Tuesday, March 31, 2009


O Precious Codex

Franklin P. Adams, To a Thesaurus:
O precious codex, volume, tome,
  Book, writing, compilation, work
Attend the while I pen a pome,
  A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.

For I would pen, engross, indite,
  Transcribe, set forth, compose, address,
Record, submit — yea, even write
  An ode, an elegy to bless —

To bless, set store by, celebrate,
  Approve, esteem, endow with soul,
Commend, acclaim, appreciate,
  Immortalize, laud, praise, extol.

Thy merit, goodness, value, worth,
  Expedience, utility —
O manna, honey, salt of earth,
  I sing, I chant, I worship thee!

How could I manage, live, exist,
  Obtain, produce, be real, prevail,
Be present in the flesh, subsist,
  Have place, become, breathe or inhale.

Without thy help, recruit, support,  
Opitulation, furtherance,
Assistance, rescue, aid, resort,
  Favour, sustention and advance?

Alas! Alack! and well-a-day!
  My case would then be dour and sad,
Likewise distressing, dismal, gray,
  Pathetic, mournful, dreary, bad.

              * * *

Though I could keep this up all day,
  This lyric, elegiac, song,
Meseems hath come the time to say
  Farewell! Adieu! Good-by! So long!
Related post: Liddell and Scott.

Monday, March 30, 2009


The Groves Are Down

Gary Snyder, Myths & Texts, number 14:
The groves are down
                cut down
Groves of Ahab, of Cybele
Pine trees, knobbed twigs
        thick cone and seed
        Cybele's tree this, sacred in groves
Pine of Seami, cedar of Haida
Cut down by the prophets of Israel
        the fairies of Athens
        the thugs of Rome
                both ancient and modern;
Cut down to make room for the suburbs
Bulldozed by Luther and Weyerhaeuser
Crosscut and chainsaw
        squareheads and finns
        high-lead and cat-skidding
Trees down
Creeks choked, trout killed, roads.

Sawmill temples of Jehovah.
Squat black burners 100 feet high
Sending the smoke
of our burnt
Live sap and leaf
To his eager nose.
In this poem Snyder combines references from ancient and modern times, East and West, the Old World and the New.

King Ahab made a grove for idol worship. See 1 Kings 16.33: "And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him." Such groves were cut down by Hezekiah and reformers like him, e.g. 2 Kings 18.4: "He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves..."

Cybele was a Phrygian goddess worshipped in mountain groves.

Seami, or Zeami (1363-1443), was a Japanese playwright. Among his plays is The Old Pine Tree.

The Haida are an Indian tribe of the Pacific northwest.

Robert Kern, Orientalism, Modernism, and the American Poem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 253, identifies Luther and Weyerhaeuser with "Protestantism and corporate capitalism," i.e. Martin Luther and the pulp and paper company Weyerhaeuser.

A squarehead is a German.

Cables are used in high-lead logging.

A skidder transports logs, and a cat-skidder is a skidder manufactured by Caterpillar.

Snyder worked as a lumberjack.

Paul Nash, We Are Making a New World

Related posts: Massacre; Executioners; 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, March 29, 2009


Mysteries and Thrills

Vladimir Nabokov, excerpts from introductory lecture to Russian literature class (Wellesley, September 1946):
Every subject brims with mysteries and thrills, and no two students of the same subject discover a like amount of delight, accumulate exactly the same amount of knowledge....Suppose a schoolchild picks up the study of butterflies for a hobby. He will learn a few things about the general structure. He will be able to tell you that a butterfly has always six feet and never eight or twenty. That there are innumerable patterns of butterfly wings and that according to to those patterns they are divided into generic and specific groups. This is a fair amount of knowledge for a schoolchild. But of course he has not even come near the fascinating and incredible intricacies invented by nature in the fashioning of this group of insects alone. He will not even suspect the fascinating variety of inner organs, the varying shapes of which allow the scientist not only unerringly to classify them, often giving the lie to the seeming resemblance of wing patterns, but also to trace the origin and development and relationship of the genera and species, the history of the migration of their ancestors, the varying influence of the environments on the developments of the species and forms, etc., etc., etc.; and he will not [have] even touched upon other mysterious fields, limitless in themselves, of for instance mimicry, or symbiosis. This example applies to every field of knowledge, and it is very apt in the case of literature....

The more things we know the better equipped we are to understand any one thing and it is a burning pity that our lives are not long enough and not sufficiently free of annoying obstacles, to study all things with the same care and depth as the one we now devote to some favorite subject or period. And yet there is a semblance of consolation within this dismal state of affairs: in the same way as the whole universe may be completely reciprocated in the structure of an atom,...an intelligent and assiduous student [may] find a small replica of all knowledge in a subject he has chosen for his special research....and if, upon choosing your subject, you try diligently to find out about it, if you allow yourself to be lured into the shaded lanes that lead from the main road you have chosen to the lovely and little known nooks of special knowledge, and if you lovingly finger the links of the many chains that connect your subject to the past and future and if by luck you hit upon some scrap of knowledge referring to your subject that has not yet become common knowledge, then will you know the true felicity of the great adventure of learning, and your years in this college will become a valuable start on a road of inestimable happiness.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Improper Words in Boliaric

In chapter V and Appendix II of Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece (London: John Murray, 1966), Patrick Leigh Fermor discussed a secret language used in the Kravara district of Greece. The name of the secret language is Boliaric. So far as I can tell, no one else has ever analyzed the Boliaric materials collected by Fermor. To do so properly would require knowledge of Slavic languages and modern Greek, knowledge which I lack. I offer only a couple of trifling observations on a paragraph from the appendix:
Here also are a few of the mildly improper words in the vocabulary. Perdikis, the Greek for a young partridge, is "the rump" or "behind", havalóu, the female pudendum, lióka its convex masculine complement; manganízo is "I fornicate"; souravlízo, which normally means "playing a reed pipe", here means "I urinate"; kouphróno and tzarmízo, identical in sense, are its solider companion verbs and koúphrisma and tzármisma their end products; tramalízo and lazinízo both mean to break wind and tramálisma is the same wind once broken.
From an etymological point of view, perdikis is an appropriate word for "fundament," as it is cognate with verbs for breaking wind. See Calvert Watkins' Indo-European Roots, published as an appendix to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. perd-:
To fart. Germanic *fertan, *fartan in Old English *feortan, to fart: FART. 2. Greek perdix, partridge (which makes a sharp whirring sound when suddenly flushed): PARTRIDGE. See also variant root pezd-. [Pok. perd- 819.]
I find the doublet tramalízo and lazinízo intriguing. In some languages there are separate words for breaking wind silently and loudly, e.g. Latin vissio and pedo. Could this be an example of the same phenomenon in Boliaric?

Related posts:

Friday, March 27, 2009



Artist David Hockney, quoted in Maev Kennedy, "David Hockney, the fallen beech trees and the lost canvas," The Guardian (March 27, 2009):
"I admit this may matter only to me. Perhaps nobody else would feel like this - and it was on such a remote little road hardly anyone else even saw them, perhaps two cars an hour might pass that way. But to me there was something shocking about the scene. The landscape I remembered was gone completely, and what remained looked like a scene from the first world war.

"To me even the approach to that little wood had a kind of grandeur, like the approach to some marvellous great temple, and the trees themselves were very large, very architectural, very majestic. I was really quite taken with them. It was like coming into some little village or town and finding that overnight the people had obliterated a great church that had stood there for 900 years.

"I admit they had a perfect right to do this - but it seems sad. If they had pulled down a great church people would have seen and asked questions, but nobody asked about these trees. Nobody asks enough questions any more."
Hockney had been painting seasonal views of a grove of sycamores and beeches, located near the village of Warter. He had completed views of the grove in summer and winter and was planning additional views in spring and fall. The Guardian article has reproductions of the two completed paintings, plus photographs of the grove before and after the massacre.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Related posts: Executioners; 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.

