Sunday, April 22, 2018


Holy Water

Robert Parker, Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion (1983; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 19:
'We ourselves fix boundaries to the sanctuaries and precincts of the gods, so that nobody may cross them unless he be pure; and when we enter we sprinkle ourselves, not as defiling ourselves thereby, but to wash away any pollution we may already have contracted .'3 There is abundant evidence from literature, vase paintings, and excavation for these stoups of lustral water sited at the entrance to sanctuaries, for the purification of those who entered. In inventories, they appear as part of a temple's normal furnishing; Hero, in his Pneumatica, tells of a mechanical device that gave forth lustral water at the drop of a coin.4 It is very revealing for Greek conceptions of the sacred that in Athens the agora, civic and political centre of the city, was marked off by similar lustral stoups.

3 Hippoc. Morb. Sacr. 148.55 ff. J., 1.46 G.

4 Cf. SIG3 index s.v. περιρραντήριον; Hero, Spir. 21. Full treatment by Ginouvès, 229-310 (my debt to this learned and comprehensive work is very large). For the earliest perirrhanteria see J. Ducat, BCH 88 (1964), 577-606. On their function cf. Lucian, Sacr. 13, Pollux 1.8.
Fuller references:

Perirrhanterion from Temple of Poseidon (Isthmia Museum)

Greek original of Parker's quotation (Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease 4):
αὐτοί τε ὅρους τοῖσι θεοῖσι τῶν ἱερῶν καὶ τῶν τεμενέων ἀποδείκνυμεν, ὡς ἂν μηδεὶς ὑπερβαίνῃ ἢν μὴ ἁγνεύῃ, ἐσιόντες τε ἡμεῖς περιρραινόμεθα οὐχ ὡς μιαινόμενοι, ἀλλ᾿ εἴ τι καὶ πρότερον ἔχομεν μύσος, τοῦτο ἀφαγνιούμενοι.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, 17 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Much about your good people nauseates me; and verily, it is not their evil.

Vieles an euren Guten macht mir Ekel, und wahrlich nicht ihr Böses.



George Orwell, "Marrakech," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 387-393 (at 390):
All people who work with their hands are partly invisible, and the more important the work they do, the less visible they are.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


The Time for Art and Philosophy Had Passed

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. pp. 43-44:
To me, the depths and refinement of mathematical and physical theories are a joy; by comparison, the aesthete and the physiologist are fumblers. I would sooner have the fine mind-begotten forms of a fast steamer, a steel structure, a precision-lathe, the subtlety and elegance of many chemical and optical processes, than all the pickings and stealings of present-day "arts and crafts," architecture and painting included. I prefer one Roman aqueduct to all Roman temples and statues. I love the Colosseum and the giant vault of the Palatine, for they display for me to-day in the brown massiveness of their brick construction the real Rome and the grand practical sense of her engineers, but it is a matter of indifference to me whether the empty and pretentious marblery of the Caesars — their rows of statuary, their friezes, their overloaded architraves — is preserved or not. Glance at some reconstruction of the Imperial Fora — do we not find them the true counterpart of a modern International Exhibition, obtrusive, bulky, empty, a boasting in materials and dimensions wholly alien to Periclean Greece and the Rococo alike, but exactly paralleled in the Egyptian modernism that is displayed in the ruins of Rameses II (1300 B.C.) at Luxor and Karnak? It was not for nothing that the genuine Roman despised the Graeculus histrio, the kind of "artist" and the kind of "philosopher" to be found on the soil of Roman Civilization. The time for art and philosophy had passed; they were exhausted, used up, superfluous, and his instinct for the realities of life told him so. One Roman law weighed more than all the lyrics and school-metaphysics of the time together.


Ten Times a Day

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, 13 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Ten times a day you must laugh and be cheerful.

Zehn Mal musst du lachen am Tage und heiter sein.


Mind Your Own Business

Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4.10-12 (NIV):
Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, περισσεύειν μᾶλλον, καὶ φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς χερσὶν ὑμῶν, καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν, ἵνα περιπατῆτε εὐσχημόνως πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω καὶ μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε.
Erasmus ad loc., from Paraphrase on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (tr. Mechtilde O'Mara, with her notes):
I will not urge you, therefore, to do13 what you are doing of your own accord, but rather to surpass yourselves in what you are doing at the prompting of the Spirit, as you move forward always to what is better.

However, you should take care that your tranquillity be not disturbed by idlers and busybodies, but that each person look after his own business. If anyone does not have sufficient means, let him provide for himself with his own hands resources both to support himself and to share with others in need, just as we have instructed you previously also.14 In this way you will be able to behave with dignity towards those who are outsiders to the profession of faith in Christ, for to beg for alms among them,15 or to act shamelessly on account of need would bring dishonour on your profession. Instead of this, let each person provide for himself with his own hands so that there be no need. And there will easily be enough for the one who is content with a little.16

13 to do what you are doing of your own accord] First in 1532; previously, 'to do of your own accord what you are doing'

14 Although the paraphrase here apparently follows the biblical text of 4:11 in referring to instruction during Paul's earlier visit to the Thessalonians, the injunction is also found elsewhere in the Epistles. Cf 1 Cor 4:12 and Eph 4:28. For Paul's own example, see 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8–12; and Acts 18:3, 20:34.

15 Erasmus' 1516 annotation on 4:11 (ut vestrum negotium agatis) betrays hostility to the mendicants: 'He [Paul] dissuades them from seeking what belongs to others, and from idleness to which many, even then [in Paul's day], were inclined under the pretext of religion. Now the world is crammed full of this sort of fellow.' In a 1535 addition, Erasmus goes on with biting sarcasm to implicate monks in the charge of mendacity. For Erasmus on beggars, see CWE 50 26 n5. Theophylact Expos in 1 Thess (on 4:12) PG 124 1309d also criticizes Christians who live by begging.

16 To be content with a little is praised also by Horace Satires 2.2.110.
On minding one's own business cf. Euripides, fragment 903 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
I would be foolish if I took care of my neighbours' business.

ἄφρων ἂν εἴην εἰ τρέφοιν τὰ τῶν πέλας.
Greek words for busybody include ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος, ἀλλοτριοπράγμων, and πολυπράγμων. See Jeannine K. Brown, "Just a Busybody? A Look at the Greco-Roman Topos of Meddling for Defining ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος in 1 Peter 4:15," Journal of Biblical Literature 125 (2006) 549-568, and Isaac Barrow, Sermon XXI (On Quietness, and Doing Our Own Business). The world would be better off if more people obeyed the Biblical injunction πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια.

Friday, April 20, 2018


What to Say in Awkward Situations

What to say when someone has broken wind loudly, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Night-Scene: A Dramatic Fragment," line 36:
A rude and scaring note, my friend!
What to say when you yourself have broken wind, from Henri de Régnier, Vestigia Flammae: Poèmes (Paris: Mercure de France, 1922), p. 2 ("Stèle," line 5, my translation):
My life around me gives off a pungent smell.

Ma vie autour de moi répand une odeur âcre.

From a friend:
If the Analhusten is a muffled, windy one, the first few lines of Verlaine's poem could also serve:
Ecoutez la chanson bien douce
Qui ne pleure que pour vous plaire,
Elle est discrète, elle est légère!
Related post: What to Say When Someone Farts.



Oh, But That's Old!

George Orwell, "Bookshop Memories," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 242-246 (at 245):
In a lending library you see people's real tastes, not their pretended ones, and one thing that strikes you is how completely the "classical" English novelists have dropped out of favour. It is simply useless to put Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Trollope, etc into the ordinary lending library; nobody takes them out. At the mere sight of a nineteenth-century novel people say "Oh, but that's old!" and shy away immediately.


Rivers of Blood

Vergil, Aeneid 6.86-87 (the Sibyl speaking; tr. Allen Mandelbaum):
I see wars, horrid wars, the Tiber foaming
with much blood.

