Friday, December 31, 2010


Our Masters

G.K. Chesterton, from The Secret People:
They have given us into the hands of the new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evenings; and they know no songs.
James Gillray, John Bull Ground Down


Man's Uniqueness

Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983), p. 31 (note omitted):
Even so, there was a marked lack of agreement as to just where man's unique superiority lay. The search for this elusive attribute has been one of the most enduring pursuits of Western philosophers, most of whom have tended to fix on one feature and emphasize it out of all proportion, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Thus man has been described as a laughing animal (Thomas Willis); a tool-making animal (Benjamin Franklin); a religious animal (Edmund Burke); and a cooking animal (James Boswell, anticipating Lévi-Strauss). As the novelist Peacock's Mr Cranium observes, man has at one time or another been defined as a featherless biped, an animal which forms opinions, and an animal which carries a stick.
Bernd Heinrich, Summer World: A Season of Bounty (New York: Ecco, 2009), p. 186, finds yet more evidence of human uniqueness:
However, even though any one nonhuman mammal species has the dubious honor of hosting only one of each louse or flea species, humans are unique: we have three species of lice. They are head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis); body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis), which live primarily in clothing; and pubic lice (Pthirus pubis).

Thursday, December 30, 2010


This Small Corner of Paradise

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), The Orchard:
Almond, apple, and peach,
Walnut, cherry, plum,
Ash, chestnut, and beech,
And lime and sycamore
We have planted for days to come;

No stony monument
But growing, changing things,
Leaf, fruit, and honied scent,
Bloom that the bees explore,
Sprays where the bird sings.

In other Junes than ours
When the boughs spread and rise
Tall into leafy towers
To grace and guard this small
Corner of paradise;

When petals red and white
Resign to warming air,
Without speech or sight
From our hands they will fall
On happy voices there.
Jasper Francis Cropsey, Apple Blossoms


An Anti-Classical Blogg

James Hannay (1827-1873), Blogg on the Classics:
'I'll put down Latin,' Blogg says, 'for I hate it;'
Blogg can't destroy, more than he can translate it.
'When Latin's settled, I will put down Greek, too.'
Does he know Homer? Yes, but not to speak to.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Rome versus Bilbilis

Martial 10.96 (tr. Walter C.A. Ker):
You often wonder, Avitus, why I speak overmuch of nations very far off, though I have grown old in Latium's city, and long for gold-bearing Tagus and my native Salo, and look back to the rough fields of a fruitful country-house. That land is dear to me wherein small means make me rich, and a slender store is luxury. The soil is maintained here, there it maintains you; here your hearth is scarcely warm with its grudging fire, with a mighty blaze it shines there. Here hunger is dear and the market makes you bankrupt, there stands a table covered with its own country's wealth. Here four togas or more grow threadbare in a summer, there during four autumns one covers me. Go to, now! and pay court to great men, when a place can afford you, Avitus, whatever a friend does not afford!

Saepe loquar nimium gentes quod, Avite, remotas,
  miraris, Latia factus in urbe senex,
auriferumque Tagum sitiam patriumque Salonem
  et repetam saturae sordida rura casae.
Illa placet tellus in qua res parva beatum
  me facit et tenues luxuriantur opes:
pascitur hic, ibi pascit ager; tepet igne maligno
  hic focus, ingenti lumine lucet ibi;
hic pretiosa fames conturbatorque macellus,
  mensa ibi divitiis ruris operta sui;
quattuor hic aestate togae pluresve teruntur,
  autumnis ibi me quattuor una tegit.
I, cole nunc reges, quidquid non praestat amicus
  cum praestare tibi possit, Avite, locus.
Here are some 17th and 18th century versions, the first by Henry Killigrew (1613-1700):
That I so often talk of Remote Lands,
My native Salo thirst, and Tagus sands;
The plenty of a homely Farm desire:
And yet grow old in Rome, thou dost admire.
That Place, Avitus, most does please, in which
A little Wealth both Riots, and makes Rich.
The barren Field must here be ever fed,
Which there, Untill'd, will give the Owner Bread.
The Niggard Fire scarce warms the Chimny here,
The bounteous blaze, there the whole house do's cheer.
Here Hunger's dear, the Shambles all confound,
Thy Table's loaden there from thine own Ground.
Four Gowns a Year are here consum'd, and more,
There one will serve, to rub out the whole four.
Go then, the Great adore: What they deny,
Thy Field alone, Avitus, will supply.
By Abraham Cowley (1618-1667):
Me who have liv'd so long among the great,
You wonder to hear talk of a Retreat;
And a retreat so distant, as may show
No thoughts of a return when once I go.
Give me a Country, how remote so'ere,
Where happiness a mod'rate rate does bear.
Where Poverty itself in plenty flows;
And all the solid use of Riches knowes.
The ground about the house maintains it there;
The house maintains the ground about it here.
Here even Hunger's dear, and a full board
Devours the vital substance of the Lord.
The Land itself does there the feast bestow,
The Land itself must here to Market go.
Three or four suits one Winter here does wast,
One suit does there three or four Winters last.
Here every frugal Man must oft be cold,
And little Luke-warm-fires are to you sold.
There Fire's an Element, as cheap and free
Almost as any other of the Three.
Stay you then here, and live among the Great,
Attend their sports, and at their tables eat.
When all the bounties here of Men you score:
The Place's bounty there, shall give me more.
By Thomas Fitzgerald (1695-1752):
Thou wonder'st much, my Friend, grown gray
In the Town Life and modish Way;
Thou wonder'st much how I could bear
To quit the Pomp and Pleasures there
For this uncouth obscure Retreat,
My ancient, rude, paternal Seat,
Where through the Vales the Salo glides,
And Tagus rolls his golden Tides.

Alas, but set minutely down
The vain Expences of the Town,
Sufficient ev'ry Tax to pay
That Fashion, Vice, and Folly lay,
What could my slender Income bring?
Which Here maintains me like a King.

Plain Appetite prescribes my Chear;
Convenience tells me what to wear.
Pleasure and Health the Fields afford,
And unbought Plenty crowns my Board:
My Tenants just and faithful found;
Friendly and free my Neighbours round;
I feel my Bliss without Alloy,
And all I want, or wish, enjoy.

Go, court the Great, and herd in vain
Among their fawning cringing Train;
Thy Pay for long Attendance past,
Perhaps a gracious Smile at last;
Whilst all the Sweets of Wealth and Ease,
Thy Hopes absurdly seek from These;
Could'st thou but there submit to live,
Thy own Estate would amply give.
By James Elphinston (1721-1809):
That one grown old, in Latian town
Should forain nations so renown;
On golden Tagus so descant,
And for his native Salo pant;
You wonder, and to fee me pine,
Who want for neither wit nor wine;
Till I regain, by happy lot,
The clodlings of a cloying cot.
To that primeval land I press,
Where scanty things can make success;
Where moderation sets me high,
And competence is luxury.
Here earth is fed; but there she feeds:
Benignant nature little needs.
The proud, tho' hardly tepid, hearth
Bespeaks too plain the land of dearth.
Here peeps a mean, malignant gleam;
There Vulcan's kindest glories beam.
Here hunger boasts a highten'd price:
Each shamble shows a cockatrice.
The riches yonder farms afford,
With welcome crown the copious board.
In this abode of giddy glare,
Four suits are scarce a winter's wear:
In that belov'd, ador'd recess,
One suit supplies four autumns' dress.
Go, cultivate your lords and kings;
And puff the pride, that meanness brings:
Since, what a friend may not bestow,
From out the very place may flow.
"The clodlings of a cloying cot"—one can appreciate Robert Burns' epigram on James Elphinston:
O thou whom Poetry abhors,
Whom Prose has turned out of doors,
Heard'st thou that groan—proceed no further,
'Twas laurell'd Martial roaring murder.
Peter Graham (1836-1921), A Highland Croft


Rule by Ridiculous People

Paul Krugman, "Rule by the Ridiculous," New York Times (December 28, 2010):
There must be a way to construct a word for this out of Greek roots; something like kleptocracy, but meaning rule by ridiculous people instead. But it's all Greek to me.
Many commenters on Krugman's blog post made suggestions, e.g. geloiocracy and idiocracy.

I'd prefer a real ancient Greek word. I don't have access to Carl D. Buck and Walter Petersen, A Reverse Lexicon of Greek Nouns and Adjectives Arranged by Terminations (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1948), but I made a quick search with, looking for words ending with -άρχης (153 hits), -αρχία (87 hits), -κρατής, -κράτης (30 hits), and -κρατία (18 hits). I thought if I could find an appropriate nomen agentis, it would be licit to form an abstract noun from it. But I had no luck with any of the terminations listed.

