Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Out of the Mouth of Babes and Sucklings

Boswell's Edinburgh Journals 1767-1786, ed. Hugh M. Milne (Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 2001), p. 355 (December 19, 1779):
It was a very wet day. So I stayed at home and made the children say divine lessons. In the afternoon I read one of Mr Carr's sermons aloud, and my wife another. At night after we were in bed, Veronica spoke out from her little bed and said, "I do not believe there is a GOD." "Preserve me," said I, "my dear, what do you mean?" She answered, "I have thinket it many a time, but did not like to speak of it." I was confounded and uneasy, and tried her with the simple argument that without GOD there would not be all the things we see. "It was HE who makes the sun shine." Said she: "It shines only on good days." Said I: "GOD made you." Said she: "My mother bore me." It was a strange and alarming thing to her mother and me to hear our little angel talk thus.
Veronica was six years old at the time.

Related posts:
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Epitaph of Gorgos

Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), p. 180 (note omitted):
At Claros itself, no texts of Apollo's oracles have been found. We know, however, that there was a record office, and in the burial ground of nearby Notium, we have the epitaph of one Gorgos, honouring him as "elderly and very bookish" and referring to him "culling" the "page of the singers." The text, datable c. 150-110 B.C., has been well explained as a tribute to a prophet at Claros who had gathered up the "pages" of previous oracular poets at the shrine.
Epitaph on a cenotaph for Gorgos (2nd century B.C., from Notion in Asia Minor), tr. Paola Ceccarelli, "Gorgos of Kolophon (17)," in Brill's New Jacoby, 2nd ed.:
He, the old keeper who gathered a work
Of many books from all the narratives of the poets,
He who loved wisdom, the noble-minded Gorgos,
He who served by the tripods of the Klarian son of Leto,
The earth of Kekrops holds him now in her lap; but because
Of his piety, when he died he went to the land of the pious.
Simplified Greek text:
Τὸν πάσης πολύβυβλον ἀφ᾽ ἱστορίης µελεδωνὸν
    πρέσβυν ἀοιδοπόλων δρεψάµενον σελίδα,
τὸν σοφίην στέρξαντα νόῳ µεγαλόφρονα Γοργόν,
    τὸν Κλαρίου τριπόδων Λητοίδεω θέραπα
Κεκροπὶς ἐν κόλποις κρύπτει κόνις· εὐσεβίης δὲ
    εἵνεκεν εὐσεβέων χῶρον ἔβη φθίµενος.
Ceccarelli's commentary on the inscription is superb. Here are a few elementary notes for my own use on vocabulary:

πολύβυβλον = πολύβιβλον, of many books; some regard this adjective as modifying Gorgos (Γοργόν, line 3), not page (σελίδα, line 2)

µελεδωνὸν = keeper, guardian

ἀοιδοπόλων = genitive plural of ἀοιδοπόλος, one busied with song, i.e. poet

θέραπα = accusative of θέραψ = θεράπων

I learned about the inscription from Ramsay MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), p. 11, who partially translates:
...the man of many books, guardian of all research, who picks out the ancient page of the poets; lover of wisdom, Gorgos mighty in mind, the servant of the tripod in Apollonian Claros...
There is a good overview of Apollo's oracle at Claros in Matthew Dillon, Omens and Oracles: Divination in Ancient Greece (London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 340-345.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


You Must Say the Word

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Provincial Letters I (tr. Thomas M'Crie):
"In short, fathers, tell me, I entreat you, for the last time, what is necessary to be believed in order to be a good Catholic?"

"You must say," they all vociferated simultaneously, "that all the righteous have the proximate power, abstracting from it all sense — from the sense of the Thomists and the sense of other divines."

"That is to say," I replied, in taking leave of them, "that I must pronounce that word to avoid being the heretic of a name. For, pray, is this a Scripture word?" "No," said they. "Is it a word of the Fathers, the Councils, or the Popes?" "No." "Is the word, then, used by St. Thomas?" "No." "What necessity, therefore, is there for using it since it has neither the authority of others nor any sense of itself?" "You are an opinionative fellow," said they; "but you shall say it, or you shall be a heretic, and M. Arnauld into the bargain; for we are the majority, and, should it be necessary, we can bring a sufficient number of Cordeliers into the field to carry the day."

Enfin, mes Pères, dites-moi, je vous prie, pour la dernière fois, ce qu'il faut que je croie pour être Catholique.

Il faut, me dirent-ils tous ensemble, dire que tous les justes ont le pouvoir prochain, en faisant abstraction de tout sens: abstrahendo a sensu Thomistarum, et a sensu aliorum theologorum.

C'est-à-dire, leur dis-je en les quittant, qu'il faut prononcer ce mot des lèvres, de peur d'être hérétique de nom. Car est-ce que ce mot est de l'Ecriture? Non, me dirent-ils. Est-il donc des Pères, ou des Conciles, ou des Papes? Non. Est-il donc de saint Thomas? Non. Quelle nécessité y a-t-il donc de le dire, puisqu'il n'a ni autorité, ni aucun sens de lui-même? Vous êtes opiniâtre, me dirent-ils: vous le direz, ou vous serez hérétique, et M. Arnauld aussi, car nous sommes le plus grand nombre; et, s'il est besoin, nous ferons venir tant de Cordeliers que nous l'emporterons.


Escape from the Present

Petrarch, Letter to Posterity (tr. James Harvey Robinson):
Among the many subjects which have interested me, I have dwelt especially upon antiquity, for our own age has always repelled me, so that, had it not been for the love of those dear to me, I should have preferred to have been born in any other period than our own. In order to forget my own time I have constantly striven to place myself in spirit in other ages.

Incubui unice, inter multa, ad notitiam vetustatis, quoniam michi semper etas ista displicuit; ut, nisi me amor carorum in diversum traheret, qualibet etate natus optaverim, et hanc oblivisci, nisus animo me aliis semper inserere.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


The Lowly and the Lofty

[Seneca,] Octavia 896-898 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
Oh, blessed poverty, content to hide beneath a lowly roof, while lofty homes the storm-blasts oft-times shatter, or fortune overthrows.

Bene paupertas humili tecto
    contenta latet:        896b
quatiunt altas saepe procellae
aut evertit Fortuna domos.
Rolando Ferri, commentary ad loc.:
The sentiment that the humble life of simple folk is less exposed to danger than the pride of kings is commonplace in tragedy, and is the traditional wisdom of the chorus. In Senecan tragedy this topos occurs in Hf. 197–201; Phae. 1123–40; Agam. 57–107; Oed. 882–910; H.O. 604–99. N-H, ad Hor. Carm. 2.10.9-11, saepius uentis agitatur ingens | pinus et celsae grauiore casu | decidunt turres, observe that saepe and similar adverbs are common in gnomic statements.

Monday, July 29, 2019


Everything Irritates Me

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 14.21.3 (May 11, 44 B.C.; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Old age is making me more cantankerous, everything irritates me.

amariorem enim me senectus facit. stomachor omnia.


One of the Furies Speaks

Merobaudes, Panegyric II, lines 90-96 (tr. Frank M. Clover):
I will drive away the customs of ancestors and the spirit of old. Let the slothful and the vigorous be praised together with no distinction, and let there be no respect for the just; let Phoebus be disregarded, and eloquence be despised and perish; let honor befall the undeserving, and let not excellence, but chance govern the balance of affairs; let harsh desire and insane lust for savage gold rage in men's hearts.

maioru)m mores et pectora prisca fugabo:        90
segnes at)que simul nullo discrimine rerum
laudentur) fortes nec sit reverentia iustis
spretaque n)eglecto pereat facundia Phoebo,
indig)nis contingat honos et pondera rerum
non virt)us, sed casus agat tristisque cupido        95
cordibus et) saevi demens furor aestuet auri.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


The Good Old Times

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), The Chimes, Chapter 1:
'What's it possible to say?' returned the gentleman. 'What is to be said? Who can take any interest in a fellow like this,' meaning Trotty; 'in such degenerate times as these? Look at him. What an object! The good old times, the grand old times, the great old times! Those were the times for a bold peasantry, and all that sort of thing. Those were the times for every sort of thing, in fact. There's nothing now-a-days. Ah!' sighed the red-faced gentleman. 'The good old times, the good old times!'