                                      bella, horrida bella
et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno.
Servius ad loc.:
86. HORRIDA BELLA quae contra hospitem cognatumque suscepta sunt, ut Latinus dicturus est <XII 31> arma impia sumpsi promissam eripui.
87. SPVMANTEM SANGVINE CERNO quasi non praedicit, sed videt quod facturus est Turnus, ut <XII 35> recalent nostro Tiberina fluenta sanguine adhuc.
86. SAVAGE WARS which are waged against guest and kindred, as Latinus is going to say <XII 31> I took up unholy weapons, I stole the betrothed.
87. FOAMING WITH BLOOD I SEE as if she is not prophesying but seeing what Turnus is going to do, as <XII 35> Tiber's streams are still warm with our blood.
Phlegon of Tralles, Marvels 3 (tr. William Hansen):
At that time, Rome, your harsh sufferings will all be fulfilled.
For a broad host will come that will destroy your entire land,
Make desolate your market-places, waste your cities with fire,
Fill your rivers with blood, fill also Hades,
And bring upon you slavery, piteous, hateful, and obscure.
The Greek, from Otto Keller, ed., Rerum Naturalium Scriptores Graeci Minores, Vol. I: Paradoxographi Antigonus, Apollonius, Phlegon, Anonymus Vaticanus (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1877), p. 71:
καὶ τότε σοί, Ῥώμη, χαλέπ' ἄλγεα πάντα τελεῖται.
ἥξει γὰρ στρατὸς εὐρύς, ὅ σου χθόνα πάσαν ὀλέσσει,
χηρώσει δ' ἀγοράς, ἄστη δέ τε πυρπόλα θήσει,
αἴματι δὲ πλήσει ποταμούς, πλήσει δὲ καὶ Ἅιδην,
δουλoσύνην τ' οἰκτρήν, στυγερήν, ἀτέκμαρτον ἐφήσει.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Small Words

Euripides, Orestes 758 (tr. David Kovacs):
Life or death: small words for large things.

ἢ θανεῖν ἢ ζῆν· ὁ μῦθος οὐ μακρὸς μακρῶν πέρι.


He Made His Mother Cry

William Allingham, diary (January 12, 1877):
With Carlyle—Christianity—age fifteen, spoke to his mother—her horror. 'Did God Almighty come down and make wheelbarrows in a shop?' She lay awake at night for hours praying and weeping bitterly.
Cf. Mark 6.3 (KJV):
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Henry Copley Greene, "The Song of the Ass," Speculum 6.4 (October, 1931) 534-549 (at 534):
To represent the Virgin's flight into Egypt, a strange holiday was celebrated yearly in many towns during the Middle Ages. The following account2 of the Beauvais celebration is found in a letter of December 18, 1697 from a Canon in Beauvais, Foy de Saint-Hilaire, to M. de Francastel, Assistant Librarian of the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris.
'On the first day after the Octave of the [three] Kings,3 they chose a beautiful young girl, put a child in her hands, and mounted her on an ass which they led in procession from the Cathedral Church to the Church of St Stephen. Placing the ass and his lovely burden in the Sanctuary there on the Gospel side, they sang a solemn mass, whose prose [of the Ass] is in Louvet,4 and whose Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc., end in hin ham [he haw], to the point where in fine missae sacerdos versus ad populum vice "Ite Missa est" ter hinhanabit [he-hawed], populus vero vice "Deo gratias" ter respondavit, "Hinham, Hinham, Hinham".'.5
2 Dom Paul Denis, Lettres Autographes de la Collection de Troussures (Paris: Champion, 1912), p. 312.

3 Foy de Saint-Hilaire is emphatic as to dates: 'We must not confuse the holiday of the Ass with the day [other days] when the prose [of the Ass] was sung; for it is certain that this holiday [when the Ass went into St Stephen's] was neither on Christmas day nor on the day of the Circumcision, nor on the [Three] Kings' day, [but on] the first day after the octave of the [Three] Kings.'

4 Pierre Louvet, Histoire et Antiquités du Diocese de Beauvais (Beauvais, 1631-1635), ii.301.

5 In connection with this story, Foy de Saint-Hilaire added: 'See what I heard said by my late father, who had seen the whole Donkey Mass, [of] which [the MS.] was kept in our parish church of St Stephen, and which a clerk of the Curé's ... seized and cruelly burned because of conscientious scruples. His name was Davennes, and I knew him when I was a child.' (Denis, op. cit., 312).
On animal sounds in Greek and Latin see:
Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


The City of Brass

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The City of Brass," The Years Between (London, Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1919), pp. 148-155 (excerpts):
Swiftly these pulled down the walls that their fathers had made them—
The impregnable ramparts of old, they razed and relaid them
As playgrounds of pleasure and leisure with limitless entries,
And havens of rest for the wastrels where once walked the sentries;
And because there was need of more pay for the shouters and marchers,
They disbanded in face of their foemen their yeomen and archers.


They ran panting in haste to lay waste and embitter for ever
The wellsprings of Wisdom and Strength which are Faith and Endeavour.
They nosed out and digged up and dragged forth and exposed to derision
All doctrine of purpose and worth and restraint and prevision:
And it ceased, and God granted them all things for which they had striven,
And the heart of a beast in the place of a man's heart was given....


There was no need of a steed nor a lance to pursue them;
It was decreed their own deed, and not chance, should undo them.
The tares they had laughingly sown were ripe to the reaping.
The trust they had leagued to disown was removed from their keeping.
The eaters of other men's bread, the exempted from hardship,
The excusers of impotence fled, abdicating their wardship,
For the hate they had taught through the State brought the State no defender,
And it passed from the roll of the Nations in headlong surrender!


This Age

George Orwell, letter to Brenda Salkeld (early September? 1934):
This age makes me so sick that sometimes I am almost impelled to stop at a corner and start calling down curses from Heaven like Jeremiah or Ezra or somebody — "Woe upon thee, O Israel, for thy adulteries with the Egyptians" etc etc.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


A Revelation of Barbarism

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), From Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel, XXXV (How I Struck Chicago, and How Chicago Struck Me):
Sunday brought me the queerest experience of all — a revelation of barbarism complete. I found a place that was officially described as a church. It was a circus really, but that the worshippers did not know. There were flowers all about the building, which was fitted up with plush and stained oak and much luxury, including twisted brass candlesticks of severest Gothic design. To these things, and a congregation of savages, entered suddenly a wonderful man completely in the confidence of their God, whom he treated colloquially and exploited very much as a newspaper reporter would exploit a foreign potentate. But, unlike the newspaper reporter, he never allowed his listeners to forget that he and not He was the centre of attraction. With a voice of silver and with imagery borrowed from the auction-room, he built up for his hearers a heaven on the lines of the Palmer House (but with all the gilding real gold and all the plate-glass diamond) and set in the centre of it a loud-voiced, argumentative, and very shrewd creation that he called God. One sentence at this point caught my delighted ear. It was apropos of some question of the Judgment Day and ran: "No! I tell you God doesn't do business that way." He was giving them a deity whom they could comprehend, in a gold and jewel heaven in which they could take a natural interest. He interlarded his performance with the slang of the streets, the counter, and the Exchange, and he said that religion ought to enter into daily life. Consequently I presume he introduced it as daily life — his own and the life of his friends.

Then I escaped before the blessing, desiring no benediction at such hands.


