Saturday, March 31, 2018


Far Yet Near

Jean-Pierre Vernant (1914-2007), Myth and Thought Among the Greeks (1983; rpt. New York: Zone Books, 2006), p. 14:
The writings that have come to us from ancient Greek civilization embody ideas different enough from those expressed in the framework of our own intellectual universe to make us feel that we are in foreign territory, to give us not only a sense of a historical distance but also an awareness of a change in man. At the same time, these ideas are not as alien to us as are some others. They have come down to us through an uninterrupted process of transmission. They live on in cultural traditions to which we constantly refer. The Greeks are distant enough for us to be able to study them as an external subject, quite separate from ourselves, to which the psychological categories of today cannot be applied with any precision, and yet they are sufficiently close for us to be able to communicate with them without too much difficulty.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Faith of Our Fathers

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 3.2.5 (Cotta speaking; tr. H. Rackham):
This no doubt meant that I ought to uphold the beliefs about the immortal gods which have come down to us from our ancestors, and the rites and ceremonies and duties of religion. For my part I always shall uphold them and always have done so, and no eloquence of anybody, learned or unlearned, shall ever dislodge me from the belief as to the worship of the immortal gods which I have inherited from our forefathers.

quod eo credo valebat, ut opiniones quas a maioribus accepimus de dis inmortalibus, sacra caerimonias religionesque defenderem. ego vero eas defendam semper semperque defendi, nec me ex ea opinione quam a maioribus accepi de cultu deorum inmortalium ullius umquam oratio aut docti aut indocti movebit.
Related posts:


Wiped Out

M.I. Finley (1912-1986), "The Emperor Diocletian," Aspects of Antiquity: Discoveries and Controversies, 2nd ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1977), pp. 137-145 (at 142):
What Diocletian failed to do, his Christian successors accomplished in reverse. They soon wiped paganism out, by methods no less intolerant and brutal.


Lack of Interest in History

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, ed. Charles Harding Firth, Vol. III (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1914), p. 1526 (from Chapter XII, on the Siege of Londonderry):
A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants.


Drinking Bathwater

Norman Cohn (1915-2007), The Pursuit of the Millennium, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 49-50:
Again, the Chapter of Utrecht and the biographer of St Norbert both state that Tanchelm distributed his bath-water among his followers, some of whom drank it as a substitute for the Eucharist, while others treasured it as a holy relic. One is reminded of Aldebert, who distributed his nail-parings and hair-clippings amongst his followers.
Id., p. 91 (on Pseudo-Baldwin, i.e. Bertrand of Ray):
And the leader of the crusade was no ordinary commander but a holy prince, a being so revered that people kissed the scars which bore witness to his long martyrdom, fought for a hair of his head or a scrap of his clothing and drank his bathwater as an earlier generation had drunk Tanchelm's.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


A Supreme Difficulty

T.G. Tucker (1859-1946), Sappho (Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1914), pp. 74-76:
And here we are confronted with a supreme difficulty. While mere fact is readily translatable, and thought is approximately translatable, the literary quality, which is warm with the pressure and pulsation of a writer's mood and rhythmic with his emotional state, is hopelessly untranslatable. It can be suggested, but it cannot be reproduced. The translation is too often like the bare, cold photograph of a scene of which the emotional effect is largely due to colour and atmosphere. The simpler and more direct the words of the original, the more impossible is translation. In the original the words, though simple and direct, are poetical, beautiful in quality and association. They contain in their own nature hints of pathos, sparks of fire, which any so-called synonym would lack. They are musical in themselves and musical in their combinations. They flow: easily, sweetly, touchingly through the ear into the heart. The translator may seek high and low in his own language for words and combinations of the same timbre, the same ethical or emotional influence, the same gracious and touching music. He will generally seek in vain. In his own language there may exist words approximately answering in meaning, but, even if they are fairly simple and direct, they are often commonplace, sullied with "ignoble use," harsh in sound, without distinction or charm. He may require a whole phrase to convey the same tone and effect; he becomes diffuse, where terseness is a special virtue of his original.


Learning Greek

Euripides, Ion. Translated with Notes by H.D. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1937), p. 12 (H.D.'s note):
We may relegate the boy, Ion, to the dust heap and parse his delicate phrases till we end in a mad house. It will bring us no nearer to the core of Greek beauty. Parse the sun in heaven, distinguish between the taste of mountain air on different levels, feel with your bare foot a rock covered with sea-weed, one covered with sand, one washed and marbled by the tide. You can not learn Greek, only, with a dictionary. You can learn it with your hands and your feet and especially with your lungs.



Les Murray, "Evening Alone at Bunyah," 2nd stanza, Collected Poems (Melbourne: Black, Inc., 2006), p. 13:
It can be enough to read books and camp in a house.


The Good Old Game of Free Emendation

William Hardy Alexander, review of Q. Horati Flacci Carmina cum Epodis, edidit emendavit adnotavit A.Y. Campbell (Liverpool: University Press, 1945), in Classical Philology 41.3 (July, 1946) 185-186 (at 186):
It would seem that the time had come for classical scholars to realize that the good old game of free emendation has, in a busy world, had its day and has by now served any useful purpose it may once have possessed. In this remark emphasis is laid on the word "free," which is used to describe a policy of emendation of the text of even our best-established authors which simply runs riot, regardless of consequences. The reviewer's own experience with textual criticism is that the longer and the more carefully one reads a classic author, the less need he finds to suggest emendations, because his increasing feeling for the style clears up most apparent obscurities of the traditional text, and it is respectfully suggested that this is a normal procedure.

Dear Mike,

"Modern Horatian editors, whatever their other merits, have not been distinguished by critical intelligence. With one recent and notorious exception they recall Postgate's comparison of Phillimore to 'a furry animal, at repose on a mat of Berlin wool and gently purring content in front of a fire which the Marthas of Propertian criticism have made up by emptying on it again the dust and debris of centuries.' As for the exception, no cat was ever wilder."

D.R. Shackleton Bailey, "Bentley and Horace". A lecture delivered to the Classical Association at Leeds (11 April 1962), reprinted as Appendix II of Profile of Horace (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp.104-120, at 112-13.

Though not mentioned by name, there's no doubting the identity of the wild cat editor, whose "lively and often puckish ingenuity and drastic procedure in emendation have usually been received with more or less amused incredulity." R. J. Getty's obituary of A.Y. Campbell, published in the St John's College Magazine, The Eagle vol. 58 (1959), pp. 218-20, at 219.

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]

Related post: Unbridled Conjectural Criticism.


Love of Reading

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to his niece Margaret (September 15, 1842):
Thank you for your very pretty letter. I am always glad to make my little girl happy, and nothing pleases me so much as to see that she likes books. For when she is as old as I am she will find that they are better than all the tarts, and cakes, and toys, and plays, and sights in the world. If anybody would make me the greatest king that ever lived, with palaces, and gardens, and fine dinners, and wine, and coaches, and beautiful clothes, and hundreds of servants, on condition that I would not read books, I would not be a king. I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018



Adolf Deissmann (1866-1937), Light from the Ancient East, tr. Lionel R.M. Strachan (New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), p. 69:
As a matter of fact words are constantly turning up in the newly discovered texts which one may seek in vain in the dictionaries. It is equally natural that many words can only be found a few times, sometimes only once, in the whole body of the texts known to us. Nobody with common sense will suppose that these were all coined by the writers on the spur of the moment: they are little discoveries for the lexicographer, it is true, but not inventions by the authors.3

3 In Greek phrase I should say that they are ἅπαξ εὑρημένα, not ἅπαξ εἰρημένα.
I.e. found only once, not uttered only once.


Then and Now

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), "Horatius. A Lay Made about the Year of the City CCCLX," stanzas XXXII-XXXIII, from Lays of Ancient Rome:

Then none was for a party;
      Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor,
      And the poor man loved the great:
Then lands were fairly portioned;
      Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
      In the brave days of old.


Now Roman is to Roman
      More hateful than a foe,
And the Tribunes beard the high,
      And the Fathers grind the low.
As we wax hot in faction,
      In battle we wax cold:
Wherefore men fight not as they fought
      In the brave days of old.



Homer, Iliad 4.451 = 8.65 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
The earth flowed with blood.

ῥέε δ᾽ αἵματι γαῖα.
Homer, Iliad 15.715 = 20.494 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
The black earth ran with blood.

ῥέε δ᾽ αἵματι γαῖα μέλαινα.
It still does.



Cicero, Letters to His Brother Quintus 3.7.2 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
For the men and the times could not be worse than they are.

nihil est enim perditius his hominibus, his temporibus.

Dear Mike,

Carlyle expresses similar sentiments to Cicero's (and less tersely) in the first of his Latter-Day Pamphlets, The Present Time [February 1, 1850].

"Days of endless calamity, disruption, dislocation, confusion worse confounded: […]"

"Bankruptcy everywhere; foul ignominy, and the abomination of desolation, in all high places: odious to look upon, as the carnage of a battle-field on the morrow morning; […]"

"A Government tumbling and drifting on the whirlpools and mud-deluges, floating atop in a conspicuous manner, no-whither, — like the carcass of a drowned ass."

