Tuesday, February 19, 2019

 

Dote

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), Bitter Lemons, chapter 7:
She also was afflicted by the verb "dote," as indeed the whole class was. This was the unfortunate fruit of a day when Aphrodite asked me slyly why English had only one word for "love" when Greek had several; in my attempt not to let the Empire down I produced "adore" and "dote." The latter stuck like a burr. But unfortunately each girl elected to marry it to a different preposition so that my essays the next day were full of heart-rending examples. Electra described the King and Queen of Greece "doting at each other"; while Chloe wrote: "When they married they were in a great dote. He was so excitement and she was so excitement. They were both excitement."

 

Garbled Greek and Latin

Carl J. Richard, The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 35 (footnote omitted):
Known as "a man more familiar with his Horace than with his Bible," though also quite familiar with the latter, John Henry sent Patrick to an English school until he was ten and then personally taught his son Latin and some Greek. Constantly concerned with such questions as whether "the Greek word Aiwvios is always taken for a limited duration," John instilled in Patrick a reverence for the classics. Patrick studied Livy, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Ovid, Homer, and a translation of Demosthenes as a model of oratory. He then carried on the Henry tradition of demanding detailed classical knowledge of progeny. Patrick Henry's grandson claimed that he dreaded his grandfather's quizzes far more than any recitation before a professor.
Image of the passage:


For Aiwvios read Αἰώνιος. The transcription would be Aiōnios. Transcription seems to be the norm in this book (e.g. patrioi nomoi on p. 241).

Also, on p. 12 for Instituto Graecae Grammatices Compendiaria read Institutio etc.

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Roaming

Homer, Odyssey 15.343 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Nothing is more evil than homelessness for mortals.

πλαγκτοσύνης δ᾽ οὐκ ἔστι κακώτερον ἄλλο βροτοῖσιν.
The same, tr. Samuel Butler:
There is nothing worse than being always on the tramp.
The same, tr. E.V. Rieu:
Surely a tramp's life is the worst thing that anyone can come to.
Arie Hoekstra ad loc.:
As Cauer, Homerkritik, 438, has shown, the total number of abstract terms is greater in the Odyssey than in the Iliad and this also applies to the nouns in -οσύνη and -φροσύνη (439). In this case the noun is likely to have been derived from the verbal adj. (πλαγκτέ occurs at Od. xxi 363, although there it means 'distracted') and to mean 'the (social) position of a man driven from home', cf. δουλόσύνη (xxii 423).
W.B. Stanford ad loc:
Note O.'s attitude to his travels: he was no romantic adventurer indulging his Wanderlust, but a weary ex-soldier always yearning to reach home—yet, it must be added, with enough vitality and curiosity to take an interest in his enforced travels. But now, looking back on them, in this line he gives his melancholy considered judgement. With πλαγκτοσύνη cp. πλάγχθη in 1, 2: it implies unwilling deflection from one's chosen course.
I wondered about πλανάομαι and English planet, but Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden: Brill, 2010), p. 1202 (s.v. πλανάομαι), says:
The meaning strongly recalls πλάζω, but it is hard to think of a formal connection.

 

Manliness

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 89-90:
The quintessence of manliness is fearlessness, readiness to defend one's own pride and that of one's family. It is ascribed directly to a physical origin and the idiom in which it is expressed is frankly physiological. To be manly is to have cojones (testicles), and the farmyard furnishes its testimony in support of the theory. Castrated animals are manso (tame), a castrated ox is not dangerous like a bull. A castrated dog, it is thought, will always run away from an uncastrated one. A man who fails to show fearlessness is lacking in manliness and, by analogy, castrated or manso. While it is not supposed that he is literally devoid of the male physiological attributes, he is, figuratively, so. That part of his person does not possess the moral qualifies properly associated with it.
Id., p. 91:
The word which serves literally to translate manliness (hombría) also contributes to the same conception:

"The modern race is degenerate," said a friend once, "in the days of our grandfathers there was more manliness than today." To be "muy hombre" is to have an abundance of that moral quality which we have been discussing, and, through it, to command the respect of one's fellows.

 

Meditatio Mortis

Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), Hagakure, tr. Alexander Bennett (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), p. 43 (I.2):
Rehearse your death every morning and night.
Id., p. 237 (III.11-133):
Begin each day pondering death as its climax. Each morning, with a calm mind, conjure images in your head of your last moments. See yourself being pierced by bow and arrow, gun, sword, or spear, or being swept away by a giant wave, vaulting into a fiery inferno, taking a lightning strike, being shaken to death in a great earthquake, falling hundreds of feet from a high cliff top, succumbing to a terminal illness, or just dropping dead unexpectedly. Every morning, be sure to meditate yourself into a trance of death.
Plato, Phaedo 80e-81a (tr. Hugh Tredennick, rev. Harold Tarrant):
I mean doing philosophy in the right way and really getting used to facing death calmly: wouldn't you call this "practising death"?

τὸ δὲ οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἐστὶν ἢ ὀρθῶς φιλοσοφοῦσα καὶ τῷ ὄντι τεθνάναι μελετῶσα ῥᾳδίως· ἢ οὐ τοῦτ' ἂν εἴη μελέτη θανάτου;

Monday, February 18, 2019

 

Nietzsche and Wagner's Underpants

Sue Prideaux, I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2018), p. 70, with note on p. 411:
Once, just as he had returned from his usual Sunday visit to Tribschen, he asked one of his students casually where he might find a good silk shop in Basel. Nietzsche eventually had to admit to his student that he had undertaken to shop for a pair of silk underpants. For reasons best known to himself, Wagner wore tailor-made silk underwear. This important commission filled Nietzsche with anxiety. Directed to the daunting shop, he squared his shoulders manfully, observing before going in, "Once you've chosen a God, you've got to adorn him."9

9. "Zwei Nietzsche Anekdoten," Frankfurter Zeitung, March 9, 1904, quoted in Millington, Richard Wagner, p. 153.
Id., pp. 164-165, with note on p. 415:
The Wagners were also wintering in Sorrento, in the Hotel Vittoria, close to the Villa Rubinacci. The only contact between Nietzsche and Wagner since the Bayreuth Festival had been in September, when the Master had written out of the blue to request Nietzsche to buy some silk underwear in Basel and post it to him. When he received the letter, Nietzsche had been so ill that he was unable to put pen to paper but he organized for the underwear to be purchased and posted, and he dictated a long and affectionate letter to accompany it. The letter expressed unaffected delight at being of service: the little commission had brought back fond memories of the happy times at Tribschen.11

11. Nietzsche to Richard Wagner, from Basel, September 27, 1876.

 

A Sort of World

John Henry Newman, letter to Henry Wilberforce (from Milan, September 24, 1846):
[A] Catholic Cathedral is a sort of world, every one going about his own business, but that business a religious one; groups of worshippers, and solitary ones — kneeling, standing — some at shrines, some at altars — hearing Mass and communicating — currents of worshippers intercepting and passing by each other — altar after altar lit up for worship, like stars in the firmament — or the bell giving notice of what is going on in parts you do not see — and all the while the canons in the choir going through matins and lauds, and at the end of it the incense rolling up from the high altar, and all this in one of the most wonderful buildings in the world and every day — lastly, all of this without any show or effort, but what everyone is used to — everyone at his own work, and leaving everyone else to his.

 

Books Full of Lies

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XLIX (tr. Edith Grossman):
For myself, I can say that when I read them, as long as I do not set my mind to thinking that they are all frivolous lies, I do derive some pleasure from them, but when I realize what they actually are, I throw even the best of them against the wall, and would even toss them in the fire if one were near, and think they richly deserved the punishment, for being deceptive and false and far beyond the limits of common sense, like the founders of new sects and new ways of life, and for giving the ignorant rabble a reason to believe and consider as true all the absurdities they contain.

De mí sé decir que cuando los leo, en tanto que no pongo la imaginación en pensar que son todos mentira y liviandad, me dan algún contento; pero cuando caigo en la cuenta de lo que son, doy con el mejor dellos en la pared, y aun diera con él en el fuego, si cerca ó presente le tuviera, bien como á merecedores de tal pena, por ser falsos y embusteros y fuera del trato que pide la común naturaleza, y como á inventores de nuevas sectas y de nuevo modo de vida, y como á quien da ocasión que el vulgo ignorante venga á creer y á tener por verdaderas tantas necedades como contienen.

 

The Rich

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 62-63 (footnote omitted):
Los ricos, the rich, are always wicked when treated generically. They are responsible for the hardships of the poor. They have perverted the social order through their ambitions. They are the source of corruption. Who the particular ricos are is obscure, but they are generally thought of as being distant personalities far richer than anyone in the pueblo. These opinions, although encouraged by the political creeds of the Left are by no means inspired by them, nor are they necessarily found in company with them. They are, rather, part of the value system of the pueblo.