Dislike of the Classics

Michael Meyer (1921-2000), Not Prince Hamlet: Literary and Theatrical Memoirs (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1989) p. 21:
So I continued with Greek and Latin, becoming progressively disillusioned, and it was not until my final term, when I had twice failed scholarships at Oxford, that I moved to the history side. By that time my dislike of the classics had become so strong that I have never opened a Greek or Latin book since, and I, who once read these languages almost as easily as I did English, now have difficulty in understanding any but the simplest words and phrases. Sometimes, now that I am old, it occurs to me that it might be an amusing exercise to revive my knowledge of, at any rate, Greek by going through Homer or Sophocles with a dictionary or a crib, but I do not suppose that I ever will.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Monday, April 16, 2018


French Books

George Orwell, "Hop-Picking," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 52-71 (at 54):
At about eight in the morning we all had a shave in the Trafalgar Square fountains, and I spent most of the day reading Eugénie Grandet, which was the only book I had brought with me. The sight of a French book produced the usual remarks — "Ah, French? That'll be something pretty warm, eh?" etc. Evidently most English people have no idea that there are French books which are not pornographic.
Related post: To Students of French.


Unflattering Comparison

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), "Schopenhauer as Educator," § 2, Untimely Meditations (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
I discovered how wretched we modern men appear when compared with the Greeks and Romans even merely in the matter of a serious understanding of the tasks of education.

Ich fand, wie elend wir modernen Menschen uns gegen Griechen und Römer ausnehmen, selbst nur in Hinsicht auf das Ernst- und Streng-Verstehen der Erziehungsaufgaben.



M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 544:
Aeschylus? Aeschylus? Was this not the man who fought at Marathon and Salamis against the forces of the East? The poet who first articulated the antithesis of Hellene and barbarian, and posited the all-round inferiority of the latter to the former? Pioneer of the most quintessentially and autonomously Greek of literary forms, Attic tragedy? Is even he now to be found prey to these insidious oriental influences that seem to reach everywhere?
Id., pp. 557-558:
Let us start from the famous invocation in the Supplices,
ἄναξ ἀνάκτων, μακάρων
μακάρτατε καὶ τελέων
τελειότατον κράτος, ὄλβιε Ζεῦ.

Lord of lords, most blessed of the blessed ones and most powerful of powers, felicitous Zeus.
Unprecedented and indeed almost unparalleled in Greek, this is an absolutely clear imitation of divine titles current in the Near East. Not only were deities addressed there with individual expressions such as 'lord of lords', 'king of kings', 'god of gods'; it was common for two or three such phrases to be juxtaposed, as in the Aeschylean passage. Thus an Akkadian-Hittite bilingual has the combination 'mistress of mistresses, goddess of goddesses'. Enlil is addressed in Assyrian prayers as 'lord of lords, king of kings'. On a stele of Nabonidus at Harran, Sin is called 'Enlil of the gods, king of kings, lord of lords'. Similarly in the Old Testament: 'For Yahweh your god is the god of gods and lord of lords'; 'the god of gods ... the lord of lords'. There are also Egyptian parallels.26 It is to be noted that according to Semitic idiom 'king of kings' or 'god of gods' does not mean a king who rules over kings or a god whom other gods worship, but (like 'song of songs') the most kingly among kings, the most divine among deities. By coupling ἄναξ ἀνάκτων with the superlative phrases μακάρων μακάρτατε and τελέων τελειότατον κράτος, Aeschylus implies that he understands it in the same way.27

26 Supp. 524-6; CTH 312 (E. Reiner and H.G. Güterbock, JCS 21, 1967, 257); KAR 68 (Seux, 272, cf. 274; Foster, 562, cf. 564); W. Röllig, ZA 56, 1964, 221 ii 20 (ΑΝΕT 562 f.; Foster, 757); cf. Tallqvist (1938), 12, 42, 237; Deut. 10.17, Ps. 136.2 f., cf. 84.8(7), Dan. 8.25; J. Gwyn Griffiths, Classical Philology 48, 1953, 145-54 = his Atlantis and Egypt, With Other Selected Essays, Cardiff 1991, 252-65. See further Friis Johansen-Whittle, (as ch. 9, n. 25), ii.408-10.

27 Cf. Gesenius-Kautzsch (as ch. 5, n. 140), 452 (§ 133h): Johansen-Whittle, loc. cit.
Related posts:

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Keep It to Yourself

Paul, Romans 14.22 (KJV):
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.

σὺ πίστιν ἣν ἔχεις κατὰ σεαυτὸν ἔχε ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ.
Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, s.v. κατά, sense II.1.c: "ἔχειν τι καθ' ἑαυτόν keep someth. to oneself".


Comfort One Another

Euripides, Orestes 296-300 (Orestes to his sister Electra; tr. David Kovacs):
Whenever you see me despondent,
you must cure the grim derangement of my mind
and encourage me. And when you are groaning,
I must stand by you and offer friendly admonition.
Aid like this is proper for kin to offer.

               ὅταν δὲ τἄμ᾿ ἀθυμήσαντ᾿ ἴδῃς,
σύ μου τὸ δεινὸν καὶ διαφθαρὲν φρενῶν
ἴσχναινε παραμυθοῦ θ᾿· ὅταν δὲ σὺ στένῃς,
ἡμᾶς παρόντας χρή σε νουθετεῖν φίλα·
ἐπικουρίαι γὰρ αἵδε τοῖς φίλοις καλαί.


The Stranger Within the Gates

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The City of Evil Countenances," Kipling's India: Uncollected Sketches 1884–88, ed. Thomas Pinney (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 81-85 (at 83; the city is Peshawar):
Under the shop lights in front of the sweet-meat and ghee seller's booths, the press and din of words is thickest. Faces of dogs, swine, weazles and goats, all the more hideous for being set on human bodies, and lighted with human intelligence, gather in front of the ring of lamp-light, where they may be studied for half an hour at a stretch. Pathans, Afreedees, Logas, Kohistanis, Turkomans, and a hundred other varieties of the turbulent Afghan race, are gathered in the vast human menagerie between the Gate and the Ghar Khutri. As an Englishman passes, they will turn to scowl upon him, and in many cases to spit fluently on the ground after he has passed. One burly big-paunched ruffian, with a shaven head and a neck creased and dimpled with rolls of fat, is specially zealous in this religious rite — contenting himself with no perfunctory performance, but with a whole-souled expectoration, that must be as refreshing to his comrades, as it is disgusting to the European, sir.
Id. (at 85):
The rancorous expectoration of our red-bearded friend — still on the culvert — as he performs his devoirs for the fourth time in the track of the on-going kafir may mean anything you please. A wanderer from the hills takes this opportunity of expressing his contempt for a whole nation — not even the long suffering missionary could credit him with influenza: or again neither security to life and goods, law, order, discipline, or the best blood of England wasted on their care, reconcile the calibans of the city of evil countenances to the white stranger within their gates.
Cf. George Orwell, "Shooting an Elephant," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 235-242 (at 235-236):
I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street comers and jeer at Europeans.


Dislike of the New Testament

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), On the Genealogy of Morals, III, § 22 (tr. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale, with their note):
I do not like the "New Testament," that should be plain; I find it almost disturbing that my taste in regard to this most highly esteemed and overestimated work should be so singular (I have the taste of two millennia against me): but there it is! "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise"2—I have the courage of my bad taste. The Old Testament—that is something else again: all honor to the Old Testament! I find in it great human beings, a heroic landscape, and something of the very rarest quality in the world, the incomparable naïveté of the strong heart; what is more, I find a people. In the New one, on the other hand, I find nothing but petty sectarianism, mere rococo of the soul, mere involutions, nooks, queer things, the air of the conventicle, not to forget an occasional whiff of bucolic mawkishness that belongs to the epoch (and to the Roman province) and is not so much Jewish as Hellenistic. Humility and self-importance cheek-by-jowl; a garrulousness of feeling that almost stupefies; impassioned vehemence, not passion; embarrassing gesticulation; it is plain that there is no trace of good breeding. How can one make such a fuss about one's little lapses as these pious little men do! Who gives a damn? Certainly not God. Finally, they even want "the crown of eternal life," these little provincial people; but for what? to what purpose? Presumption can go no further. An "immortal" Peter: who could stand him? Their ambition is laughable: people of that sort regurgitating their most private affairs, their stupidities, sorrows, and petty worries, as if the Heart of Being were obliged to concern itself with them; they never grow tired of involving God himself in even the pettiest troubles they have got themselves into. And the appalling taste of this perpetual familiarity with God! This Jewish and not merely Jewish obtrusiveness of pawing and nuzzling God!

