Tuesday, September 17, 2019

 

The Thought of Our Non-Existence

Raymond Tallis, The Black Mirror: Looking at Life Through Death (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), p. 3 with note on p. 5:
What is to be discussed is life. Lucem demonstrat umbra – 'The shadow reveals the light' — says it all. The unspeakable Nothing italicizes at least some of the Everything that is life. While death destroys us in fact, the thought of our non-existence may save us from triviality, from entrapment in secondary things — only temporally of course, but then life itself is a temporary matter. To be oblivious of death is to be only half-awake.

This is an implicit rejoinder to Spinoza's assertion that 'The free man thinks about nothing less often than about death, and his wisdom is the preparation not for death but for life.'4 The free man (and woman) who is preparing for life may think more deeply and, indeed, more freely by thinking about death. In order to live like a philosopher, it is necessary to die like one — that is to die in thought and in imagination before you die in body. Few, if any, can philosophize while panting for breath, or vomiting, and none while confused, or comatose. No argument or revelation will save me when, as will surely happen, I shall be utterly broken and my body will embark on a one-way journey to extinction. No sentence will reach to the bottom of my grief, my pain, or my nausea. And this is why Montaigne enjoined us to 'banish the strangeness of death' and 'always keep the image of death in our minds and in our imagination'.

4. Spinoza, Ethics, 4, Prop 67.
Spinoza, Ethics 4.67:
PROPOSITIO LXVII. Homo liber de nulla re minus, quam de morte cogitat, et eius sapientia non mortis, sed vitae meditatio est.

DEMONSTRATIO. Homo liber, hoc est, qui ex solo rationis dictamine vivit, mortis metu non ducitur (per prop. 63. huius), sed bonum directe cupit (per coroll. eiusdem prop.), hoc est (per prop. 24. huius) agere, vivere, suum esse conservare ex fundamento proprium utile quaerendi. Atque adeo nihil minus, quam de morte cogitat, sed eius sapientia vitae est meditatio. Q.E.D.

Sundial, York Minster

Monday, September 16, 2019

 

Accusatives of Exclamation

Dear Mike,

Terence's 'hancin vitam! hoscin mores! hanc dementiam!' is a useful addition to the arsenal, but I suspect that curmudgeons might be loath to part with the spleen-venting interjection 'o' before their accusatives of exclamation. If they tire of hackneyed "o tempora! o mores!", they can always try out:
O miseras mentes! o pectora caeca! Lucretius On the Nature of Things 2.14

O curas hominum! o quantum est in rebus inane! Persius Satires 1.1

O rem totam odiosam! Cicero Letters to Atticus 6.4.1

O fallacem hominum spem fragilemque fortunam et inanes nostras contentiones! Cicero On the Orator 3.2.7
But then it must be back to Terence's The Brothers (302-304) for the final howl from the bunker:
Tot res repente circumvallant se unde emergi non potest:
Vis, egestas, iniustitia, solitudo, infamia.
Hocine saeclum! O scelera, o genera sacrilega, o hominem inpium!
Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

 

Posterior Analytics

[Lucian], Love Affairs 14 (on the statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles at Cnidus; tr. M.D. Macleod):
"Heracles!" he exclaimed, "what a well-proportioned back! What generous flanks she has! How satisfying an armful to embrace! How delicately moulded the flesh on the buttocks, neither too thin and close to the bone, nor yet revealing too great an expanse of fat! And as for those precious parts sealed in on either side by the hips, how inexpressibly sweetly they smile! How perfect the proportions of the thighs and the shins as they stretch down in a straight line to the feet!"

Ἡράκλεις, ὅση μὲν τῶν μεταφρένων εὐρυθμία, πῶς δ᾿ ἀμφιλαφεῖς αἱ λαγόνες, ἀγκάλισμα χειροπληθές· ὡς δ᾿ εὐπερίγραφοι τῶν γλουτῶν αἱ σάρκες ἐπικυρτοῦνται μήτ᾿ ἄγαν ἐλλιπεῖς αὐτοῖς ὀστέοις προσεσταλμέναι μήτε εἰς ὑπέρογκον ἐκκεχυμέναι πιότητα. τῶν δὲ τοῖς ἰσχίοις ἐνεσφραγισμένων ἐξ ἑκατέρων τύπων οὐκ ἂν εἴποι τις ὡς ἡδὺς ὁ γέλως· μηροῦ τε καὶ κνήμης ἐπ᾿ εὐθὺ τεταμένης ἄχρι ποδὸς ἠκριβωμένοι ῥυθμοί.
I owe the Aristotle joke to William Vallicella.

 

Small of Brain

William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida 5.1.51-52 (Thersites speaking about Agamemnon):
...he has not so much brain as ear-wax...

 

The Span of Time

John Ford (1586-1639), The Lover's Melancholy 4.3.57-64:
Minutes are numbred by the fall of Sands;
As by an houre-glasse, the span of time
Doth waste vs to our graves, and we looke on it.
An age of pleasures reuel'd out, comes home
At last, and ends in sorrow, but the life
Weary of ryot, numbers every Sand,
Wayling in sighes, vntill the last drop downe,
So to conclude calamity in rest.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

 

Wish

[Lucian], Love Affairs 25 (tr. M.D. Macleod):
How I wish that stingy fate had allotted us long terms of life and it consisted entirely of unbroken good health with no grief preying on our minds. For then we should spend all our days in feasting and holiday.

ὡς εἴθε καὶ βίου μακρὰς προθεσμίας ἡ μικρολόγος ἡμῖν ἐπέκλωσεν Μοῖρα καὶ τὸ πᾶν ἦν διηνεκὴς ὑγίεια μηδεμιᾶς λύπης τὴν διάνοιαν ἐκνεμομένης· ἑορτὴν γὰρ ἂν καὶ πανήγυριν τὸν ὅλον χρόνον ἤγομεν.

 

Confession

William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida 5.5.28 (Thersites speaking):
I am a rascal; a scurvy, railing knave; a very filthy rogue.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

 

Reading Slowly and Rereading

Quintilian 10.1.19-20 (tr. H.E. Butler):
[19] Reading, however, is free, and does not hurry past us with the speed of oral delivery; we can reread a passage again and again if we are in doubt about it or wish to fix it in the memory. We must return to what we have read and reconsider it with care, while, just as we do not swallow our food till we have chewed it and reduced it almost to a state of liquefaction to assist the process of digestion, so what we read must not be committed to the memory for subsequent imitation while it is still in a crude state, but must be softened and, if I may use the phrase, reduced to a pulp by frequent re-perusal.

[20] For a long time also we should read none save the best authors and such as are least likely to betray our trust in then, while our reading must be almost as thorough as if we were actually transcribing what we read. Nor must we study it merely in parts, but must read through the whole work from cover to cover and then read it afresh...