As for "ridiculous people," the standard ancient Greek word for clown is γελωτοποιός (gelōtopoiós, literally laughter-maker), e.g. Xenophon, Symposium 1.11, etc. See S.C. Woodhouse, English-Greek Dictionary: A Vocabulary of the Attic Language (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1910), s.vv. buffoon, clown, and jester. Woodhouse s.v. buffoon also gives βωμόλοχος (bōmólochos) as a possibility.

But the gelōtopoiós and the bōmólochos are intentionally ridiculous. I suspect that Krugman meant unintentionally ridiculous people, those who are ridiculous because of their stupidity, i.e. fools. Sydney Smith coined foolocracy, if you'd allow a hybrid. G.K. Chesterton once used the word morocracy, from μωρός (mōrós = fool), not a bad approximation for "rule by ridiculous people." Cf. English moron, oxymoron, sophomore.

Hat tip: Jim K.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Programmed for Optimism

Bernd Heinrich, Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival (New York: Ecco, 2003; rpt. New York: Harper Perennial, 2009), p. 315 (on the golden-crowned kinglet, Regulus satrapa):
Lucky for a kinglet, it does not know the odds stacked against its individual survival. Presumably it could not contemplate its fate, regret about mistakes, or fret over injustice or lost opportunities. It does not worry about the future, or about life and death. Why can we presume this? Because these mental capacities could only compromise, not aid survival. They could not activate the bird to effective action, because there is so little, if anything, it could do to change things in its world where the relevant things—ice storms, a subzero night, winds, food scarcity—are ruled by chance. Undampened enthusiasm and raw drive would matter. I do not and cannot ever know the combination of happiness, hunger, or emotions that energize a bird. But whenever I've watched kinglets in their nonstop hopping, hovering, and searching, seen their intimate expressions, and heard their constant chatter of tsees, songs, and various calls, I've felt an infectious hyperenthusiasm flow from them, and sensed a grand, boundless zest for life. They could not survive without that in their harsh world. Like us, they are programmed for optimism.
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, § 32:
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
Hat tip: my daughter, who gave me Heinrich's book as a Christmas gift.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


There Is No Reaction

G.K. Chesterton, By a Reactionary:
Smoke rolls in stinking, suffocating wrack
On Shakespeare's land, turning the green one black;
The crowds that once to harvest home would come
Hope for no harvest and possess no home,
While poor tramps that liked a little ale,
In natural procession pass to gaol;
Because the world must, like the tramp, move on,
There does not seem much else that can be done.
As Lord Vangelt said in the House of Peers:
'None of us want Reaction.' (Tory cheers).

So doubtful doctors punch and prod and prick
A man thought dead; and when there's not a kick
Left in the corpse, no twitch or faint contraction,
The doctors say: 'See ... there is no Reaction.'
Vangelt (line 9) = van (of) + gelt (money).


Genius of Business

G.K. Chesterton, Commercial Candour, lines 35-38:
O Genius of Business! O marvellous brain,
Come in place of the priests and the warriors to reign!
O Will to Get On that makes everything go—
O Hustle! O Pep! O Publicity! O!

Friday, December 24, 2010


Begone, Dull Care!

Begone, dull care! I prithee begone from me;
Begone, dull care! Thou and I can never agree.
Long while thou hast been tarrying here,
And fain thou wouldst me kill;
But i' faith dull care,
Thou never shalt have thy will.

Too much care will make a young man grey;
Too much care will turn an old man to clay.
My wife shall dance, and I will sing,
So merrily pass the day;
For I hold it is the wisest thing,
To drive dull care away.

Hence, dull care! I'll none of thy companie;
Hence, dull care! Thou art no peer for me.
We'll hunt the wild boar through the wold,
So merrily pass the day;
And then at night, o'er a cheerful bowl,
We'll drive dull care away.
By James Gillray (1756-1815)

Related posts:


Thoughts on the Cosmos

Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960), Thoughts on the Cosmos:

I do not hold with him who thinks
The world is jonahed by a jinx;
That everything is sad and sour,
And life a withered hothouse flower.


I hate the Pollyanna pest
Who says that All Is for the Best,
And hold in high, unhidden scorn
Who sees the Rose, nor feels the Thorn.


I do not like extremists who
Are like the pair in (I) and (II);
But how I hate the wabbly gink,
Like me, who knows not what to think!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Sentiments of a Great Politician

Charles Dickens, American Notes, Chapter XIII:
He was a great politician of course, and explained his opinions at some length to one of our company; but I only remember that he concluded with two sentiments, one of which was, Somebody for ever; and the other, Blast everybody else! which is by no means a bad abstract of the general creed in these matters.
Cf. Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers, Chapter XIII:
'Slumkey for ever!' roared the honest and independent.

'Slumkey for ever!' echoed Mr Pickwick, taking off his hat.

'No Fizkin!' roared the crowd.

'Certainly not!' shouted Mr Pickwick.

'Hurrah!' And then there was another roaring, like that of a whole menagerie when the elephant has rung the bell for the cold meat.

'Who is Slumkey?' whispered Mr Tupman.

'I don't know,' replied Mr Pickwick, in the same tone. 'Hush. Don't ask any questions. It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.'

'But suppose there are two mobs?' suggested Mr Snodgrass.

'Shout with the largest,' replied Mr Pickwick.


A Howler

Saul Bellow, Looking for Mr. Green, in his Collected Stories (New York: Viking, 2001), pp. 174-190 (at 181):
"I also sold shoes."

"You've been a shoe-dog, too. Well. And prior to that? Here it is in your folder." He opened the record. "Saint Olaf's College, instructor in classical languages. Fellow, University of Chicago, 1926-27. I've had Latin, too. Let's trade quotations—'Dum spiro spero.'"

"'De dextram misero.'"

"'Alea iacta est.'"


Raynor shouted with laughter, and other workers came to look at him over the partition. Grebe also laughed, feeling pleased and easy. The luxury of fun on a nervous morning.

When they were alone and no one was watching or listening, Raynor said rather seriously, "What made you study Latin in the first place? Was it for the priesthood?"


"Just for the hell of it? For the culture? Oh, the things people think they can pull!"
A former teacher of classical languages wouldn't be likely to make such a mistake as "De dextram misero." Read "Da dextram misero."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010



Excerpts from Ovid's Tristia (tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, with some changes of my own):

I am not greedy to obtain limitless wealth.

non ego divitias avidus sine fine parandi.
If 'tis lawful to liken great things to small.

grandia si parvis adsimulare licet.
All things can corrupt perverted minds, yet all those things stand harmless in their proper places.

omnia perversas possunt corrumpere mentes
  stant tamen illa suis omnia tuta locis.
Poor is the field I plough.

tenuis mihi campus aratur.
As for me grudging nature has confined me within a narrow space, granting me but meagre powers.

invida me spatio natura coercuit arto,
  ingenio vires exiguasque dedit.
Not here have I an abundance of books to stimulate and nourish me.

non hic librorum, per quos inviter alarque,
I write for myself—what else can I do?—and I read to myself.

ipse mihi—quid enim faciam?—scriboque legoque.
In weeping there is a certain joy, for by tears grief is sated and relieved.

est quaedam flere voluptas;
  expletur lacrimis egeriturque dolor.
Already my temples are like the plumage of a swan, for white old age is bleaching my dark hair. Already the years of frailty and life's inactive time are stealing upon me, and already 'tis hard for me in my weakness to bear up. Now 'twere time that I should of right cease my toils and live with no harassing fears, to enjoy the leisure that always pleased my taste, comfortably engaged in my pursuits, devoting myself to my humble house and its old Penates, the paternal fields that are now bereft of their master, peacefully growing old in my lady's embrace, among my dear comrades and in my native land. For such consummation as this did my youth once hope; thus to pass these years did I deserve. Not so have the gods decreed...