In an essay published anonymously a few weeks before, Carlyle finds contemporary social affairs "in a state of the frightfulest embroilment, and as it were of inextricable final bankruptcy", an "unutterable welter of tumbling ruins".

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


A Son Superior to His Father

Homer, Odyssey 2.276-277 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
For few are the children who turn out to be equals of their fathers,
and the greater number are worse; few are better than their father is.

παῦροι γάρ τοι παῖδες ὁμοῖοι πατρὶ πέλονται,
οἱ πλέονες κακίους, παῦροι δέ τε πατρὸς ἀρείους.
One of the better few was Periphetes, son of Kopreus — see Homer, Iliad 15.641-643 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
To him, a meaner father, was born a son who was better
for all talents, in the speed of his feet and in battle
and for intelligence counted among the first in Mykenai.

τοῦ γένετ᾽ ἐκ πατρὸς πολὺ χείρονος υἱὸς ἀμείνων
παντοίας ἀρετάς, ἠμὲν πόδας ἠδὲ μάχεσθαι,
καὶ νόον ἐν πρώτοισι Μυκηναίων ἐτέτυκτο.
Related posts:


A Scholarly Excision

Almut Fries, "Martin Litchfield West (1937-2015)," Studia Metrica et Poetica 2.2 (2015) 152–158 (at 154-155):
But all these [distinctions] were surpassed by his appointment, in the 2014 New Year's Honours List, to the Order of Merit (OM), which lies in the gift of the British monarch and is restricted to twenty-four members at any one time. It moved him deeply, but like the other accolades he wore it lightly, with the modesty that was part of his character. To everybody's amusement at the reception with which the Oxford Classics Faculty marked the occasion, the celebratory cake that had been ordered for him sported a textual error in its inscription. Martin deftly excised the obnoxious passage — with a cake knife.
Related post: An Unfortunate Misprint.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Remember Me in Your Prayers

Derwas J. Chitty (1901-1971), The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire (1966; rpt. Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, n.d.), p. 68, with note on p. 78:
Arsenius went for a time, it seems, to Canopus, where a senatorial lady from Rome, bearding him in his garden, was sent away broken by his answer to her request that he should remember her in his prayers: 'I pray God that he may wipe out the memory of thee from my heart'.47

47 G Arsen. 28.
Excerpt from the Greek (Patrologia Graeca 65, col. 96):
ἀλλ΄ εὔχου ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ͵ καὶ μνημόνευέ μου διαπαντός. ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῇ· εὔχομαι τῷ Θεῷ͵ ἵνα ἐξαλείψῃ τὸ μνημόσυνόν σου ἐκ τῆς καρδίας μου.

Monday, March 26, 2018


Did the Future of the Greeks Lie Behind Them?

R.D. Dawe, ed., Sophocles, Oedipus Rex (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 142 (on line 486):
There is an interesting essay on ὀπίσω 'afterwards' by Jonas Palm, 'Lag die Zukunft der Griechen hinter ihnen?' ('Did the future of the Greeks lie behind them?') in Annales Academiae Regiae Scientiarum Upsaliensis 13 (1969) [5-13].
I don't have access to Palm's article. See Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ὀπίσω, sense II:
of Time, hereafter, since the future is unseen and was therefore regarded as behind us, whereas the past is known and therefore before our eyes...



Dear Mike,

Time for a new academic discipline, I think. Here is some early apanthropological field notes from Menander, Dyskolos 5-10 (tr. W.G. Arnott):
This farm here on the right's
Where Knemon lives, a hermit of a man,
Peevish to everybody, loathing crowds—
'Crowds' do I say? He's lived a good long time
And never spoken willingly to anyone
In his life, never been the first to greet a man...

τὸν ἀγρὸν δὲ τὸν [ἐ]πὶ δεξί᾿ οἰκεῖ τουτονὶ
Κνήμων, ἀπάνθρωπός τις ἄνθρωπος σφόδρα
καὶ δύσκολος πρὸς ἅπαντας, οὐ χαίρων τ᾿ ὄχλῳ—
"ὄχλῳ" λέγω; ζ[ῶ]ν οὗτος ἐπιεικῶς χρόνον
πολὺν λελάληκεν ἡδέως ἐν τῷ βίῳ
οὐδενί, προσηγόρευκε πρότερος δ᾿ οὐδένα
On ἀπάνθρωπός Franz Stoessl comments "verbindt de betekenissen van 'mensenschuw' en 'onbeschaafd'" (combines the meanings of "shy" and "uncivilised"). Also, below, pace Julius Pollux, ἀπανθρωπέομαι: "Inhumanus sum vel A consortio hominum abhorreo."

Stephanus, Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, s.v. ἀπανθρωπία:

I like the quotation from (pseudo-)Hippocrates' Letter to Philopoemen (xii, vol. 9, p. 330 Littré):
(sc. melancholics) σιγηροί τε γὰρ ἐνίοτε εἰσὶ καὶ μονήρεες, καὶ φιλέρημοι τυγχάνουσιν· ἀπανθρωπέονταί τε ξύμφυλον ὄψιν ἄλλοτρίην νομίζοντες· οὐκ ἀπεοικὸς δὲ καὶ τoῖσι περὶ παιδείην ἐσπoυδακόσι τὰς ἄλλας φροντίδας ὑπὸ μιῆς τῆς ἐν σοφίῃ διαθέσιος σεσοβῆσθαι.

They are sometimes taciturn and solitary; and they love deserted places; they avoid company, thinking that when they see people close to them they see strangers. In the same way people who are passionate about acquiring knowledge abandon all other preoccupations in order to obtain knowledge.
οὐ χαίρων τ' ὄχλῳ, I'm avoiding the Holy Week processions, which begin in earnest today.

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

Thanks to Jim O'Donnell for sending the relevant entries from Liddell-Scott-Jones:

and The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek by Franco Montanari:


Delicious Beam-Ends

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Doctor Thorne, chapter XL:
"What is your master's disease?" said the doctor, facing Joe, slowly, and still rubbing his hands. "What ails him? What is the matter with him?"

"Oh; the matter with him? Well, to say it out at once then, he do take a drop too much at times, and then he has the horrors;—what is it they call it? delicious beam-ends, or something of that sort."
I.e. delirium tremens. Cf. id.:
The name which Joe had given to his master's illness was certainly not a false one. He did find Sir Louis "in the horrors." If any father have a son whose besetting sin is a passion for alcohol, let him take his child to the room of a drunkard when possessed by "the horrors." Nothing will cure him if not that.

I will not disgust my reader by attempting to describe the poor wretch in his misery; the sunken, but yet glaring eyes; the emaciated cheeks; the fallen mouth; the parched, sore lips; the face, now dry and hot, and then suddenly clammy with drops of perspiration; the shaking hand, and all but palsied limbs; and worse than this, the fearful mental efforts, and the struggles for drink;—struggles to which it is often necessary to give way.
The last paragraph quoted is a good example of the rhetorical device known as praeteritio, defined by Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, Eng. tr. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), §§ 882-886 (pp. 393-394), as "the announcement of the intention to leave certain things out." The intention is ironic, because by alluding to and enumerating the things to be passed over, the speaker or writer actually draws attention to them.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


A Slap at Some Professors of Greek

R.D. Dawe, review of J.C. Kamerbeek, commentaries on The Plays of Sophocles, Part V: The Electra (Leiden: Brill, 1974), in Gnomon 48.3 (May, 1976) 228-234 (at 234):
And if someone may say so who comes from a country where Chairs of Greek are normally held by philosophers, historians, students of Hittite, latinists, anthropologists, numismatists, but only in rare instances by those content to maintain an uncontaminated interest in Greek language and literature for its own sake, it is a pleasure to review a book by a man who has persisted through severe ill health in his devotion to the study of this great author.
I can't identify most of the professors of Greek criticized by Dawe, except that "students of Hittite" may refer to M.L. West and "anthropologists" to E.R. Dodds. Sutor ne ultra crepidam.

From Eric Thomson:
I wonder if the Hittite specialist impostor alluded to wasn't Ronald Crossland?

The philosopher may have been the Plotinus expert A.H. Armstrong and the Latinist D.R. Shackleton Bailey who before becoming Pope professor in 1982 occupied a chair in Greek and Latin. Ancient historian N.G.L. Hammond was Henry Overton Wills Professor of Greek at Bristol until 1973.
From David Whitehead:
Possibilities for the philosopher: A.H. Armstrong (Liverpool), G.B. Kerferd (Manchester).

Saturday, March 24, 2018


More Welcoming to Foreigners Than to Natives

Ruth Downie, Caveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman Empire (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011), p. 117:
She had not expected a tribal gathering place to look like this. Londinium was a town of soldiers and merchants, created by Rome in its own image—but she had expected Verulamium to look more like home. How could you roast an ox over a good fire in the middle of all those buildings? Where could you all sit in a circle around the embers with the soft grass beneath you and your backs to the dark and children falling asleep in their mothers' arms, listening to the stories of your people? The Catuvellauni had turned their meeting place into something that was more welcoming to strangers from across the sea than to the people of their own island.
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator.


Do Not Forsake Your Native Land

George Campbell Hay (1915-1984), "Na Trèig do Thalamh Dùthchais," in his Collected Poems and Songs, ed. Michael Byrne (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), p. 235 (English translation only):
Do not forsake your native land
for lands or for wealth,
for honour or for harlotry.

