Saturday, September 30, 2006
Agathias Scholasticus on Latrines
All the extravagance of mortals and their expensive dishes excreted here have lost their previous charm. The pheasants and fishes, and the mixtures pounded in the mortar, and all that variety of kickshaws, become here dung. The belly rids itself of all that the ravenous gullet took in, and at length a man sees that in the pride of his foolish heart he spent so much gold on nothing but dust.Greek Anthology 9.643 (tr. Paton):
Πᾶν τὸ βροτῶν σπατάλμα καὶ ἡ πολύολβος ἐδοδὴ
ἐνθάδε κρινομένη τὴν πρὶν ὄλεσσε χάριν.
οἱ γὰρ φασιανοί τε καὶ ἰχθύες ἅ θ' ὑπὲρ ἴγδιν
τρίψιες ἤ τε τόση βρωματομιξαπάτη
γίνεται ἐνθάδε κόπρος· ἀποσσεύει δ' ἄρα γαστήρ
ὁππόσα πειναλέη δέξατο λαυκανίη.
ὀψὲ δὲ γινώσκει τις ὅτ' ἄφρονα μῆτιν ἀείρων
χρυσοῦ τοσσατίου τὴν κόνιν ἐπρίατο.
Why do you moan with the headache and groan bitterly for the heaviness you feel all over, and keep on smacking your belly, thinking to force out the work of your jaws? You would never have had all this trouble and labour if you had not largely exceeded yourself at table. When you are lying there guzzling you have a high opinion of yourself, and delight your palate with the viands, deeming that happiness. But here you are in distress, and your belly only gets many smacks to pay for the sins of your gullet.Greek Anthology 9.644 (tr. Paton):
Τί στενάχεις κεφαλὴν κεκακωμένος; ἐς τί δὲ πικρὰ
οἰμώζεις, μελέων πάγχυ βαρυνομένων;
ἐς τί δὲ γαστέρα σεῖο ῥαπίσμασιν ἀμφιπατάσσεις,
ἐκθλίψαι δοκέων μάστακος ἐργασίην;
μόχθων τοσσατίων οὔ σοι χρέος, εἰ παρὰ δαιτὶ
μὴ τοῦ ἀναγκαίου πουλὺ παρεξετάθης.
ἀλλ' ἐπὶ μὲν στιβάδος φρονέεις μέγα καὶ στόμα τέρπεις
βρώμασιν, εὐτυχίην κεῖνα λογιζόμενος·
ἐνθάδε δ' ἀσχάλλεις, μούνη δ' ἀλιτήματα λαιμοῦ
ἡ γαστὴρ τίνει πολλάκι τυπτομένη.
Blest are you, long-suffering labourer! You have only to put up, all your life, with the pains of hoeing and poverty. Simple are your meals, and you sleep in the woods, after satisfying your throat's vast thirst for water. Yet you are perfectly sound, and sitting here for a few moments lighten your belly. You don't rub down the lower part of your spine, or beat your thighs, but you get rid of the burden naturally. They are in evil case, the rich and those who associate with them, whom feasting pleases more than sound health.Greek Anthology 9.662 (tr. Paton):
Εὖγε, μάκαρ τλήθυμε γεωπόνε· σοὶ βίος αἰεὶ
μίμνειν καὶ σκαπάνης ἄλγεα καὶ πενίης·
λιτὰ δέ σοι καὶ δεῖπνα καὶ ἐν ξυλόχοισι καθεύδεις,
ὕδατος ἐμπλήσας λαιμὸν ἀμετροπότην.
ἔμπης ἀρτίπος ἐσσὶ καὶ ἐνθάδε βαιὰ καθεσθεὶς
αὐτίκα γαστέρα σὴν θῆκας ἐλαφροτάτην·
οὐδὲ καταψήχεις ἱερὴν ῥάχιν οὐδέ τι μηροὺς
τύπτεις, αὐτομάτως φόρτον ἀπωσάμενος.
τλήμονες οἱ πλουτοῦντες, <ἀεὶ> πυκινοῖσι συνόντες,
οἷς πλέον ἀρτεμίης εὔαδεν εἰλαπίνη.
I am a place formerly hideous, divided by brick walls, and here the bellies of strangers, natives, and countrymen thunderously relieved themselves. But Agathias, the father of the city, transformed me and made me distinguished instead of most ignoble.
Χῶρος ἐγὼ τὸ πρὶν μὲν ἔην στυγερωπὸς ἰδέσθαι,
πηλοδόμοις τοίχοις ἀμφιμεριζόμενος.
ἐνθάδε δὲ ξείνων τε καὶ ἐνδαπίων καὶ ἀγροίκων
νηδὺς ἐπεγδούπει λύματα χευομένη.
ἀλλὰ πατήρ με πόληος ἐναλλάξας Ἀγαθίας
θῆκεν ἀρίζηλον τὸν πρὶν ἀτιμότατον.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Fate of Captives and Detainees
I'm reading W. Kendrick Pritchett, The Greek State at War: Part V (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991). Chapter II, Section III (pp. 203-312), deals with the "Fate of Captives" and is a rich collection of ancient evidence for the killing, enslavement, ransom, or release of prisoners of war, along with parallels from modern warfare. The following excerpts seem especially apposite.
W.W. Tarn (Alexander the Great 2 [Cambridge 1948] 65-66) observes, "No public man throughout Greek history is, I think, recorded to have shown pity; it was unmanly, and best left to poets and philosophers," referring to Epikouros (for slaves) and Euripides (throughout). Rostovtzeff (SEHHW 3.1458) writes, "For the Romans, as for the Greeks, the ideas of humanitas, fides, clementia remained pure theory so far at least as concerned the practice of war."P. 212, n. 313:
Virtually any atrocity of antiquity can be matched in the wars of the twentieth century.P. 312:
The Greeks never romanticized war. They were too close to spear thrusts and sword hacking to regard it from a safe distance. War was a part of the fabric of society, on a par with earthquakes, droughts, destructive storms, and slavery. A speaker at the opening of Plato's Laws (1.626 A) says, "Peace is nothing more than a name, the truth being that every state is by a law of nature engaged perpetually in a war with every other state." We living more than twenty centuries later may endorse popular movements which have as their slogan "Peace at any price," but in the city-states it was a fact of life when a city destroyed a neighbor, killing the adult males and selling the women and children into slavery. The ancient, in turn, would have found our society obsessed with pity, fear, and guilt, even to the point of demoralization.
More on Epiphanies
Euripides, Hippolytus 84-84 (tr. E.P. Coleridge), where Hippolytus is praying to Artemis:
For I, and none other of mortals, have this high guerdon, to be with thee, with thee converse, hearing thy voice, though not thy face beholding.In their commentaries on this play, W.S. Barrett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964) and Michael R. Halleran (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1995) do not discuss the fact that Artemis manifests herself exclusively to Hippolytus and does so through his sense of hearing alone, not sight.
ἐγκέχοδα μόνωι γάρ ἐστι τοῦτ' ἐμοὶ γέρας βροτῶν·
σοὶ καὶ ξύνειμι καὶ λόγοις ἀμείβομαι,
κλύων μὲν αὐδῆς, ὄμμα δ' οὐχ ὁρῶν τὸ σόν.
On the exclusive appearance, see Homer, Odyssey 16.159-163 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
And she [Athena] stood over against the door of the hut, showing herself to Odysseus, but Telemachus did not see her before him, or notice her; for it is not at all the case that the gods appear in manifest presence to all. But Odysseus saw her, and the dogs, and they did not bark, but with whining slunk in fear to the farther part of the farmstead.On the manifestation by hearing alone, see Sophocles' Ajax 14-17 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Voice of Athena, dearest of the gods to me [Odysseus], how easily do I hear your words and grasp them with my mind, even if I cannot see you, as though a Tyrrhenian trumpet spoke with brazen mouth.It is interesting to compare Saul's vision on the road to Damascus. Details differ slightly in the three descriptions of this vision in the Acts of the Apostles.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.Some think that Saul's companions heard only a sound, not a voice, at 9.7. Cf. John 12.28-29: "Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him."
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.Here Saul's companions did not hear the voice (22.9).
And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
And I said, What shall I do, LORD? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.
And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.At 26.14, for "I heard a voice speaking unto me," the Western Text reads "For I myself alone heard a voice speaking unto me."
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
The only commentary on Acts available to me, by F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 13th printing, 1977), refers on 9.3-6 to the Hebrew bath qol ("the daughter of the voice [of God]") but cites no classical Greek parallels. E.R. Dodds thought that the author of Acts was familiar with Euripides' Bacchae.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
[T]he past is a much bigger place than the present, so it follows that most worthwhile books were published not last week but some time in the previous three millennia. Every minute devoted to reading the new and middling is a minute spent languishing away from the old and dependably superior.I wonder if Patrick would include blogs among the "new and middling."