[19] lectio libera est nec ut actionis impetu transcurrit, sed repetere saepius licet, sive dubites sive memoriae penitus adfigere velis. repetamus autem et tractemus et, ut cibos mansos ac prope liquefactos demittimus quo facilius digerantur, ita lectio non cruda sed multa iteratione mollita et velut confecta memoriae imitationique tradatur.

[20] ac diu non nisi optimus quisque et qui credentem sibi minime fallat legendus est, sed diligenter ac paene ad scribendi sollicitudinem nec per partes modo scrutanda omnia, sed perlectus liber utique ex integro resumendus...

Albert Anker (1831-1910), Lesender alter Bauer

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License to Jest

[Lucian], Love Affairs 53 (tr. M.D. Macleod):
Nothing said on a festive day is unseemly, and any jesting, even if carried to excess, is thought in keeping with the holiday spirit.

οὐδὲν γὰρ ἀπρεπὲς ἐν ἑορτῇ λέγεσθαι, πᾶς δὲ γέλως, κἂν περίεργος ᾖ, πανηγυρίζειν δοκεῖ.

Friday, September 13, 2019

 

Servius Mangled in Translation

Servius on Vergil, Aeneid 1.448 (from Georg Thilo's edition, p. 146, because I don't have access to the editio Harvardiana):
AEREA vel quod aes magis veteres in usu habebant, vel quod religioni apta est haec materies, denique flamen Dialis aereis cultris tondebatur: [aut quia vocalius ceteris metallis, aut quia medici aere quaedam vulnera curant, aut dicit quia veteres magis aere usi sunt] aut certe aerea saecula significantur: nam ut Hesiodus dicit, tempore quo haec gesta sunt aereum saeculum fuit.    NEXAEQVE AERE TRABES multi 'nixae' legunt, non 'nexae', iuxta Varronem qui ait trisulcae fores, pessulis libratae, dehiscunt, graves atque innixae in cardinum tardos turbines. quidam trabes aeneas putant ipsum templum χαλκίοικον significari. versus sane ipse hypermetros est.
A "translation" of this passage recently appeared on the World Wide Web (reproduced here with the translator's note):
BRONZE, or rather what was used as money by the ancients, or what was appropriate for religion, and then the Flamen Dialias was trimmed with a bronze knife: [or because more tuneful than other metals, or because doctors cured some wounds with bronze, or he says (this) because the ancients were more used to bronze] or at least the ages of bronze are signified: for, as Hesiod says, the time that this happened was the age of bronze.    AND ITS ROOF-BEAMS WERE LINKED WITH BRONZE. Many read "heavy", not "linked", according to Varro who said, "The three-fold doors, from bolts released, they open, and in pushing on the hinge the slow heavy rotation."[2] Which beam Aeneas thought meant the temple itself was that "made of bronze" (i.e. of Athena). The verse obviously is in hypermeter.

[2] I really couldn't construe this correctly.
Screen image:


The worst of the several howlers in this translation is the confusion of the adjective aeneas (brazen, of bronze) with the proper name Aeneas.

A friend of mine kindly offered the following accurate version:
AEREA, either because the ancients used bronze more widely, or because this material is appropriate for religious purposes; thus the hair of the Flamen Dialis was cut with bronze knives [or because it was more sonorous than other metals, or because doctors tended certain wounds with bronze, or he says that the ancients made more use of bronze] or at any rate the Bronze Ages are denoted: for, as Hesiod says, the time at which these events occurred was the Age of Bronze.    NEXAEQVE AERE TRABES: Many read "resting upon" [nixae], not "plated with" [nexae], with Varro, who said, "The triple doors, released by bolts, open wide, heavy and resting upon slowly revolving pivots". Some think that the "bronze lintel" means that the temple itself was a "shrine of bronze". The line is obviously hypermetric.
On the passage itself see Arthur F. Stocker, "Servius Servus Magistrorum," Vergilius 9 (1963) 9-15 (at 12). Stocker said of Servius in general:
The Latin is easy, well within the capabilities of anyone who can read Vergil himself.
The quotation from Varro is fragment 577 of his Menippean Satires (in Raymond Astbury's Teubner edition). For Hesiod, cf. Works and Days 150-151.

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Some People

Song by Giraut de Borneil (?), stanzas I-II (tr. Linda M. Paterson):
I. Some people preach and sermonise when their heart is false and vicious, and some accuse others without blaming themselves, and some strike worse than a snake while they keep their thoughts under lock and key; some wear humble clothes and intend treachery.

II. Some refuse to forgive another's wrong but fail to expose their own; some make claims and demands when they have no rights to defend; some act foolishly while they speak and reason well; some sow their corn well but fail to reap it.
Occitan:
I.
Tals gen prezich'e sermona
q'a cor fals e maltalen,
e tals autrui ochaisona
qi sa colpa no repren,
e tals fer a peiz de serpen
qi son corag'enpreisona,
tals port'humil vestimen
q'a volontat felona.

II.
Tals l'autrui tort no perdona
qi sa part no·n get'al ven,
e tals clama e tensona
qi non a de dreig nien,
e tals sos faigz fai follamen
qi parla gent e rasona,
tals semena ben e gen
son blat qi no·l meixona.

 

Suggestive Adverbs: Here and There

William Shakespeare (?), The Passionate Pilgrim 4, lines 7-8:
To win his heart, she toucht him here and there;
Touches so soft still conquer chastity.
Related post: Suggestive Pronouns: This and That.

 

Small or Large?

Jonathan Bate, How the Classics Made Shakespeare (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), p. 12 with note on p. 291:
There could be no better example of the rhetorical figure of litotes—understatement by way of ironizing negative—than to say that Shakespeare was not unfamiliar with the classics, whatever the formidably learned Ben Jonson might have been implying when he joked that his friend and rival was worthy to be named alongside the great dramatists of antiquity "Though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek."45 As has often been remarked, the "small Latin" of a provincial grammar-school boy in the age of the first Queen Elizabeth would have been large by the standards of many a university Classics graduate in the age of the second.

45. Dedicatory poem in the Shakespeare First Folio. In his elegant and concise Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2013), Colin Burrow points out the ambiguity of Jonson’s "though": the line is usually interpreted as "despite the fact that you only had a smattering of Latin and less Greek," it could alternatively mean "even supposing (counterfactually) that you only had a smattering of Latin and less Greek, the major classical dramatists would still admire you" (p. 2).
Thanks very much to the anonymous benefactor who sent me a copy of Bate's book.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

 

Sicut Parvuli

Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 12.60 (tr. J.W. Cohoon):
For precisely as infant children when torn away from father or mother are filled with terrible longing and desire, and stretch out their hands to their absent parents often in their dreams, so also do men to the gods, rightly loving them for their beneficence and kinship, and being eager in every possible way to be with them and to hold converse with them.

