Thursday, September 30, 2021


The Insurrection

Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992), p. 147 (on the Babington Plot):
It is hard to say exactly when the 'plot' took shape. In a sense it never did. There was a lot of wild talk — heads filled with wine, with dreams of Catholic rebellion, with an overheated, cultish devotion to the imprisoned Queen Mary — but what shape it had in terms of real action was largely provided by the government itself, whose agents infiltrated the conspiracy not so much to destroy it, as to encourage it. In the words of a priest named Davis, who was with Babington on the night before his capture, the plot was a 'tragedy', in which 'the chief actor and contriver' was Sir Francis Walsingham. This is a partisan view, but on the evidence it is true enough. The Babington affair was a classic piece of Walsingham 'projection': a piece of political theatre, conjured up for reasons of cynical expediency.


The Future Revisited

[Update on The Future.]

Dear Mike,

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), p. 215:
Crai meant tomorrow and forever; the day after tomorrow was prescrai and the day after that pescrille; then came pescruflo, maruflo, maruflone; the seventh day was maruflicchio.
Frances Frenaye's translation was first published by Farrar, Straus and Company in 1947. I have it as republished by Penguin in 1982, where the sentence appears exactly as above on p. 200.

I’d like to be able to say, to paraphrase Housman, that I knew at once that Levi had not written prescrai and in another moment I had found the true word. In fact it’s in reading the following two words in the series, pescrille and pescruflo, that the doubt arises, as the root prefix post in post + cras would be likely to evolve into poscrai or pescrai rather than prescrai.

My copy of Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Torino: Enaudi, 1945, 1963, 1990), pp. 184-185, does print pescrai (‘Crai è domani, e sempre; ma il giorno dopo domani è pescrai e il giorno dopo ancora é pescrille; poi viene pescruflo, e poi maruflo e maruflone; ed il settimo giorno è maruflicchio’) but the misprint prescrai, if that’s what it is, and not a dialectal variant, must have occurred in the first printing, that used perhaps by Frenaye, since the [sic!] in the following otherwise makes little sense.

After a reprint of his essay ‘Crai e Poscrai o Poscrilla Posquaccherra’ in Romanische Literaturstudien: 1936–1956 (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1959), pp. 597-612, Leo Spitzer supplies an Addition (pp. 612-13):
My former pupil A.F. Engel brings to my attention the following passage in Carlo Levi's book Cristo si e fermato a Eboli (Torino 1946), p. 190: “Tutto il domani [... ]. Crai e domani, e sempre ; ma il giorno dopo domani prescrai [sic!] e il giorno dopo ancora [...]."

This passage may have a double interest for us: not only because the particular series of terms chosen by the community (Gagliano in Lucania) to list the seven days that constitute the 'eternal morrow,' offers variations of the standard pattern (notice the predominance of formations with the -uflo suffix), but mainly because the Italian novelist is testifying to that very stylistic nuance I have postulated in my article for this series of nonce-words ("a thrust into the void . . . a thrust of whose phantastic superfluity the coiner [of the terms] remains conscious"; a "world-world" etc.). The author would give us to understand that in that particular region of Lucania which is 'severed from Time and History' it is in language alone that distinctions exist which have no corresponding reality in the actual lives of the speakers.
Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


I Was Just Following Orders

Sophocles, Philoctetes 6 (Odysseus speaking; tr. Hugh-Lloyd-Jones):
...on the orders of those in command...

...ταχθεὶς τόδ᾽ ἔρδειν τῶν ἀνασσόντων ὕπο...
Lloyd-Jones omitted τόδ᾽ ἔρδειν in his translation, as he was perfectly entitled to do, but because I value a literal translation above all:
...ordered to do this by those in command...
Or, in Jebb's translation:
...having charge from my chiefs so to do...
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875), Philoctète dans l'île de Lemnos (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes):



J.M.C. Toynbee (1897-1985), Death and Burial in the Roman World (1971; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 51-52, with notes on p. 292:
Throughout the year there were occasions on which the dead were commemorated by funerary meals eaten at the tomb by their relatives and friends—on their birthdays and when the annual festivals of the dead were celebrated (see pp. 61-4). The mausolea of the well-to-do often contained chambers for this purpose, sometimes equipped with kitchens (see Chapter V(G), p. 136). At all of these banquets, as at those held at the time of a death, the departed had their share set apart for them. Their disembodied spirits, it was thought, could somehow partake of the fare with which they were thus provided and, indeed, be nourished through the medium of their bones or ashes (cf. p. 37). Hence the fact that graves, whether for inhumation or for cremation, with holes or pipes through which food and drink could be poured down directly on to the burial (profusio), so as to reach the remains, are a not uncommon feature of cemeteries in very diverse areas of the Roman world. For example, in the necropolis excavated under St Peter's in Rome several instances have come to light. In Tomb F, inset into the border of a mosaic pavement, is a series of small, square marble slabs each pierced with a hole for pouring sustenance down on to the dead beneath; and there are similar holes in the mosaic pavement of Tomb C.183 In the floor of Tomb O there is a marble roundel pierced by four holes;184 and Grave γ, a child's inhumation burial of Hadrianic date, near the reputed tomb of St Peter, contained a terracotta coffin, partly encased in a rectangular block of masonry, which was penetrated by a vertical tube for pouring.185 Another child's inhumation burial, this time at Syracuse and with the bones laid directly in the earth under tiles set gable-wise, was connected with the surface by a vertical terracotta pipe, closed at the top by a movable stone stopper.186 A small stone, oblong chest from Faleroni, in Italy, containing a cremation burial and grave-goods in the form of glass vessels, ornaments, and so forth, bears in the centre of its lid a vertical leaden pipe.187 Among provincial examples are a lead sarcophagus for inhumation found at Colchester, near one end of the lid of which is a lead pipe passing down into the interior, where vessels of glass and pottery accompanied the bones;188 and a cremation burial from Caerleon in Monmouthshire.189 In the latter case the tomb consists of a horizontal slab of stone carrying a packing of rammed earth, on which stands a circular lead canister that contained the remains. The canister is walled round by slabs of stone; and between one wall and the slab that covers the canister is a lead pipe that leads down from the surface into the inside of the vessel (cf. pp. 37, 41, 101, 123). (Pl. 14)

183 J.M.C. Toynbee and J.B. Ward Perkins, The Shrine of St Peter and the Vatican Excavations, 1956, p. 61, n. 30

184 Ibid., pp. 118-19, n. 2, xviii

185 Ibid., pp. 145-6 and fig. 13

186 Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità, 1913, pp. 272-3, fig. 5; Antiquaries Journal, ix, 1929, pp. 4-6, fig. 5

187 Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità, 1921, pp. 191-5, fig. 8; Antiquaries Journal, ix, 1929, p. 4 and pl. 1, fig. 2. For examples of this practice in the cemeteries of Pompeii, see H. Mau-F.W. Kelsey, Pompeii, its Life and Art, 1899, pp. 417, 421-2, 427

188 Antiquaries Journal, ix, 1929, pp. 4, s, fig. 4

189 Ibid., pp. 1-3, fig. 3 and pl. 1, fig. 1. For further examples, see R. Cagnat and U. Chapot, Manuel d'archéologie romaine, i, 1916, pp. 340-1; Festschrift August Oxé, 1938, pp. 197-204
Id., plate 14 on p. 32:
Above, cremation burial from Caerleon. The ashes are in a lead canister, walled and roofed by stone slabs, into which a lead libation pipe leads down from the surface (p. 52).
The Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. profusio, sense 1 ("The pouring out [of wine, etc.] in religious ceremonies, libation") cites only inscriptions for this meaning (CIL 5.4990; 10.107). Thanks to Kevin Muse for sending the relevant definition of the word from the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae:
Maureen Carroll, Spirits of the Dead: Roman Funerary Commemoration in Western Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 72, figure 24:
Libation tube made of a recycled box tile and covered with a flat tile above a cremation burial of the 2nd century ad at Vindolanda at three stages of excavation. The Vindolanda Trust

Related post: The Thirsty Dead.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021


The Future

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), p. 215:
The entire future, as far as the end of the world, was merging for me too into the vague crai of the peasants, with its implications of futile endurance, remote from history and time. How deceiving are the contradictions of language! In this timeless land the dialect was richer in words with which to measure time than any other language; beyond the motionless and everlasting crai every day in the future had a name of its own. Crai meant tomorrow and forever; the day after tomorrow was prescrai and the day after that pescrille; then came pescruflo, maruflo, maruflone; the seventh day was maruflicchio. But these precise terms had an undertone of irony. They were used less often to indicate this or that day than they were said all together in a string, one after the other; their very sound was grotesque and they were like a reflection of the futility of trying to make anything clear out of the cloudiness of crai. I, too, began to lose hope that anything new might come forth from maruflo or maruflone or maruflicchio.
See update here.


A Rule of Thumb

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 140 (my translation):
The importance of an event is inversely proportional to the space the newspapers devote to it.

La importancia de un acontecimiento es inversamente proporcional al espacio que le dedican los periódicos.
The more space, the less importance.


A Parallel?

