Thursday, June 20, 2019


Blowing One's Own Horn

David Kovacs, "Euripides Hippolytus 100 and the Meaning of the Prologue," Classical Philology 75.2 (April, 1980) 130-137 (at p. 135, n. 17):
We must begin to take into account the profound differences between ourselves and the Greeks of the classical period where speaking of oneself is concerned. To speak of one's own attainments directly and without apology is, in our culture, usually an offense against good manners and not infrequently regarded as evidence of more serious moral failings. But things were otherwise in pagan antiquity, not only in Homer (where a certain naive praeconium sui may be thought to be in order) but also as late as Aristotle, who shocks modern readers by his characteristicallv Greek notions of the virtue of megalopsychia, and Virgil, whose hero introduces himself complacently as pius Aeneas. For Hippolytus to dwell in prayer on the uniqueness of his nature and his favored position called forth no disapproval or ironic smiling in a fifth-century audience. This is not arrogance but merely a recognition of the facts. Our own attitude in this regard is profoundly influenced by such New Testament texts as Luke 18:9-14.


A Scholar's Weekend: Bright Lights, Big City

Adrian Hollis, "William Spencer Barrett 1914-2001," Proceedings of the British Academy 124, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows III (2004) 25-36 (at 29-30):
Indeed the majority of Greek authors in whom he took a special interest depend to a considerable extent on ancient papyri for their text; Spencer would often go up to London at a weekend, coming back to say that he had managed to read a few more letters from a papyrus of Bacchylides or Stesichorus.
Id. (at 34):
A former pupil, not particularly academic, once lamented to him how difficult he found Pindar; Spencer's reply came out uncensored: 'Oh no, very easy.'



Euripides, Hippolytus 383-384 (tr. W.S. Barrett):
There are many pleasures in life—
long hours of talking, and idleness...

            εἰσὶ δ᾿ ἡδοναὶ πολλαὶ βίου,
μακραί τε λέσχαι καὶ σχολή...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


The Long and the Short of It

Niccolò Machiavelli, letter to Piero Soderini (January, 1513; tr. Allan Gilbert):
Your letter was short and I by rereading it made it long.


Through Error, Ignorance, and Want of Education

Robert Burton (1577-1640), Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. II, Sect. II, Mem. 4, in A.R. Shilleto's edition, vol. II (London: George Bell & Sons, 1893), pp. 105-106 (some paragraph breaks added by me):
1King James, 1605, when he came to see our University of Oxford, and amongst other edifices now went to view that famous Library, renewed by Sr. Thomas Bodley, in imitation of Alexander, at his departure brake out into that noble speech, If I were not a king, I would be a university man: 2and if it were so that I must be a prisoner, if I might have my wish, I would desire to have no other prison than that library, and to be chained together with so many good authors et mortuis magistris.

So sweet is the delight of study, the more learning they have (as he that hath a Dropsy, the more he drinks the thirstier he is) the more they covet to learn, and the last day is [the pupil of the former;] prioris discipulus;3 harsh at first learning is, radices amarae, but fructus dulces, according to that of Isocrates,4 pleasant at last; the longer they live, the more they are enamoured with the Muses.

Heinsius, the keeper of the Library at Leyden in Holland, was mewed up in it all the year long; and that which to thy thinking should have bred a loathing, caused in him a greater liking. 5I no sooner (saith he) come into the library, but I bolt the door to me, excluding lust, ambition, avarice, and all such vices, whose nurse is idleness, the mother of ignorance, and Melancholy herself, and in the very lap of eternity, amongst so many divine souls, I take my seat, with so lofty a spirit and sweet content, that I pity all our great ones, and rich men that know not this happiness.

I am not ignorant in the meantime (notwithstanding this which I have said) how barbarously and basely,

[p. 106]

for the most part, our ruder Gentry esteem of Libraries & Books, how they neglect & contemn so great a treasure, so inestimable a benefit, as Aesop's cock did the jewel he found in the dunghill;1 and all through error, ignorance, and want of education.

