Saturday, August 31, 2019


Hard to Please

Jonathan Swift, letter to Charles Ford (March 8, 1709):
I am grown so hard to please, that I am offended with every unexpected Face I meet where I visit, and the least Tediousness or Impertinence gives me a Shortness of Breath, and a Pain in my Stomack. Among all the Diversions you mention among you, I desire to know whether a Man may be allowed to sitt alone among his Books, as long as he pleases.


Stern Nincompoops

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974), "Illusions of Likeness," The Condemned Playground. Essays: 1927-1944 (London: Routledge, 1945), pp. 41-46 (at 41-42):
The last ten years have witnessed a welcome decay in pedantic snobbery about dead languages. A knowledge of Greek is no longer the hallmark of a powerful intellectual caste, who visit with Housmanly scorn any solecism from the climbers outside it. The dons who jeer at men of letters for getting their accents wrong command no more sympathy than doctors who make fun of psychiatrists or osteopaths; the vast vindictive rages which scholars used to vent on those who knew rather less than themselves seem no longer so admirable, like the contempt which those people who at some time learned how to pronounce Buccleuch and Harewood have for those who are still learning. The don-in-the-manger is no longer formidable. There was a time when most people were ashamed to say that The Oxford Book of Greek Verse required a translation. That time is over. We shall not refer to it again except to say that if people as teachable as ourselves couldn't be taught enough Greek in ten years to construe any piece unseen, as we can with French, or with any other modern language, then that system by which we were taught should be scrapped, and those stern nincompoops by whom we were instructed should come before us, like the burghers of Calais, in sackcloth and ashes with halters round their necks.


The Emperor's Chubby Court-Jester

Theodore Ziolkowski, "Uses and Abuses of Horace: His Reception since 1935 in Germany and Anglo-America," International Journal of the Classical Tradition 12.2 (Fall, 2005) 183-215 (at 184-185):
This was the culture that also produced Wilfred Owen's virulent antiwar poem, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" (1917), which takes as its title and subtext the familiar lines from Horace's Second Roman Ode (3.2.13) proclaiming the sweet propriety of death for one's country—a sentiment that Owen calls "The old Lie."7 Two years earlier, required to write a school essay on the same passage, the seventeen-year-old Bertolt Brecht ridiculed "the emperor's chubby court-jester" ("des Imperators feister Hofnarr") who had run away at Philippi, and slighted his poem as "applied propaganda" ("Zweckpropaganda").8 And in the opening section of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920)—"Ode pour l'élection de son sepulchre iv"—Ezra Pound denounced war, lamenting those who, misled by spurious motives, die "pro patria, / non 'dulce' non 'et decor'" (sic).9

7. The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, ed. C. Day Lewis (London: Chatto and Windus, 1963), 55.

8. O. Müllereisert, "Augsburger Anekdoten um Bert Brecht," in Erinnerungen an Brecht, zusammengestellt von H. Witt (Leipzig: Philipp Reclam jun., 1964), 18; cited here by Peter Witzmann, "Bertolt Brecht, Beim Lesen des Horaz," Das Altertum 14 (1968): 55-64.

9. As recently as 1957/58, students at the University of Munich demanded (successfully!) that the same quotation be removed from a decorative window in the main hall of the university. See Werner Suerbaum, Q. Horatii Flacci Disiecti Membra Poetae (University of Munich, 1993), Beiheft 1:24. For further examples see Martin M. Winkler, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori? Classical Literature in the War Film," International Journal of the Classical Tradition 7 (2000): 177-214.


The Road of Life

Plato, Republic 1.2 (328d-e; Socrates to Cephalus; tr. Paul Shorey):
I enjoy talking with the very aged. For to my thinking we have to learn of them as it were from wayfarers who have preceded us on a road on which we too, it may be, must some time fare—what it is like—is it rough and hard going or easy and pleasant to travel.

χαίρω γε διαλεγόμενος τοῖς σφόδρα πρεσβύταις· δοκεῖ γάρ μοι χρῆναι παρ᾽ αὐτῶν πυνθάνεσθαι, ὥσπερ τινὰ ὁδὸν προεληλυθότων ἣν καὶ ἡμᾶς ἴσως δεήσει πορεύεσθαι, ποία τίς ἐστιν, τραχεῖα καὶ χαλεπή, ἢ ῥᾳδία καὶ εὔπορος.

Friday, August 30, 2019


Let There Be a Limit

Horace, Satires 1.1.92-94 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
In short, set bounds to the quest of wealth, and as you increase your means let your fear of poverty lessen, and when you have won your heart's desire, begin to bring your toil to an end...

denique sit finis quaerendi, cumque habeas plus,
pauperiem metuas minus et finire laborem
incipias, parto quod avebas...

92 cumque codd.: quoque Muretus

Thursday, August 29, 2019


The Cheese-Sandwich Oracle

Georg Luck, Arcana Mundi, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), p. 460 with note on p. 475:
The case of Sophronius, bishop of Tella (fifth century), is truly amazing, even though, as a supporter of Nestorius, he may be classified as a heretic.10 The magical experiments of this dignitary of the Church were described by two presbyters and two deacons before the "Robber Synod" of Ephesus in 449 and denounced by the assembled clergy. Someone had stolen a sum of money from the bishop. He gathered the suspects and first made them swear on the Gospel that they were innocent. Then he forced them to undergo the "cheese-sandwich oracle" (tyromanteia). The sandwiches were offered, and the bishop attached a conjuration to a tripod. In principle, the thief would have been unable to eat, but apparently all the suspects ate with a good appetite. So the bishop insisted on another oracle, the phialomanteia: he consulted a spirit that was supposed to appear in a dish into which water and oil had been poured. This method finally revealed the thief.

10. See G. Luck, in Ankarloo and Clark, Witchcraft, pp. 155–56.
Georg Luck, "Witches and Sorcerers in Classical Literature," in Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark, edd., Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), pp. 91-156 (at 155):
In a chapter entitled 'Die geheimen Praktiken eines syrischen Bischofs', E. Peterson (Frühkirche, Judentum und Gnosis, Herder 1959, pp. 222-45) deals with a fascinating testimony which has been overlooked by many historians of witchcraft in antiquity. It is found in the records, written in Syriac, of the so-called Robber Synod of Ephesus, 449. Here, Sophronius, the Bishop of Tella is accused not only of being a heretic, but also of being a magician and an astrologer.

The Bishop had lost a sum of money while traveling. He rounded up some suspects and made them first swear on the Gospel that they were innocent. Then he forced them to undergo the 'cheese-sandwich' test (tyromanteia).

In a note (p. 334, n. 2) Peterson documents how often people went to consult magicians when they had lost money or had been the victims of theft. Apuleius (Apologia 42) had read in Varro that Nigidius Figulus, the famous occultist, thanks to his gift of clairvoyance, once apprehended a thief, and Porphyry, in his Life of Plotinus 11, tells a similar story of the great Neoplatonist who had a special gift of emblepein, 'visionary intuition'.

As the cheese-sandwiches were offered, the Bishop attached the following spell to a tripod: 'Lord Iao, Bringer of Light, deliver the thief I am looking for,' observing the suspects, because the one who was unable to eat his sandwich must be the thief. The test was inconclusive (apparently all the suspects ate their sandwiches). The Bishop next tried phialomanteia. He poured water and oil into a bowl. We must assume that either Sophronius himself or a medium then conjured up a daemon or a ghost (of a biaiothanatos, i.e. a murder victim or a suicide) and asked who the culprit was. This operation was successful.
Peterson's book is unavailable to me, but cf. S.G.F. Perry, The Second Synod of Ephesus, Together with Certain Extracts Relating to it, from Syriac MSS. preserved in the British Museum...English Version (Dartford: The Orient Press, 1881), pp. 191-193 (notes omitted):
Once upon a time as he was travelling, he happened to lose a considerable amount of gold; and when his suspicion rested on certain persons and he had made them take an oath upon the Evangelists (in the matter), not satisfied with this he, further, testing them by the ordeal of bread and cheese like the heathen, compelled them to eat. And, when he still did not find (the money), he prepared himself (and used) a divining Cup; affirming that "the money is to be found with such and such a persona whose name is so and so, and who is clothed in such and such a way." And many times the Daemons, wishing to confirm him in the imposture, pointed out the thief, not because they wanted to convict him (the thief), but because they were eager to plunge (overwhelm) the Bishop in ruin.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. τυρόμαντις:
one who divines from cheese, ARTEM. 2.69.
Artemidorus 2.69 just lists cheese-diviners in a list of types of charlatans, without any more details.

Papyri Graecae Magicae V.200-212, tr. W.C. Grese, in Hans Dieter Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992; rpt. 1996), p. 104:
Take a tripod and place it on an earthen altar, offer myrrh, frankincense, and a frog's tongue. Take unsalted winter wheat and goat-cheese, and give to each 8 drams of winter wheat and 8 drams of cheese while saying the following formula (inscribe this name and glue it underneath the tripod): "Master IAŌ, light-bearer, / hand over the thief whom I see." If one of them does not swallow what was given to him, he is the thief.
The Greek, from Karl Preisendanz, ed., Papyri Graecae Magicae, Vol. I (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1928), p. 188 (vertical line separators omitted):
λαβὼν τρίποδα ἐπίθεϲ ἐπὶ βωμὸν γήϊνον, ἐπίθυε ζμύρναν καὶ λίβανον καὶ γλῶτταν βατράχου, καὶ λαβὼν ϲελίγνιον ἄναλον καὶ τυρὸν αἴγειον δίδου ἑκάϲτῳ ϲελιγνίου δραχμὰϲ η΄, τυροῦ δραχμὰϲ η΄ ἐπιλέγων τὸν ἑξῆϲ λόγον. ἐπίγραφε δὲ τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα καὶ ὑποκόλληϲον τῷ τρίποδι. ῾Δέϲποτα Ἰάω, φωϲφόρε, παράδοϲ φῶρ’, ὃν ζητῶ’. ἐὰν δέ τιϲ αὐτῶν μὴ καταπίῃ τὸ δοθὲν αὐτῷ, αὐτόϲ ἐϲτιν ὁ κλέψαϲ.


