Friday, August 23, 2019


Enough of This Ancient History

Herodotus 9.27.4 (tr. A.D. Godley):
But since it is idle to recall these matters — for they that were erstwhile valiant may now be of lesser mettle, and they that lacked mettle then may be better men now — enough of these doings of old time.

ἀλλ' οὐ γάρ τι προέχει τούτων ἐπιμεμνῆσθαι· καὶ γὰρ ἂν χρηστοὶ τότε ἐόντες ὡυτοὶ νῦν ἂν εἶεν φλαυρότεροι, καὶ τότε ἐόντες φλαῦροι νῦν ἂν εἶεν ἀμείνονες. παλαιῶν μέν νυν ἔργων ἅλις ἔστω.


A Dish of Beastliness

Algernon Swinburne, letter to the New York Daily Tribune (written January 30, 1874, published February 25, 1874), from The Swinburne Letters. Edited by Cecil Y. Lang, Vol. 2: 1869-1875 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), pp. 274-275:
I am informed that certain American journalists, not content with providing filth of their own for the consumption of their kind, sometimes offer to their readers a dish of beastliness which they profess to have gathered from under the chairs of more distinguished men. While the abuse lavished on my name and writings could claim no higher than a nameless source, I have always been able to say with Shelley2—'I have neither curiosity, interest, pain nor pleasure, in anything, good or evil, they can say of me. I feel only a slight disgust, and a sort of wonder that they presume to write my name.' If I am to believe that that name has been made the mark for such vile language as is now publicly attributed to men of note in the world of letters, I, who am not sufficiently an expert in the dialect of the cesspool and the dung-cart to retort in their own kind on these venerable gentlemen—I, whose ears and lips alike are unused to the amenities of a conversation embroidered with such fragments of flowery rhetoric as may be fished up by congenial fingers or lapped up by congenial tongues out of the sewerage of Sodom—can return no better or more apt reply than was addressed by the servant of Octavia to the satellites of Nero and applied by Lord Denman when counsel for Queen Caroline to the sycophants of George IV. A foul mouth is so ill matched with a white beard that I would gladly believe the newspaper scribes alone responsible for the bestial utterances which they declare to have dropped from a teacher whom such disciples as these exhibit to our disgust and compassion as performing on their obscene platform the last tricks of tongue now possible to a gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape, carried first into notice on the shoulder of Carlyle, and who now in his dotage spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling; Coryphaeus or choragus of his Bulgarian tribe of autocoprophagous baboons who make the filth they feed on.

Averting with a peculiar emotion which I need not specify my eyes and nostrils from the sight and savour of such things, I need not stoop as though to blow off any speck of leaving from a name which I trust and think, though it may well be that it has gained nothing, has at least lost nothing in my hands of its hereditary honour. Those to whom it is known only as an object of reviling from writers with or without a name of their own, may yet do well to ask themselves how far such follies and such villainies may be likely to affect the repute or disturb the consciousness of one to whom it is given to remember that wellnigh at the very outset of his course he had earned the praise and won the friendship of Landor, of Hugo, and of Mazzini; and who, though he may see no need and feel no inclination to seek shelter behind the name or beneath the countenance of any man, has yet in the sense of this not unmerited honour an enduring source of such pleasures and such pride as the 'most sweet voices'3 of his revilers are about equally competent to give and to take away.

2. Letter to Leigh Hunt, Jan. 25, 1822, published in Richard Garnett's Relics of Shelly (1862).

3. Coriolanus, II.iii.180.
The "gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape" was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who in an interview had called Swinburne "a perfect leper and a mere sodomite." See Clyde K. Hyder, "Emerson on Swinburne: A Sensational Interview," Modern Language Notes 48.3 (March, 1933) 180-182.

Thanks very much to Eric Thomson for his help.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Baldness Cured

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 11.1305 (tr. Celia E. Schultz):
Tullia Superiana fulfilled her vow to Minerva Memor willingly and with just cause, on account of the restoration of her hair.

Minervae Memori Tullia Superiana restitutione facta sibi capillorum v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)


A Profusion of Paper

W.G. Sebald (1944-2001), The Rings of Saturn, tr. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998), pp. 8-9 (on Janine Dakyns):
Many a time, at the end of a working day. Janine would talk to me about Flaubert's view of the world, in her office where there were such quantities of lecture notes, letters and other documents lying around that it was like standing amidst a flood of paper. On the desk, which was both the origin and the focal point of this amazing profusion of paper, a virtual paper landscape had come into being in the course of time, with mountains and valleys. Like a glacier when it reaches the sea, it had broken off at the edges and established new deposits all around on the floor, which in turn were advancing imperceptibly towards the centre of the room. Years ago, Janine had been obliged by the ever-increasing masses of paper on her desk to bring further tables into use, and these tables, where similar processes of accretion had subsequently taken place, represented later epochs, so to speak, in the evolution of Janine's paper universe. The carpet, too, had long since vanished beneath several inches of paper; indeed, the paper had begun climbing from the floor, on which, year after year, it had settled, and was now up the walls as high as the top of the door frame, page upon page of memoranda and notes pinned up in multiple layers, all of them by just one corner. Wherever it was possible there were piles of papers on the books on her shelves as well. It once occurred to me that at dusk, when all this paper seemed to gather into itself the pallor of the fading light, it was like the snow in the fields, long ago, beneath the ink-black sky. In the end Janine was reduced to working from an easy chair drawn more or less into the middle of her room where, if one passed her door, which was always ajar, she could be seen bent almost double scribbling on a pad on her knees or sometimes just lost in thought. Once when I remarked that sitting there amidst her papers she resembled the angel in Dürer's Melancholia, steadfast among the instruments of destruction, her response was that the apparent chaos surrounding her represented in reality a perfect kind of order, or an order which at least tended towards perfection. And the fact was that whatever she might be looking for amongst her papers or her books, or in her head, she was generally able to find right away.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Disconnected Units of Twenty or Thirty Lines Each

Evan T. Sage, "Cicero and the Agrarian Proposals of 63 B.C.," Classical Journal 16 (1921) 230-236 (at 230):
In some ways the hardest and most important task of the Latin teacher is to make his students realize that Latin is something more than a series of disconnected units of twenty or thirty lines each, and that in the works of Caesar and Cicero we have historical documents that tell an important, and even an interesting, story.


Legislation Under Consideration

Cicero, On the Agrarian Law I.1.1 (tr. John Henry Freese):
By the immortal gods! do such ideas appear to you to be sober men's plans or the dreams of men drunk with wine? do they look like the deliberate opinions of wise men or the raving wishes of madmen?

haec, per deos immortales! utrum esse vobis consilia siccorum an vinulentorum somnia et utrum cogitata sapientium an optata furiosorum videntur?
Id. II.33.89:
See what a world of difference there is between the counsels of our ancestors and the madness of these men!

videte, quantum intervallum sit interiectum inter maiorum nostrorum consilia et inter istorum hominum dementiam.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Ecce Homo ("Why I Am So Clever," § 8; tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Scholars who at bottom do little nowadays but thumb books — philologists, at a moderate estimate, about 200 a day — ultimately lose entirely their capacity to think for themselves. When they don't thumb, they don't think. They respond to a stimulus (a thought they have read) whenever they think — in the end, they do nothing but react. Scholars spend all of their energies on saying Yes and No, on criticism of what others have thought — they themselves no longer think.

The instinct of self-defense has become worn-out in them; otherwise they would resist books. The scholar — a decadent.

I have seen this with my own eyes: gifted natures with a generous and free disposition, "read to ruin" in their thirties — merely matches that one has to strike to make them emit sparks — "thoughts."

