Tuesday, August 31, 2021
The Contest Between Intelligence and Stupidity
In every contest that goes on between Intelligence and Stupidity, between Enlightenment and Obscurantism, the powers of the dark have this immense advantage: they never understand their opponents, and consequently represent them as always wrong, always wicked, whereas the intelligent party generally makes an effort to understand the stupid and to sympathize with anything that is good or fine in their attitude.
A Venomous Text
If Nietzsche, Proust, Baudelaire, or Rimbaud survive the fluctuations of fashions, they owe it to the disinterestedness of their cruelty, to their demonic surgery, to the generosity of their spleen. What makes a work last, what keeps it from dating, is its ferocity. A gratuitous assertion? Consider the prestige of the Gospels, that aggressive book, a venomous text if ever there was one.
Si Nietzsche, Proust, Baudelaire ou Rimbaud survivent à la fluctuation des modes, ils le doivent au désintéressement de leur cruauté, à leur chirurgie démoniaque, à la générosité de leur fiel. Ce qui fait durer une œuvre, ce qui l'empêche de dater, c'est sa férocité. Affirmation gratuite? Considérez le prestige de l'Évangile, livre agressif, livre venimeux s'il en fût.
Separation versus Coalition
The Greek, however strongly he felt himself a part of the Greek nation, was, first and foremost, a citizen of his own community and would sink his individuality for it, and for it alone. The interests of that community touched him nearly and often blinded him to the interests of Greece as a whole. Throughout Greek history the forces of disruption were stronger and more active than those of centralization; rivalry and separation, which found vent in wars between the states, were stronger than the tendency to agreement and coalition—a tendency which showed itself in treaties, alliances, and national arbitration, and laid the foundations of European international law. To the Athenian, the temple of his native goddess, Athena, on the Acropolis, the symbol of a united community and kingdom, was dearer than the temple of Poseidon in Calauria, the centre of a religious alliance between several communities akin to Athens, and dearer than the shrine of Apollo at Delos, the religious centre of all who used the Ionic dialect.
Labels: typographical and other errors
An Affront, a Challenge, and a Menace
Contact with other peoples is often represented as making inevitably for tolerance. But that is true only for those who have already been greatly educated to tolerance. The simple man everywhere is apt to see whatever differs from himself as an affront, a challenge, and a menace.Hans Kohn (1891-1971), "The Nature of Nationalism," American Political Science Review 33.6 (December, 1939) 1001-1021 (at 1002-1003):
There is a natural tendency in man—and we mean by "natural tendency" a tendency which, having been produced by social circumstances since time practically immemorial, appears to us as natural—to love his birthplace or the place of his childhood sojourn, its surroundings, its climate, the contours of hills and valleys, of rivers and trees. We are all subject to the immense power of habitude, and even if in a later stage of development we are attracted by the unknown and by change, we delight to come back and be at rest in the reassuring sight of the familiar. Man has an easily understandable preference for his own language as the only one which he thoroughly understands and in which he feels at home. He prefers native customs and native food to alien ones, which appear to him unintelligible and undigestible. Should he travel, he will return to his chair and his table with a feeling of relaxation and will be elated by the joy of finding himself again at home, away from the strain of a sojourn in foreign lands and contact with foreign peoples.
Small wonder that he will take pride in his native characteristics, and that he will easily believe in their superiority! As they are the only ones in which civilized people like himself can apparently feel at home, are they not the only ones fit for human beings? On the other hand, contact with alien men and alien customs, which appear to him strange, unfamiliar, and therefore threatening, will arouse in him a feeling of distrust of everything foreign. This feeling of strangeness will again develop in him sentiments of superiority, and sometimes even of open hostility. The more primitive men are, the stronger will be their distrust of strangers, and therefore the intensity of their group feeling.
Monday, August 30, 2021
That Hellenistic ruler-worship was always insincere—that it was a political stunt and nothing more—no one, I think, will believe who has observed in our own day the steadily growing mass adulation of dictators, kings, and, in default of either, athletes. When the old gods withdraw, the empty thrones cry out for a successor, and with good management, or even without management, almost any perishable bag of bones may be hoisted into the vacant seat. So far as they have religious meaning for the individual, ruler-cult and its analogues, ancient and modern, are primarily, I take it, expressions of helpless dependence; he who treats another human being as divine thereby assigns to himself the relative status of a child or an animal.
Our New Poets
Great as is the diversity of our new poets, they hold perhaps at least one article of faith in common, and that is, that he who is dignified is damned. All strive after effect, and show it; all use this or that of many desperate devices; to be obscure, discordant, slangy, to use words in anything but their natural meaning, to be strident, maundering, affected, abject, prosy, merely feeble-minded or stark raving mad—these things, in their search after new spheres of conquest, the majority of them count no shame; but majesty they will not attempt; they one and all despise it. Modern reviewers for the most part do not slate; but when they are by way of doing so, the one word "pompous" provides an absolutely sure extinguisher.
Gods of Olympus
Whoever approaches these Olympians with another religion at heart, in search of moral elevation, even saintliness, disembodied spirituality, glances of compassion and love, will soon be obliged to turn his back on them. There is nothing here to remind us of asceticism, spirituality, and duty: everything here speaks to us of a sumptuous, even triumphant, existence, an existence in which everything is deified, regardless of whether it is good or evil.
Wer, mit einer anderen Religion im Herzen, an diese Olympier herantritt und nun nach sittlicher Höhe, ja Heiligkeit, nach unleiblicher Vergeistigung, nach erbarmungsvollen Liebesblicken bei ihnen sucht, der wird unmutig und enttäuscht ihnen bald den Rücken kehren müssen. Hier erinnert nichts an Askese, Geistigkeit und Pflicht: hier redet nur ein üppiges, ja triumphierendes Dasein zu uns, in dem alles Vorhandene vergöttlicht ist, gleichviel ob es gut oder böse ist.
Sunday, August 29, 2021
A Fabulous and Formless Darkness
In 415 the amiable and brilliant Hypatia, head of the Neoplatonic school at Alexandria, was murdered by Christian monks. By this time, however, the disciples of Plotinus had succeeded in winning from the orthodox Academy the coveted chair of Plato at Athens; and it was in Plato's city that Greek thought made its last stand against the Church which it envisaged as "a fabulous and formless darkness mastering the loveliness of the world."2Dodds' citation isn't quite accurate. Although I don't have access to Giuseppe Giangrande, ed., Eunapii Vitae Sophistarum (Rome: Istituto poligrafico dello stato, 1956), I think the quotation actually occurs in Eunapius' Life of Aedesius (not Maximus), in his Lives of the Sophists 6.9.17 (471 in the Didot pagination; tr. Wilmer Cave Wright, with her note):
2 Eunapius, Vita Maximi.
Though he [Antoninus] himself still appeared to be human and he associated with human beings, he foretold to all his followers that after his death1 the temple would cease to be, and even the great and holy temples of Serapis would pass into formless darkness and be transformed, and that a fabulous and unseemly gloom would hold sway over the fairest things on earth. To all these prophecies time bore witness, and in the end his prediction gained the force of an oracle.Antoninus here = Antoninus 7 in Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. I, p. 75.
1 Antoninus died about 390; the Serapeum was destroyed in 391.
αὐτὸς μὲν οὖν ἔτι ἄνθρωπος εἶναι δοκῶν καὶ ἀνθρώποις ὁμιλῶν, πᾶσι τοῖς ὁμιληταῖς προὔλεγεν, ὡς μετ' ἐκεῖνον οὐκ ἔτι τὸ ἱερὸν ἔσοιτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ μεγάλα καὶ ἅγια τοῦ Σεράπιδος ἱερὰ πρὸς τὸ σκοτοειδὲς καὶ ἄμορφον χωρήσει καὶ μεταβληθήσεται, καὶ τὸ μυθῶδες καὶ ἀειδὲς σκότος τυραννήσει τὰ ἐπὶ γῆς κάλλιστα. ὁ δὲ χρόνος ἀπήλεγξεν ἅπαντα, καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμά γε εἰς χρησμοῦ συνετελέσθη βίαν.
For a commentary on this passage, see Matthias Becker, ed., Eunapios aus Sardes, Biographien über Philosophen und Sophisten. Einleitung, Übersetzung, Kommentar (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2013), pp. 326-330.
As others have noted, the quotation as found in Dodds was taken up and slightly modified by W.B. Yeats in the second of his "Two Songs from a Play," line 5, Collected Poems, ed. Richard J. Finneran (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989), pp. 213-214:
In pity for man's darkening thought
He walked that room and issued thence
In Galilean turbulence;
The Babylonian starlight brought
A fabulous, formless darkness in; 5
Odour of blood when Christ was slain
Made all Platonic tolerance vain
And vain all Doric discipline.
Everything that man esteems
Endures a moment or a day. 10
Love's pleasure drives his love away,
The painter's brush consumes his dreams;
The herald's cry, the soldier's tread
Exhaust his glory and his might:
Whatever flames upon the night
Man's own resinous heart has fed.
