Saturday, November 30, 2019


Something Very Badly Wrong

Nicholas Horsfall, "Fraud as Scholarship: The Helen Episode and the Appendix Vergiliana," Illinois Classical Studies 31/32 (2006-2007) 1-27 (at 3):
Intellectually speaking, there is something very badly wrong with (most) Latinists.


Howler of the Week

Denis Faucher (1487-1562), "Ad Scholasticam," in University of Pennsylvania, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Ms. Codex 1620, fol. 1v:

My transcription:
Coelesti ut valeas sponso formosa videri,
    Compone hic vultus casta puella tuos.
Non placet huic facies, aut frons, quae effricta pudorem
    Perdidit, ora illi mortificata placent.
The poem appears below this picture of a crucified nun:

Translation of the poem by Nicholas Herman, "Question of the Week: 'What will you do when he comes at you with the sickle?'" Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project (October 25, 2019 = No. 31/52):
The heavenly bridegroom, so that he could appear beautiful / Made this likeness of a chaste girl for your eyes. / Do not be pleased by her face, or lose your shame in front of what is shown here, / only pray now for those who are dead.
Screen image of the translation (captured on November 29, 2019):

Dr. Herman says that this is "roughly translated." I say that it completely distorts the meaning of the Latin. I would give it a grade of F. Here is my own rough, but I think more accurate, version:
So that you can appear beautiful to the Heavenly Bridegroom, adjust here your facial appearance, o chaste girl. A scrubbed face or forehead that has lost its modesty does not please Him; a deathlike visage does.
On the image of the crucified nun, see Cristina Cruz González, "Beyond the Bride of Christ: The Crucified Abbess in Mexico and Spain," The Art Bulletin 99.4 (December, 2017) 102-132.

Thanks to friends who previewed this post and made helpful suggestions.


Friday, November 29, 2019


What Do People Want?

Arrian, Discourses of Epictetus 4.1.46 (tr. W.A. Oldfather):
For what is it that every man is seeking? To live securely, to be happy, to do everything as he wishes to do, not to be hindered, not to be subject to compulsion.

τί γάρ ἐστιν, ὃ ζητεῖ πᾶς ἄνθρωπος; εὐσταθῆσαι, εὐδαιμονῆσαι, πάντα ὡς θέλει ποιεῖν, μὴ κωλύεσθαι, μὴ ἀναγκάζεσθαι.


Our Own Felicity

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), The Traveller, lines 427-434:
In every government, though terrors reign,
Though tyrant kings, or tyrant laws restrain,
How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.        430
Still to ourselves in every place consign'd,
Our own felicity we make or find:
With secret course, which no loud storms annoy,
Glides the smooth current of domestic joy.
Related post: Political Systems.


Contentment Is My Wealth

George Peele (1556-1596), The Arraignment of Paris 1.1.147-153:
And for the one, contentment is my wealth;
A shell of salt will serve a shepherd swain,
A slender banquet in a homely scrip,
And water running from the silver spring.
For arms, they dread no foes that sit so low;
A thorn can keep the wind from off my back,
A sheep-cote thatch'd a shepherd's palace hight.
Scrip = small bag; thorn = thorn-bush.

Thursday, November 28, 2019



Aristophanes, Birds 417-420 (tr. Stephen Halliwell):
Does he discern some profit in staying here?
Does he believe that living here with me
He'll vanquish foes and benefit his friends?

ὁρᾷ τι κέρδος ἐνθάδ᾽ ἄξιον μονῆς,
ὅτῳ πέποιθ᾽ ἐμοὶ ξυνὼν κρατεῖν ἂν ἢ
τὸν ἐχθρὸν ἢ φίλοισιν ὠφελεῖν ἔχειν;
Nan Dunbar ad loc. (student edition):
The question implies that it is a desirable 'advantage' (κέρδος) for a man to be able 'to beat his enemy or help his friends'. This represents the traditional Greek idea of justice: cf. the sober statesman Solon's prayer (13.3-6 West) for wealth, good reputation, εἶναι δὲ γλυκὺν ὧδε φίλοις, ἐχθροῖσι δὲ πικρόν, τοῖσι μὲν αἰδοῖον, τοῖσι δὲ δεινὸν ἰδεῖν, Pl. Rep. 332 A.
See Mary Whitlock Blundell, Helping Friends and Harming Enemies: A Study in Sophocles and Greek Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989; rpt. 1991), pp. 26–59.


The Ancients

Park Honan, Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 52:
The ancients lifted one out of time, out of a mean, fussy, moral present, up to the clouds and the gods, over seas and continents, or in their stories defied every law of mankind.


Happy Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Freedom from Want:

Deborah Solomon, American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 3:
Rockwell? Oh, God. He was viewed as a cornball and a square, a convenient symbol of the bourgeois values modernism sought to topple.
I guess that's why I like Norman Rockwell's paintings so much — I'm an unrepentant cornball and a square, and I respect bourgeois values. I'm just too unsophisticated to appreciate this gigantic turd in the Thanksgiving punchbowl: David J. Silverman, "The Vicious Reality Behind the Thanksgiving Myth," New York Times (November 27, 2019). Instead, I say with Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880), "Over the River and Through the Wood":
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
George Durrie (1820-1863), Home to Thanksgiving:

Wednesday, November 27, 2019



Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XII.50 (tr. Henri van Laun):
Children are overbearing, supercilious, passionate, envious, inquisitive, egotistical, idle, fickle, timid, intemperate, liars, and dissemblers; they laugh and weep easily, are excessive in their joys and sorrows, and that about the most trifling objects; they bear no pain, but like to inflict it on others; already they are men.

Les enfants sont hautains, dédaigneux, colères, envieux, curieux, intéressés, paresseux, volages, timides, intempérants, menteurs, dissimulés; ils rient et pleurent facilement; ils ont des joies immodérées et des afflictions amères sur de très petits sujets; ils ne veulent point souffrir de mal, et aiment à en faire: ils sont déjà des hommes.


Drinking Wine

Lin Hung (c. 1340-c. 1400), "Drinking Wine," tr. Irving Y. Lo in Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1975), p. 463:
Confucian scholars love strange antiquity,
No sooner open their mouth than gab about Yao and Shun.
If they were born before the time of Fu-hsi,
What'd have been the topic of their discourse?
Now the ancients have all passed away,
And their ways are found in what they left behind.
But since not a single word in them can be made good,
Ten thousand volumes are all useless things.
So I wish only to drink my wine,
And not to know the rest.
Look, the people in the Land of the Happy-drunk
Lived long before Heaven and earth began.


Young and Old

Homer, Iliad 3.108-110 (tr. Peter Green):
                    Younger men's ideas are forever flighty,
but whatever an old man's involved in, he'll always look
forward and back as well, ensure what's best for both sides.

αἰεὶ δ᾽ ὁπλοτέρων ἀνδρῶν φρένες ἠερέθονται·
οἷς δ᾽ ὁ γέρων μετέῃσιν ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω
λεύσσει, ὅπως ὄχ᾽ ἄριστα μετ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισι γένηται.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ὁπλότερος:
The orig. sense was perh. capable of bearing arms; and so ὁπλότεροι would be the serviceable men, hence, the young men, opp. the old men and children.
Friedrich Bechtel (1855-1924), Lexilogus zu Homer: Etymologie und Stammbildung homerischer Wörter (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1914), p. 252:

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


A Plan

Archibald Stewart, letter to James Boswell (September 7, 1763), in Frederick A. Pottle, ed., Boswell in Holland, 1763-1764 (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1952), pp. 20-21:
As you have often told me that in the most trifling incidents of life you are unwilling to determine without advice, I think it my duty as your sincere friend to lay the following plan before you for your way of living at Utrecht.—Supposing you were to follow Dempster's advice to make no more sallies into the streets, you ought to rise generally about eight o'clock or a little before it. So soon as you have huddled on your clothes, open your chamber window and throw your head out, keeping your mouth wide open in order to feast upon the fresh air. In this posture remain for near the space of a quarter of an hour. Then proceed to bodily exercise by dancing and capering about your room for near twenty-five minutes. After spending forty minutes in this manner, devour about a Scotch pint of porridge and milk (if to be got) for breakfast; after which turn up Erskine and study him with attention, considering that every sentence of his you make yourself master of will add at least a year to your father's life and may come to immortalize your own. For recreation read a chapter now and then of the Great Man or honest Spec. Your tongue and p———k are the only two members I have not instructed you how to exercise. The former of these you must satisfy by half an hour's vociferation at your servant, forenoon and afternoon. As to the latter, I believe he requires very little exercise, as he seldom or ever of late has been seen to move at all.


Another Portrait of the Blogger

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 33.7-9 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
[7] That is why we give to children a proverb, or that which the Greeks call Chria, to be learned by heart; that sort of thing can be comprehended by the young mind, which cannot as yet hold more. For a man, however, whose progress is definite, to chase after choice extracts and to prop his weakness by the best known and the briefest sayings and to depend upon his memory, is disgraceful; it is time for him to lean on himself. He should make such maxims and not memorize them. For it is disgraceful even for an old man, or one who has sighted old age, to have a note-book knowledge. "This is what Zeno said." But what have you yourself said? "This is the opinion of Cleanthes." But what is your own opinion? How long shall you march under another man's orders? Take command, and utter some word which posterity will remember. Put forth something from your own stock.

