Sunday, November 30, 2014


A Kind of Happiness

Dear Mike,

You were quite right I think not to take on trust Borges' alleged obiter dictum about not being able to sleep without being near books. I have near enough eighty books by or about him and I've not been able to find any such remark. Perhaps more striking though is this, which he said on a number of occasions but also in print:

Jorge Luis Borges, 'El Libro' in Borges Oral (Barcelona: Brugera, 3rd ed., 1983), pp. 13-26, at 24-5:
Yo sigo jugando a no ser ciego, yo sigo llenando mi casa de libros. Los otros días me regalaron una edición del 1966 de la Enciclopedia de Brokhause. Yo sentí la presencia de ese libro en mi casa, la sentí como una suerte de felicidad. Ahí estban los veintitantos volúmenes con una letra gótica que no puedo leer, con los mapas y grabados que no puedo ver; y sin embargo, el libro estaba ahí. Yo sentí como una gravitación amistosa del libro. Pienso que el libro es una de las posibilidades de felicidad que tenemos los hombres.

I still play at not being blind, I still fill my house with books. The other day someone gave me as a present the 1966 edition of the Brockhaus Encyclopedia. I felt its presence in my house, I felt it as a kind of happiness. There were the twenty-odd volumes with a Gothic lettering I could not read, with maps and engravings I could not see; and yet there it was. I felt as it were the book's amicable gravitation. I believe the book is one of the possibilities of happiness we humans possess.
Books do have a gravity – amistosa or desastrosa – grotesquely out of proportion to their mass. When gathered together, for example in a bookshop, they exert an irresistible force such that a would-be passer-by is detained at the window, then sucked into the interior, and soon finds himself grasping one after another before making his way to the till. The wallet then levitates and opens, there is some kind of financial transaction, with the human will powerless to intervene. Would-be passer-by then exits. Paradoxically, removing a small proportion of the mass from the shop in this way has the effect of weakening the gravitational force, thus allowing movement away from the source.

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]


The Act of Piety

Walter Burkert, Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth, tr. Peter Bing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p. 2:
If a man is able draw near to the gods, as the priest Chryses with Apollo or as Hektor or Odysseus with Zeus, he can do so because he has "burnt many thigh-pieces of bulls" (Il. 1.40, 22.170; Od. 1.66), for this is the act of piety: bloodshed, slaughter—and eating. It makes no difference if there is no temple or cult-statue, as often occurs in the cult of Zeus. The god is present at his place of sacrifice, a place distinguished by the heap of ashes left from "sacred" offerings burnt there over long periods of time, or by the horns and skulls of slaughtered rams and bulls, or by the altar-stone where the blood must be sprinkled. The worshipper experiences the god most powerfully not just in pious conduct or in prayer, song, and dance, but in the deadly blow of the axe, the gush of blood and the burning of thigh-pieces.


Bumpers in Honor of the Poets

Robert Herrick (1591-1674), "To live merrily, and to trust to Good Verses," lines 13-52, in The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick, edd. Tom Cain and Ruth Connolly, Vol. I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 76-77:
Homer, this Health to thee,
    In Sack of such a kind,
That it wo'd make thee see,                15
    Though thou wert ne'r so blind.

Next, Virgil, Ile call forth,
    To pledge this second Health
In Wine, whose each cup's worth
    An Indian Common-wealth.                20

A Goblet next Ile drink
    To Ovid; and suppose,
Made he the pledge, he'd think
    The world had all one Nose.

Then this immensive cup                25
    Of Aromatike wine,
Catullus, I quaff up
    To that Terce Muse of thine.

Wild I am now with heat;
    O Bacchus! cool thy Raies!                30
Or frantick I shall eate
    Thy Thyrse, and bite the Bayes.

Round, round, the roof do's run;
    And being ravisht thus,
Come, I will drink a Tun                35
    To my Propertius.

Now, to Tibullus, next,
    This flood I drink to thee:
But stay; I see a Text,
    That this presents to me.                40

Behold, Tibullus lies
    Here burnt, whose smal return
Of ashes, scarce suffice
    To fill a little Urne.

Trust to good Verses then;                45
    They onely will aspire,
When Pyramids, as men,
    Are lost i' th' funerall fire.

And when all Bodies meet
    In Lethe to be drown'd;                50
Then onely Numbers sweet,
    With endless life are crown'd.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Saturday, November 29, 2014



Abraham Cowley (1618-1667), "Of Obscurity":
[T]he pleasantest condition of life is, in incognito. What a brave priviledge is it, to be free from all Contentions, from all Envying or being Envied, from receiving or paying all kind of Ceremonies! It is in my mind a very delightful pastime, for two good and agreeable friends to travel up and down together, in places where they are by no body known, nor know any body.
If we engage into a large Acquaintance and various familiarities, we set open our gates to the Invaders of most of our time: we expose our life to a Quotidian Ague of frigid impertinencies, which would make a wise man tremble to think of. Now, as for being known much by sight, and pointed at, I cannot comprehend the honour that lies in that: Whatsoever it be, every Mountebank has it more than the best Doctor, and the Hangman more than the Lord Chief Justice of a City.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Friday, November 28, 2014


The Latin Dictionary of Lewis and Short

F.F. Bruce (1910-1990), In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), pp. 274-275:
Alexander Souter used to tell us that Lewis and Short contained an average of sixty errors to the page; he had compiled a list of them which began to rival the Dictionary itself in length.
Alexander Souter, Hints on Translation from Latin into English (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1920), p. 9:
How is one to learn the precise value of Latin words and sentences? The process is not so simple as it would appear at first. It is essential to soak oneself in Latin literature: the more one is steeped in it the better. For the knowledge of individual words, it is not enough to consult the first Latin-English dictionary that comes to hand. The dictionary of Lewis and Short (Clarendon Press), which is best known to our advanced students, has been praised by Professor J.P. Postgate for its arrangement of the different meanings of words, but in three respects at least it is defective. The necessity for compression has compelled them to give references where quotations are desirable; the English equivalents are not always the best; and the statements with regard to the extent of the usage of particular words are utterly untrustworthy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Knowing Greek

F.F. Bruce (1910-1990), In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), p. 293:
I have met students who claimed to 'know Greek' on the basis of their acquaintance with the Greek New Testament; even if that latter acquaintance were exhaustive, it would no more amount to a knowledge of Greek than acquaintance with the English New Testament would amount to a knowledge of English. There is a story told of A.S. Peake writing a Greek word on the blackboard of his Manchester classroom, and one of his students saying, 'You needn't write it down, Doctor; we know Greek.' To which he replied, 'I wish I did.' To know a language, even an ancient language, involves having such a feel for its usage that one can tell, almost as by instinct, whether a construction is permissible or not, or whether a translation is possible or not. Translation is not simply a matter of looking up a word in a dictionary and selecting the equivalent which one would like to find in a particular passage.
Id., p. 145:
I can think of no better foundation than a classical education for the professional cultivation of biblical studies.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


In Dr. Herman's Classroom

Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), The Caxtons: A Family Picture, Part II, Chapter I:
He was extremely indignant that little boys should be brought up to confound Zeus with Jupiter, Ares with Mars, Artemis with Diana—the Greek deities with the Roman; and so rigidly did he inculcate the doctrine that these two sets of personages were to be kept constantly contradistinguished from each other, that his cross-examinations kept us in eternal confusion.

"Vat," he would exclaim, to some new boy fresh from some grammar-school on the Etonian system—"Vat do you mean by dranslating Zeus Jupiter? Is dat amatory, irascible, cloud-compelling god of Olympus, vid his eagle and his aegis, in the smallest degree resembling de grave, formal, moral Jupiter Optimus Maximus of the Roman Capitol?—a god, Master Simpkins, who would have been perfectly shocked at the idea of running after innocent Fräulein dressed up as a swan or a bull! I put dat question to you vonce for all, Master Simpkins." Master Simpkins took care to agree with the Doctor. "And how could you," resumed Dr. Herman majestically, turning to some other criminal alumnus—"how could you presume to dranslate de Ares of Homer, sir, by the audacious vulgarism Mars? Ares, Master Jones, who roared as loud as ten thousand men when he was hurt; or as you vill roar if I catch you calling him Mars again! Ares, who covered seven plectra of ground; confound Ares, the manslayer, with the Mars or Mavors whom de Romans stole from de Sabines! Mars, de solemn and calm protector of Rome! Master Jones, Master Jones, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" And then waxing enthusiastic, and warming more and more into German gutturals and pronunciation, the good Doctor would lift up his hands, with two great rings on his thumbs, and exclaim,—"Und Du! and dou, Aphrodite; dou, whose bert de seasons velcomed! dou, who didst put Atonis into a coffer, and den tid durn him into an anemone; dou to be called Venus by dat snivel-nosed little Master Budderfield! Venus, who presided over Baumgartens and funerals, and nasty tinking sewers! Venus Cloacina—O mein Gott! Come here, Master Budderfield; I must flog you for dat; I must indeed, liddle boy!"


Odium Philologicum

The Poems of John Godfrey Saxe (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1882), pp. 298-299:

Nay, marvel not to see these scholars fight,
    In brave disdain of certain scath and scar;
'T is but the genuine old Hellenic spite,—
    "When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war!"


