Monday, August 31, 2020



Charles Boer, Charles Olson in Connecticut (Rocky Mount: North Carolina Wesleyan College Press, 1991), p. 87 (Boer addresses Olson as "you" throughout):
You felt that the kind of academics you did like, the kind you could use, were becoming extinct. You had the greatest respect for those old-fashioned men of scholarship who knew their subject well enough to answer a learned inquiry with authority. But where were they these days? Professors had become "hip," nice guys, had acceded to students' demands for entertainers—an exaggerated view perhaps, but in your eyes they were all akin to a gang of hired guns who couldn't even shoot.


A Sacred and a Noble Duty

Agathias, Histories 2.1.10 (tr. Joseph D. Frendo):
It is both a sacred and a noble duty to fight for the preservation of one's country and one's national identity and to do one's utmost to repel all those who seek to destroy these things.

πατρίδι μὲν γὰρ ἐπαρήγειν καὶ νόμοις πατρίοις καὶ τοῖς ταῦτα λυμαινομένοις ἥκιστα ἐφιέναι, ἀλλὰ παντὶ σθένει ἀμύνεσθαι, ὅσιόν τι ἂν εἴη καὶ μάλα γενναῖον.
ἥκιστα puzzles me, and Frendo doesn't seem to translate it. Maybe I'm missing something. Also, I might translate νόμοις πατρίοις as "traditions" or "ancestral customs," rather than as "national identity."

I don't have access to Rudolf Keydell's 1967 Greek text in Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae (used by Frendo), only Dindorf's outdated text in Historici Graeci Minores, unfortunately.

Thanks very much to Joel Eidsath for correcting a misprint in the Greek and for his version of the sentence:
For to come to the aid of the fatherland and its customs, and to least permit the ones harming these [to do so], but to defend with every strength: this would be a pious act and very noble.

From Eric Thomson:
Apropos Agathias, there's another instance of ἥκιστα ἐφιέναι in book 1, chapter 12, which Frendo translates as 'non-cooperation':
Μόνοι δὲ οἱ ἐν Λούκᾳ τῇ πόλει διαμέλλειν ἐπειρῶντο καὶ ἥκιστα ἐφιέναι, καίτοι πρότερον ἐτύγχανον οἵδε ξυνθήκας θέμενοι πρὸς Ναρσῆν, ὁμήρους τε παρασχόντες καὶ ἐπομοσάμενοι ὡς εἴ γε τριάκοντα παραδράμοιεν ἡμέραι ...

Only the people of Lucca tried to adopt a policy of temporizing and non-cooperation. And yet it was they who had previously come to terms with Narses, giving him hostages and a sworn undertaking to the effect that, if thirty days elapsed ...


A Melancholy Sight

Hartley Coleridge (1795-1849), "The Books of My Childhood," Essays and Marginalia, Vol. I (London: Edward Moxton, 1851), pp. 343-347 (at 343):
I am a man of small reading and small experience, yet much of my little has lain in bye-paths, where few, perhaps, have strayed at all; still fewer wandered with observant eyes. I have been a loiterer out of the daily ways of men so long, that I scarcely know whether I be in or out of the beaten track. It is easy for the ignorant to find curiosities—for to ignorance, just awakened by the desire of knowledge, everything is new and strange. Often, in the course of my devious peregrinations, have I cried εὕρηκα when stumbling on some theory old as Pythagoras; often should have blushed to find my brightest discoveries, either copy-head commonplaces, or paradoxes of puzzle-books. I have hailed, as new-found lands, the fog-banks that have misled bewildered barques in centuries past; and brought home, as special rarities, wares with which the market has long been glutted.
Id. (at 344):
A well-filled library, though a precious, is yet a melancholy sight. How few of those folios shall I ever read! How few can any one man read aright! How many are little likely, in this generation at least, to be read aright at all; and yet how much might be derived from their pages, had we a just value for the salvages of time!

Johann Boxbarth (1671-1727), Bibliothek


My Secret Heart

Basil Bunting (1900-1985), "Envoi to the Reader," in his Poems, ed. Don Share (London: Faber & Faber, 2016), p. 182:
From above the moon
        to below the fishes
nobody knows
        my secret heart.
Do you suppose
        I'd publish it?
Spell out a fart
        and have it printed?


Sunday, August 30, 2020


Texts Before Tosh

Alan Watson, Jesus and the Jews: The Pharisaic Tradition in John (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1995), p. xiv:
I owe the aphorism "Texts before tosh" immediately to Calum Carmichael, but it goes back to a lesson inculcated by our common master, Daube, who insists that in interpreting a text one must always proceed from the text, not from preconceptions and notions about what must have been. My tool is close textual analysis. John is noted for its realistic details as much as for its ecstatic tone. Theologians concentrate on the latter and St. John's spiritual message. I want to give back the realism to the realistic details.


A Medieval Latin Proverb?

Robert A. Hall, Jr., A Life for Language: A Biographical Memoir of Leonard Bloomfield (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1990), p. 51:
Part of the strong condemnation expressed in the last sentence quoted above was an outgrowth of Bloomfield's disgust with the inexactitude and inaccuracy of the folklore taught in our schools as "grammar" (e.g., "a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing"). He used to say that it would be better for school children to remain totally ignorant of grammar than to be taught such traditional but false doctrines. On more than one occasion, I argued with him about this opinion of his, and tried to point out that, if a child is to recognize the desirability of analysing language at all, this must be demonstrated to him at an age when he is interested in such matters. Even if what the child learns is wrong, he can unlearn it later. But, once he has passed beyond the stage of acquiring his native language (normally wholly outside of awareness), he no longer sees any need for discussing or analysing it. I wish I had known the mediaeval Latin aphorism Melius invenitur veritas ex errore quam ex ignorantia 'it is easier to get at the truth starting from a wrong notion than from no notion at all', so as to quote it to Bloomfield.
Apart from writings by Hall, I can't find this proverb elsewhere. I don't have access to Hans Walther, Proverbia Sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Aevi, 9 vols. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963-1986).

Tim Parkin draws my attention to Francis Bacon, Novum Organum 2.20:
citius emergit veritas ex errore quam ex confusione.


The Lack of Basketry in Our Lives

Alexander Langlands, Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts (2017; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), pp. 340-341:
I get angry over the lack of basketry in our lives. Up against its closest competitors — cardboard and plastic — it emerges the outstanding winner. By their nature, the raw materials for basket making must come from self-sustaining sources, the year-on-year regrowth from coppiced stools of hazel, willow, alder or any other species that sends up sucker shoots from a harvested stool. And yet these materials are mechanically thrashed out of the hedges in our landscapes, or clipped and trimmed from the shrubs in our gardens, deposited in the green-waste bin and carted off to the local recycling centre. Do we, therefore, really need quite so much deforestation-produced cardboard or quite as many plastic crates, the latter a casual by-product of the petrochemicals industry? Both, like baskets, don't last for ever. But when a basket's working life is over, it can be left to rot, to be given back to the earth and to be replaced at no cost to the environment. We just need to give someone the time to make it for us. We need to embrace the cyclic economy. We make for profit and not for use. We are enslaved to growth economics.
My older sister is an expert basket-maker. Her creations are both useful and beautiful, and I'm lucky to own some of them.


Definitions of Philology

Sheldon Pollock, "Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World," Critical Inquiry 35.4 (Summer, 2009) 931-961 (at 933-934):
First, what precisely do I mean by philology? It is an accurate index of philology's fall from grace that most people today have only the vaguest idea what the word means. I have heard it confused with phrenology, and even for those who know better, philology shares something of the disrepute of that nineteenth-century pseudoscience. Admittedly, the definition of any discipline has to be provisional in some sense because the discipline itself is supposed to change with the growth of knowledge, and there isn't any reason why the definition of a discipline should be any neater than the messy world it purports to understand. Still, philologists have not done much to help their cause. An oft-cited definition by a major figure at the foundational moment in the nineteenth century makes philology improbably grand—"the knowledge of what is known"8—though this was not much different from the definition offered by Vico in the previous century, for whom philology is the "awareness of peoples' languages and deeds."9 Perhaps in reaction to these claims, a major figure in the twentieth-century twilight, Roman Jakobson, a "Russian philologist," as he described himself,10 made the definition improbably modest: philology is "the art of reading slowly."11 Most people today, including some I cite in what follows, think of philology either as close reading (the literary critics) or historical-grammatical and textual criticism (the self-described philologists).

What I offer instead as a rough-and-ready working definition at the same time embodies a kind of program, even a challenge: philology is, or should be, the discipline of making sense of texts. It is not the theory of language—that's linguistics—or the theory of meaning or truth—that's philosophy—but the theory of textuality as well as the history of textualized meaning.

8. August Boeckh: "das Erkennen des Erkannten" ("[re-]cognizing [what the human mind has produced—that is] what has been cognized") (quoted in Michael Holquist, "Forgetting Our Name, Remembering Our Mother," PMLA 115 [Dec. 2000]: 1977). See also Axel Horstmann, Antike Theoria und Moderne Wissenschaft: August Boeckh's Konzeption der Philologie (Frankfurt am Main, 1992), p. 103.

9. Giambattista Vico, New Science: Principles of the New Science Concerning the Common Nature of Nations, trans. David Marsh (Harmondsworth, 1999), p. 79; hereafter abbreviated NS. See also NS, p. 5: "By philology, I mean the science of everything that depends on human volition: for example, all histories of the languages, customs, and deeds of various peoples in both war and peace."

