Friday, February 26, 2021


Life's Delight

Goethe, Iphigenia in Tauris 2.1.701-706 (their, them, they = the gods; tr. Roy Pascal):
If by their grace a man does deeds of joy,
Rescues his loved ones from disaster,
If he expands his realm, secures his frontiers,
And sees old enemies take flight or fall,
Then he may give them thanks! For they
Have granted him life's first and last delight.

Wenn sie dem Menschen frohe Tat bescheren,
Dass er ein Unheil von den Seinen wendet,
Dass er sein Reich vermehrt, die Grenzen sichert,
Und alte Feinde fallen oder fliehn;
Dann mag er danken! denn ihm hat ein Gott
Des Lebens erste, letzte Lust gegönnt.


What Is the Use of Homer and Oppian?

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1981), p. 83, with note on p. 290:
So [Theodore] Ptochoprodromos learnt his letters, but to what avail? His cupboard contained nothing but piles of paper and he had nothing to eat. And so he compares his poverty to the plenty of his neighbours. The worker in gold thread has his larder full of bread and wine, of cooked tunny and dried mackerel. The shoemaker, when he wakes up in the morning, sends his boy to purchase tripe and Vlach cheese, and only after he has breakfasted on these delicacies does he start work. At dinner-time he lays aside his last and his tools and bids his wife serve a meal of three dainty courses. With obsessional attention to what everyone has to eat, Ptochoprodromos compares himself to the practitioners of other professions, even the lowliest—the tailor who happens to be a houseowner, the bakery assistant, the yogurt vendor, the itinerant seller of clothes and pepper-grinders, the butcher. All of them have a full stomach. What then is the use of Homer and Oppian?52

52 D.-C. Hesseling and H. Pernot (eds.), Poèmes prodromiques en grec vulgaire (Amsterdam, 1910), 72ff.
This reminds me of Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana (New York, 1856), p. 300:
At the house of the same gentleman I introduced Cogan to Porson, saying, "This is Mr. Cogan, who is passionately fond of what you have devoted yourself to,—Greek."

Porson replied, "If Mr. Cogan is passionately fond of Greek, he must be content to dine on bread and cheese for the rest of his life."

Thursday, February 25, 2021



Gian Biagio Conte, Ope Ingenii: Experiences of Textual Criticism (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), p. 20:
I remember that when Eduard Fraenkel held his seminars at the Scuola Normale in Pisa, he used to say to us, every now and then, with a smile: "A philologist is always happy when he finds a parallel".15 He spoke Italian very well, but, in an error caused by the German eine Parallele, he got the gender of the word wrong in Italian (… "when he finds a parallel bar"); and we, too, smiled in amusement at his mistake.

15 See the recordings of two seminars (on Ajax and Philoctetes) interspersed with exuberant exclamations and witty, learned obiter dicta in Due seminari romani di Eduard Fraenkel, with an introduction by L.E. Rossi, Sussidi Eruditi 28, Edizioni di Storia e Letter., Rome 1977.


An Emigrant's Lament

Catullus 63.50-61 (tr. David Mulroy):
Land of our fathers, creator of life, land of my birth,        50
land that I fled (fatal mistake!) like a fugitive slave
deserting his lords, steering my path to the forests of Ida
to live in the region of snow and the cold stables of beasts,
visiting animals’ hidden retreats, brimming with madness,
where do I reckon you lie, fatherland, how can I see you?        55
My eye by itself struggles to fasten its gaze on your shores
during my soul’s fleeting remissions from furious madness.
Am I to be torn from my home, kept in these faraway places?
Lost to my friends, parents, and country, and all that I own.
Gone from the forum and the wrestling ground, tracks and gymnasia?        60
What absolute misery! Spirit, repent over and over!

patria o mei creatrix, patria o mea genetrix,        50
ego quam miser relinquens, dominos ut erifugae
famuli solent, ad Idae tetuli nemora pedem,
ut apud nivem et ferarum gelida stabula forem
et earum operta adirem furibunda latibula,
ubinam aut quibus locis te positam, patria, reor?        55
cupit ipsa pupula ad te sibi derigere aciem,
rabie fera carens dum breve tempus animus est.
egone a mea remota haec ferar in nemora domo?
patria, bonis, amicis, genitoribus abero?
abero foro, palaestra, stadio et gyminasiis?        60
miser a miser, querendum est etiam atque etiam, anime.

54 operta vel opaca L. Mueller, amica Muretus: omnia codd.
C.J. Fordyce ad loc.:

Robinson Ellis ad loc.:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


The Last Link in the Chain

Goethe, Iphigenia in Tauris 1.3.351-355 (tr. Roy Pascal):
Happy are they who gladly remember their ancestors;
Whose delight it is to please the hearer
With tales of their deeds and greatness, and in quiet joy
See themselves linked to a noble chain.

Wohl dem, der seiner Väter gern gedenkt,
Der froh von ihren Taten, ihrer Größe,
Den Hörer unterhält und still sich freuend
Ans Ende dieser schönen Reihe sich
Geschlossen sieht!
Walter Scott, The Antiquary, chapter IX:
"There was always some idle story of the room being haunted by the spirit of Aldobrand Oldenbuck, my great-great-great-grandfather—it’s a shame to the English language that, we have not a less clumsy way of expressing a relationship of which we have occasion to think and speak so frequently."
Thanks to Eric Thomson for the quotation from Scott.


Sad Indifference

Guy de Maupassant, letter to Gustave Flaubert (July 5, 1878; tr. Roger Pearson):
From time to time I have such a clear perception of the pointlessness of everything, of the unthinking malice of creation, of the emptiness that lies ahead (whatever form the future may take) that I am filled with a sad indifference towards all things and I just want to sit in a corner and stay there, devoid of hope and free from all vexation.

Il me vient par moments des perceptions si nettes de l'inutilité de tout, de la méchanceté inconsciente de la création, du vide de l'avenir (quel qu'il soit) que je me sens venir une indifférence triste pour toutes choses et que je voudrais seulement rester tranquille, tranquille dans un coin, sans espoirs et sans embêtements.


Urban Violence

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1981), pp. 67-68, with notes on p. 289:
Another symptom of disintegration was urban violence. It may be argued, of course, that riots were nothing new and that in the previous two centuries there had been no lack of food riots, religious riots and theatre riots. There was, however, from the reign of Anastasius onwards an escalation of violence which centred more and more on the hippodrome. The two main factions, the Blues and the Greens, regularly came to blows and then went on to commit arson. The list of these disturbances is very long and some of them resulted in enormous damage, like the great pogrom at Antioch in 507 and the famous Nika riot at Constantinople (532) which is said to have left thirty thousand corpses and reduced the centre of the city to ashes. When Antioch had been almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 526 with an alleged death-toll of 250,000, the warring factions became reconciled, but only for a short time.17 Especially chilling (if, doubtless, somewhat exaggerated) is the account given by Procopius of the hippodrome thugs who, he alleges, were given complete licence by the Emperor Justinian to rob and kill, rape women and extort money, with the result that respectable citizens no longer dared to go out after dark.18 In the light of our own experience we have no trouble in visualizing those bands of youths with long beards and moustaches, with dangling hair, dressed in deliberately barbaric fashion, who engaged in gang warfare when they were not waylaying innocent people. We also have no difficulty in believing what all the Byzantine sources tell us, namely that this was mindless hooliganism and nothing more. As has recently been demonstrated,19 the Blues and the Greens had no political objectives, no explicit class grievances or religious identification. But while hooliganism has no philosophy, no one will deny that it is a symptom — be it of urban decay or a loss of values or an overly dull and regimented society.

