Friday, August 31, 2012


They're Off!

Homer Davenport (1867-1912), The Dollar or the Man? The Issue of To Day (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1900), no. XXX (They're Off!):


Pleasure from the Dead Languages

John Halsham (pseudonym of George Forrester Scott, 1864-1937), Lonewood Corner: A Countryman's Horizons (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1907), pp. 244-249:
Books are property, in the accurate sense of the word, personal belongings with their own standing and habitation on familiar shelves, to be found without fumbling in the dark; they have outward characters of their own as well as inward, idiosyncrasies of form and bindings; they have been in your service, the greater part of them, thirty years, let us say, and they will stay on your shelves as long as you can need them, and a little longer. In their matter, they reflect your taste and leanings by their range and their limits; they are all sealed to you by your bold or whimsical autograph, by the pencil ticks which mark a beauty in your particular genre, a handsome seconding of some favourite heresy of your own, by the annotations and parallel places which link them to their fellows above and below. These I call books, the tried friends whose leather coats begin to show a sympathetic crack or two as your own case wears a little the worse for the turning over of the world, whose matter has gone to make part of your inward contexture ever since you began to go to school.

Of this sort are the rows of brown backs, with here and there a chance vanity of second-hand vellum or new livery of buckram, neat but not gaudy, whose gilding catches a glint from the low fallen fire when I come into the warm lull of my burrow from frozen journeys; such the good company which puts out of mind the binding frost upon the garden or the winter storm sweeping across the lonely fields, and has power to fill most of the corners of the empty house. I keep no unmanageable rout, needing step-ladders or catalogues. My odd hundreds have multiplied by the relaxed standards of age beyond the rigid limit of an earlier choice; but perhaps for some little time past have approached their full number. I have nearly all the old books; and the new ones grow ever less indispensable, more and more obnoxious to the wise man's objection, "ils nous empêchent de lire les anciens." And by the old books I mean the real ancients, the first fathers of the rest, the backs in Leyden calf or Venetian vellum, which seem to inspire in most visitors to my shelves either a puzzled shyness or an almost personal animosity. I sometimes make a guess, while I warp one of the brown folios over the log-fire on a winter night, how many others in this most leisured county may be busy with an author of that standing: fifty, I make it, when I am in a sociable mood; when the pride of singularity swells, I doubt of five. In either frame of mind, I am happy in thinking how absolutely right is the choice of the real classics. It is, after all, well to begin at the beginning and know something of the hard-wrought alphabet which all our later exercises lazily shift and combine, perhaps with a consistently decreasing power of seeing the symbols in their true scope and force. And then, what a security and an economy of energy in using the result of Time's sieve! There are few things in life which so affect me with a comfortable wonder as the absolute fixity, beyond any sort of appeal, of the court of ultimate judgment in literature; the conversion of the weathercock opinion of contemporary criticism, right by chance and wrong by instinct, into the immovable security of the full orb of time, is a cheerful miracle which might keep even a weekly reviewer from despair. To my mind, there is a natural barrier between us and the books of our own age; coeval literature is flesh of our flesh, and it needs a generation or two to intervene and attenuate the affinity in order to sanction the commerce.


Each must answer for himself: to me the safer part seems to be not to try to help Time with the momentary sling of his winnowing-shovel, but to be content to grub in the heap of corn that lies at his feet, secure from all the winds of heaven. Therefore my book-case contains as a basis, in all sorts of editions, from the safe comment of Gronovius to the jaunty graces of Gildersleeve, the Greeks and Latins pretty complete. I read through them at a steady plod, and when I reach the gate of horn in my several journeys, I presently turn about and begin again: and on the whole I get more pleasure from the dead languages—spite of the drag of an inveterate hobble in construing—than from any other sort of reading. This judgment, though it amuses some of my acquaintance and seems to irritate others in a surprising manner, is deliberate and mature. There are those who are instinctive classics at seven, and remain prize schoolboys at seventy; it is another matter to scrape through a casual Pass under protest, and after certain experimental excursions to settle down, unbothered by accents and led by no specious lure of philology to make the classics the main indoor business of one's days. That the Greeks and Latins wrote amazingly better than many modern novelists, and are a great deal more amusing than most plays; that there may be more downright human interest and colour in a historian two thousand years dead than in yesterday's "word-painting" by special correspondents, and more practicable politics in Plato than in last night's debate: these claims one deprecatingly advances from time to time to one's more indulgent friends, and retires before their smiles to the safe covert of singularity whereto no one offers to follow.
The "wise man" who said that new books "nous empêchent de lire les anciens" was Joseph Joubert (1754-1824), in his Pensées (Titre XVIII, § LVII, my translation):
People never stop asking for new books. There are, in those which we've had for a long time, inestimable treasures of knowledge and pleasure unknown to us, because we neglect to pay attention to them. That's the great disadvantage of new books: they keep us from reading the old ones.

On demande sans cesse de nouveaux livres, et il y a, dans ceux que nous avons depuis longtemps, des trésors inestimables de science et d'agréments qui nous sont inconnus, parce que nous négligeons d'y prendre garde. C'est le grand inconvénient des livres nouveaux: ils nous empêchent de lire les anciens.

Dirk van Hoogstraten (1596–1640), Bearded Man Reading

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Song of Hybrias the Cretan

Poetae Melici Graeci 909 Page = Athenaeus 15.695f-696a, my translation:
I have great wealth—a spear and a sword
and the good shield of animal hide, skin's protector;
for with this I plough, with this I reap,
with this I tread the sweet wine from the grape-vine,
with this I am named master of vassals.

Those who dare not wield a spear and a sword
and the good shield of animal hide, skin's protector:
all these men, falling around my knee,
worship me, calling me
master and great king.
I don't have access to D.L. Page's Poetae Melici Graeci, and so instead I reproduce here the Greek text from what I can see of C.M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry from Alcman to Simonides, 2nd. rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961; rpt. 2000), Appendix I, pp. 398-403, using's Look Inside! feature.
ἔστι μοι πλοῦτος μέγας δόρυ καὶ ξίφος
καὶ τὸ καλὸν λαισήϊον, πρόβλημα χρωτός·
τούτῳ γὰρ ἀρῶ, τούτῳ θερίζω,
τούτῳ πατέω τὸν ἁδὺν οἶνον ἀπ' ἀμπέλω,
τούτῳ δεσπότας μνοΐας κέκλημαι.

τοὶ δὲ μὴ τολμῶντ' ἔχειν δόρυ καὶ ξίφος
καὶ τὸ καλὸν λαισήϊον, πρόβλημα χρωτός,
πάντες γόνυ πεπτηῶτες άμφ' ἐμὸν
κυνέοντί με δεσπόταν
καὶ μέγαν βασιλῆα φωνέοντες.
Some Doric forms, with references to Herbert Weir Smyth's Greek Grammar:

4 ἁδὺν: for ἡδὺν (§ 30)
4 ἀμπέλω: genitive singular (§ 230.D.1)
5 δεσπότας: nominative singular (§ 30), cf. also line 9 (accusative singular)
6 τολμῶντ': 3rd person plural present subjunctive
9 κυνέοντί: 3rd person plural present indicative (§ 654)

Here are some verse translations.

By John Leyden (1775-1811), in his Poetical Remains, ed. James Morton (London: Strahan and Spottiswoode, 1819), p. 205:
My spear, my sword, my shaggy shield!
    With these I till, with these I sow:
With these I reap my harvest-field;
    No other wealth the Gods bestow.
With these I plant the fertile vine;
With these I press the luscious wine.

My spear, my sword, my shaggy shield!
    They make me lord of all below,—
For those who dread my spear to wield,
    Before my shaggy shield must bow:
Their fields, their vineyards, they resign;
And all that cowards have is mine.
By Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), in his Poetical Works (London: Edward Moxon, 1837), p. 58:
My wealth's a burly spear and brand,
And a right good shield of hides untann'd,
    Which on my arm I buckle:
With these I plough, I reap, I sow,
With these I make the sweet vintage flow,
And all around me truckle.

But your wights that take no pride to wield
A massy spear and well-made shield,
    Nor joy to draw the sword:
O, I bring those heartless, hapless drones,
Down in a trice on their marrow-bones,
To call me King and Lord.
By John Herman Merivale (1779-1844), in his Poems, Original and Translated, Vol. I (London: William Pickering, 1838), p. 171:
My riches are the arms I wield,
The spear, the sword, the shaggy shield,
My bulwark on the battle-field:
With this I plough the furrow'd soil,
With this I share the reaper's toil,
With this I press the generous juice
That rich and sunny vines produce;

With these, of rule and high command,
I bear the mandate in my hand;
For while the slave and coward fear
To wield the buckler, sword, and spear,
They bend the supplicating knee,
And own my just supremacy.
By Daniel Sandford (1798-1838), in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 35 (1833) 269:
My wealth is here—the sword, the spear, the breast-defending shield;
With this I plough, with this I sow, with this I reap the field,
With this I tread the luscious grape, and drink the blood-red wine;
And slaves around in order wait, and all are counted mine!

But he that will not rear the lance upon the battle-field,
Nor sway the sword, nor stand behind the breast-defending shield,
On lowly knee must worship me, with servile kiss adored,
And peal the cry of homage high, and hail me mighty Lord!
By William Hay, in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 35 (1833) 269:
Much riches these me yield—
    My gallant spear and sword,
And my brave hide-covered shield,
    The bulwark of its lord:
'Tis thus,—I reap and plough,
    'Tis thus,—the sweet grape tread,
'Tis thus,—the household bow
    And call me lord and head.

