Saturday, September 19, 2020
Love of Country
But all men necessarily love their country.Not necessarily. Not today.
ἀλλ᾿ ἀναγκαίως ἔχει / πατρίδος ἐρᾶν ἅπαντας.
If every person commemorated for exceptional achievement is to be pulled down from his plinth because he is subsequently found to have been less than a saint (according to current conceptions of sanctity), we shall end up honoring no one except ourselves.
There are, then, two worlds & these twain can never be one flesh. They are not complementary to one another; they are, in the liveliest sense of the words, mortal enemies. On the one hand is the world of mechanised industry claiming to be able to give happiness to men and all the delights of human life — provided we are content to have them in our spare time and do not demand such things in the work by which we earn our livings; a world regulated by the factory whistle and the mechanical time-keeper; a world wherein no man makes the whole of anything, wherein the product is standardised and the man simply a tool, a tooth on a wheel. On the other is the languishing but indestructible world of the small shopkeeper, the small workshop, the studio and the consulting room — a world in which the notion of spare time hardly exists, for the thing is hardly known and very little desired; a world wherein the work is the life & love accompanies it.
Freedom versus Dependency
A person dependent on somebody else for everything from potatoes to opinions may declare that he is a free man, and his government may issue a certificate granting him his freedom, but he will not be free. He is that variety of specialist known as a consumer, which means that he is the abject dependent of producers. How can he be free if he can do nothing for himself? What is the First Amendment to him whose mouth is stuck to the tit of the "affluent society"? Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs. The most able are the most free.
Friday, September 18, 2020
God Is a Gentleman
I was accustomed to family prayers and I noticed that some of the prayers Augustus read sounded strangely in my ears. Then I discovered that he had neatly inked out many lines in the Prayer Book he read from. I asked him why.
'I've crossed out all the passages in glorification of God,' he said. 'God is certainly a gentleman, and no gentleman cares to be praised to his face. It is tactless, impertinent and vulgar. I think all that fulsome adulation must be highly offensive to him.'
At the time this notion seemed odd to me and even comic, but since then I have come to think that there was some sense in it.
Something must be said about the word "intertextual", which has crept into classical scholarship but which may do more harm than good. The first half of the compound suggests mutuality and a completely symmetrical relationship, as with "international" or "interpersonal": if Nation A can commit an act of war against Nation B, so can Nation B against Nation A, if Person A can extend sympathy to Person B, Person B can reciprocate. This is possible because both nations and persons are ongoing agents who share the same space over time. Works of literature, by contrast, are not ongoing agents, and they take a fixed form at the moment when their creation is finished. They are arranged in time in such a way that later works may allude to earlier ones but earlier works may not allude to later ones except under quite unusual circumstances. Thus the Aeneid may allude to the De Rerum Natura, but the De Rerum Natura may not allude to the Aeneid. Only if the author knows what he intends to write or what one of his acquaintances intends to write can there be an allusion of sorts, though since readers cannot understand it until the other work appears, it would be better to speak of a forecast. This, for obvious reasons, is far rarer, and any language that suggests that reference in one direction is pretty much on the same footing with reference in the other is bound to induce critical confusion.I've always hated the word.
Thursday, September 17, 2020
A Happy Life
Under the shelter of this tomb the earth holds Cydimachus, who was rich and well on in years when he sailed into harbor. For he looked on his children's children, and his old age was free from care. Now he is dead and has the fate that all share.Greek text as in Lattimore, from Georg Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex Lapidibus Conlecta (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1878), p. 23 (number 67):
Κυδίμαχο[ν] χθὼν [ἥδε τ]α[φ]ῆς στε[γέεσ]σι καλύπ[τει,Greek text as in Werner Peek, Griechische Vers-Inschriften (1955; rpt. Chicago: Ares Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 133 (number 546):
ὄλβι[ο]ν εὐαίω[ν]α βί[ου] πλεύσαντα πρὸς ὅρμον·
παῖδα[ς γὰρ] παίδω[ν ἐ]σιδὼν καὶ γῆρα[ς ἄ]λ[υπον]
τὴν πάντων κοινὴν μοῖραν [ἔχει] φ[θ]ίμ[ε]νος.
Κυδίμαχο[ν] χθὼν ἥδε [π]ατρὶς στέρ[νοι]σι καλύπ[τε]ι
ὄλβιον εὐαίωνα β[ίου] πλεύσαντα πρὸς ὅρμον·
παῖδας [γὰρ] παίδων ἐσιδὼν καὶ γῆρας ἄλ[υπον]
τὴν πάντων κοινὴν μοῖραν [ἔχει] φθίμενος.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
"Do you like macaroni?" said R.
"What do you mean by macaroni?" answered Ashenden. "It is like asking me if I like poetry. I like Keats and Wordsworth and Verlaine and Goethe. When you say macaroni, do you mean spaghetti, tagliatelli, rigatoni, vermicelli, fettucini, tufali, farfalli, or just macaroni?"
"Macaroni," replied R., a man of few words.
"I like all simple things, boiled eggs, oysters and caviare, truite au bleu, grilled salmon, roast lamb (the saddle by preference), cold grouse, treacle tart and rice pudding. But of all simple things the only one I can eat day in and day out, not only without disgust but with the eagerness of an appetite unimpaired by excess, is macaroni."
At the Gym
Robin Osborne, The Transformation of Athens: Painted Pottery and the Creation of Classical Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), p. 64:
In the center of one side is a naked youth, against whom the name Antiphon is written. He is beginning the arm swing preparatory to throwing the discus and appears to be under instruction from another youth ("Hipp[ar]chos"). Hipparchos is draped in a himation, holds a trainer's wand, and points firmly with a long right arm, as if to reinforce a spoken point. This pair is flanked to the right by a youth ("Polyllos"), who folds his himation and is about to give it to an implausibly tiny boy, and to the left by another equally small boy ("ho pais" "the boy"). This small boy has some item of clothing over his shoulder and extends his arm as if to urge care on the youth with a thong who prepares to secure, or more probably has just untied, his penis. Beside this youth is written "Leagros [k]alos" "Leagros is fair." The stature of the boys is plausibly meant as an indicator of their slave status.On the thong (κυνοδέσμη, dog leash) see Frederick M. Hodges, "The Ideal Prepuce in Ancient Greece and Rome: Male Genital Aesthetics and Their Relation to Lipodermos, Circumcision, Foreskin Restoration, and the Kynodesmē," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 75.3 (Fall, 2001) 375–405 (at 381-384).
Although I have become, among other things, a teacher, I am skeptical of education. It seems to me a most doubtful process, and I think the good of it is taken too much for granted. It is a matter that is overtheorized and overvalued and always approached with too much confidence. It is, as we skeptics are always discovering to our delight, no substitute for experience or life or virtue or devotion. As it is handed out by the schools, it is only theoretically useful, like a randomly mixed handful of seeds carried in one's pocket. When one carries them back to one's own place in the world and plants them, some will prove unfit for the climate or the ground, some are sterile, some are not seeds at all but little clods and bits of gravel. Surprisingly few of them come to anything. There is an incredible waste and clumsiness in most efforts to prepare the young. For me, as a student and as a teacher, there has always been a pressing anxiety between the classroom and the world: how can you get from one to the other except by a blind jump? School is not so pleasant or valuable an experience as it is made out to be in the theorizing and reminiscing of elders. In a sense, it is not an experience at all, but a hiatus in experience.The seeds remind me of Matthew 13:3-8.
Mankind are, in all ages, caught by the same baits: the same tricks played over and over again, still trepan them.
Live Free or Die
Just one thing I urge upon you: never consent to live and go into slavery when you can choose to die as befits a free man.Related post: Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death.
ἓν δέ σοι μόνον προφωνῶ· μὴ ᾿πὶ δουλείαν ποτὲ
ζῶν ἑκὼν ἔλθῃς παρόν σοι κατθανεῖν ἐλευθέρως.
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Where the Blame Lies
All that a mortal man can do is blame the gods.There is a translation of the entire inscription here.
