Sunday, February 28, 2010


Ancients and Moderns

Samuel Butler, Notebooks:
If a person would understand either the Odyssey or any other ancient work, he must never look at the dead without seeing the living in them, nor at the living without thinking of the dead. We are too fond of seeing the ancients as one thing and the moderns as another.
Frederic De Forest Allen, quoted by J.B. Greenough in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 9 (1898) 31:
We call the Romans ancient, but when they were alive they thought themselves as modern as anybody.


Oh, Happy February!

Thomas De Quincey, The Last Days of Immanuel Kant:
Now came February, 1804, which was the last month that Kant was destined to see. It is remarkable that, in the memorandum book which I have before mentioned, I found a fragment of an old song, (inserted by Kant, and dated in the summer about six months before the time of his death,) which expressed that February was the month in which people had the least weight to carry, for the obvious reason that it was shorter by two and by three days than the others; and the concluding sentiment was in a tone of fanciful pathos to this effect—"Oh, happy February! in which man has least to bear—least pain, least sorrow, least self-reproach!"

Friday, February 26, 2010


Retirement Plans

Benjamin Franklin, letter to Cadwallader Colden (September 29, 1748):
Thus you see I am in a fair Way of having no other Tasks than such as I shall like to give my Self, and of enjoying what I look upon as a great Happiness, Leisure to read, study, make Experiments, and converse at large with such ingenious & worthy Men, as are pleas'd to honour me with their Friendship or Acquaintance, on such Points as may produce something for the common Benefit of Mankind, uninterrupted by the little Cares & Fatigues of Business.
Don Marquis, The Almost Perfect State (Garden City: Doubleday, 1927), p. 182:
Personally we look forward to an old age of dissipation and indolence and unreverend disrepute.


More Arboreal Epithets of Greek Gods

In Jennifer Larson, Ancient Greek Cults: A Guide (New York: Routledge, 2007), I noticed some arboreal epithets missing from the list in M.W. de Wisser, Die nicht menschengestaltigen Götter der Griechen (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1903), pp. 155-156, § 214 = Auf Bäume bezügliche Beinamen der Götter. The epithets are known from archaeological evidence uncovered after the publication of de Wisser's book.

The first is Hylates (of the grove), an epithet of Apollo at Kourion in Cyprus. See Larson, p. 97, with note 34 on p. 214 referring to Bernard C. Dietrich, "The Sanctuary of Apollo at Kourion," in Diana Buitron-Oliver and Bernard C. Dietrich, edd., The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kourion: Excavations in the Archaic Precinct (Jonsered: P. Åström, 1996), pp. 17-38.

The second is Kedrites (of the cedar), an epithet of Hermes at Kato Symi in Crete. See Larson, p. 148, with note 10 on p. 217 referring to R.F. Willetts, Cretan Cults and Festivals (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962), pp. 250–251; A. Lebessi, "A Sanctuary of Hermes and Aphrodite in Crete," Expedition 18.3 (1976) 1–13; A. Lebessi and Wolfgang Schürmann, To hiero tou Hermē kai tēs Aphroditēs stē Symē Viannou, 2 vols. (Athens: Hē en Athēnais Archaiologikē Hetaireia, 1985); A. Lebessi and P. Muhly, "The Sanctuary of Hermes and Aphrodite at Syme, Crete," National Geographic Research Reports 3 (1987) 102–112; and Nanno Marinatos, "Striding across Boundaries: Hermes and Aphrodite as Gods of Initiation," in David Brooks Dodd and Christopher A. Faraone, Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives (London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 130–151 (at 131–144).

Thursday, February 25, 2010


To Watch the Corn Grow

John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Part IV (Of Many Things), Chapter XVII (The Moral of Landscape) § 36:
The delights of horse-racing and hunting, of assemblies in the night instead of the day, of costly and wearisome music, of costly and burdensome dress, of chagrined contention for place or power, or wealth, or the eyes of the multitude; and all the endless occupation without purpose, and idleness without rest, of our vulgar world, are not, it seems to me, enjoyments we need be ambitious to communicate. And all real and wholesome enjoyments possible to man have been just as possible to him, since first he was made of the earth, as they are now; and they are possible to him chiefly in peace. To watch the corn grow, and the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over ploughshare or spade; to read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray,—these are the things that make men happy; they have always had the power of doing these, they never will have power to do more. The world's prosperity or adversity depends upon our knowing and teaching these few things: but upon iron, or glass, or electricity, or steam, in no wise.


A Primeval Sense of Impiety

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1943; rpt. New York: Macmillan, 1978), p. 82:
But in other instances, too, a similar price is exacted for our analytical knowledge and manipulative power, even if we have ceased to count it. We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture. To many, no doubt, this process is simply the gradual discovery that the real world is different from what we expected, and the old opposition to Galileo or to 'body-snatchers' is simply obscurantism. But that is not the whole story. It is not the greatest of modern scientists who feel most sure that the object, stripped of its qualitative properties and reduced to mere quantity, is wholly real. Little scientists, and little unscientific followers of science, may think so. The great minds know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something of its reality has been lost.
Related post: When the Last Tree Falls.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Pitiful Destruction

Thanks to Eric Thomson for adding the following to my collection of literary reactions to or descriptions of arboricide—Statius, Thebaid 6.84-117 (tr. J.H. Mozley):
In another region the army hastens at the bidding of the wise augur to raise an airy pile, high as a mountain, of tree-trunks and shattered forests, to expiate the crime of the serpent's slaying and make dark burnt-offering for the ill-omened war. These labour to cut down Nemea and its shady glens and hurl them to the ground, and to lay the forests open to the sunlight. Straightway a wood that axe has never shorn of its ancient boughs is felled, a wood than which none more rich in abundant shade between the vales of Argolis and Mount Lycaeus ever raised aloft its head above the stars; in reverend sanctity of eld it stands, and is said not only to reach back in years beyond the grandsires of men, but to have seen Nymphs pass and flocking Fauns and yet be living. Upon the wood came pitiful destruction: the beasts are fled, and the birds, terror-driven, flutter forth from their warm nests; the towering beeches fall and the Chaonian groves and the cypress that the winter harms not, spruces are flung prostrate that feed the funeral flames, ash-trees and trunks of holm-oak and yews with poisonous sap. And mountain ashes destined to drink the gore of cursed battle, and oaks unconquerable by age. Then the daring fir is cloven, and the pine with fragrant wound, alders that love the sea bow to the ground their unshorn summits, and elms that give friendly shade to the vines. The earth groans: not so are the woods of Ismarus swept away uprooted, when Boreas breaks his prison cave and rears his head, no swifter does the nightly flame tear through the forest before the south wind's onset; hoar Pales and Silvanus, lord of the shady glen, and the folk, half-god, half-animal, go forth weeping from the leisure haunts they loved, and as they go the woodland groans in sympathy, nor can the Nymphs loose the trees from their embrace. As when a leader gives over to the greedy conquerors the captured towers to plunder, scarce is the signal heard, and the city is nowhere to be found; they drive and carry, take captive and strike down in fury unrestrained: the din of battle was less loud.