17 Malalas, Chronographia, CSHB, 422.

18 Procopius, Secret History, vii.

19 A. Cameron, Circus Factions (Oxford, 1976).


Use Your Memory

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), The Gulag Archipelago (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), pp. 516-517 (Volume 1, Part II, chapter 1, tr. Thomas P. Whitney):
Own nothing! Possess nothing! Buddha and Christ taught us this, and the Stoics and the Cynics. Greedy though we are, why can't we seem to grasp that simple teaching? Can't we understand that with property we destroy our soul?

So let the herring keep warm in your pocket until you get to the transit prison rather than beg for something to drink here. And did they give us a two-day supply of bread and sugar? In that case, eat it in one sitting. Then no one will steal it from you, and you won't have to worry about it. And you'll be free as a bird in heaven!

Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. Use your memory! Use your memory! It is those bitter seeds alone which might sprout and grow someday.

Look around you—there are people around you. Maybe you will remember one of them all your life and later eat your heart out because you didn't make use of the opportunity to ask him questions. And the less you talk, the more you'll hear. Thin strands of human lives stretch from island to island of the Archipelago. They intertwine, touch one another for one night only in just such a clickety-clacking half-dark car as this and then separate once and for all. Put your ear to their quiet humming and the steady clickety-clack beneath the car. After all, it is the spinning wheel of life that is clicking and clacking away there.
Hat tip: Joel Eidsath.

Related posts:


With Knee to Man Unbent

Francis Hastings Doyle (1810-1888), "The Private of the Buffs," The Return of the Guards and Other Poems (London: Macmillan and Co., 1883), pp. 95-96 (line numbers added):
"Some Seiks, and a private of the Buffs, having remained behind with the grog-carts, fell into the hands of the Chinese. On the next morning they were brought before the authorities, and commanded to perform the kotou. The Seiks obeyed; but Moyse, the English soldier, declaring that he would not prostrate himself before any Chinaman alive, was immediately knocked upon the head, and his body thrown on a dunghill." — See China Correspondent of the "Times."

Last night, among his fellow roughs,
    He jested, quaffed, and swore;
A drunken private of the Buffs,
    Who never looked before.
To-day, beneath the foeman's frown,        5
    He stands in Elgin's place,
Ambassador from Britain's crown,
    And type of all her race.

Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught,
    Bewildered, and alone,        10
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
    He yet can call his own.
Ay, tear his body limb from limb,
    Bring cord, or axe, or flame:
He only knows, that not through him        15
    Shall England come to shame.

Far Kentish1 hop-fields round him seem'd,
    Like dreams, to come and go;
Bright leagues of cherry-blossom gleam'd,
    One sheet of living snow;        20
The smoke, above his father's door,
    In gray soft eddyings hung:
Must he then watch it rise no more,
    Doom'd by himself, so young?

Yes, honour calls!—with strength like steel        25
    He put the vision by.
Let dusky Indians whine and kneel;
    An English lad must die.
And thus, with eyes that would not shrink,
    With knee to man unbent,        30
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink,
    To his red grave he went.

Vain, mightiest fleets of iron framed;
    Vain, those all-shattering guns;
Unless proud England keep, untamed,        35
    The strong heart of her sons.
So, let his name through Europe ring—
    A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta's king,
    Because his soul was great.        40

1 The Buffs, or East Kent Regiment.
J.P. Entract, "A Postscript to 'The Private of the Buffs'," Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research Vol. 41, No. 165 (March, 1963) 42-46 (at 45, bracketed material added):
Moyes was neither a "Kentish Man" nor a "Man of Kent" [cf. line 17] but a Scot. Although the connection of the regiment with Kent (for recruiting purposes) dates from 1782, there is no record of their being stationed in the county during Moyes's period of service. The depot at Canterbury was not established until the 1870s.


He was no "lad" [line 28] but a man of 32, with fifteen years' service and the Crimea medal, who had only recently lost the responsible rank of Colour-Serjeant. In this connection, it may be that the climate was beginning to take its toll, as it has done to many others in the "outposts of Empire."
Some additional notes:

Seiks = Sikhs

Line 6: Elgin = James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, High Commissioner and Plenipotentiary in China and the Far East during the 2nd Opium War

Line 39: Sparta's king = Leonidas, who fell with the 300, fighting against the Persians at Thermopylae (480 BC)

Doyle's poem used to appear often in anthologies, e.g. in Henry Van Dyke, ed., Poetry: Idyls and Stories in Verse (Garden City: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1924 = The Pocket University, XI), pp. 284-285 — see also Asa Don Dickinson, "The Guide to Daily Reading," in The Guide to Reading (Garden City: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1925 = The Pocket University, XXIII), pp. 79-161 (at 153, under December 1). But it seems to have fallen out of favor today.
William Robertson Smith Stott (1878-1939),
Private John Moyse, The 3rd (East Kent, The Buffs) Regiment of Foot,
refusing to kow-tow before the Tartar Mandarin Tsan-koo-lin-sin, 1860

(National Army Museum, Accession Number 2001-04-329-1)

That was then, this is now:

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


In Exile

Goethe, Iphigenia in Tauris 1.2.75-78 (tr. David Luke):
ARCAS. Do you feel orphaned and in exile here?
IPHIGENIA. Can a strange land become our native soil?
ARCAS. And yet your own land has grown strange to you.
IPHIGENIA. That is why my heart bleeds and cannot heal.

ARKAS. Scheinst du dir hier vertrieben und verwaist?
IPHIGENIE. Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS. Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE. Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.


Regional Solidarity and Hostility

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1981), p. 30, with note on p. 286:
As far as we can judge, the main links of solidarity were two: regional and religious. People identified themselves with their village, their city or their province much more than they did with the Empire. When a person was away from home he was a stranger and was often treated with suspicion. A monk from western Asia Minor who joined a monastery in Pontus was 'disparaged and mistreated by everyone as a stranger'.33 The corollary to regional solidarity was regional hostility. We encounter many derogatory statements concerning 'the cunning Syrian' who spoke with a thick accent, the uncouth Paphlagonian, the mendacious Cretan. Alexandrians excited ridicule at Constantinople. Armenians were nearly always described in terms of abuse. Even demons, as we shall see in Chapter 7, had strong feelings of local affiliation and did not want to consort with their fellows from the next province.

