Tuesday, December 31, 2019


In a Bright and Breathing World

William Wordsworth (1770-1850), The Excursion III.234-238:
And I, without reluctance, could decline
All act of inquisition whence we rise,
And what, when breath hath ceased, we may become.
Here are we, in a bright and breathing world.
Our origin, what matters it?


Mind Your Own Business

Plautus, Mostellaria 34 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Damn it, what do you care about me or what I do?

quid tibi, malum, me aut quid ego agam curatio est?

Monday, December 30, 2019


Inner Sanctum

Erasmus, Collected Works, Vol. 28: Literary and Educational Writings, 6: Ciceronianus, tr. Betty I. Knott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), p. 351:
Nosoponus I have a shrine of the Muses in the innermost part of the house, with thick walls and double doors and windows, and all the cracks carefully sealed up with plaster and pitch, so that hardly any light or sound can penetrate even by day, unless it's a very loud one, like quarrelling women or blacksmiths at work.

Bulephorus True, the sudden boom of human voices and workshop crashes destroy one's concentration.

Nosoponus I won't even allow anyone to use any of the nearby rooms as a bedroom, because I don't want the voices even of sleepers, or their snorts, breaking in on the sanctuary of my thoughts — some people talk in their sleep, and a good many snore so loudly they can be heard quite a long way off.
The Latin, from Opera Omnia Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami I.2 (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1971), p. 620:
NOSOP. Habeo Musaeum in intimis aedibus densis parietibus, geminis et foribus, et fenestris, rimis omnibus gypso piceque diligenter obturatis, vt vix interdiu lux aut sonitus vllus possit irrumpere, nisi vehementior, qualis est foeminarum rixantium, aut fabrorum ferrariorum.

BVL. Vocum humanarum tonitrua et officinarum strepitus non sinunt animum sibi praesentem.

NOSOP. Proinde ne in proximis quidem conclauibus patior quenquam habere cubile, ne vel dormientium voces, ronchiue cogitationis secretum interpellent. Sunt enim qui in somnis loquuntur, et nonnulli tam clare stertunt, vt procul etiam audiantur.



Penitential of Theodore 2.12.31, in John T. McNeill and Helena M. Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance. A Translation of the Principal Libri Poenitentiales and Selections from Related Documents (1938; rpt. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), p. 211:
A husband ought not to see his wife nude.
The Latin, from Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents Relating to Great Britain and Ireland, edd. Arthur West Haddan and William Stubbs, Vol. III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1871), p. 201 (where it is numbered 30):
Maritus quoque non debet uxorem suam nudam videre.

Sunday, December 29, 2019


The Soundest Platitudinarian That Ever Was

Rudyard Kipling, letter to Sir Herbert Baker (22-23 February 1934), in The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Vol. 6: 1931-36, ed. Thomas Pinney (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004), p. 253:
I am up to my back-teeth for the moment in Horace with whom I always travel. He is the soundest Platitudinarian that ever was and the things he says about going slow are worth re-reading.

Saturday, December 28, 2019



Rudyard Kipling, letter to Colonel H.W. Feilden (15-19 March 1911), describing lunch at the Lion d'Or in Perpignan, in The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Vol. 4: 1911-19, ed. Thomas Pinney (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999), p. 19:
Then he produced a lunch of a beauty and a succulence which made one weep.
item: a locally made pate de foie gras (fresh and lovely)
Oysters from Arcachon (weeping bitterly I had to pass them).
Omelette with tips of wild asparagus! (a dream)
Grilled sole (a revelation!)
Tripes a la mode de Caen. (a delight!)
fresh peas from the Spanish frontier with a tournedos sitting on a crust of bread soaked in some magic sauce!!! (Indescribable!)
Then a soufflé unlike any soufflé that ever souffled, with strawberry jam of whole strawberries. C. says I didn't play the game: but shirked while she gorged herself to the edge of apoplexy. I deny this. I stuffed me to the limit of rotundity.
C. = his wife Carrie.


Shortage of Population

Polybius 36.17.5-11 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
In our times the whole of Greece has suffered a shortage of children and hence a general decrease of the population, and in consequence some cities have become deserted and agricultural production has declined, although neither wars nor epidemics were taking place continuously. Now if anyone had proposed that we should consult the gods to find out what we should say or do so as to increase our numbers and repopulate our cities, his advice would have been considered quite futile, since the cause of this situation was self-evident and the remedy lay within our own power. This evil grew upon us rapidly and overtook us before we were aware of it, the simple reason being that men had fallen a prey to inflated ambitions, love of money and indolence, with the result that they were unwilling to marry, or if they did marry, to bring up the children that were born to them; or else they would only rear one or two out of a large number, so as to leave these well off and able in turn to squander their inheritance. For in cases where there are only one or two children and one is killed off by war and the other by sickness, it is obvious that the family home is left unoccupied, and ultimately, just as happens with swarms of bees, little by little whole cities lose their resources and cease to flourish.

In these circumstances it was of no use whatever to turn to the gods for salvation, for any ordinary man would tell you that the remedy lay in the people's own will, and that it was a question of changing the objects of their ambition or else of passing laws to ensure that the children born to them should also be reared. Here neither prophets nor supernatural powers could provide the solution, and the same principle holds good for similar problems.

ἐπέσχεν ἐν τοῖς καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς καιροῖς τὴν Ἑλλάδα πᾶσαν ἀπαιδία καὶ συλλήβδην ὀλιγανθρωπία, δι᾿ ἣν αἵ τε πόλεις ἐξηρημώθησαν καὶ ἀφορίαν εἶναι συνέβαινε, καίπερ οὔτε πολέμων συνεχῶν ἐσχηκότων ἡμᾶς οὔτε λοιμικῶν περιστάσεων. εἴ τις οὖν περὶ τούτου συνεβούλευσεν εἰς θεοὺς πέμπειν ἐρησομένους τί ποτ᾿ ἂν ἢ λέγοντες ἢ πράττοντες πλείονες γινοίμεθα καὶ κάλλιον οἰκοίημεν τὰς πόλεις, ἆρ᾿ οὐ μάταιος ἂν ἐφαίνετο, τῆς αἰτίας προφανοῦς ὑπαρχούσης καὶ τῆς διορθώσεως ἐν ἡμῖν κειμένης; τῶν γὰρ ἀνθρώπων εἰς ἀλαζονείαν καὶ φιλοχρημοσύνην, ἔτι δὲ ῥᾳθυμίαν ἐκτετραμμένων καὶ μὴ βουλομένων μήτε γαμεῖν μήτ᾿, ἐὰν γήμωσι, τὰ γινόμενα τέκνα τρέφειν, ἀλλὰ μόλις ἓν τῶν πλείστων ἢ δύο χάριν τοῦ πλουσίους τούτους καταλιπεῖν καὶ σπαταλῶντας θρέψαι, ταχέως ἔλαθε τὸ κακὸν αὐξηθέν. ὅτε γὰρ ἑνὸς ὄντος ἢ δυεῖν, τούτων τὸν μὲν πόλεμος, τὸν δὲ νόσος ἐνστᾶσα παρείλετο, δῆλον ὡς ἀνάγκη καταλείπεσθαι τὰς οἰκήσεις ἐρήμους, καὶ καθάπερ ἐπὶ τῶν μελιττῶν τὰ σμήνη, τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον κατὰ 9βραχὺ καὶ τὰς πόλεις ἀπορουμένας ἀδυνατεῖν.

ὑπὲρ ὧν οὐδὲ χρεία παρὰ τῶν θεῶν πυνθάνεσθαι πῶς ἂν ἀπολυθείημεν τῆς τοιαύτης βλάβης· ὁ γὰρ τυχὼν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐρεῖ διότι μάλιστα μὲν αὐτοὶ δι᾿ αὑτῶν, μεταθέμενοι τὸν ζῆλον, εἰ δὲ μή, νόμους γράψαντες, ἵνα τρέφηται τὰ γινόμενα. περὶ τούτων οὔτε μάντεων οὔτε τερατειῶν χρεία. ὁ δ᾿ αὐτὸς λόγος καὶ περὶ τῶν κατὰ μέρος.
F.W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius, Vol. III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), p. 680:
'Childlessness and shortage of population' summarize the matter as it concerns the individual and the community. P. traces two causes, refusal to marry, and so by implication refusal to have children, and the practice of infanticide (which in combination with chance deaths could often result in childlessness); §§ 7-8. (Paton's translation of ἀπαιδία as 'a low birth-rate' is inaccurate.) On the change from over-population in earlier centuries to under-population from the third century onwards see Tarn, HC, 100-2, where graphic evidence from c. 230 onwards is adduced for the practice of infanticide, especially of girls (of whom normally only one was reared); see § 7 n. For further discussion see A. Landry, Rev. hist. 177, 1936, 1-33 (with the qualifications of M.I. Finley, JRS, 1958, 158); Rostovtzeff, SEHHW, ii.623-5; iii.1464-5. Tarn argues that the decrease in population was limited to the cities, and that an influx of slaves, freedmen, and foreigners kept up numbers; but P. speaks of Greece generally (τὴν Ἑλλάδα πᾶσαν) and of lack of production (ἀφορία). Against Tarn see Rostovtzeff, SEHHW, iii.1464-5; see also E. Will, Le Monde grec et l'orient (Paris, 1975), 512-17.

