Thursday, January 31, 2019


Nothing Better Than a Bookish Life

John Buchan (1875-1940), Memory Hold-the-Door (London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1940), p. 18:
The woods, oddly enough, were an invitation to books. In summer, especially in the Borders, I loathed the sight of the printed word, and my ambitions were for a career of devastating bodily adventure. But the winter woods had a quaint flavour of letters. Always in our scrambles among them there was the prospect of a bright fire, curtains drawn, and a long evening to read in. At such seasons I desired nothing better than a bookish life, as scholar or divine. My aim was to be a country parson in some place where the winters were long and snowy, and a man was forced to spend much of his days and all his evenings in a fire-lit library.



Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), Bitter Lemons, chapter 2:
Every evening we took a glass of sweet, heavy Commanderia on his little terrace, before walking down the tiny winding lanes to the harbor in order to watch the sunset melt. Here by the lapping water I was formally and civilly introduced to his friends, the harbormaster, the bookseller, the grocer, who sat by the lapping water sipping ouzo and watching the light gradually fade over the stubby bastions of Kyrenia Castle, and the slender points of the Mosque. Within a week I had a dozen firm friends in the little town and began to understand the true meaning of Cypriot hospitality which is wrapped up in a single word—"Kopiaste" which roughly speaking means "sit down with us and share." Impossible to pass a café, to exchange a greeting with anyone eating or drinking without having the word fired at one as if from the mouth of a gun. It became dangerous even to shout "Good appetite," as one does in Greece, to a group of laborers working on the roads when one passed them at their lunch-hour seated under an olive tree. At once a dozen voices would reply and a dozen hands would wave loaves or cans of wine....After ten days of this I began to feel like a Strasbourg goose.
Cf. Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece (1966; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 58:
I had begun to grasp, in the past few weeks, one of the great and unconvenanted delights of Greece; a pre-coming-of-age present in my case: a direct and immediate link, friendly and equal on either side, between human beings, something which melts barriers of hierarchy and background and money and, except for a few tribal and historic feuds, politics and nationality as well. It is not a thing which functions in the teeth of convention, but in almost prelapsarian unawareness of its existence. Self-consciousness, awe and condescension (and their baleful remedy of forced egalitarianism), and the feudal hangover and the post-Fall-of-the-Bastille flicker—all the gloomy factors which limit the range of life and deoxygenize the air of Western Europe, are absent. Existence, these glances say, is a torment, an enemy, an adventure and a joke which we are in league to undergo, outwit, exploit and enjoy on equal terms as accomplices, fellow-hedonists and fellow-victims. A stranger begins to realize that the armour which has been irking him and the arsenal he has been lugging about for half a life-time are no longer needed. Miraculous lightness takes their place.


The Limits of Our Comprehension

Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), ed., Aeschylus, Agamemnon, Vol. I (1950; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), p. ix:
As regards the discussion of controversial passages, I must make one further observation. It is a widespread belief that in the case of a so-called crux only one of two roads is open to the conscientious scholar: either he feels capable of understanding the disputed passage as it stands or he has to assume a corruption of the text. To me this belief seems to be based on a fallacy. We have only to pause for a moment and consider, first, the enormous gulf between our ways of life and thought and those of ancient Greece, then the sadly fragmentary nature of our whole tradition, and, finally, the solitary boldness of Aeschylus, to realize that it would be a sign of megalomania if we fancied it to be possible for us fully to understand the words of this poet wherever we have them in their original form. More than once, therefore, I have had to state that I regard the text of a certain line as probably sound but am nevertheless unable to grasp its meaning. This conviction must not, of course, serve as a pretext for slackening in our exertions. Every possible effort should be made to understand a difficult passage; but when a careful examination of the language and the style has produced no indication of a corruption and yet the sense remains obscure, then there may be a case, not for putting a dagger against the passage, but for admitting the limits of our comprehension.


The Buttock of Zeus

Christopher Stray, "Eduard Fraenkel: An Exploration," Syllecta Classica 25 (2014) 113-172 (at 134):
His pupil Mary Warnock remembered that "Fraenkel's English was good but not impeccable. There is a Homeric phrase usually (and quaintly) translated 'the mattock of Zeus.' Fraenkel for some weeks translated this 'the buttock of Zeus' (whom he pronounced Zois, in German style). Of course I said nothing to disabuse him. Then one day he stopped in mid-sentence and asked 'Is "buttock" right?' And I, agonised with embarrassment, had to say 'Well, no'" (Warnock 1991).
The reference is to Mary Warnock, "My Old Teacher," The Independent (June 2, 1991) 53 (non vidi).

The word is Homeric, but not the phrase. See Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. μάκελλα [μᾰ], ης, ἡ:
mattock, pick, used for digging and breaking up, Il.21.259, Luc.Hes.7: metaph., "Τροίαν κατασκάψαντα Διὸς μακέλλῃ" A.Ag.526; "μ. Ζηνὸς ἐξαναστραφῇ" S.Fr.727, cf. Ar.Av.1240.
Fraenkel in his edition of Aeschylus' Agamemnon (vol. I, p. 123) translated the phrase as "the mattock of Zeus."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Staying at Home

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter VII (his niece to Don Quixote; tr. Walter Starkie):
"Is it not better to stay peacefully at home instead of roaming the world in search of better bread than is made of wheat, not to mention that many who go for wool come home shorn?"

"¿No será mejor estarse pacífico en su casa, y no irse por el mundo á buscar pan de trastrigo, sin considerar que muchos van por lana y vuelven tresquilados?"
Francisco Rodríguez Marín ad loc.:
Buscar pan de trastrigo, frase figurada y familiar que falta en el Diccionario de la Academia, así como la palabra trastrigo, es (Correas, Vocabulario de refranes y frases proverbiales, pág. 318) "buscar ocasión de enojo con demasías imposibles: el trigo es el mejor grano y pan más subido, y es imposible hallarlo mejor".
Related posts:


Life Uninhibited, Irrepressed

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), "Nottingham: Lawrence's City," Times, Persons, Places: Essays in Literature (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1965), pp. 22-39 (at 26-27):
For one of the pleasures of inhabiting an old country, full of the accumulated riches of earlier and better times, is that there are always new objects of interest and beauty to see, for the eye to delight in and the mind to draw satisfaction and profit from.


My first surprise was the Flawford figures, discovered in 1779: from the time of Richard II, half life-size and in beautiful preservation, among the finest surviving examples of English medieval sculpture. I suppose they were buried at the Reformation — imagine what destruction there must have been! I suppose no time can have approached that for destruction of things of beauty, until we come to the twentieth century, which must surely hold the record in that line. There are three figures: the middle one a bishop in full pontificals giving his blessing, the whole thing full of suavity and tenderness, coming out of a worId that could receive such blessings easily and gratefully as part of the order of nature, or rather of the divine order. The smaller figure is of St. Peter as Pope, gay and appealing, with slightly curved stance. This is still more marked in the Virgin and Child, the child carried gaily on the hip, the delightful imp pressing milk from her naked breast. The Middle Ages took all that very naturally — like their religion. It gave them joy as well as consolation: it expressed the whole of life as no version of Christianity or sect has done since. But that was because the medieval Church itself was an expression of the whole society. The Peter has a figure of an ecclesiastic, the donor, praying at his feet on a couple of cushions: all with that naturalness which was the genius of the Middle Ages, that childlike naturalness which runs through their literature, through Chaucer, their religious poems, their politics, their behaviour — life uninhibited, irrepressed, the life of children.

Id. (at 31):
It gives one a melancholy pleasure, too, to look at fragments brought together here from which one can see how beautiful the town once was — as almost all English towns were before the Industrial Revolution undermined the beauty of England, a process that has overwhelmed us in our time with fifteen million people too many in the island.


The Power of Laughter

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 1975 (Z 4391):
You laugh openly and loudly about something, even entirely innocently, with one or two people in a café, in a conversation, in a street: everybody who hears or sees you laughing like this will turn and look at you with respect; if they were talking, they will stop, they will seem humbled; they will never dare to laugh at you; if they had previously looked at you boldly or condescendingly, they will lose their boldness and condescension toward you. In the end, simply laughing out loud gives you a definite superiority over all those near and around you, without exception. The power of laughter is terrible and awful: anyone who has the courage to laugh is master over others, in the same way as anyone who has the courage to die. (23 Sept. 1828.)

