Monday, June 30, 2014


Garbled Greek

William Frank Thompson, letter to Iris Murdoch (April 21, 1944), as printed in Peter J. Conradi, ed., Iris Murdoch: A Writer At War. Letters & Diaries 1939-1945 (2010; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 161-163 (at 162), quoting what looks like Greek:
αμματων δ'εν αχηνιασ
ερρει παο Αφροδιτα
The editor doesn't translate this gibberish. Misled by the previous sentence in the letter, which mentions Hippolytus, the editor implies (footnote 71 on p. 162) that the words come from Euripides' Hippolytus. Actually, the words come from Aeschylus, Agamemnon 418-419, and should read:
ὀμμάτων δ' ἐν ἀχηνίαις
ἔρρει πᾶσ' Ἀφροδίτα.
On these lines see Deborah Steiner, "Eyeless in Argos; a reading of Agamemnon 416-19," Journal of Hellenic Studies 115 (1995) 175-182, who translates "and in the absence of eyes, gone is all Aphrodite."

I'd wager that the garbled Greek is due to the editor or typesetter, not to the letter writer. Frank Thompson (1920-1944) and Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) both knew Greek well. Murdoch attended Eduard Fraenkel's seminar on Aeschylus' Agamemnon and wrote a poem about it dedicated to the memory of Thompson, entitled "Agamemnon Class 1939." The poem begins:
Do you remember Professor
Eduard Fraenkel's endless
Class on the Agamemnon?
Between line eighty three and line a thousand
It seemed to us our innocence
Was lost, our youth laid waste,
In that pellucid unforgiving air,
The aftermath experienced before,
Focused by dread into a lurid flicker,
A most uncanny composite of sun and rain.
Did we expect the war? What did we fear?
First love's incinerating crippling flame,
Or that it would appear
In public that we could not name
The aorist of some familiar verb....
The same Greek quotation, from the same letter, suffers even worse disfigurement in E.P. Thompson (1924-1993), Beyond the Frontier: The Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 76:
αμματωυ δ'ευ αχηυιαιυ
ερρει παο 'Αφροδιτα
E.P. Thompson and Frank Thompson were brothers. Frank Thompson died in the failed mission in Bulgaria.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who is responsible for most of this post.

Related post: Mangled Greek.


Sunday, June 29, 2014


The Higher Crossword

William N. Calder III, "Classical Scholarship in the United States: An Introductory Essay," in Ward W. Briggs Jr., ed., Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. xix-xxxix (at xxix, footnotes omitted):
In the case of philology the undistinguished generation between Böckh-Hermann-Karl Otfried Müller-Welcker and Wilamowitz, that is, the generation dominated by Friedrich Ritschl (1806-76), was also formative for the American tradition. Ritschl, the admired teacher of Gildersleeve and Nietzsche, was also beloved by the second-rate who needed a doctorate as the union card to secure a minor teaching post. He made the catastrophic error of substituting "what needs doing" for the important. That is, he turned research into the higher crossword. He specialized in Plautus, an author with nothing of importance to say to an educated man of intelligence but whose orthography, grammar, and metric were still speculative. His legacy was enduring and made a remote subject more remote. Later, through the controversial figure of A.E. Housman and his imitators, Ritschl's dread Wortphilologie would influence American appointments in classics. There is an irony. America does not produce great textual critics because of the weak preparation afforded by our schools in the ancient languages. Imports only fail to teach American students what they do not want to learn.
Hat tip: Alan Crease.


A Foul-Mouthed Monster

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Marion Fay, chapter XVIII:
"D—— Mr. Greenwood!" said the Marquis. He certainly did say the word at full length, as far as it can be said to have length, and with all the emphasis of which it was capable. He certainly did say it, though when the circumstance was afterwards not unfrequently thrown in his teeth, he would forget it and deny it. Her ladyship heard the word very plainly, and at once stalked out of the room, thereby showing that her feminine feelings had received a wrench which made it impossible for her any longer to endure the presence of such a foul-mouthed monster.



Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), Parerga und Paralipomena, Vol. II, Chap. XXVI, § 350 (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
Everyone regards the limits of his field of vision as those of the world; this is the illusion, as inevitable intellectually as it is in physical vision, which regards heaven and earth as touching at the horizon. To this, among other things, is due the fact that everyone measures us with his own standard, which is often that of a mere tailor, and we have to put up with this; as also the fact that everyone falsely imputes to us his own mediocrity and insignificance, a fiction that is acknowledged once for all.
The same, tr. T. Bailey Saunders:
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. This is an error of the intellect as inevitable as that error of the eye which lets us fancy that on the horizon heaven and earth meet. This explains many things, and among them the fact that every one measures us with his own standard—generally about as long as a tailor’s tape, and we have to put up with it: as also that no one will allow us to be taller than himself—a supposition which is once for all taken for granted.
The German:
Jeder hält das Ende seines Gesichtskreises für das der Welt: dies ist im Intellektuellen so unvermeidlich, wie im physischen Sehn der Schein, daß am Horizont der Himmel die Erde berühre. Darauf aber beruht, unter Anderm, auch Dies, daß Jeder uns mit seinem Maaßstabe mißt, der meistens eine bloße Schneiderelle ist, und wir uns Solches gefallen lassen müssen: wie auch, daß Jeder seine Kleinheit uns andichtet, welche Fiktion ein für alle Mal zugestanden ist.


Truly Great Books?

"Hillary Rodham Clinton: By the Book," New York Times (June 11, 2014):
What was the last truly great book you read?

I can't stop thinking about "The Hare With Amber Eyes," by Edmund de Waal; "The Signature of All Things," by Elizabeth Gilbert; "Citizens of London," by Lynne Olson; and "A Suitable Boy," by Vikram Seth.
It's true that I live in a bubble, but I don't think I've ever even heard of these books. Three of the four were published within the past five years, during which time it's unlikely that any truly great books have appeared.

Hat tip: Jim K., for drawing my attention to Ralph Nader, "Hillary’s Haughty Hyperbole!" Common Dreams (June 19, 2014). Nader asks, "How can such a super-busy person have the time to absorb such a staggering load of diverse books?"

Saturday, June 28, 2014


The Dark Ages

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Sudelbücher, C 148 (tr. Norman Alliston):
Perhaps in time to come the so-called Dark Ages may include our own.

Vielleicht heißen unsere Zeiten noch einmal die finstern.

Friday, June 27, 2014


A Young Reader

Drusilla Scott, A.D. Lindsay: A Biography (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971), p. 25:
His very quick reading developed early. 'What do you want for your birthday, Sandy?' asked his mother: 'It's no use giving you a book; you'll go through it in an afternoon.' 'Give him tracts,' said his sister sternly.
A gargoyle in the front quad of Balliol, where Lindsay was later a fellow:

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Dry, Poor, and Unmusical

Voltaire, letter to Madame du Deffand (May 19, 1754; tr. ‎Evelyn Beatrice Hall):
All modern languages are dry, poor, and unmusical in comparison with those of our first masters, the Greeks and Romans. We are but the fiddles of a village band.

Ah! madame, toutes nos langues modernes sont sèches, pauvres, et sans harmonie, en comparaison de celles qu'ont parlées nos premiers maîtres, les Grecs et les Romains. Nous ne sommes que des violons de village.


Epicurus, Fragment 200 Usener

Porphyry, To Marcella 30 (tr. Alice Zimmern):
Do not think it unnatural that when the flesh cries out for anything, the soul should cry out too. The cry of the flesh is, "Let me not hunger, or thirst, or shiver," and 'tis hard for the soul to restrain these desires. 'Tis hard, too, by help of its own natural self-sufficing to disregard day by day the exhortations of nature, and to teach her to esteem the concerns of life as of little account.

ἀφυσιολόγητον μηδὲν ἡγοῦ βοώσης τῆς σαρκὸς βοᾶν τὴν ψυχὴν. σαρκὸς δὲ φωνή· μὴ πεινῆν, μὴ διψῆν, μὴ ῥιγοῦν. καὶ ταῦτα τὴν ψυχὴν χαλεπὸν μὲν κωλῦσαι, ἐπισφαλὲς δὲ παρακοῦσαι τῆς παραγγειλάσης φύσεως αὐτῇ διὰ τῆς προσφυοῦς αὑτῇ αὐταρκείας καθʼ ἡμέραν.
Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 4.10 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us? Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold.

lex autem illa naturae scis quos nobis terminos statuat? non esurire, non sitire, non algere.
Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 2.21 (tr. William Wilson):
Epicurus, in placing happiness in not being hungry, or thirsty, or cold...

Ἐπίκουρος δέ ἐν τῷ μὴ πεινῆν μηδὲ διψῆν μηδὲ ῥιγοῦν τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν τιθέμενος...
Cf. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.35.102 (tr. J.E. King):
...and nature herself teaches us daily how few, how small her needs are, how cheaply satisfied.

et cotidie nos ipsa natura admonet, quam paucis, quam parvis rebus egeat, quam vilibus.
The citations come from Hermann Usener, Epicurea (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1887), p. 161. Usener doesn't cite Lucian, The Parasite 38 (tr. A.M. Harmon), which may allude to this fragment:
Furthermore, if happiness lies in not hungering or thirsting or shivering, nobody has this in his power except the parasite. Consequently you can find many cold and hungry philosophers, but never a parasite; otherwise he would not be a parasite, but an unfortunate beggar fellow, resembling a philosopher.

καὶ μέντοι εἰ ἔστιν εὔδαιμον τὸ μὴ πεινῆν μηδὲ διψῆν μηδὲ ῥιγοῦν, ταῦτα οὐδενὶ ἄλλῳ ὑπάρχει ἢ παρασίτῳ. ὥστε φιλοσόφους μὲν ἄν τις πολλοὺς καὶ ῥιγοῦντας καὶ πεινῶντας εὕροι, παράσιτον δὲ οὔ· ἢ οὐκ ἂν εἴη παράσιτος, ἀλλὰ δυστυχής τις καὶ πτωχὸς ἄνθρωπος καὶ φιλοσόφῳ ὅμοιος.
Note the similarity between Clement of Alexandria (ἐν τῷ μὴ πεινῆν μηδὲ διψῆν μηδὲ ῥιγοῦν τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν τιθέμενος) and Lucian (ἔστιν εὔδαιμον τὸ μὴ πεινῆν μηδὲ διψῆν μηδὲ ῥιγοῦν).

