,
that bears and nurtures only to destroy,
if dying young brings mortals pain,
why let it come down
on these blameless heads?        50
And if good, then why is it unhappy,
why make this leaving inconsolable,
worse than any other woe,
for those who live, as well as those who go?

Unhappy everywhere they look,        55
wretched where they turn or run,
is this feeling race.
You chose that life should disappoint
the hope of youth,
that the wave of years be full of pain,        60
with death our only
shield from suffering;
and this inevitable end, this changeless law,
you established for the human journey.

Madre temuta e pianta
Dal nascer già dell'animal famiglia,        45
Natura, illaudabil maraviglia,
Che per uccider partorisci e nutri,
Se danno è del mortale
Immaturo perir, come il consenti
In quei capi innocenti?        50
Se ben, perchè funesta,
Perchè sovra ogni male,
A chi si parte, a chi rimane in vita,
Inconsolabil fai tal dipartita?

Misera ovunque miri,        55
Misera onde si volga, ove ricorra,
Questa sensibil prole!
Piacqueti che delusa
Fosse ancor dalla vita
La speme giovanil; piena d'affanni        60
L'onda degli anni; ai mali unico schermo
La morte; e questa inevitabil segno,
Questa, immutata legge
Ponesti all'uman corso.
The same (tr. Geoffrey L. Bickersteth):
Mother, bewailed and feared
Since first thy creature-kind was born till now,        45
Nature, uncommendable monster, thou
Who bringest forth and nurturest but to kill,
If evil it be to die
Untimely, wherefore should these innocent
So perish, and thou consent?        50
If good, why makest thou
So lamentable, why
So far beyond all comfort such a death
Both to the dying and those who still draw breath?

Wretched in all its aims,        55
Wretched in all it seeks, in all it shuns,
Is this quick-feeling race!
It pleased thee that the hope
Man cherishes in youth
Should be belied by age; that brimmed with woe        60
His years should flow; from ills his only shield
Be death; ay, this the inevitable end,
This the unchanging law
Imposed on his career.
The same (tr. R.C. Trevelyan):
Mother, feared and bewailed
Since we thy offspring first to life were born,        45
Nature, thou wondrous power whom none can praise,
Who engenderest and nurturest but to kill,
If evil it be for mortals
To die untimely, why on these innocent heads
Suffer this woe to fall?        50
If it be good, why make
This parting such a sorrow,
So unconsolable beyond all evils
To those who depart from life and those who stay?

Wretched where'er it gazes,        55
Wretched where'er it turns or seeks for refuge,
Is man's too sensitive race.
It has pleased thee that youth's
Fond hopes should be deceived
By life's experience; that filled with miseries        60
Our years should flow; our one defence from evils
Should be death: this the inevitable limit,
The unalterable law
Thou hast ordained for man's career.
Id., lines 107-109 (tr. Galassi):
But Nature in her actions is concerned
with something else besides our pain or joy.

                           Ma da natura
Altro negli atti suoi
Che nostro male o nostro ben si cura.
The same (tr. Bickersteth):
                           But for our woe
Or for our weal no care
Hath Nature, bent on ends that none can know.
The same (tr. Trevelyan):
                           But in her works
Nature is ever busied
With cares far other than for our weal or woe.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Dried Leaves

John Jay Chapman (1862-1933), Practical Agitation (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1900), pp. 55-56:
Have you ever been in need of money? Almost every man who enters our society joins it as a young man in need of money. His instincts are unsullied, his intellect is fresh and strong, but he must live. How comes it that the country is full of maimed human beings, of cynics and feeble good men, and outside of this no form of life except the diabolical intelligence of pure business?....He must get on. He goes into a law office, and if he is offended at its dishonest practices he cannot speak. He soon accepts them. Thereafter he cannot see them. He goes into a newspaper office, the same; a banker's, a merchant's, a dry-goods' shop. What has happened to these fellows at the end of three years, that their minds seem to be drying up? I have seen many men I knew in college grow more and more uninteresting from year to year. Is there something in trade that desiccates and flattens out, that turns men into dried leaves at the age of forty? Certainly there is. It is not due to trade, but to intensity of self-seeking, combined with narrowness of occupation.


A City of Immigrants

Lucian, Hermotimus 24 (tr. K. Kilburn):
He told me much about the city, if I remember, and in particular this, that all the inhabitants were aliens and foreigners, not one was a native; there were even many barbarians among the citizens, as well as slaves, cripples, dwarfs, and paupers—in a word anyone who wanted to take part in the city; for property, apparel, height, good looks, family, brilliant ancestry, were not required by law for enrolment; on the contrary, they gave no place in their customs to them; no, intelligence, a desire for what is good, industry, perseverance, a refusal to give in or be weakened by the many hardships encountered on the way, were enough for a man to become a citizen; whoever showed these qualities and kept on going all the way to the city was a citizen there and then equal to them all; inferior or superior, noble or common, bond or free, simply did not exist and were not mentioned in the city.

ἔλεγε δ᾿ οὖν περὶ τῆς πόλεως, εἴ γε μέμνημαι, ἄλλα τε πολλὰ καὶ δὴ καὶ τάδε, ὡς ξύμπαντες μὲν ἐπήλυδες καὶ ξένοι εἶεν, αὐθιγενὴς δὲ οὐδὲ εἷς, ἀλλὰ καὶ βαρβάρους ἐμπολιτεύεσθαι πολλοὺς καὶ δούλους καὶ ἀμόρφους καὶ μικροὺς καὶ πένητας, καὶ ὅλως μετέχειν τῆς πόλεως τὸν βουλόμενον· τὸν γὰρ δὴ νόμον αὐτοῖς οὐκ ἀπὸ τιμημάτων ποιεῖσθαι τὴν ἐγγραφὴν οὐδ᾿ ἀπὸ σχημάτων ἢ μεγέθους ἢ κάλλους οὐδ᾿ ἀπὸ γένους τοῦ τῶν λαμπρῶν ἐκ προγόνων, ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν οὐδὲ νομίζεσθαι παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς, ἀποχρῆν δ᾿ ἑκάστῳ πρὸς τὸ πολίτην γενέσθαι σύνεσιν καὶ ἐπιθυμίαν τῶν καλῶν καὶ πόνον καὶ τὸ λιπαρὲς καὶ τὸ μὴ ἐνδοῦναι μηδὲ μαλακισθῆναι πολλοῖς τοῖς δυσχερέσι κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἐντυγχάνοντα, ὡς ὅστις ἂν ταῦτα ἐπιδείξηται καὶ διεξέλθῃ πορευόμενος ἄχρι πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, αὐτίκα μάλα πολίτην ὄντα τοῦτον ὅστις ἂν ᾖ καὶ ἰσότιμον ἅπασι· τὸ δὲ χείρων ἢ κρείττων ἢ εὐπατρίδης ἢ ἀγεννὴς ἢ δοῦλος ἢ ἐλεύθερος οὐδὲ ὅλως εἶναι ἢ λέγεσθαι ἐν τῇ πόλει.