Sickness and Homesickness

Ovid, Tristia 3.3.13-14 (tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler):
Aweary I lie among these far-away peoples in this far-away place,
and thoughts come to me in my weakness of everything that is not here.

lassus in extremis iaceo populisque locisque,
    et subit adfecto nunc mihi, quicquid abest.


The Warriors Are All Dead

Ch'ü Yüan (343-278 BC), "Battle," tr. Arthur Waley, A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919), pp. 39-40:
"We grasp our battle-spears: we don our breast-plates of hide.
The axles of our chariots touch: our short swords meet.
Standards obscure the sun: the foe roll up like clouds.
Arrows fall thick: the warriors press forward.
They menace our ranks: they break our line.
The left-hand trace-horse is dead: the one on the right is smitten.
The fallen horses block our wheels: they impede the yoke-horses!"

They grasp their jade drum-sticks: they beat the sounding drums.
Heaven decrees their fall: the dread Powers are angry.

The warriors are all dead: they lie on the moor-field.
They issued but shall not enter: they went but shall not return.
The plains are flat and wide; the way home is long.
Their swords lie beside them: their black bows, in their hand.
Though their limbs were torn, their hearts could not be repressed.
They were more than brave: they were inspired with the spirit of "Wu."1
Steadfast to the end, they could not be daunted.
Their bodies were stricken, but their souls have taken Immortality —
Captains among the ghosts, heroes among the dead.

1 I.e., military genius.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Mass Migration

Herodotus 9.122.2 (tr. A.D. Godley):
Let us now remove out of the little and rugged land that we possess and take to ourselves one that is better.

γῆν γὰρ ἐκτήμεθα ὀλίγην καὶ ταύτην τρηχέαν, μεταναστάντες ἐκ ταύτης ἄλλην σχῶμεν ἀμείνω.


Sticking Up for Athens

Demosthenes, For the Liberty of the Rhodians 25 (tr. J.H. Vince):
There are some among you, Athenians, who are very clever at pleading the rights of others against you, and I would just give them this piece of advice—to find something to say for your rights against others, so that they themselves may set the example of doing what is proper; since it is absurd for a man to lecture you about rights when he is not doing what is right himself, and it is not right that a citizen should have given his attention to all the arguments against you and to none in your favour.

εἰσὶ δέ τινες, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, παρ᾿ ὑμῖν δεινότατοι τὰ δίκαια λέγειν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἄλλων πρὸς ὑμᾶς, οἷς παραινέσαιμ᾿ ἂν ἔγωγε τοσοῦτον μόνον, ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν πρὸς τοὺς ἄλλους ζητεῖν τὰ δίκαια λέγειν, ἵν᾿ αὐτοὶ τὰ προσήκοντα πρῶτοι φαίνωνται ποιοῦντες· ὡς ἔστ᾿ ἄτοπον περὶ τῶν δικαίων ὑμᾶς διδάσκειν αὐτὸν οὐ δίκαια ποιοῦντα· οὐ γάρ ἐστι δίκαιον ὄντα πολίτην τοὺς καθ᾿ ὑμῶν λόγους, ἀλλὰ μὴ τοὺς ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐσκέφθαι.


Alfred Gudeman

Alfred Gudeman compiled Imagines Philologorum: 160 Bildnisse aus Zeit von der Renaissance bis zur Gegenwart (Leipzig: B.G Teubner, 1911). But I can't find any photographs of Gudeman himself, only this caricature:

The caricature appeared in a University of Pennsylvania college yearbook, accompanied by a satirical article, "A Glimpse at Gudeman," which I found on, downloaded, and transcribed (the "[sic]" is my own insertion):
'Tis a balmy morn in early spring. The scent of sprouting grass and Freshmen is in the air. College hall is alive with the babble of many youthful members of society seeking instruction at the fountainheads of knowledge, but as yet the "Crystal Palace of the Muses" (second floor west) is silent and deserted, and the gentle zephyrs, laden with the perfumed odors of medical hall play at their own sweet will through the open windows. Before long, however, the ponderous hands of the college clock (for details as to which wonderful piece of machinery apply of Shorty McGrath) indicate that the fateful hour of 11 is approaching, and at precisely five minutes before the hour the peace and quiet of the "palace" are disturbed by a pitter-patter of diminutive feet outside in the vulgar hallway. The knob turns, the glass door opens, and there enters the daintiest little Dutch philologist in all the world, Alfred Gudeman, Ph.D. Ah, the very gently-curving man, like Falstaff, with "something of a round belly;" his face is full, and, I regret to say, voluptuous (due to his continual reading of "Gudeman's Expurgated Passages of the Classics"); his head is very round and shiny, save where a few sparse black hairs are plastered stiffly upon his pate with odoriferous bear's grease. He wears a celluloid collar, spotlessly clean, and a blue cross cravat with white stripes, which J.H. Langstroth one day discovered was likewise celluloid, thereby explaining the hitherto unsolved mystery of "How I wear the same cravat continuously for two consecutive years?"

It goes without saying that his spotless shirt is of the same material. As already suggested, "he hath an excellent stomach," which is well protected against the stilettos of its enemies by what appears at first sight to be a large plate of brass a foot and a half long by half a foot broad, but which is really nothing but a specially-made and disgracefully-large badge of Phi Beta Kappa, which he purchased at Columbia for the price of two years' leg-pulling, much to the discredit of this otherwise honorable institution.

"Gutsy" (for so he is universally known among his loving pupils) walks at once with dainty tread to his desk, and, pulling out of the drawer a copy of Tacitus, opens at the lesson and sits like the spider, ready to pounce upon the first unwary fly that enters his parlour. Presently the bell rings and the fly enters, in the shape of Merzbacher, who was never known to be a minute late for any hour since he entered college. The pair at once "start it up," regardless of the rest of the class, who gradually stroll in amid great confusion and many complimentary shouts of "O Goody," "You dirty toad," etc., etc., from behind the glass partition. In about five minutes, when the class is comfortably seated and the door closed, a terrible noise of thundering footsteps is heard in the hall, and Gerhard and Brinton, in frantic haste, chagrined at the thought of losing a word of the lesson, burst into the room like a cyclone and immediately make a dive for the only unoccupied chair, which stands in the far corner of the room. (Ask Gerhard why it was the only one.) Both arrive at the same time, which causes complications. "Gutsy" is compelled to notice the disturbance, and rushes up and down the room, waving his hands and exclaiming: "Gemmen, these are the most uproarious actions that ever occurred within these walls. I shall resort to the most severe measures. The clean shall be informed of this, gemmen," etc., etc. Gerhard knows his man, however, and saves the day by accusing Professor Gibbons of having removed the other chair, and by immediately bringing in one from Schwatt's room, and thus harmony protem is restored and recitation begins again.

"Mistah Mills, begin—Est in insula Oceani castum nemus, dicatumque in eo vehiculum veste contectum."

Mills (reading at sight)—"There is a grove cast in the island of Oceani, and there is said to be in it a wagon covered with a vest."

Gutsy—Very good, Mr. Mills, you are showing many signs of improvement. Mistah Kriebel, will you go on? Mox vehiculum et vestis, et, si, credere velis, numen ipsum secreto lacu abluitur.

Kriebel (a little shaky)—Soon the wagon and the vest, and, if you will believe it, the goddess herself are washed in secreted milk."

The class bursts into a roar. Jim Langstroth waves his arms about his head and slaps his thighs with great noise, while Gudey gives a prolonged "Tee-hee-hee-hee," and when quiet is at last obtained, viciously asks Kriebel if he has ever seen a goddess washing herself in "secreted milk." Wilbur blushes scarlet, which greatly tickles Gutsy, who, after explaining that "secrete [sic] lacu" means a "hidden lake," proceeds to translate the next passage himself, tinder the impression that it requires a scholar's judgment, and oh, the "hash" (a favorite word of his in translating—query, why?) he makes of it. Behold a sample exhibition of the result of his critical and philological acumen.

Gudey—"You may, ah, perceive, gemmen, that I have, ah, introduced a few emendations into this passage, which, ah, I blush for modesty, have never suggested before. Teuffelschwabewarich was, indeed, on the right track, but he died before he arrived at the remarkably simple and scholarly interpretation which it has, ah, fallen to my lot to present to you. I have examined seven thousand eight hundred and four similar passages in Tacitus, and have come to the unmistakable conclusion that whenever our author uses the word "facile" he meant to use "difficile," and wherever he has used the word "non," he meant to omit it. You will find a full discussion of this subject in my forthcoming monologue in the Americana-Germanica, of which you will all please procure copies and—"

But, alas, at this point poor Gudey's interesting "monologue" is cut short by a disturbance in the back part of the room, where it appears that Brinton has just succeeded in tying Gerhard firmly to his chair with a piece of clothes line. Gerhard resents the deprival of his liberty of action with loud shouts, and is immediately ordered to leave the room, which he at once proceeds to do with the greatest pleasure and alacrity, taking the chair with him. In fact, the situation grows quite dramatic, and peace is only restored by the severing of the ropes and the peremptory dismissal of Gerhard to the dean's office. Brinton soon follows, despite the efforts of Gutsy to restrain him, and they have scarce reached the stairs when the bell rings and the class is dismissed.

But now, gentle reader, let us drop for a moment the curtain of our imagination; let us imagine that stately Clio and the shade of Tacitus have left the "Muses palace," and that their places have been taken by Euterpe and the sweetly-piping Theocritus. Let us then fly thither on the wings of our fancy and visit for a moment more our old friend Gutsy. Things are pretty much the same as ever, but, alas, there is no Gerhard—ergo, there is little jollity. Merzbacher now cavils at pleasure over the weird constructions, which Gudey manufactures to excuse his many "lapsi linguae." Levett upsets his repeated "only occurrence of this word in all literature, gemmen," by numerous quotations containing the word in question. Brinton tickles him by reading the expurgated passages from his edition of 1610 (P.S. All expurgations, according to Gutsy, are needless, and generally contain "the pith of the whole passage"). Langstroth angers him by stating his opinion in a loud voice that the "bee" could not have stung Cupid on each finger, because, to his "positive knowledge," a bee can "sting once, and once only," and causes him to reply with the severest sarcasm: "Ah! Mr. Langstroth, but you must remember that this is a Theocritean bee."