μέμψασθαι δὲ θεοῖς ἀρκεῖ μόνον ἄνδρα γε θνητόν.
Disputes with Persons, pertinaciously obstinate in their Principles, are, of all others, the most irksome; except, perhaps, those with Persons, who really do not believe at all the Opinion they defend, but engage in the Controversy, from Affectation, from a Spirit of Opposition, or from a Desire of showing Wit and Ingenuity, superior to the rest of Mankind. The same blind Adherence to their own Arguments is to be expected in both; the same Contempt of their Antagonists; and the same passionate Vehemence, in inforcing Sophistry and Falshood. And as reasoning is not the Source, whence either Disputant derives his Tenets; 'tis in vain to expect, that any Logic, which speaks not to the Affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder Principles.Id.:
Extinguish all the warm Feelings and Prepossessions in favour of Virtue, and all Disgust or Aversion against Vice: Render Men totally indifferent towards these Distinctions; and Morality is no longer a practical Study, nor has any Tendency to regulate our Lives and Actions.
The One Thing Needful
The one thing needful. — There is one thing one has to have: either a cheerful disposition by nature or a disposition made cheerful by art and knowledge."Das Eine, was Noth thut" is a scriptural echo (Luke 10:42).
Das Eine, was Noth thut. — Eins muss man haben: entweder einen von Natur leichten Sinn oder einen durch Kunst und Wissen erleichterten Sinn.
See also Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, 13 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Ten times a day you must laugh and be cheerful.
Zehn Mal musst du lachen am Tage und heiter sein.
Monday, September 14, 2020
An Inherent, Indestructible, Permanent Need
But tho' industrialism has now won an almost complete victory, the handicrafts are not killed, & they cannot be quite killed because they meet an inherent, indestructible, permanent need in human nature. (Even if a man's whole day be spent as a servant of an industrial concern, in his spare time he will make something, if only a window box flower garden.)
The Reporter of All Sides
It is in Hume's Essays and History that we find the reporter of all sides, the doubter of exclusive claims, the distruster of systems, the person determined to find some possible truth in a variety of viewpoints and exclusive and absolute truth in none.
Now all barbarian peoples are by nature so constituted that even when they are subjects of the Romans they are far removed in spirit from them and, chafing at the imposition of the rule of law, they incline instinctively to turbulent and seditious behaviour. There is nothing they would like better than to continue living as their own masters, subject to no outside jurisdiction and a law unto themselves.
ἅπαν μὲν οὖν ἀεὶ βάρβαρον φῦλον, εἰ καὶ κατήκοον ᾖ τοῖς Ῥωμαιοις, ἀλλὰ τῷ τῆς γνώμης ἀλλοτριωτάτῳ διεστηκὸς καὶ τῇ τάξει τῶν νόμων ἀχθόμενον, ἐπὶ τὸ νεωτεροποιὸν καὶ ταραχῶδες φέρεσθαι πέφυχεν· καὶ ἥδιστα μὲν ἂν ἐφ' ἑαυτοῦ βιοῦν διατελοίη μηδαμῶς ὑφ' ἑτέροις ταττόμενον, ὡς μηδὲ τῶν ἀδικημάτων εὐθύνας ὑπέχειν.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
There are enow of zealots on both sides who kindle up the passions of their partizans, and under pretence of public good, pursue the interests and ends of their particular faction. For my part, I shall always be more fond of promoting moderation than zeal; though perhaps the surest way of producing moderation in every party is to increase our zeal for the public. Let us therefore try, if it be possible, from the foregoing doctrine, to draw a lesson of moderation with regard to the parties, into which our country is at present divided; at the same time, that we allow not this moderation to abate the industry and passion, with which every individual is bound to pursue the good of his country.David Hume Tower at the University of Edinburgh was recently renamed 40 George Square "because of the sensitivities around asking students to use a building named after the 18th century philosopher whose comments on matters of race, though not uncommon at the time, rightly cause distress today." A friend reacted to the news thus: "Pigeon-hearted gowks dishonouring Edinburgh's magnificent Enlightenment heritage."
Those who either attack or defend a minister in such a government as ours, where the utmost liberty is allowed, always carry matters to an extreme, and exaggerate his merit or demerit with regard to the public. His enemies are sure to charge him with the greatest enormities, both in domestic and foreign management; and there is no meanness nor crime, of which, in their account, he is not capable. Unnecessary wars, scandalous treaties, profusion of public treasure, oppressive taxes, every kind of maladministration is ascribed to him. To aggravate the charge, his pernicious conduct, it is said, will extend its baleful influence even to posterity, by undermining the best constitution in the world, and disordering that wise system of laws, institutions, and customs, by which our ancestors, during so many centuries, have been so happily governed. He is not only a wicked minister in himself, but has removed every security provided against wicked ministers for the future.
On the other hand, the partizans of the minister make his panegyric run as high as the accusation against him, and celebrate his wise, steady and moderate conduct in every part of his administration. The honour and interest of the nation supported abroad, public credit maintained at home, persecution restrained, faction subdued; the merit of all these blessings is ascribed solely to the minister. At the same time, he crowns all his other merits by a religious care of the best constitution in the world, which he has preserved in all its parts, and has transmitted entire, to be the happiness and security of the latest posterity.
When this accusation and panegyric are received by the partizans of each party, no wonder they beget an extraordinary ferment on both sides, and fill the nation with violent animosities.
W. Somerset Maugham, Don Fernando, or Variations on Some Spanish Themes (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1935), p. 180:
There is a great deal of hypocrisy in our judgement of others. We make an ideal picture of ourselves and measure our fellows by it. But when we read the Diary of Pepys or the Confessions of Rousseau, in which a little of the truth is told, when we study the life of Wagner, we are horrified: we forget; we will not look at our private selves. I do not believe that there is any man, who if the whole truth were known of him, would not seem a monster of depravity; and also I believe that there are very few who have not at the same time virtue, goodness and beauty.
Evil men from without are troubling our Church. Take steps against them. Only nails drive out nails.On the proverb see Erasmus, Adages I i 1 to I v 100, translated by Margaret Mann Phillips, annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), pp. 148-149 (Adage I ii 4):
λυποῦσι τὴν ἐκκλησίαν ἀλλότριοι πονηροί. διάβηθι κατ' αὐτῶν· οἱ πάτταλοι γὰρ παττάλοις ἐκκρούονται.
The two notions of public good and illegal violence have from time immemorial been diametrically oppposed.
πάλαι γὰρ ἀλλήλοιν ἀποκεκριμένω τνγχάνετον ὠφέλεια καὶ παρανομία.
[H]e soon prompted, or accepted, the sacrifice of a virgin, who professed the religion of the Greeks and cultivated the friendship of Orestes. Hypatia, the daughter of Theon the mathematician, was initiated in her father's studies; her learned comments have elucidated the geometry of Apollonius and Diophantus; and she publicly taught, both at Athens and Alexandria, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. In the bloom of beauty, and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples; the persons most illustrious for their rank or merit were impatient to visit the female philosopher; and Cyril beheld, with a jealous eye, the gorgeous train of horses and slaves who crowded the door of her academy. A rumour was spread among the Christians that the daughter of Theon was the only obstacle to the reconciliation of the praefect and the archbishop; and that obstacle was speedily removed. On a fatal day in the holy season of Lent, Hypatia was torn from her chariot, stripped naked, dragged to the church, and inhumanly butchered by the hands of Peter the Reader and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics: her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster-shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames. The just progress of inquiry and punishment was stopped by seasonable gifts; but the murder of Hypatia has imprinted an indelible stain on the character and religion of Cyril of Alexandria.For a critical analysis of Gibbon's account, see J.M. Rist, "Hypatia," Phoenix 19.3 (Autumn, 1965) 214-225.
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), photograph of Marie Spartali posing as Hypatia (Victoria and Albert Museum, inv. no. 1141-1963):
Julius Kronberg (1850-1921), Hypatia (private collection):
Charles William Mitchell (1854-1903), Hypatia (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, acc. no. TWCMS: B8111):
Alfred Seifert (1850-1901), Hypatia (private collection):
Saturday, September 12, 2020
A Great Simplicity
Speed, I bid you, speed the earth
Onward with a shout of mirth,
Fill your eager eyes with light,
Put my face and memory
Out of mind and out of sight.
