Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Laymen and Professional Scholars

H.R. Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), History Professional and Lay: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered Before the University of Oxford on 12 November 1957 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), pp. 15-16:
Consider the case of classical studies. A century ago our ancestors knew far less than we can know (if we want to know) about the civilization of Greece and Rome; and yet somehow, in spite of the more copious fountains which now break out before our feet, we seem strangely exempt from thirst. The study of the classics is now described as 'too narrow'. I do not believe that a study which was wide enough to educate Gladstone and Derby and Asquith and Curzon is too narrow for us. What has happened is not that the subject has lost its value but that a humane subject has been treated as an exact science: professional classical scholars have assumed that they are teaching only other professional classical scholars; consequently they have killed the classics. When I see a Greek tragedy, one of the greatest works of human literature, a tragedy no longer than a single book of Paradise Lost, put out into the world with a commentary of three large octavo volumes round its neck, weighing in all nearly half a stone, I fear the poor thing will not get far: it will languish and die, die of strangulation and neglect in some corner of a forgotten bookshelf. If an interest in the classics survives today, apart from the subsidies which they enjoy from the past, that may well be due rather to the enterprise of Sir Allen Lane and his Pelican Books, where they appear, purged of otiose learning, reanimated by lay interest, than to the heavy cossetting of professional scholars. Similarly, unless we take heed, there is a danger that philosophers may kill philosophy, philologists literature, and historians history. Armies of research students, organised by a general staff of professors, may in time have mapped out the entire history of the world. We may know, or be able to know, what every unimportant minor official in a government office did every hour of his day, what every peasant paid for his plot in a long extinct village, how every backbencher voted on a private bill in an eighteenth-century parliament. Our libraries may groan beneath volumes on medieval chamber administration and bed-chamber administration. But to what end? Just as the layman now turns aside from the great civilised nations of antiquity whose living literature has been stifled with dead learning, and goes a-whoring after the barbarous despotisms of ancient Assyria or the savage empires of pre-Columbian America—peoples of bloody history and no literature at all—so he will turn aside from us and seek interest and enlightenment elsewhere. He may not seek it in such edifying sources; but it will not be for us to complain, who will have driven him away.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who adds: "The 3-vol. commentary can only be [Eduard] Fraenkel's Agamemnon. C.F. Russo said that Giorgio Pasquali used to tell his pupils (Russo was one of them) 'If you have lost your handkerchief, try looking in Fraenkel's Agamemnon. Everything is there!'"


Suddenly Rich

K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1974; rpt. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1994), pp. 172-173 (footnote omitted):
People who acquired wealth do not seem to have been admired by the Greeks for commercial acumen, inventiveness, flair for the exploitation of opportunities, or the single-minded pursuit of profit which causes the self-made millionaire to be an object of admiration in some modern societies. In comedy, some use is made of the assumption that dishonest men become rich and honest men remain poor; this is the theme of Aristophanes' Wealth, and cf. Men. Colax 43, 'No one gets rich quickly by being honest'. Jealousy enters into this view, fortified by the resentment of injustice which we feel when we compare bad rich people with good poor people, and in the case of the Greeks the comparative absence of innovation in the material conditions of life entailed also an absence of people who could claim to have benefited the population by inventing, producing and marketing something new and useful.
The Kolax quotation (Οὐδεὶς ἐπλούτησε ταχέως δίκαιος ὤν) is missing from Dover's index of "Greek Authors and Works Cited" (it should be on p. 325). Stobaeus quotes it under the heading περὶ ἀδικίας καὶ φιλαργυρίας καὶ πλεονεξίας. It is discussed by Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1807 (p. 1320), where however the reference to Plato, "Les Lois, 7, 743a" is mistaken—743a is in book 5 of Plato's Laws.

On resentment against the suddenly rich, see Demosthenes 10.68 (not in Tosi, tr. J.H. Vince):
Indeed, of these politicians, some who were beggars are suddenly growing rich, some unknown to name and fame are now men of honour and distinction; while you, on the contrary, have passed from honour to dishonour, from affluence to destitution.

καὶ γάρ τοι τούτων μὲν ἐκ πτωχῶν ἔνιοι ταχὺ πλούσιοι γίγνονται, καὶ ἐξ ἀνωνύμων καὶ ἀδόξων ἔνδοξοι καὶ γνώριμοι, ὑμεῖς δὲ τοὐναντίον ἐκ μὲν ἐνδόξων ἄδοξοι, ἐκ δ᾽ εὐπόρων ἄποροι.
In Latin, the saying appears, almost as a translation of Menander, in Publilius Syrus 329 Ribbeck: Repente dives factus est nemo bonus (or, in Pithoeus' transposition, Repente dives nemo factus est bonus). A few parallels not in Tosi:

Cicero, Philippics 2.27.65 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Thus, having plunged suddenly into the wealth of such a man, he wildly rejoiced like a character in a farce, "beggar one day, rich the next."

in eius igitur viri copias cum se subito ingurgitasset, exsultabat gaudio, persona de mimo, "modo egens, repente dives."
Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 2.1.28 (quoting Rufus Vibius, tr. Michael Winterbottom):
You shouldn't imagine riches suit everybody. Nothing is more indecent than a nouveau riche.

non est quod putes omnibus divitias convenire: nihil enim nocentius novicio divite est.
Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus 22.1.14 (on Agathocles, my translation):
Not satisfied with having suddenly become rich instead of poor, he engaged in piracy against his homeland.

nec contentus quod ex inope repente dives factus esset, piraticam adversus patriam exercuit.
Related post: Mma Potokwane and Saint Jerome.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Whatever They Don't Like is a Heresy

Erasmus, letter to Albert of Brandenburg (November 1, 1519), tr. Robert Blackley Drummond:
Now the charge of heresy is another thing, and yet for any light cause they take the cry on their lips, 'It is a heresy.' Formerly he was considered a heretic who dissented from the Gospels, from the Articles of Faith, or from those doctrines which enjoyed equal authority with them. Now if any one dissents from Aquinas he is denounced as a heretic; nay, he is so if he dissents from any piece of reasoning which any sophist fabricated yesterday in the schools. Whatever they don't like, whatever they don't understand, is a heresy; to know Greek is a heresy; to speak with a good accent is a heresy; whatever they do not do themselves is a heresy. I confess it is a grave crime to corrupt the faith, but every subject ought not to be made a question of faith.

Nunc alia res est haereseos crimen, et tamen ob quamlibet levem causam, hoc statim habent in ore, 'Haeresis est, haeresis est.' Olim haereticus habebatur qui dissentiebat ab Evangeliis, ab articulis fidei, aut iis que cum his parem obtinerent authoritatem. Nunc si quis usquam dissentiat a Thoma, vocatur haereticus; imo si quis a commenticia rations, quam heri sophista quispiam in scholis commentus est. Quicquid non placet, quicquid non intelligunt, haeresis est. Graece scire haeresis est. Expolite loqui haeresis est. Quicquid ipsi non faciunt, haeresis est. Fateor grave crimen esse vitiatae fidei, sed non oportet quidvis trahere in quaestionem fidei.
Sancte Erasme, ora pro nobis!


Contact Information

During the past couple of weeks, Yahoo! Mail's "Temporary error 15" has practically become "Permanent error 15" for me, even when I carefully follow the troubleshooting and repair instructions.

For those readers who send me emails, please replace by, as I also have a Gmail account which works fine.

A friend reported this morning that an email sent to my Yahoo! Mail address was kicked back, so apparently there are problems not only on the receiving side but also on the sending side of what Yahoo! keeps calling "the best web-based email." On the other hand, it's free!


More on Aurum ex Stercore

This is an update on Aurum ex Stercore, with help from readers of this blog.

Jane Seeber notes that the proverb aurum ex stercore is embedded in the title of a work by Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611–1660), his Ekskybalauron. Urquhart's coinage is derived from Greek ἐκ (ek) = "out of", σκύβαλον (skybalon) = "dung", and Latin aurum = "gold". The full title is Ekskybalauron: or, The discovery of a most exquisite jewel, more precious then diamonds inchased in gold, the like whereof was never seen in any age; found in the kennel of Worcester-streets, the day after the fight, and six before the autumnal aequinox, anno 1651. Serving in this place, to frontal a vindication of the honour of Scotland, from that infamy, whereinto the rigid Presbyterian party of that nation, out of their coveteousness and ambition, most dissembledly hath involved it.

Alistair Ian Blyth points out that Henry Fielding (1707-1754) alludes to the proverb in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Book VI, Chapter I:
In reality, I am inclined to suspect, that all these several Finders of Truth are the very identical Men, who are by others called the Finders of Gold. The Method used in both these Searches after Truth and after Gold, being, indeed, one and the same, viz. the searching, rummaging, and examining into a nasty Place; indeed, in the former Instances, into the nastiest of all Places, A BAD MIND.

But though, in this Particular, and perhaps in their Success, the Truth-finder, and the Gold-finder, may very properly be compared together; yet in Modesty, surely, there can be no Comparison between the two; for who ever heard of a Gold-finder that had the Impudence or Folly to assert, from the ill Success of his Search, that there was no such thing as Gold in the World? Whereas the Truth-finder, having raked out that Jakes his own Mind, and being there capable of tracing no Ray of Divinity, nor any thing virtuous, or good, or lovely, or loving, very fairly, honestly, and logically concludes, that no such things exist in the whole Creation.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) cites this passage under gold-finder, sense 1 ("One whose occupation it is to find gold"), but Fielding's mention of jakes makes it more likely that the word is meant in OED's sense 2 ("A scavenger"). "Scavenger" here is a euphemism—all five of the OED's citations for sense 2 evidently refer to "one who empties privies" (The Century Dictionary, s.v. gold-finder). The last OED citation for sense 2 is G.F. Northall, Warwickshire Word-Book (London: English Dialect Society, 1896), p. 94:
Gold-dust, sb. Ordure. Wright, Uriconium, 1872, footnote, p. 146, remarks that the Anglo-Saxon Vocabularies have preserved the name gold-hord-hus, a gold treasure-house or gold treasury, for a Jakes; and remarks on its connexion with the name gold-finder or gold-farmer, given as late as the seventeenth century to the cleaners of privies, and which still lingers in Shrewsbury.