33 John Climacus, Scala paradisi, PG lxxxviii, 721.
Id., p. 162:
These naively reported incidents prompt a number of observations. We may note, first, the strong local feeling exhibited by the demons: those of Gordiane considered themselves tougher than those of Galatia; the demons that hailed from Cappadocia refused to let themselves be confined at Germia, and their plea was considered reasonable by St Theodore.
Related posts:


Ad Fontes

George Eliot, letter to Sara Hennell (October 28, 1865):
But it seems to me much better to read a man's own writing than to read what others say about him, especially when the man is first-rate and the "others" third-rate.
Related posts:

Monday, February 22, 2021


Boxing Like a Barbarian

Demosthenes 4.40-41 (tr. J.H. Vince):
But you, Athenians, possessing unsurpassed resources—fleet, infantry, cavalry, revenues—have never to this very day employed them aright, and yet you carry on war with Philip exactly as a barbarian boxes. The barbarian, when struck, always clutches the place; hit him on the other side and there go his hands. He neither knows nor cares how to parry a blow or how to watch his adversary.

So you, if you hear of Philip in the Chersonese, vote an expedition there; if at Thermopylae, you vote one there; if somewhere else, you still keep pace with him to and fro. You take your marching orders from him; you have never framed any plan of campaign for yourselves, never foreseen any event, until you learn that something has happened or is happening.

ὑμεῖς δ᾽, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πλείστην δύναμιν ἁπάντων ἔχοντες, τριήρεις, ὁπλίτας, ἱππέας, χρημάτων πρόσοδον, τούτων μὲν μέχρι τῆς τήμερον ἡμέρας οὐδενὶ πώποτ᾽ εἰς δέον τι κέχρησθε, οὐδὲν δ᾽ ἀπολείπετε, ὥσπερ οἱ βάρβαροι πυκτεύουσιν, οὕτω πολεμεῖν Φιλίππῳ. καὶ γὰρ ἐκείνων ὁ πληγεὶς ἀεὶ τῆς πληγῆς ἔχεται, κἂν ἑτέρωσε πατάξῃ τις, ἐκεῖσ᾽ εἰσὶν αἱ χεῖρες· προβάλλεσθαι δ᾽ ἢ βλέπειν ἐναντίον οὔτ᾽ οἶδεν οὔτ᾽ ἐθέλει.

καὶ ὑμεῖς, ἂν ἐν Χερρονήσῳ πύθησθε Φίλιππον, ἐκεῖσε βοηθεῖν ψηφίζεσθε, ἂν ἐν Πύλαις, ἐκεῖσε, ἂν ἄλλοθί που, συμπαραθεῖτ᾽ ἄνω κάτω, καὶ στρατηγεῖσθ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἐκείνου, βεβούλευσθε δ᾽ οὐδὲν αὐτοὶ συμφέρον περὶ τοῦ πολέμου, οὐδὲ πρὸ τῶν πραγμάτων προορᾶτ᾽ οὐδέν, πρὶν ἂν ἢ γεγενημένον ἢ γιγνόμενόν τι πύθησθε.
T. Gwatkin ad loc. (click once or twice to enlarge):


A Proverb

Francis Bacon, Essays, LIV (Of Vain-Glory):
[A]ccording to the French proverb, beaucoup de bruit, peu de fruit; much bruit, little fruit.
Bruit = noise. Cf. a similar Italian proverb:
Molte parole, pochi fatti.


Life Outdoors

H.D.F. Kitto (1897-1982), The Greeks, rev. ed. (1957; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1967), pp. 36-37 (footnote omitted):
In Greece one can lead an active life on much less food than harsher climates make necessary; but there is also the fact that the Greek — the Greek man — could and did spend most of his leisure hours out of doors. That in itself meant that he had more leisure; he did not need to work in order to buy settees and coal. — After all, the reason why we English have invented 'le confort anglais' is that we cannot be comfortable and warm except indoors. The leisure which the Athenian enjoyed is popularly attributed to the existence of slavery. Slavery had something to do with it, but not so much as the fact that three-quarters of the things which we slave for the Greek simply did without.

So, spending out of doors the leisure which he earned largely by doing without things which we find or think necessary, the Greek, whether in town or village, was able to sharpen his wits and improve his manners through constant intercourse with his fellows. Few people have been so completely sociable. Talk was the breath of life to the Greek — as indeed it still is, though somewhat spoiled by a serious addiction to newspapers. What society but Athens could have produced a figure like Socrates — a man who changed the current of human thought without writing a word, without preaching a doctrine, simply by talking in the streets of a city which he never left but twice — for the battlefield? In what other society is one so little conscious of a chasm between the educated and the uneducated, between those with taste and the vulgar? The real education of the Athenian, and of many another Greek, was given in the places of assembly — in the hours of talk in market-place, colonnade or gymnasium, in the political assembly, in the theatre, at the public recitals of Homer, and at the religious processions and celebrations. For it was perhaps the greatest boon conferred upon Attica by her chmate that her big assemblies could be held in the open air. However democratic the instincts of the Athenian might be, Athenian democracy could not have developed as it did — nor for that matter Athenian Drama — if a roof and walls had been necessary. In our conditions of shelter, privacy and admission-fees, the life of the well-to-do must be potentially richer than the life of the poor, and only six hundred can have direct access to the business of the nation. In Athens all these things could be open to all because they could be open to the air and the sun. To explain Athenian culture simply as the product of the Athenian climate would be foohsh, though not unfashionable; nevertheless it is demonstrable that in a different climate it could not have developed as it did.


A Merrier World

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, chapter XVIII (Thorin speaking):
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Sunday, February 21, 2021


Remembering Theogenes

Aristophanes, fragment 582 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
This Theogenes is the Acharnian, whom they also ridicule for copious excretion, as is clear in Seasons.

ὁ Θεογένης οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Ἀχαρνεύς, ὃν καὶ ἐπὶ τῷ μεγάλα ἀποπατεῖν κωμῳδοῦσιν. δῆλον δὲ ἐν ταῖς Ὥραις.
R. Kassel and C. Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. III 2: Aristophanes, Testimonia et Fragmenta (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984), p. 301:



The Greatest Evil

Sophocles, Antigone 672 (Creon speaking; tr. H.D.F. Kitto):
                                     But there is
No greater curse than disobedience.

ἀναρχίας δὲ μεῖζον οὐκ ἔστιν κακόν.
J.C. Kamerbeek ad loc.:
ἀναρχίας: here for the first time (unless Aesch. Sept. 1030 is authentic), meaning 'unruliness', i.e. a state of affairs where the ruler cannot assert himself and where disobedience is rife. (Cf. Ed. Fraenkel ad Ag. 883). Cf. O.T. 628 ἀρκτέον γ' ὅμως and the gloss a.h.l. ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀπειθείας.
Kamerbeek's note would be more intelligible if the comma after the first set of parentheses were removed.