For praise or for prayers
do not forsake your native land,
for promise or for bargain.

For law, for sword, for defiance
do not forsake your native land,
for trampling or for wounding,
for fear or for threatening.

For losses, for weariness, for cares,
for love, for peace, for good wishes,
for kindly regard, for tranquil skies
do not forsake your native land.

For the imperious wish of position or courts,
though esteem and fame should be your lot,
do not forsake your native land.

Do not forsake your native land
for lands or for wealth,
for honour or for harlotry.


Our Plight

Plato, Gorgias 527 e (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
We are so sadly uneducated.

εἰς τοσοῦτον ἥκομεν ἀπαιδευσίας.
Somewhat more literally, "To such a low point of stupidity have we come."

Friday, March 23, 2018



Menander, fragment 356 Kassel and Austin = 401 Koerte = 466 Kock (from the play Hydria; my translation):
How sweet a thing, for him who hates bad ways,
is solitude, and for him who pursues not even one
evil, a sufficient possession is a farm that supports him well.
From crowds comes jealousy, and this city
luxury is attractive, but only for a short time.

ὡς ἡδὺ τῷ μισοῦντι τοὺς φαύλους τρόπους
ἐρημία, καὶ τῷ μελετῶντι μηδὲ ἓν
πονηρὸν ἱκανὸν κτῆμ' ἀγρὀς τρέφων καλῶς.
ἐκ τῶν ὄχλων δὲ ζῆλος, ἥ τε κατὰ πόλιν
αὕτη τρυφὴ λάμπει μέν, εἰς δ' ὀλίγον χρόνον.
Thanks to Kevin Muse for suggesting a change in my translation.


A True Naturalist

Edward O. Wilson, Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016), p. 25:
One of my mentors when I was an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, the lepidopterist Ralph L. Chermock, once remarked to his students that a true naturalist knows the names of ten thousand species of organisms.


Die Gedanken Sind Frei

Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), Maria Stuart I.8.35-36 (tr. Leedham White):
We cannot hinder men
From thinking what they will.

Man kann den Menschen nicht verwehren,
zu denken, was sie wollen.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Overloading the Mind

Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory 1.8.18-20 (tr. John Selby Watson):
To examine, indeed, what all writers, even the most contemptible, have ever related, is a proof either of extravagant laboriousness, or of useless ostentation, and chains and overloads the mind, which might give its attention to other things with more advantage.

For he who makes researches into all sorts of writings, even such as are unworthy to be read, is capable of giving his time even to old women's tales. Yet the writings of grammarians are full of noxious matters of this kind, scarcely known even to the very men who wrote them.

Since it is known to have happened to Didymus, than whom no man wrote more books, that, when he denied a certain story, as unworthy of belief, his own book containing it was laid before him.

persequi quidem quid quis umquam vel contemptissimorum hominum dixerit aut nimiae miseriae aut inanis iactantiae est, et detinet atque obruit ingenia melius aliis vacatura.

nam qui omnis etiam indignas lectione scidas excutit, anilibus quoque fabulis accommodare operam potest: atqui pleni sunt eius modi impedimentis grammaticorum commentarii, vix ipsis qui composuerunt satis noti.

nam Didymo, quo nemo plura scripsit, accidisse compertum est ut, cum historiae cuidam tamquam vanae repugnaret, ipsius proferretur liber qui eam continebat.


That's Just the Way Things Are

Homer, Iliad 14.53-54 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
Yes, indeed, these things have now come to pass and are here at hand, nor could Zeus himself, who thunders on high, fashion them otherwise.

ἦ δὴ ταῦτά γ᾽ ἑτοῖμα τετεύχαται, οὐδέ κεν ἄλλως
Ζεὺς ὑψιβρεμέτης αὐτὸς παρατεκτήναιτο.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018



James Willis (1925-2014), Latin Textual Criticism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972 = Illinois Studies in Language and Literature, 61), p. 65:
The misreading of cl as d produces some remarkable results in Latin texts....I once heard that a modern Protestant editor of a collection of papal letters made one of them begin with Solita apostolicae sedis dementia....


Strengthening Soft Minds

Horace, Odes 3.24.52-54 (tr. Niall Rudd):
Minds that are too soft must be hardened in rougher pursuits.

tenerae nimis
mentes asperioribus
firmandae studiis.

54 firmandae Bentley: formandae codd.
Bentley's note (keep clicking to enlarge):


Knees and Feet

R.D. Dawe, ed., Sophocles, Oedipus Rex (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 140 (on lines 467-468):
Greek, from Homer onward, seems to our taste oddly preoccupied with knees and feet...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


A Message from God

James Cheetham, The Life of Thomas Paine (New York: Southwick and Pelsue, 1809), pp. 280-281:
He usually took a nap after dinner, and would not be disturbed let who would call to see him. One afternoon, a very old lady, dressed in a large scarlet cloak, knocked at the door, and inquired for Thomas Paine. Mr. Jarvis told her he was asleep. I am very sorry, she said, for that, for I want to see him very particularly. Thinking it a pity to make an old woman call twice, Mr. Jarvis took her into Paine's bed-room and waked him. He rose upon one elbow, and then with an expression of eye that staggered the old woman back a step or two, he asked—"What do you want?" Is your name Paine? Yes. "Well then, I come from Almighty God, to tell you, that if you do not repent of your sins and believe in our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, you will be damned, and"——"Poh, poh, it is not true. You were not sent with any such impertinent message. Jarvis, make her go away. Pshaw, he would not send such a foolish ugly old woman as you about with his messages. Go away. Go back—Shut the door." The old lady raised both her hands, kept them so, and without saying another word, walked away in mute astonishment.


A Reading Program

W.A. Oldfather (1880-1945), "The Character of the Training and of the Thesis for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Classics," Classical Journal 26.8 (May, 1931) 580-588 (at 581-583):
[W]e require, I repeat, the reading of about nine thousand pages in a suggested list of classical authors. Since the ordinary first-year graduate student seldom comes to us with more than twelve hundred pages read in Latin and Greek, this means that he has some seventy-eight hundred pages yet to read during three years. Since the average reading rate that we recommend is four pages an hour, he has a little less than two thousand hours to be devoted to reading during his next three years, or, since this kind of work ought well to go on continuously, even (or rather, especially) during vacation, he will have to devote to the reading of classical authors an average of from one hour and forty-five minutes to two hours a day. This is surely no hardship, particularly when one considers that a good deal of the reading required for special courses counts also toward this total. I might add that the preliminary examination, at the end of the second year, is more than half devoted to testing the ability of our students to read at sight, a power which can be acquired only by reading considerable quantities of material.

This reading program has also other advantages. If done with any attention and the taking of notes on matters of interest, it starts the scholar's collections of material for future studies (and we all know how much time is consumed later on in reading even hurriedly through long rows of authors in search of some particular matter); it gives him the salubrious habit of going to the sources at once instead of to some handbook or resumé of them; it is a delightful recreation in itself from the occasionally somewhat irksome tasks of the seminar or special reports — i.e., for the student who belongs in this field of study at all, for if he does not really like to read the great classics he surely ought to find that out very promptly, and leave a profession in which he must henceforward be either constantly bored or systematically insincere. Last of all, and decidedly least, although not to be neglected either for its practical value, the man who has read nine thousand pages of the great classics has accumulated a considerable store of the prime data of facts upon which the structures of systematic treatises on history, literature, linguistics, private and public antiquities, philosophy, religion, and the like, are constructed — information which will stand him in good stead against the days of his preliminary and final doctoral examinations.

Perhaps a word of explanation about the apparently arbitrary rate assumed of an average of four pages an hour, an average please, mind you; for four pages of Pindar should take as much more time, no doubt, as four pages of the New Testament should take less. Of course there are all rates of reading, from the average of perhaps one line in a full day which a conscientious seminar leader might allow himself, to the hundreds of pages which an experienced man can cover, galloping along in Hussarentempo, looking out only for references to safety-pins, or superstitions touching the salamander.


Ancestral Customs

Agatharchides of Cnidus, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 86 F 5, from Athenaeus 7.50.297 d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
Agatharchides, at any rate, in the sixth book of his European History, says that the Boeotians sacrifice eels which are of surpassing size, putting wreaths on them, saying prayers over them, and casting barley-corns on them as on any other sacrificial victim; and to the foreigner who was utterly puzzled at the strangeness of this custom and asked the reason, the Boeotian declared that he knew only one answer, and he would reply that one should observe ancestral customs, and it was not his business to justify them to other men.

φησὶ γοῦν Ἀγαθαρχίδης ἐν ἕκτῃ Εὐρωπιακῶν τὰς ὑπερφυεῖς τῶν Κωπαΐδων ἐγχέλεων ἱερείων τρόπον στεφανοῦντας καὶ κατευχομένους οὐλάς τ᾿ ἐπιβάλλοντας θύειν τοῖς θεοῖς τοὺς Βοιωτούς· καὶ πρὸς τὸν ξένον τὸν διαποροῦντα τὸ τοῦ ἔθους παράδοξον καὶ πυνθανόμενον ἓν μόνον εἰδέναι φῆσαι τὸν Βοιωτὸν φάσκειν τε ὅτι δεῖ τηρεῖν τὰ προγονικὰ νόμιμα καὶ ὅτι μὴ καθήκει τοῖς ἄλλοις ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀπολογίζεσθαι.
On eels see Andrew Dalby, Food in the Ancient World from A to Z (London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 125-126.