Nothing I have caused or done,
But this gravestone, meets the sun:
Friends, a great simplicity
Comes at last to you and me!
The Pleasure of Inactivity
Yet human nature is so weak that the cure lags behind the disease. As our bodies, which grow so slowly, perish in a flash, so too the mind and its interests can be more easily crushed than brought again to life. Idleness gradually becomes sweet, and we end by loving the sloth that at first we loathed.
natura tamen infirmitatis humanae tardiora sunt remedia quam mala; et ut corpora nostra lente augescunt, cito extinguuntur, sic ingenia studiaque oppresseris facilius quam revocaveris: subit quippe etiam ipsius inertiae dulcedo, et invisa primo desidia postremo amatur.
My master, precious to a man is money, more precious still is his life, but most prized of all are his children.
ὦ δέσποτα, ποθεινὰ μὲν ἀνθρώπῳ χρήματα, ποθεινοτέρα δὲ ἡ ψυχή, πάντων μέντοι ἀξιώτατα τέκνα.
Turning to the Greeks
[I]t is to the Greeks that we turn when we are sick of the vagueness, of the confusion, of the Christianity and its consolations, of our own age.
Food for the Mind
But Plutarch seemed to be exactly the food that suited my mind. I shall never forget the Lent of 1763, at which time I was nine years of age, when I carried it to church instead of my prayer-book.
Friday, September 11, 2020
So savage and hostile to virtue are our times.The same (tr. A.R. Birley):
tam saeva et infesta virtutibus tempora.
So savage and hostile to merit has this age been.J.H. Sleeman ad loc.:
supply sunt.Henry Furneaux ad loc.:
A Great Contribution to Education
Kl. You seem to us to be saying, friend, that spending time drinking together is a great contribution to education, if it is done correctly!
Ath. Why not?
Kl. Well, could you explain next how what's just been said is true?
Ath. Stranger, to be sure of the truth in these matters, when so many disagree, would belong to a god.
δοκεῖς ἡμῖν, ὦ φίλε, τὴν ἐν τοῖς οἴνοις κοινὴν διατριβὴν ὡς εἰς παιδείας μεγάλην μοῖραν τείνουσαν λέγειν, ἂν ὀρθῶς γίγνηται.
ἔχοις ἂν οὖν τὸ μετὰ τοῦτ᾽ εἰπεῖν ὡς ἔστιν τὸ νῦν εἰρημένον ἀληθές;
τὸ μὲν ἀληθές, ὦ ξένε, διισχυρίζεσθαι ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχειν, πολλῶν ἀμφισβητούντων, θεοῦ...
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Do not bring anything for me to drink, for I drank when I was alive, and it does no good: nor anything to eat, I need nothing. All that is nonsense. But if for the sake of remembrance and the life we had together, you bring saffron or frankincense, then, friends, you are giving appropriate gifts to those who have taken me into their keeping. These things belong to the gods below; dead men have nothing to do with the living.Lattimore comments:
μή μοι πεῖν φέρεθ' ὧδε, μάτην πέποται γάρ, ὅτ' ἔζων,
μηδὲ φαγεῖν· ἀρκεῖ· φλήναφός ἐστι τάδε.
εἰ δ' ἕνεκεν μνήμης τε̣ καὶ ὧν ἐβίωσα σὺν ὑμεῖν
ἢ κρόκον ἢ λιβάνους δῶρα φέρεσθε, φίλοι,
τοῖς μ' ὑποδεξαμένοις ἀντάξια ταῦτα διδόντες,
ταῦτ' ἐνέρων· ζώντων δ' οὐδὲν ἔχουσι νεκροί.
The apodosis, ταῦτ' ἐνέρων, does not really follow the protasis; the condition is blurred by the presence of two thoughts. First, a gesture of friendship for old times' sake is acceptable, and becoming to the dead man's friends; but, second, offerings will reach the gods below, not the corpse. The existence of the καταχθόνιοι as divinities is accepted, but they are sharply distinguished from the dead individual who has no part in immortality.Wilhelm Crönert, "Ein Epigramm aus Astypalaia," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 65 (1910) 636-637, compares, inter alia, Greek Anthology 11.8 (tr. W.R. Paton):
Bestow not scent and crowns on stone columns, nor set the fire ablaze; the outlay is in vain. Give me gifts, if thou wilt, when I am alive, but by steeping ashes in wine thou wilt make mud, and the dead shall not drink thereof.See also Louis Robert, "Recherches épigraphiques," Revue des Études Anciennes 62 (1960) 276-361 (at 342-343, n. 3).
μὴ μύρα, μὴ στεφάνους λιθίναις στήλαισι χαρίζου,
μηδὲ τὸ πῦρ φλέξῃς· ἐς κενὸν ἡ δαπάνη.
ζῶντί μοι, εἴ τι θέλεις, χάρισαι· τέφρην δὲ μεθύσκων
πηλὸν ποιήσεις, κοὐχ ὁ θανὼν πίεται.
The inscription is number 1363 in Werner Peek, Griechische Vers-Inschriften (1955; rpt. Chicago: Ares Publishers, Inc., 1988), pp. 407-408.
Wednesday, September 09, 2020
Unjust and Unprofitable
I consider it unjust as well as unprofitable to do violence to the laws of our community, which we set out to cherish, on account of the wrong-doing of one or perhaps two individuals and to do away with the whole of our familiar pattern of life which means so much to us, on so slender a pretext. We would also be branding ourselves as the betrayers of those who are guarding our land and imperilling their own lives so that we can live in comfort...
ἄδικον οὖν οἶμαι καὶ πρός γε ἀξύμφορον ἑνὸς ἒξ ἁπάντων ἀνδρὸς ἥ καὶ δυοῖν τυχὸν ἡμαρτηκότοιν ἐξυβρίσαι μὲν εἰς τοὺς κοινοὺς νόμους, οὕς στέργειν προυθέμεθα, πολιτείαν δὲ ξύμπασαν καὶ δίαιταν ξυνήθη καὶ φίλην οὕτω πως ῥᾳδίως ἀποσκευάσασθαι, τῶν δὲ τὴν χώραν φρουρούντων καὶ πολλοὺς ὅσους κινδύνων ἀναδεχομένων, ὡς ἂν ἡμῖν ἐν εὐπαθείᾳ βιοτεύειν ἐξῇ, προδότας δειχθῆναι...
A Blessed Time
Wholly a blessed time: when jargon might abate, and here and there some genuine speech begin.
God! Good Fortune! Zeus lord over Dodona I send this gift to you from me: Agathon, the son of Echephylos, and his offspring, proxenoi of the Molossians and their allies throughout thirty generations from Troy, the race of Kassandra, Zakynthians.
θεός ∶ τύχα· Ζεῦ, Δωδώνης μεδέων· τόδε σοι δῶρον πέμπω παρ' ἐμοῦ ∶ Ἀγάθων Ἐχεφύλου καὶ γενεὰ πρόξενοι Μολοσσῶν καὶ συμμάχων ἐν τριάκοντα γενεαῖς ἐκ Τρωΐας Κασσάνδρας γενεά, Ζακύνθιοι.
Fraser (at 38-39, footnotes omitted):
We must next ask what especial importance Agathon attached to what is, after all, the most conspicuous feature of the plaque, the male genitalia. This has mostly been left unexplained (as by Egger and Christ) or taken as apotropaic (by Herter) or explained as an oblique way of referring to the rape of Kassandra by Ajax, but these latter alternatives, as we have seen, face substantial difficulties. On the other hand, Greifenhagen's explanation that the organ represents the continuing life-force of the Trojan stock of Agathon, is no doubt correct up to a certain point. However, if it is to be regarded as the total explanation, then the life-force must be that embodied in the thirty generations of descent from Kassandra. But the barren figure of Kassandra cannot seriously be understood as representing that force. Can we then alter the point of reference of the life-force, and yet preserve its essential significance? The answer seems straightforward. If the life-force is that embodied in the thirty generations supposedly descended from Kassandra, the only individual to whom it can specifically refer is Agathon: it is as the symbol of his own role that the phallus is represented, for it guarantees the future of the γενεά. It is then looking no less to the future than the past.