Thursday, June 26, 2014


A Wicked Thing

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), quoted in Norman White, Hopkins: A Literary Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 84:
They have cut down the beautiful beech in the Garden Quad, which stood in the angle of Fisher's buildings, because it was said to darken the rooms. This is a wicked thing; such a beech no doubt has not its like in Oxford, being a rare tree here. Its destruction is owing to the Fellows Green and Newman. The former is of a rather offensive style of infidelity, and naturally dislikes the beauties of nature.
I think the quotation comes from a letter Hopkins wrote to his mother on October 19, 1863. Google Books' snippet view shows that the quotation also appears in C.C. Abbott, ed., The Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 83. White's quotation is different in a couple of minor respects from Abbott's edition, so I'll quote what I can see of the latter:
The trees which stand before the sitting-room make it rather dark, but in the darkest part of the year of course they are bare. This reminds me that they have cut down the beautiful beech in the Garden Quad, which stood in the angle of Fisher's buildings, because it was said to darken their rooms. This is a wicked thing; such a beech no doubt has not its like in Oxford, beech being a rare tree here. Its destruction is owing to the Fellows Green and Newman. The former is of a rather offensive style of infidelity, and naturally dislikes the beauties of nature. It is said that Fisher building[s] are to be pulled down, and I believe Gothic buildings like those I am in are to be put up in their stead. I wish they could have pulled them down first, and let the tree stand.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who writes, "The miscreant Fellows of Balliol are philosopher Thomas Hill Green (1836–1882) and ancient historian William Lambert Newman (1834–1923)."

Related post: Strokes of Havoc.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A Book-Lined Room

Robert Gathorne-Hardy (1902-1973), Recollections of Logan Pearsall Smith: The Story of a Friendship (London: Constable, 1949), pp. 46-47:
I think, if I live to grow old, one of the clearest pictures I retain will be of Logan, sitting in his book-lined room, and reading aloud some new work of his.

This room in Chelsea looked out on to the open space of Burton Court; across the road are plane trees through which appeared, clear in winter, fragmentary during the leafy seasons, the long magnificent façade of Wren's Royal Hospital. On the few wall-spaces left were some favourite pictures—a small eighteenth-century portrait of a red-coated man, a sepia drawing by Corot, and a rather naïve painting of sailing ships at sea; there was a needlework fire-screen, embroidered by his sister, Mrs Russell, and a small hearth-rug designed by Duncan Grant; above the bookshelves were the busts of French writers which he chose when I was with him in Paris.

After his death, looking round the shelves, a friend said to me, 'What a lovely reader he was.' Indeed, I have never seen anything quite like that assembly. Popular editions of fine works neighboured rare issues of recondite compositions. Many people, however passionate as readers, are apt, like myself, too apt, to regard books as objects desirable in their material selves. Logan rather liked fine editions; yet in his room I had the feeling I have never quite experienced anywhere else, that here on the shelves was something more than a collection of books, namely the incarnate essence of literature itself.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Bernard Berenson (1865-1959), Sketch for a Self-Portrait (New York: Pantheon, 1949), pp. 174-175 (completed in 1941):
My library contains nearly everything, although not everything that my lust for knowledge requires. It is rare that I cannot lay hands on a publication referred to in whatever volume I happen to be reading. For fifty years and more I have been gathering books for the time when I should have leisure. I have never bought a book for its rarity from a collector's point of view. I was not aware of possessing an all but unicum in the shape of a sixteenth-century pamphlet regarding Michelangelo that my friend Ernst Steinmann discovered on my shelves—the Steinmann who not only was one of the most fruitful workers in the Renaissance field but the spiritual founder and first director of the Anglo-German-Jewish institution for liberal learning called the Hertziana, at present serving Nazi propaganda rather than culture of any kind. My books are books for use, tools, not works of art, although I take more pleasure in reading Dichtung—poetry, whether in verse or prose—in shapely type on a well-set page of hand-made paper, crisp, elastic, almost musical as you turn a leaf. I certainly enjoy the Bible, Saint Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Boccaccio, Wordsworth, Goethe, Keats, Shelley, etc., etc., much more in the Doves, the Ashendene, the Bremen presses than I do in ordinary editions. But nothing would induce me to read a seventeenth-century author in the wretched print of that period, certainly not Shakespeare in the first and the following folio—as distressing to the eye as to the understanding. And yet America takes pride in a citizen whose wealth and lack of imagination enabled him to accumulate twenty copies of the first folio. With what object, one may ask, except the sadistic one of preventing nineteen other libraries from deriving what little philological profit or associative sentimentality their possession can still yield?

For me the main object is to have books at hand so as to be able to use them when one is piping hot with eagerness for them and malleably receptive to what one can get out of them. If survival after death were conceivable, I should wish to be the indwelling soul of my house and library. To speak more grossly, I should like to haunt it, and use it the way the archangels did in one of Anatole France's stories.

So after a fashion I have attained Goethe's promise that what one ardently desires when young one will realize in old age. I am not far from my nirvana, I am in sight of IT.

And IT is a feeling of oneness with the landscape, with the house, and all that therein is, with the folk that pass, with the people one frequents, with one's occupation whether mental or manual, a oneness so complete that it knows nothing outside itself. In other words IT is a mystic union.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


A Dream

Eugène Seers, aka Louis Dantin (1865-1945), "You're Coughing!" tr. Patricia Sillers, in Richard Teleky, ed., The Oxford Book of French-Canadian Short Stories (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 35-44 (at 44):
But as I strolled away I began to relive the scene in the Vaudreuil train, and then to dream of a world where each heart would be linked to every other; where sympathy would circulate like the air and radiate like sunshine; where all that dwells in the heart would rise to the lips, freed from the artificial barriers of etiquette; where one might freely go up to the passerby who seemed to be in pain; the red-eyed woman; the gaunt-cheeked old man, and say, 'Are you suffering?' Where one could share in other people's joy, crying out to the laughing couple, even though their names were unknown, 'Hey there! Here's to the lovers!' Or to the beautiful stranger that one chances to pass, 'You're gorgeous! I admire you!' To the carpenter, carefully moulding his lintel, 'What a skilful artist you are!' And all this would well up and burst forth from innocent brotherly souls, and it would become a part of etiquette and tact, and would be dignified, appropriate, and prescribed.
In French:
Mais, en déambulant, je me retraçais toute la scène du train de Vaudreuil, et je rêvais d'un monde où toute âme serait soeur de toute autre âme; où la sympathie circulerait comme l'air, éclaterait comme la lumière; où tout ce qui est dans le coeur monterait aux lèvres, libéré de barrières factices; où l'on pourrait aborder sans formes le passant aux traits altérés, la femme aux yeux rougis, le vieillard au teint hâve, et leur dire: «Tu souffres?»; où l'on partagerait de même le bonheur, où l'on crierait au riant couple dont on ignore le nom: «Évohé! joie aux fiancés!», à la beauté inconnue qu'on croise: «Tu es ravissante, je t'admire!» à l'ouvrier qu'on voit ciseler un linteau: «Tu es un chic artiste»;—et où tout cela jaillirait d'âmes innocentes et fraternelles, ferait partie de l'étiquette et du savoir-vivre, serait digne, convenable et prescrit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Why Study Latin?

Moses Hadas (1900-1966), Old Wine, New Bottles: A Humanist Teacher at Work (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962), p. 43:
The sole and sufficient reason for studying Latin, I then believed and still believe, is that it is fun to do so. People so constituted that it is incapable of affording them fun should not study Latin.



Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 2.4 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
So you should always read standard authors; and when you crave a change, fall back upon those whom you read before.

probatos itaque semper lege, et si quando ad alios deverti libuerit, ad priores redi.
C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (New York: HBJ, 1967), p. 17:
An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. There is hope for a man who has never read Malory or Boswell or Tristram Shandy or Shakespeare's Sonnets: but what can you do with a man who says he 'has read' them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that this settles the matter?

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


Four Imperatives

Thomas Corsten, Die Inschriften von Kios (Bonn: Habelt, 1985 = Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien, Bd. 29), pp. 138-139, no. 78 (on a gravestone):
πίε, φάγε, τρύφησον, ἀφροδισίασον,
τὰ δὲ ὧδε κάτω σκότος.
χαίρετε, παροδῖται.
I haven't seen Corsten's book. The Greek text above comes from the Packard Humanities Institute's Searchable Greek Inscriptions, here. My translation:
Drink, eat, have fun, make love.
Down here? Darkness.
Farewell, passers-by.
For other epitaphs of this sort see Richmond Lattimore, Themes in Greek and Latin Epitaphs (1935; rpt. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962), pp. 260-262.

Related post: The Epitaph of Sardanapalus.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Below the Mason-Dixon Line one is often asked, even by strangers, about one's religion. To this question I sometimes answer in jest "apolaustic," which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "Concerned with or wholly devoted to seeking enjoyment; self-indulgent." All of the OED's examples of this word come from the nineteenth century. An earlier example can be found in The New-Year's Miscellany (London: A. Freeman, 1747), p. 57:
The upper Skirt and Stage of this Building is the Garret of expenceful Wasters, Gamesters, and unthrifty Debtors, where tho' they live robbed of their Liberty, as they rifled others of their Money, yet it is their great Happiness, that being glutted as it were with an apolaustick voluptuary Life, they have an easy Overture made to the contemplative and practick Life of Virtue.
Related post: The Apolausticks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


A Third Century A.D. Inscription from Eumeneia

John Ferguson and Jackson P. Hershbell, "Epicureanism Under the Roman Empire," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.36.4 (1990) 2257-2327(at 2311):
Anti-Christian formulations are not earlier than the late third century, and may belong to the early fourth. W. M. RAMSAY published a particularly good example from Eumeneia (Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia [Oxford 1895], 232). This life is all there is; it is pleasurable (ἡδύς), and only cowards rush off to resurrection. This is Epicurean and anti-Christian.
This is somewhat misleading. See e.g. W.H. Buckler, W.M. Calder, and C.W.M. Cox, "Asia Minor, 1924. III.—Monuments from Central Phrygia," Journal of Roman Studies 16 (1926) 53-94 (no. 183, at pp. 61-64, esp. 64, footnote omitted):
With the present text, no doubts as to the religion of Gaius can well arise; from A, 13 and C, 4-7, it is plain that he was a Christian. The materialist view of B, 21-24, was like the advice in I Cor. xv, 32 ('let us eat and drink, etc.'), a rhetorical suggestion made to be immediately rejected; this was emphasised in the statement that it is the stone, not Gaius himself, who utters that view (B, 27-28). His own Christian philosophy was set forth in C, the final poem.
There is a text and translation of this interesting inscription in A.R.R. Sheppard, "R.E.C.A.M. Notes and Studies No. 6: Jews, Christians and Heretics in Acmonia and Eumeneia," Anatolian Studies 29 (1979) 169-180 (Greek text pp. 177-178, translation pp. 178-179). Here is the translation:
I Gaius, who am equal in numerical value to two words of awe, make this declaration as a holy and good man:

A man—Gaius the lawyer, trained in the arts—built this tomb while he was alive for himself and his dear wife Tatia and their lamented children, that they might have this eternal home together with Roubes, servant of the great God.

