Sunday, August 31, 2014


A Literary Snob

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), "The Social Sense," Complete Short Stories, IV: The Human Element & Other Stories (New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1967), pp. 1432-1439 (at 1437):
I resented somewhat his contemptuous attitude towards English writers unless they were safely dead and buried; but this was only to his credit with the intelligentsia, who are ever ready to believe that there can be no good in what is produced in their own country, and with them his influence was great. On one occasion I told him that one had only to put a commonplace in French for him to mistake it for an epigram and he had thought well enough of the joke to use it as his own in one of his essays. He reserved such praise as he was willing to accord his contemporaries to those who wrote in a foreign tongue.


Time Shall Show Us

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter 15:
Time shall show us. The post of honour and the post of shame, the general's station and the drummer's, a peer's statue in Westminster Abbey and a seaman's hammock in the bosom of the deep, the mitre and the workhouse, the woolsack and the gallows, the throne and the guillotine—the travellers to all are on the great high road; but it has wonderful divergences, and only Time shall show us whither each traveller is bound.


A Mistaken Change of Speaker

Plautus, Casina. The Casket Comedy. Curculio. Epidicus. The Two Menaechmuses. Edited and Translated by Wolfgang de Melo (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011 = Loeb Classical Library, 61), pp. 94-95 (Casina 793-799; images from the actual book):

The English translation indicates a change of speaker to Olympio (OL) at line 794, after Pardalisca exits, but this should be removed and the entire speech (793-797) assigned to Lysidamus (LYS). Olympio doesn't speak here until line 798.

I'm indulging my "inner pedant," described thus by Theodore Dalrymple, "The Money of Fools," Taki's Magazine (August 31, 2014):
The inner pedant in all, or at least in many, of us is that inner creature that takes delight in pointing out the errors of others, not so much because he loves truth as because he likes to advertise his own cleverness and knowledge. But of all the many forms of pride, that in knowledge and cleverness is the most vulgar, because knowledge and cleverness should lead to wisdom and modesty rather than pride. After all, knowledge is always finite, ignorance infinite, and this is true even for the most knowledgeable person in the world.


Saturday, August 30, 2014


A Swarm of Flies and Gnats

Erasmus, Praise of Folly 48 (tr. John Wilson):
In short, if a man like Menippus of old could look down from the moon and behold those innumerable rufflings of mankind, he would think he saw a swarm of flies and gnats quarreling among themselves, fighting, laying traps for one another, snatching, playing, wantoning, growing up, falling, and dying. Nor is it to be believed what stir, what broils, this little creature raises, and yet in how short a time it comes to nothing itself; while sometimes war, other times pestilence, sweeps off many thousands of them together.

in summa si mortalium innumerabiles tumultus, e Luna, quemadmodum Menippus olim, despicias, putes te muscarum, aut culicum videre turbam inter se rixantium, bellantium, insidiantium, rapientium, ludentium, lascivientium, nascentium, cadentium, morientium. neque satis credi potest, quos motus, quas tragoedias ciat tantulum animalculum, tamque mox periturum. nam aliquoties vel levis belli, seu pestilentiae procella, multa simul millia rapit ac dissipat.
The reference is to Lucian's Icaromenippus.

Friday, August 29, 2014



Jean-Antoine de Baïf (1532-1589), "Du Contentement," my translation:
Let someone else, hungry for wealth, toil
in order to sort gold coins into heaps;
let someone else, wasting his years in fruitless worship
of the great (gods of the world), truckle down to them;

but may a tolerable pittance allow
my sweet life to glide by in peaceful leisure;
may a good fire on the hearth always keep me happy,
and may good wine in my cellar never run out;

and may the sweet constraint of a dear mistress
shorten the length of the most irksome nights
and brighten the light of the worst days.

In this way, happy with little, without anyone seeing me
either complain of want or praise greed,
I would neither hope for death nor fear it.
The French, from Poésies choisies de J.-A. de Baïf (Paris: Charpentier, 1874), p. 263:
Qu'un autre se travaille affamé de richesse,
Afin que par monceaux les pièces d'or il trie;
Qu'un autre usant ses ans en vaine idolatrie
Des seigneurs, dieux du monde, au talon face presse;

Mais qu'une pauvreté suportable me laisse
En paisible loisir couler ma douce vie;
Et toujours un bon feu dans le foyer me rie,
Et jamais le bon vin en ma cave ne cesse;

Et que le doux lien d'une maistresse chiere
Des plus facheuses nuits la longueur acourcisse,
Et des plus troubles jours sereine la lumiere.

Ainsi, content de peu, sans qu'on me vit ny pleindre
De la necessité, ny louer l'avarice,
La mort je ne voudroy ny souhetter ny creindre.
The first couplet recalls the first line of Tibullus 1.1: divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro. The last line recalls the last line of Martial 10.47: summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


A Sad Epicurean

Edward FitzGerald, letter to W.M. Thackeray (November 15, 1852):
Life every day seems a more total failure and mess to me: but it is yet bearable: and I am become a sad Epicurean—just desirous to keep on the windy side of bother and pain.


Remember the Sabbath Day

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter 3:
'Thank Heaven!' said Clennam, when the hour struck, and the bell stopped.

But its sound had revived a long train of miserable Sundays, and the procession would not stop with the bell, but continued to march on. 'Heaven forgive me,' said he, 'and those who trained me. How I have hated this day!'

There was the dreary Sunday of his childhood, when he sat with his hands before him, scared out of his senses by a horrible tract which commenced business with the poor child by asking him in its title, why he was going to Perdition?—a piece of curiosity that he really in a frock and drawers was not in a condition to satisfy—and which, for the further attraction of his infant mind, had a parenthesis in every other line with some such hiccupping reference as 2 Ep. Thess. c. iii. v. 6 & 7. There was the sleepy Sunday of his boyhood, when, like a military deserter, he was marched to chapel by a picquet of teachers three times a day, morally handcuffed to another boy; and when he would willingly have bartered two meals of indigestible sermon for another ounce or two of inferior mutton at his scanty dinner in the flesh. There was the interminable Sunday of his nonage; when his mother, stern of face and unrelenting of heart, would sit all day behind a bible—bound, like her own construction of it, in the hardest, barest, and straitest boards, with one dinted ornament on the cover like the drag of a chain, and a wrathful sprinkling of red upon the edges of the leaves—as if it, of all books! were a fortification against sweetness of temper, natural affection, and gentle intercourse. There was the resentful Sunday of a little later, when he sat glowering and glooming through the tardy length of the day, with a sullen sense of injury in his heart, and no more real knowledge of the beneficent history of the New Testament, than if he had been bred among idolaters. There was a legion of Sundays, all days of unserviceable bitterness and mortification, slowly passing before him.


The Praises of Isis

A Greek inscription from Kyme, tr. Frederick C. Grant, Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953), pp. 131-133 (numbering added by me; brackets as in Grant):
§1 [Demetrius, son of Artemidorus, and Thraseas, the Magnesian from the Maeander, crave the blessing of Isis.
§2 The following was copied from the stele which is in Memphis, where it stands before the temple of Hephaestus:]
§3a I am Isis, the mistress of every land,
§3b and I was taught by Hermes, and
§3c with Hermes I devised letters, both the sacred [hieroglyphs] and the demotic, that all things might not be written with the same [letters].
§4 I gave and ordained laws for men, which no one is able to change.
§5 I am eldest daughter of Kronos.
§6 I am wife and sister of King Osiris.
§7 I am she who findeth fruit for men.
§8 I am mother of King Horus.
§9 I am she that riseth in the Dog Star.
§10 I am she that is called goddess by women.
§11 For me was the city of Bubastis built.
§12 I divided the earth from the heaven.
§13 I showed the paths of the stars.
§14 I ordered the course of the sun and the moon.
§15 I devised business in the sea.
§16 I made strong the right.
§17 I brought together woman and man.
§18 I appointed to women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth month.
§19 I ordained that parents should be loved by children.
§20 I laid punishment upon those disposed without natural affection toward their parents.
§21 I made with my brother Osiris an end to the eating of men.
§22 I revealed mysteries unto men.
§23 I taught [men] to honor images of the gods.
§24 I consecrated the precincts of the gods.
§25 I broke down the governments of tyrants.
§26 I made an end to murders.
§27 I compelled women to be loved by men.
§28 I made the right to be stronger than gold and silver.
§29 I ordained that the true should be thought good.
§30 I devised marriage contracts.
§31 I assigned to Greeks and barbarians their languages.
§32 I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature.
§33 I ordained that nothing should be more feared than an oath.
§34 I have delivered the plotter of evil against other men into the hands of the one he plotted against.
§35 I established penalties for those who practice injustice.
§36 I decreed mercy to suppliants.
§37 I protect [or honor] righteous guards.
§38 With me the right prevails.
§39 I am the Queen of rivers and winds and sea.
§40 No one is held in honor without my knowing it.
§41 I am the Queen of war.
§42 I am the Queen of the thunderbolt.
§43 I stir up the sea and I calm it.
§44 I am in the rays of the sun.
§45 I inspect the courses of the sun.
§46 Whatever I please, this too shall come to an end.
§47 With me everything is reasonable.
§48 I set free those in bonds.
§49 I am the Queen of seamanship.
§50 I make navigable unnavigable when it pleases me.
§51 I created the walls of cities.
§52 I am called the Lawgiver [Thesmophoros, a classical epithet of Demeter].
§53 I brought up islands out of the depths into the light.
§54 I am Lord [note masculine form] of rainstorms.
§55 I overcome Fate.
§56 Fate harkens to me.
§57 Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!
I don't understand §54: "I am Lord [note masculine form] of rainstorms." The Greek (see below) has κυρία, a feminine form, translated by Grant as "Queen" elsewhere.