That may seem a sufficient answer to our γρῖφος. There is, however, a more recondite possibility, which would add a more allusive point to the riddling gift, but yet retain the concept of the life-force. Helenos and Kassandra, the children of Priam, were, we have seen, twins, δίδυμοι. Agathon the Zakynthian could effectively indicate pictorially that he was linked to both of them by representation of the genitalia, and especially the very prominent testicles, which indeed might seem to take pride of place, in Agathon's concept, to the organ itself. The explanation of this requires an excursion into the realm of anatomical vocabulary.
Galen tells us that Herophilos, the great Alexandrian anatomist, called both the testicles and the ovaries δίδυμοι, and so, not surprisingly, did others. I have pointed out elsewhere that Herophilos liked to take the terminology of his anatomical vocabulary from items of everyday life, according to their resemblance to the part of the body that he wished to illustrate. Here, then, perhaps, is an instance slightly earlier than that of Herophilos. Agathon drives home his kinship with the Trojans and the Molossians by the physical representation of the 'twins' which lie at the root of human continuity, whether they represent Kassandra and Helenos or Kassandra and Agathon.
Tuesday, September 08, 2020
Gladden Your Hearts
Make haste, mortals, and gladden your hearts whenever you can. For a man's lifetime is sweet and is the measure of his existence. This, friends, is it. For what more could come afterward? Not even this remains. For it is the stone and the stele that tell you all this, not I. The gates are here, and the trodden ways to Hades by which none can come back into the light. But all pitiful wretches (long) for resurrection.See A.R.R. Sheppard, "R.E.C.A.M. Notes and Studies No. 6: Jews, Christians and Heretics in Acmonia and Eumeneia," Anatolian Studies 29 (1979) 169-180 (at 176-180), who discusses and translates the entire inscription.
σπεύδετε, τὴν ψυχὴν εὐφραίνετε πάντοτε, [θ]νη[τοί],
ὡς ἡδὺς βίοτος, καὶ μέτρον ἐστι ζοῆς.
ταῦτα, φίλοι μετὰ ταῦτα τί γὰρ πλέον; οὐκέτι ταῦτα·
στήλλη ταῦτα λαλεῖ καὶ λίθος, οὐ γὰρ ἐγώ.
θύραι μὲν ἔνθα καὶ πρὸς Ἅιδαν ὁδοὶ
ἀνεξόδευτοι δ’ εἰσὶν ἐς φάος τρίβοι·
ο]ἱ δὴ δ[είλ]αιοι πάντ[ες] εἰς ἀ[νά]στασιν...
A Powerful Preacher
Cornish farmer. 'Oh, Mr P— was a powerful preacher. I sate four pews away from the pulpit and when he got free of his text I could feel the spittle on my face.'
The Greeks never thought it possible or desirable to love their enemies, and forgiveness is a rare word in their vocabulary except for trivial or involuntary offences. More often they found a positive pleasure in hating their enemies and enjoyed the prospect of revenge. They would see nothing wrong in a couplet attributed to Theognis: 'Think of my hatred and my violence, and know in your heart that for your offence I shall avenge myself as I can.'31Theognis 1247-1248:
φρόντισον ἔχθος ἐμὸν καὶ ὑπέρβασιν, ἴσθι δὲ θυμῷS.C. Woodhouse, English-Greek Dictionary: A Vocabulary of the Attic Language (1910; rpt. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1950), p. 338, col. 1:
ὥς σ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ἁμαρτωλῇ τείσομαι ὡς δύναμαι.
Monday, September 07, 2020
Fruits of Scholarship
'What is the use', the Howl may ask indignantly, 'when civilization is rocking upon its foundations, of giving us the doctrine of the enclitic De?' Not very much in itself, maybe; but it is surely of great use to acquire the scholarly judgement that can settle any doctrine upon the evidence without haste, without passion, and without self-interest. The integrity of mind that money cannot buy; the humility in face of the facts that self-esteem cannot corrupt: these are the fruits of scholarship, without which all statement is propaganda and all argument special pleading.Sayers seems to be referring to these lines from Robert Browning's poem A Grammarian's Funeral:
He settled Hoti's business—let it be!—It would be nice if someone would put Sayers' entire article (pp. 34-41) on the World Wide Web.
Properly based Oun—
Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De,
Dead from the waist down.
Now I have a home, and I like it. I like planting trees, building walls, collecting eggs from my hens. I like scything down the grass and pitchforking the hay. I like splitting logs, I like the sunset over the field, I like the silence and the birdsong. I like building up, slowly, a wildlife haven and a family haven. I would rather be here than anywhere else.Id., p. 9:
Our house is small and a bit damp. It is not surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery or sweeping white beaches, because we could never afford to live anywhere like that. It is quite an ordinary little place— modest compared to many new rural homes—which suits me somehow, because I feel I am quite an ordinary person, and I could never live in a big house. The land around it is gentle: crooked fields, still owned by small farmers, home to beef cows, a few sheep, the odd goat, and occasionally a strip of wheat or barley. The fields are divided by hedges of thorn, elder, oak, ash, sycamore, lime, under which streams run and past which old lanes wind. It is a pleasant, unspectacular, nooky, modest sort of landscape. It is my home, though I am still a stranger in it.Id., p. 24:
I have come to hate idealists like the one I used to be, as a born-again non-smoker hates the smell of tobacco. Ideals are a pox on humanity: if you have ideals, you will go out into the world as a destroyer.
The Scotch-Irish are the most inflexible people in the world when they are right, and the most vexatiously pig-headed and mulish when wrong, on the face of the earth.The blood that flows in my veins is, I estimate, composed of the following parts: 1/2 French, 3/8 Scotch-Irish, 1/8 German. Some people discount the existence of national characteristics like those Dabney mentions. Being inflexible, pig-headed, and mulish, I don't.
Objects of Longing
Full of these reflections and despondent as they were, but few of them tasted food at evening, few kindled a fire, and many did not come that night to their quarters, but lay down wherever they each chanced to be, unable to sleep for grief and longing for their native states and parents, their wives and children, whom they thought they should never see again. Such was the state of mind in which they all lay down to rest.If you want a real crib, don't resort to the Loeb Classical Library (as above) but to Thomas Clark's interlinear version:
ταῦτ᾽ ἐννοούμενοι καὶ ἀθύμως ἔχοντες ὀλίγοι μὲν αὐτῶν εἰς τὴν ἑσπέραν σίτου ἐγεύσαντο, ὀλίγοι δὲ πῦρ ἀνέκαυσαν, ἐπὶ δὲ τὰ ὅπλα πολλοὶ οὐκ ἦλθον ταύτην τὴν νύκτα, ἀνεπαύοντο δὲ ὅπου ἐτύγχανον ἕκαστος, οὐ δυνάμενοι καθεύδειν ὑπὸ λύπης καὶ πόθου πατρίδων, γονέων, γυναικῶν, παίδων, οὓς οὔποτ᾽ ἐνόμιζον ἔτι ὄψεσθαι. οὕτω μὲν δὴ διακείμενοι πάντες ἀνεπαύοντο.
But Clark renders the plural πατρίδων as singular (country). Similarly in Fiorenza Bevilacqua's Italian translation ("per la nostalgia della patria, dei genitori, delle mogli, dei figli"). G.M. Edwards in his school edition explains the plural: "because the Ten Thousand came from many different Greek communities."
