Tuesday, April 30, 2019


I Believe in Chaucer

The Acts of the High Commission Court Within the Diocese of Durham, ed. W. Hylton Dyer Longstaffe (Durham: George Andrews, 1858 = Publications of the Surtees Society, 34), p. 116 (case against Brian Walker "For utteringe blasphemous woordes," April 23, 1635; examinate = William Hutchinsonn; with editor's note; I closed the parenthesis):
Aboute twoe yeares and a halfe now by gone, examinate (in the house of Anthonie Welfott of Bishopp Awckland) did heare Walker conferr and speake of the booke called Chawcer,a which booke he verie much commended, and said he did beleive the same as well as he did the Bible, or wordes to the same effect.

a This profane phrenzy of the besotted infidel is a curious evidence of the widely spread popularity of the great poet...
I owe the reference to Jill Mann's edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (London: Penguin Books, 2005), p. xlv, n. 1 (where, however, the reference to the volume number of the Publications of the Surtees Society is incorrect — 30, should be 34).



Plutarch, Life of Pericles 1.1 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
The emperor Augustus once caught sight of some wealthy foreigners in Rome, who were carrying about young monkeys and puppies in their arms and caressing them with a great show of affection. We are told that he then asked whether the women in those countries did not bear children, thus rebuking in truly imperial fashion those who squander upon animals that capacity for love and affection which in the natural order of things should be reserved for our fellow men.

Ξένους τινὰς ἐν Ῥώμῃ πλουσίους κυνῶν τέκνα καὶ πιθήκων ἐν τοῖς κόλποις περιφέροντας καὶ ἀγαπῶντας ἰδὼν ὁ Καῖσαρ, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἠρώτησεν εἰ παιδία παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς οὐ τίκτουσιν αἱ γυναῖκες, ἡγεμονικῶς σφόδρα νουθετήσας τοὺς τὸ φύσει φιλητικὸν ἐν ἡμῖν καὶ φιλόστοργον εἰς θηρία καταναλίσκοντας ἀνθρώποις ὀφειλόμενον.
Philip Stadter in his commentary ad loc. compares Athenaeus 12.518F-519A (on the Sybarites), here in S. Douglas Olson's translation:
According to Ptolemy in Book VIII of the Commentaries (FGrH 234 F 8), Massanassa, the king of Mauretania, offered a response that was appropriate for these people and others like them, when they tried to buy monkeys: "Hey—don't the women in your country produce children?" For Massanassa enjoyed children and had those that belonged to his sons—of whom he had a large number—as well as his daughters brought up in his house. He raised them all himself until they were three years old, after which he sent them back to their parents, since others had arrived. The comic author Eubulus made the same observation in Graces (fr. 114), as follows:
Because how much better is it, please, for one human being
to take care of another, if he's got the wherewithall,
instead of keeping a splashing, honking goose,
or a sparrow, or a monkey—that's a mischievous pest!
πρὸς οὓς καὶ τοὺς ὁμοίους τούτοις Μασσανάσσης ὁ τῶν Μαυρουσίων βασιλεὺς ἀπεκρίνατο, ὥς φησι Πτολεμαῖος ἐν ὀγδόῳ Ὑπομνημάτων, ζητοῦσιν συνωνεῖσθαι πιθήκους· "παρ᾿ ὑμῖν, ὦ οὗτοι, αἱ γυναῖκες οὐ τίκτουσιν παιδία;" παιδίοις γὰρ ἔχαιρεν ὁ Μασσανάσσης καὶ εἶχεν παρ᾿ αὑτῷ τρεφόμενα τῶν υἱῶν (πολλοὶ δὲ ἦσαν) τὰ τέκνα καὶ τῶν θυγατέρων ὁμοίως. καὶ πάντα ταῦτα αὐτὸς ἔτρεφεν μέχρι τριῶν ἐτῶν· μεθ᾿ ἃ ἀπέπεμπε πρὸς τοὺς γεγεννηκότας, παραγινομένων ἄλλων. τὰ δ᾿ αὐτὰ ἔφη καὶ Εὔβουλος ὁ κωμικὸς ἐν Χάρισιν οὕτως·
καὶ γὰρ πόσῳ κάλλιον, ἱκετεύω, τρέφειν
ἄνθρωπόν ἐστ᾿ ἄνθρωπον, ἂν ἔχῃ βίον,
ἢ χῆνα πλατυγίζοντα καὶ κεχηνότα,
ἢ στρουθόν, ἢ πίθηκον, ἐπίβουλον κακόν.

Monday, April 29, 2019


Epicurus on Self-Sufficiency and Freedom

Epicurus, Vatican Sayings 77 (tr. Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson):
The greatest fruit of self-sufficiency is freedom.

τῆς αὐταρκείας καρπὸς μέγιστος ἐλευθερία.
Note to myself: The Greek text of the Vatican Sayings is in Miroslav Marcovich's Teubner edition of Diogenes Laertius, vol. I, pp. 815-826.


A Fine Man

Confucius, Analects 6.11 (tr. Burton Watson):
The Master said, What a fine man Hui was! One container of rice, one dipperful of drink, living in a back alley—others couldn't have endured the gloom of it, but he never let it affect his happiness. What a fine man Hui was!
Id. 7.15:
The Master said, Eating simple food, drinking water, a bended arm for a pillow—there's happiness in these things too. Wealth and eminence gained by unrightful means are to me mere drifting clouds.


Who Will Deliver Us From the Greeks and the Romans?

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Selected Writings on Art and Literature, tr. P.E. Charvet (1972; rpt. London: Penguin Books, 2006), p. 223, with notes on p. 449:
The Histoire ancienne seems important to me because it is the best paraphrase, so to speak, of the celebrated line:
Qui nous délivrera des Grecs et des Romains?25
Daumier has launched a brutal attack on antiquity, on false antiquity — for none better than he is aware of the great things of antiquity — and has spat upon it; that hot-head Achilles, and that cautious fellow Ulysses, and the sagacious Penelope, and that great booby Telemachus, and the beautiful Helen, bane of Troy, the whole lot of them in fact appear before us under a guise of grotesque ugliness, which recalls those old carcasses of tragic actors taking a pinch of snuff in the wings. In all, a most entertaining piece of irreverence, and one, moreover, that was not without its usefulness. I can see now a friend of mine, a lyric poet and one of the 'Pagan School',26 being highly indignant about it. He called it impious, and spoke of the lovely Helen as others speak of the Virgin Mary. But those of us who have no great respect for Olympus and for tragedy were naturally inclined to enjoy the joke.

25. (p. 223) 'Who will deliver us from the Greeks and the Romans?' The line may come from Bernard Clément (1742-1812), critic, or, in the form 'Who will deliver me ...', from Joseph Berchoux (1765-1839), poet and journalist. (Guerlac, Citations françaises)

26. (p. 223) A literary and art fashion attacked by Baudelaire in his article 'L'École Paienne' (January 1852).

L'Histoire ancienne me paraît une chose importante, parce que c'est pour ainsi dire la meilleure paraphrase du vers célèbre: Qui nous délivrera des Grecs et des Romains? Daumier s'est abattu brutalement sur l'antiquité, sur la fausse antiquité, — car nul ne sent mieux que lui les grandeurs anciennes, — il a craché dessus; et le bouillant Achille, et le prudent Ulysse, et la sage Pénélope, et Télémaque, ce grand dadais, et la belle Hélène qui perdit Troie, et tous enfin nous apparaissent dans une laideur bouffonne qui rappelle ces vieilles carcasses d'acteurs tragiques prenant une prise de tabac dans les coulisses. Ce fut un blasphème très-amusant, et qui eut son utilité. Je me rappelle qu'un poëte lyrique et païen de mes amis en était fort indigné. Il appelait cela une impiété et parlait de la belle Hélène comme d'autres parlent de la Vierge Marie. Mais ceux-là qui n'ont pas un grand respect pour l'Olympe et pour la tragédie furent naturellement portés à s'en réjouir.


Ellison's Conditions of Bliss

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), "The Domain of Arnheim," Poetry and Tales (New York: The Library of America, ©1984), pp. 855-870 (at 856):
The ideas of my friend may be summed up in a few words. He admitted but four elementary principles, or, more strictly, conditions, of bliss. That which he considered chief was (strange to say!) the simple and purely physical one of free exercise in the open air. "The health," he said, "attainable by other means is scarcely worth the name." He instanced the ecstacies of the fox-hunter, and pointed to the tillers of the earth, the only people who, as a class, can be fairly considered happier than others. His second condition was the love of woman. His third, and most difficult of realization, was the contempt of ambition. His fourth was an object of unceasing pursuit; and he held that, other things being equal, the extent of attainable happiness was in proportion to the spirituality of this object.
Id. (at 858):
In regard to individual charities he had satisfied his conscience. In the possibility of any improvement, properly so called, being effected by man himself in the general condition of man, he had (I am sorry to confess it) little faith.

