Thursday, October 31, 2013


Sausage and Mash

A.P. Herbert (1890-1971), "Sausage and Mash," A Book of Ballads (London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1931), pp. 64-66 (misprints corrected, but indentation omitted):
If there's a dish
For which I wish
More frequent than the rest,
If there's a food
On which I brood
When starving or depressed,
If there's a thing that life can give
Which makes it worth our while to live,
If there's an end
On which I'd spend
My last remaining cash,
It's sausage, friend,
It's sausage, friend,
It's sausage, friend, and mash.

Sausage and mash,
Sausage and mash,
Hope of the hungry and joy of the just!
Sausage and mash,
(Not haddock or hash),
Done fill they bubble and done till they bust!
Your truffles are toys,
Your oysters are trash
Contrasted, my boys,
With the homelier joys
The beauty, the poise,
Of sausage and mash.

O noble thing,
From churl to king,
Uniting class and clan!
What brow so high
We cannot spy
The simple sausage-fan?
The haughty plumber blows a kiss
When Mrs. Plumber brings him this;
And where's the Lord
So old and bored
But that proud eye will flash
If some sweet girl
Says, "Sausage, Earl?
A sausage, Earl, and mash?"

Sausage and mash,
Sausage and mash,
With an R in the month I am happy and gay!
Sausage and mash,
My molars I gnash
With impotent longing in August and May!
I weary of fish,
I deprecate hash,
Your partridges—pish!
Quite frankly I wish
For the tiniest dish
Of sausage and mash.

Sweet when we rise
With heavy eyes
And work is just ahead;
Sweet any time,
But most sublime
When we should be in bed;
Though kingdoms rise and kingdoms set
A sausage is a sausage yet;
When Love is dead,
Ambition fled,
And Pleasure, lad, and Pass.,
You'll still enjoy
A sausage, boy,
A sausage, boy, and mash.

Sausage and mash,
Sausage and mash,
Done till they bubble and done till they bust!
Sausage and mash,
Careless and rash,
I raises my hat to the food of the just!
What's women to me,
What's liquor or cash?
Contented are we,
The sons of the free,
With a pot of hot tea
And sausage and mash!



Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984; rpt. New York: Vintage Books, 1985), pp. 61-62:
Now, "Frenchness" may seem to be an intolerably vague idea, and it smells of related notions like Volksgeist that have acquired a bad odor since ethnography became polluted with racism in the 1930s. Nonetheless, an idea may be valid even if it is vague and has been abused in the past. Frenchness exists...[I]t is a distinct cultural style; and it coveys a particular view of the world—a sense that life is hard, that you had better not have any illusions about selflessness in your fellow men, that clear-headedness and quick wit are necessary to protect what little you can extract from your surroundings, and that moral nicety will get you nowhere. Frenchness makes for ironic detachment. It tends to be negative and disabused. Unlike its Anglo-Saxon opposite, the Protestant ethic, it offers no formula for conquering the world. It is a defense strategy, well suited to an oppressed peasantry or an occupied country.
Id., p. 64:
The French tales have a common style, which communicates a common way of construing experience. Unlike the tales of Perrault, they do not provide morals; and unlike the philosophies of the Enlightenment, they do not deal in abstractions. But they show how the world is made and how one can cope with it. The world is made of fools and knaves, they say: better to be a knave than a fool.
Misprint on p. 88:
His elders tolerated his pranks, called copies and joberies in the printing trade, because they saw them as wild oats, which needed to be sewn [sic, read sown] before he could settle down.


J.P. Mahaffy on Dr. James Henry

J.P. Mahaffy (1839–1919), "Dr. James Henry," The Academy, No. 223, New Series (August 12, 1876) 162-163:
On July 14, at Dalkey Lodge, the residence of his brother, this remarkable man closed an active and earnest life of seventy-eight years. His health of body and vigour of mind were unimpaired when a stroke of paralysis three mouths ago warned him that his labours must soon draw to a close.

Born in Dublin, James Henry was educated at first at a Unitarian school, and then sent to Trinity College. He was distinguished all through his course, was a scholar, and took his degree at the head of his class, with the classical gold medal, in 1818. He then adopted the medical profession, in which he soon attained great eminence and large practice, though his sceptical and independent ways of thinking estranged him from the religious and commonplace practitioners around him. His Remarks on the Autobiography of Dr. Cheyne, an exceedingly sarcastic and bitter exposition of the worldly advantages of Christianity, show clearly the nature of his opinions, and the boldness with which he expressed them. He even advanced to the shocking heresy that no doctor's opinion was worth a guinea, and accordingly set the example of charging five-shilling fees, an unheard-of thing in Dublin in that day. Though his sarcastic and trenchant tracts set him at war with the profession, his practice continued to increase, and he had realised some fortune when a large legacy made him completely independent of his ordinary work and induced him to lay aside professional controversies for literary pursuits.

He began (about the year 1848) to travel through Europe with his wife and only child, and to make researches upon his favourite author— Vergil. This occupation became an absorbing passion with him, and filled up the remainder of his life. After the death of his wife in the Tyrol (where he succeeded in cremating her and carrying off her ashes, which he preserved ever after) he continued to travel with his daughter, whom he brought up after his own heart, who emulated him in all his tastes and opinions, and who learned to assist him thoroughly and ably in his Vergilian studies. It was the habit of this curious pair to wander on foot, without luggage, through all parts of Europe, generally hunting for some ill-collated MS. of Vergil's Aeneid, or for some rare edition or commentator. Thus they came to know cities and libraries in a way quite foreign to the present hurrying age; they came to know all the men learned in their favourite subject, and all the librarians of the great libraries; in Florence, in Leghorn, in Dresden, in Heidelberg, in Dublin, these quaint and familiar figures will long be remembered. Seventeen times they crossed the Alps on foot, sometimes in deep snow, and more than once they were obliged to show the money they carried in abundance, before they were received into the inns where they sought shelter from night and rain.

During all these years—a full quarter of a century—they both pursued with unwearied diligence the criticism and exegesis of the text of the Aeneid. But a small part of the results has yet seen the light. In his Twelve Years' Journey through the Aeneid of Vergil Dr. Henry first disclosed to the world that a great new commentator on Vergil had arisen, and those who will look through Conington's work will see how many of the best and most original notes are ascribed to Henry. He also printed privately (he never would publish anything except a few papers in periodicals) versified accounts of his travels, something like the Roman saturae or medleys, and other poems more curious than beautiful—some of them, however, striking enough from their bold outspokenness in religious matters.

Having thoroughly examined every MS. of the Aeneid of any value, he returned a few years ago to Dublin, when declining years disposed him to rest from travel, and where the library of Trinity College afforded him a rich supply of early printed books on his subject. Here he spent most of his time, hunting up obscure allusions, seeking new illustrations, and labouring to perfect that exegesis which he held to be the main problem in editing Vergil. For in textual criticism he had become thoroughly conservative: he believed in the pure condition and good preservation of the Aeneid, and used to scorn those scholars who emended because they could not understand. He was with difficulty persuaded to contribute some notes on passages to Hermathena, from which scholars may infer the magnitude of a commentary carried out on the same scale through the whole twelve books. This commentary is complete,and has been bequeathed, I believe, to the care of Mr. Davies, the well-known editor of the Agamemnon and Choephori, a thoroughly competent scholar, and an attached friend of the author. The MS. is in such beautifully clear and accurate writing that its publication will not be difficult. A fragment of 176 pages on the first twenty-six lines (Eneidea) was printed a few years ago by Dr. Henry, but he could not content himself with either his own work or the work of any known printer, and so preferred the postponement of the remainder till after his death. With all its ability, its originality, its acuteness, I fear this wonderful commentary is on too large a scale, and embraces too wide a range of illustrations and discussions, to find favour with our examination-driven students. It is like the work of a sixteenth-century scholar, of a man who studied and thought and wrote without hurry or care, who loved his subject and scorned the applause of the vulgar crowd. As such, and as the fullest and best exegesis ever attempted of Vergil, Dr. Henry's commentary cannot fail to take a permanent and unapproachable place.

To his personal friends the memory of the dear old man will stand out no less distinct and indelible. His long white locks and his somewhat fantastic fur dress, which gave him a certain Robinson Crusoe air, were combined with great beauty and vivacity of countenance and a rare geniality and vigour of discourse. There was a curious combination of rudeness and kindness, of truculence and gentleness, of severity and softness in him, which made him different from other men. He was so honestly outspoken about himself that he could hardly be offensive to others, and those who saw his deep and bitter grief ever since his daughter—the support of his age, and the hope of his future fame—was taken from him by sudden death know how keen and thorough were his affections. He never ceased thinking and talking of her, and looked with calmness and even with satisfaction upon his approaching death, though it afforded him no hope of meeting her again. It was an escape from the desolation of a life without her whom he had loved.

