Friday, January 31, 2014



Simone Weil (1909-1943), letter to Joseph-Marie Perrin (May 26, 1942), in Waiting for God, tr. Emma Craufurd (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 101:
For other people, in a sense, I do not exist. I am the color of dead leaves, like certain unnoticed insects.

Car pour les autres, en quelque sorte, je n'existe pas. Je suis couleur feuille morte, comme certains insectes.


An Inward Feast

William Strode (1600-1643), "The answer [to The lover's Melancholy], by Dr. Stroad" in Wit Restor'd in severall Select Poems Not formerly publish't (London: Printed for R. Pollard, N. Brooks, and T. Dring, 1658), p. 66 (line numbers added):
Returne my joyes and hither bring
A tounge not made to speake, but sing;
A jollye splene, an inward feast,
A causelesse laugh without a jest,
A face which gladnesse doth annoint,       5
An arme for joy flung out of joynt;
A spritefull gate that leaves no print,
And make a feather of a flint:
A heart that's lighter then the ayre
An eye still dancing in its sphere,       10
Strong which mirth nothing shall controul
A body nimbler then a soul;
Free wandring thoughts not tied to muse
Which thinking all things, nothing chuse;
Which ere wee see them come, are gone,       15
These, life it selfe doth feed upon.
    Then take no care but only to be jolly,
    To be more wretched then we must, is folly.
In line 7 the modern spelling of "gate" is "gait." Modern editors emend "make" in line 8 to "makes," "which mirth" in line 11 to "mirth which." The final couplet is good advice.


Martial Modernized

Mortimer Collins (1827-1876), "An Essay on Epigrams," Pen Sketches by a Vanished Hand, ed. Tom Taylor, Vol. I (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1879), pp. 242-255 (at 248):
Exquisite wines and comestibles
From Tod-Heatly and Fortnum and Mason;
Smoking-room, billiard- and chess-tables;
Bath in a vast marble basin;
Luminous books (not voluminous)
To read under beech-trees cacuminous;
One friend, who is fond of a distich,
And doesn't get too syllogistic;
A valet, who knows the complete art
Of service—a maiden, his sweetheart:
Give me these in a rural pavilion,
And I'll envy no Rothschild his million.
Did Collins have in mind some particular poem by Martial? Perhaps 10.47, a list of things "vitam quae faciant beatiorem," that tend to make life happier. Tod-Heatly were wine merchants. Fortnum & Mason, purveyors of comestibles, are still in business.

Update: Michael Hendry (per litteras) correctly identified the original as Martial 2.48, here in D.R. Shackleton Bailey's translation, followed by the Latin:
An innkeeper, a butcher, a bath, a barber, a board and pieces, and a few little books (but I must choose them), one friend not too new, a large boy smoothcheeked for a long time to come, and a girl of whom my boy is fond: give me these, Rufus, even at Butunti, and keep Nero's baths.

Coponem laniumque balneumque,
tonsorem tabulamque calculosque
et paucos, sed ut eligam, libellos:
unum non nimium rudem sodalem
et grandem puerum diuque levem
et caram puero meo puellam:
haec praesta mihi, Rufe, vel Butuntis,
et thermas tibi habe Neronianas.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


The Seas Have Lost Their Nereids

Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830-1886), "Ancient Myths," Poems (Boston: D. Lothrop and Company, 1882), p. 28:
Ye pleasant myths of Eld, why have ye fled?
The earth has fallen from her blissful prime
Of summer years, the dews of that sweet time,
Are withered on its garlands sere and dead.
No longer in the blue fields overhead        5
We list the rustling of immortal wings,
Or hail at eve the kindly visitings
Of gentle Genii to fair fortunes wed:
The seas have lost their Nereids, the sad streams
Their gold-haired habitants, the mountains lone        10
Those happy Oreads, and the blithesome tone
Of Pan's soft pipe melts only in our dreams;
Fitfully fall the old faith's broken gleams
On our dull hearts, cold its sepulchral stone.
6 list: hear


Roughing It

Xenophon, Cyropaedia 5.2.15 (Cyrus and Gobryas speaking; tr. Walter Miller):
And as he reclined upon a mat of straw he asked this question: "Tell me, Gobryas, do you think you have more coverlets than each one of us?" "I am perfectly sure, by Zeus," the other answered, "that you have more coverlets and more couches, and that your dwelling is much larger than mine; for you take heaven and earth for your dwelling, and you have as many couches as you can find resting-places on the ground, while you regard as your proper coverlets not wool that sheep produce, but whatever the mountains and plains bring forth."

ἐπὶ στιβάδος δὲ κατακλινεὶς ἤρετο αὐτὸν ὧδε· εἰπέ μοι, ἔφη, ὦ Γωβρύα, πότερον οἴει σοὶ εἶναι πλείω ἢ ἑκάστῳ ἡμῶν στρώματα; καὶ ὃς εἶπεν· ὑμῖν νὴ Δί’ εὖ οἶδ’ ὅτι, ἔφη, καὶ στρώματα πλείω ἐστὶ καὶ κλῖναι, καὶ οἰκία γε πολὺ μείζων ἡ ὑμετέρα τῆς ἐμῆς, οἵ γε οἰκίᾳ μὲν χρῆσθε γῇ τε καὶ οὐρανῷ, κλῖναι δ’ ὑμῖν εἰσιν ὁπόσαι εὐναὶ γένοιντ’ ἂν ἐπὶ γῆς· στρώματα δὲ νομίζετε οὐχ ὅσα πρόβατα φύει [ἔρια], ἀλλ’ ὅσα ὄρη τε καὶ πεδία ἀνίησι.



H.J. Rose (1883-1961), A Handbook of Greek Literature from Homer to the Age of Lucian, 5th ed. (1961; rpt. London: Methuen, 1965), p. 283:
Of Kephalos' two sons, one, Polemarchos, was put to death by the Thirty; Lysias escaped with the loss of most of his patrimony, and not unnaturally became a strong supporter of Thrasybulos and the democratic faction. After their triumph, he enjoyed citizenship for a little while, under a decree of Thrasybulos which granted it to resident aliens, and in 403 impeached Eratosthenes, one of the Thirty, in an attempt to take vengeance for the death of Polymarchos.
For Polymarchos read Polemarchos.

Xenophon, Cyropaedia, Books V-VIII. With an English Translation by Walter Miller (1914; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000 = Loeb Classical Library, 52), p. 197 (translating 6.4.11):
And the people, beautiful as was the sight of Abradatas and his chariat, had no eyes for him, until Panthea was gone.
For chariat read chariot.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014


For the Last Time

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), "Límites" (tr. Kenneth Krabbenhoft):
There is a line by Verlaine that I will not remember again.
There is a street nearby that is off limits to my feet.
There is a mirror that has seen me for the last time.
There is a door I have closed until the end of the world.
Among the books in my library (I'm looking at them now) are some I will never open.
This summer I will be fifty years old.
Death is using me up, relentlessly.
                                          —from Inscriptions (Montevideo, 1923) by Julio Platero Haedo

Hay una línea de Verlaine que no volveré a recordar.
Hay una calle próxima que está vedada a mis pasos,
Hay un espejo que me ha visto por última vez,
Hay una puerta que he cerrado hasta el fin del mundo.
Entre los libros de mi biblioteca (estoy viéndolos)
Hay alguno que ya nunca abriré.
Este verano cumpliré cincuenta años;
La muerte me desgasta, incesante.
                                          —de Inscripciones (Montevideo, 1923) de Julio Platero Haedo


Music Therapy

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 4.13 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
I ran across the statement very recently in the book of Theophrastus On Inspiration that many men have believed and put their belief on record, that when gouty pains in the hips are most severe, they are relieved if a flute-player plays soothing measures. That snake-bites are cured by the music of the flute, when played skilfully and melodiously, is also stated in a book of Democritus, entitled On Deadly Infections, in which he shows that the music of the flute is medicine for many ills that flesh is heir to. So very close is the connection between the bodies and the minds of men, and therefore between physical and mental ailments and their remedies.

creditum hoc a plerisque esse et memoriae mandatum, ischia cum maxime doleant, tum, si modulis lenibus tibicen incinat, minui dolores, ego nuperrime in libro Theophrasti Περὶ Ἐνθουσιασμοῦ scriptum inveni. viperarum morsibus tibicinium scite modulateque adhibitum mederi, refert etiam Democriti liber, qui inscribitur Περὶ Λοιμῶν, in quo docet plurimis hominum morbidis medicinae fuisse incentiones tibiarum. tanta prosus adfinitas est corporibus hominum mentibusque et propterea vitiis quoque aut medellis animorum et corporum.



Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 7.11.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
One should not vie in abusive language with the basest of men or wrangle with foul words with the shameless and wicked, since you become like them and their exact mate so long as you say things which match and are exactly like what you hear...

cum inquinatissimis hominibus non esse convicio decertandum neque in maledictis adversum inpudentes et inprobos velitandum, quia tantisper similis et compar eorum fias, dum paria et consimilia dicas atque audis...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Diet and Exercise

Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.6.16-17 (Cambyses and his son Cyrus speaking; tr. Walter Miller):
"[T]ell me what means you adopt to keep well yourself."

[17] "In the first place, by Zeus," said Cyrus, "I try never to eat too much, for that is oppressive; and in the second place, I work off by exercise what I have eaten, for by so doing health seems more likely to endure and strength to accrue."

μνήσθητι σὺ πῶς πειρᾷ σαυτοῦ ἐπιμελεῖσθαι ὅπως ὑγιαίνῃς.

[17] καὶ ὁ Κῦρος εἶπε· πρῶτον μὲν νὴ Δία πειρῶμαι μηδέποτε ὑπερπίμπλασθαι· δύσφορον γάρ· ἔπειτα δὲ ἐκπονῶ τὰ εἰσιόντα· οὕτω γάρ μοι δοκεῖ ἥ τε ὑγίεια μᾶλλον παραμένειν καὶ ἰσχὺς προσγενέσθαι.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Symmachus and Pope Francis

Peter Stothard, Spartacus Road: A Journey Through Ancient Italy (New York: The Overlook Press, 2010), p. 16 (discussing Symmachus):
He was conscious of his image. He was famed during his short time as city prefect for rejecting the new foreign extravagance of a silver-panelled carriage paid for by the state. Like a British prime minister pointedly refusing a private jet, he chose the drabbest and most traditional means for his transport...
Or like a modern Pope pointedly refusing a Mercedes-Benz "popemobile" in favor of a less expensive, less ostentatious vehicle.

