Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Suggestive Pronouns: This and That

Augustine, Confessions 8.11.26 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
Vain trifles and the triviality of the empty-headed, my old loves, held me back. They tugged at the garment of my flesh and whispered: 'Are you getting rid of us?' And 'from this moment we shall never be with you again, not for ever and ever'. And 'from this moment this and that are forbidden to you for ever and ever.' What they were suggesting in what I have called 'this and that' — what they were suggesting, my God, may your mercy avert from the soul of your servant! What filth, what disgraceful things they were suggesting!

retinebant nugae nugarum et vanitates vanitantium, antiquae amicae meae, et succutiebant vestem meam carneam et submurmurabant, 'dimittisne nos?' et 'a momento isto non erimus tecum ultra in aeternum' et 'a momento isto non tibi licebit hoc et illud ultra in aeternum.' et quae suggerebant in eo quod dixi 'hoc et illud,' quae suggerebant, deus meus, avertat ab anima servi tui misericordia tua! quas sordes suggerebant, quae dedecora!


Suicidal Exhibitionists

Peter Brown, The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), pp. 7-8, with notes on p. 214:
Yet, what for Christians such as Cyprian was an "extraordinary" death struck the average pagan as abnormal. Christians were seen by pagans as suicidal exhibitionists. As the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) wrote in his Meditations: a wise man could decide to leave the world through suicide. But to court death out of a mere spirit of opposition "as is the case with the Christians" was a form of "stage heroics" that repelled him. The phrase "as ... with the Christians" may have been added by a later copyist.11 But the copyist got the point. Some deaths (and not only the deaths of Christians) were public theater of the most obtrusive and unwelcome sort.

We should always remember that, for the average pagan, Christian martyrs were not a unique phenomenon. They fitted all too easily into a long line of gore-soaked and crazed figures. Gladiators played with death in the arena. Their blood and mangled corpses were associated with uncanny powers.12 Maverick philosophers also courted death by going out of their way to insult the powerful. The craziest of these, the philosopher Peregrinus, had even toyed for a time with Christianity. He gained great prestige among Christians as a potential martyr. He ended his life, in 165 AD, by committing suicide through burning himself near the crowds assembled at Olympia for the Olympic Games.13 The deaths of Christian martyrs did not necessarily impress outsiders. Rather, these deaths struck them as bizarre and disturbing. But pagans and Christians had one thing in common: heroic or pathological, the grisly, fully public deaths of the Christian martyrs held their attention, at the expense of more ordinary deaths.

11. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11.3, ed. C. Haines, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), 294. See R.B. Rutherford, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: A Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 188.

12. F. Dölger, "Gladiatorenblut and Märtyrerblut," Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg 1 (1923-1924), 196-214.

13. Lucian, Peregrinus, 11-14 and 35, ed. A.M. Harmon, Lucian 5, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972), 12-16 and 38-40; see J. König, "The Cynic and Christian Lives of Peregrinus," in The Limits of Ancient Biography, ed. B. McGing and J. Mossman (Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2006), 227-254.


Superlatives of Superlatives

Sophocles, Philoctetes 64-65 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
And you may add as many of the most extreme insults against me as you please.

                                                 λέγων ὅσ᾿ ἂν
θέλῃς καθ᾿ ἡμῶν ἔσχατ᾿ ἐσχάτων κακά.
More literally:
Speaking against me evils, most extreme of most extreme, as many as you wish.
T.B.L. Webster ad loc. (on ἔσχατ᾿ ἐσχάτων) cites two works by Holger Thesleff — Studies on Intensification in Early and Classical Greek (Helsingfors, 1954 = Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum, XXI.1), § 342, and Studies on the Greek Superlative (Helsingfors, 1955 = Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum, XXI.3), §§ 13, 35, both of which are unavailable to me.

In Latin cf. Naevius, comic fragment 118, in Otto Ribbeck, ed., Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta, 3rd ed., Vol. II: Comicorum Fragmenta (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1898), p. 31 (pessimorum pessime = worst of the worst), and Plautus, Captivi 836 (optumorum optume = best of the best).

Related post: King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Modern Philosophers

Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), The Decline of the West, Vol. I: Form and Actuality, tr. Charles Frances Atkinson (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1926), pp. 42-43 (footnote omitted):
And herein, I think, all the philosophers of the newest age are open to a serious criticism. What they do not possess is real standing in actual life. Not one of them has intervened effectively, either in higher politics, in the development of modern technics, in matters of communication, in economics, or in any other big actuality, with a single act or a single compelling idea. Not one of them counts in mathematics, in physics, in the science of government, even to the extent that Kant counted. Let us glance at other times. Confucius was several times a minister. Pythagoras was the organizer of an important political movement akin to the Cromwellian, the significance of which is even now far underestimated by Classical researchers. Goethe, besides being a model executive minister though lacking, alas! the operative sphere of a great state was interested in the Suez and Panama canals (the dates of which he foresaw with accuracy) and their effects on the economy of the world, and he busied himself again and again with the question of American economic life and its reactions on the Old World, and with that of the dawning era of machine-industry. Hobbes was one of the originators of the great plan of winning South America for England, and although in execution the plan went no further than the occupation of Jamaica, he has the glory of being one of the founders of the British Colonial Empire. Leibniz, without doubt the greatest intellect in Western philosophy, the founder of the differential calculus and the analysis situs, conceived or co-operated in a number of major political schemes, one of which was to relieve Germany by drawing the attention of Louis XIV to the importance of Egypt as a factor in French world-policy. The ideas of the memorandum on this subject that he drew up for the Grand Monarch were so far in advance of their time (1672) that it has been thought that Napoleon made use of them for his Eastern venture. Even thus early, Leibniz laid down the principle that Napoleon grasped more and more clearly after Wagram, viz., that acquisitions on the Rhine and in Belgium would not permanently better the position of France and that the neck of Suez would one day be the key of world-dominance. Doubtless the King was not equal to these deep political and strategic conceptions of the Philosopher.