Ian Jackson sent me a copy of Georges Folliet, "La fortuna du dit de Virgile Aurum colligere de stercore dans la littérature chrétienne," Sacris Erudiri. A Journal on the Inheritance of Ancient and Medieval Christianity 41 (2002) 31-53. Folliet lists 50 occurrences of the proverb (with slight adaptations) among 36 writers from the 4th to the 19th centuries. He also carefully analyzes the uses to which the proverb has been put.

Two of the authors cited by Folliet are Greek—Theophilus of Alexandria and John Chrysostom. The use of the proverb by Theophilus of Alexandria occurs in a letter extant only in a Latin translation by St. Jerome, quoted in my earlier post. Here are the examples from John Chrysostom:

On Matthew, Homily 39.3 (Patrologia Graeca 57.437, tr. "by members of the English Church"):
Let us keep the feast then continually, and do no evil thing; for this is a feast: and let our spiritual things be made intense, while our earthly things give place: and let us rest a spiritual rest, refraining our hands from covetousness; withdrawing our body from our superfluous and unprofitable toils, from such as the people of the Hebrews did of old endure in Egypt. For there is no difference between us who are gathering gold, and those that were bound in the mire, working at those bricks, and gathering stubble, and being beaten. Yea, for now too the devil bids us make bricks, as Pharaoh did then. For what else is gold, than mire? And what else is silver, than stubble? Like stubble, at least, it kindles the flame of desire; like mire, so does gold defile him that possesses it.

Ἑορτάζωμεν τοίνυν διηνεκῶς, καὶ μηδὲν πονηρὸν πράττωμεν· τοῦτο γὰρ ἑορτή· ἀλλ' ἐπιτεινέσθω μὲν τὰ πνευματικά, καὶ παραχωρείτω τὰ ἐπίγεια, καὶ ἀργῶμεν ἀργίαν πνευματικήν, τὰς χεῖρας πλεονεξίας ἀφιστῶντες, τὸ σῶμα τῶν περιττῶν καὶ ἀνονήτων ἀπαλλάττοντες καμάτων, καὶ ὧν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ ὑπέμεινε τότε ὁ τῶν Ἑβραίων δῆμος. Οὐδὲν γὰρ διαφέρομεν οἱ χρυσίον συνάγοντες τῶν τῷ πηλῷ προσδεδεμένων, καὶ τὴν πλίνθον ἐκείνην ἐργαζομένων, καὶ ἄχυρα συλλεγόντων, καὶ μαστιζομένων. Καὶ γὰρ καὶ νῦν ὁ διάβολος ἐπιτάττει πλινθουργεῖν, καθάπερ τότε ὁ Φαραώ. Τί γάρ ἐστιν ἄλλο τὸ χρυσίον ἢ πηλός; τί δὲ ἄλλο τὸ ἀργύριον ἢ ἄχυρον; Ὡς ἄχυρα γοῦν ἀνάπτει τῆς ἐπιθυμίας τὴν φλόγα, ὡς πηλὸς οὕτω ῥυποῖ τὸν ἔχοντα ὁ χρυσός.
Homily on the Canaanite woman (Patrologia Graeca 52.451, sometimes attributed to Eusebius, my translation):
"And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He saith unto him, Follow me." [Matthew 9:9] O power of speech! The fish-hook went in, and He made the prisoner of war a soldier, He made mud into gold. The fish-hook went in, and at once he stood up and followed Him.

"Παράγων, φησὶν, ὁ Ἰησοῦς, εἶδε Ματθαῖον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον καθήμενον, καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· Ἀκολούθει μοι." [Matthew 9:9] Ὢ λόγου δύναμις· εἰσῆλθε τὸ ἄγκιστρον, καὶ τὸν αἰχμάλωτον στρατιώτην ἐποίησε, τὸν πηλὸν χρυσὸν εἰργάσατο· εἰσῆλθε τὸ ἄγκιστρον, καὶ εὐθέως ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ.

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Monday, October 29, 2012



While hunting for images of arboricide, I came across a striking painting by Émile Bin (1825-1897), Le Bûcheron et l'Hamadryade Aïgeïros (1870), now in the Musée d'art Thomas-Henry in Cherbourg-Octeville:

The tree nymph Aigeiros apparently appears only once in classical literature, in Athenaeus 3.78 b (tr. Charles Burton Gulick, emphasis added):
But the Epic poet Pherenicus, a Heracleot by birth, declares that the fig was named from Syke, the daughter of Oxylus; for Oxylos, son of Oreius, married his sister Hamadryas and begot, among others, Carya (walnut), Balanus (oak-nut), Craneia (cornel), Morea (mulberry), Aegeirus (poplar), Ptelea (elm), Ampelus (vine), and Sykê (fig tree); and these are called Hamadryad ("tree") nymphs, and from them many trees derive their names.

Φερένικος δ᾽ ὁ ἐποποιός, Ἡρακλεώτης δὲ γένος, ἀπὸ Συκῆς τῆς Ὀξύλου θυγατρὸς προσαγορευθῆναι: Ὄξυλον γὰρ τὸν Ὀρείου Ἁμαδρυάδι τῇ ἀδελφῇ μιγέντα μετ᾽ ἄλλων γεννῆσαι Καρύαν, Βάλανον, Κράνειαν, Μορέαν, Αἴγειρον, Πτελέαν, Ἄμπελον, Συκῆν καὶ ταύτας Ἁμαδρυάδας νύμφας καλεῖσθαι καὶ ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν πολλὰ τῶν δένδρων προσαγορεύεσθαι.
Bin may have gotten the idea for this painting from his fellow artist Paul Milliet (1844-1918). See a letter from Alix Payen to her brother Paul Milliet (January 1, 1874), in Paul Milliet, Une Famille de Républicains Fouriéristes: Les Milliet, t. II, 2e édition (Paris: Chez l'Auteur, 1916), p. 179:
Je voudrais que tu voies les dessins que Louise a faits chez Flandrin; je t'assure que c'est très, très bien. Elle travaille beaucoup et avec ardeur, mais elle est impayable : Elle a porté des dessins à M. Bin, mais elle ne voulait pas lui montrer une composition, parce qu'elle avait peur qu'il ne lui prît son idée, comme il a fait d'ailleurs pour ton hamadryade. Tu la reconnais bien là.
On Milliet's Hamadryad, see id., t. I (1915), pp. 349-351 and pl. XXVII. I owe my knowledge of the Milliet connection to the French Wikipedia article on Émile Bin.



A Hundred Years Ago

Helen Choate Bell (1830-1918), quoted in Paulina Cony Drown, Mrs. Bell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931), p. 61 (on the presidential election of 1912, brackets in original):
'Do you not think it is a disgusting spectacle, two fat bawling men [Roosevelt and Taft] giving each other the lie all over creation and screaming to be President?....I wish the two fighting cocks would now leave town, then we would have the hose turned on and everything all cleaned up and take the cotton out of our ears and get back to where we were.'
Plus ça change, plus ça reste la même chose.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Maple Leaves

Du Mu (803-852), View from the Cliffs, tr. Kenneth Rexroth:
I climb the cold mountain by
A steep path through the rocks,
To my little cabin in
The place where the clouds are born.
I halt my cart and look out
Over the forest of maples
In the sunset. The frosted
Leaves are more brilliant than
Any flowers of Spring.

Ikeno Taiga, Halting a Carriage among Maple Trees

Text from Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 74; image from Burglind Jungmann, "Confusing Traditions: Elements of the Korean an Kyŏn School in Early Japanese Nanga Landscape Painting," Artibus Asiae Vol. 55, No. 3/4 (1995) 303-318, figure 7.


Ant or Camel

Lucian, Saturnalia 19 (tr. K. Kilburn):
I wrote to you earlier telling you what my position was and how my poverty made it likely that I alone should have no share in the festival which you proclaimed, adding this, I remember, that it was most unreasonable for some of us to have too much wealth and live in luxury and not share what they have with those who are poorer than they while others are dying of hunger, and that too when the festival of Cronus is near. Since you sent no reply then, I have thought it necessary to remind you of it again. You ought, my dear Cronus, to have abolished this inequality, made the good things accessible to everyone, and then bid the festival begin. As we now are it is a case of "ant or camel", as the saying has it.

Ἐγεγράφειν μὲν ἤδη σοι καὶ πρότερον δηλῶν ἐν οἷς εἴην καὶ ὡς ὑπὸ πενίας κινδυνεύοιμι μόνος ἄμοιρος εἶναι τῆς ἑορτῆς, ἣν ἐπήγγελκας, ἔτι καὶ τοῦτο προσθεὶς—μέμνημαι γάρ—ἀλογώτατον εἶναι τοὺς μὲν ἡμῶν ὑπερπλουτεῖν καὶ τρυφᾶν οὐ κοινωνοῦντας ὧν ἔχουσι τοῖς πενεστέροις, τοὺς δὲ λιμῷ διαφθείρεσθαι, καὶ ταῦτα Κρονίων ἐνεστώτων. ἐπεὶ δέ μοι τότε οὐδὲν ἀντεπέστειλας, ἡγησάμην δεῖν αὖθις ἀναμνῆσαί σε τῶν αὐτῶν. ἐχρῆν γάρ σε, ὦ ἄριστε Κρόνε, τὸ ἄνισον τοῦτο ἀφελόντα καὶ τὰ ἀγαθὰ ἐς τὸ μέσον ἅπασι καταθέντα ἔπειτα κελεύειν ἑορτάζειν. ὡς δὲ νῦν ἔχομεν, μύρμηξ ἢ κάμηλος, ὡς ἡ παροιμία φησί.
The proverb seems otherwise unattested. It doesn't appear in Renzo Tosi's dictionary of Greek and Latin proverbs. Commentators on Matthew 19.24 (the camel and the eye of the needle) sometimes cite it.

