Tuesday, December 31, 2013



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (June 18, 1834):
Everything teaches, even dilettantism. The dilettante does not, to be sure, learn anything of botany by playing with his microscope, and with the terminology of plants, but he learns what dilettantism is; he distinguishes between what he knows and what he affects to know, and through some pain and self-accusation he is attaining to things themselves.


The Sooner, The Better

Arthur Coleridge, "Fragmentary Notes of Tennyson's Talk," Tennyson and His Friends (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1911), pp. 255-271 (at 271):
He was fond of telling Lincolnshire stories. T. "An old farmer, at the time when railways were beginning, receiving a visit from the parson, moved uneasily in his bed, crying out, 'What with faäth, and what with real bad harvests, and what with them graät, horrid steäm-kettles, and what with the soön goin' raound the earth, and the earth goin' raound the soön, as soom saäy she do, I am cleän maäzed an' the sooner I gits out of this 'ere world, the better;' and he turned his face to the wall and died."
Hat tip: Karl Maurer.



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (January 13, 1835):
[W]e can find ourselves, our private thoughts, our preferences, and aversions, and our moral judgements perhaps more truly matched in an ancient Lombard, or Saxon, or Greek, than in our own family.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


An Unsparing Race

Susan Fenimore Cooper (1813-1894), Rural Hours, edd. Rochelle Johnson and Daniel Patterson (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), p. 6 (Spring: March 11):
A disappointment awaited us—several noble pines, old friends and favorites, had been felled unknown to us during the winter; unsightly stumps and piles of chips were all that remained where those fine trees had so long waved their evergreen arms. Their fall seemed to have quite changed the character of the neighboring fields; for it often lies within the power of a single group of trees to alter the whole aspect of acres of surrounding lands.
Id., pp. 119-120 (Summer: July 21):
The preservation of those old pines must depend entirely upon the will of their owner; they are private property; we have no right to ask that they may be spared, but it is impossible to behold their hoary trunks and crested heads without feeling a hope that they may long continue unscathed, to look down upon the village which has sprung up at their feet. They are certainly one of the most striking objects in the county, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the hand which has so long preserved them, one of the honors of our neighborhood. It needs but a few short minutes to bring one of these trees to the ground; the rudest boor passing along the highway may easily do the deed; but how many years must pass ere its equal stand on the same spot! Let us pause to count the days, the months, the years; let us number the generations that must come and go, the centuries that must roll onward, ere the seed sown from this year's cones shall produce a wood like that before us. The stout arm so ready to raise the axe to-day, must grow weak with age, it must drop into the grave; its bone and sinew must crumble into dust long before another tree, tall and great as those, shall have grown from the cone in our hand. Nay, more, all the united strength of sinew, added to all the powers of mind, and all the force of will, of millions of men, can do no more toward the work than the poor ability of a single arm; these are of the deeds which time alone can perform. But allowing even that hundreds of years hence other trees were at length to succeed these with the same dignity of height and age, no other younger wood can ever claim the same connection as this, with a state of things now passed away forever; they cannot have that wild, stern character of the aged forest pines. This little town itself must fall to decay and ruin; its streets must become choked with bushes and brambles; the farms of the valley must be anew buried within the shades of a wilderness; the wild deer and the wolf, and the bear, must return from beyond the great lakes; the bones of the savage men buried under our feet must arise and move again in the chase, ere trees like those, with the spirit of the forest in every line, can stand on the same ground in wild dignity of form like those old pines now looking down upon our homes.
Id., p. 132 (Summer: July 28):
In these times, the hewers of wood are an unsparing race. The first colonists looked upon a tree as an enemy, and to judge from appearances, one would think that something of the same spirit prevails among their descendants at the present hour. It is not surprising, perhaps, that a man whose chief object in life is to make money, should turn his timber into bank-notes with all possible speed; but it is remarkable that any one at all aware of the value of wood, should act so wastefully as most men do in this part of the world. Mature trees, young saplings, and last year's seedlings, are all destroyed at one blow by the axe or by fire; the spot where they have stood is left, perhaps, for a lifetime without any attempt at cultivation, or any endeavor to foster new wood.
Id., pp. 133-134 (Summer: July 28):
But independently of their market price in dollars and cents, the trees have other values: they are connected in many ways with the civilization of a country; they have their importance in an intellectual and in a moral sense. After the first rude stage of progress is past in a new country—when shelter and food have been provided—people begin to collect the conveniences and pleasures of a permanent home about their dwellings, and then the farmer generally sets out a few trees before his door. This is very desirable, but it is only the first step in the track; something more is needed; the preservation of fine trees, already standing, marks a farther progress, and this point we have not yet reached. It frequently happens that the same man who yesterday planted some half dozen branchless saplings before his door, will to-day cut down a noble elm, or oak, only a few rods from his house, an object which was in itself a hundred-fold more beautiful than any other in his possession. In very truth, a fine tree near a house is a much greater embellishment than the thickest coat of paint that could be put on its walls, or a whole row of wooden columns to adorn its front; nay, a large shady tree in a door-yard is much more desirable than the most expensive mahogany and velvet sofa in the parlor. Unhappily, our people generally do not yet see things in this light. But time is a very essential element, absolutely indispensable, indeed, in true civilization; and in the course of years we shall, it is to be hoped, learn farther lessons of this kind. Closer observation will reveal to us the beauty and excellence of simplicity, a quality as yet too little valued or understood in this country. And when we have made this farther progress, then we shall take better care of our trees. We shall not be satisfied with setting out a dozen naked saplings before our door, because our neighbor on the left did so last year, nor cut down a whole wood, within a stone's throw of our dwelling, to pay for a Brussels carpet from the same piece as our neighbor's on the right; no, we shall not care a stiver for mere show and parade, in any shape whatever, but we shall look to the general proprieties and fitness of things, whether our neighbors to the right or the left do so or not.
Id., p. 135 (Summer: July 28):
At a particular point in the wilds of Oregon, near the bank of the Columbia River, there stood a single tree of great size, one of the majestic pines of that region, and long known as a landmark to the hunters and emigrants passing over those solitary wastes. One of the expeditions sent out to explore that country by the government, arriving near the point, were on the watch for that pine to guide their course; they looked for it some time, but in vain; at length, reaching the spot where they supposed it ought to have stood—a way-mark in the wilderness—they found the tree lying on the earth. It had been felled, and left there to rot, by some man claiming, no doubt, to be a civilized being. The man who could do such an act would have been worthy to make one of the horde of Attila, barbarians who delighted to level to the ground every object over which their own horses could not leap.
Id., p. 139 (Summer: August 2):
This general fertility, this blending of the fields of man and his tillage with the woods, the great husbandry of Providence, gives a fine character to the country, which it could not claim when the lonely savage roamed through wooded valleys, and which it must lose if ever cupidity, and the haste to grow rich, shall destroy the forest entirely, and leave these hills to posterity, bald and bare, as those of many older lands. No perfection of tillage, no luxuriance of produce can make up to a country for the loss of its forests; you may turn the soil into a very garden crowded with the richest crops, if shorn of wood, like Sampson shorn of his locks, it may wear a florid aspect, but the noblest fruit of the earth, that which is the greatest proof of her strength, will be wanting.
Id., p. 146 (Summer: August 7):
Walked in the Great Meadow. The old trees which bordered this fine field in past years are fast falling before the axe. A few summers back, this was one of the most beautiful meadows in the valley: a broad, grassy lawn of some twenty acres, shut out from the world by a belt of wood sweeping round it in a wide circle; it was favorite ground with some of us, one of those spots where the sweet quiet of the fields, and the deeper calm of the forest, are brought together. On one hand, the trees were of a younger growth, luxuriant and grove-like in aspect, but beyond, the wood rose from the bank of the river in tall, grand columns, of lighter and darker shades of gray. Nothing can be more different than the leafy, bowery border of a common wood, where one scarcely sees the trunks, and the bounds which mark a breach in the ancient forest. The branchless shafts of those aged oaks, pines, chestnuts, hemlocks and ashes, are very impressive objects, forming in such positions a noble forest portal. We have frequently stood upon the highway, perhaps half a mile off, to admire those great trunks lighted up by the sunshine, with which they had so lately made acquaintance; there are few such forest colonnades left in our neighborhood, and this is now falling rapidly before the axeman.
Id., p. 149 (Summer: August 9):
This whole grove was formerly very beautiful, composed chiefly of noble oaks of primeval growth, many of them hung with grape-vines, while a pretty clump of wild roses grew at their feet; some of the vines and many of the rose-bushes are still left, but the trees are falling rapidly. They have been recklessly abused by kindling fires against their trunks, using them as chimney shafts, which of course must destroy them. In this way, oaks that might have stood yet for centuries, with increasing beauty, have been wantonly destroyed. Not a season passes that one does not fall, and within the last few years their number has very sensibly diminished. The spot is but a wreck of what it was.



Let's Use the Day

Horace, Epode 13, tr. Thomas Creech, The Odes, Satyrs, and Epistles of Horace. Done into English (London: Jacob Tonson, 1684), pp. 174-175 (line numbers added):
He adviseth his Friends to pass their time merrily.

Dark Clouds have thickned all the Sky,
    And Jove descends in Rain;
With frightful noise rough Storms do fly
Thro Seas and Woods, and humble Plain.

