Monday, October 31, 2016



George Santayana (1863-1952), Scepticism and Animal Faith (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923), p. 7:
In the gardens of Seville I once heard, coming through the tangle of palms and orange trees, the treble voice of a pupil in the theological seminary, crying to his playmate: "You booby! of course angels have a more perfect nature than men." With his black and red cassock that child had put on dialectic; he was playing the game of dogma and dreaming in words, and was insensible to the scent of violets that filled the air. How long would that last? Hardly, I suspect, until the next spring; and the troubled awakening which puberty would presently bring to that little dogmatist, sooner or later overtakes all elder dogmatists in the press of the world.


Ubi Sunt?

Jorge Manrique (1440-1479), "Coplas por la muerte de su padre," i.e. "Verses on the Death of His Father," lines 145-204, tr. J.M. Cohen, with original interspersed:
The pleasures and sweetnesses of this toilsome life that we lead, what are they but fleeting? And is not death the snare into which we fall? Without a thought for our hurts, we rush headlong and do not stop; and when we see the deceit and want to turn back, there is no time.

Los plazeres y dulçores        145
desta vida trabajada
    que tenemos,
¿qué son sino corredores,
y la muerte, la celada
    en que caemos?        150
No mirando nuestro daño,
corremos a rienda suelta
    sin parar;
desque vemos el engaño
y queremos dar la buelta,        155
    no hay lugar.

Those mighty kings that we see in the writings of the past, by sad and lamentable accidents their good fortunes were reversed. So nothing is sure, for Death treats popes, emperors, and prelates even as she does poor cow-herds.

Essos reyes poderosos
que vemos por escrituras
    ya passadas,
con casos tristes llorosos        160
fueron sus buenas venturas
assí que no hay cosa fuerte,
que a papas y emperadores
    y perlados        165
assí los trata la Muerte
como a los pobres pastores
    de ganados.

Let us leave the Trojans, since we have seen neither their disasters nor their glories; let us leave the Romans, although we hear and read their stories; let us not trouble to know about that past age and what became of it; let us come to affairs of yesterday, which are as thoroughly forgotten as the tale of Rome is.

Dexemos a los troyanos,
que sus males no los vimos,        170
    ni sus glorias;
dexemos a los romanos,
aunque oímos y leimos
    sus estorias;
no curemos de saber        175
lo de aquel siglo passado
    qué fue dello;
vengamos a lo de ayer,
que tan bien es olvidado
    como aquello.        180

What has become of the King Don Juan? The princes of Aragon, where are they? What has become of all those gallants? What has become of the many innovations they brought? The jousts and tourneys, ornaments, embroideries, and crests, were they only an imagination? What were they but the grass of the threshing-floors?

¿Qué se fizo el rey don Juan?
¿Los infantes de Aragón,
    ¿qué se fizieron?
¿Qué fue de tanto galán?
¿Qué fue de tanta invención        185
    como truxieron?
Las justas y los torneos,
paramentos, bordaduras
    y cimeras,
¿fueron sino devaneos?,        190
¿que fueron sino verduras
    de las eras?

What has become of the ladies, of their head-dresses, their robes and their scents? What has become of the flames of the fires the lovers lit? What of all that playing, and of the harmonious music that they made? What has become of that dancing, and of the beautiful dresses that they wore?

¿Qué se fizieron las damas,
sus tocados, sus vestidos,
    sus olores?        195
¿Qué se fizieron las llamas
de los fuegos encendidos
    de amadores?
¿Qué se fizo aquel trobar,
las músicas acordadas        200
    que tañían?
¿Qué se fizo aquel dançar,
aquellas ropas chapadas
    que traían?
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Deep in the Stacks

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), "Under Soracte," The Collected Shorter Poems (New York: New Directions, 1966), p. 212 (line numbers added):
Another day, deep in the stacks,
Where no one had come for years.
Walled in by the forbidding tomes
Of Migne's Patrologia,
I stood, reading the heart tearing        5
Plaints of Abelard. All at once
I realized that for some time
I had been smelling a sweet, light
Perfume, very faint, and very chic;
And then I heard the shiver        10
Of thin bracelets, and a murmur
That went on and paused and went on again;
And discovered that beyond me
In the next aisle a boy and girl
Made love in the most remote        15
Corner of knowledge.
The title of Rexroth's poem is of course an allusion to Horace's Soracte ode, especially the last half (1.9.13-24; tr. Niall Rudd):
Avoid asking what will happen tomorrow; whatever kind of day Fortune sends you, enter it as a profit, and do not say no to sweet love and dancing, while you are still a lad and your green age is free from peevish whiteness. Now is the time to make for the Park and the city squares, where soft whispers are heard at the time appointed, when dusk is falling, and delightful laughter comes from a secluded corner (giving away the girl who hides there), and a token is snatched from an arm or coyly resisting finger.

quid sit futurum cras fuge quaerere et
quem Fors dierum cumque dabit lucro
  appone, nec dulcis amores        15
    sperne puer neque tu choreas,
donec virenti canities abest
morosa. nunc et Campus et areae
  lenesque sub noctem susurri
    composita repetantur hora,        20
nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
  pignusque dereptum lacertis
    aut digito male pertinaci.
With Horace's "intimo ... ab angulo" (lines 21-22) cf. Rexroth's "in the most remote corner" (lines 15-16).

Sunday, October 30, 2016


The Struggle

Sallust, The War with Catiline 58.11 (Catiline speaking; tr. J.C. Rolfe):
We are battling for country, for freedom, for life; theirs is a futile contest, to uphold the power of a few men.

nos pro patria, pro libertate, pro vita certamus; illis supervacuaneum est pugnare pro potentia paucorum.


Starting All Over Again

Goethe, Italian Journey (Rome, December 20, 1786; tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer):
Though I expected really to learn something here, I never thought I should have to start at the bottom of the school and have to unlearn or completely relearn so much. But now I have realized this and accepted it, I find that the more I give up my old habits of thought, the happier I am. I am like an architect who wanted to erect a tower and began by laying a bad foundation. Before it is too late, he realizes this and deliberately tears down all that he has built so far above ground. He tries to enlarge and improve his design, to make his foundations more secure, and looks forward happily to building something that will last.

Ich dachte wohl hier was Rechts zu lernen; daß ich aber soweit in die Schule zurückgehen, daß ich so viel verlernen, ja durchaus umlernen müßte, dachte ich nicht. Nun bin ich aber einmal überzeugt und habe mich ganz hingegeben, und je mehr ich mich selbst verleugnen muß, desto mehr freut es mich. Ich bin wie ein Baumeister, der einen Turm aufführen wollte und ein schlechtes Fundament gelegt hatte; er wird es noch beizeiten gewahr und bricht gern wieder ab, was er schon aus der Erde gebracht hat, seinen Grundriß sucht er zu erweitern, zu veredeln, sich seines Grundes mehr zu versichern, und freut sich schon im voraus der gewissem Festigkeit des künftigen Baues.



Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), Orlando Furioso I.22.1-6 (tr. Barbara Reynolds):
O noble chivalry of knights of yore!
Here were two rivals, of opposed belief,
Who from the blows exchanged were bruised and sore,
Aching from head to foot without relief,
Yet to each other no resentment bore.
Through the dark woods and winding paths, as if
Two friends, they go.
The Italian, from Orlando Furioso secondo la princeps del 1516, edizione critica a cura di Marco Dorigatti ([Florence:] Leo S. Olschki, 2006), p. 12:
O gran bontà de' cavallieri antiqui!
Eran rivali, eran di fé diversi,
e in tutta la persona i colpi iniqui
che s'havean dati anchor sentian dolersi;
et hor per selve oscure e calli obliqui
insieme van senza suspetto haversi.
The same, tr. Guido Waldman:
Great was the goodness of the knights of old! Here they were, rivals, of different faiths, and they still ached all over from the cruel and vicious blows they had dealt each other; still, off they went together in mutual trust, through the dark woods and crooked paths.

Friday, October 28, 2016


Poetry and Real Life

Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 36-378 (footnote omitted):
In the modern world it is a familiar idea that a poem has its normal place in a book and that it is primarily to the potential reader of the book that the poem addresses itself. This idea is correct so far as the literature of highly advanced societies is concerned. In the Greek world the conditions under which a poem came into existence were, at least from the fourth century B.C., not fundamentally dissimilar to the conditions prevailing in the Renaissance or in our own time. But we are confronted with an entirely different situation when we turn to the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., the period during which, on the one hand, certain types of recitative poetry, such as elegy and iambics (the latter term covering poems in trochaic tetrameters as well), and, on the other hand, lyrics proper evolved their forms and became for a time the most productive and most significant genres of Greek poetry. If we are to form an idea of the life out of which iambics, elegies, and various types of song grew and of the function which poetry fulfilled within that life, we shall first of all have to cast off some conventional conceptions.