Philodemus, On Anger, column 20, lines 21-24 (tr. David Armstrong and Michael McOsker; the Greek simplified by the removal of brackets):
...and make up things that have not happened and magnify things not worthy of any mention...

...καὶ πλάττειν τὰ μὴ γεγονότα καὶ τὰ μηδενὸς ἄξια λόγου μεγαλύνειν...
This seems similar to Seneca, On Anger 3.12.1 (tr. John W. Basore):
A great many manufacture grievances either by suspecting the untrue or by exaggerating the trivial.

magna pars querellas manu fecit aut falsa suspicando aut levia adgravando.
The similarity isn't mentioned in Philodemus, On Anger. Introduction, Greek Text, and Translation by David Armstrong and Michael McOsker (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2020), p. 227.

Monday, September 27, 2021


The Age of Wisdom

Greek Anthology 5.112 (by Philodemus; tr. David Sider):
I fell in love. Who hasn't? I reveled. Who is not an initiate of revels? But whose fault is it I went mad? A god's, isn't it?
Let it go, for already grey hair rushes in to take the place of black—grey hair the proclaimer of the age of wisdom.
And when it was right to play we played; and since it is right no longer, we shall lay hold of loftier thoughts.

ἠράσθην. τίς δ᾽ οὐχί; κεκώμακα. τίς δ᾽ ἀμύητος
    κώμων; ἀλλ᾽ ἐμάνην ἐκ τίνος; οὐχὶ θεοῦ;
ἐρρίφθω, πολιὴ γὰρ ἐπείγεται ἀντὶ μελαίνης
    θρὶξ ἤδη, συνετῆς ἄγγελος ἡλικίης.
καὶ παίζειν ὅτε καιρός, ἐπαίξαμεν· ἡνίκα καὶ νῦν        5
    οὐκέτι, λωϊτέρης φροντίδος ἁψόμεθα.
I noticed a misprint in the Greek for this poem in David Sider, ed., The Epigrams of Philodemos: Introduction, Text, and Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 78 (page scan):
For τί in the first line read τίς.



A Mark of the Wise Man

Epicurus, fragment 570 Usener (from Diogenes Laertius 10.120; tr. R.D. Hicks):
He will be fond of the country.

φιλαγρήσειν [sc. τὸν σοφὸν Ἐπικούρῳ δοκεῖ].
Usener ad loc.:
amabat Ep. rusticationem aeque atque Horatius (cf. praecipue ep. I 10, 12 sqq.) et Vergilius (georg. II 458 sqq.), uide etiam fr. 571
Here is fragment 571 Usener (from Lactantius, Divine Institutes 3.17.5; tr. Mary Francis McDonald):
For one fleeing the crowd solitude is praised.

fugienti turbam solitudo laudatur [sc. ab Epicuro].


Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992), pp. 39-40:
In these times people look for a scapegoat, and chief among these were the city's immigrant traders — Dutch, Belgian, French: Protestant refugees from the battle-grounds of Europe. 'The common people do rage against them,' wrote one observer, 'as though for their sakes so many taxes, such decay of traffic, and their being embrandled in so many wars, did ensue.' London's traders and shop-keepers felt particularly threatened. The foreigners, they protested, 'contented not themselves with manufactures and warehouses, but would keep shops, and retail all manner of goods.' As well as taking business from the locals, the immigrants had a reputation for stinginess. Thirty years ago, wrote John Stow, the parish of Billingsgate levied £27 per annum 'for the help of the poor'. Now the area is full of 'Netherlanders', and 'since they came so plentifully thither, there cannot be gathered above £11, for the stranger will not contribute to such charges as other citizens do'.

Several petitions were signed against the 'strangers', but these seem to have been ignored. The official line was that the immigrants were bona fide refugees and Protestant allies, and that they benefited the economy. On 21 March 1593 the House of Commons voted to extend the privileges of resident aliens. A lone voice of dissent came from Sir Walter Ralegh. 'I see no reason that so much respect should be given unto them,' he said. 'In the whole cause I see no matter of honour, no matter of charity, no profit in relieving them.'

On the streets, more militant action began. Some time shortly before Easter Day, 15 April 1593, a 'placard' was nailed up, threatening that the apprentices of London would soon 'attempt some violence on the strangers'. On Easter Monday, the Privy Council met at St James's Palace, and drew up a letter to the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Cuthbert Buckle, expressing their concern about this 'vile ticket or placard'. They understood that an arrest had already been made. The suspect should be examined about his 'meaning and purpose' in the writing. He should be 'punished by torture', if necessary, to make him talk.

The Council feared that more was to come — 'oftentimes it doth fall out of such lewd beginnings that further mischief doth ensue' — and so it proved. During the following week, further 'libels' were posted up. One of these was addressed to the 'beastly brutes the Belgians', the 'faint-hearted Flemings', and the 'fraudulent Father Frenchmen'. It accuses them of 'cowardly flight' from their home countries, of 'hypocrisy and counterfeit shew of religion'. It complains that the Queen allows them 'to live here in better case and more freedom than her own people'. It demands that they quit the country within three months. If not,
There shall be many a sore stripe. Apprentices will rise to the number of 2336, and all the apprentices and journeymen will down with the Flemings and Strangers.
The Queen was informed, and on 22 April the Council set up a special five-man commission under Dr Julius Caesar. Caesar, the son of an Italian physician, was Master of the Court of Requests: a trusted legal figure. The commission's brief was to 'examine by secret means who may be authors of the said libels'. The emphasis was on a more covert, 'secret' approach. Two of the commissioners — William Waad and Thomas Phelippes — were old hands from the Walsingham intelligence service.

The authorities also ordered a 'strict account' to be taken of the immigrant population in London. The certificates, returned on 4 May, show the number of foreigners in London, including children and servants, to be 4,300. Of these 237 were 'denizens' (property-owning foreigners granted certain rights). Overall the immigrants represented little more than 2 per cent of the city's population, though in some areas considerably more. Many were now planning to leave, terrified by this violent 'commotion' against them.

Sunday, September 26, 2021


Vergil the Prophet

Vergil, Eclogues 1.71 (tr. Guy Lee):
These cornfields a barbarian [sc. will own].

barbarus has segetes [sc. habebit].

Saturday, September 25, 2021


The Complete Man

Michel Onfray, A Hedonist Manifesto, tr. Joseph McClellan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), page number unknown (from the Preface):
The complete man not only shows that he can distinguish between an accusative and an ablative, he also excels at the lathe and the jointer.

L'homme parachevé montre qu'il distingue un accusatif d'un ablatif, mais en même temps il excelle au tour ou à la varlope.


Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock

Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator.


Manufacturing Grievances

Seneca, On Anger 3.12.1 (tr. John W. Basore):
A great many manufacture grievances either by suspecting the untrue or by exaggerating the trivial.

magna pars querellas manu fecit aut falsa suspicando aut levia adgravando.


Understanding Current Events

William Shakespeare, The Tempest I.ii.214-215:
                                            Hell is empty,
And all the devils are here!

Friday, September 24, 2021


More on the Etymology of Anthropos

Dear Mike,

"I don't know where Durrell came across the etymology."

One possibility might be Benjamin Jowett's translation of Plato's Cratylus 399c (Socrates speaking, Greek transliterated):
I mean to say that the word 'man' implies that other animals never examine, or consider, or look up at what they see, but that man not only sees (opope) but considers and looks up at that which he sees, and hence he alone of all animals is rightly anthropos, meaning anathron a opopen.

ὧδε. σημαίνει τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα ὁ 'ἄνθρωπος' ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἄλλαθηρία ὧν ὁρᾷ οὐδὲν ἐπισκοπεῖ οὐδὲ ἀναλογίζεται οὐδὲ ἀναθρεῖ, ὁ δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἅμα ἑώρακεν — τοῦτο δ᾽ ἐστὶ τὸ 'ὄπωπε' — καὶ ἀναθρεῖ καὶ λογίζεται τοῦτο ὃ ὄπωπεν. ἐντεῦθεν δὴ μόνον τῶνθηρίων ὀρθῶς ὁ ἄνθρωπος 'ἄνθρωπος' ὠνομάσθη, ἀναθρῶν ἃ ὄπωπε.
Here's another suggestion for the etymology, whether outlandish or not, from Gregory Nagy (Greek Mythology and Poetics, pp. 151-152, n. 30):
Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]

Cf. also Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 11.1.5 (tr. Stephen A. Barney et al.):
The Greeks called the human being ἄνθρωπος because he has been raised upright from the soil and looks upward in contemplation of his Creator (perhaps cf. ὦψ, "eye, face, countenance"). The poet Ovid describes this when he says (Met. 1.84):
While the rest of the stooping animals look at the ground, he gave the human an uplifted countenance, and ordered him to see the sky, and to raise his upturned face to the stars.
The parenthetical remark about ὦψ is an interpolation of the translators. Here is the original, from W.M. Lindsay's edition:
Graeci autem hominem ἄνθρωπον appellaverunt, eo quod sursum spectet sublevatus ab humo ad contemplationem artificis sui. Quod Ovidius poeta designat, cum dicit (Metam. 1,84):
Pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram,
os homini sublime dedit caelumque videre
iussit et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.