I recently happened on the following quotation from Jeremy Collier (an old author, 1650-1726) in a new book by Henry Hitchings, Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), p. 84:
By reading, a man does, as it were, antedate his life, and makes himself contemporary with the ages past.Making oneself contemporary with ages past can be difficult, but rewarding, intellectual work. Owen Barfield, History in English Words (London: Faber, 1953; rpt. 1969), pp. 162-163, explains just how difficult it is:
In order to enter sympathetically into the outlook of an educated medieval gentleman, we have to perform the difficult feat of undressing, as it were, our own outlook by divesting it of all those seemingly innate ideas of progress and evolution, of a movement of some sort going on everywhere around us, which make our cosmos what it is. This is more difficult even than it sounds, because many of these thoughts and feelings have become subconscious. We have imbibed them with our vocabulary and cannot without much labour and research disentangle the part that is due to them from the rest of our consciousness. Let us try, for a moment, to realize with our imaginations as well as with our intellects the world in which our fathers dwelt -- a world created abruptly at a fixed moment in time, and awaiting a destruction equally abrupt, its inhabitants for ever to be the same, and for ever struggling, not to progress or to evolve into something different, but rather to become once more exactly like the first man and woman. Where we speak of progress and evolution, the Middle Ages could speak only of regeneration and amendment. Their evolution was like Alice's race with the Red Queen. It took all their energies to keep still; and even in this they had very little hope of succeeding, for they believed that the world was getting steadily worse.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Monday, September 25, 2006
Kenneth Roberts on Beans
Thursday nights were big nights for the young fry in Grandmother's house, because that was the night for boiled dinner; but the biggest night of all was Saturday night. The rich scent of cooking had percolated through the house all day, and above all the other scents had risen the meaty, fruity, steamy odor of baked beans.He waxes no less eloquent in another essay entitled "An Inquiry into Diets:"
Ah me! Those Saturday night dinners of baked beans, brown bread, cottage cheese, Grandma's ketchup; and for a grand finale, chocolate custards! I can hear myself, a child again, begging and begging for another plate of beans -- just one more plate of beans; hear the inexorable voice of authority say firmly, "You've had three plates already!" And in spite of that I can hear myself, pestlike, continuing to beg, "Just three beans! Just three more!" I usually got three additional beans, no more, no less; and always they were as delicious, as rich, as tantalizing in their toothsome mellowness as the first spoonful had been.
Other may insist on soufflés, ragouts, entremets, vol-au-vents; but I prefer baked beans cooked the way my grandmother used to cook them.
I have also viewed with favor a commodious platter of corned beef hash, or a savory mess of pea beans, impregnated with pork, molasses, mustard, and onion in the proper proportion; then baked about thirty-six hours in a well-ripened bean pot.Baked beans also play a role in Roberts' novels, for example in his Rabble in Arms (1929), about Benedict Arnold's expedition to Quebec during the American Revolutionary War. The protagonist, Steven Nason, describes an evening at the family home:
My baked-bean record, to the best of my knowledge and belief, compares favorably with that of any New Englander. From my earliest years I have had what might almost be called an affinity for baked beans, especially when lubricated with homemade tomato catsup from which all sweetening has been religiously excluded.
When confronted with a successful baking of beans, I have frequently attacked them enthusiastically on Saturday night, gladly repeated on Sunday morning, then toyed with two or three platefuls, cold, on Sunday evening, and made a final clean-up of the bean situation at my Monday morning breakfast.
My oldest sister Hepsibah stood guard over the bean pots to make sure the pork was on top for its final browning, which is one reason for the toothsomeness of the bean as cooked in our family. Coarse fare though it may be, I would liefer have it as Malary cooked it, and as Cynthia still cooks it, than all the ragouts and French flummeries you can show me. (chapter II)In an Abenaki Indian encampment, faced with a meal of venison dipped in sugared raccoon fat, Nason muses:
Seeing the pleasure my father took in this food, I tried it and found it had merit, though I shall never prefer it to three or four platters of my sister Cynthia's baked beans, laced with my mother's sauce made from cucumbers and onions. (chapter VI)Aboard the sloop Eunice bound for Newburyport, he has beans for breakfast:
If there is a better or tastier breakfast than beans and mustard pickle and coffee and hot bread and an apple pie with cinnamon, I have never found it in many years of traveling. (chapter XIV)In chapter XXVI, the soldiers on the expedition to Quebec, starving and reduced to eating boiled leather for sustenance, argue about the best way to soften beans in preparation for baking (parboiling or overnight soaking), about the best accompaniment to beans (hot bread or sour milk cheese), and about what makes beans less "windy" (mustard or parboiling). One thing they don't talk about is the proper sweetening (molasses, brown sugar, or maple syrup). In the Northeastern corner of the United States, some people debate these matters with the same fervor that you hear when you listen to Southerners discussing barbecue.
And finally, when Steven Nason returns home to Arundel, what's the first sight that greets him?
My sister Cynthia stood by the brick oven holding a bean pot cover in her hand and peering at the beans. (chapter XXXVI)
How To Ogle
Barbara was the subject of Mr Chuckster's commendations; and as she was lingering near the carriage (all being now ready for its departure), that gentleman was suddenly seized with a strong interest in the proceedings, which impelled him to swagger down the garden, and take up his position at a convenient ogling distance. Having had great experience of the sex, and being perfectly acquainted with all those little artifices which find the readiest road to their hearts, Mr Chuckster, on taking his ground, planted one hand on his hip, and with the other adjusted his flowing hair. This is a favourite attitude in the polite circles, and, accompanied with a graceful whistling, has been known to do immense execution.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I have to state that Philology, both Comparative and special, has been my favourite pursuit during the whole of my life, and that I possess a general acquaintance with the languages & literature of the Aryan and Syro-Arabic classes – not indeed to say that I am familiar with all or nearly all of these, but that I possess that general lexical and structural knowledge which makes the intimate knowledge only a matter of a little application. With several I have a more intimate acquaintance as with the Romance tongues, Italian, French, Catalan, Spanish, Latin & in a lesser degree Portuguese, Vaudois, Provençal & various dialects. In the Teutonic branch, I am tolerably familiar with Dutch (having at my place of business correspondence to read in Dutch, German, French & occasionally other languages), Flemish, German and Danish. In Anglo-Saxon and Moeso-Gothic my studies have been much closer, I having prepared some works for publication upon these languages. I know a little of the Celtic, and am at present engaged with the Sclavonic, having obtained a useful knowledge of Russian. In the Persian, Achaemenian Cuneiform, & Sanscrit branches, I know for the purposes of Comparative Philology. I have sufficient knowledge of Hebrew & Syriac to read at sight the Old Testament and Peshito; to a less degree I know Aramaic Arabic, Coptic and Phenician to the point where it was left by Genesius.Murray didn't get the job. Despite his knowledge, he had no academic credentials.
Counterfeited Tears and Laughter
Well may they venture on the Mimic's art,This is an imitation of Juvenal 3.100-103 (tr. G.G. Ramsay):
Who play from Morn to Night a borrow'd Part;
Practis'd their Master's Notions to embrace,
Repeat his Maxims, and reflect his Face;
With ev'ry wild Absurdity comply,
And view each Object with another's Eye;
To shake with Laughter ere the Jest they hear,
To pour at Will the counterfeited Tear;
And as their Patron hints the Cold or Heat,
To shake in Dog-days, in December sweat.
They are a nation of play-actors. If you smile, your Greek will split his sides with laughter; if he sees his friend drop a tear, he weeps, though without grieving; if you call for a bit of fire in winter-time, he puts on his cloak; if you say 'I am hot,' he breaks into a sweat.I'm sure someone else besides me has noticed the parallel in a poem by Ammianus, Greek Anthology 9.573 (tr. W.R. Paton):
natio comoeda est. rides, maiore cachinno
concutitur; flet, si lacrimas conspexit amici,
nec dolet; igniculum brumae si tempore poscas,
accipit endromidem; si dixeris "aestuo," sudat.
Sit not, O man, at another's table indulging thy belly with the bread of reproach, now weeping with the weeper and the sour-countenanced, and now laughing with the laugher, sharing both laughter and tears when thou hast no need of either.Ammianus seems to have been roughly contemporary with Juvenal. Another poem by Ammianus (Greek Anthology 11.226) recalls the last couplet of an epigram by Juvenal's friend Martial (9.29). Here they are for comparison.
Μὴ σύ γ' ἐπ' ἀλλοτρίης, ὤνθρωφ', ἵζοιο τραπέζης
ψωμὸν ὀνείδειον γαστρὶ χαριζόμενος,
ἄλλοτε μὲν κλαίοντι καὶ ἐστυγνωμένῳ ὄμμα
συγκλαίων καὖθις σὺν γελόωντι γελῶν,
οὔτε σύ γε κλαυθμοῦ κεχρημένος, οὔτε γέλωτος
καὶ κλαιωμιλίη, καὶ γελοωμιλίη.
Ammianus, Greek Anthology 11.226 (tr. W.R. Paton):
May the dust lie light on thee when under earth, wretched Nearchus, so that the dogs may easily drag thee out.Martial 9.29.11-12 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Εἴη σοι κατὰ γῆς κούφη κόνις, οἰκτρὲ Νέαρχε,
ὄφρα σε ῥηιδίως ἐξερύσωσι κύνες.
Let earth be light upon you and soft sand be your covering, lest the dogs be unable to dig up your bones.
Sit tibi terra levis mollique tegaris harena,
ne tua non possint eruere ossa canes.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
At the United Nations, anti-imperialist Chavez began his speech by displaying a copy of U.S. writer Noam Chomsky's book "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance" and recommended that Americans read it.If I can ever find a publisher for my magnum opus (Noctes Scatologicae), I think I'll send a copy to Chavez as well as to Oprah.
By Thursday, the book had risen from backlist obscurity to be the No. 3 bestseller on Amazon.com. Before the speech, the 2004 book reprinted by Owl Books was being outsold by thousands of other titles on the online bookseller's Web site.