Quoth David to Daniel, "Why is it these scholars
    Abuse one another whenever they speak?"
Quoth Daniel to David, "It nat'rally follers
    Folks come to hard words if they meddle with Greek!"
Cf. Nathaniel Lee, The Rival Queens, or The Death of Alexander the Great, Act IV, Scene 2: "When Greeks join'd Greeks, then was the tug of war." This became a proverb.


A Reason to Marry

F.F. Bruce (1910-1990), In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), p. 48 (on Alexander Souter at Aberdeen University):
He was much criticized for being more interested in later Latin than in classical Latin. He thought it right that his students should have at least an introduction to later Latin, so he regularly gave this to his second year class, working according to a quadrennial cycle, in which the set texts were (1) Apuleius's Cupid and Psyche, (2) the first half of Tertullian's Apology, (3) the second half of Tertullian's Apology, (4) Augustine's De Catechizandis Rudibus. One scholar of my acquaintance affirms that he married his wife, who was a student in the year after him, because he had the notes on the first half of Tertullian's Apology and she had the notes on the second half, and he wanted to have the complete set.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Whatever Comes, Content Makes Sweet

Robert Herrick (1591-1674), "His content in the Country," The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick, edd. Tom Cain and Ruth Connolly, Vol. I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 189:
Here, here I live with what my Board,
Can with the smallest cost afford.
Though ne'er so mean the Viands be,
They well content my Prew and me.
Or Pea, or Bean, or Wort, or Beet,                5
What ever comes, content makes sweet:
Here we rejoyce, because no Rent
We pay for our poore Tenement:
Wherein we rest, and never feare
The Landlord or the Usurer.                10
The Quarter-day do's ne'er affright
Our Peacefull slumbers in the night.
We eate our own, and batten more,
Because we feed on no mans score:
But pitie those, whose flanks grow great,                15
Swel'd with the Lard of others meat.
We blesse our Fortunes, when we see
Our own beloved privacie:
And like our living, where w'are known
To very few, or else to none.                20
4 Prew: his housekeeper, Prudence Baldwin
11 Quarter-day: when rent is due
13 our own: what we produce
13 batten: "To grow better or improve in condition; esp. (of animals) to improve in bodily condition by feeding, to feed to advantage, thrive, grow fat" (Oxford English Dictionary)
14: score: "debt due to a tradesman for goods obtained on credit" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 11.a)
19-20: in accordance with Epicurus' maxim (fragment 551 Usener) "Live unknown"

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Praise of Melite

Greek Anthology 5.94 (by Rufinus; tr. W.R. Paton):
Thou hast Hera's eyes, Melite, and Athene's hands, the breasts of Aphrodite, and the feet of Thetis. Blessed is he who looks on thee, thrice blessed he who hears thee talk, a demigod he who kisses thee, and a god he who takes thee to wife.

ὄμματ᾽ ἔχεις Ἥρης, Μελίτη, τὰς χεῖρας Ἀθήνης,
    τοὺς μαζοὺς Παφίης, τὰ σφυρὰ τῆς Θέτιδος.
εὐδαίμων ὁ βλέπων σε· τρισόλβιος ὅστις ἀκούει·
    ἡμίθεος δ᾽ ὁ φιλῶν· ἀθάνατος δ᾽ ὁ γαμῶν.
τὰ σφυρὰ are ankles rather than feet: cf. εὔσφυρος, καλλίσφυρος, τανίσφυρος. Lines 3-4 recall Sappho, fragment 31.

It would be OK to substitute "honey" for Melite when you recite this to your girlfriend.



M.L. West, Ancient Greek Music (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992; rpt. 1994), pp. 1-2:
The most pervasive sign of the average classicist's unconcern with the realities of music is the ubiquitous rendering of aulos, a reed-blown instrument, by 'flute'. There was a time when it was legitimate, because the classification of instruments had not been thought out scientifically and it was quite customary to speak of a 'flute family' that included the reed-blown instruments.2 But that tolerant era is long past, and now the only excuse for calling an aulos a flute is that given by Dr Johnson when asked why he defined 'pastern' as the knee of a horse: 'Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance.' Yet countless literary scholars and even archaeologists persist in this deplorable habit, deaf to all protests from the enlightened. One might as well call the sȳrinx a mouth organ. Those who rely on the standard Greek-English lexicon are not well served in this matter: 'flute' appears erroneously in at least seventy articles.

2 See Becker, 36-8.
Id., p. 81:
Aulos is a native word meaning basically 'tube' or 'duct'. The musical aulos was a pipe with finger-holes and a reed mouthpiece. The player almost always played two of them at once, one with each hand, so we shall often refer to auloi in the plural.2

2 It is curious that Greek writers never seem to use the dual form aulō, as might be expected in the Attic dialect with objects so obviously making a pair.
Id., pp. 84-85:
Under the Hornbostel-Sachs system, therefore, the aulos should be classified as an oboe. Those who regard the form of the bore as the decisive criterion will seek a different term.19

It must be admitted that 'oboe-girl' is less evocative than the 'flute-girl' to which classicists have been accustomed, and that when it is a question of translating Greek poetry 'oboe' is likely to sound odd. For the latter case I favour 'pipe' or 'shawm'.20 I have found no very satisfactory solution to the girl problem.

19 Becker's 'euthyphone' (cylindrical) and 'enclinophone' (conical) cannot be called felicitous.

20 Some musicologists do use 'shawm' in the generic sense of double-reed pipe, while others reserve it for particular species (see NG XV. 665). The word derives from calamus.
Becker is Heinz Becker, Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der antiken und mittelalterlichen Rohrblattinstrumente (Hamburg: H. Sikorski, 1966), and NG is The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 1980).


Sunday, November 23, 2014


Perhaps Not Altogether Good for Us

Timothy Fuller, "The Poetics of the Civil Life," in Jesse Norman, ed., The Achievement of Michael Oakeshott (London: Duckworth, 1993), pp. 67-81 (at 69):
His cottage had no central heating or television and only recently a telephone. The advantages of these amenities he thought exaggerated, perhaps not altogether good for us. To the last, he corresponded in a tiny, rather elegant script, disdaining the typewriter, much less the word-processor.
Dom Adrian Morey, David Knowles: A Memoir (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1979), p. 115:
He did not travel abroad, read novels, smoke, attend the theatre or the cinema. He had watched television only twice in his life and then only for ten minutes.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Related posts:



A Stirrer-Up of Strife

Bertran de Born, tr. Alan R. Press, Anthology of Troubadour Lyric Poetry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1971), pp. 159, 161, 163:
Well am I pleased by gay Eastertide which makes leaves and flowers come, and I'm pleased when I hear the birds' blitheness as they make their song ring through the woodland; and I'm pleased when I see tents and pavilions pitched, and I'm greatly cheered when I see lined up on the plain horsemen and horses, armed.

And I'm pleased when I see the skirmishers put people and riches to flight, and it pleases me when I see after them a great mass of armed men come together; and I'm pleased in my heart when I see strong castles besieged, and the ramparts breached and crumbled, and I see the defending host on the bank which is enclosed all round by moats protected by strong palissades.

And I'm likewise pleased by the lord when he's foremost in the attack, on horseback, armed, and fearless; for thus does he make his men grow bold in valiant vassal-service; and then when battle's joined each should be ready to follow him with good heart, for no man's esteemed at all until he's taken and dealt many blows.

Maces and swords, coloured helmets and shields being holed and smashed we shall see when battle is first joined, and many vassals clashing together, from which steeds of the dead and wounded will go riderless. And once he has entered the fray let each man of high birth think of naught but splitting heads and arms, for better it is to be dead than alive and overcome.

I tell you that for me there's no such pleasure in eating or drinking or sleeping as there is when I hear shout 'Get at them!' from all sides, and when I hear riderless horses whinny in the shade, and I hear shout 'Help! Help!' and I see falling alongside the moats both humble and mighty in the grass, and I see the dead who through their ribs have bits of lance with the silk pennons.

Barons! put into pawn your castles and towns and cities sooner than not wage war among yourselves!

Papiol, with good heart go quickly to my Lord Yes-and-No, and tell him that he stands too long in peace.
Ezra Pound, "Sestina: Altaforte," Exultations (London: Elkin Matthews, 1909), pp. 14-15:
LOQUITUR: En Bertrans de Born.
    Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a stirrer-up of strife.
    Judge ye!
    Have I dug him up again?
The scene is at his castle, Altaforte. "Papiols" is his jongleur. "The Leopard," the device of Richard (Coeur de Lion).


Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come! Let's to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah! when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.


In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth's foul peace,
And the light'nings from black heav'n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God's swords clash.


Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour's stour than a year's peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah! there's no wine like the blood's crimson!


And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And pries wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might 'gainst all darkness opposing.


The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth's won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.


Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There's no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle's rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges 'gainst "The Leopard's" rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry "Peace!"


And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought “Peace”!

Friday, November 21, 2014


We Have Gone Astray

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), The Gay Science, Book III, § 224 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Animals as critics.—I fear that the animals consider man as a being like themselves that has lost in a most dangerous way its sound animal common sense. They consider him the insane animal, the laughing animal, the weeping animal, and the miserable animal.