Thursday, March 26, 2009



John Tallmadge, The Cincinnati Arch: Learning from Nature in the City (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004), p. 66:
According to E.O. Wilson, the love of other life forms is a deeply ingrained human trait, perhaps even a survival adaptation. He calls it "biophilia," If this be true—and I think it is—perhaps we should also recognize a deep human need and affection for wildness as manifested in other creatures, persons, or places. Call it "therophilia," something we discover by starting from home.
Id., p. 221:
The word "therophilia," meaning "love of wildness," derives from the Greek therion, "wild animal," as in "theriomorph," "theropod," "uintathere"; the Greek shares the same Indo-European root with Latin ferus, "wild animal," from which we get "ferocious," "ferity," and "fierce," and the Old English wilde and wildeor, from which, of course, we get "wilderness." It cannot be mere coincidence that the woodchopper Thoreau describes in Walden was named Alex Therien.
Two quibbles:

1. Therophilia doesn't come from Greek thērion (θηρίον) but from Greek thēr (θήρ). In Greek, thērion is the diminutive of thēr. Theriophilia would be the word derived from thērion.

2. It is mere coincidence that the woodchopper Thoreau describes (but does not name) in Walden was Alex Therien. The French name is unrelated to Greek thērion.

Compare theriophily (love of beasts), apparently coined by George Boas in The Happy Beast in French Thought of the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1933; rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1966), and not uncommon in academic writing, e.g., J.E. Gill, "Theriophily in Antiquity: A Supplementary Account," Journal of the History of Ideas 30 (1969) 401-412, and Saara Lilja, "Theriophily in Homer," Arctos 8 (1974) 71-78.

In ancient Greek, thērophilia (θηροφιλία) and thēriophilia (θηριοφιλία) don't occur, but philothēria (φιλοθηρία = love of hunting) and philothēros (φιλόθηρος = fond of hunting) do.

Related post: Wilderness.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Marcescence Again

Thanks to David Norton for drawing my attention to an additional literary mention of marcescent beech leaves, in Robert Frost's poem A Boundless Moment:
He halted in the wind, and—what was that
Far in the maples, pale, but not a ghost?
He stood there bringing March against his thought,
And yet too ready to believe the most.

"Oh, that's the Paradise-in-bloom," I said;
And truly it was fair enough for flowers
Had we but in us to assume in March
Such white luxuriance of May for ours.

We stood a moment so in a strange world,
Myself as one his own pretense deceives;
And then I said the truth (and we moved on).
A young beech clinging to its last year's leaves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009



Stephanie West, commentary on Homer, Odyssey 1.113 ff. ("typical scheme in Homer for scenes describing the reception of a visitor"):
(1) The new arrival waits at the entrance until (2) one of the company notices him, (3) gets up from his seat and hastens to the doorway, (4) takes the visitor by the hand, (5) leads him in, (6) offers him a seat, (7) fetches food and invites him to eat; (8) after a meal come questions.
West refers to Walter Arend, Die typischen Scenen bei Homer (Berlin: Weidmann, 1933), pp. 34 ff., and Mark W. Edwards, "Type-Scenes and Homeric Hospitality," Transactions of the American Philological Association 105 (1975) 51-72. Where West identified 8 elements of this type-scene, Steve Reece, The Stranger's Welcome: Oral Theory and the Aesthetics of the Homeric Hospitality Scene (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1993), identified 35.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (1958; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), chapter 11:
Many things in Greece have remained unchanged since the Odyssey and perhaps the most striking of these is the hospitality shown to strangers; the more remote and mountainous the region, the less this has altered....There is still the same acceptance, the attention to a stranger's needs before even finding out his name: the daughter of the house pouring water over his hands and offering him a clean towel, the table laid first and then brought in, the solicitous plying of wine and food, the exchange of identities and autobiographies; the spreading of bedclothes in the best part of the house—the coolest or warmest according to the season—the entreaties to stay as long as the stranger wishes, and, finally, at his departure, the bestowal of gifts, even if these are only a pocketful of walnuts or apples, a carnation or a bunch of basil; and the care with which he is directed on his way, accompanied some distance, and wished godspeed.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Levis Exsurgit Zephirus

Anonymous, 11th century (tr. Helen Waddell):
Softly the west wind blows,
Gaily the warm sun goes.
The earth her bosom showeth,
And with all sweetness floweth,

Goes forth the scarlet spring,
Clad with all blossoming,
Sprinkles the fields with flowers,
Leaves on the forest.

Dens for four-footed things,
Sweet nests for all with wings,
On every blossomed bough,
Joy ringeth now.

I see it with my eyes,
I hear it with my ears,
But in my heart are sighs,
And I am full of tears.

Alone with thought I sit,
And blench, remembering it.
Sometimes I lift my head,
I neither hear nor see.

Do thou, O Spring most fair,
Squander thy care
On flower and leaf and grain,
—Leave me alone with pain.
The same (tr. Peter Dronke):
Zephyr arises gently
and the warm Sun proceeds;
Earth lays bare her bosom,
melting with her sweets.

Spring enters, dressed in crimson,
puts on her finery,
scattering flowers on the earth,
leaves on every tree.

Animals build their lairs now
and the sweet birds their nests:
among the flowering branches
they sing their happiness.

While I see it with my eyes
and hear it with my ears,
alas, instead of all those joys
I am swollen with as many sighs.

As I sit all alone,
racked with thought and wan,
if I should lift my head, then I
do not hear, I do not see.

You at least, for the sake of spring.
listen, and take in
the leaves, the flowers and the grass—
my soul is languishing.
The same (tr. David Ferry):
The wind stirs lightly as the sun's
Warmth stirs in the new season's
Moment when the earth shows everything
She has, her fragrance on everything.

The spring royally in his excitement
Scatters the new season's commandment
Everywhere, and the new leaves open,
The buds open, and begin to happen.

The winged and the fourfooted creatures
According to their several natures
Find or build their nesting places;
Each unknowingly rejoices.

Held apart from the season's pleasure
According to my separate nature
Nevertheless I bless and praise
The new beginning of the new days,

Seeing it all, hearing it all,
The leaf opening, the first bird call.
The Latin original:
Levis exsurgit Zephirus
et Sol procedit tepidus:
iam Terra sinus aperit,
dulcore suo difluit.

Ver purpuratum exiit,
ornatus suos induit,
aspergit terram floribus,
ligna silvarum frondibus.

Struunt lustra quadrupedes
et dulces nidos volucres—
inter ligna florentia
sua decantant gaudia.

Quod oculis dum video
et auribus dum audio,
heu pro tantis gaudiis
tantis inflor suspiriis.

Cum mihi sola sedeo
et, hec revolvens, palleo,
si forte capud sublevo,
nec audio nec video.

Tu saltim, veris gratia,
exaudi et considera
frondes, flores et gramina—
nam mea languet anima.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


A Spell of Peace

Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (1958; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), chapter 9:
A spell of peace lives in the ruins of ancient Greek temples. As the traveler leans back among the fallen capitals and allows hours to pass, it empties the mind of troubling thoughts and anxieties and slowly refills it, like a vessel that has been drained and scoured, with a quiet ecstasy. Nearly all that has happened fades to a limbo of shadows and insignificance and is painlessly replaced by an intimation of radiance, simplicity and calm which unties all knots and solves all riddles and seems to murmur a benevolent and unimperious suggestion that the whole of life, if it were allowed to unfold without hindrance or compulsion or search for alien solutions, might be limitlessly happy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


More on Proleptic Adjectives

From an email:
Dear Mr Gilleland,

If I may say so, I don't think Perrin (and by extension you) are right where Odysseus is concerned:

(1) Polutlemon is *not* used of Odysseus in the Iliad. In the Iliad this adjective occurs just once, used impersonally of thumos (7.152). In the Odyssey Odysseus uses it of himself just the once, but when he is in disguise as the beggar (18.319). It does not relate to O's own travails, but to the beggar's undertaking to stay awake and keep the lights burning.

(2) Ptoliporthos *is* used of Odysseus, in both the Iliad and the Odyssey -- but in the Iliad it is also used of e.g. Achilles (8.372, 15.77, 21.550, 24.108), who of course dies before the fall of Troy. I would therefore suggest that its scope is in every way, including temporally, broad.

With best wishes,

David Whitehead
Professor Whitehead is correct that πολυτλήμων is not used of Odysseus in the Iliad. However, its synonym πολύτλας (derived, as is πολυτλήμων, from πολύς + τλάω) is used of Odysseus in the Iliad, always in the formula πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς (Iliad 8.97, 9.676 = 10.248, 23.729, 23.778).

