Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Live for the Moment

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14.6 = Erich Mannebach, ed., Aristippi et Cyrenaicorum Fragmenta (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1961), p. 48 (fragment 208; tr. Nigel G. Wilson):
Aristippus was thought to have made a very sound observation when he advised mankind not to fret about the past or worry about the future. Such advice was a sign of confidence and the proof of a happy disposition. His instruction was to concentrate one's mind on the day, and indeed on that part of the day in which one is acting or thinking. Only the present, he said, belongs to us, not the past nor what is anticipated. The former has ceased to exist, and it is uncertain if the latter will exist.

πάνυ σφόδρα ἐρρωμένως ἐῴκει λέγειν ὁ Ἀρίστιππος παρεγγυῶν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις μήτε τοῖς παρελθοῦσιν ἐπικάμνειν μήτε τῶν ἐπιόντων προκάμνειν· εὐθυμίας γὰρ δεῖγμα τὸ τοιοῦτο καὶ ἵλεω διανοίας ἀπόδειξις. προσέταττε δὲ ἐφ᾿ ἡμέρᾳ τὴν γνώμην ἔχειν καὶ αὖ πάλιν τῆς ἡμέρας ἐπ᾿ ἐκείνῳ τῷ μέρει, καθ᾿ ὃ ἕκαστος ἢ πράττει τι ἢ ἐννοεῖ. μόνον γὰρ ἔφασκεν ἡμέτερον εἶναι τὸ παρόν, μήτε δὲ τὸ φθάνον6 μήτε τὸ προσδοκώμενον· τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀπολωλέναι, τὸ δὲ ἄδηλον εἶναι εἴπερ ἔσται.
A.E. Housman, letter to Houston Martin (March 22, 1936):
In philosophy I am a Cyrenaic or egoistic hedonist, and regard the pleasure of the moment as the only possible motive of action.

Monday, April 22, 2019


Travel Narrows the Mind

Roger Scruton, "L'invitation au voyage," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 260-262 (at 260):
People are becoming less and less able to understand foreigners. The reason, I believe, is the lamentable tendency to rely on first-hand experience. Rather than read Herodotus or Plutarch at home, we drag our uninstructed senses through foreign cities and acquire not the first understanding of the people who live in them. Few modern Englishmen know the language, fewer still the history and culture of the places to which they travel. Their experience of foreigners is therefore without concepts, a bundle of pure impressions, in which the characters are schematic, hazy and unreal. Only considerable culture and a haughty independence of mind can render travel intelligible. For most people, the disjointed experience of foreign parts sinks rapidly into the waste of consciousness, to lie there in disordered and unmeaning fragments, like shells collected on an empty holiday.

Travel narrows the mind, providing a surfeit of impressions and a dearth of interpretations. Sometimes, however, a meaning emerges, and sometimes this meaning is the aim. For instance, you might make a pilgrimage to some holy place — or a journey to those with whom your destiny is somehow mingled. Nevertheless, failing those laudable purposes it is better by far to remain at home, studying the language, the thought and the customs of strangers and dreaming of their habitats with the aid of a large cigar.


A Social Gathering

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), Notes from Underground, II.2 (tr. Jessie Coulson):
I had enough patience to sit beside these people like a dummy for about four hours, listening to them and not daring, indeed not able, to say a word to them myself. I would sit there dumb, almost paralysed, and sometimes breaking into a sweat; but it did me good. Returning home, I was able to lay aside for a time my desire to embrace all mankind.


The "No Platform" Movement

Alan Bullock (1914-2004), Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, rev. ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 72:
On 4 January 1921, Hitler told an audience in the Kindl Keller: 'The National Socialist Movement in Munich will in future ruthlessly prevent — if necessary by force — all meetings or lectures that are likely to distract the minds of our fellow countrymen.'3 In September of the same year Hitler personally led his followers in storming the platform of a meeting addressed by Ballerstedt of the federalist Bavarian League. When examined by the police commission which inquired into the incident, Hitler replied: 'It's all right. We got what we wanted. Ballerstedt did not speak.'4

3. Heiden: History of National Socialism (London, 1934), p. 31, quoting the report in the V.B. [Völkischer Beobachter]    4. ibid.

Sunday, April 21, 2019


More Tree Huggers

Robert Bloomfield (1766-1823), Remains, Vol. II (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1824), p. 81:
The great Oak in Euston Park.—Myself, my wife, and my daughter Hannah, (then nine years and a half old), embraced his rough rind at arm's-length, touching our fingers; and could thus encompass it all but about half a yard. By observation afterwards, I found the girth of this tree to be fifteen feet, in May, 1801.
Related post: Tree Huggers.


Address to the Rich

James Woodhouse, "Social Reflections," in The Life and Poetical Works of James Woodhouse (1735-1820), ed. R.I. Woodhouse, Vol. I (London: The Leadenhall Pres, 1896), pp. 57-61 (at 58):
Behold! Ye Rich! the wretch'd brood around!
Who dig your dismal mines, and work your ground—
Ply countless curious Arts, that You may 'scape
All want, in real, or unreal, shape!

