Wednesday, April 30, 2014


A Long Footnote

Elizabeth Sears, "The Life and Work of William S. Heckscher: Some Petites Perceptions," Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 53.1 (1990) 107-133 (at 108, n. 5):
The most ambitious footnote in Heckscher's published work is to be found in »Melancholia (1541): An Essay in the Rhetoric of Description by Joachim Camerarius,« in Joachim Camerarius (1500-1574), ed. Frank Baron, Munich 1978. Set as an endnote in small type, note 46 extends over seven pages and is accompanied by two illustrations (92-9).
Related posts:


Is Peace Not Here?

A.C. Swinburne (1837-1909), from "The Nympholept":
Is peace not one with light in the deep green glades
Where summer at noonday slumbers? Is peace not here?



Excerpts from William Shakespeare, Coriolanus (line numbering from John Dover Wilson's edition in The New Shakespeare series).

We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians good. What authority surfeits on would relieve us. If they would yield us but the superfluity, while it were wholesome, we might guess they relieved us humanely; but they think we are too dear: the leanness that afflicts us, the object of our misery, is as an inventory to particularize their abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them. Let us revenge this with our pikes ere we become rakes; for the gods know I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge.
Care for us! True, indeed! They ne'er cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their store-houses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily, to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there's all the love they bear us.
They said they were an-hungry; sigh'd forth proverbs—
That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat,
That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not
Corn for the rich men only: with these shreds
They vented their complainings...
Faith, there had been many great men that have flattered the people, who ne'er loved them; and there be many that they have loved, they know not wherefore: so that, if they love they know not why, they hate upon no better a ground.
2.3.112-120 (Coriolanus speaking, canvassing for office):
Better it is to die, better to starve,
Than crave the hire which first we do deserve.
Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here,
To beg of Hob and Dick that do appear
Their needless vouches? Custom calls me to't.
What custom wills, in all things should we do't,
The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
And mountainous error be too highly heapt
For truth to o'er-peer.
2. Servingman. Why, then we shall have a stirring world again. This peace is nothing but to rust iron, increase tailors, and breed ballad-makers.
1. Servingman. Let me have war, say I; it exceeds peace as far as day does night; it's spritely, waking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy; mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war's a destroyer of men.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


A Word Collector

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), La gloire de mon père, chapter 18 (tr. Rita Barisse):
I wasn't much interested, anyway, in what they were talking about. What I was listening to, and waiting for, were the words: for I had a passion for words and secretly collected them in a little note-book, as others collect stamps.

I loved grenade, fumée (smoke), bourru (churlish), vermoulu (worm-eaten) and, above all, manivelle (crank). I often repeated them to myself when I was alone, for the pleasure of hearing them.

Now, in my uncle's talk, there were some brand-new ones and they were delightful: damascened, florilegium, filigree; or grandiose like: archiepiscopal, plenipotentiary.

Whenever I saw one of these mighty three-deckers pass on the stream of his disquisition, I would raise my hand and ask for an explanation, which he never refused. It was then that I understood for the first time that grand-sounding words almost always contain beautiful pictures.
In French:
D'ailleurs, ce qu'ils disaient ne m'intéressait pas. Ce que j'écoutais, ce que je guettais, c'était les mots: car j'avais la passion des mots; en secret, sur un petit carnet, j'en faisais une collection, comme d’autres font pour les timbres.

J'adorais grenade, fumée, bourru, vermoulu et surtout manivelle: et je me les répétais souvent, quand j'étais seul, pour le plaisir de les entendre.

Or, dans les discours de l'oncle, il y en avait de tout nouveaux, et qui étaient délicieux : damasquiné, florilège, filigrane, ou grandioses: archiépiscopal, plénipotentiaire.

Lorsque sur le fleuve de son discours, je voyais passer l'un de ces vaisseaux à trois ponts, j'élevais la main et demandais des explications, qu'il ne me refusait jamais. C'est là que j'ai compris pour la première fois que les mots qui ont un son noble contiennent toujours de belles images.
Related post: An Innocent Occupation.


Well Content

Allan Ramsay (1684-1758), "The Poet's Wish," Poems, Vol. I (Paisley: Alex. Gardner, 1877), pp. 67-68 (line numbers added):
Frae great Apollo, poet, say,
What is thy wish? What wadst thou hae,
  When thou bows at his shrine?
Not Carse o' Gowrie's fertile field;
Nor a' the flocks the Grampians yield,        5
  That are baith sleek and fine;
Not costly things brought frae afar,
  As ivory, pearl, and gems;
Nor those fair straths, that water'd are
  With Tay and Tweed's smooth streams,        10
    Which gentily, and daintily,
      Pare down the flow'ry braes,
    As greatly and quietly
      They wimple to the seas.

Whaever by his canny fate,        15
Is master of a good estate,
  That can ilk thing afford,
Let him enjoy't withoutten care,
And with the wale of curious fare
  Cover his ample board.        20
Much dawted by the gods is he,
  Wha to the Indian plain
Successfu' ploughs the wally sea,
  And safe returns again,
    With riches, that hitches        25
      Him high aboon the rest
    Of sma' folk, and a' folk,
      That are wi' poortith prest.

For me, I can be well content
To eat my bannock on the bent,        30
  And kitchen 't wi' fresh air;
Of lang-kail I can make a feast,
And cantily had up my crest,
  And laugh at dishes rare.
Nought frae Apollo I demand        35
  But through a lengthen'd life,
My outer fabric firm may stand,
  And saul clear without strife.
    May he then, but gie then,
      Those blessings for my skair;        40
    I'll fairly, and squairly,
      Quit a', and seek nae mair.
Some notes to aid my understanding:

1 Frae: From (also 7, 24, 35)
2 hae: have
4 Carse o' Gowrie: the "Garden of Scotland," farmland in Perthshire
5 a': all (also 27, 42); Grampians: mountain range
6 baith: both
9 straths: river valleys
12 braes: banks
14 wimple: meander, twist
15 canny: lucky
17 ilk: any
19 wale: choicest
21 dawted: favored
23 wally: wavy
25 hitches: raises
26 aboon: above
27 sma': small
28 poortith: poverty
30 bannock: round, flat oatmeal cake; bent: grass
31 kitchen: season (as a verb)
32 lang-kail: long cabbage, a variety of cabbage
33 cantily: cheerfully, blithely; had up: hold up; crest: pride
38 saul: soul
39 gie: give
40 skair: portion
42 nae mair: no more

As is well known, Ramsay's poem is an imitation of Horace, Odes 1.31. Here are translation (p. 81) and text (p. 80) of that ode from Horace, Odes and Epodes. Edited and Translated by Niall Rudd (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004 = Loeb Classical Library, 33), with Rudd's notes:
What boon does the bard ask of the newly consecrated Apollo?56 What does he pray for as he pours a libation of new wine from the bowl?57 Not the fertile cornfields of rich Sardinia, not the fine herds of sweltering Calabria, not Indian gold or ivory, not an estate which is gnawed by the Liris, that silent river, with its gentle stream. Let those to whom fortune has granted it prune the vine with a Calenian knife;58 let the rich trader quaff from a golden goblet wines procured with Syrian merchandise, dear, as he is, to the gods themselves, since, of course, he visits the Atlantic ocean three or four times a year and returns in safety. As for me, I eat olives, I eat endives and mallows—nothing heavy. Grant, o son of Latona, that I may enjoy what I possess—in good health, I pray you, and with full mental vigour; and may I have an old age that is not lacking in dignity or bereft of music.

56 Apollo's temple on the Palatine was consecrated by Augustus on 9 October 28 B.C.
57 At the festival of the Meditrinalia two days later.
58 Because the vine is in Cales in Campania.

Quid dedicatum poscit Apollinem
vates? quid orat de patera novum
  fundens liquorem? non opimae
    Sardiniae segetes feraces,
non aestuosae grata Calabriae        5
armenta, non aurum aut ebur Indicum,
  non rura quae Liris quieta
    mordet aqua taciturnus amnis.
premant Calenam falce quibus dedit
fortuna vitem, dives et aureis        10
  mercator exsiccet culillis
    vina Syra reparata merce,
dis carus ipsis, quippe ter et quater
anno revisens aequor Atlanticum
  impune. me pascunt olivae,
    me cichorea levesque malvae.        15
frui paratis et valido mihi,
Latoe, dones, et,16 precor, integra
  cum mente, nec turpem senectam
    degere nec cithara carentem.        20

16 et Lambinus] at
In line 9 Rudd prints Calenam (modifying vitem) but translates Calena (modifying falce). His critical apparatus shows no variant, but in D.R. Shackleton Bailey's Teubner edition I see (with the help of Amazon's Look Inside! feature) the following:
Calena] -am P1 P ut uid. (B)
where P is Porphyrio when lemma and gloss agree, P1 when they disagree, and B is Bernensis 363. This is another case where either Rudd's text or his translation should be changed, so that they match.


Monday, April 28, 2014


Three Ways of Ruining Yourself

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), Jean de Florette, chapter 12 (tr. W.E. van Heyningen):
At the end of a year the gentleman packed his bags and said to us, 'My friends, I have learned my lesson, and I'm returning to the city. But if you ever see another one like me heading this way, tell him from me that there are three ways of ruining yourself: women, gambling, and agriculture. Agriculture is the quickest, and moreover the least enjoyable! Farewell!' And he was gone.

Au bout d'un an, le monsieur a plié bagages, et il nous a dit: «Mes amis, j'ai compris, et je retourne en ville. Mais si vous en voyez venir un autre comme moi, dites-lui de ma part qu'il y a trois façons de se ruiner: les femmes, le jeu, et l'agriculture. L'agriculture c'est le plus rapide, et, en plus, le moins agréable! Adessias!» Et il est parti.