The following are his principal printed works, very few of which (if any) were published, and many of which are undated. They speak the history of his mind by their very titles:—

Miliaria accuratius descripta. Thesis habita in Univ. Dub., 1832; An Account of the Drunken Sea, Dub., 1840; An Account of the Proceedings of the Government Police in the City of Canton, Dub., 1840; Dialogue between a Bilious Patient and a Physician, Dub. (no date); A Letter to the Socs. of the Dublin Mendicity Instit., Dub., 1840; Report of a Meeting of the Informers of Dublin, the Day after the Execution of John Delahunt, by an Informer, Dub., 1842; Unripe Windfalls in Prose and Verse, Dub., 1851; A Halfyear's Poems, Dresden, 1854; Notes of a Twelve Years' Voyage of Discovery in the First Six Books of the Eneis, Dresden, 1853; Thalia Petasata, a Foot-journey from Carlsruhe to Bassano. In verso. Dresden, 1859; Religion, Worldly-mindedness, and Philosophy (Remarks on Dr. Cheyne) [s.l.], 1860; Poematia, Dresden, 1866; My Book and other Poems; Six Photographs of the Heroic Times; The Eneis (I. and II.) rendered into Blank Iambic Verse.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


He Makes You to Love Your Kind

J.P. Mahaffy (1839-1919), Rambles and Studies in Greece (London: Macmillan and Co., 1876), pp. 203-205:
But, small as it is, there are few more interesting places than the only spot in Chaeronea where we can say with certainty that here Plutarch sat—a man who, living in an age of decadence, and in a country village of no importance, has, nevertheless, made his genius felt over all the world as much as any of his countrymen. Apart from the great stores of history brought together in his Lives, which, indeed, even now are our only source for the inner life and spirit of the greatest Greeks of the greatest epochs—the moral effect of these splendid biographies, both on poets and politicians through Europe, can hardly be overrated. From Shakespeare and Alfieri to the wild savages of the French Revolution, all kinds of patriots and eager spirits have been excited and delighted by these wonderful portraits. Alfieri even speaks of them as the great discovery of his life, which he read with tears and with rage. There is no writer of the Silver Age who gives us anything like so much valuable information about earlier authors, and their general character. More especially the inner history of Athens in her best days, the personal features of Pericles, Cimon, Alcibiades, Nicias, as well as of Themistocles and of Aristides, would be completely, or almost completely, lost, if this often despised but invaluable man had not written for our learning. And he is still more essentially a good man—a man better and purer than most Greeks—another Herodotus in fairness and in honesty. A poor man who lived at Howth, and was himself reputed by his neighbours 'a terrible historian,' remarked to a friend of mine, who used to lend him Scott's novels, 'that Scott was a great historian,' and being asked his reason, replied, 'He makes you to love your kind.' There is a deep sense in this vague utterance, and in this sense it may be eminently applied to our dear old Plutarch. 'Here in Chaeronea,' says Pausanias, 'they prepare unguents from the flowers of the lily, and the rose, and the narcissus, and iris. These are balm for the pains of men. But that which is made of roses, if even old images made of wood are anointed with it, saves them, too, from decay.' He little knew how eternally true his words would be, for though the rose and the iris grow wild and neglected, and yield not now their perfume to soothe the ills of men, yet from Chaeronea comes the eternal balm of Plutarch's wisdom, to sustain the oppressed, to strengthen the patriot, to purify with nobler pity and terror the dross of human meanness. Nay, even the crumbling images of his gods arrest their decay by the virtue of his morals, and revive their beauty in the sweetness of his simple faith.


A Joint Translation of Euripides' Alcestis

Dudley Fitts (1903-1968), letter to John Frederick Nims, in "Profile of a Modern Translator: Dudley Fitts," Delos, 2nd series, vol. 1, no. 1 (1988) 1-37 (at 12-13):
22 MARCH 1959. Fitts was revising his and [Robert Stuart] Fitzgerald's ALCESTIS.

I had not read the Alcestis for years, and had a vague idea that it was pretty loose, but worthy enow on the whole. Kumrad, it is loose to the point of diarrhoia, and it had no worth at all. Or almost none—a few good passages, a snatch or two of dialogue. This time, by St. Ann!, I am memorizing the Greek, and sticking as close to it, in English, as that gluteal beauty spot stuck to St. Salome Orchestris. I send my m.s., in triple space to RSF. He reads it, throws it away, recovers it, smooths it out, changes all my changes, and sends it illegibly back. My secretary—a nice bourbondrinking ex-hetaira of Albanian distraction—prepares a manuscript from my recension of this. We send that back to RSF. He reads five pages of Herodotos, beats his children in an order determined by seniority, gets drunk, and then reedits my revision. My ex-hetaira takes this mess when I've finished collating it with an old codex that used to belong to Elinore Wylie, complains bitterly to my wife, and beats out a final version, using my Greek Olivetti. All this via aeria first class. I am going broke, and Alcestis is not, really, all things considered, and I think we shd consider all things, do you not?, a better poem. Your prayers.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Like a Spider

Mitzi Walbank, "Growing up with Polybius: A Daughter's Memoir," Polybius and his world. Essays in memory of F.W. Walbank, edd. Bruce Gibson and Thomas Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 353-358 (at 355):
Frank's study had always remained the same and survived many changes of rooms and moving of homes. It had its own smell, of books, of peace. He sat at its centre and knew where each book was, like a spider in its web's centre feeling down the strands for some vibration, his mind extended out onto the shelves. When in his late nineties he was unable to climb the stairs, he would send us off to fetch down a book with precise and accurate instructions. His grandson James Walbank was later to write of that study:
                                           This place
Smells of old paper and words, of the desk
And chair and of time and wonder.
Frank sat here to work.
Sometimes I crept secretly in and drank in its atmosphere, or read the words on the spines of books. What might a Pauly Wissowa be?
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Bacon and Eggs

A.P. Herbert (1890-1971), "Bacon and Eggs," A Book of Ballads (London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1931), pp. 31-34:
Now blest be the Briton, his beef and his beer,
And all the strong waters that keep him in cheer,
But blest beyond cattle and blest beyond kegs
Is the brave British breakfast of bacon and eggs—

                    Bacon and eggs,
                    Bacon and eggs;
                       Sing bacon,
                       Red bacon,
                 Red bacon and eggs!

Thus armed and thus engined, well-shaven and gay,
We leap to our labours and conquer the day,
While paltry pale foreigners, meagre as moles,
Must crawl through the morning on coffee and rolls—

                    Coffee and rolls,
                    Barbarous rolls;
                      Sing coffee,
                      Black coffee,
                 Vile coffee and rolls!

What wonder the Frenchman, blown out with new bread,
Gesticulates oft and is light in the head!
Our perfect control of our arms and our legs
We owe to our ballast of bacon and eggs—

                    Bacon and eggs,
                    Unemotional eggs;
                       Sing bacon,
                       Fat bacon,
                 Brave bacon and eggs!

What wonder that Fortune is careful to place
Her loveliest laurels on men of our race,
While sorrow is heaped upon Prussians and Poles
Who shame the glad morning with coffee and rolls—

                    Coffee and rolls,
                    Ladylike rolls;
                      Sing coffee,
                      Pooh! coffee,
                 Black coffee and rolls!

What wonder the Russian looks redly because
Our England, old England, is much what it was!
We fight to the finish, we drink to the dregs
And dare to be Daniels on bacon and eggs—

                    Bacon and eggs,
                    Masculine eggs;
                      Sing bacon,
                      Bring bacon,
                 And fry me two eggs!

But gross Europeans who constantly munch
Too little at breakfast, too freely at lunch,
Sit sated in cafes, incapable souls,
And go to the devil on coffee and rolls—

                    Coffee and rolls,
                    Windy wet rolls;
                      At coffee
                      I'm scoffy,
                  I execrate rolls!

O breakfast! O breakfast! The meal of my heart!
Bring porridge, bring sausage, bring fish for a start,
Bring kidneys and mushrooms and partridges' legs,
But let the foundation be bacon and eggs—

                    Bacon and eggs,
                    Bacon and eggs;
                      Bring bacon,
                      Crisp bacon,
                 And let there be eggs!


Let's Stop Somebody from Doing Something!

