Saturday, December 31, 2005


On Faith and Swearing

I recommend Roger Kuin's blog, where you can find a nice quotation on faith and a fascinating piece on swearing in Québec. Swearing often presupposes religious faith, as Kuin points out.

One of the very first French words I learned, from my French-Canadian grandmother, was maudit (damn). It's a short word, but Mémère somehow made it very long, drawing it out as if it had many more than two syllables.



Andrew Schneider and David McCumber, An Air That Kills: How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana, Uncovered a National Scandal (New York: Berkley Books, 2004), pp. 78-79:
Greek and Roman stonecutters chided their slaves to avoid digging in quarries where deposits of peculiar silken fibers weakened the integrity of the stone. But slaves found that heavy pieces of rock could be easily shoved along a wall or stone walkway atop a path of slippery, wetted asbestos fibers.

To their puzzlement, they also found that when they tossed bundles of the thin fibers into the fire pits used for heating and cooking, the fibers were still there the next morning, unscathed among the cool ashes of the pit. They called the material asbestos, which some linguists say comes from a Greek word meaning "inextinguishable" or "unquenchable."

Others insist the name comes from a Latin word meaning "unsoiled." Romans wove the asbestos fiber into a cloth-like material that was sewn into table coverings and napkins. Supposedly, according to some researchers, these were cleaned by throwing them into a fire, where the asbestos cloth came out not only unscathed but whiter than when it went in -- thus the name.
The etymological information provided by Schneider and McCumber is confusing and erroneous. There is no disagreement concerning the etymology of asbestos. No linguist would dispute that the ultimate origin of the English word asbestos is from the Greek ἄσβεστος, itself derived from alpha privative plus σβέννυμι (sbénnymi), a verb meaning quench, extinguish. The English word is a straight transliteration from the Greek.

The confusion arises from the fact there is another word in Greek referring to a similar fire-resistant material, ἀμίαντος (amíantos), meaning undefiled, unsullied, itself from alpha privative plus μιαίνω (miaínō), a verb meaning stain, defile.

Both words appear as loan words in Latin. Pliny the Elder's description of fabric made with asbestos is interesting (Natural History 19.4.19-20, tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
There has been invented also a kind of linen which is incombustible by flame. It is generally known as "live" linen, and I have seen, before now, napkins that were made of it thrown into a blazing fire, in the room where the guests were at table, and after the stains were burnt out, come forth from the flames whiter and cleaner than they could possibly have been rendered by the aid of water. It is from this material that the corpse-cloths of monarchs are made, to ensure the separation of the ashes of the body from those of the pile. This substance grows in the deserts of India, scorched by the burning rays of the sun: here, where no rain is ever known to fall, and amid multitudes of deadly serpents, it becomes habituated to resist the action of fire. Rarely to be found, it presents considerable difficulties in weaving it into a tissue, in consequence of its shortness; its colour is naturally red, and it only becomes white through the agency of fire. By those who find it, it is sold at prices equal to those given for the finest pearls; by the Greeks it is called "asbestinon," a name which indicates its peculiar properties. Anaxilaus makes a statement to the effect that if a tree is surrounded with linen made of this substance, the noise of the blows given by the axe will be deadened thereby, and that the tree may be cut down without their being heard. For these qualities it is that this linen occupies the very highest rank among all the kinds that are known.
The observation of Anaxilaus is accurate. Until the dangers of asbestos became widely known, it was used not only for fire-proofing but for sound-proofing. For example, Pfizer manufactured a Kilnoise Acoustical Plaster that contained asbestos. Killed more than just noise, apparently.


The Good Humoured Man

James Boswell, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Tuesday, 14th September):
I expressed some surprize at Cadogan's recommending good humour, as if it were quite in our power to attain it. -- Johnson. "Why, sir, a man grows better humoured as he grows older. He improves by experience. When young, he thinks himself of great consequence, and every thing of importance. As he advances in life, he learns to think himself of no consequence, and little things of little importance; and so he becomes more patient, and better pleased. All good humour and complaisance are acquired."

Friday, December 30, 2005


Who Is To Blame?

Homer, Odyssey 1.32-34 (Zeus is speaking, tr. A.T. Murray and George E. Dimcock):
It's astonishing how ready mortals are to blame the gods. It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they even by themselves, through their own blind folly, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.

ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται·
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ᾽ ἔμμεναι, οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε᾽ ἔχουσιν.


Mythology Lesson

Hector Hugh Munro (Saki), The Peace Offering:
'Cassandra; rather a pretty name. What kind of character is she?'

'She was sort of an advance-agent for calamities. To know her was to know the worst. Fortunately for the gaiety of the age she lived in, no one took her very seriously. Still, it must have been fairly galling to have her turning up after every catastrophe with a conscious air of "perhaps another time you'll believe what I say."'

Wednesday, December 28, 2005



Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.10.7-8 (tr. Percival Vaughan Davies):
On the twelfth day before the Kalends of January there is a rest day in honor of the goddess Angeronia, to whom the pontiffs offer sacrifice in the temple of Volupia. According to Verrius Flaccus, this goddess is called Angeronia because, duly proptiated, she banishes anxiety (angores) and mental distress. Masurius adds that an image of this goddess, with the mouth bound up and sealed, is placed on the altar of Volupia, because all who conceal their pain and care find, thanks to their endurance, great joy (voluptas) at last.

duodecimo vero feriae sunt divae Angeroniae, cui pontifices in sacello Volupiae sacrum faciunt: quam Verrius Flaccus Angeroniam dici ait, quod angores ac sollicitudines animorum propitiata depellat. Masurius adicit simulachrum huius deae ore obligato atque signato in ara Volupiae propterea collocatum, quod qui suos dolores anxietatesque dissimulant perveniant patientiae beneficio ad maximam voluptatem.
If people were in the habit of concealing their pain, then Doctor Phil and his ilk would be unemployed. It is rare nowadays to find a Stoic silence in the midst of sorrow and suffering. Instead, the sound of whining is heard across the land.


The Ladder Revisited

Waiter Rant, in a list of wise sayings, includes this excellent example of the rhetorical device known as the ladder:
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
Yoda utters these words in a Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace (1999).

This gives me an excuse to supplement my previous post on this figure of speech. Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, Eng. tr. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), § 623 (pp. 279-280), has an extensive list of ancient definitions and examples of the ladder. Among the definitions are these:

Isidore, Origines 2.21.4:
The ladder is a progression, when the next phrase starts from the last word of the preceding phrase, and henceforward the order of speech is preserved like a step, as is this example from Africanus: "From integrity is born dignity, from dignity honor, from honor power, from power freedom"; some call this figure of speech a chain, because one word is linked to another, as it were, and several things are tied together by doubling of words.

climax est gradatio, cum ab eo, quo sensus superior terminatur, inferior incipit, ac dehinc quasi gradus dicendi ordo servatur, ut est illud Africani: "ex innocentia nascitur dignitas, ex diginitate honor, ex honore imperium, ex imperio libertas"; hanc figuram nonnulli catenam appellant, propter quod aliud in alio quasi nectitur nomine, atque res plures in geminatione verborum trahuntur.
Pseudo-Rufinus, On Figures of Speech 19:
It is a ladder when phrases make a progression from one point to the next, as "which Jove omnipotent to Phoebus gave, Phoebus to me: a word of doom, which I, the Furies' elder sister, here unfold" (Vergil, Aeneid 3.251-252, tr. Theodore C. Williams), and "The grim-eyed lioness pursues the wolf, the wolf the she-goat, the she-goat herself in wanton sport the flowering cytisus" (Vergil, Eclogues 2.63-64, tr. J.B. Greenough). In Latin this device is called gradatus.

κλῖμαξ est, cum ex re in rem gradum tibi sententiae faciunt, ut "quae Phoebo pater omnipotens, mihi Phoebus Apollo / praedixit, vobis Furiarum ego maxima pando", et "torva leaena lupum sequitur, lupus ipse capellam, / florentem cytisum sequitur lasciva capella". Latine haec figura dicitur gradatus.
Rutilius Lupus 1.13:
Plaiting: in this figure of speech the second phrase arises from the first, the third from the second, and thus several in succession; for as many little circles joined together make a chain, so several phrases linked together create the effect of this rhetorical device.