There are other translations in Stanley M. Burstein, The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985 = Translated Documents of Greece and Rome, 3), pp. 146-148, and Mary Beard et al., Religions of Rome, Vol. 2: A Sourcebook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; rpt. 2003), pp. 297-298.

The inscription was first published in A. Salač, "Inscriptions de Kymé d'Éolide, de Phocée de Tralles et de quelques autres villes d'Asie Mineure," Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique 51 (1927) 374-400 (at 378-383). I don't have access to Helmut Engelmann, ed., Die Inschriften von Kyme (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt, 1976 = Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien, 5), where the inscription is number 41. Here is the Greek from The Packard Humanities Institute, Searchable Greek Inscriptions (material in curly brackets omitted):
§1 Δημήτριος Ἀρτεμιδώρου ὁ καὶ Θρασέας Μάγνη[ς] ἀπὸ Μαιάνδρου Ἴσιδι εὐχήν·
§2 τάδε ἐγράφηι ἐκ τῆς στήλης τῆς ἐν Μέμφει, ἥτις ἕστηκεν πρὸς τῷ Ἡφαιστιήωι·
§3a Εἶσις ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ τύραννος πάσης χώρας·
§3b καὶ ἐπαιδεύθην ὑπ[ὸ] Ἑρμοῦ καὶ
§3c γράμματα εὗρον μετὰ Ἑρμοῦ, τά τε ἱερὰ καὶ τὰ δημόσια γράμματα, ἵνα μὴ ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῖς πάντα γράφηται.
§4 ἐγὼ νόμους ἀνθρώποις ἐθέμην, καὶ ἐνομοθέτησα ἃ οὐθεὶς δύναται μεταθεῖναι.
§5 ἐγώ εἰμι Κρόνου θυγάτηρ πρεσβυτάτηι.
§6 ἐγώ εἰμι γ[υ]νὴ καὶ ἀδελφὴ Ὀσείριδος βασιλέως.
§7 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ καρπὸν ἀνθρώποις εὑροῦσα.
§8 ἐγώ εἰμι μήτηρ Ὥρου βασιλέως.
§9 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἐν τῷ τοῦ Κυνὸς ἄστρῳ ἐπιτέλλουσα.
§10 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ παρὰ γυναιξὶ θεὸς καλουμένη.
§11 ἐμοὶ Βούβαστος πόλις ᾠκοδομήθη.
§12 ἐγὼ ἐχώρισα γῆν ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ.
§13 ἐγὼ ἄστρων ὁδοὺς ἔδειξα.
§14 ἐγὼ ἡλίου καὶ σελήνη[ς] πορέαν συνεταξάμην.
§15 ἐγὼ θαλάσσια ἔργα εὗρον.
§16 ἐγὼ τὸ δίκαιον ἰσχυρὸν ἐποίησα.
§17 ἐγὼ γυναῖκα καὶ ἄνδρα συνήγαγον.
§18 ἐγὼ γυναικὶ δεκαμηνιαῖον βρέφος εἰς φῶς ἐξενεγκεῖν ἔταξα.
§19 ἐγὼ ὑπὸ τέκνου γονεῖς ἐνομοθέτησα φιλοστοργῖσθαι.
§20 ἐγὼ τοῖς ἀστόργ<ω>ς γονεῦσιν διακειμένοις τειμω<ρ>ίαν ἐπέθηκα.
§21 ἐγὼ μετὰ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ Ὀσίριδος τὰς ἀνθρωποφαγίας ἔπαυσα.
§22 ἐγὼ μυήσεις ἀνθρώποις ἐπέδε[ι]ξα.
§23 ἐγὼ ἀγάλματα θεῶν τειμᾶν ἐδίδαξα.
§24 ἐγὼ τεμένη θεῶν ἱδρυσάμην.
§25 ἐγὼ τυράννων ἀρχὰς κατέλυσα.
§26 ἐγὼ φόνους ἔπαυσα.
§27 ἐγὼ στέργεσθαι γυναῖκας ὑπὸ ἀνδρῶν ἠνάγκασα.
§28 ἐγὼ τὸ δίκαιον ἰσχυρότερον χρυσίου καὶ ἀργυρίου ἐποίησα.
§29 ἐγὼ τὸ ἀληθὲς καλὸν ἐνομο[θέ]τησα νομίζε[σ]θαι.
§30 ἐγὼ συνγραφὰς γαμικὰς εὗρον.
§31 ἐγὼ διαλέκτους Ἕλλησι καὶ βαρβάροις ἔταξα.
§32 ἐγὼ τὸ καλὸν καὶ αἰσχρὸ[ν] διαγεινώσκεσθαι ὑπὸ τῆς Φύσεως ἐποίησα.
§33 ἐγὼ ὅρκου φοβερώτερον οὐθὲν ἐποίησα.
§34 ἐγὼ τὸν ἀδίκως ἐπιβουλεύοντα ἄλλοις ὑποχείριον τῷ ἐπιβου[λ]ευομένῳ παρέδωκα.
§35 ἐγὼ τοῖς ἄδικα πράσσουσιν τειμωρίαν ἐπιτίθημι.
§36 ἐγὼ ἱκέτας ἐλεᾶν ἐνομοθ[έ]τησα.
§37 ἐγὼ τοὺς δικαίως ἀμυνομένους τειμῶ.
§38 πὰρ' ἐμοὶ τὸ δίκαιον ἰσχύει.
§39 ἐγὼ ποταμῶν καὶ ἀνέμων [κ]αὶ θαλάσσης εἰμὶ κυρία.
§40 οὐθεὶς δοξάζεται ἄνευ τῆς ἐμῆς γνώμης.
§41 ἐγώ εἰμι πολέμου κυρία.
§42 ἐγὼ κεραυνοῦ κυρία εἰμί.
§43 ἐγὼ πραΰνω καὶ κυμαίνω θάλασσαν.
§44 ἐγὼ ἐν ταῖς τοῦ ἡλίου αὐγαῖς εἰμί.
§45 ἐγὼ παρεδρεύω τῇ τοῦ ἡλίου πορείᾳ.
§46 ὃ ἂν ἐμοὶ δόξῃ, τοῦτο καὶ τελεῖτα[ι].
§47 ἐμοὶ πάντ' ἐπείκει.
§48 ἐγὼ τοὺς ἐν δεσμοῖς λύωι.
§49 ἐγὼ ναυτιλίας εἰμὶ κυρία.
§50 ἐγὼ τὰ πλωτὰ ἄπλωτα ποι[ῶ ὅ]ταν ἐμοὶ δόξῃ.
§51 ἐγὼ περιβόλους πόλεων ἔκτισα.
§52 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ Θεσμοφόρος καλουμένη.
§53 ἐγὼ ν<ή>σσους ἐγ β[υθ]ῶν εἰς φῶ<ς> ἀνήγαγον.
§54 ἐγὼ ὄμβρων εἰμὶ κυρία.
§55 ἐγὼ τὸ ἱμαρμένον νικῶ.
§56 ἐμοῦ τὸ εἱμαρμένον ἀκούει.
§57 χαῖρε Αἴγυπτε θρέψασά με.
The bibliography is voluminous. I've looked at the following:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


In Praise of Money

Libanius, Declamations 33.52-54 (tr. D.A. Russell, with his notes; a miser is speaking):
[52] What, in heaven's name, is not in money and through money? Does not money found cities, create kingdoms, raise trophies, make marriages, attract friends and cure disease? Money discovered arts, led men to sail the sea and work the land, to practise speech and to honour parents. With money we help our friends and grieve our enemies, build ships, construct statues, make sacrifices and offer splendid dedications. [53] The hero who is rich has more splendour, the general who is rich has more honour, the ambassador who is rich has more prestige. Wealth makes the orator wiser, gives the prosecutor credibility, and wins the defendant an acquittal. It is wealth, I am persuaded, that makes the poets possessed by the Muses, because they have filled their epics and their lyrics with hymns to wealth, giving him virtue and glory as an appendage, and calling him 'widely strong'.12 Quite right, too: he gives foreigners citizenship, he conceals the disgrace of birth, he gives fame to the obscure and the repute of wisdom to the foolish. Indeed, he leaves everything else behind in strength. Some have given him priority over kinship, and wealth has outstripped the necessary ties of nature. [54] But why do I speak of humans? The all-powerful gods love gold, and of gold is Zeus's floor made.13 They enjoy thank-offerings, and, if these are lacking, they demand them more vigorously than creditors.

12. Pindar, Pythians 5.1.
13. Iliad 4.2.
The Greek, which I am too lazy to transcribe, can be found at and

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Easy to Forget

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 271:
It is easy to forget that the Parthenon and Delphi and Olympia were painted ox-blood and deep blue and ochre, and that the hosts of polychrome, black-eyed and staring statuary bristled with gold ornaments. The insides of the temples were obscure and mysterious and black smoke darkened the giant chryselephantine statues. They were curtained in purple and dripping with honey and wine and glistening with oil and blood, while the reek of carrion and burning meat filled the batlike gloom.


I Tell You This, My Friend

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter 11:
'Hold there, you and your philanthropy,' cried the smiling landlady, nodding her head more than ever. 'Listen then. I am a woman, I. I know nothing of philosophical philanthropy. But I know what I have seen, and what I have looked in the face, in this world here, where I find myself. And I tell you this, my friend, that there are people (men and women both, unfortunately) who have no good in them—none. That there are people whom it is necessary to detest without compromise. That there are people who must be dealt with as enemies of the human race. That there are people who have no human heart, and who must be crushed like savage beasts and cleared out of the way.'