To a Wine-Jar

Horace, Odes 3.21 (tr. Robert J.M. Lindsay):
O wine-jar, born — like me — when Manlius
Was consul, whether plaints you bring or jest
Or quarreling or insane love-affairs
Or else (kind-hearted jar) just easy rest:

Under whatever name you guard choice Massic
Fit to be broached upon some day benign —
Out of the store! Corvinus gives the order
To bring forth draughts of longer-standing wine.

Although he's soaked in Socrates' discourses,
A cup from you he'll not rudely disdain:
It's said that many a time old Cato's valour
By unslaked cups was heated into flame.

You gently coax the unresponsive spirit;
Unseal the problems of philosophy
And all the wise men's arcane speculations
With drink that sets the human spirit free!

You bring back hope and strength to human hearts,
And on the poor bestow the horns of power;
No longer now before kings' angry crowns
Nor before soldiers' weapons does he cower.

Bacchus shall hold you here, jar; Venus, too,
If she her joyful presence will display;
The graces, slow to break their knot; bright torches;
Till dawn, when Phoebus drives the stars away.

O nata mecum consule Manlio,
seu tu querelas sive geris iocos
    seu rixam et insanos amores
        seu facilem, pia testa, somnum,

quocumque lectum nomine Massicum        5
servas, moveri digna bono die,
    descende, Corvino iubente
        promere languidiora vina.

non ille, quamquam Socraticis madet
sermonibus, te negleget horridus:        10
    narratur et prisci Catonis
        saepe mero caluisse virtus.

tu lene tormentum ingenio admoves
plerumque duro; tu sapientium
    curas et arcanum iocoso        15
        consilium retegis Lyaeo;

tu spem reducis mentibus anxiis,
virisque et addis cornua pauperi
    post te neque iratos trementi
        regum apices neque militum arma.        20

te Liber et, si laeta aderit, Venus
segnesque nodum solvere Gratiae
    vivaeque producent lucernae,
        dum rediens fugat astra Phoebus.
Another translation, by Anthony Hecht:
O mise-en-bouteille in the very year of my birth
And Manlius' consulship, celestial spirits,
Instinct with ardors, slugfests, the sighs of lovers,
Hilarity and effortless sleep, whatever,
Campanian harvest, well-sealed special reserve
For some fine and festive holiday, descend
From your high cellarage, since my friend, Corvinus,
A connoisseur, has called for a more mature wine.
Soaked though he be in vintage Socratic wisdom,
He's not going to snub you. For even Cato the Elder,
All Roman rectitude, would warm to a drink.

You limber the dullard's faculties with your proddings;
With Bacchus the Trickster you break through careful discretion,
Making even the politic say what they mean.
You resurrect hope in the most dejected of minds;
To the poor and weak you lend such measure of courage
As after a single gulp allays their palsy
When faced with the wrath of monarchs, or unsheathed weapons.
Bacchus and Venus (if she will condescend),
The arm-linked Graces in unclad sorority,
And vigil lamps will honor you all night long
Till Phoebus, with punctual bustle, banishes starlight.
Wine from Horace's birthplace, Venusia:
Greek Anthology 5.134 (by Posidippus; tr. W.R. Paton):
Shower on us, O Attic jug, the dewy rain of Bacchus; shower it and refresh our merry picnic. Let Zeno, the learned swan, be kept silent, and Cleanthes' Muse, and let our converse be of Love the bitter-sweet.

Κεκροπί, ῥαῖνε, λάγυνε, πολύδροσον ἰκμάδα Βάκχου,
    ῥαῖνε· δροσιζέσθω συμβολικὴ πρόποσις.
σιγάσθω Ζήνων, ὁ σοφὸς κύκνος, ἅ τε Κλεάνθους
    Μοῦσα· μέλοι δ᾽ ἡμῖν ὁ γλυκύπικρος Ἔρως.


History of Italy

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), pp. 142-145:
I was struck by the peasants' build: they are short and swarthy with round heads, large eyes, and thin lips; their archaic faces do not stem from the Romans, Greeks, Etruscans, Normans, or any of the other invaders who have passed through their land, but recall the most ancient Italic types. They have led exactly the same life since the beginning of time, and History has swept over them without effect. Of the two Italys that share the land between them, the peasant Italy is by far the older; so old that no one knows whence it came, and it may have been here forever. Humilemque videmus Italiam; this was the low-lying, humble Italy that first met the eyes of the Asiatic conquerors as the ships of Aeneas rounded the promontory of Calabria.

There should be a history of this Italy, a history outside the framework of time, confining itself to that which is changeless and eternal, in other words, a mythology. This Italy has gone its way in darkness and silence, like the earth, in a sequence of recurrent seasons and recurrent misadventures. Every outside influence has broken over it like a wave, without leaving a trace. Rarely has it risen to defend itself from mortal danger and only on those few occasions has it fought, in vain, a truly national war. The first of these was the resistance to Aeneas. A mythological history must have its root in myth and for this reason Vergil is a great historian. The Phoenician invaders from Troy brought with them a set of values diametrically opposed to those of the ancient peasant civilization. They brought religion and the State, and the religion of the State. The religious tradition or pietas of Aeneas could not be understood by the ancient Italians, who lived beside the beasts of the field. The invaders brought also arms and an army, escutcheons, heraldry, and war. Their religion was a violent one, demanding human sacrifice; on the funeral pyre of Pallas the pious Aeneas made a burnt offering of prisoners to the gods of the State. The ancient Italians, meanwhile, lived on the land, knowing neither sacrifice nor religion. The Trojans met with insuperable hostility among the natives, and the two civilizations clashed. Aeneas found his only allies among the Etruscans, city people, like him from the Orient, perhaps of the same Semitic origin, and similarly ruled by a military oligarchy. With these allies, then, he waged war. On one side there was an army in shining armor forged by the gods; on the other, as Vergil describes them, were peasant bands, risen in self-defense, with no god-given weapons but only axes, knives, and scythes, the tools of their daily work in the fields. These, too, were valorous brigands, doomed to defeat. Italy, the humble Italy, was conquered:
Per cui morì la vergine Cammilla
Eurialo e Turno e Niso di ferute.

On whose account the maid Camilla died,
Euryalus, Turnus, Nisus of their wounds.
Then came Rome and perfected the governmental and military theocracy of its Trojan founders, who had to accept, however, the customs and language of the people they had conquered. Rome, too, met with opposition among the peasants, and the series of Italic Wars were the most stubborn obstacles in its path. Here again the Italians suffered a military defeat, but they kept their individuality and did not mingle with their conquerors. After this second national war the peasant world, hemmed in by Roman order, lay in waiting, dormant, as it were. The feudal civilization that came after, with the passing of time and peoples, was not a creation of the peasants, but it was close to the earth, limited by the boundaries of great estates, and less in opposition to the rural way of life. This is why the Swabians are popular even today with the peasants; they speak of Conradin as a national hero and mourn for his death. After him, indeed, this flourishing land fell into ruin.

The fourth national war of the peasants was brigandage and here, too, the humble Italy was historically on the wrong side and bound to lose. The brigands had neither the arms forged by Vulcan nor the heavy artillery of the government troops. Even their gods were powerless: of what avail was a poor Madonna with a black face against the Ethical State of the Neapolitan followers of Hegel? Brigandage was an access of heroic folly and desperate savagery, a desire for wreaking death and ruin, with no hope of final victory. "If the world had only one enormous heart, I'd tear it out," said Caruso, one of the most fearful brigand chiefs.

This blind urge to destruction, this bloody and suicidal will to annihilation, has lurked for centuries beneath the patient endurance of daily toil. Every revolt on the part of the peasants springs out of an elementary desire for justice deep at the dark bottom of their hearts. After the end of brigandage this land sank into an uneasy peace. But every now and then in some village or other, when the peasants have no representation in the government and no defense in the law, they rise up with death in their hearts, burn the town hall or the barracks of the carabinieri, kill the gentry, and then go off in silent resignation to prison.

Thursday, September 23, 2021


Matters Anthropological

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), The Greek Islands (London: Faber and Faber, 1980), p. 26:
Among the most venerable words still extant you will come across words like 'man' — anthropos means 'he who looks upwards'.
This seems to correspond to etymology number 4 in Hjalmar Frisk, Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Bd. I (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1960), p. 111, s.v. ἄνθρωπος:
4. Verbalnomen zu ἀνατρέπω 'der Aufrechte' (G. Meyer Gr.3 210).
The reference is to Gustav Meyer, Griechische Grammatik, 3. Aufl. (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1896), but I don't see ἄνθρωπος there at p. 210 or § 210 or in the index. However I do see the following in Gustav Meyer, Griechische Grammatik, 2. Aufl. (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1886), p. 210 (§ 207):
Für ἄνθρωπος steht auf der kret. Inschrift von Gortyn 10, 25. 11, 23 ἄντρωπος und auf der pamphyl. von Sillyon COLL. 1267, 7 ἀτρόποισι = ἀντρώποισι, was an eine Herleitung des vielumstrittenen Wortes aus ἀνα-τρέπω (vgl. τρωπάω) »der Emporgewendete« (vgl. Ovid. Met. 1, 84ff.) denken lässt.
This appears (in abbreviated form) in Meyer's 3rd edition, p. 284 (§ 207).