Xenophon's list encapsulates those things that are proper objects of a man's longing and loyalty: fatherland, parents, wife, children, or to make an even shorter list: fatherland and family. A Greek of Xenophon's type would have been shocked by certain statements of Jesus, e.g. Matthew 8.21-22:
And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.and Matthew 12.46-50:
But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Singing to Myself
Even if some should find my writings thoroughly shoddy and superficial and indeed the typical products of an undisciplined mind, yet I may still succeed in pleasing myself, just as people with no ear for music enjoy their own singing.Related posts:
εἰ γάρ τῳ καὶ δόξειεν εἶναι τάμὰ νόθα γε ὡς ἀληθῶς καὶ ἀνεμιαῖα, καὶ οἶα ψυχῆς ἐς πλεῖστα μεριζομένης κυήματα, ἀλλ' ἐμαυτὸν γοῦν ἴσως ἀρέσκοιμι ἂν, καθάπερ τῶν ᾀδόντων οἱ ἀμουσότατοι.
- Dishonest and Lying Narcissists
- Few, One, or None
- Write the Book You Want To Read
- An Audience of One
- Tolkien on Writing for Oneself
- To Write for Oneself
- Mihi et Musis
- Says I to Myself
Sunday, September 06, 2020
A Very Compendious Anathema
Clerk told to have a new hymn, but gives out as usual 'All people that &c.' Irate parson: 'D——— all people that on earth do dwell.' Lord Stowell: 'a very compendious anathema.'
Love of Life
For no one loves life so much as he who is growing old.
τοῦ ζῆν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ὡς ὁ γηράσκων ἐρᾷ.
His face had a healthy hue of exposure and an expression of careless hardihood; and, as I looked at him, it seemed to me that the war had brought good fortune to the youth of this epoch, if to none beside; since they now make it their daily business to ride a horse and handle a sword, instead of lounging listlessly through the duties, occupations, pleasures — all tedious alike — to which the artificial state of society limits a peaceful generation. The atmosphere of the camp and the smoke of the battlefield are morally invigorating; the hardy virtues flourish in them, the nonsense dies like a wilted weed. The enervating effects of centuries of civilization vanish at once, and leave these young men to enjoy a life of hardship, and the exhilarating sense of danger, — to kill men blamelessly, or to be killed gloriously, — and to be happy in following out their native instincts of destruction, precisely in the spirit of Homer's heroes, only with some considerable change of mode. One touch of Nature makes not only the whole world, but all time, akin. Set men face to face, with weapons in their hands, and they are as ready to slaughter one another now, after playing at peace and good-will for so many years, as in the rudest ages, that never heard of peace-societies, and thought no wine so delicious as what they quaffed from an enemy's skull.Id. (at 333-334):
It is a pity that old men grow unfit for war, not only by their incapacity for new ideas, but by the peaceful and unadventurous tendencies that gradually possess themselves of the once turbulent disposition, which used to snuff the battle-smoke as its congenial atmosphere. It is a pity; because it would be such an economy of human existence, if time-stricken people (whose value I have the better right to estimate, as reckoning myself one of them) could snatch from their juniors the exclusive privilege of carrying on the war. In case of death upon the battle-field, how unequal would be the comparative sacrifice! On one part, a few unenjoyable years, the little remnant of a life grown torpid; on the other, the many fervent summers of manhood in its spring and prime, with all that they include of possible benefit to mankind. Then, too, a bullet offers such a brief and easy way, such a pretty little orifice, through which the weary spirit might seize the opportunity to be exhaled! If I had the ordering of these matters, fifty should be the tenderest age at which a recruit might be accepted for training; at fifty-five or sixty, I would consider him eligible for most kinds of military duty and exposure, excluding that of a forlorn hope, which no soldier should be permitted to volunteer upon, short of the ripe age of seventy. As a general rule, these venerable combatants should have the preference for all dangerous and honorable service in the order of their seniority, with a distinction in favor of those whose infirmities might render their lives less worth the keeping. Methinks there would be no more Bull Runs; a warrior with gout in his toe, or rheumatism in his joints, or with one foot in the grave, would make a sorry fugitive!
Saturday, September 05, 2020
So they would often congregate towards evening, in all probability after some drunken orgy, and blithely embark upon an impromptu discussion of the most exalted and intangible topics. Such discussions invariably degenerated into the sort of inconclusive hair-splitting which results neither in persuasion nor in enlightenment.Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), More Trivia (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921), pp. 127-128:
Each man would cling tenaciously to his own views till in the end tempers rose at the thought of each other's intransigence and they would resort to open abuse, using foul language like people brawling over a game of dice. Eventually the debate would be adjourned, the contestants being parted with difficulty and the whole fruitless exercise serving merely to make enemies out of friends.
τοιγάρτοι τὰ πολλὰ περὶ δείλην ὀψίαν ἀπὸ κραιπάλης, ὡς τὸ εἰκὸς, καὶ ἀκολασίας ξυναλιζόμενοι, οὕτω δὴ ἐκ τοῦ παρείκοντος ἐκείνων τῶν ὑπερτέρων ἀπάρχονται λόγων καὶ ζητήσεως θεσπεσίας, ἀεί τε περὶ ταὐτὰ στενολεσχοῦντες οὔτε πείθονται ὑπο σφῶν οὔτε ἄλλως μεταμανθάνουσι τὰ προεγνωσμένα, ὁποῖα ἄττα καὶ τύχοιεν ὄντα.
ἔχονται δὲ διὰ παντὸς τῶν αὐτῶν οἱ αὐτοὶ, καὶ τελευτῶντες τῆς φιλονεικίας χαλεπαίνουσι κατ' ἀλλήλων καὶ ἀναφανδὸν διαλοιδοροῦνται, φωνὰς ἀσχήμονας ἀφιέντες, ὥσπερ ἐν κύβοις διαμαχόμενοι. οὕτω τε λύπαι αὐτοῖς ὁ ἀγὼν, καὶ μόλις ἀπαλλάττονται, ὀνήσαντες μὲν οὐδ' ὁπωστιοῦν ἢ ὀνηθέντες, ἔχθιστοι δὲ ἀντὶ φίλων γεγενημένοι.
I remember how charmed I was with these new acquaintances, to whose house I had been taken that afternoon to call. I remember the gardens through which we sauntered, with peaches ripening on the sunny walls; I remember the mellow light on the old portraits in the drawing-room, the friendly atmosphere and tranquil voices; and how, as the quiet stream of talk flowed on, one subject after another was pleasantly mirrored on its surface;—till, at a chance remark, there was a sudden change and darkening, an angry swirl, as if a monster were raising its head above the waters.
What was it about, the dreadful disputation into which we were plunged, in spite of desperate efforts to clutch at other subjects? Was it Tariff Reform or Table-rapping—Bacon and Shakespeare, Disestablishment, perhaps—or Anti-Vivisection? What did any of us know or really care about it? What force, what fury drove us into saying the stupid, intolerant, denunciatory things we said; that made us feel we would rather die than not say them? How could a group of humane, polite and intelligent people be so suddenly transformed into barking animals?
Why do we let these Abstractions and implacable Dogmatisms take possession of us, glare at each other through our eyes, and fight their futile, frenzied conflicts in our persons? Life without the rancours and ever-recurring battles of these Bogeys might be so simple, friendly, affectionate and pleasant!
A Flourish of Trumpets
Less often than Rabelais, but quite strikingly, he plays with onomatopoeia ("tichi tich et tichi toch" for a donkey's hoofbeats, "tararan tantara tara" for a flourish of trumpets) and fantaisie verbale: an enraged Charon bellows "Cra cra: tiftrafnot: sgneflet: canatauta: riogna" (217).This onomatopoetic representation of a flourish of trumpets isn't the invention of Folengo. It goes all the way back to Ennius, Annals 451 Skutsch (tr. E.H. Warmington):
And the trumpet in terrible tones taratantara blared.Related post: The Elizabethan James Joyce.
at tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit.
Techniques of Distortion
I should like to illustrate, with quite trivial examples drawn from personal experience, the various ways by which both fact and opinion can be distorted, so that a kind of smear of unreality is spread over the whole newspaper page, from reports of public affairs down to the most casual items of daily gossip.