Monday, August 25, 2014


Soon Enough

Seneca, Hercules Furens 861-874 (tr. John G. Fitch):
All around is turbid emptiness, unlovely darkness,
the sullen colour of night, the lethargy
of a silent world, and empty clouds.
Late may old age carry us there!
No one comes too late to that from which,
once come, he never can return.
What is the good of hurrying harsh fate?
All this crowd that wanders the great earth
will join the shades and set sail
on lifeless Cocytus. For you grows all
that the rising and setting sun beholds;
be lenient, since we must come;
we are groomed for you, o Death.
You can be slow, we hasten of ourselves.
The hour that first gives life, erodes it.

stat chaos densum tenebraeque turpes
et color noctis malus ac silentis
otium mundi vacuaeque nubes.
sera nos illo referat senectus!
nemo ad id sero venit, unde numquam,
cum semel venit, potuit reverti;
quid iuvat durum properare fatum?
omnis haec magnis vaga turba terris
ibit ad manes facietque inerti
vela Cocyto. tibi crescit omne,
et quod occasus videt et quod ortus:
parce venturis; tibi, Mors, paramur.
sis licet segnis, properamus ipsi;
prima quae vitam dedit hora, carpit.


Tree-Felling in Statius' Achilleid

Statius, Achilleid 1.426-429 (Greeks prepare to invade Troy; tr. J.H. Mozley):
Nowhere are the shady haunts of old: Othrys is lesser grown, lofty Taygetus sinks low, the shorn hills see the light of day. Now the whole forest is afloat: oaks are hewn to make a fleet, the woods are diminished for oars.

nusquam umbrae veteres: minor Othrys et ardua sidunt
Taygeta, exuti viderunt aera montes.
iam natat omne nemus: caeduntur robora classi,
silva minor remis.
Id., 2.60-65 (Paris abducts Helen; tr. J.H. Mozley):
He cuts down the Phrygian groves, the secret haunts of the turret-crowned mother, and flings down pines that fear to fall to earth, and borne o'er the sea to Achaean lands he plunders the marriage-chamber of his host the son of Atreus—ah! shame and pity on proud Europe!—and exulting in Helen puts to sea and brings home to Pergamum the spoils of Argos.

ille Phrygas lucos, matris penetralia caedit
turrigerae veritasque solo procumbere pinus
praecipitat terrasque freto delatus Achaeas
hospitis Atridae—pudet heu miseretque potentis
Europae!—spoliat thalamos, Helenaque superbus
navigat et captos ad Pergama devehit Argos.

61 veritasque P: vetitasque ω
The "turret-crowned mother" is Cybele (Magna Mater), represented thus in statuary and on coins.


Sunday, August 24, 2014


Two of the Best Languages That Ever Were

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania," The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Albert Henry Smith, Vol. II: 1722-1750 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905), pp. 386-396 (at 394):
When Youth are told, that the Great Men whose Lives and Actions they read in History, spoke two of the best Languages that ever were, the most expressive, copious, beautiful; and that the finest Writings, the most correct Compositions, the most perfect Productions of human Wit and Wisdom, are in those Languages, which have endured Ages, and will endure while there are Men; that no Translation can do them Justice, or give the Pleasure found in Reading the Originals; that those Languages contain all Science; that one of them is become almost universal, being the Language of Learned Men in all Countries; that to understand them is a distinguishing Ornament, &c. they may be thereby made desirous of learning those Languages, and their Industry sharpen'd in the Acquisition of them.

Saturday, August 23, 2014



Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 148:
We boarded Panayioti's little caique, the St. Nicholas, just before dawn broke. Four black-shawled women and a ragged priest clustered in the stern and, at the embarkation of the latter, Panayioti with a wink made the privy gesture of spitting to avert the Eye and the evil fortune which is supposed to dog the footsteps of priests, especially on a ship.*

* The alternative exorcism is to touch one's pudenda.



Libanius, Declamations 27.15, tr. D.A. Russell, in Libanius, Imaginary Speeches: A Selection of Declamations (London: Duckworth, 1996), p. 127, with endnote on p. 214 (a "morose man" is speaking):
People who say laughter is a specific characteristic of humanity4 are as foolish about this as they are about everything else. It would have been better to regard weeping or crying as our specific characteristic. We all have experiences that deserve this. Laughter, if it is a reaction to good events, is altogether alien to mankind. They have never seen a good thing and never will, only bad things—that is to say, in the first place, one another, and, in the second place, what they do. There is only one day right for laughter, and that is when our good friend Death puts in an appearance.

4. To be capable of laughter is a defining characteristic of a human being, according to some philosophers: cf. Sextus Empiricus, Hypotyposes 2.211; Lucian, Vitarum Auctio 26 (where it is given as a piece of Peripatetic wisdom).
The Greek, from Libanii Opera, ed. Richard Foerster, Vol. VI: Declamationes XIII-XXX (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1911), pp. 557-558:
φλυαροῦσιν ὥσπερ καὶ τἄλλα πάντα οἱ τὸ γελᾶν ἴδιον ἀνθρώπου τιθέμενοι. τὸ δακρύειν γὰρ καὶ τὸ οἰμώζειν τίθεσθαι μᾶλλον ἐχρῆν. τούτου γὰρ ἄξια πράττουσιν ἅπαντες. ὁ δὲ γέλως, εἴπερ ἐπὶ χρηστοῖς γίνεται πράγμασιν, ἀλλότριον ἀνθρώπου παντάπασιν. οὐδέποτε γὰρ οὐδὲν χρηστὸν οὔτε εἶδον οὔτε μὴν ὄψονται, ἀλλ' ἀεὶ τὰ κακά, πρῶτον μὲν ἀλλήλους, εἶτα ἃ πράττουσιν. γελᾶν δὲ μίαν ἡμέραν ἐχρῆν, ὅτε ὁ βέλτιστος θάνατος παραγίνεται.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Last Words of George Buchanan?

Father Garasse, quoted in The Dictionary Historical and Critical of Mr. Peter Bayle, 2nd ed., Vol. II (London: Printed for J.J. and P. Knapton..., 1735), p. 181:
I will tell our new Atheists the wretched end of a Man of their Belief and Humour, as to eating and drinking. It was George Buchanan, a perfect Epicure during his Life, and a perfect Atheist at his Death. This Libertine, having spent his Youth in Debauchery at Paris, and at Bourdeaux, more sollicitous after the Ivy of an Alehouse, and the Bush of a Tavern, than after the Laurels of Parnassus, and being called back to Scotland towards the latter part of his Days, to instruct the young Prince, who is at present the Most Serene King of Great Britain, continuing his gluttonous Courses, fell into a Dropsy by drinking, tho' it was said of him by way of banter, that his Distemper was, vino intercute, not aqua intercute. How sick so ever he was, he abstained no more from drinking Bumpers, than when he was in Health, and drank his Wine as pure as he formerly did at Bourdeaux. The Physicians, who visited him by Order of the King their Master, seeing their Patient's Excess, told him plainly and angrily, that he did what he could to destroy himself, and that, in his way of living, he could not hold out above fourteen Days or three Weeks at longest. He desired them to call a Consultation to know how long he might live, in case he abstained from Wine; they did so, and the result was, that he might live five or six Years longer, if he could command himself so long; upon which he made an Answer agreeable to his humour. Get you gone, said he, with your Prescriptions, and your Course of Diet, and know, that I would rather live three Weeks and be drunk every Day, than six Years without drinking Wine; and immediately discharging his Physicians, like a desperate Man, he ordered a hogshead of Graves Wine to be set at his Bed's head, resolving to see the bottom of it before he died, and behaved himself so valiantly, that he emptied it to the Lees, literally fulfilling the Contents of that pretty Epigram of Epigonus concerning a Frog, which, being fallen into a Hogshead of Wine cried out,
                                    φεύ τίνες ὕδωρ
πίνουσι μανίην σώφρονα μαινόμενοι.

Alas! some drink Water, being sober mad.
When he had Death and the Glass between his Lips, the Ministers made him a Visit to settle his Mind, and prepare him to die with some Sentiments of Religion: One of them exhorted him to repeat the Lord's-Prayer; and he opening his Eyes, and looking sternly at the Minister, What is that, said he, that you call the Lord's-Prayer? The Standers by answered, That it was the Pater-noster; and that if he could not say that Prayer, they desired him at least to say some other Christian Prayer, that he might go out of the World like a good Man: As for me, said he, in his undisturbed and perfect Senses, I never knew any other Prayer than this:
Cinthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis
  Contactum nullis ante cupidinibus.

I who to Love a Stranger e'er had been,
Cinthia's sparkling Eyes was first enslav'd.
And scarce had he repeated ten or twelve Verses of that Elegy of Propertius, when he expired among the Glasses and Pints; so that it may truly be said of him, purpuream vomit ille animam: and such is commonly the End of all Epicures.
Doubtless an exaggerated and unreliable account, but the description of the unrepentant humanist quoting Propertius on his deathbed is interesting. The French can be found in François Garasse, Doctrine Curieuse des Beaux Esprits de ce Temps (Paris: Sébastien Chappelet, 1623), pp. 748-750.


Erasmus and Petrarch on Homer

Erasmus, letter 131 (to Augustine Vincent; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
I am so enamoured of this author, that even when I cannot understand him, I am refreshed and fed by the very sight of his words.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), pp. 305-306:
Ego quidem ita huius autoris ardeo amore, vt cum intelligere nequeam, aspectu tamen ipso recreer ac pascar.
Petrarch, Epistulae Familiares 18.2.10 (to Nicolas Sygeros, thanking him for the gift of a copy of Homer in Greek; tr. Christopher S. Celenza):
Your Homer is mute to me. Or rather, I am deaf to him. Still, I rejoice even to look at him and often, as I embrace him I say, sighing, 'O Great Man, how ardently would I listen to you!'

Homerus tuus apud me mutus, imo vero ego apud illum surdus sum. gaudeo tamen vel aspectu solo et sepe illum amplexus ac suspirans dico: 'O magne vir, quam cupide te audirem!'