ἐπιπλοκή: in hoc ex prima sententia secunda oritur, ex secunda tertia, atque ita deinceps complures; nam quemadmodum catenam multi inter se circuli coniuncti vinciunt, sic huius schematis utilitatem complures sententiae inter se conexae continent.
Lausberg's examples include two from Cicero's speeches. The first is from Cicero's speech In Defense of Milo 61 (tr. C.D. Yonge):
Nor did he trust himself to the people only, but also to the senate; nor to the senate only, but also to the public guards and their arms; nor to them only, but also to the power of that man to whom the senate had already entrusted the whole republic, all the youth of Italy, and all the arms of the Roman people.

neque vero se populo solum, sed etiam senatui commisit; neque senatui modo, sed etiam publicis praesidiis et armis; neque his tantum, verum etiam eius potestati, cui senatus totam rem publicam, omnem Italiae pubem, cuncta populi Romani arma commiserat.
The second is from Cicero's speech In Defense of Sextus Roscius of Ameria 75 (tr. C.D. Yonge):
In a city, luxury is engendered; avarice is inevitably produced by luxury; audacity must spring from avarice, and out of audacity arises every wickedness and every crime. But a country life, which you call a clownish one, is the teacher of economy, of industry, and of justice.

in urbe luxuries creatur, ex luxuria exsistat avaritia necesse est, ex avaritia erumpat audacia, inde omnia scelera ac maleficia gignuntur; vita autem haec rustica quam tu agrestem vocas parsimoniae, diligentiae, iustitiae magistra est.
Lausberg also cites a passage from Homer's Iliad (13.449-454, tr. Samuel Butler):
Jove first begot Minos chief ruler in Crete, and Minos in his turn begot a son, noble Deucalion; Deucalion begot me to be a ruler over many men in Crete, and my ships have now brought me hither, to be the bane of yourself, your father, and the Trojans.
But if this is a bona fide example of the ladder, then so is practically every other literary genealogy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


An Auto-Antonym?

Liddell and Scott say that ἀφυπνόω (aphypnóō) means both awake from sleep and fall asleep. If so, it would be a neat auto-antonym.

For the supposed meaning awake from sleep, see the Palatine Anthology 9.517.5-6 (epigram on Glaphyrus, a piper, tr. A.S.F. Gow and D.L. Page, who adopt a conjecture by Eldick):
ἀφυπνώσαι κεν ἀκούων / αὐτὸς Πασιθέης Ὕπνος ἐν ἀγκαλίσιν.

Sleep himself, in Pasithea's arms, would wake up when he heard you.
Gow and Page in their commentary write:
Eldick's restoration of the text seems reasonably secure but since ἀφυπνόω means both fall asleep and wake up editors have interpreted it differently. Eldick himself, Grotius, and Dübner prefer the former meaning; Jacobs, Paton, and Beckby rightly prefer the latter. They have not however noticed that with Ὕπνος as subject the verb must mean more than wake up. Sleep would renounce his name may perhaps represent the sense, which, in view of the frequent use of εὕδειν and καθεύδειν in such contexts, may imply forget his conjugal functions.
I wonder, however, about independent evidence for the meaning awake from sleep. Liddell and Scott provide only one other citation for this meaning -- Antonius Diogenes 9 (unavailable to me). Depending on the tune, piping could either put one to sleep or rouse one.

For the unmistakable meaning fall asleep, see Luke 8.23:
πλεόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ἀφύπνωσεν. καὶ κατέβη λαῖλαψ ἀνέμου εἰς τὴν λίμνην, καὶ συνεπληροῦντο καὶ ἐκινδύνευον. προσελθόντες δὲ διήγειραν αὐτὸν λέγοντες Ἐπιστάτα ἐπιστάτα, ἀπολλύμεθα: ὁ δὲ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ τῷ κλύδωνι τοῦ ὕδατος, καὶ ἐπαύσαντο, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη.

But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Odium Philologicum

John G. Saxe, On a Recent Classic Controversy:
Nay, marvel not to see these scholars fight,
    In brave disdain of certain scath and scar;
'Tis but the genuine, old, Hellenic spite,--
   "When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war!"
John G. Saxe, Another:
Quoth David to Daniel--"Why is it these scholars
    Abuse one another whenever they speak?"
Quoth Daniel to David--"It nat'rally follers
    Folks come to hard words if they meddle with Greek!"


Yankee Locutions

Robert Hendrickson, in his Yankee Talk: A Dictionary of New England Expressions (Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2002), includes many words and phrases not unique to New England. For example, the book has an entry for the expression "plain speaking" (p. 184). Because Hendrickson can find the phrase in a poem by Robert Frost, he counts it as an example of Yankee talk. But you can also find the phrase in Charles Wesley, Thomas De Quincey, and Thomas Babington Macaulay, none of them from New England.

On p. 43, s.v. Careboo, Hendrickson informs the reader that this is "The Maine pronunciation of Caribou, as in Careboo County." There is no Caribou County in the state of Maine. Caribou is a town in Aroostook County.

A largely untapped mine of genuine Yankee talk can be found in the stories of C.A. Stephens (1844-1931). I once compiled a short list of what I thought might be true regionalisms from a desultory reading of just a few of Stephens' stories. Some of the entries in my list can be found in Hendrickson's compilation (gummer, hide-and-coop, piggin, etc.), but others cannot (chopper = lumberjack, cuddy = cupboard, gool = children's game, pummy = pomace, rum pole = ridge pole of house or barn, scarf = kerf, sheepskin = hot maple syrup on snow, etc.).


Unintended Meaning

Thomas Hood (1799-1845) could hardly have anticipated the changes in the English language that give a new meaning to these lines from his poem An Open Question:
Some stiffish people think that smoking joints
    Are carnal sins 'twixt Saturday and Monday.
Not just sinful, but illegal in some jurisdictions, any day of the week.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Kiss Him

John Donne, Nativity:
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod's jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.


Choosing Christmas Presents

Hector Hugh Munro (Saki), Reginald on Christmas Presents:
Personally, I can't see where the difficulty in choosing suitable presents lies. No boy who had brought himself up properly could fail to appreciate one of those decorative bottles of liqueurs that are so reverently staged in Morel's window -- and it wouldn't in the least matter if one did get duplicates. And there would always be the supreme moment of dreadful uncertainty whether it was crême de menthe or Chartreuse -- like the expectant thrill on seeing your partner's hand turned up at bridge. People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.


And Is It True?

John Betjeman, Christmas:
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker's Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
'The Church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all.'

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Saturday, December 24, 2005



I'm unqualified to pass judgment on the accuracy of this Old English translation of Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer (Hrodulf Readnosa Hrandeor). But it starts out inauspiciously, with the following supposedly Latin title:
Incipit gestis Rudolphi rangifer tarandus
translated as
Here begins the deeds of Rudolph, Tundra-Wanderer.
I can't construe the Latin and would suggest either
Incipit canticum de gestis Rudolphi rangiferi tarandi (Here begins a song about the deeds of Rudolph the Reindeer)
Incipiunt gesta Rudolphi rangiferi tarandi (Here begin the deeds of Rudolph the Reindeer).
Because I could not find rangifer in my Latin dictionary, I first thought perhaps it was a mistake for ramifer (also not a classical Latin word, but at least intelligible as "branch-bearing" = "antler-bearing"). But I was wrong -- the scientific name of the reindeer is indeed Rangifer tarandus. What the compound rangifer means and where it comes from I don't know. According to Smith and Hall's English-Latin Dictionary s.v. reindeer, rangifer occurs in medieval Latin.

As for tarandus, online texts (without critical apparatus) of Pliny's Natural History (8.52.123-124, tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley) have the spelling tarandrus:
The tarandrus, too, of the Scythians, changes its colour, but this is the case with none of the animals which are covered with hair, except the lycaon of India, which is said to have a mane on the neck. But with respect to the thos (which is a species of wolf, differing from the common kind in having a larger body and very short legs, leaping with great activity, living by the chase, and never attacking man), it changes its coat, and not its colour, for it is covered with hair in the winter, and goes bare in summer.

The tarandrus is of the size of the ox; its head is larger than that of the stag, and not very unlike it; its horns are branched, its hoofs cloven, and its hair as long as that of the bear. Its proper colour, when it thinks proper to return to it, is like that of the ass. Its hide is of such extreme hardness, that it is used for making breastplates. When it is frightened, this animal reflects the colour of all the trees, shrubs, and flowers, or of the spots in which it is concealed; hence it is that it is so rarely captured. It is wonderful that such various hues should be given to the body, but still more so that it should be given to the hair.

mutat colores et Scytharum tarandrus nec aliud ex iis quae pilo vestiuntur, nisi in Indis lycaon, cui iubata traditur cervix. nam thoes — luporum id genus est procerius longitudine, brevitate crurum dissimile, velox saltu, venatu vivens, innocuum homini — habitum, non colorem, mutant, per hiemes hirti, aestate nudi.

tarandro magnitudo quae bovi est, caput maius cervino nec absimile, cornua ramosa, ungulae bifidae, villus magnitudine ursorum, sed, cum libuit sui coloris esse, asini similis. tergori tanta duritia, ut thoraces ex eo faciant. colorem omnium arborum, fruticum, florum locorumque reddit metuens in quibus latet, ideoque raro capitur. mirum esset habitum corpori tam multiplicem dari, mirabilius est et villo.
The word occurs in Greek as well, with the same confusion of spelling. See Liddell and Scott, s.v. τάρανδος:
a horned beast, native of Scythia,