This reply so worries Jim Langstroth that in revenge he resorts to his old trick of opening the door and rushing violently into the hall under pretense that he had heard some one knock, only to return with great noise five minutes later and spend another five in shutting the door, opening the window and getting fixed to his seat.

Thus it was that the hard hours with Gudey were whiled (?) away, and what would otherwise have been a very bitter pill was comfortably coated with the sugar of amusement.
Gudeman taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1893 to 1901. The students mentioned (James Yeates Brinton, Arthur Howell Gerhard, Elias Wilbur Kriebel, James W. Langstroth, Walker Moore Levett, Isadore Merzbacher, Coleman Sellers Mills) were all members of the class of 1898.

On Gudeman's sad life and death see Donna W. Hurley, "Alfred Gudeman, Atlanta, Georgia, 1862 — Theresienstadt, 1942," Transactions of the American Philological Association 120 (1990) 355-381.

Update: Thanks very much to Daniel Abosso, who found the following photograph of Gudeman, from Universities and the Sons: The University of Pennsylvania (1901):


Changes in Old Age

Thijs Porck, "Old age as a prefiguration of Hell: Senescence in early medieval England," Dutch Anglo-Saxonist:
An anonymous Anglo-Saxon homilist wrote:
Him amolsniað and adimmiað þa eagan, þe ær wæron beorhte and gleawe on gesihðe. And seo tunge awistlað, þe ær hæfde getinge spræce and gerade. And ða earan aslawiað, þa þe ær wæron ful swifte and hræde to gehyrenne fægere dreamas and sangas. And þa handa awindað, þa ðe ær hæfdon ful hwæte fingras. And þæt feax afealleð, þe ær wæs fæger on hiwe and on fulre wæstme. And þa teð ageolwiað, þa ðe wæron ær hwite on hiwe. And þæt oreð stincð and afulað, þe ær wæs swete on stence.[8]

[His eyes weaken and become dim, that had been bright and keen of sight. And his tongue hisses, which had possessed fluent and skilful speech. And his ears become sluggish, which had been very swift and quick to hear beautiful stories and songs. And his hands bend, that had possessed fully active fingers. And his hair falls out, that had been fair in colour and in full abundance. And his teeth turn yellow, that had been white in appearance. And his breath, which had been sweet of smell, stinks and turns foul.]
[8] Wulfstan; Sammlung der ihm zugeschriebenen Homilien nebst Untersuchungen über ihre Echtheit, ed. A. S. Napier (Berlin, 1883), hom. 30, p. 147, ll. 23–31, p. 148, ll. 1–7.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Christians with Pagan Names

Adolf Harnack (1851-1930), The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, tr. James Moffatt, Vol. I (London: Williams and Norgate, 1908), pp. 422-423:
As inscriptions and writings testify, Christians in East and West alike made an exclusive or almost exclusive use of the old pagan names in their environment till after the middle of the third century, employing, indeed, very often names from pagan mythology and soothsaying. We find Christians called Apollinaris, Apollonius, Heraclius, Saturninus, Mercurius, Bacchylus, Bacchylides, Serapion, Satyrus, Aphrodisius, Dionysius, Hermas, Origen, etc., besides Faustus, Felix, and Felicissimus. "The martyrs perished because they declined to sacrifice to the gods whose names they bore"!

Now this is remarkable! Here was the primitive church exterminating every vestige of polytheism in her midst, tabooing pagan mythology as devilish, living with the great personalities of the Bible and upon their words, and yet freely employing the pagan names which had been hitherto in vogue!
The entire discussion on pp. 422-430 is worth reading. See also M. Depauw and W. Clarysse, "How Christian was Fourth Century Egypt? Onomastic Perspectives on Conversion," Vigiliae Christianae 67.4 (2013) 407-435.


Delight and Pleasure in Investigation

Cicero, Academica 2.127 (tr. H. Rackham):
There is delight in the mere investigation of matters at once of supreme magnitude and also of extreme obscurity; while if a notion comes to us that appears to bear a likeness to the truth, the mind is filled with the most humanizing kind of pleasure.

indagatio ipsa rerum cum maximarum tum etiam occultissimarum habet oblectationem; si vero aliquid occurrit quod veri simile videatur, humanissima completur animus voluptate.


Greekless Men

Cornelius Nepos, On Great Generals of Foreign Nations, praef. 2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
But such critics will for the most part be men unfamiliar with Greek letters, who will think no conduct proper which does not conform to their own habits.

sed hi erunt fere qui expertes litterarum Graecarum nihil rectum, nisi quod ipsorum moribus conveniat, putabunt.


How Can They Keep from Laughing?

Cicero, On Divination 2.24.51 (tr. W.A. Falconer):
But indeed, that was quite a clever remark which Cato made many years ago: "I wonder," said he, "that a soothsayer doesn't laugh when he sees another soothsayer."

vetus autem illud Catonis admodum scitum est, qui mirari se aiebat quod non rideret haruspex haruspicem cum vidisset.
Arthur Stanley Pease ad loc.:
For the remark cf. N.D. 1, 71: mirabile videtur quod non rideat haruspex cum haruspicem viderit (where the lack of ascription to Cato may indicate that the remark had become more or less proverbial). Similarly Diogenes the Cynic, according to Diog. 1. 6, 24: ὅταν (sc. ἴδῃ) ... ὀνειροκρίτας καὶ μάντεις καὶ τοὺς προσέχοντας τούτοις ... οὐδὲν ματαιότερον νομίζειν ἀνθρώπου; Voltaire, Essai sur les Moeurs, 31: "Mais qui fut celui qui inventa cet art (i.e., divination)? Ce fut le premier fripon qui rencontra un imbécile."

Jean-Léon Gérome, Les deux augures


A Child's Box of Letters

James Anthony Froude (1818-1894), Short Studies on Great Subjects, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1867), p. 1:
It often seems to me as if History was like a child's box of letters, with which we can spell any word we please. We have only to pick out such letters as we want, arrange them as we like, and say nothing about those which do not suit our purpose.

Monday, August 26, 2019


Keeping Track of Details

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius (London: Bristol Classical Paperbacks, 2004), p. 15 (footnote omitted):
Extraction of the relevant detail is Suetonius' characteristic method. Sometimes we get the impression of a large card-index system at work, reducing the sources to an endless series of one sentence items that can be reshuffled and redeployed at will. It would be interesting to know more about the technology behind the writing of the Caesars. We should pause before assuming that Suetonius actually had at his disposal anything so useful as a card-index. There is no evidence that antiquity had developed such systems. Scroll-form was normal for books; even library catalogues and the official records of imperial transactions were, to our knowledge, kept in scrolls rather than files. The philologist had to rely on a prodigious memory and much verbatim learning of texts in order to recall the passages where a given word occurred; naturally it also helped to be able to lean on those who had already done the donkey-work. The chances are that Suetonius worked from sources in scroll-form without the prop of an index and had to rely on memory to an extent no modern research student could expect to have to do. If there are imprecisions, errors and omissions in his material, this is a factor to be borne in mind.
Related post: Index System.


The Death of Callicrates

Herodotus 9.72 (tr. Andrea L. Purvis):
Those were the men who won the greatest fame at Plataea. For Kallikrates died away from the battle; he had come to the camp as the most handsome man of the Hellenes at that time, not only among the Lacedaemonians, but among all the other Hellenes, too. What happened was that while Pausanias was conducting the pre-battle sacrifices, Kallikrates was sitting at his assigned post when he was wounded in his side by an arrow. So as the others fought, he had been carried out of the ranks, and while he struggled against death he said to Arimnestos, a Plataean, that he did not mind dying for Hellas, but regretted that he had not struck a blow or performed any feats to show his worth, though he had been eager to do so.

οὗτοι μὲν τῶν ἐν Πλαταιῇσι ὀνομαστότατοι ἐγένοντο. Καλλικράτης γὰρ ἔξω τῆς μάχης ἀπέθανε, ἐλθὼν ἀνὴρ κάλλιστος ἐς τὸ στρατόπεδον τῶν τότε Ἑλλήνων, οὐ μοῦνον αὐτῶν Λακεδαιμονίων ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων Ἑλλήνων· ὅς, ἐπειδὴ ἐσφαγιάζετο Παυσανίης, κατήμενος ἐν τῇ τάξι ἐτρωματίσθη τοξεύματι τὰ πλευρά. καὶ δὴ οἳ μὲν ἐμάχοντο, ὃ δ’ ἐξενηνειγμένος ἐδυσθανάτεέ τε καὶ ἔλεγε πρὸς Ἀρίμνηστον ἄνδρα Πλαταιέα οὐ μέλειν οἱ ὅτι πρὸ τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἀποθνήσκει, ἀλλ’ ὅτι οὐκ ἐχρήσατο τῇ χειρὶ καὶ ὅτι οὐδέν ἐστί οἱ ἀποδεδεγμένον ἔργον ἑωυτοῦ ἄξιον προθυμευμένου ἀποδέξασθαι.



H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Treatise on the Gods (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1930), pp. 23-24:
[T]he new trade of priestcraft had attractions that were plainly visible to any bright and ambitious young man. It carried an air of pleasing novelty; there was daring in it, and thrills therewith; it made for popularity and a spacious and lazy life; dignity belonged to it; above all, it seemed easy. To be sure, we may assume that the first practitioner hastened to spread the word that there was vastly more to it than appeared on the surface — that under his facile whoops and gyrations glowed a peculiar inward illumination, highly refined in its nature and hard to achieve.