Eduard Fraenkel on Aeschylus, Agamemnon 883:



Joseph Addison, The Spectator, no. 185 (Tuesday, October 2, 1711):
I would have every Zealous Man examine his Heart throughly, and, I believe, he will often find that what he calls a Zeal for his Religion is either Pride, Interest, or Ill-nature. A Man who differs from another in Opinion sets himself above him in his own Judgment, and in several Particulars pretends to be the wiser Person. This is a great Provocation to the Proud Man, and gives a very keen Edge to what he calls his Zeal.
A Man is glad to gain Numbers on his side, as they serve to strengthen him in his private Opinions. Every Proselyte is like a new Argument for the Establishment of his Faith. It makes him believe that his Principles carry Conviction with them, and are the more likely to be true, when he finds they are conformable to the Reason of others, as well as to his own.
Ill-nature is another dreadful Imitator of Zeal. Many a good Man may have a Natural Rancour and Malice in his Heart, which has been in some measure quelled and subdued by Religion but if it finds any Pretence of breaking out, which does not seem to him inconsistent with the Duties of a Christian, it throws off all Restraint, and rages in its full Fury. Zeal is therefore a great Ease to a malicious Man, by making him believe he does God Service, whilst he is gratifying the bent of a perverse revengeful Temper.

Saturday, February 20, 2021


Perilous Piercing Cold

Gavin Douglas (1474-1522), Eneados, Prologue VII, lines 85-96 (my rough translation):
Far and wide with force the wind shouts so shrill
In this frozen season sharp and chill,
The cold air, penetrating and clear,
Benumbing the blood in every creature,
Made me seek warm vapors and comforting hot fires,
In double garment clad and heavy undercoat,
With potent drink and comforting foods
To struggle against the harsh winter.
Well refreshed and by the chimney basking,
Early at night down in bed I stretched myself,
Wrapped my head, threw on covers threefold,
To drive away the perilous, piercing cold.

Wyde quhar with fors so Eolus showtis schill        85
In this congelit sesson scharp and chill,
The callour air, penetratyve and puyr,
Dasyng the blude in every creatur,
Maid seik warm stovis, and beyn fyris hoyt,
In dowbill garmont clad and wily coyt,        90
With mychty drink, and metis confortyve
Agane the stern wynter for to stryve.
Repatyrrit weil and by the chymnay bekyt,
At evin be tymes downe a bed I me strekyt,
Warpit my hed, kest on clathes thrynfald,        95
Fortil expell the peralus persand cauld.
Joseph Farquharson, Homeward Through the Glistening Snow

Thanks to Eric Thomson for much help (but not complete endorsement of the final translation).

Friday, February 19, 2021


Deathbed Colloquy

Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists, rev. ed. (1987; rpt. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), p. 108 (on John Field):
He played in Italy, took sick in Naples, left the hospital in poverty, was bailed out by a Russian family, made his way to Vienna (where he stayed with Czerny), returned to Russia and died in Moscow on January 11, 1837. The following colloquy is attributed to Field on his deathbed:

"Are you a Protestant?" asked the priest.


"Perhaps you are a Catholic?"

"Never mind."

"Then you are a Calvinist."

"No, I am not a Calvinist. I am a Clavecinist."


Lament of an Alien

Goethe, Iphigenia in Tauris 1.1.9-22 (tr. David Luke):
But now, as then, I am in alien land.
For from the friends I love the sea divides me        10
And day by day I stand upon the shore
Seeking with all my soul the land of Greece;
And to my sighs, alas, there comes no answer
But hollow echoes of the roaring wave.
How lonely is the man who lives alone        15
Far from his family! Bitter grief corrupts
Each present joy before his very lips.
His yearning thoughts swarm back unceasingly
Towards his father's house, where first the sun
Disclosed the heavens to him, where between        20
Brothers and sisters tender bonds of love
Were forged for ever as they lived and played.

Doch immer bin ich, wie im ersten, fremd.
Denn ach mich trennt das Meer von den Geliebten,        10
Und an dem Ufer steh ich lange Tage,
Das Land der Griechen mit der Seele suchend;
Und gegen meine Seufzer bringt die Welle
Nur dumpfe Töne brausend mir herüber.
Weh dem, der fern von Eltern und Geschwistern        15
Ein einsam Leben führt! Ihm zehrt der Gram
Das nächste Glück vor seinen Lippen weg.
Ihm schwärmen abwärts immer die Gedanken
Nach seines Vaters Hallen, wo die Sonne
Zuerst den Himmel vor ihm aufschloss, wo        20
Sich Mitgeborne spielend fest und fester
Mit sanften Banden aneinander knüpften.


Bulwark Against Tyranny

Demosthenes 6.23-24 (Second Philippic, Demosthenes addressing the Messenians; tr. J.H. Vince):
"Verily," I said, "there are manifold means devised by states for protection and safety—stockades, ramparts, fosses and the like. And all these are wrought by hand and entail expense. But there is one common bulwark which the instinct of sensible men possesses within itself, a good and safe one for all, but invaluable for democracies against tyrants. And what is that bulwark? It is mistrust. Guard that; hold fast to that. If you preserve it, no harm can touch you."

"ἔστι τοίνυν νὴ Δί᾿," ἔφην ἐγώ, "παντοδαπὰ εὑρημένα ταῖς πόλεσι πρὸς φυλακὴν καὶ σωτηρίαν, οἷον χαρακώματα καὶ τείχη καὶ τάφροι καὶ τἄλλ᾿ ὅσα τοιαῦτα. καὶ ταῦτα μέν ἐστιν ἅπαντα χειροποίητα καὶ δαπάνης προσδεῖται· ἓν δέ τι κοινὸν ἡ φύσις τῶν εὖ φρονούντων ἐν αὑτῇ κέκτηται φυλακτήριον, ὃ πᾶσι μέν ἐστ᾿ ἀγαθὸν καὶ σωτήριον, μάλιστα δὲ τοῖς πλήθεσι πρὸς τοὺς τυράννους. τί οὖν ἐστι τοῦτο; ἀπιστία. ταύτην φυλάττετε, ταύτης ἀντέχεσθε· ἂν ταύτην σῴζητε, οὐδὲν μὴ δεινὸν πάθητε."


Nothing Wrong

Sophocles, Antigone 511 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
There is nothing shameful in piety to a brother.

οὐδὲν γὰρ αἰσχρὸν τοὺς ὁμοσπλάγχνους σέβειν.
ὁμόσπλαγχνος = ὁμογάστριος = from the same womb, born of the same mother, uterine (Liddell-Scott-Jones).