Turning from men of this mould to the philosophers of to-day, one is dismayed and shamed. How poor their personalities, how commonplace their political and practical outlook! Why is it that the mere idea of calling upon one of them to prove his intellectual eminence in government, diplomacy, large-scale organization, or direction of any big colonial, commercial or transport concern is enough to evoke our pity? And this insufficiency indicates, not that they possess inwardness, but simply that they lack weight. I look round in vain for an instance in which a modern "philosopher" has made a name by even one deep or far-seeing pronouncement on an important question of the day. I see nothing but provincial opinions of the same kind as anyone else's. Whenever I take up a work by a modern thinker, I find myself asking: has he any idea whatever of the actualities of world-politics, world-city problems, capitalism, the future of the state, the relation of technics to the course of civilization, Russia, Science? Goethe would have understood all this and revelled in it, but there is not one living philosopher capable of taking it in.


A Fish Out of Water

Theodore Dalrymple, "Mary Neal Lives On," Taki's Magazine (January 13, 2018):
I feel a profound cleavage between my own generation and that of young adults today: I do not understand, and do not really like, their tastes, their ambitions, their enjoyments, their sorrows, their opinions, or even their humor. But then I could say that of my own generation also: I never really belonged to it, or wanted to belong to it. I have always been a fish out of water, ever since I can remember.


They Couldn't Bear to Leave

Herodotus 1.165.3 (tr. A.D. Godley):
Not only so, but they sank in the sea a mass of iron, and swore never to return to Phocaea before the iron should again appear. But while they prepared to voyage to Cyrnus, more than half of the citizens were taken with a longing and a pitiful sorrow for the city and the life of their land, and they broke their oath and sailed back to Phocaea.

πρὸς δὲ ταύτῃσι καὶ μύδρον σιδήρεον κατεπόντωσαν καὶ ὤμοσαν μὴ πρὶν ἐς Φωκαίην ἥξειν πρὶν ἢ τὸν μύδρον τοῦτον ἀναφανῆναι. στελλομένων δὲ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὴν Κύρνον, ὑπερημίσεας τῶν ἀστῶν ἔλαβε πόθος τε καὶ οἶκτος τῆς πόλιος καὶ τῶν ἠθέων τῆς χώρης, ψευδόρκιοι δὲ γενόμενοι ἀπέπλεον ὀπίσω ἐς τὴν Φωκαίην.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


All Alone

Sophocles, Philoctetes 169-179 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
I pity him, in that
with none among mortals to care for him        170
and with no companion he can look on,
miserable, always alone,
he suffers from a cruel sickness
and is bewildered by each
need as it arises. How, how        175
does the unhappy man hold out?
O contrivances of the gods!
O unhappy race of mortals
to whom life is unkind!

οἰκτίρω νιν ἔγωγ᾿, ὅπως,
μή του κηδομένου βροτῶν        170
μηδὲ σύντροφον ὄμμ᾿ ἔχων,
δύστανος, μόνος αἰεί,
νοσεῖ μὲν νόσον ἀγρίαν,
ἀλύει δ᾿ ἐπὶ παντί τῳ
χρείας ἱσταμένῳ. πῶς ποτε πῶς        175
δύσμορος ἀντέχει;
ὦ παλάμαι θεῶν,
ὦ δύστανα γένη βροτῶν,
οἷς μὴ μέτριος αἰών.

177 θεῶν
Lachmann: θνητῶν codd.
R.C. Jebb ad loc.:

Seth Schein ad loc.:

Friday, January 12, 2018


Tubs and Figs

Aristophanes, fragment 927 Kassel and Austin (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I'm from the country: I call the tub a tub.

ἄγροικός εἰμι· τὴν σκάφην σκάφην λέγω.
Poetae Comici Fragmenta, Vol. III 2: Aristophanes, Testimonia et Fragmenta, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984), pp. 415-416:

Menander, fragment 507 Kassel and Austin (August Meineke's reconstruction in his Fragmenta Comicorum Graecorum, Editio Minor, Pars I [Berlin: G. Reimer, 1847], p. xxi; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I am Refutation here before you,
the friend of truth and frankness,
who calls the figs figs, and the tub a tub.

                 Ἔλεγχος οὗτός εἰμ' ἐγώ
ὁ φίλος ἀληθείᾳ τε καί παρρησίᾳ,
τὰ σῦκα σῦκα καὶ σκάφην σκάφην λέγων.
Poetae Comici Fragmenta, Vol. VI 2: Menander, Testimonia et Fragmenta apud scriptores servata, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1998), p. 285:

See also Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), p. 1626 (#2272: Τὰ σῦκα σῦκα, τὴν σκάφην σκάφην ὀνομάζων), and Bruce M. Metzger, "'To Call a Spade a Spade' in Greek and Latin," Classical Journal 33.4 (January, 1938) 229-231.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Men and Beasts

Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492), Altercazione 5.142-153 (tr. ‎Jon Thiem):
But lives like ours within this world include
    so many evils that ferocious beasts
    inside some cave lead lives far happier.
The more the eyes of mortals see the good,        145
    the more they suffer from not having it:
    thus greater knowledge brings us greater woe.
Moreover, all the while we live our lives
    the sum of things we covet ever grows,
    yet beasts want only grass and cooling springs.        150
Who has the fewest needs is happiest:
    hence man appears least happy in this world,
    where all his life he dreams and vacillates.