Parte alia gnari monitis exercitus instat
auguris aëriam truncis nemorumque ruina,
montis opus, cumulare pyram, quae crimina caesi
anguis et infausti cremet atra piacula belli.
[his labor accisam Nemeen umbrosaque tempe
praecipitare solo lucosque ostendere Phoebo.]
sternitur extemplo veteres incaedua ferro
silva comas, largae qua non opulentior umbrae
Argolicos inter saltusque educta Lycaeos
extulerat super astra caput: stat sacra senectae
numine, nec solos hominum transgressa veterno
fertur avos, Nymphas etiam mutasse superstes
Faunorumque greges. aderat miserabile luco
excidium: fugere ferae, nidosque tepentes
absiliunt (metus urguet) aves; cadit ardua fagus
Chaoniumque nemus brumaeque illaesa cupressus,
procumbunt piceae, flammis alimenta supremis,
ornique iliceaeque trabes metuendaque suco
taxus et infandos belli potura cruores
fraxinus atque situ non expugnabile robur.
hinc audax abies et odoro vulnere pinus
scinditur, acclinant intonsa cacumina terrae
alnus amica fretis nec inhospita vitibus ulmus.
dat gemitum tellus: non sic eversa feruntur
Ismara cum fracto Boreas caput extulit antro,
non grassante Noto citius nocturna peregit
flamma nemus. linquunt flentes dilecta locorum
otia cana Pales Silvanusque arbiter umbrae
semideumque pecus, migrantibus aggemit illis
silva, nec amplexae dimittunt robora Nymphae.
ut cum possessas avidis victoribus arces
dux raptare dedit, vix signa audita, nec urbem
invenias; ducunt sternuntque abiguntque feruntque
immodici, minor ille fragor quo bella gerebant.
Chaucer, Knight's Tale 2913-2966, imitated Statius, in the form of a praeteritio ("I wol nat tellen"):
Heigh labour and ful greet apparaillynge
Was at the service and the fyr-makynge,
That with his grene top the hevene raughte;
And twenty fadme of brede the armes straughte—
This is to seyn, the bowes weren so brode.
Of stree first ther was leyd ful many a lode.
But how the fyr was maked upon highte,
Ne eek the names that the trees highte,
As ook, firre, birch, aspe, alder, holm, popler,
Wylugh, elm, plane, assh, box, chasteyn, lynde, laurer,
Mapul, thorn, bech, hasel, ew, whippeltree—
How they weren feld shal nat be toold for me;
Ne hou the goddes ronnen up and doun,
Disherited of hire habitacioun,
In which they woneden in reste and pees,
Nymphes, fawnes and amadrides;
Ne hou the beestes and the briddes alle
Fledden for fere, whan the wode was falle;
Ne how the ground agast was of the light,
That was nat wont to seen the sonne bright;
Ne how the fyr was couched first with stree,
And thanne with drye stikkes cloven a thre,
And thanne with grene wode and spicerye,
And thanne with clooth of gold and with perrye,
And gerlandes, hangynge with ful many a flour;
The mirre, th' encens, with al so greet odour;
Ne how Arcite lay among al this,
Ne what richesse aboute his body is;
Ne how that Emelye, as was the gyse,
Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse;
Ne how she swowned whan men made the fyr,
Ne what she spak, ne what was hir desir;
Ne what jeweles men in the fyre caste,
Whan that the fyr was greet and brente faste;
Ne how somme caste hir sheeld, and somme hir spere,
And of hire vestimentz, whiche that they were,
And coppes fulle of wyn, and milk, and blood,
Into the fyr, that brente as it were wood;
Ne how the Grekes, with an huge route,
Thries riden al the fyr aboute
Upon the left hand, with a loud shoutynge,
And thries with hir speres claterynge;
And thries how the ladyes gonne crye;
And how that lad was homward Emelye;
Ne how Arcite is brent to asshen colde;
Ne how that lyche-wake was yholde
Al thilke nyght; ne how the Grekes pleye
The wake-pleyes; ne kepe I nat to seye
Who wrastleth best naked with oille enoynt
,Ne who that baar hym best, in no disjoynt.
I wol nat tellen eek how that they goon
Hoom til Atthenes, whan the pley is doon;
But shortly to the point thanne wol I wende
And maken of my longe tale an ende.
Here is a translation of Chaucer by Gerard NeCastro:
Much labor and great preparation was there for the service and the making of the pyre, which reached heaven with its green top and stretched its arms twenty fathoms in breadth; that is to say, the boughs reached that far. First there were laid many loads of straw. But how the pyre was built up on high, the kinds of the trees as well (such as oak, fir, birch, aspen, alder, holm, poplar, willow, elm, plane, ash, box, chestnut, linden, laurel, maple, thorn, beech, hazel, yew, cornel), and how they were felled I shall not tell! And how the gods ran up and down, disinherited of their habitation, in which they had long time dwelt in peace and rest, nymphs, fauns, and hamadryads of the woods; and how all the beasts and birds fled for fear when the wood was felled; and how the ground was aghast of the light that was not accustomed to see the bright sun; and how the fire was laid first with a bed of straw, and then with dry sticks cloven in three, and green wood, and then with spicery and cloth of gold and gems, and garlands hanging with many flowers, and myrrh and incense and sweet odors; and how Arcite lay among all this and amid what treasures; and how Emily, as was the custom, applied the funeral torch, how she swooned when men made the fire and what she spoke and what she thought; what jewels men cast into the fire when it was burning high; how some cast shields and some spears and certain of their vestments, and cups full of wine, milk and blood into the furious fire; and how the Greeks in a huge company rode three times around the fire toward the left with loud shouts, clattering their spears three times; how the ladies cried aloud three times, and Emily was led homeward; how Arcite was burned to cold ashes; and how the wake was held all that night, and how the Greeks played in the funeral games—all this I care not to tell, nor who wrestled best, naked and anointed with oil, nor who bore him best in a hard clinch; nor will I tell how they went home to Athens when the games were done.
Related posts: Enemy of Orchards; Arboricide and Matricide; The Sacrilegious Axe; Arboricide on the Wayne Ranch; The Woods of Bachycraigh; Papadendrion; Papadendrion Again; A Bewilderment of Birds; Ancient Protests Against Deforestation; Illustrations of Erysichthon; Prayer and Sacrifice to Accompany Tree Cutting; A Spirit Protects the Trees; St. Martin and the Pine Tree; The Geismar Oak; Bregalad's Lament; Petition of a Poplar; Cactus Ed and Arboricide; Views from the Center of Highgate Wood; Artaxerxes and Arboricide; When the Last Tree Falls; The Hamadryads of George Lane; Sorbs and Medlars; So Foul a Deed; Like Another Erysichthon; The Fate of Old Trees; Scandalous Misuse of the Globe; The Groves Are Down; Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Hornbeams; 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; Hornbeams; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.


Monday, February 22, 2010


Tendencies Within Classical Commentaries

Robert Ackerman, J.G. Frazer: His Life and Work (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 130:
For the purposes of discussion, one may distinguish two tendencies within classical commentaries: the philological and the historical. Depending on the nature of the text and their own background and temperament, editors have tended to focus either on the language of the text or the objects or events to which the language refers. The philological emphasis might be called "centripetal," in that it focuses on the text as linguistic artifact, a construction in language to be seen and understood in a context made up finally and essentially of other texts. Philologists create and use such necessary instruments as dictionaries and concordances, which bring together examples of usage to create a linguistic universe that, through a complex process of historical and semantic triangulation, finally delimits the meaning of the word or phrase under discussion. Even when the philological editor aspires to wider, comparative horizons, the centripetal impetus persists, so that, say, Sanskrit or Semitic examples might be adduced to gloss an obscure Greek expression. Always, however, nonlinguistic materials are employed to return one to the language of the text.

On the other hand, commentaries of a historical tendency are essentially "centrifugal," in that the editor tends to direct the reader off the page, away from the text and into the world. Thus archaeology, architecture, epigraphy, numismatics, papyrology, and topography, to name only some, are ancillary bodies of knowledge levied upon by historical critics, the principal goal being the use of the text to improve our understanding of those disciplines. In fact, good editors shuttle back and forth between the language and the world, using each to clarify the other, but the analytic distinction between the two still seems worth making.
Perhaps there is some overlap here with Wortphilologie (somewhat centripetal) versus Totalitätsideal (somewhat centrifugal).

