Thursday, April 30, 2020


Get as Close to the Original as You Can

W.S. Merwin (1927-2019), The Mays of Ventadorn (Washington: National Geographic, 2002), p. 8 (account of a visit to Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth's Hospital):
He told me he imagined I was serious, and that if I was I should learn languages, "so as not to be at the mercy of translators." And then I should translate, myself. "If you're going to be a poet," he said, "you have to work at it every day. You should write about seventy-five lines a day. But at your age you don't have anything to write about. You may think you do, but you don't. So get to work translating. The Provençal is the real source. The poets are closest to music. They hear it. They write to it. Try to learn the Provençal, at least some of it, if you can. Meanwhile, the others. Spanish is all right. The Romancero is what you want there. Get as close to the original as you can. It will make you use your English and find out what you can do with it."


No Greater Thrill of Satisfaction

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), Great Trade Route (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1937), pp. 42-43:
If you set out to save civilization on the lines here indicated later you will be met at once by the objection that people do not like growing things. . . . There can be no greater mistake. The one thing that all men like is obtaining something for nothing . . . and there is no greater thrill of satisfaction than seeing, pushing through the earth,  the first shoots from the seeds you have sown. . . . Ask any child. . . . Ask, indeed, any schoolmaster whose demesne provides garden plots for the children under his care. . . . You will find that he will say that, cut whatever other class they may, his children will be always ready for tuition in the use of spade and hoe and dibble.

Every child, in fact, ought to be taught reading and writing and to lisp Latin as soon as it can lisp anything. . . . But just as imperatively every child should be given the opportunity to express itself in Earth. It is, like swimming, a primitive art, the knowledge of which, once gained, will never leave you — and never lose for you its fascination.

. . . And no State can be called civilized that, along with bread and circuses, does not accord to all its subjects the sacred right to dig . . . and the land in which to do it.
Id., p. 44:
The greater part of the inhabitants of the great oval whose rim we are to follow never taste real food from their cradles to their graves. They never taste vegetables fresh from the beds, fruit fresh from the trees, bread from wheat not manured by chemicals, meats not rendered unassimilable by refrigeration and again by chemicals. All these thrown together by totally incompetent and careless cooks so that they have none of the appetizing qualities that ensure good digestion. So their brains are for ever starved of good blood, their minds are incapable of reflection, courage, or stability. And so, refrigeration and preservatives having done their work in glutting with inedibilia the markets of the world, prices fluctuate like frightened chickens in a run and at last fall to rock bottom. And, carrying on its back a screaming Mass Production, the bronze bull that is the Machine Age charges the brazen wall called Crisis.

And the brains of the petrified statesmen are fed with the same fluid as that of their flocks.


Prayer to Zeus

Seneca, Hercules Furens 205-207 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
O mighty ruler of Olympus, judge of all the world,
set now at length a limit to our crushing cares,
an end to our disasters.

O magne Olympi rector et mundi arbiter,
iam statue tandem gravibus aerumnis modum
finemque cladi.
John G. Fitch ad loc.:
Arbiter here means "lord, controller" (not "judge," Miller), as at 597f. caelestum arbiter / parensque.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Richness and Savour

Stella Bowen (1893-1947), Drawn from Life (1941; rpt. London: Virago, 1984), pp. 95-96:
To my mind the best market on the whole coast is one which I came to know later at Toulon, in the Cours Lafayette. The booths come curving out of a shady street into a sunny boulevard which shows the waters of the harbour at one end and high mountains at the other. Immense symmetrical plane trees slant slightly forwards down each side of the old street, their trunks bisected by the tilted white canvas canopies of the stalls. Here, if you can make yourself heard above the clamour, you may buy garments or bandanna handkerchiefs or china, as well as all the fruits of the earth and sea. What flowers! What oranges, lemons, and tangerines! And what vegetables! Fennel, and pimentos, and courgettes and herbs and salade de mache and aubergines. And in the fish market, sea-urchins and octopus and langoustines and mussels, as well as all the serious fishes, and everything you could want for a bouillabaisse, even to the rascasse. A shop nearby sells nothing but olive oils, which you will taste from a row of taps, on a piece of bread, whilst next door is a noble selection of sausages and cheeses and a choice of olives. Daily life has richness and savour here, where a passionate interest attaches to the buying of even the humblest portion of food. Lucky housewives, turning their leisurely steps into the crowded, sunny hubbub to choose, weigh, compare and haggle over the piled merchandise surrounding them; little do they know that in other countries their sisters are huddled into mackintoshes and scuttling from the grocer to the butcher, who will serve them dourly with a fixed portion at a fixed price — a transaction calling for no skill and little judgment?


Common Sense

Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970), Samuel Johnson (1944; rpt. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1963), p. 363:
Another way to describe the circumstances which made the age particularly favorable to conversation would be to say that the eighteenth century was the golden age of the amateur, and that conversation is an art of which amateurs are the best practitioners. It flourishes most exuberantly when reasonableness rather than expert knowledge is the thing most trusted, when the assumption is that truth can most often be arrived at not, as the Middle Ages believed, by metaphysical argument and not, as we profess to hold, by scientific method, but by the application of "common sense"; and we may define "common sense" as the acceptance of certain current assumptions, traditions and standards of value which are never called into question because so to question any of them might be to necessitate a revision of government, society and private conduct more thoroughgoing than anyone liked to contemplate.


The Individual Is Maimed

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Beyond the Mexique Bay (London: Chatto & Windus, 1950), pp. 259-260:
A primitive is forced to be whole — a complete man, trained in all the skills of the community, able to fend for himself in all circumstances; if he is not whole, he perishes. A civilized man, on the contrary, is under no external necessity to be whole. He can go comfortably and, as we judge success, successfully through life, incapable of doing anything except, shall we say, writing detective novels; within the strong economic and legal framework of civilization he is perfectly safe. A highly organized society protects him from the worst effects of his own incompetence; allows him to be ignorant of all the useful arts and yet to live. So far as immediate physical disaster is concerned, he can be unwhole with impunity. But there are also psychological disasters — the gradual disasters of atrophy and decay. Our admirably efficient organization has no power to save a man from these. Indeed its very perfection is the cause of these individual disasters. All civilization, and especially industrial civilization, tends to turn human beings into the mere embodiments of particular social functions. The community gains in efficiency; but the individual is maimed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Reading as a Sin

Stella Bowen (1893-1947), Drawn from Life (1941; rpt. London: Virago, 1984), pp. 16-17:
My really besetting sin was reading, and this got worse. I would read in bed, against orders, extinguishing my candle when I heard my mother's footsteps in the passage, and relighting after she had passed. I would persuade myself that I could get to school in ten minutes and read till I had but seven left in which to cover a quarter of an hour's walk, and arrive late again, and breathless. My mother spoke to me very gravely about this self-indulgence.

There was no lack of reading-matter in our home. We had the complete works of Carlyle, very handsomely bound; all the Victorian poets and essayists; the History of the Reformation, the Decline and Fall, and criticisms and biographies of many writers whose own works we did not possess. There were also the complete novels of Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë, which I was allowed to read, with the exception of Adam Bede and Jane Eyre. But my earliest reading consisted of Rosa Nouchette Carey, Charlotte Yonge, and Juliana Horatia Ewing. I swallowed them all with enthusiasm, and was easily convinced that nothing mattered in life but unselfishness and piety. At one time I announced that I would like to go as a missionary to Melanesia! . . .

On Sundays we were not allowed to read secular literature, but there was a long series called "Sunday Echoes in Week-day Hours," which illustrated the Collect, Gospel, or Epistle for the day in a fictional manner. I can remember that the gilding on this pill was definitely insufficient.


A Song of Occupations

Gustave Glotz (1862-1935), Ancient Greece at Work, tr. M.R. Dobie (1927; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1967), pp. 278-280:
The worker's day began very early. He rose before daylight. Aristophanes amuses himself with a description of the scene. "As soon as the cock sends forth his morning song, they all jump out of bed, blacksmiths, potters, leather­dressers, shoe-makers, bathmen, flour-dealers, lyre-turners, and shield-makers; they slip on their shoes and rush off to their work in the dark." Work no doubt went on until sunset. In the mines, where it never ceased, there were successive ten-hour shifts. For night work the millers, bakers, and pastry-cooks paid wages at skilled rates.

Inside the workshops painted on the vases we often see clothes hanging on the wall. When a man was working he wanted to be comfortable. For sedentary work he bared his upper part and legs, or took off everything, wearing only a cap. In the forges and potteries, the more clothes there are hanging on the wall, the more vases hang there too. Going near the fire made a man thirsty.

In the absence of machines, and with only a moderate division of labour, the craftsman and the labourer had relatively varied occupations. For tasks done by several men together, and especially for hard or monotonous work, the time was set by music. The flute, the pipe, and the whistle governed motions and gave orders in the ship-building yards. There were old songs for every trade, and for each operation in it. The airs which Calypso and Circe sang as they span and wove were known by all the women. Others were sung when the corn was pounded or milled. Harvesters, millers, fishermen, rowers, bathmen, all had their chanty. With the cultivation of the vine the Greeks took to Egypt the Song of the Wine-Press. Like dancing and gymnastics, manual labour was made rhythmical and gay.

Shop and workshop were open to visitors and idlers. As in Hesiod's time, men liked to go into the forge and to stand peacefully watching the workmen as they handled tongs, hammer, and polisher. They went to the barber's as the Frenchman goes to his café. Young men made appointments to meet and chat at the perfumer's. Socrates was always sure of finding an audience at the statuary's or the armourer's; when he wished to meet Euthydemos he went with a crowd of friends into a saddler's shop, and it was the leather-dresser Simon who took down his sayings in a diary.
The passage from Aristophanes is Birds 488-492 (on the cock; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Such was his authority, so great and mighty was he then, that even to this day, as a result of that long-ago power, he has only to sing reveille and everyone jumps up to work, smiths, potters, tanners, cobblers, bathmen, grain traders, the whole carpentering, lyre-pegging, shield-fastening lot. In the dark men put on their shoes and set forth.