10. Holquist, "Forgetting Our Name, Remembering Our Mother," p. 1977.

11. Quoted in Jan Ziolkowski, "What Is Philology? Introduction," On Philology, ed. Ziolkowski (University Park, Pa., 1990), p. 6, though the idea is in fact Nietzsche's, who described himself as "ein Lehrer des langsamen Lesens" (Nietzsche, "Vorrede," Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols. [Munich, 1980], 3:17).
Id. (at 945):
One of the challenges confronting philology in the U.S. today is easy to describe; it's the economy, the hardest part of the new hard world. In a chief financial officer's view of things, philology is a budget-busting nightmare, a labor-intensive, preindustrial, artisanal craft...

Saturday, August 29, 2020



Vicky Osterweil, interviewed by Zoé Samudzi, "Stealing Away in America ," Jewish Currents (June 10, 2020):
The word "loot" was taken from Hindi by [British] colonial officers. It first appears in English in an 1845 colonial officer's handbook.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives earlier examples, s.v. loot, n.2:
Etymology: < Hindi lūt, according to some scholars representing Sanskrit lōtra, lōptra booty, spoil, < the root lup = rup to break; others refer it to Sanskrit lunt to rob.


[1788 Indian Vocab. 77 Loot, plunder, pillage.]
1839 Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. 45 104 He always found the talismanic gathering-word Loot (plunder), a sufficient bond of union in any part of India.
Id., s.v. loot, v.:
1842 [implied in: LD. ELLENBOROUGH Let. 17 May in Hist. Indian Admin. (1874) 194 The plunderers are beaten whenever they are caught, but there is a good deal of burning and 'looting' as they call it.
Calvert Watkins, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1985), p. 55, s.v. reup-:

More from Vicky Osterweil in the same interview:
Riots are really emotive, an emotional way of expressing yourself. It is about pleasure and social reproduction. You care for one another by getting rid of the thing that makes that impossible, which is the police and property. You attack the thing that makes caring impossible in order to have things for free, to share pleasure on the street. Obviously, riots are not the revolution in and of themselves. But they gesture toward the world to come, where the streets are spaces where we are free to be happy, and be with each other, and care for each other.

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Types of Pottery

Alexander Langlands, Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts (2017; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), p. 269:
The local potter couldn't specialise and expect to survive. Instead, they had to turn their hand to a huge range of vessels from pie dishes, pancheons, cream-making pans, bread crocks, butter pots, stew dishes, casseroles, cauldrons, fish dishes and bakers, to storage vessels, ham pans, salt kits, jelly moulds, jugs, plates, bowls and chamber pots. I could go on. In fact, I will: costrels, spittoons, alembics, paint pots, chicken feeders, hog pots, pitchers, fuddling cups, stinkpots, Long Toms, lading pots, bussas, chafing dishes, bed pans, benisons, barm pots, cloughs, clouts, piggins, posset pots, wash pans, whistles and widebottoms.


Cause of Human Ills

Agathias, Histories 1.1.2-5 (tr. Joseph D. Frendo):
[2] I am convinced, for my part, that our generation shall see no end to such ills, since, human nature being what it is, they are a permanent and ever increasing phenomenon and, indeed, one which is practically as old as man himself. History and literature, for example, are full of accounts of battles and fighting, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

[3] I do not, however, subscribe to the general view that such events are controlled by the movements of the heavenly bodies and by some blind impersonal fate. If the influence of fate were paramount in all things then there would be no place for free-will, we would be obliged to regard all attempts at advice, instruction and methodical exposition as a complete waste of time and the hopes and aspirations of the virtuous would be extinguished and annihilated.

[4] But I do not think it right, either, to hold the Divinity responsible for fighting and bloodshed. No, I could never put forward or accept the view that a benevolent being, which is the negation of all evil, could delight in wholesale slaughter.

[5] It is the souls of men that lapse voluntarily into greed and violence and fill every land with wars and dissensions, giving rise thereby to widespread destruction, to the uprooting of whole nations and to countless other horrors.

[2] οἶμαι γὰρ οὐδὲ ἐπιλείψειν ποτὲ τὸν αἰῶνα ἡμῶν τὰ τοιάδε, μένειν δὲ ἐς ἀεὶ καἰ ἀκμάζειν, ἔςτ’ ἂν ἡ αὐτὴ φύσις ἀνθρώπων ᾖ, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἄνωθεν ἡμῖν, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, συνεισῆλθε τῷ βίῳ. καὶ οὖν μεστὴ μὲν ἡ ποίησις, πλήρης δὲ ξύμπασα ἱστόρια πολέμων τε καὶ παρατάιξεων, καὶ οὐκ ἂν ἄλλο τι εὕροις ἐν τῇδε κατὰ τὸ μᾶλλον ἀναγεγραμμένον·

[3] αἴτ́ιον δὲ οἶμαι τούτων οὐχ, ὅπερ οἱ πολλοί φασιν, ἀστέρων τε πορείας καὶ τὸ μεμαρμένον καί τινας παραλόγους ἀνάγκας. εἰ γὰρ τὰ τῆς πεπρωμένης ἐν πᾶσι νικῴη, ἀφαιρεθείη δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸ προαιρετὸν καὶ ἑκούσιον, παραινέσεις μὲν ἁπάσας καὶ τέχνας καὶ διδασκαλίας κενὰ καὶ ἄχρηστα νομιοῦμεν, οἰχήσονται δὲ φροῦδοι καὶ ἄκαρποι αἰ τῶν ἄριστα βιούντων ἐλπίδες.

[4] οὐ μέντοι ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ τὸ θεῖον αἴτιον, ὥς γε ἐμὲ γιγιγνώσκειν, φόνων τε καὶ συμπλοκῶν ἡγεῖσθαι προσήκει. τὸ γὰρ ἀγαθὸν ἐκεῖνο καὶ ἀλεξίκακον φόνιόν τε καὶ φιλοπόλεμον οὔτ’ ἂν ἔγωγε φήσαιμι, οὔτε εἰπόντι πιστεύσαιμι.

[5] ἐς δὲ πλεονεξίαν τε καὶ ἀδικίαν αἱ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ψυχαὶ αὐθαίρετα κατολισθαίνουσαι πολέμων τε καὶ ταραχῶν ἅπαντα ἐμφοροῦσιν, ἐνθένδε τε ὄλεθροι ξυμβαινουσι πολλοί,̀ καὶ γένη ἀνθρώπων ἀνάρπαστα γίγνεται, καὶ μύριαι ἄλλαι ὠδίνονται κῆρες.



Antal Szerb (1901-1945), The Third Tower: Journeys in Italy, tr. Len Rix (London: Pushkin Press, 2014), pp. 69-70:
I have been alone here for several days now. Apart from seeking information and making arrangements, I have exchanged not a word with anyone. It is the first time in my life that I have been on my own for so long.

It quite astonishes me how little I miss human company. I would never have thought how well I would get by without conversation and companionship. For advice I go to Baedeker. He serves as my real friend. He thinks of everything, tells me where I should go. Anything I really want to say is committed to a notepad.

I can feel the good this solitude is doing me. My thoughts arrange themselves in longer sequences. My feelings are more intense, and I see their outlines more clearly. Chaotic thoughts are reduced to order, and almost everything welling up inside me spills out and ripens toward form and expression.

It is a comfort to know that I have discovered this panacea, even if it won't always be part of my life.

Thursday, August 27, 2020


Common Dispositions

Edmund Burke, "Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents," Pre-Revolutionary Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 116-192 (at 117):
To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greatest part of mankind; indeed the necessary effects of the ignorance and levity of the vulgar.


Intention in History

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Waste Books K.170 (tr. Steven Tester):
What I dislike about the method of treating history is that intention is seen in every action, and every event is attributed to some intention. This is truly quite wrong. The greatest events occur without any intention; chance makes good of mistakes and expands the most cleverly planned undertaking. The greatest events in the world are not produced; they happen.

Was mir an der Art, Geschichte zu behandeln, nicht gefällt, ist, daß man in allen Handlungen Absichten sieht, und alle Vorfälle aus Absichten herleitet. Das ist aber wahrlich ganz falsch. Die größ- ten Begebenheiten ereignen sich ohne alle Absicht; der Zufall macht Fehler gut, und erweitert das klügst angelegte Unternehmen. Die großen Begebenheiten in der Welt werden nicht gemacht, sondern finden sich.


In Heaven

Werner Peek, Griechische Vers-Inschriften, Vol. I: Grab-Epigramme (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1955), p. 529, # 1765 (Smyrna, 2nd-3rd century A.D.?), tr. Richard Hunter, The Measure of Homer: The Ancient Reception of the Iliad and the Odyssey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), p. 49:
Night, the giver of sleep, holds the light of my life,
having released my body from grievous illnesses into sweet sleep
and bringing me the gift of oblivion at the limit of my Fate.
My soul, however, raced from my heart into the upper air like a breeze,
quickly lifting its light wing through the thick air.
The house of the blessed gods, to which I came near, holds me,
and in the heavenly halls I see the light of the Dawn.
Zeus and the immortal gods have granted me honour
at the urgings of Hermes, who led me by the hand to heaven,
and at once granted me the honour and glorious renown
to dwell with the blessed ones in the starry heaven,
sitting beside them in friendship on golden thrones.
As I take pleasure in the tripods and the ambrosial tables
at the feast, the gods look upon me in friendly manner,
and a smile appears on the cheeks of their immortal heads,
when I pour [nectar] for the blessed ones at libations.