Early in the morning, when day breaks, when all is fresh, in the dawn of one's strength — to read a book at such a time is simply depraved!

Der Gelehrte, der im Grunde nur noch Bücher »wälzt« — der Philologe mit mässigem Ansatz des Tags ungefähr 200 — verliert zuletzt ganz und gar das Vermögen, von sich aus zu denken. Wälzt er nicht, so denkt er nicht. Er antwortet auf einen Reiz (— einen gelesenen Gedanken), wenn er denkt, — er reagirt zuletzt bloss noch. Der Gelehrte giebt seine ganze Kraft im Ja und Neinsagen, in der Kritik von bereits Gedachtem ab, — er selber denkt nicht mehr ...

Der Instinkt der Selbstvertheidigung ist bei ihm mürbe geworden; im andren Falle würde er sich gegen Bücher wehren. Der Gelehrte — ein décadent.

— Das habe ich mit Augen gesehn: begabte, reich und frei angelegte Naturen schon in den dreissiger Jahren »zu Schanden gelesen«, bloss noch Streichhölzer, die man reiben muss, damit sie Funken — »Gedanken« geben.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


School Editions

Found (and purchased) by a friend, for 50p each:


Exhortation on the Battlefield

Herodotus 9.17.4 (speech of Harmocydes to the Phocians; tr. A.D. Godley):
For it is better to end our lives in action and fighting than tamely to suffer a shameful death.

κρέσσον γὰρ ποιεῦντάς τι καὶ ἀμυνομένους τελευτῆσαι τὸν αἰῶνα ἤπερ παρέχοντας διαφθαρῆναι αἰσχίστῳ μόρῳ.
ἀμυνομένους: J. Enoch Powell, A Lexicon to Herodotus (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1938), p. 18 (s.v. ἀμύνω, sense II.1, middle voice): defend oneself

παρέχοντας: Id., p. 293 (s.v. παρέχω, sense I.5, citing only this passage): submit ... dub.

Despite Powell's "dub.", I see no variants or conjectures in N.G. Wilson's Oxford Classical Text edition and no discussion in his Herodotea: Studies on the Text of Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Powell's translation of this passage is unavailable to me. I might translate the sentence as follows:
For it is better to finish life while doing something and defending oneself than to perish by a most shameful death while submitting.
On Harmocydes' speech as a whole, see Vasiliki Zali, The Shape of Herodotean Rhetoric (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 297-300.


Tight-Fitting Clothes

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), "The Parson's Tale," Canterbury Tales X.423-428 (tr. Larry D. Benson):
Alas, some of them show the bulge of their shape, and the horrible swollen members, that it seems like the malady of hernia, in the wrapping of their leggings; and also the buttocks of them fare as it were the back part of a she-ape in the full of the moon. And moreover, the wretched swollen members that they show through their style of clothing, in parting of their hoses into white and red, seems that half their shameful private members were flayed. [425] And if so be that they divide their hoses in other colors, as is white and black, or white and blue, or black and red, and so forth, then seems it, as by variance of color, that half the part of their private members were corrupt by the fire of Saint Anthony (inflammation of the skin), or by cancer, or by other such mischance. Of the back part of their buttocks, it is very horrible to see. For certainly, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking excrement, that foul part show they to the people proudly in scorn of decency, which decency that Jesus Christ and his friends observed to show in their lives.
Original, from Jill Mann's edition (London: Penguin Books, 2005), pp. 721-722:
Allas, somme of hem shewen the shap and the boce of hire horrible swollen membres, that semeth lik the maladye of hirnia, in the wrappinge of hire hoses, | and eek the buttokes of hem, that faren as it were the hindre part of a she-ape in the fulle of the moone. | And mooreover the wrecched swollen membres that they shewe thurgh degisinge, in departinge of hire hoses in whit and reed, semeth that half hire shameful privee membres weren flayn. [425] | And if so be that they departen hire hoses in othere colours, as is whit and blew, or whit and blak, or blak and reed, and so forth, | thanne semeth it as by variaunce of colour that half the partie of hire privee membres ben corrupt by the fir of Seint Antony, or by cancre, or by oother swich meschaunce. | Of the hindre part of hire buttokes it is ful horrible for to see, for certes, in that partie of hire body theras they purgen hire stinkinge ordure, | that foule partie shewe they to the peple proudly, in despit of honestetee, the which honestetee that Jesu Crist and hise frendes observede to shewen in hir live.

Monday, August 19, 2019



Herodotus 8.142.5 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
These foreigners are completely unreliable and dishonest.

βαρβάροισι ἐστὶ οὔτε πιστὸν οὔτε ἀληθὲς οὐδέν.


The Physiognomy Defence

Cicero, In Defence of Quintus Roscius 7.20 (tr. J.H. Freese):
I beg and beseech you, who know them, to contrast their lives; you who do not know them, look at their faces. Do not the head itself, and those clean-shaven eyebrows seem to reek of malice and proclaim craftiness aloud? If one can make a guess from the silent form of a man's body, does not Fannius seem to be composed entirely of fraud, trickery, and lies from the tips of his fingers to the top of his head? He always has his head and eyebrows shaved, that he may not be accused of having a single hair of an honourable man on him...

oro atque obsecro vos, qui nostis, vitam inter se utriusque conferte, qui non nostis, faciem utriusque considerate. nonne ipsum caput et supercilia illa penitus abrasa olere malitiam et clamitare calliditatem videntur? non ab imis unguibus usque ad verticem summum, si quam coniecturam affert hominibus tacita corporis figura, ex fraude, fallaciis, mendaciis constare totus videtur? qui idcirco capite et superciliis semper est rasis, ne ullum pilum viri boni habere dicatur...
See Elizabeth C. Evans, "Physiognomics in the Ancient World," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 59.5 (1969) 1-101 (at 43). Cicero here portrays Fannius as a vir mollis, according to Jan B. Meister, "Pisos Augenbrauen: Zur Lesbarkeit aristokratischer Körper in der späten römischen Republik," Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 58.1 (2009) 71-95 (at 78-79).



William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On a Sun-Dial," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 208-216 (at 212-213):
I confess, nothing at present interests me but what has been—the recollection of the impressions of my early life, or events long past, of which only the dim traces remain in a smouldering ruin or half-obsolete custom. That things should be that are now no more, creates in my mind the most unfeigned astonishment. I cannot solve the mystery of the past, nor exhaust my pleasure in it. The years, the generations to come, are nothing to me. We care no more about the world in the year 2300 than we do about one of the planets. Even George IV. is better than the Earl of Windsor. We might as well make a voyage to the moon as think of stealing a march upon Time with impunity. De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. Those who are to come after us and push us from the stage seem like upstarts and pretenders, that may be said to exist in vacuo, we know not upon what, except as they are blown up with vanity and self-conceit by their patrons among the moderns. But the ancients are true and bonâ-fide people, to whom we are bound by aggregate knowledge and filial ties, and in whom, seen by the mellow light of history, we feel our own existence doubled and our pride consoled, as we ruminate on the vestiges of the past.



Vauvenargues (1715-1747), Reflections and Maxims, no. 102 (tr. F.G. Stevens):
We should expect the best and the worst from mankind, as from the weather.

Il faut tout attendre et tout craindre du temps et des hommes.

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Limitless Desire

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.7.20 (tr. Arthur P. Peabody):
Xerxes, indeed, replete with all the prizes and gifts of fortune, not content with his cavalry, his foot-soldiers, his vast fleet, his boundless supply of gold, offered a reward to him who should have invented a new pleasure, — with which he was not satisfied; for never will desire find an end.

nam Xerxes quidem refertus omnibus praemiis donisque fortunae, non equitatu, non pedestribus copiis, non navium multitudine, non infinito pondere auri contentus, praemium proposuit, qui invenisset novam voluptatem: qua ipsa non fuit contentus; neque enim umquam finem inveniet libido.