Sunday, April 28, 2019


Too Many Books

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Journal NB 6 (tr. Bruce H. Kirmmse):
People have too many newspapers to root around in, just as university students [have] too many books; therefore people do not read well.

The contents should be what one in a spiritual sense could call daily bread.


Motto for a School or College

Sophocles, fragment 393 (from The Prophets or Polyidus; tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
To open the closed door of the mind.

ψυχῆς ἀνοῖξαι τὴν κεκλῃμένην πύλην.

κεκλῃμένην Sauppe: κεκλημένην cod.
See Allan Bloom (1930-1992), The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987).

Another possible motto, from the same play (Sophocles, fragment 397):
You will never attain to the heights without labour.

οὔτοι ποθ᾿ ἅψει τῶν ἄκρων ἄνευ πόνου.

ἅψει O. Schneider: ἥξει codd.
Related posts:


The Word of a Demon?

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), The Age of Reason, Part I:
Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a Demon, than the Word of God.
Related post: A Message from God.

Saturday, April 27, 2019



My brother sent me this photograph of fiddleheads, gathered in his back yard.



Aristophanes, Acharnians 1089-1093 (tr. Benjamin Bickley Rogers):
For all things else are ready and prepared,
The couches, tables, sofa-cushions, rugs,
Wreaths, sweetmeats, myrrh, the harlotry are there,
Whole-meal cakes, cheese-cakes, sesame-, honey-cakes,
And dancing-girls, Harmodius' dearest ones.

τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλα πάντ᾽ ἐστὶν παρεσκευασμένα,
κλῖναι, τράπεζαι, προσκεφάλαια, στρώματα        1090
στέφανοι, μύρον, τραγήμαθ᾽, αἱ πόρναι πάρα,
ἄμυλοι, πλακοῦντες, σησαμοῦντες, ἴτρια,
ὀρχηστρίδες, τὰ φίλταθ᾽ Ἁρμοδίου, καλαί.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Men That Are Fat

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Mardi, chapter 95:
But alas! unlike Media and Taji, Borabolla, though a crowned king, was accounted no demi-god; his obesity excluding him from that honor. Indeed, in some quarters of Mardi, certain pagans maintain, that no fat man can be even immortal. A dogma! truly, which should be thrown to the dogs. For fat men are the salt and savor of the earth; full of good humor, high spirits, fun, and all manner of jollity. Their breath clears the atmosphere: their exhalations air the world. Of men, they are the good measures; brimmed, heaped, pressed down, piled up, and running over. They are as ships from Teneriffe; swimming deep, full of old wine, and twenty steps down into their holds. Soft and susceptible, all round they are easy of entreaty. Wherefore, for all their rotundity, they are too often circumnavigated by hatchet-faced knaves. Ah! a fat uncle, with a fat paunch, and a fat purse, is a joy and a delight to all nephews; to philosophers, a subject of endless speculation, as to how many droves of oxen and Lake Eries of wine might have run through his great mill during the full term of his mortal career. Fat men not immortal! This very instant, old Lambert is rubbing his jolly abdomen in Paradise.
Cf. "The Widow Fairlop," London Magazine (New Series, January-July 1825) 351-354 (at 351):
I hate stout people. Nature, I am certain, intended the whole cumbersome breed to have gone extinct with that obsolete monster, the Mammoth. They were created, clearly, to inhabit the vast barren blanks of the antediluvian world: not to encumber, with repletion, our modern cities and towns. One of them is too much for a metropolis. In London, A.D. 1825, they, (the Giants) are out of both season and place. They ought to herd together like the elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotami, and inhabit the deserts idle of the earth; they should seek out fitting solitudes, like the whales, and not flounder in our populous shallows. They are irksome, if not dangerous, to our thronging millions. It is neither delicate nor fair, with their disproportions, to thrust themselves as they do upon our narrow highways and byeways; to dam up our small courts, and straight alleys. They ought not to engross, as they are accustomed, our neat houses and gardens, our tables and benches, our spare beds; above all, our public mail coaches, and flying stages. Our trim elastic vehicles, like "cany waggons light," are not adapted to such preposterous freightage—our safety-coaches are not safe under such burthens—only the old double-bodied machine, long since obsolete, was competent to the transfer of such enormities. Waggon carriage, the conveyance of the bulky in the days of Fielding and Smollett, hath lamentably declined in fashion: but then are there no navigable rivers? no canals? no barges? If not for the transporting of the Blacketts and Lamberts of the earth, I wonder why water-carriage was invented?
E.V. Lucas, "Cambridge and Charles Lamb," in George Edward Wherry, ed., Cambridge and Charles Lamb (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925), pp. 29-45 (at 42-43):
In the London Magazine for December, 1822, appeared an amusing character sketch by Lamb entitled "The Gentle Giantess," a farcical description of the Widow Blackett, an immensely corpulent Oxford lady, who was wont to sit in her cellar in the dog days, or amid draughts which gave her friends neuralgia, and who took the air in the evenings in Magdalen Grove. In writing to Dorothy Wordsworth in 1821, when she was staying at Trinity Lodge, with her uncle, Christopher Wordsworth, one of Dr Butler's predecessors, Lamb says:
Ask anybody you meet, who is the biggest woman in Cambridge and I'll hold you a wager they'll say Mrs Smith. She broke down two benches in Trinity Gardens, one on the confines of St John's, which occasioned a litigation between the societies as to repairing it. In warm weather she retires into an ice-cellar (literally!), and dates the returns of the years from a hot Thursday some twenty years back. She sits in a room with opposite doors and windows, to let in a thorough draught, which gives her slenderer friends tooth-aches.

Eduard von Grützner (1846-1925),
Falstaff mit großer Weinkanne und Becher

Thanks to Eric Thomson for the London Magazine and Charles Lamb material.

Related posts:

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Some Sophoclean Circumlocutions

Bernd Seidensticker, "The Satyr Plays of Sophocles," in Brill's Companion to Sophocles, ed. Andreas Markantonatos (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 211-241 (at 235):
The preserved fragments of Sophoclean satyr-drama suggest that the poet used vulgarisms sparingly and in general refrained from coarse and obscene expressions for bodily functions: Sophocles' satyrs do fart, but the terms for farting are ἀποθυµαίνω, literally 'to make smoke' or 'fumigate' (128),127 ψοφεῖν: 168128 and comic circumlocutions such as τερθρία πνοή, 'wind from behind' (fr. 333) or τῶν κάτω λάλησις, 'speech of the lower parts' (fr. 1130, 15f.).129

127 Cf. Wilamowitz (1912/1935) 458 n1.

128 Cf. Lloyd-Jones (1996) 140; but cf. Bain (1995) [to die, to croak].

129 Cf. also Syndeipnoi, fr. 565 (and above n30).


Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Live for the Moment

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14.6 = Erich Mannebach, ed., Aristippi et Cyrenaicorum Fragmenta (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1961), p. 48 (fragment 208; tr. Nigel G. Wilson):
Aristippus was thought to have made a very sound observation when he advised mankind not to fret about the past or worry about the future. Such advice was a sign of confidence and the proof of a happy disposition. His instruction was to concentrate one's mind on the day, and indeed on that part of the day in which one is acting or thinking. Only the present, he said, belongs to us, not the past nor what is anticipated. The former has ceased to exist, and it is uncertain if the latter will exist.

πάνυ σφόδρα ἐρρωμένως ἐῴκει λέγειν ὁ Ἀρίστιππος παρεγγυῶν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις μήτε τοῖς παρελθοῦσιν ἐπικάμνειν μήτε τῶν ἐπιόντων προκάμνειν· εὐθυμίας γὰρ δεῖγμα τὸ τοιοῦτο καὶ ἵλεω διανοίας ἀπόδειξις. προσέταττε δὲ ἐφ᾿ ἡμέρᾳ τὴν γνώμην ἔχειν καὶ αὖ πάλιν τῆς ἡμέρας ἐπ᾿ ἐκείνῳ τῷ μέρει, καθ᾿ ὃ ἕκαστος ἢ πράττει τι ἢ ἐννοεῖ. μόνον γὰρ ἔφασκεν ἡμέτερον εἶναι τὸ παρόν, μήτε δὲ τὸ φθάνον6 μήτε τὸ προσδοκώμενον· τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀπολωλέναι, τὸ δὲ ἄδηλον εἶναι εἴπερ ἔσται.
A.E. Housman, letter to Houston Martin (March 22, 1936):
In philosophy I am a Cyrenaic or egoistic hedonist, and regard the pleasure of the moment as the only possible motive of action.