Related post: Fish Sacrifice.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Redi in Interiorem Hominem

Umberto Eco (1932-2016), Inventing the Enemy, tr. Richard Dixon (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), p. 132:
Look at that idiot walking along the street, wearing his iPod headphones; he cannot spend an hour on the train reading a newspaper or looking at the countryside, but has to go straight to his mobile phone during the first part of the journey to say "I've just left" and on the second part of the journey to say "I'm just arriving." There are people now who cannot live away from noise. And it is for this reason that restaurants, already noisy places, offer extra noise from a television screen—sometimes two—and music; and if you ask for them to be switched off, people stare at you as if you're mad. This great need for noise is like a drug; it is a way to avoid focusing on what is really important. Redi in interiorem hominem: yes, in the end, the example of Saint Augustine could still provide a good ideal for the world of politics and television.

Chi è l'imbecille che marcia per strada con l'iPod nelle orecchie o che non riesce a stare un'ora in treno leggendosi il giornale o guardando il paesaggio, ma deve immediatamente attivare il telefonino per dire nella prima parte del viaggio: "Sono partito" e nella seconda parte del viaggio: "Sto per arrivare"? Sono ormai persone che non riescono a vivere al di fuori del rumore. Ed è per questo che i ristoranti, già rumorosi di per sé per l'afflusso dei clienti, offrono rumore in più attraverso due televisori accesi, talora, e la musica; e se gli chiedete di spegnere, vi guardano come se foste dei pazzi. Questo bisogno intenso di rumore ha funzione di droga e impedisce di focalizzare ciò che sarebbe veramente fondamentale. Redi in interiorem hominem: sì, alla fine un buon ideale per l'universo della politica di domani e della televisione sarebbe ancora sant'Agostino.


Father to Daughter

Homer, Odyssey 6.68 (Alcinous to Nausicaa; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Neither the mules do I begrudge you, my child, nor anything else.

οὔτε τοι ἡμιόνων φθονέω, τέκος, οὔτε τευ ἄλλου.
There is no note on this line in J.B. Hainsworth's commentary, but none is needed. Any father with a daughter will immediately understand.



Thomas Babington Macaulay, diary (Naples, November 7, 1838):
While walking about the town, I picked up a little Mass-book, and read for the first time in my life—strange, and almost disgraceful, that it should be so—the service of the Mass from beginning to end. It seemed to me inferior to our Communion service in one most important point. The phraseology of Christianity has in Latin a barbarous air, being altogether later than the age of pure Latinity. But the English language has grown up in Christian times; and the whole vocabulary of Christianity is incorporated with it. The fine passage in the Communion Service: 'Therefore with Angels, and Archangels, and all the company of heaven,' is English of the best and most genuine description. But the answering passage in the Mass: 'Laudant Angeli, adorant dominationes, tremunt potestates, coeli Coelorumque virtutes ac beati Seraphim,' would not merely have appeared barbarous, but would have been utterly unintelligible,—a mere gibberish,—to everyone of the great masters of the Latin tongue, Plautus, Cicero, Caesar, and Catullus. I doubt whether even Claudian would have understood it. I intend to frequent the Romish worship till I come thoroughly to understand this ceremonial.
Related post: The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Friday, March 16, 2018



Homer, Odyssey 4.195-198 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
                                         I count it indeed no blame
to weep for any mortal who has died and met his fate.
This is, to be sure, the only due we pay to miserable mortals,
to cut our hair and to let a tear fall from our cheeks.

                                       νεμεσσῶμαί γε μὲν οὐδὲν
κλαίειν ὅς κε θάνῃσι βροτῶν καὶ πότμον ἐπίσπῃ.
τοῦτό νυ καὶ γέρας οἶον ὀιζυροῖσι βροτοῖσιν,
κείρασθαί τε κόμην βαλέειν τ᾿ ἀπὸ δάκρυ παρειῶν.


Cheerfulness and Joyousness

Coleridge, Table Talk (March 15, 1834):
I take unceasing delight in Chaucer. His manly cheerfulness is especially delicious to me in my old age. How exquisitely tender he is, and yet how perfectly free from the least touch of sickly melancholy or morbid drooping! The sympathy of the poet with the subjects of his poetry is particularly remarkable in Shakspeare and Chaucer; but what the first effects by a strong act of imagination and mental metamorphosis, the last does with out any effort, merely by the inborn kindly joyousness of his nature. How well we seem to know Chaucer! How absolutely nothing do we know of Shakspeare!

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Men of One Country

Coleridge, Table Talk (May 28, 1830):
I, for one, do not call the sod under my feet my country. But language, religion, laws, government, blood,—identity in these makes men of one country.
Related posts:


This Vale of Tears

Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 1018-1020 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
No mortal can complete his life unharmed and unpunished throughout —
ah, ah!
Some troubles are here now, some will come later.

οὐδεὶς μερόπων ἀσινῆ βίοτον
διὰ πάντ᾿ ἀτίτης ἂν ἀμείψαι·
ἒ ἔ,
μόχθος δ᾿ ὁ μὲν αὐτίχ᾿, ὁ δ' ἥξει.

1019 ἀτίτης ἂν ἀμείψαι Garvie (ἀτίτης Heimsoeth, ἀμείψαι Bothe): ἄτιμος ἀμείψεται Μ
1020 ἒ ἔ Klausen: ἐς Μ
A.F. Garvie ad loc.:


Morning Prayer

Isaac McCoy (1784-1846), History of Baptist Indian Missions (Washington: William M. Morrison, 1840), p. 359 (on the Osage):
At the opening of day, the devotee retires a little from his camp or company, and utters a prayer aloud. This may or may not have some allusion to a deceased relative or friend. The voice is usually elevated so as to be heard sometimes half a mile, and their words are uttered in a kind of plaintive, piteous tone, accompanied with weeping, either affected or real, I suppose commonly the former. To English ears, the sound is uncouth, and we would denominate it a kind of howling. Their word for God is, Wóh-kon´-da, (Father of Life.) Their prayer runs in some such words as the following: "Wóh-kon´-da, pity me; I am very poor; give me what I need; give me success against mine enemies, that I may avenge the death of my friends. May I be able to take scalps, and to take horses," &c.


The Desert

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Daybreak, Book V, § 491 (excerpt; tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think as I really think; after a time it always seems as though they want to banish me from myself and rob me of my soul — and I grow angry with everybody and fear everybody. I then require the desert, so as to grow good again.

Unter Vielen lebe ich wie Viele und denke nicht wie ich; nach einiger Zeit ist es mir dann immer, als wolle man mich aus mir verbannen und mir die Seele rauben — und ich werde böse auf Jedermann und fürchte Jedermann. Die Wüste thut mir dann noth, um wieder gut zu werden.



David Garnett, Introduction to Anna Wickham, Selected Poems (London: Chatto & Windus, 1971), p. 8:
[S]he told me that she had taken Hall and Knight's Algebra with her and had spent her time in the private asylum working out quadratic equations in order to keep her mind from dwelling on her situation and to overcome her rancour.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Do It Yourself

Bion of Smyrna, fragment V (tr. J.D. Reed):
It is not right, my friend, to have recourse to a craftsman for every purpose,
nor should you for every purpose have need of another.
But rather you yourself craft a syrinx, for it is quite an easy task.

οὐ καλόν, ὦ φίλε, πάντα λόγον ποτὶ τέκτονα φοιτῆν,
μηδ' ἐπὶ πάντ' ἄλλω χρέος ἰσχέμεν· ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτός
τεχνᾶσθαι σύριγγα, πέλει δέ τοι εὐμαρὲς ἔργον.


The Books Were Opened

Revelation 20.11-12 (KJV):
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

καὶ εἶδον θρόνον μέγαν λευκὸν καὶ τὸν καθήμενον ἐπ' αὐτόν, οὗ ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου ἔφυγεν ἡ γῆ καὶ ὁ οὐρανός, καὶ τόπος οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῖς. καὶ εἶδον τοὺς νεκρούς, τοὺς μεγάλους καὶ τοὺς μικρούς, ἑστῶτας ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου, καὶ βιβλία ἠνοίχθησαν· καὶ ἄλλο βιβλίον ἠνοίχθη, ὅ ἐστιν τῆς ζωῆς· καὶ ἐκρίθησαν οἱ νεκροὶ ἐκ τῶν γεγραμμένων ἐν τοῖς βιβλίοις κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν.

Jacobello Alberegno, panel from Polyptych of the
Apocalypse (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice)

See Giovanni Bissoli, "L'Apocalisse nell' opera pittorica di Iacobello Alberegno," Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Liber Annuus 30 (1980) 251-254 (at 254).

Hat tip: Andrew Rickard.