A. reindeer, or more prob. elk, Arist.Mir.832b8, Fr.371, Thphr.Fr.172.1, Ael.NA 2.16; τάρανδρος is better attested in Ph.1.384, and is v.l. in Arist. Mir.l.c.; so tarandrus in Plin.HN8.123,124 (parandrum in Solin. 25.30).
Some think Caesar was referring to the reindeer in this passage from his Gallic Wars (6.26, tr. W.A. McDevitte and W.S. Bohn):
There is an ox of the shape of a stag, between whose ears a horn rises from the middle of the forehead, higher and straighter than those horns which are known to us. From the top of this, branches, like palms, stretch out a considerable distance. The shape of the female and of the male is the same; the appearance and the size of the horns is the same.

est bos cervi figura, cuius a media fronte inter aures unum cornu exsistit excelsius magisque directum his, quae nobis nota sunt, cornibus: ab eius summo sicut palmae ramique late diffunduntur. eadem est feminae marisque natura, eadem forma magnitudoque cornuum.
Caesar (op. cit. 6.21.5) also uses another word sometimes translated as reindeer -- reno or rheno:
And to have had knowledge of a woman before the twentieth year they [the Germans] reckon among the most disgraceful acts; of which matter there is no concealment, because they bathe promiscuously in the rivers and use skins or small cloaks of deer's hides, a large portion of the body being in consequence naked.

intra annum vero vicesimum feminae notitiam habuisse in turpissimis habent rebus; cuius rei nulla est occultatio, quod et promiscue in fluminibus perluuntur et pellibus aut parvis renonum tegimentis utuntur magna corporis parte nuda.
But Lewis and Short say the meaning is reindeer skin, not reindeer:
rēno or rhēno , ōnis, m. [Celtic] , a reindeer-skin, as a garment of the ancient Germans, a fur pelisse: renones sunt velamina umerorum et pectoris usque ad umbilicum atque intortis villis adeo hispida, ut imbrem respuant, Isid. Orig. 19, 23, 4 : (Germani) pellibus aut parvis rhenonum tegimentis utuntur (i. e. rhenonibus quae sunt parva tegimenta), Caes. B. G. 6, 21 fin. (v. Kraner ad h. l.); cf.: Germani intectum renonibus corpus tegunt, Sall. H. Fragm. ap. Isid. l. l.; cf. also Serv. Verg. G. 3, 383. --Acc. to Varr. L. L. 5, § 167 Müll., a Gallic dress: sagum reno Gallica (vestimenta).

Friday, December 23, 2005


The Intelligentsia

Montaigne, Essays 2.17 (tr. E.J. Trechmann):
But I know not how it is, and it is undoubtedly the case, that there is as much vanity and as little intelligence in those men who lay claim to the highest abilities, who meddle with literary pursuits and bookish occupations, as in any other class of people; whether it is that more is required and expected of them, and common defects are inexcusable in them, or, perhaps, because the conceit they have of their learning makes them bolder to show off and push themselves too far forward, the result being that they betray and give themselves away.

Mais je ne sçay comment il advient, et si advient sans doubte, qu'il se trouve autant de vanité et de foiblesse d'entendement, en ceux qui font profession d'avoir plus de suffisance, qui se meslent de vacations lettrées, et de charges qui despendent des livres, qu'en nulle autre sorte de gens: ou bien par ce que lon requiert et attend plus d'eux, et qu'on ne peut excuser en eux les fautes communes: ou bien que l'opinion du sçavoir leur donne plus de hardiesse de se produire, et de se descouvrir trop avant, par où ils se perdent, et se trahissent.


Latin and Greek

Machiavelli, Mandragola, Act II (tr. J.R. Hale):
I've worn myself out to get up a little Latin; but if I had to depend on that for my bread and butter, I'd soon go hungry, I'll tell you!
Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana (New York, 1856), p. 300:
At the house of the same gentleman I introduced Cogan to Porson, saying, "This is Mr. Cogan, who is passionately fond of what you have devoted yourself to, -- Greek."

Porson replied, "If Mr. Cogan is passionately fond of Greek, he must be content to dine on bread and cheese for the rest of his life."

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Names of Scholars

Maverick Philosopher reminds us that the scholar whom we know as Justus Lipsius was Joost Lips in his native tongue. I came across the name Wilfried Nippel recently. And Dr. Weevil mentions another odd name:
One of the scholars mentioned in the footnotes of Anthony Grafton's The Footnote: A Curious History bears the unfortunate designation "P.P. Wiener". I would have been tempted to violate the usual bibliographical rule and give him more names and fewer initials.


Keeping an Open Mind

Northrop Frye, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983), chap. 2:
An open mind, to be sure, should be open at both ends, like a foodpipe, and have a capacity for excretion as well as intake.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The Latin Suffix -Aster

Dipping into Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (the all-English edition by Floyd Dell and Paul Jordan-Smith), I happened on the following passage (
Philosophasters who have no art become Masters of Arts: and the authorities bid those be wise who are endowed with no wisdom, and bring nothing to their degree but the desire to take it. Theologasters, sufficiently, & more than sufficiently learned if they but pay the fees, emerge full-blown B.D.'s and D.D.'s.
Checking an older edition (London: William Tegg, 1866), I see that Burton wrote the original of this passage in Latin:
Philosophastri licentiantur in artibus, artem qui non habent, Eosque sapientes esse jubent, qui nulla praediti sunt sapientia, et nihil ad gradum praeterquam velle adferunt. Theologastri (solvant modo) satis superque docti, per omnes honorum gradus evehuntur et ascendunt.
The suffix -aster gives the words a diminutive, pejorative tone. A philosophaster is a quack philosopher, and a theologaster is a sham theologian. The Online Etymology Dictionary attributes the coinage of theologaster to Martin Luther (1518), but philosophaster dates back to ancient times. The Latin Dictionary of Lewis & Short gives only a single example of philosophaster, from Augustine's City of God 2.27 (tr. Marcus Dods):
Cicero, a weighty man, and a philosopher in his way, when about to be made edile, wished the citizens to understand that, among the other duties of his magistracy, he must propitiate Flora by the celebration of games. And these games are reckoned devout in proportion to their lewdness.

vir gravis et philosophaster Tullius aedilis futurus clamat in auribus civitatis, inter cetera sui magistratus officia sibi Floram matrem ludorum celebritate placandam; qui ludi tanto devotius, quanto turpius celebrari solent.
But Augustine's opponent Julian of Eclanum also used the word philosophaster to disparage Augustine himself. See Augustine's Opus imperfectum contra Julianum 5.11, where Julian is quoted:
Whence even the famous poet of Mantua [Vergil] is more knowledgeable about natural history than the demi-philosopher of the Carthaginians [Augustine].

unde ille etiam Mantuanus poeta naturalium gnarior quam philosophaster Poenorum.
I can dredge up only a few more Latin words formed with the suffix -aster:For English words formed with this suffix (most notably poetaster), see the lists at Wordcraft and The Phrontistery. Some of the the words in the latter list seem bogus, although I like philologaster, defined as "petty or contemptible philologist." It would be a good name for a blog like this one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Cheer Up

Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy 2.3.1:
Yea, but thou thinkest thou art more miserable than the rest, other men are happy but in respect of thee, their miseries are but flea-bitings to thine, thou alone art unhappy, none so bad as thyself. Yet if, as Socrates said, All men in the world should come and bring their grievances together, of body, mind, fortune, sores, ulcers, madness, epilepsies, agues, and all those common calamities of beggary, want, servitude, imprisonment, and lay them on a heap to be equally divided, wouldst thou share alike, and take thy portion? or be as thou art? Without question thou wouldst be as thou art.

Every man knows his own, but not others' defects and miseries; and 'tis the nature of all men still to reflect upon themselves, their own misfortunes, not to examine or consider other men's, not to compare themselves with others: To recount their miseries, but not their good gifts, fortunes, benefits, which they have, or ruminate on their adversity, but not once to think on their prosperity, not what they have, but what they want: to look still on them that go before, but not on those infinite numbers that come after.

Be content and rest satisfied, for thou art well in respect to others: be thankful for that thou hast, that God hath done for thee, he hath not made thee a monster, a beast, a base creature, as he might, but a man, a Christian, such a man; consider aright of it, thou art full well as thou art. Quicquid vult habere nemo potest, no man can have what he will, Illud potest nolle quod non habet, he may choose whether he will desire that which he hath not. Thy lot is fallen, make the best of it.

Go on then merrily to heaven. If the way be troublesome, and you in misery, in many grievances: on the other side you have many pleasant sports, objects, sweet smells, delightsome tastes, music, meats, herbs, flowers, &c. to recreate your senses.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Praying in Secret

Matthew 6.5-6:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But some ancient writers thought that if you prayed in secret or silently, you must be asking for something disgraceful. Here are some examples.