Erasmus, Adagia I.v.47 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors):
Μύρμηξ ἡ κάμηλος, Ant or camel. Referring to things which are violently unequal, and now tiny, now huge, just as if a camel were to be turned all at once into an ant. Lucian, in the Saturnalia, letter 1: 'But as we now live, "ant or camel," as the proverb says.' He is speaking of the unequal distribution of wealth among mortals, so that one has more than enough and another is in dire need. It can aptly be used too of persons who are inconsistent, and go to extremes in either way. Euripides describes this kind of man in the Troades [67-68]: 'Why do you jump from one mood to another? You hate and love excessively whomsoever you chance upon.'

Μύρμηξ ἡ κάμηλος, id est Formica camelus. De vehementer inaequalibus et modo minimis modo maximis, quod perinde sit quasi repente camelus in formicam vertatur. Lucianus in prima epistola Saturnalium: Ὡς δὲ νῦν ἔχομεν, μύρμηξ ἡ κάμηλος, ὡς ἡ παροιμία φησί, id est Nam ut nunc vivitur a nobis, formica camelus, quemadmodum proverbio dicitur. Loquitur de opibus inaequaliter inter mortales distributis, ut huic plurimum supersit, huic multum desit. Neque intempestive dicetur in eos, qui sibi non constant in utranque partem immodici. Quod genus hominem describit Euripides in Troadibus:
Τί δ' ὧδε πηδᾶς ἄλλοτ' εἰς ἄλλους τρόπους;
Μισεἶς δὲ λίαν καὶ φιλεἶς ὃν ἄν τύχῃ
, id est

Quid ita modo hos, modo in hosce mores transilis?
Odisti acerbe amasque nimium quemlibet.


The Subject of Notes

Francis Lieber, letter to Charles Sumner (May 28, 1847):
Where have you got the German way of long and multiplied notes from? I do not mean to animadvert, but merely ask. That subject of notes is a very difficult one. The French affected way of just mentioning the author, or the least possible word of a title at the bottom of the page, is silly. On the other hand, to let the text float on the notes, like a thin sheet of oil on a cup of water for a night lamp, interferes with the unity of the work and the quiet of the reader's mind, while it easily exposes the author to the suspicion of vanity. I often find it difficult to choose the proper mean.
Related posts:

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Waste and Solitary Places

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), Julian and Maddalo, lines 14-17:
                                 I love all waste
And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be...


Master of His Subject

Cyrus Gordon, quoted in Leonard Greenspoon, Max Leopold Margolis: A Scholar's Scholar (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), pp. 34-35:
My most effective teacher was a martinet—Max Margolis. He was a thorough craftsman and a master of his subject. He was a biblical philologian, working on the Septuagint. His knowledge of the Old Testament text was phenomenal. He expected all his students to recognize any oral quotation from Scripture and identify it by book and chapter. If he fired a three- or four-word Hebrew quotation at a student and the student failed to identify it, he promptly told the student, 'Go to hell!' and went around the room telling each student that failed to recognize the source the same thing, sometimes varying it with 'There is room for you, too.'

After being reviled before the class a number of times for not spotting his Hebrew citations, I asked him after class one day how I might improve my familiarity with the Hebrew text. He told me to read as much of the Hebrew Bible as I could make time for each day, starting with Genesis 1:1 and reading straight through to the end of the Old Testament. I did this and noticed how many more citations I was progressively able to locate in class.

When I finished the final chapter of Chronicles, I reported to Professor Margolis to tell him the good news. He replied with a faint smile, 'Now begin over again.' I never forgot the moral; mastery comes only through familiarity with the subject matter. He scorned the kind of scholarship that depends on dictionaries, concordances, and other reference books. There is a place for such books (and his library contained them), but a master has to have the basic knowledge of his field in his head. He used to say, 'When you buy a loaf of bread in the grocery store, you do not tell the clerk that you have money in the bank; you have to lay a coin on the counter. In the same way, no scholar should think that he does not have to know his basic material by heart because he can look it up in concordances and indices. Money in the bank does not take the place of ready cash in the pocket.'
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Very Comforting

Adam Kirsch, "A Math Genius’s Sad Calculus," Tablet (October 25, 2012):
"There are 15 people in the world who read everything I write," [French mathematician] Szolem [Mandelbrojt] told his nephew [Benoit Mandelbrot]. "That is enough. I find that very comforting."
Hat tip: Jim K.

Friday, October 26, 2012


A Little at a Time

Letter from Martin Madan to Charles Wesley (April 18, 1766), in Falconer Madan, The Madan Family and Maddens in Ireland and England, a Historical Account (Oxford: Printed for Subscribers at the University Press by J. Johnson, 1933), p. 128 (spelling unchanged):
As to Latin, the only way I find to make it pleasant is to do a little at a time, and to avoid making it a task. By these means my boy goes on well, and now begins to construe 'Æsops Fables'. I have a notion my friend Charles's genius is more disposed for the Gamut than the accidence, and if I can at all judge of his disposition, musick will be his fort. I think he bids fair to make a second Worgan. I have not read the book of Fenelon's you mention, but think writing treatises upon the Education of Children, is something like writing upon the art of making shoes of proper sizes, which can only be affected by measuring every particular person's foot. I see such difference of inclination, temper and disposition in my own children as sufficiently convinces me that I must act as the Physicians phrase it, pro re natâ, and adapt instruction just as the occasion offers. One thing nobody can be mistaken in, and which I would ever desire to observe, that is a grand point with me, viz, to conciliate the love, esteem and friendship of my children towards me, and to convince them that they can look upon none on earth so really and affectionatly their friend as I am.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


A Learned Kind of Chap

George Orwell (1903-1950), Coming Up for Air (1939), part 3, chapter 1:
Suddenly it occurred to me to go and look up old Porteous, who's a pal of mine and keeps late hours.

Porteous is a retired public-school master. He lives in rooms, which luckily are in the lower half of the house, in the old part of the town, near the church. He's a bachelor, of course. You can't imagine that kind married. Lives all alone with his books and his pipe and has a woman in to do for him. He's a learned kind of chap, with his Greek and Latin and poetry and all that. I suppose that if the local Left Book Club branch represents Progress, old Porteous stands for Culture. Neither of them cuts much ice in West Bletchley.

The light was burning in the little room where old Porteous sits reading till all hours of the night. As I tapped on the front door he came strolling out as usual, with his pipe between his teeth and his fingers in a book to keep the place. He's rather a striking looking chap, very tall, with curly grey hair and a thin, dreamy kind of face that's a bit discoloured but might almost belong to a boy, though he must be nearly sixty. It's funny how some of these public-school and university chaps manage to look like boys till their dying day. It's something in their movements. Old Porteous has got a way of strolling up and down, with that handsome head of his, with the grey curls, held a little back that makes you feel that all the while he's dreaming about some poem or other and isn't conscious of what's going on round him. You can't look at him without seeing the way he's lived written all over him. Public School, Oxford, and then back to his old school as a master. Whole life lived in an atmosphere of Latin, Greek, and cricket. He's got all the mannerisms. Always wears an old Harris tweed jacket and old grey flannel bags which he likes you to call 'disgraceful', smokes a pipe and looks down on cigarettes, and though he sits up half the night I bet he has a cold bath every morning. I suppose from his point of view I'm a bit of a bounder. I haven't been to a public school, I don't know any Latin and don't even want to. He tells me sometimes that it's a pity I'm 'insensible to beauty', which I suppose is a polite way of saying that I've got no education. All the same I like him. He's very hospitable in the right kind of way, always ready to have you in and talk at all hours, and always got drinks handy. When you live in a house like ours, more or less infested by women and kids, it does you good to get out of it sometimes into a bachelor atmosphere, a kind of book-pipe-fire atmosphere. And the classy Oxford feeling of nothing mattering except books and poetry and Greek statues, and nothing worth mentioning having happened since the Goths sacked Rome—sometimes that's a comfort too.

He shoved me into the old leather armchair by the fire and dished out whisky and soda. I've never seen his sitting-room when it wasn't dim with pipe-smoke. The ceiling is almost black. It's a smallish room and, except for the door and the window and the space over the fireplace, the walls are covered with books from the floor right up to the ceiling. On the mantelpiece there are all the things you'd expect. A row of old briar pipes, all filthy, a few Greek silver coins, a tobacco jar with the arms of old Porteous's college on it, and a little earthenware lamp which he told me he dug up on some mountain in Sicily. Over the mantelpiece there are photos of Greek statues. There's a big one in the middle, of a woman with wings and no head who looks as if she was stepping out to catch a bus. I remember how shocked old Porteous was when the first time I saw it, not knowing any better, I asked him why they didn't stick a head on it.

Porteous started refilling his pipe from the jar on the mantelpiece.

'That intolerable woman upstairs has purchased a wireless set,' he said. 'I had been hoping to live the rest of my life out of the sound of those things. I suppose there is nothing one can do? Do you happen to know the legal position?'

I told him there was nothing one could do. I rather like the Oxfordy way he says 'intolerable', and it tickles me, in 1938, to find someone objecting to having a radio in the house. Porteous was strolling up and down in his usual dreamy way, with his hands in his coat pockets and his pipe between his teeth, and almost instantly he'd begun talking about some law against musical instruments that was passed in Athens in the time of Pericles. It's always that way with old Porteous. All his talk is about things that happened centuries ago. Whatever you start off with it always comes back to statues and poetry and the Greeks and Romans. If you mention the Queen Mary he'd start telling you about Phoenician triremes. He never reads a modern book, refuses to know their names, never looks at any newspaper except The Times, and takes a pride in telling you that he's never been to the pictures. Except for a few poets like Keats and Wordsworth he thinks the modern world—and from his point of view the modern world is the last two thousand years—just oughtn't to have happened.

