Saturday, February 28, 2009


The New Jerusalem

Revelation 21.2-4:
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

καὶ τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἁγίαν Ἰερουσαλὴμ καινὴν εἶδον καταβαίνουσαν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡτοιμασμένην ὡς νύμφην κεκοσμημένην τῷ ἀνδρὶ αὐτῆς.

καὶ ἤκουσα φωνῆς μεγάλης ἐκ τοῦ θρόνου λεγούσης, Ἰδοὺ ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ σκηνώσει μετ’ αὐτῶν, καὶ αὐτοὶ λαοὶ αὐτοῦ ἔσονται, καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς μετ’ αὐτῶν ἔσται, αὐτῶν θεός,

καὶ ἐξαλείψει πᾶν δάκρυον ἐκ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν, καὶ ὁ θάνατος οὐκ ἔσται ἔτι, οὔτε πένθος οὔτε κραυγὴ οὔτε πόνος οὐκ ἔσται ἔτι· ὅτι τὰ πρῶτα ἀπῆλθαν.
A few years ago Licia Kuenning, a Quaker, prophesied that Farmington, Maine, would be the location of the New Jerusalem. The prophecy is titled "About the Coming New Order in Farmington" and it starts as follows:
In the town of Farmington, Maine, a new state of affairs will soon exist which the world has never seen before. This change will occur within the next few years.

Thereafter, there will be no death and no illness (except the remnants of earlier illnesses which will go away in three days or less) within the municipal limits of Farmington. Nor will there be any crime or bad behavior. You will be safe in Farmington; nothing will harm you here. The rest of the world will still be the way it has been for millennia, so if one goes outside the borders of Farmington at that time one will not be protected in this particular way, though one will be no worse off than before.

Farmington will, of course, remain as free as any other American town. Anyone may stay or leave as they choose. Nobody will try to make anyone stay or make anyone leave. Nor will we in Farmington try to keep anyone out. We will all do whatever God leads us to do.
Appended to Kuenning's prophecy is a series of F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions), the last two of which are:
Q. Why has Farmington been chosen?
A. I do not know.

Q. What Scripture foretells the new order?
A. Revelation 21:2-4 (the New Jerusalem). The name "Farmington" is not in the Bible, since no town by that name existed when John wrote. The location of the New Jerusalem was revealed directly to me by Christ.
Before I learned of Kuenning's prophecy, I bought approximately 85 acres of land in Farmington, Maine. I planned to retire there, but in a recent prophetic vision of my own, the god Mammon directly revealed to me that I will never be able to retire anywhere. In my vision, I am working as a greeter in a Wal-Mart department store when I am 80 years old.

Kuenning is not the first to suggest that the New Jerusalem will be located in the New World, or more specifically, in New England. See, for example, a letter from William Twisse to Joseph Mede (1634):
Now, I beseech you, let me know what your opinion is of our English Plantation in the New World. Heretofore, I have wondered in my thoughts at the providence of God concerning that world, not discovered till this old world of ours is almost at an end, and there no footsteps found of the knowledge of the true God, much less of Christ. And then, considering our English Plantations of late, and the opinion of many grave divines concerning the Gospel's fleeing westward, sometimes I had such thoughts — Why may not that be the place of the New Jerusalem?
A 1631 letter from Edward Howes bears the superscription "to his lovinge frind Mr. John Winthrop at his father's house in the Machassetts Bay, these deliver at Boston in New Engeland." In the letter, Howes writes, "I pray God account you and preserve you all as worthy stones in buyldinge his newe Jerusalem."

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Contemptuous Crepitation

Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Book VII, Chapter III (Squire Western addressing his sister):
"Ho! are you come back to your politics?" cries the squire: "as for those I despise them as much as I do a f--t." Which last words he accompanied and graced with the very action, which, of all others, was the most proper to it.
This may be as close as anything comes to being a cultural universal — breaking wind as a sign of contempt.

See S. Douglas Olson, Broken Laughter: Select Fragments of Greek Comedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 242 (on Epicrates, fragment 10.29):
κατέπαρδ(ε) αὐτῶν: 'farted on them' (< καταπέρδομαι), as a sign of contempt, as at Ar. V. 618; Pax 547; Pl. 617-18.
Similarly Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 197 (#429):
One can express contempt by breaking wind in the direction of someone else. The terms are καταπέρδεσθαι and προσπέρδεσθαι. There seems to be no difference in nuance between the two. At V 618 Philocleon's wine-flask (ὄνος) makes a gurgling sound which Philocleon interprets as a contemptuous crepitation (κατέπαρδεν): note κεχηνώς (617) and the pun on ὄνος, ass. Similarly, the mattock-maker at P 547 breaks wind at the sword-maker, and Blepsidemus does likewise for Poverty at PL 618; cf. also Epicr. 11.28. All of the latter have καταπέρδεσθαι. προσπέρδεσθαι appears in the same meaning at R 1074, Sosip. 1.12, Damox. 2.39.
The insult "I fart in your general direction!" occurs in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


When Leaves Fall

Do deciduous trees shed their leaves at random or in some predictable order? If in order, is distance from root or trunk a factor? Do the topmost or outermost leaves fall first, or those nearest the ground or the trunk? If there is a pattern, is it the same for all species? Perhaps the answers are obvious and well-known, but I haven't observed or investigated closely enough to know. The questions came to mind when I read Thomas Hardy's The Upper Birch-Leaves:
Warm yellowy-green
In the blue serene,
How they skip and sway
On this autumn day!
They cannot know
What has happened below,-
That their boughs down there
Are already quite bare,
That their own will be
When a week has passed,-
For they jig as in glee
To this very last.