οὕτω δ᾽ ἴσχυσέ τε καὶ μέγας ἦν τότε καὶ πολύς, ὥστ᾽ ἔτι καὶ νῦν
ὑπὸ τῆς ῥώμης τῆς τότ᾽ ἐκείνης, ὁπόταν μόνον ὄρθριον ᾁσῃ,
ἀναπηδῶσιν πάντες ἐπ᾽ ἔργον, χαλκῆς, κεραμῆς, σκυλοδέψαι,
σκυτῆς, βαλανῆς, ἀλφιταμοιβοί, τορνευτολυρασπιδοπηγοί·
οἱ δὲ βαδίζουσ᾽ ὑποδησάμενοι νύκτωρ.


The Smell of Peace

Massimo Bacigalupo, "Ezra the Troubadour," in Claire Davison et al. edd., Provence and the British Imagination (Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature Straniere, Facoltà di Studi Umanistici, Università degli Studi di Milano, 2013), pp. 175-192 (at 178):
In any case, Bertran was an early major persona for Pound, who scored one of his irst successes with his 'Sestina: Altaforte', an extrapolation from Bertran in the sestina form (which Bertran himself never used), and a vibrant invocation of war: "Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace". It is remembered that Pound's friendship with another artiste maudit, the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, began when Gaudier heard Pound recite the 'bloody sestina' and understood the first line as 'all this South stinks piss'!


French Pronunciation

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), A Mirror to France (New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1926), p. 113:
My French I had from my grandfather who, born in Calais and passing the whole of his youth and early manhood in France, knew French better than English, which indeed he never learned to spell correctly. But he insisted characteristically that although one must know French with accuracy one must speak it with a marked English accent to show that one is an English gentleman. I still do.

Monday, April 27, 2020


Promise of a Sweeter Life

Stella Bowen (1893-1947), Drawn from Life (1941; rpt. London: Virago, 1984), p. 92:
I have made that journey many times since, but the thrill of finding oneself already in the landscape of Provence when dawn breaks gets sharper every time. At eight o'clock you are at Avignon, but ever since the first streak of light you have been beside the urgent, muddy Rhône and amongst the pale olives, the dark cypresses, the grey rocks and the flat-roofed, flat-faced houses which in spite of their poverty and austerity seem to hold promise of a sweeter life within their dry old walls.
Id., pp. 135-136:
I once knew a very sick poet in Montparnasse who had a nervous break-down and spent many dark months in a clinic. His window looked down on to a baker's shop and he told me afterwards that his convalescence began on the day when, noticing a woman going in to buy bread, he suddenly felt unutterably envious of the interest she was taking in the choosing of a loaf. It seemed to him to denote a miraculous state of bliss, a birthright that he had somehow lost and must recapture; a birthright, I still believe, that belongs especially to France and will surely survive . . .
Id., pp. 147-148:
It is something to do with the light, I suppose, and the airiness and bareness and frugality of life in the Midi which induces a simplicity of thought, and a kind of whittling to the bone of whatever may be the matter in hand. Sunlight reflected from red tiled floors on to whitewashed walls, closed shutters and open windows and an air so soft that you live equally in and out of doors, suggest an experience so sweetly simple that you wonder that life ever appeared the tangled, hustling and distracting piece of nonsense you once thought it. Your mind relaxes, your thoughts spread out and take their shape, phobias disappear, and if passions become quicker, they also lose their power of deadly strangulation. Reason wins. And you are released from the necessity of owning things. There is no need to be cosy. A pot of flowers, a strip of fabric on the wall, and your room is furnished. Your comforts are the light and warmth provided by nature, and your ornaments are the orange trees outside.


Looking Out for Number One

Cicero, On the Laws 1.18.49 (tr. Niall Rudd):
Furthermore, if goodness is sought for its advantages, not for itself, then there will be one virtue only; and that will most properly be called selfishness. For where each person measures his actions totally by his own advantage, to that extent he totally falls short of being a good man. Hence to those who estimate goodness by its rewards selfishness is the only admirable quality. Where is a generous person to be found if no one acts kindly for the sake of another? What becomes of gratitude if people are not seen to be grateful to the person to whom they owe thanks? Where is that holy thing, friendship, if no one loves a friend wholeheartedly, as they say, for his own sake? Why, a friend must be cast off and abandoned if he offers no hope of profit and reward; and what can be more barbaric than that?
The Latin text with an image of the critical apparatus from J.G.F. Powell, ed., M. Tullius Ciceronis De Re Publica, De Legibus, Cato Maior De Senectute, Laelius De Amicitia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 182-183:
Atque etiam si emolumentis, non suapte natura virtus expenditur, una erit virtus, quae malitia rectissime dicetur. Ut enim quisque maxume ad suum commodum refert quaecumque agit, ita minime est vir bonus; ut qui virtutem praemio metiuntur, nullam virtutem nisi malitiam putent. Ubi enim beneficus, si nemo alterius causa benigne facit? Ubi gratus, si non eum respiciunt grati cui referunt gratiam? Ubi illa sancta amicitia, si non ipse amicus per se amatur toto pectore, ut dicitur? Quin etiam deserendus et abiciendus est desperatis emolumentis et fructibus; quo quid potest dici immanius?

Andrew R. Dyck analyzes the textual problems in his commentary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004), pp. 200-202:
Löfstedt, 2, 251-52, followed by von Albrecht, 1973, 1261.24-26, sought to defend the transmitted suapte by reference to Apul. Met. 9.25, but there noxa can be understood from the context (so already Oudendorp); Halm's sua sponte for suapte (based on H2's correction of the latter to sponte) is followed by de Plinval; but sponte for suapte is likely to have been suggested to the scribe by the occurrence of sponte earlier in this paragraph. Moser's suapte <vi> is adopted by Vahlen, Ziegler, and Görler but is improbable. Suapte in Cicero is almost always followed by natura (de Orat. 2.98; Orat. 164; Fin. 1.54, 5.36, 5.61; Fat. 42; cf. Acc. Arr. 234 at Tusc. 2.13); the exceptions are de Orat. 3.10 (suapte interfectum manu) and Fat. 43 (suapte vi et natura); this last passage suggests that suapte vi would not have sufficient weight to stand on its own; hence Minutianus' suapte natura, here adopted.—In light of suapte natura it becomes possible to retain expenditur (= "is weighed") of the archetype (so Powell), rather than, as is usually done, substitute P's expetitur—Halm's illa for una (an easy corruption) is well worth considering: the word in this position must bear considerable weight; yet this is not an argument for the unity of virtue but for its having a certain content; a scribe could easily have mistaken the point and thought a contrast intended with omnium virtutum of the previous sentence.


Transmitted is ... si non eum ipsi cernunt grati ... Previous solutions are listed by Görler ad loc. Ipsi is a problem; if it is to be read, it should refer to the object, rather than the subject.196 The best solution so far proposed is Powell's change of the transmitted ipsi cernunt to respiciunt: "where is gratitude to be found, if grateful people do not have regard for those to whom they repay thanks." Less convincing is the change of cernunt to spernunt and deletion of non (Philippson, 1929, 979), even if one also changes ipsi to ipsum, since spernunt seems too harsh in this context, and the deletion of non is a further disadvantage.197

196. Cf. Watt, 1997, 242, proposing ipsum or, rather, with A.E. Housman, The Classical Papers, ed. J. Diggle and F.R.D. Goodyear, 2 (Cambridge, 1972), 873-74, eumpse.

197. Watt, loc. cit., has proposed cernuntur grati quoi referunt gratiam, glossed as "if people are not seen to be grateful to the man himself to whom they repay a favour." But the idea of "being seen to be grateful" places an unwelcome emphasis on the subjective element.


What Are We Going to Do Now, Without These People?

Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (850-923), Sermon Against the Robbers of Other People's Property (tr. Charles West; I corrected "pay" to "pays," "to so" to "to sow" and "ditches" to "to dig ditches"):
Brothers, every day you see how this kingdom goes to perdition. Our men, the villains, the male and female serfs and everyone who holds our estates and ploughs our land and pays their dues to us, from which we used to be owed food and clothing, and from which we used to buy horses and weapons — now they are dead or captured. What are we going to do now, without these people? We do not know how to plough the lands or to sow, or to prune vines or to dig ditches. What shall we do now?

Fratres, omni die uidetis cum uadit istud regnum in perditionem. Nostri homines uillani et serui et ancille et toti qui nostras uillas tenebant et nostras terras arabant unde nos et uictum et uestimenta habere deberemus, et unde nos caballos et arma comparabamus, iam sunt mortui aut captiuati. Quale opus habemus nos sine illis hominibus? Nos non scimus neque terras arare neque seminare neque uineas putare aut fodere. Quid faciemus nos modo?


Stoop, Knave, and Know Thy Master

W.G. Hoskins, Old Devon (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1966; rpt. Pan Books, 1971) p. 146:
The Great Sweat of 1551

The sweating-sickness was a new type of infection which first reached England in the autumn of 1485. It has been suggested that it was probably a new and virulent form of influenza. Further outbreaks occurred in 1508, 1517, and 1528. The fifth and final outbreak came in 1551. Death was swift, and mortality was high.

The epidemic of 1551 began at Shrewsbury in the spring. By June it had reached Loughborough in Leicestershire, where the parish register records that the "swat, called New Acquaintance, alias Stoupe Knave and know thy Master" began on the 24th of the month. It was sometimes called Stop-Gallant because it was supposed to attack the rich and young, and to kill them within a few hours.
For 'Stop-Gallant' (sic), see OED s.v. † stoop-gallant, n., 1:
Something that humbles 'gallants'; originally, a name for the 'sweating sickness'; later used gen.
For the imperative-vocative formation, see OED, s.v. stoop v.1, 2a:
To 'bow' to superior power or authority; to humble oneself, yield obedience.