I'm part of the modern world myself, but I like to hear him talk. He'll stroll round the shelves and haul out first one book and then another, and now and again he'll read you a piece between little puffs of smoke, generally having to translate it from the Latin or something as he goes. It's all kind of peaceful, kind of mellow. All a little like a school-master, and yet it soothes you, somehow. While you listen you aren't in the same world as trains and gas bills and insurance companies. It's all temples and olive trees, and peacocks and elephants, and chaps in the arena with their nets and tridents, and winged lions and eunuchs and galleys and catapults, and generals in brass armour galloping their horses over the soldiers' shields. It's funny that he ever cottoned on to a chap like me. But it's one of the advantages of being fat that you can fit into almost any society. Besides we meet on common ground when it comes to dirty stories. They're the one modern thing he cares about, though, as he's always reminding me, they aren't modern. He's rather old-maidish about it, always tells a story in a veiled kind of way. Sometimes he'll pick out some Latin poet and translate a smutty rhyme, leaving a lot to your imagination, or he'll drop hints about the private lives of the Roman emperors and the things that went on in the temples of Ashtaroth. They seem to have been a bad lot, those Greeks and Romans. Old Porteous has got photographs of wall-paintings somewhere in Italy that would make your hair curl.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Words Alone Are Certain Good

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), The Song of the Happy Shepherd:
The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Gray Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers? — By the Rood,
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.

Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
To hunger fiercely after truth,
Lest all thy toiling only breeds
New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
No learning from the starry men,
Who follow with the optic glass
The whirling ways of stars that pass —
Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
No word of theirs — the cold star-bane
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
And dead is all their human truth.
Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell,
And they thy comforters will be,
Rewording in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood;
For words alone are certain good:
Sing, then, for this is also sooth.

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad singing through,
My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
For fair are poppies on the brow:
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.


Uxoricide and Arboricide

Michele Zarella, Il principe madrigalista Carlo Gesualdo, l'albero genealogico e la sua città, 2nd ed. (Avellino: Pro Loco, 1996), pp. 26-27 (translated):
Carlo fled from Naples and took refuge in the inaccessible and impregnable castle-fortress of Gesualdo...

On October 18, 1590, the day after it started, the trial was dismissed "by order of the Viceroy, because of the notoriety of the just cause by which Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, was moved to kill his wife and the Duke of Andria." Only two witnesses were interrogated: Silvia Albana, Maria d'Avalos's lady's maid and Pietro Maliziale also called Bardotti, valet de chambre to Carlo Gesualdo. It was impossible to question Maria d'Avalos's most intimate lady's maid, Laura Scala, because after the night in question nothing more was known of her.

Carlo stayed at Gesualdo until until he had satisfied himself that the resentment of the d'Avalos and Carafa families had died down.

During this period, in order to feel safe from any attacks by hostile forces, to have a more open and spacious horizon, he is believed to have ordered the cutting of an entire forest of oak and firs which covered in green the hill overlooking the castle. All that did not restore the serenity now forever lost, because no witness is so terrible, no accuser so implacable as the conscience that dwells in every man's heart.
The Italian:
Carlo fuggì da Napoli e si rifugiò nell'inaccessibile ed inespugnabile castello-fortezza di Gesualdo...

Il 18 ottobre 1590, il giorno dopo la sua apertura, il processo venne archiviato "per ordine del Viceré stante la notorietà della causa giusta dalla quale fu mosso don Carlo Gesualdo Principe di Venosa ad ammazzare sua moglie e il duca d’Andria". Furono interrogati solo due testi: Silvia Albana «creata» di Maria d’Avalos e Pietro Maliziale detto Bardotti, guardarobiere di Carlo Gesualdo.

Non si potette interrogare la «creata» più intima di Maria d’Avalos Laura Scala perché di lei, da quella notte, non si seppe più nulla.

Carlo rimase a Gesualdo finché non si fu accertato che il risentimento delle famiglie dei d’Avalos e dei Carafa si fosse sedato.

In questo periodo, per sentirsi sicuro da eventuali attacchi di forze nemiche, per avere un orizzonte più libero e vasto, si ritiene che abbia ordinato il taglio di un intero bosco di querce e di abeti che ammantavano di verde la collina prospiciente il castello. Tutto ciò non gli restituì la serenità che oramai avrà perso per sempre, perché non c’è nessun testimone così terribile, nessun accusatore così implacabile come la coscienza che abita nel cuore di ogni uomo.
Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to this passage and for help with the translation (remaining errors or infelicities are my own).



Go Home and Learn Syriac

Cyrus Gordon, quoted in Leonard Greenspoon, Max Leopold Margolis: A Scholar's Scholar (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), p. 35:
Margolis would ask each student to take a special assignment, such as a particular version or commentary and be responsible for its evidence. He told me on my first day in class to handle the Syriac version. 'But I don't know Syriac,' I protested. He looked at me sternly and growled, 'Where do you think you are? In a kindergarten? Go home and learn Syriac.'
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Hymn to Good Health

Marcantonio Flaminio (1498-1550), Hymn to Good Health (Hymnus in Bonam Valetudinem, my translation):
Goddess hostile to dread diseases,
Always welcome to you are
Strength of mind and unyielding might
And pleasant jokes and joy of spirit:

You do we sing, mother of pleasure,      5
Cheerful companion of enticing Venus,
One and only ornament of life, and sweet
Solace from evils;

You do youths and old men worship with holy awe,
You do they desire for themselves and their loved ones,      10
For no sooner do you in your bounty visit
Frail assemblies of men than

Violent Diseases flee at once,
Harsh Fever abates, dread
Pallor retreats, and savage Death returns      15
To exile in deep Hell.

Instead homes teem with children, and vigorous
Old men assume the look of strong youth,
And Venus and Lyaeus visit the earth
Together with excellent Hymen.      20

O our rest in travail, o kindly mother
Of men, worthy of reverence by all:
Without you, what can seem pleasing,
What can seem sweet to anyone?

Come here, have pity on our suffering,      25
Whether now Heaven's court holds you,
Or whether in the Blessed Isles you
Watch pleasing dances.

At long last come here, good goddess, and
Refresh my weak limbs with a healthy breeze,      30
Lest black disease devour my youth
The Latin:
Diva funestis inimica morbis,
Cui vigor mentis, solidumque robur,
Et ioci dulces, animique semper
Gaudia cordi:

Te voluptatis canimus parentem,      5
Candidam blandae Veneris sodalem,
Unicum vitae decus, et malorum
Dulce levamen;

Quam colunt sancte iuvenes, senesque,
Quam sibi cuncti cupiunt, suisque;      10
Nam simul coetus hominum caducos
Alma revisis,

Ilicet Morbi fugiunt protervi,
Occidit Febris truculenta, dirus
Occidit Pallor, fera Mors profundo      15
Exsulat Orco:

At domus florent pueris, senesque
Induunt fortem virides iuventam,
Et Venus terras colit, et Lyaeus,
Et bonus Hymen.      20

O quies rerum, o hominum benigna
Mater, o cunctis veneranda; namque
Quid potest gratum sine te, quid ulli
Dulce videri?

Huc ades nostrum miserans laborem,      25
Sive te caeli tenet aula, sive
Insulis molles choreas beatis
Laeta frequentas.

Huc ades tandem, bona diva, et artus
Languidos aura refove salubri,      30
Ne meam tabes edat immerentis
Atra iuventam.
Related post: Hymn to Health.


The Petronian College

Dear Mike,
I rather doubt that Hamerton had ever heard of it, but his Utopian Dream of a Latin Island of studious monoglot seven-year-olds off the coast of Italy was anticipated (in several senses) by Girolamo Gigli in his delightful hoax on Latin wet-nurses. The title of his book is Del Collegio Petroniano e delle balie latine e del solonne suo aprimento in quest'anno 1719 in Siena per dote e istituto del Cardinale Riccardo Petroni a benifizio di tutta la Naziona Italiana ad effetto di rendere naturale la lingua latina quale fu presso i Romani (Siena, 1719), which translates as Concerning the Petronian College and its Latin wet-nurses, and its official opening this year (1719) in Siena, as founded and endowed by Cardinal Riccardo Petroni for the benefit of the entire Italian nation with the goal of producing native speakers of the Latin language such as it was under the Romans.

The frontispiece depicts two of the wet-nurses (one in her official uniform and the other in her private garb), from which the infant is expected to imbibe the rudiments of Latin along with his milk. (The caption reads: Balie latine petroniane in abito collegiale e da camera). By ordinary standards of Italian art, the suckling wet-nurse is remarkably modest, with only one breast barely peeking out of the drapery:

As ever,

Ian Jackson

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Yellow the Leaves

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), The Falling of the Leaves, lines 1-4:
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.


A Utopian Dream

Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894), The Intellectual Life (New York: John B. Alden, 1885), pp. 127-128:
That a modern may be taught to think in Latin, is proved by the early education of Montaigne, and I may mention a much more recent instance. My brother-in-law told me that, in the spring of 1871, a friend of his had come to stay with him accompanied by his little son, a boy seven years old. This child spoke Latin with the utmost fluency, and he spoke nothing else. What I am going to suggest is a Utopian dream, but let us suppose that a hundred fathers could be found in Europe, all of this way of thinking, all resolved to submit to some inconvenience in order that their sons might speak Latin as a living language. A small island might be rented near the coast of Italy, and in that island Latin alone might be permitted. Just as the successive governments of France maintain the establishments of Sèvres and the Gobelins to keep the manufactures of porcelain and tapestry up to a recognized high standard of excellence, so this Latin island might be maintained to give more vivacity to scholarship. If there were but one little corner of ground on the wide earth where pure Latin was constantly spoken, our knowledge of the classic writers would become far more sympathetically intimate. After living in the Latin island we should think in Latin as we read, and read without translating.