And 'tis a wonder, withal, to observe how much they will vainly cast away in unnecessary expenses, quot modis pereant (saith 2Erasmus) magnatibus pecuniae, quantum absumant alea, scorta, compotationes, profectiones non necessariae, pompae, bella quaesita, ambitio, colax, morio, ludio, &c., what in hawks, hounds, lawsuits, vain building, gormandizing, drinking, sports, plays, pastimes, &c.

If a well-minded man to the Muses would sue to some of them for an Exhibition, to the farther maintenance or enlargement of such a work, be it College, Lecture, Library, or whatsoever else may tend to the Advancement of Learning, they are so unwilling, so averse, that they had rather see these which are already, with such cost and care erected, utterly ruined, demolished or otherwise employed; for they repine many and grudge at such gifts and revenues so bestowed: and therefore it were in vain, as Erasmus well notes, vel ab his, vel a negotiatoribus qui se Mammonae dediderunt, improbum fortasse tale officium exigere, to solicit or ask any thing of such men that are likely damn'd to riches; to this purpose. For my part I pity these men, stultos jubeo esse libenter, [I] let them go as they are, in the catalogue of Ignoramus.

How much, on the other side, are all we bound that are Scholars, to those munificent Ptolemies, bountiful Maecenases, heroical Patrons, divine spirits
3qui nobis haec otia fecerunt, Namque erit ille mihi semper Deus—

[Who gave me all this comfort, in my eyes
Will ever be a God.]
that have provided for us so many well-furnished Libraries, as well as in our publick Academies in most Cities, as in our private Colleges!

1 Isaac Wake, Musae Regnantes.

2 Si unquam mihi in fatis sit ut captivus ducar, si mihi daretur optio, hoc cuperem carcere concludi, his catenis illigari, cum hisce captivis concatenatus aetatem agere.

[3 Publius Syrus, Discipulus est prioris posterior dies.]

[4 Ad Demonicum, §§ 18, 33.]

5 Epist. Primerio. Plerumque in qua simul ac pedem posui, foribus pessulum obdo; ambitionem autem, amorem, libidinem, etc. excludo, quorum parens est ignavia, imperitia nutrix; et in ipso aeternitatis gremio, inter tot illustres animas sedem mihi sumo, cum ingenti quidem animo, ut subinde magnatum me misereat, qui felicitatem hanc ignorant.

[p. 106]

[1 Phaedr. Fab. iii.12.]

2 Chil. 2. Cent. 1. Adag. 1.

3 Virg. Eclog. i.[6, 7.]
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, in an email drawing my attention to the closing of the James J. Hill Library in St. Paul, Minnesota. Eric adds:
James J. Hill must be numbered among the "munificent Ptolemies, bountiful Maecenases, heroical Patrons". What a shame to see their legacy squandered. Closing libraries has long been the chief pastime of City Councillors in the UK. These villains are the "ruder gentry" de nos jours.
He also points out that "stultos jubeo esse libenter" is an echo of Horace, Satires 1.1.63-64 (iubeas miserum esse, libenter / quatenus id facit).

Monday, June 17, 2019


Adam to God

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), "Adam the First" (tr. Peter Branscombe):
You sent the divine gendarme with his flaming sword and chased me out of Paradise entirely without justice and mercy!

I'm making my way with my wife towards other lands; but you can't alter the fact that I have enjoyed the fruit of Knowledge.

You can't alter the fact that I know how small and insignificant you are, however important you make yourself out to be with death and thunder.

O God! How pitiful this Consilium abeundi is! That's what I call a real Magnificus of the world, a Lumen mundi!

I shall certainly never miss the realms of Paradise; it wasn't a true Paradise — there were forbidden trees there.

I want my full rights of freedom! If I find the slightest restriction, Paradise turns into a hell and prison for me.