Nowadays it is natural for many educated persons to open a book of verse when they want a rest or a change from the humdrum of their daily occupations, and hope to be diverted or, perhaps, exalted by lofty thoughts and the spell of noble rhythms and sounds. Whatever their motives, these modern readers look on poetry as something clearly separated from any practical activities and from the whole sphere of 'real life'. That, however, was not so during the early period of Greek literature. At that stage poetry, far from belonging to a domain remote from man's practical life, rather formed an integral, and indeed a highly important, part of it. This phenomenon may be illustrated by the position allotted to elegiac and iambic poems in the social life of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. A work of one of those early elegists and iambists was originally destined not to be read but to be listened to as it was being recited, as a rule probably by the poet himself. Such a recitation could take place wherever the men whom the poet wished to address were likely to be found together. A most suitable opportunity was at hand in the banquet or symposium, which played such a prominent part in the normal life of a Greek and which provided special advantages for the undisturbed delivery of poetry, whether recited (often with the accompaniment of an instrument) or actually sung. From time immemorial some kind of poetical entertainment had been considered an all but indispensable element of a symposium. It would not be sufficient merely to say that the symposium provided an excellent opportunity for the performance of many types of poetry, for the existence of symposia as an established institution was in fact one of the main incentives for the composing of poems.

The banquet, however, was not the only occasion on which an elegist or iambist could hope to find an audience. The male inhabitants of southern cities have always been in the habit of spending a large portion of their time in some open square. There they will stand or sit in groups for hours on end, apparently doing nothing at all, and in fact sometimes without any definite purpose, chatting and listening, while, according to the season, they either bask in the sun or enjoy the shade of a sheltered corner. But often they are not really being idle: they may be waiting for a profitable chance, una combinazione, to turn up, or discussing something with their companions, a bit of business, the prospects of the harvest, politics, a journey to foreign lands, in short anything that is of importance to them. An almost unlimited scope of topics presents itself; from a harmless joke to the most dangerous intrigue, from a casual remark to serious deliberations on the nature of the universe and man's precarious fate. As you go past the motley groups, you may, out of the sea of voices, pick up incoherent snatches of arguing, persuading, cheating, and instructing. Anyone familiar with the life of Piazza Signoria in Florence or Piazza Colonna in Rome or the Σύνταγμα in Athens will find it easy to elaborate the picture, especially if he remembers that Greek townspeople always εἰς οὐδὲν ἕτερον ἠυκαίρουν ἢ λέγειν τι ἢ ἀκούειν τι καινότερον. There was always, in the cities of Ionia and of the Greek mainland, an audience for the poet who felt himself capable of catching and holding the attention of a crowd or some smaller group. It was in all probability at such informal gatherings of the citizens that harangues like μέχρις τεῦ κατάκεισθε; or ὦ λιπερνῆτες πολῖται, τἀμὰ δὴ ξυνίετε ῥήματα and many of Solon's poems were first delivered. Such harangues and manifestoes were different from anything that in the modern world would be likely to be put into verse. Their natural place was not somewhere outside the practical life of the people but in its very centre.


On a Certain Scholar

W. Craddle, "On a Certain Scholar," in David McCord, ed., What Cheer: An Anthology of American and British Humorous and Witty Verse (New York: Coward-McCann Inc., 1945), p. 190:
He never completed his History of Ephesus,
But his name got mentioned in numerous prefaces.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Expulsion of Foreigners

Plutarch, Ancient Customs of the Spartans 20 = Moralia 238 E (tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
Lycurgus also introduced the practice of banning all foreigners from the country, so that these should not filter in and serve to teach the citizens something bad.

καὶ ξενηλασίας δὲ εἰσηγήσατο, ὅπως οἱ παρεισρέοντες μὴ διδάσκαλοι κακοῦ τινος τοῖς πολίταις ὑπάρχωσι.
See Thomas J. Figueira, "Xenēlasia and Social Control in Classical Sparta," Classical Quarterly 53.1 (May, 2003) 44-74.


Agreement and Disagreement

George Santayana, letter to Charles Augustus Strong (September 15, 1939):
Of course, I like agreement, it warms the heart, but I don’t expect it; and I like disagreement too, when it is intelligent and carries a thought further, rather than contradicts it a priori, from a different point of departure. These different points of departure make discussion futile and unpleasant.


A Fresh Look

Goethe, Italian Journey (September 11, 1786; tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer):
The truth is that, in putting my powers of observation to the test, I have found a new interest in life. How far will my scientific and general knowledge take me? Can I learn to look at things with clear, fresh eyes? How much can I take in at a single glance? Can the grooves of old mental habits be effaced?

Die Sache ist, daß ich wieder Interesse an der Welt nehme, meinen Beobachtungsgeist versuche und prüfe, wie weit es mit meinen Wissenschaften und Kenntnissen geht, ob mein Auge licht, rein und hell ist, wieviel ich in der Geschwindigkeit fassen kann, und ob die Falten, die sich in mein Gemüt geschlagen und gedrückt haben, wieder auszutilgen sind.


The American Dream

Edward Abbey, Journals (November 27, 1982), in Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey (Boulder: Johnson Books, 2003), p. 304:
Money means power, not merely wealth. Money gives us power over others—to command their labor, their minds, even their souls. Even their behavior, conduct, attitudes. No wonder money possesses such glittering attraction for those who crave power. If all people were self-reliant—a nation of artisans, craftsmen, hunters, trappers, farmers, ranchers—the rich would have no means to dominate us. Their wealth would be useless.

Cities: The realm of masters and slaves.

Our dream is to escape the hierarchical order: neither to serve nor to rule. The classic American dream. A society of equals.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


A Miracle

Jacques Prévert (1900-1977), "Vous Allez Voir Ce Que Vous Allez Voir," Paroles (Paris: NRF, 1979), p. 178:
Une fille nue nage dans la mer
Un homme barbu marche sur l'eau
Où est la merveille des merveilles
Le miracle annoncé plus haut?
This isn't included in Jacques Prévert, Paroles: Selected Poems. Translated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1990 = Pocket Poets Series No. 9). Cf. Gardiner M. Weir, "Which," A Life of Memories: A Collection of Poetry (Frederick: American Star Books, 2014), page number unknown:

There needs to be an accent on Prevert, and the French title should close with a quotation mark, as it opens with one. This is a clever adaptation, whose first couplet reminds me more of Botticelli than Prévert though.

Here is a somewhat more literal version:
A naked girl swims in the sea,
A bearded man walks on the water.
Which is the wonder of wonders,
The miracle proclaimed on high?
The second line of course refers to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:45-53, Matthew 14:22-43, John 6:15-21).

Thanks to friends who went beyond the call of duty in answering questions, offering suggestions, and otherwise providing generous help. Some of them still don't agree with my translation.


Aesthetic Subjectivity

Goethe, Italian Journey, tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer (1962; rpt. London: Penguin Books, 1970), p. 10 (from the translators' Introduction):
To Goethe, a man who looks at a beautiful cloud without knowing, or wishing to know, any meteorology, at a landscape without knowing any geology, at a plant without studying its structure and way of growth, at the human body without studying anatomy, is imprisoning himself in that aesthetic subjectivity which he deplored as the besetting sin of the writers of his time.


Interpretation of Horace

Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 26:
Those kind readers who from time to time feel tempted to supplement a Horatian poem by reading into it what in their opinion the poet has failed to say himself are respectfully but firmly asked to shut this book and never to open it again: it could only disappoint and distress them. My interpretations are, without exception, based on the conviction that Horace, throughout his work, shows himself both determined and able to express everything that is relevant to the understanding and the appreciation of a poem, either by saying it in so many words or by implying it through unambiguous hints.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016



Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), "To Count Carlo Pepoli," lines 78-88 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
Another, as if determined to escape
unhappy human fate by spending his days
in other lands and climates, wandering the seas and hills,        80
travels the whole globe, and, as he journeys, comes
to every end of the earth that nature opened to man
in the boundless spaces of the universe.
Alas, black care sits on his ship's high prow,        85
and in every climate, under every sky,
where we seek hopelessly for happiness,
sadness lives and reigns.