On Thursday, Coliseum Books in mid-town Manhattan was sold out of the book by the famed linguistic scholar and critic of U.S. foreign policy.
"After the Chavez speech, we promptly sold out," one manager at the store said. "And looking at our computer, it looks like our wholesaler has sold out too."
Hat tip: Jim K.
The Case for Pseudonymous Blogging
Greek and Latin Dog Names
In book 9 of the Greek Anthology the dog names Gorgo (9.268.1), Kalathina (or Calathina, 9.303.1), and Lampo (9.417.1) appear.
In More Classical Dog Names, the following lists of dog names were cited but not quoted.
First, a corrupt passage from Pseudo-Apollodorus's Bibliotheca 3.4.4 (tr. J.G. Frazer):
The names of Actaeon's dogs from the . . . . SoSecond, Columella De re rustica 7.12.13 (tr. Henry David Thoreau):
Now surrounding his fair body, as it were that of a beast,
The strong dogs rent it. Near Arcena first.
. . . . after her a mighty brood,
Lynceus and Balius goodly-footed, and Amarynthus. --
And these he enumerated continuously by name.
And then Actaeon perished at the instigation of Zeus.
For the first that drank their master's black blood
Were Spartus and Omargus and Bores, the swift on the track.
These first ate of Actaeon and lapped his blood.
And after them others rushed on him eagerly . . . .
To be a remedy for grievous pains to men.
But they are not to be called by very long names, that each being called may hear the more quickly, nor yet by shorter than may be pronounced by 2 syllables, like the Greek Skylax, Latin Ferox, Greek Lakon, Latin Celer, or female like the Greek Spoude, Alke, Rome, Latin Lupa, Cerva, Tigris.Thoreau's translation of Columella's remarks on dogs appears in his Journal under the date May 7, 1856. It is not in the Torrey-Allen edition, which omits "long quotations, especially from Latin authors, entered without comment, as in a common-place book." I found it on the World Wide Web, here, in a collection of transcripts made for the edition of the Journals being published by Princeton University Press. Whenever I type a few words of Thoreau's journals into Google, I often end up at the .pdf files of these transcripts, which are apparently not intended for public perusal.
Nominibus autem non longissimis appellandi sunt, quo celerius quisque vocatus exaudiat, nec tamen brevioribus quam quae duabus syllabis enuntiantur, sicuti Graecum est Skylax, Latinum Ferox, Graecum Lakon, Latinum Celer, vel femina, ut sunt Graeca Spoude, Alke, Rome, Latina Lupa, Cerva, Tigris.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
King of Kings Again
Lord of lords, most blessed among the blessed, power most perfect among the perfect, O blessed Zeus, hear! And from your offspring ward off in utter abhorrence the lust of men, and into the purple sea cast their black-benched madness!A commentary on Supplices would undoubtedly give more examples, but I don't own one.
ἄναξ ἀνάκτων, μακάρων
μακάρτατε καὶ τελέων
τελειότατον κράτος, ὄλβιε Ζεῦ,
πιθοῦ τε καὶ γένει σῷ
ἄλευσον ἀνδρῶν ὕβριν εὖ στυγήσας.
λίμνᾳ δ' ἔμβαλε πορφυροειδεῖ
τὰν μελανόζυγ' ἄταν.
Fournier, Vespasian, Claudius, and Elvis
This is not a unique error. A quick Google search turned up other examples, including one by someone evidently not very careful with the English language:
I have the worlds most messuped up dog. But she is cool with thunder now. When I first got her, she would deificate all over at any loud or sudden noise.The confusion between deification and defecation reminded me of some last words attributed to Roman emperors. According to Suetonius, Life of Vespasian 23.4, that emperor on his deathbed said, "Vae, puto, deus fio," i.e. "Oh dear, I suppose I'm turning into a god," referring to the custom of deifying emperors after their death.
Seneca, in his spoof on the deification of Claudius called the Apocolocyntosis Divi Claudii (the Pumpkinification or Gourdification of the Divine Claudius), joked about what Claudius' last words might have been (4.3, tr. P.T. Eden):
This was the last utterance of his to be heard in this world, after he had let out a louder sound from that part by which he found it easier to communicate: 'Oh dear, I think I've shit myself.' I rather suspect he did. He certainly shat up everything else.Deification at the end for Vespasian, defecation for Claudius? Not really. It was also defecation at the end for Vespasian (Suetonius, Life of Vespasian 24, tr. J.C. Rolfe):
ultima vox eius haec inter homines audita est, cum maiorem sonitum emisisset illa parte, qua facilius loquebatur: 'vae me, puto, concacavi me.' quod an fecerit, nescio: omnia certe concacavit.
Taken on a sudden with such an attack of diarrhoea that he all but swooned, he said, "An emperor ought to die standing," and while he was struggling to get on his feet, he died in the arms of those who tried to help him, on the ninth day before the Kalends of July, at the age of sixty-nine years, one month and seven days.It seems from Suetonius' account that Vespasian died on the toilet, like that other famous king, Elvis.
Elvis Presley has been practically deified by some of his admirers. A few years ago hairdresser Flo Briggs offered one of Elvis Presley's teeth and some of his hair for sale on eBay. Briggs had displayed these holy relics in a shrine at her Yellow Strawberry Salon for almost ten years, but wanted to get rid of them because security costs to protect them were too high. The minimum bid for the tooth was $100,000. I don't know if Briggs ever succeeded in selling the relics, but locks of Elvis' hair did once sell at auction for $115,000. His barber Homer Gilleland (no relation of mine) collected them over the years and stored them in Taystee bread bags.
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.
Back to Guy Fournier. One of the sins that caused his downfall was a radio interview in which he spoke for over ten minutes about the joys of defecation. According to a story by Graeme Hamilton in the National Post,
Mr. Fournier recounted a train trip in the early 1960s during which a friend named Michel said going number two was as pleasurable as having sex.Although my first name in French is Michel, I deny that I ever went on a train trip with Guy Fournier in the early 1960's.
"From that moment, I started paying closer attention -- and I have to tell you, I quickly realized that Michel was entirely right," Mr. Fournier said.
"And the most extraordinary thing is that, in the end, as you grow older, you continue to go poop once a day if you are in good health, while it is not easy to make love every day. So finally, the pleasure is longer-lasting and more frequent than the other."
He also advised against distractions while on the toilet. "There are even people who push the heresy to the point of doing Sudoku or crosswords rather than concentrating on the pleasure that they would have doing the thing," Mr. Fournier told his radio interviewer. "It is just as heretical as if you read the National Post while making love. It is not to be recommended."
Phil Flemming writes via email:
I'm told that out here in the Southwest there are two practicing cults of Elvis-worshippers, the Elvoids and Elvites. They despise each other and are not allowed to convention in Vegas at the same time after a problem some years ago. Both groups shun publicity and vow to keep the central tenets of their faiths from unbelievers. I think I met an Elvoid some years ago at a gunshow. On his black camos he was wearing a little gold pin that said "Elvis is God." I decided not to argue theology with a man dressed and armed like someone who preferred to settle his arguments ballistically.I wonder if the name of the Elvoid cult is intended to suggest the manner of Elvis' death. Webster's Dictionary (1913), s.v. void as a verb:
2. To throw or send out; to evacuate; to emit; to discharge; as, to void excrements.
I, too, loved Homer, but not with a scholar’s love. The most humble and pious among women was yet so proud a mother that she could teach her firstborn son no Watts’ hymns, no collects for the day; she could teach him in earliest childhood no less than this, to find a home in his saddle, and to love old Homer, and all that old Homer sung. True it is, that the Greek was ingeniously rendered into English, the English of Pope even, but not even a mesh like that can screen an earnest child from the fire of Homer’s battles.
I pored over the Odyssey as over a story-book, hoping and fearing for the hero whom yet I partly scorned. But the Iliad — line by line I clasped it to my brain with reverence as well as with love. As an old woman deeply trustful sits reading her Bible because of the world to come, so, as though it would fit me for the coming strife of this temporal world, I read and read the Iliad. Even outwardly, it was not like other books; it was throned in towering folios. There was a preface or dissertation printed in type still more majestic than the rest of the book; this I read, but not till my enthusiasm for the Iliad had already run high. The writer compiling the opinions of many men, and chiefly of the ancients, set forth, I know not how quaintly, that the Iliad was all in all to the human race — that it was history, poetry, revelation; that the works of men’s hands were folly and vanity, and would pass away like the dreams of a child, but that the kingdom of Homer would endure for ever and ever.
I assented with all my soul. I read, and still read; I came to know Homer. A learned commentator knows something of the Greeks, in the same sense as an oil-and-colour man may be said to know something of painting; but take an untamed child, and leave him alone for twelve months with any translation of Homer, and he will be nearer by twenty centuries to the spirit of old Greece; HE does not stop in the ninth year of the siege to admire this or that group of words; HE has no books in his tent, but he shares in vital counsels with the “king of men,” and knows the inmost souls of the impending gods; how profanely he exults over the powers divine when they are taught to dread the prowess of mortals! and most of all, how he rejoices when the God of War flies howling from the spear of Diomed, and mounts into heaven for safety! Then the beautiful episode of the Sixth Book: the way to feel this is not to go casting about, and learning from pastors and masters how best to admire it. The impatient child is not grubbing for beauties, but pushing the siege; the women vex him with their delays, and their talking; the mention of the nurse is personal, and little sympathy has he for the child that is young enough to be frightened at the nodding plume of a helmet; but all the while that he thus chafes at the pausing of the action, the strong vertical light of Homer’s poetry is blazing so full upon the people and things of the Iliad, that soon to the eyes of the child they grow familiar as his mother’s shawl; yet of this great gain he is unconscious, and on he goes, vengefully thirsting for the best blood of Troy, and never remitting his fierceness till almost suddenly it is changed for sorrow — the new and generous sorrow that he learns to feel when the noblest of all his foes lies sadly dying at the Scaean gate.
