Sunday, June 30, 2019


Pedantic Quibbling

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry. Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by Edward Allen McCormick (1962; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), p. 157 (chapter 29):
But I shall refrain from accumulating more trifles. It could scarcely be taken as censoriousness, but anyone who knows my high regard for Herr Winckelmann might consider it krokylegmus.12

12 ["Pedantry," perhaps best rendered here by "pedantic quibbling" or "a carping display of pedantry." The word is composed of κροκύς, a flock of wool, and λέγω, to gather. Originally it meant a person who nervously twitched or plucked bits of wool from his clothing or blankets. The equivalent word in German is Kleinkrämerei, literally, "dealing in trifles."]

Doch ich enthalte mich, dergleichen Kleinigkeiten auf einen Haufen zu tragen. Tadelsucht könnte es zwar nicht scheinen; aber wer meine Hochachtung für den Herrn Winckelmann kennt, dürfte es fur Krokylegmus halten.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκυλεγμός:
κροκυδισμός, Hsch.
Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon ... Editionem Minorem Curavit Mauricius Schmidt, 2nd ed. (Jena: Hermann Dufft, 1867), col. 924:
κροκυλεγμός· τὸ κολακευτικῶς τὰς κροκύδας ἀπολέγειν τῶν ἱματίων.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκυδισμός:
picking of flocks, Gal.19.412:—hence -ιον, τό, Dim. of κροκύς, Id.10.867, Theognost.Can.125.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκυδίζω:
pick loose flocks off a garment, τὸ κάταγμα κροκυδίζουσαν Philyll.22, Gal.10.928; of persons in delirium, twitch the blankets, Aret.CA1.1.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκύς:
...κροκύδα ἀφαιρεῖν, typical of a flatterer, Thphr.Char.2.3...
I could be mistaken, but it seems that McCormick's connection of κροκυλεγμός with pedantry has no warrant in ancient usage. I suspect that Lessing meant flattery rather than pedantry. See Hugo Blümner, "Zu Lessings Laokoon. (Krokylegmus.)," Vierteljahrschrift für Litteraturgeschichte 4 (1891) 358-360.

Thanks to Kenneth Haynes for drawing my attention to Jochen A. Bär, "Erbsenzählerei unter Schwerstgelehrten: Bemerkungen zum vorletzten Wort in Lessings Laokoon," Der Sprachdienst 43–44 (1999) 108-111. In the manuscript of Laocoon Lessing originally wrote Krokalismus (something to do with pebbles? < κροκάλη); it appeared as the meaningless Krobotismus on the proofs; and Lessing then corrected it to Krokylegmus.



Plutarch, Life of Pericles 13.16 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
The fact is that men who know nothing of decency in their own lives are only too ready to launch foul slanders against their betters and to offer them up as victims to the evil deity of popular envy.

καὶ τί ἄν τις ἀνθρώπους σατυρικοὺς τοῖς βίοις καὶ τὰς κατὰ τῶν κρειττόνων βλασφημίας ὥσπερ δαίμονι κακῷ τῷ φθόνῳ τῶν πολλῶν ἀποθύοντας ἑκάστοτε θαυμάσειεν...;
A bit more literally:
Why should anyone be surprised that men, etc.
Philip A. Stadter, A Commentary on Plutarch's Pericles (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), pp. 179-180:
καὶ τί ἄν...θαυμάσειεν: an indignant rhetorical question. The initial καὶ expresses emotion; cf. Denniston, 310-11.

σατυρικούς: given to debauchery, like satyrs; cf. Galb. 16.3, of actors and wrestlers: ἐφημέριοι καὶ σατυρικοὶ τοῖς βίοις ἄνθρωποι.

τὰς...ἀποθύοντας: "always offering their slanders against their betters in sacrifice to the envy of the multitude, as if to an evil spirit." The attacks on Pericles, according to P., arose chiefly from envy for his influence and achievements.

ἑκάστοτε: with ἀποθύοντας.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Worshippers of Euphemia

B.L. Gildersleeve (1831-1924), "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 40.3 (1919) 332-337 (at 334):
For many decades we moderns of English or American stock have been more or less devout worshippers of the great goddess Euphemia. But the Tudor translators were not finical. The learned divines of the Jerusalem chamber to whom we owe the Authorized Version rendered the frank Hebrew into equally frank English, regardless of the example of the Massoretes, who offered marginal equivalents. The Caroline version of Rabelais is studded with unbashful words such as seldom see their faces in print. But that was an era when the grave moralist, Sir Thomas Browne, referred to the Library of St. Victor and quoted the treatise of Tartaretus. As time went on the world of print at least became more reserved. The reign of asterisks and dashes began. Mindful of the injunction of Juvenal—arch-sinner that he was—and his 'maxima reverentia' sentence, the editors of the Delphin classics—the favorite editions of my boyhood—sowed the 'ordo' with stars which lighted the wicked boys to dusty dictionaries. The initial and final letters of the national monosyllables were kept apart by an iron bar. One popular translation of the Decameron that I remember called in the naughty Gaul to translate the Italian's more venturesome stories. And so the dull film of decency overspread the world of letters until it reached the opacity of the Victorian age. Scholars ventured to emasculate that spoiled darling of the Muses, Aristophanes, but some of them, alas! did not know what to leave out or what to substitute.
Tartaretus—author of De modo cacandi, according to Rabelais.


Modern Poetry

A Barfield Sampler: Poetry and Fiction by Owen Barfield (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 36:
                   AL FRESCO
             (on modern poetry)

Who's for outdoors? Who's had enough of all this?
Hurl a stone to splinter the sealed-up window,
Pierce the stale, accentual froust, the dreary,
        Droned, never-ending,

Sharply flat, sententiously unromantic,
Unctuously startling combinations,
Postured substantival effects—the bleating,

Cant of curt, contemplative tropes' detachment!
Half-asleep, chain-smoking...among the wine-stains
Smart the conversation—but who's for the open
        Lift of a language

Laced with verbs, not frightened of consonants, or
Juxtaposed stressed syllables, fit for breathing,
Harshly sweet, strong, quantitatively trim, loud,
        Shoutable English?
Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960), "To the Neo-Pseudoists," By and Large (Garden City: Doubleday, Page, 1914), p. 84:
Poets and painters and sculptors,
  Ye of the Screeching schools,
Scorners of Art's conventions,
  Haters of bonds and rules,

Mockers of line and rhythm,
  Loathers of color and rhyme,
What of your new creations?
  What of the Test of Time?

Fetters no longer bind you,
  Ye of the New To-day,
But — if a dolt may ask it —
  What have ye got to say?

Here is another question,
  Less of the head than heart:
Is the new stuff wonderful merely
  Because it is rotten art?


Cri de Coeur

Ovid, Ex Ponto 3.1.5 (tr. A.L. Wheeler, rev. G.P. Goold):
Or must I ever live in such a barbaric land...?

an mihi barbaria vivendum semper in ista...?

Friday, June 28, 2019


Sacred Heart

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787),
Sacro cuore di Jesù

My mother had a reproduction of this painting in our kitchen. Sometimes, when I misbehaved, she would point to it and say, "You're making the Sacred Heart of Jesus bleed."


Paddling About Among Philologers

A Barfield Sampler: Poetry and Fiction by Owen Barfield (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 33:

I am much inclined towards a life of ease
And should not scorn to spend my dwindling years
In places where my sort of fancy stirs;
Perched up on ladders in old libraries
With several quartos pouring off my knees...
Translating Ariosto into verse...
Paddling about among philologers
And Dictionaries and concordances!

There, on some dark oak table, more and more
Voluminous each day, ye should perceive
My Magnum Opus...that one which untwists
Their bays from poets who shirk metaphor
And make rich words grow obsolete, and leave
Imagination to Psychiatrists.

Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885), The Bookworm
("Perched up on ladders in old libraries")


Gifts of Christianity

Owen Barfield (1898-1997), History in English Words (1953; rpt. Great Barrington: Lindisfarne Books, 2007), p. 159:
Another little group of words which appeared in the language at about this time is interesting in its suggestion that human emotions, like the forces of Nature, are usually accompanied by their equal and opposite reactions. The well-known phrases, odium theologicum and odium philosophicum, survive to remind us of a new kind of bitterness and hatred which had slowly been arising in men's hearts, and which were also, it would seem, the gifts of Christianity and the Dark Ages. Very soon after the Reformation we find alongside the syllables of tenderness and devotion a very pretty little vocabulary of abuse. Bigoted, faction, factious, malignant, monkish, papistical, pernicious, popery are among the products of the struggle between Catholic and Protestant; and the terms Roman, Romanist, and Romish soon acquired such a vituperative sense that it became necessary to evolve Roman Catholic in order to describe the adherents of that faith without giving offence to them. The later internecine struggles among the Protestants themselves gave us Puritan, precise, libertine—reminiscent of a time when 'liberty' of thought was assumed as a matter of course to include licence of behaviour—credulous, superstitious, selfish, selfishness, and the awful Calvinistic word reprobate. It was towards the end of the Puritan ascendancy that atone and atonement (at-one-ment) acquired their present strong suggestion of legal expiation, and it may not be without significance that the odious epithet vindictive was then for the first time applied approvingly to the activities of the Almighty Himself.