Consequences of Keeping or Breaking an Oath

P.J. Rhodes and ‎Robin Osborne, Greek Historical Inscriptions, 404-323 BC (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), no. 88, lines 43-44 (text on p. 442, translation on p. 443):
καὶ γυναῖκες τίκτοι-
εν ἐοικότα γονεῦσιν, εἰ δὲ μή, τέρατα

and may the women bear children like their parents, but if not, monsters
This is an item in a list of consequences if those swearing an oath keep it, or break it. If they keep the oath, "may women bear children like their parents;" if they break it, "may women bear monsters," i.e. children with birth defects.

Liddell-Scott-Jones define γονεύς as "begetter, father, mostly in pl., parents." Here I might translate γονεῦσιν as "fathers" specifically, rather than as "parents" generally. In the days before blood and DNA tests, a child's resemblance to its father was prized, as a sign of its mother's virtue and as evidence of paternity. See Children Who Resemble Their Fathers. The language of this clause in the oath recalls Hesiod, Works and Days 235:
τίκτουσιν δὲ γυναῖκες ἐοικότα τέκνα γονεῦσιν.


The Great Empire of Silence

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, Lecture VI:
Ah yes, I will say again: The great silent men! Looking round on the noisy inanity of the world, words with little meaning, actions with little worth, one loves to reflect on the great Empire of Silence. The noble silent men, scattered here and there, each in his department; silently thinking, silently working; whom no Morning Newspaper makes mention of! They are the salt of the Earth. A country that has none or few of these is in a bad way. Like a forest which had no roots; which had all turned into leaves and boughs;—which must soon wither and be no forest. Woe for us if we had nothing but what we can show, or speak. Silence, the great Empire of Silence: higher than the stars; deeper than the Kingdoms of Death! It alone is great; all else is small.—I hope we English will long maintain our grand talent pour le silence. Let others that cannot do without standing on barrel-heads, to spout, and be seen of all the market-place, cultivate speech exclusively,—become a most green forest without roots! Solomon says, There is a time to speak; but also a time to keep silence.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Out of the Beaten Track

Nathaniel Hawthorne, letter to William Pike (September 2, 1851):
Besides, I am getting damnably out of the beaten track, as regards politics; and I doubt whether I can claim fellowship with any party whatever.


What More Can a Reasonable Man Desire?

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden, chapter 1:
And pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears of green sweet-corn boiled, with the addition of salt?


A Toast

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), Jean de Florette, chapter 11 (tr. W.E. van Heyningen):
The hunchback raised his glass very high and said with a certain solemnity:

"I drink to Mother Nature, to the fragrant hills, I drink to the cicadas, to the pine woods, to the breeze, to the rocks of thousands of years, I drink to the blue sky!"
In French:
Le bossu leva son verre très haut, et dit avec une certaine solennité:

«Je bois à la Mère Nature, aux collines odorantes, je bois aux cigales, à la pinède, à la brise, aux roches millénaires, je bois à l'azur!»
Related post: Make Love, Not War.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


The Decline of Intellectual Pursuits

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 95.23 (tr. ‎Richard M. Gummere):
All intellectual interests are in abeyance; those who follow culture lecture to empty rooms, in out-of-the-way places. The halls of the professor and the philosopher are deserted; but what a crowd there is in the cafés! How many young fellows besiege the kitchens of their gluttonous friends!

cessat omne studium et liberalia professi sine ulla frequentia desertis angulis praesident. in rhetorum ac philosophorum scholis solitudo est; at quam celebres culinae sunt, quanta circa nepotum focos iuventus premitur!


The Last Men on Earth

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), pp. 26-28:
The last inhabitants of earth will be as destitute and ignorant, as feeble and dull-witted, as the first. They will have forgotten all the arts and all the sciences. They will huddle wretchedly in caves alongside the glaciers that will then roll their transparent masses over the half-obliterated ruins of the cities where now men think and love, suffer and hope. All the elms and lindens will have been killed by the cold; and the firs will be left sole masters of the frozen earth. The last desperate survivors of humankind,—desperate without so much as realizing why or wherefore,—will know nothing of us, nothing of our genius, nothing of our love; yet will they be our latest-born children and blood of our blood. A feeble flicker of the regal intelligence of nobler days, still lingering in their dulled brains, will for a while yet enable them to hold their empire over the bears that have multiplied about their subterranean lurking-places. Peoples and races will have disappeared beneath the snow and ice, with the towns, the highways, the gardens of the old world. With pain and difficulty a few isolated families will keep alive. Women, children, old men, crowded pell-mell in their noisome caves, will peep through fissures in the rock and watch a sombre sun mount the sky above their heads; dull yellow gleams will flit across his disk, like flames playing about a dying brand, while a dazzling snow of stars will shine on all the day long in the black heavens, through the icy air. This is what they will see; but in their heavy witlessness they will not so much as know that they see anything. One day the last survivor, callous alike to hate and love, will exhale to the unfriendly sky the last human breath. And the globe will go rolling on, bearing with it through the silent fields of space the ashes of humanity, the poems of Homer and the august remnants of the Greek marbles, frozen to its icy surfaces. No thought will ever again rise towards the infinite from the bosom of this dead world, where the soul has dared so much,—at least no thought of man's. For who can tell if another thought will not grow into consciousness of itself, and this tomb where we all shall sleep become the cradle of a new soul? What soul, I cannot tell. The insect's, perhaps.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 24-27:
Les derniers seront aussi dénués et stupides qu'étaient les premiers. Ils auront oublié tous les arts et toutes les sciences. Ils s'étendront misérablement dans des cavernes, au bord des glaciers qui rouleront alors leurs blocs transparents sur les ruines effacées des villes où maintenant on pense, on aime, on souffre, on espère. Tous les ormes, tous les tilleuls seront morts de froid; et les sapins régneront seuls sur la terre glacée. Ces derniers hommes, désespérés sans même le savoir, ne connaîtront rien de nous, rien de notre génie, rien de notre amour, et pourtant ils seront nos enfants nouveau-nés et le sang de notre sang. Un faible reste de royale intelligence, hésitant dans leur crâne épaissi, leur conservera quelque temps encore l'empire sur les ours multipliés autour de leurs cavernes. Peuples et tribus auront disparu sous la neige et les glaces, avec les villes, les routes, les jardins du vieux monde. Quelques familles à peine subsisteront. Femmes, enfants, vieillards, engourdis pêle-mêle, verront par les fentes de leurs cavernes monter tristement sur leur tête un soleil sombre où, comme sur un tison qui s'éteint, courront des lueurs fauves, tandis qu'une neige éblouissante d'étoiles continuera de briller tout le jour dans le ciel noir, à travers l'air glacial. Voilà ce qu'ils verront; mais, dans leur stupidité, ils ne sauront même pas qu'ils voient quelque chose. Un jour, le dernier d'entre eux exhalera sans haine et sans amour dans le ciel ennemi le dernier souffle humain. Et la terre continuera de rouler, emportant à travers les espaces silencieux les cendres de l'humanité, les poèmes d'Homère et les augustes débris des marbres grecs, attachés à ses flancs glacés. Et aucune pensée ne s'élancera plus vers l'infini, du sein de ce globe où l'âme a tant osé, au moins aucune pensée d'homme. Car qui peut dire si alors une autre pensée ne prendra pas conscience d'elle-même et si ce tombeau où nous dormirons tous ne sera pas le berceau d'une âme nouvelle? De quelle âme, je ne sais. De l'âme de l'insecte, peut-être.


Monday's Child is Fair of Face

Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 5.30.8 (tr. Priscilla Throop):
The heathens named the days from these seven stars, because they thought that they obtained some quality through them: spirit from the sun, body from the moon, cleverness and language from Mercury, sensual enjoyment from Venus, blood from Mars, moderation from Jupiter, moisture from Saturn. Such was the foolishness of the heathens, who contrived for themselves such ridiculous ideas.

proinde autem ex his septem stellis nomina dierum gentiles dederunt, eo quod per eosdem aliquid sibi effici existimarent, dicentes habere a Sole spiritum, a Luna corpus, a Mercurio ingenium et linguam, a Venere voluptatem, a Marte sanguinem, a Iove temperantiam, a Saturno humorem. talis quippe extitit gentilium stultitia, qui sibi finxerunt tam ridiculosa figmenta.
Cf. Servius on Vergil, Aeneid 11.51, who unlike Isidore keeps the chronological order of the days of the week:
ut dicunt physici, cum nasci coeperimus, sortimur a Sole spiritum, a Luna corpus, a Marte sanguinem, a Mercurio ingenium, a Iove honorum desiderium, a Venere cupiditates, a Saturno humorem.

Friday, April 25, 2014


History Was Once Real Life

Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), Books and Characters: French & English (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), p. 311:
Clio is one of the most glorious of the Muses; but, as every one knows, she (like her sister Melpomene) suffers from a sad defect: she is apt to be pompous. With her buskins, her robes, and her airs of importance she is at times, indeed, almost intolerable. But fortunately the Fates have provided a corrective. They have decreed that in her stately advances she should be accompanied by certain apish, impish creatures, who run round her tittering, pulling long noses, threatening to trip the good lady up, and even sometimes whisking to one side the corner of her drapery, and revealing her undergarments in a most indecorous manner. They are the diarists and letter-writers, the gossips and journalists of the past, the Pepyses and Horace Walpoles and Saint-Simons, whose function it is to reveal to us the littleness underlying great events and to remind us that history itself was once real life.