Heroic days are these, but the dark ages of schoolboy life come closing over them. I suppose it is all right in the end, yet, by Jove, at first sight it does seem a sad intellectual fall from your mother's dressing-room to a buzzing school. You feel so keenly the delights of early knowledge; you form strange mystic friendships with the mere names of mountains, and seas, and continents, and mighty rivers; you learn the ways of the planets, and transcend their narrow limits, and ask for the end of space; you vex the electric cylinder till it yields you, for your toy to play with, that subtle fire in which our earth was forged; you know of the nations that have towered high in the world, and the lives of the men who have saved whole empires from oblivion. What more will you ever learn? Yet the dismal change is ordained, and then, thin meagre Latin (the same for everybody), with small shreds and patches of Greek, is thrown like a pauper's pall over all your early lore. Instead of sweet knowledge, vile, monkish, doggerel grammars and graduses, dictionaries and lexicons, and horrible odds and ends of dead languages, are given you for your portion, and down you fall, from Roman story to a three-inch scrap of "Scriptores Romani," — from Greek poetry down, down to the cold rations of "Poetae Graeci," cut up by commentators, and served out by schoolmasters!
It was not the recollection of school nor college learning, but the rapturous and earnest reading of my childhood, which made me bend forward so longingly to the plains of Troy.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
With Achilles in the Trenches
In my garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past. I go into my library, and all history unrolls before me. I breathe the morning air of the world while the scent of Eden's roses yet lingered in it, while it vibrated only to the world's first brood of nightingales, and to the laugh of Eve. I see the Pyramids building; I hear the shoutings of the armies of Alexander; I feel the ground shake beneath the march of Cambyses. I sit as in a theatre, -- the stage is time, the play is the play of the world. What a spectacle it is! What kingly pomp, what processions file past, what cities burn to heaven, what crowds of captives are dragged at the chariot-wheels of conquerors! I hiss, or cry "Bravo," when the great actors come on the shaking stage. I am a Roman emperor when I look at a Roman coin. I lift Homer, and I shout with Achilles in the trenches.
News from Maine
At 5:49 p.m., at Huntington Hill Road there was a herd of goats in the roadway that was obstructing traffic.Last Sunday in Sidney (ibid.):
At 12:27 a.m., deputies responded to an I-95 caller who said he had hit a moose.Now is the mating season for moose, and amorous urges sometimes compel bull moose to approach even automobiles. My mother once encountered, but did not hit, a moose, also on I-95. It came up to her car, peered through the windshield for a while, and finally wandered off. It probably didn't help that my mother usually drives at about the speed of an ambling moose.
If I can ever afford to retire, I would like to move to Farmington, Maine (population 7,410), where I own some land. The news from Farmington was unsettling this week (from the Morning Sentinel police log):
Rumors of a possible gang fight among middle-school age youngsters at the Farmington Fair Monday night were baseless, according to Farmington Police Chief Richard Caton III.Despite the risk of gang violence, I wish I could attend the Farmington Fair this week and see the draft horse pull, the beekeeping exhibit, the snowshoe making demonstration, the Franklin County Fiddlers, etc. Some members of the Young Farmers 4-H Club will be showing their pigs. I'll bet none of Farmington's wannabe gangsters are members of the Young Farmers 4-H Club.
"We had about 20 to 25 calls today from parents, teachers, bus drivers who said they had heard something was going to happen and wanted to ask us about it," Caton said.
"We looked into it, called lots of students whose names were passed on to us and we called their parents and we have no evidence other than rumors," he said. "We are all on high alert and will have zero tolerance for any illegal activity and will aggressively enforce the law. Warnings will not be an option."
He cautioned parents, however, to be alert to their children dressing in a particular color scheme, often an indication of gang activity. The youth mentioned attend schools in Farmington, Wilton, Jay and Livermore Falls.
The most shocking news from Maine recently was the gruesome multiple homicide in the small town of Newry (population 344). A headline in the Portland Press Herald said Businesses fear tragedy could deter leaf-peepers. A "leaf-peeper" is a tourist who visits to see the colorful autumn leaves. If I know anything of the human propensity to peep and gawk, I would guess that the tragedy will attract more peepers to Newry than it will deter.
Remedy for Sorrow and Grief
For though a man have sorrow and grief in his newly-troubled soul and live in dread because his heart is distressed, yet, when a singer, the servant of the Muses, chants the glorious deeds of men of old and the blessed gods who inhabit Olympus, at once he forgets his heaviness and remembers not his sorrows at all; but the gifts of the goddesses soon turn him away from these.
Εἰ γάρ τις καὶ πένθος ἔχων νεοκηδέι θυμῷ
ἄζηται κραδίην ἀκαχήμενος, αὐτὰρ ἀοιδὸς
Μουσάων θεράπων κλέεα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων
ὑμνήσῃ μάκαράς τε θεούς, οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν,
αἶψ᾽ ὅ γε δυσφροσυνέων ἐπιλήθεται οὐδέ τι κηδέων
μέμνηται· ταχέως δὲ παρέτραπε δῶρα θεάων.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
A Poem by Palladas
This is all the life there is.A more literal translation by W.R. Paton:
It is good enough for me.
Worry won't make another,
Or make this one last longer.
The flesh of man wastes in time.
Today there's wine and dancing.
Today there's flowers and women.
We might as well enjoy them.
Tomorrow — nobody knows.
Τοῦτο βίος, τοῦτ᾽ αὐτό· τρυφὴ βίος. ἔρρετ᾽ ἀνῖαι·
ζωῆς ἀνθρώποις ὀλίγος χρόνος. ἄρτι Λύαιος,
ἄρτι χοροί, στέφανοί τε φιλανθέες, ἄρτι γυναῖκες·
σήμερον ἐσθλὰ πάθω· τὸ γὰρ αὔριον οὐδενὶ δῆλον.
This is life, and nothing else is; life is delight; away, dull care! Brief are the years of man. To-day wine is ours, and the dance, and flowery wreaths, and women. To-day let me live well; none knows what may be to-morrow.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Seek not in me the big I capital,Iota subscript does not appear beneath upsilon (υ) in Greek, only beneath alpha (ᾳ), eta (ῃ), and omega (ῳ).
Not yet the little dotted in me seek.
If I have in me any I at all,
'Tis the iota subscript of the Greek.
So small am I as an attention beggar.
The letter you will find me subscript to
Is neither alpha, eta, nor omega,
But upsilon which is the Greek for you.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Sponge on a Stick
XANTHIAS: Hey, what's happened to you?A sponge, when used for this purpose, was sometimes attached to a stick.
DIONYSUS: "The bowel is empty [ἐγκέχοδα]: call upon the god!"
XANTHIAS: Get up, won't you, quickly, you ridiculous fool, before anyone else sees you!
DIONYSUS [rising]: I feel I might faint. Give me a sponge [σφογγιάν] for my heart.
XANTHIAS [producing a sponge from the luggage-bundle and offering it to Dionysus]: Here, take it. [Dionysus lifts his clothes with his left hand; his right hand, holding the sponge, disappears behind his back.] Where is it? [Moving round behind Dionysus, and seeing that he is in fact using the sponge to wipe his bottom.] Ye golden gods! is that where you keep your heart?
DIONYSUS: Yes, it was frightened and slunk down into my lower abdomen.
XANTHIAS: You're the most cowardly god or man alive!
DIONYSUS: Me? What do you mean cowardly, when I actually asked you for a sponge? No other man would have done it!
XANTHIAS: What would he have done?
DIONYSUS: If he was really a coward, he'd have just stayed on the ground smelling his own stink. Whereas I, I stood up, and what's more, I wiped myself clean [ἀπεψησάμην].
The Greek word for a sponge on a stick is ξυλοσπόγγιον (xylospongion), from ξύλον (xylon = wood) and σπόγγιον (spongion = sponge). The Greek lexicon of Liddell, Scott, and Jones gives only a single citation, Hippiatr.69,100. This is a reference to vol. 1, pp. 69 and 100 of E. Oder and C. Hoppe, edd. Corpus Hippiatricorum Graecorum, 2 vols. (1924-1927), which is unavailable to me. According to Herbert Chayyim Youtie and John Garrett Winter, Papyri and Ostraca from Karanis. Second Series (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1951) = Michigan Papyri, Vol. VIII, p. 39, in these veterinary texts the word means "a sponge attached to a stick for the purpose of applying medicine to open sores." I do not find this word in the Poorly Attested Words in Ancient Greek project at the Università degli Studi di Genova.
The Romans were acquainted with the word as well as the thing. The word appears in a letter by Terentianus Claudianus preserved on papyrus (P.Mich. VIII, 471.29-30, tr. Youtie and Winter):
He paid no more attention to me than to a sponge stick, but (looked only) to his own business and his own affairs.The word also appears in an inscription from Ostia (L'Année Épigraphique 1941, 5):
non magis quravit me pro xylesphongium sed su<u>m negotium et circa res suas.