But avarice is a wild beast, monstrous and irresistible; wherever it goes, it devastates town and country, shrines and homes, and lays low everything human and divine; no army and no walls can withstand it; it robs all men of their repute, their chastity, their children, country and parents.
ceterum avaritia belua fera immanis intoleranda est: quo intendit, oppida agros, fana atque domos vastat, divina cum humanis permiscet, neque exercitus neque moenia obstant, quo minus vi sua penetret; fama pudicitia liberis patria atque parentibus cunctos mortalis spoliat.
Loyalty and Disloyalty
As we know, everyone who changes his religion remains somehow tainted, and it seems impossible to cleanse him. This suggests that people value constancy above all else, not least because, divided into factions as they are, they must forever be concerned with the security and permanence of their group. Neither feelings nor convictions are the issue here. We must endure where fate, rather than choice, has placed us. To remain loyal to a nation, a city, a prince, a friend, a woman, and to focus everything on that relationship, to work and sacrifice and suffer for it—that is valued. Disloyalty, on the other hand, remains odious, and fickleness is ridiculed.
Denn es bleibt freilich ein jeder, der die Religion verändert, mit einer Art von Makel bespritzt, von der es unmöglich scheint, ihn zu reinigen. Wir sehen daraus, daß die Menschen den beharrenden Willen über alles zu schätzen wissen und um so mehr schätzen, als sie, sämtlich in Parteien geteilt, ihre eigene Sicherheit und Dauer beständig im Auge haben. Hier ist weder von Gefühl noch von Überzeugung die Rede. Ausdauern soll man da, wo uns mehr das Geschick als die Wahl hingestellt. Bei einem Volke, einer Stadt, einem Fürsten, einem Freunde, einem Weibe festhalten, darauf alles beziehen, deshalb alles wirken, alles entbehren und dulden, das wird geschätzt; Abfall dagegen bleibt verhaßt, Wankelmut wird lächerlich.
Saturday, August 28, 2021
Upon it the respect and inborn fear of the citizens hill prevent any wrong being done, alike by day and by night, if the citizens themselves do not make innovative additions to the laws: if you sully clear water with foul infusions of mud, you will never get a drink.
ἐν δὲ τῷ σέβας 690
ἀστῶν φόβος τε ξυγγενὴς τὸ μὴ ἀδικεῖν
σχήσει τό τ᾽ ἦμαρ καὶ κατ᾽ εὐφρόνην ὁμῶς,
αὐτῶν πολιτῶν μὴ ᾽πιχραινόντων νόμους·
κακαῖς ἐπιρροαῖσι βορβόρῳ θ᾽ ὕδωρ
λαμπρὸν μιαίνων οὔποθ᾽ εὑρήσεις ποτόν. 695
(82) The Hearers’ study of philosophy consists of maxims without demonstration or argument: “do this”, and the other pronouncements of Pythagoras. They try to preserve these as divine teachings; they make no claim to speak for themselves, nor do they think it right to speak, but they hold those who have acquired the most axioms to be the best equipped for wisdom.
These maxims are of three kinds, the “what is?”, the “what is the most?” and the “what is to be done or not done?”.
The “what is?” are like this: “What is ‘the islands of the blest’? The sun and moon.” “What is the oracle at Delphi? The tetract; it is also the harmony in which the Sirens sang.”
The “what is the most?” are like this: “What is the most just? Sacrifice.” “What is the wisest? Number, and the next is that which gives things their names.” “What is wisest among human skills? Medicine.” “What is finest? Harmony.” “What is strongest? Judgement.” “What is best? Happiness.” “What is truest? That people are wicked.”
They say that Pythagoras praised the poet Hippodamas of Salamis for his lines:Whence do you come, O gods, how came you to be as you are?(83) These, then, are examples of that kind of maxim; each is a “what is the most?” This is the same as what is called the wisdom of the seven sages, for they did not ask “What is the good?” but “What is the most good?”, not “What is the difficult?” but “What is the most difficult?” (the answer is “to know yourself”), not “What is the easy?” but “What is the easiest?” (the answer is “to follow habit”). So these maxims are probably derived from that kind of wisdom, since the seven sages lived before Pythagoras.
Whence do you come, O people, how came you to be so wicked?
Maxims about “what is to be done or not done?” are like this: “One must have children” (so as to leave successors to worship the gods). “One must put the right shoe on first.” “One must not walk on public roads, take holy water or use the baths” (because it is not certain, in all these circumstances, that those sharing with us are pure).
(84) Other examples are “Do not help to unload a burden” (because it is wrong to encourage lack of effort) “but help to load it up”. “Do not seek to have children by a rich woman.” “Do not speak without a light.” “Pour a libation to the gods over the handle of the cup, as an omen, and so that no-one drinks from the same place.” “Do not wear a seal-ring with the image of a god, lest it be defiled: it is a cult-image, which should be set up in the house.” “A man must not persecute his wife, for she is a suppliant: that is also why we lead the bride from the hearth, taking her by the right hand.” “Do not sacrifice a white cock, for he is a suppliant, sacred to Men: that is also why he tells the time.”
(85) “Never give advice which is not in the best interest of the one who seeks it: advice is holy.” “Work is good, pleasure of all kinds is bad: we come looking for punishment and must have it.” “One should make sacrifice, and go to holy places, barefoot.” “One should not leave one’s path to go to a temple, for we must not make the god an incidental task.” “It is good to die, if you stand your ground with wounds in front: if not, not.” “The souls of humans may enter any living creature except those it is lawful to sacrifice. So we must eat only sacrificial animals, those that are fit to eat, not any other living creature.”
[R]eligious growth is geological: its principle is, on the whole and with exceptions, agglomeration, not substitution. A new belief-pattern very seldom effaces completely the pattern that was there before: either the old lives on as an element in the new—sometimes an unconfessed and half-unconscious element—or else the two persist side by side, logically incompatible, but contemporaneously accepted by different individuals or even by the same individual.
An Unworthy Leader
The rabble rejoice to give government to the vile...
tradere turpi fasces populus
Friday, August 27, 2021
For I know how to tend goats, dig, break fallow land and plant.
ἐπίσταµαι γὰρ αἰπολεῖν, σκάπτειν, νεᾶν, φυτεύειν.
Longing for Europe
He longed for Europe with hungry longing: Florence, with Giotto's pale tower: or the Pincio at Rome: or the woods in Berkshire — heavens, the English spring with primroses under the bare hazel bushes, and thatched cottages among plum blossom. He felt he would have given anything on earth to be in England. It was May — end of May — almost bluebell time, and the green leaves coming out on the hedges. Or the tall corn under the olives in Sicily. Or London Bridge, with all the traffic on the river. Or Bavaria with gentian and yellow globe flowers, and the Alps still icy. Oh God, to be in Europe, lovely, lovely Europe that he had hated so thoroughly and abused so vehemently, saying it was moribund and stale and finished.Id., p. 16:
He understood now that the Romans had preferred death to exile. He could sympathise now with Ovid on the Danube, hungering for Rome and blind to the land around him, blind to the savages.Id., p. 96:
They hate us. All the other colours hate the white.
Town and Country
[W]e have grown up with the idea of town and country as two separate spheres, whose economies and ways of life are sharply distinct. That is an anachronistic model for almost all the ancient world, and indeed for almost all societies before the Industrial Revolution. Plenty of industry and manufacturing went on in the small country towns of the ancient world and outside them: the making of clothes, the processing of food, building, milling, tanning, fulling, smithying.109 In the course of the nineteenth century mass production and the railway train concentrated manufacturing in larger centres and drew the non-agricultural population away from the country. The number of nailsmiths in Upper Austria dropped from two hundred and ninety-nine to sixty-seven between 1870 and 1890; a village in the Dauphiné which had some thirty-five craftsmen or artisans in 1851 had no more than five by 1896 (a cobbler, a wheel-wright, a dressmaker, a carpenter and a mason), and after 1914 only two.110 Virgil will have grown up in a world where the division between those who lived off the soil and those who drew their income from a city economy was much less marked than the one to which we are used.
109 F. Millar, 'The World of the Golden Ass', JRS 71 (1981), 63-75, at 72 f.: 'What is more striking in Apuleius is the level and nature of economic activity outside the towns, first in villages ... , and secondly in the countryside itself', 72. Of course Apuleius' novel reflects a world two centuries later than Virgil's. but it will not in these respects have been very different. (For comparison with a more recent period, a study of towns in the Var in the nineteenth century with a population between 1,500 and 5,000 noted a considerable number of small industries like tanneries, paper-mills, silk-weaving, cork, and oil manufacture (T. Zeldin, France 1848-1945: Politics and Anger (Oxford, 1979), 113).
110 N. Stone, Europe Transformed 1878-1919 (London, 1983), 25 (nailsmiths); Zeldin, France 1848-1945: Ambition and Love (1979), 179.
The state that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.Thucydides never wrote any such thing.
