Sunday, June 17, 2018

 

Young People

Homer, Odyssey 7.294 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
For younger people are always thoughtless.

αἰεὶ γάρ τε νεώτεροι ἀφραδέουσιν.
My children, of course, are the exception to the rule. To each of them one could say (Homer, Odyssey 4.611):
You are of good blood, dear child, that you speak thus.

αἵματός εἰς ἀγαθοῖο, φίλον τέκος, οἷ᾿ ἀγορεύεις.
Related posts:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

 

Greatness

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), "Battle of Brunanburh," lines 15-19, in Tennyson, A Selected Edition. Edited by Christopher Ricks (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 622:
        Theirs was a greatness
        Got from their Grandsires —
        Theirs that so often in
        Strife with their enemies
Struck for their hoards and their hearths and their homes.
The original, lines 7-10, from The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems. Edited by Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942 = The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, VI), pp. 16-17:
                                  swa him geæþele wæs
from cneomægum,    þæt hi æt campe oft
wiþ laþra gehwæne    land ealgodon,
hord and hamas.

Friday, June 15, 2018

 

Something Knavish

Appian, Civil Wars 1.6.54 (tr. Horace White):
It seems that the ancient Romans, like the Greeks, abhorred the taking of interest on loans as something knavish, and hard on the poor, and leading to contention and enmity; and by the same kind of reasoning the Persians considered lending as having itself a tendency to deceit and lying.

ἀποστραφῆναι γάρ μοι δοκοῦσιν οἱ πάλαι Ῥωμαῖοι, καθάπερ Ἕλληνες, τὸ δανείζειν ὡς καπηλικὸν καὶ βαρὺ τοῖς πένησι καὶ δύσερι καὶ ἐχθροποιόν, ᾧ λόγῳ καὶ Πέρσαι τὸ κίχρασθαι ὡς ἀπατηλόν τε καὶ φιλοψευδές.
Related posts:

 

Few versus Many Readers

Henry Miller (1891-1980), "Autobiographical Note," The Cosmological Eye (New York: New Directions, 1961), pp. 365-371 (at 371):
I want to be read by less and less people; I have no interest in the life of the masses, nor in the intentions of the existing governments of the world. I hope and believe that the whole civilised world will be wiped out in the next hundred years or so. I believe that man can exist, and in an infinitely better, larger way, without "civilisation".
I would have written "fewer and fewer" instead of "less and less". But I'm just a nit-picking pedant, not a famous writer. On writing for a small, select audience, see:

 

Back Home

Homer, Odyssey 4.521-523 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Then indeed with rejoicing did Agamemnon set foot on his native land, and laying hold of his land he kissed it, and many were the hot tears that streamed from his eyes, for welcome to him was the sight of his land.

ἦ τοι ὁ μὲν χαίρων ἐπεβήσετο πατρίδος αἴης
καὶ κύνει ἁπτόμενος ἣν πατρίδα· πολλὰ δ᾽ ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ
δάκρυα θερμὰ χέοντ᾽, ἐπεὶ ἀσπασίως ἴδε γαῖαν.
Related posts:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

 

A Gift to Posterity

George Orwell, "A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray," The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters, IV: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), pp. 149-153 (at 151):
The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.
Id. (at 152-153):
A thing which I regret, and which I will try to remedy some time, is that I have never in my life planted a walnut. Nobody does plant them nowadays—when you see a walnut it is almost invariably an old tree. If you plant a walnut you are planting it for your grandchildren, and who cares a damn for his grandchildren? Nor does anybody plant a quince, a mulberry or a medlar. But these are garden trees which you can only be expected to plant if you have a patch of ground of your own. On the other hand, in any hedge or in any piece of waste ground you happen to be walking through, you can do something to remedy the appalling massacre of trees, especially oaks, ashes, elms and beeches, which has happened during the war years.