Without Money

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On the Want of Money," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 293-307 (at 304-305):
Literally and truly, one cannot get on well in the world without money. To be in want of money, is to pass through life with little credit or pleasure; it is to live out of the world, or to be despised if you come into it; it is not to be sent for to court, or asked out to dinner, or noticed in the street; it is not to have your opinion consulted or else rejected with contempt, to have your acquirements carped at and doubted, your good things disparaged, and at last to lose the wit and the spirit to say them; it is to be scrutinized by strangers, and neglected by friends; it is to be a thrall to circumstances, an exile in a foreign land; to forego leisure, freedom, ease of body and mind, to be dependent on the good-will and caprice of others, or earn a precarious and irksome livelihood by some laborious employment; it is to be compelled to stand behind a counter, or to sit at a desk in some public office, or to marry your landlady, or not the person you would wish; or to go out to the East or West-Indies, or to get a situation as judge abroad, and return home with a liver-complaint; or to be a law-stationer, or a scrivener or scavenger, or newspaper reporter; or to read law and sit in court without a brief; or to be deprived of the use of your fingers by transcribing Greek manuscripts, or to be a seal-engraver and pore yourself blind; or to go upon the stage, or try some of the Fine Arts; with all your pains, anxiety, and hopes, most probably to fail, or if you succeed, after the exertions of years, and undergoing constant distress of mind and fortune, to be assailed on every side with envy, back-biting, and falsehood, or to be a favourite with the public for awhile, and then thrown into the back-ground—or a jail, by the fickleness of taste and some new favourite; to be full of enthusiasm and extravagance in youth, of chagrin and disappointment in after-life; to be jostled by the rabble because you do not ride in your coach, or avoided by those who know your worth and shrink from it as a claim on their respect or their purse; to be a burden to your relations, or unable to do anything for them; to be ashamed to venture into crowds; to have cold comfort at home; to lose by degrees your confidence and any talent you might possess; to grow crabbed, morose, and querulous, dissatisfied with every one, but most so with yourself; and plagued out of your life, to look about for a place to die in, and quit the world without anyone's asking after your will.



Daniel Webster, Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States (March 7, 1850):
It is in the nature of man, manifested in his whole history, that religious disputes are apt to become warm in proportion to the strength of the convictions which men entertain of the magnitude of the questions at issue. In all such disputes, there will sometimes be found men with whom every thing is absolute; absolutely wrong, or absolutely right. They see the right clearly; they think others ought so to see it, and they are disposed to establish a broad line of distinction between what is right and what is wrong. They are not seldom willing to establish that line upon their own convictions of truth or justice; and are ready to mark and guard it by placing along it a series of dogmas, as lines of boundary on the earth's surface are marked by posts and stones. There are men who, with clear perception, as they think, of their own duty, do not see how too eager a pursuit of one duty may involve them in the violation of others, or how too warm an embracement of one truth may lead to a disregard of other truths equally important. As I heard it stated strongly, not many days ago, these persons are disposed to mount upon some particular duty, as upon a war-horse, and to drive furiously on and upon and over all other duties that may stand in the way. There are men who, in reference to disputes of that sort, are of the opinion that human duties may be ascertained with the exactness of mathematics. They deal with morals as with mathematics; and they think what is right may be distinguished from what is wrong with the precision of an algebraic equation. They have, therefore, none too much charity towards others who differ from them. They are apt, too, to think that nothing is good but what is perfect, and that there are no compromises or modifications to be made in consideration of difference of opinion or in deference to other men's judgment. If their perspicacious vision enables them to detect a spot on the face of the sun, they think that a good reason why the sun should be struck down from heaven. They prefer the chance of running into utter darkness to living in heavenly light, if that heavenly light be not absolutely without any imperfection.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


Government Surveillance of Subversives

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Gulliver's Travels, Book III, chapter VI:
Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wiped their posteriors; to take a strict view of their excrements, and from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness, or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs. Because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent experiment: for in such conjunctures, when he used merely as a trial to consider which was the best way, of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green; but quite different, when he thought only of raising an insurrection, or burning the metropolis.



Subjectivity and Objectivity

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), Antigonos von Karystos (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1881), p. 81 (tr. Richard Stoneman):
The tone is throughout subjective, the narrator speaks not with that dispassionate tedium that the philistines have always taken for objectivity, because it is forbidden them to wax enthusiastic about any subject, but from personal understanding and personal sensibility.

Der ton ist durchaus subjectiv, der berichterstatter redet nicht mit jener teilnahmlosen langweiligkeit, welche die philister allezeit für sachlich genommen haben, weil es ihnen versagt ist für eine sache sich zu erwärmen, sondern aus eigenem wissen mit eigenem gefühle.



Herodotus 8.73.3 (on the "seven nations" of the Peloponnese during the war with Persia; tr. A.D. Godley):
Now of these seven nations all the cities, save those aforesaid, sat apart from the war; and if I may speak freely, by so doing they took the part of the enemy.

τούτων ὦν τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐθνέων αἱ λοιπαὶ πόλιες, πάρεξ τῶν κατέλεξα, ἐκ τοῦ μέσου κατέατο· εἰ δὲ ἐλευθέρως ἔξεστι εἰπεῖν, ἐκ τοῦ κατήμενοι ἐμήδιζον.
"They took the part of the enemy" — more literally, "they sided with the Medes," or "they medized." See David F. Graf, "Medism: The Origin and Significance of the Term," Journal of Hellenic Studies 104 (1984) 15-30.

Friday, August 16, 2019


Demonic Nomenclature

Brian Stross, "Eight Reinterpretations of Submerged Symbolism in the Mayan Popol Wuj," Anthropological Linguistics 49.3/4 (Fall-Winter, 2007) 388-423 (at 419):
Quichua (del Oriente) of Ecuador has a similar-sounding word for 'devil' supai ('el demonio, el diablo, el espíritu maligno'). It is based on the word supi 'flatus, flatulence'—an exact parallel to Yukateko kisin 'devil', which is based on Yukateko kis 'flatus, flatulence, breaking wind'. The Peruvian Quechua word supay or supai, with meanings of 'demon, devil, witch', occurs in a number of Quechua dialects (Anne Helsley p.c. 1985).
Related posts:



What Is Man?

Stobaeus, Florilegium 4.34.60, in Ioannis Stobaei Anthologium, Vol. V: Anthologii Libri Quarti Partem Alteram, ed. Otto Hense (Berlin: Weidmann, 1912), p. 843 (attributed to Aristotle; my translation):
For what is man? Specimen of feebleness, time's spoils, fortune's toy, image of change, poised between envy and disaster, and, for the rest, phlegm and bile.

τί γάρ ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος; ἀσθενείας ὑπόδειγμα, καιροῦ λάφυρον, τύχης παίγνιον, μεταπτώσεως εἰκὼν, φθόνου καὶ συμφορᾶς πλάστιγξ, τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν φλέγμα καὶ χολή.
I translate "phlegm and bile" (two of the humors), rather than as (e.g.) "fire and anger."

For τύχης παίγνιον cf. Secundus, Sententiae 7, in Friedrich Wilhelm August Mullach, ed., Fragmenta Philosophorum Graecorum (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1860), p. 513 (with Mullach's Latin translation):
Τί ἐστιν Ἄνθρωπος; Νοῦς σεσαρκωμένος, πνευματικὸν ἀγγεῖον, αἰσθητικὸν οἴκημα, οἰκητήριον ὀλιγοχρόνιον, ἐπίπονος ψυχή, τύχης παίγνιον, φάντασμα χρόνου, ὠστεωμένον ὄργανον, κατάσκοπος βίου, φωτὸς ἀποστάτης, γής ἀπαίτημα.