On the affair of the silver-panelled carriage, see Symmachus, Relationes 4 and 20.

Sunday, January 26, 2014



Henk S.Versnel, "Making Sense of Jesus' Death. The Pagan Contribution," in Jörg Frey and Jens Schröter, edd., Deutungen des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament, 2. Aufl. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), pp. 213-294 (at 267):
What I object to is the rash and unreflecting manner in which some readers, in their attempt to find confirmation of their argument, gloss over the complexity of the text as it is at present constituted.


Lack of Charity

Robert Burton (1577-1640), Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. III, Sect. 1, Memb. 3, with notes from the edition of A.R. Shilleto, Vol. III (London: George Bell & Sons, 1896), pp. 37-39:
[p. 37]
1O Felix hominum genus,
Si vestros animos amor
Quo coelum regitur regat!
Angelical souls, how blessed, how happy should we be, so loving, how might we triumph over the devil, and have another heaven upon earth!

But this we cannot do; and which is the cause of all our woes, miseries, discontent, melancholy, 2want of this charity. We do invicem angariare,3 contemn, consult, vex, torture, molest, and hold one another's noses to the grind-stone hard, provoke, rail, scoff, calumniate, challenge, hate, abuse (hard-hearted, implacable, malicious, peevish, inexorable as we are), to satisfy our lust or private spleen, for 4toys, trifles, and impertinent occasions, spend ourselves, goods, friends, fortunes, to be revenged on our adversary, to ruin him and his. 'Tis all our study, practice, and business how to plot mischief, mine, countermine, defend and offend, ward ourselves, injure others, hurt all; as if we were born to do mischief, and that with such eagerness and bitterness, with such rancour, malice, rage, and fury, we prosecute our intended designs, that neither affinity or consanguinity, love or fear of God or men can contain us; no satisfaction, no composition will be accepted, no offices will serve, no submission; though he shall upon his knees, as Sarpedon did to Glaucus in Homer, acknowledging his error, yield himself with tears in his eyes, beg his pardon, we will not relent, forgive, or forget, till we have confounded him and his, made dice of his bones, as they say, see him rot in prison, banish his friends, followers, et omne invisum genus,5 rooted him out and all his posterity. Monsters of men as we are, Dogs, Wolves, 6Tigers, Fiends, incarnate Devils, we do not only contend, oppress, and tyrannize ourselves, but as so many fire-brands, we set on, and animate others; our whole life is a perpetual combat, a conflict, a set battle, a snarling fit. Eris dea7 is settled in our tents, 8Omnia de lite, opposing wit to wit, wealth to wealth, strength to strength, fortunes to fortunes, friends to friends, as at a sea-fight, we turn our broad sides, or two millstones with continual attrition, we fire ourselves, or break one another's backs, and both are

1 Boethius, lib. 2, met. 8. 2 Deliquium patitur caritas, odium ejus loco succedit. Basil. 1, ser. de instit. mon. [3 An allusion to Matt, v.41. Vulgate. Press one another by turns.] 4 Nodum in scirpo quaerentes. [Ter. Andria 5.4.38.] [5 Virg. Aen. i.28.] 6 Hyrcanaeque admôrunt ubera tigres [Virg. Aen. iv.367.] [7 Hom. Iliad. xi.3, 73.] 8 Heraclitus.

[p. 38]

ruined and consumed in the end. Miserable wretches, to fat and enrich ourselves, we care not how we get it, quocunque modo rem,1 how many thousands we undo, whom we oppress, by whose ruin and downfall we arise, whom we injure, fatherless children, widows, common societies, to satisfy our own private lust. Though we have myriads, abundance of wealth and treasure (pitiless, merciless, remorseless, and uncharitable in the highest degree), and our poor brother in need, sickness, in great extremity, and now ready to be starved for want of food, we had rather, as the Fox told the Ape, his tail should sweep the ground still, than cover his buttocks; rather spend it idly, consume it with dogs, hawks, hounds, unnecessary buildings, in riotous apparel, ingurgitate, or let it be lost, than he should have part of it; 2rather take from him that little which he hath, than relieve him.

Like the dog in the manger, we neither use it ourselves, let others make use of or enjoy it; part with nothing while we live; for want of disposing our household, and setting things in order, set all the world together by the ears after our death. Poor Lazarus lies howling at his gates for a few crumbs, he only seeks chippings, offals; let him roar and howl, famish, and eat his own flesh, he respects him not. A poor decayed kinsman of his sets upon him by the way in all his jollity, and runs begging bareheaded by him, conjuring by those former bonds of friendship, alliance, consanguinity, &c., uncle, cousin, brother, father,
——Per ego has lacrimas, dextramque tuam te,
Si quidquam de te merui, fuit aut tibi quidquam
Dulce meum, misere mei.3
Shew some pity for Christ's sake, pity a sick man, an old man, &c., he cares not, ride on: pretend sickness, inevitable loss of limbs, goods, plead suretyship, or shipwreck, fires, common calamities, show thy wants and imperfections,
Et si per sanctum juratus dicat Osirim,
Credite, non ludo, crudeles, tollite claudum.4
Swear, protest, take God and all his Angels to witness, quaere peregrinum,5 thou art a counterfeit crank, a cheater, he is not touched with it, 6pauper ubique jacet, ride on, he takes no notice of

[1 Hor. Epp. i.1.66.] 2 2 Si in Gehennam abit, pauperem qui non alat: quid de eo fiet qui pauperem denudat? Austin. [See Sermo xli.] [3 Virg, Aen. iv.314, 317, 318, memoriter.] [4 Hor. Epp. i.17.60, 61.] [5 Do. 62.] [6 Ovid, Fast. i.218.]

[p. 39]

it. Put up a supplication to him in the name of a thousand Orphans, a Hospital, a Spittle, a Prison, as he goes by, they cry out to him for aid, ride on, surdo narras,1 he cares not, let them eat stones, devour themselves with vermin, rot in their own dung, he cares not. Show him a decayed haven, a bridge, a school, a fortification, &c., or some public work, ride on; good your Worship, your Honour, for God's sake, your country's sake, ride on.

[1 Ter. Heautontim. 2.1.10. You speak to a deaf man.]


Beware of Schoolmasters

Thomas Nashe (1567-1601), "Summers Last Will and Testament," lines 1571-1582, in his Complete Works, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, Vol. VI (London: Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ltd., 1885), pp. 148-149:
Young men, yong boyes, beware of Schoolemasters,
They will infect you, marre you, bleare your eyes:
They seeke to lay the curse of God on you,
Namely confusion of languages,
Wherewith those that the towre of Babel built,
Accursed were in the worldes infancie.
Latin, it was the speech of Infidels.
Logique, hath nought to say in a true cause.
Philosophie is curiositie:
And Socrates was therefore put to death,
Onely for he was a Philosopher:
Abhorre, contemne, despise, these damned snares.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Moving Backward as Progress

Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 18:
And it is not just the pollution, the smog, the death of forests and oceans that I seek to escape from. It is the future. In Japan, for the moment, the past still lives. But already in the larger cities one is aware of the pressures of affluence and overpopulation, those twin ogres, one seemingly benign, the other already wrathful, that are killing the world.

Along with too many people and too much money have come the ills that now afflict America, Europe, Japan alike. And while I can accept the crowds, the autos, the television, I cannot accept the diminution of humanity that follows—the sensationalism, the cynicism, the brutality.

Though I am not interested in the humane disciplines, not interested in humanity itself, I am interested in people, some of them. and I believe in them, a few of them. This may not make me a humanist. It certainly makes me a romantic. Perhaps that is why I chose this land to live in. Certainly this is why, now that it is too crowded for me, too unhealthy, too like the land I came from, I want to move onward.

Or rather, perhaps, backward. As one leaves the city now, one moves backward in time, back to places no more crowded and only slightly less spoiled than they were a hundred years ago, places where history lives and superstition is truth. It is no paradox that this is the only progress now.


Horrors of Decrepitude

‎Harry Vredeveld, note on Erasmus, "Poem on Old Age," lines 7-22, in Erasmus, Poems, vol. II (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), pp. 416-417:
Catalogues of the ravages of old age are a literary tradition with both biblical and classical roots. See for example Eccles 12:1-5; Pliny Naturalis historia 7.51.168, cited in Adagia II iii 48 (LB II 500D / CWE 33 156-7); Juvenal 10.188-245; Maximianus Elegies 1. Because of their power to arouse fear and disgust, detailed lists of the horrors of decrepitude were a favourite argument in Christian contemptus mundi and wisdom literature; see Christian Gnilka 'Altersklage und Jenseitssehnsucht' Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 14 (1971) 5-23, with patristic examples; Pseudo-Neckam (Roger de Caen) De vita monachorum Wright II 183-4; and Innocent III De miseria condicionis humane 1.9 'On the Discomforts of Old Age.' They naturally also figure in medieval medical treatises; see for instance Roger Bacon De retardatione accidentium senectutis 2, particularly page 18; and Arnaldus de Villanova Speculum introductionum medicinalium 28A-B.

Erasmus took his place in this tradition early in his career, long before he wrote the present poem. His earlier depictions of old age, full of colours borrowed from Juvenal's tenth satire, always occur, as here, in a strongly rhetorical context; see 95.55-68, 101.1-7, and 104.15-22 below; De contemptu mundi ASD V-1 54:377-81 / CWE 66 147; Enchiridion LB V 58D and 59B / CWE 66 116 and 117. For later examples see Adagia I v 36 and II iii 48; Moria ASD IV-3 82:215-84:231 / CWE 27 92; and especially Psalmi 38 ASD V-3 215:645-51, amplifying the signs of decrepitude after age eighty: 'For who can still regard that as life, when the whole body trembles, the eyes are dimmed, the ears grow deaf, the tongue stammers, the voice fails, the teeth fall out, the feet stagger, and no part of the body performs its service; when even the powers of the mind fail, intellect is paralysed, reason is benumbed, memory retains nothing ... Is that not rather a long death than life?'
The Latin for the passage from Erasmus' commentary on Psalm 38:
Quis enim eam vitam existimet, quum tremit omne corpus, caligant oculi, obsurduerunt aures, balbutit lingua, fugit vox, exciderunt dentes, titubant pedes, nec ulla corporis pars suo fungitur officio: quin & animi vires deficiunt, stupet intellectus, obtorpuit ratio, nihil continet memoria ... An non haec longa mors est verius quam vita?