I did not have much wealth or much property for my livelihood, but I worked hard and gained a modicum of learning. This enabled me to assist my friends, as far as I was able, freely putting the ability I had at the disposal of all. Helping anyone who was in need was a joy to me, as, in the case of other people, prosperity brings joy to the heart. Let no one deluded in his wealth harbour proud thoughts, for there is one Hades and an equal end for all. Is someone great in possessions? He receives no more, (but) the same measure of earth for a tomb. Hasten, mortals, gladden your souls at all times as (allegedly) a pleasant way of life is also the measure of existence. So, friends. After this, no more of this—for what more is there? A monument of stone speaks this, not I.

Here are the Doors and the road to Hades, but the path has no way out to the light. Indeed the righteous at all times point the way to resurrection. This, the God of Hosts....
Here is a slightly simplified version of Sheppard's Greek text (without subscript dots and underlinings, and without apparatus; I added some iota subscripts and regularized some accents):
[Οὐνόμασιν σεμνοῖσιν]
ἰσόψηφος δυσὶ τούτ[ο,
Γάϊος, ὡς ἅγιος, ὡς ἀγ[α-
θὸς προλέγω·

ζωὸς ἐὼν τοῦτον τύμ-        5
βον τίς ἔτευξεν ἑαυτῷ
Μούσαις ἀσκηθεὶς
Γάϊος πραγματικός
ἠδ' ἀλόχῳ φιλίῃ Τατίῃ
τέκεσίν τε ποθητοῖς        10
ὄφρα τὸν ἀΐδιον τοῦ-
τον ἔχωσι δόμον
σὺν Ῥούβῃ μεγάλοιο
θ(εο)ῦ . θεράποντι.

Ο]ὐκ ἔσχον πλοῦτον πολὺν        15
εἰς βίον, οὐ πολὺ χρῆμα,
γράμμασι δ' ἠσκήθην ἐκπο-
νέσας μετρίοις,
ἐξ ὧν τοῖσι φίλοισιν ἐπή[ρ-
κεον ὡς δύναμίς μοι,        20
σπουδὴν ἣν ε[ἶχ]ον, πᾶσι
τοῦτο γὰρ ἦν μοι τερπ[νόν,
ἐπαρκεῖν, εἴ τις ἔχρῃζε[ν,
ὡς ἄλλων ὄλβος τέρψιν        25
ἄγει κραδίῃ.
μηδεὶς δ' ἐν πλούτῳ τυφ[ω-
θεὶς [γα]ῦρα [φ]ρονείτω·
πᾶσι γὰρ εἷς Ἅδης καὶ τέ-
λος ἐστὶν ἴσον.        30
ἔστιν τις μέγας ὢν ἐν κτή-
μασιν; οὐ πλέον οὗτος
ταὐτὸ μέτρον γαίης πρὸς
τάφον ἐκδέχεται.
σπεύδετε, τὴν ψυχὴν        35
εὐ[φ]ραίνετε πάντοτε, θνη[τοί,
ὡ]ς ἡδὺς βίοτος καὶ μέτρο[ν
ἐστὶ ζοῆς.
ταῦτα [φ]ίλοι· μετὰ ταῦτα τί
γὰρ πλέον; οὐκέτι ταῦτα·        40
στήλλη ταῦτα λαλεῖ καὶ λί-
θος. οὐ γὰρ ἐγώ.

θύραι μὲν ἔνθα κα[ὶ
πρὸς Ἀΐδαν ὁδοί,
ἀνεξόδευτοι δ' εἰσ[ὶν        45
ἐς φάος τρίβοι·
οἱ δὴ δίκαιοι πάντο[τ'
εἰς ἀνάστασιν
πρ]οδε[ικνύ]ουσι. τ[οῦ-
το δυνα[μέων] θεὸς        50
(3 lines illegible)
το — — — — —        55
..... ἀ[νάστα]σις.
Louis Robert discussed this inscription in "Épitaphes d'Eumeneia de Phrygie," Hellenica XI-XII (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1960), pp. 414-439, but his discussion is unavailable to me.

Michael Hendry, "How Is Gaios Holy and Good?," explains the beginning of the inscription.

From Karl Maurer:
Michael, that very interesting tomb inscription from Eumeneia, that you posted on 17 June, has a few tiny errors. I list them in case you’re interested:

In 20 ε[ῖχ]ον -- add smooth breathing [done].

Lines 31 f. mean, "Is there someone who is (ὢν) great in possessions? That person receives" etc. (Sheppard’s transl. ignores the participle and the rel. pronoun, and if one is being 'literal', one should be literal!)

In 39 ff. S.'s transl. twice ignores γὰρ and misses the point of the repetition ταῦτα... ταῦτα... ταῦτα... ταῦτα
. I think it means something like this: "I’m finished. For after this, what more (is there to say)? And there is no longer even this: for it is a stone speaking this, not I."

There in 39 the first 'ταῦτα.' seems an idiom meaning, "And that’s that." or "Period." or "I’m done." It occurs at the end of the end of an papyrus letter, P. Oxy. 119, of ii/iii A.D., from a boy to his father (it’s printed in George Milligan, ed., Selections from the Greek Papyri, Cambridge U. P., 1910, p. 102-3, text #42). The boy is angry that his father wouldn’t take him to Alexandria; so his letter is full of reproaches, threats, pleading; and at the end, summing up, he says, πέμψον εἴς με, παρακαλῶ σε. ἂν μὴ πένψης , οὐ μὴ φάγω, οὐ μὴ πείνω. Ταῦτα. Ἐρῶσθέ σε εὔχομαι. I.e. "Send for me, I beg you. If you don’t send for me, I’m not eating, I’m not drinking. And that’s that. I wish you well." (Or, "... And now I’m done. I wish you well".)


Let's Agree to Disagree, Part II

Euenus, fragment 1 (tr. M.L. West):
Many men tend to contradict on every point,
    but contradicting rightly's out of vogue.
Well, as for them there's one old saw that's all we need:
    'you can keep your opinion, I'll keep mine.'
But the intelligent are soon persuadable
    by reason, and they're easiest to teach.

πολλοῖς δ᾽ ἀντιλέγειν ἔθος περὶ παντὸς ὁμοίως,
    ὀρθῶς δ᾽ ἀντιλέγειν, οὐκέτι τοῦτ᾽ ἐν ἔθει.
καὶ πρὸς μὲν τούτους ἀρκεῖ λόγος εἷς ὁ παλαιός·
    "σοὶ μὲν ταῦτα δοκοῦντ᾽ ἔστω, ἐμοὶ δὲ τάδε."
τοὺς ξυνετοὺς δ᾽ ἄν τις πείσειε τάχιστα λέγων εὖ,
    οἵπερ καὶ ῥῄστης εἰσὶ διδασκαλίης.
Related post: Let's Agree to Disagree.


Swilling and Boozing

R.G. Collingwood (1889-1943), An Autobiography and Other Writings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 12-13:
Going up to Oxford was like being let out of prison. In those days, before the anthology habit infected Classical Moderations, a candidate for honours was expected to read Homer, Vergil, Demosthenes, and the speeches of Cicero more or less entire, in addition to a special study of other texts, among which I chose Lucretius, Theocritus, and the Agamemnon. This was not only leading the horse to the water, but (hardly less important) leaving him there. The happy beast could swill and booze Homer until the world contained no Homer that he had not read. After long years on a ration of twenty drops a day, nicely medicated from a form-master's fad-bottle, I drank with open throat.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Holy Trinity

Solon, fragment 26 (tr. M.L. West):
But now I like the gods of love and wine and song
    and what they do for human happiness.

ἔργα δὲ Κυπρογενοῦς νῦν μοι φίλα καὶ Διονύσου
    καὶ Μουσέων, ἃ τίθησ' ἀνδράσιν εὐφροσύνας.
William Makepeace Thackeray, "A Credo":
For the souls' edification
Of this decent congregation,
Worthy people! by your grant,
I will sing a holy chant,
I will sing a holy chant.
If the ditty sound but oddly,
'Twas a father, wise and godly,
Sang it so long ago.
Then sing as Doctor Luther sang,
As Doctor Luther sang,
Who loves not wine, woman, and song,
He is a fool his whole life long.

He, by custom patriarchal,
Loved to see the beaker sparkle,
And he thought the wine improved,
Tasted by the wife he loved,
By the kindly lips he loved.
Friends! I wish this custom pious
Duly were adopted by us,
To combine love, song, wine;
And sing as Doctor Luther sang,
As Doctor Luther sang,
Who loves not wine, woman, and song,
He is a fool his whole life long.

Who refuses this our credo,
And demurs to drink as we do,
Were he holy as John Knox,
I'd pronounce him heterodox,
I'd pronounce him heterodox.
And from out this congregation,
With a solemn commination,
Banish quick the heretic,
Who would not sing as Luther sang,
As Doctor Luther sang,
Who loves not wine, woman, and song,
He is a fool his whole life long.
Related post: Make Thee Merry.