The gentleman didn't specify what particular times he alluded to; nor did he say whether he objected to the present times, from a disinterested consciousness that they had done nothing very remarkable in producing himself.

'The good old times, the good old times,' repeated the gentleman. 'What times they were! They were the only times. It's of no use talking about any other times, or discussing what the people are in these times. You don't call these, times, do you? I don't. Look into Strutt's Costumes, and see what a Porter used to be, in any of the good old English reigns.'

'He hadn't, in his very best circumstances, a shirt to his back, or a stocking to his foot; and there was scarcely a vegetable in all England for him to put into his mouth,' said Mr. Filer. 'I can prove it, by tables.'

But still the red-faced gentleman extolled the good old times, the grand old times, the great old times. No matter what anybody else said, he still went turning round and round in one set form of words concerning them; as a poor squirrel turns and turns in its revolving cage; touching the mechanism, and trick of which, it has probably quite as distinct perceptions, as ever this red-faced gentleman had of his deceased Millennium.
Mr. Filer's "tables" are statistical tables.

I see myself in the red-faced gentleman.


I Can't Stand the Sight of Them

Cicero, Letters to His Friends 2.16.2 (to Caelius Rufus; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Well then, what is this 'melancholy' project of mine? To withdraw, it may be, to some place of solitude. You must know how the unseemly behaviour of insolent upstarts irritates my spleen (you used to have a similar organ), even my eyes.

Quod est igitur meum triste consilium? ut discederem fortasse in aliquas solitudines. nosti enim non modo stomachi mei, cuius tu similem quondam habebas, sed etiam oculorum in hominum insolentium indignitate fastidium.


A Vast Difference

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Provincial Letters XI (tr. Thomas M'Crie):
Indeed, reverend sirs, there is a vast difference between laughing at religion and laughing at those who profane it by their extravagant opinions.

En vérité, mes Pères, il y a bien de la différence entre rire de la religion, et rire de ceux qui la profanent par leurs opinions extravagantes.

Friday, July 26, 2019


Crime Reduction

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 1.59 (Life of Solon; tr. R.D. Hicks):
Asked how crime could be diminished most effectively, he replied, "Make it bring about as much resentment in those who are not its victims as in those who are."

πῶς τε ἥκιστ᾿ ἂν ἀδικοῖεν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, "εἰ ὁμοίως," ἔφη, "ἄχθοιντο τοῖς ἀδικουμένοις οἱ μὴ ἀδικούμενοι."

Thursday, July 25, 2019



Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter XXXII:
[T]he princes of Constantinople measured their greatness by the servile obedience of their people. They were ignorant how much this passive disposition enervates and degrades every faculty of the mind. The subjects, who had resigned their will to the absolute commands of a master, were equally incapable of guarding their lives and fortunes against the assaults of the Barbarians, or of defending their reason from the terrors of superstition.


Some Hexameters in Heiric of Auxerre's Life of St. Germanus

In Heiric of Auxerre, Vita Sancti Germani, ed. Ludwig Traube, Poetae Latini Aevi Carolini, Tomus III = Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Poetarum Latinorum Medii Aevi Tomus III (Berlin: Weidmann, 1896), pp. 428-517, I find some examples of hexameter lines consisting entirely of words of the same kind in asyndeton.

I.117 (nouns, p. 442):
Sceptra, magistratus, tituli, praetoria, sellae
V.7 (adjectives, p. 489):
Torva ferox ventosa procax incauta rebellis
VI.313 (adjectives, p. 509):
Triste minax querulum lacrimabile prodigiosum
For similar hexameter lines in Greek and Latin see:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Rear View

Illustration from Tomaso de Jachomo Lione, Libro da razioni, in Vat. lat. 4825 (Bologna, 1430), fol. 8v:

Hat tip: Jean-Baptiste Piggin (1953-2019, RIP)



Wir Schaffen Das

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter XXVI:
As long as the same passions and interests subsist among mankind, the questions of war and peace, of justice and policy, which were debated in the councils of antiquity, will frequently present themselves as the subject of modern deliberation. But the most experienced statesman of Europe has never been summoned to consider the propriety or the danger of admitting or rejecting an innumerable multitude of Barbarians, who are driven by despair and hunger to solicit a settlement on the territories of a civilised nation.


A Curse

Seneca, Medea 20-21 (spoken by Medea about Jason; tr. John G. Fitch):
May he wander through unknown cities in want,
in exile, in fear, hated and homeless...

     per urbes erret ignotas egens
exul pavens invisus incerti laris...
A.J. Boyle ad loc.:
egens exul pauens inuisus/Needy, exiled, afraid, hated: cf. Ag. 991-2, inops egens...exul inuisa, 'Helpless, needy...exiled, hated,' applied by Aegisthus to Electra. Asyndetic lists of adjectives, nouns, and verbs are found frequently in both Senecan tragedy (see e.g. 45, 123, 207-8, 390, 395, 679 below, HF 32, 1260, Tro. 578, Pho. 34, 223, 264-5, Pha. 923, 939, Oed. 13, Ag. 45, 112, Thy. 216) and the early republican tragedians: see e.g. the list at Acc. Med. s. Arg., frag. x, 405 Klotz: exul inter hostis exspes expers desertus uagus, 'exiled among foes, hopeless, helpless, deserted, wandering'—also Enn. Alex. frag. xvii, 40 Jocelyn, Med. Ex. frag. 9, 6 Boyle (2006), Pac. Atal. frag. vii, 52 Klotz, Per. frag. xx, 301 Klotz, Acc. Eur. frag. x, 349 Klotz. Asyndetic writing is a feature of Roman literature from its inception: Livius, Od. frag. 27 Blänsdorf: uestis pulla purpurea ampla, 'a robe dark, purple, wide'; Naevius, BP frag. 37 Blänsdorf: urit uastat populatur, rem hostium concinnat, 'burns, wastes, ravages, the enemies' affairs disrupts.' For Greek precedents, see Fitch ad HF 32—to which I add Eur. Hec. 810-11 (re exile). Euripides' Medea has just two adjectives in asyndeton when describing her statelessness (Med. 255). For the curse of exile, cf. Medea's curse on Jason at Apollon. 4.385-7, Hypsipyle's on Medea at Ov. Her. 6.162 (erret inops exspes, caede cruenta sua, 'May she wander helpless, hopeless, bloodied by her murders'), and Ovid's on Ibis at Ib. 113 (exul inops erres alienaque limina lustres, 'May you wander exiled, helpless, and haunt other men's doors'). For similar asyndeton in a modern adaptation, see the description of Jason by Jeffers' Medea as 'helpless, friendless, mateless, childless' in the finale to his play (Med. Act II, p. 80).

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Keeping a Journal

E.B. White, letter to Luella Adams (November 24, 1957):
When I was young and full of beans I used to keep a diary, only I called it a "journal" to make it sound more impressive. I wrote in it so steadily and over so many years that it is eight inches thick and contains probably the world's finest collection of callow and insipid remarks.


Support and Refreshment

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 4.10.1 (April 22, 55 B.C.; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
But seriously, while all other amusements and pleasures have lost their charm because of my age and the state of the country, literature relieves and refreshes me.

sed me hercule <ut> a ceteris oblectationibus deseror et voluptat<ibus cum propter aetatem t>um propter rem publicam, sic litteris sustentor et recreor...

<ut> Corradus
<ibus cum propter aetatem t> Shackleton Bailey
Cicero, In Defense of Archias 7.16 (on the study of literature; tr. A.H. Allcroft and F.G. Plaistowe):
The other classes of enjoyment are not for every time or every age or every situation, but these pursuits are the food of youth and the charm of age; they are the ornament of prosperity, and lend a refuge and comfort to misfortune; at home they are a pleasure, abroad they are no hindrance; they are with us by night, upon our journeys, at our country seats.

nam ceterae neque temporum sunt neque aetatum omnium neque locorum: haec studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solacium praebent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur.

alunt Hervagius: acuunt Gulielmius, agunt codd.

Monday, July 22, 2019


The Mark of the Barbarian

Hugh Seton-Watson, Nations and States (London: Methuen, 1977), p. xii:
When social scientists stress the need to compare phenomena which may have points of similarity; and when historians insist on the absolute uniqueness of every historical event; I find myself agreeing with both. The either-or-ism which dogmatically rejects all comparison, or which dismisses uniqueness as unimportant, seems to me the mark of the barbarian; and barbarians are to be found within all academic 'disciplines'. Both the comparable and the unique exist; the searcher after truth must struggle always to keep them in balance, knowing that he will never be entirely successful. If this were generally accepted, we could be spared a great deal of odium academicum.


