Friday, November 30, 2012


Feast of St. Andrew

From Eric Thomson:
Today is St. Andrew's Day, but as any laudator will tell you, the veneration of saints isn't what it used to be. Hats off to the forty-five gentlemen of the St. Andrews Society of Philadelphia who on November 30th 1788 downed 38 bottles of Madeira, 27 of claret, 8 of port, 26 of Porter, 2 of cider, and 2 bowls of punch. At what human cost, who knows? But 'glasses broke' cost them 5 shillings. An Historical Catalogue of the St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia 1749-1881 (Printed for the Society, Philadelphia, Sherman & Co., 1881), p. 19. Just divide this mighty vat of booze by 45 to calculate your allowance.

The previous Bill for Dinner conserved in the records (pp. 17-18) dates from 1765:
4 Turkeys
8 Ducks
6 Fowls
6 Partridges
Whip Syllabubs
"Collerds Fouls"
"Sollomon Gundy"
Celery and salad
3 Five shilling Bowls of Punch
4 Three Shilling Bowls of Punch
Sounds like a fine recipe for gout, but I think I'd take the risk.


The World Is Turned Upside Down

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), The Broken Balance, Part III:
That light blood-loving weasel, a tongue of yellow
Fire licking the sides of the gray stones,
Has a more passionate and more pure heart
In the snake-slender flanks than man can imagine;
But he is betrayed by his own courage,
The man who kills him is like a cloud hiding a star.

Then praise the jewel-eyed hawk and the tall blue heron;
The black cormorants that fatten their sea-rock
With shining slime; even that ruiner of anthills
The red-shafted woodpecker flying,
A white star between blood-color wing-clouds,
Across the glades of the wood and the green lakes of shade.

These live their felt natures; they know their norm
And live it to the brim; they understand life.
While men moulding themselves to the anthill have choked
Their natures until the souls die in them;
They have sold themselves for toys and protection:
No, but consider awhile: what else? Men sold for toys.

Uneasy and fractional people, having no center
But in the eyes and mouths that surround them,
Having no function but to serve and support
Civilization, the enemy of man,
No wonder they live insanely, and desire
With their tongues, progress; with their eyes, pleasure; with their hearts, death.

Their ancestors were good hunters, good herdsmen and swordsmen,
But now the world is turned upside down;
The good do evil, the hope's in criminals; in vice
That dissolves the cities and war to destroy them.
Through wars and corruptions the house will fall.
Mourn whom it falls on. Be glad: the house is mined, it will fall.


Too Much

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), from The Tower Beyond Tragedy:
Too much joy is a message-bearer of misery.
A little is good; but come too much and it devours us. Therefore we give of a great harvest
Sheaves to the smiling Gods; and therefore out of a full cup we pour the quarter. No man
Dare take all that God sends him, whom God favors, or destruction
Rides into the house in the last basket.


Waiting for the End of the Age

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Thebaid:
How many turn back toward dreams and magic, how many children
Run home to Mother Church, Father State,
To find in their arms the delicious warmth and folding of souls.
The age weakens and settles home toward old ways.
An age of renascent faith: Christ said, Marx wrote, Hitler says,        5
And though it seems absurd we believe.
Sad children, yes. It is lonely to be adult, you need a father.
With a little practice you'll believe anything.

Faith returns, beautiful, terrible, ridiculous,
And men are willing to die and kill for their faith.        10
Soon come the wars of religion; centuries have passed
Since the air so trembled with intense faith and hatred.
Soon, perhaps, whoever wants to live harmlessly
Must find a cave in the mountain or build a cell
Of the red desert rock under dry junipers,        15
And avoid men, live with more kindly wolves
And luckier ravens, waiting for the end of the age.

Hermit from stone cell
Gazing with great stunned eyes,
What extravagant miracle        20
Has amazed them with light,
What visions, what crazy glory, what wings?
—I see the sun set and rise
And the beautiful desert sand
And the stars at night,        25
The incredible magnificence of things.
I the last living man
That sees the real earth and skies,
Actual life and real death.
The others are all prophets and believers        30
Delirious with fevers of faith.

For this reader, the egotism of "I" in lines 23 and especially 27 is a bit irritating, whether Jeffers is speaking in propria persona or whether he imagines a hermit other than himself speaking. I'd like the poem even better if Jeffers had used the third person in those lines instead. The tone of lines 7-8 also seems condescending. But the poem is still a useful rebuke to those whom Eric Hoffer called "true believers".

Thursday, November 29, 2012


How Peaceful It Would Be

Nathaniel Rich, "Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?" New York Times Magazine (November 28, 2012):
"Nature is so beautiful," Kubota said, smiling wistfully. "If human beings disappeared, how peaceful it would be."
Related posts:


A Gift for Pan

Georg Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex Lapidibus Conlecta (Berlin: Reimer, 1878), p. 326, no. 802 (Rome, Julian Basilica, 2nd century A.D.):
Σ]οὶ τόδε, συρικτά, ὑ[μνη]πόλε, μείλιχε δαῖμο[ν,
  ἁγνὲ λοετροχόων κοίρανε Ναϊάδων,
δῶρον Ὑγεῖνος ἔτε[υξε]ν, ὃν ἀργαλέης ἀπὸ νούσου
  αὐτὸς, ἄνα[ξ], ὑγιῆ θήκαο προσπελ[ά]σ[ας·
πᾶσι γὰρ [ἐν τεκέ]εσσιν ἐμοῖς ὰνα[φ]ανδὸν ἐπέστης 5
  οὐκ ὄναρ, ἀλλὰ μέσους ἤματος ἀμφὶ δρόμους.
There is a similar text, also by Kaibel, in Inscriptiones Graecae XIV = Inscriptiones Italiae et Siciliae (Berlin: Reimer, 1890), p. 268, no. 1014.

My rough translation of the Greek as printed by Kaibel:
For you, player on the pipes, composer of songs of praise, gentle god,
holy leader of the Naiads who pour water for bathing,
Hygeinos made this gift. From a painful disease
you yourself, lord, cured him when you came near;
for among all my children you appeared openly,
not in a dream, but in the middle course of the day.
In the last line, "as a dream" is possible, but Liddell-Scott-Jones also give an adverbial meaning for ὄναρ = "in a dream".

Cf. the Latin translation in Ed. Cougny, Epigrammatum Anthologia Palatina cum Planudeis et Appendice Nova Epigrammatum Veterum ex Libris et Marmoribus Ductorum, Vol. III (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1890), p. 33, #214:
Tibi hocce, fistulator, hymnos-tractans, placide deus,
  pure lavacra-fundentium rex Naiadum,
donum Hyginus (i. est Valentinus) fecit, quem gravi ex morbo
  ipse, princeps, validum fecisti accedens:
omnes enim inter liberos meos palam adstitisti
  non somno, sed medium diei per cursum.
I haven't seen J. Bousquet, "Epigrammes romains," Klio 52 (1970) 37–40, but according to Georges Daux, "En marge des Mélanges Klaffenbach," Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 95 (1971) 267-275 (at 269-272), Bousquet proposed the supplement Π[ὰν αἰ]πόλε (goatherd Pan) for ὑ[μνη]πόλε (composer of songs of praise) in the first line. Daux p. 270: "La lettre Π, déchiffrée dans le premier vers par J. Bousquet sur la reproduction photographique, est un gain assuré; les restes visibles excluent tout autre signe, alors que les éditeurs successifs adoptaient une lecture Y (d'où ύ[μνη]πόλε), sans hésitation ni réserve."