Suggestion for DSM-6

A friend sent me the following email, to which I've added some hyperlinks, an illustration, and a comment.

In an interview with Peter Vail at the end of his bilingual collection Nativity Poems (1991, rev. 1996), Joseph Brodsky remarks,
You know in psychiatry there's a concept called the "capuchon" complex. A person tries to fence himself off from the world, pulls a hood over himself, and sits down, hunched over.
Three observations. Firstly, where's the book? It should surely read 'and sits down, hunched over a book'. Secondly, it seems an eminently sensible action that any half-civilized human being might have recourse to in this vale of tears and nest of vipers and has no business being labelled a "complex", except of course ... that ... there being no book, the behaviour does indeed present a disturbing picture with the sufferer obviously requiring psychiatric attention. Thirdly, and most puzzlingly, I can't find any reference whatsoever to this "capuchon" complex (if you can, then please pass it on). Was Brodsky translating I wonder from the Russian but why then the Spanish word for hood? In any case, it seems to me to deserve wider currency. Hood in British English is already spoken for metonymically, in 'hoodie', a maladjusted thuggish adolescent understandably shy of security cameras, but in the spirit of Pearsall Smith I propose the resurrection of the monachal 'cowl'. The Cowl Complex is one I wouldn't be at all ashamed to admit to. I suspect that epidemiologically it is significantly linked to benevixitism but that will have to await confirmation from further studies.

Update fromКапюшон:
Капюшо́н (< French Capuchon)

[...] С психологической точки зрения, частое ношение капюшона без необходимости может рассматриваться как защитная реакция на окружающий мир, подсознательное стремление от него отгородиться.

From a psychological point of view, frequent hood-wearing, without having to be regarded as a defensive reaction to the outside world, represents the subconscious desire to dissociate oneself from it.

François Marius Granet (1775-1845), Hermit Reading, in Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (accession number PD.65-1997):

Capuchon does appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, as do capuccio and capuche, but all of these are much less common than Capuchin.

Sunday, June 15, 2014



An anonymous "distinguished eighteenth-century scholar," quoted by G.S. Rousseau in "Beef and Bouillon: Smollett's Achievement as a Thinker," Tobias Smollett: Essays of Two Decades (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1982), pp. 80-123 (at 89):
I cannot read Smollett anymore. I have heard about the making of a definitive text of his work and I can't see how it makes any difference considering the depravity of his rotted mind. After reading these novels I wander through the titles of the chapters of his books and see nothing but revenge, revenge, revenge. For no reason at all people are hurt and humiliated, even skinned; even those who help him to perpetrate the fun. Jokes about hunchbacked people and lame matrons. Pissing for no reason at all (I would prefer the honest crudity of The English Rogue). Can you really call him a novelist of amusement? Can you honestly say there is one moment of pleasure in the whole of Smollett?
Yes, I can.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


An Old Man's Prayer

Anacreon, fragment 418 Page (tr. M.L. West):
Hear an old man's prayer,
maid with the nice hair and the golden dress.

κλῦθί μεο γέροντος εὐέθειρα χρυσόπεπλε κοῦρα.
Related post: Pretty Little Girl With the Red Dress On.


The Iliad

G.S. Kirk (1921-2003), The Songs of Homer (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1962), p. 75:
The things that can happen in battle are themselves limited, and the descriptions of them, within an oral formular convention that does not encourage variegated or introspective analysis, are even more so. Thus two heroes, one from each side, meet in the mêlée of battle; they utter threats and boasts; if in chariots, they dismount; one of them hurls a spear, which usually misses; the other reciprocates. Then there are second spear-casts, one of which usually hits; the victor boasts, the victim dies and his armour is stripped from him. Then the poet moves on to a fresh incident, which may follow a similar pattern. In this pattern there are many minor variations: the first spear-throw may hit not its intended victim but his friend or charioteer; swords may be drawn; the victim may be wounded rather than killed outright, then carried to safety by his comrades; or he may collapse in some unusual way, or with a dying plea or threat. Yet the general course of the heroic encounter is fixed, and the poet selects at will from a limited range of well-known variants.
Nevertheless, it's endlessly fascinating.


Cognitive Dissonance

Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915), Decadence: And Other Essays on the Culture of Ideas, tr. William Aspenwall Bradley (London: Grant Richards Ltd, 1922), pp. 6-7:
Deprived of the truth contained in commonplaces, men would be without defence, without support, and without nourishment. They have so great a need of truths that they adopt new ones without rejecting the old. Civilized man's brain is a museum of contradictory truths. This does not disturb him, because he is a "successive." He ruminates his truths one after the other. He thinks as he eats. We should vomit with horror if we had presented to us, in a large dish, the various aliments, from meat to fruit, mixed with soup, wine and coffee, destined to form our "successive" repast. Our horror would be as great were we shown the repellent amalgam of contradictory truths which find lodgment in our mind.
The French, from La culture des idées (Paris: Mercure de France, 1900), pp. 77-78:
Privés de la vérité des lieux communs, les hommes se trouveraient sans défense, sans appui et sans nourriture. Ils ont tellement besoin de vérités qu'ils adoptent les vérités nouvelles sans rejeter les anciennes; le cerveau de l'homme civilisé est un musée de vérités contradictoires. Il n'en est pas troublé, parce qu'il est successif. Il rumine ses vérités les unes après les autres. Il pense comme il mange. Nous vomirions d'horreur si l'on nous présentait dans un large plat, mêlés à du bouillon, à du vin, à du café, les divers aliments depuis les viandes jusqu'aux fruits qui doivent former notre repas «successif»; l'horreur serait aussi forte si l'on nous faisait voir l'amalgame répugnant des vérités contradictoires qui sont logées dans notre esprit.

Friday, June 13, 2014


We Live Less and Less, and We Learn More and More

Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915), Decadence: And Other Essays on the Culture of Ideas, tr. William Aspenwall Bradley (London: Grant Richards Ltd, 1922), p. 102:
Without being as widespread as it might be, and as it will be, education is very much in vogue. We live less and less, and we learn more and more. Sensibility surrenders to intelligence. I have seen a man laughed at because he examined a dead leaf attentively and with pleasure. No one would have laughed to hear a string of botanical terms muttered with regard to it; but there are some men who, while not ignorant of the handbooks, believe that true science should be felt first as a pleasure. It is not the fashion. The fashion is to learn in books alone, and from the lips of those who recite books.
The French, from Le chemin de velours, 11th ed. (Paris: Mercure de France, 1911), p. 163:
Sans être aussi répandue qu'elle pourrait l'être et qu'elle le sera, l'instruction est fort en faveur. On vit de moins en moins et on apprend de plus en plus. La sensibilité capitule devant l'intelligence. J'ai vu rire de qui regardait avec attention et avec plaisir une feuille morte; on n'aurait pas ri d'entendre murmurer à ce propos quelque nomenclature; mais d'autres hommes, sans ignorer les manuels, estiment que la véritable science doit être sentie d'abord comme un plaisir. Ce n'est pas la mode; la mode est de s'instruire dans les seuls livres et aux lèvres de ceux qui récitent des livres.


Let's Enjoy the Passing Hour

A poem by Juan del Encina (1469-1529), tr. (with one stanza omitted) by John Bowring in Ancient Poetry and Romances of Spain (London: Taylor and Hessey, 1824), pp. 187-188, rpt. in John A. Crow, ed., An Anthology of Spanish Poetry: From the Beginnings to the Present Day, Including Both Spain and Spanish America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979), p. 53:
Come, let's enjoy the passing hour;
For mournful thought
Will come unsought.

Come, let's enjoy the fleeting day,
And banish toil, and laugh at care;
For who would grief and sorrow bear
When he can throw his griefs away?
Away, away!—begone! I say;
For mournful thought
Will come unsought.

So let's come forth from misery's cell,
And bury all our whims and woes;
Wherever pleasure flits and goes,
O there we'll be! O there we'll dwell!
'Tis there we'll dwell! 'Tis wise and well;
For mournful thought
Will come unsought.

Yes, open all your heart; be glad,—
Glad as a linnet on the tree;
Laugh, laugh away,—and merrily
Drive every dream away that's sad.
Who sadness takes for joy is mad;
And mournful thought
Will come unsought.
In Spanish (from Crow's Anthology):
Gasajémonos de hucia,
que el pesar
viénese sin le buscar.

Gasajemos esta vida,
descruciemos del trabajo,
quien pudiere haber gasajo
del cordojo se despida:
déle, déle despedida,
que el pesar
viénese sin le buscar.

De los enojos huyamos
con todos nuestros poderes,
andemos tras los placeres,
los pesares aburramos:
tras los placeres corramos,
que el pesar
viénese sin le buscar.

Hagamos siempre por ser
alegres e gasajosos,
cuidados tristes pensosos
huyamos de los tener:
busquemos siempre el placer,
que el pesar
viénese sin le buscar.


Save His Own Soul He Hath No Star

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), "Prelude," lines 31-50, from Songs Before Sunrise:
For what has he whose will sees clear
To do with doubt and faith and fear,
    Swift hopes and slow despondencies?
    His heart is equal with the sea's
And with the sea-wind's, and his ear
    Is level to the speech of these,
And his soul communes and takes cheer
    With the actual earth's equalities,
Air, light, and night, hills, winds, and streams,
And seeks not strength from strengthless dreams.

