Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Bearded Gentlemen on Plinths

Roger Scruton, "Monumental Egos," The American Spectator (April 10, 2012):
Recently I spent a few days in Budapest, a city that is full of monuments. In every park some bearded gentleman stands serenely on a plinth, testifying to the worth of Hungarian poetry, to the beauty of Hungarian music, to the sacrifices made in some great Hungarian cause. The monuments include bas-relief, incorporated into the corner of some building, showing soldiers advancing into war, or patriotic faces against a background flag. They include classical colonnades linking buildings across the edge of a park, and gateways lending dignity to a public street. None stands out, none is designed to draw attention to itself. On the contrary, all attention comes from the monuments, onto the city and the people who live and move within their sight. They are like the eyes of a father, resting on his children at play. They are full of the joy of belonging, and convey a serene acceptance of death in the national cause.



Aristophanes, Clouds 198-199 (tr. Jeffery Henderson):
No, they're not at liberty to spend very much time outside in the open air.

ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ οἷόν τ᾽ αὐτοῖσι πρὸς τὸν ἀέρα
ἔξω διατρίβειν πολὺν ἄγαν ἐστὶν χρόνον.



Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), pp. 221-222:
You see, Sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess, that we are generally men of untaught feelings; that instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree, and, to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages. Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit; and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.

Your literary men, and your politicians, and so do the whole clan of the enlightened among us, essentially differ in these points. They have no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it off by a very full measure of confidence in their own. With them it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things, because it is an old one. As to the new, they are in no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building run up in haste; because duration is no object to those who think little or nothing has been done before their time, and who place all their hopes in discovery. They conceive, very systematically, that all things which give perpetuity are mischievous, and therefore they are at inexpiable war with all establishments. They think that government may vary like modes of dress, and with as little ill effect: that there needs no principle of attachment, except a sense of present conveniency, to any constitution of the state. They always speak as if they were of opinion that there is a singular species of compact between them and their magistrates, which binds the magistrate, but which has nothing reciprocal in it, but that the majesty of the people has a right to dissolve it without any reason, but its will. Their attachment to their country itself is only so far as it agrees with some of their fleeting projects; it begins and ends with that scheme of polity which falls in with their momentary opinion.



Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.5 (986 a 22 ff.; on the Pythagoreans; tr. Hugh Tredennick):
Others of this same school hold that there are ten principles, which they enunciate in a series of corresponding pairs: (1.) Limit and the Unlimited; (2.) Odd and Even; (3.) Unity and Plurality; (4.) Right and Left; (5.) Male and Female; (6.) Rest and Motion; (7.) Straight and Crooked; (8.) Light and Darkness; (9.) Good and Evil; (10.) Square and Oblong.

ἕτεροι δὲ τῶν αὐτῶν τούτων τὰς ἀρχὰς δέκα λέγουσιν εἶναι τὰς κατὰ συστοιχίαν λεγομένας, πέρας καὶ ἄπειρον, περιττὸν καὶ ἄρτιον, ἓν καὶ πλῆθος, δεξιὸν καὶ ἀριστερόν, ἄρρεν καὶ θῆλυ, ἠρεμοῦν καὶ κινούμενον, εὐθὺ καὶ καμπύλον, φῶς καὶ σκότος, ἀγαθὸν καὶ κακόν, τετράγωνον καὶ ἑτερόμηκες.

Monday, June 29, 2020



Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 338-339 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
In all this, what is good, what is free from evil?
Is not ruin unconquerable?

τί τῶνδ᾽ εὖ, τί δ᾽ ἄτερ κακῶν;
οὐκ ἀτρίακτος ἄτα;
A.F. Garvie on line 339:



Tacitus, Germania 43 (tr. Harold Mattingly, rev. J.B. Rives):
As for the Harii, they are superior in strength to the other peoples I have just mentioned; savage as they are, they enhance their innate ferocity by trickery and timing. They blacken their shields and stain their bodies and choose pitch-dark nights for their battles. The shadowy horror of this ghostly army inspires a mortal panic, for no enemy can stand so strange and devilish a sight. Defeat in battle always begins with the eyes.

ceterum Harii super vires, quibus enumeratos paulo ante populos antecedunt, truces insitae feritati arte ac tempore lenocinantur: nigra scuta, tincta corpora; atras ad proelia noctes legunt ipsaque formidine atque umbra feralis exercitus terrorem inferunt, nullo hostium sustinente novum ac velut infernum adspectum; nam primi in omnibus proeliis oculi vincuntur.


Our Presumption and Our Pert Loquacity

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), p. 221:
We know that we have made no discoveries, and we think that no discoveries are to be made, in morality; nor many in the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, which were understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they will be after the grave has heaped its mould upon our presumption, and the silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity.

Sunday, June 28, 2020


Marlowe, Tamburlaine, Part I

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine, Part I, 1.1.67-68:
Returne with speed, time passeth swift away,
Our life is fraile, and we may die to day.
Id. 2.2.22-23:
This countrie swarmes with vile outragious men,
That live by rapine and by lawlesse spoile.
Id. 2.5.53-62:
Tamburlaine. Is it not passing brave to be a King,
And ride in triumph through Persepolis?
Techelles. O my Lord, tis sweet and full of pompe.
Usumcasane. To be a King, is halfe to be a God.
Theridamas. A God is not so glorious as a King:
I thinke the pleasure they enjoy in heaven
Can not compare with kingly joyes in earth.
To weare a Crowne enchac'd with pearle and golde,
Whose vertues carie with it life and death,
To aske, and have: commaund, and be obeied.
Id. 2.6.15-23:
What God or Feend, or spirit of the earth,
Or Monster turned to a manly shape,
Or of what mould or mettel he be made,
What star or state soever governe him,
Let us put on our meet incountring mindes,
And in detesting such a divelish Thiefe,
In love of honor and defence of right,
Be arm'd against the hate of such a foe,
Whether from earth, or hell, or heaven he grow.
Id. 2.7.18-29:
Nature that fram'd us of foure Elements,
Warring within our breasts for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspyring minds:
Our soules, whose faculties can comprehend
The wondrous Architecture of the world:
And measure every wandring plannets course:
Still climing after knowledge infinite,
And alwaies mooving as the restles Spheares,
Wils us to weare our selves and never rest,
Untill we reach the ripest fruit of all,
That perfect blisse and sole felicitie,
The sweet fruition of an earthly crowne.
Id. 5.1.466-470:
Millions of soules sit on the bankes of Styx,
Waiting the back returne of Charons boat,
Hell and Elisian swarme with ghosts of men,
That I have sent from sundry foughten fields,
To spread my fame through hell and up to heaven.


What a Waste

Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Monk's Prologue," Canterbury Tales VII.1943-1953 (the host Harry Bailey to the monk; tr. Nevill Coghill):
God send confusion on the fellow who
First had the thought to make a monk of you!
You would have put a hen to pretty use,
Had you permission, as you have the juice,
To exercise your pleasure in procreation!
You could have done your part to build the nation.
Alas, who put you in so wide a cope?
Damnation take me, but if I were Pope,
Not only you but many a mighty man
Going about the world with tonsured pan
Should have a wife...

I pray to God yeve him confusioun
That first thee broghte unto religioun!
Thou woldest han been a tredefoul aright;
Haddestow as greet a leve as thow hast might
To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
Thow haddest bigeten many a creature.
Allas, why werestow so wid a cope?
God yeve me sorwe but, and I were a pope,
Nat oonly thow, but every mighty man,
Thogh he were shore ful hye upon his pan,
Sholde have a wif...
Mutatis mutandis, I feel the same way when I see certain nuns.