Horace, Epistles 1.16.56-62 (tr. John Conington):
See your good man, who oft as he appears
In court commands all judgments and all ears;
Observe him now, when to the gods he pays
His ox or swine, and listen what he says:
"Great Janus, Phoebus"--this he speaks aloud;
The rest is muttered all and unavowed--
"Divine Laverna, grant me safe disguise;
Let me seem just and upright in men's eyes;
Shed night upon my crimes, a glamour o'er my lies."

vir bonus, omne forum quem spectat et omne tribunal,
quandocumque deos vel porco vel bove placat:
'Iane pater!' clare, clare cum dixit: 'Apollo!'
labra movet, metuens audiri: 'Pulchra Laverna,
da mihi fallere, da iusto sanctoque videri,
noctem peccatis et fraudibus obice nubem.'
Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 10.5 (tr. Richard Gummere):
A statement which I found in Athenodorus is true: "Then know that you are free from all desires when you come to the point that you ask God for nothing except what you could ask for openly." For now how great is the folly of men! They whisper the most shameful prayers to the gods; if someone tries to listen, they fall silent, and they tell to God what they don't want a fellow human to know. Therefore consider whether this advice might not be profitably given: live with men as though God were watching, speak with God as though men were listening.

verum est quod apud Athenodorum inveni: 'tunc scito esse te omnibus cupiditatibus solutum, cum eo perveneris ut nihil deum roges nisi quod rogare possis palam'. nunc enim quanta dementia est hominum! turpissima vota dis insusurrant; si quis admoverit aurem, conticiscent, et quod scire hominem nolunt deo narrant. vide ergo ne hoc praecipi salubriter possit: sic vive cum hominibus tamquam deus videat, sic loquere cum deo tamquam homines audiant.
Seneca, On Benefits 2.1.4 (tr. John Basore):
If men had to make their vows to the gods openly, they would be more sparing of them; so true is it that even to the gods, to whom we most rightly make supplication, we would rather pray in silence and in the secrecy of our hearts.

vota homines parcius facerent, si palam facienda essent ; adeo etiam deos, quibus honestissime supplicamus, tacite malumus et intra nosmetipsos precari.
Seneca, On Benefits 6.38.5 (tr. John Basore):
Lastly, let every man examine himself let him retire into the secrecy of his heart, and discover what it is that he has silently prayed for. How many prayers there are which he blushes to acknowledge, even to himself! How few that we could make in the hearing of a witness!

denique se quisque consulat, et in secretum pectoris sui redeat, et inspiciat quid tacitus optaverit; quam multa sont vota, quae etiam sibi fateri pudet! quam pauca, quae facere coram teste possimus!
Persius 2.3-14 (tr. Lewis Evans):
You at least do not with mercenary prayer ask for what you could not intrust to the gods unless taken aside. But a great proportion of our nobles will make libations with a silent censer. It is not easy for every one to remove from the temples his murmur and low whispers, and live with undisguised prayers. "A sound mind, a good name, integrity"---for these he prays aloud, and so that his neighbor may hear. But in his inmost breast, and beneath his breath, he murmurs thus, "Oh that my uncle would evaporate! what a splendid funeral! and oh that by Hercules' good favor a jar of silver would ring beneath my rake! or, would that I could wipe out my ward, whose heels I tread on as next heir! For he is scrofulous, and swollen with acrid bile. This is the third wife that Nerius is now taking home!"

                          non tu prece poscis emaci
quae nisi seductis nequeas committere divis;
at bona pars procerum tacita libabit acerra.
haut cuivis promptum est murmurque humilisque susurros
tollere de templis et aperto viuere voto.
'mens bona, fama, fides', haec clare et ut audiat hospes;
illa sibi introrsum et sub lingua murmurat: 'o si
ebulliat patruus, praeclarum funus!' et 'o si
sub rastro crepet argenti mihi seria dextro
Hercule! pupillumve utinam, quem proximus heres
inpello, expungam; nam et est scabiosus et acri
bile tumet. Nerio iam tertia conditur uxor.'
Lucan 5.104-105 (tr. J.D. Duff):
There no sinful prayers are framed in stealthy whisper.

haud illic tacito mala voto susurro / concipiunt.
Martial 1.39 (tr. Peter Howell):
If there is anyone who can be counted among those rare friends such as are known to old-fashioned trust and ancient repute; if anyone is steeped in the arts of both Athenian and Latin Minerva, and is truly and genuinely a good man; if anyone is the protector of what is right, an admirer of all that is honourable, and a man who asks nothing of the gods with inaudible voice; if there is anyone who can rely on the strength of a great mind: damn me if it isn't Decianus.

Si quis erit raros inter numerandus amicos,
    quales prisca fides famaque novit anus,
si quis Cecropiae madidus Latiaque Minervae
  artibus et vera simplicitate bonus,
si quis erit recti custos, mirator honesti
  et nihil arcano qui roget ore deos,
si quis erit magnae subnixus robore mentis:
  dispeream si non hic Decianus erit.
I owe these classical Latin parallels to Peter Howell's commentary on Martial (1.39.6). Howell does not, however, cite Matthew 6.5-6.


Boning Up

The Maverick Philosopher quotes Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd edition (New York: Facts on File, 2004), p. 91, on the origin of the phrase bone up on:
It was first used in the 1860s by collegians, and they apparently first spelled the bone in the phrase Bohn, probably referring to the Bohn translations of the classics, or "trots," that they used in studying. British scholar Henry George Bohn (1796-1884) was the author and publisher of many books, including the "Classical Library."
This is one of a number of inaccuracies in Hendrickson's book. The Oxford English Dictionary (not available to me) apparently cites an example of the phrase from 1841. Bohn's Classical Library series did not start until 1848. Derek Jones, Henry George Bohn: A Biographical Note, exposes Hendrickson's error.

Other posts from this blog on Hendrickson's errors:


Macaronic Verses

Anonymous (from Carolyn Wells' Nonsense Anthology, punctuation changed):
Puer ex Jersey,
Iens ad school,
Vidit in meadow
Infestum mule.

Ille approaches,
O magnus sorrow!
Puer it skyward.
Funus ad morrow.


Qui vidit a thing
Non ei well-known,
Est bene for him
Relinqui id alone.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Grumpy Old Men

Samuel Johnson, The Rambler (Saturday, September 8, 1750):
Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation. He recounts the decency and regularity of former times, and celebrates the discipline and sobriety of the age in which his youth was passed; a happy age which is now no more to be expected, since confusion has broken in upon the world, and thrown down all the boundaries of civility and reverence.


Postcard from Rome

In yesterday's mail I received a card, postmarked at Rome's Fiumicino Aiport, that read:
Dear M. Gilleland,

The Holy See would like to express its gratitude to you for your web log; we read it every Sunday.

Your pal in the Holy See,
Benedict XVI
I appreciate the kind words, but I suspect a forgery, especially because the handwriting looks so familiar. The postcard brightened a dreary day and brought a smile to my face. Thanks, old friend!


I Love George Bush

This George Bush:
Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Captain George Bush was an officer in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. As he traveled in the service Bush carried his fiddle and in 1779, stationed in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, he began to enter music, dance figures and song lyrics into a small pocket notebook. He copied songs about being a soldier and about love and women; minuets, marches, and other airs; and the figures and music for a number of country dances.


In the Bleak Midwinter

From the poem by Christina Rossetti:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.



From the pen of the inimitable Fred Reed:
Hunter-gatherism constitutes a superior form of being. Indolence beats hell out of work. It is much more pleasant to loll around the tipi, enjoying the breeze soughing over the plains and telling off-color stories than to go to some air-conditioned dismalalium and rot for thirty years as a compelled cubicle wart in an office painted federal-wall green. To any sensible being, the very idea of work is repugnant. It wastes time better spent in lazing, swimming, or the company of girls. Work usually requires effort. Effort is not a good thing. It should be essayed only in times of desperation.
Dismalalium seems to be a hapax legomenon.


Knock, Knock

Rob Larity (via email) adds another parallel to the collection of classical analogues to Revelation 3:20, this one from Horace, Odes 1.4.13-14: "Pale Death knocks with indiscriminate foot at the hovels of the poor and the towers of kings." (pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas / regumque turris).

Although possibly a personification here, Mors is listed as a goddess in Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 3.44. Nisbet and Hubbard in their commentary on Horace's Odes cite further parallels:The passage from Callimachus seems like an especially good parallel, but I would like to see the context. I don't own a text of Callimachus and there are apparently no texts available on the Internet.

Dennis Mangan (also via email) draws my attention to Sto ad osium at the blog Compostela, where the myth of Philemon and Baucis is mentioned in this connection. The gods do visit an elderly couple and enter beneath their roof in that myth, but there is no knocking at the door, at least in Ovid's treatment of the tale. Compostela's post is well worth reading, though.


Reading the Classics

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter 3 (Reading):
The student may read Homer or Aeschylus in the Greek without danger of dissipation or luxuriousness, for it implies that he in some measure emulate their heroes, and consecrate morning hours to their pages. The heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in a language dead to degenerate times; and we must laboriously seek the meaning of each word and line, conjecturing a larger sense than common use permits out of what wisdom and valor and generosity we have. The modern cheap and fertile press, with all its translations, has done little to bring us nearer to the heroic writers of antiquity. They seem as solitary, and the letter in which they are printed as rare and curious, as ever. It is worth the expense of youthful days and costly hours, if you learn only some words of an ancient language, which are raised out of the trivialness of the street, to be perpetual suggestions and provocations. It is not in vain that the farmer remembers and repeats the few Latin words which he has heard. Men sometimes speak as if the study of the classics would at length make way for more modern and practical studies; but the adventurous student will always study classics, in whatever language they may be written and however ancient they may be. For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave. We might as well omit to study Nature because she is old.