Kritik der Thiere.—Ich fürchte, die Thiere betrachten den Menschen als ein Wesen Ihresgleichen, das in höchst gefährlicher Weise den gesunden Thierverstand verloren hat,—als das wahnwitzige Thier, als das lachende Thier, als das weinende Thier, als das unglückselige Thier.
Related post: Lessons from Animals.


Talking Trees

Thanks very much to Karl Maurer for permission to print what follows.

Prince Charles is often mocked for believing that trees can communicate with one another (see e.g. Charles Booth, 'What kind of King will Charles III be?' in The Guardian for 19 Nov. 2014); but scientists have recently verified the fact (see e.g.; and it will not come as any surprise to poets, especially Latin poets. For example:

CLAUDIAN, Epithalamium 65-8 (quoted by Jacob Balde in his Interpretatio Somnii, p. 60):
vivunt in Venerem frondes omnisque vicissim
felix arbor amat: nutant ad mutua palmae
foedera; populeo suspirat populus ictu,
Et platani platanis, alnoque assilibat alnus.

The leaves but live for love; each happy tree
loves its own kind: a palm nods at another,
a poplar sighs, love-smitten for a poplar;
plane-trees to plane-trees, alder to alder whispers.
CASIMIR SARBIEWSKI, Epode 1.127 ff. (the 'maestae aves' are turtledoves and nightingales):
Quaecumque maestae vocibus dicunt aves,
    Respondet argutum nemus.
Affatur alnum quercus, ornum populus,
    Affatur ilex ilicem,                130
Et se vicissim collocuta redditis
    Arbusta solantur sonis.

And to whatever sounds the sad birds sing
    the shapely grove responds.
Oak speaks to alder, poplar to the ash,
    a holm-oak to a holm-oak,
and in responsive whispered conversations
    orchards console themselves.
JACOB BALDE, Lyrica 3.45.37 ff. (echoing Claudian and Sarbiewski):
                              ... Clarius interim
Ventis loquuntur flantibus arbores.
    Quercum salutat prona quercus,
        Contiguam soror alnus alnum.

                               ... Meanwhile brightlier,
as the winds blow, the trees speak: a steep oak
    salutes an oak; an alder,
        a nearby sister alder.
As for plants communing with humans, I suppose that science has not yet 'discovered' this; but of course poetry has; e.g. famously in Horace's enchanting description of Orpheus at c. 1.12.7-12. That is echoed by Balde in Lyr. 2.20.29-40; and I will end with this, because it also describes the 'marriages' among plants, with which I began:
At non et arbor nulla canentibus
Demittit aureis. Vidi ego sibilo
    Crispante ramos, colla ramos
        Flectere, et alloquio moveri.                10
Sentit Poëtas mitius arborum
Genus, sacri non immemor Orphei.
    Agnoscit ex illo Camoenas
        Nutibus, et foliorum acuto
Susurrat imbri. connubialia                15
Vidi Lyaeum tendere brachia:
    Vitesque desponsas, ad ulmum
        Viminibus viduam ligari.

And there are even trees that prick their ears
at singers. I have seen boughs curl, and hiss,
    and bend their necks, excited
    at being spoken to.
The race of trees thinks tenderly of Poets.
They all remember sacred Orpheus.
    When they hear verse they nod
    and sigh, or make a noise
like hissing rain. I have seen Bacchus stretching
a husband's arms; seen vine-sprays, all betrothed,
    clinging tight by their tendrils
    to the unmarried elm-tree.

Thursday, November 20, 2014



Ramsay MacMullen, Changes in the Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 136 (end-notes omitted):
What Christianity put forward was the fearful novelty of a God who would burn them alive in perpetuity for their very manner of life, spying out their transgressions wherever committed, as he would correspondingly reward the virtuous. Beginning with John the Baptist's and Jesus' preaching, on through Paul's acknowledgment of "the wrath to come," the flames of hell illuminated the lessons of Christianity quite as much as the light of Grace. Actual scenes of speeches delivered to non-believing crowds show that the message was made plain, for example, by Paul at Iconium very much as Jesus had told His disciples to do; and we know that it got through, at least to Celsus. He remarks that Christians "believe in eternal punishments" and "threaten others with these punishments." Clearest of all is the scene in the amphitheater at Carthage where the martyrs, referring to their coming torment, tell the crowd by sign language, "You, us; but God, you"; but Pionius had elaborated on similar comparisons and warnings of condemnation and suffering, in the city square of Smyrna. It is likely that this particular article of faith was as widely known as any outside the Church. Despite the Apologists' attempts, however, to make eternal hell-fire credible by reference to Tartarus or to Stoic predictions of universal conflagration, non-believers found it novel and hard to accept.


An Unheroic Death

M.L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 65:
Having praised his patron in life, and having in many cases, no doubt, become bound to him by real ties of affection, the poet would lament him also in death. Jordanes (Getica 257) gives a Latin paraphrase of the praise-song performed at Attila’s funeral. It recalled his achievements, and dealt diplomatically with the fact that he died ignobly of a nosebleed while slumbering in a drunken stupor. It was easier if the man died heroically in battle.



M.L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 8:
The first speakers of Greek—or rather of the language that was to develop into Greek; I will call them mello-Greeks20—arrived in Greece, on the most widely accepted view, at the beginning of Early Helladic III, that is, around 2300.21

20 From Greek μέλλω, ‘I am going to be’.
21 Cf. West (1997), 1 with n. 2.
One could adapt the term to refer to beginning Greek students.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014



Solon, fragment 24 (tr. M.L. West):
Equally rich is he who has abundancy
    of silver, gold, and acres under plough,
horses and mules, and he that only has the means
    to eat well, couch well, and go softly shod,
and by and by enjoy a lad's or woman's bloom,                5
    with youth and strength still his to suit his need.
This is a man's true wealth: he cannot take all those
    possessions with him when he goes below.
No price he pays can buy escape from death, or grim
    diseases, or the onset of old age.                10

ἶσόν τοι πλουτέουσιν, ὅτωι πολὺς ἄργυρός ἐστι
    καὶ χρυσὸς καὶ γῆς πυροφόρου πεδία
ἵπποι θ' ἡμίονοί τε, καὶ ὧι μόνα ταῦτα πάρεστι,
    γαστρί τε καὶ πλευραῖς καὶ ποσὶν ἁβρὰ παθεῖν,
παιδός τ' ἠδὲ γυναικός, ἐπὴν καὶ ταῦτ' ἀφίκηται,                5
    ὥρη, σὺν δ' ἥβη γίνεται ἁρμοδίη.
ταῦτ' ἄφενος θνητοῖσι· τὰ γὰρ περιώσια πάντα
    χρήματ' ἔχων οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται εἰς Ἀΐδεω,
οὐδ' ἂν ἄποινα διδοὺς θάνατον φύγοι, οὐδὲ βαρείας
    νούσους, οὐδὲ κακὸν γῆρας ἐπερχόμενον.                10
The text is uncertain, especially at lines 5-6. See e.g.:
Thanks very much to Karl Maurer for drawing my attention to Gärtner's article and also to the translation of this fragment in Hermann Fränkel, Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy, tr. Moses Hadas and James Willis (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975), p. 230:
Equally rich is the man who has gold and silver aplenty,
    acres of golden wheat ripening in the rich plain,
horses and oxen; and he who counts as his only possessions
    something to eat; clothing for his back, and shoes for his feet,
joy when the season comes, in beauty of youth or of maiden,                5
    pleasures in which our youth fitly may take its delight.
This is true wealth for a man: whoever has more to his portion
    leaves all the surplus behind when he goes down to the shades.
No man buys himself off from death or painful diseases,
    and a bribe will not turn back age in its silent approach.                10
Dr. Maurer comments:
Notice that like Fränkel himself, the English translators tried to retain the elegiac meter. At least, they do this in every line except 4 and 10. Their line 4 is metrically a mere chaos, and their line 10 should be I think, 'nor will a bribe turn back age in its silent approach'. Perhaps they did originally write this, and then some un-metrical person 'corrected' it.
Many commentators have noted Horace's imitation of Solon (Epistles 1.12.4-6):
pauper enim non est cui rerum suppetit usus.
si ventri bene, si lateri est pedibusque tuis, nil
divitiae poterunt regales addere maius.
Cf. also Herodotus 1.32.5 (Solon to Croesus; tr. A.D. Godley):
The very rich man is not more fortunate than the man who has only his daily needs...

οὐ γάρ τι ὁ μέγα πλούσιος μᾶλλον τοῦ ἐπ᾽ ἡμέρην ἔχοντος ὀλβιώτερος ἐστί...


Threefold Blight

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 22-27 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
For the city, as you yourself see, is now sorely vexed, and can no longer lift her head from beneath the angry waves of death. A blight has fallen on the fruitful blossoms of the land, the herds among the pastures, the barren pangs of women.

πόλις γάρ, ὥσπερ καὐτὸς εἰσορᾷς, ἄγαν
ἤδη σαλεύει κἀνακουφίσαι κάρα
βυθῶν ἔτ᾽ οὐχ οἵα τε φοινίου σάλου,
φθίνουσα μὲν κάλυξιν ἐγκάρποις χθονός,
φθίνουσα δ᾽ ἀγέλαις βουνόμοις τόκοισί τε
ἀγόνοις γυναικῶν.
There are parallels for the threefold blight on crops, livestock, and offspring.