Even an apple tree is liable to live for about 100 years, so that the Cox I planted in 1936 may still be bearing fruit well into the twenty-first century. An oak or a beech may live for hundreds of years and be a pleasure to thousands or tens of thousands of people before it is finally sawn up into timber. I am not suggesting that one can discharge all one's obligations towards society by means of a private re-afforestation scheme. Still, it might not be a bad idea, every time you commit an antisocial act, to make a note of it in your diary, and then, at the appropriate season, push an acorn into the ground.
Related posts:

 

Like a Plank of a Shipwreck

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Advancement of Learning, Book II:
Antiquities, or remnants of history, are, as was said, tanquam tabula naufragii: when industrious persons, by an exact and scrupulous diligence and observation, out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books that concern not story, and the like, do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time.
On the source of the phrase "tanquam tabula naufragii" see Anthony Grafton, Worlds Made of Words (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009), pp. 137-139.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

 

Satiety

Appian, Civil Wars 1.12.104 (on Sulla; tr. Horace White):
But I think that because he was weary of war, weary of power, weary of Rome, he finally fell in love with rural life.

ἀλλά μοι δοκεῖ κόρον τε πολέμων καὶ κόρον ἀρχῆς καὶ κόρον ἄστεος λαβὼν ἐπὶ τέλει καὶ ἀγροικίας ἐρασθῆναι.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

 

Lord Bacchus

Aristophanes, Women at the Thesmophoria 987-1000 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
This way, Lord Bacchus crowned with ivy,
do personally be our leader:
and with revels I will hymn you,
who love the dance!
Euius, you Noisemaker,
son of Zeus and Semele,
who enjoy the dances
of Nymphs at their charming songs
as you ramble over the mountains—
Euius, Euius, euoi!—
striking up the dances all night long;
and all around you their cries
echo on Cithaeron,
and the mountains shady
with dark leaves and the rocky
valleys reverberate.
And all around you ivy tendrils
twine in lovely bloom.

ἡγοῦ δέ γ᾿ ὧδ᾿ αὐτὸς σύ,
κισσοφόρε Βακχεῖε
δέσποτ᾿· ἐγὼ δὲ κώμοις
σε φιλοχόροισι μέλψω.

Εὔιε, ὦ Διὸς σὺ        990
Βρόμιε, καὶ Σεμέλας παῖ,
χοροῖς τερπόμενος
κατ᾿ ὄρεα Νυμφᾶν
ἐρατοῖς ἐν ὕμνοις,
ὦ Εὔι᾿ Εὔι᾿, εὐοῖ,
<παννύχιος> ἀναχορεύων.

ἀμφὶ δὲ σοὶ κτυπεῖται        995
Κιθαιρώνιος ἠχώ,
μελάμφυλλά τ᾿ ὄρη
δάσκια πετρώδεις
τε νάπαι βρέμονται·
κύκλῳ δὲ περί σε κισσὸς
εὐπέταλος ἕλικι θάλλει.        1000


990 Εὔιε, ὦ Διὸς σὺ Enger: εὔιον ὦ Διόνυσε R
994 suppl. Coulon (ἡδόμενος Austin)
Henderson translates φιλοχόροισι (989) as if it modifies σε, although of course it modifies κώμοις.

Benjamin Bickley Rogers' version:
Come, the Lord of wine and pleasure,
Evoi, Bacchus, lead us thou!
Yea, for Thee we adore!
Child of Semele, thee
With thy glittering ivy-wreaths,
Thee with music and song
Ever and ever we praise.
Thee with thy wood-nymphs delightedly singing,
    Evoi! Evoi! Evoi!
Over the joyous hills the sweet strange melody ringing.
    Hark! Cithaeron resounds,
    Pleased the notes to prolong;
    Hark! the bosky ravines
    And the wild slopes thunder and roar,
    Volleying back the song.
    Round thee the ivy fair
    With delicate tendril twines.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

 

My True Nature

The Selected Poems of Du Fu. Translated by Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 94 (title "On the Spur of the Moment"):
River slopes, already midmonth of spring;
under the blossoms, bright mornings again.
I look up, eager to watch the birds;
turn my head, answering what I took for a call.
Reading books, I skip the hard parts;
faced with wine, I keep my cup filled.
These days I've gotten to know the old man of Emei.1
He understand this idleness that is my true nature.

————————————————

1. Emei is a famous mountain southwest of Chengdu.
The Poetry of Du Fu. Edited and Translated by Stephen Owen, Vol. 3 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), p. 3:
On the river floodplain it is already mid-spring,
under the flowers once again a clear morning.
I raise my face, avid to watch the birds,
I turn my head, mistakenly to answer someone.
When I read, I pass over the hard words,
with ale before me, full pots are frequent.
Recently I've gotten to know an old fellow from Emei,
he understands that my indolence is my true nature.