Durum cacantes monuit ut nitant Thales //I'm not sure how to translate this inscription. "Durum cacantes monuit ut nitant Thales" means "Thales [one of the Seven Sages] recommended that those who defecate with difficulty should strain," and "Verbose tibi nemo dicit" means "No one speaks to you with many words." "Utaris xylosphongio" is "you use the sponge on a stick," with "utaris" as second person singular present subjunctive of "utor", followed by the ablative. This could be subjunctive after "dum" ("provided that", "as long as"), but how does the name "Priscianus" fit in? Nominativus pro vocativo? If so, the words from "Verbose" to "xylosphongio" might mean, "No one gives you a long lecture, Priscianus, as long as you use the sponge on a stick." And what about "nos aquas"? Despite the uncertainty, it does seem clear that the sponge on a stick is used here for wiping after defecation.
Verbose tibi / nemo / dicit dum Priscianus /
[u]taris(?) xylosphongio nos / [a]quas(?)
Without using the word xylosphongium, Seneca (Letters to Lucilius 70.20-21, tr. Richard M. Gummere) obviously refers to a sponge on a stick in this gruesome tale of suicide in a latrine:
For example, there was lately in a training-school for wild-beast gladiators a German, who was making ready for the morning exhibition; he withdrew in order to relieve himself, - the only thing which he was allowed to do in secret and without the presence of a guard. While so engaged, he seized the stick of wood, tipped with a sponge, which was devoted to the vilest uses [lignum id quod ad emundanda obscena adhaerente spongia positum], and stuffed it, just as it was, down his throat; thus he blocked up his windpipe, and choked the breath from his body. That was truly to insult death! Yes, indeed; it was not a very elegant or becoming way to die; but what is more foolish than to be over-nice about dying?Martial 12.48.5-8 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey) also mentions a sponge on a stick as the ultimate destination of a fine dinner:
What a brave fellow! He surely deserved to be allowed to choose his fate! How bravely he would have wielded a sword! With what courage he would have hurled himself into the depths of the sea, or down a precipice! Cut off from resources on every hand, he yet found a way to furnish himself with death, and with a weapon for death. Hence you can understand that nothing but the will need postpone death. Let each man judge the deed of this most zealous fellow as he likes, provided we agree on this point, - that the foulest death is preferable to the fairest slavery.
"But it's a fine dinner": very fine, I confess, but tomorrow it will be nothing, or rather today, or rather a moment from now it will be nothing; a matter for a luckless sponge on a doomed mop stick [infelix damnatae spongia virgae] or some dog or other or a crock by the roadside to take care of.In his notes, Shackleton Bailey (on mop) says "Used for sanitary purposes" and (on dog) says "Qui ad vomitum occurrit -- Schrevelius," which leads me to wonder whether he thought the sponge on a stick was used to clean vomit rather than feces. The parallels quoted above seem to favor feces.
Nicholas Hancock wrote:
It's with the Romans we first know for sure what they wiped themselves with. It was a stick with a sponge at one end which, after use, they swirled round in salt water to clean it off for the next user.It's not with the Romans, but with the Greeks that we first know for sure what they wiped themselves with. They used sponges or stones or possibly towels. I'm not aware of any evidence that the sponge on a stick was cleaned in salt water, although one would hope that it was cleaned somehow.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Take Away That Awful Greenery
You've gotta eat your spinach, baby,A few lines of the song are also sung in the movie Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938).
If you do you can't go wrong.
For it's gonna make you nice and strong,
And the stronger you are, the longer you'll live,
And the longer I'll have to love you.
No spinach, take away that awful greenery!
No spinach, give us lots of jelly beanery!
We positively refuse to budge.
We like lollipops and we like fudge,
But no spinach, Hosanna!
Dave Haxton at MacRaven has the scoop on the spinach scare and so-called organic food.
Hostile Laughter in Euripides' Medea
If I am caught entering the palace or devising my bonfire I shall be slain and my enemies shall laugh.797:
δόμους ὑπεσβαίνουσα καὶ τεχνωμένη͵
θανοῦσα θήσω τοῖς ἐμοῖς ἐχθροῖς γέλων.
My friends, I cannot bear being laughed at by my enemies.1049-1050:
οὐ γὰρ γελᾶσθαι τλητὸν ἐξ ἐχθρῶν͵ φίλαι.
Do I want to make myself a laughing-stock by letting my enemies off scot-free?1354-1356:
βούλομαι γέλωτ΄ ὀφλεῖν
ἐχθροὺς μεθεῖσα τοὺς ἐμοὺς ἀζημίους;
You could not hope, nor your princess either, to scorn my love, make a fool of [laugh at] me, and live happily ever after.1362:
σὺ δ΄ οὐκ ἔμελλες τἄμ΄ ἀτιμάσας λέχη
τερπνὸν διάξειν βίοτον ἐγγελῶν ἐμοί·
οὐδ΄ ἡ τύραννος.
True, but it's worth the grief, since you cannot scoff [laugh at me].
σάφ΄ ἴσθι· λύει δ΄ ἄλγος͵ ἢν σὺ μὴ ΄γγελᾷς.
Confessions of a Philistine
The first sentence of the poem is "Boasts time mocks cumber Rome." I sat in front of my computer for a few minutes trying to parse that sentence, without success. Apparently it means:
"Boasts (noun, plural) [at which] time mocks [en]cumber Rome"; or, "The boasts which Rome [metonymically, the culture of ancient Rome, or perhaps the Roman Catholic Church] once made about its permanence now encumber it, and are mocked by the passage of time."I didn't understand the rest of the poem either.
Now and then I make a half-hearted effort to understand modern poetry (I recently read all of Philip Larkin's Collected Poems), but to tell the truth I really don't comprehend or appreciate much after A.E. Housman, W.B. Yeats, and Robert Frost. The fault, I know, lies in me, and not in poets like Bunting. People whose judgment I respect find meaning and inspiration and pleasure in At Briggflatts Meetinghouse, where I find only obscurity.
I seem to be afflicted with a kind of mental astigmatism or hyperopia. Poems far distant in time are clear to my mind's eye, but more recent ones are blurred, indistinct, and distorted to my vision. Ditto for music and painting.
Neverthless I sincerely appreciate the efforts of Anecdotal Evidence, languagehat, and others who write about modern poetry. I'll keep trying to understand.
Milton and Euripides
The books in which his daughter, who used to read to him, represented him as most delighting, after Homer, which he could almost repeat, were Ovid's Metamorphoses and Euripides.Maybe one thing that delighted Milton in Euripides was the ancient Greek poet's misogyny. Denys L. Page, in his commentary on Euripides, Medea 573, notes the connection between Milton, Paradise Lost 10.888-908, and Euripides, Hippolytus 618-633. Both wish that there were some way to propagate mankind without the involvement of women.
O! why did God,Euripides (tr. E.P. Coleridge):
Creator wise, that peopled highest Heaven
With Spirits masculine, create at last
This novelty on earth, this fair defect
Of nature, and not fill the world at once
With Men, as Angels, without feminine;
Or find some other way to generate
Mankind? This mischief had not been befallen,
And more that shall befall; innumerable
Disturbances on earth through female snares,
And strait conjunction with this sex: for either
He never shall find out fit mate, but such
As some misfortune brings him, or mistake;
Or whom he wishes most shall seldom gain
Through her perverseness, but shall see her gained
By a far worse; or, if she love, withheld
By parents; or his happiest choice too late
Shall meet, already linked and wedlock-bound
To a fell adversary, his hate or shame:
Which infinite calamity shall cause
To human life, and household peace confound.
Great Zeus, why didst thou, to man's sorrow, put woman, evil counterfeit, to dwell where shines the sun? If thou wert minded that the human race should multiply, it was not from women they should have drawn their stock, but in thy temples they should have paid gold or iron or ponderous bronze and bought a family, each man proportioned to his offering, and so in independence dwelt, from women free. But now as soon as ever we would bring this plague into our home we bring its fortune to the ground. 'Tis clear from this how great a curse a woman is; the very father, that begot and nurtured her, to rid him of the mischief, gives her a dower and packs her off; while the husband, who takes the noxious weed into his home, fondly decks his sorry idol in fine raiment and tricks her out in robes, squandering by degrees, unhappy wight! his house's wealth. For he is in this dilemma; say his marriage has brought him good connections, he is glad then to keep the wife he loathes; or, if he gets a good wife but useless kin, he tries to stifle the bad luck with the good.
