Sunday, June 30, 2013


A Form of Sacred Incantation

Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), Another Part of the Wood: A Self-Portrait (London: John Murray, 1974; rpt. 1976), pp. 34-35:
I was happy at Wixenford. But the almost total lack of instruction was a drawback that has troubled me all my life. Certain subjects a child can learn on his own, but Latin is not one of them. It must be ground into him at a time when his mind is malleable. Although I learned Latin at Winchester, I never acquired that innate familiarity with it which any reputable scholar must possess. But then, Wixenford was not intended for future scholars. Every boy in the school went automatically to Eton. I was the only one who ever went to Winchester. All that I can remember of the school curriculum is the gender rhymes and Euclid. As Latin is no longer taught in schools, I should explain that the old Latin primers contained a rhyming aide-mémoire to the genders of Latin nouns. That things or qualities should have genders at all was sufficiently odd, and this was made even more mysterious by the verses in which this irrational and very complex situation was supposed to be made memorable. I say 'supposed' but in fact it was made memorable and any English school boy of my generation will have no difficulty in completing such a quotation as this:
To nouns that cannot be declined
The Neuter gender is assigned
Examples Fas and Nefas give
And the Verb Noun Infinitive
Est summum nefas fallere
Deceit is gross impiety.
The gender rhymes also contain lists of words that no one with a feeling for the magic of language can resist. James Joyce would have loved them: but then he had the Latin Missal.
Masculine are fons and mons
Chalybs, hydrops, gryps and pons
Rudens, torrens, clems [sic, read dens] and cliens
Fractions of the 'as', as triens.
The gender of a gryphon (gryps) may seem to be a very curious feature of a child's education. But I fancy that the secondary or accidental value of the gender rhymes as a form of sacred incantation, was considerable, especially in a protestant country. The very words they contained—opifex and artifex—were suggestive of arcane practices. All over the world children learn magic rhymes which they are told to take seriously and like the Latin Mass they should be largely incomprehensible. Finally, the gender rhymes contained one distich which any writer should take to heart:
Masculine will always be
Things that you can touch and see.
Perhaps these lines were the foundation of my distaste for the stellar nebulae of literature—Shelley, and St John Perse.


God Is Very Angry

John Julius Norwich, A Christmas Cracker, being a commonplace selection (Huntingdon: Satellite Press, 1987), p. 2:
From "Near Home, or Europe Discovered", 1850:
Question: What is the religion of the Italians?
Answer: They are Roman Catholics.

Question: What do the Roman Catholics worship?
Answer: Idols and a piece of bread.

Question: Would not God be very angry if He knew that the Italians worshipped idols and a piece of bread?
Answer: God is very angry.
So also some other sources, with variations in wording. Near Home; or, The Countries of Europe Described and its companion Far Off; or, Africa and America Described were Victorian children's books, written by Favell Lee Mortimer (1802-1878) and appearing in various editions. The only 1850 edition I can find on the World Wide Web is an American one, viz. The Countries of Europe Described (Philadelphia: Geo. S. Appleton; New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1850), in which the passage quoted by Norwich doesn't appear, although Mortimer's animus against Catholics is evident throughout, e.g. (p. 57, on Irish priests):
The religion they teach is called the Roman Catholic religion. It is a kind of Christian religion, but it is a very bad kind.
The earliest source with the questions and answers in catechism form seems to be Robert Ross, "The Elethian Muse," The Academy (January 5, 1907) 15-16 (at 16).

Favell Lee Mortimer

Saturday, June 29, 2013


The Sect of the Colarbasians

[Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge], Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores, Vol. II (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1812), pp. 234-235 (no. 228 = Greek Erudition):
Colarbasius, a heretic of right heretical name, who lived in the second century, taught that the fulness of Christian perfection consisted in completely understanding the Greek alphabet*. The sect of the Colarbasians still exists in literature, and from the inordinate applause which is bestowed upon their branch of erudition, we might suppose that the perfection of human learning consisted in an accurate knowledge of the minutiae of Greek prosody.

* St. Irenaeus, L. I, C. 11, quoted by Berulus.
"Colarbasius" is actually Colarbasus.


Ancient Greek Hats

William Wells (1820-1907), review of J.F. Hurst, Life and Literature in the Fatherland, in Methodist Quarterly Review 57 (1875) 422-437 (at 435):
One evening the genial Professor Schultz, whose valuable library is now in possession of the North-Western University, at Evanston, Ill., offered to accompany and introduce us to a "Greek Circle" which was composed of the classical professors of the University, and which met weekly to read and discuss certain Greek authors. About a dozen scholars were collected at the house of one of them, and the exercises consisted in reading by turns passages from Thucydides, followed by translation. This latter was then closely criticised until all were satisfied as to the rendering. Boekh read a passage incidentally alluding to the hats worn at that period by the Greek soldiers, saying simply that they then refused to remove them in the presence of enemies. One of the company rather maliciously asked Boekh what kind of head-covering the Greeks of that epoch wore. Every body saw that it was a stunning question to come so suddenly, as it embraced a range over many centuries, during which great changes in the style were experienced. The company looked as if Boekh had found his match for once; but he coolly reflected for a moment with his finger on his nose, and then started off in a lengthy and critical illustration of the hats of just that period. His closing sentence was received with rounds of applause, on the strength of which all went out to supper. At the table Professor Schultz remarked to us sub rosâ: "They made a mistake in their question; they should have asked what kind of hats are now worn in Berlin—that would have floored him."
"Boekh" is August Boeckh (1785-1867).

Related post: Rats in the Cheese.


Greek Particles

David Wilson, Mr. Froude and Carlyle (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1898), p. 19 (footnote omitted):
Carlyle could read and enjoy Homer in the original, having paid his tax to contemporary stupor by learning the language, but he had no love for the minutiae of Greek grammar, and failed in reverence for the particles ge, men, de. He even ventured to guess that these immortal particles, a sound knowledge of which was one road to an English bishopric, were occasionally used by Homer without much discrimination, merely to eke out his syllables, for the sake of rhythm.

Friday, June 28, 2013


William Wilkie

Henry Grey Graham, Scottish Men of Letters in the Eighteenth Century (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1908), pp. 133-134 (footnote omitted):
Born in 1721, Wilkie was the son of a poor farmer in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, the descendant of an ancient Midlothian family. The death of his father, almost in destitution, obliged him to support his mother and sister when he was but a boy. By break of day his dirty, ragged little person was seen following the plough with its team of oxen, or sowing the seed on the furrows from the canvas-bag; and then, after a hasty dish of porridge, he would trudge for miles along the road from Farmers' Tryste to the eight o'clock class at college. At nights, by the glimmering light of a hardly-bought candle, the lad would pore over his classics, philosophy, and mathematics. At the University none was more loved for goodness of heart, none more admired for ability, none more laughed at for eccentricity.

When licensed to preach, to this strange clownish creature preferment did not readily come, and for ten years he had to continue his rustic life—wretchedly poor, ill-fed, and ill-clad. Sometimes he preached for neighbouring ministers and got a trifling fee; but it was by his little farm he lived, and on it he worked, changing energetically the nettle-covered rigs and marshy ground to fertile soil with fruitful harvests. One day Dr. Roebuck, the founder of the Carron iron-works, then travelling in Scotland, passed along the road, near the field where the scholar was sowing corn with a sheet before him, all covered with dirt, clad in ragged coat and breeches, and a dilapidated bonnet. To trick the Englishman, the friend with whom he was riding, who knew Wilkie, cried out, "Here is a peasant; let us call him." They conversed; the talk passed on from manure and turnips to Greek literature. To an observation about husbandry the seeming peasant, in broadest Scots, remarked: "Yes, sir, but in Sicily there is a different method," and he quoted Theocritus to confirm his statement. As he rode off with his friend, Roebuck asked with amazement, "Is it usual for your peasants to read the Greek poets?" "Oh yes," his companion replied; "we have long winter evenings, and how can they better employ themselves than in reading Greek poets?" The doctor went on his way, astonished that the poorest herds in Scotland devoted their nights to Euripides and Homer.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