No Pleasure Without Pain

Pindar, fragment 225 (tr. William H. Race):
whenever a god sends joy to a man,
he first strikes his heart with gloom

ὁπόταν θεὸς ἀνδρὶ χάρμα πέμψῃ,
πάρος μέλαιναν καρδίαν ἐστυφέλιξεν


Punishment for Arboricide

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 2.26 (on Heracleides the Lycian, tr. Wilmer Cave Wright):
It is said that for cutting down sacred cedars he was punished by the confiscation of a great part of his estate.

ἱερὰς δὲ λέγεται κέδρους ἐκτεμὼν δημευθῆναι τὸ πολὺ τῆς οὐσίας.


Thursday, April 24, 2014


Biblical Criticism

Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), Books and Characters: French & English (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), p. 94 (on the Maréchale de Luxembourg):
"Quel ton! Quel effroyable ton!" she is said to have exclaimed after a shuddering glance at the Bible; "ah, Madame, quel dommage que le Saint Esprit eût aussi peu de goût!"


Where to Read Sir Thomas Browne

Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), Books and Characters: French & English (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), pp. 46-47:
It is interesting—or at least amusing—to consider what are the most appropriate places in which different authors should be read. Pope is doubtless at his best in the midst of a formal garden, Herrick in an orchard, and Shelley in a boat at sea. Sir Thomas Browne demands, perhaps, a more exotic atmosphere. One could read him floating down the Euphrates, or past the shores of Arabia; and it would be pleasant to open the Vulgar Errors in Constantinople, or to get by heart a chapter of the Christian Morals between the paws of a Sphinx. In England, the most fitting background for his strange ornament must surely be some habitation consecrated to learning, some University which still smells of antiquity and has learnt the habit of repose. The present writer, at any rate, can bear witness to the splendid echo of Browne's syllables amid learned and ancient walls; for he has known, he believes, few happier moments than those in which he has rolled the periods of the Hydriotaphia out to the darkness and the nightingales through the studious cloisters of Trinity.

But, after all, who can doubt that it is at Oxford that Browne himself would choose to linger? May we not guess that he breathed in there, in his boyhood, some part of that mysterious and charming spirit which pervades his words? For one traces something of him, often enough, in the old gardens, and down the hidden streets; one has heard his footstep beside the quiet waters of Magdalen; and his smile still hovers amid that strange company of faces which guard, with such a large passivity, the circumference of the Sheldonian.
Related post: Where to Read Vergil's Bucolics.


Anarchy Tempered by Despotism

Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), Eminent Victorians (New York: The Modern Library, 1918), pp. 204-205:
The public schools of those days were still virgin forests, untouched by the hand of reform. Keate was still reigning at Eton; and we possess, in the records of his pupils, a picture of the public school education of the early nineteenth century, in its most characteristic state. It was a system of anarchy tempered by despotism. Hundreds of boys, herded together in miscellaneous boarding-houses, or in that grim "Long Chamber" at whose name in after years aged statesmen and warriors would turn pale, lived, badgered and over-awed by the furious incursions of an irascible little old man carrying a bundle of birch-twigs, a life in which licensed barbarism was mingled with the daily and hourly study of the niceties of Ovidian verse. It was a life of freedom and terror, of prosody and rebellion, of interminable floggings and appalling practical jokes. Keate ruled, unaided—for the undermasters were few and of no account—by sheer force of character. But there were times when even that indomitable will was overwhelmed by the flood of lawlessness. Every Sunday afternoon he attempted to read sermons to the whole school assembled; and every Sunday afternoon the whole school assembled shouted him down. The scenes in Chapel were far from edifying: while some antique Fellow doddered in the pulpit, rats would be let loose to scurry among the legs of the exploding boys. But next morning the hand of discipline would re-assert itself; and the savage ritual of the whipping-block would remind a batch of whimpering children that, though sins against man and God might be forgiven them, a false quantity could only be expiated in tears and blood.
Related posts:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


A God Dwells Here

Vergil, Aeneid 8.351-352 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
"This grove," he cries, "this hill with its leafy crown,—though we know not what god it is—is yet a god's home..."

"hoc nemus, hunc," inquit, "frondoso vertice collem,
quis deus incertum est, habitat deus..."
Ovid, Fasti 3.295-296 (tr. James George Frazer):
Under the Aventine there lay a grove black with the shade of holm-oaks; at the sight of it, you could say, "There is a spirit here."

lucus Aventino suberat niger ilicis umbra,
    quo posses viso dicere, "numen inest."
Related post: A Grove of Ancient Trees.


Two for One

Pindar, Pythian Odes 3.81-82 (tr. William H. Race):
The immortals apportion to humans a pair of evils
for every good.

ἓν παρ᾽ ἐσλὸν πήματα σύνδυο δαίονται βροτοῖς

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Earthen Vessels

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), p. 83:
Life is an ordeal, a test,—so say the Theologians. I am sure I do not know; at any rate it is not one we submit to voluntarily. The conditions are not laid down with sufficient clearness. In fact, it is not fair and equal for all. How can life be a test, for children who die directly after birth, and idiots, and madmen? Ah! these are objections that have been answered long ago. Yes, they are always being answered, and I am bound to say the answer cannot be very convincing, if it has to be repeated so often. Life does not bear the look, somehow, of an examination-room. It is much more like a vast pottery-works, where they manufacture all sorts of vessels for unknown purposes, a good many of which get broken in the making and are tossed on one side as worthless potsherds, without ever having been used. Others again are only employed for ridiculous or degrading ends. That is the way with us too.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 96-97:
Je ne sais si, comme la théologie l'enseigne, la vie est une épreuve; en tout cas, ce n'est pas une épreuve à laquelle nous soyons soumis volontairement. Les conditions n'en sont pas réglées avec une clarté suffisante. Enfin elle n'est point égale pour tous. Qu'est-ce que l'épreuve de la vie pour les enfants qui meurent sitôt nés, pour les idiots et les fous? Voilà des objections auxquelles on a déjà répondu.— On y répond toujours, et il faut que la réponse ne soit pas très bonne, pour qu'on soit obligé de la faire tant de fois. La vie n'a pas l'air d'une salle d'examen. Elle ressemble plutôt à un vaste atelier de poterie où l'on fabrique toutes sortes de vases pour des destinations inconnues et dont plusieurs, rompus dans le moule, sont rejetés comme de vils tessons sans avoir jamais servi. Les autres ne sont employés qu'à des usages absurdes ou dégoûtants. Ces pots, c'est nous.


A Wonderful Thing

Robert Hellenga, The Fall of a Sparrow (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998; rpt. 1999), p. 91:
It was a truly wonderful thing, he reminded himself, that a man could earn a living talking to young people about Homer and Ovid and Horace.
Nice work if you can get it. I couldn't get it when I tried.

From the same book, a misprint in the Sappho quotation on p. 98:
λέπτον / δ' αὔτικα χπῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν.
For χπῶι read χρῶι.



Carmen Lactantius

From the title page of a musical score (click on image to enlarge):

There was never an author named Carmen Lactantius. There was an author named Lactantius (or, to give him his full name, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius) who wrote a work with the title Carmen de Ave Phoenice (Poem about the Phoenix Bird).


Hat tip: Ian Jackson.




Gilbert Norwood (1880-1954), Pindar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945; rpt. 1974), pp. 6-7 (footnotes omitted):
Classical scholarship, then, so far as concerns the great ancient poets, has finished its task of removing the textual difficulties that prevented us from envisaging them as we envisage the modern. At any rate, we can do no more: we are dissatisfied with our text of Aeschylus, true; but progress has stopped. It is now far more fruitful to study Propertius in the light of Donne or Keats than in the light of Callimachus. In this field a vast amount of attractive study awaits us—attractive, but genuine and strenuous, for this is no affair of dilettantism, of superficial phrase-mongering. A.C. Bradley has said: "Research, though toilsome, is easy; imaginative vision, though delightful, is difficult; and we may be tempted to prefer the first." Tempted, because the old highway of research is so richly provided with maps, filling-stations and a highly trained constabulary. The investigator need fear nothing if he never allows his left hand to quit a Jahrbuch before his right clutches the comforting bulk of an Archiv. Such activity was needed so long as corruptions swarmed in our texts. It is still justified in archaeology, and in other departments of classical learning partly or quite scientific. But in the study of Greek and Latin poetry it is utterly out of date and would not be crawling over those now radiant blooms and gleaming marbles but for the belief that even this study must become a squalid imitation of the applied sciences. We now need classical scholars who are at least as well versed in great modern literature as in Beiträge, who will no longer believe that a first-rate edition of Catullus can be produced by a man whose acquaintance with Burns is limited to the chorus of Auld Lang Syne, if only he scans galliambics undismayed and remembers who proposed num for tum in 1862. We should hope, moreover, for a seemly elegance in our editions and resent it as an outrage if we open a copy of Theocritus only to find a horrible apparatus criticus lurking at the bottom of the page like some open sewer at the end of a gracious promenade, with repellent outcast conjectures wallowing in hideous decay under the sunlight. Let an editor make the best text he can, and then present his Sophocles in tranquil stateliness. If his conscience demands an apparatus, let him banish it to the end of the book: our enjoyment of Greek and Roman poets should no longer be marred by such intruders, wailing from below like Old Hamlet's ghost in the cellarage. Textual criticism exists in order to give us a text; when that has been made, the bye-products should be destroyed or hidden. No one would be more surprised than the old-fashioned scholar if at a college feast he found the high table festooned with kitchen-refuse.
Cf. Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), introduction to Friedrich Leo, Ausgewählte kleine Schriften, translated by M.L. West in Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973), p. 7:
I had by then read the greater part of Aristophanes, and I began to rave about it to Leo, and to wax eloquent on the magic of this poetry, the beauty of the choral odes, and so on and so forth. Leo let me have my say, perhaps ten minutes in all, without showing any sign of disapproval or impatience. When I was finished, he asked, "In which edition do you read Aristophanes?" I thought: has he not been listening? What has his question got to do with what I have been telling him? After a moment's ruffled hesitation I answered: "The Teubner". Leo: "Oh, you read Aristophanes without a critical apparatus." He said it quite calmly, without any sharpness, without a whiff of sarcasm, just sincerely taken aback that it was possible for a tolerably intelligent young man to do such a thing. I looked at the lawn nearby and had a single, overwhelming sensation: νῦν μοι χάνοι εὐρεῖα χθών. Later it seemed to me that in that moment I had understood the meaning of real scholarship.