A Good Many Books

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Oliver Twist, chapter 14:
Thus encouraged, Oliver tapped at the study door. On Mr. Brownlow calling to him to come in, he found himself in a little back room, quite full of books, with a window, looking into some pleasant little gardens. There was a table drawn up before the window, at which Mr. Brownlow was seated reading. When he saw Oliver, he pushed the book away from him, and told him to come near the table, and sit down. Oliver complied; marvelling where the people could be found to read such a great number of books as seemed to be written to make the world wiser. Which is still a marvel to more experienced people than Oliver Twist, every day of their lives.

'There are a good many books, are there not, my boy?' said Mr. Brownlow, observing the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling.

'A great number, sir,' replied Oliver. 'I never saw so many.'

'You shall read them, if you behave well,' said the old gentleman kindly; 'and you will like that, better than looking at the outsides,—that is, in some cases; because there are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.'

Edward Matthew Ward, John Forster in His Library
(London, Victoria and Albert Museum, inv. no. P.74–1935)

Sunday, July 21, 2019



Hector Hugh Munro, aka Saki (1870-1916), "Reginald on Christmas Presents," Reginald (London: Methuen & Co., 1904), pp. 11-16 (at 16):
People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.


Latenter Vivendum

Adam Smith, letter to Joseph Niclas Windisch-Grätz (July 4, 1785):
I never suffer my name to appear in a Newspaper when I can hinder it, which to my sorrow, I cannot always do.
Søren Kierkegaard, The Last Years: Journals 1853-1855, tr. R.G. Smith (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 304:
Not to be recognized is my passion.

Saturday, July 20, 2019



Arnobius of Sicca, Against the Pagans 6.16 (tr. George E. McCracken):
Really, do you not see that these statues, so lifelike that they seem to breathe, whose feet and knees you touch and stroke in prayer, sometimes crumble away under dripping rain; that again they disintegrate through decay and rot; how vapors and smoke begrime and discolor them and they grow black; how neglect over a long period causes them to lose their appearance because of weathering, and they are eaten away by rust?

Yes, indeed, I say, do you not see that newts, shrews, mice, and light-shunning cockroaches place in them their nests and live at the base of the hollow parts of these your images; that hither they gather all kinds of filth and other things suited to their needs, hard bits of half-gnawed bread, bones dragged in against the future, rags, wool, bits of paper to make their nests soft, to keep their helpless young warm?

Do you not sometimes see spiders spinning cobwebs over the face of an image, and treacherous nets wherewith to entangle in their flight buzzing and impudent flies? Do you not see, finally, swallows full of filth flying around within the very domes of the temples, tossing themselves about and bedaubing now the very faces, now the mouths of the divinities, the beard, eyes, noses, and all other parts on which the outpourings of their emptied fundament falls?

ita enim non videtis spirantia haec signa, quorum plantas et genua contingitis et contrectatis orantes, modo casibus stillicidiorum labi, putredinis modo carie relaxari, ut nidoribus atque fumo suffita ac decolorata nigrescant, quemadmodum saecli longioris incuria perdant situ species et robigine convulnerentur exesa?

ita, inquam, non videtis sub istorum simulacrorum cuivis steliones sorices mures blattasque lucifugas nidamenta ponere atque habitare, spurcitias huc omnes atque alia usibus accommodata conducere, semirosi duritias panis, ossa in spem tracta, pannos lanuginem chartulas nidulorum in mollitiem sollicite, miserorum fomenta pullorum?

non in ore aliquando simulacri ab araneis ordiri retia atque insidiosos casses, quibus volatus innectere stridularum possint inpudentiumque muscarum? non hirundines denique intra ipsos aedium circumvolantes tholos iacularier stercoris plenas et modo ipsos vultus, modo numinum ora depingere, barbam oculos nasos aliasque omnis partes, in quascumque se detulerit deonerati proluvies podicis?

plenas cod.: splenas Auratus; pluvias Guyet; glebulas Karl Meiser, Studien zu Arnobius (Munich, 1908), p. 34; <pilas> plenas Cornelius Brakman, Miscella Altera (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1913), p. 31; splenia Paul Thomas, Revue de l'Instruction Publique en Belgique 56 (1913) 334; spumas Wilhelm Kroll, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 72 (1917/18) 89; glebas Karl Julius Hidén, Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae 15 (1922) 24
I haven't seen the editions of Arnobius by Concetto Marchesi or Henri Le Bonniec or Bernard Fragu.

Cf. Horace, Satires 1.8.37-38, where a statue of the god Priapus says (my translation):
But if I not telling the whole truth, may I be fouled on my head with the white turds of crows...

mentior at siquid, merdis caput inquiner albis

Friday, July 19, 2019


The Cup of Life

Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi (1741-1821), "Anecdotes," in Johnsoniana, ed. Robina Napier (London: George Bell and Sons, 1884), p. 61:
Though thus uncommonly ready both to give and take offence, Mr. Johnson had many rigid maxims concerning the necessity of continued softness and compliance of disposition: and when I once mentioned Shenstone's idea that some little quarrel among lovers, relations, and friends was useful, and contributed to their general happiness upon the whole, by making the soul feel her elastic force, and return to the beloved object with renewed delight:—"Why, what a pernicious maxim is this now," cries Johnson, "all quarrels ought to be avoided studiously, particularly conjugal ones, as no one can possibly tell where they may end; besides that lasting dislike is often the consequence of occasional disgust, and that the cup of life is surely bitter enough without squeezing in the hateful rind of resentment."



Cicero, On the Republic 2.43.69 (tr. Clinton W. Keyes):
For just as in the music of harps and flutes or in the voices of singers a certain harmony of the different tones must be preserved, the interruption or violation of which is intolerable to trained ears, and as this perfect agreement and harmony is produced by the proportionate blending of unlike tones, so also is a State made harmonious by agreement among dissimilar elements, brought about by a fair and reasonable blending together of the upper, middle, and lower classes, just as if they were musical tones. What the musicians call harmony in song is concord in a State, the strongest and best bond of permanent union in any commonwealth; and such concord can never be brought about without the aid of justice.

ut enim in fidibus aut tibiis atque ut in cantu ipso ac vocibus concentus est quidam tenendus ex distinctis sonis, quem inmutatum aut discrepantem aures eruditae ferre non possunt, isque concentus ex dissimillimarum vocum moderatione concors tamen efficitur et congruens, sic ex summis et infimis et mediis interiectis ordinibus ut sonis moderata ratione civitas consensu dissimillimorum concinit; et quae harmonia a musicis dicitur in cantu, ea est in civitate concordia, artissimum atque optimum omni in re publica vinculum incolumitatis, eaque sine iustitia nullo pacto esse potest.
"[A] Ciceronian period which is itself a picture of the balance and the harmony of the world," according to Leo Spitzer, Traditio 2 (1944) 423.


Virtues or Vices?

David Hume (1711-1776), An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Sect. IX, Part I:
Celibacy, fasting, penance, mortification, self-denial, humility, silence, solitude, and the whole train of monkish virtues; for what reason are they everywhere rejected by men of sense, but because they serve to no manner of purpose; neither advance a man's fortune in the world, nor render him a more valuable member of society; neither qualify him for the entertainment of company, nor increase his power of self-enjoyment? We observe, on the contrary, that they cross all these desirable ends; stupify the understanding and harden the heart, obscure the fancy and sour the temper. We justly, therefore, transfer them to the opposite column, and place them in the catalogue of vices; nor has any superstition force sufficient among men of the world, to pervert entirely these natural sentiments. A gloomy, hair-brained enthusiast, after his death, may have a place in the calendar; but will scarcely ever be admitted, when alive, into intimacy and society, except by those who are as delirious and dismal as himself.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Thursday, July 18, 2019



Cicero, On Invention 2.3.9 (tr. H.M. Hubbell):
But if it shall prove that I have been too rash in passing over some point in an author or have not followed him with sufficient discrimination, I shall, when someone points out my error, readily and gladly change my opinion. For disgrace lies not in imperfect knowledge but in foolish and obstinate continuance in a state of imperfect knowledge; for ignorance is attributed to the infirmity common to the human race, but obstinacy to a man's own fault.

sin autem temere aliquid alicuius praeterisse aut non satis eleganter secuti videbimur, docti ab aliquo facile et libenter sententiam commutabimus. non enim parum cognosse, sed in parum cognito stulte et diu perseverasse turpe est, propterea quod alterum communi hominum infirmitati, alterum singulari cuiusque vitio est attributum.



Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter XXXVII:
The fame of the apostles and martyrs was gradually eclipsed by these recent and popular Anachorets; the Christian world fell prostrate before their shrines; and the miracles ascribed to their relics exceeded, at least in number and duration, the spiritual exploits of their lives. But the golden legend of their lives was embellished by the artful credulity of their interested brethren; and a believing age was easily persuaded, that the slightest caprice of an Egyptian or a Syrian monk had been sufficient to interrupt the eternal laws of the universe. The favourites of Heaven were accustomed to cure inveterate diseases with a touch, a word, or a distant message; and to expel the most obstinate demons from the souls, or bodies, which they possessed. They familiarly accosted, or imperiously commanded, the lions and serpents of the desert; infused vegetation into a sapless trunk; suspended iron on the surface of the water; passed the Nile on the back of a crocodile, and refreshed themselves in a fiery furnace. These extravagant tales, which display the fiction, without the genius, of poetry, have seriously affected the reason, the faith, and the morals, of the Christians. Their credulity debased and vitiated the faculties of the mind: they corrupted the evidence of history; and superstition gradually extinguished the hostile light of philosophy and science. Every mode of religious worship which has been practised by the saints, every mysterious doctrine which they believed, was fortified by the sanction of divine revelation, and all the manly virtues were oppressed by the servile and pusillanimous reign of the monks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019



Homer, Odyssey 7.197-198 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
He shall endure all that his destiny and the heavy Spinners
spun for him with the thread at his birth, when his mother bore him.

πείσεται, ἅσσα οἱ αἶσα κατὰ κλῶθές τε βαρεῖαι
γιγνομένῳ νήσαντο λίνῳ, ὅτε μιν τέκε μήτηρ.
J.B. Hainsworth ad loc.:
On this metaphor see B.C. Dietrich, 'The Spinning of Fate in Homer', Phoenix xvi (1962), 86-101. The image is an old one and has a folkloric colour; cf. the 'Norns' of Old Norse, the 'Metten' of Anglo-Saxon, and the 'Gaschepfen' of Middle High German, who bestow skills vel sim. by their spinning at the moment of birth. But the Germanic analogues are not true figures of destiny, and the use of spinning as an image of the decrees of fate seems to be a product of the poetic tradition. The gods also issue their decrees by spinning: Il. xxiv 525, Od. i 17, iii 208, viii 579, xi 139, xx 196 (all θεοί), iv 208 (Zeus), xvi 64 (a δαίμων), though like μοῖρα they can work their will without recourse to the symbolic act. Since male gods are said to spin fate, the literal force of the image cannot be strongly felt, for spinning is a strictly feminine occupation in Homer.


My Political Principles

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Barnaby Rudge, chapter 38:
Down with everybody, down with everything!



Seneca, Thyestes 999-1000 (tr. John G. Fitch):
What is this turmoil that shakes my guts?
What trembles inside me? I feel a restless burden...

quis hic tumultus viscera exagitat mea?
quid tremuit intus? sentio impatiens onus...

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Down With the Car!

Donald Keene (1922-2019), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 83:
I think that if I could un-invent one feature of modern life, it would be the car. How wonderful Kyoto would be if there were no cars! Anyone who has spent time in Venice knows what spiritual succor comes from the quiet of a city without cars, where the only sounds are of people's footsteps. At the risk of being called a reactionary, I will shout, "Down with the car!"
Related posts:



Slow But Sure

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Barnaby Rudge, chapter 1:
It was John Willet's ordinary boast in his more placid moods that if he were slow he was sure; which assertion could, in one sense at least, be by no means gainsaid, seeing that he was in everything unquestionably the reverse of fast, and withal one of the most dogged and positive fellows in existence — always sure that what he thought or said or did was right, and holding it as a thing quite settled and ordained by the laws of nature and Providence, that anybody who said or did or thought otherwise must be inevitably and of necessity wrong.

Monday, July 15, 2019


You Cannot Read Them Too Much

William Pitt, letter to his nephew Thomas Pitt (October 12, 1751):
I rejoice to hear that you have begun Homer's Iliad, and have made so great a progress in Virgil. I hope you taste and love those authors particularly. You cannot read them too much: they are not only the two greatest poets, but they contain the finest lessons for your age to imbibe: lessons of honor, courage, disinterestedness, love of truth, command of temper, gentleness of behavior, humanity, and, in one word, virtue in its true signification. Go on, my dear nephew, and drink as deep as you can of these divine springs: the pleasure of the draught is equal, at least, to the prodigious advantages of it to the heart and morals.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Zeno and Epicurus

Silver cup from a villa at Boscoreale
(1st century B.C.; Paris, Louvre, inv. Bj 1923)

Michael Erler and Malcolm Schofield, "Epicurean ethics," in The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 642-674 (at 642):
On a goblet found in Boscoreale two philosophers are depicted as skeletons: Zeno the Stoic, and Epicurus. According to the inscription on the goblet they are engaged in discussion as to whether pleasure is the goal of all actions (telos).2 It is clear from Zeno’s attitude that he is eagerly trying to persuade Epicurus. Epicurus is depicted in a rather more casual pose. His attention is concentrated less on the person opposite him than on a piece of cake lying on a table in front of him. This scene encapsulates the popular image of the two schools in a mixture of true insight and false understanding. The contrasting attitudes of the two philosophers in fact symbolize a fundamental distinction between Stoa and Garden: Zeno’s tense bearing is appropriate as a representation of the Stoic school, whilst the casual pose suited the Epicureans. The Epicureans believed it was folly to dwell in the mind on evils which might possibly occur or have already occurred. In their view this leads to aggravation of our distress. Alleviation will result if as well as taking our minds off what troubles us (avocatio a cogitanda molestia) we give our attention to what brings pleasure (revocatio ad contemplandas voluptates) (Cic. Tusc. III.32–3). But it is equally interesting to consider the misconception of Epicurean ethics which is suggested by the scene on the goblet. Epicurus allows himself to be distracted by a piece of cake; he is thus presented as honouring physical pleasures. As if to confirm this interpretation, at his feet a piglet is depicted, reminiscent of Horace's ironic description of himself as 'a true hog of Epicurus' herd' (Hor. Ep. i.4.16).

2 Dunbabin 1986, especially 224; Zanker 1995, 200 with plate 109.
References are to Katharine M.D. Dunbabin, "Sic erimus Cuncti ... the Skeleton in Graeco-Roman Art," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 101 (1986) 185-255 (at 224-229, figs. 37-42, unavailable to me), and Paul Zanker, Die Maske des Sokrates: Das Bild des Intellektuellen in der antiken Kunst (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1995), or in the English translation by Alan Shapiro, The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995 = Sather Classical Lectures, 59), pp. 209-210 with fig. 109.

See also A. Héron de Villefosse, L'argenterie et bijoux d'or du trésor de Boscoreale: Description des pièces conservées au Musée du Louvre (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1903), pp. 41-51 (esp. pp. 47-48).

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


I Care for None of These Things

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "Gallio's Song," Complete Poems (New York: Anchor Books, 1989), pp. 542-543:
"And Gallio cared for none of these things." ACTS xviii.7

All day long to the judgment-seat
The crazed Provincials drew—
All day long at their ruler's feet
Howled for the blood of the Jew.
Insurrection with one accord
Banded itself and woke,
And Paul was about to open his mouth
When Achaia's Deputy spoke—

"Whether the God descend from above
Or the man ascend upon high,
Whether this maker of tents be Jove
Or a younger deity—
I will be no judge between your gods
And your godless bickerings.
Lictor, drive them hence with rods—
I care for none of these things!

Were it a question of lawful due
Or Caesar's rule denied,
Reason would I should bear with you
And order it well to be tried;
But this is a question of words and names
And I know the strife it brings,
I will not pass upon any your claims.
I care for none of these things.