Saturday, June 27, 2020


Those Who Make the Noise

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), p. 220:
The vanity, restlessness, petulance, and spirit of intrigue, of several petty cabals, who attempt to hide their total want of consequence in bustle and noise, and puffing, and mutual quotation of each other, makes you imagine that our contemptuous neglect of their abilities is a mark of general acquiescence in their opinions. No such thing, I assure you. Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that, of course, they are many in number, or that, after all, they are other than the little, shrivelled, meager, hopping, though loud and troublesome, insects of the hour.


A Very Old Saying

Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 306-314 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Almighty Destinies, by the will
of Zeus let these things
be done, in the turning of Justice.
For the word of hatred spoken, let hate
be a word fulfilled. The spirit of Right
cries out aloud and extracts atonement
due: blood stroke for the stroke of blood
shall be paid. Who acts, shall endure. So speaks
the voice of the age-old wisdom.

ἀλλ᾽ ὦ μεγάλαι Μοῖραι, Διόθεν
τῇδε τελευτᾶν,
τὸ δίκαιον μεταβαίνει.
ἀντὶ μὲν ἐχθρᾶς γλώσσης ἐχθρὰ
γλῶσσα τελείσθω· τοὐφειλόμενον        310
πράσσουσα Δίκη μέγ᾽ ἀυτεῖ·
ἀντὶ δὲ πληγῆς φονίας φονίαν
πληγὴν τινέτω. δράσαντι παθεῖν,
τριγέρων μῦθος τάδε φωνεῖ.
A.F. Garvie ad loc.:



Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XI:
But it is easier to destroy than to restore.


Against Monastic Laughter

G.G. Coulton, Five Centuries of Religion, Vol. I (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1929), pp. 470-471:
Laughter, again, was reprobated from Vitaspatrum onwards. Abbé J.-B. Thiers scarcely exaggerated when he wrote in 1686: "Les pères des monastères semblent avoir absolument interdit le ris aux Religieux et aux Religieuses." St Bernard echoes St John Chrysostom; Christ, (he says) is recorded to have wept for Lazarus, to have wept for Jerusalem, but never to have laughed (In Adv. Serm. iv, § 7). St Basil had put it almost as emphatically as Chrysostom: "Seeing that the Lord condemneth those who laugh in this life, it is very plain that the faithful hath no occasion to laugh, and especially among so great a multitude of those who dishonour God by transgressing His law and die in their sins; over whom we ought to mourn and groan." St Benedict stated it more moderately in his Rule (ch. iv, §§ 54-5; vii, 10): the monk is "not to speak idle words, or such as are apt to laughter, nor to love much or uncontrolled laughter"; he must not be "easy or prompt to laugh; for it is written. 'the fool raiseth his voice in laughter.' Medieval commentators, though they point out that this does not forbid laughter altogether, are practically unanimous in interpreting these sentences in what would be called a distinctly Puritan sense; this may be verified from the quotations collected by Martène for those two passages, and in P.L. vol. 103, col. 823 notes. Turrecremata, who is perhaps the most lenient of the commentators, quotes not only Christ's example, but His words, "Woe unto you who laugh" (Comment., on ch. iv, §§ 54-5). Herolt tells us of a monk to whom a foretaste of purgatorial experience had been vouchsafed in his lifetime, and who, "when he saw any young monk laughing immoderately, or indulging in any other frivolity, was frequently wont to cry out, 'O! if thou knewest how bitter pains are due unto thee for these levities, thou wouldst perchance correct these thy frivolous ways'" (Ex. P. 90). Compare also the Carthusian Ludolph of Saxony, who gives the same quotations from Chrysostom and Basil, "especially considering the great multitude of men who die in their sins, and for whom we ought to mourn as Christ did" (Vita Jesu Xti, pars. 1, c. 33 Q). We have seen how even St Francis's joy seldom admitted actual laughter; nor is there anything to differentiate the angelica hilaritas of Thomas à Kempis from the spiritual serenity which was quite common among seventeenth-century puritans and in the Clapham School, and most of all among the Quakers.

For other sentences against monastic laughter, see Benedict of Aniane's Concordia Regularum, P.L. vol. 103, col. 823, and Abbot Autpert in P.L. vol. 40, col. 1101.
Related posts:

Friday, June 26, 2020


The Hoofs of a Swinish Multitude

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), p. 215:
We are but too apt to consider things in the state in which we find them, without sufficiently adverting to the causes by which they have been produced, and possibly may be upheld. Nothing is more certain than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles, and were, indeed, the result of both combined: I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion. The nobility and the clergy, the one by profession, and the other by patronage, kept learning in existence, even in the midst of arms and confusions, and whilst governments were rather in their causes than formed. Learning paid back what it received to nobility and to priesthood, and paid it with usury, by enlarging their ideas, and by furnishing their minds. Happy, if they had all continued to know their indissoluble union, and their proper place! Happy, if learning, not debauched by ambition, had been satisfied to continue the instructor, and not aspired to be the master! Along with its natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.


Gods in Pigeon-Holes

M.L. West, Hesiod, Theogony: Edited with Prolegomena and Commentary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966) p. 277 (on Hecate, lines 404-452):
We are accustomed to think of the ancient gods in pigeon-holes: Hephaestus as the god of fire, Poseidon as the god of the sea, and so forth. In reality they can very seldom be summed up so neatly. A god's functions are as wide as the needs of his worshippers. Every town, every social or professional group, every family, generally has one principal deity whom it worships above all others; and the demands of that band of worshippers, in so far as they are not answered by other gods, will determine what different faces the principal god's predicated power will assume.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


Lawlessness versus Lawfulness

Solon, fragment 4 West, lines 30-39 (tr. André Laks and Glenn W. Most):
This my heart bids me teach the Athenians:
That Lawlessness (Dysnomia) gives the city countless evils,
But Lawfulness (Eunomia) makes all things ordered and well-fitting,
And often puts fetters on the unjust.
She smoothes the rough, stops excess, weakens arrogance,
Withers the blooming flowers of disaster,
Straightens crooked judgments, softens arrogant deeds,
And stops acts of civil strife,
And stops the anger of evil contention. Under her
All things among men are well-fitting and wise.

ταῦτα διδάξαι θυμὸς Ἀθηναίους με κελεύει,        30
    ὡς κακὰ πλεῖστα πόλει Δυσνομίη παρέχει·
Εὐνομίη δ᾿ εὔκοσμα καὶ ἄρτια πάντ᾿ ἀποφαίνει,
    καὶ θαμὰ τοῖς ἀδίκοις ἀμφιτίθησι πέδας·
τραχέα λειαίνει, παύει κόρον, ὕβριν ἀμαυροῖ,
    αὑαίνει δ᾿ ἄτης ἄνθεα φυόμενα,        35
εὐθύνει δὲ δίκας σκολιάς, ὑπερήφανά τ᾿ ἔργα
    πραΰνει, παύει δ᾿ ἔργα διχοστασίης,
παύει δ᾿ ἀργαλέης ἔριδος χόλον, ἔστι δ᾿ ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς
    πάντα κατ᾿ ἀνθρώπους ἄρτια καὶ πινυτά.
See Maria Noussia-Fantuzzi, Solon the Athenian, the Poetic Fragments (Leiden; Brill, 2010), pp. 256-265.


He Has Lived His Life

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 12.8-9 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
Pacuvius, who by long occupancy made Syria his own, used to hold a regular burial sacrifice in his own honour, with wine and the usual funeral feasting, and then would have himself carried from the dining-room to his chamber, while eunuchs applauded and sang in Greek to a musical accompaniment: "He has lived his life, he has lived his life!" Thus Pacuvius had himself carried out to burial every day.