Monday, October 22, 2012


The Owl Studying

M. Russell Thayer, "The Life, Character, and Writings of Francis Lieber. A Discourse Delivered before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, January 13, 1873," in Francis Lieber, Reminiscences, Addresses, and Essays (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1881), pp. 13-44 (at 41-42):
It was his habit in reading or studying to use a great number of book-marks. These consisted of narrow strips of pasteboard, upon each one of which was usually written some important historical date, some pregnant maxim, or some weighty saying. He was exceedingly industrious, as may be easily seen in the great number and variety of his productions. His table and every chair in the room were always covered with books and papers. He was very seldom idle. At one period of his student life in Germany he allowed himself only four hours of sleep, and his food at that period often consisted of nothing but bread and apples. While in South Carolina it was his habit to write at his books until one o'clock and often later in the night, and afterwards to rise early enough to be in his class-room and deliver his lecture from seven to eight o'clock; always preferring that hour that he might have more time during the day for his own work. Over the door of his house in New York he had placed “Die Studirende Eule”—the owl studying; and on the ceiling were painted these words:
Patria Cara
Carior Libertas
Veritas Carissima.
Over the door of his library hung the panel of a bench saved from the fire which destroyed the chapel of South Carolina College, on which he had painted the saying of Socrates, ΧΑΛΕΠΑ ΤΑ ΚΑΛΑ—all noble things are difficult. On the seal, which he adopted in his youth, were the words Perfer et Sperne. In his library hung what he called his Stella duplex—William of Orange and Washington, engravings of whom he had arranged and framed upon one card, with, on one side, the motto of William of Orange, Saevis tranquillus in undis, and on the other (Washington having no motto of his own) Tenax et Integer. Another Stella duplex, similarly arranged, contained the likenesses of Hampden and Pym: above them the words Nulla vestigia retrorsum, and underneath,
Claris Civibus
Probis et audacibus
Heres gratus et compos
Libertatis expugnatae
    Et defensor.
In his bedroom he had busts of Plato, Schiller, and Alexander Hamilton, whom he greatly admired, and over the mantelpiece, his favorite—Hugo Grotius.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Cambridge Lectures in Classics

A.S.F. Gow, Letters from Cambridge, 1939-1944 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1945), pp. 239-240 (extract from Letter 61, dated 15.9.44):
Cambridge life had a certain colour and amplitude which I fear it may since have lost. Still, I do venture to think that Dons have grown less eccentric in the course of time and that none of my generation would, for instance, perform such exploits as those recorded long ago in the answers to a Quiz (no. 26), or, like Peter Mason, President of St John's, publish a Hebrew Grammar in the form of letters to a Duchess ('Your Grace having, I doubt not, committed to memory the Personal Pronouns given in one of my former letters, I now beg permission to go through their respective Declensions' — and so on). And if you counter this by arguing that our eccentricities, though of a different character, are no less absurd than theirs, I shall reply from my last ditch that in one particular at any rate I know we have improved. We cannot lecture as badly as some of them did or our lecture-rooms would be empty.

I do not mean, I hasten to add, that all the instructors of my youth were bad lecturers. On the contrary most of the younger and some of the older were competent, and a few more than competent; but there were also some whose lectures were a disgrace. I do not think Classics were worse off than other subjects for I have heard a similar tale from other faculties, but I take example from the Professors of Greek and Latin for I had the misfortune or imprudence to attend them both. Jebb was not an eccentric; he was a Knight, an M.P., a friend of Tennyson, and, as a scholar, not so distinguished as his contemporaries thought but still distinguished. His idea of lecturing was to read out in a monotonous inaudible voice from a notebook or proofsheets strings of references which nobody would look up and which would not have profited them if they had. Mayor, Professor of Latin, was very learned, perhaps fifteen years older than Jebb, and much odder. His method was to ramble from theme to theme as they came into his head — the names of the Greek letters, the Old Catholics, vegetarianism, and what not — none of them remotely connected with the subject on which he was supposed to be discoursing; then when the members of his scanty audience all chanced to absent themselves on the same day the course stopped. (This, incidentally, was an improvement on Jebb from our point of view, for Jebb took offence if we were absent and wrote angry letters to our Tutors.) The only course of Mayor's I attended was, I think, on Plautus — not that Plautus had been mentioned except accidentally by the time, some weeks later, when the lectures came to their predestined end. The only other attendant was an elderly clergyman with a game leg whom I conjecturally identified with a scholar of notoriously homicidal tendencies then resident in a neighbouring College. As he sat between me and the door and was reputedly apt to knife anyone who coughed or sneezed in his presence this added a spice of adventitious interest to the lectures since it was not until long after the course had ceased that I discovered him to be not after all the homicide but a harmless retired schoolmaster. Mayor's lectures were less boring than Jebb's, and as an occasional experience they might even have been called entertaining, but both alike were practically useless and it is extraordinary that Jebb, at any rate, should not have seen this, or if he did see it, should not have done better. Nobody by exercising thought can lecture brilliantly, but to lecture with reasonable competence I maintain to be within the powers of anyone who has no natural impediment and is willing to take pains. And when you moderns complain of your lectures in my hearing, or if you complain of mine out of my hearing, I should like to plant you for an hour or two in some of the lecture-rooms where I sat in my youth and hear what you would say of them.
Hat tip: Alan Crease.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Away from the Roar and the Rattle

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), A Song of the Country, stanzas 1-3:
Away from the roar and the rattle,
  The dust and the din of the town,
Where to live is to brawl and to battle,
  Till the strong treads the weak man down!
Away to the bonnie green hills
  Where the sunshine sleeps on the brae,
And the heart of the greenwood thrills
  To the hymn of the bird on the spray.

Away from the smoke and the smother,
  The veil of the dun and the brown,
The push and the plash and the pother,
  The wear and the waste of the town!
Away where the sky shines clear,
  And the light breeze wanders at will,
And the dark pine-wood nods near
  To the light-plumed birch on the hill.

Away from the whirling and wheeling,
  And steaming above and below,
Where the heart has no leisure for feeling,
  And the thought has no quiet to grow.
Away where the clear brook purls,
  And the hyacinth droops in the shade,
And the wing of the fern uncoils
  Its grace in the depth of the glade.


How to Do Research

Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837), chapter 51:
Mr. Pott looked dubiously at Bob Sawyer for some seconds, and, turning to Mr. Pickwick, said:

"You have seen the literary articles which have appeared at intervals in the Eatanswill Gazette in the course of the last three months, and which have excited such general—I may say such universal—attention and admiration?"

"Why," replied Mr. Pickwick, slightly embarrassed by the question, "the fact is, I have been so much engaged in other ways, that I really have not had an opportunity of perusing them."

"You should do so, sir," said Pott, with a severe countenance.

"I will," said Mr. Pickwick.

"They appeared in the form of a copious review of a work on Chinese metaphysics, sir," said Pott.

"Oh," observed Mr. Pickwick; "from your pen, I hope?"

"From the pen of my critic, sir," rejoined Pott, with dignity.

"An abstruse subject, I should conceive," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Very, sir," responded Pott, looking intensely sage. "He crammed for it, to use a technical but expressive term; he read up for the subject, at my desire, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Pickwick; "I was not aware that that valuable work contained any information respecting Chinese metaphysics."

"He read, sir," rejoined Pott, laying his hand on Mr. Pickwick's knee, and looking round with a smile of intellectual superiority, "he read for metaphysics under the letter M, and for China under the letter C, and combined his information, sir!"

Stefan Mart, Don Quixote


Why So Downhearted?

Lucian, Saturnalia 11 (tr. K. Kilburn):
"Why are you looking so downhearted, Cronosolon?" "Haven't I every reason, master, when I see disgusting and filthy rogues unbelievably rich and alone leading a comfortable life, while I and many another educated man know poverty and despair as companions?"

Τί ταῦτα, ἔφη, ὦ Κρονοσόλων, ἀνιωμένῳ ἔοικας; Οὐ γὰρ ἄξιον, ἔφην, ὦ δέσποτα, ὅταν καταράτους μὲν καὶ μιαροὺς ἀνθρώπους ὑπερπλουτοῦντας καὶ μόνους τρυφῶντας ὁρῶ, αὐτὸς δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι συχνοὶ τῶν πεπαιδευμένων ἀπορίᾳ καὶ ἀμηχανίᾳ σύνεσμεν;

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Wittgenstein's Furniture

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "Wittgenstein," in The Geography of the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981), pp. 331-335 (at 332):
He held his lectures in his rooms, in the continental manner. As there was no furniture except an army cot, a folding chair, a safe (for the Zettel), and a card table, the students brought their own chairs.


Rats in the Cheese

Henry J. Bruman, "Carl Sauer in Midcareer: A Personal View by One of His Students," in Carl O. Sauer: A Tribute, ed. Martin S. Krenzer (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1987), pp. 125-136 (at 133-134):
On one of his visits to Berkeley, about 1936, I heard Bob Hall (1896-1975) of the University of Michigan tell a story that illustrates as well as anything I know the quality of Sauer's remarkable mind. It seems that Sauer's fellow graduate students at Chicago some twenty years earlier got sick and tired of his know-it-all manner and decided to show him up. What was especially galling was that Sauer was not bluffing: he actually knew what he was talking about. It is not easy to forgive a fellow who knows all the answers. But it is almost impossible to forgive him when he usually turns out to be right. So they decided to gang up on him. They would read up on some geographic topic in advance, each taking a particular aspect, and they would spring their knowledge on Sauer someday when they were all together and so show him up and teach him a lesson.