Friday, December 27, 2019


The Fireplace

Vilhelm Moberg (1898-1973), The Settlers, tr. Gustaf Lannestock (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995), p. 128:
With the new year came severe cold. Night and day they kept the fire burning. The fireplace—it was the cabin's heart and center, the capitol of the home kingdom. The hearth was the home's altar, and on that altar were sacrificed all the cords of firewood that had been cut during the summer and stacked against the cabin wall to dry. The fireplace—it was the most essential part of the home, the source of blessed warmth. The fire must not go out. In the light of the fire they performed their chores, round the altar of flames they gathered to warm their cold limbs. The fireplace gave the people in the cabin light and warmth, it was the defender of life.



Menander, fragment 341 Kassel and Austin (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
Life in the nature of things is thrice wretched and distressful and is filled with many cares.

τρισάθλιόν γε καὶ ταλαίπωρον φύσει
πολλῶν τε μεστόν ἐστι τὸ ζῆν φροντίδων.


Make of It What You Will

Walter Map (c.1130-c.1210), De Nugis Curialium 2.32 (tr. M.R. James, rev. C.N.L. Brooks and R.A.B. Mynors):
I set before you here a whole forest and timberyard, I will not say of stories, but of jottings; for I do not spend time upon cultivation of style, nor, if I did, should I attain to it. Every reader must cut into shape the rough material that is here served up to him, that thanks to their pains it may go forth into the world with a fair outside. I am but your huntsman. I bring you the game, it is for you to make dainty dishes out of it.

Siluam uobis et materiam, non dico fabularum, sed faminum appono; cultui etenim sermonum non intendo, nec si studeam consequar. Singuli lectores appositam ruditatem exculpant, ut eorum industria bona facie prodeat in publicum. Venator vester sum: feras uobis affero, fercula faciatis.

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Our Century

Egon Friedell (1878-1938), A Cultural History of the Modern Age, tr. Charles Francis Atkinson, Vol. I (1930; rpt. London: Vision Press, 1953), p. 147:
And most probably our century will seem as ghostly and unreal to a later age as the fourteenth century to us.


A Howler

Clive James (1939-2019), "Primo Levi's Last Will and Testament," As of This Writing: The Essential Essays, 1968-2002 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003), pp. 259-273 (at 264):
The translator's Italian is good enough to make sure that he usually doesn't, when construing from that language, get things backward, but he can get them sidewise with daunting ease, and on several occasions he puts far too much trust in his ear. To render promiscuità as "promiscuity," as he does twice, is, in the context, a howler. Levi didn't mean that people forced to live in a ghetto were tormented by promiscuity. He meant that they were tormented by propinquity. The unintentional suggestion that they were worn out by indiscriminate lovemaking is, in the circumstances, a bad joke.
Hat tip: Jim K.


Rational Creatures

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XIII.119 (tr. Henri van Laun):
"Man is a rational creature" is continually dinned in my ears. Who gave you this appellation? Did the wolves, or the lions, or the monkeys do so, or did you take it yourselves? It is already very ridiculous that you should bestow on animals, your fellow-creatures, all the bad epithets, and take the best for yourselves; leave it to them to give names, and you will see that they will not forget themselves, and how you will be treated.

I do not mention, O men, your frivolities, your follies and caprices, which place you lower than the mole or the tortoise, who wisely move along quietly and follow invariably their own natural instinct; but listen to me for a moment: You say of a goshawk if it be very swift-winged and swoops well down on a partridge, that it is a good bird; of a grey-hound following a hare very close and catching it, that it is a first-rate dog; it is also quite right that you should say of a man who hunts the wild boar, brings it to bay, walks up to it and kills it with a spear, that he is a courageous man.

But if you see two dogs barking at each other, provoke, bite, and tear one another to pieces, you say they are foolish creatures, and take a stick to part them. If any one should come and tell you that all the cats of a large country met in a plain in their thousands and tens of thousands, and that after they had squalled to their hearts' content they had fallen upon each other tooth and nail; that about ten thousand of them had been left dead on the spot and infected the air for ten leagues round with their evil- smelling carcasses; would you not say that it was the most disgraceful row you ever heard? And if the wolves acted in the same way, what a butchery would there be, and what howls would be heard!

Now, if these two kind of animals were to tell you they love glory, would you come to the conclusion that this glory consists in their meeting together in such a way to destroy and annihilate their own species; and if you have come to such a conclusion, would you not laugh heartily at the folly of these poor animals?

Like rational creatures, and to distinguish yourselves from those which only make use of their teeth and claws, you have invented spears, pikes, darts, sabres, and scimitars, and, in my opinion, very judiciously; for what could you have done to one another merely with your hands, except tearing your hair, scratching your faces, and, at best, gouging one another's eyes out; whilst now you are provided with convenient instruments for making large wounds and for letting out the utmost drop of your blood, without there being any fear of your remaining alive? But as you grow more rational from year to year, you have greatly improved the old fashion of destroying yourselves; you use certain little globes which kill at once, if they but hit you on the head or chest; you have other globes, heavier and more massive, which cleverly cut you in two or disembowel you, without counting those falling on your roof, breaking through the floors from the garret to the cellar, which they destroy, and blowing up your wife who is lying-in, and the child, the nurse, and the house as well. And yet this is glory, which delights in all this hurly-burly and mighty hubbub!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Bookless People

Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, The Bookshop of the World: Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), p. 9 with note on p. 411:
When the Dutch minister Franciscus Ridderus wrote in 1663, 'what is a man, who has no understanding of good books! How plain must those people be, who have no books!', this was setting a new standard, even for a society as sophisticated as the Dutch Republic.9

9. Franciscus Ridderus, Nuttige Tiidkorter voor reizende en andere luiden (Rotterdam: Joannes Naeranus, 1663), p. 66.


Christmas Fare

Vilhelm Moberg (1898-1973), The Settlers, tr. Gustaf Lannestock (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995), pp. 117-118:
Ulrika offered her guests old-fashioned Swedish Christmas dishes: boiled pig's head, preserved and rolled pork, stewed pork, meatballs, chopped calf liver. She had made sausage of lamb and veal, prepared sweet cheese and cheesecake. This was not ordinary food, it was holiday abundance, not meager, everyday fare but sumptuous Christmas dishes—the Christmas delicacies of Sweden served to the Swedes in the St. Croix Valley.

The guests helped themselves from the smörgåsbord and found places to sit down with their overflowing plates. They ate in silence. The fat rolled pork melted in their mouths, their tongues savored the aftertaste, the jellied pork from the pig's head trembled on their plates, the smell from the sweet cheese penetrated their nostrils. It was a revelation: they had forgotten this taste. They had forgotten how wonderful all these dishes were. But after a few bites memory returned and they ate in silence and reverence; it was the taste of Christmas in Sweden!

Only a few times had they eaten these dishes since they left their homeland. After having been away for so long this feast became to them a return home, as it were. They saw, they tasted, they smelled Christmas in the homeland. It penetrated their eyes, mouths, and noses. The Christmas fare they devoured affected them more than physically—it penetrated the souls of the immigrants.

Memories from that land where they had eaten these dishes every Christmas filled the minds of the guests. A vision of that land suddenly fled before them with Christmas tables and festivities, with close relatives, intimate neighbors, forgotten friends. In their vision, they sat down with people they would never again see; they were sitting in a company who no longer belonged to the living. They remembered that year, and that Christmas, and that party—what festivity and hilarity! But she? She was at that party, and she is dead now. And he? I'll never see him again.

To the Swedish settlers in Minnesota Territory Ulrika's party became a party of memories; their old-country past caught up with them in the new, dwelt with them in this room. Ulrika's table brought back their homeland in concrete reality. They had left that country, but the country was still with them.

Here they sat at memory's table, in the company of the living and the dead. And they talked of the country they never again would see.
In the second paragraph, I asked myself if the second plates ("trembled on their plates") was a mistake for palates, but I checked and tallriken (plates) is in the Swedish original.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


The Season of Hospitality, Merriment, and Open-Heartedness

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Pickwick Papers, chapter XXVIII:
As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the four Pickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second day of December, in the year of grace in which these, their faithfully-recorded adventures, were undertaken and accomplished. Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and calmly away. Gay and merry was the time; and right gay and merry were at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened by its coming.

And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families, whose members have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then reunited, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual goodwill, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight; and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religious belief of the most civilised nations, and the rude traditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among the first joys of a future condition of existence, provided for the blessed and happy! How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!

We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!


A Disgrace to the Church

Vilhelm Moberg (1898-1973), The Settlers, tr. Gustaf Lannestock (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995), p. 62:
Before Pastor Törner awakened the following morning, Kristina had found thread and a needle and mended the torn places in his coat and the hole in the seat of his pants. To have a minister walk about with pants that had a hole in the behind was a disgrace to the Church which she must at once erase. Then she brushed and cleaned his muddy clothes.

Monday, December 23, 2019



Dear Mike,

OED, s.v. bro, sense 5.c: “A young man characterized as someone who addresses his friends and associates as ‘bro’; esp. one belonging to and socializing with a close-knit group of male peers, typically participating in activities perceived as male-oriented or unintellectual, and sometimes displaying boisterous or rowdy behaviour.”

The etymology of ‘bro’ as in part a graphic abbreviation of ‘brother’ is unremarkable. The OED entry gives c.1530 as the earliest attestation, but bro culture was thriving as early as the 10th century. The example below comes from Durham Cathedral Library Ms.A.IV.19, f.12v:

bro’, deado aron gie ⁊ lif iwero gideglad is mið criste in gode

Fratres, mortui estis et vita vestra abscondita est cum Christo in Deo.