Herodotus 3.65.7 (tr. A.D. Godley):
And if you do this, may your land bring forth fruit, and your women and your flocks and herds be blessed with offspring, remaining free for all time; but if you do not get the kingdom back or attempt to get it back, then I pray things turn out the opposite for you.

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ποιεῦσι ὑμῖν γῆ τε καρπὸν ἐκφέροι καὶ γυναῖκές τε καὶ ποῖμναι τίκτοιεν, ἐοῦσι ἐς τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον ἐλευθέροισι· μὴ δὲ ἀνασωσαμένοισι τὴν ἀρχὴν μηδ᾽ ἐπιχειρήσασι ἀνασώζειν τὰ ἐναντία τούτοισι ἀρῶμαι ὑμῖν γενέσθαι.
Herodotus 6.139.1 (tr. A.D. Godley):
But when the Pelasgians had murdered their own sons and women, their land brought forth no fruit, nor did their wives and their flocks and herds bear offspring as before.

ἀποκτείνασι δὲ τοῖσι Πελασγοῖσι τοὺς σφετέρους παῖδάς τε καὶ γυναῖκας οὔτε γῆ καρπὸν ἔφερε οὔτε γυναῖκές τε καὶ ποῖμναι ὁμοίως ἔτικτον καὶ πρὸ τοῦ.
Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 111 (tr. Charles Darwin Adams):
The curse goes on: That their land bear no fruit; that their wives bear children not like those who begat them, but monsters; that their flocks yield not their natural increase...

καὶ ἐπεύχεται αὐτοῖς μήτε γῆν καρποὺς φέρειν, μήτε γυναῖκας τέκνα τίκτειν γονεῦσιν ἐοικότα, ἀλλὰ τέρατα, μήτε βοσκήματα κατὰ φύσιν γονὰς ποιεῖσθαι...
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3.20 (tr. F.C. Conybeare):
Well, at that time of which I speak, the Ethiopians lived here, and were subject to King Ganges, and the land was sufficient for their sustenance, and the gods watched over them; but when they slew this king, neither did the rest of the Indians regard them as pure, nor did the land permit them to remain upon it; for it spoiled the seed which they sowed in it before it came into ear, and it inflicted miscarriages on their women, and it gave a miserable feed to their flocks...

ὃν μὲν δὴ χρόνον ᾤκουν ἐνταῦθα οἱ Αἰθίοπες ὑποκείμενοι βασιλεῖ Γάγγῃ, ἥ τε γῆ αὐτοὺς ἱκανῶς ἔφερβε καὶ οἱ θεοὶ σφῶν ἐπεμελοῦντο, ἐπεὶ δὲ ἀπέκτειναν τὸν βασιλέα τοῦτον, οὔτε τοῖς ἄλλοις Ἰνδοῖς καθαροὶ ἔδοξαν, οὔτε ἡ γῆ ξυνεχώρει αὐτοῖς ἵστασθαι, τήν τε γὰρ σποράν, ἣν ἐς αὐτὴν ἐποιοῦντο, πρὶν ἐς κάλυκα ἥκειν, ἔφθειρε τούς τε τῶν γυναικῶν τόκους ἀτελεῖς ἐποίει καὶ τὰς ἀγέλας πονήρως ἔβοσκε...
Deuteronomy 28.17-18:
Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
I owe most of the parallels to Bernard M.W. Knox, "The Date of the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles," American Journal of Philology 77 (1956) 133-147 (at 135-136), although his citation of Philostratus at p. 136, n. 17, is faulty—for "Vita Apollodori, III, 20" read "Vita Apollonii, III, 20".


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Not Just Any Wine

Helen Waddell (1889-1965), tr., More Latin Lyrics, from Virgil to Milton (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1977), pp. 184-185:

         Inscriptio in refectorio fratrum

Qui de rore dapes dedit et de petra bibendum,
Qui convertit aquas liquidas in vina Falerna,
Qui siccis pelagi pedibus superambulat undas,
Augeat ipse suis famulis sua dona benignus.
                                                                    PLC I, p. 331


         Inscription in monastic refectory

He who made a feast of dew, drink from a rock,
Turned flowing water to Falernian wine,
And walked dry-shod across the waves of the sea—
May he in kindness bless his gifts to his servants.
Not just any wine, but Falernian!

This would make a suitable table grace, although the third line seems a bit out of place.

PLC is Poetae Latini Aevi Carolini, ed. Ernst Dümmler et al., 4 vols. (Berlin: Weidmann, 1881-1923).

Wedding feast at Cana
(fresco from Visoki Dečani)

Related posts:


Books Picked Up by Chance

Herman Melville (1819-1891), White-Jacket, chapter 41:
My book experiences on board of the frigate proved an example of a fact which every book-lover must have experienced before me, namely, that though public libraries have an imposing air, and doubtless contain invaluable volumes, yet, somehow, the books that prove most agreeable, grateful, and companionable, are those we pick up by chance here and there; those which seem put into our hands by Providence; those which pretend to little, but abound in much.

Cornelis Springer (1817-1891), Bookstall

Monday, November 17, 2014


Scholarly Writing

Theodor Mommsen, letter to Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (May 18, 1878), tr. Ramsay MacMullen, Changes in the Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 26:
Scholarly writing is almost as corrupting a trade as play-acting. The great majority of one's colleagues are vulgar and petty and devoted to the business of bringing these characteristics to ever fuller bloom. Anyone who enters it with any idealistic notions will have a hard time controlling his disgust and hatred.


On the Road

Fan Chengda (1126-1193), "On the Road to Nanxu," tr. J.D. Schmidt:
I despise these travels, so contrary to my heart's desires:
Again I speed on a lone sailboat that cleaves the waves in its flight.
I strain eyes to espy Wu's peaks behind the roiling clouds;
The moon that bobs on Chu's River chills my traveling robe.
My long song is more mournful than the dripping of tears;
A short-lived dream rushes me back home in a daze.
If I only had a plot of land and a gate I could shut,
I wouldn't exchange a hermit's hut for this bamboo boat!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


What a Good Boy Am I!

Jacques Barzun (1907-2012), The House of Intellect (1959; rpt. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), p. 220:
The pedant is really not looking at the object, but going through the motions or technique he has learned. At bottom he is thinking about himself and the relation of his results to himself—'What a good boy am I!' Pedantry is affectation and pretense. The pedant uses knowledge to fashion himself a poultice against the world, to show off virtuosity, to remind himself and others of his industry and skill, and to ogle the reward for sitting in libraries when he might have been sitting in bars.


A Puzzle

The only unidentified poem in Kenneth Rexroth, Poems from the Greek Anthology. Expanded Edition...Introduction by David Mulroy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999; rpt. 2002), is the following (p. 10):
I know I am poor,
Neither do I have to be reminded
Of my own name or
the day of the week.
All your bitterness will get us nowhere.
Wash the anchovies
While I pour the wine.
Naked and drunk, we'll find riches in bed.
Neither Mulroy in his Index (pp. 113-114) nor Otto Steinmayer, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.11.06, was able to track down the original. I can't either.


A Nervous Disorder

Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990), quoted by Andrew Sullivan, "Taking the world as it is," The Spectator (December 18, 2010):
I've always thought the need to know the news every day is a nervous disorder.
Related posts:

Friday, November 14, 2014


Children's Book?

Entry on for Max Nelson, The Barbarian's Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe (London: Routledge, 2008), under Product Details:
Age Range: 1 - 17 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 12


Earth to Earth

Inscriptiones Graecae II² 7151 (early 4th century B.C.), tr. Kenneth Rexroth:
I grew from the earth.
I flourished in my day.
I am earth again.
My name was Aristokles,
The son of Menon,
A citizen of the Peiraieus.
The same, tr. J.M. Edmonds:
After many pleasant games with them of like age, I that grew from earth have become earth again, and my name is Aristocles of the Peiraeus, son of Menon.
The same, tr. Michael Wolfe:
After many high times with friends my age,
I am back in the earth I sprang from:
Aristocles. Menon's son. From Piraeus.
The Greek:
πολλὰ μεθ' ἡλικίας ὁμοήλικος ἡδέα παίσας
ἐκ γαίας βλαστὼν γαῖα πάλιν γέγονα·
εἰμὶ δὲ Ἀριστοκλῆς Πειραιεύς, παῖς δὲ Μένωνος.
The stele is in the British Museum (inv. 1816,0610.384):

Thursday, November 13, 2014


The Happiness of the Peasant

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, letter to Friederike Baldinger (February 20, 1777), tr. Franz Mautner and Henry Hatfield in Lichtenberg: Aphorisms & Letters (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969), p. 92 (with translators' footnotes):
My blood boils when I hear our bards envying the happiness of the peasant. You want to be happy as he is, I'd always like to say, and at the same time stay the fop you are; that won't do at all. Work the way he does; if your limbs are too delicate for the plough, work in the depth of science; read Euler* or Haller† instead of Goethe, and bracing Plutarch instead of Siegwart.‡

* Leonhard Euler, famous Swiss mathematician (1707-83).
† Albrecht von Haller, Swiss scientist and poet, important in the history of physiology, botany, anatomy (1708-77).
‡ A sentimental novel by J.M. Miller, published in 1776, written in emulation of The Sorrows of Young Werther, the work by Goethe most widely known at that time.
The German:
Mir läuft die Galle allemal über, wenn ich unsere Barden das Glück des Landmanns beneiden höre. Du willst, möchte ich immer sagen, glücklich sein wie er und dabei ein Geck sein wie du, das geht freilich nicht. Arbeite wie er, und wo deine Glieder zu zart sind zum Pflug, so arbeite in den Tiefen der Wissenschaft, lies Eulern oder Hallern statt Goethe, und den stärkenden Plutarch statt des entnervenden Siegwarts.
The translators omit entnervenden (= enervating) describing Siegwart—it really is necessary, to mark the contrast with stärkenden Plutarch (= bracing Plutarch).