Food and Drink

James Howard Kunstler, World Made by Hand (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008), p. 56:
Ellen Weibel brought a ham and Jane Ann several bottles of her wine, and Eric Laudermilk brought jugs of new ale, and my neighbor Lucy Myles brought her sausage, and several women brought "pudding," a savory staple of our tables made from leftover bread scraps, which we no longer throw away, mixed with anything else you have around, say bacon, squash, kale, chestnuts—like Thanksgiving stuffing. There was samp, which used to be called "polenta" in the upscale restaurants of yesteryear, cornmeal grits doctored up with cheese, mushrooms, or what have you. Maggie Furnival brought a buckwheat pilaf, Nancy Deaver a barley pilaf. There was, of course, corn bread, our staple. Donna Russo brought two coffee cakes made, she said, with the last of their wheat flour. And insofar as it was June, we had plenty of fresh greens, spinach cooked with bacon and green onions, radishes, rocket and lettuce salad, peas with mint. Elsie DeLong brought new beets. Katie Zucker brought honey cakes made of ground butternut meal. Annie Larmon brought fresh cream from their farm and whipped it up for the cakes. Felix Holyrood, who ran the leading cider mill in Washington County, brought a keg of his powerful "scrumpy," which was stronger than beer.

Russell Lee (1903-1986), Getting ready to serve the barbeque
dinner at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair (Library of Congress)


A Teacher Younger Than Oneself

Myles Burnyeat, Introduction to Bernard Williams, The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006; rpt. 2008), p. xix (on Eduard Fraenkel and E.R. Dodds):
Less well known is Fraenkel's reaction on first encountering Dodds, when he came to read a paper in Oxford. Fraenkel said to the then Regius Professor of Greek, Gilbert Murray, whom Dodds would in due course succeed, that he would like to study under that man for a year.12

12 This information comes from a letter to the then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, in which Murray recommends that Dodds be appointed his successor. The carbon copy is among Murray's papers in the Bodleian Library (MS. Gilbert Murray 77, fols. 138-140).
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Bowdlerization of Hume

John Hill Burton, Life and Correspondence of David Hume, Vol. II (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1846), p. 368 (letter to Hugh Blair and others, April 6, 1765):
There is a very remarkable difference between London and Paris; of which I gave warning to Helvétius, when he went over lately to England, and of which he told me, on his return, he was fully sensible. If a man have the misfortune, in the former place, to attach himself to letters, even if he succeeds, I know not with whom he is to live, nor how he is to pass his time in a suitable society. The little company there that is worth conversing with, are cold and unsociable; or are warmed only by faction and cabal; so that a man who plays no part in public affairs becomes altogether insignificant; and, if he is not rich, he becomes even contemptible. Hence that nation are relapsing fast into the deepest stupidity and ignorance. But, in Paris, a man that distinguishes himself in letters, meets immediately with regard and attention.
Hume actually wrote (emphasis added):
Hence that Nation are relapsing fast into the deepest Stupidity, Christianity & Ignorance.
See The Letters of David Hume, ed. J.Y.T. Greig, Vol. I: 1727-1765 (1932; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 498.

Sunday, August 25, 2019


The Lads of 1830

Edward Kennard Rand (1871-1945), Founders of the Middle Ages (1928; rpt. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1957), pp. 230-231 (note omitted):
I would here call the reader's attention to a page of the Harvard Catalogue for 1830-1831. My copy is unbound, but even when bound, this volume of thirty-one small pages would still be portable. It sets forth the course of instruction for Freshmen, Sophomores, Junior Sophisters, and Senior Sophisters. The programme is founded on the literatures of Greece and Rome, and many of the authors are listed. But there are also mathematics through calculus, general history and ancient history, with "Greek antiquities," Grotius, De Veritate Religionis Christianae, English grammar, rhetoric and composition, with themes, forensics, and oratory, modern languages, logic, philosophy and theology, natural philosophy, including mechanics, chemistry, electricity and magnetism, with "experimental lectures" — all this by the end of the Junior year. The great feature of the Senior year is that no Classical literature is prescribed; the ancient authors have been transcended for the higher learning — natural philosophy, including astronomy, optics, mineralogy, and the philosophy of natural history, also intellectual and moral philosophy, and theology both natural and revealed. Modern languages are still pursued, themes and forensics are still required. Finally, we note political economy, anatomy, and Rawle "On the Constitution of the United States."

This is a humanistic programme, reaching to the upper heights of thought and concentrated on the present time. It were ridiculous to suppose that all of these subjects were pursued as thoroughly as they are in colleges to-day. It were also ridiculous to suppose that we could probably reintroduce such a programme in all its parts. Yet I venture to think that the lads of 1830 had their minds touched at more points, and with more points, than our undergraduates to-day.
I can't find a copy of the 1830-1831 Harvard course catalogue, but cf. Report of the President of Harvard University, Submitting for Consideration a General Plan of Studies, Conformably to a Vote of the Board of Overseers of That Seminary, Passed February 4, 1830 (Cambridge: E.W. Metcalf and Company, 1830).

Edward Kennard Rand is my Doktorgrossvater.

Hat tip: Marc Addington.


Should He Be Blacklisted?

William M. Calder III, "Unfair to Wilamowitz?" Classical Review 54.2 (October, 2004) 552-554 (at 553):
Scholars should seek to understand the thinkers they study in the context of their times. Plato bought and sold human beings. Should he be blacklisted? Classical scholars today lack the breadth and linguistic competence of their predecessors. Instead of gratitude for what they have been bequeathed, too many seek to prove themselves superior by citing ideas incompatible with contemporary dogma.


Road Trip

William M. Calder III, "Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff to William Abbott Oldfather: Three Unpublished Letters," Classical Journal 72.2 (December, 1976 - January, 1977) 115-127 (at 118):
Third there was his overwhelming devotion to scholarship. While Oldfather drove, his wife read aloud scholarly articles to him.
Hat tip: Alan Crease.


Il Metodo di Fraenkel

Vincenzo Di Benedetto, "Ricordi di Eduard Fraenkel," Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. Classe di Lettere e Filosofia, Serie IV, 5.1 (2000) 1-20 (at 14):
Una volta ad Oxford di sua iniziativa mi disse con quali parole si poteva riassumere il suo metodo; e le parole erano: «leggere, leggere, leggere».
Once upon a time at Oxford, on his own initiative, he told me with what words one could sum up his method; and the words were: "Read, read, read."
The title of this post is a variation on Sebastiano Timpanaro, Genesi del metodo di Lachmann, translated by Glenn W. Most as The Genesis of Lachmann's Method (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).


A Mournful Scene of Havoc

Francis Kilvert, Diary (March 4, 1872):
What a superb day it has been, almost cloudless, brilliant hot as late May and the warm south wind blowing from the Black Mountains. Cwmgwanon Wood is being murdered. As I walked along the edge of the beautiful dingle and looked sadly down into the hollow, numbers of my old friends of seven years standing lay below on both banks of the brook prostrate and mutilated, a mournful scene of havoc, the road almost impassable for the limbs of the fallen giants.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



The Greatest of Vocations

Camille Paglia, Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays (New York: Vintage, 1992), p. 121:
To be a scholar is the greatest of vocations: to compose a devout commentary, a Talmud, on the created world.
Hat tip: Emily Esfahani Smith.


Biblical Languages

Martin Luther (1483-1546), To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools, tr. Albert T.W. Steinhauser, in Luther's Works, Vol. IV (Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Company, 1931), pp. 103-130 (at 113-115):
Truly, if there were no other use for the languages, this alone ought to rejoice and move us, that they are so fine and noble a gift of God, with which He is now richly visiting and endowing us Germans, more richly indeed than any other land. There is little evidence that the devil suffered them to be revived through the universities and monasteries; these have, on the contrary, always raged against them and are still raging. For the devil smelt a rat and perceived that if the languages were revived, there would be a hole knocked in his kingdom which he might have difficulty stopping. Since he was unable, however, to prevent their being revived, his aim is now to keep them on such slender rations that they will of themselves decline and pass away. They are like an unwelcome guest who has come to his house; so he determines to show him such entertainment that he will not tarry long. Very few of us, my dear sirs, see through this wicked plot of the devil.

Therefore, my beloved Germans, let us open our eyes, thank God for this precious treasure, and guard it well, lest it be again taken from us and the devil have his will. For though the Gospel has come and daily comes through the Holy Spirit alone, we cannot deny that it has come by means of the languages, by which it was also spread abroad, and by which it must be preserved. For when God desired through the apostles to spread abroad the Gospel in all the world, He provided tongues for that purpose. And before that He had spread the Greek and Latin languages, by means of the Roman empire, throughout all lands, in order that His Gospel might the more speedily bear fruit far and wide. He has done the same now. No one knew for what purpose God suffered the languages to be revived, until we now begin to see that it was for the sake of the Gospel, which He intended afterwards to reveal, in order to expose and destroy thereby the kingdom of antichrist. To this end He also gave over Greece to the Turk, in order that the Greeks, driven out and scattered, might spread their language and give an incentive to the study of other languages as well.

In proportion, then, as we prize the Gospel, let us guard the languages. For not in vain did God have His Scriptures set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. The languages, therefore, that God did not despise but chose above all others for His Word, we too ought to honor above all others. For St. Paul declared it to be a peculiar glory and distinction of Hebrew that God gave His Word in that language, when he said in Romans iii, "What profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because unto them were committed the oracles of God." King David also boasts in Psalm cxlvii, "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation nor made known to them his judgments." Hence Hebrew is called a sacred language, and St. Paul terms it in Romans i "the holy scriptures," doubtless because of the holy Word of God contained therein. Similarly, the Greek language may be called sacred, because it was chosen above all others as the language in which the New Testament was to be written and from which, as from a fountain, it flowed by translation into other languages and made them also sacred.