A.P. Herbert (1890-1971), "Let's Stop Somebody from Doing Something!", A Book of Ballads (London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1931), pp. 422-425:
Councillor Busy and Mr. Nose, the Member for Misery Wood,
And the Secretaree for the Societee for Making the Public Good,
Were walking up and down the town with a frown, for everywhere they saw
The bold, bad Britisher doing things which weren't against the law;
    And "This won't do!" said Councillor Busy;
    "This won't do!" said the Honourable Nose;
    "It certainly won't!" said the Secretaree of the S.M.B.P.G.

"Let's stop somebody from doing something!
        Everybody does too much.
People seem to think they've a right to eat and drink,
Talk and walk and respirate and rink,
        Bicycle and bathe and such.
    So let's have lots of little regulations.
    Let's make laws and jobs for our relations,
    There's too much kissing at the railway stations—
Let's find out what everyone is doing,
      And then stop everyone from doing it."

Councillor Busy and Mr. Nose walked on through the summer night,
And a young man looked at his lady friend and suddenly smiled outright;
And he hadn't applied for a licence, or been to the County Hall,
Or made a report at the magistrate's court, or filled up a form at all;
    And "Did you see that?" said Councillor Busy;
    "Did you see that?" said the Honourable Nose;
    "I did see that," said the Secretaree of the S.M.B.P.G.

"Let's stop somebody from doing something!
        There's too much smiling in the city.
You don't see me in conversation with a she;
We don't osculate, and why should he?
        Send for the Watch Committee!
    Let's make the girls wear high-necked blouses,
    Let's put microphones in people's houses,
    Let's imprison gentlemen who hug their spouses;
Let's find out what everyone is doing,
      And then stop everyone from doing it."

Councillor Busy went up to Heaven (from eating too much fruit),
And the Secretaree took an overdose of tea, and Nose soon followed suit;
But they didn't much like the tone of Heaven, for the tone was far too gay.
The angels seemed to enjoy themselves, and the young folk laughed all day.
    And "This won't do," said Councillor Busy;
    "Did you see that?" said the Honourable Nose;
    "No self-control!" said the Secretaree of the S.M.B.P.G.

Let's stop somebody from doing something!
There's too much liberty here,
Constant song is obviously wrong,
Let's get a plainclothes constable along—
        Somebody should interfere.
    Let's stop love and lollipops and smoking,
    Let's stamp out unregulated joking,
    We've got noses and they're made for poking,
Let's find out what everyone is doing,
      And then stop everyone from doing it."

Monday, October 28, 2013


Asyndeton Filling Hexameters in Sidonius

In Some Lines in Lucretius and Asyndeton Filling Hexameters, I collected examples of Latin hexameter lines in which the entire verse consists of nouns or adjectives in asyndeton. I've since found many examples of the same phenomenon among the poems of Sidonius (5th century A.D.), whose fondness for this type of hexameter almost amounts to a tic of style. I've expanded the category to include hexameter lines consisting entirely of verbs in asyndeton as well. I haven't seen Geoffrey Harrison, The Verse Panegyrics of Sidonius Apollinaris: Poetry and Society in Late Antique Gaul (diss., Stanford University, 1983), but I believe he does discuss this type of line. References below are all to the Carmina in W.B. Anderson's Loeb Classical Library edition of Sidonius, Vol. I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936).

2.201 (p. 24):
circuit, hortatur, disponit, discutit, armat
2.414-415 (p. 44):
lilia, narcissos, casiam, colocasia, caltas,
costum, malobathrum, myrrhas, opobalsama, tura
5.208 (p. 78):
Rhenus, Arar, Rhodanus, Mosa, Matrona, Sequana, Ledus
5.475-477 (p. 102):
Pannonius, Neurus, Chunus, Geta, Dacus, Halanus,
Bellonotus, Rugus, Burgundio, Vesus, Alites,
Bisalta, Ostrogothus, Procrustes, Sarmata, Moschus
7.80-81 (p. 124):
Sulla, Asiatogenes, Curius, Paulus, Pompeius
Tigrani, Antiocho, Pyrrho, Persae, Mithridati
7.323 (p. 146):
Chunus, Bellonotus, Neurus, Bastarna, Toringus
11.18 (p. 200):
Aethiops, Phrygius, Parius, Poenus, Lacedaemon
13.11 (p. 214):
taurus, cerva, Gigas, hospes, luctator, Amazon
15.141-143 (p. 236):
sus, leo, cerva, Gigans, taurus, iuga, Cerberus, hydra,
hospes, Nessus, Eryx, volucres, Thrax, Cacus, Amazon,
Cres, fluvius, Libs, poma, Lycus, virgo, polus, Oete
15.175 (p. 238):
Mnemosynam, Europam, Semelen, Ledam, Cynosuram
16.49 (p. 246):
sortem, vincla, crucem, clavos, fel, missile, acetum
16.82 (p. 248):
pax, domus, umbra, latex, benedictio, mensa, cubile


Like Ghosts

Paul Ponder, Noctes Atticae, or Reveries in a Garret; Containing Short, and Chiefly Original, Observations on Men and Books (Bath: Richard Cruttwell, 1825), pp. 24-25:
                                           Extra Love of Antiquity.

It may with truth be observed, that those who have lost themselves in the studies of antiquities seem to have dropt their connections with the world around them, and like ghosts to hover round the tombs of their deceased friends, which they honour in proportion to the remoteness of their decease. Lord Monboddo, a great admirer of the ancients, has professed this taste of 'time-honoured' connections in the most ample and singular manner. Speaking of Greek and Latin Dictionaries, his Lordship says, "I reckon such dictionary makers, by whose industry we are enabled to live in the ancient world, one of the greatest blessings which we enjoy in this."


Agreeable Society

George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1881), p. 677:
This sense of personal relation between himself and the men of the past increased as years went on,—as he became less able and willing to mix with the world, and more and more thrown back upon the society which he found in his library. His way of life would have been deemed solitary by others, but it was not solitary to him. While he had a volume in his hands he never could be without a quaint companion to laugh with or laugh at; an adversary to stimulate his combativeness; a counsellor to suggest wise or lofty thoughts, and a friend with whom to share them. When he opened for the tenth or fifteenth time some history, or memoir, or romance,—every incident, and almost every sentence of which he had by heart,—his feeling was precisely that which we experience on meeting an old comrade, whom we like all the better because we know the exact lines on which his talk will run. There was no society in London so agreeable that Macaulay would have preferred it at breakfast or at dinner to the company of Sterne, or Fielding, or Horace Walpole, or Boswell; and there were many less distinguished authors with whose productions he was very well content to cheer his repasts. "I read," he says, "Henderson's Iceland at breakfast; a favourite breakfast book with me. Why? How oddly we are made! Some books which I never should dream of opening at dinner please me at breakfast, and vice versâ."

Honoré Daumier, Une lecture entraînante

Sunday, October 27, 2013


In Those Days There Was Hope of the Future

G.M. Trevelyan, England Under Queen Anne: Blenheim (London: Longmans, 1930), pp. 310-311:
At midnight on the 26th [of November, 1703] Queen Anne had stood watching through the windows the downfall of trees of historic tradition in St. James's Park. At the same hour, one of the most venerable of her subjects, old John Evelyn, father of arboriculture in England, was listening to the uproar of the uneven battle between the great wind and his beloved oaks at Wotton—'Wood Town no longer,' as he mournfully said. At morning there they lay, 'like whole regiments fallen in battle by the sword of the conqueror, and crushing all that grew beneath them.' Evelyn lost 2000 great trees that night; a neighbour lost 1300, New Forest 4000 'brave oaks,' Forest of Dean 3000 more. The elms of South England fell, as it were, without a struggle. But in those days there was hope of the future, for though elm and oak might fall, men planted others—as they seldom will today.
See also Mark Laird, "'Perpetual Spring' or Tempestuous Fall: The Greenhouse and the Great Storm of 1703 in the Life of John Evelyn and His Contemporaries," Garden History 34.2 (Winter, 2006) 153-173.

Hat tip: Thus Blogged Anderson.


So-Called Progress

Raymond B. Cowles (1896-1971), Desert Journal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 204:
The little tree frog is just one example of the thousands of species of animals that are being evicted by so-called progress, another name for simply making room for more of one species.
Id., pp. 253-254:
Let us try to grasp the life-defining values of forested hills and flower-spangled valleys, the clear outlines of lavender-shaded distant mountains and the color of their verdure close at hand. Let us contrast clear and unpolluted air, enriched by the natural fragrance of the countryside, with the noisome aerial garbage that rises from too many exhausts from too many cars, created and rendered noxious only by too many people. And think about the joys of glass-clear streams swarming with fish and free from industrial and human waste, clean lakes without a scum of oil from too many motorboats and with shores that do not reek with the odor of overflowing cesspools, undefiled beaches where the sound of the surf is not lost in the cacophony of radios or screaming humanity, and clear dawns on the marshes, silent but for the gentle cries of water birds or the singing of the wind across the reeds.