 

Visitors from Abroad

Cicero, On Behalf of King Deiotarus 32.12 (tr. N.H. Watts):
What headstrong, what pitiless, what unbridled barbarity is this you display! Is it for this that you have visited our city? — to subvert that city's laws and traditions ... ?

quae est ista tam impotens, tam crudelis, tam immoderata inhumanitas? idcirco in hanc urbem venisti ut huius urbis iura et exempla corrumperes ... ?
Related post: Rules for Refugees.

Friday, June 08, 2018

 

Worth Study

Appian, Civil Wars 1.6 (tr. Horace White):
To show how these things came about I have written and compiled this narrative, which is well worth the study of those who wish to know the measureless ambition of men, their dreadful lust of power, their unwearying perseverance, and the countless forms of evil.

ταῦτα δ᾽ ὅπως ἐγένετο, συνέγραψα καὶ συνήγαγον, ἀξιοθαύμαστα ὄντα τοῖς ἐθέλουσιν ἰδεῖν φιλοτιμίαν ἀνδρῶν ἄμετρον καὶ φιλαρχίαν δεινὴν καρτερίαν τε ἄτρυτον καὶ κακῶν ἰδέας μυρίων.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

 

A Gift for You

Ausonius 22.1.5-6 (Green's numbering; tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Be yours this fruit, take the produce of my night-watches:
my midnight oil burns in the service of your delight.

sit tuus hic fructus, vigilatas accipe noctes:
    obsequitur studio nostra lucerna tuo.

 

How Many More Springs Will I See?

The Selected Poems of Du Fu. Translated by Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 88 (title "Jueju Composed at Random," number 4):
Second month spent by now, third month arrives;
old age creeps up, how many more springs will I see?
But cease thinking of endless matters beyond my ken—
first let me drink up the cups allowed me in this life!

 

Return of the Golden Age

Einsiedeln Eclogues 2.15-31 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff, with their notes):
Do you see how the villagers, outspread o'er the well-worn turf,        15
offer their yearly vows and begin the regular altar-worship?
Temples reek of wine; the hollow drums resound to the hands;
the Maenalidsa lead the youthful ring-dances amid the holy rites;
joyful sounds the pipe; from the elm hangs the he-goat doomed to sacrifice,
and with neck already stripped lays his vitals bare.        20
Surely then the offspring of to-day fight with no doubtful hazard?b
Surely the blockish herd denies not to these times the realms of gold?c
The days of Saturn have returned with Justice the Maid:d
the age has returned in safety to the olden ways.
With hope unruffled does the harvester garner all his corn-ears;        25
the Wine-god betrays the languor of old age; the herd wanders on the lea;
we reap with no sword, nor do towns in fast-closed walls
prepare unutterable war: there is not any woman who, dangerous in her motherhood,
gives birth to an enemy.e Unarmed our youth
can dig the fields, and the boy, trained to the slow-moving plough,        30
marvels at the sword hanging in the abode of his fathers.

a Maenalus in Arcadia was especially associated with Pan.

b i.e. the present generation has no handicap in the struggle of life: there is no conflict between man and nature, because the Golden Age has returned.

c The very cattle must own that the blessings of the Golden Age belong to the present era.

d Line 23 imitates Virg. Ecl. iv.6, iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna.

e No foeman can be born, as war is at an end.

cernis ut attrito diffusus cespite pagus        15
annua vota ferat sollennesque incohet aras?
spirant templa mero, resonant cava tympana palmis,
Maenalides teneras ducunt per sacra choreas,
tibia laeta canit, pendet sacer hircus ab ulmo
et iam nudatis cervicibus exuit exta.        20
ergo nunc dubio pugnant discrimine nati
et negat huic aevo stolidum pecus aurea regna?
Saturni rediere dies Astraeaque virgo
tutaque in antiquos redierunt saecula mores.
condit secura totas spe messor aristas,        25
languescit senio Bacchus, pecus errat in herba,
nec gladio metimus nec clausis oppida muris
bella tacenda parant; nullo iam noxia partu
femina quaecumque est hostem parit. arva iuventus
nuda fodit tardoque puer domifactus aratro        30
miratur patriis pendentem sedibus ensem.