In line 5, Kaibel attributes the supplement [ἐν τεκέ]εσσιν ἐμοῖς (among my children) to E. Curtius. There have been a number of other proposals to fill the gap:
I'm tempted to adopt Bousquet's supplement in line 1 and Latte's supplement in line 5. With these supplements the Greek would read thus:
Σ]οὶ τόδε, συρικτά, Π[ὰν αἰ]πόλε, μείλιχε δαῖμο[ν,
  ἁγνὲ λοετροχόων κοίρανε Ναϊάδων,
δῶρον Ὑγεῖνος ἔτε[υξε]ν, ὃν ἀργαλέης ἀπὸ νούσου
  αὐτὸς, ἄνα[ξ], ὑγιῆ θήκαο προσπελ[ά]σ[ας·
πᾶσι γὰρ [ἐν παθέ]εσσιν ἐμοῖς ὰνα[φ]ανδὸν ἐπέστης 5
  οὐκ ὄναρ, ἀλλὰ μέσους ἤματος ἀμφὶ δρόμους.
My translation would change as follows:
For you, player on the pipes, goatherd Pan, gentle god,
holy leader of the Naiads who pour water for bathing,
Hygeinos made this gift. From a painful disease
you yourself, lord, cured him when you came near;
For in the midst of all my sufferings you appeared openly,
not in a dream, but in the middle course of the day.
I learned of the inscription from H.S. Versnel, "What Did Ancient Man See When He Saw a God? Some Reflections on Greco-Roman Epiphany," in Dirk van der Plas, ed., Effigies Dei: Essays on the History of Religions (Leiden: Brill, 1987), pp. 42-55 (at 48).

The inscription is in Luigi Moretti, Inscriptiones Graecae Urbis Romae, I (Rome: Istituto Italiano per la Storia Antica, 1968), pp. 165-167, no. 184, whence the following image of the stone (p. 166; click to enlarge):

Thanks to Karl Maurer for some corrections.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Rejoicing in Common Things

Plutarch, On Tranquillity of Mind 9 = Moralia 469 D-E (tr. W.C. Helmbold):
Antipater of Tarsus, on his deathbed reckoning up the good things that had fallen to his lot, did not omit even the fair voyage he had from Cilicia to Athens; so we should not overlook even common and ordinary things, but take some account of them and be grateful that we are alive and well and look upon the sun; that there is neither war nor factious strife among us, but that both the earth grants cultivation and the sea fair sailing to those who wish it; that we may speak or act, be silent or at leisure, as we choose.

Ἀντίπατρος δ᾽ ὁ Ταρσεὺς πρὸς τῷ τελευτᾶν ἀναλογιζόμενος ὧν ἔτυχεν ἀγαθῶν, οὐδὲ τὴν εὔπλοιαν παρέλιπε τὴν ἐκ Κιλικίας αὐτῷ γενομένην εἰς Ἀθήνας. δεῖ δὲ καὶ τὰ κοινὰ μὴ παρορᾶν ἀλλ᾽ ἔν τινι λόγῳ τίθεσθαι καὶ χαίρειν, ὅτι ζῶμεν ὑγιαίνομεν τὸν ἣλιον ὁρῶμεν· οὔτε πόλεμος οὔτε στάσις ἐστίν· ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡ γῆ παρέχει γεωργεῖν καὶ θάλασσα πλεῖν ἀδεῶς τοῖς βουλομένοις· καὶ λέγειν ἔξεστι καὶ πράττειν καὶ σιωπᾶν καὶ σχολάζειν.


Four Judgments on Student Performance

R.P.G. Williamson, quoted in Caroline Jebb, Life and Letters of Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1907), p. 189:
Then came the formula, varying only with the book that was being read and the particular student addressed: 'We begin, this morning, gentlemen, Herodotus, Book IX, page 64, section 23: Mr Smith, bench 12, will you begin, please?' I wish I could give the cadence of these words; it is clear enough in my own ears, and every old student who reads this will recall the well-known tones.

The words were spoken most precisely, slowly, and distinctly, and the request to Mr Smith was given in a gradually ascending pitch but in as gradual a diminuendo of loudness so as not to alarm that gentleman unduly. Mr Smith, it must be remembered, did not expect the honour, for Jebb went through the class in such a way that no one knew when he was to be invited to exhibit his power of translation and his scholarship. After Smith had got through his translation he was asked some questions and then followed one of four judgments by the professor. If he had done first-rate he received the encomium, 'Thank you, Mr Smith; very well' (the last two words in a gentle murmur of appreciation); if he had done pretty well, he was greeted with, 'Thank you, Mr Smith' (the voice still genial); if his performance was moderate, he escaped with the words, 'That will do, Mr Smith' (the voice indicative of slight boredom), and if he had muddled through, the awful sentence came, as if from Olympus, 'Sit down, Mr Smith.' No one who heard these unvarying judgments and the delicate and deliberate shading of the tones of the voice in which they were pronounced will ever forget them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


To Laugh is Better than Learning

James Shirley (1596-1666), St. Patrick for Ireland (London: Printed by J. Raworth, for R. Whitaker, 1640), from Act V:
I neither will lend, nor borrow,
Old age will be here to morrow,
'Tis pleasure we are made for,
When death comes all is paid for:
    No matter what's the bill of fare,        5
    I'll take my cup, I'll take no care.

Be wise, and say you had warning,
To laugh is better than learning,
To weare no cloathes, not neat is,
But hunger is good where meat is:        10
    Give me wine, give me a wench,
    And let her Parrot talke in French.

It is a match worth the making,
To keepe the merrie thought waking;
A song is better than fasting,        15
And sorrow's not worth the tasting,
    Then keep your braine light as you can,
    An ounce of care will kill a man.
'Tis in line 3 is my conjectural emendation for 'This in the 1640 printed text. Most modern editions and anthologies seem to have This.


Rich and Poor

John Ruskin (1819-1900), Unto This Last (Essay IV, § 65):
[I]n a community regulated only by laws of demand and supply, but protected from open violence, the persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive, and ignorant. The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well-informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief, and the entirely merciful, just, and godly person.


Indical Learning

Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), The History of the Worthies of England, new ed., Vol. II (London: Printed for Thomas Tegg, 1840) p. 460 (on Alan of Lynn):
Great his diligence in reading many and voluminous authors; and no less his desire that others with him should reap the fruit of his industry, to which end he made indexes of the many writers he perused.

An Index is a necessary implement, and no impediment, of a book, except in the same sense wherein the carriages of an army are termed impedimenta. Without this, a large author is but a labyrinth without a clue to direct the reader therein. I confess there is a lazy kind of learning which is only indical; when scholars (like adders which only bite the horse heels) nibble but at the tables, which are calces librorum, neglecting the body of the book. But though the idle deserve no crutches (let not a staff be used by them, but on them;) pity it is the weary should be denied the benefit thereof, and industrious scholars prohibited the accommodation of an index, most used by those who most pretend to contemn it.

Claude Raguet Hirst, The Bookworm's Table

Dear Mike,

I can't resist pointing out that Fuller's Worthies itself has no index. This want was only supplied after the author's death, with a 12-page An Alphabetical Index to Fuller's Worthies of England (London, 1737).

As ever,

Ian Jackson

Monday, November 26, 2012


Reading in Bed

J.W. Robertson Scott, The Story of the Pall Mall Gazette, of its first editor Frederick Greenwood, and of its founder George Murray Smith (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), p. 45:
All of us who read in bed have our little dodges. Smith made a point of not putting a marker in a book to show where he had stopped reading before falling asleep. The last page or two, he considered, might have been read in a half-drowsy state, so, noble fellow, he 'began reading the next night at the point at which my memory of the book held good'.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Crackers in Bed

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Cast Away Care

John Ford and Thomas Dekker, The Sun's-Darling: A Moral Masque (London: Printed by J. Bell, for Andrew Penneycuicke, 1656), pp. 30-31 (from Act IV, Scene 1):
Cast away care, hee that Loves sorrow,
Lengthens not a day, nor can buy to morrow:
        Money is trash; and he that will spend it,
        let him drink merrily, Fortune will send it.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, Oh ho.        5
Play it off stiffly, we may not part so: merrily &c.

Wine is a Charme, it heates the blood too,
Cowards it will arm, if the wine be good too;
        quickens the wit, and makes the back able;
        scornes to submit to the watch or Cunstable.        10
Merrily, &c.