Hilaon: a hero, son of Poseidon, after whom Ar. in Triphales called penises "Hilaons" as being excessively large, as if he were to say "Tityuses" or the like; others say he was a priapic god.Poetae Comici Fragmenta, Vol. III 2: Aristophanes, Testimonia et Fragmenta, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984), p. 292:
Ἱλάων· ἥρως, Ποσειδῶνος υἱός, οὗ Ἀριστοφάνης ἐν Τριφάλητι Ἱλάονας ἔφη τοὺς φάλητας μεταφέρων, ὡς ὑπερβάλλοντας τῷ μεγέθει, ὡσεὶ ἔλεγε Τιτυοὺς ἤ τινας τοιούτους. ἄλλοι δὲ θεὸν πριαπώδη φασίν.
Thursday, August 26, 2021
Conditions on the Ground
I shall have to traverse ground which has been churned to deep and slippery mud by the heavy feet of contending scholars; ground, also, where those in a hurry are liable to trip over the partially decayed remains of dead theories that have not yet been decently interred. We shall be wise, then, to move slowly, and to pick our steps rather carefully among the litter.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
— You don't read the newspapers then?
— Never! A day without newspapers is a day purified, freed, saved.
— Nevertheless, in troubled times...
— It's precisely in troubled times when one shouldn't read them.
— Vous ne lisez donc pas les journaux?
— Jamais! Une journée sans journaux est une journée épurée, libérée, délivrée.
— Cependant, dans les périodes troublées...
— C'est justement dans les périodes troublées qu'il ne faut pas les lire.
If anyone else on earth had been urging me thus—Nicholas Richardson ad loc.:
whether seers divining from sacrifices, or priests—
we'd call it a lie and have nothing to do with it!
But now, since I heard the goddess and saw her face myself,
I’m going—her word won't be wasted.
εἰ μὲν γάρ τίς μ᾽ ἄλλος ἐπιχθονίων ἐκέλευεν,
ἢ οἳ μάντιές εἰσι θυοσκόοι ἢ ἱερῆες,
ψεῦδός κεν φαῖμεν καὶ νοσφιζοίμεθα μᾶλλον·
νῦν δ᾽, αὐτὸς γὰρ ἄκουσα θεοῦ καὶ ἐσέδρακον ἄντην,
εἶμι καὶ οὐχ ἅλιον ἔπος ἔσσεται.
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
The Gathering of the Clans
With the catalogue of the allies recruited by the Rutulians and Trojans in Italy, Vergil has far excelled the Homeric model. In the Iliad it is nothing but a bare list. Vergil studied seriously; he informed himself by reading the elder Cato and others concerning the tribes of ancient Italy and at that late hour took care that the ancient regions and cities, whose uniqueness was quickly to be swallowed up in the monotonous uniformity of Roman world culture, with their ancient glory, not be forgotten. He really felt himself as an Italian not as a Roman city-dweller, just as he allows a Mantuan to fight under Aeneas, so Paelignians and Auruncans, Etruscans and Apulians found their place. That agrees with his feeling for the beauty of the land of Italy. We Germans, in whose blood lies the longing for this land, enthusiastically share his feelings. How much stronger must the passion of a native son be!Id. (at 127):
Needless to say, the Italian people have a right to celebrate their national poet. As such after two millenia [sic] he is still a living force. He has sung the beauty of Italy and the heroic figures of Rome and has attested for so many small towns their antiquity and their glory. For the Italy of the Risorgimento, Dante was the prophet of Italia una. Now the breasts of Italians swell when they think of the power and glory of Augustan Rome—whose poet is Vergil. Fortunate the people who possess such a national poet and know how to draw from the memory of a great past strength and hope for the present!W. Warde Fowler, Virgil's "Gathering of the Clans" Being Observations on Aeneid VII.601-817, 2nd rev. ed. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1918), pp. 27-28 (footnotes omitted):
Virgil's methods, whether in poetic architecture or poetic expression, were never entirely simple; and in this pageant we find the usual complexity. Here the most obvious motive in the poet's craft is the wish to move the feeling of his Italian reader as he sees the stately procession of Italian warriors passing before him, or perchance to fill his mind with pride and pleasure at finding among them the ancient representatives of his own city or district. Italians have always been curiously proud of the reputation of their birthplace; even in our own time they have searched Mommsen's "History of Rome" for some allusion to their homes, and treasured up the reference with gratitude. "Ha parlato bene del nostro paese," they would exclaim, as he travelled through their town in later days. The Homeric "catalogue" doubtless had an object of the same kind, but it is far more a catalogue than a pageant, and it ends with a list of what we should now call "enemy cities." Its psychological effect, I imagine, was inferior to that of Virgil's picture, if only because the Roman poet set himself to support with all his gifts the definite Italian policy of Augustus, at a time when Italy's need for national satisfaction and hope were greater than they had ever yet been.Related post: Antiquam Exquirite Matrem.
On a Candidate for Public Office
Altum petit ut crepitus in balneo redditus.
He seeks a high place, like a fart let in a bathtub.
Monday, August 23, 2021
Hidden and Foreign
It seems the Greek world is a hundred times more hidden and foreign than the obtrusive manner of today's scholars would wish.
Es scheint, die griechische Welt ist hundertmal verborgener und fremder, als sich die zudringliche Art heutiger Gelehrten wünschen mag.
An Imperishable State of Health
Our description of the spirit of antiquity, a spirit focused on the world and what it has to offer, leads us directly to the consideration that such features are only compatible with a pagan spirit. Trust in oneself, concentration on immediate reality, worship of gods purely as ancestors, admiration of them only as works of art as it were, submission to a supreme fate, and the concept that the future, due to the high value placed on fame after death, is dependent on the here and now—those elements are so interconnected, constitute such an indivisible whole, form a human condition so obviously intended by nature herself, that we perceive in ancient man an imperishable state of health, in moments of sublime joy no less than in abject misery and even death.
Jene Schilderung des altertümlichen, auf diese Welt und ihre Güter angewiesenen Sinnes führt uns unmittelbar zur Betrachtung, daß dergleichen Vorzüge nur mit einem heidnischen Sinne vereinbar seien. Jenes Vertrauen auf sich selbst, jenes Wirken in der Gegenwart, die reine Verehrung der Götter als Ahnherren, die Bewunderung derselben gleichsam nur als Kunstwerke, die Ergebenheit in ein übermächtiges Schicksal, die in dem hohen Werte des Nachruhms selbst wieder auf diese Welt angewiesene Zukunft gehören so notwendig zusammen, machen solch ein unzertrennliches Ganze, bilden sich zu einem von der Natur selbst beabsichtigten Zustand des menschlichen Wesens, daß wir in dem höchsten Augenblicke des Genusses, wie in dem tiefsten der Aufopferung, ja des Untergangs, eine unverwüstliche Gesundheit gewahr werden.
People Who Find Homer Boring
Not long ago I was taking part in a conversation with some colleagues about students who come up to the University to read Classics and then, after their halfway degree examination, switch over to read for a degree in Law; not an uncommon pattern at Oxford. Someone expressed the opinion that these students readily take to the rather abstract and theoretical study of the principles of Law, but may find, when they get down to the business of earning a living in a solicitor's office, that a good deal of the practical work with which they are concerned is rather tedious and boring by comparison. One of the participants in this conversation was a College Bursar who had himself followed precisely that pattern — Classics up to his fifth term, then Law, and then a career which began in the legal department of a bank. He said that nothing that came into a solicitor's office could ever possibly be boring by comparison with the unspeakable, unbearable boredom of reading Homer.
As you may imagine, since my own subject is Greek, and I had never even considered the possibility that anyone could be bored by Homer, this judgement rather startled me. Indeed, I felt that it touched me with the chill finger of death. This, of course, for personal rather than objective reasons. I first made the acquaintance of the Greek language when I was twelve, and I fell in love with it. By the time I was sixteen I was pretty sure that my firm ambition in life was to become a Professor of Greek. In pursuance of this ambition I went up to Oxford in 1938. I was called up into the army in 1940, and did not return to Oxford to complete my degree until five years later. During those years of war service I had plenty of time to reconsider my ambition, many times over, but reconsideration only confirmed it. I have in fact spent my life on the Greek language, Greek literature, Greek history — integrated, of course, with a good deal of administrative work, as Dean of a Faculty, as President of the British Academy, as President of a College — but teaching and research in Greek have been the continuing thread in my working life, and they have never for a moment bored me; nor do I expect them to, for the rest of my life. You can see why someone like me feels threatened, insecure, anxious, even aggressive, when he is forced to acknowledge that there are people who find Homer boring.
Why this unholy strife? Has not blood enough been shed by sea and land, not to win triumphs over foes but that Rome might perish by her own hand? Even beasts do not war upon their kind. Tell me, "Are ye mad or what?" They have no answer, but stand terror-stricken and dazed. Assuredly the curse of a brother's blood pursues the descendants of Romulus.Horace, Epodes 7 (tr. C.E. Bennett):
Whither, whither are ye rushing to ruin in your wicked frenzy? Or why are your hands grasping the swords that have once been sheathed? Has too little Roman blood been shed on field and flood—Paul Shorey and Gordon J. Laing, commentary on this poem:
not that the Roman might burn the proud towers of jealous Carthage, or that the Briton, as yet unscathed, might descend the Sacred Way in fetters,
but that, in fulfilment of the Parthians' prayers, this city might perish by its own right hand? Such habit ne'er belonged to wolves or lions, whose fierceness is turned only against beasts of other kinds.