Wasted Time

Quintilian 12.11.18, tr. William M. Smail in Quintilian on Education. Being a Translation of Selected Passages from the Institutio Oratoria (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938), p. 140:
But we ourselves make our time short. How little time do we assign to study! Hours are wasted in the useless toil of social duties or in idling at the play or in the circus or at banquets. Add games of every sort and the mania for exercise; take away the time claimed by travel, holidays in the country, worry about finance, endless interruptions of a vicious sort, winebibbing and all manner of evil devices. And even such time as remains does not find us in a fit state for studious application.
The Latin:
sed breve nobis tempus nos fecimus: quantulum enim studiis partimur! alias horas vanus salutandi labor, alias datum fabulis otium, alias spectacula, alias convivia trahunt. adice tot genera ludendi et insanam corporis curam, peregrinationes, rura, calculorum anxiam sollicitudinem, invitamenta libidinum et vinum et fractis omni genere voluptatum animis ne ea quidem tempora idonea quae supersunt.

anxiam sollicitudinem invitamenta Halm: ansia sollicitudine multae eam G
fractis Winterbottom: flagitiis G: flagrantibus Halm
ea 1416: eam G

Friday, October 25, 2013


Too Many Graduate Students?

Richard Mulcaster (1531-1611), Positions Wherin Those Primitive Circumstances be Examined, Which are Necessarie for the Training vp of Children (London: Thomas Vautrollier, 1581), p. 134 (Chapter 36):
For the rowmes which are to be supplyed by learning being within number, if they that are to supply them, grow on beyound number, how can yt be but too great a burden for any state to beare? To haue so many gaping for preferment, as no goulfe hath stoore enough to suffise, and to let them rome helpeles, whom nothing else can helpe, how can it be but that such shifters must needes shake the verie strongest piller in that state where they liue, and loyter without liuing? which needeles superfluitie fleeting without seat, what ill can it but breede?
rowmes: rooms. See Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. room, sense 10.a: "An office, function, appointment; a post, situation, employment." According to the OED, this meaning is "[e]specially common in the 16th cent."
rome: roam
shifters: OED s.v. shifter, sense 3.a: "One who resorts to petty shifts or tricks, or who practises artifice; an idle, thriftless fellow; a trickster, cozener, etc."

Id., p. 143 (Chapter 37):
I dare not venture to allow so many the latin tungue nor any other language, vnlesse it be in cases, where their trades be knowne, and those toungues be founde to be necessarie for them. For all the feare is, though it be more then feare, where it still falleth out so, least hauing such benefits of schole, they will not be content with the state which is for them, but bycause they have some petie smak of their booke, they will thinke any state be it neuer so high to be low ynough for them.
least: lest
petie: petty, small
smak: smack, "A slight or superficial knowledge; a smattering" (OED, sense 3.b)


Advice Concerning Books

Henry Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman (London: Francis Constable, 1634), pp. 53-54 (from chapter VI):
Imagine not that hereby I would bind you from reading all other bookes, since there is no booke so bad, even Sir Bevis himselfe, Owleglasse, or Nashes Herring, but some commodity may be gotten by it. For as in the same pasture, the Oxe findeth fodder, the Hound a Hare; the Stork a Lizard, the faire maide flowers; so we cannot, except wee list our selves (saith Seneca) but depart the better from any booke whatsoever.

And ere you begin a booke, forget not to reade the Epistle; for commonly they are the best laboured and penned. For as in a garment, whatsoever the stuffe be, the owner (for the most part) affecteth a costly and extraordinary facing; and in the house of a countrey Gentleman, the porch, of a Citizen, the carved gate and painted postes carry away the Glory from the rest; so is it with our common Authors, if they have any wit at all, they set it like Velvet before, though the backe, like (a bankerupts doubtlet) be but of poldavy or buckram.

Affect not as some doe, that bookish Ambition, to be stored with bookes and have well furnished Libraries, yet keepe their heads empty of knowledge: to desire to have many bookes, and never to use them, is like a child that will have a candle burning by him, all the while he is sleeping.

Lastly, have a care of keeping your bookes handsome, and well bound, not casting away overmuch in their gilding or stringing for ostentation sake, like the prayer-bookes of girles and gallants, which are carryed to Church but for their out-sides. Yet for your owne vse spare them not for noting or enterlining (if they be printed), for it is not likely you meane to be a gainer by them, when you have done with them: neither suffer them through negligence to mold and be moath-eaten or want their strings and covers.
commodity: advantage, benefit, utility
poldavy: canvas

Gawen Hamilton, Nicol Graham of Gartmore
and Two Friends Seated in a Library


Don't Be Afraid of Them

Josiah Quincy, The History of Harvard University, Vol. I (Cambridge: John Owen, 1840), p. 433, quoting a letter from Thomas Hollis to the Harvard Corporation (January 6, 1724):
In the same spirit, writing of his "expectation of sending out another parcel of books," he adds, "If there happen to be some books not quite orthodox, in search after truth with an honest design, don't be afraid of them. A public library ought to be furnished, if it can, with con as well as pro, that students may read, try, judge; see for themselves, and believe upon argument and just reasonings of the Scriptures. 'Thus saith Aristotle,' 'Thus saith Calvin,' will not now pass for proof in our London disputations."

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Attendance in Class

Morris H. Morgan, "Memoir of George M. Lane," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 9 (1898) 1-12 (at 11):
[W]e may remember one of Professor Lane's own remarks, made to a student who was not over regular in his attendance at recitations: "Language, Mr. ———, comes from lingua, the tongue; and the Latin language can be learned only from the tongue of the master."


Dog Eat Dog

E.B. White (1899-1985), Writings from the New Yorker 1927-1976 (1990; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), p. 147 (April 1, 1933):
Most imperative of recent missives was a letter from Forbes, reminding us that we are not a bluebird. "You are not a bluebird," the letter said, gruffly, and then added, "you are a business man." There was a kind of finality about the news, and we read on. "Business is a hard, cold-blooded game today. Survival of the fittest. Dog eat dog. Produce or get out. A hundred men are after your job." If Forbes only knew it, goading of this sort is the wrong treatment for us. We are not, as they say, a bluebird. Nobody who reads the Nation regularly, as we do, can retain his amateur bluebird standing. As for business, we agree that it is hard, cold-blooded game. Survival of the fittest. Dog eat dog. The fact that about eighty-five per cent of the dogs have recently been eaten by other dogs perhaps explains what long ago we noticed about business: that it had a strong smell of boloney. If dog continues to eat dog, there will only be one dog left, and he will be sick to his stomach.

Cartoon by William Gropper



Peter Green, Classical Bearings: Interpreting Ancient History and Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989; rpt. 1998), pp. 258-259 (with endnote on p. 309):
The Buddhist sage Kumarajiva13 put it in a nutshell: 'Translation,' he declared, 'is just like chewing food that is to be fed to others. If one cannot chew food oneself, one has to be given food that has already been chewed. Such food however is bound to be poorer in taste and flavour than the original.'

13 Cited by Keenan, ibid.
I.e. (from note 12), E.L. Keenan, "Some Logical Problems in Translation," in Meaning and Translation: Philosophical and Linguistic Approaches, edd. F. Guenthner and M. Guenthner-Reutter (London: Duckworth, 1978), pp. 157-189 (at 157).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Shyness of Scholars in Company

Paul Ponder, Noctes Atticae, or Reveries in a Garret; Containing Short, and Chiefly Original, Observations on Men and Books (Bath: Richard Cruttwell, 1825), pp. 10-11:
                                  Shyness of Scholars in Company.

Some men, though well loaded with learning and intelligence, yet can never discharge their head-pieces till they are well primed with a glass or two of the Falernian; and then they go off sharply enough. It is said that the celebrated author of the Spectator could not fire his joke, till he was charged with a bottle.


Critias, Fragment 49

Critias, fragment 49 (tr. Kathleen Freeman):
Nothing is certain, except that having been born we die, and that in life one cannot avoid disaster.

βέβαιον μὲν οὐδέν, εἰ μὴ τό τε καταθανεῖν γενομένῳ καὶ ζῶντι μὴ οἷόν τε ἐκτὸς ἄτης βαίνειν.