But no; there lies
At times in their tune
A note that cries
What at first I fear
I did not hear:
"O we remember
At each wind's hollo-
Though life holds yet-
We go hence soon,
For 'tis November;
-But that you follow
You may forget!"
Henry David Thoreau in his Journal (October 22, 1858) confirms that birches lose their leaves starting at the bottom and moving upward:
The birches are now but thinly clad and that at top, its flame-shaped top more like flames than ever now....The birches have been steadily changing and falling for a long, long time. The lowermost leaves turn golden and fall first; so their autumn change is like a fire which has steadily burned up higher and higher, consuming the fuel below, till now it has nearly reached their tops....Nevertheless the topmost leaves at the extremities of the leaves [sic] are still green.
See also Thoreau's Journal (November 3, 1858):
The only white birch leaves now seen are those lingering green terminal leaves of the 23d [sic], now at last turned yellow, for they are now burnt upward to the last spark and glimmering. Methinks the birch ripens its leaves very perfectly though gradually.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Glory After Glory

John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Part I (Of General Principles), Section III (Of Truth of Skies), Chapter I (Of the Open Sky):
[T]here is not a moment of any day of our lives, when nature is not producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite and constant principles of the most perfect beauty, that it is quite certain it is all done for us, and intended for our perpetual pleasure.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Wordsworth's Legs

Thomas De Quincey, Literary Reminiscences, chapter X (William Wordsworth):
To begin with his figure:— Wordsworth was, upon the whole, not a well-made man. His legs were pointedly condemned by all the female connoisseurs in legs that ever I heard lecture upon that topic; not that they were bad in any way which would force itself upon your notice — there was no absolute deformity about them; and undoubtedly they had been serviceable legs beyond the average standard of human requisition; for I calculate, upon good data, that with these identical legs Wordsworth must have traversed a distance of 175 to 180,000 English miles — a mode of exertion which, to him, stood in the stead of wine, spirits, and all other stimulants whatsoever to the animal spirits; to which he has been indebted for a life of unclouded happiness, and we for much of what is most excellent in his writings. But, useful as they have proved themselves, the Wordsworthian legs were certainly not ornamental; and it was really a pity, as I agreed with a lady in thinking, that he had not another pair for evening dress parties — when no boots lend their friendly aid to masque our imperfections from the eyes of female rigorists — the elegantes formarum spectatrices. A sculptor would certainly have disapproved of their contour.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Ancient Parallels to Curly in The Three Stooges

Juvenal 5.170-173 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
The man who treats you like this has good taste. If there is nothing you can't put up with, then you deserve it all. Sooner or later, you'll be offering to have your head shaved and slapped, and you won't flinch from a harsh whipping. That's the kind of banquet you deserve, and that's the kind of friend.

ille sapit, qui te sic utitur. omnia ferre
si potes, et debes. pulsandum vertice raso
praebebis quandoque caput nec dura timebis
flagra pati, his epulis et tali dignus amico.
Gilbert Highet, Juvenal the Satirist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954; rpt. 1961), p. 263, n. 7:
Vertice raso in 5.171 is the mark of the stupidus in the mimes, the idiotic morio of private dinner parties (Pliny, Ep. 9.17; Lucian, Convivium 18; Tert. De Spectaculis 23); and pulsandum refers to the alapae of Juv. 8.192 and Mart. 2.72. A clown act called 'The Three Stooges', which used to appear in short film farces during the 1940's, had a perfect stupidus in it, a burly man with a head clipped or shaven smooth, who was always being slapped on it by his quicker and cleverer fellow stooges.
The burly, bald man was Curly Howard. Here are some parallels.

Lucian, The Banquet 18 (tr. Winthrop Dudley Sheldon):
He directed the jester to come in, and say or do something funny, that the guests might be put in still better humor. An ungainly-looking fellow entered, with his head shaven, except a few hairs sticking up straight upon the top, and danced, bending himself far over and twisting his body in every direction, in order that he might appear all the more droll.

ἐκέλευσε τὸν γελωτοποιὸν εἰσελθόντα εἰπεῖν τι ἢ πρᾶξαι γελοῖον, ὡς ἔτι μᾶλλον οἱ συμπόται διαχυθεῖεν. καὶ παρῆλθεν ἄμορφός τις ἐξυρημένος τὴν κεφαλήν, ὀλίγας ἐπὶ τῇ κορυφῇ τρίχας ὀρθὰς ἔχων· οὗτος ὠρχήσατό τε κατακλῶν ἑαυτὸν καὶ διαστρέφων, ὡς γελοιότερος φανείη.
John Chrysostom, On Repentance b 291 (Migne, Patrologia Graeca 59.760, tr. Costas Panayotakis):
Another mimic jester enters; he adopts obscene postures, he has rented himself for money to provoke laughter, he feels ashamed if he is not publicly beaten, he has made his cheeks ready in advance to receive the blows of the doors, he has shaved his hair with a razor, so that not even a single hair can intervene between him and the abuses against him.

Ἄλλος γελωτοποιὸς εἴσεισιν, εἰς αἰσχύνην ἑαυτοῦ διαπλάσασθαι μέλη, γέλωτι μισθώσας τὴν κεφαλὴν, αἰσχυνόμενος ἐὰν μὴ δημοσίᾳ ῥαπίζηται, καὶ τοῖς κτύποις τῶν πυλῶν προευτρεπίζων τὰς παρειὰς, καὶ ξυρῷ τὰς τρίχας περιαιρῶν, ἵνα μηδὲ θρὶξ μεσιτεύηται ταῖς ὕβρεσι.
Tertullian, De Spectaculis 23.3 (tr. S. Thelwall):
Will He be pleased with him who applies the razor to himself, and completely changes his features; who, with no respect for his face, is not content with making it as like as possible to Saturn and Isis and Bacchus, but gives it quietly over to contumelious blows, as if in mockery of our Lord?

placebit et ille, qui voltus suos novacula mutat, infidelis erga faciem suam, quam non contentus Saturno et Isidi et Libero proximam facere insuper contumeliis alaparum sic obicit, tamquam de praecepto domini ludat?
Arnobius 7.33.5 (tr. Hamilton Bryce and Hugh Campbell):
The gods, forsooth, delight in mimics; and that surpassing excellence which has not been comprehended by any human faculty, opens its ears most willingly to hear these plays, with most of which they know they are mixed up to be turned to derision; they are delighted, as it is, with the shaved heads of the fools, by the sound of slaps, and by the noise of applause, by shameful actions and words, by huge red fascina.

mimis nimirum dii gaudent, et illa vis praestans neque ullis hominum comprehensa naturis libentissime commodat audiendis his auris, quorum symplegmatibus plurimis intermixtos se esse derisionis in materiam norunt: delectantur, ut res est, stupidorum capitibus rasis, salapittarum sonitu atque plausu, factis et dictis turpibus, fascinorum ingentium rubore.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Our Very Search of Knowledge Is Delightsome

Excerpt from Joseph Hall, Decade IV, Epistle III (to Matthew Millward):
[T]o a man so furnished with all sorts of knowledge, that according to his dispositions he can change his studies, I should wonder that ever the sun should seem to pace slowly. How many busy tongues chase away good hours in pleasant chat, and complain of the haste of night! what ingenuous mind can be sooner weary of talking with learned authors, the most harmless and sweetest of companions? what an heaven lives a scholar in, that at once, in one close room, can daily converse with all the glorious martyrs and fathers! that can single out at pleasure, either sententious Tertullian, or grave Cyprian, or resolute Jerome, or flowing Chrysostom, or divine Ambrose, or devout Bernard, or, who alone is all these, heavenly Augustin; and talk with them, and hear their wise and holy counsels, verdicts, resolutions; yea, to rise higher, with courtly Isaiah, with learned Paul, with all their fellow prophets, apostles; yet more, like another Moses, with God himself, in them both! Let the world contemn us: while we have these delights we cannot envy them; we cannot wish ourselves other than we are.