Fix Fixed

Ovid, Tristia. Ex Ponto. With an English Translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler. Second edition, revised by G.P. Goold (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988, "Reprinted with corrections 1996" = Loeb Classical Library, 151), pp. 450-451 (Ex Ponto 4.8.47):
carmine fix vivax virtus...

By verse virtue lives on...
Correct fix to fit (carmine fit vivax virtus...). The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library, as this screen capture shows:

The first edition (1924) is correct here (I checked the 1939 reprint), and the error crept in with Goold's revision. Oddly, the same mistake occurs in Eton Selections from Ovid and Tibullus. Electa ex Ovidio et Tibullo, ed. William Gifford Cookesley (Eton: E.P. Williams, 1860), p. 204.


Thursday, June 27, 2019



Robin D. Gill, Kyôka, Japan's Comic Verse: A Mad in Translation Reader (Key Biscayne: Paraverse Press, 2009), p. 24:
...your translator is stuck in the sticks of Florida without access to a large library...

From David Whitehead:
This put me in mind of the preface of W. Wyse, Isaeus (Cambridge 1904):

    'The proofs of the Commentary have been revised under difficulties in a Warwickshire village, where Greek authors are little read …'.


Best Foot Forward

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Catriona, chapter 12:
"A man should aye put his best foot forrit with the womankind; he should aye give them a bit of a story to divert them, the poor lambs! It's what ye should learn to attend to, David; ye should get the principles, it's like a trade. Now, if this had been a young lassie, or onyways bonnie, she would never have heard tell of my stomach, Davie. But aince they're too old to be seeking joes, they a' set up to be apotecaries. Why? What do I ken? They'll be just the way God made them, I suppose. But I think a man would be a gomeral that didnae give his attention to the same."
joes = sweethearts
gomeral = simpleton, fool


De Vita Solitaria

Anonymous, in The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse. Translated and with Introductions by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite, rev. ed. (London: Penguin Books, 2009), p. 130:
Letting rip a fart —
It doesn't make you laugh
When you live alone.




Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), August 1914, chapter 12 (tr. Michael Glenny):
Although it was by now so familiar that he ought to have taken it for granted, Vorotyntsev was still depressed whenever experience confirmed the invariable rule that every headquarters (and the higher the headquarters the more marked the phenomenon) was staffed by people who were selfish, rank-conscious, hidebound and slack, whose only concern was to eat and drink their fill. They regarded the army as a convenient, highly polished, and well-carpeted staircase, upon whose steps medals and badges of rank were handed out. It never occurred to them that this staircase involved obligations rather than rewards, that there was such a thing as military science, whose techniques altered every decade or so, and that therefore officers ought to study constantly and keep abreast of change. If the War Minister himself boasted that he had not read a single military textbook in the thirty-five years since he had left the university, why should anyone else bother to exert himself? Once you had been long enough in the service to earn a general's epaulettes, what else was to be gained by a show of zeal? There was no higher to go. For the staircase was so arranged as to encourage the ascent of slow-witted men who did what they were told, rather than those with brains and independence of mind. Provided you stuck to the letter of regulations, orders, and directives, you could make as many blunders as you liked; you could be defeated, you could retreat, be routed, run away—no one would ever blame you and you would not even be called upon to investigate the cause of your failure. But woe to you if you once diverged from the letter, if you ever thought for yourself or acted on your own initiative; then you would not even be forgiven your successes, and if you failed, you would be eaten alive.

The ruin of the Russian army was the system of seniority: the supreme, indisputable factor was length of service and promotion by seniority. As long as you did not make a faux pas or arouse the ire of the powers that be, the mere passage of time would in due course elevate you to the coveted senior rank, and with the rank went a suitable command.
Also true, mutatis mutandis, of corporations, government bureaucracies, educational institutions, etc.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Holy Objects

Lucian, On the Syrian Goddess. Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary by J.L. Lightfoot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 257 (translation of § 16):
There are many signs in the temple that Dionysus is its founder, among them barbarian costume and Indian stones and horns of ivory which Dionysus brought from Aethiopia, and two extremely large phalli standing in the porchways bearing some such inscription as the following: 'I Dionysus dedicated these phalli to my step-mother Hera.' This is enough for me, but I shall mention another of Dionysus' mystic objects in the temple. The Greeks erect phalli for Dionysus, upon which they mount the following sort of thing: little wooden men with large penises. They call these neurospasta. This too is found in the temple: on the right of the sanctuary sits a little bronze man with a large organ.
Greek text (id., p. 256):
καὶ ἔστι πολλὰ ἐν τῷ ἱρῷ Διονύσου ποιητέω σήματα, ἐν τοῖσι καὶ ἐσθῆτες βάρβαροι καὶ λίθοι Ἰνδοὶ καὶ ἐλεφάντων κέρεα, τὰ Διόνυσος ἐξ Αἰθιόπων ἤνεικεν, καὶ φαλλοὶ δὲ ἑστᾶσιν ἐν τοῖσι προπυλαίοισι δύο κάρτα μεγάλοι, ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπίγραμμα τοιόνδε ἐπιγέγραπται, "τούσδε φαλλοὺς Διόνυσος Ἥρῃ μητρυιῇ ἀνέθηκα." {τὸ} ἐμοὶ μέν νυν καὶ τάδε ἀρκέει, ἐρέω δὲ καὶ ἄλλ᾿ ὅ τι ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ νηῷ Διονύσου ὄργιον. φαλλοὺς Ἕλληνες Διονύσῳ ἐγείρουσιν, ἐπὶ τῶν καὶ τοιόνδε τι φέρουσιν, ἄνδρας μικροὺς ἐκ ξύλου πεποιημένους, μεγάλα αἰδοῖα ἔχοντας· καλέεται δὲ τάδε νευρόσπαστα. ἔστι δὲ καὶ τόδε ἐν τῷ ἱρῷ· ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ νηοῦ κάθηται μικρὸς ἀνὴρ χάλκεος ἔχων αἰδοῖον μέγα.
Commentary (id., pp. 365-366):
The other link between Lucian's Dionysus and Hierapolis is phallicism. No Greek god is more strongly associated with phallic cult than Dionysus,12 although phalli are known in the cult of Atargatis as well.13 The worship of sacred stones, whether round, egg-shaped, domed, conical, or in the form of pillars, is characteristic of Canaanite, Phoenician, and Punic religion. But the phallus itself is distinctive. In Atargatis' temple in Delos—where phalli are known above all from the sanctuary of Dionysus, with a choregic monument surmounted by a monumental phallus, and several smaller fragments besides—a marble phallus was inscribed and dedicated by a temple-servant, Dionysios.14 An inscription from her temple in Dura also mentions the setting-up of votive phalli.15 In Hierapolis, Dionysus is supposed to have set up two huge φαλλοί 'in the propylaea' and left an inscription on them—in Greek—to say so.

12 RE xix (1938), s.v. Phallos, 1701-10 (H. Herter); Csapo, 253-95.

13 A distant link to Canaanite goddesses? The OT mentions the setting-up of an apparently ithyphallic idol in Jerusalem, 1 Kgs. 15:13 and 2 Chron. 15:16; E. Lipiriski, OLP 3 (I972), 113, who connects the Hebrew mipleṣet with the root blṭ, 'protrude', though the latter does not exist in biblical Hebrew. (I thank Dr Holford-Strevens for the suggestion that the Yahwite monotheists, encountering a Canaanite word from a root that did not exist in their own language, adapted it to one that did, namely plṣ, 'shudder', thereby expressing their opinion of the object in question.) LXX has σύνοδος ('coition'), Vulgate simulacrum turpissimum, simulacrum Priapi.

14 IDél 2243; Roussel, 269, 424; Morin, 111-I2, 126-7; Marcadé, 382, 385; Bruneau, 473; Will 1985, 147, pl. xxxix.1. For the choregic monument of Carystius, G.M. Sifakis, Studies in the History of Hellenistic Drama (London, 1967), 8; Bruneau, 298-9 and pl. III.

15 Ϝμτ' Ἀμμώνιος | Ἀπολλοφάνου | ἀνήγειρεν το|ὺς φάλλους ὑ|πὲρ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ | καὶ τέκνων σωτηρίας. The inscription (Seleucid year 346 = AD 34-5) is the second earliest from the site. Ed. M. Rostovtzeff, CRAI 1937, 204; Frye et al., 128-9, no. 1; cf. R. Mouterde, MUSJ 36 (1959), 54; Downey 1977, 174; ill. in Matheson, 133 fig. 11. See too K.W. Slane and M.W. Dickie, Hesperia 62 (1993), 488: 'Their part in the cult of the goddess Atargatis ... has merged with their use as apotropaic devices affording safety.'


Mother of Us All

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Past and Present, Book III, Chapter 8 (Unworking Aristocracy):
The Land is Mother of us all; nourishes, shelters, gladdens, lovingly enriches us all; in how many ways, from our first wakening to our last sleep on her blessed mother-bosom, does she, as with blessed mother-arms, enfold us all!

The Hill I first saw the Sun rise over, when the Sun and I and all things were yet in their auroral hour, who can divorce me from it? Mystic, deep as the world's centre, are the roots I have struck into my Native Soil; no tree that grows is rooted so.