His Plans To Turn Our Country Into Hell

John Betjeman (1906-1984), "The Town Clerk's Views":
"Yes, the Town Clerk will see you." In I went.
He was, like all Town Clerks, from north of Trent;
A man with bye-laws busy in his head
Whose Mayor and Council followed where he led.
His most capacious brain will make us cower,        5
His only weakness is a lust for power—
And that is not a weakness, people think,
When unaccompanied by bribes or drink.
So let us hear this cool careerist tell
His plans to turn our country into hell.        10
"I cannot say how shock'd I am to see
The variations in our scenery.
Just take for instance, at a casual glance,
Our muddled coastline opposite to France:
Dickensian houses by the Channel tides        15
With old hipp'd roofs and weather-boarded sides.
I blush to think one corner of our isle
Lacks concrete villas in the modern style.
Straight lines of hops in pale brown earth of Kent,
Yeomen's square houses once, no doubt, content        20
With willow-bordered horse-pond, oast-house, shed,
Wide orchard, garden walls of browny-red—
All useless now, but what fine sites they'ld be
For workers' flats and some light industry.
Those lumpy church towers, unadorned with spires,        25
And wavy roofs that burn like smouldering fires
In sharp spring sunlight over ashen flint
Are out of date as some old aquatint.
Then glance below the line of Sussex downs
To stucco terraces of seaside towns        30
Turn'd into flats and residential clubs
Above the wind-slashed Corporation shrubs.
Such Georgian relics should by now, I feel,
Be all rebuilt in glass and polished steel.
Bournemouth is looking up. I'm glad to say        35
That modernistic there has come to stay.
I walk the asphalt paths of Branksome Chine
In resin-scented air like strong Greek wine
And dream of cliffs of flats along those heights,
Floodlit at night with green electric lights.        40
But as for Dorset's flint and Purbeck stone,
Its old thatched farms in dips of down alone—
It should be merged with Hants and made to be
A self-contained and plann'd community.
Like Flint and Rutland, it is much too small        45
And has no reason to exist at all.
Of Devon one can hardly say the same,
But "South-West Area One"'s a better name
For those red sandstone cliffs that stain the sea
By mid-Victoria's Italy—Torquay.        50
And "South-West Area Two" could well include
The whole of Cornwall from Land's End to Bude.
Need I retrace my steps through other shires?
Pinnacled Somerset? Northampton's spires?
Burford's broad High Street is descending still        55
Stone-roofed and golden-walled her elmy hill
To meet the river Windrush. What a shame
Her houses are not brick and all the same.
Oxford is growing up to date at last.
Cambridge, I fear, is living in the past.        60
She needs more factories, not useless things
Like that great chapel which they keep at King's.
As for remote East Anglia, he who searches
Finds only thatch and vast, redundant churches.
But that's the dark side. I can safely say        65
A beauteous England's really on the way.
Already our hotels are pretty good
For those who're fond of very simple food
Cod and two veg., free pepper, salt and mustard,
Followed by nice hard plums and lumpy custard,        75
A pint of bitter beer for one-and-four,
Then coffee in the lounge a shilling more.
In a few years this country will be looking
As uniform and tasty as its cooking.
Hamlets which fail to pass the planners' test        80
Will be demolished. We'll rebuild the rest
To look like Welwyn mixed with Middle West.
All fields we'll turn to sports grounds, lit at night
From concrete standards by fluorescent light:
And over all the land, instead of trees,        85
Clean poles and wire will whisper in the breeze.
We'll keep one ancient village just to show
What England once was when the times were slow—
Broadway for me. But here I know I must
Ask the opinion of our National Trust.        90
And ev'ry old cathedral that you enter
By then will be an Area Culture Centre.
Instead of nonsense about Death and Heaven
Lectures on civic duty will be given;
Eurhythmic classes dancing round the spire,        95
And economics courses in the choir.
So don't encourage tourists. Stay your hand
Until we've really got the country plann'd."
21 oast: "A kiln; (in later use) spec. one used to dry hops or malt; a building housing this." (Oxford English Dictionary)


Fishing on Sunday

T.D. Robb, "Arthur Johnston in his Poems," Scottish Historical Review 10 (1913) 287-298 (at 293-295):
A Fisher's Apology is a complaint against those who would interfere with his angling on Sundays, and it is one of his most spirited compositions. Besides a reasoned defence of Sunday fishing, it contains an enthusiastic description of the art he practised. In some passages it sings of the angler's delights in a strain that would have warmed old Izaak Walton's heart. The lover of the lore of fishing might art, it also contains much interesting information about the devices of the Scottish sportsman in the seventeenth century. Here is the first part of the poem:
                A FISHER'S APOLOGY.

Why vex your soul, sir Parson? Wherefore fret
To see me on a Sunday cast my net?
I am no Jew, but Japhet's offspring free:
The fourth command was never meant for me.
I know God's law is just, but cannot find
He looks on mortals with a crabbed mind.
The Seventh day is sacred; but does this
Mean to the active world paralysis?
That foolish thought Christ flouted when He healed
The withered hand, or in the ripened field
Heartened the hungry Twelve to pluck the corn.
The Pharisee still lives, and thinks no scorn
To be no wiser for the Master's voice.
The Christian day I honour, and rejoice
To see the tired ox and tired hind
Neglect the plough and harrow; for I find
Monday still serves for them. But woe to him,
That fisher who, when waters are in trim,
Lets slip the occasion; for not fleeter flies
The orient blast than from our heedless eyes
Rare opportunity. Here, by this pool,
Must I then play the Puritanic fool,
Neglecting net and rod because 'tis Sunday?
The fish are here, it may be but for one day.
There leaps a lusty salmon, twenty pound!
To-morrow, if I let the clock go round,
He'll haunt the higher stream. Come, where's my rod?
It cannot be that I was meant by God
To pasture flocks for others to devour.
This thought too weighs with me: by some strange power
The fish seem Presbyterian, and betray
Fearless presumption on the sacred day;
Then, Presbyterian Gadie, let me seek
Thy waters this best day of all the week!
Men are but mocked, if nets must idle lie
While all this gleaming wealth fleets safely by.

To net a pool is not a toil profane.
Consult the classics: in that largest reign
Of mind, no thought lies clearer: o'er & o'er
The ancients call it sport and nothing more.
The huntsman toils, I grant, the fowler, too,
The while they thrid their way the forest through:
My easy art no Scripture may attaint,
But bless it as refreshment for a saint.
Here ends the first counterblast to the decree of Presbytery. To the austere Puritan it must have read as desperate flippancy. To flout the fourth 'command' and bid him consult his classics, as if those godless pagans were to be regarded as doctors of the Christian law! And truly nothing is quainter at times than the eclecticism of the humanists, when they entered into disputation with men whose doctrines were almost entirely drawn from the Old Testament.
Id., p. 296:
This suggests that in Johnston we have the Scottish Izaak Walton; or rather—since the Compleat Angler did not appear till 1653—that in Walton we have the English Arthur Johnston....The lines that follow this Waltonian excursus are rather surprising, coming as they do from the poet who earned a pietistic reputation with posterity by his Latin version of the Psalms. Even if there is any fault in Sunday fishing—so he is pleased to say, resuming his argument—his family amply atone for it, the whole crowd of them (turba). Like many a paterfamilias of later times, the poet thinks he does his Sunday duty by sending his family to Kirk.
Templa frequentantes pro me cum conjuge nati
  Tura propinarunt plurima, plura dabunt.
Here is the beginning of Johnston's Apologia Piscatoris in the original Latin, as found in Musa Latina Aberdonensis. Arthur Johnston, Vol. I: The Parerga of 1637, ed. William Duguid Geddes (Aberdeen: Printed for the New Spalding Club, 1892), pp. 149-150:
Mysta, meis bellum toties cur retibus infers?
  Piscari sacra cur ego luce vetor?
Quo premor, edictum solos obstringit Apellas:
  Nos genus Iapeti libera turba sumus.
Iusta Dei lex est, agnosco, sed invida nulli
  Creditur, hac caeli curia labe vacat.
Septima lux festa est, sed iners et inutile terris
  Quis, nisi mentis inops, tempus id esse putet?
Hac Deus ipse manum curavit sidere tactam,
  Nec comites spicis abstinuisse vides.
Luce sacra scelus est vel rastro frangere glebas,
  Cogere vel fessos sub iuga panda boves.
His exerceri pluviae securus et aurae,
  Et sine iactura luce sequente potes.
Hei mihi, quam nobis brevis est occasio lucri!
  Avolat haec pennis ocior, Eure, tuis.
Salmo meis hodie salit et lascivit in undis,
  Cras fugiens supero figet in amne larem.
Cur mihi subduci patiar mea, mentis egenus?
  Cur, ego quas pavi, glutiat alter oves?
Sponte sua veniunt, et quaerunt retia pisces;
  Quis furor oblatas tangere nolle dapes?
Hoc quoque pondus habet, festis quod saepe diebus
  Piscibus uberius luxuriantur aquae.
Lux sacra cur offert praedam, si retia pandi
  Non sinit? hac homines ludificantur ope.
Sed nec opus piscator obit, cum retia laxat;
  Hoc apud antiquos nil nisi ludus erat.
Orbe pererrato silvas venator et auceps
  Dum peragrant, nimius vexat utrumque labor.
Ars mea nil praeter delectamenta ministrat,
  Quemque vetant leges, cura labore caret.
Hat tip: Karl Maurer.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


A Saying of Thrasea

Pliny the Younger, Letters 8.22.3 (tr. Betty Radice):
This then should be our rule at home and abroad, in every walk of life: to show no mercy to ourselves and be ready with it for others, even for those who can excuse no failings but their own. Let us always remember what was so often said by Thrasea, whose gift of sympathy made him the great man he was: "Anyone who hates faults hates mankind."

proinde hoc domi hoc foris hoc in omni vitae genere teneamus, ut nobis implacabiles simus, exorabiles istis etiam qui dare veniam nisi sibi nesciunt, mandemusque memoriae quod vir mitissimus et ob hoc quoque maximus Thrasea crebro dicere solebat: 'qui vitia odit, homines odit.'


The Weakness of Modern Latin Studies

J.A. Willis, "The 'Silvae' of Statius and Their Editors," Phoenix 20.4 (Winter 1966) 305-324 (at 321-324):
What will help us to decide whether the archetype was right or wrong in any given reading? The answer is very simple: knowledge of Latin language and literature will help us, and nothing else will.

It is precisely in this area that one sees the weakness of modern Latin studies. The sum of our knowledge of Latin has certainly increased, if one thinks of the knowledge that is available in books. Such careful and penetrating studies as Hofmann's Lateinische Umgangssprache or Löfstedt's commentary on the Peregrinatio Aetheriae deserve the very greatest respect, and the editorial activities of the nineteenth century in such works as the Monumenta Germaniae Historica and the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum can be considered as the works of giants. But the textual critic cannot proceed upon the basis of reference-books. With the finest Persian dictionary and grammar in the world, I should be a very poor editor of Persian poetry; and I should be a very conservative editor. What makes a good critic, or rather what is indispensable to a good critic, is that prompta et accurata scientia, as Ernesti called it, of Latin poetical language which can only be gained by reading and rereading the Latin poets until one has absorbed every convention, every mannerism of thought, feeling, and expression, until one breathes the same air as they did. This has been the achievement of but a few men: Heinsius, Bentley, and who is the third? Markland and Housman, much as their minds and characters differed, perhaps come nearest to them. But below this level of almost superhuman accomplishment there have been many scholars who achieved a very close familiarity with Latin, whose criticism of Latin poetry was less effective than one would have expected because of a certain lack of sensitivity to poetry: Scaliger, Casaubon, Salmasius, J. F. Gronovius were of this class.