And let us be sure of this: we shall not long preserve the Gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which we carry this jewel; they are the vessel in which we hold this wine; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and as the Gospel itself says, they are the baskets in which we bear these loaves and fishes and fragments. If through our neglect we let the languages go (which may God forbid!), we shall not only lose the Gospel, but come at last to the point where we shall be unable either to speak or write a correct Latin or German. As proof and warning of this, let us take the wretched and woeful example of the universities and monasteries, in which men not only unlearned the Gospel, but corrupted the languages so that the miserable folk were fairly turned into beasts, unable to read or write a correct German or Latin and wellnigh losing their natural reason to boot.

Hence the apostles themselves considered it necessary to put the New Testament into Greek and to bind it fast to that language, doubtless in order to preserve it for us safe and sound as in a sacred ark. For they foresaw all that was to come and now has come to pass, and knew that if it were contained only in men's heads, wild and fearful disorder and confusion, and many various interpretations, fancies and doctrines would arise in the Church, which could be prevented and from which the plain man could be protected only by committing the New Testament to writing and language. Hence it is certain that unless the languages remain the Gospel must finally perish.

Saturday, August 24, 2019


On a Huge Hill

John Donne (1572-1631), Satires 3.75-82:
He's not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best.
T'adore or scorn an image, or protest,
May all be bad; doubt wisely. In strange way,
To stand enquiring right is not to stray.
To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge hill,
Craggèd and steep, Truth stands, and he that will
Reach her, about must, and about must go,
And what the hill's suddenness resists, win so.
The notes in Robin Robbins, ed., The Complete Poems of John Donne (Harlow: Pearson, 2010), pp. 393-395, are excellent (In strange way = On an unfamiliar road, suddenness = steepness, etc.).

I wonder if "of none" (line 75) could be influenced by the Latin genitive of worth—J.B. Hofmann and Anton Szantyr, Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1965), pp. 72-73 (§ 57).


Don't Be Squeamish

Dear Mike,

An exhaustively annotated edition of Swinburne’s letter might include some of the following information on the allusion made to Octavia and Queen Caroline.

Sir Joseph Arnould, Life of Thomas, First Lord Denman, Formerly Lord Chief Justice of England (Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1874), vol. 1, pp. 133-134:
"While we were calling our witnesses, and I was at Holland House on Sundays and at home in the evenings, anxiously sifting the minutes of evidence, Dr. Parr was my frequent correspondent, pointing out illustrations of many parts of our case from history and classical literature. He earnestly besought me to look into Bayle, and weave into my summing-up allusions to Judith, Julia, and Octavia. The two first seemed to me inapplicable; the third flashed upon me like lightning. In a moment I resolved to make the unhappy wife of Nero my heroine, and indeed, the parallel was perfect. I was deeply smitten, too, with the honest chambermaid's Greek, but, trembling as to the effect it might produce, I wrote back to ask Parr whether I could venture to bring it forward. He, in reply, at first suggested a method of periphrasis, but, at length, recurring to it in the postscript to a long letter, he burst out, ‘Oh dear, Mr. Denman, I am for the word itself — don't be squeamish.’

My speech was as successful with a view to my own reputation as my friends could desire. I hope, too, that it was of some use to the Queen, though the unfortunate turn that was, not quite unjustly, given to the parable of the woman taken in adultery has given me some of the bitterest moments of my life. Not that the subject was unfit to be touched, for it could not fail to have some effect on persons possessing religious feelings; but it ought not to have formed the concluding sentence, and might have been more guardedly introduced, and more dexterously softened off."
Arnould’s footnote 1 (p. 135):
Bayle, article ‘Octavia,’ cites the parallel passages from Tacitus and Xiphilin; Tacitus Ann. xiv., c. 60, Xiphilin p. 176; and see also Dion lii. 13. Neither the Latin nor the Greek can be quoted with decency. Tigellinus was presiding at the examination in which the female attendants of Octavia were being tortured to prove their mistress guilty of adultery with a slave. The imputation cast upon Tigellinus by the ‘honest chambermaid’ was of a nameless impurity, which made him peculiar for infamy even in the infamous court of Nero.
The word itself in the honest chambermaid’s Greek that could not be quoted with decency was ‘αἰδοῖον’; in the honest chambermaid’s Latin, ‘muliebria’, squeamishly rendered, – or ‘dextrously softened off’ – by translators Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb (1876) as ‘person’.

Dio Cassius, Roman History 62b.13.4 (tr. Earnest Cary):
ἐπεὶ γὰρ τῶν περὶ τὴν Ὀκταουίαν ὄντων οἱ ἄλλοι πάντες πλὴν Πυθιάδος συνεπέθεντο μετὰ τῆς Σαβίνης αὐτῇ, τῆς μέν, ὅτι ἐδυστύχει, καταφρονήσαντες, τὴν δέ, ὅτι ἴσχυε, κολακεύοντες, μόνη ἡ Πυθιὰς οὔτε τι κατεψεύσατο αὐτῆς, καίπερ πικρότατα βασανισθεῖσα, καὶ τέλος ὡς ὁ Τιγελλῖνος ἐνέκειτο αὐτῇ, προσέπτυσέ τε αὐτῷ καὶ εἶπε: ‘καθαρώτερον, ὦ Τιγελλῖνε, τὸ αἰδοῖον ἡ δέσποινά μου τοῦ σοῦ στόματος ἔχει.’

When all the other attendants of Octavia, with the exception of Pythias, had taken sides with Sabina in her attack upon the empress, despising Octavia because she was in misfortune and toadying to Sabina because she had great influence, Pythias alone had refused, though cruelly tortured, to utter lies against her mistress, and finally, as Tigellinus continued to urge her, she spat in his face, saying: "My mistress's privy parts are cleaner, Tigellinus, than your mouth."
Tacitus, Annals 14.60 (tr. Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb):
Actae ob id de ancillis quaestiones et vi tormentorum victis quibusdam ut falsa adnuerent, plures perstitere sanctitatem dominae tueri; ex quibus una instanti Tigellino castiora esse muliebria Octaviae respondit quam os eius.

As a consequence, her slave-girls were examined under torture, and though some were forced by the intensity of agony into admitting falsehoods, most of them persisted in upholding the virtue of their mistress. One of them said, in answer to the furious menaces of Tigellinus, that Octavia's person was purer than his mouth.
Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]


Clods and Boors

Martin Luther (1483-1546), To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools, tr. Albert T.W. Steinhauser, in Luther's Works, Vol. IV (Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Company, 1931), pp. 103-130 (at 112):
Shall we then permit none but clods and boors to rule, when we can get better men? That would indeed be a barbarous and foolish policy.
The German, from D. Martin Luthers Werke, Bd. 15 (Weimar: Hermann Böhlau, 1899), p. 35:
Soll man denn zu lassen, daß eyttel rülltzen und knebel regiren, so man's wohl bessern kan, ist yhe ein wild unvernünftiges furnehmen.
On rülltzen see Grimm's Deutsches Wörterbuch, Bd. 8: R-Schiefe (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1893), cols. 1478-1479, s.v. Rülz = ructus, sense 2: ungebildeter mensch.

Friday, August 23, 2019


Every Moment of One's Life

William M. Calder III, "The Refugee Classical Scholars in the USA: An Evaluation of their Contribution," Illinois Classical Studies 17.1 (Spring, 1992) 153-173 (at 163):
Sir Kenneth Dover has remarked that what was most memorable for him about Eduard Fraenkel was the great seriousness with which Fraenkel took the calling of scholar. This was precisely my experience with Werner Jaeger at Harvard (1952-56). He remarked to me when I was 19 years old: "The trouble with American classical scholars is that they are only classicists from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm five days a week. One must always be a scholar, every moment of one's life."
Hat tip: Alan Crease.


Malchus' Ear

Oil painting of the Betrayal (c. 1382-1390), formerly at St. Michael-at-Plea Church, Norwich, now at Norwich Cathedral:

Closeup of Malchus' ear:

Hat tip: A friend.


Enough of This Ancient History

Herodotus 9.27.4 (tr. A.D. Godley):
But since it is idle to recall these matters — for they that were erstwhile valiant may now be of lesser mettle, and they that lacked mettle then may be better men now — enough of these doings of old time.

ἀλλ' οὐ γάρ τι προέχει τούτων ἐπιμεμνῆσθαι· καὶ γὰρ ἂν χρηστοὶ τότε ἐόντες ὡυτοὶ νῦν ἂν εἶεν φλαυρότεροι, καὶ τότε ἐόντες φλαῦροι νῦν ἂν εἶεν ἀμείνονες. παλαιῶν μέν νυν ἔργων ἅλις ἔστω.


A Dish of Beastliness

Algernon Swinburne, letter to the New York Daily Tribune (written January 30, 1874, published February 25, 1874), from The Swinburne Letters. Edited by Cecil Y. Lang, Vol. 2: 1869-1875 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), pp. 274-275:
I am informed that certain American journalists, not content with providing filth of their own for the consumption of their kind, sometimes offer to their readers a dish of beastliness which they profess to have gathered from under the chairs of more distinguished men. While the abuse lavished on my name and writings could claim no higher than a nameless source, I have always been able to say with Shelley2—'I have neither curiosity, interest, pain nor pleasure, in anything, good or evil, they can say of me. I feel only a slight disgust, and a sort of wonder that they presume to write my name.' If I am to believe that that name has been made the mark for such vile language as is now publicly attributed to men of note in the world of letters, I, who am not sufficiently an expert in the dialect of the cesspool and the dung-cart to retort in their own kind on these venerable gentlemen—I, whose ears and lips alike are unused to the amenities of a conversation embroidered with such fragments of flowery rhetoric as may be fished up by congenial fingers or lapped up by congenial tongues out of the sewerage of Sodom—can return no better or more apt reply than was addressed by the servant of Octavia to the satellites of Nero and applied by Lord Denman when counsel for Queen Caroline to the sycophants of George IV. A foul mouth is so ill matched with a white beard that I would gladly believe the newspaper scribes alone responsible for the bestial utterances which they declare to have dropped from a teacher whom such disciples as these exhibit to our disgust and compassion as performing on their obscene platform the last tricks of tongue now possible to a gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape, carried first into notice on the shoulder of Carlyle, and who now in his dotage spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling; Coryphaeus or choragus of his Bulgarian tribe of autocoprophagous baboons who make the filth they feed on.