Lucian, Dialogues of the Courtesans 9.4

Lucian. With an English Translation by M.D. Macleod, Vol. VII (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961 = Loeb Classical Library, 431), pp. 414-415 (Dialogues of the Courtesans 9.4; the soldier Polemo is speaking):
...ἐραστὴς Παννυχίδος, ὅτε ᾤμην ἔτι ἀνθρώπινα φρονεῖν αὐτήν. who loved Pannychis, while I believed she was still content with mortal thoughts.
Likewise Evan Hayes and Stephen Nimis, Lucian's Dialogues of the Courtesans. An Intermediate Greek Reader. Greek Text with Running Vocabulary and Commentary (Oxford, Ohio: Faenum Publishing, Ltd., 2015), p. 66:
ἀνθρώπινα: neut. pl. acc., "that she thought mortal (thoughts)" i.e. as opposed to divine ones.
This makes no sense to me. Polemo loved Pannychis so long as she was nice to him. I would translate ἀνθρώπινα here as humane, or gentle, or kind. Cf. Demosthenes, Against Aristocrates 70 (tr. J.H. Vince, emphasis added):
They who originally ordained these customs, whoever they were, heroes or gods, did not treat evil fortune with severity, but humanely alleviated its calamities, so far as they honestly could.

οἱ ταῦτ᾿ ἐξ ἀρχῆς τὰ νόμιμα διαθέντες, οἵτινές ποτ᾿ ἦσαν, εἴθ᾿ ἥρωες εἴτε θεοί, οὐκ ἐπέθεντο τοῖς ἀτυχήμασιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἀνθρωπίνως ἐπεκούφισαν, εἰς ὅσον εἶχε καλῶς, τὰς συμφοράς.
and Demosthenes, Against Meidias 41 (tr. J.H. Vince, emphasis added):
For what sort of pretext, what decent and moderate excuse, can he show for his conduct?

ποία γὰρ πρόφασις, τίς ἀνθρωπίνη καὶ μετρία σκῆψις φανεῖται τῶν πεπραγμένων αὐτῷ;
The rendering in The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Translated by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, Vol. IV (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), p. 66, makes even less sense to me:
...Pannychis's lover, so long as he supposed a mere man was good enough for her.
Some other translations:

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Ad Leones

Email from a friend who tried to visit the amphitheatre in Nîmes:
Alas, crowds were already assembling for an Elton John concert, we were galled to discover, so it was closed to mere visitors. I have nothing particularly against Elton John. He can perform whatever he likes and with whom he pleases but I think that any lover of antiquity denied access to a Roman amphitheatre on account of one of his concerts should at least have the right to demand that the man perform in the presence of half a dozen famished lions. Then I'd pay handsomely to see Elton John, his tawny wig, spectacles and gnawed, dismembered carcass.


School Supplies

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 6.3 (life of Antisthenes; tr. R.D. Hicks, with his note):
When a lad from Pontus was about to attend his lectures, and asked him what he required, the answer was, "Come with a new book, a new pen, and new tablets, if you have a mind to" (implying the need of brains as well).a

a There is the same untranslateable pun upon καινοῦ = "new" and καὶ νοῦ = "a mind too," as in ii. § 118.

πρός τε τὸ Ποντικὸν μειράκιον μέλλον φοιτᾶν αὐτῷ καὶ πυθόμενον τίνων αὐτῷ δεῖ, φησί, "βιβλαρίου καινοῦ καὶ γραφείου καινοῦ καὶ πινακιδίου καινοῦ," τὸν νοῦν παρεμφαίνων.

καινοῦ ter F: καὶ νοῦ ter ΒΡΦ et Arsen.


The Leading Characteristic of Paganism

Charles W. Hedrick Jr., History and Silence: Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), p. 47, with note on p. 268:
Paganism was by its very nature agglutinative, inclusive: there is no inherent reason why the god of the Christians should not have been worshiped along with Zeus and Mars. From a pagan perspective Christianity might be regarded as just another oriental cult, like that of Mithra or the Magna Mater—and many such flourished side by side in late antique Rome. So the leading characteristic of paganism could be considered its religious tolerance. Christians, on the other hand, regarded their god as preemptive: one could not be a Christian and worship other gods. The dichotomy of pagan versus Christian is a characteristically Christian opposition, as it is the distinguishing characteristic of Christianity to make exclusionary religious distinctions.34

34. This argument is made in O'Donnell 1979b.
The reference is to James J. O'Donnell, "The Demise of Paganism," Traditio 35 (1979) 45–88. See e.g. O'Donnell, p. 52:
In summary, it is necessary to look upon the religious sociology of the fourth century with two separate (if often, and confusingly, overlapping) distinctions in mind: that between worshippers of Christ and worshippers of other gods; and that between men who could accept a plurality of worships and those who insisted on the validity of a single form of religious experience to the exclusion of all others.


Dominated by the Last Book He Read

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), August 1914, chapter 2 (tr. Michael Glenny):
For a long time after that he still felt backward and ignorant, incapable of thinking any problem through. He was confused by the plethora of contending truths and agonized at the fact that each of them seemed so convincing. As long as he had had access to only a few books, Isaakii had felt secure and happy and he had considered himself a Tolstoyan ever since his second year in high school. But here he was given Lavrov and Mikhailovsky to read and—how true they seemed to be. Then he read Plekhanov, and there was truth again—and so beautifully consistent. Kropotkin also went straight to his heart and was no less true. And when he came to read Vekhi, he shuddered—it was the complete reverse of all he had read before, yet true, piercingly true.

Books no longer inspired a respectful delight in him—instead, they made him terrified that he would never learn to argue back at an author, that he would always be carried away, dominated by the last book he happened to have read.

Monday, June 24, 2019


Not What But By Whom

Euripides, Hecuba 294-295 (tr. David Kovacs):
For the same speech has quite a different force if it is spoken by a man of repute or by a nobody.

λόγος γὰρ ἔκ τ᾿ ἀδοξούντων ἰὼν
κἀκ τῶν δοκούντων αὑτὸς οὐ ταὐτὸν σθένει.
Kjeld Matthiessen in his commentary ad loc.:
Patin (1913) 1, 374 Anm. 2 bringt folgende Parallelen aus der französischen Literatur:
Tous les discours sont des sottises,
Partant d'un homme sans éclat:
Ce seraient paroles exquises,
Si c'était un grand qui parlât.
   (Molière, Amphitryon Akt 2, Szene 1)

Ce chien parlait très à propos;
Son raisonnement pouvait être
Fort bon dans la bouche d'un maître,
Mais n'étant que d'un simple chien
On trouva qu'il ne valait rien.
   (La Fontaine, Le Fermier, le Chien et le Renard, 11, 8 [sic, should be 11, 3])



Everyone is familiar with Samuel Johnson's justly famous letter to Lord Chesterfield (February 7, 1755):
To The Right Honourable The Earl Of Chesterfield
My Lord,

I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre;—that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.

The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.

Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it: till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which providence has enabled me to do for myself.

Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,

My Lord,
Your lordship's most humble,
most obedient servant,
A less known but similar episode occurred two years later, recounted at the beginning of Charles W. Hedrick Jr., History and Silence: Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), p. xi with note on p. 259:
In 1757 Giovanni Battista Piranesi published the final edition of his collection of etchings of the ruins of ancient Rome, Le antichità Romane. The frontispiece to that edition shows a palimpsested inscription: the original letters have been erased and over them a new text, announcing the book to the reader, has been carved. Piranesi explains this unusual illustration and its prominent position at the beginning of the book in great detail in another of his works, a polemic entitled the Lettere di giustificazione.1 An Irish nobleman, James Caulfield, Lord Charlemont, had promised a substantial subvention for the publication of the book, but at the last moment had reneged on his guarantee. The work was already complete, and Piranesi had commemorated Charlemont's name and patronage in inscriptions strategically placed in the various etchings throughout the volume. When Charlemont declined to provide the promised funding, Piranesi went through the engravings of the book, eradicating his onetime patron's name almost everywhere.

1. His explanation of the image and account of the dispute are so detailed as to make further commentary superfluous. He recollects the palimpsested inscriptions from the Antichità as if on the wall of a museum in tav. 8 of the Lettere (reproduced as the frontispiece of this book). The text of the Lettere is reproduced in Wilton-Ely 1972.

Sunday, June 23, 2019



Goethe, Faust I.31-32 (tr. Walter Kaufman):
What I possess, seems far away to me,
And what is gone becomes reality.

Was ich besitze, seh ich wie im Weiten,
Und was verschwand, wird mir zu Wirklichkeiten.
The same, tr. David Luke:
All that I now possess seems far away
And vanished worlds are real to me today.



John Milton, Samson Agonistes 78-79:
In power of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.


Sanctimonious Evildoers

Euripides, Hippolytus 955-957 (tr. David Grene):
For I have found you out. I tell you all,
avoid such men as he. They hunt their prey
with holy-seeming words, but their designs
are black and ugly.

ἐπεί γ' ἐλήφθης. τοὺς δὲ τοιούτους ἐγὼ
φεύγειν προφωνῶ πᾶσι· θηρεύουσι γὰρ
σεμνοῖς λόγοισιν, αἰσχρὰ μηχανώμενοι.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


The Tongue

Euripides, Hippolytus 395-397 (tr. David Kovacs):
For the tongue is not to be trusted: it knows well how to admonish the thoughts of others but gets from itself a great deal of trouble.