His soul is even with the sun
Whose spirit and whose eye are one,
    Who seeks not stars by day, nor light
    And heavy heat of day by night.
Him can no God cast down, whom none
    Can lift in hope beyond the height
Of fate and nature and things done
    By the calm rule of might and right
That bids men be and bear and do,
And die beneath blind skies or blue.
Id., lines 151-160:
Save his own soul's light overhead,
None leads him, and none ever led,
    Across birth's hidden harbour-bar,
    Past youth where shoreward shallows are,
Through age that drives on toward the red
    Vast void of sunset hailed from far,
To the equal waters of the dead;
    Save his own soul he hath no star,
And sinks, except his own soul guide,
Helmless in middle turn of tide.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


The Choice Between Heaven and Hell

Aucassin and Nicolette 6 (f. 71d; Aucassin speaking; tr. Andrew Lang):
In Paradise what have I to win? Therein I seek not to enter, but only to have Nicolete, my sweet lady that I love so well. For into Paradise go none but such folk as I shall tell thee now: Thither go these same old priests, and halt old men and maimed, who all day and night cower continually before the altars, and in the crypts; and such folk as wear old amices and old clouted frocks, and naked folk and shoeless, and covered with sores, perishing of hunger and thirst, and of cold, and of little ease. These be they that go into Paradise, with them have I naught to make. But into Hell would I fain go; for into Hell fare the goodly clerks, and goodly knights that fall in tourneys and great wars, and stout men at arms, and all men noble. With these would I liefly go. And thither pass the sweet ladies and courteous that have two lovers, or three, and their lords also thereto. Thither goes the gold, and the silver, and cloth of vair, and cloth of gris, and harpers, and makers, and the prince of this world. With these I would gladly go, let me but have with me Nicolete, my sweetest lady.

En paradis qu'ai je a faire? Je n'i quier entrer, mais que j'aie Nicolete ma tresdouce amie que j'aim tant. C'en paradis ne vont fors tex gens, con je vous dirai. Il i vont cil viel prestre et cil viel clop et cil manke qui totejor et tote nuit cropent devant ces autex et en ces viés creutes, et cil a ces viés capes esreses et a ces viés tatereles vestues, qui sont nu et descauc et estrumelé, qui moeurent de faim et de soi et de froit et de mesaises. Icil vont en paradis; aveuc ciax n'ai jou que faire. Mais en infer voil jou aler; car en infer vont li bel clerc, et li bel cevalier qui sont mort as tornois et a rices gueres, et li boin sergant et li franc home. Aveuc ciax voil jou aler. Et s'i vont les beles dames cortoises, que eles ont deus amis ou trois avoc leur barons, et s'i va li ors et li argens et li vairs et li gris, et si i vont harpeor et jogleor et li roi del siecle. Avoc ciax voil jou aler, mais que j'aie Nicolete ma tresdouce amie, aveuc mi.


Initial Alphas: Copulative, Intensive, or Privative?

Homer, Iliad 13.39-41 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Τρῶες δὲ φλογὶ ἶσοι ἀολλέες ἠὲ θυέλλῃ
Ἕκτορι Πριαμίδῃ ἄμοτον μεμαῶτες ἕποντο
ἄβρομοι αὐΐαχοι...
At first I thought ἄβρομοι αὐΐαχοι might be a pair of asyndetic, privative adjectives, especially as there is a genuine example of that construction just a few lines earlier (at 13.37, ἀρρήκτους ἀλύτους), but further investigation convinced me I was wrong.

Lines 13.39-41 in Richmond Lattimore's translation:
But the Trojans, gathered into a pack, like flame, like a stormcloud,
came on after Hektor the son of Priam, raging relentless,
roaring and crying as one...
Walter Leaf ad loc.:
ἄβρομοι αὐίαχοι would at first sight appear to mean without noise or shouting (αὐιαχ- = ἀν-ϝιϝαχ-, ἀϝϝιϝαχ-? See Schulze Q.E. p. 65). But in Homer the noise of the Trojans is always contrasted with the silence of the Greeks; and if on entering into battle (Β 810, Γ 2, Δ 433-8) the Trojans were so clamorous, it is impossible to suppose that they became quiet when they were forcing the wall in their career of victory. Human nature too, to say nothing of the comparison of the storms, seems to insist that the words here must mean noisy. And so Ar. took them, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἄγαν βρομοῦντες καὶ ἄγαν ἰαχοῦντες. The ἀ- should rather be copulative, joining in noise and shout, as the existence of an 'ἀ- intensivum' is very doubtful. Etymologically this explanation (from sem-, sm-)seems unassailable; for similar cases see Schulze Q.E. p. 495 ff., and note on ἄξυλος, Λ 155. But it is hard to believe that such words were not ambiguous to the Greeks themselves when the negative ἀ- had driven competitors out of the field. We can only suppose that ἄβρομος and αὐίαχος were in common enough use to overcome the feeling that they were negative compounds.—It will be noticed that the variant ἀνίαχοι has good support; it is used also by Quintus (xiii.70) but it is impossible to say whether he took it to mean silent or noisy (of sheep following their shepherd from the pasture).
M.M. Willcock ad loc.:
ἄβρομοι αὐίαχοι: It is obvious that these adjectives are formed from βρέμω and ἰάχω, with a prefix ἀ-. What has divided scholars is whether the meaning is 'noisy' or 'silent'. ἀ- is most commonly a negative prefix (cf. note on Ἀβίων 6), but can confusingly also be positive or cumulative, e.g. ἄλοχος 'wife'. There is a similar uncertainty about the word ἀξύλῳ in XI 155.) Factors which have led scholars to prefer the explanation involving the less common prefix ('very noisy', 'loud shouting') are (a) that the poet made an explicit distinction at the beginning of Book III between the Greeks advancing silently into battle and the Trojans coming on with loud and barbarous cries, and (b) that the comparison with fire and storm in 39 suits noise rather than silence.
Richard Janko ad loc.:
ἄβρομοι αὐΐαχοι is a unique but old alliterative phrase (cf. 37). Aristarchus rightly took ἄβρομος as 'shouting together', with ἀ-intensive < *sṃ-, 'one' (cf. ἀολλέες) and psilosis. αὐΐαχος has the Lesbian doubling of intervocalic -ϝ- to replace metrical lengthening in a word originally shaped ˘˘˘¯, for *ἀϝίϝαχος; cf. ἔχευε < *ἔχε(ϝ)ϝε and ἀυάτα (ἀϝάτᾱ) for ἄτη, scanned ˘˘¯, in Alcaeus (Chantraine, GH1 159). Less probably, it is from *ἀν(α)-ϝίϝαχος, cf. Aeolic αὐέρυον < *αν(α)ϝέρυον (12.261, a similar verse): ἀνιάχω (Ap. Rhod.) is based on the old variant ἀνίαχοι here. Apion (frag. 5 Neitzel) thought the epithets mean 'silent' with ἀ-privative (cf. Ap. Rhod. 4.153). The Trojans charge noisily elsewhere (3.2, 4.433-8), unlike the more disciplined and unilingual Greeks (3.8). Their imminent victory would hardly make them silent now (so bT); they were just likened to fire and wind, which are loud.
At Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.153, ἄβρομον clearly does mean silent: κῦμα μέλαν κωφόν τε καὶ ἄβρομον (a black wave, noiseless and silent).


Advice on Reading

Voltaire, letter to Mademoiselle ? (June 20, 1756; tr. ‎Evelyn Beatrice Hall):
[M]y advice to you is—read only such books as have long been sealed with the universal approval of the public and whose reputation is established. They are few: but you will gain much more from reading those few than from all the feeble little works with which we are inundated.

[J]e vous invite à ne lire que les ouvrages qui sont depuis longtemps en possession des suffrages du public, et dont la réputation n'est point équivoque. Il y en a peu, mais on profite bien davantage en les lisant, qu'avec tous les mauvais petits livres dont nous sommes inondés.
Id., letter to Monsieur ? (January 5, 1759):
I have not read any of the books of which you tell me, my dear philosopher: I keep to old works, which teach me something: from the new I learn very little.

Je n'ai lu aucun des livres dont vous me parlez, mon cher philosophe; je m'en tiens aux anciens ouvrages qui m'instruisent; les modernes m'apprennent peu de chose.

Albert Josef Franke (1860-1924),
Aufmerksame Lektüre

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


The Immediate Language of the Holy Ghost

Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859), Literary Reminiscences, Vol. I (Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1851), p. 183:
His father was described to me, by Coleridge himself, as a sort of Parson Adams, being distinguished by his erudition, his inexperience of the world, and his guileless simplicity. I once purchased in London, and, I suppose, still possess, two elementary books on the Latin language by this reverend gentleman; one of them, as I found, making somewhat higher pretensions than a common school grammar. In particular, an attempt is made to reform the theory of the cases; and it gives a pleasant specimen of the rustic scholar's naiveté, that he seriously proposes to banish such vexatious terms as the accusative; and, by way of simplifying the matter to tender minds, that we should call it, in all time to come, the 'quale-quare-quidditive' case, upon what incomprehensible principle I never could fathom. He used regularly to delight his village flock, on Sundays, with Hebrew quotations in his sermons, which he always introduced as the 'immediate language of the Holy Ghost.' This proved unfortunate to his successor; he also was a learned man, and his parishioners admitted it, but generally with a sigh for past times, and a sorrowful complaint that he was still far below Parson Coleridge—for that he never gave them any 'immediate language of the Holy Ghost.'


Now I Wander in the Woods

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), "The Madness of King Goll," lines 37-48:
And now I wander in the woods
When summer gluts the golden bees,
Or in autumnal solitudes
Arise the leopard-coloured trees;
Or when along the wintry strands
The cormorants shiver on their rocks;
I wander on, and wave my hands,
And sing, and shake my heavy locks.
The gray wolf knows me; by one ear
I lead along the woodland deer;
The hares run by me growing bold.
They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.


If Terpsion Were in Charge

Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 6.2 (Terpsion speaking; tr. M.D. MacLeod):
Then I object to the present arrangement. It ought to be a matter of turn, with the oldest man first, and after him the next oldest, without the slightest change in the order. Your Methuselah shouldn't live on, when he has no more than three teeth still left, and is scarcely able to see, supported by four servants, with his nose always running and his eyes bleary, past knowing any of the pleasures of life, a living tomb laughed at by the young men. He shouldn't live, while handsome lusty young men die. That's as unnatural as "rivers running backwards".