After some discussion they decided the topic should be cheese: regional varieties of cheese in different parts of the world, including sources of milk, methods of manufacture and marketing, consistency and flavor of finished product, and so forth. So they divided up the topic, each did his separate research, and the moment came a couple of weeks later to display their new knowledge in Sauer's presence. One man casually started talking about some reading he just happened to have done about cheddar cheese, about the differences among New York, Wisconsin, and Oregon varieties, and how they all related to earlier forms of cheddar in England. Then another chimed in, adding what he just happened to know about other English cheeses, mentioning the Derby, the Cheshire, the Lancashire, and then the Stilton, the noblest of them all, which is aged longer than the others and owes its magnificent flavor in part to the development of a green mold. Then the third student began with a discussion of mold cheeses in the continent of Europe, blue cheese in Denmark, Roquefort in France, Gorgonzola in Italy. Then the fourth gave his report, and the whole ostensibly impromptu performance went on for a good half hour. Bob Hall remarked that by the time the first talk on cheddar was over and the second one on English cheeses began "Sauer's moustache began to broaden." He could smell rats in the cheese.

And then, when the group was quite through displaying their new-found expertise, Sauer began. With no preparation he talked in his careful, measured way about cheese making among the German settlers in Missouri, and how it differed from the practices of settlers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Then he went into cheese making in Bavaria, Switzerland, and Austria, and told them all in all far more than they had discovered in their combined investigations. Well, that was it. The others were licked and they knew it. They never baited him again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


The Case against Progress

Darwell Stone, letter to Frederick W. Langton (February 19, 1939), in F.L. Cross, Darwell Stone: Churchman and Counsellor (Westminster: Dacre Press, 1943), pp. 342-343 (at 342):
Another shorter and more frivolous paper which I should like to write, and shall not do so, would be 'The Case against Progress by an obsolete Liberal'. It might begin by observing that the Homeric battles were brutal enough, but that they were not so brutal as the warfare of today, and ascribing the beginning of the declension to the invention of gunpowder which made it possible for a man to hide behind a hedge and shoot his enemy without risk to himself instead of a fair stand up fight with knives. Less grim illustrations might be from the way in which every motor car is more difficult to get into than its predecessor: even on the rank in St. Giles the old comfortable taxis are being superseded by machines entrance into which damages one's hat and hurts one's legs: and the way in which tailors and stationers, as soon as they have got to something really good, change it for what is worse. Or one might specify that some years ago there were at least five good morning London papers, and that now The Times is the only one left. Do you not think that all this wants saying? I should desire to say it from the Liberal point of view, you from the Conservative. Would it—or would it not—come to the same thing?
For a brief account of Darwell Stone (1859–1941), see the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography by F.L. Cross, rev. K.E. Macnab, from which I learn that, in addition to his other accomplishments, Stone is remembered for his lexicographical work:
In 1934 Stone resigned as principal of Pusey House, but retained a room there, having moved to 14 St Margaret's Road, Oxford. He devoted himself mainly to work on the projected lexicon of patristic Greek, of which he had been editor since 1915. This project, subsequently edited by F.L. Cross (1941) and G.W.H. Lampe (1948), eventually appeared as Patristic Greek Lexicon (1961–8), and remains one of the great achievements of modern lexicography.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related posts:


The Excitement of the Subjunctive Mood

John Henry Cardinal Newman, letter to John Pollen (May 6, 1885), in Wilfred Ward, The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman, Based on his Private Journals and Correspondence, Vol. II (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912), pp. 524-525:
Well, and I sympathise with you in the strange feeling of coming on deck of a morning and seeing before you Cadiz, Algiers, Palermo or Ithaca, like the rounds in a Magic Lantern, though the middies and the crew take it as a matter of course.

One thing I confess lies outside my sympathy, though it touches me much, and all the more, viz. your having recourse to "The Grammar of Assent" as a refuge from the palm trees and apes. My imagination will not take it in, except as a pendant to that great Ch. Ch. Greek scholar who to relieve himself of the excitement of the subjunctive mood, used to take up a volume of the Tracts for the Times. I think he told me so himself.
"Ch. Ch." is Christ Church, and the "great scholar" is presumably Thomas Gaisford (1779-1855), as Ian Jackson (to whom I owe the quotation) pointed out to me.

Related posts:

Monday, October 15, 2012


The Duchess of Malfi

Excerpts from John Webster (1580-1634), The Duchess of Malfi:

Sometimes the devil doth preach.
The marriage night / Is the entrance into some prison.
Say you were lineally descended from King Pippin, or he himself, what of this? Search the heads of the greatest rivers in the world, you shall find them but bubbles of water. Some would think the souls of princes were brought forth by some more weighty cause than those of meaner persons: they are deceiv'd, there's the same hand to them; the like passions sway them; the same reason that makes a vicar go to law for a tithe-pig, and undo his neighbours, makes them spoil a whole province, and batter down goodly cities with the cannon.
It may be 'twas the melancholy bird,
Best friend of silence, and of solitariness,
The owl, that scream'd so.
Thou art happy, that thou hast not understanding
To know thy misery. For all our wit
And reading brings us to a truer sense
Of sorrow.
I know death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits: and 'tis found
They go on such strange geometrical hinges,
You may open them both ways.
Kindred commonly do worse agree
Than remote strangers.
MALATESTE: Why doth your lordship love this solitariness?
FERDINAND: Eagles commonly fly alone. They are crows,
Daws, and starlings that flock together.
And wherefore should you lay your fair marble colours
Upon your rotten purposes to me?
I do love these ancient ruins:
We never tread upon them, but we set
Our foot upon some reverend history.
For to live thus, is not indeed to live:
It is a mockery, and abuse of life.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Ellesmere Road

George Orwell (1903-1950), Coming Up for Air (1939), Part I, Chapter 2:
Do you know the road I live in—Ellesmere Road, West Bletchley? Even if you don't, you know fifty others exactly like it.

You know how these streets fester all over the inner-outer suburbs. Always the same. Long, long rows of little semi-detached houses—the numbers in Ellesmere Road run to 212 and ours is 191—as much alike as council houses and generally uglier. The stucco front, the creosoted gate, the privet hedge, the green front door. The Laurels, the Myrtles, the Hawthorns, Mon Abri, Mon Repos, Belle Vue. At perhaps one house in fifty some anti-social type who'll probably end in the workhouse has painted his front door blue instead of green.

When you've time to look about you, and when you happen to be in the right mood, it's a thing that makes you laugh inside to walk down these streets in the inner-outer suburbs and to think of the lives that go on there. Because, after all, what is a road like Ellesmere Road? Just a prison with the cells all in a row. A line of semi-detached torture-chambers where the poor little five-to-ten-pound-a-weekers quake and shiver, every one of them with the boss twisting his tail and his wife riding him like the nightmare and the kids sucking his blood like leeches. There's a lot of rot talked about the sufferings of the working class. I'm not so sorry for the proles myself. Did you ever know a navvy who lay awake thinking about the sack? The prole suffers physically, but he's a free man when he isn't working. But in every one of those little stucco boxes there's some poor bastard who's never free except when he's fast asleep and dreaming that he's got the boss down the bottom of a well and is bunging lumps of coal at him.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


The Phenomenon of Man

Excerpts from P.B. Medawar, review of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, in Mind, New Series, Vol. 70, No. 277 (January 1961) 99-106:

P. 99:
The Phenomenon of Man stands square in the tradition of German Naturphilosophie, which does not seem even by accident (though there is a great deal of it) to have contributed anything of permanent value to the storehouse of human thought. French is not a language that lends itself naturally to the opaque and ponderous idiom of nature-philosophy, and Teilhard has accordingly resorted to the use of that tipsy, euphoric prose-poetry which is one of the more tiresome manifestations of the French spirit.
P. 100:
Teilhard is for ever shouting at us: things or affairs are, in alphabetical order, astounding, colossal, endless, enormous, fantastic, giddy, hyper-, immense, implacable, indefinite, inexhaustible, inextricable, infinite, infinitesimal, innumerable, irresistible, measureless, mega-, monstrous, mysterious, prodigious, relentless, super-, ultra-, unbelievable, unbridled or unparalleled. When something is described as merely huge we feel let down.
P. 105:
We must not underestimate size of the market for works of this kind, for philosophy-fiction. Just as compulsory primary education created a market catered for by cheap dailies and weeklies, so the spread of secondary and latterly of tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.


Ceres Securigera

The goddess Demeter, also known as Ceres, punished Erysichthon for cutting down trees in her sacred grove. Callimachus and Ovid tell the story. Yet Ceres herself on another occasion cut down trees in a grove sacred to Jupiter, to make torches with which to hunt for her lost daughter Proserpine. See Claudian, Rape of Proserpine 3.330-381 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
So spake she and glides down upon Etna's familiar slopes, there to fashion torches to aid her night-wandering labours.

[332] There was a wood, hard by the stream of Acis, which fair Galatea oft chooses in preference to Ocean and cleaves in swimming with her snowy breast—a wood dense with foliage that closed in Etna's summit on all sides with interwoven branches. 'Tis there that Jove is said to have laid down his bloody shield and set his captured spoil after the battle. The grove glories in trophies from the plain of Phlegra and signs of victory clothe its every tree. [339] Here hang the gaping jaws and monstrous skins of the Giants; affixed to trees their faces still threaten horribly, and heaped up on all sides bleach the huge bones of slaughtered serpents. Their stiffening sloughs smoke with the blow of many a thunderbolt, and every tree boasts some illustrious name. This one scarce supports on its down-bended branches the naked swords of hundred-handed Aegaeon; that glories in the murky trophies of Coeus; this bears up the arms of Mimas; spoiled Ophion weighs down those branches. [349] But higher than all the other trees towers a pine, its shady branches spread wide, and bears the reeking arms of Enceladus himself, all powerful king of the Earth-born giants; it would have fallen beneath the heavy burden did not a neighbouring oak-tree support its wearied weight. [353] Therefore the spot wins awe and sanctity; none touches the aged grove, and 'tis accounted a crime to violate the trophies of the gods. No Cyclops dares pasture there his flock nor hew down the trees, Polyphemus himself flies from the hallowed shade.