One thing only I see most clear,
As I pray you also see.
Claudius Caesar hath set me here
Rome's Deputy to be.
It is Her peace that ye go to break—
Not mine, nor any king's.
But, touching your clamour of 'Conscience sake,'
I care for none of these things.

Whether ye rise for the sake of a creed,
Or riot in hope of spoil,
Equally will I punish the deed,
Equally check the broil;
Nowise permitting injustice at all
From whatever doctrine it springs—
But—whether ye follow Priapus or Paul,
I care for none of these things!"


Keeping a Low Profile

Seneca, Thyestes 533-534 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
Let it be mine to hide amidst the throng.

                   liceat in media mihi
latere turba.

Friday, July 12, 2019


Parsley and Swine's Snout

Robert Browning (1812-1889), "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister," second stanza:
At the meal we sit together;
    Salve tibi! I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
    Sort of season, time of year:
Not a plenteous cork crop: scarcely
    Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt;
What's the Latin name for "parsley"?

    What's the Greek name for "swine's snout"?
Richard Wear, "Further Thoughts on Browning's Spanish Cloister," Victorian Poetry 12.1 (Spring, 1974) 67-70 (at 69-70):
Lawrence's nescience is more flagrantly revealed by his question at line fifteen, "What's the Latin name for 'parsley'?" The word he seeks—petroselinum—is one a Latin speaker ought to know. Certainly Lawrence's gusto at table and his dedication to horticulture should have made him familiar with such a popular herb, and if nothing else, the Greek stem, petros (source of Peter), should stick in the mind of an educated Christian. The speaker, conscious of Lawrence's ignorance, follows the question about parsley with the contemptuous gloss: "What's the Greek name for Swine's Snout?"

The speaker's choice of words is additionally revealing. Quite probably his reference to Greek was stimulated by his knowledge of the etymology of the Latin word in question, thus emphasizing his preoccupation with intellectual trivia. Furthermore, his mention of Swine's Snout is more than just a sneer: in keeping with the botanical subject of Lawrence's question, it is a play upon the name of a common weed, the dandelion, called in Latin rostrum porcinum, or Swine's Snout. The pun redounds upon the speaker, for his is the swinish attitude, whereas Lawrence's nature is appropriately reflected in petroselinum, a useful herb the name of which evokes religious memories. On the other hand, the speaker's question does pose a real pedagogical challenge, for indeed there seems to be no Greek equivalent of either rostrum porcinum or dandelion. Even the weed's botanical name, Taraxacum, is not Greek (though it is tempting, considering the speaker's state of mind, to see a connection with ταραχή, the root of several words indicating disorder and psychological disturbance).
To the extent that I understand this, I find it unconvincing. I'd make two points. First, a Latin speaker would probably call parsley apium (Vergil, Eclogues 6.68, etc.), not the Greek borrowing petroselinum (Pliny, Natural History 20.47.118). Second, one could render swine's snout in Greek as ὑὸς ῥύγχος. Compound forms of ὗς usually start with ὑο-, e.g. ὑοβοσκός (swineherd), ὑομουσία (swine's music), ὑοπώλης (dealer in pigs), but cf. ὑοσκύαμος (henbane).

See John Sargeaunt's Latin version (with his note) in Classical Review 20.8 (November, 1906) 414-415:
Cenanti ille mihi cubat ad latus; instat ineptae,
    'Salue' cum dictumst, garrulitatis homo;
Vt contristet hiemps, aestas ut torreat, annum,
    Qua pluuia uento sole sit hora, crepat.
'Suber,' ait, 'uereor tenui ne cortice fallat;
    Horna quidem gallas uix, puto, quercus habet:
Dic, sodes, apium Graece quid dicitur?' — Ohe,
    Dic, quid hyosrhynchus dicitur Hebraice?

Swine's snout finxit poeta: hyosrhynchus, cf. hyoscyamus.

"[T]here seems to be no Greek equivalent of ... dandelion" — thanks to Joel Eidsath for bringing to my attention ἀπάπη, the Greek word for dandelion.


Genitive, Not Dative

From the Wikipedia entry for Elizabeth Johnson (died 1752) (square brackets in original):
She died at 63, and is buried in Bromley Parish Church. Her gravestone inscription says Formosae, cultae, ingeniosae, piae (in Latin: [dedicated to, or for] the beautiful, elegant, talented, dutiful).
Screen capture:

The words "dedicated to, or for" imply that the adjectives are in the dative case, which they aren't. They modify ELIZABETHÆ, which is genitive after the nominative plural Reliquiæ:

Hic conduntur Reliquiæ
Antiqua Jarvisiorum gente
Peatlingae, apud Leicestrienses, ortæ;
Formosæ, cultæ, ingeniosæ, piæ;
Uxoris, primis nuptijs, HENRICI PORTE[R],
Secundis, Samuelis Johnson
Qui multum amatam diuque defletam
Hoc lapide contexit
Obijt Londini, Mense Mart.

In Wikipedia's translation "the" is also otiose. Here is a translation of the inscription by John Wilson Croker, in his edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, new ed. (London: John Murray, 1866), p. 78:
Here are buried the remains of Elizabeth, of the ancient family of Jervis, of Peatling in Leicestershire. Beautiful, accomplished, ingenious, pious, the wife in a first marriage of Henry Porter; in a second, of Samuel Johnson: who has covered with this stone her whom he much loved and long lamented. She died in London in March, 1752 [sic, the stone says 1753].
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who also points out that "Henry Porter probably lost his <R> on the night of 16th April 1941. The church was largely flattened."


Thursday, July 11, 2019


A Most Wonderful Closet

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), The Mystery of Edwin Drood, chapter 10:
It was a most wonderful closet, worthy of Cloisterham and of Minor Canon Corner. Above it, a portrait of Handel in a flowing wig beamed down at the spectator, with a knowing air of being up to the contents of the closet, and a musical air of intending to combine all its harmonies in one delicious fugue. No common closet with a vulgar door on hinges, openable all at once, and leaving nothing to be disclosed by degrees, this rare closet had a lock in mid-air, where two perpendicular slides met; the one falling down, and the other pushing up. The upper slide, on being pulled down (leaving the lower a double mystery), revealed deep shelves of pickle-jars, jam-pots, tin canisters, spice-boxes, and agreeably outlandish vessels of blue and white, the luscious lodgings of preserved tamarinds and ginger. Every benevolent inhabitant of this retreat had his name inscribed upon his stomach. The pickles, in a uniform of rich brown double-breasted buttoned coat, and yellow or sombre drab continuations, announced their portly forms, in printed capitals, as Walnut, Gherkin, Onion, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Mixed, and other members of that noble family. The jams, as being of a less masculine temperament, and as wearing curl-papers, announced themselves in feminine calligraphy, like a soft whisper, to be Raspberry, Gooseberry, Apricot, Plum, Damson, Apple, and Peach. The scene closing on these charmers, and the lower slide ascending, oranges were revealed, attended by a mighty japanned sugar-box, to temper their acerbity if unripe. Home-made biscuits waited at the Court of these Powers, accompanied by a goodly fragment of plum-cake, and various slender ladies' fingers, to be dipped into sweet wine and kissed. Lowest of all, a compact leaden-vault enshrined the sweet wine and a stock of cordials: whence issued whispers of Seville Orange, Lemon, Almond, and Caraway-seed.


Portrait of a Man

Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen (c1500-1559),
Portrait of a man, possibly Herman van Gouda
(Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, inv. 482)

Ilja M. Veldman, review of Hendrik J. Horn, Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen, Painter of Charles V and His Conquest of Tunis: Paintings, Etchings, Drawings, Cartoons and Tapestries (Doornspijk: Davaco Publishers, 1989), in Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art 21.1/2 (1992) 96-102 (at 100):
I would go so far as to call Vermeyen one of the greatest and most audacious portraitists of his day. Far from recording his clients' features in a slavish or servile manner, Vermeyen produced highly expressive and lively character sketches, their import often enhanced by the eloquent hand gestures that are so characteristic of this artist. His satirical depiction of the Dean of the Utrecht Chapter of St Mary, Herman van Gouda (Horn, fig. A82) is a most unusual portrait for the period. Hoogewerff had already recounted that the origin of this curious work lay in a quarrel in 1544 between Herman van Gouda and his colleague Jan van Scorel, the former having made some remark that the latter deliberately misunderstood ("I no longer know cat from dog"), which supposedly accounted for the inclusion of a monkey (the Dutch for cat being kat, and for the guenon monkey, meerkat) and a dog in the portrait.7 The reader will easily fall in with Horn's view that Herman van Gouda cannot have sat for Vermeyen; indeed, the painter would appear to have had a hearty dislike for his subject.