No wonder that Alexander carried the Iliad with him on his expeditions in a precious casket. A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; -- not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself. The symbol of an ancient man's thought becomes a modern man's speech. Two thousand summers have imparted to the monuments of Grecian literature, as to her marbles, only a maturer golden and autumnal tint, for they have carried their own serene and celestial atmosphere into all lands to protect them against the corrosion of time. Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.

Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race; for it is remarkable that no transcript of them has ever been made into any modern tongue, unless our civilization itself may be regarded as such a transcript. Homer has never yet been printed in English, nor Aeschylus, nor Virgil even -- works as refined, as solidly done, and as beautiful almost as the morning itself; for later writers, say what we will of their genius, have rarely, if ever, equalled the elaborate beauty and finish and the lifelong and heroic literary labors of the ancients. They only talk of forgetting them who never knew them. It will be soon enough to forget them when we have the learning and the genius which will enable us to attend to and appreciate them.

The best books are not read even by those who are called good readers. What does our Concord culture amount to? There is in this town, with a very few exceptions, no taste for the best or for very good books even in English literature, whose words all can read and spell. Even the college-bred and so-called liberally educated men here and elsewhere have really little or no acquaintance with the English classics; and as for the recorded wisdom of mankind, the ancient classics and Bibles, which are accessible to all who will know of them, there are the feeblest efforts anywhere made to become acquainted with them.

I aspire to be acquainted with wiser men than this our Concord soil has produced, whose names are hardly known here. Or shall I hear the name of Plato and never read his book? As if Plato were my townsman and I never saw him -- my next neighbor and I never heard him speak or attended to the wisdom of his words. But how actually is it? His Dialogues, which contain what was immortal in him, lie on the next shelf, and yet I never read them. We are underbred and low-lived and illiterate; and in this respect I confess I do not make any very broad distinction between the illiterateness of my townsman who cannot read at all and the illiterateness of him who has learned to read only what is for children and feeble intellects. We should be as good as the worthies of antiquity, but partly by first knowing how good they were. We are a race of tit-men, and soar but little higher in our intellectual flights than the columns of the daily paper.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


The Internet

Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implicito (1977), I, 153:
The major triumph of science seems to consist in the increasing speed with which the fool can transmit his foolishness from one spot to another.

El mayor triunfo de la ciencia parece estar en la velocidad creciente con que el bobo puede trasladar su bobería de un sitio a otro sitio.


Owls to Athens

Guillermo Galán Vioque, in his commentary on Martial 7.42.6 (Alcinoo nullum poma dedisse putas), explains:
a set phrase to express the idea of 'giving someone something he does not need', similar to the English 'carrying coals to Newcastle'; cf. the Spanish 'dar trigo a Castilla' and the German 'Eulen nach Athen tragen'. Cf. Ov. Pont. 4.2.9-10: quis mel Aristaeo...poma det Alcinoo (OLD s.v. 1b). Cf. A. Otto, Sprichwörter, R. Häussler, Nachträge zu A. Otto, R. Tosi, Dizionario, 220 § 474. Cf. also Hor. Sat. 1.10.34: in silvam non ligna feras insanius, Ov. Am. 2.10.13-14: quid folia arboribus, quid pleno sidera caelo, / in freta collectas alta quid addis aquas? Mart. 11.42.4: thyma Cecropiae Corsica ponis api! Alcinous was the mythical king of the Phaeacians and owner of an orchard where all sorts of fruits grew in great abundance; cf. Od. 7.112-131.
Here are translations of the foreign passages and phrases quoted by Galán Vioque:None of the secondary works cited by Galán Vioque are available to me. What puzzles me is his implication that we should look to German for the source of "owls to Athens". It's a Greek proverb, γλαῦκ᾽ εἰς ᾽Αθήνας, known as early as Aristophanes, Birds 301: τί φῄς; τίς γλαῦκ' Ἀθήναζ' ἤγαγεν; (What are you saying? Who brought an owl to Athens?). See also Cicero, Letters to His Friends 6.3 and 9.3, Letters to His Brother Quintus 2.15.4. The point of the proverb is that the owl was the bird sacred to Athena, patron goddess of Athens; Athenian coins were stamped with the figure of an owl; and because Athens mined its own silver and minted its own coins, there was no need to import "owls" to Athens. To express the same thought, the ancient Greeks also said ἰχθῦς εἰς Ἑλλήσποντον (fish to Hellespont), according to Arthur Palmer on Horace, Satires 1.10.34.

A Festschrift in honor of famed Greek scholar K.J. Dover was entitled Owls to Athens (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990). In other words, Dover is so expert in ancient Greek that offering him the scholarship of others is like carrying coals to Newcastle.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Portrait of a Scholar

This portrait of a scholar is a mosaic of passages from Montaigne's Essays (tr. E.J. Trechmann).

1.24 (Du pedantisme):
I know one who, when I question him on what he knows, asks me for a book to show it me, and will not venture to tell me he has an itchy backside without straightway consulting his lexicon to find the meaning of 'itchy' and of 'backside'.
See him returning after fifteen or sixteen years employed in study. All the progress you discover in him is that his Latin and Greek have made him more proud and conceited than he was before he left home. He should have brought back a full mind, and he only brings a puffed-up one; instead of enlarging it, he has only inflated it.
1.38 (De la solitude):
This other, dripping from eyes and nose, that you see leaving his study after midnight, do you think he is searching among his books how to become a better, wiser, or more contented man? Not a bit of it. He will die or he will teach posterity the metre of a line of Plautus, or the correct spelling of a Latin word.
Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. (Horace, Satires 1.1.69-70) -- Why do you laugh? Change the name, and the joke's on you.


The Secret of Happiness

Montaigne, Essays 1.40 (tr. E.J. Trechmann):
Every man is well or badly off as he thinks himself to be. The man is content who believes himself to be content, not he whom the world believes to be so. And that belief alone makes it real and true.

Chascun est bien ou mal, selon qu'il s'en trouve. Non de qui on le croid, mais qui le croid de soy, est content: et en cella seul la creance se donne essence et verité.


Death in a Private Place

I once knew a librarian who kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about odd deaths, e.g. reports of people who died after shaking recalcitrant vending machines that toppled over on them and crushed them. This passage from Montaigne's Essays (1.31 = Qu'il faut sobrement se mesler de juger des ordonnances divines, tr. E.J. Trechmann) might have been grist for the librarian's mill:
And he that would take upon himself to give reasons for Arius and Leo his Pope, the principal leaders of that heresy, dying, at different times, so similar and strange a death (for they both, after withdrawing from the debate, with a pain in the bowels, to their closet [garderobe], suddenly gave up the ghost), and declare that the divine vengeance was aggravated by the circumstance of the place, might very well add the death of Heliogabalus, who was also killed in a privy [en un retraict]. But what about Irenaeus, who was involved in the same fate?
In our own time we could add the fate of Elvis Presley, who died of a heart attack on the toilet on August 16, 1977, after a meal of four scoops of ice cream and six chocolate-chip cookies.

Irenaeus was canonized, and there are those who regard Elvis as a saint. Dr. Gary Vikan is director of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. One of his scholarly sidelines is writing papers and delivering lectures about Elvis. Some representative titles are "Off the Wall, From the Heart: Votive Graffiti at Graceland," "Graceland as Locus Sanctus," and "Pilgrimage to Graceland: The Cult of St. Elvis." I've never heard any of Dr. Vikan's lectures or read any of his papers. But it's a little-known fact that there really is a Saint Elvis. An alternate form of the name of sixth-century Irish Saint Ailbhe is Ailbhis. Anglicized, Ailbhis is Elvis.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Dalrymple Watch

Here are some recent gems by the good doctor:
  1. Strange Hero-Worship
  2. Kathmandu-sur-Rhone
  3. Civility Wears a Hat
Si parva licet componere magnis, I once wrote a little essay on men's hats.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005



Gypsy Scholar quotes an unnamed wise philosopher:
He who quotes others lacks the ability to think for himself.
That is an apt and fair description of me and my blog. I have no original thoughts. This blog is a commonplace book, a substitute for the notebooks in which I used to write down quotations that struck my fancy. Anyone who looks for more here is looking in the wrong place.

Ralph Waldo Emerson in his Journal (May 1849) said, "I hate quotation. Tell me what you know." I know nothing, Ralph. If I were restricted to uttering my own thoughts, I would be struck dumb.

I enjoy reading authors who quote a lot, such as Montaigne and Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy.