ἀτεχνῶς γὰρ ὥσπερ νήπιοι παῖδες πατρὸς ἢ μητρὸς ἀπεσπασμένοι δεινὸν ἵμερον ἔχοντες καὶ πόθον ὀρέγουσι χεῖρας οὐ παροῦσι πολλάκις ὀνειρώττοντες, οὕτω καὶ θεοῖς ἄνθρωποι ἀγαπῶντες δικαίως διά τε εὐεργεσίαν καὶ συγγένειαν, προθυμούμενοι πάντα τρόπον συνεῖναί τε καὶ ὁμιλεῖν.

θεοῖς Emperius: θεοὺς codd.

 

Generalizations

Ramsay MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), p. 63 with note on p. 176:
This is the kind of mixed bag of facts that renders general statements about religious life so hard to frame or so easily criticized if they are framed too narrowly. What, for instance, can one make of the assertion that oracles, "it is true, enjoyed a recovery in popularity in the second century"—for which a single inscription is cited, recording help sought by a city in Sardinia from Apollo in Claros?9 Such characterizing of the feelings and thoughts of fifty million people on any day out of thirty-six thousand has something ludicrous about it, as if one were to measure the pulse of the western world on the basis of a single headline in the St. Albans Sentinel. Worse than that, perhaps: since religious feelings are not something to talk about in public, in some of their aspects, they must prove all the harder to assess from the outside. The more need for care.

9. Cumont (1929) 285, quoting Taramelli. Taramelli in fact ventures no indication of date for the inscription, and it is actually not of the second century. Cumont goes on to claim, here adducing no facts at all, that oracles "in the 3rd century fell under complete disbelief."
Cumont (1929) = Franz Cumont, Les religions orientales dans le paganisme romain, 4th ed. (Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1929).

Taramelli = Antonio Taramelli, "Inscrizione romana dell'antica Nora, ricordante l'oracolo di Apollo Clario," Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità, ser. 6, IV (1928) 254-255 (Dis deabusque / secundum interpreta/tionem oraculi Clari / Apollinis).

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

 

Prayer for Victory

Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 1085-1095 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
Hear, all-ruling lord of heaven, all-seeing Zeus! Enable the guardians of this land, in might triumphant, to achieve the capture that gives the prize to their hands! So grant thy daughter also, our dread Lady, Pallas Athena! And Apollo, the hunter, and his sister, who follows the dappled, swift-footed deer—fain am I that they should come, a twofold strength, to this land and to her people.

ἰὼ θεῶν πάνταρχε, παντ-        1085
όπτα Ζεῦ, πόροις
γᾶς τᾶσδε δαμούχοις
σθένει ᾽πινικείῳ τὸν εὔ-
αγρον τελειῶσαι λόχον,
σεμνά τε παῖς Παλλὰς Ἀθάνα,        1090
καὶ τὸν ἀγρευτὰν Ἀπόλλω
καὶ κασιγνήταν πυκνοστίκτων ὀπαδὸν
ὠκυπόδων ἐλάφων στέργω διπλᾶς ἀρωγὰς
μολεῖν γᾷ τᾷδε καὶ πολίταις.        1095

 

Yet the Trees Grow

Unpublished essay by Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), quoted in Curt Meine, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), p. 421 with note on p. 576:
Empires spread over the continents, destroying the soils, the floras and faunas, and each other. Yet the trees grow.

Philosophies spread over the empires, teaching the good life with tank and bomb. Machines crawl over the empires, hauling goods. Goods are plowed under, or burned. Goods are hawked over the ether, and along lanes where Whitman smelled locust blooms morning and evening. Quarrels over goods are planted thick as trees along all the rivers of America. The offal of goods floats down the rivers, settles in the swimming holes. Fish choked with goods float belly-up in the shallows. Dykes to grow goods dry up the waterfowl. Dams to make goods block the salmon runs, but not the barges carrying goods. Railroads carrying goods race the barges. Trucks carrying goods race the railroads. Cars carrying consumers of goods race the trucks. Yet the trees grow.

A folklore of goods fills the curricula. Farmers learn the farm is a factory. Chemists and physicists harness power, biology harnesses plants and animals, all for goods. Politics is the redistribution of goods. Literature and the arts portray the drama of the haves and have-nots. Research is not to decipher the universe, but to step up production. Yet the trees grow.

The rains which fall on the just and unjust wash silt from the factory-farms. The brooks that make the meadows green feed silt to the rivers. The vales, lying in pensive quietness between, feed silt to the brooks. The hills, rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun, feed silt to the vales. Yet the trees grow.68

68 "Yet Come June," 23 December 1941, LP 10-6, 16. Leopold's manuscript of this unpublished essay shows extensive revision. This version follows as closely as possible Leopold's last editorial remarks.
Cf. Walt Whitman, "We Two, How Long We Were Fool'd," line 9:
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes mornings and evenings.

 

Pure in Their Own Eyes

Proverbs 30.12 (KJV):
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

 

Burn After Reading

Heiko A. Oberman (1930-2001), The Two Reformations: The Journey from the Last Days to the New World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. xv:
Among the thousands of letters I have read in the course of my Reformation researches, many contain a simple three-word postscript: "Burn after reading." The injunction conveys the need of sixteenth-century authors to conceal their identity and keep their ideas from falling into unfriendly hands. For similar reasons authors and printers commonly falsified or omitted names, places, and dates of publication in the thousands of pamphlets and tracts that circulated in Germany between 1500 and 1520. Those were dangerous times: dissent was a well-understood risk and public opinion a contested area, anxiously monitored by those who considered themselves the guardians of the public good.

Monday, September 09, 2019

 

Combustion

W.G. Sebald (1944-2001), The Rings of Saturn, tr. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998), pp. 169-171:
It had grown uncommonly sultry and dark when at midday, after resting on the beach, I climbed to Dunwich Heath, which lies forlorn above the sea. The history of how that melancholy region came to be is closely connected not only with the nature of the soil and the influence of a maritime climate but also, far more decisively, with the steady and advancing destruction, over a period of many centuries and indeed millennia, of the dense forests that extended over the entire British Isles after the last Ice Age. In Norfolk and Suffolk, it was chiefly oaks and elms that grew on the flatlands, spreading in unbroken waves across the gently undulating country right down to the coast. This phase of evolution was halted when the first settlers burnt off the forests along those drier stretches of the eastern coast where the light soil could be tilled. Just as the woods had once colonized the earth in irregular patterns, gradually growing together, so ever more extensive fields of ash and cinders now ate their way into that green-leafed world in a similarly haphazard fashion. If today one flies over the Amazon basin or over Borneo and sees the mountainous palls of smoking, hanging, seemingly motionless, over the forest canopy, which from above resembles a mere patch of moss, then perhaps one can imagine what those fires, which sometimes burned on for months, would leave in their wake. Whatever was spared by the flames in prehistoric Europe was later felled for construction and shipbuilding, and to make the charcoal which the smelting of iron required in vast quantities. By the seventeenth century, only a few insignificant remnants of the erstwhile forests survived in the islands, most of them untended and decaying. The great fires were now lit on the other side of the ocean. It is not for nothing that Brazil owes its name to the French word for charcoal. Our spread over the earth was fuelled by reducing the higher species of vegetation to charcoal, by incessantly burning whatever would burn. From the first smouldering taper to the elegant lanterns whose light reverberated around eighteenth-century courtyards and from the mild radiance of these lanterns to the unearthly glow of the sodium lamps that line the Belgian motorways, it has all been combustion. Combustion is the hidden principle behind every artefact we create. The making of a fish-hook, manufacture of a china cup, or production of a television programme, all depend on the same process of combustion. Like our bodies and like our desires, the machines we have devised are possessed of a heart which is slowly reduced to embers. From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away. For the time being, our cities still shine through the night, and the fires still spread. In Italy, France and Spain, in Hungary, Poland and Lithuania, in Canada and California, summer fires consume whole forests, not to mention the great conflagration in the tropics that is never extinguished.

