Monday, March 31, 2014


Fops: Critical, Clerical, Poetical

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), excerpts from "Who's There, Janet?", in his Lyrical Poems (Edinburgh: Sutherland and Knox, 1860), pp. 179-189:
None of your perking, critical fops,
Who go sniffing about the booksellers' shops,
Smelling each work before publication,
That they may give an account to the nation.
Fellows who write in the weekly Reviews,
With all men for their theme, and themselves for their Muse,
Swaying with large, unfettered dominion
The rambling realms of babbled opinion,
Hanging this sign from the tip of their nose:
"Ready to meet whate'er you propose
In the shape of a YES with a legion of NOES!"

Men so clever the world yet never
Beheld their like, since the sophists of old
Did Socrates wise to death deliver
For speaking plain truth with raillery bold.
Men who are ever strutting about
With ready-made judgments on their snout,
Who nothing in Heaven or Earth revere,
But think God made all things for a sneer;
On faults of their betters who daintily feed,
As flies on ordure feast with greed,
Thinking the readiest way for the small
To grow great, is by lopping the heads of the tall,
And weening they've turned—O wonderful men!
The balance of fate by a snip of their pen;
Forgetting that they, infallible guides,
Themselves are only a straw on the tides,
And, when they are wisest, direct the people,
Just as the weather-cock does on the steeple!


None of your butter-lipped clerical fops,
All decently drilled in Tutorial shops
Of Oxford and Cambridge, so proper and prim,
With orthodox sentences crammed to the brim.
Men who have eyes, but who never can look
Beyond what their fathers for oracles took,
But through sense and through nonsense will swear to a book.
Greeklings well-furnished with learnèd quotation,
To vamp an address, or patch an oration,
Who lisp in elegant verse or prose
What no one cares for, and every one knows,
And think all common-places uncommonly clever,
If them but a Greek or a Roman deliver.


None of your moody, poetical fops,
Who mingle their honey with gall and hops,
Fumes of tobacco, and opiate drops.
Men who think all things here out of joint,
But God did to them this mission appoint,
To dream broad-eyed for a day and a night,
And maunder an Epos to set it all right,
And beget upon clouds a new generation
After their likeness, to model the nation.
These are the men whose heart is broken,
God knows how—but their verse is the token,
Who, because they do not find
All things on Earth just made to their mind,
Because the breeze will sometimes blow
Just in their teeth, where they mean to go;
Because a rose has ever a thorn,
And dark clouds oft obscure the morn;
Or because in a shadowless land
A tree won't grow at the word of command;
And an old house of course must stand,
Till a new one is raised by the builder's hand;
Or because a sheep must die,
Before they can feast on a mutton-pie,
Or because a fair girl with a jaunty bonnet
Won't fetch a sigh, when they whimper a sonnet;
Straightway swell with oracular rage,
And blot with bile their fretful page,
And in this beautiful world can see
Nothing but mildew and misery;
Who, when the birds in spring are singing,
And all the woods with joy are ringing,
Sit chiming creation's funeral knell,
And say that the Earth is a seething hell,
Where only devils and dunces dwell,
Where a thousand fools are led by a knave,
And the proudest is ever the foremost slave,
Where a prize to the clown and the flunkey falls,
But the Jove-born poet must sing to the walls!


De Incommodis Senectutis

Pope Innocent III, On the Misery of the Human Condition, tr. ‎Donald Roy Howard (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1969), p. 13 (I.xi = "Of the Discomfort of Old Age"):
But even then, if anyone does reach old age, his heart weakens, his head shakes, his vigor wanes, his breath reeks, his face is wrinkled and his back bent, his eyes grow dim and his joints weak, his nose runs, his hair falls out, his hand trembles and he makes silly gestures, his teeth decay, and his ears get stopped with wax. He will believe anything and question nothing. He is stingy and greedy, gloomy, querulous, quick to speak, slow to to listen, though by no means slow to anger. He praises the good old days and hates the present, curses modern times, lauds the past, sighs and frets, falls into a stupor, and gets sick. Hear what the poet says: Many discomforts surround an old man. But then the old cannot glory over the young any more than the young can scorn the old. For we are what they once were; and some day we will be what they are now.
The Latin, from Pope Innocent III, De Contemptu Mundi sive De Miseria Humanae Conditionis Libri Tres. Edidit Ioann. Henr. Achterfeldt (Bonn: Eduard Weber, 1855), p. 27 (I.xi = "De incommodis senectutis"):
Si quis autem ad senectutem processerit, statim cor eius affligitur, et caput concutitur, languet spiritus, et foetet anhelitus, facies rugatur et statura curvatur, caligant oculi et vacillant articuli, nares effluunt et crines defluunt, tremit tactus et deperit actus, dentes putrescunt et aures surdescunt. Senex facile provocatur, difficile revocatur, cito credit et tarde discredit, tenax et cupidus, tristis et querulus, velox ad loquendum, tardus ad audiendum, sed non tardus ad iram, laudat antiquos, spernit modernos, vituperat praesens, commendat praeteritum, suspirat et anxiatur, torpet et infirmatur. Audi Horatium poetam: Multa senem circumveniunt incommoda. Porro nec senes contra iuvenem glorientur, nec insolescant iuvenes contra senem, quia quod sumus iste fuit, erimus quandoque quod hic est.


Like a Beetle in the Grass

Henry David Thoreau, Journal (November 18, 1857):
The cheaper your amusements, the safer and saner. They who think much of theatres, operas, and the like, are beside themselves. Each man's necessary path, though as obscure and apparently uneventful as that of a beetle in the grass, is the way to the deepest joys he is susceptible of; though he converses only with moles and fungi and disgraces his relatives, it is no matter if he knows what is steel to his flint.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Spanish Humor

Robert Southey (1774-1843), Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol: Bulgin and Rosser, 1797), pp. 10-11:
The Comedy, of course, was very dull to one who could not understand it. I was told that it contained some wit, and more obscenity; but the only comprehensible joke to me, was "Ah!" said in a loud voice by one man, and "Oh!" replied, equally loud by another, to the great amusement of the audience.


The Best Poem of the Best Poet

Dryden called Vergil's Georgics "the best poem of the best poet" (in the dedication of his translation to Lord Chesterfield). Leopardi said much the same thing in his Zibaldone (2475-2476): "nel poema piú perfetto del piú perfetto ed elegante poeta latino." I don't see Dryden mentioned in the index of the new translation of Zibaldone by Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).


Pindar's Victory Odes

Robert Yelverton Tyrrell (1844-1914), Essays on Greek Literature (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1909), p. 2:
The fact is, the character of the 'Odes of Victory' as a literary phenomenon has been very imperfectly apprehended. It is hard for us to figure to the imagination a form of art which partakes in nearly equal parts of the nature of a collect, a ballad, and an oratorio; or to enter into the mind of a poet who is partly also a priest, a librettist, and a ballet master; who, while celebrating the victory of (perhaps) a boy in a wrestling match, yet feels that he is not only doing an act of divine service and worship, but preaching the sacred truth of the unity of the Hellenes and their common descent from gods and heroes. The Odes of Pindar have their source in a religious feeling, almost as alien from ours as it is from that which sent the children through the fire to Moloch, or strewed with corpses the path of Juggernaut's car.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


More Blessed to Gush Than to Construe

Robert Yelverton Tyrrell (1844-1914),"The Old School of Classics and the New. A Dialogue of the Dead. Bentley, Madvig, Porson, Shakespeare, Euripides," The Fortnightly Review, n.s. 43 (1888) 42-59 (at 48; Madvig speaking):
But grammar, indeed, bids fair to lose her place altogether among the subjects of study; and I must be pardoned as a grammarian if I speak with some asperity of such a consummation. She is invaded on every side by archaeology, anthropology, epigraphy, and dilettantism. It is more blessed to gush than to construe.
E.J. Kenney, "Bailey, David Roy Shackleton (1917–2005), classical scholar," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
Like Housman he despised 'literary gush' (Selected Classical Papers, 1997, 344) and what he termed 'noörrhea', the uncontrolled flow of whatever enters the interpreter's head (ibid., 359).
Related post: Gush.


Richard Bentley's Only Poem

James Henry Monk (1784-1856), The Life of Richard Bentley, D.D. (London: C.J.G. & F. Rivington, 1830), pp. 469-471 (anno 1722; footnote and Titley's verses omitted):
About this time Bentley committed to paper a copy of English verses: a sort of composition to which he was adapted neither by nature nor habit; but the reputation of the author, and singularity of the production, styled by Dr. S. Johnson 'the only English verses that he is known to have written,' have transmitted them to posterity. They were occasioned by an imitation of Horace's Ode (iii. 2.) Angustam, amici, pauperiem pati—by Walter Titley, a student of Trinity: this, which was probably a College exercise, so much pleased the Master, that he chose to devote a leisure hour to writing a parody of Titley's stanzas. The lines have been much admired, and the great critic just mentioned pronounced them the 'forcible verses of a man of strong mind, but not accustomed to write verse.' In truth, they rather aspire to the praise of eloquence than poetry; but they claim, at all events, a place in the account of Bentley's life, since, whoever reads them, must perceive that 'our hero' had in his eye his own fortune, and intended to pourtray his own character and career.


Who strives to mount Parnassus' hill,
   And thence poetic laurels bring,
Must first acquire due force and skill,
   Must fly with swan's or eagle's wing.

Who Nature's treasures would explore,
   Her mysteries and arcana know,
Must high as lofty Newton, soar,
   Must stoop as delving Woodward, low.

Who studies ancient laws and rites,
   Tongues, arts and arms, all history,
Must drudge, like Selden, day and night,
   And in the endless labour dye.