Dickens Averts Suicide

Maurice Shadbolt, One of Ben's (Auckland: David Ling, 1993), pp. 205-206 (on poet Denis Glover):
Denis was between marriages, often drunk, and also depressed. He confessed that he had seen suicide as a solution to his problems. A gas oven looked the most useful means. He put his head in the oven and turned on the gas. Waiting on oblivion, he felt there must be a more dignified way to die. He heaved mattress and pillow into the kitchen and sealed up windows and doors. He arranged mattress and pillow to his satisfaction. At least this new posture was comfortable. Then he turned on the gas again. It hissed steadily, beginning to fill the kitchen, but taking too long. Boredom set in. Denis found himself in need of a time-killing book. He turned off the gas, unsealed the kitchen and hunted along his bookshelves for a likely volume. Here was a pickle: What was his last book to be? It had to be an old favourite. He was never going to finish it; a fresh story wouldn't do. He fell on The Pickwick Papers, bore it off to the kitchen, resealed the room, turned on the gas, and was soon absorbed in his book. Soon he was laughing so much that he reached for cigarettes and matches. On the verge of lighting up he was struck by the thought: If I light this cigarette I'll kill myself.

Dickens kept Denis writing for another two decades.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Ignorance and Anti-Intellectualism

Jacques Barzun (1907-2012), The House of Intellect (1959; rpt. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), p. vii:
The ignorance of the unlettered takes no scrutiny to establish. What we need to plumb is the ignorance of the educated and the anti-intellectualism of the intellectual.

Anonymous, A School of Monkeys

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Epigrams from the Persian Wars

Benjamin D. Meritt, Inscriptions from the Athenian Agora (Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1966), p. 5:
The valor of these men will shine as a light imperishable forever
    To whomsoever the gods may in future grant success in deeds of war,
For they on foot and on swift-sailing ships
    Kept all Greece from seeing a day of slavery.

Ἀνδρῶν τῶνδ' ἀρετὴ [λάμψει φά]ος ἄφθι[τον αἰεί],
    [οἷς κἂν εἰ]ν ἔργ[οις ἐσθλὰ] νέμωσι θεοί·
ἔσχον γὰρ πεζοί τε [καὶ] ὠκυπόρων ἐπὶ νηῶν
    Ἑλλά[δα μ]ὴ πᾶσαν δούλιον ἦμαρ ἰδεῖν.
These men had invincible courage in their hearts
    When they battled before the gates against countless foes,
Thwarting the army of the Persians who planned by might
    To burn their far-famed city by the sea.

Ἦν ἄρα τοῖσζ' ἀδάμ[ας ἐν στήθεσι θυμὸς] ὅτ' αἰχμὴν
    στῆσαμ πρόσθε πυλῶν ἀν[τία μυριάσιν]
ἀνχίαλομ πρῆσαι β[ολευσαμένον ἐρικυδὲς]
    ἄστυ βίαι Περσῶν κλινάμενο[ι στρατιάν].
On this Veterans Day, thanks to my favorite veteran, Mrs. Laudator, for her military service.


Archilochus, Fragment 19 West

Archilochus, fragment 19 West, tr. Douglas Gerber:
The possessions of Gyges rich in gold are of no concern to me, not yet have I been seized with jealousy of him, I do not envy the deeds of the gods, and I have no love of tyranny. That is beyond my sights.
The same, tr. Richmond Lattimore:
Nothing to me the life of Gyges and his glut
of gold. I neither envy nor admire him, as
I watch his life and what he does. I want no pride
of tyranny: it lies far off from where I look.
The same, tr. Guy Davenport:
These golden matters
Of Gyges and his treasuries
Are no concern of mine.
Jealousy has no power over me,
Nor do I envy a god his work,
And I don't burn to rule.
Such things have no
Fascination for my eyes.
The same, tr. Anne Pippin Burnett:
Gyges' gold is no affair of mine —
I don't want it, and I don't envy gods
their deeds, or dream of tyrants' thrones:
that's further than I look.
The same, tr. M.L. West:
Gyges and all his gold don't interest me.
I've never been prey to envy, I don't marvel
at heavenly things, or yearn for great dominion.
That's all beyond the sights of such as me.
The Greek:
οὔ μοι τὰ Γύγεω τοῦ πολυχρύσου μέλει,
οὐδ' εἶλέ πώ με ζῆλος, οὐδ' ἀγαίομαι
θεῶν ἔργα, μεγάλης δ'οὐκ ἐρέω τυραννίδος·
ἀπόπροθεν γάρ ἐστιν ὀφθαλμῶν ἐμῶν.
According to Aristotle, Rhetoric 3.17 (1418 b), these words were put into the mouth of a carpenter named Charon. Like Croesus, Gyges was fabulously rich.

David C. Young, Three Odes of Pindar: A Literary Study of Pythian 11, Pythian 3, and Olympian 7 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1968), p. 10:
In assessing these lines should we blindly follow the assumption of specific personal, topical, and political allusions, apply it to Archilochus, and conclude, with Bonnard,1 that this soldier-poet (and, some think, slave-son bastard) had been asked to become tyrannos of Thasos (which offer he hereby publicly declines)? Let us not, this time. I prefer to analyze the fragment and move on. Archilochus here presents a list of three things which he does not covet, extreme wealth, superhuman abilities,2 and a tyranny. Then he summarily rejects them (or at least the last); unfortunately, the fragment, which seems to be a priamel,3 ends before we are told what, if anything, Archilochus does, in fact, desire.

1 This amazing interpretation (Bonnard, p. 9, with a reference to Lasserre's frag. 35 [P. Oxy. 2310, fr. 1, col. 1]) suggests that the Delphic oracle had requested that Archilochus become tyrannos of Thasos.

2 The meaning of οὐδ' ἀγαίομαι θεῶν ἔργα ("I do not envy the deeds of gods") has apparently been unclear (e.g., it bothers Lattimore so much that, to avoid it, he apparently invents an active participle of θεάομαι [?: Greek Lyrics, p. 2)]. The common view of the phrase regards it as an expression of satisfaction with the divine order (Bonnard), varied to "Was die Götter einem Menschen schenken, neidet man ihm nicht" (Fraenkel, Dichtung and Philosophie2, p. 154), to a failure to begrudge others their supernatural powers, which are god-given gifts (suggested by Gyges' magic ring: Cataudella, pp. 251 f.). There may be some validity in these interpretations, especially in the last, but the main point of the phrase is 'I do not covet (i.e., desire to perform) the acts of gods (i.e., superhuman feats),' as is corroborated by the theme of superhuman longevity in Anacreon 8 and Simonides 71 (infra; cf. Maximus Tyrius XX, 2: οὐ πλοῦτον τέθηπεν, οὐ βασίλεια ἐκπλήττεται, οὐ φεύγει θάνατον [Schmid, Priamel, p. 157]) and other superhuman feats in Euripides Med. 543, Theocritus Id. 8, 54, etc.

3 "The priamel is a focusing or selecting device in which one or more terms serve as foil for the point of particular interest" (Bundy I, 5). See, in general W. Kröhling, Die Priamel als Stilmittel in der griechisch-römischen Dichtung (Griefswald, 1935): for Pindar, see p. 33, n. 4 infra; for the particular form pertinent here, see Schmid, Priamel, pp. IX f. et passim (of prime relevance for Py. 11: cf. the topics listed in Schmid's Register [part C] with the remaining remarks of this chapter), Bundy II, n. 117 (on Bundy's interpretation of Py. 11, 53 see p. 14, n. 3 infra).
Related post: I Don't Want Your Millions. Or Do I?

Monday, November 10, 2014


Teacher as Tree

As a present to Edward Byles Cowell on his seventieth birthday, his friends gave him a portrait painted by Charles Edmund Brock:

In a letter (January 23, 1896) of thanks to his friends Cowell wrote:
The teacher's motto may well be—
Serit arbores quae alteri saeculo prosint,
and I trust that the sapling which I have tried to plant in Cambridge will become a vigorous tree that shall long continue to bear fruit.
Gurur viçiṣyaḥ saralo yathā girau
    Asevitaḥ pānthajanena tiṣthati |
Varaṃ sa jīryen navaçiṣyasaṃçrito
    Vṛtaḥ svatamtrair viṭapair vaṭo yathā. ||

High on his rock the lonely scholar stands,—
A mountain pine that spreads no sheltering shade;
Rather grow old amid fresh student bands,—
A banyan with its native colonnade.
My wife and I gratefully accept this portrait as a sign that our names will remain in kindly remembrance when we are gone; and we also feel it is an especial further kindness that you have allowed us to hang it in the Hall of Corpus Christi College.
George Cowell, Life & Letters of Edward Byles Cowell (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1904), pp. 352-353:
Cowell had this reply, which he had prepared beforehand, printed, and presented a copy to each of his friends who were present, and subsequently forwarded a copy also to all friends at home and abroad to whom he wrote an account of the presentation.