The moneyed people of the place are thought of by many, in many social contexts, as evil. Their fatness is pointed out as a proof of their over-indulgence and idleness. The shop-keepers in particular come in for adverse comment, and the advantages which wealthier people have, particularly with regard to what they are able to do for their children, are bitterly resented. Yet here, already, the sentiment of moral indignation has made way for personal jealousy. It is felt that such advantages are wrong, and yet few will not admit that they would take them if they had the chance.

The values relating to money may be summed up as follows. They are not those of protestant capitalism. The possession of money here is in no way a sign of grace, or a basis for moral distinctions. It is morally neutral. But the ways in which it is acquired or spent are subject to moral judgement. If it is gained at the expense of others, it is ill-gotten. If it is guarded avariciously, if it is spent in self-indulgence, it is evil. If it is gained by intelligence or hard work, if it is spent in meeting moral obligations, then it is good. Money is something which enables a man to be what he wants. It gives him power, power to be either good or evil. It bestows prestige only if it is employed in a morally approved manner.
Id., p. 57:
As in many other contexts things are cheaper for the rich.

 

Intermediaries

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 34 [162] (tr. Kate Sturge):
Today, in the age when the state has an absurdly fat belly, all the fields and disciplines have, alongside their real workers, also 'representatives', e.g., alongside the scholars there are the literati, alongside the suffering classes there are the chattering, boastful scoundrels who 'represent' those sufferings, not to mention the professional politicians, who are perfectly comfortable and 'represent' hardship before Parliament with their powerful lungs. Our modern life is extremely costly because of the large number of intermediaries; whereas in an ancient city, and, echoing that, still in many a Spanish and Italian city, a man appeared in person and wouldn't have given this kind of modern representative and middle-man the time of day — at best a kick!

Heute, in der Zeit wo der Staat einen unsinnig dicken Bauch hat, giebt es in allen Feldern und Fächern, außer den eigentlichen Arbeitern noch „Vertreter“ z. B. außer den Gelehrten noch Litteraten, außer den leidenden Volks-Schichten noch schwätzende prahlerische Thunichts-gute, welche jenes Leiden „vertreten,“ gar nicht zu reden von den Politikern von Berufswegen, welche sich wohl befinden und Nothstände vor einem Parlament mit starken Lungen „vertreten.“ Unser modernes Leben ist äußerst kostspielig durch die Menge Zwischenpersonen; in einer antiken Stadt dagegen, und im Nachklang daran noch in mancher Stadt Spaniens und Italiens, trat man selber auf und hätte nichts auf einen solchen modernen Vertreter und Zwischenhändler gegeben — es sei denn einen Tritt!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

 

A Change for the Worse

Sallust, The War with Catiline 5.9 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Since the occasion has arisen to speak of the morals of our country, the nature of my theme seems to suggest that I go farther back and give a brief account of the institutions of our forefathers in peace and in war, how they governed the commonwealth, how great it was when they bequeathed it to us, and how by gradual changes it has ceased to be the noblest and best, and has become the worst and most vicious.

res ipsa hortari videtur, quoniam de moribus civitatis tempus admonuit, supra repetere ac paucis instituta maiorum domi militiaeque, quo modo rem publicam habuerint quantamque reliquerint, ut paulatim immutata ex pulcherrima atque optuma pessuma ac flagitiosissuma facta sit, disserere.

 

Like Ants

Yoshida Kenkō (c. 1283–c. 1352), Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), no. 74, tr. Donald Keene:
They flock together like ants, hurry east and west, run north and south. Some are mighty, some humble. Some are aged, some young. They have places to go, houses to return to. At night they sleep, in the morning get up. But what does all this activity mean? There is no ending to their greed for long life, their grasping for profit. What expectations have they that they take such good care of themselves? All that awaits them in the end is old age and death, whose coming is swift and does not falter for one instant. What joy can there be while waiting for this end?

 

Patria Chica

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 30-31 (footnote omitted):
To sum up, then, the pueblo is a highly centralised community, both structurally and also emotionally. In Spanish political jurisprudence it is the "natural" unit of society compared with which the state is an artificial structure. In many aspects it resembles other rural communities of the Mediterranean. All are composed of agricultural workers living under urban conditions, with a background of dry-farming and olive cultivation. All possess a strong sense of local patriotism; devotion to the patria chica in Spain; in Italy campanilismo, attachment to the local campanile, the highest building in the village. A conception of community based upon locality runs through the cultural idiom of Southern Europe, which is demonstrated in many ways: for example, in their legal codes the preference for the principle of jus soli, in contrast to the Germanic jus sanguinis; in the institution of local patron saints, in everyday conversation the importance attached to their place of birth.

In fact, the Greek word polis far more nearly translates "pueblo" than any English word, for the community is not merely a geographical or political unit, but the unit of society in every context. The pueblo furnishes a completeness of human relations which makes it the prime concept of all social thought. That is why Argolla uses the word "pueblo" in a way which recalls Sophocles. During the Reconquest pueblos were founded, with special municipal charters, for the express purpose of defence against the Moors. And in the archives of later pueblos the vestiges of a concept of purpose may be detected. Upon the foundation of the town hall of La Carolina in 1835, the municipality solemnly pledged the pueblo to defend, among other more temporal things, the "misterio de la Purisima Concepción".
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Grammar Lesson

Arthur Wellington Brayley, Schools and Schoolboys of Old Boston (Boston: Louis P. Hager, 1894), pp. 44-45 (incident related by Rufus Dawes; Sawney = Benjamin Apthorp Gould, one of Ralph Waldo Emerson's teachers; some quotation marks removed):
"Go on," says Sawney; "Bangs, what is an active verb?"

"An active verb," replies Bangs, "is a verb which expresses —"

"Well, what does an active verb express?"

Bangs twists and turns, and looks imploringly first at his right-hand classmate and then at his left, but neither can prompt him, if he knows, as probably he does — not.

"Well," continues Sawney, switching the air with his cane, "well, mutton-head, what does an active verb express?"

"I'll tell you what it expresses," he screams, after a little delay, bringing the stick down upon the boy's haunches with decided emphasis; "it expresses an action, and necessarily supposes an agent (flourishing the cane, which again descends as before), and an object acted upon, as 'castigo te' — I chastise thee. Do you understand now, hey?"

"Yes sir, yes sir!" replies the boy, doing his best to get out of the way of the rattan, but Sawney is not disposed to let him off so.

"Now tell me when an active verb is also called transitive?" "I don't know, sir," drawls Bangs, doggedly.

"Don't you?' follows Sawney, "then I'll inform you. An active verb is called transitive when the action passeth over (whack, whack!) to the object. You (whack) are the object, I am (whack!) the agent. Now take care how you go home and say that I never taught you anything. Do you hear?" (Whack!)
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Excessive Praying

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 34 [141] (tr. Kate Sturge):
The emasculating and perhaps castrating effect of so much praying is another of those injuries done to the German character since the Reformation. It is always bad taste to ask much instead of giving much: the combination of meek servility and an often arrogant, vulgar importunity with which, e.g., St Augustine wallows before God in his Confessions reminds us that man may not be the only one of the animals to have religious feeling: the dog has a similar 'religious feeling' for man. —Communicating with God in prayer breeds the humiliating mood and attitude which still, even in impious times, asserts its right through heredity: it's well known that the Germans have swooned before princes or party leaders or the assurance of being 'ever your most humble and obedient servant'. Let that now be over.

Die entmännlichenden und vielleicht entmannende Wirkung des vielen Betens gehört auch unter die Schädigungen des deutschen Wesens seit der Reformation. Es ist eine Sache schlechten Geschmacks unter allen Umständen, viel zu bitten, statt viel zu geben: die Mischung demüthiger Servilität mit einer oft hoffärtig-pöbelhaften Zudringlichkeit, mit der sich z.B. der heilige Augustin in seinen confessiones vor Gott wälzt, erinnert daran, daß der Mensch vielleicht nicht allein unter den Thieren das religiöse Gefühl hat: der Hund hat für den Menschen ein ähnliches "religiöses Gefühl." — Der betende Verkehr mit G[ott] züchtet die erniedrigende Stimmung und Attitüde, welche auch in unfrommen Zeiten, durch Vererbung, noch ihr Recht behauptet: die Deutschen erstarben bekanntlich vor Fürsten oder vor Parteiführern oder vor der Phrase "als unterthänigster Knecht." Es soll damit vorüber sein.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

 

How Do People Behave Towards Outsiders?

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 26-27:
Yet how do people behave towards outsiders? The stranger, as in Ancient Greece where he was protected by Zeus, enjoys a special status. It is a duty to assist him, for the reputation of the pueblo is felt to be at stake in his eyes. The visitor of wealth or standing is treated with great courtesy and hospitality. He is probably invited to a glass of wine in the casino, the club. People inquire what brings him and put themselves at his disposal.