Who travels in religious jarrs,
   Truth mix'd with error, shade with rays,
Like Whiston, wanting pyx, and stars,
   In ocean wide or sinks, or strays.

But grant our hero's hope, long toil
   And comprehensive genius crown,
All sciences, all arts his spoil,
   Yet what reward, or what renown?

Envy, innate in vulgar souls,
   Envy steps in and stops his rise;
Envy with poison'd tarnish fouls
   His lustre, and his worth decries.

He lives inglorious or in want,
   To college and old book confin'd;
Instead of learn'd, he's call'd pedant,
   Dunces advanc'd, he's left behind:
Yet left content, a genuine stoic he,
   Great without patron, rich without South-sea.
Rhyme demands "days and nights" in line 11 (so printed by other editors).


It Finds Pollution There

Robert Southey (1774-1843), "Inscription VII. For a TABLET on the Banks of a Stream," Poems, 2nd ed. (Bristol: N. Biggs, 1797), p. 139 (line numbers added):
Stranger! awhile upon this mossy bank
Recline thee. If the Sun rides high, the breeze,
That loves to ripple o'er the rivulet,
Will play around thy brow, and the cool sound
Of running waters soothe thee. Mark how clear        5
It sparkles o'er the shallows, and behold
Where o'er its surface wheels with restless speed
Yon glossy insect, on the sand below
How the swift shadow flits. The stream is pure
In solitude, and many a healthful herb        10
Bends o'er its course and drinks the vital wave:
But passing on amid the haunts of man,
It finds pollution there, and rolls from thence
A tainted tide. Seek'st thou for HAPPINESS?
Go, Stranger, sojourn in the woodland cot        15
Of INNOCENCE, and thou shalt find her there.
A revised version, in The Poetical Works of Robert Southey Collected by Himself, Vol. III (London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1838), p. 107 (now numbered Inscriptions, V; line numbers added):
Stranger! awhile upon this mossy bank
Recline thee. If the Sun rides high, the breeze,
That loves to ripple o'er the rivulet,
Will play around thy brow, and the cool sound
Of running waters soothe thee. Mark how clear        5
They sparkle o'er the shallows, and behold
Where o'er their surface wheels with restless speed
Yon glossy insect, on the sand below
How its swift shadow flits. In solitude
The rivulet is pure, and trees and herbs,        10
Bend o'er its salutary course refresh'd,
But passing on amid the haunts of men,
It finds pollution there, and rolls from thence
A tainted stream. Seek'st thou for HAPPINESS?
Go, Stranger, sojourn in the woodland cot        15
Of INNOCENCE, and thou shalt find her there.
Related post: In the Shade.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Night and Day

Thomas Campion (1567-1620), Two Books of Ayres, I.xvii, in English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes, 2nd ed. (1929; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), pp. 333-334:
Come, cheerful day, part of my life, to me;
  For whilst thou view'st me with thy fading light,
Part of my life doth still depart with thee,
  And I still onward haste to my last night.
Time's fatal wings do ever forward fly,
So every day we live a day we die.

But, O ye nights, ordained for barren rest,
  How are my days deprived of life in you;
When heavy sleep my soul hath dispossessed
  By feigned death life sweetly to renew.
Part of my life in that you life deny;
So every day we live a day we die.
Related post: Sleep and Death.


Like a Marvelous Stone

Elias Canetti (1905-1994), The Secret Heart of the Clock: Notes, Aphorisms, Fragments, 1973-1985, tr. Joel Agee (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989), p. 37:
More and more frequently I am drawn to examine the words that I carry within myself; they occur to me singly, coming from different languages, and then I wish for nothing more than to reflect on a single such word for a long time. I hold it before me, turn it around; I handle it like a stone, but a marvelous stone, and the earth in which it was embedded is myself.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Mencken's Creed

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), On Religion, ed. S.T. Joshi (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002), pp. 47-48:
I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind—that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overborne by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty; and that the democratic form is at least as bad as any of the other forms.

I believe that an artist, fashioning his imaginary worlds out of his own agony and ecstasy, is a benefactor to all of us, but that the worst error we can commit is to mistake his imaginary worlds for the real one.

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in complete freedom of thought and speech, alike for the humblest man and the mightiest, and in the utmost freedom of conduct that is consistent with living in organized society.

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.


But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant.


When It Is Futile To Argue

Basil L. Gildersleeve (1831-1924), The Creed of the Old South, 1865-1915 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1915), p. 38:
It is perfectly possible to be fully persuaded in one's own mind without the passionate desire to make converts that animates the born preacher, and any one may be excused from preaching when he recognizes the existence of a mental or moral color-blindness with which it is not worth while to argue. There is no umpire to decide which of the disputants is color-blind, and the discussion is apt to degenerate into a wearisome reiteration of points which neither party will concede.


Foreign Languages

The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, tr. Bailey Saunders (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1906), p. 154:
A man who has no acquaintance with foreign languages knows nothing of his own.
In German:
Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen.


Pares cum Paribus

The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, tr. Bailey Saunders (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1906), p. 106:
It is no wonder that we all more or less delight in the mediocre, because it leaves us in peace: it gives us the comfortable feeling of intercourse with what is like ourselves.
In German:
Kein Wunder, dass wir uns alle mehr oder weniger im Mittelmäßigen gefallen, weil es uns in Ruhe lässt; es gibt das behagliche Gefühl, als wenn man mit seinesgleichen umginge.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


An Indolent Hour

Isaac Hawkins Browne (1706-1760), "The Fire Side: A Pastoral Soliloquy," lines 25-30, in his Poems Upon Various Subjects, Latin and English (London: J. Nourse ... and C. Marsh, 1768), p. 126:
Now I pass with old authors an indolent hour,
And reclining at ease turn Demosthenes o'er.
Now facetious and vacant, I urge the gay flask
With a set of old friends—who have nothing to ask;
Thus happy, I reck not of FRANCE nor of SPAIN,
Nor the balance of power what hand shall sustain.


How Tall Was Jesus?

My grandmother used to insist that Jesus was the only person in history who was exactly six feet tall. Others might have been a hair more or less than six feet, she said, but only Jesus was exactly that height.

Cf. Luke 19.3 (KJV):
And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν τίς ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου, ὅτι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς ἦν.
It is possible to construe this sentence such that Zacchaeus is the subject of the verbs ἐζήτει (sought) and ἠδύνατο (could), and Jesus is the subject of the verb ἦν (was). If this interpretation is adopted, then Jesus was small of stature.

Here is another piece of evidence, albeit late, from "MS. Lambeth, No. 306, p. 177, ro. b. of the reign of Edward IV," as printed in G.G. Coulton, A Medieval Garner: Human Documents from the Four Centuries preceding the Reformation (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1910), p. 591:
The longitude of men folowyng.

MOYSES xiij. fote and viij. ynches and half.
Cryste vj. fote and iij. ynches.
Our Lady vj. fote and viij. ynches.
Crystoferus xvij. fote and viij. ynches.
Kyng Alysaunder iiij. fote and v. ynches.
Colbronde xvij. fote and ij. ynches and half.
Syr Ey. x. fote iij. ynches and half.
Seynt Thomas of Caunturbery, vij. fote save a ynche.
Long Mores, a man of Yrelonde borne, and servaunt to Kyng Edward the iiijth. vj. fote and x. ynches and half.
According to this document, Jesus, at 6' 3", was taller than Alexander the Great (4' 5"), but shorter than any of the others on the list, including his mother (6' 8").

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


A Tantrum in Latin Class

Samuel Eliot Morison (1887-1976), One Boy's Boston, 1887-1901 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962), p. 73 (on Dr. William Everett, nicknamed "Piggy"):
My father who attended Adams Academy, Quincy, when Dr. Everett was headmaster, used to tell of one of these tantrums. A stupid boy in the Virgil class, reciting Latin, insisted, despite frequent correction, on pronouncing the name of the hero of the Aeneid as "Eé-ne-as." Finally Piggy could stand it no longer. He jumped up and down, banging the desk with his fists, exclaiming, "You goddam little fool, do you suppose that Dido would have fallen in love with a man who accented his name on the antepenult when the penult was long?"
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


A Latin Examination, or Simple Simon

Excerpt from Register of St. Osmund, tr. G.G. Coulton, in A Medieval Garner: Human Documents from the Four Centuries preceding the Reformation (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1910), pp. 270-271 (footnote omitted, ellipse and brackets in original):
Acts of the Chapter held by William, dean of Salisbury, at Sonning, in the year of our Lord 1222, on the Friday next before the Feast of St. Martin....Vitalis, a priest, perpetual vicar of Sonning, presented the chaplain [i.e. curate] named Simon whom he has with him, and whom he lately engaged until Michaelmas. This Simon, examined as to his Orders, said that he was ordained subdeacon at Oxford by a certain Irish bishop named Albin, then suffragan to the Bishop of Lincoln, from whom also he received deacon's orders; and those of priest from Hugh [of Wells] now Bishop of Lincoln, four years past. He was examined in the Gospel of the first Sunday in Advent, and was found insufficient, and unable to understand what he read. Again he was tried in the Canon of the Mass, at the words Te igitur, clementissime Pater, etc. He knew not the case of Te, nor by what word it was governed; and when we bade him look closely which could most fittingly govern it, he replied: "Pater, for He governeth all things." We asked him what clementissime was, and what case, and how declined; he knew not. We asked what clemens was; he knew not. Moreover, the said Simon knew no difference between one antiphon and another, nor the chant of the hymns, not even of the hymn nocte surgentes, nor did he know by heart aught of the service or psalter. Moreover, he said that it seemed indecent that he should be examined before the dean, since he was already in Holy Orders. We asked him where he was when he received his priest's Orders: he answered that he had forgotten. He is amply illiterate. [Sufficienter illiteratus est.]