2 Luther's famous words at the Diet of Worms.

Ich liebe das "neue Testament" nicht, man erräth es bereits; es beunruhigt mich beinahe, mit meinem Geschmack in Betreff dieses geschätztesten, überschätztesten Schriftwerks dermaassen allein zu stehn (der Geschmack zweier Jahrtausende ist gegen mich): aber, was hilft es! "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders,"—ich habe den Muth zu meinem schlechten Geschmack. Das alte Testament—ja das ist ganz etwas Anderes: alle Achtung vor dem alten Testament! In ihm finde ich grosse Menschen, eine heroische Landschaft und Etwas vom Allerseltensten auf Erden, die unvergleichliche Naivität des starken Herzens; mehr noch, ich finde ein Volk. Im neuen dagegen lauter kleine Sekten-Wirthschaft, lauter Rokoko der Seele, lauter Verschnörkeltes, Winkliges, Wunderliches, lauter Conventikel-Luft, nicht zu vergessen einen gelegentlichen Hauch bukolischer Süsslichkeit, welcher der Epoche (und der römischen Provinz) angehört und nicht sowohl jüdisch als hellenistisch ist. Demuth und Wichtigthuerei dicht nebeneinander; eine Geschwätzigkeit des Gefühls, die fast betäubt; Leidenschaftlichkeit, keine Leidenschaft; peinliches Gebärdenspiel; hier hat ersichtlich jede gute Erziehung gefehlt. Wie darf man von seinen kleinen Untugenden so viel Wesens machen, wie es diese frommen Männlein thun! Kein Hahn kräht danach; geschweige denn Gott. Zuletzt wollen sie gar noch "die Krone des ewigen Lebens" haben, alle diese kleinen Leute der Provinz: wozu doch? wofür doch? man kann die Unbescheidenheit nicht weiter treiben. Ein "unsterblicher" Petrus: wer hielte den aus! Sie haben einen Ehrgeiz, der lachen macht: das käut sein Persönlichstes, seine Dummheiten, Traurigkeiten und Eckensteher-Sorgen vor, als ob das An-sich-der-Dinge verpflichtet sei, sich darum zu kümmern; das wird nicht müde, Gott selber in den kleinsten Jammer hinein zu wickeln, in dem sie drin stecken. Und dieses beständige Auf-du-und-du mit Gott des schlechtesten Geschmacks! Diese jüdische, nicht bloss jüdische Zudringlichkeit gegen Gott mit Maul und Tatze!


One Mind Less, One World Less

George Orwell, "A Hanging," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 44-48 (at 45-46):
And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming — all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned — reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone — one mind less, one world less.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


Marriage Law

Horace, Carmen Saeculare 17-20 (tr. Niall Rudd):
O goddess, be pleased to rear our young, and to grant success to the Fathers' edicts on the yoking together of men and women and on the marriage law for raising a new crop of children...

diva, producas subolem, patrumque
prosperes decreta super iugandis
feminis prolisque novae feraci
         lege marita...
Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (1957; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 374:
But, seriously, without idealizing the past, should we not try to understand that not everything that to us sounds dry or technical or downright prosaic must necessarily have sounded so to an Athenian or a Roman? Could we not consider the possibility that a subject which we shy at when when we meet it in the daily paper may, to many contemporaries of Augustus, despite all their sophistication, still have seemed dignified enough for serious poetry? But even if we keep to our own primary reaction, unaffected by any thought of historical relativity, even then we ought to find it easy to respond to the feeling in this particular stanza. For the legislation which is the theme of these lines is not concerned with technicalities of private or public law but goes straight to the roots of the life of human society. I, for one, am not ashamed to confess that I am moved when I picture these handsome children, who represent Rome's finest youth, singing to the goddess diva, producas subolem, patrumque prosperes decreta .... Here they are, radiant, grateful for the unique distinction that has come to them, and aware that, while they are singing and praying, the eyes and ears of the men and women of Rome and of thousands of boys and girls are upon them, and that they are singing and praying for them all. Will they not wish that in a future saeculum there will again be Roman children, many Roman children, to be as happy as they and the others are now, and is it not fitting for them to implore Heaven's favour for the decrees of the Fathers (what a blessing for a poet if the constitutional life of his nation knows such a term)?


A Most Disgraceful Malady

Euripides, Orestes 10 (tr. David Kovacs):
He had an unbridled tongue, a most disgraceful malady.

ἀκόλαστον ἔσχε γλῶσσαν, αἰσχίστην νόσον.

Thanks to a friend, who sent me this photograph of some books on the subject (from his personal library):


Literacy in the Old Sense

D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), Instaurations: Essays in and out of Literature, Pindar to Pound (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), p. 4:
Literacy, in the old sense, was learned primarily from Latin, from concentrating slowly and often painfully on the way words are put together. Nunc et latentis. Someone, in the genitive, now hiding. Proditor. Something, modifying the subject, not yet stated, which betrays or conceals. Intimo. (In?) the innermost. Gratus. The something that reveals is charming. Puellae. A girl's. So a girl is hiding. Risus. A girl's laugh, revealing where she is hiding. Ab angulo. From the corner—the shadows at the edge of the evening piazza. And suddenly, from this dense linguistic medium, a picture stands out sharp and clear:
Nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo.
No English poem needs to be read quite as hard as these lines of Horace. The sheer difficulty of construing has I think a positive value. English attracts a lot of people who are not, as we say, strongly motivated; they want a light rinse of humane letters and suppose that the English department is the least disagreeable place to get it. The briefest exposure to Horace would send these people packing. And there is something else. No doubt the student did not always profit from the old philological grind, but one thing it did impress upon him. It forced him, at however crude a level, to be conscious of the phenomenon of language.

Friday, April 13, 2018



Pindar, Isthmian Odes 7.16-17 (tr. William H. Race):
But the ancient
splendor sleeps; and mortals forget...

ἀλλὰ παλαιὰ γάρ
εὕδει χάρις, ἀμνάμονες δὲ βροτοί...



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), "Why I Am So Clever," § 8, in Ecce Homo (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Early in the morning, when day breaks, when all is fresh, in the dawn of one's strength―to read a book at such a time is simply depraved!

Frühmorgens beim Anbruch des Tags, in aller Frische, in der Morgenröthe seiner Kraft, ein Buch lesen―das nenne ich lasterhaft!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


I Wasn't Born for an Age Like This

Poem by George Orwell, from his essay "Why I Write," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 1-7 (at 4-5, line numbers added):
A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;

But born, alas, in an evil time,        5
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.

And later still the times were good,
We were so easy to please,        10
We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep
On the bosoms of the trees.

All ignorant we dared to own
The joys we now dissemble;
The greenfinch on the apple bough        15
Could make my enemies tremble.

But girl's bellies and apricots,
Roach in a shaded stream,
Horses, ducks in flight at dawn,
All these are a dream.        20

It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.

I am the worm who never turned,        25
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram;

And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,        30
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays.

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasn't born for an age like this;        35
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?
Some notes to aid my understanding:
18 Roach: type of fish
25 the worm who never turned: cf. the proverb "Even a worm will turn"
28 Eugene Aram: scholar and murderer (1704-1759)
31 Austin Seven: type of automobile
32 Duggie: bookie Douglas Stuart, whose motto was "Duggie never owes"
33 I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls: aria from opera The Bohemian Girl


A Dream of the Past

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Mutiny of the Mavericks," Mine Own People (New York: The Nottingham Society, ©1909), pp. 97-130 (at 124):
The Saxon in Heaven's just balance is weighed,
    His doom like Belshazzar's in death has been cast,
And the hand of the venger shall never be stayed
    Till his race, faith, and speech are a dream of the past.


