Tuesday, February 20, 2024



Homer, Odyssey 8.479-481 (tr. Peter Green):
For among all men worldwide minstrels receive their share
of honor and reverence, since the Muse has taught them
the ways of song, and has love for the whole tribe of singers.

πᾶσι γὰρ ἀνθρώποισιν ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδοὶ
τιμῆς ἔμμοροί εἰσι καὶ αἰδοῦς, οὕνεκ᾽ ἄρα σφέας        480
οἴμας μοῦσ᾽ ἐδίδαξε, φίλησε δὲ φῦλον ἀοιδῶν.
A.F. Garvie ad loc.:


Fish Dish

Red-figured fish-plate (340-320 BC, Fasano, Apulia), in British Museum (number 1856,1226.102):
"Two striped perch, two-handed bream; three mussels" according to Ian McPhee and A.D. Trendall, Greek Red-figured Fish-plates (Basel: Vereinigung der Freunde Antiker Kunst, 1987), p. 129 (number IVA / 133), "Three perch and three limpets" according to https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1856-1226-102.

Monday, February 19, 2024



Augustine, Sermons 125.1 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, cols. 688-689; tr. Edmund Hill):
Neither your ears nor your minds wish to hear the rudiments of doctrine repeated. All the same, hearing them does reassure our feeling for the faith, and being reminded of them does somehow or other help us to make a fresh start; nor are we bored by hearing what we already know, because whatever concerns the Lord always gives us pleasure. It's the same with the explanation of the divine scriptures as it is with the divine scriptures themselves; even though they are well known, they are still read out to remind us of what they say.

So too with their explanation; even though it's well known, it's still worth repeating, so that those who have forgotten it may be reminded of it, or those who perhaps didn't hear it may now do so, and as for those who retain what they have been used to hearing, repetition may ensure that they can't ever forget it: I remember, you see, that I have already spoken to your graces about this passage of the gospel. Still, I've no objection to reminding you of the same things, just as there was no objection to repeating the same reading. The apostle Paul says in one of his letters, To write the same things to you is not irksome for me, and is necessary for you (Phil 3:1). In the same way it is not irksome for me either to say the same things to you, and it is good for you.

Nec auribus, nec cordibus vestris rudia repetuntur; reparant tamen audientis affectum, et quodam modo commemorata innovant nos; nec piget ea quae nota sunt audire, quia semper dulcia sunt, quae Domini sunt. Sic est expositio divinarum Scripturarum, sicut sunt ipsae divinae Scripturae; etsi notae sunt, leguntur tamen ad commemorationem.

Sic et expositio earum, etsi nota est, repetenda est tamen, ut qui obliti sunt commemorentur, vel qui forte non audierunt, audiant; et qui tenent quod audire consueverunt, repetendo fiat ut oblivisci non possint. Meminimus enim de hoc capitulo Evangelii iam nos locutos Caritati vestrae. Nec piget tamen eadem vobis commemorare, sicut non piguit eamdem vobis lectionem repetere. Apostolus Paulus dicit quadam in Epistola: Eadem scribere vobis, mihi quidem non pigrum, vobis autem necessarium. Ita et nos eadem dicere vobis, nobis non pigrum, vobis autem tutum.


In Praise of Moderation

Euripides, Hippolytus 261-266 (tr. David Kovacs):
Men say that a way of life too unswerving leads more to a fall than to satisfaction and is more hurtful to health. That is why I have much less praise for excess than for moderation. The wise will bear me out.

βιότου δ᾽ ἀτρεκεῖς ἐπιτηδεύσεις
φασὶ σφάλλειν πλέον ἢ τέρπειν
τῇ θ᾽ ὑγιείᾳ μᾶλλον πολεμεῖν·
οὕτω τὸ λίαν ἧσσον ἐπαινῶ
τοῦ μηδὲν ἄγαν·        265
καὶ ξυμφήσουσι σοφοί μοι.



Homer, Odyssey 8.408-409 (tr. A.T. Murray):
But if any word has been spoken that was harsh, may the storm-winds straightway snatch it and bear it away.

                                 ἔπος δ᾽ εἴ πέρ τι βέβακται
δεινόν, ἄφαρ τὸ φέροιεν ἀναρπάξασαι ἄελλαι.