[8] For this reason I hold that there is nothing of eminence in all such men as these, who never create anything themselves, but always lurk in the shadow of others, playing the rôle of interpreters, never daring to put once into practice what they have been so long in learning. They have exercised their memories on other men's material. But it is one thing to remember, another to know. Remembering is merely safeguarding something entrusted to the memory; knowing, however, means making everything your own; it means not depending upon the copy and not all the time glancing back at the master.

[9] "Thus said Zeno, thus said Cleanthes, indeed!" Let there be a difference between yourself and your book! How long shall you be a learner? From now on be a teacher as well! "But why," one asks, "should I have to continue hearing lectures on what I can read?" "The living voice," one replies, "is a great help." Perhaps, but not the voice which merely makes itself the mouthpiece of another's words, and only performs the duty of a reporter.

[7] Ideo pueris et sententias ediscendas damus et has quas Graeci chrias vocant, quia complecti illas puerilis animus potest, qui plus adhuc non capit. Certi profectus viro captare flosculos turpe est et fulcire se notissimis ac paucissimis vocibus et memoria stare: sibi iam innitatur. Dicat ista, non teneat; turpe est enim seni aut prospicienti senectutem ex commentario sapere. 'Hoc Zenon dixit': tu quid? 'Hoc Cleanthes': tu quid? Quousque sub alio moveris? impera et dic quod memoriae tradatur, aliquid et de tuo profer.

[8] Omnes itaque istos, numquam auctores, semper interpretes, sub aliena umbra latentes, nihil existimo habere generosi, numquam ausos aliquando facere quod diu didicerant. Memoriam in alienis exercuerunt; aliud autem est meminisse, aliud scire. Meminisse est rem commissam memoriae custodire; at contra scire est et sua facere quaeque nec ad exemplar pendere et totiens respicere ad magistrum.

[9] 'Hoc dixit Zenon, hoc Cleanthes.' Aliquid inter te intersit et librum. Quousque disces? iam et praecipe. Quid est quare audiam quod legere possum? 'Multum' inquit 'viva vox facit.' Non quidem haec quae alienis verbis commodatur et actuari vice fungitur.
Hat tip: Mark Thorne.

Related post: Portrait of the Blogger.



[Vergil], Copa 31-38 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G.P. Goold):
Come here and rest your weary limbs beneath the shade of vines,
and entwine your drooping head in a coronet of roses,
and, kissing the luscious lips of a pretty girl—
damn you over there with that prudish frown on your face!
Why save fragrant wreaths for ungrateful ashes?
D'you want your bones buried under a garlanded tombstone?
Set forth the wine and dice! To hell with him who thinks of tomorrow!
Death is tweaking my ear and says: "Live it up now, for I'm coming!"

hic age pampinea fessus requiesce sub umbra
   et gravidum roseo necte caput strophio,
formosa et tenerae decerpens ora puellae—
   a pereat cui sunt prisca supercilia!
quid cineri ingrato servas bene olentia serta?        35
   anne coronato vis lapide ossa tegi?
pone merum et talos; pereat qui crastina curat:
   Mors aurem vellens "vivite" ait, "venio."

33 formosa et Clausen: formosum , formosa en Courtney, formosum os ... ore Olszaniec
36 ossa Ilgen: ista
Another English version, by L.P. Wilkinson, Greece & Rome 12.1 (April, 1965) 41:
Come along. You're tired out. Lie down beneath this pear-tree.
   Here's a drop of lavender to sprinkle on your hair.
Choose a girl with cherry lips and don't be shy of kissing.
   Eye-brow-raising puritans can chase themselves, I say.
What's the point of keeping flowers to put on thankless tombstones?
   You won't want them on your grave when you have had your day.
Draw a pint. Get out the darts. Who cares about tomorrow?
   Death is whispering in your ear, 'Live now. I'm on my way.'

Monday, November 25, 2019


In the Mirror

Aristophanes, Clouds 908 (tr. Benjamin Bickley Rogers):
You're a useless old drone with one foot in the grave!
The same (tr. Stephen Halliwell):
A deranged and senile wreck you are!
The Greek:
τυφογέρων εἶ κἀνάρμοστος.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. τῦφος, sense 2: delusion.

Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ἀνάρμοστος, sense II (citing this verse): of persons, impracticable.

From Eric Thomson:
ἀνάρμοστος reminds me of crotchety. The DGE gives the meaning as something like "impossible/difficult to deal with, disagreeable". Liddell and Scott would have been wiser to choose "intractable"; "impracticable" now sounds dated.


An Unnatural Monster

Charles Darwin (1809-1882), The Descent of Man I.iv:
Even when we are quite alone, how often do we think with pleasure or pain of what others think of us,—of their imagined approbation or disapprobation; and this all follows from sympathy, a fundamental element of the social instincts. A man who possessed no trace of such instincts would be an unnatural monster.


Short and Tedious

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XII.19 (tr. Henri van Laun):
Life is short and tedious, and is wholly spent in wishing; we trust to find rest and enjoyment at some future time, often at an age when our best blessings, youth and health, have already left us. When at last that time has arrived, it surprises us in the midst of fresh desires; we have got no farther when we are attacked by a fever which kills us; if we had been cured, it would only have been to give us more time for other desires.

La vie est courte et ennuyeuse, elle se passe toute à désirer. L'on remet à l'avenir son repos et ses joies, à cet âge souvent où les meilleurs biens ont déjà disparu, la santé et la jeunesse. Ce temps arrive, qui nous surprend encore dans les désirs: on en est là, quand la fièvre nous saisit et nous éteint; si l'on eût guéri, ce n'était que pour désirer plus longtemps.


What We Have in Common

Euripides, fragment 733 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Death waits for every man; that is our common lot, and all of us suffer it in common. What is fated is greater than what is not fated.

τοῖς πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποισι κατθανεῖν μένει,
κοινὸν δ᾿ ἔχοντες αὐτὸ κοινὰ πάσχομεν
πάντες· τὸ γὰρ χρεὼν μεῖζον ἢ τὸ μὴ χρεών.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


It Is Their Nature

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XII.1 (tr. Henri van Laun):
Let us not be angry with men when we see them cruel, ungrateful, unjust, proud, egotists, and forgetful of others; they are made so; it is their nature; we might just as well quarrel with a stone for falling to the ground, or with a fire when the flames ascend.

Ne nous emportons point contre les hommes en voyant leur dureté, leur ingratitude, leur injustice, leur fierté, l'amour d'eux-mêmes et l'oubli des autres: ils sont ainsi faits, c'est leur nature; c'est ne pouvoir supporter que la pierre tombe, ou que le feu s'élève.


A Race Apart

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), The Condition of the Working Class in England, tr. W.O. Henderson and W.H. Chaloner (1958; rpt. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968), p. 139:
In the circumstances it is not surprising that the working classes have become a race apart from the English bourgeoisie. The middle classes have more in common with every other nation in the world than with the proletariat which lives on their own doorsteps. The workers differ from the middle classes in speech, in thoughts and ideas, customs, morals, politics and religion. They are two quite different nations, as unlike as if they were differentiated by race.
Related post: Two Nations.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


Non Multa Sed Multum

Quintilian 10.1.59 (tr. Donald A. Russell):
We should form our minds and take our tone from extensive reading, rather than from reading many authors.

multa magis quam multorum lectione formanda mens et ducendus color.
Renzo Tosi, Dizionario delle sentenze latine e greche (Milan: BUR, 2017), number 486 (page number unknown):
Non multa sed multum
Non molte cose, ma molto

È questa la formulazione vulgata di un motto tuttora diffuso (anche se nella prassi scolastica sempre più disatteso), il quale sostiene che una vera cultura si deve basare sulla qualità e l’approfondimento, piuttosto che sulla quantità e la dispersiva pluralità degli argomenti. Deve trattarsi di un precetto già antico: ne abbiamo vestigia in Plinio il Giovane (Ep. 7,9: Multum legendum esse non multa, «bisogna leggere molto, non molte cose») e in Quintiliano (10,1,59: Multa magis quam multorum lectione formanda mens, «la mente si deve formare leggendo in profondità, più che leggendo molte cose»). Concettualmente si deve poi citare un ben noto frammento di Eraclito (16,1 Marcovich2 = 40 D.-K.), che avverte: πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει, «l’apprendere molte cose non insegna l’intelligenza». Un riuso nella letteratura medievale si trova in Ugo di San Vittore (Expositio in Hierarchiam caelestem S. Dionysii, PL 175, 1066b), dove l’espressione è riferita alla peccatrice alla quale Gesù dice che molto le è perdonato perché molto ha amato. Molte, infine, le riprese nella cultura moderna e contemporanea: si ritrova, ad es., in Lessing (Emilia Galotti, 1,5), in una lettera di Lenin ad A.B. Khalatov del 26 maggio 1921 (Lenin Collected Works, 45, Moskva 1976, 157) e in Camino di Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer; inoltre il motto fu caro a Luigi Luzzatti, teorico delle banche popolari, e così sono denominate sei bagatelle per quartetto d’archi di Anton Webern (op. 9), uno dei primi esempi di aforisma musicale. Un aforisma di Vauvenargues, infine (269), ricorda che «è ben più facile fingersi di un’infinità di nozioni che non possederne bene un piccolo numero».


An Italian Proverb

Gustavo Benelli, Raccolta di proverbi (Firenze: G. Carnesecchi e Figli, 1876), p. 23:
Corpo pieno, anima consolata.