Ma al mondo vita tal mal tanto ha seco
    che in vita più felice gli animali
    sarien bruti e selvaggi in qualche speco.
Quanto più veggon gli occhi de' mortali        145
    il ben, si dolgon più se ne son privi,
    e maggior cognizion ne dà più mali.
Ed oltre a questo, mentre siam qui vivi,
    assai più cose nostra vita agogna,
    che a lor basta l'erbetta e i freschi rivi.        150
Felice è più a chi manco bisogna;
    così par l'uomo più infelice al mondo,
    mentre che in vita qui vacilla e sogna.


New Youth Group

Natalie Zemon Davis, "The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France," Past & Present, No. 59 (May, 1973) 51-91 (at p. 89, n. 121):
The most interesting new youth group formed in this period was, however, the Whistlers or Sifflars of Poitiers, so-called from a whistle the members wore around their necks. Founded among students around 1561, it initially mocked both religions. Initiates had to swear by flesh, belly, death and "the worthy double head, stuffed with Relics" and by all the Divinity in this pint of wine, that they would be devoted Whistlers, and that instead of going to Protestant service, mass or Vespers, they would go twice a day to a brothel, etc. The group grew to some sixty-four youths and became especially hostile to the Reformed Church and its services, perhaps because of Reformed hostility to them. Its members began to go around armed. Hist. eccl., i, pp. 844-5.
The reference is to Histoire ecclésiastique des églises réformées au royaume de France, edd. G. Baum and E. Cunitz, 3 vols. (Paris, 1883-1889).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Chaucer Garbled

James Como, "Nine-Tenths A Loaf: A Review of Geoffrey Chaucer: a New Introduction [by David Wallace]," The New English Review (January, 2018; screen capture January 10, 2018):

I would certainly assign this book if I were teaching Chaucer, or for that matter any survey course on early English literature; further, I recommend it to the generally literate reader as a mini-introduction, not only to Chaucer but to key touchstones of Western literature, such is its richness of reference. But I would add the following, not noted by Professor Wallace. If we look to the end of the Tales we find the devout Parson. In his tale, Chaucer (with not long to live), takes his leave with a faithful gravitas:
Al that is written is writen for oure doctrine, and that is myn entente . . . thanke I oure Lord Jhesu Crist and his blisful Mooder . . . and graunte me grace of verray penitence . . . thrugh the benigne grace of hym that is kyng of kynges so that I may been oon of hem at the day of doom that shulle be saved. Qui cumpatre et Spiritu Sancto vivit et regnat Deaus per omnia scuela. Amen.
The quotation from Chaucer is garbled:
I don't know if these mistakes appear in the print edition of The New English Review (or even if there is a print edition). To quote Chaucer in the Manciple's Tale, lines 353-356:
But he that hath mysseyd, I dar wel sayn,
He may by no wey clepe his word agayn.
Thyng that is seyd is seyd, and forth it gooth,
Though hym repente or be hym nevere so looth.


Tuesday, January 09, 2018


The Boastful Man

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 4.7.2-6 (1127 a 21-32; tr. Benjamin Jowett, rev. Jonathan Barnes):
The boastful man, then, is thought to be apt to claim the things that bring glory, when he has not got them, or to claim more of them than he has, and the mock-modest man on the other hand to disclaim what he has or belittle it, while the man who observes the mean is one who calls a thing by its own name, being truthful both in life and in word, owning to what he has, and neither more nor less. Now each of these courses may be adopted either with or without an object. But each man speaks and acts and lives in accordance with his character, if he is not acting for some ulterior object. And falsehood is in itself mean and culpable, and truth noble and worthy of praise. Thus the truthful man is another case of a man who, being in the mean, is worthy of praise, and both forms of untruthful man are culpable, and particularly the boastful man.

δοκεῖ δὴ ὁ μὲν ἀλαζὼν προσποιητικὸς τῶν ἐνδόξων εἶναι καὶ μὴ ὑπαρχόντων καὶ μειζόνων ἢ ὑπάρχει, ὁ δὲ εἴρων ἀνάπαλιν ἀρνεῖσθαι τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ἢ ἐλάττω ποιεῖν, ὁ δὲ μέσος αὐθέκαστός τις ὢν ἀληθευτικὸς κἂν τῷ βίῳ καὶ τῷ λόγῳ, τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὁμολογῶν εἶναι περὶ αὑτόν, καὶ οὔτε μείζω οὔτε ἐλάττω. ἔστι δὲ τούτων ἕκαστα καὶ ἕνεκά τινος ποιεῖν καὶ μηθενός· ἕκαστος δ᾿ οἷός ἐστι, τοιαῦτα λέγει καὶ πράττει καὶ οὕτω ζῇ, ἐὰν μή τινος ἕνεκα πράττῃ. καθ᾿ αὑτὸ δὲ τὸ μὲν ψεῦδος φαῦλον καὶ ψεκτόν, τὸ δ᾿ ἀληθὲς καλὸν καὶ ἐπαινετόν· οὕτω δὲ καὶ ὁ μὲν ἀληθευτικὸς μέσος ὢν ἐπαινετός, οἱ δὲ ψευδόμενοι ἀμφότεροι μὲν ψεκτοί, μᾶλλον δ᾿ ὁ ἀλαζών.