Pots fly about, give us more Liquor;
Brothers of a rowt, our braines will flow quicker;
        emptie the Cask, score up, wee care not,
        fill all the Pots again, drink on, and spare not,        15
Merrily, &c.
Line 6: OED s.v. play, under "Phrasal Verbs," defines "to play off" as "to drain or finish (a drink, esp. an alcoholic one)." On "stiffly" cf. OED, s.v. stiff, sense 13.b "Of a drinker: 'Hard'"; one of the citations is to Thomas Heywood, Philocothonista, or, The Drunkard, Opened, Dissected, and Anatomized (London: Printed by Robert Raworth, 1635), p. 44:
To title a drunkard by, wee (as loath to give such a name, so grosse and harsh) strive to character him in a more mincing and modest phrase, as thus:
He is a good fellow,
A boone Companion,
A mad Greeke,
A true Tojan [sic, read Trojan],
A stiffe Blade...
A "stiff drink," i.e. a strong or potent one, apparently doesn't occur until the 19th century (OED s.v. stiff, sense 17).

Lines 8-10: see Some Effects of Wine.

Title page of Heywood's Philocothonista


The Hereafter

Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996), "Old Mr. Flood," in Up in the Old Hotel (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), pp. 375-436 (at 375):
[H]e comes from a long line of Baptists and has a nagging fear of the hereafter, complicated by the fact that the descriptions of heaven in the Bible are as forbidding to him as those of hell.
Id., p. 383:
Twain and Broun are Mr. Flood's favorite writers. "If I get to heaven," he once said, "the first Saturday night I'm up there, if it's O.K. with the management, I'm going to get hold of a bottle of good whiskey and look up Mr. Twain and Mr. Broun. And if they're not up there, I'll ask to be sent down to the other place." A moment later he added uneasily, "Of course, I don't really mean that. I'm just talking to hear myself talk."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), Crime and Punishment (Part IV, Chapter 1, tr. Constance Garnett):
"I don't believe in a future life," said Raskolnikov.

Svidrigailov sat lost in thought.

"And what if there are only spiders there, or something of that sort," he said suddenly.

"He is a madman," thought Raskolnikov.

"We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it's one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that's all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that."
Related post: Heaven and Hell.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Diogenes Laertius Expurgatus

From David Whitehead via email:
I haven't myself seen this piece on the LCL, but I do hope it includes R.D. Hicks on Diogenes Laertius' Life of Diogenes the Cynic (6.20-81). As we know, D was much given to public masturbation. Some allusions to this in Hicks are easy to spot (6.46 and 69), but 6.56 requires more effort, given the camouflage of Hicks's 'he made a more scurrilous repartee'.

Such an application of νευρόω in the Lysistrata is picked up in LSJ and by Henderson (both in his commentary and in The Maculate Muse), but the instance in D.L. appears to be missed.
I don't see any references to R.D. Hicks' translation of Diogenes Laertius in Philip Lawton, "For the gentleman and the scholar: sexual and scatological references in the Loeb Classical Library," in Stephen Harrison and Christopher Stray, edd., Expurgating the Classics: Editing Out in Greek and Latin (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2012), pp. 175-196.

Here are the passages cited by Professor Whitehead from Diogenes Laertius, with R.D. Hicks' translation in the Loeb Classical Library series and my comments.

When behaving indecently in the marketplace, he wished it were as easy to relieve hunger by rubbing an empty stomach.

ἐπ᾽ ἀγορᾶς ποτε χειρουργῶν, "εἴθε," ἔφη, "καὶ τὴν κοιλίαν ἦν παρατρίψαντα μὴ πεινῆν."
Hicks' "behaving indecently" in Greek is χειρουργῶν, present participle of χειρουργέω = "work with the hand," i.e. masturbate (Liddell-Scott-Jones, meaning 5 = "sens. obsc.").

Being reproached one day for having falsified the currency, he said, "That was the time when I was such as you are now; but such as I am now, you will never be." To another who reproached him for the same offence he made a more scurrilous repartee.

ὀνειδιζόμενός ποτε ἐπὶ τῷ παραχαράξαι τὸ νόμισμα ἔφη, "ἦν ποτε χρόνος ἐκεῖνος ὅτ᾽ ἤμην ἐγὼ τοιοῦτος ὁποῖος σὺ νῦν· ὁποῖος δ᾽ ἐγὼ νῦν, σὺ οὐδέποτε." καὶ πρὸς ἄλλον ἐπὶ τῷ αὐτῷ ὀνειδίσαντα, "καὶ γὰρ ἐνεούρουν θᾶττον, ἀλλὰ νῦν οὔ."
Where Hicks translates "he made a more scurrilous repartee," the Greek more closely translated means, "[he said,] 'I also used to masturbate faster, but not now.'" Here the Greek word for masturbate is νευρόω = "strain the sinews, nerve" (Liddell-Scott-Jones, who cite only Aristophanes, Lysistrata 1078 for "sens. obsc.").

Behaving indecently in public, he wished "it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing the belly."

χειρουργῶν τ᾽ ἐν τῷ μέσῳ συνεχές, "εἴθε ἦν," ἔλεγε, "καὶ τὴν κοιλίαν παρατριψάμενον τοῦ λιμοῦ παύσασθαι."
As at 6.46, Hicks' "behaving indecently" in Greek is χειρουργῶν, present participle of χειρουργέω = "work with the hand," i.e. masturbate (Liddell-Scott-Jones, meaning 5 = "sens. obsc.").

I'm able to add one more passage where R.D. Hicks' translation obscures the literal meaning, at Diogenes Laertius 6.94:
Metrocles of Maroneia was the brother of Hipparchia. He had been formerly a pupil of Theophrastus the Peripatetic, and had been so far corrupted by weakness that, when he made a breach of good manners in the course of rehearsing a speech, it drove him to despair, and he shut himself up at home, intending to starve himself to death. On learning this Crates came to visit him as he had been asked to do, and after advisedly making a meal of lupins, he tried to persuade him by argument as well that he had committed no crime, for a prodigy would have happened if he had not taken the natural means of relieving himself. At last by reproducing the action he succeeded in lifting him from his dejection, using for his consolation the likeness of the occurrences. From that time forward Metrocles was his pupil, and became proficient in philosophy.

Μητροκλῆς ὁ Μαρωνείτης, ἀδελφὸς Ἱππαρχίας, ὃς πρότερον ἀκούων Θεοφράστου τοῦ περιπατητικοῦ τοσοῦτον διέφθαρτο, ὥστε ποτὲ μελετῶν καὶ μεταξύ πως ἀποπαρδὼν ὑπ᾽ ἀθυμίας οἴκοι κατάκλειστος ἦν, ἀποκαρτερεῖν βουλόμενος. μαθὼν δὴ ὁ Κράτης εἰσῆλθε πρὸς αὐτὸν παρακληθεὶς καὶ θέρμους ἐπίτηδες βεβρωκὼς ἔπειθε μὲν αὐτὸν καὶ διὰ τῶν λόγων μηδὲν φαῦλον πεποιηκέναι· τέρας γὰρ ἂν γεγονέναι εἰ μὴ καὶ τὰ πνεύματα κατὰ φύσιν ἀπεκρίνετο· τέλος δὲ καὶ ἀποπαρδὼν αὐτὸν ἀνέρρωσεν, ἀφ᾽ ὁμοιότητος τῶν ἔργων παραμυθησάμενος. τοὐντεῦθεν ἤκουεν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐγένετο ἀνὴρ ἱκανὸς ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ.
Hicks' euphemistic phrases "when he made a breach of good manners" and "by reproducing the action" are both the same word in the original Greek, ἀποπαρδών, aorist participle of ἀποπέρδομαι = fart.



Samuel Rowley, "Song," from The Noble Souldier. Or, A Contract Broken, Justly Reveng'd. A Tragedy (London: Printed for Nicholas Vavasour, 1634):
Quest. Oh, sorrow, sorrow, say where dost thou dwell?
Answ.  In the lowest roome of Hell.
Quest. Art thou borne of Humane Race?
Answ.  No, no, I have a furier face.
Quest. Art thou in City, Towne, or Court?
Answ.  I to every place resort.
Quest. Oh why into the world is sorrow sent?
Answ. Men afflicted, best repent.
Quest. What dost thou feed on?
Answ.  Broken sleepe.
Quest. What tak'st thou pleasure in?
Answ. To weepe,
           To sigh, to sob, to pine, to groane,
           To wring my hands, to sit alone.