As to the force of the epithet, there are some interesting remarks in The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971; rpt. 1987), p. 131:
It would be appropriate here to cite a passage of Hesiod, which illustrates for us how this indifference to the particularized meaning of the epithet existed only when the tradition was in its prime. The Berlin papyri 9739 and 10560 give us a fragment which we know by a reference in Pausanias to have been attributed in antiquity to Hesiod. The fragment tells of the suit for Helen by the princes of Greece. Line 21 reads
ἐκ δ' Ἰθάκης ἐμνᾶτο Ὀδυσσῆος ἱερὴ ἴς.
In Homer the expression πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς appears 38 times, 5 times in the Iliad, and in neither poem is it replaced, although it is obvious that in the Iliad Odysseus has been tried by suffering no more than any other Achaean chief. But the author of the fragment felt that it would be awkward to give this title to Odysseus as a young man, and so put in another expression, even though the new expression involved two metrical errors.
This suggests to me that an ancient reader might have felt that πολύτλας was oddly proleptic when used of Odysseus before his Odyssey.

I concede that πτολίπορθος was probably not felt to be proleptic.



The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) is back in the news. One of its former members, Kathleen Soliah, was released from prison in California and began serving parole in Saint Paul, Minnesota. On the lam for twenty years, Soliah spent much of that time in Saint Paul under the name Sarah Jane Olson.

Here's an explanation of the word Symbionese, from The Symbionese Federation and the Symbionese Liberation Army Declaration of Revolutionary War and the Symbionese Program:
The name Symbionese is taken from the word symbiosis and we define its meaning as a body of dissimilar bodies and organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all within the body.
Sounds benign, like a New Age version of the Salvation Army. But the SLA was not "in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all" who were outside the body, such as Marcus Foster and Myrna Opsahl, both murdered by the SLA.

The suffix -ese in Symbionese sounds odd to my ear. The Oxford Companion to the English Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), has this to say about -ese (p. 379):
[From Old French -eis (Modern ais, -ois) and cognate with Italian -ese, from Latin -ensis belonging to]. A suffix added to nouns and adjectives. Its primary use is the identification of nationalities, languages, and the like, as Chinese, Congolese, Japanese, Javanese, Viennese, Vietnamese, but a significant secondary use is the labelling of styles or registers of English. The primary use is neutral, but the secondary use is pejorative, associated with individuals whose style is distinctive and idiosyncratic (Carlylese, Johnsonese), groups whose stylistic tendencies are seen as undesirable (academese, bureaucratese), language varieties considered deficient or peculiar (Brooklynese, Pentagonese), and the media and technology (cabelese, computerese). Nonce and stunt creations are common, such as UNese, a diplomatic style said to be used in the United Nations.
Kevin Keqing Liu, "Hey, listen. I am Chinian. I am not Chinese," China Daily (January 19, 2006), considers the primary use of the suffix -ese not neutral, but insulting.

In Latin adjectives ending in -ensis, the ethnic or toponymic use seems to predominate. The list in Otto Gradenwitz, Laterculi vocum Latinarum: voces Latinas et a fronte et a tergo ordinandas (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1904), p. 464, unfortunately doesn't include proper adjectives. Here are some discussions:

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Sir, Do You Know German?

Lewis Carroll, The Vision of the Three T's, chapter I:
PROF. Sir, do you know German?

PISC. It is my grief, Sir, that I know no other tongue than mine own.

PROF. Then, Sir, my answer is this, Warum nicht?

PISC. Alas, Sir, I understand you not.

PROF. The more the pity. For now-a-days all that is good comes from the German. Ask our men of science: they will tell you that any German book must needs surpass an English one. Aye, and even an English book, worth naught in this its native dress, shall become, when rendered into German, a valuable contribution to Science.

VEN. Sir, you much amaze me.

PROF. Nay, Sir, I'll amaze you yet more. No learned man doth now talk, or even so much as cough, save only in German. The time has been, I doubt not, when an honest English "Hem!" was held enough, both to clear the voice and rouse the attention of the company, but now-a-days no man of Science, that setteth any store by his good name, will cough otherwise than thus, Ach! Euch! Auch!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Proleptic Adjectives

B. Perrin on Homer, Odyssey 1.30 (τηλεκλυτός = far-famed):
rather proleptic, since Orestes won his fame by avenging his father (cf. γ 203 f., 306 ff.). Prob. in a similar way the epithets πτολίπορθος, πολυτλήμων are applied to Odysseus in some passages of the Il., though earned by him in a period subsequent to the action of that poem.
The epithets are proleptic, or anticipatory, because they describe the future, not the present, condition of the persons they modify.

Orestes only became far-famed (τηλεκλυτός) after he killed Aegisthus in revenge for the murder of his father Agamemnon; he was not yet famous when he killed Aegisthus. Likewise, it was fitting to call Odysseus sacker of cities (πτολίπορθος) only after the fall of Troy, not before, and Odysseus suffered much (πολυτλήμων) in the course of his attempt to return home after the Trojan War, not at some time during that war. The action of the Iliad takes place before the fall of Troy.

There is a striking example of a proleptic adjective in Keat's Lamia, XXVII:
The two brothers and their murder'd man
Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno's stream
The man was not yet dead when he rode.

I haven't seen Jan Gonda, "'Prolepsis' of the Adjective in Greek and Other Ancient Indo-European Languages," Mnemosyne 11 (1958) 1-19, rpt. in his Selected Studies (Leiden: Brill, 1975), pp. 88-106.

Monday, March 16, 2009


The Survival of Pan

Plutarch, On the Cessation of Oracles 17 (tr. C.W. King):
Thereupon, whilst Heracleon was considering something with himself in silence, Cleombrotus continued, "Nay, but not only Empedocles has bequeathed to us evil daemons that be evil by nature, but Plato, too, has done the same, as well as Xenocrates and Chrysippus; besides, Democritus, when he prays that 'he may meet with auspicious idola' (apparitions), shows plainly that he knows of others that have morose and mischievous dispositions and inclinations.

But with respect to the mortality of beings of the kind, I have heard a tale from a man who is neither a fool nor an idle talker—from that Aemilian the rhetorician, whom some of you know well; Epitherses was his father, a townsman of mine, and a teacher of grammar. This man (the latter) said, that once upon a time he made a voyage to Italy, and embarked on board a ship conveying merchandise and several passengers. When it was now evening, off the Echinad Islands, the wind dropped, and the ship, carried by the current, was come near Paxi; most of the passengers were awake, and many were still drinking, after having had supper. All of a sudden, a voice was heard from the Isle of Paxi, of some one calling 'Thamus' with so loud a cry as to fill them with amazement. This Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, known by name to many of those on board. Called twice, he kept silence; but on the third summons he replied to the caller, and the latter, raising yet higher his voice, said, 'When thou comest over against Palodes, announce that the great Pan is dead.'

All, upon hearing this, said Epitherses, were filled with consternation, and debated with themselves whether it were better to do as ordered, or not to make themselves too busy, and to let it alone. So Thamus decided that if there should be a wind he would sail past and hold his tongue; but should there fall a calm and smooth sea off the island, he would proclaim what he had heard. When, therefore, they were come over against Palodes, there being neither wind nor swell of sea, Thamus, looking out from the stern, called out to the land what he had heard, namely, 'That the great Pan is dead:' and hardly had he finished speaking than there was a mighty cry, not of one, but of many voices mingled together in wondrous manner.

And inasmuch as many persons were then present, the story got spread about in Rome, and Thamus was sent for by Tiberius Caesar; and Tiberius gave so much credence to the tale that he made inquiry and research concerning this Pan; and that the learned men about him, who were numerous, conjectured he was the one that was born from Hermes and Penelope."

Now, Philip found amongst those present witnesses to the truth of the story, who had heard it from the aged Aemilian.
But were the reports of Pan's death greatly exaggerated? See Robert Frost, Pan with Us:
Pan came out of the woods one day,—
His skin and his hair and his eyes were gray,
The gray of the moss of walls were they,—
  And stood in the sun and looked his fill
  At wooded valley and wooded hill.

He stood in the zephyr, pipes in hand,
On a height of naked pasture land;
In all the country he did command
  He saw no smoke and he saw no roof.
  That was well! and he stamped a hoof.

His heart knew peace, for none came here
To this lean feeding save once a year
Someone to salt the half-wild steer,
  Or homespun children with clicking pails
  Who see so little they tell no tales.

He tossed his pipes, too hard to teach
A new-world song, far out of reach,
For a sylvan sign that the blue jay's screech
  And the whimper of hawks beside the sun
  Were music enough for him, for one.

Times were changed from what they were:
Such pipes kept less of power to stir
The fruited bough of the juniper
  And the fragile bluets clustered there
  Than the merest aimless breath of air.