Praise of Ourselves

Plutarch, On Praising Oneself Inoffensively 1 (Moralia 539 D; tr. Phillip H. De Lacy and Benedict Einarson):
For while praise from others, as Xenophonc said, is the most pleasant of recitals, praise of ourselves is for others most distressing.

c Memorabilia, ii.1.

αὑτῷ μὲν γὰρ ὁ παρ᾿ ἄλλων ἔπαινος ἥδιστον ἀκουσμάτων ἐστίν, ὥσπερ ὁ Ξενοφῶν εἴρηκεν, ἑτέροις δὲ ὁ περὶ αὑτοῦ λυπηρότατον.
Related post: Self-Praise.


No Greater Happiness

Auberon Waugh (1939-2001), writing in the Daily Telegraph, quoted in Alexander Waugh, Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family (London: Headline, 2004), p. 452:
I would be surprised if there is any greater happiness than that provided by a game of croquet played on an English lawn through a summer's afternoon, after a good luncheon and with the prospect of a good dinner ahead.

Monday, January 08, 2018


Whatsoever Thy Hand Findeth to Do, Do It With Thy Might

Thomas W. Laqueur, Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation (New York: Zone Books, 2003), p. 443, n. 24:
Satyrs who on vases are shown masturbating with one hand use the right one.
Cf. a kylix by the Amasis Painter depicting two satyrs (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, accession number 10.651):

Unless I'm misunderstanding some convention of ancient art, it appears that the satyr on the left is using his left hand, and the one on the right is using his right hand. So the cup is interpreted by Martin F. Kilmer and Robert Develin, "The Amasis Painter: Erotica, Scatologica and Inscriptions," Electronic Antiquity 2.1 (June 1994).


Uncompromisingly Different

Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places (London: Granta Books, 2007), pp. 306-307:
So few wild creatures, relatively, remain in Britain and Ireland: so few, relatively, in the world. Pursuing our project of civilisation, we have pushed thousands of species towards the brink of disappearance, and many thousands more over the edge. The loss, after it is theirs, is ours. Wild animals, like wild places, are invaluable to us precisely because they are not us. They are uncompromisingly different. The paths they follow, the impulses that guide them, are of other orders. The seal's holding gaze, before it flukes to push another tunnel through the sea, the hare's run, the hawk's high gyres: such things are wild. Seeing them, you are made briefly aware of a world at work around and beside our own, a world operating in patterns and purposes that you do not share. These are creatures, you realise, that live by voices inaudible to you.



Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 2.10 (tr. R.P.H. Green):
But casual readers are misled by problems and ambiguities of many kinds, mistaking one thing for another. In some passages they find no meaning at all that they can grasp at, even falsely, so thick is the fog created by some obscure phrases. I have no doubt that this is all divinely predetermined, so that pride may be subdued by hard work and intellects which tend to despise things that are easily discovered may be rescued from boredom and reinvigorated.

sed multis et multiplicibus obscuritatibus et ambiguitatibus decipiuntur qui temere legunt, aliud pro alio sentientes. quibusdam autem locis quid vel falso suspicentur non inveniunt: ita obscure dicta quaedam densissimam caliginem obducunt. quod totum provisum esse divinitus non dubito, ad edomandam labore superbiam et intellectum a fastidio renovandum, cui facile investigata plerumque vilescunt.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


Beatus Vir

Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492), Altercazione 1.97-108 (tr. ‎Jon Thiem):
Happy is he whose wants reflect his needs,
    but woe to him whose ever-hungry mind
    cannot possess the thing it covets most;
our boundless longing never dies but grows,        100
    and growing racks us all the more: who yearns
    the most must always settle for much less.
That man who's pleased with what he has seems much
    more rich to me than he who values what
    he doesn't have above the things he owns.        105
True wealth is tranquil poverty, so long
    as it supplies life's needs. If you feel rich
    or poor, it's what you're used to, nothing more.

Felice è quel che quanto gli bisogna
    tanto disia, e non quello a cui manca
    ciò che la insazïabil mente agogna;
nostra infinita voglia mai non manca        100
    ma cresce, e nel suo crescer più tormenta:
    a quel che più disia, più sempre manca.
Colui che di quel c'ha, sol si contenta,
    ricco mi pare; e non quel che più prezza
    ciò che non ha, che quel che suo diventa.        105
Quïeta povertà è gran ricchezza,
    pur che col necessario non contenda:
    ricco e non ricco è l'uom, come s'avvezza.
‎Federico Sanguineti ad loc.:
97-99. Felice... agogna: motivo oraziano; cfr. Carm., III, 1, 25-32. - 100-101. nostra infinita... più tormenta: motivo oraziano; cfr. Carm., III, 16, 42-44. - 103-104. Colui... ricco mi pare: topos classico; cfr. Ovidio, Metam., I, 131; Virgilio, Aen., VIII, 324-327. - 104-105. e non quel... diventa: motivo oraziano; cfr. Serm., I, 1, 108-112. - 107. pur che... non contenda: purché sia sufficiente alle necessità della vita; cfr. Orazio, Epist., II, 2, 199. - 108. s'avvezza: si abitua.
Related posts:

Saturday, January 06, 2018



Sophocles, Philoctetes 828-830 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Sleep, ignorant of anguish, ignorant of pains,
come to us with gentle breath, come bringing felicity,
bringing felicity, lord!