Bread and Water

Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.2.11 (tr. Walter Miller):
Now, if any one thinks that they do not enjoy eating, when they have only cresses with their bread, or that they do not enjoy drinking when they drink only water, let him remember how sweet barley bread and wheaten bread taste when one is hungry, and how sweet water is to drink when one is thirsty.

εἰ δέ τις αὐτοὺς οἴεται ἢ ἐσθίειν ἀηδῶς, ὅταν κάρδαμον μόνον ἔχωσιν ἐπὶ τῷ σίτῳ, ἢ πίνειν ἀηδῶς, ὅταν ὕδωρ πίνωσιν, ἀναμνησθήτω πῶς μὲν ἡδὺ μᾶζα καὶ ἄρτος πεινῶντι φαγεῖν, πῶς δὲ ἡδὺ ὕδωρ πιεῖν διψῶντι.

Friday, January 24, 2014


The Waves

John Betjeman (1906-1984), "Beside the Seaside," ad fin.:
And all the time the waves, the waves, the waves
Chase, intersect and flatten on the sand
As they have done for centuries, as they will
For centuries to come, when not a soul
Is left to picnic on the blazing rocks,
When England is not England, when mankind
Has blown himself to pieces. Still the sea,
Consolingly disastrous, will return
While the strange starfish, hugely magnified,
Waits in the jewelled basin of a pool.



Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), speech to the Constitutional Convention (September 17, 1787), in Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution in the Convention Held at Philadelphia in 1787, ed. Jonathan Elliot (1888; rpt. New York: Burt Franklin, 1974), p. 554:
[H]aving lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication, tells the Pope, that the only difference between our churches, in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines, is, 'the Church of Rome is infallible, and the Church of England is never in the wrong.' But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a dispute with her sister, said, 'I don't know how it happens, sister, but I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right — il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison.'


Location of Wounds

In ancient Greek and Roman warfare, a wound in the back was generally considered disgraceful, because it meant that the man struck was fleeing, and it was shameful to flee in battle. By contrast, a wound in the chest or belly was considered honorable, because it meant that the wounded man was facing his foe and fighting bravely when struck. I discussed some examples in the following posts:
I recently came across another example in Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 2.11.2 (on Lucius Sicinius Dentatus, tr. J.C. Rolfe):
It is said that he fought with the enemy in one hundred and twenty battles, and had not a scar on his back, but forty-five in front...

is pugnasse in hostem dicitur centum et viginti proeliis, cicatricem aversam nullam, adversas quinque et quadraginta tulisse...
There is a very extensive discussion of the location of wounds (citing this passage from Aulus Gellius among many others) in Matthew Leigh, Lucan: Spectacle and Engagement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 208-231.

One small bit of evidence is not mentioned by Leigh. W. Kendrick Pritchett, The Greek State at War, Part V (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), chap. I (Stone Throwers and Slingers in Ancient Greek Warfare), pp. 1-67 (at 49-53), divides inscriptions scratched onto lead sling bullets into the following categories: names of enemy states, names of military leaders, names of military contingents, invocations to gods, recommendations addressed to the bullets, abuse addressed to the foe, and names of the artisans who fabricated the bullets. An example of "recommendations addressed to the bullets" is Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum I.682: Pet(e) culum Octavia[ni], i.e. Attack Octavian's arsehole. The implication is that Octavianus (the future Augustus) would be disgracefully fleeing when the bullet struck his hind end.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


An Opsimath: Walter Lowrie

Alastair Hannay, Introduction to Walter Lowrie, A Short Life of Kierkegaard (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), p. ix:
Although Lowrie's engagement with Kierkegaard had begun earlier in the century, it is staggering to realize that it was not until he had reached the age of sixty-four that he began studying Danish with a view to translation.



Quo Semel Imbuta Est Recens Servabit Odorem Testa Diu

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), Nathan the Wise IV.4.377-380 (tr. Ernest Bell):
And yet the superstitions we have learned
From education, do not lose their power
When we have found them out; nor are all free
Whose judgment mocks the galling chains they wear.
The same, tr. Adolphus Reich:
The superstition in which we grew up,
Does not cease influencing us, e'en after
We have discover'd its absurdity.
Not all are free who do bemock their fetters.
The German:
Der Aberglaub', in dem wir aufgewachsen,
Verliert, auch wenn wir ihn erkennen, darum
Doch seine Macht nicht über uns. — Es sind
Nicht alle frei, die ihrer Ketten spotten.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Walter Scott (1771-1832), Old Mortality, chapter I:
I mean the teacher himself, who, stunned with the hum, and suffocated with the closeness of his school-room, has spent the whole day (himself against a host) in controlling petulance, exciting indifference to action, striving to enlighten stupidity, and labouring to soften obstinacy; and whose very powers of intellect have been confounded by hearing the same dull lesson repeated a hundred times by rote, and only varied by the various blunders of the reciters. Even the flowers of classic genius, with which his solitary fancy is most gratified, have been rendered degraded, in his imagination, by their connexion with tears, with errors, and with punishment; so that the Eclogues of Virgil and Odes of Horace are each inseparably allied in association with the sullen figure and monotonous recitation of some blubbering school-boy.

Albert Anker, Die Dorfschule


Quod in Iuventute non Discitur, in Matura Aetate Nescitur

Cassiodorus, Variae 1.24.3 (tr. Thomas Hodgkin):
Bring forth your young men for the discipline of Mars. Let them see you do deeds which they may love to tell of to their children. For an art not learned in youth is an art missing in our riper years. The very hawk, whose food is plunder, thrusts her still weak and tender young ones out of the nest, that they may not become accustomed to soft repose. She strikes the lingerers with her wings; she forces her callow young to fly, that they may prove to be such in the future as her maternal fondness can be proud of. Do you therefore, lofty by nature, and stimulated yet more by the love of fame, study to leave such sons behind you as your fathers have left in leaving you.

producite iuvenes vestros in Martiam disciplinam: sub vobis videant, quod posteris referre contendant. nam quod in iuventute non discitur, in matura aetate nescitur. accipitres ipsi, quorum victus semper ex praeda est, fetus suos novitate marcentes nidis proturbant, ne molle otium consuescant: alis verberant immorantes, cogunt pullos teneros ad volatum, ut tales debeant existere, de quibus possit pietas materna praesumere. vos autem, quos et natura erigit at amor opinionis exacuit, studete tales filios relinquere, quales vos patres vestros constat habuisse.
The saying "Quod in iuventute non discitur, in matura aetate nescitur" (What isn't learned when we're young isn't known when we're grown) is number 2000 in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), p. 1456. Tosi compares the German "Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr," but not our "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."


Impact of Civilization

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 751 (Z 1631-1632):
Anyone who wishes to see what impact civilization has on the vigor of the body should compare civilized men to peasants or savages, and the peasants of today to what we know of ancient vigor, etc. (Homer, as is well known, quite often calls his own times degenerate, by contrast with the physical strength of Trojan times.) Let him observe how much the human body is capable of by seeing our absolute inability to do what the least robust of country people can, the dangers to which we would expose ourselves if we wanted to face some of their ordeals, our shameful daily custom of avoiding fresh air, the sun, etc., and marveling at how so-and-so managed to confront it because of this or that circumstance, the illnesses or ailments we pick up every day through a [1632] minor exertion of the body or effort of the mind, etc. And then let him say whether civilization strengthens man, whether it enhances his capacity and strength, whether the ancients would marvel or no at our lack of strength, whether nature itself should be ashamed or no, and whether we ourselves should not be ashamed, since we can see with our own eyes, on the one hand, just how much the human body is capable of, without any extraordinary effort, and, on the other hand, just how little our own bodies are capable of. (5 Sept. 1821.)

Chi vuol vedere l'effetto della civiltà sul vigore del corpo, paragoni gli uomini civili ai contadini o ai selvaggi, i contadini d'oggi a ciò che noi sappiamo del vigore antico ec. (Omero, com'é noto, assai spesso chiama l'età sua degenerata dalle forze de' tempi troiani). Osservi di quanto è capace il corpo umano, vedendo l'impotenza nostra assoluta di far ciò che fa il meno robusto de' villani; i pericoli a cui noi ci esporremmo volendo esporci a qualcuno de' loro patimenti; le vergognose usanze quotidiane di fuggir l'aria il sole ec.; di maravigliarsi come il tale o tale abbia potuto affrontarlo per questa o quella circostanza; le malattie o incomodi che tutto giorno si pigliano per un [1632] menomo strapazzo del corpo o fatica di mente ec., e poi dica se la civiltà rafforza l'uomo, accresce la sua capacità e potenza; se gli antichi si maraviglierebbero o no della impotenza nostra; se la natura stessa se ne debba o no vergognare; e se noi medesimi non lo dobbiamo, vedendo sotto gli occhi per l'una parte di quanto sia capace il corpo umano, senza veruno sforzo straordinario, e per l'altra di quanto poco sia capace il nostro (5 settembre 1821).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Erasmus on Old Age

Erasmus (1466-1536), "Poem on Old Age," lines 7-53 (tr. Clarence H. Miller):
But then no medicines can stave off or drive away hideous old age, that monstrous disease. Indeed, she rises up suddenly to drink up the juices of the body and blunt the powers of the mind, surrounded on all sides by a host of afflictions, through which she snatches away one by one and wears down all the benefits which growing up brought with it: beauty, posture, colouring, the part of the mind which remembers, understanding, eyesight, sleep, strength, enthusiasm. She pinches the little flame which is the source of our life and dries up the moisture which nourishes it. She robs us of the vital spirits, of blood and body, of laughter, wit, charm. In a word, bit by bit she steals the whole man away from himself and finally leaves behind nothing of what he was except a name and an empty inscription, such as we see everywhere in the epitaphs carved on marble tombs. I ask you, should we call her old age or rather death long drawn out?

The Fates are envious and enormously malicious: they choose to give immense speed to the thinning thread of our declining time of life and to make it glide toward us on swift wings, while they make the thread of flourishing youth slide away with such untoward and headlong speed that before we are really aware of its advantages they have fled away, leaving us behind, and before we fully realize that we are alive we are suddenly enfeebled and cease to live. Yet the swift stag and the chattering crow live for so many centuries with full vigour, but man alone, after three and a half decades, and those hardly lived out at all, is thenceworth worn out and deprived of bodily strength by withered old age. Nor is that enough, but before his fleeting years have finished the fifth decade, old age does not hesitate to assail the immortal part of a man, the part descended from the heavens; even this he boldly challenges and has no fear of assaulting the sacred sinews of his inner nature — if we give credence to the esteemed Aristotle.