But those who will not dare
    The spear and sword to wield,
And the bulwark will not bear
    Of the brave, hide-covered shield,
Down on their knees before me
    While one and all I bring,
Must as their liege adore me,
    And hail me—mighty King.
By J. Lodge, in Classical Review 28 (1914) 286:
Great wealth is mine in spear and sword
And goodly shield of hides, to guard
    My body from the foeman.
Therewith I reap, therewith I sow,
Therewith I make sweet vintage flow,
Therewith I give the world to know
    That I'm a sturdy yeoman.

And them that shun the spear and sword
And goodly shield of hides, to guard
    Their bodies from the foeman-
Down at my feet I make 'em fall,
Till grovelling low the recreants call:
'Thou art the master of us all,
    A mightier lord is noman!'
Some additional bibliography, most of which I haven't seen:


Everlasting Clatter about Virtue

Thomas Carlyle, diary (August 10, 1832):
Seneca was born to be of the Church of England. He is the father of all that work in sentimentality, and, by fine speaking and decent behaviour, study to serve God and Mammon, to stand well with philosophy and not ill with Nero. His force had mostly oozed out of him, or 'corrupted itself into benevolence, virtue, sensibility.' Oh! the everlasting clatter about virtue! virtue! virtue! In the Devil's name be virtuous, and no more about it! Seneca could have been a Bishop Heber; Dr. Channing, too, and that set, have some kindred with him. He was, and they are, better than nothing, very greatly better. Sey gerade, sey verträglich.
Some say that Sey gerade, sey verträglich (be straight-forward, be good-natured) is an echo of Goethe's
Dir frommt an jedem Ort, zu jeder Zeit,
Geradheit, Urteil und Verträglichkeit
which Carlyle translated elsewhere as
In every place, at every time, thy surest chance
Lies in Decision, Justice, Tolerance.
Thomas Carlyle, essay on Diderot in Foreign Quarterly Review (1833):
Thus poor Seneca, on occasion of some new Version of his Works, having come before the public, and been roughly dealt with, Diderot, with a long, last, concentrated effort, writes his Vie de Seneque; struggling to make the hollow solid. Which, alas, after all his tinkering still sounds hollow; and notable Seneca, so wistfully desirous to stand well with Truth, and yet not ill with Nero, is and remains only our perhaps niceliest-proportioned Half-and-half, the plausiblest Plausible on record; no great man, no true man, no man at all; yet how much lovelier than such,—as the mild-spoken, tolerating, charity-sermoning, immaculate Bishop Dogbolt to some rude, self-helping, sharp-tongued Apostle Paul! Under which view, indeed, Seneca (though surely erroneously, for the origin of the thing was different) has been called, in this generation, 'the father of all such as wear shovel-hats.'
The Oxford English Dictionary defines shovel-hat as "A stiff broad-brimmed hat, turned up at the sides and projecting with a shovel-like curve in front and behind, worn by some ecclesiastics." Perhaps Carlyle coined it. The first citation in the OED is to Carlyle's journal (1829): "Does not the very sight of a shovel hat in some degree indispose me to the wearer thereof?"

OED, s.v. dog bolt: "As a term of contempt or abuse: (prob. originally) a person who is at someone else's command, a menial, a dogsbody; (in later use) a worthless person, a wretch, a knave."

I owe my knowledge of Carlyle's judgments on Seneca to T.R. Glover, The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1909), pp. 40-41.


To Be Merry Is Best

Sir Richard Maitland (1496-1586), Advice to Leesome Merriness, in The Northern Muse: An Anthology of Scots Vernacular Poetry, ed. John Buchan (1924; rpt. London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., 1947), p. 387:
When I have done consider
  This warldis vanitie,
Sa brukil and sa slidder,
  Sa full of miserie;
  Then I remember me        5
That here there is no rest;
  Therefore apparentlie
To be merrie is best.

Let us be blyth and glad,
  My friendis all, I pray.        10
To be pensive and sad
  Na thing it help us may.
  Therefore put quite away
All heaviness of thocht:
  Thoch we murne nicht and day        15
It will avail us nocht.
Leesome (title): lawful
warldis (2): world's
Sa brukil and sa slidder (3): So brittle and so slippery
thocht, thoch, nicht, nocht (14-16): thought, though, night, nought
murne (15): mourn

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Mma Potokwane and Saint Jerome

Alexander McCall Smith, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (New York: Pantheon Books, 2012), p. 20 (a conversation about businessman Mr. Ditso Ditso):
Mma Ramotswe brought her down to earth. "But is there any reason to think that he is behaving dishonestly?"

Mma Potokwane shrugged. "How do you get as much money as he has? By working? I really don't see, Mma, how one man could do so much work that he would end up with so much money. No, there's something else there—something that we don't know about but that must be there, Mma—it must."
Mma Potokwane's suspicion (that wealth must be the result of ill-gotten gains) reminds me of a saying repeated a few times in the works of St. Jerome—"A rich man is either a crook or a crook's heir."

John A. Ryan, Alleged Socialism of the Church Fathers (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1913), pp. 67-71, discusses three of these passages from St. Jerome. I don't have access to Corpus Christianorum Latinorum or Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, so I'll provide citations to Migne's Patrologia Latina (PL) instead. Roger Pearse has a handy list of PL volumes available on the World Wide Web.

St. Jerome, commentary on Jeremiah 2.6 (on 5.26 = PL vol. 24, col. 747 B-C, tr. Ryan p. 67):
And they fill their houses through the plunder and losses of others, that this saying of the philosophers may be fulfilled, "every rich man is unjust or the heir of an unjust one."

Et aliorum damnis atque dispendiis suas complent domos, ut impleatur philosophorum illa sententia: Omnis dives aut iniquus, aut haeres iniqui.
St. Jerome, commentary on Habakkuk 2.3 (on 3.7 = PL vol. 25, col. 1316 C, tr. Ryan p. 68):
Those who work for honors or riches in this world become the tabernacles of demons; this is significantly shown by the one word iniquity, for "every rich man is either unjust or the heir of an unjust one."

Daemones intelliguntur, quorum fit tabernaculum quicumque in hoc saeculo propter honores et divitias laborarit: quod significanter sub uno verbo iniquitatis ostenditur, "Omnis enim dives, aut iniquus, aut haeres iniqui est."
St. Jerome, letter 120.1 (to Hedibia = PL vol. 22, col. 984, discussing the parable of the unjust steward, tr. Ryan pp. 68-69):
And you therefore, since you have few children, make to yourself many friends of the mammon of iniquity who may receive you into everlasting dwellings. He said well "of iniquity"; for all riches come from iniquity, and unless one was the loser another could not be the gainer. Hence that common saying seems to me to be most true: "The rich man is unjust or the heir of an unjust one."

Igitur et tu, quia paucos non habes filios, plurimos fac tibi amicos de iniquo mammona, qui te recipiant in aeterna tabernacula. Pulchre dixit de iniquo; omnes enim divitiae de iniquitate descendunt et nisi alter perdierit, alter non potest invenire. Unde et illa vulgata sententia mihi videtur esse verissima, Dives autem iniquus, aut iniqui haeres.
Ryan doesn't mention St. Jerome, tractate on psalm 83(84), ed. Germain Morin in Anecdota Maredsolana, Vol. III, Part I: Sancti Hieronymi Presbyteri Commentarioli in Psalmos (1895), p. 86, lines 17-19, my translation:
Also true is a certain saying of a philosopher: 'Every rich man is either unjust or the heir of an unjust man.'

Vera est et philosophi quaedam sententia: 'Omnis dives aut iniquus, aut iniqui heres est.'
See also Erasmus, Adagia 1.9.47, tr. R.A.B. Mynors (footnotes omitted):
Dives aut iniquus est aut iniqui heres
A rich man is either wicked himself or the heir of a wicked man

St. Jerome in a letter to Hedibia writes as follows: 'Hence too I think it absolutely true, as the common saying has it, that a rich man is either wicked himself or the heir of a wicked man.' If that remark in Hesiod is true, that what is in every man's mouth is not spoken wholly without cause, this proverb should be diligently taken to heart by those who are foolishly proud of being rich. Great wealth is hardly ever acquired without dishonesty; either the owner himself has accumulated it by fair means or foul, or at the very least he is the successor of one who acquired it in that fashion. Plato in book 5 of the Laws: 'So that there is truth in the current saying, that very rich men are not good men.' There is also a line current in Greek from one of Menander's comedies: 'Wealth n'er comes quickly to an honest man.' The man had this in mind who is recorded as saying to Sulla when he was in a boastful mood: 'How can you be an honest man when you have so much money though your father left you nothing?' Plutarch tells this in his life of Sulla.

Divus Hieronymus ad Hedibiam scribit in hunc modum: Unde et illa vulgata sententia mihi videtur esse verissima. Dives aut iniquus aut iniqui haeres. Quod si verum est illud Hesiodium non omnino temere esse, quicquid vulgo dicunt mortales, proverbium hoc haud oscitanter expendendum est iis, qui suis operibus stulte se jactant. Neque enim fere parantur ingentes opes sine fraude. Et aut ipse possessor eas per fas nefasque congessit aut certe successit ei, qui has ea paravit via. Plato libro De legibus V: Ὥστε ὁ λόγος ἡμἶν ὀρθός, ὡς οὐκ εἰσὶν οἱ παμπλούσιοι ἀγαθοί, id est Ita verum est, quod vulgo dicimus admodum divites non esse bonos. Circumfertur apud Graecos et hic versiculus ex Menandri comoediis:
Οὐδεὶς ἐπλούτησε ταχέως δίκαιος ὤν, id est
Numquam vir aequus, dives evasit cito.
Huc respexit ille, qui Syllae jactanti sese dixisse legitur: Quomodo vir bonus esse potes, qui tantas possideas opes, cum a patre nihil tibi sit relictum? Refert Plutarchus in illius vita.
For more parallels see Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1807 (p. 1320).