Pacuvius, qui Syriam usu suam fecit, cum vino et illis funebribus epulis sibi parentaverat, sic in cubiculum ferebatur a cena, ut inter plausus exoletorum hoc ad symphoniam caneretur: βεβίωται, βεβίωται. nullo non se die extulit.
Catharine Edwards ad loc.:

Metrodorus, fragment 49 Koerte = Gnomologium Epicureum Vaticanum 47 (tr. Cyril Bailey):
I have anticipated thee, Fortune, and entrenched myself against all thy secret attacks. And we will not give ourselves up as captives to thee or to any other circumstance; but when it is time for us to go, spitting contempt on life and on those who here vainly cling to it, we will leave life crying aloud in a glorious triumph-song that we have lived well.

προκατείλημμαί σε, ὦ τύχη, καὶ πᾶσαν σὴν παρείσδυσιν ἐνέφραξα. καὶ οὔτε σοὶ οὔτε ἀλλῇ οὐδεμίᾳ περιστάσει δώσομεν ἑαυτοὺς ἐκδότους· ἀλλ' ὅταν ἡμᾶς τὸ χρεὼν ἐξάγῃ, μέγα προσπτύσαντες τῷ ζῆν καὶ τοῖς αὐτῷ κενῶς περιπλαττομένοις ἄπιμεν ἐκ τοῦ ζῆν μετὰ καλοῦ παιῶνος ἐπιφωνοῦντες ὡς εὖ ἡμῖν βεβίωται.


Aversion to Life

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ § 18 (tr. Judith Norman):
The Christian idea of God — God as a god of the sick, God as spider, God as spirit — is one of the most corrupt conceptions of God the world has ever seen; this may even represent a new low in the declining development of the types of god. God having degenerated into a contradiction of life instead of its transfiguration and eternal yes! God as declared aversion to life, to nature, to the will to life! God as the formula for every slander against 'the here and now', for every lie about the 'beyond'! God as the deification of nothingness, the canonization of the will to nothingness! ...

Der christliche Gottesbegriff — Gott als Krankengott, Gott als Spinne, Gott als Geist — ist einer der korruptesten Gottesbegriffe, die auf Erden erreicht worden sind; er stellt vielleicht selbst den Pegel des Tiefstands in der absteigenden Entwicklung des Götter-Typus dar. Gott zum Widerspruch des Lebens abgeartet, statt dessen Verklärung und ewiges Ja zu sein! In Gott dem Leben, der Natur, dem Willen zum Leben die Feindschaft angesagt! Gott die Formel für jede Verleumdung des "Diesseits," für jede Lüge vom "Jenseits"! In Gott das Nichts vergöttlicht, der Wille zum Nichts heilig gesprochen! ...


A Great Loss

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), p. 214:
When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment we have no compass to govern us; nor can we know distinctly to what port we steer.


While You Can

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1669 (chorus leader to Aegisthus; tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Carry on—fatten yourself—defile justice, while you can.

πρᾶσσε, πιαίνου, μιαίνων τὴν δίκην, ἐπεὶ πάρα.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020



Alan Cameron, Circus Factions: Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium (1976; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), pp. 276-277:
Vandalism, in the form of incendiarism, was a common and perhaps regular sequel to a faction riot. It is explicitly recorded of riots in 491, 493, 498, 507, 532, 548, 560 (twice at Constantinople and again in Cyzicus), and 561.7 Once or twice it is the Praetorium or the house of a prefect that is burned,8 but more often the incendiarism is apparently quite indiscriminate, taking in shops, churches, and public baths. The Nika rioters of 532 set fire to much of the city—hardly because they imagined it was going to cause Justinian to give way. Dio records a three-day battle between soldiers and the people some time in the 220s at Rome where it was the soldiers who won by setting fire to buildings ('and so the populace, fearing the whole city would be destroyed, reluctantly came to terms with them').1 A riot in May 562 began with Blues attacking Greens on the way out from the hippodrome (presumably in a spirit of triumph—or disappointment—after the races; compare the great riot of 507 at Antioch inspired by the victories of Porphyrius2). Some fellow Blues from Sycae then set fire to the docks; contained here they set fire to a nearby church and then made their way to the main boulevard of the Mese, where they set fire to the house of the praetorian prefect and an entire neighbouring colonnade. Such seemingly pointless vandalism is one of the recurring features of hooliganism down the ages, taking the form of smashed telephone boxes and slashed train seats with the soccer hooligan of today. Some light on the spirit in which it was done during a riot of 561 is cast by the accompanying acclamations, soberly committed to paper for posterity by some faction clerk: 'Burn here, burn there, not a Blue anywhere...' (p. 91). It is easy to see, then, why one contemporary called the Greens 'citizen-burners' (καυσοπολῖται).3

7 491-3: Marcellinus, Chron. s.a. (with Jo. Ant., Exc. de Insid. p. 41); 498: Malalas, Exc. de Insid. p. 168.22; 507: Malalas, p. 397 (at Antioch); 532, see below; 548: Malalas, p. 484, Theoph. p. 226.15f.; 560: Malalas, pp. 490-1; 561: Theophanes, pp. 235-6.

7 The city prefect's house was always the first to be burned in riots at old Rome; cf. John Matthews, Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court A.D. 364-425 (1974), 20, and add Sidonius, Epp. i.10.2.

1 lxxx.2.3.

2 Malalas, pp. 395f.

3 Doctrina Jacobi, p. 39.6 Bonwetsch.


Offerings and Blessings

Arthur Waley, The Book of Songs: The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry (New York: Grove Press, 1987), p. 161 (Song 156 = 125 Mao):
Abundant is the year, with much millet, much rice;
But we have tall granaries,
To hold myriads, many myriads and millions of grain.
We make wine, make sweet liquor,
We offer it to ancestor, to ancestress,
We use it to fulfill all the rites,
To bring down blessings upon each and all.
Id., p. 217 (Song 204 = 302 Mao):
Ah, the glorious ancestors—
Endless, their blessings,
Boundless their gifts are extended;
To you, too, they needs must reach.
We have brought them clear wine;
They will give victory.
Here, too, is soup well seasoned,
Well prepared, well mixed.
Because we come in silence,
Setting all quarrels aside.
They make safe for us a ripe old age.
We shall reach the withered cheek, we shall go on and on.
With our leather-bound naves, our bronze-clad yokes,
With eight bells a-jangle
We come to make offering.
The charge put upon us is vast and mighty,.
From Heaven dropped our prosperity.
Good harvests, great abundance.
They come, they accept,
They send down blessings numberless.
They regard the paddy-offerings, the offerings of first-fruits
That Tang's descendant brings.


The Memory of Our Illustrious Dead

Theodore Roosevelt, "Grant," The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (New York: The Century Co., 1905), pp. 207-225 (at 211-212):
Grant and his fellow-soldiers who fought through the war, and his fellow-statesmen who completed the work partly done by the soldiers, not only left us the heritage of a reunited country and of a land from which slavery had been banished, but left us what was quite as important, the great memory of their great deeds, to serve forever as an example and an inspiration, to spur us on so that we may not fall below the level reached by our fathers. The rough, strong poet of democracy has sung of Grant as "the man of mighty days, and equal to the days." The days are less mighty now, and that is all the more reason why we should show ourselves equal to them. We meet here to pay glad homage to the memory of our illustrious dead; but let us keep ever clear before our minds the fact that mere lip-loyalty is no loyalty at all, and that the only homage that counts is the homage of deeds, not of words. It is but an idle waste of time to celebrate the memory of the dead unless we, the living, in our lives strive to show ourselves not unworthy of them.
Id. (at 218-219):
Grant, the champion whose sword was sharpest in the great fight for liberty, was no less sternly insistent upon the need of order and of obedience to law. No stouter foe of anarchy in every form ever lived within our borders. The man who more than any other, save Lincoln, had changed us into a nation whose citizens were all freemen, realized entirely that these freemen would remain free only while they kept mastery over their own evil passions. He saw that lawlessness in all its forms was the handmaiden of tyranny. No nation ever yet retained its freedom for any length of time after losing its respect for the law, after losing the law-abiding spirit, the spirit that really makes orderly liberty.