They were pipes of pagan mirth,
And the world had found new terms of worth.
He laid him down on the sun-burned earth
  And raveled a flower and looked away—
  Play? Play?—What should he play?
Frost also juxtaposes bluets and juniper in his poem The Vantage Point, which seems to recall the same landscape, except that where Pan saw no smoke and no roof, Frost saw far off the homes of men:
If tired of trees I seek again mankind,
  Well I know where to hie me—in the dawn,
  To a slope where the cattle keep the lawn.
There amid lolling juniper reclined,
Myself unseen, I see in white defined
  Far off the homes of men, and farther still,
  The graves of men on an opposing hill,
Living or dead, whichever are to mind.

And if by noon I have too much of these,
  I have but to turn on my arm, and lo,
  The sun-burned hillside sets my face aglow,
My breathing shakes the bluet like a breeze,
  I smell the earth, I smell the bruisèd plant,
  I look into the crater of the ant.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Innocent Delight

Joseph Addison, On Gardens (The Spectator No. 477, Saturday, September 6, 1712):
I have always thought a kitchen-garden a more pleasant sight than the finest orangery, or artificial green-house. I love to see everything in its perfection, and am more pleased to survey my rows of colworts and cabbages, with a thousand nameless pot-herbs, springing up in their full fragrancy and verdure, than to see the tender plants of foreign countries kept alive by artificial heats, or withering in an air and soil that are not adapted to them....I look upon the pleasure which we take in a garden, as one of the most innocent delights in human life. A garden was the habitation of our first parents before the fall. It is naturally apt to fill the mind with calmness and tranquillity, and to lay all its turbulent passions at rest. It gives us a great insight into the contrivance and wisdom of Providence, and suggests innumerable subjects for meditation. I cannot but think the very complacency and satisfaction which a man takes in these works of nature to be a laudable, if not a virtuous, habit of mind.

Saturday, March 14, 2009



Richard Wilbur, March:
Beech leaves which might have clung
Parching for six weeks more
Were stripped by last night's gale
Which made so black a roar

And drove the snow-streaks level.
So we see in the glare
Of a sun whose white combustion
Cannot warm the air.

From the edge of the woods, in gusts,
The leaves are scuttled forth
Onto a pasture drifted
Like tundras of the north,

To migrate there in dry
Skitter or fluttered brawl,
Then flock into some hollow
Like this, below the wall,

With veins swept back like feathers
To our prophetic sight,
And bodies of gold shadow
Pecking at sparks of light.
In botanical terminology, the adjective that describes the beech leaves in the opening lines of this poem is marcescent, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "Of a part of a plant: withering but not falling off." The corresponding noun is marcescence.

See Gale Lawrence, A Field Guide to the Familiar (1984; rpt. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1998), p. 76:
You can also recognize a beech tree from a distance because of its tendency to hang onto some of its leaves through winter. Most deciduous trees completely separate themselves from their old leaves by forming a layer of wound cork—called an abscission layer—where the leaves had been attached. The leaves then fall of their own weight or are knocked off by rain and wind. Oaks and beeches don't form complete abscission layers, so some of their dead leaves hang on until next year's leaves push them off. Winter beech leaves are papery, light tan, and sound like wind chimes in gentle breezes. Oak leaves, in contrast, are thick, darker brown, and sound merely like rustling leaves.
Robert Frost also mentions the same phenomenon in the second stanza of his poem Reluctance:
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
In the final stanza of March, Wilbur probably alludes to the ancient Roman practice of divination by observation of the pecking of sacred chickens as they eat grain. See Jerzy Linderski, in Imperium Sine Fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1996), p. 180 and note 140 on pp. 180-181:
The commanders in the field employed before battles the auspicia pullaria, divination from the eating behavior of sacred chickens, the pulli. The pullarius, the keeper of pulli, was a constant and ubiquitous attendant of the magistrate; and on imperial reliefs there appear occasionally representations of the pulli, pecking on the ground, or kept in the cage, the cavea.140

140 On the pulli and the pullarii, see esp. Cic., De Div. 2.71-74 (and the commentary ad loc. by A.S. Pease, M. Tulli Ciceronis De Divinatione Libri Duo [Urbana 1920-23, reprint Darmstadt 1963]); Livy 10.40; 41.18.14; Dion. Hal., Ant. Rom. 2.6.2. Two pulli, feeding, are represented on a third century bronze ingot, RRC 1.133, no 12, but they are perhaps connected with the Dioscuri (Crawford, RRC 2.718, n. 2). On the altar from the vicus Sandalarius, the new augur Lucius Caesar holds lituus, and a pullus at his feet is pecking at something, thus denoting the tripudium (I. Scott Ryberg, Rites of the State Religion in Roman Art [= Memoirs of the American Acedemy in Rome 22, Rome 1955] 60-61, and pl. XVI, fig. 31). For further references, see Zwierlein-Diehl, "Simpuvium" (above, n. 118) 409-413 (and pl. 79, 3-4). For a military pullarius, and the image of the pulli in a cage, see A. von Domaszewski, Die Fahnen im römischen Heere (= Abhandlungen des Archäologisch-Epigraphischen Seminars der Universität Wien, Heft V, 1885) 31-32.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


University Education

In 1816, the Governor of Virginia, Wilson Cary Nicholas, sent a circular letter asking advice about public education. Among those who replied was Thomas Cooper, professor of chemistry at Carlisle College in Pennsylvania, who advised:
It should be scrupulously insisted on that no youth can be admitted to the university unless he can read with facility Virgil, Horace, Xenophon, and Homer; unless he is able, as a preliminary to matriculation, to convert a page of English at sight into Latin; unless he can demonstrate any proposition at sight in the six first books of Euclid, and shews an acquaintance with cubic and quadratic equations. Without this, your university will become what all the American colleges and universities are, so far as I know them, mere grammar schools. You will have fewer students, but they will do credit to the institution, and raise its reputation; and entrance at such an university will be sought as an honor....The more difficult Latin and Greek classics should be read at the university,—Euripides, Sophocles, Longinus, Demosthenes, etc. No week should pass without at least three pages of composition in Latin prose, and one in verse, upon given subjects. All the prominent political men, all the learned men, all the scientific men of my day, have entered upon active life as good classic scholars and good mathematicians....Attendant on these classical studies should be the higher parts of the mathematics, conic sections, fluxions, spherical trigonometry, etc. Also the study of the French language, with drawing, fencing, and the manual exercise.
"The manual exercise" is military drill (present arms, etc.) — see e.g. Isaac Maltby, The Elements of War (Boston: Thomas B. Wait, 1811), p. 23.


As Valuable As the Crown Jewels

From a review by Valerie Allen of Susan Signe Morrison, Excrement in the Late Middle Ages: Sacred Filth and Chaucer's Fecopoetics (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008):
It is perhaps time for literary studies of the scatological to merge their appreciation of the symbolic and cultural significance of excrement with the scientific findings of archaeology, chemical soil analysis, and environmental studies. The resplendent Viking human stool discovered in York's Coppergate in 1972 (a regrettable omission in Morrison's study, especially since the Jorvik Centre, which exhibits the stool, is specifically mentioned by her [59]) offers a rare chance to ask some exact questions. How might this product have been used as fertilizer? Did its owner regard it as valuable or dirty and useless? More generally, how did differing diets, in fish-rich coastal cities or in areas where either dairy or grain predominated, change the value of human excrement? What happened to the cultural value of human ordure in the face of manure shortages such as M.M. Postan identifies in the thirteenth century, brought about by reduction of pastureland for conversion to arable? [2] The more we think about such details and questions, the more we will see that excrement, like language, is infinitely various in meaning, that its material value can change dramatically according to environmental need and context.

2. M. M. Postan, The Medieval Economy and Society: An Economic History of Britain in the Middle Ages (London: Penguin, 1972), pp. 63-7.
I don't usually quote from Wikipedia articles, but I make an exception here for the article on the archaeological find in question, also known as the Lloyds Bank coprolite:
The Lloyds Bank coprolite is a large human coprolite, or fossilized dung specimen, recovered by archaeologists excavating the Viking settlement of Jórvík (now York) in England.