English Equivalents of Greek Words

John Jay Chapman, letter to Mary Williams Winslow (September 7, 1929):
I don't know the meaning of a single Greek word—and I have a sort of belief that they none of them have English equivalents. Any word in a language corresponds to a district in the map of the brain—and the maps of Greek and English if superimposed never show an approach to identity anywhere. The people who devote their lives to Greek get queered—(and no one can begin to know it without devoting his life to it).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


A Rabelaisian List

Rabelais is famous for his comical lists, e.g. the catalogue of books in the Library of Saint Victor (II.7), containing such imaginary works as the Ars honeste petandi in societate (The Art of Farting Politely in Public). See W.F. Smith (1842-1919), "Lists, Blazons and Litanies," Rabelais in His Writings (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1918), pp. 200-211, and Eric MacPhail, "Lists," The Rabelais Encyclopedia, ed. Elizabeth Chesney Zegura (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004), pp. 145-146.

But it is possible to make other sorts of Rabelaisian lists, for example by collecting words scattered throughout Rabelais all referring to similar objects or actions. One such list was compiled by Raymond C. La Charité, "An Aspect of Obscenity in Rabelais," Renaissance and Other Studies in Honor of William Leon Wiley, ed. George Bernard Daniel (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968 = Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 72), pp. 167-189, who collected words and phrases used by Rabelais to describe copulation.

Quoted definitions in the list below are La Charité's, unless otherwise indicated. Harrap = Harrap's New Standard French and English Dictionary (London: Harrap, 1980).
  1. badouiner: "to copulate with reference to donkies [sic, read donkeys]"
  2. beliner: "Breed: (of ram, or ewe), to tup" (Harrap, s.v. béliner)
  3. beluter: "(1) to sift, to pass through a sieve; (2) to separate while sifting; (3) to agitate; (4) to examine attentively"
  4. besoingner: "to work hard" (Harrap, s.v. besogner)
  5. biscoter: "to hop or to jump about"
  6. bouter: "to put, to place, to drive"
  7. bragmarder: to engage in sword-play, to fence. "The braquemart was a short, stubby sword..."
  8. brimballer: "to swing, to dangle"
  9. bubajaller: to enjoy like a buffalo. L. Sainéan, La Langue de Rabelais, Vol. II: Langue et Vocabulaire (Paris: E. De Boccard, 1923), p. 310: "Une contamination de bubaler, faire comme les buffles, et de jaller (forme réduite de galler), jouir."
  10. chevaucher: "to ride (on), straddle" (Harrap, sense 2)
  11. coingner: "to hit, to strike"
  12. décrotter: "to expedite, to do ... something rapidly"
  13. depuceller: "to deflower" (Harrap, s.v. dépuceler)
  14. embourrer: "to stuff, pad" (Harrap)
  15. estoupper: "to stop up (crevices, etc.) with tow, oakum" (Harrap, s.v. étouper, sense 1)
  16. faire la beste à deux dos: to make the beast with two backs (cf. Shakespeare, Othello I.i.14)
  17. faire la combercelle: "to bend one's back (namely that of the woman) in the form of a saddle"
  18. fanfrelucher: "to garnish with baubles, trifles, or trinkets," i.e. to play at trifles
  19. farbouller: to stuff (farcir) the ball (boule), or to stuff the cabinet (boulle)?
  20. fretinfretailler: to perform "the sexual act in terms of both sound and the repeatedly short and rapid movement or agitation which creates it." A portmanteau word perhaps made up of freter ("to rub"), fertailler ("to strike"), and fresteler ("to make noise").
  21. frotter son lard: to rub one's bacon
  22. gimbretiletolleter: to jiggety-jog (cf. M.A. Screech's translation of IV.prol.).
  23. jocqueter: "to go to roost, to perch" (Harrap, s.v. jucher)
  24. jouer des manequins à basses marches: to play "the stiff lowdown in-and-out game" (cf. Douglas Frame's translation of II.21).
  25. jouer de quille: to play skittles. A quille is a "ninepin, skittle(pin)" (Harrap, sense 1.a).
  26. jouer du serrecropière: to play "at squeezing one's rumps together"
  27. labourer: "to till, esp. to plough" (Harrap, sense 1)
  28. lanterner: "to trifle; to dilly-dally" (Harrap, sense 1)
  29. rataconniculer: "to reiterate leacherie," i.e. lechery (Randle Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues)
  30. roussiner: act like a war-horse, charger, stallion
  31. sabouler: "to jostle; to pull (s.o.) about" (Harrap)
  32. sabourrer: "to ballast or to weigh down a ship"
  33. saccader: "to jerk (a horse's rein)" (Harrap)
  34. sacsacbezevezinemasser: "to stuff and to go back and forth in a noisy, jerky way"
  35. tabourer: "(1) to beat the drums, (2) to make a loud noise, and (3) to strike..."
  36. talocher: "to cuff; to clout (s.o.) on the head; to box (s.o.'s) ears" (Harrap, sense 2)
Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017


On Girls

English as She is Taught: Genuine Answers to Examination Questions in Our Public Schools. Collected by Caroline B. Le Row (New York: Cassell & Company, Limited, 1887), pp. 37-38:
Girls are very stuckup and dignefied in their maner and behaveyour. They think more of dress than any thing and like to play with dowls and rags. They cry if they see a cow in afar distance and are afraid of guns. They stay at home all the time and go to Church every Sunday. They are al-ways sick. They are al-ways funy and making fun of boys hands and they say how dirty. They cant play marbels. I pity them poor things. They make fun of boys and then turn round and love them. I dont beleave they ever kiled a cat or any thing. They look out every nite and say oh ant the moon lovely. Thir is one thing I have not told and that is they always now their lessons bettern boys.


Verses for a 68th Birthday Card

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), "Sixty-Eighth Birthday," Heartsease and Rue (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1888), p. 218:
As life runs on, the road grows strange
With faces new, and near the end
The milestones into headstones change,
'Neath every one a friend.

More lugubrious birthday verses, these written on his 24th birthday by George Crabbe (1754-1832), "My Birth-Day," Poetical Works, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1834), pp. 313-314:
                                       Aldborough, Dec. 24. 1778.
Through a dull tract of woe, of dread,
The toiling year has pass'd and fled:
And, lo! in sad and pensive strain,
I sing my birth-day date again.

Trembling and poor, I saw the light,
New waking from unconscious night:
Trembling and poor I still remain
To meet unconscious night again.