Ridete franco e forte, sopra qualunque cosa, anche innocentissima, con una o due persone, in un caffè, in una conversazione, in via: tutti quelli che vi sentiranno o vedranno rider cosí, vi rivolgeranno gli occhi, vi guarderanno con rispetto, se parlavano taceranno, resteranno come mortificati, non ardiranno mai rider di voi, se prima vi guardavano baldanzosi o superbi, perderanno tutta la loro baldanza e superbia verso di voi. In fine il semplice rider alto vi dà una decisa superiorità sopra tutti gli astanti o circostanti, senza eccezione. Terribile ed awful è la potenza del riso: chi ha il coraggio di ridere, è padrone degli altri, come chi ha il coraggio di morire (23 settembre 1828).
Related posts:


I Hate the Ancient Greeks

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece (1966; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), pp. 68-69:
"I don't know," he said amiably, "and, what's more, I don't care. I hate the ancient Greeks. We had to learn all about them at school: Plato, Socrates, Pericles, Leonidas, Aristotle, Euripides, Homer —Andra mi ennepe, Mousa, polytropon os malla [sic] polla and all that stuff. No, I don't hate them: that's too strong. But what have they got to do with me? Perhaps we descend from them, perhaps we don't, what does it matter? And who did they descend from, pray? Nobody knows. They were Greeks and so are we, that's all we know. I come from Smyrna—there's an ancient Greek city for you—and I may be more Greek than the Greeks in Athens, more Greek than your Sarakatsáns, for all I know. Who cares? Greece is an idea, that's the thing! That's what keeps us together—that, and the language and the country and the Church—not that I like priests particularly, but we owe them a lot. And those old Greeks, our celebrated ancestors, are a nuisance and I'll tell you why. They haunt us. We can never be as great as they were, nobody can. They make us feel guilty. We can't do anything, people think, because of a few old books and temples and lumps of marble. And clever foreigners who know all about the ancients come here expecting to be surrounded by Apollos and gentlemen in helmets and laurel leaves, and what do they see? Me: a small dark fat man with a moustache and eyes like boot buttons!" He laughed good-naturedly. "To hell with them! Give me the men of the War of Independence, who chucked out the Turks, give me Averoff, who presented us with a battleship out of his own pocket, give me Venizelos, who saved us all and turned Greece into a proper country. What's wrong with them? If we weren't such fools and always quarrelling among ourselves, if we could have no wars or revolutions for fifty years—fifty years, that's all I ask—you'd see what a country we'd become! Then we could start worrying about the Trojan Horse and working out our relationship to Pericles and finding out whether the Sarakatsáns descend from the ancient Greeks!"


Sounds Good to Me

Sallust, Jugurthine War 85.41 (Marius speaking; tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Well then, let them continue to do what pleases them and what they hold dear; let them make love and drink; let them pass their old age where they have spent their youth, in banquets, slaves to their belly and the most shameful parts of their body.

quin ergo quod iuvat, quod carum aestumant, id semper faciant: ament, potent; ubi adulescentiam habuere ibi senectutem agant, in conviviis, dediti ventri et turpissumae parti corporis.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


The Other Fellow Must Change His Ways

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), From the Elephant's Back (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2015), p. 39:
The trouble seems to me to be in the act of opinionation itself—because fundamentally when we address ourselves to the enjoyable task of rearranging the world into a juster and more equitable pattern we never consider ourselves as taking part in the plan. We are outside it somehow, directing the operation: the other fellow must change his ways. Thinking so directed cannot help but end in a magic formula which argues ill for somebody else's freedom.


Epitaph of a Happy Man

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 14.636 = Carmina Latina Epigraphica 487 (Ostia, 2nd century A.D.), as translated in Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 2023, to which I've added a translation of the opening words, before the versified part:
To the departed spirits of Publius Aufidius Epictetus. He lived 77 years, 5 months, 15 days. To the departed spirits of Aufidius.

Here lies one who was once so much more remarkably
Esteemed all over for his reputation and life.
Here he was as prosperous as in heaven, none more prosperous than he
ever was or lived, simple, good and blessed.
He was never sad and gaily he was happy everywhere,
Nor like old men did he desire to go to meet death
But feared death and thought that he could not die.
His wife has placed him in the ground and she weeps for her sad
Wounds, deprived of such a beloved husband

D(is) M(anibus) P(ubli) Aufidi Epicteti. Vixit annis LXXVII, me(n)si(bus) V, diebus XV. D(is) Aufidi M(anibus).

Hic iam nunc situs est quondam praestantius ille
omnib(us) in terris fama vitaque probatus.
hic fuit ad superos felix, quo non felicior alter
aut fuit aut vixit, simplex bonus atque beatus.
numquam tristis erat, laetus gaudebat ubique,
nec senib(us) similis mortem cupiebat obire,
set timuit mortem nec se mori posse putabat.
hunc coniunx posuit terrae et sua tristis flevit
volnera, quae sic sit caro biduata marito.
quo non felicior alter = Vergil, Aeneid 9.772.


The Unpatriotic Man

Walter Scott (1771-1832), The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Canto VI, Stanza I:
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.
"Comic, contemptible, and miserable poetry to boot," according to John McCormick, "Patriots, Expatriates, and Scoundrels," Sewanee Review 105.3 (Summer, 1997) 341-355 (at 342). I like these verses nonetheless.


What About My Rights?

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 630 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
But I too have a share in the city, and not you alone.

κἀμοὶ πόλεως μέτεστιν, οὐχὶ σοὶ μόνῳ.


He Begins His Presidential Campaign

Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter 2 (tr. Edith Grossman):
And so, having completed these preparations, he did not wish to wait any longer to put his thought into effect, impelled by the great need in the world that he believed was caused by his delay, for there were evils to undo, wrongs to right, injustices to correct, abuses to ameliorate, and offenses to rectify.

Hechas, pues, estas prevenciones, no quiso aguardar más tiempo á poner en efeto su pensamiento, apretándole á ello la falta que él pensaba que hacía en el mundo su tardanza, según eran los agravios que pensaba deshacer, tuertos que enderezar, sinrazones que enmendar, y abusos que mejorar, y deudas que satisfacer.
Later in that same chapter of Don Quixote, he does his first good deed, freeing a shepherd boy being whipped by his master. As soon as Don Quixote departs, the shepherd boy gets it twice as hard. A cautionary tale for presidential candidates and other do-gooders.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Condemnation of the Past

Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), Reflections on History, tr. M.D.H. (1943; rpt. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1950), pp. 61-62 (footnote omitted):
Yet arguments based on the corruption, debauchery and more especially the violence of times past, or on the cruelty and perfidy of barbarians, are misleading. For we judge everything by that standard of security without which we could no longer exist, and condemn the past by pointing out that our atmosphere did not exist in it, forgetting that even now, the moment security is suspended—in war, for instance—every conceivable horror shows its head. Neither the spirit nor the brain of man has visibly developed in historical times, and his faculties were in any case complete long before then. Hence our assumption that we live in the age of moral progress is supremely ridiculous when we look back on those perilous times out of which the free strength of ideal desire rises to heaven in the lofty spires of a hundred cathedrals. The matter is made worse by our vulgar hatred of everything that is different, of the many-sidedness of life, of symbolic rites and privileges half or quite in abeyance, by our identification of the moral with the precise and our incapacity to understand the multifarious, the fortuitous. We need not wish ourselves back into the Middle Ages, but we should try to understand them.


Ares, Begone!

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 190-197 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
And may savage Ares, who
now without the bronze of shields
is scorching me as he attacks with shouts,
turn his back and hasten from our land,
carried back either to the great
chamber of Amphitrite
or to the Thracian billow
bare of harbours!

Ἄρεά τε τὸν μαλερόν, ὃς        190
νῦν ἄχαλκος ἀσπίδων
φλέγει με περιβόητος ἀντιάζων,
παλίσσυτον δράμημα νωτίσαι πάτρας,
ἔπουρον εἴτ᾿ ἐς μέγαν
θάλαμον Ἀμφιτρίτας        195
εἴτ᾿ ἐς τὸν ἀπόξενον ὅρμων
Θρῄκιον κλύδωνα.
This is an example of epipompē, or banishment of evil to a particular place. In Sophocles, Oedipus the King. Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary by P.J. Finglass (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), p. 228, the incorrect term apopompē (ἀποπομπή) is used:
Two possible destinations are specified in this ἀποπομπή (190/1-193/4n.): the Atlantic Ocean and the Black Sea. These locations represent the furthest extremes of the known world...
Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē and epipompē to describe two different ways of banishing evil in "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13-14 (1911) 9-32. The difference between apopompē and epipompē can be seen most clearly in the Gospels. In most of the exorcisms recorded in the Gospels, Jesus simply drove demons away from the possessed (apopompē). But at Gadara (or Gerasa or Gergesa), Jesus drove the demons away to a particular place (epipompē), into a herd of pigs (Matthew 8.30-32; par. Mark 5.11-13 and Luke 8.32-33).

Cf. Jacob Stern, "Scapegoat Narratives in Herodotus," Hermes 119.3 (1991) 304-311 (at 305; he doesn't use the terms apopompē and epipompē):
The scapegoat is not only to be driven out, but is to be driven toward the enemy, who will receive it to his own harm.
For more on the difference between these two methods of banishing evil see:


Poverty and Wealth

John Ruskin (1819-1900), A Joy For Ever, Lecture I:
2. I cannot, however, help noticing how extraordinary it is, and how this epoch of ours differs from all bygone epochs in having no philosophical nor religious worshippers of the ragged godship of poverty. In the classical ages, not only were there people who voluntarily lived in tubs, and who used gravely to maintain the superiority of tub-life to town-life, but the Greeks and Latins seem to have looked on these eccentric, and I do not scruple to say, absurd people, with as much respect as we do upon large capitalists and landed proprietors; so that really, in those days, no one could be described as purse proud, but only as empty-purse proud. And no less distinct than the honour which those curious Greek people pay to their conceited poor, is the disrespectful manner in which they speak of the rich; so that one cannot listen long either to them, or to the Roman writers who imitated them, without finding oneself entangled in all sorts of plausible absurdities; hard upon being convinced of the uselessness of collecting that heavy yellow substance which we call gold, and led generally to doubt all the most established maxims of political economy.