Monday, April 21, 2014


What Have These Details to do with Poetry?

Gilbert Norwood (1880-1954), Pindar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945; rpt. 1974), p. 3, with notes on p. 213:
Too often, after determining to appreciate a poem in itself, we drift off upon themes which, though they have nothing to do with poetry, yet give us a piteous illusion like Ixion's that we embrace the goddess, though in truth we lavish caresses upon a phantom of cloud. Our libraries swarm with the unnatural offspring:5 those disquisitions upon the poet's "attitude" to this or that; those lists of his prepositions and spondees; investigations of the books he may have read and the women he may have loved. The radiance, the potent vitality of great writings dazzle our weak sight and fatigue our puny strength; we stumble away from the shrine to gossip with the sacristan about dates and measurements. This childish, though not ignoble, desire to create some relation, however trivial, between a poet and ourselves has produced numberless "studies" and "aspects" which enlighten us no more, on the only subject about which enlightenment is worth having, than the purchase of Aeschylus' writing-tablet inspired the prince of Syracuse.6 "What have these details to do with poetry?"—that is the test, which, while it condemns much pretentious research, yet approves much humdrum study.

5 The most extreme instance of this mania is a bulky work on Walter Pater, which gives only thirteen pages to his style, but records that his cat died in 1904, at the age of fifteen, and that his Pomeranian had passed away long before, in 1896, only eighteen months after αὐτότατος.

6 Lucian, Adv. Indoct. 15. Τὸ Αἰσχύλου πυξίον, εἰς ὃ ἐκεῖνος ἔγραφε, σὺν πολλῇ σπουδῇ κτησάμενος καὶ αὐτὸς ᾤετο ἔνθεος ἔσεσθαι καὶ κάτοχος ἐκ τοῦ πυξίου, ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκείνῳ μακρῷ γελοιότερα ἔγραφεν.


Out of One, Many, or Out of Many, One?

Thomas Keightley, The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, 2nd ed. (London: Whittaker and Co., 1848), p. 233 (footnote omitted):
Like many other gods who were originally single, Pan was multiplied in course of time, and we meet with Pans in the plural.
Martin P. Nilsson, A History of Greek Religion, 2nd ed., tr. F.J. Fielden (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1964), pp. 111-113 (footnotes omitted):
Nature is full of these daimones: they are innumerable, for every spring, every tree, every natural object has or at least may have its daimon. Hence crowds of Nature daimones of various kinds arise. Within each homogeneous group the individual disappears in the aggregate; the daimon residing in a particular natural object has an extremely limited circle of worshippers; most have no cult but exist only in belief and imagination. In other domains also similar collective groups of spirits or gods appear, such as 'the gentle gods' (θεοὶ μειλίχιοι), 'the boisterous ones' (Μαιμακτῆρες), the goddesses of childbirth (the Ilithyiae), 'the holy goddesses', the Erinyes (σεμναὶ θεαί), and the 'Rulers' (Ἄνακες), the two sons of Zeus, the Dioskouroi.

And these spirits intervene in human life and fortune. Men turn to them for peace, happiness, and prosperity. Just as the harvest-rite could not embrace the entire crop standing upon the field, but a single sheaf was selected as representing the whole, so the cult cannot address itself to the collective group. The attention is fixed upon some particular one from among the host of similar spirits. If they are localized, the nearest is chosen; then a local god arises. If the localization is not made prominent, the singular is simply put for the plural: Pan is invoked instead of the Panes. It is significant that in so late a document as the record of the secular festival of the Emperor Augustus the Ilithyiae are everywhere named in the plural except in the prayer, where we read 'O thou, Ilithyia!' In a cave dedicated to the cult of the nymphs in Attica, in which various inscriptions were carved in the fifth century B.C., the nymphs are as a rule spoken of in the plural, but one dedication reads: 'Archedemos built to the nymph.'

The needs of man created the gods, and the cult is an expression of his need. A god is a daimon which has acquired importance and a fixed form through the cult. From among the crowd of similar beings the cult chooses one as its object, and this becomes a single god. But the belief in the numerous daimones lives on, and if both the single divinity and the group of daimones are present to the mind together, the latter acquire a leader. Thus we have Pan and the Panes, Silenus and the Sileni, but Silenus was reduced to a semi-comic figure when his retinue was absorbed in that of Dionysos. A great goddess who seems to have arisen in this way is Artemis. She is essentially nothing but the most prominent of the wood- and mountain-nymphs. With these she hunts and dances in mountains and forests and amid green meadows. Like them she rules the animals in wild Nature and fosters their young. Like them she extends her sway to men, helps the mother in her hour of need, and protects the rising generation, but she may also deal sudden death with her arrows. This tendency to exalt one among a number of similar beings to a position of supremacy was so ingrained that it has left an example dating from the time of transition to the Christian faith. The Lycian 'wild gods' are represented as twelve similar figures; to them a thirteenth was added as their ruler, and he was placed in the middle and was somewhat larger in size, but was in other respects just like the rest.


Meditation on a Cock Fight

Joseph Hall (1574-1656), Occasionall Meditations, 3rd ed. (London: Printed by M[iles] F[lesher] for Nathaniel Butter, 1633), pp. 59-63 (XXIIII = Vpon sight of a Cocke fight):
How fell these Creatures out? Whence grew this so bloudy combat? Heere was neyther old grudge, nor present injurie. What then is the quarrell? Surely nothing but that which should rather unite, and reconcile them; one common Nature; they are both of one feather. I doe not see eyther of them flye upon Creatures of different kinds; but whiles they have peace with al others, they are at war with themselves; the very sight of each other was sufficient provocation. If this be the offence, why doth not each of them fall out with himselfe, since hee hates, and revenges in another, the being of that same which himselfe is?

Since Mans sin brought Debate into the World, nature is become a great quarreller.

The seeds of discord were scattered in every furrow of the Creation, & came up in a numberlesse variety of antipathies, whereof yet none is more odious, and deplorable, then those which are betwixt creatures of the same kind. What is this but an image of that woeful hostility which is exercised betwixt us reasonables, who are conjoyned in one common humanity, if not Religion?

We fight with, and destroy each other, more then those creatures that want reason to temper their passions; No beast is so cruel to man, as himselfe; where one man is slain by a beast, ten thousand are slaine by man. What is that war which wee study and practise, but the art of killing? What ever Turkes and Pagans may do, O Lord how long shall this brutish fury arme Christians against each other, whiles even divels are not at enmity with themselves, but accord in wickednesse, why do we men so mortally oppose each other in good?

Oh thou, that art the GOD of Peace, compose the unquiet hearts of men to an happy and universal Concord, and at last refresh our Soules with the multitude of Peace.
Related posts:

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I Cling to My Imperfection

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), p. 51:
Renan surrendered himself with smiling alacrity to the dream of a scientific morality. He reposed an almost unlimited confidence in Science. He believed it would change the world, because it can tunnel mountains. I do not think with him that it can make us gods. To say the truth, I do not very much want it to. I do not feel I have within me the stuff of a divinity, no matter how petty a one. My feebleness is dear to me. I cling to my imperfection, as the very essence of my being.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 56-57:
Renan s'abandonnait volontiers en souriant au rêve d'une morale scientifique. Il avait dans la science une confiance à peu près illimitée. Il croyait qu'elle changerait le monde, parce qu'elle perce les montagnes. Je ne crois pas, comme lui, qu'elle puisse nous diviniser. A vrai dire, je n'en ai guère l'envie. Je ne sens pas en moi l'étoffe d'un dieu, si petit qu'il soit. Ma faiblesse m'est chère. Je tiens à mon imperfection comme à ma raison d'être.


A Starting-Post

John Keats, letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (February 19, 1818):
I had an idea that a Man might pass a very pleasant life in this manner—let him on a certain day read a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose, and let him wander with it, and muse upon it, and reflect upon it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it, until it becomes stale—but when will it do so? Never. When Man has arrived at a certain ripeness in intellect any one grand and spiritual passage serves him as a starting-post towards all "the two-and-thirty Palaces." How happy is such a voyage of conception, what delicious diligent Indolence!
What are "the two-and-thirty Palaces"?

A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels: Consisting Of the most Esteemed Relations, which have been hitherto published in any Language: Comprehending every Thing remarkable in its Kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa and America..., Vol. IV (London: Thomas Astley, 1747), p. 5 (from "A Description of China," Book I, emphasis added):
They reckon three hundred and thirty-one remarkable Bridges, one thousand one hundred and fifty-nine Towers and triumphal Arches, erected to Kings, and eminent Persons; famous Libraries, two-hundred and seventy-two; seven hundred and nine Halls, built in Memory of Ancestors, or worthy Men; Sepulchres, remarkable for their Architecture, six hundred and eighty-eight; thirty-two Palaces of the Regulos; thirteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven Palaces of the Magistrates.
Id., p. 102 (emphasis added):
Among the public Buildings may be reckoned the Halls erected in Honour of Ancestors, the Libraries, and the Palaces of the Princes and Mandarins. Of the first, there are seven hundred and nine, considerable for their Largeness and Beauty. Of the second, two hundred and seventy-two, built at a vast Expence, finely ornamented, and stored with Books. Thirty-two Palaces of the Regulos, built after the Model of the Emperor's at Pe-king, and thirteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven of the Quan.
A regulo is, I assume, a regulus, a petty king. I don't know whether Keats ever read this book.