Does some blind frenzy drive us on, or some stronger power, or guilt? Give answer!—They speak not; a ghastly pallor o'erspreads their faces; and dazed are their shattered senses.
'Tis so: a bitter fate pursues the Romans, and the crime of a brother's murder, ever since blameless Remus' blood was spilt upon the ground, to be a curse upon posterity.
Quo, quo scelesti ruitis? aut cur dexteris
aptantur enses conditi?
parumne campis atque Neptuno super
fusum est Latini sanguinis,
non, ut superbas invidae Carthaginis 5
Romanus arces ureret,
intactus aut Britannus ut descenderet
Sacra catenatus Via,
sed ut secundum vota Parthorum sua
urbs haec periret dextera? 10
neque hic lupis mos nec fuit leonibus
umquam nisi in dispar feris.
furorne caecus, an rapit vis acrior,
an culpa? responsum date!
tacent et albus ora pallor inficit 15
mentesque perculsae stupent.
sic est: acerba fata Romanos agunt
scelusque fraternae necis,
ut immerentis fluxit in terram Remi
sacer nepotibus cruor. 20
12 numquam ed. Ven. 1490: umquam codd.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
Indifference to Language
Language does not enjoy in the culture of our time the status which it once had. In many past cultures the acquisition of skill in the manipulation of language and sensitivity to the linguistic skill of others have been the condition of entry to a cultural elite, which has naturally shown little inclination to subject its own criteria of value to reappraisal. The condition of entry to a modern elite is quite different, for obvious reasons: there are so many intellectually rewarding pursuits which rarely need skill in language. During the last twenty years I have known an outstandingly good mathematician who felt unable to compose more than half a page of continuous English, a postdoctoral research fellow in physics who so rarely wrote a letter that when he did his bizarre choice of formulae gave offence, and a biochemist who got what he wanted because the recipient of his application worked out that it must mean the opposite of what it actually said. When people have nothing to lose by indifference to language, they will naturally tend to be indifferent to language. Their indifference will be fortified by the observation that much can be communicated efficiently by pictures, films and diagrams which is communicated only inefficiently, if at all, by speaking and writing. Among younger people impatience with the very fact of linguistic diversity as an unwelcome obstacle to secular ecumenism is a more widespread and more potent phenomenon than the desire of comparatively small communities to maintain their own languages against the encroachment of powerful neighbours.
Saturday, August 21, 2021
A Bad Mood. Once I had the luxury of being able to walk to work. But the luxury quickly became a burden, depending on who I encountered along the way. There is someone walking in front of me, chain-smoking, and the wind is, of course, blowing back in my direction. There is someone out walking their miniature, shivering, and completely untrained dog-rat, who wanders out directly in front of me on their expensive leather leash, leaving a raisin-sized turd behind. There is someone who is walking — no, skipping — while listening to their headphones, singing aloud for everyone else to hear — completely out of tune and off-key (but no one can keep them down because they're really feeling the music). There is someone (either naive or just out of college) who is going to try to get my signature for whatever futile cause they say they're supporting, even though they're simply doing it to put it on their C.V. when they apply to law school. There is someone returning from the gym, aggressively pushing a huge, military-issue, two-lane stroller with formless, whining protoplasm buried inside. There are overweight people who won't move out of the way (this has to be intentional). There are roving groups of jittery, insecure teens talking ten times louder than humanly required. There are clusters of the inertial, self-aware self-employed, grazing all day long at the cafe, leaving open not a single chair, all of them droopily tethered to their laptops ("working"). There is someone. There is always someone. How is it possible to feel nothing but unmitigated spite for so many different kinds of people?Yes, and there is someone who uses the plural pronouns "they" and "their" when the antecedent is singular.
The Mind Wearies and Sickens
So much has been written about Horace even in the last decade that the mind wearies and sickens.
Dionysus was in the Archaic Age as much a social necessity as Apollo; each ministered in his own way to the anxieties characteristic of a guilt-culture. Apollo promised security: "Understand your station as man; do as the Father tells you; and you will be safe to-morrow." Dionysus offered freedom: "Forget the difference, and you will find the identity; join the θίασος, and you will be happy to-day." He was essentially a god of joy, πολυγηθής, as Hesiod calls him; χάρμα βροτοῖσιν, as Homer says. And his joys were accessible to all, including even slaves, as well as those freemen who were shut out from the old gentile cults. Apollo moved only in the best society, from the days when he was Hector's patron to the days when he canonised aristocratic athletes; but Dionysus was at all periods δημοτικός, a god of the people.
The joys of Dionysus had an extremely wide range, from the simple pleasures of the country bumpkin, dancing a jig on greased wineskins, to the ὠμόφαγος χάρις of the ecstatic bacchanal. At both levels, and at all the levels between, he is Lusios, "the Liberator"—the god who by very simple means, or by other means not so simple, enables you for a short time to stop being yourself, and thereby sets you free.
Friday, August 20, 2021
There's No Pleasing Everyone
In matters of great importance it is hard to please everyone.Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), p. 147: Even Jupiter Does Not Please Everybody.
ἔργμασιν ἐν μεγάλοις πᾶσιν ἁδεῖν χαλεπόν.
ἔργμασιν Heinemann: ἔργμασι codd.
Principal Parts of a First Conjugation Verb
Latin-themed jokes appeared in the Scribe:From Jim O'Donnell:
TEACHER: Give the principal parts of a first conjugation verb.
FIRST LATINIST: Tell me one!
SECOND LATINIST: D....if I know.
FIRST LATINIST: Damifino, damifinare, damifinavi, damifinatum.
My father was born in Holyoke MA in 1908 and when I started studying Latin (with Lee Harvey Oswald's cousin as my teacher) in the fall of 1964, he told a story of his own schooldays c. 1922 with "the sisters" in Holyoke. Sister Whoever was going around the room drilling principal parts calling out a verb and a name for rapid-fire recitation of the four principal parts. If somebody didn't answer, she just called on the next guy. So suddenly young William, who has been daydreaming, hears his name called. "What's the verb?" he whispers desperately to the guy next to him. "Damned if I know," says the guy. "Damnedifino, damnedifinare, damnedifinavi, damnedifinatum," says William, and not to his advantage in the eyes of Sister Whoever. A few months later at my own school, Fr. Richard T. Gaul SJ, born in Pittsfield MA (about 35 miles west of Holyoke), told us the story of how when he was in school the nun was drilling the students on the principal parts, etc., etc., but in his version, since he was a priest and it was only 1964, the verb was "darnedifino".
Contra vermesImage of the charm in the manuscript (the amen comes from the end of the previous work):
Gang ût, nesso, mit nigun nessiklinon,
ût fana themo margę an that ben, fan themo bene an that flesg,
ût fan themo flesgke an thia hud, ût fan thera hud an thesa strala.
Drohtin, uuerthe so.
Against wormsThis seems to be an example of epipompē, or banishment of evil to a particular place. Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē and epipompē to describe two different ways of banishing evil in "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13-14 (1911) 9-32. The difference between apopompē and epipompē can be seen most clearly in the Gospels. In most of the exorcisms recorded in the Gospels, Jesus simply drove demons away from the possessed (apopompē). But at Gadara (or Gerasa or Gergesa), Jesus drove the demons away to a particular place (epipompē), into a herd of pigs (Matthew 8.30-32; par. Mark 5.11-13 and Luke 8.32-33). In this charm, the banishment takes place step by step, finally reaching outside the body to the arrow. Some scholars think that the arrow is then to be shot away.
Go out worm with your nine little ones,
out from the marrow to the bone, from the bone to the flesh,
out from the flesh to the skin, out from the skin to this arrow.
Lord, may it happen thus.
Thursday, August 19, 2021
For no profit comes of chill lament.
For so have the gods spun the thread for wretched mortals,
that they should live among sorrows; and they themselves are without care.
οὐ γάρ τις πρῆξις πέλεται κρυεροῖο γόοιο·
ὡς γὰρ ἐπεκλώσαντο θεοὶ δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι
ζώειν ἀχνυμένοις· αὐτοὶ δέ τ᾽ ἀκηδέες εἰσί.
The Grim Reaper
The Old Folks at Home
Whom shall my soul believe? Worn out with abstraction and novelty, plagued with divided counsels, some Americans are saying: I will believe the old folks at home, who have kept alive, through many treacherous outmodings, some good secret of life. Such moderns prefer to grasp the particular. They want what is near to home and capable of understanding, for it engages both their reason and their love. They distrust the advice of John Dewey to "use the foresight of the future to refine and expand present activities." The future is not yet; it is unknowable, intangible. But the past was, the present is; of that they can be sure. So they attach themselves — or reattach themselves — to a home-section, one of the sections, great or small, defined in the long conquest of our continental area. They seek spiritual and cultural autonomy.