Iam mea cycneas imitantur tempora plumas,
  inficit et nigras alba senecta comas.
iam subeunt anni fragiles et inertior aetas,
  iamque parum firmo me mihi ferre grave est.
nunc erat, ut posito deberem fine laborum
  vivere cor nullo sollicitante metu,
quaeque meae semper placuerunt otia menti
  carpere et in studiis molliter esse meis,
et parvam celebrare domum veteresque Penates
  et quae nunc domino rura paterna carent,
inque sinu dominae carisque sodalibus inque
  securus patria consenuisse mea.
haec mea sic quondam peragi speraverat aetas;
  hos ego sic annos ponere dignus eram.
non ita dis visum est...
Often my father said, "Why do you try a profitless pursuit? Even Homer left no wealth."

saepe pater dixit "studium quid inutile temptas?
  Maeonides nullas ipse reliquit opes."
"But," you say, "you might better endure your sorrows by keeping silent, and in silence hide your misfortunes." Do you demand that no groans should ensue upon torture, and when a deep wound has been received, do you forbid weeping ? Even Phalaris allowed Perillus within the bronze to utter bellows of torture through the mouth of the bull. When Priam's tears did not offend Achilles, 1 do you, more cruel than an enemy, restrain me from weeping? Though Latona's children made Niobe childless, yet they did not bid her cheeks be dry. 'Tis something to lighten with words a fated evil; to this are due the complaints of Procne and Halcyone. This was why the son of Poeas in his chill cave wearied with his outcries the Lemnian rocks. A suppressed sorrow chokes and seethes within, multiplying perforce its own strength.

"at poteras" inquis "melius mala ferre silendo,
  et tacitus casus dissimulare tuos."
exigis ut nulli gemitus tormenta sequantur,
  acceptoque graui vulnere flere vetas?
ipse Perilleo Phalaris permisit in aere
  edere mugitus et bovis ore queri.
cum Priami lacrimis offensus non sit Achilles,
  tu fletus inhibes, durior hoste, meos?
cum faceret Nioben orbam Latonia proles,
  non tamen et siccas iussit habere genas.
est aliquid, fatale malum per verba levare:
  hoc querulam Procnen Halcyonenque facit.
hoc erat, in gelido quare Poeantius antro
  voce fatigaret Lemnia saxa sua.
strangulat inclusus dolor atque exaestuat intus,
  cogitur et vires multiplicare suas.
Yes, little troubles are helped by the flight of years; with great ones time but increases the ruin they cause.

scilicet exiguis prodest annosa vetustas;
  grandibus accedunt tempore damna malis.
Yet peace there is at times, confidence in peace never.

pax tamen interdum est, pacis fiducia numquam.
I busy my mind with studies beguiling my grief, trying to cheat my cares.

detineo studiis animum falloque dolores,
  experior curis et dare verba meis.
If I look upon the country, 'tis devoid of charm, nothing in the whole world can be more cheerless; if I look upon the men, they are scarce men worthy the name; they have more of cruel savagery than wolves. They fear not laws; right gives way to force, and justice lies conquered beneath the aggressive sword.

sive locum specto, locus est inamabilis, et quo
  esse nihil toto tristius orbe potest,
sive homines, vix sunt homines hoc nomine digni,
  quamque lupi, saevae plus feritatis habent.
non metuunt leges, sed cedit viribus aequum,
  victaque pugnaci iura sub ense iacent.
There is not a single man among these people who perchance might express in Latin any common words whatsoever.

unus in hoc nemo est populo, qui forte Latine
  quaelibet e medio reddere verba queat.
Lo! I am ashamed to confess it; now from long disuse Latin words with difficulty occur even to me!

en pudet et fateor, iam desuetudine longa
  vix subeunt ipsi verba Latina mihi.
Changeable Fortune wanders abroad with aimless steps, abiding firm and persistent in no place; now she comes in joy, now she takes on a harsh mien, steadfast only in her own fickleness.

passibus ambiguis Fortuna volubilis errat
  et manet in nullo certa tenaxque loco,
sed modo laeta venit, vultus modo sumit acerbos,
  et tantum constans in levitate sua est.
Endure, harden thy heart; much heavier things hast thou borne.

perfer et obdura; multo graviora tulisti.
And besides my talent, injured by long neglect, is dull, much inferior to what it was before. A fertile field, if it be not renewed by constant ploughing, will produce nothing but grass and thorns. The horse which has stood for a long time will run but poorly and will be last among those released from the barrier. Any skiff falls into frail rottenness, yawning with cracks, if it has been long separated from its accustomed waters.

adde quod ingenium longa rubigine laesum
  torpet et est multo, quam fuit ante, minus.
fertilis, assiduo si non renovetur aratro,
  nil nisi cum spinis gramen habebit ager.
tempore qui longo steterit, male curret et inter
  carceribus missos ultimus ibit equus.
vertitur in teneram cariem rimisque dehiscit,
  siqua diu solitis cumba vacavit aquis.
Nothing will the rich man's shade carry to its ghostly realm.

nil feret ad Manes divitis umbra suos.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


What Good Are Education and Breeding?

Thomas Shadwell, The Squire of Alsatia (1688), Act II:
SIR WILLIAM. Now, brother, pray what have you made your son good for, with your breeding you so much boast of? Let's hear that now. Come on, let's hear.
SIR EDWARD. First, I bred him at Westminster School till he was master of the Greek and Latin tongues; then I kept him at the university where I instructed him to read the noble Greek and Roman authors.
SIR WILLIAM. Well, and what use can he make of the noble Greek and Latin but to prate like a pedant, and show his parts over a bottle?
SIR EDWARD. To make a man fit for the conversation of learned gentlemen is one noble end of study. But those authors make him wiser and honester, sir, to boot.
SIR WILLIAM. Wiser! Will he ever get sixpence, or improve, or keep his estate by 'em?
SIR EDWARD. Mean notions. I made him well versed in history.
SIR WILLIAM. That is a pretty study, indeed! How can there be a true history when we see no man living is able to write truly the history of the last week?
SIR EDWARD. He, by the way, read natural philosophy, and had insight enough in the mathematics.
SIR WILLIAM. Natural philosophy knows nothing! Nor would I give a fart for any mathematician, but a carpenter, bricklayer, or measurer of land, or sailor.
SIR EDWARD. Some moderate skill in it will use a man to reason closely.
SIR WILLIAM. Very pretty. Reason! Can he reason himself into six shillings by all this?


Tout Comprendre C'est Tout Pardonner

Sophocles, Women of Trachis 1134 (tr. Richard C. Jebb):
Even thy wrath would be turned, couldst thou hear all.

κἂν σοῦ στραφείη θυμός, εἰ τὸ πᾶν μάθοις.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Raised Up and Cast Down

Archilochus, fragment 130 (tr. M.L. West):
It all depends upon the gods. Often enough, when men
are prostrate on the ground with woe, they set them up again;
and often enough, when men are standing proud and all seems bright,
they tip them over on their backs, and then they're in a plight—
a man goes wandering, short of bread, out of his mind with fright.
The same, tr. Guy Davenport:
Attribute all to the gods.
They pick a man up,
Stretched on the black loam,
And set him on his two feet,
Firm, and then again
Shake solid men until
They fall backward
Into the worst of luck,
Wandering hungry,
Wild of mind.
The text is uncertain. The following is from M.L. West, Iambi et Elegi Graeci, Vol. I, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971; rpt. 1998), p. 51, with his critical apparatus:
τοῖς θεοῖς †τ' εἰθεῖάπαντα· πολλάκις μὲν ἐκ κακῶν
ἄνδρας ὀρθοῦσιν μελαίνηι κειμένους ἐπὶ χθονί,
πολλάκις δ᾽ ἀνατρέπουσι καὶ μάλ᾽ εὖ βεβηκότας
ὑπτίους, κείνοις <δ'> ἔπειτα πολλὰ γίνεται κακά,
καὶ βίου χρήμηι πλανᾶται καὶ νόου παρήορος.

1 ita cod. S (hic unicus): ἰθεῖα (sc. δίκη) Hoffmann: τοι ῥεῖα Schneidewin invito metro: τέλεια Hommel (Gymn. 58, 1951, 219): alii alia: possis πείθοι' ἅπαντα

4 κείνοις Blaydes: κίνουσ᾽ S: κλίνουσ᾽ Valckenaer (postea interpungens)     δ' addidi     post h.v. lacunam stat. Meineke

5 χρήμη S: χρῄζων C. Gesnerus    gravem suspicionem movet quod statim in secundo versu proximi excerpti (= Theodect. fr. 16) stant verba minime corrupta φήμη πλανᾶται

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Bless Thy Name, Thy Dictionarian Skill

Robert Fergusson (1750-1774), To Dr. Samuel Johnson: Food for a New Edition of his Dictionary:
Let Wilkes and Churchill rage no more,
  Tho' scarce provision, learning's good:
What can these hungry's next implore?
Samuel Johnson loves our food.


GREAT PEDAGOGUE, whose literarian lore,
With SYLLABLE and SYLLABLE conjoin'd,
To transmutate and varyfy, has learn'd
The whole revolving scientific names
That in the alphabetic columns lie,
Far from the knowledge of mortalic shapes,
As we, who never can peroculate
The miracles by thee miraculiz'd,
The Muse silential long, with mouth apert,
Would give vibration to stagnatic tongue,
And loud encomiate thy puissant name,
Eulogiated from the green decline
Of Thames's banks to Scoticanian shores,
Where Loch-lomondian liquids undulise.