νὺξ μὲν ἐμὸν κατέχει ζωῆς φάος ὑπνοδοτείρη,
ἀλγεινῶν λύσασα νόσων δέμας ἡδέϊ ὕπνωι,
λήθης δῶρα φέρουσ’ ἐπ’ ἐμοὶ πρὸς τέρμασι Μοίρης·
ψυχὴ δ’ ἐ<κ> κραδίης δράμ’ ἐς αἴθερον εἴκελος αὔρηι
κοῦφον ἐπαιωροῦσα δρόμωι πτερὸν ἠέρι πολλῶι.        5
καί με θεῶν μακάρων κατέχει δόμος ἆσσον ἰόντα,
οὐρανίοις τε δόμοισι βλέπω φάος Ἠριγενείης.
τειμὴ δ’ ἐκ Διός ἐστι σὺν ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι
Ἑρμείαο λόγοις· ὅς μ’ οὐρανὸν ἤγαγε χειρῶν
αὐτίκα τειμήσας καί μοι κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἔδωκεν        10
οἰκεῖν ἐν μακάρεσσι κατ’ οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα,
χρυσείοισι θρόνοισι παρήμενον ἐς φιλότητα·
καί με παρὰ τριπόδεσσι καὶ ἀμβροσίηισι τραπέζαι[ς]
ἡδόμενον κατὰ δαῖτα θεοὶ φίλον εἰσορόωσιν,
κρατὸς ἀπ’ ἀθανάτοιο πα{τ}ρη<ΐ>σι μειδιόωντες        15
[νέκταρ ὅτ’ ἐν] προχοαῖσιν ἐπισπένδω μακάρεσσι.

3 πρὸς τέρμασι
lapis: προστάγμασι Kaibel
16 suppl. Boeckh
See Franz Cumont, After Life in Roman Paganism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922), pp. 204-206, on those who, after their deaths, become table companions of the gods.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


Odd and Perverse

Henry David Thoreau, Journals (January 11, 1857):
Men even think me odd and perverse because I do not prefer their society to this nymph or wood-god rather. But I have tried them. I have sat down with a dozen of them together in a club, and instantly — they did not inspire me. One or another abused our ears with many words and a few thoughts which were not theirs. There was very little genuine goodness apparent. We are such hollow pretenders. I lost my time.


Fear of Dismissal

Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State (London: T.N. Foulis, 1912), p. 85:
The real sanction in our society for the arrangements by which it is conducted is not punishment enforceable by the Courts, but the withholding of livelihood from the dispossessed by the possessors. Most men now fear the loss of employment more than they fear legal punishment, and the discipline under which men are coerced in their modern forms of activity in England is the fear of dismissal. The true master of the Englishman to-day is not the Sovereign nor the officers of State, nor, save indirectly, the laws; his true master is the Capitalist.
Id., p. 141:
Of what are the mass of men now most afraid in a Capitalist State? Not of the punishments that can be inflicted by a Court of Law, but of "the sack."


On Equal Terms

Seneca, Natural Questions 5.1.8-9 (on earthquakes; tr. Harry M. Hine):
This is one outstanding feature of the justice of nature, that when it comes to death, we are all on equal terms. So it makes no difference whether a single stone crushes me, or I am buried by an entire mountain; whether the weight of a single house falls on me, and I perish beneath its paltry rubble and dust, or the entire earth blots out my life; whether I breathe my last in the daylight and in the open or in a huge rift in the gaping earth; whether I am carried to those depths alone or with a great company of peoples falling with me. It makes no difference to me how great a commotion surrounds my death; death amounts to the same thing everywhere.

hoc habet inter cetera iustitiae suae natura praecipuum quod, cum ad exitum ventum est, omnes in aequo sumus. nihil itaque interest utrum me lapis unus elidat, an monte toto premar; utrum supra me domus unius onus veniat et sub exiguo eius cumulo ac pulvere exspirem, an totus caput meum terrarum orbis abscondat; in luce hunc et in aperto spiritum reddam an in vasto terrarum dehiscentium sinu; solus in illud profundum an cum magno comitatu populorum concadentium ferar; nihil interest mea quantus circa mortem meam tumultus sit: ipsa ubique tantundem est.


Should You Go to University?

David Hume, letter to James Birch (May 18, 1735), ed. Ernest Campbell Mossner, "Hume at La Flèche, 1735: An Unpublished Letter," Texas Studies in English 37 (1958) 30-33 (at 32):
But as you know there is nothing to be learnt from a Professor, which is not to be met with in Books, & there is nothing requir'd in order to reap all possible Advantages from them, but an Order & Choice in reading them; in which, besides the small Assistance I can give you, your own Judgement wou'd alone be sufficient; I see no reason why we shou'd either go to an University, more than to any other place, or ever trouble ourselves about the Learning or Capacity of the Professsor.
Thanks to Kevin Muse for drawing my attention to Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Turpin (February 5, 1769):
The only help a youth wants is to be directed what books to read, and in what order to read them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


A Little Learning

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Waste Books K.98 (tr. Steven Tester):
It is certainly better not to have studied a subject at all than to have studied it superficially. For when healthy common sense makes a judgment about something it does not go so far astray as a little erudition does.

Es ist gewiß besser, eine Sache gar nicht studiert zu haben, als oberflächlich. Denn der bloße gesunde Menschenverstand, wenn er eine Sache beurteilen will, schießt nicht so sehr fehl als die halbe Gelehrsamkeit.


Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death

Tacitus, Annals 2.15 (tr. John Jackson):
Was there another course left for them but to hold their freedom or to die before enslavement?

aliud sibi reliquum quam tenere libertatem aut mori ante servitium?
Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm = The Second World War, Vol. I (1948; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1985), p. 312:
Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.



Isocrates, Panegyricus 50 (tr. George Norlin):
And so far has our city [Athens] distanced the rest of mankind in thought and in speech that her pupils have become the teachers of the rest of the world; and she has brought it about that the name Hellenes suggests no longer a race but an intelligence, and that the title Hellenes is applied rather to those who share our culture than to those who share a common blood.

τοσοῦτον δ' ἀπολέλοιπεν ἡ πόλις ἡμῶν περὶ τὸ φρονεῖν καὶ λέγειν τοὺς ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους, ὥσθ' οἱ ταύτης μαθηταὶ τῶν ἄλλων διδάσκαλοι γεγόνασι, καὶ τὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὄνομα πεποίηκε μηκέτι τοῦ γένους ἀλλὰ τῆς διανοίας δοκεῖν εἶναι, καὶ μᾶλλον Ἕλληνας καλεῖσθαι τοὺς τῆς παιδεύσεως τῆς ἡμετέρας ἢ τοὺς τῆς κοινῆς φύσεως μετέχοντας.
Werner Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, tr. Gilbert Highet, Vol. III: The Conflict of Cultural Ideals in the Age of Plato (New York: Oxford University Press, 1944), pp. 79-81:
Isocrates is not discarding the powerful ties of blood. They are dearer to him than to most of his fellow-citizens, because he is constructing a Panhellenic morality on the consciousness of racial unity, and by that new moral system he is endeavouring to set limits to the egotistic power-politics of the separate Greek states. But he believes that intellectual nationalism is nobler than racial nationalism, and when he states his views he knows exactly what they will mean for the political position of Hellenism in the world. When he calls all the Greeks to help in his plan for conquering the barbarians, he is basing it much more on the Greek feeling of vast intellectual superiority to other races than on the actual power and resources of the Greek states. At first sight it looks like a gigantic paradox for Isocrates to begin his proclamation of the supra-national civilizing mission of Greece by an extravagant utterance of national pride; but the apparent contradiction disappears when we connect the supra-national ideal of Greece—its universally valuable paideia—with the realistic political plan of conquering Asia and settling it with Greek colonists. In fact, that ideal contains a higher justification for the new national imperialism, in that it identifies what is specifically Greek with what is universally human. This is not actually said by Isocrates; and some may object to our interpretation. But the only meaning that can possibly be given to the universal exaltation of Greek paideia which fills Isocrates' thought is this: the Greeks, through the logos, over which they naturally have command, have revealed to other nations a principle which they too must recognize and adopt because its value is independent of race—the ideal of paideia, of culture. There is a form of nationalism which is expressed by keeping oneself apart from other races. That is produced by weakness and self-limitation, because it is based on the feeling that it can assert itself only in artificial isolation. In Isocrates, national feeling is that of a culturally superior nation which has realized that the efforts it has made to attain a universal standard of perfection in all its intellectual activities are its highest claim to victory in competition with other races—since these other races have accepted the Greek forms as the absolute expression of civilization. We might easily think of modern analogies, talk of cultural propaganda, and compare rhetoric to the modern machinery of press publicity which grinds into action before economic and military conquest begins. But Isocrates' faith grows from a deep insight into the true character of the Greek mind and of Greek paideia; and history shows that it was something more than political propaganda. From all his words we can feel the living breath of Hellenism. The new era actually did fall into the forms which Isocrates had thought out before its advent. Without the idea which he here expresses for the first time, the idea that Greek paideia was something universally valuable, there would have been no Macedonian Greek world-empire, and the universal culture which we call Hellenistic would never have existed.

Monday, August 24, 2020


The Religion of Complexity

Paul Kingsnorth, "Dark Ecology," Orion Magazine:
A brushcutter is essentially a mechanical scythe. It is a great heavy piece of machinery that needs to be operated with both hands and requires its user to dress up like Darth Vader in order to swing it through the grass. It roars like a motorbike, belches out fumes, and requires a regular diet of fossil fuels. It hacks through the grass instead of slicing it cleanly like a scythe blade. It is more cumbersome, more dangerous, no faster, and far less pleasant to use than the tool it replaced. And yet you see it used everywhere: on motorway verges, in parks, even, for heaven's sake, in nature reserves. It's a horrible, clumsy, ugly, noisy, inefficient thing. So why do people use it, and why do they still laugh at the scythe?