This standard of hospitality is a very noble feature of the Spanish people, yet its analysis would not be complete if one were not to point out that it is also a means whereby the community defends itself against outside interference. For a guest is a person who, while he must be entertained and cherished, is dependent upon the goodwill of his hosts. He has no rights and he can make no demands. On the other hand, the good name of the pueblo is his protection. For the sake of that, the members of the community prevent one another from taking advantage of him.

 

Seclusion

Excerpt from Kamo no Chōmei (1155-1216), An Account of a Ten-Foot-Square Hut (tr. Anthony H. Chambers):
When I came to live in this place, I thought that I would stay for only a short time, but already five years have passed. Gradually my temporary hut has come to feel like home as dead leaves lie deep on the eaves and moss grows on the foundation. When news of the capital happens to reach me, I learn that many of high rank have passed away since I secluded myself on this mountain. There is no way to know how many of lower rank have died. How many houses have been lost in the frequent fires? Only a temporary hut is peaceful and free of worry. It may be small, but it has a bed on which to lie at night and a place in which to sit by day. Nothing is lacking to shelter one person. The hermit crab prefers a small shell. This is because he knows himself. The osprey lives on rugged shores. The reason is that he fears people. I am like them. Knowing myself and knowing the world, I have no ambitions, I do not strive. I simply seek tranquillity and enjoy the absence of care.

 

Return to Ithaca

Homer, Odyssey 13.353-354 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Glad then was the much-enduring, noble Odysseus,
rejoicing in his own land, and he kissed the earth, the giver of grain.

γήθησέν τ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔπειτα πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
χαίρων ᾗ γαίῃ, κύσε δὲ ζείδωρον ἄρουραν.

 

Sadness Amidst Beauty

A sonnet by Luís de Camões (1524-1580), tr. William Baer:
The beauty of the sweet, fresh mountains here,
the shade of the green chestnut trees, the pace
of all the gently crawling streams, this place
where all one's sadness seems to disappear.

The hoarse sounds of the sea, the lands that lie
below, the sun hiding near the hills, the last
of the lingering cattle slowly moving past,
the clouds still gently warring in the sky.

But, finally, all these beauties of nature, pouring
forth their various splendors, only create
harsh fresh wounds since you're not here with me.

Without you, everything is disgusting, and boring;
without you, I feel, even within this great
natural happiness, the greatest possible misery.

A fermosura desta fresca serra
e a sombra dos verdes castanheiros,
o manso caminhar destes ribeiros,
donde toda a tristeza se desterra;

o rouco som do mar, a estranha terra,
o esconder do sol pelos outeiros,
o recolher dos gados derradeiros,
das nuvens pelo ar a branda guerra;

enfim, tudo o que a rara natureza
com tanta variedade nos of'rece,
me está, se não te vejo, magoando.

Sem ti, tudo me enoja e me avorrece;
sem ti, perpetuamente estou passando,
nas mores alegrias, mór tristeza.

Friday, February 15, 2019

 

Local Chauvinism

J.A. Pitt-Rivers (1919-2001), The People of the Sierra (New York: Criterion Books, 1954), pp. 8-9:
The sentiment of attachment to the pueblo is counter-balanced, as might be expected, by a corresponding hostility towards neighbouring pueblos. Thus, for the Alcalareño, those of Jacinas are boastful and false, those of Montejaque cloddish and violent, those of Benalurín are mean, those of El Jaral drunken and always drawing their knives.
Id., p. 9:
This hostility finds expression in various customs. It is usual for the boys of a pueblo to object to the visits of forasteros—a word which I shall translate as "outsiders", since it means a person born elsewhere—for the purpose of courting one of their girls. In some places they follow the practice of ducking the visitor in the fountain when he first comes, but allowing him to come freely thereafter. In others, however, they ambush him and beat him up when ever they are able to catch him there. Two Alcalareños have had to break off their engagements on account of the rough treatment which they received in their fiancée's town.
Id., pp. 10-11:
The most proud saying of all comes from the town of Jimena, which challenges the rest of the world in terms of piteous contempt:
"Ay! que pena             "What a shame!
No ser de Jimena!"     Not to be from Jimena!"
But, typically, the neighbouring pueblos have found a line to add:
"Y arrastrarse el culo en la arena."
"And drag your arse along in the sand."
for the people of Jimena enjoy a local reputation for being short in the leg.
Id., p. 11:
The traditional fighting between two towns near Seville, Mairena and El Viso, is well known, though today it takes place only between the school-children of the two towns. At the fiesta of Haro in the Rioja, not many years ago, the bull-ring was festooned with an announcement reading: "A hearty welcome is extended to all outsiders with the exception of those from Logroño."

Pueblos are commonly linked in pairs, each one, supposedly, hating its rival above all others. Thus, El Jaral—Villa Faderique, Montejaque—Benaoján, Ubrique—Grazalema, even, on a far greater scale, Cádiz and Jerez.

 

Diabolical Smells

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XLVII (tr. Edith Grossman):
"Do not be surprised at this, Sancho my friend," responded Don Quixote, "because I can tell you that devils know a great deal, and although they bring odors with them, they themselves do not smell at all because they are spirits, and if they do smell, it cannot be of pleasant things, but only of things that are foul and putrid. The reason is that since they, wherever they may be, carry hell with them and cannot find any kind of relief from their torments, and a pleasant odor is something that brings joy and pleasure, it is not possible for them to have an agreeable smell. And so, if it seems to you that the demon you have mentioned smells of ambergris, either you are mistaken or he wants to deceive you by making you think he is not a demon."

No te maravilles deso, Sancho amigo —respondió don Quijote—; porque te hago saber que los diablos saben mucho, y, puesto que traigan olores consigo, ellos no huelen nada, porque son espíritus, y si huelen, no pueden oler cosas buenas, sino malas y hidiondas. Y la razón es que como ellos, dondequiera que están, traen el infierno consigo, y no pueden recebir género de alivio alguno en sus tormentos, y el buen olor sea cosa que deleita y contenta, no es posible que ellos huelan cosa buena; y si á ti te parece que ese demonio que dices huele a ámbar, ó tú te engañas ó él quiere engañarte con hacer que no le tengas por demonio.
Valerie Allen, On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 92, with note on p. 202:
The stage devils of medieval theater are notorious farters, frequently punctuating their exits offstage with a rasping fart. One demon took possession of a worthless fellow who mocked a sacred shrine.
Primoque nudato inguine incestavit aera, tum deinde crepitu ventris emisso turbavit auras.391

[And first with his privates exposed he befouled the atmosphere, then next having emitted a loud fart he disturbed the air.]
391. William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum: Libri quinque, ed. N.E.S.A. Hamilton (London: Longman & Co., Trübner, 1870), 5.275 (p. 438). See also Malcolm Jones, Secret Middle Ages (Stroud: Sutton, 2002), p. 276.
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Thursday, February 14, 2019

 

The Wisdom of the Ancients

Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), Hagakure, tr. Alexander Bennett (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), p. 44 (I.6):
We can tap into knowledge that serves to steer us away from egotism by studying the aphorisms and deeds of the ancients.
Id., p. 64 (I.44):
Listening to men and reading books helps complement your own good sense with the wisdom of the ancients.
Id., p. 114 (I.166):
Alas, there are no worthy men. Few pay attention to useful stories passed down from the great men of old, let alone engage in rigorous training to better themselves.

 

Divine Admonition

Homer, Odyssey 13.362 (Athena to Odysseus; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Be of good cheer, and let not these things distress your heart.

θάρσει, μή τοι ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ σῇσι μελόντων.

 

The Way That Historians Are Made

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), The Use of History (London: Hodder & Stoughton, Limited, 1946), pp. 42-43:
Any walk you choose to take can have a fascination for a cultivated mind. One would not be uncultivated for anything. For that way lies infinite boredom and dreariness of spirit. The truest thing—and the most useful—that ever Dean Inge said was that "the true intellectual is never bored." And what a strength that is when you come to think of it. A friend of mine, the Cornish antiquary and historian, Charles Henderson, had the habit from his school-days of walking or taking bus or train to some particular parish and then settling down upon it for the day, traversing it, following its boundaries, looking up everything of interest in it, camp or stone-circle, holy-well or chapel, villages and farms. Often it meant several visits, returning to the same parish. It was that that filled out and made real and concrete his remarkable knowledge of documents and deeds relating to the past. In this way he came to know not only every parish and church in Cornwall, but almost every farm and field. This is the way that historians are made. It could not be better put than by R.H. Tawney when he tells us that what economic history needs at present is not more documents but a pair of sturdy boots.

