Monday, October 12, 2020
An Echo of Plautus' Trinummus
In the passage from the Trinummus, Plautus isn't talking about the human mind, but rather about a plot of land.ad IV.478: hunc uersum si nosset Theodorus Birtius, in hospitium suum calamitatis I. Muell. manual. class. antiqu. I iii p. 72 recepisset.17Housman thought little of Theodor Birt's 1913 volume on textual transmission and criticism; after asserting that Birt was ignorant of this verse's existence, he refers to his collection (either of metrical examples or as a whole)18 as an 'abode of woe' (hospitium calamitatis). The phrase is drawn from the comic playwright Plautus' Trinummus (553-4): hospitium calamitatis, quid uerbis opus est? | quamuis malam rem quaeras, illic reperias. '[The human mind is] an abode of woe: what need is there for words? Whatever bad thing you may search for, you may find it there.' The attack on Birt is therefore phrased in grimly pessimistic terms about the fundamental impurity of man's mind.
17. 'If Theodor Birt had known of this verse, he would have welcomed it into his abode of woe at Vol. 1.iii p.72 of Iwan von Mueller's Handbuch der Klassischen Altertumswissenschaft [Kritik und Hermeneutik, Munich, 1913].'
18. Birt provides ad loc. a controversial series of cases where final short vowels appear to be standing in lieu of long syllables in dactylic verse.
Labels: typographical and other errors