Thursday, June 30, 2016


A Letter of Keats

Simon Goldhill, Who Needs Greek? Contests in the Cultural History of Hellenism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002; rpt. 2003), p. 188:
Two years later, in 1818, Keats wrote to Reynolds 'I long to feast on old Homer ... If you understood Greek and would read me passages, now and then, explaining their meaning, 'twould be, from its mustiness, perhaps a greater luxury than reading the thing one's self.'31

31 Keats Letters I, 239, Feb. 1818.
Goldhill doesn't identify which edition of Keats' Letters he's using.

From the Look Inside! feature on, I find a slightly different version of the quotation in Hyder Edward Rollins, ed., The Letters of John Keats, Vol. I: 1814-1818 (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1958; rpt. 2011), p. 274 (dated April 27, 1818; footnote omitted):
I long to feast upon old Homer, as we have upon Shakespeare, and as I have lately upon Milton.—if you understood Greek, and would read me passages, now and then, explaining their meaning, 't would be, from its mistiness, perhaps a greater luxury than reading the thing one's self.—I shall be happy when I can do the same for you.
The quotation in Maurice Buxton Forman's edition is close to that in Rollins' edition (upon and mistiness, versus Goldhill's on and mustiness), and the date is the same, April 27, 1818 (not Goldhill's Feb. 1818).

Thanks to Ian Jackson for help.



Dreary Hours

E.E. Bowen (1836-1901), "On Teaching by Means of Grammar," in F.W. Farrar, ed., Essays on a Liberal Education (London: Macmillan and Co., 1867), pp. 179-204 (at 188-189):
Lexicons, by what we have said, are to beginners almost as noxious as grammars. Every one who knows Greek in the end, must remember well how dreary have been the hours which he has spent upon the simply mechanical exercise of turning over leaves, with his eye fixed upon the heading of the page. It is monotonous, it is unintellectual, it is distasteful in the highest degree; and there is not a public schoolmaster in the kingdom who has the courage and the benevolence to dispense with it. Lexicons must no doubt exist, for they are needed in many ways; but there is no worse way of discovering the English equivalent of a simple word than looking it out in a dictionary. It is better to have a glossary; it is better to ask a teacher; it is better even to have a literal translation: better, simply because these methods do not waste the time of the learner, and do not spoil his temper. In his first book of Homer, an average boy will look out somewhere between two and three thousand words in his lexicon, and spend, on a moderate computation, from forty to fifty hours in the search. Grievous, however, as his waste of time in this direction is, it is work of the fingers alone; the lessons of Grammar that he learns will torture his brains as much, and will not even give him the satisfaction of feeling in the end that he has gained his grain of knowledge. He will have done something, it is true; he will not have been idle; he will have done as hard work as people do who turn a treadmill.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Rage Against the Hyphen

Woodrow Wilson, Address at Pueblo, Colorado (September 25, 1919), in Addresses of President Wilson (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), pp. 359-370 (at 359):
I want to say — and I cannot say too often — any man who carries a hyphen about with him, carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready. If I can catch any man with a hyphen in this great contest I will know that I have got an enemy of the Republic.
Id., Address at St. Paul, Minnesota (September 9, 1919), pp. 107-116 (at 108-109):
For my part, I think the most un-American thing in the world is a hyphen. I do not care what it is that comes before the word "American." It may be a German-American, or an Italian-American, a Swedish-American, or an Anglo-American, or an Irish-American. It does not make any difference what comes before the "American," it ought not to be there, and every man who comes to take counsel with me with a hyphen in his conversation I take no interest in whatever. The entrance examination, to use my own parlance, into my confidence is, "Where do you put America in your thoughts? Do you put it first, always first, unquestionably first?" Then we can sit down together and talk, but not otherwise.
Id., Address at San Francisco (September 17, 1919), pp. 219-229 (at 228):
That settles that matter, and even some of my fellow countrymen who insist upon keeping a hyphen in the middle of their names ought to be satisfied with that. Though I must admit that I do not care to argue anything with a hyphen. A man that puts anything else before the word "American" is no comrade of mine, and yet I am willing even to discomfit him with a statement of fact.
Update from Dave Berg:
You might be interested to know that Roosevelt, who greatly disliked Wilson, held the same opinions on hyphenation.

We welcome the German or the Irishman who becomes an American. We have no use for the German or Irishman who remains such. We do not wish German-Americans and Irish-Americans who figure as such in our social and political life; we want only Americans, and, provided they are such, we do not care whether they are of native or of Irish or of German ancestry. We have no room in any healthy American community for a German-American vote or an Irish-American vote, and it is contemptible demagogy to put planks into any party platform with the purpose of catching such a vote. We have no room for any people who do not act and vote simply as Americans and nothing else. Forum, April 1894, found in Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia, CD edition, pp. 15-16.

I do not believe in hyphenated Americans. I do not believe in German-Americans or Irish-Americans; and I believe just as little in English-Americans. Metropolitan, October 1915, TR Cyclopedia, p. 16.


Learning Latin

Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964) "'Quid Expedivit Psittaco?' or The Soul of Grammar," Classical Journal 39.2 (November, 1943) 105-113 (at 111):
If you want to learn some Latin, you will have to read Latin authors, not little bits of Latin in some textbook.



Jerome, Letters 107.1.4 (to Laeta; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
Every temple in Rome is covered with soot and cobwebs.

fuligine et aranearum telis omnia Romae templa cooperta sunt.
Id., 107.2.2:
Even in Rome itself paganism is left in solitude. They who once were the gods of the nations remain under their lonely roofs with horned-owls and birds of night.

solitudinem patitur et in urbe gentilitas, dii quondam nationum cum bubonibus et noctuis in solis culminibus remanserunt.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


The Working Collection of a Scholar

John Buchan (1875-1940), The Three Hostages, chapter V:
He opened a door and ushered me into an enormous room, which must have occupied the whole space on that floor. It was oblong, with deep bays at each end, and it was lined from floor to ceiling with books. Books, too, were piled on the tables, and sprawled on a big flat couch which was drawn up before the fire. It wasn't an ordinary gentleman's library, provided by the bookseller at so much a yard. It was the working collection of a scholar, and the books had that used look which makes them the finest tapestry for a room. The place was lit with lights on small tables, and on a big desk under a reading lamp were masses of papers and various volumes with paper slips in them. It was workshop as well as library.


Two Goropisms

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. dory, n.3, gives no etymology (at least in the online edition) and borrows its definition from the Century Dictionary:
'A small boat; esp. a small flat-bottomed boat used in sea-fisheries, in which to go out from a larger vessel to catch fish' (Cent. Dict.).
The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: The Century Co., 1897), p. 1738, says "Origin uncertain" for dory with this meaning.

A goropist might suggest an etymological connection with Greek δόρυ, whose primary meaning is tree, but which can also mean ship: see Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v., sense I.2, and R.A.S. Seaford, ed., Cyclops of Euripides (1984; rpt. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2009), p. 98.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines no-see-um as
Any of several minute, bloodsucking flies, esp. biting midges (family Ceratopogonidae)
and provides the following etymology:
NO adv.1 + SEE v. + 'EM, variant of 'EM pron., with allusion to the diminutive size of the insects.
A goropist might instead derive noo-see-um from the insect species Simulium nocivum, although Thoreau rejected this etymology in his Maine Woods:
Here first I was molested by the little midge called the No-see-em (Simulium nocivum, the latter word is not the Latin for no-see-em), especially over the sand at the water's edge, for it is a kind of sand-fly.

On goropism and goropist (neither in the Oxford English Dictionary) see D.P. Walker, "Leibniz on Language," in R.S. Woolhouse, ed., G.W. Leibniz: Critical Assessments (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 436-451 (at 443, footnote omitted):
He was by no means alone in his patriotic claim that the Germanic family of languages had most faithfully of all preserved the good qualities of the lingua adamica. He mentions one of his predecessors when suggesting that use could be made of etymological investigations to reconstruct the early history of the origins and relationships of various peoples; great caution, however, is needed here, he says, and no etymology should be accepted without a great deal of corroborative evidence — 'autrement c'est Goropizer'. This verb means to make up 'Etymologies étranges et souvent ridicules', like those of Goropius Becanus, a sixteenth-century writer on language.
See also Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, tr. James Fentress (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1995; rpt. 1997), p. 96:
Goropius Becanus (Jan van Gorp) in his Origines Antwerpianae of 1569 agreed with all claims made about the divine inspiration of the original language, and about its motivated and non-arbitrary relation between words and things. According to him there was only a single living language in which this motivated concordance existed to an exemplary degree; that language was Dutch, particularly the dialect of Antwerp. The ancestors of the burghers of Antwerp were the Cimbri, the direct descendants of the sons of Japheth. These had not been present under the Tower of Babel, and, consequently, they had been spared the confusio linguarum. Thus they had preserved the language of Adam in all its perfection. Such an assertion, Becanus claimed, could be proved by etymological demonstrations. He produced a string of arguments whose level of etymological wishful thinking matched those of Isidore and Guichard; they later became known as 'becanisms' or 'goropisms'.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Religion and Magic

Knut Kleve, "Samson Eitrem (1872-1966)," in Hermae: Scholars and Scholarship in Papyrology, ed. Mario Capasso (Pisa: Giardini Editori e Stampatori, 2007), pp. 187-191 (at 188):
Eitrem also paid at least lip-service to the view that religion and magic differ fundamentally. Eiliv Skard,9 a former pupil of Eitrem and my teacher of Greek philosophy, showed enthusiastically how the great Festugière,10 invited to Oslo by Eitrem, had demonstrated the difference by just two gestures — folded hands for religion: «Thy will be done»; grasping hands for magic: «Let me have it!»

9 Eiliv Skard, 1889-1978, Professor of Ancient History of Ideas, Oslo.
10 A.J. Festugière, O.P., 1898-1982, Directeur d'études at the École pratique des hautes études, Paris.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


The Sinister Sound of Ecclesiastical Language

John Buchan (1875-1940), The Three Hostages, chapter IV (Sandy Arbuthnot speaking to Richard Hannay):
"I might be bored in Parliament," he reflected, "but I should love the rough‐and‐tumble of an election. I only once took part in one, and I discovered surprising gifts as a demagogue and made a speech in our little town which is still talked about. The chief row was about Irish Home Rule, and I thought I'd better have a whack at the Pope. Has it ever struck you, Dick, that ecclesiastical language has a most sinister sound? I knew some of the words, though not their meaning, but I knew that my audience would be just as ignorant. So I had a magnificent peroration. 'Will you men of Kilclavers,' I asked, 'endure to see a chasuble set up in your market‐place? Will you have your daughters sold into simony? Will you have celibacy practised in the public streets?' Gad, I had them all on their feet bellowing 'Never!'"