Quid est Homo? Mens indula carne, vas spiritale, sensile domicilium, breve habitaculum, anima laboris patiens, fortunae ludibrium, vana temporis imago, instrumentum osseum, vitae explorator, lucis desertor, terrae postulatum.



Friedrich Nietzsche, letter to Carl von Gersdorff (April 7, 1866; tr. Christopher Middleton):
Three things are my relaxations, but infrequent ones: my Schopenhauer, Schumann's music, and then solitary walks.

Drei Dinge sind meine Erholungen, aber seltne Erholungen, mein Schopenhauer, Schumannsche Musik, endlich einsame Spaziergänge.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


The Five Senses in Hell

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), "The Parson's Tale," Canterbury Tales X.206-209:
And forther over, they shul have defaute of alle manere delices; for certes, delices ben after the appetites of the five wittes, as sighte, heringe, smellinge, savoringe, and touchinge, | but in helle hir sighte shal be ful of derknesse and of smoke, and therfore ful of teeres; and hire heringe ful of waimentinge and of grintinge of teeth, as seyth Jesu Crist. | Hir nosethirles shul be ful of stinkinge stink, and as seyth Isaie the prophete, 'hire savoring shal be ful of bitter galle,' | and touchinge of al hir body ycovered with 'fir that nevere shal quenche, and with wormes that nevere shul dien,' as God seyth by the mouth of Isaie.
Nevill Coghill very briefly summarizes but doesn't translate "The Parson's Tale" in his modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (1951; rpt. London: Penguin Books, 1977), but the passage quoted above is easy enough to understand without a translation.

I searched quickly in Richard Newhauser, "The Parson's Tale," in Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, edd., Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales, Vol. I (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002), pp. 529-611, but didn't find any sources for this passage.

I haven't tracked down the references cited by Lee W. Patterson, "The Parson's Tale and the Quitting of The Canterbury Tales," Traditio 34 (1978) 331-380 (at 355):
To amplify the second phrase ('drede ... of the horrible peynes of helle') Chaucer relies on the tradition of the supplicia damnatorum, which provides him with both a list of punishments and their rationales, e.g., the sinner who has indulged in 'delices' while alive will have each of his five senses assaulted with ugliness and pain while dead (207-210).66 But again, rather than present a random list of items Chaucer provides a coherent structure by appropriating Gregory's exegesis of a passage from Job: 'Suffre, Lord, that I may a while biwaille and wepe, er I go withoute returnyng to the derke lond, covered with the derknesse of deeth; to the lond of mysese and of derknesse, whereas is the shadwe of deeth, whereas ther is noon ordre or ordinaunce, but grisly drede that evere shal laste' (176-177, Job 10.21). This passage is then broken up into seven phrases which are carefully expounded and among which the various supplicia are distributed.

66 For comparable but less well-organized discussions of the pains of hell, see Peter Damian, Institutio monialis 12 (PL 145.745-746) and The Pricke of Conscience 174-203. See also the passage from MS Trinity R.14.7 printed by Bryan and Dempster 745-758.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Xenophanes, fragment 27 (tr. J.H. Lesher):
For all things are from the earth and to the earth all things come in the end.

ἐκ γαίης γὰρ πάντα, καὶ εἰς γῆν πάντα τελευτᾷ.


Words Written on Rocks

Herodotus 8.22.1 (tr. A.D. Godley):
But Themistocles picked out the seaworthiest Athenian ships and went about to the places of drinking water, where he engraved on the rocks writing which the Ionians read on the next day when they came to Artemisium. This was what the writing said: "Men of Ionia, you do wrongly to fight against the land of your fathers and bring slavery upon Hellas...."

Ἀθηναίων δὲ νέας τὰς ἄριστα πλεούσας ἐπιλεξάμενος Θεμιστοκλέης ἐπορεύετο περὶ τὰ πότιμα ὕδατα, ἐντάμνων ἐν τοῖσι λίθοισι γράμματα, τὰ Ἴωνες ἐπελθόντες τῇ ὑστεραίῃ ἡμέρῃ ἐπὶ τὸ Ἀρτεμίσιον ἐπελέξαντο. τὰ δὲ γράμματα τάδε ἔλεγε. "Ἄνδρες Ἴωνες, οὐ ποιέετε δίκαια ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας στρατευόμενοι καὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα καταδουλούμενοι...."

del. Van Herwerden
The Greek doesn't say "the land of your fathers," but simply "the fathers" — see J. Enoch Powell, A Lexicon to Herodotus (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1938), p. 296 ("ancestors"). Cf. the translation of Robin Waterfield ("your ancestral line") and the commentary of Charles Forster Smith and Arthur Gordon Laird (words in brackets added):
πατέρας: the Athenians; cp. l. 14 [μεμνημένοι ὅτι ἀπ᾿ ἡμέων γεγόνατε = "be mindful that you are our sons"] and 7.51.8 [ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας], 11 [καταδουλουμένους τὴν μητρόπολιν].
The eponymous ancestor of the Ionians was Ion, an Athenian.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019



Confucius, The Analects 2.17 (tr. Burton Watson):
The Master said, You (Zilu), shall I teach you what it means to know something? When you know, to know you know. When you don't know, to know you don't know. That's what knowing is.


The Harper of Aspendus

Cicero, Against Verres II 1.20.54 (tr. L.H.G. Greenwood, with his note):
My charge is that Verres did not leave one single statue behind; that from temples and public places alike, with the whole of Aspendus looking on, they were all openly loaded on wagons and carted away. Yes, even the famous Harper of Aspendus, about whom you have often heard the saying that is proverbial among the Greeks, of whom it was said that he made "all his music inside"a—him too Verres carried off and put right inside his own house...

a The proverb was applied to those who do things for their own pleasure and not that of others. The lifelike figure appeared to be enjoying his own music, inaudible to everyone else.

hoc dico, nullum te Aspendi signum, Verres, reliquisse, omnia ex fanis, ex locis publicis, palam, spectantibus omnibus, plaustris evecta exportataque esse. atque etiam illum Aspendium citharistam, de quo saepe audistis id quod est Graecis hominibus in proverbio, quem omnia intus canere dicebant, sustulit et in intimis suis aedibus posuit...
George Long ad loc.:
Cicero has this expression (In Rullum, ii.26), "atque hoc carmen hic tribunus plebis non vobis, sed sibi intus canit." The explanation of this passage by Asconius, which Klotz has adopted, is the following:—"There was something in the manner in which this figure was represented as holding the lyre, to which the words 'intus canere' refer. Asconius says that the player on the cithara holds the 'plectrum' in his right hand, whiich is 'foris canere;' and he has the fingers of the left hand on the strings, which is 'intus canere.' This 'citharista' of Aspendus was represented doing every thing with the left band, 'intus;' he did not use the right hand at all. The proverbial expression 'intus canere' was also applied to a person who slily looked after his own interest." Asconius adds: 'unde omnes, quotquot fures erant, a Graecis Aspendii citharistae in proverbio dicebantur, quod, ut ille carminis, ita isti furtorum occultatores erant.' But this explanation of Asconius certainly does not explain the proverb. Zumpt gives a different sense to the words 'intus canere,' as applied to the 'citharista:' "the statue was made with such skill, that the 'citharista' seemed to be feeling his music, or 'intus canebat;'" but nobody else, of course, could hear it. He had, then, all his playing to himself.


A Neapolitan Lyric?

W.H. Auden (1907-1973), A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (New York: The Viking Press, 1970), p. 196:
And this anonymous Neapolitan lyric is, surely, beautiful.