Meyer's proposal isn't mentioned in Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, I (Paris: Klincksieck, 1968), p. 91, who calls the origin of the word unknown, or in Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Vol. 1 (Leiden: Brill, 2009), p. 106, and I'm unqualified to judge whether it has any merit. I don't know where Durrell came across the etymology.

Here is Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.84-86, cited by Meyer, as translated by Frank Justus Miller:
And, though all other animals are prone, and fix their gaze upon the earth, he gave to man an uplifted face and bade him stand erect and turn his eyes to heaven.

pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram,
os homini sublime dedit caelumque videre
iussit et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.


The Romans

Stendhal, Rome, Naples, and Florence, tr. Richard N. Coe (London: John Calder, 1959), pp. 337-338 (translation slightly modified by me):
I felt my heart within me swell in a fury of indignation against the Romans, who rose up, with no sounder justification than the ferocity of their own courage, to overturn the very foundations of those antique Etruscan commonwealths, so infinitely superior to themselves in art, in prosperity and in the secret skills of happiness.... It is as though a score of Cossack regiments were to sack the grands boulevards and destroy the fair city of Paris: such vandalism would still count as a catastrophe for generations born two centuries hence; the entire human race would have taken a step backwards, and with it, the art of human happiness.

Je me sens indigné contre les Romains qui vinrent troubler, sans autre titre que le courage féroce, ces républiques d'Étrurie qui leur étaient si supérieures par les beaux arts, par les richesses et par l'art d'être heureux.... C'est comme si vingt régiments de cosaques venaient saccager le boulevard et détruire Paris; ce serait un malheur même pour les hommes qui naîtront dans deux siècles: le genre humain et l'art d'être heureux auraient fait un pas en arrière.
Id., p. 345:
The Romans were a scourge unto the human race, a noxious sickness which stunted the growth of civilisation in the world...

Les Romains ont été un grand mal pour l'humanité, une maladie funeste qui a retardé la civilisation du monde...

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


Sortes Virgilianae

M. Owen Lee, Virgil as Orpheus: A Study of the Georgics (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), p. 2:
For years I have consulted Virgil to predict, always successfully, what team would win the Super Bowl.


A Sunday Outing

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), pp. 95-97:
Most important of all, in compensation for even the worst defect, the late priest's comfort-loving spirit had endowed the house with one priceless treasure: a toilet, without running water, of course, but none the less a real toilet, equipped with a porcelain seat. It was the only toilet in the village, and probably there was not another one within a radius of fifty miles.


The complete absence of this simple apparatus in the region created almost ineradicable habits, which, entwined with other familiar ways of doing things, came to possess an almost poetic and sentimental character. Lasala, the carpenter, an alert "American," who had been mayor of Grassano many years before and who kept in the depths of the enormous radio-gramophone he had brought back with him from New York along with recordings of Caruso and of the arrival of the transatlantic flier, De Pinedo, in America, some speeches commemorating the murdered Matteotti, told me this story. A group of immigrants from Grassano used to meet every Sunday for an outing to the country after their hard week's work in New York . . .

"There were eight or ten of us: a doctor, a druggist, some tradesmen, a hotel waiter, and a few workers, all of us from the same town and acquainted with each other since we were children. Life is depressing there among the skyscrapers, where there's every possible convenience, elevators, revolving doors, subways, endless streets and buildings, but never a bit of green earth. Homesickness used to get the better of us. On Sundays we took a train for miles and miles in search of some open country. When finally we reached a deserted spot, we were all as happy as if a great weight had been lifted from our shoulders. And beneath a tree, all of us together would let down our trousers . . . What joy! We could feel the fresh air and all of nature around us. It wasn't like those American toilets, shiny and all alike. We felt like boys again, as if we were back in Grassano; we were happy, we laughed and we breathed for a moment the air of home. And when we had finished we shouted together: 'Viva l'Italia!' The words came straight from our hearts."


Tuesday, September 21, 2021


Discipline and Persistence

Seneca, On Anger 2.12.3-5 (tr. John W. Basore):
[3] Yet nothing is so hard and difficult that it cannot be conquered by the human intellect and be brought through persistent study into intimate acquaintance, and there are no passions so fierce and self-willed that they cannot be subjugated by discipline. [4] Whatever command the mind gives to itself holds its ground. Some have reached the point of never smiling, some have cut themselves off from wine, others from sexual pleasure, others from every kind of drink; another, satisfied by short sleep, prolongs his waking hours unwearied; some have learned to run on very small and slanting ropes, to carry huge burdens that are scarcely within the compass of human strength, to dive to unmeasured depths and to endure the sea without any drawing of breath. [5] There are a thousand other instances to show that persistence surmounts every obstacle and that nothing is really difficult which the mind enjoins itself to endure.

[3] atqui nihil est tam difficile et arduum quod non humana mens vincat et in familiaritatem perducat adsidua meditatio, nullique sunt tam feri et sui iuris adfectus, ut non disciplina perdomentur. [4] quodcumque sibi imperavit animus, obtinuit. quidam ne umquam riderent consecuti sunt; vino quidam, alii venere, quidam omni umore interdixere corporibus; alius contentus brevi somno vigiliam indefatigabilem extendit; didicerunt tenuissimis et adversis funibus currere et ingentia vixque humanis toleranda viribus onera portare et in immensam altitudinem mergi ac sine ulla respirandi vice perpeti maria. [5] mille sunt alia, in quibus pertinacia impedimentum omne transcendit ostenditque nihil esse difficile cuius sibi ipsa mens patientiam indiceret.


Portrait of a Man

Pietro Paolini (1603-1681), Portrait d'homme (Toulouse, Fondation Bemberg, Salle de la Coursière):
The man is pointing to a tablet on the wall that reads:
(One) life is given (to you) to live if you live by the art of Apollo; here I am alive forever with the help of Apelles.

Monday, September 20, 2021



Nicholas Horsfall, "Virgil's Roman chronography: A reconsideration," Fifty Years at the Sibyl's Heels: Selected Papers on Virgil and Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 34-39 (at 34):
Jupiter, in his prophetic speech to Venus (Aen. 1.257ff.) foretells that Aeneas will rule for three years in Italy, that Ascanius will complete the thirty years of rule at Lavinium, and that he will then found Alba, under whose kings' rule 300 years will elapse until the birth of Romulus. The sequence 3–30–300 is unmistakable: tertia (265) and ternaque (266) . . . triginta (269) . . . ter centum (272); no effort is required to see that the total of these numbers is 333 and the total is clearly more significant than the antiquarian associations of the individual numbers (cf. R.E.A. Palmer, Archaic Community of the Romans (Cambridge 1970) 54). In the context of ancient attitudes to number, 333 is remarkable in two ways: 3 is 'the magic number par excellence' (Gow on Theocr. 2.17–63) and both powers (3²: cf. Buc. 8.77; H. Diels, Sibyllinische Blätter (Berlin 1890) 41; 3³: cf. Soph. OC 483; Diels, 42ff.) and repetitions of 3 (Liv. 22.10.7: 333,333 1/3; Theocr. 17.82ff.: 33,333) retained the same character; 333 is of course a threefold repetition! Secondly, 333, as half of 666, may well have enjoyed a little of that number's glory;2 to the Pythagoreans 666 will have been remarkable as a doubly 'triangular' number: the sum of the numbers from 1 to 36, 36 being in turn the sum of the numbers from 1 to 8, the sacred ogdoad3 Such lore was not the exclusive preserve of mathematicians and philosophers: it is enough to refer to Donatus' Vita of Virgil (15) maxime mathematicae operam dedit, and to the fact that Euphorion actually composed a Mopsopia in which 'perfect numbers' (e.g. 6 as being the sum of its parts: 1 + 2 + 3) were discussed (L. G. Westerink, Mnemosyne 13.4 (1960) 329f.).

2 Apoc. 13.18 has no place in this discussion: it is explicable within the tradition of gematria, the assigning of numerical values to the letters of the alphabet, cf. F. Dornseiff, Das Alphabet in Mystik u. Magie (Leipzig 1925) 106ff. P. Maury claims (Lettres d'Humanité 3 (1944) 144) that in our passage 333 conceals ΚΑΙΣΑΡΑ: in terms of gematria this is quite correct; F. Boll, Aus der Offenbarung Johannis (repr. Amsterdam 1967) 26ff., and Dornseiff have demonstrated the wide diffusion of this lore in antiquity, but its application here is clearly inappropriate.

3 Cf. Plut. Mor. 382 A; Theon of Smyrna 19; G. A. van den Bergh, Zeitschrift für neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 13 (1912) 295ff.



Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), pp. 88-89:
The sight of me with my sister tapped one of their deepest feelings: that of blood relationship, which was all the more intense since they had so little attachment to either religion or the State. It was not that they venerated family relationship as a social, legal, or sentimental tie, but rather that they cherished an occult and sacred sense of communality. A unifying web, not only of family ties (a first cousin was often as close as a brother), but of the acquired and symbolic kinship called comparaggio, ran throughout the village. Those who pledged friendship to each other on the midsummer night of June 23 and thus became compari di San Giovanni were even closer than brothers; their choosing and the ritual initiation they went through made them members of the same blood group and within the group there was a sacred tie which forbade intermarriage. This fraternal tie, then, was the strongest there was among them.