Ὕπν᾿ ὀδύνας ἀδαής, Ὕπνε δ᾿ ἀλγέων,
εὐαὴς ἡμῖν ἔλθοις, εὐαίων,
εὐαίων, ὦναξ.



Aristotle, Politics 5.2 (1303 a 25-27; tr. David Keyt):
Difference of race also tends to produce faction, until the city shares a common spirit. For just as a city does not arise from any chance multitude, so neither does it arise in any chance period of time. That is why most of those who in the past admitted joint colonists or later colonists have split into factions.

στασιωτικὸν δὲ καὶ τὸ μὴ ὁμόφυλον, ἕως ἂν συμπνεύσῃ· ὥσπερ γὰρ οὐδ᾿ ἐκ τοῦ τυχόντος πλήθους πόλις γίγνεται, οὕτως οὐδ᾿ ἐν τῷ τυχόντι χρόνῳ. διὸ ὅσοι ἤδη συνοίκους ἐδέξαντο ἢ ἐποίκους οἱ πλεῖστοι ἐστασίασαν ...


Say Hello to Him for Me

Facezie e motti dei secoli XV e XVI. Codice inedito Magliabechiano, ed. Giovanni Papanti (Bolgna: Presso Gaetano Romagnoli, 1874), pp. 77-78, number 110 (tr. Barbara C. Bowen):
The Florentine Martino dello Scarfa was unusually obese, so that he couldn't see those lower parts that are kept most covered. One day while he was urinating, a young boy stopped and had a good look. Martino said to the boy: "If you can see him, say hello to him from me; for I haven't seen him for ten years."

Martino dello Scarfa, cittadino fiorentino, era del corpo molto compresso et grasso oltra l'ordinario, talchè lui medesimo non si poteva vedere le parti interiori più coperte. Orinando uno giorno, uno fanciullo si fermò et guardavagli sotto. Martino gli dixe: Se tu lo vedi, salutalo per mia parte; che egli è dieci anni che io non l'ho visto.
Cf. Angelo Polizianos Tagebuch, ed. Albert Wesselski (Jena: Eugen Diederich, 1929), p. 13, number 18 (tr. Charles Speroni):
While Martino dello Scarfa, who was very fat and had a large belly, was urinating one day, he saw that a boy was staring at him; he turned to him and said: "If you see him, say hello to him for me, for I haven't seen him in ten years."

Martino dello Scarfa, orinando un tratto, e veduto un fanciullo che lui che grassissimo era guardava, voltosi a lui, disse: Se tu lo vedi, salutalo da mia parte, chè son dieci anni ch'io non l'ho veduto.

Friday, January 05, 2018


Useful Things to Know

Homer, Iliad 7.237-241 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
I know well myself how to fight and kill men in battle;
I know how to turn to the right, how to turn to the left the ox-hide
tanned into a shield which is my protection in battle;
I know how to storm my way into the struggle of flying horses;        240
I know how to tread my measures on the grim floor of the war god.

αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν εὖ οἶδα μάχας τ᾽ ἀνδροκτασίας τε·
οἶδ᾽ ἐπὶ δεξιά, οἶδ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀριστερὰ νωμῆσαι βῶν
ἀζαλέην, τό μοι ἔστι ταλαύρινον πολεμίζειν·
οἶδα δ᾽ ἐπαΐξαι μόθον ἵππων ὠκειάων·        240
οἶδα δ᾽ ἐνὶ σταδίῃ δηΐῳ μέλπεσθαι Ἄρηϊ.


Proposal for University Reform

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un texto implícito, Tomo II (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005), p. 216 (my translation):
In a university worthy of the name, the mere mention of a contemporary problem should be outlawed.

En una universidad respetable la sola mención de un problema contemporáneo debería estar prohibida.


An Imperfect Correspondent

Jonathan Williams, A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude (Boston: David R. Godine, 2002) p. 36 (on Erik Satie):
When Milhaud and (I think) Poulenc went to his rooms after his death, the most wonderful thing under the bed was all of his correspondence. He had opened not one letter in 25 years.
Si parva licet componere magnis, I open and read emails sent to me, but I'm lazy, and more often than not, I don't reply. Sorry.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Thursday, January 04, 2018


Heating and Air Conditioning

Sophocles, Philoctetes 15-19 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
But from now on your task is to help me, and to see where in this place there is a cave with two mouths, such that when it is cold there is a double seat in the sun, and in summer a breeze wafts sleep through the cavern with its opening at both ends.

ἀλλ᾿ ἔργον ἤδη σὸν τὰ λοίφ᾿ ὑπηρετεῖν,
σκοπεῖν θ᾿ ὅπου ᾿στ᾿ ἐνταῦθα δίστομος πέτρα
τοιάδ᾿, ἵν᾿ ἐν ψύχει μὲν ἡλίου διπλῆ
πάρεστιν ἐνθάκησις, ἐν θέρει δ᾿ ὕπνον
δι᾿ ἀμφιτρῆτος αὐλίου πέμπει πνοή.
T.B.L. Webster on line 16:
Odysseus describes the cave like a house-agent ...