Time in my pathway strews few flowers,
To cheer or cheat the weary hours;
And those few strangers, dear indeed,
Are choked, are check'd, by many a weed.
Related posts:


Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), "An Age of Inoffensiveness," San Francisco Examiner (December, 1961):
I think the world was better when Senator Borah, William Jennings Bryan, Abie Kabibble, the Two Black Crows, Eugene V. Debs, burlesque shows, Bert Savoy and Mr. Dooley were all at large in the land, each raising his special brand of commotion. It was certainly livelier.

Let a hundred flowers bloom, say I, and if that be subversion, make the most of it.


Some Plurals of Personal Names in Greek

Lucian, Menippus 17:
πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ ἄλλους ἦν ἰδεῖν ἐν ταῖς τριόδοις μεταιτοῦντας, Ξέρξας λέγω καὶ Δαρείους καὶ Πολυκράτας.
Lucian, How to Write History 2:
ἀλλ᾿ ἀφ᾿ οὗ δὴ τὰ ἐν ποσὶ ταῦτα κεκίνηται—ὁ πόλεμος ὁ πρὸς τοὺς βαρβάρους καὶ τὸ ἐν Ἀρμενίᾳ τραῦμα καὶ αἱ συνεχεῖς νῖκαι—οὐδεὶς ὅστις οὐχ ἱστορίαν συγγράφει· μᾶλλον δὲ Θουκυδίδαι καὶ Ἡρόδοτοι καὶ Ξενοφῶντες ἡμῖν ἅπαντες...
Lucian, Saturnalia 24:
...παῖδας δὲ αὐτῶν τοὺς ὡραίους καὶ κομήτας, οὓς ὙακίνθουςἈχιλλέαςΝαρκίσσους ὀνομάζουσι...
Lucian, Apology for the "Salaried Posts in Great Houses" 1 (I know that Pactolus is a river name, not a person's name):
πόσοι Μίδαι καὶ Κροῖσοι καὶ Πακτωλοὶ ὅλοι μετέπεισαν αὐτὸν ἀφεῖναι μὲν τὴν ἐκ παίδων φίλην καὶ σύντροφον ἐλευθερίαν...;
Lucian, Hermotimus 35:
τί ποτ᾿ οὖν ἀδύνατον εἶναί σοι δοκεῖ, ἐντυγχάνοντά τινα μόνοις τοῖς Στωϊκοῖς λέγουσι τἀληθῆ πείθεσθαί τε αὐτοῖς καὶ μηκέτι δεῖσθαι τῶν ἄλλων εἰδότα ὡς οὐκ ἄν ποτε τὰ τέτταρα πέντε γένοιτο, οὐδ᾿ ἂν μυρίοι ΠλάτωνεςΠυθαγόραι λέγωσιν;
Lucian, To One Who Said, "You're a Prometheus in Words" 2:
καὶ αὐτοὶ δὲ Ἀθηναῖοι τοὺς χυτρέας καὶ ἱπνοποιοὺς καὶ πάντας ὅσοι πηλουργοί Προμηθέας ἀπεκάλουν...
Lucian, The Ship 46:
...ὥσπερ οἱ τοὺς βασιλεῖς ὑποκρινόμενοι τραγῳδοὶ ἐξελθόντες ἀπὸ τοῦ θεάτρου λιμώττοντες οἱ πολλοί, καὶ ταῦτα πρὸ ὀλίγου Ἀγαμέμνονες ὄντες ἢ Κρέοντες.
See I. van Wageningen, "Cerdo sive de nominibus propriis Latinis appellativorum loco adhibitis," Mnemosyne 40 (1912) 147-172, and a series of posts at the Farrago blog:

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I Do Not Know

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. The Alphabetical Collection. Translated, with a forward by Benedicta Ward, rev. ed. (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1984), p. 4 (Anthony the Great, #17):
One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, 'You have not understood it.' Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, 'How would you explain this saying?' and he replied, Ί do not know.' Then Abba Anthony said, 'Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: "I do not know."'
Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 65, col. 80 D:
Παρέβαλόν ποτε γέροντες τῷ ἀββᾷ Ἀντωνίῳ͵ καὶ ἦν ὁ ἀββᾶς Ἰωσὴφ μετ΄ αὐτῶν. Καὶ θέλων ὁ γέρων δοκιμάσαι αὐτοὺς͵ προεβάλετο ῥῆμα ἐκ τῆς Γραφῆς͵ καὶ ἤρξατο ἐρωτᾷν ἀπὸ τῶν μικροτέρων͵ τί ἐστι τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο. Καὶ ἕκαστος ἔλεγε κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δύναμιν. Ὁ δὲ γέρων ἑκάστῳ ἔλεγεν· Οὔπω εὗρες. Ὕστερον ὅλων λέγει τῷ ἀββᾷ Ἰωσήφ· Σὺ πῶς λέγεις εἶναι τὸν λόγον τοῦτον; Ἀποκρίνεται· Οὐκ οἶδα. Λέγει οὖν ὁ ἀββᾶς Ἀντώνιος· Πάντως ἀββᾶς Ἰωσὴφ εὗρε τὴν ὁδὸν͵ ὅτι εἶπεν͵ Οὐκ οἶδα.


Nothing New

Lucian, Menippus 2 (tr. A. M. Harmon):
But tell me, how are things going on earth, and what are they doing in the city?

Nothing new; just what they did before—stealing, lying under oath, extorting usury, and weighing pennies.

ἀτὰρ εἰπέ μοι, πῶς τὰ ὑπὲρ γῆς ἔχει καὶ τί ποιοῦσιν οἱ ἐν τῇ πόλει;

καινὸν οὐδέν, ἀλλ᾿ οἷα καὶ πρὸ τοῦ· ἁρπάζουσιν, ἐπιορκοῦσιν, τοκογλυφοῦσιν, ὀβολοστατοῦσιν.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


The Creative Power of Wine

Aristophanes, Knights 90-94 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
How dare you cast aspersions on the creative power of wine?
Can you come up with anything more effective?
Don't you see, it's when people drink that
they get rich, they're successful, they win lawsuits,
they're happy, they can help their friends.

οἶνον σὺ τολμᾷς εἰς ἐπίνοιαν λοιδορεῖν;
οἴνου γὰρ εὕροις ἄν τι πρακτικώτερον;
ὁρᾷς, ὅταν πίνωσιν ἄνθρωποι, τότε
πλουτοῦσι, διαπράττουσι, νικῶσιν δίκας,
εὐδαιμονοῦσιν, ὠφελοῦσι τοὺς φίλους.
Horace, Epistles 1.5.16-20 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
What a miracle cannot the wine-cup work! It unlocks secrets,
bids hopes be fulfilled, thrusts the coward into the field,
takes the load from anxious hearts, teaches new arts.
The flowing bowl—whom has it not made eloquent?
Whom has it not made free even amid pinching poverty?

quid non ebrietas dissignat? operta recludit,
spes iubet esse ratas, ad proelia trudit inertem,
sollicitis animis onus eximit, addocet artes.
fecundi calices quem non fecere disertum?
contracta quem non in paupertate solutum?