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Arrows of Malice

Friedrich Nietzsche, Morgenröthe, Book IV, § 323 (excerpt, tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
The number of these revengeful little people is tremendous, not to speak of that of their little revengeful acts; the whole air is continually whizzing with the arrows of their malice, so that the sun and the sky of life are darkened by them — not only their sky but ours too: which is worse than the scratches they often make on our heart and skin. Do we not sometimes deny that there is such a thing as sun and sky, simply because we have not seen them for so long?

Die Zahl dieser kleinen Rachsüchtigen und gar die ihrer kleinen Rache-Acte ist ungeheuer; die ganze Luft schwirrt fortwährend von den abgeschossenen Pfeilen und Pfeilchen ihrer Bosheit, sodass die Sonne und der Himmel des Lebens dadurch verdunkelt werden — nicht nur ihnen, sondern noch mehr uns, den Anderen, Übrigen: was schlimmer ist, als dass sie uns allzu oft Haut und Herz ritzen. Leugnen wir nicht mitunter Sonne und Himmel, blos weil wir sie so lange nicht gesehen haben?
"Arrows" is a bit spare for "abgeschossenen Pfeilen und Pfeilchen" ("loosed arrows and darts"). Likewise "ours" for "uns, den Anderen, Übrigen" ("for us, the others, the rest").


Blaming the Messenger

Sophocles, Antigone 277 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
For no one loves the messenger who brings bad news.

στέργει γὰρ οὐδεὶς ἄγγελον κακῶν ἐπῶν.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Vain Plans for Improvement

Walter Savage Landor, "William Penn and Lord Peterborough," Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 9-123 (at 97):
Penn. Such, alas, is the world! May we not improve it?

Peterborough. May you not turn wolves into fawns, thistles into wheat, granite into peas and clover? Try this first.


Truth and Justice

Demosthenes 2.10 (tr. Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge):
It is impossible, men of Athens, utterly impossible, to acquire power that will last, by unrighteousness, by perjury, and by falsehood. Such power holds out for a moment, or for a brief hour; it blossoms brightly, perhaps, with fair hopes; but time detects the fraud, and the flower falls withered about its stem. In a house or a ship, or any other structure, it is the foundations that must be strongest; and no less, I believe, must the principles, which are the foundation of men's actions, be those of truth and righteousness.

οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν, οὐκ ἔστιν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, ἀδικοῦντα κἀπιορκοῦντα καὶ ψευδόμενον δύναμιν βεβαίαν κτήσασθαι, ἀλλὰ τὰ τοιαῦτ᾽ εἰς μὲν ἅπαξ καὶ βραχὺν χρόνον ἀντέχει, καὶ σφόδρα γ᾽ ἤνθησ᾽ ἐπὶ ταῖς ἐλπίσιν, ἂν τύχῃ, τῷ χρόνῳ δὲ φωρᾶται καὶ περὶ αὑτὰ καταρρεῖ. ὥσπερ γὰρ οἰκίας, οἶμαι, καὶ πλοίου καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν τοιούτων τὰ κάτωθεν ἰσχυρότατ᾽ εἶναι δεῖ, οὕτω καὶ τῶν πράξεων τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ὑποθέσεις ἀληθεῖς καὶ δικαίας εἶναι προσήκει.


The Wine Cure

Pindar, Paeans 4.26 (tr. William H. Race): remedy for helplessness...

...βιόδωρον ἀμαχανίας ἄκος...

Monday, February 15, 2021



Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 7963-7964 (tr. David Luke):
Things one was used to, they still haunt the mind;
Paradise is what one has left behind.

Man denkt an das, was man verließ,
was man gewohnt war, bleibt ein Paradies.
A more literal rendering, by Leopold J. Bernays:
People think on what they have left,—
what people are accustomed to, remains a Paradise.


Nature and the Pitchfork

Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment: Truth, Virtue, and Beauty in Mozart's Operas (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993), p. 35, with note on p. 325:
'Thrust nature back with a pitchfork, it will return,' says Richardson's libertine Lovelace.55

55. S. Richardson, Clarissa, vol. III (1986), p. 179.
Horace is the original source of the quotation (Epistles 1.10.24):
naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

Saturday, February 13, 2021


Presumption of Falsehood

David Hume, letter to Adam Smith (April 12, 1759):
Nothing indeed can be a stronger Presumption of Falsehood than the Approbation of the Multitude...

Friday, February 12, 2021


On Learning Foreign Languages

[Basil L. Gildersleeve,] "On Learning Foreign Languages," The Nation 42 (1886) 335:
In the last number of the Revue Internationale de l'Enseignement M. Bréal has published a lecture on learning foreign languages, in which he has attacked a practical problem in a practical way, not as a philologian, not as a determined tracker down of etymologies, not as an ingenious restorer of such dilapidated linguistic monuments as the 'Song of the Arval Brethren,' but, to use his own expression, as a paterfamilias. Literature, philology he ruthlessly puts aside, and absolutely discards all the cumbrous apparatus of grammar. The object he proposes is the practical acquisition of German, of English, Italian, Spanish. Philological study of these idioms he considers a waste of time for the young. Greek and Latin are the true educational gymnastic. English and German are needed as means of communication, of exchange among the peoples. He denies the familiar assertion that the French have not the bump of languages. The Minister of Public Instruction has recently tried the experiment of sending young Frenchmen abroad to learn English and German, and tbe experiment has had the happiest results. From Germany, from England the students have brought back not only a good knowledge of German, of English, but enlarged views. They have learned to appreciate different methods of thinking, reasoning, living. Of course the state cannot repeat this experiment on a large scale, but the system of exchanges so common between French-Swiss and German-Swiss families is recommended as an admirable and economical method of training young girls in foreign languages. M. Bréal admits that this is somewhat repugnant to French ways, but France has widened her ways so much in the last thirty years that we may look forward to greater latitude in this direction also. To those who can go abroad he gives the eminently sensible advice not to go abroad in order to pick up the language, but in order to study something definite, to work at something definite, whether banking at Frankfort, bookselling at Leipsic, brewing of beer or Aeginetan sculptures at Munich. You will learn banking, bookselling, beer-brewing, you will make yourself an authority on the origin of Greek art, and you will be a capital German scholar to boot.