Monday, April 22, 2019


Travel Narrows the Mind

Roger Scruton, "L'invitation au voyage," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 260-262 (at 260):
People are becoming less and less able to understand foreigners. The reason, I believe, is the lamentable tendency to rely on first-hand experience. Rather than read Herodotus or Plutarch at home, we drag our uninstructed senses through foreign cities and acquire not the first understanding of the people who live in them. Few modern Englishmen know the language, fewer still the history and culture of the places to which they travel. Their experience of foreigners is therefore without concepts, a bundle of pure impressions, in which the characters are schematic, hazy and unreal. Only considerable culture and a haughty independence of mind can render travel intelligible. For most people, the disjointed experience of foreign parts sinks rapidly into the waste of consciousness, to lie there in disordered and unmeaning fragments, like shells collected on an empty holiday.

Travel narrows the mind, providing a surfeit of impressions and a dearth of interpretations. Sometimes, however, a meaning emerges, and sometimes this meaning is the aim. For instance, you might make a pilgrimage to some holy place — or a journey to those with whom your destiny is somehow mingled. Nevertheless, failing those laudable purposes it is better by far to remain at home, studying the language, the thought and the customs of strangers and dreaming of their habitats with the aid of a large cigar.


A Social Gathering

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), Notes from Underground, II.2 (tr. Jessie Coulson):
I had enough patience to sit beside these people like a dummy for about four hours, listening to them and not daring, indeed not able, to say a word to them myself. I would sit there dumb, almost paralysed, and sometimes breaking into a sweat; but it did me good. Returning home, I was able to lay aside for a time my desire to embrace all mankind.


The "No Platform" Movement

Alan Bullock (1914-2004), Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, rev. ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 72:
On 4 January 1921, Hitler told an audience in the Kindl Keller: 'The National Socialist Movement in Munich will in future ruthlessly prevent — if necessary by force — all meetings or lectures that are likely to distract the minds of our fellow countrymen.'3 In September of the same year Hitler personally led his followers in storming the platform of a meeting addressed by Ballerstedt of the federalist Bavarian League. When examined by the police commission which inquired into the incident, Hitler replied: 'It's all right. We got what we wanted. Ballerstedt did not speak.'4

3. Heiden: History of National Socialism (London, 1934), p. 31, quoting the report in the V.B. [Völkischer Beobachter]    4. ibid.

Sunday, April 21, 2019


More Tree Huggers

Robert Bloomfield (1766-1823), Remains, Vol. II (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1824), p. 81:
The great Oak in Euston Park.—Myself, my wife, and my daughter Hannah, (then nine years and a half old), embraced his rough rind at arm's-length, touching our fingers; and could thus encompass it all but about half a yard. By observation afterwards, I found the girth of this tree to be fifteen feet, in May, 1801.
Related post: Tree Huggers.


Address to the Rich

James Woodhouse, "Social Reflections," in The Life and Poetical Works of James Woodhouse (1735-1820), ed. R.I. Woodhouse, Vol. I (London: The Leadenhall Pres, 1896), pp. 57-61 (at 58):
Behold! Ye Rich! the wretch'd brood around!
Who dig your dismal mines, and work your ground—
Ply countless curious Arts, that You may 'scape
All want, in real, or unreal, shape!

They build your Domes, where Deities might dwell—
And will not You allow some lowly Cell;
Some simple Hovel—Hut—or sheltering Shed,
Where they may drink their water—break their bread;
When bread they have, and weary limbs may lie,
Secure from fierce attacks of stormy sky—
And where, when all their pence, on wants, are spent,
No feudal Churl can come to rail for Rent?

With Furniture they fit Your radiant Rooms—
Invent—prepare—and furnish, rich perfumes—
Shall such kind Friends, in squalid holes comprest,
'Mid atmospheres of filth, and rubbish, rest?

They fence Your Gardens—force Your fruits to grow—
And will not You some petty patch bestow,
Where Industry may find its frugal dish,
While God gives You game—ven'son—fowls—and fish?

They dress Your meadows—fertilize Your field;
And ought not You some small inclosure yield,
Where each may range, or rest, when Sundays shine,
Look round their little spot, and cry—'tis Mine?

They clear the plains—They pulverize the clod—
Will You, Wealth's Heirs! withold the heathy sod,
To thaw their frozen fingers—warm their feet—
And cook the scraps Your slaves would scorn to eat!

They watch Your woodlands—fell Your stems, and trees—
Give frost a fire-stick! rain a day of ease!
Nor let poor Worth with want—cold—toil, expire,
While You enjoy full choice, and chearful fire!

They brew Your beer—press pear, and apple, wine;
Yet quaff cold water, daily, when they dine—
And, while you satiate each base, beastly, Lust,
Munch vegetables, crude, with mouldy crust!

Your Horses—Hounds—Yes Hogs—at board, and bed,
Are better clothed—skreen'd, fenc'd,and lodg'd,and fed—
Ev'n Farmer's Hog may fill his hungry maw,
Well shelter'd take his rest on wholesome straw,
Whilst labouring Boors may find more scanty draff,
And lay tired limbs on stinking straw, or chaff!
Princes and Peers, for Horses, or for Hounds,
Expend, in mansions, twice ten thousand pounds;
While those that furnish all, yield all defence,
Crowd kraals that ne'er cost half ten thousand pence!


Wine Merriment Brings

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Mardi, chapter 84:
Ha, ha, gods and kings; fill high, one and all;
Drink, drink! shout and drink! mad respond to the call!
Fill fast, and fill full; 'gainst the goblet ne'er sin;
Quaff there, at high tide, to the uttermost rim:—
    Flood-tide, and soul-tide to the brim!

Who with wine in him fears? who thinks of his cares?
Who sighs to be wise, when wine in him flares?
Water sinks down below, in currents full slow;
But wine mounts on high with its genial glow:—
    Welling up, till the brain overflow!

As the spheres, with a roll, some fiery of soul,
Others golden, with music, revolve round the pole;
So let our cups, radiant with many hued wines,
Round and round in groups circle, our Zodiac's Signs:—
    Round reeling, and ringing their chimes!

Then drink, gods and kings; wine merriment brings;
It bounds through the veins; there, jubilant sings.
Let it ebb, then, and flow; wine never grows dim;
Drain down that bright tide at the foam beaded rim:—
    Fill up, every cup, to the brim!

Saturday, April 20, 2019


With His Last Breath

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), Avril, Being Essays on the Poetry of the French Renaissance (1904; rpt. London: Duckworth, 1931), pp. 131-132 (on Malherbe):
His zeal for his tongue was real. As he lay upon his death-bed making his confession after so vigorous a life, he heard his nurse say something to herself which sounded ungrammatical and, turning round from the priest, he put her right in a manner most violent and sudden. His confessor, startled, said: "The time is not relevant." "All times are relevant!" he answered, sinking back. "I will defend with my last breath the purity and grandeur of the French tongue."
On the following page (133) of this edition is a quotation from Malherbe disfigured by a typographical error:
Vouloir ce que Dieu vent est la seule Science
                   Qui nous met en repos.
For vent read veut. The first edition is correct.


The Rebel

Sophocles, Electra 1043 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
I do not wish to live by rules like that.

τούτοις ἐγὼ ζῆν τοῖς νόμοις οὐ βούλομαι.



Walter W. Skeat (1835-1912), A Student's Pastime (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896), p. lxxvii:
And few things have surprised me more, in the course of my experience, than the eager recklessness with which such puerilities are vented, the extraordinary readiness with which they are accepted and applauded, and the tenacity with which they are defended against the clearest exhibition of evidence. Paradox and grotesqueness are powerful in their favour, whilst the simple truth is but plain and prosaic. Are we therefore to give way, to let fancy have its free fling, and allow ignorance to revel in its recklessness? I have always maintained that, if truth be simple, it is also instructive, and that only docility promotes progress. Of course I have found mistakes in ideas of my own, but have always thought it wisest to drop such notions like a red-hot coal; which is the teaching of common sense.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Ill Fate

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), The Valkyrie 1.2.188-192 (tr. Andrew Porter):
Ill fate lay on me.
For what I thought was right,
others reckoned was wrong,
and what seemed to me bad,
others held to be good.