Quest. Oh when? oh when shall sorrow quiet have?
Answ.  Never, never, never, never,
           Never till she finds a Grave.

4 furier: fury's A.H. Bullen


Le Vieil Homme de Vérone

Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to a French translation of Claudian's poem on the old man of Verona, by Mellin de Saint-Gelais, or Melin de Sanct-Gelays (1491-1558), with the title "Elegie de Claudian, traduicte en françois par ledict Auteur," in Saingelais Oeuures de luy tant en composition, que translation, ou allusion aux Auteurs Grecs, & Latins (Lyons: Pierre de Tours, 1547) pp. 9-11. Where there is an indentation or break in the French, I've inserted Claudian's Latin in square brackets.
O Bienheureux qui a passé son eage
Dedans le clos de son propre heritage,
Et n'ha de veue eslongné sa maison
En ieunes ans, ny en vieille saison:
Qui d'vn baston porté, & secouru,
Va par les champs, ou ieune il ha couru:
Les siecles longs pas à pas racomptant
Du toict champestre où il est habitant.
Nul accident d'inconstante fortune
Luy ha monstré sa fureur impotune:
Et n'ha esté à peines, & dangiers
Sa soif estaindre aux fleuues estrangiers.

[Felix, qui propriis aevum transegit in arvis,
   ipsa domus puerum quem videt, ipsa senem;
qui baculo nitens in qua reptavit harena
   unius numerat saecula longa casae.
illum non vario traxit fortuna tumultu,
   nec bibit ignotas mobilis hospes aquas.]

Il n'ha senty (suiuant le faict des armes)
La froide paour des assaulx, & alarmes:
Et marchandant n'ha experimenté
D'estre en la mer des vndes tourmenté.
Et de proces n'ouit oncques le bruit
Qui empeschast de son aise le fruict,
Mais tout rural, & inexercité:
A peine ha veu sa prochaine cité
Se contenant loing de mur, & de tour,
De veoir à plain le beau ciel tout en tour.

[non freta mercator tremuit, non classica miles,
   non rauci lites pertulit ille fori.
indocilis rerum, vicinae nescius urbis
   adspectu fruitur liberiore poli.]

S'il nombrer veult quelque temps le bon homme,
Ne compte point par les consulz de Romme,
Mais seulement cognoit les ans passez
Aux fruict qu'il ha d'an en an amassez.
Quand son iardin verd, & flory deuient
Il cognoit bien que le printemps aduient,
L'esté apres, lors que tout fructifie:
Voila son art, & sa philosophie,
Et veoir leuer, & coucher le soleil
Au mesme lieu de son somme, & reueil:
Et dens le clos du rustique seiour,
Son zodiaque, ou mesure le iour.

[frugibus alternis, non consule computat annum:
   autumnum pomis, ver sibi flore notat.
idem condit ager soles idemque reducit,
   metiturque suo rusticus orbe diem,]

Tel Chesne il ha aux champs grand, & superbe
Qui luy souuient auoir veu estre en herbe:
Et les forestz ha veues planté-menues
Qui quand & luy sont vieilles deuenues.

[ingentem meminit parvo qui gemine quercum
   aequaevumque videt consenuisse nemus,]

Nomplus congnoit sa voisine Veronne
Que faict Memphis qui le Nil enuironne:
Et tant prochain luy est le lac de Garde
Que la mer rouge, ou d'y aller il n'ha garde.

[proxima cui nigris Verona remotior Indis
   Benacumque putat litora Rubra lacum.]

Ce neantmoins le temps, & ses effors
N'ont affoibly ses membres sains, & fors:
Et ses nepueuz il void en l'eage tiers
De leur ayeul, les bras durs, & entiers.

[sed tamen indomitae vires firmisque lacertis
   aetas robustum tertia cernit avum.]

Vn autre donc ira voir Iberie,
Et plus s'il veult, car ie tiens & parie
Que ce vieillart qui ne veult qu'on le voie,
Ha plus de vie, & l'autre plus de voie.

[erret et extremos alter scrutetur Hiberos:
   plus habet hic vitae, plus habet ille viae.]

Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870), Farmyard

Related posts:

Saturday, November 24, 2012



Anonymous, "Nights first song," in Luminalia, or The Festivall of Light. Personated in a Masque at Court, by the Queenes Majestie, and her Ladies. On Shrovetuesday Night, 1637 (London: Printed by Iohn Haviland for Thomas Walkley, 1637), pp. 5-6:
In wet and cloudy mists, I sloowly rise,
    As with mine owne dull weight opprest,
To close with sleep the jealous lovers eyes,
    And give forsaken Virgins rest.

Th' adventrous Merchant and the Mariner,
    (Whom stormes all day vex in the deep)
Beginne to trust the windes when I appeare,
    And lose their dangers in their sleep.

The studious that consume their brains and sight,
    In search where doubtfull knowledge lies,
Grow wearie of their fruitlesse use of light,
    And wish my shades to ease their eyes.

Th' ambitious toyling Statesman that prepares
    Great mischiefes ere the day begins,
Not measures day by houres, but by his cares;
    And night must intermit his sinnes.

Then why, when my slow Chariot us'd to clime,
    Did old mistaking Sages weepe?
As if my Empire did usurpe their time,
    And houres were lost when spent in sleep.

I come to ease their labours and prevent
    That wearinesse which would destroy:
The profit of their toyles are still miss-spent
    Till rest enables to enjoy.



Samuel Sheppard, The Loves of Amandus and Sophronia (London: Printed by G.D. for Iohn Hardestie, 1650), p. 70 (from Book II, Chap. IV):
Though here on earth men differ, in the grave
There's no distinction; all alike they have.
Then must the Conqueror with the captive spred
On one bare earth, as in the common bed;
The all commanding Generall hath no span        5
Of ground allowd, more than a common man.
Folly with Wisedome hath an equall share,
The foul, and faire, to like dust changed are.
This is, of all mortality, the end:
Thersites now with Nereus dares contend;        10
And with Achilles he hath equall place,
That living, durst not look him in the face.
The servant with his Master, and the maid,
Stretch'd by her Mistress; both their heads are laid
Upon an equal pillow; subjects keep        15
Courts, with Kings equal, & as soft they sleep,
Lodging their heads upon a turfe of grasse,
As they on Marble, or on figur'd brasse.
10 Thersites was the ugliest of the Greeks in the Trojan War, Nereus the handsomest.

Friday, November 23, 2012


The Soul's Dark Cottage

The image of the body as a house occurs in lines 13-14 of a poem by Edmund Waller (1606-1687), "Of the Last Verses in the Book," in his Poems, &c. Written upon several Occasions, and to several Persons, 10th ed. (London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1722), p. 259:
When we for Age cou'd neither read nor write,
The Subject made Us able to indite.
The Soul with nobler Resolutions deckt,
The Body stooping, does her self erect:
No mortal Parts are requisite to raise        5
Her, that unbody'd can her Maker praise.

The Seas are quiet, when the Winds give o'er;
So calm are we, when Passions are no more:
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting Things, so certain to be lost.        10
Clouds of Affection from our younger Eyes
Conceal that Emptiness, which Age descries.

The Soul's dark Cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
Lets in new Light thro' Chinks that Time has made:
Stronger by Weakness, wiser Men become,        15
As they draw near to their eternal Home:
Leaving the Old, both Worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the Threshold of the New.

———Miratur limen Olympi.                      Virgil.
Related posts:


Another Translation of Claudian's Old Man of Verona

Thanks to Ian Jackson for drawing my attention to another translation of one of my favorite Latin poems. The translation is by John Latham (1787-1853), "The Old Man of Verona. From Claudian," in his English and Latin Poems, Original and Translated (London: T. Richards, 1853), pp. 104-109 (English on odd-numbered pages):
Blest who beyond his fathers' fields
    Through life has never cared to roam,
To whom the self-same roof still yields
    From infancy to age a home.

Whose steps, upon that very spot
    Where once he crawled, a staff now bears,
Fond to retrace of that one cot
    The annals through a hundred years.