My noble Friends the Day perswades,        5
    Come, come, let's use the Day;
Whilst we are strong, e're Age invades,
Let Mirth our coming Years delay:

Put briskly round the noble Wine,
    And leave the rest to Fate;        10
Jove, chance, will make the Evening shine,
And bring it to a clearer State:

Now, now your fragrant Odors spread,
    Your merry Harps prepare;
'Tis time to cleanse my aking Head,        15
And purge my drooping thoughts from Care.

Thus Chiron sang in lofty Strain
    And taught Achilles Youth;
Great Thetis Son, the Pride of Man,
Observe, I tell thee fatal Truth:        20

Thee, thee for Troy the Gods design
    Where Simois Streams do play,
Scamander's thro the Vallies twine,
And softly eat their easy way:

And there thy thread of Life must end        25
    Drawn o're the Trojan Plain,
In vain her Waves shall Thetis send
To bear Thee back to Greece again:

Therefore, Great Son, my Precepts hear;
    Let Mirth, and Wine, and Sport,        30
And merry Talk divert thy Care,
And make Life pleasant since 'tis short.
11 chance: perchance

The Latin:
Horrida tempestas caelum contraxit et imbres
    nivesque deducunt Iovem; nunc mare, nunc silvae
Threicio Aquilone sonant: rapiamus, amici,
    occasionem de die, dumque virent genua
et decet, obducta solvatur fronte senectus.        5
    tu vina Torquato move consule pressa meo.
cetera mitte loqui: deus haec fortasse benigna
    reducet in sedem vice. nunc et Achaemenio
perfundi nardo iuvat et fide Cyllenea
    levare diris pectora sollicitudinibus;        10
nobilis ut grandi cecinit Centaurus alumno:
    'invicte, mortalis dea nate puer Thetide,
te manet Assaraci tellus, quam frigida parvi
    findunt Scamandri flumina lubricus et Simois,
unde tibi reditum certo subtemine Parcae        15
    rupere, nec mater domum caerula te revehet.
illic omne malum vino cantuque levato,
    deformis aegrimoniae dulcibus alloquiis.'
Summary in Lindsay C. Watson, A Commentary on Horace's Epodes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 417:
A storm is raging, bringing with it rain, snow, and wind. Let us seize the opportunity offered by the weather to dispel our cares with wine and song—fitting behaviour for young men such as us. Perhaps our fortunes may take a turn for the better. Achilles' teacher Chiron similarly advised him, when he should come to Troyland, there to assuage his misfortune with song and drinking.


Something Craggy

Byron, letter to Thomas Moore (Venice, December 5, 1816):
By way of divertissement, I am studying daily, at an Armenian monastery, the Armenian language. I found that my mind wanted something craggy to break upon; and this—as the most difficult thing I could discover here for an amusement—I have chosen, to torture me into attention. It is a rich language, however, and would amply repay any one the trouble of learning it. I try, and shall go on;—but I answer for nothing, least of all for my intentions or my success. There are some very curious MSS. in the monastery, as well as books; translations also from Greek originals, now lost, and from Persian and Syriac, etc.; besides works of their own people. Four years ago the French instituted an Armenian professorship. Twenty pupils presented themselves on Monday morning, full of noble ardour, ingenuous youth, and impregnable industry. They persevered, with a courage worthy of the nation and of universal conquest, till Thursday; when fifteen of the twenty succumbed to the six-and-twentieth letter of the alphabet. It is, to be sure, a Waterloo of an Alphabet—that must be said for them.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


The Most Perfect of the Beasts of Prey

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), "Fusées," no. XXIII, tr. Christopher Isherwood:
What can be more absurd than Progress, since man, as the event of each day proves, is for ever the double and equal of man—is for ever, that is to say, in the state of primitive nature! What perils have the forest and the prairie to compare with the daily shocks and conflicts of civilization? Whether man ensnares his dupe upon the boulevard or pierces his victim within the trackless forests, is he not everlasting man, the most perfect of the beasts of prey?
The French, from Charles Baudelaire, Oeuvres Posthumes et Correspondances Inédites (Paris: Maison Quantin, 1887), p. 86:
Quoi de plus absurde que le Progrès, puisque l'homme, comme cela est prouvé par le fait journalier, est toujours semblable et égal à l'homme, c'est-à-dire toujours à l'état sauvage! Qu'est-ce que les périls de la forêt et de la prairie auprès des chocs et des conflits quotidiens de la civilisation? Que l'homme enlace sa dupe sur le boulevard, ou perce sa proie dans des forêts inconnues, n'est-il pas l'homme éternel, c'est-à-dire l'animal de proie le plus parfait?
Related posts:


We Sit and Wait

Ernest Dowson (1867-1900), "Dregs," The Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919), p. 116:
The fire is out, and spent the warmth thereof,
(This is the end of every song man sings!)
The golden wine is drunk, the dregs remain,
Bitter as wormwood and as salt as pain;
And health and hope have gone the way of love
Into the drear oblivion of lost things.
Ghosts go along with us until the end;
This was a mistress, this, perhaps, a friend.
With pale, indifferent eyes, we sit and wait
For the dropt curtain and the closing gate:
This is the end of all the songs man sings.


Samuel Foote and William Gower

William Cooke, Memoirs of Samuel Foote, Esq. With a Collection of his Genuine Bon-Mots, Anecdotes, Opinions, &c., Vol. I (New York: Peter A. Mesier, 1806), pp. 14-15:
At another time, when Foote was enjoined to learn certain tasks in consequence of his idleness, he used to come forward with a large folio dictionary under his arm, and present himself before the doctor with great seeming gravity and submission. "Well, Sir, what do you want Sir, I am come to do away the imposition laid upon me."—"What do you mean by imposition? I would have you know, Sir, I impose upon nobody;"—" I am sure then, Sir, if you did not impose this duty upon me, I should never have taken a natural fancy to it."

Here the doctor usually growled, and desired him to go on, which the other generally did with a degree of talent and perspicuity that often confounded his examiner. After this, the doctor would read his pupil a lecture on idleness, and on the great danger of following the ebullitions of fancy in preference to the dictates of sober judgment; describing also the figure he might make in the world, if he took the proper course; and, on the contrary, the contempt and misery which must follow a life of inattention and dissipation.

The doctor, in delivering this lecture to his pupil, did it in a sour, dogmatical, pedantic manner, accompanied with a number of hard words and quaint phrases; the other, being prepared for these, immediately interrupted him, and after begging pardon, with great formality, would take his dictionary from under his arm, and pretending to find the meaning of the word, would say, "Very well, Sir; now please to go on."

Friday, December 27, 2013


Learning for Her Own Sake

Frederic W. Farrar (1831-1903), Julian Home: A Tale of College Life (London: A. & C. Black, 1899), pp. 92-95:
The incentives which lead young men to work are as various as the influences which tend to make them idle. One toils on, however hopelessly, from a sense of duty, from a desire to please his parents, and satisfy the requirements of the place; another because he has been well trained into habits of work, and has a notion of educating the mind; a third because he has set his heart on a fellowship; a fourth, because he is intensely ambitious, and looks on a good degree as the stepping-stone to literary or political honours. The fewest perhaps pursue learning for her own sake, and study out of a simple eagerness to know what may be known, as the best means of cultivating their intellectual powers for the attainment of at least a personal solution of those great problems, the existence of which they have already begun to realise. But of this rare class was Julian Home. He studied with an ardour and a passion before which difficulties vanished, and in consequence of which he seemed to progress not the less surely, because it was with great strides. For the first time in his life, Julian found himself entirely alone in the great wide realm of literature—alone, to wander at his own will, almost without a guide. And joyously did that brave young spirit pursue its way—now resting in some fragrant glen, and by some fountain mirror, where the boughs which bent over him were bright with blossom and rich with fruit—now plunging into some deep thicket, where at every step he had to push aside the heavy branches and tangled weeds—and now climbing with toilful progress some steep and rocky hill, on whose summit, hardly attained, he could rest at last, and gaze back over perils surmounted and precipices passed, and mark the thunder rolling over the valleys, or gaze on kingdoms full of peace and beauty, slumbering in the broad sunshine beneath his feet.

Julian read for the sake of knowledge, and because he intensely enjoyed the great authors whose thoughts he studied. He had read parts of Homer, parts of Thucydides, parts of Tacitus, parts of the tragedians, at school, but now he had it in his power to study a great author entire, and as a whole. Never before did he fully appreciate the "thunderous lilt" of Greek epic, the touching and voluptuous tenderness of Latin elegy, the regal pomp of history, the gorgeous and philosophic mystery of the old dramatic fables. Never before had he learnt to gaze on "the bright countenance of truth, in the mild and dewy air of delightful studies." Those who decry classical education do so from inexperience of its real character and value, and can hardly conceive the sense of strength and freedom which a young and ingenuous intellect acquires in all literature, and in all thought, by the laborious and successful endeavour to enter into that noble heritage which has been left us by the wisdom of bygone generations. Those hours were the happiest of Julian's life; often would he be beguiled by his studies into the "wee small" hours of night; and in the grand company of eloquent men and profound philosophers he would forget everything in the sense of intellectual advance. Then first he began to understand Milton's noble exclamation—
"How charming is divine philosophy!
Not harsh and rugged as dull fools suppose.
But musical as is Apollo's lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets,
Where no crude surfeit reigns."
He studied accurately, yet with appreciation; sometimes the two ways of study are not combined, and while one man will be content with a cold and barren estimate of γε and που derived from wading through the unutterable tedium of interminable German notes, of which the last always contradicted all the rest; another will content himself with eviscerating the general meaning of a passage, without any attempt to feel the finer pulses of emotion, or discriminate the nicer shades of thought. Eschewing commentators as much as he could, Julian would first carefully go over a long passage, solely with a view to the clear comprehension of the author's language, and would then re-read the whole for the purpose of enjoying and appreciating the thoughts which the words enshrined; and finally, when he had finished a book or a poem, would run through it again as a whole with all the glow and enthusiasm of a perfect comprehension.