Now it is this personal familiarity with Latin authors which is missing in general in the twentieth century. We do not read enough Latin. I suppose there are few modern professional classical scholars who do not feel some shame when they consider how little they have read, and how little time they devote to general reading in Latin or Greek authors, compared with the time they spend in the other pursuits of human life. If a man would but read Latin poetry for one hour each day, he could finish the Corpus Poetarum in a year; but I have yet to meet a man who has read all of Silius Italicus and Claudian. Yet laziness is not the cause of this neglect—or not the prime cause. Most of us are working too hard at being professional classical scholars to have any time left to read the classics. There are two principal causes of the decline of personal familiarity with Latin: one is the decline in the general status of Latin; the other is the growth of metaclassics.

It was said of the Middle Ages that "quiconqu' a pensé, n'a pensé qu'en Latin," and to a very great extent this dictum might be truly applied to the Europe of the renaissance up to the eighteenth century. When Scaliger read books, they were in Latin (or Greek or Arabic or Syriac or Hebrew as the case might be); when Graevius, Spanheim, the Gronovii, the Ernestis, the Gesners read and wrote, they did so in Latin without a second thought. The exception is one which proves the rule: Bentley wrote his immortal dissertation in English simply because it was to play its part in a controversy of contemporary English literary criticism, and Lennep translated it into Latin to make it more generally available to scholars. The fierce currents of nationalism and egalitarianism overthrew the facundia Latina which was at once aristocratic and international. "Die Muttersprache des Abendlandes" was driven from the company of the educated to that of the learned. Latin gradually ceased to be the language of the older professions, and after the days of Gauss it soon lost its place in the newer physical sciences. Even as a vehicle of discussion among classical scholars themselves it is at its last gasp, and an attempt four years ago to revive its study in the church has been nullified by the forces of modernity. The books which once would have been written and read in Latin are now written and read in German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish; and we are lucky if they are not written in Polish, Russian, or Hungarian. Thus inevitably we are further off from Latin than our predecessors, for whom all that they needed to read would be in Latin books or manuscripts.

But as we survey the corpse of Latin, we must remember that we ourselves have been the grave-diggers. The classics are still there for us to study, but we have made it impossible, or at least inadvisable, for a professional classical scholar to study them. This paradox is at once understood if we consider the normal training of a man who earns his living teaching classics in a university. Unless he is very lucky indeed, he will not read and write Latin or Greek fluently when he leaves school. In consequence much of his time as an undergraduate will be spent in mastering the structure and vocabulary of the languages. If he is a good student, he will be able, by the time that he takes his B.A., to read Latin and Greek authors with fair fluency. At this stage he could do nothing better, sub specie aeternitatis, than to spend two or three years reading the major classics; for he will certainly have read relatively little in his undergraduate course. But in fact at this point he will usually secure a scholarship which will enable him to devote his full time to research. What this means, in most cases, is that his supervisor will suggest a subject and tell him how to use Engelmann-Preuss, Klussmann, Lambrino, Herescu, Bursian, and L'Année Philologique. The student then prepares a bibliography and works through it. Most of the works which he consults will be written in German, a fair sprinkling in other modern languages, a very, very little in Latin. But the worst feature of it all is that, when he opens a volume of Cicero, or Livy, of Statius, or of Juvenal, it will not be in order to read them, but to look up a passage and see whether Schmidt or Braun or Pizza or Pasta has the right of it. When he writes his thesis, it is almost bound to begin with a Geschichte der Frage, and for every reference to an ancient author there will be ten to the works of modern scholars. Thus, while in theory he has been "researching" in classics, his true field of study has been metaclassics—the vast agglomeration of books, dissertations, articles, and programmes which clusters round the Greek and Roman writers.

The volume of metaclassics is very great. What Schadewaldt alone has written about Homer far exceeds in volume what Homer wrote about the siege of Troy; a year's output on the Dyscolus dwarfs the whole surviving work of Menander into insignificance; no very large bookcase would be needed to hold all the texts of Greek and Latin writers from Homer to the end of paganism, yet to house the books written on them since 1850 would tax the largest of reading-rooms. Most sinister of all is the growth of periodical publications, of which roughly 200 are noted in L'Année Philologique. New ones are constantly being born; old ones are very tenacious of life. But let us return to our scholar in his career.

He has won his Ph.D.; now surely he can apply himself to the serious business of his life, which is to become a truly learned man? Not a bit of it. He must find himself a job; and it is useless to go before a selection committee and say, "I have read the whole of Lucretius, Catullus, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Propertius, Tibullus, and I am halfway through Lucan." He must show that he has published work to his name, and quite clearly and inevitably this published work must consist of articles. Alas, to produce an article he must do much the same as he did for his doctorate: he must find a sufficiently small subject, compile his bibliography, raise his hat on each page to the great names and mention the little names in his footnotes—again without ever reading continuously through any writing in Latin or Greek. The lamentable truth is that to read Greek and Latin authors is never useful and can even be harmful to the aspirant for more recognition and higher pay in classics. How can Smith supinely sit and read his Ovid, when Brown, Jones, and Robinson are preparing articles on "The bucolic diaeresis in Calpurnius Siculus" (proving that it occurs in 13.7% of all lines), "A hitherto unnoticed manuscript of Eutropius" (showing that it is of no value), and "An allusion to Naevius' Bellum Punicum?" (showing that it is probably not)?

The writer is not so cynical as to suppose that force is needed to compel classical scholars to read Greek and Latin literature; he contends merely that every incentive at present works in the opposite direction. To read books about Cicero, or reviews of books about Cicero, or a review of a book on "The last twenty years in Ciceronian studies" will pay off; to read Cicero will not. Hence comes the linguistic weakness of the twentieth century in Latin studies; hence comes it that murmurs which imitate black slumbers are considered the height of poetry, that waves of a river drive Chalcis out, that villas swarm with enormous colossi, and that nymphs take away from a man who knows nothing about it the years which have not been broken off. In the words of Servius: haec tibi quaestio nata est ex incuria veteris lectionis. nam quia saeculum nostrum ab Ennio et omni bibliotheca vetere descivit, multa ignoramus, quae non laterent si veterum lectio nobis esset familiaris.

I have pointed to what I think the superiority of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century critics in dealing with the problems of a corrupt text in a Latin poet. I have also suggested that the reason for this superiority is the much closer and more constant familiarity with Latin which the old critics possessed, and I have pointed to certain factors which have caused this familiarity to diminish. Is the evil incapable of redress? To a certain extent, yes: we shall never again see Latin hold the place in European cultural life which it did two centuries ago. The prostitution of undergraduate courses also has to be accepted: it is a political necessity and part of the price paid for democracy. But the doctoral courses can and should be greatly modified. The pretence that a student who has just taken his B.A. has a good general background of classical studies should be given up, and at least half of the graduate student's energies should be spent in making himself personally acquainted with the Greek and Latin writers, even to the extent of having written examinations. That all doctoral dissertations should be written in Latin, and failed for bad Latin (e.g., magistro meo, qui studiis meis semper favuit, which I have seen on a printed title-page), seems to me another very simple step which might help to halt the decay. At the same time it would tend to lessen the length of theses, which would again be an advantage. To no classical scholar should it be either a hardship or an adventure to write in Latin.

Some apology is due to the reader for an article which may be considered as coming in like a lion and going out like a chimaera, beginning with textual criticism and ending with educational reform. But the internal connexion is, I think, logical enough, and the danger which I think I see is a grave one. I greatly fear that, unless some vigorous steps are taken to reverse a trend which has been more and more visible for the past three generations, the typical classical scholar of the late twentieth century will be a man armed to the teeth with bibliography and methods of research, but with very little else; a man who has read his Schadewaldt but not his Homer, his Fraenkel but not his Horace, his Gomme but not his Thucydides; in short, a man who knows everything about the classics except any actual Greek or Latin. The wolf which I am crying may exist only in my imagination; but it certainly appears to me to be a very formidable animal, and we should do well to consider seriously whether it is real or not; for once it has us in its jaws, our slumbers will be black indeed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Quotations and References

Walter W. Skeat (1835-1912), "Old Proverbs," Notes and Queries, 6th S. IX, No. 234 (June 21, 1884), pp. 498-499:
I protest, for about the hundredth time, against the slipshod method of quoting a mere author's name, without any indication of the work of that author in which the alleged quotation may be found....[L]et us have accurate quotations and exact references, wherever such are to be had. A quotation without a reference is like a geological specimen of unknown locality.


A Little Knowledge

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Waste Books K.98 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
It is certainly better not to have studied a subject at all than to have studied it superficially. For when unaided healthy common sense seeks to form an opinion of something it does not go so far wrong as semi-erudition does.

Es ist gewiß besser, eine Sache gar nicht studiert zu haben, als oberflächlich. Denn der bloße gesunde Menschenverstand, wenn er eine Sache beurteilen will, schießt nicht so sehr fehl als die halbe Gelehrsamkeit.