In varied quest of distant schemes
    Him fortune never forced to stray,
He never drank of unknown streams,
    A restless wanderer far away.

No merchant, whom each swelling sea,
    No soldier, whom each blast of war
Fills with alarm, no lawyer he
    Vexed with the hoarse and wrangling bar.

In state affairs he boasts no skill,
    What cities are he never knew;
Enough, that Heaven's blue concave still
    Is free and open to his view.

Others by consuls date the year,—
    He by alternate crops computes;
He knows 'tis spring when flowers appear,
    'Tis autumn when he culls his fruits.

One field is his horizon's bound,
    Here dawns the sun, there sets his ray,
While, by the same unvaried round
    Of toil, he measures every day.

Yon spreading oak's enormous girth
    A slender sapling he has known,
Both from one era took their birth,
    And both together old have grown.

Verona's neighbouring town he deems
    Remote as swarthy India's shore.
And Guarda's lake so distant seems,
    Not the Red sea itself seems more.

Yet hath his vigour time defied,
    Still can his arm in toil engage;
While his son's sons behold with pride
    Their lusty grandsire's green old age.

What then if some, the world to see,
    To fair Iberia may have strayed:
On earth a longer sojourn he,
    A longer journey they have made.
Other translations:

Thursday, November 22, 2012



To shield readers from material deemed obscene or offensive, editors and translators of volumes in the Loeb Classical Library series used to resort to a variety of tricks. For an excellent analysis see Philip Lawton, "For the gentleman and the scholar: sexual and scatological references in the Loeb Classical Library," in Stephen Harrison and Christopher Stray, edd., Expurgating the Classics: Editing Out in Greek and Latin (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2012), pp. 175-196. Lawton distinguishes the following methods:
What is the natural reaction of the reader to such tricks? The answer is in Selections from the Brief Mention of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, ed. C.W.E. Miller (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1930), p. 52: "Unregenerate boys are especially fond of looking up the lacunae in expurgated editions."

In the essay on Juvenal in his book Classical Bearings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), Peter Green tells about the great lengths to which he and some of his Sixth Form fellows at Charterhouse went to find out as much as they could about obscene passages omitted in bowdlerized school editions of the classics, for example Juvenal 1.39 (vetulae vesica beatae), much of Juvenal's sixth satire, all of Juvenal's second and ninth satires, etc.

They spent long hours of their free time in the well-stocked school library tracking down these naughty bits, poring over commentaries and lexicons, and trying to figure out what the censored passages meant. In the course of doing so they greatly improved their knowledge of Greek and Latin.

Green goes so far as to say (p. 242), "This was how I first acquired the basic techniques of scholarly research."

I recently noticed a minor example of obfuscation in one of the volumes of the Loeb Classical Library, viz. Ovid, Metamorphoses, tr. Frank Justus Miller, 3rd ed., rev. G.P. Goold, Volume I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), in the "skinny-dipping" episode (2.453-465, on pp. 90-93), where some of the titillation of the Latin has been removed from the English translation. The nymph Callisto, raped by Jove, has been trying to conceal her pregnancy, but the goddess Diana discovers the truth:
Nine times since then the crescent moon had grown full orbed, when the goddess, quitting the chase and overcome by the hot sun's rays, came to a cool grove through which a gently murmuring stream flowed over its smooth sands. The place delighted her and she dipped her feet into the water. Delighted too with this, she said to her companions: "Come, no one is near to see; let us disrobe and bathe us in the brook." The Arcadian blushed, and, while all the rest obeyed, she only sought excuses for delay. But her companions forced her to comply, and there her shame was openly confessed. As she stood terror-stricken, vainly striving to hide her state, Diana cried: "Begone! and pollute not our sacred pool"; and so expelled her from her company.

orbe resurgebant lunaria cornua nono,
cum dea venatu fraternis languida flammis,
nacta nemus gelidum, de quo cum murmure labens        455
ibat et attritas versabat rivus harenas.
ut loca laudavit, summas pede contigit undas;
his quoque laudatis "procul est" ait "arbiter omnis:
nuda superfusis tinguamus corpora lymphis!"
Parrhasis erubuit; cunctae velamina ponunt;        460
una moras quaerit: dubitanti vestis adempta est,
qua posita nudo patuit cum corpore crimen.
attonitae manibusque uterum celare volenti
"i procul hinc" dixit "nec sacros pollue fontis!"
Cynthia deque suo iussit secedere coetu.        465
Line 460 "all the rest obeyed"—for "obeyed," the Latin has "velamina ponunt," i.e. "strip off their clothes."
Line 461-462 " But her companions forced her to comply, and there her shame was openly confessed."—the Latin has "dubitanti vestis adempta est, / qua posita nudo patuit cum corpore crimen." i.e. "while she hesitated, her clothing was taken off, and after it was removed, her sin was revealed, along with her naked body."
Line 463 "striving to hide her state"—the Latin has "manibusque uterum celare volenti," i.e. "wishing to hide her [swollen] womb with her hands."

Gillis Coignet (1542–1599), Callisto

Thanks to the friend who gave me a copy of Expurgating the Classics.



Rowland Watkyns (1614?-1664), "Sickness," in his Flamma Sine Fumo: or, Poems Without Fictions (London: Printed for William Leake, 1662), p. 67-68:
Omnes sani facilè aegrotis consilium damus.

Ask me no more, Which is the greatest wealth,
Our rich possessions, liberty, or health?
For riches, freedome, without health to me
Make but sad musick without harmony.
Rust eateth Iron: and the finest cloth        5
Is spoil'd, and fretted by the envious moth;
Through sickness strength and beauty fade away,
As when a cloud obscures the fairest day;
Each sickness is Gods prison; and more sad
Than any which cruel Tyrants had.        10
When the sore gout doth but possess the toe,
Where is thy former liberty to go?
A golden Crown can no great comfort be,
When th' head is troubled with a plethorie.
Call for delicious Quails, Canary Wine,        15
The finest Bread, or Manna more divine;
These to thy palate will distastful prove,
When nothing can thee to disgestion move,
Much more diseases will in man appear,
Than there be dayes existent in the year.        20
O health, O perfect health, the gift of God,
When we grow wanton, sickness is his rod:
When I am sick or well, grant, Lord, I may
Remember thee, and not forget to pray.
The Latin motto (which means "We all, when healthy, readily give advice to those who are sick") recalls Terence, Andria 309: "facile omnes quom valemu' recta consilia aegrotis damus," which is #1205 in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), p. 825. Tosi doesn't list Watkyns' variant of the motto, but he does give an English version: "It is easy for a man in health to preach patience to the sick."

A "plethorie" (line 14) is an "overabundance of one or more humours, esp. blood" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. plethora). According to Alan Rudrum, "Watkyns, Rowland (c.1614–1664)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Watkyns "may have practised as a physician while he was deprived of his living."

Related posts:


Aloof from Mankind

Francis Parkman (1823-1893), History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac, and the War of the North American Tribes against the English Colonies after the Conquest of Canada (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), pp. 378-379 (from Chapter XXII, describing "the Virginian frontiersman"):
Concerning the business, pleasures, and refinements of cultivated life, he knew little, and cared nothing; and his manners were usually rough and obtrusive to the last degree. Aloof from mankind, he lived in a world of his own, which, in his view, contained all that was deserving of admiration and praise. He looked upon himself and his compeers as models of prowess and manhood, nay, of all that is elegant and polite; and the forest gallant regarded with peculiar complacency his own half-savage dress, his swaggering gait, and his backwoods jargon. He was wilful, headstrong, and quarrelsome; frank, straightforward, and generous; brave as the bravest, and utterly intolerant of arbitrary control. His self-confidence mounted to audacity. Eminently capable of heroism, both in action and endurance, he viewed every species of effeminacy with supreme contempt; and, accustomed as he was to entire self-reliance, the mutual dependence of conventional life excited his especial scorn.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012



Rowland Watkyns (1614?-1664), "Antipathy," in his Flamma Sine Fumo: or, Poems Without Fictions (London: Printed for William Leake, 1662), p. 45:
I Love him not; but shew no reason can
Wherefore, but this, I do not love the man.
This is obviously inspired by Martial 1.33:
Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;
  Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.
Related post: Hate at First Sight.