A Fish Begins to Stink From the Head

Erasmus, Adages IV ii 97 (tr. Denis L. Drysdall with his note):
Piscis primum a capite foetet
The head of a fish is the first part to smell

Ἰχθὺς ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὄζειν ἄρχεται, The head of a fish begins to stink first. Used of bad rulers, whose contagion poisons the rest of the people. The expression seems to derive from the language of common people.

Apostolius 9.18. Tilley F 304 A fish begins first to smell at the head


Ἰχθὺς ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὄζειν ἄρχεται, id est Piscis a capite primum incipit putere. Dictum in malos principes, quorum contagione reliquum vulgus inficitur. Apparet ab idiotarum vulgo sumptum.
Jennifer Speake, ed., Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, 6th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 114:
The FISH always stinks from the head downwards

The freshness of a dead fish can be judged from the condition of its head. Thus, when the responsible part (as the leaders of a country, etc.) is rotten, the rest will soon follow. ἰχθὺς ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὄζειν ἄρχεται, a fish begins to stink from the head.
1581 G. PETTIE tr. S. Guazzo's Civil Conversation III.51 If the prouerbe be true,...that a fishe beginneth first to smell at the head,...the faultes of our seruantes will be layed vppon vs. 1611 R. COTGRAVE Dict. French & English s.v. Teste, Fish euer begins to taint at the head; the first thing that's deprau'd in man's his wit. 1915 W.S. CHURCHILL Letter 3 Dec. in M. Gilbert Winston S. Churchill (1972) III. Compan. II.1309 The guilt of criminality attaches to those responsible. 'Well,' said the Aga Khan, 'fish goes rotten by the head.' 1981 Sunday Telegraph 3 May 16 'The fish', as the saying goes, 'always stinks from the head downwards.' Last Sunday we deplored Mr. Michael Foot's liking for the street politics of marches and 'demos'. Since then, a hundred Labour MPs...have followed their leader's example. 2012 Times 2 July 20 The fish rots from the head. The appetite of employee for dishonesty is largely governed by the signals from the top floor.



Juvenal 8.140-141 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
Every fault of character lays itself open to criticism—and the higher the wrongdoer's status, the more glaring the criticism.

omne animi vitium tanto conspectius in se
crimen habet, quanto maior qui peccat habetur.
Friedlander in his Testimonialapparat:
Alc. Avit. II 51 in ignoto minor est peccante reatus. Salvian. Gub. dei IV 57 Halm I 1, 47 criminosior enim culpa est ubi honestior status. Si honestior est persona peccantis, peccati quoque maior invidia.
Courtney ad loc. compares Cicero, On Duties 2.44, here in Walter Miller's translation:
For, if anyone in his early youth has the responsibility of living up to a distinguished name acquired either by inheritance from his father (as, I think, my dear Cicero, is your good fortune) or by some chance or happy combination of circumstances, the eyes of the world are turned upon him; his life and character are scrutinized; and, as if he moved in a blaze of light, not a word and not a deed of his can be kept a secret.

nam si quis ab ineunte aetate habet causam celebritatis et nominis aut a patre acceptam, quod tibi, mi Cicero, arbitror contigisse, aut aliquo casu atque fortuna, in hunc oculi omnium coniciuntur atque in eum, quid agat, quemadmodum vivat, inquiritur, et, tamquam in clarissima luce versetur, ita nullum obscurum potest nec dictum eius esse nec factum.
Cf. also Sallust, War with Catiline 51.12 (tr. John T. Ramsey):
If unimportant persons, who pass their lives in obscurity, commit any offense out of anger, few know about it; their fame and fortune are alike. But the actions of those who hold great power and pass their lives in a lofty station are known to all mortals.

qui demissi in obscuro vitam habent si quid iracundia deliquere, pauci sciunt; fama atque fortuna eorum pares sunt; qui magno imperio praediti in excelso aetatem agunt, eorum facta cuncti mortales novere.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


For That I Have No Concern

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "Namgay Doola," Mine Own People (New York: The Nottingham Society, ©1909), pp. 35-54 (at 40-41):
"But he worships strange gods," said the prime minister, deferentially.

"For that I have no concern," said the king, who was as tolerant as Akbar in matters of belief. "To each man his own god, and the fire or Mother Earth for us all at the last."


No Falernian Wine Here

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Heart of Darkness, I (Marlow speaking):
"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago—the other day....Light came out of this river since—you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker—may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine—what d'ye call 'em?—trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries,—a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been too—used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina—and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sandbanks, marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilised man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay—cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death,—death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh yes—he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by-and-by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga—perhaps too much dice, you know—coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him,—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


A Wish

Callimachus, fragment 193, line 1 (tr. C.A. Trypanis, with his note):
Lord Apollo, would that I had lived when I was not.a

a i.e. in other, older times.

εἴθ᾿ ἦν, ἄναξ ὤπολλον, ἡνίκ᾿ οὐκ ἦα.



Charlotte Smith (1749-1806), Rural Walks: In Dialogues. Intended for the Use of Young Persons (Philadelphi: Thomas Stephens, 1795), p. 83 (Mrs. Woodfield speaking):
My dear Caroline, you will know, when you have lived and observed a little longer, that nothing is so difficult to obtain as truth. If any uncommon circumstance were to happen at the end of this village, I am convinced that six different people would tell it six different ways. I never therefore expect, even in this country, to hear a thing related exactly as it happened. In another country this becomes so difficult, that I doubt every thing I hear; and if news is to be brought from that country to this, I know it is more than probable, that the event it relates has never happened at all.


They Want Sophocles and Shakespeare

Camille Paglia, quoted in Lucy Hodges, "Madam speaker," Times Higher Education Supplement (March 3, 1995):
When we hear all this nonsense about how we should be teaching poor students about the peasants of Guatemala in Marxist rhetoric, I say, excuse me, the factory workers I have had contact with, black and white, they don't want to read about the peasants of Guatemala. They want Sophocles and Shakespeare. That's why they're taking the damn course, OK? They want to learn about art. It's the height of condescension to teach ghetto sensibility to people who are trying to escape the ghetto.


Real Estate

Pliny the Younger, Letters 3.19.5 (to Calvisius Rufus; tr. Betty Radice):
But the chief point for consideration is this. The land is fertile, the soil rich and well watered, and the whole made up of fields, vineyards, and woods which produce enough to yield a steady income if not a very large one.

iam, quod deliberationis nostrae caput est, agri sunt fertiles pingues aquosi; constant campis vineis silvis, quae materiam et ex ea reditum sicut modicum ita statum praestant.


A Belly-to-Earth Attitude

George Orwell, letter to Henry Miller (August 26, 1936):
I dare say I am wrong and perhaps have missed your drift altogether, but I have a sort of belly-to-earth attitude and always feel uneasy when I get away from the ordinary world where grass is green, stones hard etc.

Monday, April 09, 2018


A Good Land

Homer, Odyssey 15.403-411 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
There is an island, called Syria, you may have heard of it,
lying above Ortygia, where the sun makes his turnings;
not so much a populous island, but a good one, good for        405
cattle and good for sheep, full of vineyards, and wheat raising.
No hunger ever comes on these people, nor any other
hateful sickness, of such as befall wretched humanity;
but when the generations of men grow old in the city,
Apollo of the silver bow, and Artemis with him,        410
comes with a visitation of painless arrows, and kills them.