To ask that question in those terms is to misunderstand what is going on. Brushcutters are not used instead of scythes because they are better; they are used because their use is conditioned by our attitudes toward technology. Performance is not really the point, and neither is efficiency. Religion is the point: the religion of complexity. The myth of progress manifested in tool form. Plastic is better than wood. Moving parts are better than fixed parts. Noisy things are better than quiet things. Complicated things are better than simple things. New things are better than old things. We all believe this, whether we like it or not. It's how we were brought up.


Root yourself in something: some practical work, some place, some way of doing. Pick up your scythe or your equivalent and get out there and do physical work in clean air surrounded by things you cannot control. Get away from your laptop and throw away your smartphone, if you have one. Ground yourself in things and places, learn or practice human-scale convivial skills. Only by doing that, rather than just talking about it, do you learn what is real and what's not, and what makes sense and what is so much hot air.
A friend just took this photograph on the northwest coast of São Miguel, Azores:

"I asked him the name of the implement as it's neither sickle nor scythe exactly: 'espadão', which will be Latin spatha and augmentative suffix."

Related posts:


The Oxford Way

Derek Brewer (1923-2008), in James T. Como, ed., C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Reminiscences (New York: Macmillan, 1979), p. 45:
At each of these [weekly tutorials] he also gave one the reading for the following week, sometimes pointing out the most important texts. Rarely did he suggest any critical books, and in those days there were indeed few that were much good. Neither he nor anyone else ever mentioned to me such names as I.A. Richards or F.R. Leavis. Nor did Lewis ever mention his own work. When in a discussion of Addison I quoted some published opinion of his own at him, he said, "Ah, if you ever become a tutor, never publish anything!"—advice that a number of Oxford dons must have taken and given.

Lewis's method was not unfamiliar to me. I had been taught by brilliant men at my grammar school, the Crypt School, Gloucester, on my own, and in the Oxford way of concentrating on actual texts and their historical meaning, rather than on modern critical books. Lewis's education had been similar. In 1959 he said to me that he had read few critics and been little influenced by them, though some very bad literary historians had influenced him greatly when young. I wish I had asked him for their names.


Christian Ideals

Henri Troyat, Tolstoy, tr. Nancy Amphoux (Garden City: Doubleday, 1967), p. 536:
The prudish Chertkov soberly noted, "Tolstoy has learned to ride a bicycle. Is this not inconsistent with his Christian ideals?"
Alexander Langlands, Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts (2017; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), p. 37:
Bikes require a certain condition of surface to operate effectively on, such as tarmac. They also have to be manufactured and maintained at a cost (tyres, brake pads and oil for moving parts). While the bicycle might be considered an example of a machine that has improved our quality of life immeasurably, it also removes us from a natural state. The greater velocity allowed by the mechanical advantage places us in a more exposed and vulnerable position. If for whatever reason the rider were to part company with the bike in motion, the body is not designed to impact on hard surfaces at these increased speeds, and the consequences can be severe, if not fatal.

It might seem specious to criticise the bicycle. After all, unlike the motor car, it uses human power to propel it. Without a bike I could never have done my paper round as a kid. In which case, I wouldn't have earned pocket money, the paper shop and newspaper magnate would have sold fewer papers, and our customers would have been less abreast of current affairs. In short, everybody would have lost out. The point I'm trying to make here is that in the act of cycling there is a level of disengagement with the physical reality of getting from A to B. We may save time, and, in my case, earn some precious needed cash as a teenager. But will it always equate to the cost of increasing physical jeopardy, the capital cost of bicycle manufacture and maintenance, and the manner in which we are disengaging with the material world around us? In this context, to walk might be seen as being more cræfty.


The Human Race

Voltaire, Zadig, Chapter IX (tr. Tobias Smollett):
He then represented to himself the human species, as it really is, as a parcel of insects devouring one another on a little atom of clay.

Il se figurait alors les hommes tels qu'ils sont en effet, des insectes se dévorant les uns les autres sur un petit atome de boue.

Statue of Voltaire Vandalized by Barbarians


Neglect of Words

Roger Ascham (1515-1568), The Scholemaster, ed. John E.B. Mayor (London: Bell and Daldy, 1863), p. 137:
Ye know not, what hurt ye do to learning, that care not for wordes, but for matter, and so make a devorse betwixt the tong and the hart. For marke all aiges: looke upon the whole course of both the Greeke and Latin tonge, and ye shall surelie finde, that, whan apte and good wordes began to be neglected, and properties of those two tonges to be confounded, than also began ill deedes to spring: strange maners to oppresse good orders, newe and fond opinions to strive with olde and trewe doctrine, first in Philosophie, and after in Religion: right judgement of all thinges to be perverted, and so vertue with learning is contemned, and studie left of: of ill thoughtes cummeth perverse judgement: of ill deedes springeth lewde taulke. Which fower misorders, as they mar mans life, so destroy they good learning withall.
fower = four.

Albert Camus, The Plague (tr. Stuart Gilbert):
I'd come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clean-cut language.

J'ai compris que tout le malheur des hommes venait de ce qu'ils ne tenaient pas un langage clair.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


The Three Assertions

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power § 400 (tr. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale):
The three assertions:
The ignoble is the higher (protest of the "common man");
the antinatural is the higher (protest of the underprivileged);
the average is the higher (protest of the herd, of the "mediocre").
Thus in the history of morality a will to power finds expression, through which now the slaves and oppressed, now the ill-constituted and those who suffer from themselves, now the mediocre attempt to make those value judgments prevail that are favorable to them.

To this extent, the phenomenon of morality is, from a biological standpoint, highly suspicious. Morality has developed hitherto at the expense of: the rulers and their specific instincts, the well-constituted and beautiful natures, those who are in any sense independent and privileged.

Morality is therefore an opposition movement against the efforts of nature to achieve a higher type. Its effect is: mistrust of life in general (in so far as its tendencies are considered "immoral") — hostility toward the senses (in so far as the supreme values are considered to be opposed to the supreme instincts) — degeneration and self-destruction of "higher natures," because it is precisely in them that the conflict becomes conscious.

Die drei Behauptungen:
Das Unvornehme ist das Höhere (Protest des »gemeinen Mannes«);
das Widernatürliche ist das Höhere (Protest der Schlechtweggekommenen);
das Durchschnittliche ist das Höhere (Protest der Herde, der »Mittleren«).
In der Geschichte der Moral drückt sich also ein Wille zur Macht aus, durch den bald die Sklaven und Unterdrückten, bald die Mißratenen und An-sich-Leidenden, bald die Mittelmäßigen den Versuch machen, die ihnen günstigsten Werturteile durchzusetzen.

Insofern ist das Phänomen der Moral vom Standpunkt der Biologie aus höchst bedenklich. Die Moral hat sich bisher entwickelt auf Unkosten: der Herrschenden und ihrer spezifischen Instinkte, der Wohlgeratenen und schönen Naturen, der Unabhängigen und Privilegierten in irgendeinem Sinne.

Die Moral ist also eine Gegenbewegung gegen die Bemühungen der Natur, es zu einem höheren Typus zu bringen. Ihre Wirkung ist; Mißtrauen gegen das Leben überhaupt (insofern dessen Tendenzen als »unmoralisch« empfunden werden) — Sinnlosigkeit, Widersinn (insofern die obersten Werte als im Gegensatz zu den obersten Instinkten empfunden werden) — Entartung und Selbstzerstörung der »höheren Naturen«, weil gerade in ihnen der Konflikt bewußt wird.


On Measuring Beavers

Richard Tarrant, Texts, Editors, and Readers: Methods and Problems in Latin Textual Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), p. 11:
Finally, I cannot resist mentioning a slip for which I was responsible when editing the Canadian classical journal Phoenix. The Spring 1980 issue included a review of the edition of a text on military surveying, De metatione castrorum ('On measuring camps'). In typing up the table of contents, I rendered the title as De metatione castorum, which could mean either 'On measuring chaste men' or 'On measuring beavers'. An alert reader who adopted the second interpretation wrote to congratulate me on perpetrating such a quintessentially Canadian error.


Human and Divine Goods

Plato, Laws 1.631b-d (tr. Thomas L. Pangle):
They are correct laws, laws that make those who use them happy. For they provide all the good things. Now the good things are two fold, some human, some divine. The former depend on the divine goods, and if a city receives the greater it will also acquire the lesser. If not, it will lack both. Health leads the lesser goods; in the second place is beauty; third is strength, both in running and in all the other motions of the body; and fourth is Wealth—not blind but sharp-sighted, insofar as it follows prudence. Prudence, in turn, is first and leader among the divine goods. Second after intelligence comes a moderate disposition of the soul, and from these two mixed with courage comes justice, in third place. Courage is fourth. All of these last goods are by nature placed prior in rank to the first, and this is the rank they should be placed in by the legislator.