Altri, quasi a fuggir volto la trista
Umana sorte, in cangiar terre e climi
L'età spendendo, e mari e poggi errando,        80
Tutto l'orbe trascorre, ogni confine
Degli spazi che all'uom negl'infiniti
Campi del tutto la natura aperse,
Peregrinando aggiunge. Ahi ahi, s'asside
Su l'alte prue la negra cura, e sotto        85
Ogni clima, ogni ciel, si chiama indarno
Felicità, vive tristezza e regna.
Lines 84-85 (Ahi ahi, s'asside / Su l'alte prue la negra cura) recall Horace, Odes 3.1.37-40 (tr. Niall Rudd):
But Fear and Foreboding climb as high as the owner; black Anxiety does not quit the bronze-beaked galley, and sits behind the horseman.

sed Timor et Minae
scandunt eodem quo dominus, neque
decedit aerata triremi et
post equitem sedet atra Cura.
Related posts:


Thinking on Your Feet

George Santayana (1863-1952), "The Philosophy of Travel," Virginia Quarterly Review 40.1 (Winter 1964) 1-10 (at 4-5):
[I]nstead of saying that the possession of hands has given man his superiority, it would go much deeper to say that man and all other animals owe their intelligence to their feet. No wonder, then, that a peripatetic philosophy should be the best. Thinking while you sit, or while you kneel with the eyes closed or fixed upon vacancy, the mind lapses into dreams; images of things remote and miscellaneous are merged in the haze of memory, in which facts and fancies roll together almost indistinguishably, and you revert to the vegetative state, voluminous and helpless. Thinking while you walk, on the contrary, keeps you alert; your thoughts, though following some single path through the labyrinth, review real things in their real order; you are keen for discovery, ready for novelties, laughing at every little surprise, even if it is a mishap; you are careful to choose the right road, and if you take the wrong one, you are anxious and able to correct your error. Meantime, the fumes of digestion are dissipated by the fresh air; the head is cleared and kept aloft, where it may survey the scene; attention is stimulated by the novel objects constantly appearing; a thousand hypotheses run to meet them in an amiable competition which the event soon solves without ambiguity; and the scene as a whole is found to change with the changed station of the traveler, revealing to him his separate existence and his always limited scope, together with the distinction (which is all wisdom in a nutshell) between how things look and what they are.
Related post: Walking and Thinking.


Evil Communications Corrupt Good Manners

Euripides, fragment 609 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
A companion who happens to be badly bred trains his companions to be like himself, while a good one makes them good; come then, young men, make sure you seek the company of honourable men.

ὁ γὰρ ξυνὼν κακὸς μὲν ἢν τύχῃ γεγώς,
τοιούσδε τοὺς ξυνόντας ἐκπαιδεύεται,
χρηστοὺς δὲ χρηστός· ἀλλὰ τὰς ὁμιλίας
ἐσθλὰς διώκειν, ὦ νέοι, σπουδάζετε.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Intellectual Slums

George Santayana, letter to Victor Wolfgang von Hagen (November 6, 1934):
I think I should like Quito, and the existence of some superior minds in such a remote and isolated place does not surprise me. If there were more intellectual retreats there would be more intellectual power. The mediocrity of everything in the great world of today is simply appalling. We live in intellectual slums.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Buying and Selling

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Doctor Thorne, chapter I:
Merchants as such are not the first men among us; though it perhaps be open to a merchant to become one of them. Buying and selling is good and necessary; it is very necessary, and may, possibly, be very good; but it cannot be the noblest work of man; and let us hope that it may not in our time be esteemed the noblest work of an Englishman.
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator, who has been reading Doctor Thorne aloud to me.

Friday, October 21, 2016



The Essential Aldo Leopold: Quotations and Commentaries, edd. Curt Meine and Richard L. Knight (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), p. 41:
A gadget industry pads the bumps against nature-in-the-raw; woodcraft becomes the art of using gadgets.
Id., pp. 42-43:
The recreationist arrives in the wilds draped and festooned with gadgets, each tending to destroy the contrast value of his vacation. I am not such a purist as to disdain all of them, but I do claim that the presence or absence of gadget inhibitions is a delicate test of any man's outdoor education. Most tourists have no gadget inhibitions whatever.
Id., p. 43:
Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer. He has draped the American outdoorsman with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them. Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from neck and belt. The overflow fills the auto-trunk, and also the trailer. Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage.


Earthly Paradise

[Lactantius,] Phoenix 15-24 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
Hither no bloodless Diseases come, no sickly Eld,        15
nor cruel Death nor desperate Fear
nor nameless Crime nor maddened Lust for wealth
or Wrath or Frenzy afire with the love of murder;
bitter Grief is absent and Beggary beset with rags
and sleepless Cares and violent Hunger.        20
No tempest raveth there nor savage force of wind:
nor does the hoar-frost shroud the ground in chilly damp.
Above the plains no cloud stretches its fleece,
nor falleth from on high the stormy moisture of rain.

non huc exsangues Morbi, non aegra Senectus        15
   nec Mors crudelis nec Metus asper adest
nec Scelus infandum nec opum vesana Cupido
   aut Ira aut ardens caedis amore Furor;
Luctus acerbus abest et Egestas obsita pannis
   et Curae insomnes et violenta Fames.        20
non ibi tempestas nec vis furit horrida venti
   nec gelido terram rore pruina tegit;
nulla super campos tendit sua vellera nubes
   nec cadit ex alto turbidus umor aquae.

Thursday, October 20, 2016



Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), "The Evening of Holiday," lines 33-39 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
Where is the clamor of those ancient peoples?
Where is the renown
of our famed ancestors, and the great empire
of their Rome, her armies,
and the din she made on land and sea?
Everything is peace and quiet now,
the world is calm, and speaks no more of them.

                                   Or dov'è il suono
Di que' popoli antichi? or dov'è il grido
De' nostri avi famosi, e il grande impero
Di quella Roma, e l'armi, e il fragorio
Che n'andò per la terra e l'oceano?
Tutto è pace e silenzio, e tutto posa
Il mondo, e più di lor non si ragiona.
The same, tr. Geoffrey L. Bickersteth:
                                                   Where is now
The noise of those old nations? Where is now
The fame of our great ancestors, the might
of that imperial Rome, the arms, the clash
Wherewith the round earth and the ocean rang?
All is repose and silence, and all hushed
The world is; and of them we speak no more.


Survivor's Guilt

Aeschylus, Persians 915-917 (Xerxes speaking; tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Would to Zeus that the fate of death
had covered me over too
together with the men who are departed!

εἴθ᾿ ὄφελε, Ζεῦ, κἀμὲ μετ᾿ ἀνδρῶν
τῶν οἰχομένων
θανάτου κατὰ μοῖρα καλύψαι.
Euripides, Suppliant Women 769 (Adrastus speaking; tr. David Kovacs):
Ah me! How much better for me to have died with them!

οἴμοι· πόσῳ σφιν συνθανεῖν ἂν ἤθελον.
Id. 821 (Adrastus speaking again):
Would that the Cadmean ranks had felled me in the dust!

εἴθε με Καδμείων ἔναρον στίχες ἐν κονίαισιν.


The Punisher

Aeschylus, Persians 827-828 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Zeus, I tell you, stands over all as a chastiser of pride that boasts itself to excess, calling it to stern account.

Ζεύς τοι κολαστὴς τῶν ὑπερκόμπων ἄγαν
φρονημάτων ἔπεστιν, εὔθυνος βαρύς.
Euripides, Children of Heracles 387-388 (tr. David Kovacs):
But Zeus, you may be sure, is the punisher of thoughts that are too high and mighty.

                                 ἀλλά τοι φρονημάτων
ὁ Ζεὺς κολαστὴς τῶν ἄγαν ὑπερφρόνων.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Precision and Reliability

Myron Bement Smith (1897-1970), "Rejoinder to Arthur Upham Pope's Comment," Journal of the American Oriental Society 77.3 (July-September, 1957) 217-219 (at 219):
To me, precision and reliability are of the very essence if scholarship is to be thought of as a way of life.

"Le Dieu est dans les details:" in these words are exposed the heart of every conscientious architect and every honest builder, no less than of every worthy scholar.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


No Atheists in Foxholes

Aeschylus, Persians 497-499 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Those who had never before paid any regard to the gods now addressed them with prayers, making obeisance to earth and heaven.

                                              θεοὺς δέ τις
τὸ πρὶν νομίζων οὐδαμοῦ τότ᾿ ηὔχετο
λιταῖσι, γαῖαν οὐρανόν τε προσκυνῶν.



Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), "On the Monument to Dante Being Erected in Florence," lines 190-200 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
I, while I'm alive, shall keep exhorting,        190
Turn back to your ancestors, corrupted sons.
Look at these ruins,
these pages, canvases, these stones and temples.
Think what earth you walk on. And if the light
of these examples fails to inspire you,        195
what are you waiting for? Arise and go.
Such low behavior is unworthy
of this nurse and teacher of great spirits.
If she is the home of cowards,
better she be a widow and alone.        200

Io mentre viva andrò sclamando intorno,        190
Volgiti agli avi tuoi, guasto legnaggio;
Mira queste ruine
E le carte e le tele e i marmi e i templi;
Pensa qual terra premi; e se destarti
Non può la luce di cotanti esempli,        195
Che stai? levati e parti.
Non si conviene a sì corrotta usanza
Questa d'animi eccelsi altrice e scola:
Se di codardi è stanza,
Meglio l'è rimaner vedova e sola.        200
The same, tr. Geoffrey L. Bickersteth:
I, while I live, will cease not to proclaim:        190
Turn, corrupt stock, turn to your ancestors;
Mark what these ruins tell,
These scrolls and paintings, marbles and temple-shrines;
Think on what soil ye tread; and if, even so,
Ye still are blind to the light that round you shines,        195
Why stay? Rise up and go.
This nurse and school of heroes doth refuse
To brook a custom so degenerate:
If cowards the land abuse,
Better it still lie widowed and desolate.        200


Defiance of the Contemporary

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), Round River (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), pp. 3-4:
The text of this sermon is taken from the gospel according to Ariosto. I do not know the chapter and verse, but this is what he says: 'How miserable are the idle hours of the ignorant man!' There are not many texts that I am able to accept as gospel truths, but this is one of them. I am willing to rise up and declare my belief that this text is literally true; true forward, true backward, true even before breakfast. The man who cannot enjoy his leisure is ignorant, though his degrees exhaust the alphabet, and the man who does enjoy his leisure is to some extent educated, though he has never seen the inside of a school. I cannot easily imagine a greater fallacy than for one who has several hobbies to speak on the subject to those who may have none. For this implies prescription of avocation by one person for another, which is the antithesis of whatever virtue may inhere in having any at all. You do not annex a hobby, the hobby annexes you. To prescribe a hobby would be dangerously akin to prescribing a wife—with about the same probability of a happy outcome.

Let it be understood, then, that this is merely an exchange of reflections among those already obsessed—for better or for worse—with the need of doing something queer. Let others listen if they will, and profit by our behavior if they can.

What is a hobby anyway? Where is the line of demarcation between hobbies and ordinary normal pursuits? I have been unable to answer this question to my own satisfaction. At first blush I am tempted to conclude that a satisfactory hobby must be in large degree useless, inefficient, laborious, or irrelevant. Certainly many of our most satisfying avocations today consist of making something by hand which machines can usually make more quickly and cheaply, and sometimes better. Nevertheless I must in fairness admit that in a different age the mere fashioning of a machine might have been an excellent hobby. Galileo, I fancy, derived a real and personal satisfaction when he set the ecclesiastical world on its ear by embodying in a new catapult some natural law that St. Peter had inadvertently omitted to catalogue. Today the invention of a new machine, however noteworthy to industry, would, as a hobby, be trite stuff. Perhaps we have here the real inwardness of our question: A hobby is a defiance of the contemporary. It is an assertion of those permanent values which the momentary eddies of social evolution have contravened or overlooked. If this is true, then we may also say that every hobbyist is inherently a radical, and that his tribe is inherently a minority.

Thanks to Ian Jackson for identifying the source of the quotation from Ariosto—Orlando Furioso, canto 34, stanza 75, line 3. Here is the stanza from the Valgrisi 1580 edition (also courtesy of Ian Jackson), followed by a transcription and my rough translation:

Le lacrime, e i sospiri de gli amanti,
L'inutil tempo, che si perde à gioco,
E l'otio lungo d'huomini ignoranti,
Vani disegni, che non han mai loco,
I vani desiderii sono tanti,
Che la più parte ingombran di quel loco.
Ciò che in somma qua giù perdesti mai,
Là sù salendo ritrouar potrai.

The tears and sighs of lovers,
The useless time wasted in gambling,
The interminable leisure of ignorant men,
Idle plans, which never come to fruition,
Unfulfilled longings—these are so plentiful
That they almost fill that place.
In short, whatever you've lost down here,
You can find again by climbing up there.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Our Innate Misanthropy

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 1078 (Z 2582-2583; July 25, 1822):
The pleasure that we feel in Satire, in satiric comedy, in raillerie [banter], in gossip, etc., in either speaking it or hearing it, comes purely from the feeling or the conviction of superiority to others which is roused in us by those things, that is, in short, by our innate hatred of others, a consequence of self-love that causes us to take pleasure in the humiliation and debasement even of those who are in no way opposed or can be opposed to our self-love, our interests, etc., who have never harmed us, displeased us, brought us discomfort—and even of the human species itself, the humiliation of which, as it is mocked in comedies or satires, etc., in the abstract, and without specificity of real individuals, itself flatters our innate misanthropy. And I say innate because self-love, which is innate, cannot exist without it.

Il piacere che noi proviamo della Satira, della commedia satirica, della raillerie, della maldicenza ec. o nel farla o nel sentirla, non viene da altro se non dal sentimento o dall'opinione della nostra superiorità sopra gli altri, che si desta in noi per le dette cose, cioè in somma dall'odio nostro innato verso gli altri, conseguenza dell'amor proprio che ci fa compiacere dello scorno e dell'abbassamento anche di quelli che in niun modo si sono opposti o si possono opporre al nostro amor proprio, a' nostri interessi ec., che niun danno, niun dispiacere, niuno incomodo ci hanno mai recato, e fino anche della stessa specie umana; l'abbassamento della quale, derisa nelle commedie o nelle satire ec. in astratto, e senza specificazione d'individui reali, lusinga esso medesimo la nostra innata misantropia. E dico innata, perché l'amor proprio, ch'è innato, non può star senza di lei.


The Land of No Return

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), pp. 154-155:
An aspect of the soul's journey below that is frequently emphasized is that it is to a place from which there is no returning. 'The Land of No Return', Kur-nu-gi4, was already established by the Sumerians as a common name of the underworld. It was taken over by the Akkadians, either as Kurnugi or translated as erṣet (or qaqqar) lā târi. Ishtar determines to go down
To Kurnugi, the land [of no return]...
to the house whose entrants do not go out,
on the road whose travelling is of no returning.225
The same idea is expressed in the Book of Job: ‘before I go, not to return, to the land of dark and blackness'; 'I shall be going the road I shall not return'.226 In Greek we may refer once again to Patroclus' ghost's visit to Achilles. Give me your hand, it says, 'for I shall not come back again after this, once you have given me my due of the fire'. Hesiod describes how the fierce hound at the entrance to Hades' house wags its tail at those who arrive but will not let any of them out again.227

The theme that there is no return from Hades recurs quite frequently in later Greek and Latin poetry. Anacreon makes use of it in lamenting his old age. Hades is a fearful hole, he says, καὶ γὰρ ἑτοῖμον καταβάντι μὴ ἀναβῆναι, 'for one who goes down there is likely not to come up'. The formulation is closely matched in another passage in the Book of Job, yôrēd Šeɔôl lōɔ yacāleh, 'one who goes down to Sheol will not come up'.228 It occurs much earlier in the Hittite ritual text which I quoted above, where the anger of the god Telibinu is sent by spells to the underworld: 'what goes in does not come out again'. The ghost of Darius is summoned up by incantations, but he observes that it was difficult to get leave:
It is not easy of exit
by any means; the gods below the earth
are better at taking than at letting go.
The Sumero-Akkadian 'land of no return' finds a later echo in an epitaph by Antipater of Sidon: 'you have gone to the no-turn, no-return region of those below'. When Catullus pictured Lesbia’s sparrow going per iter tenebricosum, illuc unde negant redire quemquam, he was no doubt aware that he was using a traditional motif, but he surely had no idea that it could be traced back through oriental literatures for some two thousand years before his time.229

225 Descent of Ishtar 1.5 f., cf. Gilg. VII 176 f., Nergal and Ereshkigal (SBV) iii 1; Tallqvist (1934), 15 f.
226 Job 10.21, 16.22; cf. 2 Sam. 12.23.
227 Il. 23.75 f., Hes. Th. 769-73.
228 Anacr. PMG 395.10-12 ~ Job 7.9.
229 Aesch. Pers. 688-90, Antip. Sid. Anth. Pal. 7.467 (Gow-Page, Hellenistic Epigrams, 536 f.), Catull. 3.12; cf. Eur. H.F. 431, fr. 868, etc.; my Studies in Aeschylus, Stuttgart 1990, 121.
See also M.L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 388-389.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Happy the Man

Lucan, The Civil War 4.393-399 (tr. J.D. Duff):
When the whole world is nodding to its fall, happy the man who has been able to learn already the lowly place appointed for him. No battles call them from where they rest; no trumpet-call breaks their sound slumbers. They are welcomed now by their wives and innocent babes, by their simple dwellings and their native soil, nor are they settled there as colonists. Of another burden too Fortune relieves them: their minds are rid of the trouble of partisanship...

felix, qui potuit mundi nutante ruina
quo iaceat iam scire loco. non proelia fessos        395
ulla vocant, certos non rumpunt classica somnos.
iam coniunx natique rudes et sordida tecta
et non deductos recipit sua terra colonos.
hoc quoque securis oneris fortuna remisit,
sollicitus menti quod abest favor...