1555   R. Eden in tr. Peter Martyr of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde Pref. sig. bjv   Stoope Englande stoope, and learne to knowe thy lorde and master.
"Autobiographical Narrative of Thomas Hancock, Minister of Poole," in John Gough Nichols, ed., Narratives of the Days of the Reformation, Chiefly from the Manuscripts of John Foxe the Martyrologist; with Two Contemporary Biographies of Archbishop Cranmer (London: The Camden Society, 1859), pp. 71-84 (at 82):
The first plage was a warning too England, which was the posting swet, that posted from towne to towne, throwghe England, and was named stope gallant,a for hytt spared none, for ther were dawncyng in the cowrte at 9 a'clocke thatt were deadd or aleven a'clocke.

a Another instance of this name being given to the sweating-sickness has been mentioned in the notes to Machyn's Diary. It is in the register of Uffculme, co. Devon, "the hote sickness, or stup-gallant." In the register of Loughborough in Leicestershire it is termed "the swat called New acquaintance, alias Stoup knave and know thy Master."
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Distant and Domestic Misery

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XLIX:
Our sympathy is cold to the relation of distant misery.
But cf. Mrs. Jellyby in Dicken's Bleak House, whose efforts on behalf of the natives of Borrioboola-Gha in Africa are unstinting, but whose neglect of her own family is so extreme that her daughter Caddy finally cries out, "I wish Africa was dead!"


A Flourishing Community

Hesiod, Works and Days 225-237 (tr. M.L. West):
As for those who give straight judgments to visitors and to their own people and do not deviate from what is just, their community flourishes, and the people blooms in it. Peace is about the land, fostering the young, and wide-seeing Zeus never marks out grievous war as their portion. Neither does Famine attend straight-judging men, nor Blight, and they feast on the crops they tend. For them Earth bears plentiful food, and on the mountains the oak carries acorns at its surface and bees at its centre. The fleecy sheep are laden down with wool; the womenfolk bear children that resemble their parents; they enjoy a continual sufficiency of good things. Nor do they ply on ships, but the grain-giving ploughland bears them fruit.

οἳ δὲ δίκας ξείνοισι καὶ ἐνδήμοισι διδοῦσιν        225
ἰθείας καὶ μή τι παρεκβαίνουσι δικαίου,
τοῖσι τέθηλε πόλις, λαοὶ δ᾿ ἀνθέουσιν ἐν αὐτῇ·
Εἰρήνη δ᾿ ἀνὰ γῆν κουροτρόφος, οὐδέ ποτ᾿ αὐτοῖς
ἀργαλέον πόλεμον τεκμαίρεται εὐρύοπα Ζεύς·
οὐδέ ποτ᾿ ἰθυδίκῃσι μετ᾿ ἀνδράσι λιμὸς ὀπηδεῖ        230
οὐδ᾿ ἄτη, θαλίῃς δὲ μεμηλότα ἔργα νέμονται.
τοῖσι φέρει μὲν γαῖα πολὺν βίον, οὔρεσι δὲ δρῦς
ἄκρη μέν τε φέρει βαλάνους, μέσση δὲ μελίσσας·
εἰροπόκοι δ᾿ ὄιες μαλλοῖς καταβεβρίθασι·
τίκτουσιν δὲ γυναῖκες ἐοικότα τέκνα γονεῦσιν·        235
θάλλουσιν δ᾿ ἀγαθοῖσι διαμπερές· οὐδ᾿ ἐπὶ νηῶν
νίσονται, καρπὸν δὲ φέρει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα.
West's commentary ad loc.:


The Senses and the Intellect

Cicero, On the Laws 1.17.47 (tr. Niall Rudd):
Yet we are confused by the variety and incompatibility of men's opinions; and because the same disagreement does not occur in regard to the senses, we think the senses are reliable by nature whereas we brand as illusory those ideas that vary from one person to another and do not always remain consistent within the same person. This distinction is far from the truth. In the case of our senses no parent or nurse or teacher or poet or stage-show distorts them, nor does popular opinion lead them astray. For our minds, however, all kinds of traps are laid, either by the people just mentioned, who on receiving young untrained minds stain them and twist them as they please, or else by that power which lurks within, entwined with every one of our senses, namely pleasure, which masquerades as goodness but is in fact the mother of all ills. Seduced by her charms, our minds fail to see clearly enough the things that are naturally good, because those things lack the sweetness and the exciting itch of pleasure.

Sed perturbat nos opinionum varietas hominumque dissensio, et quia non idem contingit in sensibus, hos natura certos putamus, illa, quae aliis sic, aliis secus nec isdem semper uno modo videntur, ficta esse dicimus; quod est longe aliter. Nam sensus nostros non parens, non nutrix, non magister, non poeta, non scaena depravat, non multitudinis consensus abducit a vero; animis omnes tenduntur insidiae vel ab iis, quos modo enumeravi, qui teneros et rudes quom acceperunt, inficiunt et flectunt, ut volunt, vel ab ea, quae penitus in omni sensu inplicata insidet, imitatrix boni, voluptas, malorum autem mater omnium, quoius blanditiis corrupti, quae natura bona sunt, quia dulcedine hac et scabie carent, non cernunt satis.

cernunt Davis: cernuntur codd.

Saturday, April 25, 2020


Working from Home versus at the Office

John Grisham, The Partner (New York: Island Books, 1998), p. 68:
Attorney Ethan Rapley left his dark attic, showered and shaved and poured eyedrops into his bloodshot retinas, and sipped strong coffee as he found a semiclean navy blazer to wear downtown. He hadn't been to the office in sixteen days. Not that he was missed, and he certainly didn't miss anyone there. They faxed him when they needed him, and he faxed them back. He wrote the briefs and memos and motions the firm needed to survive, and he did the research for people he despised. He was occasionally forced to put on a tie and meet a client or attend some hideous conference with his fellow partners. He hated his office; he hated the people, even the ones he barely knew; he hated every book on every shelf and every file on every desk. He hated the photos on his wall, and the smell of everything — the stale coffee in the hall, the chemicals near the copier, the perfume of the secretaries. Everything.



Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto 1.1.67-74 (tr. Eric Thomson):
Thus it is no surprise if my mind's gone rotten and melts like water dripping from snow, just as a decaying ship is consumed by hidden worms, just as the wave of the salty sea hollows rocks, just as the sword that has been laid aside is eaten away by scaly rust, just as the stored book is nibbled by the jaws of the bookworm, my heart suffers from the ceaseless gnawings of grief so that it is endlessly worn away by them.

non igitur mirum, si mens mea tabida facta
    de nive manantis more liquescit aquae,
estur ut occulta vitiata teredine navis,
    aequorei scopulos ut cavat unda salis,       70
roditur ut scabra positum robigine ferrum
    conditus ut tineae carpitur ore liber,
sic mea perpetuos curarum pectora morsus,
    fine quibus nullo conficiantur, habent.


Intercourse with Superior Minds

A.E. Housman (1859-1935), The Confines of Criticism (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1969), pp. 44-45:
I spoke just now of servility shown towards the living; and I think it significant that this is so often found in company with lack of due veneration towards the dead. My counsel is to invert this attitude, and to think more of the dead than of the living. The dead have at any rate endured a test to which the living have not yet been subjected. If a man, fifty or a hundred years after his death, is still remembered and accounted a great man, there is a presumption in his favour which no living man can claim; and experience has taught me that it is no mere presumption. It is the dead and not the living who have most advanced our learning and science; and though their knowledge may have been superseded, there is no supersession of reason and intelligence. Clear wits and right thinking are essentially neither of today nor yesterday, but historically they are rather of yesterday than of today: and to study the greatest of scholars of the past is to enjoy intercourse with superior minds. If our conception of scholarship and our methods of procedure are at variance with theirs, it is not indeed a certainty or a necessity that we are wrong, but it is a good working hypothesis; and we had better not abandon it until it proves untenable. Let us not disregard our contemporaries, but let us regard our predecessors more; let us be most encouraged by their agreement, and most disquieted by their dissent.


Royal Virtues

Cicero, On Behalf of King Deiotarus 9.26 (tr. N.H. Watts):
This king is an exemplar of all the virtues, as I think you, Caesar, know well enough; but in nothing is he more remarkable and more admirable than in his sobriety; although I know that kings are not commonly praised in such terms. To be called a sober person does not convey much commendation to a king. Bravery, justice, earnestness, dignity, magnanimity, liberality, kindliness, generosity—these are the qualities we commend in a king; sobriety in a subject. Everyone is free to put what construction he pleases upon my words; none the less I pronounce sobriety, by which I mean moderation and temperance, to be the highest of virtues.

omnes in illo sunt rege virtutes, quod te, Caesar, ignorare non arbitror, sed praecipue singularis et admiranda frugalitas: etsi hoc verbo scio laudari regem non solere; frugi hominem dici non multum habet laudis in rege: fortem, iustum, severum, gravem, magnanimum, largum, beneficum, liberalem: hae sunt regiae laudes, illa privata est. ut volet quisque, accipiat: ego tamen frugalitatem, id est modestiam et temperantiam, virtutem maximam iudico.
A good example of a Tugendkatalog.

Id. 13.37:
And what shall I say of his valour, his magnanimity, his steadfastness, and his fortitude? These qualities have by all wise men and philosophers been asserted to be the highest, and by some to be the only valid possessions; it has been said that, possessing these, virtue possesses all that is requisite for the good, nay, for the happy life.

quid de virtute eius dicam? de magnitudine animi, gravitate, constantia? quae omnes docti atque sapientes summa, quidam etiam sola bona esse dixerunt, hisque non modo ad bene, sed etiam ad beate vivendum contentam esse virtutem.