[357] Not for that did Ceres stay her steps; the very sanctity of the place inflames her wrath; with angry hand she brandishes her axe, ready to strike Jove himself. She hesitates whether to cut down pines or lay low knotless cedars, scans likely trunks and lofty trees and shakes their branches with vigorous hand. [363] Even so when a man, fain to carry merchandise over distant seas, builds a ship on dry land and makes ready to expose his life to the tempest, he hews down beech and elm and marks the diverse utility of the yet growing forest; the lofty tree he selects as yardarms for the swelling sail; the strong he prefers as a mast; the pliant will make good oars; the waterproof is suitable for the keel.

[370] Two cypresses in the grass hard by raised their inviolate heads to heaven; Simois looks not on such in amaze amid the crags of Ida, nor does Orontes water their like, Orontes that feeds Apollo's grove and harbours rich cities on his banks. You would know them for sisters for they tower equal in height and look down upon the wood with twin tops. [376] These she would have as torches; she attacks each with vigorous blows, her gown girt back, her arms bared and armed with the axe. First one she strikes, then the other, and rains blows upon their trembling trunks with might and main. Together they crash to the ground, lay their foliage in the dust and lie upon the plain, wept of Fauns and wood-nymphs.
Claudian's Latin:
Haec fatur notaeque iugis illabitur Aetnae        330
noctivago taedas informatura labori.

Lucus erat prope flumen Acin, quod candida praefert
saepe mari pulchroque secat Galatea natatu,
densus et innexis Aetnaea cacumina ramis
qua licet usque tegens. illic posuisse cruentam       335
aegida captivamque pater post proelia praedam
advexisse datur. Phlegraeis silva superbit
exuviis totumque nemus victoria vestit.
hic patuli rictus et prodigiosa Gigantum
tergora dependent, et adhuc crudele minantur       340
adfixae truncis facies immaniaque ossa
serpentum passim cumulis exsanguibus albent,
et rigidae multo suspirant fulmine pelles;
nullaque non magni iactat se nominis arbor:
haec centumgemini strictos Aegaeonis enses       345
curvata vix fronde levat; liventibus illa
exsultat Coei spoliis; haec arma Mimantis
sustinet; hos onerat ramos exutus Ophion.
altior at cunctis abies umbrosaque late
ipsius Enceladi fumantia gestat opima,       350
summi terrigenum regis, caderetque gravata
pondere, ni lassam fulciret proxima quercus.
inde timor numenque loco nemorisque senectae
parcitur aetheriisque nefas nocuisse tropaeis.
pascere nullus oves nec robora laedere Cyclops       355
audet et ipse fugit sacra Polyphemus ab umbra.

Non tamen hoc tardata Ceres. accenditur ultro
religione loci vibratque infesta securim
ipsum etiam feritura Iovem: succidere pinus,
haud magis enodes dubitat prosternere cedros       360
exploratque habiles truncos rectique tenorem
stipitis et certo pertemptat brachia nisu.
sic, qui vecturus longinqua per aequora merces
molitur tellure ratem vitamque procellis
obiectare parat, fagos metitur et alnos       365
et varium rudibus silvis accommodat usum:
quae longa est, tumidis praebebit cornua velis;
quae fortis, clavo potior, quae lenta, favebit
remigio; stagni patiens aptanda carinae.

Tollebant geminae capita inviolata cupressus       370
caespite vicino: quales non rupibus Idae
miratur Simois, quales non divite ripa
lambit Apollinei nemoris nutritor Orontes.
germanas adeo credas: sic frontibus aequis
exstant et socio despectant vertice lucum.       375
hae placuere faces. pernix invadit utramque
cincta sinus, exserta manus, armata bipenni
alternasque ferit totisque obnixa trementes
viribus impellit. pariter traxere ruinam
et pariter posuere comas campoque recumbunt,       380
Faunorum Dryadumque dolor.


Friday, October 12, 2012


A Zealous Friend of Matrimony

James Hurnard (1808-1881), The Setting Sun, 3rd ed. (London: Saml. Harris & Co., 1878), pp. 71-72:
Although I am a crusty bachelor,
I am a zealous friend of matrimony;
If I should ever be the king of England
I will lay down some very spanking laws;—
Every young man of the age of five-and-twenty
Shall have a loving wife to comfort him,
And every girl who wishes for a husband
Shall have a manly breast to lay her head on.
  'Tis sweet for loving hearts to come together!
The pleasant lottery of matrimony
Is not like other doubtful lotteries,
For here the law of chances is reversed,
The blanks are few, the prizes plentiful.
Women are not like heartless birds of passage
That share with us the summer of our joy,
But leave us in the winter of our sorrow;
They are the robins that cling round our homes.
Marriage is oft delayed by far too long;
We lose our prime in waiting to be blest;
Youth is the special time for happiness;
Neglected, only gleaning ears are left,
Instead of the full harvest of enjoyment.
We want some easier way of getting married—
Promoting marriage in a business manner.
How many sweet, retiring, modest girls,
With bosoms bursting for connubial joys,
Pass on through life in wasting loneliness,
Unknown, unheeded, unappreciated,
Unintroduced to honourable hearts
That might have loved them and have wedded them,
And thus are left in sadness to consume!


Inappropriate Grinning

Catullus 39.1-8 (tr. Roy Arthur Swanson):
Because Egnatius has white teeth, he smiles
without a stop. And should it come to trials
where lawyers move the court to tears, he smiles.
Suppose a mother mourns her only son,
he smiles. Whatever it is, whatever he's done,
wherever it is, he smiles. It's a disease,
not elegance, I think, nor does it please.

Egnatius, quod candidos habet dentes,
renidet usque quaque. si ad rei ventum est
subsellium, cum orator excitat fletum,
renidet ille; si ad pii rogum fili
lugetur, orba cum flet unicum mater,
renidet ille. quidquid est, ubicumque est,
quodcumque agit, renidet: hunc habet morbum,
neque elegantem, ut arbitror, neque urbanum.
Hat tip: Joe B.


Epitaph of Servius Sulpicius Similis

Cassius Dio 69.19.2 (tr. Earnest Cary):
Moreover, he assumed the command of the Praetorians reluctantly, and after assuming it resigned it. Having with difficulty secured his release, he spent the rest of his life, seven years, quietly in the country, and upon his tomb he caused this inscription to be placed: "Here lies Similis, who existed so-and‑so many years, and lived seven."

καὶ τὴν τῶν δορυφόρων ἀρχὴν ἄκων τε ἔλαβε καὶ λαβὼν ἐξίστατο, μόλις τε ἀφεθεὶς ἐν ἀγρῷ ἥσυχος ἑπτὰ ἔτη τὰ λοιπὰ τοῦ βίου διήγαγε, καὶ ἐπί γε τὸ μνῆμα αὑτοῦ τοῦτο ἐπέγραψεν ὅτι Σίμιλις ἐνταῦθα κεῖται βιοὺς μὲν ἔτη τόσα, ζήσας δὲ ἔτη ἑπτά.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Aurum ex Stercore

"Meet the Bacteria That Produces Pure Gold," Slate (October 4, 2012):
Scientists have discovered bacteria that eats toxic material and, well, poops pure gold. This microbial magician, named Cupriavidus metallidurans, when placed in a minilab full of gold chloride, a nasty toxin, gobbled up the poison and, in about a week, processed it out as 24-karat nuggets of the precious yellow metal.
This reminds me of a passage in Donatus' Life of Vergil:
When Vergil was holding [a book by] Ennius in his hand and was asked what he was doing, he answered that he was collecting gold from the dung of Ennius.

cum Ennium in manu haberet rogareturque, quidnam faceret, respondit se aurum colligere de stercore Ennii.
See also Cassiodorus, Institutes of Divine and Secular Learning 1.1.8 (my translation):
While Vergil was reading Ennius, he was asked by someone what he was doing and he answered, "I'm searching for gold in dung."

Vergilius, dum Ennium legeret, a quodam quid faceret inquisitus, respondit: aurum in stercore quaerere.
I haven't seen Georges Folliet, "La fortuna du dit de Virgile Aurum colligere de stercore dans la littérature chrétienne," Sacris Erudiri 41 (2002) 31-53, but the saying is discussed in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1188 (pp. 879-880). Not mentioned by Tosi are three Latin epigrams by John Owen (1564-1622), all translated by me:

Vergil gathers gold from the dung of Ennius,
  A heretic gathers dung from gold.

Aurum Virgilius de stercore colligit Enni,
  Ex auro stercus colligit haereticus.
Vergil gathers gold from the dung of Ennius.
  Vergil did what a doctor also does.

Aurum Virgilius de stercore colligit Enni.
  Fecit Virgilius, quod facit et medicus.
The renter of privies collects gold from dung,
  As do two others as well: the peasant and the doctor.

Conductor foricarum ex stercore colligit aurum,
  Et duo praeterea, rusticus et medicus.
The doctor is said to "gather gold from dung" because he charges a fee to inspect the feces of his patients, for diagnostic purposes.