It was found in 1972 beneath the site of what was to become the York branch of Lloyds Bank and may be the largest example of fossilised human feces ever found. Analysis of the nine-inch (23 cm) long stool has indicated that its producer subsisted largely on meat and bread whilst the presence of several hundred parasitic eggs suggests he or she was riddled with intestinal worms. In 1991, paleoscatologist Andrew Jones made international news with his appraisal of the item for insurance purposes: "This is the most exciting piece of excrement I've ever seen. In its own way, it's as valuable as the Crown Jewels."[1]

The specimen was put on display at the city's Archaeological Resource Centre (now known as DIG), the outreach and education institution run by the York Archaeological Trust, where it delighted generations of awestruck schoolchildren.[2] In 2003, it broke into three pieces after being dropped whilst on exhibition to a party of visitors. As of 2003, efforts were underway to reconstruct it.[2]

In 2008 it was on display at the JORVIK Viking Centre.

1. The Wall Street Journal, 9 September 1991
2. The Guardian, 6 June 2003
The Guardian article (Simon Jeffery, "Museum's broken treasure not just any old shit") is available online. I haven't seen either the Wall Street Journal article or A.K.G. Jones, "A Human Coprolite from 6-8 Pavement," in A.R. Hall et al., Environment and Living Conditions at Two Anglo-Scandinavian Sites (London: Council for British Archaeology, 1983) = The Archaeology of York, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 225-229. There is a color photograph here.

The careful phrase "he or she" in the Wikipedia article reminded me of something I recently read in Frank G. Speck, Penobscot Man: The Life History of a Forest Tribe in Maine (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940; rpt. Orono: University of Maine Press, 1997), p. 250 (discussing nicknames):
Mali me'sadwədjan, "Mary big-faeces" (identity omitted), derived from advertising her ability to surpass the tribal cannon21 in capacity of discharge.

21 At feast days and elections an old iron cannon is discharged, one acquired by the Penobscot in Colonial times.
Speck's treatise has some other odd scatological tidbits, which I excerpt here.

p. 245:
Within certain limits of relationship, restrictions exist against the use of obscenity, suggestive joking, teasing, insulting remarks, and above all against breaking wind in presence.
p. 246:
In another tale, a man falls dead from shame after accidentally breaking wind before his sister.
p. 268 (on figurative sayings, expressions, and etiquette):
"Do not pare your fingernails because before next Sunday your hand will smell." This is explained as meaning that long fingernails are a protection to the fingers when put in a "soft place." It leaves something to the imagination.
p. 268:
Crepitus evokes several exclamations, among which is "So-and-So is going to spread a feast." And the individual, if he is a good fellow and financially able, would do so for the company.
p. 268:
One preparing a special dish for himself is said to do so "because his anus orders it."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


A Thankless Task

Samuel Butler, Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), p. 291:
They that endeavor to redeeme the world from Error and Imposture, have a very ungrateful Imployment, for if they do any man good it is against his will, and therefore they must not only reward but thanke themselves: For as Mad men always hate their Physitians, the People can never endure those, that seeke to recover them from their deare Dotage.

Update, from an email:
Somewhere in the Diatribes Epictetus tells of an incident that happened when he was a young philosopher still living in Rome. Full of his Stoic principles, Epictetus decided to go the Forum and socratize with some Roman senators about truth and justice. After a few minutes of engaging in elechus with the young philosopher and having what they believed in questioned, then Romans grabbed the smart aleck young philo and started slapping him. Epictetus escaped, battered and enlightened about the perils of trying to "improve" others who do not wish to be improved.

In our younger days, many of us tried to redeem the world from error. The results were predictable and the costs high. Too late we learned that the world is not worth redeeming.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Particularly Hard Greek

Alfred W. Pollard, ed., Odes from the Greek Dramatists: Translated into Lyric Metres by English Poets and Scholars (London: David Stott, 1890), p. vii:
To the average school-boy the Chorus of a Greek Tragedy is an object of mingled hatred and derision — of derision, because at any call for action the attitude of the Chorus is generally characterized by helpless indecision — of hatred, because it was its wont to sing particularly hard Greek.
Three of the translations in Pollard's collection are by A.E. Housman — Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 848-860 (pp. 14-15); Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 1211-1248 (pp. 84-87); and Euripides, Alcestis 962-1005 (pp. 109-111). Here is Housman's translation of Sophocles' ode, followed by the Greek:
What man is he that yearneth
    For length unmeasured of days?
Folly mine eye discerneth
    Encompassing all his ways.
For years over-running the measure
    Shall change thee in evil wise:
Grief draweth nigh thee; and pleasure,
    Behold, it is hid from thine eyes.
    This to their wage have they
    Which overlive their day.
And He that looseth from labour
    Doth one with other befriend,
    Whom bride nor bridesmen attend,
Song, nor sound of the tabor,
    Death, that maketh an end.

Thy portion esteem I highest,
    Who wast not ever begot;
Thine next, being born who diest
    And straightway again art not.
With follies light as the feather
    Doth Youth to man befall;
Then evils gather together,
    There wants not one of them all—
    Wrath, envy, discord, strife,
    The sword that seeketh life.
And sealing the sum of trouble
    Doth tottering Age draw nigh,
    Whom friends and kinsfolk fly,
Age, upon whom redouble
    All sorrows under the sky.

This man, as me, even so,
Have the evil days overtaken;
And like as a cape sea-shaken
With tempest at earth's last verges
And shock of all winds that blow,
His head the seas of woe,
The thunders of awful surges
Ruining overflow;
Blown from the fall of even,
    Blown from the dayspring forth,
Blown from the noon in heaven,
    Blown from night and the North.

ὅστις τοῦ πλέονος μέρους
χρῄζει τοῦ μετρίου παρεὶς
ζώειν, σκαιοσύναν φυλάσσων
ἐν ἐμοὶ κατάδηλος ἔσται.
ἐπεὶ πολλὰ μὲν αἱ μακραὶ
ἁμέραι κατέθεντο δὴ
λύπας ἐγγυτέρω, τὰ τέρ-
ποντα δ᾽ οὐκ ἂν ἴδοις ὅπου,
ὅταν τις ἐς πλέον πέσῃ
τοῦ δέοντος· ὁ δ᾽ ἐπίκουρος ἰσοτέλεστος,
Ἄϊδος ὅτε μοῖρ᾽ ἀνυμέναιος
ἄλυρος ἄχορος ἀναπέφηνε,
θάνατος ἐς τελευτάν.

μὴ φῦναι τὸν ἅπαντα νι-
κᾷ λόγον· τὸ δ᾽, ἐπεὶ φανῇ,
βῆναι κεῖθεν ὅθεν περ ἥκει,
πολὺ δεύτερον, ὡς τάχιστα.
ὡς εὖτ᾽ ἂν τὸ νέον παρῇ
κούφας ἀφροσύνας φέρον,
τίς πλαγὰ πολύμοχθος ἔ-
ξω; τίς οὐ καμάτων ἔνι;
φθόνος, στάσεις, ἔρις, μάχαι
καὶ φόνοι· τό τε κατάμεμπτον ἐπιλέλογχε
πύματον ἀκρατὲς ἀπροσόμιλον
γῆρας ἄφιλον, ἵνα πρόπαντα
κακὰ κακῶν ξυνοικεῖ.

ἐν ᾧ τλάμων ὅδ᾽, οὐκ ἐγὼ μόνος,
πάντοθεν βόρειος ὥς τις
ἀκτὰ κυματοπλὴξ χειμερία κλονεῖται,
ὣς καὶ τόνδε κατ᾽ ἄκρας
δειναὶ κυματοαγεῖς
ἆται κλονέουσιν ἀεὶ ξυνοῦσαι,
αἱ μὲν ἀπ᾽ ἀελίου δυσμᾶν,
αἱ δ᾽ ἀνατέλλοντος·
αἱ δ᾽ ἀνὰ μέσσαν ἀκτῖν᾽,
αἱ δ᾽ ἐννυχιᾶν ἀπὸ ῾Ριπᾶν.
Here is Pollard's note on this ode (p. 175):
His son, Polyneices, and his brother-in-law, Creon, torment the closing hours of the life of Oedipus. Theseus, prince of Athens, assures him of protection, and the chorus in sympathy sing of Death as the deliverer from all ills. The ode is perhaps the most beautiful in all Greek tragedy, and becomes the more impressive when we remember the great age which Sophocles had attained when he wrote it. In the works of Thomas Love Peacock there is a choral ode written in reminiscence of this, and he tells us that at one time Shelley was "always repeating" to himself the lines:
Man's happiest lot is not to be:
And when we tread life's thorny steep,
Most blest are they, who, earliest free,
Descend to death's eternal sleep,
though they lack the simplicity of the original.