I Wish That You Knew Greek

Erasmus, letter 129, to James Batt (September 1500; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
I do wish, my dear Batt, that you knew Greek, both because I find Latin literature incomplete without it, and because it would make our intercourse more agreeable, if we took delight in the same studies.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 301:
Verum Graece te scire, mi Batte, percupio, tum quod sine his literas Latinas mancas esse video, tum vt conuictus noster sit iucundior, si omnino iisdem studiis delectabimur.
On the first reason, cf. Eduard Fraenkel, review of E. K. Rand et al., edd., Servianorum in Vergilii Carmina Commentariorum Editionis Harvardianae Volumen II, quod in Aeneidos Libros I et II Explanationes Continet (Lancaster: American Philological Society, 1946), in Journal of Roman Studies 38 (1948) 131-143 and 39 (1949) 145-154 (at 154):
It is a commonplace, and in theory everybody admits its truth, that almost everything in Latin literature can be properly understood only against a large Greek background.

Monday, August 18, 2014


The Death of Robert Henryson

David J. Parkinson, ed., Robert Henryson, The Complete Works (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2010), from the Appendix: Sir Francis Kynaston's Anecdote about the Death of Robert Henryson (footnotes omitted):
Being very old he dyed of a diarrhea or fluxe, of whom there goes this merry though somewhat unsavory tale, that all the phisitians having given him over and he lying drawing his last breath, there came an old woman unto him, who was held a witch, and asked him whether he would be cured, to whom he sayed, "Very willingly." Then quod she, "There is a whikey tree in the lower end of your orchard, and if you will goe and walke but thrice about it, and thrice repeate theis wordes, 'Whikey tree, whikey tree, take away this fluxe from me,' you shall be presently cured." He told her that beside he was extreme faint and weake, it was extreme frost and snow, and that it was impossible for him to go. She told him that unles he did so, it was impossible he should recover. Mr Henderson then lifting upp himselfe and pointing to an oken table that was in the roome, asked her and seied, "Gude dame, I pray ye tell me if it would not do as well if I repeated thrice theis words, 'Oken burd, oken burd, garre me shit a hard turd'?" The woman, seing herselfe derided and scorned, ran out of the house in a great passion; and Mr Henderson within halfe a quarter of an houre departed this life.


Mutton and Salt

James Henry (1798-1876), Poematia (Dresden: C.C. Meinhold & Sons, 1866), p. 30:
"Which was the better poet of the two,
Virgil or Horace?" to his master, once,
Said a precocious, brisk, inquisitive schoolboy:—
"First tell me which is best," replied the master,
"The mutton or the salt?" "Why, both are good,"
Answered the schoolboy, with a watering mouth,
"But of the two, I like the mutton best."
"Right!" said the master; "Scaliger himself
Could scarce have answered better.
My fine lad, Virgil's the mutton, Horace is the salt;
Both good; but, of the two, the mutton best."


A Greek Inscription

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 35 (at Kardamyli, ancient Kardamyle):
In a little room in the schoolhouse was a rose antique funerary slab with a beautifully incised epitaph in Hellenistic characters commemorating the great love and respect that all his contemporaries felt for the deceased, "the Ephebe Sosicles the Lacedaemonian." The inscription ended with a delicate curved loop of knotted and fluttering ribbon.
I find a dozen inscriptions from the Peloponnese mentioning people named Sosicles in the Packard Humanities Institute's Searchable Greek Inscriptions database, but none matching this description.

Otto Frödin and ‎A.W. Persson, Rapport préliminaire sur les fouilles d'Asiné: 1922-1924 (Lund: Gleerups, 1925 = Bulletin de la Societe Royale des Lettres de Lund, 1924-1925, fasc. 2), p. 149 (?), number 23, with plate XIX c, is a "Fragment d'une stèle en marbre rouge" at Kardamylé, but I can't see much more than that in Google Books' snippet view.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Scotia's Ancient Drink

Robert Gilfillan (1798-1850), "Parody," in his Original Songs (Edinburgh: John Anderson, 1831), pp. 143-144 (line numbers added):
(Written when part of the Duty was taken off Whisky, in October, 1823)

Scots wha hae the duties paid;
Scots wham whisky's aft made glad;
Welcome, for the duty's fled,
        And it shall be free!

Now's the time and now's the hour;        5
See the shades of evening lour;
See the streams of toddy pour—
        Pledge it three-times-three!

Wha wad be a brandy slave?
Wha wad shilpit claret lave?        10
Wha of rum wad ever rave?
        When the whisky's free!

Wha for Scotia's ancient drink,
Will fill a bicker to the brink!
Scotsmen wake or Scotsmen wink,        15
        Aquavitae aye for me!

By taxation's woes and pains!
By the smuggler's ill-got gains!
We shall raise our wildest strains,
        For it shall be free!        20

Lay the big gin bottle low!
In the fire the port wine throw!
Let the tide of whisky flow!
        Like liberty, aye free!
10 shilpit: "Of liquor: Insipid, weak, thin" (Oxford English Dictionary)
14 bicker: "'A bowl or dish for containing liquor, properly one made of wood" (Jamieson's definition, quoted in Oxford English Dictionary)

The song is a parody of Burns' "Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled...." Gilfillan is my namesake.



Wilderness Were Paradise Enow

A family member died, and Mrs. Laudator was in charge of funeral and burial arrangements. Limited by available space on the gravestone, she chose "Wilderness Were Paradise Enow" to be the epitaph. This was perfect for the deceased, a nature lover and bird watcher, fond of books and poetry, skeptical about the prospect of an afterlife.

The funeral director, who also served as liaison between the family and veterans' cemetery officials, considered the proposed inscription to be incorrect. She didn't recognize "enow" as an English word, and she thought "were" was erroneously plural with a singular subject.

Mrs. Laudator gave the funeral director a little lesson on English vocabulary, grammar, and literary history.


Goat-Footed Nymphs?

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 23:
These empty peaks, according to Homer, were the haunt of Artemis and of three goat-footed nymphs who would engage lonely travellers in a country dance and lead them up unsuspectingly to the precipice where they tripped them up and sent them spinning down the gulf....
I can't find this anywhere in Homer. And are nymphs ever goat-footed?

Cf. Homer, Odyssey 6.102-109 (describing Nausicaa; tr. A.T. Murray and George E. Dimock):
And even as Artemis, the archer, roves over the mountains, along the ridges of lofty Taygetus or Erymanthus, joying in the pursuit of boars and swift deers, and the wood nymphs, daughters of Zeus who bears the aegis, share her sport, and Leto is glad at heart—high above them all Artemis holds her head and brows, and easily may she be known, though all are beautiful—so amid her handmaids shone the unwed maiden.

οἵη δ᾽ Ἄρτεμις εἶσι κατ᾽ οὔρεα ἰοχέαιρα,
ἢ κατὰ Τηΰγετον περιμήκετον ἢ Ἐρύμανθον,
τερπομένη κάπροισι καὶ ὠκείῃς ἐλάφοισι·
τῇ δέ θ᾽ ἅμα νύμφαι, κοῦραι Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο,        105
ἀγρονόμοι παίζουσι, γέγηθε δέ τε φρένα Λητώ·
πασάων δ᾽ ὑπὲρ ἥ γε κάρη ἔχει ἠδὲ μέτωπα,
ῥεῖά τ᾽ ἀριγνώτη πέλεται, καλαὶ δέ τε πᾶσαι·
ὣς ἥ γ᾽ ἀμφιπόλοισι μετέπρεπε παρθένος ἀδμής.
Cf. also Homeric Hymn 19.1-14 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Muse, tell me about Pan, the dear son of Hermes, with his goat's feet and two horns—a lover of merry noise. Through wooded glades he wanders with dancing nymphs who foot it on some sheer cliff's edge, calling upon Pan, the shepherd-god, long-haired, unkempt. He has every snowy crest and the mountain peaks and rocky crests for his domain; hither and thither he goes through the close thickets, now lured by soft streams, and now he presses on amongst towering crags and climbs up to the highest peak that overlooks the flocks. Often he courses through the glistening high mountains, and often on the shouldered hills he speeds along slaying wild beasts, this keen-eyed god.

ἀμφί μοι Ἑρμείαο φίλον γόνον ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα,
αἰγιπόδην, δικέρωτα, φιλόκροτον, ὅστ᾽ ἀνὰ πίση
δενδρήεντ᾽ ἄμυδις φοιτᾷ χορογηθέσι νύμφαις,
αἵ τε κατ᾽ αἰγίλιπος πέτρης στείβουσι κάρηνα
Πᾶν᾽ ἀνακεκλόμεναι, νόμιον θεόν, ἀγλαέθειρον,        5
αὐχμήενθ᾽, ὃς πάντα λόφον νιφόεντα λέλογχε
καὶ κορυφὰς ὀρέων καὶ πετρήεντα κάρηνα.
φοιτᾷ δ᾽ ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα διὰ ῥωπήια πυκνά,
ἄλλοτε μὲν ῥείθροισιν ἐφελκόμενος μαλακοῖσιν,
ἄλλοτε δ᾽ αὖ πέτρῃσιν ἐν ἠλιβάτοισι διοιχνεῖ,        10
ἀκροτάτην κορυφὴν μηλοσκόπον εἰσαναβαίνων.
πολλάκι δ᾽ ἀργινόεντα διέδραμεν οὔρεα μακρά,
πολλάκι δ᾽ ἐν κνημοῖσι διήλασε θῆρας ἐναίρων,
ὀξέα δερκόμενος.
In later classical literature, on Crete, Amaltheia sometimes appears as a nymph, sometimes as a goat: see Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 317, n. 224.