Effects of Cocoa Drinking

William Juniper, A Merry, Ingenious, and Diverting Work Entitled Liber Compotorum Felicium: Or, The True Drunkard's Delight (London: The Unicorn Press Ltd, 1933), p. 327 (with my emendation of spirit-flattering to spirit-flattening):
And the result? Well, for one thing, the gentlemen (and ladies) of England are steadily losing their figures and falling victim to fatty degeneration, shortness of breath, oiliness of complexion, thickness of utterance and deplorable embonpoint. And not only are they losing their figures, but they are also losing their heads, for cocoa is a dull, soul-clogging, spirit-flattening, stupefying drink, provocative of apathy, drabness and smugness, political stodginess and obliqueness, and sullen rebellion and disloyalty.
See also these lines from G.K. Chesterton's "The Song of Right and Wrong":
Cocoa is a cad and coward,
Cocoa is a vulgar beast,
Cocoa is a dull, disloyal,
Lying, crawling cad and clown,
And may very well be grateful
To the fool that takes him down.

Friday, November 22, 2019


Aimless Work

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), The Condition of the Working Class in England, tr. W.O. Henderson and W.H. Chaloner (1958; rpt. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968), p. 133:
No worse fate can befall a man than to have to work every day from morning to night against his will at a job that he abhors. The more the worker feels himself a man, the more must he detest work of this kind — the more acutely is he aware of the fact that such aimless labour gives rise to no inner spiritual satisfaction.
Related post: Futile Work.


A Ruined Tomb

Victor Hugo (1802-1885), "The Melancholy of Olympio," final stanzas (tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore):
And when man's head is weighed down by the years,
When, with his schemes and visions all gone by,
He feels that he is just a ruined tomb
In which his virtues and illusions lie;

When his soul, pondering, goes down within
His heart of hearts, which ice has now congealed,
And counts the fallen dreams and sorrows there
Like bodies numbered on a battlefield—

Goes down like someone searching, lamp in hand,
Far from realities and worldly bliss,
And slowly treads an ill-lit flight of stairs
Down to the inmost void of the abyss;

There, in a shroud where all things seem to end,
Deep in the dark, where no star sheds its light,
One thing is stirring still beneath the veil—
You, sacred memory, sleeping in the night!

Dans ces jours où la tête au poids des ans s'incline,
Où l'homme sans projets, sans but, sans visions,
Sent qu'il n'est déjà plus qu'une tombe en ruine
Où gisent ses vertus et ses illusions;

Quand notre âme en rêvant descend dans nos entrailles,
Comptant dans notre coeur, qu'enfin la glace atteint,
Comme on compte les morts sur les champs de batailles,
Chaque douleur tombée et chaque songe éteint,

Comme quelqu'un qui cherche en tenant une lampe,
Loin des objets réels, loin du monde rieur,
Elle arrive à pas lents par une obscure rampe,
Jusqu'au fond désolé du gouffre intérieur;

Et là, dans cette nuit qu'aucun rayon n'étoile,
L'âme, en un repli sombre où tout semble finir,
Sent quelque chose encore palpiter sous un voile...—
C'est toi qui dors dans l'ombre, ô sacré souvenir!


Bad Idea, Sam

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), "Introduction of Foreign Plants," The Note-Books (New York: E.P. Dutton Co., 1917), p. 281:
I have brought back this year some mountain auriculas and the seed of some salvia and Fusio tiger-lily, and mean to plant the auriculas and to sow the seeds in Epping Forest and elsewhere round about London. I wish people would more generally bring back the seeds of pleasing foreign plants and introduce them broadcast, sowing them by our waysides and in our fields, or in whatever situation is most likely to suit them.
I curse the misguided fool who brought Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) to the United States. I spend hours each week trying to control its spread on my couple of acres.

Related post: Aliens.


What Can You Look For?

John Ford (1586-1639), The Broken Heart 5.3.25-26:
Give me some corner of the world to wear out
The remnant of the minutes I must number...
Id. 5.3.35-37:
                              What can you look for
From an old, foolish, peevish, doting man
But craziness of age?

Thursday, November 21, 2019


A Solution to Wealth Inequality?

Bernie Sanders, Twitter (September 24, 2019):
Billionaires should not exist.
Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (New York: Twelve, 2016), p. 27:
A cave painting from the early Holocene in Spain shows ten figures with bows in their hands and a lone figure prone on the ground with what appear to be ten arrows sticking out of him. The configuration strongly suggests an execution rather than death in combat. Boehm points out that among current-day foraging groups, group execution is one of the most common ways of punishing males who try to claim a disproportionate amount of the group's resources.
Boehm is Christopher Boehm, Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame (New York: Basic Books, 2012), e.g., pp. 156 ff.

I think this is a reconstruction of the cave painting, from Cueva Remigia, Castellón:

Related post: Big Chief.


Unsatisfied Hunger

George Santayana (1863-1952), "The Homeric Hymns," Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (New York: Scribner, 1924), pp. 24-48 (at 24):
We of this generation look back upon a variety of religious conceptions and forms of worship, and a certain unsatisfied hunger in our own souls attaches our attention to the spectacle.
Id. (at 35-36):
These were truly, as we see, the hymns of a levitical patriotism. With Homeric breadth and candour they dilated on the miracles, privileges, and immunities of the sacred places and their servitors, and they thus kept alive in successive generations an awe mingled with familiar interest toward divine persons and things which is characteristic of that more primitive age. Gods and men were then nearer together, and both yielded more frankly to the tendency, inherent in their nature, to resemble one another.


The Last Two Men on Earth

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters VI.47 (tr. Henri van Laun):
Suppose there were but two men on this habitable globe, the sole possessors of it, who should divide it between them, even then I am convinced that soon some cause of disagreement would spring up, though it were only about boundaries.

Je suppose qu'il n'y ait que deux hommes sur la terre, qui la possèdent seuls, et qui la partagent toute entre eux deux: je suis persuadé qu'il leur naîtra bientôt quelque sujet de rupture, quand ce ne serait que pour les limites.


A Mercy

Edward FitzGerald, letter to Fanny Kemble (October 24, 1876):
I make a kind of Summer in my Room here with Boccaccio. What a Mercy that one can return with a Relish to these Books! As Don Quixote can only be read in his Spanish, so I do fancy Boccaccio only in his Italian: and yet one is used to fancy that Poetry is the mainly untranslateable.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Commentary on a Psalm Verse

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), The Note-Books (New York: E.P. Dutton Co., 1917), p. 212:
Lord, let me know mine end, and the number of my days: that I may be certified how long I have to live (Ps. xxxix. 5).

Of all prayers this is the insanest....The prayer is a silly piece of petulance and it would have served the maker of it right to have had it granted. "A painful and lingering disease followed by death" or "Ninety, a burden to yourself and every one else" — there is not so much to pick and choose between them. Surely, "I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast hidden mine end from me" would be better. The sting of death is in foreknowledge of the when and the how.


Portrait of the Blogger

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters I.62 (tr. Henri van Laun):
If I may venture to say so, there are certain inferior or second-rate minds, who seem only fit to become the receptacle, register, or storehouse of all the productions of other talents; they are plagiarists, translators, compilers; they never think, but tell you what other authors have thought; and as a selection of thoughts requires some inventive powers, theirs is ill-made and inaccurate, which induces them rather to make it large than excellent. They have no originality, and possess nothing of their own; they only know what they have learned, and only learn what the rest of the world does not wish to know; a useless and dry science, without any charm or profit, unfit for conversation, nor suitable to intercourse, like a coin which has no currency. We are astonished when we read them, as well as tired out by their conversation or their works. The nobility and the common herd mistake them for men of learning, but intelligent men rank them with pedants.

Il y a des esprits, si je l'ose dire, inférieurs et subalternes, qui ne semblent faits que pour être le recueil, le registre ou le magasin de toutes les productions des autres génies; ils sont plagiaires, traducteurs, compilateurs; ils ne pensent point, ils disent ce que les auteurs ont pensé; et, comme le choix des pensées est invention, ils l'ont mauvais, peu juste et qui les détermine plutôt à rapporter beaucoup de choses que d'excellentes choses; ils n'ont rien d'original et qui soit à eux; ils ne savent que ce qu'ils ont appris, et ils n'apprennent que ce que tout le monde veut bien ignorer: une science vaine, aride, dénuée d'agrément et d'utilité, qui ne tombe point dans la conversation, qui est hors de commerce, semblable à une monnaie qui n'a point de cours; on est tout à la fois étonné de leur lecture et ennuyé de leur entretien ou de leurs ouvrages. Ce sont ceux que les grands et le vulgaire confondent avec les savants et que les sages renvoient au pédantisme.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


Saint Grelichon

Eugen Weber, Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France 1870-1914 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976), p. 348 (note omitted):
Probably the most notorious saint born of popular whimsy and need was Saint Grelichon or Greluchon (from grelicher, which means to scratch or tickle). Saint Greluchon had started life as the funeral statue of a local lord of Bourbon-l'Archambault, Guillaume de Naillac, but we rediscover the figure in a recessed nook of that city's streets. Childless women came from afar to scratch a little dust from the statue's genital area and drink it in a glass of white wine. By 1880, when Sir Guillaume's lower parts had been scratched down to nullity, the dust was obtained from under the statue's chin. Finally, the statue—which had become a bust—was transferred to the museum for safekeeping.
Cf. Trésor de la langue française informatisé, s.v. greluchon:
Le nom de ce saint de fantaisie est issu d'un calembour obscène sur greluchon et grelot (proprement « clochette » d'où « testicules » p. anal. de forme); suff. dimin. hypocoristique -uche* + -on* (cf. ses autres dénominations: saint Génitour, saint Phallien en Berry ds L. RÉAU, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, t. 3, p. 617).