Jeremiad against Jeremiah

Anatole France (1844-1924), quoted in Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks: A Selection, edd. J.A. Gere and John Sparrow (1981; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 4:
On eût fort étonné ce Jérémie si on lui eût dit que le péché des autres ne le regardait pas.
I can't find any other printed source for this quotation, which means (I think):
One would have shocked this Jeremiah if one had told him that other people's sins were none of his business.
Perhaps "ce Jérémie" is not the prophet himself but some contemporary fulminating like Jeremiah.

Thanks to Heath Hutto, who tracked down the quotation, not in any work by Anatole France, but in Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Histoire du Peuple d'Israel, Tome III (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1891), p. 175 (chapter XII; note the absence of "ce"):
On eût fort étonné Jérémie, si on lui eût dit que le péché des autres ne le regardait pas.
Pierre Wechter also independently identified the correct source.

Related post: Motes, Beams, Lice, Ticks, Rucksacks.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Horace Breaks the Ice

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), "Culture," The Conduct of Life (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1860), p. 137:
So, if in travelling in the dreary wildernesses of Arkansas or Texas, we should observe on the next seat a man reading Horace, or Martial, or Calderon, we should wish to hug him.
Punch 50 (June 9, 1866) 240:
Mr. Punch is so intensely addicted to classic lore that he never misses an opportunity of hauling in a god, or leading in a goddess, or sticking in a quotation, and he quite approves the social free-masonry which keeps two gentlemen reserved and haughty until they have exchanged six words from HORACE, when they discover that they may converse with propriety and safety.


Greek Anthology 11.395

Thanks very much to Dr. Armand D'Angour for permission to print his translations of a poem by Nicarchus (Greek Anthology 11.395).

First version:
A stifled fart is death to men:
    released it saves — and sings.
If farts can kill or rescue, then
    their power is that of kings!
Second version:
A stifled fart brings many to their death;
Released, it saves men's life, with rasping song.
If farts can force or stay men’s final breath,
They surely wield the power of monarchs strong.
The Greek:
Πορδὴ ἀποκτέννει πολλοὺς ἀδιέξοδος οὖσα·
  πορδὴ καὶ σώζει τραυλὸν ἱεῖσα µέλος.
οὐκοῦν εἰ σώζει, καὶ ἀποκτέννει πάλι πορδή,
  τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν ἴσην πορδὴ ἔχει δύναµιν.
Related posts:


Monday, October 21, 2013


Sacred Slums

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934; rpt. New York: Vintage Books, 1960), p. 234:
A particular patch of ground is holy, possesses mana; therefore it is desirable that as many shrines as possible shall be built upon it, so that the benefits of the supernatural radiation from the soil may be shared by the greatest possible number of images and their worshippers. The sacred precincts at Delos and at Delphi, for example, were, architecturally, just sacred slums—unplanned collections of buildings crowded, higgledy-piggledy, into the narrow enclosures within which the mana was supposed to be active.


My Dear Sulzer

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, in Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History, tr. David L. Colclasure (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 175:
Frederick II once asked the excellent Sulzer, whose accomplishments he held in high esteem and whom he entrusted with the management of the educational institutions in Silesia, how his work was going. Sulzer answered: "It has been going much better ever since we have begun to build on Rousseau's principle that the human being is good by nature." "Ah, mon cher Sulzer (said the king), vous ne connaissez pas assez cette maudite race à quelle nous appartenons." [Ah, my dear Sulzer (said the king) you do not know well enough the accursed race to which we belong.]
The original:
Friedrich II fragte einmal den vortrefflichen Sulzer, den er nach Verdiensten schätzte und dem er die Direction der Schulanstalten in Schlesien aufgetragen hatte, wie es damit ginge. Sulzer antwortete: "Seitdem daß man auf dem Grundsatz (des Rousseau), daß der Mensch von Natur gut sei, fortgebauet hat, fängt es an besser zu gehen." "Ah (sagte der König) mon cher Sulzer, vous ne connaissez pas assez cette maudite race à laquelle nous appartenons."

Saturday, October 19, 2013


William Somervile's Paraphrase of Martial 10.47

Paraphrase of Martial 10.47 by William Somervile (1675-1742), in his Poetical Works, ed. Thomas Park, Vol. II (London: Stanhope Press, 1805), pp. 163-164:
Would you, my friend! find out the true receipt
To live at ease, and stem the tide of fate,
The grand elixir thus you must infuse,
And these ingredients to be happy choose.
First an estate, not got with toil and sweat,
But unencumber'd left, and free from debt;
For let that be your dull forefather's care,
To pinch and drudge for his deserving heir;
Fruitful and rich, in land that's sound and good,
That fills your barn with corn, your hearth with wood;
That cold nor hunger may your house infest,
While flames invade the skies, and pudding crowns the feast.
A quiet mind, serene, and free from care,
Nor puzzling on the bench, nor noisy at the bar;
A body sound, that physic cannot mend;
And the best physic of the mind—a friend,
Equal in birth, in humour, and in place,
Thy other self, distinguish'd but by face;
Whose sympathetic soul takes equal share
Of all thy pleasure, and of all thy care.
A modest board, adorn'd with men of sense,
No French ragouts, nor French impertinence.
A merry bottle to engender wit,
Not over-dos'd, but quantum sufficit:
Equal the error is in each excess,
Nor dulness less a sin than drunkenness.
A tender wife dissolving by thy side,
Easy and chaste, free from debate and pride,
Each day a mistress, and each night a bride.
Sleep undisturb'd, and at the dawn of day
The merry horn, that chides thy tedious stay;
A horse that's clean, sure-footed, swift, and sound,
And dogs that make the echoing cliffs resound;
That sweep the dewy plains, outfly the wind,
And leave domestic sorrows far behind:
Pleas'd with thy present lot, nor grudging at the past,
Not fearing when thy time shall come, nor hoping for thy last.
Other translations and paraphrases of Martial 10.47:


Four Books

Benjamin Jowett to Mrs. Moss, quoted in Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks: A Selection, edd. J.A. Gere and John Sparrow (1981; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 62:
Don't let that boy read too much. Let him read four books over and over again: Arabian Nights, Pilgrim's Progress, Plutarch's Lives, Robinson Crusoe.

Robert Collinson, Absorbed in Robinson Crusoe



Frances Anne Kemble (1809-1893), Records of Later Life (New York Henry Holt and Company, 1882), p. 220:
I remember, at a party, being seated by Sydney Smith, when Mrs. Grote entered with a rose-colored turban on her head, at which he suddenly exclaimed, "Now I know the meaning of the word grotesque!"
Another version, the earliest I can find, of this oft-repeated anecdote, from an unsigned article, "English Singing-Birds in Florence," Scribner's Monthly 4.5 (September 1872) 616-620 (at 617):
Of professional jokers, [Charles] Lever was the most obstinate and obstreperous and iterative. Flashes of silence were as rare with him as they were with Macaulay himself. The jokes were always uttered, too, with overwhelming assurance that they could never become stale or flat. There was a pun of Sydney Smith's, and not a very eminent one, which he seemed never to tire of telling. Mrs. Grote, the wife of the distinguished historian, appeared once at a soirée with a queer sort of turban on her accomplished head. "Look at that," said Sydney, "that's the origin of the word grotesque."
Id., p. 616:
In 1855 there was quite a nest of English singing-birds in Florence...
Sydney Smith died in 1845.

Friday, October 18, 2013


A Day in the Life

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 61.1 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
I am endeavouring to live every day as if it were a complete life.

id ago ut mihi instar totius vitae dies sit.
Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 101.10 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
Therefore, my dear Lucilius, begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.

ideo propera, Lucili mi, vivere, et singulos dies singulas vitas puta.


Senicide, Part VI

Philo, On Abraham 33.182 (tr. C.D. Yonge):
And they say that to this very day the Gymnosophists among the Indians, when that long or incurable disease, old age, begins to attack them, before it has got a firm hold of them, and while they might still last for many years, kindle a fire and burn themselves.

Ἰνδῶν δὲ τοὺς γυμνοσοφιστὰς ἄχρι νὺν, ἐπειδὰν ἄρχηται καταλαμβάνειν ἡ μακρὰ καὶ ἀνίατος νόσος, τὸ γῆρας, πρὶν βεβαίως κρατηθῆναι, πυρὰν νήσαντας ἑαυτοὺς ἐμπιπράναι, δυναμένους ἔτι πρὸς πολυετίαν ἴσως ἀντισχεῖν.
Curtius Rufus 8.9.31-32 (tr. J.C. Rolfe; on the Indians):
[31] Who would believe that amid such vices there would be regard for philosophy? There is one rude and hideous class which they call sages. [32] These consider it glorious to anticipate the day of fate, and those whose life is feeble or whose health is impaired give orders to be burned alive; to wait for death they regard as a disgrace to life, and no honour is paid to the bodies of those who die of old age; they believe that the fire is sullied unless it receives them while still breathing.