The Self-Indulgent Ones

Cicero, On the Laws 1.13.39 (tr. Niall Rudd, with his note):
As for those who go in for self-indulgence and are slaves of their own bodies—people who measure everything that they should seek and avoid in life by the yardstick of pleasure and pain—even if they are right (and there is no need to take issue with them here) let us tell them to preach in their own little gardens,* and let us ask them to keep away for a little while from any participation in public life, an area of which they know nothing and have never wished to know anything.

their own little gardens: a patronizing reference to the Epicureans, who held their discussions in a garden in the suburbs of Athens. Cicero was opposed to the school for several reasons; one of the most important was that it discouraged its disciples from engaging in public life.

sibi autem indulgentes et corpori deservientes atque omnia quae sequantur in vita quaeque fugiant voluptatibus et doloribus ponderantes, etiam si vera dicunt — nihil enim opus est hoc loco litibus —, in hortulis suis iubeamus dicere, atque etiam ab omni societate rei publicae, cuius partem nec norunt ullam neque umquam nosse voluerunt, paulisper facessant rogemus.
Epicurus, fragment 8 Usener (tr. R.D. Hicks):
Nor will he [the wise man] take part in politics, as is stated in the first book On Life; nor will he make himself a tyrant.

οὐδὲ πολιτεύσεται (ὁ σοφός), ὡς ἐν τῇ πρώτῃ Περὶ βίων. οὐδὲ τυραννεύσειν.

Friday, April 24, 2020


The Truly Rich Man

Musonius Rufus, fragment 34 (tr. Cora E. Lutz):
The treasures of Croesus and Cinyras we shall condemn as the last degree of poverty. One man and one alone shall we consider rich, the man who has acquired the ability to want for nothing always and everywhere.

Τῶν μὲν Κροίσου καὶ Κινύρου θησαυρῶν πενίαν ἐσχάτην καταψηφιούμεθα, ἕνα δὲ καὶ μόνον πιστεύσομεν εἶναι πλούσιον τὸν δυνάμενον κτήσασθαι τὸ ἀνενδεὲς πανταχοῦ.
Cicero, Paradoxes of the Stoics 6.49 (tr. H. Rackham):
Which of us then is richer, the one who has a deficit or the one who has a surplus? the one who is in need or the one who has plenty? the one who requires more to keep him going the larger his property is, or the one who maintains himself by his own resources?

uter igitur est divitior, cui deest an cui superat? qui eget an qui abundat? cuius possessio quo est maior, eo plus requirit ad se tuendam, an quae suis se viribus sustinet?


Health Benefits of Smoking?

Joseph P. Byrne, Daily Life During the Black Death (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006), p. 50, with note on p. 62:
Tobacco, which arrived in Europe from the Western Hemisphere, was also quickly adopted as a personal fumigant during the sixteenth century. Paintings and illustrations of plague scenes feature minor figures puffing away on pipes as they carry corpses or read lists of dead at the pest-house gate. The Dutch physician Isbrandus van Diemerbroeck preached the use of tobacco during the 1630s. During the epidemic of 1635–1636 he routinely smoked two or three bowls after breakfast, three after lunch, and "always in the presence of infected corpses." In London during the Great Plague of 1665 rumor had it that tobacconists never caught the plague. In early June the naval administrator and diarist Samuel Pepys came across the first houses he had seen marked with the red X indicating plague victims: "It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll tobacco to smell and chaw—which took away the apprehension."17 At the famed boys' school in nearby Eton, all students had to smoke or risk flogging.

17. Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches (New York: Vintage, 1997), p. 197; Robert Latham and Williams Matthews, eds., The Diary of Samuel Pepys, vol. VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 120.



A.E. Housman, letter to Gilbert Murray (April 23, 1900), in The Letters of A.E. Housman, ed. Archie Burnett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), pp. 120-121 (at 120):
I rather doubt if man really has much to gain by substituting peace for strife, as you and Jesus Christ suggest.


To a Philosophic Eye

Edward Gibbon (1773-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XLIX (on Pope John XII):
The Protestants have dwelt with malicious pleasure on these characters of Antichrist; but to a philosophic eye, the vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


The End Appointed

A.E. Housman (1859-1935), Additional Poems, XXI: "New Year's Eve," lines 41-44:
We are come to the end appointed
    With sands not many to run;
Divinities disanointed
    And kings whose kingdom is done.


Thrasycles the Hypocrite

Lucian, Timon 54-55 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
But what have we here? Isn't this Thrasycles? No other! With his beard spread out and his eyebrows uplifted, he marches along deep in haughty meditation, his eyes glaring like a Titan's and his hair tossed back from his forehead, a typical Boreas or Triton such as Zeuxis used to paint. Correct in his demeanour, gentlemanly in his gait, and inconspicuous in his dress, in the morning hours he discourses forever about virtue, arraigns the votaries of pleasure and praises contentment with little; but when he comes to dinner after his bath and the waiter hands him a large cup (and the stiffer it is, the better he likes it) then it is as if he had drunk the water of Lethe, for his practice is directly opposed to his preaching of the morning. He snatches the meat away from others like a kite, elbows his neighbour, covers his beard with gravy, bolts his food like a dog, bends over his plate as if he expected to find virtue in it, carefully wipes out the dishes with his forefinger so as not to leave a particle of the sauce, and grumbles continually, even if he gets the whole cake or the whole boar to himself. He is the height of gluttony and insatiability, and he gets so drunken and riotous that he not only sings and dances, but even abuses people and flies into a passion. Besides he has much to say over his cup—more then than at any other time, in fact!—about temperance and decorum, and he says all this when he is already in a bad way from taking his wine without water and stammers ridiculously. Then a vomit follows, and at last he is picked up and carried out of the dining-room, catching at the flute girl with both hands as he goes. But even when sober, he won't yield the palm to anyone in lying and impudence and covetousness; on the contrary, he is a peerless toady and he perjures himself with the greatest facility; humbug is his guide and shamelessness his follower, and to sum it up, he is a wonderfully clever piece of work, correct in every detail and perfect in a world of ways.

Ἀλλὰ τί τοῦτο; οὐ Θρασυκλῆς ὁ φιλόσοφος οὗτός ἐστιν; οὐ μὲν οὖν ἄλλος· ἐκπετάσας γοῦν τὸν πώγωνα καὶ τὰς ὀφρῦς ἀνατείνας καὶ βρενθυόμενός τι πρὸς αὑτὸν ἔρχεται, τιτανῶδες βλέπων, ἀνασεσοβημένος τὴν ἐπὶ τῷ μετώπῳ κόμην, Αὐτοβορέας τις ἢ Τρίτων, οἵους ὁ Ζεῦξις ἔγραψεν. οὗτος ὁ τὸ σχῆμα εὐσταλὴς καὶ κόσμιος τὸ βάδισμα καὶ σωφρονικὸς τὴν ἀναβολὴν ἕωθεν μυρία ὅσα περὶ ἀρετῆς διεξιὼν καὶ τῶν ἡδονῇ χαιρόντων κατηγορῶν καὶ τὸ ὀλιγαρκὲς ἐπαινῶν, ἐπειδὴ λουσάμενος ἀφίκοιτο ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον καὶ ὁ παῖς μεγάλην τὴν κύλικα ὀρέξειεν αὐτῷ—τῷ ζωροτέρῳ δὲ χαίρει μάλιστα—καθάπερ τὸ Λήθης ὕδωρ ἐκπιὼν ἐναντιώτατα ἐπιδείκνυται τοῖς ἑωθινοῖς ἐκείνοις λόγοις, προαρπάζων ὥσπερ ἴκτινος τὰ ὄψα καὶ τὸν πλησίον παραγκωνιζόμενος, καρύκης τὸ γένειον ἀνάπλεως, κυνηδὸν ἐμφορούμενος, ἐπικεκυφὼς καθάπερ ἐν ταῖς λοπάσι τὴν ἀρετὴν εὑρήσειν προσδοκῶν, ἀκριβῶς τὰ τρύβλια τῷ λιχανῷ ἀποσμήχων ὡς μηδὲ ὀλίγον τοῦ μυττωτοῦ καταλίποι, μεμψίμοιρος ἀεί, κἂν τὸν πλακοῦντα ὅλον ἢ τὸν σῦν μόνος τῶν ἄλλων λάβῃ, ὅ τι περ λιχνείας καὶ ἀπληστίας ὄφελος, μέθυσος καὶ πάροινος οὐκ ἄχρι ᾠδῆς καὶ ὀρχηστύος μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ λοιδορίας καὶ ὀργῆς. προσέτι καὶ λόγοι πολλοὶ ἐπὶ τῇ κύλικι, τότε δὴ καὶ μάλιστα, περὶ σωφροσύνης καὶ κοσμιότητος· καὶ ταῦτά φησιν ἤδη ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀκράτου πονήρως ἔχων καὶ ὑποτραυλίζων γελοίως· εἶτα ἔμετος ἐπὶ τούτοις· καὶ τὸ τελευταῖον, ἀράμενοί τινες ἐκφέρουσιν αὐτὸν ἐκ τοῦ συμποσίου τῆς αὐλητρίδος ἀμφοτέραις ἐπειλημμένον. πλὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ νήφων οὐδενὶ τῶν πρωτείων παραχωρήσειεν ἂν ψεύσματος ἕνεκα ἢ θρασύτητος ἢ φιλαργυρίας· ἀλλὰ καὶ κολάκων ἐστὶ τὰ πρῶτα καὶ ἐπιορκεῖ προχειρότατα, καὶ ἡ γοητεία προηγεῖται καὶ ἡ ἀναισχυντία παρομαρτεῖ, καὶ ὅλως πάνσοφόν τι χρῆμα καὶ πανταχόθεν ἀκριβὲς καὶ ποικίλως ἐντελές.


A Thing of No Substance

A kyōka by Kino Sadamaru (1760-1841), tr. Burton Watson, From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 362:
Though this body, I know,
is a thing of no substance,
must it fade, alas,
so swiftly,
like a soundless fart?