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Sunday, September 08, 2019

 

Herman the German

Herbert W. Benario, "Arminius into Hermann: History into Legend," Greece & Rome 51.1 (April, 2004) 83-94 (at 89-90):
I move now to the most visible evocation of Arminius/Hermann in the nineteenth century, the great statue raised near Detmold in the Teutoburg Forest. Although it is not the German National Monument (that distinction belongs to the Niederwalddenkmal of Germania near Rüdesheim), it probably has the greatest resonance in the popular mind. Surprisingly, it is the dream and work entirely of one man, a sculptor named Ernst von Bandel, who, over decades, at great personal expense and suffering, produced a monumental statue which was dedicated, in the presence of the first German Emperor, in 1875, only a few years after the humiliation of France and the establishment, under the impetus of Bismarck, of a German nation.12

There is a grand view from the top of the steep hill, with a vast panorama of the thick forest. The spectator can then see all too clearly how Varus could have been waylaid. The approach to the Hermannsdenkmal, once the top of the hill has been achieved, is by a gently sloping path, which brings the visitor to the rear of the statue. It is a most imposing complex, some fifty metres high including the base; Arminius himself wears a winged helmet and holds his right arm aloft. His right hand holds a sword, raised on high, on the blade of which, on the two sides, are the inscriptions, Deutsche Einigkeit meine Stärke and Meine Stärke Deutschlands Macht (German unity is my strength, my strength is Germany's might.) The blatant nationalism expressed on the sword is a statement of the pride of the German Empire, a perfect expression of the mood of Bismarck's Germany.

12 T. Nipperdey, 'Nationalidee und Nationaldenkmal im 19. Jahrhundert,' HZ 206 (1968), 529 ff. = Gesellschaft, Kultur, Theorie. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur neueren Geschichte (Göttingen, 1976), 133 ff., 432 ff.

Hermannsdenkmal near Detmold, Germany


Hermann Heights Monument, New Ulm,
Minnesota (statue by Alfonz Pelzer)

 

Make the Library Your Teacher

Camille Paglia, "An Open Letter to the Students of Harvard," Harvard Crimson (February 17, 1994), rpt. in her Vamps & Tramps: New Essays (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), pp. 117-121 (at 120):
The solution is in your hands. You can bring learning back to the center of the university. You can end the era of gimmicky theory. You can demand that quality of scholarship, rather than slick wordplay, be the standard for employment at Harvard. How? First make the library your teacher. Rediscover the now neglected works of the great scholars of the last 150 years, who worked blessedly free of the mental pollutants of poststructuralism. Immerse yourself in the reference collection, and master chronology and etymology. Refuse to cooperate with the coercive ersatz humanitarianism that insultingly defines women and African-Americans as victims. Insist on free thought and free speech. Offensiveness is a democratic right. The university should be organized around vigorous intellectual inquiry, not therapy or creature comforts.

 

Demons at the Dinner Table

Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), p. 182:
The ingestion of animal meat summed up for Porphyry far more appropriately than did the hot passions of the bed the vulnerability of the human spirit to the cloying materiality that weighed in upon it on every side. Like Origen, Porphyry believed that a world of invisible spirits pressed up against the person. But they did so in their most sinister manner at the dinner table, hovering over the quivering red meat. Their presence was sensed less (as with Origen) in the disturbing, partly sexual, fantasies that rose into the "heart" of the believer, than in the raucous hiccups and unruly farts of those whose very bodies had been made permeable to matter at its most disorderly, through their lax diet.16

16. Porphyry, On Philosophy from Oracles in Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel 4.23: Patrologia Graeca 21: 305B.
Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel 4.23, quoting Porphyry (tr. E.H. Gifford):
Our bodies also are full of them, for they especially delight in certain kinds of food. So when we are eating they approach and sit close to our body; and this is the reason of the purifications, not chiefly on account of the gods, but in order that these evil daemons may depart. But most of all they delight in blood and in impure meats, and enjoy these by entering into those who use them.

For universally the vehemence of the desire towards anything, and the impulse of the lust of the spirit, is intensified from no other cause than their presence: and they also force men to fall into inarticulate noises and flatulence by sharing the same enjoyment with them.

For where there is a drawing in of much breath, either because the stomach has been inflated by indulgence, or because eagerness from the intensity of pleasure breathes much out and draws in much of the outer air, let this be a clear proof to you of the presence of such spirits there.

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Popular Music

J.W.N. Sullivan (1886-1937), But for the Grace of God (London: Jonathan Cape, 1932), p. 60:
One never realises the vulgarity of human beings so acutely as when listening to the mindless bawling of popular songs.
Lee De Forest (1873-1961), speech to the National Association of Broadcasters (1947):
What have you done with my child? He was conceived as a potent instrumentality for culture, fine music, the uplifting of America's mass intelligence. You have debased this child, you have sent him out into the streets in rags of ragtime, tatters of jive and boogie music, to collect money from all and sundry for hubba bubba and audio jitterbug.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

 

Reticence

R.B. Todd, ed., Dictionary of British Classicists, Vol. 3 (Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004), p. 853 (entry for F.H. Sandbach, by Malcolm Schofield):
Sandbach was a small kindly man, incapable of a rash or wounding remark; not indeed prone to volunteer conversation at all, although delighted to participate on a minimalist basis once it was initiated. Otherwise one could enjoy a silence with him.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Related posts:

 

Resolution

Montesquieu (1689-1755), My Thoughts, tr. Henry C. Clark (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012), p. 644 (#2128):
I have made the resolution to read only good books. He who reads bad ones is like a man who spends his life in bad company.
In French, from Oeuvres complètes de Montesquieu, Tome II: Pensées. Spicilége. Geographica (Paris: Nagel, 1950), p. 644
J'ai pris la résolution de ne lire que de bons livres: celui qui les lit mauvais est semblable à un homme qui passe sa vie en mauvaise compagnie.

 

Happiness

Ernst Kantorowicz, letter to C.M. Bowra (July 8, 1936), quoted in Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 88 (source on p. 330, n. 98):
[H]appiness is not to be found in power nor in money, but in good food and truth and wine.