It's a Scruffy Thing

H.J. Jackson, Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 1:
We all know the reader-annotated book of the present day, and we prefer not to think about it. It's a scruffy thing. Somebody has used yellow highlighter to mark significant passages — most of the text, it seems. Perhaps it was the same person who scribbled some page numbers in ballpoint pen inside the back cover, with the odd word to show what subject the page numbers refer to, and who wrote a disparaging comment on the title page, just under the author's name. If it is a library book, there will be no way of telling who marked it up, but if it is private property, the owner's name will almost certainly be on the first blank page inside the cover, at the top right-hand corner. If it is left behind on a bus, nobody will carry it off: it is unlovable and unsaleable.
In one small point, my experience differs from Jackson's. I would write:
Somebody has used yellow highlighter to mark significant passages — just in the first ten or so pages, it seems.
Cf. the Hawking Index, explained by Jordan Ellenberg, "The Summer's Most Unread Book Is...," Wall Street Journal (July 3, 2014):
It's beach time, and you've probably already scanned a hundred lists of summer reads. Sadly overlooked is that other crucial literary category: the summer non-read, the book that you pick up, all full of ambition, at the beginning of June and put away, the bookmark now and forever halfway through chapter 1, on Labor Day. The classic of this genre is Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time," widely called "the most unread book of all time."

How can we find today's greatest non-reads? Amazon's "Popular Highlights" feature provides one quick and dirty measure. Every book's Kindle page lists the five passages most highlighted by readers. If every reader is getting to the end, those highlights could be scattered throughout the length of the book. If nobody has made it past the introduction, the popular highlights will be clustered at the beginning.

Thus, the Hawking Index (HI): Take the page numbers of a book's five top highlights, average them, and divide by the number of pages in the whole book. The higher the number, the more of the book we're guessing most people are likely to have read.
Related posts:


Pork Products

Noel Coward (1899-1973), "Any Part Of Piggy," The Complete Verse of Noel Coward (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011), p. 14:
Any part of piggy
Is quite all right with me
Ham from Westphalia, ham from Parma
Ham as lean as the Dalai Lama
Ham from Virginia, ham from York,
Trotters, sausages, hot roast pork.
Crackling crisp for my teeth to grind on
Bacon with or without the rind on
Though humanitarian
I'm not a vegetarian.
I'm neither a crank nor prude nor prig
And though it may sound infra dig
Any part of darling pig
Is perfectly fine with me.

Philippe Rousseau (1816-1887), Still Life with Ham
(New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number 1982.320)

Related posts:


The Body

Corpus Hermeticum 7.2 (tr. Brian P. Copenhaver):
But first you must rip off the tunic that you wear, the garment of ignorance, the foundation of vice, the bonds of corruption, the dark cage, the living death, the sentient corpse, the portable tomb, the resident thief, the one who hates through what he loves and envies through what he hates.

πρῶτον δὲ δεῖ σε περιρρήξασθαι ὃν φορεῖς χιτῶνα, τὸ τῆς ἀγνωσίας ὕφασμα, τὸ τῆς κακίας στήριγμα, τὸν τῆς φθορᾶς δεσμόν, τὸν σκοτεινὸν περίβολον, τὸν ζῶντα θάνατον, τὸν αἰσθητὸν νεκρόν, τὸν περιφόρητον τάφον, τὸν ἔνοικον λῃστήν, τὸν δι' ὧν φιλεῖ μισοῦντα καὶ δι' ὧν μισεῖ φθονοῦντα.
See Corpus Hermeticum, Tome I: Traités I-XII, edd. A.D. Nock and A.-J. Festugière, 3rd ed. (Paris: Société d'Édition «Les Belles Lettres», 1972), pp. 82-84, nn. 9-12.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018


The Election

Ludovico Domenichi (1515-1564), Facetie, number 310 (tr. Charles Speroni):
After a long and painful debate over the election of a prince, the choice fell on one whom, out of respect, I shall not mention. This had come about because of the numerous disagreements among the electors, who ended up by choosing an individual who was quite unworthy of that principality. When Umore from Bologna was asked what he thought of that election, he, without stopping to think a single moment, replied that those electors had imitated the fly, which circles hither and thither for a long time and finally settles on a heap of manure.

S'era penato gran tempo in far elezione d'un principe, il quale per degni rispetti io non voglio nominare, e ciò era intervenuto per le molte discordie degli elettori, i quali poscia erano caduti in eleggere un suggetto poco degno di quel principato. Ed essendo dimandato l'Umore da Bologna quel che gli pareva di cotal elezione, egli, senza punto pensare, rispose che quei tali elettori avevano imitato il moscone, il quale va girando quinci e quindi per buon spazio d'ora e dopo un gran giro si posa sopra una meta.
Related post: Election Day.


A Terrible Bullshit Is Born

Ted Pauker, i.e. Robert Conquest (1917-2015), "A Grouchy Good Night to the Academic Year," The Penguin Book of Light Verse (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980; rpt. 1984), pp. 506-510:
(with acknowledgements to W.M.P.)

Good night to the year Academic,
It finally crept to a close:
Dry fact about physic and chemic,
Wet drip about people and prose.
Emotion was down to a snivel
And reason was pulped to a pap,
Sociologists droning out drivel
And critics all croaking out crap.
For any such doctrine is preachable
In our tolerant Temple of Thought
Where lads that are largely unteachable
Learn subjects that cannot be taught.