Amongst those who had attended the presentation were Mr. C.W. Moule and Professor Skeat, and both these scholars set to work on their return home to turn Cowell's Çloka, the one into Latin and the other into Anglo-Saxon. I am permitted to give both these tributes of affection for Cowell, as I think they are a fitting completion of the record of a deeply interesting occasion.
              LATIN TRANSLATION.

Rupe super sola sapiens stat, ut ardua pinus,
    Unde patent nulli tegmina montivago.
Discipulos inter iuvenesque senescere malim,
    Ut ficus virgis Indica fulta suis.


Hēah on hliðe āhæfen āna
stīð-mōd on stāne stent se lārēow,
swā pīn-treow hlīfað on hēan beorge,
gescyldend þurh scūwan fēawe scealca.
Bet wære yldan ealdor mid geongrum,
leorning-cnihta lēofra on midle,
fæst swā fīc-bēam fæð mē beclypped
þāra sīdra telga þe hē self cende.


High on the-slope heaved up alone
Strong-minded on the-rock stands the teacher,
As a-pine-tree stands-up on a-high mountain
Shielding by its-shade a few men.
Better were-it to-grow-old (as) an-elder together-with younger-ones,
Of-disciples dear in the middle;
Fast as a-fig-tree by-the-embrace clasped
Of the long shoots which he himself produced.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


An Old Man

C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933), "An Old Man," tr. Evangelos Sachperoglou:
Deep inside the noisy café,
huddled over the table sits an old man,
with a newspaper in front of him, all alone.

And in the indignity of his miserable old age
he ponders on how little he enjoyed the years
when he had vigour, eloquence, and looks.

He knows that he has aged a lot; he senses it, he sees it.
And yet the time when he was young seems like
yesterday. What a short span of time, what a short span.

And he reflects on how Prudence deceived him;
and how he always trusted her—what folly!—
that liar who used to say: 'Tomorrow. You still have plenty of time.'

He recalls impulses that he restrained; and how much
joy he sacrificed. Every lost opportunity
now mocks his mindless wisdom.

...But from too much reflection and reminiscence
the old man becomes dizzy. And he falls asleep
leaning upon the table of the café.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


Insular and Continental Commentaries

Martin Litchfield West, "'Forward into the Past': Acceptance Speech for the Balzan Prize in Classical Antiquity, 2000," in P.J. Finglass et al., edd., Hesperos: Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M.L. West on his Seventieth Birthday (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. xx-xxviii (at xxiv):
When I was writing my first commentary (on Hesiod's Theogony) Stefan Weinstock asked me if it was to be 'insular' or 'continental'. He meant, would it be the sort of commentary that seeks only to elucidate the particular work which is its object, or the sort that reaches out in all directions and is full of material relevant to other authors in which related things occur. When he put the question, I was not familiar with the distinction, and not sure of my answer; but I think that in the event I leaned towards the continental, and find most value in those commentaries that have the ambition to build bridges out from the work under discussion to the rest of ancient literature. A note in such a commentary often becomes the classic statement of some observation relevant to many authors but prompted by the study of one. By making cross-references to commentators on other authors, scholars create a network of links across the exegetical corpus, and the seeker after insight on some point may find himself bounding happily from one volume to another.

Friday, November 07, 2014


The Food of Ares

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 244 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
For this is the food of Ares, even the blood of men.
The same, tr. David Grene:
For slaughtered men are Ares' favorite food.
The Greek:
τούτῳ γὰρ Ἄρης βόσκεται, φόνῳ βροτῶν.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. φόνος, sense 1 = "murder, slaughter"; sense 4: "blood when shed, gore".

A more literal translation:
For with this is Ares fed, with blood of mortal men.
"To give Ares his fill of blood" (αἵματος ἆσαι Ἄρηα) occurs three times in the Iliad (5.289, 20.78, 22.267). Ares is blood-loving (φιλαίματος) in the Greek Anthology 7.226.3.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Wasting Time

Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 20.3-4 (tr. J.W. Cohoon):
[3] It may be, then, that it is those who withdraw from unprofitable enterprises and time-consuming activities which do not properly concern them, and who get themselves some leisure from useless annoyances, that should be defined as 'retiring.' But if that is right, it is not the man who has moved from some city to another one or from one place to another that could be described as 'retiring.' For wherever he goes, there will be many things getting in his way and not allowing him to do the things which properly concern him. For the fact is that spending much time in somebody's company and in continual drinking, or dicing, or in doing some other harmful and unprofitable thing are practices to be met with everywhere — and wasting all one's time in palavering with anyone you happen to meet, and in listening to talk that is utterly futile, or spending your time discoursing about the affairs of the Emperor or of what's his name, as some one has said. [4] For the fool is not master of his own soul, but is whirled this way and that and is easily led by any chance pretext or association. Consequently the majority of men are just like spendthrifts, who would be unable to render an accounting for the money they have spent, explaining what they have spent each several item for, although enormous sums have clearly been expended: so neither could these men render an accounting for what they have spent each day, or month, or year, although life is clearly passing by and time being spent, this being of no little value to man, of no less value to him, in my opinion, than money.

[3] μὴ οὖν τοὺς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνωφελῶν πραγμάτων καὶ τῶν οὐ προσηκουσῶν αὐτοῖς ἀσχολιῶν ἀπιόντας καὶ σχολήν τινα πορίζοντας αὑτοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἐνοχλούντων μάτην ῥητέον ὡς ἀναχωροῦντας. ἀλλ´ οὕτως μὲν, οὐχ ὁ μεταβὰς ἐκ πόλεώς τινος εἰς ἑτέραν πόλιν ἢ ἐκ τόπου εἰς ἕτερον τόπον ἀναχωρεῖν λέγοιτ´ ἄν· ὅπου γὰρ ἂν ἀφίκηται, πολλὰ ἂν εἴη τὰ ἐμποδὼν αὐτῷ γιγνόμενα καὶ οὐκ ἐῶντα τὰ προσήκοντα ποιεῖν. καὶ γὰρ τὸ ἐπὶ πολύ τῳ ξυνεῖναι καὶ τὸ πίνοντα ἢ κυβεύοντα ἢ ἄλλο τι τῶν βλαβερῶν καὶ ἀσυμφόρων πράττοντα διατελεῖν, πανταχοῦ τοιαῦτά ἐστιν, καὶ τὸ συνδιατρίβειν ἀεὶ τῷ ἐντυχόντι ἀδολεσχοῦντα καὶ ἀκούοντα λόγων οὐδὲν χρησίμων ἢ περὶ τὰ βασιλέως πράγματα διατρίβειν ἢ τὰ τοῦ δεῖνος, ὡς ἔφη τις. [4] οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνόητος τῆς αὑτοῦ ψυχῆς κύριος, ἀλλὰ ῥεμβόμενός τε καὶ ἀγόμενος ῥᾳδίως ὑπὸ τῆς τυχούσης προφάσεως καὶ ὁμιλίας. ὥστε οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι, καθάπερ οἱ ἄσωτοι τῶν χρημάτων οὐκ ἂν δύναιντο ἀποδοῦναι λόγον πρὸς ὅ τι ἀνηλώκασιν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν, φαίνεται δ´ ὅμως ἀνηλωμένα πάνυ συχνὰ χρήματα, οὐδὲ οὗτοι τοῦ χρόνου τε καὶ βίου δύναιντ´ ἂν ἀποδοῦναι λόγον, πρὸς ὅ τι ἑκάστην ἡμέραν ἀνήλωσαν ἢ μῆνα ἢ ἐνιαυτόν· φαίνεται δ´ οὖν παριὼν ὁ βίος καὶ δαπανώμενος ὁ χρόνος, οὐκ ὀλίγου ἄξιος τοῖς ἀνθρώποις οὐδὲ ἥττονος, ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, ἢ τὸ ἀργύριον.


What's for Dinner?

Euripides, Electra 494-499 (tr. David Kovacs):
I bring you a young lamb I have pulled away from my flocks and garlands and cheeses taken from the press, and some old and fragrant wine I have treasured, not a great deal of it—but it is a pleasant thing to put a cup of this in a wine of weaker vintage.

ἥκω φέρων σοι τῶν ἐμῶν βοσκημάτων
ποίμνης νεογνὸν θρέμμ' ὑποσπάσας τόδε
στεφάνους τε τευχέων τ' ἐξελὼν τυρεύματα,
πολιόν τε θησαύρισμα Διονύσου τόδε
ὀσμῇ κατῆρες, σμικρὸν ἀλλ' ἐπεσβαλεῖν
ἡδὺ σκύφον τοῦδ' ἀσθενεστέρῳ ποτῷ.


P. Oxy. 8

Not all of the poems in Kenneth Rexroth, Poems from the Greek Anthology. Expanded Edition...Introduction by David Mulroy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999; rpt. 2002), come from the Greek Anthology. Mulroy helpfully identified the sources of most of the 111 poems translated by Rexroth in an Index (pp. 113-114), but 10 of the 111 were marked as unidentified. Otto Steinmayer, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.11.06, filled in the blanks and tracked down the sources of most of these hitherto unidentified poems. Perhaps someday someone will publish an edition of Rexroth's Poems from the Greek Anthology with the Greek and Latin texts on facing pages.