3. Nor are matters much better in the Middle Ages. For the Greeks and Romans contented themselves with mocking at rich people, and constructing merry dialogues between Charon and Diogenes or Menippus, in which the ferryman and the cynic rejoiced together as they saw kings and rich men coming down to the shore of Acheron, in lamenting and lamentable crowds, casting their crowns into the dark waters, and searching, sometimes in vain, for the last coin out of all their treasures that could ever be of use to them.

4. But these Pagan views of the matter were indulgent, compared with those which were held in the Middle Ages, when wealth seems to have been looked upon by the best men not only as contemptible, but as criminal. The purse round the neck is, then, one of the principal signs of condemnation in the pictured Inferno; and the Spirit of Poverty is reverenced with subjection of heart, and faithfulness of affection, like that of a loyal knight for his lady, or a loyal subject for his queen.


Ivory Tower

J.-K. Huysmans (1848-1907), ‎Là-bas, chapter 3 (tr. Keene Wallace):
Durtal, made drowsy by the warmth and the quiet domesticity, let his thoughts wander. He said to himself, "If I had a place like this, above the roofs of Paris, I would fix it up and make of it a real haven of refuge. Here, in the clouds, alone and aloof, I would work away on my book and take my time about it, years perhaps. What inconceivable happiness it would be to escape from the age, and, while the waves of human folly were breaking against the foot of the tower, to sit up here, out of it all, and pore over antique tomes by the shaded light of the lamp."

Durtal se laissa vagabonder, loin de la ville. Il se disait, regardant cette pièce intime et ces bonnes gens: si l'on pouvait, en agençant cette chambre, s'installer ici, au-dessus de Paris, un séjour balsamique et douillet, un hâvre tiède. Alors, on pourrait mener, seul, dans les nuages, là-haut, la réparante vie des solitudes et parfaire, pendant des années, son livre. Et puis, quel fabuleux bonheur ce serait que d'exister enfin, à l'écart du temps, et, alors que le raz de la sottise humaine viendrait déferler au bas des tours, de feuilleter de très vieux bouquins, sous les lueurs rabattues d'une ardente lampe!

Sunday, January 27, 2019


As a Thief in the Night

Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400), "The Pardoner's Tale," Canterbury Tales, VI, 667-684:
"Go bet," quod he, "and axe redily
What cors is this, that passeth heer forby;
And looke, that thou reporte his name weel."
"Sire," quod this boy, "it nedeth never a deel;        670
It was me toold, er ye cam heer two houres.
He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres;
And sodeynly he was yslayn to-nyght,
Fordronke, as he sat on his bench upright.
Ther cam a privee theef men clepeth Deeth,        675
That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo,
And wente his wey withouten wordes mo.
He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence.
And, maister, er ye come in his presence,        680
Me thynketh that it were necessarie
For to be war of swich an adversarie.
Beth redy for to meete hym everemoore;
Thus taughte me my dame, I sey namoore."
In Nevill Coghill's modern English version:
One of them called the little tavern-knave
And said 'Go and find out at once — look spry! —
Whose corpse is in that coffin passing by;
And see you get the name correctly too.'
'Sir,' said the boy, 'no need, I promise you;
Two hours before you came here I was told.
He was a friend of yours in days of old,
And suddenly, last night, the man was slain.
Upon his bench, face up, dead drunk again.
There came a privy thief, they call him Death,
Who kills us all round here, and in a breath
He speared him through the heart, he never stirred.
And then Death went his way without a word.
He's killed a thousand in the present plague.
And, sir, it doesn't do to be too vague
If you should meet him; you had best be wary.
Be on your guard with such an adversary.
Be primed to meet him everywhere you go.
That's what my mother said. It's all I know.'


The Alien Past

Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), Reflections on History, tr. M.D.H. (1943; rpt. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1950), p. 27:
For the ordinary half-educated man, all poetry (except political verse), and, in the literature of the past, even the greatest creations of humour (Aristophanes, Rabelais, Don Quixote, etc.) are incomprehensible and tedious because none of all this literature was written specifically for him, as present-day novels are.

Yet, even to the scholar and thinker, the past, in its own utterance, is at first always alien, and its acquisition arduous.

Für den gewöhnlichen halbgebildeten Menschen ist schon alle Poesie (mit Ausnahme der Tendenzpoesie) und aus der Vergangenheit auch das Vergnüglichste (Aristophanes, Rabelais, Don Quixote usw.) unverständlich und langweilig, weil ihm nichts davon auf den Leib zugeschnitten ist wie die heutigen Romane.

Aber auch dem Gelehrten und Denker ist die Vergangenheit in ihrer Äußerung anfangs immer fremdartig und ihre Aneignung eine Arbeit.


Two Different Kinds of Hatred

Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism (New York: Basic Books, 2018), pp. 191-192:
We can therefore recognize two different kinds of hatred: There is the kind of hatred that is found in nationalist movements, which is the hatred of one clan, tribe, or nation for another that is in competition with it. And there is the kind of hatred that is found in imperialist movements, which is the hatred that a universal ideal bears against those nations or tribes that refuse to accept its claim of universality. The question is whether liberals, who believe they have largely freed themselves of the hatred found in nationalist movements, are also free of the enduring hatred, at times genocidal, that all previous universalist ideologies have displayed from the moment they had to contend with genuine, deep-seated opposition to their doctrines.

Experience suggests that a hatred of the nationalist, the particularist, and the dissident is found among imperialists of every stripe. The supposition that imperialists have a greater capacity for love or for tolerance, is, it would appear, a myth promoted by these same imperialists.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Punishment for Mockery of a Saint

First Life of St. Gengulph 13 (tr. Paul Trenchard):
After the servant of God had gone the way of all flesh, at the very place to which they had conveyed his sacred body, the broad and unspeakable mercy of God, through the merits of his Saint, bestowed great benefits upon the people. Manifestations of his wonders flowed forth on every side, and great crowds of people would gather for this great outpouring of gifts.

One of the young women who served the aforesaid woman in the capacity of a servant, ran swiftly to her mistress, saying, 'The body of Lord Gengulph, now laid to rest in his tomb, is bestowing the most wonderful miracles of healing upon everyone.'

To which her mistress — beside herself with ungovernable fury — replied, 'If Gengulph can work wonders so can my arse'. And no sooner had these shocking words left her mouth, than from that very part of her body which she had vulgarly thrust forth, there came a disgraceful sound.

Now, the day on which these things happened was, according to the Christian reckoning, the sixth day of the week. Henceforth, and for the whole of the rest of her life, she was subjected to this disgrace, namely that every Friday, as often as she tried to speak, shameful noises would instead come forth from her arse — that part of her body which she had irreverently compared with the miraculous powers of the man of God.
The Latin, from I. Vita Gangulfi Martyris Varennensis, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum, IV: Passiones Vitaeque Sanctorum Aevi Merovingici, ed. Bruno Krusch (Hannover: Hahn, 1902), pp. 155-170 (from chapter 13 on pp. 166-167):
Nam Dei famulo viam universae carnis ingresso, per loca, quibus corporis sacri vehebatur gleba, multa ineffabilis Dei pietas largiebatur per meritum eius populis beneficia. Cumque ad huius exoptati muneris largiflua dona non parva plebis conveniret copiosa frequentia, circumquaque diffundebantur prodigiorum eius insignia. Tunc una ex illis quae praedictae mulieri videbantur ancillari puellis, pernix currens ad dominam, sic intulit: 'Domni Gangulfi corpus in antro tumulandum sepulchri maxima inpertitur cunctis gaudia sanitatis'. At illa, furiali amentia debachata, sic ait: 'Sic operatur virtutes Gangulfus, quomodo anus meus'. Statim ut haec vox nefanda ab ore exiit, a parte obstrusa corporis obscenus sonus prodiit. Illum diem, quo haec acta sunt, mos christianus feriam sextam vocitare consuevit. Talique postea subiacuit obprobrio, ut per omne vitae suae tempus, quot eo die protulit verba, ab illa parte corporis quasi tot prodierunt probra, cui viri Dei miracula aequiperare non est reverita.
Cf. Petrus Cantor, Verbum Abbreviatum (Patrologia Latina, vol. 205, col. 471 D):
Interea sanctus portatur ad sepulcrum, et inter eundum multa miracula facit. Quod cum una ex ancillis narraret uxori ejus, illa insaniens respondit: Sic operatur virtutes Gengulfus quomodo anus meus. Quo dicto, statim a parte abstrusa corporis obscenus sonus prodiit. Erat autem sexta feria. Talique postea subjacuit opprobrio, ut per omne tempus vitae suae quot eo die protulit verba, tot ab illa parte corporis prodirent probra.
Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849) versified the incident in his poem "The New Cecilia":
Whoever has heard of St Gingo
    Must know that the gipsy
    He married was tipsy
Every day of her life with old Stingo.

And after the death of St Gingo
    The wonders he did do
    Th' incredulous widow
Denied with unladylike lingo:

'For St Gingo a fig and a feather-end!
    He no more can work wonder
Than a clyster-pipe thunder
    Or I sing a psalm with my nether-end.'