Sunday, February 18, 2024


What Would Make Me Happy

James Hankins, Political Meritocracy in Renaissance Italy: The Virtuous Republic of Francesco Patrizi of Siena (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2023), p. 49:
In his poem “What Would Make Me Happy,” he tells his reader that if his youth could return to him again—a thing never to be hoped for—and Jupiter would grant all his wishes, he would choose to live under a just king who would offer him a compliant ear, protect the good, and destroy the bad. “Let me have a little house with a little well, a dim little kitchen lit by an ever-burning hearth, a fat little flock pasturing in a field, some land giving grain and good wine, a hill thick with olive trees, and a wood with trees for cutting, to give me firewood for the rest of my life.”

Then comes the epigram’s pivot. Belying the topos of the simple life, the poet continues: “Let me have these little gifts and one truly great one: a library rivaling that of Pergamum!”
The Latin poem (De optata felicitate) is printed on pp. 345-346 of Hankins' book.


You Say You're My Friend

Martial 10.15(14) (my translation):
You claim you're second to none of my friends,
but I ask you, Crispus, what do you do to make it so?
When I asked you to loan me a few thousand, you refused,
although your heavy safe wasn't big enough to hold your cash.
When did you give me a peck of beans or grain,
although an Egyptian tenant farmer plows your fields?
When was a short cloak sent to me in the cold winter time?
When did half a pound of silver arrive at my door?
I see no reason to believe in your "friendship" towards me,
Crispus, other than your habit of farting in my presence.

Cedere de nostris nulli te dicis amicis.
    sed, sit ut hoc verum, quid, rogo, Crispe, facis?
mutua cum peterem sestertia quinque, negasti,
    non caperet nummos cum gravis arca tuos.
quando fabae nobis modium farrisve dedisti,
    cum tua Niliacus rura colonus aret?
quando brevis gelidae missa est toga tempore brumae?
    argenti venit quando selibra mihi?
nil aliud video, quo te credamus amicum,
    quam quod me coram pedere, Crispe, soles.
The same, tr. William Hay:
You say, I have no better friend than you:
What do you do, to make me think it true?
I wanted but five pounds, which you deny;
Though you have useless thousands lying by.
From all the fertile harvests of your plain,
When did you send to me one single grain?
When a short cloak, to guard me from the cold?
To line my purse, when a small piece of gold?
I see no mark of friendship on your part;
But, before me you are free enough to fart.
Familiarity breeds contempt.



Hexameters Consisting of Nouns in Asyndeton in a Medieval Poem

A late 12th-century love poem, in Jakob Werner, Beiträge zur Kunde der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters aus Handschriften gesammelt, 2nd ed. (Aarau: H.R. Sauerländer & Co., 1905), p. 48, number 120, with Werner's note, from Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. C 58, fol. 12v, tr. Douglas Galbi:
All else I renounce. You I love with all my heart,
you living fount of the world’s delight.
I worship you, desire you, seek you, breathlessly follow you,
sigh for you to death, and miss you.
Come help one who is broken and say: “Arise,
I shall now heal your illness and lighten your grief,
such that you would recover unhurt and live in joy!”
I judge you sweeter than honey’s true nectar.
There is no drink so sweetly strengthening.
Let it not spoil for him whom it sustains forever!
O you, all of Christ’s creation — sun, stars, moon,
hills and mountains, valleys, sea, rivers, fountains,
tempest, showers, clouds, winds and storms,
heat, hoarfrost, cold, ice, snow, lightning, rocks,
meadow, grove, foliage, forest, grasses, flowers
exclaim “Hail!” and with me greet her tenderly.
I beg not for love’s limit, but that love endure eternally.
Do not show others what I have sent to you alone!