Besides, the way to all other contentments is troublesome; the only recompense is in the end. To delve in the mines, to scorch in the fire, for the getting, for the fining of gold, is a slavish toil; the comfort is in the wedge; to the owner, not the labourers: where our very search of knowledge is delightsome. Study itself is our life, from which we would not be barred for a world; how much sweeter then is the fruit of study, the conscience of knowledge! in comparison whereof, the soul that hath once tasted it easily contemns all human comforts.

Go now, ye worldlings, and insult over our paleness, our neediness, our neglect. Ye could not be so jocund if you were not ignorant; if you did not want knowledge, you could not overlook him that hath it. For me, I am so far from emulating you, that I profess, I would as lief be a brute beast as an ignorant rich man.

Friday, February 20, 2009


In Commendation of Age

Francis Bacon, Apophthegms New and Old 97 (75):
Alonso of Arragon was wont to say, in commendation of age, That age appeared to be best in four things: Old wood best to burn; old wine to drink; old friends to trust; and old authors to read.
Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer, Act I:
I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.
Carl Spitzweg, The Bookworm

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Ear Wax

James 1.19b-21 (tr. Ralph P. Martin):
19b Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry, 20 for human anger does not promote divine righteousness. 21 Therefore, get rid of all [moral] filth and every trace of evil, and humbly receive the word that is implanted by which you may be saved.

19 ἔστω δὲ πᾶς ἄνθρωπος ταχὺς εἰς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι, βραδὺς εἰς τὸ λαλῆσαι, βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν· 20 ὀργὴ γὰρ ἀνδρὸς δικαιοσύνην θεοῦ οὐκ ἐργάζεται. 21 διὸ ἀποθέμενοι πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν καὶ περισσείαν κακίας ἐν πραΰτητι δέξασθε τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.
Martin in his commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988 = Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 48) on James 1.21 (p. 48), writes:
James' concern is with a renunciation of all moral evil, expressed by πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν, which could refer to soiled and dirty garments (2:2) or could be construed in a specialized sense attested in Artimedorus (second century A.D., BGD, 738) as a medical term (ῥύπος) for earwax that must be washed away to give good hearing. The second sense fits the context nicely.
John P. Keenan, The Wisdom of James: Parallels with Mahāyāna Buddhism (Newman Press, 2005), p. 147, follows Martin, even in the incorrect spelling Artimedorus (should be Artemidorus).

Here is the cited passage (Artemidorus, Interpretation of Dreams 1.24, tr. Robert J. White):
To clean ears that are filled with dirt or pus signifies that one will receive good news from somewhere, whereas to be cuffed on the ears signifies bad news from somewhere.

ὦτα καθαίρειν μεστὰ ῥύπου ἢ ἰχῶρος ἀγγελίας σημαίνει ἀκούσεσθαί ποθεν ἀγαθάς, μαστιγοῦσθαι δὲ τὰ ὦτα κακὰς ἀγγελίας ἀκούσεσθαί ποθεν σημαίνει.
What White translates as "ears filled with dirt" could be translated "ears filled with wax."

"BGD, 738" in Martin's commentary is a reference to Bauer-Gingrich-Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 738, where the first definition of ῥύπος is "lit., of a greasy-viscous juice (e.g. ear-wax, Artem. 1, 24; PGM 36, 332)."

Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSJ), s.v. ῥύπος, cite two of BGD's passages and add a third: "ὁ ἐν τοῖς ὠσὶ ῥ. Arist. Pr.960b18, cf. Artem.1.24, PMag.Osl.1.332." The passage from pseudo-Aristotle, Problemata, means "the filth in the ears," i.e. ear wax.

John B. Mayor, in his commentary on James, 2nd ed. (1897; rpt. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), p. 64, writes:
Strictly speaking, the word ῥύπος is used of the wax of the ear, as Hippocrates and Clem. Al. Paed. ii p. 222 P. quoted by Heisen, who suggests that there may be an allusion to the purged ear, aurium removendae sordes sunt quae audiendi celeritatem impedire queunt; but it cannot be assumed without evidence that the derivative retained the force of the original word.
Heisen is Heinrich Heisen, Novae hypotheses interpretandae felicius epistolae Jacobi (Bremen, 1739), which is unavailable to me. The sentence quoted by Mayor means, "The ears' filth, which can hinder the swiftness to hear, must be removed."

I have only a few things to add.

First, see Hippocrates, Epidemics 6.5.1 (Loeb Hippocrates, vol. VII, pp. 254-255), where the phrase ὠτὸς ῥύπος appears with the meaning ear wax. There are supposedly other examples in Josef-Hans Kühn and Ulrich Fleischer, Index Hippocraticus, but that work is unavailable to me.

Second, see LSJ s.v. ῥυπάω (a cognate word): "II. Pass., to be filled with wax, of the ear, prob. in S.Fr. 858." The fragment of Sophocles is illuminating (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
The impact of the words comes slowly, and has difficulty in getting through an ear that is blocked; a man who can see from far off is altogether blind close up.

βραδεῖα μὲν γὰρ ἐν λόγοισι προσβολὴ
μόλις δι᾽ ὠτὸς ἔρχεται ῥυπωμένου·
πόρρω δὲ λεύσσων, ἐγγύθεν δὲ πᾶς τυφλός
Here ῥυπωμένου (blocked by wax) is Meineke's conjecture for τρυπημένου (pierced).