                              Teterrima porro
      Senecta, morbus ingens,
Nullis arcerive potest pellive medelis
      Quin derepente oborta      10
Corporis epotet succos animique vigorem
      Hebetet, simul trecentis
Hinc atque hinc stipata malis; quibus omnia carptim
      Vellitque deteritque
Commoda quae secum subolescens vexerit aetas:      15
      Formam, statum, colorem,
Partem animi memorem cum pectore, lumina, somnos,
      Vires, alacritatem,
Autorem vitae igniculum decerpit, et huius
      Nutricium liquorem.      20
Vitales adimit flatus, cum sanguine corpus,
      Risus, iocos, lepores.
Denique totum hominem paulatim surripit ipsi,
      Neque de priore tandem
Praeterquam nomen titulumque relinquit inanem,      25
      Cuiusmodi tuemur
Passim marmoreis insculpta vocabula bustis.
      Utrum haec senecta, quaeso,
An mors lenta magis dicenda est? Invida fata et
      Impendio maligna!      30
Ut quae deteriora labantis stamina vitae
      Pernicitate tanta
Accelerare velint, rapidisque allabier alis,
      At floridam iuventam
Usque adeo male praecipiti decurrere filo      35
      Ut illius priusquam
Cognita sat bona sint iam nos fugitiva relinquant,
      Et citius atque nosmet
Plane vivere senserimus, iam vivere fracti
      Repente desinamus.      40
At cervi volucres et cornix garrula vivunt
      Tot saeculis vigentque,
Uni porro homini post septima protinus idque
      Vixdum peracta lustra
Corporeum robur cariosa senecta fatigat.      45
      Neque id satis, sed ante
Quam decimum lustrum volitans absolverit aetas
      Tentare non veretur
Immortalem hominis ductamque ex aethere partem,
      Et hanc lacessit audax,      50
Nec timet ingenii sacros incessere nervos,
      Sua si fides probato
Constat Aristoteli.



Quintilian 6.3.7-9 (tr. Donald A. Russell, with his footnote):
[7] Though many have tried, I do not think anyone gives a satisfactory account of the causes of laughter, which is stimulated not only by certain actions or words, but sometimes also just by physical contact. Again, there is no one principle by which laughter is aroused; we laugh not only at acute or witty sayings and actions, but at stupid, angry, or frightened ones. There is thus an ambivalence about it: laughter is not far from derision. [8] As Cicero says,4 it has its basis in a certain deformity and ugliness. Pointing out these in others is called "urbanity"; when it rebounds upon the speaker, it is called foolishness.

Now, though laughter may seem to be a trivial matter, aroused often by buffoons (scurrae), actors of farce, or indeed fools, it nevertheless possesses perhaps the most commanding and irresistible force of all. [9] It often breaks out against our will, and not only forces the face and voice to confess it, but convulses the whole body with its violence.

4 De oratore 2.236.
The Latin:
[7] neque enim ab ullo satis explicari puto, licet multi temptaverint, unde risus, qui non solum facto aliquo dictove, sed interdum quodam etiam corporis tactu lacessitur. praeterea non una ratione moveri solet: neque enim acute tantum ac venuste, sed stulte iracunde timide dicta ac facta ridentur, ideoque anceps eius rei ratio est, quod a derisu non procul abest risus. [8] habet enim, ut Cicero dicit, sedem in deformitate aliqua et turpitudine: quae cum in aliis demonstrantur, urbanitas, cum in ipsos dicentis reccidunt, stultitia vocatur.

cum videatur autem res levis, et quae a scurris, mimis, insipientibus denique saepe moveatur, tamen habet vim nescio an imperiosissimam et cui repugnari minime potest. [9] erumpit etiam invitis saepe, nec vultus modo ac vocis exprimit confessionem, sed totum corpus vi sua concutit.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Time Cannot Be Stopped

Yamanoue Okura (660?-733), "The Impermanence of Human Life," tr. Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite in The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (1964; rpt. London: Penguin, 2009), pp. 36-37:
We are helpless in this world.
The years and months slip past
Like a swift stream, which grabs and drags us down.
A hundred pains pursue us, one by one.
Girls, with their wrists clasped round
with Chinese jewels, join hands
And play their youth away.
But time cannot be stopped,
And when their youth is gone
Their jet-black hair — black as fish's bowels —
Turns white, like a hard frost.
On their sun-browned, glowing faces,
Wrinkles are etched — by whom?
Boys, with their swords at their waists,
Clutching the hunting bow,
Mount their chestnut horses
On saddles linen-spun,
And ride on in their pride.
But is their world eternal?
He pushes back the door
Where a girl sleeps within,
Gropes to her side and lies
Arm on her jewel arm.
But how few are those nights
Before, with stick at waist,
He goes shunned and detested —
The old are always so.
We grudge life moving on
But we have no redress.
I would become as those
Firm rocks that see no change.
But I am a man in time
And time must have no stop.


Let Me My Time, My Books, My Self Enjoy

John Norris (1657-1711), "Freedom," A Collection of Miscellanies: Consisting of Poems, Essays, Discourses & Letters, Occasionally Written, 3rd ed. (London: S. Manship, 1699), p. 113:
        I do not ask thee Fate, to give
        This little span a long Reprieve.
Thy pleasures here are all so poor and vain,
        I care not hence how soon I'm gone.
Date as thou wilt my Time, I shan't complain;
May I but still live free, and call it all my own.

        Let my Sand slide away apace;
        I care not, so I hold the Glass.
Let me my Time, my Books, my Self enjoy;
        Give me from Cares a sure retreat;
Let no impertinence my Hours imploy,
That's in one word, kind Heaven, let me ne're be great.

        In vain from Chains and Fetters free
        The great Man boasts of Liberty.
He's pinnion'd up by formal Rules of State;
        Can ne're from Noise and Dust retire;
He's haunted still by Crouds that round him wait,
His lot's to be in Pain, as that of Fools t' admire.

        Mean while the Swain has calm repose,
        Freely he comes and freely goes.
Thus the bright Stars whose station is more high,
        Are fix'd, and by strict measures move,
While lower Planets wanton in the Sky,
Are bound to no set Laws, but humoursomly rove.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


How Canst Thou Be an Honest Man?

Plutarch, Life of Sulla 1.2 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
For instance, we are told that when he was putting on boastful airs after his campaign in Libya, a certain nobleman said to him: "How canst thou be an honest man, when thy father left thee nothing, and yet thou art so rich?"

σεμνυνομένῳ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῷ καὶ μεγαληγοροῦντι μετὰ τὴν ἐν Λιβύῃ στρατείαν λέγεταί τις εἰπεῖν τῶν καλῶν τε κἀγαθῶν ἀνδρῶν, 'καὶ πῶς ἂν εἴης σὺ χρηστός, ὃς τοῦ πατρός σοι μηδὲν καταλιπόντος τοσαῦτα κέκτησαι;'
Related post: Mma Potokwane and Saint Jerome.


Neak Ta as Avengers of Arboricide

Julia Wallace, "Workers of the World, Faint!", New York Times (January 17, 2014):
Early last year, I met a 31-year-old woman called Sreyneang, a worker at Canadia Industrial Park, west of Phnom Penh. She had recently caused dozens of her co-workers to collapse after speaking in the voice of a neak ta. While entranced, she had also assaulted the president of the factory's government-aligned union, pounding him with her fists and pelting him with insults.

We chatted on the dirt floor of the tiny wooden house where she lived; there was nowhere else to sit. She said she had been feeling ill on the day of the fainting, and that the factory nurse had refused to let her go home. She did not remember most of what had happened next, but a spirit healer later explained that a neak ta had entered her, infuriated that a banyan tree on the factory site which had been his home for centuries was chopped down, with neither ritual propitiation nor apology, during the construction of the building.
Last year, in a slum in Phnom Penh, a demonstration by residents who were being evicted by a wealthy landlord was interrupted when a neak ta possessed an indigent woman who lived under a staircase with her mentally ill husband, both suffering from H.I.V. The woman assaulted a local official who was trying to shut down the protest, forcing him to stand down. Previously, the landlord had cut down an old banyan tree believed to be the neak ta's home.

"I have been protecting this area for a long time," the woman shouted, "and I am very angry because the company demolished my house. I am very, very angry."
I haven't seen Alain Forest, Le culte des génies protecteurs au Cambodge: Analyse et traduction d'un corpus de textes sur les neak ta (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1992).

Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator.



Work Forbidden on Holidays

Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.16.9 (tr. Robert A. Kaster; footnotes omitted; brackets in original):
The priests, moreover, used to claim that religious festivals [feriae] became polluted if any work was undertaken once they had been proclaimed and formally scheduled. The priest in charge of sacrifices and the flamens were also forbidden to observe any work being done during festivals: that's why their approach was announced by a herald, so that any such activity would cease, and anyone who ignored the announcement was fined.

adfirmabant autem sacerdotes pollui ferias, si indictis conceptisque opus aliquod fieret. praeterea regem sacrorum flaminesque non licebat videre feriis opus fieri et ideo per pracconem denuntiabant, ne quid tale ageretur, et praecepti neglegens multabatur.
If similar rules were adopted today, maybe corporations would no longer force their employees to work on holidays such as Thanksgiving.

Related post: 4-4-4 Plan.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Here and Now

Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 224:
They know what all natural men know: that life is here and now, not in any further state, either theological or financial; they know that death is certain and this they accept with a grace almost shocking to the struggling West, which must retaliate by calling them suicide prone or death oriented; and they know perfectly well that reality is that which is apprehended and nothing more. This does not make them pragmatic because no one would think of constructing a rationale to support such a natural observation, but it does make them empirical. And we of the West find it difficult to live in a land of one dimension such as this. We must always have the further lure and promise of something more, something better, whether it be heaven or a yet higher standard of living, because we must think of ourselves as somehow more, somehow better.

But I am speaking of the people of the Inland Sea; I am speaking of old Japan. Already the change is upon us—already the innocence is fading, going, gone. It lingers here, in these islands that I have so recently visited, but only for a time. I'm fortunate to have seen it.