The Hairs of My Chinny Chin Chin

Arrian, Discourses of Epictetus 1.16.9-14 (tr. W.A. Oldfather):
Come, let us leave the chief works of nature, and consider merely what she does in passing. Can anything be more useless than the hairs on a chin? Well, what then? Has not nature used even these in the most suitable way possible? Has she not by these means distinguished between the male and the female? Does not the nature of each one among us cry aloud forthwith from afar, "I am a man; on this understanding approach me, on this understanding talk with me; ask for nothing further; behold the signs?" Again, in the case of women, just as nature has mingled in their voice a certain softer note, so likewise she has taken the hair from their chins. Not so, you say; on the contrary the human animal ought to have been left without distinguishing features, and each of us ought to proclaim by word of mouth, "I am a man." Nay, but how fair and becoming and dignified the sign is! How much more fair than the cock's comb, how much more magnificent than the lion's mane! Wherefore, we ought to preserve the signs which God has given; we ought not to throw them away; we ought not, so far as in us lies, to confuse the sexes which have been distinguished in this fashion.

Ἄγε ἀφῶμεν τὰ ἔργα τῆς φύσεως, τὰ πάρεργα αὐτῆς θεασώμεθα. μή τι ἀχρηστότερον τριχῶν τῶν ἐπὶ γενείου; τί οὖν; οὐ συνεχρήσατο καὶ ταύταις ὡς μάλιστα πρεπόντως ἐδύνατο; οὐ διέκρινεν δι᾿ αὐτῶν τὸ ἄρρεν καὶ τὸ θῆλυ; οὐκ εὐθὺς μακρόθεν κέκραγεν ἡμῶν ἑκάστου ἡ φύσις "ἀνήρ εἰμι· οὕτω μοι προσέρχου, οὕτω μοι λάλει, ἄλλο μηδὲν ζήτει· ἰδοὺ τὰ σύμβολα"; πάλιν ἐπὶ τῶν γυναικῶν ὥσπερ ἐν φωνῇ τι ἐγκατέμιξεν ἁπαλώτερον, οὕτως καὶ τὰς τρίχας ἀφεῖλεν. οὔ· ἀλλ᾿ ἀδιάκριτον ἔδει τὸ ζῷον ἀπολειφθῆναι καὶ κηρύσσειν ἕκαστον ἡμῶν ὅτι "ἀνήρ εἰμι." πῶς δὲ καλὸν τὸ σύμβολον καὶ εὐπρεπὲς καὶ σεμνόν, πόσῳ κάλλιον τοῦ τῶν ἀλεκτρυόνων λόφου, πόσῳ μεγαλοπρεπέστερον τῆς χαίτης τῶν λεόντων. διὰ τοῦτο ἔδει σῴζειν τὰ σύμβολα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἔδει αὐτὰ μὴ καταπροίεσθαι, μὴ συγχεῖν ὅσον ἐφ᾿ ἑαυτοῖς τὰ γένη τὰ διῃρημένα.


Gildersleeve on Luther and the Classics

In Soldier and Scholar: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and the Civil War, ed. Ward W. Briggs Jr. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998), p. 192, n. 18, the editor lists some of Gildersleeve's contributions to the periodical The Nation. I love to read anything written by or about Gildersleeve (I've put together my own collection of his "Brief Mention" pieces), and I'm grateful for this catalogue of his lesser-known essays.

Here is Gildersleeve's anonymous "Luther and the Classics," The Nation 37 (1883) 389-390:
The fourth centenary of Luther's birth has called forth all manner of Lutheran demonstration and Lutheran literature in Germany, to which there has been a modest echo in the United Scates, the home of so many of Luther's countrymen. One of the last contributions to the study of Luther's works is a posthumous pamphlet by Dr. O.G. Schmidt, an enthusiastic student of Luther's writings, and an ardent lover of the ancient classics. In this tract Doctor Schmidt, alarmed by the assaults that are made on classical studies in Germany, has bequeathed to us the results of his researches as to Luther's acquaintance with the Greek and Roman classics, in the hope that the mad materialists will pause and reflect that "Germany's greatest son was no stranger in that field of knowledge." It is very much to be feared that neither the materialists nor the "modernists" of America will care much for such an argument. Muscle is muscle, and bone is bone, and it will be contended that modern muscle and modern bone can be made out of modern fare as well as out of ancient. Nectar and ambiosia, if they sustain intellectual life at all, which seems to be doubted, can contain nothing more essential to life than baked beans and Boston brown bread. As to Luther himself, it may fairly be said that the classics were in his time the best reading to be had: that Latin was the common medium of all education worthy of the name: and that, if Luther were living now, he would not care any more for the classics than he cared then for what he considered mediaeval rubbish. Evidently, what Luther read, and liked to read, in the beginning of the sixteenth century cannot be of any vital importance to us as students of educational methods, although it has a certain interest for those who study the equipment of one of the greatest figures in modern history. The defence of the study of the ancient classics, if defence is really needed, must be put on other ground than the example of a man who lived in the light of the Renaissance. And so the classical scholar will look rather coldly on the trite quotations, from the usual school books, that Doctor Martinus Lutherus has dropped here and there in his voluminous writings.

What is of real interest is the manly way in which he treats the classic authors. The man who called the Epistle of James a straminea epistola was not likely to unbonnet before a heathen, ancient or modern, Horace or Erasmus, simply because that heathen had a better command of the Latin language than he had. To Luther, with all his admiration for Cicero, Sancte Cicero, ora pro nobis, was as silly as it was blasphemous. Those whose business it is to teach Latin and Greek often get up a spurious enthusiasm for everything Latin and Greek. Now and then, in a paroxysm of rebellion, a certain author is devoted to the infernal gods. A great scholar arises who irreverently speaks of Cicero's writings as a Sahara. Ovid, by reason of his restless talent, is and has been fair game for fault-finders. But the general tone is that of rapt admiration. A few years ago it was hinted that Thucydides was human; that as a politician he had not been altogether unacquainted with the Machine; that at a certain time he had found it expedient to vote the Cleon ticket, with the reserved right of turning against Cleon when it suited him. The points may not have been well taken—they may have been rashly and rudely advanced; but there was no call for the hubbub raised in the scholarly world about the audacities of Müller-Strübing. Luther's attitude is, humanly speaking, nuch more respectable.

Doctor Schmidt treats of Luther's training in the humanities; his acquaintance with the Roman prose-writers, the Roman poets; his own Latin poetry; his relations to Hellenic literature; and the influence of classical studies on Luther's intellecual life. A few points must suffice. So far from being surprised at the extent of Luther's reading in the ancient classics, one is surprised rather that he did not make more use of these revered authorities in an age so much under the domination of their charm. Of the Latin prose-writers, Cicero of course leads the van. Everybody was brought up on Cicero at that time, and Luther gives him all the credit for the Greek wisdom that Cicero conveyed with cynical coolness. Luther is astonished that a man so deep in great affairs could have read and written so much, and contrasts him with Aristotle, very much to the disadvantage of the great sage, whom he calls "an unemployed ass, who had gold and goods and jolly, idle days enough," whereas Cicero was up to his eyes in work and bearing vast burdens of state. There are but few indications of an intimate acquaintance on Luther's part with Livy or Sallust or Tacitus. Pliny the elder was the great storehouse of knowledge in those days—the 'Conversations-Lexikon, the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' of the time. But Luther does not like Pliny, for all that: Pliny is a materialist and an epicurean, and he dismisses him with the contemptuous epithet of "a clever fool." Melanchthon was wasting time on Pliny that be might better have spent on the Epistle to the Romans.

Of Roman comedy Luther was a great admirer, and favored the acting of the plays of Terence. He thought the moral tendency admirable, encouraged the boys in the school at Wittenberg in their dramatical performances, and tried to get up a game supper after the play. Westminster and Wittenberg are thus bound together by an old tradition. Virgil was his delight. On a scrap of paper written two days before his death, he made the note that no one could understand the Bucolics unless be had been a shepherd for five years, nor the Georgics unless he had been a farmer for the same length of time. One who is neither might be permitted to suggest that even Luther was too much under the traditional spell to be a good judge—peasant as he had been himself. At any rate, it is rather strange that he should have put the Bucolics on the same line with the Georgics. Horace was too much of an epicurean for Luther's taste, and he depresses him below—Prudentius, Catullus, Juvenal, and Martial he would not suffer in the school-room, though he could not resist the temptation to quote Juvenal on occasion. With correct instinct, he questioned whether Lucan could be called a poet, and wisely postponed buying a copy of the 'Pharsalia' to the closing years of his life.