Related post: St. Jerome on Wealth and Poverty.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Rien du Tout

Thomas Carlyle, from an essay on Diderot in Foreign Quarterly Review (1833), quoting Diderot's daughter:
My grandfather then expressly commissioned M. Clement to urge and constrain him to make choice of some profession, and, once for all, to become Doctor, Procureur, or Advocate. My father begged time to think of it; time was given. At the end of several months these proposals were again laid before him: he answered, that the profession of Doctor did not please him, for he could not think of killing anybody; that the Procureur business was too difficult to execute with delicacy; that he would willingly choose the profession of Advocate, were it not that he felt an invincible repugnance to occupy himself all his life with other people's business. 'But,' said M. Clement, 'what will you be, then?'—'On my word, nothing, nothing whatever (Ma foi, rien, mais rien du tout). I love study; I am very happy, very content, and want nothing else.'
The French:
Mon grand-père, dit Mme de Vandeul, chargea alors expressément M. Clément de proposer un état à son fils, de le déterminer à faire un choix prompt, et de l'engager à être médecin, procureur ou avocat. Mon père demanda du temps pour y songer; on lui en accorda. Au bout de quelques mois, les propositions furent renouvelées; alors il dit que l'état de médecin ne lui plaisait pas, qu'il ne voulait tuer personne; que celui de procureur était trop difficile à remplir délicatement; qu'il choisirait volontiers la profession d'avocat, mais qu'il avait une répugnance invincible à s'occuper toute sa vie des affaires d'autrui.

— Mais, lui dit M. Clément, que voulez-vous donc être?

— Ma foi, rien, mais rien du tout. J'aime l'étude; je suis fort heureux, fort content; je ne demande pas autre chose.


No Respect for Mechanical Genius

Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996), "Uncle Dockery and the Independent Bull," in Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories (1992; rpt. New York: Vintage Books, 1993), pp. 364-370 (at 364):
I often find it comforting to think of Uncle Dockery Fitzsimmons, a serene old bright-leaf tobacco farmer who lives in Black Ankle County, about six miles from Stonewall. He is the only man I have ever known who has absolutely no respect for the mechanical genius of Western civilization. One day, when I was about fifteen, we we were fishing Little Rump River for blue bream and a motorboat chugged by, scaring all the fish to the bed of the river, and Uncle Dockery said, "Son, the only inventions that make sense to me are the shotgun, the two-horse wagon, the butter churn, and the frying pan. Sooner or later such contraptions as the motorboat will drive the whole human race into Dix Hill." Dix Hill is a suburb of Raleigh, where the North Carolina State Asylum for the Insane is located.

Uncle Dockery is still opposed to the automobile. "I don't want to go nowhere," he used to say, "that a mule can't take me." His hatred of automobiles embraces people who ride in them. One summer afternoon we were sitting on his veranda, eating a watermelon, when a neighbor ran up the road and said, "There's been a terrible auto accident up on the highway, Mr. Fitzsimmons." The news pleased Uncle Dockery. He placed his rasher of watermelon on the rail of the veranda, smiled broadly, and asked, "How many killed?" "Four," said the neighbor. "Well, that's just fine," said Uncle Dockery. "Where were they going in such a rush?" "They were going to the beach for a swim," said the neighbor. Uncle Dockery nodded with satisfaction and said, "I guess they figured the Atlantic Ocean wouldn't wait."



Right at Twenty, After All

John Halsham (pseudonym of George Forrester Scott, 1864-1937), Lonewood Corner: A Countryman's Horizons (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1907), p. 143:
There was something fundamental in my careful solitude. I turned out not long since an old Conington's Æneid of those days, with a motto I had written on the fly-leaf—Solus incedo—and through all the mewling coxcombry of it, I have to acknowledge a touch of fate. There are cases in which one recognises with mixed feelings that one was right at twenty, after all.
Solus incedo = I walk alone. Cf. Horace, Satires 1.6.112: incedo solus.

Monday, August 27, 2012


A Sort of Abracadabra Spell

John Halsham (pseudonym of George Forrester Scott, 1864-1937), Lonewood Corner: A Countryman's Horizons (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1907), pp. 3-4:
In reply to a few hints that there are here and there pedantic leanings to be discovered, and a too liberal sprinkling of quotations and tags in the dead languages, I would ask the anti-classical rebukers to skip the offending scraps, and believe that they are an old sort of Abracadabra spell, which, even if it does not conjure, as some old-fashioned people declare it does, is at least harmless to robuster minds, and may be avoided without seriously dislocating the text.


The Death of Old Backshell

John Halsham (pseudonym of George Forrester Scott, 1864-1937), Idlehurst: A Journal Kept in the Country, 2nd ed. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1908), pp. 13-14:
Yesterday, the Rector tells me, he was out at Jolland's Corner, with Obed Backshell when he died; another of the old race, a survivor of a world as far from ours as the Renaissance, the world before the railways, with wide margins and easy paces, wherein the labourers, to judge from such relics as Backshell and Tomsett, were more courteous than half the new gentry now upon the land, and, in one direction at least, much better instructed; a world the Rector and I conspire to regret. Old Backshell died with that fine apathy common to his race. As year by year the knell rings for such and such an acquaintance, the old men will moralise, "Us must go when we be called;" and when at last they know that to-night or to-morrow the clerk will slowly climb the crooked stairs, and pull the old rope for their own knell, they take it with a wonderful sense of proportion, with a sense of their place in the natural course of the world, which eighty years' steadfast labour on the land, under the changeless change of the seasons, seems to impress on the mind as no other experience can. Old Backshell departs, clear-minded almost to the last, neither glad nor sorry, to all appearance fearless even, unconcerned for the Beyond; no protestations of salvation, no solicitude for those he leaves; merely the quiet acceptance of a common fact, a homely, even grotesque understanding of the matter, which shuts out any touch of awe.
Related post: My Bed of Death.


Orpheus and Euripides

Thanks to Steven Eldredge for drawing my attention to an amusing misprint in the color brochure for the New York City Ballet's fall season. The blurb for Stravinsky's Orpheus reads in part:
This highly-stylized, narrative ballet depicts Orpheus’ journey to rescue his beloved Euripides from the underworld.
I haven't seen the brochure myself, but I did see the misprint repeated on a page from the New York City Ballet's web site, from which I captured this screenshot:

Poor Eurydice!


Sunday, August 26, 2012


A Rational Collocation of Authors

John Halsham (pseudonym of George Forrester Scott, 1864-1937), Idlehurst: A Journal Kept in the Country, 2nd ed. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1908), pp. 135-136:
Next to the spiders I note my main bookcase, a roomy lodging for other things than books. Papers of garden seeds share a shelf with broken-down fishing-tackle; an ancient hortus-siccus lies in company with candle-snuffers and a mole-trap. The books are, I reflect, as I look at the somewhat ragged array of backs, mostly of the old world; cracked calf and warped vellum outnumber the cloth-gilt moderns; "Esmond" in an early edition is, I think, my nearest point to modern romance; my science stops at the earlier Darwin. Being once scolded by Mrs. Kitty because I had not read a serious novel of last week, I explained that I had thought I ought to begin at the beginning of literature, and work downwards in order to the moderns. "Well, and where did you begin? and where have you got to now?" says the Censor; and I tell her that I began at Eutropius as quite a small boy and am now got somewhere about the Elizabethans.

"Fancy that now!" is Mrs. Kitty's comment.

Even amongst my ancients there are odd gaps; I entertain only personal friends, whether amid the Heliconian top shelf of Venetian and Dutch editions, or the dictionaries that repose on the floor. I like even a lexicon to have a character of its own; my commentaries are chosen more for the humours of the commentator than their bearing on the text. I mostly dispense, spite of the several deductions possible from the fact, with those works without which no gentleman's library is complete. Order and rank on the shelves go mainly by inward character; some volumes seem to have an almost spontaneous way of sorting themselves. Bernardino Daniello's Dante constantly finds its way from its fellows, the Convito and Petrarch, to stand beside Conington's Æneid; and more than once I have found a stout Rasselas with plates pinning a shabby paper Candide against the partition. The Iliad and the Republic are generally separated by a Chase's Ethics; and I always humour and encourage this rational collocation of authors.

Édouard John Mentha (1858-1915),
Maid Reading in a Library

Related posts:


National Greatness

Maurice Hewlett (1861–1923), Wiltshire Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921), pp. 157-158:
We should have neither army nor navy. We should carry, as we once did, and as the Dutch and Norwegians have done for three centuries, without a guaranteed passage. We should be self-contained, self-sufficient: we should fish, we should plough, we should graze our sheep and cattle, we should take in each other's washing. We should not fear invasion, for the possible loot would not be tempting enough; we should not want more than a small militia for policing the land and the home-waters, for the same reason. There would be such a chance then for our national 'greatness' as it has not had since Queen Elizabeth lived and died; and if those spacious days do not begin all over again; and if five hundred years hence some man of letters from a green shade is not writing in precisely this strain, and to the same end—then I wholly misread the greatness of my nation.

Il faut cultiver notre jardin was Candide's conclusion, and it is mine. We shall have time for that in a few years from now. And time to be great rather than big. And then—if contentment is anything to the matter—we may perhaps be happy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


A Systematic Misleading

Carlyle said the best university is a collection of books, and I was reminded of this dictum when I read Guy Davenport's essay "On Reading" in The Hunter Gracchus and Other Papers on Literature and Art (Washington: Counterpoint, 1997), pp. 19-31.