Sunday, June 26, 2016



W.H. Hudson (1841-1922), Hampshire Days (London: Longmans, Green,and Co., 1906), pp. 51-52:
The blue sky, the brown soil beneath, the grass, the trees, the animals, the wind, and rain, and sun, and stars are never strange to me; for I am in and of and am one with them; and my flesh and the soil are one, and the heat in my blood and in the sunshine are one, and the winds and tempests and my passions are one. I feel the "strangeness" only with regard to my fellow men, especially in towns, where they exist in conditions unnatural to me, but congenial to them; where they are seen in numbers and in crowds, in streets and houses, and in all places where they gather together; when I look at them, their pale civilised faces, their clothes, and hear them eagerly talking about things that do not concern me. They are out of my world—the real world. All that they value, and seek and strain after all their lives long, their works and sports and pleasures, are the merest baubles and childish things; and their ideals are all false, and nothing but by-products, or growths, of the artificial life—little funguses cultivated in heated cellars.

In such moments we sometimes feel a kinship with, and are strangely drawn to, the dead, who were not as these; the long, long dead, the men who knew not life in towns, and felt no strangeness in sun and wind and rain.


The Immense Labors of Men

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Appendix (tr. Donald A. Cress):
When, on the one hand, one considers the immense labors of men, so many sciences searched into, so many arts invented, and so many forces employed, abysses filled up, mountains razed, rocks broken, rivers made navigable, lands cleared, lakes dug, marshes drained, enormous buildings raised upon the earth, the sea covered with ships and sailors; and when, on the other hand, one searches with a little meditation for the true advantages that have resulted from all this for the happiness of the human species, one cannot help being struck by the astonishing disproportion that obtains between these things, and to deplore man's blindness, which, to feed his foolish pride and who knows what vain sense of self-importance, makes him run ardently after all the miseries to which he is susceptible, and which beneficent nature has taken pains to keep from him.

Quand, d'un côté, l'on considère les immenses travaux des hommes, tant de sciences approfondies, tant d'arts inventés, tant de forces employées, des abîmes comblés, des montagnes rasées, des rochers brisés, des fleuves rendus navigables, des terres défrichées, des lacs creusés, des marais desséchée, des bâtiments énormes élevés sur la terre, la mer couverte de vaisseaux et de matelots; et que, de l'autre, on recherche avec un peu de méditation les vrais avantages qui ont résulté de tout cela pour le bonheur de l'espèce humaine; ou ne peut qu'être frappé de l'étonnante disproportion qui règne entre ces choses, et déplorer l'aveuglement de l'homme, qui, pour nourrir son fol orgueil et je ne sais quelle vaine admiration de lui-même, le fait courir avec ardeur après toutes les misères dont il est susceptible, et que la bienfaisante nature avait pris soin d'écarter de lui.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Real Men versus Sissies

Vergil, Aeneid 9.603-620 (Numanus Remulus speaking; tr. Frederick Ahl):
We are a species tough from the roots. We carry our new-borns
Straight to the rivers to toughen them up in the cold and the water.
Boyhood means staying awake to go hunting, exhausting the forests.        605
Playtime is breaking in horses and firing off shafts with a horn bow.
Youth means dealing with work, getting used to a bare-bones existence,
Taming the earth with a rake or shaking up towns in a battle.
Steel grinds our life's every stage; our prod for the ox's
Back when it's tired is our spear-shaft reversed. Old age, as it slows us,        610
Can't either lessen our strength or diminish our vigour of spirit.
We hide our grey hairs with our helmets, delight in importing,
Even then, fresh fruits of our hunts, and in living on plunder.
You, with your needleworked saffron and gleamingly purpled apparel,
You take delight in inertia, indulging yourselves in your dances.        615
Tunics for you come with sleeves, and your bonnets have nice little ribbons.
Phrygian women, not Phrygian men, go to Dindyma's highlands,
Skip to where your double woodwinds please local ears. Up on Ida,
Mother is calling you now with her soft Berecyntian boxwood
Pipes and her timbrels. Stop playing with steel. Leave arms to the real men.        620

durum a stirpe genus natos ad flumina primum
deferimus saevoque gelu duramus et undis;
venatu invigilant pueri silvasque fatigant,        605
flectere ludus equos et spicula tendere cornu.
at patiens operum parvoque adsueta iuventus
aut rastris terram domat aut quatit oppida bello.
omne aevum ferro teritur, versaque iuvencum
terga fatigamus hasta, nec tarda senectus        610
debilitat viris animi mutatque vigorem:
canitiem galea premimus, semperque recentis
comportare iuvat praedas et vivere rapto.
vobis picta croco et fulgenti murice vestis,
desidiae cordi, iuvat indulgere choreis,        615
et tunicae manicas et habent redimicula mitrae.
o vere Phrygiae, neque enim Phryges, ite per alta
Dindyma, ubi adsuetis biforem dat tibia cantum.
tympana vos buxusque vocat Berecyntia Matris
Idaeae; sinite arma viris et cedite ferro.        620
See Nicholas Horsfall, "Numanus Remulus: Ethnography and Propaganda in Aen., ix, 598 f.," Latomus 30.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1971) 1108-1116.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Modern Medicine

Maynard Mack (1909-2001), Alexander Pope: A Life (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986), p. 333:
The sense of relative security that modern medicine has induced is best appreciated by reading a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century correspondence, where the minor or chronic discomfort of one letter may be succeeded in the next, as if magically, by what we now know must have been some version of coronary or pulmonary failure, an internal hemorrhage, a burst appendix, septicemia, acute uremia, or any of the thousand and one viral and bacterial killers for which today we always have names, frequently have lenitives, and sometimes have cures.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


None Is Happy But a Glutton

John Lyly (1553-1606), Campaspe 1.88-103, in The Complete Works of John Lyly, ed. R. Warwick Bond, Vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902), p. 322:
Gran. O for a Bowle of fatt Canary,
Rich Palermo, sparkling Sherry,
Some Nectar else, from Iuno's Daiery,        90
O these draughts would make vs merry.

Psyllus. O for a wench, (I deale in faces,
And in other dayntier things,)
Tickled am I with her Embraces,
Fine dancing in such Fairy Ringes.        95

Manes. O for a plump fat leg of Mutton,
Veale, Lambe, Capon, Pigge, & Conney,
None is happy but a Glutton,
None an Asse but who wants money.

Chor. Wines (indeed,) & Girles are good,        100
But braue victuals feast the bloud,
For wenches, wine, and Lusty cheere,
Ioue would leape down to surfet heere.



Ammianus Marcellinus 15.5.4, in a list of supposed co-conspirators in Dynamius' plot against Silvanus, includes:
Eusebius, former keeper of the privy purse, who had been nicknamed Mattyocopus...

Eusebio ex comite rei privatae, cui cognomentum erat inditum Mattyocopi...
Translation and text are from John C. Rolfe's Loeb Classical Library edition. He explains the nickname as follows:
"Glutton," from ҝοπέω, "cut," and ματτύα, "delicacies," "delicate food."
P. de Jonge in his commentary:
Mattyocopi. Word of unknown meaning. Some take it as: epicure, others as: miser, skinflint. At any rate the word is of Greek origin. Cf. Vales. in edit. Wagner II p. 128; Petavius ad Themist. orat. 4 (ed. A.D. 1684 p. 523 sq., most excellent and elaborate); Aristoph. Nubes 451 c. annot. v. Leeuwen.
In Ammianum Marcellinum Notae Integrae Frid. Lindenbrogii, Henr. et Hadr. Valesiorum et Iac. Gronovii quibus Thom. Reinesii quasdam et suas adiecit Io. Augustin. Wagner. Editionem absolvit ac notas passim addidit Car. Gottlob Aug. Erfurdt. Tomus Prior ad Libr. XIV - XXII (Leipzig: Weidemann, 1808), p. 125:

Themistii Orationes XXXIII. E quibus tredecim nunc primum in lucem editae. Dionusius Petavius e Societate Jesu Latine plerasque reddidit, ac fere vicenas Notis illustravit (Paris: Sebastianus Mabre-Cramoisy, 1684), pp. 523-524:

Aristophanis Nubes. Cum prolegomenis et commentariis edidit J. van Leeuwen (Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff, 1898), p. 81:

Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ματτυοκόπης:
a nickname, = ματτυολοιχός, AMM.MARC.15.5.4.
Id., s.v. ματιολοιχός:
AR.Nu.451, expld. as = κρουσιμέτρης, from μάτιον, τό, trifle, scrap, by loc.: ματαιολοιχός: ὁ περὶ τὰ μικρὰ πανοῦργος καὶ λίχνος, Hsch.:—
Bentley cj. ματτυολοιχός (in both places), v. ματτύη.
Id., s.v. κρουσιμέτρης:
false measurer, cheat, Sch.AR.Nu.450.
Id., s.v. ματτύη:
a rich, highly-flavoured dish, made of hashed meat, poultry, and herbs, and served cold as a dessert, of Macedonian or Thessalian origin, cf. POLL.6.70 (ματύλλη codd.).—
Especially freq. in the New Comedy acc. to ATH.14.662f: but ματτυολοιχός is prob. cj. for ματιολοιχός (q.v.).
The -λοιχός in Bentley's conjecture ματτυολοιχός is from λείχω = lick.

See also Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, III (Paris: Klincksieck, 1974), s.v. ματτύη, p. 672.

Thanks to Ian Jackson for help.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016



Celsus, On Medicine 7.16.1 (tr. W.G. Spencer):
...a doubtful hope is preferable to certain despair...

...dubia spes certa desperatione sit potior...
Ammianus Marcellinus 15.3.9 (tr. John C. Rolfe):
...more strongly desirous of things forbidden, as is the way of mankind...

...vetita ex more humano validius cupiens...
Ammianus Marcellinus 16.8.6 (tr. John C. Rolfe): when the affair had been exaggerated, after the standard of the times...

...exaggerato itaque negotio ad arbitrium temporum...



Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, 2.499-512:
'Tis mirth that fils the veines with bloud,
More then wine, or sleepe, or food.        500
Let each man keepe his heart at ease,
No man dies of that disease.
He that would his body keepe
From diseases, must not weepe,
But who euer laughes and sings,        505
Neuer he his body brings
Into feuers, gouts, or rhumes,
Or lingringly his longs consumes:
Or meets with aches in the bone,
Or Catharhes, or griping stone:        510
But contented liues for aye,
The more he laughes, the more he may.
508 longs: lungs

Monday, June 20, 2016



Ammianus Marcellinus 14.11.25-26 (tr. John C. Rolfe):
[25] These and innumerable other instances of the kind are sometimes (and would that it were always so!) the work of Adrastia, the chastiser of evil deeds and the rewarder of good actions, whom we also call by the second name of Nemesis. She is, as it were, the sublime jurisdiction of an efficient divine power, dwelling, as men think, above the orbit of the moon; or as others define her, an actual guardian presiding with universal sway over the destinies of individual men. The ancient theologians, regarding her as the daughter of Justice, say that from an unknown eternity she looks down upon all the creatures of earth.