The Lesson of Self-Help

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), "Man the Reformer," Nature: Addresses and Lectures (Boston: Phillips, Samson & Co., 1850), pp. 219-248 (at 237-238):
Can we not learn the lesson of self-help? Society is full of infirm people, who incessantly summon others to serve them. They contrive everywhere to exhaust for their single comfort the entire means and appliances of that luxury to which our invention has yet attained. Sofas, ottomans, stoves, wine, game-fowl, spices, perfumes, rides, the theatre, entertainments,—all these they want, they need, and whatever can be suggested more than these, they crave also, as if it was the bread which should keep them from starving; and if they miss any one, they represent themselves as the most wronged and most wretched persons on earth. One must have been born and bred with them to know how to prepare a meal for their learned stomach. Meantime, they never bestir themselves to serve another person; not they! they have a great deal more to do for themselves than they can possibly perform, nor do they once perceive the cruel joke of their lives, but the more odious they grow, the sharper is the tone of their complaining and craving. Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants and to serve them one's self, so as to have somewhat left to give, instead of being always prompt to grab? It is more elegant to answer one's own needs, than to be richly served; inelegant perhaps it may look to-day, and to a few, but it is an elegance forever and to all.


Cherish Quietness

George Augustus Simcox (1841-1905), "To Aristocrats," Poems and Romances (London: Strahan and Co., 1869), p. 269:
When the dumb many lift their voice on high,
   Who do not heed what subtle things are said
   In ancient volumes they have never read,
Nor care to listen till the wise reply,
Let all who care to hurry pass thee by,
   And bid them all Godspeed and bow the head,
   And sit alone and commune with the dead,
And learn at leisure to be still and die.
   Why, for thy pride, should men be comfortless?
Wherefore methinks it were not well to wage
An idle warfare with a busy age;
   But fold clean hands and cherish quietness,
   And watch the world grow more while we grow less,
And others build our tomb or hermitage.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Back Home Again!

T'ao Ch'ien (365-427), "The Return" (tr. James Robert Hightower):
To get out of this and go back home!
My fields and garden will be overgrown with weeds—
I must go back.
It was my own doing that made my mind my body's slave
Why should I go on in melancholy and lonely grief?
I realize that there's no remedying the past
But I know that there's hope in the future.
After all I have not gone far on the wrong road
And I am aware that what I do today is right, yesterday wrong.
My boat rocks in the gentle breeze
Flap, flap, the wind blows my gown;
I ask a passerby about the road ahead,
Grudging the dimness of the light at dawn.
Then I catch sight of my cottage—
Filled with joy I run.
The servant boy comes to welcome me
My little son waits at the door.
The three paths are almost obliterated
But pines and chrysanthemums are still here.
Leading the children by the hand, I enter my house
Where there is a bottle filled with wine.
I draw the bottle to me and pour myself a cup;
Seeing the trees in the courtyard brings joy to my face.
I lean on the south window and let my pride expand,
I consider how easy it is to be content with a little space.
Every day I stroll in the garden for pleasure,
There is a gate there, but it is always shut.
Cane in hand I walk and rest
Occasionally raising my head to gaze into the distance.
The clouds aimlessly rise from the peaks,
The birds, weary of flying, know it is time to come home.
As the sun's rays grow dim and disappear from view
I walk around a lonely pine tree, stroking it.

Back home again!
May my friendships be broken off and my wandering come to an end.
The world and I shall have nothing more to do with one another.
If I were again to go abroad, what should I seek?
Here I enjoy honest conversation with my family
And take pleasure in books and cither to dispel my worries.
The farmers tell me that now spring is here
There will be work to do in the west fields.
Sometimes I call for a covered cart,
Sometimes I row a lonely boat,
Following a deep gully through the still water
Or crossing the hill on a rugged path.
The trees put forth luxuriant foliage,
The spring begins to flow in a trickle.
I admire the seasonableness of nature
And am moved to think that my life will come to its close.
It is all over—
So little time are we granted human form in the world!
Let us then follow the inclinations of the heart:
Where would we go that we are so agitated?
I have no desire for riches
And no expectation of Heaven.
Rather on some fine morning to walk alone
Now planting my staff to take up a hoe,
Or climbing the east hill and whistling long
Or composing verses beside the clear stream:
So I manage to accept my lot until the ultimate homecoming.
Rejoicing in Heaven's command, what is there to doubt?
Related posts:


Aulus Gellius 1.5.3: Asyndetic, Privative Adjectives

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 1.5.3 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
But when Sulla was on trial, and Lucius Torquatus, a man of somewhat boorish and uncouth nature, with great violence and bitterness did not stop with calling Hortensius an actor in the presence of the assembled jurors, but said that he was a posturer and a Dionysia—which was the name of a notorious dancing-girl—then Hortensius replied in a soft and gentle tone: "I would rather be a Dionysia, Torquatus, yes, a Dionysia, than like you, a stranger to the Muses, to Venus and to Dionysus."

sed cum L. Torquatus, subagresti homo ingenio et infestivo, gravius acerbiusque apud consilium iudicum, cum de causa Sullae quaereretur, non iam histrionem eum esse diceret, sed gesticulariam Dionysiamque eum notissimae saltatriculae nomine appellaret, tum voce molli atque demissa Hortensius "Dionysia," inquit "Dionysia malo equidem esse quam quod tu, Torquate, ἄμουσος, ἀναφρόδιτος, ἀπροσδιόνυσος."
The last three words of Hortensius' retort are a neat example of a series of asyndetic, privative adjectives. "Asyndetic" means not joined by conjunctions, and "privative" means altering the meaning of a term from positive to negative.

Update: Reading further in the same work, I find another example of the same construction at 1.9.8 (tr. Rolfe with his footnote):
Having thus expressed himself about Pythagoras, my friend Taurus continued: "But nowadays these fellows who turn to philosophy on a sudden with unwashed feet,1 not content with being wholly 'without purpose, without learning, and without scientific training,' even lay down the law as to how they are to be taught philosophy.

1 Proverbial for "without preparation."

haec eadem super Pythagora noster Taurus cum dixisset: "Nunc autem," inquit, "isti qui repente pedibus inlotis ad philosophos devertunt, non est hoc satis quod sunt omnino ἀθεώρητοι, ἄμουσοι, ἀγεωμέτρητοι, sed legem etiam dant qua philosophari discant."



The Use of Linguistic Evidence to Date a Document

Robert Renehan, "The Michigan Alcidamas-Papyrus: A Problem in Methodology," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 75 (1971) 85-105 (at 93):
Three fundamental principles may be stated here:

    (i) A word which survives only in postclassical authors, if it is of rare occurrence even there and if there is an obvious reason why it would not be of common occurrence at any period, should not be used as evidence for dating.
    (ii) In general, a word which occurs often, and exclusively in post-classical authors is significant. A word which occurs chiefly in post-classical authors is less good evidence but, under certain conditions, may be used with some probability. A word which is adequately attested for the classical period, no matter how frequent its occurrences later, should not be used as evidence for a late date. All that is here set down is subject to the obvious principle that
    (iii) In employing statistics a certain minimal sampling is necessary before probable results of any validity can be obtained.
Id., p. 100:
[W]e should remind ourselves that the greater bulk of classical Greek has perished and that therefore our knowledge of classical Greek diction is imperfect. The use of linguistic evidence to date a document is a valid procedure, but it has its limitations which should be recognized.
More useful reminders (id., pp. 89-90):
I remind the reader that it is the exception and due to special circumstances (say, the coinage of a new philosophical or medical term or of a new poetic compound) when the oldest extant example of a word is in fact the oldest actual occurrence of that word. I further remind the reader that it is the exception when the oldest actual occurrence of a word is a written occurrence at all and not rather an oral one.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Accentuate the Positive

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), "Success," Society and Solitude (Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1870), pp. 251-278 (at 276):
Don't hang a dismal picture on the wall, and do not daub with sables and glooms in your conversation. Don't be a cynic and disconsolate preacher. Don't bewail and bemoan. Omit the negative propositions. Nerve us with incessant affirmatives. Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.


The Younger Generation

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 1 pr. 8 (tr. M. Winterbottom):
Look at our young men: they are lazy, their intellects asleep; no-one can stay awake to take pains over a single honest pursuit. Sleep, torpor and a perseverance in evil that is more shameful than either have seized hold of their minds.

torpent ecce ingenia desidiosae iuventutis nec in unius honestae rei labore vigilatur; somnus laguorque ac somno ac languore turpior malarum rerum industria invasit animos.


An Ox on My Tongue

Theognis 815-816 (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
An ox that setteth his strong hoof upon my tongue restraineth me from blabbing albeit I know.

βοῦς μοι ἐπὶ γλώσσῃ κρατερῷ ποδὶ λὰξ ἐπιβαίνων
   ἴσχει κωτίλλειν καίπερ ἐπιστάμενον.
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 36-39 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
For the rest I'm dumb; a great ox stands upon my tongue—yet the house itself, could it but speak, might tell a tale full plain; since, for my part, of mine own choice I have words for such as know, and to those who know not I've lost my memory.

τὰ δ' ἀλλὰ σιγῶ· βοῦς ἐπὶ γλώσσῃ μέγας
βέβηκεν· οἶκος δ' αὐτός, εἰ φθογγὴν λάβοι,
σαφέστατ' ἂν λέξειεν· ὡς ἑκὼν ἐγὼ
μαθοῦσιν αὐδῶ κοὐ μαθοῦσι λήθομαι.
Strattis, fragment 72 Kassel-Austin = 67 Kock (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
A great ox treads upon (me).

βοῦς ἐμβαίνει μέγας.
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6.11.27 (talking about Pythagoras; tr. F.C. Conybeare):
[H]e was the first of mankind to restrain his tongue, inventing a discipline of silence described in the proverbial phrase, "An ox sits upon it."

γλῶττάν τε ὡς πρῶτος ἀνθρώπων ξυνέσχε βοῦν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῇ σιωπῆς εὑρὼν δόγμα.
Julian, Orations 7.217d-218a (tr. Wilmer Cave Wright):
But I was impelled I know not how to rave with his own sacred frenzy when I spoke like this of the attributes of great Dionysus; and now I set an ox on my tongue: for I may not reveal what is too sacred for speech.