Related post: The Sauce and the Fish.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


New and Improved Edition?

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher (F 32, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, with commas added):
I am convinced that, if God should ever create a man as our masters of arts and our professors of philosophy imagine man to be, he would be taken to the madhouse on the first day of his life...

Ich bin überzeugt, wenn Gott einmal einen solchen Menschen schaffen wollte, wie ihn sich die Magister und Professoren der Philosophie vorstellen, er müßte den ersten Tag ins Tollhaus gebracht werden...


The Way to Be Happy

Pausanias 1.30.4 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
In this part of the country is seen the tower of Timon, the only man to see that there is no way to be happy except to shun other men.

κατὰ τοῦτο τῆς χώρας φαίνεται πύργος Τίμωνος, ὃς μόνος εἶδε μηδένα τρόπον εὐδαίμονα εἶναι γενέσθαι πλὴν τοὺς ἄλλους φεύγοντα ἀνθρώπους.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Per Una Selva Oscura

Victor Hugo, À Albert Durer (To Albrecht Dürer, tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore):
In the old forests where huge sap-waves roll
Through pallid birch-trunk and dark alder-bole,
How often, past some patch of open ground,
Fearful, not venturing to look around,
You must have scurried, pale and growing fainter,
Old master Dürer, you reflective painter!

In your illustrious scenes we too can see
What your prophetic gaze saw vividly:
In that dark covert veiled by shadows lies
The webfoot faun or sylvan with green eyes,
While Pan adorns your haunt with floral sheaves,
And ancient dryads fill their hands with leaves.

A forest is a dreadful world to you;
There the fantastic merges with the true.
Old pines bend dreamily, and mighty elms
Writhe myriad malformed branches, in those realms;
Against the wind the somber thickets strive—
Nothing is quite dead, nothing quite alive.
Weeds drink, streams ripple; ash trees on the slope
Draw in their gnarled dark feet, and slowly grope
Back from the dismal shrubs and crawling brakes,
While swan-necked flowers are mirrored in the lakes;
Many a strange and scaly beast that paws
The massive knots of a tree between its claws
Views you in darkness with a gleaming eye,
If you should rouse it up as you pass by.
Ah, plant life—soul and matter! vital spark
Covered with rough skin, or with living bark!
Lulled branches laden with dim reveries.

God alone knows—God, who alone can trace
Strange things—how often, in some savage place,
Stirred by a deep flame, I have felt aware
That the huge oaks in this dark wooded lair
Quivered, and lived with spirits like my own,
And laughed, and spoke together in an undertone.

Dans les vieilles forêts où la sève à grands flots
Court du fût noir de l'aulne au tronc blanc des bouleaux,
Bien des fois, n'est-ce pas? à travers la clairière,
Pâle, effaré, n'osant regarder en arrière,
Tu t'es hâté, tremblant et d'un pas convulsif,
O mon maître Albert Dure, ô vieux peintre pensif!

On devine, devant tes tableaux qu'on vénère,
Que dans les noirs taillis ton œil visionnaire
Voyait distinctement, par l'ombre recouverts,
Le faune aux doigts palmés, le sylvain aux yeux verts,
Pan, qui revêt de fleurs l'antre où tu te recueilles,
Et l'antique dryade aux mains pleines de feuilles.

Une forêt pour toi, c'est un monstre hideux,
Le songe et le réel s'y mêlent tous les deux.
Là se penchent rêveurs les vieux pins, les grands ormes
Dont les rameaux tordus font cent coudes difformes,
Et, dans ce groupe sombre agité par le vent,
Rien n'est tout à fait mort ni tout à fait vivant.
Le cresson boit; l'eau court; les frênes sur les pentes,
Sous la broussaille horrible et les ronces grimpantes,
Contractent lentement leurs pieds noueux et noirs.
Les fleurs au cou de cygne ont les lacs pour miroirs;
Et sur vous qui passez et l'avez réveillée,
Mainte chimère étrange à la gorge écaillée,
D'un arbre entre ses doigts serrant les larges nœuds,
Du fond d'un antre obscur fixe un œil lumineux.
O végétation! esprit! matière! force!
Couverte de peau rude ou de vivante écorce!

Aux bois, ainsi que toi, je n'ai jamais erré,
Maître, sans qu'en mon cœur l'horreur ait pénétré,
Sans voir tressaillir l'herbe, et, par les vents bercées,
Pendre à tous les rameaux de confuses pensées.
Dieu seul, ce grand témoin des faits mystérieux,
Dieu seul le sait, souvent, en de sauvages lieux,
J'ai senti, moi qu'échauffe une secrète flamme,
Comme moi palpiter et vivre avec une âme,
Et rire, et se parler dans l'ombre à demi-voix
Les chênes monstrueux qui remplissent les bois.
Update: Thanks to Pierre Wechter for pointing out some errors in my transcription of Hugo's French, which I have now corrected.


A Powerful Weapon in Spiritual Warfare

Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras 24 (tr. K.S. Guthrie):
Since food, used properly and regularly, greatly contributes to the best discipline, it may be interesting to consider Pythagoras' precepts on the subject. Forbidden was generally all food causing flatulence or indigestion, while he recommended the contrary kinds of food that preserve and are astringent....Beans also were interdicted, due to many causes, physical, psychic and sacred.
Photius, Life of Pythagoras 6 (tr. K.S. Guthrie):
Beans they also avoided, because they produce flatulency, over-satiety, and for other reasons.
Not all spiritual masters avoid flatulence. Some find it to be a powerful weapon in warfare against demons. Martin Luther perfected this technique, according to Karl P. Wentersdorf, "The Symbolic Significance of Figurae Scatologicae in Gothic Manuscripts," in Clifford Davidson, ed., Word, Picture, and Spectacle (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1984), p. 9, with notes on p. 17:
Non-literary evidence regarding this technique comes from a book on demons and sorcerers by Jean Wier, a noted Belgian physician and demonologist. Wier describes how Luther, according to the testimony of Melanchthon, had on one occasion, been drawn into a temptation by a devil and how, after an argument with the tempter, he had exorcized him by expelling wind: Hoc dicto uictus daemon, indignabundus secumque murmurans abijt eliso crepitu non exiguo, cuius sufflamen tetri odoris dies aliquot redolebat hypocaustum39 ("After this had been said, the devil was driven away, filled with indignation and muttering to himself, by a loud expulsion of wind, the evil-smelling odors of which stank like a furnace for several days"). Another report, also originating with Luther, tells of a lady who, when bothered by a devil, adopted the same defensive tactic: Sathanam crepitu ventris fugavit40 ("Satan was put to flight by a noisy burst of wind from the bowels").

39 Ioannes Wierus, De Praestigiis Daemonvm, et Incantationibus ac Ueneficiis (Basel, 1568), I.xvi (p. 93). The copy cited is in the Library of the University of Marburg, West Germany.

40 Gustave Brunet, Martin Luther: Les Propos de Table (Paris: Garnier, 1844), p. 22.
The ablative absolute eliso crepitu non exiguo in the quotation from Wier could possibly mean that the devil, not Luther, broke wind, although the parallel passage about the lady (which I would translate as "She put Satan to flight by breaking wind") from Luther's table-talk lends some support to Wentersdorf's interpretation.