Averting with a peculiar emotion which I need not specify my eyes and nostrils from the sight and savour of such things, I need not stoop as though to blow off any speck of leaving from a name which I trust and think, though it may well be that it has gained nothing, has at least lost nothing in my hands of its hereditary honour. Those to whom it is known only as an object of reviling from writers with or without a name of their own, may yet do well to ask themselves how far such follies and such villainies may be likely to affect the repute or disturb the consciousness of one to whom it is given to remember that wellnigh at the very outset of his course he had earned the praise and won the friendship of Landor, of Hugo, and of Mazzini; and who, though he may see no need and feel no inclination to seek shelter behind the name or beneath the countenance of any man, has yet in the sense of this not unmerited honour an enduring source of such pleasures and such pride as the 'most sweet voices'3 of his revilers are about equally competent to give and to take away.

2. Letter to Leigh Hunt, Jan. 25, 1822, published in Richard Garnett's Relics of Shelly (1862).

3. Coriolanus, II.iii.180.
The "gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape" was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who in an interview had called Swinburne "a perfect leper and a mere sodomite." See Clyde K. Hyder, "Emerson on Swinburne: A Sensational Interview," Modern Language Notes 48.3 (March, 1933) 180-182.

Thanks very much to Eric Thomson for his help. His notes on Octavia, Nero, Lord Denman, and Queen Caroline will be featured on this blog tomorrow.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Baldness Cured

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 11.1305 (tr. Celia E. Schultz):
Tullia Superiana fulfilled her vow to Minerva Memor willingly and with just cause, on account of the restoration of her hair.

Minervae Memori Tullia Superiana restitutione facta sibi capillorum v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)


A Profusion of Paper

W.G. Sebald (1944-2001), The Rings of Saturn, tr. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998), pp. 8-9 (on Janine Dakyns):
Many a time, at the end of a working day. Janine would talk to me about Flaubert's view of the world, in her office where there were such quantities of lecture notes, letters and other documents lying around that it was like standing amidst a flood of paper. On the desk, which was both the origin and the focal point of this amazing profusion of paper, a virtual paper landscape had come into being in the course of time, with mountains and valleys. Like a glacier when it reaches the sea, it had broken off at the edges and established new deposits all around on the floor, which in turn were advancing imperceptibly towards the centre of the room. Years ago, Janine had been obliged by the ever-increasing masses of paper on her desk to bring further tables into use, and these tables, where similar processes of accretion had subsequently taken place, represented later epochs, so to speak, in the evolution of Janine's paper universe. The carpet, too, had long since vanished beneath several inches of paper; indeed, the paper had begun climbing from the floor, on which, year after year, it had settled, and was now up the walls as high as the top of the door frame, page upon page of memoranda and notes pinned up in multiple layers, all of them by just one corner. Wherever it was possible there were piles of papers on the books on her shelves as well. It once occurred to me that at dusk, when all this paper seemed to gather into itself the pallor of the fading light, it was like the snow in the fields, long ago, beneath the ink-black sky. In the end Janine was reduced to working from an easy chair drawn more or less into the middle of her room where, if one passed her door, which was always ajar, she could be seen bent almost double scribbling on a pad on her knees or sometimes just lost in thought. Once when I remarked that sitting there amidst her papers she resembled the angel in Dürer's Melancholia, steadfast among the instruments of destruction, her response was that the apparent chaos surrounding her represented in reality a perfect kind of order, or an order which at least tended towards perfection. And the fact was that whatever she might be looking for amongst her papers or her books, or in her head, she was generally able to find right away.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Disconnected Units of Twenty or Thirty Lines Each

Evan T. Sage, "Cicero and the Agrarian Proposals of 63 B.C.," Classical Journal 16 (1921) 230-236 (at 230):
In some ways the hardest and most important task of the Latin teacher is to make his students realize that Latin is something more than a series of disconnected units of twenty or thirty lines each, and that in the works of Caesar and Cicero we have historical documents that tell an important, and even an interesting, story.


Legislation Under Consideration

Cicero, On the Agrarian Law I.1.1 (tr. John Henry Freese):
By the immortal gods! do such ideas appear to you to be sober men's plans or the dreams of men drunk with wine? do they look like the deliberate opinions of wise men or the raving wishes of madmen?

haec, per deos immortales! utrum esse vobis consilia siccorum an vinulentorum somnia et utrum cogitata sapientium an optata furiosorum videntur?
Id. II.33.89:
See what a world of difference there is between the counsels of our ancestors and the madness of these men!

videte, quantum intervallum sit interiectum inter maiorum nostrorum consilia et inter istorum hominum dementiam.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Ecce Homo ("Why I Am So Clever," § 8; tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Scholars who at bottom do little nowadays but thumb books — philologists, at a moderate estimate, about 200 a day — ultimately lose entirely their capacity to think for themselves. When they don't thumb, they don't think. They respond to a stimulus (a thought they have read) whenever they think — in the end, they do nothing but react. Scholars spend all of their energies on saying Yes and No, on criticism of what others have thought — they themselves no longer think.

The instinct of self-defense has become worn-out in them; otherwise they would resist books. The scholar — a decadent.

I have seen this with my own eyes: gifted natures with a generous and free disposition, "read to ruin" in their thirties — merely matches that one has to strike to make them emit sparks — "thoughts."

Early in the morning, when day breaks, when all is fresh, in the dawn of one's strength — to read a book at such a time is simply depraved!

Der Gelehrte, der im Grunde nur noch Bücher »wälzt« — der Philologe mit mässigem Ansatz des Tags ungefähr 200 — verliert zuletzt ganz und gar das Vermögen, von sich aus zu denken. Wälzt er nicht, so denkt er nicht. Er antwortet auf einen Reiz (— einen gelesenen Gedanken), wenn er denkt, — er reagirt zuletzt bloss noch. Der Gelehrte giebt seine ganze Kraft im Ja und Neinsagen, in der Kritik von bereits Gedachtem ab, — er selber denkt nicht mehr ...

Der Instinkt der Selbstvertheidigung ist bei ihm mürbe geworden; im andren Falle würde er sich gegen Bücher wehren. Der Gelehrte — ein décadent.

— Das habe ich mit Augen gesehn: begabte, reich und frei angelegte Naturen schon in den dreissiger Jahren »zu Schanden gelesen«, bloss noch Streichhölzer, die man reiben muss, damit sie Funken — »Gedanken« geben.

— Frühmorgens beim Anbruch des Tags, in aller Frische, in der Morgenröthe seiner Kraft, ein Buch lesen — das nenne ich lasterhaft!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


School Editions

Found (and purchased) by a friend, for 50p each:


Exhortation on the Battlefield

Herodotus 9.17.4 (speech of Harmocydes to the Phocians; tr. A.D. Godley):
For it is better to end our lives in action and fighting than tamely to suffer a shameful death.

κρέσσον γὰρ ποιεῦντάς τι καὶ ἀμυνομένους τελευτῆσαι τὸν αἰῶνα ἤπερ παρέχοντας διαφθαρῆναι αἰσχίστῳ μόρῳ.
ἀμυνομένους: J. Enoch Powell, A Lexicon to Herodotus (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1938), p. 18 (s.v. ἀμύνω, sense II.1, middle voice): defend oneself

παρέχοντας: Id., p. 293 (s.v. παρέχω, sense I.5, citing only this passage): submit ... dub.

Despite Powell's "dub.", I see no variants or conjectures in N.G. Wilson's Oxford Classical Text edition and no discussion in his Herodotea: Studies on the Text of Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Powell's translation of this passage is unavailable to me. I might translate the sentence as follows:
For it is better to finish life while doing something and defending oneself than to perish by a most shameful death while submitting.
On Harmocydes' speech as a whole, see Vasiliki Zali, The Shape of Herodotean Rhetoric (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 297-300.


Tight-Fitting Clothes

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), "The Parson's Tale," Canterbury Tales X.423-428 (tr. Larry D. Benson):
Alas, some of them show the bulge of their shape, and the horrible swollen members, that it seems like the malady of hernia, in the wrapping of their leggings; and also the buttocks of them fare as it were the back part of a she-ape in the full of the moon. And moreover, the wretched swollen members that they show through their style of clothing, in parting of their hoses into white and red, seems that half their shameful private members were flayed. [425] And if so be that they divide their hoses in other colors, as is white and black, or white and blue, or black and red, and so forth, then seems it, as by variance of color, that half the part of their private members were corrupt by the fire of Saint Anthony (inflammation of the skin), or by cancer, or by other such mischance. Of the back part of their buttocks, it is very horrible to see. For certainly, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking excrement, that foul part show they to the people proudly in scorn of decency, which decency that Jesus Christ and his friends observed to show in their lives.
Original, from Jill Mann's edition (London: Penguin Books, 2005), pp. 721-722:
Allas, somme of hem shewen the shap and the boce of hire horrible swollen membres, that semeth lik the maladye of hirnia, in the wrappinge of hire hoses, | and eek the buttokes of hem, that faren as it were the hindre part of a she-ape in the fulle of the moone. | And mooreover the wrecched swollen membres that they shewe thurgh degisinge, in departinge of hire hoses in whit and reed, semeth that half hire shameful privee membres weren flayn. [425] | And if so be that they departen hire hoses in othere colours, as is whit and blew, or whit and blak, or blak and reed, and so forth, | thanne semeth it as by variaunce of colour that half the partie of hire privee membres ben corrupt by the fir of Seint Antony, or by cancre, or by oother swich meschaunce. | Of the hindre part of hire buttokes it is ful horrible for to see, for certes, in that partie of hire body theras they purgen hire stinkinge ordure, | that foule partie shewe they to the peple proudly, in despit of honestetee, the which honestetee that Jesu Crist and hise frendes observede to shewen in hir live.