As she said it, her breakfast beginning on
    A tankard of home-brewed inviting ale,
Lo! the part she was sitting and sinning on
    Struck the old hundredth up like a nightingale.

Loud as psophia in an American forest or
    The mystic Mennonian marble in
A desart at daybreak, that chorister
    Breathed forth his Aeolian warbling.

That creature seraphic and spherical,
Her firmament, kept up its clerical
    Thanksgivings, until she did aged die
Cooing and praising and chirping alert in
Her petticoat, swung like a curtain
    Let down o'er the tail of a Tragedy.

Therefore, ladies, repent and be sedulous
    In praising your lords, lest, ah! well a day!
Such judgement befall the incredulous
    And your latter ends melt into melody.




Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), Reflections on History, tr. M.D.H. (1943; rpt. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1950), p. 28:
But he must want to seek and find, and bisogna saper leggere (must know how to read) (De Boni). He must believe that every dust-heap contains jewels of knowledge, whether of general value or of personal value to us. A single line from an otherwise worthless author may kindle a light to guide all our further steps.

Aber man muß suchen und finden wollen, und bisogna saper leggere (De Boni). Man muß glauben, daß in allem Schutt Edelsteine der Erkenntnis vergraben liegen, sei es von allgemeinem Wert, sei es von individuellem für uns; eine einzelne Zeile in einem vielleicht sonst wertlosen Autor kann dazu bestimmt sein, daß uns ein Licht aufgehe, welches für unsere ganze Entwicklung bestimmend ist.

Friday, January 25, 2019


Foreign Languages

Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), Reflections on History, tr. M.D.H. (1943; rpt. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1950), p. 26:
We can never know too many languages. And however much or little we may have known of them, we should never quite let them lapse. All honour to good translations, but none can replace the original expression, and the original language, in word and phrase, is historical evidence of the first rank.

Man weiß nie zu viele Sprachen. Und so viel oder wenig man gewußt habe, darf man die Übung nie völlig einschlafen lassen. Gute Übersetzungen in Ehren — aber den originalen Ausdruck kann keine ersetzen, und die Ursprache ist in Wort und Wendung schon selber ein historisches Zeugnis höchsten Ranges.


It Is Time to Feel Nauseous

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book IV, § 335 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Yes, my friends, regarding all the moral chatter of some about others it is time to feel nauseous. Sitting in moral judgment should offend our taste.

Ja, meine Freunde! In Hinsicht auf das ganze moralische Geschwätz der Einen über die Andern ist der Ekel an der Zeit! Moralisch zu Gericht sitzen soll uns wider den Geschmack gehen!


Proof of God's Existence

E.M. Cioran (1911-1995), Tears and Saints, tr. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), p. 66:
Listening to Bach, one sees God come into being. His music generates divinity.

After a Bach oratorio, cantata, or passion, one feels that God must be. Otherwise, Bach's music would be only heartrending illusion.

Theologians and philosophers wasted so many days and nights searching for proofs of his existence, ignoring the only valid one: Bach.


Duties of Foreigners and Resident Aliens

Cicero, On Duties 1.125 (tr. Walter Miller):
As for the foreigner or the resident alien, it is his duty to attend strictly to his own concerns, not to pry into other people's business, and under no condition to meddle in the politics of a country not his own.

peregrini autem atque incolae officium est nihil praeter suum negotium agere, nihil de alio anquirere minimeque esse in aliena re publica curiosum.
Andrew R. Dyck, A Commentary on Cicero, De Officiis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), p. 299 (discussing this passage):
Those engaged in politics were held to be πολυπράγμονες (Arist. EN 1142a2); even an Athenian citizen was well advised to keep clear of that predicate (cf. Lys. 24.24; Isoc. 15.99 and 230 wards off the charge that his students and fellow sophists are πολυπράγμονες). Foreign residents, who could by definition play no political role, are here advised to avoid πολυπραγμοσύνη and keep a low profile, presumably since they are easy targets in troubled times (cf. Lys. 12.6; ad 3.47). Pl. Lg. 952d1 stipulates the death penalty for a foreign visitor ἐάν γ᾿ ἐν δικαστηρίῳ ἁλῷ πολυπραγμονῶν τι περὶ τὴν παιδείαν καὶ τοὺς νόμους.
Dyck's reference to Plato, Laws 952d is somewhat misleading—Plato isn't referring to a "foreign visitor" to his ideal city but rather to a citizen who returns home after travel abroad, having imbibed dangerous foreign ideas.

Related posts:


The Midpoint

Bleddyn J. Roberts, "The Old Testament: Manuscripts, Text and Versions," in G.W.H. Lampe, ed., The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol. 2: The West from the Fathers to the Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), pp. 1-26 (at 6):
Thus, the scribes reckoned every letter of the Torah, established that the middle consonant in the Torah was in Lev. xi.42, the middle word in Lev. x.16, the middle verse Lev. xiii.33. The middle of the Psalter was Ps. 78:38.
According to 2 Timothy 3.16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," so it must be my spiritual blindness that prevents me from seeing the profit in that middle verse, Leviticus 13.33:
He shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more.
Scall = "A scaly or scabby disease of the skin, esp. of the scalp" (Oxford English Dictionary).

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Jollity and Mirth

William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale 4.4.28-29:
Apprehend / Nothing but jollity.
Id. 4.4.62:
And let's be red with mirth.
Red = red-faced, flushed.


Like Morning Dew

Nineteen Old Poems, number 13, tr. Zong-qi Cai:
I ride my carriage to the Upper East Gate,
Gazing at the graves north of the wall.
White poplars, how bleak they are in the wind!
Pine and cypress flank the broad paths.
Underneath them, the dead from long ago,
Dark, dark is their long night.
Lost in sleep beneath the Yellow Springs,
Come a thousand years, they will not awaken.
Seasons of growth and decay march on and on,
The years allotted to man are like morning dew.
Man's life is as transient as a sojourn,
His frame is not as firm as metal or stone.
Ten thousand years have gone by,
No sages or worthies can cross the flow of time.
Some take drugs and hope to become immortals,
Many of them only end their life with poison.
Far better to drink fine wine
And wear clothes made of choice white silk.
The same, tr. Burton Watson:
I drive my carriage from the Upper East Gate,
scanning the graves far north of the wall;
silver poplars, how they whisper and sigh;
pine and cypress flank the broad lane.
Beneath them, the ancient dead
black black there in their long night,
sunk in sleep beneath the Yellow Springs;
a thousand years pass but they never wake.
Times of heat and cold in unending succession,
but the years Heaven gives us are like morning dew.
Man's life is brief as a sojourn;
his years lack the firmness of metal or stone.
Ten thousand ages come and go
but sages and wise men discover no cure.
Some seek long life in fasts and potions;
many end by poisoning themselves.
Far better to drink fine wine,
to clothe ourselves in soft white silk!
Related post: All Flesh.


The Education of Marius

Sallust, Jugurthine War 85.31-33 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
My words are not well chosen; I care little for that. Merit shows well enough in itself. It is they who have need of art to gloss over their shameful acts with specious words. Nor have I studied Grecian letters. I did not greatly care to become acquainted with them, since they had not taught their teachers virtue. But I have learned by far the most important lesson for my country's good—to strike down the foe, to keep watch and ward, to fear nothing save ill repute, to endure heat and cold alike, to sleep on the ground, to bear privation and fatigue at the same time.

non sunt composita verba mea; parvi id facio. ipsa se virtus satis ostendit. illis artificio opus est, ut turpia facta oratione tegant. neque litteras Graecas didici; parum placebat eas discere, quippe quae ad virtutem doctoribus nihil profuerant. at illa multo optuma rei publicae doctus sum: hostem ferire, praesidia agitare, nihil metuere nisi turpem famam, hiemem et aestatem iuxta pati, humi requiescere, eodem tempore inopiam et laborem tolerare.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


The Greatest Delight

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 999 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
It is the greatest delight to see the faces of one's parents.

τὰ τῶν τεκόντων ὄμμαθ᾿ ἥδιστον βλέπειν.


The Devil in the Machine

John Aubrey (1626-1697), "Thomas Allen," Brief Lives:
He was generally acquainted, and every long vacation, he rode into the countrey to visitt his old acquaintance and patrones, to whom his great learning, mixt with much sweetnes of humour, rendred him very welcome. One time being at Hom Lacy in Herefordshire, at Mr. John Scudamore's (grandfather to the lord Scudamor), he happened to leave his watch in the chamber windowe—(watches were then rarities)—The maydes came in to make the bed, and hearing a thing in a case cry Tick, Tick, Tick, presently concluded that that was his Devill, and tooke it by the string with the tongues, and threw it out of the windowe into the mote (to drowne the Devill.) It so happened that the string hung on a sprig of an elder that grew out of the mote, and this confirmed them that 'twas the Devill. So the good old gentleman gott his watch again.
Hom = Holme; tongues = tongs.