To meminate thy name in after times,
The mighty mayor of each regalian town
Shall consignate thy work to parchment fair
In roll burgharian, and their tables all
Shall fumigate with fumigation strong:
SCOTLAND, from perpendicularian hills,
Shall emigrate her fair MUTTONIAN store,
Which late had there in pedestration walk'd,
And o'er her any heights perambuliz'd.

Oh, blackest execrations on thy head,
EDINA shameless! tho' he came within
The bounds of your NOTATION, tho' you knew
His HONORIFIC name, you noted not,
But basely suffer'd him to chariotize
Far from your towers, with smoke that nubilate,
Nor drank one amicitial swelling cup
To welcome him convivial. BAILIES all!
With rage inflated, Catenations tear,*
Nor ever after be you vinculiz'd,
Since you that sociability denied
To him whose potent Lexiphanian stile
Words can PROLONGATE, and inswell his page
With what in others to a line's confin'd.

Welcome, thou verbal potentate and prince!
To hills and vallies, where emerging oats
From earth assurge our pauperty to bay,
And bless thy name, thy dictionarian skill,
Which there definitive will still remain,
And oft be speculiz'd by taper blue,
While youth STUDENTIOUS turn thy folio page.

Have you as yet, in per'patetic mood
Regarded with the texture of the eye
The CAVE CAVERNICK, where fraternal bard,
CHURCHILL, depicted pauperated swains
With thraldom and bleak want reducted sore,
Where Nature, coloriz'd, so coarsely fades,
And puts her russet par'phernalia on?
Have you, as yet, the way explorified
To let lignarian chalice, swell'd with oats,
Thy orofice approach? Have you as yet,
With skin fresh rubified by scarlet spheres,
Applied BRIMSTONIC UNCTION to your hide,
To terrify the SALAMANDRIAN fire
That from involuntary digits asks
The strong allaceration?—Or can you swill
The USQUEBALIAN flames of whisky blue
In fermentation strong? Have you apply'd
The kilt aerian to your Anglian thighs,
And with renunciation assigniz'd
Your breeches in LONDONA to be worn?
Can you, in frigor of Highlandian sky,
On heathy summits take nocturnal rest?

It cannot be—You may as well desire
An alderman leave plumb-puddenian store,
And scratch the tegument from pottage-dish,
As bid thy countrymen, and thee conjoin'd,
Forsake stomachic joys. Then hie you home,
And be a malcontent, that naked hinds,
On lentiles fed, can make your kingdom quake,
And tremulate Old England libertiz'd.

* Catenations, vide Chains. JOHNSON.
John Maclaurin (1734-1796), On Johnson's Dictionary:
In love with a pedantic jargon,
Our poets, now a-days, are far gone;
Hence he alone can read their songs
To whom the gift of tongues belongs;
Or who to make him understand,
Keeps Johnson's lexicon at hand,
Which an improper name has got,
He should have dubb'd it Polyglot.

Be warn'd, young poet, and take heed,
That Johnson you with caution read;
Always attentively distinguish
The Greek and Latin words from English;
And never use such, as 'tis wise
Not to attempt to nat'ralize.
Suffice the following specimen
To make the admonition plain:

Little of anthropopathy has he
Who in yon fulgid curricle reclines
Alone, while I, depauperated bard!
The streets pedestrious scour; why with bland voice,
Bids he me not his vectitation share?
Alas! he fears my lacerated coat,
And visage pale with frigorific want,
Would bring dedecoration on his chaise.

Me miserable! that th' Aonian hill
Is not auriferous, nor fit to bear
The farinaceous food, support of bards,
Carnivorous but seldom; that the soil
Which Hippocrene humectates, nothing yields
But sterile laurels, and aquatics sour.

To dulcify th'absinthiated cup
Of life, receiv'd from thy novercal hand,
Shall I have nothing, Muse? to lenify
Thy heart indurate shall poetic woe
And plaintive ejulation nought avail?

Riches desiderate I never did,
Ev'n when in mood most optative: a farm,
Little, but arboreous, was all I ask'd.
I, when a rustic, would my blatant calves
Well-pleas'd ablactate, and delighted tend
My gemillip'rous sheep; nor scorn to rear
The strutting turkey and the strepent goose;
Then to dendrology my thoughts I'd turn;
A fav'rite care shou'd horticulture be;
But most of all would geoponics please.

While ambulation thoughtless I protract
The tir'd sun appropinquates to the sea,
And now my arid throat and latrant guts
Vociferate for supper; but what house
To get it in, gives dubitation sad.
O! for a turgid bottle of strong beer,
Mature for imbibition! and O! for—
(Dear object of hiation) mutton-pye.

Friday, December 17, 2010


A Ready and Effectual Resource

Thomas Carlyle, letter to Robert Mitchell (February 16, 1818):
Excepting one or two individuals, I have little society that I value very highly, but books are a ready and effectual resource. May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus or the Phoenicians or whoever it was that invented books! I may not detain you with the praises of an art that carries the voice of man to the extremities of the earth, and to the latest generation, but it is lawful for the solitary wight to express the love he feels for those companions so stedfast and unpresuming—that go or come without reluctance, and that when his fellow animals are proud or stupid or peevish, are ever ready to cheer the languor of his soul, and gild the barrenness of life with the treasures of bygone times.
Robert Collinson, Absorbed in Robinson Crusoe

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The Bohnyard

This morning I read Ernest G. Sihler, From Maumee to Thames and Tiber: The Life-Story of an American Classical Scholar (New York: New York University Press, 1930), and I noticed the following punning references to Bohn's Classical Library:

P. 158:
I succeeded in making the use of translations6 very unprofitable, very discreditable.

6 Working in the "Bohnyard."
P. 169:
It is true that not many of my colleagues did give Tacitus to freshmen, driving them to the Bohnyard...
Related posts:


Simple, Plain Language

Anthony Trollope, Framley Parsonage, Vol. II, Chapter XV:
He would use the simplest, plainest language, he said to himself over and over again; but it is not always easy to use simple, plain language,—by no means so easy as to mount on stilts, and to march along with sesquipedalian words, with pathos, spasms, and notes of interjection.


Etymology of Greek Names

Jonathan Swift, from A Discourse to Prove the Antiquity of the English Tongue, Shewing, from Various Instances, that Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, Were Derived from the English:
I will begin with the Grecians, among whom the most ancient are the great leaders on both sides in the siege of Troy; for it is plain, from Homer, that the Trojans spoke Greek as well as the Grecians. Of these latter, Achilles was the most valiant. This hero was of a restless, unquiet nature, never giving himself any repose either in peace or war; and therefore as Guy of Warwick was called a kill-cow, and another terrible man a kill-devil, so this general was called A-kill-ease, or destroyer of ease ; and, at length, by corruption, Achilles.

Hector, on the other side, was the bravest among the Trojans. He had destroyed so many of the Greeks by hacking and tearing them, that his soldiers, when they saw him fighting, would cry out, "Now the enemy will be hack't, now he will be tore." At last, by putting both words together, this appellation was given to their leader under the name of Hacktore; and, for the more commodious sounding, Hector.

Diomede, another Grecian captain, had the boldness to fight with Venus, and wound her; whereupon the goddess, in a rage, ordered her son Cupid to make this hero to be hated by all women, repeating it often that he should die a maid; from whence, by a small change in orthography, he was called Diomede. And it is to be observed, that the term maiden-head is frequently, at this very day, applied to persons of either sex.

Ajax was, in fame, the next Grecian general to Achilles. The derivation of his name from A jakes, however asserted by great authors, is, in my opinion, very unworthy both of them and of the hero himself. I have often wondered to see such learned men mistake in so clear a point. This hero is known to have been a most intemperate liver, as it is usual with soldiers; and, although he was not old, yet by conversing with camp-strollers, he had got pains in his bones, which he pretended to his friends were only age-aches; but they telling the story about the army, as the vulgar always confound right pronunciation, he was afterwards known by no other name than Ajax.

The next I shall mention is Andromache, the famous wife of Hector. Her father was a Scotch gentleman, of a noble family still subsisting in that ancient kingdom. But, being a foreigner in Troy, to which city he led some of his countrymen in the defence of Priam, as Dictys Cretensis learnedly observes, Hector fell in love with his daughter, and the father's name was Andrew Mackay. The young lady was called by the same name, only a little softened to the Grecian accent.