Οὐκοῦν ταύτης αἰτιῶμαι τῆς διατάξεως· ἐχρῆν γὰρ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἑξῆς πως γίνεσθαι, τὸν πρεσβύτερον πρότερον καὶ μετὰ τοῦτον ὅστις καὶ τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μετ΄ αὐτόν, ἀναστρέφεσθαι δὲ μηδαμῶς, μηδὲ ζῆν μὲν τὸν ὑπέργηρων ὀδόντας τρεῖς ἔτι λοιποὺς ἔχοντα, μόγις ὁρῶντα, οἰκέταις γε τέτταρσιν ἐπικεκυφότα, κορύζης μὲν τὴν ῥῖνα, λήμης δὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς μεστὸν ὄντα, οὐδὲν ἔτι ἡδὺ εἰδότα, ἔμψυχόν τινα τάφον ὑπὸ τῶν νέων καταγελώμενον, ἀποθνήσκειν δὲ καλλίστους καὶ ἐρρωμενεστάτους νεανίσκους· ἄνω γὰρ ποταμῶν τοῦτό γε.



[Plato], Axiochus 367 b (tr. Jackson P. Hershbell):
Then old age creeps upon you unawares, into which flows everything in nature that is mortal and life-threatening. And unless you repay your life quickly, like a debt, nature stands by like a money-lender, taking security, sight from one man, hearing from another, and often both. And if you survive that, you'll be paralyzed, mutilated, and crippled. Some people are physically in their prime in great old age—and their old minds enter a second childhood.

εἶτα λαθὸν ὑπῆλθεν τὸ γῆρας, εἰς ὃ πᾶν συρρεῖ τὸ τῆς φύσεως ἐπίκηρον καὶ δυσαλθές. κἂν μή τις θᾶττον ὡς χρέος ἀποδιδῷ τὸ ζῆν, ὡς ὀβολοστάτις ἡ φύσις ἐπιστᾶσα ἐνεχυράζει τοῦ μὲν ὄψιν, τοῦ δὲ ἀκοήν, πολλάκις δὲ ἄμφω. κἂν ἐπιμείνῃ τις, παρέλυσεν, ἐλωβήσατο, παρήρθρωσεν. ἄλλοι πολυγήρως ἀκμάζουσιν, καὶ τῷ νῷ δὶς παῖδες οἱ γέροντες γίγνονται.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Learning Greek

Günther Zuntz, "On First Looking into Chase and Phillips: Notes on the Teaching of Beginners' Greek," Arion 6.3 (Autumn, 1967) 362-373 (at 363):
Our goal is not to make the learner rattle off λύω, -εις, -ει or translate speeches by Gladstone or Jefferson into Demosthenian idiom; nor would his effort be sufficiently rewarded if, in the end, he were able, now and then, to take his eyes off the right-hand page of his Loeb and to ascertain that, here and there, the left contains an exotic equivalent of what he is reading (I apologize for mentioning, as among friends and under my breath, a serial publication the very existence of which no scholar would care publicly to admit; I had to mention it here because its subcutaneous impact, like that of other vices, may well be as widespread and pernicious as it is clandestine).

Our learner, then, is entitled to expect that our teaching will bring him to the point where the Greek speaks to him with its own voice; we shall have failed if we have not so attuned him that the Greek Homer, Euripides, Plato and the New Testament will convey to him what no translation could convey (and this, I hold, can only be done by using exclusively original Greek); he is entitled, moreover, to expect our teaching to be efficient and, in itself, to constitute an experience worth his time and effort.
Id., p. 371:
Learning Greek is difficult; far more difficult than we, who are living with it, can easily realize. The beginner is faced with a new script; with words of unfamiliar sound; with an overwhelming variety of forms and their uses. It is one thing to hear and read about all this; it is quite another thing to make it really your own.


A Direct Experience of God, Without Intermediaries

Homer, Iliad 24.220-224 (Priam speaking about Iris; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
If it had been some other who ordered me, one of the mortals,
one of those who are soothsayers, or priests, or diviners,
I might have called it a lie and we might rather have rejected it.
But now, for I myself heard the god and looked straight upon her,
I am going, and this word shall not be in vain.

εἰ μὲν γάρ τίς μ᾽ ἄλλος ἐπιχθονίων ἐκέλευεν,
ἢ οἳ μάντιές εἰσι θυοσκόοι ἢ ἱερῆες,
ψεῦδός κεν φαῖμεν καὶ νοσφιζοίμεθα μᾶλλον·
νῦν δ᾽, αὐτὸς γὰρ ἄκουσα θεοῦ καὶ ἐσέδρακον ἄντην,
εἶμι, καὶ οὐχ ἅλιον ἔπος ἔσσεται.

Monday, June 09, 2014


The Pursuit of Incompetents

William M. Calder III, "Sterling Dow," Gnomon 68 (1996) 572-574 (at 573):
He had no patience with incompetence or pretension and was often victim of his own integrity. Epigraphy was clean and straightforward. One could control all the evidence available, read all the secondary literature, and make an irrefutable conclusion that carried knowledge forward. It did not allow fraud.

The other side was his detestation of literary criticism, which he considered the pursuit of incompetents who in the end did little more than impose personal prejudices under the guise of scholarship. His contempt for his literary colleagues was undisguised and requited.


Let's Agree to Disagree

Euripides, Suppliant Women 465-466 (tr. David Kovacs):
As regards our debate, you hold to your opinions and I shall hold to the opposite.

                          τῶν μὲν ἠγωνισμένων
σοὶ μὲν δοκείτω ταῦτ᾽, ἐμοὶ δὲ τἀντία.


Two Commandments

Plutarch, A Letter of Condolence to Apollonius 28 = Moralia 116 c-d (tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
There are two of the inscriptions at Delphi which are most indispensable to living. They are: "Know thyself" and "Avoid extremes," for on these two commandments hang all the rest.

δύ᾽ ἐστὶ τῶν Δελφικῶν γραμμάτων τὰ μάλιστ᾽ ἀναγκαιότατα πρὸς τὸν βίον, τὸ "γνῶθι σαυτὸν" καὶ τὸ "μηδὲν ἄγαν"· ἐκ τούτων γὰρ ἤρτηται καὶ τἄλλα πάντα.
Matthew 22.35-40 (KJV):
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν εἷς ἐξ αὐτῶν [νομικὸς] πειράζων αὐτόν, Διδάσκαλε, ποία ἐντολὴ μεγάλη ἐν τῷ νόμῳ; ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ "Ἀγαπήσεις Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου"· αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή. δευτέρα ὁμοία αὐτῇ, "Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν." ἐν ταύταις ταῖς δυσὶν ἐντολαῖς ὅλος ὁ νόμος κρέμαται καὶ οἱ προφῆται.

Sunday, June 08, 2014



Simonides, fragment 527 Page (tr. M.L. West):
There is no ill that men should not expect;
in a short space of time God
reshuffles everything.

οὐκ ἔστιν κακὸν
ἀνεπιδόκητον ἀνθρώποις· ὀλίγῳ δὲ χρόνῳ
πάντα μεταρρίπτει θεός.
Euripides, Suppliant Women 331 (tr. David Kovacs):
Heaven overturns all things.

ὁ γὰρ θεὸς πάντ᾽ ἀναστρέφει πάλιν.


A Noble Faith

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, Book II, § 102 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
A remark for philologists.—That some books are so valuable and so royal that whole generations of scholars are well employed if their labors to preserve these books in a state that is pure and intelligible—philology exists in order to fortify this faith again and again. It presupposes that there is no lack of those rare human beings (even if one does not see them) who really know how to use such valuable books—presumably those who write, or could write, books of the same type. I mean that philology presupposes a noble faith—that for the sake of a very few human beings, who always "will come" but are never there, a very large amount of fastidious and even dirty work needs to be done first: all of it is work in usum Delphinorum.

Ein Wort für die Philologen.—Dass es Bücher giebt, so werthvolle und königliche, dass ganze Gelehrten-Geschlechter gut verwendet sind, wenn durch ihre Mühe diese Bücher rein erhalten und verständlich erhalten werden,—diesen Glauben immer wieder zu befestigen ist die Philologie da. Sie setzt voraus, dass es an jenen seltenen Menschen nicht fehlt (wenn man sie gleich nicht sieht), die so werthvolle Bücher wirklich zu benutzen wissen:—es werden wohl die sein, welche selber solche Bücher machen oder machen könnten. Ich wollte sagen, die Philologie setzt einen vornehmen Glauben voraus,—dass zu Gunsten einiger Weniger, die immer "kommen werden" und nicht da sind, eine sehr grosse Menge von peinlicher, selbst unsauberer Arbeit voraus abzuthun sei: es ist Alles Arbeit in usum Delphinorum.


Learning Vocabulary

I learned what little Greek I know mostly from A New Introduction to Greek by Alston Hurd Chase and Henry Phillips, Jr., a book which I still consult often. I was interested therefore to learn that Chase wrote his memoirs, Time Remembered (San Antonio: Parker, 1994). I don't like to quote from web pages, but the book is unavailable to me, and excerpts are available here. Among some useful classroom tips is this, from Part II, Chapter 1:
I explained to my classes that learning vocabulary is often a process of looking up the same word over and over until one remembers it out of sheer irritation. I used to tell of my own frequent frustration in looking up a strange word occurring in the text, finding it in the dictionary or vocabulary, then turning back to the text only to discover that I had already forgotten the meaning. This revelation of preceptorial weakness always brought bright smiles of response from the class.
From the same chapter:
It is an interesting comment upon American education and what ails it that I should never have been allowed a full-time contract to teach in the public schools of Massachusetts even with my Harvard doctorate and over 40 years of classroom experience, but should have had to yield precedence to someone just out of college with the statutory hours in EDUCATION.

Saturday, June 07, 2014


Learning to Read

Goethe, conversation with Eckermann (January 25, 1830), tr. John Oxenford in Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret, Vol. II (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1850), pp. 218-219:
He then joked upon the difficulty of reading, and the presumption of many people, who, without any previous study and preparatory knowledge, would at once read every philosophical and scientific work, as if it were nothing but a romance.

"The good people," continued he, "know not what time and trouble it costs to learn to read. I have been employed for eighteen years on it, and cannot say that I have reached the goal yet."
Not eighteen (achtzehn) but eighty (achtzig) years, i.e. his whole life. In German:
Er scherzte darauf über die Schwierigkeit des Lesens und den Dünkel vieler Leute, die ohne alle Vorstudien und vorbereitende Kenntnisse sogleich jedes philosophische und wissenschaftliche Werk lesen möchten, als wenn es eben nichts weiter als ein Roman wäre.