Friday, September 06, 2019

 

Classical Values

Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 67-68, with notes on p. 328:
In Bowra's mind, classical values were not dead or merely academic. Rather, they still retained a relevance in the twentieth century. In fact, they were to inform the lives of himself and his contemporaries, if civilization, in any recognizable form, was to survive. Four months before his death, in almost his last public speech, he addressed an audience in the Cambridge Arts Theatre on the occasion of the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Greek war of independence. He took this opportunity to articulate once more what western Europe owed to Greece: 'Greece has done more than any other country to make men believe in themselves. She has established principles which later generations have often reviled and rejected, but which nonetheless thrive in our innermost thinking and in our conception of what a complete life ought to be.'2 In Bowra's view, the Greeks were the only people in the ancient world to make the individual and his dignity the centrepiece of all art and thought.
The essence of Greek political thought is that a man is an individual, who lives among other men in his own right and for his own worth, that he is entitled to be himself as he would wish to be, and that in this he realises natural endowments, which vary from person to person but are all the gift of the gods and not to be thrown away. The individual must be given the freedom to exert his full capacities, to be an end in itself, not a means for the use of others.3
2. C.M. Bowra, Speech Given at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, 21 March 1971.

3. Ibid.

 

Withdrawn

From a friend in Europe:
This branded refugee was delivered to my door this morning. And from your neck of the woods. All I can say to the library-choppers is:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”



 

Motto

Horace, Satires 1.4.117 (my translation):
To preserve the way of life passed down by men of old.

traditum ab antiquis morem servare.
Cf. Polybius 15.4.11 (on Scipio Africanus; tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
[He] set himself to uphold 'the noble traditions of our fathers', as the saying is.

ἐπειράθη διαφυλάξαι κατὰ τὴν παροιμίαν "πατέρων εὖ κείμενα ἔργα."

Thursday, September 05, 2019

 

An Ancient Highland Toast?

Letter from Arthur Hugh Clough to Thomas Arnold (February 24, 1849), in James M. Bertram, ed., New Zealand Letters of Thomas Arnold the Younger with Further Letters from Van Diemen's Land and Letters of Arthur Hugh Clough, 1847-1851 (London: Oxford University Press for University of Auckland, 1966) p. 139, with the editor's notes (bracketed material in original):
At the risk of destroying the effect of my pastoral which somehow or other is to reach you I must tell you what has turned up.

You remember Toper-na-fuosich, in the Map, on Loch Ericht and how I made out afterwards that Dallungart was the present name. Good reason why! for now that I from tender recollections of you and Shairp under the blanket together and of that Madonna like Mother and two children—now that I, I say, have published the name to all the drawing-rooms and boudoirs (of course) of all the world—What think you?—it turns out, they tell me, to mean what Horace calls 'teterrima belli causa'—7—O Mercy!—It is too ludicrous not to tell some one, but too appallingly awkward to tell any one on this side of the globe: in the Gath and Ascalon of the Antipodes you may talk of it, and laugh at your pleasure. Do you know too that in the boat on Loch Ericht I asked the boatman 1st where it was, and 2d what it meant. He replied, the bairds' well, which I could not understand. Did he mean the bairns' well, homunculorum fons et origo.8

7 nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus taeterrima belli
causa Horace, Satires 1.3.107-8.

8 The vexed question of 'some unseemly meaning in Gaelic' to be found in the original title of Clough's poem has been much commented on, but with little clarity. Clough took the name Toper-na-Fuosich from a map used in common by T.A. and Shairp in the summer of 1847, and by himself at a later date; he did his best to check the meaning, but got from a Loch Ericht boatman only the obscure English rendering, 'the bairds' well' [or 'bairds' well'?] W.M. Rossetti, in a review in The Germ, 1850, noted that '"The Bothie of Toper-na-Fuosich" means "the hut of the bearded well", a somewhat singular title, to say the least'. But before this it had been suggested, in a review in the Literary Gazette of 18 August 1849, that the name corresponded to Tobair na Feosag [or Tobar na Feusaig(e)], 'an ancient Highland toast to the female genital organs'. Modern Gaelic authorities seem reluctant to confirm any such derivation, or even the existence of such a toast; but it is clear from his comment here that Clough himself was convinced, a few months after the appearance of his poem, that such a meaning could be attached to its title; hence this elaborately oblique explanation to T.A., and the subsequent change to the (invented and meaningless) title, The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich.
Cf. Clough's letter to William Allingham (April 4, 1855):
As for the poor 'Bothie,' I was so disgusted with the mishap of the name, that I have never had pleasure in it since.
The anonymous Literary Gazette review is reprinted in Michael Thorpe, ed., Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge, 1972; rpt. 2002), pp. 49-52, but I don't see any reference there to an ancient Highland toast. Instead, all I see (p. 49) is:
A journal which boasts of its Horae Celticae cannot pass this most extraordinary title-page without observing that the author ought to have been more guarded against the malicious Gael who imposed it on the inquisitive Sassenach.
But as the doorway they quitted, a thin man clad as the Saxon,
Trouser and cap and jacket of home-spun blue, hand-woven,
Singled out, and said with determined accent to Hewson,
Resting his hand on his shoulder, while each with eyes dilating
Firmly scanned each: Young man, if ye pass through the Braes o' Lochaber,
See by the loch-side ye come to the Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich.
It is a vile jest, and it is lucky that it can only be understood by a few Highland worthies, who will no doubt enjoy a hearty guffaw over poor deluded Mr. Clough and his long-vacation pastoral near Lochaber, and (when rightly spelled) the Bothie of Tobair na Feosag, so well known in that country.
Scottish Gaelic tobar = fountain or well, feosag = beard.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who also found a map showing Toper na Fuosich close to the western shore of Loch Ericht in Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), Map of Scotland constructed from original materials (London: Arrowsmith, 1807):


 

The Word Controller

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974), "Writers and Society," The Condemned Playground. Essays: 1927-1944 (London: Routledge, 1945), pp. 260-287 (at 277):
Dictatorial powers to clean up our language should be given to a Word Controller.

The first act of the Word Controller (Mr. Shaw would be a good choice) should be to issue licences (like driving licences) to all journalists, authors, publicists, orators, and military spokesmen. Without such a licence it would be a criminal offence to appear in print or on the platform. The licences of all those found using the words vital, vitally, virtual, virtually, actual, actually, perhaps, probably, would then be immediately cancelled. This surprise action of the Word Controller would at once eliminate most journalists and politicians, and all military spokesmen. These words should be unmolested, and protected, for several years. The words democracy, liberty, justice, freedom, jackboot, serious consideration, island fortress, love, creative, and new should be suspended for six months, and the licence endorsed of anyone found using them. Lists (constantly brought up to date) of forbidden clichés with a scale of fines should be posted on every notice-board. The Word Controller, at any rate during the few hours of office before his powers turned his head, would be non-political. His aim would be to reshape the English language to its original purpose as an instrument of communication, and an invention for expressing thought. Thus the expression "The town is virtually surrounded" would become "The town is, or is not, surrounded," "vital necessity" would become "necessity," and a scientific machine for weighing words would demonstrate that while such terms as "coronary thrombosis" are as full of content as when first minted, other verbal coins are worn too thin for the public slot-machine and must be withdrawn from circulation. As he became more autocratic and more like other controllers he would find out that there is a connection between the rubbish written, the nonsense talked, and the thoughts of the people, and he would endeavour to use his censorship of words in such a way as to affect the ideas behind them, or, rather, he would give priority to statements of fact over abstractions, and to facts which were accurate rather than incorrect.