7 G.J. Hoogewerff, De Noord-Nederlandsche schilderkunst, vol. 4, The Hague 1941, pp. 269-70.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019



Seneca, Hercules Furens 27-29 (Juno speaking; tr. Emily Wilson):
My hate will never end; my passionate heart
will whip up everlasting anger; wild resentment
will drive out peace and wage eternal war.

non sic abibunt odia: vivaces aget
violentus iras animus, et saevus dolor
aeterna bella pace sublata geret.


Canned Answer to the Question How Are You?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), The Mystery of Edwin Drood, chapter 14:
I feel that I have been out of sorts, gloomy, bilious, brain-oppressed....I am a muddy, solitary, moping weed.


Newman's Ancient Sage

Dear Mike,

I’d say there’s some special pleading when Newman quotes “the maxim of the ancient sage” in support of his gentlemanly ideal to "conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.” Newman seems to be referring to Bias of Priene, one of the traditional seven sages of Greece. In a widely circulated maxim, Bias advised the opposite of what Newman said, namely to love our friends as though we will hate them in the future (φιλεῖν ὡς μισήσοντας, Diogenes Laertius, Bias 1.5 [87]). (From the context, I don’t think it’s likely that Newman had Pythagoras in mind, who advised his disciples to deal with each other so that they did not turn friends into enemies but enemies into friends, ἀλλήλοις θ᾽ ὁμιλεῖν, ὡς τοὺς μὲν φίλους ἐχθροὺς μὴ ποιῆσαι, τοὺς δ᾽ ἐχθροὺς φίλους ἐργάσασθαι, DL Pythagoras 8.1 [23].)

Aristotle cites Bias’ saying as true of old men, who love as though they are going to hate, and hate as though they are going to love: καὶ φιλοῦσιν ὡς μισήσοντες καὶ μισοῦσιν ὡς φιλήσοντες (Rhet. 1389b24-25). Scipio in Cicero’s De amicitia (16.59) was appalled by the sentiment and refused to believe Bias could have said such a thing. Aulus Gellius quotes it as a saying of Publilius Syrus (NA 17.14): ita amicum habeas posse ut facile fieri hunc inimicum putes.

David Konstan, Friendship in the Classical World (1997), p. 55 n. 3 cites a number of Greek instances of the saying. His conclusion — “Although the Greeks placed a high value on loyalty to friends, they recognized the relationship is mutable” — is far from Newman's love-your-enemy version of Greek wisdom.

Jebb, in an appendix to his Ajax commentary, has a nice note on the fortunes of Bias’ “famous maxim” in Bacon, Montaigne, and La Bruyère.

Ken [Haynes]

Tuesday, July 09, 2019


Drunkard's Song

Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 5263-5270 (tr. David Luke):
Now I'll have a jolly day,
Nothing getting in my way!
Look at what I've brought along:
High good cheer, a merry song.
So I'll drink! I'm drinking, drinking:
Come, drink with me, clink-a-clinking!
You back there, come join the fun!
Lift your elbows and it's done!

Sey mir heute nichts zuwider!
Fühle mich so frank und frei;
Frische Luft und heitre Lieder
Holt' ich selbst sie doch herbei.
Und so trink ich! Trinke, trinke!
Stoßet an ihr! Tinke, tinke!
Du dort hinten komm heran!
Stoßet an, so ist's gethan.
Anstossen = to clink glasses.

Eduard Grützner, Drei Mönche bei der Brotzeit


An Hour on One Sentence

Donald Keene (1922-2019), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 42:
We had one day off, which I used to study Japanese literature at the University of Hawaii. The first term we read a modern novel each week and wrote a report in Japanese. The second term I persuaded the professor to read The Tale of Genji with us. By this time I had begun to feel confident in my ability to read Japanese, but I was by no means prepared for The Tale of Genji. Often I spent an hour or more trying to read just one sentence.

Monday, July 08, 2019


Whatever For?

Lucien Febvre (1878-1956), Life in Renaissance France, tr. Marian Rothstein (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 9, with notes on pp. 125-126:
People gathered in the kitchen where they lived elbow to elbow, and they relished this kind of closeness. Like all peasants, they hated to be alone. The more the merrier. The sixteenth century did not have our modesty. It knew nothing of our need to be alone.11 The beds of the day are evidence of this, great big things in which several people would sleep at once without embarrassment or scruples.12 Individual bedrooms are a modern idea. "Whatever for?" our forefathers would have asked. Setting apart a room for each activity is another modern notion. The kitchen was the gathering place for everyone, and everything, or almost everything, was done there.

11. Again, the way in which people of both high and low station constructed their living places is clearly indicative of their lack of need for privacy. This is further discussed by Jean-Louis Flandrin, Familles (Paris, 1976), pp. 92-102.

12. See the Propos rustiques of Noël du Fail, chap. 6, "The Change in Sleeping between the Present and the Past." [LF] Flandrin (Familles, p. 97) mentions the case of Brittany where the entire household, family and servants, customarily shared a single bed. Bed was a social enough place to merit inclusion in treatises on manners intended for schoolboys: "Silence becomes you in bed: talking's the thing for the court. / Also be still in your bed; just lie straight and you won't be stealing your bedfellow's clothes, tossing and turning." Giovanni Sulpitio, Doctrina Mensae (Oxford, 1949), p. 2, a modern translation of a fifteenth-century poem.


Going It Alone

Seneca, Phoenician Women 5-6 (tr. John G. Fitch):
When alone I shall better find the path I am searching for.

                             melius inveniam viam,
quam quaero, solus.



F.L. Lucas (1894-1967), Style (London: Cassell & Co Ltd, 1955), p. 131:
But in recent years, especially in America, there has grown up a system of annotation neither intelligent nor considerate. Instead of putting notes at the foot of pages, it jumbles them in a vast dump at the back of the book. No normal reader much enjoys perusing a volume in two places at once; further, though he may find his way, if he has the patience, from the text to note 345, he may have a tedious search to find his way from note 345 to the relevant passage of the text. For this type of author has seldom the sense, or the courtesy, to prefix his notes with the page-numbers concerned. Consequently it may be suspected that five readers out of six either skip the notes altogether or skim through them in a lump, if they are interesting enough, without looking back at the text.

The case is different with commentaries on great literature, like Homer or Sophocles or Shakespeare. Fine writing deserves fine printing; a page of poetry is not enhanced by a rubble of scholia at the bottom; therefore such commentaries appear better at the end. But footnotes are not commentaries; and most books are not great art. Accordingly there seems much to be said for a retmn to the older system of putting footnotes at the foot of pages, not in a sort of boothole at the back.

Sunday, July 07, 2019


A Gentleman

John Henry Newman (1801-1890), University Teaching Considered in Nine Discourses (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908), pp. 203-205 (Discourse VIII, § 10):
Hence it is that it is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast;—all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it. He may be right or wrong in his opinion, but he is too clear-headed to be unjust; he is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive. Nowhere shall we find greater candour, consideration, indulgence: he throws himself into the minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He knows the weakness of human reason as well as its strength, its province and its limits. If he be an unbeliever, he will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; he is too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent; he honours the ministers of religion, and it contents him to decline its mysteries without assailing or denouncing them. He is a friend of religious toleration, and that, not only because his philosophy has taught him to look on all forms of faith with an impartial eye, but also from the gentleness and effeminacy of feeling, which is the attendant on civilization.

Not that he may not hold a religion too, in his own way, even when he is not a Christian. In that case his religion is one of imagination and sentiment; it is the embodiment of those ideas of the sublime, majestic, and beautiful, without which there can be no large philosophy. Sometimes he acknowledges the being of God, sometimes he invests an unknown principle or quality with the attributes of perfection. And this deduction of his reason, or creation of his fancy, he makes the occasion of such excellent thoughts, and the starting-point of so varied and systematic a teaching, that he even seems like a disciple of Christianity itself. From the very accuracy and steadiness of his logical powers, he is able to see what sentiments are consistent in those who hold any religious doctrine at all, and he appears to others to feel and to hold a whole circle of theological truths, which exist in his mind no otherwise than as a number of deductions.