399 favor Ωa: pavor VC

Friday, October 14, 2016


Damned for the Glory of God

George Santayana (1863-1952), Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1922), pp. 114-116:
Dante, however, was not merely a simple lover of excellence: he was also a keen hater of wickedness, one that took the moral world tragically and wished to heighten the distinctions he felt into something absolute and infinite. Now any man who is enragé in his preferences will probably say, with Mohammed, Tertullian, and Calvin, that good is dishonoured if those who contemn it can go scot-free, and never repent of their negligence; that the more horrible the consequences of evil-doing, the more tolerable the presence of evil-doing is in the world; and that the everlasting shrieks and contortions of the damned alone will make it possible for the saints to sit quiet, and be convinced that there is perfect harmony in the universe. On this principle, in the famous inscription which Dante places over the gate of hell, we read that primal love, as well as justice and power, established that torture-house; primal love, that is, of that good which, by the extreme punishment of those who scorn it, is honoured, vindicated, and made to shine like the sun. The damned are damned for the glory of God.

This doctrine, I cannot help thinking, is a great disgrace to human nature. It shows how desperate, at heart, is the folly of an egotistic or anthropocentric philosophy. This philosophy begins by assuring us that everything is obviously created to serve our needs; it then maintains that everything serves our ideals; and in the end, it reveals that everything serves our blind hatreds and superstitious qualms. Because my instinct taboos something, the whole universe, with insane intensity, shall taboo it for ever.
Related post: Heavenly Bliss.


What Is Life?

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 1809 (Z 4162-4163; January 17, 1826):
What is life? The journey of a crippled and sick man walking with a heavy load on his back up steep mountains and through wild, rugged, arduous places, in snow, ice, rain, wind, burning sun, for many days without ever resting night and day to end up at a precipice or a ditch, in which inevitably he falls.

Che cosa è la vita? Il viaggio di un zoppo e infermo che con un gravissimo carico in sul dosso, per montagne ertissime e luoghi sommamente aspri, faticosi e difficili, alla neve, al gelo, alla pioggia, al vento, all'ardore del sole, cammina senza mai riposarsi dí e notte uno spazio di molte giornate per arrivare a un cotal precipizio o un fosso e quivi inevitabilmente cadere.



D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), Instaurations: Essays in and out of Literature, Pindar to Pound (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 240-241:
Suppose further that, first from choice and then from necessity (our new, frightening friend), we had to stay put in one spot, vagrants no longer since the gas that whisked us over the face of the earth had run out and the highways had buckled and half vanished as grass returned to cover the scars of that self-inflicted wound. Suppose that our lives were spent in homes where the mysteries of birth and death had occurred, instead of being handed over to sterilized non-places called hospitals, and that our work was done near the hallowed ground where our dead lay. Suppose that we had to live according to the rhythms of day and night, the magic juice that disrupted those rhythms having long since been priced off the market by the utilities companies. Might not the symbolisms of the sacred which have withered in the regnum hominis start to take hold again? None of these changes is impossible to conceive, unless we are so mesmerized by the size and noise of the man-locked set all around us that we think it indestructible. Is it impossible or illicit to imagine the change of heart and mind which might in time go with these material changes?


Thursday, October 13, 2016


Uncertain Interpretations

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), pp. 84-85 (on Ugaritic tablets):
And it has to be acknowledged that the interpretation of many passages is more or less uncertain. This is partly because the meanings of many words have to be guessed on the basis of similar-looking roots in Hebrew, Arabic, or other Semitic languages, which often offer more than one possible solution. Thus, where one expert translates '(Tο) the womb I'll descend. When I'm reborn', another renders 'Alone I shall go down into the grave of us both', and a third, 'I have to get out of my underwear alone'.79

79 Gordon, Gibson, and de Moor at KTU 1.2 iii 20.
KTU = Die Keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit.


Business Practices

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Buddenbrooks, VIII.8 (tr. John E. Woods):
In business today there are certain practices, they call them 'usages.' And a usage, you see, is a maneuver that is not quite all that it should be, not quite in accordance with the letter of the law, and looks rather dishonest from the layman's point of view, but which by the tacit agreement of the business world is common enough. It's hard to draw the line between a usage and something much worse.

Es gibt im Geschäftsleben moderneren Stiles etwas, was man Usance nennt ... Eine Usance, verstehst du, das ist ein Manöver, das nicht ganz einwandfrei ist, sich nicht ganz mit dem geschriebenen Gesetze verträgt, und für den Laienverstand schon unredlich aussieht, das aber dennoch nach stillschweigender Übereinkunft in der Geschäftswelt gang und gäbe ist. Die Grenzlinie zwischen Usance und Schlimmerem ist sehr schwer zu ziehen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Books as Gardens

John Florio (1553-1625), "To the Reader" in Boccaccio, The Decameron, containing an hundred pleasant Nouels. Wittily discoursed, betweene seauen Honourable Ladies, and three Noble Gentlemen, Vol. II: The last Fiue Dayes (London: Isaac Iaggard, 1620), sig. A4:
Bookes (Courteous Reader) may rightly be compared to Gardens; wherein, let the painfull Gardiner expresse neuer so much care and diligent endeauour; yet among the very fairest, sweetest, and freshest Flowers, as also Plants of most precious Vertue; ill fauouring and stinking Weeds, fit for no vse but the fire or mucke-hill, will spring and sprout vp. So fareth it with Bookes of the very best quality, let the Author bee neuer so indulgent, and the Printer vigilant: yet both may misse their ayme, by the escape of Errors and Mistakes, either in sense or matter, the one fault ensuing by a ragged Written Copy; and the other through want of wary Correction. If then the best Bookes cannot be free from this common infirmity; blame not this then, of farre lighter argument, wherein thy courtesie may helpe vs both: His blame, in acknowledging his more sufficiency, then to write so grosse and absurdly: And mine, in pardoning vnwilling Errours committed, which thy iudgement finding, thy pen can as easily correct.
See Randall L. Anderson, "Metaphors of the Book as Garden in the English Renaissance," Yearbook of English Studies 33 (2003) 248-261, who doesn't seem to mention this passage.


The Discovery of the New World

Seneca, Medea 375-379 (tr. John G. Fitch):
There will come an epoch late in time
when Ocean will loosen the bonds of the world
and the earth lie open in its vastness,
when Tethys will disclose new worlds
and Thule not be the farthest of lands.

venient annis saecula seris,
quibus Oceanus vincula rerum
laxet et ingens pateat tellus
Tethysque novos detegat orbes
nec sit terris ultima Thule.
Manuscript variants according to A.J. Boyle, ed., Seneca, Medea. Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 84:
378 thethisque E: typhisque T (after corr.) C (after corr.): yphysque P: yphisque S: hiphisque V
Christopher Columbus, The Book of Prophecies, ed. Roberto Rusconi, tr. Blair Sullivan (1997; rpt. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2004 = Repertorium Columbianum, III), pp. 290-291:
/59 verso/


[1] Seneca in VIIo tragetide Medee in choro: "Audax nimium".

[2] Venient annis
secula seris, quibus Occeanus
vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
pateat te<l>lus Tiphisque novos
detegat orbes, nec sit terris
ultima Tille.


[1] Vernán los tardos años del mundo, ciertos tiempos en los quales el mar Ocçéano afloxerá los atamentos de las cosas e se abrirá una grandé tierra; [2] e um nuebo marinero como aquel que fue guýa de Jasón, que obe nombre Tiphi, descobrirá nuebo mundo e estonçes non será la ysla Tille la postrera de las tierras.