ἔχουσι γὰρ ὀρθῶς τοὺς αὐτοῖς χρωμένους εὐδαίμονας ἀποτελοῦντες· πάντα γὰρ τὰ ἀγαθὰ πορίζουσι. διπλᾶ δὲ ἀγαθά ἐστι, τὰ μὲν ἀνθρώπινα, τὰ δὲ θεῖα· ἤρτηται δ᾿ ἐκ τῶν θείων θάτερα· καὶ ἐὰν μὲν δέχηταί τις τὰ μείζονα, παρίσταται καὶ τὰ ἐλάττονα, εἰ δὲ μή, στέρεται ἀμφοῖν· ἔστι δὲ τὰ μὲν ἐλάττονα ὧν ἡγεῖται μὲν ὑγίεια, κάλλος δὲ δεύτερον, τὸ δὲ τρίτον ἰσχὺς εἴς τε δρόμον καὶ εἰς τὰς ἄλλας πάσας κινήσεις τῷ σώματι, τέταρτον δὲ δὴ πλοῦτος, οὐ τυφλός, ἀλλ᾿ ὀξὺ βλέπων, ἄνπερ ἅμ᾿ ἕπηται φρονήσει. ὅ δὴ πρῶτον αὖ τῶν θείων ἡγεμονοῦν ἐστὶν ἀγαθῶν, ἡ φρόνησις, δεύτερον δὲ μετὰ νοῦ σώφρων ψυχῆς ἕξις· ἐκ δὲ τούτων μετ᾿ ἀνδρίας κραθέντων τρίτον ἂν εἴη δικαιοσύνη, τέταρτον δὲ ἀνδρία. ταῦτα δὲ πάντα ἐκείνων ἔμπροσθεν τέτακται φύσει, καὶ δὴ καὶ τῷ νομοθέτῃ τακτέον οὕτω.
Simonides, fragment 451 (tr. David A. Campbell):
To be healthy is best for mortal man,
second is to be handsome in body,
third is to be wealthy without trickery,
fourth, to be young with one’s friends.

ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστον ἀνδρὶ θνητῷ,
δεύτερον δὲ φυὰν καλὸν γενέσθαι,
τὸ δὲ τρίτον πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως,
τέταρτον δὲ ἡβᾶν μετὰ τῶν φίλων.
See Susan Sauvé Meyer, Plato, Laws 1 and 2. Translated with an Introduction and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 108-114.


The Power of Speech

Isocrates, Nicocles 5-9 (tr. George Norlin):
[5] For in the other powers which we possess we are in no respect superior to other living creatures; nay, we are inferior to many in swiftness and in strength and in other resources;

[6] but, because there has been implanted in us the power to persuade each other and to make clear to each other whatever we desire, not only have we escaped the life of wild beasts, but we have come together and founded cities and made laws and invented arts; and, generally speaking, there is no institution devised by man which the power of speech has not helped us to establish.

[7] For this it is which has laid down laws concerning things just and unjust, and things base and honourable; and if it were not for these ordinances we should not be able to live with one another. It is by this also that we confute the bad and extol the good. Through this we educate the ignorant and appraise the wise; for the power to speak well is taken as the surest index of a sound understanding, and discourse which is true and lawful and just is the outward image of a good and faithful soul.

[8] With this faculty we both contend against others on matters which are open to dispute and seek light for ourselves on things which are unknown; for the same arguments which we use in persuading others when we speak in public, we employ also when we deliberate in our own thoughts; and, while we call eloquent those who are able to speak before a crowd, we regard as sage those who most skilfully debate their problems in their own minds.

[9] And, if there is need to speak in brief summary of this power, we shall find that none of the things which are done with intelligence take place without the help of speech, but that in all our actions as well as in all our thoughts speech is our guide, and is most employed by those who have the most wisdom. Therefore, those who dare to speak with disrespect of educators and teachers of philosophy deserve our opprobrium no less than those who profane the sanctuaries of the gods.

[5] τοῖς μὲν γὰρ ἄλλοις οἷς ἔχομεν οὐδὲν τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων διαφέρομεν, ἀλλὰ πολλῶν καὶ τῷ τάχει καὶ τῇ ῥώμῃ καὶ ταῖς ἄλλαις εὐπορίαις καταδεέστεροι 6τυγχάνομεν ὄντες·

[6] ἐγγενομένου δ᾿ ἡμῖν τοῦ πείθειν ἀλλήλους καὶ δηλοῦν πρὸς ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς περὶ ὧν ἂν βουληθῶμεν, οὐ μόνον τοῦ θηριωδῶς ζῆν ἀπηλλάγημεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ συνελθόντες πόλεις ᾠκίσαμεν καὶ νόμους ἐθέμεθα καὶ τέχνας εὕρομεν, καὶ σχεδὸν ἅπαντα τὰ δι᾿ ἡμῶν μεμηχανημένα λόγος ἡμῖν ἐστιν ὁ συγκατασκευάσας.

[7] οὗτος γὰρ περὶ τῶν δικαίων καὶ τῶν ἀδίκων καὶ τῶν αἰσχρῶν καὶ τῶν καλῶν ἐνομοθέτησεν· ὧν μὴ διαταχθέντων οὐκ ἂν οἷοί τ᾿ ἦμεν οἰκεῖν μετ᾿ ἀλλήλων. τούτῳ καὶ τοὺς κακοὺς ἐξελέγχομεν καὶ τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἐγκωμιάζομεν. διὰ τούτου τούς τ᾿ ἀνοήτους παιδεύομεν καὶ τοὺς φρονίμους δοκιμάζομεν· τὸ γὰρ λέγειν ὡς δεῖ τοῦ φρονεῖν εὖ μέγιστον σημεῖον ποιούμεθα, καὶ λόγος ἀληθὴς καὶ νόμιμος καὶ δίκαιος ψυχῆς ἀγαθῆς καὶ πιστῆς εἴδωλόν ἐστιν.

[8] μετὰ τούτου καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀμφισβητησίμων ἀγωνιζόμεθα καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀγνοουμένων σκοπούμεθα· ταῖς γὰρ πίστεσιν αἷς τοὺς ἄλλους λέγοντες πείθομεν, ταῖς αὐταῖς ταύταις βουλευόμενοι χρώμεθα, καὶ ῥητορικοὺς μὲν καλοῦμεν τοὺς ἐν τῷ πλήθει δυναμένους λέγειν, εὐβούλους δὲ νομίζομεν οἵτινες ἂν αὐτοὶ πρὸς αὑτοὺς ἄριστα περὶ τῶν πραγμάτων διαλεχθῶσιν.

[9] εἰ δὲ δεῖ συλλήβδην περὶ τῆς δυνάμεως ταύτης εἰπεῖν, οὐδὲν τῶν φρονίμως πραττομένων εὑρήσομεν ἀλόγως γιγνόμενον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἔργων καὶ τῶν διανοημάτων ἁπάντων ἡγεμόνα λόγον ὄντα, καὶ μάλιστα χρωμένους αὐτῷ τοὺς πλεῖστον νοῦν ἔχοντας· ὥστε τοὺς τολμῶντας βλασφημεῖν περὶ τῶν παιδευόντων καὶ φιλοσοφούντων ὁμοίως ἄξιον μισεῖν ὥσπερ τοὺς εἰς τὰ τῶν θεῶν ἐξαμαρτάνοντας.
On this "hymn to logos" see Werner Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, tr. Gilbert Highet, Vol. III: The Conflict of Cultural Ideals in the Age of Plato (New York: Oxford University Press, 1944), pp. 88-91, and Takis Poulakos, Speaking for the Polis: Isocrates' Rhetorical Education (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997), pp. 9-25.


Learning versus Experience

Roger Ascham (1515-1568), The Scholemaster, ed. John E.B. Mayor (London: Bell and Daldy, 1863), pp. 54-55:
Learning teacheth more in one yeare than experience in twentie: And learning teacheth safelie, when experience maketh mo miserable then wise. He hasardeth sore, that waxeth wise by experience. An unhappie Master he is, that is made cunning by manie shippewrakes: A miserable merchant, that is neither riche nor wise, but after som bankroutes. It is costlie wisdom, that is bought by experience. We know by experience it selfe, that it is a mervelous paine, to finde oute but a short waie by long wandering. And surelie, he that wold prove wise by experience, he maie be wittie in deede, but even like a swift runner, that runneth fast out of his waie, and upon the night, he knoweth not whither. And verilie they be fewest of number, that be happie or wise by unlearned experience. And looke well upon the former life of those fewe, whether your example be old or yonge, who without learning have gathered, by long experience, a litle wisdom, and som happines: and whan you do consider, what mischeife they have committed, what dangers they have escaped (and yet twenty for one do perishe in the adventure) than thinke well with yourselfe, whether ye wold, that your owne son shold cum to wisdom and happines by the waie of soch experience or no.

Saturday, August 22, 2020


Worrisome Developments

Richard Tarrant, Texts, Editors, and Readers: Methods and Problems in Latin Textual Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), p. 149:
I do not believe that technological advances will fundamentally alter the way that classical texts are edited, but there have already been significant changes in how editions are constructed and how the information they contain is disseminated.

Some of those developments are distinctly worrisome. For example, what happens to textual criticism's focus on establishing the most reliable possible text in an environment in which texts circulate in electronic form and are downloaded from out-of-date or uncritical editions? In some respects, the use of electronic databases marks a return to conditions in the early days of printing, when editions of classical texts were usually reproductions of late manuscripts of no special merit.


A Monstrosity

Eric Gill, "Art," Blackfriars, Vol. 21, No. 249 (December, 1940) 680-689 (at 689):
The banker's world which we have made or by which we are held prisoners, is a monstrosity, a disease, a product of sin.


Omnipotent Moral Busybodies

C.S. Lewis, "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," Res Judicatae 6 (1952-1954) 224-230 (at 228):
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell on earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.


An Athenian James Thurber

Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg, "I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue": Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), pp. 4-5:
The figures Theophrastus describes, all of whom exemplify bad qualities, seem to have stepped out of the cartoons of an Athenian James Thurber. They include the Toady, who laughs so hard at a great man's jokes that he has to stuff his cloak into his mouth to control himself; the Superstitious Man, who will not step on a tombstone, approach a pregnant woman or a corpse, or pass a crossroads without making a libation; the Chatterbox, who is as likely to tell you "I threw up yesterday" as to give you the price of wheat, and does not care if either fact interests you; and the Talker, whose logorrhea menaces the entire city: "on a jury he prevents others from reaching a verdict, at the theatre from watching the play, at dinner from getting on with their meal."6 As so often, an ancient text turns out, like the Mad Gardener's rattlesnake, to be the Middle of Next Week—or at least next week's faculty meetings and dinner parties.