Foreign Languages

Donald Keene (1922-2019), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 10:
Ever since then I have felt strongly attracted to foreign languages. Japanese often ask me how many I know, and it is extremely difficult to answer. I have studied to varying degrees perhaps eight or nine languages, but I have totally forgotten some and others I can understand but not speak or can read but not write. Yet even in the case of a language like classical Greek, which I have almost totally forgotten, I am happy that I have had the experience of reading Homer and the Greek tragedies in the original. But I sometimes think that if, as the result of an accident, I were to lose my knowledge of Japanese, there would not be much left for me. Japanese, which at first had no connection with my ancestors, my literary tastes, or my awareness of myself as a person, has become the central element of my life.


Body Parts in Asyndeton

[Lucian], Gout, lines 121-123 (tr. M. D. MacLeod):
The foot, the knee, hip-joint, the ankles, groins and thighs,
Hands, shoulder-blades, and arms, the elbows and the wrists
It eats, devours, burns, quells, inflames and softens up...

πόδα, γόνυ, κοτύλην, ἀστραγάλους, ἰσχία, μηρούς,
χέρας, ὠμοπλάτας, βραχίονας, κόρωνα, καρποὺς
ἔσθει, νέμεται, φλέγει, κρατεῖ, πυροῖ, μαλάσσει...
The translation obscures the asyndeton.

Saturday, July 06, 2019


A Good Motto

Donald Keene (1922-2019), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 9:
I also liked the metal tag under the window, urging passengers to open the windows vivement mais sans brutalité (in a vigorous but not brutal manner), a good motto to observe in life.


The Most Beautiful Language in the World

Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897), "The Last Class: The Story of a Little Alsatian," Short Stories, tr. George Burnham Ives (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1909), pp. 187-197 (at 193):
Then, passing from one thing to another, Monsieur Hamel began to talk to us about the French language, saying that it was the most beautiful language in the world, the most clear, the most substantial; that we must always retain it among ourselves, and never forget it, because when a people falls into servitude, "so long as it clings to its language, it is as if it held the key to its prison."1

1 "S'il tient sa langue, il tient la clé qui de ses chaines le delivre."—Mistral.

Alors d'une chose à l'autre, M. Hamel se mit à nous parler de la langue française, disant que c'était la plus belle langue du monde, la plus claire, la plus solide: qu'il fallait la garder entre nous et ne jamais l'oublier, parce que, quand un peuple tombe esclave, tant qu'il tient bien sa langue, c'est comme s'il tenait la clef de sa prison.


The Eighth Deadly Sin

Robert Burchfield (1923-2004), "The Fowlers: Their Achievements in Lexicography and Grammar," Unlocking the English Language (New York: Hill and Wang, 1991), pp. 125-146 (at 140-141, on A Dictionary of Modern English Usage):
The book is gravid with evidence of the existence of what might be called an eighth deadly sin — that of linguistic misuse — and the Great Schoolmaster set himself to identify and analyse its main aspects.

Friday, July 05, 2019


Miss Tannenbaum's Advice

Donald Keene (1922-2019), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), pp. 17-18:
Miss Tannenbaum had urged me to study nothing while in college except for four languages—French, German, Greek, and Latin—and their literatures.


What a Delight

Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868), "Poems of solitary delights," in The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse. Translated and with Introductions by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite, rev. ed. (London: Penguin Books, 2009), pp. 135-136:
What a delight it is
When on the bamboo matting
In my own grass hut,
All on my own,
I make myself at ease.

What a delight it is
When, borrowing
Rare writings from a friend,
I open out
The first sheet.

What a delight it is
When, spreading paper,
I take my brush
And find my hand
Better than I thought.

What a delight it is
When, after a hundred days
Of racking my brains,
That verse that wouldn't come
Suddenly turns out well.

What a delight it is
When, of a morning,
I get up and go out
To find in full bloom a flower
That yesterday was not there.

What a delight it is
When, skimming through the pages
Of a book, I discover
A man written of there
Who is just like me.

What a delight it is
When everyone admits
It's a very difficult book,
And I understand it
With no trouble at all.

What a delight it is
When I blow away the ash,
To watch the crimson
Of the glowing fire
And hear the water boil.

What a delight it is
When a guest you cannot stand
Arrives, then says to you
'I'm afraid I can't stay long,'
And soon goes home.

What a delight it is
When I find a good brush,
Steep it hard in water,
Lick it on my tongue
And give it its first try.


A Kind of Sacramental Act

Lucien Febvre (1878-1956), Life in Renaissance France, tr. Marian Rothstein (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), pp. 105-106, with note on p. 151:
As we have seen, when the artists of the sixteenth century wanted to paint "the merchant" they had ample reason for presenting him, as did Quentin Metsys in his pleasing little painting in the Louvre, busy weighing gold, with an expression at once serious and absorbed, appropriate for the financier. His wife at his side, prettily capped in black, distractedly leafs through a marvelously illuminated Book of Hours, but not without casting sidelong glances at the gold coins which her husband is meticulously weighing and reweighing. The weighing of gold is a kind of sacramental act of the merchant of the Renaissance. It was not Quentin Metsys alone, or only his emulator and continuator, Marinus, in the careful paintings identified by Monsieur de Mely, who depicted that familiar scene.25 We see it in the works of Corneille de Lyon (also the attribution of Monsieur de Mely). In Jost Aman's large engraved allegory of commerce one sees in the foreground, next to the accountants' desks and the cashiers' counter, a big money-changing table on which two clerks are carefully counting sacks filled with coins, some of which fill the pans of the balance. It is those gold-weighing scales which are the true symbol of commercial activity of the sixteenth century.

25. Fernand de Mely, "Signatures de Primitifs: Le Banquier et sa femme de Quinten Matsys," Mélanges offerts à M. Emile Picot (Paris, 1913), II, 505-514. The painting Febvre describes is reproduced in this article, p. 508. See also Leo van Puyvelde, "Un Portrait de marchand par Quentin Metsys et les percepteurs d'impôts par Marin van Reymervale," Revue Belge d'archéologie et d'histoire d'art, 26 (1957), p. 323ff. Jost Aman's engraving is reproduced in part in Coornaert, Les Français et le commerce international à Anvers, II, pl, 4, facing p. 136.

Quentin Metsys (1465-1530), Le prêteur et sa femme
(Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. 1444)

Thursday, July 04, 2019


Happy Independence Day

Thomas Jefferson also died on this day in 1826.

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


Bodily Fluids of Peregrinus

Lucian, On the Death of Peregrinus 2 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
I think I can see you laughing heartily at the old man's drivelling idiocy...

πολλὰ τοίνυν δοκῶ μοι ὁρᾶν σε γελῶντα ἐπὶ τῇ κορύζῃ τοῦ γέροντος...
The primary meaning of κόρυζα is "mucous discharge from the nostrils" (Liddell-Scott-Jones). Cf. also βουκόρυζα in Poetae Comici Fragmenta, Vol. VI 2: Menander, Testimonia et Fragmenta apud scriptores servata, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1998), p. 292 (Menander, fragment 530):
Phot. β 224 = Sud. β 422 βουκόρυζαν· τήν μεγάλην κόρυζαν (= Eust. in Il. p. 962,15). καὶ βουκορυζᾶν (κορ- Sud.) τὸν ίϲχυρῶϲ κορυζῶντα (-οντα Sud.). Μένανδροϲ (in marg. Phot.)
Hesych. β 916 βουκόρυζοϲ· άναίϲθητοϲ, άϲύνετοϲ

Lucian, On the Death of Peregrinus 17 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
Thereafter he went away a third time, to Egypt, to visit Agathobulus, where he took that wonderful course of training in asceticism, shaving one half of his head, daubing his face with mud, and demonstrating what they call 'indifference' by erecting his yard amid a thronging mob of bystanders, besides giving and taking blows on the back-sides with a stalk of fennel, and playing the mountebank even more audaciously in many other ways.