ἀλλὰ ταῦτα ὲν ἀμφὶ τὸν μέγαν Διόνυσον οὐκ οἶδ' ὅπως ἐπῆλθέ μοι βακχεύοντι μανῆναι· τὸν βοῦν ἐπιτίθημι τῇ γλώττῃ· περὶ τῶν ἀρρήτων γὰρ οὐδὲν χρὴ λέγειν.
Synesius, Letters 154 (tr. Augustus Fitzgerald):
These are the two types of men who have falsely accused me with occupying myself in trivial pursuits, one of them because I do not talk the same sort of nonsense as they do, the other because I do not keep my mouth shut, and do not keep the 'bull on my tongue', as they do.

ἄμφω με τούτω τὼ γένη διαβεβλήκατον, ὡς ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐδενὸς ἀξίοις ἐσπουδα κότα· τὸ μὲν ὅτι μὴ ταὐτὰ φλυαρῶ, τὸ δὲ ὅτι μὴ τὸ στόμα συγκλείσας ἔχω καὶ βοῦν τὸν ἐκείνων ἐπὶ τῆς γλώττης τίθεμαι.
Suda β 460 Adler (tr. Catherine Roth):
An ox on the tongue: [sc. A proverbial phrase] in reference to those who are not able to speak freely: either because of the strength of the animal, or because there was an ox stamped on the Athenian coin which those who spoke freely had to pay.

βοῦς ἐπὶ γλώττης· ἐπὶ τῶν μὴ δυναμένων παρρησιάζεσθαι· ἢ διὰ τὴν ἰσχὺν τοῦ ζῴου. ἢ διὰ τὸ τῶν Ἀθηναίων νόμισμα βοῦν ἔχειν ἐγκεχαραγμένον, ὅπερ ἐκτίνειν ἔδει τοὺς παρρησιαζομένους.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Loss of Faculties in Old Age

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 1 pr. 2 (tr. M. Winterbottom):
But by now old age has made me regret the loss of many of my faculties. It has dimmed my eyesight, dulled my hearing, made my strong muscles tired: but among these things I mention it is memory, of all parts of the mind the most vulnerable and fragile, that old age first assaults.

sed cum multa iam mihi ex me desideranda senectus fecerit, oculorum aciem retuderit, aurium sensum hebetaverit, nervorum firmitatem fatigaverit, inter ea quae rettuli memoria est, res ex omnibus animi partibus maxime delicata et fragilis, in quam primam senectus incurrit.


Modus in Rebus

Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830-1886), "The True Philosophy," Poems (Boston: D. Lothrop and Company, 1882), p. 52:
I'd have you use a wise philosophy,
In this, as in all matters, whereupon
Judgment may freely act; truth ever lies
Between extremes; avoid the spendthrift's folly
As you'd avoid the road of utter ruin;
For wealth, or at the least, fair competence,
Is honor, comfort, hope, and self-respect;
All, in a word, that makes our human life
Endurable, if not happy: scorn the cant
Of sentimental Dives, wrapped in purple,
Who over jewelled wine-cups and rich fare,
Affects to flout his gold, and prattles loosely
Of sweet content that's found in poverty:
As for the miser, he's a madman simply,
One who the means of all enjoyment holds,
Yet never dares enjoy: no, no, Anselmo,
Use with a prudent, but still liberal hand
That store the gods have given you; thus, my friend,
'Twixt the Charybdis of a churlish meanness,
And the swift Scylla of improvident waste,
You'll steer your bark o'er smooth, innocuous seas,
And reach at last a peaceful anchorage.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


The Living Dead

Sophocles, Antigone 1165-1171 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
For when a man hath forfeited his pleasures, I count him not as living,—I hold him but a breathing corpse. Heap up riches in thy house, if thou wilt; live in kingly state; yet, if there be no gladness therewith, I would not give the shadow of a vapour for all the rest, compared with joy.

                                          τὰς γὰρ ἡδονὰς        1165
ὅταν προδῶσιν ἄνδρες, οὐ τίθημ᾽ ἐγὼ
ζῆν τοῦτον, ἀλλ᾽ ἔμψυχον ἡγοῦμαι νεκρόν.
πλούτει τε γὰρ κατ᾽ οἶκον, εἰ βούλει, μέγα
καὶ ζῆ τύραννον σχῆμ᾽ ἔχων· ἐὰν δ᾽ ἀπῇ
τούτων τὸ χαίρειν, τἄλλ᾽ ἐγὼ καπνοῦ σκιᾶς        1170
οὐκ ἂν πριαίμην ἀνδρὶ πρὸς τὴν ἡδονήν.


Bona Fides

William M. Calder III, "Nuda Veritas: William Abbott Oldfather on Classics at Columbia," Illinois Classical Studies 18 (1993) 359-378 (at 363):
He held that no one had the bona fides to write about ancient literature or thought until he had published at least one critical index verborum and a critical text "from the ground up" of one Latin and of one Greek author.


Never Less Alone Than When Alone

Cicero, On the Commonwealth 1.17.27 (tr. Clinton Walker Keyes):
Only such a man, finally, can say of himself what my grandfather Africanus used to say, according to Cato's account—that he was never doing more than when he was doing nothing, and never less alone than when alone.

qui denique, ut Africanum avum meum scribit Cato solitum esse dicere, possit idem de se praedicare, numquam se plus agere quam nihil cum ageret, numquam minus solum esse quam cum solus esset.
Cicero, On Duties 3.1.1 (tr. Walter Miller):
Cato, who was of about the same years, Marcus, my son, as that Publius Scipio who first bore the surname of Africanus, has given us the statement that Scipio used to say that he was never less idle than when he had nothing to do and never less lonely than when he was alone. An admirable sentiment, in truth, and becoming to a great and wise man. It shows that even in his leisure hours his thoughts were occupied with public business and that he used to commune with himself when alone; and so not only was he never unoccupied, but he sometimes had no need for company. The two conditions, then, that prompt others to idleness — leisure and solitude—only spurred him on.

P. Scipionem, M. fili, eum, qui primus Africanus appellatus est, dicere solitum scripsit Cato, qui fuit eius fere aequalis, numquam se minus otiosum esse, quam cum otiosus, nec minus solum, quam cum solus esset. magnifica vero vox et magno viro ac sapiente digna; quae declarat illum et in otio de negotiis cogitare et in solitudine secum loqui solitum, ut neque cessaret umquam et interdum colloquio alterius non egeret. ita duae res, quae languorem afferunt ceteris, illum acuebant, otium et solitudo.
For the history of the saying, see a series of articles all with the title "Never Less Alone Than When Alone" and all published in Modern Language Notes:

Monday, January 13, 2014


Homer in America

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (October, 1842):
This feeling I have respecting Homer & Greek, that in this great empty continent of ours stretching enormous almost from pole to pole with thousands of long rivers and thousands of ranges of mountains, the rare scholar who under a farmhouse roof reads Homer and the Tragedies adorns the land. He begins to fill it with wit, to counterbalance the enormous disproportion of the unquickened earth. He who first reads Homer in America is its Cadmus & Numa, and a subtle but unlimited benefactor.


Giants Slain

Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830-1886), "The Axe and Pine," Poems (Boston: D. Lothrop and Company, 1882), p. 264:
All day, on bole and limb the axes ring,
And every stroke upon my startled brain
Falls with the power of sympathetic pain;
I shrink to view each glorious forest-king
Descend to earth, a wan, discrownèd thing.
Ah, Heaven! beside these foliaged giants slain,
How small the human dwarfs, whose lust for gain
Hath edged their brutal steel to smite and sting!
Hark! to those long-drawn murmurings, strange and drear!
The wail of Dryads in their last distress;
O'er ruined haunts and ravished loveliness
Still tower those brawny arms; tones coarsely loud
Rise still beyond the greenery's waning cloud,
While falls the insatiate steel, sharp, cold and sheer!



Lectio Divina

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), "L'Ecclésiaste: étude sur l'age et le caractère du livre," Revue des deux mondes 49 (1882) 721-752 (at 743; my translation):
A man reads badly when he reads kneeling down.

[O]n lit mal, quand on lit à genoux.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


More Here

Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 165 (discussing Oyamazumi on Omishima):
It is a series of low buildings among trees. Space in a shrine is horizontal and not, as in a cathedral, vertical. In a church, space is confined. It must struggle upward, having no place else to go. In a shrine, space is spread. There are no high walls, no tight enclosures. The space is a grove and this grove seems so endless that it might be the world itself.

The sky seems low, near. There are long expanses of lawn or grove among the buildings. One is not enclosed, nor is one directed. One is liberated, and almost always alone.

Shrine prayer, as I have said, is not communal prayer. It is solitary prayer. It is not a state—it is a function. It lasts only a minute or so and it is spontaneous. One does not enter, as in churches, or descend, as in mosques. The way to the shrine is through a grove, along a walk, through nature itself, nature intensified. Through these trees, over this moss, one wanders to shrines.

This casual, unremarked acceptance of nature speaks to something very deep within us. It speaks directly to our own nature, more and more buried in this artificial and inhuman century. Shinto speaks to us, to something in us which is deep, and permanent.

Certainly we feel—which is to say, recognize—more here than in smiling Buddhism with its hopeful despair, more than in fierce man-made Islam with its heavenly palaces on earth, more than in the strange and worldly tabernacles of the Hebrews or in the confident, vaunting, expectant Christian churches.

This religion, Shinto, is the only one that neither teaches nor attempts to convert. It simply exists, and if the pious come, that is good, and if they do not, then that too is good, for this is a natural religion and nature is profoundly indifferent.