In line 2 of strophe i., Mr. Housman reads παρὲκς for Dindorf's παρεὶς, and in line 10, δέοντος for θέλοντος. In the antistrophe he reverses the positions of φόνοι and φθόνος, and in the epode writes δ'ἐννυχιᾶν for δὲ νυχιᾶν.
In Archie Burnett, ed. The Letters of A.E. Housman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), there are two letters from Housman to Pollard discussing Odes from the Greek Dramatists. One was written before the book was published (October 28, 1889, pp. 63-64) and one after (October 25, 1890, pp. 66-68). In the latter (on p. 67), Housman wrote, "I wonder whether our translations will seem as bad to the 20th century as those of the 18th century seem to us." To this reader, Housman's translation of Sophocles' ode stands the test of time well.

On p. xliv of Burnett's edition of Housman's letters, Pollard's name is given as "POLLARD A[rthur] W[illiam]." But his first name, like Housman's, was Alfred, not Arthur. See, e.g., P.G. Naiditch, A.E. Housman at University College, London: The Election of 1892 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), p. 228, and also the title page of Odes from the Greek Dramatists.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Aesop's Fables in Latin

I just finished reading Laura Gibbs, Aesop's Fables in Latin: Ancient Wit and Wisdom from the Animal Kingdom (Mundelein: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2009).

I am acquainted with Dr. Gibbs. Although we have never met in person, I owe much to her help and encouragement over the past few years. She translated Aesop's fables for the Oxford World Classics series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; rpt. 2008), and her web site Aesopica: Aesop's Fables in English, Latin & Greek is an indispensable resource. She also somehow finds time to blog on classical topics.

This book consists of eighty fables in a Latin version by Robert Codrington (1602-1665). These fables were originally illustrated by Francis Barlow and published in various 17th century editions. Most of the fables can be traced to ancient collections attributed to Aesop, but some of them (numbers 23, 37, 41, and 76) appeared for the first time in the fable collection of the Renaissance Latin author Laurentius Abstemius (Lorenzo Bevilaqua).

Laura Gibbs has surrounded the Latin text of each fable with useful aids to understanding — an introduction, a grammar overview concentrating on some syntactical point, a vocabulary, a list of dramatis personae, and grammar notes. Barlow's delightful illustrations accompany many of the fables. Also scattered throughout are Latin proverbs which summarize the point or moral of certain fables. Besides the vocabulary lists accompanying individual fables, the book contains a "List of Most Frequently Used Words" (pp. xxvii-xxxi) and a complete glossary (pp. 325-356). Long syllables are marked in the glossary but not elsewhere in the book.

The book is intended primarily for intermediate Latin students, but it is also suitable for those out of school who want to refresh and improve their knowledge of Latin. Many students, unfortunately, never make the transition from memorizing amo, amas, amat to being able to read a page of Latin. It is one thing to read a simple sentence in isolation, and quite another to understand the connections between more complex sentences in a paragraph or other extended passage of Latin. The fables of Aesop in Latin are uniquely well suited for crossing this bridge. They are short, self-contained, and intrinsically interesting.

In ages past, the fables of Aesop were standard fare for young Latin students. They are mentioned, for example, in the children's books of C.A. Stephens — A Busy Year at the Old Squire's, chapter I, and A Great Year of Our Lives at the Old Squire's, chapter XIII. In a sense, Laura Gibbs is returning to an old and honorable pedagogic tradition by teaching intermediate Latin through the medium of Aesop's fables. But she also makes use of the most up-to-date technologies in a web site supplementing the book.

William Hazlitt called Aesop "the greatest wit and moralist that ever lived."
He saw in man a talking, absurd, obstinate, proud, angry animal; and clothed these abstractions with wings, or a beak, or tail, or claws, or long ears, as they appeared embodied in these hieroglyphics in the brute creation. His moral philosophy is natural history. He makes an ass bray wisdom, and a frog croak humanity. The store of moral truth, and the fund of invention in exhibiting it in eternal forms, palpable and intelligible, and delightful to children and grown persons, and to all ages and nations, are almost miraculous.
(Hazlitt, On Wit and Humour.)

It was a pleasure to read this book and meet old friends — the city mouse and the country mouse, the boy who cried wolf, the wolf in sheep's clothing, the fox and the grapes, the tortoise and the hare, the lion saved by the mouse, the sun and the wind — in Codrington's vigorous Latin versions. I also learned much from the explanatory materials. The grammar notes are especially copious and helpful.

The book is well printed and handsomely produced. I searched diligently, but managed to find only two minor misprints — preesrve for preserve on p. 288, and obuicio (obuicere) for obiicio (obiicere) on p. 318. Cross references abound, and where I checked, they were accurate. I did note one small oddity in the cross references. The Grammar Overview for Fable 4 deals with "Relative Pronouns and the Previous Sentence," and the Grammar Overview for Fable 19 covers "Initial Quod." In explaining "Initial Quod," Laura Gibbs writes:
You have already seen how a relative pronoun at the beginning of a sentence can have its referent noun in the preceding sentence (see the notes to Fable 4). Likewise, you will also encounter Latin sentences beginning with the relative pronoun quod, a generic neuter pronoun that does not have a specific referent in the preceding statement but that instead refers to the entire situation that has been described.
This "generic" use, of course, also extends to oblique cases of quod. I noticed several cross references to the Grammar Overview of Fable 4 where it seemed to me that cross references to the Grammar Overview of Fable 19 would be more appropriate, for example on pp. 81, 93, 97, 145, 149, 181, 257, 269, and 305.

But these are insignificant quibbles. Aesop's Fables in Latin is a excellent book. The author's enthusiasm and learning are evident on every page. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009



Jonathan Bate, in the second chapter of his book Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition (London: Routledge, 1991), makes some interesting remarks about the history of the word ecology. According to Bate, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) coined the word in 1866 (in German as Oekologie); Ellen Swallow (1842-1911) popularized it in English; and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, 1972 Supplement) wrongly attributed it to Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), because the word Geology in a manuscript letter of Thoreau was mistakenly transcribed as Ecology. The date of the earliest citation in the online OED is 1876, from an English translation of Haeckel's History of Creation by E.R. Lankester.

But the word appeared at least once in English even before Haeckel was born. See an article by "A.C.C." with the title "Stray Thoughts on Language III" published in The Gentleman's Magazine for October 1829, where we read (Stray Thought number XXIII, on p. 317):
A table of the principal rivers in the world has lately been published, which the editor has disfigured with the ridiculous title of "Potamology." These pedantic names for the sciences are now more assiduously, and of course more annoyingly brought into use than ever. That clever publication, the Athenaeum, used to contain a weekly record of scientific facts, which were pompously parcelled out under the barbarous nicknames of "Orology, Ophiology," &c. because mountains and serpents were treated of, and it lately inserted an article headed with the strange title of "Oikology" (which if the term were at all allowable, should, according to all derivative analogy, be written Ecology.) If such words as these are to be reckoned English, Schrevelius and not Johnson will soon become the standard dictionary.
This issue of The Gentleman's Magazine is available through Google Books. I can't locate the Athenaeum article, and so I don't know what meaning was given to oikology there. This example of ecology precedes the first OED citation by almost fifty years. I don't know the identity of "A.C.C."

Saturday, March 07, 2009


The Greek Tongue

Samuel Butler, Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), p. 286:
The Greek Tongue is of little use in our times, unless to serve Pedants and mountebanks to smatter withall; to coyne foolish Titles for Medcines and Bookes of all Languages, and furnish Preachers with Sentences to astonish the Ignorant, and loose time withall in translating it over again into the vulgar and Nonsense. It is in itself a very untoward Language that abounds in a Multitude of Impertinent Declinations Conjugations Numbers, Times, Anomulas and formings of verbes, but has little or no Construction. And though no language is so Curious in the Contrivance of long and short vowels, yet they are so confounded by the Accent, that they are render'd of no use at all, And in verse, the Accent is again so confounded by the quantity of the Syllable, that the Language becomes another thing.
The same, p. 271:
One swore that Homer, Aristotle and all the Host of the Antient Greeks were such Ignorant Fellows that They did not understand one word of Latin.