[26] She, as queen of causes and arbiter and judge of events, controls the urn with its lots and causes the changes of fortune, and sometimes she gives our plans a different result than that at which we aimed, changing and confounding many actions. She too, binding the vainly swelling pride of mortals with the indissoluble bond of fate, and tilting changeably, as she knows how to do, the balance of gain and loss, now bends and weakens the uplifted necks of the proud, and now, raising the good from the lowest estate, lifts them to a happy life. Moreover, the storied past has given her wings in order that she might be thought to come to all with swift speed; and it has given her a helm to hold and has put a wheel beneath her feet, in order that none may fail to know that she runs through all the elements and rules the universe.

[25] Haec et huius modi quaedam innumerabilia ultrix facinorum impiorum, bonorumque praemiatrix, aliquotiens operatur Adrastia, (atque utinam semper!): quam vocabulo duplici etiam Nemesim appellamus: ius quoddam sublime numinis efficacis, humanarum mentium opinione lunari circulo superpositum, vel ut definiunt alii, substantialis tutela generali potentia partilibus praesidens fatis, quam theologi veteres fingentes Iustitiae filiam, ex abdita quadam aeternitate tradunt omnia despectare terrena.

[26] Haec ut regina causarum, et arbitra rerum ac disceptatrix, urnam sortium temperat, accidentium vices alternans, voluntatumque nostrarum exorsa interdum alio quam quo contendebant exitu terminans, multiplices actus permutando convolvit. Eademque necessitatis insolubili retinaculo mortalitatis vinciens fastus, tumentes in cassum, et incrementorum detrimentorumque momenta versabilis librans (ut novit), nunc erectas eminentium cervices opprimit et enervat, nunc bonos ab imo suscitans ad bene vivendum extollit. Pinnas autem ideo illi fabulosa vetustas aptavit, ut adesse velocitate volucri cunctis existimetur, et praetendere gubernaculum dedit, eique subdidit rotam, ut universitatem regere per elementa discurrens omnia non ignoretur.
Text and translation come from the Digital Loeb Classical Library, except that I corrected crunctis in the last sentence to cunctis. Here is a screen capture of the error:

The physical book (I checked the 1935 edition, p. 104, but not later impressions) doesn't have this misprint.


Sunday, June 19, 2016


Choosing One's Father

Primo Levi (1919-1987), The Voice of Memory: Interviews, 1961-1987, tr. Robert Gordon (New York: The New Press, 2001), p. 101:
Even my love for Rabelais is apparently inexplicable, and yet he is the one I feel closest to of all, almost like a son. If I could I would choose Rabelais as a father.



Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to his sisters Fanny and Selina (September 11, 1837), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1881), p. 307:
I have no words to tell you how I pine for England, or how intensely bitter exile has been to me, though I hope that I have borne it well. I feel as if I had no other wish than to see my country again, and die. Let me assure you that banishment is no light matter. No person can judge of it who has not experienced it. A complete revolution in all the habits of life; an estrangement from almost every old friend and acquaintance; fifteen thousand miles of ocean between the exile, and everything that he cares for; all this is, to me at least, very trying. There is no temptation of wealth, or power, which would induce me to go through it again.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Five Ages of Professors

Charles Issawi, quoted in Bernard Lewis, Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian (New York: Viking, 2012), p. 279:
There are five ages of professors—tireless, tiring, tiresome, tired and retired...


A Thought Experiment

John Chrysostom, Homilies on I Corinthians, 34.5 (tr. Hubert Kestell Cornish and John Medley):
And that thou mayest see it more clearly, let us suppose, if it seem good, two cities, the one of rich only, but the other of poor; and neither in that of the rich let there be any poor man, nor in that of the poor any rich; but let us purge out both of the two thoroughly, and see which will be the more able to support itself. For if we find that of the poor able, it is evident that the rich will more stand in need of them.

Now then, in that city of the affluent there will be no manufacturer, no builder, no carpenter, no shoe-maker, no baker, no husbandman, no brazier, no rope-maker, nor any other such trade. For who among the rich would ever choose to follow these crafts, seeing that the very men who take them in hand, when they become rich, endure no longer the discomfort caused by these works? How then shall this our city stand? "The rich," it is replied, "giving money, will buy these things of the poor." Well then, they will not be sufficient for themselves, their needing the others proves that. But how will they build houses? Will they purchase this too? But the nature of things cannot admit this. Therefore they must needs invite the artificers thither, and destroy the law, which we made at first, when we were founding the city. For you remember, that we said, "let there be no poor man within it." But, lo, necessity, even against our will, has invited and brought them in. Whence it is evident, that it is impossible without poor for a city to subsist: since if the city were to continue refusing to admit any of these, it will be no longer a city but will perish. Plainly then it will not support itself, unless it shall collect the poor as a kind of preservers, to be within itself.

But let us look also upon the city of the poor, whether this too will be in a like needy condition, on being deprived of the rich. And first let us in our discourse thoroughly clear the nature of riches, and point them out plainly. What then may riches be? Gold, and silver, and precious stones, and garments silken, purple, and embroidered with gold. Now then that we have seen what riches are, let us drive them away from our city of the poor: and if we are to make it purely a city of poor persons, let not any gold appear there, no not in a dream, nor garments of such quality; and if you will, neither silver, nor vessels of silver. What then? Because of this will that city and its concerns live in want, tell me? Not at all. For suppose first there should be need to build; one does not want gold and silver and pearls, but skill, and hands, and hands not of any kind, but such as have become callous, and fingers hardened, and great strength, and wood, and stones: suppose again one would weave a garment, neither here have we need of gold and silver, but, as before, of hands, and skill, and women to work. And what if one require husbandry, and digging the ground? Is it rich men who are wanted, or poor? It is evident to every one, poor. And when iron too is to be wrought, or any such thing to be done, this is the race of men whereof we most stand in need.

What respect then remains wherein we may stand in need of the rich? Except the thing required be, to pull down this city. For should that sort of people make an entrance, and these philosophers, for (for I call them philosophers, who seek after nothing superfluous,) should fall to desiring gold and jewels, giving themselves up to idleness and luxury; they will ruin everything from that day forward.

Καὶ ἵνα τοῦτο σαφέστερον ἴδῃς, ποιήσωμεν, εἰ δοκεῖ, δύο πόλεις, τὴν μὲν πλουσίων μόνον, τὴν δὲ πενήτων· καὶ μήτε ἐν τῇ τῶν πλουτούντων ἔστω τις πένης, μήτε ἐν τῇ τῶν πενήτων ἔστω τις πλούσιος ἀνὴρ, ἀλλ' ἐκκαθάρωμεν ἀκριβῶς ἑκατέρας, καὶ ἴδωμεν ποία μᾶλλον ἀρκέσαι ἑαυτῇ δυνήσεται. Ἐὰν γὰρ εὕρωμεν τὴν τῶν πενήτων δυναμένην, εὔδηλον ὅτι οἱ πλούσιοι τούτων μᾶλλον δεήσονται.

Οὐκοῦν ἐν μὲν ἐκείνῃ τῇ τῶν εὐπόρων οὐδεὶς ἔσται δημιουργὸς, οὐκ οἰκοδόμος, οὐ τέκτων, οὐχ ὑποδηματοῤῥάφος, οὐκ ἀρτοποιὸς, οὐ γεωργὸς, οὐ χαλκοτύπος, οὐ σχοινοστρόφος, οὐκ ἄλλο τῶν τοιούτων οὐδέν. Τίς γὰρ ἂν ἕλοιτο τῶν πλουτούντων ταῦτα μετιέναι ποτὲ, ὅπου γε καὶ αὐτοὶ οἱ ταῦτα μεταχειρίζοντες, ὅταν εὐπορήσωσιν, οὐκ ἀνέχονται τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων τούτων ταλαιπωρίας; Πῶς οὖν ἡμῖν ἡ πόλις στήσεται αὕτη; ∆όντες, φησὶν, ἀργύριον οἱ πλουτοῦντες, ταῦτα ὠνήσονται παρὰ τῶν πενήτων. Οὐκοῦν οὐκ ἀρκέσουσιν ἑαυτοῖς, εἴ γε ἐκείνων δέονται. Πῶς δὲ οἰκίας οἰκοδομήσονται; ἢ καὶ τοῦτο ὠνήσονται; ἀλλ' οὐκ ἂν ἔχοι τοῦτο φύσις. Οὐκοῦν ἀνάγκη τοὺς τεχνίτας ἐκεῖ καλεῖν, καὶ διαφθείρειν τὸν νόμον, ὃν ἐθήκαμεν ἐξ ἀρχῆς τὴν πόλιν οἰκίζοντες· μέμνησθε γὰρ, ὅτε ἐλέγομεν, μηδεὶς ἔστω πένης ἔνδον. Ἀλλ' ἰδοὺ ἡ χρεία, καὶ μὴ βουλομένων ἡμῶν, ἐκάλεσεν αὐτοὺς καὶ εἰσήγαγεν. Ὅθεν δῆλον, ὡς ἀδύνατον χωρὶς πενήτων συστῆναι πόλιν. Εἰ γὰρ μένοι ἡ πόλις μηδένα παραδεχομένη τούτων, οὐκέτι ἔσται πόλις, ἀλλ' ἀπολεῖται. Οὐκοῦν οὐκ ἀρκέσει ἑαυτῇ, εἰ μὴ καθάπερ τινὰς σωτῆρας τοὺς πένητας παρ' ἑαυτῇ συναγάγοι.