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]


Church Suppers

Council in Trullo, Canon LXXVI (tr. Henry R. Percival):
It is not right that those who are responsible for reverence to churches should place within the sacred bounds an eating place, nor offer food there, nor make other sales. For God our Saviour teaching us when he was tabernacling in the flesh commanded not to make his Father's house a house of merchandize. He also poured out the small coins of the money-changers, and drave out all those who made common the temple. If, therefore, anyone shall be taken in the aforesaid fault let him be cut off.
The Greek, from Concilium Constantinopolitanum A. 691/2 in Trullo Habitum (Concilium Quinisextum), ed. Heinz Ohme (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013 = Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, II.2.4), p. 52:
Ὅτι οὐ χρὴ ἔνδον τῶν ἱερῶν περιβόλων καπηλεῖον ἢ τὰ διὰ βρωμάτων εἴδη προτιθέναι ἢ ἑτέρας πράσεις ποιεῖσθαι, τὸ σεβάσμιον ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις φυλάσσοντας· ὁ γὰρ σωτὴρ ἡμῶν καὶ θεὸς διὰ τῆς ἐν σαρκὶ πολιτείας παιδαγωγῶν ἡμᾶς μὴ ποιεῖν τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ ἐμπορίου οἶκον παρεκελεύσατο · ὃς καὶ τῶν κολλυβιστῶν τὸ κέρμα ἐξέχεε καὶ τοὺς τὸ ἱερὸν κοινοποιοῦντας ἀπήλασεν. εἴ τις οὖν ἐπὶ τῷ προκειμένῳ ἁλῷ πλημμελήματι, ἀφοριζέσθω.


Something Laboriously Achieved

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), The Essays, Articles, and Reviews (London: Methuen, 1983), p. 625 (on Rudyard Kipling):
He was a conservative in the sense that he believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defences fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms.


Punishment for Violation of Tree Protection Order

Amelia Wynne, "Homeowner is fined £60,000 because he deliberately damaged 90-year-old protected cedar tree on street outside his house forcing the council to fell it - after his requests to chop it down were twice rejected by authority," Daily Mail (December 22, 2019):
A homeowner who damaged a 90-year-old tree so badly it had to be felled has been fined over £60,000.

Stephen Lawrence, from Chelmsford, Essex, had made two applications to the council to fell the mature protected cedar, but both were refused by the council.

Despite warnings, he stripped the bark off the lower trunk, according to the council, and holes were drilled into the wood.

Chelmsford City Council said the damage was so extensive it had to be felled - and took him to court.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who adds:
I think the 'lex talionis' requires that a person found guilty of debarking a tree and causing damage sufficiently serious for the tree then to require felling, should not be given a mere fine, even of £60,000. He should be debarked himself, i.e. flayed alive, or failing that, hanged from the branches of the aggrieved tree or, failing that, crucified on a cross made from its timber. Rhadamanthine Lord Braxfield would have meted out such a sentence without batting an eyelid.



I Am Herillus

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XIII.64 (tr. Henri van Laun):
Whether Herillus talks, declaims, or writes, he is continually quoting; he brings in the prince of philosophers to tell you that wine will make you intoxicated, and the Roman orator to say that water qualifies it. When he discourses of morals, it is not he, but the divine Plato who assures us that virtue is amiable, vice odious, and that both will become habitual. The most common and well-known things, which he himself might have thought out, he attributes to the ancients, the Romans and Greeks; it is not to give more authority to what he says, nor perhaps to get more credit for learning, but merely for the sake of employing quotations.

Hérille, soit qu'il parle, qu'il harangue ou qu'il écrive, veut citer; il fait dire au prince des philosophes que le vin enivre, et à l'orateur romain que l'eau le tempère. S'il se jette dans la morale, ce n'est pas lui, c'est le divin Platon qui assure que la vertu est aimable, le vice odieux, ou que l'un et l'autre se tournent en habitude. Les choses les plus communes, les plus triviales, et qu'il est même capable de penser, il veut les devoir aux anciens, aux Latins, aux Grecs; ce n'est ni pour donner plus d'autorité à ce qu'il dit, ni peut-être pour se faire honneur de ce qu'il sait: il veut citer.
Related posts:


Porch Pirates

Andrew Lycett, Rudyard Kipling (London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), p. 49:
In early December the Kiplings moved back to a foggy, wintry London where they found rooms on the Brompton Road, in a pleasant flat-fronted cottage owned by a bewhiskered ex-butler and his wife. Rudyard and Trix used to amuse themselves by wrapping useless objects in neat parcels and leaving them on the pavement outside the house. From a window, they watched as respectable citizens would spy a promising-looking bundle, look surreptitiously left and right, and pocket it as a Christmas gift.

Sunday, December 22, 2019


Remedy for Cataracts

I just received this email from my friend Eric Thomson:
In the meantime, you might like to try this sovereign remedy from Leechbook III, f.112r:

Gif mist sie fore eagum: nim cildes hlond and huniges tear meng tosomne begea emfela. Smire mid þa eagan innan. Eft, hrefnes geallan and leaxes and eles and feld beon hunig meng tosomne. Smire mid þære sealfe innan þa eagan.

If mist is before the eyes: take the urine of a child and a tear-like drop of honey. Mix them both together equally. Smear into the eyes with [it]. Afterwards, mix together the gall of a crab and the gall of a salmon and the gall of a lamprey and field bee honey. Smear inside the eyes with that salve.


Sutor Ne Ultra Crepidam

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XIII.63 (tr. Henri van Laun):
A man may have intelligence enough to excel in a particular thing and lecture on it, and yet not have sense enough to know he ought to be silent on some other subject of which he has but a slight knowledge; if such an illustrious man ventures beyond the bounds of his capacity, he loses his way, and talks like a fool.

Tel a assez d'esprit pour exceller dans une certaine matière et en faire des leçons, qui en manque pour voir qu'il doit se taire sur quelque autre dont il n'a qu'une faible connaissance: il sort hardiment des limites de son génie; mais il s'égare, et fait que l'homme illustre parle comme un sot.


One's Own Kind

Mary Renault (1905-1983), The Bull from the Sea (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962), p. 110 (Theseus is the narrator):
To me all Hellenes are kindred of a sort; which is why, in the Hellene lands I have conquered, I have treated all men as my own people and made no serfs. Some kings know nothing beyond the neighbor they are at feud with; for them, you are foreign if you come from ten miles off. But I have been a prisoner where strange gods were served, and what was dear to us was nothing to our masters. It draws one to one's own kind.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


Country Dwellers

Menender, fragment 301 Kassel and Austin (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
Surely the country is for all men a teacher of virtue and of the freeman's life.

ἆρ' ἐστὶν ἀρετῆς καὶ βίου διδάσκαλος
ἐλευθέρου τοῖς πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ἀγρός.
Related post: Those Who Labor in the Earth.


Ben Jonson's Big Toe

Ben Jonson's Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden, ed. R.F. Patterson (London: Blackie and Son Limited, 1923), p. 29:
He heth consumed a whole night in lying looking to his great toe, about which he hath seen Tartars and Turks, Romans and Carthaginians, feight in his imagination.


Lewis and Short

Georg Luck (1926-2013), review of the Oxford Latin Dictionary, in American Journal of Philology 105.1 (Spring, 1984) 91-100 (at 91):
...Lewis and Short never was a very good dictionary...

Friday, December 20, 2019


Important German Cultural Customs

Cathrin Schaer, "In Germany, Politics Pours Into Christmas," US News & World Report (December 19, 2019; on the political party Alternative for Germany):
Members focus on activities that they deem are important German cultural customs, such as eating pork sausages, drinking beer and swimming naked.


No Memorial Left

William Wordsworth (1770-1850), The Excursion I.469-474:
Thus did he speak. "I see around me here
Things which you cannot see: we die, my Friend,
Nor we alone, but that which each man loved
And prized in his peculiar nook of earth
Dies with him, or is changed; and very soon
Even of the good is no memorial left."

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


Epitaph of Pyrrhiadas

Inscriptiones Graecae IX.2 270, tr. L.H. Jeffery, "Some Early Greek Epitaphs," Greece & Rome Vol. 16, No. 48 (October, 1947) 127-132 (at 131):
This is the grave of Pyrrhiadas, who did not understand retreat,
But died here, far the foremost, fighting for this land.

μνᾶμ' ἐμμὶ Πυρριάδα, ὃς οὐκ ἠπίστατο φεύγειν,
ἀλλ' αὖθε πὲρ γᾶς τᾶσδε πολλὸν ἀριστεύων ἔθανε.
See Valentina Garulli, "Epitafio di Pyrriadas," Axon 1.1 (June 2017) 89-96.



Ben Jonson (1572-1637), Bartholomew Fair I.iv.51-53:
LITTLEWIT: O! be civil, Master Numps.

WASP: Why, say I have a humour not to be civil; how then? Who shall compel me? You?


Dealing with Misfortune

Archilochus, fragment 11 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
I will make nothing better by crying, I will make nothing
    worse by giving myself what entertainment I can.

οὔτε τι γὰρ κλαίων ἰήσομαι, οὐτε κάκιον
    θήσω τερπωλὰς καὶ θαλίας ἐφέπων.
Laura Swift ad loc.:

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


The Brotherhood of Man

Menander, fragment 698 Kassel and Austin (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
                      For me none is a foreigner
If so be he is good. One nature is in all
And it is character that makes the tie of kin.