They build your Domes, where Deities might dwell—
And will not You allow some lowly Cell;
Some simple Hovel—Hut—or sheltering Shed,
Where they may drink their water—break their bread;
When bread they have, and weary limbs may lie,
Secure from fierce attacks of stormy sky—
And where, when all their pence, on wants, are spent,
No feudal Churl can come to rail for Rent?

With Furniture they fit Your radiant Rooms—
Invent—prepare—and furnish, rich perfumes—
Shall such kind Friends, in squalid holes comprest,
'Mid atmospheres of filth, and rubbish, rest?

They fence Your Gardens—force Your fruits to grow—
And will not You some petty patch bestow,
Where Industry may find its frugal dish,
While God gives You game—ven'son—fowls—and fish?

They dress Your meadows—fertilize Your field;
And ought not You some small inclosure yield,
Where each may range, or rest, when Sundays shine,
Look round their little spot, and cry—'tis Mine?

They clear the plains—They pulverize the clod—
Will You, Wealth's Heirs! withold the heathy sod,
To thaw their frozen fingers—warm their feet—
And cook the scraps Your slaves would scorn to eat!

They watch Your woodlands—fell Your stems, and trees—
Give frost a fire-stick! rain a day of ease!
Nor let poor Worth with want—cold—toil, expire,
While You enjoy full choice, and chearful fire!

They brew Your beer—press pear, and apple, wine;
Yet quaff cold water, daily, when they dine—
And, while you satiate each base, beastly, Lust,
Munch vegetables, crude, with mouldy crust!

Your Horses—Hounds—Yes Hogs—at board, and bed,
Are better clothed—skreen'd, fenc'd,and lodg'd,and fed—
Ev'n Farmer's Hog may fill his hungry maw,
Well shelter'd take his rest on wholesome straw,
Whilst labouring Boors may find more scanty draff,
And lay tired limbs on stinking straw, or chaff!
Princes and Peers, for Horses, or for Hounds,
Expend, in mansions, twice ten thousand pounds;
While those that furnish all, yield all defence,
Crowd kraals that ne'er cost half ten thousand pence!


Wine Merriment Brings

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Mardi, chapter 84:
Ha, ha, gods and kings; fill high, one and all;
Drink, drink! shout and drink! mad respond to the call!
Fill fast, and fill full; 'gainst the goblet ne'er sin;
Quaff there, at high tide, to the uttermost rim:—
    Flood-tide, and soul-tide to the brim!

Who with wine in him fears? who thinks of his cares?
Who sighs to be wise, when wine in him flares?
Water sinks down below, in currents full slow;
But wine mounts on high with its genial glow:—
    Welling up, till the brain overflow!

As the spheres, with a roll, some fiery of soul,
Others golden, with music, revolve round the pole;
So let our cups, radiant with many hued wines,
Round and round in groups circle, our Zodiac's Signs:—
    Round reeling, and ringing their chimes!

Then drink, gods and kings; wine merriment brings;
It bounds through the veins; there, jubilant sings.
Let it ebb, then, and flow; wine never grows dim;
Drain down that bright tide at the foam beaded rim:—
    Fill up, every cup, to the brim!

Saturday, April 20, 2019


With His Last Breath

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), Avril, Being Essays on the Poetry of the French Renaissance (1904; rpt. London: Duckworth, 1931), pp. 131-132 (on Malherbe):
His zeal for his tongue was real. As he lay upon his death-bed making his confession after so vigorous a life, he heard his nurse say something to herself which sounded ungrammatical and, turning round from the priest, he put her right in a manner most violent and sudden. His confessor, startled, said: "The time is not relevant." "All times are relevant!" he answered, sinking back. "I will defend with my last breath the purity and grandeur of the French tongue."
On the following page (133) of this edition is a quotation from Malherbe disfigured by a typographical error:
Vouloir ce que Dieu vent est la seule Science
                   Qui nous met en repos.
For vent read veut. The first edition is correct.


The Rebel

Sophocles, Electra 1043 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
I do not wish to live by rules like that.

τούτοις ἐγὼ ζῆν τοῖς νόμοις οὐ βούλομαι.



Walter W. Skeat (1835-1912), A Student's Pastime (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896), p. lxxvii:
And few things have surprised me more, in the course of my experience, than the eager recklessness with which such puerilities are vented, the extraordinary readiness with which they are accepted and applauded, and the tenacity with which they are defended against the clearest exhibition of evidence. Paradox and grotesqueness are powerful in their favour, whilst the simple truth is but plain and prosaic. Are we therefore to give way, to let fancy have its free fling, and allow ignorance to revel in its recklessness? I have always maintained that, if truth be simple, it is also instructive, and that only docility promotes progress. Of course I have found mistakes in ideas of my own, but have always thought it wisest to drop such notions like a red-hot coal; which is the teaching of common sense.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Ill Fate

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), The Valkyrie 1.2.188-192 (tr. Andrew Porter):
Ill fate lay on me.
For what I thought was right,
others reckoned was wrong,
and what seemed to me bad,
others held to be good.