Ἴδωμεν δὲ καὶ τὴν τῶν πενήτων πόλιν, εἰ καὶ αὕτη ὁμοίως ἐνδεῶς διακείσεται τῶν πλουτούντων ἐστερημένη. Καὶ πρότερον διακαθάρωμεν τῷ λόγῳ τὸν πλοῦτον, καὶ δείξωμεν αὐτὸν σαφῶς. Τί ποτ' οὖν ἐστι πλοῦτος; Χρυσὸς καὶ ἄργυρος, καὶ λίθοι τίμιοι, καὶ ἱμάτια σηρικὰ καὶ ἁλουργὰ καὶ διάχρυσα. Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἐφάνη τί ποτέ ἐστιν ὁ πλοῦτος, ἀπελάσωμεν αὐτὸν τῆς τῶν πενήτων πόλεως, εἰ μέλλοιμεν καθαρῶς πόλιν πενήτων ποιεῖν, καὶ μηδὲ ὄναρ ἐκεῖ φαινέσθω χρυσίον, μηδὲ ἱμάτια τοιαῦτα· εἰ δὲ βούλει, μηδὲ ἄργυρος, μηδὲ τὰ ἐξ ἀργύρου σκεύη. Τί οὖν; παρὰ τοῦτο ἐνδεῶς ζήσεται τὰ τῆς πόλεως ταύτης, εἰπέ μοι; Οὐδέν. Ἄν τε γὰρ οἰκοδομεῖν δέῃ, οὐ χρυσοῦ καὶ ἀργύρου δεῖ καὶ μαργαριτῶν, ἀλλὰ τέχνης καὶ χειρῶν, χειρῶν δὲ οὐχ ἁπλῶς, ἀλλὰ τετυλωμένων, καὶ δακτύλων ἀπεσκληκότων, καὶ ἰσχύος πολλῆς, καὶ ξύλων καὶ λίθων· ἄν τε ὑφαίνειν πάλιν ἱμάτιον, οὐ χρυσοῦ πάλιν ἡμῖν δὲ καὶ ἀργύρου, ἀλλὰ χειρῶν πάλιν καὶ τέχνης καὶ γυναικῶν ἐργαζομένων. Τί δὲ, ἐὰν γεωργεῖν δέῃ καὶ σκάπτειν τὴν γῆν; πλουτούντων ἢ πενομένων χρεία; Παντί που δῆλον, ὅτι πενήτων. Καὶ σίδηρον δὲ ὅταν δέῃ χαλκεύειν, καὶ ἄλλο τι τῶν τοιούτων ποιεῖν, τοῦ δήμου τούτου μάλιστα ἡμῖν δεῖ.

Ποῦ οὖν δεησόμεθα τῶν πλουτούντων λοιπόν· πλὴν εἰ μὴ καθελεῖν δέον τὴν πόλιν ταύτην; Εἰ γὰρ ἐπεισελθόντων ἐκείνων εἰς τὴν τοῦ χρυσίου καὶ τὴν τῶν μαργαριτῶν ἐμπέσοιεν ἐπιθυμίαν, οὗτοι οἱ φιλόσοφοι (φιλοσόφους γὰρ ἐγὼ καλῶ τοὺς οὐδὲν περιττὸν ἐπιζητοῦντας), ἀργίᾳ δόντες ἑαυτοὺς καὶ τρυφῇ, πάντα ἀπολοῦσι λοιπόν.

Friday, June 17, 2016



Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737-1814), Paul and Virginia (tr. Helen Maria Williams):
You tell me that you will render yourself useful to mankind; he who makes the earth produce an additional sheaf of wheat renders them far greater service than he who presents them with a book.

Vous servirez les hommes, dites-vous? Mais celui qui fait produire à un terrain une gerbe de blé de plus, leur rend un plus grand service que celui qui leur donne un livre.


The Meanest Trade Going

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Phineas Finn, Chapter VIII:
"I know nothing whatever about politics," said Lord Chiltern.

"I wish you did," said his sister,—"with all my heart."

"I never did,—and I never shall, for all your wishing. It's the meanest trade going, I think, and I'm sure it's the most dishonest."

Thursday, June 16, 2016



Lucian, Icaromenippus 5 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
In this state of mind, the best I could think of was to get at the truth of it all from the people called philosophers; they of course would be able to give it me. So I selected the best of them, if solemnity of visage, pallor of complexion and length of beard are any criterion—for there could not be a moment's doubt of their soaring words and heaven-high thoughts—and in their hands I placed myself. For a considerable sum down, and more to be paid when they should have perfected me in wisdom, I was to be made an airy metaphysician and instructed in the order of the universe. Unfortunately, so far from dispelling my previous ignorance, they perplexed me more and more, with their daily drenches of beginnings and ends, atoms and voids, matters and forms. My greatest difficulty was that, though they differed among themselves, and all they said was full of inconsistency and contradiction, they expected me to believe them, each pulling me in his own direction.

How absurd that wise men should quarrel about facts, and hold different opinions on the same things!
Οὐκοῦν ἐπειδήπερ οὕτω διεκείμην, ἄριστον εἶναι ὑπελάμβανον παρὰ τῶν φιλοσόφων τούτων ταῦτα ἕκαστα ἐκμαθεῖν· ᾤμην γὰρ ἐκείνους γε πᾶσαν1 ἔχειν ἂν εἰπεῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν. οὕτω δὲ τοὺς ἀρίστους ἐπιλεξάμενος αὐτῶν, ὡς ἐνῆν τεκμήρασθαι προσώπου τε σκυθρωπότητι καὶ χρόας ὠχρότητι καὶ γενείου βαθύτητι—μάλα γὰρ ὑψαγόραι τινὲς καὶ οὐρανογνώμονες οἱ ἄνδρες αὐτίκα μοι κατεφάνησαν—τούτοις ἐγχειρίσας ἐμαυτὸν καὶ συχνὸν ἀργύριον τὸ μὲν αὐτόθεν ἤδη καταβαλών, τὸ δὲ εἰσαῦθις ἀποδώσειν ἐπὶ κεφαλαίῳ τῆς σοφίας διομολογησάμενος, ἠξίουν μετεωρολέσχης τε διδάσκεσθαι καὶ τὴν τῶν ὅλων διακόσμησιν καταμαθεῖν. οἱ δὲ τοσοῦτον ἄρα ἐδέησάν με τῆς παλαιᾶς ἐκεινης ἀγνοίας ἀπαλλάξαι, ὥστε καὶ εἰς μείζους ἀπορίας φέροντες ἐνέβαλον, ἀρχάς τινας καὶ τέλη καὶ ἀτόμους καὶ κενὰ καὶ ὕλας καὶ ἰδέας καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα ὁσημέραι μου καταχέοντες. ὃ δὲ πάντων ἐμοι γοῦν1 ἐδόκει χαλεπώτατον, ὅτι μηδὲν ἅτερος θατέρῳ λέγοντες ἀκόλουθον ἀλλὰ μαχόμενα πάντα καὶ ὑπεναντία, ὅμως πείθεσθαί τέ με ἠξίουν καὶ πρὸς τὸν αὑτοῦ λόγον ἕκαστος ὑπάγειν ἐπειρῶντο.

Ἄτοπον λέγεις, εἰ σοφοὶ ὄντες οἱ ἄνδρες ἐστασίαζον πρὸς αὑτοὺς περὶ τῶν λόγων καὶ οὐ τὰ αὐτὰ περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ἐδόξαζον.
Latin translation by Erasmus:
Itaque quum ad eum modum essem affectus, optimum factu ratus sum, vt horum vnumquodque a philosophis istis perdiscerem, siquidem existimabam illos veritatem omnem docere posse. Quare quum ex ills praestantissimos delegissem, quantum mihi coniectare licebat, e vultus austeritate eque coloris pallore ac barbae profunditate,—mirum enim vt mihi ex ipso protinus aspectu sublimiloquos quosdam et coelestium rerum peritos viros prae se ferebant—his vbi memet docendum tradidissem magna pecunia, quam partim euestigio praesentem numeraui, partim tum me persoluturum sum pollicitus, vbi ad philosophise summam peruentum esset, non grauabar erectus ad nugas doceri et vniuersi dispositionem discere. At illi tantum aberant vt me pristina liberarent inscitia, vt in maiores etiam dubitationes coniecerint, principia nescio quae ac fines, tum insecabilia, inania, syluas, ideas atque id genus alia mihi quotidie offundentes. Verum illud interim mihi videbatur omnium esse grauissimum, quod quum nihil inter illos conueniret, verum pugnantia diuersaque inter se omnia loquerentur, tamen postulabant, vt sibi fidem haberem, ac ad suam quisque rationem me conabatur adducere.

Rem absurdam narras, si viri, quum essent sapientes, inter sese de rebus factiose dissidebant, neque de iisdem eadem probabant.
Id. 29:
There is a class which has recently become conspicuous among men; they are idle, quarrelsome, vain, irritable, lickerish, silly, puffed up, arrogant, and, in Homeric phrase, vain cumberers of the earth. These men have divided themselves into bands, each dwelling in a separate word-maze of its own construction, and call themselves Stoics, Epicureans, Peripatetics, and more farcical names yet. Then they take to themselves the holy name of Virtue, and with uplifted brows and flowing beards exhibit the deceitful semblance that hides immoral lives; their model is the tragic actor, from whom if you strip off the mask and the gold-spangled robe, there is nothing left but a paltry fellow hired for a few shillings to play a part.
Γένος γάρ τι ἀνθρώπων ἐστὶν οὐ πρὸ πολλοῦ τῷ βίῳ ἐπιπολάσαν ἀργὸν φιλόνεικον κενόδοξον ὀξύχολον ὑπόλιχνον ὑπόμωρον τετυφωμένον ὕβρεως ἀνάπλεων καὶ ἵνα καθ᾿ Ὅμηρον εἴπω 'ἐτώσιον ἄχθος ἀρούρης.' οὗτοι τοίνυν εἰς συστήματα διαιρεθέντες καὶ διαφόρους λόγων λαβυρίνθους ἐπινοήσαντες οἱ μὲν Στωϊκοὺς ὠνομάκασιν ἑαυτούς, οἱ δὲ Ἀκαδημαϊκούς, οἱ δὲ Ἐπικουρείους, οἱ δὲ Περιπατητικοὺς καὶ ἄλλα πολλῷ γελοιότερα τούτων· ἔπειτα δὲ ὄνομα σεμνὸν τὴν ἀρετὴν περιθέμενοι καὶ τὰς ὀφρῦς ἐπάραντες καὶ τὰ μέτωπα ῥυτιδώσαντες καὶ τοὺς πώγωνας ἐπισπασάμενοι περιέρχονται ἐπιπλάστῳ σχήματι κατάπτυστα ἤθη περιστέλλοντες, ἐμφερεῖς μάλιστα τοῖς τραγικοῖς ἐκείνοις ὑποκριταῖς, ὧν ἢν ἀφέλῃ τις τὰ προσωπεῖα καὶ τὴν χρυσόπαστον ἐκείνην στολήν, τὸ καταλειπόμενόν ἐστι γελοῖον ἀνθρώπιον ἑπτὰ δραχμῶν ἐς τὸν ἀγῶνα μεμισθωμένον.
Latin translation by Erasmus:
Est enim hominum genus, quod non ita pridem in vita fluitare coepit, iners, contentiosum, gloriae auidum, iracundum, gulae studiosum, stultum, fastuosum, contumeliosum, et vt verbis Homericis dicam Telluris inutile pondus. Isti igitur in sectas diuisi, ac variis rationum labyrinthis excogitatis, alii sese Stoicos appellant, Academicos alii, alii Epicureos, alii Peripateticos; aliis item vocabulis, his multo magis ridiculis. Deinde vbi venerandum illud virtutis nomen induerint, tum adductis in altum superciliis promissaque barba, fucato habitu obambulant, detestandos mores secum circumferentes, simillimi nimirum istis tragoediarum histrionibus, quibus si personas stolamque illam auro sparsam detraxeris, quod superest, id ridiculum est: nempe homunculus septem denariis ad agonem conductus.