See also Wentersdorf p. 7, with note on p. 16:
These beliefs provide the rationale for a bizarre method of exorcism described in a passage in Martin Luther's table-talk, as recorded by his friends and colleagues and published in 1566. The reformer told how, on more than one occasion, the Devil had appeared to him but had been driven off by scornful words and "tricks" (namely, crepitation or evacuation):
Doktor Luther sagte, wenn er des Teufels mit der heiligen Schrifft vnd mit ernstlichen worten, nicht hette können los werden, so hette er jn offt mit spitzigen worten vnd lecherlichen bossen vertrieben. Vnd wenn er jm sein Gewissen hette beschweren wollen, so hette er offt zu jm gesaget, Teufel ich hab auch in die Hosen geschissen, hastu es auch gerochen, vnd zu den andern meinen Sünden in dein Register geschrieben?25

(Doctor Luther said that whenever he had been unable to get rid of the Devil with the aid of Sacred Scripture and serious words, he had often driven him away with sarcastic words and contemptuous tricks. And when the Devil had tried to burden his conscience, he had often said to him, "Devil, I have just defecated in my breeches. Did you smell it, and have you added it to those other sins of mine written down in your register?")
At the literal level of meaning, Luther evidently meant that his "tricks" either neutralized the evil power of the Devil or else expelled a demon residing temporarily in the reformer's bowels; at the metaphorical level, the faecal evacuation connoted successful resistance to sin though the expulsion of temptation.

25 Tischreden oder Colloquia Doctoris Martin Luthers (Eisleben, 1566), p. 290.


Friday, February 19, 2010


Reverence for Facts

Arthur Darby Nock, quoted in William M. Calder III, "Arthur Darby Nock 1902-1963," Classical Outlook 70 (1992) 8-9, rpt. in Men in Their Books: Studies in the Modern History of Classical Scholarship (Hildesheim: Olms, 1998), pp. 233-234 (at 234):
A fact is a holy thing and ought not to be sacrificed on the altar of a generality.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Addiction to Reading

W. Somerset Maugham, The Book-Bag:
Some people read for instruction, which is praiseworthy, and some for pleasure, which is innocent, but not a few read from habit, and I suppose that this is neither innocent nor praiseworthy. Of that lamentable company am I. Conversation after a time bores me, games tire me and my own thoughts, which we are told are the unfailing resource of a sensible man, have a tendency to run dry. Then I fly to my book as the opium-smoker to his pipe. I would sooner read the catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores or Bradshaw's Guide than nothing at all, and indeed I have spent many delightful hours over both these works. At one time I never went out without a second-hand bookseller's list in my pocket. I know no reading more fruity. Of course to read in this way is as reprehensible as doping, and I never cease to wonder at the impertinence of great readers who, because they are such, look down on the illiterate. From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows? Let us admit that reading with us is just a drug that we cannot do without—who of this band does not know the restlessness that attacks him when he has been severed from reading too long, the apprehension and irritability, and the sigh of relief which the sight of a printed page extracts from him?—and so let us be no more vainglorious than the poor slaves of the hypodermic needle or the pint-pot.


Plena Deo

Seneca the Elder, Suasoriae 3.5 ff., repeatedly attributes a phrase to Vergil which doesn't occur in any of the poet's surviving works—plena deo, literally "full of the god", with plena being nominative feminine singular. The phrase is equivalent to Greek ἔνθεος (entheos, whence English enthusiasm), and must have been used to describe a prophetess. In the Aeneid, two characters qualify, viz. Cassandra and the Sibyl.

Another Vergilian expression, tum vates, referring to these prophetesses (Cassandra at 3.187 aut quem tum vates Cassandra moveret? and the Sibyl at 6.582 tum vates sic orsa loqui), is metrically equivalent in the dactylic hexameter to plena deo. Could tum vates have ousted plena deo?

Another possibility is that someone, after Vergil's death, completed one of the half-lines in the Aeneid with words including plena deo, and that such a version was current in Seneca the Elder's day. Aeneid 2.346 is a likely hemistich, as the context involves Cassandra.

In the case of both Cassandra and the Sibyl, the god who inspired them to prophecy was of course Apollo.

Update: See Nicholas Horsfall, Virgil, Aeneid 6: A Commentary (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 627-629.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Leave the Uproar

George Meredith, Nature and Life:

Leave the uproar: at a leap
Thou shalt strike a woodland path,
Enter silence, not of sleep,
Under shadows, not of wrath;
Breath which is the spirit's bath
In the old Beginnings find,
And endow them with a mind,
Seed for seedling, swathe for swathe.
That gives Nature to us, this
Give we her, and so we kiss.


Fruitful is it so: but hear
How within the shell thou art,
Music sounds; nor other near
Can to such a tremor start.
Of the waves our life is part;
They our running harvests bear:
Back to them for manful air,
Laden with the woodland's heart!
That gives Battle to us, this
Give we it, and good the kiss.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Arboreal Epithets of Greek Gods

W. Kendrick Pritchett, Pausanias Periegetes, [vol. 1] (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1998), discusses tree cults on pp. 300-309, with mention on p. 305 of epitheta deorum as possible evidence for early tree worship, citing L.R. Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States.

Not cited by Pritchett is a useful table, giving city or region, epithet, god, and ancient sources, in M.W. de Wisser, Die nicht menschengestaltigen Götter der Griechen (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1903), pp. 155-156, § 214 = Auf Bäume bezügliche Beinamen der Götter.

The divine figures with these arboreal epithets are Apollō, Artemis, Asklēpios, Athēna, Dionysos, Helenē, and Zeus. The epithets are Agnitas (Asklēpios), Askraios (Zeus), Daphnaia (Artemis), Daphnaios (Apollō), Daphnaphorios (Apollō), Daphnēphoros (Apollō), Daphnia (Artemis), Daphnitēs (Apollō), Dendritēs (Dionysos), Dendritis (Helenē), Endendros (Dionysos, Zeus), Eustaphylos (Dionysos), Ixios (Apollō), Karyatis (Artemis), Kedreatis (Artemis), Kissaia (Athēna), Kisseus (Apollō), Kissios (Apollō), Kissos (Dionysos), Kranaia (?, Athēna), Kyparissia (Artemis, Athēna), Kyparissos (Asklēpios?), Lygodesma (Artemis), Morios (Zeus), Myrikaios (Apollō), Myrtōos (Apollō), Platanistios (Apollō), Staphylitēs (Dionysos), Sykasios (Zeus), Sykeatēs (Dionysos), Sykitēs (Dionysos), Phakelitis (Artemis), and Phēgōnaios (Zeus).

Notes to myself: 1) look up the ancient sources, 2) search inscriptions and texts discovered after the date of de Visser's book, and 3) look for Roman examples.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Enemy of Orchards

Czeslaw Milosz, "Happiness," in To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), pp. 20-26 (at 23-24):
Many years later, at the age of eighty, I returned to the place of my birth and childhood. The landscape had changed, and probably those changes were more radical than any made there by man since the Middle Ages. Lithuania, an independent country before World War II, was occupied in 1940 by the Soviet Union, and the collectivization of agriculture was enforced by the Communist government. Whole villages, with their houses, yards, barns, stables, gardens, were erased. In their place stretched the open space of huge fields cultivated by tractors. I stood at the edge of a plateau above my river's canyonlike valley and saw only a plain without a trace of the clumps of trees that once marked the emplacement of every village. Among the many definitions of Communism, perhaps one would be the most apt: enemy of orchards. For the disappearance of villages and the remodeling of the terrain necessitated cutting down the orchards once surrounding every house and hut. The idea of collective farming—grain factories instead of little peasant lots—was rational, but with a vengeance, and a similar vengeance lurking in practically every project of the planned economy brought about the downfall of the Soviet system.