Friday, February 10, 2017


Not Socrates, but Isocrates

[An update to The Desire to Learn, because I just noticed something wrong about the quotation there.]

Humanist Educational Treatises. Edited and Translated by Craig W. Kallendorf (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002 = I Tatti Renaissance Library, 5), pp. 262-263 (= Battista Guarino, De Ordine Docendi et Studendi 3), with notes on p. 343:
Antequam tamen ad studendi docendique praecepta veniamus, haudquaquam a proposito nostro alienum esse videbirur, si adolescentes ipsos admonuerimus, primum ut quam eis praeceptor extriinsecus tradere non potest discendi cupiditatem, ipsi per se sponte illam arripiant, et ad hydropis similitudinem se conforment, cui, ut inquit Ovidius, quo plus sunt potae, plus sitiuntur aquae. Sic et ipsi quo plura in dies didicerint, eo plura percipere et haurire tamquam diuturnam sitim extinguere cupientes incitentur. Teneantque illud assidue ante mentis oculos quod Socrates graecus praecipit: si eris discendi studiosus, multa disces. Facile autem ad eam aviditatem se ipsos exhortabuntur si, ut idem inquit Socrates, turpe esse cogitaverint mercatores tot tantaque maria navigare ut divitias amplificent, iuniores vero terrestri itinere ad praeceptores tendere ut meliorem mentis habitum constituant; si animo etiam versaverint nullam esse possessionem doctrina honestiorem aut stabiliorem: nam pulchritudinem et robur, etiam si nullo morbo diminuantur, certe senectus ipsa conficit: pecuniae vero saepius inertiae causam quam adipiscendae virtutis materiam praestant.

Nevertheless before we come to the precepts of study and teaching, it is highly relevant to our undertaking to advise young people themselves, first, to acquire spontaneously a real desire to learn—something a teacher can't give them from the outside—and act like a case of dropsy, for whom, as Ovid says, the more water it drinks, the more it thirsts for.4 And so the more knowledge they acquire each day, the more knowledge they are stimulated to seize and drink in, as though longing to quench a chronic thirst. Let them always keep in mind the teaching of the Greek Socrates: if you are eager to learn, you will learn much. They will find ready encouragement to acquire that eagerness, as the same Socrates says, if they see how shameful it is that merchants sail far across the seas to increase their wealth, while young people go by land seeking teachers to improve their minds;5 if they also keep in mind that no possession is more honorable or stable than learning, for beauty and strength, even when not diminished by any disease, are surely laid low in the end by old age, and money more often provides an excuse for sloth than a means for attaining virtue.

4. quo plus sunt potae, plus sitiuntur aquae: Ovid Fast. 1.216.

5. teneantque illud ... constituant: ps. Plutarch De educ. 7; Cicero Tusc. 5.4.10-11. Sea travel was considered much more dangerous than land travel in premodern times.
The references to Socrates, in both Latin and English, are mistaken. Guarino was referring not to Socrates, but to Isocrates. See Isocrates, To Demonicus 18-19 (tr. George Norlin):
If you love knowledge, you will be a master of knowledge. What you have come to know, preserve by exercise; what you have not learned, seek to add to your knowledge; for it is as reprehensible to hear a profitable saying and not grasp it as to be offered a good gift by one’s friends and not accept it. Spend your leisure time in cultivating an ear attentive to discourse, for in this way you will find that you learn with ease what others have found out with difficulty. Believe that many precepts are better than much wealth; for wealth quickly fails us, but precepts abide through all time; for wisdom alone of all possessions is imperishable. Do not hesitate to travel a long road to those who profess to offer some useful instruction; for it were a shame, when merchants cross vast seas in order to increase their store of wealth, that the young should not endure even journeys by land to improve their understanding.

ἐὰν ᾖς φιλομαθής, ἔσει πολυμαθής. ἃ μὲν ἐπίστασαι, ταῦτα διαφύλαττε ταῖς μελέταις, ἃ δὲ μὴ μεμάθηκας, προσλάμβανε ταῖς ἐπιστήμαις· ὁμοίως γὰρ αἰσχρὸν ἀκούσαντα χρήσιμον λόγον μὴ μαθεῖν καὶ διδόμενόν τι ἀγαθὸν παρὰ τῶν φίλων μὴ λαβεῖν. κατανάλισκε τὴν ἐν τῷ βίῳ σχολὴν εἰς τὴν τῶν λόγων φιληκοΐαν· οὕτω γὰρ τὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις χαλεπῶς εὑρημένα συμβήσεταί σοι ῥᾳδίως μανθάνειν. ἡγοῦ τῶν ἀκουσμάτων πολλὰ πολλῶν εἶναι χρημάτων κρείττω· τὰ μὲν γὰρ ταχέως ἀπολείπει, τὰ δὲ πάντα τὸν χρόνον παραμένει· σοφία γὰρ μόνον τῶν κτημάτων ἀθάνατον. μὴ κατόκνει μακρὰν ὁδὸν πορεύεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς διδάσκειν τι χρήσιμον ἐπαγγελλομένους· αἰσχρὸν γὰρ τοὺς μὲν ἐμπόρους τηλικαῦτα πελάγη διαπερᾶν ἕνεκα τοῦ πλείω ποιῆσαι τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν οὐσίαν, τοὺς δὲ νεωτέρους μηδὲ τὰς κατὰ γῆν πορείας ὑπομένειν ἐπὶ τῷ βελτίω καταστῆσαι τὴν αὑτῶν διάνοιαν.
I now see that Luigi Piacente, ed., Battista Guarini, La didattica del greco e del latino: De ordine docendi ac studendi e altri scritti (Bari: Edipuglia, 2002), p. 28, correctly prints Isocrates and correctly identifies the quotations.




Robert Browning (1812-1889), Aristophanes' Apology, lines 406-408:
'Rough dealing, awkward language,' whine our fops:
The world's too squeamish now to bear plain words
Concerning deeds it acts with gust enough...