Strunz' . . .
Nel sole fumante
Come un incenso
A Dio . . .
Una mosca
Ti canta
Una ninna-nanna . . .
Zzz . . . Zzz . . .
Ma . . . tu non ascolti . . .
Strunz' . . . .

(Turd, smoking in the sun to God like a thurifer . . . A fly sings you a hush-a-bye . . . Zzz . . . Zzz . . . but . . . you don't listen . . . Turd! . . .)
I can't find any older source for this "Neapolitan lyric".

Dear Mike,

There’s a clear resemblance between Auden’s 'anonymous Neapolitan lyric' and a poem variously attributed to writers Salvatore di Giacomo (1860-1934) and Ferdinando Russo (1866-1927):
ch'arravugliat' staj,
n'goppa a nu marciapiede
dint a na sfera e sole.

Nù muscuglione t' gir attuorn'
e t' canta na ninna nanna,
e tu t'adduorm,
In standard Italian:
che attorcigliato stai
su un marciapiede
dentro un raggio di sole.

Un moscone ti gira intorno
e ti canta la ninna nanna
e tu ti addormenti,
I wonder if Auden had come across a popular variant of this, or perhaps the author of the poem was echoing an earlier tradition? I don't know where or when it was published.

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]


Monday, August 12, 2019


The Old Paths

Jeremiah 6:16 (King James Version):
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
Id. (Vulgate):
State super vias, et videte, et interrogate de semitis antiquis quae sit via bona, et ambulate in ea: et invenietis refrigerium animabus vestris.


And Did Those Goatish Feet in Ancient Time...?

Pan on the Great Dish from the Mildenhall Treasure (London, British Museum, Registration number 1946,1007.1):

Hat tip: A friend.


I Completely Forbid This

Matthew Dillon, Omens and Oracles: Divination in Ancient Greece (London: Routledge, 2017), p. 332, with note on p. 381:
A fifth-century BC oracular inscription from the temple of Zeus Epikoinios in the Greek city of Salamis on the island of Cyprus is written on a shard of pottery, employing Cypriot letters to express Greek words.46 Two distinct sections or areas of writing are legible. There is a short piece of prose: 'Decision of the god. I completely forbid this: the little creek must flow', written around the edge of one side of the ostrakon. There is also a longer piece of writing, written in neat lines of verse:
I admire this zeal of yours, and yet, while I am gracious,
With lightning I strike my enemies down.
Through the rivulets of the stream
I receive sweet water for my cattle
and pastures in the springtime.
I am angered by this request,
which the one who is asking seeks.
Consequently, it would seem that the ostrakon represents the decision of the god in response to an oracular enquiry, the answer expressed quite clearly in prose, and then with an elaboration on the god’s decision, expressed more fully but in verse this time, and explaining his ruling. Our enquirer must have asked if a stream could be altered in some way: perhaps dammed, or even redirected. Apparently it flowed by or even through the sanctuary of Zeus Epikoinios, and therefore it was clearly a matter for the god, whose permission needed to be sought for any such change.

46 The inscription resides in the British Museum: 97.4–1.1538. Hesychios knew of the deity, and explained the word Epikoinios with the gloss 'Zeus in Salamis'. Meister 1909: 3–25 (Greek text: 7–8, with two plates after p.30; an exhaustive word by word commentary) is still the main discussion; see also Amandry 1950: 166–68; Masson 1961: no 318, pp. 316–18; Rosenberger 2001: 173. The second last line of the inscription is a little difficult to translate.
References are to:
Images of the text from Meister, p. 309 (verse first, then prose):

Sunday, August 11, 2019



Antisthenes, fragment 105 Decleva Caizzi (tr. Susan Prince):
It is risky to give a dagger to a madman and power to a rogue.

ἐπισφαλὲς μαινομένῳ δοῦναι μάχαιραν καὶ μοχθηρῷ δύναμιν.


Free as Birds

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), The Gay Science, Book 4, § 294 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Against the slanderers of nature.— I find those people disagreeable in whom every natural inclination immediately becomes a sickness, something that disfigures them or is downright infamous: it is they that have seduced us to hold that man's inclinations and instincts are evil. They are the cause of our great injustice against our nature, against all nature. There are enough people who might well entrust themselves to their instincts with grace and without care; but they do not, from fear of this imagined "evil character" of nature. That is why we find so little nobility among men; for it will always be the mark of nobility that one feels no fear of oneself, expects nothing infamous of oneself, flies without scruple where we feel like flying, we freeborn birds. Wherever we may come there will always be freedom and sunlight around us.

Gegen die Verleumder der Natur.— Das sind mir unangenehme Menschen, bei denen jeder natürliche Hang sofort zur Krankheit wird, zu etwas Entstellendem oder gar Schmählichem,—diese haben uns zu der Meinung verführt, die Hänge und Triebe des Menschen seien böse; sie sind die Ursache unserer grossen Ungerechtigkeit gegen unsere Natur, gegen alle Natur! Es giebt genug Menschen, die sich ihren Trieben mit Anmuth und Sorglosigkeit überlassen dürfen: aber sie thun es nicht, aus Angst vor jenem eingebildeten "bösen Wesen" der Natur! Daher ist es gekommen, dass so wenig Vornehmheit unter den Menschen zu finden ist: deren Kennzeichen es immer sein wird, vor sich keine Furcht zu haben, von sich nichts Schmähliches zu erwarten, ohne Bedenken zu fliegen, wohin es uns treibt—uns freigeborene Vögel! Wohin wir auch nur kommen, immer wird es frei und sonnenlicht um uns sein.


Dead White Males

Socrates, Antisthenes, Chrysippus, Epicurus (British Museum)


Adding to the Hoard

Poggio Bracciolini, letter to Niccolò Niccoli (July 17, 1420; tr. Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordan):
One thing consoles me: this time has not been altogether wasted. I have even added a little to my hoard of gold, that is, to my knowledge of literature to which I apply myself every day, for I have plenty of time to read.

Id me consolatur, quod tempus non omnino effluit, quin aliquid addam ad cumulum lucri, litterarum scilicet studia, quibus quotidie vaco: est enim mihi otium satis ad legendum.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


Too Many Books?

Seneca, On Peace of Mind 9.4-7 (tr. Aubrey Stewart):
[4] Even literary pursuits, the most becoming thing for a gentleman to spend money upon, are only justifiable as long as they are kept within bounds. What is the use of possessing numberless books and libraries, whose titles their owner can hardly read through in a lifetime? A student is overwhelmed by such a mass, not instructed, and it is much better to devote yourself to a few writers than to skim through many.

[5] Forty thousand books were burned at Alexandria: some would have praised this library as a most noble memorial of royal wealth, like Titus Livius, who says that it was "a splendid result of the taste and attentive care of the kings." It had nothing to do with taste or care, but was a piece of learned luxury, nay, not even learned, since they amassed it, not for the sake of learning, but to make a show, like many men who know less about letters than a slave is expected to know, and who uses his books not to help him in his studies but to ornament his dining-room. Let a man, then, obtain as many books as he wants, but none for show.

[6] "It is more respectable," say you, "to spend one's money on such books than on vases of Corinthian brass and paintings." Not so: everything that is carried to excess is wrong. What excuses can you find for a man who is eager to buy bookcases of ivory and citrus wood, to collect the works of unknown or discredited authors, and who sits yawning amid so many thousands of books, whose backs and titles please him more than any other part of them?

[7] Thus in the houses of the laziest of men you will see the works of all the orators and historians stacked upon bookshelves reaching right up to the ceiling. At the present day a library has become as necessary an appendage to a house as a hot and cold bath. I would excuse them straightway if they really were carried away by an excessive zeal for literature; but as it is, these costly works of sacred genius, with all the illustrations that adorn them, are merely bought for display and to serve as wall-furniture.