Joel Eidsath writes:
There are 32 points to the traditional wind compass. It's a poetic way of referring to all directions. "Two-and-thirty" is the sonorous KJV way of saying "32."

Keats was apparently inspired by Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, which uses the phrase "all the two and thirty winds," and had just been published in 1817.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


An Enduring and Harmless Pleasure

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), pp. 109-110:
The love of books is really a commendable taste. Bibliophiles are often made fun of, and perhaps, after all, they do lend themselves to raillery. But we should rather envy them, I think, for having successfully filled their lives with an enduring and harmless pleasure. Detractors think to confound them by declaring they never read their books. But one of them had his answer pat: "And you, do you eat off your old china?" What more innocent hobby can a man pursue than sorting away books in a press? True, it is very like the game the children play at when they build sand castles on the seashore. They are mighty busy, but nothing comes of it; whatever they build will be thrown down in a very short time. No doubt it is the same with collections of books and pictures. But it is only the vicissitudes of existence and the shortness of human life that must be blamed. The tide sweeps away the sand castles, the auctioneer disperses the hoarded treasures. And yet, what better can we do than build sand castles at ten years old, and form collections at sixty? Nothing will remain in any case of all our work, and the love of old books is not more foolish than any other love.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 124-126 (some misprints corrected):
Le goût des livres est vraiment un goût louable. On a raillé les bibliophiles, et peut-être, après tout, prêtent-ils à la raillerie; c'est le cas de tous les amoureux. Mais il faudrait plutôt les envier puisqu'ils ont ornés leur vie d'une longue et paisible volupté. On croit les confondre en disant qu'ils ne lisent point leurs livres. Mais l'un d'eux a répondu sans embarras: «Et vous, mangez-vous dans votre vieille faïence?» Que peut-on faire de plus honnête que de mettre des livres dans une armoire? Cela rappelle beaucoup, à la vérité, la tâche que se donnent les enfants, quand ils font des tas de sable au bord de la mer. Ils travaillent en vain, et tout ce qu'ils élèvent sera bientôt renversé. Sans doute, il en est ainsi des collections de livres et de tableaux. Mais il n'en faut accuser que les vicissitudes de l'existence et la brièveté de la vie. La mer emporte les tas de sable, le commissaire-priseur disperse les collections. Et pourtant on n'a rien de mieux à faire que des tas de sable à dix ans et des collections à soixante. Rien ne restera de tout ce que nous élevons, et l'amour des bibelots n'est pas plus vain que tous les autres amours.

José Gutiérrez Solana, El Bibliófilo



Anatole France (1844-1924), The Aspirations of Jean Servien, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1912), p. 79 (chapter XI; ellipsis in original):
"You are all the same. You work and sweat and wear yourselves out to make your sons bachelors of arts, and you think the day after the examination the fine fellows will be posted Ambassadors. For God's sake! no more graduates, if you please! We can't tell what to do with 'em....Graduates indeed! Why, they block the road; they are cabdrivers, they distribute handbills in the streets."
The French, from Les Désirs de Jean Servien (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1882), pp. 79-80:
«Vous êtes tous les mêmes. Vous travaillez, vous suez, vous vous épuisez pour faire de vos fils des bacheliers et vous croyez que le lendemain de l'examen ces gaillards-là seront nommés ambassadeurs. Pour Dieu! ne nous donnez plus de bacheliers. Nous ne savons qu'en faire...Les bacheliers! ils encombrent le pavé; ils sont cochers de fiacre, ils distribuent des prospectus dans les rues.»

Friday, April 18, 2014


Breakfast and Supper

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Aspirations of Jean Servien, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1912), p. 18 (chapter III):
"Here is your son, is it not so? He is like you"—and laying his hand on Jean's head, who clung to his father's coat-tails in wonder at the red waistcoat and the sing-song voice, he asked if the child learned his lessons well, if he was growing up to be a clever man, if he would not soon be beginning Latin.

"That noble language," he added, "whose inimitable monuments have often made me forget my misfortunes.

"Yes, sir, I have often breakfasted on a page of Tacitus and supped on a satire of Juvenal."
The French, from Les Désirs de Jean Servien (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1882), pp. 12-13:
«Voici votre fils, n'est-il pas vrai? Il vous ressemble.»

Et posant la main sur la tête de Jean, qui, pendu à la veste de son père, s'étonnait de ce gilet rouge et de ce parler chantant, il demanda si l'enfant apprenait bien ses leçons, s'il devenait un savant, s'il n'étudierait pas bientôt la langue latine.

—«Cette noble langue, ajouta-t-il, dont les monuments inimitables m'ont fait si souvent oublier mes infortunes.

«Oui, monsieur, j'ai souvent déjeuné d'une page de Tacite et soupé d'une satire de Juvénal.»


The Cost of Freedom

Martial 2.53 (tr. Walter C.A. Ker):
Do you wish to become free? You lie, Maximus; you don't wish. But if you do wish, in this way you can become so. You will be free, Maximus, if you refuse to dine abroad, if Veii's grape quells your thirst, if you can laugh at the gold-inlaid dishes of the wretched Cinna, if you can content yourself with a toga such as mine, if your plebeian amours are handfasted at the price of twopence, if you can endure to stoop as you enter your dwelling. If this is your strength of mind, if such its power over itself, you can live more free than a Parthian king.
A verse translation (by Henry Killigrew?), in Select Epigrams of Martial Englished (London: Printed by Edward Jones, for Samuel Lowndes, 1689), p. 40:
Thou but feign'st, Maximus, thou'dst not be Free:
Or if thou wouldst, by these means thou may'st be.
Thou shalt be Free; if thou at Home can'st Dine;
If thou canst quench thy Thirst with common Wine;
If Rich Men thou can'st Miserable deem,
And such a thread-bare Coat, as mine, esteem;
If in a cheap and vulgar Form delight,
A Room, in which thou scarce can'st stand upright.
If thy Desires, to this Lure, thou can'st bring,
Thou may'st live Freer than the Parthian King.
Another verse translation, by A.E. Street:
You would be free? Nay, Maximus, you lie,
But, if't be true, herein lies liberty;
If you refuse henceforth abroad to dine;
And quench your thirst with little Tuscan wine,
If abject Cinna's plate move your contempt,
If you will go, like me, threadbare, unkempt,
Buy humble amours with a thrifty hand,
Live in a cot where you must stoop to stand;
If you are strong, and will these things to be,
No Parthian king will e'er have been so free.
The Latin:
Vis liber fieri? mentiris, Maxime, non vis:
    sed fieri si vis, hac ratione potes.
liber eris, cenare foris si, Maxime, nolis,
    Veientana tuam si domat uva sitim,
si ridere potes miseri chrysendeta Cinnae,        5
    contentus nostra si potes esse toga,
si plebeia Venus gemino tibi iungitur asse,
    si tua non rectus tecta subire potes.
haec tibi si vis est, si mentis tanta potestas,
    liberior Partho vivere rege potes.        10

7 iungitur Heinsius: vincitur codd.


Mageiros and Magic?

Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (New York: The Penguin Press, 2013), p. 4:
Most of us have happy memories of watching our mothers in the kitchen, performing feats that sometimes looked very much like sorcery and typically resulted in something tasty to eat. In ancient Greece, the word for "cook," "butcher," and "priest" was the same—mageiros—and the word shares an etymological root with "magic." I would watch, rapt, when my mother conjured her most magical dishes, like the tightly wrapped packages of fried chicken Kiev that, when cut open with a sharp knife, liberated a pool of melted butter and an aromatic gust of herbs. But watching an everyday pan of eggs get scrambled was nearly as riveting a spectacle, as the slimy yellow goop suddenly leapt into the form of savory gold nuggets. Even the most ordinary dish follows a satisfying arc of transformation, magically becoming more than the sum of its ordinary parts.
Does mageiros really share an etymological root with magic?

According to Hans Dohm, Mageiros: Die Rolle des Kochs in der griechisch-römischen Komödie (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1964), pp. 72-74, Greek μάγειρος (mágeiros = cook) is related to μάχαιρα (máchaira = knife). Dohm gives credit for this etymology to Vittore Pisani, "Una parola greca di probabile origine macedone: μάγειρος," Revue internationale des études balkaniques 1 (1934) 255-259 (non vidi).

But cf. Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, III (Paris: Klincksieck, 1974), s.v. μάγειρος, p. 656, who concludes, "Pas d'étymologie établie." Chantraine is also agnostic about μάχαιρα (p. 673): "Mais il n'y a pas d'étymologie: le rapprochement avec μάχομαι n'est pas plausible." Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2009), is unavailable to me (Brill advertises it as "A must-have research tool that should be on every classicist's desk"—it costs only $575).

On the theory of an etymological connection between μάγειρος and μάγος, see Rüdiger Schmitt, "'Méconnaissance' altiranischen Sprachgutes im Griechischen," Glotta 49 (1971) 95-110 (at 107):
Durch nichts begründet ist Hemmerdingers anschließende lapidare Feststellung: „Sur μάγος sont formés des mots qui ont trait à la boucherie ou la cuisine (μαγειρεῖον, etc.).“
The quotation comes from Bertrand Hemmerdinger, "158 noms communs grecs d'origine iranienne, d'Eschyle au grec moderne," Byzantinoslavica 30 (1969) 18-41 (at 19), which I haven't seen. Other than Hemmerdinger, whose theory Schmitt calls unfounded, I'm not aware of any scholar who connects mageiros with magic.

Hat tip: Jim K.