νῆσός τις Συρίη κικλήσκεται, εἴ που ἀκούεις,
Ὀρτυγίης καθύπερθεν, ὅθι τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο,
οὔ τι περιπληθὴς λίην τόσον, ἀλλ᾽ ἀγαθὴ μέν,        405
εὔβοτος, εὔμηλος, οἰνοπληθής, πολύπυρος.
πείνη δ᾽ οὔ ποτε δῆμον ἐσέρχεται, οὐδέ τις ἄλλη
νοῦσος ἐπὶ στυγερὴ πέλεται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν·
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε γηράσκωσι πόλιν κάτα φῦλ᾽ ἀνθρώπων,
ἐλθὼν ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων Ἀρτέμιδι ξὺν        410
οἷς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχόμενος κατέπεφνεν.
Note that line 406 (εὔβοτος, εὔμηλος, οἰνοπληθής, πολύπυρος) consists entirely of adjectives in asyndeton. For similar hexameter lines see:



Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1854-1927), "Language as Interpreter of Life," Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 84, No. 504 (October, 1899) 459-466 (at 462):
Words are not words without context, motive, and life. Synonyms galore printed in Italics cannot compass a description of their life values. The clumsy devices of letters cannot yield a vision of even their bodily form. To know them really one must know them warm, — warm with the life blood of actual living speech; one must have met them under every variety of life conditions; one must have "summered and wintered" with them.

We arrange them in paradigms, and think we have compassed and measured them; but these paradigm pigeonholes only betray the limitations of our own petty logic. We try to cram words into compartments under our so-called rules of syntax, and the splendid failure which results offers the finest demonstration of the narrow range of reason as compared with the great background of soul life, the vast reaches of the divine indefinite.

Grammar is to the average healthy human being the driest and deathliest of all the disciplines. Except as it serves a temporary practical purpose of offering a first approach to the acquisition of a language, or of presenting to maturer study a convenient tentative and artificial classification of certain facts, it brings spiritual atrophy and death to him who gives and him who takes. Treated as an end unto itself, it desiccates teacher and pupil alike.


New Testament in Greek

Arnaldo Momigliano (1908-1987), "Pagan and Christian Historiography in the Fourth Century A.D.," Essays in Ancient and Modern Historiography (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1977), pp. 107-126 (at 109):
We all know the story of the man who went into a London bookshop and asked for a New Testament in Greek. The assistant retired to a back room and after ten minutes came back with a grave look: 'Strange, sir, but Greek seems to be the only language into which the New Testament has not yet been translated.'

Sunday, April 08, 2018


Solar Myth

R.D. Dawe, review of Douglas Frame, The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978), in Classical Journal 75.4 (April-May, 1980) 357-359 (at 358):
Frame explains that the Cyclops stands for the Sun himself because he goes out in the day and comes home at night. (If so, let the world know that Dr. Dawe is the Sun God, having precisely similar habits ... )
On p. 78 Frame treats us to a magnificently hilarious parody of a schoolboy essay: "there is less to say about the rôle of the sun in the final voyage of Odysseus. This voyage takes place by night ... "
Id. (at 359):
Dr. Frame is to be congratulated on slipping this splendid spoof on modern philological techniques and current trends in American literary criticism past the authorities of the Yale University Press.


Cursed and Polluted

David Hume (1711-1786), Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, X:
The whole earth, believe me, Philo, is cursed and polluted. A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures. Necessity, hunger, want, stimulate the strong and courageous: Fear, anxiety, terror, agitate the weak and infirm. The first entrance into life gives anguish to the new-born infant and to its wretched parent: Weakness, impotence, distress, attend each stage of that life: and 'tis at last finished in agony and horror.
Man is the greatest enemy of man. Oppression, injustice, contempt, contumely, violence, sedition, war, calumny, treachery, fraud; by these they mutually torment each other ...


Joy in Woe

Homer, Odyssey 15.398-401 (tr. Peter Green):
But we two will drink and feast in the hut, and enjoy
hearing about each other's wretched misfortunes
as we recall them. A man looking back can find pleasure
even in grief, one who's suffered and wandered much.
The same, tr. Emily Wilson:
                         But let us, you and I,
sit in my cottage over food and wine,
and take some joy in hearing how much pain
we each have suffered. After many years
of agony and absence from one's home,
a person can begin enjoying grief.
The Greek:
νῶϊ δ᾽ ἐνὶ κλισίῃ πίνοντέ τε δαινυμένω τε
κήδεσιν ἀλλήλων τερπώμεθα λευγαλέοισι,
μνωομένω· μετὰ γάρ τε καὶ ἄλγεσι τέρπεται ἀνήρ,        400
ὅς τις δὴ μάλα πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ πόλλ᾽ ἐπαληθῇ.
For a comparison of the translations by Green and Wilson, see Susan Kristol, "Speak, Goddess: Musings on two new translations of the Odyssey," The Weekly Standard (April 6, 2018).

Thanks to my friend Jim K. for drawing my attention to Kristol's review.



Nicolaus Steno (1638-1686), "Preface to Anatomical Demonstrations in the Copenhagen Theatre in the Year 1673," in Nicolaus Steno: Biography and Original Papers of a 17th Century Scientist. Edited and Translated by Troels Kardel and Paul Maquet (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2012), pp. 679-684 (at 682):
Beautiful is what we see, more beautiful what we know, but by far the most beautiful is what we do not know.
The Latin:
Pulchra sunt quae videntur, pulchriora quae sciuntur, longe pulcherrima quae ignorantur.

Saturday, April 07, 2018


Conversion from Lutheranism

Howard Ensign Evans, Life on a Little-Known Planet (New York: E.P Dutton & Co., Inc., 1968), p. 205:
Nevertheless the United States Entomological Commission became a reality, and went to work with a vengeance. The three entomologists were A.S. Packard, a student of Louis Agassiz who had authored the first American textbook of entomology; Cyrus Thomas, a Lutheran minister converted to entomology, and especially to grasshoppers; and of course C.V. Riley as chairman.


The Poligs of the Oern Vent

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "An Important Discovery," Kipling's India: Uncollected Sketches 1884–88, ed. Thomas Pinney (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 255-257 (at 255):
'The Poligs of the Oern Vent in dugard to the Brounincinl Coutrick is the colic of the unscrifulouse Gawler.' So ran the printed slip technically known as a 'rough proof'. The Aryan had surpassed himself; but, as he read, light filled the mind of the Reader. He had written — 'The policy of the Government in regard to the Provincial Contract is the policy of the unscrupulous lawyer', and, behold, with a mere turn of his wrist, the Aryan had glorified, and enriched with the wealth of an exuberant Orientalism that simple sentence, till it stood forth a gem, or rather a collection of gems! 'The Poligs of the Oern Vent' — George Meredith might have woven those words into the Shaving of Shagpat, and so made that dazzling piece of broidery yet more gorgeous. 'Brounincinl Coutrick' would suit admirably the manager of a travelling-circus. Conceive the effect, on white and red posters of: — 'To-night! To-night!! To-night!!! The Brounincinl Coutrick!' The words would draw thousands — millions. 'Unscrifulouse Gawler' again would furnish an absolutely unique and startling title for a semi-humourous, semi-grotesque, wholly-horrible story, of the American school, let us say. Think for a moment what fashion of ghoulo-demoniacal, triple-Quilpian, Jekyll-and-Hydeous character, the 'unscrifulouse Gawler' would be. Out of the incult wantonings of a Punjabi Mahommedan with a box of type, had been born the suggestions of three Brilliant Notions, did any man care to use them, exactly as ideas for patterns are conveyed to the designer by the chance-ruled twists of the Kaleidescope.




Homer, Iliad 16.852-853 (Patroclus to Hector; cf. 24.131-132, Thetis to Achilles; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already
death and powerful destiny are standing beside you.

οὔ θην οὐδ᾽ αὐτὸς δηρὸν βέῃ, ἀλλά τοι ἤδη
ἄγχι παρέστηκεν θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα κραταιή.

Friday, April 06, 2018


The Land Lay Fenceless

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Islanders," lines 31-44:
Then ye returned to your trinkets; then ye contented your souls
With the flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals.
Given to strong delusion, wholly believing a lie,
Ye saw that the land lay fenceless, and ye let the months go by
Waiting some easy wonder, hoping some saving sign—        35
Idle—openly idle—in the lee of the forespent Line.
Idle—except for your boasting—and what is your boasting worth
If ye grudge a year of service to the lordliest life on earth?
Ancient, effortless, ordered, cycle on cycle set,
Life so long untroubled, that ye who inherit forget        40
It was not made with the mountains, it is not one with the deep.
Men, not gods, devised it. Men, not gods, must keep.
Men, not children, servants, or kinsfolk called from afar,
But each man born in the Island broke to the matter of war.