Monday, August 19, 2019



Herodotus 8.142.5 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
These foreigners are completely unreliable and dishonest.

βαρβάροισι ἐστὶ οὔτε πιστὸν οὔτε ἀληθὲς οὐδέν.


The Physiognomy Defence

Cicero, In Defence of Quintus Roscius 7.20 (tr. J.H. Freese):
I beg and beseech you, who know them, to contrast their lives; you who do not know them, look at their faces. Do not the head itself, and those clean-shaven eyebrows seem to reek of malice and proclaim craftiness aloud? If one can make a guess from the silent form of a man's body, does not Fannius seem to be composed entirely of fraud, trickery, and lies from the tips of his fingers to the top of his head? He always has his head and eyebrows shaved, that he may not be accused of having a single hair of an honourable man on him...

oro atque obsecro vos, qui nostis, vitam inter se utriusque conferte, qui non nostis, faciem utriusque considerate. nonne ipsum caput et supercilia illa penitus abrasa olere malitiam et clamitare calliditatem videntur? non ab imis unguibus usque ad verticem summum, si quam coniecturam affert hominibus tacita corporis figura, ex fraude, fallaciis, mendaciis constare totus videtur? qui idcirco capite et superciliis semper est rasis, ne ullum pilum viri boni habere dicatur...
See Elizabeth C. Evans, "Physiognomics in the Ancient World," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 59.5 (1969) 1-101 (at 43). Cicero here portrays Fannius as a vir mollis, according to Jan B. Meister, "Pisos Augenbrauen: Zur Lesbarkeit aristokratischer Körper in der späten römischen Republik," Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 58.1 (2009) 71-95 (at 78-79).



William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On a Sun-Dial," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 208-216 (at 212-213):
I confess, nothing at present interests me but what has been—the recollection of the impressions of my early life, or events long past, of which only the dim traces remain in a smouldering ruin or half-obsolete custom. That things should be that are now no more, creates in my mind the most unfeigned astonishment. I cannot solve the mystery of the past, nor exhaust my pleasure in it. The years, the generations to come, are nothing to me. We care no more about the world in the year 2300 than we do about one of the planets. Even George IV. is better than the Earl of Windsor. We might as well make a voyage to the moon as think of stealing a march upon Time with impunity. De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. Those who are to come after us and push us from the stage seem like upstarts and pretenders, that may be said to exist in vacuo, we know not upon what, except as they are blown up with vanity and self-conceit by their patrons among the moderns. But the ancients are true and bonâ-fide people, to whom we are bound by aggregate knowledge and filial ties, and in whom, seen by the mellow light of history, we feel our own existence doubled and our pride consoled, as we ruminate on the vestiges of the past.



Vauvenargues (1715-1747), Reflections and Maxims, no. 102 (tr. F.G. Stevens):
We should expect the best and the worst from mankind, as from the weather.

Il faut tout attendre et tout craindre du temps et des hommes.

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Limitless Desire

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.7.20 (tr. Arthur P. Peabody):
Xerxes, indeed, replete with all the prizes and gifts of fortune, not content with his cavalry, his foot-soldiers, his vast fleet, his boundless supply of gold, offered a reward to him who should have invented a new pleasure, — with which he was not satisfied; for never will desire find an end.

nam Xerxes quidem refertus omnibus praemiis donisque fortunae, non equitatu, non pedestribus copiis, non navium multitudine, non infinito pondere auri contentus, praemium proposuit, qui invenisset novam voluptatem: qua ipsa non fuit contentus; neque enim umquam finem inveniet libido.


Without Money

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On the Want of Money," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 293-307 (at 304-305):
Literally and truly, one cannot get on well in the world without money. To be in want of money, is to pass through life with little credit or pleasure; it is to live out of the world, or to be despised if you come into it; it is not to be sent for to court, or asked out to dinner, or noticed in the street; it is not to have your opinion consulted or else rejected with contempt, to have your acquirements carped at and doubted, your good things disparaged, and at last to lose the wit and the spirit to say them; it is to be scrutinized by strangers, and neglected by friends; it is to be a thrall to circumstances, an exile in a foreign land; to forego leisure, freedom, ease of body and mind, to be dependent on the good-will and caprice of others, or earn a precarious and irksome livelihood by some laborious employment; it is to be compelled to stand behind a counter, or to sit at a desk in some public office, or to marry your landlady, or not the person you would wish; or to go out to the East or West-Indies, or to get a situation as judge abroad, and return home with a liver-complaint; or to be a law-stationer, or a scrivener or scavenger, or newspaper reporter; or to read law and sit in court without a brief; or to be deprived of the use of your fingers by transcribing Greek manuscripts, or to be a seal-engraver and pore yourself blind; or to go upon the stage, or try some of the Fine Arts; with all your pains, anxiety, and hopes, most probably to fail, or if you succeed, after the exertions of years, and undergoing constant distress of mind and fortune, to be assailed on every side with envy, back-biting, and falsehood, or to be a favourite with the public for awhile, and then thrown into the back-ground—or a jail, by the fickleness of taste and some new favourite; to be full of enthusiasm and extravagance in youth, of chagrin and disappointment in after-life; to be jostled by the rabble because you do not ride in your coach, or avoided by those who know your worth and shrink from it as a claim on their respect or their purse; to be a burden to your relations, or unable to do anything for them; to be ashamed to venture into crowds; to have cold comfort at home; to lose by degrees your confidence and any talent you might possess; to grow crabbed, morose, and querulous, dissatisfied with every one, but most so with yourself; and plagued out of your life, to look about for a place to die in, and quit the world without anyone's asking after your will.



Daniel Webster, Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States (March 7, 1850):
It is in the nature of man, manifested in his whole history, that religious disputes are apt to become warm in proportion to the strength of the convictions which men entertain of the magnitude of the questions at issue. In all such disputes, there will sometimes be found men with whom every thing is absolute; absolutely wrong, or absolutely right. They see the right clearly; they think others ought so to see it, and they are disposed to establish a broad line of distinction between what is right and what is wrong. They are not seldom willing to establish that line upon their own convictions of truth or justice; and are ready to mark and guard it by placing along it a series of dogmas, as lines of boundary on the earth's surface are marked by posts and stones. There are men who, with clear perception, as they think, of their own duty, do not see how too eager a pursuit of one duty may involve them in the violation of others, or how too warm an embracement of one truth may lead to a disregard of other truths equally important. As I heard it stated strongly, not many days ago, these persons are disposed to mount upon some particular duty, as upon a war-horse, and to drive furiously on and upon and over all other duties that may stand in the way. There are men who, in reference to disputes of that sort, are of the opinion that human duties may be ascertained with the exactness of mathematics. They deal with morals as with mathematics; and they think what is right may be distinguished from what is wrong with the precision of an algebraic equation. They have, therefore, none too much charity towards others who differ from them. They are apt, too, to think that nothing is good but what is perfect, and that there are no compromises or modifications to be made in consideration of difference of opinion or in deference to other men's judgment. If their perspicacious vision enables them to detect a spot on the face of the sun, they think that a good reason why the sun should be struck down from heaven. They prefer the chance of running into utter darkness to living in heavenly light, if that heavenly light be not absolutely without any imperfection.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


Government Surveillance of Subversives

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Gulliver's Travels, Book III, chapter VI:
Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wiped their posteriors; to take a strict view of their excrements, and from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness, or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs. Because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent experiment: for in such conjunctures, when he used merely as a trial to consider which was the best way, of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green; but quite different, when he thought only of raising an insurrection, or burning the metropolis.



Subjectivity and Objectivity

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), Antigonos von Karystos (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1881), p. 81 (tr. Richard Stoneman):
The tone is throughout subjective, the narrator speaks not with that dispassionate tedium that the philistines have always taken for objectivity, because it is forbidden them to wax enthusiastic about any subject, but from personal understanding and personal sensibility.

Der ton ist durchaus subjectiv, der berichterstatter redet nicht mit jener teilnahmlosen langweiligkeit, welche die philister allezeit für sachlich genommen haben, weil es ihnen versagt ist für eine sache sich zu erwärmen, sondern aus eigenem wissen mit eigenem gefühle.



Herodotus 8.73.3 (on the "seven nations" of the Peloponnese during the war with Persia; tr. A.D. Godley):
Now of these seven nations all the cities, save those aforesaid, sat apart from the war; and if I may speak freely, by so doing they took the part of the enemy.

τούτων ὦν τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐθνέων αἱ λοιπαὶ πόλιες, πάρεξ τῶν κατέλεξα, ἐκ τοῦ μέσου κατέατο· εἰ δὲ ἐλευθέρως ἔξεστι εἰπεῖν, ἐκ τοῦ κατήμενοι ἐμήδιζον.
"They took the part of the enemy" — more literally, "they sided with the Medes," or "they medized." See David F. Graf, "Medism: The Origin and Significance of the Term," Journal of Hellenic Studies 104 (1984) 15-30.

Friday, August 16, 2019


Demonic Nomenclature

Brian Stross, "Eight Reinterpretations of Submerged Symbolism in the Mayan Popol Wuj," Anthropological Linguistics 49.3/4 (Fall-Winter, 2007) 388-423 (at 419):
Quichua (del Oriente) of Ecuador has a similar-sounding word for 'devil' supai ('el demonio, el diablo, el espíritu maligno'). It is based on the word supi 'flatus, flatulence'—an exact parallel to Yukateko kisin 'devil', which is based on Yukateko kis 'flatus, flatulence, breaking wind'. The Peruvian Quechua word supay or supai, with meanings of 'demon, devil, witch', occurs in a number of Quechua dialects (Anne Helsley p.c. 1985).
Related posts:



What Is Man?

Stobaeus, Florilegium 4.34.60, in Ioannis Stobaei Anthologium, Vol. V: Anthologii Libri Quarti Partem Alteram, ed. Otto Hense (Berlin: Weidmann, 1912), p. 843 (attributed to Aristotle; my translation):
For what is man? Specimen of feebleness, time's spoils, fortune's toy, image of change, poised between envy and disaster, and, for the rest, phlegm and bile.