Paltry Humans

Plautus, Captivi 51 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Of what little importance humans are when I think about it!

homunculi quanti sunt, quom recogito!
Plautus, Rudens 154 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Poor devils, how little worth you are!

homunculi quanti estis!
quanti = genitive of price


Limericks on the Aeneid

John N. Hough, "Facetiae," Classical Outlook 58.3 (March-April 1981) 96:

Our hero, in need of new tricks,
Went to Hell by crossing the Styx;
But Dido was mad,
So he talked to his dad,
And that is the plot of Book Six.


Books Seven to Twelve don't excite
Us as much as they rightfully might.
We just don't enjoy them
And tend to employ them
For exams and for reading at sight.
John N. Hough, "Facetiae," Classical Outlook 58.4 (May-June 1981) 127:

In Carthage our love-struck Aeneas,
Infatuate dullard as he was,
Still wouldn't play Fido
To subdolous Dido
Who didn't consider him pius.


Why bother with funeral games
Or the burning of ships by the dames,
When surely one function,
Without any compunction,
Is to drag in some old Roman names?

Sunday, September 19, 2021


Ich Bin (ein) Braunschweiger

I used to love the story that President John Kennedy, when he said "Ich bin ein Berliner," uttered the equivalent of "I am a jelly donut." Unfortunately, it turns out that his German was a proper rendering of "I am a Berliner," according to Jurgen Eichhoff, "'Ich bin ein Berliner': A History and Linguistic Clarification," Monatshefte für den deutschen Unterricht, deutsche Sprache und Kultur 85 (1993) 71–80.

Braunschweiger means both a native of Braunschweig and a type of sausage. Because the English equivalent of Braunschweig is Brunswick and because I was born in Brunswick, I could describe myself as a Braunschweiger.


Philology Applied to Contemporary Texts

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 111 (my translation):
The texts of our contemporaries confuse and demoralize the philologist, because he assumes that they are written with the same meticulous care with which he reads them.

Los textos de nuestros contemporáneos embrollan y desmoralizan al filólogo, porque los supone escritos con el mismo meticuloso cuidado con que los lee.


Poetry as Concentration?

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (1934; rpt. London: Faber and Faber, 1991), p. 36:
'Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.'
Dichten = condensare.
I begin with poetry because it is the most concentrated form of verbal expression. Basil Bunting, fumbling about with a German-Italian dictionary, found that this idea of poetry as concentration is as old almost as the German language. 'Dichten' is the German verb corresponding to the noun 'Dichtung' meaning poetry, and the lexicographer has rendered it by the Italian verb meaning 'to condense'.
There are two different verbs spelled dichten in German. One means "dicht machen" (dicht = thick, dense, compact), and the other means "ein sprachliches Kunstwerk (besonders in Versform) verfassen" (definitions from Duden). The two homonyms are etymologically unrelated and should not be used to support the idea of poetry as concentration.

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An Odd Dactyl

Five separate words make up a single dactyl at the beginning of Homer, Iliad 13.53 (tr. Peter Green):
here, where that madman, flame-like, is leading them on...

ᾗ ῥ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ὁ λυσσώδης φλογὶ εἴκελος ἡγεμονεύει...
Richard Janko in his commentary doesn't discuss the meter, but does have this to say about λυσσώδης:
Maureen Alden repeats this derivation, in Jonathan J. Price and Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz, edd., Text and Intertext in Greek Epic and Drama: Essays in Honor of Margalit Finkelberg (London: Routledge, 2021), p. 44 ("smelling of wolf"), with note 65 on p. 51 (citing Janko).

But cf. Jesse Lundquist, "On the Accentuation of Compound s-Stem Adjectives in Greek and Vedic," Proceedings of the 27th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference (Bremen: Hempen, 2016), pp. 97-114 (at 103?):
'wolf-like' (not 'wolf-stinking'!)
See also Ameis and Hentze on Iliad 13.53:
Die Adjektive auf -ώδης behandelt J. Wackernagel d. Dehnungsgesetz d. griech. Komposita, Basel 1889, p. 44 ff. Er trennt diese, welche jede Art von Ähnlichkeit ausdrücken und gerade gern eine solche des eigentlichsten Wesens, von den Adjektiven auf -οειδής und ist geneigt in -ώδης einen Ableger von -ώδης 'so und so riechend', 'wonach riechend', zu sehen. Danach würde das älteste Beispiel, λυσσώδης N 53, eigentlich heissen 'den Eindruck von Raserei hervorrufend'.

Saturday, September 18, 2021


An Unknown Book?

Greek Anthology 15.23 (tr. W.R. Paton, with his note):
On the Book of Marcus1

If thou wouldst overcome sorrow, unroll and peruse with care this blessed book from which thou shalt with ease look on wealth of doctrine concerning things to be, things that are, and things that were, and shalt see that joy and pain are no better than smoke.

1 Nothing is known regarding it.

Εἰς τὴν βίβλον Μάρκου

Εἰ λύπης κρατέειν ἐθέλεις,
τήνδε μάκαιραν ἀναπτύσσων
βίβλον ἐπέρχεο ἐνδυκέως,
ἧς ὕπο γνώμην ὀλβίστην
ῥεῖά κεν ὄψεαι ἐσσομένων,        5
ὄντων ἠδὲ παροιχομένων,
τερπωλήν τ᾿ ἀνίην τε
καπνοῦ μηδὲν ἀρειοτέρην.

7 λέγων post τε add. Maas
Jan Kwapisz, The Paradigm of Simias: Essays on Poetic Eccentricity (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2019), p. 126, n. 48:
[I]n fact, we know a little bit about 'the book of Marcus', as this epigram is also found in the colophon of a MS of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, see Ceporina 2012, 49. The metre and the paroxytonic accentuation points to a late origin; see Maas 1913, 298.
The references are to Matteo Ceporina, "The Meditations," in Marcel van Ackeren, ed., A Companion to Marcus Aurelius (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), pp. 45–61, and Paul Maas, "Das Epigramm auf Marcus ΕΙΣ ΕΑΥΤΟΝ," Hermes 48 (1913) 295–299.

See also Gabriele Palermo, Metri lirici nella poesia greca d’età imperiale: tra riuso e innovazione (Trieste: Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2020), pp. 42-46.


Ours Is the Soil

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 1270-1273 (from Act II, Scene 2; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan):
Ours is the soil, through possession of a thousand years, and shall the foreign vassal be permitted to come and forge chains for us and insult (us) on our own soil?

Unser ist durch tausendjährigen Besitz
Der Boden — und der fremde Herrenknecht
Soll kommen dürfen und uns Ketten schmieden,
Und Schmach antun auf unsrer eignen Erde?
Id., lines 1286-1288:
We have a right to defend the greatest of (the) treasures against violence. We stand for our country; we stand for our wives (and) our children.

Der Güter höchstes dürfen wir verteid'gen
Gegen Gewalt — Wir stehn vor unser Land,
Wir stehn vor unsre Weiber, unsre Kinder!

Friday, September 17, 2021


What Can a Man Do? Nothing

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), pp. 76-78:
The gentry were all Party members, even the few like Dr. Milillo who were dissenters. The Party stood for Power, as vested in the Government and the State, and they felt entitled to a share of it. For exactly the opposite reason none of the peasants were members; indeed, it was unlikely that they should belong to any political party whatever, should, by chance, another exist. They were not Fascists, just as they would never have been Conservatives or Socialists, or any thing else. Such matters had nothing to do with them; they belonged to another world and they saw no sense in them. What had the peasants to do with Power, Government, and the State? The State, whatever form it might take, meant "the fellows in Rome." "Everyone knows," they said, "that the fellows in Rome don't want us to live like human beings. There are hailstorms, landslides, droughts, malaria and ... the State. These are inescapable evils; such there always have been and there always will be. They make us kill off our goats, they carry away our furniture, and now they're going to send us to the wars. Such is life!"

To the peasants the State is more distant than heaven and far more of a scourge, because it is always against them. Its political tags and platforms and, indeed, the whole structure of it do not matter. The peasants do not understand them because they are couched in a different language from their own, and there is no reason why they should ever care to understand them. Their only defense against the State and the propaganda of the State is resignation, the same gloomy resignation that bows their shoulders under the scourges of nature.

For this reason, quite naturally, they have no conception of a political struggle; they think of it as a personal quarrel among the "fellows in Rome." They were not concerned with the views of the political prisoners who were in compulsory residence among them, or with the motives for their coming. They looked at them kindly and treated them like brothers because they too, for some inexplicable reason, were victims of fate. During the first days of my stay whenever I happened to meet along one of the paths outside the village an old peasant who did not know me, he would stop his donkey to greet me and ask in dialect: "Who are you? Where are you going?" "Just for a walk; I'm a political prisoner," I would answer. "An exile? (They always said exile instead of prisoner.) Too bad! Someone in Rome must have had it in for you." And he would say no more, but smile at me in a brotherly fashion as he prodded his mount into motion.