Tbe trouble that a philologian has to encounter is that he carries with him the sense of his profession. He is too much bent on being gramatical; and M. Bréal tells an amusing story of the efforts of a young French professor who betook himself to Germany equipped with the orthodox apparatus for the acquisition of the language. Endowed with a good memory and a prodigious power of work, he mastered his grammar, the 248 irregular verbs and all, in the space of a week. Then he put his knowledge to the test by going to a lecture; but he found, to his dismay, that he could not catch even one grammatical form, not even one of those rascally irregular verbs he had acquired with so much pains. His next point of attack was the vocabulary. Grammar is only the skeleton, words the flesh and blood. So he addressed himself to the radicals of the German language first, and finding a book that offered him a complete assortment of German radicals, he devoured it eagerly and digested his 1,000 roots in four days. The result was not a whit better. His next resource was Ollendorff—'German in Ninety Lessons.' Ninety lessons—that means three months. Why not take three lessons a day? In thirty days Ollendorf is his—but not the German language. Jacotot, Robertson, Ploetz follow—all to no purpose. At last he conceived the heroic purpose of committing the dictionary to memory. 30,000 words cannot be considered a trifle. Still, at the rate of 1,000 words a day, a dictionary can be appropriated in a month. The failure was as absolute as before, and, to crown his humiliation, he met certain French artisans who had crossed the border with him and had learned German while working at their trade. The young professor finally succeeded in learning German, and afterwards published his experiences for the benefit of the world.

Still, with all respect for M. Bréal, the time spent on grammar, roots, Ollendorff, and dictionary was not all wasted. The true way to learn a language is to take it in at every pore, and the philological pore is not to be despised. A mature man cannot become a child again, although it is very true that in order to learn a language well one must get into childlike ways of mimicry. People who are plagued with a profound sense of their personal dignity never learn to speak a foreign language well. Of course M. Bréal is too sensible a man not to emphasize the fact that this infantine knowledge of language goes even more rapidly than it comes. A child learns a language perfectly in a year, and forgets it totally in six months; and those who learn languages as children do unlearn them with corresponding facility.

Much that M. Bréal says on the education of the ear, on the mastery of phrases, is excellent. For English as against German he has much to say. English is much nearer akin to the French than is German, it is the French form of the Germanic mind. It is a beautiful language, "all sinew and muscle, a language that seems to have resolved the problem of packing away the maximum of esprit in the minimum of matter"; and the short monosyllables which the German poet Platen detested, carry to M. Bréal's mind a sense of plenitude and strength. At the same time, he acknowledges that, owing to a false start, he has never been able himself to do much with it practically, and he unconsciously illustrates the trickiness of our idiom by supposing a child equally at home in English and in French to address his English-speaking mother with the startling phrase, "Let me come on your knees" (Prends-moi sur tes genoux)— which is, being interpreted, "Take me on your lap."
See Michel Bréal, "Comment on apprend les langues étrangères," Revue internationale de l'enseignement 11 (1886) 235-255.


The Bonds That Unite Us

Edward Everett, Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863):
The bonds that unite us as one People,—a substantial community of origin, language, belief, and law (the four great ties that hold the societies of men together); common national and political interests; a common history; a common pride in a glorious ancestry; a common interest in this great heritage of blessings; the very geographical features of the country; the mighty rivers that cross the lines of climate, and thus facilitate the interchange of natural and industrial products, while the wonder-working arm of the engineer has levelled the mountain-walls which separate the East and West, compelling your own Alleghanies, my Maryland and Pennsylvania friends, to open wide their everlasting doors to the chariot-wheels of traffic and travel,—these bonds of union are of perennial force and energy, while the causes of alienation are imaginary, factitious, and transient.
Herodotus 8.144.2 (tr. Aubrey de Sélincourt):
Again, there is the Greek nation—the common blood, the common language; the temples and religious ritual; the whole way of life we understand and share together—indeed, if Athens were to betray all this it would not be well done.

αὖτις δὲ τὸ Ἑλληνικὸν ἐὸν ὅμαιμόν τε καὶ ὁμόγλωσσον καὶ θεῶν ἱδρύματά τε κοινὰ καὶ θυσίαι ἤθεά τε ὁμότροπα, τῶν προδότας γενέσθαι Ἀθηναίους οὐκ ἂν εὖ ἔχοι.
Related posts:


Defender of the Fatherland

Pindar, Isthmian Odes 7.26-30 (tr. G.S. Conway):
                    But for the brave is laid in store
The recompense of honour. Let him know well
        Whoever in this dark
Storm-cloud fends off from his beloved land
        The blood-stained hail of war,
And brings destruction to the enemy's host,
Such a man shall exalt his city's race
        To the utmost of glory,
Both while he lives and when he is no more.

τιμὰ δ᾽ ἀγαθοῖσιν ἀντίκειται.
ἴστω γὰρ σαφὲς ὅστις ἐν ταύτᾳ νεφέλᾳ χάλα-
ζαν αἵματος πρὸ φίλας πάτρας ἀμύνεται,
λοιγὸν ἄντα φέρων ἐναντίῳ στρατῷ,
ἀστῶν γενεᾷ μέγιστον κλέος αὔξων
ζώων τ᾽ ἀπὸ καὶ θανών.

Thursday, February 11, 2021


Blessings of Life

Henry Fielding (1707-1754), Joseph Andrews, I.ix (on Mrs. Slipslop):
She had the utmost tenderness for her reputation, as she knew on that depended many of the most valuable blessings of life; particularly cards, making curtsies in public places, and, above all, the pleasure of demolishing the reputations of others, in which innocent amusement she had an extraordinary delight.


Ancient Splendor

Pindar, Isthmian Odes 7.22-23 (tr. G.S. Conway):
Yes, but the glory of old time
Sleeps, and the minds of men
   Remember not...

ἀλλὰ παλαιὰ γὰρ
εὕδει χάρις, ἀμνάμονες δὲ βροτοί...

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Mountain Man

Vergil, Aeneid 11.567-569 (H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G.P. Goold):
No cities received him to their homes or walls, nor in his wild mood would he himself have yielded to them: among shepherds and on the lonely mountains he passed his days.

non illum tectis ullae, non moenibus urbes
accepere (neque ipse manus feritate dedisset),
pastorum et solis exegit montibus aevum.
T.E. Page ad loc.:
John Buchan, "An Individualist," Scholar Gipsies (London: John Lane, 1896), pp. 157-169 (at 160-161):
[T]he tramp whistled lackadaisically. "It's all a question of nature. Some men—well, some, you know, are born to be good citizens. Others lack the domestic virtues. How does the thing go?

'Non illum tectis ullae, non moenibus urbes
Accepere, neque ipse manus feritate dedisset,
Pastorum et solis exegit montibus aevum.'

"Brunck emends the passage, but the words are good as they are. In them you have my character and watchword."
Brunck excised et in line 569: see his 1785 edition of Vergil's works, pp. 379 and 438.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021


The Servants of the Inquisition

Goethe, Egmont, Act I (tr. Michael Hamburger):
The servants of the Inquisition creep and snoop about everywhere. Many an honest man has come to grief already. To suppress our freedom of conscience—that was the last straw. If I can't do what I please, they might at least let me think and sing what I please.

Die Inquisitionsdiener schleichen herum und passen auf; mancher ehrliche Mann ist schon unglücklich geworden! Der Gewissenszwang fehlte noch! Da ich nicht thun darf, was ich möchte, können sie mich doch denken und singen lassen, was ich will.