Orchards under Communism had no chance, but in all fairness let us concede that they are antique by their very nature. Only the passion of a gardener can delight in growing a great variety of trees, each producing a small crop of fruit whose taste pleases the gardener himself and a few connoisseurs. Market laws favor a few species that are easy to preserve and correspond to basic standards. In the orchards planted by my great-grandfather and renewed by his successors, I knew the kinds of apples and pears whose very names pronounced by me later sounded exotic.
Related posts: Arboricide and Matricide; The Sacrilegious Axe; Arboricide on the Wayne Ranch; The Woods of Bachycraigh; Papadendrion; Papadendrion Again; A Bewilderment of Birds; Ancient Protests Against Deforestation; Illustrations of Erysichthon; Prayer and Sacrifice to Accompany Tree Cutting; A Spirit Protects the Trees; St. Martin and the Pine Tree; The Geismar Oak; Bregalad's Lament; Petition of a Poplar; Cactus Ed and Arboricide; Views from the Center of Highgate Wood; Artaxerxes and Arboricide; When the Last Tree Falls; The Hamadryads of George Lane; Sorbs and Medlars; So Foul a Deed; Like Another Erysichthon; The Fate of Old Trees; Scandalous Misuse of the Globe; The Groves Are Down; Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Hornbeams; 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; Hornbeams; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Men Born from Trees

Palaephatus, On Unbelievable Things 35 (pp. 52-53 Festa, tr. Jacob Stern):
Among other ill-considered statements that people have made is this: that the first generation of men was born from ash trees. But it seems impossible to me that human beings sprang from wood. Ash in fact was a man, and the "Ashens" got their name from him, just as the Hellenes were named from Hellen and the Ionians from Ion. Later the whole family died out and the name ceased to be used. The generations of Iron and Bronze never existed either—that too is foolishness.

Καὶ τἄλλα φαύλως εἶπον καὶ τὸ πρῶτον γένος ἀνθρώπων ἐκ μελιῶν γενέσθαι [φασίν]. ἐμοὶ δὲ δοκεῖ ἀμήχανον ἐκ ξύλων ἀνθρώπους γενέσθαι. Ἀλλὰ Μέλιός τις ἐγένετο καὶ Μελίαι ἐκλήθησαν ἀπὸ τούτου, ὥσπερ Ἕλληνες ἀπὸ Ἕλληνος καὶ Ἴωνες ἀπὸ Ἴωνος. ἀλλ᾽ ἐκεῖνο μὲν ἐφθάρη τὸ γένος ὅλον, καὶ δὴ καὶ τὸ ὄνομα ἀπέσβη. σιδηρᾶ δὲ καὶ χαλκῆ γενεὰ οὐδέποτε ἐγένετο, ἀλλ᾽ ἐφλυαρήθη ταῦτα.
Palaephatus is criticizing Hesiod, Works and Days 143-145, here in Hugh G. Evelyn-White's translation:
Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees; and it was in no way equal to the silver age, but was terrible and strong.

Ζεὺς δὲ πατὴρ τρίτον ἄλλο γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
χάλκειον ποίησ', οὐκ ἀργυρέῳ οὐδὲν ὁμοῖον,
ἐκ μελιᾶν, δεινόν τε καὶ ὄβριμον.
Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.1641-1642 (describing Talos, tr. R.C. Seaton):
He was of the stock of bronze, of the men sprung from ash-trees, the last left among the sons of the gods.

τὸν μὲν χαλκείης μελιηγενέων ἀνθρώπων
ῥίζης λοιπὸν ἐοντα μετ' ἀνδράσιν ἡμιθέοισιν.
Vergil, Aeneid 8.314-318 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
In these woodlands the native Fauns and Nymphs once dwelt, and a race of men sprung from trunks of trees and hardy oak, who had no rule nor art of life, and knew not how to yoke the ox or to lay up stores, or to husband their gains; but tree-branches nurtured them and the huntsman's savage fare.

haec nemora indigenae Fauni Nymphaeque tenebant
gensque virum truncis et duro robore nata,
quis neque mos neque cultus erat, nec iungere tauros
aut componere opes norant aut parcere parto,
sed rami atque asper victu venatus alebat.
Servius (commenting on Vergil, line 315):
This story arose from the ancient dwellings of men, who before houses were made used to stay in hollow trees or in caves. When they went forth from those places or brought their offspring out, they were said to be born from there.

hoc figmentum ortum est ex antiqua hominum habitatione, qui ante factas domos aut in cavis arboribus aut in speluncis manebant. qui cum exinde egrederentur aut suam educerent subolem, dicti sunt inde procreari.
Statius, Thebaid 4.275-281 (tr. J.H. Mozley):
To him the Arcadians an ancient people, older than the moon and stars, give trusty cohorts; they were born, 'tis said, of the hard trunks of forest trees, when the wondering earth first bore the print of feet; not yet were fields or houses or cities or ordinance of marriage: oaks and laurels suffered rude child-birth, and the shady mountain-ash peopled the earth, and the young babe fell from the pregnant ash-tree's womb.

Arcades huic veteres astris lunaque priores
agmina fida datis, nemorum quos stirpe rigenti
fama satos, cum prima pedum vestigia tellus
admirata tulit; nondum arva domusque nec urbes,
conubiisve modus; quercus laurique ferebant
cruda puerperia, ac populos umbrosa creavit
fraxinus, et feta viridis puer excidit orno.
Lactantius Placidus (commenting on Statius, line 276):
Not because they were truly born from trees, but because they lacked the use of huts and used to wander like cattle. They kept their children either in hollows of trees or in caves of cliffs. Passers-by thought these were children of trees.

non quia de arboribus vere nati sunt, sed quia deerat usus casarum et in morem pecorum vagabantur. filios autem suos aut arborum caveis aut cautium specubus contegebant, quos transeuntes arborum filios aestimabant.
For parallels from Norse mythology, see Michael D.J. Bintley, "Life Cycles of Men and Trees in Sonatorrek," Opticon1826, Issue 6 (Spring 2009) 1-3.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Great Expectations

Excerpts from Charles Dickens, Great Expectations:

Ch. 3:
"Look at Pork alone. There's a subject! If you want a subject, look at Pork!"
Ch. 3:
I think the Romans must have aggravated one another very much, with their noses. Perhaps, they became the restless people they were, in consequence.
Ch. 7:
"Tho' I'm oncommon fond of reading, too."

"Are you, Joe?"

"On-common. Give me," said Joe, "a good book, or a good newspaper, and sit me down afore a good fire, and I ask no better."
Ch. 8:
"Is that the name of this house, miss?"

"One of its names, boy."

"It has more than one, then, miss?"

"One more. Its other name was Satis; which is Greek, or Latin, or Hebrew, or all three - or all one to me - for enough."

"Enough House," said I; "that's a curious name, miss."

"Yes," she replied; "but it meant more than it said. It meant, when it was given, that whoever had this house, could want nothing else."
Ch. 8:
In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.
Ch. 9:
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.
Ch. 11:
"I have a pretty large experience of boys, and you're a bad set of fellows."
Ch. 16:
They ran their heads very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from the circumstances.
Ch. 19:
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.
Ch. 25:
She was a cousin - an indigestive single woman, who called her rigidity religion, and her liver love.
Ch. 25:
"No; the office is one thing, and private life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle behind me, and when I come into the Castle, I leave the office behind me."
Ch. 27:
So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.
Ch. 28:
All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers.
Ch. 34:
There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common one.
Ch. 38:
"You know he has nothing to recommend him but money, and a ridiculous roll of addle-headed predecessors; now, don't you?"
Ch. 46:
"What else can be the consequence," said Herbert, in explanation, "if he will cut the cheese?"
Ch. 46 (an apt name for me):
Ch. 55:
"Halloa! Here's a church!" .... "Let's go in!" .... "Halloa!" said he. "Here's a couple of pair of gloves! Let's put 'em on!" .... "Halloa!" said Wemmick. "Here's Miss Skiffins! Let's have a wedding."