Praise of Time Past

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), Discourses on Livy, Introduction to Book II (tr. Harvey C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov)
Men always praise ancient times—but not always reasonably—and accuse the present; they are partisans of past things in such a mode that they celebrate not only those ages known to them through the memory that writers have left of them, but also those that once they are old they remember having seen in their youth. When this opinion of theirs is false, as it most often is, I am persuaded that the causes that lead them to this deception are various. The first I believe to be that the truth of ancient things is not altogether understood and that most often the things that would bring infamy to those times are concealed and others that could bring forth their glory are rendered magnificent and very expansive. For most writers obey the fortune of the victors, so that, to make their victories glorious, they not only increase what has been virtuously worked by them but also render illustrious the actions of their enemies. They do it so that whoever is born later in whichever of the two provinces, the victorious or the defeated, has cause to marvel at those men and those times and is forced to praise and love them most highly. Besides this, as men hate things either from fear or from envy, two very powerful causes of hatred come to be eliminated in past things since they cannot offend you and do not give you cause to envy them.

Laudano sempre gli uomini, ma non sempre ragionevolmente, gli antichi tempi, e gli presenti accusano: ed in modo sono delle cose passate partigiani, che non solamente celebrano quelle etadi che da loro sono state, per la memoria che ne hanno lasciata gli scrittori, conosciute; ma quelle ancora che, sendo già vecchi, si ricordano nella loro giovanezza avere vedute. E quando questa loro opinione sia falsa, come il più delle volte è, mi persuado varie essere le cagioni che a questo inganno gli conducono. E la prima credo sia, che delle cose antiche non s'intenda al tutto la verità; e che di quelle il più delle volte si nasconda quelle cose che recherebbono a quelli tempi infamia; e quelle altre che possano partorire loro gloria, si rendino magnifiche ed amplissime. Perché il più degli scrittori in modo alla fortuna de' vincitori ubbidiscano, che, per fare le loro vittorie gloriose, non solamente accrescano quello che da loro è virtuosamente operato, ma ancora le azioni de' nimici in modo illustrano, che, qualunque nasce dipoi in qualunque delle due provincie, o nella vittoriosa o nella vinta, ha cagione di maravigliarsi di quegli uomini e di quelli tempi, ed è forzato sommamente laudarli ed amarli. Oltra di questo, odiando gli uomini le cose o per timore o per invidia, vengono ad essere spente due potentissime cagioni dell'odio nelle cose passate, non ti potendo quelle offendere, e non ti dando cagione d'invidiarle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Mountain Home

Ōkuma Kotomichi (1798-1868), "Mountain Home," tr. Yukuo Uyehara and Marjorie Sinclair:
Oh to have a home
In such a quiet leafy spot,
Yearns the city man;
Yet he never builds a hut
In mountain country.


Living Well

Musonius Rufus, fragment 22 (tr. Cora E. Lutz, with her note):
It is not possible to live well today unless one thinks of it as his last.

This sentiment has been expressed by a number of writers. Cf. Horace Ep. I, 4, 13; Seneca Ep. 93, 6; Marcus Aurelius Εἰς ἑαυτὸν VII, 69.

οὐκ ἔστι τὴν ἐνεστηκυῖαν ἡμέραν καλῶς βιῶναι μὴ προθέμενον αὐτὴν ὡς ἐσχάτην.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ἐνίστημι, sense III: "esp. in pf. part., pending, present". I would translate "It is not possible to live the present day well without treating it as the last."

Here are the parallel passages cited by Lutz.

Horace, Epistles 1.4.13 (tr. Colin Macleod):
Think of each dawn as lighting your last day.

omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum.
Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 93.6 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
For I have not planned to live up to the very last day that my greedy hopes had promised me; nay, I have looked upon every day as if it were my last.

non enim ad eum diem me aptavi, quem ultimum mihi spes avida promiserat, sed nullum non tamquam ultimum aspexi.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.69 (tr. A.S.L. Farquharson):
Perfection of character possesses this: to live each day as if the last, to be neither feverish nor apathetic, and not to act a part.

τοῦτο ἔχει ἡ τελειότης τοῦ ἤθους, τὸ πᾶσαν ἡμέραν ὡς τελευταίαν διεξάγειν καὶ μήτε σφύζειν μήτε ναρκᾶν μήτε ὑποκρίνεσθαι.
Related post: Good Advice.


Scenes from the Odyssey

Bas reliefs by Fyodor Petrovich Tolstoy (1783-1873):

Feast in the House of Ulysses

Ulysses Killing the Suitors of Penelope

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Reading on a Winter Night

Kan Chazan (1747-1827), "Reading on a Winter Night," tr. Donald Keene, World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867 (New York: Grove Press, 1978), p. 550:
Snow has engulfed the mountain house; shadows of trees lie deep.
Bells at the eaves are motionless; the night is perfectly still.
As I quietly put away my pile of books, I ponder what I have read:
One thread of blue lampwick and ten thousand years of thoughts.



Speech by Roger Scruton to the Vlaams Belang (Antwerp, June 23, 2006):
I do not doubt that there is such a thing as xenophobia, though it is a very different thing from racism. Etymologically the term means fear of (and therefore aversion towards) the foreigner. Its very use implies a distinction between the one who belongs and the one who doesn't, and in inviting us to jettison our xenophobia politicians are inviting us to extend a welcome to people other than ourselves — a welcome predicated on a recognition of their otherness. Now it is easy for an educated member of the liberal élite to discard his xenophobia: for the most part his contacts with foreigners help him to amplify his power, extend his knowledge and polish his social expertise. But it is not so easy for an uneducated worker to share this attitude, when the incoming foreigner takes away his job, brings strange customs and an army of dependents into the neighbourhood, and finally surrounds him with the excluding sights and sounds of a ghetto.

Again, however, there is a double standard that affects the description. Members of our liberal élite may be immune to xenophobia, but there is an equal fault which they exhibit in abundance, which is the repudiation of, and aversion to, home. Each country exhibits this vice in its own domestic version. Nobody brought up in post-war England can fail to be aware of the educated derision that has been directed at our national loyalty by those whose freedom to criticize would have been extinguished years ago, had the English not been prepared to die for their country. The loyalty that people need in their daily lives, and which they affirm in their unconsidered and spontaneous social actions, is now habitually ridiculed or even demonized by the dominant media and the education system. National history is taught as a tale of shame and degradation. The art, literature and religion of our nation have been more or less excised from the curriculum, and folkways, local traditions and national ceremonies are routinely rubbished.

This repudiation of the national idea is the result of a peculiar frame of mind that has arisen throughout the Western world since the Second World War, and which is particularly prevalent among the intellectual and political elites. No adequate word exists for this attitude, though its symptoms are instantly recognized: namely, the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours'. I call the attitude oikophobia — the aversion to home — by way of emphasizing its deep relation to xenophobia, of which it is the mirror image. Oikophobia is a stage through which the adolescent mind normally passes. But it is a stage in which intellectuals tend to become arrested. As George Orwell pointed out, intellectuals on the Left are especially prone to it, and this has often made them willing agents of foreign powers.


The domination of our national Parliaments and the EU machinery by oikophobes is partly responsible for the acceptance of subsidised immigration, and for the attacks on customs and institutions associated with traditional and native forms of life. The oikophobe repudiates national loyalties and defines his goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed from on high by the EU or the UN, and defining his political vision in terms of cosmopolitan values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community. The oikophobe is, in his own eyes, a defender of enlightened universalism against local chauvinism.


Tesserae Vinariae

Martial, Epigrams, Volume I. Edited and Translated by D.R. Shackleton Bailey (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993 = Loeb Classical Library, 94), p. 59 (1.26.1-4):
Sextilianus, you drink on your own as much as five rows. You could get drunk on water in such quantity. You ask for bronze takens, not only neighboring ones from people sitting with you but from blocks further off.
Page image:

For "takens" read "tokens". The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.

The Latin (op. cit., p. 58):
Sextiliane, bibis quantum subsellia quinque
    solus: aqua totiens ebrius esse potes;
nec consessorum vicina nomismata tantum,
    aera sed a cuneis ulteriora petis.
On tesserae vinariae see M. Rostowzew, Römische Bleitesserae: Ein Beitrag zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1905), pp. 56-57.


Monday, April 20, 2020



Lucian, Timon 43 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
Tribe, clan, deme and native land itself shall be inane and useless names, and objects of the zeal of fools.

φυλέται δὲ καὶ φράτορες καὶ δημόται καὶ ἡ πατρὶς αὐτὴ ψυχρὰ καὶ ἀνωφελῆ ὀνόματα καὶ ἀνοήτων ἀνδρῶν φιλοτιμήματα.



Poem by Hiraga Motoyoshi (1799-1865), tr. Donald Keene, World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867 (New York: Grove Press, 1978), p. 508:
The spring has come
When, raising our voices
In a shout of triumph,
We will first celebrate
The destruction of the barbarians.



Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868), excerpt from "Happiness Is When," tr. Burton Watson, From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 414:
Happiness is when
you make some tea
and stuff
a big round cake
in your mouth

Sunday, April 19, 2020


Detrimental to Law and Order

Aristotle, Politics 7.6.1327a (tr. H. Rackham):
As to communication with the sea it is in fact much debated whether it is advantageous to well-ordered states or harmful. It is maintained that the visits of persons brought up under other institutions are detrimental to law and order, and so also is a swollen population, which grows out of sending out abroad and receiving in a number of traders, but is unfavorable to good government.