[4] studiorum quoque quae liberalissima impensa est tam diu rationem habet, quam diu modum. quo innumerabiles libros et bybliothecas, quarum dominus vix tota vita indices perlegit? onerat discentem turba, non instruit, multoque satius est paucis te auctoribus tradere, quam errare per multos.

[5] quadraginta milia librorum Alexandriae arserunt; pulcherrimum regiae opulentiae monimentum alius laudaverit, sicut T. Livius, qui elegantiae regum curaeque egregium id opus ait fuisse. Non fuit elegantia illud aut cura, sed studiosa luxuria, immo ne studiosa quidem, quoniam non in studium sed in spectaculum comparaverant, sicut plerisque ignaris etiam puerilium litterarum libri non studiorum instrumenta sed cenationum ornamenta sunt. paretur itaque librorum quantum satis sit, nihil in apparatum.

[6] "honestius," inquis, "hoc se impensae quam in Corinthia pictasque tabulas effuderint." vitiosum est ubique, quod nimium est. quid habes, cur ignoscas homini armaria e citro atque ebore captanti, corpora conquirenti aut ignotorum auctorum aut improbatorum et inter tot milia librorum oscitanti, cui voluminum suorum frontes maxime placent titulique?

[7] apud desidiosissimos ergo videbis quicquid orationum historiarumque est, tecto tenus exstructa loculamenta; iam enim inter balnearia et thermas bybliotheca quoque ut necessarium domus ornamentum expolitur. ignoscerem plane, si studiorum nimia cupidine erraretur. nunc ista conquisita, cum imaginibus suis discripta sacrorum opera ingeniorum in speciem et cultum parietum comparantur.

James Baker Pyne (1800-1870), The Library at Windsor Castle

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Not Worth an Egg

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "The Main-Chance," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 235-252 (at 247):
[I]t is uniformly when parties have run highest and the strife has been deadliest that people have been most forward to stake their existence and every thing belonging to them, on some unintelligible dogma or article of an old-fashioned creed. Half the wars and fightings, martyrdoms, persecutions, feuds, antipathies, heartburnings in the world have been about some distinction, 'some trick not worth an egg'—so ready are mankind to sacrifice their all to a mere name!
Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, Shakespeare's Insults: A Pragmatic Dictionary (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), p. 171:
egg (A) Something small and worthless. 'Not worth an egg(shell)' is proverbial (Tilley, E95, see Cor 4.4.21: 'Some trick not worth an egg'). The egg is 'Shakespeare's frequent measure of insignificance' (Holland, Cor, 332).


Grim and Elderly Persons

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 8.6.1 (1158a; tr. J.A.K. Thomson):
The ability of grim and elderly persons to make friends is limited by the fact that they tend to be cross-grained and take small pleasure in society.

ἐνν δὲ τοῖς στρυφνοῖς καὶ πρεσβυτικοῖς ἧττον γίνεται ἡ φιλία, ὅσῳ δυσκολώτεροί εἰσι καὶ ἧττον ταῖς ὁμιλίαις χαίρουσιν.

Friday, August 09, 2019



Seneca, Oedipus 980-992 (tr. John G. Fitch):
We are driven by fate, and must yield to fate.
No anxious fretting can alter
the threads from that commanding spindle.
All that we mortal beings endure,
all that we do, comes from on high;
Lachesis secures the decrees of her distaff,
things that are spun by her harsh hands.
Everything travels on a path cut for it,
and the first day decides the last.
Not even a god can change events
which run in a woven series of causes.
Each person's commanding thread of life
continues unchanged by any prayer.

Fatis agimur: cedite fatis.        980
non sollicitae possunt curae
mutare rati stamina fusi.
quidquid patimur mortale genus,
quidquid facimus venit ex alto
servatque suae decreta colus        985
Lachesis dura revoluta manu.
omnia secto tramite vadunt,
primusque dies dedit extremum.
non illa deo vertisse licet,
quae nexa suis currunt causis.        990
it cuique ratus
prece non ulla mobilis ordo.

The Fates on a Roman sarcophagus
(Rome, Musei Capitolini)

Wednesday, August 07, 2019


The Chief Reason to Learn Latin

Robert E. Eisner, "WEBSTER, Thomas Bertram Lonsdale," Database of Classical Scholars:
Although his first publication was an edition of Cicero’s Pro Flacco, he delighted in saying that the chief reason to learn Latin was to read the apparatus criticus at the bottom of Greek texts.


Hostile Visitors

Cicero, In Defence of Flaccus 61 (tr. C. MacDonald):
They are throwing their weight about in this city which they hate, among men whose sight they dislike, and in a state for whose destruction they lacked not the will but the strength.

in hac igitur urbe se iactant quam oderunt, apud eos quos inviti vident, in ea re publica ad quam opprimendam non animus eis, sed vires defuerunt?
Related posts:


Going Without Breakfast

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On The Want Of Money," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 293-307 (at 294):
It is hard to go without one's dinner through sheer distress, but harder still to go without one's breakfast. Upon the strength of that first and aboriginal meal, one may muster courage to face the difficulties before one, and to dare the worst: but to be roused out of one's warm bed, and perhaps a profound oblivion of care, with golden dreams (for poverty does not prevent golden dreams), and told there is nothing for breakfast, is cold comfort for which one's half-strung nerves are not prepared, and throws a damp upon the prospects of the day. It is a bad beginning. A man without a breakfast is a poor creature, unfit to go in search of one, to meet the frown of the world, or to borrow a shilling of a friend. He may beg at the corner of a street—nothing is too mean for the tone of his feelings—robbing on the highway is out of the question, as requiring too much courage, and some opinion of a man's self. It is, indeed, as old Fuller, or some worthy of that age, expresses it, 'the heaviest stone which melancholy can throw at a man,' to learn, the first thing after he rises in the morning, or even to be dunned with it in bed, that there is no loaf, tea, or butter in the house, and that the baker, the grocer, and butter-man have refused to give any farther credit. This is taking one sadly at a disadvantage. It is striking at one's spirit and resolution in their very source,—the stomach—it is attacking one on the side of hunger and mortification at once; it is casting one into the very mire of humility and Slough of Despond.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019



Matthew Dillon, Omens and Oracles: Divination in Ancient Greece (London: Routledge, 2017), p. 17 (discussing Pseudo-Melampus, On Divination by Twitchings; bracketed material in original):
Although the earliest Greek manuscript of the work dates from the thirteenth century AD, even in their fragmentary state Greek papyri from Egypt provide an indication that there were quite extensive lists of interpretations available. Dating to the third century AD, the earliest papyrus begins with the entry:
[A twitching of] the left buttock means joy: for the slave, something beneficial; for the virgin, blame will fall on the widow for strife [this is somewhat difficult to understand; there may be an allusion here the ancient reader would have recognised]; for the soldier, promotion.
This is in fact a more elaborate version of two short entries in Melampous' Twitchings, which indicate that twitching of either buttock means prosperity...


Enough for Three Thousand Years

James Boswell, Journals (March 14, 1765):
Dined Wilkes, gay.

WILKES. "Never a moment in my life low-spirited."

BOSWELL. "What shall I do to get life over?"

WILKES. "While there's all ancient and modern learning and all arts and sciences, enough for life if three thousand years."

BOSWELL. "Fate and free will?"

WILKES. "Let 'em alone."
Id. (March 15, 1765):
WILKES. "I'm always happy. I thank God for good health, good spirits, and the love of books."