[1] Seneca, book 7 of the tragedy of Medea, from the chorus "Audax nimium".

[2] During the last years of the world,
the time will come in which Oceanus
will loosen the bounds, and a huge landmass
will appear; Tiphys will discover new worlds,
and Thule will no longer be the most remote land.


[1] During the last years of the world, the time will come in which the Ocean sea will loosen the bounds and a large landmass will appear. [2] A new sailor like the one named Tiphys, who was the guide of Jason, will discover a new world, and then Thule will no longer be the most remote land.
Ferdinand Columbus wrote in the margin of his copy of Seneca's Tragedies, next to the passage from Medea:
Haec profetia expleta est per patrem meum Christoforum Colon almirantem, anno 1492.
That is,
This prophecy was fulfilled by my father Admiral Christopher Columbus, in the year 1492.
John Denham, "The Progress of Learning," in his Poems and Translations, 4th ed. (London: H. Herringman, 1703), pp. 168-183 (at 172-173):
What the Tragedian wrote, the late success
Declares was Inspiration, and not Guess:
As dark a truth that Author did unfold
As Oracles or Prophets e'er fore-told:
At last the Ocean shall unlock the Bound,
Of things, and a New World by
Typhis found,
Then Ages far remote shall understand
Isle of Thule is not the farthest Land.
Clay's article was written, he says (p. 617), "as we observe rather than celebrate this the quincentenary of Columbus' discovery of 'America'." In my opinion, it was a cause for celebration, and so is Columbus Day, although if I ruled the world, the holiday would not be a moveable feast (the second Monday of October), but would still be celebrated on the anniversary of the landfall, October 12, as it was in my childhood.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016



John Taylor (1578-1653), "Drinke and welcome: or the Famovs Historie of the Most Part of Drinks, in Use Now in the Kingdomes of Great Brittaine and Ireland, with an especiall declaration of the potency, vertue, and operation of our English ALE," Works of John Taylor the Water Poet not Included in the Folio Volume of 1630. Second Collection (Manchester: Spenser Society, 1873), pp. 12-13:
Ale is rightly called Nappy, for it will set a nap upon a mans threed bare eyes when he is sleepy. It is called Merry-goe-downe, for it slides downe merrily; It is fragrant to the sent; It is most pleasant to the taste; the flowring and mantling of it (like Chequer work), with the Verdant smiling of it, is delightfull to the sight, it is Touching or Feeling to the Braine and Heart; and (to please the senses all) it provokes men to singing and mirth, which is contenting to the Hearing. The speedy taking of it doth comfort a heavy and troubled minde; it will make a weeping widow laugh and forget sorrow for her deceased husband; It is truly termed the spirit of the Buttry (for it puts spirit into all it enters,) It makes the footmans Head and heeles so light, that he seemes to flie as he runnes; It is the warmest lineing of a naked mans Coat (that's a Bull) It satiates and asswageth hunger and cold; with a Toaste it is the poore mans comfort, the Shepheard, Mower, Plowman, Labourer and Blacksmiths most esteemed purchase; It is the Tinkers treasure, the Pedlers Jewell, the Beggers Joy, and the Prisoners loving Nurse; it will whet the wit so sharp, that it will make a Carter talke of matters beyond his reach; It will set a Bashfull suitor a woing; It heates the chill blood of the Aged; It will cause a man to speake past his owne or any other mans capacity, of understanding; It sets an edge upon Logick and Rhetorick; It is a friend to the Muses; It inspires the poore Poet, that cannot compasse the price of Canarie or Gascoigne; It mounts the Musitian above Ecla; It makes the Balladmaker Rime beyond Reason, It is a Repairer of a decaied Colour in the face; It puts Eloquence into the Oratour; It will make the Philosopher talke profoundly, the Scholler learnedly, and the Lawyer Acute and feelingly. Ale at Whitsontide, or a Whitson Church Ale, is a Repairer of decayed Countrey Churches; It is a great friend to Truth, for they that drinke of it (to the purpose) will reveale all they know, be it never so secret to be kept; It is an Embleme of Justice, for it allowes and yeelds measure; It will put courage into a Coward, and make him swagger and fight; It is a seale to many a good Bargaine. The Physitian will commend it; the Lawyer will defend it, It neither hurts, or kils, any but those who abuse it unmeasurably and beyond bearing; It doth good to as many as take it rightly; It is as good as a paire of Spectacles to cleare the eyesight of an old parish Clarke; and in Conclusion, it is such a nourisher of Mankinde, that if my mouth were as bigge as Bishopsgate, my Pen as long as a Maypole, and my Inke a flowing spring, or a standing fishpond, yet I could not with Mouth, Pen, or Inke, speake or write the true worthinesse of Ale.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Artificial Intelligence

Searching Google for information on a Greek inscription (Inschriften Mysia & Troas 1439 = Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes 4.145 = Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum 798), I entered some of the proper names in the inscription as search terms—gaius caesar kotys polemon. Google responded:
Showing results for gaius caesar kotys pokemon
Search instead for gaius caesar kotys polemon


An Extraordinary Custom

John Evelyn (1620-1706), Diary and Correspondence, ed. William Bray, Vol. I (London: George Bell & Sons, 1906), p. 73 (April 21, 1644; on the university at Orléans):
There are in it two reasonable fair public libraries, whence one may borrow a book to one's chamber, giving but a note under hand, which is an extraordinary custom, and a confidence that has cost many libraries dear.



Aristophanes, Knights 285-287 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I'll shout three times as loud as you!

I'll outbellow you with my bellowing!

I'll shout you down with my shouting!

τριπλάσιον κεκράξομαί σου.

καταβοήσομαι βοῶν σε.

κατακεκράξομαί σε κράζων.

Sunday, October 09, 2016


Acts of Creation

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There (1949; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 81:
Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree—and there will be one.

If his back be strong and his shovel sharp, there may eventually be ten thousand. And in the seventh year he may lean upon his shovel, and look upon his trees, and find them good.

God passed on his handiwork as early as the seventh day, but I notice He has since been rather noncommittal about its merits. I gather either that He spoke too soon, or that trees stand more looking upon than do fig leaves and firmaments.


Affection for Solitude

John Evelyn (1620-1706), Diary and Correspondence, ed. William Bray, Vol. I (London: George Bell & Sons, 1906), p. 4:
I was now (in regard to my mother's weakness, or rather custom of persons of quality) put to nurse to one Peter, a neighbour's wife and tenant, of a good, comely, brown, wholesome complexion, and in a most sweet place towards the hills, flanked with wood and refreshed with streams; the affection to which kind of solitude I sucked in with my very milk.


Conservative Scholars

A.E. Housman (1859-1936), ed., M. Annaei Lucani Belli Civilis Libri Decem (1927; rpt. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1950), p. xxvii:
It would not be true to say that all conservative scholars are stupid, but it is very near the truth to say that all stupid scholars are conservative. Defenders of corruptions are therefore assured beforehand of wide approval; and this is demoralising. They need not seriously consider what they say, because they are addressing an audience whose intelligence is despicable and whose hearts are won already; and they use pretexts which nobody would venture to put forward in any other cause. Emendators should thank their stars that they have the multitude against them and must address the judicious few, and that moral integrity and intellectual vigilance are for them not merely duties but necessities.
Although it goes without saying, perhaps it needs be said anyway—"conservative" here means one who defends corrupt manuscript readings and opposes attempts to emend them.

Saturday, October 08, 2016


Battle Cry

Aeschylus, Persians 401-405 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
                                    Come on, sons of the Greeks,
for the freedom of your homeland, for the freedom of
your children, your wives, the temples of your fathers' gods,
and the tombs of your ancestors! Now all is at stake!

                         ὦ παῖδες Ἑλλήνων, ἴτε,
ἐλευθεροῦτε πατρίδ᾿, ἐλευθεροῦτε δὲ
παῖδας, γυναῖκας, θεῶν τε πατρῴων ἕδη,
θήκας τε προγόνων· νῦν ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀγών.
A.F. Garvie ad loc.:
The comprehensive list of fatherland, children, wives, father's gods, and ancestors (cf. Nestor's list at Hom. Il. 15.661–4, Callinus fr. 1.6–8, and Thucydides' account of, and comments on, Nicias' speech at 7.69.2, with S. Goldhill, in G.W. Most (ed.), Commentaries = Kommentaren (Göttingen 1999) 399–402) stops at the caesura, and is then summed up in a trenchant half-line.
Homer, Iliad 15.661-664 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
Friends, be men, and put in your hearts a sense of shame before
other men, and be mindful, each man of you,
of children and wife, of possessions and of parents,
whether they are living or dead.