Silent in Seven Languages

Patrick Maxwell, Pribbles and Prabbles: or, Rambling Reflections on Varied Topics (London: Skeffington & Son, 1906), p. 211:
Some sayings, though correctly fathered, have a way of getting applied to a wrong subject. Thus the phrase: "He could be silent in seven languages." This is commonly, but erroneously, said of Von Moltke, in allusion to his command of languages, and of his own tongue. But in point of fact it was originally said of Immanuel Bekker, the philologist, who in addition to his extraordinary linguistic attainments, was peculiarly taciturn and reserved—"Il se tait en sept langues."
W. Francis H. King, Classical and Foreign Quotations, 3rd ed. (London; J. Whitaker & Sons, Limited, 1904), p. 28, no. 213:
Bekker schweige in sieben Sprachen. Friedr. D.E. Schleiermacher; qu. in Halm's Nekrolog auf Immanuel Bekker ("Sitzungbericht der bayerisch. Akad. d. Wissenschaft," 1872, p. 221).—Bekker is silent in seven languages.
Schleiermacher's witty mot upon the celebrated philologist, of whom, in his Correspondence with Goethe (vol. 5, p. 413) Zelter wrote (in Letter of March 15, 1830), "Bekker, den sie den stummen in sieben Sprachen nennen."—Bekker, whom they call the dumb man in seven languages. Büchm. p. 226.

Immanuel Bekker

Related posts:


Everything Man Needs

William Morris (1834-1896), The Life and Death of Jason, I.81-86:
For there, no doubt, is everything man needs—
The quiver, with the iron-pointed reeds,
The cornel bow, the wood-knife at the side,
The garments of the spotted panther's hide,
The bed of bear-skin in the hollow hill,
The bath within the pool of some green rill...

Monday, June 24, 2013


I Wish This Tribe Would Learn Another Trade

Ralph Russell and Khurshidul Islam, Three Mughal Poets: Mir, Sauda, Mir Hasan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), pp. 52-53:
But in any case Sauda did not like the high moral tone. He knew that it was all too often the mark of people who could see failings only in other people, and never in themselves; and he left no one in any doubt about what he thought of such people:20
Pious severely censures me, I hear,
On evidence Abstemious supplied him.
Sauda will not resent that, never fear,
But I would just respectfully remind him:
    That which Abstemious saw fit to do
    For me, he very well may do for you.

I never understood what prompts a man
To ferret out the vices of his neighbours.
Surely a decent human being can
Find a much better object for his labours.
    The rosary was meant for other things
    Than counting up a fellow-creature's sins.

Suppose my every sin a deadly one—
Does that stop you living a life of piety?
I sin in my own way, involving none:
Does that in any way corrupt society?
    Does it require the strictures of the pious?
    Ask any normal person free from bias.

I wish this tribe would learn another trade;
But meanwhile let them heed this friendly warning:
I cannot spy; that's not the way I'm made:
I go to bed at night and sleep till morning.
    And yet I also know a thing or two;
    You'd best leave me alone: be off with you!
20 Kulliyāt, p. 355. Kalām, pp. 211-212. The translation represents a considerable abridgement of the original, but draws upon most of the stanzas.


What on Earth Was the Sense of Them?

Henry Newbolt, My World As In My Time: Memoirs of Sir Henry Newbolt 1862-1932 (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1932), p. 27:
I longed of course to read Latin and Greek, and I was excited when I heard that the governess who was coming to teach my brother and sister would also give me Latin lessons. She was a lady of unusual ability, sent to us by the Nevilles of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and in the end I owed her much. But the first lesson was a bewildering disappointment. Miss Green had not been an hour in the house before she set me to learn by heart—not the Latin poems in which I had hoped to find the originals of Macaulay's Lays, but—the names of the Grammatical Cases—just the words Nominative, Vocative, Accusative and the rest. I had the power of memorising, and I quickly mastered the six words: but what on earth was the sense of them? What did the Romans use them for? Couldn't I leave them aside and learn at once what Lars Porsena really said about the Nine Gods?
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Latin Word Order

Patrick Maxwell, Pribbles and Prabbles: or, Rambling Reflections on Varied Topics (London: Skeffington & Son, 1906), p. 264:
Countless generations of schoolboys have groaned, and, I greatly fear, will yet groan, under the difficulties of Latin poetry, difficulties caused mainly by the occasional defiance of all reasonable order or arrangement in the position of the words which compose the text, these words being generally placed just where they may assist the metre, and without any regard to the sense. It is this feature of the Latin tongue which, to my thinking, renders it a far more difficult language than Greek, in which latter the arrangement of the words much more closely resembles that of English.

The other day I was reading—not for the first time—the fourth ode of Horace's fourth book of Odes, and I was forcibly struck—also not for the first time—with the extreme difficulty of its first sixteen lines, and the extraordinary involution and confusion of the words which compose that thorny passage. In these formidable lines, from "Qualem ministrum fulminis alitem" down to "Dente novo peritura vidit," the words are so hopelessly jumbled together that it is a marvel that the meaning was ever made out at all by anybody, let alone by a schoolboy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


A Part Remains

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), Happy Days, Act II:
One loses one's classics. (Pause.) Oh not all. (Pause.) A part. (Pause.) A part remains. (Pause.) That is what I find so wonderful, a part remains, of one's classics, to help one through the day. (Pause.) Oh yes, many mercies, many mercies.


False Greatness

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), "False Greatness," in his Horae Lyricae, 2nd ed. (London: Printed by J. Humfreys, for N. Cliff, 1709), pp. 173-174:
Mylo, forbear to call him blest
That only boasts a large Estate,
Should all the Treasures of the West
Meet, and conspire to make him Great.
I know thy better Thoughts, I know
Thy Reason can't descend so low.
Let a broad Stream with Golden Sands
    Thro' all his Meadows roll,
He's but a Wretch with all his Lands
    That wears a narrow Soul.

He swells amidst his wealthy Store,
And proudly poizing what he weighs,
In his own Scale he fondly lays
    Huge Heaps of shining Oar.
He spreads the Ballance wide to hold
    His Mannors and his Farms,
And cheats the Beam with Loads of Gold
    He hugs between his Arms.
So might the Plough-Boy climb a Tree
    When Croesus mounts his throne,
And both stand up, and smile to see
    How long their Shadow's grown.
Alas! how vain their Fancies be
    To think that Shape their own!

Thus mingled still with Wealth and State
Croesus himself can never know;
His true Dimensions and his Weight
Are far inferiour to their Show.
Were I so tall to reach the Pole,
Or grasp the Ocean with my Span,
I must be measur'd by my Soul:
The Mind's the standard of the Man.


The Pulpit Whine

Patrick Maxwell, Pribbles and Prabbles: or, Rambling Reflections on Varied Topics (London: Skeffington & Son, 1906), p. 166:
Then there is what, for want of a better name, I must call the pulpit whine. I have no desire to offend any man; but the thing must be described and deprecated. I refer to that dolorous and affected sing-song tone of voice in which it pleases some divines to preach their sermons and to read the Scriptures. These gentlemen apparently think—or affect to think—that sacred subjects can bo appropriately dealt with only in an unnatural sanctimonious drawl which they would never dream of employing for any other purpose in life. They seem to be quite unconscious that such affectation throws an air of unreality, if not of insincerity, over all their utterances; deadens all interest in what they say; and lulls the auditors to slumber.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


When Youth, and Love, and Spring, and Golden Joys are Gone

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), "To Mr. William Blackbourn," in his Horae Lyricae, 2nd ed. (London: Printed by J. Humfreys, for N. Cliff, 1709), pp. 187-188:
Casimir. Lib. 2. Od. 2. imitated.
Quae tegit Canas modo Bruma valles, &c.

Mark how it snows! how fast the Valley fills!
And the sweet Groves the hoary Garment wear;
Yet the warm Sun-beams bounding from the Hills
Shall melt the Vail away, and the young Green appear.

But when old Age has on your Temples shed
Her Silver-Frost, there's no returning Sun;
Swift flies our Autumn, swift our Summer's fled,
When Youth, and Love, and Spring, and golden Joys are gone.

Then Cold and Winter, and your aged Snow
Stick fast upon you; not the rich Array,
Not the green Garland, nor the rosy Bough
Shall cancel or conceal the melancholy Grey.

The Chase of Pleasure is not worth the Pains,
While the bright Sands of Health run wasting down;
And Honour calls you from the softer Scenes
To sell the gaudy Hour for Ages of Renown.

'Tis but one Youth and short that Mortals have,
And one old Age dissolves our feeble Frame;
But there's a heavenly Art t' elude the Grave,
And with the Hero-Race immortal Kindred claim.

The Man that has his Countries sacred Tears
Bedewing his cold Herse, has liv'd his Day:
Thus, BLACKBOURN, we should leave our Names our Heirs;
Old Time and waning Moons sweep all the rest away.
Matthias Casimirus Sarbievius (1585-1640), "Ad Publium Memmium. Vitae humanae breuitatem benefactis extendendam esse," in his Lyricorum Libri V ... (Dijon: Pierre Palliot, 1647). pp. 55-56:
Quae tegit canas modò bruma valleis,
Sole vicinos iaculante monteis
Deteget rursum, tibi cùm niuosae
                        Bruma senectae

In caput seris cecidit pruinis,
Decidet nunquam, cita fugit Aestas,
Fugit Autumnus, fugient propinqui
                        Tempora Veris:

At tibi frigus, capitique cani
Semper haerebunt, neque multa nardus,
Nec parùm gratum repetita dement
                        Serta colorem,

Vna quem nobis dederat iuuentus,
Vna te nobis rapiet senectus:
Sed potes, PVBLI, geminare magnâ
                        Secula famâ.

Quem sui raptum gemuêre ciues,
Hic diu vixit, sibi quisque Famam
Scribat haeredem. Rapiunt auarae
                        Caetera Lunae.