Thursday, February 09, 2017


The Desire to Learn

Battista Guarino (1434-1503), De Ordine Docendi et Studendi 3 (tr. Craig W. Kallendorf):
Nevertheless before we come to the precepts of study and teaching, it is highly relevant to our undertaking to advise young people themselves, first, to acquire spontaneously a real desire to learn—something a teacher can't give them from the outside—and act like a case of dropsy, for whom, as Ovid says,
the more water it drinks, the more it thirsts for. [Ovid, Fasti 1.216]
And so the more knowledge they acquire each day, the more knowledge they are stimulated to seize and drink in, as though longing to quench a chronic thirst. Let them always keep in mind the teaching of the Greek Socrates: if you are eager to learn, you will learn much.

Antequam tamen ad studendi docendique praecepta veniamus, haudquaquam a proposito nostro alienum esse videbirur, si adolescentes ipsos admonuerimus, primum ut quam eis praeceptor extriinsecus tradere non potest discendi cupiditatem, ipsi per se sponte illam arripiant, et ad hydropis similitudinem se conforment, cui, ut inquit Ovidius,
quo plus sunt potae, plus sitiuntur aquae.
Sic et ipsi quo plura in dies didicerint, eo plura percipere et haurire tamquam diuturnam sitim extinguere cupientes incitentur. Teneantque illud assidue ante mentis oculos quod Socrates graecus praecipit: si eris discendi studiosus, multa disces.
Update and correction here.


The Historian's Task

Lucian, How to Write History 39 (tr. K. Kilburn):
The historian's sole task is to tell the tale as it happened.

τοῦ δὴ συγγραφέως ἔργον ἕν—ὡς ἐπράχθη εἰπεῖν.

From Jaume Ripoll Miralda:
I find [the passage from Lucian] very interesting, specially in comparison to some comments made by the German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886) in the Preface to his The History of the Latin and Teutonic Nations (1824):
History has had assigned to it the office of judging the past and of instructing the present for the benefit of the future ages. To such high offices the present work does not presume: it seeks only to show what actually happened.

Man hat der Historie das Amt, die Vergangenheit zu richten, die Mitwelt zum Nutzen zukünftiger Jahre zu belehren, beigemessen: so hoher Aemter unterwindet sich gegenwärtiger Versuch nicht: er will blos zeigen, wie es eigentlich gewesen.
The final sentence, wie es eigentlich gewesen ("what actually happened"), is some kind of motto for some historians even nowadays.



Lucian, How to Write History 6 (tr. K. Kilburn):
Advice works in two ways: it teaches us to choose this and avoid that.

διττοῦ δὲ ὄντος τοῦ τῆς συμβουλῆς ἔργου, τὰ μὲν γὰρ αἱρεῖσθαι, τὰ δὲ φεύγειν διδάσκει...
Note how many of the Greek words in this short clause are connected with English words:

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


People Talk Only About Politics

Gustave Flaubert, letter to George Sand (October 28, 1872; tr. Francis Steegmuller):
The slightest discussion with anyone at all exasperates me, because I find everybody idiotic. My sense of justice is continually outraged. All talk is of politics—and such talk! Where is there the least sign of an idea? What is there to hold on to? What cause is there to be passionate about?

Le moindre dialogue avec qui que ce soit m'exaspère, parce que je trouve tout le monde idiot. Mon sentiment de la justice est continuellement révolté. On ne parle que de politique, et de quelle façon! Où y a-t-il une apparence d'idée? à quoi se raccrocher? Pour quelle cause se passionner?
Related post: An Indecency Among Intellectuals.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017


A Latin Quotation in the Play Sir Thomas More

Sir Thomas More. A Play By Anthony Munday and Others, edd. Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), p. 134 (Act III, Scene 1, lines 202-207, with editors' notes):
More.               Why, I'll show the reason.
This is no age for poets: they should sing
To the loud cannon heroica facta:
Qui faciunt reges heroica carmina laudant;
And as great subjects of their pen decay,
Even so unphysicked they do melt away.

204 cannon] a quibble: (a) singing to the accompaniment of martial noises; (b) singing to a musical 'canon', by which different voices or instruments take up the same tune in different keys.

heroica facta] heroic feats: it completes the sentence (poets should sing heroic deeds). But it could be the subject of the Latin relative clause in the next line. The expression regia facta ('kingly deeds') is used ironically of Henry VIII's misdeeds in the apocryphal Erasmian poem on More's death mentioned in note to l. 205.

205] 'Epic poems praise what kings do.' The Jesuit phraseological repertory Gradus ad Parnassum (London, 1680) quotes this line (p. 380) under the heading heroicus, attributing it to Ovid, but we have been unable to find it in his works, and later editions of Gradus, while locating precisely most other quotations in the works of their respective authors, fail to do the same with this. Can the line be an oblique reference to the pamphlet published in Hagenau in September 1536 containing an Heroicum Carmen attributed to Erasmus, In mortem Thomae Mori? The pamphlet is a fabrication of anti-Protestant pro-paganda, but was taken seriously by Roman Catholics when circulated on both sides of the Channel, and it is just the sort of literature with which Anthony Munday would be familiar from his stay in Rome in 1579 and from his profession as pursuivant of Roman Catholics in England, see Intro., §2.4.
The Latin quotation isn't from Ovid but rather from Mantuan (1448-1516), Eclogues 5.155-156. See Wilfred P. Mustard, ed., The Eclogues of Baptista Mantuanus (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1911), p. 88.

By the way, the only way I can construe the quotation is without the stop after heroica facta (there is no stop in the manuscript). I translate:
Epic poems praise kings who perform epic deeds.
I.e. parsing as follows:
Qui reges faciunt heroica facta, eos reges heroica carmina laudant.

Monday, February 06, 2017


Resentment Against Immigrants, Five Hundred Years Ago

Excerpts from Raphael Holinshed (1529-1580), Chronicles, Vol. III: England (London: Printed for J. Johnson et al., 1808), pp. 617-620 (anno 1518, but actually 1517):
About this season there grew a great hartburning and malicious grudge amongst the Englishmen of the citie of London against strangers; and namelie the artificers found themselues sore grieued, for that such numbers of strangers were permitted to resort hither with their wares and to exercise handie crafts to the great hinderance and impouerishing of the kings liege people.


This abuse was much noted, so that the same and manie other oppressions doone by them, increased such a malice in the Englishmens harts, that at the last it burst out. For amongst other that sore grudged at these matters, there was a broker in London called Iohn Lincolne...


Wherfore (said Lincolne) maister doctor, sith you were borne in London, and see the oppression of the strangers, and the great miserie of your owne natiue countrie, exhort all the citizens to ioine in one against these strangers, raueners, and destroiers of your countrie.


The tenor of the bill of complaint which doctor Bele read in open audience at the Spitle.