Unheil lag auf mir.
Was Rechtes je ich riet,
andern dünkte es arg,
was schlimm immer mir schien,
andre gaben ihm Gunst.


The Very Best Medicos in the World

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Redburn, chapter 17:
The only man who seemed to be taking his ease that day, was our black cook; who according to the invariable custom at sea, always went by the name of the doctor.

And doctors, cooks certainly are, the very best medicos in the world; for what pestilent pills and potions of the Faculty are half so serviceable to man, and health-and-strength-giving, as roasted lamb and green peas, say, in spring; and roast beef and cranberry sauce in winter? Will a dose of calomel and jalap do you as much good? Will a bolus build up a fainting man? Is there any satisfaction in dining off a powder? But these doctors of the frying-pan sometimes kill men off by a surfeit; or give them the headache, at least. Well, what then? No matter. For if with their most goodly and ten times jolly medicines, they now and then fill our nights with tribulations, and abridge our days, what of the social homicides perpetrated by the Faculty? And when you die by a pill-doctor's hands, it is never with a sweet relish in your mouth, as though you died by a frying-pan-doctor; but your last breath villainously savors of ipecac and rhubarb. Then, what charges they make for the abominable lunches they serve out so stingily! One of their bills for boluses would keep you in good dinners a twelve-month.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Opinions Different From Ours

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Essays 3.8 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
No propositions astonish me, no belief offends me, whatever contrast it offers with my own. There is no fancy so frivolous and extravagant that it does not seem to me quite suitable to the production of the human mind. We who deprive our judgment of the right to make decisions look mildly on opinions different from ours; and if we do not lend them our judgment, we easily lend them our ears.

Nulles propositions m'estonnent, nulle creance me blesse, quelque contrarieté qu'elle aye à la mienne. Il n'est si frivole et si extravagante fantasie qui ne me semble bien sortable à la production de l'esprit humain. Nous autres, qui privons nostre jugement du droict de faire des arrests, regardons mollement les opinions diverses; et, si nous n'y prestons le jugement, nous y prestons aiséement l'oreille.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Enemies of Scholarship

Roger Scruton, "The Plague of Sociology," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 237-239 (at 237-238):
Academics who in this way silence discussion and who adopt a political stance as both unquestionable and the foregone conclusion of their subject are the enemies of scholarship. When the resources of a discipline are diverted to the task of fortifying a political dogma and protecting its intellectual weaknesses behind an impenetrable barrier of abstraction, and when those who question the dogma are dismissed as intellectually worthless and morally corrupt, we might justly suspect that we no longer have to do with an impartial science.



Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 123:
I stay at a small inn at Kasaoka. It is new, traditional in style, made of good wood, clean and neat. Its only concession to modernity is the bath, which is rather self-consciously rustic, all shells and pebbles with water-spouting turtles and a tall and dangerous-looking pottery crane. The water is saturated with the pine extract that turns it a bright chartreuse, which country people for some reason or other associate with gracious living.

Back in my room, smelling faintly of pine scent and waiting for my supper, I look idly from the window. Then I notice the lintel. It is beautifully made, admirably carpentered. I follow the edge of the window down to the sill and see that the underside, a place no one will ordinarily ever observe, is equally well worked.

I look around my perfectly ordinary room. It is a small masterpiece of joinery, obviously the work of a master carpenter. But, then, in Japan all traditional carpenters are masters of their art. They make perfect joints as the Zen archer makes perfect bull's-eyes—without thinking about it, as though it were impossible not to make a perfect joint. This skill, this philosophy of craft, is passing away rapidly, particularly in the cities with their mass-produced, jerry-built buildings; but, where it still exists, the perfection of Japanese craftsmanship is impressive; it is the product of the pride people take in what they do.


Burying the Dead

Luke 9.59-60 (KJV):
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς ἕτερον· Ἀκολούθει μοι. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· Κύριε, ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀπελθόντι πρῶτον θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μου. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ· Ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς, σὺ δὲ ἀπελθὼν διάγγελλε τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
Sophocles, Electra 145-146 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
Foolish is the child who forgets a parent's piteous death.

νήπιος ὃς τῶν οἰκτρῶς
οἰχομένων γονέων ἐπιλάθεται.
Sophocles, Electra 236-244:
But what measure is there in my wretchedness? Say, how can it be right to neglect the dead? Was that impiety ever born in mortal? Never may I have praise of such; never when my lot is cast in pleasant places, may I cling to selfish ease, or dishonour my sire by restraining the wings of shrill lamentation!

καὶ τί μέτρον κακότατος ἔφυ; φέρε,
πῶς ἐπὶ τοῖς φθιμένοις ἀμελεῖν καλόν;
ἐν τίνι τοῦτ᾽ ἔβλαστ᾽ ἀνθρώπων;
μήτ᾽ εἴην ἔντιμος τούτοις
μήτ᾽, εἴ τῳ πρόσκειμαι χρηστῷ,        240
ξυνναίοιμ᾽ εὔκηλος, γονέων
ἐκτίμους ἴσχουσα πτέρυγας
ὀξυτόνων γόων.

Monday, April 15, 2019


A Painter Should Know Everything

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Degas, Manet, Morisot, tr. David Paul (New York: Pantheon Books, ©1960), pp. 46-47:
I would say that a painter should know everything; but above all he should know how to use his knowledge.

When we know the structure of an object, we see it quite differently. The important thing is, not so much to show the muscles under the skin, but to keep in mind what it is the skin covers. This implies a degree of inquiry which, to me, seems full of advantage.

But there is one observation I must make: as the period gradually recedes when perspective and anatomy were still to be reckoned with, painting confines itself more and more to study from the life; less and less does it invent, compose, and create.

The renunciation of anatomy and perspective was simply a renunciation of intellectual activity in painting for the sake of immediate visual appeal.

By this change, European painting lost something of its will to power....

And some of its freedom, in consequence.

Who today would embark on the enterprise of a Michelangelo or a Tintoretto, on a scale of invention that makes full play with all working problems, attacking the questions of grouping, foreshortening, movement, architecture, symbolism and still life, action, expression, and ornament, with an audacity as extraordinary as it is successful?

For us, a couple of apples on a dish, a nude with the usual black triangle are exhausting feats.

Je leur dis qu'il faudrait tout savoir; mais, sur toute chose, savoir se servir de ce que l'on sait.

On voit tout autrement un objet dont on connaît la structure. Il ne s'agit point de montrer des muscles sous la peau, mais de penser un peu à ce qui est sous elle. Cela fait un questionnaire profond. J'y vois avantage.

Mais voici une observation que je fais: plus s'éloigne l'époque où perspective et anatomie n'étaient point toutes négligées, plus la peinture se restreint au travail d'après le modèle, moins elle invente, compose et crée.

L'abandon de l'anatomie et de la perspective fut simplement l'abandon de l'action de l'esprit dans la peinture au profit du seul divertissement instantané de l'oeil.

La peinture européenne a perdu à ce moment quelque chose de sa volonté de puissance...

Et par conséquent, de sa liberté.

Qui se lancerait aujourd'hui dans l'entreprise d'un Michel-Ange ou d'un Tintoret, c'est-à-dire dans une invention qui se joue des problèmes d'exécution, qui affronte les groupes, les raccourcis. les mouvements, les architectures, les attributs et natures mortes, l'action, l'expression et le décor, avec une témérité et un bonheur extraordinaires?

Deux pommes sur un compotier, une académie à triangle noir nous épuisent.


Motor Cars and Roads

Roger Scruton, "On Roads and Railways," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 169-171 (at 170):
We are familiar with the noise, the dirt, the danger and the general heightening of frenzy that are engendered by the motor car. Most of us would be happy to see motor vehicles excluded from towns and the roads handed over to pedestrians, cyclists and — for the chronically indolent — the occasional sedan chair. But no such ban could be contemplated without a serious government policy — a policy of determined reaction against the motor car.

We are equally familiar with the ruin caused by roads — the ruin of towns, villages, wildlife and countryside. The creative capacity of roads is even worse, however, than their capacity to destroy. Roads enable people to live in one place, work in another, rear children in a third, take their leisure in a fourth and remain obscurely attached to a fifth which they sometimes visit. Roads scatter the population, destroying home and community and placing a veil before our purposes, which can be fulfilled only after a frenzied burst of motion to some other place.