Rowland Watkyns (1614?-1664), "Contentment," in his Flamma Sine Fumo: or, Poems Without Fictions (London: Printed for William Leake, 1662), pp. 22-23:
Ex animo rem stare aequum puto, non animum ex re.

Sad discontent like some unwholsom blast
The fairest blossomes, and best fruit thou hast,
Will soon destroy: Like leaven it will soure
The lump of all thy joyes: No golden shoure
Can help the wounded conscience, and no Art,
But onely grace can cure the cankred heart:
O sweet contentment, from which spring do flow
Pure streames of joy: when I am poor, and low,
Thou make'st me rich; when sick without relief,
Thou art the balsome to expel my grief.
I do not long for Quailes, or dainty fish,
To court my palat with a curious dish.
I am no slave to gold; an empty chest
Disquiets not my conscience, nor my rest:
I am not puft in mind; ambitious eyes
Look often higher than their merits rise.
My clothes shall decent be, not gay: I doubt,
That velvet slippers, cannot cure the gout,
Nor can a golden crown the head-ach cure,
Nor purple Robes from Feavers us secure.
I love my freedom: yet strong prisons can
Vex but the bad, and not the virtuous man?
Imprisonment, sicknesse, persecution, losse,
Are but the chips of Christ his sacred crosse:
I am content; nor do I greatly care,
Whether the heavens fair, or cloudy are.
The Latin motto comes from Ausonius, Idylls 3.1.11, and means "Upon the soul—it is my balanced judgment—wealth depends, and not a man's soul upon his wealth" (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn White).


No Relish for the Country

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Miss Georgiana Harcourt (1838):
The summer and the country, dear Georgiana, have no charms for me. I look forward anxiously to the return of bad weather, coal fires, and good society in a crowded city. I have no relish for the country; it is a kind of healthy grave. I am afraid you are not exempt from the delusions of flowers, green turf, and birds; they all afford slight gratification, but not worth an hour of rational conversation; and rational conversation in sufficient quantities is only to be had from the congregation of a million of people in one spot.
His letter to Lady Holland (January 3, 1841):
I do all I can to love the country, and endeavour to believe those poetical lies which I read in Rogers and others, on the subject; which said deviations from truth were, by Rogers, all written in St. James's-place.
His letter to Mrs. Meynell (December, 1841):
You may laugh, dear G., but, after all, the country is most dreadful! The real use of it is to find food for cities; but as for a residence of any man who is neither butcher nor baker, nor food grower in any of its branches, it is a dreadful waste of existence and abuse of life.
Related posts:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


A Race of Cheap Fausts

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), "Decaying Lambskins," lines 8-11:
                                                                              What is noble in us, to kindle
The imagination of a future age? We shall seem a race of cheap Fausts, vulgar magicians.
What men have we to show them? but inventions and appliances. Not men but populations, mass-men; not life
But amusements; not health but medicines.


An Oxbridge Education

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to the Countess of Morley (1831):
——— has been to Cambridge to place his son; in other words, he has put him there to spend his money, to lose what good qualities he has, and to gain nothing useful in return. If men had made no more progress in the common arts of life than they have in education, we should at this moment be dividing our food with our fingers, and drinking out of the palms of our hands.
See also his letter to Mrs. Meynell (1839):
I feel for ——— about her son at Oxford; knowing, as I do, that the only consequences of a University education are, the growth of vice and the waste of money.


Come, Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), "The Bed By The Window":
I chose the bed downstairs by the sea-window for a good death-bed
When we built the house; it is ready waiting,
Unused unless by some guest in a twelvemonth, who hardly suspects
Its latter purpose. I often regard it,
With neither dislike nor desire; rather with both, so equalled
That they kill each other and a crystalline interest
Remains alone. We are safe to finish what we have to finish;
And then it will sound rather like music
When the patient daemon behind the screen of sea-rock and sky
Thumps with his staff, and calls thrice: "Come, Jeffers."


The Life of Man

[Warning: some four-letter words ahead.]

Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli (1791-1863), "La Vita Dell’Omo" (dated January 18, 1833; tr. Hermann W. Haller):
Nine months in the stench: then the swaddling clothes,
with kisses, milk and tears,
then on the leash, in the cradle, in toddling clothes,
harness and pants.

Then begins the torment of the school,
the ABC, the whip, the chilblains,
measles, the shit in the seat,
and a bit of scarlet fever and smallpox.

Then comes the apprenticeship, fasting, work,
the rent, the jail and taxes,
the sick bed, debts and fucks.

The summer's sun, the winter's snow ...
And at last, God bless us all,
comes death, and it all ends with hell.
Belli's sonnet in the original Romanesco dialect:
Nove mesi a la puzza: poi in fassciola
tra sbasciucchi, lattime e llagrimoni:
poi p' er laccio, in ner crino, e in vesticciola,
cor torcolo e l'imbraghe pe ccarzoni.

Poi comincia er tormento de la scola,
l'abbeccè, le frustate, li ggeloni,
la rosalía, la cacca a la ssediola,
e un po' de scarlattina e vvormijjoni.

Poi viè ll'arte, er diggiuno, la fatica,
la piggione, le carcere, er governo,
lo spedale, li debbiti, la fica,

er zol d'istate, la neve d'inverno ...
E pper urtimo, Iddio sce benedica,
viè la Morte, e ffinissce co l'inferno.
Another translation, by Mike Stocks:
Nine months in a bog, then swaddling clothes
and sloppy kisses, rashes, big round tears,
a baby harness, baby walker, bows,
short trousers and a cap for several years,

and then begin the agonies of school,
the ABC, the pox, the six of the best,
the poo-poo in the pants, the ridicule,
the chilblains, measles, fevers on the chest;

then works arrives, the daily slog, the rent,
the fasts, the stretch inside, the government,
the hospitals, the debts to pay, the fucks ...

The chaser to it all, on God's say-so,
(after summer's sun and winter's snow)
is death, and after death comes hell—life sucks.
Translated into Scots by Robert Garioch:
Nine month in the stink, syne rowed-up, dosed wi dill,
mang kisses, milk, greitan and curly locks,
harnessed, happit in babby-clouts and frocks,
in a bairn-fank pentit wi Jack and Jill.

And syne stairts aa the torment of the schuil,
the A.B.C and chulblains, pawmies, knocks,
the cackie doun the hole, a puckle poax,
rush-fever, measles or some ither ill.

Syne lairnin hou to fast and mak a levin,
the rent, the government, the presoun cell,
hospital, dyvourie, mockage and grieving,

the simmer suin, the winter snaw and hail ...
And at the feenish o't Gode bliss us, even
eftir aa thon, comes daith and, lastly, hell.
Translated into Yorkshire dialect by Paul Howard:
Nine month long in't'stink: then a babby born
smother'd in kisses, milksop an' tears:
then t'reins, t'walker, an't'babby-cluwes worn,
w''t'bonnet an't'breeaks up to't'ears.

Then next up t'sufferin' o' skooel comes,
t'ABC, t'slipperin', t'canin’, t'chilblains,
t'German measles, t'sittin' on't'bog wi't'runs,
bit o' small-pox, few scarlet fever pains.

Then there's t'livin' to mek, t'graftin' in't'muck,
t'fastin', t'guverment, t'prison if no rent,
t'ospit'l an't'debt an' mebee t'odd fuck:

t'summer sun, t'winter wet, what t'season's sent ...
An' in't'end, God bless us, if truth to tell,
there's nowt but Deeath, and eternal 'ell.
Translated into "Strine" by Peter Nicholas Dale:
Nine munths in the stench: then swaddlen ban's,
An smoochy kisses n' cradlecap n' whingy tears:
Then jolly jumpers n' strollers ta ged'em off their han's,
Dressed up in frippery, hedpads, britches an gear.

Then school starts up, an with it the torchure:
The alfabet, the canens an the chillblains,
German measles n' poopen on a potty chair,
Scarlet fever, chickenpox, mumps an sprains.