Davenport makes the valid point that much of classroom education is actually an impediment to learning. He writes (p. 24):
I think I learned quite early that the judgments of my teachers were probably a report of their ignorance. In truth, my education was a systematic misleading. Ruskin was dismissed as a dull, preacherly old fart who wrote purple prose. In a decent society the teacher who led me to believe this would be tried, found guilty, and hanged by the thumbs while being pelted with old eggs and cabbage stalks.
In the same vein (p. 27):
I can therefore report that the nine years of elementary schooling, four of undergraduate, and eight of graduate study were technically games of futility. If, now, I had at my disposal as a teacher only what I learned from the formalities of education, I could not possibly be a university professor. I wouldn't know anything.
I remember the exact moment, almost fifty years ago, when my faith in teachers and grownups as repositories of knowledge and wisdom began to fade. It was in seventh grade, when my English teacher informed us that the dia in dialogue meant "two". Even then I knew this was a mistake, and I told her so. She gave me the standard "Matilda" response: "I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong." Eppur si muove, Miss Fickett.

Hat tip: My son, who gave me Davenport's book as a gift.


Loveliness at Last

John Ruskin (1819-1900), Modern Painters, Part VI (Of Leaf Beauty), Chapter IX (The Two Boyhoods), § 16:
Loveliness at last. It is here then, among these deserted vales! Not among men. Those pale, poverty-struck, or cruel faces;—that multitudinous, marred humanity—are not the only things that God has made. Here is something He has made which no one has marred. Pride of purple rocks, and river pools of blue, and tender wilderness of glittering trees, and misty lights of evening on immeasurable hills.


Mangled Greek

Ruskin Today. Chosen and Annotated by Kenneth Clark (London: Penguin Books, 1982; rpt. 1988), p. 161, an excerpt from Ruskin's Arata Pentelici, Lecture II, § 29:
Play with them, or love them, or fear them, or worship them. The cat may become the goddess Pasht, and the mouse, in the hand of a sculptured king, enforce his enduring words 'ἐς ἐμέ τις δρέων εὐδεβης ἔγτω;' but the great mimetic instinct underlies all such purpose; and is zooplastic,—life-shaping,—alike in the reverent and the impious....
The Greek is gibberish in this Penguin Books anthology. You can correct it yourself, or a look at any 19th century edition of Ruskin will show that it is a mistake for
ἐς ἐμέ τις ὁρέων εὐσεβὴς ἔστω.
Ruskin is quoting Herodotus 2.141.6. The Greek means "Let the one looking at me be reverent."


Friday, August 24, 2012


Come Ye to the Waters

Greek Anthology 16.291 (by Anyte, tr. J.W. Mackail):
To Pan the bristly-haired, and the Nymphs of the farm-yard, Theodotus the shepherd laid this gift under the crag, because they stayed him when very weary under the parching summer, stretching out to him honey-sweet water in their hands.
The same, tr. John William Burgon:
To shaggy Pan and all the Wood-Nymphs fair,
Fast by the rock this grateful offering stands,
A shepherd's gift—to those who gave him there
Rest, when he fainted in the sultry air,
And reached him sweetest water with their hands.
The same, translated into Latin by Hugo Grotius:
Ruricolis donum Nymphis, Fanoque piloso,
  Theudotus upilio rupe sub hac posuit,
Propterea quod cum torrente fatisceret aestu
  Praebuerint manibus pocula dulcis aquae.
The Greek:
Φριξοκόμᾳ τόδε Πανὶ καὶ αὐλιάσιν θέτο Νύμφαις
  δῶρον ὑπὸ σκοπιᾶς Θεύδοτος οἰονόμος·
οὕνεχ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἀζαλέου θέρεος μέγα κεκμηῶτα
  παῦσαν, ὀρέξασαι χερσὶ μελιχρὸν ὕδωρ.
All of these translations assume that Pan's hair is shaggy, but could the epithet φριξοκόμης (apparently a hapax legomenon) mean "making the hair stand on end"? Cf. φριξόθριξ, which can have this meaning, and recall that Pan causes panic.

Letters to Sanchia upon Things as They Are. Extracted from the Correspondence of Mr. John Maxwell Senhouse by Maurice Hewlett (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), p. 37:
Who said, Pan is dead? Some fawning rogue who wanted to pay a compliment. Pan dead! He is not dead, and will never die. Wherever there's a noonday hush over the Weald, wherever there's mystery in the forest, there is Pan. Every far-sighted, unblinking old shepherd up here afield with his dog knows all about him, though he'll never tell you anything of what he knows. He hasn't got his name right, very likely; but he has got him. Every oak tree hides a Dryad; the Oreads foot it on the heath, and the Nereids cling to the wet rocks where the green water lips their backs and surges up over their slippery shoulders.


Sharp Edges

T.R. Glover (1869-1943), The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1909), p. 225, n. 5, on George Long's translation of Marcus Aurelius:
George Long's rendering, here as elsewhere somewhat literal, but valuable as leaving the sharp edges on the thought of the Greek, which get rubbed off in some translations.


A Cheerful Birthday Thought

Primo Levi (1919-1987), The Voice of Memory: Interviews, 1961-1987, edd. Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon (New York: The New Press, 2001), p. 145:
Now, I am sixty-two years old and at sixty-two your memory deteriorates quite noticeably, just as you lose strength in your muscles and your eyesight.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Hic Rhodus, Hic Saltus

Aesop 51 Chambry, translated by Laura Gibbs in Aesop's Fables (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 106 (#209):
There was a man who had been away on a journey and had then come back home. He strutted about town, talking loudly and at great length about the brave deeds he had accomplished in the various lands he had visited. In Rhodes, the man said, he had jumped such a long jump that no man alive could equal it, and he claimed that there were witnesses who could back up his story. A bystander then remarked, 'All right! If you're telling the truth, here is your Rhodes: go on and jump!'

The fable shows that talking is a waste of time when you can simply provide a demonstration.
The Greek:
ἄνθρωπός τις ἀποδημήσας ἧκε πάλιν εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν χώραν. φρυαττόμενος δὲ ἐκαυχᾶτο μεγάλως, ὡς ἀνδραγαθήσας εἰς διαφόρους τόπους· ἐν δὲ τῇ Ῥόδῳ ἔφασκε πήδημα μέγα πηδήσας, ὅπερ οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων δύναται πηδῆσαι, καὶ μάρτυρας ἔφασκεν ἔχειν εἰς τοῦτο. τῶν δὲ παρόντων τις ὑπολαβὼν ἔφη αὐτῷ· ὦ οὗτος, εἰ τοῦτο ἀληθές ἐστι, ἰδοὺ Ῥόδος καὶ πήδημα.

ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ, ὅτι, ἐὰν μὴ πρόχειρος ἡ πεῖρα τοῦ πράγματος, πᾶς λόγος περιττός ἐστιν.
The moral of this fable has a certain contemporary relevance. If a man, running for the office of president, claimed that he never paid less than 13.9% of his income in taxes, someone might quote this fable to urge him to release all of his tax returns and prove his claim.

This proverb is discussed in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1498 (p. 1099), in the form "Hic Rhodus, hic salta," and also in Erasmus, Adagia 3.3.28. Here is Erasmus in my translation:
Hic Rhodus, hic saltus.

Αὐτοῦ Ῥόδος, αὐτοῦ πήδημα, i.e. here's Rhodes, let's see your jump. Commonly said of those who bragged too arrogantly of some business of which there was no proof. Taken from a fable included among those of Aesop. When a certain young man was bragging that he made remarkable jumps when he was in Rhodes, one of his listeners interrupted his story and said, "Here's Rhodes, let's see your jump." It will be suitable, therefore, on an occasion when someone is ordered to demonstrate in fact what he brags he did elsewhere. Ovid [Metamorphoses 13.14-15]: "Let Ulysses tell about the exploits which he does without a witness." Related to this, I think, is what was said by Theocritus in his Wayfarers [Idylls 5.60]: Αὐτόθι μοι ποτέρισδε καὶ αὐτόθι βωκολιάσδευ, i.e. "Compete against me on the spot, and feed your cows on the spot." Some people, when it's safe, are big mouths; when danger is at hand, they turn tail: against these folks this song will be able to be sung. With a similar expression the Greeks, when they demand money to be paid cash down, say Αὐτοῦ καταβαλοῦ, i.e. "Put it down right here." Athenaeus in book six [225 b]: Ἔπειτά γ’ ἅν τἀργύριον αὐτοῦ καταβάλῃς, i.e. "If you put your money down then." Although in printed copies αὐτῷ is found, incorrectly unless I'm mistaken.
Erasmus in the original:
Hic Rhodus, hic saltus

Αὐτοῦ Ῥόδος, αὐτοῦ πήδημα, id est Hic Rhodus, hic saltus. Vulgo jactatum de his, qui sese de negotio quopiam jactarent insolentius, cujus fides non exstaret. Sumptum ex apologo, qui fertur inter Aesopicos. Adulescenti cuidam jactanti sese, quod, dum Rhodi esset, admirabiles fecisset saltus, quidam ex auditoribus interpellato sermone Ἰδοὺ Ῥόδος, inquit, ἰδοὺ πήδημα, id est Ecce Rhodus, ecce saltus. Conveniet igitur, ubi quis jubetur re praestare, quod alibi se fecisse jactat. Ovidius: Sua narret Ulysses, / Quae sine teste gerit. Arbitror huic adfine, quod dictum est apud Theocritum in Hodoeporis:
Αὐτόθι μοι ποτέρισδε καὶ αὐτόθι βωκολιάσδευ, id est
Mecum istic certa, simul istic pascito tauros.
Quidam, cum tutum est, gloriosa loquuntur; ubi praesto periculum, tergiversantur: his occini poterit hoc carmen. Simili figura Graeci, cum jubent protinus numerari praesentem pecuniam, Αὐτοῦ καταβαλοῦ, id est Hoc ipso loco depone. Apud Athenaeum libro sexto:
Ἔπειτά γ’ ἅν τἀργύριον αὐτοῦ καταβάλῃς
Id est Deinde si pecuniam praesentem numeraris. Quamquam in excusis codicibus habetur αὐτῷ, sed mendose, ni fallor.
Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1820), Vorrede, quotes both the Greek and the Latin of this proverb, then continues (tr. T.M. Knox):
To comprehend what is, is the task of philosophy, because what is, is reason. Whatever happens, every individual is a child of his time; so philosophy too is its own time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as absurd to fancy that a philosophy can transcend its contemporary world as it is to fancy that an individual can overleap his own age, jump over Rhodes. If his theory really goes beyond the world as it is and builds an ideal one as it ought to be, that world exists indeed, but only in his opinions, an unsubstantial element where anything you please may, in fancy, be built.