Statue of Theodore Roosevelt (New York City)

Statue of Ulysses Grant (San Francisco)


The Value of Having a Little Land

Wendell Berry, "The Agrarian Standard," Essays 1993-2017 (New York: The Library of America, 2019), pp. 332-342 (at 336-338):
We can get to the same idea by a way a little more economic and practical, and this is by following through our literature the ancient theme of the small farmer or husbandman who leads an abundant life on a scrap of land often described as cast-off or poor. This figure makes his first literary appearance, so far as I know, in Virgil's Fourth Georgic:
                               I saw a man,
An old Cilician, who occupied
An acre or two of land that no one wanted,
A patch not worth the ploughing, unrewarding
For flocks, unfit for vineyards; he however
By planting here and there among the scrub
Cabbages or white lilies and verbena
And flimsy poppies, fancied himself a king
In wealth, and coming home late in the evening
Loaded his board with unbought delicacies.
Virgil's old squatter, I am sure, is a literary outcropping of an agrarian theme that has been carried from earliest times until now mostly in family or folk tradition, not in writing, though other such people can be found in books. Wherever found, they don't vary by much from Virgil's prototype. They don't have or require a lot of land, and the land they have is often marginal. They practice subsistence agriculture, which has been much derided by agricultural economists and other learned people of the industrial age, and they always associate frugality with abundance.

In my various travels, I have seen a number of small homesteads like that of Virgil's old farmer, situated on "land that no one wanted" and yet abundantly productive of food, pleasure, and other goods. And especially in my younger days, I was used to hearing farmers of a certain kind say "They may run me out, but they won't starve me out" or "I may get shot, but I'm not going to starve." Even now, if they cared, I think agricultural economists could find small farmers who have prospered, not by "getting big," but by practicing the ancient rules of thrift and subsistence, by accepting the limits of their small farms, and by knowing well the value of having a little land.

How do we come at the value of a little land? We do so, following this strand of agrarian thought, by reference to the value of no land. Agrarians value land because somewhere back in the history of their consciousness is the memory of being landless. This memory is implicit, in Virgil's poem, in the old farmer's happy acceptance of "an acre or two of land that no one wanted." If you have no land you have nothing: no food, no shelter, no warmth, no freedom, no life. If we remember this, we know that all economies begin to lie as soon as they assign a fixed value to land. People who have been landless know that the land is invaluable; it is worth everything. Pre-agricultural humans, of course, knew this too. And so, evidently, do the animals. It is a fearful thing to be without a "territory." Whatever the market may say, the worth of the land is what it always was: It is worth what food, clothing, shelter, and freedom are worth; it is worth what life is worth.
Vergil, Georgics 4.127-133 (supply memini from line 125):
Corycium vidisse senem, cui pauca relicti
iugera ruris erant, nec fertilis illa iuvencis
nec pecori opportuna seges nec commoda Baccho.
hic rarum tamen in dumis olus albaque circum        130
lilia verbenasque premens vescumque papaver
regum aequabat opes animis seraque revertens
nocte domum dapibus mensas onerabat inemptis.

Julien Dupré (1851-1910), At the Well


Recovery of the Past

Hilaire Belloc, The Old Road (London: Archibald Constable and Company, Limited, 1905), p. 6:
To study something of great age until one grows familiar with it and almost to live in its time, is not merely to satisfy a curiosity or to establish aimless truths: it is rather to fulfil a function whose appetite has always rendered History a necessity. By the recovery of the Past, stuff and being are added to us; our lives which, lived in the present only, are a film or surface, take on body—are lifted into one dimension more. The soul is fed. Reverence and knowledge and security and the love of a good land—all these are increased or given by the pursuit of this kind of learning.
Id., p. 14:
A man must not only eat, he must eat according to his soul: he must live among his own, he must have this to play with, that to worship, he must rest his eyes upon a suitable landscape, he must separate himself from men discordant to him, and also combat them when occasion serves.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020



Pindar, Olympian Odes 2.86-88 (tr. Anthony Verity):
Wise is the man who knows much by nature,
while those who have acquired their knowledge
chatter in pointless confusion, just like
a pair of crows against the divine bird of Zeus.

σοφὸς ὁ πολλὰ εἰδὼς φυᾷ·
μαθόντες δὲ λάβροι
παγγλωσσίᾳ κόρακες ὣς ἄκραντα γαρύετον
Διὸς πρὸς ὄρνιχα θεῖον.
Basil L. Gildersleeve ad loc. (the lines are 94-96 in his numbering):


One Grand Explosion

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), pp. 197-198:
It is no wonder therefore, that with these ideas of everything in their constitution and government at home, either in church or state, as illegitimate and usurped, or at best as a vain mockery, they look abroad with an eager and passionate enthusiasm. Whilst they are possessed by these notions, it is vain to talk to them of the practice of their ancestors, the fundamental laws of their country, the fixed form of a constitution, whose merits are confirmed by the solid test of long experience, and an increasing public strength and national prosperity. They despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered men; and as for the rest, they have wrought under ground a mine that will blow up, at one grand explosion, all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament.



C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (1961; rpt. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1965), pp. 35-36:
I am thinking of what I call Stylemongers. On taking up a book, these people concentrate on what they call its 'style' or its 'English'. They judge this neither by its sound nor by its power to communicate but by its conformity to certain arbitrary rules. Their reading is a perpetual witch hunt for Americanisms, Gallicisms, split infinitives, and sentences that end with a preposition. They do not inquire whether the Americanism or Gallicism in question increases or impoverishes the expressiveness of our language. It is nothing to them that the best English speakers and writers have been ending sentences with prepositions for over a thousand years. They are full of arbitrary dislikes for particular words. One is 'a word they've always hated'; another 'always makes them think of so-and-so'. This is too common, and that too rare. Such people are of all men least qualified to have any opinion about a style at all; for the only two tests that are really relevant—the degree in which it is (as Dryden would say) 'sounding and significant'—are the two they never apply. They judge the instrument by anything rather than its power to do the work it was made for; treat language as something that 'is' but does not 'mean'; criticise the lens after looking at it instead of through it. It was often said that the law about literary obscenity operated almost exclusively against particular words, that books were banned not for their tendency but for their vocabulary and a man could freely administer the strongest possible aphrodisiacs to his public provided he had the skill—and what competent writer has not?—to avoid the forbidden syllables. The Stylemonger's criteria, though for a different reason, are as wide of the mark as those of the law, and in the same way. If the mass of the people are unliterary, he is antiliterary. He creates in the minds of the unliterary (who have often suffered under him at school) a hatred of the very word style and a profound distrust of every book that is said to be well written. And if style meant what the Stylemonger values, this hatred and distrust would be right.