Astyanax was the son of Hector and Andromache. When Troy was taken, this young prince had his head cut off, and his body thrown to swine. From this fatal accident he had his name; which has, by a peculiar good fortune, been preserved entire, A sty, an ax.

Mars may be mentioned among these, because he fought against the Greeks. He was called the god of war; and is described as a swearing, swaggering companion, and a great giver of rude language. For when he was angry, he would cry, " Kiss my a—se, My a—se in a bandbox, My a—se all over;" which he repeated so commonly, that he got the appellation of My a—se; and by a common abbreviation, Mars: from whence, by leaving out the mark of elision, Mars. And this is a common practice among us at present; as in the words D'anvers, D'avenport, D'anby, which are now Danvers, Davenport, Danby, and many others.

The next is Hercules, otherwise called Alcides. Both these names are English, with little alteration; and describe the principal qualities of that hero, who was distinguished for being a slave to his mistresses, and at the same time for his great strength and courage. Omphale, his chief mistress, used to call her lovers her cullies; and because this hero was more and longer subject to her than any other, he was in a particular manner called the chief of her cullies: which, by an easy change, made the word Hercules. His other name, Alcides, was given him on account of his prowess; for, in fight, he used to strike on all sides; and was allowed on all sides to be the chief hero of his age. For one of which reasons, he was called All sides, or Alcides; but I am inclined to favour the former opinion.

A certain Grecian youth was a great imitator of Socrates; which that philosopher observing, with much pleasure said to his friends, "There is an Ape o' mine own days." After which the young man was called Epaminondas, and proved to be the most virtuous person, as well as the greatest general of his age.

Ucalegon was a very obliging inn-keeper of Troy. When a guest was going to take horse, the landlord took leave of him with this compliment, "Sir, I should be glad to see you call again." Strangers, who knew not his right name, caught his last words: and thus by degrees, that appellation prevailed, and he was known by no other name even among his neighbours.

Hydra was a great serpent, which Hercules slew. His usual outward garment was the raw hide of a lion, and this he had on when he attacked the serpent; which, therefore, took its name from the skin the modesty of that hero devolving the honour of his victory upon the lion's skin, called that enormous snake the Hyderaw serpent.

Leda was the mother of Castor and Pollux; whom Jupiter embracing in the shape of a swan, she laid a couple of eggs; and was therefore called Laid a, or Leda.

As to Jupiter himself, it is well known that the statues and pictures of this heathen god, in Roman Catholic countries, resemble those of St. Peter, and are often taken the one for the other. The reason is manifest: for when the emperors had established Christianity, the heathens were afraid of acknowledging their heathen idols of the chief God, and pretended it was only a statue of the Jew Peter. And thus the principal heathen god came to be called by the ancient Romans, with very little alteration, Jupiter.

The Hamadryades are represented by mistaken antiquity, as nymphs of the groves. But the true account is this: They were women of Calabria, who dealt in bacon; and living near the sea-side, used to pickle their bacon in salt water, and then set it up to dry in the sun. From whence they were properly called Ham-a-dry-a-days, and in process of time, misspelt Hamadryades.

Neptune, the god of the sea, had his name from the tunes sung to him by the Tritons, upon their shells, every neap or nep tide. The word is come down to us almost uncorrupted, as well as that of Tritons, his servants; who, in order to please their master, used to try all tones till they could hit upon that he liked.

Aristotle was a peripatetic philosopher, who used to instruct his scholars while he was walking. When the lads were come, he would arise to tell them what he thought proper; and was therefore called Arise to tell. But succeeding ages, who understood not this etymology, have, by an absurd change, made it Aristotle.

Aristophanes was a Greek comedian, full of levity, and gave himself too much freedom; which made graver people not scruple to say, that he had a great deal of airy stuff in his writings: and these words, often repeated, made succeeding ages discriminate him Aristophanes. Vide Rosin. Antiq. l. iv.

Alexander the Great was very food of eggs roasted in hot ashes. As soon as his cooks heard he was come home to dinner or supper, they called aloud to their under-officers, All eggs under the grate; which repeated every day at noon and evening, made strangers think it was that prince's real name, and therefore gave him no other; and posterity has been ever since under the same delusion.

Pygmalion was a person of very low stature, but great valour; which made his townsmen call him Pigmy lion: and so it should be spelt; although the word has suffered less by transcribers than many others.

Archimedes was a most famous mathematician. His studies required much silence and quiet; but his wife having several maids, they were always disturbing him with their tattle or their business; which forced him to come out every now and then to the stair-head, and cry, "Hark ye, maids; if you will not be quiet, I shall turn you out of doors." He repeated these words, Hark ye, maids, so often, that the unlucky jades, when they found he was at his study, would say, " There is Hark ye, maids; let us speak softly." Thus the name went through the neighbourhood; and at last grew so general, that we are ignorant of that great man's true name to this day.

Strabo was a famous geographer; and to improve his knowledge, travelled over several countries, as the writers of his life inform us; who likewise add, that he affected great nicety and finery in his clothes; from whence people took occasion to call him the Stray beau; which future ages have pinned down upon him very much to his dishonour.

Peloponnesus, that famous Greek peninsula, got its name from a Greek colony in Asia the Less ; many of whom going for traffic thither, and finding that the inhabitants had but one well in the town of ****, from whence certain porters used to carry the water through the city in great pails, so heavy that they were often forced to set them down for ease: the tired porters, after they had set down the pails, and wanted to take them up again, would call for assistance to those who were nearest, in these words, Pail up and ease us. The stranger Greeks, hearing these words repeated a thousand times as they passed the street, thought the inhabitants were pronouncing the name of their country, which made the foreign Greeks call it Peloponnesus, a manifest corruption of Pail up and ease us.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


That Pride-Producing Language

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Autobiography, chapter XI:
The most ill-natured review that was ever written upon any work of mine appeared in the Contemporary Review with reference to these Clerical Sketches. The critic told me that I did not understand Greek. That charge has been made not unfrequently by those who have felt themselves strong in that pride-producing language. It is much to read Greek with ease, but it is not disgraceful to be unable to do so. To pretend to read it without being able,—that is disgraceful.
The criticism appears in an anonymous article, "Mr. Anthony Trollope and the English Clergy," The Contemporary Review 2 (1866) 240-262 (at 252):
In mentioning the various qualifications for the episcopate he says, "There was the editor of the Greek play, whose ladder was generally an acquaintance with Greek punctuation." What particular branch of scholarship this may represent, it is quite beyond us to say. Indeed, we are not without suspicion that Mr. Trollope's acquaintance with Greek is of the very slightest: that here, as in other instances, he is describing what he knows nothing of. We are led to this inference from an expression here and there betraying non-appreciation of the source of the meaning of words. For instance, we read on p. 76,—"For the unsuccessful town incumbent we all of us have sympathy....But for the successful town incumbent, for the clergyman who fills his church with prayerful, tearful, excitable, but at the same time remunerative ladies, few men can have any sympathy." Now it is hard to believe that any man knowing Greek should talk of "sympathy for." He would as soon say, "partnership for." We "feel pity for," but we "have sympathy with."
Richard Mullen and James Munson, The Penguin Companion to Trollope (London: Penguin Books, 1996), p. 86, don't cite the article but they do attribute the criticism to Henry Alford (1810-1871), Dean of Canterbury and editor of The Contemporary Review.

The question of what preposition to use with the word sympathy was a bone of contention in the nineteenth century. Thomas de Quincey, in a footnote to his essay On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth, wrote:
It seems almost ludicrous to guard and explain my use of a word, in a situation where it would naturally explain itself. But it has become necessary to do so, in consequence of the unscholarlike use of the word sympathy, at present so general, by which, instead of taking it in its proper sense, as the act of reproducing in our minds the feelings of another, whether for hatred, indignation, love, pity, or approbation, it is made a mere synonym of the word pity; and hence, instead of saying 'sympathy with another,' many writers adopt the monstrous barbarism of 'sympathy for another.'
On the other side of the question, see Fitzedward Hall, Recent Exemplifications of False Philology (New York: Scribner, Armstrong, & Co., 1872), p. 19 (footnote omitted):
"Instead of saying 'sympathy with another', many writers", to the serious offence of Mr. De Quincey, "adopt the monstrous barbarism of 'sympathy for another'." This "unscholarlike use of the word sympathy" is accounted for, he asserts, by the fact, that, "instead of taking it in its proper sense, as the act of reproducing in our minds the feelings of another, whether for hatred, indignation, love, pity, or approbation, it is made a mere synonym of the word pity." Not at all. Fellow-feeling is, as nearly as possible, equivalent to sympathy; and yet we always put for after it, just as we may after compassion. Usage, and that alone, is to determine our choice of prepositions; and, in language, usage is perpetually changing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Imaginative Reconstruction

George Santayana, "Moral Symbols in the Bible," in The Idler and his Works, and Other Essays, ed. Daniel Cory (1957; rpt. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1969), pp. 152-178 (at 153-154):
If you open any ancient book, even the oldest in existence, you are at once confronted by a finished language, a multitude of assumed persons and things, a full-fledged pantheon, and a current morality. Thus history begins by plunging, like the approved epic, in medias res. We have no means of going further back; and in order to understand the background of the earliest records our one resource is to read on. Gradually the uses of words will reveal their acceptation: the persons named, by their attributions and conduct, will disclose their character; and we shall come to know the world we read of as we have in a measure unraveled the world in which we live, by gradual acquaintance and shrewd hypothesis. Every feature in an ancient document and in the life it describes is a symbol which we must endeavor to interpret. It is an expression the significance of which we have to reconstruct, a result the causes and meaning of which we have to discover.