With hardly an alteration, the proverb just quoted would run:
Here is the rose, dance thou here.
Hegel's German:
Das was ist zu begreifen, ist die Aufgabe der Philosophie, denn das, was ist, ist die Vernunft. Was das Individuum betrifft, so ist ohnehin jedes ein Sohn seiner Zeit; so ist auch die Philosophie ihre Zeit in Gedanken erfasst. Es ist eben so thöricht zu wähnen, irgend eine Philosophie gehe über ihre gegenwärtige Welt hinaus, als, ein Individuum überspringe seine Zeit, springe über Rhodus hinaus. Geht seine Theorie in der That darüber hinaus, baut es sich „eine Welt, wie sie sein soll", so existiert sie zwar, aber nur in seinem Meinen,—einem weichen Elemente, dem sich alles Beliebige einbilden lässt.

Mit weniger Veränderung würde jene Redensart lauten:
Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze.
Hegel thus understood the proverb to mean "jump over Rhodes," which is not the meaning of the proverb in Aesop. In his further whimsical modification of the proverb, Ῥόδος the city becomes ῥόδον the flower. I confess that "Here is the rose, dance thou here" doesn't bring to my mind philosophical thoughts. Instead I imagine a sultry woman dancing the tango with a rose in her teeth. Or on second thought, perhaps it does remind me of philosophy, of "posterior analytics".

The dancing in Hegel, although not the rose, may have been inspired by Goethe, Xenien III.2 (my translation):
If you would prove yourself a poet,
you must not praise heroes any more than herdsmen.
Here is Rhodes! Dance, you rascal,
and from this opportunity make a poem.

Willst du dich als Dichter beweisen,
So musst du nicht Helden noch Hirten preisen.
Hier ist Rhodus! Tanze, du Wicht,
Und der Gelegenheit schaff' ein Gedicht!
Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) probably had Hegel in mind when he wrote:
Proletarische Revolutionen dagegen, wie die des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, kritisieren beständig sich selbst, unterbrechen sich fortwährend in ihrem eignen Lauf, kommen auf das scheinbar Vollbrachte zurück, um es wieder von neuem anzufangen, verhöhnen grausam-gründlich die Halbheiten, Schwächen und Erbärmlichkeiten ihrer ersten Versuche, scheinen ihren Gegner nur niederzuwerfen, damit er neue Kräfte aus der Erde sauge und sich riesenhafter ihnen gegenüber wieder aufrichte, schrecken stets von neuem zurück vor der unbestimmten Ungeheuerlichkeit ihrer eigenen Zwecke, bis die Situation geschaffen ist, die jede Umkehr unmöglich macht, und die Verhältnisse selbst rufen
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze!
The rendering in the English translation of Marx's treatise by Daniel De Leon (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1907), pp. 7-8, obscures Marx's dependence on Hegel:
Proletarian revolutions, on the contrary, such as those of the nineteenth century, criticize themselves constantly; constantly interrupt themselves in their own course; come back to what seems to have been accomplished, in order to start over anew; scorn with cruel thoroughness the half measures, weaknesses and meannesses of their first attempts; seem to throw down their adversary only in order to enable him to draw fresh strength from the earth, and again, to rise up against them in more gigantic stature; constantly recoil in fear before the undefined monster magnitude of their own objects—until finally that situation is created which renders all retreat impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out:
"Hic Rhodus, hic salta!"
"Here is Rhodes, leap here!"
The rose and dance are in Marx's German and should appear in an English translation.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Using Cribs

Alec Waugh (1898-1981), The Loom of Youth (1917), Book III, Chapter I:
Carter was construing, and had made a most preposterous howler, it does not matter what. He had learnt the translation in the notes by heart, and quite failed to connect it verbatim with the Greek.

"There now, you see how utterly absurd you are," said the Chief. "You have not taken the trouble to look the words up in a dictionary. Just because you see what you think is a literal translation in the notes. There lies the fatal error of using cribs. Of course when I catch a boy in Shell or IV.A using one, I drop on him not only for slackness but dishonesty. The boy is taking an unfair advantage of the rest and getting promotion undeservedly. But in the Sixth Form you have got beyond that stage. We don't worry much about marks here, so there is nothing immoral in using a crib. It is merely silly. It tends to slack translation which in the end ruins scholarship. And by using the notes as you do, Carter, you are doing the same thing. You really must use more common-sense."


Life in the Country

Isaiah Berlin, letter to his parents (January 31, 1944):
My view on this is that you will not find life in the country lively enough for persons of your temperament. Life in the country in England depends entirely on (a) motor cars (b) rural tastes. As you possess neither, it is my considered view that apart from a weekend cottage or something of that sort life in the country would bore you stiff within a very short time.
Related posts:


A Very Pleasant Country Life

Aristophanes, Clouds 43-46 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Mine was a very pleasant country life, moldy, unswept, aimlessly leisured, abounding in honey bees, sheep, and olive cakes. Then I married...

ἐμοὶ γὰρ ἦν ἄγροικος ἥδιστος βίος,
εὐρωτιῶν, ἀκόρητος, εἰκῇ κείμενος,
βρύων μελίτταις καὶ προβάτοις καὶ στεμφύλοις.
ἔπειτ᾿ ἔγημα...
The rest of this post contains notes to myself on the meaning of ἀκόρητος in line 44.

Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ἀκόρητος, derive the word from κόρις (bed bug, Cimex lectularius) and define it thus: "undisturbed by bugs, Ar.Nu.44 (wrongly expl. by Sch. and Phot.p.63 R. as unswept)." The meaning "unswept" assumes a derivation from κορέω = sweep (cf. κόρημα = broom).

K.J. Dover in his commentary on Clouds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968; rpt. 2003) has no note on these lines or this word. J. van Leeuwen in his commentary (Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff, 1898) ad loc. (p. 16) accepts the derivation from κορέω and rejects the derivation from κόρις:
ἀκόρητος] incomptus, a verbo κορεῖν (-ῆσαι) purgare (cf. Pac. 59 Eup. fr. 157), minime igitur confundendum cum epico adiectivo ἀκόρητος insatiabilis a verbo κορέσαι. Praeterea ad cimices alludi a verbo Holzingeri est opinio parum probabilis.
van Leeuwen refers here to Carolus Holzinger, De Verborum Lusu apud Aristophanem (Vienna: A. Hölder, 1876), pp. 43-44, who was apparently the first to propose the meaning "undisturbed by bugs":
Nub. vs. 44.

Strepsiades Atheniensis propter aes alienum, quod filius conflavit, gravissimis curis vexatus frustra conatur obdormire. Quem ubi animadvertit huc illuc in lecto se versantem, quae causa sit insomniae, filius expergefactus interrogat. Ac primum quidem benigne filio senex respondet lepideque cum illo a feneratoribus sese veluti cimicibus exagitari conqueritur. Tum vero pronubae, quae fuit quondam, male precatus his pergit Strepsiades in vs. 43:
ἐμοὶ γὰρ ἦν ἄγροικος ἥδιστος βίος,
εὐρωτιῶν, ἀκόρητος, εἰκῇ κείμενος...κτλ.
quos versiculos sic vertit Berglerus: Mihi enim rustica vita erat suavissima, squalida, incompta, neglegenter abiecta.

Quodsi ille, quae voluerit intellegi poëta, intellexit, ἀκόρητος adiectivo sordidum, squalidum, impurum, immundum, scopae labore intactum significavit. Atque est profecto haec scholiastarum, Suidae, doctorum virorum omnium sententia. Quorum quamquam nec potuit nec poterit unquam effringere auctoritatem, utrum Hesychius verbi alicuius memoriam nobis prodiderit necne, non tamen vituperabit quisquam, si, quod vocabulum hoc sensu adhibitum est in totius Graecitatis versiculo nullo, ne in Hesychii quidem lexico aliam quam apud Homerum habere notionem meminerimus. Causas vero reputanti mihi, quas insolito ac paene singulari indoctus senex usus esset sermone: 'βίος ἀκόρητος' non poteram non incidere in eum verborum lusum, quem horridiores interdum Musae non semel Aristophanti inspiraverunt. Agedum, paucis rem conficiam! Κόρεις substantivum audiri putabam praeter κορεῖν verbum. Dicit Strepsiades se senem filii gratia obaeratum veluti cimicibus excruciari, ante annos cum caelebs ruri degeret, elegantiore quidem vitae caruisse apparatu (εὐρωτιῶν), sed securum quievisse a cimicum illorum morsibus. An sit forsitan, cui fine quoque huius versus εἰκῇ κείμενος quantum iuvemur pluribus demonstrem? Quid quod senex toto sermone usque ad versum 55 producto prodigam magis rerum omnium uxorem, quam propter alia vitia molestam tristi vultu lamentatur!
Holzinger sees in ἀκόρητος = "undisturbed by bugs" an idyllic contrast to Strepsiades' troubled life after his marriage. Like his wife, his son has expensive tastes, and they have driven Strepsiades into debt. Asked by his son why he's tossing and turning in bed, Strepsiades answers (line 37, tr. Henderson):
There's a bailiff in the bedclothes biting me.