A Kind of Erudition

Frederick A. Pottle, James Boswell: The Earlier Years, 1740-1769 (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1966), p. 358 (on Boswell's Account of Corsica):
The result, as Georges Deyverdun and Edward Gibbon, the most acid of Boswell's reviewers, remarked, was "that kind of erudition which costs little and is worth less."

Monday, August 05, 2019


I Think I Could Turn and Live With Animals

Philemon, fragment 96, tr. John Maxwell Edmonds, The Fragments of Attic Comedy, Vol. III A (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1961), p. 63 (fragment 93 in his numbering):
Thrice blest indeed the animal creation
That such things don't need their consideration!
They never try themselves for doing their will,
Nor suffer other adventitious ill;
Each kind's passed nature's bill straight into law:
But human life's a life not worth a straw;
Our laws have made us slaves of fantasies,
Our forebears' slaves and our posterity's;
Whate'er we aim at, evil's what we hit,
And we can always find excuse for it.
Edmonds, op. cit., p. 62, misprints the second word of the Philemon fragment in Greek — he has τισμακάρια instead of τρισμακάρια:

The Greek, after Poetae Comici Graeci, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin, Vol. VII: Menecrates — Xenophon (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1989), p. 279:
ὦ τρισμακάρια πάντα καὶ τρισόλβια
τὰ θηρί', οἷς οὐκ ἔστι περὶ τούτων λόγος·
οὔτ᾿ εἰς ἔλεγχον οὐδἐν αὐτῶν ἔρχεται,
οὔτ' ἄλλο τοιοῦτ' οὐδέν ἐστ' αὐτοῖς κακὸν
ἐπακτόν, ἣν δ' ἂν εἰσενέγκηται φύσιν
ἕκαστον, εὐθὺς καὶ νόμον ταύτην ἔχει.
ἡμεῖς δ' ἀβίωτον ζῶμεν ἄνθρωποι βίον·
δουλεύομεν δόξαισιν, εὑρόντες νόμους,
προγόνοισιν, ἐγγόνοισιν, οὐκ ἔστ' ἀποτυχεῖν
κακοῦ, πρόφασιν δ' ἀεί τιν' ἐξευρίσκομεν.
Image of this fragment in the edition of Kassel and Austin:



Government Instability

Seneca, Thyestes 215-217 (tr. John G. Fitch):
                                    Where there is no shame,
no concern for the law, no righteousness, goodness, loyalty,
rule is unstable.

                          Ubi non est pudor
nec cura iuris sanctitas pietas fides,
instabile regnum est.


Wha Wants Me?

Robert Zaretsky, Boswell's Enlightenment (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2015), p. 2, with note on p. 245 (the two friends were James Boswell and William Temple):
The two friends hardly noticed the "Wha wants me?" Man, walking along High Street with a chaise percée for needy passers-by. The floppy overcoat he wore, though not fashionable, was practical, providing a modicum of privacy to his clients.3

3. Donald Campbell, Edinburgh: A Cultural History (Northampton, MA: Interlink Books, 2003), 42–43.
In the book cited, Campbell is actually quoting from David Young, Edinburgh in the Age of Sir Walter Scott (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965), pp. 32-33.

See also Scotland Characterised: In a Letter Written to a Young Gentleman, To Dissuade Him froom an Intended Journey Thither (1701), rpt. in The Harleian Miscellany; or, A Collection of Scarce, Curious, and Entertaining Pamphlets and Tracts, Vol. X (London: Ribert Dutton, 1810), pp. 509-515 (at 511):
In Edinburgh, the capital city, whither you are going, they have not a private forica; but, as their houses, which are incredibly high, consist of eight or ten distinct families, each of which possesses an intire floor, so, at every stair's-head, you may see a great tub, called a cogue, that is the receptacle-general of the nastiness of a whole family; for all disembogue here promiscuously, both males and females, masters and mistresses, with their servants, without the least restraint of modesty or shame. When this is competently full, two lusty fellows, by the help of a cowl-staff, carry it by night to a window, and, after crying, 'Geud peeple, leuk to yar selles there,' out they throw it; he, that comes by, has great cause to bless his stars, if he comes off with piss. It may be, at high noon, and in the principal street, you shall meet a tattered wretch, with a monstrous cloke, and a close-stool under it, bawling out, 'Wha wants me?' For a half-penny you may be accommodated, and covered, whilst you are so.

James Gillray, "Wha Wants Me?"
(caricaturing Henry Dundas and William Pitt)


Sunday, August 04, 2019


Bedu, Zaps, Etc.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5.8.48 (modified from William Wilson's translation):
And Apollodorus of Corcyra says that these lines were recited by Branchus the seer, when purifying the Milesians from plague; for he, sprinkling the multitude with branches of laurel, led off the hymn somehow as follows:
"Sing Boys Hekaergos and Hekaerga."
And the people accompanied him, saying, "Bedu, Zaps, Khthom, Plectron, Sphinx; Knaxzbikh, Thuptes, Phlegmo, Drops."

Ἀπολλόδωρος δ' ὁ Κερκυραῖος τοὺς στίχους τούσδε ὑπὸ Βράγχου ἀναφωνηθῆναι τοῦ μάντεως λέγει Μιλησίους καθαίροντος ἀπὸ λοιμοῦ. ὃ μὲν γὰρ ἐπιρραίνων τὸ πλῆθος δάφνης κλάδοις προκατήρχετο τοῦ ὕμνου ὧδέ πως·
μέλπετε, ὦ παῖδες, ἑκάεργον καὶ ἑκαέργαν·
ἐπέψαλλεν δὲ ὡς εἰπεῖν ὁ λαός· "βέδυ, ζάψ, χθώμ, πλῆκτρον, σφίγξ· κναξζβίχ, θύπτης, φλεγμό, δρώψ."

Κερκυραῖος L: Ἀθηναῖος Christ, Κυρηναῖος Koetschau
χθώμ Nauck: χθών L
κναξζβίχ, θύπτης Stählin: κναξζβὶ, χθύπτης L

Saturday, August 03, 2019


Love of Reading

Montesquieu (1689-1755), My Thoughts, tr. Henry C. Clark (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012), p. 474 (#1632):
To love to read is to make an exchange of the inevitable hours of boredom in one's life, for some delightful hours.
In French, from Montesquieu, Pensées et fragments inédits, Tome II (Bordeaux: Imprimerie de G. Gounouilhou, 1901), p. 122:
Aimer à lire, c'est faire un échange des heures d'ennui que l'on doit avoir dans sa vie, contre des heures délicieuses.

Charles Spencelayh, Morning Chapter


Dedication of a House

Morris Bishop, Ronsard: Prince of Poets (1940; rpt. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1959), pp. 9-10 (on the Château de la Possonnière):
On the north side rose the main building, the quarters of the Ronsard family. It was, and is today, a graceful and comely structure, ornamented with the Italian elegance Louis de Ronsard loved. Enormous windows, symbols of Renaissance enlightenment, open to the southern sun. The grace of the façade is marred, but the charm of incongruousness is enhanced, by a pentagonal medieval tower, out-topping the roof-line, and bearing, beneath its crown, a richly ornamented Renaissance window. The old tower peers abroad like an ancient bedizened patrician of Antonio Moro or Titian.

At the base of the tower opens a narrow door giving access to the spiral staircase contained within. Over the door is an elaborately carved Italian lintel, with the inscribed dedication of the house: VOLVPTATI ET GRATIIS, to pleasure and the Graces.