Friday, September 15, 2006
From a New Yorker article (June 5, 2006) by Margaret Talbot on Fallaci:
Today, Fallaci believes, the Western world is in danger of being engulfed by radical Islam. Since September 11, 2001, she has written three short, angry books advancing this argument. Two of them, “The Rage and the Pride” and “The Force of Reason,” have been translated into idiosyncratic English by Fallaci herself. (She has had difficult relationships with translators in the past.) A third, “The Apocalypse,” was recently published in Europe, in a volume that also includes a lengthy self-interview. She writes that Muslim immigration is turning Europe into “a colony of Islam,” an abject place that she calls “Eurabia,” which will soon “end up with minarets in place of the bell-towers, with the burka in place of the mini-skirt.” Fallaci argues that Islam has always had designs on Europe, invoking the siege of Constantinople in the seventh century, and the brutal incursions of the Ottoman Empire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. She contends that contemporary immigration from Muslim countries to Europe amounts to the same thing—invasion—only this time with “children and boats” instead of “troops and cannons.” And, as Fallaci sees it, the “art of invading and conquering and subjugating” is “the only art at which the sons of Allah have always excelled.” Italy, unlike America, has never been a melting pot, or a “mosaic of diversities glued together by a citizenship. Because our cultural identity has been well defined for thousands of years we cannot bear a migratory wave of people who have nothing to do with us . . . who, on the contrary, aim to absorb us.” Muslim immigrants—with their burkas, their chadors, their separate schools—have no desire to assimilate, she believes. And European leaders, in their muddleheaded multiculturalism, have made absurd accommodations to them: allowing Muslim women to be photographed for identity documents with their heads covered; looking the other way when Muslim men violate the law by taking multiple wives or defend the abuse of women on supposedly Islamic grounds.Some reject the term Islamofascism as inaccurate and unhistorical, despite evidence to the contrary. Fallaci as a young girl actually fought in the Resistance against fascism, and here (from the same New Yorker article) is what she says about Islamism and fascism:
Fallaci sees the threat of Islamic fundamentalism as a revival of the Fascism that she and her sisters grew up fighting. She told me, “I am convinced that the situation is politically substantially the same as in 1938, with the pact in Munich, when England and France did not understand a thing. With the Muslims, we have done the same thing.” She elaborated, in an e-mail, “Look at the Muslims: in Europe they go on with their chadors and their burkas and their djellabahs. They go on with the habits preached by the Koran, they go on with mistreating their wives and daughters. They refuse our culture, in short, and try to impose their culture, or so-called culture, on us. . . . I reject them, and this is not only my duty toward my culture. Toward my values, my principles, my civilization. It is not only my duty toward my Christian roots. It is my duty toward freedom and toward the freedom fighter I am since I was a little girl fighting as a partisan against Nazi-Fascism. Islamism is the new Nazi-Fascism. With Nazi-Fascism, no compromise is possible. No hypocritical tolerance. And those who do not understand this simple reality are feeding the suicide of the West.”
More on Burial of Parents
Aeschines 1.13-14 (tr. Charles Darwin Adams):
At any rate the law says explicitly: if any boy is let out for hire as a prostitute, whether it be by father or brother or uncle or guardian, or by any one else who has control of him, prosecution is not to he against the boy himself, but against the man who let him out for hire and the man who hired him; against the one because he let him out for hire, and against the other, it says, because he hired him. And the law has made the penalties for both offenders the same. Moreover the law frees a son, when he has become a man, from all obligation to support or to furnish a home to a father by whom he has been hired out for prostitution; but when the father is dead, the son is to bury him and perform the other customary rites.Lysias 31.21 (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
See, gentlemen, how admirably this legislation fits the case; so long as the father is alive he is deprived of all the benefits of fatherhood, precisely as he deprived his son of a citizen's right to speak; but when he is dead, and unconscious of the service that is being rendered him, and when it is the law and religion that receive the honor, then at last the lawgiver commands the son to bury him and perform the other customary rites.
She demurred to committing herself to his care after her death, but as she had confidence in Antiphanes, who was no connection of hers, she gave him three minae of silver for her burial, ignoring this man, who was her own son. Obviously, of course, she was convinced that he would not perform the last duties even on the ground of his relationship.Demosthenes 57.70 (tr. Norman W. DeWitt):
Furthermore, men of the jury, when you question the nine archons, you ask whether they act dutifully toward their parents. I for my part am left without a father, but for my mother's sake I beg and beseech you so to settle this trial as to restore to me the right to bury her in our ancestral tomb. Do not deny me this; do not make me a man without a country; do not cut me off from such a host of relatives, and bring me to utter ruin. Rather than abandon them, if it prove impossible for them to save me, I will kill myself, that at least I may be buried by them in my country.Lycurgus 1.147 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
He is guilty too of injuring his forbears, for he effaced their memorials and deprived them of their rites, and guilty of desertion and refusal to serve, since he did not submit his person to the leaders for enrollment.Dinarchus 2.8 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
You must all have often heard that, when Aristogiton's father Cydimachus was condemned to death and fled from the city, this admirable son allowed his own father to lack the bare necessities of life, while he survived, and do without a proper burial when he died: a fact for which evidence was often brought against him.Dinarchus 2.18 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
Aristogiton could not claim one of these qualifications for himself. So far from treating his parents well this man has ill-treated his own father. When you were all serving in the army he was in prison; and, far from being able to point to any memorial of his father, Athenians, he did not give him a proper funeral even in Eretria where he died.
J.O. Burtt, in his note on Dinarchus 2.18, also cites Demosthenes 25.54 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Not content with abandoning his father in prison when he quitted Eretria, as you have heard from Phaedrus, this unnatural ruffian refused to bury him when he died, and would not refund the expenses to those who did bury him, but actually brought a law-suit against them.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Classics In the News
Twin baby grand pianos stand in the living room of a white clapboard farmhouse high on the Taconic Ridge on the border of New York and Massachusetts. Here the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay composed and played duets. The sculpted bust of the Greek poet Saffo still dominates one corner, while a painting depicts Millay's husband and sister swimming naked in the outdoor pool, now filled with murky water beneath a heavy canopy of trees.In Italian you can call her Saffo, but in English we usually call her Sappho.
Dave Lull drew my attention to an article in The Times (September 11, 2006) by Alexandra Blair, with the headline Online initiative is bonus novus for the revival of Latin in schools. The first sentence is:
Latin appears to be enjoying a quiet revival in Britain's secondary schools.Maybe one day Latin will revive in Britain to the point that headline writers will know that "bonus novus" isn't Latin for "good news".
Gary at The Bourgeois Burglars sent a link to a Reuters story:
They are calling it the "crossed legs" strike.Sounds like the ladies have been reading Aristophanes' Lysistrata in their book clubs.
Fretting over crime and violence, girlfriends and wives of gang members in the Colombian city of Pereira have called a ban on sex to persuade their menfolk to give up the gun.
Oil Lamps and Potatoes
The main impediment to more drilling, discovery, and exploitation of reserves is environmentalism, which in its extreme form wants us all to go back to whale oil lamps and growing potatoes in our gardens.On behalf of my fellow extreme environmentalists, I must state for the record that we abjure the use of whale oil in lamps. Haven't you seen the bumper stickers on our gas-guzzling cars? Save the Whales!
Shortly before I read Dennis' words, my copy of Lehman's Non-Electric Catalog 2006-2007 arrived in the mail. It offers many types of oil lamps for sale, but no whale oil. Aladdin Lamp Oil (odorless, unlike kerosene) sells through the catalog for $23.95 per gallon. It ain't cheap, being green.
There are no potatoes growing in my garden this summer, although there are tomatoes, squash, and melons. "Il faut cultiver notre jardin" is advice worth taking literally.
But assume that we primitivists have grown, stolen, or bought our potatoes. How do we cook them? Lehman's has a variety of wood cook stoves for sale, but they too are expensive (e.g. $5065.00 for the Enterprise Monarch). Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping (1926), gives this advice in his chapter on The Tramp as Cook:
Potatoes are difficult to carry, but when obtained can be easily cooked under the seemingly dead ashes of your camp fire. They are greatly enjoyed, as all know who have even on a picnic roasted them and dandled them timorously in their fingers. It is just as well to hoist them out of the ashes on the end of a sharpened stick. If the stick will not go in, the potatoes are probably not yet cooked.Dr. Nick Brooks of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences speculates about the shift from "primitive" to "civilized" life and whether it was an unmixed blessing:
"Civilisation did not arise as the result of a benign environment which allowed humanity to indulge a preference for living in complex, urban, 'civilized' societies," said Dr Brooks.Thanks to Phil Flemming for information on Brooks' theories.
"On the contrary, what we tend to think of today as 'civilisation' was in large part an accidental by-product of unplanned adaptation to catastrophic climate change. Civilisation was a last resort - a means of organising society and food production and distribution, in the face of deteriorating environmental conditions."
He added that for many, if not most people, the development of civilisation meant a harder life, less freedom, and more inequality. The transition to urban living meant that most people had to work harder in order to survive, and suffered increased exposure to communicable diseases. Health and nutrition are likely to have deteriorated rather than improved for many.
Dr Brooks said: "Having been forced into civilized communities as a last resort, people found themselves faced with increased social inequality, greater violence in the form of organised conflict, and at the mercy of self-appointed elites who used religious authority and political ideology to bolster their position."
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Burial of Parents
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.Admetus in Euripides' Alcestis (662-665, tr. David Kovacs) said he would not bury his father Pheres:
Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς ἕτερον, Ἀκολούθει μοι. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Κύριε, ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀπελθόντι πρῶτον θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μου. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς, σὺ δὲ ἀπελθὼν διάγγελλε τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
You had better hurry, therefore, and beget other children to take care of you in old age and, when you have died, to dress you and lay you out for burial. I for my part shall never bury you myself.Admetus' words would have shocked the Athenians watching Euripides' play. In Athens, children were obliged by law to bury their parents, as the following passages show.
τοιγὰρ φυτεύων παῖδας οὐκέτ' ἂν φθάνοις,
οἳ γηροβοσκήσουσι καὶ θανόντα σε
περιστελοῦσι καὶ προθήσονται νεκρόν.
οὐ γάρ σ' ἔγωγε τῇδ' ἐμῇ θάψω χερί.