δάκνει μέ τις δήμαρχος ἐκ τῶν στρωμάτων.
Concerning the bailiff, or demarch, K.J. Dover (ad loc.) says "it is a fair inference from this passage that he had the authority to enforce the surrender of securities by a debtor to a private creditor." Aristophanes here puts demarch παρὰ προσδοκίαν for bed bug.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



Menander, fragment 223 Kock, from the Theophoroumene (my translation):
If one of the gods were to approach me and say, "Crato,
when you die, you'll exist again from the beginning,
and you'll be whatever you want, dog, sheep, goat,
man, horse; for you must live twice;
this has been decreed; choose whatever you want,"        5
I think I'd say right away, "Make me anything but a man; his luck is unfair
and he alone of all creatures is badly off.
The most excellent horse has more attentive
care than a lesser breed; if a good dog is born,
it's valued much more than a bad dog;
an excellent cock gets special food,        10
an ignoble cock fears his superior.
But if a man is worthy, well-born, exceedingly
noble, this is no advantage in the present day;
the flatterer fares best of all; second
the swindler, and the malicious man plays the third part.        15
To be a donkey would be better than to see those worse
than oneself live with more distinction."

εἴ τις προσελθών μοι θεῶν λέγοι "Κράτων,
ἐπὰν ἀποθάνῃς, αὖθις ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἔσει·
ἔσει δ' ὅ τι ἂν βούλῃ, κύων, πρόβατον, τράγος,
ἄνθρωπος, ἵππος· δὶς βιῶναι γάρ σε δεῖ·
εἱμαρμένον τοῦτ' ἐστίν· ὅ τι βούλει δ' ἑλοῦ"·        5
"ἅπαντα μᾶλλον", εὐθὺς εἰπεῖν ἂν δοκῶ,
"πόει με πλὴν ἄνθρωπον· ἀδίκως εὐτυχεῖ
κακῶς τε πράττει τοῦτο τὸ ζῷον μόνον.
ὁ κράτιστος ἵππος ἐπιμελεστέραν ἔχει
ἑτέρου θεραπείαν· ἀγαθὸς ἂν γένῃ κύων,        10
ἐντιμότερος εἶ τοῦ κακοῦ κυνὸς πολύ·
ἀλεκτρυὼν γενναῖος ἐν ἑτέρᾳ τροφῇ
ἐστιν, ὁ δ' ἀγεννὴς καὶ δέδιε τὸν κρείττονα.
ἄνθρωπος ἂν ᾖ χρηστός, εὐγενής, σφόδρα
γενναῖος, οὐδὲν ὄφελος ἐν ῷ νῦν γένει·        15
πράττει δ' ὁ κόλαξ ἄριστα πάντων, δεύτερα
ὁ συκοφάντης, ὁ κακοήθης τρίτα λέγει.
ὄνον γενέσθαι κρεῖττον ἢ τοὺς χείρονας
ὁρᾶν ἑαυτοῦ ζῶντας ἐπιφανέστερον."
There is a misprint in the Greek text of line 8 in the Loeb edition of Menander by W.G. Arnott, Vol. II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 70, where πάττει is found instead of the correct πράττει.

A parody of the beginning of Menander's fragment can be seen in a witticism of Vespasian, as reported by Suetonius, Vespasian 23.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Of the freedman Cerylus, who was very rich, and to cheat the privy purse of its dues at his death had begun to give himself out as freeborn, changing his name to Laches:
                "O Laches, Laches,
When you are dead, you'll change your name at once
To Cerylus again."
de Cerylo liberto, qui dives admodum ob subterfugiendum quandoque ius fisci ingenuum se et Lachetem mutato nomine coeperat ferre:
                ὦ Λάχης, Λάχης,
ἐπὰν ἀποθάνῃς, αὖθις ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἔσει
σὺ Κηρύλος.
John F. Moore, "The Originality of Rochester's Satyr against Mankind," Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 58 (1943) 393-401 (at 399-400), sees the influence of Menander's lines on the opening of Rochester's Satyr against Mankind:
Were I, who to my cost already am,
One of those strange, prodigious Creatures Man,
A Spirit free, to chuse for my own share,
What sort of Flesh and Blood I pleas'd to wear,
I'd be a Dog, a Monkey or a Bear,
Or any thing, but that vain Animal,
Who is so proud of being rational.
Related post: Lessons from Animals.


Vile Invention

W.H. Auden (1907-1973), A Curse:
Dark was that day when Diesel
conceived his grim engine that
begot you, vile invention,
more vicious, more criminal
than the camera even,
metallic monstrosity,
bale and bane of our Culture,
chief woe of our Commonweal.

How dare the Law prohibit
hashish and heroin yet
license your use, who inflate
all weak inferior egos?
Their addicts only do harm
to their own lives: you poison
the lungs of the innocent,
your din dithers the peaceful,
and on choked roads hundreds must
daily die by chance-medley.

Nimble technicians, surely
you should hang your heads in shame.
Your wit works mighty wonders,
has landed men on the Moon,
replaced brains by computers,
and can smithy a "smart" bomb.
It is a crying scandal
that you cannot take the time
or be bothered to build us,
what sanity knows we need,
an odorless and noiseless
staid little electric brougham.
Related posts:

Monday, August 20, 2012


Remembering Students' Names

William M. Calder III, "C.M. Bowra on W.S. Barrett: An Unpublished Testimonium," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 45 (2005) 213–217, at n. 6 on p. 215, quoting a remark by Joshua Whatmough to his students in a class on Greek dialectal inscriptions:
Forgive me if I do not remember your names. To remember them would cause me to forget something more important.
P.G. Naiditch, A.E. Housman at University College, London: the Election of 1892 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), pp. 156-157, quoting R.W. Chambers' recollections of a speech delivered by Housman:
When...Housman left us to take the Latin chair at Cambridge, he apologized to his assembled students, past and present, for this lack of memory [of the names of his women students]. A certain Dartmoor shepherd had, just at that time, attained a place in history by getting into prison and out of it. This Dartmoor shepherd knew the faces of all his sheep. Housman admitted that he did not. 'But then', he said, 'if I had remembered all your faces, I might have forgotten more important things'—not, he hastened to explain, things more important in themselves, but more important to him; had he burdened his memory by the distinction between Miss Jones and Miss Robinson, he might have forgotten that between the second and fourth declension.
The second "Dartmoor" in the quotation from Chambers appears as "Dartmouth" in Naiditch's book. I corrected it from R.W. Chambers, Man's Unconquerable Mind: Studies of English Writers, from Bede to A.E. Housman and W.P. Ker (rpt. New York: Haskell House, 1967), p. 368. Thanks to Jim K. for correcting a misprint of my own.


Death of a Classical Scholar

S.P. Zitner (1924-2005), "By His Own Hand," in his Before We Had Words (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002), p. 39:
Desolate and unshaven,
one of his favorite students
told me the news in tears,
slightly misquoting the Greek
dirges for heroes in Homer
his master had taught by heart.

No need to avoid the man now,
or his icy corrections, proclaimed
in the tone of marriages failed;
or avert our glances from his
with their wordless lament
of longing for distant sons.

He had meant this act to atone
for vows unfulfilled or broken,
death as the wages of weakness,
but he set too high a price
on the life he had not led,
and too low on the one he did.
Is it possible to identify the classical scholar whose death is commemorated in this sad and moving poem? Zitner taught at Grinnell College from 1957 to 1969. His time there overlapped with that of John M. Crossett, Jr., who taught classics at Grinnell from 1963 to 1970. Crossett died by his own hand on August 6, 1981, according to this newspaper article (probably from the Herald Register in Grinnell, Iowa). The entry on Crossett by James A. Arieti in Ward W. Briggs, Jr., ed., Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 119-120, says only that "he died unexpectedly". James A. Arieti, "John M. Crossett: A Memoir," in Donald V. Stump et al., edd. Hamartia: The Concept of Error in the Western Tradition. Essays in Honor of John M. Crossett (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1983), pp. 281-287, doesn't mention how Crossett died. Zitner contributed an essay on "Hamlet and Hamartia" to the same Gedenkschrift.

It is at least possible that Zitner's poem was suggested by news of his former colleague's death. 1981 was a tragic year for classical scholarship. Colin MacLeod also died by his own hand later that same year.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Beastly Little Cad

Alec Waugh (1898-1981), The Loom of Youth (1917), Book II, Chapter I:
"You know, these young men aren't what we were," he used to say to his form; "not one of them can write a decent copy of Latin verses. All these Cambridge men are useless—useless!" In his form it was unnecessary to work very hard; but in it the average boy learnt more than he learnt anywhere else. For Macdonald was essentially a scholar; he did not merely mug up notes by German commentators an hour before the lesson. For him the classics lived; and he made his form realise this. To do Aristophanes with him was far better than any music hall. Horace he hated. One day when they were doing Donec gratus eram tibi, he burst out with wrath:

"Horrible little cad he was! Can't you see him? Small man, blue nose with too much drinking. Bibulous little beast. If I had been Lydia I would have smacked his face and told him to go to Chloë. I'd have had done with him. Beastly little cad!"