15 cespite pagus Baehrens: cortice fagus E
16 inchoet Baehrens: imbuet E: imbuat Hagen: induat Peiper
21 nunc Baehrens: num E
22 tutaque Baehrens: totaque E
Codex Einsidlensis 266, fol. 207 (click image, twice if necessary, to enlarge):


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

 

Homer in Twenty-One Days

Excerpt from Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609), Epistola de Vetustate et Splendore Gentis Scaligerae = A Letter on the Antiquity and Nobility of the Della Scala Family, tr. G.W. Robinson, in Anthony Grafton, "Close Encounters of the Learned Kind: Joseph Scaliger's Table Talk," The American Scholar 57.4 (Autumn, 1988) 581-588 (at 581):
In my nineteenth year, after my father's death, I betook myself to Paris from love of Greek, believing that they who know not Greek, know nothing. After attending the learned lectures of Adrian Turnebus for two months, I found I was throwing all my work away, because I had no foundation. I secluded myself, therefore, in my study, and, shut in that grinding-mill, sought to learn, self-taught, what I had not been able to acquire from others. Beginning with a mere smattering of the Greek conjugations, I procured Homer, with a translation, and learned him all in twenty-one days. I learned grammar exclusively from observation of the relation of Homer's words to each other; indeed, I made my own grammar of the poetic dialect as I went along. I devoured all the other Greek poets within four months. I did not touch any of the orators or historians until I had mastered all the poets.
The Latin, from p. 56 of the Epistola (Leiden: Plantin, 1594):
Anno aetatis meae decimonono Lutetiam post obitum patris petii literarum Graecarum amore, quas qui nescirent, omnia nescire putabam. Postquam menses duos operam Adriano Turnebo dedissem, quia destitutus aliis praesidiis operam omnem in eius doctissimo auditorio ludebam, in musaeum me abdidi, & in illo pistrino inclusus, quod ex aliis non potueram, me magistro discere experiebar. Igitur vix delibatis coniugationibus Graecis, Homerum cum interpretatione arreptum vno & viginti diebus totum didici: poeticae vero dialecti vestigiis insistens Grammaticam mihi ipse formavi: neque vllam aliam didici, quam quae mihi ex analogia verborum Homericorum obseruata fuit. Reliquos vero poetas Graecos omnes intra quatuor menses deuoraui. Neque vllum oratorem, aut historicum prius attigi, quam poetas omnes tenerem.

 

The Degraded State of the World

Aristophanes, Women at the Thesmophoria 702 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
The whole world is full of impudence and brass.

ὡς ἅπαντ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἐστὶ τόλμης ἔργα κἀναισχυντίας.
Text and translation from Aristophanes, Birds. Lysistrata. Women at the Thesmophoria. Edited and Translated by Jeffrey Henderson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000 = Loeb Classical Library, 159), pp. 544-545 (the same in the Digital Loeb Classical Library). Henderson appears to have translated a different text from the one he prints. In the Greek, he has adopted ἔργα (the reading of the Ravenna manuscript), but he has translated Porson's conjecture μεστὰ. The conjecture isn't noted in the critical apparatus. It should be, and the translation should match the text. See the commentary of Colin Austin and S. Douglas Olson ad loc.:


With Porson's conjecture, a somewhat more literal translation would be:
How everything is full of impudence and shamelessness!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

 

What More Could I Ask?

The Selected Poems of Du Fu. Translated by Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 81 (title "River Village"):
One bend of the clear river crooks the village in its flow;
long summer days, river village, all activity stilled.
Swallows from the bridge come and go as they please,
gulls on the water friendlier, more fearless than ever.
My aging wife rules a sheet of paper, fashioning us a chessboard;
the boys hammer a needle, making it into a fishhook.
With all these ailments, all I require is medicine;1
of humble station, what more could I ask?

————————————————

1. "I've an old friend who supplies me with rations of rice;" is an alternate reading given in one version of the text.

 

The Two Cultures

George Orwell, "What Is Science?" The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters, IV: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), pp. 10-13 (at 12-13):
A hundred years ago, Charles Kingsley described science as "making nasty smells in a laboratory". A year or two ago a young industrial chemist informed me, smugly, that he "could not see what was the use of poetry". So the pendulum swings to and fro, but it does not seem to me that one attitude is any better than the other.