"Die guten Leutchen," fuhr er fort, "wissen nicht, was es einem für Zeit und Mühe gekostet, um lesen zu lernen. Ich habe achtzig Jahre dazu gebraucht und kann noch jetzt nicht sagen, daß ich am Ziele wäre."



In My House What Do I Have?

Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the T'ang Poet Han-shan, tr. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), p. 20:
A thatched hut is home for a country man;
Horse or carriage seldom pass my gate:
Forests so still all the birds come to roost,
Broad valley streams always full of fish.
I pick wild fruit in hand with my child,
Till the hillside fields with my wife.
And in my house what do I have?
Only a bed piled high with books.
Robert G. Henricks, The Poetry of Han-shan: A Complete, Annotated Translation of Cold Mountain (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), p. 64:
A thatched hut, the place where a rustic lives;
In front of his gate, horses and carts are few.

The woods are secluded and dark—'specially suited for birds to collect;
The valley streams, wide and broad—from the beginning meant to hold fish.

Mountain fruits, hand in hand my son and I pick;
Marshy fields, together with my wife I plow.

And in our house what do you find?
Nothing more than a bed full of books.
Red Pine (i.e. Bill Porter), The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain (Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2000), p. 57:
A mountain man lives under thatch
before his gate carts and horses are rare
the forest is quiet but partial to birds
the streams are wide and home to fish
with his son he picks wild fruit
with his wife he hoes between rocks
what does he have at home
a shelf full of nothing but books
Thanks to Taylor Posey for bringing Red Pine's translation to my attention.


Live for Today

Joachim Du Bellay (1522-1560), Les Regrets, sonnet 54, tr. Richard Helgerson:
Maraud, you who are a marauder in name only, he who calls you wise speaks the truth. But your countenance gives the lie to him who says that care to avoid poverty gnaws at your mind.

He is truly rich and lives happily who, distancing himself from either extreme, places a limit on his desires. For true wealth is contentment.

Then up, my dear Maraud, while our master, whom nature brought into the world for the public good, torments his mind with the business of others.

Lead the way to the vineyard to prepare the salad. Who knows who will be dead or sick tomorrow? He alone lives who lives today.
The same, tr. David R. Slavitt:
Maraud, you are not, despite your name's implication,
a marauder—you're a philosopher, serene,
not knocking your brains out every day in the keen
contest for money. And if your situation

were different, you'd look the same and behave the same
with money to burn. But you keep to the middle way,
allowing yourself restrained desires. They say
that always to be at ease is to win the game.

Come then, Maraud, and while our master scurries
on the public business, burdened with public worries,
and other people's affairs that crease his brow,

let us go out to the arbor and together
prepare a salad to eat in this pleasant weather,
for this is the place to live, and the time is now.
The French, from Joachim Du Bellay, Les Regrets précédé de Les Antiquités de Rome et suivi de La Défense et Illustration de la Langue française (Paris: Gallimard, 1967), pp. 104-105:
Maraud, qui n'es maraud que de nom seulement,
Qui dit que tu es sage, il dit la vérité:
Mais qui dit que le soin d'éviter pauvreté
Te ronge le cerveau, ta face le dément.

Celui vraiment est riche et vit heureusement
Qui, s'éloignant de l'une et l'autre extrémité,
Prescrit à ses désirs un terme limité:
Car la vraye richesse est le contentement.

Sus donc, mon cher Maraud, pendant que notre maître,
Que pour le bien public la nature a fait naître,
Se tourmente l'esprit des affaires d'autrui,

Va devant à la vigne apprêter la salade:
Que sait-on qui demain sera mort ou malade?
Celui vit seulement, lequel vit aujourd'hui.


A Perpetual Student

In my younger days I dreamed of being a student for as long as I could and avoiding for as long as possible the necessity of getting a job. Never in my wildest dreams, though, did I imagine remaining a student for over a hundred years. On this remarkable achievement see Joachim Latacz, "On Nietzsche's Philological Beginnings," tr. Philip Roth, in Anthony K. Jensen and Helmut Heit, edd., Nietzsche as a Scholar of Antiquity (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), pp. 3-26 (at 4):
From October 1865 until February 1969, i.e. nearly nine semesters, Nietzsche stayed in Leipzig.
There seems to be another misprint, or at least something amiss, on p. 15, where Latacz is discussing Nietzsche's edition of Certamen Homeri et Hesiodi:
By now he has already received (from Leiden) the handwritten transcription of the time by Stephanus from the Florentine Codex Laurentianus.
I don't understand what "transcription of the time" means. A bold emender might suggest "text" for "time."

Update: Michael Hendry proposes a gentler remedy—"tome." On the QWERTY keyboard "i" and "o" are contiguous.


Friday, June 06, 2014


Intolerance and Fanaticism

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), p. 96:
Intolerance is of all periods. There is no Religion but has had its Fanatics. We are all prone to unreasoning admiration. Everything seems excellent to us in what we love, and it angers us when we are shown the clay feet of our idols. Men find it very hard to apply a little criticism to the sources of their beliefs and the origin of their faith. It is just as well; if we looked too close into first principles, we should never believe at all.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 111-112:
L'intolérance est de tous les temps. Il n'est point de religion qui n'ait eu ses fanatiques. Nous sommes tous enclins à l'adoration. Tout nous semble excellent dans ce que nous aimons, et cela nous fâche quand on nous montre le défaut de nos idoles. Les hommes ont grand' peine à mettre un peu de critique dans les sources de leurs croyances et dans l'origine de leur foi. Aussi bien, si l'on regardait trop aux principes, on ne croirait jamais.


The Self-Sacrifice of Our Own Individuality

Wilamowitz, quoted and translated by William M. Calder III, "How Did Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff Read a Text?" Classical Journal 86.4 (April-May, 1991) 344-352 (at 351):
It is far more to the point that the ancient poet speak, not some modern professor. We perform our task correctly only when we don't force our own mind into every ancient book that falls into our hands; but rather read out of it what is already there. That is precisely the specifically philological task of comprehending a different individual. It is a matter of one's sinking into another mind, whether that of an individual or of a people. In the self-sacrifice of our own individuality lies our strength. We philologists as such have nothing of the poet nor of the prophet, both of which to a certain degree the historian should have. On the other hand we ought to carry something of the actor in ourselves, not of the virtuoso who sets his own idiosyncratic touches onto the role; but of the true artist, who gives life to the dead words through his own heart's blood.
The German, from Euripides, Herakles. Erklärt von Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Bd. I (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1889), pp. 256-257:
es kommt vielmehr darauf an, dass der alte dichter zu werte komme, nicht ein moderner professor. wie wir unser geschäft nur dann recht besorgen, wenn wir in jedes alte buch, das wir unter den händen haben, nicht unsern geist hineintragen, sondern das herauslesen, was darin steht, so liegt überhaupt die specifisch philologische aufgabe in dem erfassen einer fremden individualität. es gilt sich in eine fremde seele zu versenken, sei es die eines einzelnen, sei es die eines volkes. in der aufopferung unserer eigenen individualität liegt unsere stärke. wir philologen als solche haben nichts vom dichter noch vom propheten, was beides bis zu einem gewissen grade der historiker sein muss. dagegen müssen wir etwas vom schauspieler in uns tragen, nicht vom virtuosen, der seiner rolle eigene lichter aufsetzt, sondern vom echten künstler. der dem toten werte durch das eigene herzblut leben gibt.
Calder cites a later edition unavailable to me.


Andrew James Bell

There is no separate entry for Andrew James Bell (1856-1932) in Ward W. Briggs, Jr., ed., Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), although he is mentioned in passing (pp. xliv-xlvi) by Alexander G. McKay in an introductory essay on "Classical Scholarship in Canada."

Here, in its entirety, is a delightful appreciation of Bell by Douglas Bush (1896-1983), "A Classical Scholar," The Canadian Forum 9 (September, 1929) 423-424, rpt. in Engaged & Disengaged (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966), pp. 69-75, and also in Renaissance and Reformation 7.2 (1971) 26-29 (text below from Engaged & Disengaged):
On an afternoon a decade ago a rather unusual spectacle might have been observed on lower Yonge Street. Two figures emerged from Britnell's old bookshop and strode northward. I say "strode," but the word applies to only one of the two, a tall and more than substantial man of about sixty, with a full, ruddy face and bright blue eyes, who progressed with long and stately steps, verus incessu patuit deus. He carried his massive head a little on one side, and a small soft hat rode buoyantly on the waves of his white hair. His sober topcoat, restrained by only one button, floated behind him in the breeze; and while one hand rested in the small of his back the other rhythmically brandished a furled umbrella in the manner of Mr. Stokowski. Beside him a shorter and slighter young man of twenty kept more or less in step, by means of a stride alternated with a brief trot. The latter was saying nothing, having no breath anyhow, but he was listening ecstatically, for from the heights above him rolled a continuous stream of thunderous music. The older man, whose imagination was far away, and whose waving umbrella caused an occasional astonished pedestrian to leap off the curb, was chanting Kipling with royal gusto. On they went, the St. Bernard and the terrier, through Queen's Park, up to Avenue Road, and the glorious recital—from Kipling to Heine, Lucretius to Gautier—never ceased until the pair reached the old scholar's home.

That home had become a familiar place to the young man, a Zion where one could be happily at ease, and he knew how to thread his way dexterously over floors almost covered with tall piles of books which frequently tottered but by a miracle never fell. The two settled down in the study—there was still room to sit, for two—and talk began. In that room somehow talk never failed to lead, in five minutes or less, to Virgil and Horace. One crux after another was brought up, and tried on the dog, as it were. The young man was only becoming initiated into the subtleties of Latin style, but if his learning was slight his admiration and affection for his preceptor were infinite, and he was equally ready to share in the ceremonies as either junior priest or sacrificial victim. Leaning back in his capacious chair, his eyes shining with mirth and triumph, the old scholar would toss and gore Sidgwick and Page and Munro and Postgate. Those editors, they would never trust the manuscripts, they thought they knew more than Servius—if they read Servius—and they had that incurable disease, the cacoethes emendandi! Then he would dive into a corner for his first edition of Bentley's Horace, or perhaps some linguistic hare would be started, the verb "to be," say, in Umbrian and Oscan dialects, in Gothic, in the modern languages, with forays into Lithuanian and Old Norse. The young man would shiver slightly, for all his ecstasies, since he had been born without a trace of philological instinct.