To all you the worshipfull lords & maisters of this citie, that will take compassion ouer the poore people your neighbours, and also of the great importable hurts, losses, and hinderances, whereof proceedeth the extreame pouertie to all the kings subiects, that inhabit within this citie and suburbs of the same. For so it is, that the aliens & strangers eat the bread from the fatherlesse children, and take the liuing from all the artificers, and the intercourse from all merchants, whereby pouertie is so much increased, that euerie man bewaileth the miserie of other; for craftsmen be brought to beggerie, and merchants to needinesse. Wherefore the premisses considered, the redresse must be of the commons, knit and vnited to one part. And as the hurt and damage greeueth all men, so must all men set to their willing power for remedie, & not to suffer the said aliens so highlie in their wealth; & the naturall borne men of this region to come to confusion.


[H]e intreated, how this land was giuen to Englishmen. And as birds defend their nests, so ought Englishmen to cherish and mainteine themselues, and to hurt and grieue aliens for respect of their common-wealth. And vpon this text Pugna pro patria, he brought in, how by Gods law it was lawfull to fight for their countrie. And thus he subtilie mooued or rather vndiscreetlie prouoked the people to rebell against strangers.



Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), La Peau de chagrin, chapter 1 (tr. Ellen Marriage):
Education, there's a pretty piece of tomfoolery. M. Heineffettermach estimates the number of printed volumes at more than a thousand millions; and a man cannot read more than a hundred and fifty thousand in his lifetime. So, just tell me what that word education means. For some it consists in knowing the name of Alexander's horse, of the dog Bérécillo, of the Seigneur d’Accords, and in ignorance of the man to whom we owe the discovery of rafting and the manufacture of porcelain. For others it is the knowledge how to burn a will and live respected, be looked up to and popular, instead of stealing a watch with half-a-dozen aggravating circumstances, after a previous conviction, and so perishing, hated and dishonored, in the Place de Grève.

L'instruction, belle niaiserie! Monsieur Heineffettermach porte le nombre des volumes imprimés à plus d'un milliard, et la vie d'un homme ne permet pas d'en lire cent cinquante mille. Alors expliquez-moi ce que signifie le mot instruction? pour les uns, elle consiste à savoir les noms du cheval d'Alexandre, du dogue Bérécillo, du seigneur des Accords, et d'ignorer celui de l'homme auquel nous devons le flottage des bois ou la porcelaine. Pour les autres, être instruit, c'est savoir brûler un testament et vivre en honnêtes gens, aimés, considérés, au lieu de voler une montre en récidive, avec les cinq circonstances aggravantes, et d'aller mourir en place de Grève, haïs et déshonorés.
Well, at least I know the name of Alexander's horse.


How to Stop Drinking: Stephan Bergler's Supposed Conversion to Islam

John Edwin Sandys (1844-1922), A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. III: The Eighteenth Century in Germany, and the Nineteenth Century in Europe and the United States of America (1908; rpt. New York: Hafner Publishing Co., 1958), p. 3 (with my additions to n. 6 in square brackets):
Fabricius counted among his correspondents the leading scholars of his age. He was assisted in the compilation of the Bibliotheca Latina by the Danish scholar, Christian Falster3; and, in that of the Bibliotheca Graeca, by Küster4. He was also largely aided in the latter by Stephan Bergler (c. 1680-c. 1746), who, by his knowledge of Greek, might have attained a place among the foremost scholars of his time, but was reduced to the level of a literary hack by an insatiable craving for drink. Early in the century he was a corrector of proofs at Leipzig; in 1705 he left for Amsterdam, where he produced indices to the edition of Pollux begun by Lederlin and continued by Hemsterhuys, and himself completed Lederlin's edition of Homer (1707). We next find him helping Fabricius at Hamburg and elsewhere. During his second stay at Leipzig, he produced an excellent edition of Alciphron (1715); his edition of Aristophanes was published after his death by the younger Burman (1760); his work on Herodotus is represented only by some critical notes in the edition of Jacob Gronovius (1715); while his Latin translation of Herodian was not published until 1789. His rendering of a modern Greek work on moral obligations5 led to, his being invited to undertake the tuition of the author's sons at Bucharest, a position for which his intemperate habits made him peculiarly unfit. However, he was thus enabled to send Fabricius a few notes on the Greek MSS in his patron's library. After this he disappears from view. On his patron's death in 1730, he is said to have left for Constantinople, and to have adopted the religion of Islam. If so, he probably ended his days in perfect sobriety6.

3 Cp. chap. xxxviii init.

4 ii 445 supra.

5 Nic. Mavrokordatos, Περὶ τῶν καθηκόντων, 1722.

6 Cp. Burman's Aristophanes, i 2-14; Reimar, De Vita Fabricii, 169 f, 222 f; Saxe, Onom. vi 78-81 ; [Conrad] Bursian, [Geschichte der classischen Philologie in Deutschland (1883),] i 362-4.
On the dispute as to whether Bergler converted to Islam, see Christoph Saxe (1714-1806), Onomasticon Literarium, sive Nomenclator Historico-Criticus, Pars Sexta (Utrecht: Paddenburg, 1788), pp. 78-81 (at 80-81):
Rumor fuit, pulsum domo a Maurocordato abiisse ad Turcos, iisque circumsecandum se praebuisse. v. Christo. Wollius ad Clarkii Dissertationem de verbis Mediis, p. 240. ex eo P. Burmannus, in Praefatione ad Aristophanem, p 3 & 9. & Io. Matthi. Gesnerus ad Isagogen §. 524. p. 422. 423. Tom. I. qui varia de eo singularia habet. Sed in alia omnia nuper abiit Paulus Wallaszky, in Conspectu Reipublicae Litterariae in Hungaria, Posonii, & Lipsiae, 1785 8. edito, p. 243 (b.) qui vti eum vocat Cynicae vitae Philologum, sic refert, euocatum in Valachiam a Nicol. Maurocordato principe, vt filios eius doceret, mortuumque esse non tamen, vt Turcicum recutitum, quemadmodum Cl. Gesner in Praelect. Isag. in Erudit. vniversam §. 524. false ait, sed Bucharesti magna cum pompa elatum esse.
Paullus Wallaszky (1742-1824), Conspectus Reipublicae Litterariae in Hungaria, 2nd ed. (Buda: Typis Regiae Vniversitatis Hungaricae, 1808), p. 355, note a:

In short, Wallaszky contradicts Gesner's claim that Bergler ended up as a circumcised Turk, and states instead that he died and was buried in Bucharest. But Gesner knew Bergler personally ("Novi istum hominem Lipsiae....Fui aliquando apud ipsum"), and so his account should be given some weight. See Johann Matthias Gesner (1691-1761), Primae Lineae Isagoges In Eruditionem Universalem, 2nd ed. (Leipzig: Fritsch, 1784), pp. 423-424:

Note that, in contrast to Sandys' speculation ("he probably ended his days in perfect sobriety"), Gesner suggests that maybe the Turks killed him for drinking ("Sine dubio periit vt pecus, aut a Turcis inter pocula interfectus est"). But this is just a guess, since Gesner admits that he lost contact with Bergler after his move to Turkey ("Postea nihil de illo mihi innotuit").