Omnia postpono, te pectore diligo toto,
Tu mundanarum fons vivus deliciarum.
Te colo, te cupio, peto te, lassatus anhelo,
Ad te suspiro moribundus, teque requiro,
Concite succurre ruituro, dicque: 'resurge,        5
Nunc ego sanabo morbum, maestumque levabo,
Tantum convaleas, sospes, laetus quoque vivas!'
Verum praecellis nectar me iudice mellis;
Est potus nullus tanto dulcedine fultus.
Qui non vilescat illi, quem semper inescat        10
Omnis factura Christi: sol, sidera, luna,
Colles et montes, valles, mare, flumina, fontes,
Tempestas, pluvię, nubes, ventique, procellę,
Cauma, pruina, gelu, glacies, nix, fulgura, rupes,
Prata, nemus, frondes, arbustum, gramina, flores        15
Exclamando: vale! mecum praedulce sonate.
Non precor extremum, sed quod perduret in ęvum.
Missa tibi soli multis ostendere noli!

11-15 Anklang an einen bekannten liturgischen Text.
Lines 14-15 are hexameters consisting entirely of nouns in asyndeton. For similar hexameter lines in Greek and Latin see:

Saturday, February 17, 2024


Time Flies

Augustine, Sermons 124.4 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 688; tr. Edmund Hill):
What does long mean, when the end has come? Nobody can call back yesterday; tomorrow is treading on the heels of today, to get it over with. In this short space let us live good lives, so that we may go to that wide open space where we won't be got over with: Even now as I speak, we are of course getting on with it. Words run on, and time flies; so do our years, so do our actions, so do our honors, so does our unhappiness, so does this happiness of ours. It's all getting on, soon to be over and done with; but don't let's be alarmed: The Word of the Lord abides for ever.

Quid diu est, ubi finis est? Hesternum diem nemo revocat: hodiernus crastino urgetur, ut transeat. Ipso parvo spatio bene vivamus, ut illo eamus unde non transeamus. Et modo cum loquimur, utique transimus. Verba currunt, et horae volant; sic aetas nostra, sic actus nostri, sic honores nostri, sic miseria nostra, sic ista felicitas nostra. Totum transit, sed non expavescamus: Verbum Domini manet in aeternum.
Edmund Hill knew more Latin than I ever will, but sometimes I wonder. For example, "It's all getting on, soon to be over and done with" seems a bit much for "Totum transit".

Friday, February 16, 2024


Two Proverbs

Homer, Odyssey 8.329 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Ill deeds thrive not. The slow catches the swift.

οὐκ ἀρετᾷ κακὰ ἔργα· κιχάνει τοι βραδὺς ὠκύν.

Thursday, February 15, 2024


Pork and Beans

Andrew Dalby, Tastes of Byzantium: The Cuisine of a Legendary Empire (2003; rpt. London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), pp. 31-32:
Not only can we see how Constantinople and its food appeared to outsiders. Occasionally we are told how outsiders and their food appeared to those of the City. The adventurers of the Fourth Crusade, though overawed by their first view of Constantinople as Geoffroi de Villehardouin described it, succeeded in seizing the city and its empire in 1204. This is how the Byzantine historian Nicetas Choniates describes them. 'They revelled and drank strong wine all day long. Some favoured luxury foods; others recreated their own native dishes, such as an ox rib apiece, or slices of salt pork cooked with beans, and sauces made with garlic or with a combination of other bitter flavours.' To this meticulous author, filled with bitter hatred for the destroyers of the world he had known, we owe a first precious record of that favourite dish of the wild warriors of southern France, cassoulet.
Nicetas Choniates, Historia, Pars I, ed. Ioannes Aloysius van Dieten (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1975 = Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae, Vol. 11, 1), p. 594:
κώμαζόν τε καὶ ἠκρατίζοντο πανημέριοι, οἱ μὲν βρωμάτων μαγγανείαις προσκείμενοι, οἱ δὲ καὶ ὴν πάτριον ἐδωδὴν παρατιθέμενοι ἐπιδείπνιον, ἥτις ἦν νῶτοι βοείων κρεῶν διαχαλώμενοι λέβησι καὶ συῶν τεμάχη ταριχηρὰ κυάμοις ἀλητοῖς συνεψόμενα, ὥσπερ καὶ τὸ ἐκ σκορόδων ἐπέμβαμμά τε καὶ σύνθεμα ἐξ ἄλλων χυμῶν δριμυσσόντων τὴν αἴσθησιν.
Translation by Harry J. Magoulias:
Carousing and drinking unmixed wine all day long, some gorged themselves on delicacies, while others ate of their native food: chine of oxen cooked in cauldrons, chunks of pickled hog boiled with ground beans, and a pungent garlic sauce mixed with other seasonings.