Roads are therefore a major cause of man's estrangement. Under their influence he lives subject to the illusion that he can be better satisfied in some other place, and in some other company, than those to which fate has assigned him.
A true conservative policy would involve the following measures: a cessation of all motorway construction; a high fuel tax; a restriction of motor traffic in towns; the installation of cycle lanes; an expansion of the railways and a restoration of the branch lines.
Related posts:


Brains, Not Brawn

Sophocles, Ajax 1250-1254 (tr. R.C. Trevelyan):
                                                 'Tis not the big
Broad-shouldered men on whom we most rely;
No, 'tis the wise who are masters everywhere.
An ox, however large of rib, may yet
Be kept straight on the road by a little whip.

                                  οὐ γὰρ οἱ πλατεῖς
οὐδ᾿ εὐρύνωτοι φῶτες ἀσφαλέστατοι,
ἀλλ᾿ οἱ φρονοῦντες εὖ κρατοῦσι πανταχοῦ.
μέγας δὲ πλευρὰ βοῦς ὑπὸ σμικρᾶς ὅμως
μάστιγος ὀρθὸς εἰς ὁδὸν πορεύεται.

1250 πλατεῖς codd.: παχεῖς Nauck
P.J. Finglass ad loc.
The rejection of πλάτος in favour of intelligence is paralleled by [Simon.] 898 FGE οὐ πλάτεϊ νικῶν σώματος ἀλλὰ τέχνᾳ; cf. also Cic. Sen. 17 non viribus aut velocitate aut celeritate corporum res magnae geruntur, sed consilio auctoritate sententia.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


For Jefferson's Birthday

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Brazier (August 24, 1819):
Among the values of classical learning, I estimate the luxury of reading the Greek and Roman authors in all the beauties of their originals. And why should not this innocent and elegant luxury take its pre-eminent stand ahead of all those addressed merely to the senses? I think myself more indebted to my father for this than for all the other luxuries his cares and affections have placed within my reach; and more now than when younger, and more susceptible of delights from other sources. When the decays of age have enfeebled the useful energies of the mind, the classic pages fill up the vacuum of ennui and become sweet composers to that rest of the grave into which we are all sooner or later to descend.

Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Jefferson (Washington,
National Gallery of Art, accession number 1986.711)



Roger Scruton, "The Triumph of Nothingness," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 163-165 (at 163):
Most of the thinkers urged upon us as 'correctives' to our Anglo-Saxon parochialism are, in my view, charlatans of the first order, who prefer paradox and posturing to the hard-won insights of philosophical argument. Their reputation is derived from two extraneous circumstances: first, their gobbledegook, which offers to the second-rate academic an impenetrable cloak of false expertise; second, their conclusions, which are almost invariably 'subversive of the established order', in a way that dignifies the gestures of armchair rebellion whereby the academic reminds himself that he was once alive. In short, they provide to the intellectually balding a dashing wig of long hair.


I Smell False Latine

Megan McArdle, "Irish cultural pride gives this cosmopolitan second thoughts," Washington Post (April 12, 2019):
For one thing, if we want to keep more than colorful costumes and a few place-names, the affirmative kind of groupishness will be doing the main work of preserving the cultural and linguistic diversity we're all supposedly celebrating. And for another, that sort of groupishness is much more common than homo liberalus, that rootless cultural and intellectual polyamorist whom political scientist Patrick Deneen has dubbed the "self-made and self-making."

Indeed, I question whether homo liberalus exists at all, or can, this self-creating self-sprung full-blown from the head of John Stuart Mill on the day before yesterday. True self-authorship seems no more possible than the perpetual motion machine; the greatest engine in the world still draws its motive power from outside.
I, too, "question whether homo liberalus exists at all," because there is no such Latin word as liberalus. It should be liberalis.



Hours Stolen From Study

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Moi, tr. Marthiel and Jackson Mathews (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), p. 28:
Certainly nothing so formed me, permeated me, instructed — or constructed — me as those hours stolen from study, hours seemingly idle but really given over to the unconscious worship of three or four undeniable gods: the Sea, the Sky, the Sun. Without knowing it, I recaptured something ot the wonder and exaltation of primitive man. I do not know what book could match or what writer incite in us such states of productive wonder, of contemplation and communion, as I experienced in my early years. Better than any reading, better than the poets or the philosophers, a certain close observation without any definite or definable thought, a certain lingering over the pure elements of the moment, over the vastest and simplest objects, the most powerfully simple and perceptible in our sphere of existence — the habit this imposes on us of unconsciously relating every event, every person, every expression and every detail to the greatest and most stable of visible things, moulds us, accustoms and induces us to measure without effort and without reflection the true proportions of our nature, to find within ourselves without difficulty the way to our highest level, which is also the most "human." In some way, within ourselves, we possess a measure of all things and of ourselves. Protagoras' statement that man is the measure of all things is characteristic and essentially Mediterranean.

Certainement, rien ne m’a plus formé, plus imprégné, mieux instruit — ou construit, — que ces heures dérobées à l’étude, distraites en apparence, mais vouées dans le fond au culte inconscient de trois ou quatre déités incontestables: la Mer, le Ciel, le Soleil. Je retrouvais, sans le savoir, je ne sais quels étonnements et quelles exaltations de primitif. Je ne vois pas quel livre peut valoir, quel auteur peut édifier en nous ces états de stupeur féconde, de contemplation et de communion que j’ai connus dans mes premières années. Mieux que toute lecture, mieux que les poètes, mieux que les philosophes, certains regards, sans pensée définie ni définissable, certains regards sur les purs éléments du jour, sur les objets les plus vastes, les plus simples, le plus puissamment simples et sensibles de notre sphère d’existence, l’habitude qu’ils nous imposent de rapporter inconsciemment tout événement, tout être, toute expression tout détail, aux plus grandes choses visibles et aux plus stables, nous façonnent, nous accoutument, nous induisent à ressentir sans effort et sans réflexion la véritable proportion de notre nature, à trouver en nous, sans difficulté, le passage à notre degré le plus élevé, qui est aussi le plus «humain». Nous possédons, en quelque sorte, une mesure de toutes choses et de nous-mêmes. La parole de Protagoras, que «l'homme est la mesure des choses», est une parole caractéristique, essentiellement méditerranéenne.



Herodotus 7.136.1 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
From his house they made their way up to Susa. The first thing that happened, once they gained an audience with the king, was that Xerxes' guards ordered them, and tried to force them, to fall down and prostrate themselves before the king. Their response to this was to declare that even if the guards were to hurl them headlong down on to the ground they would never do any such thing, not only because it was not the Greek way to prostrate oneself before another human being, but also because that was not what they had come for.

ἐνθεῦτεν δὲ ὡς ἀνέβησαν ἐς Σοῦσα καὶ βασιλέι ἐς ὄψιν ἦλθον, πρῶτα μὲν τῶν δορυφόρων κελευόντων καὶ ἀνάγκην σφι προσφερόντων προσκυνέειν βασιλέα προσπίπτοντας, οὐκ ἔφασαν ὠθεόμενοι ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ κεφαλὴν ποιήσειν ταῦτα οὐδαμά· οὔτε γὰρ σφίσι ἐν νόμῳ εἶναι ἄνθρωπον προσκυνέειν οὔτε κατὰ ταῦτα ἥκειν.

Friday, April 12, 2019


The Imperious Tinkle of the Telephone

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Degas, Manet, Morisot, tr. David Paul (New York: Pantheon Books, ©1960), p. 101:
Our age is hard on the eccentric. A contempt for majorities is less and less in evidence. The individual is dying, unable to endure the condition of excessive dependence imposed on him by the enormous and innumerable interconnections and relationships which govern the modern world. Degas mocked Forain one evening for running to answer the imperious tinkle of the telephone: "So that's the telephone! ... They ring, and you run."

L'époque est dure aux originaux. On y observe de moins en moins le dédain des grands nombres. L'individu se meurt, incapable de soutenir l'état de dépendance excessive que les immenses et innombrables connexions et relations qui organisent le monde moderne lui imposent. Degas raillait, un soir, Forain qui courait, appelé par un timbre impérieux, au téléphone. «C'est cela, le téléphone! ... On vous sonne, et vous y allez.»



Sophocles, Ajax 714 (my translation):
Powerful time extinguishes all things.

πάνθ᾽ ὁ μέγας χρόνος μαραίνει.
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 607-609 (tr. Hugh-Lloyd-Jones):
Dearest son of Aegeus, for the gods alone there is no old age and no death ever, but all other things are submerged by all-powerful time!

ὦ φίλτατ᾿ Αἰγέως παῖ, μόνοις οὐ γίγνεται
θεοῖσι γῆρας οὐδὲ κατθανεῖν ποτε,
τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα συγχεῖ πάνθ᾿ ὁ παγκρατὴς χρόνος.