Third, there is another ancient Greek word for ear wax — κυψέλη (also κυψελίς), which originally meant "any hollow vessel, chest, box," then the "hollow of the ear," and finally "that which fills the hollow of the ear," or "ear wax." One of the quotations in LSJ s.v. κυψέλη is "κυψέλην ..ἔχεις ..ἐν τοῖς ὠσίν, prov. of stupid men, Com.Adesp.620," i.e. "you have wax in your ears," further confirmation that, to the ancients, ear wax was a barrier to hearing and thus also to understanding.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009



Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnets, Part II, Number XXIX, from Poems (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1864), p. 227:
How oft in schoolboy-days, from the school's sway
Have I run forth to Nature as to a friend,–
With some pretext of o'erwrought sight, to spend
My school-time in green meadows far away!
Careless of summoning bell, or clocks that strike,
I marked with flowers the minutes of my day:
For still the eye that shrank from hated hours,
Dazzled with decimal and dividend,
Knew each bleached alder-root that plashed across
The bubbling brook, and every mass of moss;
Could tell the month, too, by the vervain-spike,–
How far the ring of purple tiny flowers
Had climbed; just starting, may-be, with the May,
Half-high, or tapering off at Summer's end.
Tuckerman suffered from poor eyesight ("with some pretext of o'erwrought sight") all his life. There is a parallel to telling time by the growth of the vervain-spike in Henry David Thoreau, Journal (August 21, 1851):
Bigelow, speaking of the spikes of the blue vervain (Verbena hastata), says, "The flowering commences at their base and is long in reaching their summit." I perceive that only one circle of buds, about half a dozen, blossoms at a time, — and there are about thirty circles in the space of three inches, — while the next circle of buds above at the same time shows the blue. Thus this triumphant blossoming circle travels upward, driving the remaining buds off into space. I think it was the 16th of July when I first noticed them (on another plant), and now they are all within about half an inch of the top of the spikes. Yet the blossoms have got no nearer the top on long [sic] spikes, which had many buds, than on short ones only an inch long. Perhaps the blossoming commenced enough earlier on the long ones to make up for the difference in length. It is very pleasant to measure the progress of the season by this and similar clocks. So you get, not the absolute time, but the true time of the season.
Bigelow is Jacob Bigelow, Florula Bostoniensis: A Collection of Plants of Boston and Its Vicinity, with Their Generic and Specific Characters, Principal Synonyms, Descriptions, Places of Growth, and Time of Flowering, and Occasional Remarks, 3rd ed. (Boston: Little and Brown, 1840), p. 254.

See also Thoreau's Journal (August 22, 1859):
The circles of the blue vervain flowers, now risen near to the top, show how far advanced the season is.
Verbena hastata (photograph by Albert F.W. Vick)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Long Have I Been Thy Votary

John Norris, To Melancholy, in A Collection of Miscellanies, 6th ed. (London: Manship, 1717), pp. 100-101:
    Mysterious passion, dearest pain,
    Tell me, what wondrous charms are these
    With which thou dost torment and please,
I grieve to be thy slave, yet would not freedom gain.
    No tyranny like thine we know,
    That half so cruel e're appear'd,
    And yet thou'rt lov'd as well as fear'd,
Perhaps the only tyrant that is so.

    Long have I been thy votary,
    Thou'st led me out to woods and groves,
    Made'st me despise all other loves,
And give up all my passions, all my soul to thee.
    Thee for my first companion did I chuse,
    First, even before my darling Muse;
    And yet I know of thee no more
Than those who never did thy shrine adore.

    Thou'rt Mystery and Riddle all,
    Like those thou inspirest, thou lov'st to be
    In darkness and obscurity,
Even learned Athens thee an unknown God might call.
    Strange contraries in thee combine,
    Both Hell and Heaven in thee meet,
    Thou greatest bitter, greatest sweet,
No pain is like thy pain, no pleasure too like thine.

    'Tis the grave doctrine of the schools
    That contraries can never be
    Consistent in the high'st degree,
But thou must stand exempt from their dull narrow rules.
    And yet 'tis said the brightest mind
    Is that which is by thee refin'd.
    See here a greater mystery,
Thou mak'st us wise, yet ruin'st our philosophy.
Related posts:



Dorothy Wordsworth, Journal (February 17, 1798):
A deep snow upon the ground. Wm and Coleridge walked to Mr Bartelmy's, and to Stowey. Wm returned and we walked through the wood into the Coombe to fetch some eggs. The sun shone bright and clear. A deep stillness in the thickest part of the wood, undisturbed except by the occasional dropping of the snow from the holly boughs; no other sound but that of the water, and the slender notes of a redbreast, which sang at intervals on the outskirts of the southern side of the wood. There the bright green moss was bare at the roots of the trees, and the little birds were upon it. The whole appearance of the wood was enchanting; and each tree, taken singly, was beautiful. The branches of the hollies pendent with their white burden, but still showing their bright red berries, and their glossy green leaves. The bare branches of the oaks thickened by the snow.

Monday, February 16, 2009



Thomas Hardy, Throwing a Tree (New Forest):

The two executioners stalk along over the knolls,
Bearing two axes with heavy heads shining and wide,
And a long limp two-handled saw toothed for cutting great boles,
And so they approach the proud tree that bears the death-mark on its side.

Jackets doffed they swing axes and chop away just above ground,
And the chips fly about and lie white on the moss and fallen leaves;
Till a broad deep gash in the bark is hewn all the way round,
And one of them tries to hook upward a rope, which at last he achieves.

The saw then begins, till the top of the tall giant shivers:
The shivers are seen to grow greater with each cut than before:
They edge out the saw, tug the rope; but the tree only quivers,
And kneeling and sawing again, they step back to try pulling once more.

Then, lastly, the living mast sways, further sways: with a shout
Job and Ike rush aside. Reached the end of its long staying powers
The tree crashes downward: it shakes all its neighbours throughout,
And two hundred years' steady growth has been ended in less than two hours.