γλώσσῃ γὰρ οὐδὲν πιστόν, ἣ θυραῖα μὲν
φρονήματ᾿ ἀνδρῶν νουθετεῖν ἐπίσταται,
αὐτὴ δ᾿ ὑφ᾿ αὑτῆς πλεῖστα κέκτηται κακά.
Liddell-Scott-Jones (s.v. θυραῖος, sense I.3) translates θυραῖα here as "of strangers," but Kovacs prefers sense I.4: "of others."

W.S. Barrett ad loc.:
θυραῖοϲ is a synonym of ἀλλότριοϲ (as οἰκεῖοϲ is of ἴδιοϲ: 1166), 'belonging to somone else', so that θυραῖα φρονήματα ἀνδρῶν = ἄλλων ἀνδρῶν φρονήματα, the mental processes of persons other than oneself.

Friday, June 21, 2019



Edward Young (1683-1765), The Revenge, Act III, Scene I, in his Complete Works, Vol. II (London: William Tegg and Co., 1854), p. 216:
They take offence, who have not been offended.


Satisfaction in Words

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), The World as Will and Representation, vol. II, chap. XV (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
The inexpressible satisfaction in words is thoroughly characteristic of inferior minds; it rests simply on their incapacity for distinct concepts, whenever these are to go beyond the most trivial and simple relations; consequently, it rests on the weakness and indolence of their intellect, indeed on their secret awareness thereof. In the case of scholars, this awareness is bound up with a hard necessity, early recognized, of passing themselves off as thinking beings; and to meet this demand in all cases they keep such a suitable store of ready-made words. It must be really amusing to see in the chair a professor of philosophy of this kind, who bona fide delivers such a display of words devoid of ideas, quite honestly under the delusion that these really are thoughts and ideas, and to see the students in front of him who, just as bona fide, that is to say, under the same delusion, are listening attentively and taking notes, while neither professor nor students really go beyond the words. Indeed these words, together with the audible scratching of pens, are the only realities in the whole business. This peculiar satisfaction in words contributes more than anything else to the perpetuation of errors. For, relying on the words and phrases received from his predecessors, each one confidently passes over obscurities or problems; and thus these are unnoticed and are propagated through the centuries from one book to another.

Dies unsägliche Genügen an Worten ist für die schlechten Köpfe durchaus charakteristisch: es beruht eben auf ihrer Unfähigkeit zu deutlichen Begriffen, sobald diese über die trivialsten und einfachsten Verhältnisse hinausgehen sollen, mithin auf der Schwäche und Trägheit ihres Intellekts, ja, auf dem geheimen Bewußtseyn dieser, welches bei Gelehrten verbunden ist mit der früh erkannten, harten Nothwendigkeit, sich für denkende Wesen auszugeben, welcher Anforderung in allen Fällen zu begegnen, sie einen solchen Vorrath fertiger Worte geeignet halten. Wirklich belustigend muß es seyn, einen Philosophie-Professor dieses Schlages auf dem Katheder zu sehen, der bona fide einen dergleichen gedankenleeren Wortkram vorträgt, ganz ehrlich, im Wahn, dies seien eben Gedanken, und vor ihm die Studenten, welche eben so bona fide, d. h. im selben Wahn, andächtig zuhören und nachschreiben; während doch im Grunde weder der Eine noch die Andern über die Worte hinausgehen, vielmehr diese, nebst dem hörbaren Kratzen der Federn, das einzige Reale bei der Sache sind. Dieses eigentümliche Genügen an Worten trägt mehr als irgend etwas bei zur Perpetuirung der Irrthümer. Denn gestützt auf die von seinen Vorgängern überkommenen Worte und Phrasen geht Jeder getrost an Dunkelheiten, oder Problemen vorbei: wodurch diese sich unbeachtet, Jahrhunderte hindurch, von Buch zu Buch fortpflanzen...

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Blowing One's Own Horn

David Kovacs, "Euripides Hippolytus 100 and the Meaning of the Prologue," Classical Philology 75.2 (April, 1980) 130-137 (at p. 135, n. 17):
We must begin to take into account the profound differences between ourselves and the Greeks of the classical period where speaking of oneself is concerned. To speak of one's own attainments directly and without apology is, in our culture, usually an offense against good manners and not infrequently regarded as evidence of more serious moral failings. But things were otherwise in pagan antiquity, not only in Homer (where a certain naive praeconium sui may be thought to be in order) but also as late as Aristotle, who shocks modern readers by his characteristicallv Greek notions of the virtue of megalopsychia, and Virgil, whose hero introduces himself complacently as pius Aeneas. For Hippolytus to dwell in prayer on the uniqueness of his nature and his favored position called forth no disapproval or ironic smiling in a fifth-century audience. This is not arrogance but merely a recognition of the facts. Our own attitude in this regard is profoundly influenced by such New Testament texts as Luke 18:9-14.
Luke 18:9-14 (KJV):
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


A Scholar's Weekend: Bright Lights, Big City

Adrian Hollis, "William Spencer Barrett 1914-2001," Proceedings of the British Academy 124, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows III (2004) 25-36 (at 29-30):
Indeed the majority of Greek authors in whom he took a special interest depend to a considerable extent on ancient papyri for their text; Spencer would often go up to London at a weekend, coming back to say that he had managed to read a few more letters from a papyrus of Bacchylides or Stesichorus.
Id. (at 34):
A former pupil, not particularly academic, once lamented to him how difficult he found Pindar; Spencer's reply came out uncensored: 'Oh no, very easy.'



Euripides, Hippolytus 383-384 (tr. W.S. Barrett):
There are many pleasures in life—
long hours of talking, and idleness...

            εἰσὶ δ᾿ ἡδοναὶ πολλαὶ βίου,
μακραί τε λέσχαι καὶ σχολή...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


The Long and the Short of It

Niccolò Machiavelli, letter to Piero Soderini (January, 1513; tr. Allan Gilbert):
Your letter was short and I by rereading it made it long.


Through Error, Ignorance, and Want of Education

Robert Burton (1577-1640), Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. II, Sect. II, Mem. 4, in A.R. Shilleto's edition, vol. II (London: George Bell & Sons, 1893), pp. 105-106 (some paragraph breaks added by me):
1King James, 1605, when he came to see our University of Oxford, and amongst other edifices now went to view that famous Library, renewed by Sr. Thomas Bodley, in imitation of Alexander, at his departure brake out into that noble speech, If I were not a king, I would be a university man: 2and if it were so that I must be a prisoner, if I might have my wish, I would desire to have no other prison than that library, and to be chained together with so many good authors et mortuis magistris.

So sweet is the delight of study, the more learning they have (as he that hath a Dropsy, the more he drinks the thirstier he is) the more they covet to learn, and the last day is [the pupil of the former;] prioris discipulus;3 harsh at first learning is, radices amarae, but fructus dulces, according to that of Isocrates,4 pleasant at last; the longer they live, the more they are enamoured with the Muses.

Heinsius, the keeper of the Library at Leyden in Holland, was mewed up in it all the year long; and that which to thy thinking should have bred a loathing, caused in him a greater liking. 5I no sooner (saith he) come into the library, but I bolt the door to me, excluding lust, ambition, avarice, and all such vices, whose nurse is idleness, the mother of ignorance, and Melancholy herself, and in the very lap of eternity, amongst so many divine souls, I take my seat, with so lofty a spirit and sweet content, that I pity all our great ones, and rich men that know not this happiness.

I am not ignorant in the meantime (notwithstanding this which I have said) how barbarously and basely,

[p. 106]

for the most part, our ruder Gentry esteem of Libraries & Books, how they neglect & contemn so great a treasure, so inestimable a benefit, as Aesop's cock did the jewel he found in the dunghill;1 and all through error, ignorance, and want of education.

And 'tis a wonder, withal, to observe how much they will vainly cast away in unnecessary expenses, quot modis pereant (saith 2Erasmus) magnatibus pecuniae, quantum absumant alea, scorta, compotationes, profectiones non necessariae, pompae, bella quaesita, ambitio, colax, morio, ludio, &c., what in hawks, hounds, lawsuits, vain building, gormandizing, drinking, sports, plays, pastimes, &c.

If a well-minded man to the Muses would sue to some of them for an Exhibition, to the farther maintenance or enlargement of such a work, be it College, Lecture, Library, or whatsoever else may tend to the Advancement of Learning, they are so unwilling, so averse, that they had rather see these which are already, with such cost and care erected, utterly ruined, demolished or otherwise employed; for they repine many and grudge at such gifts and revenues so bestowed: and therefore it were in vain, as Erasmus well notes, vel ab his, vel a negotiatoribus qui se Mammonae dediderunt, improbum fortasse tale officium exigere, to solicit or ask any thing of such men that are likely damn'd to riches; to this purpose. For my part I pity these men, stultos jubeo esse libenter, [I] let them go as they are, in the catalogue of Ignoramus.

How much, on the other side, are all we bound that are Scholars, to those munificent Ptolemies, bountiful Maecenases, heroical Patrons, divine spirits
3qui nobis haec otia fecerunt, Namque erit ille mihi semper Deus—

[Who gave me all this comfort, in my eyes
Will ever be a God.]
that have provided for us so many well-furnished Libraries, as well as in our publick Academies in most Cities, as in our private Colleges!

1 Isaac Wake, Musae Regnantes.

2 Si unquam mihi in fatis sit ut captivus ducar, si mihi daretur optio, hoc cuperem carcere concludi, his catenis illigari, cum hisce captivis concatenatus aetatem agere.