Du schicktest mit dem Flammenschwert
Den himmlischen Gendarmen,
Und jagtest mich aus dem Paradies,
Ganz ohne Recht und Erbarmen!

Ich ziehe fort mit meiner Frau
Nach andren Erdenländern;
Doch daß ich genossen des Wissens Frucht,
Das kannst du nicht mehr ändern.

Du kannst nicht ändern, daß ich weiß,
Wie sehr du klein und nichtig,
Und machst du dich auch noch so sehr
Durch Tod und Donnern wichtig.

O Gott! wie erbärmlich ist doch dies
Consilium abeundi!
Das nenne ich ein Magnifikus
Der Welt, ein Lumen Mundi!

Vermissen werde ich nimmermehr
Die paradiesischen Räume;
Das war kein wahres Paradies —
Es gab dort verbotene Bäume.

Ich will mein volles Freiheitsrecht!
Find ich die gringste Beschränknis,
Verwandelt sich mir das Paradies
In Hölle und Gefängnis.
On the consilium abeundi, see Jeffrey L. Sammons, Heinrich Heine: A Modern Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 73-74 (note omitted):
It was just at this time that Heine created the tangle that emancipated him from Göttingen for a while. He got into an argument with a student named Wiebel and challenged him to a duel in early December....In any case, the duel with Wiebel did not come off. The authorities got wind of it, and Heine and Wiebel were confined to their rooms. A series of sessions before the academic court followed, during which Heine extracted a half-hearted apology from Wiebel. There the matter seemed to have rested at the end of the year, but in January 1821 Heine received the consilium abeundi, the "advice to leave," for half a year; Wiebel was also rusticated and given two weeks in the student prison to boot.
Thanks to Alan Crease and Kenneth Haynes for help with this post.


The Destruction of Linguistic Subtleties

Alexander McCall Smith, Portuguese Irregular Verbs (New York: Anchor Books, 2005), p. 36:
The crudities of the modern world were simplifying or even destroying linguistic subtleties. Irregular verbs were becoming regular, the imperfect subjunctive was becoming the present subjunctive or, more frequently, disappearing altogether. Where previously there might have been four adjectives to describe a favoured hill, or the scent of new-mown hay, or the action of threading the warp of a loom, now there would only be one, or none. And as we lost the words, von Igelfeld thought, we lost the texture of the world that went with them.
Id., p. 99:
Von Igelfeld sat down in the reception room and picked up the first magazine he saw on the table before him. He paged through it, noticing the pictures of food and clothes. How strange, he thought — what sort of Zeitschrift is this? Do people really read about these matters? He turned a page and began to read something called the Timely Help column. Readers wrote in and asked advice over their problems. Von Igelfeld's eyes opened wide. Did people discuss such things in open print? How could anybody talk about things like that? He read a letter from a woman in Hamburg which quite took his breath away. Why did she marry him in the first place, if she knew that was what he was like? Such men should be in prison, thought von Igelfeld, although that was not what the readers' adviser suggested. She said that the woman should try to talk to her husband and persuade him to change his ways. Well! thought von Igelfeld. If I wrote that column I would give very different advice. In fact, I should pass such letters over to the police without delay.
Id., pp. 114-115:
In San Giovanni Cristotomo von Igelfeld was virtually by himself. He sat on a chair near a confessional, gazing up at the ceiling, letting the stress of the city drain out of his limbs. The sun filtered in through a high window, a dusty yellow shaft, the colour of butter. Von Igelfeld closed his eyes and thought: I'm in a house of God, but who is he? Where is he, this person he had always addressed as God but who had never spoken back to him, ever. He was not sure about the existence of God, but he had always been convinced that if he did exist, he would be the God of Mediterranean Christianity, not the cold, hard God of the Northern churches. But that, perhaps, was to draw too much comfort; he might even turn out to be the God of the quantum physicists, a final point implosion, or perhaps just a single particle, a tiny event. That would be terribly disappointing — if God were to prove to be an electron.