Eastman Johnson, A Boy in the Maine Woods

Related posts: Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Protection of Sacred Groves; Lex Luci Spoletina; Turullius and the Grove of Asclepius; Caesarian Section; Death of a Noble Pine; Two Yew Trees in Chilthorne, Somerset; The Fate of the Shrubbery at Weston; The Trees Are Down; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Anagyrasian Spirit

In Greek mythology, Erysichthon was punished for cutting down the grove of Demeter. Historical figures who supposedly suffered divine punishment for cutting down sacred trees include Stratonicos and Turullius. There is another example in the Suda, s.v. Ἀναγυράσιος (A 1842 Adler, tr. David Whitehead, footnotes omitted):
Anagyrous is a deme of the tribe Erechtheis, the demesman from which [is an] Anagyrasian. Also [the proverbial phrase] "Anagyrasian spirit [daimon]". And a shrine of Anagyros in the deme of the Anagyrasians. [The phrase] "Anagyrasian spirit" [arose] because a hero Anagyros took vengeance on the elderly settler who cut down the grove. Anagyrasians [were] a deme of Attica. One of them cut down the grove of this [hero]. He made [the man's] concubine fall madly in love with [the man's] son, and she, unable to persuade the son, denounced him to the father as licentious. He [the father] mutilated him [the son] and immured him in the house. Consequently the father hanged himself, and the concubine threw herself into a well. Hieronymus tells the story in his [treatise] On Tragic Poets, comparing the Phoenix of Euripides to them.

Ἀναγυράσιος: δῆμός ἐστιν Ἀναγυροῦς τῆς Ἐρεχθηί̈δος φυλῆς, ἧς ὁ δημότης Ἀναγυράσιος. καὶ Ἀναγυράσιος δαίμων. καὶ τέμενος Ἀναγύρου ἐν τῷ δήμῳ τῶν Ἀναγυρασίων. Ἀναγυράσιος δαίμων, ἐπεὶ τὸν παροικοῦντα πρεσβύτην καὶ ἐκτέμνοντα τὸ ἄλσος ἐτιμωρήσατο Ἀνάγυρος ἥρως. Ἀναγυράσιοι δὲ δῆμος τῆς Ἀττικῆς. τούτου δέ τις ἐξέκοψε τὸ ἄλσος. ὁ δὲ τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ ἐπέμηνε τὴν παλλακήν, ἥτις μὴ δυναμένη συμπεῖσαι τὸν παῖδα διέβαλεν ὡς ἀσελγῆ τῷ πατρί. ὁ δὲ ἐπήρωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐγκατῳκοδόμησεν. ἐπὶ τούτοις καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἑαυτὸν ἀνήρτησεν, ἡ δὲ παλλακὴ εἰς φρέαρ ἑαυτὴν ἔρριψεν. ἱστορεῖ δὲ Ἱερώνυμος ἐν τῷ περὶ τραγῳδιοποιῶν ἀπεικάζων τούτοις τὸν Εὐριπίδου Φοίνικα.
Related posts: Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Protection of Sacred Groves; Lex Luci Spoletina; Turullius and the Grove of Asclepius; Caesarian Section; Death of a Noble Pine; Two Yew Trees in Chilthorne, Somerset; The Fate of the Shrubbery at Weston; The Trees Are Down; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Make Love, Not War

Aristophanes, Peace 456-457 (Trygaeus and Hermes are speaking, tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
(TR.) Here's to Hermes; to the Graces; to the Seasons; to Aphrodite; to Desire.
(HE.) But not to Ares! (TR.) No. (HE.) Nor to Enyalius!

(ΤΡ.) Ἑρμῇ, Χάρισιν, Ὥραισιν, Ἀφροδίτῃ, Πόθῳ.
(ἙΡ.) Ἄρει δὲ μή. (ΤΡ.) μή. (ἙΡ.) μηδ᾽ Ἐνυαλίῳ γε.
Some assign Hermes' words to the chorus. Henderson has the stage direction "toasting," although S. Douglas Olson in his commentary says "sc. εὐχόμεθα" (i.e. we pray). It works as a toast, though, and if you're ever called on to make a toast, it's hard to improve on line 456.

Friday, February 13, 2009


A Chorus of Frogs

The chorus in Aristophanes' Frogs croaks "brekekekex koax koax" (line 209 and elsewhere). For an amusing commentary, see George Horton, In Argolis (Chicago: McClurg, 1902), pp. 51-54:
Who says that ancient Greek is not spoken in this country still? Just as we emerged from the lane, I heard a chorus of voices shouting an immortal line from Aristophanes. I stopped and listened, with the same feeling of pleasure that one might experience in unexpectedly hearing the voice of an old friend in a strange land. Yes, there they were!
"Kek, kek, kek, koax!"
There was no chance to dispute the pronunciation, or to doubt for one moment its genuineness. The throats were Greek, and older than Aristophanes himself; pre-Mycenaean, pre-Pelasgian, pre-anything that the archaeologists wot of. I do not know why they said
"Kek, kek, kek, koax!"
nor what they meant by it,—whether it is a prophecy, a song, or a curse; but I do know that these voices have been repeating it, insisting upon it, chattering about it, ever since the Seven fell before Thebes,—and long ere that.

I crept through the tall wheat to the shaft of an old well, and peeped down. Half a dozen feet below me, three or four frogs were floating buoyantly, their hind legs trailing listlessly behind them, their heads raised to the sky. Even as I looked, one of them began his "Kek, kek, kek" and two or three interrupted him with a In raucous and derisive "Koax!"

I looked sharply into their big bulging eyes, and I fancied I detected there a faint gleam of amusement, perhaps of derision. If so, I think I understood. At any rate, I have stuck pretty faithfully to my Greek for a layman, and perhaps I am entitled to an opinion.

There they were, in a marsh or a puddle, while tall Achilles was driving his maddened horses about Troy and the limp corse of beautiful Hector bounded through the dust, and they knew that a coward's arrow would smite him in the heel; there they were when proud King Agamemnon walked to his palace-gates on carpets, lest the earth defile his victorious feet, and they knew that he was a cuckold and that a shameful death awaited him within; there they were while Pericles and Phidias were supreme in Athens, and they knew that the most of those divine works of art would melt away in barbarian or Christian lime-kilns, and that a Venetian bomb would wreck the Parthenon; there they were when Aeschylus was fighting with the Greek navy at Salamis, and they knew that the filthy Turk would defile the soil of Hellas with slavery and moral degradation for hundreds of years. Argolis And they looked on all the time out of bulging, humorous eyes, and cried—
"Kek, kek, kek, koax!"
Away with your Pindars, your Miltons, your Tennysons, your Gibbons, your Ciceros, your Websters! We take ourselves too seriously, we mortals, with our little ephemeral dynasties, religions, civilizations! The voice of the frogs outlives them all; and what other voice so expressively sums up the whole matter as these that cry
"Kek, kek, kek, koax!"
Update: Thanks to Fran Manushkin for drawing my attention to the Stephen Sondheim musical The Frogs, which has a clever version of the frogs' chorus.