I wonder if Fermor may have conflated Odyssey 6.102-109 with some modern folk tale. See John Cuthbert Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study in Survivals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910), p. 133:
Only in one particular is the beauty of the Nereids ever thought to be marred; in some localities they are said to have the feet of goats or of asses2; as for instance the three Nereids who are believed to dance together without pause on the heights of Taÿgetus. But this is a somewhat rare and local trait, and must have been transferred to them, it would seem, from Pan and his attendant satyrs, with whom of old they were wont to consort; in general they are held to be of beauty unblemished.

2 Cf. Bern. Schmidt, Das Volksleben, p. 105.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


A Beneficent Providence

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Silence is Golden," Complete Essays, Vol. II: 1926-1929 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 19-24 (at 20):
A beneficent providence has dimmed my powers of sight, so that, at a distance of more than four or five yards, I am blissfully unaware of the full horror of the average human countenance.
Cf. Walter Raleigh (1861-1922), "Wishes of an Elderly Man Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914," lines 1-2:
I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face.


Bank Bailouts, Corporate Welfare, Etc.

Terence, Phormio 41-42 (tr. John Barsby):
How unfair life is, when the have-nots are expected to contribute all the time to the haves!

quam inique comparatumst, ii qui minus habent
ut semper aliquid addant ditioribus!

Friday, August 15, 2014



Euripides, fragment 903 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
I would be foolish if I took care of my neighbours' business.

ἄφρων ἂν εἴην εἰ τρέφοιν τὰ τῶν πέλας.
In Greek, a busybody could be described as πολυπράγμων. A nation, as well as an individual, can be πολυπράγμων. Cf. ἀλλοτριοπράγμων and also ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος, which the Bible bids us not to be (1 Peter 4:15). See Jeannine K. Brown, "Just a Busybody? A Look at the Greco-Roman Topos of Meddling for Defining ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος in 1 Peter 4:15," Journal of Biblical Literature 125 (2006) 549-568.



Horace, Epistles 1.16.67-68 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
A man has lost his weapons, has quitted his post with Virtue, who is ever busied and lost in making money.

perdidit arma, locum virtutis deseruit, qui
semper in augenda festinat et obruitur re.
Roland Mayer, ed., Horace, Epistles, Book I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), ad loc., p. 229:
68 semper: a crucial qualification, emphatically placed; increase of wealth is not absolutely bad (7.71; H. took pride in it himself at S. 2.6.6 si neque maiorem feci ratione mala rem). But a pursuit of gain so unremitting as to overwhelm (obruitur) is slavish. The warping of a sense of proportion in any pursuit is condemned (6.15-16).


Trough and Trove

James Bamford, "The Most Wanted Man in the World," Wired (August 2014), chapter 2:
Some have even raised doubts about whether the infamous revelation that the NSA was tapping German chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone, long attributed to Snowden, came from his trough.
Is trough here a mistake for trove, i.e. treasure-trove? A prescriptivist might say yes, a descriptivist no. One can find printed examples of treasure-trough as far back as the nineteenth century, although dictionaries don't seem to recognize the phrase. Trough and trove are etymologically unrelated. The issue is complicated by the fact that trough can mean container or box. In my opinion, Bamford committed a solecism. If I had written such a sentence, I'd want an editor to correct it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Three Mosaics

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 11 (at Sparta):
We followed him down some steps under an improvised roof. With a tilt of his wrist, he emptied a pitcher on a grey blur of dusty floor. The water fell in a great black star, and, as it expanded to the edges, shapes defined themselves, colours came to life and delightful scenes emerged. Orpheus in a Phrygian-cap fingered his lyre in the heart of a spellbound menagerie of rabbits, lions, leopards, stags, serpents and tortoises. Then, as effeminate and as soft as Antinous, Achilles swam to the surface among the women of Scyros. Next door another splash spread further enchantments: Europa—lovely, Canova-like, with champagne-bottle shoulders and a wasp waist, heavy-thighed, callipygous and long-legged—sat side-saddle on the back of a fine bull breasting the foam to Crete.

"How pleased Zeus is to have her on his back," the man observed. "See, he's smiling to himself."
These mosaics are numbers 45 (Achilles) and 46 (Orpheus, Europa) in the catalogue of S.E. Waywell, "Roman Mosaics in Greece," American Journal of Archaeology 83 (1979) 293-321 (at 302, with plate 51, figures 39, 41, and 42), from which I've borrowed the following illustrations (in Leigh Fermor's order, i.e. Orpheus, Achilles, Europa, but in a grey blur, alas, without colors):

I haven't seen Odile Wattel-Decroizant and Ilona Jesnick, "The Mosaics of the House of Mourabas in Sparta: Orpheus and Europa," Journal of the British Archaeological Association 144 (1991) 92–106.

Thanks very much to the kind reader who gave me a copy of Mani, from my Amazon wish list.


Motto for a Superhero

Euripides, fragment 692 (from the satyr play Syleus, describing Hercules; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Just towards those who are just, but to those who are bad, the greatest of all their enemies on earth.

τοῖς μὲν δικαίοις ἔνδικος, τοῖς δ' αὖ κακοῖς
πάντων μέγιστος πολέμιος κατὰ χθόνα.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Don't Scowl

Horace, Epistles 1.18.94-95 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Take the cloud from your brow; shyness oft gets the look of secrecy, silence of sour temper.

deme supercilio nubem: plerumque modestus
occupat obscuri speciem, taciturnus acerbi.
Margaret B. Fergusson, "Quo Sensu Credis et Ore? A Study of Facial Expression in Greek and Latin Literature," Greece & Rome, Vol. 9, No. 26 (Feb., 1940) 102-116 (at 104, on the eyebrows):
In Greek and Latin, to draw them together is to frown—ὀφρῦς ἀνασπᾶν, συνέλκειν, frontem contrahere: to become calm and cheerful again is λύειν, μεθιέναι τὰς ὀφρῦς. In the Lysistrata τοξοποιεῖν τὰς ὀφρῦς is to arch them in superciliousness. A clouded brow is quite literally in Euripides στυγνὸν ὀφρύων νέφος: Horace has deme supercilio nubem.


Pity the Poor Interjection

Smaragdus, Liber in partibus Donati 15.1-2 (tr. Willard R. Trask):
Sad is the lot of the interjection, for of all the parts of speech it has the lowest place. There is none to praise it.

Partibus inferior iacet interiectio cunctis,
    Ultima namque sedet et sine laude manet.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Set Free Your Minds

Manilius, Astronomica 4.1-13 (tr. G.P. Goold):
Oh, why do we spend the years of our lives in worry, tormenting ourselves with fears and senseless desires; grown old before our time with anxieties which never end; forfeiting length of days by our very quest for it; setting no limit to our wishes, so that their fulfilment leaves us still unblest, but ever playing the part of men who mean to live but never do? Everyone is the poorer for his possessions because he looks for more: none counts his blessings, but only lusts for what he lacks. Though nature needs only modest requirements, we build higher and higher the peak from which to fall, and purchase luxury with our gains, and with love of luxury the fear of dispossession, until the greatest boon that wealth can confer is the squandering of itself. So set free your minds, o mortals, and rid your lives of all this vain complaint!

Quid tam sollicitis vitam consumimus annis
torquemurque metu caecaque cupidine rerum
aeternisque senes curis, dum quaerimus, aevum
perdimus et nullo votorum fine beati
victuros agimus semper nec vivimus umquam,        5
pauperiorque bonis quisque est, quia plura requirit
nec quod habet numerat, tantum quod non habet optat,
cumque sibi parvos usus natura reposcat
materiam struimus magnae per vota ruinae
luxuriamque lucris emimus luxuque rapinas,        10
et summum census pretium est effundere censum?
solvite, mortales, animos curasque levate
totque supervacuis vitam deplete querellis.
The same, in the translation of Thomas Creech:
Why should our Time run out in useless years,
Of anxious Troubles, and tormenting Fears?
With no Success, and no Advantage crown'd,
Why should we still tread th'unfinisht Round?
Grown grey in Cares, pursue the senseless strife,
And seeking how to Live, consume a Life?
The more we have, the meaner is our Store,
The unenjoying craving Wretch is Poor:
But Heaven is kind, with bounteous Hand it grants
A fit supply for Nature's sober wants:
She asks not much, yet Men press blindly on,
And heap up more, to be the more undone:
By Luxury, they Rapine's force maintain;
What that scrapes up, flows out in Luxury again.
And to be squander'd, or to raise debate,
Is the great only use of an Estate.
Vain Man, forbear; of Cares, unload thy Mind;
Forget thy Hopes, and give thy Fears to Wind.



James Henry (1798-1876), "Progress," The Unripe Windfalls (Dublin: The University Press, 1851), pp. 30-31 (consecutive page numbers appear on every other page):
Yes; I'll believe in progress when I see you
Battering old jails down, and not building new;
When I behold you make but a beginning
To sleep with open doors and unbarred windows;
When I observe a thinning, not an increase
Of your policemen and constabulary,
Your justices, and coroners, and detectives,
Your poor-law guardians and commissioners;
Grass growing in your law courts, and fell spiders
There laying snares for flies, not men for men;
And stamped receipts, recognizances, writs,
A tale of the old, Pagan, iron time,
Not of this charitable, Christian present.

I'll then believe in Progress when I hear
That fathers feel the blood mount to their cheeks,
What time they cringe, and bow, and lick the shoes
Even of the vilest clerk in the War-office,
For leave to put a motley livery suit
Upon their sons, and send them out as hirelings,
With gay cockade, and dangling sword at side,
To kill and rob and extirpate, where'er
Killing and robbing and extirpating
Opens a wider field to British commerce.

Aye; talk to me of Progress when you show me
Your city banker, or East India merchant,
After his forty years of counting-house,
And labor fruitless of all else but gold,
His bags choke-full and bursting with the weight
Of bills, and bonds, and mortgages, and scrip:
Show me, I say, your wealthy London merchant
Content with his full bags, and not intent
To cram with the like stuff still one bag more;
And come and tell me ye are making progress.