 

Original Sin

Horace, Satires 1.3.68-69 (tr. Christopher Smart):
For no one is born without vices: he is the best man
who is encumbered with the least.

nam vitiis nemo sine nascitur; optimus ille est,
qui minimis urgetur.
Propertius 2.22.17 (my translation):
To each one at his birth Nature has given a flaw...

uni cuique dedit vitium natura creato...

uni codd.: unum Waardenburgh

 

Putting Athens' Interests First

Demosthenes, For the Megalopolitans 1-2 (tr. Jeremy Trevett; emphasis added):
[1] Both groups—those speaking in support of the Arcadians and those speaking in support of the Spartans—seem to me to be wrong, men of Athens. For they accuse and slander each other, as if they had come here from one or other of these cities, rather than being your fellow-citizens and the recipients of these embassies. Their behavior would be appropriate if they were foreigners; but those who propose to offer you advice should be discussing the situation impartially and considering in an amicable spirit what is best for you. [2] As it is, if I did not know these men and if they were not speaking Attic, I think that many people would suppose some of them to be Arcadian and the others, Spartan.

ἀμφότεροί μοι δοκοῦσιν ἁμαρτάνειν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ οἱ τοῖς Ἀρκάσι καὶ οἱ τοῖς Λακεδαιμονίοις συνειρηκότες· ὥσπερ γὰρ ἀφ᾽ ἑκατέρων ἥκοντες, οὐχ ὑμῶν ὄντες πολῖται, πρὸς οὓς ἀμφότεροι πρεσβεύουσι, κατηγοροῦσι καὶ διαβάλλουσιν ἀλλήλους. ἦν δὲ τοῦτο μὲν τῶν ἀφιγμένων ἔργον, τὸ δὲ κοινῶς ὑπὲρ τῶν πραγμάτων λέγειν καὶ τὰ βέλτισθ᾽ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν σκοπεῖν ἄνευ φιλονικίας τῶν ἐνθάδε συμβουλεύειν ἀξιούντων. [2] νῦν δ᾽ ἔγωγε, εἴ τις αὐτῶν ἀφέλοι τὸ γιγνώσκεσθαι καὶ τὸ τῇ φωνῇ λέγειν Ἀττικιστί, πολλοὺς ἂν οἶμαι τοὺς μὲν Ἀρκάδας, τοὺς δὲ Λάκωνας αὐτῶν εἶναι νομίσαι.
Id. 10:
You should always determine what is right and do it—but at the same time you should ensure that this coincides with your own interests!

δεῖ δὲ σκοπεῖν μὲν καὶ πράττειν ἀεὶ τὰ δίκαια, συμπαρατηρεῖν δ᾽ ὅπως ἅμα καὶ συμφέροντ᾽ ἔσται ταῦτα.
Id. 23:
I would like to hear from those speakers who claim to hate the Thebans or the Spartans, whether they hate them out of concern for you and your interests or whether they hate the Thebans out of concern for Sparta, and the Spartans out of concern for Thebes.

ἡδέως δ᾽ ἂν πυθοίμην τῶν λεγόντων καὶ τοὺς Θηβαίους μισεῖν φασκόντων καὶ τοὺς Λακεδαιμονίους, πότερ᾽ ἑκάτεροι μισοῦσιν, οὓς δὴ μισοῦσιν, ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν καὶ τοῦ συμφέροντος ὑμῖν, ἢ ὑπὲρ Λακεδαιμονίων μὲν Θηβαίους, ὑπὲρ δὲ Θηβαίων Λακεδαιμονίους ἑκάτεροι.
Related post: Sticking Up for Athens.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

 

Great Men

E.M. Forster (1879-1970), "What I Believe," Two Cheers for Democracy (1951; rpt. London: Edward Arnold, 1972), pp. 65-73 (at 70):
No, I distrust Great Men. They produce a desert of uniformity around them and often a pool of blood too, and I always feel a little man's pleasure when they come a cropper.

 

Excuse for Bowdlerization

Email from James O'Donnell:
You remind me of something Zeph Stewart talked about when he was running Loeb. Yes, he said, the old translations left a lot to be desired, and yes, they were bowdlerized to a fault, BUT he said, remember that when they were publishing the early Horaces and Martials in the Loeb, Britain was hobbled by draconian obscenity laws. There's *some* excuse for what they did in the concern of the translators and publishers not to be hauled up in court next to Lady Chatterley. Sure, they probably overdid the caution, but at least (his point) it wasn't entirely *their* prudishness and embarrassment at work: they had help from the police and the department of public prosecutions.

 

The Simple Life

Horace, Satires 1.3.13-15 (Tigellius speaking; tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Give me a three-legged table, a shell of clean salt, and a coat that, however coarse, can keep out the cold.

                                   sit mihi mensa tripes et
concha salis puri et toga, quae defendere frigus
quamvis crassa queat.
Tigellius here reminds me of the moneylender Alfius in Horace's second epode.

 

Safe Space for Freshmen

The Manuale Scholarium: An Original Account of Life in the Mediaeval University. Translated from the Latin by Robert Francis Seybolt (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1921), pp. 21-22, n. 6 (translator's note):
Leipzig, 1495 (Die Statutenbücher der Universität, ed. by Friedrich Zarncke, p. 102): "STATUTE FORBIDDING ANY ONE TO ANNOY OR UNDULY INJURE THE BEANI. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation, any, who are called beani, who come to this town and to this fostering university for the purpose of study. Under the penalty of five groschen," etc.
The Latin, from Zarncke:
MANDATUM DE BEANIS NON VEXANDIS VEL INIURIOSE OFFENDENDIS.

Mandat omnibus et singulis universitatis eiusdem suppositis, quatenus nullum ipsorum deinceps aliquem ex hiis, qui sese in praesens oppidum et hanc almam academiam studii causa contulerunt, quos nonnulli beanos suo nomine compellitant, in foro, plateis, vicis, collegiis, bursis aliisve quibuslibet locis et signanter in praesenti collegio, quando ad ipsum immatriculationis causa ingredientur vel post immatriculationem egredientur, verbis iniuriosis offendat, verberet, capillet, aqua seu urina perfundat, pulveribus atque aliis immundiciebus proiiciat vel defoedet, fistulando subsannet, horrendis vocibus acclamitet, vel modis quibuscunque corporaliter atque enormiter molestare praesumat. Sub poena .v. grossorum, universitati irremissibiliter etc.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

 

A Book Has Got to Smell

Sam Weller, Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews (Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2010), page number unknown (from Chapter 13):
WELLER: You have been critical of the Internet. Why?