Related posts:

Thursday, February 12, 2009


An Old Saw and a New One

In a University of Chicago dissertation supervised by Paul Shorey, Eliza Gregory Wilkins investigated the adage "Know Thyself" in Greek and Latin Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Libraries, 1917) and found the following different shades of meaning in the Greek saying γνῶθι σαυτόν (in Latin, nosce te ipsum) — know your measure, know what you can and cannot do, know your place, know the limits of your wisdom, know your own faults, know you are human and mortal, and know your own soul. All useful things to know, no doubt.

In light of the ancient popularity of the maxim, I was interested to see Menander's dissent (fragment 181 Kassel and Austin):
In many respects "know thyself" was not well said. For "know others" would have been more useful.

κατὰ πόλλ᾽ γ' ἐστὶν οὐ καλῶς εἰρημένον
τὸ γνῶθι σαυτόν· χρησιμώτερον γὰρ ἦν
τὸ γνῶθι τοὺς ἄλλους.
In our narcissistic, psychoanalytic age, it might be healthier for an individual to turn his gaze away from himself now and then. I propose a different maxim — "know what is outside yourself" (nosce quod est extra te ipsum). Take an interest in something other than yourself for a change.

I have not seen Pierre Courcelle, Connais-toi toi-même de Socrate à Saint Bernard, 3 vols. (Paris, 1974-1975), or Hermann Tränkle, "ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ. Zu Ursprung und Deutungsgeschichte des delphischen Spruchs," Würzburger Jahrbücher für die Altertumswissenschaft N.F. 11 (1985) 19-31.

An update via email:
Ave Mike,

You see what when you venture to offer even a mildly philosophical view. Controversy and faction! You enlist with the Nosces and the Nescis are sure to get on case, demanding at the very least equal time to put their case for ostrichism."If you look around at what's happening in the world, you'll only get more depressed and angry. Stick your head deep in the sand and never look up!"

Phillippus Struthiocamelus

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Let Esculents Abound

Robert Louis Stevenson, To a Gardener:
Friend, in my mountain-side demesne
My plain-beholding, rosy, green
And linnet-haunted garden-ground,
Let still the esculents abound.
Let first the onion flourish there,
Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,
Wine-scented and poetic soul
Of the capacious salad bowl.
Let thyme the mountaineer (to dress
The tinier birds) and wading cress,
The lover of the shallow brook,
From all my plots and borders look.
Nor crisp and ruddy radish, nor
Pease-cods for the child's pinafore
Be lacking; nor of salad clan
The last and least that ever ran
About great nature's garden-beds.
Nor thence be missed the speary heads
Of artichoke; nor thence the bean
That gathered innocent and green
Outsavours the belauded pea.

These tend, I prithee; and for me,
Thy most long-suffering master, bring
In April, when the linnets sing
And the days lengthen more and more
At sundown to the garden door.
And I, being provided thus.
Shall, with superb asparagus,
A book, a taper, and a cup
Of country wine, divinely sup.
Ah, but what kind of onion? Bianca di Maggio? Jaune Paille des Vertus? Red Creole? Yellow of Parma?

What kind of radish? China Rose? Early Scarlet Globe? Jaune d'Or Ovale? Noir Gros Rond d'Hiver? Violet De Gournay?

What kind of asparagus? Precoce d'Argenteuil? Mary Washington?

All of these varieties and more are listed in my favorite wintertime reading, the catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

William Merritt Chase, Still Life with Vegetables

Related posts:

Monday, February 09, 2009


Reading at One Sitting

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 25 (1904) 225, rpt. in Selections from the Brief Mention of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, ed. Charles William Emil Miller (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1930), pp. 107-108:
There is worse reading than the Opuscula of Gottfried Hermann, a mighty shade in the days when I began to learn my business, and in turning over the third volume the other day I chanced on two prefaces, one of which made a deep impression on my youthful mind more than fifty years ago. In the preface to his edition of the Odyssey as in the preface to his edition of the Iliad the fine old scholar emphasizes the importance of reading Homer continuously, and tells us how he read the Iliad over and over again within the compass of a few days. Years before I knew aught of Hermann except the name I had been stirred by the passage in Gibbon's autobiography in which he informs us that 'Scaliger ran through the Iliad in one and twenty days' and adds 'I was not dissatisfied with my diligence for performing the same labour in an equal number of weeks.' It was easy enough to beat Gibbon, but when it comes to Scaliger, when it comes to Hermann, the question 'How?' arises. To read Homer as Hermann read him, as Hermann would have us read him, with the eye now on this, now on that element, is not an easy matter for men of a certain temperament. One gets caught in the undertow, and I have once at least found myself turned back from ω to A and forced to begin all over again in order to verify an observation I thought I had made. Even lesser units are not often read continuously by the average scholar, such units as a major dialogue of Plato or a long speech of Demosthenes; and I myself remember as a manner of revelation the first time I read the De Corona through without leaving my chair from πρῶτον μέν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι to the musical close σωτηρίαν ἀσφαλῆ. It was some thirty years ago. I had studied the speech years before under the illustrious master Boeckh. I had gone through it guttatim et stillatim with undergraduate classes, but I never felt the thrill of it and the surge of it as I did then. What was intended to be heard at one sitting ought to be read at one sitting.
Gildersleeve was referring to p. 81 of Gottfried Hermann's Opuscula, vol. III (Leipzig: Fleischer, 1828), where he says, "Eiusmodi lectio quem fructum praeberet, ego ipse expertus sum, quum aliquando Iliadem quater aut quinquies intra paucos dies perlegi..."

See also E.P. Sanders, Comparing Judaism and Christianity: An Academic Autobiography (.pdf), p. 14:
By then I had learned THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF MY LIFE: you really know what you learn for yourself by studying original sources. I would never have come to my understanding of the Rabbis by reading secondary literature. I could decide without first-hand study that Moore was better than Bousset, but that was by no means the same as internalizing the Rabbis' modes of argument and their spirit. Furthermore, I remembered that one of the most exciting afternoons of my life was when I had read the Pauline letters through at a single sitting.
Related post: How to Read.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


The Butchers of Our Poor Trees

Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to the following entry in Léon Bloy's Journal (December 19, 1903). The rough translation is mine.
Very painful impression caused by the fall of one of the tall trees in our neighborhood. Devastation which grieves us and makes us dislike already our new home. Yesterday morning, we felt a tightness in the heart to see stretched out on the ground a row of these magnificent poplars which had drawn us here and whose rustling gave us the illusion of a forest nearby. We could have wept because of it.