Homer, Iliad 16.316 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
And darkness enfolded his eyes.

τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσε κάλυψε.
Id. 16.327:
These two ... went to Erebus.

βήτην εἰς Ἔρεβος.
Id. 16.333-334:
                 And down over his eyes
came dark death and resistless fate.

                                                     τὸν δὲ κατ᾿ ὄσσε
ἔλλαβε πορφύρεος θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα κραταιή.
Id. 16.344:
And down over his eyes a mist was shed.

κατὰ δ᾿ ὀφθαλμῶν κέχυτ᾿ ἀχλύς.
Id. 16.350:
And a black cloud of death enfolded him.

θανάτου δὲ μέλαν νέφος ἀμφεκάλυψεν.
Id. 16.414:
And death, that slays the spirit, was shed about him.

ἀμφὶ δέ μιν θάνατος χύτο θυμοραϊστής.


The Finger Cracking Protocol

Maulichand Prasad, A Comparative Study of Abhisamācārikā: Abhisamācārikā-Dharma-Vjinaya of the Ārya Mahāsāmghika-Lokottaravādins and the Pali Vinaya of the Theravādins (Patna: K.P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1984), pp. 82-83:
So he laid down the following rules to be observed in attending the Privy: If any one is assailed by the call of nature, he ought to attend the Privy as soon as he gets the urge. He should not enter it with his undergarment rolled on, without cracking the fingers. He should roll on his undergarment when he is to sit therein. The person sitting from before is also to crack the fingers in response. After cracking fingers he is to proceed towards the lavatory and give opportunity to the person sitting from before to come out of it by having his face turned away from him. One should not sit in the Privy in meditation or in drowsiness or in study or contemplation. Having finished easing he should soon come out of it. One should not enter the Privy wrapped in Śayyāsana of the Saṃgha or proper cīvara or chewing the tooth-cleaner or with one's head covered or with one's hands engaged or without the robe on one shoulder.



Old and Trusted Friends

William Slater, "Martin Cropp," in The Play of Texts and Fragments: Essays in Honour of Martin Cropp, edd. J.R.C. Cousland and James R. Hume (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 3-8 (at 3-4, on the University of Toronto in the early 1970s):
The study of classical poetry was conducted in the leisurely matter one associated with the undemanding curriculum of Oxbridge, an unwieldy reading list accompanied by close textual reading of selected classical authors, with the emphasis on line by line translation. Classical authors were to be absorbed as once John Quincy Adams or Jowett's men had absorbed them, by a painless osmosis, carefully avoiding the Germanic vulgarities of hypodochmiacs or polyspastic choriambs. Classical authors were old and trusted friends with whom one could safely commune in quiet libraries; the biographical fallacy was either unknown or ignored or its critics deplored. The Greeks were really just like us. One could be politely reproved for failing to get to know Pindar as a human being. This cheerful symbiosis with the distant past was all rather comforting.

Thursday, April 05, 2018


The Center of Greek Life

Arnaldo Momigliano (1908-1987), "Some Observations on Causes of War in Ancient Historiography," Acta Congressus Madvigiani: Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Classical Studies, 1954, Vol. I (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1958), pp. 199-211; rpt. in his Secondo contributo alla storia degli studi classici (1961; rpt. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1984), pp. 13-27 (at 21):
War was an ever present reality in Greek life; it was a focus for emotions, ethical values, social rules. It was not by chance that Herodotus made war the centre of historical writing, and that his successors accepted his decision. War was the centre of Greek life.


A Slender Chance of Getting at the Truth

Hugh Lloyd-Jones (1922-2009), Greek Studies in Modern Oxford: An Inaugural Lecture, Delivered Before the University of Oxford on 23 May 1961 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), p. 23:
If we carefully control every statement we make about an ancient theory or belief by reference to the evidence, if we are constantly on the watch against importing Christian or other modern preconceptions into antiquity, it seems to me that we have a slender chance of getting at the truth. Most likely we shall fail; at best, we may get at that fraction of the truth which it is possible for our generation to apprehend.


Warriors as Wolves

Homer, Iliad 16.156-167 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
                                                                 And they, as wolves
who tear flesh raw, in whose hearts the battle fury is tireless,
who have brought down a great horned stag in the mountains, and then feed
on him, till the jowls of every wolf run blood, and then go
all in a pack to drink from a spring of dark-running water,        160
lapping with their lean tongues along the black edge of the surface
and belching up the clotted blood; in the heart of each one
is a spirit untremulous, but their bellies are full and groaning;
as such the lords of the Myrmidons and their men of counsel
around the brave henchman of swift-footed Aiakides        165
swarmed, and among them was standing warlike Achilleus
and urged on the fighting men with their shields, and the horses.

                                                           οἳ δὲ λύκοι ὣς
ὠμοφάγοι, τοῖσίν τε περὶ φρεσὶν ἄσπετος ἀλκή,
οἵ τ᾽ ἔλαφον κεραὸν μέγαν οὔρεσι δῃώσαντες
δάπτουσιν· πᾶσιν δὲ παρήϊον αἵματι φοινόν·
καί τ᾽ ἀγεληδὸν ἴασιν ἀπὸ κρήνης μελανύδρου        160
λάψοντες γλώσσῃσιν ἀραιῇσιν μέλαν ὕδωρ
ἄκρον ἐρευγόμενοι φόνον αἵματος· ἐν δέ τε θυμὸς
στήθεσιν ἄτρομός ἐστι, περιστένεται δέ τε γαστήρ·
τοῖοι Μυρμιδόνων ἡγήτορες ἠδὲ μέδοντες
ἀμφ᾽ ἀγαθὸν θεράποντα ποδώκεος Αἰακίδαο        165
ῥώοντ᾽· ἐν δ᾽ ἄρα τοῖσιν ἀρήϊος ἵστατ᾽ Ἀχιλλεύς,
ὀτρύνων ἵππους τε καὶ ἀνέρας ἀσπιδιώτας.
In their translations of this passage George Chapman (New come from currie of a stag) and Christopher Logue (They want a drink to wash the curry down) both use a word defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. curry | currie, n.3, as follows:
Obs. or arch.

The portions of an animal slain in the chase that were given to the hounds; the cutting up and disembowelling of the game; transf. any prey thrown to the hounds to be torn in pieces, or seized and torn in pieces by wild beasts: see quarry n.1.
Doubtless Chapman's readers understood currie as quarry, but do Logue's readers understand curry in the same way? Equally risible (to my ears) is a phrase from Cowper's translation of the same passage—from full maws flatulent.

Richard Janko on the simile, from his commentary:

Hermann Fränkel, Die homerischen Gleichnisse (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1921), pp. 73-75, § G.4 (click on each page image, more than once if necessary, to enlarge):

I wish someone would translate Fränkel's book into English.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018



Dear Mike,

Diana Wells, Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2010), p. 52:
Silver birch, our name for the European birch, Betula pendula ("drooping birch"), is thought to date from this 1830 Dirge by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson's "birk" was the Scottish name for the tree, and the many British place-names with the "birk" prefix shows how widespread the birch tree was and still is.
Not a birchable offence this, but sloppy. Birk was and is the Scottish name, but more to the point, as the OED and EDD make plain, it was a northernism that extended as far south as Tennyson's native Lincolnshire. And 'silver birch' predates the poem. I found an occurrence for 1826 but there are probably earlier ones. It's a lovely poem.