Braggart Soldiers

Sallust, Jugurthine War 53.8 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Thereupon in place of fear a sudden joy arose. The exultant soldiers called out to one another, told of their exploits and heard the tales of others. Each man praised his own valiant deeds to the skies. For so it is with human affairs; in time of victory the very cowards may brag, while defeat discredits even the brave.

igitur pro metu repente gaudium exortum, milites alius alium laeti appellant, acta edocent atque audiunt, sua quisque fortia facta ad caelum fert. quippe res humanae ita sese habent: in victoria vel ignavis gloriari licet, advorsae res etiam bonos detrectant.

exortum codd.: mutatur Priscian (Grammatici Latini 3.296.7)
Prisciani Caesariensis Ars, Liber XVIII, Pars Altera, 2: Commento a cura di Elena Spangenberg Yanes (Hildesheim: Weidmann, 2017), p. 109:
In Sall. Iug. 53, 8 la variante priscianea mutatur per exortum dei codici sallustianni appare una lectio difficilior ed è sostenuta dal confronto con Iug. 83, 1 incerta pro certis mutare (vd. Koestermann 1971, p. 213). Ernout, Kurfess e Reynolds mettono a testo mutatur. Nitzschner 1884, pp. 96-97, ritiene, invece, che si tratti di un errore di memoria del grammatico.
Leighton D. Reynolds, "Experiences of an Editor of Classical Latin Texts," Revue d'histoire des textes 30 (2000) 1-15 (at 13):
I do not see how it is possible to form any general policy with regard to the ancient evidence. The ancient variant is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and each case must be judged on its merits and by the normal methods of textual criticism. There is a tendency to overvalue such 'venerable' variants; but, when one comes to think of it, the medieval tradition which has given us such a good text of Sallust must be full of venerable readings too.

I shall give just two examples:
Iug. 53.8 Igitur pro metu repente gaudium mutatur: milites alius alium laeti appellant.

mutatur Priscianus: exortum ω
The Romans suddenly realized that the troops approaching in the darkness were not the enemy, but their own comrades, and fear turned to joy. Priscian is quoting this passage precisely to illustrate the use of mutare pro. mutare fell out before milites through homoearcton and was replaced by the obvious stopgap exortum.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019



Du Fu (712-770), "The Four Pines," lines 17-18 (tr. Stephen Owen):
Observing things, I sigh at their decline,
but when it comes to these trees, they console my gloom.


A Debt Owed

Euripides, Andromache 1270-1272 (tr. Deborah Roberts):
Stop grieving on behalf of those who have died,
since this is the decree the gods have ordained
for all human beings, and death is what they owe.

παῦσαι δὲ λύπης τῶν τεθνηκότων ὕπερ·
πᾶσιν γὰρ ἀνθρώποισιν ἥδε πρὸς θεῶν
ψῆφος κέκρανται κατθανεῖν τ' ὀφείλεται.
Euripides, Alcestis 782-784 (tr. Moses Hadas and John McLean):
All men have to pay the debt of death,
and there is not a mortal who knows
whether he is going to be alive on the morrow.

βροτοῖς ἅπασι κατθανεῖν ὀφείλεται,
κοὐκ ἔστι θνητῶν ὅστις ἐξεπίσταται
τὴν αὔριον μέλλουσαν εἰ βιώσεται.
Greek Anthology 11.62, lines 1-2 (by Palladas; tr. W.R. Paton):
Death is a debt due by all men and no
mortal knows if he will be alive to-morrow.

πᾶσι θανεῖν μερόπεσσιν ὀφείλεται, οὐδέ τις ἐστὶν
    αὔριον εἰ ζήσει θνητὸς ἐπιστάμενος.



Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400), "Pardoner's Prologue," lines 93-94, Canterbury Tales:
Thus spitte I out my venim under hewe
Of holynesse, to seme holy and trewe.
This is easy to understand, but nevertheless here it is in modern English:
Thus I spit out my venom under hue
of holiness, to seem holy and true.
This style of preaching is still much in vogue.

Monday, January 21, 2019


Requirement for a Commentary

A.S. Hollis, ed., Ovid, Ars Amatoria, Book I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977; rpt. 1992), p. vii (Preface):
I remember him [R.G.M. Nisbet] saying that a commentary should not be duller than the text on which it is based...


Socrates Dancing

Xenophon, Symposium 2.15-19 (tr. O.J. Todd):
[15] At this point the boy performed a dance, eliciting from Socrates the remark, "Did you notice that, handsome as the boy is, he appears even handsomer in the poses of the dance than when he is at rest?"

"It looks to me," said Charmides, "as if you were puffing the dancing-master."

[16] "Assuredly," replied Socrates; "and I remarked something else, too,—that no part of his body was idle during the dance, but neck, legs, and hands were all active together. And that is the way a person must dance who intends to increase the suppleness of his body. And for myself," he continued, addressing the Syracusan, "I should be delighted to learn the figures from you."

"What use will you make of them?" the other asked.

"I will dance, by Zeus."

[17] This raised a general laugh; but Socrates, with a perfectly grave expression on his face, said: "You are laughing at me, are you? Is it because I want to exercise to better my health? Or because I want to take more pleasure in my food and my sleep? Or is it because I am eager for such exercises as these, not like the long-distance runners, who develop their legs at the expense of their shoulders, nor like the prize-fighters, who develop their shoulders but become thin-legged, but rather with a view to giving my body a symmetrical development by exercising it in every part?

[18] Or are you laughing because I shall not need to hunt up a partner to exercise with, or to strip, old as I am, in a crowd, but shall find a moderate-sized room large enough for me (just as but now this room was large enough for the lad here to get up a sweat in), and because in winter I shall exercise under cover, and when it is very hot, in the shade?

[19] Or is this what provokes your laughter, that I have an unduly large paunch and wish to reduce it? Don't you know that just the other day Charmides here caught me dancing early in the morning?"

"Indeed I did," said Charmides; "and at first I was dumbfounded and feared that you were going stark mad; but when I heard you say much the same things as you did just now, I myself went home, and although I did not dance, for I had never learned how, I practised shadow-boxing, for I knew how to do that."
In a detailed analysis of the scene, Bernhard Huss, "The Dancing Socrates and the Laughing Xenophon, or The Other Symposium," American Journal of Philology 120 (1999) 381-409, rpt. in Vivienne J. Gray, ed., Oxford Readings in Classical Studies: Xenophon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 257-282, concluded that "Sokrates never danced" (p. 263).

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Socrates at Aspasia's Home


This Generation

Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), "On Encountering Trouble," lines 89-96 (tr. Fusheng Wu):
Truly this generation are cunning artificers,
They reject rules to fashion their own measurements.
They disregard ruled lines to follow their crooked fancies,
And to emulate in flattery is their only principle.
But I am sick and sad at heart and stand irresolute:
I alone am at loss in this generation.
Yet I would rather quickly die and meet dissolution,
Before I ever would consent to ape their behavior.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Achsah's Action

Joint Committee on the New Translation of the Bible, The New English Bible: The Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), p. 307 (Joshua 15:18):
As she sat on the ass, she broke wind, and Caleb asked her, 'What did you mean by that?'
Id., p. 321 (Judges 1:14):
As she sat on the ass, she broke wind, and Caleb said, 'What did you mean by that?'
Godfrey R. Driver, "Problems of Interpretation in the Heptateuch," in Mélanges bibliques rédigés en l'honneur de André Robert (Paris: Bloud & Gay, 1957), pp. 66-76 (at 73-75; non vidi), proposed the translation "she broke wind."

Arthur Gibson, "ṣnḥ in Judges I 14: NEB and AV Translations," Vetus Testamentum 26.3 (July, 1976) 275-283, argued against it.




Amphora by Euthymides
(Munich, Antikensammlungen, inv. 2307)


See Jenifer Neils, "Portrait of an Artist: Euthymides, Son of Pollias," in Kristen Seaman and Peter Schultz, edd., Artists and Artistic Production in Ancient Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 23-36 (at 28, 31), and H. Engelmann, "'Wie nie Euphronios' (Euthymides, Amphora München 2307)," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 68 (1987) 129-134.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Poor Scholars

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), Hero and Leander I.471-472:
And to this day is every scholar poor,
Gross gold from them runs headlong to the boor.


Made of Clay

Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, Part II, Book 9, Chapter 4 (tr. Ioannis D. Evrigenis and Daniel Pellerin):
Nature raises families; the most natural state is therefore also one people, with one national character. Through the millennia, this national character is maintained within a people and can be developed most naturally if its native prince so desires, for a people is as much a plant of nature as a family, only with more branches. Nothing, then, seems to run so obviously counter to the purpose of governments as the unnatural expansion of states, the wild mixture of all types of races and nations under one scepter. The human scepter is much too weak and small for such contrary parts to be implanted into it; pasted together, they become a fragile machine called the machine of state, without inner life or sympathy of the parts for one another. States of this kind, which turn the name Father of the Fatherland into such a burden for the best of monarchs, appear in history like those symbols of the monarchies in the prophet's vision where the lion's head is united with the dragon's tail and the eagle's wings with the bear's claws into one unpatriotic state-structure. Like Trojan horses, such machines close ranks, vouching for each other's immortality, since without national character there is no life within them and only the curse of fortune could condemn the forcibly united to immortality. For the very statecraft that brought them into being is also the one that plays with peoples and human beings as with lifeless bodies. But history shows sufficiently that these instruments of human pride are made of clay, and like all clay on earth, they crumble and dissolve.