Idle and Vapid Problems
What I do decline is to occupy myself for one moment with such trivialities as the place of Vergil's birth, a paltry and meaningless problem over which humanists so prominent as Rand and Conway between them spent nearly four whole years; with the contradictory, i.e., false, assertion of single authorship of the Iliad; with quibbles such as that about the authorship of the Satyricon of Petronius, or about the authenticity of the epistles attributed to Plato—both of which have been debated, without finality, for centuries. This flogging of dead horses, this threshing of old straw, and all of it in the name of humanism, is a betrayal of the cause of humanism, or, at best, indifference to it. If this seems like intolerance, the reason is precisely that I am not indifferent to the frittering away of intellectual endeavor upon these idle and vapid problems.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
A thunder clap in a clear sky (which the Epicureans say is impossible, Lucret. 6.400) has converted Horace from his youthful belief that the gods 'lie beside their nectar careless of mankind.' (Cf. Sat. 1.5.101, deos didici securum agere aevum.) He has felt 'the steadfast empyrean shake throughout' beneath the winged car of Zeus, and knows now that 'The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich; he bringeth low and lifteth up' (1 Sam. 2.7).Horace, Odes and Epodes. With Introduction and Notes by Charles E. Bennett (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1901), p. 43 (outline of Ode 1.34):
a) I am compelled to renounce my former errors of belief and to make sail for a new haven, 1-5;Horace, Odes 1.34 (tr. Christopher Smart):
b) The cause: Jove recently hurled his thunderbolts with a mighty crash through the clear sky, 5-12;
c) The god has power; he can abase the high and exalt the lowly; from one man he swiftly takes away the crown, to bestow it on another, 12-16.
A remiss and irregular worshipper of the gods, while I professed the errors of a senseless philosophy, I am now obliged to set sail back again,Verse translation by W.S. Marris:
and to renew the course that I had deserted. For Jupiter, who usually cleaves the clouds with his gleaming lightning, lately drove his thundering horses and rapid chariot through the clear serene;
at which the sluggish earth, and wandering rivers, at which Styx, and the horrid seat of detested Taenarus, and the utmost boundary of Atlas were shaken. The Deity is able to make exchange between the highest and the lowest,
and diminishes the exalted, bringing to light the obscure; rapacious fortune, with a shrill whizzing, has borne off the plume from one head, and delights in having placed it on another.
Parcus deorum cultor et infrequens,
insanientis dum sapientiae
consultus erro, nunc retrorsum
vela dare atque iterare cursus
cogor relictos: namque Diespiter, 5
igni corusco nubila dividens
plerumque, per purum tonantis
egit equos volucremque currum,
quo bruta tellus et vaga flumina,
quo Styx et invisi horrida Taenari 10
sedes Atlanteusque finis
concutitur. valet ima summis
mutare et insignem attenuat deus
obscura promens; hinc apicem rapax:
Fortuna cum stridore acuto 15
sustulit, hic posuisse gaudet.
My prayers were rare and scant, and IEduard Fraenkel, Horace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957; rpt. 1997), pp. 254-256 (footnotes omitted):
The fool of mad philosophy;
But I must bend my sails and back
Betake me to the ancient track.
When skies are black with storm, the Sire
Hath often cleft them with his fire,
But now with car and steeds of thunder
He rives the fleckless blue asunder,
Till sluggard Earth and streams that flow,
Dark Taenarus, abode of woe,
And Styx, and Atlas' mountain-wall
Are rocking. Ay, God bringeth all
The mighty low, and lifts the mean;
He rends the veil of things unseen;
And Fortune speeds on clanging wing
To crown the beggar, strip the king.
It would be possible to write an amusing and, perhaps, useful book on 'The Scholiasts' Tyranny over the Reading of the Classics'. The ode Parcus deorum cultor is a case in point. The classifying mind of some ancient schoolmaster excogitated for it the label 'hac ode significat se paenitentiam agere quod Epicuream sectam secutus inreligiosus extiterit' (Porph.), and so we still read in the most influential modern commentary that 'the poem is meant to be taken absolutely seriously as a confession of a religious conversion', despite all that has been said to discredit this view. If a conversion did take place at all, if in this ode 'Horace has treasured up one decisive event of his own life' (Altheim), it should at least be admitted that the effect of this event was anything but permanent. Even if we leave aside the joke in the letter to Tibullus, Epicuri de grege porcum, there remains the programmatic declaration,ac ne forte roges, quo me duce, quo lare tuter:This frank statement is in harmony with all that we know about Horace's behaviour and general outlook during the period, approximately twenty-five years, for which we have the evidence of his own writings. The statement is unambiguous; it ought not to be disregarded in any discussion on 'the philosophy' or 'the religion' of the poet. Nor should we forget that the very serious culmination (96-103) of Epist. i.18 and also the last sentence in that letter show full adherence to the Epicurean creed.
nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri,
quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.
The doctrine of Epicurus 'explained thunder as caused by the clashing of two clouds. But Horace hears thunder in a clear sky: therefore, he reflects, Epicureanism is false. But does that mean that he abandons Epicureanism? Hardly. Horace is no zealot, who must accept a given creed in its entirety or reject it. As a matter of fact he had no interest in Epicurean science, whether for its own sake or for its application to the question of death; he was no Lucretius. Ethics alone engaged his attention. Nor on the other hand are we to interpret the ode as playful. . . . In saying that Jupiter threw his thunderbolt Horace is serious but not literal, poetic but not playful. . . . The significant part of the poem comes at the end. . . . After depicting the power of Jupiter, he says that the god makes the mighty to fall and the humble to rise. Thus the chance observation of a natural phenomenon leads . . . to a reflection on the uncertainties of life. . . . Nor is it without significance that Horace passes from Jupiter to the more generalized deus and finally to Fortune and that the poem which follows is addressed to the same goddess.' One need not agree with every word of this careful interpretation, but it seems to me that it comes much nearer to the true spirit of the poem than the crude simplification of the scholiast and of those who share his view.
I do not expect this particular key, or any key, to open all the doors. The evolution of a culture is too complex a thing to be explained without residue in terms of any simple formula, whether economic or psychological, begotten of Marx or begotten of Freud. We must resist the temptation to simplify what is not simple.
But if an ancient author has some things which astonish us, our astonishment is as nothing compared with what the ancients would think of it, or the astonishment with which they would regard either our impudent criticisms of their writings or our attempts to write their languages and to rewrite their writings.
"You cannot turn the clock back!" is the commonest taunt of our day. It always emerges as the clinching argument that any modernist offers any traditionalist when the question is: "What shall we do now?" But it is not really an argument. It is a taunt intended to discredit the traditionalist by stigmatizing him a traitor to an idea of progress that is assumed as utterly valid and generally accepted. The aim is, furthermore, to poison the traditionalist's own mind and disturb his self-confidence by the insinuation that he is a laggard in the world's great procession. His faith in an established good is made to seem nostalgic devotion to a mere phantom of the buried past. His opposition to the new—no matter how ill-advised, inartistic, destructive, or immoral that new may be—is defined as a quixotic defiance of the Inevitable. To use a term invented by Arnold J. Toynbee, he is an Archaist. By definition, he is therefore doomed.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.Commentators are divided concerning the antecedent of αὐτοῦ, whether it's Jesus or the believer. Despite "as the scripture hath said," there is no exact scriptural parallel — commentators compare Isa 55:1, 58:11, Joel 4:18, Zech 14:8, Ps 77:16, 20, etc. (cf. also Jo 19:34-35).
ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή, ποταμοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ ῥεύσουσιν ὕδατος ζῶντος.
Franco Montanari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Leiden: Brill, 1995), p. 1146, s.v. κοιλία: "of the male genitals VT Ps. 131.11," i.e. ἐκ καρποῦ τῆς κοιλίας σου θήσομαι ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου σου. But I'm not seriously proposing this meaning at John 7:38. I don't see Ps 131:11 cited in Johan Lust et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2003), under κοιλία.
Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.
The Likeness of Children to Parents
At least if before thy flight a child of thine had been clasped in my arms, if a tiny Aeneas were playing in my hall, whose face might yet image thine, I would not think myself ensnared and deserted utterly.Arthur Stanley Pease, commentary on line 329:
saltem si qua mihi de te suscepta fuisset
ante fugam suboles, si quis mihi parvulus aula
luderet Aeneas, qui te tamen ore referret,
non equidem omnino capta ac deserta viderer.
- Children Who Resemble Their Fathers
- Like Father, Like Son
- Consequences of Keeping or Breaking an Oath
- Family Resemblance
And is not the insight into such basic conservatism of man an antidote against the feeling of helplessness engendered by the vista of chaotic dismemberment and of the crumbling of tradition that the world of today offers us? Before the forces of barbarism that encircle us, Curtius has found an escape by immersing himself in the necropolis of a past that was alive as late as the eighteenth century (this is for Curtius the dividing line between his Middle Ages and modernity).