This passive brotherliness, this sympathy in the original sense of the word, this fatalistic, comradely, age-old patience, is the deepest feeling the peasants have in common, a bond made by nature rather than by religion. They do not and can not have what is called political awareness, because they are literally pagani, "pagans," or countrymen, as distinguished from city-dwellers. The deities of the State and the city can find no worshipers here on the land, where the wolf and the ancient black boar reign supreme, where there is no wall between the world of men and the world of animals and spirits, between the leaves of the trees above and the roots below. They can not have even an awareness of themselves as individuals, here where all things are held together by acting upon one another and each one is a power unto itself, working imperceptibly, where there is no barrier that can not be broken down by magic. They live submerged in a world that rolls on independent of their will, where man is in no way separate from his sun, his beast, his malaria, where there can be neither happiness, as literary devotees of the land conceive it, nor hope, because these two are adjuncts of personality and here there is only the grim passivity of a sorrowful Nature. But they have a lively human feeling for the common fate of mankind and its common acceptance. This is strictly a feeling rather than an act of will; they do not express it in words but they carry it with them at every moment and in every motion of their lives, through all the unbroken days that pass over these wastes.

"Too bad! Someone had it in for you." You, too, are subject to fate. You, too, are here because of the power of ill will, because of an evil star; you are tossed hither and yon by the hostile workings of magic. And you, too, are a man; you are one of us. Never mind what motives impelled you, politics, legalities, or the illusion of reason. Such things as reason or cause and effect, do not exist; there is only an adverse fate, a will for evil, which is the magic power of things. The State is one shape of this fate, like the wind that devours the harvest and the fever that feeds on our blood. There can be no attitude toward fate except patience and silence. Of what use are words? And what can a man do? Nothing.


A Habit Common to All

Josephus, Against Apion 2.36.258-261 (tr. H. St. J. Thackeray):
[258] Of these facts Apollonius Molon took no account when he condemned us for refusing admission to persons with other preconceived ideas about God, and for declining to associate with those who have chosen to adopt a different mode of life. [259] Yet even this habit is not peculiar to us; it is common to all, and shared not only by Greeks, but by Greeks of the highest reputation. The Lacedaemonians made a practice of expelling foreigners and would not allow their own citizens to travel abroad, in both cases apprehensive of the of their laws being corrupted. [260] They might perhaps be justly reproached for discourtesy, because they accorded to no one the rights either of citizenship or of residence among them. [261] We, on the contrary, while we have no desire to emulate the customs of others, yet gladly welcome any who wish to share our own. That, I think, may be taken as a proof both of humanity and magnanimity.

[258] ὧν οὐδὲν λογισάμενος ὁ Μόλων Ἀπολλώνιος ἡμῶν κατηγόρησεν, ὅτι μὴ παραδεχόμεθα τοὺς ἄλλαις προκατειλημμένους δόξαις περὶ θεοῦ, μηδὲ κοινωνεῖν ἐθέλομεν τοῖς καθ᾿ ἑτέραν συνήθειαν βίου ζῆν προαιρουμένοις. [259] ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲ τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ἴδιον ἡμῶν, κοινὸν δὲ πάντων, οὐχ Ἑλλήνων δὲ μόνων, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἐν τοῖς Ἕλλησιν εὐδοκιμωτάτων. Λακεδαιμόνιοι δὲ καὶ ξενηλασίας ποιούμενοι διετέλουν καὶ τοῖς αὑτῶν ἀποδημεῖν πολίταις οὐκ ἐπέτρεπον, διαφθορὰν ἐξ ἀμφοῖν ὑφορώμενοι γενήσεσθαι περὶ τοὺς νόμους. [260] ἐκείνοις μὲν οὖν τάχ᾿ ἂν δυσκολίαν τις ὀνειδίσειεν εἰκότως· οὐδενὶ γὰρ οὔτε τῆς πολιτείας οὔτε τῆς παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς μετεδίδοσαν διατριβῆς. [261] ἡμεῖς δὲ τὰ μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ζηλοῦν οὐκ ἀξιοῦμεν, τοὺς μέντοι μετέχειν τῶν ἡμετέρων βουλομένους ἡδέως δεχόμεθα. καὶ τοῦτο ἂν εἴη τεκμήριον, οἶμαι, φιλανθρωπίας ἅμα καὶ μεγαλοψυχίας.
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One Heart, One Blood

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 1199-1205 (from Act II, Scene 2; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan):
Yet they remained ever mindful of their origin.
Out of all the strange races which since then        1200
have settled in the midst of their land,
the (true) Swiss men recognize one another.
It is the heart and the blood that make themselves known (to one another).
[Extends his hand right and left]
Yes, we are of one heart, one blood!
ALL [extending their hands].
We are one people and we shall we shall act as one.        1205

Doch blieben sie des Ursprungs stets gedenk,
Aus all den fremden Stämmen, die seitdem        1200
In Mitte ihres Lands sich angesiedelt,
Finden die Schwytzer Männer sich heraus,
Es giebt das Herz, das Blut sich zu erkennen.
[reicht rechts und links die Hand hin]
Ja, wir sind eines Herzens, eines Bluts!
ALLE [sich die Hände reichend].
Wir sind ein Volk, und einig wollen wir handeln.        1205

Thursday, September 16, 2021


Oral Examination

Jenny Teichman, "Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe 1919–2001," Proceedings of the British Academy 115 (2003) 31-50 (at 38):
Finally there is the true story about Elizabeth’s final viva voce examination. Because of her intense interest in philosophy she tended to neglect the rest of the syllabus and consequently flunked the Roman History paper. The philosophy examiners wanted to give her First Class Honours but the Roman History man objected, and objected even more, no doubt, when his questions in the viva met with a blank face. He eventually asked: ‘Miss Anscombe, can you name a governor or procurator of a Roman province? Any Roman province?’ to which she replied ‘No’, having forgotten all about Pontius Pilate. The historian, in despair, asked: ‘Miss Anscombe, is there any fact at all about the history of Rome which you would like to comment on?’ But again the answer was ‘No’ and a mournful shake of the head. However the other examiners insisted that Elizabeth deserved a First and a First was duly awarded.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Silent Shades?

Vergil, Aeneid 6.264-267 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Ye gods, who hold the domain of spirits! ye voiceless shades!
Thou, Chaos, and thou, Phlegethon, ye broad, silent tracts of night!
Suffer me to tell what I have heard; suffer me of your grace
to unfold secrets buried in the depths and darkness of the earth!

di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes,
et Chaos, et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late,        265
sit mihi fas audita loqui; sit numine vestro
pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas!
Nicholas Horsfall on umbraeque silentes:
Cf. 432f. silentum / consilium, Matius fr. 8 at maneat specii simulacrum in morte silentum with Courtney's n. (probably gen. plur.; he renders 'an image of the appearance of those silent in death'). Cf. Licinia Ricottilli, EV 5*, 12, Norden, p. 209, Bömer on Ov. F. 2.609 (with further bibl.), Setaioli, EV 2, 956, Cumont, LP, 70 and notably J.N. Bremmer, Early Greek concept..., 84f.. Unsurprisingly, No[rden] turns to 'silence' in magical texts (and indeed comms., apart from Page, not helpful on this point), but some understanding of the spirits' 'silence' emerges from more familiar authors:

(i) It has of course been noted that in many texts the souls are not silent at all, in that they make a good deal of noise (but Serv. on 264 nam hominum umbrae loquuntur seems anomalous) but that noise is far from human speech and clearly reflects theriomorphic views of the soul. Notably as bee; see n. on 707-9 and, more fully, Vergilius 56 (2010), 39-45 at 40f.; whence the souls buzzing at Soph. fr. 879 Radt. But also birds, Rohde, Psyche, 2, 371, n.2, Cumont, LP, 293-302, Dodds, Greeks and the irrational, 162, n. 38, comms. on Od. 11.605f., Plin. Nat. 7.174 (Aristeas), n. on 309-12. So the cheeping and twittering indicated by Hom. τετριγυῖα, Il. 23.101 (with Diog. Laert. 8.21). Not to mention bats, Od. 24.5, 9, Tert. An. 32.3, ad fin., M. Wellmann, PW 6.2741.38ff., Bettini (707-9), 225f. and n. on 283 for Lucian, VH 2.33. Cf. too the extraordinary cry of Od. 11.43. In one sense, therefore, 'silence' suggests inability to communicate in human speech; cf. the phantasm of Aen. at 10.639f. (Juno) dat inania uerba, / dat sine mente sonum.

(ii) Here, comms. naturally compare 432 silentum (that is, roughly, 'the dead'; OLD s.v., §2) and 492f. pars tollere uocem / exiguam (strongly suggestive of Hom., just cited); cf. too Hes. Scut. 131 (death that steals the voice), Theogn. 568f. (when dead, as a voiceless stone). Cic. TD 1.37, CLE 1552.38. On the other hand. complete silence would be inimical to the plot, whether in Od. 11 (cf. Page, Hom. Odyssey, 24) or here; so in Hom., blood endows the dead with speech (cf. A. Heubeck on Od. 10.516-40), while in V. the dead speak as required, and Elysium seems particularly vocal. The absence of laughter (Bremmer, Early Greek concept..., 85f.) not directly relevant, but it does seem to fit in easily with the ancient apophatic vein (cf. (426-547) and vd. Page here; see too Johnson, 88-90) in characterisation of the Underworld: absence of strength (Od. 10.521, etc.), of colour (e.g. 272, 480 (where vd. n.), G. 1.277), of substance (269, 292, 413), of light, (265, 267, 270, G. 4.472), of touch (700-2), and naturally of sound (see too infra, tacentia). No essential inconsistency, but a variety of ways of conceiving the Underworld.
Related post: Hellish Noise.