Die Natur erzieht Familien; der natürlichste Staat ist also auch ein Volk, mit einem Nationalcharakter. Jahrtausendelang erhält sich dieser in ihm und kann, wenn seinem mitgebornen Fürsten daran liegt, am natürlichsten ausgebildet werden; denn ein Volk ist sowohl eine Pflanze der Natur als eine Familie, nur jenes mit mehreren Zweigen. Nichts scheint also dem Zweck der Regierungen so offenbar entgegen als die unnatürliche Vergrößerung der Staaten, die wilde Vermischung der Menschengattungen und Nationen unter einen Zepter. Der Menschenzepter ist viel zu schwach und klein, daß so widersinnige Teile in ihn eingeimpft werden könnten; zusammengeleimt werden sie also in eine brechliche Maschine, die man Staatsmaschine nennet, ohne inneres Leben und Sympathie der Teile gegeneinander. Reiche dieser Art, die dem besten Monarchen den Namen Vater des Vaterlandes so schwer machen, erscheinen in der Geschichte wie jene Symbole der Monarchien im Traumbilde des Propheten, wo sich das Löwenhaupt mit dem Drachenschweif und der Adlersflügel mit dem Bärenfuß zu einem unpatriotischen Staatsgebilde vereinigt Wie trojanische Rosse rücken solche Maschinen zusammen, sich einander die Unsterblichkeit verbürgend, da doch ohne Nationalcharakter kein Leben in ihnen ist und für die Zusammengezwungenen nur der Fluch des Schicksals sie zur Unsterblichkeit verdammen könnte; denn eben die Staatskunst, die sie hervorbrachte, ist auch die, die mit Völkern und Menschen als mit leblosen Körpern spielet. Aber die Geschichte zeigt gnugsam, daß diese Werkzeuge des menschlichen Stolzes von Ton sind und wie aller Ton auf der Erde zerbrechen oder zerfließen.
Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism (New York: Basic Books, 2018), pp. 112-113:
In this passage, Herder describes the imperial state as nothing other than a "curse" to all involved. According to this point of view, human government is inherently limited in what it can attain, and can be strong and effective only when it relies on the "bonds of sentiment" that unite a single nation in a national state whose leaders are drawn from the people. The "unnatural enlargement of states," which forces many nations together under a single rule, is not based on such bonds of sentiment. It only increases the burdens and difficulties piled on the state as "incongruous parts" that are not bound together by mutual loyalty are added to it, until eventually it survives only as a "patched up contraption" groaning under the weight of these troubles.



Francis Grose (1731-1791), A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd ed. (London: S. Hooper, 1788), unpaginated:
FART CATCHER. A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress.

George Cardinal Pell, with cappa magna

Pedosequus is my own coinage, suggested by the following:
  1. Latin pĕdĭsĕquus = footman, man-servant, page
  2. Latin pēdo = break wind
  3. Greek παῖς, παιδός = child, boy (cf. pedophile and its apocopated form pedo)

Friday, January 18, 2019


Wish List

John Ruskin, letter to Charles Eliot Norton (December 28, 1858):
I want to get all the Titians—Tintorets—Paul Veroneses, Turners and Sir Joshuas—in the world—into one great fireproof Gothic gallery of marble and serpentine. I want to get them all perfectly engraved. I want to go and draw all the subjects of Turner's 19,000 sketches in Switzerland & Italy elaborated out myself. I want to get everybody a dinner who has'nt got one. I want to macadamize some new roads to heaven with broken fool's heads. I want to hang up some knaves out of the way: not that I've any dislike to them; but I think it would be wholesome for them; and for other people, and that they would make good crow's meat. I want to play all day long and arrange my cabinet of minerals with new white wool. I want somebody to nurse me when I'm tired. I want Turner's pictures not to fade. I want to be able to draw clouds, and to understand how they go—and I can't make them stand still—nor understand them—They all go sideways—πλάγιαι—(what a fellow that Aristophanes was—and and yet to be always in the wrong, in the Main—except in his love for Aeschylus and the country—Did ever a worthy man do so much mischief on the face of the Earth?) Farther, I want to make the Italians industrious—the Americans quiet;—the Swiss Romantic;—the Roman Catholics Rational—and the English Parliament honest—and I can't do anything and don't understand what I was born for.
Some items on Ruskin's wish list overlap with items on mine.


The Hyaenas

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Hyaenas," The Years Between (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1919), pp. 66-67:
After the burial-parties leave
    And the baffled kites have fled;
The wise hyaenas come out at eve
    To take account of our dead.

How he died and why he died
    Troubles them not a whit.
They snout the bushes and stones aside
    And dig till they come to it.

They are only resolute they shall eat
    That they and their mates may thrive,
And they know that the dead are safer meat
    Than the weakest thing alive.

(For a goat may butt, and a worm may sting,
    And a child will sometimes stand;
But a poor dead soldier of the King
    Can never lift a hand.)

They whoop and halloo and scatter the dirt
    Until their tushes white
Take good hold in the army shirt,
    And tug the corpse to light,

And the pitiful face is shewn again
    For an instant ere they close;
But it is not discovered to living men—
    Only to God and to those

Who, being soulless, are free from shame,
    Whatever meat they may find.
Nor do they defile the dead man's name—
    That is reserved for his kind.


More Obvious to the Nose Than Ears

Francis Grose (1731-1791), A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd ed. (London: S. Hooper, 1788), unpaginated:
FICE, or FOYSE. A small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap dogs. See FIZZLE.
Related posts:



The Academic Study of Literature

Michel Houellebecq, Submission, Part I (tr. Lorin Stein):
The academic study of literature leads basically nowhere, as we all know, unless you happen to be an especially gifted student, in which case it prepares you for a career teaching the academic study of literature — it is, in other words, a rather farcical system that exists solely to replicate itself and yet manages to fail more than 95 per cent of the time.

Les études universitaires dans le domaine des lettres ne conduisent comme on le sait à peu près à rien, sinon pour les étudiants les plus doués à une carrière d'enseignement universitaire dans le domaine des lettres — on a en somme la situation plutôt cocasse d'un système n'ayant d'autre objectif que sa propre reproduction, assorti d'un taux de déchet supérieur à 95 %.
I'd never felt the slightest vocation for teaching — and my fifteen years as a teacher had only confirmed that initial lack of calling. What little private tutoring I'd done, to raise my standard of living, soon convinced me that the transmission of knowledge was generally impossible, the variance of intelligence extreme, and that nothing could undo or even mitigate this basic inequality. Worse, maybe, I didn't like young people and never had, even when I might have been numbered among them.

Je n'avais jamais eu la moindre vocation pour l'enseignement — et, quinze ans plus tard, ma carrière n'avait fait que confirmer cette absence de vocation initiale. Quelques cours particuliers donnés dans l'espoir d'améliorer mon niveau de vie m'avaient très tôt convaincu que la transmission du savoir était la plupart du temps impossible; la diversité des intelligences, extrême; et que rien ne pouvait supprimer ni même atténuer cette inégalité fondamentale. Peut-être plus grave encore, je n'aimais pas les jeunes — et je ne les avais jamais aimés, même du temps où je pouvais être considéré comme faisant partie de leurs rangs.



Sallust, Jugurthine War 41.5 (tr. William W. Batstone):
For the aristocracy twisted their 'dignity' and the people twisted 'liberty' towards their desires; every man acted on his own behalf, stealing, robbing, plundering. In this way all political life was torn apart between two parties, and the Republic, which had been our common ground, was mutilated.

namque coepere nobilitas dignitatem, populus libertatem in libidinem vertere, sibi quisque ducere, trahere, rapere. ita omnia in duas partis abstracta sunt, res publica, quae media fuerat, dilacerata.
See D.C. Earl, The Political Thought of Sallust (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), pp. 53-57.

Id. 41.9:
And so, joined with power, greed without moderation or measure invaded, polluted, and devastated everything, considered nothing valuable or sacred, until it brought about its own collapse.

ita cum potentia avaritia sine modo modestiaque invadere, polluere et vastare omnia, nihil pensi neque sancti habere, quoad semet ipsa praecipitavit.
Id. 42.4:
In general, this is what destroys great states: one group wants to overcome the other in any possible way and then to take a bitter vengeance on the defeated.

quae res plerumque magnas civitatis pessum dedit, dum alteri alteros vincere quovis modo et victos acerbius ulcisci volunt.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Burckhardt's Philosophy

H.R. Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), "The Faustian Historian: Jacob Burckhardt," Historical Essays (London: Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1963), pp. 273-278 (at 275):
For if one looks for the heart of Burckhardt's philosophy, it always comes back to this: civilisation is a delicate and precarious thing which only an educated and perhaps unscrupulously self-preserving hierarchy can protect against the numerical revolt of the masses with their materialism, their indifference to liberty, their ready surrender to demagogic power; and the crises of civilisation consist in precisely that revolt of the masses which, however, can never prevail against the strength of conservative institutions unless it is aided from within by moral and intellectual decay.


The Best Part of Waking Up

John Ruskin, letter to Charles Eliot Norton (October 5, 1876, from Venice):
I wake as a matter of course, about half-past five, and get up and go out on my balcony in my nightgown to see if there's going to be a nice dawn.