Attack on E.K. Rand
The comparative Indo-Europeanist, Joshua Whatmough, was an hilariously amusing Englishman. He detested classicists and was delighted that an architect and not a classicist deciphered Linear B, «the greatest discovery since Bentley discovered the digamma!» He often said the only reason to read Thucydides was to find grammatical peculiarities. He insisted that Dawn in Homer was rosy-toed, not rosy-fingered. Daktylos could be either. He was fighting battles still with colleagues who had died when we were children. He would cite an unfortunate sentence of E.K. Rand on Ovid, Amores 1. 6: «the tone of this poem is parody ... permeating the substance like a perfume invisible but appreciable by those who have the sense of smell»; and add: «What Rand said is, 'Ovid, Amores 1. 6 smells', and this I do not understand.» He included the remark in his first Sather.Joshua Whatmough, Poetic, Scientific and other Forms of Discourse (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956 = Sather Classical Lectures, 29), p. 26:
Rand's remark (apropos also of Catullus) that "we moderns are oblivious to form" is, as we shall see, nearer the mark (if I may be allowed to write insensible for his oblivious), but goes on, alas, "and search for spirit." Far worse (I say nothing of his mixed metaphors, which he did not write to sustain any theory of synaesthesia) is his comment on Ovid Amores 1.6: "the tone of this poem is parody . . . permeating the substance like a perfume, invisible but appreciable by those who have the sense of smell," with its implication that Rand had, but I have not, this sense of smell. Be that as it may, I have, let me insist, a sense of sense, and of nonsense, and of the difference between sense and nonsense. What Rand said is, "Ovid Amores 1.6 smells," and this I do not understand. Such a statement, nonsensical as it is, is meaningless; it is neither connectible with experience nor communicable to others, it evokes no response: for smell has to do with the inhibition of certain enzymes contained in the olfactory organs, changes in the concentration of which are converted into distinguishable neural signals. Education in such meaningless rubbish as comment on the smell of a poem is demoralizing. I know whereof I speak; I know also that it took a quarter of a century to shake myself free of it. Read Ovid if you will, trifler as he was; but do not tell me that any poem is pervaded by perfume. I know, or think I know, what Rand may have meant; but he did not say it.Rand's "unfortunate sentence" appeared in his book The Building of Eternal Rome (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1943), p. 135:
The tone of this poem is parody, not openly displayed as in a Culex or a "Battle of Frogs and Mice," but here and throughout this volume of Amores permeating the substance like a perfume, invisible but appreciable, by those who have the sense of smell.
What Is Kindred Blood, and No Memory?
Son. Father, before the years have dulled your tongue,
Tell me the tale you have kept so long unspoken.
Without recollection, how can I truly be
Your son, or a true father of sons?
What is kindred blood, and no memory?
Soldier. Not being a man for talk, I have held my peace
And watched you grow without my memory.
They say the weeds redeem the battlefield;
It is fallow land. My friends are in the grave.
I cannot bring them back to you with words
If language itself at last turns mercenary.
Go read in those who have such words to sell;
You will be thought an educated man.
Son. Skim milk they give and call it history.
I have read its lies — have you not said they were lies?
Belief I want that surpasses easy knowledge.
When I believe you, I believe myself
And am myself, beyond my present self.
I want the word that burns into my heart
Like God's coal alive on the prophet's tongue.
I would listen now while memory is ablaze
To seal your testament within my soul.
Monday, August 16, 2021
My bones rest pleasantly (all that remains in the end for a man),
and I have no worries that I may suddenly experience hunger,
and I am free from gout and am not a deposit for my rent,
and without payment I enjoy an eternal lodging.
quod superest homini, requiescunt dulciter ossa
nec sum sollicitus ne subito esuriam
et podagram careo nec sum pensionibus arra
et gratis aeterno perfruor hospitio.
1 homini lapis: hominis Cholodniak
Writing versus Speaking
Scholars and writers are apt to dismiss words not immortalized on the page, issuing merely from the lips. People lie, repeat themselves, contradict what they've just said, phumph and jabber endlessly. Singers and storytellers, bombastic preachers, drunken barroom rhetoricians, fast-talking salesmen, Don Juans purveying sugarcoated come-ons—all were past masters of the shady arts of speech. We may listen, but we don't entirely trust; many of us want to see it in black and white, laid out on the page in front of us. Without that reassuring superstructure of print, speech and song can seem deficient.Hat tip: Alan Crease.
Like Attracts Like
For there is nothing more eager or more greedy than nature for what is like itself.
nihil est enim appetentius similium sui nec rapacius quam natura.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Why do you boast of your noble lineage? You are even wont to go over the pedigrees of your dogs as you do those of wealthy men, you are even wont to praise the nobility of your horses as you do that of the consuls. That horse was sired by that father and born of that mother; this one rejoices in that grandsire, that one boasts of even more remote ancestry. But this is of no aid to him in the race; the palm is not given for noble lineage, but for running.In his commentary (p. 184), McGuire compares Juvenal 8.56-61, here in G.G. Ramsay's translation:
quid te iactas de nobilitatis prosapia? soletis et canum uestrorum origines sicut diuitum recensere, soletis et equorum uestrorum nobilitatem sicut consulum praedicare. ille ex illo patre generatus est et ex illa matre editus, ille auo gaudet, ille se proauis adtollit. sed nihil istud currentem iuuat; non datur nobilitati palma, sed cursui.
Tell me, thou scion of the Trojans, who deems a dumb animal well-born unless it be strong? It is for this that we commend the swift horse whose speed sets every hand aglow, and fills the Circus with the hoarse shout of victory; that horse is noblest, on whatever pasture reared, whose rush outstrips the rest, and whose dust is foremost upon the plain.
dic mihi, Teucrorum proles, animalia muta
quis generosa putet nisi fortia. nempe volucrem
sic laudamus equum, facili cui plurima palma
fervet et exultat rauco victoria circo;
nobilis hic, quocumque venit de gramine, cuius 60
clara fuga ante alios et primus in aequore pulvis.
Frou-frouery and faint patchouli smells,
And debile virgins talking Keats,
And the arch widow in accordion pleats,
Artfully fringing with the tales she tells
The giggling prurient.
Life nauseous! Let the whole crowd be sent
To the chosen limbos and appropriate hells
Reserved in memory's blackest stagnancy.
Back, back! No Social Contract! From the teats
Of our old wolfish mother nature drink
Sweet unrestraint and lust and savagery.
Feel goat-hair growing thick and redolent
On loin and thigh; look back
And mark the cloven hoof-marks of the track
You leave, then forward eyes again; no wink,
Lest for an instant you should miss the sight
Of moony floating flanks and haunches white
Flashed by your fleeting nymph girl through the leaves.
What an Age!
It is the most abominable book that ever was written! .... But what an age it must be which not only renders such a book possible, and calls it into existence, but even finds it endurable and delightful.
Es ist das abscheulichste Buch, das je geschrieben worden! .... Was ist das aber für eine Zeit, die ein solches Buch nicht allein möglich macht und hervorruft, sondern es sogar ganz erträglich und ergötzlich findet!
Each Man for Himself
I am sorry to find that this clerical spirit is still alive, as bitter, vehement, and overbearing as in the worst times of religious bigotry. It confirms me in my determination to have nothing to do with church matters and church organizations. I do not see but it must come to this, that each and every one must settle religious affairs for himself, without any regard to others; for, after all, religion is a personal relation to God, and we derive as little comfort from the interference of others with reference to our intercourse with our Maker, as we do in matters of affection.
Saturday, August 14, 2021
The Echoes of Our Own Thoughts
The great charm of all ancient literatures, one often thinks, is the finding of ourselves in the past. It is as if the fable of repeated and recurring lives were true; as if in the faith, or unbelief, or merriment, or despair, or courage, or cowardice, of men long dead, we heard the echoes of our own thoughts, and the beating of hearts that once were our own.
It Is Well to Respect One Another
Respect and temperance in every dispute, but temperance is shown above all by those who have command over the tongue, for no reason flattering or humiliating their neighbour; such behaviour is vain, and indeed it is well to strive to give just praise to one’s neighbour, never offending him in any way. Respecting these precepts, they enhance themselves and attract their neighbour, while, violating them, they become somewhat ignoble and make themselves hateful. Those who extol themselves and blame their neighbour for the sake of greater glory, wishing to shine above the others, bring yet greater shame upon themselves: it is well to respect one another and learn from one another reciprocally; following these rules they will become wiser, exchanging what each of them knows, and there should be no hesitation in repeating these principles to those who cultivate them so that, being ever compassionate, they may improve.