Monday, March 24, 2014


Earthly Paradises

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), Provence: From Minstrels to the Machine (Manchester: Carcanet, 2009), p. 215:
Nevertheless during all my life I have been aware—or it might be more true to say that I have had the feeling, since never till this moment have I put it into words—that there are in this world only two earthly paradises. The one is in Provence with what has survived of the civilisations of the Good King, of the conte-fablistes of the Troubadors and of the painters of Avignon of the Popes. The other is the Reading Room of the British Museum.
The Good King is René of Anjou (1409-1480).


Farewell My Book!

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), The Legend of Good Women, F Prologue, lines 29-39:
And as for me, though that I konne but lyte,
On bokes for to rede I me delyte,        30
And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertely, that ther is game noon
That fro my bokes maketh me to goon,
But yt be seldom on the holyday,        35
Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May
Is comen, and that I here the foules synge,
And that the floures gynnen for to sprynge,
Farewel my bok and my devocioun!
29 I konne but lyte: I know but little
31 to hem yive I feyth: to them give I faith
37 I here the foules synge: I hear the birds sing


We Must Go Back to the Dark Ages

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), Provence: From Minstrels to the Machine (1935; rpt. Manchester: Carcanet, 2009), p. 311 (ellipses in original):
So as long as trades and industries remain I should recommend you to support yourself sparingly by them and to trust to your little plot of ground to provide you with luxuries. For there is no grape sweeter than that which you pluck from your own vine nor, unless you have been raised in Putney or the Bronx, is there any sweeter occupation.

It is the strong conviction of that fact that makes France in general and Provence in particular the only stable and prosperous states in the world. But the inhabitants of Putney and the Oranges immensely outnumber all the thinking men of the world and it is the occupations of their spare times that is the real difficulty in front of us....You will suggest to one of them that the ideal—as well as the only practicable—state is one of very small communities belonging to hundreds of little nations each not much larger than, say, Monte Carlo; without rigid boundaries, violently settled codes of manners, without lethally supported senses of property....And imagine his guffaws!...
Id., pp. 312-313 (ellipses in original):
So he will yell: "Me live in a backwoods town!...Me never eat canned goods again!...Me go native!...Me live with Dagoes!....Me wear home-made pants! I don't think...What a hope!...Oh...hell!"

It will however come to that after the world has passed through the preparatory stages of Fascism or Communism of the Russian variety or the mutually exterminating contests of those two opposed world tendencies....We must go back to the Dark Ages....For if we do not go back to the Provençal Dark Ages we shall go back to those of the Teutoburger Wald with the poison-gas clouds for ever above the appalled tree-tops....

I do not suppose we shall get rid of—or even that it would be desirable entirely to get rid of—the Machine. I do not suppose that we shall ever not have War with us, or rid ourselves entirely of the sense of property, or of Churches, or of Science or even of Law which, ever since the Evil side of the Dual First principle put a tabu on the pamplemousse and Eve ate the first brussels sprout, has been the primary curse of humanity. And it would be hopeless to think of ever being relieved of the final curse, national patriotism.

But all these things must—they will inevitably—be made little. They will be reduced to their proper status either because the armament firms and scientists will blot out almost the entire populations of the world, leaving here and there mere pockets of men. Or else by a change of heart in humanity!

One way or another the number of machines and of machine hours worked must be reduced to a minimum. The wars of the nations must be little wars of little nations brought about by local jeers; the religions must be little religions; the churches without temporal powers; the leisure enjoyments be individual enjoyments. The glorification of Mass must disappear. You will talk of the largest pumpkin in the village as a glory, not of the largest armament-factory in the world. There must be the change of heart—the progression.
Ford Madox Ford, Great Trade Route (London: Allen & Unwin, 1937), pp. 86-87 (ellipse in original):
No, I want to belong to a nation of Small Producers, with some local, but no national feeling at all. Without boundaries, or armed forces, or customs, or government. That would never want me to kill anyone out of a group feeling. Something like being a Provençal. I might want to insult someone from the Gard if he said he could grow better marrows than we in the Var. But that would be as far as even local feeling would go...and of course I would not pretend that we could grow wine as good as the Côte du Rhône.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Sunday, March 23, 2014


American Blood

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Redburn, chapter 33:
There is something in the contemplation of the mode in which America has been settled, that, in a noble breast, should forever extinguish the prejudices of national dislikes.

Settled by the people of all nations, all nations may claim her for their own. You can not spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world. Be he Englishman, Frenchman, German, Dane, or Scot; the European who scoffs at an American, calls his own brother Raca, and stands in danger of the judgment. We are not a narrow tribe of men, with a bigoted Hebrew nationality—whose blood has been debased in the attempt to ennoble it, by maintaining an exclusive succession among ourselves. No: our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one. We are not a nation, so much as a world; for unless we may claim all the world for our sire, like Melchisedec, we are without father or mother.
It's worthwhile remembering that Redburn was published in 1849, around the time when anti-immigrant feeling was at its height in the United States.

The blood that flows in my veins is, I estimate, composed of the following parts: 1/2 French, 3/8 Scotch-Irish, 1/8 German, adding up to 100% American.


A Gift of the Gods

To the Greek gods we owe the invention of many things that make life tolerable. Prometheus gave us fire, Dionysus wine, Hermes the lyre, Athena the olive, etc. Diogenes the Cynic attributed to Hermes and Pan another useful invention, according to Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 6.16-20 (tr. J.W. Cohoon):
[16] That for which men gave themselves the most trouble and spent the most money, which caused the razing of many cities and the pitiful destruction of many nations — this he found the least laborious and most inexpensive of all things to procure. [17] For he did not have to go anywhere for his sexual gratification but, as he humorously put it, he found Aphrodite everywhere, without expense; and the poets libelled the goddess, he maintained, on account of their own want of self-control, when they called her "the all-golden." And since many doubted this boast, he gave a public demonstration before the eyes of all, saying that if men were like himself, Troy would never have been taken, nor Priam, king of the Phrygians and a descendant of Zeus, been slain at the altar of Zeus. [18] But the Achaeans had been such fools as to believe that even dead men found women indispensable and so slew Polyxena at the tomb of Achilles. Fish showed themselves more sensible than men almost; for whenever they needed to eject their sperm, they went out of doors and rubbed themselves against something rough. [19] He marvelled that while men were unwilling to pay out money to have a leg or arm or any other part of their body rubbed, that while not even the very rich would spend a single drachma for this purpose, yet on that one member they spent many talents time and again and some had even risked their lives in the bargain. [20] In a joking way he would say that this sort of intercourse was a discovery made by Pan when he was in love with Echo and could not get hold of her, but roamed over the mountains night and day till Hermes in pity at his distress, since he was his son, taught him the trick. So Pan, when he had learned his lesson, was relieved of his great misery; and the shepherds learned the habit from him.

[16] ὑπὲρ οὗ δὲ πλεῖστα μὲν πράγματα ἔχουσιν ἄνθρωποι, πλεῖστα δὲ χρήματα ἀναλίσκουσι, πολλαὶ δὲ ἀνάστατοι πόλεις διὰ ταῦτα γεγόνασι, πολλὰ δὲ ἔθνη τούτων ἕνεκεν οἰκτρῶς ἀπόλωλεν, ἁπάντων ἐκείνῳ χρημάτων ἀπονώτατον ἦν καὶ ἀδαπανώτατον. [17] οὐ γὰρ ἔδει αὐτὸν οὐδαμόσε ἐλθεῖν ἀφροδισίων ἕνεκεν, ἀλλὰ παίζων ἔλεγεν ἁπανταχοῦ παρεῖναι αὐτῷ τὴν Ἀφροδίτην προῖκα· τοὺς δὲ ποιητὰς καταψεύδεσθαι τῆς θεοῦ διὰ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀκρασίαν, πολύχρυσον καλοῦντας. ἐπεὶ δὲ πολλοὶ τοῦτο ἠπίστουν, ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐχρῆτο καὶ πάντων ὁρώντων· καὶ ἔλεγεν ὡς εἴπερ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οὕτως εἶχον, οὐκ ἂν ἑάλω ποτὲ ἡ Τροία, οὐδ´ ἂν ὁ Πρίαμος ὁ Φρυγῶν βασιλεύς, ἀπὸ Διὸς γεγονώς, ἐπὶ τῷ βωμῷ τοῦ Διὸς ἐσφάγη. [18] τοὺς δὲ Ἀχαιοὺς οὕτως εἶναι ἄφρονας ὥστε καὶ τοὺς νεκροὺς νομίζειν προσδεῖσθαι γυναικῶν καὶ τὴν Πολυξένην σφάττειν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως. ἔφη δὲ τοὺς ἰχθύας σχεδόν τι φρονιμωτέρους φαίνεσθαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων· ὅταν γὰρ δέωνται τὸ σπέρμα ἀποβαλεῖν, ἰόντας ἔξω προσκνᾶσθαι πρὸς τὸ τραχύ. [19] θαυμάζειν δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸ τὸν μὲν πόδα μὴ θέλειν ἀργυρίου κνᾶσθαι μηδὲ τὴν χεῖρα μηδὲ ἄλλο μηδὲν τοῦ σώματος, μηδὲ τοὺς πάνυ πλουσίους ἀναλῶσαι ἂν μηδεμίαν ὑπὲρ τούτου δραχμήν· ἓν δὲ ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος πολλάκις πολλῶν ταλάντων, τοὺς δέ τινας ἤδη καὶ τῇ ψυχῇ παραβαλλομένους. [20] ἔλεγε δὲ παίζων τὴν συνουσίαν ταύτην εὕρεμα εἶναι τοῦ Πανός, ὅτε τῆς Ἠχοῦς ἐρασθεὶς οὐκ ἐδύνατο λαβεῖν, ἀλλ´ ἐπλανᾶτο ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν, τότε οὖν τὸν Ἑρμῆν διδάξαι αὐτόν, οἰκτείραντα τῆς ἀπορίας, ἅτε υἱὸν αὐτοῦ. καὶ τόν, ἐπεὶ ἔμαθε, παύσασθαι τῆς πολλῆς ταλαιπωρίας· ἀπ´ ἐκείνου δὲ τοὺς ποιμένας χρῆσθαι μαθόντας.
In speaking of the invention handed down by Hermes to Pan, and by Pan to the shepherds, Dio Chrysostom avoids naughty words such as:
For Diogenes the Cynic's "public demonstration" see the passages cited in Diogenes Laertius Expurgatus, and also Chrysippus, On the Commonwealth, paraphrased by Plutarch, On the Contradictions of the Stoics 21 = Moralia 1044b (tr. E. Smith):
And yet a little after this, going on, he commends Diogenes, who forced his nature to pass from himself in public, and said to those that were present: I wish I could in the same manner drive hunger also out of my belly.