Here is Rexroth's poem number 4, on p. 4:
Among the dead we come
To great Demeter, nine
Of us, all virgins, each
Of us dressed in lovely
Robes, dressed in lovely robes,
And each of us with a
Splendid necklace of
Lustrous carved ivory.

Steinmayer identified this as J.U. Powell, Collectanea Alexandrina (1925; rpt. Chicago: Ares Publishers, 1981), p. 186 (non vidi; I added ἐν νεκύεσσι to Steinmayer's quotation because Rexroth translated it):
                                                               ἐν νεκύεσσι
ἤνθομεν ἐς μεγάλας Δαμάτερος ἐννέ' ἐάσσαι
παίσαι παρθενικαί, παίσαι καλὰ ἔμματ' ἐχοίσαι,
καλὰ μὲν ἔμματ' ἐχοίσαι, ἀριπρεπέαι δὲ καὶ ὄρμως
πριστῶ ἐξ ἐλέφαντος, ἰδῆν ποτεοίκοτας ἄστρῳ.
The text was originally published as P.Oxy. 8 (now at Harvard University, Houghton Library, inv. SM 2211) and is number 1889 in Roger Pack's Index of Greek and Latin Literary Texts from Greco-Roman Egypt. It is perhaps most easily accessible in J.M. Edmonds' Loeb Classical Library edition of Lyra Graeca, vol. III (London: William Heinemann, 1927), pp. 420-421. For a recent discussion see Alessandro Pardini, "Problemi dialettali greci ed interpretazioni antiche e moderne: P.S.I. 1090 (Erinna); P. Oxy. 8 (Anonimo), P. Antinoë s.n. (Teocrito)," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 85 (1991) 1–7 (2-4 = "Il grammatico di P.Oxy. 8").

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Alphabet Soup

The University of California Press is in the process of publishing The Collected Writings of Robert Duncan. Robert Bringhurst, "Alphabet Soup: Robert Duncan, bad Greek and the University of California Press," Times Literary Supplement (October 17, 2014), p. 14, discusses two of the volumes (The Collected Early Poems and Plays and The Collected Later Poems and Plays) and points out:
There are, if I've counted correctly, just over 200 words of Greek scattered through the two volumes, and in those words alone I count 130 typographic errors. The errors are new and original, not copied from Duncan's manuscripts or from previous editions of work. They are also persistently inventive. When a Greek word or phrase is repeated in the text or the editor's notes, it is misspelled differently each time. The errors stand out in books that are otherwise handsomely printed (typographic errors outside the Greek are mercifully rare). This beats by a huge margin everything else in Duncan's own error-infested publication history. Even the famously error-prone New Directions editions of Pound's Cantos come nowhere close. The Greek passages in The Cantos average a mere twenty errors per hundred words. There are over sixty per hundred in the Duncan.
What is worse, there is no excuse for the errors, since Bringhurst himself provided the editor (Peter Quartermain) with a clean digital copy of the Greek quotations:
I was unaware until recently that when Quartermain presented his vast manuscript to the Press and offered them the corrected digital Greek, they turned him down, offering to handle the work themselves.

Most of the errors in the books could only have been made by someone altogether innocent of Greek. Letters that can only be used at the beginnings or ends of Greek words are placed in the middle, letters with similar shapes are confused with one another, and the diacritics that abound in classical Greek are freely interchanged or replaced with diacritics borrowed from Latin or Cyrillic.
Two volumes of The Collected Writings of Robert Duncan, including The Collected Later Poems and Plays, won the Poetry Foundation's Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism. Bringhurst asks:
This leaves me wondering if the Poetry Foundation — heir to the critical intelligence of Harriet Monroe and Ezra Pound — is in the same predicament as the University of California Press. Can no one at that illustrious institution distinguish Greek from gobbledegook (or even from Cyrillic)?

I corrected a couple of Greek misprints in another publication from the University of California Press here.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Authority versus Reason

W.S. Barrett (1914-2001), "Pindar, Nemean 4.23," Greek Lyric, Tragedy, and Textual Criticism: Collected Papers, ed. M.L. West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 466-467 (conjecturing κατεδράκη; at 467):
I do not expect to make many converts: people are likely to go on printing κατέδρακεν and to justify themselves by saying that this is the reading of the manuscripts. The mirage of authority is always a more alluring guide than the wavering compass of reason.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


Johnny Voter

A recycled post, truer today (after Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) than ever before, from Roy Morris, Jr., Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company (c1995; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 180:
The main problem, to Bierce, was not the character of the nation's politicians, but the overweening stupidity of the electorate, exemplified by the paradigmatic figure he dubbed, with supreme scorn, "that immortal ass, the average man." "Surely 'the average man,' as everyone knows him, is not very wise, not very learned, not very good," he railed. "It seems to me that the average man is very much a fool, and something of a rogue as well. He has only a smattering of education, knows virtually nothing of political history, nor history of any kind, is incapable of logical, that is to say clear, thinking, is subject to the suasion of base and silly prejudices, and selfish beyond expression." When such men interrupted their leisure to vote, it was usually with predictable results. "Do you know, Johnny Voter, that you are a dupe? Does it penetrate your poor understanding that every time you throw off the top of your head to give tongue for the man of another man's choice the worthy persons who keep the table in the little game of politics are affected with merriment? Have you ever a dawnlight of suspicion that in the service of their purpose your wage is their derision, your pension their silent contempt? O, you will uphold principle. You will stand in to avert the quadrennial peril to the country. You will assist in repelling the treasonable attempt of one half its inhabitants whose interest (obviously) lies in its destruction. You will be a 'Republican' — or a 'Democrat'; you will be it diligently, loudly and like the devil. Pray do; and when you have processioned your feet sore and your teeth loose, and been a spectacular extravaganza to the filling of your ambition's belly, may it comfort you to know that you have been a Tool."


Adversus Senes Severiores

Petronius, Satyricon 132.15 (Encolpius speaking; tr. Kenneth Rexroth):
Why do you frown on me, you puritans,
And condemn the honesty of my latest poems?
Be thankful for fine writing
That makes you laugh instead of weep.
What people do, an honest tongue can talk about.
Do you know anybody who doesn't enjoy
Feasting and venery?
Who forbad my member to grow hot in a warm bed?
Father Epicurus himself commanded us
To become really sophisticated in this art.
Furthermore, he said this was the life of the gods.
A more literal rendering, by Michael Heseltine:
Why do ye, Cato's disciples, look at me with wrinkled foreheads, and condemn a work of fresh simplicity? A cheerful kindness laughs through my pure speech, and my clean mouth reports whatever the people do. All men born know of mating and the joys of love; all men are free to let their limbs glow in a warm bed. Epicurus, the true father of truth, bade wise men be lovers, and said that therein lay the crown of life.
Text and apparatus from Petronius, Satyricon Reliquiae, ed. Konrad Müller (Munich: K.G. Saur, 2003), p. 160:
quid me constricta spectatis fronte Catones,
    damnatisque novae simplicitatis opus?
sermonis puri non tristis gratia ridet,
    quodque facit populus, candida lingua refert.
nam quis concubitus, Veneris quis gaudia nescit?        5
    quis vetat in tepido membra calere toro?
ipse pater veri doctos Epicurus in arte
    iussit, et hoc vitam dixit habere τέλος.

6 uetat Dousa: petat
7 doctos Canterus: doctus | amare Canterus: in arte
8 telos B: deos libri plerique
J. P. Sullivan, "Petronius: Artist or Moralist?" Arion 6.1 (Spring, 1967) 71-88 (at 74):
A translation of this would not be very helpful, but the following paraphrase perhaps brings out Petronius' meaning:
The work you are now hearing no doubt provokes the usual strictures from the more censorious who believe that, in accordance with Stoic principles and literary theories, a work of art should be instructive and moral, not least in the narrowest sense of that term. Such critics will condemn this work, which is a reaction against our present modes of writing and old-fashioned puritanism, and has its own literary and stylistic intentions. Its pure Latinity has one end: to charm you, not to instruct you. My subject is human behavior and the narrative is realistic, although honest might be a better way of describing it. No one is unaware of the important place sex has in ordinary life. Does anyone take a moral stand against harmless and natural sexual enjoyment and comfort? As an Epicurean, I could even invoke philosophical principles in their defense and point to Epicurus' doctrines about its supreme importance.
I don't have access to Edward Courtney, The Poems of Petronius (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991).


Galway Kinnell and François Villon

The poet Galway Kinnell (1927-2014) died a few days ago. He visited the University of Maine when I was a student there. I met him and asked him a question, to which he responded kindly. I remember neither the question nor the answer, only his courtesy.

It was also at the University of Maine that I first heard of François Villon, in a class taught by Olga Wester Russell (1913-2000). One of our assignments was to write an explication de texte on Villon's Ballade des pendus (Ballade of the Hanged Men). I don't have my paper any more, but I'm sure it was covered by Dr. Russell's detailed corrections in red ink.

I didn't know it at the time, but Kinnell had translated the poetry of Villon. Here is his translation of the Ballade des pendus:
Brother humans who live on after us
Don't let your hearts harden against us
For if you have pity on wretches like us
More likely God will show mercy to you
You see us five, six, hanging here
As for the flesh we loved too well
A while ago it was eaten and has rotted away
And we the bones turn to ashes and dust
Let no one make us the butt of jokes
But pray God that he absolve us all.