Socrates the Veteran

Dear Mike,

Emily Thomas, The Meaning of Travel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), p. 2:
There's a myth that philosophers don't travel. It is fuelled by Socrates, who never set foot outside the city walls of Athens...
If the first statement is a myth, so too is the second. Socrates participated as an Athenian hoplite in three military campaigns: the extended siege of Potidaea in northern Greece (432-429 BC), the Athenian attack on Delium in Boeotia a few years later (424 BC), and the expedition to defend the Athenian colony Amphipolis in Thrace (422 BC).

See S. Sara Monoson, "Socrates' Military Service," in Victor Caston and Silke-Maria Weineck, edd., Our Ancient Wars: Rethinking War through the Classics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016), pp. 96-117.

The most famous literary representation of Socrates outside the city walls of Athens is Plato's Phaedrus.

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]


Wednesday, September 15, 2021


The Last Word

Gian Biagio Conte, The Poetry of Pathos: Studies in Virgilian Epic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 193-194:
In the epic duel, when two heroes meet and one addresses the other, the rule holds good that whoever emerges victorious in the encounter is either the only one to speak, or the last speaker. To put it in another way, the loser (or the one destined to lose) does not speak last in this kind of scene. In surviving Graeco-Roman epic, this rule is followed in some thirty cases (they mostly belong to the two Homeric poems and the Aeneid) and breached in only one case known to me, in the representation of the death of Mezentius. After the exchange of challenges and provocations (Mezentius shouts, summoning Aeneas to the encounter; Aeneas hastens and utters a few words, which Mezentius proudly rejects), Mezentius is laid low and Aeneas taunts him, according to the code for the victor, before administering the fatal blow. But, against the rule, the text allows Mezentius to speak again: he himself claims not to fear death, and even confirms that killing in battle is just and proper.



Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 88 (my translation):
The men of today have replaced the myth of a past age of gold with that of a future age of plastic.

La humanidad actual sustituyó el mito de una pretérita edad de oro con el de una futura edad de plástico.


The Old Books

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 1121-1122 (from Act II, Scene 2; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan):
Even if the old books are not at hand,
they are engraved in our hearts.

Sind auch die alten Bücher nicht zur Hand,
Sie sind in unsre Herzen eingeschrieben.



Dear Mike,

Emily Thomas, The Meaning of Travel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020) p. xi:
No young person under forty is ever to be allowed to travel abroad under any circumstances; nor is anyone to be allowed to go for private reasons, but only on some public business, as a herald or ambassador or as an observer of one sort or another.

Plato, Republic (c.380BCE)
This eminently sensible prohibition occurs not in Plato's Republic but in his Laws (12.950d):
πρῶτον μὲν νεωτέρῳ ἐτῶν τετταράκοντα μὴ ἐξέστω ἀποδημῆσαι μηδαμῇ μηδαμῶς, ἔτι τε ἰδίᾳ μηδενί, δημοσίᾳ δ᾽ἔστω κήρυξιν ἢ πρεσβείαις ἢ καί τισι θεωροῖς.
Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]



The Hero of the Aeneid

Raymond Keene, "Hoc opus, hic liber est: Nigel Short's 'Winning' and other chess books," The Article (September 11, 2021):
In Virgil's Aeneid one finds the phrase, "hoc opus, hic labor est", "this is the task, this is the masterpiece", referring to the hero Theseus and his descent to the Underworld. Descending to the netherworld's depths is easy — the trick is to get back safely again to the "upper airs." Less onerous is the annual task of The English Chess Federation in selecting its title ("liber" in Latin means "book") for their Book of the Year prize.
Screen capture:
Wrong hero — for Theseus read Aeneas. Also, I wouldn't translate labor as masterpiece. The Sibyl says these words to Aeneas in Book VI, line 129.

Hat tip: Jim K.

Another friend writes:
And what about Aeneas and the Minotaur? Theseus and Aeneas both end in -s. Don't be a pedant. It's 2021.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021


Streets Filled with Greeks

Plautus, Curculio 288-295 (tr. Paul Nixon):
Yes, and as for those cloaked Greeks that stroll about with muffled heads
and stalk along with their clothes bulged out by books and provision baskets,
renegades that stand about together, palaver together,
block your road, set themselves in your way, stalk along with their sage observations,
fellows you can always see guzzling in a tavern
when they’ve stolen something — muffling their wretched heads and taking hot drinks,
then stalking along grave of face and half seas over! — well, if I bump up against them,
I'll knock some porridge-fed wind out of every one of their bodies.

tum isti Graeci palliati, capite operto qui ambulant,
qui incedunt suffarcinati cum libris, cum sportulis,
constant, conferunt sermones inter sese drapetae,        290
obstant, obsistunt, incedunt cum suis sententiis,
quos semper videas bibentes esse in thermipolio,
ubi quid subripuere: operto capitulo calidum bibunt,
tristes atque ebrioli incedunt: eos ego si offendero,
ex unoquoque eorum exciam crepitum polentarium.        295
Cf. Wolfgang de Melo's translation of lines 294-295:
                                                                     If I meet them,
I'll drive the barley-fed farts out of every single one of them.
C. Barwick, ed., Charisii Artis Grammatici Libri V (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1964), p. 312 (2.16):
Trit Naevius in Corollaria (v. 48 R.3). significat autem, ut ait Plautus in quadam (Curcul. 295), 'excutiam crepitum polentarium', id est peditum [in Curculione].
See Eric Csapo, "Plautine Elements in the Running-Slave Entrance Monologues?" Classical Quarterly 39.1 (1989) 148-163 (at 150-154).


Enemies of Man

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 75 (my translation):
The three enemies of man are: the devil, the state, and technology.

Los tres enemigos del hombre son: el demonio, el estado y la técnica.



Sit Down and Listen

Howard Jacobson, Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011), p. 331:
Education, he [Michael Gove] said recently, is about 'introducing young people to the best that has been thought and written'. And you can't get much more Arnoldian than that.

Think of it — 'the best'. And no 'Who are you to be telling me what's best, sunshine?' To which the answer should always have been: 'Your teacher, you little bastard, so sit down and listen.'
Cf. Josh Thompson, an English teacher at Blacksburg High School in Montgomery County, Virginia, quoted in Brian Stieglitz, "Virginia high school English teacher faces calls to be fired for claiming on video that telling kids to sit still is 'white supremacy': 'Sitting quiet and being told stuff is not a thing that's in many cultures'," Daily Mail (September 14, 2021):
[W]e have to ask ourselves, "Okay well what are those positive behaviors?" And it's things like making sure that you're following directions, and making sure that you're sitting quietly, and you are in your seat and all these things that come from white culture.
The idea of just sitting quiet and being told stuff and taking things in, in a passive stance, is not a thing that's in many cultures. So if we're positively enforcing these behaviors, we are by extension positively enforcing elements of white culture. Which therefore keeps whiteness at the center, which is the definition of white supremacy.

Monday, September 13, 2021


The Great Names of the German World

Thomas Mann, "Goethe's Faust," Essays of Three Decades, tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter (London: Secker and Warburg, 1947), pp. 3-42 (at 7, on Goethe's unfinished farce "Hans Wurst's Wedding"):
He will hear nothing of the preparations for the celebration of the nuptials; nor of the guests, among whom are "all the great names of the German world." No, what he wants is just to be off with his Ursel to the hayloft. But what sort of "great names" are these? They are simply a list of the vulgarest folk-epithets in the language, with which Goethe displays an astonishing, well-nigh exhaustive conversance. I will not attempt to translate these for you. The list includes not only such common terms as Vetter Schuft, Herr Schurk, and Hans Hasenfuss, but other such gems as Schnuckfozgen, Peter Sauschwanz, Scheismaz, Schweinpelz, Lauszippel, Rotzloffel, Jungfer Rabenas, Herren Hosenscheiser and Heularsch — and so on and on, in endless number.

Er will nichts wissen von den Hochzeitsumständlichkeiten, zu denen alles ins Haus kommt, »was die deutsche Welt an großen Namen nur enthält«, sondern will einfach mit seiner Ursel auf den Heuboden. Was sind das übrigens für große Namen? Es sind lauter deutsch-herkömmliche Schimpf- und Ekelnamen der derbsten Art, von denen Goethe sich zum Gebrauch eine erstaunlich kundige und erschöpfende Liste angelegt, auf welcher nicht nur so Gewöhnliches figuriert wie Vetter Schuft, Herr Schurk und Hans Hasenfuß, sondern auch solche Perlen wie Schnuckfözgen, Peter Sauschwanz, Scheismaz, Schweinpelz, Lauszippel, Rotzlöffel, Jgfr. Rabenas, die Herren Hosenscheißer und Heularsch und so in unendlicher Reihe fort.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread — I will attempt to translate these for you, although I'm conscious of being way out of my league here: The dramatis personae, according to R.M. Werner, "Hans Wursts Hochzeit," Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 26 (1882) 289-293 (at 290-291):

Thanks to Keith Ivey (via Stephen Dodson at for correcting my mistake in interpreting what Mann wrote as Schnuckfözgen.