Demosthenes 24.107 (tr. J.H. Vince):
What adequate satisfaction can you render, or by what punishment can you be punished as you deserve, you who, to say nothing of the rest, subvert the laws that protect old age, that compel the maintenance of parents in their lifetime, and ensure that they shall be honoured with due observance when they die?Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.2.13 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
καίτοι τίν' ἂν ἀξίαν δοίης δίκην, ἢ τί σὺ παθὼν ἂν τὰ προσήκοντ' εἴης πεπονθώς, ὅς, τὰ μὲν ἄλλ' ἐῶ, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῷ γήρᾳ βοηθοὺς λυμαίνει, οἳ καὶ ζῶντας ἀναγκάζουσι [τοὺς παῖδας] τοὺς γονέας τρέφειν, καὶ ἐπειδὰν ἀποθάνωσιν, ὅπως τῶν νομιζομένων τύχωσι παρασκευάζουσιν;
Don't you know that even the state ignores all other forms of ingratitude and pronounces no judgment on them, caring nothing if the recipient of a favour neglects to thank his benefactor, but inflicts penalties on the man who is discourteous to his parents and rejects him as unworthy of office, holding that it would be a sin for him to offer sacrifices on behalf of the state and that he is unlikely to do anything else honourably and rightly? Aye, and if one fail to honour his parents' graves, the state inquires into that too, when it examines the candidates for office.
οὐκ οἶσθ' ὅτι καὶ ἡ πόλις ἄλλης μὲν ἀχαριστίας οὐδεμιᾶς ἐπιμελεῖται οὐδὲ δικάζει, ἀλλὰ περιορᾷ τοὺς εὖ πεπονθότας χάριν οὐκ ἀποδόντας, ἐὰν δέ τις γονέας μὴ θεραπεύῃ, τούτῳ δίκην τε ἐπιτίθησι καὶ ἀποδοκιμάζουσα οὐκ ἐᾷ ἄρχειν τοῦτον, ὡς οὔτε ἂν τὰ ἱερὰ εὐσεβῶς θυόμενα ὑπὲρ τῆς πόλεως τούτου θύοντος οὔτε ἄλλο καλῶς καὶ δικαίως οὐδὲν ἂν τούτου πράξαντος; καὶ νὴ Δία ἐάν τις τῶν γονέων τελευτησάντων τοὺς τάφους μὴ κοσμῇ, καὶ τοῦτο ἐξετάζει ἡ πόλις ἐν ταῖς τῶν ἀρχόντων δοκιμασίαις.
Monday, September 11, 2006
It is best for man to be middle-wise,Ecclesiastes 1.18:
Not over cunning and clever:
The learned man whose lore is deep
Is seldom happy at heart.
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
The Iconography of Cupid
Whoever he was who first depicted Amor as a boy, don't you think he possessed a wonderful touch? He was the first to see that lovers live without sense, and that great good is lost in trivial cares. Also, with meaning, he added the wings of the wind, and made the god hover in the human heart: true, since we're thrown about on shifting winds, and the breeze never lingers in a single place. And it's right that his hand should grip barbed arrows, and the Cretan quiver's hung across his shoulders, since he hits us before we can safely see the enemy, and no one escapes unwounded from his hurt. His darts remain in me, and his form, of a boy, remains, but surely he's lost his wings, since he never flies anywhere else but in my heart, and, oh, he wages war endlessly in my blood.I'm sure someone else has already noted the following parallels, but I don't have a commentary on book 2 of Propertius to check.
Quicumque ille fuit, puerum qui pinxit Amorem,
nonne putas miras hunc habuisse manus?
is primum vidit sine sensu vivere amantis,
et levibus curis magna perire bona.
idem non frustra ventosas addidit alas,
fecit et humano corde volare deum:
scilicet alterna quoniam iactamur in unda,
nostraque non ullis permanet aura locis.
et merito hamatis manus est armata sagittis,
et pharetra ex umero Cnosia utroque iacet:
ante ferit quoniam, tuti quam cernimus hostem,
nec quisquam ex illo vulnere sanus abit.
in me tela manent, manet et puerilis imago:
sed certe pennas perdidit ille suas;
evolat heu nostro quoniam de pectore nusquam,
assiduusque meo sanguine bella gerit.
Servius on Vergil, Aeneid 1.663:
Because desire for disgrace is foolish, Cupid is depicted as a boy, as "Among whom Clymene was telling about [Vulcan's] foolish passion" [Georgics 4.345], i.e. his love; likewise because with lovers speech is halting, like it is with a boy, as "She starts to speak, but she stops in the middle of her utterance" [Aeneid 4.76]. Moreover he is winged for this reason, because nothing is found more flighty or fickle than those in love, as is proved in Dido herself; for she is thinking about Aeneas' destruction, but a little while earlier she was perishing for love of him, as "Could I not have seized his body and torn it to pieces?" [Aeneid 4.600]. Cupid is said to carry arrows for this reason, because they too are unpredictable and swift.Cf. Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 13.562 c-d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
nam quia turpitudinis est stulta cupiditas, puer pingitur, ut "inter quas curam Clymene narrabat inanem," id est amorem, item quia inperfectus est in amantibus sermo, sicut in puero, ut "incipit effari mediaque in voce resistit." alatus autem ideo est, quia amantibus nec levius aliquid nec mutabilius invenitur, ut in ipsa probatur Didone; nam de eius interitu cogitat, cuius paulo ante amore deperibat, ut "non potui abreptum divellere corpus." sagittas vero ideo gestare dicitur, quia et ipsae incertae velocesque sunt.
And Eubulus, or Ararôs, says in The Hunchback: "Who was the fellow, I wonder, who first painted or modelled Eros with wings? He didn't know anything but how to paint swallows; on the contrary, he was utterly ignorant of the god's character. For the god is neither light nor easy to throw off when one is carrying the pest, but he is out-and-out heavy. How, then, can such a thing have wings? It's nonsense, no matter if one has said it." And Alexis in Cut Loose: "It is commonly said by the wiseacres that the god Eros cannot fly, but that lovers can; and that he is falsely charged with being winged, and the painters knew nothing about it when they depicted him as having wings."
Εὔβουλος δ' ἢ ᾿Αραρὼς ἐν Καμπυλίωνι·
τίς ἦν ὁ γράψας πρῶτος ἀνθρώπων ἄρα
ἢ κηροπλαστήσας ῎Ερωθ' ὑπόπτερον;
ὡς οὐδὲν ᾔδει πλὴν χελιδόνας γράφειν,
ἀλλ' ἦν ἄπειρος τῶν τρόπων τῶν τοῦ θεοῦ.
ἐστὶν γὰρ οὔτε κοῦφος οὔτε ῥᾀδιος
ἀπαλλαγῆναι τῷ φέροντι τὴν νόσον,
βαρὺς δὲ κομιδῇ. πῶς ἂν οὖν ἔχοι πτερὰ
τοιοῦτο πρᾶγμα; λῆρος, εἰ κἄφησέ τις.
῎Αλεξις δ' ἐν Ἀποκοπτομένῳ·
λέγεται γὰρ λόγος
ὑπὸ τῶν σοφιστῶν μὴ πέτεσθαι τὀν θεὸν
τὸν ῎Ερωτα, τοὺς δ' ἐρῶντας· αἰτίαν δ' ἔχειν
ἐκεῖνον ἄλλως, ἠγνοηκότας δὲ τοὺς
γραφεῖς ἔχοντα πτέρυγας αὐτὸν ζωγραφεῖν.
Greek and Latin
PHILAMINTE. Good Heavens, Greek, Greek! Sister, he knows Greek!
BÉLISE. My niece, Greek!
ARMANDE. Greek! How lovely! How unique!
PHILAMINTE. The gentleman knows Greek? Let each of us, Sir, for the love of Greek, embrace you -- thus.
PHILAMINTE. Du grec, Ô Ciel! du grec! Il sait du grec, ma soeur!
BÉLISE. Ah, ma nièce, du grec!
ARMANDE. Du grec! quelle douceur!
PHILAMINTE. Quoi? Monsieur sait du grec? Ah! permettez, de grâce, que pour l'amour du grec, Monsieur, on vous embrasse.
Molière, The Doctor in Spite of Himself (Le Médecin Malgré Lui), Act II, Scene 4 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
SGANARELLE. Do you understand Latin?
GÉRONTE. Not in the least.
SGANARELLE (getting up in astonishment). You don't understand Latin?
SGANARELLE (assuming various comical poses). Cabricias arci thuram, catalamus, singulariter, nominativo haec Musa, "the Muse", bonus, bona, bonum, Deus sanctus, estne oratio latinas? Etiam, "yes." Quare, "why?" Quia substantivo et adjectivum concordat in generi, numerum, et casus.
GÉRONTE. Oh! Why did I never study?
JACQUELINE. Land! That's an able man!
LUCAS. Yup, that's so purty I can't make out a word of it.
SGANARELLE. Entendez-vous le latin?
GÉRONTE. En aucune façon.
SGANARELLE (se levant avec étonnement). Vous n'entendez point le latin!
SGANARELLE (en faisant diverses plaisantes postures). Cabricias arci thuram, catalamus, singulariter, nominativo haec Musa, "la Muse", bonus, bona, bonum, Deus sanctus, estne oratio latinas? Etiam, "oui." Quare, "pourquoi?" Quia substantivo et adjectivum concordat in generi, numerum, et casus.
GÉRONTE. Ah! que n'ai-je étudié!
JACQUELINE. L'habile homme que velà!