But today, seeing and hearing one of them fall, I felt extreme sadness, an immense disgust for this world. Savages have a dim fear of the forces of nature, of the elementa mundi, as the ancients used to say, which can dissuade them from destroying a thing of beauty. But the bourgeois, barbarian of a superior type, is incapable of this fear. The beauty of the face of God isn't worth as much to him as the portrait of Louis-Philippe or Napoleon III on a hundred sou coin. The mother of the butchers of our poor trees, a respectable shopkeeper, gave a few days ago the real answer :- If it had not been not us, it would have been others! she said with a great nobility of expression. If Judas had sold his Lord a second time, for fifteen farthings, the profit from it would have been just as much. Why let a business deal slip by?

Impression très pénible causée par la chute de l'un des grands arbres du voisinage. Dévastation qui nous afflige et nous dégoûte déjà de notre nouvelle demeure. Hier matin, nous avions eu le coeur serré en voyant étendus par terre toute une rangée de ces magnifiques peupliers qui nous avaient attirés ici et dont le bruissement nous donnait l'illusion du voisinage d'une forêt. Nous en aurions pleuré.

Mais aujourd'hui, voyant et entendant tomber l'un d'eux, j'ai senti une tristesse extrême, une satiété immense de ce monde. Les sauvages ont une crainte obscure des forces naturelles, des elementa mundi, comme disaient les anciens, qui peut les détourner de détruire une belle chose. Mais le bourgeois, brute supérieure, est incapable de cette crainte. La beauté de la Face de Dieu ne vaut pas pour lui l'effigie de Louis-Philippe ou de Napoléon III sur une pièce de cent sous. La mère des abatteurs de nos pauvres arbres, une boutiquière illustre, donnait, il ya quelques jours, la vraie réponse :— Si ce n'était pas nous, ce serait d'autres! disait-elle avec une grande noblesse d'expression. Si Judas revendait son Maître, quinze deniers, autant en profiter. Pourquoi laisser échapper une affaire?
Bloy was living at the time in Lagny-sur-Marne, which he nicknamed Cochons-sur-Marne.

Related posts: Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Protection of Sacred Groves; Lex Luci Spoletina; Turullius and the Grove of Asclepius; Caesarian Section; Death of a Noble Pine; Two Yew Trees in Chilthorne, Somerset; The Fate of the Shrubbery at Weston; The Trees Are Down; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


The Worship of Mammon

Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vol. VII: 1845-1848 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1912), pp. 288-289:
Channing proposed that there should be a magnified Dollar, say as big as a barrel-head, made of silver or gold, in each village, and Colonel Shattuck or other priest appointed to take care of it and not let it be stolen; then we should be provided with a local deity, and could bring it baked beans or other offerings and rites, as pleased us.
Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present (1843), book III (The Modern Worker), chapter 9 (Working Aristocracy):
In brief, all this Mammon-Gospel, of Supply-and-demand, Competition, Laissez-faire, and Devil take the hindmost, begins to be one of the shabbiest Gospels ever preached on Earth; or altogether the shabbiest.

Friday, February 06, 2009


The Rhodora

Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Rhodora:
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew:
But in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.
In Emerson's day, the plant was known as Rhodora canadensis (a genus with a single species), but today it is classified as Rhododendron canadense. Emerson's botanical details are accurate, as consultation of Nathaniel Lord Britton and Addison Brown, An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions, 2nd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913; rpt. New York: Dover, 1970), II, 679-680, shows.

The first words of Emerson's poem are "In May," and Britton & Brown confirm that the flower does indeed bloom in May. Phenological data in Thoreau's Journal also support the May flowering time. Emerson refers to the "leafless blooms," and Britton & Brown say "flowers expanding with or before the leaves." In Emerson's poem, the flower resides in a "damp nook," and the habitat in Britton & Brown is "in bogs and on wet hillsides." Emerson specifies "purple petals," and Britton & Brown say "rose-colored, purple, or nearly white."

Rhodora is a pleasant-sounding name, but it could have been less euphonic. Heinrich Johann Nepomuk von Crantz, Institutiones Rei Herbariae, vol. II (Vienna: Kraus, 1766), pp. 468-469, suggested changing the name to Hochenwartia canadensis:
Cum Rhodorae nomen alteri datum fuerit plantae apud PLINIVM, hanc stirpem R.P. Hochenwart. S.I. Botanicae et Historiae naturali studiosissimo sacram volui.
Somehow Hochenwartia doesn't have quite the same ring as Rhodora.

Rhododendron canadense
Photograph by Albert F.W. Vick (Pennsylvania, 1991)

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Penny Truths

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher (F 1209, tr. Franz Mautner and Henry Hatfield):
The scribble-book method is most warmly to be recommended. To leave no idiom, no expression unwritten. We can acquire riches by saving up the penny truths, too.

Schmierbuch Methode bestens zu empfehlen. Keine Wendung, keinen Ausdruck unaufgeschrieben zu lassen. Reichthum erwirbt man sich auch durch Ersparung der Pfennigs Wahrheiten.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (Jan. 1, 1834):
This Book is my Savings Bank. I grow richer because I have somewhere to deposit my earnings; and fractions are worth more to me because corresponding fractions are waiting here that shall be made integers by their addition.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


How Do You Tackle Your Work Each Day?

Benjamin DeCasseres, "The Complete American," The American Mercury (February, 1927), VIII (Edgar A. Guest):
No hearth, no American. No home, no mother?—you are not Nordic. Lead, kindly window-lamp. It is snowing outside. A one-hundred-per-center's foot slipped while he was fighting the foreign bootleggers as secretary to the local Anti-Saloon League. He is returning from Sing-Sing. It is snowing outside. But the lamp is in the window for him and his old mother waits, waits for the return of the hundred-per-center with the poems of Edgar A. Guest on her knee.

For Edgar Guest (only atheists call him Eddie) is also an avatar. He is Virtue, Kindness and Goodness, such as only we real Americans know those qualities. He is the American Love of Decency—the Cerberus that guards against the great Blond Beast, against the sex-prickings of jazz, against the Seven Deadly Pleasures.