Unheil lag auf mir.
Was Rechtes je ich riet,
andern dünkte es arg,
was schlimm immer mir schien,
andre gaben ihm Gunst.


The Very Best Medicos in the World

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Redburn, chapter 17:
The only man who seemed to be taking his ease that day, was our black cook; who according to the invariable custom at sea, always went by the name of the doctor.

And doctors, cooks certainly are, the very best medicos in the world; for what pestilent pills and potions of the Faculty are half so serviceable to man, and health-and-strength-giving, as roasted lamb and green peas, say, in spring; and roast beef and cranberry sauce in winter? Will a dose of calomel and jalap do you as much good? Will a bolus build up a fainting man? Is there any satisfaction in dining off a powder? But these doctors of the frying-pan sometimes kill men off by a surfeit; or give them the headache, at least. Well, what then? No matter. For if with their most goodly and ten times jolly medicines, they now and then fill our nights with tribulations, and abridge our days, what of the social homicides perpetrated by the Faculty? And when you die by a pill-doctor's hands, it is never with a sweet relish in your mouth, as though you died by a frying-pan-doctor; but your last breath villainously savors of ipecac and rhubarb. Then, what charges they make for the abominable lunches they serve out so stingily! One of their bills for boluses would keep you in good dinners a twelve-month.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Opinions Different From Ours

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Essays 3.8 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
No propositions astonish me, no belief offends me, whatever contrast it offers with my own. There is no fancy so frivolous and extravagant that it does not seem to me quite suitable to the production of the human mind. We who deprive our judgment of the right to make decisions look mildly on opinions different from ours; and if we do not lend them our judgment, we easily lend them our ears.

Nulles propositions m'estonnent, nulle creance me blesse, quelque contrarieté qu'elle aye à la mienne. Il n'est si frivole et si extravagante fantasie qui ne me semble bien sortable à la production de l'esprit humain. Nous autres, qui privons nostre jugement du droict de faire des arrests, regardons mollement les opinions diverses; et, si nous n'y prestons le jugement, nous y prestons aiséement l'oreille.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Enemies of Scholarship

Roger Scruton, "The Plague of Sociology," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 237-239 (at 237-238):
Academics who in this way silence discussion and who adopt a political stance as both unquestionable and the foregone conclusion of their subject are the enemies of scholarship. When the resources of a discipline are diverted to the task of fortifying a political dogma and protecting its intellectual weaknesses behind an impenetrable barrier of abstraction, and when those who question the dogma are dismissed as intellectually worthless and morally corrupt, we might justly suspect that we no longer have to do with an impartial science.



Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 123:
I stay at a small inn at Kasaoka. It is new, traditional in style, made of good wood, clean and neat. Its only concession to modernity is the bath, which is rather self-consciously rustic, all shells and pebbles with water-spouting turtles and a tall and dangerous-looking pottery crane. The water is saturated with the pine extract that turns it a bright chartreuse, which country people for some reason or other associate with gracious living.

Back in my room, smelling faintly of pine scent and waiting for my supper, I look idly from the window. Then I notice the lintel. It is beautifully made, admirably carpentered. I follow the edge of the window down to the sill and see that the underside, a place no one will ordinarily ever observe, is equally well worked.

I look around my perfectly ordinary room. It is a small masterpiece of joinery, obviously the work of a master carpenter. But, then, in Japan all traditional carpenters are masters of their art. They make perfect joints as the Zen archer makes perfect bull's-eyes—without thinking about it, as though it were impossible not to make a perfect joint. This skill, this philosophy of craft, is passing away rapidly, particularly in the cities with their mass-produced, jerry-built buildings; but, where it still exists, the perfection of Japanese craftsmanship is impressive; it is the product of the pride people take in what they do.


Burying the Dead

Luke 9.59-60 (KJV):
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς ἕτερον· Ἀκολούθει μοι. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· Κύριε, ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀπελθόντι πρῶτον θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μου. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ· Ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς, σὺ δὲ ἀπελθὼν διάγγελλε τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
Sophocles, Electra 145-146 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
Foolish is the child who forgets a parent's piteous death.

νήπιος ὃς τῶν οἰκτρῶς
οἰχομένων γονέων ἐπιλάθεται.
Sophocles, Electra 236-244:
But what measure is there in my wretchedness? Say, how can it be right to neglect the dead? Was that impiety ever born in mortal? Never may I have praise of such; never when my lot is cast in pleasant places, may I cling to selfish ease, or dishonour my sire by restraining the wings of shrill lamentation!

καὶ τί μέτρον κακότατος ἔφυ; φέρε,
πῶς ἐπὶ τοῖς φθιμένοις ἀμελεῖν καλόν;
ἐν τίνι τοῦτ᾽ ἔβλαστ᾽ ἀνθρώπων;
μήτ᾽ εἴην ἔντιμος τούτοις
μήτ᾽, εἴ τῳ πρόσκειμαι χρηστῷ,        240
ξυνναίοιμ᾽ εὔκηλος, γονέων
ἐκτίμους ἴσχουσα πτέρυγας
ὀξυτόνων γόων.


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