The God of the Weak

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ § 16 (tr. Judith Norman):
Why bother with a god who does not know about anger, revenge, envy, scorn, cunning, violence? who might not even know the exquisite ardeurs of victory and destruction? Nobody would understand a god like this: what would be the point of having him for a god? — Of course: when a people is destroyed, when it feels that its belief in the future, its hope for freedom, is irretrievably fading away, when it becomes conscious of subjugation as its first principle of utility and conscious of the virtues of the subjugated as the conditions of its preservation, then its god will necessarily change as well. He will become modest and full of fear, he will cringe in corners and recommend 'peace of soul', forbearance, an end to hatred, and 'love' of friends and enemies. He will constantly moralize, he will creep into the crevices of every private virtue, he will be a god for one and all, a private and cosmopolitan god ... He used to represent a people, the strength of a people, all the aggression and thirst for power in the soul of a people: now he is just the good god ... In the end, gods have no other choice: either they are the will to power — in which case they will still be the gods of a people — or they are powerless in the face of power — and then they will necessarily become good ...

Was läge an einem Gotte, der nicht Zorn, Rache, Neid, Hohn, List, Gewalttat kennte? dem vielleicht nicht einmal die entzückenden ardeurs des Siegs und der Vernichtung bekannt wären? Man würde einen solchen Gott nicht verstehn: wozu sollte man ihn haben? — Freilich: wenn ein Volk zugrunde geht; wenn es den Glauben an Zukunft, seine Hoffnung auf Freiheit endgültig schwinden fühlt; wenn ihm die Unterwerfung als erste Nützlichkeit, die Tugenden der Unterworfenen als Erhaltungsbedingungen ins Bewusstsein treten, dann muss sich auch sein Gott verändern. Es wird jetzt Duckmäuser, furchtsam, bescheiden, rät zum "Frieden der Seele," zum Nicht-mehr-hassen, zur Nachsicht, zur "Liebe" selbst gegen Freund und Feind. Es moralisiert beständig, er kriecht in die Höhle jeder Privattugend, wird Gott für jedermann, wird Privatmann, wird Kosmopolit ... Ehemals stellte er ein Volk, die Stärke eines Volkes, alles Aggressive und Machtdurstige aus der Seele eines Volkes dar: jetzt ist er bloss noch der gute Gott ... In der Tat, es gibt keine andre Alternative für Götter: entweder sind sie der Wille zur Macht—und so lange werden sie Volksgötter sein — oder aber die Ohnmacht zur Macht—und dann werden sie notwendig gut ...
Id., § 16:
Whenever the will to power falls off in any way, there will also be physiological decline, decadence. And when the most masculine virtues and drives have been chopped off the god of decadence, he will necessarily turn into a god of the physiologically retrograde, the weak. They do not call themselves weak, they call themselves 'the good' ... There is no great mystery as to when, historically, the dualistic fiction of good and evil gods becomes possible. With the same instincts they use to reduce their god to 'goodness in itself', the subjugated scratch out the good qualities from their conquerors' god. They take revenge by demonizing their masters' god. — The good God as well as the devil: both are rotten fruits of decadence.

Wo in irgend welcher Form der Wille zur Macht niedergeht, gibt es jedes Mal auch einen physiologischen Rückgang, eine décadence. Die Gottheit der décadence, beschnitten an ihren männlichen Tugenden und Trieben, wird nunmehr notwendig zum Gott der Physiologisch-Zurückgegangenen, der Schwachen. Sie heissen sich selbst nicht die Schwachen, sie heissen sich "die Guten" ... Man versteht, ohne dass ein Wink noch not täte, in welchen Augenblicken der Geschichte erst die dualistische Fiktion eines guten und eines bösen Gottes möglich wird. Mit demselben Instinkte, mit dem die Unterworfenen ihren Gott zum "Guten an sich" herunterbringen, streichen sie aus dem Gotte ihrer Überwinder die guten Eigenschaften aus; sie nehmen Rache an ihren Herren, dadurch dass sie deren Gott verteufeln.— Der gute Gott, ebenso wie der Teufel: beide Ausgeburten der décadence.


Sweet Wine

Interior of cup attributed to the Epeleios Painter (Vulci, ca. 510 B.C.), representing a satyr filling a mixing bowl from a wineskin (Munich, Antikensammlungen, formerly 2119A, 2619A, now J331):

See Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 17-20.


Prayer for Peace

Pindar, Pythian Odes 4.293-297 (tr. Anthony Verity):
He prays that now he has drained his malignant sickness
to the dregs he may one day see his home,
and may at Apollo's spring join in symposia
and many times pledge his heart to the pleasures of youth,
and in the company of discerning citizens
may hold the decorated lyre in his hands and attain peace,
causing no harm to anyone nor suffering it himself
at the hands of his fellow citizens.

ἀλλ᾿ εὔχεται οὐλομέναν νοῦ-
        σον διαντλήσαις ποτέ
οἶκον ἰδεῖν, ἐπ᾿ Ἀπόλλω-
        νός τε κράνᾳ συμποσίας ἐφέπων
θυμὸν ἐκδόσθαι πρὸς ἥβαν πολλάκις, ἔν τε σοφοῖς
δαιδαλέαν φόρμιγγα βαστάζων πολί-
        ταις ἡσυχίᾳ θιγέμεν,
μήτ᾿ ὦν τινι πῆμα πορών, ἀπαθὴς δ᾿ αὐτὸς πρὸς ἀστῶν.


The Pedant

Hilaire Belloc, "On Pedants," This and That and the Other (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1912), pp. 12-21 (at 13):
The essence of the Pedant is twofold, first that he takes his particular science for something universal, second, that he holds with the Grip of Faith certain set phrases in that science which he has been taught. I say "with the Grip of Faith"; it is the only metaphor applicable; he has for these phrases a violent affection. Not only does he not question them, but he does not know that they can be questioned. When he repeats them it is in a fixed and hierarchic voice. When they are denied he does not answer, but flies into a passion which, were he destined to an accession of power, might in the near future turn to persecution.


Melon Seeds

Arthur Waley, The Book of Songs: The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry (New York: Grove Press, 1987), p. 246 (note on Song 239 = 250 Mao):
A large part of the human race believes that mankind is descended from melon seeds.

Monday, June 22, 2020



Wendell Berry, "Toward a Change of Standards," Essays 1993-2017 (New York: The Library of America, 2019), pp. 220-229 (at 220-221):
Now we seem to have replaced the ideas of responsible community membership, of cultural survival, and even of usefulness, with the idea of professionalism. Professional education proceeds according to ideas of professional competence and according to professional standards, and this explains the decline in education from ideals of service and good work, citizenship and membership, to mere "job training" or "career preparation." The context of professionalism is not a place or a community but a career, and this explains the phenomenon of "social mobility" and all the evils that proceed from it. The religion of professionalism is progress, and this means that, in spite of its vocal bias in favor of practicality and realism, professionalism forsakes both past and present in favor of the future, which is never present or practical or real. Professionalism is always offering up the past and the present as sacrifices to the future, in which all our problems will be solved and our tears wiped away—and which, being the future, never arrives. The future is always free of past limitations and present demands, always stocked with newer merchandise than any presently available, always promising that what we are going to have is better than what we have.