Luther's own Latin poetry is meagre in quantity, and not remarkable for quality, in an age of trained parrots. Of Greek, not "a College Fetish" yet, he evidently knew very little. Much that he refers to comes to him at second hand. To Aristotle he was a sworn foe. Plato, he thought, was often in fun, and amused himself at the expense of other philosophers—a frivolous view of Plato, with which the solemn commentators among Luther's countrymen will have little sympathy. So, throughout, Luther says what he thinks with refreshing directness, and in this way, at least, sets modern scholars a good example.
Here is a photograph of Gildersleeve's birthplace, 9 Pitt Street, Charleston, South Carolina (his Lanneau grandparents' house, now much altered):


Latin Class

Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), "Eton," Experience (London: Putnam, 1935), pp. 149-156 (at 155-156):
I am again in a large, half-panelled room. At a raised desk sits a man in a university gown, and in front of him sprawl between thirty and forty little hoys: the air hums with innumerable subdued noises. One of the boys is suddenly called upon to construe. After a hurried consultation with his neighbour he stands up with an air of apparent alacrity:

"O Venus—oh, Venus—regina—queen—Cnidi Paphique—of Cnidus and Paphus."

"Os, os," interrupts the master mildly.

"Sperne—spurn—dilectam Cypron—delectable Cyprus—et—and ..."

"Well, go on, go on."

"I can't find the verb," says the small boy—then, suddenly, as though it had been dodging about, "I've got it! Transfer! transfer—te—thyself—decoram in aedem—to" (his voice quavers interrogatively) "to the ... decorated house?"

"Come, come. You know better than that. You know what dulce et decorum est pro patria mori means: It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."

"The well-fitted house?" the small boy suggests, smiling to make up for a possible blunder. The master smiles too: "No, no. The word suggests reverence, something almost sacred. The adjective together with the noun, the phrase decoram in aedem really means a 'shrine,' or, if you like, 'gracious house' would do here. Go on." The small boy's eyes meanwhile have been fixed in ahsent-minded wonder on his face.

"Vocantis Glycerae" (should he risk it?)—"of shouting Glycerine." (General titters.)

"If you play the fool you'll sit down and write out the lesson. Sit down."

"But, sir!"

"Sit down!"

"But, sir, vocantis does mean shouting or calling."

"Sit down! I'll go on construing. Follow carefully and bring me a translation to-morrow. This is poetry: 'Of Glycera who invokes thee, multo ture—with much—or perhaps better—with a wealth of incense. Fervidus tecum puer—with thee may thy glowing boy.' Who was her glowing boy?" (General mild astonishment.)

“ Yes, who was the son of Venus?"

"Oh, Cupid," another boy, lolling on hip and elbow, answers contemptuously.

"Cupid, of course. 'With thee may thy glowing boy and the Graces and the Nymphs with unloosened zones'—are you following?—'hasten hither, and Youth, who lacking thee is not charming.'" Here the master coughs, and ends rather lamely with "And Mercury."

"Quite a party," says the small boy who has been made to sit down. (Laughter.)

"You will write out the lesson twice."

"But, sir!"

"If you speak again you will write it out four times. Come up for a Yellow Ticket afterwards."

Such were our frontal mass-attacks day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, upon the barrier of that ancient language. How few of us won through to the scholar's ilex-grove and the placid fields of asphodel!

Monday, November 18, 2019


Pigs in the Streets

Petrarch (1304-1374), "How a Ruler Ought to Govern His State," tr. Benjamin G. Kohl in Florentine Political Writings from Petrarch to Machiavelli, edd. Mark Jurdjevic et al. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), pp. 17-18:
This city, I say, so outstanding in its many glories, is being transformed—with you looking on and not stopping it, as you easily could—into a horrid and ugly pasture by rampaging herds of pigs! Everywhere one turns one can hear their ugly grunts and see them digging with their snouts. A filthy spectacle, a sad noise! These are evils that we have already borne for a long time, and those who came to Padua are amazed and scandalized by them. This state of affairs is repulsive to all who meet it and even worse for those who come on horseback, for whom the free-roaming pigs are always a nuisance and sometimes even a danger because an encounter with these stinking and intractable animals will frighten a horse and even throw its rider. Now I recall that the last time I spoke with you concerning this matter you said that there was an ancient statute that carried with it a heavy penalty that anyone could seize the pigs found roaming freely in the streets. But who does not know that, just as men grow old, so do all human creations? Even the Roman laws fell into disuse and, if it were not for the fact that they have been studied assiduously in the schools, they would now be quite forgotten. So what do you think is the fate of municipal statutes? So that this old law may be applied again, let us have it drawn up again and announced publicly by the town crier with the same, or even a heavier, fine attached to it. Then send out some officials who will remove the wandering pigs so that these urban herders will discover at their own expense that they cannot flout what the law forbids anyone to do. Let those who own pigs keep them on a farm and those who don't have a farm keep their pigs shut up inside their houses. Those who don't even own a house should still not be allowed to spoil the homes of other citizens and the beauty of Padua. Nor should these pig owners think that at will, without hindrance from law, they can convert the famous city of Padua into a pigsty? Now some might think this is a frivolous matter, but I don't think it is either frivolous or unimportant. On the contrary, the task of restoring Padua to its former noble majesty consists not so much in large projects as in small details.


Remedy for a Cold

George Saintsbury (1845-1933), Notes on a Cellar-Book (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1920), pp. 122-123:
Everybody knows that hot rum and water is sovereign for a cold, but perhaps everybody does not know exactly how the remedy should be applied. This is the probatum. You must take it in bed; premature consumption merely wastes the good creature. It should be made, in a large rummer-glass, as hot as you can drink it (hence the advice of the rummer—for a mere tumbler may burn your hands), not too sweet, but so strong that you sink back at once on the pillow, resigning the glass to the ready hands of a sympathising bedside attendant, preferably feminine.


Virtuous Because They Cannot Help It

Molière (1622-1673), The Blunderer, Act I, Scene 2 (tr. A.R. Waller):
Treat the sermons of your old greybeard of a father as a joke, follow your own way, I tell you, and ignore him. My opinion is that these peevish dotards only bamboozle us with their silly tales; and, virtuous because they cannot help it, out of sheer envy, they seek to prevent young people from enjoying the pleasures of life!

Moquez-vous des sermons d'un vieux barbon de pere,
Poussez votre bidet, vous dis-je, et laissez faire.
Ma foi, j'en suis d'avis, que ces penards chagrins
Nous viennent étourdir de leurs contes badins,
Et vertueux par force, espèrent par envie
Oter aux jeunes gens les plaisirs de la vie!



Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Discourse on the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit, in his Prose Works, ed. Temple Scott, Vol. I: A Tale of a Tub and Other Early Works (London: George Bell and Sons, 1900), p. 200:
However, it is a sketch of human vanity, for every individual to imagine the whole universe is interested in his meanest concern. If he hath got cleanly over a kennel, some angel unseen descended on purpose to help him by the hand; if he hath knocked his head against a post, it was the devil, for his sins, let loose from hell, on purpose to buffet him. Who, that sees a little paltry mortal, droning, and dreaming, and drivelling to a multitude, can think it agreeable to common good sense, that either Heaven or Hell should be put to the trouble of influence or inspection, upon what he is about?
I think that a kennel here means a fox-hole, got cleanly over while riding a horse.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


A Proverb

Charles Alexandre Perron, Proverbes de la Franche-Comté: Études historiques et critiques (Besançon: Charles Marion, 1876), p. 66 (under the heading "On n'est sûr de rien"):
Quand vous avez une bonne soupe de faite, un diable vient qui chie dedans.
Translated by Graham Robb, The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), p. 92:
When you've made a good soup, the Devil comes and shits in it.



Spray Paint Needed?

A friend sent me the following photograph from Valencia, Spain (click to enlarge):

Transcription of the inscription:
I can't construe ILLE. Some books contain the couplet with HOS (referring  to HONORES) rather than ILLE. I don't have access to Hans Walther's Proverbia Sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Aevi.


Saturday, November 16, 2019


A Laconic Message

Xenophon, Hellenica 1.1.24 (dispatch sent by Hippocrates to the Spartans, intercepted by the Athenians; tr. John Marincola):
Ships gone, Mindaros dead, men starving; don't know what to do.

ἔρρει τὰ κᾶλα. Μίνδαρος ἀπεσσύα. πεινῶντι τὤνδρες. ἀπορίομες τί χρὴ δρᾶν.
The translation is more laconic than the original, which has definite articles (the ships, the men) and non-truncated verbs.

Friday, November 15, 2019


In the School Library

Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), "Eton," Experience (London: Putnam, 1935), pp. 149-156 (at 149; footnote omitted):
Books that I have read are like old diaries to me. I find my old self in their pages. Do I want to be back in my School Library I have only to open some book I first read there and as I allow my mind to wander, I see again the long book-lined room; the busts, the model of the Acropolis, the large diamond-paned windows, the leather-topped tables, and the attitudes of the boys sitting at them. I hear the whispers and suppressed giggles. Again I see the look of well-simulated amazement on the face of the precise, tiny Librarian, when someone brings a Greek Lexicon down on the bowed head of a fellow-student.
On books as weapons see Mega Biblion, Mega Kakon.


Source of Misfortunes

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées 139 Brunschvicg (tr. H.F. Stewart):
When I set myself, as I sometimes do, to consider human unrest in its various forms, and the perils and pains to which men expose themselves at court or in the camp (rich source of quarrels and passions, of bold and often unsuccessful ventures), I have often said that man's unhappiness arises from one thing only, namely that he cannot abide quietly in one room.