I just came across a word new to me in Massimo Mandolini Pesaresi, "Canto XXXI: the Giants: Majesty and Terror," in Allen Mandelbaum et al., edd., Lectura Dantis: Inferno. A Canto-By-Canto Commentary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 406-412 (at 410, footnote omitted):
On this ground, we might easily concur with Dronke (and Virgil) that Raphèl mai amècche zabì almi has no meaning and thus rule out all attempts at ascribing these words to a particular language. The interpretation of the giant's cry as a gramelot—a glossolalic invention—of "dazed proto-Semitic" with inevitable comic effects, leaves unexplained the Arabic resonance of Nimrod's words.
Apparently gramelot is more usually spelled grammelot. On possible origins of the word, see a series of posts at Language Log:
Related posts:


He Once Had Hope

George Crabbe, The Borough, Letter III, lines 206-212:
He once had Hope—Hope ardent, lively, light;
His Feelings pleasant, and his Prospects bright:
Eager of fame, he read, he thought, he wrote,
Weigh'd the Greek page, and added Note on Note;
At morn, at evening at his work was he,
And dream'd what his Euripides would be.
Then Care began;—he lov'd, he woo'd, he wed...
Jerome, Against Jovinian 1.47, quoting or paraphrasing Theophrastus (tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
A wise man therefore must not take a wife. For in the first place his study of philosophy will be hindered, and it is impossible for anyone to attend to his books and his wife.

non est ergo uxor ducenda sapienti. primum enim impediri studia philosophiae, nec posse quemquam libris et uxori pariter inservire.

Saturday, August 18, 2012



A few days ago I mentioned that a book containing Folengo's macaronic poetry was among Primo Levi's indispensable possessions. By a happy coincidence, a kind reader just gave me a copy of Umberto Eco, The Infinity of Lists, tr. Alastair McEwen (New York: Rizzoli, 2009), in which I find the following on pp. 245, 249 (ellipsis in original):
A phantasmagorical collection of all forms of devilish ugliness is found in Baldus. Written by Teofilo Folengo under the pseudonym of Merlin Cocai, Baldus is a heroic-comic, grotesque, goliardic poem, and is both a parody of Dante's Comedy and a forerunner of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel. Among the main character's and his friends' various picaresque adventures there is, in the second part (Book 19), a battle with a host of devils, who appear in a collage of animal forms: bat, dog, goose, serpent, ox, ass, billy goat, with tusks, blood dripping down their breasts, fetid slobber, and sulphurous emissions from the sphincter. In the end Baldus and his friends chop the devils into such small pieces than [sic, read that] when Beelzebub tries to reassemble the one hundred and seventy thousand chunks he has been reduced to, he glues together foxes without tails, bears and pigs with horns, mastiffs with three paws, bulls with four horns, wolves' mouths in giant' heads, birds with the beak of an owl and the limbs of a frog...It's not difficult to compare in this collage, capable of producing an infinity of creatures, to verbal equivalent of Hieronymous Bosch's visions of hell—and how Bosch's infernos do not represent a simple taste for the fantastic and the teratological but are an allusion to the vices of the day, the corruption of social mores, and the disintegration of a world.
One of the passages referred to by Eco (Baldus, Book XIX, lines 96-111) can be found in Teofilo Folengo, Baldo, ed. and tr. Ann E. Mullaney, Volume 2: Books XIII-XXV (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 201:
Four enormous horns stand up on his head: two cover his ears like those on a ram, two stick straight up like those on a bull. His muzzle is like that of a Molossian dog; from his mouth fangs hang out on both sides, horrible to see. No griffin has a nose nor any harpy a beak as hard and as solid and as good for piercing armor. His beard, like that of a billy goat, befouls his chest with rotten blood and reeks with the foul stench of his slobber. He turns his ears—which are longer than an ass's—this way and that, and from his cavernous eye sockets he brandishes two eyes of burning coal that block out the stars with their fierce glares. The unmentionable part in front is the head of a serpent; and the unmentionable part in back wags a nasty tail. His spindly legs are borne on goosefeet, and he spews forth an odor of sulfur from his scrawny butt.
Here are Folengo's ipsissima verba, a curious combination of Latin and Italian (Mullaney, p. 200):
Quattuor ingentes stant alto in vertice cornae,
binae coperiunt montonis instar orecchias,
binae incastrati surgunt bovis instar aguzzae.
Mostazzus canis est Morlacchi, cuius ab ore
hinc atque hinc sannae vista panduntur acerba.
Non griphonus habet nasum, harpyaque becchum,
tam durum, sodumque, aptumque forare corazzas.
Barba velut becchi marzo de sanguine pectus
concacat, et magno foetet puzzore bavarum.
Plus asini longas huc illuc voltat orecchias,
deque cavernosis oculis duo brasida vibrat
lumina, quae diris obscurant sydera sguardis.
Serpentis caput est pars vergognosa davantum,
codazzamque menat pars vergognosa dedretum.
Gambae subtiles pedibus portantur ochinis,
sulphureumque magro culamina spudat odorem.
For another taste of Folengo, see this post by fellow blogger Tom Turdman.

A detail from Hieronymus Bosch, Visions of the Afterlife

Friday, August 17, 2012


Ghosts of Bygone Meals

A philosopher writes:
One who lives to eat is almost as ridiculous as one who drives a car to pump gas into its tank. In both cases a vehicle; in both cases fuel; in both cases means-end confusion.
I plead guilty to means-end confusion. I live to eat. I recognize a kindred spirit in that Philoxenus described by Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 3.2.12 (1231a), who wished for a long gullet like a crane, the better to savor his food. In philosophy, my master is Epicurus. I see a reflection of myself in this description of a custom house inspector, from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter:
His gourmandism was a highly agreeable trait; and to hear him talk of roast meat was as appetizing as a pickle or an oyster. As he possessed no higher attribute, and neither sacrificed nor vitiated any spiritual endowment by devoting all his energies and ingenuities to subserve the delight and profit of his maw, it always pleased and satisfied me to hear him expatiate on fish, poultry, and butcher's meat, and the most eligible methods of preparing them for the table. His reminiscences of good cheer, however ancient the date of the actual banquet, seemed to bring the savour of pig or turkey under one's very nostrils. There were flavours on his palate that had lingered there not less than sixty or seventy years, and were still apparently as fresh as that of the mutton chop which he had just devoured for his breakfast. I have heard him smack his lips over dinners, every guest at which, except himself, had long been food for worms. It was marvellous to observe how the ghosts of bygone meals were continually rising up before him; not in anger or retribution, but as if grateful for his former appreciation, and seeking to reduplicate an endless series of enjoyment, at once shadowy and sensual: a tenderloin of beef, a hind-quarter of veal, a spare-rib of pork, a particular chicken, or a remarkably praiseworthy turkey, which had perhaps adorned his board in the days of the elder Adams, would be remembered; while all the subsequent experience of our race, and all the events that brightened or darkened his individual career, had gone over him with as little permanent effect as the passing breeze.

Luis Meléndez, Still Life with Bread, Ham, Cheese, and Vegetables


The Wisdom of India

Theodore Dalrymple, "India is heading for Mars: it doesn’t need British aid money to pay the bills," The Telegraph (August 16, 2012):
[O]ne manifestation of the underlying wisdom of India is its low tally of medals at the Olympic Games, only six (none gold) when it has a sixth of the world’s population. Its young people have more important things to do than put the shot or throw the javelin.


Room for Books

Yuan Mei (1716–1797), Book Storage, tr. J.D.Schmidt:
I collect books just as others store grain,
And bitterly complain I don't have enough granaries.
In order to make space for a myriad ancient men,
I end up building three more rooms.
The books then ask the man who stores them:
"When will you have time to read us, sir?"
Alyssa Ford, "A Remodel for the Books," Minneapolis Star Tribune (August 21, 2010):
A St. Louis Park bibliophile and his wife bought the house next door to tear it down and expand their own. Instead, they kept both houses, joined the two structures and turned an entire house into a library.

The Ainsworth house in St. Louis Park was being slowly consumed by books.

Massive bookshelves covered an entire wall in the living room. Another room upstairs had almost no visible wall space. Nearly every room in the house was outfitted with a bookcase, including the kitchen. Still, Louis Ainsworth's book collection threatened to overrun the property.

"What Louis couldn't fit on the shelves, he kept in cardboard boxes around the house," says Sue Ainsworth, the book collector's ever-patient wife. "I would tell him, 'Louis, why do you need 500 books on the Middle Ages?'"

When the Ainsworths met their breaking point, they did something even bibliophiles might consider drastic: They bought the house next door, added a two-story atrium to bridge the 15-foot gap between the houses, and converted most of the neighbor's house into a two-story library with cherry shelves, a mezzanine, fireplace and a rolling library ladder.
When Mrs. Laudator read this article in the newspaper, she suggested that we might want to do something similar. But our house doesn't really have all that many books. Here, by way of comparison, is just a small part of the collection of a friend:

Or consider this, a tiny fraction of the books owned by another friend:

Thursday, August 16, 2012


For Every Man in His Work

Wendell Berry, "God and Country," in What Are People For? (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990), pp. 95-102 (at 101):
As a measure of how far we have "progressed" in our industrial economy, let me quote a part of a sentence from the prayer "For Every Man in His Work" from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer: "Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men." What is astonishing about that prayer is that it is a relic. Throughout the history of the industrial revolution, it has become steadily less prayable. The industrial nations are now divided, almost entirely, into a professional or executive class that has not the least intention of working in truth, beauty, and righteousness, as God's servants, or to the benefit of their fellow men, and an underclass that has no choice in the matter. Truth, beauty, and righteousness now have, and can have, nothing to do with the economic life of most people.