BRADBURY: It's distracting us. It's causing us to not pay attention.

WELLER: How so?

BRADBURY: People are talking too much about nothing. Blah blah blah blah blah. Too much talk. Come on. The CEO of Yahoo called me recently and asked if I would write a novel to put up on the Internet. I told him to go to hell. I said, "Prick up your ears! Prick up your ears! Go to hell!" That's not a book. You cannot hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. I don't care what they say about "e-books." A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book: a book is new, it smells great; a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. So a book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever. But the computer doesn’t do that for you. I'm sorry.
The page number is unknown to me because my only access to these interviews is through an e-book. Most e-books, for some reason, lack pagination as well as perfume.

 

Ambubaia

I was surprised to find no entry for ambubaia in Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages (Leiden: Brill, 2008), but then I read the disclaimer on p. 1:
This approach implies the exclusion of those Latin words which are certainly or probably loanwords from known, non-Italic languages, such as Celtic, Etruscan, Germanic, Greek, and Semitic.
J.N. Adams, "Words for Prostitute in Latin," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 126.3/4 (1983) 321-358 (at 341-342):
I mention finally ambubaia, which is sometimes ascribed the sense 'prostitute'62). The word is Syrian (cf. abbub, 'flute'), and it must have denoted a Syrian flute girl. This is undoubtedly the sense at Hor. Sat. 1.2.1 ('ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolae, / mendici, mimae, balatrones, hoc genus omne / maestum ac sollicitum est cantoris morte Tigelli')63), and it is consistent with the context at Suet. Nero 27.2 ('cenitabatque nonnunquam et in publico, naumachia praeclusa uel Martio campo uel circo maximo, inter scortorum totius urbis et ambubaiarum ministeria'). Ambubaia is a term of abuse at Petron. 74.13, but the context is not sexual ('ambubaia non meminit se de machina? in<de> illam sustuli, hominem inter homines feci'); Trimalchio is suggesting that his wife has forgotten her lowly origins, and hence the sense 'flute girl' would be appropriate. The only slight evidence for the meaning 'prostitute' comes from the first clause of Porph. Hor. Sat. 1.2.1 ('ambubaiae . . . sunt mulieres uagae et uiles, quibus nomen hoc causa uanorum et ebrietate balbutientium uerborum uidetur esse inditum. nonnulli tamen ambubaias tibicines Syra lingua putant dici'), but a sexual implication would appear to be ruled out by the next clause. Moreover the second sentence suggests that Porphyrio did not know the word from current usage, and was merely speculating about its meaning. I conclude that there is no evidence that the word meant 'whore', either at the time of Horace or of Porphyrio64).

62) See, e.g. Schneider, PW XV.1.1019, A. Ernout and A. Meillet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine4 (Paris, 1959), s.v..

63) For collegia of low performers, A. Kiessling and R. Heinze, Q. Horatius Flaccus, zweiter Teil: Satiren (Berlin, 1957), ad loc. (p. 25) cite CIL VI.10109.

64) Nevertheless popular performers were often prostitutes: see Herter, JbAC 3 (1960), pp. 97 ff.


If you were to read Horace, Satire 1.2 (Ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolae), in Arthur Palmer's school edition (1883; rpt. London: Macmillan, 1968), pp. 9-10, you might think that it's the shortest of Horace's Satires. That's because Palmer omits lines 25-134 as "scarcely profitable reading" (p. 132). The entire Latin text appears in the Loeb Classical Library, but H. Rushton Fairclough's translation is highly euphemistic and misleading in many spots.

Before you laugh at the prudish Victorians, though, consider how our own age "cleanses" books (e.g. those by Mark Twain and Enid Blyton) and other forms of art of their impurities. Some of our modern Bowdlers go so far as to demand that "Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden" be omitted from performances of Mozart's Magic Flute. We are prudes and prigs, just in a different way.

 

Modern Literature

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), "A Dreary Story," § III (a professor speaking about his students; tr. Ronald Hingley):
They gladly fall under the influence of the latest writers, and not the best ones at that, but they're quite indifferent to such classics as Shakespeare, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus or Pascal, say, and this inability to distinguish great from small reveals their lack of practical experience more than anything else.
Id., § IV:
Two or three veterans apart, all modern literature seems to me less literature than a variety of cottage industry which exists solely to enjoy the patronage of persons reluctant to avail themselves of its products. Even the best of these homely artefacts can't be called noteworthy, nor can one praise them sincerely without qualification. The same applies to all those literary novelties that I've read during the last ten or fifteen years and which include nothing noteworthy, nothing which can be praised without a 'but'. Such a product may be witty and uplifting—but lacks talent. Or else it's talented and uplifting, but lacks wit. Or, finally, it may be talented and witty, but lacks uplift.

Monday, September 02, 2019

 

No Longer Safe

Tacitus, Agricola 30.3 (from Calgacus' speech to his troops; tr. Herbert W. Benario):
Since we are the most distant people of the earth and of liberty, our very isolation and the obscurity of our renown have protected us up to this day; now the farthest boundary of Britain lies open...

nos terrarum ac libertatis extremos recessus ipse ac sinus famae in hunc diem defendit; nunc terminus Britanniae patet...

 