In the Bible we find many such symbols standing for things easily recognized and familiar to every age: words for sun, moon, horse, bread, water. Yet even here much imaginative reconstruction is needed if we wish to render back to those names the full resonance they had in antiquity. Who but a poet could ever say what the moon was to the shepherds of Asia, or the horse or the well to men who lived in the desert?

Monday, December 13, 2010


Translation from English into Greek and Latin

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, "Gilbert Murray," in Blood for the Ghosts (1982; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), pp. 195-214 (at 197, on the value of translation from English into Greek and Latin):
First, it forces the student to look closely at a piece of English and consider what it really means; I remember being asked to translate an apparently brilliant account of the contradictory character of Gladstone by Lytton Strachey and being forced to the conclusion that it meant hardly anything at all, being simply a collection of cheaply paradoxical antitheses. Secondly, the shape and syntax of ancient and modern languages are so different that the student is forced to recast the content of the text for translation in his mind and to refashion it completely. Finally, he acquires a grasp of ancient grammar, syntax and metre that is not easily acquired by other methods.
Related posts:



Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son, CLXXVI (London, February 7, O.S. 1749):
I dare assert too, in defiance of the favourers of the ancients, that Homer's hero, Achilles, was both a brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper character for the hero of an epic poem; he had so little regard for his country, that he would not act in defence of it, because he had quarrelled with Agamemnon about a w—e; and then afterwards, animated by private resentment only, he went about killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew himself invulnerable; and yet, invulnerable as he was, he wore the strongest armour in the world; which I humbly apprehend to be a blunder; for a horse-shoe clapped to his vulnerable heel would have been sufficient.
Cf. F.L. Lucas, The Decline and Fall of the Romantic Ideal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937), p. 59: "The blunder is really his lordship's, for the legend of the hero's vulnerable heel was unknown to Homer."

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Nature and Green Leaves

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal VA.169 (1862):
How shallow seemed to me yesterday in the woods the speech one often hears from tired citizens who have spent their brief enthusiasm for the country, that Nature is tedious, and they have had enough of green leaves. Nature and the green leaves are a million fathoms deep, and it is these eyes that are superficial.
Isaak Levitan, Footpath in a Forest, Ferns



Martial 10.47 (tr. Charles Cotton):
These, pleasant Martial, are the things
That to Man's life contentment brings;
Wealth by succession got, not toil,
A glowing Hearth; a fruitfull Soil;
No Strife; few Suits; a Mind not drown'd
In cares; clean Strength; a Body sound;
Prudent Simplicity; equal Friends;
No Diet, that to lavish tends:
A Night not steept in Drink, yet freed
From Care; a chast, and peacefull Bed;
Untroubled Sleeps, that render Night
Shorter, and sweeter till the light;
To be best pleas'd with thine own state,
Neither to wish, nor fear thy Fate.
The Latin original:
Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
res non parta labore sed relicta;
non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
nox non ebria sed soluta curis;
non tristis torus et tamen pudicus;
somnus qui faciat breves tenebras:
quod sis esse velis nihilque malis;
summum nec metuas diem nec optes.
Other translations:


Away With This Thinking

Charles Cotton (1630-1687), Chanson a Boire:
Come let's mind our drinking,
Away with this thinking;
  It ne'er, that I heard of, did any one good;
Prevents not disaster,
But brings it on faster,
  Mischance is by mirth and by courage withstood.

He ne'er can recover
The day that is over,
  The present is with us and does threaten no ill;
He's a Fool that will sorrow
For the thing call'd to morrow,
  But the hour we've in hand we may weild as we will.

There's nothing but Bacchus
Right merry can make us,
  That vertue particular is to the Vine;
It fires ev'ry creature
With wit and good nature,
  Whose thoughts can be dark when their noses doe shine?

A night of good drinking
Is worth a year's thinking,
  There's nothing that kills us so surely as sorrow;
Then to drown our cares Boys
Let's drink up the Stars Boys,
  Each face of the gang will a Sun be to morrow.
Adriaen Brouwer (1605-1638), De Meesterdronk

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The Sorrowful Wolf

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), Part I, Chapter VIII:
The boy who was called up first was a clever, merry School House boy, one of their set: he was some connection of the Doctor's and a great favourite, and ran in and out of his house as he liked, and so was selected for the first victim.

'Triste lupus stabulis,' began the luckless youngster, and stammered through some eight or ten lines.

'There, that will do,' said the Doctor, 'now construe.'

On common occasions, the boy could have construed the passage well enough probably, but now his head was gone.

'Triste lupus, the sorrowful wolf,' he began.

A shudder ran through the whole form, and the Doctor's wrath fairly boiled over; he made three steps up to the construer, and gave him a good box on the ear. The blow was not a hard one, but the boy was so taken by surprise that he started back; the form caught the back of his knees, and over he went on to the floor behind. There was a dead silence over the whole school; never before and never again while Tom was at school did the Doctor strike a boy in lesson. The provocation must have been great. However, the victim had saved his form for that occasion, for the Doctor turned to the top bench, and put on the best boys for the rest of the hour; and though, at the end of the lesson, he gave them all such a rating as they did not forget, this terrible field-day passed over without any severe visitations in the shape of punishments or floggings. Forty young scapegraces expressed their thanks to the 'sorrowful wolf' in their different ways before second lesson.
The Latin comes from Vergil's 3rd Eclogue. Here are lines 80-81, followed by H. Rushton Fairclough's translation:
triste lupus stabulis, maturis frugibus imbres,
arboribus venti, nobis Amaryllidis irae.

Baneful to the folds is the wolf, to the ripe crop the rains, to trees the gales, and to me the anger of Amaryllis!
T.E. Page comments on triste:
Neut. adj. used as subst. = 'a bane': the word as its position shews goes with all the four clauses which follow—'a bane is the wolf to the fold, rain to the...'.
See also Henry John Roby, A Grammar of the Latin Language from Plautus to Suetonius, Part II, Book IV: Syntax (London: Macmillan and Co., 1879), p. xxv:
Such expressions as triste lupus stabulis are not deviations from a normal tristis lupus stabulis (as I fear some students are led to think), but have a different meaning and therefore a different form. There is no more necessity to account elaborately for triste than there would have been to account for exitium, if exitium had been used instead. Tristis is 'a grievous he or she,' triste is 'a grief.'
The unfortunate boy's punishment seems to have been a variation of "the plain blip for numskulls," as shown below:

Hat tip for the illustration above: Roger Pearse.