An Epicurean

Geoffrey Chaucer, "General Prologue," Canterbury Tales I.335-338 (describing the Franklin):
To liven in delit was evere his wone,
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that plein delit
Was verray felicitee parfite.
This hardly needs translation, but nevertheless here is Nevill Coghill's modern English version:
He lived for pleasure and had always done,
For he was Epicurus' very son,
In whose opinion sensual delight
Was the one true felicity in sight.
On Chaucer's description of the Franklin see Jill Mann, Chaucer and Mediaeval Estates Satire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973; rpt. 1987), pp. 152-159 (esp. 156-157), and Peter Coss, "The Franklin," in Stephen H. Rigby, ed., Historians on Chaucer: The 'General Prologue' to the Canterbury Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 227-246.

Sunday, June 16, 2019



Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (2015; rpt. London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019), p. 29 (footnote omitted):
The common law is only one example of an enduring tradition that lives in itself whether or not also for itself. Other examples include the liturgy of the Catholic communions, diatonic tonality in music, the symphony orchestra and the brass band, the pas de Basque in formation dances, the two-piece suit and tie, the offices of Parliament, the crown, the knife and fork, sauce béarnaise, greetings such as Grüß Gott and sabah an-noor, grace before meals, manners, honour in peace and in war. Some of those traditions are trivial; some are absolutely foundational to the community in which they occur; and all are dynamic, changing over time in response to the changed circumstances of those attached to them, so as to hold communities together in the face of internal and external threat.



Montesquieu (1689-1755), Pensées et fragments inédits, Tome II (Bordeaux: Imprimerie de G. Gounouilhou, 1901), p. 39:
Je suis naturellement curieux de tous les fragments des ouvrages des anciens auteurs; comme, sur les rivages, on aime à trouver les débris des naufrages que la mer a laissés.
Translated by Henry C. Clark:
I am naturally curious about all fragments from the works of ancient authors, just as one likes to find the debris from shipwrecks that the sea has left on the beach.


Keep Quiet

Aeschylus, Persians. Seven Against Thebes. Suppliants. Prometheus Bound. Edited and Translated by Alan H. Sommerstein (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008 = Loeb Classical Library, 145), pp. 480-481 (Prometheus Bound 344):
ἀλλ᾽ ἡσύχαζε σαυτὸν ἐκποδὼν ἔχειν·

Keep quiet, and keep yourself out of harm's way.
That can't be right, I said to myself, and sure enough ἔχειν is a mistake for ἔχων. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library (screen capture):

I see no variants or conjectures for this line in M.L. West's Teubner edition of Aeschylus or in Denys Page's edition in the Oxford Classical Texts series.


Saturday, June 15, 2019


Prayer for the City

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 626-630 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Gods, hear our just prayers and fulfil them, that the city may have good fortune! Turn aside the evils suffered in war onto those who invade our land! May Zeus strike them with his thunderbolt outside the walls and slay them!

κλύοντες θεοὶ δικαίας λιτὰς
ἁμετέρας τελεῖθ᾽, ὡς πόλις εὐτυχῇ,
δορίπονα κάκ᾽ ἐκτρέποντες ἐς γᾶς
ἐπιμόλους· πύργων δ᾽ ἔκτοθεν
βαλὼν Ζεύς σφε κάνοι κεραυνῷ.

Friday, June 14, 2019


The Dignified Demeanor of a Head of State

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 7.7 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
Pericles, however, took care not to make himself too familiar a figure, even to the people, and he only addressed them at long intervals. He did not choose to speak on every question, but reserved himself, as Critolaus says, like the state galley, the Salamina, for great occasions, and allowed his friends and other public speakers to deal with less important matters.