A Holiday

Alexis, fragment 222 Kassel-Austin = 219 Kock (from his play The Tarentines; tr. Charles Burton Gulick, slightly revised, with his note):
We are doing none of our neighbours any harm. Don't you know that what, to amuse ourselves, we call "life" is but a name, a coaxing flattery of our human lot? Whether anybody will say that my judgement is good or bad I cannot tell you; but this, at least, I have made up my mind to on careful study: that all the doings of men are out-and-out crazy, and that we who for the time being are alive are only getting an outing, as though let loosea from death and darkness to keep holiday, to amuse ourselves and to enjoy this light which we can see. And the man who laughs and drinks the most, and holds fast to Aphrodite, during the time he is set free, and to such gifts as Fortune offers, after he has had a most pleasant holiday can depart for home.

a i.e. set free to enjoy a vacation; ἀποδημίας and πανήγυριν suggest the practice of going abroad to attend a great national festival. What Fortune offers is a contribution to the picnic (ἔρανος).
Here is an anonymous verse rendering of the same, from "A Glance at the Noctes of Athenaeus," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine No. CCXXVII, Vol. XXXVI (October, 1834) 431-457 (at 457):
Do you not know that by the term call'd life,
We mean to give a softer tone to ills
That man is heir to? Whether I judge right
Or wrong in this, I'll not presume to say—
Having reflected long and seriously,
To this conclusion I am brought at last,
That universal folly governs all;
For in this little life of ours, we seem
As strangers that have left their native home.
We make our first appearance from the realms
Of death and darkness, and emerge to light,
And join th' assembly of our fellow-men—
They who enjoy themselves the most, and drink,
And laugh, and banish care, or pass the day
In the soft blandishments of love, and leave
No joy untasted, no delight untried
That innocence and virtue may approve,
And this gay festival afford, depart
Cheerful, like guests contented, to their home.
The Greek:
                                                οἳ τῶν πέλας
οὐδέν᾽ ἀδικοῦμεν οὐδέν. ἆρ᾽ οὐκ οἶσθ᾽ ὅτι
τὸ καλούμενον ζῆν τοῦτο διατριβῆς χάριν
ὄνομ᾽ ἐστίν, ὑποκόρισμα τῆς ἀνθρωπίνης
μοίρας; ἐγὼ γάρ, εἰ μὲν εὖ τις ἢ κακῶς
φήσει με κρίνειν, οὐκ ἔχοιμ᾽ ἄν σοι φράσαι·
ἔγνωκα δ᾽ οὖν οὕτως ἐπισκοπούμενος
εἶναι μανιώδη πάντα τἀνθρώπων ὅλως,
ἀποδημίας δὲ τυγχάνειν ἡμᾶς ἀεὶ
τοὺς ζῶντας, ὥσπερ εἰς πανήγυρίν τινα
ἀφειμένους ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου καὶ τοῦ σκότους
εἰς τὴν διατριβὴν εἰς τὸ φῶς τε τοῦθ᾽ ὃ δὴ
ὁρῶμεν. ὃς δ᾽ ἂν πλεῖστα γελάσῃ καὶ πίῃ
καὶ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης ἀντιλάβηται τὸν χρόνον
τοῦτον ὃν ἀφεῖται, καὶ Τύχης ἐράνου τινός,
πανηγυρίσας ἥδιστ᾽ ἀπῆλθεν οἴκαδε.
I don't have access to the Greek text in Rudolf Kassel and Colin Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. II (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991), or to the notes on this fragment by W. Geoffrey Arnott in Alexis, The Fragments: A Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 624-635.

Related posts:

Saturday, January 11, 2014


The Unforgiveable Sin

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (July 6, 1841):
Lidian says that the only sin which people never forgive in each other is a difference of opinion.


Aurum ex Stercore

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (June 7, 1841):
We are too civil to books. For a few golden sentences we will turn over and actually read a volume of four or five hundred pages.


Most Beautiful

Plato, Hippias Major 291 d-e (Hippias speaking; tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
I say, then, that for every man and everywhere it is most beautiful to be rich and healthy, and honored by the Greeks, to reach old age, and, after providing a beautiful funeral for his deceased parents, to be beautifully and splendidly buried by his own offspring.

λέγω τοίνυν ἀεὶ καὶ παντὶ καὶ πανταχοῦ κάλλιστον εἶναι ἀνδρί, πλουτοῦντι, ὑγιαίνοντι, τιμωμένῳ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων, ἀφικομένῳ εἰς γῆρας, τοὺς αὑτοῦ γονέας τελευτήσαντας καλῶς περιστείλαντι, ὑπὸ τῶν αὑτοῦ ἐκγόνων καλῶς καὶ μεγαλοπρεπῶς ταφῆναι.
περιστείλαντι: περιστέλλω is the techical term for dressing a corpse, on which custom see Robert Garland, The Greek Way of Death (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985; rpt. 1988), pp. 24-26 and note ("Funeral garments") on p. 139. Liddell-Scott-Jones say that in this passage it means simply "bury," but I doubt whether the primary sense ("dress, clothe, wrap up") was ever lost sight of.

Lamb didn't translate ἀεὶ; I would add it, e.g. "I say, then, that always and for every man and everywhere..."

Friday, January 10, 2014


An Analphabet

Herodas, Mimes 3.22-23 (tr. I.C. Cunningham):
He does not even know how to recognize the letter A, if one does not shout the same thing at him five times.

ἐπίσταται δ' οὐδ' ἄλφα συλλαβὴν γνῶναι
ἢν μή τις αὐτῷ ταὐτὰ πεντάκις βώσῃ.



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (July 6, 1840):
Whenever I read Plutarch or look at a Greek vase I am inclined to accept the common opinion of the learned that the Greeks had cleaner wits than any other people in the Universe. But there is anything but Time in my idea of the antique. A clear and natural expression by word or deed is that which we mean when we love and praise the antique. In society I do not find it; in modern books seldom; but the moment I get into the pastures I find antiquity again. Once in the fields with the lowing cattle, the birds, the trees, the waters and satisfying outlines of the landscape, and I cannot tell whether this is Tempe, Thessaly and Enna, or Concord and Acton.


It's All Downhill from There

Montaigne, Essais I, 57 (tr. E.J. Trechmann):
I consider that our minds are developed as far as they are likely to be at twenty and as promising as they can ever be.

Quant à moy j'estime que nos ames sont desnoüées à vingt ans, ce qu'elles doivent estre, et qu'elles promettent tout ce qu'elles pourront.


Apology for Extensive Annotation

Eldred Revett, "To her taxing him for late writing to her," lines 31-32, in his Selected Poems, Humane and Divine, ed. Donald M. Friedman (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1966), pp. 17-18 (these lines on p. 18):
Where matter is so full, and so perplex't,
The Comment's forced to out-swell the Text.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related posts:

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Tell Me About Yourself

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (July 6, 1840):
When I have talked of myself, I am presently punished by a sense of emptiness, and, as it were, flatulency, that I have lost all the solemnity and majesty of being.


A Mean and Ridiculous Thing

Montaigne, Essais III, 9 (tr. Charles Cotton):
What a mean and ridiculous thing it is for a man to study his money, to delight in handling and telling it over and over again!

O le vilain et sot estude, d'estudier son argent, se plaire à le manier et recomter!

Conrad Meyer, The Usurer


A Dig at Archaeologists

Walter Headlam (1866-1908), Herodas: The Mimes and Fragments (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), p. xxvii:
No, it [Cos] was merely a setting for literature, and it is from literature that his works are to be illustrated. Unfortunately, that is the last thing that many scholars are willing to do. It costs some time and expense to read Greek literature: how much easier to take a spade!


Self-Reliance and Un-Self-Reliance

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (September 30, 1838):
It seems as if a man should learn to fish, to plant or to hunt that he might be secure if he were cast out from society and not be painful to his friends and fellow men.
Id. (July 6, 1840):
Society is full of infirm, lazy people who are incessantly calling on others to serve them.
Id. (July 6, 1840):
Let every man shovel out his own snow, and the whole city will be passable.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


Cities of Refuge

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (November 8, 1838):
I have said on a former page that natural science always stands open to us as any asylum, and that, in the conflict with the common cares, we throw an occasional affectionate glance at lichen and fungus, barometer and microscope, as cities of refuge to which we can one day flee, if the worst come to the worst.



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (May 26, 1839):
Be thyself too great for enmity and fault-finding.


A May Game

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (June 6, 1839):
My life is a May game, I will live as I like. I defy your strait-laced, weary, social ways and modes. Blue is the sky, green the fields and groves, fresh the springs, glad the rivers, and hospitable the splendor of sun and star. I will play my game out. And if any shall say me nay, shall come out with swords and staves against me to prick me to death for their foolish laws, come and welcome. I will not look grave for such a fool's matter. I cannot lose my cheer for such trumpery. Life is a May game still.
Oxford English Dictionary, under May game, sense 2.b:
A foolish or extravagant action or performance; a frolic, caper, or entertainment.

Monday, January 06, 2014


The Last Resource of Dulness and Ennui

George Borrow (1803-1881), Lavengro, chapter XLVII:
'In the name of all that is wonderful, how came you to know aught of my language?'

'There is nothing wonderful in that,' said I; 'we are at the commencement of a philological age, every one studies languages: that is, every one who is fit for nothing else; philology being the last resource of dulness and ennui, I have got a little in advance of the throng, by mastering the Armenian alphabet; but I foresee the time when every unmarriageable miss, and desperate blockhead, will likewise have acquired the letters of Mesroub, and will know the term for bread, in Armenian, and perhaps that for wine.'
Related post: Something Craggy.

Sunday, January 05, 2014


Your Lodestar

‎Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984; rpt. 1996), p. 65:
You start by loving a subject. Birds, probability theory, explosives, stars, differential equations, storm fronts, sign language, swallowtail butterflies—the odds are that the obsession will have begun in childhood. The subject will be your lodestar and give sanctuary in the shifting mental universe.



Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 7.297d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
Agatharchides, at any rate, in the sixth book of his European History, says that the Boeotians sacrifice eels which are of surpassing size, putting wreaths on them, saying prayers over them, and casting barley-corns on them as on any other sacrificial victim; and to the foreigner who was utterly puzzled at the strangeness of this custom and asked the reason, the Boeotian declared that he knew only one answer, and he would reply that one should observe ancestral customs, and it was not his business to justify them to other men.

φησὶ γοῦν Ἀγαθαρχίδης ἐν ἕκτῃ Εὐρωπιακῶν τὰς ὑπερφυεῖς τῶν Κωπαΐδων ἐγχέλεων ἱερείων τρόπον στεφανοῦντας καὶ κατευχομένους οὐλάς τ᾽ ἐπιβάλλοντας θύειν τοῖς θεοῖς τοὺς Βοιωτούς· καὶ πρὸς τὸν ξένον τὸν διαποροῦντα τὸ τοῦ ἔθους παράδοξον καὶ πυνθανόμενον ἓν μόνον εἰδέναι φῆσαι τὸν Βοιωτὸν φάσκειν τε ὅτι δεῖ τηρεῖν τὰ προγονικὰ νόμιμα καὶ ὅτι μὴ καθήκει τοῖς ἄλλοις ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀπολογίζεσθαι.