                                        οὐδείς ἐστί μοι
ἀλλότριος, ἂν ᾖ χρηστός· ἡ φύσις μία
πάντων, τὸ δ' οἰκεῖον συνίστησιν τρόπος.
Poetae Comici Graeci, edd. R. Kassel et C. Austin, Vol. VI 2: Menander: Testimonia et Fragmenta apud Scriptores Servata (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1998), p. 345:



Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XIII.18 (tr. Henri van Laun):
As ignorance is easy, and not difficult to acquire, many people embrace it; and these form a large majority at court and in the city, and overpower the learned.

Comme l'ignorance est un état paisible et qui ne coûte aucune peine, l'on s'y range en foule, et elle forme à la cour et à la ville un nombreux parti, qui l'emporte sur celui des savants.


Book Recommendations

Ben Jonson's Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden, ed. R.F. Patterson (London: Blackie and Son Limited, 1923), p. 13 (number 9):
That Petronius, Plinius Secundus, Tacitus, spoke best Latine; that Quintilianes 6. 7. 8. bookes were not only to be read, but altogither digested. Juvenal, Perse, Horace, Martiall, for delight and so was Pindar. For health Hippocrates.
Patterson's notes:
Petronius, &c. This is a most interesting criticism, showing Jonson's preference for writers of the Silver Age. Petronius, when not writing in the sermo plebeius, is unsurpassed as a stylist, and Tacitus is one of the greatest of all prose writers. The Folio reading Plautus is almost certainly wrong.

Quintiliane. The 6th, 7th, and 8th books of Quintilian are extremely technical, dealing with such subjects as the peroration, arrangement, syllogism, perspicuity, ornament, and tropes.

Hippocrates. This, according to Coleridge, is a joke (Notes on Ben Jonson, 1818). Coleridge unkindly and unfairly adds, after saying that this remark was interpreted in earnest, "But this is characteristic of a Scotchman; he has no notion of a jest, unless you tell him 'This is a joke!', and still less of that finer shade of feeling, the half-and-half, in which Englishmen naturally delight".

Monday, December 16, 2019


The News of the Day

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Hard Times II.1:
"And what," said Mrs. Sparsit, pouring out her tea, "is the news of the day? Anything?"

"Well, ma'am, I can't say that I have heard anything particular. Our people are a bad lot, ma'am; but that is no news, unfortunately."


How We Live

Menander, fragment 47 Kassel and Austin (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
We live, not as we wish to, but as we can.

ζῶμεν γὰρ οὐχ ὡς θέλομεν, ἀλλ' ὡς δυνάμεθα.


Note to Self Re Holiday Social Gatherings

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XII.149 (tr. Henri van Laun):
We seldom repent talking too little, but very often talking too much; this is a common and well-known maxim, which everybody knows and nobody practises.

L'on se repent rarement de parler peu; très souvent de trop parler: maxime usée et triviale, que tout le monde sait, et que tout le monde ne pratique pas.


Learned Allusion or Slice of Life?

Ben Jonson, Three Comedies: Volpone, The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair. Edited by Michael Jamieson (1966; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1982), pp. 29-30 (from the editor's Introduction):
I have made no attempt to make a comprehensive survey of the numerous parallels with classical and Renaissance authors, nor have I tried to explain every learned allusion. Those who want to know, for example, that in The Alchemist, I,i,1, Subtle's 'I fart at thee!' is like the Latin oppedo and the Greek καταπέρδω will want to make use of Volume X of the Oxford Ben Jonson; others of us will continue to believe that such words were actually heard sometimes on the lips of Jonson's contemporaries.
Here is a quotation from The Alchemist (V,iii,45-46, on p. 301 of Jamieson's edition) that might be useful when you've detected that someone has broken wind in your presence:
Your stench it is broke forth; abomination
Is in the house.


Sunday, December 15, 2019


The Europeans

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rasselas, chapter XI:
'In enumerating the particular comforts of life, we shall find many advantages on the side of the Europeans. They cure wounds and diseases with which we languish and perish. We suffer inclemencies of weather which they can obviate. They have engines for the despatch of many laborious works, which we must perform by manual industry. There is such communication between distant places that one friend can hardly be said to be absent from another. Their policy removes all public inconveniences; they have roads cut through the mountains, and bridges laid upon their rivers. And, if we descend to the privacies of life, their habitations are more commodious and their possessions are more secure.'

'They are surely happy,' said the Prince, 'who have all these conveniences, of which I envy none so much as the facility with which separated friends interchange their thoughts.'

'The Europeans,' answered Imlac, 'are less unhappy than we, but they are not happy. Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed.'


Usefulness of Philosophy

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Characters XII.132 (tr. Henri van Laun):
Instead of being frightened, or even ashamed, at being called a philosopher, everybody in this world ought to have a strong tincture of philosophy; it suits every one: its practice is useful to people of all ages, sexes, and conditions; it consoles us for the happiness of others, for the promotion of those whom we think undeserving, for failures, and decay of strength and beauty; it steels us against poverty, age, sickness, and death, against fools and buffoons; it will help us to pass away our life without a wife, or to bear with the one with whom we have to live.

Bien loin de s'effrayer ou de rougir du nom de philosophe, il n'y a personne au monde qui ne dût avoir une forte teinture de philosophie. Elle convient à tout le monde; la pratique en est utile à tous les âges, à tous les sexes, à toutes les conditions; elle nous console du bonheur d'autrui, des indignes préférences, des mauvais succès, du déclin de nos forces ou de notre beauté; elle nous arme contre la pauvreté, la vieillesse, la maladie et la mort, contre les sots et les mauvais railleurs: elle nous fait Tivre sans une femme, ou nous fait supporter celle avec qui nous vivons.

Saturday, December 14, 2019


Teachers of Morality

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rasselas, chapter XVIII:
'Be not too hasty,' said Imlac, 'to trust or to admire the teachers of morality: they discourse like angels, but they live like men.'


Final Moments

Menander, fragment 25 Kassel and Austin, lines 3-6 (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
If I desired some appropriate form of death this one alone appears as euthanasia: prone on my back to lie, with well-creased paunch, fat, scarce uttering a word, with upward panting breath, and eat and eat and say: "I rot for very pleasure."

ἴδιον ἐπιθυμῶν μόνος μοι θάνατος οὗτος φαίνεται
εὐθάνατος, ἔχοντα πολλὰς χολλάδας κεῖσθαι παχύν,
ὕπτιον, μόλις λαλοῦντα καὶ τὸ πνεῦμ' ἔχοντ' ἄνω,
ἐσθίοντα καὶ λέγοντα 'σήπομ' ὑπὸ τῆς ἡδονῆς.'


Not Much Upstairs

Charles Lamb (1775-1834), "The Old and the New Schoolmasters," Elia and The Last Essays of Elia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 56-63 (at 57):
Not that I affect ignorance—but my head has not many mansions, nor spacious; and I have been obliged to fill it with such cabinet curiosities as it can hold without aching. I sometimes wonder, how I have passed my probation with so little discredit in the world, as I have done, upon so meagre a stock.
Related post: Small of Brain.


Dark Care

Stevie Smith (1902-1971), "Behind the Knight," Collected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1983), p. 231:
Behind the Knight sits hooded Care,
And as he rides she speaks him fair,
She lays her hand in his sable muff,
Ride he never so fast he'll not cast her off.
Horace, Odes 3.1.40:
Dark care sits behind the horseman.

post equitem sedet atra Cura.

Albert Gilbert (1854-1934), Post Equitem Sedet Atra Cura
(London, Victoria and Albert Museum, A.7-1972)

Friday, December 13, 2019


The Patina of Familiarity

D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), "The Beastly House of Atreus," Kenyon Review n.s. 3.2 (Spring, 1981) 20-60 (at 26):
It is not a matter of abandoning our cultural horizon as we read the Oresteia and pretending, quite vainly, to be fifth-century Athenians, but rather a kind of tactical ceding of home ground in order, later, to be able to reach more deeply into the poet's. To bring the old text close, we must first push it away. The first step is to remove the patina of familiarity that lies dullingly on the masterpieces of our tradition and uncover, even at the cost of some violence of interpretation, whatever is strange and alien there. Classical scholars do of course insist on the foreignness of Greek civilization and tell us that we must try to see antiquity as it really was, not as we would like it to have been. And yet one sometimes feels that their frame of reference is not so unfamiliar after all and that antiquity as it really was bears a curious resemblance to Oxford and Cambridge and other such haunts of the learned.
Georg Luck (1926-2013), Arcana Mundi, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), p. xiii:
We are dealing with people living in a distant age, people whose day-to-day lives are quite foreign and sometimes almost incomprehensible to us. Even though we think we know so much about the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans through literary texts, they are strangers in so many ways.



Euripides, Ion 1069-1073 (tr. David Kovacs):
For never, while she lives,
can her eyes bear to see, in the <god's>  bright
sunlight, foreigners
ruling over her house,
since she is begotten of noble lineage.

οὐ γὰρ δόμων γ᾿ ἑτέρους
ἄρχοντας ἀλλοδαποὺς        1070
ζῶσά ποτ᾿ ὄμμασιν <θεοῦ 'ν> φαεν-
ναῖς ἀνέχοιτ᾿ ἂν αὐγαῖς
ἁ τῶν εὐπατριδᾶν γεγῶσ᾿ οἴκων.