ὁ δὲ καὶ τῷ δήμῳ τὸ συνεχὲς φεύγων καὶ τὸν κόρον οἷον ἐκ διαλειμμάτων ἐπλησίαζεν, οὐκ ἐπὶ παντὶ πράγματι λέγων, οὐδ᾿ ἀεὶ παριὼν εἰς τὸ πλῆθος, ἀλλ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ὥσπερ τὴν Σαλαμινίαν τριήρη, φησὶ Κριτόλαος, πρὸς τὰς μεγάλας χρείας ἐπιδιδούς, τἆλλα δὲ φίλους καὶ ῥήτορας ἑτέρους καθιεὶς ἔπραττεν.

τῷ δήμῳ Sauppe: τοῦ δήμου codd.
Id. 8.6-7:
The truth is, however, that even Pericles was extremely cautious in his use of words, so much so that whenever he rose to speak, he uttered a prayer that no word might escape his lips which was unsuited to the matter in hand. He left nothing behind him in writing except for the decrees he proposed, and only a very few of his sayings have been handed down.

οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Περικλῆς περὶ τὸν λόγον εὐλαβὴς ἦν, ὥστ᾿ ἀεὶ πρὸς τὸ βῆμα βαδίζων εὔχετο τοῖς θεοῖς μηδὲ ῥῆμα μηδὲν ἐκπεσεῖν ἄκοντος αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὴν προκειμένην χρείαν ἀνάρμοστον. ἔγγραφον μὲν οὖν οὐδὲν ἀπολέλοιπε πλὴν τῶν ψηφισμάτων· ἀπομνημονεύεται δ᾿ ὀλίγα παντάπασιν.


Death as an Archer

I found this song in Der Zupfgeigenhansl. Herausgegeben von Hans Breuer unter Mitwirkung vieler Wandervögel, 23. Aufl. (Leipzig: Verlag Friedrich Hofmeister, 1915), p. 105:
Der grimmig Tod mit seinem Pfeil
tut nach dem Leben zielen.
Sein Bogen schießt er ab mit Eil
und läßt mit sich nicht spielen.
Das Leben schwindt wie Rauch im Wind,
kein Fleisch mag ihm entrinnen,
kein Gut noch Schatz findt bei ihm Platz:
du mußt mit ihm von hinnen!

Kein Mensch auf Erd uns sagen kann,
wann wir von hinnen müssen;
wann kommt der Tod und klopfet an,
so muss man ihm aufschließen.
Er nimmt mit Gwalt hin Jung und Alt,
tut sich vor niemand scheuen.
Des Königs Stab bricht er bald ab
und führt ihn an den Reihen.

Vielleicht ist heut der letzte Tag,
den du noch hast zu leben.
O Mensch, veracht nicht, was ich sag:
nach Tugend sollst du streben!
Wie mancher Mann wird müssen dran,
so hofft noch viel der Jahren,
und muss doch heint, weil d Sonne scheint,
zur Höll hinunter fahren.

Der dieses Liedle hat gemacht,
von neuem hat gesungen,
der hat gar oft den Tod betracht
und letztlich mit ihm grungen.
Liegt jetzt im Hohl, es tut ihm wohl,
tief in der Erd verborgen.
Sieh auf dein Sach, du mußt hernach,
es sei heut oder morgen.
There is an English translation here.

On "tut nach dem Leben zielen" see Herbert Penzl, review of Emil Weiss, Tun: Machen. Bezeichnungen für die kausative und die periphrastische Funktion im Deutschen bis um 1400 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1956), in Journal of English and Germanic Philology 56.2 (April 1957) 317-318 (at 318);
In the MHG period the causative construction of tuon plus infinitive, frequent in OHG and in texts influenced by Latin in the EMHG period, is shared by all dialects in epic and lyric poetry; it decreases in frequency in the fourteenth century. This is the time when the periphrastic use of tuon plus infinitive becomes common: er tut sprechen 'er spricht.'
Cf. "thut spannen sein Bogen" in these lines, also on Death as an archer, from a 17th century publication quoted by Ludwig Erk, Deutscher Liederhort, Bd. 3 (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1894), p. 850:
Der alte Schütz, der Tod genannt,
Von Gott in d' Welt gesandt,
Thut spannen sein Bogen:
Hat er angezogen,
Bald wird er abschiessen,
All Vögel dran müssen,
Hüt dich, schons Vögelein!
[Update: Thanks to Kenneth Haynes for drawing my attention to Nils Langer, Linguistic Purism in Action: How Auxiliary 'Tun' Was Stigmatized in Early New High German (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2001).]