The Breasts of Helen

Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971; rpt. 1973), p. 471 (on the U.S. Army's Detention Training Center, Mediterranean Theater of Operations, north of Pisa, where Pound was imprisoned):
North and east stretched mountains, one cone-shaped above delicate trees (he named it Taishan, for China's sacred peak), two to the left of it low and hemispherical (he named them the Breasts of Helen).
Related posts:


Unreliable Allies

Livy 21.19.9-10 (tr. B.O. Foster):
With what face, Romans, can you ask us to prefer your friendship to the Carthaginian, when those who did so have been more cruelly betrayed by you, their allies, than destroyed by their enemy, the Phoenician? You must seek allies, in my opinion, only where the disaster of Saguntum is unknown. To the Spanish peoples the ruins of Saguntum will constitute a warning, no less emphatic than deplorable, that none should trust to the honour or alliance of the Romans.

quae verecundia est, Romani, postulare vos uti vestram Carthaginiensium amicitiae praeponamus, cum qui id fecerunt [Saguntini] crudelius quam Poenus hostis perdidit vos socii prodideritis? ibi quaeratis socios censeo ubi Saguntina clades ignota est; Hispanis populis sicut lugubre, ita insigne documentum Sagunti ruinae erunt ne quis fidei Romanae aut societati confidat.

Saguntini del. Madvig (Emendationes Livianae, pp. 259-260)

Monday, February 08, 2021


Defending the Borders

Catullus 61.71-75 (my translation):
A land that lacks your sacred rites cannot supply guards for its borders. But it can if you are willing. Who would dare to be matched with this god?

quae tuis careat sacris,
non queat dare praesides
terra finibus: at queat
te volente. quis huic deo
compararier ausit?
The god is Hymen, the god of marriage.

C.J. Fordyce on line 72:
praesides: the sense of 'defender', which is normal in praesidium, is rare in praeses: but cf. Cic. Sest. 137 'senatum rei publicae custodem praesidem propugnatorem', Livy vi.16.2 'uestrum (i.e. deorum) militem ac praesidem ', xxiii.48.7 'praesides prouinciarum exercitus'.


The Institutions and Customs of Men

Walter Savage Landor, "William Penn and Lord Peterborough," Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 9-123 (at 72, Peterborough speaking):
Though addicted to no particular system of philosophy or religion or government, I am convinced that if you destroy the institutions and customs of men, however bad a great part of these may be, you also chill the blood of their attachments which are requisite for the prosperity and indeed for the safety of nations.

Sunday, February 07, 2021


The Ignorance of Teachers

Thomas Sowell, "Random Thoughts," Controversial Essays (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2002), pp. 301-321 (at 308):
Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers.
Plato, Alcibiades I (113c5-6; tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
For it is a mad scheme this, that you meditate, my excellent friend — of teaching things that you do not know, since you have taken no care to learn them.

μανικὸν γὰρ ἐν νῷ ἔχεις ἐπιχείρημα ἐπιχειρεῖν, ὦ βέλτιστε, διδάσκειν ἃ οὐκ οἶσθα, ἀμελήσας μανθάνειν.


The View from Above

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), "Deutschland: Ein Traum," lines 16-20 (my translation):
Now from my mountain I look
down into the German land:
I see only a puny people,
crawling on the grave of giants.

Schau ich jetzt von meinem Berge
In das deutsche Land hinab:
Seh ich nur ein Völklein Zwerge,
Kriechend auf der Riesen Grab.
For German (deutsche) you may substitute some other proper adjective of place, as appropriate.

Saturday, February 06, 2021



Horace, Epistles 1.18.89-90 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
The grave dislike the gay, the merry the grave,
the quick the staid, the lazy the stirring man of action.

oderunt hilarem tristes tristemque iocosi,
sedatum celeres, agilem navumque remissi.


Foreign and Repellent to Me

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), The Art of Poetry, tr. Denise Folliot (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), p. 108:
A strong predilection for "being right," for convincing others, for conquering or subjecting other minds, for provoking them for or against somebody or something is essentially foreign, if not repellent, to me. As I cannot bear anyone's wishing to change my ideas by emotional means, I assume the same intolerance in others. Nothing offends me more than proselytism and its methods, which are always tainted.

Le goût puissant "d'avoir raison", de convaincre, de séduire ou de réduire les esprits, de les exciter pour ou contre quelqu'un ou quelque chose, m'est essentiellement étranger, si ce n'est odieux. Comme je ne puis souffrir que l'on veuille me changer les idées par les voies affectives, je suppose à autrui la même intolérance. Rien ne me choque plus que le prosélytisme et ses moyens, toujours impurs.


Teaching Literature

Roger Shattuck (1923-2005), "How to Rescue Literature," The New York Review of Books (April 17, 1980):
And in the domain of teaching literature which concerns us here, I would also favor certain kinds of exercises—busy work even—that have fallen totally out of favor: word for word copying, dictation, reading aloud, summarizing (précis writing), memorizing, and translation. All of these activities enforce close attention to what a piece of writing is actually doing without requiring an elaborate theory of literature to begin with. Reciting aloud, in particular, impresses me as both a fruitful form of reading and a sturdy antidote to some of the abuses I have been discussing.
Hat tip: Archie Goodwin.

Friday, February 05, 2021



Goethe, Faust, Part I, lines 1549-1553 (tr. David Luke):
Do without, do without! That old
Command pursues us down the years
Endlessly echoing in our ears—
The same old hoarse repeated song
Heard hour by hour our whole life long!

Entbehren sollst du! sollst entbehren!
Das ist der ewige Gesang,
Der jedem an die Ohren klingt,
Den, unser ganzes Leben lang,
Uns heiser jede Stunde singt.
Related post: Serpent's Tooth.


Hymn to Pan

Poetae Melici Graeci 887, tr. William D. Furley and Jan Maarten Bremer, Greek Hymns, Vol. I (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), p. 260:
O Pan, overlord of famous Arkadia,
dancing-partner of Dionysos' Nymphs,
flash a smile, o Pan, at my merriment
and take delight in these joyful songs.
Greek text, id., Vol. II, p. 218:
ὦ Πάν, Ἀρκαδίας μέδων κλεεννᾶς,
ὀρχηστὰ, βρομίαις ὀπαδὲ Νύμφαις,
γελάσειας, ὦ Πάν, ἐπ᾿ ἐμαῖς
εὔφροσι ταῖσδ' ἀοιδαῖς κεχαρημένος.
Page images (Vol. I, p. 260, and Vol. II, pp. 218-219):



Pindar, Nemean Odes 8.32-34 (tr. John Sandys):
Thus, even in days of old, there was malignant misrepresentation, walking in the ways of crafty language, imagining deceit, mischief-making calumny. She doeth violence to the illustrious, and for the obscure raiseth on high a glory that is rottenness.