Quand je m'y suis mis quelquefois à considérer les diverses agitations des hommes et les périls et les peines où ils s'exposent dans la Cour, dans la guerre, d'où naissent tant de querelles, de passions, d'entreprises hardies et souvent mauvaises, etc., j'ai dit souvent que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XI.99 (tr. Henri van Laun):
All men's misfortunes proceed from their aversion to being alone; hence gambling, extravagance, dissipation, wine, women, ignorance, slander, envy, and forgetfulness of what we owe to God and ourselves.

Tout notre mal vient de ne pouvoir être seuls: de là le jeu, le luxe, la dissipation, le vin, les femmes, l'ignorance, la médisance, l'envie, l'oubli de soi-même et de Dieu.


Grading Students

Irvin Ehrenpreis (1920-1985), Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, Vol. I: Mr. Swift and His Contemporaries (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), p. 57:
Bene, mediocriter, negligenter, male, pessime represent the range of marks, and haud or vix was available as a kind of minus sign.2

2 Forster, pp. 38-40. See Appendix E.
This seems to correspond to modern day A, B, C, D, F. Forster is John Forster, The Life of Jonathan Swift, Vol. I: 1667-1711 (London: John Murray, 1875), and Ehrenpreis' Appendix E (pp. 279-283) is "Roll of Students' Marks on the Terminal Examinations at Trinity College, Dublin, Easter 1685."

Ehrenpreis, p. 61:
By far the most common mark on this examination was mediocriter; about as many male's appear as bene's, which is not very many, and about the same number of negligenter's.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Deliverance from Anguish

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Paris Spleen, XXII: Evening Twilight (tr. Raymond N. Mackenzie):
O night, O refreshing shadows! For me, you are the signal for an interior holy day, you are deliverance from anguish! In the solitude of the plains, in the stony labyrinths of capital cities, you, the sparkling of stars and bursting forth of street lanterns, are the fireworks of the goddess Liberty!

Ô nuit! ô rafraîchissantes ténèbres! vous êtes pour moi le signal d'une fête intérieure, vous êtes la délivrance d'une angoisse! Dans la solitude des plaines, dans les labyrinthes pierreux d'une capitale, scintillement des étoiles, explosion des lanternes, vous êtes le feu d'artifice de la déesse Liberté!



Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), "Antony and Octavius," Scene 10, lines 39-51, in his Poems, Dialogues in Verse, and Epigrams, Vol. I: Dramatic Scenes (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1902), p. 360:
We can not always swagger, always act
A character the wise will never learn:        40
When Night goes down, and the young Day resumes
His pointed shafts, and chill air breathes around,
Then we put on our own habiliments
And leave the dusty stage we proudly trod.
I have been sitting longer at life's feast        45
Than does me good; I will arise and go.
Philosophy would flatten her thin palm
Outspread upon my sleeve; away with her!
Cuff off, cuff out, that chattering toothless jade:
The brain she puzzles, and she blunts the sword:        50
Even she knows better words than that word live.


The Elizabethan James Joyce

Jonathan Bate, How the Classics Made Shakespeare (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), pp. 281-282, with notes on p. 348 (on Richard Stanyhurst's translation of Vergil's Aeneid):
Thanks largely to Nashe's attack, Stanyhurst has come to be regarded as a kind of literary-historical bad joke. The Cambridge History of English Literature solemnly asked whether we can plausibly "Imagine Dido Queen of Carthage asking in fury 'Shall a stranger give me the slampam?'" and a more recent guide is characteristically dismissive in suggesting that Stanyhurst "insisted on not being mistaken for an ignoramus" but that his translation "proves, in unconscious burlesque, how bad neo-classical theory was."12 The indecorum of high classical matter being rendered through low verbal coinages is what provokes the derision. Thus the Cambridge History again: "he surpassed in a fantastic eccentricity the vainest of his contemporaries. Never was there a stranger mixture of pedantry and slang than is to be found in his work."13 Wait a minute, though: is not the juxtaposition of high and low, of kings and clowns, of soaring poetry and earthy vernacular, one of the qualities that we so value in the plays of one William Shakespeare? Do we not praise the Stratford grammar school lad to the rafters for the living sound of his lines and the astonishing array of his verbal coinages? Stanyhurst gives us: Chuff chaff, clush clash, crack-rack crashing, hob lob, hurly burly, huf puff, kym kam, muff maff, pell mell, pit pat, rags jags, swish swash, tag rag, tara-tan-tara, thwick thwack, trush trash, wig wag, yolp yalp.

Again, do we not consider the art of creating compound adjectives as one of the marks of all true poets since Homer and the ancient Greek tragedians? Stanyhurst delights in: "Herd-flock," "Frith-cops," "Blustrous huzzing with clush clash buzzing, with drooming clattered humming," "It brayeth in snorting," "The push and poke of lance," "Deep minced, far chopped," "Rapfully frapping," "With belling screech cry she roareth." One almost hears Tony Harrison's acclaimed translation of Aeschylus's Oresteia. Or even the sheer zany word-adoring inventiveness of another Irishman in exile on the continent: could Richard Stanyhurst be not so much a joke as a pioneer? Was he the Elizabethan James Joyce?14

In the Oxford English Dictionary, Stanyhurst is credited with the invention of a rich array of more than one hundred and fifty words, including Bepowdered, Breakvow, Carousing, Disjoincted, Distracted, Flailing, Flounce, Frolic, Gadding, Gutter, Hoblobs, Hoodwink, Makesport, Mopsy, Pertlike, Plashy, Rake, Sea-froth, Smocktoy, Spumy, Unhoused, Wanton (as a verb), and Whizling. OED also gives him nearly two hundred nonce-words, among them Bedgle, Bepurpled, Blastbob, Breedsleep, Crabknob, Garbroils, Gyreful, Hedgebrat, Pack-paunch, Plashbreach, Racebrood, Snarnoise, Sportbreeder, Uddered, Upvomited, and Windblast. Many of his coinages failed to make it into the Oxford English Dictionary at all: Bughag, Birthsoil, Foresnaffled, Hailknob, Hell-swarm, Hotlove, Lustilad, Nightfog, Rapesnatched, Seabelch, and about seventy more. And on about fifty occasions, his usage of a word predates the OED's earliest citation. In the following instances, Shakespeare is cited as the earliest usage but the credit should really go to Stanyhurst: Baggage, Beldam, Eyeball, Huddle, Post-haste, Quillet.

12. Charles Whibley, "Translators," in The Cambridge History of English Literature, ed. A.W. Ward and A.R. Waller (Cambridge University Press, 1919), 4. 18; J.W. Saunders, A Biographical Dictionary of Renaissance Poets and Dramatists, 1520-1650 (Harvester, 1983), p. 155.

13. Whibley, "Translators," 4.17.

14. There is a good account of the Irishness of Stanyhurst's language in Patricia Palmer, The Severed Head and the Grafted Tongue: Literature, Translation and Violence in Early Modern Ireland (Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 125–32.
A caveat: if Bate means to say that tara-tan-tara is one of Stanyhurst's verbal coinages, then he is mistaken. The word occurs in Ennius, Annals 451 Skutsch (tr. E.H. Warmington):
And the trumpet in terrible tones taratantara blared.

at tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019



Ranulf Higden (1280-1364), Polychronicon, ed. Churchill Babington, Vol. I (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1865), pp. 386, 388, tr. G.G. Coulton, Medieval Panorama: The English Scene from Conquest to Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939), pp. 66-67:
Scots be light of heart, strong and wild enough, but by mixing with Englishmen they be much amended. They be cruel upon their enemies, and hate bondage most of anything, and they hold it a foul sloth if any man dieth in his bed, and great worship if he die in the field. They be little of meat and may fast long, and eateth well seldom while the sun is up, and eateth flesh, fish, milk and fruit more than bread, and though they be fair of shape they be defouled and made unseemly enough with their own clothing. They praise fast the usage of their own fathers, and despise other men's doing.

Scoti sunt animo leves, barbari satis et silvestres, sed admixtione cum Anglis in parte emendantur. In hostes saevi, servitutem summe detestantur. In lecto mori reputant segnitiem, in campo interfici arbitrantur gloriam. Parci victu, diutius famem sustinent. Raro ante solis occasum comedunt; carnibus, lacticiniis, piscibus, et fructibus magis quam pane vescuntur. Et cum sint elegantis formae satis tamen ex proprio habitu deformantur. Paternos ritus commendant, alienos aspernantur.


Human History

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Introduction, Chapter I: Anti-Dryasdust, in Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, with Elucidations, 3rd ed., Vol. I (London: Chapman and Hall, 1857), p. 6:
By very nature it is a labyrinth and chaos, this that we call Human History; an abatis of trees and brushwood, a world-wide jungle, at once growing and dying. Under the green foliage and blossoming fruit-trees of Today, there lie, rotting slower or faster, the forests of all other Years and Days. Some have rotted fast, plants of annual growth, and are long since quite gone to inorganic mould; others are like the aloe, growths that last a thousand or three thousand years. You will find them in all stages of decay and preservation; down deep to the beginnings of the History of Man. Think where our Alphabetic Letters came from, where our Speech itself came from; the Cookeries we live by, the Masonries we lodge under! You will find fibrous roots of this day's Occurrences among the dust of Cadmus and Trismegistus, of Tubalcain and Triptolemus; the tap-roots of them are with Father Adam himself and the cinders of Eve's first fire! At bottom, there is no perfect History; there is none such conceivable.