Maria C. Marinescu, "Umanistul Ştefan Bergler (1680-1738). Viața şi activitatea sa," Rivista istorică romănă 11-12 (1941-1942 [1943]) 163-213, is unavailable to me.

I took a quick look at Marina Marinescu, "Neue Erkenntnisse über den Siebenbürgischen Humanisten Stephan Bergler (1680-1738)," Balkan Studies 30.2 (1989) 221-260, but didn't notice anything about Bergler's conversion to Islam, except for this excerpt (on p. 222) from Peter Burmann the Younger's preface to his edition of Aristophanes (Leiden, 1760), pp. 3-4:
Est hic Stephanus Berglerus Transilvanus, Hermanstadiensis (falsch!), qui Homeri editionem Barnesianam erudite recensuit, atque in Acta nostra Latina retulit. Vivebat eo tempore vir hic Graece doctissimus in hac Academia (Lipsiensi) deque Graecis literis egregie merebatur. Ego ipse cognovi hominem, in Graecis quidem literis praecipuum, at moribus impolitum, atque ex ejus usu, quum hanc linguam in hac Academia colerem, non parum profeci. Post aliquot annos hinc Hamburgum ad Fabricium, deinde Amstelodamum ad Kusterum ivit. Hinc vero Lipsiam rediens Graecos quosdam auctores (Aristophanem nempe & Herodotum) Th. Fritschii sumtu, praelo paravit, qui et Seren. Principis Valachiensis Alex. Maurocordati Tò περί των καθηκόντων βιβλίον Latine ipsi vertendum dedit, an. 1722. formis hic descriptum. Pro quo labore quum Princeps valde liberalis eximium ei pretium solvisset, consilium tandem Cl. Berglerus capiebat in Valachiam ad ipsum proficiendi, commodam ibi plures hujusmodi libros convertendi nacturus occasionem. Hoc autem in vivis non amplius reperto, Constantinopolim se contulit, ac, si famae tunc emananti credendum, Mohammedicam adscivit religionem.

Sunday, February 05, 2017


The Life of the Mind

C.G. Cobet (1813-1889), Protrepticus ad Studia Humanitatis (Leiden: Hazenburg, 1854), p. 7 (my translation):
To cultivate heart and mind with learning; to sharpen all one's natural intellectual endowments by observation and knowledge of useful subjects; to increase day by day the ability to comprehend; to know the past, and to correct and extend what is known; to make new discoveries by research; to investigate the causes of phenomena; to examine thoroughly the sources and progress of events; to explain the present by the past; to unlock hidden and complicated matters; to set right what is wrong and flawed; to refute, topple, and destroy foolishness and nonsense; and, summing up, to see the truth—this in the final analysis is a task worthy of human aptitude and reason, this is the spirit's nourishment, this is to live and enjoy one's life at last!

Excolere animum et mentem doctrina, rerum utilium observatione et cognitione ingenii dotes omnes acuere, intelligendi facultatem in dies augere, vetera nosse et cognita emendare et amplificare, nova excogitando reperire, inquirere in rerum causas, perscrutari rerum originem et progressum, ex veteribus praesentia explicare, obscura et intricata expedire, ubique vera a falsis discernere, prava et vitiosa corrigere, futilia et absurda confutare, labefactare, tollere, et, ut uno verbo absolvam, verum videre, hoc demum est humano ingenio ac ratione dignum, hoc pabulum est animi, hoc demum est vivere et frui anima denique!


The Dark One

Greek Anthology 11.13 (by Ammianus; tr. W.R. Paton with his note):
Dawn after dawn goes by, and then, when we take no heed shall come the Dark One. Melting some of us, roasting some and puffing out others,1 he shall bring us all to the same pit.

1 i.e. killing us by consumption, fever or dropsy.

ἠὼς ἐξ ἠοῦς παραπέμπεται, εἶτ᾿, ἀμελούντων
    ἡμῶν, ἐξαίφνης ἥξει ὁ πορφύρεος,
καὶ τοὺς μὲν τήξας, τοὺς δ᾿ ὀπτήσας, ἐνίους δὲ
    φυσήσας, ἄξει πάντας ἐς ἓν βάραθρον.
The same, tr. F.A. Wright:
Dawn follows Dawn, until the Dark One come
To drive us scattered to our Common Home.
    Heedless we play, while Water, Wasting, Fire,
To this one and to that he gives for Doom.
Commentary by Francesca Ricciuti, Gli epigrammi di Ammiano, pp. 10-12.


Was Man Created in God's Image?

Alain Corbin, The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination, tr. Miriam L. Kochan et al. (Leamington Spa: Berg Publishers, 1986), p. 29, with notes on p. 242:
Excrement became a subject of conversation at the court of Louis XVI.56 Voltaire commented that man had not been created in the image of God, since He did not have to satisfy such needs.57

56. Alexandre Parent-Duchatelet, Rapport sur les améliorations à introduire dans les fosses d'aisances, reprinted in Hygiène publique, 2:350.

57. Voltaire, "Déjection," in Dictionnaire philosophique (Geneva, 1764).
The passage from Voltaire (tr. Abner Kneeland):
Oh man! who is so daring as to call yourself the image of God, tell me whether God eats, and if he have a gut rectum?

You the image of God! and your heart and your mind depends upon a stool!

You the image of God on your close stool! the first man who dared to utter such impertinence, was he prompted by an excess of folly, or was it from extreme pride?
The French:
O homme! qui oses te dire l'image de Dieu, dis-moi si Dieu mange, et s'il a un boyau rectum.

Toi, l'image de Dieu! et ton coeur et ton esprit dépendent d'une selle!

Toi l'image de Dieu sur ta chaise percée! Le premier qui dit cette impertinence la proféra-t-il par une extrême bêtise, ou par un extrême orgueil?
See also Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 25 (tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
Hence the elder Antigonus, when a certain Hermodotus in a poem proclaimed him to be "the Offspring of the Sun and a god," said, "the slave who attends to my chamber-pot is not conscious of any such thing!"


What's the Point of Living?

Aristophanes, Clouds 1071-1074 (Worse Argument speaking; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
My boy, do consider everything that decency entails, and all the pleasures you stand to lose: boys, women, dice, fine food and drink, laughs. If you're deprived of all this, what's the point of living?