1071 <θεοῦ 'ν>
John C. Gibert ad loc.:


The Wisdom of Our Forebears

Cicero, On the Answers of the Haruspices 9.18 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Perhaps I may seem to some a closer student of books than other people who have as much to do as I have; but that is not to say that I am apt to take pleasure in writings that deter and detach our minds from religion, or even to read them at all. Our forebears tell me to practice our religion and teach me how. I have so high an opinion of their wisdom that I consider any who, I won't say attain to it, but who appreciate it at its proper worth to be wise enough, and more than enough.

neque is sum qui, si cui forte videor plus quam ceteri qui aeque atque ego sunt occupati versari in studio litterarum, his delecter aut utar omnino litteris quae nostros animos deterrent atque avocant a religione. ego vero primum habeo auctores ac magistros religionum colendarum maiores nostros, quorum mihi tanta fuisse sapientia videtur ut satis superque prudentes sint qui illorum prudentiam non dicam adsequi, sed quanta fuerit perspicere possint.

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Children's Books

George Orwell (1903-1950), "Bookshop Memories," The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters, I: An Age Like This 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 242-246 (at 244):
Modern books for children are rather horrible things, especially when you see them in the mass. Personally I would sooner give a child a copy of Petronius Arbiter than Peter Pan, but even Barrie seems manly and wholesome compared with some of his later imitators.


Back Home

Menander, fragment 1 Kassel and Austin (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
Greeting, O dear my country, long the time gone by
Till now I see and kiss thee. Not to every land
Would I do this, but only when I see my own
Home place. The spot that bred me, this I count a god.

χαῖρ', ὦ φίλη γῆ, διὰ χρόνου πολλοῦ σ' ἰδὼν
ἀσπάζομαι· τουτὶ γὰρ οὐ πᾶσαν ποιῶ
τὴν γῆν, ὅταν δὲ τοὐμὸν ἐσίδω χωρίον·
τὸ γὰρ τρέφον με τοῦτ' ἐγὼ κρίνω θεόν.

3 ἐσίδω codd.: ἐπίδω Elmsley


An Imaginary World

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, § 58 (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
Now however much great and small worries fill up human life, and keep it in constant agitation and restlessness, they are unable to mask life's inadequacy to satisfy the spirit; they cannot conceal the emptiness and superficiality of existence, or exclude boredom which is always ready to fill up every pause granted by care. The result of this is that the human mind, still not content with the cares, anxieties, and preoccupations laid upon it by the actual world, creates for itself an imaginary world in the shape of a thousand different superstitions. Then it sets itself to work with this in all kinds of ways, and wastes time and strength on it, as soon as the real world is willing to grant it the peace and quiet to which it is not in the least responsive. Hence this is at bottom most often the case with those peoples for whom life is made easy by the mildness of the climate and of the soil, above all the Hindus, then the Greeks and Romans, and later the Italians, Spaniards, and others. Man creates for himself in his own image demons, gods, and saints; then to these must be incessantly offered sacrifices, prayers, temple decorations, vows and their fulfilment, pilgrimages, salutations, adornment of images and so on. Their service is everywhere closely interwoven with reality, and indeed obscures it. Every event in life is then accepted as the counter-effect of these beings. Intercourse with them fills up half the time of life, constantly sustains hope, and, by the charm of delusion, often becomes more interesting than intercourse with real beings.

So sehr nun aber auch große und kleine Plagen jedes Menschenleben füllen und in steter Unruhe und Bewegung erhalten, so vermögen sie doch nicht die Unzulänglichkeit des Lebens zur Erfüllung des Geistes, das Leere und Schaale des Daseyns zu verdecken, oder die Langeweile auszuschließen, die immer bereit ist jede Pause zu füllen, welche die Sorge läßt. Daraus ist es entstanden, daß der menschliche Geist, noch nicht zufrieden mit den Sorgen, Bekümmernissen und Beschäftigungen, die ihm die wirkliche Welt auflegt, sich in der Gestalt voll tausend verschiedenen Superstitionen noch eine imaginäre Welt schafft, mit dieser sich dann auf alle Weise zu thun macht und Zeit und Kräfte an ihr verschwendet, sobald die wirkliche ihm die Ruhe gönnen will, für die er gar nicht empfänglich ist. Dieses ist daher auch ursprünglich am meisten der Fall bei den Völkern, welchen die Milde des Himmelsstriches und Bodens das Leben leicht macht, vor allen bei den Hindus, dann bei den Griechen, Römern, und später bei den Italiänern, Spaniern u. s. w. – Dämonen, Götter und Heilige schafft sich der Mensch nach seinem eigenen Bilde; diesen müssen dann unablässig Opfer, Gebete. Tempelverzierungen, Gelübde und deren Lösung, Wallfahrten, Begrüßungen, Schmückung der Bilder u. s. w. dargebracht werden. Ihr Dienst verwebt sich überall mit der Wirklichkeit, ja verdunkelt diese: jedes Ereigniß des Lebens wird dann als Gegenwirkung jener Wesen aufgenommen: der Umgang mit ihnen füllt die halbe Zeit des Lebens aus, unterhält beständig die Hoffnung und wird, durch den Reiz der Täuschung, oft interessanter, als der mit wirklichen Wesen.


Take a Simpleton

Wendell Berry, "The Long-Legged House," Essays 1969-1990 (New York: Library of America, 2019), pp. 14-65 (at 27, writing about one of his high school teachers):
Take a simpleton and give him power and confront him with intelligence—and you have a tyrant.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Happy the Man

Marcantonio Flaminio (1498-1550), Carmen 2.7 (De se proficiscente Neapolim), lines 17-18 (my translation):
Happy is he who lives satisfied with his little farm and does not leave the sweet shelter of his ancestral home.

Felix, qui parvo contentus vivit agello,
    Nec linquit patriae dulcia tecta domus.
Id., lines 25-26:
Enjoying his established household gods and his established companions, he attains the life of the great gods above.

Hic laribus certis, certisque sodalibus utens
    Magnorum vita caelicolum potitur.
See Fokke Akkerman, "Marcantonio Flaminio's Voyage to Naples: On Carmen 2.7," Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Hafniensis. Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, Copenhagen, 12 August to 17 August 1991 (Tempe, 1994 = Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 120), pp. 285-297.

Giulio della Torre, Medal of Marcantonio Flaminio


A Bundle of Prejudices

Charles Lamb (1775-1834), "Imperfect Sympathies," Elia and The Last Essays of Elia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 66-74 (at 67):
I confess that I do feel the differences of mankind, national or individual, to an unhealthy excess. I can look with no indifferent eye upon things or persons. Whatever is, is to me a matter of taste or distaste; or when once it becomes indifferent, it begins to be disrelishing. I am, in plainer words, a bundle of prejudices — made up of likings and dislikings — the veriest thrall to sympathies, apathies, antipathies.


A National Disease

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), The Wild Duck, Act III (tr. Una Ellis-Fermor):
GINA. Do you think young Werle is really crazy?

RELLING. No, worse luck! He's no crazier than most people. But he’s got a disease in his system, all the same.

GINA. What's wrong with him, then?

RELLING. Well, I'll tell you, Mrs Ekdal. He's suffering from acute inflammation of the conscience.

HEDVIG. Is that a kind of disease?

RELLING. Why, yes. It's a national disease; but it only breaks out sporadically.
Id., Act V:
RELLING. While I remember it, young Mr Werle — don't use that exotic word 'ideals'. We have a good enough native word: 'lies'.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Nothing Is Refused Me

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), Sonnets pour Hélène II.23 (tr. Malcolm Quainton and Elizabeth Vinestock):
During these long winter nights, when the slothful Moon drives her chariot round so slowly on her circular course, when the Cock so tardily announces the day, when the night seems like a year to the troubled soul,

I would have died of misery, had it not been for your shadowy shape, which comes to soothe my love by an illusion, and, nestling completely naked in my arms, sweetly deceives me with a specious joy.

The real you is fierce and pitilessly cruel; the false you can be enjoyed in the utmost intimacy. Beside your spectral image I fall asleep, beside it I find rest;

nothing is refused me. Thus kindly sleep deludes my lovesick pain by a false substitute. Deluding oneself in love is no bad thing.

Ces longues nuicts d'hyver, où la Lune ocieuse
Tourne si lentement son char tout à l'entour,
Où le Coq si tardif nous annonce le jour,
Où la nuict semble un an à l'ame soucieuse:

Je fusse mort d'ennuy sans ta forme douteuse,
Qui vient par une feinte alleger mon amour,
Et, faisant toute nue entre mes bras sejour,
Me pipe doucement d'une joye menteuse.

Vraye tu es farouche, et fiere en cruauté:
De toy fausse on jouyst en toute privauté.
Pres ton mort je m'endors, pres de luy je repose:

Rien ne m'est refusé. Le bon sommeil ainsi
Abuse par le faux mon amoureux souci.
S'abuser en amour n'est pas mauvaise chose.
The same, tr. D.B. Wyndham Lewis, Ronsard (London: Sheed & Ward, 1944), p. 31, n. 1:
These long winter nights, when the languid Moon
Turns her chariot so slowly round and around,
When the sluggish cock announces day,
When night seems a year to the tormented soul,
I should die of weariness without your doubtful form
Which comes, feignedly, to alleviate my pain.
And nestling in my arms, all naked,
Sweetly cheats me with imagined joy.
In the flesh you are perverse, proud in your cruelty;
I enjoy your dream-shape in all privacy —
Close to your dead I sleep, close I rest,
Nothing is refused me. Thus does sweet sleep
Cheat my lovelorn care with falsity;
To deceive oneself in love is no bad thing.
Wyndham Lewis (pp. 31-32) adds:
By "your dead" in the eleventh line Ronsard means young Captain Jacques de la Rivière of the Guards, killed in action a few years before. He had been betrothed to Hélène, who wore perpetual mourning for him, a little ostentatiously; and Ronsard's jealousy was ever acute.
I'm no expert, but this seems far-fetched, especially in view of the lines preceding and following. Cf. Gustave Cohen, ed., Ronsard, Œuvres complètes, I (Paris: Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française, 1938), p. 1065 (note on pres ton mort):
les Égyptiens eussent dit: près de ton double.
From Kenneth Haynes:
What a strange note Ronsard's editor added to pres ton mort: "the Egyptians would have said: beside your double". It's strange both because ancient Egyptians probably would not have said that and because, even if they had done so, neither Ronsard nor any European before the end of the 19th century would have thought that they did. The Egyptian word is ka, 𓂓, which in 1878 two French scholars had promoted to mean the "double" or the "génie" of a person, a dubious interpretation, to judge from Rune Nyord, in "The Concept of ka between Egyptian and Egyptological Frameworks" (Concepts in Middle Egyptian Funerary Culture (2019) 150–203).