περὶ δὲ τῆς πρὸς τὴν θάλατταν κοινωνίας, πότερον ὠφέλιμος ταῖς εὐνομουμέναις πόλεσιν ἢ βλαβερά, πολλὰ τυγχάνουσιν ἀμφισβητοῦντες· τό τε γὰρ ἐπιξενοῦσθαί τινας ἐν ἄλλοις τεθραμμένους νόμοις ἀσύμφορον εἶναί φασι πρὸς τὴν εὐνομίαν, καὶ τὴν πολυανθρωπίαν· γίνεσθαι μὲν γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ χρῆσθαι τῇ θαλάττῃ διαπέμποντας καὶ δεχομένους ἐμπόρων πλῆθος, ὑπεναντίαν δ᾽ εἶναι πρὸς τὸ πολιτεύεσθαι καλῶς.
W.L. Newman ad loc.:
That contact with aliens might have ill results, we see from Cic. De Leg. Agrar. 2.35.95, Carthaginienses fraudulenti et mendaces non genere, sed natura loci, quod propter portus suos multis et variis mercatorum et advenarum sermonibus ad studium fallendi studio quaestus vocabantur. Contact with aliens even of a satisfactory type might well affect the fidelity of the citizens of a Greek State to its traditions, and many of the aliens who crowded to Greek seaports were Asiatics of a type the reverse of satisfactory.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


The Discourse of Textual Criticism

Marsh McCall, review of J. Diggle, Euripidea: Collected Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), in Journal of Hellenic Studies 122 (2002) 163-164 (at 164):
Finally, a few comments on D.'s participation in the 'discourse' of textual criticism. No field in Classics boasts practitioners who are more scathing toward one another than textual critics. D. joined this fraternity of dubious virtue right from the start, and few scholars whom he has confronted have emerged inviolate. Of Dodds on Ba. 68-70: 'Evasiveness will not content us...' (3). On Verrall's assumption of an anacoluthon at Ion 1130-1: 'That such a grotesque interpretation, ruinous alike of style, syntax, and sense, should have been adopted by Murray in his verse translation is of small moment; that it should have been approved by Wilamowitz is truly alarming' (21). On Méridier's comment on Cycl. 398-9: 'That this interpretation is linguistically possible I shall not dispute; I shall contend only that it is effected by a construction of a flaccidity which is all but intolerable' (41). In the 1980s and 1990s, D. eases up a good deal, perhaps as he realized the responsibilities of preeminence, and he expresses full respect for at least some of his co-workers, Mastronarde and Matthiessen among them.

There is too often an arbitrary dismissiveness in the pronouncements of even the most distinguished textual critics, from which D. is not immune. What authorizes a critic to say, in discussing a hard passage, such as Supp. 468 (p.67): 'I shall ignore the conjectures which have been offered in place of βραχιόνων', without giving at least some indication why such an absolute dictum is merited? Or (286) in discussing κῶλον as part of a comprehensive analysis of Med. 1181-2: 'The proposed emendations are worthless and I shall not catalogue them'? And so on. A fine textual critic, it seems, simply must have the frame of mind that he knows language and metre better than anyone else and that sometimes a proclamation is all that is required.


Prayer for Deliverance

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 159-167 (tr. Richard C. Jebb):
First I call on thee, daughter of Zeus, divine Athena,
and on thy sister, guardian of our land,
Artemis, who sits on her throne of fame, above the circle of our Agora,
and on Phoebus the far-darter; O
shine forth on me, my three-fold help against death!
If ever aforetime, in arrest of ruin hurrying on the city,
ye drove a fiery pest beyond our borders, come now also!

πρῶτα σὲ κεκλόμενος, θύγατερ Διός, ἄμβροτ᾽ Ἀθάνα
γαιάοχόν τ᾽ ἀδελφεὰν
Ἄρτεμιν, ἃ κυκλόεντ᾽ ἀγορᾶς θρόνον εὐκλέα θάσσει,
καὶ Φοῖβον ἑκαβόλον, ἰὼ
τρισσοὶ ἀλεξίμοροι προφάνητέ μοι,
εἴ ποτε καὶ προτέρας ἄτας ὕπερ ὀρνυμένας πόλει
ἠνύσατ᾽ ἐκτοπίαν φλόγα πήματος, ἔλθετε καὶ νῦν.


Language, Literature, Life

A. Sidgwick (1840-1920), On Stimulus (1883; rpt. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1908), p. 19:
The beginnings of language are very dull—the moraine of the mountain of classics, as someone well called them.
Id., p. 22:
The classics may be treated as language, as literature, or as part of the ancient life. The language as such appeals to few, if indeed it does appeal to few. The literature appeals to more, but still few, as British human nature goes. The life appeals to many.
Id., p. 25:
Accidence must be learnt if the boys are to learn the languages systematically at all. The learning must always be a drudgery; it must always seem to the learner (especially in Greek) to be a mass of arbitrary irregularities. The mastering of these is not merely a burden: it is even in itself depraving to the mind, initiating it early into a disbelief in law and order.
Id., p. 27:
There are many boys who can thoroughly appreciate a Greek play who never for the life of them could discriminate the various uses of the optative. Hundreds of boys can fairly understand and thoroughly enjoy Homer, for ten who can parse him without fault. I am not recommending slip-shod work. I am recommending the observance of a due proportion in the different departments of language teaching. If the boys parsed every word in ten lines and then read 40 lines, swiftly, and even inaccurately, they would have a far more stimulating and instructive lesson than if they parsed twenty lines thoroughly: and it would be done in less time. They would learn more Greek, and more of other things too.
Id., p. 41:
And one word more I would fain say, if I might without presumption, a word of earnest encouragement to those who mean to make teaching their profession. It is a work, you will be truly told, of hard and constant labour, and much drudgery. But the interest and the delight of it are such as far outweigh the labour. The mere daily life among the young is to the true teacher a constant happiness. And if one have any fitness for the work, and give his heart to it, there is no work so richly rewarded. The gratitude of the young to those who have done their best for them is more fervent and more durable than any other. To any teacher who is near to knowing his own faults and shortcomings, such gratitude must always seem far and away beyond his deserts. It is filled full, and pressed down, and running over. And it lasts to the end of life.
Hat tip: Joel Eidsath.

Friday, April 17, 2020


The Anabasis

T.R. Glover (1869-1943), "The Anabasis," From Pericles to Philip, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1918), pp. 235-266 (at 236):
For the whole book is alive, and it is the Greek spirit within it that makes it live. Every chapter of it is a page from Greek life and illustrates for us how a Greek looked at the world, how he touched it, entered into it, and mastered it, and what every fresh contact meant. Mountain and river, city and sea, the vast spaces of Asia — and all the variety of the foreigner, from the Persian prince to the primitive savage of the highlands — and all the action and reaction of the multitudinous Greek mind, friction, co-operation, friendship, peril shared and the common enjoyment of adventure, and the great sense of deliverance and triumph — all these things, varieties of human experience that have never failed to stir the spirit and make the heart beat, as age after age men have known them in one form or another — they fill the pages of Xenophon, all living and interpreted in a dialect simple, strong and true, intelligible at once to any man who has any understanding for simplicity and truth.
Id. (at 266, footnote omitted):
If I have to offer an apology for a chapter on a book so obvious as the Anabasis, it is a simple one. It was the first book in Greek prose that I ever read — painfully and slowly a chapter or two was crawled through, and then the book was abandoned for years. Many of my readers will perhaps have the same dreary memory of it. And then after years I found out what a good story it was, and came to see how at point after point it is not merely interesting, but illuminative — one of the very clearest and strongest interpretations of Greek life ever written.


Popular Religious Art

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), "The Wonderful Old Gentleman," The Collected Stories (New York: The Modern Library, 1942), pp. 19-39 (at 21):
The opposite wall was devoted to the religious in art; a steel-engraving of the Crucifixion, lavish of ghastly detail; a sepia-print of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, the cords cutting deep into the arms writhing from the stake, arrows bristling in the thick, soft-looking body; a water-color copy of a "Mother of Sorrows," the agonized eyes raised to a cold heaven, great, bitter tears forever on the wan cheeks, paler for the grave-like draperies that wrapped the head.
This reminds me of the house in which I grew up.


Everyone's a Critic

Martial 1.3.5-6 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, with his note):
Nowhere are sniffs more emphatic. Young men, old men,
boys—they all have noses like a rhino.a

a Cf. "turn up one's nose at."

maiores nusquam rhonchi: iuvenesque senesque
    et pueri nasum rhinocerotis habent.


What Is Your Fatherland?

Lysias 31.6 (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
But those who, though citizens by birth, adopt the view that any country in which they have their business is their fatherland, are evidently men who would even abandon the public interest of their city to seek their private gain, because they regard their fortune, not the city, as their fatherland.

ὅσοι δὲ φύσει μὲν πολῖταί εἰσι, γνώμῃ δὲ χρῶνται ὡς πᾶσα γῆ πατρὶς αὐτοῖς ἐστιν ἐν ᾗ ἂν τὰ ἐπιτήδεια ἔχωσιν, οὗτοι δῆλοί εἰσιν ὅτι κἂν παρέντες τὸ τῆς πόλεως κοινὸν ἀγαθὸν ἐπὶ τὸ ἑαυτῶν ἴδιον κέρδος ἔλθοιεν διὰ τὸ μὴ τὴν πόλιν ἀλλὰ τὴν οὐσίαν πατρίδα ἑαυτοῖς ἡγεῖσθαι.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Old Age

Xenophon, Apology of Socrates 6 (tr. Hugh Tredennick and Robin Waterfield):
Now, if my years are prolonged, I'm sure that I shall have to pay the penalties of old age: impaired vision and hearing, and increasing slowness at learning and forgetfulness of what I have learned. And if I am aware that I am deteriorating and find fault with myself, how could I live pleasantly then?

νῦν δὲ εἰ ἔτι προβήσεται ἡ ἡλικία, οἶδ᾽ ὅτι ἀνάγκη ἔσται τὰ τοῦ γήρως ἐπιτελεῖσθαι καὶ ὁρᾶν τε χεῖρον καὶ ἀκούειν ἧττον καὶ δυσμαθέστερον εἶναι καὶ ὧν ἔμαθον ἐπιλησμονέστερον. ἂν δὲ αἰσθάνωμαι χείρων γιγνόμενος καὶ καταμέμφωμαι ἐμαυτόν, πῶς ἄν, εἰπεῖν, ἐγὼ ἔτι ἂν ἡδέως βιοτεύοιμι;


Three Kinds of Brains

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), The Prince XXII (tr. Harvey C. Mansfield):
[T]here are three kinds of brains: one that understands by itself, another that discerns what others understand, the third that understands neither by itself nor through others; the first is most excellent, the second excellent, and the third useless...

[S]ono di tre generazione cervelli, l'uno intende da sé, l'altro discerne quello che altri intende, el terzo non intende né sé né altri, quel primo è eccellentissimo, el secondo eccellente, el terzo inutile...