Let me observe in a full railway carriage
Some half a dozen, aye, some three, some two,
Some single solitary one that does not,
Even in the matter of front seat or back,
Or pulling up or letting down a window,
Exhibit his inveterate, ingrained,
And worse than Pharasaic selfishness;
And I'll begin to think ye are making progress.

Here am I ready to believe in Progress
First time I hear your little girls cry "Shame!"
"A coward's shame!" upon the wretch that hunts,
With horse, and hound, and cries of savage joy,
For sport, mere sport, and not to appease his hunger,
The poor, weak, timid, quivering hare to death;
And twice a coward's and an idler's shame
On him that skulks, hours, days, beside a brook,
Putting forth all the treachery and cunning
That lurk within the dark den of man's brain,
To entrap the silly troutling, and infix
Deep in his writhing gills the sly, barbed hook.

That ye are making progress I'll believe
The first time I perceive your conscience twinge ye,
For answering your questioning child with lies,
Or chill evasion of the longed-for truth;
Denying him the advantage of that knowledge
Ye purchased for yourselves with many a heartache,
And many an agony and bloody sweat;
And sending him to sail the wide, wide world,
As helpless, ignorant, and unprotected,
On board no compass, no pole-star on high,
As by your parents ye were sent yourselves,
To swim, if quick to learn; to sink, if not.

First time I hear ye say that your devotion
Has not a tide more regular than the sea,
And seldom is exactly at the full,
Just as the parish clock strikes twelve on Sunday;
And that ye count it rank hypocrisy
To go to church, and there, with heart lukewarm
Or cold, and damped with worldly cares and business,
Kneel before God, and make pretence of prayer,
In order that your children, friends, and neighbours,
May have the benefit of your good example:
That moment I'll believe ye are making progress.

When ye no longer backward start with horror
At sight of gentle Death, and wring your hands,
And weep, and cry that ye will not go with him,
Though only he can lead you to your heaven:
Then, then indeed, I'll say ye have made some progress.


A Last Will and Testament

Jyl of Breyntfords Testament, by Robert Copland, Boke-Prynter...Edited by Frederick J. Furnivall (London: Printed for Private Circulation, 1871), pp. 11-15 (lines 139-209, 216-218, renumbered by me at every fifth line):
I bequethe a fart to hym that is angry
    With his frend, and wotes not why.        140

To hym that selleth al his herytage,
And all his lyfe lyueth in seruage,
    I bequeth a farte, for hym in his aege.

He that settes by no man, nor none by hym,
And to promocion fayn wold clym,        145
    I bequethe a fart, for to make hym trym.

He that wyll not lerne, and can do nothyng,
And with lewed folk is euer conuersyng,
    I bequethe a fart, toward his lyuyng.

He that boroweth with-out aduantage,        150
And euermore renneth in arrerage,
    I bequeth a fart, for to lye to gage.

He that geueth, and kepeth nought at all,
And by kyndnes to pouerte dooth fall,
    Shall haue a fart, to helpe hym with all.        155

He that is euer way-ward at hart,
And with euery man is ouerwart;
    For to please hym, I bequethe a fart.

He that hath drynke in his hand, and is dry,
Byddyng him drinke fyrst that standeth him by;        160
    I bequeth a fart, his thyrst to satysfy.

He that hath a faire wenche in bed all night,
And kyssyng her not onse or it be day lyght,
    Shall haue a fart to clense his eye syght.

He that lendeth a horse, with all thynges mete,        165
And on his own vyage gooth on his fete,
    Shall haue a fart to kepe hym fro wete.

He that suffreth all maner of offence,
And loseth his goodes throngh neclygence,
    Shall haue a farte for a recompence.        170

He that taketh a wyfe, and haue nothyng,
And boroweth all thyng to them belonging;
    I wyll a fart toward theyr offryng.

He that prepareth not for his houshold
Agaynst wynter, and hym self is olde,        175
    Shall haue a fart to kepe hym fro coulde.

He that gooeth to a feaste to sup or to dyne,
And hath no knyfe with hym, neyther cours nor fyne,
    Shall haue a fart for to drynke with his wyne.

He that boroweth tyll none wyll lend hym,        180
And swereth so moche, tyll non wyll beleue hym,
    Shall haue a fart for to rel[e]ue hym.

He that mourneth for that he cannot haue,
And vnpossyble to get that he dooth craue,
    Shall haue a fart, as a folysh knaue.        185

He that dooth nothyng but shaue and poll,
And taketh no thought for to saue his soll,
    Shall haue a fart, my passyng bel to toll.

A prentyce or seruant that wyll not obay,
And wyll not lerne, but ofte ren a-way;        190
A fart for hys fredom I do pouruay.

He that suffreth his wyfe to do her lust,
And seeth that to foly she is full trust,
    Shall haue a fart, though I sholde burst.

A wydow that ones hath ben in the brake,        195
And careth not whome that she doth take,
    Shall haue a fart, though myn ars ake.

A mayde that marryeth, not caryng whome,
And doeth repent when she cometh home,
    Shall haue a fart, to by her a come.        200

He that dooth drynke euermore,
And wyll not shyfte to paye therfore,
    S[h]all haue a fart for to set to his score.

He that goeth to a fray at the begynny[n]g,
And to a good meale at the latter endyng,        205
    Shall haue a farte for his good attendyng.

He that gooth oft where he is not welcom,
And to his fryndes hous gooth but seldom,
    Shall haue a fart for his good wesdom.


Mary, he that dooth his wepen lend,
And hath nothyng hym selfe to defende,
    Shall haue a fart; and there an end.
Some notes:

140 wotes: knows
142 seruage: servitude
149: lyuyng: living, i.e. livelihood
151 renneth in arrerage: runs into debt
152 to lye to gage: to deposit as a pledge, pawn, or security
154 pouerte: poverty
157 ouerwart: contentious, argumentative
166 vyage: voyage
167 to kepe hym fro wete: to keep him from wet, i.e. to keep him dry; cf. 176 to kepe hym fro coulde: to keep him warm
178 cours: coarse
186 shaue and poll: fleece and cheat
191 pouruay: purvey, i.e. provide
195 brake: bushes
200 to by her a come: to buy her a comb
203 to set to his score: to set against his score, to pay towards his tab


Monday, August 11, 2014



John Oakesmith, The Religion of Plutarch: A Pagan Creed of Apostolic Times (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1902), p. 4:
Neither Aristotle nor Horace, neither Plato nor Seneca, would have admitted many of the most lauded virtues of modern ethical systems to be virtues at all.


Half Mute

J. Linderski, "Updating the CIL for Italy, Part 2," Journal of Roman Archaeology 11 (1998) 458-484 (at 484), rpt. in Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 369-413 (at 412)
For without detailed indices all texts but particularly inscriptions are half mute.


A Holy Place

Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 16-17 (tr. ‎Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
This place is sacred, one can easily guess, with the bay, the olive, and the vine growing everywhere...

χῶρος δ᾽ ὅδ᾽ ἱερός, ὡς ἀπεικάσαι, βρύων
δάφνης, ἐλαίας, ἀμπέλου...


Of No Sect Am I

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), "The First Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated," lines 23-26:
But ask not, to what Doctors I apply?
Sworn to no Master, of no Sect am I:
As drives the storm, at any door I knock,
And house with Montagne now, or now with Lock.
Horace, Epistles 1.1.13-15:
ac ne forte roges quo me duce, quo lare tuter,
nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri,
quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Looking Things Up

Tom Keeline, review of Christopher Stray (ed.), Classical Dictionaries: Past, Present and Future (London: Duckworth, 2010), Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2011):
When once pressed at a party about what he really did for a living, D.R. Shackleton Bailey is said to have acerbically replied, "I just look things up all day."
Related post: Learning Vocabulary.


The Best of Remedies

Alcaeus, fragment 335 Lobel-Page (tr. David A. Campbell):
We should not surrender our hearts to our troubles, for we shall make no headway by grieving, Bycchis: the best of remedies is to bring wine and get drunk.

οὐ χρὴ κάκοισι θῦμον ἐπιτρέπην
προκόψομεν γὰρ οὐδὲν ἀσάμενοι,
ὧ Βύκχι, φαρμάκων δ' ἄριστον
οἶνον ἐνεικαμένοις μεθύσθην.


Gun Worship

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Malaya," Complete Essays, Vol. II: 1926-1929 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 504-539 (at 508-509):
Near the Penang Gate lies an old brass cannon, half buried in the mud. It has no history, it is quite unornamental. A more commonplace piece of ordnance never issued from an eighteenth century arsenal. The world is full of such old brass cannons. By all the rules it should have been melted down long ago or stuck muzzle downwards into the ground to serve as a post, or mounted on a little wooden carriage and left in the weather outside the door of a museum. But destiny decreed otherwise. Instead of suffering any of the ignominies usually reserved for its kind, this superannuated popgun was turned into a god. It lies there in the mud, wreathed with gardenias and orchids and a whole conservatory of paper flowers. The ground all about it is planted with long-stemmed paper lanterns, and incense burns perpetually before its muzzle. Two or three hawkers are encamped all day beside it, under the trees, like the sellers of books and plaster saints and candles in the shadow of a cathedral. The gun god's worshippers are numerous; they do a roaring trade in offerings and souvenirs. Great is the Cannon of the Batavians.