εἶτα μικρὸν ἀπὸ τούτων προελθὼν ἐπαινεῖ τὸν Διογένη τὸ αἰδοῖον ἀποτριβόμενον ἐν φανερῷ καὶ λέγοντα πρὸς τοὺς παρόντας 'εἴθε καὶ τὸν λιμὸν οὕτως ἀποτρίψασθαι τῆς γαστρὸς ἠδυνάμην'.
Smith (whose translation William W. Goodwin adopts in his collection of the Moralia) is guilty of a euphemism here. I would modify the translation thus:
And yet a little after this, going on, he commends Diogenes, who rubbed his shameful part [i.e. membrum virile] in public, and said to those that were present: I wish I could in the same manner rub hunger also out of my belly.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Adequate Pay for Teachers

Aristippus of Cyrene, in Diogenes the Cynic, Sayings and Anecdotes with Other Popular Moralists. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Robin Hard (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 127, with note on p. 245:
He said that teachers deserve to receive handsome fees from their pupils, from the gifted ones because they learn so much, and from the incompetent ones because they cause so much bother.*

(Excerpts from the Manuscripts of Florilegia of John Damascene, 2.13, 145; G6)

so much bother: the Gnomologium Vaticanum ascribes very similar sayings to both Aristotle (57) and Isocrates (355), and this was doubtless a commonplace that came to be attached to a variety of suitable people.
The Greek, from Gabriele Giannantoni, ed., Socraticorum Reliquiae, Vol. I (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1983), p. 187, no. 6:
ὁ αὐτὸς [scil. Aristippus?] ἔλεγε "μεγάλους δεῖ λαμβάνειν μισθοὺς μαθητῶν τοὺς διδασκάλους, παρὰ μὲν τῶν εὐφυῶν ὅτι πολλὰ μανθάνουσι, παρὰ δὲ τῶν ἀφυῶν ὅτι πολὺν κόπον παρέχουσιν."
Leo Sternbach, ed., Gnomologium Vaticanum e Codice Vaticano Graeco 743 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1963), p. 27, no. 57:
Ὁ αὐτὸϲ ἔφη· μεγάλουϲ χρὴ λαμβάνειν μιϲθοὺϲ παρὰ μὲν τῶν εὐφυῶν, ὅτι πολλὰ ὠφελοῦνται, παρὰ δὲ τῶν ἀφυῶν, ὅτι πολλὰ πράγματα μανθάνοντεϲ παρέχουϲι τοῖϲ διδάϲκουϲιν.
Sternbach, p. 136, no. 355, isn't visible on Google Books, but I think the Greek reads as follows:
Ἰϲοκράτηϲ ἔλεγε· μεγάλουϲ δεῖ λαμβάνειν μιϲθοὺϲ παρὰ τῶν μαθητῶν τοὺϲ διδαϲκάλουϲ, παρὰ μὲν τῶν εὐφυῶν, ὅτι πολλὰ μανθάνουϲι, παρὰ δὲ τῶν ἀφυῶν, ὅτι πολὺν κόπον παρέχουϲιν.

Albert Anker, Die Dorfschule

Thanks to Ian Jackson for a photocopy of the page from Socraticorum Reliquiae.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Gordan, Ingordin, and Ingordan

I was reading Carmina Burana 54, a curious sort of poetical exorcism, in Helen Waddell, Medieval Latin Lyrics (New York: Henry Holt and Company, [1929]), pp. 198-201, and I became curious about some names of demons mentioned therein: "Gordan, Ingordin et Ingordan."

Gordin and Ingordin occur as names of elves in a 12th-13th century German manuscript (Codex Upsaliensis C 222, fol. 97v). See Margarete Andersson-Schmitt and Monica Hedlund, Mittelalterliche Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala: Katalog über die C-Sammlung, Bd. 3: C 201-300 (Stockholm: Almqvist u. Wiksell International, 1990 = Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis 26.3), p. 86, and Rudolf Simek, "Elves and Exorcism. Runic and Other Lead Amulets in Medieval Popular Religion," in Daniel Anlezark, ed., Myths, Legends and Heroes: Essays on Old Norse and Old English Literature in Honour of John McKinnell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), pp. 25-52 (at 31-33).

The words "khorda inkhorda khordai" appear on a lead amulet (dated between 1075 and 1300) found in the graveyard of St. Canute's Cathedral in Odense, Denmark. See Simek (op. cit.), p. 33, and Mindy MacLeod and Bernard Mees, Runic Amulets and Magic Objects (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006), p. 135.

The words "gordin kordan inkorþar" appear on a 13th century wooden amulet from Bergen, Norway. See MacLeod and Mees (op. cit.), p. 136, and James E. Knirk, "Runic Inscriptions containing Latin in Norway," in Klaus Düwel, ed., Runeninschriften als Quellen interdisziplinärer Forschung (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1998), pp. 476-507 (at 483, 502). Macleod and Mees speculate that the words are related to chorda (string of a musical instrument), while Knirk suggests a connection with cor (heart).

The words "[g]ordan gordin ingor[dar/þar?]" appear on a folded lead sheet from Lurekalven, Norway. See MacLeod and Mees (op. cit.), pp. 136-137, and Knirk (op. cit.), pp. 482-483, 505.

Several of these scholars mention Carmina Burana 54, so this post contains nothing new.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Winter is Gone

Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656), Songs (1622), no. xxii, in English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes, 2nd ed. (1929; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), p. 196:
Adieu, ye city-prisoning towers;
Better are the country bowers.
Winter is gone, the trees are springing;
Birds on every hedge sit singing.
Hark, how they chirp, Come, love, delay not,
Come, sweet love, O come and stay not.


Blast Ameriky, I Say!

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Redburn, chapter 21:
He was a somewhat singular man, who wore his hat slanting forward over the bridge of his nose, with his eyes cast down, and seemed always examining your boots, when speaking to you. I loved to hear him talk about the wild places in the Indian Ocean, and on the coast of Madagascar, where he had frequently touched during his whaling voyages. And this familiarity with the life of nature led by the people in that remote part of the world, had furnished Larry with a sentimental distaste for civilized society. When opportunity offered, he never omitted extolling the delights of the free and easy Indian Ocean.

"Why," said Larry, talking through his nose, as usual, "in Madagasky there, they don't wear any togs at all, nothing but a bowline round the midships; they don't have no dinners, but keeps a dinin' all day off fat pigs and dogs; they don't go to bed any where, but keeps a noddin' all the time; and they gets drunk, too, from some first rate arrack they make from cocoa-nuts; and smokes plenty of 'baccy, too, I tell ye. Fine country, that! Blast Ameriky, I say!"

To tell the truth, this Larry dealt in some illiberal insinuations against civilization.

"And what's the use of bein' snivelized!" said he to me one night during our watch on deck; "snivelized chaps only learns the way to take on 'bout life, and snivel. You don't see any Methodist chaps feelin' dreadful about their souls; you don't see any darned beggars and pesky constables in Madagasky, I tell ye; and none o' them kings there gets their big toes pinched by the gout. Blast Ameriky, I say."

Indeed, this Larry was rather cutting in his innuendoes.

"Are you now, Buttons, any better off for bein' snivelized?" coming close up to me and eying the wreck of my gaff-topsail-boots very steadfastly. "No; you ar'n't a bit—but you're a good deal worse for it, Buttons. I tell ye, ye wouldn't have been to sea here, leadin' this dog's life, if you hadn't been snivelized—that's the cause why, now. Snivelization has been the ruin on ye; and it's spiled me complete; I might have been a great man in Madagasky; it's too darned bad! Blast Ameriky, I say." And in bitter grief at the social blight upon his whole past, present, and future, Larry turned away, pulling his hat still lower down over the bridge of his nose.


Poet Panders

Thanks very much to Elizabeth Jones for permission to publish the following poem, to which I've added a few notes.
Poet Panders

Oh, isn't it fun
to be a meess anglaise
inglesa or inglese
in Latin lands
and to be wooed
with loci classici
in Latin tongues!

Ah, Ronsard! Que c'est beau:
“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose ...”
wondering, one always knows,
if this rose takes the pill
and so will yield to — plucking
cette vesprée
in some sleazy dark hotel.

“You rread Lorca, Señorita?
¿Conoce Vsted esta gran poesia?”
And when, for the umpteenth time
the casada's four bodices go flying
with Don Juanito lasciviously eyeing
your one,
you know he's all set
to spill his seed
(no, not his blood)
A las cinco de la tarde.