Plato and Xenophon

"On Xenophon's Hellenics and the Character of Plato," in The Life and Letters of Barthold George Niebuhr and Selections from His Minor Writings, tr. Susanna Winkworth, 2nd ed., Vol. III (London: Chapman and Hall, 1852), pp. 198-212 (at 200):
Truly no state has ever cast out a more degenerate son than this Xenophon! Plato, too, was no good citizen, he was not worthy of Athens, he took some incomprehensible steps, he stands like a sinner beside those saints, Thucydides and Demosthenes, but yet how utterly unlike this old fool! How disgusting is the latter with his στωμύλματα, and the lisping naïveté of a little girl!
Id. (at 203):
An article for the Rhenish Museum accidentally gave rise to the above essay; and just as accidentally, without any idea of controversy, I gave utterance in it to an opinion which I had often expressed in conversation,—that Plato was not a good citizen and that Xenophon was a thoroughly bad one. Besides, I thought that some one ought at last to declare openly, that the reputation of the latter, as a man of elevated mind and a great author, is entirely undeserved and absurd, and simply rests upon a traditional and superstitious prejudice.
Id. (at 204):
I have not even called Plato a bad citizen; to pervert my words in this way is a controversial trick. I called him "not a good" one, because the spirit of faction and deeply-rooted personal predilections made him inimical to the hereditary and legitimate constitution, and inclined to a party the hypocrisy of whose delusive representations was demonstrated when they came into power, representations which had no longer a basis in realities, and rendered them as absolutely useless to their country, as the Jacobites were, after the middle of the eighteenth century. All party spirit, political and religious, produces this incapacity to receive natural impressions from facts, but above all when the spirit is one of repression and negation. Would to God it were otherwise!
Id. (at 205-206):
I call Plato "not a good citizen," because he never expresses the very slightest appreciation or love of Athens; but, on the contrary, the scorn and contempt which he pours on democracy, derive their bitterness and point from the circumstance that he was thinking of his mother-city when he wrote them;—because, while possessing every gift that would have made him useful to her and fitted him to guide her into the right course, he proudly held himself aloof;—because, nothing but the blindness of party-spirit can account for the slighting manner in which he speaks of the noble patriot Lysias, and his endeavours to exalt Isocrates at his expence, although the latter was decidedly—at all events in his old age—a thoroughly bad citizen, as well as an unspeakable fool, whose conduct is not atoned for, by the despair which seized him, when he suddenly beheld the abyss open before him.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Germs Are Far Deadlier Than Germans

Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), p. 18:
The centuries of later Roman history might be considered the age of pandemic disease. Three times the empire was rocked by mortality events with stunning geographical reach. In AD 165 an event known as the Antonine Plague, probably caused by smallpox, erupted. In AD 249, an uncertain pathogen swept the territories under Roman rule. And in AD 541, the first great pandemic of Yersinia pestis, the agent that causes bubonic plague, arrived and lingered for over two hundred years. The magnitude of these biological catastrophes is almost incomprehensible. The least of the three pandemics, by casualty count, was probably the mortality known as the Antonine Plague. We will argue that it carried off perhaps seven million victims. That is considerably lower than some estimates. But the bloodiest day of battle in imperial history was the rout of the Romans at Adrianople, when a desperate force of Gothic invaders overran the main body of the eastern field army. At most twenty thousand Roman lives were lost on that baleful day, and while it magnified the problem that these were soldiers, the lesson of the comparison is all the same: germs are far deadlier than Germans.


The Laws

Demosthenes 25.20 (tr. A.T. Murray):
For if any of you cares to inquire what is the motive-power that calls together the Council, draws the people into the Assembly, fills the law-courts, makes the old officials resign readily to the new, and enables the whole life of the State to be carried on and preserved, he will find that it is the laws and the obedience that all men yield to the laws; since, if once they were done away with and every man were given licence to do as he liked, not only does the constitution vanish, but our life would not differ from that of the beasts of the field.

εἰ γάρ τις ὑμῶν ἐξετάσαι βούλεται τί ποτ᾽ ἐστὶ τὸ αἴτιον καὶ τὸ ποιοῦν τὴν βουλὴν συλλέγεσθαι, τὸν δῆμον εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν ἀναβαίνειν, τὰ δικαστήρια πληροῦσθαι, τὰς ἕνας ἀρχὰς ταῖς νέαις ἑκούσας ὑπεξιέναι, καὶ πάντα δι᾽ ὧν ἡ πόλις οἰκεῖται καὶ σῴζεται γίγνεσθαι, τοὺς νόμους εὑρήσει τούτων αἰτίους καὶ τὸ τούτοις ἅπαντας πείθεσθαι, ἐπεὶ λυθέντων γε τούτων, καὶ ἑκάστῳ δοθείσης ἐξουσίας ὅ τι βούλεται ποιεῖν, οὐ μόνον ἡ πολιτεία οἴχεται, ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ὁ βίος ἡμῶν τοῦ τῶν θηρίων οὐδὲν ἂν διενέγκαι.


I Know the Man

Euripides, Cyclops 104 (tr. Patrick O'Sullivan and Christopher Collard):
I know the man, a shrill, relentless babbler...

οἶδ' ἄνδρα, κρόταλον δριμύ...
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. δριμύ, sense III, citing this line, translate "keen, shrewd," but Odysseus' response in the next line (λοιδόρει δὲ μή = don't revile me) indicates that δριμύ should be understood pejoratively.



Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), History of Florence IV.10 (tr. Allan Gilbert):
Giovanni [de' Medici] answered that the duty of a wise and good citizen, as he believed, was not to change the familiar methods of the city, since there is nothing that offends men so much as to vary these; by such variation many are offended, and when many are discontented, every day one must fear some dangerous incident.

Al quale Giovanni rispose che l'uffizio d'un savio e buono cittadino credeva essere non alterare gli ordini consueti della sua città, non sendo cosa che offenda tanto gli uomini, quanto il variare quelli; perché conviene offendere molti, e dove molti restono mal contenti si può ogni giorno temere di qualche cattivo accidente.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


The Game of Life

Richard Rusczyk, Introduction to Algebra (Alpine: AoPS Incorporated, 2007), p. xvi:

The Game of Life ended for John Conway on April 11, 2020.

Palladas (Greek Anthology 10.72, tr. J.W. Mackail):
All life is a stage and a game: either learn to play it,
    laying by seriousness, or bear its pains.

σκηνὴ πᾶς ὁ βίος καὶ παίγνιον· ἢ μάθε παίζειν
    τὴν σπουδὴν μεταθεὶς, ἢ φέρε τὰς ὀδύνας.


The Good

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 3.18.41 (quoting Epicurus; tr. A.A. Long and D.N. Sedley):
For my part I cannot conceive of anything as the good if I remove the pleasures perceived by means of taste and sex and listening to music, and the pleasant motions felt by the eyes through beautiful sights, or any other pleasures which some sensation generates in a human being as a whole. Certainly it is impossible to say that mental delight is the only good. For I have come to know a delighted mind by its expectation of all the things I just mentioned — the expectation that our nature will acquire them without pain.

nec equidem habeo, quod intellegam bonum illud, detrahens eas voluptates quae sapore percipiuntur, detrahens eas quae rebus percipiuntur veneriis, detrahens eas quae auditu e cantibus, detrahens eas etiam quae ex formis percipiuntur oculis suaves motiones, sive quae aliae voluptates in toto homine gignuntur quolibet sensu. nec vero ita dici potest, mentis laetitiam solam esse in bonis. laetantem enim mentem ita novi: spe eorum omnium, quae supra dixi, fore ut natura iis potiens dolore careat.
Cf. Epicurus, fragment 67 Usener (21 Arrighetti):
οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε ἔχω τί νοήσω τἀγαθόν, ἀφαιρῶν μὲν τὰς διὰ χυλῶν ἡδονάς, ἀφαιρῶν δὲ τὰς δι' ἀφροδισίων, ἀφαιρῶν δὲ τὰς δι' ἀκροαμάτων, ἀφαιρῶν δὲ καὶ τὰς διὰ μορφῆς κατ' ὄψιν ἡδείας κινήσεις.


Where Are You, My Friend?

Euripides, Cyclops 63-75 (tr. Patrick O'Sullivan and Christopher Collard):
There is no Bromius here, no choruses either,
no thyrsus-wielding Bacchants,
no rapturous cries from drums,        65
no bright drops of wine
beside the rushing waters of springs.
Nor can I sing with the Nymphs on Nysa
the song "iacchos! iacchos!"
to Aphrodite, whom I pursued, flying along        70
with the white-footed Bacchants.
O my friend, O my friend Bacchus,
where are you, wandering, separated from your followers,
are you shaking your golden hair?