This Night Is Long

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Rawlinson G.22, f. 1v, text as in Theodore Silverstein, ed., English Lyrics Before 1500 (1971; rpt. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 39:
Mirie it is while sumer ilast
With fugheles song,
Oc nu necheth windes blast
And weder strong.
Ej! Ej! what this nicht is long,        5
And ich wid wel michel wrong
Soregh and murne and fast.
1 Mirie: Merry
ilast: lasts
2 fugheles: fowls', birds'
3 oc nu necheth: but now nigheth (i.e. neareth)
4 weder: weather
5 nicht: night
6 ich wid wel michel: I with very much
7 soregh and murne: sorrow and mourn

Translation by Brian Stone in Medieval English Verse (1964; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1986), p. 62:
Merry it is while summer lasts,
      With birds in song;
But now there threaten windy blasts
      And tempests strong.
   Ah, but the night is long,
   And I, being done such wrong,
Sorrow and mourn and fast.
Some (I am not among them) regard this as a religious, penitential lyric, and interpret "wrong" in line 6 not as an injustice done against the poet, but as a sin committed by him.

Thursday, December 26, 2013



Donald Richie, The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 156:
Travel hopefully broadens those who travel. It usually narrows those who have to deal with the travelers. Maybe they just see too many people—an experience that will always make one dissatisfied and irritable. I read somewhere that we only have tolerance for about fifty new people a day. After that we become snappish.


Something Sane and Healthy

John Carey, "Vegetable Gardening," Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 (London: Faber and Faber, 1987), pp. 30-36 (at 36):
Isn't it time we realized that, given our bulging populations, vegetables have now become more desirable inhabitants of the earth than people: less destructive, more peaceful, more serviceable for sustaining life? The day I see a row of houses being pulled down to make a vegetable plot, I shall feel that something sane and healthy has happened.


Old Winter

Robert Southey (1774-1843), "Sonnet XX" (dated 1799), The Minor Poems of Robert Southey, Vol. I (London: Longman, 1815), p. 112:
A wrinkled, crabbed man they picture thee,
    Old Winter, with a rugged beard as grey
As the long moss upon the apple-tree;
Blue-lipt, an ice-drop at thy sharp blue nose;
    Close muffled up, and on thy dreary way,
Plodding alone through sleet and drifting snows.
They should have drawn thee by the high-heapt hearth,
    Old Winter! seated in thy great arm'd chair,
Watching the children at their Christmas mirth,
    Or circled by them as thy lips declare
Some merry jest or tale of murder dire,
    Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night,
Pausing at times to rouse the mouldering fire,
    Or taste the old October brown and bright.
In the last line, October is "A kind of strong ale traditionally brewed in October" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 2).

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Now Let Us Sing and Merry Be

James Ryman, poem CXVII, in J. Zupitza, "Die Gedichte des Franziskaners Jacob Ryman," Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen and Litteraturen 89 (1892) 167-338 (at 292-293):
Nowe lete us syng and mery be,
For Crist, oure kyng, hath made us fre.

Now forto syng I holde it best
And lete alle care and sorowe goo,
For Crist, oure kyng, nowe in þis fest
Was born to bryng us owte of woo.

Thatte blessyd chyld tok flesshe and bloode
By vertu of the holigost
Of Mary myld, thatte meyde so goode,
To saue mankynde, the whiche was lost.

When he was born of thatte myld meyde,
Thatt blessyd lord and heuen kyng,
As long beforn prophetys hadde seyde,
With on accorde angellis didde syng.

The angellis than seide: 'Ioy mot be
To god a-boue in heuen blys
And peas to man, for alle thatte he
Hath offendid and done a mys.'

The shepherdis than kepyng there folde
Hurd fulle sweete songe and sawe grete liȝt,
When god and man, as prophetis told,
Was mekely born vppon thatte nyght.

Syth man ys take ayen to grace
And brought ayen to ioye and blys,
Lete us alle make myrþe and solace
And lete us thanke oure lorde of thys.
In modern spelling:
Now let us sing and merry be,
For Christ, our king, hath made us free.

Now for to sing I hold it best
And let all care and sorrow go,
For Christ, our king, now in this feast
Was born to bring us out of woe.

That blessed child took flesh and blood
By virtue of the Holy Ghost
Of Mary mild, that maid so good,
To save mankind, the which was lost.

When he was born of that mild maid,
That blessed lord and heaven king,
As long before prophets had said,
With one accord angels did sing.

The angels then said: 'Joy must be
To God above in heaven bliss
And peace to man, for all that he
Hath offended and done amiss.'

The shepherds then keeping their fold
Heard full sweet song and saw great light,
When God and man, as prophets told,
Was meekly born upon that night.

Since man is taken again to grace
And brought again to joy and bliss,
Let us all make mirth and solace
And let us thank our Lord of this.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013



Esteban Manuel de Villegas (1589-1669), "To Winter" ("Al Hibierno"), tr. Robert Southey:
Enough, enough, old Winter!
Thou workest to annoy us,
With cold, and rain, and tempest,
When snows have hid the country,
And rivers cease to flow.
The flocks and herds accuse thee,
And even the little ermine
Complains of thee, old Winter!
For thou to man art freezing,
And his white fur is warm.
The beasts they crouch in cover,
The birds are cold and hungry,
The birds are cold and silent,
Or with a weak complaining,
They call thee hard and cruel.
But not to me, old Winter!
Thy tyranny extends;
For I have wine and music,
The cheerful hearth and song.
The Spanish, from Parnaso Español, T. I (Madrid: Joachin Ibarra, 1768), pp. 63–64:
Basta, que das, Hibierno,
en ser nuestro enemigo,
ya con nieves y barros,
ya con lluvias y frios,
quando, encaneces campos
quando, detienes rios,
y para que se quiebren
los conviertes en vidrio.
Destruyes los ganados,
agostas los egidos;
y al fin de tus rigores
se quexan los armiños.
Porque ¿ quien al capullo,
o quien al lanificio
cosió sus blancas pieles
sino tus blancos hilos?
Las fieras en sus chozas,
las aves en sus nidos,
te llaman insolente
con quejas, y bramidos.
Solo contra mí solo
no tienes poderío
donde hay citara y canto,
donde hay hogar y vino.
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Ancient Greek

F.W.H. Myers (1843-1901), Essays Classical (London: Macmillan and Co., 1883), p. 133:
There never has been, there never will be, a language like the dead Greek. For Greek had all the merits of other tongues without their accompanying defects. It had the monumental weight and brevity of the Latin without its rigid unmanageability; the copiousness and flexibility of the German without its heavy commonness and guttural superfluity; the pellucidity of the French without its jejuneness; the force and reality of the English without its structureless comminution.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines comminution as "Reduction or breaking up into small fragments."

Monday, December 23, 2013


They Told Me Pan Was Dead

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), "They Told Me," Collected Poems (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1941), p. 4:
They told me Pan was dead, but I
  Oft marvelled who it was that sang
Down the green valleys languidly
  Where the grey elder-thickets hang.

Sometimes I thought it was a bird
  My soul had charged with sorcery;
Sometimes it seemed my own heart heard
  Inland the sorrow of the sea.

But even where the primrose sets
  The seal of her pale loveliness,
I found amid the violets
  Tears of an antique bitterness.
Related posts:


The Death of Pan

Laurence Whistler (1912-2000), "The Death of Pan: A Fragment," The World’s Room: The Collected Poems of Laurence Whistler (London: William Heinemann, 1949), pp. 10-13:
                                          Then Pan rose up
And in clear daylight stretched his heavy arms,
That seemed encumbered with the wasted weeks,
And on his forehead the broad shield of the sun
Smote golden, and within his lampless eyes—
Dim as dead leaves among the twilight groves
Of green Arcadia, where Alpheus glides
In haunting laughter by the hollow urn
Of some scarce-pictured shepherd—in those eyes,
Unbeaconed by long sadness, it might seem
A little shadow of a faded joy
Quivered one moment, as, on burning noons,
The blue-fly dances by the meadow pool
Where cattle drink at ease. Around, above,
High-templing heaven dreamed in brilliant fire—
The dome of the no-more-remembered Gods;
And there, serene like memory, and fair,
As all the splendid actions of those Gods,
Jagged Erymanthus stretched in dwindling line,
And pale Cyllene dreamed into the clouds.
Between the mountains and the gazing God
Lay all bough-built Arcadia—sunlit farms—
Tree-vaulted pens—flocks like ethereal clouds
That browse on the cool pastures of the wind—
And all unseen in green forgotten places
Old temples mouldering softly into grass
With nothing but a whisper of hushed leaves
To tell their lost divinity—alas!