σκέψαι γάρ, ὦ μειράκιον, ἐν τῷ σωφρονεῖν ἅπαντα
ἅνεστιν, ἡδονῶν θ᾿ ὅσων μέλλεις ἀποστερεῖσθαι·
παίδων, γυναικῶν, κοττάβων, ὄψων, πότων, καχασμῶν.
καίτοι τί σοι ζῆν ἄξιον, τούτων ἐὰν στερηθῇς;
When I read these lines, I wondered if ἀποστερεῖσθαι ... στερηθῇς could be an example of compound-simplex iteration, i.e. "the iteration of a compound verb in a succeeding clause or sentence by the simple verb alone, but with the semantic force of the compound" (Calvert Watkins, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 71 [1966] 115). Upon checking I found that this passage is included in Robert Renehan's discussion of the phenomenon, Studies in Greek Texts: Critical Observations to Homer, Plato, Euripides, Aristophanes and other Authors (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1976), p. 15.

The ancient Greeks of course had dice (κύβοι), but Aristophanes here doesn't mention dice but rather the drinking game known as kottabos (κότταβος).

Saturday, February 04, 2017


The Old Gill

John Cleveland (1613-1658), "The Old Gill," Works (London: Printed by R. Holt, for Obadiah Blagrave, 1687), pp. 306-307 (line numbers added):
If you will be still
Then tell you I will
Of a lovely old Gill,
Dwelt under a Hill:
Her Locks are like Sage        5
That's well worn with Age,
And her Visage would swage
A stout Mans Courage.

Teeth yellow as Box,
Clean out with the Pox,        10
Her Breath smells like Lox,
Or unwiped Nocks.
She hath a devilish Grin,
Long Hairs on her Chin,
To the foul-footed Fin        15
She's nearly a kin.

She hath a beetle Brow,
Deep Furrows enow
She's ey'd like a Sow,
Flat nos'd like a Cow.        20
Lips swarthy and dun,
A Mouth like a Gun,
And her tattle doth run
As swift as the Sun.

On her Back stands a Hill,        25
You may place a Windmill,
And the Farts of her Gill
Will make the Sails trill.
Her Neck is much like
The foul Swines in the dike;        30
Against Crab-lice and Tyke,
A blew Pin is her Pike.

Within this Ano
There dwells an Hurricano,        35
And the Rift of her Plano
Vomits Smoke like Vulcano;
But a Pox of her Twist,
It is always bepist,
And the Devil's in his List, 40
That to her Mill brings Grist.

'Ware the dint of her Dirt,
She will give you a Flirt,
She has always the Squirt,
She is loose and ungirt;        45
Want of Wine makes her pant
Till she fizzle and rant,
And the hole in her Grant,
Is as deep as &c.

Yea, as deep as a Well,        50
A Furnace or Kell,
A bottomless Cell,
Some think it is Hell.
But I have spoken my Fill
Of my lovely old Gill;        55
And 'tis taken so ill,
I'll lay down my Quill.
The poem doesn't appear in John M. Berdan, ed., The Poems of John Cleveland. Annotated and correctly printed for the first time with Biographical and Historical Introductions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), or in Brian Morris and Eleanor Withington, edd., The Poems of John Cleveland (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1967), so presumably the attribution to Cleveland is doubtful. Whoever wrote this bit of misogynistic doggerel, it's a veritable treasure-house of lexicographical puzzles. Someone better equipped than I am should write a scholarly article about it. With extreme diffidence I offer the following notes (OED = Oxford English Dictionary).

Title, 3, 55 Gill: OED, s.v. gill | jill, n.4, sense 1.a: "A familiar or contemptuous term applied to a woman; a lass, wench."

9 Box: Buxus sempervirens, the Common or Evergreen Box-tree, whose wood is yellow. False teeth were sometimes made of boxwood, perhaps as far back as ancient Rome (see Martial 2.41.6-7).

11 lox: locks, i.e. malodorous tufts or strands of wool?

12 nocks: Could this be from OED, s.v. knock, n.2 ("A hill; a hillock, a knoll"), meaning here the twin protuberances of the buttocks?

15 Fin: fiend, i.e. devil?

27 Gill: OED, s.v. gill, n.2: "A deep rocky cleft or ravine," perhaps used here for the intergluteal cleft.

28 trill: OED, s.v. trill, v.1, sense 1.a: "To twirl, twiddle, whirl, spin."

31 Tyke: A tyke can be a churl or a dog, but neither meaning seems right here.

32 Pike: weapon, means of defence, but I don't understand how a blew (presumably blue) pin can defend against crab-lice.

34 Ano: Spanish for anus.

36 Plano: Spanish for flat surface, used metaphorically for the expanse of the backside?

38 Twist: OED, sense 3.a: "The part of anything at which it divides or branches; spec. the junction of the thighs, the fork."

44 Squirt: diarrhea.

43 Flirt: ?

47 fizzle: break wind without noise?

48 Grant: Gordon Williams, A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature, Vol. I (London: The Athlone Press, 1994), p. 223: "Grant perhaps relates to grain, fork of the body, Halliwell defining it as 'The pudendum muliebre'."

49 &c.: some word ending in -ant, but what word?

51 Kell: kiln, according to Robert Nares, A glossary; or, Collection of words, phrases, names, and allusions to Customs, Proverbs, etc., which have been thought to Require Illustration, in the Works of English Authors, particularly Shakespeare and his contemporaries, new ed. by James O. Halliwell and Thomas Wright, Vol. II: K-Z (London: John Russell Smith, 1859), p. 480, quoting this line.

A much different version appears in Wit and Mirth: or, Pills to Purge Melancholy, 3rd ed., Vol. II (London: William Pearson, 1712), pp. 323-324 ("By Cleaveland"):
If you will be still,
Then tell you I will
Of a fusty old Gill,
That dwells under a Hill;
She is a right Sage,
Well worn with Age,
And a Visage will swage
A stout Man's Courage.

She has a beetle Brow,
Deep Furrows enow,
She's Ey'd like a Sow,
Flat Nos'd like a Cow;
She has a devilish Grin,
Long Hairs on her Chin,
She's nearly a-kin
To the foul footed Fiend.

Teeth yellow as Box,
Half out with the Pox,
Her Breath sweet as Socks,
Or the Scent of a Fox:
Lips swarthy and Dun,
With a Mouth like a Gun,
And her Twattle does run
As swift as the Sun.

Hair lowzy with Nits,
She stinks i'th' Arm-pits,
She still hauks and spits,
And hems up great Bits.
She has long unpar'd Nails,
Hands cover'd with Scales,
She's still full of Ails,
And to stink never fails.

Her Back has a Hill,
You may plant a Wind-mill,
And the Farts of this Gill,
Would the Sails well trill.
I've taken my fill
Of the fusty old Gill,
Which she took so ill,
That I laid down my Quill.

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