[3 Publius Syrus, Discipulus est prioris posterior dies.]

[4 Ad Demonicum, §§ 18, 33.]

5 Epist. Primerio. Plerumque in qua simul ac pedem posui, foribus pessulum obdo; ambitionem autem, amorem, libidinem, etc. excludo, quorum parens est ignavia, imperitia nutrix; et in ipso aeternitatis gremio, inter tot illustres animas sedem mihi sumo, cum ingenti quidem animo, ut subinde magnatum me misereat, qui felicitatem hanc ignorant.

[p. 106]

[1 Phaedr. Fab. iii.12.]

2 Chil. 2. Cent. 1. Adag. 1.

3 Virg. Eclog. i.[6, 7.]
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, in an email drawing my attention to the closing of the James J. Hill Library in St. Paul, Minnesota. Eric adds:
James J. Hill must be numbered among the "munificent Ptolemies, bountiful Maecenases, heroical Patrons". What a shame to see their legacy squandered. Closing libraries has long been the chief pastime of City Councillors in the UK. These villains are the "ruder gentry" de nos jours.
He also points out that "stultos jubeo esse libenter" is an echo of Horace, Satires 1.1.63-64 (iubeas miserum esse, libenter / quatenus id facit).

Monday, June 17, 2019


Adam to God

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), "Adam the First" (tr. Peter Branscombe):
You sent the divine gendarme with his flaming sword and chased me out of Paradise entirely without justice and mercy!

I'm making my way with my wife towards other lands; but you can't alter the fact that I have enjoyed the fruit of Knowledge.

You can't alter the fact that I know how small and insignificant you are, however important you make yourself out to be with death and thunder.

O God! How pitiful this Consilium abeundi is! That's what I call a real Magnificus of the world, a Lumen mundi!

I shall certainly never miss the realms of Paradise; it wasn't a true Paradise — there were forbidden trees there.

I want my full rights of freedom! If I find the slightest restriction, Paradise turns into a hell and prison for me.

Du schicktest mit dem Flammenschwert
Den himmlischen Gendarmen,
Und jagtest mich aus dem Paradies,
Ganz ohne Recht und Erbarmen!

Ich ziehe fort mit meiner Frau
Nach andren Erdenländern;
Doch daß ich genossen des Wissens Frucht,
Das kannst du nicht mehr ändern.

Du kannst nicht ändern, daß ich weiß,
Wie sehr du klein und nichtig,
Und machst du dich auch noch so sehr
Durch Tod und Donnern wichtig.

O Gott! wie erbärmlich ist doch dies
Consilium abeundi!
Das nenne ich ein Magnifikus
Der Welt, ein Lumen Mundi!

Vermissen werde ich nimmermehr
Die paradiesischen Räume;
Das war kein wahres Paradies —
Es gab dort verbotene Bäume.

Ich will mein volles Freiheitsrecht!
Find ich die gringste Beschränknis,
Verwandelt sich mir das Paradies
In Hölle und Gefängnis.
On the consilium abeundi, see Jeffrey L. Sammons, Heinrich Heine: A Modern Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 73-74 (note omitted):
It was just at this time that Heine created the tangle that emancipated him from Göttingen for a while. He got into an argument with a student named Wiebel and challenged him to a duel in early December....In any case, the duel with Wiebel did not come off. The authorities got wind of it, and Heine and Wiebel were confined to their rooms. A series of sessions before the academic court followed, during which Heine extracted a half-hearted apology from Wiebel. There the matter seemed to have rested at the end of the year, but in January 1821 Heine received the consilium abeundi, the "advice to leave," for half a year; Wiebel was also rusticated and given two weeks in the student prison to boot.
Thanks to Alan Crease and Kenneth Haynes for help with this post.


The Destruction of Linguistic Subtleties

Alexander McCall Smith, Portuguese Irregular Verbs (New York: Anchor Books, 2005), p. 36:
The crudities of the modern world were simplifying or even destroying linguistic subtleties. Irregular verbs were becoming regular, the imperfect subjunctive was becoming the present subjunctive or, more frequently, disappearing altogether. Where previously there might have been four adjectives to describe a favoured hill, or the scent of new-mown hay, or the action of threading the warp of a loom, now there would only be one, or none. And as we lost the words, von Igelfeld thought, we lost the texture of the world that went with them.
Id., p. 99:
Von Igelfeld sat down in the reception room and picked up the first magazine he saw on the table before him. He paged through it, noticing the pictures of food and clothes. How strange, he thought — what sort of Zeitschrift is this? Do people really read about these matters? He turned a page and began to read something called the Timely Help column. Readers wrote in and asked advice over their problems. Von Igelfeld's eyes opened wide. Did people discuss such things in open print? How could anybody talk about things like that? He read a letter from a woman in Hamburg which quite took his breath away. Why did she marry him in the first place, if she knew that was what he was like? Such men should be in prison, thought von Igelfeld, although that was not what the readers' adviser suggested. She said that the woman should try to talk to her husband and persuade him to change his ways. Well! thought von Igelfeld. If I wrote that column I would give very different advice. In fact, I should pass such letters over to the police without delay.
Id., pp. 114-115:
In San Giovanni Cristotomo von Igelfeld was virtually by himself. He sat on a chair near a confessional, gazing up at the ceiling, letting the stress of the city drain out of his limbs. The sun filtered in through a high window, a dusty yellow shaft, the colour of butter. Von Igelfeld closed his eyes and thought: I'm in a house of God, but who is he? Where is he, this person he had always addressed as God but who had never spoken back to him, ever. He was not sure about the existence of God, but he had always been convinced that if he did exist, he would be the God of Mediterranean Christianity, not the cold, hard God of the Northern churches. But that, perhaps, was to draw too much comfort; he might even turn out to be the God of the quantum physicists, a final point implosion, or perhaps just a single particle, a tiny event. That would be terribly disappointing — if God were to prove to be an electron.


An Epicurean

Geoffrey Chaucer, "General Prologue," Canterbury Tales I.335-338 (describing the Franklin):
To liven in delit was evere his wone,
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that plein delit
Was verray felicitee parfite.
This hardly needs translation, but nevertheless here is Nevill Coghill's modern English version:
He lived for pleasure and had always done,
For he was Epicurus' very son,
In whose opinion sensual delight
Was the one true felicity in sight.
On Chaucer's description of the Franklin see Jill Mann, Chaucer and Mediaeval Estates Satire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973; rpt. 1987), pp. 152-159 (esp. 156-157), and Peter Coss, "The Franklin," in Stephen H. Rigby, ed., Historians on Chaucer: The 'General Prologue' to the Canterbury Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 227-246.

Sunday, June 16, 2019



Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (2015; rpt. London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019), p. 29 (footnote omitted):
The common law is only one example of an enduring tradition that lives in itself whether or not also for itself. Other examples include the liturgy of the Catholic communions, diatonic tonality in music, the symphony orchestra and the brass band, the pas de Basque in formation dances, the two-piece suit and tie, the offices of Parliament, the crown, the knife and fork, sauce béarnaise, greetings such as Grüß Gott and sabah an-noor, grace before meals, manners, honour in peace and in war. Some of those traditions are trivial; some are absolutely foundational to the community in which they occur; and all are dynamic, changing over time in response to the changed circumstances of those attached to them, so as to hold communities together in the face of internal and external threat.



Montesquieu (1689-1755), Pensées et fragments inédits, Tome II (Bordeaux: Imprimerie de G. Gounouilhou, 1901), p. 39:
Je suis naturellement curieux de tous les fragments des ouvrages des anciens auteurs; comme, sur les rivages, on aime à trouver les débris des naufrages que la mer a laissés.
Translated by Henry C. Clark:
I am naturally curious about all fragments from the works of ancient authors, just as one likes to find the debris from shipwrecks that the sea has left on the beach.


Keep Quiet

Aeschylus, Persians. Seven Against Thebes. Suppliants. Prometheus Bound. Edited and Translated by Alan H. Sommerstein (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008 = Loeb Classical Library, 145), pp. 480-481 (Prometheus Bound 344):
ἀλλ᾽ ἡσύχαζε σαυτὸν ἐκποδὼν ἔχειν·

Keep quiet, and keep yourself out of harm's way.
That can't be right, I said to myself, and sure enough ἔχειν is a mistake for ἔχων. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library (screen capture):

I see no variants or conjectures for this line in M.L. West's Teubner edition of Aeschylus or in Denys Page's edition in the Oxford Classical Texts series.


Saturday, June 15, 2019


Prayer for the City

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 626-630 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Gods, hear our just prayers and fulfil them, that the city may have good fortune! Turn aside the evils suffered in war onto those who invade our land! May Zeus strike them with his thunderbolt outside the walls and slay them!

κλύοντες θεοὶ δικαίας λιτὰς
ἁμετέρας τελεῖθ᾽, ὡς πόλις εὐτυχῇ,
δορίπονα κάκ᾽ ἐκτρέποντες ἐς γᾶς
ἐπιμόλους· πύργων δ᾽ ἔκτοθεν
βαλὼν Ζεύς σφε κάνοι κεραυνῷ.