The Friend of Every Country But His Own

George Canning (1770-1827) and John Hookham Frere (1769-1846), "New Morality," Anti-Jacobin (July 9, 1798), lines 89-114:
First, stern Philanthropy:—not she, who dries
The orphan's tears, and wipes the widow's eyes;       90
Not she, who, sainted Charity her guide,
Of British bounty pours the annual tide:—
But French Philanthropy;—whose boundless mind
Glows with the general love of all mankind;—
Philanthropy,—beneath whose baneful sway       95
Each patriot passion sinks, and dies away.

Taught in her school to imbibe thy mawkish strain,
Condorcet, filter'd through the dregs of Paine,
Each pert adept disowns a Briton's part,
And plucks the name of England from his heart.       100

What shall a name, a word, a sound control
The aspiring thought, and cramp the expansive soul?
Shall one half-peopled Island's rocky round
A love, that glows for all Creation, bound?
And social charities contract the plan        105
Framed for thy Freedom, UNIVERSAL MAN?
—No—through the extended globe his feelings run
As broad and general as the unbounded sun!
No narrow bigot he;—his reason'd view
Thy interests, England, ranks with thine, Peru!       110
France at our doors, he sees no danger nigh,
But heaves for Turkey's woes the impartial sigh;
A steady Patriot of the World alone,
The Friend of every Country—but his own.
The rhyme "view ... Peru" in lines 109-110 reminds me of the opening couplet of Samuel Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes:
Let Observation with extensive View,
Survey Mankind, from China to Peru...
Related posts:


Poor Plus

Henry Newbolt, My World As In My Time: Memoirs of Sir Henry Newbolt 1862-1932 (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1932), pp. 150-151:
But it is to sheer gallant ingenuity that we owe the best howlers. A kindly examiner will always admire the young victim, who when he finds himself with his back to the wall and without an arrow in his quiver, seizes the nearest stick and improvises one, with careful attention to every rule of the arrowsmith's trade. He will not find his mark, but he will have had 'a shot at it'. A perfect example of this fell to my lot. 'Parse, conjugate, decline, or compare the following words', said the question, and among the words was the common but peculiar one 'plus'. Being quite ignorance of the scantiness of this word's wardrobe, my candidate determined to do his best for poor Plus. His courage took my breath: with surprise, incredulity, rapture, I followed his perfectly logical operations. From the full-dress nominative Plus pla plum, accusative plum, plam, plum, he went right through to the genitive plural plorum, plarum, plorum, and ended with the exquisitely conscientious 'dative and ablative plibus or plis'. That is exactly how the Latins ought to have clothed their language, but they happened to mislay their pattern. Jones minor was more careful and I felt that he deserved marks for his judicious restoration.
One must know Latin to appreciate the humor. Jones minor declined plus as if it belonged to the first and second declensions, but it belongs to the third.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Friday, June 21, 2013


A Poem by Auguste Angellier

Dear Mike,

Your latest reminds me of an echo by Auguste Angellier (circa 1900). I'll add my rough translation though I'm not altogether pleased with it. I'm sure you can do better!


Avoir été très douce, et très simple et très bonne,
Avoir mis le bonheur au foyer nuptial,
Avoir donné sans bruit, en oubliant qu’on donne,
Avoir en soi porté l’ignorance du mal
Qui garde jusqu’au bout sa jeunesse au sourire,
Avoir tranquillement soulagé la douleur,
Avoir su l’accepter sans jamais la maudire,
Et dans un coeur paré de délicat bonheur
N’avoir jamais reçu la haine ni l’envie,
C’est avoir fait son oeuvre et parfumé la vie.

To have been very gentle, and very simple and very good,
To have brought happiness to married life,
To have quietly given, forgetting the gift,
To have allowed evil no place in oneself,
Ensuring a smile of eternal youth,
To have calmly comforted suffering,
To have been able to endure it without complaint,
And in a heart wreathed in delicate joys
To have inspired not once either hatred or envy,
Such is to have fulfilled one’s promise and imparted to life its perfume.

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

I can't do any better.


The Happy Savage

Anonymous, "The Happy Savage," Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. II, No. XVI (April 1732) 718:
O Happy he who never saw the Face
Of Man, nor heard the Sound of human Voice!
But soon as born was carry'd and expos'd
In some vast Desart, suckled by the Wolf,
Or shaggy Bear more kind than our fell Race;
Who with his Fellow Brutes can range around
The echoing Forest: His rude artless Mind
Uncultivated as the soil—he joins
The dreadful Harmony of howling Wolves,
And the fierce Lyon's Roar; while far away
Th' affrighted Traveller retires and trembles.
Happy the lonely Savage! nor deceiv'd,
Nor vex'd, nor griev'd—in ev'ry darksome Cave,
Under each verdant Shade he takes repose.
Sweet are his Slumbers—of all human Arts
Happily ignorant, nor taught by Wisdom
Numberless Woes, nor polish'd into Torment.


The True Character of a Dunce

John Donne (1572-1631), "The True Character of a Dunce," in his Paradoxes, Problemes, Essayes, Characters ... (London: Printed by T:N: for Humphrey Moseley at the Prince's Arms in St Pauls Churchyard, 1652), pp. 67-71 (p. 68 mis-numbered as 86; divided into numbered paragraphs by me):
[1] He hath a soule drownd in a lumpe of Flesh, or is a peece of earth that Prometheus put not half his proportion of Fire into, a thing that hath neither edge of desire, nor feeling of affection in it, The most dangerous creature for confirming an Atheist, who would straight swear, his soul were nothing but the bare temperature of his body: He sleeps as he goes, and his thoughts seldom reach an inch further then his eyes;

[2] The most part of the faculties of his soul lye Fallow, or are like the restive Jades that no spur can drive forward towards the pursuite of any worthy design; one of the most unprofitable of Gods creatures, being as he is, a thing put clean besides his right use, made fitt for the cart & the flail, and by mischance Entangled amongst books and papers,

[3] A man cannot tel possible what he is now good for, save to move up and down and fill room, or to serve as Animatum Instrumentum for others to work withal in base Imployments, or to be a foyl for better witts, or to serve (as they say Monsters do) to set out the variety of nature, and Ornament of the universe,

[4] He is meer nothing of himself, neither eates, nor drinkes, nor goes, nor spits but by imitation, for al which he hath set forms & fashions, which he never varies, but sticks to, with the like plodding constancy that a milhors follows his trace,

[5] both the muses and the graces are his hard Mistrisses, though he daily invocate them, though he sacrifize Hecatombs, they stil look a squint, you shall note him oft (besides his dull eye and louting head, and a certain clammie benum'd pace) by a fair displai'd beard, a Nightcap and a gown, whose very wrincles proclaim him the true genius of formality,

[6] but of al others, his discours and compositions best speak him, both of them are much of one stuf & fashion, he speaks just what his books or last company said unto him without varying one whit & very seldom understands himself, you may know by his discourse where he was last, for what he heard or read yesterday he now dischargeth his memory or notebook of, not his understanding, for it never came there;

[7] what he hath he flings abroad at al adventurs, without accomodating it to time, place, persons, or occasions, he commonly loseth himself in his tale, and flutters up and down windles without recovery, and whatsoever next presents it self, his heavie conceit seizeth upon and goeth along with, however Heterogeneal to his matter in hand,

[8] his jests are either old flead proverbs, or lean-starv'd-hackny Apophthegm's, or poor verball quips outworn by Servingmen, Tapsters and Milkmaids, even laid aside by Balladers,

[9] He assents to all men that bring any shadow of reason, and you may make him when he speaks most Dogmatically, even with one breath, to averr pure Contradictions,

[10] His Compositions differ only terminorum positione from Dreams, Nothing but rude heaps of Immaterial-incoherent drossie-rubbish-stuffe, promiscuously thrust up together, enough to Infuse dullness and Barrenness of Conceit into him that is so Prodigall of his eares as to give the hearing, enough to make a mans memory Ake with suffering such dirtie stuffe cast into it, As unwellcome to any true conceit, as Sluttish Morsells or Wallowish Potions to a Nice-Stomack,

[11] which whiles he empties himselfe of, it sticks in his Teeth nor can he be Delivered without Sweate and Sighes, and Humms, and Coughs enough to shake his Grandams teeth out of her head; Heel spitt, and scratch, and yawn, and stamp, and turn like sick men from one elbow to another, and Deserve as much pitty during his torture as men in Fits of Tertian Feavors or selfe lashing Penitentiaries;

[12] in a word, Rip him quite asunder, and examin every shred of him, you shall finde him to be just nothing, but the subject of Nothing, the object of contempt, yet such as he is you must take him, for there is no hope he should ever become better.
[1] temperature: temperament (?)
[3] Animatum Instrumentum: animated tool
Monsters: "Something extraordinary or unnatural; an amazing event or occurrence; a prodigy, a marvel" (OED, sense 2)
[4] milhors: mill-horse
[5] louting: "Bowing down, deferential" (OED)
[7] Heterogeneal: heterogeneous
[8] flead: fled, i.e. vanished, obsolete; or perhaps flea-bitten (?)
[10] terminorum positione: by setting of boundaries (?)
Sluttish: "Unclean, dirty, grimy; untidy" (OED, sense 2)
Wallowish: "Insipid, tasteless, flat; also, ill-tasting, nauseous, esp. through being over-sweet" (OED)
Nice: "Fastidious, fussy, difficult to please, esp. with regard to food or cleanliness; of refined or dainty tastes" (OED, sense 3.b)
[11] Heel: He'll
Penitentiaries: penitents