6. Theophrastus, Characters 7.1; 2.4; 16.5, 9; 3.3; 7.8, trans. Diggle 2004.

Friday, August 21, 2020


The Sleep That Knows No Waking

W.H. Hudson, Hampshire Days (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1906), pp. 52-53:
Here, sheltered by the bushes, I sat and saw the sun go down, and the long twilight deepen till the oak woods of Beaulieu in the west looked black on the horizon, and the stars came out: in spite of the cold wind that made me shiver in my thin clothes, I sat there for hours, held by the silence and solitariness of that mound of the ancient dead.

Sitting there, profoundly sad for no apparent cause, with no conscious thought in my mind, it suddenly occurred to me that I knew that spot from of old, that in long past forgotten years I had often come there of an evening and sat through the twilight, in love with the loneliness and peace, wishing that it might be my last resting-place. To sleep there for ever—the sleep that knows no waking! We say it, but do not mean—do not believe it. Dreams do come to give us pause; and we know that we have lived. To dwell alone, then, with this memory of life in such a spot for all time! There are moments in which the thought of death steals upon and takes us as it were by surprise, and it is then exceeding bitter. It was as if that cold wind blowing over and making strange whispers in the heather had brought a sudden tempest of icy rain to wet and chill me.

This miserable sensation soon passed away, and, with quieted heart, I began to grow more and more attracted by the thought of resting on so blessed a spot. To have always about me that wildness which I best loved—the rude incult heath, the beautiful desolation; to have harsh furze and ling and bramble and bracken to grow on me, and only wild creatures for visitors and company. The little stonechat, the tinkling meadow pipit, the excited whitethroat to sing to me in summer; the deep-burrowing rabbit to bring down his warmth and familar smell among my bones; the heat-loving adder, rich in colour, to find when summer is gone a dry safe shelter and hibernaculum in my empty skull.


Occasions for Speech

Isocrates, To Demonicus 41 (tr. David Mirhady):
Whatever you are about to say, examine first in your thought, for in many the tongue outruns the intention.

Make two occasions for speaking, either when you know the subject clearly, or when there is compulsion to discuss it, for on these occasions alone speech is better than silence; on others, it is better to be silent than to speak.

πᾶν ὅ τι ἂν μέλλῃς ἐρεῖν, πρότερον ἐπισκόπει τῇ γνώμῃ· πολλοῖς γὰρ ἡ γλῶττα προτρέχει τῆς διανοίας.

δύο ποιοῦ καιροὺς τοῦ λέγειν, ἢ περὶ ὧν οἶσθα σαφῶς, ἢ περὶ ὧν ἀναγκαῖον εἰπεῖν. ἐν τούτοις γὰρ μόνοις ὁ λόγος τῆς σιγῆς κρείττων, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἄμεινον σιγᾶν ἢ λέγειν.


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Pindar, Olympian Odes 1.82-84 (tr. Anthony Verity):
Men must die, so why should anyone crouch in darkness,
aimlessly nursing an undistinguished old age,
without a share in glorious deeds?

θανεῖν δ᾽ οἷσιν ἀνάγκα, τά κέ τις ἀνώνυμον
γῆρας ἐν σκότῳ καθήμενος ἕψοι μάταν,
ἁπάντων καλῶν ἄμμορος;
Stephen Instone ad loc.:

C.M. Bowra, Pindar (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 96:
The true splendour of Pindar's world lies not in the hopes of radiant rewards after death, but in the worth of high endeavours for their own sake as proof of a man's courage and efforts. It is these that bring glory, and glory is the highest happiness and the richest reward in which a man can put his trust. Undying renown is for Pindar a more substantial consolation than any after-life below the earth or beyond the western sea.


How Strange That Is!

John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, rev. ed. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1871), p. 15:
Very ready we are to say of a book, "How good this is—that's exactly what I think!" But the right feeling is, "How strange that is! I never thought of that before, and yet I see it is true; or if I do not now, I hope I shall, some day." But whether thus submissively or not, at least be sure that you go to the author to get at his meaning, not to find yours. Judge it afterwards, if you think yourself qualified to do so; but ascertain it first. And be sure also, if the author is worth anyhing, that you will not get at his meaning all at once;—nay, that at his whole meaning you will not for a long time arrive in any wise.

Thursday, August 20, 2020



Robert Louis Stevenson, "An Apology for Idlers," Familiar Studies, Virginibus Puerisque, and Other Papers (New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company, 1912), pp. 300-309 (at 307):
A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a five-pound note. He or she is a radiating focus of good will; and their entrance into a room is as though another candle had been lighted. We need not care whether they could prove the forty-seventh proposition; they do a better thing than that, they practically demonstrate the great Theorem of the Livableness of Life.



Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Waste Books H.24 (tr. Steven Tester):
The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted.

Die gefährlichsten Unwahrheiten sind Wahrheiten mäßig entstellt.


Plea for Civility

Plato, Laws 1.629a (tr. Thomas L. Pangle):
Still, we should not fight harshly with one another, but should rather make a calm inquiry about the present matters...

δεῖ δὲ οὐδὲν σκληρῶς ἡμᾶς αὐτοῖς διαμάχεσθαι τὰ νῦν ἀλλ᾽ ἠρέμα ἀνερωτᾶν...



Ronald Hayman, Nietzsche: A Critical Life (1980; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1982), p. 60:
In any case he would not be restricted to attending theology lectures, and, according to Deussen, he and Nietzsche had both been attracted to Bonn by the presence of two philologists, Albrecht Ritschl and Otto Jahn. Jahn was a pioneer in the study of Greek art; Ritschl was known for his work on Plautus and early Latin.
The index of Hayman's book has an entry for "Ritschl, Albrecht" (p. 421).

Nietzsche's teacher was not the theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), but the philologist Friedrich Ritschl (1806-1876).


Wednesday, August 19, 2020



Pindar, Isthmian Odes 5.7-16 (tr. M.M. Willcock):
And in athletic games that man wins the longed-for glory who, victorious by his hands or the speed of his feet, has his hair tied with many crowns. Men's ability is decided, in the event, by the gods. Two things alone cultivate the sweetest perfection of life in flourishing prosperity—if one achieves success and gains a good name. Do not try to be Zeus! You have everything if you win these prizes. Mortal things suit mortal men.

ἔν τ᾽ ἀγωνίοις ἀέθλοισι ποθεινὸν
κλέος ἔπραξεν, ὅντιν᾽ ἀθρόοι στέφανοι
χερσὶ νικάσαντ᾽ ἀνέδησαν ἔθειραν
ἢ ταχυτᾶτι ποδῶν.        10
κρίνεται δ᾽ ἀλκὰ διὰ δαίμονας ἀνδρῶν.
δύο δέ τοι ζωᾶς ἄωτον μοῦνα ποιμαί-
    νοντι τὸν ἄλπνιστον εὐανθεῖ σὺν ὄλβῳ,
εἴ τις εὖ πάσχων λόγον ἐσλὸν ἀκούῃ.
μὴ μάτευε Ζεὺς γενέσθαι· πάντ᾽ ἔχεις,
εἴ σε τούτων μοῖρ᾽ ἐφίκοιτο καλῶν.        15
θνατὰ θνατοῖσι πρέπει.
Thomas D. Seymour ad loc.:


A Formidable Machine

Winston Churchill, radio broadcast (June 4, 1945):
How is an ordinary citizen or subject of the King to stand up against this formidable machine, which, once it is in power, will prescribe for every one of them where they are to work; what they are to work at; where they may go and what they may say; what views they are to hold and within what limits they may express them; where their wives are to go to queue up for the State ration; and what education their children are to receive to mould their views of human liberty and conduct in the future?



Isocrates, To Demonicus 16 (tr. David Mirhady):
Fear the gods; honor your parents; respect your friends; obey the laws.

τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς φοβοῦ, τοὺς δὲ γονεῖς τίμα, τοὺς δὲ φίλους αἰσχύνου, τοῖς δὲ νόμοις πείθου.
Cf. Euripides, fragment 853 Kannicht (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
There are three virtues you should practise, child:
to honour the gods, the parents who begot you,
and the common laws of Greece. If you do these things,
you will always have good repute, the fairest of crowns.

τρεῖς εἰσιν ἀρεταὶ τὰς χρεών σ᾿ ἀσκεῖν, τέκνον,
θεούς τε τιμᾶν τούς τε φύσαντας γονῆς
νόμους τε κοινοὺς Ἑλλάδος· καὶ ταῦτα δρῶν
κάλλιστον ἕξεις στέφανον εὐκλείας ἀεί.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Standing Up

Vernon J. Bourke, Augustine's Quest of Wisdom: Life and Philosophy of the Bishop of Hippo (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1945), pp. 170-171:
It was evident from the beginning that Primianus' party intended to do everything possible to evade the central issue, that is, the question as to which party was the true Christian Church in Africa. The Donatists resorted to all sorts of subterfuges in order to delay and confuse the proceedings. Petilianus and Emeritus were the leaders in this procedure. An almost comic example of this sort of thing occurred on the first day. Marcellinus, opening the meeting, asked the two groups to sit down. Immediately, Petilianus, speaking for his fellow Donatists, refused. He explained that they were obeying the Scriptural injunction against the "just" sitting down with the "impious."41 Marcellinus asked the Donatists to reconsider but they were adamant. As a result of this foolishness, the more than five hundred bishops stood up through three days of disputation, because the Catholics could hardly remain seated when their opponents stood.