This advice is for current historians, all too many of whom need it or they would be more alive and readable than they are. But the pleasure and fun of it are for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

 

Le chat mange le rat

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), A Cornish Childhood (London: Jonathan Cape, 1942), pp. 169-170:
That first French lesson was perhaps the chief difference that struck me in changing over from the elementary to the secondary school — a small symbol of the new world of intellectual interest that change was to lead to. It was an excitement and a pleasure from the first moment: I shall never forget that lesson, the first French words I learnt, the strangeness of the pronunciation. The first word — appropriately enough for a fanatical lover of cats from childhood — was 'le chat': pronounced like 'Shah' (as the Parisians impressed upon a visiting Shah of Persia in the eighties, by setting up a fearful miaowing and caterwauling in the streets: he thought it a form of greeting). It was very surprising and ridiculous that you didn't pronounce the 't' at the end of the word: that took some getting used to; I had to suppress a fit of giggles at its oddity. And the same with 'rat' — which was pronounced 'rah'. It was a little unbelievable: could it be that we were being had on? But no, impossible; whatever teachers said must ipso facto be right. So I accepted it on trust, and at the end of the lesson we had achieved our first French sentence:
Le chat mange le rat.
It was a new world opening before me indeed. I was thrilled, as never by any lesson before or since. It was as if I stood upon that peak in Darien and caught a glimpse of the Pacific. Coming home to dinner I trod on air: Le chat mange le rat, I said over and over to myself. My excitement was a right intuition, for though I had no conception of what it would lead to, that simple ridiculous sentence out of a French grammar was the narrow door which led to a whole world of thought and experience, only second to that occupied by my own language: to Daudet, Anatole France, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Gide, Valéry, Mauriac — something in that order — to Stendhal and Balzac, in the end to Proust and Flaubert.
With Rowse's delight in learning French, contrast the attitude of some present-day students in this horror story.

 

Walls

Aristotle, Politics 7.11.8-12 (1330b31-1331a18; tr. C.D.C. Reeve, with his notes):
Some people say54 that city-states that lay claim to virtue should not have walls. But this is a very old-fashioned notion. Especially when it is plain to see that city-states that pride themselves on not having walls are refuted by the facts.55 It may not be noble to seek safety behind fortified walls against an evenly matched or only slightly more numerous foe, but it can and does happen that the superior numbers of the attackers are too much for human virtue56 or the virtue of a small number of people. Hence if the city-state is to survive without suffering harm or arrogant treatment, it should be left to military expertise to determine what the most secure kind of fortified walls are for it to have, particularly now that the invention of projectiles and siege engines57 has reached such a high degree of precision. To claim that city-states should not have surrounding walls is like flattening the mountains and trying to make the territory easy to invade, or like not having walls for private houses, on the grounds that they make the inhabitants cowardly. Furthermore, we should not forget that the inhabitants of a city-state with surrounding walls can treat it either as having walls or as not having them, whereas the inhabitants of a city-state without walls lack this option. Given that this is how things stand, a city-state not only should have surrounding walls, it should take care to ensure that they both enhance the beauty of the city-state and satisfy military requirements, especially those brought to light by recent discoveries. For just as attackers are always busily concerned with new ways to get the better of city-states, so too, though some defensive devices have already been discovered, defenders should keep searching for and thinking out new ones. For when people are well prepared in the first place, no one even thinks of attacking them.

54. See Plato, Laws 778d-779b. The virtue in question is primarily courage (see 1331a6).

55. Probably an allusion to Sparta, which prided itself on having no walls, and suffered humiliating defeat in 369, when it was invaded by the Theban Epaminondas (1269b37).

56. The level of nonheroic virtue achievable by most humans (1295a25-31).

57. Catapults, siege towers, and battering rams had all been fairly recently introduced.
See Josiah Ober, Fortress Attica: Defense of the Athenian Land Frontier 404-322 B.C. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985), pp. 83-84.

 

Ithaca

Homer, Odyssey 9.27-28 (tr. Peter Green):
It's rough land, but fine for raising young men. Myself,
I can't think of a sweeter sight than one's own country.

τρηχεῖ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἀγαθὴ κουροτρόφος· οὔ τοι ἐγώ γε
ἧς γαίης δύναμαι γλυκερώτερον ἄλλο ἰδέσθαι.
Id., 13.242-247:
It's rough terrain, not fit for the driving of horses,
Yet not wholly worthless, even if lacking broad plains.
Grain grows there abundantly, wine too is a product,
there's always rain and dew to keep it fertile, it's good        245
pasture for goats and cattle, there's also fine ground cover
of every sort, together with all-year watering-places.

ἦ τοι μὲν τρηχεῖα καὶ οὐχ ἱππήλατός ἐστιν,
οὐδὲ λίην λυπρή, ἀτὰρ οὐδ᾽ εὐρεῖα τέτυκται.
ἐν μὲν γάρ οἱ σῖτος ἀθέσφατος, ἐν δέ τε οἶνος
γίγνεται· αἰεὶ δ᾽ ὄμβρος ἔχει τεθαλυῖά τ᾽ ἐέρση·        245
αἰγίβοτος δ᾽ ἀγαθὴ καὶ βούβοτος· ἔστι μὲν ὕλη
παντοίη, ἐν δ᾽ ἀρδμοὶ ἐπηετανοὶ παρέασι.
Related post: A Good Land.

 

Books and Reading

Chaucer, House of Fame 652-660:
For when thy labour doon al ys,
And hast ymad alle thy rekenynges,
Instede of reste and newe thynges,
Thou goost hom to thy hous anoon        655
And, also dombe as any stoon,
Thou sittest at another book,
Tyl fully daswed is thy look,
And lyvest thus as an heremyte,
Although thyn abstynence ys lyte.        660

655 anoon = at once
656 also = as
658 daswed = dazed
660 lyte = little
Chaucer, Legend of Good Women, Prologue 29-34:
And as for me, though that I konne but lyte,
On bokes for to rede I me delyte,        30
And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertely, that ther is game noon
That from my bokes maketh me to goon.

29 konne = know, lyte = little
31 yive = give
33 game = diversion

 

Pursuit of Perfection

Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), Hagakure, tr. Alexander Bennett (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), p. 65 (I.45):
Lord Yagyū once said, "I do not know how to defeat others. All I know is the path to defeat myself. Today one must be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today. The pursuit of perfection is a lifelong quest that has no end."
Id., p. 74 (I.59):
It is unwise to be fixated on a single point of completion. A man who has devoted himself to his studies and believes he has reached a consummate level will assume his training has finished, but this is erroneous. Devotion to the study of one's path—first acquiring the fundamentals, and then continuing to refine your knowledge and skills—is a lifelong pursuit with no end.
Id., p. 106 (I.138):
There is no point in one's training in which one reaches the end. The instant you think you have finished, you have already strayed from the path. Realize that nothing you do is perfect until you have taken your last breath...

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

 

Indulge Genio, Carpamus Dulcia

Ōtomo no Tabito (665-731), Thirteen Poems in Praise of Saké, no. 12 (tr. Jeremy Robinson):
If it is a fact
that all things that live
must someday die,
then while I am in this life
let me enjoy myself.

 

The Dissembler

Homer, Iliad 9.312-313 (tr. Peter Green):
For hateful to me as the gates of Hādēs is that man
who hides one thought in his mind, but speaks another.

ἐχθρὸς γάρ μοι κεῖνος ὁμῶς Ἀΐδαο πύλῃσιν
ὅς χ᾽ ἕτερον μὲν κεύθῃ ἐνὶ φρεσίν, ἄλλο δὲ εἴπῃ.
Unfortunately nowadays this strategy is necessary for survival. Die Gedanken sind frei, but their public expression is not.

 

No Place to Sit

Sue Prideaux, I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2018), pp. 131-132:
In Burckhardt's studio above the baker's shop, books occupied the floor space on every side of a dilapidated old sofa where Burckhardt sat. Unless the visitor wanted to stand throughout, he had no choice but to build a tottering pile and take a seat on it.

 

Greatness

Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), Reflections on History, tr. M.D.H. (1943; rpt. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1950), p. 172:
Greatness is all that we are not.

Größe ist, was wir nicht sind.

 

Minor Mistakes

Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 729, n. 29:
Jerome, In Jonam prophetam (CSEL 76: 390): "Non est enim nostrum mortem arripere, sed illatam libenter accipere. Unde et a persecutionibus non licet propria manu perire, absque ubi castitas periclitantur"; In Matthaeum, 27.5 (CSEL 77: 264): "ut non solum emendare nequiverit proditionis nefas, sed et prius scelus etiam proprii homicidii crimen addiderit."
Not CSEL (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum), but CCSL (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina). Not periclitantur, but periclitatur (I assume, although the CCSL edition is unavailable to me).

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Monday, February 11, 2019

 

A Marvellous Experience, a Great Blessing

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), From the Elephant's Back (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2015), pp. 39-40:
In this field of idle ratiocination one does, of course, come across bright solutions to the world problem. I can think of several—to abolish all news media, journals, films, books, for a period of ten years. Let no one have anything but word-of-mouth news from the village for a long time. I have tried this on myself and can testify to the extremely beneficial effect it has on one. To live in a Greek island with no radio, no newspaper, for a year at a time is a marvellous experience. Energy was saved which could be devoted to private inquiry and the practice of becoming more oneself; I even try the same thing today, for where I live there is no radio, no television, and the papers arrive ten days late. This is a great blessing. It makes it impossible to get worked up about the crises they record—for by the time I read about them they will already have been replaced by others. They come to me, these crises, with the time-lag of distant stars. In this way I strive to keep the milk of opinionation from boiling over. But I have noticed one thing about crises; they perpetually reproduce themselves, there is never any lack of them.