There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet. No doubt. But a cannon is cylindrical and, long before they became Moslems, the Javanese were worshippers of the reproductive principle in nature. An immemorial phallism has crystallised round the old gun, transforming it from a mere brass tube into a potent deity, to be propitiated with flowers and little lanterns, to be asked favours of with smoking incense. Men come and, standing before the sacred symbol, silently implore assistance. Women desirous of offspring sit on the prostrate god, rub themselves against his verdigrised sides and pray to him for increase. Even white ladies, it is said, may be seen at evening alighting inconspicuously from their motor cars at the Penang Gate. They hurry across the grass to where the God is lying. They drop a few gardenias and a supplication, they touch the God's unresponsive muzzle; then hurry back again through the twilight, fearful of being recognized, of being caught in the flagrant act of worshipping at the shrine of a God who was being adored a thousand generations before Adam was ever thought of and beside whom the Gods of Zoroaster and the Vedas, of Moses and Christ and Mohammed are the merest upstarts and parvenus.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


Right Thinkers

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Moral and Immoral," Complete Essays, Vol. II: 1926-1929 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 77-84 (at 82):
The real, the instinctive motives behind the activities of Right Thinkers (for little or nothing is done in this world for purely intellectual reasons and only an instinctive source can provide the energy required for vigorous action) are fear, envy, and self-assertiveness—fear of the unfamiliar and of that which violates the implicitly accepted taboos, envy of those who amuse themselves by doing things which the Right Thinkers have have been brought up to consider immoral, and the self-assertive, tyrannical desire to compel all men to conform to their own standards of belief and conduct.
Related post: Let's Stop Somebody from Doing Something!



Alcaeus, fragment 364 Lobel-Page (tr. David A. Campbell):
Poverty is a grievous thing, an ungovernable evil, who with her sister Helplessness lays low a great people.

ἀργάλεον Πενία κάκον ἄσχετον, ἃ μέγαν
δάμνα λᾶον Ἀμαχανίᾳ σὺν ἀδελφέᾳ.


A Bad Habit

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Crome Yellow, Chapter IV:
"You have a bad habit of quoting," said Anne. "As I never know the context or author, I find it humiliating."

Denis apologized. "It's the fault of one's education. Things somehow seem more real and vivid when one can apply somebody else's ready-made phrase about them. And then there are lots of lovely names and words—Monophysite, Iamblichus, Pomponazzi; you bring them out triumphantly, and feel you've clinched the argument with the mere magical sound of them. That's what comes of the higher education."

Friday, August 08, 2014


Comfort in the Midst of Sorrow

George Wither (1588-1667), The Shepheards Hunting: Being, Certaine Eglogues written during the time of the Authors Imprisonment in the Marshalsey (London: Printed by W. White for George Norton, 1615), unpaginated, "The fourth Eglogue," lines 359-396 ("She" is his Muse):
She doth tell me where to borrow
Comfort in the midst of sorrow;        360
Makes the desolatest place
To her presence be a grace;
And the blackest discontents
To be pleasing ornaments.
In my former dayes of blisse,        365
Her diuine skill taught me this,
That from euery thing I saw,
I could some inuention draw;
And raise pleasure to her height,
Through the meanest objects sight,        370
By the murmure of a spring,
Or the least boughs rusteling.
By a Dazie whose leaves spred,
Shut when Tytan goes to bed;
Or a shady bush or tree,        375
Shee could more infuse in mee,
Then all Natures beauties can,
In some other wiser man.
By her helpe I also now,
Make this churlish place allow        380
Somthings that may sweeten gladnes
In the very gall of sadnes,
The dull loaneness, the blacke shade,
That these hanging vaults haue made;
The strange Musicke of the waues,        385
Beating on these hollow Caues,
This blacke Den which Rocks embosse
Ouer-growne with eldest Mosse.
The rude Portals that giue light,
More to Terrour then Delight.        390
This my Chamber of Neglect,
Wal'd about with Disrespect,
From all these, and this dull ayre,
A fit object for Despaire;
Shee hath taught me, by her might,        395
To draw comfort and delight.
I changed His in line 366 to Her.


Book Lovers

Erasmus, letter 31 (to an unnamed friend; tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson):
I consider as lovers of books, not those who keep them hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use, thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill up the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 123:
Neque hi mihi libros amare videntur qui eos intactos ac scriniis abditos seruant, sed qui nocturna iuxta ac diurna contrectatione sordidant, corrugant, conterunt, qui margines passim notulis, hisque variis, oblinunt, qui mendi rasi vestigium quam mendosam compositionem malunt.


Finicking with Trifles

Otto Jespersen (1860-1943), Selected Writings (1960; rpt. London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 470-471:
To anyone who finds that linguistic study is a worthless finicking with trifles, I would reply that life consists of little things; the important matter is to see them largely. All scientific inquiry must occupy itself with a mass of details whose significance is not evident to the uninitiated, whether it be the life-conditions of mosquito-larvae, the distant paths of a comet or the state of society in the reign of some mediaeval king. The investigator must not be asking the whole time what good his investigations will do or can do: that may reveal itself in the most unexpected places. Research has its first reward in itself, chiefly in the natural joy at any—even the least—discovery which brings clearness into what before was not understood.

Thursday, August 07, 2014


The Poplar

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), "The Poplar," Trivia (London: Constable & Company, 1918), p. 138:
There is a great tree in Sussex, whose cloud of thin foliage floats high in the summer air. The thrush sings in it, and blackbirds, who fill the late, decorative sunshine with a shimmer of golden sound. There the nightingale finds her green cloister; and on those branches sometimes, like a great fruit, hangs the lemon-coloured Moon. In the glare of August, when all the world is faint with heat, there is always a breeze in those cool recesses, always a noise, like the noise of water, among its lightly-hung leaves.

But the owner of this Tree lives in London, reading books.


Freedom and Unfreedom

‎Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits 2.2.318 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale)
Tokens of freedom and unfreedom.—To satisfy one's necessary requirements as completely as possible oneself, even if imperfectly, is the road to freedom of spirit and person. To let others satisfy many of one's requirements, even superfluous ones, and as perfectly as possible—is a training in unfreedom. The sophist Hippias, who had himself acquired, himself produced, everything he wore, within and without, represents in precisely this the road to the highest freedom of spirit and person. It does not matter if everything is not equally well made, pride will patch up the tattered spots.

Anzeichen von Freiheit und Unfreiheit.—Seine notwendigen Bedürfnisse soviel wie möglich selber befriedigen, wenn auch unvollkommen, das ist die Richtung auf Freiheit von Geist und Person. Viele, auch überflüssige Bedürfnisse sich befriedigen lassen, und so vollkommen als möglich,—erzieht zur Unfreiheit. Der Sophist Hippias, der alles was er trug, innen und aussen, selbst erworben, selber gemacht hatte, entspricht eben damit der Richtung auf höchste Freiheit des Geistes und der Person. Nicht darauf kommt es an, dass alles gleich gut und vollkommen gearbeitet ist; der Stolz flickt schon die schadhaften Stellen aus.
Plato, Hippias Minor 368 b-c (tr. H.N. Fowler):
You said that once, when you went to Olympia, everything you had on your person was your own work; first the ring—for you began with that—which you had was your own work, showing that you knew how to engrave rings, and another seal was your work, and a strigil and an oil-flask were your works; then you said that you yourself had made the sandals you had on, and had woven your cloak and tunic; and, what seemed to every one most unusual and proof of the most wisdom, was when you said that the girdle you wore about your tunic was like the Persian girdles of the costliest kind, and that you had made it yourself.

ἔφησθα δὲ ἀφικέσθαι ποτὲ εἰς Ὀλυμπίαν ἃ εἶχες περὶ τὸ σῶμα ἅπαντα σαυτοῦ ἔργα ἔχων· πρῶτον μὲν δακτύλιον—ἐντεῦθεν γὰρ ἤρχου—ὃν εἶχες σαυτοῦ ἔχειν ἔργον, ὡς ἐπιστάμενος δακτυλίους γλύφειν, καὶ ἄλλην σφραγῖδα σὸν ἔργον, καὶ στλεγγίδα καὶ λήκυθον ἃ αὐτὸς ἠργάσω· ἔπειτα ὑποδήματα ἃ εἶχες ἔφησθα αὐτὸς σκυτοτομῆσαι, καὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον ὑφῆναι καὶ τὸν χιτωνίσκον· καὶ ὅ γε πᾶσιν ἔδοξεν ἀτοπώτατον καὶ σοφίας πλείστης ἐπίδειγμα, ἐπειδὴ τὴν ζώνην ἔφησθα τοῦ χιτωνίσκου, ἣν εἶχες, εἶναι μὲν οἷαι αἱ Περσικαὶ τῶν πολυτελῶν, ταύτην δὲ αὐτὸς πλέξαι.


The Grove of Academe

Plutarch, Life of Cimon 13.8 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
He was the first to beautify the city with the so‑called "liberal" and elegant resorts which were so excessively popular a little later, by planting the market-place with plane trees, and by converting the Academy from a waterless and arid spot into a well watered grove, which he provided with clear running-tracks and shady walks.

πρῶτος δὲ ταῖς λεγομέναις ἐλευθερίοις καὶ γλαφυραῖς διατριβαῖς, αἳ μικρὸν ὕστερον ὑπερφυῶς ἠγαπήθησαν, ἐκαλλώπισε τὸ ἄστυ, τὴν μὲν ἀγορὰν πλατάνοις καταφυτεύσας, τὴν δ᾽ Ἀκαδήμειαν ἐξ ἀνύδρου καὶ αὐχμηρᾶς κατάρρυτον ἀποδείξας ἄλσος ἠσκημένον ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ δρόμοις καθαροῖς καὶ συσκίοις περιπάτοις.
Plato, Phaedrus 230 b-c (Socrates speaking; tr. Harold N. Fowler):
By Hera, it is a charming resting place. For this plane tree is very spreading and lofty, and the tall and shady willow is very beautiful, and it is in full bloom, so as to make the place most fragrant; then, too, the spring is very pretty as it flows under the plane tree, and its water is very cool, to judge by my foot. And it seems to be a sacred place of some nymphs and of Achelous, judging by the figurines and statues. [c] Then again, if you please, how lovely and perfectly charming the breeziness of the place is! and it resounds with the shrill summer music of the chorus of cicadas. But the most delightful thing of all is the grass, as it grows on the gentle slope, thick enough to be just right when you lay your head on it.