Tears filled the God's fair eyes: he forced them down—
What use were tears, now all Olympus slept?
Now that the ribald lips of melting pipes
No longer roused the hooves of frolic goats
In stony places, and the shepherd's heart
Paused not to hear the syrinx trembling low
In some deep dell, beneath the early stars?—
That day Doom’s wing had darked Arcadia's soul:
Three men had passed him in outlandish dress,
Slow-chanting as they moved; and one of them
Walked upright through the woods nor glanced aside;
And one outsprinkled water from a stoup;
And one of them, within whose eyes were seen
The bright wild flowers of a new faith blowing,
Held high the swaying Cross. Pan wailed aloud—
And they, with looks of saintly agony,
Fled all along the valley shrieking, Satan!—
While the God crouched and trembled in the pines,
With great fear-widened eyes.

                                             So trembling now,
But rather from infirmity than fear,
More with a strange and inward sickliness
That told the approaching end, great Pan moved down
With sluggish crawl, and sunless countenance
Toward the rustling border of the foam.
Removed a little from the leafless sand,
Built in the everlasting twilight of
The stiff, wind-buffeted pines, a temple stood
Within whose ancient shell-encrusted dome
The voices of the waves far-islanded
Seemed gathered in a smooth eternal hush,
A very dwelling and a silent sound.
Here once were voices too, and shepherd pipes,
But now there was no song;
And here were smouldering censers, and green sprigs
Of laurel and of ivy and of bay,
But withered now, and gone.
The very cornice, where the swallows housed
And spiders worked to catch the stars in rain,
Tipped to the Pan-pipes and the wreathed horns
Along the frieze. Here paused the dying God,
And stayed his step upon the threshold twigs,
And gazed like one that has a shaded thought
Upon those empty walls a long, deep time.
Then, sighing, like a giant of the woods
That men lay low upon a misty morn
In dank October, to the waves he turned
And left the slow-obliterating sands
The only vestige of his passing there,
The stamp of earth's own strong Divinity,
The footmark of the latest of the Gods,
Fallen and fallen for ever.

                                                Tide and wind,
Tide and tempestuous wind among the pines—
Wild tossing leaves from leaves—high birds from them—
And thence all green Arcadia from the banks
Of swift Alpheus to the Ladon flood,
And Erymanthus twining to the sea—
Sprang all to life beneath the sudden wind;
The sun's clear beauty was all blotted out,
Burdened with clouds; and darknesss, like a mask
Wherein the sun burned with a hollow eye
Giving frail light, concealed the face of heaven!
Then candles were lit up in many a farm
Among the hills; and in a low-roofed shrine
Men praying to their God were all struck dumb
In terror and bewildement—the prayer
Congealed within their hearts—for from the woods,
And from the waves, and all the depths of air,
It seemed a strange and awful voice arose,
Wailing upon the darkness—PAN IS DEAD.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Related posts:


In Solemn Groves and Solitary Bowers

Francis Quarles (1592-1644), "Song," from The Virgin Widow. A Comedie (London: Printed for R. Royston, 1649), p. 34 (line numbers added):
How blest are they that wast their weary howers
In solemne Groves, and solitary Bowers,
                           Where neither eye, nor eare
                                           Can see, or heare,
                                           The frantique mirth,        5
                 And false delights of frolique earth;
                            Where they may sit, and pant,
                             And breathe their pursy souls,
Where neither Grief consumes, nor griping want
                 Afflicts, nor sullen Care controuls.        10
Away false joyes, ye murther where ye kisse:
There is no heav'n to that; No life to this.
1 wast their weary howers: waste their weary hours
8 pursy: short of breath, wheezy, asthmatic (Oxford English Dictionary)
12 to: equal to

Sunday, December 22, 2013


From Sweet to Sour

Greek Anthology 9.127 (tr. W.R. Paton):
If a little sweet wine remains in a vessel, this remnant turns to vinegar. So the old man who has quite emptied life and has reached the depth of eld becomes sour-tempered.

ἂν περιλειφθῇ μικρὸν ἐν ἄγγεσιν ἡδέος οἴνου,
  εἰς ὀξὺ τρέπεται τοῦτο τὸ λειπόμενον·
οὕτω ἀπαντλήσας τὸν ὅλον βίον, εἰς βαθὺ δ᾽ ἐλθὼν
  γῆρας, ὁ πρεσβύτης γίνεται ὀξύχολος.
Two words in the opening couplet (περιλειφθῇ...λειπόμενον) are an example of compound-simplex verbal iteration, where the simplex verb has the meaning of the preceding compound verb. On this idiom see:
Related post: An Image of Old Age.


An Intellectual Botany Bay

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Notes of a Life (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1910), p. 129:
I had travelled over Europe; seen and conversed with some of the greatest scholars of the age; written flaming historical and critical articles in Quarterly and Monthly Reviews; and had to sit down in a sort of intellectual Botany Bay, and teach raw country lads and little boys escaped from school to blunder through Latin sentences, in the human meaning and purport of which they seemed incapable of taking any interest! It was too bad.
Related post: The Joy of Teaching.


In a Library

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), "In a Library," Collected Poems (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1941), p. 266:
Would—would that there were
A book on that shelf
To teach an old man
To teach himself!—

The joy of some scribe,
Brush in service to quill,
Who, with bird, flower, landscape,
Emblem and vision,
Loved his margins to fill.

Then might I sit,
By true learning beguiled,
Far into the night,
Even with self reconciled,
Retrieving the wisdom
I lost, when a child.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


A World Which Is Safe and Silent

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), "The British Museum Reading Room," Collected Poems (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 160-161:
Under the hive-like dome the stooping haunted readers
Go up and down the alleys, tap the cells of knowledge—
  Honey and wax, the accumulation of years—
Some on commission, some for the love of learning,
Some because they have nothing better to do
Or because they hope these walls of books will deaden
  The drumming of the demon in their ears.

Cranks, hacks, poverty-stricken scholars,
In pince-nez, period hats or romantic beards
  And cherishing their hobby or their doom
Some are too much alive and some are asleep
Hanging like bats in a world of inverted values,
Folded up in themselves in a world which is safe and silent:
  This is the British Museum Reading Room.

Out on the steps in the sun the pigeons are courting,
Puffing their ruffs and sweeping their tails or taking
  A sun-bath at their ease
And under the totem poles—the ancient terror—
Between the enormous fluted Ionic columns
There seeps from heavily jowled or hawk-like foreign faces
  The guttural sorrow of the refugees.

Stanley Anderson, The Reading Room


Method of Study

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Notes of a Life (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1910), pp. 25-26:
The foundation of all my studies was now the Greek Testament, upon which I made the results of my classical, theological, and general reading to bear, by the insertion of notes in the blank leaves written in the Latin language. The same plan I have since formed with other books, such as Plato's 'Republic' and Aristotle's 'Politics,' and have ever had cause to felicitate myself on the rich results of the single, direct, and businesslike method of study laid down for me by the stout, club-bearing Gamaliel of Old Aberdeen [Dr. Patrick Forbes]. Take your knowledge of the case from the evidence of the original witnesses, from them directly, and from them only in the first place; come face to face with the primary facts of the matter you are going to deal with, you will then be in a condition to profit by the observations and opinions of other men, which, without such a previous course of independent training, could only confound and cripple you. This was what my Gamaliel taught me; and, however common it may be in Scotland and elsewhere to substitute a traditional indoctrination about fundamental facts for a direct dealing with the facts themselves, there cannot be the slightest doubt that the latter is the only true method of scientific and philosophical investigation about an important matter of which our systematic books on all subjects are apt to act, either as a thick cloud which must be blown away, or a strong wall which must be knocked down, before the mind can be brought into living contact with the object of its cognitive activity.

Beatrice Offor (1864–1920), A Knotty Point,
in Bruce Castle Museum

Monday, December 16, 2013



John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), "Christ," The Day-Book of John Stuart Blackie (London: Grant Richards, 1902), p. 35:
Show me Christ as he lived and moved,
  The wonder of all men;
In word and deed all perfect proved,
  Thou mak'st me Christian then;
But lace him in a cramping creed,
  As many creeds there be:
Thank God if thus he serves your need,
  No Christ he is for me.


Is He Gone?

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), Poems, Dialogues in Verse and Epigrams, ed. Charles G. Crump, vol. II (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1892), p. 143:
Various the roads of life; in one
  All terminate, one lonely way.
We go; and "Is he gone?"
  Is all our best friends say.


Past Life's Middle Space

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), Poems, Dialogues in Verse and Epigrams, ed. Charles G. Crump, vol. II (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1892), p. 110:
When we have panted past life's middle space,
And stand and breathe a moment from the race,
  These graver thoughts the heaving breast annoy:
"Of all our fields how few are green!
And ah! what brakes, moors, quagmires, lie between
  Tired age and childhood ramping wild with joy."

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Something to Look Forward to

Edward FitzGerald, letter to W.F. Pollock (November 20, 1861):
I see, however, by a Handbill in the Grocer's Shop that a Man is going to lecture on the Gorilla in a few weeks. So there is something to look forward to.