 

Ad Deum Qui Laetificat Juventutem Meam

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), A Cornish Childhood (London: Jonathan Cape, 1942), p. 164:
Nothing can touch me like the phrases and liturgical scraps that bring back that vanished world of my childhood, a world of security and faith, now dissolved like a 'dream remembered on waking.'

 

God's Will

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XXXIX (tr. Walter Starkie):
...it is God's will that there shall always be some scourge to chastise us.

...quiere y permite Dios que tengamos siempre verdugos que nos castiguen.

 

It Is Best

Ōtomo no Tabito (665-731), Thirteen Poems in Praise of Saké, no. 1 (tr. Jeremy Robinson):
To turn your thoughts
from matters of no importance,
it is best
to drink a single cup
of cloudy unfiltered saké.

 

The Enemy of My Enemy

Homer, Iliad 9.615 (Achilles to Phoenix; tr. Christopher H. Wilson):
It is a good thing for you that with me you should give pain to whoever gives pain to me.

καλόν τοι σὺν ἐμοὶ τὸν κήδειν ὅς κ᾽ ἐμὲ κήδῃ.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

 

Farewell to Religion

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), Germany: A Winter's Tale, Caput I, lines 41-48 (tr. Hal Draper):
The soil produces bread enough
For all mankind's nutrition,
Plus rose and myrtle, beauty and joy,
And sugar peas in addition.

Yes, sugar peas for everyone
Piled high upon the barrows!
The heavens we can safely leave
To the angels and the sparrows.

Es wächst hienieden Brot genug
Für alle Menschenkinder,
Auch Rosen und Myrten, Schönheit und Lust,
Und Zuckererbsen nicht minder.

Ja, Zuckererbsen für jedermann,
Sobald die Schoten platzen!
Den Himmel überlassen wir
Den Engeln und den Spatzen.

 

Are They Any Better Off For It?

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), A Cornish Childhood (London: Jonathan Cape, 1942), p. 138:
I am very much struck at the altogether better times in these respects children have to-day than we had. They have much more to spend, they have many more amusements, pictures and wireless and bicycles; they appear to get around and be taken about the country far more than we ever were. Are they any better off for it? I doubt it. In some ways worse off: their attention and enjoyment more dispersed, they can have much less time for reading and dreaming than I had: nothing like such an intense concentration upon the inner life of one's own imagination. Far too great an importance can be attached to the improvement of external 'standards' of life: the Labour Party, all Labour Parties, have made this mistake. Better that they attached more importance to the real standards that signify; but of them they have no comprehension. Such standards are essentially aristocratic, aesthetic, qualitative not quantitative, private:
Of the unequal I assert the sense,
The valued quality, the difference.
The couplet is from one of Rowse's own poems (unavailable to me).

 

Tit for Tat

Job 11.3 (Geneva Bible):
Should men hold their peace at thy lies? and when thou mockest others, shall none make thee ashamed?

 

This Life

Poem attributed to Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481), tr. Adam L. Kern:
this life —
eating, shitting,
sleeping, rising
and after that
death
The same, tr. Evgeny Steiner, with his note:
In this world
We slop, we shit,
We sleep, we rise.
So we live.
What then? We die.57

57 This is an accurate translation of the Japanese original, in which Ikkyū uses some rather crude expressions (kuu — to slop or gobble, etc.)

Saturday, February 09, 2019

 

Petrification

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XXVII (Cardenio speaking; tr. Edith Grossman):
In my imagination the power of my afflictions is so intense and contributes so much to my ruination that I am powerless to prevent it and I become like a stone, bereft of all sense and awareness.

La fuerza de la imaginación de mis desgracias es tan intensa y puede tanto en mi perdición, que, sin que yo pueda ser parte á estorbarlo, vengo á quedar como piedra, falto de todo buen sentido y conocimiento.

 

Many Ills

Horace, Ars Poetica 169-176 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Many ills encompass an old man, whether because he seeks gain, and then miserably holds aloof from his store and fears to use it, or because, in all that he does, he lacks fire and courage, is dilatory and slow to form hopes, is sluggish and greedy of a longer life, peevish, surly, given to praising the days he spent as a boy, and to reproving and condemning the young. Many blessings do the advancing years bring with them; many, as they retire, they take away.

multa senem circumveniunt incommoda, vel quod
quaerit et inventis miser abstinet ac timet uti,        170
vel quod res omnis timide gelideque ministrat,
dilator spe longus, iners avidusque futuri,
difficilis, querulus, laudator temporis acti
se puero, castigator censorque minorum.
multa ferunt anni venientes commoda secum,        175
multa recedentes adimunt.

172 spe longus codd.: spe lentus Bentley, spe mancus Shackleton Bailey, splenosus Powell; avidusque codd.: pavidusque Bentley

Friday, February 08, 2019

 

No Good, But Only Trouble

Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), Reflections on History, tr. M.D.H. (1943; rpt. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1950), p. 76:
Here we should deal with the question of closed countries. Are countries closed for reasons of State, or rather for reasons of national pride, or of instinctive hate, fear and repulsion?1 Culture would, left to itself, tend to expand and create a general level, but it costs so much to bring the State into tolerable order that people expect no good to come from the outside world, but only trouble.

1 Note that hospes (stranger) and hostis (enemy) come from the same root.

Hierher gehört die Frage vom abgeschlossenen Verkehr. Ist derselbe mehr Staatsgebot oder hat er seinen Grund mehr in nationalem Hochmut oder mehr in instinktivem Haß, Furcht und Widerwillen?1 Die Kultur an und für sich hätte die Neigung, sich mitzuteilen und auszugleichen; aber der Kulturstaat hat soviel gekostet, bis alles in leidlicher Ordnung war, daß man von draußen nur Störung und nichts Gutes erwartet.

1 Wir erinnern daran, daß hospes und hostis vom gleichen Stamme kommt.
Or rather, according to Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p. 291, hospes is derived from hostis:
Compound of hostis and the root of potis.
I wonder if repulsion might be a mistake for revulsion, since Widerwillen can mean disgust, dislike. [Update: Thanks to Kevin Muse, who cites Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. repulsion, sense 4 (making my conjecture unnecessary): "A feeling of intense disgust; dislike, aversion, repugnance; (also occasionally) an instance of this."]

See also Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, tr. S.G.C. Middlemore (London: George Allen & Co., Ltd., 1914), pp. 449-450:
In certain districts of Italy, where civilization had made little progress, the country people were disposed to murder any stranger who fell into their hands. This was especially the case in the more remote parts of the Kingdom of Naples, where the barbarism dated probably from the days of the Roman 'latifundia,' and when the stranger and the enemy ('hospes' and 'hostis') were in all good faith held to be one and the same.

In gewissen Gegenden von Italien, wo die Kultur nicht hindrang, waren die Landleute permanent mörderisch gegen jeden von draussen, der ihnen in die Hände fiel. So namentlich in den entlegenem Teilen des Königreiches Neapel, wo eine uralte Verwilderung vielleicht seit der römischen Latifundienwirtschaft sich erhalten hatte, und wo man den Fremden und den Feind, hospes und hostis, noch in aller Unschuld für gleichbedeutend halten mochte.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

 

Thou Hast Finished Joy and Moan

Shakespeare, Cymbeline 4.2.259-282:
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;        260
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;        265
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.        270

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finish'd joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must        275
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!        280
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!
Samuel Johnson on lines 269-270:
The poet's sentiment seems to have been this. All human excellence is equally the subject to the stroke of death: neither the power of kings, nor the science of scholars, nor the art of those whose immediate study is the prolongation of life, can protect then from the final destiny of man.

 

Scent of a Woman

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XXXI (tr. Walter Starkie):
"When you approached her, did you not perceive a Sabaean odor, an aromatic fragrance, something sweet — I cannot find a name to describe it — a scent, an essence, as if you were in some dainty glover's shop."

"All I can vouch for," said Sancho, "is that I got a whiff of something a bit mannish; this must have been because she was sweating and a bit on the run."

"It could not have been that," answered Don Quixote, "but you must have had a cold in your head or else smelled yourself, for I know well the scent of that rose among thorns, that lily of the fields, that liquid amber."

"That may be so," answered Sancho, "for many a time I've noticed the same smell off myself as I perceived off her ladyship Dulcinea; but there's no wonder in that, for one devil is the dead spit of another."

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

 

The Vile Leading the Vile

Homer, Odyssey 17.217-218 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Here now in very truth comes the vile leading the vile.
As ever, the god is bringing like and like together.