τί γάρ ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος; ἀσθενείας ὑπόδειγμα, καιροῦ λάφυρον, τύχης παίγνιον, μεταπτώσεως εἰκὼν, φθόνου καὶ συμφορᾶς πλάστιγξ, τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν φλέγμα καὶ χολή.
I translate "phlegm and bile" (two of the humors), rather than as (e.g.) "fire and anger."

For τύχης παίγνιον cf. Secundus, Sententiae 7, in Friedrich Wilhelm August Mullach, ed., Fragmenta Philosophorum Graecorum (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1860), p. 513 (with Mullach's Latin translation):
Τί ἐστιν Ἄνθρωπος; Νοῦς σεσαρκωμένος, πνευματικὸν ἀγγεῖον, αἰσθητικὸν οἴκημα, οἰκητήριον ὀλιγοχρόνιον, ἐπίπονος ψυχή, τύχης παίγνιον, φάντασμα χρόνου, ὠστεωμένον ὄργανον, κατάσκοπος βίου, φωτὸς ἀποστάτης, γής ἀπαίτημα.

Quid est Homo? Mens indula carne, vas spiritale, sensile domicilium, breve habitaculum, anima laboris patiens, fortunae ludibrium, vana temporis imago, instrumentum osseum, vitae explorator, lucis desertor, terrae postulatum.



Friedrich Nietzsche, letter to Carl von Gersdorff (April 7, 1866; tr. Christopher Middleton):
Three things are my relaxations, but infrequent ones: my Schopenhauer, Schumann's music, and then solitary walks.

Drei Dinge sind meine Erholungen, aber seltne Erholungen, mein Schopenhauer, Schumannsche Musik, endlich einsame Spaziergänge.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


The Five Senses in Hell

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), "The Parson's Tale," Canterbury Tales X.206-209:
And forther over, they shul have defaute of alle manere delices; for certes, delices ben after the appetites of the five wittes, as sighte, heringe, smellinge, savoringe, and touchinge, | but in helle hir sighte shal be ful of derknesse and of smoke, and therfore ful of teeres; and hire heringe ful of waimentinge and of grintinge of teeth, as seyth Jesu Crist. | Hir nosethirles shul be ful of stinkinge stink, and as seyth Isaie the prophete, 'hire savoring shal be ful of bitter galle,' | and touchinge of al hir body ycovered with 'fir that nevere shal quenche, and with wormes that nevere shul dien,' as God seyth by the mouth of Isaie.
Nevill Coghill very briefly summarizes but doesn't translate "The Parson's Tale" in his modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (1951; rpt. London: Penguin Books, 1977), but the passage quoted above is easy enough to understand without a translation.

I searched quickly in Richard Newhauser, "The Parson's Tale," in Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, edd., Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales, Vol. I (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002), pp. 529-611, but didn't find any sources for this passage.

I haven't tracked down the references cited by Lee W. Patterson, "The Parson's Tale and the Quitting of The Canterbury Tales," Traditio 34 (1978) 331-380 (at 355):
To amplify the second phrase ('drede ... of the horrible peynes of helle') Chaucer relies on the tradition of the supplicia damnatorum, which provides him with both a list of punishments and their rationales, e.g., the sinner who has indulged in 'delices' while alive will have each of his five senses assaulted with ugliness and pain while dead (207-210).66 But again, rather than present a random list of items Chaucer provides a coherent structure by appropriating Gregory's exegesis of a passage from Job: 'Suffre, Lord, that I may a while biwaille and wepe, er I go withoute returnyng to the derke lond, covered with the derknesse of deeth; to the lond of mysese and of derknesse, whereas is the shadwe of deeth, whereas ther is noon ordre or ordinaunce, but grisly drede that evere shal laste' (176-177, Job 10.21). This passage is then broken up into seven phrases which are carefully expounded and among which the various supplicia are distributed.

66 For comparable but less well-organized discussions of the pains of hell, see Peter Damian, Institutio monialis 12 (PL 145.745-746) and The Pricke of Conscience 174-203. See also the passage from MS Trinity R.14.7 printed by Bryan and Dempster 745-758.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Xenophanes, fragment 27 (tr. J.H. Lesher):
For all things are from the earth and to the earth all things come in the end.

ἐκ γαίης γὰρ πάντα, καὶ εἰς γῆν πάντα τελευτᾷ.


Words Written on Rocks

Herodotus 8.22.1 (tr. A.D. Godley):
But Themistocles picked out the seaworthiest Athenian ships and went about to the places of drinking water, where he engraved on the rocks writing which the Ionians read on the next day when they came to Artemisium. This was what the writing said: "Men of Ionia, you do wrongly to fight against the land of your fathers and bring slavery upon Hellas...."

Ἀθηναίων δὲ νέας τὰς ἄριστα πλεούσας ἐπιλεξάμενος Θεμιστοκλέης ἐπορεύετο περὶ τὰ πότιμα ὕδατα, ἐντάμνων ἐν τοῖσι λίθοισι γράμματα, τὰ Ἴωνες ἐπελθόντες τῇ ὑστεραίῃ ἡμέρῃ ἐπὶ τὸ Ἀρτεμίσιον ἐπελέξαντο. τὰ δὲ γράμματα τάδε ἔλεγε. "Ἄνδρες Ἴωνες, οὐ ποιέετε δίκαια ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας στρατευόμενοι καὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα καταδουλούμενοι...."

del. Van Herwerden
The Greek doesn't say "the land of your fathers," but simply "the fathers" — see J. Enoch Powell, A Lexicon to Herodotus (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1938), p. 296 ("ancestors"). Cf. the translation of Robin Waterfield ("your ancestral line") and the commentary of Charles Forster Smith and Arthur Gordon Laird (words in brackets added):
πατέρας: the Athenians; cp. l. 14 [μεμνημένοι ὅτι ἀπ᾿ ἡμέων γεγόνατε = "be mindful that you are our sons"] and 7.51.8 [ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας], 11 [καταδουλουμένους τὴν μητρόπολιν].
The eponymous ancestor of the Ionians was Ion, an Athenian.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019



Confucius, The Analects 2.17 (tr. Burton Watson):
The Master said, You (Zilu), shall I teach you what it means to know something? When you know, to know you know. When you don't know, to know you don't know. That's what knowing is.


The Harper of Aspendus

Cicero, Against Verres II 1.20.54 (tr. L.H.G. Greenwood, with his note):
My charge is that Verres did not leave one single statue behind; that from temples and public places alike, with the whole of Aspendus looking on, they were all openly loaded on wagons and carted away. Yes, even the famous Harper of Aspendus, about whom you have often heard the saying that is proverbial among the Greeks, of whom it was said that he made "all his music inside"a—him too Verres carried off and put right inside his own house...

a The proverb was applied to those who do things for their own pleasure and not that of others. The lifelike figure appeared to be enjoying his own music, inaudible to everyone else.

hoc dico, nullum te Aspendi signum, Verres, reliquisse, omnia ex fanis, ex locis publicis, palam, spectantibus omnibus, plaustris evecta exportataque esse. atque etiam illum Aspendium citharistam, de quo saepe audistis id quod est Graecis hominibus in proverbio, quem omnia intus canere dicebant, sustulit et in intimis suis aedibus posuit...
George Long ad loc.:
Cicero has this expression (In Rullum, ii.26), "atque hoc carmen hic tribunus plebis non vobis, sed sibi intus canit." The explanation of this passage by Asconius, which Klotz has adopted, is the following:—"There was something in the manner in which this figure was represented as holding the lyre, to which the words 'intus canere' refer. Asconius says that the player on the cithara holds the 'plectrum' in his right hand, whiich is 'foris canere;' and he has the fingers of the left hand on the strings, which is 'intus canere.' This 'citharista' of Aspendus was represented doing every thing with the left band, 'intus;' he did not use the right hand at all. The proverbial expression 'intus canere' was also applied to a person who slily looked after his own interest." Asconius adds: 'unde omnes, quotquot fures erant, a Graecis Aspendii citharistae in proverbio dicebantur, quod, ut ille carminis, ita isti furtorum occultatores erant.' But this explanation of Asconius certainly does not explain the proverb. Zumpt gives a different sense to the words 'intus canere,' as applied to the 'citharista:' "the statue was made with such skill, that the 'citharista' seemed to be feeling his music, or 'intus canebat;'" but nobody else, of course, could hear it. He had, then, all his playing to himself.


A Neapolitan Lyric?

W.H. Auden (1907-1973), A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (New York: The Viking Press, 1970), p. 196:
And this anonymous Neapolitan lyric is, surely, beautiful.

Strunz' . . .
Nel sole fumante
Come un incenso
A Dio . . .
Una mosca
Ti canta
Una ninna-nanna . . .
Zzz . . . Zzz . . .
Ma . . . tu non ascolti . . .
Strunz' . . . .

(Turd, smoking in the sun to God like a thurifer . . . A fly sings you a hush-a-bye . . . Zzz . . . Zzz . . . but . . . you don't listen . . . Turd! . . .)
I can't find any older source for this "Neapolitan lyric".

Dear Mike,

There’s a clear resemblance between Auden’s 'anonymous Neapolitan lyric' and a poem variously attributed to writers Salvatore di Giacomo (1860-1934) and Ferdinando Russo (1866-1927):
ch'arravugliat' staj,
n'goppa a nu marciapiede
dint a na sfera e sole.

Nù muscuglione t' gir attuorn'
e t' canta na ninna nanna,
e tu t'adduorm,
In standard Italian:
che attorcigliato stai
su un marciapiede
dentro un raggio di sole.

Un moscone ti gira intorno
e ti canta la ninna nanna
e tu ti addormenti,
I wonder if Auden had come across a popular variant of this, or perhaps the author of the poem was echoing an earlier tradition? I don't know where or when it was published.

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]


Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?