41 Collat. Carthag., I, 144-145; PL 11, 1319; and II, 3; PL 11, 1353-1354. Cf. Monceaux, op. cit., VI, 63.


Foundation of Democracy

Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (October 31, 1944):
The foundation of all democracy is that the people have the right to vote. To deprive them of that right is to make a mockery of all the high-sounding phrases which are so often used. At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper — no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point.


A Hitherto Unknown Author of Greek Comedy?

See A.H. Sommerstein, "Notes on Aristophes' Wasps," Classical Quarterly 27.2 (1977) 261-277 (screen capture of the beginning of the article from JSTOR):

I don't find Aristophes in the Oxford Classical Dictionary or other reference works.



Nickname for a Politician

Eupolis, fragment 135 (from a scholium to Aristophanes, Birds 822; tr. Ian C. Storey):
He [Theogenes] was called "Smoke," because he promised much but never delivered—Eupolis in Demes.

ἐκαλεῖτο δὲ Καπνὸς, ὅτι πολλὰ ὑπισχνούμενος οὐδὲν ἐτέλει. Εὔπολις ἐν Δήμοις.


Speed of Travel

Jerzy Linderski, "The Aedileship of Favonius, Curio the Younger and Cicero's Election to the Augurate," Roman Questions: Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995), pp. 231-250 (at 244, n. 54; I removed a period after Riepl):
As illustration, some recorded instances of the speed of travel in republican times may be adduced. The messenger with the news of the victory at Pydna covered the distance from Macedonia to Rome in 12 days (Liv. 45.1.11), but this was an extraordinary feat, and was recorded by Livy as such. For a private letter a journey of 46 days from Rome to Cilicia (and in the best season of the year) was regarded by Cicero as a remarkably short time (Cic., Att. 5.19.1), which is wholly understandable as at the same time a letter from Epirus to Laodicea in Cilicia traveled (in winter) 48 days (Cic., Att. 6.1.1, 22; cf. L.W. Hunter, JRS 3 [1913] 91). A letter sent by Cassius from Syria on 7 May 43 reached Rome some days before the end of June (Cic., Fam. 12.10.1-2; 12.12.5), rather a good time, especially when taking into account disturbances of the civil war. In the summer of 47 a freedman of C. Trebonius covered the distance from Seleucia Pieria (the port of Antioch) to Brundisium in 27 days (Cic., Att. 11.20.1). But this establishes only a general pattern: the speed of any particular travel depended upon too many unpredictable factors. Cf. W. Riepl, Das Nachrichtenwesen des Altertums (Leipzig 1913) 205ff; Reineke, RE 16 (1935) 1539-1540. On the speed of sea travel, see the fundamental study of L. Casson, "Speed under Sail of Ancient Ships," ΤΑΡΑ 82 (1951) 136-148.



Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions, Part I, Chapter 2 (tr. Ellen Marriage):
Diplomacy he claimed to be his strong point; it usually is with those who have no knowledge, and are profound by reason of their emptiness; and, indeed, this kind of skill possesses one signal advantage, for it can only be displayed in the conduct of the affairs of the great, and when discretion is the quality required, a man who knows nothing can safely say nothing, and take refuge in a mysterious shake of the head; in fact, the cleverest practitioner is he who can swim with the current and keep his head well above the stream of events which he appears to control, a man's fitness for this business varying inversely as his specific gravity.

Il se prétendait fort en diplomatie, la science de ceux qui n'en ont aucune et qui sont plus profonds par leur vide; science d'ailleurs fort commode, en ce sens qu'elle se démontre par l'exercice même de ses hauts emplois; que voulant des hommes discrets, elle permet aux ignorants de ne rien dire, de se retrancher dans des hochements de tête mystérieux; et qu'enfin l'homme le plus fort en cette science est celui qui nage en tenant sa tête au-dessus du fleuve des événements qu'il semble alors conduire, ce qui devient une question de légèreté spécifique.

Monday, August 17, 2020


Reading and Thinking

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Waste Books G.208 (tr. Steven Tester):
It is not easy to think too much, but it is easy to read too much. The more things I think about, the more I endeavor to associate them with my experiences and my own system of thought, the stronger I become. With reading it is the contrary; I extend myself without increasing my strength. When I notice in my thinking gaps I cannot fill or difficulties I cannot overcome, I must consult a book and read. Either this is how one becomes useful, or there is no way.

Man kann nicht leicht über zu vielerlei denken, aber man kann über zu vielerlei lesen. Über je mehrere Gegenstände ich denke, das heißt, sie mit meinen Erfahrungen und meinem Gedankensystem in Verbindung zu bringen suche, desto mehr Kraft gewinne ich. Mit dem Lesen ist es umgekehrt: ich breite mich aus, ohne mich zu stärken. Merke ich bei meinem Denken Lücken, die ich nicht ausfüllen, und Schwierigkeiten, die ich nicht überwinden kann, so muß ich nachschlagen und lesen. Entweder dieses ist das Mittel, ein brauchbarer Mann zu werden, oder es gibt gar keines.


Labor Omnia Vincit

Hesiod, Works and Days 302-316 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
For Hunger is altogether a meet comrade for the sluggard. Both gods and men are angry with a man who lives idle, for in nature he is like the stingless drones who waste the labour of the bees, eating without working; but let it be your care to order your work properly, that in the right season your barns may be full of victual. Through work men grow rich in flocks and substance, and working they are much better loved by the immortals. Work is no disgrace: it is idleness which is a disgrace. But if you work, the idle will soon envy you as you grow rich, for fame and renown attend on wealth. And whatever be your lot, work is best for you, if you turn your misguided mind away from other men's property to your work and attend to your livelihood as I bid you.

Λιμὸς γάρ τοι πάμπαν ἀεργῷ σύμφορος ἀνδρί.
τῷ δὲ θεοὶ νεμεσῶσι καὶ ἀνέρες, ὅς κεν ἀεργὸς
ζώῃ, κηφήνεσσι κοθούροις εἴκελος ὀργήν,
οἵ τε μελισσάων κάματον τρύχουσιν ἀεργοὶ        305
ἔσθοντες· σοὶ δ᾽ ἔργα φίλ᾽ ἔστω μέτρια κοσμεῖν,
ὥς κέ τοι ὡραίου βιότου πλήθωσι καλιαί.
ἐξ ἔργων δ᾽ ἄνδρες πολύμηλοί τ᾽ ἀφνειοί τε·
καί τ᾽ ἐργαζόμενος πολὺ φίλτερος ἀθανάτοισιν
ἔσσεαι ἠδὲ βροτοῖς· μάλα γὰρ στυγέουσιν ἀεργούς.        310
ἔργον δ᾽ οὐδὲν ὄνειδος, ἀεργίη δέ τ᾽ ὄνειδος·
εἰ δέ κεν ἐργάζῃ, τάχα σε ζηλώσει ἀεργὸς
πλουτέοντα· πλούτῳ δ᾽ ἀρετὴ καὶ κῦδος ὀπηδεῖ·
δαίμονι δ᾽ οἷος ἔῃσθα, τὸ ἐργάζεσθαι ἄμεινον,
εἴ κεν ἀπ᾽ ἀλλοτρίων κτεάνων ἀεσίφρονα θυμὸν        315
εἰς ἔργον τρέψας μελετᾷς βίου, ὥς σε κελεύω.

Isaak Levitan (1860-1900), Evening in the Field (1883)


The Meaning of Continuo in Latin

Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. continuo1, adv.:
1 Forthwith, without delay, immediately.


b immediately from the beginning, from the first.


c (in an enumeration of places) immediately thereafter.


2 Without further evidence, without more ado; (esp. w. neg. expressed or implied in qu.) necessarily, in consequence.


3 Without intermission, continuously.
Jerzy Linderski, "The Quaestorship of Marcus Antonius," Roman Questions: Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995), pp. 251-261 (at 258):
The word is commonly rendered as "immediately"; Cicero, however, (as is easily seen from the examples in Merguet's dictionary) uses it often to indicate that between two closely connected events no other event occurred bearing upon them.36 Thus the length of time indicated by continuo may vary considerably, as is also true of other similar expressions like mox and nuper.

36 Cf. esp. Cael. 9; Vat. 36: quis legatos umquam audivit sine senatus consulto? Ante te nemo: post (i.e., after 59) continuo (i.e., in 58) fecit idem . . . Clodius.


Sunday, August 16, 2020


Go to the Ant, Thou Sluggard, Consider Her Ways

Aelian, On Animals 4.43 (A. F. Scholfield):
Here are more facts that I have learned touching ants. So indefatigable, so ready to work are they, without making excuses, without any base plea for release, without alleging reasons that are a cloak for indolence, that not even at night when the moon is full do they remain idle and take holiday, but stick to their occupation.

Look at you men—devising endless pretexts and excuses for idling! What need is there to detail and pour out the full number of these occasions? Proclaimed as holidays are the Dionysia, the Lenaea, the Festival of Pots, Causeway Day: go to Sparta, and there are others: others again at Thebes: and an endless number in every city, some in a foreign, others in a Greek city.

πέπυσμαι δὲ ὑπὲρ τῶν μυρμήκων καὶ ταῦτα. οὕτως ἄρα αὐτοῖς τὸ ἐθελουργὸν καὶ τὸ ἐθελόπονον πάρεστιν ἀπροφασίστως καὶ ἄνευ τινὸς ὑποτιμήσεως ἐθελοκακούσης καὶ σκήψεως, ἐς ἣν ὑποικουρεῖ τὸ ῥᾴθυμον, ὡς κἀν3 ταῖς πανσελήνοις μηδὲ νύκτωρ βλακεύειν μηδὲ ἐλινύειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἔχεσθαι τῆς σπουδῆς.