νῦν μὲν δὴ μάλα πάγχυ κακὸς κακὸν ἡγηλάζει,
ὡς αἰεὶ τὸν ὁμοῖον ἄγει θεὸς ὡς τὸν ὁμοῖον.
Joseph Russo on line 218:
This verse seems to be a proverb, and is quoted as such by later authors. All recent editors accept the MSS' ώς τὸν ὁμοῖον, while acknowledging that there is no evidence for ὡς = εἰς before Attic Greek. Stanford notes that Plato (Lysis 214a) and Hippocrates (Kühn 1, 390 and 392) quote the line with ὡς, and he suggests that their influence, together with 'Aristotle's citation of the line with ὡς τὸν' (Rh. i 11.25. 1371b), has eliminated an original Homeric ἐς τόν. I believe this is so (with one correction: Aristotle quotes not the line but just the proverbial phrase ώς αἰεὶ τὸν ὁμοῖον, the first hemistich). That a blatant Atticism has crept into our text is further suggested by Callimachus fr. 178 Pfeiffer, 9-10 (cited by von der Mühll and Stanford as fr. 8): ἀλλ' αἶνος Ὁμηρικός, αἰὲν ὁμοῖον | ὡς θεός, οὐ ψευδής, ἐς τὸν ὁμοῖον ἄγει. This final piece of evidence is sufficient, in my judgement, to warrant the unusual step of restoring ἐς to the text against all the MS testimony.
M.L. West in his Teubner edition prints ἐς.

 

The Facts of Life

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), The English Spirit: Essays in Literature and History, rev. ed. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1966), p. 36:
Really, besides sound scholarship, the professors need some knowledge of the facts of life.

 

Drunkenness

Chaucer, "The Pardoner's Tale," Canterbury Tales VI, 549-564 (tr. Nevill Coghill):
Wine is a lecherous thing and drunkenness
A squalor of contention and distress.        550
O drunkard, how disfigured is thy face,
How foul thy breath, how filthy thy embrace!
And through thy drunken nose a stertorous snort
Like 'samson-samson' — something of the sort.
Yet Samson never was a man to swig.        555
You totter, lurch and fall like a stuck pig,
Your manhood's lost, your tongue is in a burr.
Drunkenness is the very sepulchre
Of human judgement and articulation.
He that is subject to the domination        560
Of drink can keep no secrets, be it said.
Keep clear of wine, I tell you, white or red,
Especially Spanish wines which they provide
And have on sale in Fish Street and Cheapside.

A lecherous thyng is wyn, and dronkenesse
Is ful of stryvyng and of wrecchednesse.        550
O dronke man, disfigured is thy face,
Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace,
And thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun
As though thou seydest ay "Sampsoun, Sampsoun!"
And yet, God woot, Sampsoun drank nevere no wyn.        555
Thou fallest as it were a styked swyn;
Thy tonge is lost, and al thyn honeste cure;
For dronkenesse is verray sepulture
Of mannes wit and his discrecioun.
In whom that drynke hath dominacioun        560
He kan no conseil kepe, it is no drede.
Now kepe yow fro the white and fro the rede,
And namely fro the white wyn of Lepe,
That is to selle in Fysshstrete or in Chepe.

 

What Is the Meaning of Life?

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), Bitter Lemons, chapter 6:
Mr. Honey was another new acquaintance with marked idiosyncrasies. He was tall and lean and very shortsighted; and he walked about the village swaying gracefully and manipulating his long graceful hands in gestures which reminded one of a lady of fashion in the period of Madame Récamier. His long dark face with its glazed eyes betrayed a fond vague happiness. He was the grave-digger; but as nobody died in the village he had a lot of time free for self-examination, and since a man must eat he had turned his talents to the digging of cesspits at so much a cubic meter. He was the philosopher of main drainage. "What is the meaning of life?" he asked me once in a tragic slurring voice. "It all goes in here," raising a bottle of wine to his lips for a long swig; "and it all goes out there," pointing to the pit he was digging. "What does it all mean?" Poor Mr. Honey! I have often pondered on the subject myself.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

 

An Excessively Numerous Community

Aristotle, Politics 7.4.13-14 (1326b; tr. H. Rackham):
But in order to decide questions of justice and in order to distribute the offices according to merit it is necessary for the citizens to know each other's personal characters, since where this does not happen to be the case the business of electing officials and trying law-suits is bound to go badly; haphazard decision is unjust in both matters, and this must obviously prevail in an excessively numerous community. Also in such a community it is easy for foreigners and resident aliens to usurp the rights of citizenship, for the excessive number of the population makes it not difficult to escape detection.

περὶ τῶν δικαίων καὶ πρὸς τὸ τὰς ἀρχὰς διανέμειν κατ᾽ ἀξίαν ἀναγκαῖον γνωρίζειν ἀλλήλους, ποῖοί τινές εἰσι, τοὺς πολίτας, ὡς ὅπου τοῦτο μὴ συμβαίνει γίγνεσθαι, φαύλως ἀνάγκη γίγνεσθαι τὰ περὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς κρίσεις. περὶ ἀμφότερα γὰρ οὐ δίκαιον αὐτοσχεδιάζειν, ὅπερ ἐν τῇ πολυανθρωπίᾳ τῇ λίαν ὑπάρχει φανερῶς. ἔτι δὲ ξένοις καὶ μετοίκοις ῥᾴδιον μεταλαμβάνειν τῆς πολιτείας· οὐ γὰρ χαλεπὸν τὸ λανθάνειν διὰ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τοῦ πλήθους.

 

An Easy Thing

Homer, Odyssey 16.211-212 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
And it is a light thing for the gods who hold wide heaven
to glorify any mortal man, or else to degrade him.

ῥηΐδιον δὲ θεοῖσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσιν,
ἠμὲν κυδῆναι θνητὸν βροτὸν ἠδὲ κακῶσαι.

 

Criticism

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), The English Spirit: Essays in Literature and History, rev. ed. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1966), p. 17:
Any fool can criticise; but can he do the job? The world is full of people standing on the side-lines, offering their invaluable advice; but can they run a railway and create a great institution, manage a bank or a factory, or govern a country; can they paint the picture they talk so glibly about, or even write the book?

 

Unanswered Prayers

Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra 2.1.5-8:
                                  We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so find we profit
By losing of our prayers.

 

The Art of Conversation

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece (1966; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 140 (in a lengthy digression on Crete):
Few of the old men could write or read, those in middle age found reading hard and writing a grind; the young were defter penmen, but, owing to their short time at school and the disorder of the war, they were not advanced in the craft, apart from an occasional student on the run from the underground in one of the towns. A by-product of this scholastic void was a universal gift for lively and original talk; the flow and style of their discourse were unhindered by the self-consciousness which hobbles and hamstrings the rest of us. They had astonishing memories. These often reached back to their great-grandfathers' day, and, by hearsay, far beyond. In an island of long lives, this made all the past seem recent: compelling proof of the continuity of history. It reduced the war to just another struggle, the worst and the most recent of many, with which we were perfectly able to deal, and, though the Germans had overrun Greece and driven the British back to El Alamein, win. "Never fear, my child," some greybeard would say, prophetically prodding the smoke with a forefinger like a fossil, "with Christ and the Virgin's help, we'll eat them." All agreed, and the conversation wandered to the First World War and Asia Minor and arguments about the respective merits of Lloyd George and Clemenceau, to Bismarck and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, or the governments, constitutions and electoral systems of different countries. Then the level of this far-ranging chat, much of it far beyond the scope of their literate equivalents in England, might suddenly be reduced by another old man, simpler than his fellows, asking, and evoking general derision and amusement by his question, whether the English were Christians or, like the Moslems, polygamous....Intelligence, humour, curiosity, the rapid assimilation of ideas and their quick deployment, an incomparable narrative knack, arguments resolved by a sudden twist, the inability to leave facts and ideas undeveloped—they are objects to play with like nuggets—all these graces flowered in this stony terrain.
Id., pp. 144-145 (on the Cretan epic poem Erotókritos by Vincentios Cornaros):
In Crete, this tremendous metrical saga plays the part of the Homeric cycle in Dorian times. Everyone knows it, all can quote vast tracts, and, astonishingly, some of the old men in the mountains, though unable to read and write, could, and still can, recite the whole poem by heart; when one remembers that it is nearly a thousand lines longer than the Odyssey, this feat makes one scratch one's head with wonder or disbelief. They intone rather than recite it; the voice rises at the caesura and at the end of the first line of a couplet, and drops at the end of the second; now and then to break the monotony, the key shifts. During our winter vigils, it continued for hours; every so often another old man would take over; listening, I occasionally dropped off for an hour or two, and woke to find Erotókritos in the thick of yet another encounter with the Black Knight of Karamania. (He symbolized, at the time the poem first saw the light, the threat of the Ottomans; Turkey had already conquered the rest of Greece, and was soon to submerge Crete itself.) The rhythmic intoning might sway on till daybreak, with some of the listeners rapt, others nodding off or snoring; or until a runner broke in from the dark like a snowman in a gyre of flakes; the news of arrests in Herakleion, Retimo or Canea or the alarm of a mountain battalion advancing up the valley jerked us all into motion.
Related post: Talk.