ὦ φίλοι, ἀνέρες ἔστε, καὶ αἰδὼ θέσθ᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων, ἐπὶ δὲ μνήσασθε ἕκαστος
παίδων ἠδ᾿ ἀλόχων καὶ κτήσιος ἠδὲ τοκήων,
ἠμὲν ὅτεῳ ζώουσι καὶ ᾧ κατατεθνήκασι.
Callinus fragment 1, lines 6–8 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
For it is a splendid honour for a man to fight
on behalf of his land, children, and wedded wife
against the foe.

τιμῆέν τε γάρ ἐστι καὶ ἀγλαὸν ἀνδρὶ μάχεσθαι
γῆς πέρι καὶ παίδων κουριδίης τ᾿ ἀλόχου
Thucydides 7.69.2 (tr. Richard Crawley):
He reminded them of their country, the freest of the free, and of the unfettered discretion allowed in it to all to live as they pleased; and added other arguments such as men would use at such a crisis, and which, with little alteration, are made to serve on all occasions alike—appeals to wives, children, and national gods,—without caring whether they are thought commonplace, but loudly invoking them in the belief that they will be of use in the consternation of the moment.

πατρίδος τε τῆς ἐλευθερωτάτης ὑπομιμνῄσκων καὶ τῆς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀνεπιτάκτου πᾶσιν ἐς τὴν δίαιταν ἐξουσίας, ἄλλα τε λέγων ὅσα ἐν τῷ τοιούτῳ ἤδη τοῦ καιροῦ ὄντες ἄνθρωποι οὐ πρὸς τὸ δοκεῖν τινὶ ἀρχαιολογεῖν φυλαξάμενοι εἴποιεν ἄν, καὶ ὑπὲρ ἁπάντων παραπλήσια ἔς τε γυναῖκας καὶ παῖδας καὶ θεοὺς πατρῴους προφερόμενα, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ τῇ παρούσῃ ἐκπλήξει ὠφέλιμα νομίζοντες ἐπιβοῶνται.

Friday, October 07, 2016


No Escape

Aeschylus, Persians 93-100 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
But what mortal man can escape the guileful deception of a god?
Who is so light of foot that he has power to leap easily away?
For Ruin begins by fawning on a man in a friendly way
and leads him astray into her net,
from which it is impossible for a mortal to escape and flee.

δολόμητιν δ᾿ ἀπάταν θεοῦ τίς ἀνὴρ θνατὸς ἀλύξει;
τίς ὁ κραιπνῷ ποδὶ πηδήματος εὐπετέος ἀνάσσων; 95
φιλόφρων γὰρ <ποτι>σαίνουσα τὸ πρῶτον παράγει
βροτὸν εἰς ἀρκύστ<ατ᾿> Ἄτα,
τόθεν οὐκ ἔστιν ὑπὲρ θνατὸν ἀλύξαντα φυγεῖν. 100

97-98 <ποτι>σαίνουσα Hermann: σαίνουσα codd.
99 ἀρκύστ<ατ᾿> Ἄτα West: ἀρκύστατα codd.
Metre according to A.F. Garvie's commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 372:

Seth Benardete's translation:
Deceitful deception of god—
What mortal man shall avoid it?
With nimbleness, deftness, and speed,
Whose leaping foot shall escape it?
Benign and coaxing at first
It leads us astray into nets which
No mortal is able to slip,
Whose doom we never can flee.
Christopher Collard's translation:
Cunningly planned deceit by a god, however—
which mortal man will escape it?
Who is there who commands an easy leap over it, swift with his feet?
Though friendly at first in fawning forward
Ruin decoys him into her nets;
over their top no mortal can flee in escape.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Fees and Surcharges

Cicero, Against Verres (tr. L.H.G. Greenwood, with his note):
All these terms, gentlemen, are not names for real thingsb: they are names for impudent pieces of theft.

b i.e., for costs really incurred or real work performed.

haec omnia, iudices, non rerum certarum, sed furtorum improbissimorum sunt vocabula.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


It Nearly Finished Me

Richard Garnett Jr., "Memoir of the Late Rev. Richard Garnett," in The Philological Essays of the Late Rev. Richard Garnett of the British Museum. Edited by his Son (London: Williams and Norgate, 1859), pp. i-xvi (at ii):
Before all things, it was necessary to obtain a thorough acquaintance with Latin, of which he knew little, and with Greek, of which he knew nothing. This — as well as a competent knowledge of technical divinity and no despicable amount of Hebrew — was the work of something less than four years, much occupied with other tasks. In 1809 he quitted his father's roof to teach at the school of the Rev. Evelyn Falkner, Southwell — in 1813 he was ordained by the Archbishop of York, after an examination in which he displayed an amount of knowledge, especially Scriptural, declared by that prelate's chaplain to have surpassed every thing that, in his official capacity, had previously come under his notice. Traces of the severity of his application at Southwell survive in the mass of marginal notes that cover his books, as well as in his recorded feat of mastering the whole Iliad in a month. "I finished it," he remarked to one of his brothers, "but it nearly finished me."


Homer, Iliad 7.100

Homer, Iliad 7.96-100 (Menelaus reproaches his fellow Greeks because no one has volunteered to accept the Trojan Hector's challenge to single combat; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
Ah me, you braggarts, you women of Achaea, men no more!
Surely will this be an outrage dread and dire,
if no man of the Danaans now goes to meet Hector.
But may you one and all turn to earth and water,
you who sit there each man with no heart in him, utterly inglorious.

ὤ μοι ἀπειλητῆρες Ἀχαιΐδες οὐκέτ᾽ Ἀχαιοί·
ἦ μὲν δὴ λώβη τάδε γ᾽ ἔσσεται αἰνόθεν αἰνῶς
εἰ μή τις Δαναῶν νῦν Ἕκτορος ἀντίος εἶσιν.
ἀλλ᾽ ὑμεῖς μὲν πάντες ὕδωρ καὶ γαῖα γένοισθε
ἥμενοι αὖθι ἕκαστοι ἀκήριοι ἀκλεὲς αὔτως.
Leaf and Bayfield on line 100:
ἀκήριοι ἀκλεὲς αὔτως: 'spiritless, in utter shame.' ἀκλεές is the neut. of ἀκλεής used adverbially. Some editors write ἀκλέες, i.e. ἀκλεέες, nom. pl.
G.S. Kirk ad loc.:
ἀκλεὲς is neuter acc. used adverbially; nom. plur. ἀκλέες, so accented, had some support (cf. Eustathius 669.1) but is probably an incorrect form (Chantraine, GH 1, 74). αὔτως intensifies: 'in an utterly inglorious way'.
If nominative plural ἀκλέες were read, then ἀκήριοι ἀκλέες (without heart, without fame) would be an example of a pair of asyndetic privative adjectives, in the same category as


Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Fifth Column

Demosthenes, Third Philippic 53 (tr. J.H. Vince):
It is impossible to defeat the enemies of our city until you have chastised those who within our very walls make themselves their servants.

οὐκ ἔνεστι τῶν τῆς πόλεως ἐχθρῶν κρατῆσαι, πρὶν ἂν τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ πόλει κολάσηθ' ὑπηρετοῦντας ἐκείνοις.


The Last Word in Ignorance

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), Round River: From the Journals of Aldo Leopold (1953; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 146-147:
The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.


A Labor Worthy of Hercules

Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 33: Adages II i 1 to II vi 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 10 (II i 1 Festina lente = Make haste slowly)
A labour indeed worthy of Hercules, fit for the spirit of a king, to give back to the world something so heavenly, when it was in a state of almost complete collapse; to trace out what lies hid, to dig up what is buried, to call back the dead, to repair what is mutilated, to correct what is corrupted in so many ways, especially by the fault of those common printers who reckon one pitiful gold coin in the way of profit worth more than the whole realm of letters. And another point: however loudly you may sing the praises of those men who by their valour protect or even extend the boundaries of their country, they are active at best in worldly things and constrained within narrow limits. But he who restores a literature in ruins (almost a harder task than to create one) is engaged on a thing sacred and immortal, and works for the benefit not of one province only but of all nations everywhere and of all succeeding ages.
In Latin:
Herculanum mehercule facinus ac regio quodam animo dignum, rem tam diuinam quasi funditus collapsam orbi restituere, latentia peruestigare, eruere retrusa, reuocare extincta, sarcire mutila, emendare tot modis deprauata, praecipue vulgarium istorum excusorum vitio, quibus vnius etiam aureoli lucellum antiquius est quam vel vniuersa res literaria. Adde iis, quod quantumlibet exaggeres eorum laudem, qui respublicas sua virtute vel tuentur, vel etiam augent, in re certe prophana, tum angustis circumscripta spatiis versantur. At qui literas collapsas vindicat, nam id pene difficilius quam genuisse, primum rem sacram molitur et immortalem, tum non vnius alicuius prouinciae, sed omnium vbique gentium, omnium seculorum negocium agit.