St. Jerome in his letters employs a similar expression, but substitutes mud for dung:

54.11.1 (ed. Hilberg, CSEL LIV, p. 478, tr. F.A. Wright):
When you are eating, remember that immediately afterwards you will have to pray and read. Take a fixed number of verses from the Holy Scripture and show them up as your task to your Lord; and do not lie down to rest until you have filled your heart's basket with this precious yarn. After the Holy Scriptures, read the treatises that have been written by learned men, provided, of course, that they are persons of known faith. You need not seek for gold amid the mire: with many pearls buy the one pearl of price.

quando comedis, cogita, quod statim tibi orandum, ilico legendum sit. de scripturis sanctis habeto fixum versuum numerum; istud pensum domino tuo redde nec ante quieti membra concedas, quam calathum pectoris tui hoc subtegmine impleveris. post scripturas sanctas doctorum hominum tractatus lege, eorum dumtaxat, quorum fides nota est. non necesse habes aurum in luto quaerere: multis margaritis unam redime margaritam.
98.22.1 (ed. Hilberg, CSEL LV, p. 207, a translation by Jerome of one of Theophilus of Alexandria's letters, tr. Norman Russell):
Therefore those who delight in Origen's errors should not despise the preaching of the Lord's feast. Nor should they seek ointments, gold and pearls in the mire.

unde, qui Origenis erroribus delectantur, festivitatis dominicae non spernant praeconia nec unguenta, aurum et margaritas quaerant in luto.
107.12.3 (ed. Hilberg, CSEL LV, p. 303, tr. W.H. Fremantle):
Let her avoid all apocryphal writings, and if she is led to read such not by the truth of the doctrines which they contain but out of respect for the miracles contained in them, let her understand that they are not really written by those to whom they are ascribed, that many faulty elements have been introduced into them, and that it requires infinite discretion to look for gold in the midst of dirt.

caveat omnia apocrypha et, si quando ea non ad dogmatum veritatem, sed ad signorum reverentiam legere voluerit, sciat non eorum esse, quorum titulis praenotantur, multaque his admixta vitiosa et grandis esse prudentiae aurum in luto quaerere.
Gold from mud also appears in Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), planned epilogue to Flowers of Evil (my translation):
Angels dressed in gold, purple, and hyacinth,
O you, be witnesses that I have done my duty
Like a perfect chemist and a holy soul.
For from each thing I extracted its quintessence,
You gave me your mud, and I made gold out of it.

Anges revêtus d'or, de pourpre et d'hyacinthe,
O vous, soyez témoins que j'ai fait mon devoir
Comme un parfait chimiste et comme une âme sainte.
Car j'ai de chaque chose extrait la quintessence,
Tu m'as donné ta boue, et j'en ai fait de l'or.
Hat tip: Jim K.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Text and Commentary

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), Lebensweisheit V.B.8, from Parerga und Paralipomena, tr. T. Bailey Saunders:
Experience of the world may be looked upon as a kind of text, to which reflection and knowledge form the commentary. Where there is great deal of reflection and intellectual knowledge, and very little experience, the result is like those books which have on each page two lines of text to forty lines of commentary. A great deal of experience with little reflection and scant knowledge, gives us books like those of the editio Bipontina where there are no notes and much that is unintelligible.

Auch läßt die eigene Erfahrung sich ansehn als der Text; Nachdenken und Kenntnisse als der Kommentar dazu. Viel Nachdenken und Kenntnisse, bei wenig Erfahrung, gleicht den Ausgaben, deren Seiten zwei Zeilen Text und vierzig Zeilen Kommentar darbieten. Viel Erfahrung, bei wenig Nachdenken und geringen Kenntnissen, gleicht den bipontinischen Ausgaben, ohne Noten, welche Vieles unverstanden lassen.
Related posts:


Domestic Affections

William Wordsworth, letter to Charles James Fox (January 14, 1801):
In the two poems, 'The Brothers,' and 'Michael,' I have attempted to draw a picture of the domestic affections, as I know they exist among a class of men who are now almost confined to the north of England. They are small independent proprietors of land here called statesmen, men of respectable education who daily labour on their own little properties. The domestic affections will always be strong amongst men who live in a country not crowded with population, if these men are placed above poverty. But if they are proprietors of small estates, which have descended to them from their ancestors, the power which these affections will acquire amongst such men is inconceivable by those who have only had an opportunity of observing hired labourers, farmers, and the manufacturing poor. Their little tract of land serves as a kind of permanent rallying point for their domestic feelings, as a tablet upon which they are written which makes them objects of memory in a thousand instances when they would otherwise be forgotten. It is a fountain fitted to the nature of social man, from which supplies of affection, as pure as his heart was intended for, are daily drawn. This class of men is rapidly disappearing.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Trees in the Century of Commerce

William Morris (1834-1896), "The Beauty of Life," Hopes and Fears for Art. Five Lectures Delivered in Birmingham, London, and Nottingham, 1878-1881 (London: Ellis & White, 1882), pp. 71-113 (at 102-103, footnote omitted):
Again, I must ask what do you do with the trees on a site that is going to be built over? do you try to save them, to adapt your houses at all to them? do you understand what treasures they are in a town or a suburb? or what a relief they will be to the hideous dog-holes which (forgive me!) you are probably going to build in their places? I ask this anxiously, and with grief in my soul, for in London and its suburbs we always begin by clearing a site till it is as bare as the pavement: I really think that almost anybody would have been shocked, if I could have shown him some of the trees that have been wantonly murdered in the suburb in which I live (Hammersmith to wit), amongst them some of those magnificent cedars, for which we along the river used to be famous once.

But here again see how helpless those are who care about art or nature amidst the hurry of the Century of Commerce.

Pray do not forget, that any one who cuts down a tree wantonly or carelessly, especially in a great town or its suburbs, need make no pretence of caring about art.

Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898), Cutting of Wood

Hat tip: Andrew Rickard, who quotes another passage from Morris' lecture.

Related post: Hornbeams.



A Fantastical Scholar

John Webster (1580-1634), The Duchess of Malfi 3.3.40-46:
I knew him in Padua, a fantastical scholar, like such who study to know how many knots was in Hercules' club, of what colour Achilles' beard was, or whether Hector were not troubled with the tooth-ache. He hath studied himself half blear-eyed to know the true symmetry of Caesar's nose by a shoeing-horn; and this he did to gain the name of a speculative man.

J.J. Grandville, Le Bibliomane

Related posts:


Senicide, Part V

Caesar, Gallic War 7.7 (speech of Critognatus to the Gauls beseiged in Alesia, tr. H.J. Edwards):
What, then, is my counsel? To do what our forefathers did in the war, in no wise equal to this, with the Cimbri and Teutones. They shut themselves into the towns, and under stress of a like scarcity sustained life on the bodies of those whose age showed them useless for war, and delivered not themselves to the enemy. And if we had not had a precedent for this, I should still have judged it a most glorious thing for the sake of liberty to set such a one and to hand it down to posterity.

quid ergo mei consili est? facere quod nostri maiores nequaquam pari bello Cimbrorum Teutonumque fecerunt; qui in oppida compulsi ac simili inopia subacti eorum corporibus qui aetate ad bellum inutiles videbantur vitam toleraverunt neque sc hostibus tradiderunt. cuius rei si exemplum non haberemus, tamen libertatis causa institui et posteris prodi pulcherrimum iudicarem.
Procopius, Gothic War 2.14.2-5 (on the Eruli or Heruli, tr. H.B. Dewing):
[2] And they observed many customs which were not in accord with those of other men. For they were not permitted to live either when they grew old or when they fell sick, but as soon as one of them was overtaken by old age or by sickness, it became necessary for him to ask his relatives to remove him from the world as quickly as possible. [3] And these relatives would pile up a quantity of wood to a great height and lay the man on top of the wood, and then they would send one of the Eruli, but not a relative of the man, to his side with a dagger; [4] for it was not lawful for a kinsman to be his slayer. And when the slayer of their relative had returned, they would straightway burn the whole pile of wood, beginning at the edges. [5] And after the fire had ceased, they would immediately collect the bones and bury them in the earth.

[2] νόμοις δὲ πολλοῖς οὐ κατὰ ταὐτὰ τοῖς ἀνθρώπων ἑτέροις ἐχρῶντο. οὔτε γὰρ γηράσκουσιν οὔτε νοσοῦσιν αὐτοῖς βιοτεύειν ἐξῆν, ἀλλ' ἐπειδάν τις αὐτῶν ἢ γήρᾳ ἢ νόσῳ ἁλῴη, ἐπάναγκές οἱ ἐγίνετο τοὺς ξυγγενεῖς αἰτεῖσθαι ὅτι τάχιστα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων αὐτὸν ἀφανίζειν. [3] οἱ δὲ ξύλα πολλὰ ἐς μέγα τι ὕψος ξυννήσαντες καθίσαντές τε τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐν τῇ τῶν ξύλων ὑπερβολῇ, τῶν τινα Ἐρούλων, ἀλλότριον μέντοι, ξὺν ξιφιδίῳ παρ' αὐτὸν ἔπεμπον· [4] ξυγγενῆ γὰρ αὐτῷ τὸν φονέα εἶναι οὐ θέμις. Ἐπειδὰν δὲ αὐτοῖς ὁ τοῦ ξυγγενοῦς φονεὺς ἐπανῄει, ξύμπαντα ἔκαιον αὐτίκα τὰ ξύλα, ἐκ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἀρξάμενοι. [5] παυσαμένης τε αὐτοῖς τῆς φλογὸς ξυλλέξαντες τὰ ὀστᾶ ἐν τῷ παραυτίκα τῇ γῇ ἔκρυπτον.
Paradoxographus Vaticanus 65 Keller (Rerum Naturalium Scriptores Graeci Minores, vol. I, p. 115) = 59 Giannini (Paradoxographorum Graecorum Reliquiae, p. ?), tr. Jacob Stern in Stephan Heilen, ed., In Pursuit of Wissenschaft: Festschrift für William M. Calder III zum 75. Geburtstag (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2008), pp. 437-466 (at 450):
When their parents are no longer useful because of their old age, the Ligurians throw them off a cliff.

Λίγυες τοὺς γονεῖς, ὅταν μηκέτι ὦσι διὰ γῆρας χρήσιμοι, κατακρημνίζουσιν.
I owe these references to Tim G. Parkin, Old Age in the Roman World: A Cultural and Social History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 261, with n. 109 on p. 431.

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