Friday, February 12, 2010


Romantic Fools

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, chapter 13:
We are all dependent upon the machine, and if the machines stopped working most of us would die. You may hate the machine-civilisation, probably you are right to hate it, but for the present there can be no question of accepting or rejecting it. The machine-civilisation is here, and it can only be criticized from the inside, because all of us are inside it. It is only romantic fools who flatter themselves that they have escaped, like the literary gent in his Tudor cottage with bathroom h. and c., and the he-man who goes off to live a "primitive" life in the jungle with a Mannlicher rifle and four wagon-loads of tinned food.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Green Things

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, chapter 1:
The whole of the industrial districts are really one enormous town, of about the same population as Greater London but, fortunately, of much larger area; so that even in the middle of them there is still room for patches of cleanness and decency. That is an encouraging thought. In spite of hard trying, man has not yet succeeded in doing his dirt everywhere. The earth is so vast and still so empty that even in the filthy heart of civilization you find fields where the grass is green instead of grey; perhaps if you looked for them you might even find streams with live fish in them instead of salmon tins.
William Blake, letter to John Trusler (August 23, 1799):
I see Every thing I paint In This World, but Every body does not see alike. To the Eyes of a Miser a Guinea is more beautiful than the Sun & a bag worn with the use of Money has more beautiful proportions than a Vine filled with Grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing that stands in the way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Arboricide and Matricide

Zonas of Sardis (Greek Anthology 9.312, tr. W.R. Paton):
Refrain, sirrah, from cutting the oak, the mother of acorns; refrain, and lay low the old stone-pine, or the sea-pine, or this rhamnus with many stems, or the holly-oak, or the dry arbutus. Only keep thy axe far from the oak, for our grannies tell us that oaks were the first mothers.

Ὦνερ τᾶν βαλάνων τὰν ματέρα φείδεο κόπτειν
  φείδεο· γηραλέαν δ' ἐκκεράϊζε πίτυν,
ἢ πεύκαν, ἢ τάνδε πολυστέλεχον παλίουρον,
  ἢ πρῖνον, ἢ τὰν αὐαλέαν κόμαρον·
τηλόθι δ' ἴσχε δρυὸς πέλεκυν· κοκύαι γὰρ ἔλεξαν
  ἁμῖν ὡς πρότεραι ματέρες ἐντὶ δρύες.
A.S.F. Gow and D.L. Page ad loc., in The Garland of Philip and Some Contemporary Epigrams, vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 417:
An exhortation to refrain from felling the oak, parent of the human race.

The present epigram alludes to the obscure story underlying such phrases as Hom. Il. 22.126 οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ᾽ ἀπὸ πέτρης, Od. 19.163 οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ δρυός ἐσσι παλαιφάτου οὐδ᾽ ἀπὸ πέτρης; cf. Hes. Th. 35, Plato Rep. 544 D, Cic. Att. 13.28, Virg. Aen. 8.315 gensque uirum truncis et duro robore nata, Ov. AA 2.541, Juv. 6.12 homines qui rupto robore nati, Nonnus D. 48.504. See RE 5.2027.
For more parallels and analysis, see Antonio Ruiz de Elvira, "Prometeo, Pandora y los Origenes del Hombre," Quadernos de Filologia Classica 1 (1971) 79-108 (at 80-83), and Richard Buxton, Forms of Astonishment: Greek Myths of Metamorphosis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 213-214.

Related posts: The Sacrilegious Axe; Arboricide on the Wayne Ranch; The Woods of Bachycraigh; Papadendrion; Papadendrion Again; A Bewilderment of Birds; Ancient Protests Against Deforestation; Illustrations of Erysichthon; Prayer and Sacrifice to Accompany Tree Cutting; A Spirit Protects the Trees; St. Martin and the Pine Tree; The Geismar Oak; Bregalad's Lament; Petition of a Poplar; Cactus Ed and Arboricide; Views from the Center of Highgate Wood; Artaxerxes and Arboricide; When the Last Tree Falls; The Hamadryads of George Lane; Sorbs and Medlars; So Foul a Deed; Like Another Erysichthon; The Fate of Old Trees; Scandalous Misuse of the Globe; The Groves Are Down; Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Hornbeams; 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; Hornbeams; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


A Homeric Scholar in Polite Company

Royall Tyler, The Algerine Captive; or, The Life and Adventures of Doctor Updike Underhill, chapter 7:
Fatigued with the vexations of my school, I one evening repaired to the tavern, and mixed with some of the young men of the town. Their conversation I could not relish; mine they could not comprehend. The subject of race horses being introduced, I ventured to descant on Xanthus, the immortal courser of Achilles. They had never heard of 'squire Achilles, or his horse; but they offered to bet two to one, that Bajazet, the Old Roan, or the deacon's mare. Pumpkin and Milk, would beat him, and challenged me to appoint time and place.

Nor was I more acceptable among the young women. Being invited to spend an evening, after a quilting, I thought this a happy opportunity to introduce Andromache, the wife of the great Hector, at her loom; and Penelope, the faithful wife of Ulysses, weaving her seven years' web. This was received with a stupid stare, until I mentioned the long time the queen of Ulysses was weaving; when a smart young woman observed, that she supposed Miss Penelope's yarn was rotted in whitening, that made her so long: and then told a tedious story of a piece of cotton and linen she had herself woven, under the same circumstances. She had no sooner finished, than, to enforce my observations, I recited above forty lines of Greek, from the Odyssey, and then began a dissertation on the caesura. In the midst of my harangue, a florid-faced young man, at the farther end of the room, with two large prominent foreteeth, remarkably white, began to sing,
"Fire upon the mountains, run boys, run;"
And immediately the whole company rushed forward, to see who should get a chance in the reel of six.

I was about retiring, fatigued and disgusted, when it was hinted to me, that I might wait on Miss Mima home; but as I could recollect no word in the Greek, which would contrue into bundling, or any of Homer's heroes, who got the bag, I declined. In the Latin, it is true, that Aeneas and Dido, in the cave, seem something like a precedent. It was reported all over the town, the next day, that master was a Papish, as he had talked French two hours.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Our Day of Wonder

John Burroughs, The Grist of the Gods:
But let not care and humdrum deaden us to the wonders and the mysteries amid which we live, nor to the splendors and the glories. We need not translate ourselves in imagination to some other sphere or state of being to find the marvelous, the divine, the transcendent; we need not postpone our day of wonder and appreciation to some future time and condition.


What's the Good of It?

George Gissing, The Unclassed, chapter 9 (The Cousins):
"Work? What work?" asked Harriet, with the suspicious look which came into her grey eyes whenever she heard something she could not understand.

"Some writing. I've written a play."

"A play? Will it be acted?"

"Oh no, it isn't meant for acting."

"What's the good of it then?"

"It's written in verse. I shall perhaps try to get it published."

"Shall you get money for it?"

"That is scarcely likely. In all probability I shall not be able to get it printed at all."

"Then what's the good of it?" repeated Harriet, still suspicious, and a little contemptuous.

"It has given me pleasure, that's all."