Thursday, June 20, 2013


A Glimmer of Clarity

A poem by Ryōkan (1758-1831), tr. Kazuaki Tanahashi:
In the mountain shade,
water in the moss
drips between rocks.
I feel a glimmer
of clarity.
The same, tr. Burton Watson:
Faint trickle of
mossy water from
a crevice in the mountain rock:
the clear still way
I pass through the world.
The same, tr. John Stevens:
Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.
The same, tr. Ryūichi Abé and Peter Haskel:
Like the water that trickles
   through the moss-covered rocks
Thus do I live
Quiet, unnoticed
But free of impurity


A Catalogue of Herbs

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), "Muiopotmos, or The Fate of the Butterflie," lines 187-200:
The wholsome Saulge, and Lauender still gray,
Ranke smelling Rue, and Cummin good for eyes,
The Roses raigning in the pride of May,
Sharpe Isope, good for greene wounds remedies,        190
Faire Marigoldes, and Bees alluring Thime,
Sweete Marjoram, and Daysies decking prime,
Coole Violets, and Orpine growing still,
Embathed Balme, and chearfull Galingale,
Fresh Costmarie, and breathfull Camomill,        195
Dull Poppie, and drink-quickning Setuale,
Veyne-healing Veruen, and hed-purging Dill,
Sound Sauorie, and Bazill hartie-hale,
Fat Colworts, and comforting Perseline,
Colde Lettuce, and refreshing Rosmarine.
187 Saulge: sage
190 Isope: hyssop
196 Setuale: setwall
197 Veruen: vervain
198 Bazill: basil
hartie-hale: hearty-hale, i.e. good for the heart
199 Perseline: purslane
200 Rosmarine: rosemary

This passage isn't discussed by Agnes Arber, "Edmund Spenser and Lyte's 'Nievve Herball'," Notes & Queries 160 (1931) 345-347.

Related post: A Catalogue of Trees.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Hapless Trees

Aaron Hill (1685–1750), "To Dr. ATKINS; on his Arcade of Dutch Elms, dug up, in repairing the Sewer," in The Works of the Late Aaron Hill, Esq, Vol. III (London: Printed for the Benefit of the Family, 1753), pp. 127-128:
Pitying, we sigh'd, to see th' uprooting spade,
Boldly intrenching, fall your fav'rite shade!
Sad Silvia, long, with silent sorrow, strove,
At last, thus loudly, wail'd her prostrate grove:

Ah! Doctor, when you planted for delight,
Why did you fail to search foundations, right?
Shoot, else, th' aspiring branches ne'er so gay;
Pale disappointment grows, as fast, as they.
Why mourn I then?—'tis vain, 'tis causeless grief;
And thus reflexion comes, and brings relief.

Common, in life, your fate, ye hapless trees!
So the green lawn's, of hope's gay prospects, please.
Sap-full, and blooming, each luxuriant shoot!
Yet death lies lurking, at th' unheeded root.
So flourishes, in youth, our love's light joy,
For time, or change of passion to destroy.
So shines religion's boast, with specious glow,
While sin's foul common sewer creeps dark, below;
So factious noise, we patriot purpose call,
While private int'rest works, and saps us all.
So fame, in arms, or arts, or learning, tow'rs
And fond presuming fancy calls it ours;
'Till, from beneath, some blast, unfear'd, is felt,
And life's lost views, like air-form'd fabricks, melt.
Inferior poetry, made even worse by insipid moralizing, but an interesting minor exhibit in the history of arboricide nonetheless. "Dr. Atkins" is probably the naval surgeon John Atkins (1685-1757). Both Hill and Atkins lived in Plaistow. Hill also wrote a birthday poem to Dr. Atkins (op. cit., p. 156), and a letter from Hill to Atkins (October 26, 1742) is printed in Hill's Works, Vol. II, p. 123.




Christophe Plantin (1520-1589), "Le Bonheur de ce Monde," tr. James Robertson in Arachnia, Occasional Verses (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1904), p. 148:
To own a house clean, roomy, fair to see;
   A fragrant garden hung with trellised vine;
   Few children, little show; fresh fruits, best wine,
And, all thine own in peace, one true dear she:
To dwell from debt, intrigue, feud, lawsuit, free,
   And troublous claim of kin on thine estate;
   Humbly content, nought hoping from the great,
Proportion's rule in all sufficing thee:—
With freedom's rights, without ambition's care,
To live the life of unaffected prayer,
   To curb each rise of passion's ruder breath;—
To keep thy mind unyoked, thy judgement keen,
To tell thy beads and tend thy buds at e'en;—
   True home is this, and gentle tryst with death.
The same, tr. Robert Bridges in Bramble Brae (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1902), p. 19:
To have a home, convenient for thy life,
   With fragrant fruit-walls in a garden fine,
   Some children, some retainers, and rare wine;
To live serenely with thy faithful wife;
To have no debts, nor quarrels, nor legal strife,
   Nor separation from dear kin of thine;
   Expecting nothing from the Great, to shine
With modest light and just, where greed is rife.

To live with freedom, yet to be devout,
Ruling thy well-curbed passions—and without
   Ambition's scourge to thwart thy regnant will;
Truly to worship God with ardent breath
   Among His shrubs and trees on plain and hill—
Thus pleasantly shalt thou at home wait Death.
The French:
Avoir une maison commode, propre et belle,
Un jardin tapissé d'espaliers odorans,
Des fruits, d'excellent vin, peu de train, peu d'enfans,
Posseder seul, sans bruit, une femme fidèle,

N'avoir dettes, amour, ni procés, ni querelle,
Ni de partage à faire avecque ses parens,
Se contenter de peu, n'esperer rien des Grands,
Régler tous ses desseins sur un juste modèle,

Vivre avecque franchise et sans ambition,
S'adonner sans scrupule à la dévotion,
Domter ses passions, les rendre obéissantes,

Conserver l'esprit libre et le jugement fort,
Dire son Chapelet en cultivant ses entes,
C'est attendre chez soi bien doucement la mort.
Plantin was inspired by Martial 10.47, here in D.R. Shackleton Bailey's translation:
Most delightful Martialis, the elements of a happy life are as follows: money not worked for but inherited; land not unproductive; a fire all the year round; lawsuits never, a gown rarely worn, a mind at peace; a gentleman's strength, a healthy body; guilelessness not naive, friends of like degree, easy company, a table without frills; a night not drunken but free of cares; a marriage bed not austere and yet modest; sleep to make the dark hours short; wish to be what you are, wish nothing better; don't fear your last day, nor yet pray for it.
Martial's Latin:
Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
res non parta labore, sed relicta;
non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
nox non ebria, sed soluta curis;
non tristis torus et tamen pudicus;
somnus qui faciat breves tenebras:
quod sis esse velis nihilque malis;
summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


A Wise Man Is Known by Much Laughing

John Donne (1572-1631), "Paradox X: That a Wise Man is knowne by much laughing," from his Iuvenilia or Certaine Paradoxes and Problems, 2nd ed. (London: Printed by E[lizabeth] P[urslowe] for Henry Seyle, 1633), pp. 22-24 (paragraphs and bracketed material added by me):
Ride, si sapis, ô puella ride [Martial 2.41.1: Laugh if you are wise, o girl, laugh]; If thou beest wise, laugh: for since the powers of discourse, reason, and laughter, bee equally proper unto Man onely, why shall not hee be onely most wise, who hath most use of laughing, as well as he who hath most of reasoning and discoursing?

I alwaies did, and shall understand that Adage,
Per risum multum possis cognoscere stultum,
That by much laughing thou maist know there is a foole, not that the laughers are fooles, but that among them there is some foole, at whom wisemen laugh: which moved Erasmus to put this as his first Argument in the mouth of his Folly, that shee made beholders laugh; for fooles are the most laughed at, and laugh the least themselves of any.

And Nature saw this faculty to bee so necessary in man, that shee hath beene content that by more causes we should be importuned to laugh, then to the exercise of any other power; for things in themselves utterly contrary, beget this effect; for wee laugh both at witty and absurd things: At both which sorts I have seen Men laugh so long, and so earnestly, that at last they have wept that they could laugh no more.

And therefore the Poet [Martial 3.20.1, 21, paraphrased] having described the quietnesse of a wise retired man, saith in one, what we have said before in many lines; Quid facit Canius tuus? ridet. [What is your Canius doing? He's laughing.] We have received that even the extremity of laughing, yea of weeping also, hath been accounted wisedome: And that Democritus and Heraclitus, the lovers of these Extremes, have been called lovers of wisedome. Now among our wisemen I doubt not, but many would be found who would laugh at Heraclitus weeping, none which weepe at Democritus laughing.

At the hearing of Comedies or other witty reports, I have noted some, which not understanding jests &c. have yet chosen this as the best meanes to seeme wise and understanding, to laugh when their Companions laugh; and I have presumed them ignorant, whom I have seene unmoved.

A foole if he come into a Princes Court, and see a gay man leaning at the wall, so glistering, and so painted in many colours that he is hardly discerned from one of the pictures in the Arras, hanging his body like an Iron-bound-chest, girt in and thicke ribb'd with broad gold laces, may (and commonly doth) envy him. But alas! shall a wiseman, which may not onely not envy, but not pitty this monster, do nothing? Yes, let him laugh.

And if one of these hot cholerike firebrands, which nourish themselves by quarrelling, and kindling others, spit upon a foole one sparke of disgrace, he, like a thatcht house quickly burning, may bee angry; but the wiseman, as cold as the Salamander, may not onely not bee angry with him, but not be sorry for him; therefore let him laugh: so he shall bee knowne a Man, because hee can laugh; a wise Man that hee knowes at what to laugh, and a valiant Man that he dares laugh: for he that laughs is justly reputed more wise, then at whom it is laughed.