οὐ τάδε Βρόμιος, οὐ τάδε χοροὶ
Βάκχαι τε θυρσοφόροι,
οὐ τυμπάνων ἀλαλαγμοί,        65
οὐκ οἴνου χλωραὶ σταγόνες        67
κρήναις παρ' ὑδροχύτοις·        66
οὐδ' ἐν Νύσᾳ μετὰ Νυμ-        68
φᾶν ἴακχον ἴακχον ᾠ-
δὰν μέλπω πρὸς τὰν Ἀφροδί-        70
ταν, ἃν θηρεύων πετόμαν
Βάκχαις σὺν λευκόποσιν.
ὦ φίλος ὦ φίλε Βακχεῖε,
ποῦ οἰοπολῶν
ξανθὰν χαίταν σείεις;

66 transp. Hermann


QHF Addresses the Nation

Horace, Odes 3.29.29-48 (tr. David West):
Foreseeing all future time, God hides
what is to come in mist and darkness,        30
   and laughs if a mortal
      frets too much. Be sure to deal calmly

with what is here. Everything else
flows by like a river, now gliding peacefully
   in mid-channel down to the Tuscan sea,        35
      now rolling along eroded rocks

and uprooted trees, cattle, and houses all together,
with a great roaring of mountains
   and forest along its banks
      as the wild spate whips up        40

the quiet stream. A man will be in control of his life
and happy if he can say at each day's end,
   'I have lived.' Tomorrow Father Jupiter
      can fill the sky with black cloud

or pure sunlight, but he will not cancel        45
whatever is behind,
   nor reshape or unmake
      what once the fleeing hour has brought.

prudens futuri temporis exitum
caliginosa nocte premit deus,        30
  ridetque si mortalis ultra
    fas trepidat. quod adest memento

componere aequus; cetera fluminis
ritu feruntur, nunc medio alveo
  cum pace delabentis Etruscum        35
    in mare, nunc lapides adesos

stirpesque raptas et pecus et domos
volventis una non sine montium
  clamore vicinaeque silvae,
    cum fera diluvies quietos        40

irritat amnis. ille potens sui
laetusque deget, cui licet in diem
  dixisse 'vixi.' cras vel atra
    nube polum Pater occupato

vel sole puro; non tamen irritum,        45
quodcumque retro est, efficiet neque
  diffinget infectumque reddet,
    quod fugiens semel hora vexit.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Monday, April 13, 2020


They Are Never At a Loss

Arrian, Discourses of Epictetus 3.13.18-19 (tr. W.A. Oldfather):
What kind of forlornness is left, then, to talk about? What kind of helplessness? Why make ourselves worse than little children? When they are left alone, what do they do? They gather up sherds and dust and build something or other, then tear it down and build something else again; and so they are never at a loss as to how to spend their time. Am I, then, if you set sail, to sit down and cry because I am left alone and forlorn in that fashion? Shan't I have sherds, shan't I have dust?

ποία οὖν ἔτι ἐρημία, ποία ἀπορία; τί χείρονας ἑαυτοὺς ποιῶμεν τῶν παιδαρίων; ἅ τινα ὅταν ἀπολειφθῇ μόνα, τί ποιεῖ; ἄραντα ὀστράκια καὶ σποδὸν οἰκοδομεῖ τί ποτε, εἶτα καταστρέφει καὶ πάλιν ἄλλο οἰκοδομεῖ· καὶ οὕτως οὐδέποτε ἀπορεῖ διαγωγῆς. ἐγὼ οὖν, ἂν πλεύσητε ὑμεῖς, μέλλω καθήμενος κλαίειν ὅτι μόνος ἀπελείφθην καὶ ἔρημος οὕτως; οὐκ ὀστράκια ἕξω, οὐ σποδόν;



J. Enoch Powell (1912-1998), excerpts from a speech to L'Association des Chefs d'Enterprise Libres (Lyon, February 12, 1971):
You, above all people, appreciate the importance of verbal precision, and the dangerous power of words misapplied. Unhappily such misapplication is common in Britain on the topic of the Community. The word ‘European’ has been appropriated to membership of the Community. Consequently those who advocate British membership have arrogated to themselves the style of ‘Europeans’ and describe their opponents as being ‘against Europe’. As I shall argue, if these labels have to be used at all, they ought to be transposed, and the label ‘anti-European’ affixed rather to those who wish Britain to accede to the Community than to those who oppose this. It is as a European among Europeans that I claim to speak to you.


From boyhood I have been devoted to the study of that Greek and Roman inheritance, which in varying measure is common to all that is Europe, and not only ‘Europe’ of the six or eight or ten but Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals — and beyond. I also claim that reverent enthusiasm for the history of my own country which commands an equal reverence for the past that has formed everything else which is European. The truest European, in my opinion, is the man who is most humbly conscious of the vast demands which comprehension of even a little part of this Europe imposes upon those who seek it; for the deeper we penetrate, the more the marvellous differentiation of human society within this single continent evokes our wonder. The very use of the word ‘Europe’ in expressions like ‘European unity’, ‘going into Europe’, ‘Europe’s role in the world’ is a solecism which grates upon the ear of all true Europeans: only Americans can be excused for using it.

Perhaps the fact that I address you this evening in French is the beginning of my explanation, why the British have this preponderant sense that their national destiny cannot be merged in that of the Community. I mean that observation in the most serious manner possible. With equal delight and effort, like those who have climbed a frontier range of mountains, one surmounts the linguistic watershed and looks out, like Winckelman looking from the Alps into Italy, over another land — a different past, and a different future. There is no more ignorant vulgarity than to treat language as an impediment to intercourse, which education, habit, travel, trade abolish and remove. The function of language in the life of nations, as a means both of differentiation and of self-identification, is rooted in the very origin of humanity, and increase of knowledge tends to enhance its significance rather than diminish it. Everything that nationality means is represented and, as it were, symbolised by language, which becomes less and less like a common currency the more one penetrates its inner meaning. When one of our poets wrote, during the Napoleonic War, ‘we must be free or die who speak the tongue that Shakespeare spoke’, it was a description of the British nation as precise as it was relevant.


Social Distancing Law

Lucian, Timon 42-43 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
Be it resolved and enacted into law, to be binding for the rest of my life, that I shall associate with no one, recognize no one and scorn everyone. Friends, guests, comrades and Altars of Mercy shall be matter for boundless mockery. To pity one who weeps, to help one who is in need shall be a misdemeanour and an infringement of the constitution. My life shall be solitary, like that of wolves; Timon shall be my only friend, and all others shall be enemies and conspirators. To talk to any of them shall be pollution, and if I simply see one of them, that day shall be under a curse. In short, they shall be no more than statues of stone or bronze in my sight.

δεδόχθω δὲ ταῦτα καὶ νενομοθετήσθω πρὸς τὸν ἐπίλοιπον βίον, ἀμιξία πρὸς ἅπαντας καὶ ἀγνωσία καὶ ὑπεροψία· φίλος δὲ ἢ ξένος ἢ ἑταῖρος ἢ Ἐλέου βωμὸς ὕθλος πολύς· καὶ τὸ οἰκτεῖραι δακρύοντα ἢ ἐπικουρῆσαι δεομένῳ παρανομία καὶ κατάλυσις τῶν ἐθῶν· μονήρης δὲ ἡ δίαιτα καθάπερ τοῖς λύκοις, καὶ φίλος εἷς Τίμων. οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι πάντες ἐχθροὶ καὶ ἐπίβουλοι· καὶ τὸ προσομιλῆσαί τινι αὐτῶν μίασμα· καὶ ἤν τινα ἴδω μόνον, ἀποφρὰς ἡ ἡμέρα· καὶ ὅλως ἀνδριάντων λιθίνων ἢ χαλκῶν μηδὲν ἡμῖν διαφερέτωσαν.

Sunday, April 12, 2020



Leopold Kohr (1909-1994), The Breakdown of Nations (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1978), p. 56:
The League of Nations was the product of World War I, and the United Nations of World War II. None of these glorified vast-scale organizations was ever worth its price, and it makes one shudder to think of the price of an ultimate single World state.
Id., p. 57:
Having seen where the unifiers have brought us—nowhere—let us apply the philosophy of the size theory and see what solution the opposite direction might hold for us. Instead of union, let us have disunion now. Instead of fusing the small, let us dismember the big. Instead of creating fewer and larger states, let us create more and smaller ones.



B. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 23.4:
They were the human sweepings of the cities, left on the dumps of civilization, possibly escaped convicts, outlaws, fugitives from justice. They were the garbage of civilization with their headquarters near all the other garbage and junk a modern city spits out unceasingly day and night.


Homeschooling Geometry Lesson

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), War and Peace, Book I, Part I, Chapter 22 (tr. Louise and Aylmer Maude):
‘Now, madam, these triangles are equal; please note that the angle ABC . . .’

The princess looked in a scared way at her father’s eyes glittering close to her; the red patches on her face came and went, and it was plain that she understood nothing and was so frightened that her fear would prevent her understanding any of her father’s further explanations, however clear they might be. Whether it was the teacher’s fault or the pupil’s, this same thing happened every day: the princess’s eyes drew dim, she could not see and could not hear anything, but was only conscious of her stern father’s withered face close to her, of his breath and the smell of him, and could think only of how to get away quickly to her own room to make out the problem in peace. The old man was beside himself: moved the chair on which he was sitting noisily backwards and forwards, made efforts to control himself and not become vehement, but almost always did become vehement, scolded, and sometimes flung the exercise-book away.

The princess gave a wrong answer.

‘Well now, isn’t she a fool!’ shouted the prince, pushing the book aside and turning sharply away; but rising immediately, he paced up and down, lightly touched his daughter’s hair and sat down again. He drew up his chair and continued to explain.

‘This won’t do, Princess; it won’t do,’ said he, when Princess Marya, having taken and closed the exercise-book with the next day’s lesson, was about to leave: ‘Mathematics are most important, madam! I don’t want to have you like our silly ladies. Get used to it and you’ll like it,’ and he patted her cheek. ‘It will drive all the nonsense out of your head.’


Hateful Servitude

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930; rpt. London: Thornton Butterworth, Ltd., 1934), pp. 26-27:
How I hated this school, and what a life of anxiety I lived there for more than two years. I made very little progress at my lessons, and none at all at games. I counted the days and the hours to the end of every term, when I should return home from this hateful servitude and range my soldiers in line of battle on the nursery floor. The greatest pleasure I had in those days was reading. When I was nine and a half my father gave me Treasure Island, and I remember the delight with which I devoured it. My teachers saw me at once backward and precocious, reading books beyond my years and yet at the bottom of the Form. They were offended. They had large resources of compulsion at their disposal, but I was stubborn. Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn. In all the twelve years I was at school no one ever succeeded in making me write a Latin verse or learn any Greek except the alphabet. I do not at all excuse myself for this foolish neglect of opportunities procured at so much expense by my parents and brought so forcibly to my attention by my Preceptors. Perhaps if I had been introduced to the ancients through their history and customs, instead of through their grammar and syntax, I might have had a better record.

Saturday, April 11, 2020



Savoyard Helmet (Todenkopf), c. 1600-1620
(Cleveland Museum of Art,
Severance and Greta Millikin Trust 2013.50

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