And “ah, ah, ah
La Divina Commedia
del divinissimo Dante!
Leggiamo la bella storia
di Francesca da Rimini”;
so when the canto ends
he too may sigh
“quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante”
seeking your bocca tutto tremante,
which is how questo signor professore
always terminates his literary discussions
never having read più avante
or very much else by Dante

Poor poet panders
forging bright phrases
in a bitter fire,
whose fate is to be flashed about
at sundry plages
literary keepsakes
to lure on les jeunes filles sages,
for an English dish.
In the second stanza the poet quotes from the beginning of Pierre de Ronsard's Ode I.17:
Mignonne, allons voir si la rose
Qui ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au soleil
A point perdu ceste vesprée
Les plis de sa robe pourprée,
Et son teint au vostre pareil.
Or, in the prose translation of Malcolm Quainton and Elizabeth Vinestock:
Beloved, let us go and see if the rose, which this morning had unfurled her crimson gown to the Sun, has not lost this evening the folds of her crimson gown and her complexion that resembles your own.
In the third stanza we find allusions to two poems by Federico García Lorca. The first allusion is to lines 24-27 of "La Casada Infiel" ("The Faithless Wife"):
Yo me quité la corbata.
Ella se quitó el vestido.
Yo el cinturón con revólver.
Ella sus cuatro corpiños.
As translated by Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili:
I took off my tie.
She took off her dress.
I my belt with the revolver.
She her four bodices.
The second allusion is to Lorca's lament for the bullfighter Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, with its oft repeated line "A las cinco de la tarde" ("at five o'clock in the afternoon").

The fourth stanza contains a reference to the famous story of Paolo and Francesca in Dante's Inferno (5.127-138):
Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.

Per più fiate li occhi ci sospinse
quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.

Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,

la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu 'l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translated the story thus:
One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.

Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o'ercame us.

When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,

Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Disputes in Religion

John Selden (1584-1654), Table-Talk, ed. Samuel Harvey Reynolds (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892), pp. 164-165 (CXXI.10):
Disputes in religion will never be ended, because there wants a measure by which the business should be decided. The Puritan would be judged by the word of God: if he would speak clearly, he means himself, but that he is ashamed to say so; and he would have me believe him before a whole church, that have read the word of God as well as he. One says one thing, and another another; and there is, I say, no measure to end the controversy. 'Tis just as if two men were at bowls, and both judged by the eye: one says 'tis his cast, the other says 'tis my cast; and having no measure, the difference is eternal. Ben Jonson satirically expressed the vain disputes of divines by Rabbi Busy disputing with a puppet in his Bartholomew fair. It is so: it is not so: it is so: it is not so; crying thus one to another a quarter of an hour together.

Carl Schleicher, Eine Streitfrage aus dem Talmud

Related posts:


The Ant-Heap and the Fair

R.R. Bolgar (1913-1985), The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries: From the Carolingian Age to the End of the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 392:
The citizen of a modern state, absorbed in his specialised tasks, has been justly compared to the ant or the bee; but if we consider his leisure rather than his work, we may prefer to liken him to a customer at a fair surrounded by a ring of barkers, each of whom is competing for his full attention, so that he goes from one to another, deafened by their clamour, and never has a chance to think of what he is or what he wants. The ant-heap and the fair seem to belong to different worlds. Fundamentally, however, the man who has come to resemble an ant and the befuddled fair-goer suffer the same kind of frustration. Both find that a part of their being has been elevated above the whole. The importance of some limited trait, impulse or interest has been over-emphasised at the expense of an inner harmony and the integrating power of the will.

R.R. Bolgar, photograph by Antony Barrington Brown

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Goodman Fact

Joseph Addison (1672-1719), The Late Tryal and Conviction of Count Tariff (London: A. Baldwin, 1713), pp. 2-3:
Goodman Fact is allowed by every Body to be a plain-spoken Person, and a Man of very few Words. Tropes and Figures are his Aversion. He affirms every Thing roundly, without any Art, Rhetorick, or Circumlocution. He is a declared Enemy to all Kinds of Ceremony and Complaisance. He flatters no Body. Yet so great is his natural Eloquence, that he cuts down the finest Orator, and destroys the best-contrived Argument, as soon as ever he gets himself to be heard. He never applies to the Passions or Prejudices of his Audience: When they listen with Attention and honest Minds, he never fails of carrying his Point.


Translation as Commentary

John Selden (1584-1654), Table-Talk, ed. Samuel Harvey Reynolds (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892), p. 31 (IX.5):
It is good to have translations, because they serve as a comment, so far as the judgement of one man goes.


We Differ About the Trimming

John Selden (1584-1654), Table-Talk, ed. Samuel Harvey Reynolds (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892), p. 161 (CXXI.3):
Religion is like the fashion; one man wears his doublet slashed, another laced, another plain; but every man has a doublet: so every man has his religion. We differ about the trimming.


A Magnificent Feast

John Selden (1584-1654), Table-Talk, ed. Samuel Harvey Reynolds (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892), p. 39 (XVI.3):
A glorious church is like a magnificent feast, there is all the variety that may be, but every one chooses out a dish or two that he likes, and lets the rest alone. How glorious soever the church is, every one chooses out of it his own religion, by which he governs himself, and lets the rest alone.

Monday, March 17, 2014


A Sedative

The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. W.E.K. Anderson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 540 (March 29, 1829):
This muddling among old books has the quality of a sedative and saves the tear and wear of an overwrought brain.

Fritz Wagner, Der Chronist


The Age of Appliances

Roger Shattuck (1923-2005), "Nineteen Theses on Literature," Candor and Perversion: Literature, Education, and the Arts (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999), pp. 3-8 (no. XVI on p. 7):
In literary study as in everyday life, we have entered the Age of Appliances. More and more scholars and critics write and teach by applying an ideology or a methodology to a cultural "text." This reliance on appliances tends to eliminate the experience and the love of literature.


A Long Decadence

R.W. Chapman (1881-1960), "Old Books and Modern Reprints," The Portrait of a Scholar and other Essays written in Macedonia 1916-1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922), pp. 48-65 (at 50):
It is a melancholy and humiliating truth that the history of printing is a long decadence. Even in the mechanics of printing we cannot to-day surpass the pioneers of the fifteenth century. We cannot achieve a finer paper or a cleaner impression. Our best types are modelled on theirs; and in the use of our tools, in all the rules of the art, we toil painfully in their wake. A great scholar and accomplished collector used to say that his study of early printing had cured him of the vulgar Radicalism of his youth. The early printers had the tradition of the scribes in their souls, and so the new art found its perfection at a spring. It has been in a slow decline for four centuries; and the best that we can do now is to follow the old models, and adapt the old methods, with what intelligence we may command.

Sunday, March 16, 2014



Nathaniel Hawthorne, letter to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (July 4, 1837):
I have secluded myself from society; and yet I never meant any such thing, nor dreamed what sort of life I was going to lead. I have made a captive of myself and put me into a dungeon; and now I cannot find the key to let myself out—and if the door were open, I should be almost afraid to come out.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, chapter 11:
For, what other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!


Love and Hate

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Mardi, chapter 13:
As well hate a seraph, as a shark. Both were made by the same hand. And that sharks are lovable, witness their domestic endearments. No Fury so ferocious, as not to have some amiable side. In the wild wilderness, a leopard-mother caresses her cub, as Hagar did Ishmael; or a queen of France the dauphin. We know not what we do when we hate. And I have the word of my gentlemanly friend Stanhope, for it; that he who declared he loved a good hater was but a respectable sort of Hottentot, at best. No very genteel epithet this, though coming from the genteelest of men. But when the digger of dictionaries said that saying of his, he was assuredly not much of a Christian. However, it is hard for one given up to constitutional hypos like him; to be filled with the milk and meekness of the gospels. Yet, with deference, I deny that my old uncle Johnson really believed in the sentiment ascribed to him. Love a hater, indeed! Who smacks his lips over gall? Now hate is a thankless thing. So, let us only hate hatred; and once give love play, we will fall in love with a unicorn. Ah! the easiest way is the best; and to hate, a man must work hard. Love is a delight; but hate a torment. And haters are thumbscrews, Scotch boots, and Spanish inquisitions to themselves. In five words—would they were a Siamese diphthong—he who hates is a fool.
On "my gentlemanly friend Stanhope"'s description of Samuel Johnson as a "respectable sort of Hottentot," see Lord Chesterfield's letter to his son, no. CCXLIV (February 28, 1751):
There is a man, whose moral character, deep learning, and superior parts, I acknowledge, admire, and respect; but whom it is so impossible for me to love, that I am almost in a fever whenever I am in his company. His figure (without being deformed) seems made to disgrace or ridicule the common structure of the human body. His legs and arms are never in the position which, according to the situation of his body, they ought to be in, but constantly employed in committing acts of hostility upon the graces. He throws any where, but down his throat, whatever he means to drink, and only mangles what he means to carve. Inattentive to all the regards of social life, he mistimes or misplaces every thing. He disputes with heat, and indiscriminately, mindless of the rank, character, and situation of those with whom he disputes; absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of familiarity or respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors, his equals, and his inferiors; and therefore, by a necessary consequence, absurd to two of the three. Is it possible to love such a man? No. The utmost I can do for him, is to consider him as a respectable Hottentot.
On "the digger of old uncle Johnson"'s love of a good hater, see Hester Lynch Piozzi, Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson, LL.D., 4th ed. (London: T. Cadell, 1786), p. 83:
"Dear Bathurst (said he to me one day) was a man to my very heart's content: he hated a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a whig; he was a very good hater."