Friday, June 14, 2019


The Dignified Demeanor of a Head of State

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 7.7 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
Pericles, however, took care not to make himself too familiar a figure, even to the people, and he only addressed them at long intervals. He did not choose to speak on every question, but reserved himself, as Critolaus says, like the state galley, the Salamina, for great occasions, and allowed his friends and other public speakers to deal with less important matters.

ὁ δὲ καὶ τῷ δήμῳ τὸ συνεχὲς φεύγων καὶ τὸν κόρον οἷον ἐκ διαλειμμάτων ἐπλησίαζεν, οὐκ ἐπὶ παντὶ πράγματι λέγων, οὐδ᾿ ἀεὶ παριὼν εἰς τὸ πλῆθος, ἀλλ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ὥσπερ τὴν Σαλαμινίαν τριήρη, φησὶ Κριτόλαος, πρὸς τὰς μεγάλας χρείας ἐπιδιδούς, τἆλλα δὲ φίλους καὶ ῥήτορας ἑτέρους καθιεὶς ἔπραττεν.

τῷ δήμῳ Sauppe: τοῦ δήμου codd.
Id. 8.6-7:
The truth is, however, that even Pericles was extremely cautious in his use of words, so much so that whenever he rose to speak, he uttered a prayer that no word might escape his lips which was unsuited to the matter in hand. He left nothing behind him in writing except for the decrees he proposed, and only a very few of his sayings have been handed down.

οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Περικλῆς περὶ τὸν λόγον εὐλαβὴς ἦν, ὥστ᾿ ἀεὶ πρὸς τὸ βῆμα βαδίζων εὔχετο τοῖς θεοῖς μηδὲ ῥῆμα μηδὲν ἐκπεσεῖν ἄκοντος αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὴν προκειμένην χρείαν ἀνάρμοστον. ἔγγραφον μὲν οὖν οὐδὲν ἀπολέλοιπε πλὴν τῶν ψηφισμάτων· ἀπομνημονεύεται δ᾿ ὀλίγα παντάπασιν.


Death as an Archer

I found this song in Der Zupfgeigenhansl. Herausgegeben von Hans Breuer unter Mitwirkung vieler Wandervögel, 23. Aufl. (Leipzig: Verlag Friedrich Hofmeister, 1915), p. 105:
Der grimmig Tod mit seinem Pfeil
tut nach dem Leben zielen.
Sein Bogen schießt er ab mit Eil
und läßt mit sich nicht spielen.
Das Leben schwindt wie Rauch im Wind,
kein Fleisch mag ihm entrinnen,
kein Gut noch Schatz findt bei ihm Platz:
du mußt mit ihm von hinnen!

Kein Mensch auf Erd uns sagen kann,
wann wir von hinnen müssen;
wann kommt der Tod und klopfet an,
so muss man ihm aufschließen.
Er nimmt mit Gwalt hin Jung und Alt,
tut sich vor niemand scheuen.
Des Königs Stab bricht er bald ab
und führt ihn an den Reihen.

Vielleicht ist heut der letzte Tag,
den du noch hast zu leben.
O Mensch, veracht nicht, was ich sag:
nach Tugend sollst du streben!
Wie mancher Mann wird müssen dran,
so hofft noch viel der Jahren,
und muss doch heint, weil d Sonne scheint,
zur Höll hinunter fahren.

Der dieses Liedle hat gemacht,
von neuem hat gesungen,
der hat gar oft den Tod betracht
und letztlich mit ihm grungen.
Liegt jetzt im Hohl, es tut ihm wohl,
tief in der Erd verborgen.
Sieh auf dein Sach, du mußt hernach,
es sei heut oder morgen.
There is an English translation here.

On "tut nach dem Leben zielen" see Herbert Penzl, review of Emil Weiss, Tun: Machen. Bezeichnungen für die kausative und die periphrastische Funktion im Deutschen bis um 1400 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1956), in Journal of English and Germanic Philology 56.2 (April 1957) 317-318 (at 318);
In the MHG period the causative construction of tuon plus infinitive, frequent in OHG and in texts influenced by Latin in the EMHG period, is shared by all dialects in epic and lyric poetry; it decreases in frequency in the fourteenth century. This is the time when the periphrastic use of tuon plus infinitive becomes common: er tut sprechen 'er spricht.'
Cf. "thut spannen sein Bogen" in these lines, also on Death as an archer, from a 17th century publication quoted by Ludwig Erk, Deutscher Liederhort, Bd. 3 (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1894), p. 850:
Der alte Schütz, der Tod genannt,
Von Gott in d' Welt gesandt,
Thut spannen sein Bogen:
Hat er angezogen,
Bald wird er abschiessen,
All Vögel dran müssen,
Hüt dich, schons Vögelein!
[Update: Thanks to Kenneth Haynes for drawing my attention to Nils Langer, Linguistic Purism in Action: How Auxiliary 'Tun' Was Stigmatized in Early New High German (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2001).]

Of course the image of the arrows of death is a very old one, dating back to Homer, Iliad 1.43-52 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
So he spoke in prayer, and Phoibos Apollo heard him,
and strode down along the pinnacles of Olympos, angered
in his heart, carrying across his shoulders the bow and the hooded
quiver; and the shafts clashed on the shoulders of the god walking
angrily. He came as night comes down and knelt then
apart and opposite the ships and let go an arrow.
Terrible was the clash that rose from the bow of silver.
First he went after the mules and the circling hounds, then let go
a tearing arrow against the men themselves and struck them.
The corpse fires burned everywhere and did not stop burning.

Ὣς ἔφατ᾿ εὐχόμενος, τοῦ δ᾿ ἔκλυε Φοῖϐος Ἀπόλλων,
βῆ δὲ κατ᾿ Οὐλύμποιο καρήνων χωόμενος κῆρ,
τόξ᾿ ὤμοισιν ἔχων ἀμφηρεφέα τε φαρέτρην·        45
ἔκλαγξαν δ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ὀϊστοὶ ἐπ᾿ ὤμων χωομένοιο,
αὐτοῦ κινηθέντος· ὃ δ᾿ ἤϊε νυκτὶ ἐοικώς.
ἕζετ᾿ ἔπειτ᾿ ἀπάνευθε νεῶν, μετὰ δ᾿ ἰὸν ἕηκε·
δεινὴ δὲ κλαγγὴ γένετ᾿ ἀργυρέοιο βιοῖο·
οὐρῆας μὲν πρῶτον ἐπῴχετο καὶ κύνας ἀργούς,        50
αὐτὰρ ἔπειτ᾿ αὐτοῖσι βέλος ἐχεπευκὲς ἐφιεὶς
βάλλ᾿· αἰεὶ δὲ πυραὶ νεκύων καίοντο θαμειαί.

Thursday, June 13, 2019



Gorgias, Defense of Palamedes 25 (tr. John Dillon):
For it is madness to attempt actions which are impossible, disadvantageous and disgraceful.

μανία γάρ ἐστιν ἔργοις ἐπιχειρεῖν ἀδυνάτοις, ἀσυμφόροις, αἰσχροῖς.
Demosthenes, Against Meidias 69 (tr. Douglas MacDowell):
For perhaps it is madness to tackle something beyond one's ability.

μανία γὰρ ἴσως ἐστὶν ὑπὲρ δύναμίν τι ποιεῖν.



I'm reading, at a very leisurely pace, Jill Mann's edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (London: Penguin Books, 2005). She occasionally uses the term eyeskip, e.g. at p. 1065 (on the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue):
564–5 These lines are omitted in El (through eyeskip to the initial A of line 566?), but they seem authentically Chaucerian.
Eyeskip is sometimes called "saut du même au même" in manuals of textual criticism. See e.g. Louis Havet, Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1911), pp. 130-133 (§§ 441-467), and Martin L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973), pp. 24-25.

The earliest example of eye-skip in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from
1936  Stud. in Eng. (Univ. Texas) No. 16 36 As examples of eye-skips I list here unique accidental omissions of lines and passages, with an explanation as to the probable cause when any is apparent.
The reference is to Martin Michael Crow, "Unique Variants in the Paris Manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales," Studies in English 16 (July 8, 1936) 17-41 (at 36).

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


A Great Triumph

Francis Kilvert, Diary (April 7, 1870):
I had the satisfaction of managing to walk from Hay to Clyro by the fields without meeting a single person, always a great triumph to me and a subject for warm self congratulation for I have a peculiar dislike to meeting people, and a peculiar liking for a deserted road.


Give Back My Youth

Goethe, Faust I.194-197 (tr. Walter Kaufman):
Give back the passions unabated,
That deepest joy, alive with pain,
Love's power and the strength of hatred,
Give back my youth to me again.

Gib ungebändigt jene Triebe,
Das tiefe, schmerzenvolle Glück,
Des Hasses Kraft, die Macht der Liebe,
Gib meine Jugend mir zurück!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Goshen of Mediocrity

George Eliot (1819-1880), "Evangelical Teaching: Dr. Cumming," Essays and Leaves from a Note-Book (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908), pp. 125-169 (at 125):
Given, a man with moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than the average, some rhetorical affluence and great glibness of speech, what is the career in which, without the aid of birth or money, he may most easily attain power and reputation in English society? Where is that Goshen of mediocrity in which a smattering of science and learning will pass for profound instruction, where platitudes will be accepted as wisdom, bigoted narrowness as holy zeal, unctuous egoism as God-given piety? Let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation for sanctity.