Thanks very much to Aurelian Isaïcq for transcriptions of Beekes, s.v. μάγειρος:
The word looks non-IE, because of the alternations ει/ī and (if μάχαιρα belongs here) γ/χ. Is it Pre-Greek, deriving from *mak-ary-? Aeol. μάγοιρος, mentioned by LSJ s.v., is only attested in Greg. Cor., which is not a trustworthy source.
and s.v. μάχαιρα:
I compare μάγειρος 'cook', and on account of the interchange γ/χ conclude that it is a Pre-Greek word.

On p. 457 of Pollan's book read "Euripides" for "Euripedes".


Thursday, April 17, 2014


Ovid in Pontus

C.H. Sisson (1914-2003), "Ovid in Pontus," Collected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 1998), p. 158:
I am an old man whose death is foreseen,
Bystanders admire my longevity.
I see them eat every word I mean,
Yes, and excrete pity.
Di maris et coeli, what if the air
Is empty enough to receive prayer?
Do I have to pray? Because Pontic cold
Is under my cloak now I am old?
It is under my skin, fashionable tears.
A suitable place to die, or to make amends;
Failure makes enemies as success friends.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


A Liking for Savages

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Altavona: Fact and Fiction from My Life in the Highlands (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1882), pp. 207-208:
FL.—Nevertheless, I must confess, my sympathies in such cases instinctively go with the conquered. If I look forth with wonder on the adventurous admirals of Agricola, drawing with the keels, so to speak, of their long ships a boundary line which should make the limits of the Roman empire to the West identical with the limits of the then known world, my heart is at the same time stirred in sisterly pity towards the blue barbarians, painted with woad—the Epidians, Selgovians, and Novantes, destined to receive civilisation, not without the "delinimenta vitiorum," which, as Tacitus says, the corrupt Romans of those days always brought with them. Generally, I must confess that I have a liking for savages; they may be rude and sometimes cruel, but they are at least natural.

CH.—It is this contrast, no doubt, between the artificial vices of an over-refined civilisation and the natural virtues of unsophisticated semi-savages, which furnishes the key-note to the admirable little tract, De moribus Germanorum, with which every schoolboy is familiar. At the same time, I apprehend it is distance at bottom that, in the case of cerulean savages, as of blue mountains, lends enchantment to the view. Catch a dragon-fly, and your close inspection will annihilate all its play of colour. Live with a savage with stone hatchets and bone necklaces for a week or a day, and you will straightway begin to sigh for saloons and sofas, and silver forks at dinner.

MAC.—Yes, sentimental worshippers of pure nature, and aesthetical worshippers of the middle ages, are capable of any kind of self-deceit. They live in an atmosphere of elegant lies, and the stuff which they find in some moonshiny novel to feed their weak digestion, is as far removed from healthy nature as the phosphorescence of putrid herring in the dark is from the light of day.


Pan and Priapus

Statue of Pan in the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid):

Statue of Priapus in the same museum:

Thanks to a friend for sending me these photographs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Beware of the Atmosphere of the Classics

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Altavona: Fact and Fiction from My Life in the Highlands (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1882), pp. 321-322:
As to what you say about the gloomy aspect and sour Pharisaism of the trans-Grampian religion, it is certainly true, but true at the same time to a considerable extent of Scotland generally. The religion of the so-called Evangelical clergy in the Lowlands is strongly tinged, if not with gloom, certainly with a tone of habitual antagonism to all innocent enjoyment and playful recreation. With these men playing at cards is a deadly sin, and dancing a sort of quick march to hell. For a minister of the gospel to talk on any other subject than God, and hell, and eternity, is to slide into worldly conversation. Living persons should, if possible, always be talking about death. If you read the biographies of some of their most popular spokesmen, you will find that their religious life commences with a profound conviction that the world lies under a curse, that all men are naturally hell-deserving sinners, and that original sin, or moral contamination inherited from our primal progenitor, so far from being a palliation, as it logically must be, is rather to be viewed as an exaggeration of the guilt of any actual sins that a man may commit. In a world so abandoned of God, the only thing a wise man can do is to keep at a distance from it, to look upon all natural pleasures as sinful, and to devote the mind altogether to emotional preparation for a future and higher life, of which the present is only the thorny entrance. Such a religion, like Oriental Buddhism, is in fact a renunciation of humanity and a declaration of war against all temporal and visible enjoyments. It is a temper the very reverse of that which was praised and practised by Socrates and the other wise Greeks. To them religion was rather the art of enjoying the present life according to reason. Hence the notable antipathy which our so-called Evangelical religionists feel to all classical culture. M'Cheyne of Dundee wrote to one of his early friends to "beware of the atmosphere of the classics; it is pernicious, and must be known only as chemists know poisons."1

1 Memoirs of R. Murray M'Cheyne (Edinburgh, 1875), pp. 22, 29, 39, and 54.


The Greatest Period of My Life

Stendhal (1783-1842), The Life of Henry Brulard, tr. John Sturrock (New York: New York Review Books, 2002), p. 99:
Judge of the effect of Don Quijote in the midst of such awful joylessness! The discovery of that book, read beneath the second lime-tree in the walk beside the sunken parterre where the ground was a foot lower, and where I used to sit, is perhaps the greatest period of my life.

Qu'on juge de l'effet de Don Quichotte au milieu d'une si horrible tristesse! La découverte de ce livre, lu sous le second tilleul de l'allée du côté du parterre dont le terrain s'enfonçait d'un pied, et là je m'asseyais, est peut-être la plus grande époque de ma vie.


Textual Criticism as a Branch of Medicine

Cardinal Bessarion, letter to Lorenzo Valla (1453), tr. Brendan Cook:
We have always counted Quintilian as among the foremost authors of the Latin language. Your statement did not merely confirm this opinion of ours, but actually strengthened it so that we now think him second to none in the art of rhetoric. We have recently had the book transcribed, and for beauty of decoration it surpasses other books as the sun outshines the other stars. But in truth this same book, like nearly all of them, is riddled with error. It is surely a great shame that a man of such noble countenance, so ruddy and flushed with blood, whose whole body has a natural beauty and regal dignity, should also be so feeble of frame and frail of limb. We have accordingly decided to have the book attended to with the greatest possible care, so that it may be worthy of its beauty. We do not lack the doctors to achieve this, but the instruments to effect the cure.

In the name of your humanity and our mutual affection, we therefore ask you to send us those instruments, that is to say your Quintilian, the only correct copy on earth. He will remain with us as our guest until our copy makes a full recovery. Afterward he will be returned to you at once safe and sound, feeling that he has earned no small glory from his journey by having restored such a man from illness to good health. For our part, we shall forever remain in your debt, along with our Quintilian.
The Latin:
Fabium Quintilianum unum ex praecipuis Latinae linguae auctoribus semper putavimus; quam opinionem nostram sententia tua non solum confirmavit, verum etiam ita auxit, ut neminem iam huic in arte rhetorica preponendum existimemus. Fecimus proximis diebus eum librum transcribi, tantum inter ceteros libros pulchritudine ac decore praestantem, quantum sol ceteris sideribus lucidior est. Verum idem, ut alii fere omnes, mendosus est; indigna sane res, ut homo facie tam liberalii, multo sanguine, multo rubore suffusa, cui ingenua totius corporis pulchritudo et regius quidam decor inest, adeo imbecillis viribus, adeo nervis infirmus sit. Quare nos quidem statuimus quam maxima fieri poterit diligentia eum librum curari, quo talis sit qualem pulchritudo eius meretur. Ad hoc vero non medici nobis desunt, sed instrumenta ad medendum.

Petimus igitur abs te per humanitatem tuam, per mutuum amorem nostrum, ea instrumenta, idest Quintilianum tuum, qui solus in orbe terrarum correctus est, ad nos mittas. Tamdiu hospitabitur nobiscum quoad noster recte convaluerit. Postea ad te statim integer revertetur; nec parvam sibi laudem ex hac peregrinatione adeptum putabit, qui talem virum ex valetudinario bene valere fecerit. Nos vero una eum Quintiliano nostro tibi perpetuo devincti erimus.
Cf. the use of the words mendosus, sanus, etc., when discussing the soundness of texts. Here is another example, from the prolegomena of Tischendorf's Evangelium Palatinum Ineditum (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1847), p. ix:
Ex quo tempore operam dedi ut graecum Novi Testamenti textum ad eam revocarem integritatem quae ex summae vetustatis monumentis diligenter excussis hauriri posset, intellexi, insigne ejus rei subsidium in antiquis interpretationibus latinis positum esse. Ut autem non potest qui ipse aegrotat alii medicus esse: ita nec ad corrigenda graeca tuto adhibueris latina, nisi haec ipsa satis sana esse cognoveris.
And who can forget Housman describing the diagnostic acumen of Bentley?
Lucida tela diei: these are the words that come into one's mind when one has halted at some stubborn perplexity of reading or interpretation, has witnessed Scaliger and Gronouius and Huetius fumble at it one after another, and then turns to Bentley and sees Bentley strike his finger on the place and say thou ailest here, and here.
M. Manilii Astronomicon Liber Primus, ed. A.E. Housman (London: Grant Richards, 1903), p. xvi.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014



John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Altavona: Fact and Fiction from My Life in the Highlands (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1882), p. 300:
A genuine Highlander is apt to feel towards English, as your Oxonian does to Latin; however well he knows it, it is not his mother tongue. A man may learn many languages, but he can have only one mother tongue.
This started me thinking about the phrase "mother tongue" and its equivalents, which I don't remember seeing in ancient Greek or Latin. Apparently it first appeared in the 12th century. There's a good article on the subject by Einar Haugen (1906-1994), "The 'mother tongue'," in Robert L. Cooper and Bernard Spolsky, edd., The Influence of Language on Culture and Thought: Essays in Honor of Joshua A. Fishman's Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991), pp. 75-84 (some pages not visible through Google Books).