[31] quis credat inter haec vitia curam esse sapientiae? unum agreste et horridum genus est, quod sapientes vocant. [32] apud hos occupare fati diem pulchrum et vivos se cremari iubent, quibus aut segnis aetas aut incommoda valitudo est; expectatam mortem pro dedecore vitae habent, nec ullus corporibus, quae senectus solvit, honos redditur; inquinari putant ignem, nisi qui spirantes recipit.
Silius Italicus 1.225-228 (tr. J.D. Duff; on the Spaniards):
That people recks little of life, and they are most ready to anticipate death. For, when a man has passed the years of youthful strength, he cannot bear to live on and disdains acquaintance with old age; and his span of life depends on his own right arm.

prodiga gens animae et properare facillima mortem.
namque ubi transcendit florentis viribus annos,
impatiens aevi spernit novisse senectam,
et fati modus in dextra est.
Silius Italicus 3.328-331 (tr. J.D. Duff; on the Cantabrians in Spain):
This people, when disabled by white old age, find a strange pleasure in cutting short the years of weakness by an instant death, and they refuse life except in arms. For war is their only reason for living, and they scorn a peaceful existence.

mirus amor populo, cum pigra incanuit aetas,
imbelles iam dudum annos praevertere fato
nec vitam sine Marte pati: quippe omnis in armis
lucis causa sita, et damnatum vivere paci.

329 fato Bentley: saxo codd.; taxo Ruperti (i.e. veneno)
Related posts:

Thursday, October 17, 2013


A Mess of Lentils

Bensoniana: From two Notebooks of A.C. Benson, Selected by J.A. Gere. Cornishiana: Sayings of Mrs Cornish, Mostly Collected by Logan Pearsall Smith (Settrington: Stone Trough Books, 1999), p. 23 (from Bensoniana; quoting J.M. Barrie):
To Bernard Shaw, after much provocation, at a dinner, when a plate of lentils was brought to S. 'Excuse me, but is that something you are going to eat, or something you have just eaten?'


Sweeter to Sweeney

Excerpt from Buile Shuibni (The Frenzy of Suibne), tr. Myles Dillon, Early Irish Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948; rpt. 1958), p. 99:
Sweeter to me once than the sound of a bell beside me was the song of a blackbird on the mountain and the belling of the stag in a storm.

Sweeter to me once than the voice of a lovely woman beside me was the voice of the mountain grouse at dawn.

Sweeter to me once was the cry of wolves than the voice of a cleric within bleating and whining.

Though you like to drink your ale in taverns with honor, I would rather drink water from my hand taken from the well by stealth.

Though sweet to you yonder in the church the smooth words of your students, sweeter to me the noble chant of the hounds of Glenn Bolcáin.


An Inscription with Divergent Interpretations

G.F. Browne (1833-1930), The Recollections of a Bishop (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1915), p. 208:
A rather marked example of divergence in the interpretation of inscriptions is to be found at Bath. In a case in the Pump Room there, containing Roman coins, a small sheet of metal is shewn, with an incised inscription. The following statement is appended to it:
Read by Professor Sayce as a record of the cure of a Roman lady by the Bath Waters, attested by three witnesses; read by Professor Zangermeister as a curse on a man for stealing a table-cloth; by others as a curse on some one for stealing a Roman slave.
Bensoniana: From two Notebooks of A.C. Benson, Selected by J.A. Gere. Cornishiana: Sayings of Mrs Cornish, Mostly Collected by Logan Pearsall Smith (Settrington: Stone Trough Books, 1999), p. 21 (from Bensoniana):
In Pump Room at Bath a small sheet of metal with incised inscription. Read by Professor Sayce as a record of the cure of a Roman lady by the Bath waters, attested by three witnesses—by Professor Zangermeister as a curse on a man for stealing a table cloth—by Prof. Reed as an inscription (monastic) on the death of a lame bell-ringer from ague.
For Zangermeister read Zangemeister, i.e. Karl Zangemeister. On the inscription see R.S.O. Tomlin, "Vinisius to Nigra: Evidence from Oxford of Christianity in Roman Britain," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 100 (1994) 93-108, an amusing article.

Rembrandt, Two Scholars Disputing

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Intellectual Snobbishness

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), p. 361:
I belong to that class of unhappy people who are not easily affected by crowd excitement. Too often I find myself sadly unmoved in the midst of multitudinous emotion. Few sensations are more disagreeable. The defect is in part temperamental, and in part due to that intellectual snobbishness, that fastidious rejection of what is easy and obvious, which is one of the melancholy consequences of the acquisition of culture. How often one regrets this asceticism of the mind! How wistfully one longs to rid oneself of the habit of rejection and selection, and to enjoy all the dear, obviously luscious, idiotic emotions without an after-thought. And indeed, however much we may admire the Chromatic Fantasia of Bach, we all of us have a soft spot somewhere in our minds that is sensitive to "Roses in Picardy." But the soft spot is surrounded by hard spots, the enjoyment is never unmixed with critical disapprobation. The excuses for working up a communal emotion, even communal emotion itself, are rejected as too gross. We turn from them as a cenobite of the Thebaid would have turned from dancing girls or a steaming dish of tripe and onions.


Cherry Eaters

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1913), p. 33:
It was Sunday. When I got up to Primadengo I saw no one, and heard nothing, save always the sound of distant waterfalls; all was spacious and full of what Mr. Ruskin has called a "great peacefulness of light." The village was so quiet that it seemed as though it were deserted; after a minute or so, however, I heard a cherry fall, and looking up, saw the trees were full of people. There they were, crawling and lolling about on the boughs like caterpillars, and gorging themselves with cherries. They spoke not a word either to me or to one another. They were too happy and goodly to make a noise; but they lay about on the large branches, and ate and sighed for content and ate till they could eat no longer. Lotus eating was a rough nerve-jarring business in comparison. They were like saints and evangelists by Filippo Lippi.


He Spent Most of His Time Reading

Alfred Kazin (1915-1998), A Walker in the City (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1961; rpt. 1969), pp. 117-118:
Mr. Solovey was always abrupt and ill-tempered, and when he spoke at all, it was to throw a few words out from under his walrus mustache with an air of bitter disdain for us all. His whole manner as he stood behind his counter seemed to say: "I am here because I am here, and I may talk to you if I have to! Don't expect me to enjoy it!" His business declined steadily. Everyone else on the block was a little afraid of him, for he would look through a prescription with such surly impatience that rumors spread he was a careless and inefficient pharmacist, and probably unsafe to use. If he minded, he never showed it. There was always an open book on the counter, usually a Russian novel or a work of philosophy; he spent most of his time reading. He would sit in a greasy old wicker armchair beside the telephone booths, smoking Murads in a brown-stained celluloid holder and muttering to himself as he read. He took as little trouble to keep himself clean as he did his store, and his long, drooping mustache and black alpaca coat were always gray with cigarette ash. It looked as if he hated to be roused from his reading even to make a sale, for the slightest complaint sent him into a rage. "I'll never come back to you, Mr. Solovey!" someone would threaten. "Thanks be to God!" he would shout back. "Thanks God! Thanks God! It will be a great pleasure not to see you!"

Jacob Henry Sablet (1749–1803), Vieillard assis et lisant, in
Musée des beaux-arts, Nantes, numéro d'inventaire 696

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Christian Humanism

A friend just sent me a heavy box of books, full of good things, such as Dante's Divine Comedy in Italian, Botticelli's illustrations of the Divine Comedy, Pascal's Pensées in French with a facing English translation, Leopardi's works in Italian, The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse, and much more, enough to keep me busy and contented for months.

Thumbing through one of the books, the Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes, tr. F.E. Brightman (New York: Meridian Books, Inc., 1961), I was struck by something in the "Litany of Deprecation" on pp. 241-244, in which Andrewes prays to be delivered from a long list of evils. The margins are dense with literary sources for almost everything on the list. Most of the sources are, as might be expected, from the Bible, with one notable exception, on p. 244, where Andrewes prays to be delivered from "a life unlivable." The literary source for this phrase is as far removed from sacred scripture as can be imagined — Aristophanes, Wealth 969 (ἀβίωτον ... βίον).