Luther on the Pope and the Bishops

Hartmann Grisar (1845-1932), Luther, Vol. IV, tr. E.M. Lamond (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1915), p. 321:
Of those who awaited the decision of a Council he writes: "Let the devil wait if he chooses.... The members of the body must not wait till the filth says and decrees whether the body is healthy or not. We are determined to learn this from the members themselves and not from the urine, excrement and filth. In the same way we shall not wait for the Pope and bishops in Council to say: This is right. For they are no part of the body, or clean and healthy members, but merely the filth of squiredom, merd spattered on the sleeve and veritable ordure, for they persecute the true Evangel, well knowing it to be the Word of God. Therefore we can see they are but filth, stench and limbs of Satan."10

10 Ibid., Weim. ed., 33, p. 458; Erl. ed., 48, p. 222.



The Battle of Roquecezière

Graham Robb, The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), pp. 27-28:
The year is 1884. The priest of Montclar has found an exciting diversion from the monotony of life in a small town. His telescope is trained on a battlefield in the valley below. An army of men, women and children, wielding cudgels and lugging baskets of stones, is advancing on the village of Roquecezière. But scouts have been posted. Another army has already emerged from the village and is preparing to defend its territory.

On the bare rock that towers above the village, turning its back to the battle, is a colossal cast-iron statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue has been funded by public subscription — something of a miracle in this impoverished region — and has recently been placed on the rock to commemorate a successful mission.

Incensed to see the sacred effigy pointing its bottom at their village, the invaders have come to turn it around. The battle rages for hours. Several people are seriously injured. At last, the Roquecezièrain lines are breached and the statue is worked around to face the other village. To prevent a full-scale war, the Church authorities find a compromise. The Virgin is rotated ninety degrees, supposedly so that each village can see half of her face. However, she now looks east-north-east, towards Saint-Crépin, which contributed more than half the cost of the statue, and still has her back turned to the little clutch of houses at her foot.

The Battle of Roquecezière, like thousands of other tiny conflicts, is not mentioned in any history of France. Village wars had no perceptible effect on national security and their causes were often ancient and obscure. Yet they were a normal part of life for many people well into the nineteenth century. A 'very fat file' in the archives of the Lot département describes village brawls between 1816 and 1847: 'bloody scenes, combats, disorders, serious wounds, treaties of peace and rumours of war'. Villagers settled their differences in pitched battles rather than waste their time and money in court. Half-forgotten insults and territorial disputes culminated in raids on neighbouring villages to steal the corn or to carry off the church bells. Sometimes, champions were appointed and their battles entered local legend. Usually, a single battle was not enough. The Limousin villages of Lavignac, Flavignac and Texon were at war for more than forty years.
Related post: Local Chauvinism.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


A Mere Spectator

Robert Burton (1577-1640), "Democritus Junior to the Reader," Anatomy of Melancholy:
A mere spectator of other mens' fortunes and adventures, and how they act their parts, which methinks are diversely presented unto me, as from a common theatre or scene. I hear new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of war, plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, comets, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions, of towns taken cities besieged in France, Germany, Turkey, Persia, Poland, &c. daily musters and preparations, and such like, which these tempestuous times afford, battles fought, so many men slain, monomachies, shipwrecks, piracies, and sea-fights, peace, leagues, stratagems, and fresh alarms. A vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, proclamations, complaints, grievances, are daily brought to our ears. New books every day, pamphlets, currantoes, stories, whole catalogues of volumes, of all sorts, ;new paradoxes, opinions, schisms, heresies, controversies in philosophy, religion, &c. Now come tidings of weddings, maskings, mummeries, entertainments, jubilees, embassies, tilts and tournaments, trophies, triumphs, revels, sports, plays: then again, as in a new shifted scene, treasons, cheating tricks, robberies, enormous villanies in all kinds, funerals, burials, deaths of Princes, new discoveries, expeditions; now comical then tragical matters. To-day we hear of new Lords and officers created, to-morrow of some great men deposed, and then again of fresh honours conferred; one is let loose, another imprisoned; one purchaseth, another breaketh; he thrives, his neighbour turns bankrupt; now plenty, then again dearth and famine; one runs, another rides, wrangles, laughs, weeps &c. Thus I daily hear, and such like, both private and publick news.


The Shadow of an Inkpot

Christopher De Hamel, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World (New York: Penguin Press, 2017), pp. 75, 78 (on the Codex Amiatinus, at Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ms. Amiatino 1):
The most famous and strangest of the preliminary pages is the so-called Ezra portrait, already mentioned, now placed as a frontispiece. It shows a haloed man in Jewish priestly garments sitting hunched up on a stool almost in profile, writing in a book half open on his lap. He has his feet on a low pedestal. Scattered around him are the various instruments of a scribe's occupation — stylus, dividers, pen, ink pot and what is probably a dish of pigment on a separate table. Behind him is an open cupboard, with panelled doors hinged back to reveal five sloping shelves on which are arranged nine books bound in decorated dark red covers. A very similar bookcase enclosing the four Gospels on shelves is depicted in a mosaic of Saint Laurence in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, datable to the second half of the fifth century, almost within Cassiodorus's lifetime. The carpentry of the furniture and the ornament carved around the cupboard shown in the Codex Amiatinus are extraordinarily delicate and sophisticated. There is an enlightened attempt at perspective. The ink pot throws a shadow on the ground, worth noting if only because it is usually said that shadows do not appear in European art until the fifteenth century. Simply as an illustration of a scribe drawn in England in the late seventh century, the picture is full of interest, not least in that he has no writing desk and he is working directly into a book on his lap, as scribes still do in Ethiopia today. As I was jotting this down and thinking how different it is from most images of a medieval scriptorium, I realized that I was at that moment taking my notes into a hard-bound exercise book on my own lap, because the Codex Amiatinus filled the entire table before me, leaving no room for anything else. For a moment, the scribe seated writing in front of a book cupboard might have been me beside the microfilm cabinets and reprographic equipment of the Laurenziana.
The Ezra portrait from the Codex Amiatinus (click once or twice to enlarge; the inkpot is at the lower right, with a rust-colored shadow cast on the floor to the right):

But cf. Roberto Casati, "Methodological Issues in the Study of the Depiction of Cast Shadows: A Case Study in the Relationships between Art and Cognition," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62.2 (Spring, 2004) 163–174 (n. 16 on p. 172):
Roman frescoes (such as the ones at Roman Villa of Augustus, first century A.D.) and mosaics (such as the ones at Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily, fourth century A.D.) have survived that show interesting, if contrived, shadows.



Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 2.223-229 (tr. William H. Race):
The Harpies swoop down from some unseen place of destruction and snatch the food from my mouth. I have no strategy to help me. But when I long for a meal, I could more easily escape my own thought than I could escape them, so swiftly do they fly through the air. And if they ever do leave me a morsel of food, it gives off a powerful stench that is putrid and intolerable.

Ἅρπυιαι στόματός μοι ἀφαρπάζουσιν ἐδωδὴν
ἔκποθεν ἀφράστοιο καταΐσσουσαι ὀλέθρου.
ἴσχω δ᾿ οὔ τινα μῆτιν ἐπίρροθον· ἀλλά κε ῥεῖα
αὐτὸς ἑὸν λελάθοιμι νόον δόρποιο μεμηλὼς
ἢ κείνας, ὧδ᾿ αἶψα διηέριαι ποτέονται.
τυτθὸν δ᾿ ἢν ἄρα δή ποτ᾿ ἐδητύος ἄμμι λίπωσιν,
πνεῖ τόδε μυδαλέον τε καὶ οὐ τλητὸν μένος ὀδμῆς.
Vergil, Aeneid 3.214-218 (tr. Allen Mandelbaum):
                                               No monster
is more malevolent than these, no scourge
of gods or pestilence more savage ever
rose from the Stygian waves. These birds may wear
the face of virgins, but their bellies drip
with a disgusting discharge, and their hands
are talons, and their features pale and famished.

tristius haud illis monstrum, nec saevior ulla
pestis et ira deum Stygiis sese extulit undis.
virginei volucrum vultus, foedissima ventris
proluvies, uncaeque manus, et pallida semper
ora fame.
H.W. Stubbs, "Vergil's Harpies: A Study in 'Aeneid' III: (With an addendum on Lycophron, 'Alexander' 1250-2)," Vergilius 44 (1998) 3-12 (at 6):
Here, if I may adapt Gibbon, the bombardier of the Royal Artillery may be of some assistance to the analyst of post-Homeric legend.

In 1941, the present writer was listening to a young sergeant describing his pre-War service in Egypt.

"When we were carrying our dinners from the cookhouse in our mess-tins, the kite-hawks used to swoop down and snatch them away before we could get them back to our barrack-rooms. And what's more, foedissima ventris proluvie omnem epularum apparatum taeterrime inquinabant." (I cannot remember the precise words of a frankly speaking vir militaris, but I feel that in any case they had best be confided to the decent obscurity of a learned language.) "We used to call them Shite-hawks."


I have come across nothing analogous elsewhere, though seagulls in Exmouth and Sidmouth have been known to snatch food almost from the hands of picnickers, and have also exasperated the municipal authorities by their droppings.
Phineus defending himself from the Harpies, on an Attic red figure hydria, at Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum (catalogue number 85.AE.316):

Monday, November 11, 2019



Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), "Renan," Portraits (1931; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 219-225 (at 225):
The infection which men caught from his work was a new kind of tolerance; not that cut-and-dry, rule-of-thumb tolerance which commands them to admit that others have a right to differ from them and to hold their own opinions; but a tolerance which is also an act of bonne volonté, springing from a kind of temporary metempsychosis, an imaginative transference of thought and emotion into another's point of view.