Human Beings Filled Him With Disgust

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), Of Human Bondage, chapter CVI:
He made up his mind to go to the British Museum. Solitude was now his only luxury. Since he had been at Lynn's he had often gone there and sat in front of the groups from the Parthenon; and, not deliberately thinking, had allowed their divine masses to rest his troubled soul. But this afternoon they had nothing to say to him, and after a few minutes, impatiently, he wandered out of the room. There were too many people, provincials with foolish faces, foreigners poring over guide-books; their hideousness besmirched the everlasting masterpieces, their restlessness troubled the god's immortal repose. He went into another room and here there was hardly anyone. Philip sat down wearily. His nerves were on edge. He could not get the people out of his mind. Sometimes at Lynn's they affected him in the same way, and he looked at them file past him with horror; they were so ugly and there was such meanness in their faces, it was terrifying; their features were distorted with paltry desires, and you felt they were strange to any ideas of beauty. They had furtive eyes and weak chins. There was no wickedness in them, but only pettiness and vulgarity. Their humour was a low facetiousness. Sometimes he found himself looking at them to see what animal they resembled, (he tried not to, for it quickly became an obsession,) and he saw in them all the sheep or the horse or the fox or the goat. Human beings filled him with disgust.



Roger Scruton, "The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 143-145 (at 144):
Repair was not so much a habit as an honoured custom. People respected the past of damaged things, restored them as though healing a child and looked on their handiwork with satisfaction. In the act of repair the object was made anew, to occupy the social position of the broken one. Worn shoes went to the anvil, holed socks and unravelled sleeves to the darning last — that peculiar mushroom-shaped object which stood always ready on the mantelpiece.

The custom of repair was not confined to the home. Every town, every village, had its cobbler, its carpenter, its wheelwright and its smith. In each community people supported repairers, who in tum supported things. And our surnames testify to the honour in which their occupations were held. But to where have they repaired, these people who guaranteed the friendliness of objects? With great difficulty you may still find a cobbler — but for the price of his work you could probably buy a new pair of shoes. For the cost of 15 digital watches you may sometimes find a person who will fix the mainspring of your grandfather's timepiece.

The truth is that repair, like every serious social activity, has its ethos, and when that ethos is lost, no amount of slap-dash labour can make up for it. The person who repairs must love the broken object, and must love also the process of repair and all that pertains to it.
Related post: Noble Shabbiness.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Sounds Odd to Me

Sophocles, Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus. Edited and Translated by Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994 = Loeb Classical Library, 20), pp. 92-93 (Ajax 690):
ἐγὼ γὰρ εἶμ᾿ ἐκεῖσ᾿ ὅποι πορευτέον

for I must go the place I have to go to
(Likewise in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.)

The same, tr. P.J. Finglass, in Sophocles, Ajax. Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011 = Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, 48), p. 341:
For I will go that place where I must travel.
To my American ears this sounds odd. I would translate:
For I will go to that place where [or, preferably, whither] I must travel.
Eric Thomson (per litteras):
I wonder if it is an extension of the entirely unobjectionable 'go places'?
The place is Hades.


Intellectual Discipline

Roger Scruton, "On British Philosophy," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 109-111 (at 110):
The primary purpose of a university education in the Humanities is to teach the student to read a book. If you can read one book, you can read many. But if you learn to glance at thousands, you will probably never learn how to extract the meaning from a single one. The important thing is to acquire intellectual discipline, to learn how to distinguish genuine questions from spurious phantoms, valid argument from sophistry, words rightly used and to true effect from empty bombast and stultifying pedantry. I was taught for two years without being required to read a single work of philosophy published before this century, and only then did I turn my attention to the founders of my subject.


It Produced Everything Itself

Aristophanes, Acharnians 28-36 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I am always the very first to come to Assembly
and take my seat. Then, in my solitude,
I sigh, I yawn, I stretch myself, I fart,
I fiddle, scribble, pluck my beard, do sums,
while I gaze off to the countryside and pine for peace,
loathing the city and yearning for my own deme,
that never cried "buy coal,"
"buy vinegar," "buy oil"; it didn't know the word "buy";
no, it produced everything itself, and the Buy Man was out of sight.

ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἀεὶ πρώτιστος εἰς ἐκκλησίαν
νοστῶν κάθημαι· κᾆτ᾿ ἐπειδὰν ὦ μόνος,
στένω, κέχηνα, σκορδινῶμαι, πέρδομαι,        30
ἀπορῶ, γράφω, παρατίλλομαι, λογίζομαι,
ἀποβλέπων εἰς τὸν ἀγρόν, εἰρήνης ἐρῶν,
στυγῶν μὲν ἄστυ, τὸν δ᾿ ἐμὸν δῆμον ποθῶν,
ὃς οὐδεπώποτ᾿ εἶπεν· "ἄνθρακας πρίω",
οὐκ "ὄξος" οὐκ "ἔλαιον", οὐδ᾿ ᾔδει "πρίω",        35
ἀλλ᾿ αὐτὸς ἔφερε πάντα χὠ πρίων ἀπῆν.
S. Douglas Olson on line 32:
τὸν ἀγρόν: Lit. 'my plot', i.e. 'my farm' (Pax 1320; Men. Dysk. 5; Philem. fr. 100.1; adesp. com. fr. 895.1); not 'the countryside', in which sense the noun seems not to take the def. art. (thus Starkie; cf. fr. 402.2 οἰκεῖν μὲν ἐν ἀγρῷ τοῦτον ἐν τῷ γηδίῳ ('that this man live in the country on his own plot of land')).
Related post: Self-Sufficiency.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


My Back Garden, My Back Yard, My Window-Box

Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957), "The Mysterious English," Unpopular Opinions (London: Victor Gollancz, 1946), pp. 66-81 (at 79-80):
From all this, we may begin to see the outlines of the English brand of patriotism. It is the greatest possible mistake to suppose that it does not exist, merely because of the politeness extended to the patriotism of other nations, or because it is not vocal in times of prosperity, or because the English criticise themselves and their government and affect to admire the way things are done elsewhere; still more, to imagine that it depends upon vast extensions of the British Empire. The romantic love of extension from the centre depends upon the sanctity and security of that centre itself. When the Englishman says "England," he does not think of armies and domination; he thinks of a lane, of a field, of a line of cliffs fronting the sea, of the ships sailing from Bristol Town and coming home to an English port. The word Britain stirs his pride, but it is the word England that stirs his heart. There is his real history, and there is his abiding home. It is useless for people to complain that the words "island fortress" show a merely "defensive spirit." They are the words that move us. They take the English back over the long years of her history. England will never fight heartily or with conviction unless she feels the threat to English soil, English continuity, English things: "My rights, my liberties, my island, my church, my back garden, my back yard, my window-box." The people who try to force England into some doctrinaire mould of continental theory are, I think, mistaken. They are perverting the course of history.


Irrelevant Subjects

Roger Scruton, "The Virtue of Irrelevance," Untimely Tracts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 1-2 (at 1):
Traditionally a large part of learning was devoted to subjects which are wilfully 'irrelevant' — like Latin, Greek, ancient history, higher mathematics, philosophy and literary criticism. The syllabus recommended by ancient thinkers consisted almost entirely of such subjects. And the ancient instinct was wise. The more irrelevant a subject, the more lasting is the benefit that it confers. Irrelevant subjects bring understanding of the human condition, by forcing the student to stand back from it. They also enhance the appetite for life, by providing material for thought and conversation.

This is the secret which civilisation has guarded: that power and influence come through the acquisition of useless knowledge.


Spilled Milk

Sophocles, Ajax 377-378 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Why should you grieve over what is accomplished?
It is impossible that things should be other than they are.

τί δῆτ᾿ ἂν ἀλγοίης ἐπ᾿ ἐξειργασμένοις;
οὐ γὰρ γένοιτ᾿ ἂν ταῦθ᾿ ὅπως οὐχ ὧδ᾿ ἔχοι.
John Milton, Paradise Lost 9.926-927:
But past who can recall, or done undo?
Not God omnipotent, nor fate...

Tuesday, April 09, 2019


A Fixed Amount of Time

Seneca, On Providence 5.7 (tr. John W. Basore):
Fate guides us, and it was settled at the first hour of birth what length of time remains for each.

fata nos ducunt et quantum cuique temporis restat prima nascentium hora disposuit.
Related posts:


Economic Inequality

Aristotle, Politics 2.5 (1263 a; tr. C.D.C. Reeve):
For if the citizens happen to be unequal rather than equal in the work they do and the profits they enjoy, accusations will inevitably be made against those who enjoy or take a lot but do little work by those who take less but do more. It is generally difficult to live together and to share in any human enterprise, particularly in enterprises such as these.