Sunday, February 07, 2010


A Scholar Manqué

George Gissing, New Grub Street, I.VI:
If I had had the means, I should have devoted myself to the life of a scholar. That, I quite believe, is my natural life.
George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, XVII:
I had in me the making of a scholar. With leisure and tranquillity of mind, I should have amassed learning. Within the walls of a college, I should have lived so happily, so harmlessly, my imagination ever busy with the old world.


Mr. Fondledust and the Curious Petrifaction

Excerpts from Christopher Smart, "A Letter from Mrs. Mary Midnight, to the Society of Antiquarians, giving them an Account of a very curious Petrifaction found near Penzance, in the County of Cornwall," The Midwife 1 (1751) 151-154, quoted by Min Wild, Christopher Smart and Satire: 'Mary Midnight' and the Midwife (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2008), p. 56.

Mr. Powallis, discoverer of the curious petrifaction,
carried it Home to his Lady, who at first sight cried out, my Dear, you have brought Home a ----, mentioning a Word, which I am sorry shou'd ever drop from a Woman of her decency and Discretion. However, upon handling it she was pacify'd, and she diverted herself by now and then depositing it in the Parlour, to the confusion of the House-Maid, and sometimes dropping it in Company, for the Entertainment and Astonishment of her Friends.
The antiquarian Mr. Fondledust
declar'd with Transport, that it was the greatest Curiosity in Europe. "This (says he) is really and bona fide, a petrified Excrement, and as it was found in the Fields, is a valuable Monument of ancient Simplicity, when our Fathers (how unlike the Effeminacy of our Moderns) used to do their Business in the most pastoral and unaffected Manner, and (as the Divine Milton sings)

Every Shepherd Laid his Tail
Under the Hawthorn in the Vale."
More summary and quotation by Min Wild:
Mr. Fondledust purchased the object for a hefty £50, and Mrs. M. proceeds to describe it to the learned gentlemen: 'This Rarity then, which you may either call an Artificial piece of Nature or a natural Piece of Art, is about seven Inches long, and about three and a half Diameter; (I mean in the Centre) for, towards the End, it's taper'. It is uniform in colour 'to a surprizing Exactness, which Dr. Bolus assures us is a strong Proof that the Ancients lived upon a Milk and Vegetable Diet, and were free from those luxurious Compositions that discolour the Excrements of this degenerate Age.' Mr. Fondledust says that 'after a few years Study he could find out the Age, Condition, Sex, Situation, Country and Constitution' of 'this remarkable Relict to Posterity', and even determine if it was a 'Jewish, Pagan or Mahometan Business' (1:152).
Unfortunately I can't find the original Letter in its entirety on the World Wide Web.

Related post: As Valuable As the Crown Jewels.


Saturday, February 06, 2010



George Gissing, By the Ionian Sea: Notes of a Ramble in Southern Italy, chapter 10 (Children of the Soil):
In every country and every age those talk most who have least to say that is worth saying.


Medieval and Modern

W.H. Auden, Ode to the Medieval Poets:
Chaucer, Langland, Douglas, Dunbar, with all your
brother Anons, how on earth did you ever manage,
  without anaesthetics or plumbing,
  in daily peril from witches, warlocks,

lepers, The Holy Office, foreign mercenaries
burning as they came, to write so cheerfully,
  with no grimaces of self-pathos?
  Long-winded you could be but not vulgar,

bawdy but not grubby, your raucous flytings
sheer high-spirited fun, whereas our makers,
  beset by every creature comfort,
  immune, they believe, to all superstitions,

even at their best are so often morose or
kinky, petrified by their gorgon egos.
  We all ask, but I doubt if anyone
  can really say why all age-groups should find our

Age quite so repulsive. Without its heartless
engines, though, you could not tenant my book-shelves,
  on hand to delect my ear and chuckle
  my sad flesh: I would gladly just now be

turning out verses to applaud a thundery
jovial June when the judas-tree is in blossom,
  but am forbidden by the knowledge
  that you would have wrought them so much better.
Judas-Tree in Blossom

Friday, February 05, 2010


Band of Brothers

Xenophon, Anabasis 1.3.6 (tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
For I consider that you are to me both fatherland and friends and allies; with you I think I shall be honoured wherever I may be, bereft of you I do not think I shall be able either to aid a friend or ward off a foe.

νομίζω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἐμοὶ εἶναι καὶ πατρίδα καὶ φίλους καὶ συμμάχους, καὶ σὺν ὑμῖν μὲν ἂν οἶμαι εἶναι τίμιος ὅπου ἂν ὦ, ὑμῶν δὲ ἔρημος ὢν οὐκ ἂν ἱκανὸς οἶμαι εἶναι οὔτ᾽ ἂν φίλον ὠφελῆσαι οὔτ᾽ ἂν ἐχθρὸν ἀλέξασθαι. ὡς ἐμοῦ οὖν ἰόντος ὅπῃ ἂν καὶ ὑμεῖς οὕτω τὴν γνώμην ἔχετε.
Id. 6.5.24:
It will surely be sweet, through some manly and noble thing which one may say or do to-day, to keep himself in remembrance among those whom he wishes to remember him.

ἡδύ τοι ἀνδρεῖόν τι καὶ καλὸν νῦν εἰπόντα καὶ ποιήσαντα μνήμην ἐν οἷς ἐθέλει παρέχειν ἑαυτοῦ.


Autres Temps, Autres Moeurs

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14.32 (tr. N.G. Wilson):
A man from Sparta called Timandridas went abroad and left his son in charge at home. When he returned later and found the son had made the family property more substantial than it had been at his departure, he declared that injustice was being done to many: the gods, his family, and their circle—because it is to them that free men dispose of what is surplus to their own needs. If a man during his lifetime gives the impression of poverty and on his death is found to be rich, that is the most shameful thing that can happen.

Λακεδαιμόνιος ἀνὴρ Τιμανδρίδας ὄνομα ἀποδημήσας τὸν υἱὸν ἀπέλιπε μελεδωνὸν τῆς οἰκίας. εἶτα ἐπανελθὼν χρόνῳ ὕστερον καὶ εὑρὼν τὴν οὐσίαν ποιήσαντα ἧς ἀπέλιπε πλείω, ἔφη πολλοὺς ἀδικεῖσθαι ὑπ´ αὐτοῦ θεούς τε καὶ οἰκείους καὶ ξένους· τὰ γὰρ περιττὰ τῶν ὄντων εἰς ἐκείνους ἀναλίσκεσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐλευθέρων. τὸ δὲ ζῶντα μὲν φαίνεσθαι πένητα, τελευτήσαντα δὲ καταφωραθῆναι πλούσιον, ἀλλὰ τοῦτο τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἐστὶν αἴσχιστον.

τῶν ὄντων J. Gronovius: τούτων codd.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Grand Teton

Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. Teton:
member of a western Sioux people, 1806, from Dakota titonwan, lit. "dwellers on the prairie," from thi + huwa. Not related to the Grand Teton mountain range.
The Teton in Grand Teton is usually thought to be derived from French téton = woman's breast. Cf. Greek μαστός (mastós), which means both a woman's breast and a round hill or knoll (the latter meaning e.g. in Xenophon's Anabasis). See also Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973; rpt. 1997), pp. 55-56, n. 44:
For parallels to the development of the meaning "mound," "peak," "mountain" from terms originally meaning "breast," see Albright, "The Names Shaddai and Abram," p. 184, and E.P. Dhorme, "L'Emploi métaphorique des noms de parties du corps en hébreu et en akkadien," RB, 31 (1922), 230f. (to which may be added the American Grand Teton range).
The full reference to Albright's article is W.F. Albright, "The Names Shaddai and Abram," Journal of Biblical Literature 54 (1935) 173–210.