 

Your Lot

Isocrates, To Demonicus 29 (tr. George Norlin):
Be content with your present lot, but seek a better one.

Taunt no man with his misfortune; for fate is common to all and the future is a thing unseen.

στέργε μὲν τὰ παρόντα, ζήτει δὲ τὰ βελτίω.

μηδενὶ συμφορὰν ὀνειδίσῃς· κοινὴ γὰρ ἡ τύχη καὶ τὸ μέλλον ἀόρατον.


βελτίω Γ, Stobaeus: βέλτιστα ΕΖ
Sandys ad loc.:


Monday, June 04, 2018

 

Smell Like a Man

Aristophanes, Lysistrata 662-663 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Let's doff our shirts, because a man's got to smell like a man from the word go, and shouldn't be all wrapped up like souvlaki.

ἀλλὰ τὴν ἐξωμίδ᾿ ἐκδυώμεθ᾿, ὡς τὸν ἄνδρα δεῖ
ἀνδρὸς ὄζειν εὐθύς, ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἐντεθριῶσθαι πρέπει.
Aristophanes, Lysistrata. Edited with an Introduction and Commentary by Jeffrey Henderson (1987; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), p. 159:
For several years 'A man's gotta smell like a man' was the advertising slogan for an American men's cologne.
It was the slogan for Old Spice deodorant.

 

Updating a Hymn

George Orwell, "The Prevention of Literature," The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters, IV: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), pp. 59-72 (at 60):
In the past, at any rate throughout the Protestant centuries, the idea of rebellion and the idea of intellectual integrity were mixed up. A heretic — political, moral, religious, or aesthetic — was one who refused to outrage his own conscience. His outlook was summed up in the words of the Revivalist hymn:
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone;
Dare to have a purpose firm,
Dare to make it known.
To bring this hymn up to date one would have to add a "Don't" at the beginning of each line.

 

Independence from Modern Authors

Arnaldo Momigliano, "The Ancient City of Fustel de Coulanges," Essays in Ancient and Modern Historiography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), pp. 325-343 (at 337-338):
Something about the composition of the Cité antique is revealed to us by two letters from Fustel published by L. Halkin in Mélanges Bidez, Volume I, 1934, pp. 465-74. A German scholar who for a long time had been Professor of Law at Liège and had now retired to Stuttgart, L.A. Warnkoenig, had said that he would be willing to review the Cité antique in a German periodical. He did in fact publish a long and admiring review in Jahrbücher der deutschen Rechtswissenschaft 11, 1865, pp. 81-94. Fustel thought it expedient to explain to him the method he had used in writing the book. He stated without false modesty that 'his type of mind was such that he could not be content with details'. His method had been the comparative one. By comparing the Rig-Veda with Euripides, the laws of Manu with the Twelve Tables or Isaeus and Lysias, he had arrived at the conclusion of a remote community of beliefs and institutions among Indians, Greeks and Italic peoples. He had not troubled to read what the moderns had written. Indeed he had imposed upon himself the principle of not reading them, and in particular of not reading the works of Mommsen, until he had almost finished his book. He insists on this independence from modern authors also in the reply to Morel, where the books of Becker and Marquardt are specified among those not read. It is nonetheless clear that these claims only go to demonstrate that Fustel was fully informed about contemporary historical research and made a distinction, for instance, between Marquardt and Mommsen. If the Cité antique is haughtily devoid of references to modern authors while revealing an enviable familiarity with classical texts, one must deduce from this not simple ignorance, but intentional disregard: the same disregard that led Hegel to ignore Niebuhr's critical method and that made Bachofen (with certain exceptions) indifferent to Mommsen's methods. The attitude they have in common is one which repudiates modern criticism of the sources in order to preserve the sources' data. In his inaugural lecture at Strasbourg in 1862 Fustel declared: 'I then resolved to have no masters on Greece other than the Greeks themselves, nor on Rome than the Romans.' Even more explicitly, in fragments published after his death: 'I would rather be mistaken in the manner of Livy than that of Niebuhr; and in the manner of Gregory of Tours than that of Mr Sohm.' And he added more generally about his adversaries: 'They put themselves up as critics because they have no critical spirit' (Revue Synthèse Hist. 2, 1901, pp. 249-50, 257-8). Later, in writing, or rather in rewriting the Histoire des Institutions politiques de l'ancienne France, Fustel confessed with regret that he had had to yield to the new fashion of presenting all the scholarly material (Histoire, I, La Gaule Romaine, 1891, p. iv n.).
Related post: The Scholarly-Industrial Complex.