St. Wulfstan's Curse

William of Malmesbury, Life of Wulfstan 2.17, in William of Malmesbury, Saints' Lives: Lives of SS. Wulfstan, Dunstan, Patrick, Benignus and Indract, edd. M. Winterbottom and E.N. Thomson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), English translation on pp. 95 and 97, footnotes omitted:
Wulfstan's people were especially concerned to avoid his being provoked by any fault of theirs into irritation or harsh language. Not that he fell readily into either, or if he ever did it was for some good and clear reason, as the following case shows. One Ælfsige, who had been a thegn of King Edward, invited Wulfstan to his vill of Longney on the Severn to dedicate a church. He never made difficulties about something like that, but when he arrived he found that there was not enough room for the people who had, as usual, come in droves to hear him. 2. What is more, there was in the churchyard a nut tree which provided shade with its spreading leaves, but whose luxuriant branches denied light to the church. The bishop summoned his host and gave orders for the felling of the tree: it was only proper that, if nature had not provided enough room, he should supplement it by his own efforts, and certainly not take over for his own low pursuits space that nature had given—for the man had the habit of spending leisure time under the tree, especially on a summer's day, dicing or feasting, or indulging in some other kind of jollification. That was why the man, far from obeying humbly, obstinately refused, and fell, as he later admitted, into such impudent madness that he was prepared to see the church undedicated rather than have the tree cut down. 3. The saint, in no small degree provoked by this impertinence, hurled the spear of his curse at the tree. From the wound it gradually grew barren, failed in its fruit, and shrivelled up from the root. This sterility so irked the owner that in his annoyance he ordered the felling of a tree he had jealously owned and dearly longed to keep(?). The bishop told the story later to Coleman, when he returned to the vill, and showed him the spot in proof of the miracle. And Coleman always maintained and expressed the firm view that nothing could be more bitter than the curse of St. Wulfstan, or more agreeable than his blessing.
God forbid that anyone should spend leisure time under a tree, "especially on a summer's day, dicing or feasting, or indulging in some other kind of jollification."

Thanks very much to Andrew Rickard for his help.



Indispensable Possessions

Primo Levi (1919-1987), The Periodic Table, tr. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Schocken Books, 1984), p. 111:
The very next day I quit the mine and moved to Milan with the few things I felt were indispensable: my bike, Rabelais, the Macaronaeae, Moby Dick translated by Pavese, a few other books, my pickax, climbing rope, logarithmic ruler, and recorder.

L’indomani stesso mi licenziai dalle Cave, e mi trasferii a Milano con le poche cose che sentivo indispensabili: la bicicletta, Rabelais, le Macaroneae, Moby Dick tradotto da Pavese ed altri pochi libri, la piccozza, la corda da roccia, il regolo logaritmico e un flauto dolce.
I think that a "logarithmic ruler" is what we more commonly call a "slide rule" in English. "The Macaronaeae" also requires a gloss, at least for me. Apparently this refers to the macaronic verse of Rabelais' contemporary Teofilo Folengo (1491-1544), also known by his pseudonym Merlinus Coccaius (or Merlino Coccajo or Merlin Cocai).

Related posts:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


A Book Abounding in Kindly Twinkles

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Alone (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1922), pp. 62-64:
Here I lie and study an old travel-book. I mean to press it to the last drop.

One seldom presses books out, nowadays. The mania for scraps of one kind or another, the general cheapening of printed matter, seem to have dulled that faculty and given us a scattered state of mind. We browse dispersedly, in goatish fashion, instead of nibbling down to the root like that more conscientious quadruped whose name, if I mentioned it, would degrade the metaphor. Devouring so much, so hastily, so irreverentially, how shall a man establish close contact with the mind of him who writes, and impregnate himself with his peculiar outlook to such an extent as to be able to take on, if only momentarily, a colouring different from his own? It is a task requiring submissiveness and leisure.

And yet, what could be more interesting than really to observe things and men from the angle of another individual, to install oneself within his mentality and make it one's habitation? To sit in his bones—what glimpses of unexplored regions! Were a man to know what his fellow truly thinks; could he feel in his own body those impulses which drive the other to his idiomatic acts and words—what an insight he would gain! Morally, it might well amount to "tout comprendre, c'est ne rien pardonner"; but who troubles about pardoning or condemning? Intellectually, it would be a feast. Thus immersed into an alien personality, a man would feel as though he lived two lives, and possessed two characters at the same time. One's own life, prolonged to an age, could never afford such unexpected revelations.

The thing can be done, up to a point, with patient humility; for everybody writes himself down more or less, though not everybody is worth the trouble of deciphering.

I purpose to apply this method; to squeeze the juice, the life-blood, out of what some would call a rather dry Scotch traveller. I read his book in England for the first time two years ago, and have brought it here with a view to further dissection. Would I had known of its existence five years earlier! Strange to say, despite my deplorable bookishness (vide Press) this was not the case; I could never ascertain either the author's name or the title of his volume, though I had heard about him, rather vaguely, long before that time. It was Dr. Dohrn of the Naples Aquarium who said to me in those days:

"Going to the South? Whatever you do, don't forget to read that book by an old Scotch clergyman. He ran all over the country with a top-hat and an umbrella, copying inscriptions. He was just your style: perfectly crazy."

Flattered at the notion of being likened to a Scottish divine, I made all kinds of inquiries—in vain. I abandoned hope of unearthing the top-hatted antiquarian and had indeed concluded him to be a myth, when a friend supplied me with what may be absurdly familiar to less bookish people: "The Nooks and By-ways of Italy." By Craufurd Tait Ramage, LL.D. Liverpool, 1868.

A glance sufficed to prove that this Ramage belonged to the brotherhood of David Urquhart, Mure of Caldwell, and the rest of them. Where are they gone, those candid inquirers, so full of gentlemanly curiosity, so informative and yet shrewdly human; so practical—think of Urquhart's Turkish Baths—though stuffed with whimsicality and abstractions? Where is the spirit that gave them birth?

One grows attached to these "Nooks and By-ways." An honest book, richly thoughtful, and abounding in kindly twinkles.


An Ancient Drinking Song

Theognis 757-768 (my translation):
May Zeus, dwelling in the sky, over this city hold
forever his right hand for its safety,
and also the other deathless happy gods; besides, may Apollo
make straight our tongues and minds;    760
and may the lyre and flute again utter a holy song;
and after making libations to the gods,
let us drink, speaking graceful words to one another,
without any fear of the war of the Medes.
Thus it is better to be: with a cheerful heart,    765
apart from cares, to spend time merrily,
enjoying ourselves; and to keep far away evil dooms,
accursed old age and death's end.
Greek text from M.L. West, ed., Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum Cantati (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971; rpt. 1998), I, 210:
Ζεὺς μὲν τῆσδε πόληος ὑπειρέχοι αἰθέρι ναίων
  αἰεὶ δεξιτέρην χεῖρ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀπημοσύνῃ,
ἄλλοι τ᾽ ἀθάνατοι μάκαρες θεοί· αὐτὰρ Ἀπόλλων
  ὀρθώσαι γλῶσσαν καὶ νόον ἡμέτερον·    760
φόρμιγξ δ᾽ αὖ φθέγγοιθ᾽ ἱερὸν μέλος ἠδὲ καὶ αὐλός·
  ἡμεῖς δὲ σπονδὰς θεοῖσιν ἀρεσσάμενοι
πίνωμεν, χαρίεντα μετ᾽ ἀλλήλοισι λέγοντες,
  μηδὲν τὸν Μήδων δειδιότες πόλεμον.
ὧδ᾽ εἶναι ἄμεινον, ἐύφρονα θυμὸν ἔχοντας    765
  νόσφι μεριμνάων εὐφροσύνως διάγειν
τερπομένους· τηλοῦ δὲ κακὰς ἀπὸ κῆρας ἀμῦναι,
  γῆράς τ᾽ οὐλόμενον καὶ θανάτοιο τέλος.
West splits this in two (757-764, 765-768), but others think it is a single poem.

Here are some notes to myself on this drinking song, all based on information previously discovered and collected by others.

On prayers for protection of the city in drinking songs (Theognis 757-760), see two skolia (Poetae Melici Graeci 884 and 885 Page, my translations):

Poetae Melici Graeci 884:
Pallas Tritogeneia, lady Athena,
keep this city and citizens upright,
apart from pains and factions
and untimely deaths, you and your father.

Παλλὰς Τριτογένει', ἄνασσ' Ἀθάνα,
ὄρθου τήνδε πόλιν τε καὶ πολίτας,
ἄτερ ἀλγέων καὶ στάσεων
καὶ θανάτων ἀώρων, σύ τε καὶ πατήρ.
Poetae Melici Graeci 885:
I sing of wealth's mother, Olympian
Demeter, in the seasons when garlands are worn,
and you, child of Zeus, Persephone;
hail, and guard well this city.

Πλούτου μητέρ', Ὀλυμπίαν ἀείδω
Δήμητρα στεφανηφόροις ἐν ὥραις,
σέ τε, παῖ Διός Φερσεφόνη·
χαίρετον, εὖ δὲ τάνδ' ἀμφέπετον πόλιν.
Because I don't have access to D.L. Page, ed., Poetae Melici Graeci (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), I've taken the Greek texts of these skolia from Herbert Weir Smyth, ed., Greek Melic Poets (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1900), p. 148.

On indifference to wars and rumors of wars in sympotic contexts (Theognis 764), see Horace, Odes 1.26.1-6 and 2.11.1-4 (tr. Niall Rudd).

Horace, Odes 1.26.1-6:
As a friend of the Muses, I shall fling gloom and fear to the turbulent winds to carry them into the Cretan sea; I am singularly indifferent about what king of a frozen region under the Bear is causing alarm, what it is that's frightening Tiridates.

Musis amicus tristitiam et metus
tradam protervis in mare Creticum
    portare ventis, quis sub Arcto
        rex gelidae metuatur orae,
quid Tiridaten terreat, unice
Horace, Odes 2.11.1-4:
Hirpinian Quinctius, leave off asking what the war-mongering Cantabrian is plotting and the Scythian, who is separated from us by the barrier of the Adriatic...

Quid bellicosus Cantaber et Scythes,
Hirpine Quincti, cogitet Hadria
    divisus obiecto, remittas

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