Of course the image of the arrows of death is a very old one, dating back to Homer, Iliad 1.43-52 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
So he spoke in prayer, and Phoibos Apollo heard him,
and strode down along the pinnacles of Olympos, angered
in his heart, carrying across his shoulders the bow and the hooded
quiver; and the shafts clashed on the shoulders of the god walking
angrily. He came as night comes down and knelt then
apart and opposite the ships and let go an arrow.
Terrible was the clash that rose from the bow of silver.
First he went after the mules and the circling hounds, then let go
a tearing arrow against the men themselves and struck them.
The corpse fires burned everywhere and did not stop burning.

Ὣς ἔφατ᾿ εὐχόμενος, τοῦ δ᾿ ἔκλυε Φοῖϐος Ἀπόλλων,
βῆ δὲ κατ᾿ Οὐλύμποιο καρήνων χωόμενος κῆρ,
τόξ᾿ ὤμοισιν ἔχων ἀμφηρεφέα τε φαρέτρην·        45
ἔκλαγξαν δ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ὀϊστοὶ ἐπ᾿ ὤμων χωομένοιο,
αὐτοῦ κινηθέντος· ὃ δ᾿ ἤϊε νυκτὶ ἐοικώς.
ἕζετ᾿ ἔπειτ᾿ ἀπάνευθε νεῶν, μετὰ δ᾿ ἰὸν ἕηκε·
δεινὴ δὲ κλαγγὴ γένετ᾿ ἀργυρέοιο βιοῖο·
οὐρῆας μὲν πρῶτον ἐπῴχετο καὶ κύνας ἀργούς,        50
αὐτὰρ ἔπειτ᾿ αὐτοῖσι βέλος ἐχεπευκὲς ἐφιεὶς
βάλλ᾿· αἰεὶ δὲ πυραὶ νεκύων καίοντο θαμειαί.

Thursday, June 13, 2019



Gorgias, Defense of Palamedes 25 (tr. John Dillon):
For it is madness to attempt actions which are impossible, disadvantageous and disgraceful.

μανία γάρ ἐστιν ἔργοις ἐπιχειρεῖν ἀδυνάτοις, ἀσυμφόροις, αἰσχροῖς.
Demosthenes, Against Meidias 69 (tr. Douglas MacDowell):
For perhaps it is madness to tackle something beyond one's ability.

μανία γὰρ ἴσως ἐστὶν ὑπὲρ δύναμίν τι ποιεῖν.



I'm reading, at a very leisurely pace, Jill Mann's edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (London: Penguin Books, 2005). She occasionally uses the term eyeskip, e.g. at p. 1065 (on the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue):
564–5 These lines are omitted in El (through eyeskip to the initial A of line 566?), but they seem authentically Chaucerian.
Eyeskip is sometimes called "saut du même au même" in manuals of textual criticism. See e.g. Louis Havet, Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1911), pp. 130-133 (§§ 441-467), and Martin L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973), pp. 24-25.

The earliest example of eye-skip in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from
1936  Stud. in Eng. (Univ. Texas) No. 16 36 As examples of eye-skips I list here unique accidental omissions of lines and passages, with an explanation as to the probable cause when any is apparent.
The reference is to Martin Michael Crow, "Unique Variants in the Paris Manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales," Studies in English 16 (July 8, 1936) 17-41 (at 36).


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