Contemplation of the Dust

Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 8th ed. (Wiley-Blackwel, 2012), page number unknown:
'Where are those who lived before us?' In every age and culture people have raised this haunting question, especially when prompted to such thoughts by an ancient ruin or some other relic of the past. In both their poetry and their prose the Anglo-Saxons were very given to reflection on former civilizations and the people who built them, so much so that their language had a word for such meditation: dūstscēawung 'contemplation of the dust'. This theme occurs often as an incidental motif in longer works (e.g. The Wanderer ll. 73–110 and Beowulf ll. 2255–66), but The Ruin is an entire poem devoted to the depiction of an ancient ghost town and to the thoughts which the scene evokes.
The Ruin, tr. Craig Williamson, The Complete Old English Poems (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), pp. 582-583:
Wondrous are these ancient wall-stones,
Shattered by time, foundations shaken by fate,
The old work of giants, crumbled, corrupted—
Rooftops in ruin, towers tumbled down.
Gate-locks lie broken, frost chokes the lime—        5
Ceilings sapped with age, the high hall loftless.
The mortar is moldy, the master-builders are gone,
Buildings and brave men in the clutch of the grave.
A hundred generations have passed away,
Princes and peoples now forgotten.        10
The ruddy wall-stones are stained with gray,
Rocks that have outlived the reign of kings,
The crash of storms, the crush of time.
Still something remains as a fierce reminder—
Walls scored with weapons, grimly ground down,        15
The old work of smiths, skillfully wrought,
Shining and bright, now dull with dust,
* * *
The mind of the builder crafted a clever idea,
To bind the walls in circular shapes
With strips of wire, with rods and rings.        20
The burg-halls were bright, the bath-houses beautiful,
The gabled roofs grand. The sounds of warriors,
Their steps and shouts, reverberated under roofs.
The meadhalls were full of wine and revelry—
Until fierce fate overturned everything.        25
Proud men were slaughtered, a plague attacked,
Grim death gathered up a whole host of people.
Their ramparts were ruined, their halls laid waste;
Their cities crumbled. Warriors were wounded,
Craftsmen killed. No builder was left alive.        30
The halls grieved and fell, arches angled down,
Tiles tumbled, red stone hit the ground,
Broken piles where once men sang
And played the lyre, clothed in splendor,
Adorned with gold, gladdened with wine,        35
Gazing on treasures, shining armor,
Silver and gemstones, precious jewels,
A bright city, a burgeoning kingdom.
There were stone buildings and hot springs
Bringing bath water in the walls' embrace—        40
That was convenient as the hot streams poured
Over the gray stones into a circular pool,
A pond in a building, a kingly thing.
The mutilated original, from Anne L. Klinck, The Old English Elegies: A Critical Edition and Genre Study (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992; rpt. 2001), pp. 103-105:
Wrætlic is þes wealstan!    Wyrde gebræcon;
burgstede burston,    brosnað enta geweorc;
hrofas sind gehrorene,    hreorge torras,
hringeat berofen,    hrim on lime;
scearde scurbeorge,    scorene, gedrorene,        5
ældo undereotone.    Eorðgrap hafað
waldendwyrhtan,    forweorone, geleorene,
heard gripe hrusan,    oþ hund cnea
werþeoda gewitan.    Oft þæs wag gebad,
ræghar ond readfah,    rice æfter oþrum,        10
ofstonden under stormum.    Stea[p] geap gedreas.
Wu[n]að giet se---------    ------[n]um geheapen.
Felon [i]-------------    -------------
grimme gegrunde[n]    -------------
----------r[e]scan    heo---------------        15
------------g orþonc    ærsceaft--------
-----------g--    lamrindum beag.
Mod mo[nade    m]swiftne gebrægd;
hwætred in hringas    hygerof gebond
weall walanwirum    wundrum togædre.        20
Beorht wæron burgræced,    burnsele monige,
heah horngestreon,    heresweg micel,
meodoheall monig,    mondreama full;
oþþæt þæt onwende,    wyrd seo swiþe.
Crungon walo wide;    cwoman woldagas.        25
Swylt eall fornom    secgrofra wera.
Wurdon hyra wigsteal    westenstaþolas.
Brosnade burgsteall,    betend crungon,
hergas to hrusan.    Forþon þas hofu dreorgiað,
ond þæs teaforgeapa    tigelum sceadeð        30
hrostbeames rof.    Hryre wong gecrong,
gebrocen to beorgum,    þær iu beorn monig
glædmod ond goldbeorht,    gleoma gefrætwed,
wlonc ond wingal,    wighyrstum scan;
seah on sinc, on sylfor,    on searogimmas,        35
on ead, on æht,    on eorcanstan,
on þas beorhtan burg    bradan rices.
Stanhofu stodan;    stream hate wearp,
widan wylme.    Weal eall befeng
beorhtan bosme,    þær þa baþu wæ[r]on,        40
hat on hreþre.    þæt wæs hyðelic.
Leton þonne geotan    [l]---------------
ofer h[arn]e stan    hate streamas,
un[d]------------    -------------
[o]þþæt hringmere    hate-----------        45
------------------    þær þa baþu wæron.
þonne is ---------------------
------------re;    þæt is cynelic þing
hu se --------------    -------burg ------

Sunday, September 01, 2019

 

Latin Lesson

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974), "England Not My England," The Condemned Playground. Essays: 1927-1944 (London: Routledge, 1945), pp. 196-210 (at 209-210):
I leant against a long wall underneath a window, when suddenly a voice began to thunder from inside. "Very important. Causal conjunctions. We went very deeply into this last week. Read it out." "Causal conjunctions," quavered a choir of young voices. "Quippe, qui, and quoniam take the indicative." "Quippe, qui, and quoniam," bellowed the usher, interrupting them, "take the indicative." The rasping voice sounded like the cry of a wild animal, as if one had passed on the top of a bus by the Zoo, but the uncouth language blended perfectly with the summer scene outside. "Take this down—take it down, will you," the roar continued. "Conjectus est in carcerem—he was thrown into prison—quod patrem occidisset—on the grounds that he had killed his father—qui eo tempore—who at that time was flying into Italy—in Italiam refugiebat. RE-FU-GI-EBAT," he thundered, and the pedagogic rhythms floated out into the sun and along the dusty hedgerows. "Conjectus est in carcerem," mumbled the scribbling pupils; "quippe, qui, and quoniam," they chanted; "causal conjunctions," till the words were lost above the Isle of Purbeck, a drone above the drone of bees.

 

The Question of Questions

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), History of Friedrich II. of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great, Book I, Chapter 1 (Proem), § 4:
And the question of questions now is: What part of that exploded Past, the ruins and dust of which still darken all the air, will continually gravitate back to us; be reshaped, transformed, readapted, that so, in new figures, under new conditions, it may enrich and nourish us again?

 

Admission of Ignorance

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), "The Prioress's Tale," Canterbury Tales VII.536:
I kan but smal gramere.
I.e.:
I understand grammar only a little.

 

Saint Voltaire

Frederick II, letter to D'Alembert (June 22, 1780; tr. Thomas Holcroft):
The writings of Virgil, Horace, and Cicero, have survived the destruction of the Capitol, and of Rome itself; they subsist and have been translated into all languages, and will subsist, while there shall be men in the world who think, read, and delight in knowledge. Such will be the fate of the works of Voltaire. To him I make my morning orisons; to him I say—Divine Voltaire, Ora pro nobis! Let but Calliope, Melpomene, or Urania, enlighten and inspire me, and my saint will equal your Saint Denis. My saint, instead of troubling the world, aided oppressed innocence, as much as he had the power; and, more than once, put fanaticism to shame, and made judges blush at their iniquity! He would have reformed the world, could it have been reformed.

Les écrits de Virgile, d'Horace & de Cicéron ont vu détruire le Capitole, Rome même; ils subsistent, on les traduit dans toutes les langues, & ils resteront tant qu'il y aura dans le monde des hommes qui pensent, qui lisent & qui aiment à s'instruire. Les ouvrages de Voltaire auront la même destinée; je lui fais tous les matins ma prière, je lui dis: Divin Voltaire, ora pro nobis! Que Calliope, que Melpomène, qu'Uranie m'éclairent & m'inspirent! mon saint vaut bien votre S. Denis. Mon saint, au-ieu de troubler l'univers, a soutenu l'innocence opprimée autant qu'il étoit en lui, il a fait rougir plus d'une fois le fanatisme, & les juges de leurs iniquités; il auroit corrigé le monde, s'il eût été corrigible.
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