Good night to the Session — portentous
Inside the Vice-Chancellor's gown,
The personage who'll represent us
To Public and Party and Crown.
By enthusing for nitwitted novelty
He wheedles the moment'ry Great,
And at influence-dinner or grovel-tea
Further worsens the whims of the State.
So it is that, however much we rage,
The glibber of heart and of tongue
Build ladders to reach a life-peerage
From the buzz-sawed-up brains of the young.

Good night to the Session — the Chaplain,
Progressive and Ritualist too,
Who refers to the role of the apple in
Eden as 'under review'.
When the whole situation has ripened
Of his temporal hopes these are chief:
A notable increase in stipend,
And the right to abandon belief.
Meanwhile, his sermons: 'The Wafer —
Is it really the Presence of God?'
'Is the Pill or the French Letter Safer?'
And, 'Does the Biretta look Mod?'

Good night to the Session — what Art meant,
Or Science, no longer seemed plain,
But our new Education Department
Confuses confusion again.
'Those teach who can't do' runs the dictum,
But for some even that's out of reach:
They can't even teach — so they've picked 'em
To teach other people to teach.
Then alas for the next generation,
For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.
Where psychology meets education
A terrible bullshit is born.

Good night to the Session — the students
So eager to put us all right,
Whose conceit might have taken a few dents
But that ploughing's no longer polite;
So the essays drop round us in torrents
Of jargon a mouldering mound,
All worrying weakly at Lawrence,
All drearily pounding at Pound;
And their knowledge would get them through no test
On Ghana or Greece or Vietnam,
But they've mugged up enough for a Protest
— An easyish form of exam.

Good night to the Session — so solemn,
'Truth' and 'Freedom' their crusader crests,
One hardly knows quite what to call 'em
These children with beards or with breasts.
When from State or parental Golcondas
Treasure trickles to such little boys
They spend it on reefers and Hondas
— That is, upon sweeties and toys;
While girls of delicious proportions
Are thronging the Clinic's front stair,
Some of them seeking abortions
And some a psychiatrist's care.

Good night to the Session — the politics,
So noisy, and nagging, and null.
You can tell how the time-bomb of Folly ticks
By applying your ear to their skull;
Of course, that is only a metaphor,
But they have their metaphors too,
Such as 'Fascist', that's hardly the better for
Being used of a liberal and Jew
— The Prof. of Applied Aeronautics,
For failing such students as try,
With LSD lapping their cortex,
To fub up a fresh way to fly.

Good night to the Session — the Union:
The speeches with epigram packed,
So high upon phatic communion,
So low upon logic and fact.
(Those epigrams? — Oh well, at any rate
By now we're all quite reconciled
To a version that's vastly degenerate
From the Greek, via Voltaire and Wilde.)
Then the bold resolutions devoted
To the praise of a party or state
In this context most obviously noted
For its zeal in destroying debate.

Good night to the Session — the sculpture:
A jelly containing a clock
Where they say, 'From the way that you gulped you're
Therapeutically thrilled by the shock!'
— It's the Shock of, alas, Recognition
At what's yearly presented as new
Since first seen at Duchamps' exhibition
'Des Maudits', in Nineteen-O-Two.
But let's go along to the Happening,
Where an artist can really unwind,
Stuff like 'Rapists should not take the rap' penning
In gamboge on a model's behind.

Good night to the Session — a later
Will come — and the freshmen we'll get!
Their pretensions will be even greater,
Their qualifications worse yet.
— But don't be too deeply depressible
At obtuseness aflame for applause;
The louts that are loudest in decibel
Melt away in post-graduate thaws.
Don't succumb to an anger unreasoned!
Most students are charming, and bright;
And even some dons are quite decent ...
But good night to the Session, good night!
Inspired by Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802-1839), "Good-Night to the Season."


The Resurrection of the Flesh

Boccaccio, Decameron 3.10.13 (the maiden Alibech speaking with the hermit Rustico; tr. John Payne):
Matters standing thus and Rustico being more than ever inflamed in his desires to see her so fair, there came the resurrection of the flesh, which Alibech observing and marvelling, "Rustico," quoth she, "what is that I see on thee which thrusteth forth thus and which I have not?"

"Faith, daughter mine," answered he, "this is the devil whereof I bespoke thee; and see now, he giveth me such sore annoy that I can scarce put up with it."

E così stando, essendo Rustico più che mai nel suo disidero acceso per lo vederla così bella, venne la resurrezion della carne; la quale riguardando Alibech e maravigliatasi, disse: "Rustico, quella che cosa è che io ti veggio che così si pigne in fuori, e non l'ho io?"

"O figliuola mia," disse Rustico "questo è il diavolo di che io t'ho parlato. E vedi tu? ora egli mi dà grandissima molestia, tanta che io appena la posso sofferire."
This is left untranslated in J.M. Rigg's version (1903). See Theo Hermans, The Conference of the Tongues (2007; rpt. London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 60-63.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018


A Curse

Homer, Iliad 7.99-100 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
But may you one and all turn to earth and water,
you who sit there each man with no heart in him, utterly inglorious.

ἀλλ᾽ ὑμεῖς μὲν πάντες ὕδωρ καὶ γαῖα γένοισθε
ἥμενοι αὖθι ἕκαστοι ἀκήριοι ἀκλεὲς αὔτως.
G.S. Kirk ad loc.:
'May you all become water and earth' is a unique expression. These are the components from which human beings are made according to one popular view (so Hesiod, Erga 61, Xenophanes frag. 33, cf. Hesiod, Theog. 571 with M. L. West's comment), and the Achaeans' inertia makes it an appropriate form of curse. ἀκήριοι, from κήρ = 'heart', means 'lifeless' or 'spiritless' (6x Il.; in its two Odyssean uses it has a different sense akin to that ἀκήρατος). ἀκλεές is neuter acc. used adverbially; nom. plur. ἀκλέες, so accented, had some support (cf. Eustathius 669.1) but is probably an incorrect form (Chantraine, GH 1, 74). αὔτως intensifies: 'in an utterly inglorious way'.