Herman Melville (1819-1891), Mardi, chapter 3:
What yeoman shall swear that he is not descended from Alfred? what dunce, that he is not sprung of old Homer? King Noah, God bless him! fathered us all. Then hold up your heads, oh ye Helots, blood potential flows through your veins. All of us have monarchs and sages for kinsmen; nay, angels and archangels for cousins; since in antediluvian days, the sons of God did verily wed with our mothers, the irresistible daughters of Eve. Thus all generations are blended: and heaven and earth of one kin: the hierarchies of seraphs in the uttermost skies; the thrones and principalities in the zodiac; the shades that roam throughout space; the nations and families, flocks and folds of the earth; one and all, brothers in essence—oh, be we then brothers indeed! All things form but one whole; the universe a Judea, and God Jehovah its head. Then no more let us start with affright. In a theocracy, what is to fear? Let us compose ourselves to death as fagged horsemen sleep in the saddle. Let us welcome even ghosts when they rise. Away with our stares and grimaces. The New Zealander's tattooing is not a prodigy; nor the Chinaman's ways an enigma. No custom is strange; no creed is absurd; no foe, but who will in the end prove a friend. In heaven, at last, our good, old, white-haired father Adam will greet all alike, and sociality forever prevail. Christian shall join hands between Gentile and Jew; grim Dante forget his Infernos, and shake sides with fat Rabelais; and monk Luther, over a flagon of old nectar, talk over old times with Pope Leo. Then, shall we sit by the sages, who of yore gave laws to the Medes and Persians in the sun; by the cavalry captains in Perseus, who cried, "To horse!" when waked by their Last Trump sounding to the charge; by the old hunters, who eternities ago, hunted the moose in Orion; by the minstrels, who sang in the Milky Way when Jesus our Saviour was born. Then shall we list to no shallow gossip of Magellans and Drakes; but give ear to the voyagers who have circumnavigated the Ecliptic; who rounded the Polar Star as Cape Horn. Then shall the Stagirite and Kant be forgotten, and another folio than theirs be turned over for wisdom; even the folio now spread with horoscopes as yet undeciphered, the heaven of heavens on high.

Saturday, March 15, 2014



Bion of Borysthenes, fragment 42a Kindstrand = Stobaeus 4.31a.33 (tr. Robin Hard):
Bion used to say that just as shabby purses, even if they are of no value in themselves, are held to be of value in so far as they have money in them, so likewise, wealthy men who are of no worth are held to be of worth for what they possess.
The Greek, with simplified apparatus, from Jan Fredrik Kindstrand, Bion of Borysthenes: A Collection of the Fragments with Introduction and Commentary (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1976 = Studia Graeca Upsaliensia, 11):
Βίων ἔλεγεν, ὥσπερ τὰ φαῦλα τῶν βαλλαντίων, κἂν μηδενὸς ᾖ ἄξια, τοσούτου ἐστὶν ἄξια ὅσον ἐν ἑαυτοῖς τὸ νόμισμα ἔχει, οὕτω καὶ τῶν πλουσίων τοὺς οὐδενὸς ἀξίους καρποῦσθαι τὰς ἀξίας ὧν κέκτηνται.

Helm: ἔχουσιν codd.


Born Again

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), letter to his sisters (September 1, 1828), in The Letters of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Andrew Hillen, Vol. I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 278-280 (at 280):
Are you studying French or Spanish now-a-days? If not, you should lose no time in commencing: for I have become so very devoted to the study of languages,—that I think a person is inexcusable who is deterred by those difficulties, which always impede the first steps we take in any science. Do not let my admonitions be vain:—for I assure you—that by every language you learn, a new world is opened before you. It is like being born again:—and new ideas break upon the mind with all the freshness and delight—with which we may suppose the first dawn of intellect to be accompanied.


A Tailor's Drawer

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea, Vol. I (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1835), p. 213:
A Tailor's drawer, quotha?

Yes; a tailor's drawer. Sooth to say, it is rather a quaint rubric for a chapter in the pilgrim's breviary; albeit it well befits the motley character of the following pages. It is a title which the Spaniards give to a desultory discourse, wherein various and discordant themes are touched upon, and which is crammed full of little shreds and patches of erudition; and certainly it is not inappropriate to a chapter whose contents are of every shape and hue, and "do no more adhere and keep pace together than the hundredth psalm to the tune of Green Sleeves."
Diccionario de la lengua Castellana por la Real Academia Española, 5th ed. (Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1817), p. 158, col. 1:
SER ALGUNO UN CAJON DE SASTRE, f. met. y fam. que se dice del que tiene en su imaginación gran variedad de especies desordenadas y confusas. Confusae, inordinatae mentís esse, multiplici et confarcinata rerum varietate mentem repleri.

Friday, March 14, 2014



Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.39-63 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
There is a place in the middle of the world, 'twixt land and sea and sky, the meeting-point of the threefold universe. From this place, whatever is, however far away, is seen, and every word penetrates to these hollow ears. Rumour dwells here, having chosen her house upon a high mountain-top; and she gave the house countless entrances, a thousand apertures, but with no doors to close them. Night and day the house stands open. It is built all of echoing brass. The whole place resounds with confused noises, repeats all words and doubles what it hears. There is no quiet, no silence anywhere within. And yet there is no loud clamour, but only the subdued murmur of voices, like the murmur of the waves of the sea if you listen afar off, or like the last rumblings of thunder when Jove has made the dark clouds crash together. Crowds fill the hall, shifting throngs come and go, and everywhere wander thousands of rumours, falsehoods mingled with the truth, and confused reports flit about. Some of these fill their idle ears with talk, and others go and tell elsewhere what they have heard; while the story grows in size, and each new teller makes contribution to what he has heard. Here is Credulity, here is heedless Error, unfounded Joy and panic Fear; here sudden Sedition and unauthentic Whisperings. Rumour herself beholds all that is done in heaven, on sea and land, and searches throughout the world for news.
If I didn't know better, I'd say that Ovid was a prophet, predicting the capture, storage, and analysis of data regarding phone calls, emails, etc., at the National Security Agency's "Utah Data Center, code-named Bumblehive, ... the first Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative (IC CNCI) data center designed to support the Intelligence Community's efforts to monitor, strengthen and protect the nation."

The Latin:
orbe locus medio est inter terrasque fretumque
caelestesque plagas, triplicis confinia mundi;        40
unde quod est usquam, quamvis regionibus absit,
inspicitur, penetratque cavas vox omnis ad aures:
Fama tenet summaque domum sibi legit in arce,
innumerosque aditus ac mille foramina tectis
addidit et nullis inclusit limina portis;        45
nocte dieque patet: tota est ex aere sonanti,
tota fremit vocesque refert iteratque quod audit;
nulla quies intus nullaque silentia parte,
nec tamen est clamor, sed parvae murmura vocis,
qualia de pelagi, siquis procul audiat, undis        50
esse solent, qualemve sonum, cum Iuppiter atras
increpuit nubes, extrema tonitrua reddunt.
atria turba tenet: veniunt, leve vulgus, euntque
mixtaque cum veris passim commenta vagantur
milia rumorum confusaque verba volutant;        55
e quibus hi vacuas inplent sermonibus aures,
hi narrata ferunt alio, mensuraque ficti
crescit, et auditis aliquid novus adicit auctor.
illic Credulitas, illic temerarius Error
vanaque Laetitia est consternatique Timores        60
Seditioque repens dubioque auctore Susurri;
ipsa, quid in caelo rerum pelagoque geratur
et tellure, videt totumque inquirit in orbem.


Textuality and the Word Text

Roger Shattuck (1923-2005), "Nineteen Theses on Literature," Candor and Perversion: Literature, Education, and the Arts (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999), pp. 3-8 (no. VI on p. 5):
Works of literature are written by individual authors using an existing language with reference to material nature and human nature. The doctrine known as textuality makes a triple denial of these entities. Textuality denies the existence of the natural world, of literature, and of authors.
Id. (no. VIII on p. 5):
In order to affirm literature in its full humanist sense, let us eschew the freestanding word text. Its indiscriminate use today provides evidence of deadening stylistic conformity. Rather, let us take advantage of the full range of terms like book, work, poem, play, novel, essay, passage, chapter, and the like. There is no need to modify serviceable expressions like "the text of" a work, and "sacred texts." But let us refrain from endorsing, indirectly and inadvertently, the doctrine of textuality by chanting "text" in every other line of what we say and write.


Some Definitions of Happiness

Stobaeus 4.39.18, in Ioannis Stobaei Anthologium, Vol. V: Anthologii Libri Quarti Partem Alteram...Continens, ed. Otto Hense (Berlin: Weidmann, 1912), p. 906 (my translation):
Socrates, asked what happiness was, said: "Pleasure without regret."

Σωκράτης ἐρωτηθεὶς τί εὐδαιμονία 'ἡδονὴ ἀμεταμέλητος' ἔφη.
The phrase ἀμεταμέλητον ἡδονὴν occurs in Plato, Timaeus 59d.

Stobaeus 4.39.19 (id.):
Socrates, asked who were happy, said: "Those possessed of good sense and reason."

Σωκράτης ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνες εὐδαίμονες, εἶπεν 'οἷς καὶ φρένες ἀγαθαὶ καὶ λόγος πρόσεστιν.'
Stobaeus 4.39.20 (id., quoting Diogenes):
For this alone is happiness: really to enjoy oneself and never to feel pain, whatever place or situation one is in.

εὐδαιμονία γὰρ μία ἐστὶ τὸ εὐφραίνεσθαι ἀληθινῶς καὶ μηδέποτε λυπεῖσθαι, ἐν ὁποίῳ δ' ἂν τόπῳ ἢ καιρῷ ᾖ τις.