That's the view I have from it—with the pretty traceried balcony of the Contarini Fasan next door. Generally there is a good dawn (nothing but sunshine and moonlight for the last month). At six I get up, and dress, with, occasionally, balcony interludes but always get to my writing table at seven, where, by scolding and paying, I secure my punctual cup of coffee, and do a bit of the Laws of Plato to build the day on. I find Jowett's translation is good for nothing and shall do one myself, as I've intended these fifteen years.

Charles Spencelayh, Morning Chapter

Related post: Necessary to My Existence.



Du Fu (712-770), "Hiding My Traces," last two lines (tr. Stephen Owen):
May I attain a hundred years of general drunkenness
and not comb my hair for a whole month.


Charlatans in Charge

Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.7.5 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
The man who persuades you to lend him money or goods and then keeps them is without doubt a rogue; but much the greatest rogue of all is the man who has gulled his city into the belief that he is fit to direct it.

ἀπατεῶνα δ' ἐκάλει οὐ μικρὸν μὲν οὐδ' εἴ τις ἀργύριον ἢ σκεῦος παρά του πειθοῖ λαβὼν ἀποστεροίη, πολὺ δὲ μέγιστον ὅστις μηδενὸς ἄξιος ὢν ἐξηπατήκοι πείθων ὡς ἱκανὸς εἴη τῆς πόλεως ἡγεῖσθαι.
Marchant's translation omits μηδενὸς ἄξιος ὢν. The translation of Hugh Tredennick (rev. Robin Waterfield) is closer to the Greek:
It was no slight deception, he said, even to deprive another person by persuasion of a sum of money or an article of value, but it was the grossest deception of all for a good-for-nothing person to convey the false impression that he was capable of directing the State.



The word corybungus isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Albert Barrère and Charles G. Leland, A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant, Vol. I (London: Ballantyne Press, 1889), p. 274:
Corybungus (pugilistic), backside.
History of the Great International Contest between Heenan and Sayers (London: George Newbold, 1860), p. 163 (describing the "Fight between Tom Sayers and George Sims, for £75, (£50 to £25) on Tuesday, the 28th of February, 1854, at Longreach"):
Round 1.—Sims, although much taller than Sayers, seemed quite a lath before him, and as soon as he held up his hands, displayed such extreme awkwardness that it was evidently "sovereigns to sassingers" on Sayers, and Dan Dismore immediately offered 4 to 1 on him, which was taken by Jem Burn on the off chance. Sims, after a little unartistic squaring, lunged out awkwardly, and caught Tom on the chest with his left. Tom, who was evidently waiting to find out what his adversary could do, returned smartly on the gob, and in getting back, fell on his corybungus.
Sassinger (meaning sausage) isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019



Cyprian, Letters 74.9 (tr. Rose Bernard Donna):
Nor ought custom which has crept in among some hinder us from letting truth prevail and conquer. For custom without truth is the antiquity of error.

nec consuetudo quae apud quosdam obrepserat impedire debet quo minus veritas praevaleat et vincat. nam consuetudo sine veritate vetustas erroris est.


People Are Idiots

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), "Vanishing Britain," Portraits and Views, Literary and Historical (London: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1979), pp. 234-239 (at 235):
Myself, I see no reason why anybody should have a car unless he needs one for his business: four hundred people in one train are better for the landscape, fuel, etc., than four hundred people in separate cars. There are far too many people anyway in an overcrowded island — fancy importing more, simply because the whites won't work, and here people have 'never had it so good', in that revealing phrase. With too many people there is naturally pollution of every kind — in the air, the rivers and streams, around the coasts, with consequent destruction to bird and animal-life. I am less concerned about the disappearance of the natterjack toad than I am about the destruction of sea-birds, and the recession of wild-flowers from the hedges within miles of towns — the motor-car again. Mr Christian rightly notices the diminishing primroses. When I was a boy the hedges all round my native town were starred with them in spring — not so today, for the hundreds of idiots picking them. (Why must they do it? Answer: because people are idiots.)



Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), "Remembrance," tr. Maurice Baring, Have You Anything to Declare? A Note Book with Commentaries (1936; rpt. London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1951), p. 244:
When the loud day for men who sow and reap
   Grows still, and on the silence of the town
The unsubstantial veils of night and sleep,
   The meed of the day's labour, settle down,
Then for me in the stillness of the night
   The wasting, watchful hours drag on their course,
And in the idle darkness comes the bite
   Of all the burning serpents of remorse;
Dreams seethe; and fretful infelicities
   Are swarming in my over-burdened soul,
And Memory before my wakeful eyes
   With noiseless hand unwinds her lengthy scroll.
Then, as with loathing I peruse the years,
   I tremble, and I curse my natal day,
Wail bitterly, and bitterly shed tears,
   But cannot wash the woeful script away.



Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.3.16 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
Is it not the general opinion that a young man should make way for an older when they meet, offer his seat to him, give him a comfortable bed, let him have the first word?

οὐ γὰρ καὶ ὁδοῦ παραχωρῆσαι τὸν νεώτερον πρεσβυτέρῳ συντυγχάνοντι πανταχοῦ νομίζεται καὶ καθήμενον ὑπαναστῆναι καὶ κοίτῃ μαλακῇ τιμῆσαι καὶ λόγων ὑπεῖξαι;
Plato, Laws 879 c (tr. R.G. Bury):
Therefore let the law stand thus:—Everyone shall reverence his elder both by deed and word...

ὧδε οὖν ἔστω· πᾶς ἡμῖν αἰδείσθω τὸν ἑαυτοῦ πρεσβύτερον ἔργῳ τε καὶ ἔπει...


Angry Old Men

Euripides, Andromache 727-728 (tr. David Kovacs):
Old men are a thing unrestrained
and are hard to control because of their quick tempers.

ἀνειμένον τι χρῆμα πρεσβυτῶν γένος
καὶ δυσφύλακτον ὀξυθυμίας ὕπο.
Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.13.13 (1390 a, on old men; tr. John Henry Freese):
Their outbursts of anger are violent, but feeble.

καὶ οἱ θυμοὶ ὀξεῖς μὲν ἀσθενεῖς δέ εἰσιν.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


The Elites

Euripides, Andromache 699-702 (tr. Deborah Roberts):
Sitting solemnly in office they think bigger thoughts
than the common people, although they are nobodies.
But if the people could only plan and dare,
they would be a thousand times wiser than the great.

σεμνοὶ δ᾿ ἐν ἀρχαῖς ἥμενοι κατὰ πτόλιν
φρονοῦσι δήμου μεῖζον, ὄντες οὐδένες·
οἱ δ᾿ εἰσὶν αὐτῶν μυρίῳ σοφώτεροι,
εἰ τόλμα προσγένοιτο βούλησίς θ᾿ ἅμα.

699-702 del. Karl Busche, "Zu Euripides Andromache," Neue Jahrbücher für Philologie und Paedagogik 137 (1888) 457-471 (pp. 464-465)



Jane Austen (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice, chapter XXIV (Elizabeth Bennet speaking):
There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it...



With my "small Latine and lesse Greeke," it would be presumptuous of me to criticize the work of eminent classical scholars. The following notes aren't really criticisms, just my attempts to understand better the passages quoted.

Euripides, Andromache 89-90 (tr. David Kovacs):
I will go, since in any case if something happens to me the life of a slave is not much to envy.

ἀλλ᾿ εἶμ᾿, ἐπεί τοι κοὐ περίβλεπτος βίος
δούλης γυναικός, ἤν τι καὶ πάθω κακόν.
More literally:
I will go, since in any case if something bad happens to me the life of a slave woman is not much to envy.
Id., 94-95:
It is natural for women to get pleasure from their present misfortunes, by constantly having them on their lips.

                                            ἐμπέφυκε γὰρ
γυναιξὶ τέρψις τῶν παρεστώτων κακῶν
ἀνὰ στόμ᾿ αἰεὶ καὶ διὰ γλώσσης ἔχειν.
More literally:
It is natural for women to get pleasure from their present misfortunes, by constantly having them in the mouth and on the tongue.
Id., 117-118:
Woman, seated all this time upon the floor of Thetis' shrine, never leaving it...

ὦ γύναι, ἃ Θέτιδος δάπεδον καὶ ἀνάκτορα θάσσεις
δαρὸν οὐδὲ λείπεις...
δάπεδον καὶ ἀνάκτορα form a hendiadys. Cf. the rendering of Gregory Nagy:
My lady, you who have been sitting there on the sacred ground and precinct of Thetis for some time now, unwilling to leave...
Id., 1208:
To die, to die before your children did—this would have been right!

θανεῖν θανεῖν σε, πρέσβυ, χρῆν πάρος τέκνων.
More literally:
To die, to die before your children did—this would have been right, old man!


Down Come the Tall Trees

Dear Mike,

I wonder if Rowse was thinking of the section below?

W.G. Hoskins, The Making of the English Landscape (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1955), pp. 231-232:
The industrial revolution and the creation of parks around the country houses have taken us down to the later years of the nineteenth century. Since that time, and especially since the year 1914, every single change in the English landscape has either uglified it or destroyed its meaning, or both. Of all the changes in the last two generations, only the great reservoirs of water for the industrial cities of the North and Midlands have added anything to the scene that one can contemplate without pain. It is a distasteful subject, but it must be faced for a few moments.