Don't be insulted that we call you
Brothers, even if it was by Justice
We were put to death, for you understand
Not every person has the same good sense
Speak up for us, since we can't ourselves
Before the son of the virgin Mary
That his mercy toward us shall keep flowing
Which is what keeps us from hellfire
We are dead, may no one taunt us
But pray God that he absolve us all.

The rain has rinsed and washed us
The sun dried us and turned us black
Magpies and ravens have pecked out our eyes
And plucked our beards and eyebrows
Never ever can we stand still
Now here, now there, as the wind shifts
At its whim it keeps swinging us
Pocked by birds worse than a sewing thimble
Therefore don't join in our brotherhood
But pray God that he absolve us all.

Prince Jesus, master over all
Don't let us fall into hell's dominion
We've nothing to do or settle down there
Men, there's nothing here to laugh at
But pray God that he absolve us all.
The French:
Freres humains, qui après nous vivez,
N'ayez les cuers contre nous endurcis,
Car, se pitié de nous povres avez,
Dieu en aura plus tost de vous mercis.
Vous nous voiez cy attachez cinq, six:
Quant de la chair, que trop avons nourrie,
Elle est pieça devorée et pourrie,
Et nous, les os, devenons cendre et pouldre.
De nostre mal personne ne s'en rie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre!

Se freres vous clamons, pas n'en devez
Avoir desdaing, quoy que fusmes occis
Par justice. Toutesfois, vous sçavez
Que tous hommes n'ont pas bon sens assis;
Excusez nous — puis que sommes transis —
Envers le filz de la Vierge Marie,
Que sa grace ne soit pour nous tarie,
Nous preservant de l'infernale fouldre.
Nous sommes mors, ame ne nous harie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre!

La pluye nous a buez et lavez,
Et le soleil desechez et noircis;
Pies, corbeaulx, nous ont les yeux cavez,
Et arraché la barbe et les sourcilz.
Jamais, nul temps, nous ne sommes assis;
Puis çà, puis là, comme le vent varie,
A son plaisir sans cesser nous charie,
Plus becquetez d'oiseaulx que dez à couldre.
Ne soiez donc de nostre confrairie,
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre!

Prince Jhesus, qui sur tous a maistrie,
Garde qu'Enfer n'ait de nous seigneurie:
A luy n'ayons que faire ne que souldre.
Hommes, icy n'a point de mocquerie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous veuille absouldre!

Monday, November 03, 2014


Don't Try This at Home, Boys and Girls

Aristophanes, Frogs 620 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Pour vinegar up his nose too.

ἔτι δ᾽ εἰς τὰς ῥῖνας ὄξος ἐγχέων.
Aristophanes, Frogs. Edited with an Introduction and Commentary by Kenneth Dover (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 271 (ad loc.):
I have been dissuaded by medical friends from experimenting with a small quantity to see how painful it is.

Sunday, November 02, 2014


Apopompē and Epipompē in a Hittite Hymn

M.L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 323:
When the deity has been effectively invoked and lauded, it remains to ask him or her for boons. This completes a logical structure that is arguably Indo-European. The invocatory hymn to Telibinu read daily on behalf of the Hittite king exemplifies it well. Here it is in outline:

(Summons to the god) Now whether, esteemed Telibinu, thou art up in heaven among the gods, or in the sea, or gone to roam the mountains, or gone to the country of the enemy to battle, now let the sweet and soothing cedar essence summon thee: come back to thy temple! ... Whatever I say to thee, hold thine ear inclined to me, O god, and hearken to it.

(Praises, occupying about half of the whole) Thou, Telibinu, art an estimable god; thy name is estimable among names; thy divinity is estimable among the gods ...

(Prayers, paraphrased) Grant the king and queen and princes life, health, strength, long years, progeny, fertility of crops and livestock, peace and prosperity; transfer famine and plague to our enemies' lands.30

30 CTH 377; Lebrun (1980), 180–91.
CTH is Emmanuel Laroche, Catalogue des textes hittites (Paris: Klincksieck, 1971), cited by text number, and Lebrun is René Lebrun, Hymnes et prières hittites (Louvain-la-Neuve: Centre d'Histoire des Religions, 1980), both unavailable to me. The hymn is edited and translated by Alexei Kassian and Ilya Yakubovich, "Muršili II's prayer to Telipinu (CTH 377)," in D. Groddek and M. Zorman, edd., Tabularia Hethaeorum: Hethitologische Beiträge Silvin Košak zum 65. Geburtstag (Wiesbaden, 2007 = Dresdner Beiträge zur Hethitologie 25), pp. 423-455. Here is an excerpt from the translation (p. 434):
§ 3' (III 16'-17'). But from the land of Ḫatti [take awa]y evil f[ever], plague, famine and locusts!
§ 4' (III 18' — IV 4). (As for) the enemy lands, which are arrogant (and) rebellious(?), and whichever (of the peoples of those lands) are not respectful to you, Telipinu, and to the gods of Ḫatti, whichever wish to burn down your(pl.) temples, whichever seek to take (your) rhyta, cups [and utensils] of silver (and) gold; whichever [see]k to lay waste to them, (namely) your(pl.) fallow lands, vineyards, gardens (and) groves,
§ 5' (IV 5-8). Whichever seek to capture them, (namely) (your) ploughmen, vinedressers, gardeners (and) grinding women, to those lands give the evil fever, [plagu]e, famine and locusts!
This is a striking example of the difference between apopompē and epipompē. Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē (ἀποπομπή) and epipompē (ἐπιπομπή) to describe two different ways of banishing evil. See his "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13/14 (1911) 9-32. Wünsch used apopompē to mean simply driving away evil, epipompē to mean driving away evil onto someone or something else or to some other specific location.

In this hymn, we see an example of apopompē (simply driving away evil) at § 3' (III 16'-17'):
But from the land of Ḫatti [take awa]y evil f[ever], plague, famine and locusts!
At § 4' (III 18' — IV 4) and § 5' (IV 5-8), on the other hand, we see an example of epipompē (driving away evil onto someone or something else or to some other specific location), here to "the enemy lands" and their inhabitants who don't respect the god.

Kassian and Yakubovich in their commentary on this passage (pp. 448-450) don't discuss these two ways of banishing evil. More examples of epipompē can be found here.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


A Fascinating and Comforting List

Peter Levi (1931-2000), The Hill of Kronos (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1981), p. 211 ("he" is George Pavlopoulos):
My journal for that day is full of Greek names for grapes, which he must have told me: phileri, which is a wine-grape; moschostaphylo, the low-growing musk-grape; korinthi, the currant-grape; tourkopoula, a plump grape; aïtonychi, eagle-claw; asproudi, a white grape; boidomati, cow-eye, a dark grape; tinachtoroyi, the shaker; roditis, the sweet pink grape of late summer; rompola, which makes Mr Averoff's admirable wine, I suppose; and the light-growing sabbatiano, the sabbath grape. There are many more: tsirichi; probatina; fraoula, strawberry, which is crisp and dry; ephtakilo, a long dark purple grape; kerino, the best of the yellow-greens; kokorarchido; sultanina; tsimpimpo; avgoustiati; kardinalios; violeti, which is American; razaki and santameriana, named after the Baron de St Omer, who held land near Pyrgos in the Middle Ages. I find this a fascinating and comforting list.


Finding Fault

Erasmus, letter 180 (to Joannes Paludanus, i.e. John Desmarais; February 1504; tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson):
For your encomiast is positively a nuisance unless his qualifications are exceptional, whereas the hostile critic, even if he is no expert, either reminds one of something one has forgotten, or provokes one to defend what is well expressed, and so either improves the author's knowledge or at least increases his alertness; thus I am quite sure that I should in my right mind prefer a single mocking Momus to ten Polyhymnias.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 398:
Nam laudator, nisi eximie doctus, officit quoque; at reprehensor etiam parum eruditus aut admonet quod te suffugerit, aut ad defensionem recte dictorum expergefacit, et aut doctiorem facit aut certe reddit attentiorem. Proinde dispeream nisi mihi Momum vnum malim sanus quam decem Polyhymnias.
Erasmus, letter 182 (to Christopher Fisher; March 1505; tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson):
Personally, in my sensible moments, I would not be any more pleased at compliments from a friend than at being censured, even by an enemy, so long as it was obviously not a matter of the cobbler not sticking to his last; for compliments are nearly always harmful, while adverse criticism is always beneficial. If it is justified I learn from it, while if it should be wrong still I am sharpened, aroused, awakened, rendered more alert and cautious, and emboldened to defend the truth. Men are indeed spurred on less keenly by the longing for fame than by the fear of disgrace.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 408:
Mihi quidem sano non gratior sit amicus applausor quam vel inimicus repraehensor, dum ne plane sutor vltra crepidam. Nam vt nunquam fere non nocet laudator, ita semper prodest repraehensor. Etenim si vere repraehendit, discedo doctior; sin falso, tamen acuor, extimulor, expergefio, reddor attentior cautiorque, animor ad defensionem veri. Siquidem minus acre calcar habet gloriae cupiditas quam ignominiae metus.

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