Reading in Bed

Charles Boer, Charles Olson in Connecticut (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975), pp. 24-25 (Boer addresses Olson as "you" throughout):
That night, and for many nights to come, you took large amounts of the refrigerator's contents to bed with you—everything from a jug of orange juice, a quart of ginger ale, candy, a head of lettuce to a box of crackers, cheese and hard-boiled eggs. Your arms loaded, you staggered back into the room and dumped everything on the bed.

You also wanted things to read in bed, and I regularly offered you a book or two that I thought you might not have read. Among other things, you agreed to read Land to the West by Geoffrey Ashe, a book on the weather conditions in antiquity by Rhys Carpenter, and an illustrated book called Secret Societies. The books had to be informational, no novels and certainly no poetry; and the information had to be of such a kind that the man who wrote it used himself somewhere in the book, drawing out of his own person the theory of the book.

Nonetheless, every time I gave you such a book you were sceptical and reluctant to take it, though the next day (you would get up in the early afternoon of the next day) you would be terribly excited about the previous night's reading, with notes and plans to pursue the book. It would start all over again the next night with the same scepticism and reluctance about the next book. You were a hard man to please.

I remember well that first night, after you had finally gone to bed (the whole ritual could take hours), hearing you in the next room furiously turning the pages of the books, munching vigorously on the lettuce and other food. Every few hours that night I was suddenly awakened by a new burst of frantic munching and page-turning. It went on all night.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Crackers in Bed

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


What Historians Are For

Fergus Millar, "Reflections on the Trial of Jesus," in Philip R. Davies and Richard T. White, edd., A Tribute to Geza Vermes: Essays on Jewish and Christian Literature and History (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), pp. 355-381 (at 356):
I make no apology for placing so much weight on the question of literal, non-metaphorical, non-theological, mundane truth or falsehood; for that after all is what historians are for.


Prayers of the Utopians

Thomas More (1478-1535), Utopia, Book II (tr. Robert M. Adams):
In these prayers each one acknowledges God to be the creator and ruler of the universe and the author of all good things. He thanks God for the many benefits he has received, and particularly for the divine favour which placed him in the happiest of commonwealths and inspired him with religious ideas which he hopes are the truest. If he is wrong in this, and if there is some sort of society or religion more acceptable to God, he prays that God will, in his goodness, reveal it to him, for he is ready to follow wherever he leads. But if their form of society is the best and their religion the truest, then he prays that God will keep him steadfast, and bring other mortals to the same way of life and the same religious faith — unless, indeed, there is something in this variety of religions which delights his inscrutable will.

In his Deum et creationis et gubernationis et ceterorum praeterea bonorum omnium quilibet recognoscit auctorem, tot ob recepta beneficia gratias agit, nominatim vero, quod Deo propitio in eam rem publicam inciderit, quae sit felicissima, eam religionem sortitus sit, quam speret esse verissimam. Qua in re si quid erret aut si quid sit alterutra melius et quod Deus magis approbet, orare se, eius bonitas efficiat, hoc ut ipse cognoscat: paratum enim sequi se, quaqua versus ab eo ducatur; sin et haec rei publicae forma sit optima et sua religio rectissima, tum, uti et ipsi constantiam tribuat et ceteros mortales omneis ad eadem instituta vivendi, in eandem de deo opinionem perducat, nisi inscrutabilem eius voluntatem etiam sit, quod in hac religionum varietate delectet.


In the Country

Aonio Paleario (1500-1570), Letters 4.28 (to Pterigi Gallo; tr. Henry Duncan Skrine):
Let the garden be put in order that we may live on vegetables, for the expenses of the town have exhausted my resources. The country will furnish us with herbs, snails, eggs, fish, chickens, and thrushes: surely suppers are more healthy when composed of what the ground produces, and what is fed at home, or caught with nets, than by that which is bought in the market. If we want a more sumptuous repast, your cheese and salt fish will be royal food; if difficult of digestion, we must work in the garden and assist digestion. So get ready; and see that there is at the villa a saw, axe, wedge, pickaxe, rake, and spade, and till we are well we will plant trees for the rising generation.

Fac hortum parent, vt olusculis nos queant pascere. Vrbanis sumtibus plane sum exhaustus. Helluellas, cochleas, oua, pisces, pullos, turdos rus suppeditabit: & omnino coenae salubriores & suauiores sunt ex his, quae ex terra nascuntur, aut aluntur domi, aut a nobis ipsis retibus comparantur, quam quae e macello petuntur. Quod si lautius velimus accumbere, erit tyrotarichus ille tuus obsonium regium: qui si facile concoqui non poterit, rusticabimur. Opus faciemus, vt defatigemur, eum vsque vt concoquamus. Proinde tu te para: cura, vt ruri serrula sit, securis, cuneus, bidens, rastrum, ligo. Interea dum non bellissime nos habemus, seramus arbores, alteri seculo profuturas.
The last sentence echoes Cicero, On Old Age 7.24 (Cicero is quoting a line from Caecilius Statius, Synephebi):
serit arbores quae alteri saeculo prosient.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Difference in Opinions

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Gulliver's Travels IV.v:
Difference in Opinions hath cost many Millions of Lives: For Instance, whether Flesh be Bread, or Bread be Flesh: Whether the Juice of a certain Berry be Blood or Wine: Whether Whistling be a Vice or a Virtue: Whether it be better to kiss a Post, or throw it into the Fire: What is the best colour for a Coat, whether Black, White, Red, or Grey; and whether it should be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more. Neither are any Wars so furious and bloody, or of so long Continuance, as those occasioned by Difference in Opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.
Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, Vol. III: Dean Swift (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp. 461-462:
The expression, 'difference in opinions', is a euphemism for religious differences. The controversy over flesh and bread is of course over the doctrine of transubstantiation, which divides Protestants from Roman Catholics. So also is the controversy over blood and wine. Whistling is a reference to the use of instrumental music in church, which the Church of England favoured and certain Dissenting sects opposed. The post is the cross, and the controversy here is over its veneration or its destruction as a misleading symbol.


Disqualification for Public Office

Thomas More (1478-1535), Utopia, Book II (tr. Paul Turner):
But anyone who deliberately tries to get himself elected to a public office is permanently disqualified from holding one.

qui magistratum ullum ambierit exspes omnium redditur.


Wide Reading

Jerome, Letters 61.1.2 (to Vigilantius; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
Still, as it is my task and study by reading many authors to cull different flowers from as large a number as possible, not so much making it an object to prove all things as to choose what are good, I take up many writers that from the many I may learn many things...

verum quia operis mei et studii est multos legere, ut ex plurimis multos flores carpam non tam probaturus omnia, quam, quae bona sunt, electurus, adsumo multos in manu mea, ut a multis multa cognoscam...

Monday, June 13, 2016



Richard Jenkyns, Virgil's Experience. Nature and History: Times, Names, and Places (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 373, n. 88 (discussing the Latin verb vomit at Vergil, Georgics 2.462):
Latin 'vomo' is seldom well translated by English 'vomit'; the English word is perhaps always unpleasant, but 'vomo' can be neutral, even impressive. The passages leading into the amphitheatre were called `vomitoria'; in Ennius (Ann. 453 Sk) Tiber 'vomit' its waters into the sea (two comparisons already made by Macrobius (Sat. 6.4.3) in discussing this very passage). 'Vomo' is used by Lucretius of Etna's fiery eruption (1.714) and at Aen. 8.681 of the flames breaking from Augustus' joyful temples at Actium. The poet's suavity here in the Georgics lies in choosing a word which does not have to be disagreeable.
Note the misprint in Jenkyns, op. cit., p. 372, quoting Vergil, Georgics 2.472—the last word of the line should be iuventus, not iuvantus:



God Listens to Our Prayers

Lucian, Icaromenippus 25 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
So talking, we reached the spot where he was to sit and listen to the prayers. There was a row of openings with lids like well-covers, and a chair of gold by each. Zeus took his seat at the first, lifted off the lid and inclined his ear. From every quarter of Earth were coming the most various and contradictory petitions; for I too bent down my head and listened. Here are specimens. 'O Zeus, that I might be king!' 'O Zeus, that my onions and garlic might thrive!' 'Ye Gods, a speedy death for my father!' Or again, 'Would that I might succeed to my wife's property!' 'Grant that my plot against my brother be not detected.' 'Let me win my suit.' 'Give me an Olympic garland.' Of those at sea, one prayed for a north, another for a south wind; the farmer asked for rain, the fuller for sun. Zeus listened, and gave each prayer careful consideration, but without promising to grant them all;
Our Father this bestowed, and that withheld. [Iliad 16.250]
Righteous prayers he allowed to come up through the hole, received and laid them down at his right, while he sent the unholy ones packing with a downward puff of breath, that Heaven might not be defiled by their entrance. In one case I saw him puzzled; two men praying for opposite things and promising the same sacrifices, he could not tell which of them to favour, and experienced a truly Academic suspense of judgement, showing a reserve and equilibrium worthy of Pyrrho himself.
Τοιαῦθ᾿ ἅμα διεξιόντες ἀφικνούμεθα ἐς τὸ χωρίον ἔνθα ἔδει αὐτὸν καθεζόμενον διακοῦσαι τῶν εὐχῶν. θυρίδες δὲ ἦσαν ἑξῆς τοῖς στομίοις τῶν φρεάτων ἐοικυῖαι πώματα ἔχουσαι, καὶ παρ᾿ ἑκάστῃ θρόνος ἔκειτο χρυσοῦς. καθίσας οὖν ἑαυτὸν ἐπὶ τῆς πρώτης ὁ Ζεὺς καὶ ἀφελὼν τὸ πῶμα παρεῖχε τοῖς εὐχομένοις ἑαυτόν· εὔχοντο δὲ πανταχόθεν τῆς γῆς διάφορα καὶ ποικίλα. συμπαρακύψας γὰρ καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπήκουον ἅμα τῶν εὐχῶν. ἦσαν δὲ τοιαίδε, Ὦ Ζεῦ, βασιλεῦσαί μοι γένοιτο· Ὦ Ζεῦ, τὰ κρόμμυά μοι φῦναι καὶ τὰ σκόροδα· Ὦ θεοί, τὸν πατέρα μοι ταχέως ἀποθανεῖν· ὁ δέ τις ἂν ἔφη, Εἴθε κληρονομήσαιμι τῆς γυναικός, “Εἴθε λάθοιμι ἐπιβουλεύσας τῷ ἀδελφῷ, Γένοιτό μοι νικῆσαι τὴν δίκην, Δὸς στεφθῆναι τὰ Ὀλύμπια. τῶν πλεόντων δὲ ὁ μὲν βορέαν εὔχετο ἐπιπνεῦσαι, ὁ δὲ νότον, ὁ δὲ γεωργὸς ᾔτει ὑετόν, ὁ δὲ γναφεὺς ἥλιον. Ἐπακούων δὲ ὁ Ζεὺς καὶ τὴν εὐχὴν ἑκάστην ἀκριβῶς ἐξετάζων οὐ πάντα ὑπισχνεῖτο,
ἀλλ᾿ ἕτερον μὲν ἔδωκε πατήρ, ἕτερον δ᾿ ἀνένευσε·
τὰς μὲν γὰρ δικαίας τῶν εὐχῶν προσίετο ἄνω διὰ τοῦ στομίου καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ δεξιὰ κατετίθει φέρων, τὰς δὲ ἀνοσίους ἀπράκτους αὖθις ἀπέπεμπεν ἀποφυσῶν κάτω, ἵνα μηδὲ πλησίον γένοιντο τοῦ οὐρανοῦ. ἐπὶ μιᾶς δέ τινος εὐχῆς καὶ ἀποροῦντα αὐτὸν ἐθεασάμην· δύο γὰρ ἀνδρῶν τἀναντία εὐχομένων καὶ τὰς ἴσας θυσίας ὑπισχνουμένων οὐκ εἶχεν ὁποτέρῳ μᾶλλον ἐπινεύσειεν αὐτῶν, ὥστε δὴ τὸ Ἀκαδημαϊκὸν ἐκεῖνο ἐπεπόνθει καὶ οὐδέν τι ἀποφήνασθαι δυνατὸς ἦν, ἀλλ᾿ ὥσπερ ὁ Πύρρων ἐπεῖχεν ἔτι καὶ διεσκέπτετο.
Latin translation by Erasmus:
Huiusmodi quaepiam confabulati, in eum peruenimus locum, vbi consessurus erat ad exaudienda vota. Erant autem ordine sitae fenestrae, cuiusmodi sunt ora puteorum, habentes opercula; iuxta vnamquanque sella posita erat aurea. Itaque Iuppiter quum ad primam assedisset, detracto operculo, praebuit sese petentibus. Optabant autem ex omni vndique terra diuersa variaque. Nam ipse quoque admotis pariter auribus simul audiebam vota. Erant autem huiusmodi: O Iuppiter, contingat mihi regnum. O Iuppiter, contingat cepas et allia mihi prouenire. O Iuppiter, vtinam pater mihi breui moriatur. Rursum alius aliquis dicit: Vtinam existam haeres vxoris. Vtinam nemo resciscat me struxisse insidias fratri. Contingat mihi vincere litem, coronari Olympia. Porro ex his qui nauigabant, hic optabat vti spiraret Boreas, ille vt Notus; agricola optabat pluuiam, contra fullo solem. At Iuppiter audiens, et singula vota diligenter expendens, non omnibus pollicebatur.
Verum hoc concessit Saturnius, abnuit illud.
Nam iusta vota per os fenestrae sursum admittebat, admissa ad dextram statuens. Rursus iniqua remittebat irrita, flatu deorsum redigens, ne possint ad coelum accedere. Super vno quodam voto videbam illum etiam ambigentem. Etenim quum essent duo, qui diuersa peterent, aequales victimas pollicitantes, non inueniebat vtri potius annueret. Itaque iam Academicon illud illi accidebat, vt nihil statuere posset; verum exemplo Pyrrhonis suspensus haerebat etiam ac considerabat.


Six-Hour Work Day

Thomas More (1478-1535), Utopia, Book II (tr. Robert M. Adams):
Of the twenty-four equal hours into which they divide the day and the night, the Utopians devote only six to work. They work three hours before noon, when they go to lunch. After lunch, they rest for two hours, then go to work for another three hours. Then they have supper, and about eight o'clock (counting the first hour after noon as one) they go to bed, and sleep eight hours.

cum in horas viginti quattuor aequales diem connumerata nocte dividant, sex dumtaxat operi deputant: tres ante meridiem, a quibus prandium ineunt, atque a prandio duas postmeridianas horas cum interquierint, tres deinde rursus labori datas cena claudunt. cum primam horam ab meridie numerent, sub octavam cubitum eunt; horas octo somnus vindicat.
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Sunday, June 12, 2016


Ungrateful Readers

Thomas More (1478-1535), preface to Utopia, in the form of a letter to Peter Gilles (tr. Paul Turner):
To tell you the truth, though, I still haven't made up my mind whether I shall publish it at all. Tastes differ so widely, and some people are so humourless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one's efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about literature — many regard it with contempt. Lowbrows find everything heavy going that isn't completely lowbrow. Highbrows reject everything as vulgar that isn't a mass of archaisms. Some only like the classics, others only their own works. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humour, others so half-witted that they can't stand wit. Some are so literal-minded that the slightest hint of irony affects them as water affects a sufferer from hydrophobia. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. Then there's the alcoholic school of critics, who sit in public houses, pronouncing ex cathedra verdicts of condemnation, just as they think fit. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent's hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald — so there's nothing for you to get hold of.

Besides, some readers are so ungrateful that, even if they enjoy a book immensely, they don't feel any affection for the author. They're like rude guests who after a splendid dinner-party go home stuffed with food, without saying a word of thanks to their host. So much for the wisdom of preparing a feast of reason at one's own expense for a public with such fastidious and unpredictable tastes, and with such a profound sense of gratitude!

Quamquam, ut vere dicam, nec ipse mecum satis adhuc constitui, an sim omnino editurus. Etenim tam varia sunt palata mortalium, tam morosa quorundam ingenia, tam ingrati animi, tam absurda iudicia, ut cum his haud paulo felicius agi videatur, qui iucundi atque hilares genio indulgent suo, quam qui semet macerant curis, ut edant aliquid, quod aliis aut fastidientibus aut ingratis vel utilitati possit esse vel voluptati. Plurimi litteras nesciunt, multi contemnunt; barbarus ut durum reicit, quidquid non est plane barbarum; scioli aspernantur ut triviale, quidquid obsoletis verbis non scatet; quibusdam solum placent vetera, plerisque tantum sua. Hic tam taetricus est, ut non admittat iocos, hic tam insulsus, ut non ferat sales; tam simi quidam sunt, ut nasum omnem velut aquam ab rabido morsus cane reformident; adeo mobiles alii sunt, ut aliud sedentes probent, aliud stantes. Hi sedent in tabernis et inter pocula de scriptorum iudicant ingeniis magnaque cum auctoritate condemnant, utcumque libitum est, suis quemque scriptis veluti capilicio vellicantes, ipsi interim tuti et, quod dici solet, ἔξω βέλους, quippe tam leves et abrasi undique, ut ne pilum quidem habeant boni viri, quo possint apprehendi.

Sunt praeterea quidam tam ingrati, ut cum impense delectentur opere, nihilo tamen magis ament auctorem, non absimiles inhumanis hospitibus, qui cum opiparo convivio prolixe sint excepti, saturi demum discedunt domum nullis habitis gratiis ei, a quo sunt invitati. I nunc et hominibus tam delicati palati, tam varii gustus, animi praeterea tam memoris et grati tuis impensis epulum instrue!

Saturday, June 11, 2016



Lucian, Slander 1 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
It is really a terrible thing, is ignorance, a cause of many woes to humanity; for it envelops things in a fog, so to speak, and obscures the truth and overshadows each man's life. Truly, we all resemble people lost in the dark—nay, we are even like blind men. Now we stumble inexcusably, now we lift our feet when there is no need of it; and we do not see what is near and right before us, but fear what is far away and extremely remote as if it blocked our path. In short, in everything we do we are always making plenty of missteps.

δεινόν γε ἡ ἄγνοια καὶ πολλῶν κακῶν ἀνθρώποις αἰτία, ὥσπερ ἀχλύν τινα καταχέουσα τῶν πραγμάτων καὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἀμαυροῦσα καὶ τὸν ἑκάστου βίον ἐπηλυγάζουσα. ἐν σκότῳ γοῦν πλανωμένοις πάντες ἐοίκαμεν, μᾶλλον δὲ τυφλοῖς ὅμοια πέπονθαμεν, τῷ μὲν προσπταίοντες ἀλόγως, τὸ δὲ ὑπερβαίνοντες, οὐδὲν δέον, καὶ τὸ μὲν πλησίον καὶ παρὰ πόδας οὐχ ὁρῶντες, τὸ δὲ πόρρω καὶ πάμπολυ διεστηκὸς ὡς ἐνοχλοῦν δεδιότες· καὶ ὅλως ἐφ᾿ ἑκάστου τῶν πραττομένων οὐ διαλείπομεν τὰ πολλὰ ὀλισθαίνοντες.


Wall Street

[Daniel Defoe,] The Anatomy of Exchange-Alley: or, A System of Stock-Jobbing, 2nd ed. (London: E. Smith, 1719), pp. 3-4:
[I]f you talk to them of their Occupation, there is not a Man but will own, 'tis a compleat System of Knavery; that 'tis a Trade founded in Fraud, born of Deceit, and nourished by Trick, Cheat, Wheedle, Forgeries, Falshoods, and all sorts of Delusions; Coining false News, this way good, that way bad, whispering imaginary Terrors, Frights, Hopes, Expectations, and then preying upon the Weakness of those, whose Imaginations they have wrought upon, whom they have either elevated or depress'd.
Id., p. 8:
Is not the whole Doctrine of Stock-jobbing a Science of Fraud? And are not all the Dealers, meer Original Thieves and Pick-Pockets? Nay, do they not own it themselves?
Id., p. 19:
But what Tricking, what Fraud, what laying Plots as deep as Hell, and as far as the ends of the Earth is here? What Cheating of Fathers, and Mothers, and Brothers, gulling Widows, Orphans, couzening the most Wary, and plundering the Unwary? And how much meaner Roberies than these bring the Friendless even to the Gallows every Sessions?

Friday, June 10, 2016


Don't Teach Your Grandmother to Suck Eggs

Jennifer Speake, Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, 6th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 312, discussing "Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs," lists the first occurrence as an English translation by John Stevens of Quevedo's Comical Works (London: John Morphew, 1707), p. 403: "You would have me teach my Grandame to suck Eggs, or set up for a Lent Preacher." The English name of the work in question (attributed to, but not actually by Quevedo) is The Dog and the Fever, and the Spanish name is El perro y la calentura. The Spanish being translated is "V. quiere que yo venda miel al colmenero, y que le predique á la cuaresma?"

The proverb also occurs in Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Book XII, chapter XIII (1749):
I remember my old schoolmaster, who was a prodigious great scholar, used often to say, Polly matete cry town is my daskalon. The English of which, he told us, was, That a child may sometimes teach his grandmother to suck eggs.
"Polly matete cry town is my daskalon" is a humorous transcription of πολλοὶ μαθηταὶ κρείττονες διδασκάλων, i.e., Many pupils are cleverer than their teachers, which occurs in Menander, Monostichs 651 Jaekel; Cicero, Letters to Friends 9.7.2; and Greek Anthology 11.176.5 (by Lucilius).