νὴ τὴν Ἥραν, καλή γε ἡ καταγωγή. ἥ τε γὰρ πλάτανος αὕτη μάλ᾽ ἀμφιλαφής τε καὶ ὑψηλή, τοῦ τε ἄγνου τὸ ὕψος καὶ τὸ σύσκιον πάγκαλον, καὶ ὡς ἀκμὴν ἔχει τῆς ἄνθης, ὡς ἂν εὐωδέστατον παρέχοι τὸν τόπον· ἥ τε αὖ πηγὴ χαριεστάτη ὑπὸ τῆς πλατάνου ῥεῖ μάλα ψυχροῦ ὕδατος, ὥστε γε τῷ ποδὶ τεκμήρασθαι. Νυμφῶν τέ τινων καὶ Ἀχελῴου ἱερὸν ἀπὸ τῶν κορῶν τε καὶ ἀγαλμάτων ἔοικεν εἶναι. [c] εἰ δ᾽ αὖ βούλει, τὸ εὔπνουν τοῦ τόπου ὡς ἀγαπητὸν καὶ σφόδρα ἡδύ· θερινόν τε καὶ λιγυρὸν ὑπηχεῖ τῷ τῶν τεττίγων χορῷ. πάντων δὲ κομψότατον τὸ τῆς πόας, ὅτι ἐν ἠρέμα προσάντει ἱκανὴ πέφυκε κατακλινέντι τὴν κεφαλὴν παγκάλως ἔχειν.
Plutarch, Life of Sulla 12.3 (describing the siege of Athens, 86 BC; tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
And when timber began to fail, owing to the destruction of many of the works, which broke down of their own weight, and to the burning of those which were continually smitten by the enemy's fire-bolts, he laid hands upon the sacred groves, and ravaged the Academy, which was the most wooded of the city's suburbs, as well as the Lyceum.

ἐπιλειπούσης δὲ τῆς ὕλης διὰ τὸ κόπτεσθαι πολλὰ τῶν ἔργων περικλώμενα τοῖς αὑτῶν βρίθεσι καὶ πυρπολεῖσθαι βαλλόμενα συνεχῶς ὑπὸ τῶν πολεμίων, ἐπεχείρησε τοῖς ἱεροῖς ἄλσεσι, καὶ τήν τε Ἀκαδήμειαν ἔκειρε δενδροφορωτάτην προαστείων οὖσαν καὶ τὸ Λύκειον.
These three episodes are depicted, left to right, in a print designed by Gian Francesco Romanelli (1610–1662) and engraved by Johann Friedrich Greuter (1590–1662):

On this print see Louise Rice, "Pomis Sua Nomina Servant: The Emblematic Thesis Prints of the Roman Seminary," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 70 (2007) 195-246 (at 222-223, 243), from which I borrowed the illustration (figure 19 on p. 222).


Wednesday, August 06, 2014


At the Center of the World

John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), p. 476, with endnote on p. 596:
Towards the end of his more than thirty years as music director of Berlin's Singakademie in 1827, Carl Friedrich Zelter wrote to his friend Goethe, 'Could I let you hear some happy day one of Sebastian Bach's motets, you would feel yourself at the centre of the world. I hear the works for the many hundredth time, and am not finished with them yet, and never will be.'34 After knowing them for more than sixty years I feel exactly the same. The glorious freedom that Bach exhibits in his motets, his balletic joy in the praise of his maker and his total certitude in the contemplation of death—this, surely, is the best possible response to our mortal entrapment.

34 Briefwechsel zwischen Goethe und Zelter, Vol. 2: 1819-1827, Ludwig Geiger (ed.), p. 517, quoted in Schweitzer, J.S. Bach, Vol. I, p. 241.
Id., p. 478, with endnote on p. 597 (a minor misprint corrected):
Bach in fact makes it a great deal easier for us to focus on the injunction to love one's neighbour than on all the filth and horror of the world. We emerge from performing or listening to a Bach motet chastened, maybe, but more often elated, such is the cleansing power of the music. There is not a whiff here of those 'foul fumes of religious fervour' that Richard Eyre sees today 'spreading sanctimoniousness and intolerance throughout the globe, while those far-from-exclusively Christian virtues—love, mercy, pity, peace—are choked.'37

37 Richard Eyre, Utopia and Other Places (1993).
I like those YouTube videos that show the musical score, thus allowing one to sing along, e.g. O Jesu Christ, mein's Lebens Licht (BWV 118).



Alcaeus, fragment 38a Lobel-Page, tr. William H. Race in Ian Worthington, ed., A Companion to Greek Rhetoric (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), p. 522:
Drink and get drunk with me, Melanippus. Why do you think
that once you have crossed the eddying Acheron
you will again see the clear light of the sun?
Come, then, do not aim for great things:
take note that King Sisyphus, Aeolus' son, who knew more
than any man, thought that he could overcome death,
but in spite of his intelligence fate made him twice
cross eddying Acheron and ...
King Zeus, son of Cronus, made him toil
under the black earth. Come, then, do not hope for these things:
now, if ever, while we are young, [let us] endure
any of these sufferings the god may give.
Text and apparatus from D.L. Page, ed., Lyrica Graeca Selecta (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 58:
πῶνε [καὶ μέθυ᾽ ὦ] Μελάνιππ᾽ ἄμ᾽ ἔμοι· τι[..].[
†ὄταμε[...] διννάεντ᾽† Ἀχέροντα μεγ̣[
ζάβαι[ς ἀ]ελίω κόθαρον φάος [ἄψερον
ὄψεσθ᾽· ἀλλ᾽ ἄγι μὴ μεγάλων ἐπ[ιβάλλεο·
καὶ γὰρ Σίσυφος Αἰολίδαις βασίλευς [ἔφα        5
ἄνδρων πλεῖστα νοησάμενος [θανάτω κρέτην,
ἀλλὰ καὶ πολύιδρις ἔων ὐπὰ κᾶρι [δὶς
διννάεντ᾽ Ἀχέροντ᾽ ἐπέραισε, μ[
α]ὔτωι μόχθον ἔχην Κρονίδαις βα̣[σίλευς κάτω
μελαίνας χθόνος. ἀλλ᾽ ἄγι μὴ τα[        10
.]. ταβάσομεν αἴ ποτα κἄλλοτα .[
..]ην ὄττινα τῶνδε πάθην τα[
...... ἄνε]μος βορίαις ἐπι.[

suppl. e.g.
1 τί φαῖς,
2 μέγαν πόρον
8 μέμηδε δ' ὧν
10 τάδ' ἐπέλπεο
11 θᾶς τ' ἀβάσομεν (= ἕως ἂν ἡβήσομεν)—κἄλλοτα, νῦν χρέων
12 φέρην—τάχα δῶι θέος
Some notes for my own use:
1 πῶνε: see Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSJ) s.v. πίνω
2, 8 διννάεντ᾽: LSJ s.v. δινεύω
3 ζάβαι[ς: LSJ s.v. διαβαίνω
3 ἀ]ελίω: LSJ s.v. ἥλιος
3 κόθαρον: LSJ s.v. καθαρός
3 ἄψερον: LSJ s.v. ἄψορρος
4 ἄγι = ἄγε
6 κρέτην = κρέτειν: LSJ s.v. κρατέω
7 ὐπὰ κᾶρι = ὑπὸ κῆρι
8 (app.) μέμηδε: LSJ s.v. μήδομαι
9 ἔχην = ἔχειν
11 (app.) ἀβάσομεν: LSJ s.v. ἡβάω
An apt drink for Melanippus might be Black Horse Ale. Or (as I have seen it misspelled) Pinto Noir.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


A Dancing Master Shall Be Better Paid

John Oldham (1653-1683), "A Satire Addressed to a Friend That is About to Leave the University, and Come Abroad in the World," lines 1-18:
If you're so out of love with happiness,
To quit a college life and learned ease,
Convince me first, and some good reasons give,
What methods and designs you'll take to live;
For such resolves are needful in the case,        5
Before you tread the world's mysterious maze.
Without the premises, in vain you'll try
To live by systems of philosophy;
Your Aristotle, Cartes, and Le Grand,
And Euclid too, in little stead will stand.        10

How many men of choice and noted parts,
Well fraught with learning, languages, and arts,
Designing high preferment in their mind,
And little doubting good success to find,
With vast and towering thoughts have flocked to town,        15
But to their cost soon found themselves undone,
Now to repent, and starve at leisure left,
Of misery's last comfort, hope, bereft!
Id., lines 48-63:
If this, or thoughts of such a weighty charge,
Make you resolve to keep yourself at large,
For want of better opportunity,        50
A school must your next sanctuary be.
Go, wed some grammar-bridewell, and a wife,
And there beat Greek and Latin for your life;
With birchen sceptre there command at will,
Greater than Busby's self, or Doctor Gill;        55
But who would be to the vile drudgery bound
Where there so small encouragement is found?
Where you, for recompense of all your pains,
Shall hardly reach a common fiddler's gains?
For when you've toiled, and laboured all you can,        60
To dung and cultivate a barren brain,
A dancing master shall be better paid,
Though he instructs the heels, and you the head.
Id., lines 115-128:
'T has ever been the top of my desires,        115
The utmost height to which my wish aspires,
That Heaven would bless me with a small estate,
Where I might find a close obscure retreat;
There, free from noise and all ambitious ends,
Enjoy a few choice books, and fewer friends,        120
Lord of myself, accountable to none,
But to my conscience, and my God alone:
There live unthought of, and unheard of die,
And grudge mankind my very memory.
But since the blessing is, I find, too great        125
For me to wish for, or expect of fate;
Yet, maugre all the spite of destiny,
My thoughts and actions are, and shall be, free.

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