Impassioned Advocacy of Irregular Plurals

E.R. Dodds (1893-1979), "The Rediscovery of the Classics," The Irish Statesman 2.42 (April 10, 1920) 346-347, rpt. as "The Classics and Classical Humbug," The Living Age, Vol. 305, No. 3961 (June 5, 1920) 607-609 (at 607):
Not by the most impassioned advocacy of irregular plurals shall the breath of the spirit be restored to the rigid if still lovely corpse of the antique world.


A Monster of Teutonic Arrogance?

Bernard Williams (1929-2003), Shame and Necessity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), pp. x-xi (on Eduard Fraenkel):
Fraenkel was presented by the malice of the common rooms as a monster of Teutonic arrogance. He could certainly be alarming when presented with a rash or pretentious error, but the quality he conveyed in his teaching and taught one to respect was humility in the face of dense and complex philological fact; and while he possessed classical learning on a scale that I suppose is not matched by anyone now living, he saw himself as poorly informed by comparison, for instance, with the master whom he called "the great Leo".

Monday, December 09, 2019


Madness, Mass Produced

Wendell Berry, "Think Little," Essays 1969-1990 (New York: Library of America, 2019), pp. 135-144 (at 138-139):
What we are up against in this country, in any attempt to invoke private responsibility, is that we have nearly destroyed private life. Our people have given up their independence in return for the cheap seductions and the shoddy merchandise of so-called "affluence." We have delegated all our vital functions and responsibilities to salesmen and agents and bureaus and experts of all sorts. We cannot feed or clothe ourselves, or entertain ourselves, or communicate with each other, or be charitable or neighborly or loving, or even respect ourselves, without recourse to a merchant or a corporation or a public-service organization or an agency of the government or a style-setter or an expert. Most of us cannot think of dissenting from the opinions or the actions of one organization without first forming a new organization. Individualism is going around these days in uniform, handing out the party line on individualism. Dissenters want to publish their personal opinions over a thousand signatures.

The Confucian Great Digest says that the "chief way for the production of wealth” (and he is talking about real goods, not money) is "that the producers be many and that the mere consumers be few...." But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer's anxiety that he is missing out on what is "in." In this state of total consumerism — which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves — all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand. Most of us are not directly responsible for strip mining and extractive agriculture and other forms of environmental abuse. But we are guilty nevertheless, for we connive in them by our ignorance. We are ignorantly dependent on them. We do not know enough about them; we do not have a particular enough sense of their danger. Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the best food in the best way — we don't know how to produce any kind in any way. Our model citizen is a sophisticate who before puberty understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato. And for this condition we have elaborate rationalizations, instructing us that dependence for everything on somebody else is efficient and economical and a scientific miracle. I say, instead, that it is madness, mass produced.


Enter Not, Vile Bigots

François Rabelais (1494-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book I, Chapter 54 (The Inscription set upon the Great Gate of Thélème), stanza 1 (tr. Thomas Urquhart):
Here enter not, vile bigots, hypocrites,
Externally devoted apes, base snites,
Puft-up, wry-necked beasts, worse than the Huns,
Or Ostrogots, forerunners of baboons:
Cursed snakes, dissembling varlets, seeming sancts,
Slipshop caffards, beggars pretending wants,
Fat chuffcats, smell-feast knockers, doltish gulls,
Out-strouting cluster-fists, contentious bulls,
Fomenters of divisions and debates,
Elsewhere, not here, make sale of your deceits.
    Your evil trumperies
    Stuffed with pernicious lies
        (Not worth a bubble),
        Would only trouble
    Our earthly paradise,
    Your evil trumperies.

Cy n'entrez pas, hypocrites, bigotz,
Vieulx matagotz, marmiteux, borsouflez,
Torcoulx, badaux, plus que n'estoient les Gotz
Ny Ostrogotz, precurseurs des magotz;
Haires, cagotz, caffars empantouflez,
Gueux mitouflez, frapars escorniflez,
Befflez, enflez, fagoteurs de tabus,
Tirez ailleurs pour vendre voz abus.
    Voz abus meschans
    Rempliroient mes camps
    De meschanceté
    Et par faulseté
    Troubleroit mes chants
    Vous abus meschans.
The vocabulary is difficult: Abel Lefranc, ed., Oeuvres de François Rabelais, Tome Second: Gargantua, Chapitres XXIII-LVIII (Paris: Champion, 1913), pp. 410-411, has seventeen notes on the first ten lines.

The same, tr. J.M. Cohen:
Enter not here, vile hypocrites and bigots,
Pious old apes, and puffed-up snivellers,
Wry-necked creatures sawnier than the Goths,
Or Ostrogoths, precursors of Gog and Magog,
Woe-begone scoundrels, mock-godly sandal-wearers,
Beggars in blankets, flagellating canters,
Hooted at, pot-bellied, stirrers up of troubles,
Get along elsewhere to sell your dirty swindles.
    Your hideous deceits
    Would fill my fields and streets
    With villainy
    And with their falsity
    Would untune my song's notes,
    Your hideous deceits.
The same, tr. W.F. Smith, with his notes:
Enter not here, ye Hypocrites and Bigots,
Ugly old Apes and pursy Whimperers,
With Necks awry,1 worse Boobies than the Goths,
Or Ostrogoths, precursors of Magoths;2
Woe-begone Vermin,3 Cowl4-and-Sandal Wearers,
Cadgers bemittened, flagellating Spungers,
Hooted Gorbellies, Stirrers-up of Heats;
Begone elsewhere to sell your wicked Cheats.
    Your wicked Frauds and Cheats
    Would fill my Fields and Streets
    With utter Villainy;
    So with false Harmony
    Would jangle Music's sweets
    Your wicked Frauds and Cheats.

1 Cf. "Obstipo capite et figentes lumine terram" (Pers. iii. 80).

2 Goth and Magoth, with reference to Gog and Magog. Ronsard has the lines:
Je n'aime point ces mots qui sont finis en ots,
Gots, Cagots, Austregots, Visgots et Huguenots.

3 Fr. Cagots. Du Cange derives this word from canes Gothi, the Goths having been driven into the Pyrenees, and being looked upon as the off-scouring of the world.

4 Fr. Caphards. According to Du Cange, from cappa, caphardum, a sort of hood; hence hypocrites.


A Life Devoted to Knowledge

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rasselas, chapter VIII:
"Sir," said Imlac, "my history will not be long: the life that is devoted to knowledge passes silently away, and is very little diversified by events. To talk in public, to think in solitude, to read and to hear, to inquire and answer inquiries, is the business of a scholar. He wanders about the world without pomp or terror, and is neither known nor valued but by men like himself."

Sunday, December 08, 2019


Making Up Stories

Thucydides 6.38.1-2 (tr. Richard Crawley):
Persons here invent stories that neither are true nor ever will be. Nor is this the first time that I see these persons, when they cannot resort to deeds, trying by such stories and by others even more abominable to frighten your people and get into their hands the government: it is what I see always.

ἄνδρες οὔτε ὄντα οὔτε ἂν γενόμενα λογοποιοῦσιν, οὓς ἐγὼ οὐ νῦν πρῶτον, ἀλλ' αἰεὶ ἐπίσταμαι ἤτοι λόγοις γε τοιοῖσδε καὶ ἔτι τούτων κακουργοτέροις ἢ ἔργοις βουλομένους καταπλήξαντας τὸ ὑμέτερον πλῆθος αὐτοὺς τῆς πόλεως ἄρχειν.


The Making of a Scholar

Morris H. Morgan (1859-1910), Addresses and Essays (New York: American Book Company, 1910), pp. 6-7:
For you can be perfectly sure of one thing, which is that no teacher, however brilliant or learned, can make scholars of you (whether you want to be philologians or historians or geologists), if you sit passive. To use the terminology of Aristotle, the teacher can, if he is a good teacher, give you 'the how,' but he can never give you 'the what.' He can point to methods, he can 'show you the way wherein you must walk and the work that you must do,' but then he must leave you to do the work for yourselves. Scholarship cannot be melted up and poured into you, or chopped up fine and spooned into your mouths. You have to chew on it yourselves; you must become metaphorical Fletcherites and chew on it hard and long. But observe a difference: the Fletcherites do their chewing in public, and they are not a pleasant spectacle. He who would become a scholar has to chew in private; all by himself his work has to be done.
Fletcherites were followers of Horace Fletcher, "The Great Masticator," who advocated chewing food into a liquid pulp before swallowing it.