[․ εὐ]σέβεια καὶ ἐγκράτεια κατὰ πάσας τὰς διατριβὰς· ἐγκρατὴς δὲ μάλιστα ἐστιν ὅς ἂν γλώσσης ἐγκρατὴς ἦι. καὶ μήτε ἑαυτοὺς ἐπα[ι]νῶσιν, μήτε τῶν πέλας ψέγωσιν περὶ μηδενός· κενὸγ γάρ ἐστιν· καὶ πειρᾶσθαι μᾶλλον τοὺς πέλας ἐπαινεῖν καὶ μὴ ψέγειν κατὰ πάντα τρόπον. ταῦτα δὲ ποιοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς αὔξουσι καὶ τοὺς πέλας ἀνακτῶνται· παραβαίνοντες δὲ ταῦτα, ἀκλεέστεροι τε γίνονται καὶ τοῖς πέλας ἀπέχθονται. οἳ δ' ἂν ἑαυτοὺς ἐπαινῶσιν, τοὺς δὲ πέλας ψέγωσιν φιλοτιμότερον διαπράτονται, βουλόμενοι παρὰ τοὺς λοιποὺς ἐγλάμψαι, πολὺ δὲ μᾶλλον βλάπτου[σι] ἑαυτοὺς. πρέπει δὲ ἀλλήλους θαυμάζειν καὶ τὰ ἀλλήλων διδάγματα παραδέχεσθα[ι]. ταῦτα δὲ ποιοῦντες πολυμαθέστεροι ἔσονται, παραδιδόντες ἀλλήλοις ὅσα ἕκαστος αὐτῶν ἐπίσταται. καὶ τοῖς ταῦτα ἐπ[α]σκοῦσι, ταῦτα μὴ ὀκνεῖν λέγειν, ἵνα δειαμείνωσιν διὰ παντὸς εὐσεβοῦντες.
A House Divided
For what house is so strong, or what state so enduring that it cannot be utterly overthrown by animosities and division?
quae enim domus tam stabilis, quae tam firma civitas est, quae non odiis et discidiis funditus possit everti?
Friday, August 13, 2021
Humanity's Greatest Blessing
A good dinner is humanity's greatest blessing!
Patriotism has become a chilly word in English, but it will have to be used in default of a better. Patria is expressive for Virgil in part because it can be used, like patrie in French, for locality as well as nation. When he says 'divisae arboribus patriae' (trees have their different homelands) he is talking about different nations—Arabs and Indians and denizens of the steppes—but his words also carry as an undercurrent the sense of local loyalty and identity for which English has no single term, but which we can represent by borrowing a German word. 'Trees have their different Heimaten.' It is curious that the English have no straightforward equivalent to Heimat, since they certainly have the concept. At all events, we shall appreciate Virgil better if we recognize that his exploration of 'patria' is concerned with the interlocking of kinds of belonging which range from sense of nation to sense of home.
For it seems clear to me that we were so created that between us all there exists a certain tie which strengthens with our proximity to each other. Therefore, fellow countrymen are preferred to foreigners and relatives to strangers, for with them Nature herself engenders friendship...
sic enim mihi perspicere videor, ita natos esse nos, ut inter omnis esset societas quaedam, maior autem, ut quisque proxime accederet. itaque cives potiores quam peregrini, propinqui quam alieni; cum his enim amicitiam natura ipsa peperit...
In the letter to Anaxarchus he wrote as follows: "I summon you to constant pleasures, and not to virtues, which provide [only] empty, pointless, and disturbing expectations of rewards."
ἐν τῇ πρὸς Ἀνάξαρχον ἐπιστολῇ ταυτὶ γέγραφεν· ἐγὼ δ' ἐφ' ἡδονὰς συνεχεῖς παρακαλῶ καὶ οὐκ ἐπ' ἀρετὰς κενὰς καὶ ματαίας καὶ ταραχώδεις ἐχούσας τῶν καρπῶν ἐλπίδας.
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Here have been three ultra-reformers, lecturers on Slavery, Temperance, the Church, etc., in and about our house and Mrs. Brooks's the last three or four days, — A.D. Foss, once a Baptist minister in Hopkinton, N.H.; Loring Moody, a sort of travelling pattern-working chaplain; and H.C. Wright, who shocks all the old women with his infidel writings. Though Foss was a stranger to the others, you would have thought them old and familiar cronies. (They happened here together by accident.) They addressed each other constantly by their Christian names, and rubbed you continually with the greasy cheeks of their kindness. They would not keep their distance, but cuddle up and lie spoon-fashion with you, no matter how hot the weather nor how narrow the bed, — chiefly ———. I was awfully pestered with his benignity; feared I should get greased all over with it past restoration; tried to keep some starch in my clothes. He wrote a book called "A Kiss for a Blow," and he behaved as if there were no alternative between these, or as if I had given him a blow. I would have preferred the blow, but he was bent on giving me the kiss, when there was neither quarrel nor agreement between us. I wanted that he should straighten his back, smooth out those ogling wrinkles of benignity about his eyes, and, with a healthy reserve, pronounce something in a downright manner. It was difficult to keep clear of his slimy benignity, with which he sought to cover you before he swallowed you and took you fairly into his bowels. It would have been far worse than the fate of Jonah. I do not wish to get any nearer to a man's bowels than usual. They lick you as a cow her calf. They would fain wrap you about with their bowels. ——— addressed me as "Henry" within one minute from the time I first laid eyes on him, and when I spoke, he said with drawling, sultry sympathy, "Henry, I know all you would say; I understand you perfectly; you need not explain anything to me;" and to another, "I am going to dive into Henry's inmost depths." I said, "I trust you will not strike your head against the bottom." He could tell in a dark room, with his eyes blinded and in perfect stillness, if there was one there whom he loved. One of the most attractive things about the flowers is their beautiful reserve. The truly beautiful and noble puts its lover, as it were, at an infinite distance, while it attracts him more strongly than ever. I do not like the men who come so near me with their bowels. It is the most disagreeable kind of snare to be caught in. Men's bowels are far more slimy than their brains. They must be ascetics indeed who approach you by this side. What a relief to have heard the ring of one healthy reserved tone! With such a forgiving disposition, as if he were all the while forgiving you for existing. Considering our condition or habit of soul, maybe corpulent and asthmatic, — maybe dying of atrophy, with all our bones sticking out, — is it kindness to embrace a man? They lay their sweaty hand on your shoulder, or your knee, to magnetize you.H.C. Wright wrote A Kiss for a Blow.
Things As They Are
I, however, am bound to look at things as they are in the experience of everyday life and not as they are in fancy or in hope.
nos autem ea quae sunt in usu vitaque communi, non ea quae finguntur aut optantur, spectare debemus.
I Am Not Mad, Only Eccentric
Whatmough was unmistakable on the street — a short, frosty-haired, ruddy-faced man, impeccably dressed, always sporting a fresh cornflower in his buttonhole, swinging a walking stick, and traveling with a jaunty briskness. "I am not mad," he once stated categorically, "only eccentric."
Chief among his eccentricities was a passion for speaking out in the lecture room on every conceivable topic. What he liked, he praised with elaborate encomiums, phrased in flawless English, seasoned with appropriate Latin or Greek quotations. What he disliked, he loathed and damned with vehemence, often using Arabic or Turkish oaths to communicate his emotion, frequently turning purple with rage.
Although his outspokenness made him good many enemies, he never was intimidated. "I often find myself in hot water," he used to say with obvious pleasure, "but I don't mind hot water — it never scalds me."
Sceptic! Sceptic! It is true, they will still call me a sceptic. And for them that is the worst insult. But for me it is the finest praise. A Sceptic! Why, that is what all the masters of French thought have been. Rabelais, Montaigne, Molière, Voltaire, Renan — Sceptics. All the loftiest minds of our race were sceptics, all those whom I tremblingly venerate, and whose most humble pupil I am.
Sceptique! Sceptique! En effet, ils in'appelleront encore sceptique. Et pour eux, c'est la pire injure. Mais pour moi, c'est la plus belle des louanges. Sceptique! Mais tous les maîtres de la pensée française l'ont été. Sceptiques, Rabelais, Montaigne, Molière, Voltaire, Renan... Sceptiques tous les plus hauts esprits de notre race, tous ceux que je vénère en tremblant et dont je ne suis que le très humble écolier.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Boys ought to do something for themselves towards scholarship. They nowadays expect to have everything done for them.
We Are in the Midst of It
"Niebuhr," said Goethe, "was right when he saw a barbarous age coming. It is already here, we are in the midst of it; for wherein does barbarism consist, unless in not appreciating what is excellent!"
»Niebuhr hat recht gehabt,« sagte Goethe, »wenn er eine barbarische Zeit kommen sah. Sie ist schon da, wir sind schon mitten darinne; denn worin besteht die Barbarei anders als darin, daß man das Vortreffliche nicht anerkennt.«
How to Restore Harmony to a Divided State
We observe, from the example of the Roman Consuls in restoring harmony between the patricians and plebeians of Ardea, the means for obtaining that object, which is none other than to kill the chiefs of the opposing factions. In fact, there are only three ways of accomplishing it; the one is to put the leaders to death, as the Romans did, or to banish them from the city, or to reconcile them to each other under a pledge not to offend again. Of these three ways, the last is the worst, being the least certain and effective; for it is impossible that, after dissensions that have caused so much bloodshed and other outrages, a forced peace should be enduring. The parties meeting each other daily face to face will with difficulty abstain from mutual insults, and in their daily intercourse fresh causes for quarrel will constantly occur.