Racial Antipathy

George Borrow (1803-1881), Lavengro, chapter VII:
'Scotland is a better country than England,' said an ugly, blear-eyed lad, about a head and shoulders taller than myself, the leader of a gang of varlets who surrounded me in the play-ground, on the first day, as soon as the morning lesson was over. 'Scotland is a far better country than England, in every respect.'

'Is it?' said I. 'Then you ought to be very thankful for not having been born in England.'

'That’s just what I am, ye loon; and every morning, when I say my prayers, I thank God for not being an Englishman. The Scotch are a much better and braver people than the English.'

'It may be so,' said I, 'for what I know—indeed, till I came here, I never heard a word either about the Scotch or their country.'

'Are ye making fun of us, ye English puppy?' said the blear-eyed lad; 'take that!' and I was presently beaten black and blue. And thus did I first become aware of the difference of races and their antipathy to each other.
Related posts:

Saturday, January 04, 2014


The Action of an Incorrigible Idiot

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), "Solon and Peisistratus," Imaginary Conversations (Solon speaks):
Not to possess what is good is a misfortune; to throw it away is a folly: but to change what we know hath served us, and would serve us still, for what never has and never can; for what on the contrary hath always been pernicious to the holder,—is the action of an incorrigible idiot.


When Shall I Be Tired of Reading?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (July 31, 1835):
When shall I be tired of reading? When the moon is tired of waxing and waning, when the sea is tired of ebbing and flowing, when the grass is weary of growing, when the planets are tired of going.


Tendency of Student Life

Nathaniel Southgate Shaler (1841-1906), ed., The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government, Vol. II (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1897), p. 458:

The caption reads: "Typical figure, showing tendency of student life—stooping head, flat chest, and emaciated limbs."

Friday, January 03, 2014


He Graduates a Dunce

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (April 13, 1834):
A young man is to be educated, and schools are built, and masters brought together, and gymnasium erected, and scientific toys and monitorial systems and a college endowed with many professorships, and the apparatus is so enormous and unmanageable that the e-ducation or calling out of his faculties is never accomplished; he graduates a dunce.
Id. (September 14, 1839):
How sad a spectacle, so frequent nowadays, to see a young man after ten years of college education come out, ready for his voyage of life, and to see that the entire ship is made of rotten timber, of rotten, honeycombed, traditional timber without so much as an inch of new plank in the hull.



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (January 7, 1833):
But I am ashamed of myself for a dull scholar. Every day I display a more astounding ignorance.
Id. (January 15, 1833):
Seldom, I suppose, was a more inapt learner of arithmetic, astronomy, geography, political economy, than I am, as I daily find to my cost. It were to brag much if I should there end the catalogue of my defects. My memory of history—put me to the pinch of a precise question—is as bad; my comprehension of a question in technical metaphysics very slow, and in all arts practick, in driving a bargain, or hiding emotion, or carrying myself in company as a man for an hour, I have no skill.
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The Epitaph of Sardanapalus

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 8.335f-336b (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
On his tomb, says Chrysippus, are inscribed these words: 'Though knowing full well that thou art but mortal, indulge thy desire, find joy in thy feasts. Dead, thou shalt have no delight. Yes, I am dust, though I was king of mighty Nineveh. I have only what I have eaten, what wantonness I have committed, what joys I received through passion; but my many rich possessions are now utterly dissolved. This is a wise counsel for living, and I shall forget it never. Let him who wants it, acquire gold without end.'

ἐφ᾽ οὗ τοῦ τάφου ἐπιγεγράφθαι φησὶ Χρύσιππος τάδε·
εὖ εἰδὼς ὅτι θνητὸς ἔφυς σὸν θυμὸν ἄεξε,
τερπόμενος θαλίῃσι· θανόντι σοι οὔτις ὄνησις.
καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ σποδός εἰμι, Νίνου μεγάλης βασιλεύσας·
κεῖν᾽ ἔχω ὅσσ᾽ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐφύβρισα καὶ σὺν ἔρωτι
τέρπν᾽ ἔπαθον· τὰ δὲ πολλὰ καὶ ὄλβια πάντα λέλυνται.
ἥδε σοφὴ βιότοιο παραίνεσις, οὐδέ ποτ᾽ αὐτῆς
λήσομαι· ἐκτήσθω δ᾽ ὁ θέλων τὸν ἀπείρονα χρυσόν.
The Greek verses are usually attributed to Choerilus. See Hugh Lloyd-Jones and Peter Parsons, edd., Supplementum Hellenisticum (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1983), no. 335 (pp. 155-158). There are parodies by Chrysippus (id., no. 338, pp. 158-159) and Crates (id., no. 355, p. 167).

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Non Tibi Hoc Soli

Timocles, fragment 6 (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
Good sir, hearken, if haply I shall tell you the truth. Man is a creature born to labour, and many are the distresses which his life carries with it. Therefore he has contrived these respites from his cares; for his mind, taking on forgetfulness of its own burdens, and absorbed in another's woe, departs in joy, instructed withal. Look first at the tragedians, if it please you, and see what a benefit they are to everybody. The poor man, for instance, learns that Telephus was more beggarly than himself, and from that time on he bears his poverty more easily. The sick man sees Alcmeon raving in madness. One has a disease of the eyes—blind are the sons of Phineus. One has lost his son in death—Niobe is a comfort. One is lame—he sees Philoctetes. One meets with misfortune in old age—he learns the story of Oeneus. For he is reminded that all his calamities, which 'are greater than mortal man has ever borne,' have happened to others, and so he bears his own trials more easily.

ὦ τάν, ἄκουσον ἤν τί σοι μέλλω λέγειν.
ἅνθρωπός ἐστι ζῷον ἐπίπονον φύσει,
καὶ πολλὰ λυπήρ᾽ ὁ βίος ἐν ἑαυτῷ φέρει.
παραψυχὰς οὖν φροντίδων ἀνεύρετο
ταύτας· ὁ γὰρ νοῦς τῶν ἰδίων λήθην λαβὼν
πρὸς ἀλλοτρίῳ τε ψυχαγωγηθεὶς πάθει,
μεθ᾽ ἡδονῆς ἀπῆλθε παιδευθεὶς ἅμα.
τοὺς γὰρ τραγῳδοὺς πρῶτον, εἰ βούλει, σκόπει
ὡς ὠφελοῦσι πάντας. ὁ μὲν ὢν γὰρ πένης
πτωχότερον αὑτοῦ καταμαθὼν τὸν Τήλεφον
γενόμενον ἤδη τὴν πενίαν ῥᾷον φέρει.
ὁ νοσῶν δὲ μανικῶς Ἀλκμέων᾽ ἐσκέψατο·
ὀφθαλμιᾷ τις· εἰσὶ Φινεῖδαι τυφλοί.
τέθνηκέ τῳ παῖς· ἡ Νιόβη κεκούφικε.
χωλός τίς ἐστιν· τὸν Φιλοκτήτην ὁρᾷ.
γέρων τις ἀτυχεῖ· κατέμαθεν τὸν Οἰνέα.
ἅπαντα γὰρ τὰ μείζον᾽ ἢ πέπονθέ τις
ἀτυχήματ᾽ ἄλλοις γεγονότ᾽ ἐννοούμενος
τὰς αὐτὸς αὑτοῦ συμφορὰς ῥᾷον φέρει.


Blessed Are the Woods

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (September 15, 1834):
No art can exceed the mellow beauty of one square rood of ground in the woods this afternoon. The noise of the locust, the bee, and the pine; the light, the insect forms, butterflies, cankerworms hanging, balloon-spiders swinging, devils-needles cruising, chirping grasshoppers; the tints and forms of the leaves and trees,—not a flower but its form seems a type, not a capsule but is an elegant seedbox,—then the myriad asters, polygalas, and golden-rods, and through the bush the far pines, and overhead the eternal sky.
Id. (December 2, 1834):
Blessed are the woods. In summer they shade the traveller from the sun; in winter, from the tooth of the wind; when there is snow, it falls level; when it rains, it does not blow in his face. There is no dust, and a pleasing fear reigns in their shade. Blessed are the woods!
Id. (December 14, 1834):
Nature in the woods is very companionable. There, my Reason and my Understanding are sufficient company for each other. I have my glees as well as my glooms alone.
Id. (March 19, 1835):
As I walked in the woods I felt what I often feel, that nothing can befal me in life, no calamity, no disgrace (leaving me my eyes) to which Nature will not offer a sweet consolation.
Id. (September 24, 1839):
Wise are ye, O ancient woods! wiser than man. Whoso goeth in your paths or into your thickets where no paths are, readeth the same cheerful lesson whether he be a young child, or a hundred years old, comes he in good fortune, or bad, ye say the same things, and from age to age. Ever the needles of the pine grow and fall, the acorns on the oak, the maples redden in autumn, and at all times of the year the ground pine and the pyrola bud and root under foot. What is called fortune and what is called Time by men—ye know them not. Men have not language to describe one moment of your eternal life. This I would ask of you, O sacred woods, when ye shall next give me somewhat to say, give me also the tune wherein to say it. Give me a tune of your own, like your winds or rains or brooks or birds; for the songs of men grow old when they have been often repeated, but yours, though a man have heard them for seventy years, are never the same, but always new, like time itself, or like love.
Id. (November 20, 1839):
How old, how aboriginal these trees appear, though not many years older than I. They seem parts of the eternal chain of destiny whereof this sundered will of man is the victim. Is he proud, high-thoughted and reserved sometimes? Let him match if he can the incommunicableness of these lofty natures, beautiful in growth, in strength, in age, in decay. The invitation which these fine savages give, as you stand in the hollows of the forest, works strangely on the imagination. Little say they in recommendation of towns or a civil, Christian life. Live with us, they say, and forsake these wearinesses of yesterday. Here no history or church or state is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year.
Id. (June 29, 1840):
And as I have looked from this lofty rock lately, our human life seemed very short beside this ever renewing race of trees. Your life, they say, is but a few spinnings of this top. Forever the forest germinates: forever our solemn strength renews its knots and nodes and leaf-buds and radicles. Grass and trees have no individuals, as man counts individuality. The continuance of their race is immortality; the continuance of ours is not. So they triumph over us; and when we seek to answer, or to say something, the good tree holds out a bunch of green leaves in your face, or the woodbine five graceful fingers, and looks so stupid-beautiful, so innocent of all argument, that our mouths are stopped and Nature has the last word.

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