An Obscure Proverb

Terence, Phormio 768, tr. Peter Brown in Terence, The Comedies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 241, with note on p. 332:
Look before you leap,* as the saying goes.

768 Look before you leap: literally, 'Don't run beyond the hut', i.e. (probably) 'Don't run so far to avoid trouble that you have no place of refuge left'.
The Latin:
ita fugias ne praeter casam, quod aiunt.
Terence, Phormio. Edited with Introduction, Notes & Vocabulary by R.H. Martin (1959; rpt. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2002), p. 153:
768. ita fugias ne praeter casam, an obscure proverb. If, as Donatus suggests, casa is tutissimum receptaculum, the meaning would be 'Run away in such a way that you don't overshoot your place of refuge', perhaps equivalent to 'Don't jump out of the frying pan into the fire'. ita . . . ne, sc. fugias (curras, uel sim.); Latin sometimes has a neg. final clause where English uses a consecutive clause, e.g. Capt. 737, atque hunc me uelle dicite ita curarier ne qui deterius huic sit quam quoi pessume est.
I don't have access to Robert Maltby's edition of Terence's Phormio (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 2012). For a discussion of various interpretations of the proverb see H.T. Karsten, De Commenti Donatiani compositione et origine (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1907), p. 135.

Paul Wessner, ed., Aeli Donati quod fertur Commentum Terenti, Vol. II (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1905), p. 473:
1 ITA FVGIAS NE PRAETER CASAM VT AIVNT ita fugito, ne praetermittas casam tuam, quae sit tibi tutissimum receptaculum. 2 Aut: ita fugias, ne praetereas casam tuam, ubi custodiri magis et prehendi fur et mulctari uerberibus potest. 3 Aut uerbum erat ipsius custodis furem exagitantis et interea prohibentis, ne ante casam transeat, ne in praetereundo etiam inde aliquid rapiat.

Monday, June 10, 2019


A Most Extraordinary Talent

Montesquieu (1689-1755), Persian Letters 80 (tr. Margaret Mauldon):
On the subject of taciturnity, there are some individuals, vastly more peculiar than the Carthusians, who possess a most extraordinary talent. I refer to those who are able to talk without saying anything, and who can drag out a conversation for two hours, without it being possible to determine anything about them or their thoughts, or to plagiarize them, or to retain one single word of what they have said.

À propos de gens taciturnes, il y en a de bien plus singuliers que ceux-là, et qui ont un talent bien extraordinaire. Ce sont ceux qui savent parler sans rien dire, et qui amusent une conversation pendant deux heures de temps, sans qu'il soit possible de les déceler, d’être leur plagiaire, ni de retenir un mot de ce qu'ils ont dit.


Freedom of Religion

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Typee, chapter 24:
For my own part, I am free to confess my almost entire inability to gratify any curiosity that may be felt with regard to the theology of the valley. I doubt whether the inhabitants themselves could do so. They are either too lazy or too sensible to worry themselves about abstract points of religious belief. While I was among them, they never held any synods or councils to settle the principles of their faith by agitating them. An unbounded liberty of conscience seemed to prevail. Those who pleased to do so were allowed to repose implicit faith in an ill-favored god with a large bottle nose and fat shapeless arms crossed upon his breast; whilst others worshipped an image which, having no likeness either in heaven or on earth, could hardly be called an idol. As the islanders always maintained a discreet reserve, with regard to my own peculiar views on religion, I thought it would be excessively ill-bred of me to pry into theirs.
Between the alternatives "too lazy or too sensible," I'd vote for "too sensible."

Sunday, June 09, 2019


Pay All Due Respect to the Gods

Pliny, Letters 8.24.2-3 (to Maximus; tr. John B. Firth):
Bear in mind that you have been sent to the province of Achaia, which is the real and genuine Greece, where the humanities, literature, and even the science of agriculture are believed to have been discovered; that your mission is to regulate the status of the free cities, or, in other words, that you will have to deal with men who are really men and free, men who have preserved the rights, given to them by nature, by their own virtues, merits, friendship, and by the ties of treaties and religious observance.

Pay all due respect to the gods and the names of the gods, whom they regard as their founders; respect their ancient glory, and just that quality of age which in a man is venerable, but in cities is hallowed. Show deference to antiquity, to glorious deeds, and even to their legends. Do not whittle away any man's dignity or liberties, or even humble anyone's self-conceit.

cogita te missum in provinciam Achaiam, illam veram et meram Graeciam, in qua primum humanitas litterae, etiam fruges inventae esse creduntur; missum ad ordinandum statum liberarum civitatum, id est ad homines maxime homines, ad liberos maxime liberos, qui ius a natura datum virtute meritis amicitia, foedere denique et religione tenuerunt.

reverere conditores deos et nomina deorum, reverere gloriam veterem et hanc ipsam senectutem, quae in homine venerabilis, in urbibus sacra. sit apud te honor antiquitati, sit ingentibus factis, sit fabulis quoque. nihil ex cuiusquam dignitate, nihil ex libertate, nihil etiam ex iactatione decerpseris.


A Minor Sub-Field

S. Douglas Olson, "Further Notes on the Critical Apparatus," Classical Journal 114.3 (2019) 330-344 (at 341):
We live in an age of highly specialized knowledge, and even within the relatively tiny discipline of classical studies, traditional philology is today, for better or for worse, a minor sub-field. That many readers of ancient Greek or Latin texts prefer to keep their distance from the critical apparatus, or at least feel no interest in creating their own personal version of every author they read, is thus not only understandable but arguably to some extent wise. In such situations, many readers opt to defer to an expert, the dirty and unsettling secret—not actually a secret at all, but generally left unspoken—being that editors also make mistakes, or take on texts they ought not to, or are on occasion simply the wrong person for the job. But the same is true of barbers, accountants and auto mechanics, and given the odds, most of us still prefer to trust such nominal experts rather than do the associated jobs ourselves.


Eternal Echos

Montesquieu (1689-1755), Pensées et fragments inédits, Tome II (Bordeaux: Imprimerie de G. Gounouilhou, 1901), p. 129:
La plupart des gens se ressemblent en ce qu'ils ne pensent point: échos éternels, qui n'ont jamais rien dit et ont toujours répété; artisans grossiers des idées des autres.
Translated by Henry C. Clark:
Most people resemble each other in that they do not think: eternal echos, who have never said anything but have always repeated; crude artisans of others' ideas.


More Deliberation Needed

Terence, Phormio. The Mother-In-Law. The Brothers. Edited and Translated by John Barsby (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001 = Loeb Classical Library, 23), pp. 62-63 (Phormio 457):
ago amplius deliberandum censeo.

I suggest that this needs further deliberation.
For ago read ego, I think (I don't have access to an up-to-date critical edition of Terence). The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.

By the way, apparently the lost Greek originals of all of Terence's comedies have been discovered, if I can judge from this book for sale on

Ah, the boundless stupidity of


Saturday, June 08, 2019


Gifts of Peace

Aristophanes, Peace 571-581 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Now, gentlemen, recall the old way of life this goddess once afforded us—those pressed figs and fresh figs, the myrtle berries, the sweet new wine, the bed of violets by the well, the olive trees that we long for—and for these now voice your thanks to this goddess.

ἀλλ᾿ ἀναμνησθέντες, ὦνδρες,
τῆς διαίτης τῆς παλαιᾶς,
ἣν παρεῖχ᾿ αὕτη ποθ᾿ ἡμῖν,
τῶν τε παλασίων ἐκείνων
τῶν τε σύκων, τῶν τε μύρτων,        575
τῆς τρυγός τε τῆς γλυκείας
τῆς ἰωνιᾶς τε τῆς πρὸς
τῷ φρέατι, τῶν τ᾿ ἐλαῶν,
ὧν ποθοῦμεν,
ἀντὶ τούτων τήνδε νυνὶ        580
τὴν θεὸν προσείπατε.
John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), Studies of the Greek Poets, 3rd ed., Vol. II (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1902), p. 171:
Those who from their recollection of southern scenery can summon up the picture, who know how cool and shady are those wells, mirroring maiden-hair in their black depth—how fragrant and dewy are the beds of tangled violets—how dreamy are the olive-trees, aerial, mistlike, robed with light, will understand the peculiar longing of these lines.
I had to look up παλασίων = παλαθίων, diminutive of παλάθη = cake of preserved fruit. Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Vol. II (Leiden: Brill, 2010), p. 1144, s.v. παλάθη, rejects the connection with πλάσσω = knead.


Animal Sacrifice

Alain (1868-1951), The Gods II.6 (Ritual; tr. Richard Pevear):
Man holds himself back. He does not eat the way animals eat; if he did he would want to be worse than they are. Nor does he kill the way animals kill. The sacrifice of an ox to Jupiter or Neptune seems absurd at first; Jupiter lives on ambrosia; and besides, after they burn the skin and fat of the animal, men eat the meat themselves. Sacrifice is less an offering than a way of killing; what is sacrificed, as it should be, is the intoxication of killing, the bath of blood and entrails, and other horrors that kill the killer. On second thought, then, we must admire, as a reasonable practice, this prelude to dinner, and this frankness in bringing butchery and cooking into the light and making them ceremonious. And it is only a device, though not entirely, to imagine that the god of politics is the witness and ordainer of these things. It is to bring civility before its extreme opposite; and civility, in this difficult situation, is always highly ornate. That is why the horns of the fatted calf are gilded, why the bands are knotted, why it is the priest or the chief who strikes the blow; and it is a bad omen if the blow does not kill cleanly. Force is caught in this trap, and is almost civilized. Next to which our hypocrisy makes us barbarians; we do not want to see the killing; all of our civility goes into the eating. However it amounts to the same thing; it is no more decent to grab your knife as if you were about to kill a stewed beef or a roasted chicken a second time. The carving of meats was a high office in the palace, not long ago; it was graceful, like the movements of a dancer.