καὶ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς ἀπολαύσεσι καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις μὴ γινομένων ἴσων ἀλλ᾽ ἀνίσων ἀναγκαῖον ἐγκλήματα γίνεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ἀπολαύοντας μὲν ἢ λαμβάνοντας πολλά, ὀλίγα δὲ πονοῦντας, τοῖς ἐλάττω μὲν λαμβάνουσι, πλείω δὲ πονοῦσιν. ὅλως δὲ τὸ συζῆν καὶ κοινωνεῖν τῶν ἀνθρωπικῶν πάντων χαλεπόν, καὶ μάλιστα τῶν τοιούτων.

Monday, April 08, 2019


Epitaph of the Corinthians Who Died at Salamis

Simonides, Epigram 11 = Inscriptiones Graecae I³ 1143 (tr. David A. Campbell):
Stranger, once we lived in the well-watered city of Corinth,
    but now Salamis, the island of Ajax, holds us;
here we destroyed Phoenician ships and Persians
    and Medes and saved holy Greece.

ὦ ξεῖν᾿, εὔυδρόν ποκ᾿ ἐναίομες ἄστυ Κορίνθου,
    νῦν δ᾿ ἅμ᾿ Αἴαντος νᾶσος ἔχει Σαλαμίς·
ἐνθάδε Φοινίσσας νᾶας καὶ Πέρσας ἑλόντες
    καὶ Μήδους ἱαρὰν Ἑλλάδα ῥυσάμεθα.
See Andrej Petrovic, Kommentar zu den simonideischen Versinschriften (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 144-157.


Life and Death

Demosthenes, On the Crown 97 (tr. Harvey Yunis):
Indeed, since all men find the limit of life in death—even one who has shut himself in a closet and watches—good men must always venture all noble acts with good hope as their shield and worthily endure whatever god gives them.

πέρας μὲν γὰρ ἅπασιν ἀνθρώποις ἐστὶ τοῦ βίου θάνατος, κἂν ἐν οἰκίσκῳ τις αὑτὸν καθείρξας τηρῇ· δεῖ δὲ τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἄνδρας ἐγχειρεῖν μὲν ἅπασιν ἀεὶ τοῖς καλοῖς, τὴν ἀγαθὴν προβαλλομένους ἐλπίδα, φέρειν δ᾿ ὅ τι ἂν ὁ θεὸς διδῷ γενναίως.
William Watson Goodwin ad loc.:
The meaning is not the flat truism, "death is the end of all men's lives," but all men's lives have a fixed limit in death, and this is made a ground for devoting our lives to noble ends, for which it is worthy to die.



Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (New York: Ballantine Books, 1979), pp. 242-243 (wedding of Lionel of Antwerp and Violante Visconti):
The meats and fish, all gilded,* paired suckling pigs with crabs, hares with pike, a whole calf with trout, quails and partridges with more trout, ducks and herons with carp, beef and capons with sturgeon, veal and capons with carp in lemon sauce, beef pies and cheese with eel pies, meat aspic with fish aspic, meat galantines with lamprey, and among the remaining courses, roasted kid, venison, peacocks with cabbage, French beans and pickled ox-tongue, junkets and cheese, cherries and other fruit.

*With a paste of powdered egg yolk, saffron, and flour sometimes mixed with real gold leaf.
Id., p. 310 (state dinner for Emperor Charles IV, hosted by the French King Charles V):
The King had ordered four courses of ten pairs of dishes in each, but thoughtfully eliminated one course of ten to reduce the time the Emperor would have to sit at table. As it was, he would have had to partake of thirty pair of such dishes as roast capons and partridges, civet of hare, meat and fish aspics, lark pasties and rissoles of beef marrow, black puddings and sausages, lampreys and savory rice, entremet of swan, peacock, bitterns, and heron "borne on high," pasties of venison and small birds, fresh and salt-water fish with a gravy of shad "the color of peach blossom," white leeks with plovers, duck with roast chitterlings, stuffed pigs, eels reversed, frizzled beans—finishing off with fruit wafers, pears, comfits, medlars, peeled nuts, and spiced wine.

Sunday, April 07, 2019



Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), "Lucullus and Caesar," Imaginary Conversations (Lucullus speaking):
But the philosophers are wrong, as they generally are, even in the commonest things; because they seldom look beyond their own tenets, unless through captiousness, and because they argue more than they meditate, and display more than they examine. Archimedes and Euclid are, in my opinion, after our Epicurus, the worthiest of the name, having kept apart to the demonstrable, the practical, and the useful. Many of the rest are good writers and good disputants; but unfaithful suitors of simple science, boasters of their acquaintance with gods and goddesses, plagiarists and impostors.
[A] religion altogether pacific is the fomenter of wars and the nurse of crimes, alluring Sloth from within and Violence from afar. If ever it should prevail among the Romans, it must prevail alone: for nations more vigorous and energetic will invade them, close upon them, trample them under foot; and the name of Roman, which is now the most glorious, will become the most opprobrious upon earth.
But his opinions are at freedom to diverge from mine, as mine are from his; and indeed, on recollection, I never loved those most who thought with me, but those rather who deemed my sentiments worth discussion, and who corrected me with frankness and affability.


Intelligent Design

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), Of Human Bondage, chapter LXXXVII:
"Jane, your nose wants blowing."

"I haven't got a hanky, daddy."

"Tut, tut, child," he answered, as he produced a vast, brilliant bandanna, "what do you suppose the Almighty gave you fingers for?"


The Great Unholy Lie

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 10 [191] (autumn 1887; tr. Kate Sturge):
I regard Christianity as the most disastrous lie of seduction there has ever been, as the great unholy lie: I draw its aftergrowth and tendrils of ideal out from under all other disguises, I resist all half and three-quarter positions towards it — there must be war against it.

The morality of little people as the measure of things: that is the most disgusting degeneration culture has so far exhibited. And this kind of ideal still hanging over the heads of mankind, as 'God'!!

Ich betrachte das Christenthum als die verhängnißvollste Lüge der Verführung, die es bisher gegeben hat, als die große unheilige Lüge: ich ziehe seinen Nachwuchs und Ausschlag von Ideal noch unter allen sonstigen Verkleidungen heraus, ich wehre alle Halb- und Dreiviertel-Stellungen zu ihm ab, — ich zwinge zum Krieg mit ihm.

Die Kleine-Leute-Moralität als Maaß der Dinge: das ist die ekelhafteste Entartung, welche die Cultur bisher aufzuweisen hat. Und diese Art Ideal als „Gott“ hängen bleibend über der Menschheit!!


Nos Nequiores

Sallust, War with Catiline 51.42 (tr. J.C. Rolfe, rev. John T. Ramsey):
Surely there was greater merit and wisdom in those men of old, who from slight resources created such a mighty empire, than in us, who barely maintain what they gloriously brought into being.

profecto virtus atque sapientia maior illis fuit, qui ex parvis opibus tantum imperium fecere quam in nobis, qui ea bene parta vix retinemus.

Saturday, April 06, 2019


Ever Lovely

Kuno Meyer, Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1911), p. 59:
Arran of the many stags,
The sea strikes against its shoulder,
Isle in which companies are fed,
Ridge on which blue spears are reddened.

Skittish deer are on her peaks,
Delicious berries on her manes,
Cool water in her rivers,
Mast upon her dun oaks.

Greyhounds are in it and beagles,
Blackberries and sloes of the dark blackthorn,
Her dwellings close against the woods,
Deer scattered about her oak-woods.

Gleaning of purple upon her rocks,
Faultless grass upon her slopes,
Over her fair shapely crags
Noise of dappled fawns a-skipping.

Smooth is her level land, fat are her swine,
Bright are her fields,
Her nuts upon the tops of her hazel-wood,
Long galleys sailing past her.

Delightful it is when the fair season comes,
Trout under the brinks of her rivers,
Seagulls answer each other round her white cliff,
Delightful at all times is Arran!
The same, from Ann Dooley and Henry Roe, Tales of the Elders of Ireland (Acallam Na Senórach) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 13:
Arran blessed with stags, encircled by the sea,
Island that fed hosts, where black spears turn crimson.

Carefree deer on its peaks, branches of tender berries,
Streams of icy water, dark oaks decked with mast.

Greyhounds here and beagles, blackberries, fruit of sloe,
Trees thick with blackthorns, deer spread about the oaks.