Guest is the upsprung backbone of middle-class morality. Rome fell and Greece was blotted out, and Sodom and Gomorrah slid into Gehenna because they had no Edgar Guest.
Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959) was a popular versifier, newspaper writer, and radio personality. Here is a sample of his "inspirational" verse:
How do you tackle your work each day?
  Are you scared of the job you find?
Do you grapple the task that comes your way
  With a confident, easy mind?
Do you stand right up to the work ahead
  Or fearfully pause to view it?
Do you start to toil with a sense of dread?
  Or feel that you're going to do it?

You can do as much as you think you can,
  But you'll never accomplish more;
If you're afraid of yourself, young man,
  There's little for you in store.
For failure comes from the inside first,
  It's there if we only knew it,
And you can win, though you face the worst,
  If you feel that you're going to do it.

Success! It's found in the soul of you,
  And not in the realm of luck!
The world will furnish the work to do,
  But you must provide the pluck.
You can do whatever you think you can,
  It's all in the way you view it.
It's all in the start you make, young man:
  You must feel that you're going to do it.

How do you tackle your work each day?
  With confidence clear, or dread?
What to yourself do you stop and say
  When a new task lies ahead?
What is the thought that is in your mind?
  Is fear ever running through it?
If so, just tackle the next you find
  By thinking you're going to do it.
Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960), also a poet, newspaper columnist (his column was called The Conning Tower), and radio personality, wrote a parody of Guest's poem, which I find more inspirational than the original:
I tackle my terrible job each day
  With a fear that is well defined;
And I grapple the task that comes my way
  With no confidence in my mind.
I try to evade the work ahead,
  As I fearfully pause to view it,
And I start to toil with a sense of dread,
  And doubt that I'm going to do it.

I can't do as much as I think I can,
  And I never accomplish more.
I am scared to death of myself, old man,
  As I may have observed before.
I've read the proverbs of Charley Schwab,
  Carnegie, and Marvin Hughitt;
But whenever I tackle a difficult job,
  O gosh! I hate to do it!

I try to believe in my vaunted power
  With that confident kind of bluff,
But somebody tells me The Conning Tower
  Is nothing but awful stuff.
And I take up my impotent pen that night,
  And idly and sadly chew it,
As I try to write something merry and bright,
  And I know that I shall not do it.

And that's how I tackle my work each day—
  With terror and fear and dread—
And all I can see is a long array
  Of empty columns ahead.
And those are the thoughts that are in my mind,
  And that's about all there's to it.
As long as there's work, of whatever kind,
  I'm certain I cannot do it.
Related post: Tell Me Not.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Quid Aeternis Minorem Consiliis Animum Fatigas?

Matthew Arnold, Horatian Echo (To an Ambitious Friend):
Omit, omit, my simple friend,
Still to enquire how parties tend,
Or what we fix with foreign powers.
If France and we are really friends,
And what the Russian Czar intends,
    Is no concern of ours.

Us not the daily quickening race
Of the invading populace
Shall draw to swell that shouldering herd.
Mourn will we not your closing hour,
Ye imbeciles in present power,
    Doom'd, pompous, and absurd!

And let us bear, that they debate
Of all the engine-work of state,
Of commerce, laws, and policy,
The secrets of the world's machine,
And what the rights of man may mean,
    With readier tongue than we.

Only, that with no finer art
They cloak the troubles of the heart
With pleasant smile, let us take care;
Nor with a lighter hand dispose
Fresh garlands of this dewy rose,
    To crown Eugenia's hair.

Of little threads our life is spun,
And he spins ill, who misses one.
But is thy fair Eugenia cold?
Yet Helen had an equal grace,
And Juliet's was as fair a face,
    And now their years are told.

The day approaches, when we must
Be crumbling bones and windy dust;
And scorn us as our mistress may,
Her beauty will no better be
Than the poor face she slights in thee,
    When dawns that day, that day.
Arnold echoes chiefly Horace, Ode 2.11 (tr. W.S. Marris):
The Goths beyond the sea may plot,
  The warlike Basques may plan,
Friend, never heed them! vex thee not
    For this our mortal span

Of little wants. Youth's halcyon day
  Soon goes with all its gleams,
And wizened Age drives far away
  Light loves and easy dreams.

The warmth of April buds will wane,
  The ruddy Moon will change:
Why must thou tax a puny brain
  With schemes beyond its range?

No! 'neath the lofty lime or pine
  Reposing while we may
Bedewed with scent, while roses twine
  Our hair already grey,

Here lie and drink. Wine blows away
  The gnats of care. Go, slave,
Quick, this Falernian's fire allay
  In yonder rushing wave.

Coax Lyde from her lurking-place,
  With ivory lute arrayed,
Her tresses knotted with the grace
  That marks the Spartan maid.

Quid bellicosus Cantaber et Scythes,
Hirpine Quincti, cogitet Hadria
    divisus obiecto, remittas
    quaerere, nec trepides in usum

poscentis aevi pauca: fugit retro
levis iuventas et decor, arida
    pellente lascivos amores
    canitie facilemque somnum.

non semper idem floribus est honor
vernis, neque uno Luna rubens nitet
    vultu: quid aeternis minorem
    consiliis animum fatigas?

cur non sub alta vel platano vel hac
pinu iacentes sic temere et rosa
    canos odorati capillos,
    dum licet, Assyriaque nardo

potamus uncti? dissipat Euhius
curas edacis. quis puer ocius
    restinguet ardentis Falerni
    pocula praetereunte lympha?

quis devium scortum eliciet domo
Lyden? eburna dic, age, cum lyra
    maturet, in comptum Lacaenae
    more comas religata nodum.



Claude Tillier, Belle-Plante et Cornélius:
The time best spent is the time one wastes.

Le temps le mieux employé est celui qu'on perd.
Samuel Rogers:
When a new book comes out, I read an old one.
I owe both quotations to Austin Dobson.

Monday, February 02, 2009


For These

Edward Thomas, For These:
An acre of land between the shore and the hills,
Upon a ledge that shows my kingdoms three,
The lovely visible earth and sky and sea,
Where what the curlew needs not, the farmer tills:

A house that shall love me as I love it,
Well-hedged, and honoured by a few ash-trees
That linnets, greenfinches, and goldfinches
Shall often visit and make love in and flit:

A garden I need never go beyond,
Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one
Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun:
A spring, a brook's bend, or at least a pond:

For these I ask not, but, neither too late
Nor yet too early, for what men call content,
And also that something may be sent
To be contented with, I ask of fate.
Jervis McEntee, Farm by the Shore

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