Related posts:

Monday, March 12, 2018


The Saddest Pack of Rogues in the World

Alexander Pope, letter to the Earl of Burlingham (August, 1714?):
Pray, Mr. Lintot, (said I,) now you talk of translators, what is your method of managing them? "Sir," (replied he,) "those are the saddest pack of rogues in the world: in a hungry fit, they'll swear they understand all the languages in the universe. I have known one of them take down a Greek book upon my counter and cry, Ah, this is Hebrew, I must read it from the latter end. By G—d, I can never be sure in these fellows, for I neither understand Greek, Latin, French, nor Italian myself. But this is my way: I agree with them for ten shillings per sheet, with a proviso, that I will have their doings corrected by whom I please; so by one or other they are led at last to the true sense of an author; my judgement giving the negative to all my translators."

But how are you secure that those correctors may not impose upon you? "Why I get any civil gentleman (especially any Scotchman) that comes into my shop, to read the original to me in English; by this I know whether my first translator be deficient, and whether my corrector merits his money or not. I'll tell you what happened to me last month: I bargained with S* for a new version of Lucretius to publish against Tonson's; agreeing to pay the author so many shillings at his producing so many lines. He made a great progress in a very short time, and I gave it to the corrector to compare with the Latin; but he went directly to Creech's translation, and found it the same word for word, all but the first page. Now, what d'ye think I did? I arrested the translator for a cheat; nay, and I stopped the corrector's pay too, upon this proof that he had made use of Creech instead of the original!"


The Power of Prayer

James Sutherland, ed., The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 311 (number 426, excerpt):
Dean Inge was delighted by an angry letter he had received from a lady who disagreed with one of his articles.

'I am praying nightly for your death,' she wrote. 'It may interest you to know that in two other cases I have had great success.'

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Poor Devils

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Daybreak, Book III, § 177 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
O you poor devils in the great cities of world politics, you gifted young men tormented by ambition who consider it your duty to pass some comment on everything that happens and there is always something happening!

Oh, ihr armen Schelme in den grossen Städten der Weltpolitik, ihr jungen, begabten, vom Ehrgeiz gemarterten Männer, welche es für ihre Pflicht halten, zu allen Begebenheiten—es begiebt sich immer Etwas—ihr Wort zu sagen!


Dealing with Sorrow

Ovid, Tristia 5.7.39-40 (my translation):
I occupy my mind with studies, and I trick my sorrows, and I try to cheat my cares.

detineo studiis animum falloque dolores,
    experior curis et dare verba meis.


The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

Thomas Babington Macaulay, diary (October 28, 1838):
The day began to break as we descended into Marseilles. It was Sunday; but the town seemed only so much the gayer. I looked hard for churches, but for a long time I saw none. At last I heard bells, and the noise guided me to a chapel, mean inside, and mean outside, but crowded as Simeon's church used to be crowded at Cambridge. The Mass was nearly over. I stayed to the end, wondering that so many reasonable beings could come together to see a man bow, drink, bow again, wipe a cup, wrap up a napkin, spread his arms, and gesticulate with his hands; and to hear a low muttering which they could not understand, interrupted by the occasional jingling of a bell.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


A River Remembered

A sonnet by Luís de Camões (1525?-1580), tr. William Baer:
Sweet, clear waters of the Mondego, sweet, kind,
and restful river of my memories,
where once misleading hopes whirled in the breeze,
misguiding me, and leaving me blind.
And now, I've gone away, sweet distant stream,
but, still, your memory overtakes me yet,
and never lets me change, or ever forget:
that the further away I am, the closer I seem.
Yes, the Fates have caused my soul to disappear
into remote and distant lands, to roam
within these seas and winds, both strange and new,
and yet, my soul, thinking of you, even here,
flies upon the wings of my sweet dreams of home
into your lovely waters and bathes in you.

Doces águas e claras do Mondego,
doce repouso de minha lembrança,
onde a comprida e pérfida esperança
longo tempo após si me trouxe cego:
de vós me aparto; mas, porém, não nego
que inda a memória longa, que me alcança,
me não deixa de vós fazer mudança;
mas quanto mais me alongo, mais me achego.
Bem pudera Fortuna este instrumento
d'alma levar por terra nova e estranha,
oferecido ao mar remoto e vento;
mas alma, que de cá vos acompanha,
nas asas do ligeiro pensamento,
para vós, águas, voa, e em vós se banha.
Related post: Leaving Home.


The Style of St. Augustine

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (December 18, 1837):
I have read Augustin's Confessions. The book is not without interest; but he expresses himself in the style of a field-preacher.


Zombie Apocalypse

Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 886 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
The dead are killing the living, I tell you!

τὸν ζῶντα καίνειν τοὺς τεθνηκότας λέγω.
In other words, "They're coming to get you, Barbara!"


Learning German

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Macvey Napier (November 26, 1836):
In little more than a year I shall be embarking for England, and I have determined to employ the four months of my voyage in mastering the German language. I should be much obliged to you to send me out, as early as you can, so that they may be certain to arrive in time, the best grammar, and the best dictionary, that can be procured; a German Bible; Schiller's works; Goethe's works; and Niebuhr's "History," both in the original and in the translation. My way of learning a language is always to begin with the Bible, which I can read without a dictionary. After a few days passed in this way, I am master of all the common particles, the common rules of syntax, and a pretty large vocabulary. Then I fall on some good classical work. It was in this way that I learned both Spanish and Portuguese, and I shall try the same course with German.
Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (March 8, 1837):
I intend to learn German on my voyage home, and I have indented largely, (to use our Indian official term,) for the requisite books. People tell me that it is a hard language; but I cannot easily believe that there is a language which I cannot master in four months, by working ten hours a day. I promise myself very great delight and information from German literature; and, over and above, I feel a sort of presentiment, a kind of admonition of the Deity, which assures me that the final cause of my existence—the end for which I was sent into this vale of tears,—was to make game of certain Germans. The first thing to be done in obedience to this heavenly call is to learn German; and then I may perhaps try, as Milton says,—
"Frangere Saxonicas Britonum sub Marte phalanges."
Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (December 18, 1837):
I intend to make myself a good German scholar by the time of my arrival in England. I have already, at leisure moments, broken the ice. I have read about half of the New Testament in Luther's translation; and am now getting rapidly, for a beginner, through Schiller's History of the Thirty Years' War. My German library consists of all Goethe's works, all Schiller's works, Muller's History of Switzerland, some of Tieck, some of Lessing, and other works of less fame. I hope to despatch them all on my way home.

Friday, March 09, 2018


Total Rejection

Martial 3.53 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
I could do without your face
and neck and hands and legs
and breasts and buttocks and hips
and (not to be at the trouble of going through particulars)
I could do without you, Chloe, in your entirety.

Et vultu poteram tuo carere
et collo manibusque cruribusque
et mammis natibusque clunibusque,
et, ne singula persequi laborem,
tota te poteram, Chloe, carere.
The same, tr. Dudley Fitts:
Take oh take that face away,
  That neck away, those arms away,
Hips and bottom, legs and breast—
  Dear, must I catalogue the rest?
Take, Chloe, take yourself away.
Cf. Catullus 43.1-4 and also the enumeration of body parts in curse tablets. Martial's poem is a sort of reverse or inverted blazon.


My Choice of Life

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to his sister Margaret, quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1877), p. 392:
Books are becoming everything to me. If I had at this moment my choice of life, I would bury myself in one of those immense libraries that we saw together at the universities, and never pass a waking hour without a book before me.
My copy of this book was once in the library of the Berkhamsted Mechanics' Institute (shelf mark E XIII 14). The Institute existed (with a name change to Berkhamsted Institute in 1930) from 1845 to 1993. Here is a photograph of the Institute's reading room:

Thursday, March 08, 2018


More Bowdlerization of Diogenes Laertius

Thanks very much to Bill Thayer for drawing my attention to more examples of bowdlerization in the Loeb Classical Library translation of Diogenes Laertius by R.D Hicks.

Diogenes Laertius 2.8.99-100 (on Aristippus, in Hicks' bowdlerized version):
He said the world was his country. Theft, adultery, and sacrilege would be allowable upon occasion, since none of these acts is by nature base, if once you have removed the prejudice against them, which is kept up in order to hold the foolish multitude together. The wise man would indulge his passions openly without the least regard to circumstances. Hence he would use such arguments as this.

"Is a woman who is skilled in grammar useful in so far as she is skilled in grammar?"


"And is a boy or a youth skilled in grammar useful in so far as he is skilled in grammar?"


"Again, is a woman who is beautiful useful in so far as she is beautiful? And the use of beauty is to be enjoyed?"


When this was admitted, he would press the argument to the conclusion, namely, that he who uses anything for the purpose for which it is useful does no wrong.