τρίτη ἐπὶ τούτοις ἀποδημία εἰς Αἴγυπτον παρὰ τὸν Ἀγαθόβουλον, ἵναπερ τὴν θαυμαστὴν ἄσκησιν διησκεῖτο, ξυρόμενος μὲν τῆς κεφαλῆς τὸ ἥμισυ, χριόμενος δὲ πηλῷ τὸ πρόσωπον, ἐν πολλῷ δὲ τῶν περιεστώτων δήμῳ ἀναφλῶν τὸ αἰδοῖον καὶ τὸ ἀδιάφορον δὴ τοῦτο καλούμενον ἐπιδεικνύμενος, εἶτα παίων καὶ παιόμενος νάρθηκι εἰς τὰς πυγὰς καὶ ἄλλα πολλὰ νεανικώτερα θαυματοποιῶν.
"Erecting his yard" is a euphemism. Likewise the translation by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler: "grossly exposing himself." The Greek ἀναφλῶν means "masturbating." Desmond Costa, Lucian: Selected Dialogues (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 78, translates the word correctly.

Dear Mike,

An adaptation of 'erecting his yard' could be applied less euphemistically to ὀρθώσαντες τὰ αἰδοῖα in Verae Historiae 2.45. If Harmon had translated these words 'erected their yards' instead of the rather silly 'hoisted their never-mind-whats' he'd at least have kept the nautical thread. Either translation, however, is superior to that of the priggishly economical Fowler brothers, who near enough reduce the Phallonauts to Phallonots.

ἤδη δὲ ἰχθύες τε ἡμῖν ἐφαίνοντο καὶ ὄρνεα παρεπέτετο καὶ ἄλλ᾽ ὁπόσα γῆς πλησίον οὔσης σημεῖα προφαίνεται. μετ᾽ ὀλίγον δὲ καὶ ἄνδρας εἴδομεν καινῷ τῳ τρόπῳ ναυτιλίας χρωμένους· αὐτοὶ γὰρ καὶ ναῦται καὶ νῆες ἦσαν. λέξω δὲ τοῦ πλοῦ τὸν τρόπον ὕπτιοι κείμενοι ἐπὶ τοῦ ὕδατος ὀρθώσαντες τὰ αἰδοῖα — μεγάλα δὲ φέρουσιν — ἐξ αὐτῶν ὀθόνην πετάσαντες καὶ ταῖς χερσὶν τοὺς ποδεῶνας κατέχοντες ἐμπίπτοντος τοῦ ἀνέμου ἔπλεον.

Already we began to see fish, birds flew by and all the other signs that land was near made their appearance. In a little while we saw men who were following a novel mode of sailing, being at once sailors and ships. Let me tell you how they did it: they lay on their backs on the water, hoisted their never-mind-whats, which are sizeable, spread sail on them, held the clews in their hands, and were off and away as soon as the wind struck them. (tr. A.M. Harmon)

By this time we were beginning to observe fish, birds on the wing, and other signs of land not far off; and we shortly saw men, practising a mode of navigation new to us; for they were boat and crew in one. The method was this: they float on their backs, erect a sail, and then, holding the sheets with their hands, catch the wind. (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler)

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]

Related posts:

Wednesday, July 03, 2019


He Knew What Was Coming

Simonides, Epigrams 6 (preserved in Herodotus 7.228 and Greek Anthology 7.677; tr. David A. Campbell):
This is the tomb of glorious Megistias, whom once the Medes killed when they crossed the river Sperchius: he was a seer, who recognised clearly that the Spirits of Death were approaching then, but could not bring himself to desert Sparta's leaders.

μνῆμα τόδε κλεινοῖο Μεγιστία, ὅν ποτε Μῆδοι
    Σπερχειὸν ποταμὸν κτεῖναν ἀμειψάμενοι,
μάντιος, ὃς τότε Κῆρας ἐπερχομένας σάφα εἰδώς
    οὐκ ἔτλη Σπάρτης ἡγεμόνας προλιπεῖν.

4 ἡγεμόνας codd.: ἡγεμόνα Heinrich Stein
The river Sperchius is north of Thermopylae. The Spartan leader Leonidas had told the non-Spartan Greek soldiers to leave (Herodotus 7.220), but Megistias refused.

See D.L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 195-196, and Andrej Petrovic, Kommentar zu den simonideischen Versinschriften (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 231-236.


Difficulty of Translating

Montesquieu (1689-1755), Oeuvres complètes, Tome II: Pensées, Spicilèges, Geographica, Voyages (Paris: Nagel, 1950), p. 412 (Pensées, no. 1397):
Difficulté de traduire. — Il faut d'abord bien sçavoir le latin; ensuite, il faut l'oublier.
Translated by Henry C. Clark:
DIFFICULTY OF TRANSLATING. At first, one must know Latin well; then, one must forget it.


Thy Courtesy Is But Small

"King Edward IV and the Tanner of Tamworth," lines 109-120, in Thomas Percy (1729-1811), Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1872), p. 111:
The tanner hee tooke his good cowe-hide,
    That of the cow was hilt;
And threwe it upon the king's sadèlle,
    That was soe fayrelye gilte.

"Now help me up, thou fine fellòwe,
    'Tis time that I were gone:
When I come home to Gyllian my wife,
    Sheel say I am a gentilmon."

The king he tooke him up by the legge;
    The tanner a f** lett fall;
Nowe marrye, goode fellowe, sayd the kyng,
    Thy courtesye is but small.


Tuesday, July 02, 2019


A Shocking Lot of Dullards

Eva Matthews Sanford (1894-1954), "De Disciplina Scholarium: A Mediaeval Handbook on the Care and Training of Scholars," Classical Journal 28.2 (November, 1932) 82-95 (at 82):
Now is he Master dubbed, of Arts,
Who cannot put their several parts
    On any sure foundation.
To have the name alone he yearns,
The thing he neither loves nor learns,
    Save for examination.

Now gain the baccalaureate
At merely their tuition's rate,
    A shocking lot of dullards.
Dumb beasts we now promoted see
In Arts and in Philosophy,
    To take the place of scholards.1
This is no twentieth-century diatribe against the inefficiency of our universities, against the "degree-mill" and the reckoning of scholarly attainments in terms of examinations and fees. Were it such, the Ph.D. would inevitably have its verse before the bachelors and masters came in for their humble share of accusation.

1 A twelfth century satire on bachelors and masters of arts, published by Du Meril, Poésies populaires: Paris, Didot (1827), p. 153. To avert the skepticism of the incredulous, I append the Latin text:
Jam fit magister artium
Qui nescit quotas partium
    De vero fundamento.
Habere nomen appetit,
Rem vero nec curat nec scit,
    Examine contento.

Jam fiunt baccalaurei,
Pro munere denarii,
    Quamplures idiotae.
In artibus an aliis
Egregiis scientiis,
    Sunt bestiae promotae.
The date of Du Meril's Poésies populaires is incorrect. It should be 1847, not 1827. Also, Du Meril prints ab, not an, in the third line from the end.

Monday, July 01, 2019


If I Had Known

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. 76 (from the Kokinshū collection):
If I had known
That old age would call,
I'd have shut my gate,
Replied 'Not at home!'
And refused to meet him.


Three Types of People

Montesquieu (1689-1755), Oeuvres complètes, Tome II: Pensées, Spicilèges, Geographica, Voyages (Paris: Nagel, 1950), p. 398 (Pensées, no. 1317):
Il y a des gens aimables, il y en a d'haïssables & il [y] a une classe plus étendue encore de gens insupportables.
Translated by Henry C. Clark:
There are likeable people, there are detestable people, and there is an even more extensive class of unbearable people.


How Hopeless

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Past and Present, Book III, Chapter 15 (Morrison Again):
I am weary of this sick croaking for a Morrison's-Pill religion; for any and for every such. I want none such; and discern all such to be impossible. The resuscitation of old liturgies fallen dead; much more, the manufacture of new liturgies that will never be alive: how hopeless! Stylitisms, eremite fanaticisms and fakeerisms; spasmodic agonistic posture-makings, and narrow, cramped, morbid, if forever noble wrestlings: all this is not a thing desirable to me.



Cicero, De Oratore 3.6.24 (tr. H. Rackham):
...nowadays we are deluged not only with the notions of the vulgar but also with the opinions of the half-educated...

...oppressi iam sumus opinionibus non modo vulgi verum etiam hominum leviter eruditorum...

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