And hence I thinke proceeds that which in these later formall times I have much noted; that now when our superstitious civility of manners is become a mutuall tickling flattery of one another, almost every man affecteth an humour of jesting, and is content to be deject, and to deforme himselfe, yea become foole to no other end that I can spie, but to give his wise Companion occasion to laugh; and to shew themselves in promptnesse of laughing is so great in wisemen, that I thinke all wisemen, if any wiseman doe read this Paradox, will laugh both at it and me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Freaks and Fancies of Nature

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), review of Charles Waterton, Wanderings in South America, in his Works, Vol. II (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1859), pp. 74-84 (at 78):
How astonishing are the freaks and fancies of Nature! To what purpose, we say, is a bird placed in the woods of Cayenne, with a bill a yard long, making a noise like a puppy dog, and laying eggs in hollow trees? The toucans, to be sure, might retort, to what purpose were gentlemen in Bond street created? To what purpose were certain foolish prating Members of Parliament created?—pestering the House of Commons with their ignorance and folly, and impeding the business of the country? There is no end of such questions.


Like a Quiet Room

Matthias Claudius (1740-1815), "Evening Song," first three stanzas, tr. Leonard Forster:
The moon has risen, the little golden stars are shining out bright and clear in the sky; the forest stands out black and silent, and the white mist rises wondrously from the meadows.

How quiet the world is, how cosy and friendly in the mantle of the dusk, like a quiet room where you may sleep away the sorrows of the day and forget them.

Can you see the moon up there? Only half of it is visible, but it is round and beautiful for all that. It is the same with many things which we laugh at without thinking, because our eyes cannot see them.
The German:
Der Mond ist aufgegangen,
Die goldnen Sternlein prangen
Am Himmel hell und klar;
Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
Und aus den Wiesen steiget
Der weisse Nebel wunderbar.

Wie ist die Welt so stille,
Und in der Dämmrung Hülle
So traulich und so hold!
Als eine stille Kammer,
Wo ihr des Tages Jammer
Verschlafen und vergessen sollt.

Seht ihr den Mond dort stehen?
Er ist nur halb zu sehen,
Und ist doch rund und schön!
So sind wohl manche Sachen,
Die wir getrost belachen,
Weil unsre Augen sie nicht sehn.
Here are links to sheet music (.pdf files) for settings by
I haven't seen Leo Spitzer, "Matthias Claudius' Abendlied," Euphorion 54 (1960) 70-82.


Camping Out

Mark Twain (1835-1910), Roughing It, chap. XXVII:
It was a hard, wearing, toilsome journey, but it had its bright side; for after each day was done and our wolfish hunger appeased with a hot supper of fried bacon, bread, molasses and black coffee, the pipe-smoking, song-singing and yarn-spinning around the evening camp-fire in the still solitudes of the desert was a happy, care-free sort of recreation that seemed the very summit and culmination of earthly luxury. It is a kind of life that has a potent charm for all men, whether city or country-bred. We are descended from desert-lounging Arabs, and countless ages of growth toward perfect civilization have failed to root out of us the nomadic instinct. We all confess to a gratified thrill at the thought of "camping out."

Saturday, June 15, 2013


The Air of Equality

George Orwell (1903-1950), Homage to Catalonia, chap. VIII:
Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life—snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.—had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth. But it lasted long enough to have its effect upon anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word 'comrade' stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality.


Weakness Grows

The Instruction of Ptahhotep, prologue, tr. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings, Vol. I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975, ©1973), pp. 62-63:
O king, my lord!
Age is here, old age arrived,
Feebleness came, weakness grows,
Childlike one sleeps all day.
Eyes are dim, ears deaf,
Strength is waning through weariness,
The mouth, silenced, speaks not,
The heart, void, recalls not the past,
The bones ache throughout.
Good has become evil, all taste is gone,
What age does to people is evil in everything.
The nose, clogged, breathes not,
Painful are standing and sitting.


Odi et Amo

Lucian, The Fisherman 20 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
Philos[ophy]. But what is your profession? that at least is essential.

Lu[cian]. I profess hatred of pretension and imposture, lying, and pride; the whole loathsome tribe of them I hate; and you know how numerous they are.

Philos. Upon my word, you must have your hands full at this profession!

Lu. I have; you see what general dislike and danger it brings upon me. However, I do not neglect the complementary branch, in which love takes the place of hate; it includes love of truth and beauty and simplicity and all that is akin to love. But the subjects for this branch of the profession are sadly few; those of the other, for whom hatred is the right treatment, are reckoned by the thousand. Indeed there is some danger of the one feeling being atrophied, while the other is over-developed.

Philos. That should not be; they run in couples, you know. Do not separate your two branches; they should have unity in diversity.

Lu. You know better than I, Philosophy. My way is just to hate a villain, and love and praise the good.
The Greek:
ἡ τέχνη δέ σοι τίς; ἄξιον γὰρ ἐπίστασθαι τοῦτό γε.

μισαλαζών εἰμι καὶ μισογόης καὶ μισοψευδὴς καὶ μισότυφος καὶ μισῶ πᾶν τὸ τοιουτῶδες εἶδος τῶν μιαρῶν ἀνθρώπων· πάνυ δὲ πολλοὶ εἰσιν, ὡς οἶσθα.

Ἡράκλεις, πολυμισῆ τινα μέτει τὴν τέχνην.

εὖ λέγεις· ὁρᾷς γοῦν ὁπόσοις ἀπεχθάνομαι καὶ ὡς κινδυνεύω δι᾽ αὐτήν. οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν ἐναντίαν αὐτῇ πάνυ ἀκριβῶς οἶδα, λέγω δὲ τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ φιλο τὴν ἀρχὴν ἔχουσαν· φιλαλήθης γὰρ καὶ φιλόκαλος καὶ φιλαπλοϊκὸς καὶ ὅσα τῷ φιλεῖσθαι συγγενῆ. πλὴν ἀλλ᾽ ὀλίγοι πάνυ ταύτης ἄξιοι τῆς τέχνης, οἱ δὲ ὑπὸ τῇ ἐναντίᾳ ταττόμενοι καὶ τῷ μίσει οἰκειότεροι πεντακισμύριοι. κινδυνεύω τοιγαροῦν τὴν μὲν ὑπ᾽ ἀργίας ἀπομαθεῖν ἤδη, τὴν δὲ πάνυ ἠκριβωκέναι.

καὶ μὴν οὐκ ἐχρῆν· τοῦ γὰρ αὐτοῦ καὶ τάδε, φασί, καὶ τάδε· ὥστε μὴ διαίρει τὼ τέχνα· μία γὰρ ἐστὸν δύ᾽ εἶναι δοκούσα.

ἄμεινον σὺ ταῦτα οἶσθα, ὦ Φιλοσοφία. τὸ μέντοι ἐμὸν τοιοῦτόν ἐστιν, οἷον τοὺς μὲν πονηροὺς μισεῖν, ἐπαινεῖν δὲ τοὺς χρηστοὺς καὶ φιλεῖν.

Friday, June 14, 2013


At the Back of His Mind

Kenneth Clark, Another Part of the Wood: A Self-Portrait (New York: Ballantine Books, 1976, ©1974), p. 101 (on C.M. Bowra):
At the back of his mind were Homer, Pindar, Aeschylus, Dante, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Camoens and St Paul, all read in the originals. These were his standards of judgement. He recognised greatness when he met it and saw no reason why he should waste time on triviality.


Poor Tom

From an unsigned review (by Albert Taylor Bledsoe?), of The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay and John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, in Southern Review, Vol. XXIII, No. 45 (January, 1878) 193-198 (at 196-197):
The very poor results of average school instruction are due chiefly to the indifference or soft-heartedness of parents. We have ourselves taught big lads in this country who have wept over their lessons, and brought letters of excuse from their mothers for bad work for which they richly deserved to be flogged. Schoolmasters must have uncommon virtue and zeal for their profession, when they sacrifice, as they are continually doing, their own 'interests' for the sake of doing their pupils more good than their own fathers and mothers wish them to receive! But is it wise to offer a premium to a schoolmaster for carelessness and dishonesty?

'But poor Tom is so delicate—he cannot study so hard; his lessons are too long; and our physician warns us not to overtax his brain'. Poor baby! Is he too tired to sit up till ten or eleven o'clock at night? Does his feeble constitution yield to anything but school work? No; he is only imposing on your good-nature; he is not sick, but lazy; and the best medicine you can give him is a letter to his tutor requesting him to give 'poor Tom' twice as much to do.

It is quite possible for a spirited master to produce a fashion of hard work. Raise the average of lessons. Do it slowly, if necessary; a few lines or pages at a time. But it can easily be done. The clever, industrious boys will like it; and the dunces will be dragged up. Masters know far better than boys what the boys can do. Excuses may sometimes be accepted for sickness, or unavoidable absence; but excuses should only relieve a boy from punishment, not from the necessity of making up lost ground. No excuse can get him over the fifth proposition of Euclid's first book, if he has never learned the fourth; no knowledge of the subjunctive mood can possibly compensate for ignorance of the indicative. Failure should be made disgraceful; idleness should be regarded as a crime.

Moreover, a change of work is a rest—from ancient languages to modern; from mathematics to natural philosophy; from history to literature—and ample provision should be made for thorough recreation, out of doors and in; but never sheer idleness. If a boy is really tired, let him go to bed. Bed, for a lad who shams fatigue, is one of the very best of punishments. It is intensely disagreeable; it keeps a mischievous lad out of the way; it rests the body and soothes the temper; it commends itself to the reason as the very kindest treatment for an overtaxed brain.