Lust for Life

Paul Zanker, Roman Art, tr. Henry Heitmann-Gordon (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 158:
However, the great majority of subjects chosen for representation, both on sarcophagi and on the walls of the burial chambers, were of a completely different nature. From the very beginning, what owners preferred were Dionysiac thiasoi or naked Nereids with their half-human lovers. The latter (tritons and sea-centaurs) woo the beautiful sea-nymphs, carry them on their backs, and serve them in every way they can. There are of course erotic connotations; the satyrs and maenads represent sheer joie de vivre and sensual pleasure. They dance and sport, lead a drunken Dionysus to a sleeping Ariadne, or accompany him on his triumphal return from India (Fig. 95). Dionysus with his gift of wine liberates human beings from the troubles and narrowness of their everyday lives. This is also why we need to understand the drunken figures in his thiasos as positive figures in this context. His friend Hercules, the satyrs, and old Papposilenus, who has to be supported on his mule to prevent him from falling off, are all images of a joyful lust for life, images that are common to both house and grave.

How should we interpret these images of pleasure and happiness in funerary contexts? It seems that people wanted to reassure each other in the face of death that life—this life—is beautiful and worth living, exactly in the sense of the motto carpe diem: use the time you have left; enjoy your days as well as you can; celebrate every day like a holiday, knowing that we all have to die.

From Eric Thomson:
Your post reminded me of this Nereid sarcophagus in Cagliari:


For This

Eleanor Farjeon, Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), p. 154:
It might have been next year when we were walking in the country that I asked him the question his friends had asked him when he joined up, but I put it differently. 'Do you know what you are fighting for?' He stopped, and picked up a pinch of earth. 'Literally, for this.' He crumbled it between finger and thumb, and let it fall.


Raison d'Être

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), p. 197:
Something they must destroy, or they seem to themselves to exist for no purpose.


The Finality of Death

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1018-1021 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
But when the black and mortal blood of man
has fallen to the ground before his feet, who then
can sing spells to call it back again?

τὸ δ᾽ ἐπὶ γᾶν πεσὸν ἅπαξ θανάσιμον
πρόπαρ ἀνδρὸς μέλαν αἷμα τίς ἂν
πάλιν ἀγκαλέσαιτ᾽ ἐπαείδων;
David Raeburn and Oliver Thomas, The Agamemnon of Aeschylus: A Commentary for Students (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 177:
πρόπαρ is a rare form of προπάροιθε. We take it as a preposition with ἀνδρός, since the thought of Iphigenia's blood falling before Agamemnon would appear to be near the front of the Chorus's mind. Alternatively πρόπαρ is adverbial ('beforehand') and ἀνδρός depends on αἷμα. Homicide (in contrast to hunger) is irremediable, even by the powers of song. Similarly Cho. 48 'What payment can release blood once it has fallen to the ground?', Eum. 261–3, and 647–8 'When the dust has absorbed the blood of a man once dead, there is no rising again.'
Related post: Ineffectual Prayers.


Primal Things

Hilaire Belloc, The Old Road (London: Archibald Constable and Company, Limited, 1905), p. 3:
There are primal things which move us. Fire has the character of a free companion that has travelled with us from the first exile; only to see a fire, whether he need it or no, comforts every man. Again, to hear two voices outside at night after a silence, even in crowded cities, transforms the mind. A Roof also, large and mothering, satisfies us here in the north much more than modern necessity can explain; so we built in beginning: the only way to carry off our rains and to bear the weight of our winter snows. A Tower far off arrests a man's eye always: it is more than a break in the sky-line; it is an enemy's watch or the rallying of a defence to whose aid we are summoned. Nor are these emotions a memory or a reversion only as one crude theory might pretend; we craved these things—the camp, the refuge, the sentinels in the dark, the hearth—before we made them; they are part of our human manner, and when this civilisation has perished they will reappear.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


The Embodiment of Vitality

Marble sarcophagus, 3rd century A.D., from Saint Médard d'Eyran near Bordeaux (Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. Ma 1346; click to enlarge):

M.J. Vermaseren, Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque (CCCA), V: Aegyptus, Africa, Hispania, Gallia et Britannia (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1986), p. 145:
On the front of the sarcophagus the legend of Dionysus and Ariadne is represented. The god is surrounded by Pans, Satyrs, Maenads and Centaurs. In the right corner Ariadne sleeping, meanwhile Dionysus is arriving. In the left corner is a corresponding figure of a reclining woman next to a small altar on which lies the head of a he-goat. The woman has a crown of ivy-leaves in her hair, she wears a girded himation and a mantle. She holds a sceptre in her left hand and rests on a tympanum with her right elbow. The woman is generally described as Cybele. Even if she turns out not to be the Phrygian goddess herself — the mural crown is missing —, the figure nevertheless suggests a firm relation and mutual influence between the Metroac and Dionysian cults. On the left panel of the lid of the sarcophagus, Dionysus himself is represented, riding in a chariot drawn by two lions.
Paul Zanker, Roman Art, tr. Henry Heitmann-Gordon (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 156:
Sarcophagi with images of Dionysus and his followers (thiasos) were especially popular. The retinue of the wine-god, playing musical instruments, dancing, and reveling, is celebrated as the embodiment of vitality, manifesting itself in ecstatic festivity. The figures of the drunken Silenus and Hercules are thus intended to be regarded positively.
See also Robert Étienne, "Les sarcophages romains de Saint-Médard-d'Eyrans", Revue des Études Anciennes 54 (1953) 361-378 (at 365-367).


Destroy the Four Olds

Guo Jian et al., Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2006), pp. 70-72:
DESTROY THE FOUR OLDS (po sijiu). This campaign was initiated by Red Guards in August 1966 aiming to sweep away all "old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits" (hence "Four Olds") in Chinese society. Endorsed by the Cultural Revolution faction of the central leadership, the campaign resulted in unprecedented damage to the nation's historical landmarks, valuable artifacts, and other material witnesses of culture and civilization and claimed thousands of innocent lives nationwide—1,772 in the city of Beijing alone.

The phrase "old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits" as a pejorative reference to all traditions—Chinese or foreign—that were deemed nonproletarian from the viewpoint of the Culture Revolution ideology first appeared in a 1 June 1966 People's Daily editorial entitled "Sweep Away All Cow-Demons and Snake-Spirits." Lin Biao used the phrase in his speech at the mass rally of 18 August and called on Red Guards to wage war against the Four Olds. As a prelude to Lin's battle cry, an ultimatum had already been drafted by Red Guards at Beijing No. 2 Middle School on the night of 17 August, declaring war on barbershops, tailor shops, photo studios, and used book stores. On the day after the mass rally, Beijing's Red Guards took to the streets and started to smash street signs and name boards for shops, restaurants, schools, factories, and hospitals and replace them with new labels. Chang'an (meaning "eternal peace") Avenue in the center of the city, for instance, was renamed East-Is-Red Avenue, and Beijing Union Hospital, which was established by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1921, now became Anti-Imperialism Hospital. Red Guards made speeches, distributed pamphlets, and put out posters on the streets that dismissed various fashions in hair and dress, stylized photos, pointed boots, and high-heeled shoes as evidence of bourgeois lifestyle. They would stop passers-by whose appearance was unacceptable and humiliate them by shaving their hair, cutting open their trousers, or knocking off their shoe heels. The official endorsement of such actions in two Peoples Daily editorials on 23 August helped to spread the fire of the anti-Four Olds campaign across the country and prompted Red Guards to move further to raid churches, temples, theaters, libraries, and historic sites, causing irretrievable damage. During the raid upon the historic Confucian Homestead, Confucian Temple, and Confucian Cemetery, for instance, more than 1,000 tombs and stone tablets were destroyed or damaged, and more than 2,700 volumes of ancient books and 900 scrolls of calligraphy and paintings were set afire. Across the country, countless books that were deemed "old" were burned, especially those in school libraries.