Verse-Filling Asyndeton: Some Greek Examples

All of the following examples of verse-filling asyndeton occur in the 9th book of the Greek Anthology. Translations are by W.R. Paton, from vol. III (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1917; rpt. 1948) of his edition of the Greek Anthology in the Loeb Classical Library series. As in my previous posts on this phenomenon, I only include examples in hexameters. The authors of all but the first poem are anonymous.

491 (by Theon; a monostich on days of the week):
Jove, Mars, Venus, Moon, Saturn, Sun, Mercury.

Ζεύς, Ἄρης, Παφίη, Μήνη, Κρόνος, Ἥλιος, Ἑρμῆς.
This line also appears in Pseudo-Manetho, Apotelesmatica 5(6).34.

494 (a monostich on a soldier's gear):
Arrow, bow, shield, helmet, spear, sword, cuirass.

ἰός, τόξα, σάκος, κυνέη, δόρυ, φάσγανα, θώρηξ.

524 (alphabetic hymn to Dionysus; all but the first and last lines are examples of verse-filling asyndeton):
Let us chant the king who loves the call of Euhoe, the King Eiraphiotes,
Tender-haired, rustic, much besung, fair of form,
Boeotian, Bromius, reveller, with vine-leaves in his hair,
Merry, productive, slayer of giants, the laugher,
Son of Zeus, twice-born, son of the Dithyramb, Dionysus,        5
Euius, with lovely locks, rich in vines, awaker of revels,
Jealous, very wrathful, envious, bestower of envy,
Gentle, sweet drinker, sweet-voiced, cozener,
Thracian, thyrsus-bearing, boon-companion, lion-hearted,
Slayer of Indians, desirable, twiner of violets, hierophant,        10
Reveller, horned, ivy-crowned, noisy,
Lydian, lord of the wine-press, dispeller of care,
Healer of sorrow, mystic, frenzied, giver of wine, thousand-shaped,
God of the night, shepherd-god, fawn-like, clothed in fawn-skin,
Spear-thrower, common to all, giver of guests, yellow-haired,        15
Prone to anger, stout of heart, lover of the mountain shade, wanderer on the mountains,
Deep drinker, wanderer, wearer of many garlands, constant reveller,
Mind-breaker, slender, wrinkled, clad in sheep-skin,
Leaper, satyr, son of Semele,
Jovial, bull-faced, slayer of Tyrrhenians, swift to wrath,        20
Chaser of sleep, liquid, hymeneal, dweller in the woods,
Mad for wild beasts, terrible, laughter-loving, wanderer,
Golden-horned, graceful, relaxer of the mind, golden-filleted,
Disturber of the soul, liar, bent on noise, tearer of the soul,
Seasonable, eater of raw flesh, nurtured on the mountains, making clamour on the mountains.        25
Let us chant the King who loves the call of Euhoe, the King Eiraphiotes.

μέλπωμεν βασιλῆα φιλεύιον, εἰραφιώτην,
ἁβροκόμην, ἀγροῖκον, ἀοίδιμον, ἀγλαόμορφον,
Βοιωτόν, βρόμιον, βακχεύτορα, βοτρυοχαίτην,
γηθόσυνον, γονόεντα, γιγαντολέτην, γελόωντα,
Διογενῆ, δίγονον, διθυραμβογενῆ, Διόνυσον,        5
εὔιον, εὐχαίτην, εὐάμπελον, ἐγρεσίκωμον,
ζηλαῖον, ζάχολον, ζηλήμονα, ζηλοδοτῆρα,
ἤπιον, ἡδυπότην, ἡδύθροον, ἠπεροπῆα,
θυρσοφόρον, Θρήικα, θιασώτην, θυμολέοντα,
Ἰνδολέτην, ἱμερτόν, ἰοπλόκον, ἰραφιώτην,        10
κωμαστήν, κεραόν, κισσοστέφανον, κελαδεινόν,
Λυδόν, ληναῖον, λαθικηδέα, λυσιμέριμνον,
μύστην, μαινόλιον, μεθυδώτην, μυριόμορφον,
νυκτέλιον, νόμιον, νεβρώδεα, νεβριδόπεπλον,
ξυστοβόλον, ξυνόν, ξενοδώτην, ξανθοκάρηνον,        15
ὀργίλον, ὀβριμόθυμον, ὀρέσκιον, οὐρεσιφοίτην,
πουλυπότην, πλαγκτῆρα, πολυστέφανον, πολύκωμον,
ῥηξίνοον, ῥαδινόν, ῥικνώδεα, ῥηνοφορῆα,
σκιρτητόν, Σάτυρον, Σεμεληγενέτην, Σεμελῆα,
τερπνόν, ταυρωπόν, Τυρρηνολέτην, ταχύμηνιν,        20
ὑπνοφόβην, ὑγρόν, ὑμενήιον, ὑλήεντα,
φηρομανῆ, φρικτόν, φιλομειδέα, φοιταλιώτην,
χρυσόκερων, χαρίεντα, χαλίφρονα, χρυσεομίτρην,
ψυχοπλανῆ, ψεύστην, ψοφομηδέα, ψυχοδαϊκτήν,
ὥριον, ὠμηστήν, ὠρείτροφον, ὠρεσίδουπον.        25
μέλπωμεν βασιλῆα φιλεύιον, εἰραφιώτην.
In line 12, Paton's translation has only three epithets, whereas the Greek has four. Even though λαθικηδέα, λυσιμέριμνον are roughly equivalent in meaning, I would add "banisher of trouble" or something similar to the translation. Similarly, in line 19 I would add "Semeleian".

On this hymn see Difabio de Raimondo and Elbia Haydée, "Dioniso, dios del lagar, dador del vino (AP IX 524)," Universum 22.1 (2007) 20-31.

On ancient interpretations of "Eiraphiotes" (lines 1, 26) see Silvia Porres Caballero, "Dionysus' Definitive Rebirth", in Tracing Orpheus: Studies of Orphic Fragments, edd. Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui et al. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011), pp. 127-132 (at 129-130).

525 (alphabetic hymn to Apollo; all but the first and last lines are examples of verse-filling asyndeton):
Let us hymn Paean the great god, Apollo;
Immortal, gloriously formed, unshorn, soft-haired,
Stern-hearted, king, delighting in arrows, giver of life,
Joyous, laughing, slayer of giants, sweet-hearted,
Son of Zeus, slayer of the dragon, lover of the laurel,        5
Sweet of speech, of ample might, far-shooter, giver of hope,
Creator of animals, divine, Jove-minded, giver of zeal,
Mild, sweet-spoken, sweet-hearted, gentle-handed,
Slayer of beasts, blooming, charmer of the spirit, soft speaking,
Shooter of arrows, desirable, healer, charioteer,        10
Weaver of the world, Clarian, strong-hearted, father of fruits,
Son of Leto, pleasant, delighting in the lyre, resplendent,
Lord of the mysteries, prophet, magnanimous, thousand-shaped,
Lover of the bow-string, wise, stiller of grief, sober,
Lover of community, common to all, taking thought for all, benefactor of all,        15
Blessed, making blessed, Olympian, dweller on the hills,
Gentle, all-seeing, sorrowless, giver of wealth,
Saviour from trouble, rose-coloured, man-breaker, path-opener,
Glittering, wise, father of light, saviour,
Delighting in the dance, Titan, initiator, revered,        20
Chanter of hymns, highest, stately, of the height,
Phoebus, purifier, lover of garlands, cheerer of the spirit,
Utterer of oracles, golden, golden-complexioned, golden-arrowed,
Lover of the lyre, harper, hater of lies, giver of the soul,
Swift-footed, swift-voiced, swift of vision, giver of seasons.        25
Let us hymn Paean the great god, Apollo.

ὑμνέωμεν Παιᾶνα μέγαν θεὸν Ἀπόλλωνα,
ἄμβροτον, ἀγλαόμορφον, ἀκερσεκόμην, ἁβροχαίτην,
βριθύνοον, βασιλῆα, βελεσσιχαρῆ, βιοδώτην,
γηθόσυνον, γελόωντα, γιγαντολέτην, γλυκύθυμον,
Διογενῆ, Διόπαιδα, δρακοντολέτην, δαφνογηθῆ,        5
εὔλαλον, εὐρυβίην, ἑκατηβόλον, ἐλπιδοδώτην,
ζῳογόνον, ζάθεον, Ζηνόφρονα, ζηλοδοτῆρα,
ἤπιον, ἡδυεπῆ, ἡδύφρονα, ἠπιόχειρα,
θηροφόνον θαλερόν, θελξίφρονα, θελγεσίμυθον,
ἰαφέτην, ἱμερτόν, ἰήιον, ἱπποκορυστήν,        10
κοσμοπλόκον, Κλάριον, κρατερόφρονα, καρπογένεθλον,
Λητογενῆ, λαρόν, λυρογηθέα, λαμπετόωντα,
μυστιπόλον, μάντιν, μεγαλήτορα, μυριόμορφον,
νευροχαρῆ, νοερόν, νηπενθέα, νηφαλιῆα,
ξυνοχαρῆ, ξυνόν, ξυνόφρονα, ξυνοδοτῆρα,        15
ὄλβιον, ὀλβιοεργόν, Ὀλύμπιον, οὐρεσιφοίτην,
πρηΰν, πανδερκῆ, παναπήμονα, πλουτοδοτῆρα,
ῥυσίπονον, ῥυσίπονον, ῥηξήνορα, ῥηξικέλευθον,
σιγαλόεντα, σοφόν, σελαηγενέτην, σωτῆρα,
τερψίχορον, Τιτᾶνα, τελέστορα, τιμήεντα,        20
ὑμναγόρην, ὕπατον, ὑψαύχενα, ὑψήεντα,
Φοῖβον, φοιβάζοντα, φιλοστέφανον, φρενογηθῆ,
χρησμαγόρην, χρύσεον, χρυσόχροα, χρυσοβέλεμνον,
ψαλμοχαρῆ, ψάλτην, ψευσίστυγα, ψυχοδοτῆρα,
ὠκύπον, ὠκυεπῆ, ὠκύσκοπον, ὡρεσιδώτην.        25
ὑμνέωμεν Παιᾶνα μέγαν θεὸν Ἀπόλλωνα.
Related posts:

Saturday, December 14, 2013



Anonymous poet quoted by Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 8.336 b (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
All mortals I fain would counsel to live this fleeting life in pleasure. For he that has died is nothingness, only a shade in the world below. Life is short, and while you live it behooves you to enjoy it.