Monday, February 04, 2019

 

The Knees of the Gods

Homer, Odyssey 16.129 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Yet these things truly lie on the knees of the gods.

ἀλλ᾿ ἦ τοι μὲν ταῦτα θεῶν ἐν γούνασι κεῖται.
Cf. also Odyssey 1.267, 1.400, Iliad 17.514, 20.435.

Mark W. Edwards on Iliad 17.514:
The image is from spinning (in a sitting position) the thread of fate (ὣς γὰρ ἐπεκλώσαντο θεοὶ δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι, 24.525), or less probably (pace Leaf) from laying offerings on the knees of seated statues...
Richard Broxton Onians, The Origins of European Thought (1951; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 303-309, argues in favor of the explanation from spinning.

But M.L. West, The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), pp. 222-223, offers a different explanation:
There is, however, nothing in Greek myth or art to explain the phrase. 'In the gods' hands' would be easier to understand; why 'on their knees'? Babylonian poetry, while it does not possess a matching expression, nevertheless offers an attractive answer. There the future is determined by the so-called Tablet of Destinies, the ṭupšīmātu. Whoever possesses it controls the world. Its place is on its owner's knees, as we see from Anzu. After Ninurta has regained it from the usurper Anzu, Dagan Is advised:
'Send for him and let him come to you;
let him set the Tablet of Destinies on your knees.'12
This may plausibly be identified as the mythological concept that underlies the Homeric phrase.

12 Anzu III 38 f.

 

Swallower of Formulas

Thanks to Eric Thomson for shedding yet more light on the phrase "swallowers of formulas."

He points out that the phrase "swallower(s) of formulas" occurs several times in Thomas Carlyle's essay "Memoirs of Mirabeau," London and Westminster Review, No. 8, January, 1837, reprinted as "Mirabeau" in his Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, Vol. V (London: Chapman & Hall, Limited, 1888), pp. 201-268.

P. 221:
Be this as it can, Col d'Argent came alive again, by 'miracle of surgery;' and, holding his head up by means of a silver stock, walked this earth many long days, with respectability, with fiery intrepidity and spleen; did many notable things: among others, produced, in dignified wedlock, Mirabeau the Friend of Men; who again produced Mirabeau the Swallower of Formulas; from which latter, and the wondrous blazing funeral-pyre he made for himself, there finally goes forth a light, whereby those old Riquetti destinies, and many a strange old hidden thing, become noticeable.
P. 239:
Once after a thousand years all nations were to see the great Conflagration and Self-combustion of a Nation, — and learn from it if they could. And now, for a Swallower of Formulas, was there a better schoolmaster in the world than this very Friend of Men; a better education conceivable than this which Alcides-Mirabeau had?
P. 245:
Rumour blows, — to Paris as else whither: for answer, on the 26th of June, 1774, there arrives a fresh Sealed Letter of more emphasis; there arrive with it grim catchpoles and their chaise: the Swallower of Formulas, snatched away from his wife, from his child then dying, from his last shadow of a home, even an exiled home, is trundling towards Marseilles; towards the Castle of If, which frowns-out among the waters in the roadstead there!
P. 262:
With 'a body of Noblesse more ignorant, greedier, more insolent than any I have ever seen,' the Swallower of Formulas was like to have rough work.
P. 266:
Supreme Usher De Brézé enters, with the King's renewed order to depart. "Messieurs," said De Breze, "you heard the King's order?" The Swallower of Formulas bellows-out these words, that have become memorable: "Yes, Monsieur, we heard what the King was advised to say; and you, who cannot be interpreter of his meaning to the States-General; you, who have neither vote, nor seat, nor right of speech here, you are not the man to remind us of it. Go, Monsieur, tell those who sent you, that we are here by will of the Nation; and that nothing but the force of bayonets can drive us hence!"
Variations on the phrase also occur in a couple of Carlyle's letters.

To his brother John (February 23, 1836):
Most so-called Christians (I believe I should except the worthy Mr. Dunn) treat me instead with jargon of metaphysic formulas, or perhaps shovel-hatted Coleridgean moonshine. I admire greatly that of old Marquis Mirabeau (though he means it not for admiration): Il a HUMÉ toutes les formules! A man should "swallow" innumerable "formulas" in these days; and endeavour above all things to look with eyes.
To Ralph Waldo Emerson (June 15, 1838):
But, on the whole, men ought in New England too to "swallow their formulas"; there is no freedom till then: yet hitherto I find only one man there who seems fairly on the way towards that, or arrived at that. Good Speed to him.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

 

A Mismatch Between Text and Translation

Sophocles, Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus. Edited and Translated by Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994 = Loeb Classical Library, 20), pp. 466-467 (Oedipus Tyrannus 1360/1-1362/3):
νῦν δ᾿ ἄθεος μέν εἰμ᾿, ἀνοσίων δὲ παῖς,
ὁμογενὴς δ᾿ ἀφ᾿ ὧν αὐτὸς ἔφυν τάλας.


But now I am abandoned by the gods, the child of unholy parents, a sharer in my father's marriage bed.
Lloyd-Jones' translation ("sharer in my father's marriage bed") doesn't correspond with the Greek text that he prints. "Sharer in my father's marriage bed" is a translation of Meineke's conjecture ὁμολεχὴς.

P.J. Finglass in his edition of Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) prints (p. 155) the same Greek text as Lloyd-Jones but translates accurately (p. 582):
As it is, I am abandoned by the gods, the child of unholy parents, and jointly engendering with the person from whom I was sprung in my misery.
Finglass comments (id.):
The usual sense of ὁμογενής, 'of the same γένος, related', would not work here: it is unremarkable, and certainly not a sign of pollution or wickedness, that Oedipus should be related to one of his parents. The context makes the otherwise unattested active sense inescapable; for a similarly creative use of a compound adjective ending in –γενής cf. Eur. Her. 798–800 ὦ λέκτρων δύο συγγενεῖς | εὐναί, θνατογενοῦς τε καὶ | Διός (cited by Pearson (1929b) 175), where the bed is συγγενής because it represents a marriage in which Alcmene was jointly engendered by Zeus and Amphitryon. There is thus no need for ὁμολεχής (coni. Meineke (1843) 314) or ὁμόγαμος (coni. Musgrave, notes).
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex. Edited by R.D. Dawe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 234:
ὁμολεχής: Meineke's effective alteration of ὁμογενής. To say that Oedipus slept with his mother takes us further up the scale of horror — which is precisely where we are going, as the next line makes clear — whereas ὁμογενής is merely drab. Of course Oedipus belonged to the same family as his mother; and it requires special pleading to urge that here ὁμογενής has the meaning 'having children born of the same wife as was married to his father'.

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Between God and Me

Katherine Frank, A Chainless Soul: A Life of Emily Brontë (New York: Ballantine Books, 1992), p. 109, with notes on pp. 277-278:
During a visit to the parsonage, Mary Taylor recalled that one evening she told Charlotte and Emily how someone had pumped her for her religious views and she had retorted: '"that that was between God and me." Emily (who was lying on the hearth rug) exclaimed, "That's right."' It was all, Mary said, she 'ever heard Emily say on religious subjects'.16 Emily was the only Brontë daughter who was exempted from teaching Sunday school and who did not attend church regularly. And then we have Emily's own verdict on conventional religions in a poem written some years later:
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main.17
16. Joan Stevens, Mary Taylor, p. 164.
17. Poems, p. 243.

 

Mindless Outpourings

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), "Afternoon Service at Mellstock," Collected Poems (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1919), p. 403:
                   (Circa 1850)

On afternoons of drowsy calm
    We stood in the panelled pew,
Singing one-voiced a Tate-and-Brady psalm
    To the tune of "Cambridge New."

We watched the elms, we watched the rooks,
    The clouds upon the breeze,
Between the whiles of glancing at our books,
    And swaying like the trees.

So mindless were those outpourings!—
    Though I am not aware
That I have gained by subtle thought on things
    Since we stood psalming there.
"Tate-and-Brady psalm," i.e. from Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, New Version of the Psalms (1696). Here is John Randall's tune "Cambridge New," from John S. Stone, A Collection of Twenty Four Psalm Tunes, &c. For a Country Congregation, Arranged for the Harmonium (London: W. Blagrove & Co, n.d.), p. 5:


In J.B. James, Selected Portions from the New Version of the Psalms, Arranged for Every Sunday of the Year (Islesworth: M. Adams, 1838), three Tate-and-Brady psalms are marked to be sung to the tune "Cambridge New," viz. 98 ("Sing to the Lord a new-made song," for the Third Sunday of Advent), 105 ("Seek ye the Lord, his saving strength," for Epiphany), and 118 ("O praise the Lord, for he is good," for Easter).