You Won't Get On

Bevis Hillier, Young Betjeman (London: John Murray, 1988; rpt. London: Cardinal, 1989), pp. 103-104:
The first Malburnian poem certainly by John appeared in the issue of 26 March 1923. A pastiche of Thomas Moore's 'The Minstrel Boy', it was aimed at the classics as taught by old Mr Emery, the Fifth Form master, two of whose favourite phrases, 'You little owl!' and 'You won't get on!' were mocked.
               THE SCHOLAR

The Classical boy to his Fifth has gone,
In the chairs at the top you'll find him,
Pondering over his Xenophon,
For which the Lord designed him.

You little owl! quoth the master stern
Who out of the window starest,
When will the difference you discern
Between the present and aorist?

The Scholar gazed with a look of alarm
And he murmured the wrong translation
But a volume of Vergil under his arm
Gave him classical consolation.

'For two long terms have I taught this form
But it brings my proud soul under.
You won't get on,' did the master storm
In a classical clap of thunder.
"Mr Emery" was Cecil Antonio Emery (1873-1931).

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Lunatic Asylums

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), "Letters on American Debts," in his Works, 3rd ed. Vol. III (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1845), p. 446:
There really should be lunatic asylums for nations as well as for individuals.


I Care Not

Thomas Flatman (1635-1688), "The Cordial. In the Year 1657," in his Poems and Songs, 4th ed. (London: Benjamin Tooke, 1686), pp. 141-142 (line numbers added):

Did you hear of the News (O the News) how it thunders!
Do but see, how the block-headed Multitude wonders!
One fumes, and stamps, and stares to think upon
   What others wish as fast, Confusion.
   One swears w'are gone, another just agoing,      5
     While a third sits and cries,
     'Till his half blinded eyes,
   Call him pitiful Rogue for so doing.
Let the tone be what 'twill that the mighty Ones utter,
Let the cause be what 'twill why the poorer sort mutter;      10
   I care not what your State-confounders do,
   Nor what the stout repiners undergo:
   I cannot whine at any alterations.
     Let the Swede beat the Dane,
     Or be beaten again,      15
What am I in the Croud of the Nations?


What care I if the North and South Poles come together;
If the Turk, or the Pope's Antichristian, or neither;
   If fine Astraea be (as Naso said)
   From Mortals in a peevish fancy fled:      20
   Rome, when 'twas all on fire, her People mourning,
     'Twas an Emperour could stand
      With his Harp in his hand,
   Sing and play, while the City was burning.
19 as Naso said: Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.150 (ultima caelestum terras Astraea reliquit)


Compendium Theologiae Moralis

Anonymous, in Middle English Lyrics, edd. Maxwell S. Luria and Richard L. Hoffman (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974), p. 122 (no. 131):
Kepe well X,1 and flee fro VII;2
Rule well V,3 and come to heven.

1. The Ten Commandments.
2. The Seven Deadly Sins.
3. The Five Wits (Senses).


Without Distinction

Thomas Flatman (1635-1688), "Nudus Redibo," in his Poems and Songs, 4th ed. (London: Benjamin Tooke, 1686), p. 89:
Naked I came, when I began to be
A man among the Sons of Misery,
Tender, unarm'd, helpless, and quite forlorn,
E're since 'twas my hard fortune to be born;
And when the space of a few weary days
Shall be expir'd, then must I go my ways.
Naked I shall return, and nothing have,
Nothing wherewith to bribe my hungry Grave.
Than what's the proudest Monarch's glittering Robe,
Or what's he, more than I, that rul'd the Globe?
Since we must all without distinction die,
And slumber both stark naked, He and I.
Robert of Brunnè's Handlyng Synne, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall (London: Roxburghe Club, 1862), pp. 269-270 (lines 8697-8702):
The lorde that made of erthe, erles,
Of the same erthe made he cherles;
Erles myght, and lordes stut,
As cherles shal yn erthe be put,
Erles, cherles, all at ones,
Shal none knowe yhoure, fro oure, bones.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013



Sydney Smith (1771-1845), sermon preached at St. Paul's Cathedral (July 28, 1844), quoted in Hesketh Pearson, The Smith of Smiths: Being the Life, Wit and Humour of Sydney Smith (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1934), p. 319:
I never take leave of anyone, for any length of time, without a deep impression upon my mind of the uncertainty of human life, and the probability that we may meet no more in this world.


Para Thina Poluphloisboio Thalasses

Henry Beeson, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod (New York: Doubleday, 1928; rpt. New York: Henry Holt, 1992), p. 43:
The three elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all, and of the three elemental voices, that of ocean is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied. For it is a mistake to talk of the monotone of ocean or of the monotonous nature of its sound. The sea has many voices. Listen to the surf, really lend it your ears, and you will hear a world of sounds: hollow boomings and heavy roarings, great watery tumblings and tramplings, long hissing seethes, sharp, rifle-shot reports, splashes, whispers, the grinding undertone of stones, and sometimes vocal sounds that might be the half-heard talk of people in the sea.


Let Nobler Views Engage Thy Mind

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), "To a Friend":
No more thus brooding o'er yon heap,
With Av'rice painful vigils keep.
Still unenjoy'd the present store,
Still endless sighs are breathed for more.
Oh! quit the shadow, catch the prize,      5
Which not all India's treasure buys!

To purchase heav'n, has gold the pow'r?
Can gold remove the mortal hour?
In life, can Love be bought with gold?
Are Friendship's pleasures to be sold?      10
No—all that's worth a wish, a thought,
Fair Virtue gives unbrib'd, unbought.
Cease, then, on trash thy hopes to bind,
Let nobler views engage thy mind.

With Science tread the wondrous way,      15
Or learn the Muse's moral lay;
In social hours indulge thy soul,
Where Mirth and Temp'rance mix the bowl;
To virtuous love resign thy breast,
And be, by blessing Beauty, blest.      20

Thus taste the feast by Nature spread,
Ere Youth and all its joys are fled;
Come, taste with me the balm of life,
Secure from pomp, and wealth, and strife.
I boast whate'er for man was meant,      25
In health, and Stella, and content;
And scorn, oh! let that scorn be thine!
Mere things of clay, that dig the mine.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Be Thine Own Home

John Donne (1572-1631), "To Sir Henry Wotton," lines 47-58:
Be thou then thine owne home, and in thy selfe dwell;
Inne any where, continuance maketh hell.
And seeing the snaile, which every where doth rome,
Carrying his owne house still, still is at home,
Follow (for he is easie pac'd) this snaile,
Bee thine owne Palace, or the world's thy gaole.
And in the worlds sea, do not like corke sleepe
Upon the waters face; nor in the deepe
Sinke like a lead without a line; but as
Fishes glide, leaving no print where they passe,
Nor making sound; so closely thy course goe,
Let men dispute, whether thou breathe or no.
49 Inne: "lodge, find lodging, sojourn" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. inn, v., sense 2.a)

Nikolaus Reusner (1545-1602), Aureola Emblemata (Strassburg: B. Jobin, 1587), no. LVII (click to enlarge):

Monday, June 10, 2013


Deus Venter Est

Carmina Burana, no. 211 Hilka and Schumann, tr. George F. Whicher:
Epicurus loudly cries:
"A well-stuffed belly satisfies."
Belly's my god, and I his slave,
Such a god our palates crave,
With a kitchen for a shrine—
Ah, that incense is divine!

Here's a proper god at last.
No time is his time to fast;
Every morning ere he sups
He is belching in his cups,
And his liquor and his food
Are his true beatitude.

Lust for guzzling he indulges,
Like a leathern flask he bulges;
Lunch prolongs itself to dinner,
Hence his cheeks are never thinner
But are laced with many a vein.
Appetite is still his chain.

Strict religious exercise
Causes Belly's gorge to rise:
Inward qualms make Belly roar,
As when wine with mead makes war;
Life is happy, life is easy,
Just so Belly be not queasy.

Belly says: "I care for nought
Save myself; my only thought
Is to vegetate in quiet
Tending to my proper diet;
Give me but meat and drink, with those
Secure I sleep, serene repose."
The Latin:
Alte clamat Epicurus:
venter satur est securus;
venter deus meus erit,
talem deum gula querit,
cuius templum est coquina,
in qua redolent divina.

Ecce deus opportunus,
nullo tempore ieiunus,
ante cibum matutinum
ebrius eructat vinum,
cuius mensa et cratera
sunt beatitudo vera.

Cutis eius semper plena
velut uter et lagena;
iungit prandium cum cena,
unde pinguis rubet gena,
et si quando surgit vena,
fortior est quam catena.

Sic religionis cultus
in ventre movet tumultus:
rugit venter in agone,
vinum pugnat cum medone;
vita felix, otiosa,
circa ventrem operosa.

Venter inquit: "Nihil curo
preter me; sic me procuro,
ut in pace in id ipsum
molliter gerens me ipsum
super potum, super escam
dormiam et requiescam."
Another translation, by James J. Wilhelm:
Epicurus cries aloud:
"A belly full is surer.
Belly is my own true god—
Throat is his procurer;
Kitchen is his sacred shrine
Where are fragrant goods divine.

"Behold! this god is awfully good;
Fasts he does not cherish;
And before the morning food.
There's a burp of sherry;
To him tables and big bowls
Are the truly heavenly goals.

"Yes, his flesh is always bulging
Like a bloated jug of sack:
Ruby cheeks show his indulging;
Lunch meets dinner back to back;
When his desire stirs the veins
It is stronger than a chain."

This religious cult expresses
Devotion in its its belched excesses;
Belly folds in agony;
Beer is battling burgundy;
Yet life is blessed with much leisure
When its center's belly's pleasure.

Belly speaks now: "Not one damn
Care I for anything but me;
I just quietly want to jam
Plenty of stuff inside of me,
And then above the chow and wine
To sleep, to rest in peace divine."

Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?