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Friday, August 02, 2019


Strangers to the Soil

Susan Fenimore Cooper (1813-1894), Rural Hours, ed. Rochelle Johnson and Daniel Patterson (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), pp. 64-65 (Summer: June 4), note omitted:
It is remarkable that these troublesome plants have come very generally from the Old World; they do not belong here, but following the steps of the white man, they have crossed the ocean with him. A very large proportion of the most common weeds in our fields and gardens, and about our buildings, are strangers to the soil. It will be easy to name a number of these:—such, for instance, as the dock and the burdock, found about every barn and outbuilding; the common plaintains and mallows—regular path-weeds; the groundsel, purslane, pigweed, goose-foot, shepherd's-purse, and lamb's-quarters, so troublesome in gardens; the chickweed growing everywhere; the prinpernel, celandine, and knawel; the lady's thumb and May-weed; the common nettles and teazel; wild flax, stickseed, burweed, doorweed; all the mulleins; the most pestilent thistles, both the common sort and that which is erroneously called the Canada thistle; the sow thistles; the chess, corn-cockle, tares, bugloss, or blue-weed, and the pigeon-weed of the grain-fields; the darnel, yarrow, wild parsnip, ox-eye daisy, the wild garlick, the acrid buttercup, and the acrid St. John's wort of the meadows; the nightshades, Jerusalem artichoke, wild radish, wild mustard, or charlock, the poison hemlock, the henbane,—ay, even the very dandelion, a plant which we tread under foot at every turn. Others still might be added to the list, which were entirely unknown to the red man, having been introduced by the European race, and are now choking up all our way-sides, forming the vast throng of foreign weeds. Some of these have come from a great distance, travelling round the world. The shepherd's-purse, with others, is common in China, on the most eastern coast of Asia. One kind of mallows belongs to the East Indies; another to the coast of the Mediterranean. The gimson weed, or Datura, is an Abyssinian plant, and the Nicandra came from Peru.
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Trumpet Blast

H.T. Wade-Gery, The Poet of the Iliad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952), p. 2, with note on p. 62:
When Achilles shouts from the trench, Homer likens it to the sound of the trumpet:
XVIII 219 Like the loud music, when the trumpet calls
        220 Because the city is circled with the foe,
              Came the loud music of Achilles' call.
'The heroes do not know of the trumpet, the poet does' is the ancient comment on these lines: he is describing some sudden danger to a Greek city within his own experience; as when the Kolophonian exiles seized Smyrna, or troops from Chios captured Erythrai.5

5 (p. 2) Smyrna: Herodotos, I 150. Erythrai: Athenaeus, 259 (= Hippias of Erythrai, FGH, 421 F 1). These two attempts succeeded: in both the city was undefended in daytime because of a Panegyris: in the second we are expressly told that 'the trumpet was heard suddenly' (Athenaeus, 259 B). The Ephesians of the first generation captured Samos, and ten years later were turned out (Pausanias, VII 4 2-3): for the capture of Melia see note 10. More often, no doubt, such attempts would be beaten off.
Homer, Iliad 14.219-221:
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἀριζήλη φωνή, ὅτε τ᾽ ἴαχε σάλπιγξ
ἄστυ περιπλομένων δηΐων ὕπο θυμοραϊστέων,
ὣς τότ᾽ ἀριζήλη φωνὴ γένετ᾽ Αἰακίδαο.
Scholion (Erbse, Vol. IV, p. 474):
αὐτὸς μὲν οἶδε σάλπιγγα, οὐκ εἰσάγει δὲ ἥρωας εἰδότας.


Three Days

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), "To His Valet," from Le Second Livre des Amours, CXLIX (tr. Curtis Hidden Page):
I want three days to read the Iliad through!
    So, Corydon, close fast my chamber door.
    If anything should bother me before
I've done, I swear you'll have somewhat to rue!

No! not the servant, nor your mate, nor you
    Shall come to make the bed or clean the floor.
    I must have three good quiet days — or four.
Then I'll make merry for a week or two.

Ah! but — if any one should come from HER,
    Admit him quickly! Be no loiterer,
    But come and make me brave for his receiving.

But no one else! — not friends or nearest kin!
    Though an Olympian God should seek me, leaving
    His Heaven, shut fast the door! Don't let him in!

Je veus lire en trois jours l'Iliade d'Homere,
    Et pour-ce, Corydon, ferme bien l'huis sur moy.
    Si rien me vient troubler, je t'asseure ma foy
    Tu sentiras combien pesante est ma colere.

Je ne veus seulement que nostre chambriere
    Vienne faire mon lit, ton compagnon, ny toy,
    Je veus trois jours entiers demeurer à requoy,
    Pour follastrer apres une sepmaine entiere.

Mais si quelqu'un venoit de la part de Cassandre,
    Ouvre lui tost la porte, et ne le fais attendre,
    Soudain entre en ma chambre, et me vien accoustrer.

Je veus tant seulement à luy seul me monstrer:
    Au reste, si un Dieu vouloit pour moy descendre
    Du ciel, ferme la porte, et ne le laisse entrer.

Thursday, August 01, 2019


Washed in the Blood

Apollodorus, Library 3.10.3 (on Aesclepius; tr. James G. Frazer):
And having become a surgeon, and carried the art to a great pitch, he not only prevented some from dying, but even raised up the dead; for he received from Athena the blood that flowed from the veins of the Gorgon, and while he used the blood that flowed from her left side for the bane of mankind, he used the blood that flowed from her right side for salvation, and by that means he raised the dead.

καὶ γενόμενος χειρουργικὸς καὶ τὴν τέχνην ἀσκήσας ἐπὶ πολὺ οὐ μόνον ἐκώλυέ τινας ἀποθνήσκειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἀνήγειρε καὶ τοὺς ἀποθανόντας· παρὰ γὰρ Ἀθηνᾶς λαβὼν τὸ ἐκ τῶν φλεβῶν τῆς Γοργόνος ῥυὲν αἷμα, τῷ μὲν ἐκ τῶν ἀριστερῶν ῥυέντι πρὸς φθορὰν ἀνθρώπων ἐχρῆτο, τῷ δὲ ἐκ τῶν δεξιῶν πρὸς σωτηρίαν, καὶ διὰ τούτου τοὺς τεθνηκότας ἀνήγειρεν.


Gaiety in Ritual, Independence in Doctrine

Montesquieu (1689-1755), My Thoughts, tr. Henry C. Clark (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012), p. 459 (#1606):
The world no longer has that cheerful air that it had in Greek and Roman times. Religion was mild and always in accord with nature. Great gaiety in the ritual was joined to complete independence in the doctrine.

Games, dances, festivals, theater, anything that can arouse, anything that can create feeling was part of religious ritual.

If pagan philosophy wanted to afflict man with the sight of his miseries, theology was much more consoling. Everyone flocked into that school of the passions. The philosophers appealed in vain to their disciples, who were fleeing; they were left to weep alone, in the midst of the public joy.

Today, Mohammedanism and Christianity, made solely for the afterlife, are annihilating all that.
In French, from Montesquieu, Pensées et fragments inédits, Tome I (Bordeaux: Imprimerie de G. Gounouilhou, 1899), pp. 310-311:
Le Monde n'a plus cet air riant qu'il avait du temps des Grecs et des Romains. La Religion étoit douce et toujours d'accord avec la Nature. Une grande gayeté dans le culte étoit jointe à une indépendance entière dans le dogme.

Les jeux, les danses, les fêtes, les théâtres, tout ce qui peut émouvoir, tout ce qui fait sentir, étoit du culte religieux.

Si la philosophie payenne vouloit affliger l'Homme par la vue de ses misères, la théologie étoit bien plus consolante. Tout le monde entroit en foule dans cette école des passions. En vain, les philosophes appeloient leurs sectateurs, qui fuyoient; on les laissoit pleurer seuls, au milieu de la joye publique.

Aujourd'hui, le Mahométisme et le Christianisme, uniquement faits pour l'autre vie, anéantissent toute de celle-ci.

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