Guiding Principles

Ernst Robert Curtius (1886-1956), at the beginning of his European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, tr. Willard E. Trask (1953; rpt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), set forth ten "Guiding Principles," in the form of untranslated quotations from five European languages. I could find existing translations of only the first three principles, so I tried to translate the others myself. Thanks very much to friends who patiently answered questions and made suggestions—any remaining errors and infelicities are my own fault. I've also added a few notes. Curtius put the citations after the quotations; I put them before.

1. Herodotus, I, ch. 8:

πάλαι δὲ τὰ καλὰ ἀνθρώποισι ἐξεύρηται, ἐκ τῶν μανθάνειν δεῖ.

Translated by A.D. Godley:

Men have long ago made wise rules from which one ought to learn.

2. Polybius, XV, 4.11:

πατέρων εὖ κείμενα ἔργα.

Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert:

The noble traditions of our fathers.

It's a bit difficult to understand this phrase, by itself, as a guiding principle. In the original Greek, the words are the object of the verb διαφυλάξαι (to guard, preserve, uphold). "To preserve the noble traditions of our fathers" would be an appropriate principle.

3. Petronius, ch. 118:

... neque concipere aut edere partum mens potest nisi ingenti flumine litterarum inundata

Translated by Michael Heseltine:

... the mind cannot conceive or bring forth its fruit unless it is steeped in the vast flood of literature

4. Proverb:

Ne tu aliis faciendam trade, factam si quam rem cupis.

If you want something done, don't give it to others to be done.

This proverb isn't in Hans Walther, Proverbia Sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Aevi (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963-1969), or Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010). W.M. Lindsay quotes it as an old proverb (proverbii veteris) in the Latin preface to his edition of Isidore's Etymologiae (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911), p. vi.

Update: see Not an Ancient Latin Proverb.

5. Les Narbonnais:

Guillames dist a ceus qui o lui erent:
"Seignor," fet il, "les bones uevres perent;
Fesom aussi con cil qui bien ovrerent."

William spoke to those who were with him:
"Gentlemen," he said, "good deeds perish*;
Let us, too, act with those who do good deeds."

See Hermann Sucher, ed., Les Narbonnais: Chanson de Geste (Paris: Librairie de Firmin Didot et Cie, 1898), p. 26, who prints these lines (numbered 611-613) as follows:

Guillames dist a ceux qui o lui erent:
"Segnor," fet il, "les bones hoevres perent.
Fessom ausi con cil qui bien ovrerent!"

*Update: Trond Kruke Salberg writes in an email (January 9, 2016):
The verbal form "perent" is 3rd person plural indicative present tense of Old French "paroir" (= Modern French "paraître": to appear, to be or become visible). It has nothing to do with Modern French "périr".
Change the translation above, therefore, to "good deeds are conspicuous."

6. Goethe, Flüchtige Übersicht über die Kunst in Deutschland (1801):

Vielleicht überzeugt man sich bald, dass es keine patriotische Kunst und patriotische Wissenschaft gebe. Beide gehören, wie alles Gute, der ganzen Welt an und können nur durch allgemeine freie Wechselwirkung aller zugleich Lebenden, in steter Rücksicht auf das, was uns vom Vergangenen übrig und bekannt ist, gefordert werden.

Perhaps people will soon be convinced that there is no patriotic art, no patriotic science. Both belong, like all good things, to the entire world and can be furthered only by free and universal cooperation among all now living, with constant reference to what has been handed down and is familiar to us from past generations.

7. Jacob Burckhardt, Werke, XIV, 57 8:

Auch die Zeiten des Verfalls und Untergangs haben ihr heiliges Recht auf unser Mitgefühl.

Even times of decay and destruction have their sacred right to our sympathy.

8. Gustav Gröber, Grundriss der romanischen Philologie, I (1888), 3:

Absichtslose Wahrnehmung, unscheinbare Anfänge gehen dem zielbewussten Suchen, dem allseitigen Erfassen des Gegenstandes voraus. Im sprungweisen Durchmessen des Raumes hascht dann der Suchende nach dem Ziel. Mit einem Schema unfertiger Ansichten über ähnliche Gegenstände scheint er das Ganze erfassen zu konnen, ehe Natur und Teile gekannt sind. Der vorschnellen Meinung folgt die Einsicht des Irrtums, nur langsam der Entschluss, dem Gegenstand in kleinen und kleinsten Schritten nahe zu kommen, Teil und Teilchen zu beschauen und nicht zu ruhen, bis die Überzeugung gewonnen ist, dass sie nur so und nicht anders aufgefasst werden dürfen.

Unintentional observation and unremarkable beginnings precede the purposeful search, the comprehension of the object in all its aspects. Crossing the area in fits and starts the researcher strives to attain his goal. With a pattern of incomplete views of similar objects, he seems able to grasp the whole before its character and parts are known. Rash opinion follows the insight gained through error, and only slowly does one resolve to approach the object in small and even smaller steps, to examine it part and parcel, and not to rest until convinced that things should be understood in just this way and not otherwise.

9. Antoine Meillet, Esquisse d'une histoire de la langue latine (1928):

On aurait souhaité de n'être pas technique. À l'essai, il est apparu que, si l'on voulait épargner au lecteur les détails précis, il ne restait que des généralités vagues, et que toute démonstration manquait.

One would have liked not to be technical. But in the attempt, it seemed that, if one wanted to spare the reader specific details, there remained only vague generalities, and all proof was lacking.

10. José Ortega y Gasset, Obras (1932), 963:

Un libro de ciencia tiene que ser de ciencia; pero también tiene que ser un libro.

A scientific book must be scientific; but it also must be a book.

Monday, April 14, 2014


High Priests of Learning

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Altavona: Fact and Fiction from My Life in the Highlands (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1882), p. 47:
FL.—The best thing that could be done for you Germans were to keep you from the sight of a book for at least two months in the year. You pore over old papers, peeping through the fumes of tobacco, till you positively unlearn the natural use of your eyes. How is it that in a company of half-a-dozen Germans three are sure to have spectacles on their noses?

B.—I do not know; but, if we did damage our eyes by too much poring over books, it is no small compensation to think that we have produced such men as Niebuhr and Mommsen, Wolf, Hermann, Boeckh, and Bopp.

FL.—In these names verily you have your reward. You are the high priests of learning, not for yourselves only, but for the whole world.
One German scholar supposedly became blind from poring over old papers, viz. Wilhelm Studemund (1843-1889), who prefixed Catullus' words "Ni te plus oculis meis amarem!" ("Did I not love thee more than my eyes!") to his transcription of the Ambrosian palimpsest of Plautus—T. Macci Plauti Fabularum Reliquiae Ambrosianae: Codicis Rescripti Ambrosiani Apographum (Berlin: Weidmann, 1889). However, Benjamin W. Fortson IV casts doubt on the story in his Language and Rhythm in Plautus: Synchronic and Diachronic Studies (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), p. 11, n. 27:
Contrary to popular wisdom, it is not physiologically possible to go blind in this fashion; more likely, Studemund suffered from macular degeneration.


Saint Socrates

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Altavona: Fact and Fiction from My Life in the Highlands (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1882), p. 24:
CH.—νὴ τὸν κύνα

MAC.—Did not I tell you that a clergyman, a predestinated Dean, and a probable Bishop of the Anglo-Catholic Church of Christ in Great Britain, should not swear?

CH.—You are quite right; it was a bad habit we learned at College—I mean swearing in Greek; we thought there was no harm in that; besides, the man who uses that asseveration, which you call swearing, was a Saint.



MAC.—(Singing to the tune of the Litany of the Virgin—Sancta virgo virginum—that used to be sung by the Roman people at vespers in the street corners.)
O Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis,
σοφῶν σοφώτατε, ora pro nobis,
λογίων λογιώτατε, ora pro nobis,
λαλῶν λαλίστατε, ora pro nobis,
σιμῶν σιμώτατε, ora pro nobis!
My translation of the song:
O Saint Socrates, pray for us,
Wisest of the wise, pray for us,
Most learned of the learned, pray for us,
Most talkative of the talkative, pray for us,
Most snub-nosed of the snub-nosed, pray for us!
The oath (νὴ τὸν κύνα) means "by the dog."

Related post: The Company of Saints.


The Ninth Age

Juvenal 13.23-30 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
What day is so auspicious that it doesn't produce cases of theft, betrayal, and fraud, profit gained by every kind of crime, and money acquired by the blade or poison box? Good people are rare. Count them: they are hardly as many as the gates of Thebes or the mouths of the rich Nile. We are living in the ninth age, an era worse than the age of iron. Nature herself can find no name for its wickedness and has no metal to label it.

quae tam fausta dies, ut cesset prodere furtum,
perfidiam, fraudes atque omni ex crimine lucrum
quaesitum et partos gladio vel pyxide nummos?
rari quippe boni: numera, vix sunt totidem quot
Thebarum portae vel divitis ostia Nili.
nona aetas agitur peioraque saecula ferri
temporibus, quorum sceleri non invenit ipsa
nomen et a nullo posuit natura metallo.

23 fausta Markland, festa codd. | furtum Nisbet, furem codd.
See M.J. McGann, "Juvenal's Ninth Age (13, 28ff.)," Hermes 96 (1968) 509-514.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


A Laughingstock

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 22.7.15 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
Moreover, most people actually laugh at me for carrying on research in these matters, and I am accused of busying myself with trifles.

immo vero plerisque ultro etiam inrisui sumus ista commentantes atque frivoli operis arguimur.
Related post: Orchideenfach.