A reply:
I must object to your self-characterization in "Quotations." Laudator is nothing like a public commonplace book. You are an anthologist, a practitioner of the ancient & esteemed art of apposition. You appose sententiae in the same way that a mosaicist apposes tesserae. No one complains that the creator of a mosaic creates nothing because he uses or re-uses little squares of stone, yet you say "I have no originality" because you combine the words of others. Do you really think there is no art of composition here?
Another reply:
As one who also has a love of quotes, I couldn't disagree more. I find quotes not a substitute for thoughts but rather form given to my thoughts - whether it is to tickle my fancy or be a handy aphorism.


Kindness to Animals

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin's 2002), p. 394:
Surely the most tired of all criticisms is that they must care more about animals than about people, as if for every dolphin spared from the net a homeless person must go unfed, or as if the people who make such accusations are themselves to be found devoting every spare moment to the uplift of their fellow man.
The criticism is at least a couple of millennia old. Plutarch's Life of Pericles starts out with this anecdote (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
On seeing certain wealthy foreigners in Rome carrying puppies and young monkeys about in their bosoms and fondling them, Caesar asked, we are told, if the women in their country did not bear children, thus in right princely fashion rebuking those who squander on animals that proneness to love and loving affection which is ours by nature, and which is due only to our fellow-men.
Kindness to animals and sympathy for one's fellow humans are not always incompatible. The one sometimes reinforces the other.

I recently read a charming story about an ancient animal lover in Aelian's Varia Historia (13.31, tr. N.G. Wilson):
Xenocrates of Chalcedon, the friend of Plato, was compassionate and not only kind to men but showed pity for many brute animals. One day when he was sitting out of doors a sparrow pursued hotly by a hawk flew into his lap. He welcomed the bird and hid it in order to protect it until its pursuer went away. When he had calmed its fear he opened his cloak and let the bird go with the comment that he had not betrayed the suppliant.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


I Stand At the Door and Knock

Revelation 3.20:
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Peter Howell, in his commentary (London, 1980) on book one of Martial (at 1.25.5), writes:
The idea of a benevolent deity waiting outside the house to be let in is both ancient and widespread.
Howell doesn't mention Rev. 3.20, but he does cite some more or less apposite classical parallels. Here they are, with translations.

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1331-1335 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
'Tis the nature of all human kind to be unsatisfied with prosperity. From stately halls none barreth it with warning voice that uttereth the words "Enter no more."
Plautus, Aulularia 98-100 (tr. Robert Allison):
No one's to enter, while I am away. These are my orders; if Good Fortune comes, please say I am not at home.

profecto in aedis meas me absente neminem
volo intro mitti. atque etiam hoc praedico tibi,
si Bona Fortuna veniat, ne intro miseris.
Martial 1.25.5-6 (tr. anon. from Bohn's Classical Library):
Do you hesitate to admit Fame, who is standing before your door; and does it displease you to receive the reward of your labour?

Ante fores stantem dubitas admittere Famam
    teque piget curae praemia ferre tuae?
Suetonius, Life of Galba 4.3 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
When he assumed the gown of manhood, he dreamt that Fortune said she was tired of standing before his door, and that unless she were quickly admitted, she would fall a prey to the first comer. When he awoke, opening the door of the hall, he found close by the threshold a bronze statue of Fortune more than a cubit high. This he carried in his arms to Tusculum, where he usually spent the summer, and consecrated it in a room of his house; and from that time on he honoured it with monthly sacrifices and a yearly vigil.

sumpta virili toga, somniavit Fortunam dicentem, stare se ante fores defessam, et nisi ocius reciperetur, cuicumque obvio praedae futuram. utque evigilavit, aperto atrio simulacrum aeneum deae cubitali maius iuxta limen invenit, idque gremio suo Tusculum, ubi aestivare consuerat, avexit et in parte aedium consecrato menstruis deinceps supplicationibus et pervigilio anniversario coluit.
Dio Cassius 64.1.2 (tr. Earnest Cary) repeats the story of Galba:
For it seemed to him in a vision that Fortune told him that she had now remained by him for a long time, yet no one would grant her admission into his house, and that, if she should be barred out much longer, she would take up her abode with somebody else.
The parallel from Aeschylus doesn't seem too close, but the others are interesting, especially those about Galba. I don't have any commentaries on Revelation handy. If I'm not mistaken, the ancients knocked on doors with a kick of the foot, not a rap of the knuckles.

Update from Kevin via email, who cites Song of Songs 5:2 with a comment:
I was asleep but my heart was awake.
A voice! My beloved was knocking:
"Open to me, my sister, my darling,
My dove, my perfect one!
For my head is drenched with dew,
My locks with the damp of the night."

[New American Standard Bible translation]

Both Jewish and Christian traditions have understood the knocking lover as God. Whether that was the original intention of the author could be a knock-down -- or knock-up -- argument.

More parallels here.


Gable and Gipfel

A correspondent writes about Longfellow's translation of Goethe's Wanderers Nachtlied.

Über allen Gipfeln
ist Ruh,
in allen Wipfeln
spürest du
kaum einen Hauch;
die Vögelein schweigen im Walde,
warte nur, balde
ruhest du auch!
O'er all the hilltops
Is quiet now,
In all the treetops
Hearest thou
Hardly a breath;
The birds are asleep in the trees:
Wait; soon like these
Thou too shalt rest.
There have been dozens of musical settings of Goethe's poem. I find only one musical setting of Longfellow's translation, by Avril Gwendolen Coleridge-Taylor.

I wonder about a possible connection between English gable and German Gipfel. The Online Etymology Dictionary connects gable with words meaning fork:
1338, from O.Fr. gable, from O.N. gafl (in north of England, directly from O.N.), probably from a P.Gmc. root meaning "fork" (cf. O.E. gafol, geafel "fork," M.H.G. gabel "pitchfork"), from PIE *ghebhel (cf. O.Ir. gabul "forked twig"). So called from the Y-shaped timber supports of the roof at gable ends.
But Calvert Watkins in his Indo-European Roots s.v. ghebhel- connects it with words meaning head:
Head. 1. Germanic *gabl-, top of a pitched roof, in Old Norse gafl, gable: GABLE. 2. Dissimilated form *khephel- in Greek kephalē, head: CEPHALIC, CEPHALO-, -CEPHALOUS, ENCEPHALO-, HYDROCEPHALUS. [Pok. ghebh-el- 423.]
A fork isn't like a head. Unless it's the noggin of a pointy-headed intellectual.


Final Examination

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to write a limerick (or Petrarchan or Spenserian sonnet, if you desire) on the following topic:
A lady in Brazil who made a special study of insects that are attracted to human feces noted that after each change of diet our excreta may appeal to different species of flies.
Ralph A. Lewin, Merde. Excursions in Scientific, Cultural, and Sociohistorical Coprology (New York: Random House, 1999), p. 40.

I have a first line -- There was a young lady from Rio. I'm trying to fit the Atkins diet in somehow, or the Pritikin. Are there any words that rhyme with Drosophila?

From my friend Bill Keezer via email:

A lady from Rio in scatology,
combined it with dipteran entomology.
To her great surprise,
the species of flies
were choosey towards gastroenterology.

The erudite Sauvage Noble composed Latin elegaic couplets!

Cum novum homō cibum edit, dīversum stercus is ēdit;
    quī invītat muscās alterius generis,
post cēnam adveniunt illī parasītī aliēnī.
    Quae invēnit mulier Brāsiliae studiō.

When a person eats new food, he puts forth different dung;
    who invites flies of one kind,
to him guests of another come after dinner.
    Which a woman of Brazil found by study.

From my son, a chip off the old block:

An entomologist from Brasilia
Studying dipterous coprophilia
Notes some flies preferred
A meat-eater's turd
While others favored vegetabilia.



Two great scholars died recently.

One was Roger Shattuck, whose book Forbidden Knowledge I'm currently reading. He was Commonwealth Professor of French at the University of Virginia when I was a graduate student in the classics department there. I think that his only academic degree was a B.A. from Yale -- his life and work refuted those who regard formal academic credentials as all-important.

The other was D.R. Shackleton Bailey, editor and translator of Cicero's letters, Martial, and other Latin texts. As if his unrivalled knowledge of Latin was not enough, he was also a Tibetan scholar, who edited Satapancasatka of Matrceta: Sanskrit text, Tibetan translation & commentary, and Chinese translation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951).

Saturday, December 10, 2005


The Lamp of Epictetus

Tony Augarde, The Oxford Guide to Word Games (1984; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 196:
Hannah More, in a letter to her sister on 17 February 1786, wrote:
Mrs Fielding and I, like pretty little Misses, diverted ourselves with teaching Sir Joshua and Lord Palmerston the play of twenty questions, and thoroughly did we puzzle them by picking out little obscure insignificant things which we collected from ancient history. Lord North overhearing us, desired to be initiated into this mysterious game, and it was proposed that I should question him: I did so, but his twenty questions were exhausted before he came near the truth. As he at length gave up the point, I told him my thought was the earthen lamp of Epictetus. 'I am quite provoked at my own stupidity,' said his lordship, 'for I quoted that very lamp last night in the House of Commons.' (The Letters of Hannah More, ed. R. Brimley Johnson, 1926).
Epictetus tells the story in his Discourses (tr. W.A. Oldfather).