The Hunt

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 110-111 (tr. David Grene):
That which is sought
can be found; the unheeded thing escapes.

                               τὸ δὲ ζητούμενον
ἁλωτόν, ἐκφεύγει δὲ τἀμελούμενον.
Menander, Dyscolos 862-863 (tr. Maurice Balme):
All things may be achieved by care and work.

ἁλωτὰ γίνετ’ ἐπιμελείᾳ καὶ πόνῳ
A.W. Gomme and F.H. Sandbach ad loc.:
[T]he metaphor of the huntsman's quarry lies in the background.
Related post: Seek and Ye Shall Find.


Just the Facts

Terence, Andria 873 (tr. Peter Brown):
Please just say what the facts of the matter are, and cut out the abuse!

rem potius ipsam dic ac mitte male loqui.
Terence, Adelphoe 795-796:
I'll cut out all the abuse: let's just reckon up the facts.

mitto maledicta omnia: / rem ipsam putemus.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024


John Bois

David Norton, "Bois, John (1561-1644)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
By five John Bois had read his Bible through, by six he could write Hebrew, and he learnt Greek.


Bois thought of studying medicine but, imagining he had every disease of which he read, gave it up. Yet his constitution was strong. He often walked the 20 miles from college to his mother's house for dinner, reading as he walked if he fell in with tedious company. Throughout his life he was careful of his health. He picked and rubbed his teeth so assiduously that, in his biographer Anthony Walker's phrase, 'he carried to his grave almost an Hebrew alphabet of teeth' (Allen, 147), that is, about two-thirds of his teeth. He ate only dinner and supper, with nothing in between except occasional aqua vitae and sugar for wind, and would allow an hour or more for digestion, either sitting or walking. Following three precepts for health from William Whittaker, a master of St John's for whom he wrote a funeral oration, he always studied standing, never studied in a window, and never went to bed with cold feet.

If health was a fetish, study was a passion. Bois frequently worked from four in the morning until eight at night in the university library; even in old age he studied eight hours a day.


Taking nothing but his Bible into the pulpit, his ambition was always to be understood by all. Although he published nothing of his own, he remained a scholar and a teacher. At Boxworth he established a weekly study circle with eleven or twelve other ministers. He usually kept a scholar to help with his children's education and that of the poorer local children, and he took in children of gentlemen as boarders and students.

Bois's lasting claim to fame is that he alone of the men who worked on the King James Bible made notes on some of the discussions. Though some of the Cambridge fellows were jealous, thinking they needed no help from the country, Bois was appointed in 1604 to the second Cambridge company to work on the Apocrypha.


Bois was always a note taker and maker. After hearing a sermon, for instance, he would note the date, text, and preacher and much of the content. His notes of the discussions have the same qualities and are personal memoranda on nearly 500 points in the epistles and Revelation: the text at issue is recorded and the discussion of it summarized with occasional references to his own views if they differed from those of his colleagues. They reveal the highly scholarly nature of discussions which characteristically focused on the meaning of the original. His interest is always in the problem rather than the eventual solution adopted for the English of the 1611 Bible.
Hat tip: Kevin Muse.



Stobaeus, Anthology 3.22.37 (vol. III, p. 593 Hense; attributed to Socrates; tr. John Ferguson):
Air distends empty wine-skins, self-conceit distends men without wisdom.

τοὺς μὲν κενοὺς ἀσκοὺς τὸ πνεῦμα διίστησι, τοὺς δὲ ἀνοήτους ἀνθρώπους τὸ οἴημα.


A Grandfather's Advice

Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), "Old-Time Childhood in Kentucky," in his New and Selected Poems 1923-1985 (New York: Random House, 1985), pp. 45-46 (at 46):
I said, “what do you do, things being like this?” “All you can,”
He said, looking off through treetops, skyward. “Love
Your wife, love your get, keep your word, and
If need arises, die for what men die for. There aren’t
Many choices.
And remember that truth doesn’t always live in the number of voices.”
Here get = offspring.


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