An Illusion

Samuel Butler, Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), p. 277:
The way to be esteemd Learned, is but only to have a Library, and to be able to Turn to the Indices, upon any Occasion of showing great Reading.
That was in the 17th century. In the 21st, the way to be esteemed learned, is to resort to Google Book Search. Thus one may gain the reputation of wide reading, without the substance. Experto credite.

Friday, March 06, 2009


A Melancholy Man

Samuel Butler, "A Melancholy Man," from Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), pp. 59-60:
A Melancholy Man is one, that keeps the worst Company in the World, that is, his own; and tho' he be always falling out and quarrelling with himself, yet he has not power to endure any other Conversation. His Head is haunted, like a House, with evil Spirits and Apparitions, that terrify and fright him out of himself, till he stands empty and forsaken. His Sleeps and his Wakings are so much the same, that he knows not how to distinguish them, and many times when he dreams, he believes he is broad awake and sees Visions. The Fumes and Vapours that rise from his Spleen and Hypocondries have so smutched and sullied his Brain (like a Room that smoaks) that his Understanding is blear-ey'd, and has no right Perception of any Thing. His Soul lives in his Body, like a Mole in the Earth, that labours in the Dark, and casts up Doubts and Scruples of his own Imaginations, to make that rugged and uneasy, that was plain and open before. His Brain is so cracked, that he fancies himself to be Glass, and is afraid that every Thing he comes near should break him in Pieces. Whatsoever makes an Impression in his Imagination works it self in like a Screw, and the more he turns and winds it, the deeper it sticks, till it is never to be got out again. The Temper of his Brain being earthy, cold, and dry, is apt to breed Worms, that sink so deep into it, no Medicine in Art or Nature is able to reach them. He leads his Life, as one leads a Dog in a Slip that will not follow, but is dragged along until he is almost hanged, as he has it often under Consideration to treat himself in convenient Time and Place, if he can but catch himself alone. After a long and mortal Feud between his inward and his outward Man, they at length agree to meet without Seconds, and decide the Quarrel, in which the one drops, and the other slinks out of the Way, and makes his Escape into some foreign World, from whence it is never after heard of. He converses with nothing so much as his own Imagination, which being apt to misrepresent Things to him, makes him believe, that it is something else than it is, and that he holds Intelligence with Spirits, that reveal whatsoever he fancies to him, as the antient rude People, that first heard their own Voices repeated by Echoes in the Woods, concluded it must proceed from some invisible Inhabitants of those solitary Places, which they after believed to be Gods, and called them Sylvans, Fauns, and Dryads. He makes the Infirmity of his Temper pass for Revelations, as Mahomet did by his falling Sickness, and inspires himself with the Wind of his own Hypocondries. He laments, like Heraclitus the Maudlin Philosopher, at other Men's Mirth, and takes Pleasure in nothing but his own un-sober Sadness. His Mind is full of Thoughts, but they are all empty, like a Nest of Boxes. He sleeps little, but dreams much, and soundest when he is waking. He sees Visions further off than a second-sighted Man in Scotland, and dreams upon a hard Point with admirable Judgment. He is just so much worse than a Madman, as he is below him in Degree of Frenzy; for among Madmen the most mad govern all the rest, and receive a natural Obedience from their Inferiors.
Related posts:

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Rus in Urbe

Matthew Arnold, Lines Written in Kensington Gardens:
In this lone, open glade I lie,
Screen'd by deep boughs on either hand;
And at its end, to stay the eye,
Those black-crown'd, red-boled pine-trees stand!

Birds here make song, each bird has his,
Across the girdling city's hum.
How green under the boughs it is!
How thick the tremulous sheep-cries come!

Sometimes a child will cross the glade
To take his nurse his broken toy;
Sometimes a thrush flit overhead
Deep in her unknown day's employ.

Here at my feet what wonders pass,
What endless, active life is here!
What blowing daisies, fragrant grass!
An air-stirr'd forest, fresh and clear.

Scarce fresher is the mountain-sod
Where the tired angler lies, stretch'd out,
And, eased of basket and of rod,
Counts his day's spoil, the spotted trout.

In the huge world, which roars hard by,
Be others happy if they can!
But in my helpless cradle I
Was breathed on by the rural Pan.

I, on men's impious uproar hurl'd,
Think often, as I hear them rave,
That peace has left the upper world
And now keeps only in the grave.

Yet here is peace for ever new!
When I who watch them am away,
Still all things in this glade go through
The changes of their quiet day.

Then to their happy rest they pass!
The flowers upclose, the birds are fed,
The night comes down upon the grass,
The child sleeps warmly in his bed.

Calm soul of all things! make it mine
To feel, amid the city's jar,
That there abides a peace of thine,
Man did not make, and cannot mar.

The will to neither strive nor cry,
The power to feel with others give!
Calm, calm me more! nor let me die
Before I have begun to live.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Advice for Travellers

Felix Fabri, O.P. (1441-1502), quoted in Georges Duby and Philippe Ariès, A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World, tr. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 588:
The pilgrim must be careful not to hold back on account of false modesty and not relieve the stomach; to do so is most harmful to the traveler. At sea it is easy to become constipated. Here is good advice for the pilgrim: go to the privies three or four times every day, even when there is no natural urge, in order to promote evacuation by discreet efforts; and do not lose hope if nothing comes on the third or fourth try. Go often, loosen your belt, untie all the knots of your clothes over chest and stomach, and evacuation will occur even if your intestines are filled with stones. This advice was given to me by an old sailor once when I had been terribly constipated for several days.
For the original Latin, see Fratris Felicis Fabri Evagatorium in Terrae Sanctae, Arabiae et Egypti Peregrinationem, ed. C.D. Hassler, vol. I (Stuttgart: Societas Litteraria Stuttgardiensis, 1843), p. 140:
Magno studio caveat peregrinus, ne ventris alveum obstruat, ductus verecundia puerili et ne nimium laxus fiat, quia utrumque perniciosum est naviganti. De facili constipatur homo in mari. Et consilium bonum est et salubre, ut peregrinus omni die ter quater, etiam absque naturae postulatione, ad locum se ponat, et discreto conatu ventris apertionem promoveat, nec desperet, si venter пес tertia пес quarta vice aperiatur. Accedat crebrius, solvat cingulum et vestimentorum omnium colligationes supra pectus et umbilicum aperiat, et habebit ventris beneficium etiam si lapides essent in eo. Hoc consilium dedit mihi quidam expertus marinarius, cum multis diebus fuissem durissime constipatus.


A Nerdy-Sounding Priesthood

David Segal, "In Letter, Warren Buffett Concedes a Tough Year," New York Times (February 28, 2009):
Too often, he wrote, Americans have been enamored of "a nerdy-sounding priesthood, using esoteric terms such as beta, gamma, sigma and the like."
Presumably Buffett was referring to practioners of the "dismal science" (economics), rather than to students of Greek. G.K. Chesterton called the Greek alphabet the "alphabet of liberty."

The Alphabet of Liberty

Related post: Sigma.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Not in Our Botanies

Henry David Thoreau, Journal (March 5, 1858):
We read the English poets; we study botany and zoology and geology, lean and dry as they are; and it is rare that we get a new suggestion. It is ebb-tide with the scientific reports, Professor ______ in the chair. We would fain know something more about these animals and stones and trees around us. We are ready to skin the animals alive to come at them. Our scientific names convey a very partial information only; they suggest certain thoughts only. It does not occur to me that there are other names for most of these objects, given by a people who stood between me and them, who had better senses than our race. How little I know of that arbor-vitae when I have learned only what science can tell me! It is but a word. It is not a tree of life. But there are twenty words for the tree and its different parts which the Indian gave, which are not in our botanies, which imply a more practical and vital science. He used it every day. He was well acquainted with its wood, and its bark, and its leaves. No science does more than arrange what knowledge we have of any class of objects. But, generally speaking, how much more conversant was the Indian with any wild animal or plant than we are, and in his language is implied all that intimacy, as much as ours is expressed in our language. How many words in his language about a moose, or birch bark, and the like!
Thoreau collected Indian words for moose, birch bark, and the like. Part of his collection appeared in The Maine Woods as Appendix VII ("List of Indian Words"). Thoreau compiled his list from native informants in Maine and also from printed dictionaries of the Abenaki language.