Out With Him

Stevie Smith (1902-1971), "Thoughts about the Christian Doctrine of Eternal Hell," Collected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1983), pp. 387-388:
Is it not interesting to see
How the Christians continually
Try to separate themselves in vain
From the doctrine of eternal pain.

They cannot do it,
They are committed to it,
Their Lord said it,
They must believe it.

So the vulnerable body is stretched without pity
On flames for ever. Is this not pretty?

The religion of Christianity
Is mixed of sweetness and cruelty
Reject this Sweetness, for she wears
A smoky dress out of hell fires.

Who makes a God? Who shows him thus?
It is the Christian religion does,
Oh, oh, have none of it,
Blow it away, have done with it.

This god the Christians show
Out with him, out with him, let him go.
James Joyce (1882-1941), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Chapter III:
And yet what I have said as to the strength and quality and boundlessness of this fire is as nothing when compared to its intensity, an intensity which it has as being the instrument chosen by divine design for the punishment of soul and body alike. It is a fire which proceeds directly from the ire of God, working not of its own activity but as an instrument of divine vengeance. As the waters of baptism cleanse the soul with the body so do the fires of punishment torture the spirit with the flesh. Every sense of the flesh is tortured and every faculty of the soul therewith: the eyes with impenetrable utter darkness, the nose with noisome odours, the ears with yells and howls and execrations, the taste with foul matter, leprous corruption, nameless suffocating filth, the touch with redhot goads and spikes, with cruel tongues of flame. And through the several torments of the senses the immortal soul is tortured eternally in its very essence amid the leagues upon leagues of glowing fires kindled in the abyss by the offended majesty of the Omnipotent God and fanned into everlasting and ever increasing fury by the breath of the anger of the Godhead.
Rev. J. Furniss, C.SS.R., The Sight of Hell (Dublin: James Duffy and Co., Ltd., 1874 = Books for Children and Young Persons, X), Chapter XVIII:
Little child, if you go to Hell, there will be a devil at your side to strike you. He will go on striking you every minute for ever and ever, without ever stopping.
Id. (Chapter XX):
Now look at that body, lying on the bed of fire. All the body is salted with fire. The fire burns through every bone and every muscle. Every nerve is trembling and quivering with the sharp fire. The fire rages inside the skull, it shoots out through the eyes, it drops out through the ears, it roars in the throat as it roars up a chimney. So will mortal sin be punished.
Id. (Chapter XXI):
St. Teresa says that she found the entrance into Hell filled with these venomous insects. If you cannot bear the sight of ugly vermin and creeping things on the earth, will you be content with the sight of the venomous things in Hell, which are a million times worse? The bite or the pricking of one insect on the earth sometimes keeps you awake, and torments you for hours. How will you feel in Hell, when millions of them make their dwelling-place in your mouth, and ears, and eyes, and creep all over you, and sting you with their deadly stings through all eternity? You will not then be able to help yourself or send them away because you cannot stir hand or foot.
For even worse, see Furniss, Chapter XXVII. The Sight of Hell was recently reprinted by "Catholic Way Publishing. Publishers of Quality Catholic Paperbacks."

Saturday, December 07, 2019


Did the Ancients Use Brylcreem?

From the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari:

Hat tip: A friend.


Great Pan

John Fletcher (1579-1625), "The God of Sheep," in Norman Ault, ed., Elizabethan Lyrics from the Original Texts (1949; rpt. New York: Capricorn Books, 1960), p. 405:
All ye woods, and trees, and bowers,
All ye virtues and ye powers
That inhabit in the lakes,
In the pleasant springs or brakes,
    Move your feet
      To our sound,
    Whilst we greet
      All this ground
With his honour and his name
That defends our flocks from blame.

He is great, and he is just,
He is ever good, and must
Thus be honoured. Daffadillies,
Roses, pinks, and lovëd lilies
      Let us fling,
      Whilst we sing,
      Ever holy,
      Ever holy,
Ever honoured, ever young!
Thus great Pan is ever sung.


The Sweetest of All Things

Thucydides 7.68.1 (tr. Martin Hammond):
We should remember that the right to satisfy feelings of anger in the punishment of an aggressor is universally accepted, and that revenge on one's enemies, soon to be in our power, is indeed, as the saying goes, the sweetest of all things.

καὶ νομίσωμεν ἅμα μὲν νομιμώτατον εἶναι πρὸς τοὺς ἐναντίους οἳ ἂν ὡς ἐπὶ τιμωρίᾳ τοῦ προσπεσόντος δικαιώσωσιν ἀποπλῆσαι τῆς γνώμης τὸ θυμούμενον, ἅμα δὲ ἐχθροὺς ἀμύνασθαι ἐκγενησόμενον ἡμῖν καὶ τὸ λεγόμενόν που ἥδιστον εἶναι.


A Capital Crime

Juvenal 13.53-56 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
At that time, wickedness provoked astonishment. They considered it a major outrage, punishable by death, if a young man didn't stand up for an older man, or a boy for anyone with a beard...

improbitas illo fuit admirabilis aevo,
credebant quo grande nefas et morte piandum
si iuvenis vetulo non adsurrexerat et si        55
barbato cuicumque puer...
John E.B. Mayor on line 55:

Friday, December 06, 2019


The Vicar

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. 294:
At Nîmes in 1763, Tobias Smollett found 'the Temple of Cloacina' 'in a most shocking condition':
The servant-maid told me her mistress had caused it to be made on purpose for the English travellers; but now she was very sorry for what she had done, as all the French who frequented her house, instead of using the seat, left their offerings on the floor, which she was obliged to have cleaned three or four times a day.
Later tourists would be baffled by bidets and daunted by the porcelain footpads on either side of a small dark hole, but even in simpler days there were mysteries to solve. A traveller in Béarn in 1812 who slept on the third tier of a four-tier bunk bed was woken in the night by a smell and a noise of ropes and pulleys. A voice in the darkness whispered, 'Don't worry, sir, it's just the vicar going up.' 'Vicaire' turned out to be a local name for 'chamber pot'.



Hail, Holy Father

Howard M. Jackson and Charles E. Murgia, "Notes on Problems in the Text of 'Carmina Priapea'," Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 37 (1996) 245-270 (at 266-267, in a note written by Jackson):
And in a similar fashion the great Tiburtine hymn to Priapus (CIL 11.3565), after an appeal to the god from wives anxious to ensure their husbands' continued virility (lines d18-9), closes (d20) with the appeal salve, sancte pater Priape, salve!
The CIL (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum) citation is incorrect — it should be 14.3565, not 11.3565. For text, translation, and commentary on the hymn, see Edward Courtney, Musa Lapidaria: A Selection of Latin Verse Inscriptions (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), pp. 148-151, 356-358.



A Good Book for Reading Aloud

Robert Benchley (1889-1945), "The Dying Thesaurus," Chips Off the Old Benchley (1949; rpt. Leyden: Aeonian Press, 1976), pp. 150-151:
Just think what it would mean to have a complete history of every word in the Latin tongue from earliest times right plumb up to the Middle Ages. You may think perhaps that the history that you have is complete enough, but does it bring the thing up to the Middle Ages? Suppose, for instance, that a dispute were to arise some night at dinner over the history of the word agricola.

"I'll bet you two seats to the Follies," you might say to your brother-in-law, "that the word agricola used to be practically interchangeable with the masculine demonstrative pronoun hic. Agricola means 'farmer,' and so does hic, or, as it has come down to us in English, 'hick.'"

One word would lead to another, or perhaps to something worse, and the upshot of the whole thing would be a hurried reaching for your vest-pocket history of Latin words and phrases. And what would be your chagrin to find that the volume began with the First Punic War and gave absolutely nothing previous to that period that you could rely upon!

We are a thorough people and we demand that our history of the Latin tongue shall be thorough. As the popular song-hit has it: "If our thesaurus ain't a real thesaurus, we don't want no thesaurus at all." That's the way the rank and file of Americans feel about it. Home life is the basis of all our national institutions and there is nothing that contributes to its stability like a good book for reading aloud.

"What shall it be to-night, kiddies?" says the father, drawing up his chair before the fireplace in which stands a vase of hydrangeas, "the story of how mensa came to have its feminine ending?" "Oh, no, Daddy," lisps little Hazel, "read us about the root verbs which are traceable to the Etruscan influence on the early Latin language. You know, Daddy, the one about the great big prefix, the middle-sized prefix, and the little baby prefix which went 'huius, huius, huius' all the way home."

And so the father read the old, old story of how the good fairy came and told ad, ante, con, in, inter, ob, post, prae, pro, sub, and super that some day they would grow up and govern the accusative and how it all worked out just as the good fairy had said. And all the little children fell asleep with smiles and post-toasties on their faces.
Con must be a misprint for contra.

Thursday, December 05, 2019


Those People

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), The Pillars of the Community, Act I (Karsten Bernick speaking; tr. Una Ellis-Fermor):
Oh, come. One mustn't be too particular with foreigners; those people haven't got that deep-rooted sense of decency that keeps us within proper bounds. Let them go their own way. What does it matter to us? All this disorderliness — setting oneself up against tradition and good manners — fortunately for us it's quite alien to our community, if I may say so.

Å hvad; med udlændinger må man ikke tage det så strængt; de folk har jo ikke denne rodfæstede sømmelighedsfølelse, der holder os indenfor de rette skranker. Lad dem kun skeje ud. Hvad gør ​det os? Alt dette uvæsen, som sætter sig op imod skik og gode sæder, det er lykkeligvis ikke i slægt med vort samfund, om jeg så tør sige.