Related posts:

Friday, December 10, 2010


Enough of Interest and Beauty

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), Part I, Chapter I:
I only know two English neighbourhoods thoroughly, and in each, within a circle of five miles, there is enough of interest and beauty to last any reasonable man his life.
Related posts:
Thomas Creswick (1811-1869), Resting by the Roadside


Weather Report from Tomis

Ovid, Tristia 3.10.13-34, tr. "T.P." (London: Arthur Bettesworth, 1713), p. 63:
But when that Boreas once doth fly abroad,
Those Countries he with heavy Snow doth load.
Nor doth the Snow dissolve by Sun or Rain,
But the North Wind doth make it still remain:
New Snow doth fall on that which fell before,
While that the Earth is doubly cover'd o'er;
Such is the North Winds Force when it doth blow,
That Towers and Houses it doth overthrow.
The Freezing Mob short Coats and Mantles wear,
To guard their Faces from the sullen Air.
From their long Hair a rustling Sound is heard,
And Hoary Frost shines on each Icy Beard.
The Fragrant Wine to Ice substantial turns,
Nor longer now in Purple Channels runs.
What should I here of Frozen Rivers tell,
Or Waters dug from Pits as deep as Hell?
For Isther here with Nile may equal be,
Whose Sevenfold Streams sink in the raging Sea.
His Azure Waves hid o'er with Ice he keeps,
And so unseen into the Ocean creeps.
Where Ships did Sail the labouring Horses tread,
And on the River find an Icy Bed.
Sarmatian Oxen draw their Waggons o'er
Arches of Ice, stretch'd wide from Shore to Shore.
The same, tr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Deep lies the snow, and neither the sun nor the rain can dissolve it;
  Boreas hardens it still, makes it for ever remain.
Hence, ere the first has melted away another succeeds it,
  And two years it is wont, in many places, to lie.
And so great is the power of the North-wind awakened, it levels
  Lofty towers with the ground, roofs uplifted bears off.
Wrapped in skins, and with trousers sewed, they contend with the weather,
  And their faces alone of the whole body are seen.
Often their tresses, when shaken, with pendent icicles tinkle,
  And their whitened beards shine with the gathering frost.
Wines consolidate stand, preserving the form of the vessels;
  No more draughts of wine,—pieces presented they drink.
Why should I tell you how all the rivers are frozen and solid,
  And from out of the lake frangible water is dug?
Ister,—no narrower stream than the river that bears the papyrus,—
  Which through its many mouths mingles its waves with the deep;
Ister, with hardening winds, congeals its cerulean waters,
  Under a roof of ice, winding its way to the sea.
There where ships have sailed, men go on foot; and the billows,
  Solid made by the frost, hoof-beats of horses indent.
Over unwonted bridges, with water gliding beneath them,
  The Sarmatian steers drag their barbarian carts.
The same, tr. A.D. Melville:
Snow lies and, as it lies, no sun or rain can
  Melt it, congealed for ever by the wind.
Before the first fall thaws another follows
  And lies in places two full years combined.
When the North wind is roused its onslaught levels
  Towers to to the ground and roofs away are reft.
They keep the cold at bay with skins and breeches;
  Of the whole body just the face is left.
With icicles the hair will often tinkle
  And beards are white with frost below the lips.
Wine, left unlagged, stands solid in the shape of
  The jar; it isn't poured, it's served in chips.
Why tell of rivers icy cold has conquered,
  And splitting water hacked from lakes and meres?
The Danube, that through many mouths flows seawards
  And no more narrow than the Nile appears,
Freezes, as winds his dark-blue waters harden,
  And, creeping on, a solid crust he bears.
Where boats went, now they go on foot, and hooves of
  Horses pound currents that the cold congeals.
Across new bridges, water flowing under,
  Sarmatian oxen haul barbarian wheels.
The same, tr. L.P. Wilkinson:
Snow lies, and ere it melt in sun or rain
Comes Boreas and hardens it again;
Ere one dissolves, another fall is here,
In many a place to lie from year to year;
And Aquilo such fury can display,
'Twill level towers and carry roofs away.
Breeches and furs keep out the cruel cold:
No feature but the face can one behold.
Icicles tinkle when men shake their hair,
And rough beards glister with the rime they wear.
Stark stands the wine, the wine-jar's shape preserved,
And from it chunks instead of draughts are served.
What of the rivers bound in icy bonds,
And brittle water quarried out of ponds?
Danube himself, who mingles with the sea
Wide as as the Nile through many mouths as he,
Feels his blue waters by the wind congealed
And creeps to ocean with his flow concealed.
Men cross on foot where ferries lately plied,
And horse-hooves echo o'er the frozen tide,
While on new bridges o'er the flood's domains
Sarmatian oxen haul outlandish wains.
The same, tr. Peter Green:
                          Snow falls: once fallen
  it lies for ever, wind-frosted. Neither sun
nor rain can shift it. Before one fall's melted, another
  comes, and in many places lies two years,
and so fierce the gales, they wrench off rooftops, whirl them
  headlong, skittle tall towers.
Men keep out this aching cold with furs and stiched breeches,
  only their faces left exposed,
and often the hanging ice in their hair tinkles,
  while beards gleam white with frost.
Wine stands unb ottled, retaining the shape of its vessel,
  so that what you get to drink isn't liquor, but lumps.
Shall I describe how the cold here freezes rivers solid,
  how fissile water's chopped from icy ponds
how the very Danube—Nile boasts no broader delta,
  nor more numerous outlets to the deep—  
will freeze as the winds stiff-whip its dark-blue waters,
  and winds its way seaward under ice?
Where ships sailed before, men go on foot now, horses'
  hoofbeats ring out on frozen waves,
and across new bridges, the current gliding under,
  Sarmatian oxen haul rough native carts.
The Latin:
nix iacet, et iactam ne sol pluviaeque resolvant,
  indurat Boreas perpetuamque facit.
ergo ubi delicuit nondum prior, altera venit,
  et solet in multis bima manere locis;
tantaque commoti vis est Aquilonis, ut altas
  aequet humo turres tectaque rapta ferat.
pellibus et sutis arcent mala frigora bracis,
  oraque de toto corpore sola patent.
saepe sonant moti glacie pendente capilli,
  et nitet inducto candida barba gelu:
nudaque consistunt, formam servantia testae,
  vina, nec hausta meri, sed data frusta bibunt.
quid loquar ut vincti concrescant frigore rivi,
  deque lacu fragiles effodiantur aquae?
ipse papyrifero qui non angustior amne
  miscetur vasto multa per ora freto,
caeruleos ventis latices durantibus, Hister
  congelat et tectis in mare serpit aquis;
quaque rates ierant, pedibus nunc itur, et undas
  frigore concretas ungula pulsat equi;
perque novos pontes, subter labentibus undis,
  ducunt Sarmatici barbara plaustra boves.
I haven't seen John J. Gahan, "Ovid: The Poet in Winter," Classical Journal 73.3 (Feb.-Mar. 1978) 198-202.

Alexei Savrasov, A Winter Road

Thursday, December 09, 2010


The Valley of Dry Bohns

Before the Loeb Classical Library there was Bohn's Classical Library, with cribs but without Greek or Latin. Other Bohn series included the Historical Library, the Ecclesiastical Library, the English Gentleman's Library, etc. After the publisher Henry George Bohn died, the following versified obituary appeared in Punch (September 6, 1884, p. 110):
Eh? dead at Eighty-nine? A ripe old age.
Dear renderer of many a learned page
Into the—rather dryasdust—vernacular;
True source of many an utterance oracular
From many a pseudo-pundit, who scarce owns
To wandering in that valley of dry Bohns.
Thousands should thank thee who will hardly do so—
In public! From CATULLUS down to CRUSOE,
To GOETHE, SCHLEGEL, SCHILLER we drink pottle-deep
Of Learning's fount from thy translated tap!
And what though o'er it one may nod and nap?
'Tis wholesome, if not sparkling, with sound body,
If not the glint of true Pierian toddy.
Gone from thy roses underneath the daisies,
We echo Emersonian thanks and praises,
And say (Pundits make puns, and sometimes own 'em),
"Vale! De mortuis nil nisi Bo(h)num!"
Related posts:


Kinsman to the Dead

George Santayana (1863-1952), Sonnets, Second Series, XXIV:
What riches have you that you deem me poor,
Or what large comfort that you call me sad?
Tell me what makes you so exceeding glad:
Is your earth happy or your heaven sure?
I hope for heaven, since the stars endure
And bring such tidings as our fathers had.
I know no deeper doubt to make me mad,
I need no brighter love to keep me pure.
To me the faiths of old are daily bread;
I bless their hope, I bless their will to save,
And my deep heart still meaneth what they said.
It makes me happy that the soul is brave,
And, being so much kinsman to the dead,
I walk contented to the peopled grave.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010



Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978), Journey Toward Evening:
Fifty, not having expected to arrive here,
Makes a bad traveler; grows dull, complains,
Suspects the local wine, dislikes the service,
Is petulant on trains,
And thinks the climate overestimated.
Fifty is homesick, plagued by memories
Of more luxurious inns and expeditions,
Calls all lakes cold, all seas
Too tide-beset (for Fifty is no swimmer),
Nor, moving inland, likes the country more,
Believes the hills are full of snakes and brigands.
The scenery is a bore,
Like the plump, camera-hung, and garrulous trippers
Whose company henceforward he must keep.
Fifty writes letters, dines, yawns, goes up early
But not to sleep. He finds it hard to sleep.