ἐχθρὰ δ᾽ ἄρα πάρφασις ἦν καὶ πάλαι,
αἱμύλων μύθων ὁμόφοι-
τος, δολοφραδής, κακοποιὸν ὄνειδος·
ἃ τὸ μὲν λαμπρὸν βιᾶται,
τῶν δ᾽ ἀφάντων κῦδος ἀντείνει σαθρόν.

Thursday, February 04, 2021



Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Between Two Millstones, Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978, tr. Peter Constantine (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), p. 75:
The riverbed of our life deepens with passing years, while the possibility for us to change, to break into another stream, lessens.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021


Poundian Latinity Again

Ezra Pound, Literary Essays (New York: New Directions, 1954), p. 91:
Penitus enim tibi O Phoebe attributa est cantus.
As it stands, the sentence violates Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, § 286:
Adjectives, Adjective Pronouns, and Participles agree wih their nouns in Gender, Number, and Case:—


secutae sunt tempestates, storms followed.
Ira B. Nadel, ed., Ezra Pound, Early Writings: Poems and Prose (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), page number unknown:
Corrected to "attributus est cantus" because "attributa," feminine singular or neuter plural, has no corresponding noun, the phrase means "Because, O Phoebus, song has been entirely attributed to you."
Nadel's note is misleading because est makes it clear that "neuter plural" is impossible here. His proposed correction is unlikely as well.

What probably happened is that Pound miscopied a Latin translation of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, line 20, e.g. in Homeri Operum Appendix: Complectens Hymnos, Epigramma, Fragmenta. Ex Recensione et cum Notis Jo. Aug. Ernesti (Glasgow: Duncan, 1814), p. 2:
Πάντη γάρ τοι Φοῖβε νόμος βεβλήαται ᾠδῆς.

Penitus enim tibi, o Phoebe, lex attributa est cantus.

Thanks very much to Eric Thomson for reminding me that the proper place to look for the Latin quotation is Homeri Odyssea ad verbum translata, Andre Diuo interprete....Eiusdem Hymni Deorum XXXII, Georgio Dartona Cretense interprete (Paris: In officina Christiani Wecheli, 1538), p. 219:
Pound owned a copy of this book. See his Literary Essays, p. 259:
In the year of grace 1906, 1908, or 1910 I picked from the Paris quais a Latin version of the Odyssey by Andreas Divus Justinopolitanus (Parisiis, In officina Christiani Wecheli, MDXXXVIII), the volume containing also the Batrachomyomachia, by Aldus Manutius, and the Hymni Deorum rendered by Georgius Dartona Cretensis.
Related posts:


Tuesday, February 02, 2021


The Best Religion

Walter Savage Landor, "Asinius Pollio and Licinius Calvus: Second Conversation," Imaginary Conversations, Vol. II (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1901), pp. 114-127 (at 116):
Pollio. In my opinion, that religion is the best in which there is the least of fraud and violence, the most of forbearance and sincerity.

Calvus. Wise and good-natured gods will never quarrel about the names they are called by. Do parents whip their children for imperfect pronunciation?

Pollio. I would not be surety for morose and ferocious men, intoxicated by the wine-cup of their priests, keeping the peace toward you, if you declined their mysteries and orgies. They call you blind, and knock out your eyes for being so.


Beginning of Evil

Dante, Paradiso 16.67-68 (tr. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander):
Intermingling of peoples has ever been
the source of all the city's ills...

Sempre la confusione delle persone
principio fu del mal della cittade...
Related post: Diversity.

Monday, February 01, 2021


Discontinuous Reading

Peter Stallybrass, "Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible," in Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer, edd., Books and Readers in Early Modern English: Material Studies (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) pp. 42-79 (at 46-47):
Only certain productively perverse uses of the book have transformed it back into a scroll, most notoriously "gripping" novels or "page-turners," where the teleological drive from page to page mitigates against dipping about or turning back (although not, in the case of the unbearable suspense of a mystery, from skipping forward to find out "whodunit"). When cultural critics nostalgically recall an imagined past in which readers unscrolled their books continuously from beginning to end, they are reversing the long history of the codex and the printed book as indexical forms. The novel has only been a brilliantly perverse interlude in the long history of discontinuous reading.
Mitigates (transitive) looks like a mistake for militates (intransitive).

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Cheap Tricks

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Between Two Millstones, Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978, tr. Peter Constantine (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), p. 14:
I was naïve in thinking that the reporter, his agency, or his newspaper might show any remorse. Their fly-by-night trade, as long as it lasts, is to outdo one another in snooping, conjecturing, and snatching at whatever they can. Every encounter I had with the media in my first days in the West filled me with bewilderment; I was taken aback. An ill-defined feeling of resistance to their cheap tricks arose within me...
Id., p. 65:
I felt as if I had been stung by a wasp: What smut! This calls itself news media? How was one to live among such monsters, with never a word of truth!


Full of Themselves

Ezra Pound, Cantos LIV, p. 278:
The highbrows are full of themselves
    learnèd, gay and irrelevant
        on such base nothing stands


Can Any Man See Across?

Walter Savage Landor, "Asinius Pollio and Licinius Calvus: First Conversation," Imaginary Conversations, Vol. II (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1901), pp. 105-114 (at 112):
Between to-day and to-morrow there is night: can any man see across? It is wise to make the most and the best of what is at hand. In some measure we may frame the future,—in none foretell it.


A Manly Man

Euripides, Orestes 917-922 (tr. David Kovacs):
Another man got up and made precisely the opposite proposal. He was not handsome to look at but a brave man, one who rarely had anything to do with the city or the market circle, a man who farmed with his own hands, the sort who alone keep the land from destruction, yet clever enough to grapple in argument when he wanted: he has lived a life of integrity, above reproach.

ἄλλος δ' ἀναστὰς ἔλεγε τῷδ' ἐναντία,
μορφῇ μὲν οὐκ εὐωπός, ἀνδρεῖος δ' ἀνήρ,
ὀλιγάκις ἄστυ κἀγορᾶς χραίνων κύκλον,
αὐτουργός, οἵπερ καὶ μόνοι σῴζουσι γῆν.
ξυνετὸς δέ χωρεῖν ὁμόσε τοῖς λόγοις θέλων,
ἀκέραιος ἀνεπίπληκτον ἠσκηκὼς βίον.
Archilochus, fragment 114 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
I have no liking for a general who is tall, walks with a swaggering gait, takes pride in his curls, and is partly shaven. Let mine be one who is short, has a bent look about the shins, stands firmly on his feet, and is full of courage.

οὐ φιλέω μέγαν στρατηγὸν οὐδὲ διαπεπλιγμένον
οὐδὲ βοστρύχοισι γαῦρον οὐδ᾿ ὑπεξυρημένον,
ἀλλά μοι σμικρός τις εἴη καὶ περὶ κνήμας ἰδεῖν
ῥοικός, ἀσφαλέως βεβηκὼς ποσσί, καρδίης πλέως.

Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?