A Sicilian Doctor's Contribution to a Philosophical Discussion

Epicrates, fragment 10, tr. John Dillon, The Heirs of Plato: A Study of the Old Academy (347–274 BC) (2003; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), pp. 7-8:
A: What are Plato and Speusippus and Menedemus up to? On what subjects are they discoursing (diatribousin) today? What weighty idea, what line of argument (logos) is currently being investigated by them? Tell me this accurately, in Earth's name, if you've come with any knowledge of it.

B: Why yes, I can tell you about these fellows with certainty. For at the Panathenaea I saw a troop of lads in the exercise-grounds of the Academy (en gymnasiois Akadēmias), and heard utterances indescribable, astonishing! For they were propounding definitions about nature (peri physeōs aphorizomenoi), and separating into categories the ways of life of animals, the nature of trees, and the classes of vegetables. And in this connection they were investigating to what genus one should assign the pumpkin.

A: And what definition (horos) did they arrive at, and of what genus is the plant?

B: Well now, first of all they all took up their places, and with heads bowed they reflected a long time. Then suddenly, while they were still bent low in study, one of the lads said it was a round vegetable, another that it was a grass, another that it was a tree. When a doctor from Sicily heard this, he dismissed them contemptuously, as talking rubbish.

B: No doubt they got very angry at that, and protested against such insults? For it is unseemly to behave thus in such public gatherings (en leskhais taisde).

A: No, in fact the lads didn't seem to mind at all. And Plato, who was present, very mildly, and without irritation, told them to try again to define the genus to which the pumpkin belongs. And they started once again to attempt a division (diairesis).
"He dismissed them contemptuously" is a euphemism — the Sicilian doctor farted on them (κατέπαρδ᾿ αὐτῶν).




Simone Weil (1909-1943), Gravity and Grace, tr. Arthur Wills (1952; rpt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), p. 202:
What is it a sacrilege to destroy? Not that which is base, for that is of no importance. Not that which is high, for, even should we want to, we cannot touch that. The metaxu. The metaxu form the region of good and evil.

No human being should be deprived of his metaxu, that is to say of those relative and mixed blessings (home, country, traditions, culture, etc.) which warm and nourish the soul and without which, short of sainthood, a human life is not possible.

Qu'est-ce qu'il est sacrilège de détruire? Non pas ce qui est bas, car cela n'a pas d'importance. Non pas ce qui est haut, car, le voudrait-on, on ne peut pas y toucher. Les metaxu. Les metaxu sont la région dubien et du mal.

Ne priver aucun être humain de ses metaxu, c'est-à-dire de ces biens relatifs et mélangés (foyer, patrie, traditions, culture, etc.) qui réchauffent et nourrissent l'âme et sans lesquels, en dehors de là sainteté, une vie humaine n'est pas possible.
μεταξύ = in the midst.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019



Gareth Schmeling, A Commentary on the Satyrica of Petronius (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. viii:
Commentaries are personal statements and seem often to be written by (1) older men with (2) nothing to do but collect cigars and malt scotches.


Poverty and Wealth

Democritus, fragment B 284 (tr. Daniel W. Graham):
If you do not desire much, little will seem to you to be much; for a small appetite makes poverty equivalent to wealth.

ἢν μὴ πολλῶν ἐπιθυμέηις, τὰ ὀλίγα τοι πολλὰ δόξει· σμικρὰ γὰρ ὄρεξις πενίην ἰσοσθενέα πλούτωι ποιέει.


A Danger to National Security

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rasselas, chapter VI:
'But I will work only on this condition, that the art shall not be divulged, and that you shall not require me to make wings for any but ourselves.'

'Why,' said Rasselas, 'should you envy others so great an advantage? All skill ought to be exerted for universal good; every man has owed much to others, and ought to repay the kindness that he has received.'

'If men were all virtuous,' returned the artist, 'I should with great alacrity teach them all to fly. But what would be the security of the good, if the bad could at pleasure invade them from the sky? Against an army sailing through the clouds, neither walls, nor mountains, nor seas, could afford any security. A flight of northern savages might hover in the wind, and light at once with irresistible violence upon the capital of a fruitful region that was rolling under them. Even this valley, the retreat of princes, the abode of happiness, might be violated by the sudden descent of some of the naked nations that swarm on the coast of the southern sea.'

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Ban on Throwing Snowballs

Ordinance Forbids Throwing Snowballs In Wausau, Wisconsin, WCCO (December 2, 2019):
The recent round of snow is bringing attention to a city ordinance in Wisconsin. It's illegal to throw snowballs in some parts of Wausau.

Snowballs are lumped in with missiles, rocks, arrows, none of which are you allowed to throw.

The ordinance decrees that you can't throw snowballs anywhere on public property — not on sidewalks, city streets, or at school. If you do, you could be fined.

"It's really in the interest of public safety. A lot of it is just consideration and common sense. You don't throw stuff at people, period," Wausau Mayor Robert B. Mielke said.

Mielke says the ordinance was brought forward years ago after some issues with projectiles.

The police department can't remember a time when someone was fined for throwing a snowball.
Some adults want to suck all the joy out of childhood. I remember putting rocks in snowballs, dipping snowballs in water so they'd have an icy exterior, caching snowballs in our snow forts, and throwing snowballs at kids from Eastern Avenue if they dared to set foot on our street.

Only one incident temporarily dampened my enthusiasm for throwing snowballs. I threw a snowball at a car once, and the driver got out and chased me.


Only Three Errors

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. 282:
Since geographical information was scarce, most writers took their facts from earlier books, which had been plagiarized from even earlier works. In this way, monuments that had long since ceased to exist were described as though the writer had actually seen them. Many writers clearly never expected anyone to follow their directions and painted detailed pictures of imaginary provincial towns. François Marlin travelled with Robert de Hesseln's compact Dictionnaire universel de la France (1771) because it was 'useful to have the whole country in six volumes in the pockets of one's carriage'. Unfortunately, Hesseln's local informers sometimes let him down, as Marlin discovered when he reached the capital of the Lozère département in 1790. 'M. Robert went to the trouble of placing Mende on a mountain, giving it a triangular shape and a large population. There are only three errors in this statement.'

Monday, December 02, 2019


Tight Pants

H.S. Versnel, Ter Unus: Isis, Dionysos, Hermes. Three Studies in Henotheism (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990 = Studies in Greek and Roman Religion, 6), pp. 9-10:
The human femur is a strongly curved bone, Galen taught in the second century AD, basing his thesis on the observation of animal thighs. In the early sixteenth century the famous Paris anatomist Sylvius refused to be convinced of the contrary. When his pupil Vesalius finally dissected a human thigh and demonstrated ad oculos that the femur was dead straight, Sylvius sought refuge in the assumption that the tight trousers which were the fashion in his day must have gradually straightened the human bones24.

24 ῥεῖα δέ τ' ἰθύνει σκολιόν! The story is only known to me through J. Boeke, Andreas Vesalius als hervormer der ontleedkunde, Ned. Tijdschr. v. Geneeskunde 59 (1915) 31-45, esp. 38. Despite all their efforts, Dr. F.G. Schlesinger and Dr. H.F.J. Horstmanshoff (to whom I owe this information) have not been able to confirm it from authentic sources.
Update from Kenneth Haynes:
The story about Galen, Sylvius, Vesalius, tight clothes, and straight bones was recorded in vol. 3 of Kurt Sprengler, Versuch einer pragmatischen Geschichte der Arzneikunde (1794), p. 526:

Auch die grosse Krümmung, welche Galen dem Oberarm und Hüftknochen gegeben hatte, verwarf Vesalius [34]; und Sylvius vertheidigte den Galen aus dem Grunde, weil durch die engen Kleidungsstücke heut zu Tage die Knochen grader geworden sein [35].

[34] Lib. I. c. 23. p. 92
[35] L. c. p. 85. — Vergl. Eustach. p. 186.

("Vesalius also rejected the strong curvature which Galen had attributed to the upper arm and the hip bone; and Sylvius defended Galen on the grounds that nowadays bones had become straighter through tight articles of clothing.")

The citations seem to correspond to unspecified editions of Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica and Eustachius’ Examen ossium.


Call to Repel the Invader

Vergil, Aeneid 12.260-264 (Tolumnius to the Rutulians; tr. H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G.P. Goold):
With me, me, at your head, snatch up the sword, hapless people, whom, like frail birds, a shameless alien affrights with war, and violently ravages your coasts. He too will take to flight, and spread sail far across the deep.

                                           me, me duce ferrum
corripite, o miseri, quos improbus advena bello
territat invalidas ut avis, et litora vestra
vi populat. petet ille fugam penitusque profundo
vela dabit.


Asyndetic Privative Adjectives on a Curse Tablet?

D.R. Jordan, "Defixiones from a Well Near the Southwest Corner of the Athenian Agora," Hesperia 54.3 (July-September, 1985) 205-255 (at p. 216, lines 15-16):
                                                                    Ἔστω κωφός,]
ἄλαλο[ς, ἄ]νους, ἀκέραιος, µήτε παλαίω[ν µηδενί.]


                                                                  Let him be deaf,
dumb, mindless, harmless, and not fighting against anyone.
At the end of line 15, I wonder if ἀνήκοος could be supplied instead of κωφός. Also, translating speechless instead of dumb would emphasize the privative nature of ἄλαλος.

Oops, now I see that κωφός appears in similar phrases on other curse tablets from the same collection, so I withdraw my suggestion about ἀνήκοος.


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