This reminds me of a passage in E.K. Rand, Founders of the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928; rpt. New York: Dover Press, 1957), pp. 64-65 (in the chapter on "The Church and Pagan Culture"; footnote omitted):
For the moment, I will take as type and symbol a bit of the Eucharistic liturgy of the Church preserved in one of its most ancient monuments, the Missale Gothicum. In the benedictio populi in the mass for the eve of the Epiphany, Christ is besought to turn dull hearts to Him, just as at the wedding of Cana He converted plain water into — not just wine, but Falernian. Horace's best! Let this be a symbol of the history of Christian humanism. Though the stricter souls have denounced it and even threatened to break it, that jar of old Falernian has always reposed in the sanctuary of the Church.
Thanks for the books, dear friend!

Anonymous, Old Man Reading (York Museums Trust)


A Pedant

Samuel Butler (1613-1680), Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1908), pp. 136-137 (ellipsis in original):
A Pedant is a dwarf Scholar, that never outgrows the Mode and Fashion of the School, where he should have been taught. He wears his little Learning, unmade-up, puts it on, before it was half finished, without pressing or smoothing. He studies and uses Words with the greatest Respect possible, merely for their own Sakes, like an honest Man, without any Regard of Interest, as they are useful and serviceable to Things, and among those he is kindest to Strangers (like a civil Gentleman) that are far from their own Country and most unknown. He collects old Sayings and Ends of Verses, as Antiquaries do old Coins, and is as glad to produce them upon all Occasions. He has Sentences ready lying by him for all Purposes, though to no one, and talks of Authors as familiarly as his Fellow-Collegiates. He will challenge Acquaintance with those, he never saw before, and pretend to intimate Knowledge of those, he has only heard of. He is well stored with Terms of Art, but does not know how to use them, like a Country-Fellow, that carries his Gloves in his Hands, not his Hands in his Gloves. He handles Arts and Sciences like those, that can play a little upon an Instrument, but do not know, whether it be in Tune or not. He converses by the Book; and does not talk, but quote. If he can but screw in something, that an ancient Writer said, he believes it to be much better than if he had something of himself to the Purpose. His Brain is not able to concoct what it takes in, and therefore brings things up as they were swallowed, that is, crude and undigested, in whole Sentences, not assimilated Sense, which he rather affects; for his Want of Judgment, like Want of Health, renders his Appetite preposterous. He pumps for affected and far-fet Expressions, and they always prove as far from the Purpose. He admires Canting above Sense. He is worse than one, that is utterly ignorant, as a Cock that sees a little, fights worse than one, that is stark-blind. He speaks in a different Dialect from other Men, and much affects forced Expressions, forgetting that hard Words, as well as evil ones, corrupt good Manners. He can do nothing, like a Conjurer, out of the Circle of his Arts, nor in it without canting and .... If he professes Physic, he gives his Patients sound hard Words for their Money, as cheap as he can afford; for they cost him Money and Study too, before he came by them, and he has Reason to make as much of them as he can.
Related posts:


Greek at Cambridge

Anonymous, "Greek at Cambridge," Punch (November 27, 1880), p. 251:
Shades of PORSON and of BENTLEY! did you hover in the air
O'er the Senate House in Cambridge when the Dons were gathered there?
Did you hear the strange proposal to give up Hellenic lore,
That the ancient home of Scholars should produce them nevermore?
Did the angry flash come mounting to each spirit's classic cheek
When utilitarian monsters wanted to abolish Greek?
   Will the schoolboy of the future never hear of ὁ, ἡ, τὸ,
Shall the memories of τύπτω vanish like a dream of woe,
HOMER, PLATO be abandoned, while the youthful mind we drench
With philosophies Teutonic and the follies of the French?
No! The ancient halls were faithful to the old traditions still,
And the Syndicate that threatened could not work its wicked will.
Greek must aye be learnt at Cambridge ere you take an Arts degree,
Until Cam's Plutonian waters slide no longer to the sea!

Monday, October 14, 2013


Four Years of Latin

Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996), quoted in Maxine Kumin, "The Best Foreign Language for Writers," The American Scholar:
Never mind choosing between French and Spanish. Take Latin, straight through; you'll never be sorry. Four years of Latin will do you more good than 14 of any other subject.
Hat tip: Dave Lull.



Samuel Butler (1613-1680), Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1908), p. 286:
The Greek Tongue is of little use in our times, unless to serve Pedants and mountebanks to smatter withall; to coyne foolish Titles for Medcines and Bookes of all Languages, and furnish Preachers with Sentences to astonish the Ignorant, and loose time withall in translating it over again into the vulgar and Nonsense. It is in itself a very untoward Language that abounds in a Multitude of Impertinent Declinations Conjugations Numbers, Times, Anomulas and formings of verbes, but has little or no Construction. And though no language is so Curious in the Contrivance of long and short vowels, yet they are so confounded by the Accent, that they are render'd of no use at all, And in verse, the Accent is again so confounded by the quantity of the Syllable, that the Language becomes another thing.
Declinations: declensions (OED, sense 10)
Times: tenses (OED, sense 25)
Anomulas: anomalies

Samuel Butler (1613-1680), Hudibras (London: Printed by T.N. for John Martyn and Henry Herringman, 1674), p. 4 (Part I, Canto I, lines 51-58):
Beside 'tis known he could speak Greek
As naturally as Pigs squeek;
That Latine was no more difficile,
Then to a Blackbird 'tis to whistle,
Being rich in both he never scanted
His bounty unto such as wanted;
But much of either would afford
To many that had not one word.


A Fool

Hesiod, fragment 61 Merkelbach-West (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Foolish the man who leaves what he has, and follows after what he has not.

νήπιος ὃς τὰ ἕτοιμα λιπὼν ἀνέτοιμα διώκει.
See Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1489 (Certa amittimus dum incerta petimus), pp. 1091-1093.


A Useless Remedy

Horace, Epistles 2.2.149-151 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
If your wound were not relieved by the root or herb prescribed, you would give up being treated with the root or herb that did you no good.

si volnus tibi monstrata radice vel herba
non fieret levius, fugeres radice vel herba
proficiente nihil curarier.
The same, tr. Thomas Creech:
Suppose you had a Wound, and one had show'd
An Herb, which you apply'd but found no good,
Wou'd you be fond of this, increase your Pain,
And use the fruitless Remedy again?


The Oldest Books

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Notebooks: Selections, edd. Geoffrey Keynes and Brian Hill (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1951), p. 266:
                       THE OLDEST BOOKS
are still only just out to those who have not read them.

Alois Heinrich Priechenfried (1867-1953), A Scholar in His Study

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Prayer for the Pope

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998), p. 29 (footnote omitted):
Powell was studying manuscripts of Thucydides in the Vatican Library, and Freeth recalled later that Powell was praying that the Pope, who was ill, would not die; because if he did the library would close, and Powell would be unable to work; the Pope did not die, and Powell finished his task.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Brotherly Love

Bensoniana: From two Notebooks of A.C. Benson, Selected by J.A. Gere. Cornishiana: Sayings of Mrs Cornish, Mostly Collected by Logan Pearsall Smith (Settrington: Stone Trough Books, 1999), p. 18 (from Bensoniana; on Robinson Ellis):
Consulting everyone whether he need go to his sister's funeral. 'I have made up my mind to go; she made the index for my Catullus.'

Leslie Ward, caricature of Robinson Ellis
(Vanity Fair, May 24, 1894)

Thanks very much to Ian Jackson for making Bensoniana available to me.


Surtout Point de Zèle

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1913), pp. 65-66:
All the time I was with him I felt how much I wished I could be a Catholic in Catholic countries, and a Protestant in Protestant ones. Surely there are some things which, like politics, are too serious to be taken quite seriously. Surtout point de zèle is not the saying of a cynic, but the conclusion of a sensible man; and the more deep our feeling is about any matter, the more occasion have we to be on our guard against zèle in this particular respect. There is but one step from the "earnest" to the "intense." When St. Paul told us to be all things to all men he let in the thin end of the wedge, nor did he mark it to say how far it was to be driven.
"Surtout point de zèle," said by Talleyrand, is translated by Hugh Percy Jones as "Above all, avoid zeal."