ἀληθινῶς codd.: διηνεκῶς Meineke, "ex margine illatum" Hense
If Meineke's conjecture is adopted, translate "to enjoy oneself without ceasing," instead of "really to enjoy oneself." Hense thought that ἀληθινῶς might have been a marginal comment ("truly!") that crept into the text.

Stobaeus 4.39.21 (id., quoting Diogenes):
We say that this is true happiness: always to employ one's mind and soul in peace and cheerfulness.

εὐδαιμονίαν δὲ ταύτην εἶναι φαμὲν ἀληθινὴν τὸ τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀεὶ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ καὶ ἱλαρότητι διατρίβειν.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


A Hermit

Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.764-766 (on Aesacus, son of Priam; tr. Frank Justus Miller):
He hated towns and, far from glittering palace halls, dwelt on remote mountain-sides and in lowly country places, and rarely sought the company of the men of Ilium.

oderat hic urbes nitidaque remotus ab aula
secretos montes et inambitiosa colebat
rura nec Iliacos coetus nisi rarus adibat.


Post Mortem

Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.615-619 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
Now he is but dust; and of Achilles, once so great, there remains a pitiful handful, hardly enough to fill an urn. But his glory lives, enough to fill the whole round world. This is the true measure of the man; and in this the son of Peleus is still his real self, and does not know the empty Tartara.

iam cinis est, et de tam magno restat Achille
nescio quid parvum, quod non bene conpleat urnam,
at vivit totum quae gloria conpleat orbem.
haec illi mensura viro respondet, et hac est
par sibi Pelides nec inania Tartara sentit.



Obituary of Thomas Gaisford, in The Gentleman's Magazine, n.s. 44 (July 1855) 98-100 (at 98):
Mr. Gaisford acted for several years as tutor in his college; but he never suffered the instruction of his pupils to interfere with the pursuit of his own studies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


De Malo Studio

Egbert of Liège, The Well-Laden Ship, tr. Robert Gary Babcock (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013), p. 117 (lines 1093-1096):

Scholarly effort is in decline everywhere as never before. Indeed, cleverness is shunned at home and abroad. What does reading offer to pupils except tears? It is rare, worthless when it is offered for sale, and devoid of wit.
The Latin (id., p. 116):
                    DE MALO STUDIO

Ut numquam studium sic friget ubique scolare,
quippe domi sollertia militiaeque negatur;
lectio quid preter plorare ministrat alumnis?
Rara quidem, nauci, cum venerit, et salis expers.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


The Last Oracle Again

Jay Macpherson (1931-2012), "The Oracle Declines," Welcoming Disaster: Poems 1971-4 (Toronto: Saannes Publications, 1974), p. 11:
Julian Apostate, sending
Late to Delphi — "Tell the king,
Phoebus has no more his chapel,
Mantic laurel, talking spring.

Level with the ground is lying
Work of craftsmen, columned stone;
And the ever-prattling waters,
Even they are sunk and gone."
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related post: The Last Oracle.


Abandonment of Greek

Harold F. Cherniss, quoted by George Rapall Noyes in the foreword to Arthur William Ryder, Original Poems, together with Translations from the Sanskrit (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1939), pp. xvii-xxxix (at xviii-xix):
It was the language as it came alive from the author that he desired to know. 'Not what this word should mean according to the philologists but what the author intended it to mean in this particular place', this was his principle. It is measured by this standard that one must understand his serious statement that he knew only one language well, his native English. That he was a master of English his writings amply prove; that be came miraculously near to realizing the same standard in Sanskrit, however, is obvious to anyone who is capable of comparing his translations with their originals. His determination to approximate this standard in any language that he studied was the reason for his early decision to curtail the number of languages to which he would devote his energies. He soon abandoned all but Sanskrit, Latin, French. and German. Only the abandonment of Greek, he said, remained a matter of sorrow to him. What be called his 'abandonment of Greek', however, would have been considered by most philologists the continuation of a lively interest and understanding; he would in the course of conversation recite whole choruses of Sophocles and long passages from Homer and discuss with penetrating intelligence both Greek literature and Greek philosophy. Yet he felt that it would be quixotic for him to attempt to master both Greek and Sanskrit; he had made his choice and he abode by it. His regret was due to his belief that in Greek was written one of the world's three truly great literatures, the other two being in Sanskrit and in English.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Great Accumulations of Humanity

The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. W.E.K. Anderson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 430 (February 20, 1828):
The state of society now leads so much to great accumulations of humanity that we cannot wonder if it ferment and reek like a compost dunghill. Nature intended that population should be diffused over the soil in proportion to its extent. We have accumulated in huge cities and smothering manufacturies the numbers which should be spread over the face of a country and what wonder that they should be corrupted? We have turnd healthful and pleasant brooks into morasses and pestiferous lakes,—what wonder the soil should be unhealthy?



Nicholas Grimald (1519-1562), "Of Mirth," in Tottel's Miscellany (1557), line numbers added:
A heauy hart, with wo encreaseth euery smart:
A mirthfull minde in time of need, defendeth sorowes dart.
The sprite of quicnesse seems, by drery sadnesse slayn:
By mirth, a man to liuely plight, reuiued is agayn.
Dolour dryeth vp the bones: the sad shall sone be sick:        5
Mirth can preserue the kyndly helth, mirth makes the body quick.
Depe dumps do nought, but dull, not meet for man but beast:
A mery hart sage Salomon countes his continuall feast.
Sad soll, before thy time, brings thee vnto deaths dore:
That fond condicions haue bereft, late daye can not restore.        10
As, when the couered heauen, showes forth a lowryng face,
Fayr Titan, with his leam of light, returns a goodly grace:
So, when our burdened brest is whelmd with clowdy thought,
A pleasant calm throughout the corps, by chereful heart is brought.
Enioye we then our ioyes, and in the lorde reioyce:        15
Faith makyng fast eternall ioye, of ioyes while wee haue choyce.
1 smart: pain
2 defendeth: guards against, keeps away
3 sprite of quicnesse: spirit of liveliness or animation
4 plight: condition, state
5 sone: soon
6 kyndly: good, natural; quick: lively
7 dumps: fit of melancholy, dejection; dull: make dull
8 Salomon: Proverbs 15.15 (All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast)
9 soll: soul
10 fond condicions: foolish dispositions, tempers?
12 Titan: the sun god; leam: flash, gleam
14 corps: body

Monday, March 10, 2014


The Black Dog

The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. W.E.K. Anderson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 354 (September 24, 1827):
Some things of the black dog still hanging about me but I will shake him off. I generally affect good spirits in company of my family whether I am enjoying them or not. It is too severe to sadden the harmless mirth of others by suffering your own causeless melancholy to be seen. And this species of exertion is like virtue its own reward for the good spirits which are at first simulated become at length real.
Id., p. 445 (March 18, 1828):
I was sorely worried by the black dog this morning, that vile palpitation of the heart—that tremor cordis—that histerical passion which forces unbidden sighs and tears and falls upon a contented life like a drop of ink on white paper which is not the less a stain because it conveys no meaning.
Hester Lynch Piozzi, Diary (October 19, 1790):
The Black Dog is upon his Back; was a common saying some Years ago when a Man was seen troubled with Melancholy.


A Gracious Creature

The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. W.E.K. Anderson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 253 (December 15, 1826):
A glass of good wine is a gracious creature and reconciles poor mortality to itself, and that is what few things can do.

Fritz Wagner (1896-1939), Ein guter Schluck


Rest Alone with Thyself

John Danyel, Songs for the Lute Viol and Voice (1606), no. iii, in English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes, 2nd ed. (1929; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), p. 402:
He, whose desires are still abroad, I see
    Hath never any peace at home the while;
And therefore now come back my heart to me.
    It is but for superfluous things we toil.
Rest alone with thyself, be all within;
For what without thou gett'st, thou dost not win.
Honour, wealth, glory, fame are no such things
But that which from imagination springs.
High-reaching power, that seems to overgrow,
Doth creep but on the earth, lies base and low.

Sunday, March 09, 2014



Greek Anthology 9.48 (tr. W.R. Paton):
Through love Zeus became a swan for Leda, a bull for Europa, a satyr for Antiope, and gold for Danae.

Ζεὺς κύκνος, ταῦρος, σάτυρος, χρυσὸς δι᾽ ἔρωτα
    Λήδης, Εὐρώπης, Ἀντιόπης, Δανάης.
I would retain the Greek word order when translating, thus:
Zeus became a swan, a bull, a satyr, gold, for love of
    Leda, Europa, Antiope, Danaë.
Related post: Take It As It Comes.


Scholarly Psittacism

The Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Day today is psittacism, defined as "The mechanical repetition of previously received ideas or images, without true reasoning or feeling; repetition of words or phrases parrot-fashion; an instance of this." One of the OED's examples is by B.M. Levick, from a review of H. Brandt's Asia Minor Studien, 7. Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft Pamphyliens und Pisidiens im Altertum, in Classical Review 45 (1995) 114-116 (at 114):
The author traces this opinion to A.H.M. Jones and shows (though with a courtesy that should be a model for others), how it has been repeated by followers. And there is no doubt that we have indeed been guilty of scholarly psittacism.
If two examples are sufficient evidence of a trend, then Levick seems fond of the phrase. She used it a few years earlier in a review of Ronald Syme's History in Ovid, in Journal of Roman Studies 70 (1980) 244-245 (at 245):
Scholarly psittacism is a justifiable target of the author; deafness might be another.
The phrase also occurs in G.W. Bowersock's review of Patricia B. Craddock's Edward Gibbon: Luminous Historian (1772-1794) , in American Journal of Philology 113 (1992) 147-150 (at 150):
The censure of the Byzantine chapters in the Decline and Fall that has gone on virtually unanimously for about a century reveals more about scholarly psittacism than Gibbon.
It's a useful phrase, because the phenomenon it describes is so widespread.