Something similar happened to me also the other day. I keep an iron lamp by the side of my household gods, and, on hearing a noise at the window, I ran down. I found that the lamp had been stolen. I reflected that the man who stole it was moved by no unreasonable motive. What then? To morrow, I say, you will find one of earthenware.
That is why I lost my lamp, because in the matter of keeping awake the thief was better than I was. However, he bought a lamp for a very high price; for a lamp he became a thief, for a lamp he became faithless, for a lamp he became beast-like. This seemed to him to be profitable!
See also Lucian, The Ignorant Book Collector 13 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
But there: what need to go back to Orpheus and Neanthus? We have instances in our own days: I believe the man is still alive who paid 120 pounds [3000 drachmas] for the earthenware lamp of Epictetus the Stoic. I suppose he thought he had only to read by the light of that lamp, and the wisdom of Epictetus would be communicated to him in his dreams, and he himself assume the likeness of that venerable sage.


Thoughts in Church

Thomas Hardy, The Impercipient (At a Cathedral Service):

That from this bright believing band
    An outcast I should be,
That faiths by which my comrades stand
    Seem fantasies to me,
And mirage-mists their Shining Land,
    Is a drear destiny.

Why thus my soul should be consigned
    To infelicity,
Why always I must feel as blind
    To sights my brethren see,
Why joys they've found I cannot find,
    Abides a mystery.

Since heart of mine knows not that ease
    Which they know; since it be
That He who breathes All's Well to these
    Breathes no All's-Well to me,
My lack might move their sympathies
    And Christian charity!

I am like a gazer who should mark
    An inland company
Standing upfingered, with, "Hark! hark!
    The glorious distant sea!"
And feel, "Alas, 'tis but yon dark
    And wind-swept pine to me!"

Yet I would bear my shortcomings
    With meet tranquillity,
But for the charge that blessed things
    I'd liefer have unbe.
O, doth a bird deprived of wings
    Go earth-bound wilfully!
            * * *
Enough. As yet disquiet clings
    About us. Rest shall we.

William (Johnson) Cory, Mimnermus in Church:

You promise heavens free from strife,
    Pure truth, and perfect change of will;
But sweet, sweet is this human life,
    So sweet, I fain would breathe it still;
Your chilly stars I can forgo,
This warm kind world is all I know.

You say there is no substance here,
    One great reality above:
Back from that void I shrink in fear,
    And child-like hide myself in love:
Show me what angels feel. Till then
I cling, a mere weak man, to men.

You bid me lift my mean desires
    From faltering lips and fitful veins
To sexless souls, ideal quires,
    Unwearied voices, wordless strains:
My mind with fonder welcome owns
One dear dead friend's remember'd tones.

Forsooth the present we must give
    To that which cannot pass away;
All beauteous things for which we live
    By laws of time and space decay.
But O, the very reason why
I clasp them, is because they die.

Mark 9.24:

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Update: Roger Kuin suggests a poem by Emily Dickinson as an alternative to Hardy's poem.

Friday, December 09, 2005


The Monkey Wrench Gang

From the New York Times:
The arrests Wednesday were made in Charlottesville, Va., where a college student, Stanislas G. Meyerhoff, 28, was picked up, and in New York, where Daniel G. McGowan, 31, was arrested. They were indicted by a grand jury in Oregon for the arson at Superior Lumber and the May 21, 2001, fire at the Jefferson Poplar Farm in Oregon.

A 1998 fire at a government animal and plant health inspection site in Olympia, Wash., was the basis of indictments against Kevin M. Tubbs, 36, who was arrested in Oregon, and William C. Rodgers, 40, who was arrested in Arizona. Both men were indicted in Seattle.

Also in Arizona, Sarah K. Harvey, 28, a student at Northern Arizona University, was arrested and charged in connection with a 1998 arson at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford, Ore.

Chelsea D. Gerlach, 28, of Portland, Ore., was charged with two counts related to a crime that got a lot of attention during heightened terrorism fears on the eve of the millennium - the December 1999 destruction of a transmission tower near Bend, Ore.


The Corruption of the Times

Montaigne, Essays 3.9 (tr. E.J. Trechmann):
The corruption of the times is made up of the individual contributions of each one of us; some contribute treachery, others injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice, cruelty, according as they are more or less influential; the weaker sort bring to it folly, vanity, idleness: of these am I. It would seem as if unprofitable things were in season, when the hurtful weigh heavily upon us. At a time when wicked deeds are so common, merely unprofitable deeds are almost praiseworthy.

La corruption du siecle se fait, par la contribution particuliere de chacun de nous: Les uns y conferent la trahison, les autres l'injustice, l'irreligion, la tyrannie, l'avarice, la cruauté, selon qu'ils sont plus puissans: les plus foibles y apportent la sottise, la vanité, l'oisiveté: desquels je suis. Il semble que ce soit la saison des choses vaines, quand les dommageables nous pressent. En un temps, où le meschamment faire est si commun, de ne faire qu'inutilement, il est comme louable.


A Man in a Crowd

Montaigne, Essays 3.9 (tr. E.J. Trechmann):
A man who enters a crowd must go now this way, now that, keep in his elbows, retreat or advance, nay he must quit the straight path, according to what he encounters. He must live not so much according to himself as according to others; not according to what he proposes to himself, but according to what is proposed to him, according to the times, according to the men, according to the business in hand.

Celuy qui va en la presse, il faut qu'il gauchisse, qu'il serre ses couddes, qu'il recule, ou qu'il avance, voire qu'il quitte le droict chemin, selon ce qu'il rencontre: Qu'il vive non tant selon soy, que selon autruy: non selon ce qu'il se propose, mais selon ce qu'on luy propose: selon le temps, selon les hommes, selon les affaires.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Classical Philology

Ezra Pound, Notes on Elizabethan Classicists (1917-1918):
When the classics were a new beauty and ecstasy people cared a damn sight more about the meaning of the authors, and a damn sight less about their grammar and philology.


I know that all classic authors have been authoritatively edited and printed by Teubner, and their wording ultimately settled at Leipzig, but all questions concerning 'the classics' are not definitively settled, cold-storaged, and shelved.


It is perhaps important that the classics be humanly, rather than philologically taught, even in class-rooms. A barbaric age given over to education agitates for their exclusion and desuetude. Education is an onanism of the soul. Philology will be ascribed to De la Sade.


A Stale Odor

Montaigne, Essays 3.2 (tr. E.J. Trechmann):
Old age sets more wrinkles on the mind than on the face; and we never, or very seldom, see a soul that does not, as it grows old, smell sour or musty.

Elle nous attache plus de rides en l'esprit qu'au visage: et ne se voit point d'âmes, ou fort rares, qui en vieillissant ne sentent l'aigre et le moisi.
Ogden Nash, Lines On Facing Forty:
I have a bone to pick with Fate.
Come here and tell me, girlie,
Do you think my mind is maturing late,
Or simply rotted early?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005



The two best vacation trips I ever took were to Hannibal, Missouri (Mark Twain country) and Spillville, Iowa (where Dvorak spent a summer). When my mother heard about the latter vacation, she pitied my daughter and said, "Other kids get to go to Disneyland; she gets to go to Spillville." If you ever get to go to Spillville, stay here.


Contrasting Views

Luke 9.59-60 (par. Matthew 8.21-22):
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.
Sophocles, Electra 236-244 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Come, how can it be honourable to have no thought for the dead? Who among men has such an instinct? May I never enjoy honour among such people, and never may I live contented with any good thing I may have, if I restrain the wings of loud lamentation, dishonouring my father.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Shame in Paradise

Peter J. Gomes, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (New York: William Morrow, 1996), in a section entitled Augustine and the Invention of Shame, writes (p. 168):
The very organs of sex, the genitals, were called by Augustine pudena, from the Latin pudere, "to be ashamed."
Pudena is of course a misprint for pudenda, the neuter plural gerundive from pudere, with membra understood (parts to be ashamed of). If Gomes implies that no one before Augustine ever used this word with this meaning, then he is incorrect. Lewis and Short cite earlier examples.

Seneca, Ad Marciam De Consolatione 22.3 (tr. John Basore):
To this add fires and falling houses, and shipwrecks and the agonies from surgeons as they pluck bones from the living body, and thrust their whole hands deep into the bowels, and treat the private parts at the cost of infinite pain.

adice incendia ruinas naufragia lacerationesque medicorum ossa vivis legentium et totas in viscera manus demittentium et non per simplicem dolorem pudenda curantium.
Serenus Sammonicus 36.681:
We must also say what is the medicine for the private parts.

dicendum et quae sit membris medicina pudendis.
Yesterday I gave the title Paradise Regained to a blog post about William Blake and his wife reading Milton's Paradise Lost while naked, with the implication that there was no shame concerning the naked body in Paradise.