1. Sensational Headlines; False Emphasis; and Suppression of Context....
3. Inaccurate Reporting of Facts....
4. Plain Reversal of the Facts....
5. Random and Gratuitous Invention....
6. Deliberate Miracle-mongering....
7. Flat Suppression.
An Under-Rated Research Resource
Nesfield's name is often to be glimpsed on the shelves of that under-rated research resource, the second-hand bookshop.Id. (at 216, n. 1, on Nesfield's pamphlet Remarks on the Final Report Issued in 1911 by the Joint Committee on Grammatical Terminology, which was bound into copies of Nesfield's textbooks):
The British Library was unable to locate a relevant copy; but luckily, what the library system could not find, the second-hand bookshops provided. (There is a serious methodological problem here. By 1900 the publishing of textbooks had become separated from general publishing to the extent that libraries treated them differently. They were often stored separately, at times not even catalogued, and little attention was paid to collecting different editions. The result is that in this field it is at times more difficult to locate relevant copies of 19th and early 20th century books than it is for much earlier periods.)
The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas.
[T]he rabbis regarded trivialities as part, as the very heart of Torah, God's revealed will. It is not because they were themselves small-minded, or because they had nothing better to do than investigate the reason behind, the logic for, niggling details. It is because to them "life" as an abstraction is nothing, but all the things that, together, add up the way of living—these are everything.
Friday, September 04, 2020
A Beer-Hall in a Former Church
The secularizing of old churches, abbeys, convents and the like sometimes leads to queer anomalies. Over in Mainz three years ago we spent an evening in a fine prosperous beer-hall called the Cafe of the Holy Ghost. The name attracted us in the first instance, and we went in to find out about it. The place was originally a convent and had been secularized or "disaffected," as the French say which is a fine word for it; we like that word in this connexion, for some reason and the minions of Gambrinus promptly took it over. They had the good sense to let the building stay intact, and the general effect is interesting; also one can see that it is probably more cheerful now than it was under its original auspices. The only structural change that the church authorities insisted on when the building was "disaffected" was that the stained-glass windows should be removed. This seems a strange proviso; maybe the glass was good, and the far-sighted authorities knew of a place where it would come handy.I wonder if this is the beer-hall in Mainz.
A friend sent this photo of a former church in Elgin, Scotland, with the comment "Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger. ΙΧΘΥΣ off the menu, however. On the other hand, ὧν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια, ὧν ὁ θεὸς ἡ κοιλία."
Related post: A Restaurant in a Former Church.
I am against bigness and greatness in all their forms, and with the invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, stealing in through the crannies of the world like so many soft rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, and yet rending the hardest monuments of man's pride, if you give them time. The bigger the unit you deal with, the hollower, the more brutal, the more mendacious is the life displayed. So I am against all big organizations as such, national ones first and foremost; against all big successes and big results; and in favor of the eternal forces of truth which always work in the individual and immediately unsuccessful way, under-dogs always, till history comes, after they are long dead, and puts them on top.—You need take no notice of these ebullitions of spleen, which are probably quite unintelligible to anyone but myself.
If any one should ask you whether our city seems to you more glorious in our own time or in the time of our fathers, you would all agree, in the time of our fathers. And were there better men then than now? Then, eminent men; but now, far inferior.
εἰ γάρ τις ὑμᾶς ἐρωτήσειε, πότερον ὑμῖν ἐνδοξοτέρα δοκεῖ ἡ πόλις ἡμῶν εἶναι ἐπὶ τῶν νυνὶ καιρῶν ἢ ἐπὶ τῶν προγόνων, ἅπαντες ἂν ὁμολογήσαιτε, ἐπὶ τῶν προγόνων. ἄνδρες δὲ πότερον τότε ἀμείνους ἦσαν ἢ νυνί; τότε μὲν διαφέροντες, νυνὶ δὲ πολλῷ καταδεέστεροι.
A New Platonic Dialogue?
Thaetetus is a mistake for Theaetetus (Θεαίτητος).
Labels: typographical and other errors
We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which furious party cries will be raised against anybody who says that cows have horns, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green.Erik Routley (1917-1982), in James T. Como, ed., C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Reminiscences (New York: Macmillan, 1979), p. 35:
Sometimes some learned men would produce a defense of agnosticism or an assault on Christianity. That was the signal for Lewis to reply. I heard him deliver extempore a satisfying devastation of such an attempt by A.L. Rowse, a distinguished man of letters. "Mr. Rowse", I recall Lewis saying, "reminds me of a friend of mine called Bulver, whose wife has perfected what I call the technique of Bulverism. When Mr. Bulver remarked to his wife that the three angles of a triangle together add up to 180 degrees, Mrs. Bulver replied, 'You say that because you're a man.'"
But if all to be heard from the prophets or the rabbis were what we already learn from the politics, economics, and social philosophy of our own day and of our own sector, generally on the leftward wing, of modern life, why listen at all to prophets or rabbis of old? What need do we have to make over into our own image the saints of ancient times? What moral authority is left to them if their message is supplied to them by us, and if in doing so, we distort, misinterpret, or simply obscure their particular meanings? Is this not a peculiarly sophisticated kind of fetishism, something that, for us, is a dishonest ritual? It is false because, if honest, we know we have made the prophets and the rabbis over into what we want them to be, rather than making ourselves over so as to be able to perceive what they were and mean even now. Like the carpenter described by II Isaiah (44:9-17), who plants a cedar and raises it, then chops it down and uses part for fuel, and part for a graven image, who roasts meat over part and turns the rest into a god, his idol, then prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for thou art my god," so are those who turn the prophets into liberal democrats and say, "These are our authorities." "We were right all the time."Id., p. 175:
Our task is simply to read the chapter in its entirety, step by step and line by line. We shall ask for information external to the analysis and argument only so far as it is intrinsic to the task of "learning." Our primary problem is not what the chapter teaches us about history of the Jews or of Judaism, theology, history of religions, philology, or related sciences. We simply want to know, What does the chapter say?
Thursday, September 03, 2020
The Tourist Trade
Who wants one's country cluttered up and vulgarized by enormous annual irruptions of inquisitive foreigners? Who wants one's city pawed over, nosed into and corrupted by ignorant aliens with more dollars than sense?Id., p. 31:
This trait also runs back pretty directly to the days of Louis XI. The peasant-bred workman or shopman who detested paper, who could not read or write and had a great horror of any one who could, always knew goods. His idea of business was the very simplest and soundest: the production and exchange of goods. Mere paper-business, credits, stock-transactions, money-changing, underwriting and the like, at which people got rich without handling any goods or doing any real productive work all this he knew nothing at all about and had no love for. To him, goods were made to be used; that was his first thought about them. Only secondarily did he think of them as made to be sold. His successors have the same point of view. The more modern theory of business, on the other hand, seems to be exactly the reverse of this. Goods are made, first and foremost, to be sold, be it by hook or crook. Secondarily they are made to be used, and good salesmanship thinks little about their use if only they may be sold.Id., pp. 49-50:
Chinon struck us as even more nearly self-sufficing than most French towns we have seen. Pretty nearly everything the inhabitants use is made on the spot, including furniture. There is a shop here that whittles out first-rate handsome furniture all by hand, and of any sort you want, apparently, and it does a good business. The Chinonese raise their own food and drink, doing their own slaughtering in a small abattoir of very up-to-date appearance on the edge of town, instead of bringing their meat in refrigerator-cars from some central stock-yards. It gave us a queer sensation to see so many people who were each capable of doing something all the way through, making a product from beginning to end, like the old Flemish painters who ground their own colours, made their own brushes, cut and prepared the wooden panels on which they painted. Americans seldom have this complete mastery of an art or craft, and one would think that pride of workmanship would suffer considerably as an effect of close specialization.
Here again, as in Tours, though by a different line of approach, we confronted evidence that the doctrine of quantity-production "ain't what it useter be, and it never was." In fact, one would say that if anything worth keeping is ever going to be salvaged out of our civilization, it will be through the dogged French antipathy to modern industrial ideas and practices. What the French really stand out against is the idea that man can live by things alone—things that are made to sell, and sold for profit—and that if he can only have never enough things, and can occupy his mind exclusively with wanting more things and getting more things, he will be really happy. The French and Americans disagree radically about that; they have an entirely different notion of what human happiness consists in. Maybe the French will come around to our way of thinking, but they show no signs of it yet, and events seem to be bearing out their view.