My Heart Rebels

George Santayana (1863-1952), Odes, II:
My heart rebels against my generation,
That talks of freedom and is slave to riches,
And, toiling 'neath each day's ignoble burden,
        Boasts of the morrow.

No space for noonday rest or midnight watches,
No purest joy of breathing under heaven!
Wretched themselves, they heap, to make them happy,
        Many possessions.

But thou, O silent Mother, wise, immortal,
To whom our toil is laughter,—take, divine one,
This vanity away, and to thy lover
        Give what is needful:—

A staunch heart, nobly calm, averse to evil,
The windy sky for breath, the sea, the mountain,
A well-born, gentle friend, his spirit's brother,
        Ever beside him.

What would you gain, ye seekers, with your striving,
Or what vast Babel raise you on your shoulders?
You multiply distresses, and your children
        Surely will curse you.

O leave them rather friendlier gods, and fairer
Orchards and temples, and a freer bosom!
What better comfort have we, or what other
        Profit in living,

Than to feed, sobered by the truth of Nature,
Awhile upon her bounty and her beauty,
And hand her torch of gladness to the ages
        Following after?

She hath not made us, like her other children,
Merely for peopling of her spacious kingdoms,
Beasts of the wild, or insects of the summer,
        Breeding and dying,

But also that we might, half knowing, worship
The deathless beauty of her guiding vision,
And learn to love, in all things mortal, only
        What is eternal.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010



William Watson, Home-Rootedness:
I cannot boast myself cosmopolite;
I own to "insularity," although
'Tis fall'n from fashion, as full well I know.
For somehow, being a plain and simple wight,
I am skin-deep a child of the new light,
But chiefly am mere Englishman below,
Of island-fostering; and can hate a foe,
And trust my kin before the Muscovite.
Whom shall I trust if not my kin? And whom
Account so near in natural bonds as these
Born of my mother England's mighty womb,
Nursed on my mother England's mighty knees,
And lull'd as I was lull'd in glory and gloom
With cradle-song of her protecting seas?
Related posts:


Destruction of Glory and Beauty

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), Oldtown Folks, Volume II, Chapter XXXVII (The Minister's Wood-Spell):
Mr. Avery had recently preached a highly popular sermon on agriculture, in which he set forth the dignity of the farmer's life, from the text, "For the king himself is served of the field"; and there had been a rustle of professional enthusiasm in all the mountain farms around, and it was resolved, by a sort of general consent, that the minister's wood-pile this year should be of the best: none of your old make-shifts,—loads made out with crooked sticks and snapping chestnut logs, most noisy, and destructive to good wives' aprons. Good straight shagbark-hickory was voted none too good for the minister. Also the axe was lifted up on many a proud oak and beech and maple. What destruction of glory and beauty there was in those mountain regions! How ruthlessly man destroys in a few hours that which centuries cannot bring again!

What an idea of riches in those glorious woodland regions! We read legends of millionnaires who fed their fires with cinnamon and rolled up thousand-dollar bills into lamp-lighters, in the very wantonness of profusion. But what was that compared to the prodigality which fed our great roaring winter fires on the thousand-leafed oaks, whose conception had been ages ago,—who were children of the light and of the day,—every fragment and fibre of them made of most celestial influences, of sunshine and rain-drops, and night-dews and clouds, slowly working for centuries until they had wrought the wondrous shape into a gigantic miracle of beauty? And then snuffling old Heber Atwood, with his two hard-fisted boys, cut one down in a forenoon and made logs of it for the minister's wood-pile. If this isn't making light of serious things, we don't know what is. But think of your wealth, O ye farmers!—think what beauty and glory every year perish to serve your cooking-stoves and chimneycorners.

To tell the truth, very little of such sentiment was in Mr. Avery's mind or in any of ours. We lived in a woodland region, and we were blasé with the glory of trees. We did admire the splendid elms that hung their cathedral arches over the one central street of Cloudland Village, and on this particular morning they were all aflame like Aladdin's palace, hanging with emeralds and rubies and crystals, flashing and glittering and dancing in the sunlight. And when the first sled came squeaking up the village street, we did not look upon it as the funereal hearse bearing the honored corpse of a hundred summers, but we boys clapped our hands and shouted, "Hurrah for old Heber!" as his load of magnificent oak, well-bearded with gray moss, came scrunching into the yard. Mr. Avery hastened to draw the hot flip-iron from the fire and stir the foaming bowl. Esther began cutting the first loaf of cake, and Mr. Rossiter walked out and cracked a joke on Heber's shoulder, whereat all the cast-iron lineaments of his hard features relaxed. Heber had not the remotest idea at this moment that he was to be branded as a tree-murderer. On the contrary, if there was anything for which he valued himself, and with which his heart was at this moment swelling with victorious pride, it was his power of cutting down trees. Man he regarded in a physical point of view as principally made to cut down trees, and trees as the natural enemies of man. When he stood under a magnificent oak, and heard the airy rustle of its thousand leaves, to his ear it was always a rustle of defiance, as if the old oak had challenged him to single combat; and Heber would feel of his axe and say, "Next winter, old boy, we'll see,—we'll see!"


Here the theological discussion was abruptly cut short by Deacon Zachary Chipman's load, which entered the yard amid the huzzahs of the boys. Heber and his boys were at the door in a minute. " Wal, railly, ef the deacon hain't come down with his shagbark! Wal, wal, the revival has operated on him some, I guess. Last year the deacon sent a load that I'd ha' been ashamed to had in my back yard, an' I took the liberty o' tellin' on him so. Good, straight-grained shagbark. Wal, wal! I'll go out an' help him onload it. Ef that 'ere holds out to the bottom, the deacon's done putty wal, an' I shall think grace has made some progress."

The deacon, a mournful, dry, shivery-looking man, with a little round bald head, looking wistfully out of a great red comforter, all furry and white with the sharp frosts of the morning, and, with his small red eyes weeping tears through the sharpness of the air, looked as if he had come as chief mourner at the hearse of his beloved hickory-trees. He had cut down the very darlings of his soul, and come up with his precious load, impelled by a divine impulse like that which made the lowing kine, in the Old Testament story, come slowly bearing the ark of God, while their brute hearts were turning toward the calves that they had left at home. Certainly, if virtue is in proportion to sacrifice, Deacon Chipman's load of hickory had more of self-sacrifice in it than a dozen loads from old Heber; for Heber was a forest prince in his way of doing things, and, with all his shrewd calculations of money's worth, had an open-handed generosity of nature that made him take a pride in liberal giving.

The little man shrank mournfully into a corner, and sipped his tumbler of flip and ate his cake and cheese as if he had been at a funeral.

Charles Branwhite (1817-1880), A Hard Day's Work, Winter


Monday, December 06, 2010


Against Laughter

Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son, XXXII (Bath, March 9, O.S. 1748):
Having mentioned laughing, I must particularly warn you against it: and I could heartily wish that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh, while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill manners: it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy, at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter. True wit, or sense, never yet made any body laugh; they are above it: they please the mind, and give a cheerfulness to the countenance. But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter; and that is what people of sense and breeding should show themselves above. A man's going to sit down, in the supposition that he has a chair behind him, and falling down upon his back for want of one, sets a whole company a laughing, when all the wit in the world would not do it; a plain proof, in my mind, how low and unbecoming a thing laughter is. Not to mention the disagreeable noise that it makes, and the shocking distortion of the face that it occasions. Laughter is easily restrained by a very little reflection; but, as it is generally connected with the idea of gaiety, people do not enough attend to its absurdity. I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical disposition; and am as willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody; but I am sure that, since I have had the full use of my reason, nobody has ever heard me laugh.
In this, as in so much else, I am no gentleman after Lord Chesterfield's pattern.

Related posts:


Abstain from Learned Ostentation

Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son, XXX (Bath, February 22, O.S. 1748):
There is another species of learned men who, though less dogmatical and supercilious, are not less impertinent. These are the communicative and shining pedants who adorn their conversation, even with women, by happy quotations of Greek and Latin, and who have contracted such a familiarity with the Greek and Roman authors, that they call them by certain names or epithets denoting intimacy. As old Homer; that sly rogue Horace; Maro, instead of Virgil; and Naso, instead of Ovid. These are often imitated by coxcombs, who have no learning at all; but who have got some names and some scraps of ancient authors by heart, which they improperly and impertinently retail in all companies, in hopes of passing for scholars. If, therefore, you would avoid the accusation of pedantry, on one hand, or the suspicion of ignorance, on the other, abstain from learned ostentation. Speak the language of the company you are in; speak it purely, and unlarded with any other. Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not pull it out, and strike it, merely to show that you have one. If you are asked what o'clock it is, tell it; but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.

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