Albert Bierstadt, The Grand Tetons, Wyoming


Come On In, You Wounded Greeklings

Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (New York: The Free Press, 1998), p. 166:
After the first three weeks of the beginning Greek class, 20 percent of the students are unfortunately conked, casualties of the masculine nouns of the first declension. Others are DOA thanks to the pronoun autos. They find that the autos monster can mean three altogether different things ("him/her/it/them," "-self," or "same"), depending on both its case and its position in a sentence. Students do withdraw from an introductory Greek class before they taste Plato or the Gospels, these bored, annoyed, and exhausted ninteen-year-olds, those very prospects who you once hoped would go on to Thucydides—and perhaps be one of the 600 each year in America who still major in Classics. They slide now across the hall to squeeze into the university's over-enrolled Theory of Walking, Rope Climbing, and Star Trek and the Humanities, which will assuage and assure them that they are, all in all, pretty nice kids, classes that will offer the veneer of self-esteem but will guarantee that they will probably lose what little sense of real accomplishment they had carried within to begin with. You can nearly hear those doctors of therapy, those professors of recuperation at the lecture-hall door: "Come on in, you wounded Greeklings. It's not your fault. They had no business subjecting you to all that rote; we do things a lot differently here. Relax, sit back, breathe deeply, and tell us how you feel."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Love Tranquillity

Palladas (Greek Anthology 10.77, tr. W.R. Paton):
Why dost thou labour in vain, O man, and disturb everything, being, as thou art, the slave of the lot that fell to thee at birth? Resign thyself to this, and struggle not against Fate, but content with thy fortune, love tranquillity. Yet strive thou rather, even against Fate, to lead thy delighted spirit to mirth.
The same, tr. Tony Harrison:
Why this desperation to move heaven and earth
to try to change what's doled out at your birth,
the lot you're made a slave to by the gods?

Learn to love tranquillity, and against all odds
coax your glum spirit to its share of mirth.
The Greek original:
Τίπτε μάτην, ἄνθρωπε, πονεῖς καὶ πάντα ταράσσεις,
  κλήρῳ δουλεύων τῷ κατὰ τὴν γένεσιν;
τούτῳ σαυτὸν ἄφες, τῷ δαίμονι μὴ φιλονείκει·
  σὴν δὲ τύχην στέργων, ἡσυχίην ἀγάπα·
μᾶλλον ἐπ᾿ εὐφροσύνην δὲ βιάζεο, καὶ παρὰ μοίρην,
  εἰ δυνατόν ψυχὴν τερπομένην μετάγειν.

Monday, February 01, 2010



Stendhal, Life of Rossini, tr. Richard N. Coe, rev. ed. (New York: Riverrun Press, 1985), p. 357:
No one but a fool opens a book when he is feeling cheerful.

Il n'y a qu'un sot qui ouvre un livre quand il est heureux.


Fraenkel on the Harvard Edition of Servius

Excerpts from Eduard Fraenkel, review of E. K. Rand et al., edd., Servianorum in Vergilii Carmina Commentariorum Editionis Harvardianae Volumen II, quod in Aeneidos Libros I et II Explanationes Continet (Lancaster: American Philological Society, 1946), in Journal of Roman Studies 38 (1948) 131-143 and 39 (1949) 145-154.

p. 133:
The editors seem to have been under a sad delusion as to the magnitude of the task undertaken by them and the severe demands involved in it. Their editorial technique is rudimentary, they have no special gift for the interpretation of a sometimes difficult text and for textual criticism, and there is in their work very little to show that they have understood what kind of information the reader is entitled to expect in a modern edition of any Greek or Latin scholia of some importance.
p. 134:
[I]t is plainly absurd to register every little bit of dirt in every single MS, as is invariably done in Harv.'s app. crit.
p. 142:
It is a sad fact that the typical 'Latinist' cannot be bothered with the most Roman, the most majestic, the most influential book that Rome has left to us (cf. Hermes 60, 1925, 415). [i.e. the Digest]
pp. 145-146:
We now have to examine the 'Test(imonia)', which are placed in the usual way between the text and the app. crit. It is on the careful selection and arrangement of the Test. that the value of a modern edition of scholia to a large extent depends. If this part of the editorial work is done in a scholarly fashion, then even a single scholion, especially in a commentary so rich in information as Servius, may become Ariadne's thread and guide us through a maze of ancient lore. If, on the other hand, the presentation of the Test. is amateurish and haphazard, the usefulness of the whole edition is greatly reduced ; for many scholia mean very little in isolation, but prove interesting and often important when linked up with other pieces of evidence to which they belong.
p. 147:
At 2, 417, the parallel scholion 11, 4, is not mentioned. Petrarch referred to it; see the marginal note in his copy of Virgil (Vergilius Ambrosianus), f. 81 recto. The great trecento scholar, who had neither indexes nor books of reference, but knew his Servius as intimately as he knew the Latin classics, puts the technicians of the twentieth century to shame by showing them how to make proper use of this commentary....Nothing could show better the spirit of that Greekless philhellenist who unceasingly strove to gather from third-rate sources the knowledge which he would have preferred to obtain from the fountain-head. The Harvard Servius would have been improved if one of its editors had excerpted Petrarch's references from the excellent facsimile of the Ambrosian Virgil (Francisci Petrarcae Vergilianus codex, Milan, 1930), although in many cases it would have been sufficient to exploit to the full Mountford and Schultz's valuable Index to Servius.
p. 154:
The work under review raises a wider question. There is a real danger in narrowing the field of Latin studies in the manner which is nowadays the fashion in many countries. It is a commonplace, and in theory everybody admits its truth, that almost everything in Latin literature can be properly understood only against a large Greek background. But in practice most people are unwilling to draw the full consequences of the recognized principle. One may sympathize with their reluctance, for, despite all our losses, there still remains an embarrassing mass of various Greek traditions, and access to them is not always easy. Perhaps it is asking too much if a scholar who knows all about the debased Latin of certain semi-educated writers in the sixth century, or one who is intimately acquainted with the scriptoria of Carolingian Gaul—if such a scholar is expected also to be able to find his way through the intricacies of the schools of Alexandria and Pergamon. It is in difficulties of this kind that planned co-operation and a careful division of labour may be of very great value. If seven scholars associate to do a complicated piece of work, they ought not, as is the case with Harv., all to be of the same brand of scholarship, but should in their individual inclinations and abilities represent as far as possible the different aspects of the complex object with which they are dealing. But whatever the practical solution, in no circumstances must the fact that we happen to be specialists, or regard ourselves as such, blind our eyes to the indivisible unity of Greco-Roman civilization and all its manifestations in literature. Tempting though it is to run away from the complexity with which the Greeks have once and for all stamped the life of the European mind, anyone who attempts such an escape will fail sooner or later. Nor is it likely that the craving after sheltered isolation will help us to invigorate the decaying study of Latin. It seems very doubtful whether the so-called Latinist really represents a genuine species of scholarship, but it is an undeniable fact that the true masters of Latin studies, from Scaliger and Bentley to Lachmann, Ritschl and Madvig, and on to Leo and Housman-that all these great scholars were anything but mere Latinists. It may also be remembered that Ludwig Traube, whose genius inspired the work of his pupil Rand and of Rand's pupils, has put it on record (Textgeschichte der Regula S. Benedicti.; Abh. d. bayer. Akad. d. Wiss., III. Cl., XXI. Bd., III. Abth., 1898, 694) that he owed his conception of 'Textgeschichte' to Wilamowitz.

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