And by some such interrogatories he would carry his point.
The Greek:
Εἶναί τε πατρίδα τὸν κόσμον. κλέψειν τε καὶ μοιχεύσειν καὶ ἱεροσυλήσειν ἐν καιρῷ· μηδὲν γὰρ τούτων φύσει αἰσχρὸν εἶναι, τῆς ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς δόξης αἰρομένης, ἣ σύγκειται ἕνεκα τῆς τῶν ἀφρόνων συνοχῆς. φανερῶς δὲ τοῖς ἐρωμένοις ἄνευ πάσης ὑφοράσεως χρήσεσθαι τὸν σοφόν. διὸ καὶ τοιούτους λόγους ἠρώτα·

"ἆρά γε γυνὴ γραμματικὴ χρήσιμος ἂν εἴη παρ᾿ ὅσον γραμματική ἐστι;"


"καὶ παῖς καὶ νεανίσκος γραμματικὸς χρήσιμος ἂν εἴη παρ᾿ ὅσον γραμματικός ἐστι;"


"οὐκοῦν καὶ γυνὴ καλὴ χρησίμη ἂν εἴη παρ᾿ ὅσον καλή ἐστι, καὶ παῖς καὶ νεανίσκος καλὸς χρήσιμος ἂν εἴη παρ᾿ ὅσον καλός ἐστι;"


"καὶ παῖς ἄρα καὶ νεανίσκος καλὸς πρὸς τοῦτ᾿ ἂν εἴη χρήσιμος πρὸς ὃ καλός ἐστι;"


"ἔστι δὲ χρήσιμος πρὸς τὸ πλησιάζειν."

ὧν δεδομένων ἐπῆγεν·

"οὐκοῦν εἴ τις πλησιασμῷ χρώμενος παρ᾿ ὅσον χρήσιμός ἐστιν, οὐ διαμαρτάνει· οὐδ᾿ ἄρα εἰ κάλλει χρήσαιτο παρ᾿ ὅσον χρήσιμόν ἐστι, διαμαρτήσεται."

τοιαῦτα ἄττα διερωτῶν ἴσχυε τῷ λόγῳ.
Here is an unexpurgated revision of Hicks' translation:
He said the world was his country. Theft, adultery, and sacrilege would be allowable upon occasion, since none of these acts is by nature base, if once you have removed the prejudice against them, which is kept up in order to hold the foolish multitude together. The wise man would be intimate with his lovers openly without the least regard to circumstances. Hence he would use such arguments as this.

"Is a woman who is skilled in grammar useful in so far as she is skilled in grammar?"


"And is a boy or a youth skilled in grammar useful in so far as he is skilled in grammar?"


"Again, is a woman who is beautiful useful in so far as she is beautiful, and is a boy or a young man who is beautiful useful in so far as he is beautiful?"


"So a beautiful boy or young man is useful for what he is beautiful for?"


"And he is useful for sexual intercourse?"


When this was admitted, he would press the argument to the conclusion:

"Therefore whoever uses sexual intercourse in so far as it is useful does not go astray; and whoever should use beauty in so far as it is useful will not go astray."

And by some such interrogatories he would carry his point.
Diogenes Laertius 5.1.3 (on Aristotle; tr. R.D. Hicks):
Afterwards, however, he departed to Hermias the eunuch, who was tyrant of Atarneus, and there is one story that he was on very affectionate terms with Hermias...

ἔπειτα μέντοι ἀπῆρε πρὸς Ἑρμίαν τὸν εὐνοῦχον, Ἀταρνέως ὄντα τύραννον· ὃν οἱ μέν φασι παιδικὰ γενέσθαι αὐτοῦ...
"On very affectionate terms" — indeed. More literally, "People say he was Hermias' boy-toy."

Diogenes Laertius 5.5.77 (on Demetrius of Phalerum; tr. R.D. Hicks):
Having been indicted by some persons on a capital charge, he let judgement go by default; and, when his accusers could not get hold of his person, they disgorged their venom on the bronze of his statues. These they tore down from their pedestals; some were sold, some cast into the sea, and others were even, it is said, broken up to make bedroom-utensils.

ἐπιβουλευθεὶς γὰρ ὑπό τινων δίκην θανάτου οὐ παρὼν ὦφλεν. οὐ μὴν ἐκυρίευσαν τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἰὸν ἀπήρυγον εἰς τὸν χαλκόν, κατασπάσαντες αὐτοῦ τὰς εἰκόνας καὶ τὰς μὲν ἀποδόμενοι, τὰς δὲ βυθίσαντες, τὰς δὲ κατακόψαντες εἰς ἀμίδας· λέγεται γὰρ καὶ τοῦτο.
The "bedroom-utensils" were chamber-pots.

Diogenes Laertius 5.6.92-93 (on Heraclides Ponticus; tr. R.D. Hicks):
Again, Dionysius the Renegade, or, as some people call him, the "Spark," when he wrote the Parthenopaeus, entitled it a play of Sophocles; and Heraclides, such was his credulity, in one of his own works drew upon this forged play as Sophoclean evidence. Dionysius, on perceiving this, confessed what he had done; and, when the other denied the fact and would not believe him, called his attention to the acrostic which gave the name of Pancalus, of whom Dionysius was very fond.

ἔτι καὶ Διονύσιος ὁ Μεταθέμενος (ἢ Σπίνθαρος, ὡς ἔνιοι) γράψας τὸν Παρθενοπαῖον ἐπέγραψε Σοφοκλέους. ὁ δὲ πιστεύσας εἴς τι τῶν ἰδίων συγγραμμάτων ἐχρῆτο μαρτυρίοις ὡς Σοφοκλέους. αἰσθόμενος δ᾿ ὁ Διονύσιος ἐμήνυσεν αὐτῷ τὸ γεγονός· τοῦ δ᾿ ἀρνουμένου καὶ ἀπιστοῦντος ἐπέστειλεν ἰδεῖν τὴν παραστιχίδα· καὶ εἶχε Πάγκαλος. οὗτος δ᾿ ἦν ἐρώμενος Διονυσίου.
Dionysius was more than "very fond" of Pancalus. He was Pancalus' lover.

Related posts:


The Messiah

Thomas Szasz (1920-2012), The Second Sin (Garden City: Anchor Press, 1973), pp. 115-116:
For Jews, the Messiah has never come; for the Christians, He has come but once; for modern man, He appears and disappears with increasing rapidity. The saviors of modern man, the "scientists" who promise salvation through the "discoveries" of ethology and sociology, psychology and psychiatry, and all the other bogus religions, issue forth periodically, as if selected by some Messiah-of-the-Month Club.



Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (July 1, 1834):
Yet, after all, the Rajah was by no means the greatest fool whom I found at Mysore. I alighted at a bungalow appertaining to the British Residency. There I found an Englishman who, without any preface, accosted me thus: "Pray, Mr. Macaulay, do not you think that Buonaparte was the Beast?" "No, Sir, I cannot say that I do." "Sir, he was the Beast. I can prove it. I have found the number 666 in his name. Why, Sir, if he was not the Beast, who was?" This was a puzzling question, and I am not a little vain of my answer. "Sir," said I, "the House of Commons is the Beast. There are 658 members of the House; and these, with their chief officers,—the three clerks, the Sergeant and his deputy, the Chaplain, the doorkeeper, and the librarian,—make 666." "Well, Sir, that is strange. But I can assure you that, if you write Napoleon Buonaparte in Arabic, leaving out only two letters, it will give 666." "And, pray, Sir, what right have you to leave out two letters? And, as St. John was writing Greek, and to Greeks, is it not likely that he would use the Greek rather than the Arabic notation?" "But, Sir," said this learned divine, "everybody knows that the Greek letters were never used to mark numbers." I answered with the meekest look and voice possible: "I do not think that everybody knows that. Indeed I have reason to believe that a different opinion,—erroneous no doubt,—is universally embraced by all the small minority who happen to know any Greek." So ended the controversy. The man looked at me as if he thought me a very wicked fellow; and, I dare say, has by this time discovered that, if you write my name in Tamul, leaving out T in Thomas, B in Babington, and M in Macaulay, it will give the number of this unfortunate Beast.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


Leaving Home

A sonnet by Luís de Camões (1525?-1580) or by Diogo Bernardes (?1530-?1605), tr. William Baer:
Gentle waters of the Tagus, you flow
across the fields, nourishing the herds,
the blooming plants, the flowers, and the birds,
delighting the nymphs and shepherds as you go.
Sweet waters of the Tagus, I don't know when
I'll ever be able to come back home to you,
and, anxiously, before I say adieu,
I begin to doubt if I'll ever return again.
Destiny, intent on finding a way
to turn my joys to sorrows, now commands
this difficult parting, full of regrets and fears.
Still longing for you, and complaining, I sail away,
to breathe my sighs in the airs of foreign lands,
disturbing distant waters with my tears.

Brandas águas do Tejo que, passando
por estes verdes campos que regais,
plantas, ervas, e flores e animais,
pastores, ninfas ides alegrando;
não sei (ah, doces águas!), não sei quando
vos tornarei a ver; que mágoas tais,
vendo como vos deixo, me causais
que de tornar já vou desconfiando.
Ordenou o Destino, desejoso
de converter meus gostos em pesares,
partida que me vai custando tanto.
Saüdoso de vós, dele queixoso,
encherei de suspiros outros ares,
turbarei outras águas com meu pranto.
Related posts:



Thomas Szasz (1920-2012), The Second Sin (Garden City: Anchor Press, 1973), p. 49:
People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds; it is something one creates.


At Second Hand

Abelard (1079-1142), Introductio ad Theologiam, Book II (Patrologia Latina, vol. CLXXVIII, col. 1039 A-B; my translation):
The proofs from the philosophers that I collected above, I collected not from their own writings (few of which I'm familiar with) but rather from the books of the holy fathers.