A Deep Suspicion of Change and the New

Guido Ruggiero, The Renaissance in Italy: A Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), p. 6 (on Joachim of Fiore):
For all its strangeness to modern eyes, Joachim's prophesy was perhaps most strange to contemporaries for a claim that would go largely unnoted today — that this third age would be a new age and a better one because it was new. One of the deep differences that sets modern society and culture off from most others is that it tends to accept without question that the new is good. The premodern world, by contrast, had a deep suspicion of change and the new. In fact, in many ways it was enough to label a thing new or a change as an innovation to ensure that it would be seen as wrong and rejected. At one level there is a profound logic in this, for if one looks at the world around us, all things do seem to break down with time and change; thus, from that perspective, change over time, and the new, imply decay. In the best of worlds, then, the ideal would be to hold things as they are or, better yet, to return to their beginnings before change and decay set in, that is, return to when they were first made.

Monday, January 01, 2018


Birthday and Deathday Celebrations

Brent D. Shaw, "Seasons of Death: Aspects of Mortality in Imperial Rome," Journal of Roman Studies 86 (1996) 100-138 (at 103):
The anniversary of one's biological birthday had been celebrated by 'pagans' with great festivity. The Christians reversed this perspective. They tended to denigrate, devalue, and even ignore secular birthday celebrations; now it was the precise time of one's death that became the centre of a new sense of celebration. The point of transition from the deathly pall of this existence to the eternal reward of perfect life was the time that was important and deserving of memory. Christians, therefore, placed particular emphasis on the precise date when a person died. Christian rhetoric was marked by an ironic reversal (typical of many rebellious ideologies) which asserted that death was actually the point of birth into life. Hence Christians frequently refer to the day of one's death as the day of one's birth (natus) or birthday (dies natalis).14 The actual number of years one had traversed in this life — a shadowy and evil thing configured by sin and by demonic forces that had systematically to be exorcized at baptism — was of less concern. The first transition in this time towards one's new life was marked by the liminal ritual of baptism. It was then that one began the process of being born again. Hence the frequent identification of a Christian in our inscriptions as either a neophytus or a neophyta — a person who was a 'new growth'.15 What was much more worth remarking upon and recording on one's burial-marker, therefore, was the temporal point of the transition into one's genuine life, a reality that required no measurement since it would be eternal.16 The place of burial became significant for this reason. It was a temporary place of repose, or sleep, where the true relatives, the 'brothers' and 'sisters' of the deceased's Christian family, would come once a year to celebrate his or her birthday. As Tertullian phrased it, 'on the anniversary of their death we make ritual offerings to the dead in celebration of their birth' ('oblationes pro defunctis pro nataliciis annua die facimus').17

14 Consider: 'natus in pace': ICUR 9046 (for death); 'natus': 9060 (death); 'natale suo': 9228 (day of death); 'quo et natus est cuius anima cum sanctus in pace': 15634; 'natus in pace': 24060 (day of death); 'qui natus': 24180 (death).

15 J. Janssens, Vita e morte del cristiano negli epitaffi di Roma anteriori al sec. VII (1981), I.1.5, 'I neofiti', 26-32, notes how often Christians took care to emphasize the ritual of baptism, even when performed shortly before death itself.

16 On the new ideology see A.C. Rush, Death and Burial in Christian Antiquity, The Catholic University of America Studies in Christian Antiquity I (1941), esp. pt. I, ch. 3, 'Death as Birth. The Day of Death as Dies Natalis', 72-87. See also A. Stuiber, 'Geburtstag', RAC 9 (1976), 217-43, esp. 220-33, on the ways in which Roman practices were redefined and designated by Christians in connection with the absolute value that they placed on life-after-death, especially as exemplified by the deaths of the martyrs.

17 Tertullian, De Corona 3; cf. De Exhortatione Castitatis I 1; and De Monogamia 10.


A Restorative

Jules Renard, Journal (January 22, 1910; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
The detestable pleasure, almost in the nature of a restorative, of venting one's bad humor upon others.

Le détestable plaisir, presque un remède, d'exercer sur les autres sa mauvaise humeur.


Porson the Comedian

From Alan Crease (with thanks):
Found in:

Dictionary of Latin quotations, proverbs, maxims, and mottos, classical and medieval, Riley, Henry T.

Published London: H.G. Bohn 1866

[Sternĭtur, exănĭmisque tremens procumbit humi bos. VIRG. — "The ox is felled, and, quivering, lies expiring on the ground." Porson is said to have exclaimed, on letting Bos's Ellipses fall upon some volumes of Hume's History of England, "Procumbit Humi Bos!"]

I doubt if I could repeat the act and raise a laugh amongst a circle of my acquaintances. Not that I have a copy of Bos's Ellipses, in fact I'd never heard of it. It does seem to be a work of incredible erudition and painstaking research that went through at least 6 editions. It makes you wonder how these works were ever composed and brought to publication without the aid of computers and databases. And presumably, a lot if it by candlelight.


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