‘Self-pleached deep’ is a striking phrase worthy of Hopkins, who would have exploited its grammatical ambiguities. The verb is itself pleached with 'complicated' through Latin 'plicare'. Perhaps complicated people (Hopkins for one) should be called 'self-pleached', as a benign alternative to thrawn. I suspect, though, that relaunched, it wouldn't make much of a plash. No one practices pleaching any more.

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

Betula pendula


What Was Isaac Doing in the Field at Eventide?

Genesis 24.63 (KJV):
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
Gregory Vall, "What Was Isaac Doing in the Field (Genesis XXIV 63)?," Vetus Testamentum 44.4 (October, 1994) 513–523 (at 515, with notes on 515-516):
(8) Building on R. Marcus's interpretation of 1QS VII 15,15 G.R. Driver understands lāšûaḥ to be a denominative from šûḥâ ("pit"). It thus has the meaning "to dig a hole" and in Gen. xxiv 63 is used euphemistically. Isaac goes out into the field in order to defecate.16 This interpretation initially met with enthusiastic acceptance from certain quarters17 but seems to have fallen out of favor more recently.18

16 "Problems of Interpretation in the Heptateuch", Mélanges Bibliques Rédigés en l'Honneur de André Robert (Paris, 1955), pp. 66-8.

17 Cf. J. Gray, I & II Kings: A Commentary (2nd edn, London and Philadelphia, 1970), p. 398; E. Testa, Genesi: Introduzione—Storia dei Patriarchi (Turin and Rome, 1974), pp. 72, 409. A. van Selms apparently misunderstands Driver's interpretation and somehow arrives at the translation "to urinate" (Genesis deel II [Nijkerk, 1967], p. 46).

18 It is favored by E.M. Maly in R.E. Brown et al. (ed.), The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, 1968), p. 25, but it is not even mentioned by R.J. Clifford in R.E. Brown et al. (ed.), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, 1990), p. 27. Similarly, "to relieve himself" is found in the margin of the New English Bible but is absent from the Revised English Bible.
Vall rejects this interpretation, but cf. Gary A. Rendsburg "Lāśûaḥ in Genesis XXIV 63," Vetus Testamentum 45.4 (October, 1995) 558-560 (at 560):
... the word here means "excrete, urinate, defecate" ...



Personal Devotion to Dionysus

Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, tr. Alan Shapiro (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), p. 60 (description of fig. 46):
Old man with ivy wreath and kantharos at a Dionysiac feast. Through the portrait features the image takes on the character of personal devotion to Dionysus. Ca. 50 B.C.
Figure 46 shows Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, accession number 00.311 (image here from the Museum's web site):

Id., p. 62:
On one relief, Dionysus and his rowdy thiasos enter the house of a devotée to the music of the flute (fig. 49). We are reminded immediately of Antony's entry into Ephesus. The drunken god supports himself on a little satyr, while another hurries to take off his shoes. Next to the worshipper, who warmly greets the god, reclines a woman on a kline, admiring the miraculous epiphany. Masks lying at the foot of the couch allude to the world of the theater.
Figure 49 shows Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 6713 (image here from Wikipedia):

Tuesday, April 03, 2018


Keeping Up With the Joneses

Juvenal 6.152 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund ):
Anything her neighbour has and she doesn't, must be bought.

quodque domi non est, sed habet vicinus, ematur.


The Less, the Better

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), "La Fontaine and La Rochefoucault," Imaginary Conversations:
The less that people talk about God, the better.



John Aubrey (1626-1697), "Thomas Cooper," Brief Lives:
Dr. Edward Davenant told me that this learned man had a shrew to his wife, who was irreconcileably angrie with him for sitting-up late at night so, compileing his Dictionarie, (Thesaurus linguae Romanae et Britannicae, Londini, 1584; dedicated to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, and Chancellor of Oxford). When he had halfe-donne it, she had the opportunity to gett into his studie, tooke all his paines out in her lap, and threw it into the fire, and burnt it. Well, for all that, that good man had so great a zeale for the advancement of learning, that he began it again, and went through with it to that perfection that he hath left it to us, a most usefull worke.


Rave: An Auto-Antonym

Rave is an auto-antonym, a word that can mean the opposite of itself, in this case shout against or in favor of something or someone (either meaning with about and of).

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. rave, v.1, sense 1.b:
With about, against, at, of (something or someone disliked, distrusted, etc.), or for (something desired).
Id., sense 4:
To speak or write about someone or something with great enthusiasm or admiration. In early use with upon; now frequently with about, of, over.




Horace, Epodes and Odes. A New Annotated Latin Edition by Daniel H. Garrison (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1991), p. vii (from the editor's Preface):
Anyone reading a straight prose translation of Horace may well wonder why anyone bothers to read such stuff in any language, and why Horace bothered to write it in the first place.

Monday, April 02, 2018


Let Them Rave

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), "A Dirge," Poetical Works (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1887), p. 13:
Now is done thy long day's work;
Fold thy palms across thy breast,
Fold thine arms, turn to thy rest.
        Let them rave.
Shadows of the silver birk
Sweep the green that folds thy grave.
        Let them rave.

Thee nor carketh care nor slander;
Nothing but the small cold worm
Fretteth thine enshrouded form.
        Let them rave.
Light and shadow ever wander
O'er the green that folds thy grave.
        Let them rave.

Thou wilt not turn upon thy bed;
Chaunteth not the brooding bee
Sweeter tones than calumny?
        Let them rave.
Thou wilt never raise thine head
From the green that folds thy grave.
        Let them rave.

Crocodiles wept tears for thee;
The woodbine and eglatere
Drip sweeter dews than traitor's tear.
        Let them rave.
Rain makes music in the tree
O'er the green that folds thy grave.
        Let them rave.

Round thee blow, self-pleached deep,
Bramble-roses, faint and pale,
And long purples of the dale.
        Let them rave.
These in every shower creep
Thro' the green that folds thy grave.
        Let them rave.

The gold-eyed kingcups fine;
The frail bluebell peereth over
Rare broidry of the purple clover.
        Let them rave.
Kings have no such couch as thine,
As the green that folds thy grave.
        Let them rave.

Wild words wander here and there:
God's great gift of speech abused
Makes thy memory confused:
        But let them rave.
The balm-cricket carols clear
In the green that folds thy grave.
        Let them rave.
Update here (on silver birk and self-pleached).


Abodes of Demons

William Reeves, "On the Céli-dé, Commonly Called Culdees," Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy 24 (1873) 119-263 (at 209, from his translation of the Prose Rule of the Céli-dé on pp. 202-215):
Now the privy-houses and the urine-houses they are the abodes of demons. Let these houses be blessed by any one going thither, and let him bless himself when he enters them, and it is not lawful to say any prayers in them, except "Deus in adjutorium" to "festina."
The same, tr. Edward Gwynn, The Rule of Tallaght (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co., 1927), p. 75:
Privies and urinals are abodes for evil spirits. The sign of the Cross should be made over these places, and a man should cross himself when he enters them, and it is not lawful to pray in them, except to repeat Deus in adjutorium, down to festina.
Therefore, if you are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5.17), you must recite Psalm 69(70).2 (Deus in adiutorium meum intende, Domine ad adiuvandum me festina) on those occasions when you are obeying the call of nature.

I owe the reference to Martha Bayless, Sin and Filth in Medieval Culture: The Devil in the Latrine (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 2-3, with note 10 on p. 183.


Sunday, April 01, 2018



M.I. Finley (1912-1986), "Thucydides the Moralist," Aspects of Antiquity: Discoveries and Controversies, 2nd ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1977), pp. 48-59 (at 57):
No people have elevated talk and debate into a way of life as did the ancient Greeks. They talked all the time, in public and in private, and they talked with enthusiasm and persuasiveness. Their literature was filled with talk, from the long speeches and monologues of the Iliad and the Odyssey to the equally long speeches and debates in Herodotus. And in the very years of the Peloponnesian War there was Socrates, who did nothing but talk — a philosopher without parallel, for he never wrote a line in all his long life.

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