Rocks with purple lichen, meadows rich with grass,
A fine fortress of crags, the leaping of fawns and trout.

Gentle meadows and plump swine, gardens pleasant beyond belief,
Nuts on the boughs of hazel, and longships sailing by.

Lovely in fair weather, trout beneath its banks,
Gulls scream from the cliffs, Arran ever lovely.

Friday, April 05, 2019


A Difficult Book

Jason David BeDuhn, Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament (Lanham: University Press of America, 2003), pp. viii-ix:
The Bible is a difficult book. It is nearly two thousand years old. Its thought world is very different from that of modernity. The biblical text assumes familiarity with the religious and social environment of the ancient Mediterranean region, rather than the highways and byways of Middle America. Credit the people for their instinct that they cannot simply read the words on the page and have it make immediate sense to them. They are right.
Id., p. xvii:
In order to have any ability to make a judgement about the accuracy of a translation of the New Testament from its original Greek into modern English, you have to know how to read Greek, and the particular kind of Greek in which the New Testament was originally written (something known as Koinē, or "common" Greek). I am sure this seems obvious to you. Yet, amazingly, the majority of individuals who publicly pass judgement on Bible translations — in print, on television and radio, on the internet, and in letters they send to me — do not know how to read Greek.
Id., p. xix:
I encourage distrust. I don't want you to trust me; I want you to be persuaded by the information I provide. Check my claims; scrutinize my arguments. I haven't studied all of this material for so many years for you to trust me without proof. Proof is the coin of the academic trade. If I don't have evidence — linguistic, literary, and historical facts — to back up what I say, I would be uttering nothing but idle opinion.


Margutte's Creed

Luigi Pulci (1432-1484), Morgante, Canto XVIII, stanzas 113-116 (tr. Joseph Tusiani):
Morgante looked him over once and twice,
and then twice more, from head to toes, and all
and queer and ugly his limbs looked to him.
"Tell me, wayfarer," soon he said, "your name."
The man replied, "Margutte is my name;
I too a giant wanted once to be;
but then midway my dream I had to quit:
As you can see, I'm only thirteen feet."

Morgante said to him, "You're welcome here.
I'll have at last a little flask with me,
since I've not had a drop for two full days;
and if you care to keep me company,
along the road I'll treat you as I must.
But tell me more: I have not asked you yet
if you're a Christian or a Saracen,
if you believe in Christ or Apollìn."

Margutte so replied, "In one-two-three,
I less believe in what is black or blue
than in a capon — boil or roast, who cares?
And often I believe in butter, too,
in beer and — every time I find it — must,
which should be strong and genuine, not weak;
yes, above all, in good wine I believe,
for those who drink eternal life achieve.

"I believe also in both cake and pie —
the mother, one; the other is her son;
the true Our Father is a liver stew,
which makes three dishes, two, or only one,
from the same liver generated all.
And since a bucket I could use for glass,
Mohammed, who forbids and censures wine,
is — I believe — a ghost, a dream of mine...

Morgante guata le sue membra tutte
più e più volte dal capo alle piante,
che gli pareano strane, orride e brutte:
— Dimmi il tuo nome, — dicea — vïandante. —
Colui rispose: — Il mio nome è Margutte;
ed ebbi voglia anco io d'esser gigante,
poi mi penti' quando al mezzo fu' giunto:
vedi che sette braccia sono appunto. —

Disse Morgante: — Tu sia il ben venuto:
ecco ch'io arò pure un fiaschetto allato,
che da due giorni in qua non ho beuto;
e se con meco sarai accompagnato,
io ti farò a camin quel che è dovuto.
Dimmi più oltre: io non t'ho domandato
se se' cristiano o se se' saracino,
o se tu credi in Cristo o in Apollino. —

Rispose allor Margutte: — A dirtel tosto,
io non credo più al nero ch'a l'azzurro,
ma nel cappone, o lesso o vuogli arrosto;
e credo alcuna volta anco nel burro,
nella cervogia, e quando io n'ho, nel mosto,
e molto più nell'aspro che il mangurro;
ma sopra tutto nel buon vino ho fede,
e credo che sia salvo chi gli crede;

e credo nella torta e nel tortello:
l'uno è la madre e l'altro è il suo figliuolo;
e 'l vero paternostro è il fegatello,
e posson esser tre, due ed un solo,
e diriva dal fegato almen quello.
E perch'io vorrei ber con un ghiacciuolo,
se Macometto il mosto vieta e biasima...

Thursday, April 04, 2019


Philip Carey's Rule of Conduct

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), Of Human Bondage, chapter LIII:
Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner.


Shameful Acts

Letter to Brother Edward, attributed to Ælfric (ca. 950-ca. 1010), tr. Charles Barber, Joan C. Beal, and Philip A. Shaw, The English Language, 2nd ed. (2009; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 132-133:
I also say to you, brother Edward, now that you have asked me about this, that you are all behaving unrighteously in abandoning the English customs which your fathers practised and loving the customs of heathen men who do not allow you to live, and in doing so you make clear by those vices that you despise your race and your elders, when, as an insult to them, you dress yourselves in the Danish way, with uncovered neck and blinded eyes. I will say no more about this shameful way of dressing, except that books tell us that he who practises heathen customs in his life, and dishonours his own race with them, will be excommunicated. I also ask you, brother — because you are in the countryside with women oftener than I am — that you should say something to them, if indeed you can say it to them for shame; it shames me greatly that I should say it to you. I have often heard it said (and it is terrible but true), that the rustic women will often foully drink and even eat on the toilets at their feasts; but it is a shameful deed and a great folly and an outrageous shame that anyone should ever be so dissolute that he should stuff his mouth with foods up above while the filth goes out the other end, and he drinks both the ale and the stink, so that he thus fulfils his wicked greed. I cannot, for shame, describe the shameful act of anyone eating on the toilet as disgustingly as the act itself is disgusting, but no one who is any good ever ought to do this.

Ic secge eac ðe, broðor Eadweard, nu ðu me þyses bæde, þæt ge doð unrihtlice þæt ge ða Engliscan þeawas forlætað þe eowre fæderas heoldon and hæðenra manna þeawas lufiað þe eow ðæs lifes ne unnon, and mid ðam geswuteliað þæt ge forseoð eower cynn and eowre yldran mid þam unþeawum, þonne ge him on teonan tysliað eow on Denisc, ableredum hneccan and ablendum eagum. Ne secge ic na mare embe ða sceandlican tyslunge, buton þæt us secgað bec þæt se beo amansumod þe hæðenra manna þeawas hylt on his life, and his agen cynn unwurþað mid þam. Ic bidde eac þe, broðor — forþamðe þu byst uppan lande mid wimmannum oftor þonne ic beo — þæt þu him an þing secge, gif ðu for sceame swaþeah hit him secgan mæge; me sceamað þearle þæt ic hit secge ðe. Ic hit gehyrde oft secgan (and hit is yfelsoð) þæt þas uplendiscan wif wyllað oft drincan and furþon etan fullice on gangsetlum æt heora gebeorscipum; ac hit is bysmorlic dæd and mycel higeleast and huxlic bysmor þæt ænig man æfre swa unþeawfæst beon sceole þæt he þone muð ufan mid mettum afylle and on oðerne ende him gange þæt meox ut fram, and drince þonne ægðer ge þæt ealu ge þone stenc, þæt he huru swa afylle his fracodan gyfernysse. Ic ne mæg for sceame þa sceandlican dæde þæt ænig mann sceole etan on gange swa fullice secgan swa hit fullic is, ac þæt næfre nedeð nan ðæra manna ðe deah.
See Mary Clayton, "Letter to Brother Edward: A Student Edition," Old English Newsletter 40.3 (2007) 31-46.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



The Modern Point of View

Homer, Iliad 4.405 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
We declare ourselves to be better men by far than our fathers.

ἡμεῖς τοι πατέρων μέγ᾽ ἀμείνονες εὐχόμεθ᾽ εἶναι.

Monday, April 01, 2019


Prayer for Victory

William Shakespeare, Richard III 5.3.114-120 (Richmond speaking, before the Battle of Bosworth Field):
O Thou, whose captain I account myself,
Look on my forces with a gracious eye.        115
Put in their hands thy bruising irons of wrath,
That they may crush down with a heavy fall
The usurping helmets of our adversaries.
Make us Thy ministers of chastisement,
That we may praise Thee in the victory!        120

120 the Q: thy F, Q3-5
On 116 commentators compare Psalm 2.9 (Bishops' Bible):
Thou shalt bruise them with a rod of iron: and breake them in peeces like a potters vessell.

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