Per lo essempio dei Consoli romani che riconciliarono insieme gli Ardeati, si nota il modo come si debbe comporre una città divisa: il quale non è altro, nè altrimenti si debbe medicare, che ammazzare i capi de' tumulti. Perchè gli è necessario pigliare uno de' tre modi: o ammazzargli, come fecero costoro; o rimuovergli della città; o far loro far pace insieme, sotto obblighi di non si offendere. Di questi tre modi, questo ultimo è più dannoso, men certo, e più inutile. Perchè gli è impossibile, dove sia corso assai sangue, o altre simili ingiurie, che una pace fatta per forza duri, riveggendosi ogni dì insieme in viso; ed è difficile che si astenghino dallo ingiuriare l'uno l'altro, potendo nascere infra loro ogni dì, per la conversazione, nuove cagioni di querele.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Every change in a man's life is perilous; but when a man knows no lack, and has no fault to find with his present lot, nothing short of madness can change his purposes and remove him from his wonted course of life, which, even though it have no other advantage, is at least fixed and secure, and therefore better than one which is all uncertain.
πᾶσα μὲν ἀνθρωπίνου βίου μεταβολὴ σφαλερὸν ᾧ δὲ μήτ᾽ ἄπεστί τι τῶν ἱκανῶν μήτε μεμπτόν ἐστι τῶν παρόντων, τοῦτον οὐδὲν ἄλλο πλὴν ἄνοια μετακοσμεῖ καὶ μεθίστησιν ἐκ τῶν συνήθων οἷς κἂν εἰ μηδὲν ἕτερον προσείη.
Drunkenness is the kindling wood of passion, drunkenness is the incentive of madness, drunkenness is the poison of folly. This vice changes the senses and forms of men, through this vice from men they become neighing horses; since indeed, being warm with the natural heat of the body and inflamed beyond the measure of nature by the heat of wine, they cannot restrain themselves, and are excited to bestial passions, so that they have no time prescribed in which it would be fitting for them to indulge in coition. They lose their voice, they change color, their eyes burn with passion, they pant with open mouth, they snort with distended nostrils, they are enkindled into rage, they go out of their senses. From this comes dangerous delirium, from this comes the heavy affliction of gall stones, from this comes fatal indigestion, from this comes frequent vomiting on the part of those who belch forth half eaten dainties together with the blood of their inner vitals. I speak falsely if the Lord has not said the same thing through Jeremias in these words: Drink ye, and be drunken, and vomit: and ye will fall and will rise no more.Related post: Some Effects of Wine.
From this come also deluding visions, uncertain sight, and tottering gait. Often they leap over shadows as if they were pitfalls. The ground sways beneath them, suddenly it seems to be raised and lowered as if it were turning. In terror they fall upon their faces and grasp the ground with their hands; or they imagine that they are being engulfed by mountains rushing upon them. There is rumbling in their ears like the crashing of a tossing sea and shores resounding from the waves. If they see dogs they think them lions and flee. Sonic are convulsed in uncouth laughter, others weep with inconsolable grief, others perceive senseless terrors. While awake they sleep, while asleep they quarrel. Life to them is a dream and their sleep is deep. They cannot be aroused by any voices; whatever be the shock by which you would imagine they must be aroused, unless they recover, they cannot awake.
ebrietas fomentum libidinis, ebrietas incentivum insaniae, ebrietas venenum insipientiae. haec sensus hominum mutat et formas. per hanc fiunt ex hominibus equi adhinnientes, siquidem naturali vapore corporis calidi et praeter naturam vini calore flammati cohibere se non queunt et in bestiales libidines excitantur, ut nullum tempus praescriptum habeant, quo deceat indulgere concubitu. vocem amittunt, colore vuariantur, oculis ignescunt, ore anhelant. fremunt naribus, in furorem inardescunt, sensu excidunt. hinc frenesis periculosa, hinc calculi gravis poena, hinc exitialis cruditas, hinc vomitus frequens semesas epulas cum internorum viscerum cruore fundentium. mentior, nisi eadem dominus per Hieremiam locutus est dicens: bibite et inebriamini et vomite: et cadetis et non surgetis.
hinc etiam vanae imagines, incerti visus, instabilis gressus. umbras saepe transiliunt sicut foveas. nutat his terra, subito erigi et inclinari videtur, quasi vertatur. timentes in faciem ruunt et solum manibus adprendunt aut concurrentibus montibus sibi videntur includi. murmur in auribus tamquam maris fluctuantis fragor et resonantia fluctu litora. canes si viderint, leones arbitrantur et fugiunt. alii risu solvuntur incondito, alii inconsolabili maerore deplorant, alii inrationabilis cernunt pavores. vigilantes somniant, dormientes litigant. vita his somnium est, somnus his multus est. excitari nullis vocibus possunt: quantolibet stimulandos inpulsu putes, nisi resipierint, vigilare non possunt.
Monday, August 09, 2021
Yet what could I do? It is the god who accomplishes all things.The Iliad, a Commentary, Vol. V: Books 17-20, by Mark W. Edwards (1991; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 247:
Delusion is the elder daughter of Zeus, the accursed
who deludes all; her feet are delicate and they step not
on the firm earth, but she walks the air above men's heads
and leads them astray. She has entangled others before me.
ἀλλὰ τί κε ῥέξαιμι; θεὸς διὰ πάντα τελευτᾷ,
πρέσβα Διὸς θυγάτηρ Ἄτη, ἣ πάντας ἀᾶται,
οὐλομένη. τῇ μέν θ᾽ ἁπαλοὶ πόδες· οὐ γὰρ ἐπ᾽ οὔδει
πίλναται, ἀλλ᾽ ἄρα ἥ γε κατ᾽ ἀνδρῶν κράατα βαίνει
βλάπτουσ᾽ ἀνθρώπους· κατὰ δ᾽ οὖν ἕτερόν γ᾽ ἐπέδησεν.
No Longer Defensible
Enter our gates, dispose of us and ours,
For we no longer are defensible.
The Modernity of Horace
I have called Horace modern. He caught up the wisdom of the past and uttered it again to his times. He can repeat it to us, if we are as modern as he. Some poets today who would cut off the past are cutting off with it their own future, for what they think daring and novel will soon appear funny and quaint.Id., p. 38:Where are the imagists of yesteryear?Horace is the prince of club men, with old and young in his circle. He is a pleasant counsellor, a perfect Freshman adviser, always at home, always at leisure, ever ready to pour out for us a glass of one of the mellower brands and to expound the comfortable doctrine of nil admirari, caught from Socratic irony and handed on to choice souls down the ages.
The quintessence of this moral wisdom of the ancient world has somehow been distilled by Horace, and treasured in a tiny jar. Others can show thought more profound, feeling more intense, art more ambitious, imagination more sublime. But if we had to select one volume of the ancients, just one, to take to a desert island for the comfort of our souls, or to retain in a warring world to arm us for the stress, I doubt if we could find more aspects of antiquity, more suggestions of the diverse things that the great masters of old have thought and wrought, than the little book of Horace.
Sunday, August 08, 2021
The Apex of Creation
"It is natural to man," said Goethe, "to regard himself as the final cause of creation, and to consider all other things merely in relation to himself so far as they are of use to him. He makes himself master of the vegetable and animal world, and while he claims other creatures as a fitting diet, he acknowledges his God, and praises His goodness in this paternal care. He takes milk from the cow, honey from the bee, wool from the sheep; and while he gives these things a purpose which is useful to himself, he believes that they were made on that account. Nay, he cannot conceive that even the smallest herb was not made for him, and if he has not yet ascertained its utility, he believes that he may discover it in future."Montaigne, Essays 2.12 ("Apology for Raymond Sebond," tr. Donald M. Frame):
»Es ist dem Menschen natürlich,« sagte Goethe, »sich als das Ziel der Schöpfung zu betrachten und alle übrigen Dinge nur in bezug auf sich und insofern sie ihm dienen und nützen. Er bemächtiget sich der vegetabilischen und animalischen Welt, und indem er andere Geschöpfe als passende Nahrung verschlingt, erkennet er seinen Gott und preiset dessen Güte, die so väterlich für ihn gesorget. Der Kuh nimmt er die Milch, der Biene den Honig, dem Schaf die Wolle, und indem er den Dingen einen ihm nützlichen Zweck gibt, glaubt er auch, daß sie dazu sind geschaffen worden. Ja er kann sich nicht denken, daß nicht auch das kleinste Kraut für ihn da sei, und wenn er dessen Nutzen noch gegenwärtig nicht erkannt hat, so glaubt er doch, daß solches sich künftig ihm gewiß entdecken werde.«
For why shall a gosling not say thus: "All the parts of the universe have me in view: the earth serves for me to walk on, the sun to give me light, the stars to breathe their influences into me; I gain this advantage from the winds, that from the waters; there is nothing that the heavenly vault regards so favorably as me; I am the darling of nature. Is it not man that treats me, houses me, serves me? It is for me that he sows and grinds."
Car pourquoi ne dira un oison ainsi: «Toutes les pièces de l'univers me regardent; la terre me sert à marcher, le soleil à m'éclairer, les étoiles à m'inspirer leurs influences; j'ai telle commodité des vents, telle des eaux; il n'est rien que cette voûte regarde si favorablement que moi; je suis le mignon de nature; est-ce pas l'homme qui me traite, qui me loge, qui me sert? c'est pour moi qu'il fait et semer et moudre.»