But the real Greek equivalent of "Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs" seems to be ἡ ὗς τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν, as in Plutarch, Life of Demosthenes 11.5 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
Now, it is needless to remark that his written speeches have much in them that is harsh and bitter; but in his extempore rejoinders he was also humorous. For instance, when Demades said "Demosthenes teach me! As well might the sow teach Athena." "It was this Athena," said Demosthenes, "that was lately found playing the harlot in Collytus."

οἱ μὲν οὖν γεγραμμένοι τῶν λόγων ὅτι τὸ αὐστηρὸν πολὺ καὶ πικρὸν ἔχουσι, τί ἂν λέγοι τις; ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἀπαντήσεσι ταῖς παρὰ τὸν 5καιρὸν ἐχρῆτο καὶ τῷ γελοίῳ. Δημάδου μὲν γὰρ εἰπόντος "Ἐμὲ Δημοσθένης, ἡ ὗς τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν," "Αὕτη," εἶπεν, "ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ πρώην ἐν Κολλυτῷ μοιχεύουσα ἐλήφθη."
and Plutarch, Precepts of Statecraft 7 = Moralia 803 d (tr. Harold North Fowler):
But for one who employs it [ridicule] in self-defence the occasion makes it pardonable and at the same time pleasing, as when Demosthenes, in reply to a man who was suspected of being a thief and who mocked him for writing at night, said, "I am aware that I offend you by keeping a light burning," and to Demades who shouted, "Demosthenes would correct me—'the sow correcting Athena,'" he replied, "Yes, your Athena was caught in adultery last year!"

ἀμυνομένῳ δὲ συγγνώμην ἅμα καὶ χάριν ὁ καιρὸς δίδωσι, καθάπερ Δημοσθένει πρὸς τὸν αἰτίαν ἔχοντα Dκλέπτειν χλευάζοντα δ᾿ αὐτοῦ τὰς νυκτογραφίας, "οἶδ᾿ ὅτι σε λυπῶ λύχνον καίων"· καὶ πρὸς Δημάδην βοῶντα Δημοσθένης ἐμὲ βούλεται διορθοῦν "ἡ ὗς τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν," "αὕτη μέντοι πέρυσιν ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ μοιχεύουσα ἐλήφθη."
Cf. Theocritus 5.21-23 (tr. A.S.F. Gow):
But come, if you care to stake a kid—it is no great matter—
why, I'll sing a match with you until you've had enough.
The pig once challenged Athena.

ἀλλ' ὦν αἴ κα λῇς ἔριφον θέμεν, ἔστι μὲν οὐδέν
ἱερόν, ἀλλά γέ τοι διαείσομαι ἔστε κ' ἀπείπῃς.
ὗς ποτ' Ἀθαναίαν ἔριν ἤρισεν.
Rare in Greek, the proverb is commoner in Latin as sus Minervam (sc. docet). This is I i 40 in the Adagia of Erasmus. See also A. Otto, Die Sprichwörter und sprichwörtlichen Redensarten der Römer (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1890), p. 224 (#1118).

Thanks to Eric Thomson for help. He says, "Another adage that might be relevant here is ‘Delphinum natare doces, vel Aquilam volare'."



Lucian, Toxaris 38 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
Death is a God who assumes many shapes; numberless are the roads that lead into his presence.

ποικίλος γὰρ οὗτος ὁ θεὸς ὁ θάνατος καὶ ἀπείρους τὰς ἐφ᾿ ἑαυτὸν παρέχεται ἀγούσας ὁδούς.
Latin translation by Erasmus:
varius est iste deus interitus, atque innumerabiles aperit vias quibus ad illum sit aditus.
Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 7.1.9 (quoting Cestius Pius, tr. Michael Winterbottom):
This is mankind's wretched lot, that we have one way to be born—but many to die: the noose, the sword, a precipice, poison, shipwreck and a thousand other deaths lie in wait for this wretched life.

haec est condicio miserrima humani generis, quod nascimur uno modo, multis morimur: laqueus, gladius, praeceps locus, venenum, naufragium, mille aliae mortes insidiantur huic miserrimae vitae.

Thursday, June 09, 2016


Lords and Ladies

[William Watts,] The Yahoo: A Satirical Rhapsody (New York: H.M. Duhecquet, 1833), pp. 53-54 (lines 1204-1227; notes omitted):
What starch-phizz'd, poker-back'd, fine dukes and lords!
Lisping their pretty namby-pamby words!
This nincompoop's dubb'd royal—that serene;
But what does such slop-dawdle nonsense mean?
How do these lordships, highnesses, and graces,
Refrain from laughing in each other's faces?
Such things that glitter like gilt gingerbread,
Should be with pap, or else with kava fed.
'Tis strange that those who manage court affairs,
Should not provide them clouts and cacking-chairs.

Yes, this parade forms all the courtier's joys:
This royal baby-house of drest-up toys.
Lord Fartlebury; Duke of Puddle-dock;
Prince Cacafogo; Countess Dillicock;
Lord Nincompoop; Sir George Golumpus Grub:
Veldt Marshall Hoggsgutz; Lady Trullibub;
Count Snickasnee; Lord Fudge; Prince Potowouskin;
Baron Bumfodder; Monsieur Mouschkin Poushkin;
Lord Blath'rumskate; Earl Swipes; Count Doodle-doo;
Madame Caca-du-Dauphin Baisemoncul;
The Rev'rend Noodle Doodle Dunderhead;
The Honourable Simon S***-a-bed;
And Co.; for of them there's a numerous pack;
But these may serve as samples of the sack.


Uncommon Depravity

Gilbert Wakefield (1756-1801), Memoirs, Vol. I (London: J. Johnson, 1804), p. 253:
When I figure to my mind a representation of uncommon depravity, it is the person of a malignant critic, under the authority of a review, and the security of concealment, vilifying writers of learning, industry, or genius; because their sentiments may not harmonize with the professions of that numerous portion of every society, who, without enquiry, acquiesce in established notions and established practices.


Horses and Children

Roger Ascham (1515-1568), The Scholemaster, ed. John E.B. Mayor (London: Bell and Daldy, 1863), p. 20:
And it is pitie, that commonlie, more care is had, yea and that emonges verie wise men, to finde out rather a cunnynge man for their horse, than a cunnyng man for their children. They say nay in worde, but they do so in deede. For, to the one, they will gladlie give a stipend of 200. Crounes by yeare, and loth to offer to the other, 200. shillinges. God, that sitteth in heaven, laugheth their choice to skorne, and rewardeth their liberalitie as it should: for he suffereth them, to have tame and well ordered horse, but wilde and unfortunate Children: and therfore in the ende they finde more pleasure in their horse, than comforte in their children.
The same in modern spelling, from The Whole Works of Roger Ascham, ed. John Allen Giles, Vol. III (London: John Russell Smith, 1864), p. 104:
And it is pity, that commonly more care is had, yea and that among very wise men, to find out rather a cunning man for their horse, than a cunning man for their children. They say nay in word, but they do so in deed: for to the one they will gladly give a stipend of two hundred crowns by the year, and loth to offer to the other two hundred shillings. God that sitteth in heaven laugheth their choice to scorn, and rewardeth their liberality as it should; for he suffereth them to have tame and well-ordered horse, but wild and unfortunate children; and therefore in the end they find more pleasure in their horse than comfort in their children.
Related posts:
Hat tip: Tim Nagler, old and dear friend.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Fee Fi Fo Fum

Marc Bloch (1886-1944), The Historian's Craft, tr. Peter Putnam (New York: Vintage Books, ©1953), p. 26:
The good historian is like the giant of the fairy tale. He knows that wherever he catches the scent of human flesh, there his quarry lies.

Le bon historien, lui, ressemble à l'ogre de la légende. Là où il flaire la chair humaine, il sait que là est son gibier.


A Character

Ralph Johnson, The Scholars Guide From the Accidence to the University (London: Tho. Pierrepont, 1665), p. 15:
A Character.

A Character is a witty and facetious description of the nature and qualities of some person, or sort of people.

RULES for making it.

1. Chuse a Subject, viz. such a sort of men as will admit of variety of observation, such be, drunkards, usurers, lyars, taylors, excise-men, travellers, pedlars, merchants, tapsters, lawyers, an upstart gentleman, a young Justice, a Constable, an Alderman, and the like.

2. Express their natures, qualities, conditions, practices, tools, desires, aims or ends, by witty Allegories or Allusions, to things or terms in nature, or art, of like nature and resemblance, still striving for wit and pleasantness, together with tart nipping jerks about their vices or miscarriages.

3. Conclude with some witty and neat passage, leaving them to the effect of their follies or studies.



Valerius Maximus 9.4.praef. (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Let Avarice too be dragged forth, tracker-down of hidden gains, greedy sucker-in of visible plunder, never happy in the enjoyment of possession and most miserable in the craving of acquisition.

protrahatur etiam Avaritia, latentium indagatrix lucrorum, manifestae praedae avidissima vorago, neque habendi fructu felix et cupiditate quaerendi miserrima.


Intelligent Design

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), Mademoiselle de Maupin, preface (tr. Helen Constantine):
Pleasure seems to me to be the aim of life and the only useful thing in the world. God has designed it thus. He Who created women, perfumes, light, beautiful flowers, good wine, thoroughbred horses, greyhounds and angora cats; Who did not say to His angels: 'Be virtuous', but: 'Be loving'; and Who has given us a mouth more sensitive than the rest of our skin for kissing women; eyes which can look up to see the light; a subtle sense of smell to breathe in the souls of flowers; strong thighs to grip the flanks of stallions and fly as fast as thought without railway or steam engine; delicate hands to stroke the long heads of greyhounds, the velvety backs of cats, and the satin shoulders of creatures with very little virtue; God Who, in short, has given to us alone the threefold glorious privilege of drinking without being thirsty, of striking a light, and of making love all year round, which distinguishes us from the animals much more than does the custom of reading journals and making charters.

La jouissance me paraît le but de la vie, et la seule chose utile au monde. Dieu l'a voulu ainsi, lui qui a fait les femmes, les parfums, la lumière, les belles fleurs, les bons vins, les chevaux fringants, les levrettes et les chats angoras; lui qui n'a pas dit à ses anges: Ayez de la vertu, mais: Ayez de l'amour, et qui nous a donné une bouche plus sensible que le reste de la peau pour embrasser les femmes, des yeux levés en haut pour voir la lumière, un odorat subtil pour respirer l'âme des fleurs, des cuisses nerveuses pour serrer les flancs des étalons, et voler aussi vite que la pensée sans chemin de fer ni chaudière a vapeur, des mains délicates pour les passer sur la tête longue des levrettes, sur le dos velouté des chats, et sur l'épaule polie des créatures peu vertueuses, et qui, enfin, n'a accordé qu'à nous seuls ce triple et glorieux privilège de boire sans avoir soif, de battre le briquet, et de faire l'amour en toutes saisons, ce qui nous distingue de la brute beaucoup plus que l'usage de lire des journaux et de fabriquer des chartes.