Eliot and Hayward shared a highly-developed sense of the ridiculous and a love of parody. Eliot suggested a modern version of common errors based on Sir Thomas Browne's seventeenth-century Pseudodoxia Epidemica. Modern errors might include: 'All Policemen have big feet,' or 'A fart, strained through bath water, loses both odour and inflammability,' or 'A cigarette, smoked before breakfast, is sovereign against costiveness.' He told Hayward how disappointed he was in the French translation of Murder in the Cathedral, and included his own pastiche and a footnote to appeal to the scholarly editor:
That bird wych in the dark time of the yeerë
Sitteth in dudgeon (1) on the aspen bouwë
And cryeth arsehole arsehole lhoude and cleerë ...
1. The word does not appear in this sense till 1573.
Labels: noctes scatologicae
A New Approach to Vergil
Arguably the most important publication of this remarkable, though brief, golden age was Virgil: A Study in Civilized Poetry, Brooks Otis's first book, published at the age of 55. Even in this sterling crowd, the book's importance was attested almost immediately by lengthy reviews and frequent citations, by Otis' promotion to Olive Palmer Professor of Humanities at Stanford University in 1964, and by the American Philological Association's 1966 Goodwin Award.Review of the 1963 edition by Georg Luck, "A New Approach to Virgil," Latomus 24.1 (January-March 1965) 128-132 (at 128):
He fails to give a convincing interpretation of the poet, because his approach is too narrow and his interest in the traditional methods of classical scholarship too superficial. He fails because he often projects his own ideas into the text of Virgil and states them as facts. He rejects the views of others and proposes new ones categorically, without discussing the evidence in detail.Id. (at 129):
André Bellessort and Theodor Haecker, to mention only these two, have written fine books on Virgil without making use of an elaborate scholarly apparatus. One enjoys reading them as one would enjoy conversing on Virgil with a man of taste and culture. But if you claim to write as a scholar — and Mr. Otis does — you must expect to be judged by the standards of scholarship. And if you write a book on Virgil, these standards are high.
In the preface (p. vii), Mr. Otis intimates that he realized after reading the Latin and Greek Fathers of the fourth century, that no classical scholar before had clearly understood « what was the magic in the Latin language and milieu » that made Virgil's achievement possible. This could be a significant discovery, and if Mr. Otis had just expanded this statement, he might have made a contribution, but nowhere in the book does he refer to this again, and neither Augustine nor Ambrose are ever quoted, as far as I can see; they are not even included in the « General Index » (pp. 421-31).
Now and then there are observations on metrics, but they either reflect purely personal impressions or are downright wrong: p. 47 on Aen. 5, 320: « The striking fifth foot spondee here vividly expresses the distance between Salius and Nisus »; p. 114 « Then the 'tear-jerking' synaloephae of vidi ut, perii ut are followed by the inexorable dactyls of me malus abstulit error », on Ecl. 8, 41. There is no synaloepha between perii and ut, and I fail to see why these dactyls should be « inexorable ».Id. (at 129-130):
While Mr. Otis lacks interest in the proper business of classical scholarship, he shows a regrettable attitude of condescension towards the work of other scholars. What has been done, so far to explain the achievement of Virgil is, according to Mr. Otis, « at best vague and at worst misleading » (p. vii). Richard Heinze, for example, « fails to deal » with something which is « surely ... not in the least doubtful » (p. 264, n. l), and he « quite misunderstood » (p. 355, n. 2; cf. 246, n. 1) or « misinterpreted » (p. 244, n. 1) other problems. Eduard Norden « quite missed » the « literary, poetical and even Roman meaning » of Virgil's underworld in Book VI (p. 290, n. 1). Bruno Snell has « correctly seen the ideal character of Virgil's Arcadia » but added a « quite unnecessary hypothesis » (p. 119, n. 1). No evidence is produced in any of these instances; we just have to take Mr. Otis' word for it. The contributions to the problems of the sixth Eclogue (Franz Skutsch, Günther Jachmann, Zeph Stewart and others) are summarily dismissed (pp. 137, n. 1; 406 f), because these scholars did not (and could not) know the chronological plan of the Eclogues which is proposed by Mr. Otis in this book (pp. 131 ff) and which is — to say the least — improbable. Mr. Otis does not give those men an opportunity to speak for themselves, and he answers none of the arguments which they thought valid. Anyone may sometimes disagree with the most eminent scholars, but Mr. Otis disagrees so often and so emphatically that one registers his reluctance to state any reasons with increasing uneasiness.Id. (at 130):
We are left with the impression that little work of value has been done on Virgil before Mr. Otis.Id. (at 131):
This is dangerous: take a number of words, such as « objectivity » and « subjectivity », « continuity », « symbolism », « structure », « Homeric » and « un-Homeric », « ideology », « empathy » and « sympathy », combine them in different ways, and you will have a series of statements on Virgil. Remember certain verbs, such as « editorialize », « subjectivize » (p. 56) and « Augustanize », and avoid the precise word if you can think of two meaning roughly the same thing : « Hellenistic or post-classical » (p. vii); « literary or written style » (p. 3) ; « idea or ideal » (p. 6); « romantic or amatory » (p. 62); « 'model' or at least inspiration » (ibid.) ; « narrative or feeling-tone » (p. 63). If you proceed in this fashion, you may easily lose touch with your text.Id. (at 131-132):
On most pages of this book, the reader will find one or several of the following words or phrases : « obviously », « certainly », « undoubtedly », « clearly », « surely », « plainly », « manifestly », « there is every reason to believe », « there is no reason to suppose », etc. We all use these expressions and probably use them too often. But when they appear in such numbers (the reader can easily verify this), they cease to be merely implements of style. They form the picture of a closely reasoned scholarly discourse, based on well-established premises and proceeding logically step by step. This picture is misleading, because most of the things that Mr. Otis calls « certain » and « plain » are far from being plain or certain.
At a time when classical studies in many countries fight for their existence, this book with its dogmatic attitude, its unconcern for genuine issues of scholarship, its easy generalizations, its neglect of accepted methods and its loose writing compares unfavourably with much of what students of Virgil have been trying to do in the past and are trying to do now. To many readers who know the great poet and love him, Mr. Otis' Virgil may appear as an unfamiliar and uninteresting figure. By its sheer, relentless effort to arrive at a new image of Virgil by structural analysis, this book is no doubt remarkable, but neither its methods nor its results will find general acceptance.On the general acceptance of Otis' book, see Briggs (op. cit., p. xi):
The critical reception of the literary judgments in Otis's book was very positive. R.D. Williams called it "a book of outstanding importance in Virgilian studies, and indeed in many aspects of the literary appreciation of Hellenistic Latin poetry."2 Remarking on the debt to Heinze's stylistic analysis and Pöschl's elucidation of structural unity, L.P. Wilkinson credited Otis with "a far more satisfactory and complete exegesis than could be made from a combination of these two."3 Charles Segal set it in the context of current criticism: "It sometimes happens that a single book embodies and, as it were, completes a mood and a direction that have animated a decade or more of scholars working in a given field." For Segal, the value of the book lay in "consolidation, on a large scale, of a number of tendencies in recent critical approaches to Vergil and, second, in his combination of a conventional literary, historical, and philological approach with some contemporary modes of criticism."4
2 Classical Philology 60 (1965): 30.
3 Classical Review 79 (1965): 184.
4 Arion 4 (1965): 126.
Wednesday, September 02, 2020
A Hanging Offence
Woods and meadows were found, too, in the Pyrenees and at the higher levels in Castille, with the great pinewoods of Guadarrama and Gredos, Urbión and Cuenca. The reaction of an average Spaniard of today, driving through a wood, is not "How beautiful!" but "How profitable!" (¡Que riqueza! What riches!) Yet replanting has never kept pace with cutting though some of the oldest documents in the language are warnings or penalties for the man who should cut down a tree. Qui pino taiare, inforquen-lo (Whoso shall cut down a pine tree, let them hang him), was a piece of customary law in a village on the borders of Portugal, and the legislators were right; the more the trees were cut, the drier the climate became and the typical vegetation turned to heath and moor. In some parts of Castille ilex (encina) is about the only tree left; with a carpet of those inconspicuous aromatic plants which the Romans hardly noticed but the Moslems used for medicines.
