Tuesday, November 26, 2019


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.

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