But when the prey had been run to earth, and the young man's pallor perhaps become evident, that voice, which had stripped commentators to the bone, and chased vowels over Europe, would begin again to recite poetry. "Do you know so and so?" he would say. In the early days of their acquaintance the young man would eagerly answer "Yes," but he soon learned that "to know," to this man of Macaulayesque memory, meant "to know by heart," and he became more cautious. This was always the radiant part of the evening, when that voice, becoming warm, deep, sonorous, poured forth golden cadences. Sometimes he would reach for a book, and sometimes he would find it—happily for one's self-respect he did not know everything by heart—and the melodious chant would go on. Most people who recite poetry confirm one's habit of absorbing through the eye, but when this white-haired classic put on his singing-robes —to wit, carpet slippers and an old coat—a familiar poem became a new one.

And of course there was talk, roaming back and forth from Homer to Shaw, Virgil to Pepys, Scott, Chaucer, Burns, Rossetti, Balzac, Shakespeare. When the young man expressed opinions a sixty-year-old head was courteously inclined to receive them—to straighten up, perhaps, with a vigorous word of agreement, or vigorous but jovial dissent. Many old names were remembered and saluted. To ardent youth there seemed nothing greater than scholars, and the life of the scholar, perpetual saturation in fine letters; surely in a lifetime one could pick up more than a few shells on the shore of the boundless ocean ... The life so short, the craft so long to learn ... Then a hand might fall suddenly upon one's knee, and upon one's ear the sound of an inward, reverberating chuckle which sought egress, and ended in "Scholar, my boy, does not rhyme with dollar." But the thud of descent to earth was softened by a gesture, at once complacent and modest, towards the walls, or the place where invisible walls presumably stood—"Still, I've been able to get a few books." Indeed, he had; they numbered twenty-four thousand at the last count, and college tradition, for once authentic, told how a possible collapse of the house had necessitated the summoning of an engineer. "I have more incunabula than anyone in Canada," he went on, with that consciousness of achievement pardonable in epic heroes and book collectors of limited means. Unlike most book collectors, however, he had read his books; he knew all the literary (not to mention nonliterary) languages except Hebrew, and what human frailty the omission suggests he never avowed, though he did express the intention of mastering it shortly, and doubtless he has done so. "I know about as much English literature as the average professor of English," he once observed, and it was a prodigious understatement; his knowledge made one feel, in the words of George Eliot's villager, "no better nor a hollow stalk."

Then he might produce some Baxter prints, or some faded but precious letters from the hands of Pitt, and Burns, and others. The latter name reminds one that perhaps nothing could have increased his devotion to Virgil except the discovery that he had been born in Scotland; in fact, when in the classroom he rendered the Bucolics into smoothly flowing English one had the feeling that in private he translated all the Virgilian plants and flowers into heather. Contemporary pacifism left him cold, or rather warm. "Rev. Dr. X," he exclaimed, "who ought to have known better, stood there and said nothing had ever really been won by battles. But," he sat up, gripping the arms of his chair with boyish glee, "I floored him with Bannockburn!"

How many generations of young men in that same room had seen visions and dreamed dreams! His home, he used to say (when the class had arrived at a certain spot in Horace), did not need to be measured with a decempeda, a foot-rule would do—and there would follow that rumbling, heart-easing chuckle. But no four walls could contain more shadowy guests from the Elysian fields, and after such high converse with the mighty dead, young men left that house, in Horatian phrase, striking the stars with their exalted heads, wishing they could conquer all literature in one Gargantuan gulp. And the glow had not vanished before another invitation or chance meeting would come to renew it. Even Latin composition became a spiritual experience, and one could never be sure how far one's toil aimed at disinterested mastery of ancient idiom, how far at the not quite ignoble winning of an approving word from the master, who himself wrote as if his voluminous trailing gown were a toga made by Cicero's tailor.

How his mannerisms of speech and gesture were treasured in amused and reverent memory—that extended finger, rigid as a Roman javelin, which seemed to impale the luckless victim; that opening of the office door, precisely as the bell rang, then the slow advance, with head forward, and a little on one side, while the small group of students wished they had been somewhat more rigorous in preparation ... The young man whose acquaintance has been sketched had occasional special shivers, for he seemed to be regularly called upon to translate the more doubtful bits of Catullus and other free-spoken ancients not appreciated by pre-war females ...

He was not altogether a recluse. One day our young man met him near his home—it is to be feared that the young man sometimes strolled out of his way with certain possibilities in mind—and he walked with bent head and meditative mien, as if he had just come from the Library, or a meeting of the Caput. As a matter of fact he had just come from the Island, whither he had repaired by himself to witness a nonintellectual conflict between Toronto and Baltimore. And one of the most refreshing phrases in that austere work, Who's Who, lists under Recreations "Used to play golf." Nor can anyone who attended college social functions forget his elaborate old-fashioned courtesy toward the young women, who would rather have a greeting from him (along with a merry quip which bowled one over) than from their most dashing contemporaries. Now and then a brief excursus upon ancient Umbrian might disconcert a stranger, but after all is not a little Umbrian a pleasant change from the tedious small talk of receptions?

Like all men of learning and wisdom, he had, and has, some strong prejudices, though his most explosive utterances were generally accompanied by a twinkle of those keen blue eyes. Only one prejudice or conviction it was perhaps really dangerous to touch upon, and our young man never felt quite intimate enough to hazard the remark that some persons consider Latin inferior to Greek. University lore does indeed tell of a colleague who hinted at some such dark infamy, but the versions of his fate are so conflicting that possibly, as with some ancient heroes, a protecting deity carried him away in a mist. And it was just as well if one testified, early in conversation, to sound principles in the matter of the Latin dual.

He reminds one, in his single-hearted love of learning for its own sake and not for the sake of kudos, of some of the best Renaissance scholars. He has quietly gone his own way, without practising or even understanding the arts of publicity, and the influence he has wielded for forty years has been almost wholly personal. Nor, like some famous academic characters, has he ever been a conscious influence, with an eye on the gallery. But simply by being himself he has made young men want to be like him. He reminds one, too, of a man who had no special Scottish sentiments, one Samuel Johnson, in his immense acquisitiveness, his honesty and sincerity, his downright and yet courtly manner, his devotion to literature, his freedom from all cant and humbug, his generous interest in aspiring youth, his stout prejudices and his hearty laughter. Such rich and mellow personalities have never been very numerous in universities—not so numerous in the past as sentimentalists like to think—and successors are hard to find. Meanwhile, scholars old and young, all over America, rekindle the memory of some of their happiest undergraduate hours when they think of that majestic figure, with one hand resting in the small of his back, still pacing through Queen's Park, murmuring (with a mental bow to Servius, that trusty guide), Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, June 05, 2014


A Poet in His Cups

Theognis 1129-1132 (tr. M.L. West):
I'll drink my fill, ignore soul-grinding poverty
    and hateful fellows that speak ill of me;
but I lament my lovely youth that's running out,
    and weep at the approach of grim old age.

ἐμπίομαι· πενίης θυμοφθόρου οὐ μελεδαίνω,
    οὐδ᾽ ἀνδρῶν ἐχθρῶν οἵ με λέγουσι κακῶς.
ἀλλ᾽ ἥβην ἐρατὴν ὀλοφύρομαι, ἥ μ᾽ ἐπιλείπει,
    κλαίω δ᾽ ἀργαλέον γῆρας ἐπερχόμενον.
The first line, or a variant thereof, appears on a fragmentary Greek vase in Copenhagen's National Museum (inv. 13365) attributed to the Kleophrades Painter. See Henry R. Immerwahr, "Inscriptions on the Anacreon Krater in Copenhagen," American Journal of Archaeology 69.2 (April, 1965) 152-154 (at 153-154). For photographs of the vase and bibliography see


Anti-Obesity Legislation

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14.7 (tr. N.G. Wilson):
This law is a Spartan one. The wording is as follows: no Spartan is to be seen with an effeminate complexion or a heavier body than exercise will produce — the one was a confession of idleness, the other of effeminacy. It was also provided in the law that every ten days the ephebes should without fail appear naked before the ephors. If they were well-built and strong, emerging from the gymnasium as if they had been sculpted or chiselled, they were complimented. But if there was anything flabby or soft in their limbs, any swelling of fat arising from idleness, they were beaten and punished on the spot. The ephors also made a point of reviewing their dress every day, to ensure that in each detail the proper style was maintained. Spartan cooks were expected to know about meat only; anyone with other skills was banished from Sparta, as if this were the purging of a sick element.

The same authorities brought Nauclides son of Polybiades before the assembled inspectors. He was overweight and had become fat through luxurious living. They threatened him with the additional punishment of exile if he did not for the future change his habits, which were the subject of criticism and Ionian rather than Spartan. They claimed his appearance and physical condition brought disgrace on Sparta and its laws.
An "effeminate complexion" is probably a pale one.

Athenaeus 12.550 c-d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick; material in square brackets added):
The same authority [Agatharchides], on the other hand, records in the twenty-seventh book [Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 86 F 10] that among the Lacedaemonians it was accounted no ordinary disgrace to a man if he was seen to have either a figure somewhat lacking in virility or a corpulence that made his belly prominent; hence, every ten days, the young warriors were made to stand naked before the ephors. The ephors also closely observed every day both the clothing worn by the young men and also the bedding they used; and with good reason. There were, it is true, cooks in Sparta who were skilled in the preparation of meat, but of nothing else whatever.

Again, in the twenty-seventh book Agatharchides [Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 86 F 11] has said that the Lacedaemonians summoned Naucleides the son of Polybiades, whose body was overlaid with excessive flesh, having become obese through luxurious indulgence, to come before the assembly; there Lysander in open meeting reviled him so bitterly as a wanton profligate that the Lacedaemonians almost ejected him from the city, and warned him that they would certainly do so if he did not reform his manner of life...
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