Sunday, June 16, 2024


Lytton Strachey

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), A Clerk of Oxenford (1954; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 47:
Is he read nowadays at all? I never hear anyone talk of him. Of course, this proves nothing. Many a writer, including some of those whom he admired, has failed of admiration until long after his death. Perhaps the time has not come for Strachey to be enjoyed. If our own civilization should move more and more completely into a period of perfect officialdom and supreme organization, with everything arranged by the State, everything authorized and docketed in triplicate and quadruplicate, with a group of unchallengeably powerful officials at the top directing everybody's lives, then the clawed and sharp-toothed critics like Strachey will be prized more and more—not as historians but as satirists—and, if they survive at all, will be read with more and more enthusiasm. At least, until the officials find out ...


Raison d'Être

Juvenal 11.11 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
Their only reason for living lies in gourmandise.

... in solo vivendi causa palato est.

versum secl. Willis ("versus glossatoris ingenium sapit")
Francesco Bracci ad loc.:
L’accusa di vivere al solo scopo di mangiare è diffusa nella letteratura filosofica e moralistica; fra i tanti esempi si possono citare i proemi di entrambe le monografie sallustiane (Cat. 2, 8; Iug. 2, 4), Demostene, De cor. 296 ἄνθρωποι μιαροὶ καὶ κόλακες καὶ ἀλάστορες... τῇ γαστρὶ μετροῦντες καὶ τοῖς αἰσχίστοις τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν; Senofonte, Mem. 1, 6, 8; Cic. Fin. 2, 40 ad pastum et procreandi voluptatem; Red. Sen. 13 e 55; Sen. Ep. 55, 5 ille sibi non vivit, sed, quod est turpissimum, ventri, somno, libidini; Dial. 10, 7, 1; altri esempi in Otto 1890, edere. In molti dei passi citati la gola è associata spesso al sonno e alla libidine sessuale, ma nella nostra satira, conformemente al tema, la critica è rivolta esclusivamente contro il lusso della tavola. Anche la scelta di palatum per indicare metonimicamente il peccato di gola (invece del più frequente venter) è funzionale a una critica che colpisce specificamente la ricerca di raffinatezze culinarie; palatum si trova spesso in contesti analoghi (il palato come oggetto di una stimolazione artificiale al fine di provare piacere); cfr. 10, 203-4 non eadem vini atque cibi torpente palato/ gaudia; Var. Men. 549 Astbury2 multinummus piscis… quivit palatum suscitare; Sen. Ben. 4, 6, 3 unde ista palatum tuum saporibus exquisitis ultra satietatem lacessentia?; altri esempi in TLL, 110, 65-111, 10.
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Saturday, June 15, 2024


Culture and Civilization

Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (1971; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), p. 540:
A ham came from Harry Meacham in Richmond ("THAT HAM is kulchur, THAT ham is civilization," he had written of a previous Virginia offering).
Jane Grigson, Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery (1967; rpt. London: Grub Street, 2001), p. 7:
It could be said that European civilization — and Chinese civilization too — has been founded on the pig. Easily domesticated, omnivorous household and village scavenger, clearer of scrub and undergrowth, devourer of forest acorns, yet content with a sty — and delightful when cooked or cured, from his snout to his tail. There has been prejudice against him, but those peoples — certainly not including the French — who have disliked the pig and insist that he is unclean eating, are rationalizing their own descent and past history: they were once nomads, and the one thing you can't do with a pig is to drive him in herds over vast distances.

From a friend:
As chance would have it I cooked "cinta ibérica" this afternoon....Nothing to it: olive oil, garlic and rosemary.
Related posts:

Friday, June 14, 2024


A Good Land

Homer, Odyssey 15.405-411 (tr. A.T. Murray):
It is not so very thickly settled, but it is a good land,
rich in herds, rich in flocks, full of wine, abounding in wheat.
Famine never comes into the land, nor does any
hateful sickness besides fall on wretched mortals;
but when the tribes of men grow old throughout the city,
Apollo, of the silver bow, comes with Artemis,
and assails them with his gentle shafts, and slays them.

οὔ τι περιπληθὴς λίην τόσον, ἀλλ᾽ ἀγαθὴ μέν,        405
εὔβοτος, εὔμηλος, οἰνοπληθής, πολύπυρος.
πείνη δ᾽ οὔ ποτε δῆμον ἐσέρχεται, οὐδέ τις ἄλλη
νοῦσος ἐπὶ στυγερὴ πέλεται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν·
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε γηράσκωσι πόλιν κάτα φῦλ᾽ ἀνθρώπων,
ἐλθὼν ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων Ἀρτέμιδι ξὺν        410
οἷς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχόμενος κατέπεφνεν.