I was curious to learn what Indian words might have been used to describe the different species of trees that grow on my wood lot in Farmington, Maine, and I found Gordon M. Day, "The Tree Nomenclature of the Saint Francis Indians," Contributions to Anthropology, 1960, Part II, National Museum of Canada Bulletin 190 (Ottawa, 1963), pp. 37-48, reprinted in Michael K. Foster and William Cowan, edd., In Search of New England's Native Past: Selected Essays by Gordon M. Day (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998), pp. 72-83.

The Saint Francis Abenaki Indians live in Odanak, Quebec, on the Saint Francis River. They are descended from refugees from New England. There was an Abenaki village named Amaseconti (with various spellings), located on the Sandy River, near what is today Farmington, Maine, but I don't know if any of the inhabitants of that village ever ended up in St. Francis. Apparently in 1705 refugees from Amaseconti settled in Bécancour, Quebec, not far from Odanak: see Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney, Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003), p. 75. At any rate, Day's list of tree names may contain some words similar to those used by Abenakis living at Amaseconti hundreds of years ago. I have not seen Harald E.L. Prins, "Amesokanti: Abortive Tribe Formation on the Colonial Frontier," a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory (1988).

Those who, like Thoreau, expect some deep, spiritual insights from the aboriginal names of trees may be disappointed by Day's conclusion (p. 83):
Grouping of kinds into something comparable to the botanist's genera is appearent in the application of some names; e.g. kànòzás is equivalent to Salix, ôssàgákw is nearly equivalent to Populus, but, as might be expected, the Indian's genus does not always coincide with the botanist's. While the latter bases his classification on the similarities of reproductive structures, which are ephemeral and often inconspicuous, the Indian, in general, bases his classification on morphological features that are striking or significant in his economy and usually quite stable. Under these principles, an entire genus, though well known, may remain unnamed or receive one name for all its species, while in another genus even ecological varieties and forms (ecotypes and ecophenes) may receive separate names. Historically, the procedure may have been to name important and well-known species and to later include superficially similar species under the same name, with a qualifying adjective when desired, e.g. wîbegwìgít màskwâmòzí 'grey maskwa-tree'. This procedure was utilitarian, locally oriented, and resembled the white man's plant lore on the folk level rather than his scientific taxonomy.
Gordon M. Day (1911-1993) was uniquely qualified for such an investigation — he was a forester before he became an ethnolinguist.

Another interesting essay in the collection edited by Foster and Cowan (pp. 27-48) is "The Indian as an Ecological Factor in the Northeastern Forest," Ecology 34.2 (1953) 329-346, in which Day proved that the supposedly unbroken "forest primeval" was actually punctuated by sometimes extensive clearings made by the Indians for villages, cutting of wood for fuel, and agriculture. The primary method of clearing was by means of controlled fires intentionally set.

Monday, March 02, 2009


An Antiquary

Samuel Butler, "An Antiquary," from Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), pp. 42-43:
An Antiquary is one that has his Being in this Age, but his Life and Conversation is in the Days of old. He despises the present Age as an Innovation, and slights the future; but has a great Value for that, which is past and gone, like the Madman, that fell in Love with Cleopatra. He is an old frippery-Philosopher, that has so strange a natural Affection to worm-eaten Speculation, that it is apparent he has a Worm in his Skull. He honours his Forefathers and Fore-mothers, but condemns his Parents as too modern, and no better than Upstarts. He neglects himself, because he was born in his own Time, and so far off Antiquity, which he so much admires; and repines, like a younger Brother, because he came so late into the World. He spends the one half of his Time in collecting old insignificant Trifles, and the other in shewing them, which he takes singular Delight in; because the oftener he does it, the further they are from being new to him. All his Curiosities take place of one another according to their Seniority, and he values them not by their Abilities, but their Standing. He has a great Veneration for Words that are stricken in Years, and are grown so aged, that they have out-lived their Employments—These he uses with a Respect agreeable to their Antiquity, and the good Services they have done. He throws away his Time in enquiring after that which is past and gone so many Ages since, like one that shoots away an Arrow, to find out another that was lost before. He fetches things out of Dust and Ruins, like the Fable of the chymical Plant raised out of its own Ashes. He values one old Invention, that is lost and never to be recovered, before all the new ones in the World, tho' never so useful. The whole Business of his Life is the same with his, that shows the Tombs at Westminster, only the one does it for his Pleasure, and the other for Money. As every Man has but one Father, but two Grand-Fathers and a World of Ancestors; so he has a proportional Value for Things that are antient, and the further off the greater.

He is a great Time-server, but it is of Time out of Mind, to which he conforms exactly, but is wholly retired from the present. His Days were spent and gone long before he came into the World, and since his only Business is to collect what he can out of the Ruins of them. He has so strong a natural Affection to any Thing that is old, that he may truly say to Dust and Worms you are my Father, and to Rottenness thou art my Mother. He has no Providence nor Fore-sight; for all his Contemplations look backward upon the Days of old, and his Brains are turned with them, as if he walked backwards. He had rather interpret one obscure Word in any old senseless Discourse, than be Author of the most ingenious new one; and with Scaliger would sell the Empire of Germany (if it were in his Power) for an old Song. He devours an old Manuscript with greater Relish than Worms and Moths do, and, though there be nothing in it, values it above any Thing printed, which he accounts but a Novelty. When he happens to cure a small Botch in an old Author, he is as proud of it, as if he had got the Philosophers Stone, and could cure all the Diseases of Mankind. He values things wrongfully upon their Antiquity, forgetting that the most modern are really the most ancient of all Things in the World, like those that reckon their Pounds before their Shillings and Pence, of which they are made up. He esteems no Customs but such as have outlived themselves, and are long since out of Use; as the Catholics allow of no Saints, but such as are dead, and the Fanatics, in Opposition, of none but the Living.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Unancestried, Unprivileged, Unknown

Thanks to David Norton for pointing out this example of a series of asyndetic, privative adjectives, from James Russell Lowell's essay on Abraham Lincoln in My Study Windows:
People of more sensitive organizations may be shocked, but we are glad that in this our true war of independence, which is to free us forever from the Old World, we have had at the head of our affairs a man whom America made, as God made Adam, out of the very earth, unancestried, unprivileged, unknown, to show us how much truth, how much magnanimity, and how much statecraft await the call of opportunity in simple manhood when it believes in the justice of God and the worth of man.
Unancestried appears to be a hapax legomenon — this is the only example cited in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

I noticed a few other examples of asyndetic, privative adjectives recently in the poems of Thomas Hardy:I don't see unadieu'd in the OED.

Jon Silkin called Hardy's 1917 poem A Call to National Service "dismayingly simple — even comic," and in Michael Millgate's opinion, it is "poetically weak." You judge:
Up and be doing, all who have a hand
To lift, a back to bend. It must not be
In times like these that vaguely linger we
To air our vaunts and hopes; and leave our land

Untended as a wild of weeds and sand.
- Say, then, "I come!" and go, O women and men
Of palace, ploughshare, easel, counter, pen;
That scareless, scathless, England still may stand.

Would years but let me stir as once I stirred
At many a dawn to take the forward track,
And with a stride plunged on to enterprize,

I now would speed like yester wind that whirred
Through yielding pines; and serve with never a slack,
So loud for promptness all around outcries!
To me, this brings to mind the death of Priam in the second book of Vergil's Aeneid, the passage that starts (506-511, tr. C.H. Sisson):
Perhaps you want to know how Priam died.
When he saw that the city had been taken,
The palace gates torn off, the enemy
Right in the central suite of his apartments,
Old as he was he put his armour on,
The first time for years, buckled his sword,
Useless although it was, and off he went
Into the thick of the enemy, to die.

Forsitan et Priami fuerint quae fata requiras.
urbis uti captae casum convulsaque vidit
limina tectorum et medium in penetralibus hostem,
arma diu senior desueta trementibus aevo
circumdat nequiquam umeris et inutile ferrum
cingitur, ac densos fertur moriturus in hostis.


The Good Book

Stephen Leacock, Caroline's Christmas: or, The Inexplicable Infant:
"Ah, John, you'd better be employed in reading the Good Book than in your wild courses. Here take it, father, and read it" — and she handed to him the well-worn black volume from the shelf. Enderby paused a moment and held the volume in his hand .... "Take the book," she said. "Read, John, in this hour of affliction; it brings comfort."

The farmer took from her hand the well-worn copy of Euclid's Elements, and laying aside his hat with reverence, he read aloud: "The angles at the base of an isoceles triangle are equal, and whosoever shall produce the sides, lo, the same also shall be equal each unto each."
Hat tip: Conrad H. Roth.

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