This Will Do

George Faulkner (1703-1775), "To the Reader," in The Works of the Reverend Dr. Jonathan Swift, Vol. I (Dublin: George Faulkner, 1772), pp. v-xvii (at viii), discussing Swift's demands prior to the publication of his Works:
That the Editor should attend him early every Morning, or when most convenient, to read to him, that the Sounds might strike the Ear, as well as the Sense the Understanding, and had always two Men Servants present for this Purpose; and when he had any Doubt, he would ask them the Meaning of what they heard; which, if they did not comprehend, he would alter and amend until they understood it perfectly well, and then would say, This will do; for I write to the Vulgar, more than to the Learned.

Sunday, June 05, 2016


Who Is Free?

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 50 (Power to Hephaestus; tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
No one is free but Zeus.

ἐλεύθερος γὰρ οὔτις ἐστὶ πλὴν Διός.


Non Denique Homines Dis Curae

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), "A Discourse on the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit," § II:
However, it is a sketch of human vanity, for every individual to imagine the whole universe is interested in his meanest concern. If he hath got cleanly over a kennel, some angel unseen descended on purpose to help him by the hand; if he hath knocked his head against a post, it was the devil, for his sins, let loose from hell, on purpose to buffet him. Who, that sees a little paltry mortal, droning, and dreaming, and drivelling to a multitude, can think it agreeable to common good sense, that either Heaven or Hell should be put to the trouble of influence or inspection, upon what he is about?

Saturday, June 04, 2016


Mildest of the Gods

Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.623-625 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
O Sleep, thou rest of all things, Sleep, mildest of the gods, balm of the soul, who puttest care to flight, soothest our bodies worn with hard ministries, and preparest them for toil again!

Somne, quies rerum, placidissime, Somne, deorum,
pax animi, quem cura fugit, qui corpora duris
fessa ministeriis mulces reparasque labori...
In Dryden's version:
                                                    O sacred Rest,
Sweet pleasing Sleep, of all the Pow'rs the best!
O Peace of Mind, repairer of Decay,
Whose Balms renew the Limbs to Labours of the Day,
Care shuns thy soft approach, and sullen flies away!


The Interrogative Pronoun

George Ade (1866-1944), "The Steel Box," Chicago Record (March 16, 1898):
"Whom are you?" he asked, for he had attended business college.


At Home

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), My Life, tr. Andrew Gray (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 343:
I felt myself palpably more at home in ancient Athens than in any circumstances afforded by the modern world.

Ich wie mit fühlbarer Wirklichkeit in Athen mich heimischer empfand als in irgendeinem Lebensverhältnisse der modernen Welt.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), The Will to Power, tr. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), p. 225 (§ 419, from 1885):
One is no longer at home anywhere; at last one longs for that only place in which one can be at home, because it is the only place one would want to be at home: the Greek world!

Man ist nirgends mehr heimisch, man verlangt zuletzt nach dem zurück, wo man irgendwie heimisch sein kann, weil man dort allein heimisch sein möchte: und das ist die griechische Welt!
I owe the references to Simon Goldhill, Who Needs Greek? Contests in the Cultural History of Hellenism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002; rpt. 2003), p. 162.


Sniffing Out Heresy

James J. O'Donnell, Augustine: A New Biography (New York: Ecco, 2005), pp. 144-145, with note on p. 355:
[W]e are indebted to Consentius for what is in many ways the funniest story (Evelyn Waugh before his time) of late-antique Christian heresy-hunting. In a letter to Augustine, Consentius tells of sending an orthodox spy from Minorca to the mainland of Spain to infiltrate the "Priscillianists" there.255 The spy is about as successful as one would expect a half-trained FBI agent to be on attempting to infiltrate a communist cell in Ogallala, Nebraska, in the 1950s, when the "cell" turned out to be three local schoolteachers and a librarian who enjoyed sharing copies of the New Republic and talking about them at coffee hour after church on Sunday. Every appearance of success is reported back to headquarters, but we have to doubt whether the object of the infiltration is what the secret agent thinks it is. When the matter finally comes into the open, Consentius is dismayed that the Spanish bishops who take up the matter are far less seriously moved than he thinks they ought to be, and his indignation is marked throughout his long letter to Augustine.

255 Ep. 11*.
Id., p. 338:
Where the letter number is marked by an asterisk (*) the reference is to the new series of letters discovered by Johannes Divjak and published at Vienna in 1981.
For the Latin text of Consentius' letter see
The Latin text can also be found online here.

For English translations of the letter see

Friday, June 03, 2016


How You Walk

Simon Goldhill, Who Needs Greek? Contests in the Cultural History of Hellenism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002; rpt. 2003), p. 83:
How you walk is a repeated topic of commentary by Lucian. You should hope to 'walk like a man' (which is linked to a body bronzed by the sun, a masculine glint in the eye, an alert appearance).82 You don't want to walk 'with an unsteady shimmy' (which is linked to a floppy neck, a woman's glance, a soft voice, the smell of perfume, scratching your head with one finger, and carefully coiffed curls).83 The figure of Blame in one of Lucian's divine comedies attacks even the god Dionysus for his 'walk': 'you all know how female and girly he is in his nature ... '84 In particular, however, it is philosophers who seem to have a specially noticeable style of walking (which you may think harder to spot these days around the university or on the street). Thrasycles' walk is 'orderly' (eye-brows high, fierce gaze, elegant turn out);85 Diogenes' walk matches his intense expression.86 The uncultured book-buyer is mocked for imitating the walk of a philosopher;87 and a string of philosophers are immediately distinctive because of their gait. The longest description of what 'the walk' should be like is this:
I saw them walking in an orderly fashion, decently dressed, always in thought, masculine, mostly with close-cropped hair nothing degenerate, none of that hyper-indifference which marks the simply mad Cynic, but of middling constitution, which everyone says is best.88
82 41.9.
83 41.11.
84 52.4.
85 25.54.
86 27.10.
87 31.21.
88 70.18.
See also Jan Bremer, "Walking, Standing and Sitting in Ancient Greek Culture," in Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg, edd., A Cultural History of Gesture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), pp. 15-35 (at 16-23).


The World Is Sick of Me

Charles d'Orléans (1394-1465), Rondeau CLXXXVII (my translation):
The world is sick of me,
and I likewise of it;
I can't think of anything today
that matters even a bit to me.

Everything I see before my eyes        5
I can call weariness upon weariness.
The world is sick of me,
and I likewise of it.

Good faith is expensive,
no one buys it cheaply,        10
and so if I'm the one
who complains, I have good reason:
the world is sick of me.
The French, from Charles d'Orléans, Poésies, ed. Pierre Champion, Vol. II: Rondeaux (1924; rpt. Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion, 1983), p. 397:
Le monde est ennuyé de moy,
Et moy pareillement de lui;
Je ne cognois rien au jour d'ui
Dont il me chaille que bien poy.

Dont quanque devant mes yeulx voy,        5
Puis nommer anuy sur anuy;
Le monde est ennuyé de moy,
Et moy pareillement de lui.

Cherement se vent bonne foy,
A bon marché n'en a nulluy;        10
Et pour ce, se je suis cellui
Qui m'en plains, j'ay raison pour quoy:
Le monde est ennuyé de moy.
4 chaille: from chaloir = to matter (cf. nonchalant); poy: peu
6 anuy: ennui


Disappearance of Youth

Oswald von Wolkenstein (1376-1445), "Ich sich und hör," lines 1-36, tr. Albrecht Classen, The Poems of Oswald von Wolkenstein: An English Translation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 51-52:
I see and hear
that many a person laments about the disappearance of his property;
I, on the other hand, only lament about the disappearance of my youth,
the disappearance of my carefree attitude
and of that what I used to do at that time        5
without any consciousness about it because the earth provided me with support.
Now, being hampered by bodily failure,
my head, back, legs, hands, and feet alert me to the approaching old age.
Whatever sins I might have committed without any need,
you, sir body, make me pay for this recklessness        10
with paleness, red eyes,
wrinkles, grey hair: I can no longer do big jumps.
My heart, my brain, my tongue, and my strides have become hard to move,
I am walking bent over,
my trembling weakens all my limbs.        15
When I sing I only intonate "O dear!"
I sing nothing else day in and day out;
my tenor has become rather rough.

My wavy blond hair
that once covered my head with curls,        20
now displays its beauty in grey and black,
bald spots form a round shield,
my red lips are turning blue,
which makes me look disgusting to the beloved.
My teeth have become        25
loose and ugly and do no longer serve for chewing.
Even if all material in this world belonged to me,
I would not be able to get the teeth renewed,
nor to purchase a carefree attitude.
This would be possible only in a dream.        30
My abilities to fight, to jump, and to run rapidly
have turned into limping.
Instead of singing, I do nothing but utter coughing sounds.
My breathing has become heavy.
The cold earth would be the best for me        35
because I have lost my strength and am not worth much.
The German, from Die Lieder Oswalds von Wolkenstein, ed. Burghart Wachinger (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2015), pp. 13-14:
Ich sich und hör,
das mancher klagt verderben seines guetes,
so klag ich neur die jungen tag,
verderben freies muetes,
wes ich vor zeiten darinn pflag,        5
und klain emphand, do mich die erden trueg.
Mit kranker stör
houbt, rugk und bain, hend, füess das alder meldet;
was ich verfrävelt hab an not,
her leib, den muetwill geldet        10
mit blaicher farb und ougen rot,
gerumpfen, grau: eur sprüng sind worden klueg.
Mir swert herz, muet, zung und die tritt,
gebogen ist mein gangk,
das zittren swecht mir all gelid,        15
owe ist mein gesangk.
dasselb quientier ich tag und nacht,
mein tenor ist mit rumpfen wol bedacht.

Ain krauss weiss har
von locken dick hett ainst mein houbt bedecket,        20
dasselb plasniert sich swarz und grau,
von schilden kal durchschöcket;
mein rotter mund wil werden plau,
darumb was ich der lieben widerzäm.
Plöd ungevar        25
sind mir die zend und slaunt mir nicht ze keuen,
und het ich aller werlde guet,
ich künd ir nicht verneuen,
noch kouffen ainen freien muet,
es widerfüer mir dann in slaffes träm.        30
Mein ringen, springen, louffen snell
hat einen widersturz,
für singen huest ich durch die kel,
der atem ist mir kurz:
und gieng mir not der küelen erd,        35
seid ich bin worden swach und schier unwerd.
See George Fenwick Jones, "The 'Signs of Old Age' in Oswald von Wolkenstein's Ich Sich und Hör (Klein No. 5)," Modern Language Notes 89.5 (October, 1974) 767-786.

Albert Anker, Der Trinker
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