 

The Best and Wisest Thing for Us to Do

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter XVIII (Sancho Panza to Don Quixote; tr. Walter Starkie, with his note):
The best and wisest thing for us to do, in my humble opinion, is to go back to our village, now that it's reaping time, and look after our own affairs, and not go wandering from pillar to post and going from Ceca to Mecca, as the saying goes.

1 Ceca was the name of the great mosque of Córdoba, which was looked upon as nearly equal in sanctity to Mecca. Andar de ceca en meca (to go from Ceca to Mecca) is still said of gadabouts.

Y lo que sería mejor y más acertado, según mi poco entendimiento, fuera el volvernos á nuestro lugar, ahora que es tiempo de la siega y de entender en la hacienda, dejándonos de andar de ceca en meca y de zoca en colodra, como dicen.

 

Down With It

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), The French Revolution, Part I, Book V, Chapter VI:
Down with it, man; down with it to Orcus: let the whole accursed Edifice sink thither, and Tyranny be swallowed up forever!
Id., Part I, Book VI, Chapter II:
Do nothing, only keep agitating, debating; and things will destroy themselves.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

 

Books in the House

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), A Cornish Childhood (London: Jonathan Cape, 1942), pp. 53-54:
I doubt if my parents had so much as heard the name of Shakespeare; nor were there any books in our house. (If you were to look at the present state of affairs, either at home or in my rooms at Oxford, a study full of books, two book-rooms, books in the bedrooms, books on the stairs, books on the floor, everywhere, even in the pantry, you would see that I have subsequently rather rectified this — perhaps over-compensated it, as the psychologists say.)

 

An Auto-Antonym?

An auto-antonym is a word that can mean the opposite of itself. Perhaps we have an example in the rare Greek word κοπία. See Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κοπία:
rest from toil, Hsch. (pl.); but, = Lat. labor, Serv.Dan. ad Virg.G.1.150.
Hesychius s.v. κοπίαι (Moritz Schmidt, editio minor, 2nd ed., col. 902):
ἡσυχίαι
Servius auctus on Vergil, Georgics 1.150 (Georg Thilo, ed., p. 167):
'labor' autem, quam Graeci κοπίαν dicunt.

quam L: quem Pierre Daniel

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Intellectual Habits

John Buchan (1875-1940), Memory Hold-the-Door (London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1940), p. 39:
Again, my philosophical reading left me with certain intellectual habits—a dislike of grandiose mechanical systems, and a distrust of generalities. Having only one or two strong convictions, which might well be called prejudices, I was inclined to be critical of a superfluity of dogmas. Arthur Balfour's Defence of Philosophic Doubt and Foundations of Belief which fell into my hands, increased this temperamental bias. I developed in most subjects, and notably in politics, a kind of relativism—a belief in degrees of truth and differing levels of reality—which made me judge systems by their historical influence and practical efficiency rather than by their logical perfections. I began to admire Carlyle's "swallowers of formulas." There were eternal truths, I decided, but not very many, and even these required frequent spring-cleanings. I became tolerant of most human moods, except intolerance. It was a point of view which I have since seen cause to modify, but it was perhaps a salutary one at that stage in my life.
I can't find "swallowers of formulas" in Carlyle. The sentence puzzles me. I can understand if Buchan admired the phrase (whoever said it), but not if he admired the swallowers themselves. Admire meaning regard with surprise is rare or obsolete in English.



From Kenneth Haynes:
Regarding your Buchan post ... can I point you to Carlyle's portrait of Mirabeau in The French Revolution (1.4.4)? "Swallowers" has the sense of "devourers," "destroyers."
But consider how, as the old Marquis still snarls, he has "made away with (humé, swallowed, snuffed-up) all Formulas"—a fact which, if we meditate it, will in these days mean much. This is no man of system, then; he is only a man of instincts and insights. A man nevertheless who will glare fiercely on any object; and see through it, and conquer it: for he has intellect, he was will, force beyond other men. A man not with logic-spectacles; but with an eye! Unhappily without Decalogue, moral Code or Theorem of any fixed sort; yet not without a strong living Soul in him, and Sincerity there: a Reality not an Artificiality, not a Sham! And so he, having struggled "forty years against despotism," and "made away with all formulas," shall now become the spokesman of a Nation bent to do the same.
Carlyle translates in the quotation a phrase from a letter by Mirabeau's father about his son, "il a humé toutes les formules."
Kevin Muse and Joel Eidsath also identified the relevant passage.

 

A Dictionary Addict

George Steiner, After Babel (1975; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 24:
A true reader is a dictionary addict. He knows that English is particularly well served, from Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, through Kurath and Kuhn's Middle English Dictionary to the almost incomparable resources of the O.E.D. (both Grimm's Wörterbuch and the Littré are invaluable but neither French nor German have found their history and specific genius as completely argued and crystallized in a single lexicon). Rossetti's geomaunt will lead to Shipley's Dictionary of Early English and the reassurance that 'the topic is capped with moromancy, foolish divination, a i7th century term that covers them all'. Skeat's Etymological Dictionary and Principles of English Etymology are an indispensable first step towards grasping the life of words. But each period has its specialized topography. Skeat and Mayhew's Glossary of Tudor and Stuart Words necessarily accompanies one's reading of English literature from Skelton to Marvell. No one will get to the heart of the Kipling world, or indeed clear up certain cruces in Gilbert and Sullivan without Sir H. Yule and A.C. Burnell's Hobson Jobson. Dictionaries of proverbs and place-names are essential. Behind the façade of public discourse extends the complex, shifting terrain of slang and taboo speech. Without such quarries as Champion's L'Argot ancien and Eric Partridge's lexica of underworld usage, much of Western literature, from Villon to Genet is only partly legible.

Friday, February 01, 2019

 

Our Doped, Decadent, Despicable Age

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), A Cornish Childhood (London: Jonathan Cape, 1942), p. 51:
But these old people had plenty of time on their hands: no cinemas, no wireless, no gadding about by bus and car. They had to provide their own amusements, and this they did heartily and with vivacity and inventiveness. I daresay they were the last generation in which the fullness of old Cornish customs and ways was maintained. For all these same songs were sung by my mother's parents, Granny and Grandfather Vanson; while the next generation, their children, were incapable of singing them. There was an unconscious change of taste and habit going on which let these old things die, so that by the next generation again, mine, they had practically completely gone and we never heard them.

So with the games and dressing-up and practical jokes, we did not find them so funny as they had: they derived amusement from them over years and would laugh till tears ran from their eyes when the old folk who remembered them got together and recalled the 'old days'. But then we had never taken part in them, and, I suppose, were affected unconsciously by the change of taste. The jokes were very elementary; we did not find them so amusing. But I have no doubt now that there was infinitely greater value, more character, variety and fun in the amusement which they provided for themselves and of their own inventiveness — genuine folk-creativeness in its own way — than in all the passive, provided amusements of cinemas, jazz-dancing, swing-music, theatre-organs (the most horrible invention of the human mind), in our own doped, decadent and rather despicable age.

 

Equal to Nothing

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 1186-1188 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Ah, generations of men,
how close to nothingness
I estimate your life to be!

ἰὼ γενεαὶ βροτῶν,
ὡς ὑμᾶς ἴσα καὶ τὸ μη-
δὲν ζώσας ἐναριθμῶ.
P.J. Finglass ad loc.:
In a world that lacked a numerical concept of zero, there may be a paradox in ἐναριθμῶ denoting an act of counting that results in nothingness.

 

Very Laughable Things

James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson (A.D. 1769, aetat. 60):
BOSWELL: "So, Sir, you laugh at schemes of political improvement."

JOHNSON: "Why, Sir, most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things."

 

My Subject Was Classics

John Buchan (1875-1940), Memory Hold-the-Door (London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1940), p. 34:
After a brief dalliance with mathematics, my subject was classics. In Latin I was fairly proficient, thanks to my father's tuition, but my Greek was rudimentary, and I was fortunate to find in Gilbert Murray a great teacher. He was then a young man in his middle twenties and was known only by his Oxford reputation. To me his lectures were, in Wordsworth's phrase, like "kindlings of the morning." Men are by nature Greeks or Romans, Hellenists or Latinists. Murray was essentially a Greek; my own predilection has always been for Rome; but I owe it to him that I was able to understand something of the Greek spirit and still more to come under the spell of the classic discipline in letters and life. I laboured hard to make myself a good "pure" scholar; but I was not intended by Providence for a philologist; my slender attainments lay rather in classical literature, in history, and presently in philosophy. Always to direct me I had Murray’s delicate critical sense, his imaginative insight into high matters, and his gentle and scrupulous humanism. In those years I read widely in the two literatures, covering much ground quite unfruitful for the schools. The other day I turned up an old paper on Claudian and was amazed at its futile erudition. I found that in another essay I had tried to analyse the mood of that wide-horizoned and fantastic sixth-century Ionia which made the background for Herodotus.

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