πᾶσιν δὲ θνητοῖς βούλομαι παραινέσαι
τοὐφήμερον ζῆν ἡδέως· ὁ γὰρ θανὼν
τὸ μηδέν ἐστι καὶ σκιὰ κατὰ χθονός.
μικροῦ δὲ βιότου ζῶντ’ ἐπαυρέσθαι χρεών.
Related post: Cracker-Barrel Philosophy.


Use of Diminutives in Requests

Scholia to Dionysius Thrax AB. 855, in Alfred Hilgard, ed., Scholia in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam (Lepizig: B.G. Teubner, 1901), p. 226, lines 17-19 (my translation):
"Kindly give me a little horse." For I disparage the thing asked for, to make the one possessing it more ready to give it.

ἱππάριόν μοι χάρισαι· μειῶ γὰρ τὸ ζητούμενον ἵνα ἑτοιμότερον πρὸς τὸ δοῦναι ποιήσω τὸν ἔχοντα.
Michael Syncellus, in J.A. Cramer, ed., Anecdota Graeca, Vol. IV (Oxford, 1837), p. 273, lines 9-11 (my translation):
Diminutives occur...by necessity, as if someone belittles what he asks for, to make the favor smaller; the comic writers used this, as the "little kettle" in Menander [Dyscolus 472].

γίνεται δὲ τὰ ὑποκοριστικὰ ... δι' ἀναγκαιότατα [sic], ὡς ἐὰν ὃ αἰτῇ τις σμικρύνῃ, ἵνα μὴ μεγάλην ποιήσῃ τὴν χάριν· ᾧ κέχρηνται οἱ κωμικοί, ὡς ἔχει τὸ παρὰ Μενάνδρῳ λεβήτιον.
There is a good example of this in a fragment from another play with the title Dyscolus, this one by Mnesimachus. See Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 8.359 c-d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
Again, the Peevish Man, who was a terrible miser in the play of that name by Mnesimachus, says to the young man who leads a spendthrift life: 'A. Nay, I entreat you, don't exact too many things from me, your own uncle—things which are too cruel, too overlaid with money. Make your demands moderate. B. But good Heavens, man, how could they be more moderate? A. How? Fool me by using diminutive terms. Call fishes little fishes; if you speak of any other dainty, call it a little dainty. Then I shall die more happily, by far.'

ὁ δὲ παρὰ Μνησιμάχῳ ἐν τῷ ὁμωνύμῳ δράματι Δύσκολος φιλάργυρος ὢν σφόδρα πρὸς τὸν ἀσωτευόμενον νεανίσκον φησίν·
Α. ἀλλ᾽ ἀντιβολῶ σ᾽, ἐπίταττέ μοι μὴ πόλλ᾽ ἄγαν,
μηδ᾽ ἄγρια λίαν μηδ᾽ ἐπηργυρωμένα,
μέτρια δέ, τῷ θείῳ σεαυτοῦ. Β. πῶς ἔτι
μετριώτερ᾽, ὦ δαιμόνι᾽; Α. ὅπως; σύντεμνε καὶ
ἐπεξαπάτα με· τούς μὲν ἰχθῦς μοι κάλει
ἰχθύδι᾽ ὄψον δ᾽ ἂν λέγῃς ἕτερον, κάλει
ὀψάριον. ἥδιον γὰρ ἀπολοῦμαι πολύ.
Related post: Diminutives in the Begging Scene of Aristophanes' Acharnians.

Friday, December 13, 2013



Ovid, Art of Love 1.471-476 (tr. J.H. Mozley):
In time refractory oxen come to the plough, in time horses are taught to bear the pliant reins; an iron ring is worn by constant use, a curved share wastes by constant ploughing of the ground. What is harder than rock, what softer than water? yet soft water hollows out hard rock.

tempore difficiles veniunt ad aratra iuvenci,
  tempore lenta pati frena docentur equi;
ferreus adsiduo consumitur anulus usu,
  interit adsidua vomer aduncus humo.
quid magis est saxo durum, quid mollius unda?
  dura tamen molli saxa cavantur aqua.


He Lives in the Days that are Past

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), "The Four Ages of Poetry," Works, Vol. III (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1875), pp. 324-338 (at 335):
A poet in our times is a semi-barbarian in a civilized community. He lives in the days that are past. His ideas, thoughts, feelings, associations, are all with barbarous manners, obsolete customs, and exploded superstitions. The march of his intellect is like that of a crab, backward. The brighter the light diffused around him by the progress of reason, the thicker is the darkness of antiquated barbarism, in which he buries himself like a mole, to throw up the barren hillocks of his Cimmerian labours.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Ancient Curfews Revisited

David Whitehead writes about The Earliest Record of a Curfew? in an email:
Gulick either did not know or had temporarily forgotten the martial-law regulations in chap.10 of Aeneas Tacticus, three centuries before Athenion. See esp. 10.14-15.
Professor Whitehead is the author of Aineias the Tactician, How to Survive under Siege: translated with introduction and commentary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990; 2nd ed. Bristol, 2001).


Some Latin Blunders

Henry Gunning (1768-1854), Reminiscences of the University, Town, and County of Cambridge, from the Year 1780, 2nd. ed., Vol. I (London: George Bell, 1866), p. 17:
Nothing could he pleasanter than the hour passed at [John Barlow] Seale's lectures,—such was his kindness to all, particularly to those who wished to profit by them. When any ludicrous blunder occurred (which was not unfrequently the case), he joined in the laugh as heartily as any of us. One of his pupils, when construing a passage in Grotius, made a mistake, which set us all in a roar of laughter: the passage was this,—"Merite suspecta merx est, quae hâc lege obtruditur, ne inspici posset." The nature of the blunder will be understood by Seale's remark upon it: "I think, Sir, you have mistaken merx for meretrix!"
Grotius actually wrote "Merito suspecta merx est, quae hac lege obtruditur, ne inspici posset." The quotation appears in his treatise De Veritate Religionis Christianae (Paris: Seb. Cramoisy, 1640), p. 198 (from book VI, discussing prohibitions against reading the Bible). The sentence means "Deservedly suspect is merchandise offered for sale with the restriction that it can't be inspected." Instead of translating merx as merchandise, Seale's student confused the word with meretrix (prostitute) and presumably translated the sentence somewhat as follows: "Deservedly suspect is a prostitute offered for sale with the restriction that she can't be inspected."

Gunning, Vol. II, p. 47:
I have previously mentioned that in consequence of ill health, the Regius Professor of Divinity was allowed, in 1787, to appoint Dr. Kipling, of St. John's, his deputy. Dr. Kipling was the Senior Wrangler of his year, and had published a treatise on optics, which was but little read and soon forgotten; he also edited Beza, and published a Latin preface so full of bad Latin, that he deemed it expedient to call in those copies that had been circulated in the University, that the work might be re-issued with an amended preface. A friend of mine was so much delighted with its blunders that he refused to part with his copy, saying that he considered it a literary curiosity, which in a few years would become extremely valuable. I could at one time quote a number of memorable expressions, but I can now only remember his using the word Paginibus which actually appeared in several copies of the amended preface.
John Selby Watson (1804-1884), The Life of Richard Porson, M.A. Professor of Greek in the University of Cambridge from 1792 to 1808 (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), p. 202:
There was also in the preface some bad Latinity, and Frend in consequence charged Kipling with "inability to speak or write a single sentence of pure Latin." One blunder was paginibus, on which somebody, perhaps Porson, made this epigram, in the style of the Epistolae obscurorum Virorum:
Paginibus nostris dicitis mihi menda quod insunt;
  At non in recto vos puto esse, viri.
Nam, primum, jurat (cetera ut testimonia omitto)
  Milnerus, quod sum doctus ego et sapiens.
Classicus haud es, aiunt. Quid si non sum? in sacrosanctâ
  Non ullo tergum verto theologiâ.
The last two words in italics exemplify some of the Doctor's other inaccuracies. Kipling had "the paginibus sheet," as it was called, reprinted in the copies that had not been issued, but in a large number the blunder necessarily remained. The publication cost the University nearly two thousand pounds, and Kipling is supposed to have cleared at least six hundred guineas.
Kipling should have written paginis, not paginibus. According to M.L. Clarke, Richard Porson: A Biographical Essay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937), p. 46, "As a result of an unfortunate dative or ablative form the deputy won the nickname of Dr Paginibus..." Kipling's other errors castigated in Porson's epigram are presumably omitto for omittam, and ullo for ulli, although I can't find anywhere on the Internet a copy of Codex Theodori Bezae Cantabrigiensis Evangelia et Apostolorum Acta complectens, quadratis literis Graeco-Latinus. Academia auspicante venerandae has vetustatis reliquias summa qua potuit fide adumbravit expressit edidit codicis historiam praefixit notasque adjecit Thomas Kipling, S.T.P., Coll. Div. Joan. nuper socius (Cantabrigiae: e prelo Academico impensis Academiae, 1793), 2 vols.