ὦ ἄνθρωποι, μυρίας προφάσεις τε καὶ σκήψεις ἐς τὸ ῥᾳστωνεύειν ἐπινοοῦντες. καὶ τί δεῖ καταλέγειν τε καὶ ἐπαντλεῖν τὸν τοσοῦτον ὄχλον; κεκήρυκται γὰρ Διονύσια καὶ Λήναια καὶ Χύτροι καὶ Γεφυρισμοί, καὶ μετελθόντων ἐς τὴν Σπάρτην ἄλλα καὶ ἐς Θήβας ἄλλα καὶ κατὰ πόλιν μυρία ἑκάστην τὰ μὲν βάρβαρον τὰ δὲ Ἑλλάδα.

Saturday, August 15, 2020


Volturnalem Palatualem Furinalem

Johannes Vahlen, ed., Ennianae Poesis Reliquiae (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1854), p. 20 = Ennius, Annals 125-126 (II.iii):
Volturnalem Palatualem Furrinalem
Floralemque Falacrem et Pomonalem fecit
Hic idem.
E.H. Warmington, ed., Remains of Early Latin, Vol. I: Ennius and Caecilius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935), pp. 44-45 = Ennius, Annals 127-129 (II.iii):
Volturnalem Palatualem Furinalem
Floralemque Falacrem et Pomonalem fecit
hic idem.

He [Numa Pompilius] likewise established the priests of Volturnus, of Palatua, of Furina, of Flora, of Falacer, and of Pomona.
Otto Skutsch, The Annals of Q. Ennius. Edited with Introduction and Commentary (1985; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 80 = Ennius, Annals 116-118 (II.iii):
Palatualem Furinalem Floralemque
Falacrem<que> et Pomonalem fecit hic idem

116 sqq. uersus dist. Lachm.
If Palatualem is scanned as a quadrisyllable, with a long first syllable and consonantal u, then we have (in either arrangement of the lines) a hexameter consisting of just twelve syllables (six spondees). See G.B.A. Fletcher, "Catulliana," Latomus 26.1 (January-March, 1967) 104-106 (at 106):
116.3 qui te lenirem nobis neu conarere. Fordyce, like F. Vollmer, Römische Metrik, p. 11 in Gercke-Norden, Einl. in die Altertumswissenschaft, repeats the statement by Baehrens and Thomas that this is the only hexameter consisting entirely of spondees to be found outside Ennius. Iuuencus 4.233 is another.
The list of Ennian spondaic hexameters in Béla Adamik, "Zur Prosodie, Metrik und Interpretation von Catullus Carmen 116," Wiener Studien 127 (2014) 151-164 (at 158), doesn't include this one.

Also, if we adopt the arrangement of Vahlen and Warmington, then Volturnalem Palatualem Fur(r)inalem is also a hexameter consisting entirely of adjectives in asyndeton. For similar hexameter lines in Greek and Latin see:


The Torch of Truth

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Waste Books G.13 (tr. Steven Tester):
It is almost impossible to carry the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing someone's beard.

Es ist fast unmöglich, die Fackel der Wahrheit durch ein Gedränge zu tragen, ohne jemanden den Bart zu versengen.

Friday, August 14, 2020


To Be Sure

Henry Fielding (1707-1754), Tom Jones, Book VII, Chapter V (Squire Western speaking):
'Ay, to be sure the woman is in the right, and the man in the wrong always.'



Kathleen Freeman, Greek City-States (1950; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1963), p. 45:
There was, it is true, another Greek city-state, Selinus, between Acragus and the Phoenician tip...
For Acragus read Acragas.

Id., p. 68 (discussing Hannibal's attack on Acragas):
By the spring of 416 B.C. the Carthaginians were ready.
For 416 read 406.



At the Lychgate

Oxford English Dictionary:
lich-gate | lych-gate, n. < LICH n. corpse + GATE n.1 archaic. The roofed gateway to a churchyard under which the corpse is set down, to await the clergyman's arrival.
Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (November 12, 1940; on the death of Neville Chamberlain):
The fierce and bitter controversies which hung around him in recent times were hushed by the news of his illness and are silenced by his death. In paying a tribute of respect and of regard to an eminent man who has been taken from us, no one is obliged to alter the opinions which he has formed or expressed upon issues which have become a part of history; but at the Lychgate we must all pass our own conduct and our own judgments under a searching review.

It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.

What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.


A Breach of Decorum

Xenophon, Education of Cyrus 1.2.16 (tr. Walter Miller):
There remains even unto this day evidence of their moderate fare and of their working off by exercise what they eat: for even to the present time it is a breach of decorum for a Persian to spit or to blow his nose or to appear afflicted with flatulence; it is a breach of decorum also to be seen going apart either to make water or for anything else of that kind.

καὶ νῦν δὲ ἔτι ἐμμένει μαρτύρια καὶ τῆς μετρίας διαίτης αὐτῶν καὶ τοῦ ἐκπονεῖσθαι τὴν δίαιταν. αἰσχρὸν μὲν γὰρ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐστι Πέρσαις καὶ τὸ πτύειν καὶ τὸ ἀπομύττεσθαι καὶ τὸ φύσης μεστοὺς φαίνεσθαι, αἰσχρὸν δέ ἐστι καὶ τὸ ἰόντα ποι φανερὸν γενέσθαι ἢ τοῦ οὐρῆσαι ἕνεκα ἢ καὶ ἄλλου τινὸς τοιούτου.

πτύειν Cobet: ἀποπτύειν codd.
C.G. Cobet, "Ad Xenophontis Cyropaediam," Mnemosyne 3.4 (1875) 378-409 (at 378):
Non debebat punctum temporis Editor dubitare quin πτύειν pro ἀποπτύειν verum esset et recipiendum. Perinde est ac si respuere quis vellet dicere pro spuere vel sputare. Adhaesit praepositio ex sq. ἀπομύττεσθαι.



David O. Ross, Jr., Virgil's Elements: Physics and Poetry in the Georgics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 29-30:
One last point of introduction: Servius' commentary will be quoted frequently in what follows. I have come to find Servius of far greater value than anything written on Virgil since. Servius' commentary is a compilation, a variorum, part of which must go back four centuries to comments of various sorts made soon after the first publication of Virgil's poems. (For this reason I have not found it worthwhile here to attempt to distinguish consistently between Servius and Servius Auctus—the Donatus commentary.) These notes are often valuable in two ways. First, they illuminate because so frequently they provide us with a set of ideas entirely different from our own, an entirely neglected view of a word, or phrase, or passage that proves reasonably to have been Virgil's intention, long forgotten or overlooked simply because his own terms had been forgotten; understanding the Georgics is so often a matter of seeing the exact terms used in any passage. Second, even when a comment seems to us trivial, unnecessary, or silly, it often indicates that in antiquity some problem existed, that a line that seems clear enough to us seemed then to call for explanation, either because we simply don't see what bothered an ancient reader, or (as I suspect may frequently be the case) a comment, good and informed in itself, elicited another (but trivial) comment later, after which the informed comment dropped from the tradition, leaving only the dross to mark the place. I cite Servius, then, whenever I feel that what is there recorded provides a possible indication of the truth, known once and since forgotten.

Thursday, August 13, 2020



Terence, Phormio 948-951 (tr. Betty Radice):
What the devil do you mean, putting me off with all this shilly-shallying like a pair of stupid children? 'I won't; I will; then, I will, I won't; take it, give it back; take what's said as unsaid, cancel what was just agreed.'

quid vos, malum, ergo me sic ludificamini
inepti vostra puerili sententia?
nolo, volo; volo, nolo rursum; cape, cedo;        950
quod dictum indictumst; quod modo erat ratum irritumst.

949 sententia codd.: inconstantia Kayser
John Barsby in his Loeb Classical Library edition of Terence, Vol. II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 122, attributes the conjecture inconstantia (line 949) to Richard Bentley, but I don't see it in Bentley's edition of Terence, rpt. by Eduard Vollbehr (Kiel: Sumptibus Librariae Academicae, 1846). Others attribute it to Alfred Fleckeisen, who does print it in his edition (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1898), p. 206, but credit seems to be due to Carl Ludwig Kayser, ed., Cornifici Rhetoricorum ad C. Herennium libri IIII (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1854), p. 262.

In line 950, cĕdo is an imperative: see Allen and Greenough, A New Latin Grammar, § 206.g.

Heather Vincent, "Fabula Stataria: Language and Humor in Terence," in Antony Augoustakis and Ariana Traill, edd., A Companion to Terence (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 69-88 (at 85):
Note how the chiasmus, repetitions, and iterative phonetics provide a sing-song end rhyme, which we can imagine would couple well with a bit of hyperbolic mimicry: nolo, volo; volo, nolo rursum; cape, cedo. And in the final line the chiasmus and iteration provide something of a tongue twister: quod DICT(um) ¬INDICTumst. quod eRAT RAT(um) ¬IRRATumst.


The Storm

Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (January 20, 1940):
Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear — I fear greatly — the storm will not pass. It will rage and it will roar, ever more loudly, ever more widely.
Very few wars have been won by mere numbers alone. Quality, will-power, geographical advantages, natural and financial resources, the command of the sea, and, above all, a cause which rouses the spontaneous surgings of the human spirit in millions of hearts — these have proved to be the decisive factors in the human story. If it were otherwise, how would the race of men have risen above the apes; how otherwise would they have conquered and extirpated dragons and monsters; how would they have ever evolved the moral theme; how would they have marched forward across the centuries to broad conceptions of compassion, of freedom, and of right? How would they ever have discerned those beacon lights which summon and guide us across the rough dark waters, and presently will guide us across the flaming lines of battle towards better days which lie beyond?

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