Erasmus, letter 125 Allen, tr. Francis Morgan Nichols, The Epistles of Erasmus, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1901), pp. 240-241:
You want to know what I am doing. I devote myself to my friends, with whom I enjoy the most delightful intercourse. With them I shut myself in some corner, where I avoid the gaping crowd, and either speak to them in sweet whispers or listen to their gentle voices, talking with them as with myself. Can anything be more convenient than this? They never hide their own secrets, while they keep sacred whatever is entrusted to them. They speak when bidden, and when not bidden they hold their tongue. They talk of what you wish, as much as you wish and as long as you wish; do not flatter, feign nothing, keep back nothing, freely tell you of your faults, and take no man's character away. What they say is either amusing or wholesome. In prosperity they moderate, in affliction they console, do not vary with fortune, follow you in all dangers, and last out to the very grave. Nothing can be more candid than their relations with one another. I visit them from time to time, now choosing one companion and now another with perfect impartiality.

With these humble friends I bury myself in seclusion. What wealth or what scepters would I take in exchange for this tranquil life? If there is any obscurity in our metaphor, all that I have said about friends is to be understood of books, whose familiarity makes me a happy man, unlucky only in this, that I do not enjoy this felicity with you. Although there is no need to do so, I shall not cease to exhort you to cling with all your heart to noble studies. Do not admire anything that is vulgar or commonplace, but strive always to read what is highest.
The Latin, from P.S. Allen, Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906), pp. 288-289:
Quid rerum faciam rogas? Amicis operam do, horum consuetudine gratissima memet oblecto. 'Quos tu tandem amicos mihi iactitas,' inquis, 'homuncio leuissime? An quisquam te visum aut auditum velit?' Equidem non diffiteor fortunatorum amicos esse plurimos; at nec pauperibus desunt amici, et quidem istis non paulo tum certiores tum commodiores. Cum his me concludo in angulum aliquem, et turbam ventosam fugiens aut cum illis dulcia quaedam mussito, aut eos aliquid insusurrantes audio, cum his non secus ас mecum loquor. An quicquam his commodius? Arcana ipsi sua celant nunquam, commissa summa cum fide continent: nihil foris quae liberius inter familiares effundere solemus, renunciant: vocati praesto sunt, inuocati non ingerunt sese: iussi loquuntur, iniussi tacent: loquuntur quae voles, quantum voles, quoad voles: nihil assentantur, fingunt nihil, nihil dissimulant: vitia tua tibi libere indicant, nemini obtrectant: aut iucunda dicunt, aut salutaria: secundis in rebus moderantur, consolantur in afflictis, cum fortuna minime variantur: in omnia pericula te sequuntur, ad extremos usque rogos perdurant: nihil ipsis inter se candidius. Committo subinde, nunc hos, nunc illos mihi asciscens, omnibus aequus.

Cum his amiculis, optime N., sepultus delitesco. Quas ego tandem opes aut quae sceptra cum hac desidia commutauero? Verum ne nostra te fallat metaphora, quicquid de amiculis hactenus sum locutus, de libris dictum intelligas, quorum familiaritas me plane beatum effecit, hoc solo infortunatum quod non tecum mihi haec felicitas contigerit. Te, quanquam nihil opus, hortari non desinam vt toto animo praeclara studia complectaris, ne quid plebeium, ne quid mediocre mireris; ad summa semper enitere.

Thomas Wijck (1616–1677), A Scholar in His Study



From an email:
Years ago, I read a wonderful anecdote describing a book collector or learned person from, probably, the Renaissance era. In the anecdote, the collector is described as having one bookcase filled with Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, among others. At the top of this bookcase was engraved the word "Amo."

He also had a second bookcase, containing only Aeschylus. This bookcase was labeled "Timeo."

It always seemed like I read the story in Victor Hugo's book on Shakespeare, but I recently thumbed through my copy and I think now that is wrong.

Does this story ring any bells, by any chance? I'd enjoy figuring out where I came across it!
I'm not familiar with this story. Perhaps some reader of this blog can help.

Ian Jackson gets the prize. He identified the source as Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1864), p. 101 (Book IV, Chapter I):
A man whom we do not know how to class in his own century, so little does he belong to it, being at the same time so much behind it and so much in advance of it, the Marquis de Mirabeau, that queer customer as a philanthropist, but a very rare thinker after all, had a library, in the two corners of which he had had carved a dog and a she-goat, in remembrance of Socrates, who swore by the dog, and of Zeno, who swore by the goat. His library presented this peculiarity: on one side he had Hesiod, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Herodotus, Thucydides, Pindar, Theocritus, Anacreon, Theophrastus, Demosthenes, Plutarch, Cicero, Titus Livius, Seneca, Persius, Lucan, Terence, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, Tibullus, Virgil, and underneath could be read, engraved in letters of gold, "AMO;" on the other side, he had Aeschylus alone, and underneath, this word—"TIMEO."

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Epistulae ex Ponto 4.17

Kenneth White, "Recalling Ovid," Open World: The Collected Poems 1960-2000 (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2003), p. 359:
Another Sarmatian winter setting in
goats blethering in what passes for a garden
rain falling when it isn't poisoned arrows
(how many summers since I smelled a Roman rose!)
eyes bleary, frosty weather on my chin        5

why bother writing yet another book?
well, it keeps my mind off stupid folk
the scratching of my stylus on the page
is music to my ears and cools my rage
I know now I'll be here until I croak        10

so, here's a man will listen to the snow
and let the hours come, long and slow
such distance and such silence, all I wish
salt fish is now my favourite dish
I was a famous Roman poet, long ago.        15
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


The Shepherd's Hand

Pseudo-Diogenes, letter 44, to Metrocles, 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. 162, with notes on p. 254:
It is not only bread and water, and a bed of straw, and a rough cloak, that teach temperance and hardiness, but also, if I may use the expression, the shepherd's hand.* If only I had been able to make that known to Paris, who was once a cattle-herd.* So you should adopt that practice too, wherever you are hurrying to, since it accords with our way of life. As for intemperate intercourse with women, which takes up so much free time, you may bid that farewell. For one who is hastening along the short cut to happiness, dalliance with women brings no benefit; and for many ordinary men too, such activity brings its penalty likewise. But you for your part will take your place among those who have learned from Pan* to make use of your hand; and do not draw back even if some call you a dog, or something still worse, for having adopted this way of life.

the shepherd's hand: referring to masturbation, as a practice specially associated with shepherds because they live a solitary life while pasturing their sheep.

Paris ... once a cattle-herd: the Trojan prince was exposed at birth because his mother had a sinister dream foretelling that he would bring disaster to his homeland, but he was rescued by a herdsman, and herded cattle outside the city during his earlier years; he later provoked the Trojan War, and no end of suffering, by abducting the beautiful Helen, hence the wish expressed here.

learned from Pan: the text is corrupt here, but this proposed reading makes excellent sense, the rustic deity Pan being the patron-god of shepherds. In Dio Chrysostom, Speech 6.17-20, Diogenes recounts a little myth in which it is claimed that Hermes taught the practice of masturbation to Pan during the time of his hopeless passion for Echo, and Pan then passed it on to goatherds.
Hard in his bibliography (p. xxxv) lists two modern editions of Pseudo-Diogenes' letters: A.J. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles (Missoula, 1977) and E. Müseler, Die Kynikerbriefe, 2 vols. (Paderborn, 1994). I think Hard is translating from Müseler's edition, although he doesn't explicitly say so. Neither edition is available to me, although I can see the apparatus for this letter from Müseler's edition via Google Books' "snippet view." The only Greek text I have access to is in Epistolographi Graeci, ed. Rudolph Hercher (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1873), p. 256:
Οὐ μόνον ἄρτος καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ στιβὰς καὶ τρίβων σωφροσύνην καὶ καρτερίαν διδάσκουσιν, ἀλλ' εἰ χρὴ οὕτως φάναι, καὶ ποιμενικὴ χείρ. ὤφελον καὶ τὸν πρὶν ἐκεῖνον βουκόλον ὄντα ἐξεπίστασθαι. ἐπιμέλου οὖν καὶ ταύτης ἔνθα ἂν ἐπείγῃς· ἔστι γὰρ ἐκ τῆς συντάξεως τοῦ ἡμετέρου βίου. τὰς δὲ πρὸς τὰς γυναῖκας ἀκρατεῖς ἐντεύξεις πολλῆς δεομένας σχολῆς ἔα πολλὰ χαίρειν· οὐ γὰρ σχολή τι μόνον πτωχὸν αἰτεῖν κατὰ Πλάτωνα, ἀλλὰ τῷ ἐπ' εὐδαιμονίαν σύντομον ἐπειγομένῳ ἡ πρὸς γυναῖκας ἔντευξις ὄνησιν φέρει ἀνθρώπων δ' ἰδιωτῶν πολλῶν, οἷς ὁμοίως διὰ ταύτην τὴν πρᾶξιν ζημία, περιμαθήσεις παρὰ τοῖς μεμαθηκόσιν ἐκ παντὸς ἐργάσασθαι. σὺ μὴ ἐπιστρέφου, μηδ' εἴ σε διὰ τὸν τοιοῦτον βίον κύνα τινὲς ἢ ἄλλο τι ἀποκαλῶσι χεῖρον.
Here is the apparatus from Müseler's edition:

The Schafstaedt who emended παντὸς to Πανὸς is Heinrich Schafstaedt, De Diogenis Epistulis (diss. Göttingen, 1892), p. 39. Wilamowitz supervised Schafstaedt's dissertation, and his correction of πρὶν to Πάριν also appears on the same page.

Hercher doesn't give a complete Latin translation of this letter, presumably because of its scabrous subject matter.

Related post: A Gift of the Gods.

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