Robert Forsyth Scott, ed., Admissions to the College of St. John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge, Part III: July 1715-November 1767 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903), p. 699:
The opportunity of making things disagreeable to Kipling came when his edition of the Codex Bezae appeared. He was guilty of several mistakes in his introductory preface and there were many misprints in his text. His work was sharply criticised by Porson in the British Critic, iii. He was also fiercely and coarsely attacked by Thomas Edwards (of Clare Hall, LL.B. 1782, LL.D. 1787, and Fellow of Jesus College; sometime Vicar of Histon; who died at Huntingdon 30 March 1820), who published Remarks on Dr Kipling's Preface to Beza, Part i, 1793; Part ii, 1797. In this he disclaims any personal animosity to Dr Kipling, but displays extraordinary bitterness. Kipling is constantly referred to as 'our Promoter.' His slips in Latin are pointed out and his learning held up to ridicule. Edwards seems to have been the author of the expression 'a Kiplingism,' which afterwards passed into the slang of the University as the equivalent of an error in latinity.
Gradus ad Cantabrigiam: or, A Dictionary of Terms, Academical and Colloquial, or Cant, which are used at the University of Cambridge (London: W.J. and J. Richardson, 1803), p. 81:
A KIPLINGISM; a blunder-BUS levelled at poor Priscian's head by the learned Dr. Kipling. The opposition wits at Cambridge have composed an epigram of Kiplingisms.—(Kiplingius loquitur.)
Porson's epigram follows on p. 82 of the Gradus.


A Quotation Attributed to William Howard Taft

Joseph R. Conlin, The American Past: A Survey of American History, 9th ed. (Boston: Wadsworth, ©2010, 2009), p. 573:
"No tendency is quite so strong in human nature," William Howard Taft observed, "as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people."
Did Taft really say or write this? Conlin doesn't cite a source, and I can't find one.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I am Sheltered, I am Hidden

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), "Parva Domus Magna Quies," Musa Burschicosa: A Book of Songs for Students and University Men (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1869), pp. 69-71:
On a little grassy knoll,
  Beneath the huge Ben More,
Where the loch's clear amber waters
  Lave the white and pebbly shore,
I have built a little dwelling,
  Without or pomp or state,
In smallness quite excelling;
  But oh! the peace is great.

From the hot and dusty tumult
  Of the men that rule the land,
From the pageant of the Park,
  And the rattle of the Strand;
From the weariness and worry
  Of contention and debate,
I am sheltered, I am hidden;
  And my peace is very great.

From the knocking and the ringing
  Of the beggar and the bore,
When every man is bringing
  Every business to my door;
From saying Yes, and saying No,
  To seas of endless prate,
I am sheltered, I am hidden;
  And my peace is very great.

From the doctrine and the dogma
  Of each lofty-fancied fool,
Who would take the great Creator
  (If Creator be) to school;
From the thousand maggots swarming
  In each eager-witted pate,
I am sheltered, I am hidden;
  And my peace is very great.

From the carping and the grumbling
  Of the spiteful and the small,
Who, when mighty things are tumbling,
  Love to see the mighty fall;
From the lust of hot reforming
  In the Church and in the State,
I am sheltered, I am hidden;
  And my peace is very great.

With a wife to share my pillow,
  And a man to row my boat,
And a rod to lash the billow
  And a friend to glass my thought;
With no great ambition swelling,
  And no questions asked of Fate,
Pride leaves the little dwelling;
  But my peace is very great.

Then fare-thee-well, the City's din,
  The tumult and the throng,
For a moment and a moment
  To myself I will belong;
In my lonely mountain dwelling
  Disrobed of empty state,
In smallness quite excelling,
  And in peace how very great!
Related posts:


Thoreau's Prayer

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Journal (1850):
I pray to be delivered from narrowness, partiality, exaggeration, bigotry.


It is an Easy Thing

William Blake (1757-1827), Vala, Night II, lines 402-418:
It is an easy thing to triumph in the summers sun
And in the vintage & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer
To listen to the hungry ravens cry in wintry season
When the red blood is filld with wine & with the marrow of lambs

It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter house moan
To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast
To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our enemies house
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that cuts off his children
While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door & our children bring fruits & flowers

Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten & the slave grinding at the mill
And the captive in chains & the poor in the prison, & the soldier in the field
When the shatterd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead

It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity
Thus would I sing & thus rejoice, but it is not so with me!

Monday, December 09, 2013


The Earliest Record of a Curfew?

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 5.214 d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick, on Athenion, with Gulick's footnote):
He also proclaimed that all should stay indoors after sunset,b and nobody might go out even with a lantern.

b The earliest record of a curfew?
The Greek:
ἐκήρυσσέν τε δύντος ἡλίου πάντας οἰκουρεῖν καὶ μετὰ λυχνοφόρου μηδένα φοιτᾶν.


What is the Advantage of Locomotion?

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), Headlong Hall, chapter II:
"You will allow," said Mr. Foster, as soon as they were again in motion "that the wild man of the woods could not transport himself over two hundred miles of forest, with as much facility as one of these vehicles transports you and me through the heart of this cultivated country."

"I am certain," said Mr. Escot, "that a wild man can travel an immense distance without fatigue; but what is the advantage of locomotion? The wild man is happy in one spot, and there he remains; the civilized man is wretched in every place he happens to be in, and then congratulates himself on being accommodated with a machine that will whirl him to another, where he will be just as miserable as ever."
Related posts:


Tips on Grooming

Ovid, Art of Love 1.519-520 (tr. J.H. Mozley):
Do not let your nails project, and let them be free of dirt; nor let any hair be in the hollow of your nostrils.

et nihil emineant et sint sine sordibus ungues,
   inque cava nullus stet tibi nare pilus.
On untrimmed fingernails see Theophrastus, Characters 19.1-2 (tr. Jeffrey Rusten):
The squalid man is the sort who goes around in a leprous and encrusted state, with long fingernails...

ὁ δὲ δυσχερὴς τοιοῦτός τις, οἷος λέπραν ἔχων καὶ ἀλφὸν καὶ τοὺς ὄνυχας μεγάλους περιπατεῖν...
Herwerden conjectured μέλανας for μεγάλους (black nails, instead of overgrown ones).

On nasal hair see W.M. Lindsay, ed., Sexti Pompei Festi De verborum significatu quae supersunt cum Pauli epitome (1913; rpt. Stuttgart: Teubner, 1997), p. 509, with apparatus:
Vibracae pili in naribus hominum, dicti quod his evulsis caput vibratur.

Vibraessae G I ut uid.: Vibresse (ex -isse ut uid.) R: Viprisse (-ae) M E: Vibrissae P: Vibrucae Gloss.: corr. Thewr., qui archetypi formam uibra ēe (i.e. uibra esse) ad uibrace revocat
My translation:
Vibracae hairs in men's nostrils, so-called because the head shakes (vibratur) when they're plucked out.
In Lewis and Short's Latin dictionary, the lemma is vibrissae, and zoologists have adopted the word in that form to refer to the whiskers of cats and other animals.

The explanation of Festus is odd; that of André Dacier (quod spiritu, qui per nares meat, vibrentur = because they vibrate with the breath that passes through the nostrils) makes more sense to me.

Sunday, December 08, 2013


Sir Cussha Sweesong Twar

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Notebooks: Selections, edd. Geoffrey Keynes and Brian Hill (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1951), p. 169:
Jones went to an evening party and said there was a lady there who sang a song (as he at first thought) about an Indian potentate named Sir Cussha Sweesong Twar, but he discovered presently that the song was French ('Ce que je suis sans toi').


Roar Out "Claudius!"