Quae enim superius ex philosophis collegi testimonia, non ex eorum scriptis, quorum pauca novi, immo ex libris Sanctorum Patrum collegi.
Likewise I owe my knowledge of this sentence not to Abelard's works, but to Domenico Comparetti, Vergil in the Middle Ages, tr. E.F.M. Benecke (1895; rpt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), p. 197, n. 3.

Although I'm not a professor, I usually do try to follow "Common Rules of the Professors of Higher Faculties," § 8, Ratio Studiorum (tr. Allan P. Farrell):
It scarcely becomes the dignity of a professor to cite an authority whose works he himself has not read.


A Humorous Construe

Thomas Middleton (1580-1627), The Witch 2.2.9-25, in his Collected Works (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), p. 1143, with excerpts from the notes:
What's this? O, 'tis the charm her hagship gave me
For my duchess' obstinate woman, wound about        10
A threepenny silk ribbon, of three colours.
'Necte tribus nodis ternos Amoretta colores'
—Amoretta! Why, there's her name indeed!—
'Necte, Amoretta'—Again! Two bouts!—
'Nodo et Veneris, dic vincula necte.'        15
Nay, if veneries be one, I'm sure there's no dead flesh in't.
If I should undertake to cònstrue this now
I should make a fine piece of work of it,
For few young gallants are given to good construction
Of any thing (hardly of their best friends' wives,        20
Sisters or nieces). Let me see what I can do now.
'Necte tribus nodis'—'Nick of the tribe of noddies'—
'Ternos colores'—that makes 'turned colours'—
'Nodo et Veneris'—'goes to his venery like a noddy'—
'Dic vincula'—'with Dick the vintner's boy'!        25

12-15 Necte tribus...vincula necte The source of the charm is Virgil's Eighth Eclogue: Necte tribus nodis ternos, Amarylli, colores; / Necte, Amarylli, modo et 'Veneris', dic, 'vincula necto.' ('Twine three colour[ed ribbon]s in three knots, Amaryllis; / Just twine [them], Amaryllis, and say, "I twine the chains of Venus."') Although not as egregiously incompetent as Almachildes's English translation, the Latin quotation is flawed—notably in the replacement of modo by nodo .... The final word in the quotation is also a mistake ... the replacement of Virgil’s present indicative necto with the imperative necte.
Related posts:

Tuesday, March 06, 2018


This Long Disease, My Life

Thomas Szasz (1920-2012), The Second Sin (Garden City: Anchor Press, 1973), pp. 95-96:
Today, particularly in the United States, all of the difficulties and problems of living are considered psychiatric diseases, and nearly everyone is considered to some extent mentally ill. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that life itself is now viewed as an illness that begins with conception and ends with death, requiring, at every step along the way, the skillful assistance of physicians and especially mental health professionals.


No Profit in Scholarship

Erasmus, letter to Lorenzo Campeggi (February 5, 1520; tr. R.A.B. Mynors):
And now here too the Eden of our life has been ruined with his venom by that cunning old serpent, so that it seems to me far preferable to cultivate any garden rather than scholarship; for chives and cabbages will bring more profit to the man who grows them than nights of toil spent by the lamp.

At nunc hanc [sic] quoque vitae nostrae paradisum sic suo veneno vitiauit veterator ille serpens, vt mihi non paulo prestabilius videatur quemuis hortulum colere quam literas, videlicet cepis et caulibus plus allaturis fructus cultori suo quam ad lucernam vigilatis noctibus.
Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana (London: Edward Moxon, 1856), p. 300:
At the house of the same gentleman I introduced Cogan to Porson, saying, "This is Mr. Cogan, who is passionately fond of what you have devoted yourself to, — Greek." Porson replied, "If Mr. Cogan is passionately fond of Greek, he must be content to dine on bread and cheese for the rest of his life."


The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 109-111 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
As you pour, speak good words for those who are friendly.

And which of those close to me should I designate in that way?

In the first place yourself, and everyone who hates Aegisthus.

φθέγγου χέουσα κεδνὰ τοῖσιν εὔφροσιν.

τίνας δὲ τούτους τῶν φίλων προσεννέπω;

πρῶτον μὲν αὑτὴν χὤστις Αἴγισθον στυγεῖ.

109 κεδνὰ Hartung: σεμνὰ M


A Catch by Henry Purcell

The Second Book of the Catch Club, or, Merry Companions, being a Choice Collection of the Most Diverting Catches for Three and Four Voices. Compos'd by the late Mr. Henry Purcell, Dr. Blow, &c. (London: I. Walsh, 1690), p. 20 (number 34, for 3 voices):

The lyrics transcribed, with capitalization and punctuation preserved:
Pox on you,
Pox on you,
Pox on you for a Fop,
your Stomach too queazy,
cannot I Belch,
cannot I Belch and Fart, you Coxcomb, to ease me:
what if I let fly in your Face and shall please ye?

Fogh, fogh,
Fogh, fogh,
how sow'r he smells;
now he's at it, now he's at it again;
out ye Beast, out ye Beast,
I never met so nasty a Man,
I'm not able to bear it,
what the Devil d'ye mean?

no less than a Caesar, no less than a Caesar,
no, no, no, less than a Caesar,
decree'd with great reason;
no restraint, no restraint
shou'd be laid on the Bum or the Weason,
for Belching and Farting were always in season.
The direction "Belch" appears above measures 1, 3, and 5. A couple of notes:

1) Caesar is the Roman emperor Claudius. See Suetonius, Life of Claudius 32 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
He is even said to have thought of an edict allowing the privilege of breaking wind quietly or noisily at table, having learned of a man who ran some risk by restraining himself through modesty.

dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum quendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset.
2) Weason = weasand, i.e. throat, windpipe.

Later versions tone down the language, e.g. "plague" for "pox," "gape and yawn" for "belch and fart," "yawn full" for "let fly," "drowsy" for "nasty," "mouth" for "bum," "yawning and gaping" for "belching and farting" — see Henry Purcell, Catches, Rounds, Two-Part and Three-Part Songs = Works, Vol. XXII (London: Novello and Company, Limited, 1922), pp. xii-xiii (number XXIX).

I don't have access to the updated edition of Purcell's Catches by Ian Spink (London: Novello, 2000) or to Paul Hillier, ed., The Catch Book: 153 Catches Including the Complete Catches of Henry Purcell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

There are recordings of the catch on YouTube.


Monday, March 05, 2018


Like an Angry Ape

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure 2.2.114-127:
                                    Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet,        115
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder —
Nothing but thunder. Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarlèd oak        120
Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven        125
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
See Lawrence Sargent Hall, "Isabella's Angry Ape," Shakespeare Quarterly 15.3 (Summer, 1964) 157-165.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Tempora Mutantur

Sonnet by Luís de Camões (1525?-1580), tr. William Baer:
Time changes, and our desires change. What we
believe—even what we are—is ever-
changing. The world is change, which forever
takes on new qualities. And constantly,
we see the new and the novel overturning
the past, unexpectedly, while we retain
from evil, nothing but its terrible pain,
from good (if there's been any), only the yearning.
Time covers the ground with her cloak of green
where, once, there was freezing snow—and rearranges
my sweetest songs to sad laments. Yet even more
astonishing is yet another unseen
change within all these endless changes:
that for me, nothing ever changes anymore.

Mudam-se os tempos, mudam-se as vontades,
muda-se o ser, muda-se a confiança;
todo o mundo é composto de mudança,
tomando sempre novas qualidades.
Continuamente vemos novidades,
diferentes em tudo da esperança;
do mal ficam as mágoas na lembrança,
e do bem—se algum houve—, as saüdades.
O tempo cobre o chão de verde manto,
que já coberto foi de neve fria,
e enfim converte em choro o doce canto.
E, afora este mudar-se cada dia,
outra mudança faz de mór espanto:
que não se muda já como soía.

Sunday, March 04, 2018



Thomas Szasz (1920-2012), The Second Sin (Garden City: Anchor Press, 1973), p. 14:
There are only three major ethical modes of conduct.
1. The Golden Rule: doing unto others as we would want them to do unto us.

2. The Rule of Respect: doing unto others as they want us to do unto them.

3. The Rule of Paternalism: doing unto others as we, in our superior wisdom, know ought to be done unto them in their own best interests.


A Choice

W.A. Oldfather (1880-1945), "The Character of the Training and of the Thesis for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Classics," Classical Journal 26.8 (May, 1931) 580-588 (at 581):
Sooner or later most men have to decide whether they are going to try to know the classics, or to know what all the Germans have said about the classics. To my feeling the choice is clear. First know the classics themselves; and then if there is time and energy left, you may consider what others have said about them.
Related post: The Scholarly-Industrial Complex.



Acts 8.30 (Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch; KJV):
Understandest thou what thou readest?