During the campaign to destroy the Four Olds, violence against innocent people escalated. On 23 August, a group of Beijing Red Guards shepherded several dozen writers, artists, and government officials from the Municipal Cultural Bureau to what used to be the National Academy of imperial China, where a huge pile of theater props and costumes, all deemed "old," was burning. The Red Guards ordered their victims to kneel down around the fire and beat them so hard with belts and theatrical props that several victims lost consciousness. Lao She, a well-known writer and one of the victims of this notorious event, took his own life the next day. Such brutality was widespread during the campaign, especially at the struggle meetings that Red Guards held against their teachers, the so-called black gang members, and the people of the "Black Five Categories." It had become commonplace for Red Guards during the months of August and September to ransack private homes and confiscate personal belongings of the alleged class enemies. Some homes were raided several times by different groups of Red Guards. In Shanghai alone, an estimated 150,000 homes were illegally searched. In the name of sweeping away the Four Olds, the raiders took away not only cultural artifacts that were considered "old," but also currency, bank notes, gold and silver bars, jewelry, and other valuables. At the height of the Destroy the Four Olds campaign, Chairman Mao Zedong continued to hold inspections of millions of Red Guards in Beijing, while Lin Biao, standing by Mao's side at these inspections, continued to praise the Red Guards' attack on the old ways. In late 1966 and early 1967 when Red Guard organizations became more deeply involved in factional conflicts and power-seizure struggles, the anti-Four Olds campaign finally lost its impetus and came to an end.

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Get Yourself Out of the Way

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (1961; rpt. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1965), pp. 18-19:
We must not let loose our own subjectivity upon the pictures and make them its vehicles. We must begin by laying aside as completely as we can all our own preconceptions, interests, and associations. We must make room for Botticelli's Mars and Venus, or Cimabue's Crucifixion, by emptying out our own. After the negative effort, the positive. We must use our eyes. We must look, and go on looking till we have certainly seen exactly what is there. We sit down before the picture in order to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of any art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.


The Secret of Being Happy

Felice Romani, lyrics to the brindisi in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, Act II (tr. Ellen H. Bleiler):
The secret of being happy
I know from experience and I teach it to my friends:
Let the sky be fair or cloudy,
let it be hot or cold any time,
I joke and drink, and laugh at the madmen
who worry about the future.
Let's not care about tomorrow's uncertainties
if we can enjoy today.


Let's take advantage of our blossoming years,
pleasure makes them go by more slowly;
if old age with its livid face
stands behind me and threatens my life,
I joke and drink, and laugh at the madmen
who worry about the future.
Let's not care about tomorrow's uncertainties
if we can enjoy today.

Il segreto per esser felici
So per prova e l'insegno agli amici
Sia sereno, sia nubilo il cielo,
Ogni tempo, sia caldo, sia gelo,
Scherzo e bevo, e derido gl'insani
Che si dan del futuro pensier.
Non curiamo l'incerto domani,
Se quest'oggi n'è dato a goder!


Profittiamo degli'anni fiorenti,
Il piacer li fa correr più lenti;
Se vecchiezza con livida faccia
Stammi a tergo e mia vita minaccia,
Scherzo e bevo, e derido gl'insani
Che si dan del futuro pensier.
Non curiamo l'incerto domani,
Se quest'oggi n'è dato a goder!
I would translate livida as pale.


Asyndetic Privative Adjectives: Polybius

Polybius 1.67.11 (tr. W.R. Paton, rev. F.W. Walbank):
The consequence was that everything was in a state of uncertainty, mistrust and confusion.

ἐξ ὧν ἦν ἀσαφείας, ἀπιστίας, ἀμιξίας ἅπαντα πλήρη.
Id. 15.24.2:
The Thasians told Metrodorus, Philip's general, that they would surrender the city if he would let them remain without a garrison, exempt from tribute, with no soldiers quartered on them and governed by their own laws.

Θάσιοι εἶπον πρὸς Μητρόδωρον τὸν Φιλίππου στρατηγὸν παραδοῦναι τὴν πόλιν εἰ διατηρήσοι αὐτοὺς ἀφρουρήτους, ἀφορολογήτους, ἀνεπισταθμεύτους, νόμοις χρῆσθαι τοῖς ἰδίοις.



What's Wrong with Cervantes?

This statue by Joseph Jacinto Mora, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, depicts Don Quixote and Sancho Panza looking up at their creator Cervantes.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who writes, "Cervantes of all people. There's no rhyme or reason with these self-righteous thugs. I suspect it's actually Western culture they detest. Ritual book-burning will be next."



Terra sigillata goblet from Arezzo, now in Oxford, Ashmolean Museum (accession number AN1966.250):

Thanks to Eric Thomson for help with this post.

Related post: Make Love, Not War.


The Biggest Failures

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ § 14 (tr. Judith Norman):
On the other hand, we are also opposed to a certain vanity that re-emerges here too, acting as if human beings were the great hidden goal of animal evolution. Humans are in no way the crown of creation, all beings occupy the same level of perfection ... And even this is saying too much: comparatively speaking, humans are the biggest failures, the sickliest animals who have strayed the most dangerously far from their instincts — but of course and in spite of everything, the most interesting animals as well!

Wir wehren uns andrerseits gegen eine Eitelkeit, die auch hier wieder laut werden möchte: wie als ob der Mensch die grosse Hinterabsicht der tierischen Entwicklung gewesen sei. Er ist durchaus keine Krone der Schöpfung: jedes Wesen ist, neben ihm, auf einer gleichen Stufe der Vollkommenheit ... Und indem wir das behaupten, behaupten wir noch zuviel: der Mensch ist, relativ genommen, das missratenste Tier, das krankhafteste, das von seinen Instinkten am gefährlichsten abgeirrte—freilich, mit alledem, auch das interessanteste!


Lack of Historical Materials

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter X (on the period from 248 to 268 AD):
The confusion of the times and the scarcity of authentic memorials oppose equal difficulties to the historian, who attempts to preserve a clear and unbroken thread of narration. Surrounded with imperfect fragments, always concise, often obscure, and sometimes contradictory, he is reduced to collect, to compare, and to conjecture: and though he ought never to place his conjectures in the rank of facts, yet the knowledge of human nature, and of the sure operation of its fierce and unrestrained passions, might, on some occasions, supply the want of historical materials.

Friday, June 19, 2020


The Mobs of Great Cities

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIX:
The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson (Portland, Oregon)


Living In a Bubble

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Reflections on the Revolution in France, in his Works, Vol. IV (London: Francis & John Rivington, 1852), p. 187:
It cannot escape observation, that when men are too much confined to professional and faculty habits, and, as it were, inveterate in the recurrent employment of that narrow circle, they are rather disabled than qualified for whatever depends on the knowledge of mankind, on experience in mixed affairs, on a comprehensive, connected view of the various, complicated, external, and internal interests, which go to the formation of that multifarious thing called a state.


Butcher Shop

Relief from Trastevere, 2nd century AD (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Skulpturensammlung, inv. no. ZV 44):

Paul Zanker, Roman Art, tr. Henry Heitmann-Gordon (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 45:
The relief comes from a Roman tomb and has been dated by the woman's hairstyle to the second century A.D. A butcher is shown at work in his shop, with the choicest cuts of meat hanging up behind him. We must assume that his wife, shown to the left, is actually inside their house. She is sitting on a thronelike chair and seems to be writing on a diptychon (wax writing tablet). The hairstyle, clothing, and furniture suggest prosperity. We can see that the butcher was trying to emphasize the status he had attained, despite his less-than-prestigious profession. The sculptor endeavored to reproduce the different cuts of meat and the high standard of the shop as accurately as possible and also tried to convey the family's acquired wealth. The fact that the two spheres of life represented in the image are not clearly differentiated may tend to puzzle modern viewers.
Perhaps, as others have suggested, the butcher's wife is in the shop, keeping the accounts.



Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ § 4 (tr. Judith Norman):
Humanity does not represent a development for the better, does not represent something stronger or higher the way people these days think it does. 'Progress' is just a modern idea, which is to say a false idea. Today's European is still worth considerably less than the Renaissance European; development is not linked to elevation, increase, or strengthening in any necessary way.

Die Menschheit stellt nicht eine Entwicklung zum Besseren oder Stärkeren oder Höheren dar, in der Weise, wie dies heute geglaubt wird. Der "Fortschritt" ist bloß eine moderne Idee, das heißt eine falsche Idee. Der Europäer von Heute bleibt in seinem Werthe tief unter dem Europäer der Renaissance; Fortentwicklung ist schlechterdings nicht mit irgend welcher Nothwendigkeit Erhöhung, Steigerung, Verstärkung.
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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, grovel first appears in Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, I.ii.9:
Gaze on, and grouell on thy face.
It is said to be a back-formation from grovelling, which appears earlier in English. See also Scottish on grufe = face down, in a prone position, derived from Old Norse grúfa, in the phrase á grúfu.

S.C. Woodhouse, English-Greek Dictionary: A Vocabulary of the Attic Language (1910; rpt. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1950), pp. 375-376:

William Smith and Theophilus D. Hall, A Copious and Critical English-Latin Dictionary (New York: American Book Company, 1870), p. 354, seems unsatisfactory:

For Latin equivalents I much prefer Karl Ernst Georges, Kleines lateinisch-deutsches und deutsch-lateinisches Handwörterbuch: Deutsch-lateinischer Teil, 5th ed. (Leipzig: Hahn, 1888), col. 885:

If the Oxford English Dictionary were an illustrated dictionary, what better illustration of grovelling than this photograph of Pope Francis taken last year?



The Use of Letters

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter IX:
[T]he use of letters is the principal circumstance that distinguishes a civilized people from a herd of savages, incapable of knowledge or reflection. Without that artificial help the human memory soon dissipates or corrupts the ideas intrusted to her charge; and the nobler faculties of the mind, no longer supplied with models or with materials, gradually forget their powers: the judgment becomes feeble and lethargic, the imagination languid or irregular. Fully to apprehend this important truth, let us attempt, in an improved society, to calculate the immense distance between the man of learning and the illiterate peasant. The former, by reading and reflection, multiplies his own experience, and lives in distant ages and remote countries; whilst the latter, rooted to a single spot, and confined to a few years of existence, surpasses but very little his fellow-labourer the ox in the exercise of his mental faculties. The same and even a greater difference will be found between nations than between individuals; and we may safely pronounce, that without some species of writing no people has ever preserved the faithful annals of their history, ever made any considerable progress in the abstract sciences, or ever possessed, in any tolerable degree of perfection, the useful and agreeable arts of life.


No Small Percentage

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (1961; rpt. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1965), pp. 5-6:
And we all know very well that we, the literary, include no small percentage of the ignorant, the caddish, the stunted, the warped, and the truculent.

Thursday, June 18, 2020


Enthusiasm for Books

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 1.11.3 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Mind you don't hand over your books to anybody. Keep them for me, as you say you will. I am consumed with enthusiasm for them, as with disgust for all things else. It's unbelievable in how short a time how much worse you will find them than you left them.

libros vero tuos cave cuiquam tradas; nobis eos, quem ad modum scribis, conserva. summum me eorum studium tenet, sicut odium iam ceterarum rerum; quas tu incredibile est quam brevi tempore quanto deteriores offensurus sis quam reliquisti.
Thanks very much to Eric Thomson (friend and fellow bibliomaniac) for directing my attention to T. Keith Dix, "'Beware of promising your library to anyone': Assembling a private library at Rome," in Jason König et al., edd., Ancient Libraries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 209-234 (on Cicero's library).


A Wise and Benevolent Maxim

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter VIII:
We may quote from the Zend Avesta a wise and benevolent maxim, which compensates for many an absurdity. "He who sows the ground with care and diligence acquires a greater stock of religious merit than he could gain by the repetition of ten thousand prayers."


I Cannot Tell a Lie

Aeschylus, Oresteia: Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides. Edited and Translated by Alan H. Sommerstein (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008 = Loeb Classical Library, 146), pp. 72-73 (Agamemnon 620-621):
οὐκ ἔσθ᾿ ὅπως λέξαιμι τὰ ψεύδη καλα
εἰς τὸν πολὺν φίλοισι καρποῦσθαι χρόνον.

There is no way I can tell lies that sound good which will enable my friends to feed on them for any great length of time.
The accent is missing on the final syllable of line 620 in the Greek. The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library:

Read καλά (e.g. M.L. West) or καλὰ (e.g. Eduard Fraenkel).



Life Beyond Classics

Nicholas Horsfall, quoted in James J. O'Hara, "Nicholas Horsfall, 1946-2019," Vergilius 65 (2019) 161-168 (at 166):
There is life beyond classics, involving food and wine, cats, military history, cricket, music of discontinuous periods, chess problems and crime fiction.


The Value of Literature

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (1961; rpt. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1965), pp. 139-140:
This, so far as I can see, is the specific value or good of literature considered as Logos; it admits us to experiences other than our own. They are not, any more than our personal experiences, all equally worth having. Some, as we say, 'interest' us more than others. The causes of this interest are naturally extremely various and differ from one man to another; it may be the typical (and we say 'How true!') or the abnormal (and we say' How strange!'); it may be the beautiful, the terrible, the awe-­inspiring, the exhilarating, the pathetic, the comic, or the merely piquant. Literature gives the entrée to them all. Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.


A Handful of Rowdies

Martin Gilbert, ed., Churchill: The Power of Words (London: Bantam Press, 2012), p. 167:
Churchill spoke again, turning his attention to the Communist Party candidate, William Gallacher, and his followers:
'If about a hundred young men and women in the audience choose to spoil the whole meeting, and if about a hundred of these young reptiles — (cheers and uproar) — choose to deny to democracy, the masses of the people, the power to conduct great assemblies, the fault is with them, the blame is with them, and the punishment will be administered to them by the electors. (Cheers and booing.) Now you see what the Gallacher crowd are worth. (Cheers and uproar.) Now you see the liberty you have if the country were run by them — (cheers and interruptions) — no sense, no brains, just breaking up a meeting that they would not have the wit to address. (Cheers.) The electors will know how to deal with a party whose only weapon is idiotic clamour.' (Cheers.)
Id., p. 168:
'The howling mob intensified their efforts in producing a perfect rabble of vocal discord', the Dundee Courier reported. Churchill remained seated during the outcry. Finally, while the noise continued unabated, he rose, in the hope of saying a few concluding words. According to the Dundee Courier:
His opening sentence was marked by an effort to sing the 'Red Flag', but it soon died away.

He said — Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you most sincerely for the attentive hearing — (applause) — you have given me, and I think you have vindicated in a most effective manner the devotion of the Socialist party to free speech. You have shown, it has been shown, clearly that a handful of rowdies can break up a great meeting, and can then prevent ten times their number from transacting their public business. (Applause.) We may be interrupted here tonight, but we will carry out our purpose at the poll. (Applause.) We will stand up for the rights of British citizens, the rights and liberties of British citizens against the supporters of the Socialist candidates who, if they have their way, would reduce — (uproar) — this great country to the same bear garden to which they have reduced this great meeting. (Applause, and booing.)

Related post: The "No Platform" Movement.

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