Kevin Muse pointed out to me that there is nothing equivalent to "I will not attempt to translate these for you" in Mann's German. I print the German as it appears in Thomas Mann, Goethe's Laufbahn als Schriftsteller: Zwölf Essays und Reden von Goethe (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1982), p. 212.


An Agent of Civilization

Michael Oakeshott, "The Character of a University Education," in What Is History? and Other Essays (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2004), pp. 373-390 (at 378):
The part of the teacher, then, is to hold up the mirror of human achievement before a pupil; and to hold it in such a manner that it reflects not merely what has caught the fancy of a current generation, but so that it reflects something which approximates more closely to the whole of that inheritance. His business (indeed, this may be said to be his peculiar quality as an agent of civilization) is to release his pupils from servitude to the current dominant feelings, emotions, images, ideas, beliefs, and even skills, and to bring to their notice what the current world may have neglected or forgotten.


The Same Unchangeable Course

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 1013-1022 (from Act II, Scene 2; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan; slightly modified):
I found these honest souls enraged
because of the powerful new rule,
for just as their Alps on and on (continue to)
nourish the same roots, (and just as) their brooks
flow uniformly, (and as) the very clouds and winds
follow the same unchangeable course,
so has the old custom here from ancestor
to descendant continued to exist, unchanged.
They will not tolerate daring innovation(s)
in the long accustomed, even course of life.

Entrüstet fand ich diese graden Seelen
Ob dem gewaltsam neuen Regiment,
Denn so wie ihre Alpen fort und fort        1015
Dieselben Kräuter nähren, ihre Brunnen
Gleichförmig fließen, Wolken selbst und Winde
Den gleichen Strich unwandelbar befolgen,
So hat die alte Sitte hier vom Ahn
Zum Enkel unverändert fort bestanden,        1020
Nicht tragen sie verwegne Neuerung
Im altgewohnten gleichen Gang des Lebens.


The Two Party System

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 69 (my translation):
Democracy tolerates only two parties: one is the mouthpiece for stupid ideas, the other is the defender of filthy greed.

La democracia sólo tolera dos partidos: el vocero de las ideas estúpidas, el protector de las codicias sórdidas.


Continuous Surveillance

Howard Jacobson, Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011), pp. 277-278:
The Stasi have been dismantled yet the apparatus of continuous surveillance looks familiar to us. The Wall fell, but we haven't stopped living in a world that punishes us when we believe other than we are meant to believe, no matter how liberal what we are meant to believe appears. Say the wrong thing about race at a British university, for example, and you can kiss goodbye to your career. If you happen to be the ruined academic, you will think, with reason, you are living in a police state. Someone has been telling lies about you. For it is a lie that some things are unsayable.

That we can fear the monolithic state in one context and be its agents in another is one of those paradoxes to which human nature is subject. Universities are bulwarks against tyranny but at the same time practise ruthless tyrannies of their own. Imaginatively, though — regardless of our being spies and informers in reality — we are all so many inmates of the Gulags, each our own lonely warrior of individualism standing up against authority and those who do its dirty work. Thus we slip at once into the person of Joseph K. about whom someone has lied and who is arrested one fine morning for an unnamed crime he has not committed.


High Priest

Ugo Bardi, "The Slow Collapse of the Catholic Church" The Seneca Effect (August 30, 2021):
From the time when Augustus Caesar took the title of Pontifex Maximum, in 12 AD, the religious and the political leader of the state were one and the same person: the Emperor.
Screen capture:

Id., "9/11, the Coup that Failed. The Role of the Memesphere" (September 11, 2021):
In 12 AD, he took the role of "pontifex maximum" the highest religious authority of the time.
Screen capture:

Read "Pontifex Maximus," not "Pontifex Maximum," and "12 BC," not "12 AD."


Sunday, September 12, 2021


Attraction of the Woods

Lew Dietz, The Allagash (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968; rpt. Camden: Down East Books, 2000), p. 145:
The woods had a deadly attraction for the maverick, the reject from society, the man who could not adapt to the strictures of normal life with its attending responsibilities and complications.


Sunday Dinner

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Buddenbrooks, III.2 (tr. John E. Woods):
He ate mussel ragout, julienne soup, baked sole, roast veal with mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts, maraschino pudding, and pumpernickel with Roquefort cheese...

Er aß Muschelragout, Julienne-Suppe, gebackene Seezungen, Kalbsbraten mit Rahmkartoffeln und Blumenkohl, Maraschino-Pudding und Pumpernickel und Roquefort...


In Hoc Signo

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 63 (my translation):
Upon the steeple of the modern church, the progressive clergy, instead of a cross, places a weather vane.

Sobre el campanario de la iglesia moderna, el clero progresista, en vez de cruz, coloca una veleta.


A God in Human Form

Plautus, Curculio 167-168 (the young man Phaedromus and his slave Palinurus; tr. Paul Nixon):
PH. She's delicious. PA. (sour) Too delicious. PH. Oh, I'm a god. PA. You aren't, you're a man, of precious poor quality.
PH. What did you see, what will you ever see, more comparable to the gods than I am?

PH. est lepida. PA. nimi' lepida. PH. sum deus. PA. immo homo hau magni preti.
PH. quid vidisti aut quid videbis magi' dis aequiparabile?

168 Lindsay in apparatu critico: vel mage
I don't have access to any of the following modern editions or commentaries: These lines remind me of Catullus 51.1-5 (itself an imitation of Sappho, fragment 31 Voigt; tr. F.W. Cornish):
He seems to me to be equal to a god, he, if it may be, seems to surpass the very gods, who sitting opposite you again and again gazes at you and hears you sweetly laughing...

Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,
qui sedens adversus identidem te
   spectat et audit
dulce ridentem...
I'm sure others must have noticed the similarity, although influence is of course out of the question. On the comparison of the lover to a god or the beloved to a goddess, a common trope, see e.g. Volkmar Hoelzer, De Poesi Amatoria a Comicis Atticis Exculta, ab Elegiacis Imitatione Expressa (diss. Marburg, 1899), pp. 21-23.

I now see that Luigia Cappiello, Un Commento al Curculio di Plauto (vv.1-370) (diss. Salerno, 2015), p. 140, mentions the similarity between Plautus and Catullus.

Saturday, September 11, 2021



Howard Jacobson, Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011), pp. 266-267:
A teacher of French literature was telling me how the mother of one of his pupils had objected to his teaching her daughter French drama of the seventeenth century. The girl was uneasy reading these plays. They felt old and foreign to her. (Corneille and Molière — foreign!) Her mother agreed. How were these works, she wanted to know, 'validating her child's experience'? Because he was a charming man, the French teacher didn't tell her that the daughter's experience, if it was anything like the mother's, was the thing least worth validating in the entire universe. If her daughter felt at sea, so much the better. Study is meant to make you feel at sea. The self is not a precious entity that must be soothed and eased at every turn. Sometimes, the self is something you must learn to lose. Validation of the self, madame — again this is me speaking, not him — is what you might get from a finishing school, but not from a humane education.

I say something very similar to those pupils at a Jewish girls' school in London who recently refused to answer questions on Shakespeare in a national curriculum test as a way of protesting against the character of Shylock. Given the opportunity for some close textual analysis, I have no doubt I could persuade the girls that Shakespeare was not an anti-Semite, whatever that means in an Elizabethan context. But that's beside the point. Reading Shakespeare is not conditional on his loving Jews. The study of literature becomes no study at all if you read only writers whose attitudes chime with your own and with whom you therefore feel at ease. Encountering what is not you, indeed what might well be inimical to you, is one of the first reasons for reading anything.


What Am I Doing Here?

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 948-957 (Attinghausen speaking; from Act II, Scene 1; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan):
Oh, unhappy hour when strange things
came into this quiet and happy valley
to destroy the innocent simplicity of our lives!
The new is forcing its way in with (all its) might (while) the old
(and) the worthy are departing. Other times are coming.
There (now) lives a generation of different mind.
What am I doing here? They are all buried (in their graves) —
those with whom I labored and lived.
My generation is already lying beneath the earth.
Happy is he who no longer needs to live with the new!

O unglückselge Stunde, da das Fremde
In diese still beglückten Täler kam,
Der Sitten fromme Unschuld zu zerstören!        950
Das Neue dringt herein mit Macht, das Alte,
Das Würdge scheidet, andre Zeiten kommen,
Es lebt ein andersdenkendes Geschlecht!
Was tu ich hier? Sie sind begraben alle,
Mit denen ich gewaltet und gelebt.        955
Unter der Erde schon liegt meine Zeit;
Wohl dem, der mit der neuen nicht mehr braucht zu leben!

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