C.S. Lewis, in A Preface to Paradise Lost, chapter XVII (Unfallen Sexuality), has an interesting discussion about sex in Paradise. St. Augustine (City of God 14.26) thought that Adam and Eve did not have sexual relations in the Garden of Eden. But Milton (Paradise Lost 4.304-324) thought that they did:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine curls her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received,
Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.
Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed;
Then was not guilty shame, dishonest shame
Of nature's works, honour dishonourable,
Sin-bred, how have ye troubled all mankind
With shows instead, mere shows of seeming pure,
And banished from man's life his happiest life,
Simplicity and spotless innocence!
So passed they naked on, nor shunned the sight
Of God or Angel; for they thought no ill:
So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair,
That ever since in love's embraces met;
Adam the goodliest man of men since born
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.
Milton here says that Adam and Eve felt no guilty or dishonest shame, but Lewis asks if they felt any other type of shame and concludes that they did:
People blush at praise -- not only praise of their bodies, but praise of anything else that is theirs. Most people exhibit some kind of modesty or bashfulness, at least at the beginning, in receiving any direct statement of another human being's affection for them, even if that affection is quite unrelated to sex or to the body at all. To be valued is an experience which involves a curious kind of self-consciousness. The subject is suddenly compelled to remember that it is also an object, and, apparently, an object intently regarded; hence, in a well-ordered mind, feelings of unworthiness and anxiety, mingled with delight, spring up. There seems to be a spiritual, as well as a physical, nakedness, fearful of being found ugly, embarrassed even at being found lovely, reluctant (even when not amorously reluctant) to be found at all. If this is what we mean by shame we may, perhaps, conclude that there was shame in Paradise.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Paradise Regained

Garrison Keillor in his Writer's Almanac for November 28, 2005 told a charming story about William Blake:
One day he and his wife were sitting naked in their garden, reciting to each other passages from Paradise Lost. Blake was not embarrassed when a visitor came by. He said, "Come in! It's only Adam and Eve, you know."


Questions and Answers

Heinrich Heine, Fragen (tr. Hal Draper):

By the sea, by the desolate midnight sea,
A young fellow stands,
His breast full of sadness, his head full of doubt,
And with mournful lips he questions the waters:

"Oh, solve me the riddle of life,
The tormenting, primordial riddle
That so many heads before me have pondered -
Heads in hieroglyph miters,
Heads in turbans and black birettas,
Periwigged heads, and thousands of other
Poor, perspiring heads of humans:
Tell me, what is the meaning of Man?
Where has he come from? Where is he going?
Who dwells up there on the golden stars?

The waters murmur their eternal murmur,
The winds are blowing, the clouds are fleeting,
The stars are gleaming indifferent and cold,
And a fool waits for an answer.
Am Meer, am wüsten, nächtlichen Meer
Steht ein Jüngling-Mann,
Die Brust voll Wehmut, das Haupt voll Zweifel,
Und mit düstern Lippen fragt er die Wogen:

"O löst mir das Rätsel,
Das qualvoll uralte Rätsel,
Worüber schon manche Häupter gegrübelt,
Häupter in Hieroglyphenmützen,
Häupter in Turban und schwarzem Barett,
Perückenhäupter und tausend andere
Arme schwitzende Menschenhäupter -
Sagt mir, was bedeutet der Mensch?
Woher ist er gekommen? Wo geht er hin?
Wer wohnt dort oben auf goldenen Sternen?"

Es murmeln die Wogen ihr ewges Gemurmel,
Es wehet der Wind, es fliehen die Wolken,
Es blinken die Sterne, gleichgültig und kalt,
Und ein Narr wartet auf Antwort.

Zum Lazarus, 1 (tr. Hal Draper):

Drop those holy parables and
Pietist hypotheses;
Answer these damning questions -
No evasions, if you please.

Why do just men stagger, bleeding,
Crushed beneath their cross's weight,
While the victors ride the high horse,
Happy victors blest by fate!

Who's to blame? Is God not mighty,
Not with power panoplied?
Or is evil His own doing?
Ah, that would be vile indeed.

Thus we ask and keep on asking,
Till a handful of cold clay
Stops our mouths at last securely -
But pray tell, is that an answer?
Laß die heilgen Parabolen,
Laß die frommen Hypothesen -
Suche die verdammten Fragen
Ohne Umschweif uns zu lösen.

Warum schleppt sich blutend, elend,
Unter Kreuzlast der Gerechte,
Während glücklich als ein Sieger
Trabt auf hohem Roß der Schlechte?

Woran liegt die Schuld? Ist etwa
Unser Herr nicht ganz allmächtig?
Oder treibt er selbst den Unfug?
Ach, das wäre niederträchtig.

Also fragen wir beständig,
Bis man uns mit einer Handvoll
Erde endlich stopft die Mäuler -
Aber ist das eine Antwort?


Fellow Bloggers

My vote for the blogger who looks most like Santa Claus goes to Dave Haxton.

Worthy of notice is an interesting blog entitled Fragments of the New Stoa, which makes its debut with a series of penetrating meditations on Epictetus. The author gives his name as oudeis oudamou (οὐδείς οὐδαμοῦ = no one no where).


Death Sentence

Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach 41.1-3:
O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that liveth at rest in his possessions, unto the man that hath nothing to vex him, and that hath prosperity in all things: yea, unto him that is yet able to receive meat!

O death, acceptable is thy sentence unto the needy, and unto him whose strength faileth, that is now in the last age, and is vexed with all things, and to him that despaireth, and hath lost patience!

Fear not the sentence of death, remember them that have been before thee, and that come after; for this is the sentence of the Lord over all flesh.

Saturday, December 03, 2005



Rogueclassicism wonders if there was any ancient wine known as Guaranum with medicinal properties. It's probably just a typo for Gauranum, the wine from vines on Mount Gaurus (today Monte Gauro) in Campania. See Pliny, Natural History 14.8.64 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
To the third rank belonged the various wines of Alba, in the vicinity of the City, remarkable for their sweetness, and sometimes, though rarely, rough as well: the Surrentine wines, also, the growth of only stayed vines, which are especially recommended to invalids for their thinness and their wholesomeness. Tiberius Caesar used to say that the physicians had conspired thus to dignify the Surrentinum, which was, in fact, only another name for generous vinegar; while Caius Caesar, who succeeded him, gave it the name of "noble vappa." Vying in reputation with these are the Massic wines, from the spots which look from Mount Gaurus towards Puteoli and Baiae.

At tertiam palmam varie Albana urbi vicina, praedulcia ac rara in austero, item Surrentina in vineis tantum nascentia, convalescentibus maxime probata propter tenuitatem salubritatemque. Tiberius Caesar dicebat consensisse medicos ut nobilitatem Surrentino darent; alioqui esse generosum acetum; C. Caesar, qui successit illi, nobilem vappam. certant Massica atque a monte Gauro Puteolos Baiasque prospectantia.


Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has written a book entitled Are Men Necessary? I haven't read it, but supposedly she claims that most men dislike intelligent women and don't want to marry them.

The poet Martial said much the same thing (11.19):
You ask why I don't want to marry you, Gallia? You're learned. My prick is forever making a grammatical error.

Quaeris cur nolim te ducere, Gallia? Diserta es.
    saepe soloecismum mentula nostra facit.
As for me, I prefer an intelligent woman, even a plain one, to a pretty bimbo any day.


Growing Older

Dennis Mangan thinks being older is way better. Not so from my perspective. Despite their hardships, I miss my college years. I had no car or telephone; I was forced to sell my French horn to pay rent; while I was a student I worked as a janitor, cleaning toilets and scraping gum from underneath desks; once out of hunger I ate tomato soup from free catsup and hot water in the college cafeteria; I wasted years studying impractical subjects and dead languages; and I never got a full-time job in my area of study. But I was free and happy then, freer and happier than I've ever been since.

Friedrich Rückert, Mit vierzig Jahren (tr. Henry S. Drinker):
At forty years the mountain is ascended,
We look behind us down the slope;
We see our gentle days of childhood ended,
And youth so buoyant with hope.

Look once again, and stop no more to ponder.
But firmer grasp your staff again!
Before you is a ridge that stretches yonder,
And leads you downward to the plain.

You need not pant and strain lest fate defeat you.
The path will draw you unaware;
And as you go will bend to meet you,
So in a trice, you will be there,
Before you know, you will be there.

Mit vierzig Jahren ist der Berg erstiegen,
Wir stehen still und schaun zurück;
Dort sehen wir der Kindheit stilles liegen
Und dort der Jugend lautes Glück.

Noch einmal schau, und dann gekräftigt weiter
Erhebe deinen Wanderstab!
Hindehnt ein Bergesrücken sich, ein breiter,
Und hier nicht, drüben geht's hinab.

Nicht atmend aufwärts brauchst du mehr zu steigen,
Die Ebene zieht von selbst dich fort;
Dann wird sie sich mit dir unmerklich neigen,
Und eh' du's denkst, bist du im Port.

Emily Ezust
translates Rückert's poem more closely.

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