Roger Bull, Grobianus; or, The Compleat Booby. An Ironical Poem. In Three Books. Done into English, from the Original Latin of Friderick Dedekindus (London: T. Cooper, 1739), pp. 17-18:
When Air imprison'd labours for a Vent,
That you shou'd belch, I give my free Consent:
Nor belch to Halves—but of the Clangor proud,
Like some substantial Burgo-master, belch aloud.
Check not the rising Belch, lest, hapless, you,
Experience, late, how many Ills ensue:
Perhaps the too, too long imprison'd Wind,
Which in the Stomach's Cavern lies confin'd,
May taint thee with some fatal, foul Disease;
And Pain and Anguish thy whole Body seize.
Or all thy Body o'er diffuse a Stench,
Rank as the Armpits of a red-hair'd Wench.
If Wind ascend, which with just Cause we dread,
Whims, Freaks, and Megrims dire affect the Head:
Or downwards, without legal Notice, come
Forth from the treach'rous Passage of the Bum,
A horrid Fume shall straight your Crime proclaim
To ev'ry Nose; nor aught conceal your Shame.
Wou'd you these Ills by prudent Care prevent,
Nor, like a Fox, be follow'd by the Scent?
Then give to ev'ry Belch a timely Vent.
Id., p 28:
If the digested Meals of Yesterday
Demand a Vent, 'tis troublesome to stay.
Of Breeches, Shoes, and Stocking take good Care;
And dread besides to taint the ambient Air:
Get up in haste—and answer in a Word,
Shou'd any ask your Business, 'tis a T—.
Id., p 40:
The Bowels now b'ing cramm'd with splendid Fare,
Far off be banish'd, that Intruder, Care.
The Stomach sickens when the Mind's unblest,
Nor in due Order can its Food digest;
From thence Diseases numberless arise,
O! shun all anxious Labour, and be wise.
Believe me, Sir! 'tis wholesomer by much,
To rest, when Dinner's ended, on the Couch;
Till Supper one continu'd Slumber take,
When Supper calls, 'tis Time enough to wake.
Unreprehended there, supine, you lie,
And many a fragrant *Bum-gut-shot let flie:
Tell each nice Critick, that you want the Art,
To curb, that active Principle—a Fart.

* Bumgutshot, a Word of Rabelais.
Id., p. 50:
When Wind, that pains the Belly, wou'd repair
Forth from a narrow Gut to open Air,
Your Pris'ner, in what Way you please, dismiss;
What Nature bids, can never be amiss.
Whenever such Behaviour gives Offence,
This Answer vindicates your Innocence;
"From Wind, which long within the Belly* lies;
"Vertigo, Cholick, Spasm, and Dropsy rise.
"This Rule each learned Son of Galen gives,
"A Rule by which the Man of Manners lives.
Claudius, lest Sickness shou'd ensue, decreed,†
That all Men fart and belch in Time of Need;
His Edict serves to justify your Ways,
Nor only bare Forgiveness gains, but Praise.

* This Distich is a Quotation from the Schola Salernitana; to which Book I refer the Reader.
† This Edict of Claudius (here specified) is recorded by several Classick Authors: Wherefore it is no uncommon Thing with Fellows of Colleges, when they fart in Company, to strike their Paws upon the Table, and roar out CLAUDIUS.
Related posts:

Saturday, December 07, 2013


The Tarentines

Theopompus, fragment F 233 Jacoby, quoted by Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 4.166 e-f (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
The city of Tarentum offers sacrifices of oxen and holds public banquets nearly every month. The mass of common people is always busy with parties and drinking-bouts. And the Tarentines have a saying of some such purport as this, that whereas the rest of the world, in their devotion to work and their preoccupation with various forms of industry, are always preparing to live, they themselves, with their parties and their pleasures, do not put off living, but live already.

ἡ πόλις ἡ τῶν Ταραντίνων σχεδὸν καθ᾽ ἕκαστον μῆνα βουθυτεῖ καὶ δημοσίας ἑστιάσεις ποιεῖται. τὸ δὲ τῶν ἰδιωτῶν πλῆθος αἰεὶ περὶ συνουσίας καὶ πότους ἐστί. λέγουσι δὲ καί τινα τοιοῦτον λόγον οἱ Ταραντῖνοι, τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους διὰ τὸ φιλοπονεῖσθαι καὶ περὶ τὰς ἐργασίας διατρίβειν παρασκευάζεσθαι ζῆν, αὐτοὺς δὲ διὰ τὰς συνουσίας καὶ τὰς ἡδονὰς οὐ μέλλειν, ἀλλ᾽ ἤδη βιῶναι.


I am More a Grecian than Ever

T.J. Hogg, letter to Shelley (September 8, 1817), quoted by Howard Mills, Peacock: His Circle and His Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 29:
If I have been in practise less loyal to Greece than usual I am not without this apology, that in heart I am more a Grecian than ever. The vulgarity of America as depicted in Ashe's travels and shewn by all other communications from that country, and which in a great measure arises from ignorance of Classical Literature, is so disgusting that we shrink from it with horror and take refuge in the ruins of ancient taste and elegance.



John Thorne, Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots (New York: North Point Press; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996), p. 32 (ellipsis in original):
[A] clever geographer might be able draw up a map that districted Maine by bean type. He might start by marking off southeast Maine as favoring the pea bean, farm-country Maine the soldier and the Jacob's cattle bean, lumber country the original Steuben yellow eye, the Bangor area the sulphur bean, and Down East (up the coast from Ellsworth) the marafax ... and go on from there.
Id., p. 35:
You could, if you wished, assemble a book—a small one, to be sure, but a book even so—of Maine writers opining on the subject of cooking beans. Such narratives appear not only in the obvious places—Kenneth Roberts's Trending into Maine, Nathan S. Lowrey's folklore study, "Tales of the Northern Maine Woods: The History and Traditions of the Maine Guide"—but sometimes out of nowhere.

In The House That Jacob Built, John Gould (who swears by Jacob's cattle beans) interrupts his account of rebuilding the family house after the original burned to the ground to devote an entire chapter to the subject. Carroll F. Terrell, in Growing Up Kennebec, a funny, no-holds-barred narrative of a Maine boyhood in the twenties, stops the action to provide a step-by-step description of his mother's recipe (she prefers yellow eyes). Walter Howe pauses in his comic narrative, Frost You Say?, to explain his method (he leans toward Kentucky Wonders).
Related post: Kenneth Roberts on Beans.

Friday, December 06, 2013


Enjoy Today

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), "Glee":
Quickly pass the social glass,
Hence with idle sorrow!
No delay—enjoy today,
Think not of tomorrow!
Life at best is but a span,
Let us taste it whilst we can;
Let us still with smiles confess,
All our aim is happiness!

Childish fears, and sighs and tears
Still to us are strangers;
Why destroy the bud of joy
With ideal dangers?
Let the song of pleasure swell;
Care with us shall never dwell;
Let us still with smiles confess,
All our aim is happiness!


O Cruel Death

James Ryman, poem XCII, in J. Zupitza, "Die Gedichte des Franziskaners Jacob Ryman," Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen and Litteraturen 89 (1892) 167-338 (at 265-267; line numbers added):
O cruell deth paynfull and smert,
On the to thenke my hert is colde,
For why noman fro the may sterte,
Neither riche ne pore, nor yonge ne olde.
Thou sparest not for siluir nor golde,        5
But, in whome thou wilte thy marke set,
He shall departe withouten lette.

Why art thou so cruell to man
Of hym no man grisly to make,
His nose sharpe and his lippes wan,        10
His chekes pale and his tethe blake,
His handes and his fete to shake
And alle his body quake for colde
And returne hym ayene to molde?

"Like to a thinge vayne man is made,        15
His dayes passith, as a shadewe,
And, as a floure, fro hym they fade,"
Thus seith Dauid, that prophete true.
Seint Iames seith: "As a floure newe
By hete of sonne turneth to hay,        20
So mortall man shall passe away."

A thousand yere fro hym be past,
As yesterday, the whiche is gone.
In an ymage he passeth fast,
This worldes figure passeth anon:        25
It is right nought to trust vppon.
Therefore alwey you redy make,
For, when tyme is, I wille you take.

"What man shall leve and se no deth?
No man, truly," thus seith Dauid.        30
"Haue myende, my lyfe is but a breth,"
Thus seith Iob according herewith.
His daies, as of a messangere, beth.
"More swyfter my daies passeth and lyfe,
Than a webbe of a wever is cutte with knyfe."        35

I sende sekenesse you to a taste
And to meke you in euery place,
But, whenne that I come at the last,
I make an ende within shorte space.
I sette no lawe day in the case,        40
For, whenne that I sey: "Make an ende,"
Withouten delay ye shall hense wende.

Fro mortall deth Crist vs defende
And graunte vs alle by his grete grace,
Out of this worlde when we shall wende,        45
In heuen blisse to haue a place
And hym to see there face to face,
That was and is and ay shall be
Eternall god in persones thre.
The poem is a dialogue between Man and Death. Man speaks in stanzas 1-2, 7, Death in stanzas 3-6. Some notes for my own use follow.

2 On the to thenke my hert is colde: My heart is cold, to think on thee
3 fro the may sterte: from thee may escape (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. start, sense 6).
7 lette: let (noun), i.e. hindrance, delay
8 no man: something not human
14 ayene: again
15-16 Like to a thinge vayne man is made, / His dayes passith, as a shadewe: Psalm 144.4 (Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away).
19-21 As a floure newe / By hete of sonne turneth to hay, / So mortall man shall passe away: James 1.10-11 (But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways).
22-23 A thousand yere: Psalm 90.4 (For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night).
27 alwey you redy make: always be prepared
29 What man shall leve and se no deth?: Psalm 89.48 (What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?).
31 Haue myende, my lyfe is but a breth: Job 7.7 (Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath).
36 sekenesse: sickness
37 meke: make, but with what meaning?
40 lawe day: Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. law-day, sense 2, citing this verse: "A day appointed for the discharge of a bond, after which the debtor could not at common law be relieved from the forfeiture."
42 hense wende: go hence

Grandes Heures de Rohan,
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 9471, fol. 159

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