It is quite obvious, of course, that each of the various nations of mankind considers that any custom whatsoever which is both universally accepted in their society and deeply rooted in their past cannot fail to be perfect and sacrosanct, whereas whatever runs counter to it is deemed deplorable, contemptible and unworthy of serious consideration. Nevertheless people have always managed to find and enlist the support of reasoned arguments from all quarters when their own conventions are involved. Such arguments may indeed be true, but they may also very well be specious fabrications.
καἰ εὔδηλον μὲν ὅτι δὴ τῶν ἀνθρωπείων ἐθνῶν ὡς ἕκαστοι, εἰ γε ὁτῳ δη οῦν νόμῳ ἐκ πλείστου νενικηκότι ἐμβιοτεύσαιεν, τοῦτον δὴ ἄριστον ἡγοῦνται καὶ θεσπέσιον, καὶ εἴ πού τι παρ' ἐκεῖνον πράττοιτο, φευκτόν τε αὐτοῖς εἶναι δοκεῖ καὶ καταγέλαστον καὶ ὁποῖον ἤδη καὶ ἀπιστεῖσθαι. ἐξεύρηνται δὲ ὅμως αἰτίαι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ λόγοι τῶν οἰκείων πέρι νόμων ἄλλοθι ἄλλοι, τυχὸν μὲν ἀληθεῖς, τυχὸν δὲ καὶ ἐς τὸ πιθανώτερον ἐσκευασμένοι.
Start With a Person
Perhaps one gets most out of travel by starting with a strong interest in some one historical figure. The interest broadens out at once in all sorts of unsuspected directions, extends to all sorts of unlooked-for odds-and-ends, throws an attractive light on no end of queer obscure situations and people; all this by the mere force of association. It probably makes no killing difference what person it is that your interest settles on, provided it is one person only, not a group, not a school, not a period, not a theory, philosophy, religion or doctrine of any kind, but just one particular human being. Start with that interest and keep following it, and instantly your interest and knowledge begin branching out and touching all manner of points in the period, all manner of groups and schools, doctrines and tendencies; and above all they introduce you to a whole procession of other historical personages and present them by their most attractive side, so that they will never afterwards be mere storybook-figures to your imagination, but real folks. Nearly everybody likes to read biography, and this way of following up an individual actor in the drama of history is merely harvesting raw biography. You cook it as you go along, and flavour it to your own taste, which is much more interesting than having some one else cook it for you.
Getting Close to the Past
If you really want to get close to the past, as close as you can possibly get, then take a patch of unforgiving land and attempt to feed yourself from it. Doing so opens a window into the eternal struggle of human existence.Id., pp. 338-339:
This is the age of the leaf blower, the electric window and the battery-powered pepper grinder (with a built-in light)....Rake up your leaves. Grind your own pepper. Use your own arm to wind your car window up and down. Use your legs, in the first place, to get you from A to B.
29. A Joke about Urinating (200, [Motto del Piovano Arlotto sendo in una compagnia che orinavano])Related posts:
Andando a solazzo con certi suoi amici el detto Piovano, tutti si fermorono a orinare e il Piovano con loro insieme; e agiunsevi che fe' uno terribile peto, in modo che tutti si maravigliorono. Disse il Piovano: —Pigliate voi ammirazione sì grande d'uno peto abbi fatto: or non vi pare egli che uno trombone istà bene tra tanti pifferi?7
Witty remark made by Arlotto in a group of men urinating
While Arlotto was going to an outing with some of his friends, they all stopped to urinate, and Arlotto with them; and it happened that he let out a terrific fart, so that they were all astonished. But Arlotto said: "You are so astonished by the fart I produced, but don't you think that a trombone goes well with so many whistles?"7
7 Breaking wind while urinating is a topic later discussed by the French doctor Laurent Jouben in his Erreurs populaires (1578).
- Trumpet Solo
- How to Be an Entrepreneur
- A Musical Instrument
- Roland le Pettour
- A Resonating Fundament
- Rectal Music
Labels: noctes scatologicae
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
In my Game Department days in Zambia, I had the task of paying out a government bonus on bushpigs killed by villagers over and above those my staff killed in control work.These bonuses were paid out on my behalf by the District Commissioners in each district as the country was so large. Once a year I visited the District Commissioners, counted the tails collected as tokens of payments made, and then reimbursed their department from mine. At one station I found that the District Commissioner had paid out a very large sum to the local villagers. Indeed, he had an enormous pile of tails to prove the number of pigs killed and paid for. Much to his dismay, I and my game scouts, sat down and inspected each tail carefully as we counted. Slowly we sorted out a small pile of genuine tails from a mountain of clever counterfeits. The villagers had economized on labor and found it paid better to spend their time making tails from parts of the hide which they twisted, trimmed and dried, than to actually hunt pigs.
I Fell in Love with Caesar
Not having started Latin until the year before, I was tutoring with Miss Gowrie in Caesar to meet college requirements and at the same time taking Cicero in classwork. The very first day, as we sat at her desk with the Commentaries between us and learned the divisions of Gaul, the fantastic thing occurred: I fell in love with Caesar! The sensation was utterly confounding. All my previous crushes had been products of my will, constructs of my personal convention, or projections of myself, the way Catiline was. This came from without and seized me; there was nothing that could have warned me that Caesar would be like this.
Probably it might have happened with another—with Thucydides, say, if Greek had been offered at Annie Wright. I can experience today the same inner trembling when I read, "Thucydides of Athens has written the history of the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians." But, as it came about, the first piercing contact with an impersonal reality happened to me through Caesar, just, laconic, severe, magnanimous, detached—the bald instrument of empire who wrote not "I" but "Caesar." The very grammar was beatified for me by the objective temperament that ordered it, so much so that today I cannot see an ablative absolute or a passage of indirect discourse without happy tears springing to my eyes. Classicist friends laugh when I say that Caesar is a great stylist, but I think so. I know the Gallic War is regarded by historians as simply a campaign document, but in my heart I do not believe it. The idea that critics exist who pretend to tell you, at a distance of two thousand years, what "really" happened at Gergovia or in Britain fills me with Olympian mirth. For me, Caesar's word is sufficient; he did not palliate his cruelties or stain the names of his opponents.
For an American audience, at the risk of a bad pun, annus horribilis probably translates as an asshole of a year ...
Truly is he an abomination, a veritable spawn, an offal tun, a wormwood, a stench house, a filthy swill tub, a putrid carcass, a mildewed canister, a sack without bottom, a poke full of holes, a flatulent bellows, a voracious gullet, a stinking glue-pot, an evil-smelling puncheon, a deceitful strawpuppet, an earthen still-room, a bottomless firebucket and an alluringly painted tenement of clay. May it be heard by whomsoever: Every roundly made man hath nine orifices in his body from which exudeth such loathsome and filthy dirt, the like of which can scarce be found elsewhere.Kirrmann's translation is based on the modern German version by Alois Bernt. Here is my transcription from Alois Bernt, tr., Der Ackermann und der Tod (Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1916), p. 37 (I hope I've read the Fraktur correctly):
... ein ganzer Ekel, ein Kotfaß, eine Wurmspeise, ein Stankhaus, ein schmutziger Spülzuber, ein faules Aas, ein Schimmelkasten, ein Sack ohne Boden, eine löcherige Tasche, ein Blasbalg, ein gieriger Schlund, ein stinkender Harnkrug, ein übelriechender Eimer, ein betrüglicher Puppenschein, ein lehmiges Raubhaus, ein unersättlicher Löschkrug und eie gemalte Verlockung. Es höre, wer da wolle: ein jeder ganz geschaffener Mensch hat neun Löcher in seinem Leibe, aus diesen allen fliegt so ekliger und schmutziger Unflat, daß es nichts Unreineres geben kann.