406 εὔβοτος codd.: εὔβοος Jacob Wackernagel, Sprachliche Untersuchungen zu Homer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1916), pp. 245-246
J.N. Adams, Asyndeton and its Interpretation in Latin Literature: History, Patterns, Textual Criticism (Cambridge University Press, 2021), page number unknown (on line 406):
The unity of the first pair (referring to types of livestock) is underlined by the repeated prefix. The second pair has a loose unity too, in that both terms denote an abundance of certain products of the land.
All four elements of line 406 (oxen, sheep, wine, grain) appear in the Old Hittite Telepinu Proclamation (Catalogue des Textes Hittites 19), § 20 (i 66'-68'), although I don't know if anyone has noticed the parallel. See the text and translation in Andrew Knapp, Royal Apologetic in the Ancient Near East (Atlanta: Society for Biblical Literature, 2015), pp. 83-84, 96 (translation here on p. 96 only):
And Ammuna ruled. And the gods sought (vengeance for) the blood of his father, Zidanta, and into his hand the barley, wine, oxen (and) sheep [they did] no[t ...] in (his) hand.
Calvert Watkins (1933-2013), How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 209, mentioned the passage from the Telepinu Proclamation, but didn't connect it to Homer, Odyssey 15.406.



Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (May 14, 1820):
When I meet with a proposition beyond finite comprehension, I abandon it as I do a weight which human strength cannot lift: and I think ignorance, in these cases, is truly the softest pillow on which I can lay my head.

Thursday, June 13, 2024


Unnecessary Supplies

Bruce Catton, This Hallowed Ground (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1956), pp. 180-181:
“Knapsacks,” wrote one veteran scornfully, “were a foot above their heads; overcoats, two suits of clothes and underwear, all kinds of trimmings, bear’s oil for the hair, gifts from loving and well-meaning friends but useless to the soldier. On the back of their knapsacks were strapped frying-pans, coffee pots and stew pans, pairs of boots hanging to the knapsacks, blankets and ponchos, making in weight one hundred pounds to the man, while the vet carried about twenty-five pounds.”

In the Army of the Potomac, old-timers hooted at the new 118th Pennsylvania, which came in equipped with oversized knapsacks, extra pants, and other incidentals, and told the recruits to throw all that stuff away (starting with the knapsacks themselves) and roll up their essentials in their blankets. A rolled blanket could be tied in a horse-collar loop and worn over the shoulder; it weighed little and there were no straps to cut a man’s collarbones on a long march.


Currying Favor with Voters

Aristophanes, Knights 910-911 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
PAPHLAGON [kneeling before Demos]: Blow your nose, Demos, and then wipe your hand on my head.
SAUSAGE-SELLER: No, on mine!
PAPHLAGON: No, on mine!

ἀπομυξάμενος, ὦ Δῆμέ, μου πρὸς τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποψῶ.
ἐμοῦ μὲν οὖν.
ἐμοῦ μὲν οὖν.


Elementary Greek Class

Eleanor Dickey, "Mabel Louise Lang (1917-2010)," Classical World 104.4 (Summer, 2011) 504-505 (at 504):
Despite the importance of her research, Lang's main contribution to the profession was probably her teaching, particularly her legendary elementary Greek class, through which she introduced more than a thousand students to the Greek language. Many of her former elementary Greek students went on to enter the profession, as classicists, archaeologists, historians, and historical linguists, and all share a deep appreciation of the thoroughness with which they learned Greek, coupled with a tremendous relief at never needing to go through an experience like that again. Lang's classes, from elementary to graduate level, were famous for their impossible workload, but at the same time she had a cult status that led to her classes being over-subscribed: when the 9 A.M. elementary Greek class filled up she could offer an extra section at 8 A.M. and fill that too.
Eleanor Dickey and Richard Hamilton, "Mabel Louise Lang:12 November 1917-21 July 2010)," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 156.2 (June, 2012) 245-250 (at 248-249):
Despite her impressive research record, Miss Lang (as she was known to her students) was always first and foremost a teacher. Happily shouldering a load of ten or more teaching hours each semester, she taught on a regular basis everything from elementary Greek and mythology to graduate seminars, and was legendary for giving every student in every class an extraordinary level of care and attention. She inspired a rare mixture of terror and adoration that caused students to discover capacities for learning that they had no idea they possessed.

Miss Lang's signature undergraduate course, which she offered nearly every year from the time she joined the faculty until her retirement, was elementary ("Baby") Greek, a course renowned among the undergraduate population as the ultimate Bryn Mawr experience. In the first semester the students learned all the grammar of ancient Greek, and in the second they read Plato's Apology and Crito, the Gospel according to Matthew (for sight translation practice), and sometimes Euripides' Alcestis as well. The course offered not only a solid foundation for future study of Greek, but also friends for life in the form of the other students who had survived the experience.