 

Dates

Stephen Wilson, "Fustel de Coulanges and the Action Française," Journal of the History of Ideas 34.1 (January-March 1973) 123-134 (at 123, first sentence of article):
The year 1905 was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of Fustel de Coulanges, the historian and author of La Cité Antique.
For death read birth. He was born in 1830, died in 1889.

Labels:


Sunday, June 03, 2018

 

Second Person Future Verbs as Commands

Aristophanes, Lysistrata 459-460 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Tackle them! Hit them! Smash them!
Call them names, the nastier the better!

οὐχ ἕλξετ᾿, οὐ παιήσετ᾿, οὐκ ἀράξετε,
οὐ λοιδορήσετ᾿, οὐκ ἀναισχυντήσετε;
More literally:
Won't you tackle them, won't you hit them, won't you smash them,
won't you call them names, won't you behave impudently?
William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1897), p. 19, § 70:
The second person of the future may express a concession or permission; and it often expresses a command.
See also Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, Syntax of Classical Greek, Part I (New York: American Book Company, 1900), pp. 116-117, §§ 269 ("Imperative Use of the Future") and 271 ("οὐ with Future Indicative in Questions as Imperative," citing the passage from Aristophanes).

Likewise in English the following mean much the same:

Saturday, June 02, 2018

 

I Never Shout Anymore

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Either/Or, Part I, tr. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, ©1987), p. 33:
It takes a lot of naïveté to believe that it helps to shout and scream in the world, as if one's fate would thereby be altered. Take what comes and avoid all complications. In my early years, when I went to a restaurant, I would say to the waiter: A good cut, a very good cut, from the loin, and not too fat. Perhaps the waiter would scarcely hear what I said. Perhaps it was even less likely that he would heed it, and still less that my voice would penetrate into the kitchen, influence the chef — and even if all this happened, there perhaps was not a good cut in the whole roast. Now I never shout anymore.

Friday, June 01, 2018

 

They

George Orwell, "Nonsense Poetry," The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters, IV: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), pp. 44-48 (at 46):
Aldous Huxley, in praising Lear's fantasies as a sort of assertion of freedom, has pointed out that the "They" of the limericks represent common sense, legality and the duller virtues generally. "They" are the realists, the practical men, the sober citizens in bowler hats who are always anxious to stop you doing anything worth doing. For instance:
There was an Old Man of Whitehaven,
Who danced a quadrille with a raven;
But they said, "It's absurd
To encourage this bird!"
So they smashed that Old Man of Whitehaven.
To smash somebody just for dancing a quadrille with a raven is exactly the kind of thing that "They" would do.
Aldous Huxley, "Edward Lear," On the Margins (1923; rpt. London: Chatto and Windus, 1928), pp. 167-172 (at 169-170):
No study of Lear would be complete without at least a few remarks on "They" of the Nonsense Rhymes. "They" are the world, the man in the street; "They" are what the leader-writers in the twopenny press would call all Right-Thinking Men and Women; "They" are Public Opinion. The Nonsense Rhymes are, for the most part, nothing more nor less than episodes selected from the history of that eternal struggle between the genius or the eccentric and his fellow-beings. Public Opinion universally abhors eccentricity. There was, for example, that charming Old Man of Melrose who walked on the tips of his toes. But "They" said (with their usual inability to appreciate the artist), "It ain't pleasant to see you at present, you stupid old man of Melrose." Occasionally, when the eccentric happens to be a criminal genius, "They" are doubtless right. The Old Man with a Gong who bumped on it all the day long deserved to be smashed. (But "They" also smashed a quite innocuous Old Man of Whitehaven merely for dancing a quadrille with a raven.) And there was that Old Person of Buda, whose conduct grew ruder and ruder; "They" were justified, I dare say, in using a hammer to silence his clamour. But it raises the whole question of punishment and of the relation between society and the individual.

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