The country houses decay and fall: hardly a week passes when one does not see the auctioneer's notice of the impending sale and dissolution of some big estate. The house is seized by the demolition contractors, its park invaded and churned up by the tractors and trailers of the timber merchant. Down comes the house; down come the tall trees, naked and gashed lies the once-beautiful park. Or if it stands near a town, the political planners swarm into the house, turn it into a rabbit-warren of black-hatted officers of This and That, and the park becomes a site for some "overspill" — a word as beastly as the thing it describes. We may indeed find the great house still standing tidily in a timbered park: but it is occupied by what the villagers describe detachedly as "the atom men," something remote from the rest of us, though not remote in the sense they themselves like to think. And if the planners are really fortunate, they fill the house with their paper and their black hats, and their open-cast mining of coal or iron ore simultaneously finishes off the park. They can sit at their big desks and contemplate with an exquisite joy how everything is now being put to a good use. Demos and Science are the joint Emperors.

Beyond the park, in some parts of England such as East Anglia, the bull-dozer rams at the old hedges, blots them out to make fields big and vacant enough for the machines of the new ranch-farming and the business-men farmers of five to ten thousand acres. Fortunately, the tractor and the bull-dozer cannot easily destroy the great hedgebanks and stone walls of the anciently-enclosed parts of England; nor is it worth doing, for the good farmer knows the value of these banks and walls as shelter, and of the hedges for timber. Much of the old field pattern therefore remains, with its tangle of deep lanes and thick hedges.

What else has happened in the immemorial landscape of the English countryside? Airfields have flayed it bare wherever there are level, well-drained stretches of land, above all in eastern England. Poor devastated Lincolnshire and Suffolk! And those long gentle lines of the dip-slope of the Cotswolds, those misty uplands of the sheep-grey oolite, how they have lent themselves to the villainous requirements of the new age! Over them drones, day after day, the obscene shape of the atom-bomber, laying a trail like a filthy slug upon Constable's and Gainsborough's sky. England of the Nissen hut, the "pre-fab," and the electric fence, of the high barbed wire around some unmentionable devilment; England of the arterial by-pass, treeless and stinking of diesel oil, murderous with lorries; England of the bombing-range wherever there was once silence, as on Otmoor or the marsh-lands of Lincolnshire; England of battle-training areas on the Breckland heaths, and tanks crashing through empty ruined Wiltshire villages; England of high explosive falling upon the prehistoric monuments of Dartmoor. Barbaric England of the scientists, the military men, and the politicians: let us turn away and contemplate the past before all is lost to the vandals.
In a similar vein, he excoriates 20th century Exeter (his native city).

W.G. Hoskins, Two Thousand Years in Exeter (Chichester: Phillimore & Co., 1960; rpt. 1974), pp. 133-135:
Eighteen years and more have gone by since the city was devastated. Much has been rebuilt in a commonplace style that might belong anywhere: it is not distinctive as the old Exeter was, with its rich regional flavour. Once more Exeter is the capital of South-Western England, and its shops and streets are as crowded as they ever were. It is still the same kind of city, with seven out of ten of its occupied population providing services of one kind or another. In numbers it grows very slowly, but with the clearing of the congested areas it spreads more and more into the surrounding country. Yet green fields are still visible from most of its streets even today, and it remains one of the most attractive cities in England to look at and to live in.

Its two greatest enemies are the motor-car and the speculative builder. In 1947 there were rather fewer than four thousand private cars registered in the city. Now there are more than twice as many, and more than twice as many commercial vehicles. The narrow streets are being torn apart and much of old Exeter is being lost because everything must be sacrificed to enable the motorist to go one mile an hour faster or to save his withered legs from a moment's walking. The motorist's demands upon our city are endlessly greedy and selfish. But people are more important than vehicles. The motorist must be kept firmly in his place, for he brings the kiss of death wherever he goes.

As for the speculative builder, he seizes daily upon the large houses that were built in late Georgian and early Victorian days, in their large, well-tree'd gardens, and clears the whole site in order to make the maximum profit. The old house comes down, and the beautiful trees, inherited from our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, are sacrificed in order to cram two or three more tatty little houses into the old garden. In twenty years' time, the opulent and seemly houses that were built in an age of elegance will have been replaced by a desert of bricks and concrete.

There is another profound difference between the city of 1960 and that of a hundred years ago. A century ago, two centuries ago, Exeter was a cultured place, the social and intellectual capital of a rich and varied province. Look how highly Richard Ford spoke of it in the 1830s, when he came to live here! Today the city library, burnt out nearly twenty years ago, is still a shambles. The failure to rebuild it is the greatest disgrace in the post-war history of the city. It is clear that books are not considered to be important in modern Exeter. How vastly different from our Victorian forefathers when they founded the Free Library in 1869! (see the Preface)

This failure to provide a good library for the people of Exeter is only the most obvious symptom of some obscure disease that goes very deep. Somewhere between 1860 and now, Exeter ceased to be a cultured city. It would be instructive to trace exactly when and how this profound rot set in, a fascinating and melancholy problem for some social historian. I suspect that the rot was going on rapidly during the later years of the nineteenth century: but what brought it about? Were late Victorians so different from their fathers and grandfathers? Why did the learned societies of Exeter disappear one by one? Why does the Devon and Exeter Institution, that learned library which Richard Ford so greatly admired, gather dust silently, and struggle to make ends meet? The people of Exeter seem to be able to exist happily without any good music: the theatre, centuries old as a tradition in the city, staggers from crisis to crisis. We cannot blame the cinema or television: the rot had set in long before either made its appearance. George Gissing noted in the early 1890s that Exeter people did not support good music even then. In a letter to his sister (December 30, 1892), written from No. 1, St. Leonard's Terrace, where he was living, he says: "We went to hear the Elijah, but it was very poorly done. Curious that the people of Exeter will not support anything good in drama or music." In another letter he complains of Exeter that "intellectually it is very dull". This could never have been said forty years earlier.

For the last two generations or more Exeter has ceased to care about any of these things. It has changed greatly for the worse in this respect. The new university, established in 1956 after its abortive start so many centuries ago, cannot fail in time to bring the ancient culture of Exeter back to life. Two or three generations are after all a very short time. Caerwysc, Isca, Exancester, Exeter — more than seventy generations of people have opened their eyes and closed them for the last time in this ancient city of ours.

And there remains much that is beautiful to look at. There are still dark ilex trees overhanging old stone walls, and there are the little sandstone churches up and down the main streets, with their startling red towers against the blue-and-white sky. And though the river-front has been despoiled in part, there is still the long-deserted quay with its noble Warehouses, built just before the coming of the railways; and the canal, probably the most beautiful ship-canal in England, carrying very little traffic but providing the most peaceful of walks along its banks down to Topsham and beyond, to, where the Exe scents the open sea: the same shining river that brought the pre-historic ships up to earliest Exeter more than two thousand years ago.
Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]


Monday, January 14, 2019


Isn't It?

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), "Rudyard Kipling," The English Spirit: Essays in Literature and History, rev. ed. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1966), pp. 229-245 (at 231):
Lionel Curtis, who knew Kipling well, used to tell me that he was really two men: there was the Morning Post reactionary, who hated everything about the modern world and thought it was going to the dogs (isn't it?); and, on the other side, there was the visionary, with his extreme intuitive senses, the gift of second sight, the prophetic, the truly inspired.
Cf. Rowse himself, quoted in Time magazine (November 13, 1978):
This filthy twentieth century. I hate its guts.
Rowse, "Vanishing English Landscapes," Portraits and Views, Literary and Historical (London: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1979), pp. 140-146 (at 142-143):
No doubt there are prefigurations of a new kind of society forming — in the creeping suburbia that is the real landscape of contemporary England, the TV culture that goes with it, the TV masts at every house (TV is the contemporary religion), the high-rise tenements to accommodate a madly inflated population for so small an island, the neuroses that go with over-population, the pushing and shoving, the violence, the drugs, the wish to escape. All I can say is that I agree with Hoskins in detesting everything about contemporary society (except its dentistry).


Abode of Despair

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto 9, Stanza 35 (lines 307-315):
That darkesome cave they enter, where they find
That cursèd man, low sitting on the ground,
Musing full sadly in his sullein mind;
His griesie lockes, long growen, and unbound,        310
Disordred hong about his shoulders round,
And hid his face; through which his hollow eyne
Lookt deadly dull, and starèd as astound;
His raw-bone cheekes through penurie and pine,
Were shronke into his jawes, as he did never dine.        315
A.C. Hamilton ad loc.:
3 sullein: gloomy; morose; cf. 'solein' (OED 5). Despaire displays the outward symptoms of melancholy described by Burton, Anat. Mel., and therefore of Saturn (see II ix 52.8-9n). 4 griesie: grey, grizzled; horrible, hideous; filthy. 8-9 Cf. the appearance of the Red Cross Knight upon emerging from Orgoglio's dungeon at viii 41. penurie and pine: lack of food and the suffering that follows.

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