ἆρά γε γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις;
To tell the truth, no — I don't really understand the nuances of the particles ἆρά γε, and it appears I am not alone. C.K. Barrett in his commentary (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994) ad loc., pp. 427-428:
Philip's question is introduced by ἆρά γε, the precise force of which is not easy to grasp, or at least to express. In itself, ἆρα implies neither a positive nor a negative answer (cf. however Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.5.4, where a definitely positive answer is expected). According to Moule, IB 158, γε 'perhaps adds a sense of doubt'; according to LS 340 it adds emphasis; according to BDR § 439.1 it is no more than an 'unbedeutenden Anhängsel'. Page (134) takes the particles to mean Dost thou really? implying that he does not. Begs. 4.96f. translates, Do you after all know what you are reading? We should perhaps emphasise the word Do in the question: Do you understand what you are reading?' 'γε ajoute de la vivacité à la question' (Delebecque 43).
J.D. Denniston, Greek Particles, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), p. 50:

Barrett continues:
The question contains a neat example of paronomasia, γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις; the contrast between reading and understanding is familiar in Judaism; see Daube (NTRJ 434) ...
The word play is reproduced in the Vulgate: intellegis quae legis?

Saturday, March 03, 2018


Mobile Vulgus

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, "Clerk's Tale," lines 995-1001:
O stormy peple, unsad and evere untrewe!        995
Ay undiscreet and chaungynge as a vane,
Delitynge evere in rumbul that is newe;
For lyk the moone ay wexe ye and wane,
Ay ful of clappyng, deere ynogh a jane,
Youre doom is fals, youre constance yvele preeveth,        1000
A ful greet fool is he that on yow leeveth!
995 unsad: inconstant, unreliable

999 jane: "A small silver coin of Genoa introduced into England towards the end of the 14th century" (Oxford English Dictionary)

1001 leeveth: believes, trusts

In Nevill Coghill's modern English version:
O stormy people, frivolous and fickle,
Void of true judgement, turning like a vane,
Whom every novelty and rumour tickle,
How like the moon you are to wax and wane,
Clapping your praises, shouting your disdain,
False judges, dear at a penny as a rule,
Who trusts to your opinion is a fool.


Poor Fish with Cold Blood and Lack-Lustre Eyes

W.A. Oldfather (1880-1945), "The Dissertation," Classical Weekly 32.20 (April 10, 1939) 231-233 (at 231):
What we principally need is to keep out of the profession not so much those unblessed by the laying on of philological hands, as rascals, boors and fourflushers, and especially poor fish with cold blood and lack-lustre eyes, the bespectacled, stodgy and scarified closet-pedants, able indeed through Sitzfleisch to meet the requirements for a higher degree, but who patently get no joy out of their own contact with classical culture (or out of anything else, for that matter), yet profess to interpret not merely that people whose prime need was for a world of men, but the very race of immortal children themselves! It is these pedants who drive away from the classics most of the students who are glad to be alive.

Friday, March 02, 2018


Letter to a Teacher of English

Robert Hillyer (1895-1961), "Letter to a Teacher of English: James B. Munn," in A Comprehensive Anthology of American Poetry, ed. Conrad Aiken (New York: The Modern Library, 1944), pp. 418-422:
Your learning, James, in classics and romance,
Sits lightlier than most men's ignorance;
But often do I see in our profession
Learning a mere extraneous possession,
An undigested mass of dates and sources
Roll'd round in academe's diurnal courses,
Where scholars prepare scholars, not for life,
But gaudy footnotes and a threadbare wife,—
Keen eyes for errors in a worthless text,
But none at all for this world or the next.
Your modesty, that even tops your learning,
Forbids what I would say of you, so turning
Not, as I hope, from Ghibelline to Guelph,
I will discuss, as is the vogue, myself.

I fall between two stools—I can't say Chairs—
A bard too learn'd, a scholar in arrears.
The critical reviewers, week by week,
Damn poets who command their own technique.
Professor is a title that to them
Begins in laughter and concludes in phlegm.
A careful rhyme, a spondee nobly planned
Is academic, and the work unmanned.
Would that these critics lived in houses fashioned
By carpenters congenially impassioned.
I'd love to see the rooftree fall on ... no,
The name is Legion; let us leave it so.
But as a teacher I have equal luck,
In ponds a chicken and on shore a duck.
My wretched memory, for all my pains,
Drops tons for every ounce that it retains;
Far wiser now, I have less factual knowledge
At forty-one than when I was in college ...

Yet there is recompense for knowing well
One language, if it be incomparable.
Disdainful, the Athenian would speak
No other language than his native Greek.
Now his provincial literature is prized
In every barbarous tongue that he despised.
The learned Roman, who knew Greek by heart,
Had twice the scholarship, and half the art.
The great Elizabethans' education
Thrived less on lore than on superb translation.
Our scholars, to whom every root is known,
Command all languages, except their own.
For confirmation, but consult the theses
That year by year bankrupt the college presses.

When poets go, grammarians arrive.
Is Virgil dead? Let commentators thrive.
The gift of tongues without the Holy Ghost
Becomes a Babel, not a Pentecost.
In short, dear James, by now you plainly see
I find no virtue in philology,
At best a sterile hobby, often worse,
The plumes, when language dies, upon its hearse. ...

Now, James, I stop complaining, I will plan
An education to produce a man.
Make no mistake, I do not want this done,
My limitations are the cornerstone.
Plato's Republic may have served some use
In manuscript, but not in Syracuse,
So let my dream Academy remain
A dream;—I'm sure I do not ask in vain.
First would I have my scholar learn the tongue
He never learned to speak when he was young;
Then would I have him read therein, but merely
In the great books, to understand them clearly.
O that our living literature could be
Our sustenance, not archaeology!
Time is the wisest judge, who folds away
The surplus of a too-abundant day.
My scholar shall be brilliantly forbidden
To dig old garbage from a kitchen midden.
Far better Alexandria in flames
Than buried beneath unimportant names,
And even Sappho, glory that was Greece's,
Lives best, I blasphemously think, in pieces.
Surely our sprite, who over Amherst hovered,
Would gain if no more poems were discovered.
That Chinese emperor who burned the books
Succumbed to madness shrewder than it looks;
The minor poets and the minor sages
Went up in smoke; the great shine down the ages.
The Harvard Library's ungainly porch
Has often made me hunger for a torch,
But this not more to simplify a lecture
Than to appease the Muse of architecture.

When music and sweet poetry agree,
Who would be thinking of a Ph.D.?
O who would Ablauts bear, when Brahms's First
Is soon to be performed or but rehearsed?
My scholar must have music in his heart,
Bach and Beethoven, Schumann and Mozart,
Franck and Sibelius, and more like these,
Their works, if not their names, sweet symphonies.
Ah, James, I missed my calling; I would turn
To that one art toward which the others yearn,—
But I observe my neighbor's cow, who leaves
Her fertile pasture for my barren sheaves.
The field next door, the next-door art, will thus
Always attract the mildly covetous.
Yet some day I will play you the main theme
Of the immortal counterpoint I dream:
Clear melody in fugue and canon rises
On strings, with many structural surprises.
No letter, but a prelude, for your sake
I would compose beside this tranquil lake.
Its line should rise toward heaven until it broke
Halfway between the sky and the great oak;
Then waver, like a flock of homing birds,
In slow descending flights of minor thirds.
Music alone can set the spirit free
From the dark past and darker things to be.
Could Man be judged by music, then the Lord
Would quench the angel of the flaming sword.
Alas, the final tones so soon disperse
Their echoes through the empty universe,
And hearers, weak from following Beethoven,
Relax with Gershwin, Herbert, and de Koven.

But to return to Polyhymnia,
And incidentally to my student. Ah,
Where is the creature? No, but is that he?
A saxophone is nuzzling on his knee!
His eyes pop out, his bellied cheeks expand,
His foot taps "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
Ungraceful and unpardonable wretch!
Was it for you my eager pen would sketch
A new, a sensible curriculum?
Burst with your Panpipes! and we'll both be dumb.
I was about to urge philosophy,
Especially the Greek, I was to be
Your godfather in recommending Faith
To you, fit godson for a Sigmund Spaeth!
Of history and time I was to tell,
Things visible and things invisible,
But what to you are echoes from Nicea,
Who never prayed nor cherished an idea?
And what have you to gain from education,
Blown bellows for unceasing syncopation?
Learning and life are too far wrenched apart,
I cannot reconcile, for all my art,
Studies that go one way and life another,
Tastes that demoralize, and tests that smother.

James, what is this I find? an angry scowl
Sits on my brow like a Palladian owl!
Let me erase it, lest it should transform
The soft horizon with a thunderstorm.
I would you were beside me now, to share
The sound of falling water, the sweet air.
Under the yew a vacant easy chair
Awaits your coming; and long-planted seeds
Begin to bloom amid the encircling weeds.
I bade my student an abrupt adieu
But find it harder to take leave of you.
May we not some day have a mild carouse
In Pontefract instead of Warren House?
The distance nothing,—in two hours' time
Another land where that word's but a rhyme.
Would I were Marvell, then you could not harden
Your heart against a visit to my garden.
I'd write those happy lines about the green
Annihilation, and you'd soon be seen
Hatless and coatless, bootless,—well, my soul!
He's in the lake with nothing on at all!
To sink, to swim, that is the only question:
Thus ends my treatise on—was it digestion?
Farewell, and yours sincerely, and yours ever,
The time has come for the initial shiver.
When into lakes, as into life, we dive,
We're fortunate if we come up alive.

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