Caricature by J.-J. Grandville (1803-1847)

Saturday, March 08, 2014


Jesus Wept

John 11.35: "Jesus wept." Some in the ancient world might have interpreted the act of weeping as evidence that Jesus was not God. See Anthony Corbeill, "Weeping Statues, Weeping Gods and Prodigies from Republican to Early-Christian Rome", in Thorsten Fögen, ed., Tears in the Graeco-Roman World (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2009), pp. 297-310 (305-307 = "Real Gods Don't Cry"), to which I'm indebted for knowledge of some of the passages quoted below.

Euripides, Hippolytus 1396, first states the rule (Artemis speaking, my translation):
It is not lawful for me to let fall a tear from my eyes.

κατ' ὄσσων δ' οὐ θέμις βαλεῖν δάκρυ.
Ovid restates the rule at Metamorphoses 2.621-622 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
For the cheeks of the heavenly gods may not be wet with tears.

                      neque enim caelestia tingui
ora licet lacrimis.
and Fasti 4.521 (tr. James George Frazer):
For gods can never weep.

neque enim lacrimare deorum est.
Cf. also Friedrich Marx's emendation of Ovid, Metamorphoses 14.420:
nec satis est nymphae flere et lacerare capillos       420
et dare plangorem: facit haec tamen omnia, seque
proripit ac Latios errat vesana per agros.

420 satis codd.: fas F. Marx, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 41 (1886) 559
The contrary to fact condition in Naevius' epitaph (Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 1.24.2, tr. J.C. Rolfe) also implies the existence of this rule:
If that immortals might for mortals weep,
Then would divine Camenae weep for Naevius.

inmortales mortales si foret fas flere,
flerent divae Camenae Naevium poetam.
Despite the rule, classical literature provides several examples of gods (or, more often, goddesses) weeping. A selection follows.

Homer, Iliad 21.493-426 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Then weeping the goddess fled from before her even as a dove that from before a falcon flieth into a hollow rock, a cleft—nor is it her lot to be taken; even so fled Artemis weeping, and left her bow and arrows where they lay.

δακρυόεσσα δ᾽ ὕπαιθα θεὰ φύγεν ὥς τε πέλεια,
ἥ ῥά θ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἴρηκος κοίλην εἰσέπτατο πέτρην
χηραμόν· οὐδ᾽ ἄρα τῇ γε ἁλώμεναι αἴσιμον ἦεν·
ὣς ἣ δακρυόεσσα φύγεν, λίπε δ᾽ αὐτόθι τόξα.
Callimachus, Hymns 6.17 (hymn to Demeter, tr. Neil Hopkinson):
No, no! let us not speak of what brought tears to Deo.

μὴ μὴ ταῦτα λέγωμες ἃ δάκρυον ἄγαγε Δηοῖ.
Philicus of Corcyra, Hymn to Demeter (Supplementum Hellenisticum, fragment 680), line 40 (possibly referring to the creation of a spring from Demeter's tears, my translation):
You will bring forth a spring with your tears.

σοῖς προσανήσεις δακρύοισι πηγήν.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6.8-9 (on Deo = Demeter, tr. W.H.D. Rouse):
The cheeks of the goddess were moistened with self-running tears.

                                     βαρυνομένης δὲ θεαίνης
δάκρυσιν αὐτοχύτοισι καθικμαίνοντο παρειαί.
Vergil, Aeneid 1.227-229 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
And lo! as on such cares he pondered in heart, Venus, saddened and her bright eyes brimming with tears, spake to him...

atque illum talis iactantem pectore curas
tristior et lacrimis oculos suffusa nitentis
adloquitur Venus...
Vergil, Aeneid 10.628 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
And Juno weeping...

et Iuno adlacrimans...
Ovid, Amores 3.9.45-46 (on Venus, tr. Grant Showerman):
She turned her face away who holds the heights of Eryx; some, too, there are who say she kept not back the tear.

avertit vultus, Erycis quae possidet arces;
  sunt quoque, qui lacrimas continuisse negant.
Propertius 2.16.54 (on Jupiter, tr. G.P. Goold):
Since he too, although a god, has been deceived and wept.

deceptus quoniam flevit et ipse deus.
Propertius 4.11.60 (on Augustus, tr. G.P. Goold):
And we saw a god's tears flow.

et lacrimas vidimus ire deo.
Claudian, Rape of Proserpine 1.192-193 (on Ceres = Demeter, tr. Maurice Platnauer):
Ah, how often, foreknowing of coming ill, did she mar her cheek with welling tears!

heu quotiens praesaga mali violavit oborto
rore genas!
Related post: Did Christ Ever Laugh?

Friday, March 07, 2014


Adversaria ad Persium

Michael Hendry, on his web site Curculio, is publishing an interesting series of adversaria on Persius, including conjectural emendations of 1.53 and 5.159.

See also his reasons for and against publishing original scholarship on the Internet. More classical scholars should follow his lead.


The English Language

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Old Calabria (1915; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1938), p. 243 (from chapter XXII):
'And now, let me hear a little of your own language.'

I gave utterance to a few verses of Shakespeare, which caused considerable merriment.

'Do you mean to tell me,' she asked, 'that people really talk like that?'

'Of course they do.'

'And pretend to understand what it means?'

'Why, naturally.'

'Maybe they do,' she agreed. 'But only when they want to be thought funny by their friends.'


The Seven Ages of Man

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1.2 (tr. Abraham Cohen):
The seven worlds which a man experiences: At one year old he is like a king, placed in a covered litter, and all embrace and kiss him. At two or three he is like a pig which pokes about the sewers. At ten he jumps about like a kid. At twenty he is like a neighing horse; he adorns his person and seeks a wife. Having married, he is like an ass, bearing a heavy burden. Then having become the father of children, he grows bold like a dog to procure sustenance for them. When finally he has grown old, he is bent like a monkey.
I owe the reference to Michael E. Goodich (1944-2006), From Birth to Old Age: The Human Life Cycle in Medieval Thought, 1250-1350 (Lanham: University Press of America, 1989), p. 62. See also L. Landau, "Some Parallels to Shakespeare's 'Seven Ages'," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 19 (1920) 382-396 (esp. p. 389).

Thursday, March 06, 2014


The Doorless House

Yesterday, on Ash Wednesday, Eric Thomson sent me an email quoting lines 1-14 of "The Grave," from MS Bodley 343, f. 170a, followed by a translation into modern English:
Ðe wes bold gebyld,    er þu iboren were,
ðe wes molde imynt,    er ðu of moder come.
Ac hit nes no idiht,    ne þeo deopnes imeten,
nes ȝyt iloced,    hu long hit þe were.
Nu me þe bringæð,    þer ðu beon scealt,        5
nu me sceæl þe meten    and þa molde seoðða.
Ne bið no þin hus    healice itinbred;
hit bið unheh and lah,    þonne þu list þerinne:
ðe helewaȝes beoð laȝe,    sid-wages unheȝe,
þe rof bið ibyld    þire broste ful neh        10
swa þu scealt on molde    wunien ful calde.
Dimme and deorcæ.    Þet den fulæt on honde
dureleas is þet hus    and dearc hit is wiðinnen.
eðær þu bist feste bidytt    and dæð hefð þa cæȝe.

An abode was built for you before you were born; the soil was dug for you before you came out of your mother. But it was not prepared, nor was the depth measured, nor was it established yet how long it may be for you. Now you are brought where you must be, now you must be measured and then the soil. Now your house is not built high; it is short and low when you lie in it: the end-walls are low, the side-walls not high, the roof is built very near to your breast so that you will remain in the earth very cold. Dim and dark, the den will quickly become foul. Doorless is the house and it is dark inside, where you are shut fast and death has the key.
The translation of lines 7-14 is similar to that by Seth Lerer in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 26.

Here is another version of lines 1-14, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882):
For thee was a house built
Ere thou wast born,
For thee was a mould meant
Ere thou of mother camest.
But it is not made ready,
Nor its depth measured,
Nor is it seen
How long it shall be.
Now I bring thee
Where thou shall be;
Now I shall measure thee,
And the mould afterwards.

Thy house is not
Highly timbered,
It is unhigh and low;
When thou art therein,
The heel-ways are low,
The sideways unhigh.
The roof is built
Thy breast full nigh,
So thou shalt in mould
Dwell full cold,
Dimly and dark.

Doorless is that house,
And dark it is within;
There thou art fast detained
And Death hath the key.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) uses the same image of a doorless house in this quatrain:
Doom is the House without the Door —
'Tis entered from the Sun —
And then the Ladder's thrown away,
Because Escape — is done —


What is Our Life?

Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), in Orlando Gibbons, The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets (1612), no. xiv, in English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes, 2nd ed. (1929; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), p. 99 (line numbers added):
What is our life? a play of passion.
Our mirth the music of division.
Our mothers' wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for this short comedy.
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is,        5
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss.
The graves that hide us from the searching sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
And then we die in earnest, that's no jest.        10
2 division: "The execution of a rapid melodic passage, originally conceived as the dividing of each of a succession of long notes into several short ones; such a passage itself, a florid phrase or piece of melody, a run..." (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., sense 7.a)
3 tiring-houses: dressing-rooms

On the world as a stage and life as a play, see Ernst Robert Curtius (1886-1956), European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, tr. Willard E. Trask (1953; rpt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 138-144 ("Theatrical Metaphors").

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