Despite meeting at nine a.m. four days a week, Baby Greek was so well attended that often a second section had to be added at eight a.m.; in a college with an annual intake of fewer than three hundred students, Miss Lang's Baby Greek classes had an average enrollment of twenty-two and in some years more than twice that number. During her teaching career she introduced nearly a thousand students to the Greek language via this course. Each year's students were ruthlessly compared with those from preceding years and told how far they fell behind (more than one group heard, "I've taught this class every year for forty years, and this is the worst group of students I've ever had!" or "Ten years ago we were three chapters ahead by this date!"). Yet these tactics only served to increase her status among the students.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024



Clive James (1939-2019), "Gianfranco Contini," Cultural Amnesia (2007; rpt. London: Picador, 2012), pp. 133-144 (at 134, translating Contini):
Unfortunately, the custom of learning by heart has disappeared in the schools, and as a consequence the very use of memory has gone with it. Nobody knows how to read verse. My best students, notably gifted philologists, can’t recognize by ear whether a line is hendecasyllabic or not: they have to count on their fingers.

quoted in Diligenzia e Voluttà [Diligence and Enjoyment]:
Ludovica Ripa di Meana Interroga Gianfranco Contini, p. 100
Id. (at 135):
There is an untranslatable Italian word for the mental bank account you acquire by memorizing poetry: it is a gazofilacio. Contini believed that an accumulation of such treasure would eventually prove its worth even if it had to begin with sweated labour. He confessed that not all of the teachers who had made him memorize a regular ration of Tasso’s epic poetry had been inspired. Some of them had held him to the allotted task because they lacked imagination, not because they possessed it. But in the long run he was grateful. Most readers of this book will spot the sensitive point about modern pedagogy. Readers my age were made to memorize and recite: their yawns of boredom were discounted. Younger readers have been spared such indignities. Who was lucky? Isn’t a form of teaching that avoids all prescription really a form of therapy? In a course called Classical Studies taught by teachers who possess scarcely a word of Latin or Greek, suffering is avoided, but isn’t it true that nothing is gained except the absence of suffering? In his best novel, White Noise, Don DeLillo made a running joke out of a professor of German history who could not read German. But the time has already arrived when such a joke does not register as funny. What have we gained, except a classroom in which no one need feel excluded?


Rural Seclusion

Verses by Marbod of Rennes (1035-1123), translated and quoted by Erwin Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), pp.74-75, with his note:
My uncle has a farm out in the woods,
Where I withdraw, having cast off the squalor
Of all the worries that torment mankind.
Its verdant grass, the silent woods, the gentle
And playful breezes, and the spring, vivacious
Amidst the herbs, refresh the weary mind—
Restore my self to me and make me rest
Within me ...

Rus habet in silva patruus meus; huc mihi saepe
Mos est abjectis curarum sordibus, et quae
Excruciant hominem, secedere ruris amoena;
Herba virens, et silva silens, et spiritus aurae
Lenis et festivus, et fons in gramine vivus
Defessam mentem recreant, et me mihi reddunt,
Et faciunt in me consistere...

For Marbod of Rennes, see Manitius, op. cit., III, p. 719ff. and passim; Raby, Christian-Latin Poetry, p. 273 ff.; idem, Secular Latin Poetry, I, p. 329ff. The beautiful poem partly quoted and translated in my text is found in Patrologia Latina, CLXXI, col. 1665 ff. (cf. also another poem, ibidem, col. 1717, extensively quoted by Raby, Secular Latin Poetry, I, p. 336). For the tendency of learned men of the twelfth century to withdraw into monastic or pastoral seclusion, see the life histories of Marbod of Rennes and Baudry of Bourgueil (Raby, Christian-Latin Poetry, p. 273 ff., particularly p. 278) and, more especially, E.H. Kantorowicz, Die Wiederkehr gelehrter Anachorese im Mittelalter, Stuttgart 1937.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024


Joy Even in Woes

Homer, Odyssey 15.398-401 (tr. A.T. Murray):
But we two will drink and feast in the hut,
and will take delight each in the other's grievous woes,
as we recall them to mind. For in after time a man finds joy even in woes,
whosoever has suffered much, and wandered much.

νῶϊ δ᾽ ἐνὶ κλισίῃ πίνοντέ τε δαινυμένω τε

κήδεσιν ἀλλήλων τερπώμεθα λευγαλέοισι,
μνωομένω· μετὰ γάρ τε καὶ ἄλγεσι τέρπεται ἀνήρ,        400
ὅς τις δὴ μάλα πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ πόλλ᾽ ἐπαληθῇ.

Monday, June 10, 2024



Sallust, The War Against Jugurtha 53.8 (tr. William W. Batstone):
And so, joy suddenly replaced fear: the soldiers happily called to each other; they told and listened to stories, each man extolled to the skies his brave deeds. To be sure, that is the way human affairs are: in victory, the coward is allowed to boast; failure discredits even the brave.

igitur pro metu repente gaudium mutatur: milites alius alium laeti appellant, acta edocent atque audiunt, sua quisque fortia facta ad caelum fert. quippe res humanae ita sese habent: in victoria vel ignavis gloriari licet, adversae res etiam bonos detrectant.


The Joy of Pedants

Theodore Dalrymple, "Prophetic warnings," The Critic (June 9, 2024):
Error, after all, is the joy of pedants, whether the error be serious or trivial.


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