Monday, October 03, 2016


Magic Wand

Douglas Belkin, "How to Sell a Liberal-Arts Education," Wall Street Journal (October 19, 2014) (interview with Brian Casey, president of DePauw University):
WSJ: If you could wave a magic wand and make one problem at your school disappear what would that be?

MR. CASEY: I would like to wave a wand and for just some portion of every week have some students removed from the Internet and from telephones, smartphones and social media, and buy themselves time to read. Students these days aren’t natural readers of longer books, and I can recall from my own college days those moments when you fell in love with a book and sat for a sustained period with an important work and lived with that author for a period. They are bombarded with short bits of information constantly, and I would love to free them from that for just a short period of every week. I think they would discover more about themselves, they would learn how to engage with complexity in ways they avoid in certain ways now. They would experience the act of being quiet and alone with their thoughts.
Hat tip: Tim Nagler. The title of the article in the paper edition (October 20, 2014, p. R5) was "How a Liberal Arts College Survives."


The Vanity of Man's Life

"Of the vanitie of mans life," Tottel's Miscellany, ed. Edward Arber (London: Murray, 1870), pp. 257-258 (line numbers added):
Vaine is the fleting welth,
Whereon the world stayes:
Sithe stalking time by priuy stelth
Encrocheth on our dayes.

And elde which creepeth fast,        5
To taynte vs with her wounde:
Will turne eche blysse into a blast,
Which lasteth but a stounde.

Of youth the lusty floure,
Which whylome stoode in price:        10
Shall vanish quite within an houre,
As fire consumes the ice.

Where is become that wight,
For whose sake Troy towne:
Withstode the grekes till ten yeres fight,        15
Had rasde their walls adowne.

Did not the wormes consume,
Her caryon to the dust?
Did dreadfull death forbeare his fume
For beauty, pride, or lust?        20
My notes, at the risk of belaboring the obvious:
3 sithe: since, seeing that
5 elde: "Antiquity, duration of existence; time considered as a destroying or wearing agency" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. eld, sense 4)
7 blast: curse
8 stounde: moment
10 whylome: once upon a time
13 wight: person, here = Helen of Troy
19 fume: perhaps "A fit of anger, an irritable or angry mood" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 7.a)

Sunday, October 02, 2016


A Complex Entity

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 54:
An ancient god is a complex entity, a compound made up from some or all of the following: a name, or rather, a cluster of names and titles; a poetic persona; a mythology; a doxology; an iconography; a constituency, defined by geographical or social factors; a set of prompts, I mean situations and occasions when the god is brought to mind; a 'dromenology', that is, a repertory of cult activities.


Political Unrest

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Buddenbrooks, IV.2 (tr. John E. Woods):
The fact was that there had been unrest in the streets all day. That same morning, the display window of Benthien Clothiers had been shattered by a stone, although God only knew what Herr Benthien's window had to do with politics.

Die Sache war die, daß während des ganzen Tages bereits Unruhen in der Stadt geherrscht hatten. In der Breiten Straße war am Morgen die Schaufensterscheibe des Tuchhändlers Benthien vermittelt Steinwurfes zertrümmert worden, wobei Gott allein wußte, was das Fenster des Herrn Benthien mit der hohen Politik zu schaffen hatte.
The translation omits "In der Breiten Straße." H.T. Lowe-Porter's translation includes these words but is unsatisfactory in another respect:
The truth was that the town had been the whole day in a state of unrest. In the morning the windows of Benthien the draper's shop in Broad Street had been broken by stones—although God knew what the owner had to do with politics!
It's not a question of what Benthien had to do with politics, but what his shop window had to do with politics. Similar questions could be asked here and now.



Jacob Grimm (1785-1863), Teutonic Mythology, tr. James Steven Stallybrass, Vol. I (London: W. Swan Sonnenschein & Allen, 1880), p. 4:
Christianity was not popular. It came from abroad, it aimed at supplanting the time-honoured indigenous gods whom the country revered and loved. These gods and their worship were part and parcel of the people's traditions, customs and constitution. Their names had their roots in the people's language, and were hallowed by antiquity; kings and princes traced their lineage back to individual gods; forests, mountains, lakes had received a living consecration from their presence. All this the people was now to renounce; and what is elsewhere commended as truth and loyalty was denounced and persecuted by the heralds of the new faith as a sin and a crime. The source and seat of all sacred lore was shifted away to far-off regions for ever, and only a fainter borrowed glory could henceforth be shed on places in one's native land.

Das christenthum war nicht volksmäßig. Es kam aus der fremde, und wollte althergebrachte einheimische götter verdrängen, die das land ehrte und liebte. Diese götter und ihr dienst hiengen zusammen mit überlieferungen, verfassung und gebräuchen des volks. Ihre namen waren in der landessprache entsprungen und alterthümlich geheiligt, könige und fürsten führten stamm und abkunft auf einzelne götter zurück; wälder, berge, seen hatten durch ihre nähe lebendige weihe empfangen. Allem dem sollte das volk entsagen, und was sonst als treue und anhänglichkeit gepriesen wird, wurde von verkündigern des neuen glaubens als sünde und verbrechen dargestellt und verfolgt. Ursprung und sitz der heiligen lehre waren für immer in ferne gegenden entrückt und nur eine abgeleitete, schwächere ehre konnte auf heimatliche stätten übertragen werden.

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Persuasiveness of Truths and Falsehoods

Euripides, fragment 396 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
But if, old man, there are falsehoods amongst men that are
persuasive, you should recognize the opposite—
that many truths turn out to be unpersuasive to them.

ἀλλ᾿ εἴπερ ἐστὶν ἐν βροτοῖς ψευδῆ, γέρον,
πιθανά, νομίζειν χρή σε καὶ τοὐναντίον,
ἄπιστ᾿ ἀληθῆ πολλὰ συμβαίνειν βροτοῖς.


Licht vom Osten

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. xi:
'The beginnings of Greek literature are starting to take on a new aspect.' Those words, written in the year of my birth by Franz Dornseiff, are still applicable. Another writer has gone so far as to proclaim the end of Classical scholarship as a self-sufficient discipline:
The days of an exclusively 'classical' scholarship are over. To write about Greek literature without knowing something of the West Asiatic has become as impossible as studying Roman literature without knowledge of the Greek.1
That depends, of course, on which area of Greek literature is in question, but I hope to show the truth of the statement as regards the whole field of Archaic and early Classical poetry.

Even from Oxford it is possible to discern the beginnings of a new and welcome trend for classicists and ancient historians to study at least one oriental language. It would perhaps be too absolute to say that this is where the future of our studies lies; but nothing will contribute more to their progress than the bringing of new evidence to bear, and this is a particularly promising direction in which to look for it. It must become a firm part of our agenda for the twenty-first century. But there is much consciousness-raising still to be done. There are still too many classicists who thoughtlessly use 'the ancient world' or 'das Altertum' as a synonym for 'Graeco-Roman antiquity', as if other ancient civilizations did not exist.

1Dornseiff, 35, 'Die Anfänge der griechischen Literatur beginnen ein anderes Gesicht zu bekommen'; Petriconi, 338 n. 18, 'Die Zeiten einer nur "klassischen" Philologie sind damit vorbei; über die griechische Literatur zu schreiben, ohne etwas von der vorderasiatischen zu wissen, ist ebenso unmöglich geworden wie etwa ohne Kenntnis der griechischen die römische Literatur zu studieren.'
The references in the footnote are to Franz Dornseiff, Antike und alter Orient. Interpretationen = his Kleine Schriften, vol. I (Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1956), and Hellmuth Petriconi, "Das Gilgamesch-Epos als Vorbild der Ilias," in Alessandro S. Crisafulli, ed., Linguistic and Literary Studies in Honor of Helmut A. Hatzfeld (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1964), pp. 329-342.

Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?