Homer, Iliad 13.431-432 (describing Hippodameia; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
...since she surpassed all the girls of her own age
for beauty and accomplishments and wit...

              ...πᾶσαν γὰρ ὁμηλικίην ἐκέκαστο
κάλλεϊ καὶ ἔργοισιν ἰδὲ φρεσί...
This sounds like my daughter.

ἐκέκαστο is pluperfect of καίνυμαι (surpass, excel) — "the pluperfect commonly functions as imperf." according to Middle Liddell s.v. Likewise Richard John Cunliffe, Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect (1924; rpt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), p. 207.


The Power of God Is Come Indeed!

John Wesley, Journal (August 25, 1774):
At eleven I preached within the walls of the old church at the Haye. Here and every where I heard the same account of the proceedings at ———. The Jumpers (all who were there informed me) were first in the court, and afterwards in the house. Some of them leaped up many times, men and women, several feet from the ground; they clapped their hands with the utmost violence; they shook their heads; they distorted all their features; they threw their arms and legs to and fro, in all variety of postures. They sung, roared, shouted, screamed with all their might; to the no small terror of those that were near them. One gentlewoman told me, "She had not been herself since, and did not know when she should." Meantime the person of the house was delighted above measure, and said, "Now the power of God is come indeed!"

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Party On

John Milton (1608-1674), Comus 102-110:
Meane while welcome Joy, and Feast,
Midnight shout, and revelrie,
Tipsie dance, and Jollitie.
Braid your Locks with rosie Twine,        105
Dropping odours, dropping Wine.
Rigor now is gone to bed,
And Advice with scrupulous head,
Strict Age, and sowre Severitie
With their graue Sawes in slumber lie.        110


A Barbarous Noise

John Milton (1608-1674), Sonnet 12:
I did but prompt the age to quit their cloggs
    By the known rules of antient libertie,
    When strait a barbarous noise environs me
    Of Owles and Cuckoes, Asses, Apes and Doggs.
As when those Hinds that were transform'd to Froggs        5
    Raild at Latona's twin-born progenie
    Which after held the Sun and Moon in fee.
    But this is got by casting Pearl to Hoggs;
That bawle for freedom in their senceless mood,
    And still revolt when truth would set them free.        10
    Licence they mean when they cry libertie;
For who loves that, must first be wise and good;
    But from that mark how far they roave we see
    For all this wast of wealth, and loss of blood.
1 cloggs = foot shackles

5-7 Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.317-381, tells how Latona transformed peasants into frogs when they refused to give a drink of water to her children Apollo and Diana.

8 Matthew 7.6: Neither cast ye your pearls before swine.

10 John 8.32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

12 wast = waste

See Nathaniel H. Henry, "Who Meant Licence when They Cried Liberty?" Modern Language Notes 66.8 (December, 1951) 509-513.


The Barest Minimum of Greek

T.R. Glover (1869-1943), From Pericles to Philip, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1918), p. 1:
Goethe and Eckermann were once talking about Schlegel, and his criticisms of Euripides came up, and Goethe, as frequently happened, said something that Eckermann carried home with him and wrote down. "If a modern man like Schlegel," said Goethe, "must pick out faults in so great an ancient, he ought only to do it upon his knees." Goethe is profoundly right; the great vice in criticism of ancient literature is that the critic seems more often anxious to find out what is wrong than what is right. Something must be very right indeed in a man's work if it can hold and delight mankind centuries after he is dead and gone, and not only his fellow-countrymen, but every foreigner also, who can even with a lexicon's aid pick out his meaning and who has, consciously or unconsciously, any idea of what a book is. For it is only to the sympathetic, to those who somehow have the right instinct, that a book will reveal itself. Books are strange things and have strange ways—like certain insects, when they feel themselves in wrong hands, they will sham dead. With the great writers of ancient Greece this often happens, and men say they are dull, and find faults in them; but when they reach the right hands, they change and live and move, and even the barest minimum of Greek will let the right man see that they too are right, and life begins anew with all its gladness and variety.

Saturday, November 09, 2019


Domestic Religion

Walter Pater (1839-1894), Marius the Epicurean, chapter 1:
While, in Rome, new religions had arisen with bewildering complexity around the dying old one, the earlier and simpler patriarchal religion, "the religion of Numa," as people loved to fancy, lingered on with little change amid the pastoral life, out of the habits and sentiment of which so much of it had grown. Glimpses of such a survival we may catch below the merely artificial attitudes of Latin pastoral poetry; in Tibullus especially, who has preserved for us many poetic details of old Roman religious usage.
At mihi contingat patrios celebrare Penates,
Reddereque antiquo menstrua thura Lari:
—he prays, with unaffected seriousness.
Tibullus 1.3.33-34 (tr. J.P. Postgate, rev. G.P. Goold):
And be it mine many times to stand before the shrine of my sires' Penates and offer incense, as the months come round, to the old Lar of my home.
K.F. Smith ad loc.:
For the Romans all the associations of our word home were in these lines.
See Harriet I. Flower, The Dancing Lares and the Serpent in the Garden: Religion at the Roman Street Corner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), pp. 40-45 (on "Monthly Rituals at the Hearth").

John William Waterhouse, The Household Gods


The Secret of a Good Librarian

Robert Musil (1880-1942), The Man Without Qualities: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudoreality Prevails, tr. Sophie Wilkins (New York: Vintage International, 1996), p. 503 (from Part II: Pseudoreality Prevails, § 100: General Stumm Invades the State Library and Learns About the World of Books, the Librarians Guarding It, and Intellectual Order):
'General,' he said, 'if you want to know how I know about every book here, I can tell you: Because I never read any of them.'

It was almost too much, I tell you! But when he saw how stunned I was, he explained himself. The secret of a good librarian is that he never reads anything more of the literature in his charge than the titles and the tables of contents. 'Anyone who lets himself go. and starts reading a book is lost as a librarian,' he explained. 'He's bound to lose perspective.'

'So,' I said, trying to catch my breath, 'you never read a single book?'

'Never. Only the catalogs.'


The Longer One Lives

Richard Shilleto (1809-1876), ed., Thucydidis I (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., 1872), p. x:
But the longer one lives and reads the more one is conscious of one's ignorance, and shrinks from dogmatism.
Cf. the motto of Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655) — "Quantum est quod nescimus" ("How much there is that we don't know").

Related post: Understanding Greek.


A Radiant World

H.W. Stubbs (1917-2014), "Troubles of a Lexicographer," Pegasus 5 (1966) 10-15 (at 11):
Antiquity has always been, to me, a radiant world, to be visited on a kind of time-machine, mainly on the wings of poetry; a world of brightness, vigour, wisdom, heroism, yes; a world, too, in which there is laughter. Plenty of hard work, certainly; whether it is a matter of learning what is already written, or going out and discovering more; or criticizing; or applying one's knowledge to the strange world in which, as in Plato's cave, we are compelled to live our daily lives.

Friday, November 08, 2019


Economic Inequality

Thucydides 1.2.4 (tr. Richard Crawley):
The goodness of the land favored the aggrandisement of particular individuals, and thus created faction which proved a fertile source of ruin. It also invited invasion.

διὰ γὰρ ἀρετὴν γῆς αἵ τε δυνάμεις τισὶ μείζους ἐγγιγνόμεναι στάσεις ἐνεποίουν ἐξ ὧν ἐφθείροντο, καὶ ἅμα ὑπὸ ἀλλοφύλων μᾶλλον ἐπεβουλεύοντο.
E.C. Marchant ad loc.:
When Greece was in the village stage, (1) the inhabitants of some districts grew (comparatively) wealthy, and as a consequence there were disputes between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'; (2) these fertile districts excited the cupidity of other clans.
Latin crib by Friedrich Gottlob Haase:
Nam propter soli bonitatem et opes nonnullis admodum auctae seditiones inferebant, quibus perdebantur, et simul alienigenarum insidiis magis appetebantur.



Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto iv, Stanzas 21-23:
And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,
   Deformed creature, on a filthie swyne;
   His belly was up-blowne with luxury,
   And eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne,
   And like a Crane his necke was long and fyne,
   With which he swallowed up excessive feast,
   For want whereof poore people oft did pyne;
   And all the way, most like a brutish beast,
He spued up his gorge, that all did him deteast.

In greene vine leaves he was right fitly clad;
   For other clothes he could not weare for heat,
   And on his head an yvie girland had,
   From under which fast trickled downe the sweat:
   Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat,
   And in his hand did beare a bouzing can,
   Of which he supt so oft, that on his seat
   His dronken corse he scarse upholden can,
In shape and life more like a monster, then a man.

Unfit he was for any worldly thing,
   And eke unhable once to stirre or go,
   Not meet to be of counsell to a king,
   Whose mind in meat and drinke was drowned so,
   That from his friend he seldome knew his fo:
   Full of diseases was his carcas blew,
   And a dry dropsie through his flesh did flow:
   Which by misdiet daily greater grew:
Such one was Gluttony, the second of that crew.

Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), Triumph of Bacchus
(Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inventory number 990)

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