Id., pp. 67-68 (footnote omitted, ellipsis in original):
In the ages of faith, an ass dressed in sacerdotal robes was gravely conducted to the cathedral choir at a certain season, and mass was said before him, and hymns chanted discordantly. The elder D'Israeli, from whom I am quoting, writes: "On other occasions, they put burnt old shoes to fume in the censers; ran about the church leaping, singing, dancing, and playing at dice upon the altar, while a boy bishop or pope of fools burlesqued the divine service;" and later on he says: "So late as 1645, a pupil of Gassendi, writing to his master what he himself witnessed at Aix on the feast of Innocents, says—'I have seen in some monasteries in this province extravagances solemnised, which pagans would not have practised. Neither the clergy nor the guardians indeed go to the choir on this day, but all is given up to the lay brethren, the cabbage cutters, errand boys, cooks, scullions, and gardeners; in a word, all the menials fill their places in the church, and insist that they perform the offices proper for the day. They dress themselves with all the sacerdotal ornaments, but torn to rags, or wear them inside out; they hold in their hands the books reversed or sideways, which they pretend to read with large spectacles without glasses, and to which they fix the rinds of scooped oranges...; particularly while dangling the censers they keep shaking them in derision, and letting the ashes fly about their heads and faces, one against the other. In this equipage they neither sing hymns nor psalms nor masses, but mumble a certain gibberish as shrill and squeaking as a herd of pigs whipped on to market. The nonsense verses they chant are singularly barbarous:—
Haec est clara dies, clararum clara dierum,
Haec est festa dies festarum festa dierum.'"
Faith was far more assured in the times when the spiritual saturnalia were allowed than now. The irreverence which was not dangerous then, is now intolerable. It is a bad sign for a man's peace in his own convictions when he cannot stand turning the canvas of his life occasionally upside down, or reversing it in a mirror, as painters do with their pictures that they may judge the better concerning them. I would persuade all Jews, Mohammedans, Comtists, and freethinkers to turn high Anglicans, or better still, downright Catholics for a week in every year, and I would send people like Mr. Gladstone to attend Mr. Bradlaugh's lectures in the forenoon, and the Grecian pantomime in the evening, two or three times every winter. I should perhaps tell them that the Grecian pantomime has nothing to do with Greek plays. They little know how much more keenly they would relish their normal opinions during the rest of the year for the little spiritual outing which I would prescribe for them, which, after all, is but another phase of the wise saying—Surtout point de zèle.
Id., p. 69:
Surely truces, without even an arrière-pensée of difference of opinion, between those who are compelled to take widely different sides during the greater part of their lives, must be of infinite service to those who can enter on them. There are few merely spiritual pleasures comparable to that derived from the temporary laying down of a quarrel, even though we may know that it must be renewed shortly.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Scholarly Pride

Thomas Browne (1605-1682), Religio Medici, II.8:
I have seene a Grammarian toure, and plume himselfe over a single line in Horace, and shew more pride in the construction of one Ode, than the Author in the composure of the whole booke.
toure = tower
construction: "The action of analysing the structure of a sentence and translating it word for word into another language; construing, translation" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 6)
composure: composition

Cornelis van Haarlem (1562-1638), A Scholar in His Study


Cheerful Thoughts from Enoch Powell

Enoch Powell (1912-1998), First Poems: Fifty Short Lyrics (Oxford: Shakespeare Head Press, 1937), XXXVIII:
The sky is white from east to west,
And bright the day will break;
It lies to me that life is best,
And hearing I awake.

And so from east to west the sky
Will whiten as before
And lie again the selfsame lie,
The day I wake no more.
Id., XL:
The lights are growing in the west,
Nor yet the east is black;
The sun goes slower down to rest
And brings the summer back.

I hate the growing light of spring,
I hate the lingering sun,
I hate the sights that only bring
Regret for summers done.

Day in, day out, the sunset sky
Renews the grinding pain
Of springs and summers gone that I
Can never live again;

And when the sun below the sea
The clouds with crimson dyes,
I shrink and turn; for there I see
My life that bleeding lies.
Oh sweet it is to see the sky
Behind the yellow gorse,
And sweet it is to hear the cry
Of swallows in their course,
And sweet upon the windy lea
To shout and leap and run;

But this were sweeter far to me,
Neither to feel nor move nor be
Nor ever see the sun.
Sharp rises on the cloudless blue
The knife-edge of the hills,
And boundless sunlight clear and true
The vale beneath them fills.

As clear as light, sharp as a knife
A truth springs in my breast:
There are but two things, death and life,
And death of these is best.
I knew that Powell was a classical scholar and politician, but not that he wrote poetry. Despite (or perhaps because of) their lugubrious tone, these poems in the spirit of Housman appeal to me. I haven't seen Powell's First Poems, or his Collected Poems (London: Bellew, 1990) either. The texts above are taken from an apparently defunct blog, England Expects.

Nick Sinclair, Enoch Powell


The Gods Were Down at Last

Derek Walcott, Omeros, chapter I, lines 46-104, in his Selected Poems, ed. Edward Baugh (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), pp. 214-216 (line numbers added; a gommier is a tree, Dacryodes excelsa):
These were their pillars that fell, leaving a blue space
for a single God where the old gods stood before.
The first god was a gommier. The generator

began with a whine, and a shark, with sidewise jaw,
sent the chips flying like mackerel over water      50
into trembling weeds. Now they cut off the saw,

still hot and shaking, to examine the wound it
had made. They scraped off its gangrenous moss, then ripped
the wound clear of the net of vines that still bound it

to this earth, and nodded. The generator whipped      55
back to its work, and the chips flew much faster as
the shark's teeth gnawed evenly. They covered their eyes

from the splintering nest. Now, over the pastures
of bananas, the island lifted its horns. Sunrise
trickled down its valleys, blood splashed on the cedars,      60

and the grove flooded with the light of sacrifice.
A gommier was cracking. Its leaves an enormous
tarpaulin with the ridgepole gone. The creaking sound

made the fishermen leap back as the angling mast      65
leant slowly towards the troughs of ferns; then the ground
shuddered under the feet in waves, then the waves passed.


Achille looked up at the hole the laurel had left.
He saw the hole silently healing with the foam
of a cloud like a breaker. Then he saw the swift      70

crossing the cloud-surf, a small thing, far from its home,
confused by the waves of blue hills. A thorn vine gripped
his heel. He tugged it free. Around him, other ships

were shaping from the saw. With his cutlass he made
a swift sign of the cross, his thumb touching his lips      75
while the height rang with axes. He swayed back the blade,

and hacked the limbs from the dead god, knot after knot,
wrenching the severed veins from the trunk as he prayed:
"Tree! You can be a canoe! Or else you cannot!"

The bearded elders endured the decimation      80
of their tribe without uttering a syllable
of that language they had uttered as one nation,

the speech taught their saplings: from the towering babble
of the cedar to green vowels of bois-campêche.
The bois-flot held it tongue with the laurier-cannelle,       85

the red-skinned logwood endured the thorns in its flesh,
while the Aruacs' patois crackled in the smell
of a resinous bonfire that turned the leaves brown

with curling tongues, then ash, and their language was lost.
Like barbarians striding columns they have brought down,      90
the fishermen shouted. The gods were down at last.

Like pygmies they hacked the trunks of wrinkled giants
for paddles and oars. They were working with the same
concentration as an army of fire-ants.

But vexed by the smoke for defaming their forest,      95
blow-darts of mosquitoes kept needling Achille's trunk.
He frotted white rum on both forearms that, at least,

those that he flattened to asterisks would die drunk.
They went for his eyes. They circled them with attacks
that made him weep blindly. Then the host retreated      100

to high bamboo like the archers of Aruacs
running from the muskets of cracking logs, routed
by the fire's banner and the remorseless axe

hacking the branches.
According to the Encyclopedia of Life, the gommier can grow as high as 115 feet and reach a diameter at breast height of almost 6 feet; the oldest trees may be as much as 400 years old.

When I attempted yesterday to find more information about the gommier in Russell M. Burns and Barbara H. Honkala, edd., Silvics of North America, Vol. 2 (Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1990), I was prevented by the government shutdown ( redirected to

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Friday, October 11, 2013


A Principle of Morality

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Notebooks: Selections, edd. Geoffrey Keynes and Brian Hill (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1951), p. 89:
It is more moral to be behind the age than in advance of it.


Lounging Books

Horace Walpole (1717-1797), Walpoliana, ed. John Pinkerton (Dublin: B. Smith, 1800), pp. 166-167:
I sometimes wish for a catalogue of lounging books—books that one takes up in the gout, low spirits, ennui, or when one is waiting for company. Some novels, gay poetry, odd whimsical authors, as Rabelais, &c. &c. A catalogue raisonné of such might be itself a good lounging book. I cannot read mere catalogues of books; they give me no ideas.

I changed the grave accent to an acute accent and fixed the gender (catalogue in French is masculine), as others who quote this passage do.

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902), Lisant Rabelais

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