L'homme se retient. Il ne mange pas comme les bêtes, car il voudrait alors être pire qu'elles. Il ne tue point non plus comme les bêtes. Le sacrifice d'un boeuf à Jupiter ou à Neptune est absurde à première réflexion; car Jupiter vit d'ambroisie; et, au reste, après avoir brûlé quelques poils, on mange très bien l'animal. C'est que le sacrifice est moins une offrande qu'une manière de tuer; et ce qui est sacrifié, comme il convient, c'est l'ivresse de tuer, le bain de sang et d'entrailles, et autres horreurs qui tuent le tueur. Par meilleure réflexion il faut donc admirer au contraire, comme une pratique de raison, ce prélude du repas, et cette franchise d'amener au jour la boucherie et la cuisine, et de les faire cérémonieusement. Et ce n'est qu'artifice, non pas tout à fait artifice, si l'on imagine que le dieu politique est le témoin et l'ordonnateur de ces choses. C'est porter la politesse jusqu'à son extrême contraire; et la politesse, en cette situation difficile, est toujours très ornée. C'est pourquoi les cornes de la génisse sont dorées, pourquoi les bandelettes sont nouées, pourquoi c'est le prêtre ou le chef qui porte le coup; et c'est mauvais présage si le coup ne tue pas net. La force est prise à ce piège, et civilisée au plus près. Nous sommes barbares à côté, par hypocrisie; nous ne voulons pas voir tuer; nous mettons toute notre politesse dans le manger. Toutefois elle est encore la même; car il n'est pas séant d'empoigner son couteau comme pour tuer encore une fois le bœuf en daube ou le poulet rôti. Découper les viandes était un haut emploi du palais, il n'y a pas longtemps; et c'est encore un geste de danseur.
I wonder if politique here might mean politic, sensible, judicious, rather than political.

Horace promised the blood of a goat to his spring. At first the mind dreams wildly at the thought of water being so profaned, but that road leads nowhere. It is necessary first of all to quiet our misanthropy; then the purpose becomes clear, which is that a serum of blood is one way of filtering water.

Horace promet à sa fontaine le sang d'un chevreau. L'esprit rêve d'abord follement devant cette eau profanée; mais ce chemin ne mène nulle part. Il faut premièrement apaiser la misanthropie; alors l'idée se montre, qui est que le sérum du sang est un moyen de filtrer l'eau.

Friday, June 07, 2019


Three Libertines Converse

Thomas Shadwell (1642-1692), The Libertine, I.i.1-38:
Thus far without a bound we have enjoyed
Our prosp'rous pleasures, which dull fools call sins;
Laughed at old feeble judges and weak laws;
And at the fond, fantastic thing called conscience,
Which serves for nothing but to make men cowards;        5
An idle fear of future misery,
And is yet worse than all that we can fear.

Conscience made up of dark and horrid thoughts,
Raised from the fumes of a distempered spleen.

A senseless fear, would make us contradict        10
The only certain guide, infallible nature;
And, at the call of melancholy fools,
Who style all actions which they like not, sins,
To silence all our natural appetites.

Yet those conscientious fools that would persuade us         15
To I know not what, which they call piety,
Have in reserve private, delicious sins,
Great as the happy libertine enjoys,
With which, in corners, wantonly they roll.

Don John, thou art our oracle; thou hast        20
Dispelled the fumes which once clouded our brains.

By thee, we have got loose from education,
And the dull slavery of pupillage,
Recovered all the liberty of nature;
Our own strong reason now can go alone,        25
Without the feeble props of splenetic fools,
Who contradict our common mother, nature.

Nature gave us our senses, which we please,
Nor does our reason war against our sense.
By nature's order, sense should guide our reason,        30
Since to the mind all objects sense conveys.
But fools for shadows lose substantial pleasures,
For idle tales abandon true delight,
And solid joys of days for empty dreams at night.
Away, thou foolish thing, thou cholic of the mind,        35
Thou worm by ill-digesting stomachs bred.
In spite of thee, we'll surfeit in delights,
And never think ought can be ill that's pleasant.


Where Honor Is Due

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Past and Present, Book III, Chapter 5 (The English):
As for me, I honour, in these loud-babbling days, all the Silent rather.
Bull is a born Conservative; for this too I inexpressibly honour him. All great Peoples are conservative; slow to believe in novelties; patient of much error in actualities; deeply and forever certain of the greatness that is in Law, in Custom once solemnly established, and now long recognised as just and final.



Montesquieu (1689-1755), "Pensées diverses," in his Oeuvres complètes, ed. Édouard Laboulaye, Tome VII (Paris: Garnier, 1879), pp. 149-181 (at 151):
L'étude a été pour moi le souverain remède contre les dégoûts de la vie, n'ayant jamais eu de chagrin qu'une heure de lecture n'ait dissipé.
Translated by Henry C. Clark:
Study has always been for me the sovereign remedy against life's unpleasantness, since I have never experienced any sorrow that an hour's reading did not eliminate.

Thursday, June 06, 2019


A Keen Nose

Goethe, Faust I.2817-2820 (tr. Walter Kaufman):
She has a nose to smell things out—
In prayerbooks she keeps her snout—
A whiff of anything makes plain
Whether it's holy or profane.

Die Frau hat gar einen feinen Geruch,
Schnuffelt immer im Gebetbuch
Und riecht's einem jeden Möbel an,
Ob das Ding heilig ist oder profan.



Augustine, Letters 143.2 (to Marcellinus; tr. J.G. Cunningham):
I freely confess, accordingly, that I endeavour to be one of those who write because they have made some progress, and who, by means of writing, make further progress. If, therefore, through inadvertence or want of knowledge, anything has been stated by me which may with good reason be condemned, not only by others who are able to discover this, but also by myself (for if I am making progress, I ought, at least after it has been pointed out, to see it), such a mistake is not to be regarded with surprise or grief, but rather forgiven, and made the occasion of congratulating me, not, of course, on having erred, but on having renounced an error.

ego proinde fateor me ex eorum numero esse conari, qui proficiendo scribunt et scribendo proficiunt. unde si aliquid vel incautius vel indoctius a me positum est, quod non solum ab aliis, qui videre id possunt, merito reprehendatur verum etiam a me ipso, quia et ego saltem postea videre debeo, si proficio. nec mirandum est nec dolendum sed potius ignoscendum atque gratulandum, non quia erratum est, sed quia inprobatum.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019


Two Sides

Niccolò Machiavelli, letter to Ricciardo Bechi (March 9, 1498; on Savonarola; tr. Allan Gilbert):
And having given this short discourse, he indicated two companies: one which serves under God, namely, himself and his followers; the other under the Devil, namely, his opponents.

E, fatto questo breve discorso, fece due stiere: l'una che militava sotto Iddio, e questa era lui e sua seguaci; 1'altra sotto il diavolo, che erano gli avversari.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019


The Pleasure of Being a Latinist

Alain (1868-1951), Alain on Happiness, tr. Robert D. and Jane E. Cottrell (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1973), p. 130:
The more one knows, the more one is capable of learning. Hence the pleasure of being a Latinist, which does not diminish, but rather increases with progress.

Plus on sait, et plus on est capable d'apprendre. D'où le plaisir d'être latiniste, qui n'a point de fin, mais qui plutôt s'augmente par le progrès.


Tempus Fugit

Geoffrey Chaucer, "Clerk's Tale," Canterbury Tales IV.116-126 (tr. Nevill Coghill):
Your wisdom, ponder carefully and see
How variously days pass; the seasons flee
Away in sleeping, waking, roaming, riding.
Time passes on and there is no abiding.
Still in the flower of your youth's delights
Age creeps upon you, silent as a stone.
Death menaces all ages and he smites
The high and low, the known and the unknown;
We see for certain, are obliged to own
That we must die, but we are ignorant all
Of when the hour's to come, the blow to fall.

And thenketh, lord, among youre thoghtes wise
How that oure dayes passe in sondry wise;
For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ride,
Ay fleeth the time; it nil no man abide.
And thogh youre grene youthe floure as yit,        120
In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon.
And deth manaceth every age, and smit
In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon.
And also certein as we knowe echon
That we shul die, as uncertein we alle        125
Been of that day whan deth shal on us falle.
Petrarch, Epistolae Seniles XVII.3 (to Boccaccio), tr. Thomas Farrell in Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales, edd. Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, Vol. I (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002), pp. 112-113:
The rapid days fly by, and even in the flower of your youth, silent and relentless age always stalks that flower: death is near at any age. No one is exempt from this duty; all must die. And while so much is certain, no one knows when death shall come.

Volant enim dies rapidi, et quamquam florida sis etate, continue tamen hunc florem tacite [senectus] ingreditur, morsque ipsa omni proxima est etati. Nulli muneris huius immunitas datur, eque omnibus moriendum est; utque id certum, sic est illud ambiguum quando eveniat.

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