LUCAS. Oui, ça est si biau, que je n'y entends goutte.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Ancient Tersive Materials Again
Fr. Deighan also writes:
Catullus's arid Furius came to mind (carmen xxiii), whose fundament also knew the rub of little lithoi, if but rarely, and in another way:Which meansnec toto decies cacas in anno
atque id durius est faba et lapillis.
Nor do you defecate even ten times in an entire year, and what you produce is harder than a bean and little stones.Part of the fascination about studying classics is the realization that the Greeks and Romans were subject to the same aches and pains that we are, including constipation. This realization somehow makes them more human and familiar, less distant and alien.
The Roman emperor Vespasian had a habitually strained expression, and Suetonius (Life of Vespasian 20, tr. J.C. Rolfe) tells this anecdote:
He was well built, with strong, sturdy limbs, and the expression of one who was straining. Apropos of which a witty fellow, when Vespasian asked him to make a joke on him, replied rather cleverly: "I will, when you have finished relieving yourself."Martial 3.89 makes a similar joke:
Statura fuit quadrata, compactis firmisque membris, vultu veluti nitentis: de quo quidam urbanorum non infacete, siquidem petenti, ut et in se aliquid diceret: "Dicam," inquit, "cum ventrem exonerare desieris."
Use lettuce and soft mallows: for you have the look, Phoebe, of one who is taking a hard crap.Phoebe's expression reminds me of a scene in the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Steve Martin, pretending to be Prince Ruprecht, asks his brother prince (played by Michael Caine) for permission to go to the bathroom. Permission is granted, whereupon Prince Ruprecht dirties his drawers on the spot, with appropriate facial contortions.
Vtere lactucis et mollibus utere malvis:
nam faciem durum, Phoebe, cacantis habes.
A graffito (in hexameters, with Homeric echoes) from a latrine in Ephesus also gives a vivid impression of a man obeying the call of nature with difficulty:
λὰξ ποδὶ κινήσας καὶ πὺξ χερὶ μάκρον ἀείραςI don't have access to the collection Die Inschriften von Ephesos (Bonn, 1979 ff.), where this inscription appears. I know the text only from a database of Greek inscriptions on the World Wide Web, which gives it the citation IEph 456.1. I can't find a translation of the inscription either, so here's a quick and dirty version of my own:
κ(αὶ) βήξας κραδίηθεν, ὅλον δὲ τ[ὸ] σῶμα δονήσας
ἐξ ὀνύχων χέζων φρένα τέρπεο, μηδέ σε γαστὴρ
μήποτε λυπήσειεν ἐμὸν ποτὶ δῶμα μολόντα.
After kicking with your heel and after lifting far up with clenched fist and after coughing from deep within and after shaking your whole body from your fingertips, gladden your heart as you defecate, and may your belly never give you pain when you come to my house.One phrase is a bit tricky, and it probably shows in my awkward translation -- μάκρον ἀείρας (after lifting far up). The verb ἀείρω (lift, raise up) is normally transitive, and so one would expect a noun as direct object here. I have translated the adjective μάκρον as a sort of inner accusative with adverbial force (Smyth, Greek Grammar § 1606). Tadeusz Zieliński speculated that μάκρον might be corrupt. In Philologus 64 (1905) 3, he conjectured μάκτρον (towel, wiper), so that πὺξ χερὶ μάκτρον ἀείρας would mean something like "after lifting toilet paper with clenched fist."
But μάκτρον is a rare Greek word. In fact, the only citation in the Greek lexicon of Liddell-Scott-Jones is from the first chapter of a work on fever by the late Greek medical writer Alexander of Tralles, quoted here from Theodor Puschmann's edition and German translation of Alexander's works, 2 vols. (Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1878-1879):
βέλτιον δ᾽οἶμαι ἀποπλῦναι τὸν ἰδρῶτα χλιαρῷ πολλῷ εἰς τὸν ἐκτὸς οἶκον ἐξελθόντα ἐναπομάσσειν τῷ μάκτρῳ καὶ οὕτως ἀλείφεσθαι τῷ ὑδρελαίῳ.This means, roughly,
But I think it is better to wipe the perspiration off with lots of warm water, and after the patient has come into the outer room to rub him with the towel and in this way daub him with a mixture of water and oil.The rarity of μάκτρον, however, is only apparent. Good, early authors (Herodotus, Aristophanes, Xenophon) use the compound form χειρόμακτρον (cloth for wiping the hands, towel, napkin). With the meaning head-cloth or scarf for women, χειρόμακτρον also occurs in Sappho.
If Zieliński's conjecture is correct, the inscription from Ephesus is evidence of an ancient tersive material less abrasive than stones. Of course we know from other sources that sponges were also used for this purpose.
Friday, September 08, 2006
My Fellow Man I Do Not Care For
My fellow man I do not care for."À Bas Ben Adhem," the title of Nash's cynical poem, means "Down with Ben Adhem," and is a pun on "Abou Ben Adhem," the title of a saccharine poem by Leigh Hunt. Where Nash said, "My fellow man I do not care for," Abou Ben Adhem said, "Write me as one that loves his fellow men." Here is Leigh Hunt's poem:
I often ask me, What’s he there for?
The only answer I can find
Is, Reproduction of his kind.
If I’m supposed to swallow that,
Winnetka is my habitat.
Isn't it time to carve Hic Jacet
Above that Reproduction racket?
To make the matter more succint:
Suppose my fellow man extinct.
Why, who would not approve the plan
Save possibly my fellow man?
Yet with a politician’s voice
He names himself as Nature’s choice.
The finest of the human race
Are bad in figure, worse in face.
Yet just because they have two legs
And come from storks instead of eggs
They count the spacious firmament
As something to be charged and sent.
Though man created cross-town traffic,
The Daily Mirror, News and Graphic,
The pastoral fight and fighting pastor,
And Queen Marie and Lady Astor,
He hails himself with drum and fife
And bullies lower forms of life.
Not that I think much depends
On how we treat our feathered friends,
Or hold the wrinkled elephant
A nobler creature than my aunt.
It’s simply that I'm sure I can
Get on without my fellow man.
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)In the same spirit as Nash's poem is Walter A. Raleigh, Wishes of an Elderly Man Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914:
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
‘What writest thou?’—The vision rais’d its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answer’d, ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’
‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, ‘I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.’
The angel wrote, and vanish’d. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And show’d the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I’m introduced to one,
I wish I thought What Jolly Fun!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Marks of Beauty
I greet you, lady, who have neither a tiny nose, nor a pretty foot, nor black eyes, nor long fingers, nor dry mouth, nor indeed a very refined tongue, you mistress of the bankrupt of Formiae. Is it you who are pretty, as the Province tells us? is it with you that our Lesbia is compared? Oh, this age! how tasteless and ill-bred it is.By enumerating what this lady lacks, Catullus tells us what he finds attractive in a woman. I was reminded of Catullus' poem when I read Appendix E (The Blazon of Beauty) of D.B. Wyndham Lewis' biography François Villon (New York: Literary Guild, 1928), p. 397:
Salve, nec minimo puella naso
nec bello pede nec nigris ocellis
nec longis digitis nec ore sicco
nec sane nimis elegante lingua,
decoctoris amica Formiani.
ten provincia narrat esse bellam?
tecum Lesbia nostra comparatur?
o saeclum insapiens et infacetum!
In connection with the catalogue of vanished charms contained in the Lament of the Belle Heaulmière it may be of aesthetic interest to consider the Blazon of Beauty which Brantôme collected from the lips of a laughing lady of Toledo. The following thirty excellences (said the Spanish lady) make a woman of perfect and absolute beauty:
Tres cosas blancas: el cuero, los dientes, y las manos.That is to say (I have already modified one series slightly, in deference to modern reticences):
Tres negras: los ojos, las cejas, y las pestañas.
Tres coloradas: los labios, las maxillas, y las uñas.
Tres lungas: el cuerpo, los cabellos, y los manos.
Tres cortas: los dientes, las orejas, y los pies.
Tres anchas: los pechos, la frente, y el entrecejo.
Tres estrechas: la boca, la cinta, y l'entrada del pie.
Tres gruesas: el braço, el muslo, y la pantorilla.
Tres delgadas: los dedos, los caballos, y los labios.
Tres pequeñas: las tetas, la naris, y la cabeça.
Three things white: the skin, the teeth, and the hands.
Three black: the eyes, the eyebrows, and the eyelashes.
Three rosy: the lips, the cheeks, and the hands.
Three short: the teeth, the ears, and the feet.
Three broad: the breast, the forehead, and the space between the eyebrows.
Three narrow: the mouth, the hair, and the instep.
Three plump: the arm, the thigh, and the calf.
Three fine: the fingers, the hair, and the lips.
Three small: the paps, the nose, and the head.
I corrected a few misprints in the Spanish of Wyndham Lewis' appendix with the help of an edition of Brantôme's works. But both Wyndham Lewis and the Brantôme edition have musto in the eighth line, which I changed to muslo. I'm way out of my league here, since I know little Spanish, but my Spanish-English dictionary has muslo for thigh, not musto.
What Wyndham Lewis left out was a parenthetical expression in the seventh line, which actually reads "Tres estrechas: la boca (l'una y otra), la cinta, y l'entrada del pie." Because this is family-friendly blog, I'll leave it to the reader to figure out the meaning of the unexpurgated line.
Note the coincidences between Catullus' list and that of Brantôme: small nose, long fingers, dark eyes.
In Wyndham Lewis' biography of Villon, I also noted a misprint in the music of the dedication. The crochet at the end of the first system should be a quaver.