Then learnen a trade, fasts, n' the sheer brun'
A life—the rent, the prisons, the hospiddul,
The gum'ment athoridies, dets an cun'.

Sun over summer: snow fru the win'er spell ...
An then, at long last, God bless us all,
Deth bowls on in, an it all en's up with hell.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Monday, November 19, 2012



James Hilton (1900-1954), Lost Horizon (1933), chapter 9:
"'Slacker,'" explained Conway, "is a slang word meaning a lazy fellow, a good-for-nothing. I wasn't, of course, using it seriously."

Chang bowed his thanks for the information. He took a keen interest in languages, and liked to weigh a new word philosophically. "It is significant," he said after a pause, "that the English regard slackness as a vice. We, on the other hand, should vastly prefer it to tension. Is there not too much tension in the world at present, and might it not be better if more people were slackers?"

"I'm inclined to agree with you," Conway answered with solemn amusement.
Related posts:


A Scene of Horrors

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Miss Lucy ——— (July 22, 1835):
What would life be without arithmetic, but a scene of horrors?


Sick of the Human Countenance

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to the Countess Grey (September 22, 1833):
Have you any company? For your own sakes, I wish not. You must be sick of the human countenance, and it must be a relief to you to see a cow instead of a christian.

Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929), Sussex Farm


A Reading Program

John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969), A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), chapter 10:
"Have you read widely in Boethius?"

"Who? Oh, heavens no. I never even read newspapers."

"Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age," Ignatius said solemnly. "Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books."

"You're fantastic."

"I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he's found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman."

Sunday, November 18, 2012


The Driest Bread of Common Life

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Mrs. Grote (August 31, 1843):
You seem to have had a very amusing life, with singing and dancing; but you cannot excite my envy by all the descriptions of your dramas and melodramas; you may as well paint the luxuries of barley-meal to a tiger, or turn a leopard into a field of clover. All this class of pleasures inspires me with the same nausea as I feel at the sight of rich plum-cake or sweetmeats; I prefer the driest bread of common life.


Happiness Depends on Little Things

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Lady Dufferin (undated):
I hope the process of furnishing goes on well. Attend, I pray you, to the proper selection of an easy-chair, where you may cast yourself down in the weariness and distresses of life, with the absolute certainty that every joint of the human frame will receive all the comfort which can be derived from easy position and soft materials...You may depend upon it, happiness depends mainly on these little things.
See also his letter to Lord Murray (September 29, 1843):
A comfortable house is a great source of happiness. It ranks immediately after health and a good conscience.


Et Nos Ergo Manum Ferulae Subduximus

A.B.R. Young, Reminiscences of an Irish Priest 1845-1920 (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press, 1931), pp. 61-62:
My education at Nutgrove was not a great success. The system then in vogue was to put boys in classes according to their ages. I being nearly 13, but woefully backward for that age, was duly installed in the age class, the boys of which were reading Lucian and Caesar, while I had never as much as seen a Greek letter or heard a Latin word. Accordingly I daily received my chastisement for, what dear old Phil[ip Jones] considered my daily failure to be, laziness.

By the way, his peculiar brand of punishment was thus inflicted—he would grasp a boy's left wrist and with a hazel rod (hundreds of which he grew in the Grove, and cut and seasoned for the purpose) inflict crash after crash on the imprisoned "paw," as he called it, until the pain gave way to numbness.

His reason for only striking the left hand, he quite frankly gave. It was to save the "writing claw" so that the wretched victim would be able to write his weekly letter home.
Id., p. 63:
In the Register of those who pass the entrance examination of Trinity College, Dublin, each one has his place of schooling entered under the heading "Cujus sub ferula educatus," freely translated this means, "Where were you at school?" Any boy who entered direct from Drogheda in my time must have squirmed and shifted uneasily in his seat if had had the Latin query literally explained to him! Rev. Edward Maynard Goslett, LL.D., was a pedagogue of the old school. He flogged knowledge into his pupils, and enforced discipline with the cane.

As an example of his method I may give just one instance. His temper was ungovernable and once aroused he lost all self-control. On the occasion which I am about to relate he acted more like a maniac than a sane person. A German master had rendered himself most objectionable to the boys, who one holiday when the doctor was to be away from home, went for the Herr and gave him a sound drubbing. On the return of the Head the affair was reported to him. Without a moment's delay he rushed to his study, seized a new bundle of canes, ordered all the school to assemble in the Prep. Hall, and thrashed everyone soundly, breaking in the process a dozen canes!

Fortunately I was absent during this ordeal, having dined out with my kind old friend, Dr. Pentland. As I was one of the ringleaders in chastening Herr Fred Müller I deserved the flogging as much as anyone else.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related posts:

Saturday, November 17, 2012



Here are some of the trees on my newly acquired land, lining the driveway leading from the barn to the gate:

Unfortunately, the trees are members of the alien species Pyrus calleryana (Bradford pear). Where plants are concerned, I am a nativist and xenophobe, opposed to immigration and naturalization. My guide in these matters is Douglas W. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Portland: Timber Press, 2007; rpt. 2009), who writes (pp. 14-15):
Early on in my assault on the aliens in our yard, I noticed a rather striking pattern. The alien plants that were taking over the land—the multiflora roses, the autumn olives, the oriental bittersweets, the Japanese honeysuckles, the Bradford pears, the Norway maples, and the mile-a-minute weeds—all had very little or no leaf damage from insects, while the red maples, black and pin oaks, black cherries, black gums, black walnuts, and black willows had obviously supplied many insects with food. This was alarming because it suggested a consequence of the alien invasion occurring all over North America that neither I—nor anyone else, I discovered, after checking the scientific literature—had considered. If our native insect fauna cannot, or will not, use alien plants for food, then insect populations in areas with many alien plants will be smaller than insect populations in areas with all natives. This may sound like a gardener's dream: a land without insects! But because so many animals depend partially or entirely on insect protein for food, a land without insects is a land without most forms of higher life (Wilson 1987).
The reference is to Edward O. Wilson, "The Little Things That Run the World (The Importance and Conservation of Invertebrates)," Conservation Biology 1.4 (December 1987) 344-346, who writes (at 345):
The truth is that we need invertebrates, but they don't need us. If human beings were to disappear tomorrow, the world would go on with little change. Gaia, the totality of life on Earth, would set about healing itself and return to the rich environmental states of a few thousand years ago. But if invertebrates were to disappear, it is unlikely that the human species could last more than a few months.
For more on Pyrus calleryana see Theresa M. Culley and Nicole A. Hardiman, "The Beginning of a New Invasive Plant: A History of the Ornamental Callery Pear in the United States," BioScience 57.11 (December 2007) 956-964.


Detection of Blunders

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Sir Wilmot Horton (1835):
It is impossible now to be universal: men of the greatest information and accuracy swarm in the streets,—mineralogists, astronomers, ornithologists, and lousologists; the most minute blunder is immediately detected.


A Prodigy of Nature

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to R. Sharpe (1835):
You have met, I hear, with an agreeable clergyman: the existence of such a being has been hitherto denied by the naturalists; measure him, and put down on paper what he eats.


A Cottage in Woody Country

John Ruskin (1819-1900), The Poetry of Architecture (New York: John Wiley & Son, 1873), pp. 74-75:
This being the case, it is evident that the chief feeling induced by woody country is one of reverence for its antiquity. There is a quiet melancholy about the decay of the patriarchal trunks, which is enhanced by the green and elastic vigour of the young saplings; the noble form of the forest aisles, and the subdued light which penetrates their entangled boughs, combine to add to the impression; and the whole character of the scene is calculated to excite conservative feeling. The man who could remain a radical in a wood country is a disgrace to his species.

Now, this feeling of mixed melancholy and veneration is the one of all others which the modern cottage must not be allowed to violate. It may be fantastic or rich in detail; for the one character will make it look old-fashioned, and the other will assimilate with the intertwining of leaf and bough around it: but it must not be spruce, or natty, or very bright in colour; and the older it looks the better.

A little grotesqueness in form is the more allowable, because the imagination is naturally active in the obscure and indefinite daylight of wood scenery; conjures up innumerable beings, of every size and shape, to people its alleys and smile through its thickets; and is by no means displeased to find some of its inventions half-realized in a decorated panel or grinning extremity of a rafter.

Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709), A Cottage in the Woods

Hat tip: Eric Thomson

Friday, November 16, 2012


The Idiots of the Earth

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Mrs. ——— (September 7, 1835):
Who, but the idiots of the earth, would fling a country like this into confusion, because a Bill (in its mutilated state a great improvement) is not carried as far, and does not embrace as much, as the best men could wish?


The Hill of Life

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Sir Wilmot Horton (February 8, 1836):
I am going slowly down the hill of life. One evil in old age is that, as your time is come, you think every little illness is the beginning of the end. When a man expects to be arrested every knock at the door is an alarm.
See also his letter to Mrs. Crowe (January 5, 1840):
Among the many evils of getting old, one is, that every little illness may probably be the last. You feel like a delinquent who knows that the constable is looking out after him.


Watkyns' Wish

Rowland Watkyns (c.1614-1664), "The Wish," in his Flamma Sine Fumo: or, Poems Without Fictions (London: Printed for William Leake, 1662), p. 63:
Hoc est summum mei, caputque voti;

A Little house, a quiet wife,
Sufficient food to nourish life,
Most perfect health, and free from harm,
Convenient cloths to keep me warm.
The liberty of foot, and mind,
And grace the ways of God to find.
This is the summe of my desire,
Until I come unto heavens quire.
On "a little house" see Two Little Houses; Klein aber Mein; Oikos Philos, Oikos Aristos; Small Houses; More on Small Houses; and Parva Domus, Magna Quies.

Watkyns describes the opposite of "a quiet wife" in his poem "The Shrew" (p. 61):
Ventus ab Aquilone:

Behold her lip, how thin it is; her nose
How sharp, her voice how shrill, which doth disclose
A froward shrew; who hath her by mishap,
Shall surely hear a constant thunder-clap:
Silence is her disease; for like a mill
Her clapper goes, and never standeth still.
By night Hobgoblins houses haunt: this sprite
Doth vex, and haunt the house both day and night.
The Rack the wheele, the Spanish Inquisition
Torments not like her tongue; A sad condition
Her husband lives in; like a coward he
Must leave the field, and always vanquisht be.
He must commend, what she doth well approve,
And disallow of what she doth not love.
We tame wild fouls, bears, lions: but no Art
To tame a shrew could any yet impart.

Eastman Johnson, Thy Word is a Lamp unto My Feet
and a Light unto My Path

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Fuera, Fuera!

I recently happened on a charming villancico by the Bolivian composer Roque Jacínto de Chavarría (1688?–1719), with the title Fuera, Fuera! There is a performance by Florilegium and the Arakaendar Bolivia Choir, conducted by Ashley Solomon, with commentary by mezzo soprano Angélica Monje, on YouTube. Lyrics and an English translation can be found here. The score might be in Latin American Colonial Music Anthology (Washington: General Secretariat, Organization of American States, 1975), which is unavailable to me.

If you listen to the villancico, don't be fooled, as I was at first, into thinking that you hear the choir singing "It's a lie!" or "It's alive!" about halfway through. They are actually singing "Achalay" or "Achallay," a joyful exclamation in the Quechua language. See Mily Crevels and Pieter Muysken, edd., Lenguas de Bolivia, Tomo I: Ámbito Andino (La Paz: Plural Editores, 2009), p. 322, where the word is glossed:
'¡Qué felices estamos!' (pareja en la fiesta bailando)
Instead of the same old Christmas carols this year, it would be a delightful change to hear a choir sing Fuera, Fuera!


The Golden Age

Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866), The Golden Age (Die goldne Zeit, my translation, stanza by stanza with the German):
The golden age has not vanished, for it is eternally new and young; enough gold will still be discovered, if only you have enough desire for it.

Die goldne Zeit ist nicht entschwunden,
    Denn sie ist ewig neu und jung;
    Noch wird des Goldes g'nug gefunden,
    Habt ihr dazu nur Lust genung.

In the sky the golden stars stand and sing all through the night, that you might learn from them the golden lyre's golden sound.

Am Himmel stehn die goldnen Sterne
    Und tönen all' die Nacht entlang,
    Damit der Mensch von ihnen lerne
    Der goldnen Zither goldnen Klang.

Wine foams up from earth's full breast; gold in color, it beckons to you; to make it yet more golden, drink it from golden goblets at the feast.

Es schäumt aus voller Brust der Erde
    Der Wein auf, der euch golden winkt,
    Den ihr, damit er goldner werde,
    Beim Fest aus goldnen Bechern trinkt.

Most golden of all, your beloved's golden hair is woven into braids, and between them the twin suns of her eyes glow with golden fire.

Doch zu dem goldensten der Bande
    Webt sich der Liebsten goldnes Haar,
    Und zwischendurch mit goldnem Brande
    Glüht ihrer Augen Sonnenpaar.

So abandon the woe that has befallen you, and be ready for new pleasure; let each build for himself, out of golden materials, his own golden age!

So laßt das Weh, das euch betroffen,
    Und seid zu neuer Lust bereit;
    Erbauet aus den goldnen Stoffen
    Sich Jeder seine goldne Zeit!
I am much indebted to Arsen Darnay for the following verse translation, which follows the meter of the original German:
The golden time has not yet vanished,
For it is ever new and young,
Gold sufficient will still be found,
If you desire it enough.

The golden stars are up in heaven
And make their sound the whole night long,
So humanity may learn from them
The golden lyre's golden sound.

From earth's full breast upward it foams, the
Wine that golden winks at each,
That you, to lift, to raise its golden hue
Drink at the feast from golden cups.

But the beloved's golden hair weaves
Itself into the gold-most knot,
And from within, with golden fire,
Her eyes gleam like a pair of suns.

So leave the pain that has you captured
And be prepared for joys renewed;
Let each of you from golden matter
Build each for each his golden time!



Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to his daughter Saba (October 6, 1835):
All that I refuse to see is, where particular things were done to particular persons;—the square where Joan of Arc was burnt,—the house where Corneille was born. The events I admit to be important; but, from long experience, I have found that the square where Joan of Arc was burnt, and the room where Corneille was born, have such a wonderful resemblance to other rooms and squares, that I have ceased to interest myself about them.
See also his letter to the Countess Grey (May 12, 1837):
I find about one quarter of the things worth seeing which are said to be so....My journey will confirm me in the immense superiority of England over the rest of the world.


Real Piety

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Mrs. Baring (October, 1834):
What is real piety? What is true attachment to the Church? How are these fine feelings best evinced? The answer is plain: by sending strawberries to a clergyman. Many thanks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Cheerful Ideas of Religion

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Francis Horner (November 25, 1816):
I endeavour in vain to give them more cheerful ideas of religion; to teach them that God is not a jealous, childish, merciless tyrant; that he is best served by a regular tenour of good actions,—not by bad singing, ill-composed prayers, and eternal apprehensions. But the luxury of false religion is, to be unhappy!



Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Lady Holland (September 9, 1809):
I hear you laugh at me for being happy in the country, and upon this I have a few words to say. In the first place, whether one lives or dies, I hold, and have always held, to be of infinitely less moment than is generally supposed; but if life is to be, then it is common sense to amuse yourself with the best you can find where you happen to be placed. I am not leading precisely the life I should choose, but that which (all things considered, as well as I could consider them) appeared to me to be the most eligible. I am resolved, therefore, to like it, and to reconcile myself to it; which is more manly than to feign myself above it, and to send up complaints by the post, of being thrown away, and being desolate, and such like trash. I am prepared, therefore, either way. If the chances of life ever enable me to emerge, I will show you that I have not been wholly occupied by small and sordid pursuits. If (as the greater probability is) I am come to the end of my career, I give myself quietly up to horticulture, etc. In short, if it be my lot to crawl, I will crawl contentedly; if to fly, I will fly with alacrity; but, as long as I can possibly avoid it, I will never be unhappy. If, with a pleasant wife, three children, a good house and farm, many books, and many friends, who wish me well, I cannot be happy, I am a very silly, foolish fellow, and what becomes of me is of very little consequence.

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